29 January 2009

This is what I did today

First had to get the back ramp clear. It is never in the sun all day, so I'm sure it's slicker than snot.

And that driveway is a lot longer than it looks.

And getting the walkways done....whew!

Jake shovels snow with his nose.

It looks good until you have to shovel it.

Even the birds were bogged under.

It looks so much nicer before anyone has tracked across it.

27 January 2009

Ice Ice Baby

This is what they call in southern Illinois parlance, a storm event.

They had predicted the end of the world as of yesterday. So on the way home, I stopped by Rural King and picked up 80 lbs. of rock salt and 14 lbs. of icy melt.

It started to sleet about 7 pm. Jake was not at all amused by the fact that we were having a storm that actually caused the room air conditioners to make an odd pinging noise.

I stayed up playing on the computer until my cable went out and then that was it for me. Bedtime. Snuggled up under the thick covers.

At 4 am, I got a text message alerting me that the university was closed today. Wooo hooo! Snow day! I forwarded the message to Liv, turned off my alarm clock, and went back to bed. Jake didn't even wake me up until 8 when he wanted to go out. This is what we found.

About 3/4" of solid ice. I went out to shovel the walk. The city of Do-well was already on the job.

Still, the streets were pretty empty, even by Do-well standards.

And since we were out and all bundled up, I figured a walk to the post office was in order. For those of you who haven't been so lucky as to personally experience the full cultural experience that is downtown Do-well, let me enlighten you. You have a number of options. There is the Veterans Bar to your left. Or the post office further on up on your right. Don't be confused by the plethora of choices. Take your time.

This picture reminds me of on of those westerns. I can just hear that lonesome whistle from a Clint Eastwood movie just before the two gunslingers meet in the road for their gunfight. Except in my movie, there is no snow plow.

Watch out where those huskies go.

Don't you eat that yellow snow.

Except there was no mail. I don't know if I just didn't get any mail today, or whether I got there before she finished putting the mail up, or if the mail truck hadn't yet arrived. I yelled toward the back, but no one answered me. So I'm not really sure what was going on. Came back home mail-less. Well, at least the birds have been enjoying the seed I put out.

Well, that's about it for snow days. I hope you have enjoyed your guided tour of Do-well. Please, come back during our next ice storm. It's a lazy day for hanging out and eating leftover cinnamon rolls.

25 January 2009

There's a saying for this

It's called Oh. my. God. And it starts like this.

You set the dough to rise.

It rises.

You add a little more flour. Oops. Lost a wooden spoon on that one. Small sacrifice. You'll see.

You roll out the dough.

You look something like this when done. Don't worry. It will wash off.

You melt butter. Lots and lots of butter. This is a stick and a half. This is just for the first batch. I hope you aren't on a diet.

Then you add sugar and cinnamon. Oh, and lots and lots of butter.

Roll, slice, and presto. Set to rise again. Then pop them in the oven and wait.

Wait for your house to fill with that aroma. I think strong men have been brought to their knees by that smell. Couple it with bacon and you're sure to get a marriage proposal.

Oh did I mention you have to smother them in icing? The cinnamon rolls, not the men. Although....no, nevermind.

So that's a lot of cinnamon rolls. I had two and I'm way full. I tried to give a pan to Liv, but she won't answer her phone. I guess she's going to have to deal with the wrath-o-D-ennis after I inform him that he had an opportunity to have some of these while they were still warm. Man, I'm sure glad I'm not Liv about now.

In any event, I'm taking these into school tomorrow. It was fun to make. My house smells great, and now my friends will think I'm fab. Oh, and if you get a hankering to make something delicious, why not peruse the offerings over at Pioneer Woman's site. Dang. That chick's got some kick-ass recipes.

Post script on the Cinnamon Roll Giveaway: The entire 4 trays were gone before the pot of coffee was done brewing. Can grad students eat or what?

24 January 2009

Cooking for my adoring fans

If you are ever in Chicago, go to any grocery store and find these. This is not a suggestion, this is an order. For the low, low discount price of between 25 and 30 cents, you can get a little slice of heaven. These are El Milagro corn tortillas. They come in a paper packet. Sometimes they are still warm from the delivery truck. It doesn't get any fresher than that. Just pick up the package and take a deep breath. Breathe in that heavenly corn aroma. If you put them in your car, they fill up your car with that scent as well. If you walk out with less than 10 packages for the return trip home, you have incredible self control. El Milagro corn tortillas are--as they say--just one trick up D-master's sleeve.

I like cooking for Beckie. She raves on about my cooking. She brags to her husband about my cooking. Now maybe you'll say Beckie is such a fan because she's from Tennessee and I'm from Kentucky and we share similar tastes. And while it's good, Southern cooking tends to be pretty low-brow. Quite a bit of it is po' folk food. Soup beans, corn bread, and cheap cuts of meats. Seasoning depends heavily on pork fat, onions, ketchup, and salt. Now if I was going to cook Beckie a meal to remind her of home, I'd probably have cubed steak and onions, green beans cooked in a pool of bacon grease, cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet greased with more pork fat, real butter, and mashed potatoes. Wash it all down with a Coca-Cola.

And not that that isn't good eating, but I don't cook like that much anymore. My life is too sedentary. And anyway, it isn't the home cooking I do that Beckie likes the best. Beckie is a fan of the foods I picked up from friends and restaurants and when my interests led to experimenting in my own kitchen. One of the recipes I really like to make is a variation of one my ex taught me. He called them American tacos. Browned hamburger and onions, no sauce. A sweet tomato chili sauce laid down on fresh El Milagro corn tortillas, followed by meat, cheese, a mild or medium picante, lettuce, tomato, more onion, avocado, sour cream, and black olives. When I make them today, I skip the cheese, sour cream (for reasons obvious to those who know me), and black olives, and I make a taco sauce for the meat. What can I say? I'm a fan of cumin. I guess that makes them just regular tacos. I served them to Beckie and her son Payton once when they came over with cherries from her mama's tree and we spent an afternoon putting up some awesome cherry jam.

The Tennessee faction went wild over the tacos. They looked a bit like these.

While my favorite part is the El Milagro corn tortillas (BTW, this picture is just using Ortega shells not the heavenly El Milagro corn tortillas--there really is no comparison) , the thing Beckie liked so much was the fact that I put refried beans in the meat mixture. It's a trick I picked up in needing to freeze things for later use. I just dumped the leftover refried beans into the meat, stirred it up a bit and froze it for later use. Saves time, pans, and tastes great.

You never know when a little something is going to go over big with your guests. In any event, it's fun to cook for people who appreciate your effort. Beckie can eat at my house anytime. And I promise I won't skimp on the corn tortillas.

Oh, and if I'm really feeling sassy...much like I was today...you might just get this for dessert. h/t Pioneer Woman.

Who's the guy with the camera?

Check out the video. He looks like a tourist. For all our talk of this being a paradigm shift, I do notice that Obama's is the only black face in that crowd behind him.

23 January 2009

Another one bites the dust

First Gitmo. Then the global gag rule. It's turning out to be a banner first week.

Next? Looks like it just might be the Lily Ledbetter Act (see earlier post), which passed through the Senate without a hitch last night. And a special shout out to everyone that contacted their senator on that one.

I'm just about THIS CLOSE to squealing with glee.

22 January 2009

Change I believe in

Let's contrast and compare.

On the Economy:

During President Bush’s second term, the top one percent of Americans received their largest share of national income since 1928.And according to tax data analyzed in 2007, the top 300,000 Americans earned almost as much as the bottom 150 million. Source.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity, on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good. January 20, 2009. Obama Inaugural Speech

On Terrorism:
Mr. Bush vetoed a bill that would have explicitly prohibited the agency from using interrogation methods like waterboarding, a technique in which restrained prisoners are threatened with drowning and that has been the subject of intense criticism at home and abroad. Many such techniques are prohibited by the military and law enforcement agencies. March 8, 2008. Source.
President Obama is expected to sign executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said. Source.
“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”[Obama's inaugural speech.]
Damn straight.

On a transparent government:

In his FIRST act as POTUS, Obama signed an executive order that effectively reversed a post-9/11 Bush administration policy making it easier for government agencies to deny requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act, and effectively repealed a Bush executive order that allowed former presidents or their heirs to claim executive privilege in an effort to keep records secret.

I believe Dick Cheney was in a wheelchair during the inauguration to prevent us from seeing him crap his pants.

On Religion:
America's foreign policy is more than pre-emptive, it is theologically presumptuous; not only unilateral, but dangerously messianic; not just arrogant, but bordering on the idolatrous and blasphemous. George Bush's personal faith has prompted a profound self-confidence in his "mission" to fight the "axis of evil," his "call" to be commander-in-chief in the war against terrorism, and his definition of America's "responsibility" to "defend the…hopes of all mankind." This is a dangerous mix of bad foreign policy and bad theology. Bill Keller, executive editor of the NY Times.
“We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.” [Obama inaugural speech]
On Science:
The Bush administration persistently manipulates scientific data to serve its ideology and protect the interests of its political supporters, a report by the minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform says. August 8, 2003. Source.
"We will restore science to it's rightful place." January 20, 2009. Obama Inaugural Speech

I am nearly giddy with happiness. This is a paradigm shift. This is a change that, dare I say, will reverberate throughout the century. This...today...is the beginning. I will not believe otherwise. I will not accept otherwise. I will be the change that makes it happen.

On dreams coming true

Sometimes they are better than you expected. That office sure looks good on you, Mr. President.

20 January 2009

Things that make me smile

Things that really, really make me smile
Buh bye. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

19 January 2009

I think I used to be insufferable

When I was in college the first time around, I liked to debate issues. If I could find a willing partner, like say Phil Chapman (or say J these days), I could spend hour upon hour discussing issues as disparate as religion, politics, and who made the best beer. I have always enjoyed bandying about ideas. But I sort of remember some people not wanting to participate in my game. I remember my father telling me once that I was "on my soapbox, again." Perhaps I was overbearing in my enthusiasm for a subject. I suspect that I had learned just enough to speak with some authority on some thing, usually just enough to regurgitate the ideas of others, but doing so with some confidence that people thought I knew what I was talking about. Or I had opinions that I found so inherently reasonable and with which I was sure no reasonable person could disagree. As J has once claimed to do, I would often "pile on" (although unlike J, I did so unapologetically). I would load the discussion with everything, including the kitchen sink, until it was so clogged that no amount of logic, thought or Liquid Plumber would ever unravel the mess. Scarcely any of my "arguments" ever dealt with anything more than cursory "facts" and winning an argument was largely a product of having the larger, more dominant personality than my sparring partner.

I don't know how long I was insufferable, but I suspect it was much longer than I would be comfortable with. I believe I left a lot of people with the impression that I thought highly of myself, that I thought I knew more than they did, and that I didn't respect them for what they knew or thought. I didn't get that it wasn't a compliment when Melinda said of me once, "you don't suffer fools well."

I found some people's ideas of me to be totally foreign to who I thought I was. Probably would be wisest to say that neither of us was exactly right.

During my marriage, I was bereft of intelligent discourse. After my divorce, I went through a period when I just didn't want to discuss much. I began to listen to people, simply because it took too much energy to talk. When I returned to school, I recall being quite frustrated about learning new things. I hadn't a lot of practice truly investigating the deeper aspects of issues, and any lack of knowledge seemed insurmountable, and made me feel stupid. I wasn't the smartest person in the room anymore and if I wasn't, what was I? The process of learning can sometimes be arduous and often there is a vast ocean of delay between learning and absorbing, integrating, and understanding. I didn't understand the process and I was fighting it.

There is a defining moment that happens to you in graduate school. It is a moment that I have heard repeated by student after student. It is the moment when you realize that for all the years you have spent studying a very specialized area, you haven't begun to scratch the surface of the things that could be known. You realize that you can't speak with authority on much. You realize that you aren't nearly as smart as you gave yourself credit for. It is a sudden and overwhelming sense of smallness. Everything that happens after that moment is defined by it. You find yourself not proclaiming mastery of subjects, but cautioning that we should recognize our limitations.

I think the day that happened to me was the day I stopped being insufferable. Oh, it's true that I love to debate current events, and I have never been shy about offering an opinion on various topics. But if you will notice, most of those strenuous opinions are on topics that are outside my "area of expertise". They are my "just for fun" issues. That is the only place I can comfortably be insufferable.

17 January 2009

On Art and its role in my life

Andrew Wyeth passed away yesterday.

Normally, the passing of an artist wouldn't even make my radar. Normally, I'd say "Andrew who?"

But I liked Andrew Wyeth. Not because I am some art world snob, but because I actually enjoy his work. I actually hang a print of his work in my home. I hang this one, Master Bedroom, in my living area.

Sure, it's a dog picture. But it's more than that. I have hung this print as the focal point of my living area for about 20 years now. I look at it every day and I never tire of it. I find that amazing. That painting has become a part of my life. A part of me. It is one of those things that when I study it, it only becomes more interesting to me. It gives me a feeling of owning that place as my own. It is feeling the warmth from the sunlight on the bedspread or hearing the breathing of the dog as it sleeps. It is knowing the way the soft cotton fringe on the bedspread feels after innumerable washings. It is knowing that tree outside the window is a red cedar and knowing the way the wind rustles it in the winter, and the way it's scent punctuates the breeze in the summer. It is contentment. Familiarity. Simplicity. It captivates me.

Oh, I know there are those in the art world who poopooed Wyeth's work. And there are those who said his work appealed to the uneducated masses. So be it.

There is something to be said of a man who's work captures me, since apparently I am the least emotionally intelligent person on Earth. And don't say I'm not. I've had professionals tell me I am. For instance, a therapist I once sought help from for dealing with an episode of obsessive-compulsive behaviors informed me that every time he asked me how I felt, I began the sentence with "I think". Maybe Andrew Wyeth is the thinking girl's artist. I like to think he appealed to my better nature in any event.

14 January 2009

The Color of Murder

This is Oscar Grant. 22 years old. Supermarket employee. Father of a four year old daughter. Just a guy out having a good time with friends on New Year's eve in San Francisco. Until he got in a fight, got detained by the police, and shot while in custody. The bullet penetrated his back, exited his body, ricocheted off the floor, re-entered his body and punctured his lung. Oscar Grant died on New Year's day.

This is Johannes Mehserle. Oscar Grant's killer. 27 years old. A BART police officer.

People get shot and killed by police officers in the line of duty every day. Why do I make any sort of notice of this killing? At the time of the shooting, Oscar Grant was unarmed, surrounded by no less than 5 police officers, lying prostrate on the ground, and may have been handcuffed. He had been leaning against a wall where he was detained on suspicion of fighting on a train. At some point, he is ordered to his knees, forced to the ground, and physically subdued by two officers. One officer has a knee to Oscar's neck while the other one wrestles with his hands, presumably to handcuff him. After handcuffing Grant, in one of the most inexplicable actions of all time, the officer stood up and fired a single bullet into Grant's prostrate body killing him.

That officer was Johannes Mehserle. He was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Still, why is this incident of note? The entire thing was caught on video, and witnessed by literally hundreds of people on the train. I haven't provided links to these videos because both are incredibly disturbing. If you wish to see them, simply google Oscar Grant shooting. I watched them both.

The thing that disturbs me most is that not one police officer moved to disarm Mehserle after the shooting. Despite his having just shot a man unprovoked. No one turned to Mehserle and said WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT FOR? The whole incident is a textbook lesson in incompetence. It is one of the worst cases of police brutality imaginable. It goes beyond professional misconduct.

Perhaps more disturbing from a social perspective is that despite having two independent videos of the shooting, Mehserle was not charged immediately. He refused to cooperate with officials investigating the shooting. He resigned his post on the police force. Despite this, he remained a free man. He was free to leave the state of California. He did leave the state of California. When he was finally charged, Mehserle was in Nevada.

Let's review. An unarmed, handcuffed man is shot in the back and killed by a police officer while a second officer has his knee to the man's neck. Despite the officer not cooperating with investigators working on the case, despite the eyewitness testimony of hundreds of witnesses, despite being presented with two independent sources of video of the incident, police did not charge the shooter with any crime FOR 10 DAYS. He was not arrested, detained, warned to stay in town. He was a free man.

What. the. hell?

I'm still trying to wrap my head around Mehserle's thinking that day. Was Oscar Grant cursing at him? Was Oscar Grant wriggling a little too much for his tastes? I imagine that Oscar Grant was shouting and moving, and trying to get the officers who were hurting him to stop. He was likely doing the exact same thing I would do in that situation. Exactly what you would do in that situation. Aren't police officers selected due to their ability to remain calm in times of stress? Aren't they trained to think clearly in high-pressure situations? What did Oscar Grant do to provoke his shooting?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Oscar Grant was not culpable in his own death.

I can only surmise one of several options. 1) Mehserle shot Grant because he was irritated at his behavior. 2) Mehserle shot Grant because his is grossly incompetent. Perhaps he thought he had a stun gun in his hand. (Which he also would have been incompetent to use while an officer had a knee on the suspect's neck.) 3) Mehserle shot Grant because he is mentally unstable. 4) Mehserlve shot Grant because he thought he continued to pose a serious threat of bodily injury to officers and the public. While lying handcuffed on his belly on the ground with someone's knee on his neck. Yeah. Right.

None of it make sense.

There is a fifth option. 5) Mehserle and other police officers in San Francisco have wanton disregard for the value of black lives.

On one of the videos, an obviously black, female voice yells following the shooting..."I got you mother fuckers."

Indeed you do, hon. But I have to wonder if Oscar Grant would be getting any justice at all if the videos hadn't gone viral on the internet.

In six days we inaugurate a new President. Let us please herald a new approach to American justice. For God's sake, this has to end.

UPDATE here from the NY Times.
Mr. Mehserle is charged in the death of Oscar Grant III, who was shot at close range on Jan. 1 while lying face down on a train platform. Mr. Grant, a butcher’s apprentice, was among several people who had been removed from the train by officers investigating a fight. Passengers captured cellphone videos of the shooting, which have been viewed thousands of times on Internet and news sites.

District Attorney Tom Orloff of Alameda County said Mr. Mehserle, 27, had refused to speak to Oakland police or transit police investigators and was charged with murder “because at this point I feel the evidence indicates an unlawful killing done by an intentional act.”
It's about time.

13 January 2009

Traveling Ashes

I've been preoccupied by a thought lately. It's about place and belonging. I went walking in the woods on Sunday and was reminded of the woods of my childhood. There was a time when I knew every woodlot in a 5-mile radius of my parent's house. I knew where to find the best blackberry bushes, where had the neatest streams for damming, where to find arrowheads, where to find pop bottles for cashing in, and where to build the best club houses. Now, I can't remember the name of the streets two streets over. I couldn't find the house my best friend lived in although I bet I spent the night there 50 times. I get turned around while driving when I'm in for the holidays. I feel no sense of belonging there. I am an outsider. My hometown is not my home any longer.

I am homeless.

There's Chicago. Sometimes, some memory will spark a colossal case of the warm fuzzies over Chicago. It adopted me. It didn't care where I came from, it just said, "Come in out of the cold. There's good people here." It took a while, but I could name the streets from the Field Museum to Wrigley Field and from Lake Shore Drive to Damen Avenue. I felt like I belonged. Now, it's all gone. The street names. My favorite haunts. The people I called friends. Not one person I knew in 12 years remains in touch. No phone calls. No Christmas cards. No, Chicago is not home.

Southern Illinois is not home either. Sure, I own a house here, but I am only passing through. I don't know my neighbors. I am a ship with no port. I am a pirate. A gypsy. A Bedouin. An Mbuti. I am not bothered by this. I am not like those Army brats who spend the whole of their adult lives trying to lay down roots in every vacant field. Perhaps it was because I was tethered to one place as a kid--but no, that's not it. I have always had wanderlust. Always had an eye on the horizon. Never had the dream of meeting Prince Charming and having the Cinderella wedding. No fantasy of the husband and 2.3 kids, the house, the picket fence, bbqs with neighbors, and going on vacation to the same place with the same people year after year. I don't want to grow old and sip tea on the porch with the ladies that I have known the whole of my adult life. In fact, just thinking about that life stifles me. The way marriage stifled me. The thought of that is enough to kill my spirit.

They say you get the life you choose, for better or for worse. I like my life. It suits me. But I certainly find facets of it curious. I find it curious that I can't settle down and settle in. The longer I sit, the more I eye the door. I can't imagine moving back to a town where I have already lived. Ok, maybe Chicago. There was a line I recall from a B movie I once saw. The character ripped off his rear view and said in a terribly thick, fake Italian accent: "What'sa behind me is-a not important." The future, ladies and gentlemen, is where adventure lies--and the future is Out There. Like Bonnie Raitt says, the road is my middle name. I'm never so alive as I am when I am on the road. That's why I thought this botany gig would be so nice. I'd get to get it out of my system once a year. But a year between adventures is a very long time. And adventure is never so much fun as when it is shared.

When I think about the times I was happiest over the past year, and where those times happened, I think of Demming, New Mexico, drinking beer with Liv on the Continental Divide and learning about stars. It was dinner with Terry Griswald and David Moeller at Lake Isabella. It was meeting Linds and Joe and camping in that remarkable red valley. It was watching the whitewater on the Kern River. It was seeing my first wild burrowing owls in Winnemucca, Nevada. It was even the excitment of being that close to a Mojave green rattlesnake in the shadow of the Whitney Pockets. And so I have to ask myself. Where do I belong? Where is my home? Is it possible that the road is home? Is it possible that my home is in the mountains I've yet to climb? In the friends whose faces I haven't yet imagined? Is it possible that home is wherever I rest my head at night?

You know, maybe it wasn't so different when I was a kid. I wasn't exactly an indoor kid. I wasn't one to play dolls or dress up. The woods were my playground. And every day, between my companions and my imagination, between dawn and dusk, I ran free. But I have been here 5 years. I am getting itchy feet. I long for the road. My compromise is to reinvent this house. To make it feel new through some massive project. I like my house. It is small and meets my needs. But I am not attached to it.

Bek left this past semester. I realized that of all the people who I started with, I'm the only one left. I am a cohort of 1. Every year a new group comes in, but they are not my group. My phone sometimes goes a week without ringing. My life has become stagnant, uneventful, and predictable. It is, in a word, tedium. Worst of all, it lacks adventure. Donne said, "No man is an island." And yet there are times when I am sure I am so utterly alone that I wonder if any ship will ever pass my way again. Although I'm not sure it is lonliness that has me feeling off-kilter so much as the feeling of being stranded here.

The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Tom Hanks had Wilson. D has Jake the Wonder Dog. I am torn between this need for novelty and this desire for something permanent. I would rather my companions be permanent and my surroundings transient. Unfortunately, I am at a place right now where the opposite is true. My colleagues are transient. Jake is transient. Soon he will leave me as Nevada did. Those old dogs of mine have taught me a valuable lesson. They never cared where we lived as long as we were together. And so, I haven't buried them. I can't leave them behind. I carry their ashes with me. And when I die, their ashes will be buried with mine. Unless, of course, I can find someone willing to cart around our traveling ashes. I'm betting on the latter.

We are a tribe of nomads. Our home is with each other.

12 January 2009

Let's the Insanity End...in about 7 days

"People say, 'How can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil?' You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you."—Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2002
There's more of the insanity here. Thanks Slate.

11 January 2009

What I Did Today

Money, Sex, and the Value of Letting it all Hang Out

I've worked. Pulled in a salary. Worried about whether or not I accepted jobs for too little money. You can't underestimate the problem of accepting a job at too low a salary. If the rest of your raises are based on your entry salary, that is one decision that can haunt you for a long time. After that, I've wondered if my raises were consistent with others in my field and even within my own company. But in every position I have ever taken, I have been bound by a "salary secrecy" clause that prevented me from discussing my pay with anyone. I had no way of learning whether or not I was being paid what I was worth relative to my peers. Figured there wasn't much I could do about it--short of quitting--if I wasn't earning what I should be.

In 2008, women still make only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, but this is a somewhat misleading figure. That 77 cents is averaged over all jobs, not equal jobs. It should surprise no student of biology that men and women have physical differences and that some jobs have physical requirements that effectively eliminate the majority of women from the ranks of that profession, particularly highly paid manual labor positions. Not all women, but most. It should also come as no surprise that biology dictates that women have children, and society dictates that women rear children, both of which have a negative impact upon lifetime earning for women. And once on the mommy track, it is difficult to get back on the power track (ask Caroline Kennedy) without your motivations and qualifications being severely criticized. Let's face facts:
A Cornell study found that mothers with kids are less likely to be hired, and, even if they are, the moms are paid a lower annual salary than males and females without kids.
So should women be expected to accept the fact that low-skill jobs that can accommodate these physcial and biological realities involve low-paying careers--particularly those involving child care and maid services? This might be understandable if it were only true of low-skill jobs or jobs with high physical demands on workers, but it isn't. We are also talking about equal jobs for which women and men are equally qualified, both physically and mentally.
Some years ago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that female scientists were paid less than men are.
I've worked. Pulled in a salary. And I know the politics of paychecks. You don't talk to your co-workers about what you make. It just isn't done. And I admit, I'm a bit reluctant to tell others what I am making. I lived in fear of learning that others make more than me. It is one of the reasons that I sort of like being part of a union. The union ensures that everyone who is at my level is making the same amount. And I like that. Because honestly, if someone was going to be paid less, it isn't going to be my white, male counterparts. It's going to be me and the minorities. Could I do a better job negotiating on my own? Hard to say. Depends on how badly they wanted me. I don't think I've ever been at a job where I had them over a barrel because they wanted me so badly. I've tried negotiating for better perks, benefits and salary. I didn't want to push too hard and have them call the whole thing off, nor did I want to cave in and walk in feeling I had been gotten for a steal. I very seldom got any concessions for which I fought. In the end, my negotiation attempts left me unsatisfied and feeling powerless. But maybe it was a good thing I didn't push that too far.
A Carnegie Mellon study found that female job applicants were less likely to be hired by male managers, if they tried to negotiate a higher salary, unlike men.
If you watched the Democratic National Convention in any depth, you saw Lilly Ledbetter tell her story about the 19 years she spent working as a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire Plant, where she learned just prior to retirement that she had received less money than any of the male supervisors. She sued, based on gender discrimination, and lost in a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that said she should have filed her claim within the first 180 days of the "first decision to pay that worker less, even if the person was unaware of the pay disparity." That means that the SCOTUS, in its infinite wisdom, decreed that Lilly should have filed her claim of discrimination, which they acknowledge that she had no knowledge of at that time, within 180 days of the receipt of her first paycheck. Short of hiring a psychic, I'm not sure how Lilly was expected to meet the demands of this ruling. The Supreme Court has enabled companies to hide wage discrimination for 180 days and then just get away with it. And how do they hide wage discrimination? By having policies that demand workers keep their salaries secret under threat of firing.
The liberal Alliance for Justice said the Supreme Court decision already had seriously impacted worker rights: It said that since the 2007 ruling, federal and other courts had cited Ledbetter in 347 cases involving pay discrimination and other issues such as fair housing and the availability of sports programs for women.
That's the problem with these broad rulings, they seep like water into every crack in the system. Fuck over women in the workplace and others see it as an opportunity to fuck over women everywhere they occur. But this sort of gnawing fear may soon be a thing of the past. The House has passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act and have sent the bills to the Senate. The AP has a nice overview article here.
The House bill would clarify that each paycheck resulting from discrimination would constitute a new violation, extending the 180-day statute of limitations.
I guess I may have to get over myself. May just have to let it all hang out. My salary is not my dirty little secret anymore. Because information is power. Luckily, now we have some protection from our employers for defying their "salary secrecy" clauses or we soon may have. The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes that allowed companies to justify paying men more for equal work (primarily the idea that women haven't had the same "qualifications" as men--a fact that might also have to do with previous discrimination in the workplace) . And this is one time when I can very clearly see that prior discrimination has a lasting imprint on the lives of people. Discrimination in those early dollars earned may mark a never-ending disparity in wages over the lifetime of the worker.

This isn't just one woman's problem. This is every woman's problem, from academia to the assembly line floor.
The Paycheck Fairness Act puts gender-based discrimination on an equal footing with other forms of discrimination in seeking compensatory and punitive damages. It also puts the burden on employers to prove that any disparities in wages are job-related and not sex-based, and bars employers from retaliating against workers who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers.
If this bill passes, Obama has said he'll sign it. The last time it came up for Senate vote, the Dems fell 3 votes short of ending the Republican filibuster. Let's hope that two of those three votes are in the persons of Roland Burris and Al Franken. I've already written Dick Durban. You might, just maybe, if you care about women's futures, write your senator as well.

The Ledbetter bill is H.R. 11. The Paycheck Fairness Act is H.R. 12.

Let's do this.

07 January 2009

The Energy of Cynicism

I am a fan of Feministing. In general, they have relevant posts about issues affecting women. But with these relevant issues one must accept a heavy hand of attitude and a focus on the negative experiences of women in society. Posts over the last several days include a tirade against Hooters, against "offensive" bulemia ads, the hyprocisy of abstinence-only education, an update on the Prop 8 offensive, and the never ending tirade against Vagasil ads . The overriding attitude seems (to me) to be that unless we are ever vigilant, the world will step on our sensibilities, treat us like children, and basically screw us over. What I consider to be Feministing's attempt at women-positive posting equally falls flat. For example, their review of women-positive sex toy shops. Ugh. I can find my own sex toy shops without any help, thanks. LOL

Now I am not picking on Feministing. Not really. Like I said, I enjoy reading their blog. But it brings up an interesting point. I read a lot of other blogs. Liberal political blogs. Blogs dealing with racial issues. Blogs dealing with racial issues as they affect political issues. Economic blogs. Science blogs(including evolution blogs in which cynicism reaches new heights). Off the wall blogs. Let's face it, I read a lot of blogs.

Oh, there are a few blogs them seem to sit squarely in reality. Five Thirty Eight, for example. While the authors may espouse a political leaning, they do so infrequently, and their analysis is unbiased. (Where it is biased, they are quick to point it out.) And Paul Krugman has mastered the short, poignant post that can disagree with someone without being disagreeable. But the vast majority of the blogs I read that have a particular bent don't seem to be able to lift their heads out of their posteriors and realize that other points of view are valid. The general idea of most posts is "these idiots that I'm posting about are so _____ist that they don't even understand what is wrong with their actions. Are you as incensed as I am? You should be!" After enough of these posts, is it any wonder that the readership begins to think that the whole world is _______ist and is out to get them?

Here's a little tip from your friend D: they ain't out to get you.

Now, I will admit to getting my shorts in a knot now and again about something happening in the news. . But, I don't go out looking in the world to get pissed off. I don't look at the world as ready to screw me over at a moment's notice. In fact, all in all, I think the world is a pretty interesting and fun place. Curious sometimes. Frustrating on occasion. But it is what it is and if we don't like it, maybe we should do something about it instead of sitting around bitching. It takes a lot of energy to maintain that constant level of pissedoffness and I can't do it long term.

Which is why you'll see my cynical posts punctuated by posts about my camping equipment (which makes me happy), or my forays into the wild places of So. IL (which makes me happy), or some reflection on my own life (which may or may not make me happy, but was obviously preoccupying me at the time). I can't seem to stay pissed off enough to make me a true warrior against -isms. Or maybe I just have a different take on it.

There are people who say I have a quick temper. In one sense, they are right. I can get very angry, very quickly. However, I also seem to get it out and over with just as quickly. I suppose at some point in my past, I made a choice in dealing with life. I'd rather get mad, get it out, and move on rather than steep and seeth. These bloggers seem to ooze cynicism from every pore. While I may post my take on some particular topic of current events, I am bound to let it go eventually. Usually very quickly. I wonder if that makes me a sub-par blogger. I hope not. I think we all have our take on current events and social ills, but we don't have to let the bastards run our lives.

I like being happy (despite what anyone says). So please, take MY rantings with a grain of salt. They are the idle wanderings of a curious mind. And if you choose to discuss my ideas or give your ideas--if you choose to disagree with me--I may get momentarily excited, but it isn't going to ruin my day or ruin our friendship. I'm just saying. Life is too short to stay pissed off.

It's another beautiful day out there and I'm off to enjoy it.

06 January 2009

Waiting for J

I am practicing patience. It is not something that comes naturally. But D-fav J got a new job in a new city with a big fat new degree and his life is beginning in ways ol' D can only dream about for a while. I'm sure he's having a blast, but I miss him. Well, not him per se, but his blog-o-smack that makes my political rantings way more fun.

For instance, I want someone who can tell me why vigils, letters to Congressmen who aren't going to listen, and protests in the street are seen as proactive and effective responses to Israel's ceaseless bombing in Gaza. It seems all very mamby-pamby to me.

"Oh please, mighty Israel, please stop bombing those innocent Palestinians with all those weapons that we gave you. Those weren't for smacking down flies, but for stopping a herd of wildebeast."

"No, I am Megatron, and death is my signature!"

"Alas, Megatron, you leave us with no choice. We will walk the streets at night with our candles lighting the way as we sing chorus upon chorus of kumbaya. Think of the PR nightmare! Think of the poor opinion that world will have of you. Oh wait. They already do. Well, at least we'll feel better."

Elections are the way to make change. Elections will stop torture by our government. Election will change a lot of things. But will this election change our policy toward Israel? I seriously doubt it because the will of the people is not behind it, because Palestinians are Muslims and Arabs, and Israelis are Jews and miraculously not seen as Arabs, and let's face it. Muslim Arabs ain't exactly on our BFF list.

D is lighting a candle and having a vigil of her own. No one will argue with me about stuff. Come back soon, J.

05 January 2009

Ethel arrives!

Today, by some miracle, both my Big Agnes dual core insulated sleeping pad and my Big Agnes Ethel sleeping bag showed up on the same day. Here are some highlights.

They said that the rolled pad was about the size of a nalgene bottle. Well, not exactly.

But this is the pad and it is way comfortable. The Big Agnes Dual Core Insulated sleeping pad with primaloft and air. It is 0 degree rated. Took about 30 deep breaths to blow it up completely. Every bit as comfortable as my REI thermarest knockoff.

Here it is blown up full size. I was a bit worried when the pad wasn't as tall as I was. Short by about 2". But I'm nothing if not hopeful.

And here is the lady herself: Big Agnes Ethel.

Note that it says Petite. Yes, Petite. That is because petite is supposed to be appropriate for people up to 5'8". As I am only 65.5" tall, no worries, right?

Ok, the pad is inserted into the sleeve of the sleeping bag. It's about as hard as putting a pillow case on a very large pillow.

Here it is upside-down with the pad inserted into the sleeve.

Right side up. Trust me, this is lush and plush.

It has a pillow compartment for my pillow.

I am really impressed with the little touches. It has a little smiley that tucks around your chin to keep out drafts. It has a double draft tube (top and bottom) to keep air from seeping in around the zipper. The mummy head wasn't constricting when loosened, and had drawstring cords to tighten it in really cold weather. Although, I admit having quite a bit of trouble zipping it up all the way. The shoulder area was tight. I couldn't get the hang of zipping it from the inside with my arm across my chest. And apparently, I have shoulders like a football player. That mummy part is going to take some getting used to.

So Ethel is great. It's too bad she is also going back. Remember the part about the petite size? Well, when I got in, my feet were straining against the bottom. Apparently, my XL size feet take up that extra 2.5" and then some. So I have to reorder the regular size, and the regular size in the pad as well. The good news is, I will gain 5" in the foot box and 2" in the shoulder area by going with the regular.

So I spent about 45 minutes on the phone tonight with Backcountry.com (where I got the sleeping bag) and Altrec.com (where I got the sleeping pad) and both were out of the size stuff I needed. Bummer! But, both are on backorder and will get me an even exchange (I think) since I got both on sale.

I would like to thank Sus' husband, whose name I think is possibly Joe (but Liv tells me is probably Alex) for all his advice in the sleeping bag department. This was a fantastic suggestion for me. And is it ever light compared to that clunker of a synthetic bag I tried last time out.

I think I may just be turning into a real outdoorsy woman. I'm even thinking I want to go camping when the ground is frozen outside just to see if this thing is going to work. Blame Liv. She's encouraging this.