28 November 2007 @ 07:29 pm
So I am applying to more grad school, and I am, as my subject suggests, in personal statement hell right now. I consider myself a reasonably good writer, but when I sit down to try to put together a personal statement... not so much. I can still come up with ideas and outline what I want to say, but my ability to write smooth transitions? Gone. To maintain coherence between sentences? Mysteriously absent. Any gift I might have for avoiding terribly cliched phrasing? Yeah, that one may as well be in China. I hope, at least, that some confused person in China is enjoying their newfound aptitude for phrasing in the English language.
There is an ad on the city buses here that I've been seeing for weeks, and it puts me in a right state every time. The text goes:

"Love, marriage, baby carriage. Abstinence works."

I really wish they would come right out with the subtext. These ads would be so much more honest if they included this as well:

"Oh, and gay people? Fuck you."

The obnoxious continues with another version of the ad bearing not just the above text, but also with a photo of a guy trying to kiss a girl's hand while the girl turns away and looks all stand-offish. I am so tired of this narrative. "Oh yes, boys just want sex! And only sex! They don't have like a normal human need for companionship or anything. Because if they did they would be girly-men! And girls just want cuddles and shiny things! They would never actually desire to have sex! And if they did they would be, like, total sluts!!"

Does it ever occur to right wing nuts that the reason there appear to be differences in the way men and women feel about, approach, and behave in relationships might be because we have the narrative of those differences shoved down our throats at every turn?

26 October 2007 @ 06:05 pm
So I think I have seen the episode of the Daily Show wherein Jon Stewart interviews Lynne Cheney at least three times now (curse you, Daily Show reruns!). And every time I see it, Cheney insists on saying that her husband has made one of the best statements on gay marriage... ever.

And you know what? The part she quotes is hard to disagree with:
The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. We don't get to choose, and shouldn't be able to choose and say, "You get to live free, but you don't." And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into.

She does not quote the next sentence, which I also like, and which is important to keep in mind:
It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.

This is a bit vague. I think we can say Dick Cheney would have to be against sodomy laws, and probably against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. It's not clear what else falls under the category of behavior. Is marriage a behavior? If so, then in his view no government body should be banning gay marriage. But maybe marriage isn't a behavior here. Fine, because he goes and screws it all up in his next breath:
The next step, then, of course, is the question you ask of whether or not there ought to be some kind of official sanction, if you will, of the relationship, or if these relationships should be treated the same way a conventional marriage is. That's a tougher problem. That's not a slam dunk. I think the fact of the matter, of course, is that matter is regulated by the states. I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.

Huh. Remember that part where he said "freedom means freedom for everybody"? I guess he meant "everybody who lives in a state that would vote to uphold gay marriage". Which, you know what? That's a pretty sad definition of everybody, and one that doesn't include his own daughter.

One of the best statements, my ass, Lynne Cheney.

(quotes from the 2000 Vice Presidential Debate, courtesy of PBS.)
29 September 2007 @ 12:02 pm
So the story of the girl who was interrogated by a school security guard about whether she had her period has been all over the blogs lately. Long story short: school bans all bags (of every size and type) because that will make students safer and healthier, or something. Rumor has it girls are allowed to carry purses if they're on their period. Security guard does a bag sweep, finds a girl carrying her purse, and deems it appropriate to ask her whether she is, in fact, menstruating.

Well, first, what a boneheaded policy.

And second, my snappy comeback for this girl (which if I were in her situation I'm sure I wouldn't have thought of, and would probably have gotten her in a bunch of trouble):

Security guard: Are you on your period?

Girl: Oh... it's socially acceptable to ask about people's genital conditions now? Oh, great! So, how is that prostate doing? Enlarged at all? Having to pee frequently?

Security guard: Don't you talk back to me!

Girl: Wait... that's none of my business? Huh. Interesting.
So I've been doing some actual volunteer work as of late (as opposed to before, where I thought... hmm, this volunteering business sounds like a good idea, but I'm going to spend all of my time surfing the internet instead. Internet surfing now only commands the vast majority of my time.) Said volunteer work being with the Women's Health Task Force, which I mentioned without naming in a previous entry, and whose website I would link to if it was not extremely out of date!

Aaaaanyway, so several of us from the group attended an open house hosted by the Campaign for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (a pretty self explanatory name), and one educator there related the following story.

She was in a junior high doing a talk on I'm not quite sure what, but sex was mentioned during the course of it. At this point a girl in the room raises her hand and asks "What is sex?"

After the educator explained, the girl realized that she had been having sex with her high school boyfriend for some time. Not only that, the girl was shocked to hear that she could get pregnant from it.

Do you hear that, abstinence-only crackpots? Telling a kid not to have sex doesn't do a damn thing if she doesn't know what sex even is. She, like most people, had sex without needing any further information. That further information can be life saving in helping kids avoid STI's and pregnancy!

Though it's probably better on the whole for kids to wait, I don't personally care whether kids choose to delay sex or choose to have sex. But if we ignore the fact that they are rational agents who are going to make that choice, with or without all the relevant information, we're asking for trouble.
23 August 2007 @ 06:12 pm
Today was my first day being officially on the reference desk at the music library. Which, truth be told, was a little more intimidating than my first day at ACES, for the very simple reason that I don't know a damn thing about agriculture. So there I felt like, if I didn't know an answer right away, it was OK. I was still learning.

But with music, I practically lived in that library for two years -- both working there and doing my own research. So when an innocent patron comes sidling up to the desk this morning, asking me to find two extremely common piano pieces, and I sit there fumbling around coming up with bupkus, I feel kind of bad about it. I actually had to tell her to come back later because I really couldn't find Bach's Well Tempered Clavier and a book of Chopin's Nocturnes. Seriously.

For various librarian related reasons, finding scores is sometimes more difficult than finding books of comparable fame. I eventually succeeded after I found the correct way to spell the WTC in German (Wohltemperirte Clavier, rather than Wohltempierte Klavier, you know, in case anyone was wondering). Anyone who actually deals with finding scores in a catalog like that knows that it's not as simple as it seems, but it's still hard not to feel like kind of a dumbass.

"You can't find any copies of Chopin's Nocturnes in this two storey tall library? Are you sure you're spelling Chopin right? You do know it's not Showpan, don't you?" (...says the imaginary uber-snobby patron in my head.)

Anyway I hope the beginning of everyone's semester, or the middle of everyone's August for those not in school, is going well.
I sent in my very first letter to the editor yesterday, and it looks like it'll be published! Check out the DI tomorrow to see it... or I imagine it'll be up at the opinions section of their website. A letter on the same topic submitted by my co-worker/friend/fellow-liberal-ranter Cherise will be in the News Gazette tomorrow as well.

The shared topic of the letters being... we're both volunteering with a women's health group which is working on expanded Plan B access, and tomorrow is the one year anniversary of Plan B emergency contraception being available over the counter. Hooray for hormonal birth control pills that one can take after the fact if something really bad happens (condom breakage, sexual assault)!

A big un-hooray for the fact that they are available only to women 18 and older, and are still kept behind the pharmacy counter! So... people with no government issued ID, who have the money to pay for it? Too bad! People whose condom breaks at 2 in the morning but don't have a nearby pharmacist on duty at that hour? Too bad! People whose pharmacist thinks his right to not be morally offended by a drug that doesn't actually cause abortion is greater than a woman's right to access legal OTC drugs that she can pay for? Too bad!

Also a big un-hooray for the age restriction. The FDA's job is to determine whether a drug is safe and effective, which Plan B has been proven to be for women of all reproductive ages.

I know this has come up on the blog before, but the FDA's job is not to determine whether some parents would be upset that their kid took the drug without their knowing. There is no age restriction on condoms (the purchase of which might upset parents who don't want their kids having sex in the first place). And there is no age restriction on any other over-the-counter drug. If we're worried about upsetting parents, then Christian Scientists must be beside themselves. After all, their kids can just walk into the local drugstore and buy painkillers!

The FDA's job is also not to force kids to talk to their parents about stuff like pregnancy. Is it often a good idea for kids to do that? Of course it is! Is it the FDA's job to see that it happens? Of course it's not!

Besides which, women under 18 can still get the drug if they can get to a health care provider and get a prescription within the five day efficacy window... provided they don't run into the scads of people who seem to have convinced themselves that a contraceptive can somehow cause an abortion. Which it can't.

So the only thing the age restriction does is make it more difficult for young women to access the drug, which decreases its efficacy. Which does nothing but prevent fewer unwanted pregnancies. It doesn't facilitate communication with their families. And it makes access even for women over 18 unneccessarily difficult. Why retain the OTC Plan B behind the pharmacist's counter? Clearly we trust checkout people to ID for alcohol and tobacco products. Why not for Plan B? Which, though less fun, is certainly safer (and probably tastes better) than a case of High Life.
I don't care how much you hate Michael Moore. Go see Sicko anyway. I knew that our health care system was bad, and inefficient, and that insurance companies were bloodsucking demons sent from hell... but it is really bad. I can't believe our fear of "socialism" allows us to treat people so, so badly.

Any health care system that depends for its well being on giving as little care as possible is very, very broken.
20 June 2007 @ 11:35 am
I am so tired of seeing people make this mistake. I even saw a tenured professor do it not too long ago. So. To clear up any confusion:

Tenants are people who live in an apartment building and pay rent to a landlord.

Tenets are basic priniciples held by groups or individuals.

Christianity, or feminism, or the ALA don't have tenants. They have tenets. Tenets, people!
07 June 2007 @ 02:44 pm
The subject line immediately puts the song "Oh what a beautiful morning" in my head, though I'm not sure beautiful is an appropriate adjective for my particular morning. My morning, while not beautiful, did happen to make the front page. Or at least the morning happening thirty feet away from me did.

I woke up not to the soft twitter of my phone alarm at 10 am, as I would have liked, but to the boom of a police megaphone at 8:30am. The police megaphone loudly informed me that the gentlemen in the house across the street were subject to a search warrant for their residence and would they kindly come out of the west side door slowly, and with their hands up? They repeated this message many times. Many, many times.

A bleary-eyed peek through the window shades revealed not just the megaphone man, but... get ready for it... an entire SWAT team. Giant armored vehicle, black helmets, disturbingly large weapons. The whole bit. There must have been at least fifteen police on the street, disturbingly large weapons at the ready.

Pat seemed to be sleeping through most of this, but needless to say, at this point I was quite awake and definitely not going to get the full night's sleep I love so much. So I gathered in the hall with a few other bleary-eyed, pajama wearing residents of my building for a front row seat to make sarcastic comments and keep an eye on all the excitement.

One guy apparently came out of the house right away (smart move, I thought). The other waited almost an hour before finally emerging. What, are you trying to wait them out? Think of an escape plan? It's a fucking SWAT team, moron. You're not going to get away. You're really not. And if you had bloody come out at 8:30 when they started yelling, the rest of us might have gotten back to sleep.

Not that I'm bitter, you understand.

The news isn't entirely clear yet as to whether the two are going to be detained for long, or whether the cops found anything in the house. Apparently these two gems of human beings shot some random passing woman with a paintball gun the other night, and police suspected they might have other (real) weapons. Anyone who thinks it's OK to shoot random passersby with a paintball gun is almost certainly a complete jackass. And I also wouldn't particularly trust them with a real gun.

This is actually the second case of complete assholish-ness I've heard this week. A friend of mine was riding in the front passenger seat of a car when some drunk moron punched out the passenger side window, while the car was in motion. Not only did he break the mirror, he sent it flying into said friend's midsection. And oh, said friend is currently pregnant. The asshole in question didn't get why it was such a big deal. Well, first of all, damaging other people's property = dickish thing to do. Damaging other people's property when other people are nearby and in the flight path of said damaged property = horrible, stupid, dickish, and criminal thing to do. Also, and this may come as a surprise, projectile to the stomach not the best thing for mom or fetus. Thankfully she's fine and the police were going to charge the guy with something.

But seriously. People of my town who have the urge to randomly injure other people of my town... please try to stop being horrible human beings. Any efforts in this vein would be much appreciated.