Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rosie post moved

You can visit her and Max here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


There's this interesting thing about medicine and medical care that a lot of people probably don't know about. If you're an "insider", you get vastly different access than if you're an "outsider". I can't say for sure the care is different because this is hard to measure objectively (i.e. from the non-provider perspective). I know when I was inpatient at the hospital where I worked, I got the private room on the carpeted unit where they put rich people, famous people, and board members with boo-boos. My care was not super but this was because it was a non-teaching service on a weekend and the attendings were bickering about what service I should be on (admitted to GI but turned out to be GYN). Hence I had no diet orders, only about half the meds I needed, and had to wait until someone could be compelled to take charge so I'd get orders on my chart*.

I'm going to describe some of the experiences I and people close to me have had as insider and as outsiders on the other side of that desk. I'll try to stick to the circumstances I have first hand knowledge about. But first, let me define "Insider" and "Outsider". It's pretty simple really. You're an insider if you work at that hospital, if you work in any medical professional capacity in what counts as a particular provider's network (socio-professional, not insurance), or if you are married to, seriously committed to, or a close relative of one of the above. For example, my mom was a nurse in the Boston area for most of my life. This meant that I was given insider status at not only the hospital she worked for, but at hospitals she had worked for and hospitals with staff who knew her.

An outsider is everyone else.

Here are a couple of scenarios that allow for somewhat direct comparison of access and care for insider and outsider patients.

Cat attack 1
In 2000, my huge cat Max decided to get unfriendly with me. He's always been extremely aggressive with other animals, so he was limited to only supervised trips outdoors. We were in my yard on one such day when he started acting strange. I decided play time was over and picked him up to take him in. Big mistake. He attacked me, biting and scratching my arms and hands...mostly the right hand. I had several bites on my thumb and two fingers, one of which bites went straight through the finger. Needless to say, I freaked the hell out. My then husband Bob helped me wash up, noticed how badly chewed up I was, and drove me to the hospital he worked at. I was taken in the back entrance and seen immediately. While there, I was seen by an ER doctor and a hand surgeon who performed minor exploratory surgery on my finger to make sure none of the tendons had been hit in the cat attack. I was given a dose of IV antibiotic, some IV fluid just for the hell of it, and discharged with scripts for oral antibiotics and pain meds. I got great discharge instructions including careful step by step details on how to clean and re-bandage the wounds. I was also given dressing change supplies and several doses of each medication to take home with me.

Cat attack 2
In Spring of 2002, my sister was bitten by a neighbor's cat who was fighting with her kitty on her porch. She had no idea if this cat had it's shots and the cat snunk its teeth in deep on her right hand low, near the wrist. She drove herself to the ER, was triaged slowly, seen late, and asked by the nurse "so we have a cat scratch?"

No one even cleaned my sister's the wound. She was given no IV antibiotic in the ER, and her discharge instructions consisted of "come back if it gets worse" even though they knew she lived alone and would have to drive herself back with an infected arm if it "got worse". She called me and I had driven up to see her during the day. When the hand looked like a fucking Jimmy Dean sausage that evening, we went back to the ER. As luck would have it, a nurse who knew us was on triage. She had been friends with our mother. I had worked with her occasionally when I was floated down to the ER at the hospital my sister, brother, mother, and I all worked at years before. Her name was Mary. Mary saw that it was me and my sister and took my sister in back. She then switched off triage so she could be my sister's nurse. My sister was given IV antibiotics, several bags of IV fluid (warmed before being connected so she wouldn't get the cold IV arm), and was promptly admitted when her blood cultures came back positive.

Doctor's office:
When I was married to the doctor, our primary care used to waive our office co-pay as a "professional courtesy". As soon as my primary care found out I was separated, I had to start paying my co-pay again even though my yearly income had gone from a shared $100,000 plus to a single $15,000.

My hip went out of joint again last night. That's what I'm assuming is going on with it because that is what it feels like. And oh good lord does it hurt. I can't walk or even sit very well (I'm taking breaks every 30 minutes to lie down) but it is better than it was last night which was extremely painful even lying down. Last time this happened (in late April), I saw my primary care a day later. She had an x-ray done which was unremarkable except for the fact that the tech was stunned by how far my leg would bend (it's all that whoring, is what I wanted to tell her but decided my brand of humor is probably kept to myself). It took over a week for my primary's office to call me with the results and to tell me if this happens again, my doctor wants me to see someone from ortho.

I called my primary back today and explained that hey, it happened again and ow. Her nurse called me back and asked me to make an appointment with one of two local ortho guys. She asked if my preference was local or somewhat less local. I said "My preference is whichever is better". She said she didn't know. The more local was the one it would be better for me to see, she said. I looked him up. He's older, very new to the local practice, just transferred from Rhode Island, is a third generation surgeon (yuck), and had recently lost a medical malpractice lawsuit against him.

While I was waiting all day for my primary's office to call back, I e-mailed a faculty member who does research with sports medicine people here at my university. She got back to me shortly after I (reluctantly) made the appointment with the malpractice guy. She forwarded me a reply she received on her inquiry from her research colleague, a professor who is also a physical therapist.
He wrote:
She should get into see Dr. ______, the smartest ortho I know. He is in _______, and should be listed... Also, my parents have his number....Please tell [PFG] to feel free to call me at home in the evening if she has any questions, either before this Friday or after the 4th, as I will be away

Now that's a recommendation.

So now I have two appointments. One with the local guy for next week and one with the professor recommendation guy for August 2. Acceswise, so far the local guy is quicker, but this is quite likely because he has no or few patients of his own at the moment. He's only been in that practice for about a month. You can bet your ass I'm calling the prof tonight to thank him for the recommendation and to let him know I have an appointment for a month from now. Let's test my insider hypothesis and see if talking to him doesn't get me a quicker appointment.

* = In my experience on the other side of the desk, in this scenario, the unit secretary can be your BEST friend. If you're family or friend of a patient who's been waiting hours for orders, go talk to the clerk. E.g. "Hi. I'm so sorry to bother you. My dad's in room 612 and I wanted to see if his doctor called back yet. No? That's too bad. Ok, well, I'll try to run down to the cafeteria to get myself a snack before he calls back. Does he usually take a while, because I was going to eat downstairs so my dad doesn't see the food, he's starving and I don't want to eat in front of him. Oh, can I get you anything while I'm down there?" You can even ask him or her very politely if s/he could please see about expediting at least diet and med orders. Unit secretaries/clerks have ways to make the doctors call back, and nurses at least used to be able to take phone orders for one or two things before the doctor makes his or her way in off the golf course to write a full set of orders.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Monday, June 26, 2006


Stands for:

See, my mother did teach me something useful other than not to trust a drunk.

I have accomplished three out of four at various points in the evening so possibly the massive swelling bruise on my leg will not blossom into something hideous and dark and bound to draw attention against my pasty white shin.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


I had been writing a post when poof, I lost power. It's back on again, but who knows for how long. If I were a lesser person, this would be really trying my patience.

Hey, wait, it is trying my patience. I guess I'm lesser.

Poor A___. He came over before we were planning to head up to campus only to find me nowhere near ready to go, stomping from room to room inspecting the leaks, and pondering whether or not I should move my bed. My mood was not swell, and possibly the resulting argument was unavoidable. I want to believe there is a good way to deal with me when I get like this, but I often suspect there isn't.

Moving anything, even contemplating moving or doing anything that involves physical strain, puts me in a foul mood. I'm not a large person and was never terribly strong. Now that I have whatever it is I have, it's just that much harder. So I'm here pondering moving shit, which would involve asking him to move it for me mostly, and thinking that I don't want to be so dependent, and thinking that if I weren't so freaked out about dependency and independence we probably could have moved in together when A___'s lease was up, which would allow us to afford to live somewhere that doesn't feature gaping moldy holes in the ceiling.

But I am very reluctant to move in with him. The reluctance alone is enough to make me think I shouldn't. I worry I'll sabotage the relationship out of fear and insecurity. Since that is the case and since there are so few decent and affordable single apartments around here, I remain in this one. But this is a catch 22, right? Because by remaining in this one, I continue to be dependent when one of the problems with this apartment manifests in a physical way.

While A___ was out (he went out shortly after we had a fight), I decided I could manage to move my bed by myself. I did. It's moved, however, after I moved it I realized three things.
One - The only placement where the bed fits and where it will be clear of the leaks requires that several other pieces of much heavier furniture be moved.
Two - I have hurt myself moving the bed (ow).
Three - There is yet another dark spot forming on the living room ceiling directly over where I have stacked my DVD player, VCR, and stereo. If that becomes an active leak, all of that will need to be moved as well.

Sometimes when I was younger, I would rearrange my furniture for a change of pace. It was a little tiring and sometimes sweaty work which I saved for when I was in some kind of manic cleaning/housekeeping burst. It was ultimately very satisfying to do this when I lived in larger quarters and had more energy at my disposal. This though, this is not fun and it is not satisfying. It is soggy, annoying, frustrating, and very tiring.

I have bad luck with water. That's what it comes down to. I used to joke that it is because I have a lack of water in my birth chart so water is like my kryptonite. In every single place I have lived, I've had some kind of destructive water related event.

Ann Arbor - at the end of my first month in my new apartment, my (then) fiance Bob and I woke one morning to the sound of water in our bedroom. It was pouring down the wall behind the bureau, soaking everything on and in it. Turns out the neighbors upstairs were leaving on a trip to Europe and had decided to wash everything at once in the small washing machine. This threw it off balance and resulted in the machine pulling out of the wall, with water gushing uncontrollably out of the pipe.

Ann Arbor - my last year there we moved to a house. I was in my basement office (it was very pink) working when I realized that I could hear water hitting cement in the unfinished part of the basement. I ran upstairs to find that although I had closed the window to Bob's office on account of a nasty rain storm, the water had filled up inside the window frame like dam. The dam had finally broken and a small spill off pond had formed under the window. In this pond, the power strip for my husband's computer floated, still plugged in and on. Before I could get back to the basement to turn off the power, something shorted and we lost Bob's brand new printer/scanner/fax machine.

Connecticut - within the first week of buying our house, we discovered the roof hadn't been finished properly and a retaining wall in the basement were cracked. We discovered this because during the first rain storm, water came in through both. The roof water ruined a sizable chunk of the ceiling and wall in my office that I had just finished painting.

Connecticut - One of my friends flushed the toilet in the guest bathroom and it got stuck. it ran all day, draining the well. It took several days to recover, during which time my siblings were down for a holiday. My brother refused to crap in the house since we were conserving flushes to one a day. He was so concerned that someone might see his waste that he decided he would shit in the woods. This did result in one of the most amusing moments of tormenting him I have ever had, but it did suck a whole lot too.

Connecticut - Very shortly after moving into my new apartment in 2000 (middle of separation and end of the semester), I got sick. I went to my doctor on a Friday afternoon, and he sent me straight to the hospital for an ultrasound. When I returned to my little apartment much later that night, I found a note from my insane landlady saying that the hot water heater had exploded in the basement and that I would not have r cornered me in the hallway with a barrage of questions about what I was doing earlier thatunning water for a day. She later evening since she swore she could hear water running in my apartment. She all but said I had somehow broken the heater. This woman eventually threw me out because of this and other imagined offenses (i.e. that I was running up and down the stairs pounding on the other tenants doors).

Connecticut - Various problems with the well in another apartment. It ran out, cracked, was contaminated, and the pump blew, all on different occasions. We also had a tenant whose dishwasher broke loose much like the washing machine at the first place in Ann Arbor. The tenant wasn't home and hot steaming water was flooding the basement and coming into the kitchen of her next door neighbor, Karen. Karen pounded on my door (why me?) and we spent the next few minutes in the basement while my landlord begged me by cell phone to just turn all of the faucets I could find until it stopped.

Connecticut - This place has just been chock full of water problems. Really it's the same problem. This place is like a sieve and my landlord and apartment manger are cheap bastards who have tried to get away with cheap quick fixes for too long.

So what's the upshot? The upshot is I have to find some way to make this tolerable so I'm not cranky with people like the nice sexy man I essentially just chased out of my apartment today for the crime of what, being too quiet? Jeez.

I am thinking of offering a barbie doll in ritual sacrifice to Tlaloc, the scary Aztec rain god (that's him up there on the left).

Sure, she's plastic and the Aztec gods are more the flesh and blood types, but she's a symbol of so much that is revered in our society. I think that it is fitting, plus, apparently Tlaloc likes the smell of burning rubber.

Rainfall data for my area (for yesterday):

Last Year
Precipitation 0.70 " 0.12 " 1.50 " ( 1944 ) 0.00 "
Month-to-date precip. 7.02 " 3.13 "-- 1.36 "
Year-to-date precip. 27.41 " 22.06 "-- 20.16 "

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Stormy (and scary) weather

At first, it was just sort of strange and sometimes annoying. Something you thought maybe would go away. Something to say "wow that was a rainy October." Or "the weather that year sure was strange."

Now, with us greeting the third atypical season of the year with the second day of the most recent "spontaneous" thunderstorm (complete with fierce lightning and 2 to 3 inch per hour downpours), now as I reflect on the creepy local weather (which feels like an echo of unfortunate national and global instances of fucked up weather related shit), it undeniably feels like something is very wrong.

It feels like we broke the weather.

Kinda makes you want to go out and tag an SUV, doesn't it? Better watch out though. SUV vandalism is not only a federal offense these days, it is a crime on the same scale as the 9/11/01 attacks. Just the thought of SUV vandalism is enough to raise at least as much community outrage as child rape. How fucked up is that?

Yep, if I were to go out and spray paint "Avarice" onto the hood of a Ford Expander or whatever the fuck they're called, I would deserve to die horribly according to some. I can't imagine what the motivation for buying and driving an SUV is, especially now that gas costs so much. For those of you who have never driven something like this, here's a fuel economy table, modified, from Wikipedia*.


Combined fuel economy


19.19 mpg 12.25 l/100 km


20.36 mpg 11.55 l/100 km

Family sedans

26.94 mpg 8.73 l/100 km

Honda Insight

63 mpg 3.73 l/100 km
*Wikipedia gives as the source for this info.

I haven't read this yet but I am planning to. It's a regional climate report called the New England Regional Assessment Report (description from website below).
The New England Regional Assessment (NERA) is one of 16 regional assessments, conducted for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), as part of the National Assessment of climate change impacts on the United States. The National Assessment is directed by response to the Congressional Act of 1990, at the request of the President's Science Advisor.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Yesterday we helped my sister move. Moving is never simple for us. I suppose there are people out there who do it well. My family didn't move much (at all in my memory) so we don't have much practice.

Yesterday was blessedly smooth for an endeavor of this scope. It wasn't a long move. It wasn't a lot of stuff. But it was with somewhat short notice (one week) and involved driving through Boston at rush hour with a super packed U-Haul van and my sister's car, which already broke down once this week. We got to the apartment around 7:00, just in time to unpack and then eat chinese food while watching the sun set over Chelsea.

My sister's landlord was there to greet us. He was a somewhat eager man who passed the time while my sister read her lease by asking where our family was from. "My grandfather was from the north end" I replied. "What street?" he asked. Turns out his family is from one street away from my family. "Someone's gotta know someone!" he said exhuberantly. Yes, I suppose they probably do. On his way out, he asked if I'd gotten the pronunciation down yet. "It's prnownst 'Reh-Vee-Yeh', y'know" he said, then shook my hand, crushing it. Yet another man who believes in the value of the extremely firm hand shake.

Note to men. While I do appreciate men who shake my hand without acting like they are indulging a child in a grown up pantomime, breaking a bone or leaving a bruise is not going to make me think well of you. Here's how I believe my hand should be shaken.
(a) extend and position your hand for a real handshake and not some fucked up pseudo-chivalrous finger clutching thing
(b) grasp my hand fully (and not my fingers or it will be more likely to hurt me when you grip)
(c) while actually shaking hands, do not hold my hand like it is a fragile bird or grip it like a set of pliers
(d) look me in the eye and say whatever it is that needs saying "Hello Petite Flower Goddess. It's so good to finally meet you," "I'm Tony da landlowed, nice to meet yous," or whatever
(e) smile sincerely or at least look like this doesn't make you uncomfortable, horny, or put upon

I guess it could be worse. Humans could sniff one another's butts like some other mammals.

Sore hands notwithstanding, my sister is now officially moved into her new apartment just north of Boston. The north shore. This is a big deal since we were south shore raised. I hope she can make the transition ok. Blue line instead of red, "reh-vee-yeh" instead of "r'veyya".

I think the most amusing part of the day was when my sister was on my phone trying to direct our brother onto her street from the main connector between Revere and Boston.The conversation went something like this.
Sister: Ok...let's see. Do you see the church with the big blue Mary out front?
Brother: Huh? What church? Good lord. What did you move into? Where the fuck am I? Oh...there's the T. I'm turning near the bridge.
Sister: The T? You're at the station? What side? Is there a dunkin donuts nearby?
Brother: I just passed one. Do I want to turn left or right? Oh my god...what the hell is that?
Sister: What's what?
Brother: Look at that girl's hair! I just turned...
Sister: Is there an Italian eatery on your left and an Italian bakery on the right?
Brother: There's something that sells sandwiches, canoli, italian ice...wait, they both do. And there's another. Italian ice and canoli, coffee....
Sister: (pause) Is the sun on your left or right?
Me (to my sister): Give me the phone. (into the phone) Do you see a dunkin donuts?

One interesting thing of note for me. The cumulative effect of the trip to Providence and this recent excursion into the depths of the north shore has reactivated my accent. According to my friend Maria, my accent came back as soon as I moved back to New England. She's partly right. I think I picked up my native prosody again when I moved here, but the pronunciation of specific sounds in words was still pretty flat. Last night I caught myself not only dropping "r"s but also inserting glides where they had been and inserting "r"s where none should ever have existed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

rent rent

I think - no wait, I know I've mentioned before that I watch a lot of movies. I probably have offered rationalization and explanation before as well but rather than dig through my blog for a past post to link to, I'll just do it again.

I'm in grad school so most of my social contacts are in grad school. Those of us who are not independently (mommie and daddy) wealthy are tight for money and time. We also tend to have similarly restricted lifestyles. Hence, social plans are rarely made and often fall through due to lack of time, energy, or general involvement. But you gotta unwind. I will not pay for 100 channels of shit just to get a couple of good but still far too commercial laden shows on cable. Going out to the movies eats up about half my week's budget, so it is a rare and usually guilty indulgence when I do go.

But I do crave low energy entertainment fairly often. You put that all together and you can see why I am in the top 5 renters at the excellent local independent video store near campus.

Lately it seems the incidence of shit movies is getting too high. There's a new genre of "holy shit I had kids and it didn't make me feel grown up or fix the world/my life/marriage/family and now I'm freaking the fuck out" movies developing. This is a big item it seems (see my list of really shitty movies below). My fella and I have taken to renting one good and one shit movie. It's intentional and often worth the 99 cents for the second movie. Not just any old thing but something that looks like serious shit. If it wasn't super bad, it wouldn't be entertaining. It would just be bad.

But tonight I stumbled across a new release that was suprisingly fun. It's called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Because it's got a film noir/crime setting, there's violence, nudity, and tons of swears. The violence isn't bad, one finger scene I could have done without. Swears and nudity don't bug me but hey, if I had little kids I might want to know that sort of thing.

Here are a few super shitty movies that have come out somewhat recently:
The Dark Kind of horror but too stupid to be scary. Evil sheep and other spooky welsh stuff torment this terrible mother (she has a tatoo). Kid is lost in the first 20 minutes I think.
Half Light Tries to be creepy but ends up being laugh out loud bad. Think Lifetime presents Nancy Drew meets romance novel.
Godsend It's a pun, get it? Evil clone it God send or God's End?
The Forgotten Aliens took Julianne Moore's child!
Freedomland Julianne Moore's child committed suicide!
Cold Creek Manor Ok, not so recent but this was, for me, the start of it. The leads (Cooper and Leah Tilson) are played by Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone. The Tilsons are good (rich) people who became bad parents when they lost touch with natural, normal gender roles apparently due to living in the city (darn that women's lib). After one of their children is nearly killed due to parental neglect and/or mother's looming infidelity (and/or career move), they wake up and realize, well, not much but what is certain is that they must abandon their evil ways. So they move to Connecticut and try to reinvent themselves as some kind of rural community family Robinson. However, there is a price to pay for their arrogant deviance. There is a battle that must be fought and the prize is a year's supply of denim button up shirts for Coop and several adorable halter tops for Leah. The post move plot consists of a series of events and characters which result in gender based symbolic trials. Yes, there is a splitting of Cooper's psyche into an id and equally evil super ego, both of which he must destroy to become an integrated but manly man in the end. And there is a re-birthing scene (sort of) where the work is shared between the parents (awww). There is an unfortunate incident with a pony and a pool, but hey, you really really know it's coming. Because how else was Cooper going to get his mojo back?

Eeek! There's a phalllic symbol in the pool!
Note: Beefcake not provided by Dennis Quaid.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Karma police

The karma police have been busy in my department.

Remember my division head? You know, the one who recently sent out the "informal" evaluations to all the grad students, the one who decided immediately upon taking the role of division head that all the PhD requirements - including writing and defending the dissertation - could be completed in 5 years (and applied this retroactively to people who had entered the program under an entirely different set of requirements, faculty, and structure), the one who intervened to protect his new student from university action for calling a fellow first year a "fucking bitch" and saying she used her "feminine behavior" to get out of working or thinking for herself (the division head's student said this because the other first year was in his shared lab talking with one of his lab mates and he was in a bad mood), the one whose wife (my lab "manager") was granted numerous allowances and exceptions in her long, unremarkable trip through the program including but not limited to continuing to be funded well past the five year mark and being given a job which she has demonstrated she either cannot do or does not take seriously enough to do.

I just found out he has Lyme disease.

Normally, I feel very bad for people who get it. Even if it is not complicated either by antibiotic resistance or co-infection, it sucks a lot. My division head has one of the co-infections, so that means he's liable to have a rougher time of it than is considered normal. I feel it is probably wrong of me to derive a deeply pleasing satisfaction from knowing he is sick with the same thing I caught, but right now I am having a hard time reconciling that with how I feel.

This man has been evaluating me as seriously behind in my degree progress for two years in a row now. He's had no regard for the medical problems I've had since I got Lyme - the Lyme itself or the sequelae. Before he became division head, a couple of faculty members gave me shit in social contexts about when I would get better, what was wrong with me that I was still sick, etc. The criticisms were not formal or official mind you, and none of them were directly in charge of evaluating me back then. Still, I offered the then division head documentation about the medical shit. She said it was unnecessary, that they knew what had happened and would work with me to make sure I had the accomodations I needed. Problem is, I let them talk me into taking my prelims early (after two years) and now I'm still trying to catch up on work and research requirements that slid when I was super duper sick.

I guess my current division head sees all of that as not his problem because the start of it was before his time. That would be fine if he would not forget it slowed me down A WHOLE LOT right when I needed to be kicking ass in this program, or if he would remember I am only starting my fifth year in the program and so even by his standards, I've got a year before I move into the realm of lingering. The evaluations without consideration of what happened to me really grind down my spirit. It makes me wish I'd just left grad school back in 2001 rather than transfer into this department in 2002.

If you want to call all of this a chip on my shoulder, go ahead. I'd call it a perfectly justified mountain.

My sister put it well. Clearly he didn't understand how much this disease can affect your life, and it seems he is not going to come to that understanding through any normal social means. Therefore, it makes sense to feel some vindication/justification/satisfaction at the thought of his illness because maybe a personal experience with it will enlighten him a little.

But that's not all. He's not the only one. It turns out another of our faculty also has Lyme. It's Tim, who I'm not sure if I've mentioned before. He's our most junior faculty member. Been here for only a few years and so far every grad who has worked for or with him has switched to someone else in a semester or less. He has money and lots of neato tech stuff and he has only one grad student research assistant. This is extremely rare, as usually grads are so desperate for money or research experience that they will work with a wide variety of assholes. This speaks volumes about the man. An oversimplification would be to say that he treats grads who work for or with him like packmules and he has no clue at all about how to mentor and manage the people who work in his lab. He and his wife were part of a "hire one get one free" pair and he was the freebie. Aside from all the reasons I have to severely disrespect him as a colleague, he also sabotaged my dissertation data collection this past semester, which has earned him my animosity.

So when my former division head mentioned that both of these men have Lyme disease, I had a very, very hard time keeping myself from dancing a little jig in her office.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

World View

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















What is Your World View? (updated)
created with


A little Kant - Introduction and part of chapter one from The Critique of Practical Reason. This is a good starting point for an intelligent consideration of the reason of murder, morality, and by extension, law. Read more, including some neat discussion on the nature of good and evil, here.
Interestingly, I didn't see much about causing pain to another as a motivation for action or an object of desire. We could extend the notion of "pleasure" to the notion of satisfaction (realized or believed) gained at harming another. Of course, that is just seriously fucked up, but I suggest, purely and only for the sake of argument, entertaining the notion that any form of reason or morality would allow for murderous impulses as anything other than blatantly wrong. Without that allowance, there is either no argument at all or an entirely different kind of argument.

by Immanuel Kant
translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott

Of the Idea of a Critique of Practical Reason.

The theoretical use of reason was concerned with objects of the
cognitive faculty only, and a critical examination of it with
reference to this use applied properly only to the pure faculty of
cognition; because this raised the suspicion, which was afterwards
confirmed, that it might easily pass beyond its limits, and be lost
among unattainable objects, or even contradictory notions. It is quite
different with the practical use of reason. In this, reason is
concerned with the grounds of determination of the will, which is a
faculty either to produce objects corresponding to ideas, or to
determine ourselves to the effecting of such objects (whether the
physical power is sufficient or not); that is, to determine our
causality. For here, reason can at least attain so far as to determine
the will, and has always objective reality in so far as it is the
volition only that is in question. The first question here then is
whether pure reason of itself alone suffices to determine the will, or
whether it can be a ground of determination only as dependent on
empirical conditions. Now, here there comes in a notion of causality
justified by the critique of the pure reason, although not capable
of being presented empirically, viz., that of freedom; and if we can
now discover means of proving that this property does in fact belong
to the human will (and so to the will of all rational beings), then it
will not only be shown that pure reason can be practical, but that
it alone, and not reason empirically limited, is indubitably
practical; consequently, we shall have to make a critical examination,
not of pure practical reason, but only of practical reason
generally. For when once pure reason is shown to exist, it needs no
critical examination. For reason itself contains the standard for
the critical examination of every use of it. The critique, then, of
practical reason generally is bound to prevent the empirically
conditioned reason from claiming exclusively to furnish the ground
of determination of the will. If it is proved that there is a
[practical] reason, its employment is alone immanent; the
empirically conditioned use, which claims supremacy, is on the
contrary transcendent and expresses itself in demands and precepts
which go quite beyond its sphere. This is just the opposite of what
might be said of pure reason in its speculative employment.
However, as it is still pure reason, the knowledge of which is
here the foundation of its practical employment, the general outline
of the classification of a critique of practical reason must be
arranged in accordance with that of the speculative. We must, then,
have the Elements and the Methodology of it; and in the former an
Analytic as the rule of truth, and a Dialectic as the exposition and
dissolution of the illusion in the judgements of practical reason. But
the order in the subdivision of the Analytic will be the reverse of
that in the critique of the pure speculative reason. For, in the
present case, we shall commence with the principles and proceed to the
concepts, and only then, if possible, to the senses; whereas in the
case of the speculative reason we began with the senses and had to end
with the principles. The reason of this lies again in this: that now
we have to do with a will, and have to consider reason, not in its
relation to objects, but to this will and its causality. We must,
then, begin with the principles of a causality not empirically
conditioned, after which the attempt can be made to establish our
notions of the determining grounds of such a will, of their
application to objects, and finally to the subject and its sense
faculty. We necessarily begin with the law of causality from
freedom, that is, with a pure practical principle, and this determines
the objects to which alone it can be applied.

BOOK I. The Analytic of Pure Practical Reason.
CHAPTER I. Of the Principles of Pure Practical Reason.

Practical principles are propositions which contain a general
determination of the will, having under it several practical rules.
They are subjective, or maxims, when the condition is regarded by
the subject as valid only for his own will, but are objective, or
practical laws, when the condition is recognized as objective, that
is, valid for the will of every rational being.

Supposing that pure reason contains in itself a practical motive,
that is, one adequate to determine the will, then there are
practical laws; otherwise all practical principles will be mere
maxims. In case the will of a rational being is pathologically
affected, there may occur a conflict of the maxims with the
practical laws recognized by itself. For example, one may make it
his maxim to let no injury pass unrevenged, and yet he may see that
this is not a practical law, but only his own maxim; that, on the
contrary, regarded as being in one and the same maxim a rule for the
will of every rational being, it must contradict itself. In natural
philosophy the principles of what happens, e.g., the principle of
equality of action and reaction in the communication of motion) are at
the same time laws of nature; for the use of reason there is
theoretical and determined by the nature of the object. In practical
philosophy, i.e., that which has to do only with the grounds of
determination of the will, the principles which a man makes for
himself are not laws by which one is inevitably bound; because
reason in practical matters has to do with the subject, namely, with
the faculty of desire, the special character of which may occasion
variety in the rule. The practical rule is always a product of reason,
because it prescribes action as a means to the effect. But in the case
of a being with whom reason does not of itself determine the will,
this rule is an imperative, i.e., a rule characterized by "shall,"
which expresses the objective necessitation of the action and
signifies that, if reason completely determined the will, the action
would inevitably take place according to this rule. Imperatives,
therefore, are objectively valid, and are quite distinct from
maxims, which are subjective principles. The former either determine
the conditions of the causality of the rational being as an
efficient cause, i.e., merely in reference to the effect and the means
of attaining it; or they determine the will only, whether it is
adequate to the effect or not. The former would be hypothetical
imperatives, and contain mere precepts of skill; the latter, on the
contrary, would be categorical, and would alone be practical laws.
Thus maxims are principles, but not imperatives. Imperatives
themselves, however, when they are conditional (i.e., do not determine
the will simply as will, but only in respect to a desired effect, that
is, when they are hypothetical imperatives), are practical precepts
but not laws. Laws must be sufficient to determine the will as will,
even before I ask whether I have power sufficient for a desired
effect, or the means necessary to produce it; hence they are
categorical: otherwise they are not laws at all, because the necessity
is wanting, which, if it is to be practical, must be independent of
conditions which are pathological and are therefore only
contingently connected with the will. Tell a man, for example, that he
must be industrious and thrifty in youth, in order that he may not
want in old age; this is a correct and important practical precept
of the will. But it is easy to see that in this case the will is
directed to something else which it is presupposed that it desires;
and as to this desire, we must leave it to the actor himself whether
he looks forward to other resources than those of his own acquisition,
or does not expect to be old, or thinks that in case of future
necessity he will be able to make shift with little. Reason, from
which alone can spring a rule involving necessity, does, indeed,
give necessity to this precept (else it would not be an imperative),
but this is a necessity dependent on subjective conditions, and cannot
be supposed in the same degree in all subjects. But that reason may
give laws it is necessary that it should only need to presuppose
itself, because rules are objectively and universally valid only
when they hold without any contingent subjective conditions, which
distinguish one rational being from another. Now tell a man that he
should never make a deceitful promise, this is a rule which only
concerns his will, whether the purposes he may have can be attained
thereby or not; it is the volition only which is to be determined a
priori by that rule. If now it is found that this rule is
practically right, then it is a law, because it is a categorical
imperative. Thus, practical laws refer to the will only, without
considering what is attained by its causality, and we may disregard
this latter (as belonging to the world of sense) in order to have them
quite pure.

All practical principles which presuppose an object (matter) of
the faculty of desire as the ground of determination of the will are
empirical and can furnish no practical laws.
By the matter of the faculty of desire I mean an object the
realization of which is desired. Now, if the desire for this object
precedes the practical rule and is the condition of our making it a
principle, then I say (in the first place) this principle is in that
case wholly empirical, for then what determines the choice is the idea
of an object and that relation of this idea to the subject by which
its faculty of desire is determined to its realization. Such a
relation to the subject is called the pleasure in the realization of
an object. This, then, must be presupposed as a condition of the
possibility of determination of the will. But it is impossible to know
a priori of any idea of an object whether it will be connected with
pleasure or pain, or be indifferent. In such cases, therefore, the
determining principle of the choice must be empirical and,
therefore, also the practical material principle which presupposes
it as a condition.
In the second place, since susceptibility to a pleasure or pain
can be known only empirically and cannot hold in the same degree for
all rational beings, a principle which is based on this subjective
condition may serve indeed as a maxim for the subject which
possesses this susceptibility, but not as a law even to him (because
it is wanting in objective necessity, which must be recognized a
priori); it follows, therefore, that such a principle can never
furnish a practical law.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Yesterday, a Reno Nevada family court judge was shot by a sniper through an open window in the courthouse. The judge was involved in a divorce case between a Mr. Darren Mack and his estranged wife, Charla Mack. Hours after this shooting, according to the AP story, Charla Mack was found dead in her garage. Darren Mack has been charged with Charla Mack's killing and is officially a "person of interest" in the sniper shooting of the family court judge.

What makes me want to get in my car and drive out to Reno just to slap someone is the quote at the end of this passage:
Darin Conforti, court administrator of Reno Justice Court, said that shooting was shocking but that the risk of an attack was not. "We're well aware this is the inherent risk of trying to solve conflicts," he said. "Sometimes you don't solve them peacefully and people take the law into their own hands."

Excuse me? This was a divorce case. We're not talking about a father who shot a child molester here. There's nothing apparently vigilantistic (?) about this situation, which makes this quote really friggin creepy. Did Mr. Conforti's mouth just get stuck on open?


Cat reality TV
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ten cats in search of owners will spend the next 10 days in a New York store window, their every move caught on camera for a reality TV show on which they will compete for best sleeper and mouse-catcher.

Of course this scenario is very very far from "reality" for cats. Feline reality does not involve living in "a luxuriously outfitted cat-sized house that includes scaled-down sofas, beds, a fish tank (with fake fish), kitchen and a porch". I do think it's an interesting and creative way of promoting adoption of pets, and I guess that's why there are several shelters and organizations on board with it. Although it is rather commercial (Meow Mix is the major sponsor so it's Meow Mix stuff everywhere), who can resist a cat on a cat sized leopard print sofa? Not me.

One thing that I find amusing and a little annoying/disturbing is how few cats are visible on the "house" webcams. Occasionally a cat ventures on screen, and then a person, usually in a yellow shirt, comes in and poof, no more cat.
Come on! I want to see a cat on a cat sized sofa dammit!

Here's a guy who I keep seeing on the webcams. He's in and out a lot. Looking for cats I guess. He should ask the woman in the yellow shirt. She knows where they are.

See, she found one and she's about to pounce.

Oh hey, look! Finally, a cat on a cat sized couch. And not a yellow shirt in sight.
images are screen captures from June 13, 2006


I don't normally go out of my way to eat donuts. I've got nothing against them. I think it might be that donuts are the kinds of things you eat one of and then wonder why the hell you ate it. Yeah, it tasted yummy, but not that yummy and now you have that strangely waxy donut residue in your mouth. And if you ate more than one, you might also have a stomach ache.

However, I do like chocolate coconut donuts. And I just happen to have one right now. high 82 (last night it was 80) high 81 (last night, 83) high 80 (last night, 82)

I'm going with 85.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Weather (or not)

Yes, the subject is a Little House on the Prairie reference. But that is beside the point. The point is has anyone else noticed that the weather forecasts seem to be more consistently inaccurate these days? There were always the days or weeks when the forecast and reality diverged. But over the last, oh I think about 2 years or so, that level of inaccuracy feels like it's becoming standard.

Take yesterday for example. predicted a high of 68. It was at least 72.
This is not an insignificant difference for me. I know, it sounds nitpicky. And I also realize that non-recorded recollection and reflection do not make a sound basis for even the casual conclusion such as the one I seem to be making. Therefore I decided I'd start comparing forecast with outcome.

Last night, predicted a high of 72 for today.
Now says "High 78. A stray thunderstorm is possible late. A few showers in the evening" says "High 76, slight chance of showers after 3 PM"
and says 75, partly cloudy, with about a 20% chance of precipitation.

We'll see where this goes. Personally, I'm going for a high of 81. My hip hurt like hell when I woke up.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Assumptions, part two

Quick quiz
Who in this picture:
has osteoarthritis?
has acquired immuno deficiency syndrome?
has an autoimmune disorder?

I have some health problems which may be part of just one big health problem. Seems I might be following in my grandmother's footsteps. She has mixed connective tissue disease. Me and my doctor mostly treat it as it goes because nothing much or significant is gained right now by my rushing towards having "Lupus" "Scleroderma" "Rheumatoid Arthritis" or any other big disease name on my medical chart. For starters, I don't have any life insurance yet and I sure would someday like to get some for less than a bizillion dollars.

Yep, I'm tired most of the time and exhausted some days. I finally started digesting my food again and hallelujah for that but every time I eat, I have to take a pill that keeps the food in my gut long enough for me to actually derive nutrtients from it. And I have arthritis.

This means my fingers, knees, ankles, and feet hurt like hell sometimes. My feet and hands swell up, usually at night or when bad weather is coming. When I wake up, I am ungodly stiff. It usually subsides within a few hours.

While getting routine exercise is good for me, straining my joints when they hurt is not good. It makes the swelling and the pain worse and can cause damage to the joint or leave me less than normally active for days. Thus, when my ankle or knee hurts, I've learned to limit even stuff like walking and climbing stairs so I won't end up with a prolonged period of less activity, productivity, or just plain old pain. Because I'm already behind at school and oh yeah, pain and fatigue suck bunches.

The drive to Providence from my apartment was not too long. It took about an hour and a half. But that was an hour and a half of not moving my legs around much which resulted in stiffness then pain (also there was bad weather moving in but I didn't know this at the time). This put me in a not great mood because part of my enthusiasm about going to Providence was the prospect of walking around a city, checking out the little neighborhoods and different areas, finding used record stores, stuff like that. All of this involves walking of course. I expected I'd be sore at the end of the trip (heheh, no from the walking, really) but I didn't expect to start off with a big fat OW! I was disappointed but tried not to let it get me down. I resigned myself to taking it easy, eating near the hotel, and not wasting my gait on unnecessary, taxing motion that night.

After checking in, A___ and I made our way to the crowd at the elevator. A___ and I were heading for room 213, just one floor up. Most members of the crowd were attending the conference. I could tell by the name tags and the unfashionably shabby professional clothing. Comments about the one elevator ("It's still on the seventh floor?!") and the other elevator ("It must be broken") were uttered by several of the conference attendees waiting in the hall. The one elevator eventually descended slowly from floor seven. When it opened, it was like a clown car. The first few to pop out were over-eager grad students. I could tell because they were wearing special tags that said "Student Council" on them. These people scurried by just ahead of a stream of monochrome pasty men with pants riding too high above the ankle (we call it "the engineer's cut") and shirts unbuttoned to show far too much sparse grey chest hair. Aging babyboomer academics out for a night on the town.

The other elevator remained on "L" with the doors shut the whole time.

Finally we saw the back of an empty elevator which seem much too small to have held all those people ("Hey how'd they all fit on there?"). Everyone piled in, with me and A____ hanging back since we would be among the first people to get off. The doors closed. Fingers pushed buttons. Someone asked"What floor?" I said "Two please," feeling a little self conscious.

I am somewhat aware of appearances. I was only carrying one bag. It was big and sort of heavy and hard to handle with the sore ankle, but it was just the one. Further, I'm only 34 and not an older looking 34. I've got both legs, both the same length. I'm slim and straight of posture with no crutches, braces, or casts. I look fit. I look healthy (and when I don't I think people just assume it's because I am a grad student). I felt a little self conscious because I realize that someone who doesn't look overtly disabled is subject to judgment when she acts disabled. Usually people have the decency to keep that sort of thing to themselves. Times when they don't keep that sort of thing to themselves tend to be when there is a scarce resource that must be shared (or defended, or won, depending on your way of thinking) and someone, in order to access that resource, is violating or is about to violate a relevant social norm - e.g. don't cut in line, wait your turn, special people get to go first etc. (where varying levels and types of "special" can be determined by either disability or privilege).

I did not think my apparently super healthy physique, the size of the crowd, or anything else about the circumstances constituted a situation where you'd expect someone to feel they had the right or duty to speak up. But someone did.

An older man said "Second floor? You could WALK up to the second floor!" He said it in that joking but not joking condescending guy tone. I know my response came out nearly immediately and articulately but I can't recall exactly what I said. I addressed the elevator at large and said somethig like: "I know I don't look like it but I have arthritis. And my leg really hurts right now. So no. I could NOT walk up, even to the second floor."

Then we were on the second floor and the doors opened. I was so mad I wanted to wait in the lobby and when he came back down, tail him to the bar, then tell the waitresses and bartender horrible things about him (he divorced his wife during her second round of chemo, left her for a 21 year old student nurse! Excuse me, I could be wrong but I swear I just saw that man put something into that woman's that man, the older one with the short pants and the unbuttoned sweat stained oxford).

Instead, I got out and went to my room and I was mad without a visible target. It's safer for everyone that way. I got to think about what made me mad, aside from my general and easily triggered rage about how women are members of an "open category" for pretty much any fuckwit to openly comment at, to, or on. That is not negligible. It definitely was part of what pissed me off. As I said, there was nothing that "wrong" with what I did - even if you assumed I was fully fit and able - which would constitute a violation serious enough to license overt public chastizement. Then there is the whole me not being ok with being 34 and limited like this. And then there's the fact that I expect people to be at least as civilized as I am...which admittedly sometimes is not a very high level by most norms. So I don't feel like I'm asking alot there.

How many times have you seen someone pull up to a handicapped spot, park, and then walk with no apparent problem into the grocery store? What goes through your mind? You know what used to go through mine? I used to think things like "What the fuck is that person doing parking in handicapped?" or "Handicapped my ass!" But I don't think I ever said anything. I can't say for sure though because it's been a while since I've been ignorant enough to make that particular set of assumptions.

The arthritis and various other shit my body's been through over the past few years have taught me to think differently about this issue. I suspect the same is true for anyone who has had experiences showing them bodies cannot always be relied upon to act the way they look like they can act. I suspect that the kind of people who know this are either socially precocious, are close to someone who is or has been sick, injured, or otherwise physically limited, or have experienced a physically limiting problem themselves. I'm not too mad at myself for being that obnoxious 28 year old woman who would shake her head and think disparaging things when she saw a young spry looking person step out of a car with handicapped tags because I was blissfully young and relatively healthy then. My friends were young and relatively healthy then. My parents were somewhat young and relatively healthy then. My friends' parents get the point. My immediate sphere did not include much close and direct contact with people who were aging or ailing unless they were patients where I worked and hell, you make major exceptions for patients.

But this is why I was so very surprised not that the comment came but that it came from an older person who should have lived enough, seen enough, and felt enough directly and immediately, to know better.

Assumption, part one

I'm back from Providence. The conference was good, three students from my division presented posters there. A___ and I had a good time, even though it rained pretty much the whole week. He bought a "More cowbell" t-shirt and I bought this one.

On Thursday, several of the grads and I went out for dinner. It was me, my fella A___, and my labmates N____, Sharon, and M____. We had a some fun involving taking under the table pictures (I'll post them later), but there was one interaction that was troubling and which will have lasting repercussions. One grad student had made some assumptions about how far a joke can go and it ended with hurt feelings, anger, and distrust.

This was not the first big bad assumption of the week. The first one happened on my first day at the conference. In fact, it happened within the first 10 minutes of my first day there. My interaction also involved assumptions, a slightly different set of them and a slightly different response from the offended party (me), but it keeps kicking around in my head.

First I'm posting the grad student dinner Thursday night assumption and the grief it caused. I'm describing race and ethnicity related aspects because they become relevant.

My friend and schoolmate M____ is Asian. He's a great guy, witty, a little self conscious, and prone to self deprecating humor. My friend and schoolmate Sharon is also friends with M____. Sharon, an american of mixed but mostly white european descended background, is fun but sometimes insecure and plagued by esteem issues which she occasionally overcompensates for in social settings by hard ball joking with friends. For a while now, I've noticed Sharon and M____ (as well as Sharon and G___, another international student in our program) engaging in "off color" jokes. For example, Sharon had once been joking about how we should all draw self portraits for the student website. Hers should be colored red, she had said, since her skin tone is somewhat ruddy and she's prone to eczema. She then said "And G___ (indian student) should have like 8 arms and be blue!" at which G____ laughed lots. "And M___ should be yellow!" More laughing by Sharon, G____ and M____.

I was uncomfortable and had misgivings about laughing along with this kind of joke. But G____ and M____ were laughing and going along with this, saying "it's ok, it's funny!" so what do I do? Is it my place to turn what is apparently a funny ok interaction into something awkward and offensive by coming down on all of them for making ethnic/racists jokes about each other? Is it my place to play the parent and say "Sure, it's funny now but someday one of you is going to go too far or say it at the wrong time and then it'll make a big mess." Instead I said something non-commitally chastizing like "Wow you guys like pushing it..." the response to which was further reassurance that "It's ok. It's funny".

Ok. It's funny if you guys say it's funny. I guess.

Turns out it's not always funny.

Sharon has a habit of joking about M____'s driving. I've witnessed this before, and I've witnessed M____ joking along, seemingly merrily, saying that he's a scarey driver because he's Asian. I remember the first time I heard this I said "I can't believe you think your driving has to do with your being Asian." I know that on more than one occasion, M____ has told me the joking is ok because he is a bad driver. Now whether or not M___ is a bad driver is a bit beside the point, but let's go there for a minute. I've been in the car with him. Yes, there was one time when he didn't notice the "left lane ends" sign on the highway and had to merge in fast at the last minute. But other than that, he wasn't that bad. He was certainly not as bad as a mile a minute talker impulsive American woman named Rachel who always drove in the passing lane, continually drifting on and off the rumble strip because she was lighting her cigarette, talking animatedly to me, searching her Dave Matthews CD to find that part where he says something incredibly funny and witty that I just have to hear, having a side dialogue with herself about said CD, and checking her missed calls on her cell phone. Now that, my friends, is a BAD driver. M___ doesn't even come close to that shit.

For some reason though, Sharon thinks M___s driving is that bad. Sharon and G___ drove into Providence with M___ Thursday for Sharon's poster presentation. It was on the way to dinner that night that Sharon brought up M___ 's driving, saying "That is the LAST time you drive!" The usual hahahaha kind of M___'s a bad driver discussion ensued between her, G___ and M___ , then died off when we were seated at the restaurant. G____ brought it up again over appetizers and drinks by saying he was not sitting in the front seat on the way home and joking about how Sharon had lied about needing to study so she could sit in back. I added "So you guys call reverse shotgun?" And Sharon spent about a half hour going on about how bad M___ 's driving is. Jokes ranged from what kind of music M___ can and can't listen to while driving, whether dance music makes the driving better, to me telling them about how my brother blasted diva dance music all the way up to my sister's the other week and saying about half way up "Hey, let me know if the music is bothering you, ok?" and me saying "Oh thanks, that's sweet. It's ok right now though," and him replying "Good. I mean, I don't plan to turn it off. I just want to know when it is bothering you so I can fully enjoy it."

(which was funny...he and I do rip on one another and sometimes our feelings get hurt. But we have 33 years of shared history and we can be quite explicit about what is and what is not funny and I think this helps...more on that in another post)

During the M___ 's driving bashing joke fest at dinner Thursday, I recall Sharon saying several times "It's ok, he doesn't mind. He admits it!" And M___ adding, at least early on, comments like "Yes, she's right. I admit it. I'm a bad driver." In retrospect, I wonder what made Sharon feel she had to make this repeated disclaimer. I can't recall if I said much of anything, or if anything I did say sounded discouraging, or if this was just her responding to some semi-conscious understanding that she might be going a little too far even for M___.

At one point, M___ mentioned that his driving was good enough for them to give him a license. He said this still in the joking sort of discourse style. Sharon jumped on it. She said "Yeah I know. How did they ever give you a license? What did your boyfriend take the test for you?" I think M___ said something like "Um..that would be a little hard since he's not (Asian)," and Sharon said "Maybe he taped his eyes up so they'd be slanted..." then she dissolved into hoots of laughter.

I honestly don't remember where I went at this point. I know I heard her say the eye thing but I don't know what I said or did. For someone who can recall conversations in such detail, I find this is strange. I know I felt that familiar "this is too close to offensive for me" feeling but I have no recollection what my overt reaction was.

My fella A___ later recounted that he said something like "Wooah, that's pretty rough!" after the eye comment. I did notice that the dynamic shifted, and I noticed G___ barely said a word for the rest of dinner. I was pretty oblivious to M___ 's reaction, I have to say, and I feel bad about that. He told me later that he was really pissed off and considered getting up and walking away or saying something mean back to her. He also reminded me that at one point after Sharon had assured us (or herself) again that "It's ok he admits it" I had said "As long as M___ 's ok with it..." I am glad I at least said something like this. I feel like an idiot for not noticing that M___ was increasinly NOT ok with it though.

Not long after the unenthusiastic reception to this comment, Sharon piped down about M___'s driving. The next day, I got an e-mail from M___ . Among other things, here's what he said.

when (Sharon) was going on about how scary my driving was, etc. i am sure you noticed the change in my mood when something was said.
i thought about talking to her in person what she said was a bit out of line and was actually very derogatory in nature. but i didn't have a chance since G____ was with us in the car. i thought about emailing her but... she might just think "i am being too sensitive" and i am afraid that she might start making fun of me with that. "oh M____'s driving is scary, and on top of that, he was hurt when i said his driving sucks, such a lamo"
i do use the slanted eye stuff to describe myself... just like some black people use the N word among themselves or describe themselves.. but the difference is we own the words because they were given to us (not as a pleasant gift but nevertheless they were given to us).

I'm not sure if I can express how bad I felt that I didn't notice the change in M__'s mood. I was really horrified when I got his e-mail. Not that he was offended, I mean, this joking had always made me uncomfortable because I worried about if and when the line would be crossed. It doesn't surprise me that this happened. I felt bad because I had let myself believe that this kind of joking was ok even when part of me knew all along it wasn't. Yes, I didn't fully join in even the supposedly good natured race bashing, but I also didn't do what I think I knew all along was the right thing to do. Which is to completely refuse to participate in the conversation or to say to them, together or separately, "This joking is fucked up guys. Maybe M___ doesn't mind. MaybeG____ doesn't mind. But you know what? I do."

So I called M___ after getting his message and he came over my apartment. We smoked and talked at my kitchen table for a long time. We talked about Sharon, we talked about boundaries and how to express them. We talked about how just because something is ok sometimes that doesn't mean it has to be ok all the time. And mostly we talked about how if you trust someone enough to be friends with them, you need to trust them enough to establish and defend boundaries even if you worry about there being social risk involved. Yes, they might continue after you tell them how you feel, and yes that would suck. But if someone really is a friend, you should give them a chance to stop, and you owe it to yourself to stand up for yourself, even with an intimate. Beliefs about intentions always being good, about no hard feelings, about unconditional trust, etc. are tricky and can result in feelings of betrayal when they are not explicit, i.e., when they are assumptions.

I told M___ that I felt bad, especially since I am the one who says something usually, even when there is social risk. It's sort of my hallmark. The reasons are many. I'm just one of those people who refuses to keep her trap shut when there's shit like this going on around me because even by silence you can be part of it. I'm still upset at myself for not saying something, and M___ and I talked about that too. So I guess it wasn't just him who needed the counseling. It was a two way street. I shared some of my experiences with him, told him it is usually not easy for me to say something even though the frequency of my doing this might make it seem so. That I often feel my blood racing when I go to speak, that I worry that I will offend if it is a friend. But that it is important to me to be true to myself and that I've discovered friends feel worse if they find out after the fact that they inadvertently hurt or offended you. My experience has been it's best to say something directly and promptly, you can use humor if you want but you have to be willing to back it up with a firm statement to stop if the person continues.

So I guess I re-learned my lesson that if something rubs me the wrong way, I'm not going to be a part of it, even tacitly. I am not going to engage in perpetuating damaging assumptions. And I think M___ may be realizing that his habit of self deprecation might perhaps be a form of self abuse and might set his friends up for making some bad assumptions about what is hurtful and what is not.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Providence Here I Come!

Tomorrow I'm off to a conference in beautiful, urban downtown Providence Rhode Island!

Growing up and living just outside of Boston until I was 22, I never thought in a million years I would get excited about going to Rhode Island. Rhode Island and I have some issues. Well, I do at least.

Where to start? How about with those Crimson Travel commercials that used to be on the Boston area UHF stations when I was a kid? If you're from southern New England, you might know the ones I mean. If not, here's the reader's digest version. It was a family owned travel company. I assumed, given the numerous Rhode Island local commercials that surrounded the Crimson Travel ones, that the company was based in Warwick or some other god forsaken place (major exports include cranberries and ticks). I think Crimson Travel specialized in Disney trips. The whole family would appear in the commercials - complete with peevish looking bucktoothed children, all wearing Micky Mouse ears hats. My family never went to Disney. We were poor intellectuals. This is not a good combination, but it is how I was raised. I still have a visceral reaction to bucktoothed spoiled people in Mickey Mouse ears. In my immediate childhood context, it meant "I'm a nouveau riche fuckwit with the aesthetic sense of a twinkie wrapper."

As a child, I naturally assumed everyone from Rhode Island was like this.

As a slightly older person, I became aware that Rhode Islanders are wretched drivers. The recent and quite likely very flawed study has shown what I knew as soon as I was able to sit in the front seat during drives on Route 128 and watch the Ocean Staters hurl themselves down and across four lanes of Boston driver-filled highway like lemmings into a blender. We may be Massholes, but we at least know road from median strip.

And then there were the numerous ill fated trips to Newport, most or all of which never happened. The first one, I was grounded. Two boys asked me and my sister to go to Newport. Why? They spoke of it like it was some kind of paradise. But we were, or I was, grounded for the first and only time in my life (I was 17). Mom didn't like the boys. Or didn't like that I liked boys. Or that they liked me. Or something like that. My sister and I snuck out, there was a drive, there were boys, there was ice cream, but I don't know if we actually made it to Newport. There were two other times in later years that I almost went to Newport, but on both occasions I got quite sick and had to cancel at the very last minute, once on the road and another time when I got massive serious vertigo. No cliff walk for me!

And lastly, there is the fact that my ex bf's family vacations in Rhode Island. And they just suck outloud.

So a pending trip to Rhode Island doesn't seem like it should elicit this level of excitement. But I am in the middle of nowhere. Our college town consists of a couple of strip malls, four to be exact, and a big CVS. My semantics professor used to make jokes using various combinations of definite articles, superlatives, and varieties of local restaurants. In this context, "The best Chinese restaurant" is funny. Well, it's funny if you're a linguist. Ok, it's funny if you're a german semanticist.

Years of middle of nowhere CT has made even Rhode Island look like an oasis of civilization to me. Plus there's the hotel sex.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Twenty Questions

Tagged cjblue last night. Here are my answers to the 20 questions, plus one more - wtf is wrong with blogger today? Bad bad blogger! Is it just me?

1) Why am I doing this?
Because I can....
2) Do you remember playing 45s?
3) What is the worst band you ever liked?
Duran Duran
4) Have you ever done the macarena?
5) Are there books/magazines are currently in your bathroom? (if yes, what?)
an Italian/English dictionary, a book on the history of tarot, a book on herbology, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, an ephemeris, Bad Cat.
6) Have you ever done one of those embarrassing group dances at weddings?
7) Coffee or tea?
8) Whip or no whip?
No whip.
9) Did you ever have an imaginary friend and if so, what was it named?
10) Do you know how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver?
11) Do you still celebrate your birthday?
As often as possible.
12) Do you or have you ever cross dressed (women in overalls and men in kilts don’t count)?
13) What is the worst food you ever ate?
Some kind of curried albino broccoli thing.
14) How old were you when you had your first real kiss?
15) Have you had your 15 minutes of fame?
I’ve had about 9 seconds – I was the background footage on CNN once and someone related a conversation with me (anonymously) on NPR.
16) What is the longest you ever went without sleep for?
I think it was about 40 hours. It might have been longer, but I don't remember.
17) If your hair could be any color, what would it be?
Deep pink/purple.
18) What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Fudge brownie thing.
19) Wax, bleach, pluck, or shave?
All of the above.
20) If you were a super hero, what would your power be?
Showing people how others see them.

All about you

This is from Texas Gal. The way it works is for you, dear reader, to answer these questions in the comments section. Then post them on your blog, and so on.

1. Name:
2. Date of birth:
3. Where you live:
4. What makes you happy:
5. Currently listening/the last thing you listened to:
6. Do you read my blog?:
7. If yes, what makes it especially good or bad?:
8. An interesting fact about you:
9. Are you in love/do you have a crush at the moment?:
10. Favourite place to spend time:
11. Favourite lyric:
12. The best time of the year:

1. A film:
2. A book:
3. A band, a song, or album:

1. One thing you like about me:
2. Two things you like about yourself:
3. Look at my friends-list and tell what you like about one of our mutual friends:
4. Put this in your journal/blogger so that I can tell you what I like about you.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Better free your mind instead

In another "Look a pterodactyl" move, president Bush used his weekly radio address for some quality gay bashing.

"Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society," Bush said in his Saturday radio address. "Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening this good influence on society."

Actually, ages of experience have taught us that straight marriages and breeding result in divorce and abandonment of partners and children. Straight marriages frequently involve physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by the spouses on each other and on the children. This abuse takes the form of sexual assault and enslavement, severe physical trauma, neglect, starvation, torture, and sometimes even death.

How's that for using convention and fallacy to make nifty generalizations?

So Bush supports amending the US Constitution to make discrimination legal. If we were going to get all excited about an amendment, here's one that's been kicking around for over 80 years which seems like a much more noble and civilized modification of the Constitution.
That's right. It's the Equal Rights Amendment.

Here's the text of the highly controversial ERA:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

More about the ERA:
...By June 30, 1982, the ERA had been ratified by 35 states, leaving it three states short of the 38 required for ratification. It has been reintroduced into every Congress since that time.

Who hasn't ratified it? Big surprise, states which are part of what I refer to as "the cracker barrel" (for several (1, 2) reasons).

Map 1 - States which haven't ratified the ERA:

I thought this was an interesting comparison. Map 2 is of free states vs. slave states.

Map 3 would be the states which would support an amendment to the US Constitution banning gay marriage. Presumably, that could be derived by looking at which states ban gay marriage right now. But state level bans and rights are not at all easy to track because this issue is in a high level of flux in the states right now. A run down in 2004 reported that 39 states had some sort of prohibition of gay marriage, a spread that is all over the damned place. It seems allowing everyone the opportunity to fuck up and get married is a really scarey concept for a whole lot of people. Some of these state level bans have been challenged, some states not in that original 39 are dealing with court challenges and proposed legislation prohibiting or allowing gay marriage. In keeping with the Map 1 and Map 2 set, of the 11 states which passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in 2004, many came out of the cracker barrel. A couple that didn't had far narrower margins in the votes. But this is pretty discouraging nonetheless.

The "Eeek Gays!" strategy worked so well in the 2004 presidential election that Bush, as GOP cheerleader, is using it again to play to "his people" - the crackers - in the lead up to the congressional elections. I really hope sanity and reason can prevail in the upcoming legislative elections, but considering the quite mild ERA couldn't get 38 states in 80 years, I feel a little uneasy believing the average US citizen will be immune to this current policy of pandering to prejudice.