Friday, October 31, 2008

Another Yes on 8 Flier Has Arrived

Did anyone else in California get that glossy flier paid for by Protect 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 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 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)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are You One of the Real Americans?

Are you a "real" American? That seems to be a question that is getting asked a lot in these last few days of the campaign. How would you answer that question? Would you look to the values that our country was founded on and see if they mirror your own? Let's just do that, shall we?

How about equal rights? That's about as American as it gets, right? Then why is it that the presidential nominee for the party that is trumpeting the loudest about the "real America" opposed a bill that would restore equal pay for legistlation for women?

Freedom of speech is pro-American, right? But is free speech still pro-American when you stand by and allow people at your rallies to scream "terrorist" and "kill him" in response to your opponent's name? Sarah Palin thinks so and apparently assumes that 37,051,483 black Americans think so too.

How about the freedom of religion? In this country we all believe that we have the right to worship the god of our choice, right? Not if you're John McCain. He thinks that Muslims are not fit to lead this country.

How about the right to make your own choices? Republicans in particular are VERY American in their stance that government should "get out of our way". Well, as long as those choices are not ones that John McCain disagrees with.

Does a real American talk about which towns the real America can be found in, or like Michele Bachmann question which members of Congress are truly pro-American? Or is this McCarthyism yet one more example of the Republican hypocrisy?

I for one am a getting really sick of being told that because I believe in equal rights for all Americans (even gays), that I don't support a war that never had any benefit for Americans, and that I think that "the health of the mother" is a really important factor in deciding whether a pregnancy should be terminated, that I am some how not pro-American. And what makes it even more annoying is to hear that against a background of people like Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh spewing their racist sour grapes in the face of Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama.

And in other news: Sarah Palin is going to vote Democratic and wants you to also! Thanks for the link Joanna!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Get Lucky!

Yesterday was a lost day. I spent most of the day in bed with a high fever, and raging headache, and an upset stomach having been overtaken by gastroenteritis somewhere around 3:00 am the night before. With that said, I did manage to do a couple of things. Around 1:30 in the afternoon I dragged my sorry butt out of bed and got showered, and at 2:45, left the house to pick the kids up from school. This is not a minor undertaking, because Garrett gets out at 3:00 and Weston gets out at 3:40, making this about an hour-long process. When I finally got home, I had to sleep for two hours from sheer exhaustion.

Leaving Weston's school yesterday I suddenly realized that the second thing that I had accomplished was losing my wireless ear piece for my phone. I knew approximately where and when I had lost it because I had pulled it out of my ear while walking to my car at Garrett's school. I figured I must have dropped it while opening the car door. Sadly, I wrote it off as lost, smashed, or both, but this morning, a little miracle occurred. Walking Garrett in to school I glanced down at the sidewalk, and there it was, intact and still working! I think while I'm having this kind of luck, I'll go buy some lottery tickets.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mmmmmmmonkey Farts!

Please excuse a very short post today as I was up half the night with a stomach bug. In the interest of meeting my NaBloPoMo goal of posting every day for the month of October, I have dragged myself out of bed feeling like death warmed over on a piece of soggy toast. Fortunately yesterday's trip to October Fest in downtown Campbell with my girlfriends yesterday (you know who you are!) provided the necessary material. While strolling through the booths with everything from cute purses to beer, we came across a vendor selling aroma salts. They came in all sorts of nice-smelling scents, but the one that really caught our eye was monkey farts.
I'm guessing the reason they call it monkey farts is that the ingredients are all things a monkey would like to eat, thus rendering its farts sweet in the manner of coconut, orange, and banana.
As far as marketing tactics, I'm not sure this would have struck me as a good choice had all four of us not walked straight to the monkey farts and smelled them. And face it, farts.... are funny.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Son is Being Shielded From the Press

The other night I was bugging Weston for information about his love life. I got nothing. He has adopted a strict policy of not sharing any details about the opposite sex. Here is the conversation that took place in our kitchen:

Me: Weston, got any big plans this weekend? A hot date perhaps?

Weston: (shrug)

Me (to Steve): Weston won't tell me anything about his love life. I tried to get information out of him the other day and he wouldn't tell me a thing. Did you tell your mom about your love life when you were younger?

Steve: No. I didn't tell my mom anything.

Me: What about your dad? Did you share the details of your love life with your dad?

Steve (with somewhat forced enthusiasm and sincerity): Oh yes, of course! I told my dad EVERYTHING that was going on in my love life.

Weston (laughing): Nice try Dad. Very funny, but it won't work.

At that point all three of us dissolved into laughter.

Dog With a Single Horn

Bo needs grooming in the worst kind of way. But the fun thing about his fur being such a god awful mess is that it can be fashioned into a variety of interesting new looks. Steve does not approve of my styling his canine companion in this manner, but I think he'll like [beat] The Unicorn:

He farts rainbows too! Oh, and Steve, is this what you meant when you said I should post more pictures?

Attitude vs. Aptitude

Fair or not, the world is divided up into two kinds of children. The kind that sail through school and get A's with very little effort, and those that for a variety of reasons, struggle the entire way. As parents we tend to assume that if our children are among those that struggle, they will have to do so throughout their lives, while the gifted and talented will continue their effortless glide, as life bestows the gifts they have earned by virtue of being born lucky. But is it really that simple? Probably not, and this article explains why.

When the quick learning ability of a child is attributed by the parents to how smart this child is, or how high their IQ, this child may be at a higher risk for failure later on. As school become more difficult and requires more effort (usually around middle school) children encounter more and more problems that they cannot immediately and easily solve. In the face of these tougher challenges, children who have frequently been congratulated on their smarts often conclude that they must not be as smart as they've been lead to believe. Conversely, children that have had to struggle from their earliest days in school have learned that redoubling their efforts will typically result in finding a solution to a difficult problem. Why does this difference in attitude matter? Well, it turns out that these so-called "smart" children often feel a sense of helplessness in the face of their failed intelligence, and have a greater tendency to quit. It is easier for these children to tell themselves that they failed because they just didn't try than to admit they failed because they were not smart enough to solve the problem.

Does this mean all children that breeze through their early years at school will fall flat on their faces at the first challenge? Of course not. On the other hand, it's certainly cause for celebration for parents whose children struggle to learn those spelling words or have a hard time mastering their times tables. It's also a cautionary tale to those of us who find ourselves congratulating a child who has done well in school with the words, "What a smart kid!"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Looking Presidential

One of these two men will be the next president of the United States of America. Who will you vote for?

One Last Debate Post

While I won't go as far as to say he was a "breash of freath air", I (unlike many pundits who declared Joe the Plumber the winner) thought the real winner of last night's debate was Bob Schieffer. Let's face it, we didn't really hear much new from the candidates, but if you watched the debates last night, weren't there at least a few questions that made you yell, "Thank you!!!" at the TV? For example Schieffer's question about the tone of the campaigns was a great one. Along with the economy, negative campaigning has probably been among the top three issues that has influenced how people feel about both candidates. No matter who you thought scored the point on that topic, bringing the mud slinging out into the light of day went a long way towards drawing some of the poison out of the wounds that the negative campaigning has inflicted.

As far as the candidates go, once again I don't think there was a clear winner of the debate. I was much more impressed with McCain's performance in this final round than I had been. Not because I felt he did a better job answering questions, but because he manged to force Obama away from his own talking points and into a more defensive stance on almost every topic. I have to also give him a point on the Joe the Plumber topic. I was waiting for Obama to clearly explain to me why Joe the Plumber didn't have to be concerned about Obama's plan to increase Joe's taxes and spread the wealth around. I never heard that clear answer.

Then Schieffer asked the candidates if they could balance the budget, and what a shit storm of nonsense flew back from both candidates. McCain barked back, "Of course I can balance the budget" and then rather than calmly explain how, launched into a tirade about "goodies" and "pork barrel" spending that he would cut out of the budget. Specifics McCain. We want specifics. Obama didn't do any better. He never said whether he would balance the budget or not. Instead he spent most of his two minutes disputing McCain's claim that he had increased taxes for people earning more than $42,000 per year.

As with the past two debates nothing was said by either candidate that will change the course of the election. Because little or nothing that is new or substantive comes out of these debates, we the viewers are left to look at the more superficial characteristics that differentiate the candidates. This is why Obama has been considered the winner of all three debates by the majority of viewers. Where McCain is flustered, tripping over his words, clenching his jaw, knitting his eyebrows and spitting fire, Obama is calm, clear, concise, and well, presidential. While McCain throws jab after jab at his opponent, Obama with his growing lead in the polls needs only to step out of the way of these punches and appear all-the-more rational by never throwing a one of his own. Arianna Huffington put it best when she said, "It was like a split-screen double feature -- Grumpy Old Men playing side by side with Cool Hand Luke."

Now it's our turn to do the important job of voting. No matter who you vote for, please take the time to get informed before you walk into the polling booth. There are a lot of good sources of information about the candidates, the ballot measures, and the propositions that you can easily access through the web. 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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Try This at Home

Today I scared the crap out of myself trying something new. I decided that, in the spirit of my new frugality, I would color my own hair. Things I got for my trouble:

Hair that is a subtly different shade than it used to be. I chickened out and didn't wait the full 25 minutes for the color to set. The bright side is that people won't be shocked by the huge difference they don't see.

Most of my springy little gray hairs are gone. One or two still remain, although how I missed them, I am not sure. Again, what could be more authentic than a few gray strands?

Nose and eyes full of ammonia. Trust me on this, during the rising phase you don't want any of that water to run over your eyes and/or nose. And if it does, just keep rinsing. Don't attempt to flush it with your hands. They have ammonia on them too.

A giant crick in my neck. Half way through my panicky rinse cycle my neck went into an excruciating Charlie horse. This did not add to the home spa treatment flavor of the process and necessitated my frantic massaging of the area while my head dripped brownish water into the sink.

A great boost of energy from adrenalin. Another alarming moment arose when I got into the shower to rinse out the conditioner that I applied after the coloring phase. As I eased the tangles out of my hair with my fingers, whilst still massaging my neck, large chunks of hair began detaching themselves from my head. Apparently that was the result of shampooing and blow drying my hair once already, earlier that morning. At least that's what I keep telling myself. Stay tuned as I learn where to shop for wigs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Doggy Kleptomaniacs

You can't teach an old dog a new trick, right? Wrong. Particularly if it's a bat habit he's learning from a puppy in the throes of adolescence. Recently I made the mistake of reaching into the cat's bowl to grab a hand full of kibble to use as training treats. Apparently at least one dog took note. Luke has begun getting up on his hind legs to investigate the platform on the scratching post where we keep Kacey's food bowl. Strangely, he doesn't seem too interested in stealing her kibble. Instead he knocks her bowl of water onto the floor or steals the small plastic bowls in which we put her daily treats such as cream, or small bits of steak or hamburger. If Luke spots one of these bowls on the scratching post, he checks to see if anyone is looking, stands on his stubby hind legs, and pokes around the platforms with his nose. Unfortunately for him, the sound of his collar clinking against the bowl gives him away. He has learned he gets yelled at or receives a swat on the rump or muzzle if he's caught, so he now has the good sense to past a guilty look on his face as he scuttles away. Also unfortunate is the fact the Bo has now joined in the game. This morning he stole one of Kacey's bowls and squirreled it away somewhere. I'm waiting for it to turn up, chewed to bits. Meanwhile, I think it's time to move the scratching post and food bowls somewhere where I can keep an eye on them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dress for Sucess? Nope.

I like to dress nicely. I really do. I see women that dress up for office jobs every day and I feel envious of their pretty tops, tailored slacks, and sleek looking heels. The problem is, I'm too pragmatic about clothes. Not to the degree that I would leave the house in baggy sweats or Crocs, I just find that unless clothes are comfortable and practical, I just don't wear them.

Take for example pretty bras and underwear. They look lovely when you first put them on, but after they spend a day bunched up in your clothes, the panties want nothing more than to snuggle up deep in your crack, and the bra has left deep rivets in your shoulders and has started itching under your boobs. I like a cute shirt just as much as the next lady, but the ones that aren't just basic wife-beater style tank tops or plain t-shirts are fraught with peril. They ride low in the front or gap open, showing off so much cleavage I feel the need to cover up with a sweatshirt while picking up kids from school. Others slide up at the waist leaving a gaping swath of skin open to the drafts, and exposing my muffin top to the elements. Spaghetti strap camisoles are usually a good solution to these problems, but by the end of the day, the tight stretchy fabric makes me itch. Long-sleeved drapey blouses are pretty, but have you ever tried washing dishes or cooking in them? The sleeves always end up dangling in what you are working with, leaving a smear of grease or some messy sauce on your clothes. So until I have an office job where I can spend my days in front of a computer, and afford to eat lunch out, you'll find me in jeans and t-shirts.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Times Are Tough!!

Is anyone else tightening their belt, trimming the fat, trying to make the budget a little bit more lean in these financially trying times? I started a few months ago as a result of my hours at work having been cut by about 75% and simultaneously taking a cut in pay. My work as an ecologist is driven by how much new development is going on, and when the housing market crumbled, so did my income. Thankfully Steve still brings in a good salary and we aren't really hurting. Watching your hard-earned savings draining away in the stock market certainly motivates me to make some changes in my spending though.

Things I've done already include getting my hair cut and colored half as often (helllooo dark roots), and making the decision that Weston no longer needs guitar lessons. I'm also grocery shopping with greater care, focusing on making items that can be reheated for lunch the next day, and trying to avoid expensive ingredients. When I was about 6 months pregnant with Garrett, I started having someone come to clean my house every two weeks, and when I went back to work full time, it made sense for her to continue coming. Now that I'm hardly working, I'm going to have to let her go. I feel badly about it, not only because she has always done a great job for me, but also because I feel like I'm causing someone else just a bit more financial hardship.

Of course I'm looking for a job too. I started looking seriously around the beginning of this year, and was pretty picky about the kind of job, and salary I was willing to accept. As unemployment figures become increasingly grim and my hours at my current job keep dropping, I've grown less and less picky. Maybe a nice job as a secretary, or bagging groceries, or waitressing for minimum wage would work. I haven't actually reached that point yet, but it no longer seems as far-fetched scenario as it used to.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Did you see Michelle Obama on Larry King Live a couple of nights ago? She is an amazing woman. Here is what she had to say:

"We can disagree without being disagreeable. And that's, you know, is where [Barack Obama is] trying to get to in this campaign, the notion that we can disagree on some fundamental issues in this country, but we have to do it without demonizing one another, without labeling one another, because we're in some tough times now. And what we can see from the fall of this economy is that when we fall, we all fall. And when we rise, we all rise. And whether we're Republicans or Democrats or Independents or black or white or straight or gay, that we're in this together. And that there are times that we will disagree, that we won't share the same policies. But we're going to rise and fall together. And that's the tone that I like."

And did you also see this video of some very hate filled commentary by supporters of John McCain and Sarah Palin? Later in the interview with Larry King, Michelle Obama made the important point that after this election is over, we the voters and the politicians we elect are going to have to find some common ground where the process of restoring this nation's economy and our standing in the world can begin. I agree. The next few years are going to be difficult ones. If this country spends another four to eight years running in place due to partisan politics, that rebuilding can't and won't happen.

The problem is each side is screaming so loudly to be heard, they no longer realize that the words coming out of their mouths do not represent the ideals of freedom and democracy that once made this country great. Remember? We're supposed to be the UNITED States of America. That video shows a nation totally divided. The hate I hear no longer make me angry, it scares me. I am not naive enough to think Republicans have cornered the market on hate. One need look no further than the comments in response to that and other similar videos cropping up all over Youtube to hear hate speech from "our" side. If this ideological divide is what 9/11 wrought upon this country, then I think those terrorists that McCain's supporters fear so much can declare victory.

I don't want to be a part of that victory so I have just resolved from this moment forth, not to fan the flames of hatred. While it's tempting to do so, and perhaps even drum up readership for my blog, I now think it's the wrong thing to do. What I would like to do instead is to invite anybody to stops by this blog to try to come up with, and post as a comment, one positive thing to say about John McCain, Sarah Palin, or anybody else associated with the GOP. Here, I'll go first. John McCain has now spoken out in support of Barack Obama at some of his rallies, calling him "decent" and asking his supporters to respect his opponent. He deserves our respect and admiration for that. There! See? That wasn't so hard. Now you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Helloooo Out There!!!!!

In June I decided to get really serious about this blog, and to make an effort to reach out to a broader audience than my husband and a couple of close friends. As part of that effort I joined Blogher, registered my blog with Technorati, and signed up for an account with Sitemeter, which provides all sorts of statistics about who is reading your blog.

All of these steps, along with coming out of the closet as a blogger to friends and family, have caused the traffic to my blog to really increase. This has been incredibly gratifying. I never get tired of visiting Sitemeter to look at my current numbers. The coolest thing of all though is to look at where my readers are coming from. I've been surprised and delighted to find that I have visitors from all over the world. I'd like to take a minute to say a HUGE thank you to those of you that stop by to read regularly and to say as personal a hello as I can to all of you in far flung places. So welcome to my blog Jessup, Maryland. Nice to see you Albany, New York and Phoenix, Arizona. How the hell are you Schaumburg, Evanston, Chicago, and Palatine, Illinois? I like your senator (but you probably already knew that). What's cooking Hightstown, New Jersey? Hello to Raleigh, North Carolina, Tangent, Oregon, Swansea, Massachusetts, San Marcos, Texas, and Central Islip, New York. Howdy Oviedo, Tallahassee, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Please consider voting for Obama in 2008. Hi Nashville, Tennessee. I love your accent! And hello to my international readers too! How's the weather in Mexico, Brazil, Philippines, Australia, and Singapore? And I can't forget London and Birmingham, UK. Thank you for stopping by Mas Riudoms, Spain.

More than anything else I would enjoy hearing what all of you have to say to me. Blogging is largely a one-sided conversation, so when readers respond with even the shortest comment, I'm very happy. It begins to feel more like a dialog. Again, thanks again for stopping by.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Depression Chic

I'm not going to get into the business of celebrity fugging. That market has been cornered by the lovely ladies at Go Fug Yourself, and a mighty good job they are doing! I do have to ask though, what the hell was Suze Orman wearing on CNN last night???

It looks like a trash bag reinforced with purple neoprene. Perhaps in light of our current economic crisis, she is trying to model the 21st century's answer to loosing everything in the Great Depression and having nothing to wear but a barrel.

Reality Check From Wasilla

I have officially become a HUGE fan of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, but now that I have seen this video:

my adoration knows no bounds.

Keith Olberman has a thing or two to say about the governor too! Long but informative and worth sitting through.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Step This Way for my Biased Opinion

Last night the whole family sat down to watch the debate. I think that's a pretty striking statement on how badly I am afflicted with election fever. Granted, Weston had to watch for a school assignment and Garrett had been forbidden from watching cartoons because he forgot his homework assignments at school. But still! This time I actually took some notes while I watched the debate. Bottom line, Obama impressed the heck out of me. He offered specific solutions to the problems we are facing. He is an amazing orator, the likes of which we have not seen since Bill Clinton left office. His body language throughout the debate gave the impression that he was relaxed, unruffled, and in control. I could see him as my president. He's still got my vote. Now for my impressions of McCain. Heh!

McCain's responses to debate questions generally lacked specific details. There are some that had the exact opposite impression though, so this may well be my bias speaking. Here is an example though. McCain spoke of having a commission come up with "recommendations" to fix Medicare which implied that he did not have any ideas of his own at this time. He speaks often of bringing our troops home from Iraq in victory, but fails to tell us what victory will look like. He tells us he looked into Putin's eyes and saw three letters, a K, a G, and a B. What does that mean (and it wasn't funny the FIRST time he said it)? To McCain's credit, he did offer a couple of specifics. One was doubling the tax exemption rate for children, which sounds like a pretty good start. I was less impressed with his "across the board" spending freeze. For those of us who are spending $200 dollars at the beginning of each school year to buy supplies for our children's teachers, a freeze on education spending sounds like a bad idea.

McCain often referenced his record and things he has accomplished in the past. This struck me as a discordant note with Palin's "Say it ain't so Joe. There you go again, pointing backwards." As a nation we are facing a financial crisis unlike any other in our lifetime. I'm guessing voters are more interested to hear what new solutions a candidate has to offer than in what they've accomplished under a totally different set of circumstances in the past. I am not dismissing the importance of experience, and McCain certainly has plenty of that, but if his running mate is going to criticize a backward-looking approach, then McCain's answers needed to focus much more on the new solutions he is proposing.

And now to get to what I think are the more superficial aspects of McCain's performance. I'm going to address these here because, I believe human nature leads us to have emotional responses to a person. Those emotions then bias our impressions of everything that person says and does, and ultimately influence our behavior in the voting booth.

At one point in the debate McCain had, what I will refer to as a yadda-yadda moment. Speaking of Obama's voting record with respect to nuclear power he alluded to his opponents fear about the safety of nuclear power and then brushed off those fears without fully explaining Obama's position. "Senator Obama says it has to be safe or disposable or something like that." This flippant dismissal of concerns about the safety of nuclear power made McCain appear narrow-minded and biased on this issue. Ask the residents of Three Mile Island if they have concerns about the safety of nuclear power.

McCain spent a lot of time blowing sunshine up the collective butts of the American voters. He addressed us as "my friends" so many times that it became disingenuous. He claimed that it was possible to tackle the problems of energy, health care, and education simultaneously "because we're Americans". It's a nice to think that simply by virtue of being citizens of a county we have somehow acquired super powers, and that nothing we set our minds to is beyond our grasp. This sounds a lot like what we tell our children to motivate them. Do well in school, work hard, set your mind to it, and anything is possible! Unfortunately it's not that simple for one individual person, and for an entire nation of people, McCain is just not painting a realistic picture.

And now to the issue of body language. While McCain was answering questions, Obama sat in a relaxed posture, listening attentively to his opponent's words. At one point while Obama was answering a question, I could see someone pacing up and down the stage behind him. Because of the camera angle, I could not immediately identify the individual, and assumed it to be a camera man. A new camera angle revealed the pacer to be McCain. This struck me as impolite and distracting and made McCain appear nervous and agitated. And speaking of impolite, referring to Obama as "that one" really stuck in my craw. If McCain wished to shake off the impression that he is a grumpy old man, his behavior during the debate did nothing to help. He attempted to connect with his audience thanking a naval retiree for his service and patting his shoulder. It was a nice gesture, and he meant well, but logging on to Twitter at that moment, the overwhelming response of viewers seemed to be "creepy" or "awkward".

General consensus in the media seems to be that once again, there was no clear winner of this debate, and I'm willing to go along with that. I have a hard time believing though, that the majority of undecided voters were won over my McCain's stump stump, grumble grumble, get off my lawn you damn kids persona.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Overhead at the Post Office

Post Office Worker: I'm sorry ma'am. You'll need to wrap that box because it was previously used to ship alcohol. It is against postal service policy to ship alcohol boxes uncovered.

Lady With Smoker's Hack and Voice: Oh no. It's for my two-year-old granddaughter. All it actually has inside is plastic dinosaurs. You know boxes are hard to find. I had a hard time finding this one.

At this point I picture this lady, cigarette dangling from her lip, rummaging through the discarded boxes behind her local grocery store and finally settling on one with the Jack Daniels logo prominently displayed. Perfect! Next I imagine the perplexed look on her daughter-in-law's face as little Lindsey rips open the brown paper covering on the mysterious box, to see that it appears to hold a shipment of hard liquor. I also can't help pondering on how many plastic dinosaurs one could actually fit in a box big enough to ship bottles of alcohol. If they're small dinos, that little girl is in for quite a treat! If they're anything like those hard plastic Pokemon figures that Garrett has, her mother will wish that box had actually held its original contents after she steps on them in the dark a few times.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Luke and Bo, like most dogs, are beggars. When we sit down to eat, both of the dogs show up to sit expectantly and not always patiently waiting for an accidental crumb or generous handout to come their way.

Bo's style of begging is typically a bit more aggressive than Luke's. He places his nose on the thigh of the eater, occasionally adjusting its position to ensure that its presence has not been overlooked. This method has become more difficult to employ since we purchase counter height chairs, so he has added assertive panting, which steams up the thigh, to his repertoire.

Luke, on the other hand sits quietly staring at the glutton, while a slimy stalactite of drool forms on his jowls. This string of drool can sometimes grow to a remarkable length, which is alarming because when Luke turns his head suddenly the slobber can be ripped from its moorings and be deposited on the foot or leg of the meal-eater. Today, as Steve and I enjoyed some tortilla chips and fresh salsa, a new and frightful drool configuration emerged; The Bubble. Observe:

It eventually popped and conformed to the more traditional drool configuration, but as always, when the strange or horrifying rears its ugly head, I am ready with my trusty iPhone camera.

Poison Oak 2008

I have poison oak, AGAIN. This seems to happen to me at least once a year, and the majority of the time I have no clue how I got it. I first noticed the little itchy bumps last week when I got into the shower. There's a telltale itchiness that confirms the diagnosis the moment the hot water hits my skin. I have a couple of theories about how I got it this time. I was out doing some field work in east San Jose in an area that had a little bit of poison oak. Perhaps I encountered it there. We also visited Steve's parents where the hill behind the house has poison oak, but I never walked up there. Could one of the kids have gotten a little on their clothes that transferred to me? The blisters always show up in two places, my wrists and my waist line. This time I have one small blister on the left side of my waist and, as of this writing two more on my left wrist. I'm pretty sure this won't be anything like the outbreak of poison oak I had last year that involved my entire right forearm, massive doses of Prednisone, and months of scarred purple skin that had me wearing long sleeves long after the weather had warmed up. Nevertheless, if I'm going to have itchy blisters showing up in strange places, I'd like to at least have a good story to tell about it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

"Ribs"...... Yeah, right!

Once again, the grocery store comes through with blog material! The last two times I've gone to Safeway I have tried to get a photograph of the "spare ribs" in the deli section, but could not do so without revealing that I am bizarre. On the first occasion I couldn't whip out my iPhone and select the camera option before the lady behind the counter was done getting my turkey. The second time I have my phone all ready, but there were too many shoppers clustered around that section of the deli counter (probably snickering at the appearance of the ribs) for me to elbow in and covertly snap a photo. I didn't want to be totally obvious about it, so today I pretended to be taking a squiz at the unsliced salami logs, whilst "checking my email" on my phone, and was able to take this picture.

I'm not sure the does proper justice to how gross these "ribs" really look in person. The corners are unnaturally square, and they look like they have been molded from brown clay. You can dress these things up with cute and colorful little chili peppers, but you still can't take them out for a night on the town. No thanks. I think I'll just keep my $4.99 plus tax.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Did You Berate or Relate to the Debate?

Doggone it folks, I've been itchin' to talk about the debate since it wrapped up last night! In the face of such low expectations, it's not surprising that Sarah Palin did better than expected. I don't think either candidate did extremely well or very badly, but here are my initial impressions of both.

Sarah Palin is "g" averse to a fault. She's talkin' to folks, workin' with McCain, listenin' to ideas. If this accent was consistent, it would be more believable, but at the moments when she has little of substance to say, she falls back into this speaking style, apparently to connect to those folks at home who have no clue that the need for foreign policy extends beyond the war in Eye-raq. Her folksy speaking style does nothing for me, but sadly there are probably many Americans that it really resonates with.

I was also struck by her scripted answers, particularly when questioned about foreign policy. She had a two-minute sound bite to deliver and gave the impression that beyond what was on those cue cards she had nothing else to add. When asked a question she was not prepared to answer, the cue cards were her life line. She simply looked down and delivered another one of her party's talking points with her point blank gaze drilling into the camera.

By repeatedly using the phrase "up there is Alaska" Palin gives the impression that her home state is a foreign country. To those of us who feel that being the governor of this remote state with its sparse population leaves her woefully underqualified to step into John McCain' shoes, this does little to alley our concerns. She tries, but fails to portray Wasilla as a town just like yours and mine. I'm here to tell you Sarah, gee whiz, Wasilla Alaska ain't no Silicon Valley.

She winked. Not once but twice. To convince me that she has moved beyond her beauty queen past and is ready to interact with foreign heads of state, she needs to leave that schtick behind. She is an attractive woman whose manner of dress, makeup, and behavior will always be scrutinized more closely than that of her male counterparts (although hopefully McCain doesn't wear makeup.... at least publicly). In order to be taken seriously as a politician she's going to have to behave like a serious political figure. Have you ever seen Condaleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg resort to winking? With that said, her experience as a television anchor served her well. Her eye contact with the camera certainly gave the impression that she cared about her audience.

I know her mannerisms help "Joe Sixpack" and his wife "Wendy Wal-mart" relate to her, want to have a beer with her, and feel like she's just one of us. But this country is going through one of the worst economic crises in its history. We are involved in two wars, and our nation's approval rating around the world is heading south almost as quickly as George W. Bush's. I don't want "one of us" as our Commander in Chief or even as our VP. What I want is someone who doesn't require cue cards to talk about foreign policy.

Palin took Joe Biden to task on several occasions for looking backwards and dwelling on the mistakes of the Bush administration. She and McCain paint themselves as mavericks who will shake things up with their fresh focus and new ideas. Perhaps it is time to recall the words of George Santayana who said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

In conclusion, Sarah Palin didn't do or say anything that was truly horrible or frightening during the debate as many of us who support the Obama/Biden ticket hoped she would in our secret heart-of-hearts. That in itself was scary though because it means that her handlers have coached her well enough that her bald ignorance and wrong-headed policies have just gone into hiding until after the election.

Now for Joe Biden. He came across as warm and friendly towards Sarah Palin which was key. If he had appeared hostile, he would have been criticized in the same manner in which McCain was, following the first presidential debates, for sounding "angry". When Biden spoke about foreign policy he sounded knowledgeable. One got the impression that he had a great deal more to say on the subject but was constrained by his two-minute response time limit. He made some small gaffs during the debate, including almost referring to his running mate as McCain, and occasionally resorting to wagging his finger at the camera. I noticed that he and Palin had both been coached in the fine art of the Bill Clinton bent finger wag,but that Biden slipped up and forgot to reel in that digit in a couple of times. I am unabashedly biased, and am struggling for objective criticisms of Biden's performance, so I'm just going to give up now. One positive thing I will say about Sarah Palin is that she has brought politics back into fashion. She's got people talking and feeling they need to get involved and be informed. If she can do that for this country, then she's not all bad.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Spray Paint! That'll Fix It! Yeah!

Every few months, Weston comes to us and asks for new shoes. Not because his feet are growing so fast (which they are, but not THAT fast) but because the last pair of shoes we have bought him are destroyed. Skateboarding is hard on shoes. At the beginning of summer we bought him some expensive Nikes (I was going to call them Nike shoes but it came of sounding unbelievably stuffy) that are designed to withstand the rigors of multiple attempts at landing kick flips, backside nollies, and pop shove-its. He wore them on and off throughout the summer but once school started, he couldn't wear them because they have blue (Gang Color!!!) on them. Plus, he couldn't land any of his tricks in them and claims to have outgrown them. Blame it on the equipment.

With school about to start, Steve's parents kindly offered to take the boys out shopping for new shoes, clothes, and backpacks. After trying on about 6 different styles, Weston finally found a pair that met his stringent style requirements and that the store still had in his enormous size 10s. A scant five weeks in to the school year, and these shoes are already in sorry shape. The right front side of the right shoe has been worn down to the fabric by the grip tape on Weston's skateboard. That's OK though. I'm glad he's getting the exercise, not playing video games, and working on getting better at something that he feels passionate about. What bugs me though is that The Punk took his shoes yesterday (why they were off his feet I have yet to determine) and spray painted them purple and gold. I've not seen the shoes, and never heard about the spray painting until 8:38 this morning when a shoeless Weston was scuttling out the door to leave for school, quickly explaining that he had fixed the whole thing by spray painting the shoes gray at his friend's house across the street. He was headed there this morning because his friend's mother drives him to school each day.

I am willing to bet a goodly sum of money that Weston will be less than satisfied with the spray paint solution. Dollars to donuts, he comes to me within the next 24 hours announcing that he needs new shoes, pronto. When he does, I will offer him four choices: 1) Get The Punk or his parents to pay for your new shoes (if you chose this kid as your friend, it will come at certain costs to you). 2) Sure I will buy you new shoes..... from Target. 3) Keep wearing the spray painted ones. 4) Go out and do some babysitting, yard cleaning, any kind of work to earn the money to buy your own new shoes. Do you suppose that will fix him?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Parenting - Just Hard, Or Is It Hell?

I just overheard one side of the following cell phone conversation while waiting in line at Panda Express for my cheap Chinese food fix. The caller was a girl of about 20 years of age who had probably been dumped by "Kevin". Perhaps she was even dumped in favor of the new mother. In any case, by the end of the conversation, I was pretty sure Kevin was better off without this nasty piece of work.

Vindictive Girl on Phone (VGOP) – So, Kevin just had his baby.

Me (Talking to the voices in my head) – Wha? How does a guy have a baby?

VGOP – (With delight) Yeah she was in labor for like 12 hours. I like, smiled all through practice on Saturday. Now his life is finally going to go to hell. I just wanted to call and tell you because I was so happy. You know, I’m spreading the word.

At this point the person on the other end of the call must have said something that made her feel like the vindictive bitch she sounded like, because her end of the conversation suddenly turned defensive.

VGOP – Well, Charlotte deserves it. She was dumb and she got with Kevin……(here I like to imagine that the caller called her something that rhymes with snitch, and told her to shut up). OK. OK. Well, bye.

At that point I felt the need to shower an excessive amount of public affection on Garrett who had also heard this exchange. I wanted both him and the twit on the phone to understand that becoming a parent does not equate with taking up residence in H-E-double hockey sticks. What a nasty thing to say front of a little kid. I realize that when teenagers become parents (and I'm assuming the parents in question were teenagers), its not an ideal situation and the going is likely to be extremely rough for everyone involved. I am not in favor of kids having kids. Babies born into this kind of situation are often better off when given up for adoption. Publicly gloating that the birth of a child is cursing the teen parents to an existence in hell, is just really callous.