Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wave goodbye to traditional energy sources, Part Two

Last month I mentioned an article in Discover magazine about new technology that converts ocean waves into usable energy. At the time, the article wasn't up on the Discover website yet. But it is now, so here ya go:
Wave Energy: Can a mechanical snake that surfs the ocean squeeze enough watts from water?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

America the Great?

Many thanks to my friend who reads the New York Times and sent me this article about the miserable excuse for science education in this country. She sure knows how to get me steamed up :) I'll refrain from a soap box lecture and say just this: Students in other countries like China and Japan are learning to speak English as well as they speak their native language, and their families are strongly emphasizing success in education over sports and other extracurricular activities. Call it perpetuating the stereotype or call it striving for greatness. But someday soon, the U.S. will no longer be a competitive nation in fields of scientific research and discovery. Then, all we'll be left with is lamo celebrities and lots of tall buildings.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Nosmo King

If you recognize Nosmo King, you must have read the Ramona Quimby books when you were a kid (or last know, whatever). Nosmo King was a sign that Ramona, a young girl, put up in her house to encourage her father to quit smoking. She couldn't fit "No Smoking" onto one line, so she wrote it in two lines:

Anyhoo, finally, Chicagoans are getting a note from Ramona, courtesy of a smoking ban just passed by Chicago City Council. Unfortunately it gives freestanding bars and taverns until July 2008 to go smoke-free, which means we Chicagoans who actually care about our health and enjoy clean air must continue to forego patronizing establishments that allow smoking, which often means missing out on social events held by well-meaning friends who aren't as bothered by smoky bars. It's still beyond me why anyone feels they need to support smokers' rights. Unlike other behavior that some people may not approve of, smoking actually affects other people. I guess I assumed clean air was the status quo, which we need to protect. New York, Boston, and Los Angeles have all proved that the ban doesn't affect the city's economy and that plenty of people still go to bars and restaurants. Chicago should have more faith in its citizens.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Crunchy, and proud of it

Many of you know that I have recently decided to eat vegetarian, and organic when possible (Whole Foods=Whole Paycheck, but Trader Joes is a rather viable alternative, and oh how I love Trader Joes). Anyway, the organic trend is catching on, but for some reason there are still obstacles to healthier eating. No, I don't get it either. This Tribune article in Sunday's paper discusses the attempt to water down the regulations for labeling food as organic. You probably don't think about all the chemicals and additives in food these days, but just because it seems safe now doesn't mean it won't cause problems years from now. I suspect that in the next 10 to 20 years, we will start to experience health problems that directly result from unnatural chemicals in our food and in our environment. Lung cancer and asthma are already becoming more widespread problems in large cities where there is greater pollution, and even the Blommer Chocolate Factory in Chicago was cited by the EPA for releasing exhaust into the air that contained too much particulate matter (who knew that inhaling chocolate was a bad thing?!). So there's my official plug for healthy eating. Support organic farming and eat locally. Start at for more info.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I read this article last week (For Family Honor, She Had to Die), and although I really wanted to post it here right away and comment on it, I hesitated. The article discusses a number of murders of young women in London recent years--women who were doing what other young women their age were doing, like going to school and dating boys. But these women belong to families that immigrated to London from Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and in an effort to instill a sense of cultural tradition in their families while living in Western society, they have imposed strict rules on their children. And so, because these young women wanted to date young men and go to school and live like their peers, they were killed by their brothers, cousins, and family friends for breaking tradition and dishonoring their families. In their home countries, this sort of honor killing is condoned. But these families lived in London, where murder of any kind is against the law.

Oh, what a conflicting issue, which is at the root of our trouble with keeping peace in the Middle East. How can we be respectful of all cultures in order to help them live together in the same country and yet condemn this kind of violence? In Iraq, the U.S. is imposing Western values on people who have known a very different culture for thousands of years. I'm not comfortable with that, and I believe we should respect the traditions of other cultures everywhere in the world. We have seen the clash continue in Paris, and the Chicago Tribune yesterday printed an article about the culture clashes throughout the rest of Europe.

Understand that the vast majority of people in the world, regardless of their national, cultural, and religious identities, just want peace and freedom. But during a time when Western culture is invading every corner of the world and we are busy condemning violence, the pockets of groups fighting Western culture are growing stronger. So how do we protect people by imposing certain values that other cultures may not agree with? It's a slippery slope, and a question not easily answered.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wave goodbye to traditional energy sources, Part One

Discover magazine is sneaky--they send me the next month's issue halfway through the current month, and they don't post the new issue on the website til the new month. So I was all pumped up to talk about the article in December's issue about new technology that harnesses ocean waves as an energy source. But alas, December's issue isn't up on the website yet, so rather than retype the whole article here (which might infringe on the copyright and would take too much time), I'll just request that you sit tight til December til it appears here or on the Discover magazine website. In the meantime, this will have to do: Newsweek Next Frontiers

Don't despair when you hear about the energy crisis in this country and around the world. The government may not be doing enough right now to support alternative energy exploration (after all, they have their buddies in the oil business to look after) but there are enough people in the world who are so passionate about alternative energy that they are pushing boundaries on their own. I know I'm excited about what's happening just under the surface.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Updates and downdates

1. Remember my post about the mentally disabled woman who was raped and impregnated at the facility where she and her sister lived? First the good news: they caught the guy who raped her--an 18-year-old who worked there. He better be imprisoned for life or something. What a tragedy that girl and her family have gone through. The bad news is that the facility had ignored previous reports of other inappropriate behavior from the people who work at the facility. Why are 18-year-old guys being allowed to bathe female residents, even if there is a staff shortage? Appalling.

2. Remember the requisite ode to Sammy the guinea pig? First the sad news: Rest In Peace Sammy, October 21, 2005. He had more teeth problems and just didn't make it this time. But the uplifting news is that I got a condolence card the other day from the vet (Animal House of Chicago on West Lawrence Ave) with little notes from the vets and some of the vet techs. It was so sweet--one of the vet techs even referred to him as "my little man," which he totally was. I guess most veterinarian offices do this for pet owners, but it was still really touching.
This is the first time I have ever lived truly alone, without any room mates and without any pets, and I tell ya, pet ownership is way underrated. Animals bring such love and joy into people's lives and they ask for nothing in return, as evidenced in this article. So my plea to everyone is to support animal rights and anti-cruelty organizations and smile back at every animal who crosses your path. Yes, even the rats in the alley.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Not to brag or anything...

...but I totally called it. Okay, so I live on the North Side (it's just safer and closer to everything I need without having to drive) and okay, so I didn't go to any Sox games this year (apparently people would rather hang out at Wrigley Field?!), but I have always been a White Sox fan, and so I cheered last night when they won the World Series. Ozzie Guillen, probably the most stressed out guy this side of Washington DC, made it through, despite the end-of-season slump and some really tense games. Cubs fans are mighty ired right now. They're just jealous because the Sox swept the series in four games and the Cubs had their chance two years ago and blew it.
So now that I've gone and bragged about the win, you should read the column by Chicago Tribune's John Kass, a true South Sider and White Sox fan. John Kass usually throws some attitude into his column, a "told-ya-so" kind of approach, but today he is a gracious winner and says it well. Still, we can brag a little bit, right?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

World Champion Chicago White Sox

Get used to that phrase. You'll be hearing it a lot in a few weeks. Can I hear it for the South Side champs? You know it. Boo-ya.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

We've won the wars on drugs and terror, so what's next?

Apparently we have truly succeeded in knocking out the drug problem in this country, terror is a thing of the past, and now the government officials are twiddling their thumbs, wondering what they can do to break out of their extreme boredom. Because there's nothing else to do around Capitol Hill, they decided to take a crack at the last great plague of this nation, the porn industry. Ah yes. The greatest evil of all. Porn. I can't believe this is for real. Check it out in today's Washington Post.

Recruits Sought for Porn Squad

Man, I can't wait to see what the Daily Show does with this one. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of pornography, but I am a huge fan of free speech and of education, which includes educating kids about reproductive rights, sexual health, and making responsible choices. Congratulations to the religious Conservatives out there who are totally missing the point. Repeat after me: sexual education is the BEST way to reduce the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Maybe all the 15-year-olds having babies are being irresponsible because they're ALL sitting home watching dirty movies, but chances are they are just uninformed and don't make good life choices. But that would be too...liberal.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Seven Wonders of Chicago (It's official!)

As promised, I now present to you the Seven Wonders of Chicago, as decided by fellow Chicagoans who have voted early and voted often. (John Kass is just jealous, really.)Click on the names to see what the Tribune has to say about each Wonder.

1. The Lakefront
What needs to be said about the Lakefront, really? Sometimes it smells like dead fish. Sometimes it smells like wet dog. Sometimes it smells like hot dogs and sunscreen. During the summer it's ALWAYS beautiful, and during the winter, it's chilling and overwhelming. After living three blocks from the lakefront, how could I ever live in a landlocked city? All kinds of people flock to the Lakefront because there's something for everyone--nature, exercise path, boating, dog beaches, people beaches, open areas for picnics and recreation, wildlife conservatories, vending areas, and even comfy benches for the homeless, the elderly, the very young, and the injured to sit and wile away the hours.

2. Wrigley Field
Well, I'm a White Sox fan, so I can't extol the many virtues of the home of the Cubs, but I'll say this: Cubs fans know how to have fun. The Sox may be the better team, but the atmosphere in and around U.S. Cellular Field (ahem, Comiskey Park, thank you very much) can't compare to the craziness that is Wrigleyville. I can understand why so many people love it.

3. The "L"
People are complaining about traffic and gas prices and having to get a dumb headset for their cell phones so they can talk in the car. Every morning, I get to sit peacefully with my magazine or newspaper, listen to my iPod, and people-watch all the way to Garfield/55th Street. The subway interrupts cell phone service, so I don't have to worry about all the ringing and jabbering of annoying people on annoying cell phones, I can sleep if I want to, confident that I'll get to my destination stress-free, and I don't have to pay for gas or pollute the air. Driving is sometimes faster, but not always, and parking is a huge pain in the butt. Plus I get a workout by walking between the L and my destinations. Sadly, no city south of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi River has a working public transit system, except maybe San Fran. Maybe the L will change people's minds yet.

4. Sears Tower (aka next target for terrorism)
Kidding. It's a cool place. My uncle used to work on the 75th floor, and it took two elevators to get there. Lots of business gets done each day, and once in a while, a window pane will fall out and crash to the street. And you can't even feel it swaying in the wind.

5. Water Tower
I'm ashamed. The only thing I know about Water Tower is the tall shopping mall next to it with the same name. But it's a Chicago landmark that now houses the Lookingglass Theater, and you can see the pump station inside. At night, it shines like a beacon along Michigan Avenue.

6. University of Chicago
I'm proud to say I work at the U of C. The students may be too intense, too smart for their own good, a bit socially awkward, and any other traits one can associate as a generalization of intellectuals. But U of C is a great place, responsible for producing great scholars, businesspeople, lawyers, scientists, government officials, and other great minds in the world. I'd never go to school here, probably because I'm not even close to being smart enough, wealthy enough, or intellectually focused enough, (I'd never want to date Goerthe OR Nietsche, much less choose between the two, as was being discussed by some students here) but in my almost-three years of working here, I have learned to truly appreciate the intellectual aspect of life, and I've learned how to challenge myself in many ways. I'm sure the students at this university feel the same way, and that's what makes it such a great school.

7. The Museum of Science and Industry
(Personally I prefer the Field Museum, which is moving its huge collection of artifacts to a new storage location underground at the museum. But whatever.) The MoS&I is a really cool, hands-on museum that makes science and discovery accessible for kids of all ages. The domed Omnimax theater takes people on a wild ride down the Amazon River, on a flight through the Grand Canyon, and on a tour of the human body. Visitors can tour a submarine, a coal mine, a locomotive, and much more. The recent Body Worlds exhibit opened people's minds to the inner workings of the body in a way no other exhibit has before. And it's six blocks from the University of Chicago and right on the Lakefront.

Molly Ivins Tells it Like it is

No comments from me, just thought this was interesting. Thank you, Molly Ivins.
Follow the Money for the Real Story

Monday, September 12, 2005

Nature knows no political boundaries

Last night while I was killing time until the season premiere of Family Guy, I caught the last 20 minutes of the program Nature on PBS. The title of last night's show was Lost World of the Holy Land, and it was all about nature in the Middle East and the work that conservationists are doing to protect and restore threatened wildlife populations there. The little bit that I watched was about migratory birds, which live in all areas from Egypt to Israel to Syria and Jordan to Turkey and Iran. Israeli scientists were raising young vultures in order to help the population recover and spread. A Palestinian scientist was banding and releasing songbirds and teaching students how to track their migrations through interactive computer programs. Another scientist led a group of students on a nature hike and taught them about bird populations in the area. The students had arrived on three buses--one filled with Jewish Israelis, another filled with Arab Israelis, and the third filled with Palestinians. The students were grouped into threes, one from each bus, and the groups worked together on worksheets and study guides to learn about the local wildlife. Some groups even helped release birds that had been caught and banded.
This was before the escalation in violence, and they haven't been able to get together since then. But the symbolism is obvious. There is much that humans can learn from nature and through nature. The three buses of kids realized that although their backgrounds were very different, they shared the same interest in wildlife and could learn together about the populations of birds that live in all of their lands. While learning about wildlife together, they were also learning about each other, interacting as different cultures coming together for a common cause. Maybe the next generation of Middle Easterners will be more progressive, more willing to work together, more cognizant that despite their political, religious, and cultural differences, they share the same concerns about land conservation, wildlife, natural resources, and the environment around them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

The residents of Louisiana and Mississippi are having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day, for obvious reasons. New Orleans, although spared the worst of the storm, was flooded beyond belief, destroying whole neighborhoods and promising continued chaos as sewers flood, coffins float through alleys, and debris piles up. When New Orleans was settled hundreds of years ago, people knew they were building a city on top of a swamp, destroying the wetlands that act as a barrier between the ocean and the land during periods of high water. Now they're realizing just how much of a mistake that was. Read this article in the New York Times (which is similar to articles being written on this topic all over the country.)

I'm not saying that anyone deserved this, I'm just saying that you get what you pay for. In the battle between humans and nature, nature will always win. I hope this was a wake-up call for people to realize that you can't fight a storm, you can only be as prepared as possible for the aftermath. Huh, that seems to apply to many world events, not just to this hurricane.

Monday, August 29, 2005

It can happen to you, too

This weekend, I had the opportunity to learn what to do when one's wallet is stolen. I would have preferred read about it instead of learning through personal experience, but now I can pass the information on to you so that you can learn by reading.
1. Lower the limits for how much can be charged to your credit cards or withdrawn from your bank account on any given day. That way, when anyone (including you) tries to charge or withdraw more than the limit, you will be called to confirm the purchase or withdrawal. Yeah, it's a pain if you're trying to buy something or are going on a trip and need a bunch of cash, but it prevents other people from running up thousands of dollars on your credit card.
2. Don't keep lots of money in your checking account, so any huge charges on your debit card will be declined due to insufficient funds (sometimes it really pays to be broke). Also, don't keep more than one or two credit cards, and be sure to close all accounts that you don't use anymore.
3. Don't keep your Social Security number in your wallet or purse (thankfully I didn't either).
4. Keep the account service phone numbers for all credit and debit cards in a safe place at home. Thankfully, my credit card company contacted me as soon as someone attempted to charge a large amount to my card, and they were able to give me the numbers for my other credit card and my bank. Thank you MBNA for saving me some time and grief.
5. File a police report immediately (duh). Many places require a police report number to verify that it was theft and not just you being a dumbass.
6. Even if your SS card wasn't in your wallet, you could be vulnerable to credit fraud. Call any one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax) to put a fraud alert on your credit report. No need to call all three--when you place a report with one agency, they will automatically share the information with the other agencies. This will require any credit company to contact you directly to authorize new credit applications so that no one can open new credit under your identity.
7. Create only good Karma so that it doesn't come back to bite you in the ass later on. Even if you don't believe in Karma, avoiding gossip and keeping a positive attitude never hurt anyone.

I got lucky: I only had about $10 in cash, my credit card companies followed up right away so that no one was able to charge to my cards or gain access to my bank account, and there wasn't enough personal information in my wallet for anyone to do anything (I hope!). Be careful and protect yourself so that if God-forbid anything like this happens to you, the damages will be minimal and you'll be prepared to take care of it quickly.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Them Downstate people just ain't right

Hippiemama called me this morning from San Diego to tell me about her visit with Hippieuncle and his Hippiefriends, and despite all her complaints about Chicago and all her yens to be on a beach in SoCal year-round, she actually said, "I actually like Chicago better." Apparently San Diego is one big suburb without the diversity of restaurants or cultural attractions that Chicago has. Take that, Tan Diego! Anyway, the Chicago Tribune ran some articles this morning that grabbed my attention. Have a look-see, and share with your friends.

1. HOAX!
That's right, I said it. Downstate people are just wrong. Kidding. But Southern Illinois University should know better. As a journalist (well, I was for a college...) I am appalled. And yet, it's rather funny.

2. Bold School
Kanye West is a native of Chicago, and he more than makes up for the embarrassment of a Chicago musician known as R. Kelly. I may be a relative newcomer to the world of quality hip hop, but I look forward to the new wave of music emerging from Kanye, Common, Mos Def, and other musicians who have been around forever and are finally really getting noticed. Bye bye, bling bling.

3. Chicago not for elephants, scientist tells alderman
Keeping elephants out of the Chicago zoos is not a bad thing, though some people may be dismayed. Zoos are great places for teaching people about animals who need less living space or who are more adaptive to their surroundings, but elephants need to roam. Put them on reserves in Tennessee or the Great Plains, where they can live in protected areas that are more like their natural habitats in Asia and Africa. Props to Chicago scientists for standing up for better treatment of elephants.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Seven Wonders of Chicago

This summer, I fell in love with Chicago. The weather, although balls-hot, allowed for outdoor concertgoing, volleyballing, beaching, biking, running, exploring, barbecuing, and anything else you think you can do outside. But it's not just the weather, because I love Chicago even when I'm swearing at the CTA in the 10-degree February weather and sweating in the 95-degree sauna of July. And now, the Chicago Tribune is working to establish the Seven Wonders of Chicago. They're announcing one of the 14 nominees every day until September 9th, when readers get to whittle the list down to the seven winners. So far, the Lakefront, Watertower, and the L train have been nominated. This is going to be hard.

Follow the process at On Sept. 16th, when they announce the winners, I'll post the list with an ode to each winner. Til then, feel free to post a comment on your favorite things about Chicago. Then consider moving here, 'cause it's really an awesome city. And the winters really aren't THAT bad. Riiiiiiiiight....

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Another loss in the media world

From the Chicago Tribune on August 16th, 2005:
"In a funeral befitting a fallen head of state, visiting dignitaries and average Chicagoans on Monday remembered businessman John H. Johnson, crediting the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines with changing how blacks are seen in the United States."

Read the rest of the article here

I wasn't familiar with Johnson's work before he died (well, I had looked through Ebony and Jet in the past, but didn't know anything about Johnson.) but I think it's important to celebrate black culture. Although Johnson wasn't as visible as Peter Jennings, his work was just as important and should be honored and respected by everyone. If you have any doubts, pick up one of Johnson's magazines, and then go read "The Known World" and think about how far we've come in even just 30 years.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Affirmations of Life and Death

In death...
A fond farewell to Peter Jennings, who passed away Sunday, four months after announcing to the public that he was battling lung cancer. Any death is sad, a premature death from a horrible disease is worse, and the fact that he was such a public figure doesn't make it any better. Mr. Jennings, I hope you're not suffering any more. You taught us so much in life, but the biggest lesson to the public was taught in death. I hope that a new generation of newscasters and reporters will succeed as you have.

In life...
The space shuttle Discovery touched down safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California this morning. As the wheels skidded along the runway and the chutes popped open to slow the shuttle, I got a little teary-eyed. NASA is facing a lot of challenges as it struggles to keep up with modern technology, but we should never give up hope that new minds and talented scientists will create new technology that will bring new explorations of the universe beyond our atmosphere, as well as the seas beneath our feet.

In ink...
TLC's show "Miami Ink" is not just about a bunch of hooligans getting tattoos of skulls and roses, it's an interesting look at a fascinating art form that used to be only for sailors and motorcycle gangs but now transcends all cultural boundaries. One of the tattoo artists mused that perhaps 50 percent of all tattoos are designed and given in memorial of a friend or fanily member who died. Other people get tattoos to honor a change-of-life experience, such as breaking an addiction or having a child. The guys on the show are talented artists, specializing in Japanese art, creating one design from four different pieces, copying photographs into skin art, and more. It's fascinating to think that in 50 years, retirement homes will be croweded with displays of tattoos from drunken nights and long-lost memories, stretched earlobes and piercing scars on noses, navels, lips, and other body parts, as well as implants, surgery scars, gastric bypass rings, and other signs of body alterations. What a sight.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Obligatory Pet Hommage

Yes, this is my baby. Isn't he cute? He loves that hat. I got Sammy shortly after September 11th. I had been planning on getting a guinea pig all summer long (the apartment company didn't allow pets at all, but I figured a caged rodent couldn't do much damage), but since I didn't get my act together til mid-September, that's when he arrived at Smurf Village. I like to think he helped me cope with the changing world, the terrorism disaster, the new threats to our health and security, but honestly I don't think I was really upset by the current events. Except for my dreams of seeing glowing bombs through my bedroom window. In any case, last winter I learned just how much I would do for him as I racked up vet bills on my credit cards and nursed my baby back to health. He'll be four years old on August 12th, and he better live another four years, that's all I got to say. In the meantime, I'll put up with his 5 am pleas for breakfast if it means another day of snuggles, unbelievable cuteness, and fits of pouting in his castle. People don't give guinea pigs enough credit. They're smart and cuddly and they know when it's dinner time--traits that dogs and cats exhibit as well. Yes, they're rodents, but Sammy had been known to kick some mousey ass. So there. Cats barf and shed on your stuff and dogs need to be walked no matter if it's raining or snowing or 50-below-zero or hot as an oven. Don't get me wrong, I love cats and dogs too. For now, I'll keep my piggie, thank you. Yes, I know people in South America eat guinea pigs like we eat chicken. But this is Chicago, and when in Chicago, do as Chicagoans do. Hmmm, could I walk him on the Lake Shore Path like a dog? ......

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The space food is worth it

I just watched the launch of the space shuttle. Wow. Way to make me NOT want to get back to work at my boring desk job. My co-worker brought up a great point: most people don't think nearly enough about outer space after about age 10. Leave it to National Geographic magazine to keep the world up-to-date about what's happening in astronomy, planetary science, and the like. Check this out from NG's online section about Mars from the July 2005 issue. The article in the glossy magazine is much cooler, so pick up a copy or borrow mine and thumb through the photos of the great rocky plateaus of Mars that look like rural Utah or something. It's amazing.

I think astronaut should forever be up there with all the other cool careers, like fire fighter, neurosurgeon, and teacher, that kids dream of becoming. You never dreamed of becoming a teacher? Why the hell not? Teachers are the lowest-paid and most-important profession out there because the truly good ones inspire kids to enter all those other cool and important professions. Astronauts didn't become experts in their field from reading about Mars in a glossy magazine, but teachers who require their students to read that magazine and write a report about an article get future astronauts started in the right direction.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Babies rule

Mazel tov to my friend Joe and his family! His sister gave birth to a baby boy last night. I don't think he actually reads this blog or he surely would have mentioned it by now, but if you know Joe, tell him congrats on the birth of his nephew.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Flipping and flopping

The world is falling apart. Where have we gone as a society? Where did these women get the message that this was okay? The unspeakable has happened: Northwestern University's champion women's lacrosse team wore flip flops to the White House to meet President Bush. (GASP!!!) How dare they defile such an honorable institution by showing off their new pedicures to White House staff? From the knees up they appeared to be fine, upstanding young women--smart, athletic, team players. But their choice of footwear revealed them as the hooligans they are. One woman's mother was aghast, claiming she never leaves the house without pantyhose. Other friends and family members commented in the front page article on the horrific scene that has brought their family shame and dishonor. Flip flops have taken over the country. Life as we know it is now over.

Okay, can you detect the sarcasm in that one? Personally, I think it's a little ironic that President Bush painted John Kerry as a flip-flopper in the 2004 election and then some members of a women's lacrosse team choose to wear flip flops to meet President Bush. I really hope that their choice of footwear was an intentional message to the White House. How great is that?

Here's something to actually be disgusted about: (July 14) Health Care Facility Probed, Brain-damaged patient is pregnant and (July 15) Health Care Facility Faces Lawsuit
Isn't that enough to make anyone disgusted? I can't believe that someone would rape a severely brain-damaged woman, maybe not just once but possibly many times. The fact that she's now pregnant serves that man right for the horrible crime he committed. And shame on the health care facility for not only failing to properly supervise its staff, patients, and visitors, but also for not noticing for almost seven months (??!!!!!) that this woman was pregnant. And the mother seems so calm about it. I'd be a raving madwoman if someone raped and impregnated my daughter, especially if she were so brain-damaged that she had to survive by feeding tube. I'm just appalled. I hope they find out who did this, and I hope they lock him away for life.

See, people? There's a definite difference between the horror of inappropriate footwear in the White House (which made front page news) and the horror of a severely incapacitated woman being impregnated by someone in a health care facility (which showed up inside the Metro section.) The fact that some people at the Chicago Tribune failed to recognize that distinction is what has truly caused me to question the media.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Down time

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. Why? Nothing has inspired me. I could write about the London bombings or about Karl Rove or stem cell research, but my plan for this blog was to write mostly about less-known stories and advocate for the little guys, with the hope of informing people about more than just the headlines they see in the newspaper rack as they walk down the street. Maybe I'm not paying as much attention lately, distracted by other things. Maybe the media haven't had a slow enough news day to report on other things. Or maybe it's just summer and I'm tired of thinking so hard. So in light of my own slow news day, I invite you to comment or email me pieces of information that you want to discuss. Don't worry if it's not a fully developed story--I'm happy to do a bit of research. Ignore the big news pieces and current political/religious/other issues, which are being blogged to death all over the world. I want to hear about the less-publicized things happening. What issues are you thinking about? What has caught your eye?

This offer is always on the table, even when I'm feeling less lazy and more informed. Lots of people tell me they'd love to have a blog but don't have the time/energy/faith in themselves to post on a semi-regular basis, or they have a blog with a different focus but they do keep up with the world around them. So let me do the work for y'all...sometimes. I promise to be non-discriminating, which means I won't choose suggested topics simply because I agree with the point of view. I may have my own obvious political sway but I welcome an open exchange of ideas and views. I want to learn more about the other sides of the issues too, if only to better whoop your ass in a debate.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Not so Supreme anymore

Sandra Day O'Connor is retiring from the Supreme Court. Sometimes she voted with Conservatives, other times with Liberals. She has been the tie-breaker when it comes to abortion, taking a stance supporting abortion rights. You think Bush is going to appoint someone like O'Connor to replace her? Think again. If Rehnquist had retired this summer, even if another conservative were appointed, the Supreme Court would still have O'Connor as a swing voter. But now she's gone, Rehnquist will probably retire next year, and then the Supreme Court will join all three branches of government as being dominated by conservatives. And not the moderate kind, who are okay and necessary for political balance, but the religious radicals who say there's nothing in the Constitution that requires a separation of chuch and state. Hah.
I hope I'm overreacting when I say I'm scared.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

War of the Words

Those pesky professional journalists always beat me to the punch. In Sunday's Chicago Tribune, journalist Naftali Bendavid wrote an article about the new trend in politics, which is to create a sound byte of a political foe saying something onerous and then demand an apology from that person. In Chicago, the most familiar example of this is Senator Durbin's comparison of the Guantanamo Bay prison camps to such things as the concentration camps in Nazi Germany or the Soviet gulags. He later apologized after a number of policiticans from both sides of the aisle criticized his statement, but the fact still remains that prisoner treatment at Gitmo is a very contentious issue. But whether or not Durbin was correct in his assessment, the big story was his comment, not the subject of his comment.
These days, it seems like everyone is throwing around zings, criticizing the other party for their policies, their associations, their actions. But as Bendavid's article points out, the big policy issues that people should be discussing are being overshadowed by contentious statements people are making about those who support the policy. Few are talking about the real issues, instead turning them into insults that aim to discredit the other side and turn the public against them in time for the next election. Yes, some people are examining prisoner rights in Gitmo. Jon Stewart questioned the validity of Howard Dean's statement that the Republican party is made up of white Christian men (you know that show segment was funny!). But Dick Cheney, on Hannity and Colmes said of Dean's statement, "Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best as I can tell." Yeah, except for that little race for Governor. Five times. Dean's statement was worth looking into for statistics of the makeup of the Republican party, and Cheney zinged back by saying only his mother loves him. Way to be a Dick. These days, it's all about political capital. Avoid the real issues--the important thing is to make your political foes look bad. That way, in the next election, even more people will vote for you just because they like you and hate the other guy, not because they agree with, or even know about, where you stand on the issues.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Do the Boy Scouts know that the Japanese internment camps were not just ethnic summer camps?

Here's an interesting article: Interned Boy Scouts Look Back
I don't know why, but it really struck me. Just because a group of people are locked up together and forced to live in tents and shacks doesn't mean they stop living their lives. In fact, many Japanese boys in the camp joined the Boy Scouts because their parents thought it would help them assimilate. Why they wanted to assimilate into a culture that locked them up in the first place is beyond me, but I guess it was the only choice they had. It's uplifting to see that some good came out of it, and it's cool that they all got together after all these years. They obviously gained a lot from their experiences with the Boy Scouts and turned a terrible human rights disgrace into something valuable and meaningful.

Speaking of Scouting and camps, since it's now summer, I've been reminiscing about summer camp. I went to Girl Scout overnight camp, and while I didn't care about earning badges (most girls in the girl scouts preferred to make candles and lanyards, not canoe and hike) I was one of the outdoorsy willing participants who got my first taste of sleeping in a tent in the woods, building a fire, getting dirty and mosquito-bitten, and waking up early to go swimming or canoeing in the cold-ass lake. It made me appreciate the outdoors in a way I never would have by riding bikes and playing in the swimming pool with my friends. The first time I felt a sense of spirituality connected with nature was during some sort of ceremony in the Green Cathedral in the woods on the land near camp. I went to camp there for two weeks every summer between 2nd and 8th grade, and come August 1st every year, I still feel like I should be trekking off to Wild Rose, Wisconsin.
That was just my experience, but other people have gained a lot from summer camp as well. In fact, Michael Eisner, Disney guru, said that he grew more as a person from his experience at summer camp than from college or business school. He just wrote a book about it called Camp (read the review here). Camp is all about teamwork, learning how to live in close quarters with people you don't know in an environment that forces people to learn some basic survival skills. Sometimes putting on a wet swimsuit at 6:30 am to wash the campfire smell out of your hair with dirty lake water or sharing the best remedies for mosquito bites makes you realize that some things are just more important in life. The WWII internment camps were no romp in the woods, but they too taught people how to work together as a community, make the best of what they had, and learn something new. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating internment camps, but I am advocating the whole summer camp experience. On a purely volunteer basis.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

More about women and science

Regarding my previous post about women in science, about which I did not expect to receive such ire from people, I say only this: I'm glad the topic is being discussed in the media and among people in the community, no matter what the opinion. It's my blog, and I'll cry if I want to.
Here's something uplifting: Women aimed for the stars, hit glass ceiling
It's great that these women are being recognized for their accomplishments after all these years. Mad props to them for trekking through those challenges, both physically (vertigo? swallowing 3 feet of rubber hose?!) and emotionally (balancing families and the stress of training, dealing with gender role issues) and not giving up on what they were passionate about. More inspiration to everyone to follow your dreams, no matter what stands in your way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Borders, beware

Just a quick plug to support your local music stores. Every six to eight weeks, I trek down to the south suburbs to get my hair cut (no way will I trust just anyone with my curls). Today I was early so I stopped into my favorite south suburban music store, Threshold Music, where I bought a compilation cd of music that is produced by an independent record company in the UK. I never would have found something so cool as this cd, or the other independent artist cds sharing the same listening station, at Borders, Best Buy, or even Virgin Megastore. Threshold also has a huge variety of random used cds from all genres and really reasonable prices for all cds.
Oh yeah, and they're in the same little shopping center as a fishing store that carries live minnows. Doesn't get any better than that. Anyhoo, seek out your local music stores, and local bookstores, for that matter, and support them. Don't let the corporations take over and inflate cd prices. Eighteen dollars for a cd I can download from iTunes for $10 is simply ridiculous, especially since they usually have only one or two good songs anyway.

If you know of any great local music or bookstores in your town, feel free to post them in a comment here, and the next time anyone visits your city, they'll know where to go for quality.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

But the goggles totally mess up my hair!

There has been some discussion in the media lately about girls and science. Last week, the Tribune ran an article about a physics professor at the U of C Lab School who is known for treating girls and boys equally in the classroom, challenging every student to learn and grow. I see no reason to restate the discussion in the article (check out the last page or two--it has some really interesting statistics about the numbers of men and women in scientific fields), but I will discuss my personal experience with science education.
I heart science. I read science-related magazines and books. I love the science and natural history museums, I visit the zoo when I can, and I spew random facts about soil or tsunamis or octopuses (yes, that's the correct plural form of octopus. Ask me why. I dare ya.)
Okay, so I'm secretly (or not so secretly) a science nerd. Why am I not working in a science-related occupation? When I was in high school, I wanted to be first a marine biologist, then a zoologist. I wrote to Jack Hanna, zoo guru, about how to get into an occupation like his. He wrote me back. So junior year, I was debating which classes to take to prepare me for college. "I could take AP Bio (taught by the teacher I had for regular bio, and it was a tough class) or journalism. Hmm, writing is easy. I'll take journalism and maybe I can write about science stuff." My 8th grade English teacher told me I should be on the student newspaper, and my freshman bio teacher was a bitch. And that decided everything.
Support and encouragement from teachers often decide the fate of easily-molded students. Science teachers often simply answer questions from girls while challenging the boys with more in-depth questions. Instead of requiring equal collaboration during lab work, they allow the boys to take over the physical lab and let the girls take notes and write the reports. Girls are encouraged to succeed in "emotional" subjects like English, art, and foreign languages while boys are challenged and nurtured in science and sports. Fewer women enter advanced degree programs in science because they are intimidated or frustrated or bullied or just never empowered, which means fewer women are qualified to teach science. Girls don't have many role models in scientific fields, so they don't realize that it doesn't matter if they look funny in chem lab goggles if they're making a difference in the world of science.
My parents never told me I couldn't do things, in fact they let me follow my every whim. My teachers never treated me like I was incapable of succeeding in any of my classes (maybe because I was in honors classes and was obviously a good student). I almost never felt like I was treated differently from the boys, but maybe I wasn't paying much attention to that. But none of my science teachers, except maybe my chemistry teacher, ever prodded and challenged me in a good way. I was intimidated by science, even though I have always been passionate about it, and no one taught me not to be intimidated. Unlike the teacher from the Trib article, no one found a different way to teach something. Regret is a nasty little thing.
Maybe this generation of students and teachers will be better. As each generation moves away from the 1920s, the gender roles blur more and more. There's hope for our kids.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Just call me Ace

Dogs have been in the news a lot lately. Yesterday, three dumb ass kids in Chicago's south suburbs were attacked by a dog (not usually ferocious at all) while trying to climb into the neighbor's swimming pool. The pool is surrounded by a chain-link fence, a Beware of Dog sign was posted on the fence, and the kids hadn't asked permission to use the pool. A woman gardening on the South Side was mauled by two pit bulls, whose owner hadn't restrained or trained them since the last time the dogs had attacked someone. Those dogs were euthanized. A few weeks ago, a dog saved a little boy who was being attacked by another dog. Now, the mayor of San Francisco wants to impose limits on pit bull ownership after a boy was mauled to death by a pit bull.

'Dogs sure are vicious,' you're thinking. 'They're so dangerous and they maul innocent people.' But the problem isn't with the dogs, it's with the people who own them. Because dogs are such loyal companions, because they understand words like 'car ride' and 'dinner time', because they have human-like temperaments, people think that dogs are like humans, except they can't speak our language. Dogs are indeed very smart animals, but they aren't human-smart, they're animal-smart. They rely on instinct, not reason. When dogs attack someone they don't know who is in their territory, they're protecting their homes and their companions. When they randomly attack someone on the street, it's probably because that person smells like something that makes the dog feel threatened, whether it's another animal or a scent that reminds them of a previous experience, or they were startled by a sound or a suddent movement. It's not because they're evil, they're just relying on their instincts.

Animals, like people, have a variety temperaments. Some breeds are known for being easy-going, sweet, and low-maintenance. Other breeds, like pit bulls and other dogs that people train as fighters, are naturally more difficult to properly train (hence why they make such good fighting dogs). Some pit bulls don't want to fight though, and so they get beaten up by the trainers and other dogs. People think that all dogs are naturally sweet and cuddly and they don't want to have to do a lot of work to make them behave. When the dog does misbehave, instead of teaching it how to act properly, they yell at the dog, yank at its leash, and scare it into compliance. But dogs are like children. No matter how nasty they can be, if they're properly taught how to behave, they'll behave. It may take a lot of patience, some alternative teaching methods, and a lot of love, but that's how it is with both animals and people. That's why I cringe every time I hear of a dog attack or of a dog being euthanized for bad behavior. People are lazy and mean, and they'd rather put a dog down for doing what a dog does, instead of giving back to the dog the love that the dog gives to them unconditionally.
Chicago Canine Rescue helps rescue dogs from bad homes, teaches the dogs discipline with positive reinforcement, and helps find new, loving homes for the dogs. Sounds like they really have their work cut out for them these days.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Koran, the Torah, the Bible (in no particular order)

They are all just books. They tell us stories about our ancestors, they teach us moral lessons, they discuss the relationship between a higher being and believers of that faith. We place a lot of importance on our respective Books, believing that through them we can achieve a greater sense of being and perhaps even salvation. The Koran, the Torah, the Bible, all may be just books, but because of our very personal faith, we expect others to treat our Books with respect.

It deeply saddens me that anyone would even think of defiling a religious object, a symbol of faith. The saddest part is that people in other countries have so little confidence in the US that they have no problem believing that someone in our army would do such a thing. It's like the bad rumor you hear about someone. If you respect that person, you say, "No way, that would never happen." But if you hate the person, then of course they did that bad thing. And so we punish our media for reporting information, but we don't punish the people who made the world hate us to begin with.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

And now for something completely different...

...Kind of. I'm reading Silent Spring by Rachel Carson--not a very cheery book. So I was overjoyed when the Momster send me this cute cartoon which sends the same message: support organic farming and fight against chemicals and pesticides, because they're more harmful than we think. Anyway, go to this site: Grocery Store Wars. I promise you'll giggle, even if you're not a Star Wars fan. Boy, that Cuke Skywalker. What a hottie :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

It's not just about the news, baby

As a reader and a writer, I'm drawn to all things literary. In the paper this morning was a Chicago Tribune Review of a literary journal, THE2NDHAND, meant for the masses, not just for university professors and grad students. Read the Trib review and then check out the journal at You can read the stories online or order copies of the journal for just a few bucks each. Author Joe Meno says, "In a lot of ways, it's a galvanizing force for the great underground writing scene we have here. It's at the direct center of the underground writing scene in Chicago."

My very literary friend and I were emailing each other about why some great writers never make it big while the crappy writers often get book deals. If you want to help ensure that the great writers get recognized for their work, check out this literary journal and support local talent (well, local if you're from Chicago) and seek out the underground writers in other cities as well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


This just in from the world of entertainment news: Tom Cruise, or shall we say Dr. Tom Cruise, has taken it upon himself to help heal the suffering. Cruise is a follower of the Church of Scientology, and his religious conviction has led him to believe that modern ailments can be cured through alternative methods. What he practices in his own life is his own business and if it works for him, great. I fully support religious pluralism throughout the world. But he had to go poking his nose into someone else's business, and that's when it got personal.

Brook Shields wrote a memoir recently called "Down Came the Rain," about the postpartum depression she experienced after the birth of her daughter in 2003. Postpartum depression is common and isn't well-understood yet. Cruise commented on Shields' use of Paxil to help treat her extreme depression caused by fluxuations in hormones and chemicals. Cruise said in an interview with Access Hollywood set to air Thursday (via the New York Daily News), "These drugs are dangerous. I have actually helped people come off. When you talk about postpartum, you can take people today, women, and what you do is you use vitamins. There is a hormonal thing that is going on, scientifically, you can prove that. But when you talk about emotional, chemical imbalances in people, there is no science behind that. You can use vitamins to help a woman through those things."

Obviously he knows exactly what he's talking about, as his eloquence on the subject demonstrates. I try not to make personal issues of the topics I post on my blog, but as a woman who fights with her hormones on a monthly basis (as do most other women), I must personally say that some people JUST DON'T GET IT. I hope Brooke Shields told Cruise where he could put those vitamins. True, holistic medicine and alternative therapies can be very beneficial for men and women struggling with all sorts of health problems. But as each month passes and I fall victim once again to the storms in my mind that pass with each placebo pill that I punch from the packet, I realize more and more that women are at the mercy of our hormones. It's a problem that doctors have really only scratched the surface of. What may seem like a little bloated crankiness to men is a reaction within our bodies that we can't control and often don't understand. Brooke Shields struggled with a severe hormonal imbalance after she gave birth, and on top of trying to take care of this newborn baby on little sleep, she had to battle the feelings of fear and frustration at not being able to shake her depression.

A dear friend once said to me, "Sometimes I think I've gotten crazier as I've gotten older, because I just get so PMSy. But I realized that it's all relative. When I was a teenager, I was crazy all the time (as most teenagers are), and now that my hormones have evened out, when I do get PMS, it seems so much worse." She's right. I'm not saying we're all just a big ball of hormones and men should just wear armor all the time. I am saying that when the hormones hit us women hard, we really cannot fully control it. We think about things too much. We get upset at little things. We really crave certain foods and we get bloated. And when it passes, we wonder why we got so upset, why we felt suffocated and cloudy, why things seemed like such a big deal. We feel ashamed of ourselves for not being able to control it. We feel like such fools for letting it affect our work and our relationships and our living space. We get mad at our bodies because we know it will happen again next month and we hate our doctors for not coming up with a real solution. Shame on Tom Cruise for publicly lashing someone about an issue he can't possibly understand, and shame on Tom Cruise for his lack of empathy for a fellow celebrity, a fellow human being, a woman just trying to live her own life.

Tom Cruise must be suffering from Short-Man's Syndrome: an ailment which causes the vertically challenged male to think that HE has the ultimate wisdom and experience to advise others on matters he truly knows nothing about. They have a vitamin for that, don't they?

A different sort of Up-or-Down vote: Viagra for Sex Offenders?

When you think Viagra, you probably think of that Bob Dole commercial in which he's watching Britney Spears on tv and he tells his dog "Down, Boy." Ew. Lately, people have been talking about how Viagra is the new club drug, especially in the gay community. Today, the news media have been reporting that New York comptroller Medicaid audits from the year 2000 through this past March found that 198 convicted sex offenders in New York received Medicaid reimbursement for Viagra prescriptions after they were released from prison. Now the states have been notified that they aren't required to pay for such prescriptions for convicted rapists and other high-risk sex offenders.

Maybe you're saying, 'why should sex offenders get Viagra, especially for free? That's like bringing alcohol to an AA meeting! And everyone knows, that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic...' Or maybe you're saying, 'but these guys are like any other criminal--they did the time for their crime, they may have learned their lesson (or not), but once they're released from prison, they have the same rights as anyone else.' Aha, but those convicted of violent crimes are prohibited from owning a gun, and registered sex offenders are barred from entering a certain zone around schools and other places where children spend a lot of time. There was also a story last week about theme parks banning convicted sex offenders from buying passes or entering the park. But how far is too far when it comes to restricting rights of convicted criminals? Just like any other rule or law that restricts peoples' rights, it's a fine and dangerous line.

Don't get me wrong: the thought of registered sex offenders taking Viagra, and free Viagra at that, really creeps me out. And I agree we should restrict their access to schools and other public places where children roam freely. Maybe Medicaid should be paying for mandatory extensive counseling for these guys for the rest of their lives, since many sex offenders were sexually abused as children and need mental help, not prison time. Viagra is not medically necessary for these people. Therapy is.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Going Green in the Red Rocks

First a shout-out to my good buddy who just moved to Salt Lake City and sent me a postcard with the hopes of getting a shout-out on my blog. But this is not just a gratuitous shout-out to my friend, it's also a pat on the proverbial back of Salt Lake City, home to a strong environmental movement among responsible businesses. My friend commented on the lack of environmental responsibility of sending a piece of paper in the mail instead of emailing a digital image, but the gorgeous scenery on the postcard attests to the need of Salt Lake City to preserve and protect the surrounding ecosystem. Which it's doing, with a program run by the Salt Lake City government called Salt Lake City GREEN. Mayor Daley is doing an okay job of striving to make Chicago the greenest city in the nation, but it looks like Salt Lake City may be showing him some fierce competition.

My friend also requested that I visit and bring beer and Giordano's pizza, which is a Chicago staple (and so so good.) I swear, he's using me for the pizza, but for beer, he need look no further than Salt Lake Brewing Company, home of Squatters Pub Brewery, an SLC e2 business and 2004 winner of the 'environmental company of the year' award by the Recycling Coalition of Utah. Props to them for being environmentally responsible and conserving water in this desert region with waterless urinals. That's not the only thing they do that makes them worthy of such awards, but they have a photo of the urinals on their website, and who doesn't love a good toilet photo, really. I wonder what the urinal cakes are made of...

Enough potty humor. The brewery also uses windpower (as does a large portion of the city), which is becoming a rather popular source of power for breweries (and other homes and companies) in the Western U.S. New Belgium Brewing Company in Colorado boasts of its use of wind power, and they make a damn good beer. If someone can prove that wind power makes a better beer than other types of power, maybe more people will invest in wind power technology. As we learned from Kid Rock (see my post about Trippin'), sometimes one can only understand social issues when they relate to beer, and if that's what it takes, hand me some frosty mugs and a six-pack. Anyway, if you want to know more about how Squatters Pub Brewery is contributing to conservation and social awareness, just check out their website. And if you're in Salt Lake City, support the cause.

See? Salt Lake City really is more than just Mormons and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. So to my SLC buddy, I take back the jokes about your recent move, and I have no fear that you'll greatly contribute to the success of socially conscious breweries wherever you live.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Oh, I see how it is...

So, we went to war in Iraq because of unsubstantiated claims of weapons of mass destruction, which we have yet to find. Okay, so riddle me this: Iran is telling the rest of the world, to our faces, that they're planning to resume uranium reprocessing for nuclear weapons. Where's our committee with the maps and charts and threats of invasion? Hmmm....Iraq=Saddam Hussein, against whom the Bush family has had a vendetta for decades. Iran=What's-his-name. Either we learned our lesson the hard way by going to war without fully exploring all our options and paying more than we expected (in resources and lives), or *someone* dragged the whole world into his personal drama and doesn't really care what happens now that he got re-elected and realized that this whole President thing is hhhhhard woooork. Gotcha. I see how it is.

Monday, May 09, 2005

(Poll) Religion and Politics: An Honest-to-Goodness Open Opinion Forum

I have no idea how many people actually read my blog, but I thought I'd throw a poll out there to y'all because I really want to know something. A preface: many of my friends and family members have been talking lately about Tom DeLay's and Bill Frist's attempts at melding religion and politics, specifically regarding the Terry Schiavo situation and the recent judicial nominees whom most (if not all) Democrats oppose. This isn't really a new story, especially after the November 2004 election was accompanied by a big discussion about morals and values, but people seem to be getting more worked up recently. I won't say how I feel about any of this because don't want to sway the poll. I want people to answer honestly and openly, regardless of their political or religious beliefs. So I ask you to either post comments here or email me and tell me:

Do you hear or know of people who are discussing the recent use of religious discussions to help sway legislation or public policy? Do people think that the line between church and state will soon become (or already is) blurry? How do people feel about a greater presence of religion in politics? Do you (or others you interact with) feel that there's anything to be worried about? Is the growing public concern about DeLay's and Frist's politico-religious involvement off-base, or is there really something to be vigilant about?

I know a lot of people, whom I don't speak with on a regular basis, who have varying political views, and I want to know what other people think. I hear a lot from one side on a regular basis, but I try to really keep an open mind and not judge a situation based on one specific point of view. So tell me what you think, tell me what people around you think, just tell me SOMETHING! I need some intellectual discussion, people! No judgements made, I promise.

Thank you for your time.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Music sharing for your ears

I've been passing the word on to people about Launchcast, which is an internet radio station hosted by Yahoo! You can pay $3 per month to get commercial-free music and better quality, or you can pay nothing and listen to 800 songs a month. The reason I love it so much is that I created my own radio station and rated the artists and albums I like, and Launchcast will play them, as well as other artists and albums that are of the same genre or that are rated by other people who share some of my music preferences. Plus, I can go to an artist's page and randomly rate other similar artists, even if I've never heard of them. And just like that, I expand my playlist and get exposure to other music I wouldn't hear otherwise. And anyone with a Launchcast station can link their station to other users' stations, thus further expanding their music universe. The only things I don't like about Launchcast are that they tend to play a lot of the same stuff often, the commercials are slightly annoying, they're not compatible with Mac OS X yet, and they also stick in some random crap that I would never in a million years listen to on my own. Small price to pay for tonal amusement.

Regular radio, you're going down. Internet and satellite radio give us music fans what we want to hear. So, I share with you my station. Feel free to listen at will, link your station with mine, or suggest new music to add.
Rock On.

U.S. Forests Can't Get No Love...and other ways we Americans are failing each other

I'll spare y'all the rant from atop my soapbox because I promised myself and my readers that my blog would be a forum for constructive discussion and relevant information. So without futher ado, here are some articles to read while you're avoiding work on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Warning--they won't make you feel proud to be an American, but check out the bottom item for something that will lift your spirits...

1. Environmental News Network: "Road Building to be Allowed on National Forest 'Roadless' Areas"

2. Washington Post: "New Rule Opens National Forest to Roads"

3. Washington Post: "House Panel Receives Detailed Spending Plan for '06"

4. Washington Post: "In Kansas, a Sharp Debate on Evolution"

5. Washington Post: "Tom DeLay Calls for Greater Humility"

6. National Geographic Online: "Wild Horses Sold by U.S. Agency Sent to Slaughter"

And now for something completely different (and cheery!)
Something for dinner, in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Try the turkey tamales with mole negro (looks yummy!): Land of the Seven Moles--Oaxaca's Intriguing, Intricate Cuisine

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Eco-tourism: to go or not to go

Tonight on the Daily Show, Lewis Black commented on the new MTV show, Trippin', starring Cameron Diaz and all her little celebrity friends. On Trippin', Cameron and other celebrities travel to various locations around the world to educate viewers about the local customs, social issues, environmental challenges, and other items that we Americans are terribly uneducated about. Lewis Black played a clip of Drew Barrymore talking about going to the bathroom in the woods, and another clip of Kid Rock becoming enlightened after learning that he does, in fact, need water on this planet because the beer companies need water to make beer. The Kid Rock thing was too easy to ridicule, and it's sad that sometimes people can only relate to world issues through beer. But I'm glad he actually realized that environmental degradation matters to everyone, including redneck country rock stars who wear cornrows and white tank undershirts.

Lewis Black's comment about Drew Barrymore's woodland activities really says it well: that nothing sums up the United States' relationship with the rest of the world than a white woman taking a crap in native's backyard. I could comment on the political aspects of America's involvement overseas, but it's too complex an issue to cover in one small blog, and I'm no political scientist. However, I will comment on the dilemma that Trippin' poses. Cameron Diaz is doing the world a great service by educating the MTV viewers about cultures and ecosystems around the world. During the last election, P. Diddy proved that we can motivate the 18-to-24 set to get politically and socially active and that MTV, though it has somehow stopped playing actual music, can be an educational tool. That is, in between shots of the spring breakers hanging out on the other side of the island, where resorts have contributed to air, noise, light, and water pollution.

Ecotourism allows people, usually white middle and upper class Americans and Europeans, to visit remote areas in third-world countries and indigenously populated locales, learn about nature and local cultures, and comprehend the economic, political, social, and environmental issues that plague those communities. Do they return to their communities and help educate people there about what they experienced? Do they donate money to world aid and conservation organizations? Perhaps, but more likely, they go home and tell their friends they crapped in the woods, and they show photos of endangered animals taken with their pricey digital cameras. But traipsing through remote wilderness areas and sacred lands compromises the ecological health of previously protected habitats and the cultural beliefs of natives who rely on the land for their existence. So do we prohibit these trips into foreign lands in order to protect fragile habitats from pollution and degradation? Or do we continue taking people into remote wilderness areas and sheltered villages because it helps educate the public about other cultures and environmental issues? It's a tricky thing. I'm torn.

Shows like Trippin' have potential, if the stars return from the trip and do some follow-up with the communities they interacted with, to show that they're serious about the experience they had. Otherwise, people will watch another reality tv show about stars having an exotic adventure, and then they will zone out, change the channel, and forget what they saw. Message to Cameron and the gang: if you want to make a difference, you have to do the work of real people and not rely on your celebrity status to change the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Apostrophe Abuse Runs Rampant in U.S.

My bright idea for starting a blog was accompanied by my amazement at the blatant misuse, and abuse really, of proper grammar. As a long-standing grammar perfectionist and a graduate of The Number One Journalism School in the Country, I feel it's my duty to set the record straight about a simple punctuation element of English grammar: the apostrophe.

Misuse of the apostrophe seemingly began to rear its ugly head in emails and instant messages, as fast typing and multitasking often allowed mistakes to slip by unnoticed. (Not to say that before the computer age people had perfect grammar, but it was less in-your-face than it is now.) Forgivable, certainly, but it still registers with the grammar-obsessed everywhere.

Slowly, hand-written posters in storefronts, type in low-budget commercials, and other less-intrusive media productions emerged bearing the apostrophe where none was needed. Often these posters were written by people whose first language was not English, or the low-budget aspect of the piece did not allow for professional producers or editors. Again, forgivable.

And then, the explosion. The tension that had been brewing between the rules of American English and the Americans who speak it suddenly blew into an all-out war. Billboards, magazine, newspaper, and television ads for major businesses, banners, other large and professional media presentations, and even product information on packages now bear the mark of an uneducated proofreader or even a failure to run spellcheck. It's appalling, really, and it's unprofessional. Why would I buy a product, watch a television show or a movie, or partake in any activity whose lack of editing in the promotional or informational material is apparent?! Maybe I'm a snob, but I believe in professionality, and bad grammar screams of laziness or just plain stupidity.

Off my soapbox, and into the classroom for a quick grammar lesson in apostrophe use. After all, I see no use in complaining without doing something to rectify the situation. So here is Ranly's Rule, stated in my own words. Please take heed.

The apostrophe has a couple of uses.
  1. It creates a contraction--makes one word from two or combines an object with is. Example: does not becomes doesn't or the phone's ringing (meaning, the phone is ringing)
  2. Combined with an 's', it makes a noun possessive. Example: the dog's tail (Keep in mind that if the possessive noun ends in an s, no need to add an extra one, such as the Jones' dog. Also, when a pronoun is made possessive, such as the dog is hers, no apostrophe is needed.)

Here's the most blatant and unforgivable mistake that is too often made with the apostrophe: My family has two dog's. Everyone should know that in order to make something plural, one need only add an s (in most cases...we won't get into that complex rule). Sadly, people just don't get it. And that is my biggest complaint. Get a clue, people. Learn the proper use of the apostrophe and laugh and point at anyone who screws up this very simple rule.

Enough of my petty rant. I promise that future posts will include more interesting, educated, and useful commentary on things that matter more than grammar. (There are more important things in this world than grammar?! What??!!)