Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why our education system sucks

Via reddit, I found this link to some kind of discussion forum. Here's the entire comment:

book rental service?

was just thinking. my sister does -alot- of reading, and spends like $1000 a year on just books alone. most of them she reads once then never looks at again. is there any kind of like ... video rental store but for books? would make things alot cheaper, plus once one person has read one the next person can get enjoyment from it etc

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Typographic Art

Lovely images and brilliant use of type at the website for Jeremy Pettis. I chose to display "Fruitbat" because my dearest cat of all time was named Fruitbat. Sweet!

Hey Belledame, he's even got an emu for you!

Fruitbat in type Jeremy Pettis - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Sunday, January 27, 2008

60 minutes interview with George Piro

Tonight 60 minutes aired and interview with an FBI investigator named George Piro who spoke to Saddam Hussein for several months after his arrest.

A couple of things were revealed, for the first time that I am aware:

All WMD had been destroyed, unlike all the lies told by GBW and his cronies.

Kuwait practically begged for the Iraqi invasion by insulting Iraqi women in a meeting with the Iraqi foreign ambassador.

Scott Pelley conveniently forgot to ask the obvious questions. As a result, my first google search indicates that right wingers believe this is confirmation of their beliefs that Iraq needed to be attacked.

From the CBS website you can read most of the interview.

The trashy interview ends with this:

Piro says Saddam expected to die and that it didn't bother him.

Why not?

"Well, his answer was is he was 67 at the time. He had lived longer than the average Arab male lived in the Middle East. He had a wonderful life. Got to be the leader of the cradle of civilization. And in his opinion, of course, had a significant impact on that country. The region. The world. So he was not bothered by having to face death," Piro says.

"No remorse? No concern for the kinds of things that he had ordered and done?" Pelley asks.

"No. No remorse," Piro says. "No regret."

Do you think we can expect Scott Pelley to ask the same questions of GW Bush?

No. Of course not.

Edited to add link to Consortium news article on the Pelley's complicity with Bush's lies

Home Ownership Blues

OK, this totally qualifies as a privileged post. I (and the bank) bought my house in 1987. It's a decent house built in 1911 with high ceilings and nice touches. But I am not a model homeowner. In fact, I pretty much suck at it.

So last night we discovered water in the basement. We tracked it down to the unheated half bath that we close off in the winter. Unfortunately, we were wrong about the water being turned off. So the pipes froze and the pipes burst and we waited 8 hours for a plumber. Which meant waking up every 45 minutes to empty a bucket overnight.

The plumber came this am, fixed the leak, but not the overall problem. More plumbers will have to be called. More money will have to be spent. And a big chunk of change was forked over for the emergency service.

I am so lucky I was able to purchase this house when prices were low. My mortgage payments are much lower than rent would be for a similar house. It was a great place to raise our daughters and a home to a herd of wonderful cats.

Still, I am not a good home owner. I can't decorate for shit. I let things go to hell and don't really care. I barely manage to follow most of the city codes about mowing the lawn and keeping the weeds at bay. There are rooms of this house that I don't enter for months.

All I need is a place to sleep, keep my clothes and stack my books. I've been blessed with much more.

In an odd juxtaposition, I volunteered to drive people to a celebration of the local Welfare Rights Committee on Saturday. I picked up and delivered two families. I heard afterward that one of the families was in a desperate housing situation and was able to resolve the issue by attending the event. That's fucking awesome.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Parenting instructions


Instructions - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

935 and counting

The Center for Public Integrity's website detailing the 935 lies the Bush Administration used to go to war against Iraq. It even includes a cute little bar graph.

WaWaWar Card Chart - Photo Hosted at Buzznet
Source: The Center for Public Integrity

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America

I caught part of a talk on C-SPAN Book TV by Peniel Johnson, who has a book out about the Black Power Movement. It was pretty awesome. Turns out I can watch the whole thing on the web here.

Here's the blurb from C-SPAN's website:

Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America

About the Program
Peniel Joseph chronicles the history of the black power movement in America. Mr. Joseph follows a group of activists that built their movement upon the work of Malcolm X. The author relays the rise of the Black Panthers and profiles leaders of the black power movement such as Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis. Peniel Joseph discusses his book at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

About the Author
Peniel Joseph is the editor of "The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights - Black Power Era." He currently teaches in the Africana Studies department at Brandeis University.

And here Joseph’s website about the book.

I'm gonna have to order me a copy of this book!

Friday, January 18, 2008

What Happens When Google's Parents Leave Town for the Weekend?

Cute video with web communities personified from

My favorite dialog:

Wikipedia: What's a den?

Snopes: Just make something up. It doesn't matter to her.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Providing fodder for Godwin's law

zenhabits is a productivity website that provides advice on how to simplify and organize your life. I check in every once in a while. I figure if I pick up one or two things a week, I'm making progress. I'm a packrat with wide interests, so a "simple life" is out of the question. Being able to organize my stuff in a way that helps me find it again is my goal.

Leo Babauta is the main author at zenhabits and he's just won an award for his very popular website. He certainly does deliver what his audience wants in a consistent and user-friendly format. And he's very good at giving guest spots to other bloggers as well. Yesterday, he turned the day's content over to Daniel Scocco of Daily Blog Tips. The minute I saw the title, I knew it would take off:

"One Simple Principle to Live by: Purity"

Here's the first couple of sentences:

Today I was having an argument with my girlfriend about her watching Big Brother. Basically I was trying to discourage her from watching it.

OK, to give Scocco, his due, he was proposing a method by which an individual can decide for herself which of two activities to do next. If one seems more "pure", you've got your answer.

But, of course, it wasn't long before he got called out on any number of areas and, yup, Hitler got mentioned within a few hours, thus proving Godwin's law:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

It was interesting watching a blog debate on a subject that doesn't interest me at all at the same time I've been reading about a recent kerfluffle in the feminist blogosphere on a different subject.

This started when the lovely Kactus from Super Babymama was guest-posting at Feministe and mentioned her joy at receiving medication for depression. Discussion ensued. Kactus posted again. Elaine Vigneault posted an angry response at her blog claiming she was misunderstood and that everybody else didn't like being criticized.

I finally blundered into the subject from this fabulous post by Daisy and added my own thoughts.

It is really dangerous for me to post this for a couple of reasons. I haven't read even half of the threads I linked. I could be posting to all kinds of stuff I find personally abhorrent.

But via a quick scan, I found something that really impressed me from the zenhabits thread. Rebecca commented:

I work really hard and am a pretty pure and productive person 95% of my life - can I please watch my one hour a week of Project Runway?

I resemble that comment! Love the show. Happily "waste" my time watching it and commenting about it with co-workers and web friends.

So here's my zen suggestions:

Stop attacking people for making lifestyle decisions different from your own.

Stop assuming everyone else is a tool of big pharma or mainstream media or some other magical force that only you have the brilliance and wisdom to identify.

But most of all, stop assuming that people on anti-depressants aren't out smashing capitalism side by side with people who choose to not medicate!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


We went to see "Juno" yesterday at the 4:45 matinee. The theater was packed. This is several weeks after the movie opened, but its still got a lot of buzz, apparently.

No spoilers ahead. I highly recommend this movie. I'm sure I'll pick up the DVD when it comes out. The writing was definitely fun with lots of quirky language.

There were things I loved about this movie. Juno's Dad was a working class nice guy. When have we ever seen that in a movie? Juno's stepmother was a caring, feisty woman able to handle just about any shit that came her way. The family dynamics were simply fantastic in this movie. You had people who were bewildered and accepting of all the crazy things life throws at them who unfailingly link their arms together and plow on through. This movie does, in a matter of fact way, what so many movies (think "Places in the Heart", "Norma Rae"), do overtly: shows good people doing good things in difficult and confusing times.

I loved how the adoptive parents were made to appear like space aliens in their three-car McMansion with their precious tea obsessions. And yet these people had a chance to shine in ways that made them human, and showed how even their "normal" life presented confusing, frustrating challenges.

There were a couple moments in which the movie made references that it was supposed to be set in Minnesota, which were quite jarring. I know people think Vancouver can represent any old place, but those trees and those plants simply do not grow in this part of the world. The "location" dialogue could have been left out without damaging the movie in any way, and I wish they had done so. The movie had an "every place" quality that did not need to be defined further.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


And a link to a fil

Friday, January 11, 2008

Talking about class

Bint Alshamsa has a post up about markers of class privilege. This came from The Paper Chase. Copy the list of privileges and bold those that apply to yourself:

If your father went to college
If your father finished college
If your mother went to college
If your mother finished college
If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor

If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
If you had a computer at home
If you had your own computer at home

If you had more than 50 books at home
If you had more than 500 books at home
If you were read children’s books by a parent
If you ever had lessons of any kind

If you had more than two kinds of lessons

If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively

If you had a credit card with your name on it
If you have less than $5000 in student loans
If you have no student loans
If you went to a private high school
If you went to summer camp
If you had a private tutor
If you have been to Europe
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
If all of your clothing has been new and bought at the mall
If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them

If there was original art in your house

If you had a phone in your room

If you lived in a single family house
If your parent owned their own house or apartment
If you had your own room

If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in high school
If you had your own TV in your room in high school
If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college

If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline

If you ever went on a cruise with your family
If your parents took you to museums and art galleries
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

If your body does not bear long-term signs of malnutrition. (For example, my teeth are marked up from poor nutrition when they were forming.)
If you had orthodontia.
If you saw a doctor for anything other than emergencies or school-mandated shots.
If you heated your home with clean-burning fuels or had properly vented heating.
If you grew up in a house without vermin. (We had rats in the house.)
If you had running water.
If you had a basement or foundation under your house.
If you had an indoor toilet. (not until high school)

If your parents and immediate family were outside the criminal justice system.

If you yourself remained outside the criminal justice system.
If your parents had a new car. (not in every context in the US, but most)
If you never went barefoot so that you could 'save your shoes for school.'

If your parents never argued in front of you about having enough money for food to last out the month.
If you ate hunted and fished meat because it was a recreational activity rather than as the major way to stock a freezer.
If your laundry was done at home in a washer rather than in a lavandaria. (laundrymat)
If your hair was cut by a professional barber or hair stylist instead of your parent.

These are interesting to me because I've spent my life going in and out of these situations. I have lived in situations without running water or an indoor toilet. I lived in my grandmother's house, which did not have heat outside of the living room. Yet I did not consider that fact a matter of poverty. There were so many other riches to be had. Safety. Comfort. Love. Not having an indoor toilet, indoor heating, running water in the winter, etc. That was a small price to pay for safety. Freedom from constant abuse. Freedom from constant police presence.

But it really is a good list and an interesting exercise.

First Draft

First draft of a flyer for the March 15 local demonstration on the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq:

March 15, 2008 antiwar demo flyer - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fill up your calendar!

There are a lot of events planned locally to mark the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq. This is the first draft of a calendar of events. With this many activities, its hard to be very creative, but I did my best.

March 2008 antiwar calendar - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Eagle Catcher

This book is the January selection for the reading group at Once Upon a Crime Books, a wonderful independent mystery bookstore in Minneapolis.

This is the first in a series of novels by Margaret Coel. This is not a novel I would have chosen for myself. It starts very slowly and it took quite a while for me to care very much about the characters. But the last few chapters are filled with suspense and action that kept me flipping pages until the end.

Coel documents the history of lies and manipulation by white people toward native populations in interesting ways. For instance, when looking for a motive for murder, the white people keep focusing on money. The answer is revealed not in a bid for money, but in respect for the land and the Arapaho ancestors.

Coel has a couple of interesting, flawed but likeable characters to build a series upon. The main character, Father John is a Catholic priest who runs a mission, and a softball team, on the reservation. His character development lags until halfway through the book, a fatal flaw if I hadn't wanted to finish the book for the group meeting.

A young Native lawyer, Vicki Holden, is torn between living on the reservation and moving with her Lakota boyfriend to a big law firm in Los Angeles.

My checks around the internet indicate the following novels in the series are improvements over this beginning, but I'm not sure I'm interested enough to follow through.

Moveable type of a different kind

Via Social Design Notes, here's a lovely link to a video about the constitution:

More Perfect Union by Andrew Sloat


The 22nd Amendment by Andrew Sloat


Monday, January 07, 2008

Stolen from Vanessa

Which literature classic are you?

George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four. You are the classic warning against the threat of totalitarianism. To you, politics and philosophy are inseparable, auchtorities suck and the reality might not exist outside our imaginations.
Take this quiz!

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Let's talk privacy

So have you ever had a gun pointed in your face by a crazy person?

Have you ever had a close relative try to run you over in his car?

Have you ever had a psychotic lunatic hold you at gunpoint until you did whatever crazy thing he decided you should do?

When these sorts of things happen, it's a good idea to get the fuck away. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it means uprooting your whole life and running away to someplace safe. People do it all the time. I did it many years ago. I'm proud of myself for doing so.

Some abusers, especially psychotic ones, are really good at appearing normal to other people. Especially if they are white middle class professionals. Because, you know, those type of people, "our" people, just don't do that sort of thing.

So a few times while the bastard was still alive, I ran into "well-meaning" people who thought it would be a wonderful thing to patch up that unfortunate misunderstanding I had about the man who tried to kill me. So they gave him my number or my address. And he was back with the harassment. So I uprooted my life again. I cut off more "friends" and relatives.

It sounds like I had it rough, but I didn't really. I would much rather go somewhere new and feel safe than to have to deal with the wacko again. I was young with transferrable skills and no kids at the time. Sure, it wasn't fair, but whose life is, you know? Lots of people had it much worse than I did. I had skills and savings and close friends who respected me.

But one thing I noticed, again and again, is how some people could never understand my need for privacy. Sure, privacy seemed like a good thing, but there didn't seem to be any reason to get all whacked up about it. For some people, privacy is something that never even occurred to them.

These people would think, why the hell not give out my phone number to someone who was interested? Why not point out where I lived or worked to a nice looking gentlemen? A professor, even!

So I'm just posting this here to say, privacy can mean nothing to you if you aren't facing the prospect of an angry lunatic with a gun and a grudge. Hello, privilege! Please, just get the fuck away from me.

And stop, please just stop, trying to make privacy a trivial and unimportant thing. It's the reason I'm alive today.

More videos

Did you notice how I just figured out how to imbed videos? Here's another one I like. Mad TV's take on all those horrible white savior teacher movies:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Feeling Good with Nina Simone

Beautiful motion graphics to an awesome song by the lovely Nina Simone: