Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | May 22, 2007

Surprises abound

Here, in reverse chronological order, is a roundup events – major and minor – that recently took me by surprise.


While wheeling around the Morgan Hill Nob Hill Foods store, as I’m wont to do on Sunday afternoons, I noticed that the cart that the bagger offered me as I entered the store wasn’t the usual variety. It was shorter in length and a matte charcoal color instead of a shiny chrome color.

But my mind was yanked from mulling the new cart when I spied something in the produce section that made me laugh out loud: individually wrapped baking potatoes.

What’s wrong with bulk potatoes, I wondered, if you only need one or two? Aren’t we all environmentally conscious enough to eschew excess packaging? Didn’t an overpackaging revolt kill the long boxes in which CDs used to be sold?

A produce department employee assured me that there’s a reason for the plastic shrink-wrap – these are microwavable potatoes.

Um, I hate to break it to the “inventor” of this product, but I’ve been successfully microwaving potatoes for decades without plastic.

But, because this is Silicon Valley, home of all things cutting-edge and gadgety, I had to buy a 50-cent shrink-wrapped spud.

While shopping, soda packages stacked on the bottom of the newfangled cart kept falling to the floor. The bagger who walked to my car informed me that the newfangled carts were designed for senior citizens – they’re lighter and easier to push – and not for piles of soda.

I guess it’s time to touch up my gray roots if the first bagger I encountered mistook me for a senior citizen.

I microwaved the potato when I got home, and it was indistinguishable from a naked potato, except that my trash can had a piece of plastic that it wouldn’t have had if I’d nuked a bulk potato.


On a recent Thursday morning, I returned from walking the dog, opened the paper from the big city to our north, and read an article about the Brownell Middle School band’s on-again, off-again, on-again trip to Disneyland.

If I had been drinking a cup of tea at the time, I’d have done a spit take upon reading the reporter’s description of The Dispatch’s April 17 editorial supporting the teacher who initially canceled the trip as “scathing.”

Having participated in the editorial board’s discussion of this topic, that description surprised me. I had to reread the April 17 editorial to doublecheck my memory.

Maybe those apparent memory problems are due to my new senior citizen status.

But no, my memory was intact. The editorial has phrases like “we sympathize” and “delights in the success of his students.”

If that editorial is scathing, what words are left to describe, for example, The Dispatch’s editorials decrying the proposed expansion of BART to San Jose?

And shouldn’t a reporter calling anything scathing (the reporter wasn’t quoting someone he interviewed) be verboten because it’s editorializing?


Something that surprised me during the first Republican debate – but that doesn’t seem to have raised eyebrows elsewhere – was the refusal of any candidate (save one who appeared to be joking) to endorse changing the U.S. Constitution so that naturalized citizens like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright could run for president.

Currently, naturalized citizenship is less than natural-born citizenship.

Other than the knee-jerk “I want to follow the framers’ original intentions” answer, no real explanations were offered by any of the ten candidates. I dislike that reasoning because it’s an example of what the author of the marvelous book “Being Logical,” D. Q. McInerny, calls the “Using and Abusing Tradition” fallacy.

I’d have preferred reasoned, logical arguments for and against the debate moderator’s question.

Here’s what the fourteenth amendment says:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Why, then, is it OK to deny naturalized citizens, who’ve sworn an oath of allegiance to this country, the chance to serve in the nation’s highest offices?

It’s a question we ought to honestly debate. I’m surprised we’re not.


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