Tuesday, September 2nd 2008

DNC Aftermath
posted @ 6:42 pm in [ - ]

A lot of folks asked me how things were going in Denver during the convention. I thought the convention had a nice tone, and it seemed like things were going well inside the Pepsi Center. Outside, though, was sort of a showcase of everything that needs fixing.

Of course, traffic and stuff sucked for actual residents. That was to be expected, and I was able to avoid driving too close to the locale myself, so that worked out. I did, however, turn down a few invitations to events that were nearby because I knew I’d be hard pressed to get there and it would have been easier to grow an inline-six and drive my own pancreas to an appointment than to park around there.

What was really alarming, though, was the police state atmosphere. Reporters with press credentials were prohibited from attending some events. Friends of mine were arrested for no apparent reason, because they were in parks after dark (as many residents are), and had their cars impounded. Warehouse space was set aside for the 25,000 arrests police expected to make. Needless to say, this warehouse space was without sufficient restrooms, food or water to house even a tiny fraction of that many prisoners for any length of time.

The whole thing made me queasy.

At least the RNC is being even worse. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! got arrested there while trying to get two of her producers out of the joint. You can see footage of her arrest here. Her vocal fry drives me cuckooputz, but nobody deserves that, and she’s an excellent journalist. Here’s what’s going on with that:

Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfully detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman’s crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.

Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman’s office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).

Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.

During the demonstration in which they were arrested law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. Several dozen others were also arrested during this action.

Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. She has received journalism’s top honors for her reporting and has a distinguished reputation of bravery and courage. The arrest of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar is a transparent attempt to intimidate journalists from the nation’s leading independent news outlet.

Democracy Now! is a nationally syndicated public TV and radio program that airs on over 700 radio and TV stations across the US and the globe.

Saturday, August 9th 2008

The spectacle!
posted @ 8:27 am in [ ]

Did you see the opening ceremonies for the Olympics last night? Eeeyow, they were amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it, and apologies to all Brittania, but they are SO not going to be able to do anything anywhere near that cool. Probably nobody will. A lot of really sweet, moving moments, too, like the little guy who saved some of his classmates during the earthquake walking alongside Yao Ming while they led the home team’s procession: the biggest national hero and the smallest.

President Asshat was of course in attendance, looking like a bored, sprawled out 14-year-old while the rest of the world leaders present didn’t take their jackets off in the incredible heat, and yet remained fresh, dignified and cheerful. Fortunately, the First Lady has some class, and remained alert and smiling the whole time. He was the only person there who looked like he didn’t want to be there, including Putin, who had just gotten into a shooting war with Georgia. If he could manage to show up and be a proud spectator with every reason in the world not to, seriously, what the F, President Asshat?!

Initially, the American team looked sort of subdued, as if they didn’t know how the world would receive them, what with our asshat of a leader and all, but they got a very warm welcome indeed, and quickly got into the celebratory spirit. It was a nice moment, like the world understood. “Sorry, world–our bad! We had no idea he was going to be that terrible. Wait ’til you see what we do to make it up to you (and ourselves) though! We’re all going to love this next guy.”

Speaking of the next guy, I gotta say, I am really enjoying McCain’s negative ads. Not only does he always look like a bitter old tufted snapping turtle, but he keeps showing the world chanting for Obama, who looks radiant and joyful. Man, does McCain not get it. America is starved for hope and joy, we’re sick to death of agendas like his, and nothing puts young voters off like negative campaigning. Seriously, they don’t care about peccadilloes, or homosexuality, or checkered pasts, and they can forgive a lot. It’s not being able to be nice to other people that makes them queasy politically. Keep it up, tufty! We owe the world a real leader.

Thursday, July 24th 2008

posted @ 12:20 pm in [ - - - - ]

It’s true, I haven’t been posting much.

Part of that is because I’m focused a lot on work and job stuff at the moment, and as we all know, I don’t blog about that. But here are the vagaries: I’m still teaching in the program where I’ve been teaching for the last few years, and that’s mostly good. I’ll also be teaching again at the same program where I taught last fall, and that should be fun. I picked up a little writing work for an ongoing media analysis project. I’m still trying to get the big honkin’ book published, and I have another article coming out later this year. In the meantime, I’m looking for a full-time gig with health insurance and stuff.

Looking for work is pretty much always a fairly soul-crushing experience if you give a rip what you end up doing, and it’s even more exhausting when you’re keeping up on other jobs while you’re doing it (which you have to if you’re addicted to things like food and electricity). Plus, I’m finding out that it’s a funny thing with advanced degrees: it’s still a numbers game, but instead of it being easier to get a better job with a fancy degree (which is what you’re told will happen), I’m finding it’s actually a lot harder. There are fewer near-perfect fits, employers are surprisingly inflexible about what they think you can do, and people want to put you through the ringer to see if it’s worthwhile to invest in you. The hopper has to be so much deeper and wider to yield the same result, and advanced degrees force you to specialize, not generalize. Plus, nobody will hire you for a job they think you’re overqualified for — which is a lot with a Ph.D. — because they think you’ll just leave in a month or two when you find something better. Can’t really blame ‘em for thinking that. So yeah, it’s draining. It does force one not to settle, though: the market won’t let me.

Dr. Meg will be on the air on Monday on KGNU Denver / Boulder / Nederland and at KGNU.org if you’re not in earshot. Syndication has been mentioned (and passive voice has been used). I’ll keep you posted, of course.

You have the bat and frog update below.

Lisa has been relatively close by this summer, which has been great. She’ll be around for another 5 weeks or so, and we have lots more fun to cram in before she goes home.

The thyroid deal is looking up. I found a delightful family practice in Boulder, brought my lab reports and stuff, had a brief but productive discussion with a sympathetic and fine, fine superfine physician, and walked out with a prescription for generic synthroid, which I got filled (wicked cheap!) on the way home. I already feel better, even after just a few days. I had the best dance class yesterday that I’ve had in months, in part because I didn’t feel sluggish at all. I haven’t been to the gym yet today, and I don’t even have unpleasant, depressive symptoms. I’ll probably get in a bike ride later this afternoon, which will be even better because I’ll know it’s actually going to have some sort of physiological result. Yee-haw!

Finally, the spambots seem to have declared open war on my moderation queue. I average a little over 100 pieces of spam an hour. In order to get akismet to work, I have to upgrade WordPress and install it, and I don’t have direct access to the server, so that’s taking some effort to resolve, and in the meantime, every time I log in, there are all those zillions of bits of spam (baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam), and quite frankly, after I’ve gotten through them all, I often don’t feel like posting anymore. I’ll try to be better about that, and get the spammage fixed shortly.

So that’s what’s up. Or most of it, anyway.

Thursday, June 12th 2008

If Orpheus and Euridice had text messaging
posted @ 10:14 am in [ ]

Perhaps my favorite Greek myth is that of Orpheus and Euridice. If you’re not familiar with it, let me fill you in.

Orpheus was a wonderful genius musician of the variety that woodland creatures would sing and dance along when he played, like a cross between DaVinci and a Disney movie. He fell passionately in love with the beautiful Euridice, who loved and appreciated him in every way. On their wedding day, though, she was bitten by a snake and died. Orpheus was devastated. He couldn’t make music, or really even function — he sort of did the ancient Greek equivalent of sitting around in his worst pair of underpants drooling, and not bathing or leaving the house or anything. The woodland critters, having nobody to play their furry hoedowns, were even concerned.

Finally, Orpheus got off his sad, soggy duff, and resolved to go after Euridice. He bathed and threw on a fresh toga, grabbed his lyre and went off to Hades, where the living cannot go, but he charmed his way in with his music. He lulled Cerberus to sleep, paid the ferryman, finally met with the god of the underworld himself, charmed him with music, and begged for Euridice’s release. Eventually, the god gave in, but with one condition: Orpheus had to walk out of Hades the way he had come, and not turn around to look back until he was back in the surface world. Euridice would walk out behind him, but if Orpheus turned around to look back, she would be taken back into Hades forever. No do-overs. Orpheus hastily agreed, and started the trek back up to the surface world. The whole time, he worried about whether Hades had been straight with him, and whether his true love really was back there. He had every right to be nervous, of course, because the Greek gods were like the cast of a soap opera.

Finally, Orpheus could see the “Exit” sign above the opening into the surface world. He was so close, and the feeling of having been duped by Hades was stronger than ever. A few moments before he would have reached the exit, he was overwhelmed by having to know for sure, and he turned quickly, just to steal a glance behind him. Euridice had been back there the whole time, all right, and as he turned, she emitted a terrible shriek and was sucked back down into the underworld forever. Orpheus never got past it. His music was still beautiful, but it was always really sad after that. He was never the same, probably because he knew he had had more chances than most for true love and happiness, and he really screwed the pooch.

I’m not sure why I like this story so much. Usually, I like movies with a lot of explosions and not tear-jerkers. You’d expect me to like The Odyssey (which I do), but not something like this. It might be because it’s about having faith in the people you love.

In any case, imagine how different the story would have come out if Orpheus and Euridice had had text messaging:

O: I C the Xit. U still back there? E: Yep O: Kewl. Almost there! E: Sweet! Can’t wait 2 kiss U O: Me neither. Got all the snakes out of my apartment 2 E: Thx! UR so sweet. Just don’t turn around, OK? O: No worries, we’re good. IM out! E: Kewl

…and they’d live happily ever after, facilitated and reassured by the joys of modern technology.

Thursday, May 15th 2008

No more learning!
posted @ 10:32 pm in [ ]

I’m afraid I will not be visiting your website to learn more. I feel I have learned enough.

Are you trying to give me some information about the Roseate Spoonbill or what the Thai Bhat is doing? Well, I am not learning it! Lalalalalalalaaaaa!

I am not responding to your plea for me to continue my education in criminal justice, in part because it’s a euphemism for a B.A. in the execution of fascism, but mostly because I am finished learning forever.

Nope, no more learning for me. I’m not even going to remember new people’s names. I’m just going to call them “Hey you,” or something that reminds me of their general appearance, like, “Hey parrotnose.”

I will certainly not be staying up to watch your news broadcast to learn what four things lurking in my bathroom could kill my baby, because a., I don’t have a baby; b., anything in my bathroom that hasn’t killed me yet is clearly too wussy to do the job — I mean, the stench of Phillip’s feet has been known to kill at 60 yards (no, I do not want to know how!) and I’m still around — whatever candy-assed bacteria or eyelash curlers might be in there pose no real threat; and c., as previously noted: through with learning.

If there is anything about which I am not learning the most, it’s Amway. I don’t even want to hear if it’s still around.

Don’t you try to inform me which swimsuit suits my body type, lady, if that is your real name. You don’t know me. And since I am no longer learning things, you can basically just kiss my ass.

If I don’t know it by now, I never will. Because: no more learning! I might even try to get stupider from here on out.

Friday, April 18th 2008

Body project and sucky metabolism update
posted @ 5:42 pm in [ - ]

You may remember last summer’s rants about my sucky metabolism, and about ditching my nutritionist in favor of a nice, low-GI Mediterranean hedonist diet. Since then, I’ve tried a few other things, including another diet plan. A few weeks ago, though, when it wasn’t working and didn’t show any signs of working anytime soon, I decided I would, you know, stop doing that. A few days later, I finished the resolution: I am not going to diet anymore. It doesn’t work and it sucks, so the hell with it — forever.

However, I do still want to drop about one more size, and here’s the goofy part. I haven’t (habitually) eaten more than 1200 - 1400 calories a day in a few years. I exercise for an hour or two a day, six days a week. That last size should have come off, oh, like a year and a half ago, but nooooooo. “Gee,” the nice lady at the gym said to me when I told her about it, “Do you think you might have an undiagnosed thyroid problem?”

I doubted it, but I decided to do some research. It turns out that it’s a fairly common problem. An estimated 10 - 15% of American women have an undiagonsed thyroid problem (sometimes the number is higher, depending on the source). I quickly dismissed it, though, because people with thyroid conditions are really suffering, and I wasn’t. Symptoms included severe fatigue, dry skin and hair, and a number of others. Nah, I was fine. I just had a sucky metabolism. Or something.

Then in Feburary, I got sick, like most of the frickin’ country. For most of that month, I wasn’t able to get much exercise in while I recovered, and then got caught up on a ton of work and life stuff. The symptoms came flying out: Fatigue to the point of depressive symptoms, drier hair, and the skin around my cuticles was sort of like a powder that somehow remained attached to my hands. Huh, I thought, perhaps I’ve been aggressively treating thyroid symptoms with exercise. I also found out hypothyroid is a spectrum disorder: it gets worse over time. So the folks who are really suffering probably weren’t suffering much either at an earlier point in their treatments (or lack thereof). So maybe it’s not so much that I have a metabolism that just sucks. Maybe I have an honest-to-jeebus treatable medical disorder. I mean, who the hell eats 1200 calories a day and exercises and hour or two and nothing?! It’s freakish, really.

Speaking of freakish, has anyone attempted to utilize the American healthcare system of late? It’s a lot like driving around the Boston Metro area, where, if you follow all the rules, you will never, ever get where you’re going, there are multiple contradictory laws which must all be followed, and you might be killed by your fellow motorists. My experience went like this: I couldn’t get in to see an endocrinologist, even if I was willing to pay out of pocket, because I needed a referral from a primary care physician. But I don’t have one of those. And I don’t have one of those because I don’t have health insurance. And I don’t have health insurance because I can’t get on the hubby’s insurance. And I couldn’t do that because I didn’t know where the hell our marriage certificate was, because we’ve been married for over a dozen years, and when you’ve been married for a while, you have no friggin’ idea where your marriage certificate is. So I had to send away for a copy of our marriage certificate — that lived in the freakin’ house that Jack built! It showed up quickly (thanks, Ashby Town Clerk!), but I still haven’t been able to get on his insurance yet. So basically, I got flipped off by the entire American healthcare system.

Fortunately, Denver’s local NBC affiliate has an annual free and cheap health fair that happens over the course of a couple of weeks in locations all over the metro area, and it’s going on now. They have a multi-factor blood test you can get that includes TSH (thyroid hormone), among many others. So I went down there to get one.

Oddly enough, it was the best blood-drawing experience I have ever had! Okay, tallest skyscraper in Kansas, right? But seriously, it was only a few minutes, the health care professional was pleasant and caring without sacrificing an iota of efficiency (she must have drawn blood from thousands of folks today alone), and it was the first time I’ve ever been stabbed with anything and not felt it at all. Props to Cindy! It hurt more this morning when Petra gently raked me good morning with her claws. It was quite literally quick and painless — the antithesis of my experience with the American health care system up to that point, which was eternal and excruciating.

So now I wait. I’ll know sometime within the next six weeks what the story is with my thyroid. If the TSH number comes back between 5 and 20, I may even be able to get into a study about crappy thyroids and get paid for it instead of getting reamed for it both internally by the gland in question, and externally by American health care.

In the meantime, I met another health professional yesterday who was just terrific: a nutritionist at my local Vitamin Cottage. She was wonderful and helpful, and made some good suggestions for structuring the hedonistic nutrition plan I love. I also have an exceptionally good personal trainer, whom I see once a week. A cheery little slip of a thing with the will of a wolverine, she basically kicks my ass for an hour, during which I have to stop a few times in order to keep from fainting. I’m certain it’s effective.

So that’s the update. I’ll letcha know what happens.

Wednesday, April 9th 2008

What’s wrong with humanity: Dirty Harry and I agree
posted @ 10:24 pm in [ ]

The number one thing that annoys me about humanity is when it makes me responsible for it. Indeed, virtually all the things people do that generally piss me off and make me want to punch them in the collective neck stem from this. People abdicate their responsibility when they drive like dinguses and I must alter my driving patterns to avoid ramming them repeatedly with my car (which might just solve more problems than it causes). They shift their responsibility to me when they invade my personal space and I must therefore take up that responsibility by altering my movements so as not to smash their all-too-close faces repeatedly into the nearest hard surface. It wrecks my bike rides when folks shirk their responsibilities to their offspring and to being genetically obsolete, and allow various bike paths and byways to be strewn with their children.

You know what’s fun? Dirty Harry has precisely the same philosophy. I was watching Magnum Force last weekend, and I couldn’t help but notice that he gets bent out of shape about all the same stuff I do. His boss decides not to be responsible for his own professional ethics anymore, so Harry has to do it. With a bigass gun. In the first movie, Dirty Harry, the bad guy, Scorpio (whom Lisa refers to as “psycho with the good hair” because he played many nutjobs during this time period, always with that groovy wavy hair), totally pisses Harry off because he keeps trying to make the city responsible for his crimes. It makes Harry almost as nuts as being assigned inexperienced partners for whom he will have to be responsible in order to keep them both from being killed. He doesn’t mind hookers or militants or bank robbers one bit — they step up and take responsibility for what they’re doing. It’s the kidnappers and blackmailers and other candyasses who won’t that really wear him down.

So of course, I looked to Harry for the remedy to our shared irritation. He seems to handle it with the use of a bigass gun. Now, I don’t necessarily want to go that route, but it sure does seem to fix the problem.

Thursday, March 20th 2008

Another irksome commercial
posted @ 11:49 am in [ ]

Recently, I’ve taken shots at pharmaceutical commercials, and now I’m calibrating my site on toilet paper. Yes, gentle reader, the current advertisement making me cuckooputs is a Cottonelle commercial. It features some fuzzy little anthropomorphized mammal — I think it’s a talking yellow lab puppy — pointing out how the world is a cruel place for tushes. Someone falls on theirs, someone else sits on an uncomfortable surface, and then — get this — another hapless butt gets a mild yet surprising burn from perching on the hood of a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia while the puppy proclaims, “Careful, it’s hot!”

Okay, I can get past the bossy adver-canid and the fact that I hate thick, fluffy toilet paper, but this is just dissing the intelligence of the American consumer — more than we deserve! I ask you, America, why would the hood of an air-cooled Volkswagen be hot? We all know that the engine is in the back. Is the trunk full of radioactive material? Did someone just come by with a blowtorch and heat up that insignia until it glowed in the hopes of branding the buttcheek of a perching passerby? Is the vehicle, in fact, a mobile barbecue pit? Crazymaking, I tell you!

Sunday, March 16th 2008

Palm Sunday musings
posted @ 4:52 pm in [ ]

At this holy time of year, I find it so meaningful to reflect upon… just how many flippin’ atheists I know! Wow, there are really a lot. A few of them are so vehement about it that it’s almost its own brand of zealotry. This time of year, with its supermarket checkstand Jesus-in-your-face accoutrements, almost makes them break out in hives. As a non-Christian, I do indeed feel heavily Jesused-upon right at the moment, but hey, Jesus was an all right cat. It’s not his fault that a lot of people have done stupid and horrible things in his name — it’s not like he’d appreciate that. Besides, some folks have done good things, too. Mother Theresa, Sister Dorothy, and countless others made meaningful contributions to humanity because they felt called to do God’s work. Let’s not throw that particular baby out with the yucky Promise Keepers bathwater, eh?

For those who feel particularly put upon, or are attending Christian religious services more or less against their will, I recommend translating religious rhetoric into something you find meaningful, or at least entertaining. When I attend church services, usually for an important family event, I like to picture a different deity for every time the priest says “God.” Zeus, Vishnu, Horus, Odin, Pan… Plenty of images to choose from, from all of human history. It really makes the sermons more entertaining.

Isn’t that disrespectful and blasphemous, and probably evil? I would argue it isn’t. There certainly seems to be something about the human mind that craves connection to something larger than its own consciousness. However that feeling of connectedness is interpreted and whatever symbols are assigned to it, it is a very common human experience. A lot of the ideas are the same between religions, and many of the symbols are even similar. In fact, that was the burning question that led me to my master’s degree: Were those striking similarities caused by there having been some sort of proto-religion, some sort of spiritual Sanskrit from which all religions spread like dandelion seeds? Or was it because we all have the same brain? Let me save you a few years and tens of thousands of dollars here: It’s because we all have the same brain.

So when you are sitting in a sacred space, whether it’s a church or a mosque or a stand of ancient trees, the most appropriate thing you can possibly do is to reflect on your connection to the numinous, however it is that you experience it. By considering the many deities who have been prominent in the history of humanity, it is that connection itself, along with humanity and its long-standing affinity for connectedness to the numinous that you honor. Nothing evil about that. Marduk bless you!

Friday, March 7th 2008

Who’s afraid of Pete Seeger?
posted @ 12:14 am in [ ]

I came home from teaching tonight and Phillip was watching a PBS documentary about Pete Seeger. It contained some footage of people (maybe 40 years ago) calling him a communist and getting really bent out of shape. They seemed to be genuinely offended that he existed. Most of the overall footage, though, was of Pete playing a banjo and singing songs that did not appear to have particulary inflammatory political content, or in many cases, any discernable political content at all. Also, he was making most of those songs sing-alongs, and some of them were even kinda churchy-sounding. It looked like some good, clean, wholesome American fun you could take your grandma to.

So here’s my question: Can somebody fill me in on why Pete Seeger was considered by some to be the antichrist? Were the sing-alongs too populist? Was it because he performed at union halls? Was it just some wacky McCarthyist hysteria? Johnny Cash was defending Pete Seeger’s honor for some reason and making it clear that he was indeed a good American, but I can’t imagine how someone trying to be un-American would be able to touch a banjo without bursting into flames. Thoughts?

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