March 1st, 2004


the evening

Last night I went to Paso Robles to see a concert by the Concordia University kappela. It is a choir of about 50 persons. Much of the music was lovely, some pieces really beautiful. When they were singing one of the last pieces it was so beautiful that I thought the trip to Paso was worth it for that alone.

Concordia is a Lutheran university, which I did not know before I went. Students there study theology, although they specialize in teaching or music or other things.

The choir is good enough to have recorded three CDs, which they had for sale there. I felt that some of the entrances were a bit ragged, but once in they were clear and confident. Oddly, in the first half of the program many of the members were too glued to their music, not looking up enough. I understand how one can see through a kind of peripheral vision, but as a chorale member myself I feel one can focus better and sing better if one relies less on staring at the notes and words.

It seemed to me that the chorale likes its director. He was friendly, smiling all the time, seemed genuinely fond of the chorale and glad to be there.

Because the church's "stage" - what is that called? - didn't entirely suit the group, they made use of Rubbermaid stools, white. Not everyone, just a few on the sides and several in the back. One or two had stacked steps. I wondered if they brought them with them for just this sort of thing. I suspect so. Certainly I know I would be really uncomfortable standing on one of those for a concert, but they seemed used to it.

strike over...

So the grocery workers voted to accept the contract. I am happy for the workers, who can now go back to work. But I am still debating whether I will return to those stores myself. I feel such dislike for the corporations. I see this incident as just one more notch.

In Argentina, a few years ago, "reforms" were imposed as a condition of a loan from the IMF. The hardest hit were the workers, who took huge hits in their pay, and then were faced with impossible cost increases because of the "pegging" of the peso to the dollar. When the peg scheme failed, of course, inflation hit the ceiling, yet again. More reforms were imposed, primarily on production - see how much more we can get from these workers while denying them benefits and protection from safety hazards. Argentina has hit a bottom it may never get out from.

While in Venezuela, the popularly-elected president Chavez instituted other kinds of reforms. Increased wages, provided for property ownership by the poor. Venezuela's economy is looking good, especially in comparison to its neighbor Argentina's.

What I see is that we are heading more in the direction of Argentina than Venezuela. It's ugly and it's caused by greed.

Oh yeah, in this country production rates per worker in the past - 20? - years (I forget the exact number of years) has increased 17%. At the same time real wages have gone down.

One of the complaints I heard from people opposed to the grocery strike is that the workers were "a bunch of spoiled lazy college students". I have never seen evidence of that. I also heard, from a fellow city employee, that if benefits were cut from city workers, nobody would be out there supporting us. The logic in these statements is beyond me, as a rationale for crossing the picket line.

A heartening figure is that 59% of shoppers refused to cross the picket line during the strike. 14% of those said they would "never go back". I have been wondering what I will do. I want to do what is best for the workers, and to me that probably means shopping where there are unions. Not at Wal-Mart. Not at Food-4-Less. Yet I want these groceries to know how ugly they are. I don't know yet how I will show them.

"Don't worry about it"

I talked to the dental office today. Kate, the receptionist, asked what I could bring in tomorrow and I told her. She said as long as I make payments I'll be fine. "Don't worry about it," she said. Well, at least that relieves me. And maybe the time I spend in that chair will be long enough for me to work out the payments for this one. At least it gets me in the door.

She said there are about five appointments for this part of the procedure. Why did I think this was the easy part???