Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Swiftly Everything Flies

I see Lu's been here in my absence. Excellent!

Even though we've been maintaining a geographic distance measured by a minimum of eleven hours, our lives have been moving in parallel directions. We both lost our jobs. We both had some pretty important decisions to make. And we both undertook rather sudden cross-country moves.

I didn't end up moving to the city I mentioned in my last post. I moved back in with my parents, and intended to be here only briefly. But within a week of being in my hometown, I realized how much we both had changed in the intervening years. And it took less than a week for me to start up a much-needed roller derby team here, and decide to stay for the time being.

It's been less than a month now, but the team is going great and getting a lot of local buzz. Most of my energies have been devoted to this, since it's pulled me out of the rather awful, non-productive funk I had been in. It puts me in the position of teaching others how to do something that I love, and has thus become something of a full time job.

It's also taken me nearly a month to actually get a job-- well, at this point I've only scored an interview, but it's very promising. I'm taking a pay cut from my job at the clinic of nearly $3, but I'm not too concerned as I don't have to pay rent/utilities/insurance/cell phone bills just yet. The real kicker? It's at a sex toy store/porn shop. That's right, I'm going from the clinic to the porn store! I like to stay sex-positive.

In this time of massive changes, I've found that the healthiest mindset for me to have is a devotion to leading an interesting life. If I hold myself to those standards, instead of outwardly-imposed expectations of success and professional progression and What I Should Be Doing, I find that I am happier, and better able to handle those curve balls that life throws. When I die, I want people to be less impressed with the strength of my resume, and more impressed with the contents of my (auto)biography. If I'm going to be memorialized on paper, I don't want it to be bullet points, I want it to be prose, I want it to be musical. I want it to be an epic fuckin' poem.

I'll update you more later, and discuss things that have been in special bookmark files for months, but for now I need a nap.

Until next time, live awesome.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

That thing I haven't talked about before

I decided to break up what was going to be the previous post into a few posts. This is about something I've never talked about before here. I volunteer on a website (Fluther.com) as a moderator. I love it. It's great.

The purpose of the website is asking questions and answering questions. But we aren't Yahoo! Answers or anything. The questions and responses are held to standards outlined in a set of guidelines. The guidelines are a living document, which is part of what I like. There is a lot of judgment the moderators have to use to decide what to do. And even once we make that call, if another mod disagrees, we hash it out in email. It's cool. Everyone in charge cares about the site. And so do most of the members.

This is me on the site:

My profile on Fluther

I'll work on getting it to actually show the nifty new badge later, but for now, that's me. I've been a member of the site for almost a year now and a moderator for a few months. I kind of want to talk about the whole process of becoming a moderator -- the emotional process -- especially as it came just when I was being fired from my real job, but I don't think now it *quite* the time yet.


Moving, working, and something I haven't talked about before

Well, when last I wrote you I was busily trying to put together my life. Swiftly. Since then, I've got a lot to talk about.

Finding a House.

The first task of any moving adventure is to find a home dwelling. It doesn't have to be glamorous. It just has to exist. Sometimes there are steps to that. In this case, I found roommates. Quickly. Wonderfully. And through them, we found a fabulous apartment that a friend of theirs ran. It was a dreamhouse. Everything you could ever want and more in a place -- inexpensive, but with all sorts of luxuries. Wonderful. In fact, so wonderful that on the day we went to mail the security deposit, he signed a lease with someone else. After no communication beyond the previous notice that if we dropped a check in the mail (which we were doing) it was ours. Great.

We were two weeks away from moving, literally moving, and suddenly had no place. And the guy in charge was not returning our calls. Because there were two guys in charge -- a friend and the guy who screwed us, we wondered if perhaps the lease wasn't actually signed yet. He successfully avoided all communication until we decided we didn't actually care, we weren't putting up with him. And started the process of trying to find a place to move to in two weeks.

Househunts are stressful. Always. It's the nature of the beast. With a deadline like ours and the need to move in immediately, they become more so. Forunately, one of our group was in Pittsburgh already. She could go and look at houses. Less fortunately, ninety percent of all the listings that were in our range were absolutely horrible or scams. The other ten percent were not available for an entire month.

At the last moment -- really, the last moment -- a listing went up. Available immediately. Basically everything the previous place had minus one luxury I desperately desired (gas stove) but will have to live without (hmph). It was about the same as the previous place cost-wise. It was in a good location. Our agent saw it and like it. And just like that we were in a race to fill out applications and get a deposit in before the others (and there were quite a few others) who saw it did. But we won.

That was on Wednesday. On Friday we got the keys. I didn't actually know my move was "go!" until two days before it actually happened. Thank goodness rental reservations are very cancellable. Not that I needed to in the end.

It worked out okay, the place was great, but the extra stress... well. Get your security deposit in fast. Even if everyone assures you it's a done deal.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Pink Slip Party

I see Lu's been here in my absence, and it makes me a little sad that I have to read our shared blog to catch up on some of the details of her life.

So I've not posted since April, which is fitting considering that's when the year took a sharp turn downhill... well, that's not exactly true, June has been the culmination so far, but things are looking up. I think Lu and I can agree that 2009 started off as one of the worst years, but has immense potential for turnaround.

As Lu's ambitions turn more towards grad school, mine have by necessity been deferred another year. While accepted into my own prestigious programs, I did not receive funding. This would not normally be a problem, I would simply get more loans and go back to school in the fall.

But then I lost my job. There were some personal reasons for this unexpected occurrence, but I've come to the conclusion it was less about me and more about a number of situations going on at the clinic-- within one month all of the employees had either quit or were fired, with only one new hire. I had just gotten certified on performing ultrasounds when I was fired, so the rather pathetic "cause of termination" they gave me said less about me, and more about them.

I'm trying not to be bitter, because it remains the best job I've had to date, and I still feel very strongly about it. I still love the work I did, and would like to do again.

In the immediate aftermath of my firing, I do what many seem to do when faced with the impossible to comprehend-- I fled back to my parents. The timing happened to coincide with a trip to San Antonio to see one of my sisters for the last time before she re-deploys to Iraq, so on the whole I cannot complain about being given the opportunity to see her one last time for well over a year. Had I kept my job, I would not have been granted that chance, and she is the sister I look up to the most.

A fourteen-hour solitary drive also allows for a lot of thinking, and spending that time in motion, ruminating, helps you to let go of a lot of things. The depression and shock that set in Fired Tuesday were gone by Long-Drive Thursday night, San Antonio was wonderful, and I got to re-evaluate my options. I had been planning on leaving this town in mid-July (I'd given notice already when I was fired), but now I felt like I was being forced out. And while I may run away short term, I do not take well to being told what to do in such an abrupt fashion.

I had such high expectations for this year, so to have the first half be so thoroughly rubbish was disheartening. But I realized while driving that humans are essentially a rootless, mobile type of creature. So because I had no claims on my time but a rain-checked date, I detoured to New Orleans and remembered something long forgotten-- I am young. I am flexible. And there is no better time than now to move to one of my favorite cities.

Every other option had become stifling-- I have too many bills and memories in this town to be fully happy here again. I cannot run home to my parents, though it would eliminate a number of bills. I cannot couch surf at friends' homes until I get my proverbial shit together. I could not bear the thought of going into so much more debt for grad school, when my original intention was to incur no more debt. So I'm going to defer my enrollment for a year, and this September I'll be moving to the Big Easy, getting an apartment with some dear friends from whom I have been absent for far too long.

I feel like my grammar here is fractured, but at least you've received an Eli update. Also I have the excuse of lortabs-- I had never taken pain medication before, but I injured myself pretty painfully in a roller derby accident night before last, and the kind doctor at the urgent care center had me disinfected and bandaged properly, and dismissed with a prescription to take the 7.5-8/10 pain down to a relatively mild 4. This experience has made me re-calibrate my pain scale-- I generally have a pretty high tolerance, and while I did not cry at any point during or after my attempt to absorb asphalt through my, well, ass, I did hit a pretty solid 9 when a friend attempted to clean it.

The pain was enough to make me uncertain as to whether or not I was actually sexually assaulted by said friend, or if the incident was a fabrication of my pain-riddled struggling-to-awaken mind. But if I think too much about that right now I'll be wracked with nausea, which is to be avoided.

There will be more posting soon, because I have much to discuss: public assistance, the short-term job search, BDSM, and more. I'll get on that as soon as I get more sleep and am less high-as-a-kite. The pain is still too much to actually remain sleeping, unfortunately, as I am one of those women who cannot sleep on her stomach.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Selfish Post About Iran

The Iranian election is disturbing for reasons almost anyone mentioning it at all will cover. But to me, almost the worst part of it is the idea that a leader could just shut down the information network. No cellphones. No internet. Nothing. Can't reach out and touch the world in just a moment's thought. To me, that is terrifying. The power of the Internet is used for good and evil all the time, but to have its massive power simply missing is horrible.

It's something I associate with the worst of disasters: hurricanes, earthquakes, things where you don't know if someone isn't online because they are dead or because they simply lost power. And it's exactly the same thing -- we don't know what is going on because they've lost power. But it could also be something worse.

I know it is selfish to think about it like this, but it's so scary that a leader can just throw citizens into darkness like that.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

While I'm here anyway

"This Week In Congress" has kind of consistently blown since the first few. That's why we never post or discuss them anymore.

Also, it wasn't really noted in my previous post, but yes: I'm moving about five hundred miles away from the boyfriend I was planning on moving in with this fall. And that also blows.

Gone, but not forgotten

Wow, life has gotten hectic here. You may have thought I was gone, that I was abandoning my co-author to this world of blogging, but you were not entirely correct. I was, you see, fired. Laid-off. A victim of the recession. I was then, of course, re-hired at significantly reduced hours and reduced pay. Not exactly a job offer I was jumping at, but this was always meant to be a stopover on the way to business school. And there was the chance that I wouldn't be fired. My official notice was that there was an 85% chance they needed to reduce my hours or fire me. I took that to mean "start applying to business school, you've got to get out of here!"

So I did. The process was, to put it kindly, grueling. My original ambitions weren't very much. You see, this fall I was supposed to move in with my boyfriend. I basically live with him now, but we were going to live together for real. It was perfect. So my original ambitions for business school were to take the GMAT, then apply to the two very good schools in the area and the one not good at all school. Well, I took the GMAT, but it was too late to apply to one of the good schools. I had three days after getting my GMAT results to apply to the other. I worked on it all weekend and all day Monday and got my application in an hour before it was due. Then I waited.

In the mean time, I started the application for the local so-so school. I was told I'd be notified 10 days after submitting my application. This, I would find out, was only kind of true. About a week later they admitted getting it, then in another two weeks, pointed out a problem (a missing transcript), but eventually everything was in. By the time I submitted the application to the so-so school, two interesting things had happened. One: I was no longer working full time. Two: I was being head hunted.

At first, I thought I was simply getting the same kind of junk mail I got before undergraduate application. You take the SAT and suddenly every college on earth knows who you are, where you live, and sends you crap. It wasn't until I got the first email from Carnegie Mellon that I realized this was different -- schools, very good schools, were asking me to apply and waiving application fees. Considering the first school I applied to cost $250 simply to send an application to them, this was huge.

I looked through the schools, I choose a few to apply to, and I put together a system. For the next month, I applied to one school a week. To say the process was tiring is an understatement. I wrote essays. I rewrote essays. I wrote essays again. My boyfriend edited them. My boyfriend re-edited them. We had fights until I cried from stress over single words. But in the end, I got it done. (He still doesn't like the word "manpower" where I used it in two essays. We fought about it both times. Extensively.) No school I applied to asked for less than three essays. Most wanted four.

The week before I turned in my application to my number one choice, I was denied at the first school I'd applied to. It was depressing. I knew it was a long shot, I didn't really even want to go there, but it was still depressing. I had a massively important realization then: grad schools should put all denials in the form of LOLcats. Or at least, not send you an email telling you to check your status on their website. Then make you log in. Then make you click a few buttons to check your status (which now reads "deny"), then click on that, then click something else to see the form letter denying you. It cannot possibly hurt to make it automatically email the letter when they change your status to "deny".

Following that, I just wanted to hear from my safety school. I wanted to get in somewhere. Anywhere. Yet, everything changed one Tuesday as I sat at my boyfriend's house, learning to play bridge online. The e-mails started to arrive. The first was from the school I'd applied to most recently -- they'd offered me a special, expedited application process, waived the application fee and no new essays to write (I'd already covered all the prompts well enough that I could re-edit to make old essays fit). So I'd applied. They wanted to interview me. I was excited! Elated! I immediately told my father. And my mother. And everyone in a ten mile radius. Then my first choice emailed me. They, too, wanted an interview. My safety school called -- they were admitting me to the more prestigious program I'd applied to (a dual degree program). The only other school I'd applied to emailed to let me know they were looking at my application. I figured they were jealous everyone else was getting in touch.

So I planned two trips, quickly, and started interview prep. The interviews were null. I felt like I'd enjoyed my time at the first school but couldn't get a read off the interviewer at all. I had no clue how things had gone. That was Friday. By Monday I was halfway across the nation, exploring the campus of my top choice and getting ready for my interview the next day. I was in my hotel room that night when I got the call: I was in. Not just in. In with fellowship.

Things were going better.

I was not only going to go to graduate school, I was going to have some of it paid for.

My interview the next day went really well. I felt like I really connected with my interviewer over some common interests and was really excited about the school. That did not, of course, stop me from tearing myself apart with doubts. "Oh, I should have said this. I shouldn't have said that. She shouldn't have focused on this so much."

It was several days later that I heard from the last school I'd applied to. Honestly, I had discounted them entirely as a school that might accept me. But apparently without reason, they were writing to interview me. Unfortunately, they didn't want to give me an answer until well after I had to respond to the number two school (accepted with fellowship). But since I wasn't that hot on them anyway, I told them my limitations and set up the interview.

That interview went like the others -- I thought it went well, though it was hard to tell. Looking back, I think I may simply interview well. They were open to responding swiftly with an acceptance decision, and so it was just a waiting game. Less than a week later, they were on the phone with me -- I was in! But they made no mention of financial aid of any sort.

It was not until I got their binder in the mail that I found out I was being offered a scholarship. That made them more interesting from a "where should I go?" standpoint, but I was still hesitant. And I had not, most importantly, heard back from my top choice school.

I knew that on that Monday I would hear. And I would know where I was going to school. And I would be able to respond. I was useless on Monday. Absolutely useless. I twitched and flinched and wanted desperately for my email to come. Around noon I realized that all the other schools had called me and thought that, perhaps, I hadn't gotten an email because they were going to call with good news. I then discarded that theory. And picked it up again. And discarded it.

I also theorized: later was better -- rejections take only a form letter and should have gone out first and easiest, simple acceptances also take only a form letter but may require slightly more work and should have gone out second, individualized acceptances -- those including scholar- and fellowships should go out last, requiring the most attention; they might call me; all of this could be wrong.

Finally, in the early evening, my email came. I was in. With a small fellowship that had perks beyond the financial aid involved. I was going to my top choice school. Life is good.

I will be matriculating with the Class of 2011 at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon. Now I just have to get ready, find a roommate, pack, and move in less than 8 weeks before my trip abroad that I return from the day before orientation begins... I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

And A Good Friday To You, Too!

Abortion clinics around the nation are getting recorded phone calls from pro-lifers today, suggesting we quit our jobs in these dire economic times, send girls away because they can clearly (mentally and physically) afford to have children, and stop "crucifying God".

I suggest anyone who supports choice should perhaps use the evidence of my caller ID to give Allentown Women's Clinic a call and let them know how you feel about choice. The number is 610-770-9077.

Spread the word, and have a great weekend.

Edit: The Allentown Women's Clinic is actually an abortion provider whose number was hacked, so if you do give them a call, let them know you appreciate them, and support the cause. Another clinic, in the midwest, had the same thing happen to them today.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Maternal Instinct

Sorry for my recent absence-- it's been a turbulent time, but a fascinating one. I'll post more here soon about what I've been doing over the past month. In the meantime, however:

There is a rather tragic court case beginning in Virginia next week: a 22-year-old woman is being charged with felony child neglect for trying to starve her newborn child to death. She gave birth at some point in July 2008, and brought the child to a Roanoke hospital on July 31st. The woman told a nurse that "no effort was made to feed, clothe, or clean the infant prior to July 31, 2008." (source) An anonymous tip to the police on August 9th stated that the woman had hidden the newborn in a duffel bag in her closet.

Speaking with the other employees in my clinic, including our clinician who recently announced her (planned) pregnancy, we agreed that though it was a desperate and despicable thing, this definitely spoke to the necessity of abortion services. There are levels of desperation that not all of us will reach, but that are still possible. Some people will do anything to not be parents. I've heard some people argue that once a woman reaches a certain point in her pregnancy, even an unwanted one, her maternal instincts will kick in. I think the case in Roanoke proves that this is not always true.

I can't speak to what goes through any woman's mind during a pregnancy, or afterwards-- I've never been pregnant, and contraception-willing I won't be any time soon. But I think it's safe to say that we'll still make our own decisions, right or wrong, whether or not we technically have a choice.

The woman tried to plead guilty in court today, but the judge said she had to wait to do so until her court date next Friday. Though the news reports don't say anything about potential punishments, my own investigations seem to show that since the child was in a state of "severe dehydration", the woman is up for a class 4 felony, resulting in 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. However, this could possibly be negotiated down to a class 6 felony or less, since the woman brought the child to a hospital in the first 14 days of its life, within Virginia's safe haven laws. Of course, I'm not in the legal business, I'm just sifting through the internet.

Thankfully, reports say that the child is doing well in foster care. Hopefully the woman will get the treatment she needs as well.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nobody puts Baby on a stage, wrapped around a pole

Or, My First Strip Club.

Sorry I've not posted in a while, I've been busy with work and socializing-- there was a potential thang that probably isn't very potential anymore, so back to my lonely rule-cosseting. Anyway.

I'm friends with a few strippers, retired and active, and had been invited to visit one at work (as well as apply, but that's beside the point). I did not take the opportunity when first proffered, even though I've longed to go to a strip club for years. I lost her number when my phone died, and when I reconnected with Chelsea (her stage name) recently, I finally got up the nerve to actual do it, and visit. That night was last night, and I'm honestly still digesting my opinions on it.

First observation is that, when I don't know the dancers, it seems sad. Bored-looking girls writhing around on a stage, shoving various body parts in the faces of slack-jawed hoodlums and businessmen, hoping for a couple dollars. I was out the door at one point because it was so depressing, before a friend talked me back in-- Chelsea hadn't taken the stage yet.

Second realization is that all of my good-influence friends have left town. Sasha, a retired stripper friend who came with me last night (I was with a few other friends as well), is in particular a bad influence. I admire the way she exudes sexuality-- it is simultaneously classy and lascivious. She is my poster child for society's Madonna-Whore complex. I love her. And I also try to emulate her, apparently, especially when I have a margarita or few in me. So, following her example, I helped work the (somewhat meager) crowd in the dancers' favor-- sidling up to men and suggesting they drop a bit more money than they were planning. Smiling, suggesting without suggesting...

But two things came from that: one, the dancers may/must not have appreciated it, as though we thought they wouldn't do well enough on their own. And two-- I don't like myself like that. It was fun at the time, I don't regret it, but I didn't like the way the men there looked at me as it was, before behaving as though I worked there, or at least had a vested interest in the place. Which made me realize that, although I've toyed with the idea of stripping before, it truly is not something for me.

Live and learn.

The third major point of the night was this: though stripping often falls into the same occupational category as prostitution ("they wouldn't do it if they weren't driven to it", blah blah), when you know a dancer, and you know she truly loves what she's doing-- it is beautiful. I mean it. I'm not particularly hung up on women's bodies-- one of my favorite daydreams involves a line of well-formed men in towels. But to see my friends up there (Sasha came out of retirement for a song or two), and watching the sheer human beauty of their naked bodies as they moved... I wasn't turned on. I was appreciative, because it was art. The human body is a fascinating thing, and my friends helped me remember that. Sure, it was sexy as hell, but they were just so damned good, and loved it so much, you couldn't help but smile and feel happy.

So while part of me still aches at the objectification that most of the people there were participating in, part of me wants to open a strip club for people like me and the friends I brought with me, who want to watch beautiful bodies move without feeling shame or arousal-- or if arousal, then arousal with respect for the individual human people dancing, and not just their bodies. I want to have a place where to be naked is a beautiful thing, a casual thing, an artistic thing.

The former-potential-thang likes to tell what he calls "rockstar stories". I don't have those so much as... I don't know. My experiences aren't any particular type of story, I think, but they make for one hell of an interesting life. I have writer stories, maybe-- I seek out the things that suggest future retellings. I fully believe that part of the fun of living is the re-living, later.

We are beautiful creatures. Take a moment now to appreciate that fact.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This Week In Congress

Also, note: the "This Week In Congress" e-mail kind of blew this week. Eli may choose to individually talk about it, but we probably won't discuss it together. With any luck I'll convince her we should be talking about Rihanna and Aasiya Zubair Hassan instead.
-- Lu

Drinking to drink to tell

Woot.com is a fairly well known website. It was the first website to offer the one deal per day set up. This means they sell only one item per day, often mocking the item in the description, and if it sells out, you're out of luck until the next day. It became hugely popular with everyone I knew while in college. Eventually they expanded to other sites including shirt.woot (a new t-shirt every day, but always for $10 and free shipping), sellout.woot (an affliation with Yahoo!) and wine.woot. This entry is actually about wine.woot.

Wine.woot.com originally had one offer a week. It soon became popular enough to do two offers a week -- one on Monday and one on Thursday. They also figured one of the best ways to sell wine on a website, even with a loyal following, was through samples and education. The education over there is completely nifty. It just is. The wine-makers and -sellers often (read: almost always) visit the site while their offer is available and answer questions about the making and cellaring of the wine. When I started visiting wine.woot regularly, I was entirely of the opinion that wine was too expensive to ever really buy online and I was only going to visit for the educational properties as I was just starting to drink wine. But eventually the deals were too good, and I gave in and purchased.

I'm still pretty cheap when it comes to wine, so I read obsessively all the thoughts others offer on the wine before I decide to go in for it. It's got to be pretty skippy for me to be willing to try it out because when the wine isn't expensive, it usually comes in 4 - 6 packs. I don't want six bottles of crappy wine hanging about the place, you know? Anyway, this served me well and good until the mead showed up.

Last week, they offered up a bit of mead. Mead is delicious. It's great. So when I saw the mead for sale, I knew I wanted it. Especially as it was coming cheaper than I could get it locally and had been well reviewed before. I was also excited because knowing I wanted it so swiftly meant I would be able to participate in something that sets the site apart from anything I've ever heard of before. By making an early purchase, I was in the group eligible to "labrat". Every week wine.woot sends free bottles of wine to random purchasers to taste and report back on. They still get their full order later, but they also play a part in convincing other to buy or not to buy. You cannot, that I know of, cancel an order after tasting it.

Anyway, I wouldn't be telling this story if I didn't get a FedEx delivery on Friday of two bottles of mead: regular and raspberry. As I mentioned before, I really started hanging out there to learn more about wine, so I definitely don't have a super refined palate or dictionary of winese at my disposal. All I have are opinions and hopefully a coherent form of expressing them. (There are many people with both a refined palate and full mastery of wine-speak at wine.woot, I'm just not one of them.) I was, of course, ridiculously excited at the prospect of free booze and the chance to tell others about it and have them listen to me.

Friday night, I popped open those babies, tasted, and reported like a good rat. We tried the mead chilled. We tried it mulled. I say "we" because I got other opinions. I posted at night, I posted again in the morning. I probably took my duty waaaaaay too seriously. But it was all worth it for one comment I got:
Great report. While I(and probably many others) value the reports from the "pros" here, yours and those like yours are equally important... esp to non-pros like myself(rpm- lots of corks to pull, and remember the wines). Actually, I considered your report professional... just without some of the "winese" terms.
Be still my beating heart! I'm so easily taken in by flattery! I put my opinions out there and was rewarded! This experience has actually encouraged me to apply to do the same thing (put my opinions out there) in a category I'm a bit better with. As such, I've applied to review tea elsewhere. It's a bit odd how this one experience that was totally up to chance has completely given me confidence in the writing area.

It helped in pushing the "publish" button originally that, um, after enough mead you don't worry so much. And now it helps because I've got positive feedback.

-- Lu

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In response to Lu

My clinic is in one of the states that requires doctors to ask two questions at the ultrasound: "Do you want to see the ultrasound?" and "Would you like to know if it's twins?"

Only once have I seen this change a mind, but the woman with twins last week (who already had three children and a laid-off husband at home to support) wept in the recovery room. Did it change her mind? No. Did it make it harder for her? Absolutely. It is not only a kind of emotional blackmail, the requirements force women to make their choice, over and over again, even after they've decided. And each time, whatever their reasons, it makes it harder.

And you end up with situations like this, where all of our mandatory bullshit just frustrates people and makes the experience worse. There are so many hoops we have to jump through, and make our patients jump through. It makes me sick sometimes.

Then again, sometimes I appreciate portions of it-- and this is the part that I don't know that anyone but providers will understand.

As much as I love my job, and its mission, and the feeling that I'm helping women... sometimes I resent them. I know that a lot of the attitude I have to deal with comes from the fact they're dealing with the social stigma-- women are made to feel shitty about their choice, and they take it out on me. I understand that, but sometimes it pisses me off. And while I never lose professionalism in interactions, I know that my co-workers and I sometimes are... less than kind when we finish scheduling appointments for particular women, such as those who "don't like *that* word". It's just that, despite the stigma, we still need people to face the choice they're making.

In some way, that's what all the rigamarole does-- it makes women face their decision. I hate that it's made out to be such a huge decision, and I don't think any shame should be attached to it, but one of the things we're required to do in those mandatory counseling sessions is judge potential coping issues. And not being able to say the word "abortion" is one of those signs.

Alright, I'm going to close this here. I'm not necessarily sure I've said all I needed to, or as well as I could have, but it's what I needed to say.

...because getting an abortion isn't hard enough yet

Thank you, Jezebel for the heads up on this issue. I'll hope Eli is prepping her own post on this too.

The short version is this: the religious right isn't happy simply taking your right to choose away. While you can choose, they want you to choose life. We've known this for a while, but they are also trying to legislate things that will make it harder and harder to choose an abortion. In this case, various states are forming ultrasound laws -- that is laws that require health care providers to offer an ultrasound so you can see your speck before you definitely decide to abort it.

Abortion is already a hard decision for many. These laws simply exist to try and emotionally blackmail people. Regardless of the reasons for getting an abortion, this plays on someone in a hard situation's emotions in a way that I think is underhanded and dirty. Beyond that, the cost of the ultra-sound is just one more hoop making it more and more difficult to get on with your life. If you followed the link ("In this case") you saw that there's a law in the works in SC to force you to wait a full 24 hours post-ultrasound view to think about what you're going to do. Like getting sent to your room. That's another clinic visit. Which means another payment. Another scheduling. Another difficulty.

I have no doubt these laws will work to limit abortions -- those who were scraping together to afford them before will be even less able to afford them now. Those who were on the fence about going to the clinic, not because they want to keep the child, but for outside reasons, now have one more hoop (or possibly two in SC). The groups behind this will see it as a victory, fewer abortions. But I would rather see people freely able to make choices about their life and their body without a host of people they've never met getting involved.

Twelve Year Old Mistaken for Hooker Mistrialed

The trial against Dymond Milburn, the 12-year-old mistaken for a hooker, has been declared a mistrial. When Dymond was twelve years old, a circuit breaker flipped in her house, she went outside to fix it. Three men jumped out of a van and tackled her, she called for her father and fought them. They hurt her so badly, she had to go to the hospital. When she was released, she was arrested for assaulting police officers.

According to the Milburn family, the policemen did not announce themselves as such and jumped out of an unmarked vehicle. According to the police, they naturally did announce themselves. Either way, she was treated for head injuries at the hospital, then arrested three weeks later for not allowing three strange men to take her into a van. At the age of twelve.

I think this case falls into the crevice Jezebel has discussed before (there are better articles discussing it, but my cursory Google didn't return them): there is a specific demographic that you must fall into to garner national attention when you go missing (or in this case, get beaten for no real reason, then brought to trial for not peacefully getting taken from your home). If you aren't white, a lady, and a well thought of group (rich, middle class, or military), you probably aren't going to get a lot of national media attention-help. In this case, the girl is white (the complaint about hookers was about white hookers) but lives in a low-income area. Add to that, her case really got going in August of an election year and you have a recipe for total media dismissal. And that is dismal.

This girl's story should have been blasted across the nation so that parents everywhere could be outraged. Instead it was quietly reported a few places and then basically ignored.

Friday, February 6, 2009

2009 Officially Declared Shittiest Year

I have, for numerous personal and non-personal reasons, officially declared 2009 the shittiest year ever. However, I think as long as we get stories like this one on the news, we'll be okay. I regularly mock CNN for posting less-than-vital things in their breaking news videos. But given the way the economy is, my job is (or I guess, isn't as the case will soon be), and everything else, I'm glad to see it. It almost brought a tear to my eye and I am not a weepy girl. I think the humans are gonna make it.

Eli reminded me yesterday that I haven't written anything in a while (BLAWG! she said). Of course, I had the best comeback ever to that (so, my job's gone). Still, she was right. To some extent I gotta just write it out. Love the way she's really stepped up lately though.

So I think today is a post about how you can think you know who people are, but you really don't until you need them. I mean, most of the people I know are going through bad times right now (sister going back to Iraq, messy breakup with fiance, grandmother with cancer and grandfather with heart attack, unemployed, etc.) but no one has been like, "You think you got it bad??" when I tell them of my looming unemployment. Everyone has been very sympathetic, very nice. Like a community. Because that's what the Internet allows for. Even though I'm hear and hurting, my friends all around the country -- and world -- can be sympathetic and caring from wherever we are. It's one of the best parts of the Internet.

I mention it in part, because I also encountered one of the fouler parts this morning as someone trolled through a website I spend far too much time at. It was weird (it always is) to see someone troll through the site. Many of the people there care for the community greatly and trolls never last long, nor are they very effective. Everyone knows what is happening the moment it starts. They don't put up with it.

It's so amazing that we have this tool that we use for good and evil evenly, I think, that our parents didn't have and our grandparents certainly didn't have. And it makes this generation the first of its kind, in a way, we have far greater power to help or hurt anonymous, and it is going to be weird but cool to see how it changes the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A couple of things

Cats don't kill babies. Oh good, glad we got that cleared up.

Secondly, this is now my favorite video on the web, because not only do I love British guys, I love rugby players as well. Not only do I love those things, but I believe in getting regular medical screenings to keep yourself healthy.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that those boys are getting naked and showering together, then watching each other as they touch themselves.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This week in review

I've been lying in bed sorting through my bills, and decided to take some time out to recount some of the interesting news that has been presented to me this week. As Neil Gaiman would say, it's tab-closing time.

Lu and I were planning to do a weekly congressional review, but unfortunately Congress.org's updates are for those bills first mentioned a while ago-- they just update their status instead of presenting the new fodder. I understand, though. Things don't happen that quickly in the Halls of Legislation.

Anyway, I would first like to point out this somewhat patronizing but pretty interesting set of interviews with NYC strippers. It is sometimes funny, sometimes sad-- the one that gets me the most is 19-year-old Shaleen:

So where did you go out before you were a hard-working mother?
Well, that was when I was a teenager. I was just going to teen parties.

Next up, Jezebel thinks there's a Notebook reference to this tale of old lovers dying mere hours apart, but I don't like Nicholas Sparks. I do, however, like Ben Folds, and prefer to think of the sweet story in terms of "The Luckiest". The last two sentences of the article, however, don't quite gel right.

Harper's Weekly Review, another fantastic source for worldwide news delivered to your inbox every Tuesday, alerted me to what I considered obvious: Cheerleading is a contact sport. Of course, that may not be obvious to any of you who did not grow up with an older sister who captained both the cheerleaders and the softball team, but for me it was like a report saying that winter would last until March.

On that note, Happy Belated Groundhog's Day, as well.

Finally, in what I find the most offensive bit of science reporting this week: Men, run from the strong-jawed woman, for verily I say unto you, the man-faced skank-ho will cheat! Granted, I could be biased becuase I myself have a rather strong jaw (though, I don't think, masculine), but... the way this article is written makes it sound as though people are beholden to their facial features. They point out two examples from popular society-- Her Grand Ho the Duchess of Cornwall, and Delicate Faithful Dream Woman Joanne Woodward. Surely those two examples prove that this is unilaterally true!

There is some basis in science here, kind of. A "masculine" jaw is caused by a surge in testosterone in utero, and a "high level of the hormone increases sexual assertiveness in a woman". Assertive women, those filthy cheating sluts. I should, I suppose, give the article credit for completely the just-quoted sentence with the phrase "a tendency more attributed to males", however I can't bring myself to do so. Because it smacks of gender bias and double-standards to me. Men can blame their cheating on testosterone, because they're MANLY MEN and it's biology! But women should be soft-jawed and faithful... or soft-brained and gutless.

This could have been an interesting article correlating levels of testosterone and sexual activity-- but that, of course, wouldn't be news. We all know that testosterone is a pretty sexy hormone. And god knows it's the Daily Mail, and I shouldn't be overly critical. But really, did the lede have to be: "If you think it’s obvious why some men don’t fancy women with large chins, think again."

Oh, those horsey, ugly bitches. And what's worse, they then try to justify it with "evolutionary science":

Psychologists believe the reaction against women with large chins is due to an evolutionary desire to have a partner who is faithful, so producing children for only one man.
Now, don't take my use of quotation marks to indicate skepticism of evolution-- I've no qualms with evolution. I'm down with Darwin. What I have a problem with is justifying bad behavior or self-interested mindsets with evolution. I constantly argue with a guy friend over this. Sure, we may have evolved from lower orders, but I'll be damned if we aren't equipped with reason these days, and the ability to sort right from wrong. We may have an animal part of our brain, but that is easily superceded by the rational mind.

And honestly, there was no actual evidence that large-chinned women cheated more. What the study found was that those women were more sexually active, while simultaneously being considered less attractive.

Which smacks of cognitive dissonance to me-- "the results showed that women with larger chins were more sexually active than those with softer chins – and that men found these women unattractive." But clearly they're not unattractive enough to not fuck. Which means they've got some degree of attractiveness going on.

Oh dear lord, sexual politics frustrates me so much. I've been a hobbyist observer for the past decade, and while I can sort so much of it out, I really wish it was more dictated by reason. Ah well.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

...Then I shoulda put a gag on it.

I just feel like quickly relating the story told to me by my boss, because the song is currently on the radio here at work:

She went out to dinner last night, and afterwards she went to the register to pay. The couple in front of her was recently engaged, with the young woman gushing about her ring. She then proceeded to start waving her bejeweled hand in the Beyonce fashion. That was bad.

Worse was when her fiance joined her, and they both were waving and singing the song.

I'm sorry, but that image makes me feel ill. Blargh.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Just poking my head in...

Figured I'd say a quick hello, as I've not been around for a little while. That grad school stuff has been catching up to me, and a slew of mandatory-social events (I thought those were supposed to end after college?) have hit all at once.

I guess there is one story I'd like to relate, that's been pestering me for a few days now.

I make no secret of the fact that I work for an abortion provider-- I am proud of all the work I do, which includes basic medical services as well as abortion services. I help treat women from all economic backgrounds, races, ages, even genders. That's right, we had a man come in a few days ago for his annual Pap smear. But that's not my story.

A few nights ago, I was at a meeting for my all-women athletic team. One of the girls was recently hired as a Pilates instructor, and invited us all to her first few classes, which were being offered free. I told her I couldn't make it on Thursday, as I leave work late that day. Mind you, it is no secret where I work. She said that there was also a 1pm class on Saturday I could attend.

"Oh, I can't make it, I have abortions all morning."

I said this casually, not going for the twisted-humor laugh I occasionally pull out. And immediately some of the girls started looking at each other, and one of the leaders said, "Yeah, you could have just said you have to work. You didn't have to put it like that, it makes me uncomfortable."

That's right, I could have just said I had to work-- but that's not what came to mind. The simple fact is that I am busy well into the early afternoon every Saturday with abortions. That is not a dirty word. That is a basic outpatient procedure which is, in all honesty, safer than carrying a pregnancy to full term. And in a group of liberated, empowered women, I thought I'd be safe saying that. The woman who voiced her objection is even a lesbian-- maybe she's uncomfortable because she doesn't think she'll ever have to worry about it.

But the fact is, according to the Guttmacher Institute's research at least 50% of American women (even lesbians!) "will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, about one-third will have had an abortion."

That's right. Every third woman you see on the street, statistically, has had or will have an abortion. And the only thing that makes it a shame is your perception of it.

Women who have abortions do so for a number of reasons, and if any one of them is valid, they all are. I counsel with women every day from every walk of life who need our services aborting a pregnancy that they cannot envision keeping. And they are clearly not alone in numbers.

But they are alone because of the stigma of abortion.

I know, definitely, that at least one woman on my team has had an abortion-- a close friend of the "uncomfortable" woman. She knows it too. And statistics say that even if she doesn't feel concerned (though we do have lesbians come in for abortions, either through rape, one-time "mistakes", or even wanted pregnancies that they find they cannot complete), one of the women sitting on either side of her has or will use abortion services.

And I couldn't help but look around the group of women and wonder which among them sat there in silence while the others spoke about their "discomfort" with my simply mentioning my work. Just imagine being them, in this group of strong women where we're encouraged to be ourselves and be tough and most of all to be connected with one another.

How isolating must that feel?

That's why I got into this job. Because I do not want women to feel alone, no matter their backgrounds, no matter their reasons. Finding out you're pregnant changes your life, and everyone deserves support, no matter what choice you make.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Elvis lives, the moon landing was faked, and what Holocaust?

Oh! And of course, the ever-famous Scarlett Johansson is a clone!

People believe some wacky things. There are some theories that have a strong desire behind them as well as the possibility of falsehood (9-11 was faked by the government, for example). In those scenarios it's not what happened that is denied, but how perception of it is cared for. Which is to say, the buildings came down but the purpose behind it is darker than we've been "led to believe" by our government. In the Scar-Jo clone scandal, there is a claim made that we don't have the science to back up or the DNA from Scar-Jo One. Mostly it comes off as a crazy way someone spent their weekend. Elvis lives -- well, with so many impersonators I think we all know where this gets started. The moon landing was faked -- again, it was such a fantastic event, it's almost easier to believe it didn't really happen and you know, we weren't all there.

Which brings me to Holocaust deniers and the most useful source of information on the Internet: Wikipedia. How is this even a question? That something that happened a generation ago can already be questioned by survivors as ever having happened to the extent that we currently are taught it did. I'll be the first to admit that a lot is left out of American history, mostly because we're concerned with American history the most, but our grandparents basically all fought in WWII. It's not like there's a real chance for us to say, "Grams and gramps and all their friends mass-hallucinated."

Instead of addressing these beliefs bit by bit, I have no intention of starting an argument against someone who can be convinced this to begin with, I will simply say that I have actually visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is... one of the most sobering and distressing experiences I've ever had. To visit a place like that. When you hear "X million dead", you -- or at least I-- cannot really comprehend what that means until they show you the hair, shoes, glasses, pots and pans, etc. left from the last group of prisoners to go through Auschwitz. At which point it becomes more and less comprehensible. But most assuredly sticks with you for the rest of your life.

I wouldn't bring this up at all, but the Pope rehabilitated (or un-excommunicated, as I prefer) some folks recently who are HDs. Of all the conspiracy theories out there, they are the least rational. Now, the Pope is not okay with all this HD-talk, but he's wanted to bring them back in to the fold for a while. The only way I can find this acceptable is through a massively anti-religious statement, which is to say, the Church cannot afford to excommunicate people just because they are easily led to believe ridiculous things. While I could understand outcry from other Catholics, after all this man was consecrated without Papal consent, I don't understand why other religious groups think they should get a say in how the Catholic church operates. The Pope isn't supporting this moronic belief, he's just saying this guy shouldn't be ex-communicated for something completely non-related.

Of course, on the other hand this man says there is no evidence that Nazis used gas chambers, when both the creation of the chambers and their use was painstakingly chronicled at Auschwitz, so I'm not exactly inclined to think kindly towards him. But it does give me an opening to bring up that Auschwitz is in dire need of funding. The museum is running out of money and everything is crumbling, given it wasn't exactly carefully erected to begin with. They need to maintain the place as constant evidence against morons who decide the Holocaust never happened or gas chambers weren't used. They were developed at Auschwitz. If it crumbles, they will be gone forever. And that is a horrifying idea -- it should never be easier for someone to deny this happened. And we should keep these places to remind us of what once happened.

-- Lu

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama-Watch 2009, Day Three

Well, it's day three (full day two) of Obama's Presidency. He was re-sworn in after the oath got bungled. Today, the new Press Secretary for the White House got to take his first press conference with Obama as president. I watched, he got a bit beaten up over this issue. He said again and again that they were just being overly cautious in doing this. And again. And again. But this one reporter kept harping on it -- probably because they aren't used to having more than one question per session and he didn't really know what to do. I thought overall New Guy handled it well. I mean, he didn't just lose his cool and say, "We did it to keep jerks like you from harping on it for the next four years", so he's doing good in my book.

But I'm really here to talk about the Executive Orders from yesterday. If you listened to the speech he gave before Joe Biden swore in a bunch of the senior staff and cabinet, you already know about both of them. And frankly, it was an amazing speech that puts both orders in plain terms. In the plainest terms, one of them makes it way harder to cross interests between lobbying and governing, the other makes it far easier to get information under the freedom of information act.

But it is much, much better to hear all of this in our esteemed leader's own words:

Now, the new rules on lobbying alone, no matter how tough, are not enough to fix a broken system in Washington. That's why I'm also setting new rules that govern not just lobbyists, but all those who have been selected to serve in my administration.
If you are enlisting in government service, you will have to commit in writing to rules limiting your role for two years in matters involving people you used to work with, and barring you from any attempt to influence your former government colleagues for two years after you leave. And you will receive an ethics briefing on what is required of you to make sure that our government is serving the people's interests, and nobody else's -- a briefing, I'm proud to say, I was the first member of this administration to receive last week.
But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.

I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness. Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution.

Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

I'd like to repeat that last bit:
Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

And that, friends, is how you change America. He didn't just talk the talk, now he's walking the walk.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Week In Congress

I figured I'd go ahead and post the e-mail itself, actually, so people could see what we're reading/discussing. The links should work.

More than 500 bills have been introduced in the House and more than 200 in the Senate in the 111th Congress. What is on the minds of Members of Congress that they feel need to be addressed? Here are a few examples:

H.R. 15 creates a nationalized system of free health care.

H.R. 414, the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act, requires cameras in cell phones to make an audible sound to alert others (such as in locker rooms) when a picture is taken.

H.R. 346 repeals the automatic payraises Congress receives.

H.R. 390 addresses "college football playoff games" while H.R. 187 says let Cubans play American baseball.

H.R. 227 states that human life begins at fertilization.

H.R. 254 moves voting to the weekend.

H.R. 113 requires anything funded by an earmark to be audited. Perhaps things like H.R. 202, which creates a "Museum of Ideas."

H.R. 116 ends political "robocalls" if you are on the "Do Not Call" Registry, while Senate bill S. 30 wants there to be caller ID honesty.

H.R. 126 would limit citizenship at birth only to those who have at least one parent who is a citizen or legal resident. H.R. 160 would limit Social Security benefits to only legal citizens or residents.

H.R. 155 would ban taxes on unemployment benefits for two years, while H.R. 162 bans taxes on Social Security benefits.

H.R. 87 says "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is," and invites those who like to pay taxes to voluntarily pay extra taxes. Or how about just a "Fair Tax" as called for in H.R. 25.

H.R. 70 would make it a hate crime to display a noose with the intent to intimidate. And H.R. 40 explores paying reparations to African-Americans.

S. 213 would create an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.

And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is back in the swing of things. He's introduced S.151, a bill to protect Indian arts and crafts.

Of course, Lu, I do feel it necessary to point out that Halloween is safe-- nooses are not to be displayed with intent to intimidate. I don't think someone would file a hate crime complaint against a haunted house.

Though I'd love to file one against the Hell Houses... I swear, that is some hate going on there.

Newsletter day!

Today my completely awesome cousin forwarded an e-newsletter to me from Congress.org. The letter highlights stuff going on in Congress, giving examples of bills that were introduced and explains them in easy plain English. It also links to the full text so that you can go read it.

Eli: Oh, awesome on the second one!
Prove that my work sucks, bitch, or pay me more!
Woo, repealed Congressional auto-raises!
And FUCK life at fertilization. What are they going to do with spontaneous abortions? And yay voting on the weekends!
Lu: I mean a lot of them are stupid. But I like that you can click and go see the bill and sponsors and stuff
Eli: I'm on the fence about the citizenship thing, and uncertain what "caller ID honesty" means.
Like, it is necessary that some IDs come up blocked.
Lu: Right
I'm realllllly pro HR 414 though
Eli: Yay noose=intimidation, boo reparations.
Lu: I do not think you should be able to take stealth pictures
Eli: YES.
Lu: Um... I'm less noose=intimidation=HATECRIME
I was pro-it when I read it
Eli: Depends on the situation, I think. Because the Jena situation was clearly a hate thing.
Lu: but now I'm thinking. Like, yeah a lot of the time a noose is hate crimey.
But sometimes it's just Halloweeny
Eli: Ooh, yeah, that's a problem.
Lu: and I don't think we should legislate away the Halloweeny stuff just to take care of the Hate Crimes
Eli: And as for the camera phone thing, a lot of the time you just don't want to hear a damned clicking every time you're myspacing it up.
Lu: Also, now that I am getting this weekly, do you want to make discussing it a weekly part of the blog?

Eli: Yes.

So there you have it. We'll be getting this newsletter once a week and be talking about it. We weren't really intending to post this, so it's not exactly our collected thoughts. Mostly just gut reactions like "Oh, I like this!" followed by a lot of "Oh, actually, when I think about it, do I really want that legislated?" In the future, we hope to, you know, have gotten past that when we talk about it. Or maybe not. We'll also post links to the actual bills when we discuss them I hope.

Anything to add Eli?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mathetmatics, programming, and boozy brownies

In which I discuss everything a lady nerd needs to be happy: the Internet, mathematics, programming, learning, booze, chocolate, and baking. Actually, for the majority of people, I'd be willing to shorten that list to the Internet, booze, and chocolate, but for the purposes of this post, keep the longer version in mind.

A friend of mine (not Eli) has challenged me to Project Euler. Yeah, I didn't know what that meant either. So Project Euler is a bunch of math problems that you eventually need programming skills to solve, basically, and until then need some pretty mad spreadsheet skills. Well, there was one that was totally pen and paper, but other than that, mad skills. My friend and I are doing it to learn nifty new math and promgramming. According to the website:

Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming
problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve.
Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the
use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most
problems.The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to
provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and
learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context.

We're challenging ourselves to see who can do more faster. He started out ahead of me by doing a few while everyone else was playing Apples to Apples. Then I got in gear and started to kick is ass before getting hung up on an Excel function I couldn't figure out. I kicked it today and did two while at lunch.

It's fun, but also more than fun.

If that's not your cup of tea, here's a recipe for boozy brownies for you:

Preheat your oven to 325*F.

Combine 1 1/4 stick butter, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup cocoa, and 1/4 tsp salt
in a pan over medium-low heat. Stir until butter is melted and sugar
seemed to have melted in, is less grainy.

In a separate bowl, add 1/2 tsp pure vanilla, 3 tbsp fancy brandy (it's
half brandy, half congac), two eggs and stir until combined. Eggs
should be scrambled nicely.

Add 1/2 cup flour to chocolate mix. Fold in.

Add egg mixture. Stir until completely mixed in together.

Add nuts or anything you want.

Put in greased baking dish and cook 20 - 25 minutes until fork inserted
comes out clean. I use a flat oval baking dish of sorts my mom gave
me. The original recipe calls for an 8x8 pan. These brownies are
super dense and super fudgy, so I'd say the more spread out the better.
Let them cool a bit before eating and make SURE you have milk on hand.
They are pretty intense.

And there you have it -- math and chocolate. Two of my favorite things. Now if I could only figure out the biggest palindrome made from 2 three digit numbers....

(Seriously, this is addictive, I just stayed 20 minutes late at work thinking about it.)


Images for Today

I don't have much to say today. I woke up in time to listen to our new President give his first speech in that role, followed by a female Shatner reading poetry and a very old man praying in an AWESOME Seussian style.

So in honor of those things, I present you with this image, courtesy of the BBC:


The second image I stumbled across while catching up with my daily webcomics. I skimmed past it, paused, and returned, wondering if it was a real ad, or a snarky ad for something else entirely. It appears to be legit, but it strikes me as... well, judge for yourself:

And that is all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rules, again

For some reason people think my rules make for excellent conversation. Especially since I have some that are more guidelines for myself, than actual rules.

At my local dive tonight, we determined that "rules" was perhaps a bit misleading. More people can relate to the idea of "dealbreakers". For example, if you're talking to a fellow, and things are going well, and then he slips into the conversation, "Oh, yeah, I'm..." or "I have..." And dealbreakers often have more exceptions.

I know from personal experience that dealbreakers for me include The Crazy and Mommy Issues. Of course, the latter I have to suss out for myself-- no guy just out and out announces that shit. Both of those also fall into the category of "It's not me, it's you." Dealbreakers that have to do with me are more situational: I won't have drunk sex, I won't have one-night stands. (Both of those, I guess it should be full disclosure, are on an "anymore" basis.) Dealbreakers that are more me, but because of the other person, include "No double-dipping/sloppy seconds", and "No teenagers". Being younger than me is often a dealbreaker, but it's not inviolable-- I just can't do the teenager thing. There are also dealbreakers of type: I would prefer an athletic fellow, so the scrawny boys are out.

So maybe that opens things up-- people have dealbreakers, right? No kids, no drugs, no sluts (that's a genderless term for me), no one currently in a relationship. There are different levels, different flexibilities, but I know I'm not alone in this.

Quick recap. There are, I believe, four types of dealbreakers:

1: "It's not me, it's you", or when the problems are with the partner, and personality-based
a. The Crazy
b. Mommy Issues

2: "It's not you, it's me" part 1, or when it's my issue/situational
a. Drunk sex
b. One-night stands

3. "It's not you, it's me" part 2, which has to do with a personal choice regarding a non-personality issue of the other person
a. Age (too old or young)
b. Sloppy seconds (thou shalt not mack on thy friend's ex)

4: "I'm just not interested", or when that person is just not your type
a. Physical non-attraction
b. Mental non-attraction/connection

In the two middle situations, it's more of a "if circumstances were different, things would be different--maybe another time". They are the two most fluid and breakable types. The first and last, however, tend to be the hopeless situations.

And this revisitation of the issue is what probably pushes my over-analytical mindset into the first category. But dammit, I like quantifying things. You wouldn't think I was a lit major.

body mod: mUndane

Quick note: If sushi was called raw sea kittens, it would be all the more delicious to me. Don't get me wrong, I adore cats. I've been told "crazy cat lady" is in my future. I don't even watch movies with minor cat abuse. Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" nearly broke my heart with the "Meow" incident-- if the narrator had perpetrated it, I would never have forgiven him.

Nonetheless, cats are not fish. And I love ridiculous words and phrases, such as "sea kittens". That would make sushi just a bit sexier for me. In fact, I might start saying I'm going out for sea kittens. It's the same as calling my gyno "the pirate doctor" and cracking jokes about my job as an abortionist's assistant. That's just my humor.

What I came here to say, however, has absolutely nothing to do with dietary or bloviatory habits. It has to do with self-mutilation, of the mildest sorts: eyebrows.

Honestly, I started really putting some thought into this as I stared into the mirror, tweezers in hand, wondering if I should just go in for a waxing. I've never had my brows waxed; in fact, I was late to the plucking game and only started after a friend sat me down about four years ago and dove in. Not to say I was bushy-- I thought my natural eyebrows were rather nice. "It'll change the shape of your face," she said, and I let her reign.

And it did. It at least changed the way I looked at my face, and how it was structured. It became second nature, and I even started to get a thrill out of it. I felt feminine, delicate, and as though I was... okay, maybe I didn't put that much thought into it. The funny thing was that I kept doing it, even after I entered into my "know how I really look" phase. The entirety of my college career I didn't dye or style my hair, things that I had done frequently in high school. I'd cut my hair, but never really shape it beyond a layer or two. If I went for a bob, it was a straight bob, if I grew it out, I cut it flat all the way around. And I've never been one to wear make-up.

I wanted look unashamedly like me, at a time and in a place where everyone was trying so damned hard to look like anyone else. I was able to look into a mirror and say, "Yes, I know that girl." And then pick up the tweezers for a stray.

Maybe it's not funny to anyone else that I never even thought about it, but now I'm looking back at pictures of myself from college going, "Did I ever really know that girl?" My hair's a more confident shade now, and I've got some kicking fringe and contacts, and I even wear some eye make-up from time to time now that I'm not hiding behind my glasses.

Because that's the thing, I guess. I've always found that the best place to hide was in plain sight. If I don't keep secrets, no one can blackmail me. If I tell you upfront what I'm about, then you can't have any revelations about me. If I went out looking brazenly like myself, I could at least pretend that no one saw me.

So now I'm trying something new. I promised 23 would be a monumental year, and it's doing just that in ways I wasn't anticipating. So as far as body modification goes, I'll be getting another tattoo or two, and maybe another couple of piercings. I'm going to shave my pits and legs, I might even get a manicure. But my eyebrows? I'm letting those babies go au naturale, just to remember what I look like.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup

It's happened to all of us, I think. You see someone about to eat something or do something and you go, "Really?" They of course respond, "why not?" You start to talk but then realize that while you know it's wrong, you don't have exact studies and science to back you up. Further, they use their more easily accessible knowledge and possibly better debating skills to trounce you. You end up feeling like an idiot, but with the burning feeling that you really were right. You just didn't know how to express yourself.

I'm not willing to get into a fight without having exact examples, usually. So when someone says something I'm fairly certain is false about a sensitive topic (my boyfriend's ex-roommate does this all the time), I bite my tongue until I can come back with something solid. The result, of course, is that it looks like the other side "wins". ("I thought you gave in on that point," my boyfriend says to me later. "No, she's a moron, but I'm not going to argue with her unless I have the data to back up my point. Ah, here it is now. See?" I reply.)

So I can sympathize with the people in those High Fructose Corn Syrup commercials who end up in the same, infuriating, frustrating position. Where they try to warn someone about HFCS and that other person walks all over them with iffy information, portraying it as perfect and true. As Michael Pollan points out in his book, In Defense of Food, we really don't know that much about nutrition. Further, many of our discoveries now make the discoveries from a few years ago totally useless in their findings. So saying HFCS is nutrionally the same as sugar isn't saying much. Further, enjoying HFCS in moderation sounds good, but unless you're a complete perimeter shopper*, you're enjoying it in your diet. Probably in places you weren't even aware of.

Honestly, if the food is prepped ahead of time and isn't raw, you should probably assume it has some in it. Bread? Usually. Soda? Almost always. Frozen meals? Of course! Even a lot of "health" food has it (though a lot doesn't because of its bad rep). Check the label on everything you eat today. You might be surprised at how much corn is there.

But beyond MP, my literary, foodie crush, there are tons of studies that certainly would give that woman at the park or that man on a picnic a bit of a punch. Just try this replacement commercial. What he doesn't mention is that table sugar is far less processed than HFCS. All signs point to the less processed something is, the more easily we can digest it, the better it is for us. Of course, that wouldn't have sounded nearly as good as spouting off all those studies.

But aside from just spreading misinformation, I don't like the debating style used because I feel so much sympathy for the person getting steamrolled. I mean, they aren't even a strawman. You have to get set up before you get knocked down in that case. They just stutter a moment. Like those "I'm a Mac" commercials, I feel like this one misses its mark: I feel way more sympathy for the woman and man who get steamrolled than I do empowered by the people doing it to them. Their debating methods just reflect the overall iffiness of the industry they represent.

At this point, it just so happens that I made a delicious soup last night. It reminded me very strongly of the Chunky Beef Vegetable soup I had all the time in my youth. It always grossed me out a bit coming from the can, but it tasted good. Some Google-fu gave me the ingredients in the Pot Roast soup and would you believe it: HFCS! So in exchange for this rant about debating styles and HFCS, I give you delicious and easy beef vegetable soup:

Mushrooms (sliced)
Carrots (peeled and cut)
Small potatoes (cut in half if they are biggish)
Chuck roast (cut into squares)
Onions (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 cups red wine
4 cups chicken broth
Olive oil.

Put a bit of olive oil in a pot and heat.
Brown the meat squares in pot. Remove and set aside.
Add more olive oil.
Cook onions in pot until brownish and soft.
Add garlic and mushrooms, cook until soft.
Add wine, broth, meat, potatoes, and carrots.
Simmer three hours or until carrots and potatoes are cooked. Or longer, whatever. Take your time. Don't rush.
Add more water if too much liquid escapes or cover pot to begin with.
Season with salt as necessary.

Eat. Is delicious.

I realize it's not the most exacting of recipes, but soup is very forgiving. Add some other stuff, don't put all of this in, it doesn't really matter that much. I suggest one bottle of wine: two cups in the soup and the rest in you.

-- Lu

*perimeter shopper: you shop only around the grocery store perimeter -- nothing from the middle, where the processed foods usually are.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fuck Sea Kittens.

Wow, now that I've read about PETA's new campagin to re-name fish as "sea kittens", I kind of want to take back all my self important rambling about organic cosmetics long enough to say this: fuck you, PETA.

Fish are delicious and healthy. Yes, they are hunted for food and sport. Yes, they are over hunted and it is a problem. Yes, they are intelligent and feel pain. But seriously? Sea kittens? We're aware of the problem enough without attaching silly, gimmicky names to it. You aren't going to reach a new audience really and those who already care will be at home rolling their eyes. Like I am.

And I'm still going to eat sushi, even if I have to call some of it raw sea kitten instead of raw fish.

-- Lu

Organic Cosmetics

I admit it. I eat and drink organic. Not always, not as a rule, but most of the time. I don't do it as a method of moral superiority, sometimes I'm actually a bit embarassed about it. I want to say to co-workers who roll their eyes at my juice boxes that splash the word ORGANIC about like it is more important than the beverage, "I'm sorry!" But sometimes, organic is all you've got. For instance, when I say "juice box", it should be clear that I'm talking about single serving chocolate milk terapaks with collapsable straws. I haven't found them in "normal". I'm not ribbed even a little bit about my juice box milk though, oh no, it's that my juice box chocolate milk is organic that seems to invite ridicule.

And fair enough, drinking anything out of a juice box at my age, no matter how convenient, deserves at least a smile.

But I've read The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, I love food with all my heart, and I strive to eat the food that tastes best, is good for the environment, and to be honest means the shortest walk for me. So I buy the majority of my food at the farmer's market. I can sample before I buy and it's across the street. Great all around.

Despite all that, I have a lot of trouble getting behind some of the weirder organic trends. I'm okay, for example, with my bamboo tights. The bamboo isn't organic, but is sustainably grown, super comfy, and cheap. I'm a bit weird about paying approximately a bajillion to have my clothing flown in from who-knows-where with the super exciting label "organic". I mean, if you're that down with the environment, just buy used.

So I was more than a bit sceptical about organic cosmetics. On the one hand, I'm certainly in the crowd that hears "organic" and thinks "oh, healthier, less processed, I bet it's better for my face" regardless of how true that is. On the other hand, I kind of roll my eyes and wonder if we really need organic makeup. What exactly goes into makeup that makes Brand A organic while Brand B isn't -- do I really want to know the animal and plant things they're using or would I rather leave the makeup a mystery?

I've already admitted that I'm a bit embarrassed about using "weird" organic things. Mostly because a lot of them are less green in some ways than their (un?)traditional counterparts. Makeup falls into that category -- strange enough that I don't really want to admit I'm using the organic version. It costs more, it probably doesn't actually help the environment that much, and ... well, you can see how much space I've already taken up to try and justify the following fact: Of all the makeup I've used, ever, the organic stuff I've bought lately is absolutely the best and makes me look fabulous.

I got some organic powder (Physician's Formula) for a recent big date. It was a bit of a lark -- I almost never wear makeup, it would be funny to tease him by saying it was organic. It was amazing. My face has rarely, if ever, looked that good. It was also ridiculously easy to use. But it was one product, so I kind of wrote it off. Then I noticed that Softlips has gone organic. Even the tube is made from 50% post industrial recycled plastic. Softlips has long been my go-to source for, well, soft lips. That stuff is amazing. And organic? Damn.

I guess in a way, I was surprised that products I viewed (or would have viewed) as having gimicky price-rasiers (the USDA organic seal) were also really high quality. There is not reason they shouldn't be, but I'd been seeing organic as a gimmick for so long (see: bananas) that in a way, I forgot it wasn't all infomercial nonsense.

-- Lu

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Oh, right, hello.

I don't know how Lu managed to get three posts up in a single day. Honestly, dear, you don't need to worry about us going gently just yet. You know I'm a terrible procrastinator, but I do eventually get things done.

Now I feel the pressure to decide what current situation best introduces me to the general public, what pressing issues keep me awake at night, what I feel most like sharing or, since this is a blog, over-sharing.

What is foremost in my mind at this minute is academia-- I am currently making my applications to PhD programs in the UK, and becoming more and more excited about it. However, I really think that is a niche issue.

Perhaps I should write what suggests itself in response to Lu's "True Wuv" post.

Dilemma: I want to date, but have absolutely no idea how to go about it.

Lu has it easy, with a boyfriend she practically lives with, and a wonderful how-we-met story, complete with cookies and sundry baked goods. She also lives in a large city, which means a wider gene pool.

I'm living in a moderately-sized town (roughly 100,000 people) in the back hills of the northern South. As a college graduate, I can no longer rely on school to introduce me to similar fellows with coinciding interests. Thus, I am left to the bar scene, and praying that any new female friends have male friends they don't share a sexual history with.

I have been told by friends that my problem can be found in the rules I have, but honestly, I don't find them too cumbersome:

1. Don't fuck the crazy.
2. No mommy issues.

Those two, I've decided, are inviolable. Now, they do seem to eliminate most of the men I come across, but I don't really think that's a bad thing. There are a number of other, minor rules to which I allow exceptions, such as "No double-dipping (i.e., sleeping with friends' previous partners)".

Based on my past experiences, though, I have been developing a third rule which may officially eliminate my chances of having sex ever again:

3. No more drunk sex.

This would eliminate one-night stands, I believe, which have been-- well, not a sustaining source of sex for me, or even a constant one. Just... the most recent.

I fear I am far too analytical to find a relationship here, even on a short-term basis. Which is a shame, because I determined that I would like to take a lover before leaving for grad school.

Alas. So, rules: what is your opinion on having them, and do you have any of your own?

Love, Twu Love

I feel like this article's been all over blog-land, lately but I just took the time to actually sit down and read it. It's the one about True Love and how it really can last a lifetime. A large part of me has wanted to say since hearing about it -- of course love really can last a lifetime. We wouldn't have so many stories idealizing it if it didn't happen to someone. And we wouldn't always be hearing about our grandparents, parents, neighbors, or cousins if it wasn't happening with some regularity.

The thing that shocked me about the article upon actually review it was this: unless I'm reading it wrong, the results are a lot worse than they are reporting. According to CNN, they scanned the brains of couples who'd been together for 20 years and couples newly in love. They found that 10% of the couples who made it to 20 years retained that same level of chemical reaction as the newbies.

But that's out of the couples that make it to 20 years! How many actually do that in this day and age? So a goodly amount (yes, I do think 10% is a goodly amount) of the people who have the stuff to make it stick are still as ridiculously in love now as they were then, but that's only out of the people who had the stuff to make it stick. And! Because we obviously haven't had time to research anything based on these findings, what happens when their brain chemistry does change? Will they progress similarly to a fairly new couple, meaning that they may easily fall out with each other? Or will they progress in a way closer to the other "we've made it this far" couples? I guess, in a way, I'm trying to ask: So we know a tiny number of couples do this, but is it really a good thing? Or should we be lauding the couples who've matured in their relationship and passed this point?

According to this old NYT article, only about half of couples make it to married 20 years. And that's married 20, not "together 20". I don't know the exact parameters of the True Love study. But 10% of "about half" is really more like 5%. True love is getting more and more elusive! And I'm still not sure that I even want to be in the 5%. I'd love to still go nuts over my boyfriend/husband in 20 years, but I'd also like to think we'd both mature emotionally in that time. Because I'm not sure I can handle 20 years of, "He's so fluffy!" as an answer to... everything. And only emotional maturity is going to change that one.

I should also say I was pretty shocked by the marriage statistics from the NYT article. I thought we were having a lot more divorces. Oops!

-- Lu

Crickets chirping in the night

It looks like Eli hasn't shown up yet to introduce herself. I'm a little hesitant about posting again before she gets here, but I don't want to leave us with crickets chirping as yet another blog falls into the land of forgotten ideas and New Years Resolutions to Write More. (Though I didn't make any NYRs and certainly didn't make one to Write More.)

So I'll post some filler by telling you about Big Project of the New Year Number One. I generally start a LOT of projects. I finish very few. This is one project that I'm almost desperate to finish. Both to show that I can do it and because it's so freaking cool. I'm making a weighted companion cube quilt.

The weighted companion cube is probably the iconic image from the video game Portal. (It's a tie between the cube and a cake, but since the cake is a lie and the cube is really there, I'm going with it.) Portal is a really fun logic game that, admittedly, I've never actually finished. I gotten about halfway through. Now this isn't surprising, I never finish video games. I never even finished Kingdom Hearts which I played obsessively, loved, and completed all but the final boss battle. And I do mean all -- I did the minigames, even the ones I hated, in the name of completion. Just not that last battle.

Portal is really fun, the cube is highly recognizable, and frankly it gets put in a lot of crafts. For my pursposes, it's going to be a bit tricky to sew, as I'm not half assing it. As my first sewing project in about a year, I'm going to fully quilt it. For me, that means 256 five inch squares that I expect to sew down to four inch squares (I'd hope for quarter inch seams, but I'd also be dreaming) on a new machine.

Right now, I have the pink squares cut and the black, edging squares cut. I only have gray and dark gray to cut. But I want to start the heart anyway. If you look to the "quilt" I don't really like, you can see the overlap of pink from how they made the heart. Now, if you pull out a Betty Crocker style half apron, you can see what I plan to do by looking at the pockets. It's more complex sewing, but I think it looks nicer. Unfortunately, I've only ever done it once before. To make a Betty Crocker style half apron. Wish me luck!

-- Lu