Friday, November 30, 2007

And I'm spent.

Well- this is it, folks! All I have to do is hit "publish post" and I've actually completed NaBloPoMo. This has been fun- discovering new blogs and bloggers, forcing myself to sit down and write something every day that doesn't just come out as one long whine...

I've got nothing pithy to say at the moment, just a thanks for stopping by. And don't worry, it doesn't stop here. I've got a new momentum to this blogging thing, and I will keep it up on a regular basis. Promise!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Street Art Thursday

I know, two posts in one day? What's come over me?

Today, a picture I actually took:

I was in Portland, OR for a conference, and was walking around the southwest part of the city when I spotted this. It was written on a ledge next to the amazing Ira Keller fountain. I probably spent a few hours when I was in town at this fountain, listening, watching the water, and watching people interact with the water (It was July, and pretty warm for that part of the country).

Anyways, what grabbed me about the word "poop" written so carefully in such an obvious place was that I couldn't imagine who had written it there- a precocious 9 year old? A bored hipster with nothing else on their mind? An incontinent tourist? The fountain that day was a gathering of every type of person that the city had, so it could have been anyone...

Plus, let's face it, it's fun to say "poop" over and over again, even if it's just in your head.

Pat Robertson: Stretching is great, yoga is evil

I don't know about you, but I try to live my life in the exact opposite manner than Pat Robertson instructs. So when I saw this, I knew I made the right move in deciding to sign up for yoga class again, starting in February. Also, by posting this on my blog, I will remember to sign up, and not want to embarrass myself by not going after I'd told the whole internet I was going to. Right?

Pat also sort of hates karate, but I've been down that karate road before, and I'm not going there again. There just weren't enough "demon spirits" involved for my liking.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I don't even know where to start.

Feministing drew my attention to an effort by the forced-birth crowd in Colorado (and evidently in several other states, as well) to add an amendment to their state constitution that says the following:
As used in sections 3, 6 and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the term "Person" or "Persons" shall include any human from the time of fertilization.
That right there is a pretty powerful little sentence. In less than 30 words, it gives a fertilized egg inside of a woman's body the same inalienable rights that every other citizen of Colorado has, including the right to due process under law, and access to the courts. But what does it really do?

-If you want to have an abortion, you will need the permission of the court, AND of the counsel appointed to represent your fertilized egg. Can you imagine being the attorney who makes a practice out of representing single cell beings? If a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, she will have to go to court to get an abortion that will save her life. And if the courts are busy, she could very easily die waiting.

-If a woman has a miscarriage, it could be considered manslaughter. And if the miscarriage is because the woman drank or smoked prior to it happening, she could be guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

-And what about embryos created during In Vitro Fertilization? If they're not fully brought to term, then what? Is it cruel and unusual punishment to keep an embryo in suspended animation?

Then there's practical considerations- does a woman get an additional dependent credit for being pregnant during a tax year? Does a woman have to notify the town clerk every time she becomes pregnant, and get a birth certificate for her embryo? And a death certificate if something goes wrong, or if she discovers she wasn't actually pregnant? Can you imagine the nightmare for municipal employees?

This is the bottom line for the forced-birthers- they set their sights on tricky new ways to keep women from having abortions, and they fail to see the ripple effect of their actions. If they spent as much time and effort on preventing pregnancy in the first place as they do on this crap, the abortion rate would go down dramatically on its own. Forest for the trees...

Honestly, I'd laugh at it all if it wasn't so bloody possible. Nicaragua has given us a lovely roadmap of where we're heading. All these laws will do is paralyze doctors, just as they've done in Nicaragua, into inaction. I don't ever want a doctor pausing before treating me or someone I love. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let some idiot religious nutjob make that happen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Two Great Loves.

with my baby
Originally uploaded by .m.e.c.
I couldn't resist posting this picture that MEtC took of she and Horatio. Not to get all gushy, but I don't know what I'd do without these two...

(yes, i realize that this is a total cheat post- I didn't even take the picture! but hey, they can't all be gems...)

Monday, November 26, 2007

So what's your excuse?

Tonight I got a chance to talk to my friend Karen Jennings, who is running in a special election for Annapolis City Council. She's fighting an uphill battle as a Green Party candidate, but the great thing about small special elections is that anything can happen if you're willing to work hard, which Karen definitely is! I shared some of my experiences from running for office a couple of years ago, and Michelle was able to share some of her expertise from having gone through a couple of campaign schools and her involvement as a board member with the Pennsylvania Women's Campaign Fund.

The conversation got me to thinking: why don't I know more people who are running or have run for office? You're all smart people- you care about things, you're passionate about issues and many of you have killer smiles. Seriously though- running for office is the ultimate democratic action. Your vote may be ignored, sure, but when you're a candidate, you've got the bully pulpit to get your ideas out there, and a chance to affect real change in your community. You don't have to be the next Barack or Hillary, you just have to care. Want your city to hire more police officers? Want your public park system improved? Well DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! If nothing else, it will make you more aware of the real issues in your community, the ones that you might not have been aware of, because it will make you talk to all those people you haven't met yet. It's a very educational experience.

So my question to you is- when are you going to do it? When is the world going to tick you off to the point that you're ready to be actively involved in changing it? As I said, you're smart folks- I have no doubt that the political system will only be richer for your involvement in it. And if you're not going to do it, I really do want to know- what's your excuse???

Sunday, November 25, 2007

10 albums you should own- Part one of series.

It occurs to me that in order to keep my NaBloPoMo readers, I may need to have a hook, something this blog has heretofore lacked. So today I'm starting what will be an occasional series, outlining ten albums that I feel as though every right thinking music fan should own. This will be in no particular order, but when it's all said and done, I think you'll be pleased with the selections. on with the show!

Sloan- One Chord To Another

So say you're a rock band from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Your debut album is a huge seller in your home country, and gets you some pretty good buzz in the States, and you're one of the many bands hit with the tag "The Next Nirvana". But you're smart enough to know that you're not the next Nirvana, and your second album goes in a completely different direction.

Your label disagrees, and refuses to promote the album. The fans love it though. Folks in your own country even vote it the greatest Canadian album of ALL TIME. Naturally the label drops you. So what do you do next?

Well, if you're Sloan, you briefly split up, then triumphantly reunite and record the album you want and release it on your own label. The result- One Chord To Another.

Sloan has always been a band that wears its influences on its sleeve, and OCTA is no exception. "Junior Panthers" would be at home on any Brian Wilson album, and "Autobiography" recalls late era Beatles. I'm not sure what inspired the horns of "Everything You've Done Wrong", but I like to imagine it's a bit of Herb Alpert.

My favorite part of any Sloan album is the lyrics. Lots of bands use clever turns of phrase and work for the laugh, but very few bands are willing to string the joke through the song and accept as a reward a chuckle at the end. "Autobiography" is one of my favorite examples of this:

I'm writing "young and gifted"
In my autobiography
I figured, who would know
Better than me

I'm certainly the former
But I'm not so much the latter
But no one's gonna read it
So I'm sure it doesn't matter

When you find that you're the former
Take pride in how you form
And when you find that you're the ladder
Don't let those people walk under you

I'm writing "sharp and adult"
With my finger on the steam
On the mirror in my bathroom
While I'm applying shaving cream

Which would suggest that I'm the foamer
But how can I be the lather
And something tells me
It's the opposite I'd rather

When you find that you're the foamer
Be careful what you foam
When you find that you're the lather
Don't shave too high, you'll regret it later
La la la la

I've stayed in school this long
But still no one will tell me why
They figured who would know
Better than I

I know I'm a conformer
But I'm sure it doesn't matter
My new friends are all adults
And my old friends all have scattered

When you find you're a conformer
Take pride and swallow whole
But if you're trying to climb the ladder
Don't let people walk over you
Because that's just what they'll do
Don't let people walk over you
Because that's just what they'll do

I just adore it.

All in all, this album sparkles with tight musicianship, and the sense of a band that has shed its shackles and has decided to spend the rest of their careers doing what they want, damn the consequences. And as a special treat, the US version of the album was released with a bonus "Live at a Sloan Party!" cd, featuring the band performing some great covers, including Stereolab, Jonathan Richman, and Bryan Ferry. It is not, however, an actual live album.

Overall verdict- while Twice Removed is possibly the best Sloan album, you simply cannot go wrong with OCTA. It's a piece of pop genius that will make you smile from ear to ear. And definitely one of the ten albums that I think you should own.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Home now.

Back in Champaign now. Allow me to regale you with a brief review of the airports we visited on this trip:

1. Indianapolis: Nice place, very easy to get to from here. Parking wasn't cheap, but it rarely is anymore. Had a nice veggie burger and a beer before getting on the plane, so can't really complain.

2. Detroit: the Detroit airport is evidently the Philadelphia airport of the midwest- it's not the biggest, but just about every flight going east seems to go through it. I love that the terminal tram goes over your head. :)

3. Harrisburg: I really do like what they've done with the new terminal here- it's spacious, there's a Starbucks, and the little glass enclosures they make the smokers use are quite entertaining to the rest of the passengers!

4. Pittsburgh: The neat part of the Pittsburgh airport is the mall-type shopping in the middle of all the terminals. The rest of the airport isn't much to write home about. And it was pretty obvious that US Airways cutting back on most of its flights out of Pittsburgh has had a huge impact on the number of passengers- there were a lot of empty gates as we pulled up, and there weren't a lot of people generally.

All in all, a nice trip- but it's really nice to be home. Horatio wasn't all that happy when we got home, but he'll be alright. I just won't tell him that we're leaving again in a few weeks. :)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Arriving on a jet plane

Tomorrow afternoon, we fly back to the Great Flatness. I must say, a week back here in PA has made me miss here more than I ever miss the town I grew up in when I go back there. I know it's because I really became an adult here and still have many friends here and all that. But don't you think I should feel at least some sort of an attachment to the sleepy bedroom town in Massachusetts I spent the better part of 18 years living in? It perplexes me, but there's that part of me that accepts the wanderlust and has more of a fondness for where the friends are than any fixed place on a map.

Also- note to self: when you're still recovering from Thansgiving dinner, Indian food is not always the best follow-up, no matter how tasty it is. Oh the bloat!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday appropriate cartoon art instead of street art, courtesy of Natalie Dee, for this Thursday, as I try to overcome the bloat that Thanksgiving dinner always brings. Have a good one, everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Avoiding excess.

After MEtC picked me up from work today, we went to run some errands, including a stop at Old Navy. I've been known to buy quite a bit of my clothing there- it's inexpensive, and you can look reasonably presentable. In poking around though, I found that my attitude towards the place has changed greatly. I just couldn't bring myself to buy anything.

Part of this stems from just not needing to dress for anything but comfort lately, I know this. Working from home affords a certain luxury in this regard- lots of pajamas, showers at lunchtime, the works. But I've also been feeling the crush of hyper-consumerism lately. This was evident in my reaction to visiting Meijer a couple of weeks ago too. The feeling that I get walking into one of these stores now, and being surrounded completely by all of this cheaply constructed STUFF that has been shipped in from countries with atrocious labor practices, is a combination of horror and illness.

There's a role for this stuff in our society as it is today, I admit. People are working one or two jobs for a far smaller wage than they used to, and they are spending far more on the essentials. So when it comes to clothing yourself or your kids, places like Old Navy look like a freakin oasis. And it just keeps moving in this never ending circle- people want cheaper goods because they earn less, so companies keep moving their factories to countries where the wages are lower and lower, taking more and more jobs away so that Americans have to find even cheaper goods because they're making even less.

In my heart of hearts, I hope that some day this cycle ends, and everyone gets a living wage, and everyone can get what they need at a reasonable price. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. And that's why I am heartened by the sudden remergence in the public conscience of the labor union. Corporations will never lessen their greed- they are bound by contract to create the greatest return possible for their shareholders. It's up to the workers to bind together and draw the line and say "this is all we will give you".

This country has bowed to the fear of corporations moving overseas for the last 20 or more years. But we're getting to a critical point where we have to instill some fear back in the corporations- they need to understand that they're going to run out of third world countries to exploit eventually, and by that point, at the current rate, no one in this country is going to have a job with which to make money to buy their products.

We consume a lot as a country. Corporations need to be told that they are in eminent danger of losing their best customer base if they keep it up. The automakers are already seeing this: people don't have the free capital to buy a new version of their crappy product year after year. And so they've started reacting to the market instead of trying to drive it. There are still too many automakers and too many autos. But now at least they're working to make a better product, instead of just a cheap product.

To all of my American friends, have a happy Thanksgiving. Give thanks for what you've got and for your health and your family and friends. It's not about some group of european invaders or getting ready to shop on Black Friday, it's about being thankful- it's right there in the name. So relax, watch some football, and remember to Buy Nothing on friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In which our hero is grateful for what he's got.

The last two days, if they've taught me nothing else, have given me a greater appreciation for the upside of working from home. I'm not trying to sound gripe-a-rific here or anything, but I've really felt the stress pile on like a ton of bricks since I've been back in the office, and I don't enjoy it one bit. It's a combination of the people I work for having constantly high expectations, and me being very quick to get down on myself when I'm not meeting those expectations. It's sort of self destructive, in a way, and has me very much looking towards my future, and what I really want to do when I grow up. I've got some ideas, but no full fledged plan yet.

On a completely different note, tonight we had dinner with my cousin and his wife, who we don't get to see nearly enough. One of the things I've been thinking about a lot as Thanksgiving approaches is how precious friends and family are, and how I've got to make a better effort for my own part to be a social person, and keep in touch with both friends and family.

"Black Friday" is the anniversary of my grandmother's death a couple of years ago. Of my two grandmothers, she was the one I was least close to, mainly because she didn't live as close as my other grandmother. And I've really come to regret that, as I really enjoy hearing the stories about what a tough old broad she was. And it makes me feel, like I said, like I've got to really work to get to know people the people in my life better and really enjoy them for who they are. I don't want to be left wondering about who they really were when they're gone.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Today's lessons.

Here's what I learned today:

1. I really don't like wearing dress shoes OR a tie anymore. I used to love looking sharp, but now it's just annoying since I don't have to do it every day.

2. Even if I'm not in the office for three months, very little changes.

3. I've never fully appreciated quite how much I walk/run around during an average day in the office. Working at home has me so sedentary that I was exhausted after half a day!

4. Pumpkin soup, no matter how yummy, is not all that filling in the end.

Again, I apologize to those expecting deep social insight, but until I get back home Saturday, this will likely be a blog of travel stories and griping about work. Now I think I remember why I didn't blog much when I worked in the office!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Back to regular blogging tomorrow. The trip back to PA was uneventful, but now that we're here, it's supposed to snow today. Snow? What's up with that???

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane.

Off to Indianapolis shortly to fly back to PA for Thanksgiving. I think we've got everything- I hope we've got everything! More later!

Friday, November 16, 2007

My vegan story.

A while back, Yarn Ho suggested that I do a post about how I made the transition to veganism, and so, here it is. To tell the truth, I'm removed enough from that stage in my life to a point that I really had to think about how it all happened!

Let's go back a ways. My sociopolitical "awakening" started back in high school, I think. I was always a big reader; read the newspaper religiously, watched the national news on tv, read Newsweek, things like that. When i got to high school, I got involved in Model Legislature, which is exactly what it sounds like. Researching and writing bills, arguing policy- fun stuff! No, really, it was! It was at this point in life that I discovered my more liberal tendencies- mostly in the form of a general desire to help people, to do the right thing.

This all spilled over into college, where I got involved with pro-choice groups on campus, and started running with the theatre kids, who were about as liberal as one could be at a tiny conservative liberal arts school in Amish country. This was when I really got to know my first vegetarians- veganism wasn't even really a presence at that point, in the early 90s. I admired their commitment, but didn't give it much thought beyond that.

Anyways, fast forward a few years. I dropped out of college and ended up just outside of Harrisburg, PA. I got a job as a dishwasher, and then a cook, at an "Irish pub". This was when it really started to happen. I got really sick- always having to wake up in the middle of the night and vomit up whatever dinner I had scarfed down when I got home, and sometimes having it come out the other end as well (sorry to be graphic, but this part is important). I was absolutely miserable. It wasn't until i quit that job and got one with actual health insurance that I discovered that I had a condition that caused my stomach to create too much acid. Eating right before bed only exacerbated that and was the cause of my troubles. I started on an acid-blocking medication, which greatly lessened the problem.

I was still having issues though. Even with the medication, I would occasionally end up praying to the porcelain god. I remember a particularly gruesome night in Pittsburgh after a trip to Bob Evans. It was at this point, I started to think about vegetarianism. Anything sounded better than puking my guts up for the rest of my life.

As a kid, I'd never been a big fan of meat. I would never eat steak or chicken on the bone, always preferring it to be in the form of some sort of patty or other unnatural shape. There was just something about the meat that made me gag (literally) when it was in that "natural" form.

So I did some research, declared myself a vegetarian to friends and loved ones, and dove in. It wasn't easy. I was spending a lot of time around avowed hunters and carnivores who either ridiculed me or were just no help at all. And worst of all, I didn't know any vegetarians to help me through the transition. So I failed miserably. Twice.

A year later, I was making big changes in my life. I was single, I had started into therapy and getting treatment for ADHD, and was generally starting anew. One of the good/bad things about a lot of ADHD drugs is that they are based on amphetamines, and absolutely kill your appetite. I was eating like crap, when I did eat, and lost about 20 pounds very, very quickly. The worst part was that it took me months to notice this. I changed meds immediately and decided to once again start the transition to vegetarianism. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I felt like this was the way to go.

A couple of months later, I became friends with my first vegan. This was the kick in the pants I needed. She pointed me towards literature online and resources that would help me kick meat for good. I started to learn about animal testing and animal abuse in the entertainment industry (both of which I had known about, but been able to gloss over before), and began to understand how the love for animals I'd always possessed meshed with my innate sense of justice, and how blind I'd been to the connection between the animals I loved and the animals I was eating. I started to really understand what George Bernard Shaw meant when he said "Animals are my friends. And I don't eat my friends."

It was probably another year before I finally went vegan myself. Between my own cognitive dissonance and the other issues I was dealing with at the time, I just wanted to take it slowly. The "ah-ha!" moment came one day when I was feeling sort of queasy after eating some cheese and I thought "Wait a second. I'm lactose intolerant. What the hell am I doing?" Not a glamorous moment, I'll admit, but it worked! From that day forth, I've been vegan.

This was around the same time I joined the Vegan Represent forums, which quickly became my vegan support system. I made friends who were asking the same questions I was, got good, accurate information about food and ethics, and was able to fess up when I'd made a mistake, without being judged. I began to feel comfortable with a belief system that valued all living creatures, and it helped me finally feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin.

Yarn Ho once said to me "Stegan," (yes, she calls me Stegan in real life too) "I'm glad you're not one of THOSE vegans." By which she meant that I wasn't always being preachy or judgmental, and I let my friends be who they were, without making them feel like I felt I was superior to them.

I'm glad that my friends see me that way, and I'm glad that I make it look easy. But as vegan chai recently put it, in far more eloquent terms than I, it's definitely not easy. It takes effort sometimes to keep your opinions to yourself in the interests of harmony, and it takes serious understanding to see that everyone's got to find their own path, and if you don't give them the space to do it, not only will they not find it, they're likely to resent you for your attitude.

I love my friends and family, and I want them to be happy. If they look at me as an example and decide to try making steps towards veg*nism, fantastic. But I do try and make a conscious effort not to force them down that way. Veganism is a belief system, not a religion. You want other people to agree with your belief systems, and you want to seek out others who do, but you want them to do it for their own reasons, not because they feel like you forced them to.

This got a little rambly, but I hope it made sense. I would love for the whole world to be vegan, I really would. And I hope all of you reading this do your own research and begin the journey. But what's more important to me is that you're good people who are kind to others. The rest will come in its own sweet time. I hope. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm fascinated. (Plus Street Art Thursday)

I do love checking my Google Analytics account to see where my readers are coming from. And for whatever reason, as soon as I post yesterday's Ali G. video, I got more international hits than ever- there were hits from Turkey, Chile, Argentina, Singapore, Spain and Norway, and a few others. So a hearty welcome to my new international readers- enjoy!

Time for Street Art Thursday. This week, via Wooster Collective, is some amazing stuff from an artist named Tano out of Chicago. Nope, it's not photoshopped.

Crazy, no?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On Labor.

Long time readers of this blog may assume from the title of this post that I'd be talking about pregnancy. And for once, they'd be wrong. Today we're actually going to talk about the plight of the working person.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been reading up on two strikes and one potential strike that hit close to home (or at least the same neighborhood). Let's give them each some space here:

First, and most public, is the strike by the Writers Guild of America. To simplify it greatly, the writers are striking to correct a flaw in their previous contract that pays them a shockingly low per unit set fee for each video (or DVD) sold that contains their work. When the previous contract was agreed to, nobody saw the video market as being the huge cash cow that it has become. As I heard someone say today- "who would have predicted that people would gladly plunk down good money for entire TV series on DVD?" The other, slightly more complicated, part of the writers' demands is that they receive payment for content provided via the internet, for which they currently receive NOTHING. I can't blame them for being just a wee bit angry about this! We're seeing more and more of the tv networks broadcast whole shows absolutely free on their websites. The catch, of course, is that the networks sell advertising during these online streams. Thus, they're producing revenue through this "free service". It's ridiculous for the networks to make money off of someone's sweat and talent, but not compensate them, don't you think? This video from some of the fine folks involved with "the Office" makes the argument crystal clear- they made web content for NBC, won an Emmy for it, and never got paid. How on earth is that fair?

The other major strike right now is IATSE Local One in New York- the major stagehands union for most Broadway shows. This is more what one thinks of as a typical union action- management wants to cut jobs in half(!) and slash benefits to the remainder. As someone who spent several years as a technical theatre professional (a lifetime ago, it seems), I definitely feel a kinship with the strikers on this one- it's a hard, often dangerous job, with long potential periods of layoff. Anyone who works in theatre is considered "high risk" by health insurance companies, so getting your own insurance is pretty much out of the question. And yet, producers continue to hike ticket prices, increasing their profits by leaps and bounds. Why shouldn't the people who make the scenery move and the lights go on get better treatment? How on earth is that fair?

Far more locally, and on a far smaller scale, SEIU Local 73 Chapter 119, representing the food service and building services workers at the University of Illinois- Urbana/Champaign have been working without a contract since June 2006. They recently voted to approve a strike, which could start any day now. The University (a state run institution, it should be noted) is offering an obscenely low wage increase (2.5% versus a 4% request, which is in line with the current federal cost of living) and outright rejecting the other worker demands. It's sad that an institution with courses in labor history would not even take a good faith negotiating position with one of the most important unions on its campus. How much will it cost the university to bring in scabs to clean dorms and serve food? And how much of this will get passed on to students and taxpayers? This one just isn't fair to anyone!

These strikes are bad for everyone- the workers and their families, the general public, and the pocketbooks of management. But, in a strange way, it gives me hope. High profile work stoppages (the SEIU work stoppage will have an enormous impact, should it happen) like these are making people take a second look at the profit motive that is driving the corporate culture in this country. The sooner people realize that corporations just don't care despite their loud assertions to the contrary, the sooner we can start to talk about making real change in this country.

Deadline Hollywood Daily (great source of info about the WGA strike)
United Hollywood (pseudo-official touchstone for writers and their supporters)
Broadway World (daily coverage of the Local One strike)
Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center (the only local media providing info about the SEIU fight)

Always go out on a song- here's some Billy Bragg (with accompanying cheerleader in drag!) to keep you in the mood:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Random quotation.

My old friend Cycho Librarian (still the only person I know who has built their own hammer dulcimer) has tagged me for a random quote.

This is evidently how it works- you turn to page 161 of the current book you're reading and post the fifth sentence from that page. You then tag five other bloggers. So here goes nothing!

I'm currently re-reading, for the fourth or fifth time, the Big Book of Conspiracies from the Factoid Books series. I picked it back up after reading one too many 9/11 conspiracy theory articles lately. I always find it interesting when faced with a giant new conspiracy theory to go back and re-read about some of the classics. Before you ask, I'm leaving my opinions about 9/11 out of this, lest I am besieged.

So on to the quote- page 161 comes in the middle of a chapter called "Lone Nut Family Tree". I won't even get into detail about the chapter, since, as with all conspiracy theories, it's next to impossible to relate without relating the whole thing verbatim. Anyways, page 161 talks a bit about Sirhan Sirhan, and then sentence five begins a transition into a new rant:

"Sometimes it seems as if the roots of assassination are everywhere, tangling through virtually every killing cult and secret society known to man..."
And so who shall I pick to be the next five tagees? Hmm- let's go with metc, yarn ho, mishka, vegan chai and river selkie. Your turn, gang!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

11 days in.

One of the dangers of NaBloPoMo is that there's going to come a point during the month where you don't feel like you have anything to write about. And I'm sort of at that point.

Sure, I've got tons of opinions, and things I COULD say; in the end though, it can be a lot of work to do when you're feeling run down- finding interesting links, pictures, videos, all of that. So I beg your indulgence while I take a night off to watch the Colts get their butts kicked (HA!!!) and recharge the old blogging batteries.

In the mean time, feel free to leave a comment with anything you'd like to see me write about. I'm always open to new ideas. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go have a cupcake.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Holy Capitalism, Batman.

After a trip to Home Depot to buy the stuff to refurbish Horatio's scratching post and to build him a new cat perch, we decided that we needed to take a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Instead of the friendly confines of our co-op, we decided to give Meijer a try. We'd been told it was a midwestern institution, and neither of us have ever been ones to shy away from an institution.

Now I did some thinking, and figured out that it's been at least two years since I set foot in anything so massive as a SprawlMart or anything like that. And even then, I'd never been in one quite this large. It was entirely overwhelming to my small store brain. The food portion of the store was as large as a goos sized regular supermarket, and there was a hardware store, a sporting good store, a clothing store, and an electronics store we didn't even go near. All under one roof. It was too much to even comprehend.

I don't even have any real analysis to go with this- I'm still in a bit of shock. It's safe to say, though, that I don't plan on making Meijer a regular stop. It makes one appreciate the little co-op that much more.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Diwali Everybody!

One of my favorite parts about my job (and some days, the only thing that keeps me there) is the fact that I work with a lot of Asian-Indians, and it gives me a great opportunity to be a part of their culture. It's a fair trade- they're unendingly curious about my veganism, and I'm unendingly curious about their culture. It's fun!

In any case, today is the third day of Diwali, one of the biggest holidays on the Hindu calendar. If you poke around the internet, you'll find that quite often, the definition of Diwali depends on who you ask. But here's a really good one, courtesy of the HARI Temple in New Cumberland, PA:


The customs of celebrating Diwali, the festival of light, vary from region to region. Though the theme of Diwali is universal, i.e., the triumph of Good over Evil, the Darkness paving way for Light and Ignorance leading to Knowledge. Diwali is celebrated for five days from Krishna Chaturdashi to Kaartik Shukla Dwiteeya. Diwali is observed by Hindus, Sikhs & Jains.

First Day: Dhanteras – Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Throughout India, the first day of Diwali is widely known as Dhanteras. This day is celebrated to revere Dhanavantri, the physician of the gods, and Goddess Laxmi. Dhanteras is also known by various other names such as Dhanatrayodashi, Asweyuja Bahula Thrayodasi / Dhantheran (in few South Indian States).

Second Day: Kalichudas – Thursday, November 08, 2007
In every Indian household, the second day is celebrated with the lighting of 5-7 deep (Diyas) on the door and corners. It is Diwali on a smaller scale, with fewer lights lit and fewer crackers burst.

Third Day: Diwali – Friday, November 09, 2007
Accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks, the third day of Diwali as the most important and significant day. The name Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali. Other names that vary according to the regions are:
  • Lakshmi Puja: Diwali is synonymous with Lakshmi puja. Houses are decorated; Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped for prosperity and health.
  • Chopda Puja: Diwali also represents the start of a new business year so all businesses close their accounts and present them to Lakshmi and Ganesh during the Chopda Puja.
  • Balindra Puja: Diwali is also known as Balindra Puja in many South Indian States. In the morning, a puja offering oil to Krishna is performed.
Fourth Day: New Year – Saturday, November 10, 2007
The fourth day of Diwali falls on the first day of the lunar New Year. At this time, it is a new year for most of the Hindus, while for others on this day old business accounts are settled and new books are opened. The families celebrate it by dressing in new clothes, wearing jewelry and visiting family members.

Fifth Day: Bhai-Bij, Sunday, November 11, 2007
The fifth day of Diwali is widely known as Bhai dooj or Bhatri Ditya, and is dedicated to the sacred bond shared between brothers and sisters. It is a big family day.
Here are a couple of excellent links about Diwali: the BBC has some excellent background, as well as some lovely recipes (did I mention that this is a predominantly vegetarian holiday? Can I get a woot?) . And the Times of India has an interesting take on the commercialization of the holiday.

So best Diwali wishes to everyone. May the next year bring you all the happiness you deserve. And fireworks. Lots of fireworks.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Street Art Thursday

This fella is one of the amazing works of Mark Jenkins. I love the assorted reactions from the passers by:

Haven't we all had days where we want to stick our heads through a cement wall? I know I have.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Today's required reading.

Via Feministing, I came across this post on Alas! a blog- it's just brilliant stuff, a good primer for anyone who says "I don't consider myself feminist" or a reminder for anyone who does.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Last night's show.

As mentioned, last night I went to see Broken Social Scene at the Canopy Club in Urbana. I had seen them two summers ago, on a triple bill with Ted Leo + the Pharmacists and Belle & Sebastian at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. I don't think I can overemphasize how bad the sound was during the BSS part of the show, and I walked away not seeing what others saw in them. So when I saw they were coming to the Canopy, a much smaller venue, I resolved to give them another shot.

First up on this night was Arthur & Yu,
(excuse the blurry cell phone photography, but I assure you, that's them) from Seattle, who were good, in a Bright Eyes sort of way. Very earnest, melodic. They were good enough that I picked up their cd to give it a closer listen.

After Arthur & Yu had done their thing, it was time for the main attraction:

I know, I know- you want to buy me a new camera phone? Anyways, after some vocal exercises (very important for both audience AND band, I promise you), Broken Social Scene rocked the Canopy Club HARD! Okay, well it wasn't "hard rock" or anything, but it was pretty damn excellent. While it wasn't the full blown band (there were only the core five, plus Andrew Kenny from American Analog Set guesting on keyboards), they didn't seem to miss a beat, and seemed like they were genuinely having a great time playing with each other- when was the last time you saw a whole band have fun on stage, I ask you?

Anyways, this is where the review falls apart, since I'm not knowledgeable enough to tell you what songs they played from what albums. They did play several Kevin Drew solo songs, and one from Brendan Canning's upcoming solo album. The rest of the set I'm guessing was pretty well spread amongst the rest of the albums. I'm working on rectifying this lack of knowledge, as I did pick up "You Forgot It In People" at the show and was listening to it while working today.

It's fair to say that BSS proved themselves worthy of the second chance, and I'll definitely check them out again, as you should when they come to your town.

Monday, November 05, 2007

My first placeholder post of the month.

Some may call it cheating, but I just wanted to make sure I had something up in case I didn't get home before midnight- going to see Broken Social Scene tonight, so I'll try to get a review up tonight, but I can't promise anything!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Here's what I've learned in the last 24 hours.

Here's a couple of things I've learned in the last 24 hours that I thought you might find useful.

1. Charlie Weis is far from infallible. In watching the Norte Dame- Navy game last night (and rooting for Navy, because Notre Dame are the Yankees of college football), I was shocked, nay stunned, when Weis, supposed offensive genius, didn't go for a 40 yard field goal at the end of the fourth quarter that would have won the game. Instead, they run, turn it over on downs and go to overtime, where Navy (who had been running over the Notre Dame defense all day) finally won it in the third over time, on a pass play. Smooth move, Charlie.

2. The situation in Pakistan has gone from not good to scary. A coup that disbands the parliament is one thing, but a coup that disbands the judiciary and results in the rounding up of lawyers and human rights activists is the true sign of a leader who is running away from democracy as quickly as he can. And given the tremendous amount of aid we send to Musharraf, you'd think that the US would be strong in its opposition and make bold public statements as a warning to this valuable ally. And if you thought that, you'd probably have been living under a rock since 2001. Other than a few weak statements from Condi that indicate that our supposed "war on terror" is more important than the rights of the people of Pakistan, there's been nothing but silence.

Someday I hope that history tells us what Shrub's actual policy on spreading democracy is, because it's not been entirely clear. Nor has Charlie Weis' policy on not kicking field goals to win football games.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Let's talk about sleep apnea.

As I'm sure the love of my life and my former roommate will gladly attest, for a relatively little guy (5'9", 175#), I sure do make a lot of noise while I sleep. My snoring was first brought to my attention when I was 12 and my darling brother made a tape of me snoring while we were at a family reunion and played it for everyone.

It wasn't until my mid-20's, having heard the complaints of numerous roommates and bed partners, that I finally decided to talk to my doctor about it. This was the first time I ever heard the term "Obstructive Sleep Apnea". Essentially, the throat relaxes and collapses on itself while you sleep, preventing air from getting into your system. It looks a little something like this:

The most definitive way of diagnosing sleep apnea is through a sleep test. You spend the night sleeping in a doctor's office- the nice ones are set up like bedrooms, but there are others that are like sleeping in a hospital room. Your legs, chest, head and face have leads attached to them, which are connected back to a central computer to measure your brain waves, breathing and movement. The resulting effect is something akin to a Borg who still has a few surgeries left to go.

After my first sleep test (thought I use the word sleep loosely, since it's difficult at best to sleep when you're that wired for sound), it was discovered that I did indeed, have obstructive sleep apnea. During the test, the lack of oxygen woke me up an average of 40 times per hour. The waking epsiodes are not enough that you would remember having woken up, but enough to keep you out of the realm of restful sleep.

There are still only a few options available to those who suffer from sleep apnea. You can make lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or cutting back on alcohol. Sometimes though, as in my case, the problem is purely structural. My tongue is too big, and the opening at the back of my throat was too small. The two options open in these cases are surgery or a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. The goal of surgery is to create a more open airway, and the CPAP provides, as its name indicates, a continuous stream of air down the airway to prevent the throat from closing.

I began with CPAP therapy and had amazing results- I actually felt rested, I had a ton more energy, and just generally felt great. But the machine is pretty inconvenient. I met with my ENT, and we discussed the surgery options, settling on Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, also known by its more tongue friendly name, UP3. This could theoretically be a permanent solution, or it could be a waste of time.

I'll spare you the details; let' just say it didn't work very well. The whole experience soured me on the idea of treating my sleep apnea at all for several years. But, thanks to a persistent partner, a forceful doctor, constant fatigue, and a high blood pressure reading during a physical, I've decided to try to treat this beast again. I had a sleep test a couple of weeks ago to establish a baseline, and at the beginning of December, I'll have a second test, this time wearing a CPAP mask for the whole night. After that, I'll be attached to a machine every night for the rest of my life.

Why did I post all this? I'm not sure. I'm a little freaked out by the permanence of the CPAP, and admitting that you have something that will never really be cured isn't easy. But on the other hand, I hope that no one else is as stubborn as I am with this. Side effects like hypertension and heart disease are serious enough that whatever qualms you have with getting checked out are weak excuses. So not to get all after school special, but if you are constantly being told about your snoring, or that you stop breathing while you're sleeping, go see your doctor. And if someone you're sharing a bed with has these issues, push them to go see the doctor. It's weel worth it in the end.

The American Sleep Apnea Association website is an excellent resource if you're not sure, and also has links to support groups and an online community for those who are dealing with this.

Friday, November 02, 2007

What's Stegan Reading?

I'm saving up for a bigger post tomorrow, so I though today I'd share links to some of the sites I've been frequenting lately. Boring, I know, but it's going to be a long month, so you're going to have to bear with me on some of these!

I can't start my day without a stop at Uni Watch- as I've mentioned before, there's something about the minutiae that draws me in- I just love it. It's sort of a little bit of mental exercise to jump start the day.

Another favorite for the first cup of coffee is the Wooster Collective site. I first discovered the site when I was looking at different Banksy stuff on the web, and I was instantly hooked by the mix of styles of street art that the site presents. I've discovered a few favorites through the site, like ABOVE, The London Police and Mark Jenkins. And it's done something else to me- every time I find myself walking down a city street, I'm always looking at what's written on the wall, or what's hiding behind that fence. Fun stuff.

I work for a hotel development company that is currently focusing a lot of its energies on New York City. And one of the work-related surfings I like to take on from time to time is to see if anyone on tha interwebs is saying anything about our NYC projects. Luckily, New York has got to be one of the most heavily blogged about cities in the world. Curbed and Gothamist are two of my favorites out of the many, with Curbed tracking the real estate and Gothamist with its finger on just about everything else.

While I read and ESPN for most of my sports-related news, I find most of the mainstream news sites to be annoying. Maybe I'm just lazy. But I tend to use Alternet and Huffington Post as my real windows to the world. Add a quick peek at Feministing through the day, and I feel pretty well informed.

And I would be remiss if I left off my vegan support system over at Vegan Represent, the only online message board I spend my time on.

In any case, I hope I haven't bored all my new readers to tears. I promise, they won't all be like this!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hell yeah, I'm a feminist.

Yesterday I finished reading The Handmaid's Tale for the first time. Set in the not too distant future, it forsees a United States where damage to the environment so greatly reduces the birthrate that women are stripped of their rights and reduced to property- they can no longer have money or jobs, and are instead viewed primarily as birthing vessels.

As clich├ęd as it sounds, I couldn't put this book down. Every page rang true to the direction our society is pointing in, and it terrified me. I cannot recommend it enough.

But we're not here to do a book report.

Despite being passionate about women's rights for years, and marching on Washington, and volunteering at Planned Parenthood, I'd always been hesitant, as a man, to claim myself to be a feminist. Something about my taking on that label always struck me as being patriarchal, although I've never been able to put my finger on why. Over the years though, women I love and respect, women who I definitely do consider to be feminists, have applied the label to me. And that was alright. But in my mind, I still couldn't refer to myself that way.

And then I read this book. Despite having read several "classic" feminist books before, none of them ever clicked with me like this one. It's the complicity that got me. The idea that men who considered themselves "enlightened" would be complicit in the subjugation of a full half of the population absolutely sickened me. And the more I read, the more I realized that this isn't some futuristic, far off thing, it's happening right now.

So many "enlightened" men refuse to take umbrage to the rampant sexism in our society just to get along; just to be one of the guys. And that's how it starts. Every time we gawk at a Hooters waitress, or laugh at a joke about how "ugly" Hillary Clinton is, we lose a little bit more of our outrage. And so, when the governor of Missouri appoints a commission to "study the negative effects of abortion on women", and stocks it full of people from the forced birth crowd, we hardly blink, and we don't consider the ramifications of this on our friends, lovers, sisters, mothers.

So what am I saying? I'm saying that I believe in that "radical notion that women are people too". I'm saying that my mom raised me with the idea that women can indeed to anything that a man can, and deserve equal pay for doing it. And the amazing women I've known in my adult life have taught me that women are not a collection of random, surgically enhanced body parts, they are living breathing people, just as smart (in most cases, smarter) as I am, and just as passionate about the world around them.

In short, if I didn't walk side by side with the women who are every day fighting to be considered equal to men, to be seen as more than incubators and sex objects, I'd be going against everything I've ever learned; I'd be a stone cold hypocrite. Feminism transcends gender- it's about human rights. And I happen to think human rights are worth fighting for.

So hell yeah, I'm a feminist.