Thursday, May 25, 2006

A View Of Prison - Not For Fair Of Face Or Vertically Challenged

Remember Debra Lafave? She was the sex offender who was declared "too pretty" for prison by a judge after she molested one of her former middle school students. She was originally sentenced to probation and counseling. The case was eventually dropped by Florida prosecutors, but not before she tried to go back to the boy for seconds. To her credit, she did apologize to the boy and his family and, after declaring herself a "strong Christian woman," faded back into oblivion.

Bet you never thought a judge would say anything quite that stupid again. Think again.

A man in Nebraska who was found guity of molesting a child has been sentenced to 10 years probation by a judge who was concerned that he was "too small" to survive in prison. He was also ordered to stay away from children and to get rid of all his pornography. Here's the quote of the day:

"You are a sex offender, and you did it to a child. But, that does not make you a hunter. You do not fit in that category."

What the hell????? More to come later.

Warning: This place is not suitable for the ugly or short. Prosecutorial discretion advised.

A View Of Why Flip-Flops Are A Menace

"What in the hell are you doing?" Click on the picture for the answer.

I've told you before about why I hate Wal-Mart. Here's another reason to add to the list. You don't hear about random lickers hiding under cars in a Target parking lot, do you? Virginia may be for lovers, but Tulsa appears to be for toe-lickers.
Here's hoping you don't go wee, wee, wee all the way home after you go grocery shopping. More to come later, after I buy some sneakers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A View Of The Demand For Proof

Check out more thought provoking and laugh out loud funny strips by Wiley Miller by visiting the "Non Sequitur" website. Click on the strips to link to his website.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I am atheist. What you may not know is that I have a "live and let live" approach to religion. I don't try to convert those who believe in God and practice the religion of his/her choice over to my point of view. A wise man once said that everyone has to serve somebody.

Others, however, don't share that belief. Check out this video when you have about 4-5 minutes of free time to learn about a man who's taking the Catholic Church to court demanding proof of the existence of Jesus Christ.

For lack of a better phrase, bless him for trying to advance the cause. Still, I can't help but wonder what point will come of it if his suit goes forward? Even if a ruling lands in his favor and irrefutable proof can't be found, we all know people will continue to believe what they believe. (There are tons of people out there that believe George Dubya is the greatest president to ever hold the office in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, after all.) What's the harm in letting people believe in what they believe and letting them live with their choice?

Anyway, it should be interesting to see how this comes out. Stay tuned for updates.

More to come later.

A View Of The Dark Side Of The Teacher's Lounge

Careful, Timmy. What happens in the teachers' lounge should stay in the teachers' lounge....

The A.P. released a story about a middle school teacher in St. Louis who not only showed up to teach class drunk, he sent one of his students to his car to fetch his bottle of cognac, made a lewd remark and inappropriate advances toward two of his female students, and had a stash hidden in his desk. The man, who had a 22 year career in the classroom, has been charged with misdemeanor assault, and misdemeanor disturbing the peace. The school district is moving to have him fired.

It's one of those stories that's so sad, all you can do is laugh. It made me chuckle and cringe at the same time because it brought back two distinct memories.

1) I attended a small Catholic grade school back in the day. I always looked forward to St. Patrick's Day - not because we didn't have to wear our gaudy plaid uniform (we were told to wear green, so it wasn't much of a tradeoff), but because the teachers always made it a free day so they could enjoy the Irish Coffee they got as a treat. If you've never had Irish Coffee, here's a peek at a recipe:
1 cup coffee, fresh brewed
3 sugar cubes
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey (1 jigger)
Pour coffee into large mug. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
Add whiskey and stir to combine. Top with whipped cream and serve.

They'd sip their coffee and smile. We'd have a day where we did absolutely nothing except look for kids who didn't wear green to pinch. It doesn't get much better than that. Occasionally, a teacher would send one of us to the mysterious (only because it was off limits) teachers' lounge to get another cup with a stern warning NOT TO DRINK IT, because "coffee will stunt your growth, you know." Amazingly, no child ever dared to take a sip and no teacher ever felt the need to fondle a student after a cup or two.
If the Irish Coffee was particularly strong, the teachers would look like this by recess.

2) One of my first grown up jobs was at the information desk at a local mall. One of my duties was managing the mall's Santa display, including organizing visits by school groups. I had to help train Santa and his helpers and schedule the staff to make sure Santa and his elves were always there. Everything was fine until one morning I heard one of the kids in a school group ask another, "How come Santa smells like that?" When I looked over, Santa was beginning to nod off with a child in his lap. I went over to the display, explaining to the kids that Santa had been working very hard in his workshop the night before. When I tapped Santa on the shoulder, he snapped forward and began talking to the kid in the warm, fuzzy cadence of a drill sergeant. A drunk drill sergeant.

"What do you want for Christmas, kid? Have you been good? Smile for the camera. Get down. Next!"

I called the mall manager, and Drunk Santa (a former assistant mall manager, by the way) was sent home. We sent the remaining kids to other activities and called for a replacement. Soon everything was back to normal.

When Santa's bad, not good, who tells him to be good for goodness sake?

Until the next day, that is, when one very concerned mother came over to the information desk to report that Santa had invited her to sit on his lap. ("Ooh! What a fine mama you are! Heh, heh, heh...") When she refused, he gave her his best flirtatious grin (as flirtatious as a grin can be when one is missing a couple of teeth), and asked, "Don't you want to come here and take a ride on Santa's sleigh? Heh, heh, heh...." To bring the point home, he looked down at his crotch, then looked back at her and winked. All in front of her child who, mercifully, was too young to understand what was going on.

I called the mall manager, and Horny Santa (who not only admitted that he liked to flirt with the ladies, he bragged about how he'd been doing it for years - "and nobody's ever complained before....") was gone. We ended up using one of the other mall staff members, a 20-something guy who was tall enough to be a basketball player (it looked like Santa was wearing furry Bermuda shorts when he put on the costume) and wasn't very fond of children as a fill-in for the rest of the season. I hated the holidays for a long time after that.

I imagine the principal at that school in St. Louis could relate to my stories after his experience this morning. Let's hope he waits until after class is over before he takes a drink to cope.

More to come later.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A View Of The Other Side Of The Cure

Remember my post the other day about my cervical cancer scare? Well, as I was surfing the web during my down time here at work, I came across an interesting commentary about a possible backlash against the cervical cancer vaccine. Seems as though there are some evangelical conservatives who want to block approval of the vaccine because of fears that it will promote promiscuity.

Can you believe such a thing? The idea of allowing women to suffer needlessly and help prevent the spread of the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world in an attempt to stop people from having sex is preposterous. This vaccine is about stopping a deadly form of cancer, not trying to use government offices to legislate morality. This vaccine is about women having more control over their reproductive health , not about living in fear of contracting a preventable cancer due to moral judgment on their private lives.

If there were a vaccine that could help stop HPV in men, I wonder if there would be a similar backlash?

Fight for your rights, ladies. More to come later.

Update (6/22): The good news is that the FDA decided to ignore the moralistic bull and approve the vaccine for immediate use. The bad news is that the cost of the vaccine is so high, some insurance companies and many low-income, underinsured, and uninsured women may not be able to have access to it. The hypocritical news is that erectile dysfunction medications - helpful but not medically necessary - are readily available and covered by many insurance carriers, including Medicaid and Medicare. Oppression comes in many forms, y'all. We may have come a long way ladies, but we have a long way to go. Continue to fight for equal protections and equitable medical coverage.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A View Of The Passing Of A Legend

Here's one reason why I wouldn't want to give up my internet connection at work - I would miss important news and milestones like this story I just found on CNN.

Katherine Dunham, dance pioneer, civil rights activist, and author, died yesterday. She was 96 years old. If you aren't familiar with her work, a good introduction can be found in the movie "Stormy Weather." Prepare to be mesmerized as you watch her and her troupe's amazing dance number - one of many breathtaking numbers in a wonderful movie. Click on this link for a timeline of her life and work and be sure to check out the video clips on the site.

Rest in peace, Ms. Dunham. The world is a better place because of your contributions to the arts.

Update (5/23/06): I found this touching tribute to Ms. Dunham on the New York Times website. You may need to register on the Times site to read the piece, but registration is free and she's worth the time and effort.

A View Of Sophie's Choice

I came across this question on the MSNBC website and it sent a chill up my spine:

If you had to pick between the following, which would it be?

Your morning coffee or,

access to the internet?

The idea of having to choose between the two is a little more than I can bear. I'm going to get another cup and then I'm going to hug my wireless card.

More to come later, but first this plug for "toothpaste for dinner," the site where I found the cool internet cartoon. Check 'em out, you hear?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A View Of The Views From The Web

I was going to write a brilliant, humorous, tear-jerking post this weekend. Really. But the TEM partied last night. Hard. So hard the monitor is too friggin' bright to look at for a long period of time. Therefore, I invite you to check out some of my favorite blogs listed under "The Views From The Web."

Please note: If you want to check out any of these recommended blogs, go over to the "Views" list and click the link there. I'm too damn lazy today to embed links.

If you want to catch up on news and world events, you'll be interested in NPR, CNN, and Anderson Cooper's 360 blog. If you want to get your celebrity gossip fix with a twist, think Pink Is The New Blog - the best out there in my totally biased point of view, though USA Today's Pop Candy is a close second. If you like autobiographical observational blogs with a touch of humor (the tone I hope my blog sets), click on the links to Random Thoughts of a Restless Mind, Exact Approximations, and The Company Bitch. If you, like me, appreciate observational, humor and news blogs with African American flavor, then the K Chronicles, Candorville, The Black Commentator, Urban Journalista, and Bygbaby's Mind Spill are the ones to go to first. If music is your passion, then stop by Radio Paradise - it's free form, commercial free, interactive - there's nothing like it anywhere. You also must go to the Official Site of Billie Holiday. All modern music begins and ends with Billie - know that for a fact. Finally if you need a good laugh, then click on the links to the Comics curmudgeon, Drink At Work, My Jokes and Funny Stories, and The Official Site of Grant Miller and be prepared to laugh until you hurt.

Read one, read all. Laugh. Cry. Learn. Share.

More to come later. Once my damn hair stops hurting.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A View Of Who Won't Be A Baby Mama

Have you checked out "Rhymes With Orange" yet? If you haven't you should.

Hi. I'm TEM, and I am childless by choice.

(Hi, TEM.)

Much to my mom's chagrin, the only pitter-patter of anything in my home will be from the occasional visiting child and from little cat feet.

(That's actual feet, by the way, and not low-level precipitation.)

It's nothing personal against kids, mind you. Children are great. It's fascinating to watch them grow, explore the world around them, change a little every day, and go from being tiny, helpless creatures to fully formed, complex beings. Babies, toddlers, children - they're probably the only things that could truly be called a miracle on this earth. It's just not a miracle I feel the need to experience. I enjoy being around children for a while, but I've never had that "maternal instinct" that women who have children or want to have children describe. Over time, I've come up with names, imagined what my child might look like, and wondered what it would be a mother, but it's nothing that's ever lasted. There's been no driving urge. The only feasible reason I've ever been able to come up with for having a child is so that, in some way, my father's name could live on. That thought, along with my occasional imaginings, has always been more cerebral than emotional. The desire to be a parent has to come from the heart and the mind, not just the mind alone.

It's a desire I've never had and know I never will have.

Before you ask, it's not because of my current social situation. I knew that I didn't want children when I was in my early 20s, but I kept trying to deny that thought. It couldn't be natural not to want children, I remember thinking. Every woman wants kids, right?

Well, a year or so before I got married, I experienced that moment of truth that everyone has when faced with a crisis of conscience. In my case, it was a cancer scare. After a routine Pap, some abnormal cervical cells were discovered. More tests were run, a biopsy was performed, and finally, I had to have cryosurgery. It was a traumatizing experience because I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Every night during the scare, I would toss and turn wondering if I would ever be able to have children, or worse, what would happen if it turned out I had cervical cancer.

(Did you know that cervical cancer was the 2nd deadliest form of cancer in women? Only breast cancer kills more women. Did you know that cervical cancer is thought to be caused by a virus in most cases? Read this article and check out this website to learn more about it.)

The morning of my cryosurgery was when I had my moment of truth. During the procedure, my doctor attempted to lighten the mood a bit by making a joke. He said he'd read that cryosurgery was supposed to be a bit uncomfortable then said that he wouldn't know because he'd never had it done to him before. "So," he asked, "am I making you uncomfortable?" He then chuckled at his own joke. I don't remember what I said, but I do remember that I managed to hold back my tears until everything was done and only the nurse and I were left in the exam room.

As I lay there silently crying, embarrassed by my tears, filled with worry and dread, the nurse took my hand, gave me a tissue, and said a very brief prayer asking for comfort during my time of need. Her words were comforting and soothing - just what I needed after the trauma and the awkwardness of the morning, and one of the rare instances where I've been able to appreciate a prayer for its power, though to this day I cannot remember exactly what she said. When she was done, she squeezed my hand, told me that everything would be fine, and that she was going to leave the room to allow me to get dressed. "If you need anything, just call me," she said. "I'll be down the hall." With that, before I could thank her for her kindness, she was gone.

I didn't get up right away. Instead, I chose to lie there on the exam table for a few minutes to compose myself. The first thing that came into my mind when she pulled the door closed was this:

"So what? You may not be able to have children. So what? You may have cancer. So what? This could be the beginning of the end. So what? Are you going to give up, or are you going to keep going?"

I immediately stopped crying. I knew I wasn't going to give up and let the situation pull me under - an amazing thought to have at the time because this was in midst of my first serious battle with depression. I knew I would find a way to keep living, because while whatever could've happened was frightening, giving up and dying was unimaginable. And, in that moment, I accepted the fact that I did not want to have children.

Over time, my acceptance grew, but getting others to accept it wasn't so easy. Shortly after I got married, a new doctor told me he considered refusing to give me a prescription for birth control pills because it was my "wifely duty, according to the Bible, to bear (my) husband children." (Note: Cursing a doctor out, reporting him to the State Board of Medicine and to your insurance provider cuts that bullshit out really fast.) Several people have told me that all I need is to "find the right man," and I'll be wanting to have babies right away. I've always responded that the right man will accept me for what I am and respect my decision. I had one suitor tell me that I clearly didn't know what I was talking about because all women want children. When I asked him how long he'd been a woman to know that for a fact, he disappeared. And over time, I've had several doctors refuse to perform a tubal ligation because I was either "too young," or I might change my mind - either later in my marriage or if I ever remarried. In other words, have a baby before getting fixed, even a baby isn't wanted. None of them was ever brave enough to say the real reason behind the reluctance was a fear of litigation if I did change my mind, even though I always offered to sign hold harmless for the doctor if I did (though not for any other circumstances). Not wanting children played a major role in the end of my marriage, and my break-ups with two serious boyfriends. They always thought I'd change my mind. I always thougth they'd accept the fact that I wouldn't and love me anyway. We were both wrong each time.

Here's some irony for you: I finally found a doctor willing to do the surgery, but my insurance doesn't appear cover the sterilization procedure I want. I ended up getting an IUD instead and am waiting my my insurance to catch up. If you read the information available about IUDs, they all recommend that users have a baby first, though the reasoning is never really explained. Some things never change.

What brought all of this very personal information to mind? News reports everywhere are all over Britney Spears and her recent parenting problems. She's dropped the baby, she's held the baby in her lap while driving (remember the days when this was standard procedure and there weren't car seats?), she's had the baby in a car seat installed the wrong way (from what I've read though, there are tons of caring and not so caring parents who have improperly installed child seats in their cars), she was clumsy enough to almost drop her baby (in front of a swarm of paparazzi eager to snap a picture of her new "baby bump" and her current baby falling to the pavement), she's (gasp!) pregnant again. Shortly before and during her first pregnancy, reports swirled fast and furious about how much she wanted to be a mother and have a lot of babies.

I wonder if she became a mother and said how much she wants kids because she meant it, or because it's expected of her? Did her moment of truth come at the right time or was it too late? Only she will know for sure, and if it did, I hope she followed her heart. If it didn't, I hope she's strong enough to endure and move past these difficult times for both her and her children.

More to come later, and I swear I'm off the baby thing for a long time.

Wait, I almost forgot. Cervical cancer may be deadly and viral in nature (a virus most of us carry in our systems, by the way), but if the FDA's advisory committee has it's way, it could become a thing of the past if a new vaccine receives recommendation. Had this vaccine come along soon enough, women like Evita Peron, comedian Julia Sweeney (a fellow atheist to boot), or any of the 12,800 women diagnosed with the disease in 2000 (4,600 of whom died) could've been spared this trauma. Let's hope the vaccine gets its recommendation. Keep hope alive.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A View Of Who Won't Be The TEM's Baby Daddy

I thought it was time to give you an update on Mr. DVD.

Remember him? He was the guy who, after we met and made some small talk, turned out to be a friend of one of my ex-boyfriends. I asked for advice on whether or not to see if this was something worth pursuing and, after much consideration, I decided to give him a shot and give him a call to learn more about him.

After a couple of conversations, here's what I found out:

1. He was offered a different position at the arts center, but the offer was rescinded after a background check revealed some "police stuff." I didn't ask what.

2. He once threw his cat out his apartment window because she "was horny and wouldn't stop howling." He lived on the third floor. As soon as he did it, he went looking for the cat because he was sorry about what he did. The cat didn't come around for a few days, but she eventually came back. When she did, he sat down and apologized to her for his behavior. When I asked why he didn't get the cat spayed, he said that he "was trying to decide whether or not he wanted her to have babies." He later gave the cat and the one kitten she gave birth to away.

3. He currently has a dog - a rottweiler who had not been trained or been around children (or other people besides the dog's previous owner for that matter). He immediately took the dog around his children (both were toddlers) without knowing her temperament. He then talked about how, in an attempt to train her, he body slammed her to the ground three separate times "like the Hulk did in that movie." One of the times was when she was confronted by a vicious dog in the neighborhood who came into their yard and, in an attempt to defend him from the intruder, accidentally bit him instead. That time, he not only slammed the dog to the ground, he then threw her at the attacking dog (the attacking dog was so stunned, he ran away), and would not feed her for two days. Later, he sat down and apologized to the dog for his behavior. He still has the dog.

4. His current cell phone is not working properly. It echoes, clicks, and frequently drops calls. He says he'd like to switch to a new carrier or get a replacement, but his "credit problems" prevent him from doing so right now. In an earlier conversation, he mentioned how he wanted to get rid of his Cadillac and Lincoln because they were constantly in need of repair and replace it with a new Charger. I wanted to ask how, if his credit wasn't good enough to get him a cell phone, he was going to manage this purchase, but my head hurt too much to go down that road.

So to recap, he's a friend of my ex, has some "police stuff" in his past, has a tendency to fling cats from high places (a fact I'm sure the Fuzzy Bunch would not appreciate), body slam dogs that act on instinct, expose his children to untrained dogs of unknown temperament, and has credit problems that prevent him from getting a cell phone contract. On the other hand, he knows how to apologize to an animal after an abusive episode and has enough moxie to dream of getting an expensive car despite shaky financial circumstances.

Sigh. Next.

More to come later.

A View Of Where Baby Daddies Shouldn't Go

Click on the picture to see how you can help people live the way they see fit.

This just in: If you're a baby mama/daddy and you have a hankering' to move to Black Jack, Mississippi with your illegitimates in tow, think twice. It seems you're not wanted in that town.

Two thoughts came to mind as I read this:
1. Wonder do these people realize that judgment is not very Christ like? I'm an atheist, but I know that for a fact.
2. Funny to see a town named after a card game try to legislate morality.

More to come later.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A View Of Where Baby Daddies Come From

Don't learn about baby mamas and baby daddies from him. Go to a reliable source.

I think you readers are ready to learn the etymological facts of life. Here's a story that will tell you all you need to know about where baby mamas, baby daddies, and baby bumps come from.

After you read it, your vocabulary will be all grown up, you'll know where to find "Jesus is my baby-daddy" t-shirts, and you'll be able to relate to Queen Pen when she, as she laments about her failed relationship, sings, "I shouldn't a fucked him."

Handle this information with care. With knowledge comes responsibility. And if you have to be a baby mama, don't be a dumb one.

More to come later.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A View Of Isolationism

The strip featured in this post is worth your time. Visit the Candorville website for a good laugh and a a refreshing, honest view of current events.

In case you haven't heard, President Bush will be delivering an address at 8:00 this evening to discuss temporarily using the National Guard to secure our nation's borders in an attempt to stem illegal immigration from Mexico. The 20-minute address comes as Bush, according to current polls, faces a 31% approval rating for his current administration's work - a "new low" according to USA Today - heightened criticism for the ongoing problems in the Middle East, calls to bring gas prices (currently at an average of $3 a gallon according to recent reports) under control, and anger from seniors facing a midnight "choose or lose" deadline to sign up for Medicare coverage - coverage that many do not understand and fear because of looming coverage penalties if they do not sign up for a plan by the deadline.

So much for that mandate and political capital he said he gained when he squeaked back into office for his second term.

The whole immigration reform situation seems like another of the many attempts the Bush administration has used to distract the American public from the more destructive and corrosive elements of his abuse of power. Does anyone else find it peculiar that this address comes on the heels of the news that the Bush administration, with the assistance of communication conglomerates like AT&T and Verizon, has been compiling a database of the calling records of all the country's citizens? That the administration refuses to answer what they are doing with that information or acknowledge the fact that the spying is more than likely a violation of law?

Probably not. Most of the news coverage I saw about the address yesterday and this morning focused mainly on the fact that the speech will be about 20 minutes long, and that the season finales of "Grey's Anatomy," "24," and "Prison Break," will be delayed. Oh yeah, there was this breaking news: The telecast of "Oprah's Legends Ball" will be postponed one week. You can now breathe a bit easier, once you get past the inconvenience of resetting your TiVO.

Why is the American public so ambivalent about the unchecked power grab the current administration has exhibited over and over again? Have we been lulled into simply not caring? This morning as I was getting ready for work, the local news show had former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in town to promote her new book, on as a guest. The newscaster asked her one question (something along the lines of how did she get the boys who run the country to deal with her without fear of catching girl cooties), barely let her get out an answer, then cut to a commercial. When they returned, they covered traffic and weather first, then went to entertainment news (this just in, Kanye West let his mother rap with him on stage for Mothers Day), then returned to Ms. Albright for three more questions. (Upon further reflection, I shouldn't be surprised by the short shrift because the station is a Fox affiliate.)

Why has the American public bought into the divisiveness of the administration's policies? Do we truly believe that this country can exist in a patriotic vacuum? In an article that ran in USA Today on May 2nd, it was reported that more than two out of three Americans believe that the national anthem should only be sung in English. A version of the anthem, Nuestro Himno, is on the album , "Somos Americanos (We Are Americans)," released on May 16th called with proceeds from the album going to pro-immigration organizations. In the same poll, 64% of respondents agreed with Bush on his stand against a Spanish sung anthem, but did not agree with his immigration policies. Did any of these people remember how, when he ran for his first term in office, Bush often talked about his wife's bilingual skills? How he used his young, photogenic, Hispanic nephew to garner votes from the Hispanic community? Does anyone remember that this country's foundation is built on the premise of immigration - are we not the great American melting pot anymore?

Have we turned off the lamp beside the golden door? Mexican president Vincente Fox worries that we have, replacing the lamp with an armed sentry. He phoned the White House to express concerns about the use of the National Guard (already stretched beyond capacity because of the ongoing conflict in Iraq), stating that the use of the Guard appears to be a "militarization" of the border between our nations. Bush denied this charge, of course, stating that the National Guard would play a "supporting role" to the Border Patrol. He did not state what that supporting role would entail, how long "temporary" is, or give any further details. Is the "temporary" deployment of troops along the Mexican border the same as the "temporary" occupation of Iraq we've continued since we "won" the Iraqi war almost four years ago? What kind of damage will this "temporary" deployment do to our already tattered international reputation? How will this impact the morale and makeup of our already overtaxed military? And why is immigration now suddenly such a major concern? Was Osama seen partying in Cancun over spring break?

(Speaking of Osama, whatever happened to the work to capture him? What happened to the terror alert color wheel that was used so much during the re-election campaign? Has the alert status turned to a terra cotta color, and that's why we're focusing on Mexico? I'm very confused.)

Has America allowed Bush to spend his "political capital" earned by his electoral mandate (and since when does a 51% majority vote equal a "mandate" anyway?) because they simply have no clue about our place in the world? According to a report from CNN on May 4th, this may be the case. Nearly two-thirds of Americans 24 years old and younger cannot identify Iraq on a map, according to a study done by the National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographical Study. Approximately 33% of those surveyed could not point out Louisiana, even with all the coverage of Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. (That's par for the course, I suppose. Bush flew over Louisiana shortly after the disaster took place and couldn't find it either, remember? It was more important for him to get his dog home from Texas - on the taxpayer's dime, mind you - than it was to check on the citizens who gave him his "mandate.") Fewer than three in 10 believe that it's important to be able to identify foreign countries discussed in news reports and 33% believed that the most heavily fortified border in the world was the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Guess after this speech tonight, it'll turn out that the 33% were just ahead of their time in their thinking. The correct answer, in case you're curious, is the border between North and South Korea. North Korea is the country that is not only developing their nuclear arsenal despite international pleas not to, they are on record as saying they have no qualms about using said weapons against any of nation they perceive to be a threat - including South Korea, or the United States. They've never denied developing weapons, actively purchasing weapons grade plutonium, or their desire to become a major military force.

The Bush Administration has ignored this information and show of aggression, choosing instead to invade Iraq because Hussein was, as Bush reminded us shortly before we invaded, "the man who tried to kill my daddy." It's the administration that's chose to lie to it's citizens about the invasion by trumping up the "weapons of mass destruction" story, and basically shrugging and saying, "Oops, my bad," when caught in that lie. It's the administration that has used its power to expose an undercover operative of the CIA to get revenge on another operative. It's the administration that is actively spying on its citizens via phone records, library usage, and who knows what else, for no other reason given besides "monitoring terror," a thinly disguised cover for a "because we can" mentality. It's the administration that, whenever people begin to ask questions and probe for reasons behind their actions, will pull a bait and switch and use another diversionary tactic in the name of "the war on terror" and "national security," to turn the focus of its citizens away from their misdeeds.

Such as tonight's speech "temporarily" securing the Mexican border - in the name of "national security," of course. And not only do we accept it, we as a country encourage it through not being willing to learn more about our international neighbors. By being more willing to hear about a rapper performing with his mother than listening to a former national leader talk about international relations on our morning news show. By not being able to identify one of our states on a map, much less a foreign country. By insisting that the national anthem be sung only in English because that's the "American Way," instead of being open to the idea of learning about other cultures or the concept of being loyal to one's country and having pride in our ancestry and cultural heritage. By caring more about when a TV show finale will air than why our government is more than willing to wall us off from the rest of the world, supposedly in the name of "liberty" and "protection."

Maybe we need to be isolated from the rest of the world, as the Bush Administration seems so eager to do, because that way we would not harm anyone else with the dangerous and destructive line of thinking we've seemed to embrace. To paraphrase Walt Kelly, after reading about the enemy, I can only come to the conclusion that it is us.

More (non-political posts) to come later. In the meantime, click on the links in this post to learn more about the items discussed here. Check out Move On for information and ways you can get involved in making the government a more open and compassionate representation of the people. Go to the First Amendment Center website to learn about the Constitution and your rights as a citizen. And if you're one of those folks who need a brush up on your geography, stop by the Rand McNally site for a map or three. Love your country enough to question authority.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A View Of A Heartfelt Thank You

When I began formulating the idea for this post, it was originally going to be a lighthearted Mother's Day tribute to my mom. It was going to be just satirical enough to be entertaining, and just sentimental enough to be a loving reminder of how lucky I am to have my mom in my life. It was going to be a nice, little thank you to her for everything she's done for me, my sister, and our family. It was going to be as fun as this picture of her, taken yesterday before we sat down to dinner.

But, as is often the case, what one plans to do and what circumstances have in store are two different things. Earlier this week, my family received word that our former parish priest, Fr. Edward Farrell, died in his sleep on Tuesday morning. His death was the close of a chapter in my family's life. As you've read in this blog, the church my family attended will be closing this summer. Most of my family has either found a new church home, stopped attending church, or (in my case) moved away from religious beliefs altogether.

Receiving the news of Fr. Farrell's death brought a rush of memories for which I was not prepared - a mix of mourning for the past and pride in what both he and my Mom had given to throughout my life. Memories like Mom waking my sister and I up every Sunday morning to get ready for Mass. Visiting my Mom at the church rectory when she worked there as a secretary - a job she received when she needed the work, one of the many ways Fr. Farrell helped our family through difficult time - and seeing our priest without his vestments, drinking a soda, and joking with my mom. (It was a unique experience seeing a priest as a regular, relatable man and not as remote, formal "Father." It was also fun to watch him turn red all over as he laughed at something he found especially funny.) Listening to Mom as she reminded us not to view attending church as a chore to be tolerated, but as a chance to learn how to be a better person, and to respect the wisdom and guidance that Fr. Farrell provided - even when she wanted to get back into bed and get a bit more sleep, too. The pride that beamed from both Mom and Fr. Farrell as I went through my first confession, confirmation, and became an adult - the same pride I got to share when my sister took the sacraments of first communion, had her confirmation, and when my Mom and grandmother made their profession of faith, officially becoming Catholic.

Then there's the toughest, yet most compassionate memory of all; the way Fr. Farrell comforted my family and I through the deaths we endured. He was there to console us with the sudden losses of my father and fraternal grandmother, and the anticipated losses of my maternal grandmother and uncle. When my mother was being strong for my sister and I during these difficult times, he was there in whatever form he could provide to be a source of strength and support for my Mom.

Mom, sis, and I went to pay our final respects to him on Thursday. We saw many old friends, some less familiar faces from the past, and met some new people who'd all been influenced by him. I watched my Mom as she talked to everyone we encountered - giving and receiving comfort, being strong and seeking strength, remembering the good times and grieving their loss all at once - and I saw all the facets of her that I admire and love. She has a quiet strength and dignity that defines her. Her sense of humor and compassion draws people to her. Her ability to listen and say just the right thing at the right time brings comfort to everyone with whom she makes contact. She doesn't suffer fools gladly and has little tolerance for any nonsense, but has a way of making people see the error of their ways that neither humiliates or belittles them. She loves openly and cares for everyone without judgment or prejudice. Mom is like a mom to everyone she meets.

These facets of her personality were also present in Fr. Farrell. They taught me grace, reliance on personal strength, and how to love without judgment. And while I didn't get a chance to say this to Fr. Farrell while he was alive, I am thankful that I get to say this to Mom today - Mothers Day 2006: Thank you for your guidance. Thank you for your positive influence on my life. Thank you for caring about me and my family. Thank you for your acceptance of me, even when I tried to push you away or when I didn't follow the path you would've chosen for me. Thank you for your unconditional love. I'll always be grateful for everything you've done for me, and will keep doing for me.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. Rest in peace, Fr. Farrell.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A View Of A Small World, After All

The strip featured in this post is worth checking out. Click on the picture to get more information on "Real Life Adventures."

"So, what are you thinking?"

This was the question of the night - a question that should've been filled with promise and hope. Instead it was the question that came right after the moment the inquisitor had just dropped a minor bombshell.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me give you the back story, then drop the bomb.

Ages ago (at least 15 years), I met a guy when I worked at a local arts center. There was some interest, and we began dating for a while. Turns out, he had a girlfriend and I was the girl on the side. After falling for the old, "I'm going to leave her routine," I came to my senses and broke it off. During the time we dated I met some of his friends - they all hung out at an arcade across the street from the job. If my life depended on it, I couldn't tell you their names or what they looked like.

Time marched on. I ended up marrying, divorcing, reconnecting briefly with the old flame shortly after my divorce for a quick fling, breaking up (I just wanted fun and bailed when I got bored), then reconnecting with him again years later. We ended up living together for almost five years. While he was technically faithful, you can't teach an old dog new tricks and I'd had enough of not enough. We broke up for good.

The other night, I stopped at a local electronics store to pick up a DVD or two on a whim. While I was there, I asked a guy for his advice on choosing between two movies. A conversation developed, there was a bit of attraction, and we ended up exchanging numbers.

Last night, I got a call from Mr. DVD. We talked for a couple of hours about everything and nothing. Along the way, he mentioned that at one time he worked at - you guessed it - the same local arts center I'd worked for. He'd come on board a couple of years after I'd left. We talked about some of the people we knew there.

"Say, did you know this guy, he worked in the auditorium, named...?"

Of course, it was the ex. I told him I did, and that we'd dated for a while.

"I remember you, now. When I saw you in the store, your smile and your face seemed very familiar. You two were kicking it when he was seeing that other girl. What was her name?"

Fuck. It was all coming back to me, and not in a good way. I told him her name, and filled him in on what I knew about the rest of the story between them.

Turns out, they ended up getting engaged and breaking up a short time later because (you guessed it) she cheated on him with another man. Ex could dish it out, but he couldn't take it.

She chose to stay with the other man and not him. When I pointed out the irony of the situation, Ex disappeared.

Mr. DVD filled me in on the rest of the story. She told him to cut it out, and her new boyfriend threatened to "take care of him" if he didn't. Ex got depressed, withdrew for a while, then started going out with anything in a skirt for a bit. Around the time he got over it and decided it was time to do something different was around the same time they lost touch - about eight years ago. He didn't know much about what happened to him after that.

I knew, however, but I didn't say. This was about the time we started seeing each other again.

"I remember you," Mr. DVD continued. He described the day we met in detail - where we were (in the arcade), the time of day, right down to what I was wearing and where I was standing ("...right next to the 'Millipede' machine in the back on the right, near the cashier's counter. You don't remember that?")

I told him I didn't. The only thing I remember about the arcade was that it was always dark in there, and that it had been years since I'd been in there. The arcade is gone now - has been for about seven years. I don't remember the "Millipede" game, or meeting him.

"You probably don't remember me because I've put on some weight since then. Plus, I was in a serious car accident a couple of years ago. You know, it messed up my short-term memory, but that just made my long term memory stronger. Wow. So you dated him. Small world, isn't it?"

Fucking tiny, I thought, but I just chuckled and agreed. Then it got quiet.

"So, what are you thinking?"

I was thinking that I'd just made a step backwards instead of forward. Ex's friends were all alike - big kids (a description that Mr. DVD used about himself quite a bit in our conversation) with addictions to porn and Xbox, a ton of issues, and difficulties being faithful. All of them were happy to coast along with life and not try to move up. The ones at the arcade would probably still be at the arcade had it not closed and been torn down. My gut instinct was screaming at me:


Instead, I told him that I was just going down memory lane for a second. That I was flipping through a magazine, changing the channel on the TV and talking to him all at the same time. I didn't tell him that every gut instinct was telling me this conversation was a stop on the road to nowhere.

We talked for about another 45 minutes or so after that. After we hung up, I drifted off to sleep. I dreamt about the arts center, the ex, and all those years ago all night.

This morning, I called my sister (my official voice of reason) for advice. She thought it a good idea to give Mr. DVD a shot. Her reasoning was that everyone changes, and that just because they were friends doesn't mean that they're the same person. She suggested I give him a chance on his own merits, not on things that happened in the past.

"Then again," she added, "I've always been the optimistic one. Anyway, what's the worst that could happen?"

I don't know what to think. I could give Mr. DVD a chance. I could, as a friend of mine likes to say, put him in my "fun box," and just play around for a bit. Or I could follow my gut and walk away.

More to come later, but not before this question:

What would you do in this situation?

Monday, May 08, 2006

A View Of The Top Ten Best Things To Say When Caught Sleeping At Work

In case you've ever had this day at work:

10. "They told me at the Blood Bank this might happen."
9. "This is just a 15 minute power nap they raved about in the time management course you sent me to."
8. "Whew! Guess I left the top off the Whiteout. You probably got here just in time."
7. "I wasn't sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new business strategy."
6. "I was testing my keyboard for drool resistance."
5. "I was doing a highly specific Yoga exercise to relieve work-related stress. Are you discriminatory toward people who practice Yoga?"
4. "Well! Why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out how to handle that big accounting problem."
3. "Did you ever notice the sound coming out of these keyboards when you put your ear down real close?"
2. "Who put decaf in the wrong pot?!?"

And the NUMBER ONE best thing to say if you get caught sleeping at your desk is...

1. Raise your head slowly and say, " Jesus's name, Amen."

As for that rumor that drool can destroy a keyboard's functionality? No comment.

More to come later, but not before this plug: If you like the strip featured in this post, click on any of the pictures. It will link you to the Ellington Way website.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A View Of Some Friends In Need

Go to the bottom of this post for a happy ending update!

These kids need your help. It takes a village, y'all. Click on the picture to learn more.

Remember a few weeks back when I told you about how I reconnected with a dear friend from grade school? You know, the teacher who coaches a very successful children's chess team? I talked to him on Monday and got a "good news, bad news" update.

First, the good news: His middle school teams went to their national tournament in Louisville, KY last month and they took over the place. Six of his teams placed in top ten, with three of them in the top five. Overall, 22 of his students came home with trophies for their accomplishments. When he told me about how well the kids had done, the pride and admiration in his voice filled the room.

One of Detroit City Chess Club's award winning middle school teams. Click on the picture to learn more.

I congratulated him and asked if the elementary team was ready to equal, if not surpass, the accomplishments of the older kids. That's when the bad news came.

His elementary teams are currently ranked #1 in the nation. They are eagerly looking forward to going to their national tournament to defend their title. The tournament is in Denver, Colorado next week. The team has approximately 23 children, plus the coaches and chaperones. Travel, tournament fees and boarding costs total $28,000.

That's a lot of pawns. A lot of pawns the students don't have. If they don't raise the funds, they won't be able to attend the tournament. Wouldn't it be tragic if this group of hard working, intelligent students lost their national ranking not because of a lack of skill, but because of a lack of funds? They deserve better than that, don't you think?

I know I do. They have earned a chance to repeat based on their hard work, and now they need our support. This is where you, dear readers, can step up. If you'd like to help the Detroit City Chess Club go to Denver and defend their title, click on this link or any of the pictures to visit their student run site, then click on the "Contact Us" link to contact the team and offer your assistance. You can also e-mail me at for information about how to help the kids reach their goal.

Click on the link to learn about this amazing team and all their accomplishments, even if you can't help financially. After you read about them, share the story with your friends. They may know someone who can help out.

Every little bit helps. More to come later.

UPDATE (5/17/06): I got a call late yesterday that not only did the Detroit City Chess Club get the money they needed to make the trip, they are repeat national champions! According to the coach, they spanked any and every board that came their way. Way to checkmate, kids! Looking forward to the threepeat next year!