Friday, September 29, 2006

8 billion dollars

The news today has me hopping mad. After debate, and argument, and every other congressional play, warrantless wiretapping looks like it will be okayed, and terrorist tribunals without recourse to federal courts will also be approved. I THOUGHT we had come to our senses on all of this. I THOUGHT our leaders had finally gotten the message loud and clear.

And then. And then. The Defense Budget is going to pass. Another 70 BILLION Dollars has been allocated for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is not the full cost, mind you. The war is costing our country (i.e. YOU and ME) 8 BILLION dollars a MONTH!!!

Do you know how much better our country could be as a whole if we spent 8 billion dollars a month for healthcare for all, or 8 billion dollars a month for education, or 8 billion dollars a month for infrastructure repairs, or 8 billion dollars a month for food and clothing for our neediest people? We are spending 8 billion dollars a month to kill and be killed in a country that truthfully we care nothing about. And we are getting back for that 8 billion dollars... injured soldiers who will need medical care their entire lives (and they deserve every penny -- they earned it!), a broken country we will have to repair, a damaged reputation, more enemies.

I call that a lousy ROI.

Monday, September 25, 2006


disclaimer: I am not Emily Post. I have never been Emily Post. I am not even related to Emily Post.

Now that that is out of the way, AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! How did we become such an ill-mannered society? In the last week, not once, not twice, but 3 separate times, I have been in the ladies room, using it for its intended purpose, only to hear one-sided conversations from the stall next to me. Yes, 3 different people thought it was fine to conduct a phone conversation while using the facilities!! To me that shows a complete lack of respect for the person you are talking with, a complete lack of respect for the other patrons (who may not want their bodily functions broadcast via phone speaker, and may not want to sit captive through your conversation) and to a certain extent a complete lack of respect for self.

Good lord, people, how important were those conversations? Were they life or death? Are you so lacking in mental resilience, that a minute without conversation would plunge you into depression? Were you never taught any manners at all?

Manners are ESSENTIAL. Without them, the friction of day to day life is too much for most folks to bear. There are too many of us, often crammed into too small a space, with too many competing agendas for us to be ill-mannered. I am not seeking a return to Victorian England, with its extremely mannered society. I am just seeking common, ordinary politeness. I don' t think it's too much to ask for, and I think we should value each other enough to comply.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

oops, I did it again

I've done it yet again. I am hopelessly over-extended. I feel like I have three chain-saws in the air at any one time, and god forbid I should drop one. The kicker is that most of what I am doing, I enjoy. Yet I still feel over-burdened by it all. Work. School. Family. Friends. Pets. Home. No, no particular order to those.... I live a full, rich life that is slowly exhausting me.

I keep thinking about it. What would I cut out? True answer -- nothing. Not one thing. If anything, I would add to it. More time with my sweet baboo, more time with my munchkin, more time with my friends, more time kicking back and relaxing. My conclusion -- I need more time. There's not a lot I can carve out though, unless I give up sleep, and I already feel like I have.

It is probably a lovely problem to have. A truly modern problem. But a problem nonetheless. If anyone has a solution, please post a comment.

Friday, September 15, 2006

what size do you wear?

We had an odd discussion at work yesterday. What size do you wear? A very petite co-worker was in a 7, but others swore it couldn't be more than a 4. I can wear anything from a 6 to a 10 depending on the cut. I'm vertically challenged, so sometimes I buy petites, so I can get the right length. I bought petites, even when I was a size 14... which didn't seem very 'petite' at all. I often hear women of a certain age and income bracket bragging that they have always been a perfect size 6 -- when anyone with eyes can see they can't be smaller than a 12. I have noticed a strong correlation between price and size. The more expensive the clothes, the smaller the size. If I could afford it, I could be a size 0.

Sine it seems that sizing is arbitrary, that there is no standard, why are we hung up on the issue? Some of my co-workers wouldn't even say out loud what size they wear. Why would you brag about being a 2, or ashamed of being a 22? I think we need to embrace our inner Popeye -- I yam what I yam. But skip the spinach until this e-coli scare is over....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

what does one vote matter?

I went to vote this morning in the primaries. Our polling place was supposed to open at 7am so I arrived at 7:15am with my son in tow. We waited patiently in line for 20 minutes, only to find that the polls were not opening -- the republican judge had not showed up, and the polls could not legally open until both the democratic and republican judges were present.

I had to leave without voting, so my son could get to school on time. Now, I will try to go vote later today. So this is not about how my one vote could have changed things, but won't since it wasn't cast. I was upset this morning, because I really treasure my right to vote. And I had to explain to my son why I was upset. His question -- what difference does it make? What does one vote matter?

And so I tried to explain. People have died for the ability to cast that one vote. How a democracy isn't a democracy unless people exercise the right to vote. How a single vote can be the difference -- what if Roe v Wade had been 1 vote the other way? What if the supreme court had 1 more vote in Al Gore's favor -- would we be at war right now? Participating in the process is more than an exercise, it defines the process, it makes us what we are.

I hope he got the point.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Five years ago, our nation changed. We lost our collective innocence, our belief that bad things happen in other countries, to other people. I heard the news very early, on-line, in my then office in Tyson's Corner. At first, it was just a sad item, a small plane had crashed into the Twin Towers.

Quickly the news changed, as it became apparent that the crash was intentional. We began to hear helicopters overhead. Tyson's Corner is a long drive, but in actuality just a few miles from the Pentagon. We gathered together in an office, trying desperately to get TV reception, to get news, reassurance. Instead the government shut down. DC called a state of emergency, followed soon after by Virginia. I was frantically on the phone with my husband, my son's school, my parents, trying to figure out what to do.

I remember trying to get to my son's school in Bowie, frantic to get to him, get him home safely, but not wanting to let on that something bad, something horrible had happened. He was 7 that year. I spent the whole evening on the couch, glued to the news. I wept.

No one I knew was hurt. No one I knew was injured or lost. But it still felt very personal. I don't know if it was the strength of the images we saw over and over, or the personal stories of heartbreak. I felt violated and angry and lost.

Today is a day for remembrance. For extending sympathies to the families of the victim, and for forgettting our differences and remembering what draws us together as people.


Friday, September 08, 2006

day 1 of school

I really enjoyed class last night. I was nervous going in, but that lasted about 15 seconds. I forgot how energizing it is to sit in a room with bright people, bouncing ideas around. Ideas started percolating in my brain almost immediately. I really really missed this.

I haven't taken anything but computer classes for the last 15 years. While they are engaging in their own way, they are limited in what's taught, and the discussion is non-existent, and end up not being very satisfying. I always feel drained after a computer class. I certainly don't look forward to them.

I also have changed in the way I approach a class. I used to sit in the back and pray the professor wouldn't notice me. I never talked. I never asked a question. Now I jump right in. I don't really worry about sounding like an idiot, or asking something stupid. I wish I had had that confidence when I was an undergrad. I would have gotten a lot more out of my courses, and probably had a better time as well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

fountain of youth?

Maybe I have found the fountain of youth. Tomorrow is my first day of school. I am nervous, just like I was when I was little, before the start of every school year. Will I fit in? Will I wear the right thing? what if I can't find my classroom? what if everyone else already knows everybody?

I have had other moments like this, where I am suddenly a child again. Sitting in the principal's office at my son's school made me feel like I was 9 and I was in trouble. Every time I go to church, as soon as my butt hits the pew, I feel fidgety and out of place, just like I did way back when. When I get really dressed up, I always feel like a kid in easter clothes, clearly stiff and uncomfortable, and way too worried about a rip or getting dirty.

Do we ever really leave childhood behind? Maybe we are more like a nautilus than we think, each decade another chamber added on, but nothing discarded. I still have a wild urge to stick my tongue out after an obnoxious colleague leaves my office, and schoolhouse rhymes still float around in my mind [nanny nanny boo-boo... I see London, I see France...found a peanut, you name it, they are all in there, threatening to come out]

So maybe we have always had the fountain of youth -- Memory.