Monday, December 5, 2011

Eat, Pray, Bullshit

It's nice to know that I never have to read the book "Eat, Pray, Love." I know that I never really had to, it's just one of those books that seemed to be everywhere and seemingly everyone has read it. I didn't want to read the book, it just could have been something that happened, like if I ran out of reading material at an airport or relative's house.

Recently, I had to sit through a video of a Ted Talk given by the author of this "big, mega-sensation, international bestseller" memoir that was a "freakish success" (her words). Entitled "Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity," it starts out fine, I suppose. She talks about how creative professionals such as writers are often asked if they are afraid that they will never have another successful work or never be able to top their one huge hit. Like success has somehow doomed them and their creativity. She talks about the fear-based reaction kids receive when they express a desire to be an artist or writer. She mentions that no one asked her dad, who was a chemical engineer, if he was afraid to be a chemical engineer. She then references the reputation of creative types as being unstable, depressed, drug-addled, and suicidal.

She says that we have collectively accepted and internalized that "creativity and suffering are inherently linked and that artistry, in the end, will always, ultimately, lead to anguish." She wants to ask the audience a question: "Are you cool with this?" She calls the assumption "odious and dangerous, and [she] doesn't want to see it perpetuated into the next century."

Excellent. All of this led me to believe that she was setting us up for a good, solid debunking of that reputation, but oh, no. Nothing could be further from the truth. How does she avoid becoming the assumption? Accept the myth as true, and use it to provide a basis for her belief in supernatural source for creativity. Divorce herself from the responsibility of her creativity. Go to ancient Greece and ancient Rome, when they believed that daemons and genii were responsible for creativity. This "psychological construct" will "protect you from the results of your work" because you don't have to take responsibility for it.

There is no attempt to look at the myth itself and apply any critical thinking skills. There is no attempt to look at empirical evidence that pertains to the myth, though there is some cherry-picking of history offered in support of her belief. She does not say that her dad, the chemical engineer, may not have been asked fear-based questions, but, as a scientist, his profession is number 11 of 13 on at least one list of professionals who commit suicide. (Laborers, carpenters, and doctors are all there, too, and dentists are number one.) She does not mention that it seems to be difficult, if not impossible, to even correlate profession with suicide with any meaningful accuracy.

Spot the things that are wrong with this statement about the rise of rational humanism, the idea of creativity coming from the self and not the divine, and of people being a genius instead of having a genius:

"I gotta tell you, I think that was a huge error. I think that allowing somebody, like one mere person, to believe that he or she is like the vessel, you know like the font, and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just like a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile human psyche. It's like asking somebody to swallow the sun. You know, it just completely warps and distorts egos and creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance, and I think the pressure of that, has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years."

We have suicidal fruit to pick off the tree of creativity because creative people are usually living somewhat public lives, and their deaths make the news. Sometimes, while they are alive, they are talking or writing about their psychic pain. While I have always figured that my petty neurosis and relatively painless middle class upbringing make me unworthy of creative success because of the perpetual myth that creativity equals suffering, I don't think that the myth or my assumption are true, and I certainly don't think that creative people suffer because their creativity has become their responsibility instead of a gift given to them by the poetry faeries.

The kind of thinking that Ms. Gilbert is promoting here isn't doing us any favors. It is upholding a myth instead of debunking it, and it is using a myth to perpetuate yet another myth. Was ever a time in documented human history without plenty of people, probably even a majority, who believe that creativity comes from some sort of divine inspiration, the Enlightenment notwithstanding? What evidence is there that uncovering a mystery has made us worse off as a society? How can divorcing ourselves from responsibility for our powers make the world a better place? Does that mean that any extraordinary power is somehow divine? Why would it just be creativity? What about nefarious powers such as the ability to pull off the perfect crime? That's creative. Is it divine? What about all the other people who commit suicide, some at higher rates than artists? Did they just need to believe in a science faerie or welding faerie, and once they placed their skills into a supernatural being, all their psychic pain would go away?

The Enlightenment did not kill off our artists. Our artists are not dead. Artists are everywhere, many of them not dying by their own hand or even suffering under the hideous responsibility of their brilliance. Furthermore, The Enlightenment gave us the First Amendment, among other things, allowing for not only a flourishing of the creative arts but also of religion in a secular nation.

Anyway,  if you made a decision to believe that you are not responsible, are you not still responsible for the fact that you made that decision?

The idea that there are creativity faeries rubbing faerie juice on our projects, makes as much sense to her as anything else she has ever heard to describe the creative process. Yeah, you're right, it does. It's the faeries and their emissions that write poetry. Just because we don't know the answer to a question does not mean that the answer is "Magic." Isn't it a threat to creativity to ask us to just trust some sort of mystical process and not instead ask questions and search for answers?

It's not just creative people who experience maddening blocks in their work. There are times that all of us just can't make connections. Scientists, policy makers, engineers, carpenters, and administrators have moments when something can't be resolved, even though the resolution seems so close. When we do finally figure it out, was it the faeries?

The Greeks thought it was daemons and the Romans thought it was genii because they didn't know any better.

Humans don't behave rationally much of the time. It's work for us to do so, as the brain seems wired to react on emotion. So why would we encourage irrational thinking? And why would we give it a stage?

p.s. I put as much research into this as she probably did:
The 13 careers where you are most likely to commit suicide 
The occupation with the highest suicide rate 
Physicians Are Not Invincible: Rates of Psychosocial Problems Among Physicians 
Veterinarians more likely to commit suicide 
Do Dentists have the highest suicide rate?  
Suicide by profession: lots of confusion, inconclusive data

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Age of Austerity

Age of Austerity?

This is the term being bandied about in the media.

We are living in a new Age of Austerity.

Get it, America? The party is OVER. No more philandering and hoarding for you. No more giant profits, no more tax breaks. Welcome to the new normal, where everyone has to sacrifice (Right? RIGHT?!).

The Age of Austerity.

Screw that. Most of us are not living in a Wharton novel, and a nice little title that makes this sound sexy and elegant is not going to change that. I guess "Age of Public Austerity, " "Age of Middle Class Austerity?" and "Austerity! Now, with more Poverty!" were not considered, and "Age of Fleecing the 99% in the open, now that America no longer cares about evidence, data, and facts and is convinced that civil servants are the problem" is a bit too long.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

School Votes

Voters approve 70% of all school referenda; many raise own taxes

Can we set up a comparison to provide data on what happens to schools who got a "yes" and schools who got a "no"?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Minnesota Legacy Fund & the Minnesota Vikings

Dear Minnesota Lawmakers,

The voters approved the Legacy Fund to "protect drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater."

It is beyond a stretch to think that a private corporation such as the Minnesota Vikings could be included in this definition.

It would be a violation of the amendment, as approved by voters, to divert funds to a project that will benefit a small sector of the population.

It is furthermore a violation of the public trust to be diverting any public money to private interests such as sports franchises.

If you want to waste public money on a stadium, let the voters weigh-in.



Minnesota Legacy Fund

Minnesota Historical Society's page to take action

Art Rolnick MPR op-ed on Early Childhood Education or Stadium

Monday, October 10, 2011

Don't Believe in Evolution?


Evolution doesn't believe in you. Doesn't matter. It's still happening. Even to you, hard as that may be to believe, given that you don't believe in evolution, which says something about your evolution. Your lack of belief in facts is probably a result of evolution as well, which is another point against the "idea" of intelligent design.

My only caveat is that you keep your disbelief out of the public schools and out of public life in general. It has no business there. If you want to live out a pre-Darwin existence, have at it. I suggest you also disbelieve in airplanes, computers, women's suffrage, The Emancipation Proclamation, and the world-wide-web.*

*(Unfortunately, if you don't believe in evolution, you may already be half-way to not believing in two of these things.)

Bravo, Mr. President

"You wanna be commander in chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States even when it's not politically convenient." --President Barack Obama at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, regarding the boo-ing of a US soldier during a GOP presidential debate

Monday, October 3, 2011

Family Values

The recent ICE raids may well have brought in some dangerous people-- Aracelio is not one of them. Please take a moment to read the information on this link and sign the petition. I know Aracelio and one of his daughters. He is an asset to our country, and he should be with his family.
Link to petition on

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Please don't let it be an atheist, please don't let it be an atheist*

Religion-hating anarchist  vandalized 7 Edina churches.

Everything I hear something like this, I think, "Oh crap." Now, the gentleman in question does not seem to have identified himself as an atheist, but I bet many in the public will assume that he is an atheist because everyone knows that atheists are religion-hating anarchists. Every. Last. One of us.

Every time someone from a marginalized group does something untoward, everyone else in the marginalized group is asked to explain, atone, and take responsibility. This never happens when, say, a white dude commits a crime. All white dudes don't go around hanging their heads in shame or feeling defensive, thinking, "Man, you're making us look bad!"**

*the above is not a supplication to any sort of supernatural sky-daddy.

**Perhaps this is different when a white congressman sends sketchy texts, but even then, he makes only his party look bad, not all white men, and the party is supposed to answer for it and shun the rogue individual.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

A job is a job is a job

Unless the word "blow" comes before it.

Or it is in the public sector.

At least, this is how I feel when I read or hear the news everyday.

I work in a public institution--a land-grant university, made possible by the Morrill Grant of 1862, and we receive a substantial amount of money from the state government for our operations. As with most large organizations, however, we have a diversified funding base, and we also receive a substantial amount of funding from students and parents, private donors, foundations, grantmakers, nonprofits, and other private sources. We also receive funding from the generation of products, services, and knowledge. We are accountable to all those sources for the allocation of all those dollars.

Lately, I have been feeling like my job doesn't count, and the only jobs that do are in the private sector. And specifically, in the for-profit private sector. Or, if they are nonprofit jobs, then they must be at large nonprofits such as health maintenance organizations or hospitals. Jobs at any government level, public universities, or "heinous organizations" such as Planned Parenthood (yes, a large nonprofit, but clearly one that does not count in the jobs discussion, only in the "declining liberal morals" discussion) are simply not jobby enough to be considered important.

This is what I hear as the Minnesota Legislature and Governor "negotiate" regarding the budget. This is what I hear when Planned Parenthood has to close six out-state clinics because of funding cuts. This is what I hear when a Regent of the University of Minnesota says "I don't think we're doing enough, folks" when it comes to pensions and employees. This is what I hear when, all around the country, people are saying we need to cut government, cut administration, cut, cut, cut.

They use abstract nouns like "government" and "administration," and they don't say "cut education" because that would prove unpopular, but they paint the teacher, the public worker, the civil servant as part of the problem. Overpaid layabouts who are part of an unnecessarily bloated bureaucracy.

It's not up to government, they say, to create jobs. That is the business of the private sector.



And, then, why isn't the private sector creating more jobs?

That's apparently the government's fault, too, because of the tax code and regulations that supposedly hamper hiring.

The women and men in those Planned Parenthood clinics are now jobless. Women and men in state and local governments all over the country are now out of jobs. Cutting budgets means cutting jobs. Doing "enough about pensions and employees" means cutting jobs. If I lose my job because of funding, I have lost my job. It counts. If I lose my job because of funding, I take my son out of day care, and my day care providers lose funding, and they perhaps cut a job; I cut back on expenses, cutting back on funding for the many businesses I patronize. I join all the other people who are out of a job because of budget cuts.

It matters. It adds up.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ignorance is not Skepticism

I am getting a little tired of hearing evolution deniers and climate change deniers calling themselves "skeptics." And I dislike it even more when the media does it.

This is misinformed behavior at best, but really, it's just plain old ignorance. Doubting evolution does not make you a brave warrior for the truth, it makes you a superstitious, medieval serf. Or a republican. Disregarding the overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming does not make you a maverick, it makes you a scientifically illiterate oaf. Or a republican.

I don't know why the republican party is so dedicated to belief-based policies, but its anti-science stance is horrifying. Looking at the two GOP front-runners for office, Mr. Perry and Mrs. Bachmann, I am not sure who is more off-base, but they are an alarming trend in modern American politics, wearing their theology on their sleeves and spouting paragraphs of nonsense rife with the possibility of dangerous policy outcomes.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What do you see in this picture?

If you say "construction", you are correct.

Here's what else I see. I see people at work. I see an organized mess. I see a large-scale public works operation that will hopefully benefit urban workers and citizens. I see the start of something new. I see possibility.

This is the construction of the Central Corridor Light Rail line, and it has been a bone of contention for years now. But the project is up and running, and we will have a train from downtown Saint Paul to downtown Minneapolis in 2014.

I live on this corridor, just off University Avenue in Saint Paul, and I work on this corridor, in Minneapolis. I live this construction every day, and I love it.

Trains! Who doesn't love Trains?

Universities, Public Radio, Community Organizations, and Business Owners, I guess.

That's a vast oversimplification, but all of the above have valid issues with the incoming Central Corridor Light Rail line currently going in between downtown Saint Paul and downtown Minneapolis. It cuts through a neighborhood that was torn apart by a highway decades ago. It cuts through a major research university that was worried about vibrations and sensitive equipment. It goes past a public radio station that was concerned about its recording studios. It goes down a major avenue, past many small business who will have to suffer through two years of intensive construction and one year of testing before the train is in service.

The process was not always the best, and the above issues have been addressed at least to the point that construction is happening. From my perspective as a citizen who both lives and works on the corridor, I am looking forward to the train. So is my three-year-old son. And my husband, who also lives and works on the corridor. I get that this is not going to be easy; the construction will limit access to businesses on both sides of University Avenue. Once the train is in, on-street parking will be limited.

There is a planning committee looking into how to better utilize existing off-street parking and how to better design the avenue to be user-friendly. There are resources for businesses and citizens. In the end, I hope the train will make things better.

In the meantime, especially during 2011 and 2012, the time of heavy construction, we can stop into these businesses when we need sustenance, energy, and relaxation. Or if we need something repaired or created. This is focused on St. Paul. Add businesses and thoughts in the comments, and I will update the list.

Midway Liquor: a family-owned, family-run, friendly establishment. Lollipops for the kids!
1944 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN

Edge Coffee House: coffee and soup, too! I believe they also have an Irish Trad Music Session there once in awhile. I'll have to ask daddywhumpus.
2399 University Ave, Saint Paul, MN

Twin City Tees: where the Hounds of Finn get their tee shirts.
1952 University Ave, Saint Paul, MN

Lucy Coffee Cafe: new!
North side of Fairview and University, in the Griggs-Midway Building.
540 Fairview Ave N

Fortune Wok: Chinese restaurant. I have not stopped in here yet.
S125 Fairview Avenue North
(651) 287-1881

Second Debut 2: Redundant name aside, this is a cute boutique with designer second hand clothes and accessories for women, a branch of goodwill. The goodwill shop is just up Fairview.
1825 University Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104

Caffe Biaggio: yummy Italian fare
2356 University Ave W
Saint Paul, MN

Cupcake: coffee, cupcakes, soup, salads, etc., etc., etc.
3338 University Ave. SE.
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Park Midway Bank: my bank
2171 University Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55114
Phone: (651) 523-7800

The Dubliner: my neighborhood bar, often complete with live Irish music, including the Hounds of Finn.
2162 University Ave
Saint Paul, MN

On's Kitchen Thai Cuisine: delicious Thai food*
1613 University Ave W
St. Paul, MN 55104

Turf Club: Local Music! Beer!
1601 University Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55104

Purr-niture: Furniture. For your cat. Winter is coming, and they get bored when the windows close.
2242 University Avenue West

The Town House Bar: The Twin Cities' oldest GLBT Bar.
1415 University Ave. W.

Regina Vacuum Services: they can fix just about any vacuum*
1681 University Ave

World Cycling Productions: for high-end cycling gear*

Salsa Lisa: locally-made salsa. Just eat it. It's excellent.

YMCA Midway: They have a great weight room with excellent machines and tons of free weights, and they're always trying to keep it up-to-date. Staff is super friendly. They have daycare and a pool too! Their basketball court/gym has an old wood floor - super old skool construction, but it's a great court to play on. Lots of good classes to take as well.
1761 University Ave W

Classic Retro at Pete's: antique/vintage store looks a bit like a cheap garage sale from the outside but you have to go inside. The shop owner knows his stuff, and he has some really cool items. Maybe a bit pricey, but if you have the money he does have good vintage furniture and housewares.
2145 W University Ave
651) 224-5235

Hampden Park Co-Op: Off the Avenue, but definitely on the Corridor. A small co-op that is not part of the Co-op co-op, if you like that sort of thing.
928 Raymond Ave

Eden Pizza: a little neighborhood store-front pizza shop within walking distance of our house. They also deliver, lucky us. As we are 1/2 block from the outer limits of Green Mill's deliver, just outside of Leaning Tower, and also outside of the Selby Pizza Luce zone, this is good news. Plus, it's really good pizza.
629 Aldine, St. Paul, MN 55104
Call (651) 646-7616 for pickup or delivery

Caribe: Yum. Caribbean bistro just off the Avenue.
791 Raymond Ave.

Lunch on the Avenue: an ongoing lunch series set up by the Midway Chamber of Commerce.
They are on Facebook as well.

There is a discount program for customers of Central Corridor businesses, as part of the Discover Central Corridor program. You can pick up a coupon book at Cub Foods - Midway, Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Western Bank, Midway Chamber and Stadium Village Dairy Queen.

You can download a Perks Card app for iPad or iPhone as well.

Construction updates:
Metro Transit: If you are affected by the line, you simply cannot complain about being uninformed of the activities. All you have to do is look. I get email updates regularly from the team, and they are specific and helpful.

Small Business Forgivable Loan: $4 Million in Forgivable Loans Available to Small Businesses Along Central Corridor Light Rail Line

Business Resources: This link includes information about loans, access, zones, and more.

Ready for Rail: a Central Corridor information hub provided by the Business Resources Collaborative.

LRT Works: Trades people seeking work

A few more links relevant to the subject:
University Avenue Business Association

St. Paul Central Corridor Updates

Nice Ride comes to Saint Paul!

New Businesses on the Central Corridor 

*Thanks to my neighbors for these suggestions.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Republicans and Science: A Dawkins Op-ed

You don't have to love Richard Dawkins; you don't have to agree with his opinions on religion; but when it comes to science and a certain major American political party's denialism, I don't think you really get to argue.

"To die in ignorance of [the theory of evolutions'] elegance, and power to explain our own existence, is a tragic loss, comparable to dying without ever having experienced great music, great literature or a beautiful sunset." - Richard Dawkins

p.s. Don't read the comments if you want to persist in the belief that Americans are, as a whole, thoughtful, critically-thinking individuals.

p.p.s. For another example of the behavior and critical thinking skills of an evolution denialist, how about this?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Let's Go Crazy

I am of two minds about Glenn Beck. One is that he's a hateful ideologue who, if he believes even a quarter of the things he says, is insane, and if he does not believe them, he's a charlatan.

So when I get an email petition asking me to tell radio stations to drop his show, I immediately want to sign.

Then the other mind pops up with its devil horns, saying that it doesn't matter if his radio show ends. In this day and age, there is no getting rid of this kind of invective because of the availability of technology. Mr. Beck has plenty of money to sustain an active Internet presence, which will always guarantee him an income and a following. Getting rid of his radio show will just add to the widely-held and entirely ridiculous idea that he and his right wing brethren are persecuted.

Sure, he pulled what amounts to a gigantic and ridiculous Godwin, comparing the Norwegian Labor Party summer camp to the Hitler Youth, but comparisons to Hitler are both the last refuge of the intellectually desperate and despairingly common. Should we be surprised? Next, he will find a way to blame liberals and eventually president Obama for the attacks in Norway, not the individual psychosis of a reprehensible man who tragically and remorselessly committed grievous acts because of fear, paranoia, and delusion. Perhaps you can blame mental illness, religion, and extreme right-wing ideology, but you can't blame the victim.

Still, somewhere in Mr. Beck's head, it makes sense to him, and because he is an American, he gets to say it. The powers that be have colluded to give him an ongoing platform to make his case, and he gets to make it. He also gets to be challenged. And he gets to be wrong.

A far as I am concerned, at this point, these people need to keep it up and even ramp it up. They probably need to acquire even more power if only to wake up the sleeping majority of citizens in this country who think that 95% of this babble is nonsense. Voters need to realize that enough people take this minority seriously enough to have elected many of their own in the last major election cycle, putting an entire political party under thrall to their narrow policy view.

In an age where an individual such as Michele Bachmann can be put forward as a front runner for the highest office in our land, the American conscience really needs a collective kick in the nuts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Here's how I see it...

We need a viable multiple-party system in the United States, but this will never happen without serious campaign finance reform that both limits the duration of a campaign as well as the money allowed to be spent, not to mention strict rules and perhaps even banning of issue ads by outside interest groups. But, can real campaign finance reform happen without a viable multi-party system?

The other issue we have is a silent majority of citizens, sitting on the sidelines, watching the crazies take over the country, all the while thinking, "That's crazy. No one will listen to them."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Really, GOP? Really?

As long is this is the way they behave in the face of moderate plans, what can possibly be done?

"Senate Republicans weight resolution condemning Obama's stand on debt talks"

Condemning what? That he has the gall to put a return to previous tax levels into the plan? That he is trying to be reasonable in the face of Grover Norquist hysteria about taxes?

I tell you what, having to live in Minnesota in the United States is not very promising right now from a reasonableness perspective.

p.s. Where have all the moderate republicans gone?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

There is no way NOT to click on a link with this headline.

Shakespeare was a pothead, says anthropoligist.

"A South African anthropologist wants to exhume Shakespeare's remains to determine if the literary giant was a pot smoker."

Is this going to lead a breakthrough in literary studies that will revolutionize the way that Romeo and Juliet is taught to dozing and horny ninth graders? Will performances of Hamlet sound like the turtles in "Finding Nemo"? Will stoned freshmen put down their copies of "Dark Side of the Moon" and turn off the "Wizard of Oz" in order to pore over the pages of Othello and King Lear for references to doobie?

Should costumers put Lady Macbeth into dreadlocks and hippie skirts? Clearly, A Midsummer Night's Dream is rife with the ganja (I know a bank where the wild thyme blows/Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows/Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine/With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine. All weed.).

But what about Titus Andronicus? Coriolanus?

Well, it may take some time (and a lot of snacks), but I am sure that our nation's youth will sort it all out.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Not this again

After a lecture from my day care provider about behavior they brought on themselves, the last thing I need to hear is an economic plan from a deluded presidential candidate about how the economy is on the wrong track, and the way to fix it is with corporate tax cuts and cuts to the inheritance tax. Speaking about behavior they brought on themselves. Haven't we already tried this route, and wasn't it the same route that contributed to the mess we are in now?

I don't get it. Whenever they are presented with a problem, no matter what the problem is, or even if they are presented with a not-problem, it's always the same solution. Tree in the road? Chainsaw. Bridge out? Chainsaw. Rockslide? Chainsaw. Potholes? Chainsaw. Smooth sailing? Chainsaw. Chainsaw, chainsaw, chainsaw.

Someone needs to take away their power tool.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just Read It

Matt Taibbi strikes again...

"In her runs for Congress, Bachmann discovered — or perhaps it is more accurate to say we all discovered — that a total absence of legislative accomplishment and a complete inability to tell the truth or even to identify objective reality are no longer hindrances to higher office."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

History Proficiency

Because of this and this and this, you should take this.

I did. I received 100% on the Fourth Grade test, 100% on the Eight Grade test, and 80% on the Twelfth Grade test, which was highly disappointing to me. (You can view more of the questions here.) I got one question wrong, and now I will have to go back and try to close that gap in my knowledge.

There are a whole bunch of tests on this site, and though I cannot spend the whole day taking them, I am certainly going to go back and do more, if only to identify what I don't know. It's easy for us to look at someone else and say they got it wrong (and, this is also appropriate, I would argue, when that someone wants to be speaking for America or making laws for America or wants to be taken as an expert in a field), but we should question our own knowledge, too.

From Minnesota to you: We're Sorry

At least, some of us are.

Michele Bachmann is running for fucking president

While this must be mercilessly mocked, it must also be steadfastly taken seriously. She was elected and re-elected, and we should have learned by now never to underestimate the vacuity, susceptibility, and short-term misguided thinking of the American voter.

Though this might be a good time for me to think about getting cable, just for Comedy Central.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Economy: It's not all bad

Nieman's, Sax, Coach, and Tiffany all have posted strong earnings.

Clearly, SOMEONE out there is doing just fine:

"Neiman, which operates both its namesake and Bergdorf Goodman stores, has benefited as high-end shoppers have opened their wallets in an improving economy and a rebound in stock-market valuations."

And the GOP has finally produced a jobs plan that sounds a little bit familiar (tax cuts, tax breaks, oil, etc.). I guess that it's good that they called it what it really is: House Republican Plan for America's Job Creators. Because, really, it's a plan for corporations and rich people who are supposed to create jobs if we give them more money.

Well, they have more money, and they are spending it at Tiffany's.

Or, sitting on it, which is, I guess, what the rest of America can do, in the immortal words of Arthur Fonzarelli: Sit on it.

(As usual, Ezra Klein gets to the meat of it:

“Here’s how it works,” [David] Autor wrote in an e-mail. “1. You have a set of policies that you favor at all times and under all circumstances, e.g., cut taxes, remove regulations, drill-baby-drill, etc. 2. You see a problem that needs fixing (e.g., the economy stinks). 3. You say, ‘We need to enact my favored policies now more than ever.’ I believe that every item in the GOP list that you sent derives from this three step procedure.

“That’s not to say that there are no reasonable ideas on this list. But there is certainly no original thinking here directed at addressing the employment problem. Or, to put it differently, is there any set of economic circumstances under which the GOP would not actually want to enact every item on this agenda? If the answer is no, then this is clearly now-more-than-everism.”)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

North Minneapolis Tornado Relief

This past Sunday, a tornado swept through a residential area of North Minneapolis, leaving behind devastation for many residents.

You can go here to donate.

More on the effort (from the site):

"The Minnesota Helps - North Minneapolis Recovery Fund will support the immediate humanitarian needs of the individuals and families in North Minneapolis impacted by the May 22, 2011 tornado. The Minneapolis Foundation, in partnership with United Way will provide a dollar-for-dollar match up to $200,000 (updated daily as more partners contribute) to rebuild this community

How it works: Contributions to the Fund will be pooled and then allocated jointly by the sponsoring organizations to nonprofits that are providing support to those most affected by this tragedy – both immediately and in the coming months. One hundred percent of all donations will be redistributed to provide financial support where they are urgently needed.

Donations will be used for immediate and long-term needs (housing, food, and other services) of the people affected by the tornado."

Monday, May 2, 2011


This is a serious and sobering moment in history, and one that should not, I believe, be met with rejoicing and celebrating in the streets. Though it can be said to be a sort of victory for the United States, the death of Osama bin Laden will not make anyone safer. We should reflect on the events of September 11, 2001 and measure the cost of the wars that followed, considering that we inflicted a far greater human toll on ourselves and in foreign lands reacting to that day than we sustained on that day, as we look to a better future for all.

I am still considering my feelings and thoughts in response to his death, and I don't have any grand advice on how I should respond. Perhaps with a statement remembering those who died on September 11 and in other terrorist attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda, which happened in other countries and killed people other than Americans. Remembering the soldiers and civilians who have died in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both American and those from other nations. Understanding that the death of one man will not stop Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations of all kinds, but could, instead be fuel to their fire.


"Most of what changed in this country after 9/11 was our choice, not his. And his death is a reminder that changing it back -- or revising it to better fit our future -- is, similarly, our choice, not his. We've killed him, but we haven't erased the mark he left on us. Maybe it's time we did"--Ezra Klein

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oh, Hell No.

Unless you are going to be offering a community education course entitled "Investing and Money Management: How Astrology Can Work for You," I am thinking that the courses "Vaccine Free: A Homeopathic Approach" and "Coughs, Colds, and Flu: A Homeopathic Approach" should probably also be off the table.

A colleague and fellow mother who is likewise frustrated with how pseudo-science is being given equal footing with evidence-based and non-magical thinking, informed me that her local community education program is offering the above courses on homeopathy. This led me to check out my own community education program. (Her community ed program is also offering two courses on Paranormal Investigating, one hilariously titled "Paranormal Investigating: Evidence Review.")

My community ed program has "Balance Your Digestion: Chinese Medicine," and a couple of other classes that might be touchy-feely, but nothing that seems to endanger the broader public health in so brash a way as offering homeopathy as an effective alternative to vaccinating children.

The thing is, how do you go about opposing the use of public funds for such things?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Bad Ideas Just Keep Coming...

from the Minnesota GOP:

Minn. Senate approves photo ID requirement for voting

This is a solution looking for a problem, and yet one more example of the GOP doing nothing to help anyone, and, in fact, doing much to hurt.

I already went over this at length.

Marriage Equality, or: I can't believe I have to resurrect this post yet again with only minor tweaks.

How does having more people in love weaken the power of love?

How would creating more marriage make marriage less meaningful?

I am sorry to be behaving with the innocence of a child and the logic of a sane adult, but I just don't get it.

There is a new battle going on here in Minnesota in which a few radicals (Let's call a spade a spade: these people are radical, not conservative) want to put in place a constitutional ban on "gay marriage" that would also include banning "any legal recognition of domestic partnerships and civil unions or any 'legal equivalent' of marriage." (By the way, the only way to get all the legal benefits of marriage is by getting married. There is no “legal equivalent”.) Which means that the few benefits that do exist here for same-sex partnerships would go away right along with the hope of anything more.

That's sweet.

I bet Jesus is smiling right now.

The thing is, this time, they have the votes to do it.

They say they want to "protect traditional marriage." What does that mean? Don't these people have anything else to worry about? Apparently if Rick and Tom get married, or Susie and Michelle, these different-sex marriages will somehow be less meaningful, begging the question, how meaningful can they possibly be now?

Before I pitch an apoplectic fit and pass out from emotional confusion on my heterosexual living room floor within the context of my heterosexual-legally-recognized-by-the-state-relationship, I'd like to know what makes me so special? Show me a constitutional reason why my relationship gets to be different from anyone else's? I mean, I think it's a pretty good relationship—really good, not to toot my own horn or my husband's (that's against the law in some states, too), but because he has a penis, and I don't, that means we can legally be married? That's not really much of an achievement (sorry, hubby. No offense).

It just seems like such a waste of righteous anger. You're a dude, and you don't want to marry a dude? DON'T. This is America. You don't have to. You're a Christian, and you think being gay is wrong? Fine! You’re (probably) not! See: Declaration of Independence/Inalienable rights/"life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Last time I checked, we are not living in a theocracy, and we are actually fighting wars overseas so that other people don't get to, either. We don't have a state religion or even a state language, for that matter. We have an official bird (that we almost poisoned into extinction) but our government does not tell people how to worship, and marriage equality won’t change that. Christians can yammer on all they want about "My Bible this..." and "My Bible that..." but…


My favorite book is Wuthering Heights, but that does not mean that I get to make other people dig up and hug their dead lovers or force children to marry each other and live in seclusion on the wasted moors of northern England. Just because some people believe that the Bible is a divine text does not make it so. Just because some people believe that their translation of that "divine text" says that marriage is between one man and one woman, does not create a basis for a Law in the United States of America.

Many of our ancestors came here to get away from that sort of oppression.

It's important to try to stop these people before we slide completely into a theocratic corporate oligarchy, and I used to think this was just a smokescreen issue. Like abortion. But now that they have the numbers, they are pushing the social end of their agenda, to the benefit of whom? A constitutional amendment against marriage equality will help no one and hurt many.

I am not gay. I am not going to turn gay if I watch Ellen or spend too much time with drag queens or see too much LogoTV. I don't think I am going to want to marry a woman any time soon (Bigamy is not legal, either. Nor will marriage equality make it legal.) On a very base and selfish level, this issue does not affect me. But I don't live that way. Any attempt to diminish my fellow Americans diminishes me and diminishes this country.

Denying basic rights to other Americans makes me less of an American.

And less of a human.

What happens to others matters to me.

I live in a country that used to encourage self-reliance as a tool for being able to help others, but it seems that self-reliance has turned to selfishness.

It does not matter to these people what actually happens to their fellow citizens as long as those citizens are living by a specific, enforced, neo-fundamentalist religious code. Living in squalor with an abusive boyfriend and a new baby when you are 17? At least you did not have an abortion! We saved you from hell! Are you in the hospital, dying of a terminal illness and want to leave your estate to your same-sex partner? Too bad! You don't deserve to because your “choices” are evil and you are going to hell!

This is a waste of time and resources. I am thinking that straight marriage doesn't need any protection, though with divorced people making up 10.7 percent of the population over 15, it might need some counseling.
Why can't our elected officials redirect their energies into, oh, I don't know, working against economic inequality, “creating jobs”, or protecting the environment so our children can be safer (Think about the Children!)? Probably because that wouldn't get as much press. Real, difficult problems don't make headlines, and it's hard to work yourself up into a good, frothy, fear-filled lather over a homeless veteran.

After all, apparently Jesus is only happy when people are hurting because they brought it on themselves.

Book Review: Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry

Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry
by Evan Wolfson

"But fortunately, the general story of our country is movement toward inclusion and equality. The majority of Americans are fair. They realize that exclusionary conceptions of marriage fly in the face of our national commitment to freedom as well as the personal commitment made by loving couples. Americans have been ready again and again to make the changes needed to ensure that the institution of marriage reflects the values of love, inclusion, interdependence, and support."

Overall, I found this book to be compelling. His tone and use of language are effecting in making his case; I would imagine that this book could easily turn someone who is for marriage equality, though not at all invested in the issue, into an activist. Mr. Wolfson manages to take a hot topic, normally dripping with thickly-piled-on cliches, value judgments, false morals, and doom-saying, and distill out a cohesive legal and civil rights argument in favor of marriage equality. Neither his writing nor his arguments are strident or preachy, and his style is not pompous or lawyerly; it is accessible and eloquent. Even involved, critically-thinking people who are supporters will find themselves both nodding along in agreement and shaking their heads in disbelief as they read.

This book are divided into chapters that allow readers to hold an intelligent discussion about marriage equality. Chapter 1 answers the question “What is Marriage” and points out that America has been moving steadily toward equality in all things for generations; marriage is the next step. He lays out the many benefits one can only get by getting married, benefits that most married people take for granted.

Chapter 2 points out how marriage has evolved over time, analyzing the issue from a legislative and historical perspective, making comparisons to miscegenation laws and other anti-marriage laws and norms. Women were once property through marriage. People of different races were not allowed to marry. Marriage has been changing along with society. It has not been static.

In Chapter 3, the author takes apart arguments that this will harm society, simply stating that all changes have been accompanied by such doom and gloom prognostications, none of which have come through. Marriage equality benefits society. He points out that changes to the laws regarding divorce, interracial marriage, women's equality, and privacy have all altered marriage. None of this has perpetuated any sort of societal downward spiral.

Chapter 4 answers the "marriage is for procreation" argument, pointing out that the state says nothing about opposite sex couples who have no desire to procreate or cannot. People can and do marry for a myriad of reasons.

Chapter 5 talks about children, and how many of marriage's legal provisions protect children. Denying these benefits to same-sex couples hurts and punishes their children. This chapter takes down the arguments that children are harmed by same-sex parenting, pointing out that studies do not show that, and studies that show that two parents are the best say nothing about the sex of those parents.

Chapter 6 brings in questions of religion, mainly pointing out that the importance of marriage is, first and foremost, legal; 40% (and growing) of married couples engaged in a purely civil ceremony. “The rite is separate from the right”: your religious ceremony means nothing to the law, and changes to the law will not equal changes to your religion. You are free to do as you like in America, thanks to the separation of church and state.

Chapter 7 brings up the “separate but equal” idea that we should just use another word, pointing out that “separate but equal” has never worked because it’s impossible. Separate is not equal.

Chapter 8 discusses marriage portability, further pointing out that “separate but equal” does not work, and this is an issue that should not rest with the states. Married people don't have to worry about whether or not they are married if they leave their home state or the state in which they were married. People in civil unions or other “parallel” relationships, even married people of the same sex, do not have any guarantee that their rights will go with them when they move or travel.

Chapter 9 addresses this issue as a civil rights issue, pointing out that comparisons with other civil rights issues (women, racial equality, etc.) are appropriate. "Gay rights, after all, are nothing more than non-gay rights made available to all."

Chapter 10 discusses why this matters to Mr. Wolfson: "...taking seriously our country's promise to be a nation its citizens can make better, its promise to be a place where people don't have to give up their differences or hide them in order to be treated equally."

Favorite quote: "Gay rights, after all, are nothing more than non-gay rights made available to all."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spending Public Money on Something with a Promise of Positive Economic & Social Return

Sounds like a good idea, right?

Well, it's not a stadium.

Wasting My Money

This wasn't necessary, and I know they won't shut up about it, but everyone can go to the White House Blog and take a look at the President's long form birth certificate. Taxpayers most likely had to pay the costs of obtaining it, so we may as well take a peek.

Good? Are you done now?

Probably not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Church of Legendary British Comics

Burning a Koran is stupid. It's stupid and pointless and only serves to remind me of Nazis, even though that's a hyperbole that won't win me any arguments. "Where books are burnt..."

And getting all worked up and angry and even threatening death because someone stupid burned a Koran is stupid. It's stupid and pointless. Burning an effigy of the stupid person who burned a Koran is stupid. Burning the effigy with a picture of a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe attached to its face, because the stupid person and the comic have the same name, raises the stupidity to a comedy level that is worthy of the comedy troupe whose member's face you have attached to the effigy.

This is how one reaches sublime from stupid.

Even if its really just an accident.

Class War?

Conservatives have been saying for years that liberals are engaging in class warfare. This warfare is on the rich.

The poor, defenseless rich.

And because everyone in America wants to be rich and thinks that they could be someday, this rhetoric has taken hold and become fact, at least in the minds of many. "When I am rich beyond measure, I don't want to have to pay taxes on my estate." This is the bootstrap thing, which assumes that 1) you actually have bootstraps, and 2) America is a level playing field.

This "war on the rich" has taken the form of pushes for fairness in the tax system and... and... what else? Seriously. I don't get it. Don't we usually root for the underdog when there is a contest between opposing forces who have unequal access to resources? Unless their ideology is flagrantly corrupt, evil, or ridiculous, we generally cheer on the side that is smaller, less equipped, or less privileged.

Don't we?

Why are so many regular people putting so much energy into defending our wealthy, our corporations, our privileged few? Never have so many pushed so hard for the rights of so few. Is it the idea that the people at the top have to have as much money as possible, so that they can provide the fuel for the economic engine of the nation? I don't think that the data have borne that out as a sound theory. Aren't we seeing large corporate profits and still experiencing high unemployment? Is that far too simplistic an observation? Because, as I say, I don't get it.

Here in Minnesota, our newly elected republicans in our newly GOP-controlled house and senate are continuing former governor and present presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty's tradition of balancing the budget using only one or two tools in the policy toolbox. It's unclear to me whether or not they have resorted budget gimmicks, but they certainly are using cuts and other cut-like measures. Tim Pawlenty's tradition of tax cuts and his refusal to raise revenue helped to get us into this mess, so I fail to see how more of the same is going to get us out.

It's the same old song and dance that is playing out all over the country. Slash the number of state workers, limit collective bargaining, punish teachers, cut aid to the poor, and generally continue to gut the already gutted. The very people who are out there spending money daily will have less money and will possibly wind up on state programs or otherwise being paid for by the state in emergency rooms or other facilities and programs.

Cutting aid does not cut need. I can't say it enough: someone always has to pay, and it's usually the government. And the government is us.

I fail to see how cutting 15% from the state workforce and pushing those taxpaying middle income workers out of work and perhaps onto unemployment is going to help the economy or, in the long run, the state budget. If the idea is to push them onto the federal budget tally, it flies in the face of their whole deficit reduction obsession.

I fail to see how cutting health care to the poor is going to help, either, for many of the same reasons.

I thought I was living in a country whose government cared for its people, but that's clearly a long-lost idealist dream, if it ever was a reality.We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Some thoughts on the budget battles from Jill Lepore

Just read it.

Poor Jane's Almanac

Thanks to my uncle, Mike, for passing it on to me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oh, America

I am starting to become crushed under the weight of the collective American idiocy. It would be one thing if this idiocy were simple daftness, and we were leaving our keys in the freezer or forgetting our anniversary. But this idiocy is mean and hateful. It's willfully ignorant and proud of it. It's grasping, greedy, sniveling, and showing no signs of abating. This idiocy misleads with glee; it obfuscates while denouncing people who use words like "obfuscate." It glories in hypocrisy and revels in lies.

Our American Idiocy invites in its own doom and offers it tea.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In these trying times

I think the most important thing the legislative branch of our government can do today is have an emergency session presenting an emergency bill whose only provision is the defunding of a public news, information, and music service.

Yeah. Let's put our time, money, and energy into THAT.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I had no idea, and this almost makes me want to get rid of my Facebook account.

People were actually posting status updates, in response to the various tragedies in Japan, referencing Pearl Harbor, and basically saying this is karma or pay back.

I can't link to the screen shot; it's too depressing. Go to Pharyngula, if you really want to see it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Now Hear This

At this point, the GOP holding hearings to look into radicalization is rather like preschoolers holding hearings to look into cookies. I guess they should know, but perhaps they should consider broadening their scope to include themselves. They have become rather proficient bakers of extreme cookies.

After all, Michele Bachmann is pretty much the Charlie Sheen of politics, and Glenn Beck sounds a bit like Moammar Gadhafi on a good day.

I wish Congressman Ellison good luck as he tries to wrangle the prejudice and stereotypes that arise, and I can only hope that other critically-thinking members of our legislative branch will do the same.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Dear Target,

Thanks but no thanks. Just because some overworked pop star who thinks she is Pan’s gift to gays got you to say you’d be nice to equality because there was profit involved does not make it OK. I’ve been fine without you for months, and I can continue to be fine. You would not change your tune for thousands of paying customers, so I know where you heart really is.


Friday, January 14, 2011


New Android phone, dragon movie, pizza, and weekend parenting.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reading List

(cross-post with babywhumpus)

Now that we are not traveling or planning travel, it's time to hook up my request list for my local library. I can only have ten, and here they are:

The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of our Lives by Annie Murphy Paul

The Corrections by Johathan Franzen
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
(Everyone keeps telling me I should read them, so I put them on my request list a long time ago. They both came in when I was traveling and very busy around Thanksgiving, so I added them again. I am number 182 out of 182 for "Freedom.")

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue

The Revolutionary Yardscape: Ideas for Repurposing Local Materials to Create Containers, Pathways, Lighting, and More by Matthew Levesque
Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Blake Soul
(We just finished a bunch of work on the house, and pending finances, more is in the works for Spring. With organizing and interior work involving minimal financial input over the winter.)

Solar: A Novel by Ian McEwan

Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel by Gary Shyeyngart

The Kids' Campfire Book by Jane Drake & Ann Love

Still at home and not yet cracked (from the library):

Touchpoints: Birth to Three by T. Berry Brazelton

(I can just catch the tail end of babywhumpus' development until he turns three.)

The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp
(This is the one with all the exclamation points, which I was finding annoying and useless. A coworker and mother of a similarly-aged child said the second part might be more worthwhile, so I'll give it a go).

Others on the to-read-this-year list:

Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured and Allied Victory by Ben MacIntyre
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership by Lewis Hyde
Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con that is Breaking America by Matt Taibbi
All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Shadow Tag: A Novel by Louise Erdrich
The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love
One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies by Alan Taylor
Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 by Pauline Maier
Madison & Jefferson by Andrew Burstein
First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby
Deadly Choices: How the Ant-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us ALl
Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler
Newton & the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean
McKay's Bees: A Novel by Thomas A. McMahon

No, my year is not longer than the normal person's, and there is almost no way I will get through all of those books... I still have to finish Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove and I forgot to list Washington by Ron Chernow up there.


I should stop re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, huh?