Thursday, December 30, 2004

Who funds this stuff, anyway?

Have I mentioned how much I really, really hate these kinds of studies?? "Men Prefer Subordinate Women to Equals". If I find out our taxdollars are paying for this kind of battle of the sexes bullshit I'm going to get really annoyed. The problem with this study (OK, the biggest problem) is that it asks college students about co-workers as hypothetical partners and totally ignores the real world problems that naturally come from those workplace relationships. So basically, this study is proving what we've known for decades - men fantasize about dating their secretaries. Even college boys who have never actually had a secretary.

One problem comes when the researchers seem to imply that because this behavior is 'natural', it's also preferrable. Seems like I recall similar studies of married men that showed the majority would like very much to fuck their secretaries if there was no way their wives would find out about it.

Another problem (it appears without reading the actual study)... is that all the subjects were given to evaluate their potential compatibility with a fictional colleagues was a picture and a job title. Which means it was left to their imagination to fill in the blanks about actual personalities. Given that very few college students have any real world experience in this type of hierarchical corporate situation they would be totally reliant on gender stereotypes to imagine the personalities of these colleagues. And let’s face it. The stereotypes of women in the workplace are rife with inaccurate and unfair depictions.

Ask a college age man to envision a female superior and I bet he picks Demi Moore’s character from Disclosure. Yeah, I wouldn’t marry that either. Female assistants, on the other hand are almost always depicted as sweet, fun Mary Ann types. You know, if you’re doing a study on workplace dynamics wouldn’t it make sense to use subjects who actually have experience in that type of environment?

Unrelated Gripe: News articles that say:

"Authorities prevented journalists and representatives of international aid groups such as Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders and CARE from visiting the islands to assess the damage and death toll."

And then don't explain WHY rescue workers were denied access. WTF???

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I'm still overwhelmed by the SE Asia disaster. I don't feel I can add anything more than what others are already providing - links to first hand accounts, aid organizations to donate to, etc. One story did catch my eye today, though: Animals spared from Tsunamis. Which once again proves that instinct can be so much more effective than intelligence. We humans can be so incredibly stupid. Sometimes I feel like we get what we deserve in that area.

Take for example today's post by Olbermann, which reveals that apparently the official meteorological agency of Thailand not only knew of the Sumatran earthquake an hour before their own coastline was inundated - they wasted that entire hour debating about how their tourism industry would be affected if they issued a warning and then no tsunami showed up. Am I just nuts to think that common sense would dictate a false alarm would have an infintessimal affect compared to what actually ended up happening - no warning, tens of thousands of tourists dead/ injured as a result, and more natives dead or dying from disease having lost everything? What affect do they think *this* will have on their tourist trade? Sure tsunamis are rare in the Indian Ocean... but when they do happen they're catastrophic. There is historical proof of that from the Krakatoan eruption.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Really, I'm still here - just was a little overwhelmed last week. Curt had his 2nd carpal tunnel surgery on Wednesday to his right hand so I had to not only take car of him while he was recovering but get ready for Christmas, also - mostly by myself. We were planning to have Grammama and Mom & her husband over for dinner at the same time. Since I'm normally totally spoiled with Curt doing the bulk of the housework, it was a little overwhelming. Mom did most of the cooking on Christmas Day, however so that was a bit of a relief. I still overdid it a little, however, and spent most of yesterday in bed and on the couch, resting my back and guzzling tons of water and popping echinacea to try to hold off the bug I could feel beginning to constrict the lymph glands in my throat.

It turned out to be a very nice Christmas - for us anyway. Not so lucky were the 22,000 + souls lost in the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean yesterday. Here on the West Coast of the grand old U.S. of A. we take our tsunami warning systems for granted. You see these little tsunami evacuation route signs all over the coast and can't help but think we overdo it a little. There hasn't been a tsunami warning that I know of in my lifetime.... but the system was put in place following the 1964 Alaskan earthquake and tsunamis that killed hundreds. Most of the damage and fatalities were confined to Alaska - only 4 lives were lost in Oregon but there was considerable property damage. Unlike the countries hit in the Indian Ocean yesterday, we are fortunate in the Northwest that most of our major population centers are located inland. Cities like Seattle, Tacoma, Portland - even Victoria and Vancouver B.C. are well protected from any tsunamis generated in the Pacific itself by islands or located far enough inland to not feel the effect. Californian cities like San Francisco, L.A. and San Diego however are probably at much higher risk - located as they are right on the Pacific.

The other advantage we have is a pretty well educated population. I don't think you'd ever hear something like this comment come from a resident of any coastal community on the West Coast: "No one ever told us that these things can be predicted and we can be told about them," said Sumana Gamage, a shopowner in Colombo, Sri Lanka. "Next time I hope our government can do this." If most folks here heard about a 9.0 earthquake in Japan or Alaska they'd immediately be on the lookout for a potential tsunami. The connection is just too well advertised. In fact, what would probably be a bigger issue would be rubberneckers from town hearing about it and heading *down* to the coast, camcorders in hand in hopes of watching one hit.

So sad that such a simple system could have saved so very many lives.

UPDATE: It's a sad day when the above noted Pacific monitoring system not only noted the Sumatra 9.0 quake, but also issued a tsunami alert long before the waves hit the Indian Ocean shores - correctly advising that it posed no threat to us. So we knew they were in trouble but without a comprehensive communications/alert system could do nothing to warn them?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Martian janitors....

... are apparently boosting solar panel energy output for one of the Mars rovers.

"...something -- or someone -- had regularly cleaned layers of dust from the solar panels of the Mars Opportunity vehicle while it was closed down during the Martian night. The cleaning had boosted the panels' power output close to their maximum 900 watt-hours per day after at one stage dropping to 500 watt-hours because of the heavy Martian dirt. "


Monday, December 20, 2004

Funniest description of a breastfeeding pump: "Could suck the patina off the freedom-loving coppery tits of the Statue of Liberty" and funniest description of attempts to preserve modesty whilst pumping: "The only thing this achieved was to give me a mouthful of fleecy lint, not unlike what you might expect after going down on a Muppet. " Just one of the funniest prego-related blogs out there, hands down. You should seriously check out Julie.

Knock, Knock? Who's dead?

As I wander the world of the world wide web I come across lots of data and register conclusions that lodge in the wrinkles of my mind, but which I can’t recall the exact source for. One of these hidden gems that has lodged itself firmly therein is the little known fact that the #1 cause of maternal death of pregnant women in this country is homicide, specifically at the hands of an intimate partner (husband, boyfriend, ex). Not complications from pregnancy, or miscarriage, or abortion, or car accidents. Homicide. I believe I picked this us while culling through some domestic violence information which indicated that an individual woman’s personal risk of being a victim of domestic abuse (be it fatal or not) skyrockets once she becomes pregnant. For some reason, the fact that about 6% of all pregnant women will be victims of physical abuse by intimate partners stuck.

This statistic surprises people. But it looks like someone in the mainstream media is finally beginning to pay attention, probably in part due to recent national news (Laci Peterson and Lori Hacking) headlines. Today MSNBC is highlighting a study done by the Washington Post that delves deeply into the issue. Some of their conclusions, which may be startling to some (but not so much to women’s rights activists):

“Until recently, many of the cases have gone virtually unstudied, uncounted, untracked. Police agencies across the country do not regularly ask about maternal status when they investigate homicides. And health experts have focused historically on the medical complications of pregnancy — embolism, hemorrhage, infection — not on fatal violence.” In fact, due to a lack of tracking this data, thirteen states have absolutely no way of telling how many pregnant and postpartum women had been killed in recent years. "

“The FBI collects comprehensive homicide statistics but does not look at pregnancy. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks maternal health but has no uniform way of monitoring maternal killings.”

“In Maryland, which keeps track of cases better than most states, slightly more than 10 percent of all homicides among women ages 14 to 44 happened to a pregnant or postpartum woman in the past decade. If that held true nationally, it would suggest about 295 maternal homicides nationwide a year.”

“For some men, she said, the situation boils down to one set of unadorned facts: "If the woman doesn't want the baby, she can get an abortion. If the guy doesn't want it, he can't do a damn thing about it. He is stuck with a child for the rest of his life, he is stuck with child support for the rest of his life, and he's stuck with that woman for the rest of his life. If she goes away, the problem goes away."

Frankly, it surprises me that this information surprises anyone. Our society is so quick to romanticize pregnancy (the whole abortion debate, etc.) , and so quick to hold pregnant women responsible for everything they do that might adversely affect the fetus in utero ( alcohol, OTC drugs, caffeine, etc.) but they totally ignore the 800 lb gorilla in the room – abusive male partners. Forget for a minute the risk to the mother herself (which is tragic enough). Let’s remember that for every dead pregnant woman there’s a dead fetus (unless, you know it’s ripped out of her gut by a crazed stranger. Though, stranger danger by default is left out of this study). For every woman who is abused during pregnancy and survives, there’s a damned high likelihood that her child, once born will be abused as well.

So the big question. What to do about it? I’m very curious to see what, if anything Shrub & Co. will attempt. My bet’s on nothing. Maybe beat their heads a little harder against the brick wall that they call abstinence-only sex education. Once again, say “this is another terrible reason why you just shouldn’t have sex!” and totally ignore the underlying causes. Of course, I’m also betting that the Father’s Rights group jumps on this study as well for their cause, and will say “see, *this* is the extreme you drive us to with the draconian state sponsored slavery you call child support!”.

Once again doing absolutely nothing to promote the single most effective way of avoiding this issue altogether: Promoting a culture of Planned Parenthood, which teaches responsible methods of contraception, makes those available, and provides a financial safety net for mothers who do end up pregnant. Where every child conceived is wanted, and guaranteed to be taken care of.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Feel Good Friday

As is typical this time of the year, just when you’re beginning to hate your fellow man, a story comes around that reaffirms your faith in humanity. Must be an evolutionary failsafe to keep us all from blowing one another up in a pique of disgust once and for all.

Have you seen the cheesy ABC show called “Extreme Home Makeover”? Where they take one “deserving” family who have fallen on hard financial times and totally demolish the old house and build them a new one, all in the course of a week? I tend to just watch the intro and the finale to avoid the 50 minute hankyfest that comes between. The whole time thinking ‘Damn – wonder how many limbs I’d have to lose to get someone to totally remodel my house!’.

Well, we’ve got a little local version of the same dynamic going on in my neck of the woods. This summer a local good samaritan and father of three was paralyzed in the process of helping local police grab some bad guys. When the holidays came around, the local police and fire dept. wanted to help the family as much as they could. They finally got the family to agree to let them help remodel a bathroom to make it more wheelchair accessible. Other people heard about the project, thanks to the tireless efforts and free publicity provided by a local radio station . That’s when things began to snowball. Building materials suppliers, constructions companies and contractors heard about it and all began donating supplies and skilled labor. What was just supposed to be a single bathroom remodel has turned into a project where the entire house is now wheelchair accessible. It hasn’t been totally destroyed and rebuilt, but it’s apparently coming very close. They'll get new cabinets, fireplace, appliances, furniture, landscaping, you name it! Dozens of local community volunteers have all pitched in every after working their regular day jobs to make it all happen.

Unlike the ABC original show, it’s taken a bit longer than one week to get it done, but the family is supposed to get their house back on Monday. Local news will be all over the story, and I have a hunch the national news as well. It would be nice if our little community could improve it's image a bit. Before this, our most recent claim to fame was producing the notorious ice skating thug, Tonya Harding.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Where there's smoke there's fire

I always said that if there was vote tampering going on with those electronic voting machines, somewhere a programmer or two knows all about it. Finally, one has come to light with allegations that he created just such a program on behalf of a leading Florida Republican in the months before the 2000 election. He testified before a Democratic House Judiciary Committee Monday. From what I've read so far on the story, however - it's still going to be a pain in the ass to get proof of any actual wrongdoing since any malignant code on the machines would have definitely been patched/replaced after 2000. As for 2004... we had tens of thousands of lawyers out there. Couldn't one or two have filed a court order in suspect precincts to have the machines *themselves* taken into protective custody in order to check them for tampering?

Monday, December 13, 2004


Kevin over at the American Street seems to once again be channeling my thoughts regarding the obsession ultra religious conservatives have with sex, specifically of the deviant variety. Maybe if these folks were better educated they would understand how their truly sick fascination with other people’s sex lives is a direct result of repression and projection (Psyche 101??). And my standard comeback to proselytizing door knockers sounds eerily familiar to his take on things. Namely, if Heaven is filled with repressed, uptight, judgmental ostriches like them, it sure doesn’t sound like anyplace I’d like to spend eternity. I’d much rather party it up in the fires of Hell, thankyouverymuch! Then, too - I figure that all the psycho serial murderers and other hardened criminals who have those miraculous prison chapel religious conversions will probably be with them too, in which case we'll be safer in the sauna.

Anyhoo, one of his commenters pulled a quote from the article he links to by one of the mouthpieces of the religious right that says: “It’s like when the hijackers took over those four planes on Sept. 11 and took people to a place where they didn’t want to go,” she added. “I think a lot of people feel that liberals have taken our country somewhere we don’t want to go. I think a lot more people realize this is our country and we’re going to take it back.”

Then I read a comment left by Sally (no relation, really) on my own post regarding the insurgent vs. belligerent question : “To my mind, "rebel" and "insurgent" are pretty much interchangible. I think Americans tend to avoid rebel because it has a lot of romantic connotations and because it's historically been associated with the Civil War and thus is pretty loaded.”

Finally, this afternoon my conservative co-worker has been all aflutter from a report I assume he got either from Drudge or the Freepers about how some school superintendent in Oklahoma removed all Christian references from the elementary school’s holiday play (including the nativity scene and the carol Silent Night), but left in references to Kwanzaa and Chanukah. Which is the latest in a long line of sob stories coming from the right about how Christians are being “persecuted”.

And I had one of those great epiphanies that you think is mind-blowing but which in all actuality, has probably already been thought about, and discussed, and published ad nauseum. To whit: As much as the Conservatives & their blowhards like to make fun of the alleged “victim mentality” of the Liberal Left, they’ve got an even bigger martyr syndrome going on over on their side of the spectrum. And what they’re really and truly pissed off about… is that they believe we’ve usurped their status of the ultimate martyr: the American Christian, red-neckian Underdog. As Sally reminded me, there is nothing, NOTHING more sacred to that “other”-hating, bible-thumping, homophobic portion of the population than the Confederate flag. The sons & daughters of Johnny Reb are inordinately proud of their rebel history. By some sick twist of logic, they see themselves as the natural successors to the Pilgrims, the American Revolutionaries, and Robert E. Lee. A huge part of their cultural identity is wrapped up in being the Underdog, and in being the religious minority.

So that’s why it is so important for them to continue to paint themselves as the Rebels and the Liberal Left/ACLU as cold-hearted tyrants who are persecuting them for their religious and cultural beliefs, even when reality is - *they* are the ones persecuting others. Without that over-romanticized rebel/ martyr identity, what do they have? This is why they delude themselves into thinking we’ve “taken over” when the reality is, their proclivity for procreation has ensured that *they* are the political majority and have been for quite some time.

The more I think about it the more I believe it might be a good thing they’re so committed to their beloved Underdog delusion. If they ever realize they have become the Alpha of the pack, we’re in big trouble.


At some level, I did know that babies come with an overwhelming amount of shit. Not just the literal kind but the plastic and cloth kind. This weekend we found a wonderful mom on who was looking to sell a used crib for an insanely cheap price. After agreeing to come look at it, she calls back and says, “you know, is this your first baby? I’ve got tons more stuff I need to get rid of if you want to look at it, too”. So one long drive to the backwoods later we come home with a car full of 1) disassembled babyjail that converts to a toddler bed, then to a day bed – with 4 different heights you can set the mattress to in order to thwart said child’s aspirations of recreating the escape from Alcatraz ; 2) Four really cool developmental toys of the leapfrog variety; and a half a dozen bags/boxes of assorted clothes from newborn on up to 2 years, including I shit you not, no less than 10 pairs of shoes and an Eeyore Halloween costume.

So began our weekend of sorting, laundry, organizing, playing with toys and cussing at pathetic crib assembly instructions. Which was fun. Picturing the River Fry in little fuzzy footed pj’s and miniature sandals was more so. But most fun of all? Tormenting the dog with the new baby toys!! You must understand. Jinx, like all good Black Labs, loves toys. Especially those that make noise. So when Curt was disinfecting the musical/talking walker type toy (similar to this) and it went off, you can imagine her fascination!. But it’s a big toy. Kind of scary. On wheels. And it smells funny. So she’s standing there outside the door to the nursery streeetching her head in to investigate the thing - ears cocked and an inquisitive look on her face. And Curt pushes a button so it plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. You haven’t seen a dog so startled since she somehow managed to get a bouquet of helium-filled, mylar birthday balloons wrapped around her hind legs.

But after much wagging of the tail, more furtive sniffing and apprehensive looks at me like “what is it? Is it OK? Can I play with it?” we finally coerced her into poking the buttons on the toy with her nose so she could play “Twinkle Twinkle” all by herself. And! the look on her face was priceless! By this time I was laughing so damned hard my gut was hurting. Then when she began poking and running, poking and running I totally lost it.

I guess the Fry will learn how to share his toys pretty young.

Friday, December 10, 2004

I'm updating my blogroll a bit, trying to categorize better. "Rapids" are sites that focus almost entirely on politics; "Eddies" are more personal journals that I find vastly amusing or touching, though most also touch on politics a bit, too because they're kick-ass people. And I've created a new category "Spawning Grounds" for blogs that focus almost entirely on things parental (though, they too are vastly amusing or touching and feature kick-ass progressive type parents). Under "Confluence" are sites that conveniently list many like-minded/themed blogs in one place. "Landings" remains a source of miscellaneous non-blog type websites I like to keep on hand for reference. Let me know if you'd like to be listed and I've neglected you.

euphemize this

A coworker posed an interesting question yesterday: What, pray tell exactly is an "insurgent"? Is this a new term describing a new situation or just one that hasn't been used often before?" Now, in my mind "insurgent" equates to "rebel" or "revolutionary" but not necessarily belonging to a well-organized group. This got me thinking, however (always a dangerous and at times exasperating occurrence, I know). Why *are* Shrub & Co. labeling Iraqi rebels as insurgents, specifically when they really are rebels? And why is nobody questioning this seemingly innocuous choice of words? So I looked it up. Come to find out, according to Merriam-Webster, "insurgent" actually means:

1 : a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially : a rebel not recognized as a belligerent 2 : one who acts contrary to the policies and decisions of one's own political party.

Now, the insurgents we're facing in Iraq are most certainly of the belligerent variety. Which means the media has happily adopted Shrub's label without bothering to check Merriam-Webster themselves to make sure he's using the term correctly. That's very interesting, I think. But I still haven't quite figured out why they adopted this phrase when it so obviously does not apply. My hunch, however is that it was used initially following the invasion in an attempt to minimize the dangerous nature of opposition forces: "Oh, no Mr. & Mrs. America - they're not *dangerous, violent* rebels! The vast majority of the population are thrilled we bombed the shit out of them! These are just, well... harmless, disgruntled, religious foreign nutcases who are trying to stir up national feeling against us. "

Now after roadside bomb after roadside bomb, beheading after beheading, the violence of the rebels has become a convenient scapegoat for why we can't get our shit together (to provide critical fuel, electricity, water and basic human services). It is now not only impossible to ignore the extremely belligerent nature of the opposition, but has turned to the administration's advantage to highlight it. Since the non-belligerent euphemism no longer holds water, though I'm very curious to know why they're sticking with it. Maybe it's nothing. Like Shrub I've been known to creatively bend the rules of English myself quite often (much to my copy-editor's dismay. As my high school journalism teacher once put it, "It's not that your style is technically incorrect, per se... just a little odd"). And I know there are far more important things to contemplate in the grand scheme of things. But it's something to ponder.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A + B = WTF????

Rivka and Echidne both focus on the alarming “white natalist” movement, which is a pretty lame attempt to cover up white supremacist ideals in anti-choice lingo. Blatant racism has been pretty well marginalized as a universal negative today. But dress up those marginal beliefs in a cute little onesie and you garner instant credibility in today’s abortion/baby-obsessed media. Next thing you know, the KKK will be hiring Anne Geddes to produce annual calendars for them with precious white babies all dressed up in mini capes & hoods.

There’s always been a strong element of religious fundamentalism in the white supremacy movement. They’ve always justified their hatred in Biblical terms, with America cast as the new Promised Land and white Americans cast as the new Chosen People. And they’ve gone right along with the Jerry Falwell’s of the world in casting the women’s right’s movement as their common, natural enemy. I’d provide some sources but frankly I don’t have the stomach to surf down that slimy rabbithole today.

So, it’s nothing new. What is new, and frightening is, they’re taking advantage of the current Shrub-boosted ascension of the general religious fundamentalist movement to try to weasel their way back into the mainstream. Yes, this is alarming, but on the other hand I think it might prove to be a good thing. Finally, the more moderate Repubs who voted for Bush based on selfish financial and safety concerns, and *not* religious concerns might actually be forced to see exactly who they’re in bed with.

Actions speak louder than words, and if anyone looks at the apparently self-defeating actions of the religious right, their primary intentions do become crystal clear. First, promote abstinence only sex ed, which has been proven to correlate to kids getting married younger . Specifically, 50% of kids that take “virginity pledges” get married by age 23, compared to 25% of kids who don’t (and incidentally, they both end up with the same rates of STD) .

Repubs make it very clear that it’s *unwed* pregnancy & teen promiscuity that are their biggest issues, not necessarily lowering the rate of STDs or pregnancy overall. It's the sex, not the repurcussions of that sex that worries them. Here’s their interpretation of the same study regarding virginity pledges. As you can see, they come up with polar opposite conclusions based on the same data. They claim these pledges result in “no negative effects”, because pledged kids wait a little longer to have sex, get married at a younger age to have sex, and therefore any pregnancies resulting from that sex are “in wedlock”.

What they totally ignore are the studies that show that 1) The younger people are when they get married, the higher their divorce rate. Many bloggers noted following the election that in the Bible belt states (where abstinence programs are most popular) the divorce rates are higher. Experts blame two things on this phenomenon – lower incomes; and higher tendencies to marry young. It’s a well known fact that average income is dependent upon education level. It’s also common knowledge that marriage & parenthood usually comes at the expense of education.

But again, our Republican buddies at the Heritege Foundation poo-poo the correlation between poverty (specifically of children) and maternal education rates. They claim that a stable marriage is more important. Again, totally ignoring the fact that younger marriages are more likely to be unstable and the fact that marriages where the partners are economically disadvantaged and uneducated are more unstable.

But by some freak of logic, the Heritege folks don’t draw the obvious connection that 1) early marriage is a negative effect of abstinence only sex ed; which results in the additional negative effect of 2) lower incomes; and as a result of both; 3) more unstable marriages and higher divorce rates. Even though the statistical results of that connection are plain to see - decade after decade.

What boggles the mind is how obvious this self-defeating cycle is to everybody except the Bible-blinded religious right. It makes perfect sense why folks in the Bible Belt and other Christian communities are so overly concerned about divorce rates. It's a bigger problem there. But in trying to solve that problem, they just keep going back to the self-defeating philosophy that is causing that problem in the first place. Or worse yet, going one irrational step further and blaming other people for their self-inflicted problem; namely, homosexuals, atheists* and feminists.

Since nobody can be that stupid (can they?), I'm led to conclude their primary intent really is to promote the "barefoot & pregnant" Christian lifestyle. Everything they advocate ends up resulting in that outcome. They really are trying to breed an uneducated, impoverished army who will eagerly suck up their irrational hatred for all things "other" and gladly lay down their votes (if not their lives) in the interest of world dominion. Really, what other conclusion can you come to?

*Did you know? Atheists & Agnostics have the lowest divorce rates of all religious groups.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Latest story to have me crying over my keyboard: Strange-Voiced Whale at Large in Pacific. I'm having visions of Free Willy and Star Trek IV.... some poor lonely whale is wandering the oceans for 12 years desperately searching for his family, who have probably all died as a result of military sonar or ended up beached on an island in Australia..

This hormonal shit is for the birds. Maybe I should lay off listening to sad Irish ballads online for awhile....

Prego hormones gone amuck

Conversation over candlelit turkeyloaf dinner last night:

Me: "So did you talk to friend S. today? How’s her new job?"

Curt: "OK. Only the 19 yr old son of the owner asked her to move her car to the other end of the lot so he could park his Hummer in one of the spots right out front. "

Me: "Fucker."

Curt: "I told her I’d go wave my handicapped sticker under his nose (she got one after that car accident last year) and tell him to piss off. But then, that’s probably why I don’t have a job right now. Then, she went to register for classes & get set up to start her new graduate program but they didn’t have a record of her in the system. Apparently, there’s like a $200 deposit you have to make before you exist in the sytsem. So she’s desperately scrambling to borrow it from friends and family. "

Me: "Why does all this random bad shit always happen to her?"

Curt: "Dunno. Anyway, she called the Dean (or maybe registration did?) and he remembered her – she’d gone to the same school for her undergrad and was on the Dean’s list, so he recognized the name. He basically told Registration the school is really lucky to have someone of her caliber in the program and to do whatever it takes to just make the $200 deposit go away. "

Me: "*Breaking out in tears* Oh my God, that’s so wonderful! *sob*. It’s about time she got a break!! "

Curt: "*Horrified look on his face* Oh shit!. How in the hell am I going to deal with you being like this? "

Me: "Beats me. *blows nose* - maybe stock up on Kleenex?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Remember M*A*S*H ????

Remember how doctors and hospitals used to be, for the most part - respected in a war zone? On both sides? Well, as I've previously mentioned , those days are apparently gone for good. More evidence that the U.S. is targetting those "evildoers", aka "doctors" - who try to tell the truth about the casualties they treat (via slate). And what's so amazing is, we don't even try to hide it. But nobody is picking it up in the mainstream media. So apparently, this is just ducky with your average American? We get outraged that a training flight in New Jersey strafed a grade school with live ammunition in practice, but this behavior doesn't raise an eyebrow??:

Snip: "The first major operation by US marines and Iraqi soldiers was to storm Falluja general hospital, arresting doctors and placing the facility under military control. The New York Times reported that "the hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumours about heavy casual ties", noting that "this time around, the American military intends to fight its own information war, countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents' most potent weapons". The Los Angeles Times quoted a doctor as saying that the soldiers "stole the mobile phones" at the hospital - preventing doctors from communicating with the outside world.

But this was not the worst of the attacks on health workers. Two days earlier, a crucial emergency health clinic was bombed to rubble, as well as a medical supplies dispensary next door. Dr Sami al-Jumaili, who was working in the clinic, says the bombs took the lives of 15 medics, four nurses and 35 patients. The Los Angeles Times reported that the manager of Falluja general hospital "had told a US general the location of the downtown makeshift medical centre" before it was hit. "

I guess it's one of those things where different rules of morality apply depending on your GPS location. You know what I'd like to see.... American doctors and healthcare workers getting pissed and standing up for their foreign comrades. Even if you don't believe in the Golden Rule from an enlightened moral point of view, most folks with any hint of common sense should recognize the reality of "what goes around, comes around". You don't want your medics and field hospitals targetted, don't target those of the enemy. And you sure as hell don't target those that are by all accounts, neutral. Where's the outrage & formal complaints from the U.S. military medical corps? Where are the protests from the U.S. civillian healthcare professionals?

I just do not get it. We're practically inviting the terrorists to come bomb the Mayo Clinic or Walter Reed with this kind of callous disregard for basic tenets of human civility. And I'm not hearing a peep from the Red Cross. But then, after Abu Ghraib that shouldn't surprise me.

Random Thoughts

This is pretty nifty: Scientists make phone that turns into sunflower. Biodegradable, non-toxic plastic. What took them so long?

Until the immigration papers go through, Americans travelling abroad can now impersonate our friendly neighbors to the north much easier with this "Go Canadian" package. Besides various accessories of the Canadian flag to wear prominantly, there's a 'How to Speak Canadian, eh?" guidebook.

Note to Self: Might not be a good idea to read sci/fi fantasy whilst pregnated. Dreams of delivering puppies are a little disconcerting.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Friday Fun

Most people would chalk this up as a dubious honor but honestly, I'm so proud I can't stand it! Other bloggers (of the famous variety) get bookdeals. My first published sentence, however is a slogan for a women's sex-toy shop. My winning entry ("Turn your ho-ho-ho's into Oh-Oh-Oh!s") in Fleas holiday slogan contest got a mention in the Chicago Tribue. No attribution, though - I don't know whether that's a pro or a con. We'll see how my fledgling career as a sex industry tagline/cheesy softporn writer goes and then I'll tell you. Oh!!! Here's a thought!! I could write naughty Christmas/ greeting cards!!!!

"Twas the Night before Christmas and all through the house...
Not a creature was throbbing not even a mouse
The fishnet stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that the sex toy fairy soon would be there

The parents were spooning all snug in their beds,
While visions of vibrators danced in their heads;
And mamma in her teddy that closed with a snap
Settled with a sigh on dad's waiting lap"

(copyright moi)

Help Make Every Vote Count!

Dear Santa,

I want a statewide hand recount of the Washington State election for Christmas. Enclosed please find my $25 contribution to the Washington State Democrats accordingly, who desperately need to raise $750k by day end today to make that happen. I'd send money to
Ohio to help out there, too but it looks like the nat'l dems are focusing on that and I'm totally tapped out. WA on the other hand is just over the border, is like a second home and I have tons of family there. The female Democratic candidate for governor only trails her opponent by 42 votes. This Christmas, I want to give the country back her democratic ideals, starting with my beloved neighbors to the north. Please help. Thank you! (P.S. - did I mention what a very good girl I've been all year?)

****Update: Thank you Santa! Democrats have enough to pay for recount in governor's race "Top-ranking Democratic sources said the party has raised the necessary $700,000-plus to recount all 2.9 million votes cast for governor on Nov. 2 - not just votes in selected counties. A flood of online contributions put the party over the top, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity."

I'm very proud of Gregoire for hanging tough on her "entire statewide recount or no recount" position. The nat'l party initially only wanted to do recounts only in selected counties/precincts where they thought the results of said recount would be in her favor. This way, it's not just a point of one candidate trying to selfishly play spoiler - it's about upholding the integrity of the entire election process for *every* voter, even the ones who didn't vote for her. Bravo.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Socially Conscious Holiday Gift Buying

Just a friendly plug for my favorite charitable online "daily click" and storefront: The Animal Rescue Site. Every time you click the button on that linked page advertising sponsors donate food & care to rescued animals in shelters and sanctuaries. Other partnering sites that you can help out from the same page are: the Hunger Site, Breast Cancer Site, Child Health Site , Rainforest Site and (I think this one is new:) the Literacy Site. A portion of the price of any of the wonderful products you buy from any of those storefronts goes to the specified charity, and there are many, many Fair Trade products available.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Squeaky wheels

I used to hide my opinions. I used to get slightly embarrassed when I’d be talking to someone about a controversial topic and start to get riled up. My more intense emotions, I felt were incredibly intimate, and only shown to a few privileged friends & family. It seemed rude, somehow to inflict my outrage on others. The squeaky wheel getting the grease, in action. I hate the squeaky wheel. Just because someone is loud doesn’t make their opinions or feelings any more valid than any anyone else’s.

I don’t know if this is a cultural thing or a family thing, or just my own freaky attempt at doing unto others… I for one get rather annoyed when someone else inflicts their unsolicited opinions and vitriol on me. So I try very hard to not inflict mine on them. Over the years, however that feeling ended up being reinforced by personal feelings of inadequacy (i.e. “guys don’t like loud, strident women” and “a good professional should keep their personal opinions to themselves”) and percolated down to the point where I would stifle my opinions even in the face of someone who was making absolutely no effort to extend the same courtesy to me. Because I was raised to respect the right of everyone to their own opinion, no matter how much I disagreed with what they had to say.

Well no more. Not the respecting others opinions part, but the being so timid in meeting those loud opinions with my own – loudly, clearly and yes, if the mood strikes, emotionally. If nothing else this election has shown me that my silence can be deadly. As much as I hate it, the squeaky wheel isn’t going anywhere. In today’s culture, an opinion unvoiced is an opinion that does not exist and gets no respect. I can respect someone else’s right to theirs while loudly shouting mine to the rooftops. And that’s what it’s going to take. Because for too long, we on the left have let the blowhards on the right have their say without offering any contrary voices of our own and they’ve become arrogant as a result, hearing their own views echoed back to them in the inevitable silence of the public airwaves and around the water coolers of America. We’re extending them a respect that they sure as hell don’t plan to reciprocate.

That needs to stop. Now. I’ve started by engaging my ditto head coworkers whenever they start bashing progressive ideas (which they do on a daily basis). Letting myself get pissed. Letting them not only see my outrage but be forced to deal with it, goddammit. I thought after the election the liberal bashing would stop. So for the sake of peace (and my blood pressure) before then I’d let it slide, volunteer more and picked my battles very, very carefully. But I was wrong. It didn’t stop. It just moved from the national level to the local level. Instead of Kerry they’re now bashing the City of Portland and it’s progressive government/ culture and I’ve had it.

I’m finding that outrage properly expressed is an extremely effective tool. Once they meet some legitimate emotional resistance to their caustic blathering they tend to shut up. Who’da thunk?

Friday, November 26, 2004

It must be Thanksgiving. I received what is rapidly turning into a yearly fishing email from ex flame yesterday. Last time this year he emailed to see if I'd gotten married yet. Yep. This year he wants to know if I'm knocked up yet. Yep. And as usual, no response to my "so how are *you*?" reply so I have no idea what's going on in his life. On the one hand it's kind of flattering to know an old flame is thinking about you over the holidays. On the other hand, kind of sad and pathetic.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I know why the pregnant woman waddles. I’m feeling more and more like a penguin the last few days. Definitely pudging out there, starting right below my boobs. And I’m feeling the call of the water. Blessed, weightless water. The call is nearly strong enough to overcome my dread of the 2 flights of stairs I must negotiate to get to the water – namely the pool at the gym. Just hope my swimming suit still fits.

Random Rant

So it's perfectly OK for the U.S. and European countries to refuse to accept the Ukrainian elections, citing widespread fraud - but absolute sacrilege for anyone to question the results of our election on the same grounds? Welcome to the United States of Hypocrisy....

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Modern Grave Diggers

Like many other bloggers, I'm a little burnt out post-election. I've drafted about 5 different posts this week and then decided they were just to silly to publish. But this story is one I'd like to see get more attention:

Ancient village, graveyard torn apart by bridge project:

Snip: PORT ANGELES — In a makeshift morgue, handmade cedar boxes are stacked row upon row, each holding the ancient remains of the ancestors of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, all facing east toward the sunrise. Ripped from what was to be their final resting place, the remains were put here for safekeeping until the tribe can find a place for their dead to rest once more. The bones have been exhumed by contractors for the state Department of Transportation as it builds a marine facility needed for reconstruction of the Hood Canal Bridge. The excavation inadvertently unearthed Tse-whit-zen, the largest prehistoric Indian village ever discovered in Washington, portions of which date back more than 1,700 years... Watching the graves being disturbed has already been too much to bear. "I feel I am at my last thread; it has been overwhelming to feel the things we feel and see the things we see," said Carmen Charles, 21, the tribal chairwoman's niece. The Charles family is one of the largest on the reservation. She said she was forced, because of contractors in a hurry to sink a piling, to break apart the bodies of a couple, buried with their legs linked, their arms around each other, and faces turned to one another. "It was very hard, something I will have to live with the rest of my life. You are literally staring into your ancestors' eyes, into their souls. Sometimes you have to break a bone to get it out, and it's this rush of sadness, I just have to turn off my emotions."

If this were a white pioneer cemetery, there would be absolutely no question about stopping the construction project long enough to remove all the bodies & relocating them, no matter what the cost of delay.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Prego Update

Just passing 24 weeks? So 6 months ? And the RiverFry has begun to move. And kick. And kick some more. Sometimes I swear he’s doing his best to imitate Michael Flatley in Lord of The Dance. Apparently the Irish side of his ancestry is making itself felt – jig and all. I have been forbidden, however from calling him the initial names that come to mind, such as “little shit”, “bastard” or “son of a bitch” (which would be sort of self-insulting… but anyhoo), let alone my favorite “fucker” when he breaks into this furious step-dancing on the inside of my uterus. Curt says he can hear me and might not take it in the affectionate tone I intend. He then reminds me that I’ve got 4 months left of this to look forward to. And his little limbs are only going to get bigger, and stronger. Right. Best not to piss the little bugger off.

As strange and freaky as it is to feel this alien doing backflips inside my gut, it’s pretty neat, too. My current favorite hobby is just sitting there with my hands on my belly waiting for him to move. Afterwards, after the initial “dammit! exclamation of surprise I kind of sit there in stunned silence and realize that A) I’m making a brand new human being! B) He’s going to have to come out, eventually. C) that will hurt – A LOT ; and D) afterwards our lives will not only never be the same again, I will become a glorified cow*. Obviously, I’m still adjusting to the idea. Getting more and more excited, but I don’t think reality will hit until I see his little scrunch face for the first time.

We did get a pretty nice picture of his profile at the big Ultrasound 3 weeks ago. Looks like the poor kid will get Curt's nose. As long as he doesn't get my sinuses I guess that's OK. I was going to post about it but it was the week before the election and, well… you know. Suffice it to say, it was one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. The Lifetime movies and such LIE I tell you! THEY LIE!!! All you see are these glorified happy parents staring googly-eyed at the fuzzy black and white picture on the screen. What they don’t tell you is, before you get there you have to drink about a gallon of water in a 2 hour period and then you CANNOT PEE. Even though your bladder is already under extreme pressure from the baby and internal organs all getting squished together**. I tell you people, the effort required to hold back that much urinary pressure is extraordinary. Going up the stairs, getting in and out of the car and walking to the office about killed me. It's not so easy to simultaneously walk and desperately cross your legs together, I tell you what. Makes you look/feel like a geisha, walking with these little minced steps. Then we had to wait for AN HOUR to see the ultrasound tech (yeah, I got there early. I was in PAIN!) who had to have been the most surly, tight-lipped and annoyed ultrasound tech on the planet. She said not a single word the entire time she did the 20 minute exam. Wouldn’t tell us what she was looking at, wouldn’t give us any indication if things were OK. Nada. Then she let us look at the Fry for maybe 2 ½ minutes, tops – whipped off a few pictures and that was it.

Disappointing, to say the least. And I felt like a total wimp. None of the other moms-to-be in the waiting room appeared to be on the verge of tears as I was, every muscle in their body rigid with the effort of controlling their bladder, perched on the edge of their chair terrified of peeing on the waiting room rug. And throughout the exam, I couldn't even get that excited about being able to see the littie fry's little fingers and toes. All I wanted was for it to be OVER so I could GO PEE! Please Maude, just let everything be OK*** so I can GO PEE!! How selfish is that?

Dammit, if I can’t handle a simple, supposedly painless ultrasound how in the hell am I going to handle actual labor? From an episode of Northern Exposure, I guess… 4 little words: “Give Me My Drugs!”. And I refuse to feel guilty about it. I’m sure I’ll be a maternity nurse’s worst nightmare. I total prima dona who thinks she’s the first woman to ever go through this. I know I’m not – it is somewhat reassuring to think that billions of other women have done it - multiple times – and lived. Of course, there are also the millions of women who didn’t . But I’m not focusing on them. That's the privelege of living in a 1st world country and having health benefits, I am very well aware – and incredibly thankful.

But the funny thing is, I do feel like a bit of a prima dona. I was actually feeling resentful at the grocery store the other day. Every other woman I saw was prego, too. Most very young. And their seeming indifference to their condition was a slap in the face. Other women get pregnant and it’s no big deal… but don’t you people understand? This is ME we’re talking about. This is a big fucking deal for me. I waited ALONG time to do this, and only after very careful thought and preparation. How can so many others seem to take it so lightly?

* Yes, I KNOW breastfeeding is a wonderful and natural experience to be cherished that endows the newborn and the mother with seemingly miraculous health benefits… blah blah blah. Yes, I’m going to do it for as long as possible. But I reserve the right to feel like a cow while doing it. So sue me.

** My bestfriend swears that in 3 pregnancies she never had to do this full bladder crap. Well just once, so almost never. And they still managed to get beautiful ultrasound images. Of course she went to a different clinic. I was told it was necessary because the bladder has to push the organs/ uterus up higher in the abdomen to get a good picture. OK – biomedical engineering people? Here’s a thought. Howzabout you fucking invent a) either a stronger ultrasound machine or b) some sort of sling to allow the mother to lay belly DOWN on the exam table with the ultrasound scanner pointed UP…. Then we can let ole’ gravity do the job that the full bladder thing supposedly does now. You’ll get right on that, won’t you? Before my next kid? How about I make YOU drink a gallon of water and not let you pee for 2 hours every day until you figure out a way to get around this barbaric necessity. You think that might get those creative juices flowing? Thank you very kindly…. Mustang Sally.

***Oh yeah, everything is OK. Baby looks normal. Placenta properly placed. So says my doc a week after the ultrasound. Though she did note he wouldn't stay still as she was trying to zero in on his heartbeat with the doppler. Yeah... I kind of knew that already. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

They've found Atlantis, again.... this time off the coast of Cyprus. What's that mean for the last great theory that it was in Spain? I have no clue. We're getting to the point where anytime anyone finds a previously unknown ancient archaeological site they claim it's Atlantis. Unfortunately, I don't know that they'll ever be able to say without a doubt *which* site among the leading contenders is the real deal. Let's hope they find a "Welcome to Atlantis!" sign etched in hieroglyphics or cuneiform. With a directional sign that reads "Visitor Information This Way.."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Tin Foil Hat Time

Maybe, finally, an explanation for Shrub's obstinate refusal to do anything about global warming: Arctic Thaw Could Open Vast Oil and Gas Region snip:

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - An accelerating thaw of the Arctic may open vast regions for oil and gas exploration but that brings worries of spills in the fragile environment, experts said Thursday.

Scientists behind an-eight nation report saying the Arctic sea ice could almost vanish in summer by 2100 because of global warming said offshore oil and gas operations would be easier but melting permafrost could destabilize installations on land.

I've become such a cynic.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

No Politics Allowed!

Volcano Watch: St. Helens hasn't done much since my last update besides continue to build a new lava dome. The advent of winter snowfall is making for some beautiful pictures, though on the few clear days we've had. And you (well, the USGS photographers - not actual people) can actually see the lava glowing at times, which is cool. No explosive eruptions though folks, sorry to disappoint.

In other Pacific NW volcano news, last weekend Mt. Ranier had a swarm of earthquakes inside the volcano. Largest, at 3.2 was the biggest in 40 years. Scientists aren't worried about an eruption, though (last one was in 1840). They think the earthquakes are a result of the "sheer weight" of the mountain settling and not, apparantly a result of magma moving. Not to play armchair vulcanologist or anything, but I'd still be a little twitchy if I were in Seattle/ Tacoma. If there's pressure built up, an earthquake caused by anything (even heavy rain/landslide) could trigger a venting episode - and that could mean lahars, which are the greatest threat to the Puget Sound population centers downhill.

Yes, as you can imagine I'm trying to turn my attention from disasters of the man-made kind to those more natural. In fact, the only thing that got me through Nov. 3rd was a book I picked up at the hospital gift shop to tide me over while Curt was getting his carpal tunnel surgery done*. Pompeii by Richard Harris. Really good mindcandy - combines fascinating historical facts that are pretty damned accurate (as much as I recall) with a pretty good plotline. Falls in the "controversial scientist trying to convince hardheaded gov't officials of imminent natural disaster" genre. But set in ancient Roman Empire. And the scientist is in charge of running the local aquaduct, and he weaves in actual historical figures (Pliny the Elder), and at least in this case - you KNOW how it ends. Hundreds (or thousands?) of people were actually caught totally unaware - we know because the ash preserved their last moments in grisly detail.

*Curt's surgery went really well. He had his left hand done. After it heals in about a month he'll have the right hand done. He noticed improved range of motion with his fingers as soon as the anasthesia wore off, and can sleep at night (numbness isn't waking him up like it was before). Pretty amazing. The incision is bigger than his doc led him to believe - about 4 inches from bottom of palm to the middle. Apparently they had to do more extensive work than they'd thought.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Unf'ingbelievable: Rummy says Fallujah strike won't kill "many" Iraqi civilians.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that large numbers of Iraqi civilians would not be killed, "certainly not by U.S. forces,"* during the siege to retake Fallujah, even as the top U.S. commander there predicted a "major confrontation" between insurgents and up to 15,000 troops in the Sunni Muslim city.

How he can be so certain of this when his own staff admits 30-50% of the civilian population is still there, I have no clue.

*You can bet your ass that any civilian casualties that DO occur** will be blamed on the Iraqi forces - not the U.S. forces. Also note, with Allawi supposedly commanding the U.S. forces - that conveniently gets Shrub & Co. off the hook as far as responsibility, doesn't it?

**Not that we'll ever be able to actually verify the true number of civilian casualties. They've made damned sure of that by targetting Fallujah's main hospital, first. And they fully admit, this is not in an attempt to protect the patients. Per The NY Times, via Body & Soul, the hospital is "considered a refuge for insurgents and a center of propaganda against allied forces." That's right. The goal in securing the hospital is to secure the wagging tongues of the medical staff there, who might otherwise be tempted to count the number of body bags & amputated limbs that come their way. After all, it was those nosy doctors who were primarily responsible for spilling the beans on the 100,000 civillian casualty mark two weeks ago. Certainly can't have that again, can we?

Just to give you some perspective, Riverbend relates the story of actual refugees from Fallujah.

Pod People

Apologies for the lack of posts this week. The shock still hasn’t worn off. You know that totally disconnected feeling you get every once in awhile like you’re the only *real* human being on the planet and everyone else you see are players in some kind of play created solely for your benefit by a cruel superior being? It’s been like that, only this time, I don’t feel quite so alone. I know there are actually millions of others just like me who are feeling the same inredulous feeling of alienation from their countrymen. How could we grow up in the same place, sometimes even in the same family and think so completely and utterly different? They’ve got to be pod people. Or maybe, a freak genetic mutation has occurred and we’re in the process of witnessing the emergence of a second sentient offshoot from the human race. Let’s call them Homo Religiosus. Or maybe, just maybe – there’s a psychotropic virus that’s gone around that alters the basic brain functionality of people. Some variant of mad cow disease. Those are my theories, anyway. I don’t care if Gene Roddenberry thought of them first. Brilliant man, he was!

I started in with the "I told you so's" the minute I read the headlines about Bush planning to reward his Evangelical minions with a resurrected federal Same Sex Marriage Ban. I want nothing more than to throw them in brother's face - along with every other security-obsessed Democrat who told me "Oh, Bush is actually a religious moderate... you're just paranoid to think he'll try to legislate Fundamental Christian values into law!" and marked their ballot for the Chimp. Unfortunately, my committment to not talk politics with him anymore is still in place. A selfish side of me hopes the next four years will prove me right, even though the rest of me realizes what a nightmare it will be if my predictions come true. I hope for the sake of every gay, lesbian, bi & transgendered family out there - as well as all of us straight heretics that I am wrong.

So what to do? I’ll admit, like hundreds of thousands of other Kerry supporters we’ve tossed around the idea of getting the hell out of Dodge. B.C. does look attractive. And I’ve always said I’d move to New Zealand in a heartbeat. The Kiwi’s, have very strict immigration requirements, though I’ve been told. But for the time being, I do feel pretty safe in my mostly liberal corner of the country (Definition of Marriage Amendment notwithstanding). I’m not quite ready to give up the country to the fascists just yet. For the next four years, these are my guiding thoughts:

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." (Thomas Jefferson)

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.
by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

So this time around, they're coming for the homosexuals first. Who do you think will be next? Pregnant women or peace activists?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow

Devestated doesn’t describe it.

But ever the optimist, I’m trying to look for the bright side. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) Bush will now be solely responsible for the fuck up of the war on terror & Iraq. I hoped, but never had much confidence that Kerry would have been able to adequately clean up his predecessor’s mess in that area.
2) Guess we can save some of those Homeland Security dollars in the Blue States, now that Bin Laden has promised to remove us from his target list!
3) At least Kerry gets to go back to the Senate, doesn’t he? Maybe he could do what he does best and throw some investigations together…..
4) Two Term Presidential Limits. I have never been so thankful for those in my life.

That’s all I’ve got at the moment. Please feel free to add any others as you think of them.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Most Excellent news on the turnout front! In the Big 4 battlegrounds: Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania, turnout in Democratic precincts/ demographics is exceeding comparable Republican areas/ demographics! And check this out: The African American and Hispanic turnouts are FAR exceeding expectations: Up to 144% of historical turnout rates!!

**Update: So Kos and MyDD claim to have gotten some leaked exit poll results that show Kerry leading in all 4 of the above Big Daddies. If you assume the rest of the states go as previously projected from most recent polls, that give Kerry a huge victory - 311 electoral votes (270 needed to win). So nobody's really taking this seriously *quite* yet... except for the stock market, which according to this article is dropping due - apparently to the influence of said liberal blog reports.

You have GOT to be kidding me. Liberal bloggers causing the stock market to fall? I don't think so. On the other hand - it's pretty apparent the net is going apeshit from all the desperate attempts to find any kind of information. Blogger is freezing up and every other political site being linked to by bloggers. So you know there is *some* serious attention being paid to bloggers in general. But the stock market? Come on!

*****Day After Update: I will never believe a fucking "exit poll" ever again. As long as I live. So help me, Maude.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Can I look yet?

So I started this rather involved and more than a little lame post about Oregon’s Vote by Mail system and the Republican idiots who are trying to subvert it. But really, there’s no point. It doesn't stand a chance in hell of standing up in court. And I don’t think it will intimidate a single soul from voting. So fine – let them throw some more $$ down this particular rabbit hole. I refuse to waste another gram of outrage over it.

I can’t wait for this election to be over. Some people really do get all excited over the prospect of a heated political battle. To them, elections are fun! And this one only more so! Not me. I just get shell-shocked. Involved, sure – but mostly out of desperation and fear. Not for love of the battle itself. I just feel it’s my responsibility, and an honor really to get informed and involved in helping to make this world a better place. The whole “be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem” thing. It helps my mental health to channel my outrage into personal action. Every time my dittohead coworkers go off on one of their tirades about the very ideals that I hold dear, or defend the idiocy of the Republicans, I can either respond and bang my head against a brick wall for a few hours or I can channel that frustration into productive action and actually DO something that might, in the real world – start tearing down that brick wall of bullheaded opposition. So that’s what I’ve chosen to do.

But still, I am sooo ready for a break. I’m ready to sit back with my tub of popcorn and watch the results come in, like a movie. Ready to cringe with my head turned against Curt's shoulder if it begins to look like one of the really baaad horror flicks where the victim is running *alone* down the dark hall to check out that strange noise. Or ready to cheer at a smarmy, cheesy action flick when the good guys win in the end, against all odds - and none of the main characters died tragically in the process.

I'm really hoping for the latter case scenario. In my mind I'm visualizing that scene in Independence Day where Wil Smith's girlfriend makes it into the utility closet in the tunnel ahead of the molten inferno that has become downtown L.A. with her son, and calls the dog ( a yellow lab).... and the dog comes running and jumping over the stranded cars and, and and..... launches through the doorway right as the leading waves of fire singe his little tailhairs. Yeah, like that.....

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Homeland Security = Toy Trademark Protection?

Latest WTF??? moment: Toy store owner gets visit from Homeland Security agents. Article:

So far as she knows, Pufferbelly Toys owner Stephanie Cox hasn't been passing any state secrets to sinister foreign governments, or violating obscure clauses in the Patriot Act. So she was taken aback by a mysterious phone call from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to her small store in this quiet Columbia River town just north of Portland.

"I was shaking in my shoes," Cox said of the September phone call. "My first thought was the government can shut your business down on a whim, in my opinion. If I'm closed even for a day that would cause undue stress."

When the two agents arrived at the store, the lead agent asked Cox whether she carried a toy called the Magic Cube, which he said was an illegal copy of the Rubik's Cube, one of the most popular toys of all time. He told her to remove the Magic Cube from her shelves, and he watched to make sure she complied.

After the agents left, Cox called the manufacturer of the Magic Cube, the Toysmith Group, which is based in Auburn, Wash. A representative told her that Rubik's Cube patent had expired, and the Magic Cube did not infringe on the rival toy's trademark.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said agents went to Pufferbelly based on a trademark infringement complaint filed in the agency's intellectual property rights center in Washington, D.C.

"One of the things that our agency's responsible for doing is protecting the integrity of the economy and our nation's financial systems and obviously trademark infringement does have significant economic implications," she said.

Six weeks after her brush with Homeland Security, Cox told The Oregonian she is still bewildered by the experience. "Aren't there any terrorists out there?" she said.
Now I would understand if they had a hunch that some of that missing Al Qaqaa explosives (same stuff used to make C4) had been used to modify otherwise harmless clones of Rubik's Cubes in a brilliant terrorist plot to turn our own toys against us. That stuff can be molded into any shape, afterall - and who would suspect a child's toy? But that's not the case. Nope. We're worried about trademark infringement here, folks! That's your hard-earned homeland security tax dollars at work. Protecting corporate profits.


No, I can't imagine why the Iraqi's are so mad at America for "liberating" them: Household Survey Sees 100,000 Iraqi Deaths following Occupation. Of course, we don't officially count Iraqi civillian casualties. That would comply with the Geneva Convention and we just can't have that! Snips:

LONDON - A survey of deaths in Iraqi households estimates that as many as 100,000 more people may have died throughout the country in the 18 months after the U.S. invasion than would be expected based on the death rate before the war.

There is no official figure for the number of Iraqis killed since the conflict began, but some non-governmental estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000. As of Wednesday, 1,081 U.S. servicemen had been killed, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

The scientists who wrote the report concede that the data they based their projections on were of "limited precision," because the quality of the information depends on the accuracy of the household interviews used for the study. The interviewers were Iraqi, most of them doctors.

The survey indicated violence accounted for most of the extra deaths seen since the invasion, and air strikes from coalition forces caused most of the violent deaths, the researchers wrote in the British-based journal. "Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children," they said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Hobbits, Goblins and Lilliputians, Oh My!

Just in time for Halloween: Scientists find fairly modern prehistoric dwarf human skeleton on remote Indonesian island. Now, finding small skeletons of early homo ancestors is normally no big thing. This isn't the missing link. What makes this story fascinating is that they've determined at least one of the skeletons is only 12,000 years old. Which means these dwarf, genetically distinct humans shared the world with modern humans. It is very possible modern humans encountered them. Genetically modern humans were migrating to North America by around 18,000 - 15,000 BC. In the Middle East, this was the "Epipaleolithic" period -which was a pre-Neolithic (or Stone Age) era when humans were just beginning to experiment with the manipulation of plants and creation of tools and were still primarily nomadic hunting/ gathering tribes. It was only 4,000 years or so before they started to domesticate animals and live in settled agricultural communities.

Almost every culture on earth developed some myth or legend revolving little people. They were usually mischieveous spirits. Could these people have been the real life inspiration for legendary European little folk like goblins, imps, elves, leprechauns, brownies and faeries? The Cherokee even had spiritual little people. The Hawaiians had their Menehune.

I can't wait to see the Doscovery or PBS documentary on this. Though maybe there should be a book about it, first. Now see, if I were the type to combine my love of history & archaeology with writing I might attempt it. If I weren't such a gutless chickenshit, that is.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Coalition of the Satanic

You've heard it here first, folks! Bush has officially allied himself with the armies (or navies, at least) of Satan! British navy approves first ever Satanist:

Mr Cranmer will be allowed to perform Satanic rituals The British Armed Forces
has officially recognised its first registered Satanist, a newspaper reports. Naval technician Chris Cranmer, 24, has been allowed to register by the captain of HMS Cumberland, based at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth. The move will mean that he will now be allowed to perform Satanic rituals on board
the vessel.

Why yes, this is a shameless attempt to googlehog (or is it googlebomb?) folks searching for "Bush+Allied+With+Satan" in order to disenfranchise some of his more extreme fundy religious base. How'd you know?

Right Livelihood

I'll be watching this case pretty closely: Pharmacist says he feared 'spiritual pain': Hearing considers refusal to fill birth control pill prescription.

"MADISON, Wisconsin. (AP) -- A former pharmacist said Monday he refused to fill a college student's prescription for birth control pills or transfer it to another pharmacy because he did not want to commit a sin."

I've ranted about this before, but mostly in regards to proposed bills that would allow physicians & other health care professionals to "opt out" of providing any kind of abortion services. But what I wasn't really clear about is that it's already perfectly legal in some states, appparently for pharmacists to "opt out" of providing other prescriptions, too. There have been a rash of cases in recent years of pharmacists refusing to fill birth control Rx's. Besides the above-linked cases, there was a case in Texas last March. And one in New Hampshire last month. There are more - just google "pharmacy refuses to fill birth control" and you'll find more examples than you can count.

I could really get into a frenzy about the assumption that someone else's right to practice their religion somehow legally trumps a woman's right to basic healthcare. Or the ridiculous notion that if a sexually active woman gets pregnant it's her divine "punishment" for her sins. And I could wonder if they refuse to fill HIV medication or antibiotics for other STD's to men on the same grounds. But I won't.

Instead, I want to discuss the moral dilemma facing these pharmacists based on a tenet of Buddhism that really resonated with Curt & I when we began studying it. It's called "Right Livelihood" and it's one of the central precepts of the Eight Fold Path. Now in the simplest terms, "Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided."

Generally, pharmacists and other medical professions are definitely considered one of the "Right" and probably most noble of livelihoods. But if you use that profession to violate any of the other precepts of Buddhism, well, that would rack up bad karma in a hurry. What constitutes violations of those other precepts, and whether a particular act creates good or bad karma is, as always up to the individual circumstances and intent of the individuals involved. This ambiguity extends to the issue of abortion, as well. I might go into the logic around that issue in Buddhism but not right now. For the sake of this argument, let's just state that while abortion is generally frowned upon, birth control is not - since it prevents pregnancy to begin with (and thereby avoids the messy abortion dilemma). For that matter, consensual sex is not frowned upon either (so long as it is, in fact entirely consensual, nobody is profiting from it, nobody is addicted to it and nobody is getting hurt by it) and marriage is considered an entirely secular, and NOT a sacred institution.

But that's really besides my point. What I want to address is the more subtle meaning of the "Right Livelihood" precept as our Reverend Master explained it to us. Namely, that "Right Livelihood" not only means it is wrong to profit from someone else's suffering, it also means you should not profit from your own suffering. This is where the primary truth of Buddhism comes into play: that we are all the cause of our own suffering. This is why, not only is it wrong to prostitute others, it is wrong to prostitute your self. So from this standpoint, even though being a healthcare worker is usually considered a noble livelihood - if the requirements of that job cause you mental anguish, or places you in a position where you are violating your personal ethics, then you are intentionally causing your own suffering, and that makes your chosen livelihood wrong.

As I've mentioned before. I've quit jobs in the past because I had an ethical disagreement with the business culture of my workplace, or the requirements for the job. So has my husband. So have millions of other people. Your right to practice your religion does NOT in any way, shape or form give you the right to FORCE your religious beliefs on someone else - especially using the power of your profession. If I were Orthodox Jew or Muslim and I went to work in a pig slaughterhouse, my empoloyer would be totally within their rights to fire my ass for refusing to kill swine. Or if I were a diehard Vegan and I went to work in a steakhouse and I refused to serve T-bone to the customers. Or even give them the menu. I shouldn't have placed myself in that situation to begin with. Let alone make someone *else* suffer beecause of my doing so.

And that's exactly what these pharmacists are doing. They're not only making someone else pay the price for THEIR bad professional decisions, they're hurting themselves as well. Are you ethically uncomfortable working for a pharmacy that dispenses b/c (including the morning after pill?) Then feel free to quit and go to work for a privately-owned pharmacy run by Christian Scientists or some such where it won't be an issue. Or find a new profession. In every other situation in good old Capitalist U.S. of A - employees are reminded they do NOT have a constitutional right to a job. If the state isn't responsible for providing a job - it sure as hell isn't responsible for providing one that guarantees the employee a guilt-free conscience.

And if they manage to get legislation through that does give employees that right regarding b/c and abortion - they sure as hell better give the same right based on other moral issues or be prepared to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court. I don't see this having a Constitutional leg to stand on.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Tank of Gas to Vancouver, BC: $23. Cost of getting Flu vaccine: $50.

Rubbing in how Canadian health care system is covering American system’s ass to Republican co-workers: Priceless!

File this entry under one more thing I’ll blog about here instead of getting into another totally pointless argument with my conservative ditto-head coworkers. I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve bagged on socilized medicine. Specifically, how shitty the Canadian health system supposedly is in comparison to ours, which is, of course “the envy of the world”. So reading this is just priceless:

Vancouver, BC plans flu shot clinic for Americans Snip:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Many Americans from Pacific Northwest are making a run for the border to get their flu shots. And it couldn’t be easier to find a provider. As soon as they cross the border, the tourist information booth hands out maps to the closest clinic.

Because so many people are crossing the Canadian border for flu shots, the Vancouver, British Columbia, Coastal Health Authority has set up a one-day clinic for Americans only…

The U.S. vaccine shortage was caused when British regulators shut down U.S.-bound shipments from Chiron Corp., after some batches of the vaccine were found to be contaminated with bacteria. The decision cut the U.S. supply of flu shots almost in half.

Canada does not have a shortage because it doesn't get vaccine from the British supplier. While the flu shots in Canada are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, that isn’t stopping those who can’t get vaccinated in the United States.

Yep, we're the envy of the world, alright.....

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Loose Strings

Here at RiverRocks we try to be fair, even when totally unbalanced. So here are some random updates on previous rants/posts.

Humanitarian organization CARE Int’l has pulled out of Iraq following the abduction of their chief.

Chicago has found no more Frankenfish in their harbor, giving hope that they may have been spared the horror.

Those evil Europeans & their demonic CERN particle accelerator have taken up the critical question of Life, The Universe & Everything. Don’t expect Shrub to reconsider his particular answer to that question in light of any discoveries they make, however. You know how much he listens to the Europeans, let alone scientists.

Turns out the school district terrorism scare was, in fact harmless (or so they say…) The FBI is now claiming that the Iraqi man who downloaded the information was not tied to terrorists or insurgents as was originally reported. He did have ties to Saddam Hussein and the Baath party but they say “that’s true of most former community leaders”. So maybe it was something like my innocent hypothesis #2. Big surprise – more ‘be afraid, be very afraid’/ ‘oops, nevermind you’re perfectly safe’ chain-yanking.

And last, but not least – the Afghanistan elections did appear to go off without much violence, and only a slight hitch, contrary to all my doom & gloomer predictions. And the hitch isn’t even that bad. Sure, some funny business apparently went on but no more so than what’s been going on here in the U.S. of A. Shrub may even have veen right in stating during the last debate that a 19 yr old woman cast the first ballot in the election. But what he failed to mention was she cast that ballot in the Pakistan capital of Islamabad - and not in Afghanistan itself where women are still being intimidated by the Taliban and other fundamentalist factors into not participating. He also failed to mention how golden boy Karzai is not only continuing to turn a blind eye to the abuse of women’s rights in Afghanistan by fundamentalist Northern Alliance warlords (who he is now allied with); in many cases he is aiding and abetting them in their efforts. Snip:

“While much mileage has been squeezed out of the notion that the U.S. “liberated” Afghan women, only one dollar out of every $5,000 ($112,500 out of $650 million) of U.S. financial aid sent to Afghanistan in 2002 was actually given to women’s organizations. In 2003, according to Ritu Sharma, Executive Director of the Women’s Edge Coalition, that amount was reduced to $90,000. At the same time, women have increasingly been the targets of violence. New studies by groups like Amnesty International reveal that sexual violence has surged since the fall of the Taliban, and there has been a sharp rise in incidents of women’s self-immolation in Western Afghanistan. Amnesty International has documented an escalation in the number of girls and young women abducted and forced into marriage, with collusion from the state (those who resist are often imprisoned).”

“U.S. policy has empowered extreme fundamentalists who have further extended women’s oppression in a traditionally ultra-conservative society. In a public opinion survey conducted in Afghanistan this July by the Asia Foundation, 72% of respondents said that men should advise women on their voting choices and 87% of all Afghans interviewed said women would need their husband’s permission to vote. On International Women’s Day this year, Hamid Karzai only encouraged such attitudes. He implored men to allow their wives and sisters to register to vote, assuring them, “later, you can control who she votes for, but please, let her go [to register].”

Shrub holding up this election as a triumph for women's rights is like Jim Crow trying to claim former slaves were fully liberated and equal in 1920.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Bugging Out

Journalist Christopher Allbritton tells a scary story of a very lucky colleague who was kidnapped (and released) this week in Baghdad. This is Bush's idea of "excellent progress" being made in Iraq. Must be code for "let's make it so damned dangerous no journalist with two brain cells will stick around, letting us do whateverthehell we feel like under the radar of the international press."

**Update** Chris has left the county in response to growing threats against journalists. Right before a top charity chief, Margaret Hassan was kidnapped. She is a dual British/ Iraqi citizen and has lived in Baghdad for more than 30 years.

Who's your huckleberry?

What a wonderful, wonderful weekend. Just what we needed. We decided on the spur of the moment last week to get away to somewhere sort of new and different from our typical road trip to Mom’s. We headed to Hood River up in the Gorge. Now, technically we’ve both been there before (last time staying at the quaint little Hood River Hotel but this time we decided to do the Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad which I had never been on, and stay at a B&B. It was Autumn Fest in Hood River, so most B&B’s in town were booked up. I found one with a vacancy 20 minutes away on the Washington side up the White Salmon River in the mountains, called Husum Highlands . Really, terrific. I'm serious. Very isolated and quiet - out in the woods. Beautiful Victorian-style home (though only 10 yrs old). Incredible view. We saw deer. I impressed a recently transplanted So. Californian couple with my recognition of huckleberry jam. Hey, I'm a native - it's kind of required knowledge.

The railroad trip was neat – they had a Harvest Fest up in Parkdale at the 1 hr. stopover with home brewed sodapop and *real* kettle korn, artsy booths and live hippy music. Lots of kids, which I was amazed to see totally enthralled with riding the choo-choo train that somehow kept them totally entertained for the 4 hour trip. It seems like you can’t get a kid away from their video games and T.V.’s for more than an hour these days without their getting bored in a hurry. More amusing were the “bigger” kids of the male variety who were just as enthralled, and took every opportunity to check out the old diesel engine and caboose, regaling their companions with tons of train trivia in between. You could tell who had train sets as kids.

My native berry knowledge failed me on the drive up, though, where we were fascinated by these bushes that had beautiful silverish blue/lavendar clumps hanging from them. They looked like miniature grapes or hydrangeas. Our wise B&B host informed us they were wild Elderberries – apparently of the blue variety. Absolutely incredible in pies, jellies & wine, he said, but they take careful preparation. Apparently only the ripe berry is edible – the rest of the plant (and unripe berries) can be toxic. So when a group of women were perplexed by the same bush on the train trip we got to play guest lecturer. It was fun.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Just noticed Riverbend made one of her rare blog posts. This time about the rising use of valium (and other drugs) by Iraqi's.

Friday Afternoon Trivia

Guess I’m not all that freaky afterall: “the most common medical condition you've never heard of: Restless Legs Syndrome.” Finally, a possible explanation for what I’ve been calling “the creepy-crawlies” in my legs since I"ve been prego. Snip:

“Tending to be more pronounced at nights, symptoms range from unpleasant sensations in the legs that come and go, to involuntary twitching. In some of the more severe cases, Kryger says patients describe feeling as if insects are crawling under their skin when they try to sleep. RLS can wake patients up several times during the night, leaving them exhausted and drowsy the next day. “It can really have a significant impact on their quality of life,” adds Kushida.

But researchers have found that people with iron deficiencies are more susceptible to RLS—particularly women. And Kryger says pregnant women are two to three times more likely to have RLS than other women in part because the fetus tends to take iron for its own use. RLS symptoms can also be alleviated by stretching, using hot or cold packs, taking a bath or exercising."

I've already been doing the bath/ exercising thing (well - the bath thing and lame attempts at exercising). Guess it's time to start the iron supplements in addition to the iron in my prenatal vitamin.