Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hot times, murder in the city

Hi all - hope you had a good Hanukkah/Christmas/Solstice/Kwanzaa (still having), etc. Thanks again for sticking with me through the slow blogging time - I should be back to full speed next week!

Meanwhile, I ran across this article on Salon about murder rates going up. Though most law enforcement spokespeople are blaming the rise on easy access to guns, turning what would likely have been fist fights into shooting matches, the whole thing sent my mind down a funky little path.

A while back, a bunch of psychologists decided to measure how long it took people to honk their horns when the driver in front of them didn't go when the light turned green. Psychologists, being the creative folks they are, tried variations of people standing on the corner, including clowns and hot chicks, as well as varied weather conditions and temperatures. The relevant part to this ramble is that people were much quicker to honk, therefore presumably more agitated, when it was hot out.

Additionally, though I'm too short on time to look it up now, I'm pretty sure I've read that murder rates increase in the summer for the very same reason - people are hot and agitated and take everything way too personally.

And then there's global warming - again, no time to look it up, but in the past week the News & Record printed a map showing the shift in temperate zones (or whatever growing areas are called) showing that Greensboro now has the climate that once only existed in North Carolina at the beach.

Just a little food for thought...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

P.S. (which I guess here would be pre-script) Happy Winter Solstice to all you Wiccans and generally earthy folks!

Flashing mailbox

From my office window, I can see my neighbor's mailbox which is currently draped in flashing red and green lights. It's got a variable flash interval which is just good entertainment. I know, it's War on Christmas time and I shouldn't be calling Christmas lights entertaining - I should be mad, or out smashing them with a baseball bat, what being Jewish and all.

I had a breakthrough this year, though - not one of appreciating Christmas suddenly - I've always been down with Christmas. As a kid, I helped our neighbors decorate their tree every year and as a quasi-adult, I had Christmas trees in my home when the person I was dating or my roomie (depending on the year) wanted one. My last Christmas tree with my final roommate was so tiny that we decorated it with hanging earrings.

Anyway, my breakthrough was that I'm not the one starting or perpetuating the War on Christmas - nor are people like the Seattle rabbi who wanted a menorah displayed with the Christmas trees at the airport or the ACLU or whoever it was that decided to list school holidays as "winter break" rather than "Christmas break". It's people like this, this and this who are waging war.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are celebrating or preparing to celebrate whatever holiday it is we celebrate and having a grand old time at it. What the Christmas warriors don't seem to understand is that this is not an issue of exclusiveness - I'd like to think that schools and malls have switched to generic holiday greetings not because of some imaginary lawsuit over political correctness but because they hope to include all members of the melting pot that is America in their seasonal joy.

Just thinking that people are trying to exclude Christians from their own holiday gives me a little chuckle - can a generic holiday greeting change or in any way impact the fact that the Christian Savior was born over two thousand years ago? Can my holiday greeting keep you from decorating your tree or attending midnight mass or spending Christmas morning watching your kids tear through presents? I'm crazy powerful if it can.

On the flip side, can placing luminaries in front of my house while I'm away at my family's Hannukah celebration impact my holiday? Whereas a holiday greeting is inclusive of all, luminaries are specifically related to Christmas... Of course the luminaries didn't change our lighting the menorah or opening presents or eating latkes but it did piss me off. I have no problem with luminaries - they're very pretty all lined up along the street, but Christmas is not my holiday and it is a slight to mine and my husband's actual spiritual practices to place a Christmas symbol in front of our house without our consent.

But I'm over it because Hannukah was fun and my in-law's Christmas celebration, for which my Jewish mother is joining us, is right around the corner. Then it's a long, 11 month wait for the next War on Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 15, 2006

More consciencious marketing

Bristol-Myers Squibb, as part of their ad campaign for their HIV drug Reyataz, is donating a dollar to the National AIDS Fund for every virtual candle lit on their site. That's right - you just click. According to the Web site, they have had over a million clicks so far.

Cool and mesmerizing

I wrote about it when it first came out, but I think the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is rad, even if it is for selling product. This video goes through the whole process of a photo shoot from the beauty team to the computer modifications. Mesmerizing!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

At my door: armed police officer and hungry pit bull

This piece was originally published in the News & Record on December 13, 2006.

The morning before Thanksgiving - very, very early the morning before - our younger dog, Cosmo, woke us with increasingly insistent barking. We hushed him and continued to snooze... until, that is, the door bell rang, alerting Cosmo and his sister, Emmie, that it was time for full-blown, outdoor, cat's-in-the-driveway barking.

From our upstairs window, we saw a police car parked in front of our house with the spotlight trained on our door. Ringing the bell was an officer clutching his 12-gauge. The officer apologized for the early wake-up call and explained that a neighbor thought a pit bull terrorizing the neighborhood might be ours. The still-unceasing yapping of our mixed-breeds proved otherwise.

Just then, the aforementioned pit bull came tearing around the corner; the officer asked, then quickly entered our house. The dog's ribs were showing clearly through its skin as it jumped up, pawing at the storm door. And that's how we found ourselves, three grown adults, trapped inside a house by a hungry pit bull.

Eventually, my husband distracted the dog by pounding on a window just long enough for the officer to stick a huge bowl of kibble on the door stoop. We hoped the food would keep the dog occupied until animal control could save the day, but no such luck; the kibble was gone and the dog was back to barking in record time.

After 20 or so minutes and a dozen apologies, the officer snuck out of our house through the backyard, climbed on top of his cruiser and lured the dog into his backseat. I hate to think of the state of his upholstery between the oversized bowl of kibble on an empty stomach and the dog's sharp teeth.

Mission accomplished, right? The dog was apprehended and no one got hurt.

The problem remains that not only was their a lose, emaciated dog in our neighborhood but that the dogs was wearing a collar and therefore had an owner. (Of course, getting close enough to the dog to determine who that owner might be was its own problem).

My anecdotal dog expertise comes from my own dogs and those of my friends and family. Except for a cocker spaniel with a mid-life crisis, these are all dogs which would sooner lick a person to death than bare their teeth. Maybe that's because they happen to have the genetics of kinder, gentler breeds. Or maybe, as I tend to believe, it's because they've been well fed and cared for.

It seems to me that the bad rap given to dogs like pit bulls, Doberman pinschers and German shepherds is a self-fulfilling prophecy: they have a reputation for being aggressive, so people who want aggressive dogs buy them and raise them to be as such, thus adding to the reputation. Starve and mistreat a notoriously sweet dog like a labrador and you're likely to see the same behavior.

Conversely, buy a pit bull and treat it with loving kindness and you might just find yourself with a hulking lap dog.

In a city where we have little need for herding sheep, dogs serve solely to enhance the lives of their owners. But whose lives are they enhancing when they're angry from abuse or hunger, or when their lives are spent in the six foot circle allowed by a lead in the yard?

Neglected, malnourished dogs add undue danger to neighborhoods, divert our police force from crime and fill our animal shelters with animals that will most likely be euthanized.

This is not a complex problem to solve, however. All it takes is a little food and a lot of loving attention for our four-legged family members

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The education hoax

I've thought for a while now that though college is fun and can lead to well-rounded human beings, mass education probably isn't the solution to global outsourcing. But I couldn't have explained why with nearly as much insight as Jonathan Tasini. Don't miss the last paragraph.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Beck's new website

I might be slow, but I just noticed that Beck redesigned his website and it might just be the coolest website I've ever seen. Be sure to check out the videos and the store.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter Walk follow-up

With money still coming in, Triad Health Project has already tallied $109,000 raised from Winter Walk! Thanks to all of you who walked and donated!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Winter Walk 06

The N&R estimates that between 2500 and 3000 people participated in yesterday's Winter Walk for AIDS. As always, it was a bittersweet event. After all, you can't raise money for a disease without admitting that the disease is impactful, and painful. But the streets of Greensboro were filled with hope as these thousands of people walked together to raise money for prevention, services for those living with HIV/AIDS and research towards a cure.

A&T made a strong showing, with a kick-off performance by their amazing marching band. We wondered why the anarchist drum circle wasn't at their annual spot in front of War Memorial Stadium only to find them cheering us on at the midpoint, circled up on the corner of Market and Elm.

Every year, there's that glimmer of hope that there won't be a walk next year because AIDS will have gone the way of polio. In the meantime, it's nice to gather in hope.

Our team:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thanksgiving response

Generally, even when I don't get around to reading the whole paper, I check out the letters to the editor - they strike me as an inside peek at what people around Guilford County are thinking and often there's at least one that's comedy gold, whether the author intended it as such or not... But somehow I missed the counterpoint piece in the News & Record on November 25th entitled 'America is bad' routine grows boring, a response to my piece Thanksgiving comes with two sides.

I finally tracked it down in the archives, along with all the blogged chatter. I thought it was interesting that the author, Steve Gordon, chose to focus on my negative comments rather than the ultimate catharsis of enjoying Thanksgiving as a time to share with some of my favorite people. On the comment board, Hayes summed up my point succinctly by writing, "I don't understand why it so hard to see what a great nation we are and at the same time admit we are not perfect saints and that we have made mistakes and not be called left elitist for it."

What Gordon and the rest of the folks who have logged negative responses don't realize is that I enjoy those as much, if not more, than the supportive responses. Gordon doesn't get it and he won't because he's locked into a different view of patriotism than I am - I believe I can love America despite it's faults and he thinks loving America means ignoring its faults. But I got under his skin a little - I made him think about it at least long enough to write the piece and send it in. He probably even talked to a few people about it and felt really mighty and strong when he saw it in print.

I don't begrudge Gordon any of that - he can call me all the names he wants to but ultimately he's furthering my goal of creating dialogue. My thanks to Gordon, to the posters on the N&R blog and to you, for reading this now!

The N word

I've long been an advocate to using words in order to rob them of their power - though, admittedly, as a white woman, I stuck to words that could be used in reference to me, like the dreaded c-word (which, as you can read in this long-ago post, shocked and cracked my sister up) but never the n-word - not my word, therefore not in my power to soften its ugliness. Still, I believed that even the n-word could eventually lose its power, over lots of time.

But poet Etan Thomas makes the argument that we shouldn't try to take its power - we should remember why that word originated and seal it in the ugly annals of history, along with swastikas and Confederate flags. Read his blog post here.

p.s. I'm still going to use the c-word.

Oh how the cogs turn

So, let me get this straight: Bush uses illegal wiretapping and Gingrich is suggesting rethinking the whole freedom of speech thing, all to keep us safe from terrorists, and they aren't even using the processes already in place?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Checking in

I'm going to have to go ahead and apologize for what is bound to be an extended slow-down of my blog. I've taken a temp job through the end of the year (which makes 3 or 5 jobs, depending on how you count) in my search to figure out which way my path is heading. While multiple jobs have their own built-in problems, it is pretty sweet to be in a place in my life where I can fish around as I pursue my idea life.

I'll keep posting but it might not be as frequently as before, at least until January when I expect the load to lighten a little. Thank you for continuing to check in and for your patience during this jaunt of mine.

Oh, and FYI: my column, which would usually run tomorrow, has been rescheduled this week only for Sunday, to coincide with the Winter Walk for AIDS. If you've never participated, I can't urge you strongly enough - it is a beacon of hope in a bleak fight. I'll be back to Wednesdays on December 13.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving, the review

Thanksgiving has passed; turkey and sides are wrapped in the fridge for several more meals, the dishes are (mostly) clean, cars no longer line every spare inch of curb. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving - our mothers came as did several friends and one new face. A friend I haven't seen in a year or more even came by for a while after dropping me a surprise email earlier in the week. We drank wine at noon, spoiled each other with the food we made to share and laughed alot, in conversation and while playing Apples to Apples (seriously - this is a great party game - anyone can play and it's almost always funny).

Today, my mother and I indulged in our yearly Carolina Craftsman tradition. Though the crowd always annoys us, we can't resist checking out the latest craft fad. This year is was dichromatic glass, mostly jewelry, and wildlife photography. Among the most pleasant surprises were a photographer who shot the most amazing still lifes and a folk artist with one large piece that was Carmen Miranda meets Chicken of the Sea.

I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving as well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Greensboro's finest at 5:30 am

I make it a policy to spend the time between 6:30 and 6:45 am spooning with my husband during the snooze, pre-waking phase. So why, you ask, am I instead dressed and blogging? It's simple, really:

About an hour ago, our younger dog, Cosmo, began returning the barks of dogs across the neighborhood - we could hear them like a muffled dog choir. Cosmo, being the polite dog he is, was giving his little bark but it's still a lot more than I like to hear during what I consider to be the middle of the night. Still, we were mostly asleep... until the doorbell rang. I'm pretty sure Rob yelled; I'm positive both dogs started barking in their outdoor voices.

A peak out of the window showed a cop car parked outside of our house. In retrospect, I wish we had the presence of mind to answer the door yelling something random and confusing like, "There ain't nothin' unholy about our love!"

As it was, we just answered the door to find a young, round cop clutching his 12-gauge. Seems that an emaciated pit bull was on the loose and our neighbor suggested it might be ours. For the record, we have two well-fed mixed-breeds, both of whom are indoor dogs and neither of whom look remotely like a pit bull. We suspect the neighbor who fingered us is the very one who keeps two dogs in a small-ish outdoor pen 24/7 (we've hatched a half dozen plans to spring them) and who, a year ago or so, asked us if we could keep our dogs inside so his outdoor dogs wouldn't bark at them. Sure thing, buddy - we'll potty train them.

Just then, the pit bull charged the cop who quickly asked, then immediately entered our house. Can't blame him or the dog - if my ribs were sticking out, I'd be thinking about biting a cop too. The cop kept apologizing; apparently he'd had a couple of bad experiences with pit bulls and has even had to shoot a couple to get out of it - he was pretty well determined to not have to hurt this dog. We stuck an enormous bowl of food out of the door which the dog ate in a matter of moments... probably too much for one sitting on a shrunken stomach but we were hoping to distract it until animal control could arrive.

Eventually the cop snuck out the back door and through our gate. From our window, we saw him lure the pit bull into the backseat of his cruiser. It was a pretty slick move, actually, though I wonder if the cop will regret it when the dog either pukes up all the food he ate and/or eats the upholstery.

To me, the really sad part is that people buy pit bulls because they want a mean dog and they train them to be that way; the fact that the dog was starved just made it all the worse. Maybe pit bulls do have a greater inherent tendency toward meanness, but any dog would turn mean under some circumstances, and pit bulls can be sweethearts if raised with love.

On the upside, the early wake-up call gave us ample time to get the turkey out of the brine, rinse it off and reconfigure the fridge to give the bird room to dry until it goes into the oven tomorrow morning.

Over and out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Kramer, Thanksgiving and more

When several days have gone without a post to my blog, I usually can't remember what it is I've been doing... not reading the news, that's for sure.

I did manage to sit down with the Sunday N&R and meant to comment on a couple of things but right now I can only remember one: a hearty congratulations to Mary Watson Ray whose wedding announcement ran Sunday. She and I went to high school together and were very friendly across clique lines (she was on the preppy/popular side, I was on the Sarah side, whatever that was - I really should post a high school picture or two - what fashion sense! What innovation! Whatever...) Mary Watson used to call me Sugar Bugger which still ranks as my all-time favorite nickname. She's a wonderful person and I wish her a lifetime of happiness with her groom!

I'm also tickled, though not surprised, that her wedding portrait in the paper was absolutely beautiful... I've become a bit of a newspaper wedding portrait connoisseur lately, since I realized the comedy gold to be found there. Some of these wedding photographers should be lashed with a wet noodle (my old piano teacher's favorite threat) for the bizarre poses they put some of these unsuspecting brides in - leaning over railings, twisted around as though trying to look at their own asses... for that matter, lashes to the brides who opt to put those awful pictures in the paper... I take that back: you look great, ladies. Keep 'em coming and thanks for the laughs!

All of which is a perfect though unintentional segue into Michael Richards's recent foray into racism. There's really nothing to say about that but, "C'mon, Michael - what the hell?" The power of the n-word continues to loom large because racism still does - of course black people can say it, just as my sister and I feel free to joke about Jewish people but would quickly chew a non-Jew out for doing the same - we can treat ourselves however we want to. Surely, this was not the kind of celeb comeback Richards has been hoping for since Seinfeld ended.

Maybe Richards will spend this Thanksgiving being thankful for the 15 minutes he had... My Thanksgiving ritual begins tonight when I submerge my 23 lb bird (I hope my 4 guests are really hungry) into a brown sugar and salt brine where it will sit overnight. Tomorrow I rinse and let it dry uncovered in the fridge which leads to the awkward salmonella dance - trying to keep a decent radius of space between the raw turkey and unsuspecting milk jugs.

I'll post more about this later, but just a quick reminder that Winter Walk for AIDS is coming up - December 3. Come walk - you'll love the side of Greensboro you see there! Or you can donate to our team here. Jones Computer and Networking, the company I co-own with my husband, will be matching donations dollar for dollar up to $1,000 - your donation will go a long way in the fight against AIDS!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving comes with two sides.

This column was originally printed in the News & Record on November 15, 2006 - and yes, I suck for taking so long to post it...

I hardly recognize my street these days. Multicolored leaves cling to the trees; kids at the bus stop wear jackets and sometimes gloves. A few Halloween decorations remain on lawns; a few Christmas decorations have appeared. Sitting here in my tee-shirt, it hardly seems possible that Thanksgiving could be a week away. But there it is, taunting me with its mixed meaning.

Each year around this time, flyers start popping up around Greensboro, particularly at the cusp between the campuses of UNC-G and Greensboro College. They are artfully done posters condemning the holiday that bolsters the myth that the pilgrims were swell folk who served roasted turkey to the natives.

Maybe they did; maybe some small band of good Europeans befriended the indigenous people, trading skills and tools and cooking up some mythical pot luck. Rumor has it, the natives agreed to bring their special cranberry sauce but it turned out it was canned.

Sadly, no amount of elementary school pageantry, no number of Timmys dressed as turkeys, no amount of headdresses or faux-deer smocks can turn America’s bloody past into a picnic. We all know about the pox-laced blankets, the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of native children so that they could be educated in European-oriented schools. A look at the continued poverty of reservations around the country are enough to know that this greatly diminished population has yet to recover though it has been over five hundred years since Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Each year, I wrestle with Thanksgiving’s dirty secret, even as it is buried beneath neighborhood games of touch football and cartoon character parade balloons. I think about it even as I embark on the multi-day ritual of brining, drying and roasting the turkey; even as I coordinate pot-luck side-dishes; even as I eagerly tally the RSVPs from the mish-mash of family, friends and friends of friends who spend the day at my home.

This year, like the years before, I will eventually console myself by agreeing to be saddened by our past while appreciating a tradition that gives me an excuse to spend time with many of the people I enjoy. I will treat Thanksgiving like the sappy version of any other dinner party, replacing Mediterranean finger foods with sweet potato casserole and cornbread stuffing.

Thanksgiving is also an opportunity to truly consider the meaning of the word, and in so doing spend real time considering our fortunes. In that way, Thanksgiving sometimes reminds me of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In order to truly observe either, we must not only consider the events of the previous year – what went right, what went wrong – but consider how to turn those into a better year to come.

While on Yom Kippur, we beat our chests and beg forgiveness, on Thanksgiving we can take a less intense approach. I’m thankful for a supportive, smart, fun husband, so next year I’ll work even harder to not take my bad moods out on him. I’m thankful to have a thriving career doing work I love, so next year I will be vigilant to seize every opportunity.

I’m thankful to be American. Despite our ugly history that extends well beyond the settlers, through the slave trade and into today’s political and global scandals, this is an amazing country with unlimited potential. Next year, I will do my part to move our country even closer to what it should be: the global role-model for freedom and democracy.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Alita's Southern Cakes

If you're a Saturday morning Curb Market shopper, you may have seen Alita with her mini pound cakes and big squares of carrot cake with the nice, thick layer of cream cheese icing. I'm lucky enough to count Alita as a friend - we met several years ago when we were both beginning our culinary educations at GTCC. I dropped out during the first semester; Alita graduated with flying colors and converted the garage of her newly built home into a really nice commercial bakery.

As a friend, I've had the opportunity to taste many of Alita's cakes so I can say definitively that everything she makes is amazing, though Rob and I have a serious soft-spot for her carrot cake which is unbelievably moist with icing that's fluffy and not too rich.

Yes! Weekly did justice to Alita's cakes in their article this week but they left out one essential detail: if you want to order Alita's carrot (mmmm.... carrot cake....), red velvet or chocolate cakes, or any of her gourmet, all butter pound cakes, email her at or call her at 336.510.0313. Your co-workers/friends/family/special someone will love you for it!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Doogie v Haggard

I may be telling on myself a little to admit this, but I thought Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was hilarious, in a really stupid, mindless-laugh kind of way. Not least of the attraction was Neal Patrick Harris supposedly playing himself, stealing cars in order to run off and party with hot chicks...

As it turns out, Harold and Kumar may be more to the real Harris's taste, as evidenced by Harris's ultra-smooth admission to being gay last week. It was everything a coming-out should be: low-key, totally lacking in sensation, honest and straight forward.

I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest.


Leonard Pitts, Jr. did an admirable job in his column yesterday, comparing this kind of honest, healthy admission with the recent outing of gay-basher Ted Haggard. One one hand, we have Harris, who presumably has taken his acceptance of himself into healthy relationships - or, at the very least, honest relationships. On the other hand, we have Haggard who has lied to himself, lied to his wife of 28 years, and had children in this dishonest, self-hating atmosphere. As Pitts so succinctly says,

I bet [Haggard's wife] wishes he had 'flaunted' his homosexuality a long time ago.
Would Haggard have felt the compulsion to hide his true sexuality, and carried on this kind of massive, pervasive lie, if we as a country admitted that homosexuality is an inborn trait, and accepted gays and lesbians accordingly? I doubt it.

A matter of terminology

Joe Lieberman has said that he hasn't ruled out switching teams - by which I mean, of course, turning Republican.

Remind me: how would that be different from his current politics?

Monday, November 13, 2006


Sorry about the gajillion posts on Greensboro 101 - apparently when Blogger republished me in beta, it sent everything out again. Ooops... oldies but goodies? Wah-wah...

Random ponderings

I think I've had blogger-block lately... or maybe it's just been a lack of time. After getting back from my Atlanta/Primus trip late Tuesday, it was a whirlwind of day-times at Lede PR and evenings putting together my resume and writing sample for another iffy prospect. Somehow, three-day-weeks always feel like five...

Defying my requests that he stay 6 for a while longer, my nephew had his 7th birthday this weekend. Kids ran around, at least one cried, sugar was enjoyed by all. My bro-in-law launched his new kids' party band, Big Bang Boom - lots of interactive stuff and nothing that made adult ears bleed... except, perhaps, my mother and I singing along to our old favorite, Don't Stick Your Finger Up Your Nose. It's a classic, I swear.

And now for Thanksgiving... I have this weird relationship with Thanksgiving. As a kid, I usually ended up at my step-mother's parents' house which, while they were welcoming and all, never became part of my holiday tradition, if that makes any sense.

I started cooking my own Thanksgiving dinner six years ago, when a friend's mom moved away, leaving said friend longing for some sort of Thanksgiving continuity. I barely cooked at the time; I had certainly never roasted a turkey. I remember my then-girlfriend's mom going into a Massachusetts-accent frenzy when I mentioned the bird was still in the freezer three days before Thanksgiving. Somehow it all came together, though, and I've been cooking ever since.

I have these fantasies of big Thanksgiving dinners, people I like scattered all over the house with plates in their laps, general merriment all around. In the last few years, we've gotten half-way there: general merriment has been had though we've yet to break the sitting-around-the-table barrier. I plan to take advantage of the table-lock this year by trying to get a game of Apples to Apples started. If you haven't played this, you have to run out and get it - now! Players have cards with nouns written on them; the judge (which changes every round) throws out an adjective card. Players add the noun card they think is best described by the adjective and the judge picks a completely subjective winner... it's a lot more fun than my description. With my smart-ass group of friends, you end up with adjective/noun pairs like "Hilarious Hitler" and that kind of thing... Booze helps but isn't absolutely necessary...

I've ordered Jones CAN holiday cards and am thinking about being done with my Hannumas shopping... where did this year go?

Saint Francis

I keep forgetting to post this - it's the one picture I took in Santa Fe (for some of Rob's pictures, visit his site, Life Through the Rectangle.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election night

Election night always makes me nostalgic for pre-IT elections. I have a vague memory of being a kid and having guests over, staying up late as the votes were tallied and reported - not being sure of who would win until the wee hours. Modern voting lacks the sex appeal but that bothers me less when there's good news, like Brad Miller pulling ahead of Robinson and only three seats remaining before the Democrats regain control of the Senate.

The fact that the Webb v. Allen race is still neck and neck is a little concerning - is Allen that charismatic or are Virginians that a) blind b) backwards c) there's no c - as far as I can tell, those are the only two possible reasons. My apologies to my family, many of whom are VA residents - maybe they can help me understand.

And Florida: Mark Foley?!? Seriously, 48% of you voted for Mr. Protect-our-kids-until-their-parents-aren't-watching? Mr. See-you-as-soon-as-you're-18?

But that's democracy, I suppose. I may think the voters backing Allen and Foley are twisted, sad people who were probably humiliated in front of their third grade classes, but majority wins. I have to confess that I was concerned about the validity of this election (and reports of photo IDs required to vote suggests an attempt to weed out immigrants) but the paper printout attached to the voting machine I used today made me feel a little better... a little...

I'm off to bed, perhaps to awaken to solid, honest election results or maybe to headlines exposing some amazingly choreographed poll fraud. Only time will tell... Happy Election Day! May Democracy be with you!

Primus, live in Atlanta

Rob and I have been know to travel for two kinds of shows: anything Cirque du Soleil and anything Les Claypool. This past weekend, Rob and I have been in Atlanta for the latter - Les Claypool with his band, Primus. Claypool is a bassist, a title which is way too reductive, given the kinds and range of sounds he can squeeze out of a bass... there's really no way to sum him up except to listen to his music (and lots of it - there's no single sound with him).

We caught Claypool last year in Baltimore, touring as his solo incarnation which includes accompaniment by Gabby LaLa on the electric sitar. It was a great show except that Rob and I have reached that point in our lives where the crowds bouncing into us, and the long hours standing on the cement floor before the show even starts, and the copious cigarette smoke really get to us... to the point that we swear off club gigs forever... right before another band pops up that we really want to see. But Primus is a must see, so off we went to the Tabernacle, an old church that has been converted to a venue. The organ pipes are still the backdrop to the stage; every square inch of the walls and ceiling have been decorated with geometric shapes in red, white and black. Two balconies ring the main floor - balconies with seats, mind you. We scored a couple of choice seats directly above stage right. When Claypool finally took the stage (after much anticipatory chanting of "Primus sucks" - endearment, believe it or not), we were 30 feet away from him which meant that we could watch his hands fly across his base, often playing one tune on the body and a completely different tune on the neck. As a bonus, there was no smoking in the auditorium - which, of course, didn't mean there was no smoking but there was certainly less, and people waited much longer to light up.

The set list was short but each song included its own enhancements and solos. Every song was flawless - even more impressive than on their recordings... I know almost nothing about music - except if I like it - so I won't try to describe or explain why it was such an amazing show except that I spent the entire time torn between watching the band and dancing like the idiot I am. It's the kind of music where you have no choice but to bounce - it just gets its grip on you. In the standing room section, there were even a couple of mini-mosh pits of the old school variety - the kind of good-natured pummeling where people check on the kid that fell before beating the crap out of him some more.

An unexpected treat for Rob was his favorite, a b-side if Primus has any, Sergeant Baker and finished the night with what Claypool called a Celtic ditty inspired - as is his entire career - by Sting: Wynona's Big Brown Beaver which is about the animal... sort of...

The opening band, Rasputina, was also impressive, particularly considering they are made of two cellists and a drummer - again, it was amazing the sounds they coaxed from cellos. It strikes me that Claypool seems to choose his opening bands in order to give up-and-comers exposure rather than the standard practice of choosing openers who are a draw on the own right.

Like all great shows, it was over before we were ready... and though I've seen some great bands - Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snoop Dogg, Erikah Badu, BB King, Johnny Lang, Indigo Girls, etc - this easily ranks as the best show in the best venue... it's gonna be a hard one to top...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Back in the saddle again

Our fine leadership is sending Sgt. Santos Cardona back to Iraq. You may not know his name but you've likely seen pictures of him, mixed it with the other spine-chilling photos from Abu Ghraib. Cardona was the dog handler who was convicted for his role in prisoner abuse. Apparently that conviction amounted to some hard labor at our very own Ft. Bragg and a demotion. Not that going back to Iraq is any sort of cushy assignment.

With Bush's clear support of "aggressive interrogation," I have no doubt that the abuses by Cardona and the rest of the Abu Ghraib crew were sanctioned from the top, however subtly. Which leaves me wondering which is worse: that they would use these people as patsies for crimes they encouraged or that they wouldn't subject their patsies to the full extent of the law.

Now Cordona gets another chance to die in a pointless war, becoming a statistic that most of us will gloss over in our morning paper, much like the more than 100 Americans dead in October alone.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eat local now

Just as an addendum to my piece in yesterday's News & Record (below): the Farmers' Markets will be hopping for a while longer this season. Though our CSA has ended, even the Bushes will be at the Curb Market through Christmas and some farmers are there year-round, not to mention the many bakers and Massoud and Annah Awartani and Saada Naim, all of whom sell amazing homemade Middle Eastern treats.

There's never a bad time to start eating locally!

Discover your inner farmer next season

This piece was originally published in the News & Record on November 1, 2006. For more information on Farmers' Markets and CSA, go to my homepage.

It seems like just weeks ago that I was eagerly anticipating the spring revitalization of the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market: the return of Goat Lady Dairy chevre at the end of their kidding season, spring salad greens, green tomatoes, the first strawberries and the slow, steady filling of the aisles with familiar faces, the subculture of local food enthusiasts.

But October is over; the Market vendors will shift from predominately farmers to predominately craftspeople until the winter holidays have passed. Then the Market will become truly sparse through the coldest months.

The end of the growing season is even more jarring than usual for my husband and me. This was our first year participating in a CSA, or Consumer Supported Agriculture.

The particulars of CSA programs vary by farmer; some expect members to spend a set time working at the farm, others expect only a monetary buy-in. In exchange, members get a share of the farm’s freshest goods, usually vegetables but sometimes meats or dairy depending on the farm. More than a dozen small farms in North Carolina alone offer CSAs.

We chose to join Handance Farm’s CSA in large part because I have more than a decade of history with the farmers, Pat and Brian Bush. I met Pat in the early-90s when she ran the kitchen at Camp Carefree and I volunteered there a few days a week, making chocolate pudding topped with cooking crumb “dirt” and gummy worms, and gazpacho that only the staff would eat.

It wasn’t until last year, though, that I rediscovered the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market, reconnected with the Bushes and learned about their CSA which is filled with the heirloom organic veggies they so carefully cultivate.

The Bushes ask for only a monetary buy-in; they offer farm work opportunities but do not require it. The CSA begins its cycle in January, when members reserve their spot by sending in a check for $320. This past year, pre-season monies allowed Pat and Brian to purchase a much needed and hard to find mulch spreader; you can imagine the added efficiency when you realize that prior to this purchase, they hauled mulch by the bucket-load down every long row.

We started picking up our bags in May – reused paper grocery bags, packed with kale, beets, tomatoes, eggplant… The contents changed by the week and though seasonality is a predictor of what we would get, there was still the element of surprise and the culinary adventure of learning how to use a half-dozen varieties of greens and keeping delicata squash interesting for the fourth week in a row.

In addition to all the farm-fresh produce that two people could eat in a week (and often more), Pat and Brian also included a paragraph summary of that week on the farm. It’s not weeding a bed of garlic, but for non-farmers it offers a slightly closer connection to the land, something we often forget in the grocery stores where even our potatoes are immaculately dirt-free and every apple looks shiny and identical.

Over the winter, I will reacquaint myself with the produce people at the grocery store, who I now only see on my way to the coffee aisle. My husband and I will eat vegetables that have traveled more miles from farm to our kitchen than we will have traveled all year. And we will eagerly anticipate next May when our first CSA bag offers more treasures unearthed from the North Carolina clay.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Answers from Miller - for real

After much hubbub, the Miller campaign has submitted answers with many apologies from campaign manager, Denise. I believe she's going to be checking the comment board throughout the day to answe any other questions. Without further ado:

  1. Are you familiar with the term "peak oil"? If so, what actions do you plan to take to help us deal with the coming energy crisis?
I’ve heard the term. I think we need to have an effort comparable to developing the atomic bomb in World War II to develop alternative energy and energy efficient technologies.

  1. What has your greatest challenge in Congress been over the last few years, and how do you propose to tackle those particular issues if reelected? What would you do differently?"

The greatest challenge is how the middle class can have a prosperous future. The income of the middle class has not kept up with inflation. We need to support job training programs so we can have the most skilled workforce in the world. We need to support research that will lead to new job-creating businesses.

  1. Do you think the US should maintain military bases in Iraq, even after our withdrawal? If so, why do you think that is necessary. If not, will you vote against any appropriations that fund the construction of such bases?

No, I have sponsored legislation to prohibit permanent military bases in Iraq. I will vote against any appropriations that fund the construction of such bases.

  1. I am interested in Congressman Miller's reading list. What has he read lately? Is there a recently published non-fiction book that he wishes everyone else would read?

Most of my recent reading has been light fiction. I just finished a pot-boiler by Stuart Woods, Iron Orchid.

  1. What is Congressman Miller's approach to further informing himself and others about the economic and social developments in India and China that continue to effect jobs in NC? Does he see an upside for NC companies in the trends of outsoucing and offshoring? And if so, what are his recommendations for NC businesses to capitalize on globalization instead of just falling victim to a continued loss of jobs?

We need to have the most skilled workforce in the world. We can’t compete for low-skilled jobs in labor intensive industries. We need workers who can perform most sophisticated jobs in any industry. And, we need to stop giving American corporations tax breaks when they move jobs from the U.S.

  1. Would Congressman Miller support Bush impeachment proceedings?

No, but I support oversight of the Bush Administration by Congress which the Republican Congress has not done for 6 years.

  1. With the big money required to win a campaign, corporate sponsorships seem to be giving big business tremendous influence over elected officials. Is it possible for a candidate to be elected to any national position without being beholden to “the highest bidder?” Along those lines what can be done to reform campaign financing so the people know that their elected officials are the peoples’ elected officials?

We need to elect political leaders with the backbone to say “no.” We need to explore ways to limit money in campaigns that won’t be struck down by courts as unconstitutional. I am a supporter of the Democrats’ plan for “open government, honest leadership” . For more information, go to:

  1. Where do you stand on the rights of gay and lesbian Americans, including gay marriage, partner benefits, and the rights of two same-sex parents to share legal custody of children? Do you support “Don’t ask, don’t tell”?

I have sponsored legislation to end “don’t ask,don’t tell.”

I otherwise think those laws should be decided by states, not the federal government as they have been for more than 200 years.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween! I love that there is a day of the year specifically set aside for kids to dress as superheros, princesses and goblins, for men to dress as nuns, and for women to dress as their inner slut (come on, ladies - you know you do it!).

I was in high school the last time I went trick-or-treating. I dressed as James Bond and a friend was the sexy Bond girl (she totally rocked it, too). I still dress up most years, though often it's just to amuse myself. Rob and I were Jay and Silent Bob our first Halloween together. Then DeeDee and Dexter from Dexter's Lab.

This year I'm a super-genius with a thick Southern accent (big papier-mache brain) and Rob is a Santa Fe photographer - we're dressing as our ideal selves.

Tonight, I'll pretend that the trick-or-treaters really scare me with their stage makeup, and Rob will insist on handing out candy even though the endless stream of kids eventually begins to terrify him. Our dogs will bark, our cats will hide, and some of the more outgoing kids will complement our pumpkin carving - this year we did a vampire pumpkin and a haunted house pumpkin, compliments of stencils.

Here's to a happy Halloween where only your neighbors get egged!

Those who protest the loudest...

In the tradition of Mark Foley's anti-pedophilia legislation, it again seems that those who protest the loudest are the ones trying to provide cover for themselves. The most recent example involved the Republican National Committee which recently ran the subtly racist ad against Harold Ford (D - Tenn.) which, in addition to playing on the age-old fear of black men with white women, accuses Ford of taking donations from "porn kings".

But guess who's really taking the donations? You got it: the RNC! Not only are they taking oodles of money earned through money shots, they are regular recipients of money from Nicholas T. Boyias, the owner and CEO of one of the largest producers and distributors of gay porn in the United States.

Once again, gays shouldn't be allowed to marry and they shouldn't be afforded anti-discrimination protection that would prevent employers from firing them on the basis of their sexuality but it's okay if gay porn furthers the Republican agenda?

There's so much wrong with that paragraph...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Still no word from Miller

I've switched from gently asking for the answers to being more direct and insistent... I will, of course, let you know if/when I hear more.

Today's good news

The data collection isn't quite complete, but the thus-far collected data suggests that the speed at which the Amazon rainforest is being deforested dropped by about a third this past year.

This calls for a celebratory deep breath! If this keeps up, we'll have plenty of fresh air to go around!

Jesus would do this?

Though I've read most of the New Testament, I realize that the fact that I'm Jewish means I may miss some of the subtle nuances of Christianity, like the whole WWJD phenomenon.

So I have to ask: would Jesus give Guyanese peasants life-threatening misinformation about HIV/AIDS in order to boost church attendance? Because from my reading of the New Testament, it just doesn't seem in character...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Trading reason for dogma

Pat Tilman and his brother, Kevin, joined the army together in 2002. We all know the story from there: Pat was killed in 2004 and his family was lied to about the circumstances so that our government could turn this all-American boy into the hero they needed to garner support for this horrible war. It has since come out that Pat was killed by the erroneously named "friendly fire."

I don't feel at all qualified to comment on the piece that Kevin has written for TruthDig; I can't urge you strongly enough to read it. It is heartbreaking, it needs to be said, over and over again, and it gives me hope that there are people, like Kevin, who can help turn this country around.

Propaganda v. Merit

What impresses me most about the Ohio GOP smear campaign on Al Franken is not just that he looks terribly cute as a bunny, but that the GOP has so little confidence in its platform that it feels the need to quote imaginary conversations and photoshop ridiculous pictures. Instead of running a campaign, they're insulting Ohio Republicans by suggesting that they will only respond to reactionary bullshit and not their candidate's stance on core issues.

Way to go, Ohio GOP! Representing your party proudly!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Censorship in the ranks

I've been seriously lax on the news this week - so many exciting goings on, what with my new job and all - but in my nightly news scan, toothbrush in mouth, I stumbled across an interesting item on Wonkette. Seems that the military blocks internet access for liberal sites and only liberal sites, saying:

forbidden, this page ( is categorized as (Personal Pages) ALL SITES YOU VISIT ARE LOGGED AND FILED.
You can even see the screen shot the Marine, stationed in Iraq, sent to Wonkette to break the story.

So just to make sure I understand: they're old enough to die on our behalf but they're not old enough to get information from both sides of the political spectrum so that they can make informed decisions in the next election? Next you're gonna tell me that they're not even old enough to get a beer after a hard day of chasing enemy combatants... oh, wait...

America, world leader?

An increasingly frequent topic of conversation at the Jones household is whether America has truly become more corrupt or if we just know more about it in the age of 24/7 news outlets and instant communication. Most often, we agree that there has always been corruption but that our current one party government means the breakdown of the checks and balances that once kept corruption somewhat under control.

There have been a couple of news stories lately that have sparked these conversations because of their special grotesqueness... if I can even single out two...

The first article reminds me of the time that I got on my ex's brother's case about his new Nikes - I probably congratulated him on earning a weekly bowl of rice for a Chinese child... needless to say, it didn't help our already contentious relationship. While Nike may not have amended its ways, China is trying to with a law to protect worker's rights, including a crack down on sweatshops. Guess who the opponent with the big guns is? You got it: the good ole US of A. Think about your government advocating third-world labor with slave wages next time you blame a Mexican for stealing American jobs.

Next up is a charming piece about Darfur. Apparently, the House passed a bill that froze the assets and blocked the visas of anyone associated with the perpetration of the genocide there. Good thinking, right? We're finally leading by morality again, right? Indeed - we were morality-first for the whole five minutes before Senator Richard Lugar (R - Ind) got his hands on the bill and eased the restrictions. Seems there's a lot of money to be made in blood.

That's the update from my lunch break at the Lede PR corporate offices (on day two of my freelance job turned real-deal part-time). Back to happier things, like press releases...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We're 53! We're 53!

Chant along with me now: we're 53!

You got it kids: after being 17th in the world for supporting freedom of the press back in 2002, we have now dropped to number 53. That means that utopian countries like Bosnia and Lithuania are beating the pants off of us in what we're supposed to have the market cornered on: freedom.

Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea: we're coming after your last place spots - betta watch out!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pumpkin carving at its goriest

Oddly, I got this link off the Holistic Business Journal's newsletter. How to scrub off bad vibes in one paragraph; how to carve a suicidal pumpkin in the following link. Go figure.

Be forewarned: though the Extreme Pumpkins are exactly that, some really are grody.

Paying for dying but not living

Depending on whether one uses top-down calculations (looking at what has been spent and projecting that number into future cost estimates) or bottom-up calculations (looking at the expense of individual necessities, like bullets and adding all those expenses up), and depending on what one considers a war expense (e.g. are post-war vet services included?), estimates for the cost of the Iraq war vary greatly, reports MSNBC.

Whether it turns out that this unwinnable war is costing us 4.4 or 7.2 billion a week, the number stands in stark contrast to a number the News & Record reported yesterday which said that since Bush has been in office, the number of Americans without health insurance has risen by nearly 10 million. How many billion a week do you think it costs to make sure all Americans have adequate health care?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A rainy morning adventure

Rob and I arrange our weekend in order to indulge in our Sunday ritual which starts with putting our dogs, Emmie and Cosmo, outside and going back to sleep until they start barking, which can be anywhere from five minutes to a half hour. About 15 minutes into snooze time this morning, Emmie gives two sharp barks and then nothing... which instantly makes us nervous.

A little background to the oddity of this bark: Emmie and I have been together since I adopted her as a pup more than six years ago. When Rob and I married, we took Emmie to an adoption fair and allowed her to select a mate - she chose Cosmo. Cosmo promptly taught Emmie how to dig out of our fenced-in yard. The first time they escaped, it scared me so badly that I refused to let them out until Cosmo finally peed on the carpet. Lesson learned.

Escaping the yard became one of their favorite games. Mostly they would run to the front of the house and hang out in the driveway until we noticed them through a window and let them back in. Sometimes we spent an hour circling the neighborhood until the insistent barking of neighbor dogs directed us to them.

When one got out and the other stayed, the remaining dog (dubbed "our good dog" for the day) would let out some pointed barks or howls to alert us to its AWOL partner.

When we had patched the fence and filled holes until we had run out of spare paving stones, and just couldn't take the stress of the escapes anymore, we stapled electric fence to our wooden fence. The first training session scared Cosmo so badly that he again peed on the carpet, this time because he refused to go out. Talk about guilt...

He soon learned that the clicking sound meant take a step back and we have been without incident for an entire year... until this morning when, as it turns out, Emmie's barking was either a victory noise or her way of calling Cosmo a wuss for not following.

Fortunately, Emmie was an easy find this time, trolling the dirt road that runs behind our house. She eagerly, though with ears down in recognition of her naughtiness, got in my car. Cosmo cried the entire time she was gone.

The fact that we've spent the day laying guilt trips on Emmie goes on the list as the 53rd reason we should stick with dogs and cats - who are completely immune to guilt - instead of switching to those hairless pets people call children.

Is this how my mom felt when I snuck out at night?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Finding the right balance on feminism

This was originally printed in the News & Record on October 18, 2006

Years ago, when the first of the women-only gyms opened in Greensboro, one my guy friends and I concocted a business: a men-only gym, aimed at the scrawny guys who are uncomfortable working out in front of the buff, tank-topped clientele at the average coed gym. The problem with this business plan is, of course, that while women feel entitled to space of their own, particularly in matters of body image, many women feel that male-only space can only be a tribute to misogyny. It seemed inevitable that such a gym would eventually be picketed, sued for sexism, or otherwise attacked by radical feminists. The solution to the imaginary problem at our imaginary gym was to station women bouncers at the doors.

This theoretical business came to mind recently when my 11-year-old nephew, overheard me describe the Guardian Life Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Conference to his sister. "“You should have something like that for boys,"” he said.

Though I consider myself a feminist, I don'’t believe that feminism (or any movement meant to bolster the status of minority groups) needs to be anti-majority in order to be effective. Truly, the feminist mission (as well as gay rights and ethnic minority rights missions) should be, and most often is, to obtain equal rights, not special rights.

Unfortunately, when inequality is the status quo, it sometimes takes special rights to even the playing field until it can remain level of its own volition, or in other words, until equality becomes the status quo.

This, of course, is not a new argument. This argument resurfaces every few years as a debate about affirmative action, most often accompanied by the overarching questions: How will we know that affirmative action has been effective enough to become irrelevant? And, is affirmative action already irrelevant?

Recent reports of a predominance of women in higher education, and the rapidly growing economic viability of women and ethnic minorities suggest that we'’re heading in the right direction. But income disparities alone suggest that the mission isn'’t complete. Women continue to earn 25% less than their male counterparts, and most ethnic minorities, with the exception of Asian groups, have a median household income of 69% of that of non-Hispanic whites.

I'’ll admit that when my nephew suggested a business program for boys, my first reaction was an awkward silence, followed quickly by one of those unfortunately vague answers adults so often give in order to get out of difficult questions from kids. The honest answer would have been, "We don't have special programs for boys because being white and male in America is advantage enough."” But I knew that he, who is likely experiencing the same feelings of awkward outsider-ness that most go through in middle school, can't yet see his advantages.

Still, I'm left with a discomfort that feels similar to a conversation I once had with a woman who said she encouraged the dreams of her daughter more than her son because, as she believed, his natural advantages meant he need encouragement less. I can'’t help but wonder: is it necessary, or even useful, to deny our sons in order to bolster our daughters?

But even as I write this, I'’ve had a second uncomfortable realization: when I complement my niece, I speak of her strength and intelligence, and when I complement my nephew, I speak of his creativity and handsomeness. I suppose as we fight for equal rights, we must be vigilant against becoming that which we fight.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Answers from Miller, almost

As I hope most of you know, October 4th has come and gone. As some of you may remember, that was the date the Miller campaign promised answers to the questions that you submitted. You didn't miss the answers - they just weren't here.

A couple of emails later, Miller's campaign manager, Denise, has promised the answers for Saturday - be sure to check back then!

Go Triad Readers Choice Awards

So a friend emails this morning to congratulate me on getting runner up for best blog. I had no idea what she was talking about. A few emails and visit to the N&R website later, and I finally figure out that she's talking about the Readers Choice Awards.

Now, I understand that the Readers Choice Awards is a self-selecting poll and therefore inherently not a representative sample of Triad blog readers. And I also believe that as much as I like Eugene's blog (Congrats, Eugene!), in a representative sample it's really unlikely that Ed Cone or one of the other more esteemed local bloggers wouldn't have won or at the very least placed...

But I'm still stoked about being runner up! Thanks to anyone who voted for me! Guess I should get my ass in gear about posting regularly again...

I'd also like to mention that my bro-in-law's band, Chuck Folds 5, got runner up for best new band - definitely check them out when you have a chance.

ex-con, ex-American

In the US, nearly 4 million people with felony convictions are barred from voting - kind of odd considering that technically we're guaranteed the right to vote. Much like the poll tax of yore, denying felons the right to vote turns voting into a privilege... which sounds a lot like a constitutional offense to me.

I realize that fighting for the rights of a population who presumably did something pretty bad (in order to earn their conviction) isn't so popular. But I thought the point of prison was the trade: you do something bad, you have to give up so many years of your life to one of the most evil places on earth... and then it's over, you've served your time. The idea, of course, is that prison is so miserable that the threat of it is enough to keep people from committing crimes, or at least more crimes.

Unfortunately, our system is not truly made for rehabilitation - it's made for recidivism. People going into jail for breaking and entering and come out knowing how to be murderers. Besides the criminal education, ex-cons, particularly felons, come out of prison with few resources: no money, few job prospects (would you hire an ex-con?) and then we add to it the disenfranchisement of taking away Constitutionally-given rights like voting.

The most personal example I have is the ex-boyfriend who attacked me and spent four years in prison. I spoke with him a couple of times while he was incarcerated - he had a plan, he understood he had to get out of Greensboro and away from his friends to have a healthy life but the last I heard, he is still in Greensboro with the same old crew, losing teeth and has seemingly moved far beyond his former drug of choice, pot.

It's totally pathetic but where else could he have gone?

Taking away the right to vote is just a symptom from the disease that is our "justice" system. If we want to see a lasting drop in our crime rates, we need to rehabilitate the system so that we can rehabilitate our criminals.

(Read the article that prompted this rant on Salon.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


It's almost that time again, when I check the NaNoWriMo website every few days and consider (and reject and consider and reject) signing myself up for their National Novel Writing Month challenge. According to the website:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

It's not necessarily supposed to be literature or even particularly readable - the point is just to write your ass off and feel the pride of having done so. I've been considering and rejecting NaNoWriMo since my one and only short-lived roommate tried to talk me into it in 2002. But the fact that I, like many writers, have had a half-written novel on my shelf for a year now, makes forcing myself back into the fiction habit more tempting than ever despite being busier than ever.

Still, I haven't managed to bring myself to click on the "sign up now!" link yet... any other takers? Some people to offer up the shame of inaction in the guise of encouragement?

America's Dumbest Congressmen

Radar has a great feature this morning on our 10 most intellectually challenged members of Congress. It would be a really funny piece if these weren't our elected officials. If they were, say, rodeo clowns or even personal injury lawyers, it would be a real knee-slapper.

It bears mentioning that this list is bipartisan and includes a distressing array of men and women. Enjoy - if you can.

Monday, October 16, 2006

10 lashes for the bad blogger

That'd be me. I have no idea what I've been doing since I got back from Santa Fe but it sure hasn't been blogging... or reading much news, for that matter. This will be a little catch-up post which will hopefully lead to regular blogging again - thanks for sticking with me!

When I last blogged, I was prepping for the Girls Going Places entrepreneurship program which was a smash success. Most of the high school girls there were dressed more professionally than me (even though they said to dress for an average workday, I threw on some fancy jeans and a button-down shirt - not an average work day but also not frightening to small children). We ended up with nearly 100 participants and they were a seriously impressive bunch. Ambitious, smart, creative. I walk away with high hopes for the future of business. I wish there was a way to check back in with these girls in 10 years - I certainly am not where my high school dreams placed me. At 17, we don't begin to know what opportunities we'll run across; in that light, I repeatedly encouraged the girls to stay flexible to whichever way their paths twist.

Saturday, Rob and I attended ConvergeSouth - you can read about it all over the Greensboro blogosphere so I'll spare you a recap except to say that it was fun to meet so many people I have talked (and argued) with online and that though I dig the idea of the un-convention, I thought it was a shame that the journalism slot with John Robinson and Allen Johnson was hijacked by a couple of guys who just wanted to criticize the comment policy on the News & Record letters to the editor section.

A question I would have liked to have raised there, particularly in the opening discussion with Elizabeth Edwards, was how people draw the line with debate on their blogs? I've had this experience with emails stemming from my column more than on my blog, but there are times when I wonder if I should fight my urge to always send a response - which is right around the time when I start to wonder if the debate I'm having is productive or just for the sake of arguing... I don't have much patience for arguing for arguing's sake. What do you think?

Alright - back to work. This evening, I'm meeting a woman about the paperwork details of getting her landscaping business off the ground. It still cracks me up that I'm a resource for stuff like that...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Life Through the Rectangle

I almost forgot: Rob already has a new photo blog, for the sake of a better name: Life Though the Rectangle. More of our Santa Fe pictures are posted with even more to come. Enjoy, as I do!

Back in the 'boro

The vacation hangover is slowly fading as we jump back into real life. Our four full days in Santa Fe already feel a little like a distant and very sweet dream. Fortunately, we mailed back the many holiday gifts we picked up there (no peaking...), and their arrival Monday will be a gift for us as well.

We spent our vacation mostly walking (and walking) and eating (and eating) and, above all, wallowing in the grace and beauty that is Santa Fe. I have long thought that North Carolinians (and particularly Greensborians) are the nicest, most approachable people around, but the rag tag bunch of dreamers in Santa Fe give us a run for our money in the nice department. Our running theory is that kind, artsy people draw other kind, artsy people and the good vibes just grow. Somehow, writing about it now makes it sound woo-woo and flaky but in Santa Fe, it just feels good.

The let down of a long-anticipated trip having run its course is tempered a bit by the fact that tomorrow is the Girls Going Places entrepreneurship program in which I am (giggle) a mentor. The program director from Guardian Life suggested we wear an outfit from a typical work day to show the diversity in business, and though I would love to roll in in my flannel pj bottoms and worn tee-shirt, I think I'll get a little funky... and dressed... I'm just looking forward to meeting these 100 or so high school girls with the vast expanse of possibility stretched out before them. Truth is, it's stretched out before most of us - they just see it more clearly.

Back in the 'boro - it's good (and a little sad) to be home.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A note from Santa Fe

Despite the inglorious beginning to our trip, made of ruined and quickly revamped travel plans, we made it to Santa Fe and have spent the last three days reveling in the beauty of this city. Art is everywhere: murals on electrical boxes, galleries every 10 steps, sculpture on every corner. Rob has taken what must be hundreds of pictures by now, several of which you can see on his blog. Of course, we've also done some serious eating: the best diner food we've ever had at Zia Diner, street corner carnitas by the famous (particularly in his own mind) Roque, and a gourmet Italian dinner last night at Julian's where the food was rivaled only by a waiter who offered the perfect blend of attention, grace and humor.

Santa Fe is every bit as beautiful as we remembered from the road trip we took out here as newly-dating love birds four years ago... in fact, it may be even more beautiful than I had remembered.

But back to vacation: I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend as well.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Girls [like me] Going Place

This column was originally published in the News & Record on October 4, 2006 - and no, I didn't pick the headline.

A recent invite to mentor the businesswomen of tomorrow strikes me as a little funny as I sit here in my frayed jeans and baseball tee, hair in pigtails and extra-long barbell jutting through an unusual spot in my ear. Unconventional though I may seem, I have been a business owner since October 2003 when I began my now-defunct personal chef service, Dining with Ease.

One of my advantages in life is a built-in delay in self-doubt: it often doesn’t occur to me that I may not be able to do something until I’m already knee-deep in whatever that something might be. Accordingly, I began my life as a businesswoman with the naïveté of not quite understanding the risks inherent in business; I knew I could cook and I knew I could learn about business, and that seemed like enough at the time.

Despite my lack of preparedness, I managed to fulfill the minimum requirements of business ownership by getting a Greensboro privilege license, forming my own LLC, and even signing on a few clients.

I would like to say that I then became wildly successful and eventually ended my business with a seven-figure sale of my client list.

But the truth is that after two years of slow but steady growth, I filed Articles of Dissolution when cooking became a chore and writing seemed more possible, regretting only the clients I was leaving to fend for their own meals.

Even the fact that I closed my business the way I opened it - in the red – doesn’t dampen the feeling that Dining with Ease was a success, if only by personal measures.

I learned a lot from my first trial-by-fire business venture: that putting on a convincing smile projects competence until true competence can be achieved, and later how to deliver a captivating 30-second ad, close a sale, manage my time and manage my books.

Most importantly, I learned the density of my own mettle, and I’ve been able to take that self-awareness into my current endeavors: this very column, and the business I co-own with my husband, Jones Computer and Networking, Inc.

While embarking on ventures for which we are not qualified is certainly a way to expedite learning, I and my comembers of the Winston Salem/Greensboro chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) hope that our guidance can help the next generation of businesswomen avoid our beginners’ mistakes.

On October 12, we’ll get our chance as NAWBO hosts high school girls from across the Triad in Guardian Life’s Girls Going Places (GGP) Entrepreneurship Program. Over the course of a school day, seasoned businesswomen will guide select girls through activities meant to teach them about innovation, business plans and financial acuity.

It is a program designed to bolster the future of women in business but with the understanding that what is good for the goose is good for the whole flock. After all, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research, there are nearly 10.4 million women-owned businesses employing more than 12.8 million people and generating $1.9 trillion in sales. Ultimately, we’re not talking businesswomen; we’re talking business leaders.

When I was invited to mentor at GGP, I worried that my individualistic looks and career path made my story irrelevant; I’ve come to hope that I can show these young women that not only can they achieve whatever they want, but that they can do it in their own way and by their own rules.

Monday, October 02, 2006

RobShots Photo Blog

Check out the first few pictures at Rob's new photo blog, RobShots.

one long weekend

Hi all - sorry about the lack of posting lately. It was one seriously packed weekend, with a short week ahead of me to get everything done that needs to be done before Rob and I take our first real vacation (i.e. not a long weekend within driving distance) since our honeymoon. We're hoping to do some blogging while in Santa Fe but who knows? So much we want to do - so few days there.

Our weekend was filled with things worth mentioning:
  • Michael Ian Black performed at Guilford College - he was hilarious but in the interest of keeping my blog quasi-clean, I can't repeat a single word he said.
  • Running into Jack Reynolds at the show - read about Jack's amazing work in Haiti here.
  • My 10 year high school reunion... where to start with that one? Had a great pre-reunion meal with high school friends at Solaris, which is coincidentally owned by Jack's son, Christian Reynolds. I suppose reunions are always freaky for the way everyone looks vaguely familiar - adult versions of the people we once knew. People have since morphed into rockers, teachers, real estate agents, bankers, video game designers, and even a airforce man who is getting ready to ship out to Afghanistan, having already served in Iraq. He talked mostly about how the Iraqi people touched him but there was a depth to his eyes, a saddness...
  • Sunday, we spent a good chunk of the day driving the Blue Ridge Parkway from Mount Airy to Roanoke - it's not a part of the parkway I've spent much time on and it was beautiful and relaxing. It's where Rob took this picture.
  • In the afternoon, we went to Art in the Arboretum which has grown from a dozen booths with a few dozen patrons into a full-blow festival with great food from the likes of Zaytoon and Cheesecakes by Alex, art in mediums from glass to wood to oil paint, and one of those cool cardboard castles for the kids to paint.
We'll renew our political debates next week, but in the meantime, a little relaxation in the New Mexico sun. I hope you all have a good week, too.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Recipes on Thought for Food

FYI, I'm back to posting on my food blog, Thought for Food, since some of my NAWBO ladies asked me to post ideas for how to mix up their eating habits healthfully. I'll be posting what I've been eating and recipes where applicable.

War Profiteering

There has been oodles of buzz in the comments section for the last few days about whether this is a war fought for financial gain. While Harry Truman called war profiteering during WWII treason, this administration seems to consider it just the course of business.

The most glaring example of war profiteering during the current Iraqi war is, of course, Halliburton, of which Vice President Cheney was chief executive before entering office. Cheney continues to receive a six-figure yearly pension and retains stock options worth an estimated $18 million dollars. Meanwhile, Halliburton stock has quadrupled in value since the beginning of the Iraq war.

There's always the long shot that it wasn't Cheney who encouraged the arm forces to give billions of dollars in contracts to Halliburton (and exact number of billions is apparently not know, not even by the government); it could be the nearly $18,000 they gave to the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign that makes this administration feel beholden to them. They, along with the 70 or so other companies with Iraqi contracts have donated more money to Bush than any other candidate in the last two decades. Hmm - I wonder what they knew then?

Regardless of why specific companies were chosen, contractors were supposedly used to reduce the cost of the war... which makes it seem odd that we have paid Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root an estimated $13 billion just for supplies and equipment maintenance for our armed forces. Adjusted for inflation, this is about two and a half times what we spent on the entire 1991 Gulf War and about the same expense of the American Revolution, the War of 1912, the Mexican-American War, and the Spanish American War combined.

A quick dig into the articles about the outsourcing of this war quickly brings to light that filtering tax-payer money through the government and into the pockets of corporate executives is one of the nicest results. A billion + dollar contract with L-3 Communication was used in part to pay contractors to perform some of the heinous torture witnessed in the Abu Ghraib pictures. Of course, while the members of the military who have the honor of taking the fall for the higher-ups who sanctioned the torture rot in their prison cells, these contractors perpetrating the same crimes have nothing to fear thanks to their protected status.

You know, the more I dig, the sicker I get, and the more I mourn what the Bush administration has taken away from us. In all fairness, though, the channels of profit rarely seem to point at the President himself; perhaps for him it is all about power, which he has been gathering like a greedy school kid with a box of crayons. Sadly, in this case, each crayon represents what were once the checks and balances that made this country so great - he is truly working toward a government that looks a lot like a dictatorship.

So yes, David, this has been a very sad year as I have watched a small group of people take the greatest country in the world and turn it into a shameful, fascist state. I am truly, deeply sad.

The saddest part of all is that while I am writing all of this, I can't help but think of the trampling of the Geneva Conventions that was passed yesterday which not only allows the President to order torture and detain people without charge indefinitely, but is worded so loosely that not even American citizens are protected. Were my words construed as aiding terrorism, I too could be locked up, uncharged, for the rest of time. And this the administration so many of you still defend?

The United Corporations of America

Since I have to leave in a minute, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see how many web pages I can find in the next 10 minutes that support my belief that we now have a corportist government.

  1. MyDD (Direct Democracy): Iraq War Profiteering
  2. The Observer: Bush ally set to profit from war on terror
  3. CorpWatch: US: Democrats Say White House again Cozy with Big Oil (there's a ton of proof on here - this was just the first article I came across)
  4. AlterNet: The 10 most brazen war profiteers (in addition to Halliburton)
I didn't mean to find these but how about some proof that going into Iraq was neither spur-of-the-moment or related to 9/11:
  1. CBS: Bush sought 'way' to invade Iraq?
  2. From the Wilderness Publications: Bush advisers planned Iraq war since 1990s
Well, that's my 10 minutes - imagine if I had 20...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Torture is pointless

As devout a fan of 24 as I am, I think the show may have done the country a disservice. In the course of tracking down that day's terrorist attack, Jack Bauer often, and quickly, resorts to the old lamp wires on the nipples interrogation technique.

Of course, the difference between 24 and reality is that Jack always has the right suspect, always knows when that suspect is holding back and is always able to quickly elicit the necessary info through torture. The reality is much different. Even is less severe instances of persuasive interrogation, such as denying the suspect bathroom access or sleep, innocent people are known to confess to crimes just to make the treatment stop. (Mayer, 2005; McCoy, 2005)

Of course, Bush's attempted (and probably to be successful) rejection of the Geneva Conventions is so much more frightening than the prospect of obtaining misinformation whether the suspect is guilty or innocent. And spare me your "gotta get the bad guys at any cost" doomsday exceptions to the rule: there are already concessions in place that allow torture in extreme situations such as the ones presented on 24. If a bomb is about to go off in our country and we don't know where, torture is permissible by law.

What is really at risk here is not our safety as a country but the safety of our armed forces. If we reject the Geneva convention, there is no reason for other countries to treat our captured soldiers with any sort of humanitarian concern - we will have cut off our own soldiers' rights to fair treatment.

It continues to amaze me that this administration which claims such patriotism and concern for our troops would subject them to that kind of treatment, and this in addition to ineffective kevlar and other safety equipment, the rejection of Israel's anti-RPG technology, and increasingly cut funding for post-service care.

Likewise, it disappoints me (though that's not nearly a strong enough word) that my own party would support this torture bill - people who allow evil to happen are no better than people who actually perpetrate that evil. As Cenk Uygur says:

Any Democrat who votes for this is the worst kind of coward.
Read more about the word mincing that makes this bill so shameful at The New York Times and TruthDig.