Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Puke Day Luke

The whole family has been lounging, really seriously lounging since boxing day. The boys have dedicated themselves to their new video games with an occasional break to carry on a good-natured spat. Steve has been plinking around with some programming of his own, and I've gotten back to my knitting for the first time since I hurt my shoulder playing hockey. The dogs don't know what to do with all of this family time and sometimes get booted out for a little fresh air due to an excess of enthusiasm for tearing around the house during quiet hour.

On Saturday they spent some time out of doors while I was busy with a project. When Luke came in, he had a strangely swollen look about his midsection. Thinking I was imagining things, I asked Steve if the pup looked bloated to him too. Steve has a tendency to dismiss my concerns about the health of the children and animals, knowing that I am often too quick to worry. This time however, he was in total agreement. Luke seemed otherwise cheerful, if not a bit slow-moving, so I figured that watchful waiting was the best option. The next time the dogs went out, they made a bee-line around the garage and out of sight. Hurrying after them, the source of the bloat was revealed. The little bastards had knocked over a trash bag set on top of the can which had become too full to hold it. Inside was a chicken carcass and five or six large fat-soaked pieces of potato that had cooked with it. I say "was" because by the time we discovered what they had done, these items had disappeared without a trace.

Realizing what had occurred, Steve felt the midsection of the much-furrier Bo to see if his belly was as distended as Luke's. It was. Both dogs spent the rest of the afternoon in a rather subdued state. They tried, halfheartedly, to play together, but the first bump from Bo sent Luke sprawling on his side with a piglike grunt, so they gave up in favor of a nap. Asleep at Steve's feet after dinner, Luke leapt up and bolted to the door, vomiting up a copious amount of chicken carcass just short of the exit. The next day he was purging chicken at the other end. Bo, being of somewhat sterner constitution or perhaps having eaten less chicken, seemed to have escaped with few foul effects. It wasn't until the following evening that he returned to the house with a good-sized bun of feces clinging to the area under his tail that the ghost of chicken past came to haunt us. Bo, Steve, and a pair of scissors spent a little quality time together on the back porch to remedy that situation.

Later that night I realized that Luke's first birthday, on December 27th, had passed unnoticed and uncelebrated. We felt a little badly until we realized that he and Bo had celebrated it in dog-fashion by partying 'till they popped at the trash can. Happy birthday Luke! May you make it to your second birthday without a repeat of that particular incident.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Little Acorn Doesn't Fall Far...

This morning after I finished breakfast I burped. Loudly.  I didn't mean to, really.  It just popped out.  Weston laughed and commented that my burp was even louder than Garrett's.  A bit shamefacedly I admitted that Garrett comes by his belching talents honestly.  "The sad thing is" Weston replied, "he doesn't get them from Dad."   Sigh.  I've been reprimanded by my own child.

Monday, December 22, 2008

All I Want For Christmas Is a Basilisk

I know what I want for Christmas. I saw it this weekend in San Francisco at the California Academy of Science. For a biologist, this place is like the world's biggest candy shop. Each section of the museum presents another area where I have vowed to spend at least two hours browsing once the huge volume of traffic has died down. In the wake of the renovation and reopening of the museum, weekend crowds have been huge. On our first visit we browsed through the aquarium on the bottom floor with crowds that would have made the British Museum at midsummer proud. The lines for the rain forest exhibit stretched at least 50 people back from its entrance and passes had already been claimed for all of the showings in the planetarium.

Steve had a game plan in place for this visit. We dragged ourselves from our beds at the hotel at 7:00, showered, consumed our breakfasts and by about 8:40, were waiting for the doors to open at the museum. At 9:00 we headed straight for the line to get passes for the first planetarium showing, then to the rain forest exhibit where a long line was already forming. Inside the rainforest exhibit were butterflies, birds, and terrariums with all manner of exotic fish and reptiles. And that's where I saw the emerald basilisk lizard.

A mere photo does not quite do this creature justice. Also known (somewhat irreverently) as the Jesus Christ lizard, the emerald basilisk is named for its ability to run on water.

Even a video doesn't fully capture the ruffled scales behind its ears that make the basilisk look like an utterly captivating combination between those exotic birds at the zoo that are forever cocking their head at you through the bars of their enclosure and a tiny green dog with perky ears. I don't actually want to take one of these beauties from, its natural habitat to live out its days in a terrarium, but I would love to get the chance to see one in the wild. Instead, I'll take one of these (a spider tortoise).

Thanks to Steve for the great photographs.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Bookmarks Miss Me

What do the bookmarks on your web browser say about your life? When I was working more my most frequently visited bookmark file was the one that had links to all of the information for biological reports. There was the Cal Photos with all of its pictures and scientific names for the species that I needed to reference. I also spent a lot of time looking at soils reports at USDA and sleuthing out which rivers and streams were protected for salmon at NOAA. As worked dropped of, I've spent much less time at those bookmarks.

The plus side of that was that I had much more time to spend in the Bloggers file in my bookmark toolbar. Those used to be a guilty pleasure while waiting for a call back or a map to finish loading to print. As I spent more time at the blogger bookmarks I got inspired, and I realized I had time to start updating my own blog more. Looking for interesting things to write about, spawned a new file in my bookmark toolbar: sites pertaining to politics. Huffington Post became a favorite hangout, along with the Daily Show, CNN.com, The Washington Post, and a number of sites that kept me up to date on the latest polls. I haven't visited those as frequently now that the election is over.

Now my most important category of bookmarks has become my Job Search file. Craigslist is the first one I hit each Monday morning, followed by Simply Hired, and the City of San Jose and County of Santa Clara job boards. I miss spending time in the bookmarks section filed under Biological Reports Information. I miss being a biologist, writing about biology, and getting out and rambling around out of doors as part of my job. I really hope that all of the time I've spent in the Job Search file will bear fruit soon, and allow me to get back to my biology links.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Garrettisms Part I've Lost Track

Walking in to school this morning, a little girl got out of her mother's car and called "Bye mom, I love you. Have a great day." I turned to Garrett and asked why I never got such nice I-love-yous from him. "Mom" he said, "I'm a boy and we don't feel the need to talk about our feelings all the time. I'm not like one of those weird girls who has to sing 'I love bananas and bananas love me'." Makes perfect sense....... right?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Puppy Bloodletting

Poor Luke finally received the long overdue bloodied nose treatment from Kacey, the cat. Bo and Kacey were quite young when we got both of them, and the very first time Bo tried to give Kacey the Tigger treatment that is the typical show of affection bestowed by the Jack Russell terrier, he was rewarded with three bloody scratches down his nose. He has treated her with great respect and care ever since. For some reason Kacey has refused to apply her claws similarly to Luke, and instead has responded in the worst possible way to his curiosity, by running away. Last night was different though.

Full of pep and vinegar, Kacey jumped up on the chair where I was sitting and occupied the Most Favored Pet position usually guarded with great jealousy by Luke. She pulled this off while Luke was busy gobbling his dinner. Kacey had a look about her that any cat owner knows, is the hallmark of a cat spoiling for a little fun. Ambling back into the great room with his belly full, Luke chose to challenge Bo's position on the sofa beside Steve rather that mess with the hissing fur ball on my chair. Responding with a low rumble and a show of teeth, Bo easily rebuffed the pup, so feeling confident he put his front paws up to examine the cat, repeatedly jerking his nose back as she batted at him. Never having encountered her claws, he has little fear of her. That all changed when, tired of his pestering, she sunk a claw into the tender flesh over his left eye, releasing it a moment later with a distinctive "snick" sound. Luke's big brown eyes widened in surprise and he quickly retreated to higher ground on the sofa.

This morning he was still giving the cat a wide berth. Each time he had to pass her, he looked at her warily from the corners of his eyes and scuttled by as quickly as he could. After I dropped the kids off, I was relaxing momentarily in my favorite chair while the dogs, who had just come in, sniffed around the room to make sure nothing was amiss. Suddenly a wide-eyed Luke came tearing across the room, ears peeled back, the whites of his eyes showing, and flew into my lap as though the very devil was attached to his stubby tail. Setting my frightened pup down, I got up to see what had put such a scare into him. While investigating the back of the room, he had come across a large plastic Target bag folded loosely around a deep cardboard box. Overcome by curiosity, and the sense that something interesting was inside that box Luke took a closer look, a deep sniff, then BAM!, a hissing cat exploded out of the recesses of the box, sharp claws waving. By the time I put the pieces of the puzzle together, that box contained a cat with a very satisfied look on her face.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prop 8 Meets The Daily Show

I may have mentioned before how much I enjoy Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. I may have also alluded to my opposition to Proposition 8, and my total disgust that it passed. Well, now I am happy to present to you, Jon Stewart chatting with guest Governor Mike Huckabee about Proposition 8.

How great is Jon Stewart? If you wish to take a moment to say a fond thank you to him, you may do so here.

People Are Strange When You Are Pregnant

People said strange things to me when I was pregnant. Most of it I was able to take in stride, but some of it really threw me for a loop. Early on in my pregnancy I took a trip down to San Diego to visit family. Figuring I needed the practice, I chose to sit at the front of the plane where all of the parents with small children congregate. Surrounded by small wriggly beings I took careful note of how these parents were handling the task they had undertaken. Most seemed to be enjoying parenthood, but the woman next to me seemed to be having difficulty. Her small son,who having just learned to walk refused to sit quietly in her lap, preferring instead to arch his back so he shot out of her grasp and to the ground where he could kick his heels with impunity. Blowing her bangs off of her sweaty forehead she turned to me, eyebrow raised quizzically and asked, why in the love of God I had chosen to sit with all these children if I didn't have to. When I told her I was pregnant she waited a beat, then snapped, "Well stop now, before it's too late!" My poor mother had to spend the entire ride home from the airport, talking me down.

By the time I attended a baby shower for a friend who was about to deliver her first born my condition was much more obvious. While we watched the mother-to-be open her gifts a women, about five or six years my senior took the seat next to me and asked when my baby was due. After a few minutes of polite conversation she indicated her red-headed son playing a few feet away and said, "Don't be worried if your baby is ugly." I must have gaped at her in surprise because she hurriedly went on, "My son was hideous when he was born, and on some level I was aware of it, but as ugly as he was, I thought he was the most beautiful thing ever. All I'm saying is don't worry if your baby isn't cute." It was great to be able to anticipate, after that conversation, the arrival of my little Quasimodo.

Then there was the helpful labor and delivery nurse, who assured us that once our baby arrived, we would become callous to anything we previously held dear. Remember how they tell you to bring a focus object with you to the labor and delivery room? Something meaningful that you can direct your energy into when you begin to tire of laboring. I brought a picture of our pet chinchilla Chillie with me. I know, I'm a dork. Taking a peek at the photo, our L&D nurse announced, "After this baby is born, you won't care about your pet anymore. It'll just be one more thing around the house that you have to take care of." The worst thing about it was that she was right.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Living Nativity???

We've lived in our San Jose home since 1997, and each Christmas since we moved here, I've driven past a sign on Hillsdale Avenue that reads "Drive Through Living Nativity". Every time I drove by that sign I imagined a bunch of strange, intensely religious individuals, having recruited somebody's newborn baby as a prop, huddled in robes around a makeshift manger in their front yard. Perhaps a Doberman sporting cow horns and a pug dog in sheep's clothing might accompany their vigil. With that intriguing vision in mind, I cannot explain to you why it has taken until last Thursday night for me to actually visit the living nativity.

Determined to finally get a glimpse of this oddity, I tried to persuade Steve and the kids to join me. Since Steve had plans to go out for a bite to eat with coworkers and the boys were involved in a heated game of living room hockey, I set out alone. Undaunted, I followed the signs pointing to the nativity. Upon seeing a bearded man directing traffic into a church parking lot, the truth was revealed. This annual event was not a strange front-yard phenomenon, instead it was an event put on by a church. The Foxworthy Baptist Church to be exact, and this is actually a 15-year tradition. I turned into the church parking lot where I was handed a CD that narrated the seven scenes depicting the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of the savior. As promised, each scene was populated by living people and animals. These included a donkey*, a sheep, three wise men, and a freshly arisen Christ in flowing white robes played by an awkward teenage boy who was clearly suffering under the scrutiny of the passing cars.

After the final scene had been narrated, and Jesus politely waved me on I turned in my CD and in exchange was handed an candy cane. Attached was a fascinating little note explaining the origin of this traditional Christmas goody. Apparently a candy maker fashioned it into a shape which when held upright resembles a shepherd's staff, or when turned upside down, makes the letter J for Jesus. The stripes on the candy cane represent the prophet Isaiah's words, "by his stripes we are healed" which refer to the wounds Jesus received on the cross. Even the white stripes on the candy cane have meaning, symbolizing purity. The living nativity is free (although I elected to give a small donation for their efforts) and takes about 15 minutes to drive through. While it lacked the campy feeling of my original vision, it was still a nice presentation and, particularly if you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, worth the trip.

*I was instructed to turn my headlights off as they "scare the donkey".

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Sexiest Scent a Man Can Wear

I shall spin you another Tom story. For those of you who have not encountered Tom in this blog before, he is my formerly single friend, who once lived a life of the most shameless bachelorhood a man could hope to live. He lived in Palo Alto, not far from the Staford University campus where his roommate was a student. Via said roommate, Tom gained many an opportunity to work his charms on nubile young Stanford scholars.

Scene 1 (A fine Saturday morning): In a manner not typical of bachelors, Tom has just passed several hours cleaning his apartment. Once finished he relaxes, beer in hand, surveying his handiwork with a satisified smile. Soon his roommate strolls in, and after some boyish banter invites Tom like to join him at a party. Anxious to take his many talents and charms out for a spin, Tom immediately departs, neglecting to shower.

Scene 2 (The party) We pan in slowly on Tom chatting with an attractive young lady: She leans into him, drawing her breath deeply through her nose. Alarmed, Tom backs away, worried that neglecting his ablutions may have left him with an excessively manly odor. Once again she sniffs, and despite himself, Tom shoots her a quizzical glance. Seeing his confusion, she asks, "Is that Pinesol I smell? Because there's nothing that smells sexier on a man than Pinesol"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Co-conspirator and Now Guest Blogger!

A couple months back I asked my very dear friend Joanna if she'd be interested in occasionally contributing a post to I For One..... I was delighted when she accepted. We share a very similar and warped sense of humor, and since we met, almost eight years ago together, we have succumbed to too many giggling fits to count. Some day I will ask her to share the etymology of the term "fire chops", or perhaps recount how the "Lance Armstrong Rap" came into existence. But for now, Joanna has other things on her mind:

Robin has asked me to be a guest blogger, at my leisure. Now, this was some time ago and I have to admit to being a little intimidated by her amazing blogs during the election season. We spent a lot of time talking politics, but I didn’t have the time or inclination to back-up any personal proclamations by doing the research that Robin was capable of doing. But, with her recent PMS entry, I knew I had an in! Now that is something I can relate to. And with that said – my first blog entry at “I For One.....”

I recently went off The Pill. If you’ve seen any of the new birth control commercials, and listen to all the subtle warnings they speed-talk into the end, or if you’ve even talked about birth control with your doctor, you know there are all those warnings about “women over 35”, blah, blah, blah. At 36, I thought this would be a good time to go “eau natural” and roll the dice. But, obviously there is a lot I don’t remember or even know about not being on The Pill.

I had been “on The Pill” for 18 years. I have been hormonally regulated for most of my fertile years (better living through chemistry!) The Pill has been very good to me over the years – less painful cramping, shorter periods; all the good things that come with being on The Pill. And, with the exception of a case of acne that was quickly cleared with a change in prescription, my skin has also benefited – normal to dry with the occasional pimple. Little did I know my complexion would pay the price......

Holy Cow! My forehead has become a small oil slick. I’m not sure what is producing this lovely mess, but we might be able to tap into my forehead for the Federal Oil Reserve. I’m honestly at a loss. Somewhat oily skin runs in my family (thanks Mom!) but can’t say I know what to do about it. This is completely un-natural for me. By early afternoon, I dab my forehead with a tissue and off comes any foundation I put on in the morning and that sheen that’s been festering under my bangs. I’m kinda grossed out by my own skin. So far, it’s only on my forehead – Thank goodness! I hope it doesn’t migrate south to the rest of my face. Can anyone suggest a course of action that doesn’t require burning my face off with acid?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Do You Complain?

Are you a complainer? We tend to think of complainers in negative terms, as people who are constantly focused on the negative and who feel the need to make a stink about it so everyone can join them for a swim in their giant pool of crappiness. People that complain too often are generally ignored, in much the same fashion as the fabled wolf-crying boy. Too often have no worthwhile solution to offer that could mitigate their grievance. I'm starting to realize though, that a little judicious crabbing can actually be a good thing.

Case in point. Last week I went for my six month dental cleaning during which I had to sit through 45 minutes of aggressive stabbing an poking at my gums. At one point the hygienist proudly showed me a piece of gauze that she had applied to my lower gums whilst conducting this torture, noting that they were "bleeding a lot". This was a massive understatement as I could literally feel the blood gathering at my gum line after she pulled the gory fabric away. I understand that a little bleeding is sometimes a necessary part of having your teeth cleaned, particularly if you are someone who doesn't floss frequently, but I floss daily and my last cleaning was nothing like this. I asked her why so much blood and she explained in a sincere voice that they were "releasing toxins". OK, if by "toxins" you mean "massive quantities of blood". Fast forward to today, when I went back to the dentist to have a small repair made to a tooth. Noting that the offending hygienist wasn't working, I decided to speak up about my bad experience. Turns out my dentist was very appreciative. Apparently this woman was hired as a temp to cover for the regular hygienists vacation, and after my feedback, will most likely not be coming back.

Second case in point. People that won't park their car, walk a few hundred feet, and wait for their child outside their classroom really irk me. Even when Garrett was a tiny baby, I could be found, rain or shine standing outside Weston's classroom. For the last two to three weeks as walked into Garrett's school to pick him up, I have passed a woman parked on the corner of an intersection across from the school. I don't know about your state, but in California, you can't park on a corner. The corner in question is also painted in red for The Stupid and those who don't take the time to learn the more obscure rules of parking. Later, I noticed second car occupying the opposite corner, and a third double parked next to the first offender. Imagine how much I enjoyed maneuvering around these three lazy, inconsiderate boobs on narrow streets, with children and their parents crossing the road, and traffic going in three directions. So, I complained. I called the school office and requested some additional traffic enforcement at that intersection. Yesterday both corners were clear and no double parkers were in evidence. Corner parker was just getting out of her car, which was parked a mere half block further down the street, to walk in to meet her child. Complaining is a public service!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I For One Contest. Plus a Trip to the Desolate Mall

Photoshop CS4
I'm launching a contest here at I For One..... with the hope of coaxing you lurking readers out of the woodwork to make a comment or three. So here are the details. For every comment you post between now and December 31, you will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS4 (Mac or Win, your choice). In order to be eligible, I'll need to be able to email you, so you'll need to have a Blogger account, which means no anonymous commentary. Sorry, immediate (parents and siblings) family members are excluded from this contest. In the spirit of clean competition, please try to keep your comments constructive, erudite, and worthwhile. Comments to posts older that November 1, 2008 will not be counted. Thanks for reading.

In other news... have you been to the mall lately? Because wow! Weston and I went last night (the boy has blown through yet another pair of expensive skate shoes) and the evidence of the recession is everywhere. Even in the parking lot where we were able to immediately find a parking spot about three stalls from the entrance to Sears. Upon entering the mall, I did not see a single store that wasn't advertising a sale with a big banner in their window. Prices were marked down between thirty and sixty (!!!) percent. Several jewelery stores were liquidating their assets because they were closing their doors for good (EVERYTHING MUST GO!). It was striking how many stores had only two or three people working, and by working I mean sitting around the store carrying on a conversation with their soon to be laid off co-worker. Many shops had no customers at all. Those selling relatively worthless knick knacks (carved wooden tchotchkes, scented neck warmers, stuffed sleeping cats) seemed to be suffering the worst. If things look this bad in the malls on December 1, how will they look in a month after the big shopping season is over?

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Lone Vagina (aka The PMS Post)

No, this is not a post about a masked hoochie that rides around the Old West on a white horse named Silver with her trusty side kick Tonto. Instead it is meant to give those women blessed with daughters, living in a lesbian relationship, or otherwise fortunate enough to share their domicile with an estrogen producing being, what it is like to be a lone woman living in a house with all males. It means:

Knowing there is always a puddle of urine somewhere in the vicinity of one of your toilets.

Never being deprived of cleaning up that dish left next to the recliner or sofa.

Not being at all surprised to find three weeks worth of snack wrappers scattered around the computer.

Sighing in resignation as you discover that picking those wrappers up has resulted in the computer keyboard becoming filled with crumbs.

Finding identical piles of snack wrappers around the television and next to the video game console.

Walking by a sock deserted in the hallway and knowing without a shred of doubt that it will stay there until you, yourself bend over and pick it up.

Explaining multiple times that, on the floor and in the laundry basket are not the same place.

The amount of effort required to collect 6 loads of laundry, wash, dry, fold, and place them back in the appropriate drawer apparently requires less energetic outlay than dropping dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

Two sauce pans, a sieve, a measuring cup, a bowl and a spoon are necessary to make and enjoy a simple meal of dehydrated soup mix.

Surviving in a living space in which you are outnumbered by males requires infinite patients, a good sense of humor, and a keen intuition about when to just shut up and deal. All of those talents will leave you when you are deep in the throes of PMS. At that point, the prudent owner of an X and Y chromosome will quietly tip toe around the house giving you lots of extra space. My final observation? There is no such thing as a prudent owner of an X and Y chromosome.

(Steve, Weston and Garrett - I love you guys. And Steve? Thanks for doing the dishes this morning!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Will Lower Gas Prices Loosen Your Purse Strings?

Yesterday I paid $1.99 a gallon for regular gas here in San Jose, which after filling up my tank amounted to a mere $35. After that, I headed across the street to grocery shop at the semi-gourmet market near our house. I figured that the approximately $50 dollars I saved since the price of gas had come down from somewhere around $4.40 a gallon allowed me to loosen the purse strings a bit at my next stop. Which brings me to the following question: Could the economic downturn that our country is now experiencing have been avoided if the price of crude oil had not been so exorbitant and if companies like ExxonMobile had trimmed their profit margins? I wonder how much of the current woes of the Big Three auto makers is caused by the glut of the market with fuel hungry SUVs that simply sat gaining rust on the dealership lots when gas prices shot through the roof. Do you feel a little more inclined to spend a bit more this Christmas now that you aren't squandering your savings on gas? Will these lower prices act as an economic stimulus package supplied by the oil and gas corporations?

This also leads me to wonder how many businesses are now feeling a pinch because gas prices have come down so dramatically. This summer, when fuel costs were at their highest, an article came out in the San Jose Mercury News about the sudden huge demand for motor scooters. Steve and I had been talking for a while about getting a scooter, so we decided to head to a couple of dealerships to take a peek. The Honda dealership? Back ordered for two months. Another shop we visited had about five scooters left. A 2006 model sat on the showroom floor with a sold sign on it, having languished for two years before being snapped up in the current boom. At the Vespa dealership, they had about five scooters left, but suggested that we buy that weekend or they'd be gone. Everyone was planning on stocking up and new scooter shops were opening. Gas sipping scooters seemed like a great investment. Flash forward to the economic downturn and plummeting gas prices. I wonder how many 2008 scooter models now sit gathering dust on showroom floors everywhere.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Garrettisms

Last night, after my nephew Brandon gave a really nice prayer of thanks, the family tucked into Thanksgiving dinner with great gusto. After a few minutes of quiet conversation, it was decided that we should all share a couple of reasons why we are thankful this year. Just about everyone was thankful for good health, the presence of family, and their financial security in these times of crisis. A couple of us mentioned the new incoming Obama administration. When Steve’s brother-in-law Tim’s turn came around, he mentioned how grateful he was to have his beautiful wife Theresa by his side (hi Theresa!!) to which all but Garrett responded with “awwww”. Why not Garrett? Because he was too busy advising Tim, “get a room!” Earlier in the evening while Garrett was watching Planet Earth on the new wide screen TV, Garrett excited pointed out the baboons to Theresa. Pretending to mishear what he had said, she questioned, "The monkey's have boobs?" To which Garrett responded, "I don't think that's appropriate for an almost 9-year old".

Every year at Thanksgiving, Steve’s father, Dan, brings out one of his favorite (but somewhat ill-fated) cooking tools, the automatic whipped cream maker. This fancy device was given to him a few years ago at Christmas. Heavy cream is poured in, and the simple press of a lever causes perfectly whipped cream to shoot with considerable force from the dispenser. The Christmas he got this gift, Dan proceeded straight to the kitchen dizzy with excitement, rooted around, and was pleased to find a small container of heavy cream at the back of the fridge. Into the whipped cream maker it went and in a nick of time, he was ready to dispense. Remember the “considerable force” phrase I used, above? Well, take a moment to imagine sour whipped cream shooting across the kitchen. The one trick to the fancy dispenser is that its nozzle must be angled down at 45 degrees to the surface upon which the cream is being placed. Dan found, that to do otherwise, results in a large area in front of the user being painted with the contents. In this particular case, it was rotten whipping cream.

After dinner, it was time for pie, and out came the fancy cream whipper/dispenser. We all sat down an enthusiastically enjoyed the apple and pumpkin pies Theresa had baked. The boys’ pies each had a generous dollop of cream. Garrett, upon sitting down, had pledged that his first slice of apple pie was just the first of five he planned to consume. True, as always, to his word Garrett asked for a slice of pumpkin pie next. Having watched Weston shoot a little mountain of whipped cream on his second piece of pie, Garrett insisted he be given a chance to serve his own cream too. Steve wisely suggested that this would only happen if he, Steve, acted as a spotter. His father sat across the table from Garrett, and warned Garrett that the nozzle needed to be pointed straight down. As the words left his mouth, with Steve’s helping hand, Garrett pressed the lever. Whipped cream exited the dispenser with such force that the back crust of the pie was blown off the pie and onto the table, and Steve’s father found himself, once again the victim of his cooking device, wearing a large amount of whipping cream. This year, I am thankful that my father-in-law has a good sense of humor.

And finally, in totally unrelated news, but still needing mention because of its awesomeness, the Macy's Thanksgiving parade featured a live Rickroll!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Speedfit - The Exercise Revolution for the Gullible

I have no idea how much this thing costs, but if you consider this a worthwhile investment, I have another invention to sell you. Yes!!! Exercise goggles with a wide variety of virtual urban scenery. Your exercise routine won't bore you anymore! VirtualVision will supply you with exciting visual stimuli while you exercise. Imagine being able to see houses, hike and bike trails, artificial track surfaces, any many other stimulating virtual environments during your morning run. Operators are standing by. Call now!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Callous Sarah Palin Averts Eyes to Turkey Suffering

As any regular visitor of my blog knows, I am no fan of Sarah Palin, but I'm about to defend her from the latest round of negative publicity she's getting. According to this article (with YouTube video embedded) the governor was invited to a turkey farm to pardon one of the birds that was about to be slaughtered for someone's Thanksgiving meal. "After the pardon Palin proceeded to do an interview with a local TV station while the turkeys were being SLAUGHTERED in the background!! Seemingly oblivious to the gruesomeness going on over her shoulder, she carries on talking for over three minutes." Three minutes? Oblivious to gruesomeness? She should be taken out and stoned, right? Wrong.

This is a woman who shoots caribou for sport. What does the author expect Palin to do? Put a full body tackle on the dude in the trucker hat that's shoving turkeys into a life-ending device of some sort whilst screaming "Noooo, not the turkeys!!"? Less than a week from now, millions of Americans are going to gather around the table to enjoy a delicious feast of turkey that met its demise in this exact manner. You may not like Sarah Palin, but if you want to stop the "SLAUGHTER" of turkeys, or if you feel that this is "kind of gruesome", you need to look a bit further than Alaska's governor or even Trucker Hat for a villain. I'm afraid those millions of turkey-eating Americans, many of whom voted for Obama are the real bad guys.

A New Leaf Turned

Today was the day for our big parent teacher conference with Garrett's 3rd grade teacher, and as we have since 1st grade, we girded our loins for the usual "Garrett is a bit of a trouble-maker" talk. Surprisingly, it didn't go down that way. Every year his teachers tell us that Garrett is a very bright boy and that academics are not an issue at all. He is always way ahead of where he needs to be with his reading skills, learns quickly, and generally glides through his class work with the grace of Dorothy Hamill on ice skates. This year was no different. What was different was that his teacher did not speak of his behavior through clenched teeth accompanied by flared nostrils. While our little boy wonder is by no means the class angel, he seems to be making great progress towards being less disruptive and more focused.

Now I'm trying to figure out what has caused this change. Is it that Garrett is maturing? Maybe as each year progresses, he'll get better at suppressing his urges to make random bizarre vocalizations or fart sounds, or allow his chair to fall on him to provoke the laughter of his class mates. Could it be that his teacher is simply better at coping with Garrett than others that preceded her, and that next year we could be once again back in conference hell? Or have the consequences that I have imposed at home begun to make a difference so that he is now motivated to fly the straight and narrow so he can enjoy all his usual privileges? Whatever the cause, Steve and I are immensely enjoying this new phase and have taken the time to congratulate Garrett on a new leaf well turned.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama Memorabilia

After seeing a segment on the Daily Show about Barack Obama merchandise (commemorative coins and plates) , I thought it would be an interesting exercise to go online and see what sort of bizarre Obama themed items were available for purchase. Here is what I turned up.

T-shirts were plentiful and to be expected. Everyone wears t-shirts, and who doesn't want to display their affection for their candidate on their chest? What was surprising however, were the number of maternity t-shirts bearing Obama's name or visage. Does the enlarged belly provide a better substrate upon which to advertise? I see a business opportunity here for gestating ladies. This one was the strangest by far. What does "Drain McCain's Brain With Obama Drama" mean? Does it suggest that the election of Obama will be a step towards McCain existing only in a chronic vegetative state? Who knew that we, the voters, had that power? Clothing for pets that voted Democratic was also available. I found this one cute, but confusing. Was an Obama/Clinton ticket ever an option? Apparently that fashion conscious pooch never got the memo.

Ebay featured some really interesting Obamabilia, including nothing less than an entire bowling alley for a starting bid of $50,000. Or for $100,000 you could buy the domain name www.obamafundraising2012.com. How much would you bid on a set of playing cards that feature Barack Obama on the Aces, and oddly a jaguar with Obama's head on the 10 of spades? Other cards in this set feature Jon Stewart as a groundhog on the 2 of diamonds and a very youthful looking George Bush head perched on the body of a red rat snake. Try not to hurt yourself scratching your head over that one. An Obama bobble head doll could be yours for just $20. What says "I'm proud of my president" more that enshrining his image in a figurine with no control over it's upper extremities? At a certain point I began to be overwhelmed by the vast selection of strange items commemorating our president elect that could be purchased from Ebay. I decided it was time to quit looking when I came across the matched set of Obama and McCain sock monkeys. It could only go downhill from there.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Let Them Eat Quail

George Bush hosted a dinner at the White House on Friday night for foreign leaders attending the much ballyhooed economic crisis summit. You know, George Bush, the people's president. The guy we were all supposed to be able to relate to, or perhaps even have a beer with. What would you expect this football-loving, English-language mangling, every man's guy to serve at an economic crisis dinner for a bunch of foreign heads of state? Something elegant, but yet also bespeaking a certain level of concern for the current economic state of his people, right? Nothing over-the-top that would scream luxury to the rooftops of course.

Well, apparently the Dude in Chief has forsaken his common guy image in the waning days of his presidency because here's the menu. Fruitwood-smoked quail with quince gastrique; quinoa risotto; thyme-roasted rack of lamb; tomato, fennel and eggplant fondue; an endive salad, baked brie and walnuts; and a pear torte for dessert. The main course was paired with bottles of Shafer Cabernet "Hillside Select" 2003, priced at $300 per bottle.

Now let's be totally realistic here. When the president of the United States, the leader of the free world is entertaining a bunch for foreign dignitaries, he can't realistically serve burgers and fries. I also acknowledge that this is not a case of caviar, white truffles, and Dom Perignon, a la AIG. But when the very reason for this gathering is the economic meltdown of the world's economy, the menu seems to merit a bit closer critical scrutiny. Rachael Maddow put it best (once again) when she said "Ixnay on the uxerylay guys".

Friday, November 14, 2008

OK, Then None Of Us Will Be "Married"

When I heard the initial reports that came out that stated the African American voters who came to the polls to vote for Obama but againt Prop 8 had made the difference between Proposition 8 passing or being defeated, I thought about addressing that issue here. The reason I didn't, was that the notion of scapegoating that community seemed like a step in the wrong direction at at time when racial division seemed to be waning. Now that Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com has debunked that myth, I'm glad I didn't fan any flames. Turns out the margin by which Prop 8 passed would have been much larger if young, progressive Obama voters had not turned out.

Now for another notion regarding Prop 8. How many people are so attached to the term "marriage" as it pertains to their union, that they would not be willing to give it up? What if instead of being married we were all "legally joined" (you pick the terminology you like). Remiel proposes that the term marriage be thrown out as a legal definition of a union between a man and a woman. Instead, all such unions should be referred to as "civil unions", leaving the term "marriage" to be applied by religious institutions and putting church and state in their separate spaces. This would level the legal playing field for gays and and heterosexuals, while leaving religious institutions the right to refuse the right of being "married" (it really is just a word after all) to those who offend their sensibilities. Would you agree to that change to our constitution?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Recession? Depression? How Will the Story End?

The last few days have been extremely busy, but that alone does not explain my neglect of my blog. Once the election was over and I had said all that was on my mind about Proposition 8, anything else that I could write about here began to feel pretty trite. I will certainly continue posting here as often as I can muster up a meaningful topic, but now that I have met my NaBloPoMo goal for October, I am once again going to try to focus on quality and content rather than just getting a daily post up on my site.

To that end, I'm going to address something today that has really been weighing on me heavily, and has, I am certain, been on everyone else's mind. Just how low can we go? Every time I hear a fresh report that the stock market has taken another big dive, I cringe as I imagine several thousand more dollars hemorrhaging out of our nest egg. The most difficult thing about this, is all of the unknowns. How much longer will this go on? Will I be able to find a new job? Will Steve be able to hang onto his? How much worse will it get, and when it does start to get better, will it improve so slowly that our kids will still be feeling the effects when they try to get jobs? Nothing that I have gone through in the past has prepared me to really deal with all of this.

When I was in high school, a social studies teacher assigned my class the task of finding and interviewing someone who lived through the Great Depression. I chose to visit my great Aunt Betty in the retirement home where she lived so I could listen to her story. That I remember nothing of what she told me speaks volumes. Had I any inkling at that time that I myself could face similar circumstances as an adult, I think her words might have sliced through the never-may-care attitude of youth, and have stayed with me. Which makes me wonder, what stories will we tell our grandchildren about 2008 and the great financial crisis thereof?

Here are a couple of very sobering excerpts from the Wikipedia page on the Great Depression:

"The Great Depression was not a sudden total collapse. The stock market turned upward in early 1930, returning to early 1929 levels by April, though still almost 30 percent below the peak of September 1929.

"...consumers, many of whom had suffered severe losses in the stock market the previous year, cut back their expenditures by ten percent..."

"In early 1930, credit was ample and available at low rates, but people were reluctant to add new debt by borrowing. By May 1930, auto sales had declined to below the levels of 1928. Prices in general began to decline, but wages held steady in 1930, then began to drop in 1931.""

Does any of this sound familiar? Nobody can say for certain whether or not we are headed for the next Great Depression, but our economic outlook is undoubtedly the worst it has been at any time since the depression finally came to an end.

The other day, I asked Steve, if he could imagine what it would be like to wake up each morning being Barack Obama, now that he is to be our next president. I believe that many of the tears of joy around the world came from the hope that this man could begin to change the course that the worldwide economy is currently on. To get up each morning, knowing that the entire world is counting on him and his advisers to make the right decisions must be very sobering. One man and one country cannot make all of the changes that need to be made, and forward progress will be slow, but my greatest hope is that President Obama rises to the challenge and gives me a story with a happy ending for my grandchildren.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Justifying the No Vote

Since Tuesday, I've heard quite a few people defend their choice to vote in favor of Proposition 8 both in person and in the media, and a theme seems to be emerging. People that otherwise believe that minority groups should receive equal rights, seem to have a difficult time applying this concept to gays. They reason that people are born to a particular race, but that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. The color of one's skin is a genetic twist of fate that is thrust upon an unfortunate percentage of our population through no wrongdoing on their part, whilst gay people choose to swim against the tide of human conformity to be with their own sex. These same people often argue that homosexuality is unnatural. After all, why would God (or Mother Nature if you prefer) have made pregnancy and the continuation of the human species the outcome of the coupling of male and female if he intended us to mate with our own gender?

I'll confess that when I started college, I was one of those people that just didn't understand why anyone would want to be gay. After all, who would chose to be the subject of jokes and discrimination? I didn't know any gay people and thought of them as well, queer. I remember realizing with horror that I had worn jeans to school on "Gay Bluejeans Day" at UCSD. What if someone had mistaken ME for one of THEM! Growing up in ultraconservative La Jolla obviously didn't expose me to much diversity. My attitude began to change when a panel of gay and lesbian students spent an hour conducting a question and answer session as part of a psychology class in which I was enrolled. As we filed into the lecture hall, a series of questions was written on the blackboard.

Why did you chose to be a heterosexual?
How old were you when you decided to be heterosexual?
Would sleeping with someone of your own sex maybe change your mind about being heterosexual?
Why do you like the opposite sex more than the same sex?

Flipping the question around was enough to at least allow me to consider that homosexuality wasn't a choice.

Studies have shown that if one identical twin is homosexual the other twin is more likely to be homosexual, but when one fraternal twin is gay the likelihood of the other twin being homosexual is the same as when two non-twin siblings are compared. This suggests that genetics rather than environment has some roll in determining sexual orientation. Exposure to prenatal hormones is also thought to influence sexual orientation. There is also some evidence that the youngest sibling in a family of multiple male children may be more likely to be homosexual. The point is, that homosexuality appears to be much less a conscious choice than it is the result of a complicated interaction between the environment and genetic predisposition.

If homosexuality is aberrant or dysfunctional, why does it persist? Why hasn't natural selection eliminated this trait and further why does it occur even in non-human animals? This article explains a couple of theories on how different forms of a gene could confer a reproductive advantage for the gay individual or a close relative, thus causing the gene to persist. What about gay animals? Do they exist outside of South Park (Super! Thanks for asking!)? In fact, according to this article, homosexuality has been documented in "over 450 different vertebrate species", including the male bighorn sheep. This sounds like a case of Brokeback Mutton to me.

So, if homosexuality is not truly a lifestyle choice, shouldn't civil rights legislation be extended to gays for the same reasons that it is extended to women and minority groups? Maybe the religious right would feel more at ease with legislation allowing gay marriage if they could begin to understand that homosexuality is really part of God's big plan for all of us. Along with Adam and Eve, he really did create Adam and Steve. Do you think they'll buy it?

Friday, November 07, 2008

If You're Still Pissed About Prop 8

Thanks to Mikki, who posted a comment in response to my last post, I have a link to another petition, in addition to the one Stephanie Geffeller posted, that you may sign to voice your opinion about Proposition 8 passing. Here is a link to the petition which seeks to strip the Mormon church of its tax exempt status due to excessive participation in "carrying on propaganda" and "attempting to influence legislation". I encourage you to read through this legislation, form your own opinions, and sign the petition (as I did) if you agree with their arguments.

There is one section of this petition that I disagree with vehemently. It reads as follows:

"For the past six months, Mormons misled Californians about the effects of the Supreme Court ruling.

They told us we would lose the right to participate in our children's education. Lies.

They told us the California state public school curriculum would be modified to teach sex education to kindergartners. Lies.

They told us churches would lose the right to free speech. Lies."

Remember when I said "Take a minute to read the arguments from both sides. If you can't or won't take the time to get educated, please don't vote. Stay home and leave it to those of us who are willing to vote with our brains and our conscience, not just follow popular sentiment like a bunch of sheep." I wonder if some of you were taken aback that I would discourage people from going to the voting booth. Well, the outcome of the vote on Proposition 8, and the comments above are exactly why I made that statement.

If you watched TV, read the fliers that came in the mail, listened to the ads on the radio, or saw all the signs in people's front yards and blindly voted in favor of Prop 8 without investigating the full implications of a yes vote, then you are as much at fault as the people who propagated these "lies". So yes, please, go to the above URL, read the information they provide, and make an informed decision. Take the time to follow the links that they provide to back up the statements that they make.

A moment that truly struck me as I worked at a polling place near my house on Tuesday was a young man who walked up to the touch screen voting machine, with no cheat sheet, not voter guide, no nothing in his hand and completed his vote in the space of about 5 minutes. It took me well over an hour in front of my computer, pouring over all sorts of information, to make up my mind about all of the different candidates, ballot measures, and propositions that needed my vote. It is high time that the American public shakes themselves out of their apathetic state and takes the time to really get educated before they vote. I am so tired of people who disconnect their brains and simply vote the way their church, their co-worker, their spouse, or their political party suggests they should vote. This is your country. This is your vote. This is the founding principal of democracy. Please, take the requisite time to decide if the way you are voting really makes sense!

Whew. Done now. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Prop 8 Petition

An open letter to the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, requesting that he "re-open" Proposition 8, is being circulated. If you are a resident of California and are interested in signing it, the link here. The petition was authored by Stephanie Geffeller, upon whom a Google search, returns pretty much no information. I have no idea what signing this petition will accomplish, but for those of us who were left with the bitter taste of discrimination in our mouths by the passage of Proposition 8, it gives us a place to voice our opinion.

Some will say that we all got the chance to voice our opinion on November 4 in the voting booth. I agree. If you were against Proposition 8 and didn't take the time to vote, this is me shaking my head in disappointment at you. Here is why I signed the petition though. While I agree that the voters have spoken, and now it is time to let democracy take its course, a vote that takes civil liberties away from a group of people really sticks in my craw. (Hell, I'm even willing to give the Mormons back their right to plural marriage if it'll make them leave the gay community alone. I wonder if they'd still want it if women were allowed to marry more than one man? But I digress.) I also take issue with changing the constitution of our state based on something that roughly half of Californians don't agree with. Finally, it is deeply disappointing to people all over the country that during a time when we took a huge step forward as a country by electing an African American to our highest office, we took three smaller steps back when Arizona, Florida, and California voters banned gay marriage.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Prop 8 Passes. Would 52.2% Of You Please Move?

As happy as I am about the outcome of the presidential election, I would have considered yesterday flawless if Proposition 8 had gone down in defeat. I am very very pleased with 47.8 percent of Californians. The rest of you, please move to another state where your intolerance will be appreciated and accepted. You may make your selection from one of the following: Utah, Florida, or Arizona. I've heard Arizona has a dry heat, for those of you with hair frizzing issues.

For the rest of us that will remain behind, those that voted against Proposition 8, it is time for all of us to do a some soul searching to figure out why our once reliably blue state seems to be turning a sickly shade of purple. We've elected a Republican to our highest office, and now we have passed two bans on gay marriage. What's next? Are we to become one of those dreaded swing states? I don't support partisan politics. I believe in electing the right man for the job, regardless of party affiliation, but this trend towards ultra-conservative thinking has me worried. Hasn't it always been conventional wisdom that as goes California, so goes the rest of our nation? Is this the charge we want to lead? This is the dawn of a new a more hopeful era for our nation. It makes me sad the sunrise has to be marred by the smelly smokestack of intolerance on our state's horizon that represents Proposition 8.

We Did It, America!

I find myself almost speechless in the face of the enormity of what we, as a country, just accomplished. I am so proud of what America just did. Not because we elected the first African American as the president of the United States, but because we elected the right person and the best person as our leader. In spite of the cawing and clamoring rhetoric of fear, divisiveness and mistrust that came from the Republican candidate and his running mate, we chose to elect Barack Obama for his integrity, his dignity, the hope for our future that his campaign inspired.

As I heard the news that Obama had been declared the winner, I was quite literally brought to tears. While the alternative outcome would have moved us forward as a nation from eight horrible years of mishandling of our nation, President Obama will do more. He will raise our stature around the world. No longer will we been seen as the nation that elected George W. Bush to not just one, but two terms in office. Bush, the man who led us into an unnecessary war, who deserted Louisiana in its hour of need, who ran up a 5 trillion dollar deficit, and through it all was resilient in his belief in his policies, his administration, and his presidency. The choice of Barack Obama will be viewed by the rest of the world as a rejection of George Bush, the Republican Party, and the disastrous policies of the last eight years. As a nation, we chose a man who has integrity, intelligence, and the willingness entertain ideas, even of those who oppose him. Once again, there will be a reason to look to the United States as a nation to be admired and respected. This transcends gender, race, religion, and political affiliation. This is history in the making.

A couple of posts to Twitter summed up this whole thing up for me. One of my favorites was this one:

The pendulum has swung back with such force, it's come off the fucking clock. This is good. This is natural.

This one really struck a chord with me as well:

Went outside. Quiet here in the 'hood. Neighbor walked by and said, "Well, it's over. Barack Obama!" I said "I hope so" & burst into tears.

Finally, like him or not, you could not fail to be moved by seeing the Reverend Jesse Jackson with tears streaming down his face. This is a man who saw his mentor, Martin Luther King, brutally murdered. Forty years later, watching a black man be elected president of the United States must have drained the poison from some very old wounds. Jackson's face, a trail of tears of happiness and pride making their way down his face, and the hopeful faces of so many African Americans in the crowd at Grant Park truly make me proud to call myself an American.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Quick Hello/Working the Polls

Hi all. Just checking in to let you know that I spent the morning working at a polling precinct near by house. I'm going to spend the rest of the day, after picking the boys up from school, glued to my television, my laptop, and possibly posting the occasional tweet at Twitter. GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!! Will be back to regular blogging tomorrow.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The McItchy and McScratchy Show

The video in this link (sorry, can't embed this bad boy) is eerily reminiscent of this:

Rx for Election Anxiety

Well, this is it. Today is the last day of nail-biting anxiety over the outcome of the election. After today, no more checking the polls to see how Obama's numbers look. No further need for shaking my head at right-wing wacko reports on the Democratic candidate's "associations". My fingers are crossed that we'll be seeing the last of Sarah Palin, despite our collective enjoyment of Tina Fey's mastery of Palin's Fargo honk.

It occurred to me the other day, while driving around San Jose doing errands, that everyone has their own way of dealing with pre-election anxiety. For me, blogging has become a great outlet. For others, the need to see their audience drives them outside, like the two men I saw standing in a heavy downpour waving No on 8 signs and shouting to passing motorists. Some people need to take action. Indystar.com reports that "more than 10,000 Obama volunteers in Ohio were knocking on doors and planning to hit their one millionth home Sunday after a five-day push". I had planned to go to Obama headquarters and volunteer with the get out the vote effort for a couple of hours, but Garrett waking up with a stomach ache this morning put a crimp in those plans.

Voters of all persuasion are particularly active on Twitter, and last night I could help stirring the pot of dissension a little bit. I had the following exchange with a couple of people, one who asserted that Barack Obama supports infanticide. My reply was that Obama likely eats babies for breakfast and kicks puppies too. A third person (sense of humor intact, apparently) replied "Dammit will you people get the lie RIGHT!!! Obama eats puppies and kicks babies, NOT the other way around." Ahh, I love social networking! I highly recommend using one of these outlets over the next 24 to 48 hours in order to connect with like-minded people and to salve your wounded sanity.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Prop 8 Domino Theory

For those of you domino theorist who believe that the defeat of Proposition 8 will lead to people sauntering down the aisle, in connubial bliss with their dogs, here are a couple of other dominoes to consider.

One of the groups backing Proposition 8 is the Mormon church. They have raised in excess of $12 million in support of a ban on gay marriage. What will the Mormon church back next? Although they have officially renounced plural marriage, if we as voters allow the morals and values of a religious group to define the law in our state, couldn't this lead to a push at some later date to re-institute plural marriage? Picture your husband or wife coming home and telling you to make room in your closet for spouse number two. And consider this: your children WILL be reading books in school about a handsome prince who finds and marries TWO princesses.

And if we allow our laws to be dictated by one church, won't others step up to get out the vote in favor of their beliefs? Will we be forced to accept the teachings of Scientology also? Will the next Proposition on the ballot be one that outlaws any noise during labor and delivery because it may induce engrams? And if we follow Yes on 8 "logic" your children will be forced to learn about Dianetics and to take free stress tests in school, and you won't be able to do ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

One of the arguments that proponents of Proposition 8 make is that allowing gay marriage erodes the value of this union. But aren't there other things that undermine marriages? What will voters be asked to ban next? Will we outlaw going out drinking with your buddies after work, not picking your dirty socks up off of the floor, failing to perform your, erm... marital duties with sufficient frequency? Surely running up excessive credit card debt, extramarital affairs, and divorce should be stricken from the Things Allowed Withing the Bounds of Marriage column also.

I only half jest, because our founding fathers had a pretty good idea of what the consequences of non separation of church and state could lead to. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government." and "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own..."

What Jefferson is suggesting is that to use religion as a moral yard stick to determine the laws of our state or nation, is to erode the freedoms and civil liberties this country holds dear. Please vote No on 8.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Twitter Mock Election

I love social networking! Twitter is holding a mock presidential election. Vote and follow the results here. To vote, you need to sign up for a Twitter account. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Twitter voters do not accurately represent all American voters, but the following screen shot (as of 11:45 on Saturday morning) just makes me happy!

Click to vote for Mr.Obama
Mr. Barack Obama

Click to vote for Mr.Mccain
Mr. John McCain

Friday, October 31, 2008

Another Yes on 8 Flier Has Arrived

Did anyone else in California get that glossy flier paid for by Protect Marriage.com that is covered in falling dominoes? Presumably the message that they are trying to convey is that if Prop 8 is defeated, allowing gays to marry is just one more tumbling domino in a long line that will drive California into a downward spiral of debauchery and corruption. Interestingly, this flier provides footnotes for each of their claims, so having nothing else to do (hello, no job here!!) I figured I'd use my trusty friend the internet to do a little investigating.

Claim number 1: California law requires 96% of schools to teach children as young as kindergarten about marriage. This was footnoted with a reference to California's Education Code Section 51933. Here is what it actually says about marriage:

"School districts may (emphasis mine) provide comprehensive sexual health education, consisting of age-appropriate instruction, in any kindergarten to grade 12..."

"A school district that
elects (again, emphasis mine) to offer comprehensive sexual health education pursuant to subdivision (a), whether taught by school district personnel or outside consultants, shall satisfy all of the following criteria:"

I won't list all of the criteria, save those that actually pertain to the above claim. It is true that the Education Code provides for teaching about marriage:

"Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships."

Nowhere in the code does it state that schools are "required" to teach about marriage. The flier also claims that courts ruled that parents had no right to withdraw their children from classes that taught gay marriage. There is no footnote referencing that court ruling. From personal experience, I know that when my kids were in both elementary school and middle school, I was warned well in advance that "sexual health" classes were being taught, and that I was given the option to not have my child participate. This was an option I did NOT exercise.

Claim number 2: Gay marriage is already being taught in California. It is true that a public school took a first grade class to see their teacher's lesbian wedding at San Francisco City Hall. An article about this appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 11, 2008. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom officiated over the ceremony, and got reamed out on the air for it yesterday by local talk show host Ronn Owens. I say, good for you Ronn. This was a stupid move on the part of the school and San Francisco's mayor that only served to substantiate the claims of Prop 8 proponents. Stupidity not withstanding, the fact remains that these children did not, and could not have been taken on this field trip without the written consent of their parents. The right to withhold that consent will not be taken away if Prop 8 is defeated.

Claim number 3. In Massachusetts, court papers were filed by proponents of No on 8 to mandate the instruction of gay marriage in schools. Here is the real story of what went down in Massachusetts. A couple of teachers (one kindergarten and one second grade) read to or provided their students books to read that taught tolerance of gay lifestyles. The parents argued that these actions violated their and their children's right to "free exercise of religion or due process". They asked that they be given prior notice that such materials would be presented so that they could choose to remove their children from this teaching. The courts ruled that sufficient notice HAD been given to the parents, that the burden of proof that their free exercise of religion had not been violated, and that there was no evidence of indoctrination of children because they were not forced to read the materials or punished if they were not read. This court ruling had nothing to do with a mandate on the teaching of gay marriage in schools.

In a perfect world, parents would always be able to teach their children about sexuality in their own time and in their own way. The fact is that whether Prop 8 passes or not, same sex couples are already raising kids together. My children currently go to school with the kids of gay marriages. Judging by the number of Yes on 8 signs in my neighborhood, there is some indoctrination on the subject of gay unions happening at home already. I would rather have my children taught tolerance of gay unions (whether Prop 8 passes or not) by their teachers, than have the children of religious fundamentalists teach them their own views on the playground. Vote no on Prop 8.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is Political Sign Vandalism the Answer?

There has been a great deal of cross talk in the press and non-mainstream media about supporters of the McCain campaign being badly behaved. I think it's safe to say that, accurate or not, there have been fewer reports about the antics of Democratic supporters. Perhaps this is because we liberals have taken a more covert approach to voicing our opinions. No appearing on camera calling the other guy a terrorist, socialist or similar political epithet. Our style is more along the lines of lawn sign vandalism or out right theft.

Here in the quiet, unassuming little town of San Jose a rash of incidents have been reported by proponents of Proposition 8. It began with the simple theft of lawn signs, but then escalated. The Mercury News reported that one couple whose sign was repeatedly stolen, placed a large Yes on 8 banner on their garage. In response, an SUV with the words "bigots live here" lettered on the back window and an arrow indicating the proper residence was parked for several days in front of their home. Another family not only had their sign stolen, but their car was spray painted as well.

Now a southern California man is fighting back. When his McCain/Palin banner was repeatedly stolen from his front yard he rigged the sign up with an electrical charge, courtesy of a pet fence, then trained a video camera on the sign. He didn't have to wait long before a nine-year-old boy, Obama/Biden sign (presumably to replace the offending banner) clutched in his sweaty paw, got the shock of his life. Not long after, the boy's mother showed up, demanding to know why her son had been electrocuted.

Why do I relate these stories here on my rabidly Democratic-leaning little blog? Because they nicely illustrate that the GOP has not cornered the market on stupid responses to disagreeing with another's point of view. Remember that "disagree without being disagreeable" thing? Next time you see a Yes on 8 or McCain/Palin sign in somebody's front yard or on the bumper of their car, take a deep breath and ask yourself if this type of sign or sticker has ever influenced your vote on an issue that really resonates with you. Yeah maybe you've ticked the box for some City Council member whose name you recognize from your neighbor's front lawn, but would one of those signs really change your mind on a big issue like abortion, gay marriage, or your presidential candidate? Instead of stealing their sign, or spray painting their house or car, why not leave the sign alone, and leave a flaming bag of dog poop on their front step instead?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Rachel Maddow Football Analogy

I have to give a big thank you to my mother for telling me repeatedly to "watch Rachel Maddow, she's great". I started watching TRMS a couple of weeks ago on that recommendation and couldn't agree more. The following clip does an amazing job of demonstrating just how great Rachel Maddow is. Not only did she brilliantly explain the whole concept of battleground states, but she almost made me understand and appreciate football. Way to go Rachel.

The Yes on Prop 8 Mice Have Been Here!

The Yes on Prop 8 people came in the night this week! They came quietly, and without ringing the doorbell or knocking, sneaked away, leaving an orange flier filled with bold underlined warnings. The warnings had to be there of course, because apparently the conservative viewpoint can't be sold without a heaping serving of fear. According to this flier, we've all been robbed of our constitutional rights by those low-down dirty scoundrels known as the "liberal activists and judges". So this made me curious. What does California's constitution say about marriage? It says that "no contract of marriage, if otherwise duly made, shall be invalidated for want of conformity to the requirements of any religious sect." Nowhere does it specify the gender of the individuals that may be married.

So who are these folks that introduced Proposition 22 to the ballot and that are in favor of Proposition 8? My new friend, the bright orange flier tells me that the "California Family Council participated with the ProtectMarriage.com coalition" to place Proposition 22 on the ballot. The mission of the California Family Council is, according to their website "to protect and foster Judeo-Christian principles in California’s laws, for the benefit of its families". So in effect, what the California Family Council is asking us to do by voting for Proposition 8, is to invalidate gay marriage because it does not conform to Judeo-Christian principals. Now who's trying to rob you of your constitutional rights? Please vote no on Proposition 8.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

McCain's Blah Blah Blah

Senator McCain is at it again! What is with his dismissive attitude about nuclear safety? During a recent rally in northern Iowa University he said, "You know, the other night in the debate with Senator Obama, I said his eloquence is admirable, but pay attention to his words. We talk about offshore drilling and he said he would quote, consider, offshore drilling. We talked about nuclear power, well it has to be safe, environment, blah, blah, blah." During the second debate McCain dismissively stated that Obama's opinion on nuclear power was that it has to be "safe or disposable or something like that." All his feelings about Senator Obama or his proposed approach to nuclear power aside, his repeated dismissal of concerns about nuclear power scare me.

It is an indisputable fact that while nuclear power is an important and valuable option to explore in the search for energy independence, the safety of nuclear power is a real concern. Between 1952 and 2006 there have been 23 accidents at nuclear power plants which have caused substantial health damage, property damage or contamination. All of these incidents were related directly to radioactive material. None resulted from military use of nuclear material for defense purposes. These accidents are not all ancient history. Since 2000 there have been four such accidents. Increased safety measures appear to have resulted in a decrease in deaths and/or injuries, however as recently as 1999, workers have been exposed to radiation in excess of allowable limits.

One of the most well-known nuclear power plant accidents occurred in 1986 at the Chernobyl plant in the Ukrainian SSR. When reactor number four exploded, over 336,000 people had to be evacuated from heavily contaminated areas in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Fifty-six people died as a direct result of the explosion. Four thousand deaths from cancer are estimated to have been the indirect result of this accident. Today, over 20 years later, a 19-mile exclusion zone around the Chernobyl power plant still remains evacuated.

McCain's mocking attitude in the face of Obama's concerns about nuclear safety are callous, dismissive, and strike me as staggering display of ignorance of the facts. McCain says nuclear energy is a necessary part of any equation to bring our country to energy independence, and I agree with him. But if he intends to approach the matter with this cavalier attitude, I prefer he'd keep his focus on his campaign's favored chant of "drill baby drill".

Monday, October 27, 2008

This is my NEW Life!

Here is the thing that sucks about being out of work. When my house gets messy, I HAVE NO EXCUSE. I can no longer claim that I had a tight deadline I was trying to meet, or that I spent the day exhausting myself doing field work. Instead my unmopped floors, nasty toilets, and their close cousins, last night's dirty dishes, sit staring at me, accusing me of laziness.

To that end, this morning found me on Google. Instead of looking up the current status of black-flowered figwort, or trying to find a shapefile that shows where critical habitat has been set aside for the California tiger salamander, I was trying to figure out the best method for removing mildew from my shower ceiling. Did you know that you shouldn't use bleach? Instead, scrubbing with an ammonia and baking soda solution is recommended.... Ahem. Yeah, I know. I don't find it very interesting either. But for now, until I find gainful employment, I've got no excuse.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bring The Crazy

Because staying up too late last night playing Rock Band has robbed me of what little creativity or inspiration I have ever possessed on a Sunday morning, I am going to borrow somebody else's funny. Here is my favorite clip from this week on The Daily Show:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The News One Year Ago

Here is an interesting snapshot of how much has changed over the last year, and how much hasn't. This is some of the news we were talking about at this time one year ago:

In an article that appeared in RealMoney, Jim Cramer said October 2007 was "the month where pretty much everything went awry in America. October 2007 proved to be the most dismal month for retail I can recall in years..." Take a moment to read the rest of the article. This guy was amazingly prescient. The only thing he didn't see coming was how much worse October 2008 would be.

USA Today reported on the death toll in Iraq as of October 31, 2007 as "at
least 3,842 members of the U.S. military." A year later the death toll is reported some where around 4,500.

On October 31, 2007, The New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton had been pummeled in a presidential debate by her rivals. This is what the article had to say about Barack Obama. "But for all the attention Mr. Obama drew to himself coming into the debate, he was frequently overshadowed by former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who — speaking more intensely — repeatedly challenged Mrs. Clinton’s credentials and credibility, and frequently seemed to make the case against Mrs. Clinton that Mr. Obama had promised to make." Hmm, for all his "overshadowing" John Edwards didn't stand the test of time, and now Hillary Clinton is on the campaign trail, stumping for her former rival.

And this time last year, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Mean Committee, "proposed a sweeping overhaul of the tax code last week, aimed at shifting more of the burden of taxation to the wealthy." Now why does that idea sound so familiar? Predictably, the GOP wasn't thrilled at the idea of rolling back Bush's tax reductions, but it seems that over the course of the last year, the Democrats have had a change of heart.

I wonder what we'll be talking about in October 2009? Who will our president be? Will it be Barack Obama? Will it be John McCain? Or......... will it be Sarah Palin? Boo! Scared you didn't I?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Little Problem

On Thursday I admitted to myself that I had become addicted to politics, that I had a real problem and that it was time to quit this stuff. When you find yourself posting sappy comments about Barack Obama to your blog well after your children have gone to bed, and then dream about the upcoming election most of the night, only to stop for a brief period to toss and turn awake worrying about its outcome, it's time to take a good hard look at your behavior.

So how has my first day on the wagon gone? Well, around 10:30 in the morning I told myself that sitting down for a few minutes while waiting for the sheets to wrinkle release in the dryer, and watching a little of last night's episode of The Daily Show couldn't hurt. After all, I needed one last hit just to get myself through this. When the show was finished, I felt like a dirty cheater.

After that I was careful to steer clear of the people and places that I know would make me want to start thinking about the presidential race again. I knew better than to navigate to the Huffington Post, the sight of many hours of elated reading about Sarah Palin's latest gaff, or John McCain's most recent use of the "c" word. I also stayed well away from CNN.com where I knew I couldn't possibly resist the multi-colored electoral college map or the siren song of its sister, the map of the latest poll numbers.

Thinking it was a safe place to go, I checked my email while last night's crud soaked off the frying pan. What I found there led me to temptation though. It was a summary of the most recent blog posts at Huffington Post, and before I knew it I was forwarding a link to CC Goldwater's blog post about how McCain has lost our vote.

Enough, I told myself. Time to get out of this house and away from my computer. I leashed up the dogs and set out for a walk, determined to enjoy the fall sunshine and clear my head of thoughts about the Powell Bounce, or Palin's $150,000 makeover. It all went well until I started seeing all of the Yes on 8 signs that have popped up over the last week in my neighborhood like mushrooms in a cow patty. Instead of listening to the crunch of the fallen leaves under my feet and enjoying all of the Halloween decorations, I caught myself with my finger poised above my neighbor's doorbell, about to ask her where I could get myself a No on 8 sign like hers.

I've decided to give myself a break. Like all addictions, this one won't be beaten in a day. Instead I'll try to limit myself to one visit a day to Huffington Post, and a quick check once a week to see how the polls look at CNN. I'm swearing off Jon Stewart all together though. At least I will after November 4th. And this time I mean it.

One More Garrettism

A couple of days ago we bought Garrett a black robe and scythe so he could dress as the grim reaper for Halloween. Since then, for his entertainment, he has taken to using the scythe like a fighting staff which resulted in the following conversation:

Garrett: Dang it. The head of my scythe flew off again.

Steve: That's because you keep thrashing it about.

Garrett: I'm not thrashing it about, I'm just waving it around.

Me: (shoots wine out nose laughing)