Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cecilia Fire Thunder Suspended

Here's the article.

In case it's available only for a limited time online, I'm reproducing it below:

Tribal council outlaws abortion President suspended for alleged donations
May 31, 2006

The Oglala Sioux tribal council banned all abortions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and suspended President Cecelia Fire Thunder on Tuesday, charging that she solicited donations on behalf of the tribe for a proposed abortion clinic without the council's approval.

"It was unauthorized political activity," said Will Peters, a tribal council representative from the Pine Ridge district. "It's just a matter of failing to communicate not only with the governing body but with the people that she was elected to serve."

Peters made a motion to suspend Fire Thunder indefinitely, and when that failed, voted to suspend her for 20 days until an impeachment hearing could take place. That motion passed.

"This whole thing was an ambush," Fire Thunder said, adding that she never solicited donations and never was asked whether she had actually accepted any money.

Peters said any money donated to the tribe for the clinic would be returned.

Fire Thunder said the idea never was to open a clinic that performs abortions - she never used the word "abortion," she said - but rather to open a women's health facility that would provide family planning information and emergency and traditional contraceptives.

"Women need services. Women need support. Right now on the Pine Ridge reservation, there's very little support for women who have been raped," Fire Thunder said.

"If that's the way it was presented to people in the first place, I think she would have been OK," Peters said. "Her stand, by what we read and what we hear from all accounts, was to support abortion. I've never seen such a turn-around."

Some in the tribe were outraged when Fire Thunder, responding to Gov. Mike Rounds' signature on a bill that would ban most abortions in South Dakota, said she would work to open a Planned Parenthood clinic on the reservation, beyond the reach of state law. Many believe abortion to be against Lakota values.

Planned Parenthood issued a press release thanking Fire Thunder, but said it had no plans to open a clinic in Pine Ridge or anywhere else in South Dakota.

Today, the tribe banned abortions on the reservation.

"I do not feel comfortable telling a woman what she can or can't do with her body," Peters said. "Yet at the same time, I share the cultural viewpoint that life is sacred."

But the clinic, which will be called Sacred Choices, already has a group of women who have agreed to form a board of directors.

Betty Bull Bear, one of the women on the board, said the group would meet tonight for the first time to sign articles of incorporation.

She said Sacred Choices would be a wellness center, and the board would wait to see what happens with a statewide abortion ban referendum and any subsequent legal challenges before deciding whether to attempt to provide any abortion services.

Either way, Sacred Choices will be in Kyle, Bull Bear said.

"This is where Cecelia is from," she said. "It was her idea." But, she added, Fire Thunder is not involved now that the board has been formed.

"We have a lot of support, nationwide and, literally, globally," Bull Bear said, though she estimated support among tribal members was evenly divided.

Fire Thunder, in Iowa for an annual test of the cochlear implants that restored her hearing four years ago, said the people who brought the complaint were the same people who have been opposing her presidency since she was elected in November 2004.

"It got crazy," Fire Thunder said. "On Friday they were passing around a flyer that said 'Wilma Mankiller - Cecelia Babykiller.' "

Mankiller was the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; Fire Thunder is the first female president of the Oglala Sioux.

Fire Thunder also was suspended last October when the tribal council accepted a complaint brought by William Birdnecklace Tate, who alleged she had improperly secured a $38 million loan from the Shakopee, a Minnesota tribe. What was supposed to be a 20-day suspension lasted more than two months when Fire Thunder's hearing was delayed repeatedly by holidays and booked gymnasiums. The council eventually voted not to impeach her.

Peters was one of the few strong supporters on the council during Fire Thunder's previous troubles.

But "she is a hard gal to look after," Peters said. "I just believe that she has fallen out of touch with the people she was elected to represent."

But it seems that many articles quote Fire Thunder as saying that the clinic would indeed offer abortion services. Here is one interview with her in which she makes that clear.

And it does look, from a quick Google search, that she has at least encouraged donations for the effort. But what I suspect happened is this: her comments were greeted with resounding support, and people wanted to help the cause. I know that Planned Parenthood shortly thereafter made a statement that it was not interested in opening a clinic on the reservation, that it was confident that its Sioux Falls clinic would remain open, but that it appreciated Fire Thunder's support. But I imagine that several people did send checks, anyway. I have not read that Fire Thunder actively solicited donations.

Abortion Ban on the Ballot in SD

I've spent much of the past two days being interviewed for various documentaries about abortion - there were three film crews here this weekend, and frankly, it's all a little overwhelming. That's the topic for another post, however.

So we collected nearly 38,000 signatures (we needed a little under 17,000) and it looks like the abortion ban will go to a statewide referendum vote in November. Of course, the names will be closely scrutinized and some will likely be contested - I'm thinking that the pro-ban people are freaking out right about now - but we're looking at a vote.

So the next phase is to make sure that people have the correct information. The other side has already tried to mislead the public by arguing that there is a rape and incest exemption in the bill - because a pregnant woman can always get Emergency Contraception. What's ironic about this is that the same legislators who supported the ban were given the opportunity to vote to mandate EC in the ER - and they did not, leaving it up to individual hospitals and pharmacies to determine whether or not to stock EC. And if you've ever tried to get EC in SD, you know that it's very difficult to do so.

Further, they've said that EC is effective for two weeks after conception, which is simply not the case - it is most effective prior to 72 hours, and while it is still effective up to 120 hours, it loses effectiveness as the hours tick by.

So expect lots of misinformation from the Leslie Unruh camp in the months to come.

If you want to help us educate the public and get out the vote, please consider a donation to SD Campaign for Healthy Families.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Good News, South Dakota!

But I can't give you the details yet. Press conference by SD Campaign for Healthy Families tomorrow at 9am - more tomorrow!

Saturday, May 27, 2006


I can't help it - for the past several nights, I've stayed up until well past my bedtime reading archives of Overheard in the Office. Seriously. My favorites so far are the ones involving computer stupidity, like the boss looking for more gigabytes for his computer - in the supply closet - or the worker who asks the IT person to remove the hourglass cursor because it makes the computer slow down. But there are also just random stupid people exchanges.

I especially like this one:
Secretary on phone: I hate fake tans too...not cans...tans. No, tans. T as in taco, A as in anus, N as in next, and S as in swords. I hate fake tans, too.

And this one - which will only be funny if you've gotten those scam calls trying to trick you into buying toner or printer cartridges:

Co-worker on phone: Why do you need to know what type of printer I have?...Well, I guess I could read the name of the printer to you off of the printer, if you suggest that...Here's the name written right here. It's F then U, C. Are you writing this down? K and then Y. Then finally O, U...Hello, hello?

It's always good to be reminded, once again, that great idiocy is at the heart of great comedy. (Sorry, I'm completely out of control.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Stud and Silent Bob

Something is wrong with the universe when Jason Mewes turns into a hottie. But he did. Check it out (he's the one who looks like Billy Idol's son, on the far right ):

I mean, don't get me wrong - I've always liked Jay and Silent Bob. I can tolerate Jay long enough to get through the average Kevin Smith movie (I'm the feminist who went to see Def Leppard and is headed for Rob Zombie, remember, so I can handle a lot of 12-year-old-boy behavior.) Kevin Smith (I am not worthy, I am not worthy, bow, scrape, etc.) is, I suspect, an effing genius. But eventually, Jay just gets on my nerves.

And that hair - that long blond hair - is simply not flattering.

Well, ok. That picture is a little bit adorable. But when he starts spewing filth and misogyny, the hair makes it less cute.

But now? I'm surprised the fugsters haven't commented on what is a prime example of a defugging if ever I saw one.

Well, to be honest, he's looking a little too "trying to be tough" in that family shot above. But I will give him a little leeway 'cause he's clean and sober, and he deserves to play dress up if he wants to.

And even Silent Bob's not looking so bad, himself:

They're both a long way from Clerks.

Whatever is the world coming to?!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Focus South Dakota PSA

I wrote in some earlier posts that Focus South Dakota was to blame for forcing us to try to overturn the abortion ban rather than taking it to the courts. This effort will now overshadow every other political issue this fall (including the push to get more progressives elected).

So hey, thanks, Focus South Dakota.

Right - anyway, Focus South Dakota contacted me and asked if I would direct readers to their website. Here are the URLS:

(Oh, and hey - get those petitions in before the weekend, 'kay? And don't forget to get 'em notarized.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rude People

I was in line at the bagel place, and as always, it was full of suits, moms, and students. (I always giggle a little at the suits because they look so self-important in a place like that. I mean, it's not Starbucks, not by a long shot.)

When it's busy, the staff there have all they can do to keep the sandwiches coming. But they are always friendly, and when they get to know you, they'll joke a little - you know how it is.

So the woman at the register made a little joke to one of the suits - she said something like, "is it morning meeting time for you already? Don't you guys do any work?" Ha ha. Just kidding with the customer, making friendly conversation.

But the guy blew up at her: "It's none of your damn business! You're just like my wife!"

I regret that I didn't say anything to him. First, I was shocked, and I didn't really know what to say. In situations like this, the first words that come to mind are profanities, and while he certainly deserved them, I wasn't sure that would be the most effective response. Second, I didn't want to get her fired. It seems pretty unlikely that that would have happened, but I once had the experience of asking a barista if some customers were harassing her, and when she said yes and told me about it, she got fired. And third, I was so taken aback that I was sure I couldn't have heard him correctly - or else I thought that he must have been joking, even though her downcast eyes and forced smile let me know that he was serious.

I did tell her the next time I saw her what an ass I thought he was and why I didn't say anything.

But I wish I had turned to him and said, "Does that make you feel important, tearing down someone else like that?"

Or perhaps, "You must be having a terrible morning, to treat someone else so poorly. I hope your day gets better."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Friendship Promiscuity

A good friend of mine told me the other day that she thought that I "put myself out there" a lot - meeting people, being social, that kind of thing. She said that she herself was more reserved, more cautious, less willing to risk getting hurt.

It's true. I make friends the way that some people date. I collect phone numbers of interesting people and hope that we'll find time to meet up at some later date for coffee or a drink. Especially at restaurants and coffee shops, when I'm sitting in one place for a long time and seeing lots of people, I will become friendly with the servers, baristas, and people around me. I meet a lot of friends of friends with whom I hit it off instantly.

I am a friend slut.

But the problem with promiscuity is that it's hard, for many of us, to separate the act of being social from a committed relationship. And so I expect a lot of my friends. After getting burned a few times, I started keeping mental categories of my friends: superficial friends and real friends. "Superficial" sounds awful, but what it really means is just that superficial friends are the ones I enjoy hanging out with, or even have long and personal conversations with, but who likely won't be there for me when I need a friend. Superficial friends are people with whom I have little in common, but who I really enjoy for those things we do have in common.

Real friends are those people whom I know I can count on. They're the ones I can trust with my deepest, darkest secrets. They're the ones I can make demands on. They're the ones who, as the joke goes, won't just help me hide - they'll help me hide the body.

But as a friend slut, I give my heart away pretty easily. I get caught up in a new friend and I become infatuated with how interesting s/he is, how much fun I have when I'm with him/her. We talk for hours.

And sometimes I fall in like, and it's not reciprocated.

It says something not too nice about me and my perception of others that many of my "superficial" friends have moved over into the "real" friend category because they're such wonderful, giving, thoughtful people. And some of my "real" friends have turned out not to be real friends, after all. It's funny - usually (not always), my closest, truest friends end up being the ones I disliked immediately upon meeting them. And vice versa. So I have to wonder about my own ability to pick friends.

And truthfully, I imagine that I'm a difficult friend to have. For instance, I am entirely too self-absorbed. If you ask me about myself, I will tell you about myself, and then I will forget to ask you about yourself (it really is something I have to remember to do, much of the time. It doesn't come naturally to me).

None of this is helped by the sad fact that it's difficult to make and keep good friends at certain points in life, but I'll post about that another day.

Today I'm feeling lucky to finally have a good circle of all kinds of friends. But I'm also feeling sad as some have moved from "real" to "superficial" over the course of the last couple of months.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm Going To See Rob Zombie

For those of you who don't know, this is the gentleman in question.

My brother said to me the other day, "you know, I don't think there are too many Women's Studies professors who would go to a Rob Zombie concert. You're kind of unusual."

Maybe. I'm not actually a huge fan or anything - you certainly won't catch me seeing any of his films. But it's not because I fear he will be misogynist (though it wouldn't surprise me if he were); it's because I am not a gorehound.

The music is another story. Driving back from Pierre, my friend played a few tracks from his Past, Present, and Future CD. I almost never like anything I hear the first time, but after hearing "Girl on Fire," I liked it so much that I asked her to play it again.

But mostly, I'm going because all of the freaks and weirdos - my "peeps," if you will, even if I don't do the freak thing anymore - will be there. I'm going because it will feel good to walk on the dark side for a little while.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I'm thinking about this post.

What are the words that you feel the rest of the world mispronounces?

I'm from upstate New York, but I've managed to pick up a little bit of everyone else's accent, which is why, after I've spent time with any of my Canadian friends, you might catch me saying "let's go oot later, eh?" (It's not really "oot," but I couldn't figure out how to spell that most excellent Canadian sound.)

I say CRAY-on, not crain, crown, cren, cran, or any other such nonsense.

I somehow managed to grow up just far south enough that I don't say "beyath" (think nasally Janice from "Friends") for "bath."

I grew up saying "wotter" but now I kind of say "wauter" (again, think Janice) since my partner is from NYC.

I say "toilet" rather than "stool" (shudder - there is something so disgusting to me about saying "stool," mostly because when I think "stool" in the context of a bathroom, it means something else entirely). And it's "toylet" not "tollet." (I also pronounce "oil" as "oyl" rather than "oll.")

I say "iron" as "I earn."

I pronounce "Dawn" the same way I pronounce "Don" (unlike my Brooklyn-born mom, who pronounces them very differently).

I grew up saying "oarange" for "orange" (rather than the NYC "ahrange"). I also grew up pronouncing "Harry" the same way as "hairy."

I do not pronounce the silent letters in words (that's why they're called SILENT letters): chalk is chok, walk is wok, talk is tok.

I say "sammon" and "ah-monds" rather than "sal-mon" and "al-monds" (or eyah-munz, which drives me crazy).

And I use glottal stops: I don't say the t in "mountain," for instance.

"Roof" does not rhyme with "hoof."

There is no "r" in the word "wash."

The word "quarter" should be pronounced "korter," not "kwarter."

The word "wheel" should be pronounced as if it had no h.

(Notice how I've gotten away from the "this is how I say it" and am now making pronouncements about pronunciation?)

Oregon is "oar-ih-gun" not "oar-ih-gone." I know because that's how they say it there. And when you say Illinois or Cannes, you don't pronounce the "s" at the end (and Cannes doesn't rhyme with "can," either). (But I refuse to say "Missoura.")

And while I'm on the subject:
*They're only Buffalo wings outside of Buffalo. In Buffalo, they're chicken wings.

*I've been calling it pop for the last 13 years, but it's really soda.

*Selzer is not the same thing as club soda, dammit!

*It's a bag, not a sack.

*I don't think it's been made of tin since I've been alive, but I can't stop calling it tinfoil.

*I don't know if it's still ok to call a cd an album, but I often do (that's "offen," not "off-ten").

*"Kiwanis" is pronounced "kih-wah-nis," not "kee-wah-nis," or worse, "kee-yah-wah-nis."

*Store and restaurant names should be pronounced with the addition of 's, as in Friendly's, Price Chopper's, and so on. This is not true for all names, by the way. You kinda know it when you see it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bosses from Hell (Part II)

When I left the home health care agency job, it was to take my first job in fundraising. I was a secretary. As one of only two secretaries with a college degree in our department, I had a different job description than some of the others - or, at least, this was how it was explained to me.

What this meant was that one of the other secretaries got to read the paper every day - from cover to cover - at her desk. Another did her classwork at her desk. But M. and I were given Very Important Projects (VIPs) to work on, including VIPs that would normally be handled by our bosses.

In retrospect, this could have been a good thing. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that M. and I were being groomed to move up from our secretarial positions to the lofty ranks of Associate Assistant Directors, or whatever the heck it was. Only - M. and I did not want to be Associate Assistant Directors. We wanted to be secretaries.

The two of us worked for five people (two each, and then the head boss, to whom we both reported). Our head boss was Horse (she had a large mouth and always looked, to me, like a horse). She was a strange mix of extreme poise and professionalism with the occasional *really* inappropriate moment. (For example, in a staff meeting, she once made reference to giving her husband a blow job.)

Spoiled and Snobby worked for Horse. Spoiled was disliked by all of those who had worked for her, including M., who was so fed up with Spoiled that she had asked Horse for reassignment (which is how I came to work for Spoiled in the first place). Spoiled would talk on and on about her upcoming wedding, and once she even made me help her with some wedding plans. (I complained to Horse, as this was not part of my job description. I was then reprimanded by Spoiled, who told me that I should have told her myself if I was "not comfortable" helping with her wedding. Maybe so. But it wasn't exactly professional for her to put me in that position in the first place. And did I mention that I was only a year out of college?) A typical Spoiled moment: I was typing in my cubicle and my phone rang. It was Spoiled. She told me that she had some documents that needed to be three-hole-punched and asked me to come down the hall into her cubicle to get them. When I got there, she waved about 10 pages airily at me while chatting on the phone to a friend (about her wedding, natch). A three-ring binder lay open on the desk in front of her. And next to it sat the three-hole punch.

Snobby was, in general, a much easier person to work for than was Spoiled. We didn't have too much to say to each other, but she was less demanding and bitchy (always a good thing). But she was wealthy, she had gone to business school, she was married, and we came from totally different worlds.

I had also worked for Princess, who was in a class by herself, in every possible sense of the phrase. Princess was Upper Crust. Her life's ambition was to get married and be on the board of something - like her mother. (When she told me that, I had no clue as to what she meant by "on the board." That gives you a sense of how far apart we were in terms of socio-economic status.) She was around my age, and I occasionally made friendly overtures toward her, but she always seemed very freaked out when I did. I think the reason was that she didn't want to "hang out" with someone who worked for her, but it also could have been that 1) I wasn't wealthy and cultured enough, or 2) she just didn't want to hang out with me. But what was puzzling about Princess was that, while she would look at me with an expression that was half confused and half fearful and, as I remember it, say nothing when I would invite her to go out for a drink (why, I ask myself now, did I even ask a second time?!), she also asked me to come with her to look at apartments, she told me how lonely she was and how much she missed her friends, and she cried a bit on my shoulder when she broke up with her fiance.

None of these women were good bosses - at least not in my case. What they eventually did was so devastating to me on a personal level that even now I can only write about it in very general terms.

When an Associate Assistant Director position opened up, I was encouraged to apply for it. I considered it, but decided not to. Horse asked me why I had not applied for the AAD position, and I replied truthfully that I didn't want to travel as much as that job required and that I was interested in moving into a different area within the institution. Despite the weird bosses, I had enjoyed my job there very much and felt safe sharing this information with Horse. I figured I was helping her out - I wanted to be a team player, and I didn't want to cause my bosses undue stress by leaving after giving only a two-week notice.

At that point, Horse's demeanor toward me changed completely and she became cold and unfriendly. Suddenly, despite my prior, glowing evaluation, my bosses began to find fault with my work. When M. gave her own notice and went on vacation, things intensified. I was told that I was expected to know how to do all of the projects that M. had done - even though we had each been working on separate projects for the entire past YEAR. (Even M. thought that was ridiculous.) It was a horrible, vicious cycle - my bosses would watch me like a hawk for mistakes. They apparently told the other two, whom M. had worked for, to watch me as well, because one of these lit into me when I accidentally missed a page of her hand-scrawled, messy, half-scratched out and highlighted, sometimes double-sided, sometimes not, to-do list and returned it to her without having completed the items on one side of one page. (I tried to explain that it was a simple mistake, but she would not listen. It was only slight consolation that this woman quit shortly thereafter because she couldn’t handle the stress of her job.) This made me nervous and depressed, and it made it very difficult for me to concentrate on my work, so I then made other mistakes.

One such "mistake" was so important to Spoiled that she listed it on my evaluation as a representative example of my difficulty "paying attention and keeping track of projects," though it was the only such example given and it was a unique case. Here’s what happened. M. and I regularly spent hours folding letters and stuffing envelopes for mailings. We also regularly asked for help, but our bosses often did not arrange for us to have the extra staff that we needed to complete the job. For one particularly large mailing, however, Spoiled had arranged for me to have help from other workers. She was very proud of herself for having thought to do this, but I committed the cardinal sin of momentarily forgetting that she had done so. That morning, I mentioned at our staff meeting that I would need help to finish the mailing. Spoiled was not just angry, but furious, and this lapse in my memory became, in her tiny mind, a personal slight against her. This example was used against me in my evaluation, as I’ve said, and was repeatedly brought up to me. (In my final meeting, it appeared on a list of "things Plainsfeminist needs to immediately address.")

It became clear that they were looking for an excuse to get rid of me, and I had no job prospects. They wrote me a horrible evaluation that said that if I didn't change drastically, I would be fired. My emotional state got so bad that my mother came to stay with me - from another state - for a week.

During my horrible evaluation meeting, at which I remember slowly sipping a glass of ice water and willing myself not to cry (it worked, somehow), I was told that I was not completing my work in a timely manner. When I pointed out that they were expecting too much, that I routinely stayed late to finish the projects that they were piling on me ('cause of that damn college degree), Snobby responded with, "You know what they say at MIT: If you can't finish your work by the end of the day, you're not doing your job."

I wrote a long, careful response to the evaluation and requested a meeting with Horse. When Horse, Snobby, Spoiled and I sat down together, I was hopeful that Horse would simply reassign me to the other bosses. But Horse ignored my response entirely and told me, as if she were speaking to a high school student on probation, what I would need to do in order to continue working there. It was clear to me that there was nothing I could do, since the things that I was being redressed for were one-time, honest mistakes or misunderstandings written up as consistent problems with my performance. Missing the page from the to-do list and "having difficulty paying attention and keeping track of projects" were thus evidence of incompetency on my part.

So I quit (in tears, unfortunately). It was a relief to get out, though it also meant packing up and leaving my apartment and my adopted city and state and moving back home to live with my parents for several months (which is a topic for a whole 'nother blog). It also meant that my confidence and self-esteem were very badly damaged. It took some time before I began to see myself as a competent employee again, and the fact that I did was largely due to the efforts of one truly GOOD boss.

To be continued.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bosses from Hell (Part I)

In the early '90s, recently out of college, I got my first job working as a receptionist in a home health care agency. I worked in a large room with my supervisor and five Coordinators. On my first day - and I really should have paid attention to this flashing neon sign - one of the coordinators got into a heated argument with the supervisor and quit, storming out of the office. Over the next couple of weeks, I watched as the relationship between another coordinator (S.) and the supervisor became more and more strained. S. began to look for another job. One day, S. came in and began searching through her desk: her log of all her interactions with her bosses was gone. (The supervisor later told me that she routinely went through our desks. She told me this in a matter-of-fact way, as if, of course, all supervisors regularly search their employees' belongings.) Soon, S. was fired.

I applied for and got her job, and I was told by the Big Boss that they were making me a very special offer by giving me $16,500 (about a thousand more than I had been making as a secretary). I later learned that this was about four or five thousand dollars less than all of the other coordinators were making.

I have to say that I enjoyed the work, though the work environment itself was horrible. As I said, we all worked in one big room. We could all hear every conversation that anyone else was having. The minute anyone left the room, everyone else would talk about her. It was gossip central. And everyone knew everything.

We went through a couple of receptionists, mostly because they showed up late for work or didn't show up at all.

The Big Boss would make a point of walking through or calling down at 9am on the dot to see if we were all at our desks. Then there were the desk searches (which no one knew about). I was told when I was hired that "no one really takes a lunch, but if you want to, you can go upstairs and sit in this empty room for half an hour." But the problem was that if one of us went to lunch, someone else would have to cover our cases, so we'd be making work for someone else to do. As a result, no one took a lunch break.

We were also discouraged from using comp time, but we were not paid for it, either. Those 9am phone calls and walk-throughs I mentioned? I used to use my comp time to come in at 10 instead of 9, but I would always get disapproving looks - from everyone - even though I cleared it in advance. And the reason I had so much comp time was that I worked long hours on a regular basis. If I didn't get my cases staffed, someone would not be able to have a shower and get dressed and have breakfast in the morning. So we were expected to stay at our desks until all of our cases were staffed. And, on a regular basis, people would cancel - they'd miss the bus, they'd get sick, they'd decide that they didn't want to give a racist woman in a cockroach-infested, smelly apartment a bath for $6/hour.

I had a stress headache every single day by 3pm.

We did try to unionize, in a way - we never contacted a union organizer, but we did collectively strategize and ask for a meeting with the management. I was one of the instigators of this, but perhaps because I was young (and apparently, given the size of my salary, stupid), they never questioned me about it. And we didn't get too far. We got our meeting, but as soon as we sat down, our strategy crumbled, no one stuck to the plan, and we ended up getting none of the things we asked for.

It was all pretty typical - in a rigid and oppressive hierarchy, we turn on each other. And that's what happened, from the desk searches to the gossiping to the inability to work collectively for better work conditions.

But it was certainly an interesting place to work, what with the firings here and there, and the occasional excitement. Once, when we got wind that we were going to be inspected, a few people were ordered to remove case files from the building and hide them in the trunk of a car in the parking lot. I'm not sure what that was about - insurance fraud, perhaps? - but it was my first real job, and I didn't know enough to find out to whom to report it, or even what it was I'd be reporting.

I started looking for other jobs, and as soon as I got one, I gave my two-week notice. I was called into the Big Boss's office - the same one, remember, who gave me that "special" salary. There, I was treated to a *lecture.* She had given me a chance; she had taken a risk on me even though I was so young; how could I be so ungrateful? Poor supervisor was on vacation, and she hadn't taken a vacation in all the years she's worked there, and now I was complicating poor supervisor's vacation because she would have to replace me. Why hadn't I at least let them know that I was looking for another job?

For what will probably be the only time in my career, I told off my boss, but not at all for the right reasons. I should have pointed out that, far from giving me a chance, she had in fact taken advantage of me from day one, saving herself several thousand dollars though I was doing the same work as everyone else. I should have said that her employment practices were unethical and illegal and that she should consider herself lucky that I wasn't reporting her for everything from punishing workers for union activity to hiding case files. But instead I cried, and yelled, and told her that I had watched too many people get fired to give more than a two-week notice. She looked at me with her big, unblinking eyes. She actually looked surprised.

And I felt guilty. I resolved that, next time, I'd be a team player - I'd let my bosses know when I was applying for another job.

You can see where this is going.

To be continued.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Everyone's an Expert (or, The Real Poop on Giving Birth)

The thing about giving birth is that it is not an experience that can be explained easily. The sensations are really not like any other sensations, but we nevertheless try to compare them to other experiences, whether real ("like really bad menstrual cramps") or imagined ("like having a truck smash into you").

But we also have a sort of collective ignorance about childbirth in the U.S. We're entirely divorced from the event unless it's happening to us. I mean, really, how many of us have had the chance to be present at a birth when we're not the one giving birth? We don't have the opportunity to share in the experience, so we have no first-hand knowledge to draw from. And so we rely for our information on other people, and on other people's horror stories, and we act as if, having a little information, we know all of the answers.

This is one of those situations in which a little information can be a dangerous thing., a blog I usually enjoy, recounted a discussion about birth by three twenty-somethings, one of whom, "T," was "a brand new med school graduate." What shocked me about this is that T - straight out of med school, people - made this comment:
“I’ve assisted with at least a dozen deliveries, and watched a lot of different types of surgery; childbirth is the worst. The pain is so horrible and incredible that you, uh, well there’s no way to say this nicely. You lose control of your bowels, to put it clinically. And not in a pleasant way.”

This is going to sound snarky - but it struck me as a typical (childless) twenty-something thing to say. It's the kind of thing that you say to your friends when you have a little bit of knowledge that they don't, and it makes you sound very important and like you know what you're talking about. Especially if you're just out of med school.

But T was wrong.

Do women sometimes poop in the process? Let's be honest: of course. I did. So did many of my friends. But not from PAIN, T, you numbskull! And it was hardly a case of loss of control. I mean, think about it. You're pushing this large object out of your body. Bearing down and straining. Sound like any other activity? Of COURSE you're going to defecate at some point!

Further, T added:
"Two rules for when you’re pregnant. One: schedule an elective C-section for the delivery. It’s a small scar, not a big procedure, you get more time off from work because you had surgery, and you don’t have to deal with stuff like enemas and vaginal stitches. Two: if you do end up giving birth the regular way, don’t let your husband stand at your feet. No way should he ever see something come out of you like that. He’ll never look at you the same way again afterwards. I’m sorry but it’s true."

This is exactly the reason why so many in the "natural birth movement" are so freaked out by the medical establishment. It is yet another case of the medical establishment scaring the crap (pun intended) out of women who haven't yet given birth - but scaring them right into unnecessary surgery?! Don't have that nasty vaginal delivery, ladies - have major surgery instead. You won't be able to walk for a while, you are more likely to have trouble breastfeeding, you are at risk for a spinal headache (which is reportedly worse than labor) - but you won't have to "deal with" enemas.

Look, don't get me wrong: I'm grateful that we have drugs and surgery available for cases that require it. A couple of my friends had to have Caesarian births, and I'm glad and relieved for them that this was an option. But geez - it's one thing to have a Caesarian because you NEED it. It's another to have one because you're scared and you don't want your childbirth experience to be embarrassing or messy. (Or painful - just for a contrasting opinion, I didn't have the easiest labor, and I remember thinking, "this is like my qualifying exams - I just have to do it, and it's over." And frankly, I'd rather go through another labor than another qualifying exam.)

And about this "no way should he ever see something come out of you like that...I'm sorry but it's true" business. Another line from the mouths of babes. Ask someone who has been married for a while about marriage and how married people view their spouses. Better still - ask your grandparents this question. Just speculating, here, but...if you're married to a man who thinks watching his child be born is gross - when, let's remember, YOU'RE the one doing the work - shouldn't you maybe be married to someone else? Because one of these days, this is the person you hope will be willing to empty your bed pan (which is what my partner did for me when I hurt my back and literally couldn't move for a week). This is the person who you hope will clean the bathroom when a stomach virus hits and the toilet backs up (I've done that job). If I recall correctly, those vows say something about "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health," not "until one of fails to maintain our Brazilian waxes."

I'm not saying that everyone has to be comfortable with blood and gore and feces. I'm just saying that if the process of birth doesn't make you love your wife a little more, or if it makes you think she's less hot, then maybe you don't deserve to be a father OR a husband. And she certainly deserves better.

Real life is not the stuff of Harlequin Romances or even Sex and The City. It is not clean, folks. It ain't pretty. It is very often embarrassing. But it's real.

I'm sorry, but it's true.

Friday, May 12, 2006

More Cell Phone Jackassery

Unlike my mom, who was with me when this happened, I DO understand the lure of sitting contentedly in Starfucks or somewhere with a nice cup of coffee and a cell phone and calling an old friend for a chat. It's not so different from meeting a friend for coffee and having that same chat - it's just that this particular friend is, maybe, 1,000 miles away at the time.

But what's weird is when people have intensely personal conversations on cell phones, in public, LOUDLY.

A guy I've seen around came into the coffee shop the other day while my mom and I were working quietly. He sat near us and rang a friend. He was wearing one of those earpiece phones that make other people think you are crazily talking to yourself - so already, there was one strike against him.

This fellow was having a difficult time with his girlfriend, who was jealous of his friendships with women who found him attractive, apparently because he had cheated on her in the past. He didn't seem to understand why she was still with him if she was having this issue - it was as if he felt she lost the right to be paranoid because she didn't break up with him - because, as he said, "I told her I would understand if she didn't want to be with me anymore after that. That's what I don't get." (Yeah. If you're going to spill it in public, loudly, while I'm trying to work at the next table, I'm going to write about it.)

As the conversation went on, it became clear that the guy was pretty torn up about the big fight they'd had, during which time the girlfriend had become hysterical ("I mean, scary."). And as he expressed his feelings, he got louder and louder, seemingly oblivious to the little glares I kept directing his way. (Which was weird because we made eye contact a couple of times, but he never lowered his voice. Most people do, even if just temporarily, until they get excited about something and raise them again.)

At the end of the second phone call (which also covered topics such as which roommates clean up after their parties and which expect everyone else to clean up after), the guy said, "I need to go study."

And left.

So, understand this: he came to the coffee shop for the express purpose of talking on the phone with his friends about his relationship issues with people who live in the area (and who could have easily walked in at any point, as could their friends) - in public. And then, when he was done, he left to go study somewhere else (that was, presumably, more private).

THAT, I don't understand.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Are Men Responsible for Ending Rape?

Professor Diana Blaine at USC has come under fire (by, can I just say, a seriously crazy-ass student blogger) for saying that USC men are responsible for stopping rape. Crazy-ass student blogger is haunting her blog, trying desperately to get some attention (which, I guess, I'm giving him here...oops.).

The ironic thing in this little scenario is that this notion of men's responsibility for ending rape is hardly original to Blaine. It's a fairly standard idea in anti-rape work - one I heard myself at our speak-out last month for sexual assault awareness. The organizer of the event spent a great deal of time pointing out how important men were in ending rape, how much responsibility they had, how many things they could do to help. My eye doctor - a man - was present and got up in front of the crowd to read a list of things men could do to end rape. Several other men of various ages were also in the crowd and took candles and marched with women around the campus, showing by their presence that they cared and that they wanted to be part of the solution.

Why are men responsible for stopping rape? Because men are able to do a few things that women can't do. First, rapists are men. Of course, most men are NOT rapists, but rapists are, 98% of the time, men. So men are responsible, first and foremost, for NOT RAPING WOMEN.

Second, men can exercise influence over other men in ways that women cannot. Think about the kinds of stories men share in locker rooms, for example (as attested to by my baseball and football player students, as well as by the sociological work on masculinity and sports). When other men object to language and behavior that demeans women or reduces women to sexual objects, it makes a difference. It lets others know that not everyone considers that behavior acceptable. And it also opens up a space for others to object to this behavior.

Third, men can look out for women. At a party, at a club, at a bar - when a man is trying to take advantage of a woman, to get her drunk, whatever - other men can watch out for her. They can report the guy to the bouncer. They can get her home safely.

So, are men responsible for ending rape? Yeah, I think so. And fortunately, a lot of men are working to do just that.

Why this notion is so distressing to the crazy-ass student is something I haven't quite figured out.

Perhaps he needs to take a Women's Studies class...if only to recognize that the ideas he's battling have their own intellectual history separate from Dr. Blaine.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Caffeine Junkie

I'm not going to delve too deeply into my past here, but let's just say that in all of my "experimentation," I've never experienced any physical withdrawal symptoms nor have I found myself with a real addiction.

But this semester, I seem to have addicted myself to caffeine.

You know those migraines I mentioned the other day? And that weird hangover I developed several weeks back? Well, I think what I have been experiencing is what is called a caffeine rebound headache. If you have a certain amount of caffeine on a regular basis, your body apparently requires more of the stuff in order to keep your head from exploding. Some people handle this by just drinking more caffeine, but what you're supposed to do is to gradually reduce the amount of caffeine you ingest - by like five ounces per week - until you either cut it out completely or get down to a reasonable amount of caffeine ingestion.

I know what did it to me, too. I like coffee with milk, but it often tastes too weak for me. So when I discovered lattes - made with espresso - I was overjoyed. I figured one cup of coffee, one latte - about equal in terms of caffeine, right?


According to random web sources, a 5 oz cup of coffee contains 100mg of caffeine, while a shot of espresso contains 100mg. The "small" coffee at my favorite coffee place is 12 oz, so it would seem that the latte is the better deal if I'm watching my caffeine intake.

Except: I learned that my favorite coffee place makes its lattes with not one, not two, but THREE shots of espresso.

I was coming in to work in the morning and having a cup of coffee (200+mg). In the afternoon, I'd drink a 20-oz diet Coke (about 75mg). Then I was working in the coffee shop in the evenings and having a latte (300mg). That's about 600mg of caffeine per day.

According to the FDA, the average adult consumes 200mg per day - and 300mg is generally considered to be the safe daily amount for adults.

No wonder I have headaches.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mushroom Head

There was a great haircut that was popular in the late '80s that resembled a mushroom - albeit a very cool, alternative mushroom - that I spent some time trying to describe this evening to a somewhat confused 19 and 20 year old. (It's hard to explain the '80s to people who didn't live them.)

The picture I can find that's closest to what I'm thinking of is this one of Robert Smith, but it doesn't do justice to the cut. I saw it mostly on very cool women. The hair was close-cropped and usually black underneath, while on the top it was long, spiky, and often dyed a different color, sometimes with a cellophane dye that would allow the natural color to show through the dye, as well.

It was NOT that English schoolboy look - number 6 in this list - that became popular just a few years later.

If anyone can find a decent pic, please post a link. I can't find a picture and I'm feeling very nostalgic for one. Sniff.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Anderson Cooper Gives Me A Boner

Remember when I wrote about that t-shirt?

I just got a comment from April, the t-shirt's creator, who sent me a link to a photo of her wearing the famous shirt. Here they are, in all their glory!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Spring Cleaning

I used to clean my room, apartment, whatever it was, every Saturday. I was a good cleaner - I know how a room is supposed to be cleaned and I enjoy seeing the dust, grime, and cat hair disappear. I love being in a clean house.

But I hate picking up the clutter and crap that has to be picked up in order to get to the "real" cleaning. And as a consequence of living in a small household with one other academic (think lots of books and papers), one child, and two cats, my house doesn't get cleaned very often. And it always looks cluttered.

We have company this week, so on Thursday I made a Herculean effort to, if not thoroughly clean this cramped apartment, at least minimize the evidence of our filth and squalor. And it actually worked fairly well. Except for the visible dust on the less-noticeable surfaces and the stains of mysterious origin all over the light-colored carpet (why do they install those? no one with kids/pets/spouses should have a light-colored carpet), it looks pretty good.

And, for the past week, I've been going through our stuff in an effort to get rid of as much crap as possible. Although, in the years we've lived here, we've gained one child and a whole room's worth of child accessories, I actually think we've managed to end up with less crap than we had when we moved in. This accomplishment, by the way, is entirely due to my efforts, and owes very little to my partner, who would, if left to his own devices, become a Collier brother. (insert affectionate nudge here)

The kid and I put together an overfull box of toys to donate (I am so proud of him!), and I hauled out six garbage bags full of toddler clothes (I haven't even begun to look through the baby clothes yet). I also found enough random stuff - breast pump attachments, an electronic pest control device, a baby monitor, a couple of t.v. antennas, etc. - to fill another box, and now the hall closet is navigable again.

And for the last two nights, I've stayed up until 2am going through financial records. I've got the once stuffed "taxes" file drawer down to about half-full, just by pulling out things like credit card statements and checks for the shredder (I don't itemize, so it's ok). And even my great-aunt's secretary - which was once our version of Fibber McGee's closet - can now be opened without incurring injury from falling debris.

The rest of my household, however, are eyeing me with suspicion and guarding their stuff.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I (Heart) Stephen Colbert

OK, so this is late. The White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which Colbert hosted, was a week ago. True, my partner did call out to me last week, from the bedroom where he does all of his computering, that he'd downloaded Colbert's address. But I thought for some reason that he was talking about an address to the Press Club, and I didn't grasp the significance of the occasion until just recently.

Well, really, until tonight, when I finally watched it and was filled with admiration for a man who has the ovaries to stand just feet from Bush and rip him to shreds - but with grace and elegance. Colbert just let him have it, but he did it all completely in character, without so much as breaking a sweat. You can watch the whole thing here, and if you've been waiting for someone to finally have the guts to call out the Bush Administration - and the media that have let them get away with whatever the hell they've wanted to get away with - then I suggest you get some popcorn, a cold drink, and a comfy chair. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment. If you've read the transcript but not seen the clip, you really need to see the clip. Trust me on this.

And honestly, I have not been so impressed with anyone since Jon Stewart took Tucker Carlson to task for pretending to be a television journalist while really just pandering to the politicians (and you can read the transcript of that here, but it's really worth watching (I'm just too lazy to post a link)).

I would bake Stephen cookies if I thought he would eat cookies from a stranger after that performance. I'm considering sending him flowers.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


I keep getting these headaches that start out like simple sinus headaches, but then they morph into something evil that makes me go to bed for the rest of the day and probably throw up, sometime after which I will start to feel better (after many hours). I hear this is what a migraine is like. And I'm thinking I should have figured this out years ago instead of relying on Tylenol - which, when one hits, I can't keep down, anyway - and gotten some serious migraine meds.

Probably in suppository form, the way these things have been going. Sorry.

After Sunday's migraine, I felt on Monday like I was Harry Potter recovering from a brush with a dementor. In my case, it wasn't chocolate I needed, but FOOD - I have never been so insatiably hungry. On Monday, I ate double meals, for the most part:

A bacon, egg, cheese, and tomato breakfast sandwich (a real one, on grilled bread - so, not a little sandwich)
A bran muffin
A Diet Coke and a glass of water
A hot dog with chips
Another Diet Coke
A large sugar cookie
A cheeseburger
A DQ ice cream "cupcake"
Most of my kid's DQ ice cream "cupcake" (he was done - I didn't take it away from him or anything)
A piece of bread and cheese
Some random cookies we had in the house
An Amy's Frozen Enchilada (really, two - you know, the package)
More water

And for much of this time, I was feeling ravenously hungry. That's a migraine side effect I haven't heard about before now.

Better get to bed - I hear lack of sleep is a migraine trigger.