Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Moving to Montana?

Courtesy of Instapundit, a story about the State of Montana's letter asserting an individual right under the Second Amendment as a condition of the Montana Compact.

The dispute goes back more than a century. Back in 1889, the settlers of the Montana territory struck a deal with the federal government: They agreed to join the union, and the government agreed that individuals had the right to bear arms.

That has worked fine for the past 118 years, but the Supreme Court is expected next month to hear oral argument in District of Columbia v. Heller, the appeal of a federal court decision striking down the District's gun-ownership ban on Second Amendment grounds.

The high court has not issued a broad ruling on Second Amendment law in almost 70 years, including the key question of whether it provides an individual right, like speech and jury trial, or a "collective right" held by state governments. Many constitutional scholars, both liberal and conservative, say this case gives the justices an opportunity to rule on that matter.

The Montana statehood contract, which was preserved as Article I of the state constitution, specifies gun ownership as an individual right: "The right of any person to keep or bear arms ... shall not be called in question."


There's no threat to secede, but it certainly makes Montana an appealing refuge if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against an individual right.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"It's Holocaust Awareness Week, and Anne Frank is Not Fiction"

AdRants points out a print ad for Holocaust Awareness Week. The ad shows a hard copy book, The Diary of Anne Frank, with a library "fiction" label attached to the spine. (Not implying that any librarian in the US would so mislabel this book: the ad is making a different point.)

I like it.

Culture and Size Wars

I just heard on the NBC Today show that when the New York Philharmonic played in North Korea this morning, there was a delay of game due to a size war...a flag size war. The Koreans had put up a bigger flag than had been agreed to in earlier negotiations.

But trust the USians to have brought a bigger one, too, and the delay was short while the appropriately-sized US flag replaced the earlier-agreed size.

I'm delighted that the delegation actually thought to bring a bigger flag along!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Growing

It's been dry and warmer, so this weekend I did some yard work. But first, breakfast! A lovely breakfast out with a friend, following which we went to two different garden stores for a couple of plants for my office (with appurtenant pots and a tray to keep the water from rusting my desk), snail bait, and some small shrubs. Then as we were passing by the strawberries I mentioned that I'd like to put some in and after wandering around the entire grounds of the second garden place my friend picked out some containers and strawberries as a gift. Thanks!

We went back to the house and busily set about mounting the containers on the fence, filling them with soil and then strawberry plants, and watering, all the while talking more about my yard and plans for it. After she left I weeded more and tidied up a few places and my darling husband came outside to mow, and then helped with the tidying. I also potted up the plants for my desk at work, and planted some sweetpea seeds along the back fence.

Sunday my friend came back and worked some more while I ran off for a con meeting. When I came back I was surprised to see 8 large bags full of pulled weeds and other yard debris! My husband had also worked in the yard while I was gone; all the prunings from the shrubs were on the to-be-chipped pile in the back. And the 8-foot-high volunteer filbert tree in the side yard (where I'm planning to put raised beds for vegetables) had been chopped down and the area cleared. Plus they planted the shrubs next to the driveway that I'd purchased the day previous.

So I took her out to dinner, and we had a lovely meal at a local bistro.

Friday, February 22, 2008

What I am in life

From Laughing Wolf:

Instead of declaring oneself as something higher, consider this instead: declare yourself a student. When a student visits a group or place, they are expected to learn. People will often go out of their way to help them with the process, to be sure that they have mastered fine points, subtleties, and other catches in that particular thing, whatever it may be. People share the little things, the important things, that often don’t make it into books or postings; and, they share the wisdom that goes with the knowledge. This is a priceless thing, and a true Master at anything seeks it with a passion.

If you are indeed a leader, an expert, a master, a lord or whatever, it will be seen in your actions. You will show your knowledge, and your wisdom, in your actions and will not have to brag about it. You will show your true status by how you share your knowledge, your wisdom, and the fruits of your efforts. By this you will be judged, and how you act, write, or do will show you for what you truly are in life. Let others award you titles.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Name dropping


What are the odds that Anthony Bourdain would be standing outside the deli where I got my lunch today? It probably wasn't him, just a very tall man with steely short curls, smoking a cigarette...naaah, probably not him.

But it did look just like the man in this picture.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Better off before

They were better off before they broke the wall.

Into Egypt, that is.

It is still the rare Arab voice that points out the obvious - Palestinian Arabs in “refugee” camps have been given decades of free food, shelter and education, not to mention attention, that Arab countries do not provide for their own citizens.

Israellycool links to an article by a former Reuters reporter.

I must confess that when Hamas militants blasted holes into Egypt's border to end an Israeli blockade on Gaza, my first thought was how lucky those Gazans were. Landlocked and living on less than $2 a day—their plight rarely elicits envy, I know. But there are Egyptian slums that swim in more sewage and are submerged in even greater poverty. In those slums, chronic diseases go unchecked and uncured, and children grow up next to the dead in tombs turned into makeshift-housing.

Yet nobody rushes to blast holes into the imaginary border of poverty that suffocates those slums, nor are they sporting t-shirts urging us to sympathise. Why?

Because Israel cannot be blamed.


Arab and Muslim dictatorships distract the masses by blaming Israel, and focus discontent and aggression against Jews and Israel instead of the problems in their own countries.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I need a new bookcase, too

From Violins and Starships, a link to a bookcase that I'll build into my house, if I ever decide to convert the attic to living space.

Representing my tribe

Fascinating article at the Guardian by a fellow who's been studying tribal fashion.

There is a scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian where the eponymous hero addresses a vast crowd of devoted followers who have mistaken him for the Messiah. 'You are all individuals,' he shouts. 'Yes,' they reply with one voice. 'We are all individuals.'

It is the sort of joke that delights Dutch photographer Ari Versluis, who has spent the last 14 years documenting the disconnection between our human desire to feel unique while also belonging to a greater whole. Since 1994, he and his stylist, Ellie Uyttenbroek, have travelled the world seeking to document the dress codes of different social and cultural groups. What they discovered was a series of modern fashion tribes - people who dress the same, often without even realising it.


What do my clothes say? Here I thought I was picking them because I like how they feel and look. And finding the right compromise point between those is a repeating struggle.

The Jewish Lobby

Megan McArdle discusses the problem of admitting there is a Jewish lobby

I was at a conference a few years back, and in the course of a spirited and entirely friendly discussion on differences between European and American foreign policy, someone asked why their Israel policy should be so different. The answer seemed obvious to me, and without thinking particularly hard about it, I said "Europe doesn't have many Jewish people any more." Several people around the table cringed, and so did I as soon as I heard myself.

But it is hardly controversial to state that ethnic groups press the interests of their groups with the government. In no other area of US foreign policy is it controversial simply to say that politicians tend to vote their ethnicity, and more importantly, the ethnicity of their constituents. No Arab-American I have ever met is either surprised or offended when you note that the Michigan delegation in Congress is the only substantial geographical opponent to America's Israel policy; indeed, they wish they had this power in other states. Irish Americans don't accuse you of conspiracy-mongering when you note the way the late Senator Moynihan happily handed out vastly disproportionate numbers of visas to the Irish. I'm not sure why, in a group of people who are presumptively not anti-semitic, it is socially frightening to point out that regions with lots of Arabs and few Jewish people will tend to be more hostile to Israel than regions with lots of Jewish people and few Arabs--particularly when Jewish people are so central to American intellectual, cultural, and economic life.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Early Sunday mornings

The sun is shining in through the south windows. It's cold outside; I know this because I've been out running errands this morning. It was 38F when I left the house, and the breeze was blowing, but I like being out when many people aren't. Of course the other people who are out on Sunday morning at 9:00 fall largely into three categories: church-goers, dog-owners, and parents of small children.

I did the week's grocery shopping and filled the car's gas tank. I've been practicing belly dance a little since I got back.

If I believed in portents and signs, I would look forward to a very good week. But I don't, so I'll do the work to make it a good week.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Might come in handy

I occasionally get a crush on someone, and somewhat more rarely I express that attraction. Next time maybe this will be useful! At the very least, it's amusing.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My theme for today

Do not start fights in other people's comment sections.

Do not start fights in other people's comment sections.

Do not start fights in other people's comment sections.

I've rolled on this 4 times today, only rolled a critical failure once so far. Go me!

Building ships

Cafe Unknown scores again with a great story about ship building in Portland for World War II. And I didn't know we built ships for Russia!

It was an order to build fifteen freighters for Great Britain that brought industrialist Henry Kaiser to Portland to establish Oregon Shipbuilding in the first place. A similar order provided twenty “liberty ship” freighters to the Soviet Union.
Russian crews, often captained by women, attracted much attention in Portland while they waited for their vessels to be completed. After launching, the ships, some named for scions of old local families, were handed over to the Soviets and renamed.

Where did it go?

The week has flown by, I can't believe it's Friday already. Work has been incredibly busy (which is great, I'd much rather be busy than not). Unfortunately I've been under the weather emotionally this week--the kind of apathetic tiredness with occasional blips of deep sadness that I find particularly hard to change. My sleep is full of dreams; I've awakened 6 or more times each night from a different, vivid dream.

I'm being extra careful to eat well and get some exercise daily, and to go outside during daylight (that is, on my lunch hour).

I do wish the people I think of as friends would stop telling me I'm weird.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine suggestion

For me, and for Rory: Single malt chocolates.

Getting it to my bathtub

At the bottom of this page is a cool article on how LUSH, the British manufacturer of bath and skin products, worked with UPS to change its shipping practices when the volume of orders from the US meant that individual handling became too time consuming.

In the past, Lush's shipping and customs documents were produced manually. And personnel who received calls from customers proceeded as follows: They told the customer that they would call back. After hanging up, they called the courier company. They then called the customer to communicate the requested information. Each order was delivered individually to the US. For each parcel shipped, they had to assume transportation costs and customs. You can imagine the number of calls and checks in a day and the costs of such a situation.

Doing it manually meant lots of individual packages held up at customs, and lots of fees. There were also lots of errors--I remember my first few orders from LUSH each had at least one mistake, although it was great because LUSH would immediately ship the right thing and you got to keep the error! Once I bought a huge gift box and they sent the wrong one, so I got to keep it and receive what I ordered a few days later as well.

The article is a love-letter to UPS--or maybe a promo piece *from* UPS, but very interesting on solving the logistical problems.

Hat tip GirlHacker.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Gauging it

I have spent a lot of time over the last few days knitting swatches, trying to get gauge for the sweater I want to knit. The pattern calls for size 5, but I think I'm going with size 6 in order to get row gauge. If this sounds boring, it is. And frustrating. But I'm also practicing the drop-stitch ribbing pattern I'll be knitting the body and sleeves in, so it's not a complete loss.

I also discovered that the size 6 circular I have is 4 millimeters, while the size 6 DPNs are 4.25. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY THIS IS. I need to buy another circular for this pattern anyway, so I'll pick up DPNs that are the same size in millimeters.

Twitter

My talented and charming husband has written a piece of fiction. Go forth and read!

Change the world

I've just made another microloan with Kiva.org, thanks to a gift certificate from a friend. You can join me!

You might choose to help a man who does small engine repair in Peru, or a woman selling baby clothes in Tajikistan, or a group of entrepreneurs including a pharmacist and a grocer in Uganda. Right now there are borrowers from Lebanon and Pakistan, Cambodia and Mozambique, trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

If you can spare as little as $25 you can help somebody make a difference. Please consider helping people somewhere in the world by lending through Kiva.org.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Can't stop laughing long enough to post this

Okay well maybe I can

From the comments on this post:

The American woman also has to realize that they now complete globally as about 5% of men now are marrying foreign. Foreign women know what a good deal American Men are that American Woman have failed to grasp.

"Since none of the women in my culture will have me I'll just choose to be suckered by a foreigner looking for a green card."

Not a prom date

The other thing about marrying somebody for the passion and excitement is that if they can't help with the daily tasks and broken pipes, the passion and excitement are likely to fade. By contrast, marrying someone who is a partner in the daily minutiae and drudgery of life makes accessing the prom date excitement possible, because you're content (or even thrilled) with sharing the load.

Partners

In Marry Him! (at the Atlantic) Lori Gottlieb advocates settling for a good-enough man instead of holding out for the perfect, romantic, in-love relationship.

Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)

While I've never believed in "one true love" I'm not sure settling is the best approach. I've never yet settled, and I'd surely be insulted to think someone was settling for me. I think the better approach is to examine and adjust your expectations. And I think Ms. Gottlieb understands this when she writes:

What I didn’t realize when I decided, in my 30s, to break up with boyfriends I might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content. It sounds obvious now, but I didn’t fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

She's advocating changing your standards, not settling. You don't look for the same thing in a long-term housemate and life partner that you do in a prom date. And really, who'd want the excitement level of a prom date day-in and day-out? When would you relax? How would you solve the plugged sink or leaky roof with a prom date? Would you want your prom date to take care of you when you were sick?

Ms. Gottlieb seems to be ashamed of deciding to settle, though, when she discusses a book about marrying the men who maybe aren't A-list to other women:

The moral is supposed to be “Don’t be too picky” but many of the anecdotes quote women who seem to be trying to convince not just the reader, but themselves, that they haven’t settled.

“I should be with some guy with a vast vocabulary who is very smart,” said Heather, a 30-year-old lawyer turned journalist. Instead, she’s dating an actor who didn’t finish college. “My boyfriend is fun, he’s smart, but he hasn’t gone through years of school. He wanted to pursue acting. And you can tell—he doesn’t have that background, and it never ever once bothered me. But for everyone else, [his lack of education] is what they see.” Another woman says she dates “the ‘secrets’ … guys other women don’t recognize as great.” How’s that for damning praise?

Meanwhile, in sugarcoating this message, the authors often resort to flattery, telling the reader to remember how fabulous, attractive, charming, and intelligent she is, in the hopes that she’ll project a more confident vibe on dates. In my case, though, the flattery backfired. I read these books thinking, Wait, if I’m such a great catch, why should I settle for anyone less than my equal? If I’m so fabulous, don’t I deserve true romantic connection?


But what I see in these quotes is a weird focus on whether your husband gives you success points in other people's perception of you, not whether he's a good person you care about and can make a good life with, as if picking a husband were a competitive sport and you scored based on his education level, income, interests, etc. instead of on how happy you were together.

Then there's her angst about how unfair it all is.

And no matter what women decide—settle or don’t settle—there’s a price to be paid, because there’s always going to be regret. Unless you meet the man of your dreams (who, by the way, doesn’t exist, precisely because you dreamed him up), there’s going to be a downside to getting married, but a possibly more profound downside to holding out for someone better.

Oh, life is awful, if you settle you didn't get what you deserve, and if you don't settle you might end up alone! In the end she wishes she'd been smart enough to settle younger, in her early 20s; I wonder whether even that would have made her happy since by her definition she would still have *settled* instead of doing what I think best, changing your expectations to match your needs in the completely different relationship that is marriage.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Expectations

Ever wonder if the rise in PTSD among soldiers is more due to society's demonization of warfare (and any gun use, for that matter) than to the nature of the experience? Plus valorizing expressing and relieving the emotions and memories over letting go and moving on?

I do.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Abortion and Parental Notification Laws

Parental notification laws on abortion seem like a good idea. I wouldn't want my sons (when they were minors) to have had surgery without my knowing; what if they had a reaction or infection and I didn't know that the surgery was a possible cause? Heck, they couldn't even get a tattoo or piercing without my permission until they were 18. But then, I'm not the problem parent that notification laws empower. I'm not, for example, the kind of parent who did this.

I knew from things Mary had said that Jill's parents were hard on her, but I didn't know the extent of her problems at home. When Jill took my advice and told her parents she was pregnant, her father beat her so badly she ended up in the hospital and lost the baby.

Are teenage girls the best judge of how their parents will react? Maybe so, maybe not, but why take a chance on this possible outcome? Kudos to Dear Abby for her response to the woman (whose daughter is the friend of the girl who was beaten):

What you failed to take into consideration was the fact that many teens live in homes where there is violence, abuse, drug problems and incest.

A year ago here in California, there was an attempt to legislate "parental notification" into law. Fortunately, it was voted down. It's teens like your daughter's friend who would have been harmed by this kind of law. They certainly cannot go to their parents -- and I have never believed that the law can successfully force this kind of communication with the home.

Of course parents want their children -- regardless of age -- to come to them if there is a crisis. And I am told that seven out of 10 teens who find themselves pregnant do exactly that. However, those who don't usually have a good reason for not doing so.


Most of the teens whose parents will be supportive and helpful (or at least won't commit assault on them) already talk to their parents about their serious problems, including pregnancy. The law is only forcing teens who don't have a good relationship with their parents to tell something private to someone they fear may be dangerous to them.

Links

Sixtyfying the suits on the bus.

The kudzu of the Mediterranean.

Ninjas killed my family! At writer Steve Perry's blog.

From Follow Me Here: Ninety-six printmakers of all experience levels, have joined together to produce 118 prints in any medium; woodcut, linocut, monotype, etching, lithograph, silkscreen, or any combination. The end result is a periodic table of elements intended to promote both science and the arts.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Labels again

At Apartment 11D, Laura discusses her discomfort with being tagged "mom" in people's heads. Even in her own.

I'm very happy that the kids are tucked safely away in their elementary schools, and I've been able to spend more time at work. I like that I can tell people that I'm a professor. For some reason, our kitchen rehab guys think it's really funny that I'm a professor (is it the big hair?) and keep saying things like "So, professor, you really want to expose the brick on the chimney? Well, if the professor says so, we gotta do it."

It's kinda nice having a job description that gets a little respect. Sadly, the mom name tag doesn't come with too much street cred. It's not fair, but that's the way it is.

But even if I don't have to use the "mom" name tag, it's still there.


In the comments I wrote that I object to being identified by my employment far more than I do being identified by my relationships. Of course neither of those sets of labels captures everything about me, but my relationships are more important that my paid labor. I take great pleasure in being [husband's] wife, [partner's] partner, and [a number of people's] friend. I like knowing that some people think of me that way. Saying I'm a legal secretary doesn't tell you much about me, while saying I'm the mother of two men says a lot. Maybe that's because I don't have an impressive job, or the kind of job that is a true vocation, a passionate pursuit?

Even so, I enjoy my job, I am well paid and respected, and I work with wonderful people, but I prefer to be labeled with other things: my hobbies (I'm a knitter and a reader) or my relationships, or my food choices (I'm omnivorous), or my religion, or my politics.

I don't think of people by their professions if I know them at all in any other way. I know my therapist, for example, and so I don't think of her only as my therapist, but as [name] who was my therapist and has a daughter and used to be a dancer and prefers alternative medicine and is a Jew. The space in my head where I hold [name] includes a lot of descriptive words, none of which alone can be her identity, and even though my relationship to her is mainly the one of a patient of therapy, that's not who she is, that's just the relationship we had for a while.

In the comments to the post at 11D one person argues that you were someone before you were a mom, but once you have the mom tag that seems to be all you are. What about all those other parts of you? I respond that once you are a mom, you are a mom for the rest of time. You don't stop being a mom, not even when your children are adults and take care of themselves, not even when they start taking care of you, not even, G-d forbid, if your child dies before you. No wonder the things you were before fade a bit in importance and memory.

I understand that the objection to "mom" arises out of how people respond when they find out you're a mom: I've read about the parties where everyone stampedes away on the assumption you have nothing to interesting to say, have no value to add, cannot network them in with somebody important to their career. They assume that's all you are, and that's their mistake and their loss. I know I'm not limited by my labels, even the ones I don't like. But more importantly, I like this one. I like being a mom, I like being labeled a mom, and I'm willing to suffer the dismissal of small-minded people who think that a mom is all I am.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Apples-n-Onions; Orange Biscuits

Brunch today: fried apples-n-onions, German sausage, orange biscuits.

Fried apples-n-onions is pretty much exactly that. Sliced onions and apples (peeled or not, your preference) fried in butter until done (onions) and lightly browned (apples). Good with sliced kielbasa-style sausage (also fried in the same pan).

Orange biscuits is a lot harder but worth the work. Make your favorite rolled biscuit recipe as far as rolling it out; have handy 1/4 cup melted orange juice concentrate (previously frozen), sugar cubes, and a baking pan with melted butter in it.

Cut small biscuits, as small as an inch in diameter if you like. Roll the top and bottom of each biscuit in the melted butter and nestle them together in the pan. For each biscuit, quickly soak or roll a sugar cube in the melted previously-frozen orange juice concentrate and plop in the center of the biscuit. Bake according to your directions. But watch them closely: the sugar will burn just about the time the biscuits are lightly browned and done.

My brother was supposed to come over, which is why I went to the trouble, but he hasn't shown up.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Juno

I've just seen the movie Juno, directed by Jason Reitman and starring Ellen Page and a host of very good character actors in the secondary rolls, including two of my favorites, J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney. The film was marvelous: funny and touching without ever being melodramatic.

It was hard to watch: I've been on too many sides of the issues in this film. I've been 16 and pregnant, although I never considered for a moment giving a baby up for adoption. I had an abortion. My mother had given up her first child for adoption and regretted it awfully. In fact I think it affected her ability to bond with me, and be a loving mother to me--my older brother was born in spring and she was pregnant with me less than 6 months later, not enough time to mourn his loss, arguably not even enough time to completely heal from that pregnancy and birth. She never knew him; he didn't find our family until five days after she died. And I have an aunt who raised one of her daughters' baby, because the daughter was only 16 and not ready for motherhood.

In the movie Juno struggles to feel important to someone other than her dad, and wonders whether couples ever stay in love. She touches only briefly on the pain she feels at her parents' divorce and her mother's emotional and physical abandonment of her. There are parallels to and reflections of my childhood, and I haven't sorted out yet all I think and feel about this movie. But it's very good and worth seeing.

That big bowl this weekend

Get stats for your favorite players in this weekend's Puppy Bowl IV, broadcast in HD! I remember stumbling on it a few years ago (probably the second year it was on) and enjoying watching the puppies play in a football-field-themed play room. There is a water-bowl cam (up through the water) and an end-zone cam, and a sports-announcer for the play-by-play and when they bring in a substitute or change teams. At half time there's entertainment by kitty.

I didn't know before reading the article that the puppies come from shelters in Washington, DC, and most of them have been adopted by the time the show is broadcast.