Thursday, December 24, 2009

The 'wonders' of technology.

I was visiting family out of state last week and wanted to check my Comcast voice mail. I dialed the number, hit the pound key, and entered my sooper seekrit password. Oops - wrong password. I tried again. Still wrong. One more time, and I had exceeded the number of invalid entries I am allowed. The nice computer voice told me that I was now locked out of my voicemail account and would need to call Comcast in order to reset the password.

Well, no big problem, right? Comcast sometimes takes a while to put you through to a live person, but it shouldn't be too difficult to straighten this out. So I call Comcast and get a live person surprisingly quickly. However, he tells me that I need a pin number in order to reset my password. Apparently, the FCC has assigned every line a pin number to make it easier to track down terrorists while the government is listening in on our phone conversations.

The pin number was mailed to my home at some point and is likely in file somewhere for safe keeping.

So I asked the Comcast guy if I could set up an account online without the pin number and get my voicemail that way; he said yes, so I got off the phone (because where I was visiting, there is a dial-up connection) and got online. Dial-up is, if you remember, painfully, painfully slow, so after some time, I was able to load the correct page and input the information in order to set up an account. However, after I had input my account number, the next screen told me that an online account had already been set up for me, and asked me to input my email. I did so, but the next screen said that that was the incorrect email. Over the next half hour or so (painfully slow dial-up, remember), I input *all* of my email addresses. No dice.

So, to recap, I was out of town and locked out of my voicemail; I couldn't reset the password without the pin number, which was in my house; I couldn't get into my online account because I didn't know which email address it was connected to.

So, I decided to try a live chat with a Comcast analyst. Here is the transcript (you can't make this stuff up):

analyst L has entered room

L>Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is L. Please give me one moment to review your information.

L>Good morning

PF>Good morning

L>I will be more than happy to assist you.


L>the only thing that i would be able to do is reset it but you still would have to wait at least 45 minutes to get in

PF>Could you also help me with the online account so that I can check messages online?


L>do you know the security pin on this account?

PF>I don't.

L>unfortunately i wont be able to reset the pin at this time. i would need the security pin, a secret question answered or either we could call you on your home phone but youre not there

PF>Can we do the secret question?

L>there isnt one set up

PF>OK. What about setting up an online account? Could I get access that way?

L>that would be using your email with your password

L>you can get them that way too

PF>Here's the problem. I tried to log in with my account number and phone number, but I didn't have a password, and when I tried to get help with the password, I found that none of my email addresses worked.

L>i can get you to the internet department who could help you set one up. you will need one when using our online services.

PF>That would be great.

L> moment and Happy Holidays to you!

PF>Happy Holidays to you, too!

analyst F. has entered room

L>Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst

F>I am happy to assist you with your concern today.

PF)>Thank you.

analyst L has left room

F>How are you doing today?

PF>I'm good. Thanks for being there on a holiday!

F>Not a problem, we are working on holiday specially for you

F>I understand that you need assistance with your Comcast email account is that correct?

F>I can see here on your account that your email address is

PF>I don't use and have never used a comcast email address. I don't even know how to access that.

F>You need to use that email address in accessing your Comcast account

F>That is actually the email address setup when your service was installed

PF>So the service person set that up? How do I access that email?

PF>This would explain why I don't know the password, either.

F>You can just go to the website

F>You can just click on the Forgot Password link to setup your password

PF>But won't it send the new password to the comcast email address?

PF>Or will I need a pin number or something to change the password?

F>Yes, you need your security pin so that you can set up the password

F>If you do not have your security pin what we can do is just to resend it again to you through postal mail

PF>I don't have the pin, and I'm not at home.

F>PF we actually cannot reset your password with your security pin

PF>I understand that, but I was told that I could go online and set up an online account and gain access to my messages that way. I don't understand why Comcast would set up an online account with an email address and password and not give me this information?

F>Your Comcast email logins was actually given to you by the technician that installed your service

PF>ARgh. So, that is probably in a file drawer somewhere in my house.

F> if you are trying to access your voicemail messages, you can actually just access it from the phone

PF>Sigh. No, I can't. I tried that, forgot the password, and got locked out. At home, it's set to automatically call voicemail without me having to enter the password, so I never use it and forgot it.

F>With Comcast Enhanced Voice Mail, you will be able to access your mailbox and hear your messages - even when you're away from home. You can access your voice mail messages over the phone

PF>Are you able to reset the voicemail password without the pin number?

F>If you were lock out with your voicemail, Please allow the voice mail system to reset and try again within 30-45 minutes

F>Unfortunately we cannot reset it without the pin

PF>But if I remember the password, I should be able to log in in 45 minutes?

F>Yes that is correct


(I still can't remember my password, and I can't get into my voicemail until I get the pin.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"The adventures of a sort of shiksa during the Festival of Lights," or "Hanukkah is getting the shaft again."

Not only did Bean ask for (and receive) a Christmas movie for Hanukkah (which I'm never sure if I'm spelling correctly or not), and not only did we watch it tonight, and not only do we never get home in time to light the candles at dusk (we light them around 7 or 8) - but I'm eating pork. The theme here seems to be, just how bad can we be at this?

(Nevertheless, we are having fun.)

How I became disillusioned by a children's book.

I was in Barnes and Noble tonight for an exceedingly long time, as my child played with his friend and I chatted with the friend's mom. We were having a good time, talking and browsing, and looking over the books that we'd read as children. As we looked, I came across The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett. The cover illustration reminded me of the book, Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve, which Bean owns and which we love. So I picked up The Three Snow Bears and flipped through it. What I really like about Brett's books are the illustrations, so I spent some time enjoying them before I made it to the back flap, where I found the following:

"Jan Brett and her husband...traveled to meet the Inuit people, where wonderful experiences awaited them.

An Inuit family welcomed them, the mother wearing a beautiful warm parka she had made. In a school, Jan saw the many intelligent, proud faces that became her inspiration for Aloo-ki. And in a town called Pangnirtung, famous for its people's art, Jan marveled at images of Arctic animals in Inuit clothes and felt a door had opened."

I suppose this could be read in a positive way - "intelligent" and "proud" are certainly good adjectives - but to me, it comes across as othering. Compare the language above to that on the back flap for Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?:

"Jan Brett and her husband...went to Norway for her story, based on an old Norwegian folktale. They traveled all the way to the northern province of Finnmark, where polar bears live and the northern lights radiate across the sky.

Special thanks to the Brookfield Zoo...and to Dr. Lee Cera and the staff for their introduction to Kinapak the polar bear and for providing slides and photographs of Kinapak from his birth to the present."

Somehow, the animals and the zoo staff don't come across in quite the same way, do they? There is less a sense of "Wow, through the wardrobe door to magical adventures" in the second description, no? So why couldn't that first description have been written like this:

"Jan Brett and her husband...went to Iqaluit for her story, which was inspired by Inuit art. Jan sought to recreate in the story the richness of the art and handcrafted clothing that she had seen there, and modeled Aloo-Ki after the children she met at a local school.

Special thanks to the people of Iqaluit who welcomed Jan and provided her with such rich inspiration and ideas."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

-1 degrees.

Me: "It's minus one degrees!"

Bean: "What does that mean?"

Me: "It means it's one degree below zero. It's less than zero degrees."

Bean: " is that possible?"

My question exactly. How is it $%#*ing possible that it is so cold? And if it feels this bad now, how on earth are we going to last through February?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Non-disabled disability stupidity.

On Facebook, one of my friends posted a link to this article from Fox News:
Paralympian Drags Himself to Plane After Airline Makes Him Check Wheelchair
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Kurt Fearnley
A paralympic champion who dragged himself through an airport after a budget airline made him check in his wheelchair has received an apology.

Kurt Fearnley had just crawled along a 60-mile jungle track in Papua New Guinea.

But when he arrived at Brisbane airport a few days later, Jetstar— an offshoot of Qantas airlines — asked him to check in his wheelchair.

The Australian budget airline offered him its own wheelchair, specially designed for planes, but told Fearnley he would have to be pushed by airline staff.

Fearnley, who won marathon gold in the Beijing and Athens Paralympics, was insulted at being asked to give up his independence.

He said the equivalent for an able-bodied person "would be having your legs tied together, your pants pulled down and be carried or pushed through an airport."

In protest, he rejected the airline's wheelchair and dragged himself through the terminal, in and out of the toilet, and onto the plane.

Jetstar has now issued an apology, saying any embarrassment and hurt was not intentional.

It said its policy for passengers in wheelchairs was for them to transfer to the airline wheelchair, which is more maneuverable on the plane, at the boarding gate.

Jetstar have now assured Fearnley they are working on an alternative boarding procedure for disabled passengers.

He said: "As long as that's going ahead, I'm more than happy."

Since the incident, a man from Melbourne has said he spent six days in hospital after he fell out of a Jetstar wheelchair while being pushed by staff.

Trevor Carroll, of South Morang, told ABC news he handed over his four-wheeled walking frame on a Jetstar flight earlier this month, but it was broken in the baggage hold.

The airline offered to fix it, but he had no way to get home.

The first commenter following my friend's link said this:

Hmmm. Not sure if I agree with the passenger. Sounds to me like the airline had a common denominator policy. I would love to have airlines accommodate my specific needs for travelling with a child (carseat, stroller), but they don't. I don't think they're trying to take away my rights as a parent. I think this passenger was offered a reasonable alternative and hasn't proved that the airline was acting in bad faith. I also think the passenger was childish in his response.

Another person commented, and this person - I will call her Clueless - came back and wrote:
...I think it's tough travelling with a small child. Much harder than if I had only myself to look after. The needs of parents with children are not akin to the needs of passengers who are travelling unemcumbered. That's where the airlines have to draw the line. It's up to the airline and overseeing agencies to determine what is safe and reasonable for all passengers and their staff while, at the same time, run a profitable business. I respect that every individual, not just those with disabilities, decides what is reasonable. But not everyone's own desire can be accommodated. What happens then? The airline can't control the passenger's emotions or thoughts, but they can provide reasonble physical assistance which they did. That's why I think this passenger was childish in his response. He was offered more assistance than I get as a parent travelling with a small child.

I was not the only one with my jaw hanging open. Someone else posted:
Having a child is not a disability. However much you might like some assistance with your child while travelling, you are not disabled.

And a second commenter also wrote:
...Adaptive equipment is very specific to the human using the tool. Aside from being humiliating and dehumanizing to have your gear taken away from you and be helped onto the plane, it's also insulting to have a spectrum of disabilities gathered up and placed in the same wheelchair. I have both a husband with a disability and a small child. And let me tell you, the airport is a million times more conducive to traveling with my small child than with my husband.

But Clueless didn't get it. She didn't understand what these two commenters had pointed out so well: having a child, having a difficult time traveling, is not a disability.

Clueless weighed in to say this:
I think anyone who thinks my situation with a toddler is less difficult than a disabled traveler is doing precisely what you seem to think I'm doing. You're being insensitive to my situation. I may not be disabled, but it is hard to me to travel with my toddler. Whatever your conclusions are; they're your conclusions.

Good for you if you can manage better than I and lots of other parents can. Good for the disabled people who understand that they have choices about what they do, like travel on an airplane when it's not the easiest thing to do. Good for people with disabilities and parents with toddlers who strive to do more than is easy. I think it's important to remember that this passenger has CHOSEN to get on planes and do all the things he is doing though disabled. He was never denied the opportunity; it wasn't as he wanted/needed it to be. That's my issue with his reaction. If he never given as much help as he was offered, I would be very upset. (This is why I get really mad at anti-gay measures. Give everyone the same opportunity. Once upon a time, my own marriage would have been unwelcome/illegal.)

So, essentially, the argument is:
1) Disability access is only important if Clueless is able to get the help she needs when she travels with her toddler on planes. (It's all about meeeeee!!!)

2) Having a disability is exactly the same as traveling with a toddler on a plane. To me, this really speaks of a particular kind of entitlement - the entitlement of being able to move easily through the rest of one's life, and then, when something or someone (like a small child and the airport security or an uncomfortable, crowded plane) slows you down and makes you dependent on other people, you think, "wow, this must be what it's like to be disabled! Hey, the fact that I'm experiencing this means that I *am* disabled! Hey, I want some of those special disability rights!"

3) If you choose to get on a plane or to do, really, anything, then you have only yourself to blame for flying in the first place if you don't get the accommodations you need. Except, of course, if you are Clueless, who seems to feel that choosing to get on a plane is something this guy could have easily not done - which would have meant a professional athlete no longer competing, but, you know, it's *his* choice to get on that plane. Her own choice to travel with her toddler? Not mentioned in the same way at all. And look, I've encountered the "you don't have to travel with your kid on planes" crap from the anti-parent, anti-kid crowd. And it *is* crap. If you are going great distances, most often, you're gonna need to fly, unless you happen to a lot of money and vacation time. So while Clueless certainly chooses to fly, I don't begrudge her that decision. I would never say that if she chooses to put herself and her kid on a plane, she deserves to be inconvenienced. No. I would say that airlines need to accommodate their passengers, period, END OF SENTENCE, whether than means finding a way to get my own elderly parents to their connecting flight or making sure that every body on the plane has adequate space and a seatbelt that fits, airplanes need to accommodate their passengers.

But I also wonder what is so difficult about travelling with a toddler that she feels she needs special assistance beyond the early boarding and gate checking of all kinds of additional luggage that the airline already provides? Ensuring that all bathrooms have a changing table would certainly help, but beyond that, I'm really scratching my head. I'm thinking that if Clueless is having a hard time traveling with a toddler on a plane, she probably is having a hard time parenting a toddler in general, and if this is the case, it at least makes some kind of weird sense out of her comments.

4) Everything needs to be exactly equal, everyone should be offered the exact same opportunities for assistance, regardless of whether some people already have more assistance and some people already have less. This is like saying to a starving person and a well-fed person, "here, you can split this sandwich." That is offering each the exact same opportunities for assistance, and it does not meet the needs of the starving person, but hey, on the face of it, it looks fair. The fact that Clueless was motivated to anger re. anti-gay marriage legislation, not because it's morally wrong to prevent people from getting married based on sexual orientation, and not because it violates civil rights to do so, but because her own marriage would have been illegal at some time in the past (It's all about meeeee! again.) and so she feels this one, further suggests that she is less concerned with righting serious societal wrongs than she is with where and how she is affected by these societal wrongs.

What I wanted to say, and didn't, is that it is exactly this kind of self-centered entitled bullshit that makes the anti-parent folks hate us. This is why even our allies sometimes get pissed off at us. Thank you, Clueless, for giving someone, somewhere, another reason to not want to support parents who need support.

In the end, her arrogant ignorance was too much for me. I suggested that she visit Bint and CripChick and educate herself. I hope she does.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What is it about "queer" that seems to invite "mediocre"?

(If you have had this experience, then you know exactly what I mean, and I will not have to pull any punches. If you have not had this experience, then you'll probably get mad and leave me hate mail. If you are still reading after all this time, that is.)

I don't know why it is that people feel that having had a painful or meaningful experience entitles them to make some sort of bad art (poetry, music, whatever) about it and then blast the rest of us with it in the name of unity, but COME ON. For some reason, this seems, in my experience, to happen most frequently at queer-themed events. I think it might be because some people confuse the emotional impact of an experience with the emotional impact of art, and they think that expressing these strong feelings through writing or song will automatically result in art.

And you know, I encourage the expression of feelings and the creation of art, even bad art. I have written a lot of bad poetry, in fact.

But if you are going to perform, then please at least do us the courtesy of taking your art seriously enough to be somewhat good at it. Study it - don't just assume that anyone can do it and that what you wrote down at three in the morning or what you sound like when you sing in the shower is ready to be shared with the world.

Look, I'm not saying that people who can't sing shouldn't sing. I'm saying that if there is going to be a highly-publicized performance, please, can't it be halfway decent? If you are going to hang your painting in a coffee shop, can't it be informed by some knowledge of color and design?

I have never liked the way people use the word "gay" or "queer" to mean "odd" or "stupid." I for sure don't want to see it become shorthand for "mediocre".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Abortion truck fail.

On my way to work, I drive past the local Planned Parenthood, the one which some idiot rammed his car into not to long ago (as in, INTO - he made eye contact with the receptionist and then drove the car straight at her, into the building). Today I left later than I usually leave, and so when I went by Planned Parenthood, I saw some activity there that I don't usually see. I noticed one of those obnoxious abortion trucks (though, I must say, this one did not have bloody pictures on it, unlike the ones that hang out in South Dakota) parked a few doors down, in front of the fake clinic.

For a second, I felt annoyed. Then, I decided to do something about my annoyance.
I pulled in right in front of the abortion truck, parked, walked up the block to Planned Parenthood, and wrote them a check right then and there. I contemplated telling the abortion truck people that they had motivated me to give money to Planned Parenthood, and I would have had they said anything to me, but they didn't, and I decided not to taunt them, both because I'm trying to be a better person than that, and also because I think they're often a bit unhinged and have proven themselves to be dangerous.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The elimination diet.

So, have I mentioned that I am on an elimination diet? Well, let me tell you: I am on an elimination diet. I have been on this elimination diet for nearly six weeks, and I have two foods to re-challenge before I will know what needs to stay out of my diet for another 8 weeks, followed by more food challenges, and what I can eat. This has been a complicated process, involving a lot of thinking about food, and a lot of natural bologna with goat cheese on spelt bread sandwiches (which are really quite good, but getting a little old, after six weeks). I have discovered the fascinating world of wheat-free eating (if you are avoiding gluten, check out Arico brand cookies - they are excellent and only a little odd), dairy-free eating (my absolute, hands-down favorite fake ice cream is Coconut Bliss, which is made from coconut milk and other yummy stuff AND which uses agave syrup instead of sugar; corn-free eating (not really an issue, except for the corn syrup that shows up in places you wouldn't expect); and nightshade vegetable-free eating (which, combined with the wheat and dairy avoidance, means I can't eat Italian food, which hurts. Though I hear there is a product, "no-mato," that is an excellent tomato substitute.).

I suspect that I am sensitive to cheese and nightshades. Fortunately, I seem to be able to eat ice cream with abandon (which, in fact, I had to do - you have to test each food with about 5-6 servings). So whey is ok and casein is forbidden, or something like that.

I will re-test cheese and nightshades soon. I look forward to getting past the testing phase and being able to eat just a little less intentionally. I'm amazed that I'm making it through all the thinking about food without re-developing an eating disorder.

But on the plus side - I feel pretty good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Officially tapped.

It's finally happened. I have internet overload. I am exhausted by the amount of emails in my four email inboxes and Facebook, I have not been following anyone's blogging, and I certainly have not been posting. More and more, I am feeling the need to turn off the computer. The email balance has shifted from "a nice way to assist me in doing my work" to "a constant, droning buzz of communication that has reshaped the way I do my work, made me feel the need to be available to everyone 24/7, significantly shortened my attentional span and ability to concentrate, and greatly increased my workload." Meanwhile, there is little actual communication. When I do hear from a friend, I am too tired and busy to chat. And of course, I rarely talk to anyone on the phone.

I no longer look forward to blogging. I no longer enjoy it. I no longer have anything to say.

On top of this, I remember when email used to mean quick response time. This is no longer the case. We are all so overwhelmed with the constant flow that now, when I send a message outside of work, I often don't get a response for days/weeks. And, the same is true for my response time.

Why the hell are we doing this, again?

Friday, October 16, 2009

In the "smack your head" department...

(Get out your bingo card...but seriously, this reminded me, as well, of the rabbi who refused to marry Mr. P and me (a memory I'd kind of blocked out). If we allow one person to determine the worth, merits, and legality of someone else's marriage, we have a problem.)

Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.
By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS – A white Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

Bardwell said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.

Bardwell estimates that he has refused to marry about four couples during his career, all in the past 2 1/2 years.

Beth Humphrey, 30, and 32-year-old Terence McKay, both of Hammond, say they will consult the U.S. Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint.

Humphrey, an account manager for a marketing firm, said she and McKay, a welder, just returned to Louisiana. She is white and he is black. She plans to enroll in the University of New Orleans to pursue a masters degree in minority politics.

"That was one thing that made this so unbelievable," she said. "It's not something you expect in this day and age."

Humphrey said she called Bardwell on Oct. 6 to inquire about getting a marriage license signed. She says Bardwell's wife told her that Bardwell will not sign marriage licenses for interracial couples. Bardwell suggested the couple go to another justice of the peace in the parish who agreed to marry them.

"We are looking forward to having children," Humphrey said. "And all our friends and co-workers have been very supportive. Except for this, we're typical happy newlyweds."

"It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009," said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzmann. She said the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 "that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry."

The ACLU sent a letter to the Louisiana Judiciary Committee, which oversees the state justices of the peace, asking them to investigate Bardwell and recommending "the most severe sanctions available, because such blatant bigotry poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the administration of justice."

"He knew he was breaking the law, but continued to do it," Schwartzmann said.

According to the clerk of court's office, application for a marriage license must be made three days before the ceremony because there is a 72-hour waiting period. The applicants are asked if they have previously been married. If so, they must show how the marriage ended, such as divorce.

Other than that, all they need is a birth certificate and Social Security card.

The license fee is $35, and the license must be signed by a Louisiana minister, justice of the peace or judge. The original is returned to the clerk's office.

"I've been a justice of the peace for 34 years and I don't think I've mistreated anybody," Bardwell said. "I've made some mistakes, but you have too. I didn't tell this couple they couldn't get married. I just told them I wouldn't do it."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Politically Correct Atonement (Link)

This is the funniest thing I've read in a while. (Green and Belle, you will appreciate it!)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

On revising the Bible*.

So I've seen the news that Conservapedia is editing the Bible to make it fit in with the twisted politics that Conservapedia espouses. In other words, Conservapedia is editing and rewriting the passages that have been understood to have liberal meanings.

And my big response to this is:

Yeah, and?

I mean, honestly, people? Do you think this is the first time that the Bible has been editing and revised? Do you not realize that the Bible has been mistranslated over and over again to suit a particular paradigm? Or that there are whole books that never made it into what we call the Bible because they were so radical (in other words, the collection of works into the Bible is *arbitrary*?!)

I'm just scratching my head, here - conservative Christians are revising the Bible and we are surprised? Even the most casual observance of conservative Christianity makes pretty clear that politics is what drives this movement. All these years, we've been saying, "hey, according to your logic, pork is just as sinful as homosexuality" - and it is - but have fundamentalists ever taken that seriously? No, of course not. Because it's not really about reading the Bible literally - it's only about reading the Bible literally if it supports their politics. The Leviticus stuff about homosexuality? That's all to be taken literally. But the minute you start talking about how "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," then, THEN we have to hear about how the "eye of a needle" is really the name of a narrow passageway that is difficult - but not impossible! - to fit a camel through, and so this doesn't really have anything to do with money, at all. (I kid you not.)

And even if you've been completely unaware of this, you must at least know that Conservapedia doesn't actually provide factual information. Knowing that, why would we NOT expect them to revise the Bible?

Clearly, I am mostly aghast that anyone finds such behavior unusual or not in keeping with the conservative Christian movement.

*I don't actually know why I'm even capitalizing the "B" in "Bible". Perhaps it is because I'm irritated.

Friday, October 02, 2009

OK, a little more apparently needs to be said.

Kate Harding said it here. But you should also read this, from California NOW's blog. I was sitting here, getting ready to go to bed, and then I read all these outraged statements from women I used to respect about how drugging and forcing a 13-year-old to have sex isn't really rape. No sleep now.

This is all that needs to be said about Roman Polanski.

Check out Kate Harding, who reminds us that Roman Polanski raped a child.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Writers Needed - Independent Girls, Inc.

Check it out:

Independent Girls, Inc. is a new nonprofit organization based in Florida , that aims to provide positive role models for girls, to get them thinking about goal setting and success, and to give them the tools to be self-confident, emotionally grounded, healthy, and independent. The main tool for doing this is a website, (to be launched before the end of 2009). Each week the site will feature a different role model for girls as well as an article related to positive, healthy girls' development. The site will send regularly scheduled
e-mails to girls and parents who subscribe. Independent Girls' goal is to
create a counterbalance to the celebrity-saturated, image-based culture of 9 –15 year old girls by providing girls with the strong, positive female role models who are currently missing from teen media and by addressing issues germane to girls’ healthy development.

Independent Girls seeks people to write original content for the website and weekly newsletters. Writers will identify, research, and write about topics and trends salient to 9 – 15 year old girls, with an emphasis on what is important/necessary to becoming a healthy, balanced, emotionally grounded, confident girls. Additional emphasis will be placed on understanding popular culture and developing the critical thinking skills necessary to becoming media literate/savvy.

Weekly articles should provide girls with information about things that girls
deal with between the ages of 9 - 15, for example self-esteem, body image, puberty, bullying/ cyberbullying, healthy relationships, eating disorders, healthy eating/nutrition, exercise, time management/stress management, goal setting, leadership, cliques and popularity, frenemies, peer pressure, financial independence, internet safety, and media awareness. Articles should be between 250-500 words long; some topics may need to be covered in a series of articles. Articles should be informative and easy to read and, most importantly, must engage girls. Articles should answer questions that girls have (and perhaps even answer questions that girls didn't even know that they had).

The site will also feature blogs where writers can have on-going editorial columns about different topics.

Please contact Julie Simons if you are interested in getting involved with this project: Compensation will be per article published and will be based on both the length of the article and how ready for publication the article is upon receipt by Independent Girls.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Scary Black People.

Because that's the theme of this week, isn't it? Whether it's our President who is called a liar in the middle of his televised address to Congress - and I don't remember that *ever* happening before, even to the latest Bush, who was lying nearly all the time - or Serena Williams, who so frightened the line judge that said judge said that Williams had actually threatened her life - it seems that when Black people speak, everyone else has a strong reaction. The reaction to Obama was simply, clearly, one of disrespect. The reaction to Williams was one of fear (because when Black women get angry, dontcha know, there's reason to fear for your life).

I'm disgusted. (And even more disgusted that John Effing McInroe had anything to say about Williams. Come on. The only *possible* response from McInroe would be something along the lines of, "Hey, that wasn't such a big deal. I've done worse.") What really chaps my hide is the notion that it's particularly unseemly because she is a woman.

But here's where it gets ugly. I looked up the story from Yahoo, just because it was there on my browser and it was accessible. Take a look at the link that the Yahoo story is directing readers to. The YouTube title is: "Serena Williams screams to Line judge "I would kill you" and later on goes away [HQ] US OPEN Kim Clijsters Semi-Finals Women." She didn't, in fact, threaten to kill the line judge. But it gets even worse: this is a video *response* to the event, so if you watch, you can see both the perpetuation of lies about Serena Williams *and* some good old American racism of all flavors. I don't advise watching or reading the comments unless you like high blood pressure. But the Yahoo "sportswriter" apparently felt that this was an appropriate link for readers to follow to get the "full" story.

If you're curious, here's a better link to the altercation.

Meanwhile, there are punishments for being an angry Black woman. Serena, I'm so sorry this is happening.

Crabs in a barrel.

Tenured Radical has a post up about saying no to excess work in academe. It's a good post. I liked it, with the exception of the tiny little part where she writes:

If any attention is called by those who are working hardest to those who are making themselves unavailable, shrieks about academic freedom, child care, and commuting rend the land (despite the great number of people with small children, or who are in commuting relationships, who do manage to come to work.) At the risk of annoying the hard-working parents who do come to work and carry a fair load with the rest of us, I need to ask: if you have a child and I don't, and we get paid the same salary, why am I doing your work for you? I didn't have children because I wanted the time: instead, I got no child and I got no time. You get someone to help you navigate the nursing home, I'll end up with a big bottle of Klonopin mixed in a bowl of ice cream.

The implication, of course, is that it is the parents who are not pulling their weight (yes, I know she says earlier that most parents do come to work, but it is still parents who are the problem in this paragraph). This opinion is not limited to TR (who, in the comments, seems to feel less that it is parents actually not doing the work and more that she should be able to suggest, for the purpose of her argument, that it is parents not doing the work). Almost anyone, parent or not, has heard this idea in the workplace. Parents very often volunteer to take early-morning classes specifically to avoid being perceived as someone asking for special favors, though I've had colleagues who have had special arrangements made so that they could go home to care for their pet (which, by the way, is fine with me - but I think it's interesting that there is not a chorus, in these cases, of "why should I have to do your work so that you can go home to walk the dog?"). Or, as TR mentions, the commuters; I had a colleague once who lived a good hour outside of town. Had she been allowed to leave early to miss rush hour, we would have had to work later. (I was happy to do this, by the way, but she was not allowed to do so.)

In bringing in one of her reasons not to have a child, TR also trots out the old, I-made-the-choice-not-to-do-this-but-you-made-the-choice-to-do-it-so-why-should-I-have-to-accomodate-you-in-any-way? This is a common response to those of us struggling to balance parenting and working out of the home. I have been surprised at the vehemence with which people I would think would otherwise be sensitive feminists respond to this issue.

Don't be fooled. The issue is not that a few parents make a big deal out of needing to rush home to pick up little Johnny and therefore can't make a committee meeting. The issue is that, in academe, as in many other places, we are crabs in a barrel. We know, as TR has pointed out, that if one of us is working less than the others, someone else will have to work more to make up for this slacking. And so we watch carefully to see who is doing what and who is excusing what.

It isn't fair that parents get special consideration for their children's needs when others who need special consideration for a host of other needs don't get it. It's also not fair that mothers in academe are mostly adjuncts because academe isn't a place that accomodates mothers. Too bad, right? Guess we should have thought of that and elected either not to have children or found another profession. But I don't accept this response - I think we have a responsibility to change the system. Academic parents - largely mothers, I would hazard a guess - have forced the beginnings of a change in academe by at least making the problems of balancing academic work and parenting public. The literature itself has become a new field of study. People are paying attention to these issues, and while we have not necessarily made great strides - I can think of one person who has been made to give up her maternity leave entirely to chair her department and teach additional classes beyond her normal courseload - we have at least begun to take small steps.

The response to this, from some corners, is a great, wailing, "that's not fair!" And in some cases, it's not, and this should be rectified. No one should be able to use their children as an excuse to get out of work. But at the same time, hopefully, we're all here together in academe for the long haul. When my son is very young, I might ask not to teach a night class. When my son is a little older, though, I could teach a couple of night classes a semester. So why not think about rotating teaching schedules over longer periods of time, for instance? Not getting out of work - balancing the work, recognizing that people (not just parents) have different needs at different times. You write best in the early morning and have a book to finish? I can teach at 8am this year so you don't have to. And so on.

I don't really want to write about this next part, but it's happened so often that I feel the need to talk about it.

The conversation in the comments on TR's blog focused on parenting. She didn't like that. She felt the parents were "obsessing" and that this focus, when her whole post was almost entirely about something else, simply illustrated that parents insist on focusing only and always about their children.

She didn't understand the weight of what she had written about parents, which is why it became the topic of conversation. She totally missed that she had used the most pervasive negative stereotype, that stereotype that parents don't pull their own weight.

The reason I'm writing about this here is that I'm reminded of some of the huge feminist blow-ups that have happened when one person has pointed out that another person has said something offensive. You can go read the comment thread for yourself and come to your own determination. But I'm left with the sad awareness that someone whose blog I like thinks it's ok to make nasty asides about academic parents and feels that calling her out on this is selfish and blog-hoggy (I left 3 out of 46 comments) and in my case, a bully. It is also stunning to once again see that explaining why these kinds of comments are so painful for and detrimental to academic parents is often perceived as claiming parenthood as a privileged status.


Until we can learn not to scapegoat each other, whether we do so with real venom or with rhetorical flourish, for the purpose of making a larger point, we are not going to get anywhere with making any real change in our workloads - or anything else.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Internet v. duck-feeding

Tonight we fed the ducks at the pond; we were heading out with stale bread when our neighbor stopped us, ran to his garage, and brought out a huge bag of corn to give us. So we fed the ducks with abandon.

Then we drove to the mall for underwear and socks.

The semester has begun, and I've been thinking about how to keep my calm, unruffled mind as I move out of the summer and into the hectic season of school. Already, there are reasons to be ruffled. Chief among these is that I have grown accustomed, through the magic of the internet, to getting immediate answers to all of my questions. Often, I will get responses to my emails before I've even logged out of my account. This tends to lengthen my email sessions, and it's not uncommon that I can sit down, intending just to send a couple of messages, and look up two hours later, having had entire conferences in that time.

Only now, I'm waiting for responses from several people who do not use email frequently, and it. is. excruciating.

But I'm trying to look at this as a gift. I do so much work on email that I am always, always accessible. I check it frequently because someone just might need my help, have a question, need something from me. There was a time when we did this in order to stay in touch with our students - but students no longer rely on email. And so I'm thinking that there is room to disconnect, just a little. It would be ok for me to not check my email the first thing every morning and the last thing every night.

And then maybe we could do our underwear shopping and duck-feeding during the day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Great day.

You would think that a day that included cat barf, cat pee, and ants would not be a great day, but you would be wrong. The main thing that made this day great was the 1.5 mile round-trip walk to the pool and back with Bean, and the way that the trees, especially the occasional birch trees, which always take my breath away, looked against the perfect summer afternoon sky. We had such a fun time that he hardly complained at all about being made to walk rather than ride in the car, and he didn't mind when I got cold and sat in the sun while he continued to splash and swim and play.

I can't emphasize enough what that walk did for me. It was a great lifting of spirits, which had not been low to begin with, but it was one of those moments when the natural world and the sense of the presence of a benign spirit connect with you so that you feel pure joy. It's hours later and I'm still ridin' that high.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Working my way through other people's problems.

I came to two realizations today. Well, ok, one realization, because the first one is pretty obvious and I figured it out a while ago:

1) Don't post all your shit on Facebook. I am continually astounded by what my Facebook Friends are up to. People who are job hunting or will be, soon, post on Facebook about their annoying students. In detail. Others forward bits of private emails and also email messages from listserves. Why would anyone visit this trouble on themselves? Don't they realize that their future employers will not be impressed?

2) I recently spent time with a friend, and being with him made me feel very stressed out. I couldn't figure out why, because I had felt pretty great beforehand, but while I was with him, I was getting increasingly edgy and upset. I finally figured out that it was simply because *he* was so incredibly anxious and stressed - but in a low-key way, so that I didn't realize it at the time - that he was triggering all of my own anxiety. Once I realized this, I was able to let go of the accumulated stress and find my way back to my happy place. (No, I'm not a horrible person - he is just someone who carries around a lot of anxiety.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We are now almost entirely moved into our new home. All that is left in the apartment seems to be cleaning supplies, a chair that is headed for the landfill, the pictures on the walls, and a few random items. Probably one or two carloads, altogether, if I include the stuff still in Mr. P's closet. Not too bad.

Meanwhile, the new place is cozy and comfortable and I really like it. But, as some of you know, I have a bit of a bug phobia, and our basement has a lot of spiders in it (little ones, at least). I even went to therapy a few years ago specifically to work on my arachnophobia, and I learned that it is an anxiety disorder and that using relaxation really helps (it does - I am in a much better, happier place than I was when I first went for treatment).

So I'm a teensy bit on alert here, but still quite comfortable.


This morning I found six legs in the bathtub. They were not attached to anything. I don't know who they belonged to. Two were big and four were small. I really don't even like to speculate about this, and I don't feel much like using the tub. I imagine that there may have been an epic battle in the tub involving one or both of the cats, but again, really, it's probably best not to speculate.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Whole Foods boycott still misses the point

You have probably heard about this already. Just for the record, I shop at Whole Foods all the time. On the one hand, I wish the boycott a lot of luck, and I hope that jerk, John Mackey, loses money (it's not lost on me that telling people to take responsibility for themselves and eat right conveniently puts money into his pocket, since eating right would mean eating organic, non-genetically modified, "whole foods", wouldn't it?).

But the larger problem here is that as long as we see food as a matter of individual choices rather than community responsibility, most people are not going to get the healthy foods they need. I had the chance to meet Winona LaDuke a while back, shortly after my breast cancer was diagnosed. (She said, "I bet you're eating organic *now*, huh?" And I was/am.) But I asked her, "How do we do this organic thing in the city, when buying organic means shopping at exclusive and expensive stores that are out of reach of most folks?" And she said: backyard vegetable gardens. But it became clear to me, after thinking about this, and about the time and space and knowledge needed to garden, and about the need for shared greenhouses, that this is really a community endeavor. We can't simply garden for ourselves any more than we can simply buy produce for our own families at Whole Foods. We need to find ways, as neighborhoods, to make healthy food available to everyone.

So, to get back to my hands - on the other hand, boycotting Whole Foods is really not as effective as is working toward other, community-supported, long-range solutions. It might make a difference re. health care, which is, of course, the sole purpose behind the boycott, but it doesn't solve these larger problems. Also, Trader Joe's does not have a great record re. unions, at least in MN (they were recommended as a place to shop during the boycott). Local co-ops may be the place to go, but they are financially out of reach for most people.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I shoulda gone to art school...

...or at least taken a class in color and/or painting. I'm trying to manage a couple of small painting projects before we move, and it feels a lot like trying to make up a song, like my brain isn't big or strong enough to manage the different colors/sounds all at once, especially when the paint swatches/notes are so very close in color/tone. Right now I've got this bright purpl-y thing going that was supposed to be much darker and with more brown in it. Maybe another coat or two...

And IKEA continues to confound me with it's impossible instructions. I consider myself to be fairly smart, and I decipher a number of these to put furniture pieces together. This hinge business, though, is a whole nother thing.

And, we're moving. So I'm off to grab a few more random things off bookcases and dressers, out of cupboards and closets. See you later.

Friday, August 07, 2009

So, What Is Feminist Mothering?

My new post on Feministe.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I'm at Feministe this week.

Stop by, and stay tuned for more posts...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The vacation thus far.

We've been to New York and New Jersey, seen several friends and lots of family (and one performance of "Mary Poppins"), and had unbelievable cat drama that began within a few days of leaving and that seems to be continuing. As I write this, my friend is on her way to the emergency animal clinic with one cat who, my friend says, "sounds like she is crying" and seems to have injured her leg. Previously, my other cat gave this friend such a hard time when she tried to give her her thyroid medication that we had to call around - from the east coast - to find someone in the Twin Cities who could do this for her. (Thank goodness, we found someone.)

It has been a very exciting - and expensive - vacation. I think we will have to stay put after this. I'm hoping things will calm down because I am worried about my furry babies.

Other highlights:
* I rode the subway - by myself - for the first time in about a decade. They don't use tokens anymore. Who knew?
* I saw the new Harry Potter movie. It rocks. And I've hidden the people on Facebook who are complaining about how much they don't like Harry Potter and are not going to read the books or see the movies. Blah blah blah. I'm going to see it again.
* Bean met two very friendly dogs this week and has come a long way toward being less afraid of dogs. I also spent some serious thought considering whether or not we should get a dog. Perhaps my cats's issues are simply psychic freakouts about this possibility.

We leave tomorrow at 8:00 am. I'm up now, waiting to hear back from the vet. It's going to be a short night.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Christina Hoff (yawn) Sommers

"All books have mistakes, so why pick on the feminists? My complaint with feminist research is not so much that the authors make mistakes; it is that the mistakes are impervious to reasoned criticism. They do not get corrected. The authors are passionately committed to the proposition that American women are oppressed and under siege. The scholars seize and hold on for dear life to any piece of data that appears to corroborate their dire worldview. At the same time, any critic who attempts to correct the false assumptions is dismissed as a backlasher and an anti-feminist crank."

Eyeroll. Yawn. More eyerolling. It would be nice if the Chronicle would stop soliciting anti-feminist diatribes from Sommers and Daphne Patai - whose own works on feminism are littered with inaccuracies and anecdotally-based conclusions - and would instead ask some actual feminist scholars to write about feminist scholarship. In the meantime, read Tenured Radical's excellent response.

U-Haul mystery.

Some of you know that Mr. Plain(s)feminist and I are about to become first-time homeowners. That process might be something I should blog about at some point, though I suspect that most of my readers have already become homeowners and would not be surprised by the things that surprised us (such as closing costs - ouch!). Many of my friends are already on their second or third houses.

Anyway, in preparation for our upcoming move, I decided to pick up some file boxes so that I could unload and then get rid of some filing cabinets that we don't really need any longer. I had a really good experience with U-Haul boxes (sturdy and just the right size) the last time we moved, so I looked up U-Haul on the internet and set off for one not too far from me.

When I got there, the address was printed in big numbers on the building, and there were storage and U-Haul signs, so I knew I was in the right place. However, there seemed to be no front to the building. There were two doors; one was a heavy, single door, set between two loading docks, with a sign above it that read "Sales." The other was a heavy, double door, next to a dumpster, and opened onto another loading dock. Both were windowless doors that looked like employee or back entrances. There was one window in the building, but there was shelving set against it on the other side. Both doors were locked. I felt certain that I was at the back entrance of the building, but when I tried to drive around to the front of the building, I found that there was no way to get there. The driveway ended and was blocked by a large dumpster. The building itself was set on a block next to a railyard, and the street did not go all the way around the block so that the southern and western sides of the building were inaccessible.

I finally sat in the parking lot and called the number I had gotten off the computer, which remained busy each time I called. Then I called the number on the side of the building and got an answering machine. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot, so I assume that they were open for business. But how their customers were able to get into the building to do any business, I will never figure out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Please welcome back to the blog... buddy Wide Lawns, whom I've been following for a couple of years now. I got crotchety and de-blogrolled her a while back when she overhauled her blog and changed its focus significantly, but she is a fabulous writer and she has won me back. Check her out.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Chapter 37, wherein I gross myself out.

So, for the last couple of weeks, I have watched as hives on my leg grew larger and larger. They started out as two distinct red weals, not unlike the ones I had on the same leg during my chemo (Taxol) days. But then they got a little bigger and developed a red, raised ring around each with a paler center. I figured that I must be having a reaction to Tamoxifen, as "rash" is listed under possible severe reactions. I also suspected the raspberries and strawberries I've been eating with abandon, which have never caused problems before, but which are suspect fruit nonetheless.

Today, after determining that the spots were, in fact, getting larger and not fading away, I began to think that I ought to do something about them. First, I called my oncologist's office, and we discussed the possibility of my stopping the Tamoxifen for a week to see if what I had been calling a rash went away. Then, I went to see my healing coach (also an RN), who took one look and said, "That is not a rash. You need to stop diagnosing yourself and go to urgent care. Those look like bites, and they could be tick bites." Next, I had an appointment with my physical therapist, who also weighed in: "You've been having a lot of medications; you should see your oncologist and make sure it's nothing to do with those." So, I hiked across the hospital campus to my oncologist's office - which was, strangely and fortuitously, completely empty - and asked to see the nurse. The nurse took a look and got the NP, who took a look and said, "Tick bite. Go to urgent care." (They also reassured me that Lyme Disease would be easily treated since it had only been a couple of weeks since the red spots had shown up.)

I drove directly to urgent care and hung around until they opened. The nurse took one look and said...





And also, completely unexpected.

The doctor also took one look and said, "ringworm," though the ringworm test failed to show evidence of ringworm. So we did a Lyme Disease test, just to be sure. I expect a phone call in the next day or so with those results.

Meanwhile, I'm not allowing to go in the public pools (found this out a bit late, as I'd been in several over the last week and a half) until this clears up, and Mr. P. just had to wash the bed linens (for the second time this week - there was another vengeance cat pee recently).

At least it sounds like ringworm isn't actually a *worm*, which makes me feel a bit better about the whole thing. *shudder*

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The MJ Furor.

Seriously, this is bizarre. The fan frenzy surrounding Michael Jackson's death is turning friend against friend. One of my Facebook friends has been defriended by one of *her* Facebook friends - and called a "douchebag" - for not liking Michael Jackson. I have a suspicion that this is not an isolated incident.

I also think it's odd that we are surprised by the internet and Twitter traffic his death has caused. This is what happens when an icon dies. Had Twitter been around when Princess Diana died, it would have happened then, as well. Further, while I am in agreement with the lamentations about the state of journalism and of America's attention span as evidenced by the media focus on Michael Jackson rather than, say, Iran, I also don't think this is anything new. Has there been any noteworthy media coverage on the Congo, lately? No? Thought not. At least in this case, there is a particular news item that is overwhelming other news stories, and it is not simply that America doesn't give a shit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guest Blogging on Feministe!

Wow, I am so excited - I was invited to guest blog at Feministe this summer! I will let you all know when this will be (now I have to think of something to write about...).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fat and food politics for breast cancer survivors.

I went to a sort of "spa day" yesterday that was held by my onc's office. It was lovely to have a positive, confidence-building experience like that with other survivors - we had healing touch sessions, massage, tai chi, etc. - but I am really rankled by the way that the issues of food and weight were handled. The nutritionist spoke in very vague ways about food, listing certain foods that had particular anti-cancer properties. That was helpful. What was not helpful was the following:

Telling a room of women of all shapes and sizes to "be as lean as possible without being underweight," which is a recommendation of the American Cancer Society. Here's the problem with that. The research on diets tells us that they don't work - including Weight Watchers. The vast majority - over 90% - of dieters (including Weight Watchers) gain all the weight back, plus more, within five years. Meanwhile, the stress on your body and heart of gaining and losing and gaining and losing weight is phenomenal. Heart disease is (I think?) the leading cause of death among women. Something to keep in mind.

Moreover, telling anxious women to lose weight (the nutritionist was rail-thin) without giving them some real guidelines for how to eat healthily and exercise sufficiently is just mean. And further telling them that the recommendation for daily exercise is 60-90 minutes a day is insane. How many of us would ever be able to do that? Most people would say, "I can't even come close to that - I give up." Further, it was unclear what she meant by "exercise," since one of the suggested activities to count into that 60-90 minutes was GARDENING. She also said that walking around in the office counted into that. So I think that the actual recommendation is for 60-90 minutes of ACTIVITY, and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. But she was extremely vague and did not clarify this when asked. Perhaps she didn't know.

Finally, the food at this event was typical, midwestern lunch food - white bread, chicken, cheeses, green salad, and several pasta or other salads, with cake and brownies for dessert. How about using this as an opportunity to share whole foods and vegetables that women may be unfamiliar with? How about showing how delicious eating an anti-cancer diet can be?

What I came away with after her presentation were the (false) ideas that gardening is an aerobic activity; that Kosher meat is no different than conventional meat; that sugar is fine to eat in moderation (without any mention of paying attention to when you eat it and with what). I'm frustrated for the women there who are going to take this as true because the woman who said it has a lot of fancy certifications.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Working for Water.

I just read this extraordinarily moving piece, and I wanted to share it with all of you:
"The Constant Potter".

Friday, June 05, 2009

Um, what should I call this? Celebrity news fail?

The sentences in italics appear in the article as clickable links for more information. This is so blatantly bizarre that I will just leave you to it:

Kelly Clarkson: I'm Tired of Hearing "the Fat Joke"Us Magazine - June 5, 2009 6:07 AM PDT

Kelly Clarkson says she's tired of being bullied over her weight.

"For seven years it's been happening. It's like, 'OK cool, the fat joke,'" she said during an interview with 2Day FM's Kyle and Jackie O Show in Australia.

Look back at the weight ups and downs of your favorite Idol stars!

Despite the taunts, the American Idol champ says, "I love my body. I'm very much OK with it. I don't think artists are ever the ones who have the problem with their weight, it is other people."

See stars who underwent dramatic weight losses

Clarkson has also come under scrutiny over her sexuality. She says she doesn't care if people think she is gay.

Look back at the most controversial Idol contestants of all time
Her only gripe?

"The rumors are not helping me on the dating front!" she said. "I prefer the boys. I'm extremely flattered when I do get hit on by girls, and I think it's hot, but I'm not into it. I like boys."

Check out 20 unforgettable moments from this year's American Idol finale

She said she's in no rush to find Mr. Right.

"I'm only 27, not 40 and still single!" she said. "I enjoy being single, I love work and I think people are so passive with relationships and I'm not that person."

See which Idol stars have gotten married or had babies.

Added Clarkson, "I'm an extremist, I'm either in a relationship or I'm not. I'm honest about it and I'll tell people, it's just there's nothing to tell. I have a very good life."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Hell and back, and integration.

In Reinventing Eve, Kim Chernik writes about the brave women who descend into Hel (one "l") and return (they wear a Hel-met - no kidding). In Surfacing, Margaret Atwood's main character "dies" and spends time in a world of the dead before coming back to her life, reborn.

It occurred to me today that I've been approaching living after cancer, living under the threat of cancer, all wrong.

I got a phone call this afternoon from my oncologist's office. When I heard, "This is Dr. X's office," my immediate impulse was to panic. 'Why could they possibly be calling me? They never do that. The only reason they could be calling now is to tell me that something is very, very wrong - right?'

In fact, they were calling to invite me to a special retreat for breast cancer and ovarian cancer survivors - food, massage, tai chi, and speakers on survivorship. All in all, a lovely day.

But the phone call still made the contents of my stomach sour. Thinking about cancer leads me down a path I don't want to go, and so I've tried to pretend it never happened - yes, I have these scars, but really, it's just a misunderstanding. Yes, I take these pills, but I am healthy, damn it. I hide from it and feel great, but every single time - *every* time - I am caught out by a doctor appointment, a change in treatment, a new celebrity who has been diagnosed, or, most recently, a new feature film about someone with cancer - I panic.

I'm tired of panicking. I feel like an animal that has been abused. I am cringing already, before the loud noise and the kick.

I think the problem is that I need to integrate this experience, somehow. I need to learn how to live with this in a way that isn't fearful, but that doesn't erase it, either.

So, despite my gut instinct to run screaming from anything pink, from anything at all suggestive of cancer, I think I will go to this retreat and try to figure out how to place these two worlds together and move forward.

Monday, June 01, 2009

For those of you who are thinking it's been a long time since I've blogged about cat pee...

...guess what? One of the cats peed on the bed yesterday. As always, we don't know why. We suspect it is the same old recurrent problem, which her thyroid medication has seemed to help until now. However, since we spent much of Saturday afternoon outside with the neighbors, where the cats could hear and see us but couldn't be with us, it is always possible that this was a vengeance pee.

I keep thinking that I wish she could talk so that she could tell us, but it occurs to me that, cats being cats, being able to talk would not solve the problem. I'm sure she would either refuse to speak or else hurl Elizabethan curses at me. And if it *is* health related, she would be highly indignant at my inquiries as to the state of her bladder.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

If you call yourself "pro-life" and you aren't protesting violence against clinics, then your name is a lie.

It is not terribly surprising, though it is very frightening and very sad, that yet another doctor who provided women with safe and legal abortions has been gunned down by the so-called "pro-life" movement. There are a lot of people who call themselves "pro-life" and who genuinely believe in protecting all human life; these people very often do not push to hinder women's access to abortion or to legislate against it because they understand that women have always had abortions, whether they've been safe or not, and that women will continue to have abortions even if abortion is outlawed - in which case, many women will have lasting health problems and many will die. These truly pro-life people also recognize that the business of terminating a pregnancy, no matter how much it may trouble them, is only *their* business if it is *their* pregnancy.

But reproductive rights aside, what do you call a movement that knows its members are actively targeting and commiting acts of intimidation and violence upon those it opposes? Certainly not "pro-life." Video-taping Planned Parenthood workers and putting the license plate numbers of Planned Parenthood clients on the internet is intimidation with the threat of violence. Driving cars into clinics (which was, believe it or not, defended as a "non-violent protest"), shooting doctors, and other clinic violence is more extreme, but such acts are on the same spectrum of behavior aimed at forcing someone else to behave as you would wish them to.

If I sound a little less diplomatic than I might normally sound, it's because I am furious that people are still being told by their movement and their "churches" that pretend to honor God that violence is an acceptable response. And any members of this movement or these "churches" who do not actively and without qualification oppose such actions are part of the problem, and the blood is on their hands. This just confirms what many of us already knew: for many of these people, life is not the issue. The issue is control.

Yes, I'm looking at you, Leslee Unruh, Randall Terry, and others.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are we back here again?

Today, I was talking with Lesbian Mom A on the playground after school. Lesbian Mom B asked me if my family was a two-mom family. I said, "no." She asked if I was a single mom. I said, "no - I have a partner, who is male." "Oh," she said, because there was a "lesbian party" this past weekend that presumably I would have been invited to had I been a lesbian mom and had the Lesbian Mom Club known who I was. And I felt a little bit like this would have been the time to say, "but I'm bi!" except that it would have felt a little bit like asking the popular kid, who hasn't invited you to her birthday party, if you can come to the party. (Also, I couldn't process where she was going quite fast enough, so that we were past it before I figured out what was going on.)

I think it's great that some of the lesbian moms at this school have gotten together as a group for support and friendship, and I don't think that all lesbian gatherings must include Bs or Ts or Gs, necessarily, but when I first moved here, I was delirious at the notion of finding some LGBT parenting community. Instead, I found The Lesbian Mom Club - which, it seems, does not even include all the lesbian moms - it seems to be a club for the cool and popular. And, on top of this, it's totally backchannel - there's no mention of the group in the weekly announcements that come home from school, so either you are invited to take part or you're not.

So, instead, I'm finding my little community one person at a time, and I guess I'm a little resentful that in 2009 we are still doing the Lesbian Club thing and not thinking about what other LGBT folks - and allies - might be lingering around the outside of the playground, wanting to come in and be part of the community.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is this true, or what?

Read this.

It is decided (I think).

I will be teaching Eclipse in my intro Women's Studies course next spring. I think the feminist criticism that I have read of the series - that Bella has no real character, that the gender roles are fairly pathetic, that Native Americans are used in a way that is fairly disrespectful to them as people and also fairly stereotypical, the clear messages re. abstinence and the eroticization of same, and a whole bunch of other things that I won't get into now because I don't want to post too man spoilers - is dead on. Still, I finished reading the series this afternoon and then spent an hour going back and re-reading parts of the novel I'd just finished. Yes, I rolled my eyes many, many times during my reading, but yes, it is good enough that I will go back and read it again, and I no longer have any qualms about having just shelled out $40 to buy the last two books in hardcover.

I am really looking forward to classroom discussion next year. There is a lot to sift through. By then, the second movie should have come out, so my class will be able to watch Twilight and New Moon before moving on to the third novel, which is, in my opinion, the best of the four (and also the one that is probably best suited for discussion in a classroom, just because there is a lot more going on, plotwise and in terms of character development, than happens in the other books).

Friday, May 15, 2009

A pretty good representation of "access".

I had three thoughts when I saw this.

First, I thought, "this is why even a cursory knowledge of physics is important."

Second, I thought, "this is why people with disabilities should be included in every aspect of construction planning."

And third, I thought, "this probably represents the state of affairs re. disability access in the U.S. fairly accurately."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Appropriate behavior of medical personnel.

I find it fascinating to observe how the medical staff relate to me as a patient. This week, I've had an interesting experience that I'm trying to figure out how to handle.

In the radiation treatment room, there is a small dressing area, around which one could, if one wanted, pull a privacy curtain. There are also gowns and towels. Because I only need to take off my clothes from the waist up, I never bother with any of this. I probably would if I still had the right breast, but since I don't, and since I'm going to walk 12 feet and then open the gown and remove the towel, it seems silly and actually somewhat complicated - I'd have to wrap and clutch or tie the gown, or hold the towel in place while hopping up on the table. I don't know if the female personnel have ever felt uncomfortable with this, but they are always busy doing whatever it is they do - readying the table for the next patient or for me - while I am getting dressed/undressed.

But lately, there is a new radiation therapist, and he is a man. That's not really an issue for me - but he's a man who seems to be in need of a clue.

The first time he was there when I was there, he came into the room after I was already on the table. While I was getting dressed, he turned away to protect my privacy. The second time, when I arrived, the privacy curtain had been partly pulled. I took this to be a reflection of the presence of the male therapist, and I thought about it, and I thought about my usual procedure, and I decided that maybe I needed to mention what would otherwise be an elephant in the room. So, I said to him, "Look, I really don't bother with the gown/towel. I hope that won't make you feel uncomfortable." He seemed surprised, and said, "Oh! Well, what about how you feel?" I said, "There's nothing there, so I feel fine about it."

Now, I can understand that this might not be how the average patient reacts, and I can also understand that he might still have felt uncomfortable, but from my perspective, at this point, this falls into the category of Not My Problem.

The reason I mention this is because I am wondering if this had anything to do with what happened next.

At the end of my treatment, the table I have been lying on, which has been raised, needs to be lowered so that I can climb down. I was lying on my back, and had brought my arms down across my chest, resting them while I waited to be fully lowered. And, as the table was moving, this therapist was holding onto the side of it in such a way that his bare forearm was touching my bare arm. It was not a case of "oops, sorry, didn't mean to brush against you." It was a constant presence. And it felt deliberate. It felt as if perhaps he thought it was a buddy thing - or a way to show dominance. I really don't know what it meant or why he did it, but I do know that he was aware of it, because we both glanced down to see that our arms were touching. It was not an inappropriate touch in that it was not sexual, but it seemed inappropriate for him to be touching me at all. I didn't fully get this until later - at the time, I was too busy thinking, "hmm, this seems odd," to react.

Now, as a patient, I get handled a lot. Some of this handling is unpleasant, such as when someone incompetent is drawing blood or taking my blood pressure. Much of it, fortunately - because this is certainly not the case for everyone - has been gentle and/or generally unremarkable. But never, with the exception of one clear violation years ago, has it been this kind of unnecessary touching.

There is no reason to touch the patient, particularly a patient in any stage of undress, unless it is medically necessary.

The next day, this same therapist leaned over me - not once, but two or three times - to check a measurement. He was standing on my right side and needed to lean over to see the measurement, but in doing so, he leaned ON me, not just brushing my body but actually LEANING on me.

At best, this seems to show disregard for me as a patient, wouldn't you say?

But there's more. I have a pair of wire earrings; these were sitting on top of my clothes on the bench. He saw them and complimented them, and remarked that he could probably make them himself. Hey - he probably could. I'm not offended by that. But he said this while holding them. He picked up my earrings without asking. Further, I found out today that - still without asking or even notifying me - he took one and made a photocopy of it while I was on the table with my head stuck facing the other direction. His plan, another therapist told me today, is to try to make a pair of earrings like mine.

More power to him. Had he asked me if he could photocopy the earring, I would have said sure. But he didn't - and so now, I think I will have to speak with his supervisor about the lack of respect and of good judgment this therapist has showed to me as a patient.

The skin-care regimen.

According to my radiation oncologist, a new study has suggested that wearing deodorant/anti-perspirant is not an issue for radiation treatment (it used to be standard, I think, to tell patients not to use it if the underarm area was in the treatment field). Despite this, I have not been using it under my left arm; I think the sweat glands are not operating, anyway, which they told me would happen as a result of the radiation (wow - that means I will save 50% on my deodorant costs!).

At the beginning of treatment, I was given a special skin care cream (I think it's actually called "Special Skin Care Cream") to put on the irradiated area 4-5 times per day. Once my skin started to feel irritated, they gave me a more complicated regimen. Now, I put the cream on 2-3 times per day, and at night, I apply Pro-Shield (the same exact stuff I used to put on Bean to deal with diaper rash!), which is a sticky substance that you don't rub in. On top of the Pro-Shield, I put Adaptic strips, which are gauze strips that have been treated with some kind of greasy substance (feels a little like Vaseline). Then, on top of these, I put plain gauze bandages (not the kind that stick on). To keep all of this in place, I put on a tight-fitting tank top, which I then cover with a t-shirt to protect my sheets from all of these sticky, greasy substances.

It seems to work pretty well. It takes any sting out, and I think that the redness, which I notice is a bit more pronounced following treatment, seems to fade a bit by the next morning.

However, the left side of my chest and underarm is looking pretty ravaged. The skin seems to still be healthy - it's not like a bad sunburn where there's blistering and peeling, though I suppose that may come later - but many of the hair follicles have darkened, so I have basically a large red patch within which there are tons of darker little dots.

I do also feel the effects of the radiation internally; there is a tightening and some loss of range of motion, and some soreness (this is more occasional than constant). It's not permanent, but I'll need to stretch to get the range of motion back.

But only eight more to go!

(Edited to add: "ravaged" is a strong word to describe my skin. It's really not that bad. I think it might look startling to someone who was seeing it for the first time, but since I've been watching it gradually, it doesn't look so bad to me.)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

All about radiation therapy.

I have about 11 treatments left. I am getting red and oddly spotted. However, I'm still feeling pretty comfortable. I've been busy with work and neglecting my blog, but it occurred to me that I hadn't written about the radiation yet.

So, let me walk you through this process. First of all, a lot of people have asked me if I've felt sick from the radiation. No. The reason is that they are not irradiating my stomach. (I don't know if you automatically feel sick if your stomach is the target field - it probably also depends on the dose you are getting.) I've been going for about 4 weeks now, and so far, I feel fine. I have experienced some tiredness, but as I've also been burning the midnight oil a little too much, I'm not sure the tiredness is related to the radiation. Mostly what I notice in terms of this is 1) sleepiness, which is different from fatigue and which suggests to me that I need to get more rest, and 2) moments of slight fatigue, where I might decide not to stop off at the grocery store on the way home because I don't have the energy for that. This usually occurs at the end of the day, and it's not much different from my usual energy level at the end of the day.

I'll tell you more about how my skin has reacted in a separate post. I want to tell you more about how they actually do this.

First, they make a mold for you to lie in when you're on the table getting the radiation therapy; this ensures that you are in exactly the same position each time. I had no idea that this was such an exact science, but it really is, so being in the exact same position each time is important. I had to lie back on what looked like a plastic pillowcase containing some of those little beads that are used in certain stuffed toys and pillows. I put both arms above my head and turned my head to the side, and then they filled the pillowcase with air and moved the beads around so that it formed a supportive mold. We played around with this until they found one that was comfortable, and then the mold hardened; each day, when I go in for my treatment, they pull my mold out from its shelf and put it on the table for me.

Second, they take an exhausting number of pictures - a CT scan and x-rays. I say "exhausting" because that's what it is - I was about 6 weeks out from surgery, so I still had not gotten back my full range of motion, and it was uncomfortable (not awful) to have my left arm in that position. I had to lie still for an hour, so they didn't start treatment until the next day. They take the pictures and scans so that they can be sure you are in - all together now - exactly the same position each time. They also gave me a dot tattoo on each side and on my chest, which are further used to line me up each day. I didn't know these were coming and felt a little violated by them, particularly the very visible one on my chest, which looks like someone was throwing Sharpies and happened to hit me.

I do what is called "gaited breathing," which means that I hold my breath during the actual radiation therapy. When my lungs expand, the chest wall moves away from my heart, which allows them to prevent my heart from being exposed to the radiation. There are four angles from which the machine delivers radiation; each time lasts from 12 - 35 seconds, depending on the angle (and the temperature - it was really hot and humid the day I had to hold my breath for 35 seconds). If I can't hold my breath, the machine will stop because I will move out of target range. It's pretty cool.

I lie on my back on the table, in my custom mold, with a cushion under my knees. The machine fascinates me - it revolves around me to get the different angles. The whole thing takes about 10-20 minutes as long as I am in the correct position and they don't need additional pictures. They do take x-rays, I think once a week, to ensure that I am in - guess what? - exactly the same position. Last week, I was off by 4 millimeters because my lungs had gotten stronger from all the breath holding and so they needed to adjust my position. That took about an hour. While it was more comfortable than the initial session of picture-taking, I did get a crick in my neck from being still for so long (they gave me a stretching break about halfway through).

Every other day, they use what I think is called a "bolus" - this is a packet of something that they lay across my chest that draws the radiation to the scar.

There is a little curtain that you can pull for privacy, and a gown you can put on and a towel you can cover yourself with (you have to remove clothing from the area that is being treated). I don't bother with any of these things. I think that this threw the therapists, at first, but what's the point? It seems like false modesty, though I appreciate that this is available for those patients who need/want it.

End of Part I.

Friday, May 08, 2009

"Mother" is not code for "wife".

On my drive home today, I was alternating between listening to Madonna's "Hung Up" for the umpteenth time (literally, because I keep playing that track over and over whenever I drive anywhere these days) and listening to the radio. Just as I was getting close to my exit, the radio djs read a letter from a self-proclaimed "mistress" who wanted to know if mistresses had any rights on Mother's Day. This woman had been seeing a married man for over a year and had had a baby by him, and she felt that she deserved some respect on Mother's Day and some of his time.

The response that I heard - I didn't listen for long, because I was close to home - was fairly predictable: men and women were FURIOUS at this woman and went on at some length to vent their spleen at her lack of self-respect (for getting involved with a married man) and so forth. The djs, of course, were supporting all of this.

I didn't have the stomach or the time to listen further, but I did briefly consider calling or writing in. If I had done, here's what I would have said:

Interestingly, none of your listeners seem to have heard the part where this woman mentioned that she is a *mother*. The holiday is Mother's Day - not Wives' Day. The fact that someone is a wife is not what entitles them to be celebrated on Mother's Day; the fact that someone is a girlfriend or a mistress has nothing to do with what kind of mother they are. We don't even qualify what kind of mother one has to be in order to get a card or flowers or a little attention. There are no "For a tolerable Mother" cards by Hallmark. All that is necessary for participation is that one has a child.

I'm also fascinated that what pissed off your callers was that this mother wanted to be recognized on Mother's Day and not that the man in question had cheated on his wife and was continuing to do so. For all of their righteous indignation about self-respect and responsibility, none of your callers felt it was important for the child of the mistress to be with his/her mother AND father on a holiday, and no one mentioned the negative impact on the children in both families that such a father might have. No one wondered if that father was paying any kind of child support or clucked their tongues about the model he was setting for his children. No, it was easier to deny the mistress' motherhood; if it was even remembered, it was conveniently minimized so that she could be more easily condemned.

So, really, your listeners, like society at large, don't actually care about mothers, not even on Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

You would think that, by now, I would have come up with a response.

Today, someone asked me if I was going to be ok. Last week, someone asked me what my prognosis was.

I know this is coming out of a place of concern, but what if my prognosis sucked? Do they think I would want to talk about it in the middle of the meeting (both of these instances occurred at meetings)? Or that I would want to share this personal information in the first place?

It has been suggested to me that I could say - with a smile - something like, "I appreciate your concern; you know, I just don't find it helpful to even think about questions like that."

But I wish I could come up with something that would also be funny. I suggested to a friend, who gets asked a lot about how she lost her leg, that next time, she should respond as follows:

Person: (Noticing missing leg) "How'd you lose your leg?"

My Friend: (Blank look...then, looks down; aggravated expression crosses face)
"Crap! I must have left it at the library just now! Gotta go!" (leaves)

I suppose this sort of thing is more easily done with strangers.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

667th post.

Too bad I didn't notice that the last one was the 666th, because then I would have had something to write about.

* All I can think about right now is that the smell of the freshly-cleaned catbox is nauseating. I don't know if I'm reacting to the smell of the Clorox or if Mr. P. did not do a thorough enough cleaning job. And the box is located unfortunately close to my desk.

* I have before me a pile of grading. I am making some headway. However, the fact that I have no room of my own makes grading at home difficult, particularly if anyone wants to use the living room or dining room, watch t.v., or, as so often happens, bang on all surfaces with large, inflatable, squeaky hammers that one has acquired at various fairs. At least certain persons with an affinity for such activities are currently in school.

* I wonder if anyone else enjoys shredding as much as I do? I have a little desktop shredder that is only supposed to go for two minutes at a time, so it's taken me months, but in about five minutes, I will be all caught up on my shredding. I love it. Shredding stuff makes me feel super-organized and about as OCD as it is possible to be. At this point, I am writing my social security number down on random pieces of paper so that I can shred them. Well, not quite. But almost.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Mother's Day Redux.

I got this comment from A Little Gnocchi on my 2007 Mother's Day post:
"Well it is 2009 and your original post was 2007. I found it on page 3 of a Google search "alternative mother's day". The first page of the google search was all different types of flowers...I was looking for other stuff like these Diaper Drives for Mother's Day The focus of both drives being to help out families who are struggling with some of the basics that cost too bloody much: diapers for the young, tampons & pads for women, incontinence pads for the elderly or infirm."

And with that public service announcement, here, again, is Why I Hate Mother's Day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Overheard at a 7-year-old's birthday party.

A 7-year-old guest, anxiously asking the father of the birthday boy: "Is it ok if someone farts in here?"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New and improved hugs.

I have it on good authority that hugging me is better now that there aren't annoying boobs in the way. The hugs are better from this side of the equation, as well. If you've hugged me both before and after, feel free to weigh in on this, ahem, *weighty* issue, but I'm going to assume that the hugs now are an improvement over the old ones.

Before I go to sleep and forget it all...

because Twilight, the movie, is rather forgettable...

* Bella comes across, not as the woman in the book who is overcome by Edward's presence, but as simply, annoyingly, tongue-tied. This very quickly becomes painful to watch.

* None of the vampires, with the exception of Edward (barely) and Alice, look like I'd imagined them. This would be fine except that they mostly looked like those black and white postcards that add tint to blond hair and red lips. Not a good look, especially for Dr. Cullen. (Mr. P says: "Bela Lugosi meets Pleasantville.")

* The tree-climbing scene was stupid.

* The book, overall, doesn't translate well to the screen (because there's so little plot), so actually, I have to give the director and screenwriters credit for getting as far as they did with it.

* The scary vampires weren't scary (although all the vampires do seem to have scary hair). The filmmakers need to watch 30 Days of Night.

* The film did preserve some of the passion of the novel, but only some of it.

* I do not have a feminist analysis yet. I know there is a battle raging around this book, but so far, I've gotten as far as noticing the eroticization of abstinence (which, again, plays out much, much better in print than on screen). I also noticed that Bella's girlfriends pretty much disappear whenever any guy is around, and that's kind of sad - the only person she really connects with in the whole story is Edward. On the one hand - ugh. On the other hand - this makes both of them loners who find someone special in each other.

* The music was all wrong. Whiny, nasally boy "alternative" singers?! Really? A little goth would have gone a long way. It didn't have to be Bauhaus. Even Evanescence would have worked.

* I do like the complete reinvention of vampire legend. Why should Anne Rice have a patent? The book was pretty creative in playing with exiting vampirology, like the idea of what happens when they go out in the sunlight.

* I suppose I should be grateful that Edward doesn't morph into a Buffy vampire, at least.

* Despite all of this, I'm probably hooked for the series.