28 February 2006

Compulsive behavior

So I've got my story how I want it aside from a final proofing, and for once it occurred to me to add pictures to it, but now I can't find any that I like. I didn't think it would be so hard to find a few decent, story-relevant pics, but there's only so many pages of google images I'm willing to scroll through.

It makes me think I should go shoot my own tomorrow as it'll be dark very soon. Except that it's going to be cold tomorrow, and do I really want to walk around in that?

Maybe I should illustrate it instead. Or accept something less than perfect... yeah, there's an idea.

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27 February 2006

One of those days

Actually it started just before I went to bed last night. A mystery muscle pull near to qualifying as throwing my back out. Nothing like that to make you feel old.

I took some Advil and kept my breathing easy, so today it's not so bad, but it's still there as this niggling twinge threatening to become more painful. Bah.

In the meantime, a longer tale is in the works, but my concentration is waning (more due to interruption than pain). Hopefully it'll be up later tonight.

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25 February 2006

NBC, you make me wonder

I was going to watch some more of the Olympics while matching up socks this afternoon, but in lieu of actually covering the competition, they were airing a piece on an Italian Olympian from decades ago.

Nothing else was on, so I figured I'd see how my Italian comprehension was during some of the interviews.

Eugenio Monti was an Italian bobsledder who is known largely for a great act of sportsmanship during the 1964 Winter Olympics. He lent a bolt from his bobsled to a competing team that went on to win the gold medal while he and his teammate got the bronze.

He was a fair-minded guy at the top of his sport. He would graciously share his knowledge with other competitors even though it might (and sometimes did) mean they would beat him.

It was an uplifting story of good sportsmanship, fair play, and perseverance that paid off when Monti finally won gold in 1968 when he was 40.

He had a family and continued building his ski business. Then he was old, divorced, alone, suffering from Parkinson's, unable to do what he could before, and he killed himself.

The 45 minute documentary ended, and to drive the disheartening end home, the Olympic anchorman stressed how no athlete now would ever dream of helping another if it might lead to their own loss. Sportsmanship is a thing of the past.

With the money and endorsements at stake for today's athletes, I don't disagree, but I feel like the network missed the point. The Olympics should be a source of inspiration, not a tragic reminder of how much better things once were. And if they can't manage that, then they should just show more of the sports.

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Homage

To celebrate Merujo's 25,000th hit this week, I present you with a tall tale (pure fiction, people!) lensed through experiences liberally borrowed from Church of the Big Sky.

Several years ago, I was stationed in Rio de Janeiro. Walking home from work one evening, I heard a familiar voice pouring out of the Plaza Grande Hotel lounge. It can't be. I walked in and found a seat at the end of the bar. I couldn't believe my eyes. Thomas Dolby was singing an unusual arrangement of "Whatever Lola Wants" on stage with his keyboard.

I leaned back against the bar to enjoy the spectacle when I noticed Jacques approaching. He leaned in next to me and said, "I was going to ask what brings you here, but I can see that clearly enough. Let me buy you a drink." His French accent was thick, but I was thankful he spoke English because I couldn't understand his Portuguese at all.

Jacques worked at the French embassy and whenever I saw him, he was wearing a perfectly pressed linen suit. Lately, I'd been running into him quite a lot. He called the bartender over and ordered two drinks. Jacques was about to pay for them when a woman behind him held up her hand and said something to the bartender.

"This one's on me," she said in clear English.

Jacques turned and was clearly frustrated. He addressed her in Portuguese and they had an exchange too rapid for me to follow. She seemed calm which only served to make him angrier. Finally he picked up his drink and stalked off. I could've been mistaken, but it sounded like the last thing she said to him was, "Hit the road, Jacques, and don't ya come back."

"What was that about?" I asked, a bit disturbed that she'd driven him off.

"Oh, chica, don't waste your time with him. He just wants a green card."

"How do you know that?"

"It's my business to know," she said with a smile. "I've seen him before. He finds an American new to town, talks about how lonely it can be in a strange place, and then runs into her all over town all the while a perfect gentleman."

It was unnerving how accurately she'd described the time I'd spent with Jacques. Something had always seemed a little bit off about him- he was too eager to please.

"Besides, he's gay," she finished.

"I knew there was something about him... I just couldn't put my finger on it."

"You weren't likely to either," she said with a smile.

I laughed and raised my glass, "Thank you, ...?"

"Lola," she replied.

I looked at Thomas Dolby and then back to her. "He's an old friend, Claire," Lola said.

"How do you know my name?"

"I told you, 'It's my business to know.'"

"And what business is that?" I asked.

Lola leaned in and said simply, "Prostitution," and leaned back to watch my response.

"Thomas Dolby?"

"No," she laughed, "He really is just an old friend."

A million other questions came to mind, but she seemed well-adjusted and who was I to judge? With a small stipend in a foreign country, there wasn't much I could do to change her life.

"And you, Claire, what business brings you to Brazil?"

"I'm working at the National Geographic office here, but I imagine you already knew that."

Lola took a discreet sip of her drink and politely waited for me to continue.

"I'm doing some background research on the ice skaters training for the Olympics."

In enthusiastic Portuguese, Lola exclaimed, "Oh my Lord, Fabio and Elena? They're so inspiring."
Everyone in Brazil knew the story. Fabio Garcia and Elena Marquez were world-renowned ballroom dancers from Brazil. They had won every title available in their field at least once, but they both had always dreamed of winning Olympic gold medals. Back then ballroom dancing didn't even rate as an exhibition sport for the summer Olympics, so they took the only course available to them: they would become ice dancers.

Already their training had had some tragic consequences. Elena had lost two and half digits after Fabio had dropped her and run over her hand with his skate, but she remained determined. She would not be denied her chance for gold.
I asked Lola, "Would you like to meet them?"

Her smile broadened in guileless joy. "That would be wonderful. Thank you."

Maybe together, Lola and I will be able to uncover what happened to Elena's fingers after the accident. The cut was clean, so they should've been able to reattach them, but once Elena was at the hospital, the fingers were gone.


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23 February 2006

Why wasn't it me?

So iTunes hit its 1 billionth song download, but it wasn't me. If the amount of entertainment I derived from a $25 gift certificate for xmas is any indication, I really would've had a good time with one for $10,000. The iMac and 10 iPods would've been cool too.

It reminds me of that huge lottery I drove to Georgia to play. An eighteen year old girl (which I call her reluctantly since young woman sounds redundant while woman just sounds too old in this instance) who had never played a lottery before won the $220 million.

Never having played has always seemed a foreign concept to me. Sure, you can't collect until you're 18, but my mom would let my brother and I pick numbers, and sometimes we'd drive over the border for a big jackpot. Good times.

My second year in LA, playing the lottery became a regular pick-me-up. Just a dollar to entertain some extravagant daydreams until the next drawing. I'd walk to the liquor store down the street to get my ticket.

On one occasion when I handed my card to the guy behind the counter, a woman came up and asked me if she should play.

I sort of shrugged and said, "Yeah, it's up to $112 million."

"Oh," she exhaled in enthusiasm.

I pocketed my slip of picks and turned to leave, but she was blocking my way.

"How do you play?" she asked.

It was a ridiculous question to me. How can someone not know how to play the lottery? I wondered.

"You just take one of these," I said handing her a blank card, "and pick six numbers." I maneuvered my way around her so I could get to the door.

"How do you mean? Could you show me?"

My hand was pushing the door open. Oh, you've got to be kidding. Nobody could be that clueless. I let the door go and turned back. I pointed to the card and said, "You just fill in the blocks of the six numbers you want."

"How do you choose your numbers?" she pressed on.

It's not like I had somewhere to be, but the onslaught of dumb questions was getting to me.

"Favorite number, birthdays, that sort of thing. You can pick whatever you want though," I said shoving the door all the way open, "Look, I've gotta go."

"Oh, OK. Thanks."

"Sure," I said with a brief nod before plunging out the doorway.

It wasn't until I was halfway home that I thought of an answer to: how could she possibly need so much help filling out a lottery card?

Maybe she didn't.

Maybe she was hitting on me.

I stopped, looked back down the sidewalk, and tried to remember what she looked like. I hadn't been paying much attention. Because I felt pretty scruffy in my frayed denim shorts and dark purple t-shirt with holes all along the edge of its central decal, being hit on just hadn't occurred to me.

I needed a second opinion, so I finished walking home and called a bud with a great sum of dating mojo. She wasn't sure either but suggested I change clothes and go back. By the time I psyched myself up to go talk to a stranger, the lottery woman was long gone.

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22 February 2006

Another Wednesday Rolls Around

Lost is a repeat, so get your asses over to UPN and watch Veronica Mars at 9 PM. Yes, it's a repeat too, but if you haven't seen it, what better time to dive into this year's mysteries? Unlike Lost, the clues on Veronica Mars actually lead to solving mysteries.

I think Dave said it best: "Unlike Lost, STUFF ACTUALLY HAPPENS!!"

If that's not enough for ya, check out Buffy creator Joss Whedon's rave review for the season 1 DVD.

Even Stephen King writes: "Will Veronica Mars ever achieve the popular success it so richly deserves? Alas, probably not."

I still have my hopes for it though. At the very least, I want to see Veronica go to college next year, so watch!

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20 February 2006

The Gargle is On

Human petri dish is not how I care to think of myself, but the white spots at the back of my throat can't be denied. I feel kinda tired, but otherwise ok, so I'm taking it easy today in hopes of staving this off.

Salt water, do your thing.

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17 February 2006

9 symphonies

In honor of what would be Wolfgang's 250th birthday, Danish national radio has released 9 Mozart symphonies as very high quality podcasts which you can download for free.

You can get them at the iTunes music store. Just do a search for "Mozart 250," and click on the podcast. Or try pasting http://podcast.dr.dk/mozart/rssfeed/mozart.xml into your podcasting software.

OR

Go to http://www.dr.dk/P2/Mozart250/download/20060118135037.htm and download the symphonies individually.

Enjoy.

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Daughters and the Moms They Blog About

Neil's comment on my last post got me thinking. I hate Dr. Phil--ok, hate is strong, but he does creep me out-- so, no, I won't be making any appearances with my family. I already know that I should get my act together and that my parents' kindness enables my reclusiveness.

Anyway, this really just reminded me of a moment at dinner a couple days ago.

I was being good. Mom set up her anecdote's climax, but then told a long, meandering tale that felt like it would never pay off. I didn't interrupt and resisted the urge to ask how all the extraneous information was relevant.

We moved on to other topics, but then in one sentence I blew all of my good efforts with a smartass retort as to what dinnertime is actually for. "No, it's a time to see how many bits of conversation dad will reiterate because he just wasn't listening to us, and to see how long it'll take you to come around to the punchline of your story." I was doing so well, why did I just blow all of that restraint?

Then very unexpectedly and directly, Mom demanded, "Do you write about your father and me on your website...blog or whatever you call it?"

As the burn swept up my cheeks, the following crossed my mind:
Of course.
If I say that, I'm admitting I have a blog.
Am I blushing or does it just feel that way to me?
Maybe when she encouraged me to write about my experiences living here (with the caveat that she didn't want to read it), she didn't expect me to post them on the web.
This is why I'd be a bad poker player.

Fortunately, she was kind and followed up with a topic-changing question with nary a pause. Either she already had her answer, or she didn't really want it confirmed.

Thanks for the support and the inspiration, Mom!

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16 February 2006

The unconscious lie

"You don't care what I think," mom said in surprise to my reaction.

"Sure, I do," I replied at the same time dad said, "That's not true."

"My opinion shouldn't matter," mom continued, selling the idea as if she really believed it.

It was possibly the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard. How many times has she said, "You don't think my opinion is valid," or "I can't even state my opinion" with tears in her eyes because her point of view wasn't getting enough air time?

"We do things differently," she went on, "That doesn't mean I'm disparaging your approach to things."

"You said, 'That sounds like a complete waste of time,'" I countered. I had been explaining what Wikipedia is, and why I thought it's a cool resource.

"It'd be a waste of time for me," she said as clarification.

"Not necessarily," Dad interjected.

Mom continued to push the my-opinion-shouldn't-matter agenda, but I couldn't respond to it because I don't think she really believes it (at least not 90% of the time). To her, it was unfair that my initial reaction was to take her comment personally. Ironic, eh?

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Measuring mysteries

Who came up with women's sizing in the US? Really, I want to know because this person should be drawn and quartered.

I just finished flipping through a Lands' End catalog that my mom thought might have something I'd want. Could it be more pastel? That's another issue though.

When I got to the swimsuits, I noticed they had swim shorts "with a stretch panty underneath." Immediately I wondered how they were sized: like underwear or like shorts? And why is there no correlation between the two?

According to a salesclerk I encountered somewhere years ago, adding 20 to a women's pant size is supposed to correspond to her waist measurement. Underwear sizing is clearly on some other scale. Obviously waist measurement wouldn't be that useful, but hip measurement would be. It's range is smaller than pant sizes though so that can't be it.

Why can't they just use measurements like they do for menswear? Waist, inseam... actually have a variety of options. Yes, some places offer long or tall versions, and most places have petite, but the same size # will vary between designers. The more expensive, the more likely the clothing will be sized so as to make you think you're fitting into a smaller size.

Is all this psychological size maneuvering really necessary? Strangely, I'm more self-conscious with women's sizing (here I mean women as female as opposed to women's, miss, and junior's sizing because I don't remember which is which). To accommodate my height in women's sizing, I have to try on sizes that I associate with being fat.

Where the hell does that come from? I know better, but it's still in my head. The measurements in men's sizing don't phase me. No doubt, it doesn't hurt that there are so many sizes larger than what I wear available.

I think women's sizing gives the sense of a greater disparity between equivalent sizes in men's. At least that's how my mind seems to process it.

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57 Degrees

So this is what it's like in places that don't have six more weeks winter after February 2.

I walked out onto my deck in socks, jeans, and a t-shirt earlier. In my post-shower warmth, it felt perfect with the sun shining on my face. It's streaming across the bookshelves now, a baby blue sky behind the near silhouetted trees; dusk approaches.

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15 February 2006

When I grow up

I want to be Veronica Mars. Ok, maybe not exactly since she encounters plenty of trouble, but she handles it all with grace, strength, intelligence, and confidence.

I'm so glad I started watching this season. The show is so well-written it really should be getting as much or more acclaim than Lost and Desperate Housewives. The mysteries are complex enough to keep me guessing. Unlike most crime shows, the suspect pool isn't limited to that week's guest stars, and some mysteries unfold over weeks as clues accumulate. Perhaps most importantly, the show makes me laugh.

Kristen Bell, talks more about Veronica Mars here.

Watch it Wednesdays at 9PM on UPN.

Season 1 is available on DVD, and I'm loving every minute of it. Costco had it for $35.99.

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14 February 2006

The other V-day

Learn about V-day's mission to end violence against women and girls.

Find a V-day event near you, read The Vagina Monologues, and support V-day until the violence stops.

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12 February 2006

Night aerobics

I started feeling feverish last night, so I opted to go to bed early (midnight instead of after two). I felt sleepy, so I thought it was going to work out fine, but I was wrong.

After rolling over twice, as per recent custom, I was unable to settle into a comfortable sleepy zone. Too many covers, not enough, pajamas pulling at my neck. I reached behind me and adjusted my long-sleeved tee, but it didn't help. I considered getting up, but I was tired enough that turning on a light sounded painful.

Throughout, my mind wandered a great deal.

After a couple hours of restless tossing and repositioning had elapsed, I decided that at least I was burning some extra calories. Aerobics for the insomniac: it's the wave of the future.

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Did I just say that?

Have you ever had a moment right after you've said something when you wonder how it possibly could have come out of your mouth?

When I came downstairs mom was channel surfing. "No Olympics?" I asked.

"No," she said dismayed, "they're showing Nascar."

"Maybe it's on one of NBC's affiliate channels," I suggested.

After some hunting, we found a hockey game on CNBC. Canada was crushing the Russian team 10-0. We watched for a while seeing the Canadians score again when they finally had a closeup of one of the players.

"It's ladies' hockey!" I exclaimed with a rush of enthusiasm. Where in my brain did ladies come from? And to describe hockey players, no less.

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11 February 2006

Side note follow-up

When I was writing yesterday's post, I planned to include a link for Jane Fonda. That was until I read what wiki and nndb had to say about her; both had several errors and a strong enough negative bias that I opted not to link them.

It throws me that thirty years later, her name can still be used as a political slur. So many other people have intentionally ordered and/or committed truly heinous acts that it does not seem fair, particularly when you consider her ongoing philanthropic works. I guess that speaks to the lightning rod quality of celebrity and a need some have to vilify their opposition.

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10 February 2006

Dos

I am off to a slow start when it comes to my book count this year, but I think my momentum is picking up. I just finished:
My Life So Far by Jane Fonda (4/5)

I've read a lot of autobiographies over the years, and I was impressed by the level of structuring present to support the telling of her intricate story. Many a Hollywood memoir is full of gaps and non-sequiturs, but this is not one of them. The book contains lots of photos, but at near 600 pages, she has not relied on them for filler.

She writes forthrightly about her family relationships, husbands, her bulimia, and her struggle to find her own voice. It took her a long time to come into her own, and I find that reassuring: it's never too late if you want to change, it just might take a while. She embarked on this quest of change and discovery when she turned 60 and is still on it. That's inspiring to me, moving, when I consider how my own mother, also in her 60s, is so reluctant to change, so unwilling to take responsibility for her life and any regrets she may have; it's too late in her mind.

My Life So Far also contains humor, courage, sex, activism, travel, and of course, life in the movies. For the sci-fi inclined, she even uses the word, grok.

A complex life, and a compelling read.

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08 February 2006

Oh yeah

This movie was absolutely as dumb as I thought it would be when I first saw its trailer, and I only saw the last 35 minutes or so. Why that much? I don't know. It was late last night, and I like Forest Whitaker and Bruce from Judging Amy. To be fair, on tv, 35 minutes is only 25 minutes once you account for the ads (during which I happened to be reading).

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Tax filing tip

If you haven't filed your taxes yet, and your gross adjusted income is $50,000 or less, you can e-file for free from this mostly unpublicized site:

http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=118986,00.html

The IRS page above leads you to a list of tax software companies offering the free filing service (TurboTax, TaxCut, and many others) you can choose from. You just have to click through to them from the IRS site to get the free filing service.

Some of the services have additional conditions for free filing, so read the details.

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One call I'm happy to take during dinner

It's official: 4 years cancer-free for mom. Huzzah!

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06 February 2006

Rude, moi?

There is no one in my life who takes things more personally than my mother. Ok, maybe one significant ex, but that's just disturbing by comparison, so I'm moving on. No one currently in my life.

So, was I rude? Not intentionally, but enough to realize she'd see it that way. It wasn't about her at all.

I was walking upstairs with my hands full, carrying a just-filled soap dispenser that was about to drip, when she called after me, "Did you watch Grey's Anatomy?"

"Yes, of course," I said, continuing up the stairs. At the top I called down, "I thought it was really good," but she didn't say anything in response, so I knew the damage was done.

My inflection was just a hair off. What I meant was, "But, of course" with a fake French accent, but instead it came off more clipped like the preoccupied person I was.

Today, I brought up the show at lunch to try and make amends and see where I stood. We were both annoyed that it was a cliffhanger, and we hashed out everything that had been left in the air and told my dad the highlights. I thought I was in the clear.

It didn't last long. She said something as I was putting my plate in the dishwasher that clearly conveyed her annoyance at my comment the previous night.

"I was holding a soap bottle that was starting to drip when I was walking up the stairs. I didn't mean to offend you." I was going to explain more, but she cut me off and was already on her way out of the kitchen.

With her back to me, she said, "Rude is what it was."

I leaned against the counter and slumped down for a minute. It's been a month or so since she last called me rude. Last time, she was emotional and almost in tears. At least this time, she just seemed annoyed with me.

I'm bothered by being called rude because it is not my nature. Am I flawless? Absolutely not. Do I have stupid quirks, especially when it comes to my personal space or tv watching? Definitely. Am I prone to being abrupt when I'm interrupted? Often, though I do a fair job of responding calmly most of the time.

Most people do not take these things personally, because they realize it's not personal. They also realize they have their own quirks and moments of rudeness to be tolerated.

That could be part of the problem I guess. It's not about her, but it affects her, so she thinks it rude. I suppose she's not wrong in that sense, but I do need to be let off the hook when I apologize or try to remedy my behavior. It's not fair to latch onto an unconsidered statement and add it to an ever-growing tally of evidence that I'm rude. There's no improvement to be seen if that's the approach.

I'm also annoyed she hasn't started taking the anti-depressants her doctor prescribed to help with her hot flashes a couple weeks ago. She hasn't even filled the prescription. At first her excuse made sense, wait a couple days after she'd had to fast for bloodwork, but now it's so lame. I'm certain she's afraid of undergoing some radical personality shift. In the past, she's talked about her very brief experience with prescribed valium some 30 years ago. She disliked being that mellow and carefree so much that after a few doses, she got rid of it all. There doesn't seem to be any way to convince her that today's anti-depressants aren't like that. They are an entirely different class of drugs.

It's not fair of me really wanting this "quick fix" for her when I pretty much hated being on anti-depressants myself some years ago. There are loads of side effects worth plenty of concern, but I have seen them do really beneficial things for other people, and I know depression is thick in the mix of her mercurial moods.

Is it rude to post all this? ;)

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05 February 2006

At a loss

Does anyone know what code I need to adjust the width of my recent comments drop-down menu? I've read quite a bit, stared and compared it to my archive menu code, and I'm at a loss.

But it's still driving me crazy.

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04 February 2006

This warm


Ok, not quite, but the ground is roughly 90% clear of snow which is very unusual here this time of year.

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02 February 2006

Say it ain't so

Pixel Counting Joins Film in Obsolete Bin

Actually, I've been hearing about the demise of film in the motion picture world for a decade, so this assertion isn't new to me. This was what caught my attention more: "Film photography is rapidly becoming a special-interest niche."

That usually translates to more expensive which is a drag. But maybe not, film processing centers are ubiquitous and auto-processing equipment must be a sizeable investment, so I can't see them getting rid of them any time soon.

On the flip side, some of the upcoming digital developments look pretty cool. The dual lens system on Kodak's V570 is pretty clever. One lens is a fixed wide angle and the other is the fairly standard 3X zoom. Having two lenses keeps the camera more compact than it would be if one zoom lens covered the whole range.

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Ridiculous, but addictive

Stop that sandwich!

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01 February 2006

Unpopular

Jimmy's was doing a good business for a Wednesday night. The Valentine's Day decorations were up, and Mom's Burgundy was slowly improving her testy demeanor.

Religion, nature/nurture, belief in God took the conversational center stage. My parents and I had all read or seen something recently that claimed a person's belief in God is a matter of genetics. There are a lot of circumstances that could explain, like a person brought up with religion who later decides she doesn't believe in God: it might be nature overcoming nurture.

A while later Dad commented, "It takes a lot of guts. Not many people are willing to openly say they don't believe in God these days."

It made me think of another article I'd read that made atheism seem desirable in comparison. Mom had read us a different humorous editorial by the same author a few weeks before, so it seemed a logical segue.
Joel Stein doesn't support the troops. It's an opinion I understand. How can a person who doesn't support the war, support its troops? (For those of you who do support the war, this isn't directed at you. Of course, you should support them.) Some people use the decision-making tree argument. Soldiers just follow orders. What about soldiers who agree with Bush on the war? If you don't support Bush's choices, it's illogical to support the people who agree with him. That leaves soldiers who disagree, but do what they're told because they have no choice. Ok, you can support them.

But what is your support really besides some armor against being labeled 'unpatriotic'? How is your support actually felt by our troops? If you have no tangible answer, think about why you say you support them.

"What about Vietnam?" someone yells from the back. Personally, I don't think anyone should spit on another person under any circumstances. I have respect and compassion for our men and women in uniform, but I also have strong concerns about how and where their talents and abilities are put to use. Blindly supporting them feels like tacit approval of the war to me.
All this came to mind, and yet...

There was a guy sitting in the booth right behind me. His dinner companion had just left the table, so there was no conversation of his own to distract him from ours.

Behind my parents was a large bow on a flower pot. The bow was made of several ribbons of different colors: some striped, some solid, but unmistakably red, white, and blue.

This was not the place to bring it up, I felt. However, censoring myself for fear of others' reactions should they choose to eavesdrop and then yell at me pissed me off. The fear to speak just felt so unpatriotic. That's not the type of America I want to live in.

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Photos are Heavy

All those people who say they'd grab their photos if their house was on fire, I wonder what they're thinking. Me, I'm grabbing shoes and maybe a pair of pants if it's the middle of the night.

Sure, I'd love to take all my photos with me, but ten boxes is too unwieldy and too heavy. Toss them out the window maybe, but if your house is really burning, you don't have that kind of time.

That alarm system ad drives me crazy. Great, call and chat me up while I stand here in my burning house, so I can pass out from smoke inhalation.

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