Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You have to be responsible for your own safety.

Because the police can't do it, even when they're right there watching.

West Linn Police say there wasn't time to save a woman shot to death in the parking lot of their police station by her estranged husband.

Bill McMurtrey chased Lisa McMurtrey with his truck as she fled to the police station, then he shot and killed her with a rifle in the parking lot of the West Linn Police Department before fatally shooting himself, police said Tuesday.


She might not have been able to stop him from killing her even if she'd been armed and trained, but she's probably the only one who could have.

Big project

I've been wondering for a while what my next big life project would be. What challenge will I take on this time? I have felt like I was just marking time, waiting for some big exciting thing that I can work on to happen or show itself to me.

Reviewing the past year, I think it already showed up. It's just more subtle than the usual challenges I've faced, which (even when chosen) have started off more abrupt and drastic. This one slides in and out of my day with mild problems that seem temporary but recur.

It's affecting every aspect of my life: spiritual, relationships, physical, emotional, you name it. It's changing how I relate to food and entertainment, how I dress, my meditation practice. I'm putting a lot of energy into cognitive therapy responses to the symptoms, changing my emotional responses to the minor but annoying and frequent symptoms.

It's aging. Aging including perimenopause. I don't get to choose this one, like so much of life it just comes along will-ye or nil-ye. And while I sometimes feel tortured, it's a blessing that I have lived long enough to endure this, and have nothing worse in my life to obscure or minimize it.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Humpty Dumpty

I admit, I am idiosyncratic about a lot of word definitions and use. Not quite as much as Humpty Dumpty, but it's a valid accusation to say that my choices sometimes impede communication more than they aid it.

But I don't take another person's problem and redefine it out of existence by applying a personal standard to the definition. That is, someone somewhere is asserting that there is no patriarchy and has been no substantive or meaningful oppression of women because to them, if there had been, men would have used their power to lengthen their own lives. Since women still live longer than men, there cannot be a power structure that benefits men.

Of course, it's a man redefining women's oppression out of existence. And he's doing it quite classically: giving examples of powerful women (see, one woman was reigning queen of England, so all women cannot have been oppressed); arguing that since he's a man and he didn't benefit from the patriarchy, there must not be one; and that only this one very specific definition of benefit counts, and since he's constructed the definition because it's his life focus to fix this problem, of course there can be no patriarchy or there wouldn't still be this problem.

Not to mention he's looking at length of life of men and women today, not historically: it's only relatively recently that women began living longer than men, only since the widespread acceptance of the germ theory of disease, when doctors finally realized that simply washing their hands before attending a delivery drastically reduced the number of deaths of young mothers from post-birth infections.

However, I am not up for a course of feminism 101 right now, especially when it's an unasked-for imposition on another person's blog, so I am not fighting the good fight today. It's hard enough for me to live under the oppression without also being responsible for teaching the oppressors about it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Treyf Princess

At the Anticraft this issue, a bacon tiara.

Insight into income and class

My friend firecat posts a link to an article about an informal survey on how much money it takes to feel rich. Respondents were shown either no pictures or one of 3 sets of paired pictures (two happy couples, a yacht and mansion, a camera and iPhone) and then asked about what income and net worth would make them feel rich.

The group that saw the luxury items said it would take significantly more income to be rich compared to all the other groups. Interestingly, there was no significant difference in the results for those who saw consumer goods, happy faces, or no picture. The pattern for net worth was similar.

I like how this non-scientific study plays with the definition of rich. In order to define rich, you have to fantasize about what kind of life would feel rich, and then imagine how much income and net worth that translates too. More experience of higher income correlates with a higher definition of rich:

s you might expect, those with higher incomes also defined "rich" as significantly higher-income and net worth compared to those with lower incomes. High income respondents defined "rich" as a net worth of over $4.3 million, while low income respondents said it would take less than half that much to be rich -- an even $2 million.

Of course, the other side of that coin is that even with the experience of an actual income that poorer people have defined as rich, people with that income don't think of themselves as rich. They're imagining an even more luxurious lifestyle.

The only result that surprised me was on the charity question.

We also asked respondents to tell us how much they would give away if they won a tax-free million dollars. None of the images made a difference -- the average amount given was about $200,000 for each group, regardless of which picture they saw. What did make a difference in giving? Actual income. Those who said they earned over $100K per year would give away an average of $154,000 out of a $1 million prize, while those earning under $100K per year said they'd give away an average of $207,000 -- a significantly larger amount!

This is probably not selfishness, but a more accurate idea of the purchasing power of the two sums and how giving away that much money would affect your standard of living.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

You could be happier, too. If you aren't already.

Gun owners are happier than people who don't own guns. Conservatives are happier than liberals. Results are not correlated with political control of the White House.

You win some, you lose some.

Hat tip Jay Lake.

I'm making myself a new rule.

If two or more people are having a conversation, and despite plenty of room to make other choices, have scattered themselves on opposite sides of the only corridor, I no longer am obligated to excuse myself for passing between them. They were there first, and have effectively blocked the way so that in order to get through I must interrupt their conversation for a moment as I walk down the hall.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Next year...

It is sunny and breezy outside my window, which is open to refresh the air after I fried some fish this morning. Things are blooming everywhere I look: iris, nasturtiums, jasmine. It's spring here!

At home the weather is wintery; a storm with a chance of snow. The furnace is undoubtedly running.

I'm celebrating Pesach this year with my other partner and his family in the Bay Area. The fish I fried is the Sephardic gefilte fish I learned to make from my first husband's grandmother. It's a challenge to cook in a hotel kitchen, with just the bare necessities and even those not your familiar tools.

I am enjoying this mini vacation in the beautiful weather. How's your weekend going?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Knitting a sweater

Well, I'm plunging in at breakneck speed to the most complicated knitting project I've attempted yet: a sweater for me. Giant-sized, lumpy and bumpy, easily-bored me, so I've chosen a pattern from a book written specifically for fat women, with a lace-like stitch pattern rather than miles and miles of stockinette.

Because I've chosen a different yarn (a lovely alpaca, brown and gray twisted together) from the one recommended in the book, I spent hours knitting swatches, trying out both plain knitting and the pattern stitch on various needle sizes with my chosen yarn until I matched the pattern's recommended gauge. But I finally got gauge, which is important since much of the pattern is written in stitch counts--and if you're supposed to get 4 stitches to the inch but you're getting 6, then knitting 288 stitches won't make a big enough garment to fit you.

And then a couple of days ago I cast on for the project. I've done the first step: 3 inches of 2x2 ribbing in the round, and set stitch markers for where it will eventually be split into a front and back. Next will be the pattern stitching...and I'm too tired today to start this challenge. Maybe tomorrow!

What they believe.

So presidential candidate Obama said some things, and there has been a lot of negative reaction to his words. Turns out it might be that the worst part about what he said was that he was wrong, according to an op-ed by Larry M. Bartels in today's New York Times.

Small-town, working-class people are more likely than their cosmopolitan counterparts, not less, to say they trust the government to do what’s right. In the 2004 National Election Study conducted by the University of Michigan, 54 percent of these people said that the government in Washington can be trusted to do what is right most of the time or just about always. Only 38 percent of cosmopolitan people expressed a similar level of trust in the federal government.

Do small-town, working-class voters cast ballots on the basis of social issues? Yes, but less than other voters do. Among these voters, those who are anti-abortion were only 6 percentage points more likely than those who favor abortion rights to vote for President Bush in 2004. The corresponding difference for the rest of the electorate was 27 points, and for cosmopolitan voters it was a remarkable 58 points. Similarly, the votes cast by the cosmopolitan crowd in 2004 were much more likely to reflect voters’ positions on gun control and gay marriage.

Small-town, working-class voters were also less likely to connect religion and politics. Support for President Bush was only 5 percentage points higher among the 39 percent of small-town voters who said they attended religious services every week or almost every week than among those who seldom or never attended religious services. The corresponding difference among cosmopolitan voters (34 percent of whom said they attended religious services regularly) was 29 percentage points.

It is true that American voters attach significantly more weight to social issues than they did 20 years ago. It is also true that church attendance has become a stronger predictor of voting behavior. But both of those changes are concentrated primarily among people who are affluent and well educated, not among the working class.


So maybe it was projection. Mr. Obama (and educated, upper-middle-class liberals and progressives like him) is the one who thinks the government isn't responsive to his economic needs, so he turns to his religion, his values, and his gun position and votes based on those? (Of course, I suspect Ms. Clinton believes the same things Mr. Obama said; she just didn't get caught saying them in a closed-door meeting with donors that was supposed to be off the record.)

None of this is what I objected to, though. I objected to what Mr. Obama said because he attributed people's decisions to a negative emotional state ("bitter") without explaining how he knows they're all bitter. I mean, did he ask them? People get my emotional state wrong all the time!

Heh.

From a comment to this post at Megan McArdle's blog:

The single greatest advantage the right has over the left is the left's assumption that people who disagree with them are stupid.

And that if only we can make them understand, they'll agree with us.

Monday, April 14, 2008

In training

I bought myself a Wii about a week ago, and I like it. The risk of RSI scares me: it's so much fun to play on the Wii I can easily imagine doing myself injury. I work up quite a sweat swinging it like a golf club or bowling ball. Strangely, on some things I do better left-handed although normally I'm right-handed.

I found it online, used, with extra stuff so the price bump didn't feel wrong. Then yesterday I traded the extra game for a different one, a dungeon crawl that looks fun. But because I've never played video games (well, not since 1982 when my then-boyfriend's Atari 2600 died) I'm finding it very hard! But fun.

Can't talk

Well, I can talk a little, but the laryngitis that felled me over the weekend (and caused me to cancel all my plans) is still affecting me. I can squeak out a few words, but then my throat hurts, and the squeaking isn't easy to understand. So mostly I'm whispering. Other than that and a bit of tiredness, I'm fine.

Twoson came for a weekend visit and we had fun playing with the Wii I bought a week ago. And I started knitting myself a sweater--that is, I'd spent hours working on a gauge swatch, changing needle sizes, but I achieved gauge and so I have cast on and knit a few rows (in the round) of the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A pandemic loss

I subscribe to a word-a-day feed, and today's word is abulia, which is defined as loss or impairment of the ability to act or to make decisions. I think I will be using this word a lot.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Response to Absolut Vodka

My favorite response to Absolut's recent advertisement, redrawing the map to include southern Oregon, California and various other southwestern states in the country of Mexico? Skyy Vodka Proudly Supports Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo officially ended the Mexican-America War (1846-1848). With the signing of this treaty, the United States gained control of what was to become the Golden West, including California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and parts of Colorado and New Mexico. Today, SKYY® Vodka, the number-one vodka produced in the United States, spoke out against suggestions by Absolut® Vodka to disregard that treaty, as well as the joining of Texas to the Union in 1845, as depicted in Absolut’s recent advertising.

[...]

In the ad, an “Absolut World” is depicted where the map of North America is re-drawn with Mexico claiming much of the Western United States, negating the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, as well as the Gadsden Purchase (1853), and the independence of Texas (1836).

“Don’t get me started on the Gadsden Purchase,” continues Karraker. “I think the folks in Tucson and Yuma would be rubbed the wrong way if they hear this landmark deal was somehow nullified as suggested by Absolut, a Swedish-owned brand.”


LOL
Hat tip Instapundit

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Life sucks!

In mildly annoying ways, viz: I am coughing my lungs out, which is making my throat sore. I had a fasting blood draw this morning, and my blood sugar is obviously not yet recovered yet despite a healthy breakfast--I'm shaky and have a headache. The office is freaking freezing, as if a window were open--and we don't have any that open, we're on the 16th floor! And I have the urge to rant and laugh hysterically at the same time, thus this blog post.

Have a great day! At least, I'm going to try to. As I said to a good friend yesterday, at least I'm cute, and that always seems to help.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Explaining my choices

If you read this blog directly, through a bookmark or link, you'll notice the quotations in the left column. I've decided to explain those here, partly because I'm going to be changing them when I find others I like and I want to memorialize the ones I take out.

The first one I'm changing is:

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. Winston Churchill

I posted that because I needed the encouragement. I've had people attack me for standing up for something. And I do mean attack *me*, not the subject of the discussion.

I'm changing it out for this:

"He was a conservative in the sense that he believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defences fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms." Evelyn Waugh, on Kipling

I like this; I can imagine describing myself this way, although it's only part of what I think.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What I learned from my mother

I wrote this a couple of months after my mother died, and I am posting it now to remind myself.

You can always have pleasure. It might be as simple as joyfully dancing to good music for 3 minutes while cleaning the house or cooking dinner, but it's always available to you.

You can always start over. You might have nothing more than the clothes on your back, but that's only material goods and they can all be replaced.

You always have what's inside you.

You can leave dangerous situations. Keep yourself safe, and bear in mind what the alternatives are.

Everything is up to you, and you can handle that. You can count on yourself, even when there's no one else you can rely on.

Books are important: they can teach you, entertain you, and distract you. So is music. There are lots of kinds of both, and you have to try them to figure out whether they suit your needs.

Fear the government; it's intrusive, and even when it has your best interests in mind, it's not very good at solving problems. But use the resources the government has available when you need them; you're entitled as a member of society.

Six words

Six word autobiography thing:

Finally over my childhood; what next?

Achieved my goals; vamp till ready.

Desperately seeking love...finally found it!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Links on fighting and self defense

Old men must be dangerous.

What works for one writer.

How somebody else found martial arts.

It's not the tool that's dangerous, it's the person.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Discomfort

I started writing a post earlier today suggesting that returning to the custom of household servants was worth considering as an alternative to the welfare culture, in response to reading something at Instapundit's wife's blog on the subject, and the extensive comments thread there. But I got stuck because (as a person socialized--if not particularly well--in this culture) I am uncomfortable with servants. I'm uncomfortable in several ways with the idea of having people in my home whose job it is to take care of me.

The obvious one is having strangers around. Granted, after a while they wouldn't be strangers, but they would be other people for quite a while before I became comfortable with them as members of the household...if ever. I mean, I occasionally fantasize about living completely alone, without even my husband, and I adore him!

Working out the relationship boundaries would be a tough task. Formal? Informal? Familial? The last thing I need is more people to whom I feel obligated; and I would not be the only one in the relationship, so despite the fact that I would be paying an employee, I would still be ethically obligated to respect and consider their desires for the relationship.

I don't know how good I'd be as a boss. I don't share power well; I delegate wonderfully, but I can imagine myself as quite imperious (I'm sure I am, in fact).

Then there's security. One of my fear fantasies about being incredibly wealthy is that I would be at risk from all the people I would need (to pay) to take of me and my money.

But mostly it's my self-image: I think of myself as a person who takes care of others, and I have a huge barrier to letting people take care of me, even when they want to. I only want what is given freely, as arrogant as that sounds. Forcing other people to provide care that I need is one of the scariest things I can imagine. And paying them to provide it is forcing them, it seems to me.

I think it shows a flattening of income value, that just a few generations ago it was ordinary for middle-class and even working-class homes to have a servant, maybe a day housekeeper or once-a-week heavy work girl, but now we take for granted that each tiny nuclear family can do all its own homemaking work. And we do. But at what cost?

Charlton Heston has died.

Joel Rosenberg reports that Charlton Heston has died, with a story about part of his life:

In 1961, he attended a premier of one of his movies in Oklahoma. The theater was segregated; he joined the picket line. At a time when it was by no means politically expedient to do so, he marched with Martin Luther King Jr.

Great photo at the link of Mr. Heston with James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and Marlon Brando (among many others) at the civil rights march on Washington, DC.

May his memory be a blessing.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What's it worth?

The NYT has a story about how being unable to sell their house is keeping couples apart. When one spouse gets a job in another city, the left-behind spouse is stuck selling the house...or trying to.

Dr. Michele Morgan migrated last fall from Detroit to Phoenix, taking a job as a psychiatrist. She expected her husband, Sam Kirkland, to soon join her, since he was accepting an early retirement package from his employer, General Motors. But he cannot move, he says, because he has not been able to sell the four-bedroom family home.

I wonder what's keeping him from selling the house? Is there an armed guard preventing people from signing a contract? An order from a judge prohibiting potential buyers from even looking at it? Or could the problem be...an inflated sense of the house's value?

“As things now stand,” said Mr. Kirkland, who is 51 and intends to seek work in Phoenix, if he ever gets there, “my wife might decide to give up her job in Phoenix and come back to Detroit for a while, until we can sell the house.”

Let's just mentally add "for a price we are willing to accept" to the end of that last sentence, shall we? Surely there's somebody willing to buy any of these houses for one dollar cash. Probably even more than one person! But the owners are not willing to sell at that price, even if it means giving up the new job and new life in a new town, because they'll have to keep the mortgage debt.

So a past decision (to buy or mortgage a house for a whole lot of money) is constraining the current choice field; no sympathy, buddy. And no rescue, not on my dime anyway.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The nth reason I do not support the UN

The United Nations Human Rights Council supports content-based suppression of speech, including requiring participating nations to take action:

to prohibit the dissemination, including through political institutions and organizations, of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement to racial and religious hatred, hostility or violence;

[...]

And
to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and their value systems

Hat tip Volokh Conspiracy.

In her stillness

At The Common Room, a wonderful quote by Tony Tanner from an introduction to Jane Austin's Mansfield Park (edition not specified):

In her stillness she is not inactive: on the contrary, she is often holding on strenuously to standards and values which others all around her are thoughtlessly abandoning.

The she referred to is Fanny, the ... well, she is not exactly the protagonist. I've always imagined Fanny as the story teller; she doesn't make many decisions (only one important one) nor take direct action in most of the book. She reflects the actions of the other characters.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Irritating

There's a new template that a couple of my favorite blogs are using (e.g., Confessions of a Pioneer Woman), and I HATE IT. I hate it enough that I may stop reading both of them, to my loss. The template makes it more difficult to discern what is new content, more difficult for me to find the parts of the websites that I enjoy reading, and just plain more difficult to look at because I keep the bookmarks sidebar open and this template fills the whole screen, so I'd have to scroll over as well as down to see all the content.

The design is similar to a newspaper's front page, with several headline stories arranged horizontally and vertically that you have to click through to read. I don't understand the appeal, really: newspapers are supposed to be dying, not infecting the World Wide Web with their antiquated layout.

Please don't switch to that template, oh authors of blogs I adore. Please, I beg you.