Monday, July 31, 2006

Yuor barin on bolg

I got an email about this a long while back but a friend sent it to me again and it never ceases to amaze me:

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.
Our brains rock!

The lighter side of the abortion debate

There's not much funny in the debate about abortion... except this: More than 970 people made donations to NARAL Pro-Choice America in Bush's name in honor of his recent 60th birthday. The whole thing just makes me giggle... I think I might make my own donation in his name, a belated birthday present. You can join me by donating here.

Mel's drunken "truthiness"

We've probably all heard about it by now: Mel Gibson was arrested for drunk driving and used the platform of the police station to spew his anti-Jewish rhetoric. Now he wants to take it all back...

It surprises me that anybody who has read, and I mean really read, the New Testament, in a scholarly way, noting the places in which the Gospels agree and disagree, could possible think that Gibson isn't anti-Semitic.

During a New Testament history class in college, we had to write an exegesis paper on a verse. I chose one from the same Gospel that Gibson based Passion of the Christ on: Matthew. What's so interesting about Matthew is that is it is the only gospel out of four in which the Jews are shown as culpable, as said in the verse I wrote my paper on, 27:25: And all the people [Jews] answered and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

I stopped watching Mel Gibson movies the minute I heard about Passion and the intentionally anti-Semitic slant he took. I invite others to do the same - and yes, that includes late night showings of Lethal Weapon on TBS...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

LttE Gold, Part II

Meanwhile on the News and Record letters to the editor page, J.D. Brown of Asheville proves that he hates poor people in his diatribe against the (token) minimum wage increase:
Our wages are based on our knowledge and qualifications. Most of the time, we are dealing with dependent people with no ambition or enthusiasm and the answer to the problem is very simple. It's called education.
He then goes on to recommend the many community colleges in our area.

There is so much wrong with this letter that I'm not exactly sure where to start... We could, for a moment, imagine that everyone had the mental and financial resources, and desire, to go to college (which they don't). We could then imagine a country where every citizen is overqualified to serve J.D. his big mac or mow his lawn or pick up his trash or press his suits or put his luggage onto an airplane or manufacture his car or...

The point being that the country would be worse for the ware if we were are equally educated or all going for the same set of white collar jobs... not to mention it's not even feasible.

My guess is that J.D. is also the kind of guy who is quick to slam the "slackers" on welfare... and yet he still would rather not afford them a living wage?

Not that the new minimum wage is livable...

LttE Gold, Part I

Chris Myott of Eden wrote in to the News and Record to decry the legalization of cohabiting but unmarried couples, suggesting that we now
move on to putting an Official Seal of Approval on adultery within the marriage so that another portion of the population can feel guiltless about messing up lives.
This slippery slope argument isn't so far from the one that claims that legalized beastiality is the natural endpoint of a path that begins with the legalization of gay marriage.

Also like the gay marriage debate, I can't help but wonder why Chris holds such venom for a group of people who most likely don't effect him in anyway. As far as I know, my year of unwed cohabiation with Rob only hurt the landlords who otherwise would have been paid for two apartments.

Chris wraps up his letter by saying
I wonder what Jesus would say? Would he say, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more?" Nah - probably not anymore.
To which commenter Howie G wisely replies
Oh, and as for Jesus, I don't know the man, but from all I've read my guess is he'd have many, many bigger fish to fry about our society before he got to this issue.
For this, we (as in the royal "we") at SBJ blogger would like to crown Howie G our official hero of the day.

Way to go, Howie G!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I'm a chocolate pocky

I can stop any time I want to... and I do lean heavily towards "good at pretending."

what flavor pocky are you?

[c] sugardew

Embryo adoptions sidestep foster kids

This column was originally published in the News and Record.

Like it or not, Bush followed through on his promise to veto H.R. 810, the stem cell research bill last week.

While I enjoyed Tony Snow’s fumbling attempts to explain Bush’s decision and Karl Rove’s exposed lie about the promise of adult versus embryonic stem cells, my favorite part was the announcement itself, with Bush flanked by a dozen cooing “snowflake” babies.

It’s the parents of these babies that truly fascinate me, though. In case you’re not familiar with these kids, snowflake babies are children who were adopted as embryos. Well, adoption isn’t quite the word since embryos are not considered children by legal standards but for lack of a better term…

So these often infertile couples who oppose stem cell research adopt frozen embryos left over from the fertility treatments of others. More than one hundred snowflake babies have been born since 1997.

I’d like to say upfront that I don’t wish to take anything away from the beautiful children who joined Bush on stage for his announcement. (I even have to admit that I got a giggle from the wriggling toddler who inadvertently made an obscene hand gesture into the camera.) However, the state of the American foster and adoption programs make snowflake adoptions problematic for me.

As of the most recent statistics taken in September 2003, roughly 532,000 children were in foster care in the United States. The majority of these kids will either work toward reunification with their biological parents, find placement among non-parental family members, petition for emancipation or stay in foster care until they become legal adults. Still, this leaves well over 100,000 children hoping to be adopted.

More disturbing is that these statistics only cover America; the number grows exponentially when international adoption is factored in.

Despite the best efforts of overworked, underpaid social workers and the dedication of earnest, kind foster parents, our foster care system is a less than ideal place for children to be raised.

Shortly after college, I spent a year as a Guardian ad Litem. This program matches court-appointed volunteer advocates with children in foster care, the idea being that while social workers must advocate for the entire family, the Guardian ad Litem looks out only for the kid.

I worked with one teen during that year. Several months into his first foster home, it became apparent that he wasn’t being fed according to his medically-mandated dietary needs. We moved him in with a wonderful couple who were kind and invested in his welfare but were unable to keep him due to financial constraints. His third move that year meant he was unable to finish his school year, setting him back even further in what was already stunted educational development.

This is not an uncommon story. My high school boyfriend also went through the North Carolina foster care system with mixed results: a placement in which he was forced to share the floor with an untrained dog led to a placement with a kind but flawed family which led to a group home until finally, at 17, he dropped out of school and ran away.

For each of the 532,000 kids in foster care, there is a story and, more importantly, a kid with the cognitive ability to really understand her lot in life.

So, when I look at snowflake children, I see not only beautiful and lucky children in the arms of their parents, but also the decision those parents made in choosing frozen embryos over sentient children.

Always a bride's maid

Poor Buzz Aldrin has been walking Neil Armstrong down the aisle since 1969, ever since he was the second person to walk on the moon. Even in contemporary interviews, his venom at being second still comes through.

Something else is coming through in interviews these days too: new information. According to the UK news website, the Daily Record, the astronauts saw a UFO while on their historic mission. Much like Area 51, the government chose to cover it up, says Aldrin.

I know nothing about the Daily Record. For all I know, it could be "news" like the Inquirer reports... I hope not, though. I love a good alien-spotting story.

When Rob and I were first dating, we took a road trip to New Mexico where, among other places, we went to Roswell, a city built around it's alien reputation. I'm talking street lights in the shape of alien heads, almond eyes and all; soda machines decorated with alien rock bands; even a jewelry store billboard in which the diamond was a UFO. But the piece de resistance was the International UFO Museum and Research Center (and gift shop).

Being a skeptic by nature, I have my doubts about alien visitation though I would bet my lucky chin hair that there is plenty of other life out there. As far as I'm concerned, the most damning evidence of alien visitation is the governmental cover-up. I don't know what they're covering us, especially in Area 51, but whatever it is, they've used a lot of resources to keep it under wraps...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Another attack on abortion

My friend and yours, Bill "Of Course Schiavo's Not a Vegetable" Frist has dreamed up a whole new way to infringe on the reproductive rights of young women with the so-called Child Custody Protection Act. If passed, it would be a federal crime for any adult other than a parent to accompany a minor for abortion care.

For pregnant young women in abusive home situations, this leaves few options: tell the parents and risk a violent response, try and navigate getting an abortion alone, attempting a potentially fatal home abortion, or try and hide the pregnancy and figure out what to do with the baby when and if it comes. This isn't even taking into account the sick home situations where the father or other family member impregnated the girl.

The punishment for a non-parent who accompanies a girl anyway? Fines, the chance of a civil lawsuit and up to a year in prison.

NARAL has a form to send to your senators - fill it out and pass it along. The vote is today!

The cage match begins

I love watching this administration implode.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I'm Spider-Man

I couldn't resist...
Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Wonder Woman
Iron Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Peace in the Middle East, on the menu

I just got back from lunch with Rob at Zaytoon; the flavor of the salad dressing - oregano, fresh lemon juice, and pure, silky olive oil - still fills my nose.

Masoud Awartani, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Annah, sat with us while we ate. The more I think about it, the more it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: A Jew, a Muslim and a white guy go into a bar...

If only the state of Jewish/Arab relations these days merited joking. As Masoud told us about his kids (there's not much that I find more endearing than a man gushing about his kids), I couldn't help but think of unending aggression of the groups he and I would call "our people".

I was raised to believe that all Jews across space and time are one - I am no less one of the Hebrews enslaved in biblical Egypt than a modern, secular Jew in the United States. In that vein, I always felt as though I belonged to Israel and it belonged to me - an incredibly personal relationship with a country I've never been within 10,000 miles of. It is that loyalty that tugs me as I read the headlines and blogs - that loyalty and the knowledge that Israel became a state when no other country in the world would allow Holocaust survivors to settle there. Ships were literally turned away, as though having gone through the Holocaust wasn't bad enough.

Still, it hurts to watch Israel's attacks, with their far superior resources in money and weapons. I understand both that they had to respond to the kidnapping of the soldiers and that there is a lot more to this situation than I will ever know... I am by no means a pacifist because I can't look at the Holocaust and think those people weren't worth fighting for (even though their liberation was merely a side-effect of winning World War II) but it's got to be a damn good reason to fight.

Is it really worth fighting just because Jews follow the story line of Isaac while Muslims follow Ishmael?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bush likes embryos more than soldiers...

... or people with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or quadriplegics, as made evident by his veto of federally supported stem cell research. Apparently it's okay for those people to die prematurely but not fertilized eggs with no consciousness.

A guy called into the Diane Rehm show yesterday and pointed out that there are cultures in which a child's life is believed to begin when the mother decides to try to conceive; Catholics believed masturbation is a sin because it spills seed without the possibility of conception.

In typical conservative fashion, Bush has demonstrated his belief that life is only sacred until we turn 18 and can be sent to die in a pointless war.

My favorite part of this whole fiasco were the "snowflake" babies cooing in the background. These are the kids of parents who also believe that unborn life is more sacred than living, conscious, feeling humans - why else would they adopt embryos instead of children trapped in our horribly flawed foster care system or some third world orphanage?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Working women's survey

The AFL CIO is collecting the opinions of women in the workforce including a little space to write in your opinion. The results will be sent to every member of Congress. Throw your two cents in, ladies.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The worst case of the Mondays ever

That's today. I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread that I can't seem to shake.

Following my usual morning routine, I tried to catch up on email after scanning my favorite news sources. Every email went something like this:

Hey You So-and-So,

Hope you had a groovy weekend. We caught Southern Culture on the Skids over at the Flying Anvil and went to the closing ceremony of my nephew's Bitty Ball season blah blah blah.

How about you?

So, World War III, huh? Wacky. Guess Bush is getting what he wanted, the beginning of the Apocalypse - he's going to be toting out red cows any time now. At last count, 200 Lebanese have been killed - did I tell you some friends of mine recently moved back there? The husband of the family was back in the States when the war broke out and today is trying to sneak back in through the Syrian boarder to be with his wife and children.

I don't understand.


What else is there to say - except that you can read blog by Israeli, Lebanese and Palestinian bloggers at The Truth Laid Bear.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Chuck Folds 5 new release

I just spent the last chunk of time trying to figure out how to embed the MP3 into a post but have decided that giving you the link to this rad new song would probably be better than either smashing my monitor or bitching at my husband, either of which may have happened had I continued on that terrible path.

Please, oh please, contact me if you know how to embed and MP3.

Meanwhile, enjoy!

Eavesdropping investigation, finally

Big G has apparently authorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review the constitutionality of his domestic spying program. My amazement at this is three-fold: that he would allow it to be investigated at all, that he would agree to it when the bulk of the hubbub has died down, and that the hubbub has died down.

Why didn't we keep our collective anger going on this one? Are people really so deluded to think this will make us safer? Or do we believe that if we don't have anything to hide, it doesn't matter?

I've got to go back to Benjamin Franklin on this one:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Yeah! Take that, Georgie!

Here's what I propose - it's a little scary but I know you can do it! Let's all take those little balls of rage we have stored in our deepest bowels - all those nasty feeling that we suppress every time a family member asks if we need that piece of cake or the person we let into traffic doesn't wave - let's gather all those us and direct all that venom at the current administration. We'll hurt their feelings so bad, they'll all be crying in their mistresses' laps by lunch time!

Who's with me?!?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

bush sings u2

Mowing in the right direction

As in, not at all.

An L.A. architect, Fritz Haeg, is in the midst on an ongoing project called Edible Estates in which he transforms the average tract of grass into an edible garden. The article reads like Haeg is more motivated by performance art than a passion for agriculture - in fact, he knows little about gardening and recruits knowledgeable volunteers.

Apparently, the neighbors of those who allow the transformation on their property are none too happy, preferring the staid monotony that most of us call our front yards. In my neighborhood, for example, the largely silent association has initiated a yard of the month prize (a Lowe's sponsored horrid sign in the winning yard all month - that's the much sought after prize) to encourage consistent monotony.

Haeg is planning the gardens around indigenous species so that his most recent garden in California is much different than the one in Kentucky. Props to him.

However, my nitpicky nature won't allow me to overlook the article's ending in which the homeowner playful laments the evening hours he must spend in tending to the garden. His project would be so much better if they would use a permaculture planting schema.

My only exposure to permaculture (and probably many Greensborians are the same) is Charlie Headington's yard which grows so much food that I have a hard time believing Charlie and his wife, Debby, could eat it all. Yet Charlie says the work it all upfront, planting in the spring. Weeding and all other maintenance takes about an hour a week, a little less than Rob spends mowing and trimming our piece of monotony.

You can read more about Charlie and his projects at his website, Earth Matters.

Slut in the New York Times

NYT featured a riveting article about the gentrification of the word slut. Apparently, slut has become one of those generally applicable words like dude, but has its journey out of the closet sapped it of its venom?

I tend to think it is taboo that gives many words (and ideas) their power so, theoretically, overuse or the ability to couple the word with a more benign meaning should remove its power. As a thought experiment a few years ago (okay, and my own fun), I started using the dreaded "c" word a lot - you know the one - it's the word you can't call your girlfriend even if she's okay with the word bitch. Same page now?

So I'm spewing this word all over the place and sure enough, it stops sounding terrible to me, which in and of itself was a problem because my internal sensor forgot to block it sometimes... like when I'm talking to my sister... and she almost falls over from the shock that the "c" word was used in her house... even though she too has a vocabulary that would make punk rockers blush...

Still, as the NYT article discusses, I'm not so sure that society is yet equipped to relegate slut to the former-insults category. It's a gender equality thing, certain gender-based expectations preclude slut from mellowing, not least of which is the expectation that women are still, in 2006, expected to use sex as a bargaining tool in romantic relationships and not for enjoyment. And, let’s be honest, we’re a far cry from accepting the same sexual proclivities in women that we allow in men.

It’s the same reason the “n” word continues to be so powerful. (I know you know which word I mean now…) Persistent racial inequality won’t allow that word to mellow, no matter how often people use it in a casual way or how precisely the final “r” is sheered to try and round it into a smoother shape (the way I believe motherf- becomes a term of endearment worthy of my sweet husband when said muthafucka).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's about the journey and the friendship

Ignoring, for a moment, the skyrocketing price of gas and increasing perils of global warming, I have to admit that road tripping is my favorite means of travel.

You see, most commonly we think of travel as a destination; our vacation begins when we settle into the hotel room of some distant locale. With a road trip, however, the adventure begins on that first stretch of highway not five miles from home. Road trips invite adventurers to explore, mile by mile, the 99% of America that doesn’t merit newsprint outside their local rag.

Before my first major road trip in 1998, I believed that beyond our national forests lay the tarred remains of nature, having been pummeled by pavement. But on that month-long coast-to-coast crawl, I found the opposite: quaint small towns surrounded by indigenous landscape, be it trees, pasture or unadulterated desert.

This most recent bout of pavement conquering came of necessity: my good friend, Chelsea, was transferred to the Chicago branch of her place of business. I’ll admit that leading up to the trip, I was nervous at the prospect of driving for two days in the 17-foot self-moving truck Chelsea had reserved – but all for naught. Murphy’s Law ensured that the rental company would be fresh out of that size, leaving us to spread her belongings in one even layer along the bottom of a massive 26-footer.

To the back of this monstrosity of a mover, we strapped her Rav4 mini-SUV like the business end of a ball-and-chain mace, ready to swing around and pulverize parked cars with the slightest flick of the wrist.

At least, that’s how it felt. The largest vehicle I had previously driven was an oversized pickup truck; Chelsea’s previous experience involved a smaller rental truck which she unintentionally used to strip the gutters off a motel.
Thus began the kind of three-day ab workout that comes of clenching your gut in fear.

It was a trip filled with the usual road blunders, like realizing the gas gauge is on empty with no filler station in site; and some less common mishaps, like Chelsea hitting a speed bump, literally, while running her dog and sliding to a halt on bare kneecaps. In northern Indiana, we were approached by a frightening red-faced truck driver who offered this trucking advice: “Just drive it!”

And drive it, we did: through the tall thick trees of Tennessee and into Kentucky where the trees become smaller and sparser. In Indiana, we saw agribusiness compounds with huge mysterious sheds that may have held animals, crops or machinery, and small farms with clusters of cows gathered together under trees in the middle of large enclosures. And, finally in Illinois, I got my first look at a Great Lake which, just as Chelsea promised, was so expansive that I could have mistaken it for an ocean.

Surprisingly enough, we never once rammed the Rav4 into an unsuspecting compact car or got the truck cornered somewhere requiring that we delve into the no-man’s-land of reverse.
What we did do, however, was reinforce our friendship during the hours that come after the excited starting-out chatter gave way to the thoughts coerced by quiet stretches of road that roll on like a guided meditation.

Monday morning, I waved to Chelsea from the back seat of a taxi, with previously unknown muscles aching but content in the knowledge that I saw another 800 miles of America at the side of a friend.

This article was first printed in the News and Record on July 12, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Anarchy in the 'boro

I try to read the letters to the editor in the News and Record everyday - it's a short cut into the concerns and musings of my neighbors. It's often a little painful but in a fun way, like reality tv.

Today, it all paid off. H.G. Miller of Brown Summit wrote in to comment on the Fun Fourth parade, saying:
It was moving to see the vets, the children, and a variety of community-based organizations. I gratefully applauded. They were a fine representation of our community. However, I cannot express my total disappointment over one group. Nothing about them represents our community. They were promoting anarchy and many un-American ideas. Their chants, drums and slogans represent nothing that reflects the community that I have called home all of my life. They followed the trash trucks; they should have been in the trash trucks.
The letter concludes:
I suppose that next year I should expect Nazis, Communists, pedophiles and Islamic fascist groups in the parade.

Oh, H.G., you just have no idea.

During my career at the esteemed Great Harvest Bread Company, I had the opportunity to work with a couple of anarchists who then introduced me to their anarchist friends, many of whom lived at the big house on the corner of Cedar and Friendly, before it was renovated into its current lavender incarnation.

You know what those dirty, despicable anarchists were doing in their communal home?
  • gardening (until a group of neo-nazis doused their mini-farm with motor oil)
  • fixing up discarded bikes to give to neighborhood kids
  • party (seriously, they're not saints...)
  • living off the copious amounts of usable products the rest of us chuck in the garbage everyday
  • (excuse me if I wax a little too poetic but...) imagining that there is a workable way to live other than the one posed by the dominant paradigm which says you go to college, get a career and live an autonomous life with your spouse and 2.5 kids. H.G., I'm not sure that I can think of anything more American than bucking the system in the hopes of improving life. After stealing gold and the sport of mass murder, a new, improved life was the top priority of the pilgrims.
I'd like to close this post with a story about a guy named Zack... or maybe Zak... Anyway, Rob and I are the kind of middle-of-the-road people who are considered the wacky couple by our straight-laced friends and the "nerdy, white-bread, dorkey couple" (a direct quote) by our fringy friends. So, one of my bread store anarchist co-worker invites Rob and me to hear her friend Zak perform on the patio of a restaurant; we're a little nervous because we hadn't really spent much time (beyond work) with the anarchist crowd and we were worried our nerdiness would turn them off to us. But never ones to miss a unique life event, we go. Zack is performing audience requested metal hits into a Mr. Mic. His cheap makeup is dripping down his face, carried by beads of sweat. It was divine in its camp. Afterwards, we go with Zack and my co-worker to sing karaoke (I sang I Will Survive, of course, with the group of co-workers who accumulated; Rob is still owes me the performance of Ring of Fire that he promised that night).

Finally, hours later, we're saying our goodnights. Zack hugs us both and says, "Thanks for giving me a chance."

I know, I know - it's a lot of build-up for a simple quote but just sit with it for a while. It's important.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Stop with the whoring

This weekend, I got a package in the mail from friends in California - they're the spoiling types - the kinds of people who send a package of lots of little gifts so it feels like Hanukkah Harry delivered his gifts early (probably so he could go to his shiksa girlfriend's parent's house for Christmas, but whatever...). Along with a handmade bag and some smelly wax (in the good way) were a couple of buttons:
  • My bush makes love, not war
  • Stop with the warring, start with the whoring.
Both of which gave me a good giggle - the first one even went on my sweater du jour. But the second one... kinda bugged me. Not that I have a particular problem with whoring, especially Vegas style where the working folk are protected to an extent, but this war is all about whoring. This war should be renamed Operation Corporation Freedom or Operation Iraqi Market Shift.

Now you're going to call me a commie but stick with me. Let's think about who is truly benefiting from this war? The Iraqis? Please. America? While Iran is flexing its nuclear muscle - not likely.

How about Haliburton? Or Monsanto?

Bingo. Our administration has whored itself out to big business and thousands of our soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis are paying the price.

I'm going to write "built by" on a little piece of tape and stick it on that button: Stop the warring built by whoring.

An aside

Sorry about the long absence - it's been a combo of travel, national holiday and a general boredom with the headlines (an entire week of news and not a fluffernut sandwich in the bunch).

I don't want to write much about the trip (because it's the subject of my next News & Record piece out this Wednesday) but I will say that I learned that I can be more patient than I think I can be and not to judge a cracked-out truck driver by the busted blood veins in his eyes - he might just let you live, after all.