Archive for January, 2012

Why It Does Take a Village

January 22, 2012

I watched the South Carolina primary returns last night.  Most of the speeches recycled stump speech with the “call your friends in Florida”.  Rick Santorum gave his babblific speech where he recycled his line about writing a book in response to Hilary Clinton’s It Takes A Village called It Takes A Family.  Ok, how about both?  Does it take a family to raise a secure child: yes.  Do the historic family structures exist in most cases? No.  Using my family for an example: I live in Boston.  My parents and brother live in Tennessee, my sister and her family live in Oklahoma.  Is it ideal? Yes and no.  We all like the area of the country we live in: aside from some weather issues!  No because to get to see each other it’s a 1-2 airport shuffle.

Santorum is living in this world where people can stay in the area they are raised, close to their families.  Look, I work in biotech.  My brother-in-law works as an engineer in telecom, my sister-in-law is a university professor.  None of these jobs can easily be moved to be close together.  Does that mean that we are not close? Nope.  It means that when a family member need help, we often rely on the village.

What Santorum seems to miss is that we are all in this together.  If a friend (or a friend of a friend) needs a meal delivered, clothing donated.  I do what I can.  Why? I want somebody to do the same if something was to happen to one of my loved ones.  Santorum seems to forget that we don’t live in an era where there are 3-4 generations of the same family in the same village.  As we have become a more mobile society, with smaller families, in many ways we have become more interconnected with others.  If I need a ride from the mechanic, calling my family would be useless: calling a friend, easy.

The underlying aspect of Santorum’s statements are disturbing.  There is a decline in the ‘traditional’ family: how much of this is tied to the high levels of incarceration of minority populations? The lack of adequate education available in rural and inner city areas?  Santorum doesn’t get it: when we work together to improve the quality of life for everybody, our social structures improve and we increase opportunity for everybody.  I don’t want Rick Santorum defining my support system.  I’ll take my whacky village of friends and family.

Fashion and the Politics of Hair

January 21, 2012

First, for the important news of the week.  It snowed in Boston. Twice. Yeah!!  Now for the truly mundane.  Had a minor shopping trip last week with a friend of mine (ok, not really minor in the fact I was actually IN A MALL but work with me).  I realize I’m not the fashionista I once was when I worked for the company from hell.  But given what was FOR SALE I maintain that wearing Dansko’s, khakis and sweater, shirt or t-shirt depending on the occasion is the most sane way of dressing.

The first thing that scared me?

Um, at least it's orange?

Um, at least it's orange?

 

This odd item was at Lord and Taylor.  We were pretty sure it wasn’t a single leg warmer for an elephant.  It appears to be a tube dress for an adult. Ok, growing up when this was fashionable-the-first-time, I shudder that we are returning to the economics of the Ford/Carter/early Regan eras based on what we are being shown as acceptable in the fashion world.  Let’s face it: dress well, feel good.  Putting that on, even if I was a size negative 2, I wouldn’t feel good.  I’d feel lost, misguided, wondering if my friends were secretly plotting to get me on the auditions of American Idol so they could mock me.  As I wondered how such a garment could impact the primary season, my friend pointed out the obvious, most people are too fat to wear that.  Uh, yeah. Sad thing is, most people don’t have her common sense.  I’m still not convinced it wasn’t a dog blanket for a German Shepherd or something. Ok, I really hope it was a small dog apparel item gone wrong that somehow wound up with a designer label.

The fashion crisis only became worse when we went into DSW.  Ok. SERIOUSLY? These are the “styles”.  Note, if you have a kid, urge him/her to become an orthopedic surgeon specializing in ankles.  In about 20 years, there is going to a be a BOOM in the need for ankle replacements.

Hi, I'm here for my PT appointment. . .

Hi, I'm here for my PT appointment. . .

 

For the evenings!

For the evenings!

 

The great shopping debacle led me to realize this is wrong with this country.  We are settling for bad fashion people!  How can we possibly accept the current slate of GOP candidates? How can we take them seriously?  I mean, look at their hair!

Psst, next time dye the sideburns

Psst, next time dye the sideburns

 

Hey, Mitt, can I borrow some of that gel stuff?

Hey, Mitt, can I borrow some of that gel stuff?

 

Stacey and Clinton are around somewhere. . .

Stacey and Clinton are around somewhere. . .

 

Proving that one popular night-time pundit is right: a vote for Herman Cain, is a vote for well, the best dressed GOPer (and hence, not on the ballot).

Of course you can trust me! I won Thumbs up 7up!

Of course you can trust me! I won Thumbs up 7up!

Thin mints, cupcakes and seriously?

January 14, 2012

At times I feel like I’m living in a weird movie that if taken without copious amounts of coffee would lead to the utter collapse of Western Civilization (ok, maybe not that extreme!).  Any week that combines a full moon Monday with a Friday the 13th will now be spent under covers.  Or in suit of armor.  Then I caught up on the news of the week.  Apparently one Girl Scout is boycotting (and asking others to do the same) the annual Girl Scout Cookie Sale.  Look, I get that she is a kid: I don’t like a kid being politicized (either one!).  Adults need to step in here.  Girl Scouts from the time of, oh Juliette Low, have always been somewhat left-of-center.  And have always welcomed member and often with scholarship dollars to make sure all kids have the opportunity.  Radical, no, wait, inclusive.  This shouldn’t be a headline: it should be a teaching moment.  We don’t all have to agree on a topic, on an issue but we all need to learn civility and that really, everybody is welcome.  It’s not about religion: it’s about being kind and decent to each other.  The world is hard enough without encouraging our children to boycott each other.  Go buy a box of thin mints.

Oh, and why you are at it, buy a cupcake.  And go through a security line and report back.  In the update to Cupcake gate, a friend of mine appears on Fox and Friends (snark noted) because she dared to bring through a food item.  Look, before I get blasted by 394950 people about “it’s a new world” and “you are a fool”.  Back up to the start of the story: Rebecca brought through two cupcakes.  Both cleared Logan TSA (which flying out of Logan 10 or so times a year, I can say, there are post 9/11 screenings which are not found in other airports, two of the planes left from here).  Returning from Vega$, the one remaining was a “security threat”.  Ok, maybe the glass is questionable: wait, you can buy a Starbucks mug in airports.  Ok, maybe the ganache was more than 3oz (wait, the jar can fit into a Ziploc bag).  Ok, maybe the TSA policies are not clear enough? Bingo.  Don’t blame the agent: the guidelines are unclear (and if you don’t believe me, ask Rebecca, it was her cupcake and she has never slammed the agent).  Look, I cleared TSA in KC with the WRONG boarding pass (you know, that license and boarding pass check).  I was told by TSA that “happens all the time, but don’t worry, we still screen you” (um).  So, clearing TSA with the wrong boarding pass is OK, but damn, those cupcakes.

It’s a mad world people.  Thank God the Packers are still playing.  Cheese, Cookies and Cupcakes.  Perfect halftime snack.

Stewing Over Some Ideas

January 8, 2012

I freely admit, I have an ongoing love affair with my crock pot.  The I only have one huge thing to wash (no dishwasher here!) is a major selling factor.  It’s probably energy efficient (which makes up for my unhealthy love affair with my iPhone but that is a different tangent!).  This weekend I spent some time on the prowl at local thrift/resale/consignment shops trying to come up with some fun ideas for decorating my condo.  I know this will be an ongoing project this year … but it will be fun.  My goal is to only by the couch new (unless I can find a killer one at one of the few consignment places I found) and try to re-do the entire place for under $2,000: mostly using finds from other places and spaces.  Who knows? It will give me something to do . . .

Anyway, back to my unhealthy crock pot obsession: this week for my SOLE challenge I made some beef stew.  I have enough leftover for a few lunches which is EXACTLY what I need!

2 lb beef spare ribs

1 quart canned whole tomatoes

2 lb carrots

1/2 c dry sherry

1 c water

2T herbs de provance

Slow cooked beef stew

Slow cooked beef stew

The bread is from the Mass Local Food and was made from local ingredients as well.  Although we’ve had an insanely mild winter to date, there is still a certain amount of self-satisfaction when I open an ingredient I canned over the summer!

Maybe I’ll Learn to Sew and Other Thoughts on Shopping

January 8, 2012

Today I had to do the dreaded “I need work clothes” shopping trip.  Somethings (root canals, paying bills, dealing with faux-drama) all rate ahead of shopping.  In what can only be described as a twisted sense karma, I can actually shop *for* other people.  I can whip together new wardrobes, provide selections to try on and do all the things somebody who has as, her default position, based in retail.  When it comes to me? Sigh.

Body image 101.  I’m pretty sure this impacts most women people at some level.  Today, I had a fairly normal first stop: I went to the Nordstrom Rack to use some Nordstrom Notes and hit their end of season clearance sale (pics on the hit or misses tomorrow).  Suffice to say, that for the price of one dress, I managed to get a ton of stuff for the nieces and nephews, a dress, 2 sweaters and a shirt.  Not bad.  The warning bell in my head (the one I rarely listen to but really need to!) said “go home, reconfigure your closet and come back again.” Sigh.

I headed over to Central/Davis Square area and a few resale shops including a pretty fairly rated Goodwill in Central Square.  Never again.  And by “never again”, I mean I won’t step foot into the Central Square Goodwill.  I walked in my typical Saturday garb: College logo sweatshirt, hair in pony tail, jeans, Dankso’s.  Not exactly sexy, but I’m doing errands.  I started flipping through the racks and an employee came up to me and very gently said “Honey, we don’t carry your size here.”

I was appalled.  No, I was humiliated.  Look, I’m not a size 10 or 12.  I float between an 18 and 20 which is WAY down from my college weight.  I float between an XL, 1X and 2X depending on the cut and make (hello, most people float between 2-3 sizes).  Now, in my stellar running amuck garb and my hair up, I do look heavier.  I stammered something out about ok, thanks and dashed off a text to some friends who know my disdain of shopping.  I found myself shaking: some random woman had managed to say something that left me feeling worse than dirt.  All I wanted was some stupid layering items, or something fun.  I wanted to try to do something to augment the insane amount of clothing that is purchased new, made in places like China.  Hell, I just wanted to trawl through the racks and see if I could find something fun or funny.  In short, I just wanted to enjoy my day.  And it ended with “honey, we don’t carry your size” and some random stranger walking away.  The irony, is, of course that I did find some things in my size but at that point was shaking and near tears.  I simply walked out.

After wandering around a bit, I went to the store in Davis Square. Ok, it was meh.  They had “helpfully” put the larger sizes in its own section.  But I realized how much I just didn’t care.  I was over clothes shopping.  There was one last hope: Buffalo Exchange.  I didn’t realize it was a chain (I walked by it on my way to Goodwill).  Sigh. I got the eye rolls when I walked in: ok, at this point, I was thinking costume jewelry, cheap ass sunglasses and maybe a purse.  Not only did I laugh at their prices (seriously, you could do better at lower end retail stores), I was off put by their attitude: especially when I left and heard two employees say “I knew she wouldn’t buy anything here”.  Wow.

Look, I know I need to lose weight.  I also know that I’m not going to do it on the diet du jour.  I also have the lovely additional problem of 2 artificial hips that have had about 26 surgeries between them.  It’s not a matter of just “hitting the gym”: it’s a matter of finding the right balance.  Oh, and yeah, losing the $580/month bill for my health insurance so I can afford to buy a gym membership at a place with a pool.  I wanted to scream that at all the ultra judgemental looks, people and asshats.  A few of them, I want them to just stand on their feet for 9 hours and feel the throbbing pummeling pain that destroys my body when I do that.

Actually, you know what I wish? I wish people would just mind their own effing business.  I went into a retail store (which, unless my basic grasp of economics is off, sales brings on profits which, in turn, determines staffing needs which, work with me, helps people in retail keep jobs) and was treated like dirt.  Next time, I’ll just hit up eBay.  At least there, I can’t hear or see the judgements.

Sigh, and the the response? Oh, never critique college athletics!

January 4, 2012

Earlier this week, I had a post about a now former UT player who wrote a letter to the editor that demonstrated exceptionally poor grammatical skills.  Look, I’m not a wordsmith.  Being terrifically dyslexic I rely on spell check, grammar check and often have to go back and make basic corrections because I simply do not see the errors.  What disturbed me about the letter was the capitalization (hey, English is pretty clear on this *one* rule!) and a letter with so many errors, that for me, it demonstrated an individual who did not have the basic writing skills that should be indicative of a high school graduate.  I received a reply back to my blog….and approved it….and have been chewing on it:

This is such an ignorant arguement. Their are thousands of international students that attend Universities that can barely even speak the English language yet alone write a coherent sentence, but they are graduating from the top Universities with math, science, and engineering degrees. Who are you to judge a man’s intelligance based soley on one writing sample and form an entire biased arguement against he and every other student athlete. Who are you to speak for Notre Dame, Michigan or Michigan State and who they decide to accept into their institutions. Why do you care what happens to college athlete’s after their playing days are over. They make up less then 4% of the entire student body. Why not take into account all those millions of students across the country who CAN “write a proper English sentence” but are majoring in fields that can’t even get you a decent hourly wage in today’s times. Yet all these students are leaving college 50-60k in debt. For the average student colleges say to them, “You pay us, we’ll educate you in whatever you want to study.” But for the college athlete that same University says “We’ll pay you to play, and we’ll give you an outstanding education, while you make us money to help market our Univeristy on television and gain private donors and corporate dollars to build new facilities and add prestiage to our name. We will also give you personal tutors and every educational resource we have available to keep you eligable.”

So if anything, college athletes have more of an advantage to a more effecient college education because these college’s and Universities have more of an investment in these students athlete’s for them not to fail, as opposed to John Doe who is majoring in Art History or Archeology of the Aztec Empire. Hence, college athlete’s leave their respective Universities  better prepared to succeed in life and with as much education then the average student.”

Sigh.  I think I just proved my point.  A few responses:

“Why do you care what happens to college athlete’s after their playing days are over.”  Put it this way: if somebody goes through high school and college/university and cannot write a basic letter to the editor, there is a fatal flaw in the education system.  I’m not into stalking former wide receivers at a university: I do hope that when an athlete leaves his/her sport she has the skills to succeed in life.

Who are you to judge a man’s intelligance based soley on one writing sample and form an entire biased arguement against he and every other student athlete. I’m not judging his intelligence.  I am saying that there is a major problem with the system. Look, we all receive judgement based on a first impression: when you look for a job, it is often your cover letter/resume.  When you apply to colleges, it is often your essay.  Both require writing skills that were not demonstrated in the letter.

Why not take into account all those millions of students across the country who CAN “write a proper English sentence” but are majoring in fields that can’t even get you a decent hourly wage in today’s times. I do.  Having a BA in American History and a Master’s in Theology, I don’t exactly have the most practical degrees.  I’m hacking down my student loans, live very bare to the bones and after being laid off from one job, my ability to write is what landed me the interview (how do I know? I was told by the person who hired me).  That being said, if you are going to major in political science, you need a plan b.  You need to develop marketable skills.  Being able to write a proper sentence IS critical to success, even in our hyper-abreviated forms of communication.

But for the college athlete that same University says “We’ll pay you to play, and we’ll give you an outstanding education, while you make us money to help market our Univeristy on television and gain private donors and corporate dollars to build new facilities and add prestiage to our name. We will also give you personal tutors and every educational resource we have available to keep you eligable.”  Ok, the university better not be PAYING anybody to play except via a tuition/room/board/books stipend.  And given the letter to the editor, isn’t it concerning that despite the resources available, the individual still could not write a correct letter to the editor? Again, this isn’t the fault of the University of Tennessee: where were the high school English teachers?

The NCAA and member schools are doing a disservice to the athletes when they do not ensure that the students enrolling are able to make the grade in the classroom.

Soup that’s good for the SOLE

January 1, 2012

As usual, I goofed on the deadline for the publishing dates for the Dark Days Challenge (maybe I should use the calendar that I was given for Christmas?).  I was reading the re-caps of the others participating and came upon a fantastic article the at explains (for me anyway) one of the reasons the entire SOLE “trend” is very important.  Barbara at the Crowing Hen posted a wonderful article about the conditions in the meat industry in the US.  For me, it’s that PLUS the insane amount of energy we expend getting items from the farm to the grocery store.

As the writers over at EmptyWheel noted regarding a complex cotton subsidy program:

“In WTO language, Brazil was allowed to suspend its obligations to  U.S. companies under the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property  Rights (TRIPS) agreement. This constituted a major threat to the profits  of U.S. agribusiness giants Monsanto and Pioneer, since Brazil is the  second largest grower of biotech crops in the world. Fifty percent of  Brazil’s corn harvest is engineered to produce the pesticide Bt, and  Monsanto’s YieldGard VT Pro is a popular product among Brazilian corn  farmers. By targeting the profits of major U.S. corporations, the  Brazilian government put the U.S. in a tough spot: either let the  subsidies stand and allow Brazilian farmers to plant Monsanto and  Pioneer seeds without paying royalties, or substantially reform the  cotton program. In essence, Brazil was pitting the interests of Big  Agribusiness against those of Big Cotton, and the U.S. government was  caught in the middle.

The two governments, however, managed to come up with a creative  solution. In a 2009 WTO “framework agreement,” the U.S. created the  Commodity Conservation Corporation (CCC), and Brazil created the  Brazilian Cotton Institute (BCI). Rather than eliminating or  substantially reforming cotton subsidies, the CCC pays the BCI $147  million dollars a year in “technical assistance,” which happens to be  the same amount the WTO authorized for trade retaliation specifically  for cotton payments. In essence, then, the U.S. government pays a  subsidy to Brazilian cotton farmers every year to protect the U.S.  cotton program—and the profits of companies like Monsanto and Pioneer.”

How many sustainable jobs would $147 million dollars create for local economies?  Yes, I live on a dry bones budget: there are 2 things I simply cannot avoid buying from big time producers: cat food and cat litter.  I have a 14-year-old cat: I’m not switching his brands, he’s too old.  Part of my resolution for this years is to buy as much as I can from SOLE providers, then local merchants and local chains last.  Will it do anything to help revive the economy of my community: doubtful.  Is it a teaspoon in bucket? Yes.

Any way, for my blogged about SOLE meal of the week, I made a huge pot of Cuban inspired black bean soup.

2 lb black beans from Baer’s Best Beans (soaked overnight, drained, rinsed)

2 quarts canned whole tomatoes from Old Nourse Farm (summer CSA), with juices

3 medium onions chopped from Shared Harvest

3 medium jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, chopped (from Mass Local Food)

4 cloves garlic also from Shared harvest

2 quarts cold water (you may need to add more while cooking the beans).

For me, it was simple, dump everything into a big stock pot cook until beans are soft.  Blend with an immersion blender.  Add hot sauce/salt as needed.  I garnish with a local cheese.