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 (http://www.wonkette.com) 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.