Monday, March 28, 2011

"Bullied" screening at UCC

If you're in the Austin area, please stop by the United Church of Christ at 3500 W. Parmer Lane this Sunday at 6PM. We're hosting a free screening of the Southern Poverty Law Center's documentary "Bullied".

The documentary tells the story of one high school student who held his school district accountable for the years of bullying he experienced while attending their schools. Despite repeated pleas for help, a suicide attempt and running away from home, this young man was forced to sue the school district before they would acknowledge the problem.

The film is about 40 minutes long and there will be a short discussion afterwards. If you aren't in the Austin area, I encourage you to find a way to view this film.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Henry A Wallace - a definition of fascism and a warning

Excerpted below is a letter written by Henry A Wallace, Vice President under FDR from 1941-1945. Written in 1944 and printed in the New York Times, this piece is warning of the dangers of American fascism. It's clear to me that many of the things he warns us about are evidenced today in the Republican party, especially the Tea Party variant. You can read the full document here. Emphasis is mine.
A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.  […]
The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. […] The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power
If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. […] They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead. American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery. 
Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. […] 
The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. […] 
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. […] They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection. […] 
It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. […] It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and “with malice toward none and charity for all” go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.
Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

H/T to jobsanger.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bryan Fischer is an idiot

The First Amendment was written by the Founders to protect the free exercise of Christianity.
So says Brian Fischer at his column  on RenewAmerica.

That someone has such a limited grasp of the Constitution and history is nothing short of amazing. He even goes so far as to quote a "Constitutional scholar" who says:
"The real object of the [First] amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government."
Really? I seem to remember the First Amendment to our Constitution differently:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The parts of the First Amendment dealing with religion are commonly referred to as freedom of and freedom from religion. The government will not force a state religion (freedom from) and will not prohibit a citizen from exercising religious faith (freedom of).

I love that Fischer and his so-called Constitutional expert both seem to think Thomas Jefferson wanted to prevent the establishment of one Christian sect as primary but had no concerns about the free speech or exercise of religion for other religious faiths. Jefferson is who coined the term "separation of Church and State" and his interpretation of the First Amendment has stood the test of time. Plus, he was not really the kind of Christian that Fischer would have approved of - being a deist and eschewing orthodoxy.

These people who hold up Jefferson has the perfect example of a Christian Founding Father should really pay attention to history. Or at least let the man speak for himself:
I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
Or this:
Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than of blindfolded fear.
There are more, of course. Jefferson was intensely interested in theology but not orthodoxy. He even went so far as to create an edited version of the Bible that removed all mention of miracles. Not really the kind of Christian Fischer and his cronies would like if they took the time to really get to know the man.

H/T to Texas Freedom Network for the article that led me down this rabbit hole.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipe for Hilarity with a dash of WTF

1 tank
12+ Maricopa County Sheriff Office SWAT members
1 bomb robot
Steven Segal

Add 115 chickens and one unarmed man.

Mix well. Spice with terror, miscellaneous armored vehicles and blown out windows.

Recipe makes 115 euthanized chickens, thousands in property damage and one community outraged.

This, they're outraged about. Crazy immigration ideas, not so much. Oi.

H/T to Daily Kos for a diary that made me laugh out loud and then shake my head.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Texas State Board of Education and the Lege

It appears that the Texas Legislature is waking up to the fact the State Board of Education has royally screwed our children and, by extension, the future of Texas.

Amazing when you consider that the legislature consists of a 101 to 49 Republican supermajority. Texans across the board think the SBOE crossed way over the line last year with their adoption of a "we have to stand up to the experts" expert-free social studies curriculum.

There are at least 11 bills making their tortured way through the process as we speak. Some call for the complete dissolution of the SBOE, others seek to reform it. Most noticeable are three that specifically deal with how the Board handles curriculum votes and those experts they like to ignore. One other demands the nullification of the social studies curriculum and would force the Board to reopen the standards.

It is my fervent hope that significant change comes to the State Board of Education. Here's my letter to my representative, Larry Gonzales.

As a Texas Freedom Network Lobby Day participant, I was able to meet with your Chief of Staff, Chris Sanchez to discuss our legislative agenda. I wanted to thank you and Mr. Sanchez for this opportunity. 
I believe it is critical that we do everything legislatively possible to rein in the State Board of Education. 
There are several House bills currently in committee that propose to do just that. In particular, HB 3257 and HB 3504 are both important steps in eliminating some of the more egregious tactics that Board has implemented in the past. HB 3257 would require that the Board make any amendments available for public review 3 business days prior to a vote and require the final version of the standards to be posted for at least 24 hours prior to final adoption. Currently, the board is able to make changes right up to the minute that the standards are voted on. This bill would allow much needed time for scholars and Board members alike to have ample time to review amendments and the final standards. HB 3504 goes one step further and requires a two-thirds vote by the Board to reject recommendations of curriculum and textbook review teams. Currently, as we saw to the state’s detriment last year, the Board only requires a simple majority vote to reject these recommendations. 
HB 2217 would nullify the social studies curriculum passed last year by the Board and force them to reopen the review of the standards. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy think tank, has said that the Board has created a “politicized distortion of history” through the adoption of the current standards. Educators, scholars and voters in Texas all agree that this curriculum needs serious review. 
These are but a few of the bills currently under review by the legislature; I would strongly urge you, as your constituent, to review all of the pending legislation and determine which ones you can support. The State Board of Education has made our proud state not only the laughing stock of the entire nation, but the world as well. Their blatant attempts to revise curriculum from a personal and political bias may well cost us jobs. Employers want to know that their prospective employee pool consists of people who have a firm grasp on history and science. Currently, this is problematic, at best. 
I left with Mr. Sanchez a list of the current bills pending or in committee. Please take the time to review this list and throw your support behind this vitally needed reform. As someone intimately connected with Texas education, I hope that you share my concerns with the direction the SBOE has taken.
I will mail it to him tomorrow. I'm not really expecting a reply. My last letter to him after the Equality Texas lobby day has so far gone unanswered. I'm also faxing a note to each member of the House Public Education committee expressing my interest in seeing these bills make it out of committee.

I'm tired of sitting back and letting the lege do it's thing every two years with no input from me. Here's hoping that being the squeaky wheel has some effect. At least they'll learn to cringe when my postmark crosses their desk.

Monday, March 21, 2011

NaBloPoMo fail.


I did try. I even blogged on the road, but Las Vegas got the best of me. And my money. Surprise. We had a great time, despite the complete inability to win a damn thing in the casinos.

We saw the Lion King at Mandalay Bay, ate entirely too much, spent more than we should have and discovered that the Hard Rock Hotel was...interesting.

That's an actual cymbal used as a lighting sconce. Pretty cool. So was the "mobile intimacy kit" that was in the room. This small, black box contained a pocket "massager",  lubricant and two condoms. I brought it home and gave it to Youngest's boyfriend as his souvenir. What can I say? The Hard Rock appeals to a certain demographic - generally speaking - young. Although the music memorabilia all over the place was cool.

We got good news on Thursday as we were getting ready to leave. Myrddin showed up at the back door that morning. Aside from being a bit skinnier, he seems perfectly fine after his 6 day excursion (which was apparently NOT all inclusive). Just when I was getting used to the idea of being a two dog household he shows up. And I think he may have fleas. Joy.

We stopped by the Grand Canyon on our way home. It was a 3 and a half hour side trip that made us significantly late getting home. But worth it. All along the roadways we kept seeing signs that we should be alert for elk. For two hours we saw these signs but no elk. Talked to the Eldest as we were entering the park, hung up, lost service and what appeared over the hill? 

A herd of elk.

Timing. Not our best skill. At any rate, we made it home. We spent Saturday and Sunday morning at a church retreat and I participated in the Texas Freedom Network's lobby day today.

I'm pooped. I need a break from my break. Alternatively, I could just go back to work tomorrow. Which I will do, but I don't plan on enjoying myself.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

We got in last night after stopping at Hoover Dam, which was pretty incredible. Such as massive undertaking and, of course, the electrical engineer in Hubs was fascinated.

The Hilton conned us into paying $20 more a night to get their new "upgraded" room. In this "upgraded room" we've already had to have maintenance come up and plunge the toilet, the shower curtain is torn and the internet is virtually useless. The last is because of damage sustained in California by the tsunami. So, not Hilton's fault. However, the pillow top bed was worth every penny of the upgrade cost.

Tonight, we're going to see the Lion King at the Mirage. Last night we caught the tail-end of the Bellagio's fountain show and we'll try to catch it again tonight. Today, we're hitting the casino.

Today also happens to be our 25th wedding anniversary. When asked what the trick is to staying married so long is, my Hubs always answers: "marry the right person." Not much help to those advice seekers, but accurate. I would add that luck had no small part in it.

Also, we both just assumed we were in it for the long haul and the only way out would be pistols at 20 paces. Saves the messiness of a divorce.  Sharing a sense of humor (dry and sarcastic), liking similar things (books, gadgets, games) and having similar outlooks on major things (politics, child-rearing) but still maintaining our separate-ness (he plays bridge and is very analytical, I'm a big picture/gestalt thinker). That's it in a nutshell. Probably not very helpful, but it's worked for us.

Now, I'm off to go lose some money at the blackjack tables. Hopefully, not too much. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 14, 2011

OMG GOP WTF New Hampshire! Edition

Have you heard the latest group the GOP/TP wants to disenfranchise now? 18 - 20-year-olds.

A Republican in the New Hampshire state legislature thinks that this age cohort should be denied the right to vote because students are "transient inmates . . . with a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce."

So says state rep Gregory Doth in prepared remarks. Prepared as in this was not an off the cuff statement. No, he thought about it and decided this was what he wanted to say.

And he wasn't alone. New Hampshire House Speaker O'Brien agrees: "Voting as a liberal. That's what kids do," he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack "life experience," and "they just vote their feelings.

I urge you to go read the entire diary entry by Dante Atkins at the Daily Kos entitled Assault on Student Voting : Just the Latest GOP overreach. I can't link to it properly since I am composing this via email on my phone. But hey, the fact that I can blog while travelling 70mph on I-10 in Arizona is pretty damn nifty.

Viva technology!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On The Road Again

We're off and headed to Las Vegas for our anniversary.

Eldest has reluctantly signed on to dogsit (and be sister-taxi).  We bought them enough food and alcohol to feed a small army. The usual rules apply - the house better be in the same condition we left it in or reduced to literal rubble. No half-assed measures.

We just had dinner in Fort Stockton at John Chihuahuas. Service was really awful and the food (Tex-Mex) was just ok. Don't bother stopping there if you're ever in the ass end of Texas.

We left town about 1:30. We still have another 3 hours before we're out of Texas. Then it's a mad dash across New Mexico, way too long in Arizona (which we've been warned is one giant speed trap) and a hop, skip and a jump to Vegas. We expect to get there about 1:15 PM, local time. Yes, we're driving straight through.

It'll be fine. I know where all the 24 hour Shell stations are on our route.

See you in Vegas!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nuclear Meltdown Possible in Japan

Though the information coming out of Japan is understandably sketchy and confused at this point, there is growing concern that at least on of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima is in meltdown. There was an explosion yesterday and Cesium has been detected in the atmosphere. Japan's government has ordered the evacuation of residents within 20 kilometers of one nuclear power plant and within 10 kilometers of a second. More than 83,000 people live within 10 kilometers of the two plants, according to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

This is horrible news. It's not enough that they have to deal with the worst earthquake in their history and the resulting tsunami, now there is this. This reactor is 250 km north of Tokyo. (For us non-metric folk, that is or about 155 miles, slightly less than the distance from Houston to Austin. )

Some are calling this disaster worse than Chernobyl. An 18 mile restricted zone is still enforced around Chernobyl 25 years later. We could easily see a similar zone go up around Fukushima. Perhaps even larger since there are multiple reactors there and it's possible that more than one is in danger of meltdown.

Remember, the effects of Chernobyl were felt far from the Ukraine. Today in Germany, the government buys wild boar meat from hunters to limit its exposure on the market. Why? Because it's radioactive. 25 years later, the wild boar in Germany are still finding cesium-137 in their diet of mushrooms and truffles, which tend to absorb more radiation.

Germany is 720 miles from Chernobyl.

While I doubt that it will happen, what happens if Japan, or a large portion of it, becomes uninhabitable?  If Tokyo, with a population of 12 million, has to deal with radiation poisoning, how does the world respond?

Japan has a massive economy. If that economy fails because of these combined disasters, what happens to the world economy?

We're still very early in the aftermath. We'll learn more as the days pass. Right now, so much of the news we have seems conflicting. The human toll is still unknown. Death tolls and missing counts change regularly and depend on whom is speaking.

Right now, all I can do is pray. Pray that the engineers stabilize the reactors. Pray that the loss of life is minimal. Pray that Japan recovers from this blow.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

As I watched the videos of the earthquake I was struck by one thing - the lights didn't go out. They didn't even flicker. Every video I've ever seen of an earthquake in California, the lights flickered.

I know it's a silly thing to note in the face of so much devastation, but I couldn't help but be impressed by the high quality of Japanese construction.

The story is still coming out, in drips and drabs, as Anderson Cooper just said. We can expect more devastation and higher death tolls.

No matter how well you build, the massive force of a tsunami is something that cannot be denied. Watching the video of the wall of water moving inland, picking up cars and flattening buildings, makes you feel pretty damn insignificant.

When we watched the devastation emerge from Haiti last year, we responded. A country so poor clearly needed our help. The Red Cross has set up their 90999 number for donations. Text JAPAN to that number to send $10. Convoy of Hope has a text line set up as well. Text TSUNAMI to 50555 to donate $10.

There are other charitable and disaster relief organizations taking donations. My concern is that fewer people will respond to this disaster than did Haiti. In part because we've seen so little improvement in Haiti and people may feel that their money won't get where it is needed. My other concern is that people will look at Japan, an economic power house, and think - they don't need our help. 

That won't be true, of course. This is the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history. Aftershocks as high as 7.1 have been recorded. For comparison, the quake in Haiti last year was 7.0. These aftershocks are major quakes in their own right. 

The Japanese people have a long way to go and much hardship ahead of them. On a more personal note, my company is getting ready to open an office in Japan. We just announced the hire of our first employee there yesterday and anticipated opening the office in April. Our new hire is fine and managed to get an email to us. He is shaken but unharmed. Where we go from here is unknown. 

My prayers go out to the Japanese people.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

We Are All Americans

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the only Muslim in Congress, spoke today at Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) Congressional hearings on "radical Islam".

Republicans like King, who is personally channeling old Joe McCarthy, don't want to hear this. They don't want to be told that Muslim-Americans are real Americans. They want to believe that an entire group walks in the footsteps of Al Qaeda. They believe that radical Christians are "crazed individuals" acting alone and not worthy of a congressional hearing.

King is not helping this country by painting all Muslims with the same brush as the terrorists. It's just not true. No more than it's true that all Christians are gay-bashing, muslim-hating, gun-toting Republicans. Radical elements of any faith get more press. In the case of Christians, the radical right wing of the faith seemingly dictates the dialog in the country. They no more represent a majority of Christians than radical Islamists do for their faith.

Let us remember Mohammed Salman Hamdani as a shining example of a true American and a true hero. Let his sacrifice be a reminder that Muslim-Americans deserve our respect and not our suspicion.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lost Dog

Have you seen this dog?

If so, you can keep him.

Yep, Myrddin escaped this morning. Again. While wearing his $40 Thundershirt (which by the way, seemed to help last night when it started thundering) and outside with the other two for all of 10 minutes, Myrddin made his daring escape. We looked for him for about 30-45 minutes before we finally conceded defeat and got ready for work. Though we looked for him as we headed out of town since our route is one if his jaunt routes. No luck.

I thought I saw him once about 2-3 blocks ahead of me but he didn't even slow down, if indeed it was him, when I called. I am waiting for the call from Animal Control (he's chipped).

We've made signs to put up after work if 1) Animal Control hasn't called or 2) Some irate nice neighbor hasn't returned him to the back yard.

Damn dog.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

RTT - dogs, politics and phones

It's Tuesday! Go random with the Unmom. Grab the fugly button and join in the fun.

Myrddin's Thundershirt is getting mixed reviews. Hubs wants it to cancel all barking and whining. I'm pleased that it appears to settle him down when he gets anxious or overly excited. He's a vocal breed. I don't think anything short of removing his vocal cords will stop the barking. (Not gonna happen, don't worry.) It HAS helped him calm down when he got nervous during fireworks, has helped him control the urge to jump on people and reduced his barking when someone enters the house. It hasn't stopped his barking when he gets excited or frustrated when playing. All in all, I think it was worth the $40.  He seems a bit less twitchy (such a technical term, I know) when he's wearing it.

Yesterday was my first foray into citizen lobbying. I participated in Equality Texas' Lobby Day and will be attending the Texas Freedom Network's lobby day later in the month. It was strangely satisfying to do something and express my concerns to people in a position of power (however small since we spoke to staffers). Will be doing it again. Definitely. Next one should be interesting since it's focusing on the State Board of Education, Sex Ed and more fun and exciting culture war topics. 

I managed to leave my EVO outside over night. It fell out of my purse on Friday when I was bringing luggage in from the car. I found it the next morning covered in dew. It was still operational but would randomly shut down. I took it apart and stuck it in a bowl of rice over night. I have since had no issues. One more positive in the EVO's column. I doubt it would withstand going through the washing machine like our old LG phones did. More than once. But considering the replacement cost, I was thrilled that the rice trick worked. First time I've ever tried it.

My new favorite app is the Starbucks app that allows me to purchase my coffee with a 2D barcode. As in, the phone generates a barcode that the barista scans and Voila!. Coffee purchased. I can even manage multiple cards and reload cards from the phone. Pretty damn spiffy. Hubs said I was a bigger techofile than him when I geeked out over the joys buying coffee via my phone. He's just jealous.

New photo of Aibhne, the beast.
Every photo I took of her that day had a blur for a tail. She's a happy critter, that's for damn sure. Plus, who can resist those eyes? She likes to lay next to me and lay her head on my chest. Then stare at me with those big brown eyes. She gets lots of ear scratches and kisses whenever she does.

That's it for today. Go visit the Unmom for more random fun.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Equality Texas Lobby Day 2011

I participated in my first ever Lobby Day today. After a bit of a rocky start where my group's leader never showed up and the only other group member left before we even headed to the capitol, I joined a group of really great women and one college student.

We visited Senators Steve Ogden and Kirk Watson and Representatives Mark Strama, Elliott Naishtat, Donna Howard and Larry Gonzales. Ogden and Gonzales are both Republicans that represent my districts.

Strama is the author of House Bill 224 that amends the Texas Education Code to require policy and program development, staff and parent training for the prevention and reporting of bullying, and amends the Education Code to include cyberbullying.

It's an important piece of legislation and one that our group focused heavily on in our meetings with staff members. The goal of Lobby Day is to place a human face on the issues and to let our legislators know the areas that concern us. We were also able to tell Representative Strama's staff member how much we appreciate his authoring of this bill.

The only legislator that we felt gave us any push back was my very own State Representative Larry Gonzales, or rather his Chief of Staff. When we spoke about the anti-bullying legislation he wanted to know how the bill would define bullying and said that many educators had voiced their concerns about the reporting portion of the bill and their fears that this would introduce an increased burden in a time of budgetary cutbacks and increased work load. We urged him to encourage Representative Gonzales to keep in communication with Rep. Strama about this bill and his concerns.

One of the most impressive things I learned today were the results of a survey commissioned by Equality Texas that asked 12 questions concerning LGBT issues. The results were striking and give lie to the idea that Texas is lost cause in this arena.

The poll found that 79.2% of Texans support uniform anti-bullying legislation to prohibit harassment in schools, including the children of gay/lesbian parents or teens who are gay. 75.4% support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and 69.7% would extend that employment and housing support to transgender Texans. Even when broken down by political party, a majority of Republicans support 9 out 12 of the rights issues in the poll. Here are the results by political affiliation:

Guaranteed right to visit their partners in a hospital 94.10% 87.60% 85.40%
Pass uniform anti-bullying legislation to prohibit harassment in schools 89.60% 78.80% 72.40%
Prohibit employment or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation 82.20% 73.50% 73.10%
Guaranteed right to make end of life medical decisions for a partner 88.80% 72.70% 68.90%
Prohibit employment/housing discrimination for transgender citizens 78.90% 67.60% 68.00%
Gays/ Lesbians have same legal rights with respect to their children 85.20% 68.20% 57.50%
Pass hate crime legislation for transgender citizens 79.30% 64.00% 57.50%
Partner's legal rights to inherit possessions if there is no will in place 83.70% 64.20% 54.30%
Allow gays and lesbians to get a civil union 76.80% 59.40% 57.60%
Extend domestic partnership benefits to government/public university employees 79.60% 62.60% 49.70%
Recognize same sex marriage if wed in another state that allows it 72.20% 50.40% 29.00%
Allow gays and lesbians to get married 65.20% 40.80% 27.90%

Those are hopeful numbers. They prove that even in Texas the group consensus is moving towards full LGBT inclusion.

Thank you to Equality Texas for organizing this event. Thanks to my group members. I especially thank all the staff members that took time out of their day to speak to us. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Dream of Future Past

I awaken to the scent
of moisture.
When I look about me
I see tree trunks shooting upward
towards a green, living canopy above.
Filtered from above,
the light feels soft and pleasant.
Sounds reach me from all levels
of the forest.
Bird song provides the melody;
the buzz of many insects
the bass undertone;
and the shrieks and calls
of the colonies of monkeys
hidden in the treetops
provide the counterpoint
in the living song surrounding me.
Besides the myriad shades of green,
I see wild, vibrant colors
decorating the trees.
All around I sense
the hum of life.
Life as it has been,
unchanged for millions of years,
delicately balanced
and glorious in its diversity.

Carried by the wind,
a new scent arrives,
the smell of death for the forest--
Sounds approaching
invoke the feeling of invaders
from another time.
Loud crashes,
steady thumps,
but instead of a marching horde of
the giant dinosaurs they sound like,
the lumbering machines of man appear.
The song of the forest has changed.
The simple joy of living
fades into the panicked screams of fear
that mute the sound of man
to an ominous rhythmic undertone.
I close my eyes against the sight
and when all falls silent
I look around me
and see the desert that I call home.
A dry and gritty wind
wipes away the last scent of forest
from my aching nostrils
as the brutal, unrelenting sun
bakes my skin
with its harsh reality.
My eyes cannot even cry
for what is lost;
my body has forgotten how.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Teachers v CEOs

Jon Stewart pegs it again. Whether or not you feel Wall Street is to blame for the recession, how can anyone believe that their bonuses are somehow immune and teacher salaries are up for grabs? I am so sick of hearing the tired old meme - "they only work 9 months a year". Well, your kids only go to school nine months a year, but teachers generally go longer. It varies by state, but most require some sort of continuing education. They stay longer and start sooner.

It may seem like they're getting a good deal because they have the summers off but, as usual, there's a bit more to it. If they choose to take their salary in 9 monthly chunks, they have no income those other 3 months.

I could go on, but someone else says it better:

Wake up America. The people that you've elected want you undereducated and misinformed. They're trying to systematically reduce our education system to the laughing stock of the developed world. They want to remove all rights won by women, force the gays back in the closet and remove every safeguard put in place over the last century to protect the American worker from management that sees them only as numbers on a spreadsheet and not as people.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Miracle Known as the Thundershirt®

If you've never heard of the Thundershirt® and have a "high maintenance" dog, you must go look at the videos.

Myrddin, our nutcase, barks at all sorts of things - people he knows, dogs barking on the tv, birds, motorcycles, the list goes on and on. He also gets very excited around lights - flashlights, camera flashes, etc. And he hates thunder and fireworks. He also has some separation anxiety.

He's a basket case.

I saw this item and watched the videos and thought, damn it SO worth $40 to try.

Myrddin's arrived yesterday. He's wearing it right now. He's much calmer. He didn't bark at Hubs and Eldest when they got home from dinner. He whined a bit when I was watching the barking dogs on the video but when I muted it and shushed him, he actually stopped. He didn't start orbiting the house looking for the other dog. Big improvement. HUGE.

We're still early in the process, but I have high hopes. He doesn't seem to mind it and he is much calmer.

The real test will be the next time is thunders.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


My monitor has decided that everything needs to be pink. Or shades thereof.

It's kinda creepy. And hard to describe. Eldest says it's "just red shifted" as if that makes it all better. Pissant.

Sigh. Why can we not make it through a single solitary month without something of significance breaking. Eldest says it's because we live in a trashy house and buy used appliances. Still a pissant.

She should stop looking over my shoulder and commenting while I blog.

Speaking of Eldest, she just appeared. Well, she did call first. But I had forgotten she was coming in town this weekend. One of her oldest friends is having a going away party. Said friend and her significant other are about to leave town for 5 months and go hike the Appalachian Trail.

When did the phrase "significant other" fall out of use? Or has it? Maybe I just don't run with the hip crowd anymore. And can someone please tell my husband that "sig oth" if NOT an acceptable abbreviation. Seriously, dude. I never heard it called that. I think you made it up. Makes some kind of engineering-y rational sense I suppose - 3 letters in each part of the butchered mess - but it's still wrong.

All the pink is giving me a headache and apparently hindering my ability to be coherent. BUT, I did get a post up for today. Go me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 5 of being "single"

My husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary the 15th of this month. The most depressing part of that statement is the fact that I work with people who have barely been alive that long. That's what makes me feel old. Not having 22 and 21-year-old daughters. Not being 47. No, it's the fact that I am old enough to be the mother of half the office and have been married long enough to prove it.

Hubs is out of the country, galavanting over in Germany at some insanely boring semiconductor conference. (At least it would be to me). Thus, the aforementioned "being single". He's been gone since last Friday and doesn't get back until this Friday. It's starting to get really boring around here.

As we were basically too poor to do much of anything exciting like travel when we were younger (say until we were 40), we haven't spent that much time apart. Hubs travels 2 or 3 times a year for this job but this is the longest he's been gone. The funny part? The conference runs March 1-3. He left February 25. I had the opportunity to talk to the President of the company yesterday and he was curious why Hubs was going to be in Germany for a week. Turns out, it's quite a bit cheaper to fly on a Friday. About $800 cheaper. Add in the additional cost of a hotel room for 4 extra days and the company still came out $400 ahead.

This weekend, the girls visited so I wasn't alone. (If you can call it alone with three needy canines). But last night, the solitary existence was a bit much. It doesn't usually bother me when he leaves on business but last night as I went to bed I almost broke down and let the dogs get into bed with me.

We've been told by the trainer that letting them sleep with us is a big no-no. And they've taken the news surprisingly well. They no longer even try to get in bed. Hubs loves not having a dog pushing him to the edge of the bed or adding their not inconsiderable body heat to his. Me? I didn't usually mind the dogs, but I conceded that it would be difficult to be seen as the alpha pair from the bottom of the dog pile.

The only real problem with this change of sleeping arrangements comes in the form of Aibhne. She is a morning dog. In the mornings, she wakes up way too freaking perky, way too freaking early. Since she's sleeping on the floor now, she wakes up and stays up at our first movement. God forbid I have to go to the bathroom at 5 am. To placate her whining, I let her get in bed. It gets us another half hour of sleep, generally. Sometimes more if it's obscenely early, like this morning.

Actually, I suspect she wakes up and realizes she's hungry. We've put her on a diet and lately have been trying to ensure that Myrddin eats all of his food. So she's no longer able to finish his. Which means, of course, that she's dying.

And always, always hungry. Even after she eats. She's really convincing, too. She has been known to trick one of us into feeding her a second time because she's so convincing. Lord knows, the crinkle of any plastic bag brings her running. She begs unashamedly. It's really hard to resist when she lays her head in your lap and stares up at you with those big brown eyes - "Mommy, look at me. I'm wasting away. So hungry." Yep. She's a pro.

If I could just get her to sleep in tomorrow morning. Maybe I should slip her a dramamine. Right now, of course, she's out cold. As soon as I finish this post, she'll pop up and be her usual dopey self. It's like having a perpetual 2-year-old in the house.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NaBloPoMo - In a Word

Well, here I go again. Instead of the sporadic writing I've been doing of late, I'm going to attempt the NaBloPoMo thing again. This month's theme was intriguing - In A Word. So much room for exploration. I even made my own "badge" with Wordle.

In fact, it's that word cloud badge thingie that will probably be my prime source for inspiration.

Sunday night, I watched a documentary on Netflix called "The Age of Stupid". It's the story of how we killed ourselves through greed and ignorance and willful neglect of the planet. It's sobering.

We have such a small window of opportunity to change the way we live and save the environment. So small that it seems almost inevitable that the collapse will come.

Perhaps as a fellow blogger noted just recently, we're all suffering from mass suicidal ideation. In layman's terms, as Pete Postlethwaithe says in the film, perhaps we all feel the human race doesn't deserve to live.

I sometimes wonder myself.

I'm reminded once again of my Hubs "theory of the human race" that goes like this - humanity as a species should be viewed as a single organism, a child. He thinks we're about 13-years-old, more or less. At least, that's the way we act. We've moved from viewing the thunder as the sounds of an angry god to the understanding of meteorology. We know enough to think we know everything. Knowledge without wisdom. Sounds like a 13-year-old to me.

Without a lot of luck, we may end up like the child who willfully ignores everything and everyone that tells them to grow up. Unfortunately for the human race, if we don't mature and take responsibility for ourselves and our planet, we die. And we might just take every living thing on Earth with us.

You know, this idea of global climate collapse has been around for a while. I remember reading a book back in the 80s by Whitley Streiber  and James Kunteka called "Nature's End" that talked about climate change and overpopulation. We've known for years what needed to be done and we did nothing, or next to it.

Just today, I read an article about solar-powered yarn. Created by Dr. Ray Baughman and his team at the Nanotech Institute at the University of Texas in Dallas, these fibers combine solar harvesting with battery storage in a super-light, super-strong nanotube. Dr Baughman says commercial applications are about 5 years away but that the military is very interested.

The idea of creating wearable photovoltaics isn't new. Google solar cloth and you'll see hits from 2002. Indeed, solar power is not a new technology at all. At my company, we have a pretty busy bunch of market analysts looking at renewables. They're very busy writing about massive PV installations in Germany.

Why, if we've known for 30 years that oil was a finite resource, that pollution from burning fossil fuels was wrecking the environment and that renewable energy was completely doable as a technology, have we gotten ourselves to this point?  Why do we stop wind farms from being built because they'll ruin our property values? Why haven't we got a reliable, cheap electric car?

The answer to these questions lies in who benefits from making sure that we continue to be addicted to oil.

Just a hint: it's not you or me and certainly not our children.