Sunday, March 31, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons, Ask Questions

The first thing I must do today is call BS on the left. Yes, the left that I have belonged to for many years. Senator Mitch McConnell recently made a crack about Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's looks, saying she reminded him of a character in that 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, in which four elderly women lived together in a house and wise-cracked a lot. The left went crazy that he would make a comment about a woman's, especially such an esteemed woman's appearance. Personally, I have always thought Hilary was kind of cute, and definitely more attractive as a blonde than a brunette. But she was also the hardest working and most traveled secretary of state in history. Just as the job does our presidents, it aged her. In the month or so since leaving office, she has appeared tired. But all that aside, I have done, and I have heard many, many liberals make fun of Mitch McConnell's looks. So my question here is, just how stupid are we on the left? Our feelings get hurt when what we have done is done to us? Here is an idea: what if we all stopped picking on each other on such a shallow basis? It's not as if Mitch McConnell hasn't done plenty for us to criticize on a much deeper level. Can we approach this as adults and not third graders on the playground?

While we are on the subject of political discourse, I would like to ask if we can all get off  the picking on people, in particular former president George Bush for saying the word "nu-clear" as "nook-yoo-lur." Not that it doesn't make my skin crawl when I hear it, but I've heard dozens of very smart people pronounce it the same way he does. And there are several words that I hear pronounced as oddly, by just as many people, that no one ever jumps on. For example, the word huge. I hear more and more people pronounce it "yooj," in politics, in the media, and in person (my husband being one.) Can't we all just get along? Every region has its unusual way of speaking...why can't we consider it all a part of regional charm? And when it isn't just regional, since many of the people who say nookyoolur are from different parts of the country, can't we just consider it part of their personal charm?

On a lighter note, I saw a woman on TV this week who had a really cute hair cut. And her hair had one of those zigzag parts. It made me wonder who was the first person who thought it was cool to have a crooked part? Was it someone who was rebelling against a mother (a type with whom I'm familiar) who wouldn't let her leave the house without a ruler-straight part?

I've recently heard commercials from some of the big-box, super chain stores telling us all about their commitments to the environment. I wonder how many of us know just how hypocritical this advertising scheme is? Are we going to fall for it? I wanted to, but then I've been to two of those stores with my reusable shopping bags, in which they put things in plastic bags. I have at least twice commented to cashiers about it, and one of them stopped, commenting that many customers wish to have their meats in plastic within their reusable bags. So, much like the litigiousness of our culture bringing us animal testing of cosmetics, some of our fear of germs have led to more plastic in our landfills that will never, ever go away. Another thing that has happened to me several times at one of those big box stores which advertises its environmental commitment is putting only one item per plastic bag. Can we call BS on them too when their advertising is such a lie?

I know the US Postal Service is having lots of economic problems, and they are making commercials trying to drum up business. But I caught a discrepancy in the wording of the commercial about how your mailman will drop off boxes that you can fill and let him know you are ready to have him come and pick up. Please understand, I'm a words person, and I notice such things, and when they say, "You can weigh, PAY, and print your labels online, and the mailman will pick them up. He says, "I'll even drop off boxes for free." Here's my problem: didn't they just say you can pay online? So he's not dropping off those boxes for free, everything about that service is paid for. It is a good value, admittedly, and I'm all for saving the postal service. But the commercial doesn't add up for me.

Many of you who have read me before, or know me, know that my minor was biology and environmental studies. So I know that the lower an animal is on the food chain, the more they reproduce. Krill, for example, is the largest biomass on the planet. It has to be, since krill provides food for many of the larger sea creatures, including some of the largest animals that have ever existed. Rabbits are among those prey animals that reproduce much because they are a food source for many larger carnivores. Including dogs. I have had a few experiences with my dogs becoming bunny killers, including Abigail (my copilot on Zeus' Chariot), who entered that esteemed canine club last Saturday.
We went out for her final evening constitutional last Saturday, and she went directly under a bush at the bottom of our apartment stairs. A bunny ran immediately away, but Abigail went to ground, true to her terrier nature, and I heard that frightened "eeh, eeh, eeh," squeal, and knew there was a baby bunny nest there. Based on my past experience with other dogs and rabbits, I knew there was nothing I could-or should do. So I waited for her to come out, which she shortly did, with a baby bunny that she proceeded to eat. I swallowed my human discomfort and continued our walk. The next morning she went there again, bringing out another baby bunny that was dead. It seems Mama Rabbit didn't come back after she saw Abigail coming. So, perhaps I should know the answer to this, but why didn't Mom check back later, when the danger was gone, and see if she could save the twin? Better yet, why on earth, did she put her nest there, under a bush so near where so many dogs sniff, walk and urinate? We've all seen adorable bunny noses wiggling about, sniffing the air. Surely she could smell all the dogs that live so near that particular bush?

This past week has been a very exciting one for all of us who believe in equal rights for all Americans as the Supreme Court of the United States tackles two cases that have to do with marriage equality for same sex couples. These judgments may come down to a very ironic hinge; States Rights. Were States Rights not the precedent used to try and keep African Americans enslaved just over 150 years ago? I couldn't help but smile at the irony that gays may wind up able to marry in some states as a result of this very same idea. I may be an atheist, but ain't karma a bitch sometimes? 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Beware the Ides of Mercury in Retrograde

Last week it seemed that I and many people close to me were having a collective bad day. One of my dearest friends, who is pagan, and very in tune with universal movements attributed it to a phenomenon called Mercury in Retrograde, during which the planet Mercury looks as if it is going backward. She says this phenomenon throws the world out of whack, which is just as good an explanation as any that I could come up with. But then, just before Mercury got his act together, this Monday, came the Ides of March, which all of us who read Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" know can also be a pretty bad day. So, I thought I would dedicate this post to her. Hopefully we are spinning in the right direction for now, and things are looking up.

I'd also like to include an addendum to the conversation we were having about cruelty free cosmetics. I contacted a company whose products I have used for years, but they are no longer on PETA's "good list" because they are now owned by a giant conglomerate the does use animal testing. They directed me to a statement from the ECG (Evil Corporate Giant) in which they stated that they completely understood consumer concern about animal testing, and said they are working hard to eliminate animal testing from their products. They also said, however, that their primary concern is that their customers not have allergic reactions to any of their products or product ingredients. It dawned on me as I read the statement that we, the consumer, have probably asked for this with our litigious behavior. They don't want to be sued by a customer who has a reaction to their products. Now, I would be happy to volunteer to test products as long as treatment was paid for, but I'm not sure how many consumers would be with me on that. So, on the one hand, we can't seem to escape animal testing-either directly or indirectly, so it would be easy to just say, "Well, screw it, I'll buy whatever..." And on the other hand, we all want risk free results. So we may be stuck for now. We'll have to keep an eye on what happens in the EU now that their ban on animal testing is on.

Now, I have a question about the laws of physics. Wouldn't it be logical that larger items would displace smaller items in closed spaces? So, why is it that in my purse, the smaller things, such as my wallet, always float straight to the bottom, and the larger things, such as my notebook computer go to the top?

Spring is upon us now, and it seems that eggs are in everything. So, since everyone seems to love deviled eggs, and their are typically a dozen eggs deviled for any given event, why does my deviled egg plate only have egg shaped spaces for eight eggs? There is empty space in the middle, where I usually put the other four eggs. But does that make sense?

And can anyone tell my why these words were printed on a bag of ice: "Ice. Tasteless. Odorless." Really? Is there any other kind of ice?

I've also wondered recently if some parents ever stop and think about the names they are giving their babies. Or am I the only one who feels an inappropriate desire to giggle when I meet someone called "Randy." Do the parents of LeRoy and Regina really think their children are royal? And poor Patsy-do they know they are sentencing her to a life as a fall guy?

Why do people keep falling for some ridiculous beauty myths? Such as if you drink from a straw it will make your lips wrinkle. How silly is that!!! Do we suppose that people who don't wrinkle never drank from a straw? And did you know that your pillow case wrinkles will also cause actual wrinkles to one day appear on your face? DNA and sun damage cause wrinkles. Or can we never escape from the warning, "Your face is gonna freeze like that?!"

I hope this question doesn't offend, but I am quite curious about nail salons. It seems that nearly all of them are owned by Asian women, and all the staffs are Asian women. The owners, in my (admittedly) limited experience are Asian American, and the nail techs are immigrants. Are there people in Viet Nam telling ladies that if they come to America they will have a guaranteed job, and will be able to live the American dream? I don't mean this in any racist way-but Asian owned salons and techs are pervasive, and these women work very hard, long hours. I just can't help wondering how this tradition or movement got started.

Now if I might ask a political question: Is a lack of understanding of language the reason that the filibuster is being abused so dreadfully now? About two weeks ago Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky filibustered a cabinet nominee. Now, I have to say that I find Senator Paul to be a rather loathsome character, and I think he's wrong on just about everything. But I do agree that our use of drones is a huge problem. The question about language though, came to me because the Honorable Senator's actions were referred to as a "talking filibuster." A filibuster is supposed to involve talking. That the threat of a filibuster is now called a filibuster, and is being used to hijack democracy rather than protect the minority party from being silenced by the majority. Perhaps if the language were respected this process would not be so onerous.

Lastly, there is a movement afoot to remove reproductive choice from women, despite the fact that this question was determined by the Supreme Court of the United States forty years ago. Now there are some states that are trying to pass laws that claim life begins at conception, and therefore, any abortion is murder, even if a fetus is not viable. There have been very emotional campaigns that insist fetuses feel pain, that they are, in essence, human at conception.  Now, in the United States, perhaps because of the Judeo/Christian traditions in our country, little boys have been circumcised shortly after birth. Many doctors tell parents that the pain is minimal and harmless. I see a problem here...if zygotes are considered living human beings, why would anyone claim that they can't feel pain? I have been told the same thing about fish-that they don't have nervous systems and don't feel pain. But the last time I was fishing, I caught the first and only fish that day. The fish was attached to a tether and was doing its best to escape. I don't know if it was the hook in its jaw that tied it to a stake in the shallows that was causing the poor thing pain, but I could see that it felt fear, and I believe pain, though I can't prove the pain part. But doctors  are basically telling parents that their sons feel no more than a fish, and yet women are told that their fetuses are human and feeling pain from conception? Do they really think women are not smart enough to see the discrepancy here?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Can't We All Just Make Up?

Beauty has been heavy on my mind lately. Well, to be honest, beauty has always been heavy on my mind. I am the oldest of five children, the first four of us girls, and I am the shortest, and the only one who grew to be morbidly obese. Not the only one in my family, there is much obesity in my family. But of the four sisters (what I jokingly call "The Fourse" when we get together) I am the only one who grew up short and fat. I am not as fat as I used to be, but I will always be extremely short, and chunky. My sisters, on the other hand, are beautiful. I remember hanging out at discos with one of them, my behavior becoming louder and louder because all the guys were enchanted by her exotic beauty. I remember one early morning when she and I went to the HEB grocery store, and the sack boys crashed carts into each other because they couldn't stop staring at her. But this post is not (exactly) about sibling rivalry except circuitously. Because I was was unfavorably compared to my sisters, to whom I was close in age, and therefore we were easily forced into competition, and I was naturally not as pretty, I have spent many, meany years working very hard to "look good," whatever that means. For American women, I guess it means trying to be sure my hair is well cut, my makeup is applied well, etc; anything short of surgery, which I used to hate the notion of, but could never afford anyway. This has led to a horrible crisis of conscience for me, which continues to get worse as I grow older. One would think it would get easier since there are so many companies out there making makeup and cosmetic products for various problems that we experience as we age. As a life-long tree hugger, I cannot not wrap my brain or conscience around the notion of bunnies sacrificing their eyesight for my eye shadow. I have received lists and cards of companies that are "cruelty free" from both PETA and Leaping Bunny. I occasionally recognize the names of some of the companies that are certified "Cruelty Free," and many times they are companies whose prices I cannot afford. But most of the companies that are on their bad lists are companies that sell their products everywhere. Everywhere that I can afford to shop, anyway. I've been shocked by the names on these lists because the companies are household names, or they are ultimately, down the line, owned by a company that does animal testing. I see models and spokespersons who lend their names to these lines, and they are people who on another side of their advocacy, are pro-animal. How is it okay then that they lend their names to companies who blind animals with mascara ingredients that would never, ever choose to wear that mascara? This is not okay with me-but I am not sure how to get around it. The matter is about to be complicated by the fact that in China cosmetic products are required by law to be tested on animals, while the EU (European Union) is about to make it illegal to sell products that are tested on animals. So if any of our cosmetics are diverted through China, there is no way to guarantee that we are buying cruelty free products. But since we live in a global economy, the whole circle becomes more complicated. Low prices are important to anyone on a budget, so either way, how can someone who can't afford to pay $30 for a lipstick be expected to wear cruelty free cosmetics? It is so frustrating that I really don't know how to approach an answer to these questions.

Next, I need some shoes. I need to retire some shoes that have seen WAY too many seasons. So I've been looking online for some replacements, and talk about cruelty free!!! There are some shoes out there that I can't imagine any human being able to walk in safely. The prices are almost as shocking, but seriously-do we really wear these things?

I guess that's all my questions for today. Are their any answers? 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Illness and Productivity

This is the third and last day of being home sick from work; it's almost 5:30 P.M., and I'm finally doing something productive. I guess I'm finally feeling better. Good enough at least that I'd like to challenge with some questions.

1. I heard a commercial yesterday about some home improvement club you can join that will "pre-negotiate" deals for you. What does it mean to "pre" negotiate? It seems to me that a deal is either negotiated or it isn't. Is that anything like "preheating" your oven? You turn the damned thing on, it gets hot. Then you bake a cake! I don't see much use in this "pre" fix.

2. I use a particular brand of dishwasher soap. It is new and improved and promises to make everything shiny, bright and clean without any streaks or cloudiness. It isn't cheap either, but it looks cool-kind of like a Yin-Yang symbol with a red power blaster bead in the middle. Now this very same company is advertising a new product. Something to add to the dishwasher to remove all the soapy, dirty build-up left behind by soaps and such. Why should I buy a second product to clean up the mess their product leaves behind? Could they not add this product to one side or the other of their super-duper dishwasher soap thing? I know, I know. They want me to buy something else from them. I refuse.

3. Since December 4, 2012 and the shooting of 25 children and teachers in a school in Connecticut, the conversation about how to reduce gun violence has continued to be without reason or logic. So, the rest of this post may not be in the form of questions, but observations. First of all, I used to be a conservative and some of my family fit every stereotype of the furthest right wing conservative. My beloved brother is a 23 year veteran of our local police force. So I've heard all the usual quotes about law and order, search and seizure, probable cause, drug tests, etc. "If you have nothing to hide, what difference does it make?" Why can't this same argument be applied to the question of background checks for gun purchases? We hear so much about law-abiding gun owners...if they have nothing to hide, then what is the problem?

Speaking of; I have been a vocal critic of violence in movies and video games. It almost seems like a no-brainer that constant exposure to violence would have a negative effect on a growing child's view of the value of life. I'm still not convinced that it doesn't. But after the Newtown shootings the news indicated that many countries have the same or higher exposure to violence in culture and media but lower rates of gun violence. So, why are American children so much more sensitive to images of violence? I saw lots of stories about this during the winter months, but there don't seem to be any good answers.

Lastly, I must insist that we get away from the ridiculous stories of single mothers having their homes invaded by marauding gangs of thugs, therefore leading to the need for said mothers to buy AR15's. I now have a vision in my mind of actress Linda Hamilton, buffed up as she was for The Terminator movies, wearing a tank top, cammo pants and Doc Marten lace-up combat boots, hearing this gang trying to break down here door. She rolls out of bed, never losing the grip of her trusty AR15, and lying on the floor, takes aim with this  "machine gun", and begins to fire through the closed bedroom door, killing all of the attackers. But when the police arrive, they also find the bodies of her children, who were awakened by the ruckus and came to get Mommy because the noises scared them, and those bullets going through the walls and door did not discriminate-they did what they were designed to do-they killed. If this mother had been afraid, and wanted to protect herself and her children, wouldn't it have been safer for her to have a semi-automatic handgun or a shotgun that could be aimed at the bad actors carefully and accurately? I'm not anti-gun, and neither is the president. I'm anti-"overkill," excuse the pun, and military style weapons have no place in civilian self protection. Nor do their high-capacity magazines. All I am asking for, and what most people are asking for in this new environment regarding gun safety, is a touch of rationality applied to this issue.