Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Thursday, January 25, 2007

I have all kinds of pictures of me and my childhood friends at birthday parties. We are sitting around someone’s kitchen table with dorky hats on, a homemade cake in the center and a smiling/grimacing parent in the background.  Nary a stretch limo in sight.  In fact, I’d venture to guess that my parents’ attitude would be that children do not belong in a stretch limo. On a good day, my dad barely wanted us in his car for fear of the damage we’d do.  Now, kids’ parties include live entertainment and stretch limos. Our live entertainment was tossing icing at each other when mom wasn’t looking.  Times they are a’changin.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:17 AM •
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A few years ago, my cousin’s son announced he was not as amused as he thought he might be in his job as a newspaper reporter in a small town.  Many in the family were thrilled with this decision because, quite honestly, most of my family does not view writing as an actual career choice.  Their happiness at the decision lasted only until he informed his parents of his next career move.  He was going to go back to school to get his doctorate in philosophy.


I happened to be visiting the East Coast soon after he made this pronouncement.  His father, an eminently practical man who loves his family beyond all reason and wants only to know that they are safe and secure, sat next to me at the family dinner table while the topic of his son’s latest career choice was discussed.  Given my career history, no one was asking for my opinion.  But at one point, to explain his unease with his son’s latest choice, my cousin looked at me and earnestly asked, “When was the last time you picked up the paper and saw a want ad for a doctor of philosophy?”
It seems to me that as we continue to deal with stem cell research, cloning, environmental degradation and genocides, that ad may soon become much less rare.  And in view of the continually challenged ethics of so many public figures, philosophers may soon become the hot new commodity in public life.  Move over, Silicon Valley, the halls of academia are about to displace you.
Philosophers discuss a lot of ideas that the general public oft times finds confusing and boring until the moment when someone announces a way to clone Hitler for the benefit of those Nazis still hiding in South America. Then they start paying attention to the morality encompassed in many of the issues we face in today’s world and the reality of how that morality affects our daily life. It actually occurs to them that the fact that we have the right to do something, does not make it right to do.
I think most philosophers would agree that legislating morality is essentially a frustrating exercise. From pot smoking to prostitution, people who view morality legislation as ill conceived have always found a way to ignore it.  Trying to legislate the morality of our elected officials is viewed by some politicians as merely a challenge to their creativity. 
No matter how often we say we are a democracy - well, really a republic - we cannot escape the fact that we create our own royalty by continually re-electing the same people. Eventually they come to think of their position as an entitlement and that can lead to a feeling of being above the people who elected them.  It is a short journey from there to some slippery ethical slopes.
Perhaps it is time that we admit that the idea of citizen legislators isn’t realistic.  In this state, we expect our legislators to work only part time for us and make a living for their family the rest of the time in some job that allows them three months off a year plus additional time and days as needed to address constituent concerns.  One of the only places most will find a job like that is with a company that sees some advantage in having someone on the payroll based on who they know rather than any particular skills they have.  Our other choice is to have only independently wealthy people run for office. And isn’t that just royalty without the title?
Being a consultant is one answer to financial survival for legislators since you set your own hours and don’t have to clock in from 9 to 5.  But, as we have repeatedly seen, that choice can raise many ethical concerns.  You are usually hired as a consultant in a field you know and where you have contacts.  If you are a legislator, it doesn’t take a genius to know that the field you can best consult in is how to get business done with the state.
We can legislate morality and ethics till we are blue in the face and it will still not solve the conundrum of how legislators are supposed to survive when not in session. We can either accept a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich or we can consider paying our legislators a year round living wage and forbidding them any other employment.
It’s not a great choice. It’s not a happy choice. But if we’d like to see government that is open to all, it’s one we may have to finally make.
Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:00 AM •
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I think it’s time we demand that anyone who plans to be a parent get licensed to prove they are minimally older mentally and emotionally than the children they plan to have.  It’s an idea whose time has come.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Monday, January 22, 2007

If HIllary Clinton wins the presidency, I’m not at all concerned that Bill will actually be running things instead of her.  I think she’ll run her own presidency. Here’s what I am worried about...that our news media will be so dicombobulated by a female president that they will spend more time commenting on what she wore to a summit meeting and who’s advising her on makeup than on what she said.  Am I being pessimistic? Well, I live in Alaska where our press can’t seem to get over the fact that our governor, probably one of the most competent women in politics in this country today, is a “hot babe”.  Sigh.....

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:28 AM •
Sunday, January 21, 2007

I have never watched American Idol for no other reason than that I figure if I’m going to waste my time watching TV, the people on it should at least have a modicum of proven talent which they are using in some coherent fashion to amuse me.  But as I read more and more about it, I find myself wondering if this is not just our refined version of the Roman coliseum with the blood thirsty crowd screaming for death to the loser.  Humanity really hasn’t come all that far, has it? The only real difference is that we sit isolated in our homes instead of roaring with the mob.  Oh yeah, and the losers die a million deaths without ever really dying. We learned to make it even more sadistic than the Romans did.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:31 AM •
Saturday, January 20, 2007

My cousin has sent me an article from the NY Times stating that it is now ok to have curly hair and there are now products that help those of use who suffer from curly frizz so that our curls will look good when styled.  Apparently we no long need to sleep on coke cans or iron our hair.  Why couldn’t this fashion decision have come when I still had enough hair to matter?  With all I lost during menopause, I barely have enough to cover my head.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:37 AM •
Friday, January 19, 2007

Tom Cruise seems to grow and shrink at least three inches when standing next to his wife in various photos. Sometimes he’s taller. Sometimes he’s shorter. And sometimes he’s the same height.  Can Scientology teach you how to control your height? If so, I may join.  If I could just stretch out about four more inches, I’d be the perfect weight.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:18 AM •
Thursday, January 18, 2007

What with all these headlines about the California citrus crop being destroyed by the freezing cold, one can only ask why no one is reporting on the cold’s affect on California’s most lucrative and largest crop. How’s the pot?  Will there be a shortage?  Will the cold affect the quality? Will those poor growers have to freeze their little tootsies off harvesting the crop in the cold? These are the important questions we should be asking.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:52 AM •
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sometimes it’s just harder than others to remain the pleasant sweet person I usually am.  No, seriously, ignore the hysterical laughter coming from friends and family alike.  Normally, if left alone and not annoyed too much by state and national headlines, I can be a relatively fun person to have around. 

There is one thing, though, that will set me off beyond all belief - people who do not control their dogs.
I’m not referring to the occasional mishap. That happens to all of us dog owners once in a while. I recently came back from my walk to find my neighbor’s dog bounding down the block towards my dogs and me. This never happens. These people are usually very responsible dog owners and when they heard me calling, they immediately brought their dog under control and apologized. That’s called, for those of you who don’t recognize it as such, a responsible dog owner’s response. 
Here is what’s called an irresponsible dog owner’s response. Take the same situation - I’m coming down the block with my two dogs on leash. I see your dog, unleashed, bounding ahead of you towards me. I pull my dogs in to as short a leash as possible and call out to you to please control your dog.  You respond in one of three ways.  A. You cheerfully call back that your dog is friendly, thereby ignoring the fact that my dogs may not feel the same way.  B. You call your dog who totally ignores you and you stop trying and watch as I get tied up in two leashes and three snarling dogs. C. When your dog blatantly ignores your call, you turn around and go back into your house as though this somehow relieves you of the responsibility of your dog who is now engaged in pitched battle with mine.
Can you see why none of these responses would strike me as proper, correct or even vaguely appropriate?
I am probably one of the most animal oriented people you will ever know.  This has occurred slowly over the years as I’ve realized that, at the end of a day spent with a variety of clients and their kids, I’d much prefer the company of my animals than anything else.  All they ask of me is that I feed them, play with them, love them and, if dogs, walk them. They never expect me to listen to the hardships of their lives...well, actually, if they live with me they don’t have any.
But that’s beside the point. The point is that I am a committed and committable animal lover. So when I come home from a walk using every four and five and six letter word I’ve learned over many, many years, you know that something is wrong. I should be walking in the door with a smile of contentment on my face because I’ve had an hour of peace and quiet on a nice back road, surrounded by trees and mountains and the occasional moose, with my dogs excitedly sniffing every spot of yellow while I daydream about the day Paul McCartney will realize he loves me and comes to take me away to a life of leisure and...I’m sorry, where was I?
Oh yes, on a walk that should leave me relaxed and at ease.  Instead, I frequently return from these walks with my eyeballs bursting from my head because I have had to dodge loose dog and idiotic owners for an hour.  My god, the moose show more sense than some of the dog owners I run into on my walk, and moose have got to be some of the dumber quadrupeds walking this earth.
So, in case you missed the memo, let’s review the laws of common sense and dog ownership.  First, love your animals. Second, control your animals.  Third, never let them know they get everything in the will.  You’ll never be able to sleep with both eyes closed again if you do.
Loose uncontrolled dogs frequently end up tragically.  Even worse, your loose and uncontrolled dog can leave me with a tragedy on my hands if the dog tangles with mine and mine lose.  You are expected, as the human, to be minimally more responsible and intelligent than the animal you are caring for.  Most importantly, I don’t care who’s in charge in your home. you are supposed to be in control whenever you are outside. Just so we’re perfectly clear on that last point, your dog is NOT under your control unless he actually responds when you call him even if his interest at that moment is occupied elsewhere. If he doesn’t immediately shift his interest to your voice and return to your side, you do not have control and your dog should be on a leash. The only exceptions to this rule are when your dog is in your enclosed yard or you are the police and your police dog is chasing a suspect..
Now those are simply not hard rules to either understand or follow. If you think they are, you should perhaps rethink whether you are really meant to be a pet owner.  In fact, let me rethink that for you.  No, you are not meant to be a pet owner if you can’t control your pets for both their safety and the safety of others.  It’s that simple.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:38 AM •
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Let’s see....we let the communists take East Berlin and we took the west.  We let the communists take North Korea and we took the south. We let the communists take North Vietnam and we took the south.  Is there a pattern here that might help us get out of Iraq?  I’m hearing East Iraq and West Iraq...or North Iraq and South Iraq. We divide the country, get the hell out and let the civil war follow its natural course. Why is that so hard for all those big brains in DC to figure out?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:18 AM •
Monday, January 15, 2007

Forget Martin Luther King.  Today is the Golden Globes. Can you feel the excitement? I’m always happiest when America gets its priorities right.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:32 AM •
Sunday, January 14, 2007

The state of Alaska has a jet for sale. It’s actually a very nice little jet that never did anything to anybody to deserve the treatment it’s getting. But it made the mistake of being associated with possibly the most unpopular governor our state has ever had and now it’s paying the price. Won’t someone give it a good home, please?  It even has a toilet!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:35 AM •
Saturday, January 13, 2007

There is a new underarm deodorant out with Olay in it as a conditioner. I’m almost sixty years old and I never knew my underarms needed conditioning.  How have I survived for so long?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:33 AM •
Friday, January 12, 2007

In Barrow, my cutoff point for a walk was 29 below - or 20 below if there was a windchill.  It was only 10 below in Anchorage the past two days with just a slight wind blowing yesterday and I was too cold to walk.  Am I just becoming an urban wimp or is age catching up with me?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:02 AM •
Thursday, January 11, 2007

According to a Bush administration official, not capturing Osama Bin Laden is not a failure on their part. It’s a success that has not yet happened.  All you kids out there remember that the next time you bring an F home on your report card. It’s not a failure. It’s a success that hasn’t yet happened.
May god have mercy on the English language.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:06 AM •

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