Monday, February 28, 2011

What I did this weekend

I got a new tattoo, my second. It is a phoenix, and how geeky am I? So geeky that it is from the cover of a book of literary criticism by D. H. Lawrence. Oh yeah, I am an English Major all the way to the core.  It is on my right ankle, and it hurt more than my first tattoo, which is on my left arm, because it was over more bone (and there really isn't any padding on your ankle). But I like it.

I also went to a union and Wisconsin support rally at the Capitol Building. It wasn't anywhere near as large as some of the rallies in other states, but for conservative, right-to-work Arkansas, it was pretty good.

I have never been to any political rally before, apart from a party in someone's driveway to watch the presidential debates in 2008, but I have been getting more and more angry at the way politicians continue to ignore the people, and at the conservatives who want to balance the budget on the backs of the middle-class and poor, especially women.

I wrote an email to Tim Griffin, my congress-critter, asking him to reconsider his support for the bill that denies funding to Planned Parenthood, and I got a tone-deaf form letter back: "That is why I signed up to co-sponsor H.R. 217, the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, and which prevents funds from going to Planned Parenthood" and "As your Congressman, rest assured that I will always fight to protect the lives of the unborn."  But he doesn't seem to support the children who are actually born. Nor do most Republicans - check out this wonderful editorial column from Charles M. Blow in the NY Times last week. 

So it was rather heartening to see so many people who support the working class, who know that the problem isn't the high pay given to teachers and the regular state employees like me - 'cause none of us go into this to be rich - but the lack of corporate taxes, and too many subsidies given to those same companies.

In some cities, there were also rallies for reproductive rights, and if there had been one in Little Rock, I would have gone to that too. 

We liberal progressives need to stand up, make our voices heard, take ownership of the struggle, move beyoned Twitter and Facebook and get outside.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Small moments of grace

Yesterday was a blustery day, capped off by severe thunderstorms and a tornado warning that set off all the sirens in town. And yet, by 8 PM when I took the garbage out and wheeled the bin to the curb, the sky was clear, and I could see Orion.

After a gray winter, the daffodils are starting to bloom around town, and the trees are starting to put on new leaves and flowers.

I slept in, which made my trip to the gym shorter, and made me run a little late leaving the house for work, but traffic was light the entire way, and instead of being late, I was 5 minutes early.

As I drove in, the clouds had returned, but the sun occasionally broke through with shafts of light, the kind I always imagined shining on Jesus at his baptism when I was a child, and that always reminds me of beauty and grace.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Appearance vs. Substance

Why do we so often settle for a proper appearance while allowing the substance of an issue to go undiscussed? This happens all the time in politics - a politician shouts about death panels and that is all anyone can hear, or tries to hear, instead of learning how the changes would benefit society. The TSA says it is making us safer by making 4-year-old children and elderly grandparents go through a full-body pat down.* And the media tends to go along. It uses scary voice-overs and shouting anchors to freak everyone out and get worried about situations that aren't much of a problem, instead of focusing on the actual problems.

Which one serves me better? A doctor's office with a lovely waiting room, but an hour long wait for a scheduled appointment, or one with obviously used furniture and a 15 minute wait? How about a website that doesn't have all the latest features, but does have great customer support and an easily found set of contact information, versus a shiny website with a great flash presentation of the goods you are shopping for, but that is terrible to actually use and has no alternate means of contacting the company?  I would rather have the dumpy waiting room with a prompt doctor, and the usable website. How about you?

I am not saying that appearance isn't important at times, because it certainly can be - who wants to use a nasty gas station bathroom if it isn't absolutely necessary? - but why is it so often accepted as more important? Who does it benefit? Certainly not the customer or citizen, certainly not the employees.

How incredibly frustrating this is! There is so little anyone can do about it. Quite often, there is no-one to whom you can complain or offer suggestions in such situations, because if the deciders actually cared, they would have already worked more on the substance. I am not good at letting such things go, which will probably help me worry myself into an early grave; I have to try to fight back, to point out the absurdity of the situation, to yell that the Emperor has no clothes on.  I may get myself in all kinds of hot water because of this (including with my mother - Hi Mom!), but at least I still have that right in this country (for now, anyway.)

*Check out this rather horrifying photo album of just this.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Washington's Birthday or President's Day?

You get the benefit of my day job blog today - a post on Washington's Birthday.

Today is the observance of George Washington's birthday, and for Arkansans, the celebration of Daisy Lee Gatson Bates.  The popular name for the holiday is President's Day, or is it Presidents' Day?  There is some confusion in the name, and what is being celebrated. Officially, it is to commemorate the birth of George Washington, the nation's first president, although many people assume it is to celebrate all presidents.  There used to be a separate holiday in February for the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, but it was sort of subsumed into the more general holiday.  If you are interested in learning more about the "controversy" over the holiday, check out this article on

For those of us in Arkansas, the day also commemorates the life and legacy of civil rights activist, Daisy Gatson Bates.  She was a mentor to the Little Rock Nine, and with her husband published a newspaper, the Arkansas State Press. For a more detailed biography, as well as pictures and suggestions for further reading, visit the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm so ashamed

This afternoon I went out on my break, because the thermometer on my computer says is it 65 and I needed some fresh air.  It is cloudy, and windy, and I caught myself thinking "Man, I can't wait until it is sunny and really warm, not this gray stuff." Have I really gotten so far away from my Pacific Northwest roots?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February snow storm

Sorry it has taken a couple of days to get back to snow storm reporting - it is just that the weather has been so nice the last couple of days, idyllic really, that I wasn't ready to plunge back into snow. And there was quite a bit of it, as you can see. All told, probably 5 or 6 inches on our deck.

It snowed all day Wednesday, from about 7 AM to at least 7 PM.  Thursday, although cold, was clear and lovely.

As you can see, only one vehicle made the trip up (or down, not entirely sure which) our street by Thursday morning. Under all that snow was a sheet of ice that made walking a bit tricky, until the sun really got the pavement warmed up.

The city actually plowed the big hill leading up to our street, and once the sun got high enough, the roads melted quickly. That is the nice thing about living farther south - the sun is pretty strong, even in February.  This expanse of whiteness was already melting about an hour later, and large patches of road were visible.

Despite being buried up to his chest in the deep parts, Miikka loved the snow. He hopped around like an arctic fox and walked with his nose plowing through the snow. No need for a sweater on this one.

I am pretty sure that we won't be having any more winter weather - more cold days, since this 65 degree perfection can't be expected to last forever (not that I would mind if it did), but no more snow. It is getting too close to spring for that now. At least, I hope so. I like winter, and I was OK with having it for 4 months in New York, but people here aren't prepared for it, and besides, it is almost spring.

And Miikka is ready to start digging holes in the dirt - doesn't freeze the snout that way.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photo catch-up - January snow storm

OK, so I am a little behind in taking pictures from my camera.  Good thing I just had 2 unscheduled days off thanks to another snow storm. Anyway, here are some pictures from the now minor-looking snow storm.

As it started, just a nice dusting. Makes the yard look a lot better than the January brown grass and mud (where Miikka has been digging).

The next morning. Yay for a few inches of snow.

We were on our way back to tennis when the snow started, and by the time we came home, an hour and a half later, we couldn't get up our hill, so we left my poor little car at the bottom. It had lots of company.

Here is the hill, from the top. But oddly enough, we were actually able to get it up this time.

Anyway, that was our first snow storm of the year. This week we got almost twice as much snow. As I said, I got Wednesday and Thursday off, and Benjamin is still off (he totally could have made it today, but the university was closed.) Tomorrow, the February snow storm.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is it rape-rape, or just rapesque?

Sorry, but I am going to get political here for a moment. The U.S. House of Representatives has been working on a bill that would redefine which types of rape are eligible for government funded health care. The whole thing is horrifying, if you care about women at all and think that they should have the autonomy to make decisions about their own bodies. Thankfully, some of the language that was most offensive has been removed.

It just so happens that this is also the middle of Trust Women month, which is a campaign to show support for women's reproductive rights.

I didn't used to think about abortion at all, except when the topic was forced on me by the news or politicians, and I didn't have much of an opinion on the matter. I don't think I could ever go through with one myself, but I firmly believe that it should be my choice - not some rich, old, white man.  I am a fully functional human being, I have rights and I have a brain. Let me use them. If you personally do not support abortion, don't have one. It is that simple. That is what freedom is all about. The chance to make our own decisions and our own mistakes.

I found the following clip over on Feministing, which points out the role that comedy can have in helping to change national dialogue.  And Jon Stewart makes a point that I echo here - all of us have to pay taxes, and some of those taxes are bound to go to support things we don't like.  The Iraq War for example. So why should this be any different?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rape Victim Abortion Funding
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January wrap-up

In January, I read 10 books, two of which were on my TBR Challenge list. That is good - my goal is to read 110 books in 2011, so I am ahead of the necessary pace.

We didn't go hiking, but we did start a new session of tennis lessons and a beginner's tennis league.  We end up playing about 3 hours of tennis a weekend.  Once the weather is nicer, and it doesn't get dark so early, we will probably start taking advantage of the tennis courts in Maumelle. 

The weather has ranged from bitterly cold with snow (yeah, yeah - I have pictures from a snow day 3 weeks ago that I still haven't taken off the camera. I'll get to it eventually) to mid-70s with sun (this past weekend).

Anything else worth mentioning? Not that I can think of, off the top of my head (what, you thought I planned these out in depth before I started typing? Ha!)  So, onward to the second month of 2011. Whee!