Saturday, November 20, 2010

Is Powerlifting A Blue-Collar Sport?

Seth is a powerlifter, therefore reads a variety of lifting magazines. As these magazines are often in the bathroom I read them when I have a bit of time - also, you know, to support my husband. In the November/December issue of Power there is an article by lifter Mike Tuchscherer on squat depth, as in the need (or not) of an agreement on how deep a squat should go to be considered valid. It's a topic that, for the most part, only matters to those within the sport, but a particular statement, quite unrelated to the article itself, caught my attention: "Powerlifting has always been a blue-collar sport that rewards hard and diligent work."  Such a claim seems a bit presumptuous on the part of Tuchscherer: how is, or has, powerlifting been a "blue-collar sport"? Is it because it's assumed the basis is just "lift a bunch of heavy stuff" that doesn't require any special or expensive equipment? Last time I checked (which is often, because of the husband) the gear required - or necessary - for powerlifting is pretty steep, not to mention the cost of gym memberships. Is it because it's a sport in which "hard and diligent work" pay off? Is there a sport where that doesn't apply? (And is it elitist and non-blue-collar of me to point out that "hard and diligent work" is redundant?)

This idea intrigues and I plan to look into further. Get excited: I might be up to some investigative journalism.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Maybe Next Year

I totally dropped the NaBloPoMo ball yesterday, but I think it's the for the best: I was posting any and everything to ensure I had a post for each day. That means much of the past two weeks is meaningless dribble, which is not what this blog should be. Maybe next year I will plan better: for Cooking the Globe I wrote out the recipes for the entire month, plus a couple of other topics I thought would fit; look at that organization!

Oh well, on to more important things . . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nuke 'Em!

When I read the op-ed piece by John Bolton and John Yoo (about the New START treaty with Russia involving, what else?, reducing and better controlling nuclear arms) I thought I mistakenly eaten some psychadelic mushrooms: it is surreal. I had to step away halfway through because, for a moment, I thought they were arguing within today's reality - they're not! To claim that the treaty would reduce America's capacity to defend itself when actually the States would retain over 1,550 nuclear warheads is ridiculous. There aren't even 200 countries in the world and only 7 - 7! - have nuclear arms. Say what?  The first paragraph really does say it all:

  Voters want government brought closer to the vision the framers outlined in the Constitution, and the first test could be the fate of the flawed New Start arms control treaty, which . . .  awaits ratification. The Senate should heed the will of the voters and either reject the treaty or amend it so that it doesn’t weaken our national defense. 

I read that connection as such: People love red Twizzlers therefore clothing manufacturers should only produce red textiles. Doesn't really flow, does it?

I can't deride their fantasy with any justice; luckily, Fred Kaplan over at Slate can. Read it, please, and remember you are as sane as you thought you were yesterday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catching Up with the News

Some recent news out of Africa and elsewhere:

Osama bin Laden and the Sahel: From Al Jazeera, on how bin Laden has internationalized the situation in the Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, but can also include Burkina Faso, Senegal and even Morocco) with video messages supporting kidnappings and condemning Western influence in the region, while the European Council has attempted discretion over the matter. The "situation" refers to the kidnapping a French national in July and the nine hostages currently being held by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM), a creation of the Algerian DRS, a strong "terrorist" influence in the region. I can't go into details because I admit a high degree of ignorance concerning the Sahel in particular and North/ West African in general - it's not my area - but I recommend it because one, it's a reminder of just how large Africa is that a situation involving several African nations and France is considered "obscure" and two, it's healthy to have some understanding of the current events, obscure or not. For background on AQIM, the hostage crisis and why the European Council is involved in what originally were France's solitary actions, read the articles here, here and here.

Facebook, You're So Naughty: an employee was fired after posting disparaging remarks about her supervisor on her Facebook page, a post which prompted additional caustic remarks from co-workers. The employee is claiming unlawful termination. Will be interesting to see how this plays out and how much control companies will lose (or gain!) over their employees.

And check out Scocca on Slate: funny, relevant, biting - everything I wish I could be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

American Apathy

Go on over to Al Jazeera and read this piece by Mark LeVine (who, by the way, has also written some fascinating essays on modern genocide) and allow the message to sink in. I admit that I do my best to distance myself from the problems currently besetting the States - shameful though it may be - but it is still disheartening to recognize how apathetic the nation has become. Worse, those who do speak out against injustice - of the government, the war(s), corporations or what-have-you - are labeled as modern-day communists, people living on the extremes of sanity and rationality and therefore not to be trusted. True, protesters in the 60s were similarly labeled, but I believe there existed an undercurrent among the general public that those people, those who spoke out, were actually on to something. Now people fear to stand out, to be counted among those whose words and actions make them "America haters", because who knows what will happen then. I sound as though I am fear-mongering, but I don't think we are far from another House Un-American Activities Committee. Hell, the Texas school board recently voted that Joseph McCarthy should be positively highlighted in new textbooks. What the fuck?

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Tattoo, maybe New Direction

Not that a cupcake tattoo warrants a life-altering decision, but it may subconsciously signify one. I have several other tattoos and multiple piercings, but up until now I have always made sure to choice locations that are easily hidden by clothing. The tattoo on top of my right foot challenged  that a bit, but I rationalized it with  the possibilities of boots or dark stockings. Then a month or so ago I told Seth I wanted a silly cute tattoo, something that bespoke my personality but was more than a damn smiley face. Pie? Pumpkin pie? I knew that wouldn't translate into 'tattoo' well, with me ending up with some orange blob on some random part of my body. "What's that one, Sarah?" "Oh, just an abstract interpretation of the sun." Then 'cupcake' hit me though I think I first told Seth I wanted it on a hipbone or some easily hidden shit like that. Then yesterday I went with the roommate Ryan as he got his first tattoo on his calf and I said aloud, "I need to get a tattoo on some painless spots again (my stomach being the last site of pain; before that the top of my foot." An hour later I asked Mana if he would tattoo a cupcake on my hand. I don't question my mind or its rationality and neither should you.

I love my new tattoo. It is incredibly cute - I was squealing as Mana shaded in the pink and lilac - and at the same time silly. Seth likes it but admits that he never thought I would get a cupcake tattoo, especially one on my hand; neither did I. I think maybe subconsciously I am admitting I will never walk down the professional road I once had in mind for myself. Sure, the Foreign Service is still lightly on my radar, but that "Driving with a BAC level about .08%" conviction (which is legally different than a DUI, mind you) worries me that I will never gain the required Top Secret clearance. Regardless of clearance or even background checks, maybe some jobs won't hire me because of a silly tattoo on my hand. Then again, if a job doesn't want me because of a tattoo, would I really want the job? Probably not. And if one job doesn't want me then another one will. So I will embed cake in my flesh and eat it too.

Once I bake a batch.
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boycott Botswana's Diamonds . . . ?

There is an article on about the call from Survival International to boycott Botswana's diamond industry. According to the SI, the government of Botswana is attempting to starve out Bushmen in the Kalahari region by by halting distribution of water throughout the area as well as removing pumps to extract water and banning the re-opening of a closed borehole which provided water to the majority of Bushmen community. In addition to boycotting the country's diamonds, SI is also calling for a boycott of Botswana tourism - safaris are the main draw in Botswana - until the Botswana High Court rules in favor of the Bushman and the right to access water and (live on their ancestral lands.)

This article caught my eye mainly because Botswana is known as a provider of "legitimate diamonds" (as opposed to "blood diamonds") and the government has been lauded for raising the living standards of its citizens because of diamond revenue. Though Survival International's website is fairly vague about how it works and I am not sure of its legitimacy, the claim of the Bushmen is valid, as is any international outcry supporting it. Yet I wonder how much attention this will get in international media as it is a crime with no bloodshed where the government in question is ultimately helping the majority of its citizens with education, health care and the like? Or will those organizations dedicated to promoting conflict-free diamonds take up the Bushmen cause as well?

On a related note: how effective are campaigns against so-called blood diamonds? The diamond industry is a global monster and I can't imagine it can be brought by a few opposition campaigns. Plus the fervor over diamonds seems to have died down during the past couple of years. I'll look into it and let you know what I find.

Photo courtesy M. Cowan, Survival International

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thankful: Seth

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Normally November is the time when Foxy by Nature blogs about the things in life for which she is thankful. However, considering she is neck-deep in her first semester of grad school at Sarah Lawrence I am not sure if she will do those posts this year. So I have decided to steal the idea.

I am truly thankful for my husband, Seth. It was serendipity that we met (at BWI airport); a happy surprise that we got along so well; and I big shock when I realized you were the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I remember having a conversation with the aforementioned Foxy and she whispered to me, "Do you think he's The One?" I never thought someone would say that phrase to me, but she did and I happily giggled back, "Yes!" My life has been a fantastic adventure ever since and I couldn't imagine spending the expat life with anyone else. Kisses to you, handsome.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back to Basics

US midterms are over and newspapers & magazines are full of thoughtful commentary on the future of our political parties,what we can expect from now until 2012, what Obama should do, etc., etc, so it's time for me to return to something I know about: Africa. Well, central Africa, at least. I am far behind on what's happening in the States and most days spend my time trying to stay no more than a day behind on the current events there. I am certainly not qualified to write opinions about it. Not that I am a great Africanist, but I do feel more comfortable within that area of knowledge.

Which means it's time to turn to another upcoming election: Uganda's presidential election in January 2011. I wish, badly, that I would be in country that month but it is not to be. Nevertheless, I will be sure to keep you (and me) well informed of this occasion. Will the FDC defeat the ruling NRM? If Museveni is defeated will he quietly abdicate? Is it possible he could be fairly defeated? My friends there tell me if the election is truly fair then the FDC will take power, but being honest and pragmatic Ugandans they are not holding their breath. We shall see.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Fantasies

I enjoy MMA and watching UFC fights, particularly those with GSP - Georges St. Pierre - both because he is an amazing fighter and kind of nice to look at. I casually mentioned this to our roommate one day and he, being ardently against GSP, was disgusted. To annoy him I played up my interest, which is reality is slight. Now Seth playfully(?) becomes irritated when we watch an episode of the current Ultimate Fighter or he sees me reading a magazine featuring an article about GSP. Attempts to assure him that I am not fantasizing about the man go unheard, but Seth really should believe me: I don't indulge in fantasies because I am bad at them. Let me explain.

Say I see a celebrity or some such whom I find attractive, maybe even interesting. "Oh, if I could get him in a room alone," I think, but of course I can't; that's the reason behind fantasies. Unfortunately, that's also the reason why mine fail. Sure, I concentrate I can have one great, steamy - er, romantic - fantasy, but after that they begin to unravel. I close my eyes to imagine a scenario and my rational kicks in: how the hell would you be meeting this person? At a party? How the hell were you invited to a party like that? Just in a bar? That sounds pretty far-fetched.

But I persevere, determined to go through with my scenario, until self-esteem issues arise: so why has this person noticed you? Because you look "natural", real face and boobs, aren't anorexic, have opinions that aren't vapid and shallow? How do you know his opinions will be any better? Do you seriously think you'll stand out? At this point I have two options: count my losses and look at some porn or stubbornly push on, determined to see this thing through to the end. This is usually a bad decision. At this point I have met my person-of-interest, which means I need to create dialogue with how I'd like this man to be while maintaining some level of honesty to his true character, which of course I know nothing about. I want him to be charming, polite, not pushy, wanting more than sex (I am a lady, after all), but with sexual tension so thick you can taste it. This is where it's get tricky, as though my imagination is fighting with my rationality over whether to continue the dream or not and it always ends the same way: maybe I play too coy or my would-be lover begins to demand sex while I politely decline, until he rejects me. I am rejected in my fantasy, ultimately in all of my fantasies. Try masturbating to that.

So, Seth, you have nothing to worry about. You are the only man on my mind.

By default.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day Blues

Millions of Americans are voting today. For the past two days I mentioned the elections, giving reasons both for and against voting, but today I filled with sadness over the emptiness of elections and the elected officials they bring to office. In today's New York Times there is this opinion article by Frank Rich describing how the Tea Party movement has enabled the GOP to maintain and, in some cases, strengthen its hold on politics. The most telling quote comes from Senator Mitch McConnell: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." How can that make you want to do anything other than weep? That sentiment means two years of political deadlock, with the president unable to pass anything through Congress and Congress refusing to offer bills palatable to the president. Never mind about what might be best for citizens as long as politicians retain their hold on power, the ruling party is ousted, and lobbyists and corporations continue to cash in. A new Gilded Age is either here or right around the corner, with money being the only political power with any weight. Who will our Teddy Roosevelt be?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote "YES" on Prop 19

I know, I am asking you to vote right after writing that you don't have to. And that's true, but if you are a Californian voter I highly encourage you to vote "yes" on Prop 19, which would legalize the selling and possession of limited amounts of marijuana, even if you aren't voting for any politicians.

Prop 19 won't turn California into a pothead haven (anymore than it already is, ha!), but will allow the state to tax marijuana and regulate its distribution. I don't know why that even needs explanation. Police will be able to spend more time pursuing rapists, murderers, thieves and sellers of actually dangerous narcotics, such as meth. California prisons will likely suffer less form overcrowding, as second- and third-time offenders guilty of possession will no longer take up space.* California will make money from taxes. People who didn't smoke pot before will not automatically take up the habit. Cigarettes are legal but millions manage to avoid those. Marijuana will be controlled like alcohol, so you won't be going to work in a haze of glory without risking termination and middle school kids won't be raiding vending machines for Doritos.

Legalized cannabis just makes sense. Vote "YES" on Prop 19.

*- I would love to give you statistics, which I know are readily available, but Kuwait censors the internet and my searches have been "access denied" because of "content categorization: illegal drugs".