Wednesday, February 29, 2012

That came in handy.

For some reason, I am very fond of the competition show Top Shot on the History Channel. Shooting stuff up in interesting ways just looks so fun.  Not quite as much as blowing things up a la Mythbusters, but serious fun nonetheless.

As a result of my viewing habits, last night during my weekly trivia game I was able to accurately  identify a M-16 rifle. Although it was only one point (and I won by more than that) it helped keep my (and my occasional teammates') four-game win streak going.

Hey, fifty dollars of food for knowing what given make of rifle looks like isn't shabby.  And I think I can identify a BAR....

Now if I can only get to shoot one.*

*BARs are cool, but I want to learn to shoot a twelve-gauge shotgun.  Either a Benelli Vinci or a Winchester 101.  I'm not sure why. 

Litigation waiting to happen?

Personhood from conception has been shelved in Virginia.  Just as well.

It is still alive and kicking in Oklahoma, though.  And this morning, completely unbidden (much like an earworm), the following scenario presented itself:

A man has two daughters, A & B.  He dies.  A and her husband have in vitro fertilization, with several embryos left over, which they store.  After A has her child, B and her husband have a child.  A's child dies, and she and her husband decide to have a child from the frozen embryos.

The man died before either the IVF or the natural birth of a grandchild.  The man's will declares that his two daughters have a life-estate in his not inconsequential property, with the vast majority of the residual going to his eldest grandchild. So...

If personhood begins at conception, not birth, who is the elder child? The child conceived in vitro, or the child born first?  The Oklahoma bill grants the unborn all the "rights, privileges, and immunities available to other  persons, citizens, and residents of this state."

So, absent other provisions of Oklahoma law, the elder child is the child conceived first.  If this law were to stand, you just know that  question  is going to be litigated.

This has been bugging me all day.  It is going to keep bothering me until I research it, which I have not done yet.  I don't even remember the little of trusts and estates I learned a long time ago: it may be this is an already settled issue.  The question then becomes, does it bug me enough to spend time learning the law of a state I don't live in and have only driven through a couple of times?

Sometimes, I rather wish my mind didn't work this way.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Way too much caffeine. Definitely.

Wired, alert, anxious.  Rereading every word I have written over the past three weeks, worried about being misunderstood -- what have I not said that I should have said, or said that I should not have?  Do I represent myself fairly?

Am I good person? Can people tell I try to be a good person?

Idly wondering could I -- should I -- run away to Los Angeles? How about Portland? I have friends in both places. And Disneyland would be fun... or better yet, Disney World.  I could get Mom to go with me.

And how can I be so alert and so completely unable to get things done?  Maybe that's because -- squirrel!

That second Venti Skinny Carmel Macchiato may have been a mistake.  I thought I told the barista to make it decaf, but I don't think she did.

Guilt v. Responsiblity

A man in Alaska has filed suit alleging that the Fourteenth Amendment does not carry with it the right to hold public office. This particular frivolous lawsuit not only infuriates me, but concerns me.  Not that there is a bigot out there willing to allege that Barack Obama cannot be president because of his race, but that said crazy felt comfortable enough in the current sociopolitical environment to file suit challenging his candidacy. Not only that, but if you read through the complaint, there have been attempts in states other than Alaska to keep Obama off the ballot.

I am not going to say that this man is representative of conservatives, or even the Republican Party.  But if you read the document, he is also a birther, and those crazies are more thick on the ground than one would think in a rational society.

These people drive me nuts.  Racists in general do, because of my background.

I am a child of privilege in many ways.  Not only in the way that white people in general are privileged, but in a more particular way that those of us who are white Southerners and who have roots reaching back to the antebellum period have.  A lot of my ancestors owned slaves, including one who was a plantation owner in Greene County, Georgia*, and who owned more than one hundred and thirty slaves.  (A horrifying number of those were children and teens. )

I have no guilt about the actions of my forebears.  I have not been a slave owner.  I have not supported slavery.  I have not longed for the return of the antebellum South and the plantation.

I am not guilty. But I am responsible. Although often used interchangeably, the two are not the same.

As a descendant of slaveholders, and one whose family has been shaped by the institution of slavery, I have a responsibility to support in whatever way I can efforts to overcome the lasting effects of that evil system. I say "support," because it is unfortunately not my fight per se; I can only give whatever aid I can and speak the truth as I see it. And in that truth I have to defer to others who, sadly, have more direct experience with the lingering shadows of slavery and Jim Crow.**

The Bible says that the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children to the third generation.  I think that is right, although I think that that obligation extends even further.  The wealth of my great-great-great-grandfather allowed my family to continue in the form it took, and I am a product of that wealth, even if only distantly.

Don't misread me: I am no hero here.  I would not for one minute have you think that I would represent myself as such.  I am just fulfilling a duty that has been left for me.  If I am guilty of anything, it is that I have not done enough.

My forebears did evil.  To the extent can, I feel morally compelled to support the correction of that evil.

*Oddly enough, this was not from the Greene side, but from my mom's side.  My dad's side is no cleaner, however.
**This also broadens into a moral requirement to support those of other ethnicities who were not subject to slavery but who have experience of bigotry in America.  Quite frankly, I fail to see how anyone with a knowledge of U.S. History can feel otherwise.

Movie men

I love movies.  I don't get to see as many as I want, or as many as I used to.  Seeing movies on Netflix just isn't the same; and as for watching on my smartphone -- no. I watch the Oscars every year semi-religiously.

Last night during the ceremony, I got to thinking about the actors.  The women actors this year are all upstanding, talented women, some of whom are able to buck the trend that older women cannot get decent parts.  (I am still disappointed Viola Davis did not win.  As for Octavia Spencer, she was too cute for words.  I bet that is the first time that the state of Alabama has been thanked in an Oscar acceptance speech. And I am very curious to see what Rooney Mara does with the rest of her career.)

But the male actors... I am trying to figure out what makes an actor attractive.  It's not just handsomeness, although that can be a big factor, but intelligence and authenticity.  I suppose it is strange to speak of authenticity about a career that definitionally is about being someone other than who you are, but an actor can portray a character which is recognizable to the rest of us.

George Clooney has this.  I am not a Brad Pitt fan by any means,* but he did this in spades in Moneyball.  Christopher Plummer, Colin Firth (who, along with Pitt, gets sexier every year).  Owen Wilson -- who all too often plays what seems like the same character -- was completely relatable in Midnight in Paris.

But my favorite two performances this year were from one actor who won, and one who didn't.

Jonah Hill turned in a wonderfully realistic performance in Moneyball.  I know these guys.  I went to school with some of them.  Hell, in some sense I am one of them.  These are people completely in love with something which is beyond their reach to ever conquer.**  People who are -- or used to be -- sneered at if they become coaches or commentators because "they never played the game." (One reason it took so long for a woman to break through as a football journalist.) It is every klutzy nerd who loves baseball with a passion.  It is every woman who lives for the start of football exhibition season or spring training. There was authenticity, and affection, in Hill's portrayal as the gifted statistician who helps turn the team around.

Even more so in Jean Dujardin's work in The Artist.  Even though he was an actor playing an actor, his character was first and foremost a human being.  It would have been so easy to make George Valentin a cartoon, but Dujardin found the person at the center of the star. His desperate descent into obscurity was all the more believable, especially given that he had no spoken dialogue to help carry the illusion.

And Dujardin radiated joy.  Before his fall, Valentin went through life with a twinkle in his eye.  I have to wonder how much of this came from Dujardin himself.  His Oscar speech was wonderful -- the shouted end brought to mind the ecstatic speech by Cuba Gooding, Jr. when he won for Jerry Maguire.  I am in love with this actor and I hope he does many more English language films.  (I plan to hunt down his French films -- after all, I've already seen the man in a film with subtitles.)

I wonder what this year will bring.  Along with all the sequels, and the stupid ideas ripped off from board games (Candy Land? Seriously?  What are you guys smoking?) there have to be other movies and performances that show us ourselves.

At least I hope so.

*That may be as much a result of his tabloid life as anything else, which is totally irrelevant to his skill as an actor.
**I am convinced this is why fantasy sports leagues exist.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I am a large woman.  I am a very large woman. I have been so for a much of my life.*

One of my experiences has been a feeling that I am somehow nonexistent.  It is a hard thing to explain, unless you have been part of a group that people look past or through or would rather not see at all.** I have been told I am beautiful, but that is hard to accept when you have trouble looking at yourself in a full-length mirror.

Part of this is an artifact of growing up where and when I did. I had a friend in eighth grade (eighth grade!) offer to get me diet pills from her father, who was a pharmaceutical rep.

So tonight, when Gabourey Sidibe in one of the Oscar interview montages said that she watched herself on film to remind herself that she still existed, I understood completely. *** This is part of why I write, because in these pages I do exist.  All of me.

I wonder how many people were confused by her statement.

*Although not as much as I would have thought.  I see pictures of myself as a teenager  now, and I am astonished that I am not the hideous person some of my classmates told me I was.  I was not slender, but I was strong and well-built.
**My experiences as a large pregnant woman were particularly horrible.  The treatment I received from clerks in maternity stores was humiliating.
***And let me say right now: Gabourey, you and Melissa McCarthy are heroes.

Movies I need to see...

After watching the Oscars, I need to see...

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (both versions)
War Horse
The Iron Lady
The Descendants
Plus the live-action and documentary shorts (I saw the animated shorts last week)

I have seen two of the performances that won acting awards (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress), as well as Best Picture/Director/Original Screenplay.

I actually saw over half the Best Picture nominees this year -- the first time that has happened since 2007. I adored Midnight in Paris.  I loved Hugo, The Artist (even if I did fall asleep for part of it) and Moneyball.  I liked The Help.  In spite of the nominations it received, I have absolutely no interest in seeing Tree of Life.

Also, Penelope Cruz is too beautiful for words.

Just like Gonzo.

Having seen his Grammy 2011 performance (with its Elton John homage), and his work on The Voice [Edited to add; especially his asides with his fluffy white cat], I have come to the conclusion that...

Cee Lo Green is a Muppet. No other explanation makes sense.

[Edited to add: I think this is a great thing. I think Elton John is a Muppet in disguise, too, for that matter. And John Denver was totally a Muppet.]

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Links! Get your hot links here!

I would like to make a post about each of them, but lately I have a) been sort of pre-occupied with other things and so not posting a lot of substance, and b) working on three long and substantive posts that just keep growing more and more intricate and because in one case I  worry about how they will be received (not personal info, just opinions that make me uncomfortable) I keep postponing publishing.

So some links:

I have long been a vocal opponent of "anti-vaxers."  This story of a little girl who nearly died from pertussis is a great example of why.


For those who are concerned about Google's new privacy policy,* the good folks at EFF have tips on how to reduce its impact.  This link also includes links on how to cut down on your accessibility online.

Speaking of privacy, the way in which marketers gather and use the information about what you buy is really scary, when Target can find out you are pregnant before your family does. [Very long, but very worthwhile reading.  Also includes information on how the neurology of habits which I found fascinating.  The pregnant teen story is on page seven, if you are only interested in that.]

A couple of links about Christianity:

From Abilene Christian University's Professor of Psychology Richard Beck, "Bait and Switch Afflicts Contemporary Christian Society". **

From, "Ten Thing I Wish the Church Knew About Homosexuality."  I actually think the church** knows these things -- they've been told often enough -- they simply ignore them.


And, on a lighter note: "The REAL Personality Types." They have me pegged.  Exactly.  And, for the record, I just want to say that Friends IS a really, really stupid television show.  Not too familiar with Anais Nin, though.


*A good friend at lunch yesterday mentioned that people were aghast that she was not more concerned about privacy issues, given that she was a sysadmin and general computer geek. "That's because I simply assume I have no privacy anymore," she said frankly. I was horrified, but upon reflection decided that she was probably right, which horrified me even more. I have always assumed I was too small a minnow to attract anyone's attention, but the News International scandal in Britain made it plain how easy it is for unscrupulous individuals and organizations to get access to your private information.  People become objects of interest through no action of their own, such as having a child murdered or having a spectacular incident involving a celebrity.

**It is a mistake to talk about Christianity and "the church" as though it were a monolithic whole.  While it certainly has its very conservative faction, mainstream Episcopalianism holds far different views than Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics on a whole host of Scriptural and social issues.  (This would be different than the Anglican Communion outside the US, which, other than a few outliers (New Zealand, South Africa) is very conservative, especially on the issue of sexual orientation.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

My, we're hostile.

Lately, my song has been Cee Lo's "F*** You" or its clean remake "Forget You," which makes up in acceptability to be played in the car loudly what it loses in cathartic power. Although the specifics don't match up to anything currently going on for me, something in it emotionally does.

I am trying to figure out who it is that I am so completely pissed off at.  There are a whole lot of candidates, starting with the Republican presidential field, all the way down to my children.

No, you're not on the list.  Probably.  Maybe.

Consistency is not a bad thing.

I have been thinking a lot about privacy lately.  I have a very lengthy post on the subject which I periodically return to, spawned in part by the privacy symposium I went to, the changes in Google's Privacy Policy coming on line March 1, and a couple of incidents lately which make me uncomfortable.

So... I was thinking of my my "Determined, much?" post.  I am collecting information that is really not much use to me, for the purpose of collecting information.  Yes, for the most part it is almost completely anonymous, but still...  There is an element of privacy invasion, even at a very low level. This makes me uncomfortable.

I decided I needed to delete my Sitemeter account.  If you look at the bottom of the sidebar, you will no longer see the small Sitemeter logo.*

I don't write for an audience.  I know I have one, because I hear from people.  I don't need to know who they are, unless they choose to reveal themselves.**

*I still have access to Blogger statistics, but those are very general -- they do not identify even part IP addresses, for example. They really are just numbers.  And if me having even that low level of data bothers you, I suggest you sign up for the RSS feed or follow using Google Reader.
**That said, it would be nice to get comments, she says wistfully.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why couldn't it have been someone a little more respectable?

The Rocket Scientist is heavily into genealogy.  I actually think this is great; somebody needs to do it, and I have neither the inclination nor the patience.  This week's tidbit? That he (and by extension, the kids) are distantly related to Jesse James.  (Third cousin four times removed, I think.)

I think it says a lot that the Red-Headed Menace is more excited about this than any other genealogical discovery, even more than that they were very distantly related to Elizabeth I of England. (Second cousin, thirteen times removed.)  As the Rocket Scientist observed, outlaws count for a lot more than queens.

Determined, much? Why?

Sitemeter offers various information about the people who visit this site.  Since I refuse to shell out the money to get the Premium Service, the information is very general (i.e., it gives a location of the server you're using -- not your location! -- but not individual IP addresses*).  (I don't want to know individual IP addresses. I would find that creepy.  I even feel vaguely guilty about the location, except that I know other blogs collect this information. And because I confess to being curious about where my readers are.)  And while it is mildly amusing to know that someone from Manchester UK read a post, generally it is not much use, except as a rough approximation of traffic.  (Even then, it does not take into account Google Reader and RSS and Livejournal readers. I have no idea at all how many people read my through those means.)  In light of its limited usefulness, I keep planning to get rid of it altogether, but I haven't bothered to yet.

One of the few occasionally interesting pieces of data is what search terms people are using to end up here.  That is how I am able to know, for example, that most of the traffic on this blog comes from people Googling "children ardent for some desperate glory." By far.  So much so that I am the second hit for that phrase. Part of me is disheartened that it is not my writing drawing people here, but more of me is delighted that I can introduce people to Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est."

Somebody today Googled the words "gay 'pat greene'".  The only reason I found this at all intriguing was that I wondered how far down in the search results I would end up.

The fourth page.  Halfway down.  So what I am curious to know -- what was this person looking for?  Me? Probably not.  But they were so determined they waded through four pages of Google search -- hell, the most I ever look through is three.

Well, I hope you found what you were looking for.  Unless you were looking to do harm to whichever Pat Greene you were seeking, to out them, to damage their reputation, or their relationships with their family, their friends, their church.

In which case, not only do I hope you fail to find it out, you can go to hell.  When you get there, say Pat Greene suggested you drop in.

*There is only one case in which the server will tell me who you are:  if it is a large corporate or educational server, and I only know one person at said institution or corporation.  (For example, will tell me bupkiss, because I know too many people there, and too many people who find themselves there who use the Stanford wireless as a guest.) This applies to exactly two people I know read me with some regularity, and one who occasionally drops in.  They are all friends who have told me separately that they read my blog. Oh, and the Rocket Scientist occasionally checks in from, but that doesn't count. Even then, at one point, when I knew more people at the agency, that would not tell me who was reading me.)

Oblivion? No, not really.

Remember that empirical test I did about whether a post deleted in Blogger would be deleted in Google Reader?  I decided to take it to the logical conclusion, and see how far back Google Reader went.  After all, at some point things have to drop off, right?

By dint of scrolling for half an hour, I got to the bottom of the posts contained in Google Reader: they went back to the beginning of 2008.  Four years and two months of posts, 564 in all.  At least three of them were significant posts that I deleted from my blog. 

So yes, you can get rid of embarrassing posts.  It only takes four years.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

You're just trying to flatter me. Stop it.

The Rocket Scientist is not particularly enthralled with my new music. He really did not like Cee Lo’s “F*** You,”* and was only slightly more interested in the bowdlerized version. He liked Adele okay, but did not seem to be as smitten with her as I am. He liked “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert the first six or so times he heard it, but then wondered aloud rather snarkily if it was becoming an anthem for me, and was I trying to send a message? He thought Mumford & Sons' “Roll Away Your Stone” was depressing, although he agreed with me about the banjo.

 “Okay, you might like this one,” I said, playing “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. He smiled. “That's great. I know what that’s like.I deal with that all the time.”

Yeah, right. I have to stop rolling my eyes; I don’t want them to stick this way.  

*The man very rarely swears. He is consequently married to me, who swears like…. fill in whatever noun you like here. The sailors I have worked with frown terribly on “swears like a sailor.” In the short time I was an attorney, the blue streaks were all coming from the litigation side of the office, so when the sailor objected, I switched to “swears like a litigator.” The one litigator I told that to seemed distinctly unamused. So, I swear like… whatever. An Australian, maybe.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nonjustifiable violence.

I haven't been listening to a lot of country songs in the past few years, so have missed a lot of music I might have otherwise enjoyed.  I wrote in the last post about Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead."  I like this song.  I find songs about strong women very appealing.

It's not as if there is no precedent.  Martina McBride dealt seriously with the issue of domestic violence in "Independence Day."  It was a somber song, told from the point of view of the girl orphaned by her mother burning the house down with her and her abusive husband within.  There is no justification, just sadness and understanding. "I'm not saying it's right or it's wrong, but maybe it's the only way," McBride sings.  There was no outcry from country music listeners -- the woman dies in the process of killing her abuser.  Murder-suicide is okay.

And then there was "Goodbye, Earl."  The Dixie Chicks blew up a tornado of controversy when they released this lighthearted ode to killing a guy who "walked right through that restraining order, and put [his wife] in intensive care."  Many people were outraged; the song was banned from a lot of stations, and those that did play it often followed it with a PSA and the number of the battered woman's helpline. (Not that this was necessarily a bad thing.)  You see, in this song, the women killed the abuser and got away with it. They weren't punished.

"Goodbye, Earl" is a recognition of the way that the system often fails victims of abuse.  And it celebrates women who refuse to take it, who act in their own self-defense.  Because that is what these songs are about, self-defense. (The Rocket Scientist, when he first heard "Gunpowder and Lead," far from condemning the woman in the song, speculated on whether she was using buckshot or slugs, and which would be more effective.) I would bet that any man sitting in house fending off an attack from someone who has assaulted him before and whom the victim had every expectation would try to hurt him again (as in "Gunpowder and Lead") wouldn't even be charged -- at least probably not in Texas, which is where Lambert hails from.

I have no problem with these songs.

I do, however, have a big problem with Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats."

For those of you who have not heard this little gem, it is told from the perspective of a woman who is outraged that her boyfriend is in a honky-tonk, and who believes he is going to cheat on her.  Note: she doesn't actually know that he is cheating on her:

Right now he's probably slow dancing
With a bleached-blond tramp
And she's probably getting frisky
Right now, he's probably buying
Her some fruity little drink
'Cause she can't shoot whiskey
[emphasis added]

So, in the face of his potential infidelity, what does she do?
I dug my key into the side
Of his pretty little souped-up 4 wheel drive
Carved my name into his leather seat
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights
Slashed a hole in all 4 tires
And maybe next time he'll think before he cheats
This is not empowerment.  This is violence. Admittedly, it is violence against property not a person, but it still violence intended to send a message.  A chilling message.  While she may simply intend this to be revenge, and she is going to walk away from the relationship, her boyfriend would be quite justified in wondering if the next time she would be taking a Louisville Slugger to his head.

If a man did this, he would be seen as a potential abuser.  No one would find it light-hearted.  Women's groups would be speaking out, as well they should.  In this case, men's groups (who often take positions I disagree with) are screaming, as well they should be.

Abuse is abuse.  Violence is violence. The gender of the victim is totally irrelevant.While the statistics on sexual abuse indicate that women are the victim of sexual abuse much more often than men, the stats about domestic violence are much, much more even.* The Resident Shrink says that in her practice victims of domestic violence are evenly split along gender lines.

People make Tiger Woods jokes.  They don't make Rihanna jokes, for the very reason that domestic abuse is a serious topic, and beating up women is not acceptable.

But it is -- or should be -- no more acceptable to attack your husband with a nine-iron than it is to slap your girlfriend.  It is no more acceptable for a woman to terrorize a man by destroying his car, than it would be for a man to do likewise. Such abuse should never be celebrated in song, as though it were trivial and worse yet, deserved. Infidelity, real or imagined, should result in breaking up at the most, not violence on one side and terror on the other.

Men deserve to have their pain treated with the seriousness it calls for.  Women deserve being treated like adults, to be called to account for the injuries they do to others.

Pain -- and accountability -- do not recognize gender.  In this case, neither should we.

*And this is not even to address the problem of women to women domestic violence, or man to man.  Just as domestic violence often knows no gender, neither does it know sexual orientation.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

QOTD: and you thought those Southern ladies were pushovers.

At a recent concert, Miranda Lambert held up a sign made by a fan which read "Take notes, Chris Brown" just before she launched into "Gunpowder & Lead." The song is about a woman waiting on her porch with a gun for her abusive boyfriend to show up.

“I’ve been in a world of hurt with Chris Brown fans lately … but see, I just have to speak my mind because where I come from, beating up on a woman is never okay... So that’s why my daddy taught me early on in life how to use a shotgun.”

Another new song. Heh.

I have been living in a cave for quite a while:  I just discovered Cee Lo Green's "F*** You."  I am in love.

I am sitting in the public library with my head phones, and grinning ear to ear and tapping my foot.  I can't help it. I am desperately trying to keep my shoulders from dancing.  This thing is great. And it is not like any of us have ever felt this way.  Nope.  Not at all.

For such a bitter lyric, this is really a very cheerful song.  I should probably not play it around the house, though -- I am trying to get my kids to stop swearing.  Heh.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Music of the soul.

Darkness is a harsh term don't you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek

"Roll Away Your Stone," Mumford and Sons.

So, you buy the new music.  You listen with one ear and half your brain, thinking "that's really nice" for Bruno Mars "Just the Way You Are," or "interesting -- sort of a country/rap hybrid" for Jason Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem." And you work your way down the "Purchased" playlist, sipping your mocha and procrastinating on emailing the Rick Steve's people. And then...

A song comes on.  After the first verse, you quickly go to iTunes, and restart it, listening closely. After the song is done, you replay it, and go online to find the lyrics and read along with the music.  And you breathe deeply and marvel at the universality of the human experience, that someone on another continent could write a song that so closely fits into your soul.

I did not write "Roll Away Your Stone." Marcus Mumford did.  But damn....

I cannot say I would have written it if I were a songwriter.  I don't think I would have had the emotional honesty to do so. But I am very glad he did.

The great banjo work is mere lagniappe.

Curioser and curioser

I have a very small* readership.  Looking at my Blogger stats, most of my posts get, oh, 10-12 hits the week after they are posted.**  If it is an important post they can get a few times that over a month.  But there is one post that has gotten a lot of hits for no reason whatsoever I can think of.

"The reason for the last post" has gotten 86 hits in two weeks.  All that post contains is an explanation of how posts deleted on Blogger still show up on Google Reader. I was testing a statement made by a panelist at a privacy symposium.

I just can't understand what the interest is.

*but exclusive, intelligent and sophisticated
**There are quite a number of people who have told me that they read WWF on Google Reader, LiveJournal and the RSS Feed.  What  those numbers are I have no real idea. The Blogger stats mainly tell me what posts spark interest, and a very vague idea of how much traffic I am getting.  Adjusting for traffic from spam sites, readership has been slowly growing over the past year., which pleases me.  Not that I am doing much to actually advertise the blog: I only rarely post links from here to Facebook, for example.

Salt for thought.

Today the Starbucks I was at was out of sea salt for the salted caramel mocha.  I was annoyed at this, but mostly because I had paid for a SCM, and was only handed a caramel mocha.  I complained about this, and was told "We didn't know we were out of salt when you ordered."  That was it.  No offer to make me anything else, no card for another drink another time. Definitely lacking in the service department.

I thought of going to the Starbucks website and complaining.  But the thought that is keeping from doing so is this: I rarely go to their website to report when I have exceptional service, so is it really fair to go simply to complain?

Yet another coffee conundrum.*

*The primary one being, if you view buying drinks as effectively "renting" space at one of their tables, how frequently should you buy drinks?  My current view is about one every 60-90 minutes, slightly less frequently if you get food. Less frequently as well if the place is not very crowded, or if you are at a trestle table with five other laptop users.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


In my "Beautiful, again" post I identified "obsessive pursuit of given objectives" to be a flaw.  I never meant this to be work or art objectives.  I meant things like... 1000km through Bavaria in a day.  Going from St. Louis to Chicago through Iowa for no other reason than to say we've been to Iowa. Visiting all the missions between here and LA (or as many as humanly possible) on one trip....

Wait, that was my idea.*


*And let's not forget the Great Barney Hunt of Christmas, 1992, or The Search For Optimus Prime of Christmas, 2006.** Or the "let's find a laser pointer in Amsterdam" fiasco (they're illegal in the Netherlands). All of these were my fault.

**The first of these involved calling or going to every toy store in the Metro D.C. area, and being put on numerous waiting lists and finally getting one on December 23 only because someone else failed to get to the toy store at Tyson's Corner between 11:00 a.m. and noon to pick theirs up.  Because I started late, Optimus Prime required calling toy stores in four counties (Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, and part of Alameda), only to find them the day before Christmas at... the Target a mile from our house. They had got a late shipment in, and because they were trying to unload them, they had them 10% off.  A toy store in San Francisco wanted double the price for the damned thing.  I refused, and kept calling.  I don't know what became of good old O.P., but we had the Barney for years and years after the kids had outgrown it because I could not bear to part with a toy I had gone to so much trouble for.

We're bad, we're bad, we're bad

There is nothing like getting up early so your kid can carmelize the sugar on the tops of the creme brulee he is taking in to school for his French class. The hardest part is getting said kid awake enough that you trust him with the blow-torch.

We're not talking about some cutesy, namby-pamby little kitchen torch here, either.  It is a full-size portable Benzomatic Burnzamatic* propane torch.  The  uses listed on the side include soldering copper, loosening frozen bolts, and putting up lead gutters.  Not a single word about creme brulee.

We're a tough crew, here.  At least when it comes to custard-based desserts with crunchy sugar on top.

*Seriously.  Thanks to the Rocket Scientist for the clarification.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Virginia legislature has once again shown that they have no respect for the dignity of women.

Make no mistake, transvaginal ultrasound is an invasive procedure.  To have it done because there is a suspicion of ovarian, uterine, or cervical cancer is one thing.  To force it to be done for no other reason than to get a  higher resolution picture of a fetus than is otherwise possible, on a woman who does not want this procedure, is ... words fail me.*

Add to this the pending "personhood" law, and once again I am glad I do not live in Virginia and (ashamedly) that I do not have daughters. Fortunately, there is an exception for women who have miscarriages. But even if it just means that women (those who are able to) will have to go elsewhere to get reliable contraception,** at its heart this is a simple declaration that women do not count, except as incubators for children.  And that some of those children only count as incubators, too.

Yes, I am pretty sure that if it made it to the Supreme Court, it would be overturned. That makes it no less reprehensible, and those who vote to pass it no less dangerous to women.

*Someone on Facebook commented that if it were done by anyone else, it would be rape by foreign object. That seems about right to me.
**And even then, does this mean that police can search women and confiscate their pills? And what about women who are only visiting the state?

This is me, patting myself on the back.

[This is my exercise in self-esteem.  Please feel free to ignore.]

My job coach told me to take time to appreciate myself.  In that spirit, I decided to reread my last two weeks of posts as though they were written by someone else.

I discovered that, although the writing was uneven, on the whole it was fairly good.  More importantly, I've decided that if the person writing this blog were someone else, I'd like to meet them in person because they seem interesting and amusing.

Maybe I should ask myself out to coffee.

Beautiful, again.

After my post the other night, "Pretty and Beautiful," I have been trying to tease out what I find beautiful.

Uniqueness.  The late great Amy Winehouse was beautiful in spite of all of her issues because she always came across as unabashedly her totally-unlike-anyone-else self. Uniqueness is not always beautiful (there is also unique horror, and unique evil), but it goes a long way.

Humor. Many of the people in my life whom I consider beautiful (male and female) have active senses of humor. As Jessica Rabbit said about Roger, I love them because they make me laugh. There is a particular type of humor that appeals to me: sly, intelligent, occasionally self-deprecating, and aware of the absurdities of the world.  These people understand -- and appreciate -- irony.*

Compassion, gentleness, warmth, intelligence, curiosity, critical thinking skills, fierce determination, emotional strength... the beautiful people I know have most (or all) of these.  Not all the time, but enough that I cannot help but notice and admire them. Not that they are perfect: perfect people are not interesting.  They have flaws ranging from insecurity to obsessive pursuit of given objectives** to anal retentiveness to flightiness to a tendency toward crankiness to occasional "fluffiness." I am willing to overlook these, as they overlook my insane disorganization, inability to follow through, and almost pathological self-doubt.

I am also a sucker for people who write well.*** Staunch insistence on proper grammar and adamant refusal to use "leet speak," or whatever the abomination so many people use in texting or IM is called, makes my pulse beat a little faster.  I am also captivated by creativity, by the ability to take nothingness -- paint, light, metal, ideas -- and turn it into art.

Beautiful people know that the world is a complicated place, while understanding that there are things on which compromise is not possible.  They are willing to recognize -- and more importantly, admit --when they are wrong.

Note: not politics or social views.  The beautiful people in my life range all along the political spectrum.****  I don't think all of them are right on everything, but then again, they think I'm dead wrong on some things, too. They like me anyway, as I do them.

Because they have so many of these characteristics, I have a feeling that the beautiful people in my life would enjoy talking to each other.  (Once all of them that are shy got comfortable.)  I keep having fantasies that they could be drawn together in one room.  (Preferably playing "Apples to Apples.")

I think it would be a simply amazing party.

A beautiful party.

*That would be irony in the true sense, not in the Alanis Morrisette sense.
**See "Clarification."
***On the purely physical side (because like every one else I occasionally can be shallow that way), I find I have a pronounced weakness for people with blue eyes or a Southern accent, or both.  
****I have to confess that a few people I heretofore had thought of as beautiful became Tea Partiers and birthers in the past few years, and they dropped off the list.  I do not have trouble with conservatism per se -- I have some self-identified conservatives on that list -- as long as there is a minimum level of intelligent thought behind it.  The birthers and Tea Partiers don't pass that test.  I still love these people, but I tend to view them with sad bewilderment.

No. Just no. And don't call me "sugar," either.

Dear barista:

I am not your "dear."  I only see you on those rare occasions that your work schedule and my visits to this particular Starbucks (which is neither of my usual ones) coincide. It's bad enough that you ask for my first name* just for the privilege of getting my overpriced coffee, but this level of familiarity is completely unacceptable.

The only service people who get to call me "dear," or "hon," or any other cutesy honorific, are either a) the barista at the Starbucks I do go to most of the time with whom I actually have real conversations occasionally or b) waitresses at greasy spoon diners in the South, preferably if they are older than me, and that simply because it is more or less traditional.

I bet you would be seriously displeased if I called you "sweetie."

A disgruntled customer.

*And don't think I have not thought of giving "Ms. Greene" as my name for that.

What do you mean, this isn't a federal holiday?

Happy "50% off all chocolate in red heart-shaped boxes" Day.*

*No, this joke is not original to me.  I first heard it years ago on LiveJournal. I've never claimed to be all that original.
I have not watched the Grammys in years. By some odd chance I ended up watching on Sunday night, and it made me regret that I had gotten out of the habit. I ended up listening to the nominees and performers on iTunes, and I picked up some new music. 

Bands such as Mumford & Sons, which I had heard of but had never heard, are now on my laptop. I had already been introduced to Adele, but her performance on the show was incendiary. * There was Dave Grohl, whom I have decided I am in love with, after his speech about music when the Foo Fighters won Best Rock Album for Wasting Light. I had already had some Foo Fighters, but not this one. (“Learn to Fly” pops up on a lot of my playlists, and I am positive “Walk” will, likewise.) 

After checking them out, I am not impressed by Bon Iver. Nicki Minaj’s Exorcist-inspired numbered was simply unfathomable. I may be a simple creature, but I prefer my music unburdened by ridiculous storylines (unless it is a musical). If she was trying to be shocking, she was treading ground well-tilled by Madonna years ago with “Like a Prayer.” I still do not get the attraction of Katy Perry. Jennifer Hudson singing “I Will Always Love You” in tribute to Whitney Houston was moving. 

It was lovely to see that Brian Wilson’s voice is still intact after all these years, even if Mike Love’s isn’t. And while I loved Sir Paul doing the tail end of the song-cycle from Abbey Road** the multiplicity of guitar solos was excessive. While I like the work of each guitarist, giving them what seemed like more time than the rest of the number was altogether too much. I found myself saying “enough already!” 

So now I have new Foo Fighters, and some Mumford & Sons, and am looking to maybe getting some Civil Wars and Lady Antebellum. And the Amy Winehouse/Tony Bennett duet,*** which again I had heard of but not heard. 

 New music is good. Coming out of stagnation is even better. 

* She did as good a job turning a failed relationship into music as Alanis Morissette did with Jagged Little Pill and “You Oughta Know.” 
**I used to sing “Golden Slumbers” to my sons when they were infants. 
*** Carrie Underwood needs to learn not to sing over her partner – especially not one as iconic as Bennett.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

PETA does it again.

I can't tell whether to be amused or infuriated by PETA's latest legal manuever:  they have filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Diego claiming that the orcas at Sea World are being held in violation of the 13th Amendment.

That's right.  PETA is arguing that the whales are slaves.  Because, after all, the law doesn't actually state that the Constitution is restricted to one species. "It's a new frontier in civil rights,"Jeff Kerr, PETA's general counsel, was quoted as saying,  “Slavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on race, gender or ethnicity.”

To equate the fate of present day amusement park animals with the plight of millions of enslaved African Americans in the antebellum South is the sort of bizarre thinking that can only come from the people arguing that slaughtering animals for meat is the equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust.  It is -- or would be -- laughable, except that this stupid case will eat up court time, energy and resources that could be better spent on other things.

While I have no sympathy in particular for Sea World, I do feel rather sorry for the District Judge, Jeffrey Miller.  I am looking forward to seeing his ruling on this.  Personally, I think he should decide simply that PETA* doesn't have standing to sue here, but that's mainly because I think it would mess with people's heads.

Undoubtedly, whatever he decides will get appealed.

And perhaps PETA has a point: if a corporation can be a person, why not a cetacean?

*Or any other humans -- only the whales.

Not to mention attracting wildlife.

Red Headed Menace: It was a really interesting exhibit on water usage. Did you know some large percentage of water in this county goes for landscaping? When people could set up systems using captured rains...
Me: Wait, what??!?!?!
RHM: What's wrong?
Me: Oh, wait. I thought you said "brains."
RHM: That would work too, but it would be far less efficient.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is so very very wrong with this picture?

Chris Brown performed at the Grammys tonight.  The local newscast reported that it was the first time he had been at the Grammys since he dropped out of the 2009 show.

Funny.  They did not mention why he had dropped out.

Chris Brown dropped out because he brutally beat his girlfriend, Rihanna.  Somehow, that doesn't seem to matter anymore.   What sort of message does that send to every victim of abuse in this country?

Sasha Pasulka at HelloGiggles answers that question.

Pretty and beautiful.

Taylor Swift is pretty.  Very pretty.  Very pretty in a traditional Hollywood way.  And she sings very well.  She is fresh, and pretty, and her music -- the admittedly small amount I've heard of it -- is full of energy.

I like her work.

Adele is beautiful.  Stunningly beautiful.  She is not merely pretty.  She has presence. She does not look like all the other pretty singers out there. Her music is powerful.

I adore her work.

I don't know how else to explain the difference between the two concepts.
Hey, want to impress your loved ones -- or your loved one's coworkers -- this Valentine's Day? Don't buy chocolate truffles, make them.  This Martha Stewart recipe is a good starting point.*  (There are more difficult recipes out there -- most involve butter.  I like this one because it is, as Alton Brown might say, so gosh-darned easy.) You can adapt it quite nicely by using flavored chocolate, as long as it does not have lumps in it; Cost Plus sells some tasty chipotle chocolate.  And, if you are good at this sort of thing, you can carefully melt some chocolate and dip the truffles in them and coat them with things like very finely chopped crystallized ginger instead of the traditional cocoa.  It scales up and down, as well: the basic recipe is one ounce of heavy cream to two ounces of chocolate, although it is difficult with larger amounts to know exactly how long to let the mixture sit. You can get nice decorative boxes from party stores or craft stores.

So, am I doing this for Valentine's Day? Of course not.  The Rocket Scientist is.

*Let the truffle mixture cool until it is just spreadable, and it makes a wonderful, if rather stiff, icing for chocolate cake.  The Rocket Scientist's favorite cake from me is a dark chocolate cake, with truffle icing made from chocolate with 72% cocoa. The kids don't like it because it isn't sweet enough.  The Rocket Scientist once said it was "a cake for consenting adults."

At some point, did they stop teaching civics in schools?

So, Rick Santorum wants to overturn any decision the Supreme Court makes declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Mr. Santorum, you can't do that.  The Supreme Court gets to decide what's constitutional, you do not.  Now, you can drag your feet and nitpick and try to get similar bans through by narrowing the scope of the ban, but that is a different matter.  Those tactics have a long and dishonorable history, reaching back to Andrew Jackson and his role in Indian removal from tribal lands in the South to foot dragging by the Eisenhower and Kennedy administration regarding segregation to the Bush and Obama regimes' fight over the fate of Guantanamo detainees.

It is quite disturbing that you -- and so many others -- have this bizarre idea that the Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, has anything to do with supporting "the will of the people."  The will of the people is frequently dead wrong, not to mention dangerous: "the people" have been in favor of, among other things, slavery (in the South), segregation (supported more widely than just in the South), and against not only allowing same-sex marriage but interracial marriage .

No, the Bill of Rights does not exist to protect the majority from "judicial tyranny," but to protect the minority from the tyranny of majority opinion.  That so many people misunderstand this simple fact makes me wonder when we stopped teaching about the Constitution in school.

And it does not help that the writer in this case also does not understand the way the Court works.  In non-constitutional matters, Congress can legislatively overturn a Supreme Court decision.  The first bill signed by President Obama upon taking office was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which specifically corrected the Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. The President can push Congress in those cases.

And this idea of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage? It might be successful.  I have lost a lot of faith in my fellow citizens. More than that, I have lost much faith in both Congress and state legislatures to follow the actual will of the people.  According to a 2011 Pew Research Center poll, 46% of Americans support ending bans on same-sex marriage, more than the 44% who favor continuing them. Given the margin of error was 2.5 %, that amounts to a dead heat. However, both the national and state legislatures have shown themselves willing to kowtow to pressure from smaller but very vocal interest groups.

But more to the point, why is this such an issue with you? Contrary to what you and your fellow fundamentalists claim, gays being allowed to marry will have not one bit of significance to your own heterosexual marriage, or those of others. At its heart, this an attempt to force the rest of us to submit to your religious convictions. Which really is against the Constitution, namely the First Amendment.

And if what you say is true, if same-sex marriage really does imperil the sanctity of your own, then your marriage is a weak and easily broken reed.  If that is the case, you had no business getting married in the first place.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What's next? Chutes and Ladders? Twister?

During the Superbowl, NBC showed an ad for the upcoming Battleship movie.  This led to a discussion in my Facebook* about what board game might next be adapted for the screen.  I was proud of my suggestion of "Candyland," deeming it too ridiculous for contemplation.

Guess what? Yep.  I couldn't believe it either. Although if a studio is going to adapt such a stupid idea for a movie, it is only fitting that it star Adam Sandler.  It had to be either him or Rob Schieder.

Good Lord, people.  I was only joking.

Oh, and as even more proof that there are people in Hollywood with less imagination than your average mainframe, at one point Universal was going to make "Ouija."  A friend of mine once suggested "Pong: The Movie," and maybe that would be the natural next step -- backwards.

These movies are product placement taken to their (il)logical extremes.** If that's the case, I would much rather see a full-length movie starring the Coca-Cola polar bears.

*The best use of Facebook, by far, is to liveblog events that you are stuck watching by yourself.  (Nobody in my family likes watching football.)  Thanks to FB, I spent the entire Super Bowl chatting with friends in such disparate places as New Jersey, Sacramento, and San Jose.  It was a blast -- and I intend to do the same thing for the Oscars.  I cordially invite any of my FB friends to join me!
**Actually, the Caveman series a few years ago, starring the Neanderthals from the GEICO commercials, ranks right up there.

Knock-Knock. Who's there? Go away.

Yesterday, I spent the day running around looking for items for a party we were throwing at the house for the Resident Shrink's birthday, and driving to Casa da Fruta to get the specific type of glazed apricots covered in chocolate she likes, and calling game stores and book stores and Judaica stores in a futile attempt to locate "Apples to Apples, the Jewish Edition." (She ended up getting an printout of the game, due to arrive Tuesday.)  The day before I had spent trying to get a VGA cable and VGA-Thunderbolt adapter.* Oh, and going to the Giradhelli factory outlet*** store in San Leandro to get all the chocolate I lost in betting the Resident Shrink's mother on the outcome of the National Conference Championship. (Had the Niners won, I would have gotten Real New York Bagels. Rats.) And my regular Thursday afternoon group.

Last night was the party at our house.  I was actually social for a whole three hours! I am not a party person.  Although I can spend hours on end with people I like and know well, three hours at a party was a stretch, since I was not engaged in a joint project or game.**** (Give me a game -- almost any game -- and I will hang out with even total strangers forever.)

Today was spent in appraiser training for Destination Imagination, a wonderful program for schoolkids that pushes them to exercise creativity and judgment in solving challenges.  One of the best parts is that no one outside the team -- including parents -- can help them.  At all.  Which from a parental standpoint takes a lot of pressure off, only to be replaced with the stress of having to bite your tongue to not say "That thing is never going to fly." Four years ago, when the Red-Headed Menace was in DI,  I volunteered to be an appraiser and chose to be the Timekeeper/Announcer. I have been doing it every year since, even after I ceased to have a kid involved in the program.  Being TKA allows me to indulge the frustrated actor in me, and means I don't actually have to judge anyone. I hang out with the kids beforehand for a few minutes, which is fun, and then present them to the audience.  (I always do the improv challenge.  It is amazing what really bright elementary and middle school kids can come up with in five minutes, given a relatively small amount of information.)

I have been cheerful and charming throughout.  But after all that, I think this t-shirt is very much in order.

*Note to self, before I forget it: You still need to hunt down the HDMI-Thunderbolt adaptor. Try Fry's.** Or the Apple store.
**For those out of the SF Bay Area, Fry's is Geek Nirvana.  Sort of like Radio Shack, only much much bigger and with more annoying commercials. Each store (at least of the original several -- I don't know if it is still true) has a different "theme." I shop at the "Old West" store in Palo Alto -- I seem to recall that the one in Campbell has a "Babylonian" Theme.
***I am still trying to wrap my head around the idea of a chocolate company having an outlet store.  And it's just down the road from the Entemann's Bakery outlet store, which just isn't fair.
 ****Oddly enough, I am fine in a workplace situation, even a work-related social situation such as a coworker's birthday party, perhaps because in those situations there is something to talk about.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mother God

In her blog, Rachel Held Evans reports on a call by John Piper, evangelical pastor, to preserve "masculine Christianity."
...God has given Christianity a masculine feel. And being God, a God of love, He has done that for our maximum flourishing both male and female... He does not intend for women to languish or be frustrated or in any way suffer or fall short of full and lasting joy in this masculine Christianity. From which I infer that the fullest flourishing of women and men takes place in churches and families that have this masculine feel.

Evans calls upon men to answer this, rightly pointing out than women's responses to misogyny tend to be dismissed as the "rants of 'angry feminists'."  She also invites women to participate, of course -- speaking out against one's own marginalization is always a good thing.

So, Reverend Piper, all I have to say, in the words of the Psalmist, is

Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
   my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
   too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
   like a weaned child with its mother;
   my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
   from this time on and for evermore.

Psalm 131 (New Revised Standard Version)

Image of God as mother.  Or is that not too direct for you?*

*Piper would not be the only pastor to have problem with this psalm.  I was once having a discussion about feminist theology with a clergyman of my acquaintance, and he claimed that there were no feminine images of God in the Bible.  I recited this psalm (my favorite, along with 121) to him, and his first question was "what translation are you using?" When I replied "the New Revised Standard," he insisted on seeing it. That was not too difficult, as copies of the NRSV were in back of every seat in the church.

Visioning music.

There is no day so bad that Aaron Copeland's "Appalachian Spring" will not make it better.

I close my eyes, and I am back east, in the Smokies.  I can see the light leaves on the maples and birches budding out stark against the deep green of the pines and firs.  There are dogwoods, too, just beginning to leaf and already in bud.  They will burst out blooming, soon, their pale pink and white flowers presaging the blossoming of the grander wild azaleas and magnolias.

There is Greenbrier, with the barn, and the deer in the mist rising from the meadow in the early evening. And the narrow road we drove down with trees curving overhead like a canopy, where we startled the black bear.  It was a tossup as to who was more frightened; he must have been -- he left first.

There are the trails, forking like Robert Frost's in "The Road Not Taken."  Each heading its own way, but unlike Frost's, with hope of turning and returning, with the prospect of another trail diverging and another adventure just over the ridge.

I can almost smell the clean air and feel the exhilaration of springtime.  Normally, spring is not my favorite season, since summer -- that dreadful time of year -- follows so close upon its heels.  Especially in Georgia, where I lived after college, and where spring lasts all of about two weeks before the heat settles in like an omnipresent oppressive cloud. Summer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is crowded, with the clean air overcome by automobile exhaust.

I am an ocean person, deep down to my core, not a mountain person, but the Smokies in springtime are glorious.  It has been far too many years since I have been there, but "Appalachian Spring" makes me remember what they are like.

That can make any day a little better.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Did you know that "earworm" is the literal translation of the German "ohrwurm"? Now you do!

At any given time, I don't really get an earworm.  I get earworms, plural.  All too often, one tune will chase another around my head like squirrels around a tree.

Sometimes, it starts with something I hear, which for melodic, lyrical, or historical (either mine or the song's) reasons will remind me of something else.  (The absolute worst earworm? Weird Al's "Christmas at Ground Zero" morphing seamlessly into "Jingle Bell Rock.")  Sometimes it's pretty random.

Tonight's earworms come courtesy of the Moody Blues and the band It's A Beautiful Day. "Your Wildest Dreams" drifted into "Tuesday Afternoon" which for no discernible reason flowed into "White Bird."

This led me to buy the latter two songs from iTunes.  iTunes loves it when I get earworms -- half the time I do not own the music in question and am compelled to go out to buy it.  Come to think of it, that's probably how I ended up buying "Heart of Glass" by Blondie.

Aaarrrrgggghhhh. Just writing the name of that song has readjusted the jukebox in my head.

Time to go listen to some Garth Brooks.*

At least it's better than Madonna.

*To my friends who despise country -- you know who you are -- stop snickering.  It's not like I am making you listen to "Friends In Low Places." I like it precisely because it does not tend to get stuck in my head, although "Two Pina Coladas"......aaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Note to self.

Two mugs of coffee plus a Venti Salted Carmel Mocha would be enough to give anyone the shakes, let alone someone who has some tremors to begin with.  What you gain in pure speed in typing (and clarity of thought) you lose in having to go back and correct all the typos from your fingers not hitting the keys accurately in the first place.

Good luck in getting to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight.

That's my boy.

At school, The Red-Headed Menace was asked to describe his personality. He termed himself as being, among other things, "quixotic." Just like his mom.*

*On the whole, he did a good job of describing himself, which if nothing else shows self-awareness.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Closets -- and attics -- can be lonely places.

In his talk at Stanford, Judge Alex Kozinski decried the extent to which so many of us live our lives in public these days.  We have lost a sense of what it means to be private, he mourned.

As examples, he talked about cell phones, and the intimate conversations we are often forced to overhear, and people who blog the most intimate and embarassing facts about themselves and those they know.  There is no sense of propriety anymore, in Kozinski's view.

To some extent he has a point.  With the exception of a my circle of friends, there is no one whose sex life is of any interest to me whatsoever.  Even with those friends, I usually don't want to hear details.  The only sex that has ever mattered to me is that I am involved in, and I am not talking about that in any great detail except to the other party involved. 

But there is another side here.  So much of what we have deemed private we have deemed shameful.  We did not talk about homosexuality, or mental illness, or rape not because there is inherently something private about it, but because to be homosexual was to be an abomination, to be mentally ill was to be a threat or at the very least an embarrassment, and to have been raped meant that to some people you were ruined forever and that it would have been better if you had died. We forced gay Uncle Bob to stay in the closet and crazy Aunt Agatha into a metaphorical attic not because we were protecting their privacy but because we were protecting our standing in the eyes of our neighbors.

Keeping people in closets and attics means to keep them alone.  Being isolated means that you develop a very real sense of just how broken you are, how much you are a lesser human being than those around you. It is soul destroying.

Breaking that "privacy" means reclaiming your humanity.  Breaking that silence is reaching out to others.  You are not alone -- you are never alone.  You are one of God's children, too. You matter.

In this blog, I have written three posts about what many would consider "private" (i.e., shameful) issues. There is another that I have written that I took down.  Aside from the two posts accessed by students looking to finish their term papers, these posts got more traffic than any others.  In the case of the three still up, I have gotten email and other feedback from people saying "Thank you for writing this."  One in particular, dealing with my experiences after the birth of my first son, resulted in women telling me that reading my story gave them the courage to face their own, and to begin to heal. In the case of the post I took down, before I did so it was picked up by a website specializing in the disorder about which I wrote.

I was talked into taking down the one post.  I regret now having done so.  I do not regret the others one bit. They were important: if they helped at least one person say "thank God, there's someone else out there who knows what this is like," then they were well worth whatever potential embarrassment may result.

So yes, many people -- myself included -- are airing private matters in public.  We have let the world know that being gay does not make you a bad person, that being mentally ill does not mean you are not worth loving, that having survived being raped means that you are stronger than you understand.  We forgo that privacy, we shatter that silence, we open those closet and attic doors, in order to be recognized and accepted as full human beings.

We speak of these things, as hard as it as, so that we are no longer alone and invisible.  We speak of these things so that others will know that they are not alone, and that they need not be invisible.

We speak, so that we and others may live in the sunlight rather than the dark closets and shadowed attics.

We speak, so that we may live.

Covering myself.

I am sitting in my favorite Starbucks, with Joni Mitchell playing in the background, trying to say good things about myself.  It's very hard.  I have finally gotten the hang of tweaking my resume for individual openings.  It's this cover letter that is driving me nuts. Selling myself is hard, and when I try it comes out sounding forced and stiff.

There are very few jobs that I am an *exact* match for.  That does not mean I would not be good in that job.  The position I am applying for is a case in point:  they want someone who can manage projects.  Check, did that at PAL.  They want someone who can multi-task.  Check, aside from having to do that at every job I have ever held, I was a stay at home mother -- multi-tasking is what we do.  They want someone who can analyze, write and present ideas clearly and concisely.  I think that speaks for itself, at least to those of you reading this.*  A problem solver and quick learner.  Check and check -- a  boss of mine once described me as her "utility infielder": throw a problem to me and I take care of it.  Can work independently or as part of a team.  Check, just ask the people at PAL, the Census, or Kara. Sensitivity to persons with mental health, developmental and other disabilities and/or past community service work.  Check and check -- I can handle people in crisis with tact and sensitivity, as I have to do when I answer client request calls at Kara.

But they also want....

Access.  I have had a one week introductory course in Access a year and a half ago, and remember none of it.  I have had more recent exposure to Exceed, a similar piece of software for donor tracking, but even that has been pretty limited in scope.  But I have a lot of experience with learning online databases: at PAL, I used two, at the Census, I had to learn two,** and at Kara I have had to learn three.  I learn quickly, and am very comfortable with reading manuals and learning on the fly.  I am positive that I can learn Access tolerably well in a few weeks, especially if I read manuals on my own time outside of work, which I would probably do.

They would prefer someone who is fluent in Spanish or Vietnamese.  That is the only part of their qualifications that not only do I not have, I have no hope of attaining, at least in the short term.  They state it as a preference, however, not a requirement.

I would be good at this job.  I can see myself doing it.  From their description, it sounds like a job that I can grown into and can grow with me.  I am sure that I can do this, and most likely do it very well.

I just wish I could explain that in this stupid letter.

*Okay, so maybe not so much the "concise" part.  I'm working on it.
**One of them was the regular Census database, the other was a database so confidential that if you left your desk with it running (even if it was not up and visible), you would get fired.  You could find out a scary amount of information from it: during training, we were only allowed to use ourselves (not even our spouses) as test queries.  My record included the address of my sister-in-law.  There was no real temptation to use it for nefarious purposes: our use was tracked, and looking for information on people we were not instructed to would result not only in termination but possibly prosecution.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

New word to hate.

At the privacy symposium I went to, I heard a word I had never heard before.  It goes on my list of words I absolutely detest for aesthetic reasons, along with polyamory and gifted (as a verb).  That word is ....

"Monetize."  As in "You found a way to monetize your information."*


I guess it's not enough any more to say things like "Did you find a way to turn a profit on this?"  I am all for using fewer words, but this one is simply ridiculous.

*Actual quote from a discussion about drones and privacy.

What you can find at .gov, if you look hard enough

Proof that the people at the Copyright Office have a sense of humor:

How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. Or, go to the Copyright Office website, fill in Form CO, print it, and mail it together with your photo and fee. For more information on registration a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph. 

From What Does Copyright Protect?*

[Edited to add: upon further reflection, I wonder if this was actual query received in the Copyright Office.  I know that in my time at the Census, we kept a board with the most bizarre things people said to the enumerators (without any personal information, of course).  I expect most customer service people have something similar, if only in their head.]

*I was looking at this to see if I could find out what it means in the U.S. for architectural works to be copyrighted. I wimped out and resorted to using Wikipedia instead.  This came about because I was looking for pictures of Paris, and there was a note in WikiMedia: "Photographs taken of buildings located in France can only be uploaded to Commons if the copyright on the building has expired, because the Copyright Law of France forbids the publication or commercial use of photographs taken of copyrighted buildings. The copyright term in France for buildings is the lifetime of the architect + 70 years + the end of the calendar year." In the PowerPoint presentations I'm preparing,  I was only planning to use a picture of one recent building (Centre Pompidou).  It is a spectacularly ugly building (at least until you get used to it) so leaving it out won't be that great a loss.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Quotes of the day, and an analogy

From Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

"In this Twitter world, having law enforcement monitoring you just increases your fan base."

"People these days often shout so loudly on their phones that using the phone almost seems superfluous." 

About an episode of Jerry Springer he watched,  [it used to be] "Cheating was a foible, and cheating with one's wife's sister would be in bad taste, to say the least."

Also, talking about a woman who blogged about a man with whom she had sex, "...we learned that he likes spanking. Who doesn't?"

Of course, he also said some things about bloggers. : "Bloggers are the type of people who wake up in the morning thinking that the world waits for their every thought. I know I've offended at least half of you... They put their every thought out there: full-baked, half-baked, and frequently unbaked."*


And the analogy, from a friend of mine: our intellects and our ambitions are like a mountain.  Some of us are used to going to or being at the top.  We identify ourselves by the small amount at the top of the mountain that we reach that others may not.  When we fall short of that mountaintop, we identify ourselves by the amount we fall short rather than the totality of the rest of the mountain.

*There is a blog post (yeah, I know) just waiting to be written about the concurrent rise of blogging and reduction in social interaction, and how people talking about things that were "too private" is not necessarily a bad thing.

The reason for that last post

I am attending a symposium on privacy, as I said a couple of posts ago.  In one of the sessions, a panelist (I can't remember his name without looking it up, except that it was not Eugene Volokh) was discussing the new European privacy laws.  He talked about the underpinning being "the right to be forgotten."

He then said that Facebook and Google already had mechanisms which would allow you to take down embarrassing information that you placed on the web yourself.

No.  At least, not in the case of Blogger blogs.

In the last post, I was testing whether I could take down a post and have it disappear from Google Reader.  I already knew the answer; I was doublechecking that I was right. [Edited to add: D'oh! If you are  reading this on my blog, as opposed to Google Reader, you can't see the last post because I deleted it.]

Occasionally there is a post I think better of later, usually because I was posting late at night and my judgment was impaired.  Or because in retrospect I felt the post was whiny.  Or because I had decided not to publish it (but still wanted to keep the piece of writing) but had hit the "Publish" button rather than the "Save" button. I have tried to remove them to no avail.

Once something is on Google Reader, it is there forever.  I have read other complaints about this from other bloggers on the Blogger forums.  The explanation I have seen given is that it is an RSS feed and once something is out there, it is out there.  I do understand about RSS feeds -- I set up the RSS feed for LiveJournal to access.

But if it is an RSS feed, how come I can edit posts?  I can't edit the posts that have been picked up by the regular RSS feed, but I can and have it show up in Google Reader.  It may be that there is some process by which one can write to Google and get them to delete posts, but I have yet to see it. [Edited to add: the test post did not appear on LiveJournal, which uses an RSS feed.]

I'm not arguing one way or another about the European policy privacy, or privacy in general, simply making an empirical observation.

I think I like this guy.

Mandy Patinkin says his favorite drug is Viagra.

[Predictably, and perhaps sadly, the comments have been overrun by Princess Bride references.  Okay, so he was Inigo Montoya.  Give it a rest, already.]

Rightful places.

[Written last night by hand. And yes, I do put footnotes in my handwritten drafts.  I live for footnotes -- or haven't you noticed? I'm weird that way.]

Sad to say, there are not a lot of things which will draw me out of my hermitage (other than spending time with actual friends).  My social anxiety -- bordering on mild agoraphobia -- has become too acute.  I'm working on overcoming it.

One of those things, however, would be "The Privacy Paradox: Privacy and Its Conflicting Values," a day and a half symposium at Stanford Law School.  The first session covers drones, which are interesting, but for me the meat of the symposium is tomorrow, with discussions on medical records and privacy; data gathering and politics; and privacy, tort law and the first amendment.

This is why I am sitting one of the large classrooms in the law school.  I know no one here; I cannot figure out if this is a bug or a feature.

I am trying to appear invisible.  Maybe that's why I wore all black. On the other hand, on a whim  I wore my most outrageous earrings, red chandeliers with drops that fall almost to my shoulders.  They were my effort to reclaim my unique sense of self.  They were to give me courage.

They're not working.

Returning to Stanford Law School is always am emotionally fraught experience for me.*  I am proud I went here:  a degree from Stanford, in any discipline, is most decidedly not chopped liver.

Yet that pride competes with a vague shame, a sense of failure for the direction my life moved in that I did not use my degree much.  I feel like I've let the side down, so to speak.**

This symposium, which covers so many areas of interest for me (medical records privacy! data gathering! politics! the First Amendent!) is one of the few things to overcome my reluctance to revisit what actually was a very good place for me. I learned a lot here, and not just law.  I learned a way of thinking and being in the world.  Regardless of where I went after, this place changed me, for the good. I need to get back here more often, if for no other reason than to remind myself that, yes, regardless of whatever I have done with my life, I am intelligent enough to have belonged here once.  To belong here today.

*There is also a more defined sense of panic.  The last time I was in this specific classroom I was taking Tax, a class in which I did not do particularly well (I ended up taking it pass/fail, if memory serves) and which I hated every minute of, Professor Bankman's skill as a teacher notwithstanding.  I have to keep reminding myself that I also took Evidence in this room, which I loved and in which I got an A.

** I feel the same way about Wellesley.  My alma mater is also the alma mater of secretaries of state, astronauts, high-profile journalists, and Miss Manners.  Had the Democratic primaries gone differently in 2008, it would have been the alma mater of the first woman President of the United States. (It was also the alma mater of the best teacher my sons had in middle school.) It's a heady thing to live up to. 
Yes, I changed the design. Hope you like it.  In case you didn't notice, the background is the picture I posted in "Understanding Vincent."

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Shopping local

There is a new grocery store in my area.  It is a Fresh & Easy, part of a chain that, if memory serves, began in Britain.  I love this place.

It is small, about only 2/3 the size of the nearest Safeway, and probably 1/4 of the mega-Safeway they are building a couple of miles away.  The produce tends to come pre-bagged, but all the produce I have gotten so far has been of good quality.  Their pre-made meals are tasty, and they have a number of in-house products that far and away beat other store brands. (Everyone in my house loves their pre-made puddings.)  They also, amusingly, have some British goods as well.  Their prices are comparable -- or lower than -- Safeway's, and their milk prices are lower than Costco's.

We can't get quite everything there: we still do a lot of bulk purchases at Costco (teenage boys? "Plague of locusts?") and Fresh & Easy doesn't carry unscented cat litter, which is a must in our house because the scented varieties give me migraines. Nonetheless, they carry almost all the things we need. And it may be silly, but I actually like checking myself out.  If I forget the linen bags, I can put my goods in one bag rather than the three that the Safeway baggers use.

There is a lot of emphasis these days in the sorts of political circles I travel in on "buying local."  By this, people mean buying locally grown produce (organic where possible) to help reduce the carbon footprint. By this measure, this store fails, miserably.

But in another way, it succeeds quite well.  It allows people in the neighborhood to walk to the store rather than having to get in the car and drive. People can send their kids to pick up a few items.  More importantly, it transformed a store which had stood empty for years, serving as an eyesore and a trouble spot, into a clean and bright business.*  I support them as much as I can.

And I think that's okay.

*Kudos also to the Starbucks, which created a neighborhood meeting place where none had existed, and kept the shopping strip it inhabits with the F&E from closing completely.

The Politics of Soundbites.

I hate “gotcha” politics.

I long for a mythical era when people of good intent could discuss their differences rationally, and not look for every sound bite that can be taken out of context and used to bludgeon their opponent.*  I want people to be judged on the content of their ideas, not the particular phrasing of their statements.

I never thought that I would be saying this, but Mitt Romney is being treated unfairly.

In an interview after the Florida primary, Romney was quoted as saying “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”  Shocking! Cold-hearted!  And this from a man who aspires to be President!

Republican opponents, Democrats and liberals (the last two are not interchangeable) jumped all over this.  People were quick to make metaphorical political hay while the spotlight shone brightly on the beleaguered Republican frontrunner.

The problem is that that statement was part of a larger sentence that puts Romney in a different light.

“I’m not concerned about the very poor,” Romney said… and then went on “We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. "

That is a much different statement.  Does Romney have a grasp on just how tattered the safety net is and what poor support it offers for people who depend on it? Probably not.  Will whatever solution he has to fix the holes work? Given his views, I think probably not.  But believing that the safety net takes care of the very poor so that we don't need to concentrate on them as much is not the same as saying that the very poor can go hang.

I don’t necessarily think Romney is a cold-hearted man.  I think he may be out of touch with how most people live,** but then I think that of all of the GOP’s candidates.  He is the only one that I think is rational, which quite frankly counts for more than his occasional missteps.

And seriously, compared with Gingrich hinting that millionaires are eligible for food stamps and that one could go to Hawaii on them, or that young people have a bad work ethic and that students should be made to serve as janitors in schools (ignoring the real, hard, full-time work that goes into being a janitor) – who is more out of touch? And more to the point, who is likely to hurt the country less? A man who believes in fixing the holes in the safety net, or someone who questions whether it should exist at all?

*I know this is mythical: see Wikipedia on  the 1824 and 1828 elections.  In some ways, the nastiness of today’s politics has nothing on that period of American history.
**That betting Perry 10K thing?  I still can’t understand what people find so offensive about that.  Romney has the money, Perry has the money, and unless you find gambling inherently sinful, that money is theirs to do with as they please. Do people really not know how wealthy these guys are?