Friday, July 29, 2011

To Commenter HelloKitty

I hate reading the comment sections of blog posts, but sometimes you just get sucked in: you read one acerbic comment, then the response, then the response to the response, oftentimes including comments on grammar and how this reflects the poster's (lack of) education, until you are scrolling through five pages of comments trying to find where the argument began - and breathe as you realize the activity is stupid and not providing further enlightenment to the original post or your day.

When those sometimes occur, damn it, you almost feel like posting a comment yourself. STOP! Never join the comment threads! Rather, post your thoughts on your own blog, the appropriate place for personal rants. Here's mine:

To HelloKitty, a commenter on the The 14 most hilariously effective signs supporting gay marriage post over at HappyPlace:

Please stop complaining that gay men are mean and make rude and bitter jokes about women. You claim you don't why they behave this way, as you are a kind and sensitive person, but maybe it's the fact that you defend yourself by writing "It's hard because straight women love the male body, but gay men seem to almost abhor the female body." Perhaps these gay men don't want you fawning over them because they are not attracted to you. Because they are gay. If they found the female body attractive they would not be gay. But they are, so they don't. If you stop telling them they are hot, they may stop telling you vaginas stink. Just a suggestion.

If the rude/bitter jokes and comments continue, I understand you may feel uncomfortable so I have another suggestion: stop hanging out with those people. If you know the one gay man who does not make rude comments about women, because he slept with one once, then by all means make him your go-to gay. Otherwise, stop hanging out at gay bars in the hopes that a man will turn for you. They won't (see above.)

HelloKitty, please stop claiming you speak for the silent majority of women. The majority of women have enough sense not to ask gay men to respect and love the female body because they know gay men are gay. If you are confused by this, please refer to my first suggestion.

Finally, if gay men make snide comments that seem "bitter" please remember the content of the original blog post: gay marriage, or the fact that gays (and lesbians, but you don't seem to know any of them) cannot legally marry. That is a right not afforded them, thus making them lesser citizens in the eyes of the law. That might engender some bitterness. If gay men (all of them, apparently) flaunt their sexuality, it is likely a show of pride in who they are despite the fact that they are persecuted incessantly by so many people - and in the case of marriage, the government. Those who are homophobic or protest gay marriage for whatever reason want homosexuality to simply go away; flaunting your homosexuality is shouting, "No, it won't!"

PS - Just to be clear, if a gay man says women are gross it's probably because he thinks they are gross. Describing the beauty of a vagina will only confirm his belief.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Bombing in Norway

Earlier today (Friday, July 22) a bomb went off in a government building in Oslo and two hours later, shooting at an annual youth event. So far, 17 people have died. I am not the one to give in-depth analysis, but Al Jazeera is regularly updating their Oslo blog. Check it out for new information.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We're Done Already?

I have recently begun volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, specifically the family selection aspect of the organization. Tonight I went to a meeting of the Family Selection Committee, my first, and was prepared to stay until 10pm if need be (the meeting started at 6), but really wanted to be out by 8. I was listening, absorbing, doing my best to understand how the committee works, when at 6:42pm one of the committee members announced the meeting was finished. What the f*ck?, I thought. Who the hell ends a meeting within the hour? Then I remembered the last meeting I was in was for Edirisa Smiles, where four hours was a short meeting. The point being that I love Austin Habitat for Humanity already.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Right Questions for Gov. Perry

I read this article in the Austin American Statesman today: "Questions need answering before Perry runs for real". How true, I thought to myself. Potential supporters need to ask how Perry will manage the Federal budget when he is unable to properly manage Texas. Or how can he claim to support better education efforts while firing hundreds of teachers and spending public funds on a Formula One track?

That is where my mind went, before reading the article: pertinent questions concerning policy. However, the point Mr. Ken Herman, the author, is making is this: is Perry ready to have his personal life come under complete public scrutiny? Almost immediately after George W. was inaugurated the papers became running articles on Laura Bush's choice of shoes and reported that peanut butter sandwiches were being served in the White House. Gasp! Governor Perry, this (apparently) is the only question you need to ask yourself: "Do you ever want to be able to fish alone again?"

Aren't these questions better discussed between Perry and his family, rather than the subject of a newspaper article? Mr. Herman, do you ever want to do any political reporting? Seems to me your answer is simple: No.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Historian's Dilemma

In my apartment I have a small cabinet filled with china dinner service for eight, including two serving platters, tea cups and saucers, and random little crescent-shaped bread plates, not to mention the standard plates, bowls and what-have-you. The china is safely packed away in zipper cloth containers, each piece of china separated by a thin strip of foam and, in the case of the bowls and plates, a small piece of cardboard, as well. Sitting on the floor next to the cabinet are two boxes which contain crystal glasses, also for eight, including large wine goblets, smaller goblets and dainty sherry glasses. As with the china, each glass is carefully packed away, wrapped in foam covers and separated from one another by cardboard partitions. They would also be in a cabinet but I do not have a piece of furniture that can safely hide the china and the crystal, so the crystal remains in boxes on the floor. Next to the crystal boxes, going in a line along the wall, is a hutch which, in addition to my cookbooks, mixing bowls and Dutch ovens, displays a large, somewhat tarnished silver tea service: tall tea pot, sugar bowl with lid and milk pitcher, all perfectly positioned on a silver tray. On top of the hutch is a silver cake stand, also slightly tarnished but, perhaps due to less filigree in the pattern, shining more brightly than the tea service below. If you open the hutch doors you will find a large, heavy, crystal punch bowl with eight glasses and a ladle, casually sitting next to some muffin tins.

These are all items that once belonged to my parents, items specifically given to me for various reasons including simple circumstance (both my sisters already had china and crystal, with no need for second sets), physical association (I would polish the tea set and cake stand for my mother, so out of three children I was the only one with known attachment to the pieces), and personal claim (I wanted the punch bowl because I was determined to use it, rather than leave it stored in a box as it had existed for the past thirty years.) There are other items in my apartment, as well, odds and ends that my sisters could not stand to give away when they packed up the house. In the same cabinet which houses the china I also have two decorative plates commemorating Western Maryland College, where my (our) great-grandmother attended (and graduated.) Did I attend Western Maryland? No. But because I graduated from college, unlike my sisters, and the great-grandmother in question is my namesake, it was determined that the plates would be best served in my hands. I think it was staring at those plates, trying to decide what to do with them, that started my dilemma.

I was not around when my sisters packed up the house. When my (our) parents died I ran away, first all over the country, then overseas where I stayed for almost two years. I was grateful for the work my sisters did and gladly accepted the choices they made. In truth, I wanted the china and the crystal and the tea set - I wanted any and every physical connection to my parents that I could have, things I could touch and smell and hold in my hands while remembering holidays spent 'round the dining room table, crystal glasses in use only because my sisters and I begged our mom to use them, or a quiet, sunny Sunday afternoon, talking to my mom and dad as I polished the silver for them. Simple memories that do not require aides, yet at the time I needed those physical objects to stand as a shrine to my parents. That was then. Now, I am not so sure I want my dining room to be a memorial and my inheritance seems more of a hindrance. After all, when I become nostalgic about Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners it is not the plates I am remembering; in my memory, and in reality, the tea set was (is) just a useless dust-collector; despite an initial determination to put the punch bowl to good use, it still sits in the dark, untouched and unused. Sometimes I take one of the crystal glasses from its respective box and hold it, imagining how it would feel to fling it at the wall and watch it shatter into a thousand pieces. It is only a glass; my parents died years ago.

Preservation. Remembrance. I feel the weight of these words, of the historian's duty to maintain memory, each time I walk past my relics. How long must I carry these objects with me? Until I have a house of my own and will use the china and crystal at holidays dinners I host, serving coffee and cake form the silver sets? I am no longer sure that it the lot I want in life or that I care about serving Thanksgiving dinner on matching china - or on china, at all. It is a tradition that now means nothing to me, yet just the thought of allowing a tradition die fills me with more guilt than abandoning these things my sisters entrusted me with. Nevertheless, I must admit to myself that I am not a museum, I have no duty to be a museum, and holding on to their plates will not bring my parents back. Yet how can I claim to be a historian when I do not want to hold on to the past? And really, how would I explain myself to my sisters? Regret and guilt versus preservation and memory. I do not know which, in the end, will win out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Few Shots of Summer

Of what we do in Austin, such as paddleboarding on Lake Austin - albeit with no actual paddleboarding shots.


Monday, July 11, 2011

And This Is How I Spoil My Cat, Part II

An ever-full water cup on my nightstand is not enough for Umberto Garcia Juanita Lupita Gonzalez III, perhaps because the cup I have given him is small - a child's cup, really. The spoiled bastard prefers the large tumblers I use and so stares at me as I drink from mine, whether I am standing in the kitchen, sitting at the table or resting in bed (especially when I am resting in bed.) I feel his covetous stare as I lift my plastic tumbler to my lips, his pitiful cup disdainfully ignored. I try to temper his spoiled behavior: I tap on his cup, forcing his attention to the fresh water brimming at the rim; I pour a little of my water into his cup, to remind him we are drinking the exact same thing; I drain my tumbler so he will not be able to knock it over when he pushes his head in, looking for a drink. Unfortunately, only the latter tactic works, because inevitably Umberto sticks his head into my (now empty) cup desperately trying to lap up even one drop of water, knocking the the cup on it's side when he removes his head in vain. Only then will he turn to his own cup and drink his fill.

I have ruined my cat. True, I may not help matters much when he goes to get a drink from my water bottle and I pour some water into the cap for him to have a sip. Or when Umberto jumps up to the sink (kitchen or bathroom, makes no difference) either Seth or I will turn on the water for him to drink. Or giving him a damn water cup in the first place. At least he only eats cat food, otherwise he would probably demand roast lamb every day. And I am the idiot who would make it for him.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

And This Is How I Spoil My Cat, Part I

Umberto was once a typical cat who drank from a water bowl/dish like other four-legged animals kept as pets. He never turned his nose up at a plastic dish, even if some food had dropped in or some other foreign object was floating along the surface; he drank his water and went on his way. When Umberto and I first arrived in the States in February, however, I didn't have a regular, plastic water dish for him so I used a small ceramic bowl form my sister's kitchen (we were in her house). This was the beginning: I (by this I mean, my sister) bought him a food dish which was actually a food/water dish combo, but Umberto refused to drink water from the "water side" of the dish; he preferred the ceramic bowl. Whatever makes him happy, I thought.

Then, after moving to Austin and moving in my sisters-in-law, Umberto did something I found irresistibly cute: he drank water from a cup. How could I not encourage it? All right, I did not quite encourage him but rather found him constantly sticking his head into a cup so I would just fill up a glass and give it to him. It followed that he completely gave up on the plastic water dish next to his food. Instead, he had a tumbler which I kept full of water right there on floor, next to his food. I tried to correct my mistake and, in our new apartment, only provided him water in his water dish. He drank from the dish for a day, until he discovered how easy it was to jump onto the kitchen counter or table or anywhere and stick his head in my or Seth's water glass. The damage was done and his water cup returned, only this time placed on my nightstand, free from having any stray bits of food unexpectedly dropping in. It seemed to make Umberto happy enough.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Welcome to the World, South Sudan!

There is a new nation today: South Sudan, whose inhabitants voted in January to secede and become a separate nation, is officially independent today, June 9 2011. The flag has five colors: black representing the people and oil; red for the bloody cost of independence; green for the fertile land; blue for the Nile; and a golden star, symbolizing the (possible) wealth of the new nation. I met a Sudanese - South Sudanese - man today and he, understandably, is massively excited. Of course there are mountains of problems already facing the new government and the people of South Sudan, but we can turn to that tomorrow. For now, join with in celebrating the birth of a new nation.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Action Pack's Justin Timberlake Sing-Along

I am a superstar! Last 15 seconds or so!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How About . . .

Today's writing prompt is, "What type of fish are you?" or something to that effect.


How the hell do you answer that? Maybe was poetic about my similarities to a majestic whale, king or queen of the oceans, slowly moving through my realm confident of my place in it? Or perhaps a playful dolphin - or do these count as fish? Many of us - maybe even me - are just one of countless little fishes following the leader in our homogeneous little school?

Poo, I say. Poo! I don't know enough about fish to compare myself to one, so how about a fish out of water? I often find myself floundering about, gasping for air, trying to figure what went wrong or simply what happened to put in whatever situation I find myself? How did I end up in this hallway? Why am I in boxer shorts? Why are they wet? Oh my god, I'm married?!

I consistently find that I've thrown myself into a situation where, just perhaps, I don't quite belong. Or I don't know how to belong. Or maybe should have read up on the whole thing first (Hi, grad school!) I am still working towards the day when I can stop holding my breath.                                                                                                                  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dutch State Blamed for Deaths of Three Men at Srebenica

Reading through the headlines on Al Jazeera and noticed this: "Dutch Blamed for Srebenica Deaths." The Hague found the Dutch state guilty in the murders of, not the 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were murdered there in 1995, but three men whom Dutch peacekeepers "handed over" to Bosnian Serb forces. The report does not include why the men were handed over, but because the Dutch peacekeepers (Dutchbat) had witnessed "multiple incidents in which Bosnian Serbes mistreated or killed male refugees outside the [Srebenica] compound" prior to allowing the three men to leave the safe are, the Dutchbat is now held liable for their deaths.

This ruling fascinates me for reasons beyond Dutch responsibility and the Bosnian war: I wonder if this will open claims from families in Rwanda to make claims against France, Belgium or the United States? Or rather, make claims that now have legal precedence. After all, the original finding of the Hague court was that "the UN was responsible for the [Srebenica safe area] mandate, and therefore the state was not responsible." Now that the Dutch state can be held accountable for the deaths of three, who be next in line to be tried for their failure to protect?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Though my last post was on willful ignorance, specifically of international and national news, I simply have too much American spirit - in the form of patriotic Crown Royal and tequila, just as the Founding Fathers intended - to write about anything other than: Happy Fourth of July! Go watch 1776 and be merry!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

On Willful Ignorance

For the past few months, as I have been preoccupied with (ongoing) job searches; housing searches; discovering Texas; learning how to be a married couple living alone, with no roommates! on the same continent! seeing each other for more than 3 hours a day!; my news intact has dropped, greatly. Not enough that I did not know about the protests and crackdowns in Uganda or the DSK case, but to the point where I knew no details and couldn't be bothered to look up any articles to educate myself. The local tv news was not mentioning anything of not, either, though is only to be expected. My own apathy caused me to realize how easily it is to be willfully, even unwittingly, ignorant of the world, the country or the other side of town. No wonder many Americans know nothing of the world around them - it is only too easy to avoid, to not even know about, international or national news. This is only my personal assumption, but I do not think Americans - those not in college - are encouraged to read a variety of news sources. To read the news, at all. Is this how it seems to you? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Where Would You Love to Go Swimming?

It's that time again - NaBloPoMo time! Though to be honest, every day of every month is NaBloPoMo time, but I am accepting the challenge once more with this blog - cooking and posting a new recipe every day for a month sent me into overload last November. No way am I doing that again. This month's prize is particularly appealing: one post, from one blog, will be chosen to be published on Blogher, thus available to that new audience base, and the lucky blogger will be paid for the submission. ($50, which is pretty good for the blogging world.) The theme for the month is "swim", so let's get to it.

I love swimming - pools, rivers, oceans, a large bathtub: I love the feel of being in the water. As I age my comfort level around the muck and mildew - the general "alive" state of natural waters - in a lake or pond edges toward disgust, but so far I have been able to overcome the gross-factor of it all by deep-breathing and helpfully closing my eyes before jumping in. Who knew I was such a priss? Seriously, though, fish have sex in that.

Life has been fortunate enough to offer me a variety of waters in which to swim, float and relax , including Lakes Bunyonyi and Kivu (in Uganda and Rwanda); the Nile River and Mediterranean Sea; the Pacific Ocean as it laps against the shores of Hawaii's Big Island; as well as waters which I have stepped into but would not submerge any part of my body above the knee because those waters were truly, chemically, dirty: Lake Victoria and the Persian Gulf automatically come to mind. But where would I love to go swimming? It may seem quaint, but I want to swim in the Patuxent River, outside of Upper Marlboro, Maryland - my hometown. When I was a freshman in high school and still a member of the environmental club, the Patuxent was where we would go to learn how to test the health of a waterway (levels of dissolved oxygen and nitrogen, turbidity and so on.) I loved the visit that river - I continued to after leaving the club and even after leaving high school - and watch it slowly make its way north, away from the Chesapeake. Though small, the Patuxent boasts a large wildlife presence, especially of birds, including osprey, Great Blue Heron, and a family of bald eagles.

I never went swimming in it. Sure, I stepped in up to my calves when canoeing, but that water is dirty, muddy-dirty, and I could never imagine submersing myself into that murk. During one club trip, a two-day excursion for some special occasion that I no longer remember, one girl jumped in the river and swam around for a bit. Upon seeing my shocked and disgusted face when she emerged she laughed and said, "Now I'm cleaner than everyone!" Seeing as how water clarity was about six inches or so (meaning that if you dropped a white plunger into the water, after six inches of depth you couldn't see it anymore), I just shook my head and thought, "You are so nasty right now."

Which means I have always been a priss; damn, I swear I used to be tougher. I would still love to go for a swim in the Patuxent - or at least let some water go above my knee. Standing mid-thigh is the same as swimming, right?