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: