Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wives, Obey Your Husbands (???)

Oh, that's going to happen! That’s what we heard this morning at Mass, though. “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18 (NSRV) Bearing in mind that Catholics come from a tradition that is not Biblically literalist, I still have to take what I read there seriously. And I’m frantically looking for a loop-hole, because I’m not liking what I’m seeing. Can I faithfully make an argument that supports disregarding this annoying passage? In fact, I will claim that not only is it true that we may disregard it, I think it is imperative that people of faith disregard it. Which in turn suggests that this dismissal of Paul (in this instance) is the faithful and orthodox act -the act consistent with God’s will for all of us.

At Mass, the first reading comes from the Hebrew Scriptures, the second from the Pauline letters, and the last from one of the gospels. The first and third readings follow a theme, but we read from the letters in a more or less linear fashion. So, the general custom is that the priest preaches on the themed readings, leaving the letter from Paul more or less out of the equation. Of course, he can preach on whatever he wants. Priests, though, being -perhaps you’ve noticed- male, wisely run for cover when this reading shows up (on the Feast of the Holy Family). Unless your parish is conservative indeed, you are guaranteed to hear a lovely homily that doesn’t even admit that we heard what we heard. Can’t say as I blame them.

Acknowledging, then, that a priest won’t -and perhaps ought not- touch this one with a ten foot pole, what am I supposed to do with it? Figure it out by myself, apparently. To reject something I read in scripture, I need a pretty rigorous argument, though. The most common arguments that you hear are anything but rigorous. Here are a few...

The Bible is conditioned by time and place. In that time and in that place, women were far from liberated, so Paul’s message wasn’t as atavistic as it seems now. Lame, very lame... Of course, the Bible is conditioned by time and place, but we believe parts of it. If you use that argument, you’d be obliged to reject the whole thing -which we clearly don’t do.

It’s prima facie ridiculous. True enough. It is, but that’s not a good reason for rejecting Paul’s claim. We believe other ridiculous things, after all. The resurrection is, on the face of it, ridiculous. People don’t live again after they’ve died. Nonetheless, we hold the resurrection as one of our most treasured beliefs. Transubstantiation is surely ridiculous, but we believe that.

So, where do I get the authority to claim that we can ignore this contention of Paul’s? I get it from God, in the person of Jesus, and even Paul admits that God outranks Paul. I believe that we can ignore Paul’s command to obey our husbands -and indeed all of his misogynist claims- because they are inconsistent with the message that we hear from Jesus.

Paul is closer to Jesus’ message in his letter to the Galatians, possibly the first of his letters to Christian communities. Galatians 3:28 offers one of the more inclusive definitions of the Christian community. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (NSRV) Clearly, those are not the only sets of opposites he might have chosen, but they cover a lot of ground. And once upon a time in his ministry, Paul was suggesting that barriers between man and women were things of this world rather than part of the reign of God.

Throughout Luke’s gospel, we see that women were an integral part of Jesus’ community of friends. Check out the scenes right after his crucifixion for some good examples. In the early Christian community in Acts of the Apostles, women were an accepted part of the circle. Everybody knows, for example, about Phoebe who served the church as a deacon. And of course, there’s Mary who is so much more than her self-effacing “let it be with me according to your word.” And from John's gospel we have "I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly." An abundant life! My goodness, that’s almost decadent, and it surely has little to do with the impoverished life of confinement and servility that Paul seems to demand.

The question in its starkest terms is whether or not the Bible teaches the inferiority of women. Is patriarchy divinely revealed and therefore God’s will for us? The institutional church certainly struggles with treating women as autonomous moral agents and partners in creation. (And of course secular society is far from free of these problems, either.) But I think scripture is in less doubt.

So, gentlemen, it’s not the case that deep down you have the right to require obedience, but, because you’re enlightened or self-actualized or something, you don’t use it. In fact, there is an empowering and challenging message for women in Scripture; we are called to discipleship, to ministry, to fidelity, and to abundant life -just like the other half of the human species.

Once, a long time ago and in this parish, this reading came up in the cycle. And, as occasionally happens, the scheduled lector didn’t show up in time for Mass to begin. Another lector who just happened to have chosen this Mass, was “volunteered” to read. She was urgently scanning the readings as Mass was about to begin, and her face fell. She turned to the pastor, and asked if there was anything to be done -another reading, any other reading, skip it... something. Please take this cup from her. Nope, it was too late, it wasn’t proper protocol... She took up her cross. She read the reading, and she started to laugh. Wives obey your husbands, indeed! You could tell from the look on her face that she was horrified; she is a person who takes the protocols of Mass very seriously. The congregation, however, was delighted. We laughed for a long, long time -as well we should. I don’t, I confess, remember the homily from that Mass, but I remember our laughter.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that make you look cool.

Here are mine for the week:

  • Amazing Grace; Anonymous 4
  • Aspenglow; John Denver
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot; Pat Benatar
  • She's Too Tough; Foreigner (a song about me? "a hard headed woman with a mean attitude")
  • Disobey; Kate Havenik (no wait.... This one's about me!)
  • Road to Hanna; Shadowfax
  • Baby's Waking; Eliza Gilkyson
  • Paint the Sky with Stars; Enya
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Judy Garland
  • Voluntary in D Minor; Purcell via Oxford Camerata

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Carbon Diet -Thinking About Water

We're almost finished with the Slate Carbon Diet challenge. Most people are already done, but I started late. This week, we're supposed to focus on water. Saving water prevents waste and pollution; conserving hot water means fewer carbon emissions. I feel duplicitous even talking about this. I use bubble baths as therapy. At this moment, the washer, the dishwasher, and the shower are in use. We use a lot of water around here. Even when it's just me, I go through quite a bit of water.

Perhaps the re-frame of this is that there's lots of room for improvement. Yeah, that's it. Insert eyeroll right there! Here are the things I pledged to do:

  • install a low-flow showerhead
  • boil only as much water as I need for coffee, rather than a full kettle each time
  • run the dishwasher only when it's full
  • insulate the hot water heater (which is already done,actually)

I can't look anyone in the eye and promise to keep my showers to under ten minutes. And there's some household reason I don't understand for why we can't reduce the temperature of the hot water to below 120. And we've tried the tankless hot water heater. At least with the technology that was then available, it did very depressing things to the water pressure. So I didn't promise to do that either.

The good news is that the dishwasher actually uses fewer gallons of hot water than washing the dishes by hand. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that my laziness is being rewarded here, because I have no intention of washing dishes by hand!

And then there are the things they didn't ask about... like the drip under the kitchen sink. I promise I'll get someone (else) to fix that this week. But I'm not yet willing to confront the fact that on most days I take a shower in the morning and a bath at night. And if I work out hard in the middle of the day, sometimes there's a second shower in there. The only negotiable in that array is the nightly bubble bath.... and it's not really negotiable, as it turns out.

So, I'm a bit of a wuss in the carbon reduction department this week. I'm discovering a belief or a bias (or some such thing) that I want to do environmental and other cause-y things, true enough. What I don't want to do is create a life that feels austere and ascetic and minimized by the changes I've made. I'm willing to do difficult things (sometimes.... sporadically), but I don't want to create a joyless, cramped life in the process. So harmless pleasures such as bubble baths have to stay.

I hope that's reasonable rather than merely self-indulgent.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rumors of My Demise....

... are not wildly exaggerated, I'm afraid. Oh, I'm fine. There's nothing seriously wrong, and I should keep some perspective and remember that. I just got hit by a pile of work-related stuff, math-man came home from the fall semester of his sabbatical, and both kids showed up on my doorstep. And the Christmas knitting seemed to be un-knitting itself while I slept; there was always more to do. And truly, I'd forgotten how often you have to feed 22-year-old boys.

I went to Christmas Eve Mass, and sat next to Michael (from Musing's Musings) and he checked my pulse to verify a heartbeat. Apparently seeing me walk in under my own power didn't quite reassure him ;) (OK, he didn't really do this, but he did express concern.)

That's entirely enough whining. I'm back. I'm formulating thoughts for another season of blogging. They might even turn into something interesting; one never knows. Something about the links (which I intend to find or make up if I must!) between courage and compassion and using those to change the world. Up until now I've treated the little things we've done to change the world as acts of will. Which they also are. Yet sometimes I feel held back by a lack of courage. (Can we please avoid calling it cowardice? I like living in denial.) I'll get back to you on all of this, as it becomes more clear.

Merry Christmas to all of you. Happy New Year! And we've passed the solstice, so the light is coming back too. You have to love that!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Turn It Off! - This Week's Carbon Diet

Oh man! This week the Carbon Diet sounds like flashbacks of my father. "Turn the light off when you leave the room! How many times do I have to tell you?" Okay, so that's an advanced concept. Let's start a little further back in the process. Ease into this thing.

The first thing we can do is assess just how bad the energy that we use is, compared to the national average. Using your zip code, the EPA can tell you how the carbon load for your energy compares to the national average. Follow this link to check it out: EPA. You can poke around on the site and also discover if greener power can be purchased in your area.

I, however, am stuck with just reducing the amount of electricity I consume. One right answer is to turn off the Christmas twinkle lights. It ain't happening. Other suggestions include:
  • replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents
  • putting the devices that use "standby power" (e.g. the computer, the television...) on a power strip and turn them off at the switch when not in use.
  • unplug all the various chargers from the wall. I count five chargers in this room!!
  • replace appliances with Energy Star rated newer ones.

There are more suggestions at Slate magazine. Perhaps other ideas will work better for you; these are the ones I am willing to work on. We have replaced several bulbs with the compact fluorescents. This is a big old house and the ceilings are high, which means that changing the bulbs when they burn out is a royal pain in the neck. So, math-man was studious about getting those replaced as soon as the compact fluorescents were available. The real motivation was that they last longer than incandescents. Whatever the motivation, though, they really do use less power. Now it's time to get to work on the lamps. So I promise to start that process.

It's a bummer to unplug the chargers from the wall when not in use. I've promised to do it before, but haven't. I know what will happen. I'll lose the charger. This is me we're talking about. But I'm going to give it a shot. Moreover, I don't turn the desktop computer off at night, as a general rule. I just let it go to standby. I can't promise to plug all such "phantom power" users into power strips, but I can remember to turn the computer off at night. Surely. And this is the year for a new television. You wouldn't believe me if I told you how old the one (the ONE!) we have is, so I won't bother. But it's starting to die, so I can get a fancy new one, and I promise that it will be Energy Star rated.

With all these changes (and to me they don't feel easy this week) I've reduced my carbon load by the equivalent of 0.06 cars on the road. And that's assuming I stick with the changes; changing for just one day won't help in any measurable way. Sigh. THAT was edifying.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Random 10

Today's the day! The easy post ;) Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle. Tell us the first ten songs that appear -and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork. Here are mine for the week:

  • Lothlorien; Enya
  • Love Changes the World; Tom Paxton
  • Fantasia for Lute; Weiss via Andre Segovia
  • Do You know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?; Louis Armstrong
  • Largo from Concerto for Guitar in D Major; Vivaldi via The English Chamber Orchestra
  • Strange Fruit; Billie Holiday
  • The Elements Song; Tom Lehrer
  • Down that Road; Leahy
  • Grace; Kate Havnevik
  • Galileo; Indigo Girls

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Knitting Under the Influence

Under the influence of caffeine, that is. It's possible that I won't make it. Well, let's rephrase that. I'm not planning on keeling over, or anything drastic. It's just possible, though, that I won't finish the Christmas knitting. I can count the hours between now and Christmas morning. Were I truly masochistic, I could count the necessary stitches between here and Christmas morning. This, however, is information I do not want.

So far, I'm still having fun. I still have my job. I haven't had to quit it because it didn't leave time for my knitting. I still have a family -although they're staying well out of my way these days, which is good. My friend whose birthday was LAST Friday might be a little peeved with me, though; I still haven't kitchener-stitched her present so that she can actually use it. Her granddaughter's Christmas present, though, is well in hand.

The pile of knitted garments is growing. The pile of yarn waiting its turn on the needles is shrinking. Frustration is lurking around the corner, but it's not really making a nuisance of itself yet. We'll see how it goes.

And if anyone cares... the binary scarf on knitty? The scarf in the picture and the scarf in the pattern? They're different. Oh well. I was planning on turning it into a hat, anyway. The geek on my list who would appreciate the joke doesn't wear scarves.

I Went to College to....

Hang on... there's a back story.

I'm working out, minding my own business. It's finals week here in corn country, and the gym is full of students working out some frustrations. Healthy behavior. I glue myself to my iPod and slog along on the treadmill, trying to be invisible. Actually, at a gym where the average age is probably 19, I don't have to try to be invisible. I just am. When not invisible, I'm the recipient of fairly overt pity. By and large, I prefer invisible. But all that's another story.

When leaving the gym, I'm behind a young woman -oddly, perfectly blonde, oddly perfectly tanned, sorority letters on the butt of her size 2 yoga pants.... I'm busy thinking despicable beneath-me thoughts like "I hope you grow up and have triplets, and remember then that you thought my abs were horrible." Issues? Me???? Then she turns around and I see that her t-shirt says "I went to college to find my bridesmaids."

Sigh.... what does this mean? And bear in mind that I had no lofty goals when I went to college. I went to college because that's what you did; there was no more thought than that. I'm certainly glad I went to college, but for reasons I couldn't possibly have predicted. I surely can not get on a high horse about deep and meaningful reasons for wanting to hang out in the groves of academe.

And besides, it could be that the meaning of the shirt is that she's hoping to find her life-long female friends. That would be a true gift, and could well happen. Or it could be the 21st century version of going to college to get your Mrs. degree -with a disturbing switch of emphasis from marriage to wedding. Which is it? Or something else altogether?

I know she was just trying to be cute and gave no deep moral significance to her shirt. But she chose it, over others that said something else. She didn't (at least today) choose the Abercrombie&Fitch one that says "Who needs brains when you have these?" across the chest. Nor did she choose a plain gray one. This one was along a continuum of possibilities and she plunked down her $20 for it. Why?

And how could a grown woman -impossibly old, from her point of view- be some sort of witness to other possibilities? Without being a tiresome bore, I mean.

I should probably work out harder, huh? Then I wouldn't have the energy to fret about these things.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mala lex, nula lex

Thomas Aquinas offers us this delicious tidbit -a bad law is no law. More specifically, a law that doesn't serve the common good is no law at all. Phrased more positively, law is a function of reason; good laws are inherently reasonable. We should, then, be able to figure them out.

As you might imagine, I'm stumped. Two allegedly unrelated things are happening within the U.S. Catholic church, and I can make no sense of them co-existing in the same space.

Thing 1: Ten years ago, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (google him; he's a piece of work)excommunicated all the members of his diocese (Lincoln) who are members of Call to Action and a few other groups. He did this because someone reported to him (or he saw, but I doubt that) that Catholics for Free Choice had set up a booth at the Call to Action conference. Therefore, Call to Action must be pro-choice. You're losing me on the reasonableness requirement, big guy. But hang on, there's more.

The excommunicated people thrashed around for a while. There was a bit of press. In the end, they decided to appeal the excommunication to the Vatican. Last week, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation for Bishops upheld the excommunication. The excommunicated Catholics chose to appeal because they wanted to affirm that they recognize the authority of the Bishop (That Bishop??? That's a hard sell. But they're nicer than I am.) but just thought he'd made a mistake. It didn't work.

So, in that one diocese (and only that diocese) probably a few hundred people have been excommunicated because they support reform in the church, including really dangerous and world-view shattering things like female altar servers. They, of course, don't recognize the validity of the ex-communication. Mala lex, nula lex. This is from their press release:

But we will not be silent! This excommunication letter has no effect
upon our work for justice in the diocese of Lincoln . We will continue
to attend mass. We will continue to live our lives as faithful
Catholics. And, most importantly, we will continue to act for
justice, just as Christ called us to do.

Thing 2: You want to guess how many priests known to have sexually abused children have been excommunicated? I'll give you three guesses, but you're only going to need one. Thousands of pedophile priests.... hundreds of complicit bishops.... they can all receive the sacraments. Not one has been excommunicated.

What's the message here? My membership in Call to Action is more dangerous to the church than the actions of a pedophile priest? They can't believe that. They think, perhaps, that we aren't going to notice? Sorry, boys. We noticed. Really, I imagine that they believe that imposing order on the laity will actually help solve the clerical crisis. Why they believe this truly escapes me, but I think that's it.

But, allowing this kind of monstrously warped logic to exist within a church that actually prizes reason is cowardice unworthy of the season. Mala lex, nula lex, fellas.

Monday, December 11, 2006

My Carbon Diet -Greening My Wardrobe

Oh for heaven's sake. I'm lucky to have a wardrobe -and my fashionista daughter would claim that I don't. I have clothes, but nothing resembling a wardrobe. (Imagine a sigh indicating serious angst emanating from child #1.) And now I'm supposed to be sure it's green, too???? OK. Let's look at this.

Here are the incremental suggestions that Slate and Treehugger suggest for the Carbon Diet:
  • use your dryer carefully -use the moisture sensor; clean the lint filter; use it only when it's full.
  • use the extended spin on your washer, so that clothes are as dry as possible when they go into the dryer.
  • buy organic cotton clothing
  • look for clothes with recycled content
  • buy vintage or at consignment clothing
  • buy fewer leather shoes, replacing them with canvas or hemp.

Oh dear..... I use the dryer well, I suppose. Seriously, who has time to run half-loads of laundry? I wish I could line-dry, but especially in this weather it's just not an option. But I think the only times I've purchased organic cotton it's been organic yarn for baby clothing. Maybe I have some organic-fiber yoga clothes. I do go to the local, great consignment shop, Encore Clothing.

And hang on.... there's stuff I do that's not on this list. I want half-credit, or something. I don't use dryer sheets. I bought some little fluff ball things that are supposed to last a year. They're great. I buy Ecological wool as often as I can. It's not dyed. The colors of the sheep? That's the color of the yarn. I love it. (Eco-Plus yarn is dyed. There aren't hot pink sheep, outside of Dr. Suess books.)

I think I'm failing this week's challenge. Sigh.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Random 10

Sorry for the absence, sweeties. You don't want to know. I've been acting like some cartoon character nut-case. It's not pretty. But the Friday Random 10, I can still do. I'm pretty sure.

You know the drill. Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle. Tell us the first ten songs that appear -and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork. Here are mine for the week:

  • You Get What You Give; The New Radicals
  • Rhythm of the Rain; Cascades
  • Bicycle Named Heaven; Catie Curtis
  • Stille Nacht; Chanticleer
  • Let's Impeach the President; Neil Young
  • Hurricane Party; Cowboy Mouth
  • So Long, So Wrong; Alison Krauss
  • Firebird Suite; Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Take a Chance on Me; Abba (Oh dear!)
  • Educated Guess; Ani DiFranco

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Om Mani Padme Hum

Long story... The short version is that this is (or might be) the mantra of compassion. I need some. The world needs some.

I took a friend to the hospital this morning for some routine tests. This friend had a brain bleed about two years ago now and almost died during an angiogram. She just didn't come back from the anasthesia. So she was quite frightened of the anesthesia this time. We had discussed how pain reception could be distinct from consciousness and she could have pain management without losing consciousness. She knew how she was going to advocate for herself. Everything had been arranged in advance. All was well. The doctor chose to use general anasthetic anyway. She's fine, but that is SO NOT THE POINT. I almost feel sorry for the doctor. After I picked her up, I unleashed a hailstorm of non-compassion on his unsuspecting head. It's not my job. It's not my place in her life. It was a dumb thing to do.

And it set the tone for the whole day. The opposite of Om Mani Padme Hum is opening a can of whoop-ass, apparently. Many, many cans, I'm afraid. I was a walking testimony to the importance of meditation, or an object lesson as to what happens when you don't, anyway. This is not the day to mess with me.

Probably all spiritual traditions wrestle with compassion in everyday life. Certainly my own does and Buddhism does as well. I know what they say. But possibly the only sensible thing that the priest said last Sunday(wait... I could probably phrase that more compassionately... oh never mind.) is that it's in the end not possible to understand one's way to enlightenment. Damn.

Here's what today reminded me of. A life without a quiet center can become destructive. Quiet is necessary but insufficient. I have plenty of quiet these days. What I lack is a connection with my center. For me, that's meditation, prayer, liturgy, yoga -all tempered with the quick wit and deep love of my family. It's back to the mat for me. Tomorrow I'm starting over. Perhaps I can do my bit to create a world that's a smidge better than it was when I woke up.

Om mani padme hum.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Carbon Diet

This week it is about diet. But first I should probably report how I did last week. I drove 25 miles. Check me out ;) It was that low because of the blizzard, I'm quite sure. But still! I turned the thermostat down more often. I found myself saying, with Brenda Daynes from Cast On, "If you're cold, put on a sweater. That's what they're for." And I ordered, but haven't yet received (and certainly won't know how to install) a programmable thermostat. But by the time it gets here, math-man will be home and he does know these things. I think those are all the changes I made.

Now... on to this week. It's food, food, food. This I can work with. It amounts to this:
  • buy locally grown
  • buy organic
  • reduce packaging
  • plant a garden
  • cut beef consumption

So, let's talk. I do buy organic and locally grown, although it's not anywhere near 100%. I am a participant in Community Supported Agriculture. I'm eating a locally-baked cookie for breakfast. Does that count? A local diner (Lincoln Inn) has these chocolate cookies wrapped around another chocolate thing... Oh my lands. I have to get these out of the house! So, okay I'll do a better job of buying organics this week. And, I'll get my apples from the local orchard, assuming that the roads out there are plowed.

Reduce packaging.... this is so annoying to me. My daughter is dating an engineer who designs product packaging. Kirk, I'm in a position to make your life MISERABLE, my man ;) Stop designing fingernail-breaking, kitchen-shears-ruining packaging. His answer is that when people stop shoplifting, he can get a different job, which is probably true. So the thing I can do, that I embarrassingly haven't, is make and use reusable shopping bags. Our local food coop doesn't provide bags, in any case; you have to bring your own. I probably even have a bag I can use until I get my act together and make a cute one. OK, that's on the list.

I'm looking out the window and considering the planting a garden thing. Under about 5 feet of piled-up snow, there's place to put a garden. But seriously, I wouldn't take care of it. I know me. I was at a coffee shop the other day and they had coffee plants out. Now if only I could have a little coffee crop ;) I could have potted herbs indoors, but I'm sure I can't find started plants in the shops this time of year. (If someone knows differently, tell me.) So that one's going to wait, in short.

And I already don't eat beef, so there you are.

The results looks like this:
  • Cutting beef out of your diet saves approximately 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year
  • Bringing your own bags to the grocery store saves about 17 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions a year.
  • Buying food and other products with minimal packaging saves about 230 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
  • Becoming a vegetarian saves 3,000 pounds of CO2 a year.

So, we're off. Another week.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow Day

Well now. It's unusual for the weather to stop us...ummm.... cold (pardon the expression), but today we have a snow day. Here's a link to what it looks like in my town: NIU Weather. It's fairly boring, because the camera is covered in snow. The camera is not on the ground. There's a freakin' lot of snow here.

So, I'm taking this day to do some Christmas decorating and to make cookies for the dear, wonderful, lovely neighbors who shoveled my driveway. Here are the trees on my street:

Stay warm, dear ones.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Head is Spinning

You probably already know about this. My desk, unlike yours, I'm sure, is piled high with un-done, un-read, and un-sorted tasks just begging for my attention. So I'm just now getting to the Wall Street Journal from earlier this week. My head is spinning, and I don't think it's an altitude (from climbing to the top of these paper piles) problem. We've reached new depths in the "unfortunate reasoning" department, and truly, I thought we'd pretty much bottomed out there.

Brendan Miniter's piece about Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is a bit of a puzzle. It seems that Gov. Romney is suing the state legislature for failing to vote on whether or not to put a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the ballot. Bit of a separation of powers problem there, Mitt. Maybe they should have voted, though. I really don't know and haven't even tried to follow the issue in a state other than my own.

My real concern is with the editorial writer. He seems to be trying to make the claim that gay marriage is responsible for births occurring outside of (traditional) marriage. Okay, we've gone well beyond a separation of powers problem here. Let's start with the birds and the bees.

Although advocates of same-sex marriage will deny there is any connection to extending the institution to gay couples, a recent report released by the National Center for Health Statistics reveals why this debate is worth having now. The study found that although teen pregnancy rates are dropping, the number of out-of-wedlock births in America has been steadily rising since the 1990s. It seems women in their 20s and 30s are having children without getting married first. Last year the proportion of births that are illegitimate reached an all time high of 37%, or 1.5 million children.

Does anyone understand this?

Yes, teen pregnancy rates are dropping. Yes, births to single mothers are increasing. It seems to be true that fewer and fewer of these pregnancies are unintended as time goes on. So, women are getting pregnant outside of marriage on purpose.

Okay, we can talk about that as a public policy issue, a moral issue, a social work issue, an educational issue, a feminist issue. I see all of that. How in the name of all that is holy do we blame it on gay people, again?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bored with my own sorry self...

I have this bad, BAD habit. I tell people "yes, sure, I'll do that. Of course I can have it ready by the end of the month". Which I could, if I only said that to one or two or ten people. Alas.... not so much. And here we are at the end of the month.

Whine, whine, and whine some more. It doesn't help, of course, but it makes me feel better. So, if I'm slow to post over the next few days, picture me burning the midnight oil -not to save the world, but to save my own little backside. Some day I'll learn. I hope.

And don't forget the movie at my house this Friday at 7:30. It's the Amnesty International documentary re: extraordinary renditions, torture, and the general so-called war on terror. There will be snack-type concoctions; that's one of the several things I will be staying up late to do. (Dusting might get booted; brownies, heavens no!) Just come on by.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Carbon Diet

Last week's tasks for the Carbon Diet were all about the car -getting the air filter changed and getting air in the tires. Those were the easy parts. The harder part was to assess and then reduce my mileage in the car. I want to see if I can drive fewer than 100 miles this week. I don't know, to tell you the truth. For whatever it's worth, though, that's my goal. (So far this week: 3)

This week's task is to focus on home heating. Here's the quiz and pledge for this week: Slate Magazine. I feel like I'm getting a free pass, because it's unseasonably warm. I'm good with free passes ;) Moreover, every single thing they suggest, we've already done. So.... what else is there?

We've caulked and put up the storm windows. (You do understand that by "we" I mean Dave, right? Me, on a ladder, with a 40 pound, 6' storm window.... well, there's no good end to that story.) Lowering the thermostat, wearing sweaters, planting trees, and purchasing carbon offsets.... all done.

Here's something we haven't done -get a programmable thermostat. There's a reason. Until quite recently, there was almost always someone home. We couldn't count on a long span of nobody being home, during which we could reduce the temperature. Now, of course, we can. I'm pretty faithful about remembering to take care of this before I leave the house, but I'm not as good as a machine would be.

Here's a question. Do any of our local utilities offer green alternatives? In Portland, they can choose to have a certain portion of their electricity come from wind. I know we have wind farms out here. Who's using them? What are they accomplishing? Where do I sign up? Should I sign up, for that matter? Who knows something about this, because I surely don't?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle. Tell us the first ten songs that play -and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that make you look cool.

Here are mine for the week:
  • Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain; Roy Acuff and Emmylou Harris
  • Saints and Angels; Sara Evans
  • One Good Year; Slaid Cleaves
  • The Richest Fool Alive; Patty Loveless
  • Rhapsody in Blue; George Gershwin
  • Toi La Femme Mariee; Fernand Gignac
  • Walk On; U2
  • Have I Done Enough?; Sweethearts of the Rodeo (possibly the theme song of my life!)
  • We Shall Overcome;Pete Seeger (oh wait, maybe this is the theme song for my life!)
  • For the Longest Time; Rockapella

And throwing one for nothin', here's my Thanksgiving Day playlist:
  • Thanks to You; Emmylou Harris
  • Gracias a la Vide; Holly Near
  • The Thanksgiving Song; Fred Holstein
  • Thanksgiving Day; John McCutcheon
  • Thank You for the Music; Abba
  • Gratitude; Ani DeFranco
  • Our House; Crosby, Stills, Nash& Young
  • Back Home Again; John Denver
  • Life is Sweet; Natalie Merchant
  • Heaven is a Place on Earth; The Bangles
  • All Good Gifts; Godspell
  • Good thing Going; Carolyn Arends
  • Give Thanks to the Lord; John Michael Talbot
  • Matthew; John Denver

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Enclosing Emptiness

I spend a lot of time explaining to beginning knitters that we have to make the holes that the eye sees as pattern in lace knitting. They aren't something you leave out; they're something you create. Then I get blank looks from the knitting students. It's the task of the teacher to find the words to help the students understand. Clearly I still have work to do here.

I'm in the middle (okay, really it's the beginning) of a circular lace tablecloth for a friend, so I was musing about this issue again last night. I've decided that what we're really doing with lace-making techniques is enclosing emptiness. We shape air, and openness, and possibility into patterns. (Aren't we just the clever things?)

But while I'm on the knit row of you-don't-want-to-know-how-many stitches, I've got a lot of time to think. Isn't that what everyone does, all the time? Make patterns out of simple materials and possibility?

There are at least two other ways I'm doing this right now. My man is home for the Thanksgiving holidays. Five days of togetherness!!! We spent most of yesterday re-figuring out the pattern of life together. It took a little while. I'm not sure what anyone else could learn from this experience. How common is it for couples to choose to live apart for a year, after all? Yet I'm thinking now that it's not exactly emptiness I'm experiencing when he's gone. It feels like it is, heaven knows, but I'm in the process of shaping it into something. And when he comes back, he'll be knit back into the pattern.

And secondly, there's impending winter. As a displaced Southerner, I have a serious attitude problem about northern winters. In fact, I try to ignore winter as much as possible and through the force of my not inconsiderable will make it go away. You have me to thank every spring, just so you know ;) But as life comes indoors and I have to put my bicycle away and change the pattern of my days and nights, I become more ...quiet.... meditative.... almost domestic. Okay, possibly domestic is a bit of a stretch. But the fact is that there's some emptiness and a little dread about starting winter's span again.

I've always thought of myself as fighting the emptiness -little warrior Andrea brandishing her sword. Or more like Scarlett O'Hara, I suppose, shaking her fist in the sunset. "As God as my witness, I'll never be -cold- again." (Scarlett says "hungry", but you get the idea.) Maybe the reason this has never worked very well is that it's the wrong metaphor. I doubt I could go as far as embracing the emptiness, but perhaps I could enclose it, shape it, form it into something. I could cook, and knit, and quilt, and sew and write and light candles and read -and find joy in all of those things. Things, by the way, I hardly have time to do in the busier outdoor seasons of the year.

Now I'm up to the lace-making row and I have to pay attention to that. No more musing for a little while....


Monday, November 20, 2006

Good Girls Don't....

I'm sputtering, I'm so mad.

President Bush has appointed Eric Keroack to lead HHS's Family Planning Program. The problem is that Dr. Keroack is against family planning. His most recent position was as medical director for A Woman's Concern, a network of crisis pregnancy centers which claims that "the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness." You can read their policy statement here: A Woman's Concern (.pdf).

This appointment makes about as much sense as putting me in charge of the Defense Department. You aren't going to get family planning programs from someone against family planning any more than you would get effective war planning from me. It's prima facia a bad move.

There are all kinds of arguments and studies demonstrating that Dr. Keroack's positions are simply not borne out by the facts. I'm about to make a slightly peculiar argument, that's not terribly well thought through, to boot. And it all stems from being on a Jane Austen bender. I just started re-reading Mansfield Park. In it, Austen contrasts three adult sisters, but let's just look at two of them for the moment.

One puts her family first, marries well, supports her other sisters and their children financially, and has four perfect children of her own. Except, of course, she's a laudanum addict and her children are far from perfect. The cost of this life is apparently quite high. The other sister marries from lust. She's sexually attracted to a poor man and can't be talked out of the unwise marriage. When we meet her she has heaven-only-knows how many children, is pregnant, and is living in squalor with an alcoholic husband. Lust doesn't lead anywhere good, either.

So, I started wondering what I would encourage my own daughter to do, under these circumstances. Absent the ability to control the size of a family and with no truly good choices, I might well do what upper-class women of the time did -convince young women that "good girls" don't like sex. It's a duty, a chore, and should be endured as rarely as possible. At least that way, she wouldn't have as many children -a high-risk proposition at the time- and would lead a slightly more secure and comfortable life. Culturally and individually, this attitude got us in so much trouble that it feels very odd to be defending it. But when you look at it from the "what does one mother say to one daughter" point of view, it's at least easy to understand how we went down that road. It might even be seen as a small (ultimately unhelpful, I concede) effort towards locating some power for women, which is to say, feminism.

My point, (the long way around) is that women have always known that uncontrolled fertility is a bad idea. It's not birth control that demeans women, for crying out loud; it's being treated as no more than a walking uterus that's demeaning. And you know what? It doesn't do much for children, either. When every pregnancy is met with a sense of impending doom, how can children be the delight and hope that they're meant to be? Much better that every child should be a wanted, sought-after, CRAVED child.

So, there's work to be done. If our daughters are going to have access to reasonable, responsible family planning services, we need to keep Dr. Keroack far away from our sexual decision making. Please consider writing to Michael Leavitt, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who has the authority to block this appointment. You can do that through this link: NARAL sample letter.

And feel free to take apart my Jane Austen and sexual politics argument. It was the result of idle musings on a quiet Sunday. And quite possibly there was a glass of wine involved.

The Lean, Mean, Green Machine

I'm going on a diet. Not that kind of diet -although I ought to do that, too. This is an 8-week carbon-diet. Sponsored by Slate magazine and treehugger, the diet is a regimen for reducing the carbon load from household use.

Step one is to determine the baseline -our current carbon output. The news is disturbing: 12,568.8 lbs of carbon emissions for our household. Good grief. They claim, though, that the U.S. average is 22 tons of carbon emissions per person. Can that be true?

My first task is to reduce my transportation emissions. The tasks they suggest are:
  • Check tire pressure and get the tires inflated to the proper levels
  • Check the car's air filter and replace it if necessary
  • Carpool two days each week
  • Drive 25 fewer miles this week

Alrighty then... How much of this can I actually do? Don't they (ahhh....the mysterious "they" responsible for all the peculiar goings-on in the world) check your tire pressure and the air filter when changing the oil in the car? In that case, I should be okay. I'll get that done tomorrow. I think I'm maxed out in the carpooling area, but I'll think about that one some more. Driving 25 fewer miles???? Wow. There are lots of days when I don't drive at all. I don't know where 25 fewer miles would come from. What I'll do is set the odometer in my car and see how many miles I drive this week. (Well, it's going to be artificially high. There's a trip to the airport and a trip to Wisconsin, because of the Thanksgiving holiday.) Then I'll cut it by 10%. How's that?

Anyone want to join me? If you need some motivation, watch Al Gore on TedTalks. Who knew he could be funny?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Racial Justice Didn't Win

We can -and maybe should- crow some more about the recent election. I have great confidence in the Democrats' ability to pull defeat from the jaws of victory, but we surprised ourselves this time. Nonetheless, something wicked this way comes. We weren't entirely successful at the ballot box.

Racial justice, in particular, took a hit. This one is a mystery to me. I would have said to you that certainly there is residual racism, but everyone knows by now that they aren't supposed to be racist. I thought people were ashamed of any leftover racism that they found in their own thinking. Alas... not so much. "Andrea" and "optimistically naive" all go in the same sentence, once again.

Michigan banned Affirmative Action in the public sector -and the initiative was spearheaded by a black man who "proudly" accepted the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. I'm still shaking my head over that one. English is now the official language in Arizona. Undocumented immigrants are denied bail, public education, publicly-funded health care, and can't receive punitive damages from successful lawsuits. Colorado passed similar anti-immigrant measures. Wisconsin voters voted to become a death penalty state. Surely I don't need to recap the racist effects of the death penalty. And all of this is on top of the bizarre and punitive anti-immigrant measures passed by the House of Representatives (HR 4437) at the end of last year and the Senate (S. 2611) in May. 700 miles of border fence, anyone?

Questions in no particular order for successful candidates -and those of us who want to call ourselves progressives.
  • How do we eliminate racism -covert and overt- from public life?
  • A significant number of immigrants -legal and otherwise- and people of color live alongside poor whites in inner cities. What are we going to do about the conditions in which poor people live?
  • What is an appropriate level of intervention in the public schools to ensure that marginalized students reach their academic potential?
  • What should be done to eliminate street violence and hate crimes?
  • How can we (or can we) tweak Public Aid so that it assists with race relations?

Friday Random 10

Sometimes I think I should let this meme just die a natural death. Surely we've had our fun. But so many times, it brings me back to my blog, when what I want to do is crawl under a rock and hide from all the things I have to do. This is one of those days!

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that you think make you look cool. Here are mine for the week:

  • Partita for Keyboard No. 6 in E Minor -Prelude; Bach
  • Dimming of the Day; Emmylou Harris
  • Walk Like an Egyptian; The Bangles (oh my!)
  • Little Goodbyes; SheDaisy
  • Zydeco on the Bayou; Terrance Simien
  • I Am a Rock; Simon and Garfunkel
  • One Grain of Sand; Odetta
  • Mighty Big River; Jim Post
  • Long Time Gone; Dixie Chicks
  • All of Me; Selah

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

One More Car in the World

Sigh.... It's disturbing to me that I'm excited about this. I've been carless for about a month. The girl-child works in a town about 40 miles away and has to *gasp* dress up for work. The mind reels. How did I end up with a glamorous child??? Well, be that as it may, she couldn't ride a bike to work dressed like that. So, she's been using my car. I've tried to be graceful about this situation. I don't even LIKE cars, and I'm trying to drive less, anyway.

But yesterday, she bought a car.

It's a Toyota Yaris and it's European-car-tiny. It gets great gas mileage and I GET TO USE MY OWN CAR. I'm so excited.

Pathetic, that's me.

As a penance for being relieved about this, I'm organizing the Bike Club's Reindeer Ride. I'm apparently pathetic in very many ways today!!


Monday, November 13, 2006

The Boys are Back in Town

Not this town... The U.S. Catholic Bishops are gathering in Baltimore for their annual meeting, and they are preparing to make some scary and destructive pronouncements. It's okay, though, because I doubt that anyone's listening.

In the recent past, when Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of sainted memory was the head of the U.S. Council of Bishops, the gathered bishops made sweeping and important -and helpful, for crying out loud- statements about war and peace and other social justice issues. They didn't get everything right (in the world according to Andrea) but they were engaged in the actual challenges of the day and were contributing to the discourse. Now they're more wrapped up in internal problems. This shift could be good, especially if they were focused on the reality that in statistically significant numbers children aren't safe from parish priests. To name but one example where internal housekeeping could be in order.

I can't quite wrap my brain around their thinking here. But this meeting and other examples, liturgical in particular, suggest that they think that the sexual abuse crisis happened because the laity doesn't understand...well, much of anything. How it follows that our lack of understanding causes some priests to prey on children escapes me, but I really don't think I'm making this up. So this meeting focuses on crafting documents that will explain the teachings of the church to us. Because... they're not written down anywhere and our literacy can't be assumed, I suppose. How this is going to revitalize parish life absolutely eludes me.

They're going to affirm (barring serious intervention from the long-suffering holy spirit) that marriage must be between one man and one woman. But they're also going to consider and doubtless affirm the scientifically validated claim that people of homosexual orientation should not be subjected to therapy hoping to change that orientation. Those two things may seem not to be related or troublesome, but they really are. Watch.

Remember before we start that this is a church that is very rigorous about logical and theological consistency. They work hard to be sure that moral theology doesn't contain mutually exclusive requirements, for example. And actually they're quite good at this.

First up, sexual ethics. This is surely an area where the bishops get to provide moral leadership. In a way-too-simple formulation, those ethics suggest that sex is holy when it's in a marriage, functions in a unitive way for the couple, and is open to children. The sexual act is not going to result in children in a homosexual union, which is why (oooh, this is getting almost too simplified) the church has seen fit to deny sacramental marriage to gays. Internally it makes sense. (Although I'm entirely open to and willing to participate in the enterprise of standing outside, looking in, and going -For God's sake, THAT's ridiculous.)

But hang on. Social justice teaching rests on the claim that there is inherent dignity in everything that lives, humans in particular. Assuming they affirm the statement that there need be no misguided "therapy" for gay people, that will be because this is a fundamental aspect of their nature rather than a mere inclination, which could be subject to change. If that's true, if homosexuality is part of some people's very nature, then it falls under the human dignity rules.

I don't see how they can have it both ways. They're walking into a logical trap (which I guess they assume we won't see, because after all we're not very smart.) where the sexual ethics conflict with the social justice teachings.

And all of this begs the question as to why they're thinking about it at all. Re-craft the theology of the priesthood, and then get back to me about what I'm supposed to be doing in my bedroom. Until and unless they do that, and ensure that the people chosen for that newly envisioned priesthood are psychologically healthy, what they're in fact teaching us is just to ignore them. We've got that pretty well practiced with the ban on artificial contraception, which is widely ignored in this country, and we'll just move right along to the next thing. Is that really a precedent they want to set?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Technology and Reading

If I don't clean my house and do some laundry, the dust bunnies are going to take up arms against me and I'll have to wear my pajamas to work tomorrow. So, naturally, what I've actually done is go to the library and curl up on the couch and read. This is arguably the perfect Sunday afternoon activity, especially when there are plenty of other things to be done.

But now I'm musing about talking about books with other people. I do not not NOT have the energy to organize (or attend, for that matter) an in-real-life book discussion group. They're lovely and important, but I just can't commit to that right now. So.... what can technology offer me? There must be on-line book discussion groups where I can drop in, leave oh-so-pithy comments about some book or another (sarcasm there, in case you missed it) and have a conversation of sorts on a schedule that works for me.

I peeked at the Barnes and Noble book groups, but the interface just stinks. What else is out there, oh wise ones? And do on-line book groups have the cozy feeling of real-live groups? It would be a serious blow to my soul if books and the yumminess of the Sunday afternoon read-a-thon gave way to sleeker technology.

...must get back to Emma and her antics. I think I hear the dust bunnies arming themselves.

edited due to egregious grammar error -particularly inelegant in a post about reading :(

Saturday, November 11, 2006

How Many of Me?
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

And I know the other one! She's my sister in law, the original Andrea Rusin.

The long-suffering spouse's comment when I told him about this was that the mind reeled at the thought of more than one of me. I choose to be flattered, but I think that's not quite what he meant ;)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork, or adding in ones that make you look cool.

Here are mine for the week:
  • Fanfare for the Common Man; Aaron Copland
  • Cold Beer and Remote Control; Indigo Girls
  • You'll Never Walk Alone; Katherine Jenkins
  • I Say Yes, My Lord: Kate Cuddy and Gary Daigle
  • Step by Step; Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • The Way You Look Tonight; Tony Bennett
  • Modern Day Drifter; Dierks Bentley
  • Fields of Gold; Sting
  • All the Road Running; Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler
  • The Cherry Tree Carol; Peter, Paul, and Mary

Pro-Life Loses in Idaho

Did you guys follow this story? I'm just catching up.

The losing gubernatorial candidate in Idaho (Marvin Richardson...except... not so much)officially changed his name to Pro-Life, so that's what would appear on the ballot. And people wonder why I claim that much of the pro-life movement is unrelentingly ridiculous. Honest to Pete, if someone would make a reasoned, calm, woman-respecting, pro-life argument, I'd listen respectfully. I have listened respectfully when I've heard them in the past. I haven't quite been persuaded but I wouldn't be inflammatory. I promise. But so much of what they do is this nonsense; it's really hard to take them seriously.

I would love it if there were fewer abortions. The way to do that is to have fewer unintended pregnancies. One way to do that is to educate young people about contraception and to make it easily available. And yet, until recently, heaven only knows how much taxpayer money has gone to support abstinence-only sex education in the classrooms -and beyond.

I hope that with the newly configured Congress, the far right (including Mr Pro-Life from Idaho) will have less ability to define the discourse and that effective sex education will once again be in the classroom.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Voting to Change the World for Women

I was too tired to figure this out last night. But just as there was a dirty dozen list of representatives and senators dangerous to the environment, there's a group you love to hate when it comes to feminist issues.

First up, and a little off the subject, South Dakota defeated the ban on all abortion. And not by a small margin. Good job, guys. It seems to me that even staunchly pro-life supporters couldn't support that law. California and Oregon both struck down mandatory parental notification laws; these laws provided no exceptions even when a teenager would be endangering herself with the notification.

Now, here the group I love to hate re: anti-choice legislation.
  • Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri (not surprisingly on the environmental list as well) -defeated by a pro-choice candidate
  • Rep. Randy Graf (AZ) -defeated by a pro-choice candidate
  • Rep. Curt Weldon(PA) -defeated by a pro-choice candidate
  • Sen Mike DeWine (OH) -defeated by a pro-choice candidate

We still have plenty of anti-choice representatives and senators. And the Supreme Court is at work as we speak. So there's still a lot to be done. Nonetheless, today I'm celebrating.

Popcorn and Social Change

For real. It's in my living room. I've signed up to host an "America I Believe In" house party. It's a special screening of the documentary Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture, and Disappearances in the "War on Terror".

Here's the deal:
December 1, 2006 -which is a Friday night
7:30 p.m.
my living room

Sign up here: Amnesty International House Party. Children are always welcome in our home. Two points, though. Our children are 24 and 22. If they stick their tongues in the electrical outlets or eat stuff off the floor... well, I figure that's their problem. So don't assume the house is child-safe any more. And the subject matter seems a tad grim for little ones, but you call it.

There will be food, coffee and, if I get my act together, a bottle of wine. Naturally, there will be discussion afterwards. Come one; come all.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Geekery

I come from a political family from way back. Maybe it's genetic. But I'm sitting here with my wine and my computer, getting cautiously optimistic (a feeling which in the political world has ALWAYS come around to bite me in the butt) about the possibility of the Democrats taking control of the House.

The three vulnerable Republican-held seats in Indiana look very much like they'll go to Democrats. It looks like only one of three vulnerable seats in Kentucky will swing Democratic. I was hoping we'd get all six, guaranteeing some early-election-night pants-wetting at the Republican National committee headquarters. But still, this is looking almost....dare I say it?.... good.

updated later.... I scarcely know what to do with myself. The House looks (whispering, in case the election gods are listening)certain to switch to Democratic control. We've got six more Democratic governors than we had this morning. And I swear to God, we might even get the Senate -but that's still a long shot.

still later...Local good news is that Dennis Hastert really might lose. I think this one is going to go late into the night, and even if he wins he'll have to get it now that he's vulnerable. And even if he wins -and assuming the House really does switch to Democratic leadership- he loses his slot as Speaker. I'm doing the Happy Dance tonight.

The fate of the Dirty Dozen (the 12 elected officials with the worse environmental records)
  • Sen. Conrad Burns (MT) -too close to call but the Democrat is ahead. Updated: The Democrat is further out ahead.
  • Sen. Rick Santorum (PA) -buh bye!
  • Sen. Jim Talent (MO) -mysteriously, he's ahead
  • Sen George Allen (VA) - he's neck and neck with his Democratic opponent. Updated: the Democrat is squeaking -and I do mean squeaking- ahead.
  • Rep. Dan Boren (OK) -won
  • Rep. Deborah Pryce (OH) -it looks like she'll win, too. Yep, she won.
  • Re. Henry Cuellar (TX) -he's going to win, too
  • Rep. Katherine Harris (FL) -she's history
  • Re. Richard Pombo (CA) -way too close to call; they're neck and neck and there aren't many returns available from California yet
  • Rep. Charles Taylor -he's looking for a new job (NC)
  • Rep. Heather Wilson (NM) -still too close to call
  • Rep. J.D. Hayworth (AZ) -it looks like he's going to lose

So, we're going to lose four of the worst environmental offenders, keep at least two and probably three, and we'll have to wait and see what happens to the rest of them. The ones I'd most like to see lose: George Allen and Deborah Pryce (Oh well). At 11:30, it looks like Conrad Burns is going to lose, too -so that's five environmental disasters we're going to lose.

OK... tempering my wild dancing here.... I don't think John Laesch can pull it off against Dennis Hastert. He's come closer than anybody in a really long time, but I think it's too late. I did notice that wikipedia already identifies Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, though ;)

It's way past my bedtime... but in the "give peace a vote" department, we have to think good thoughts for Illinois candidate Tammy Duckworth. That race is closer than I would have thought and WAY closer than I wanted. And in local peace-full news, the referendum to bring home the troops passed in DeKalb but failed in Sycamore.

Vote for Social Change

Give peace a vote -and in DeKalb Township you can! There's a referendum re: bringing home the troops.

Think about children, especially those living in povety, when you vote. Making poverty history has pretty much fallen off the radar. Let's put people who'll put it back on the agenda into office.

Think about empowering women when you vote. Possibly consider voting for a Representative who will support the Afghan Women's Empowerment Act of 2006. Hint: that's not Dennis Hastert.

Think about the environment when you vote. In my case, there's a County Board candidate, Julia Fauci, who has a strong commitment to the environment -and to bicycling, bless her heart.

Let this election be a referendum for a better world.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Voting Plans

Illinois progressives are in a bit of a bind with the governor's race. Rod Blagojevich is the current governor and a Democrat (a good thing, I suppose), but he's been a study in ethical tragedy and fiscal irresponsibility (clearly a bad thing). Judy Baar Topinka is currently the Illinois State Treasurer and is the Republican candidate. She's done all right as Treasurer, but her campaign is basically "I'm less likely to get thrown in the clink; vote for me". And besides.... can we really vote for a Republican?

Well, I can and I have. It gets you on some pretty strange mailing lists, but you do what has to be done. Nonetheless, I'm not going to do it this time. (Michael over at Musing's Musings is probably fuming into his morning coffee. Sorry, dear one.) I'm going to vote for the Green Party candidate, Rich Whitney. This little burg isn't Los Angeles or Portland or even Madison, Wisconsin. The Green Party here is slightly... invisible. Actually, it's nonexistent; invisible would be an improvement.

Yet when I read the literature and listen to the speeches, I hear something different -positions I can affirm rather than merely tolerate. Social justice, diversity, universal health care, feminism, community based economics.... I'm sold.

Am I throwing away my vote -tacitly supporting Blagojevich? I don't know. Maybe. Okay, probably. But for right now, I'm rejecting the "lesser evil" strategy of voting (which I've done many a time, and it's never worked out well) and opting for something a little more positive. Besides, those of you who know me know that I have a long-standing fondness for lost-but-lovely causes. The Green Party deserves a bigger voice in Illinois politics. So, I'll do what I can.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Weekend Cookbook Challenge

I knew I couldn't actually bake this weekend. Do not even ASK me how many things I have to do. It makes me start to hyperventilate to think about it. So I made the cinnamon rolls for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge yesterday. Here they are -proof positive that I remember how to cook ;)

In progress: (I considered getting one of me wearing an apron, but decided that would be overkill -but I was actually wearing an apron.)

And done:

The recipe was one from my grandmother, adapted to use in the bread machine. The little-used piece of kitchen equipment was my bread machine. And yes, a goodly number of these are disappearing to the boy-child's apartment. A) I do NOT need to eat them all myself, and b) sharing food is at least as much fun as cooking it, I think.

So, there it is! One thing done for the weekend. Thanks to Breadchick at The Sour Dough for inviting me to participate.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Sex Talk

I'm 48, have two children, and have been married for 25 years, so I've figured out the basics of the birds and the bees thing. But there's stuff I didn't know, and the Bush administration is going to make sure I know it, bless their little hearts (and littler brains).

Check this out. They're moving beyond abstinence-only sex education for teenagers and targeting young adults up to age 29. Unless you're married, sex is bad. Avoiding sex before marriage saves you from
Infertility, isolation, jealousy, poverty, heartbreak, substance abuse, AIDS, pregnancy, cervical cancer, genital herpes, unstable long-term commitments, depression, embarrassment, meaningless wedding, sexual violence, personal disappointment, suicide, feelings of being used, loss of honesty, loneliness, loss of personal goals, distrust of others, pelvic inflammatory disease, loss of reputation, fear of pregnancy, disappointed parents, loss of self-esteem...

Who knew??

Here's a thing. I'm actually fairly conservative on this subject. I don't think high school kids should be sexually active. But 29????? Come on. If it's premature pregnancy when you're, say, 25 and unmarried, what makes pregnancy timely just because there was a wedding? I suppose in principle there's an argument to be made against casual sex. I may not in the end agree with it, but at least it would be logical. But they haven't (oh, big surprise) actually made it. Timeliness cannot be the issue; nothing about marriage guarantees maturity.

Moreover, how can avoiding premarital sex spare one a meaningless wedding? Assuming anyone at all buys into this pile of hogwash, wouldn't it encourage rather than discourage less well-considered weddings? And playing the ruined reputation card is really cheap. I'm sure people are going to talk negatively about a 29-year-old who's in a relationship that involves sexual activity. Puh-lease. But, I have to say, if I'd known that avoiding premarital sex would save me forevermore from embarrassment, I might have made a different decision lo those many years ago ;)

What can the source for this almost lewd interest in the sex lives of adults come from? It's hard to avoid the conclusion that they don't want women to be independent of men. If we have the audacity to make our own sexual decisions, parent our own children, and generally lead our own lives without benefit of wise counsel from men, well then.... what IS the world coming to?

I'm not actually sure how they plan to disseminate this "information". At least with teenagers, they have a captive audience in the high school classrooms. It does seem clear, however, that just as the high school abstinence-only curriculum censors important health information, there is no greater concern for accuracy for the young adult population.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How Many Deaths Will It Take Till He Knows....

...that too many people have died?

According to U.S. Military Deaths, the number of U.S. military deaths as of today stands at 2814. The number of civilians killed by military intervention in Iraq is at least 434,803. Go here for more information: Iraq Body Count. To make matters worse, the Washington Post linked to an epidemiological study suggesting that excess deaths since the invasion began is about 655,000. (Some people would have died irrespective of an invasion. That number stays fairly constant within a population and is knowable. Deaths over that number are excess deaths.) This number is fully 20 times larger than the Bush administration has suggested. If they're right, that's about 500 deaths from violence every day, with the remaining fatalities stemming from increased disease in the population. The findings are on line at The Lancet, but you have to have a subscription to read it. (Thanks, Mom. Now change your password!)

So, how do we build peace in a time of perpetual war? My first answer is always "disarm your own heart". I'm going to try (TRY, mind you) to hold the people who have caused this debacle gently in my heart. This tasks feels huge to me, but I'll make an effort. But let's assume that I will both continue to work on that and never fully accomplish it. What else can be done?

As discontent with the war and its human and financial costs mounts, it seems important to keep information easily available. I've asked the local newspaper to print a daily casualty toll. As far as I know, they have not done so; it's a very conservative and cautious newspaper. I'll ask again. If other people asked as well, maybe we'd make some progress. I've added a death count tracker to my sidebar and, as sad as it is, I encourage other people to do so as well. You can get one here: Casualty Toll.

And I keep coming back to the idea that it's important to, even in merely symbolic ways, reduce our dependence on oil. I'm going to try to use my bike to commute this winter, at least more than I have in the past. A few months ago, I committed to a single car-free day per week. That hasn't been any trouble, although the weather hasn't gotten nasty yet. I am going to try to increase that.

There has to be more we can do. Ideas, anyone?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Intentional Cooking

What with living alone and having a slightly busy (okay, deranged) life, I've hardly cooked lately. It's ridiculous on so many levels that I've let this slide. And the universe clearly wants me to get over this. Mary at The Sour Dough has invited me to participate in the Weekend Cookbook Challenge.

The goal this month is to use a neglected kitchen gadget and a little-used cookbook to come up with something fabulous. At this point, I could call my oven a neglected kitchen gadget. However, I intend to think slightly more creatively than that. I'm going to dust off my bread machine and my cinnamon rolls recipe (which is adapted for the bread machine from my grandmother's recipe) and get to work. My cinnamon rolls used to be quite good -back when there were people here to eat them. But I'll just put the extra in the freezer and eat them one at a time, all by my little old self.

Or... the boy-child will smell them cooking from across town and mysteriously show up at just the right moment! A mom can dream.

By the way, I DO think that posting this is consistent with my vague vision for this blog. Cooking for myself, cooking WELL for myself, is part of my process of learning to live gracefully, justly, and simply in the world. So.. sometimes before Saturday, there will be a picture of cinnamon rolls right here on this blog. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know how it works. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear -and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look stupid or adding in ones that make you look cool.

Here are mine for this week:
  • Here I Am; John Michael Talbot
  • New Years Day; Carolyn Arends
  • The Farmer is the Woman; John McCutcheon
  • Better Be Good to Me; Tina Turner
  • Love Me; I'm a Liberal; Phil Ochs
  • Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals; Saint Saens
  • Finlandia; Indigo Girls
  • The Memory of Trees; Enya
  • Me Myself I; Joan Armatrading
  • Mama is Strange; Melissa Etheridge

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

League of Conservation Voters Scorecard

It's here: League of Conservation Voters Scorecard and it's a .pdf. The League has been evaluating every congressional session and every Senator and Representative since the first Earth Day (1970, grasshopper). While some elected officials (my Senators included) scored quite well, the overall tone of the scorecard is gloomy and a little disheartened.
When it comes to the environment and energy, 2006 will be remembered for sky-rocketing gas prices, record-high oil company profits, an acknowledgement by even President Bush that America is addicted to oil, the Alaska BP pipeline spill, and a widespread recognition that human activity is causing global warming to happen far more quickly than previously thought. Unfortunately... Congress did virtually nothing to help solve these problems, with little hope for anything positive to emerge from an anticipated lame duck session.

Oh my. One suggestion that they make is to "Dump the Dirty Dozen" -the 12 elected officials with the worst environmental records.
  • Senator Conrad Burns (MT)
  • Senator Rick Santorum (PA)
  • Senator Jim Talent (MO)
  • Senator George Allen (VA)
  • Representative Dan Boren (OK)
  • Representative Deborah Pryce (OH)
  • Representative J.D. Hayworth (AZ)
  • Representative Henry Cuellar (TX)
  • Representative Katherine Harris (FL)
  • Representative Richard Pombo (CA)
  • Representative Charles Taylor (NC)
  • Representative Heather Wilson (NM)
Representatives Tom Delay (TX) and Bob Ney (OH) are in a special category after their decisions not to seek re-election.

Isn't it interesting how many of these people show up on other lists of stellar personalities? Rick Santorum was such a hero during the Terri Schiavo case and his comments on intelligent design were truly insightful. (Sarcasm there, in case you missed it.) George Allen slings racial epithets around at campaign stops. Katherine Harris helped George Bush win election by stopping the hand counting of ballots in contested counties in Florida. And Henry Cuellar reminds us that we need to not only get the Republicans out of Congress, we need to get them out of the Democratic party. He's a false Democrat if ever there was one.

I ran the same names through the Children's Defense Fund, the League of Women Voters, the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and the National Coalition for the Homeless legislative scorecards and found similarly tragic results. These guys are scary.

But hopefully, they'll only have jobs for 13 more days.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Spatial Justice

I just got back from a long weekend with my husband, who's spending the year away from home on sabbatical. This semester he's in Minneapolis. I'll leave you to your imagination regarding the details of the reunion; you can probably figure most of it out.

But also... being us, we rode our bikes. Everywhere. There was no car involved at all for four days. It was a lovely thing. And this large urban space is designed (or has been retro-fitted, I suppose) to make that easy and safe. There are dedicated bike lanes on the streets. It gets a little dicey when there's also a right turn lane for the cars, but they seem to have worked something out. There are (doubtless expensive) bridges for foot and bike traffic over busy streets. There are bike paths around interesting city features. These paths are complete with traffic signs and speed limits for the bikers. I really wanted a speeding ticket on my bike. At one point I had actually even earned one, but alas there was no police officer in sight.

And then, there you are, noodling along on your bike. And you see union organizing store-fronts, community organizers, teeny-tiny little service organizations for a stunning array of ethnic minorities... The Onion comes out in a print edition.

Okay, it was four days. For all I know, Minneapolis is a hot-bed of corruption and strife. Not being there very long, I was spared a nuanced view. But I do have a fairly clear view of the place I do actually live. We have a few bike paths here and there, but no bike lanes that I can think of. We have about 15 people who identify as politically left of center -and that might be optimistic. Any ethnic diversity to speak of is from the university, and there's not much town and gown mingling around here.

Urban design and policy are so completely not areas of expertise for me that my musings are probably mundane. But heck, they're new to me. I've always thought my town was designed by accident. I figured they paved roads where the cows that used to wander around had beaten a path. Buildings sprang up along these haphazard roads. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe urban design is a visible sign of human/cultural intention. It's just that our city leaders didn't mind authoring a tragedy, I guess.

The thing I do know about is building community. Maybe making community and making space for community are not as far apart as I had imagined. There are things we do right. There are lovely parks for varying uses. There are a few solar-powered street lights. We've had curbside recycling for a lot longer than many larger municipalities. But would a few bike lanes kill us? How about meaningful public transportation? If any place could figure out bio-mass fuels, this one is a good choice. Bio-mass, we've got.

Sigh. I think I'm talking myself into getting involved with local politics. Damn.