Friday, April 29, 2005

Is that a burrito in your pocket or...?

I'm just gonna copy this one straight into the blog, because it's too funny to summarize:

A call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lock down the school. All over a giant burrito.

Someone called authorities Thursday after seeing a boy carrying something long and wrapped into Marshall Junior High.

The drama ended two hours later when the suspicious item was identified as a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos and wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.

"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," school Principal Diana Russell said.

State police, Clovis police and the Curry County Sheriff's Department arrived at the school shortly after 8:30 a.m. They searched the premises and determined there was no immediate danger.

In the meantime, more than 30 parents, alerted by a radio report, descended on the school. Visibly shaken, they gathered around in a semi-circle, straining their necks, awaiting news.
"There needs to be security before the kids walk through the door," said Heather Black, whose son attends the school.

After the lockdown was lifted but before the burrito was identified as the culprit, parents pulled 75 students out of school, Russell said.

Russell said the mystery was solved after she brought everyone in the school together in the auditorium to explain what was going on.

"The kid was sitting there as I'm describing this (report of a student with a suspicious package) and he's thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, they're talking about my burrito.'"

Afterward, eighth-grader Michael Morrissey approached her.

"He said, 'I think I'm the person they saw,'" Russell said.

The burrito was part of Morrissey's extra-credit assignment to create commercial advertising for a product.

"We had to make up a product and it could have been anything. I made up a restaurant that specialized in oddly large burritos," Morrissey said.

After students heard the description of what police were looking for, he and his friends began to make the connection. He then took the burrito to the office.

"The police saw it and everyone just started laughing. It was a laughter of relief," Morrissey said.

"Oh, and I have a new nickname now. It's Burrito Boy."

This might be the most hilarious thing I've read in months. Possibly ever.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ode to excess

Okay, it's not really an ode - frankly, I am embarrassed by the amount of crap I've managed to accumulate in 24 brief years. We're in the midst of a substantial move - trying to downsize so we can store our possessions in Snohomish and Wenatchee until we return from England - and I can't stop finding things to pack. I have thrown out boxes and boxes of papers, created a giveaway pile the size of a small hippo, and still I have STUFF everywhere!

The worst part is that FH and I don't have much compared to other people our age. We don't have a lot of gadgets (our most high tech television object is a DVD player - no Tivo, no video games, no real DVDs), nor do we have a ton of clothes...our books are our heaviest shackles, and I've even cut out two shelves' god, it never ends!! This is what being an American means: having more stuff than anyone on the planet, yet finding it almost impossible to downsize beyond a certain point...gaaaaaaah!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Celebrity sea slugs

In today's bizarre but beautiful news from the Seattle P-I, three of our current political leaders have just "entered the natural history books as a coterie of slime-mold beetles. Two former Cornell University entomologists who admire the politicians named three newly discovered species A. bushi, A. cheneyi and A. rumsfeldi."

Apparently, this is a pretty common event -- scientists have to name millions of insects and understandably run out of creative new names. Nelson Mandela has been immortalized as a sea slug, for example.

According to an Aussie scientist, "There are only so many times one can use the species name Australis or Grandis before the thought, 'maybe I should name this one after Joey Ramone' goes through your head."

Some touchy liberals are apparently taking offense at the new beetles. Personally, I like the image of a little A. bushi munching contentedly on a slime mold, oblivious to the world around him...a dubious honor, methinks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

In which I discover the savory taste of power

Ahhh, power. Today I suddenly discovered the perks of being in control as I began to train my new replacement at work. That stack of papers I've frantically been trying to find time to file? Now, they're just great training opportunities for the newbie! Heh heh...I love it :) I should probably abuse this newfound authority while I have it, but I know how it feels to be at the bottom of the ladder with maniacal supervisors pouring hot tar over the rungs. For anyone from work who might read this, that lovely image is from an old fast food job in high school, the kind everyone slogs through while vowing that they will never ever ever force anyone to do this kind of demeaning, degrading scut work again. So, in deference to all those broom-pushing, chicken frying KFC workers, I will be a kind and gentle semi-supervisor for the two weeks in which I have this position.

But I promised myself I wouldn't blog about work, even though it's oh-so-tempting. I don't want to be drummed out of the office like my favorite semi-professional blogger, although I don't think I could come up with that much to say. Generally, I like my co-workers -- they are a dark, cynical pack, but they are also incredibly supportive and compassionate. I'll miss 'em.

On a different note, what is it that causes even tomboy girls like my best friend and I to hang our prom dresses in the closet and leave them there forever?? I just rediscovered mine this weekend when I was cleaning out my room. Now, seriously: what the hell am I going to do with a size 0 prom dress that I couldn't zip up unless I removed most of my ribcage? And yet I felt a pang of sorrow when I decided that it had to go. So weird. I tell ya, I'm giving up my prom garb, but the wedding dress shall hang in my closet for all eternity. It will become a relic for deep sea archaeologists to rediscover in 1000 years after all the ice caps have melted and sent Seattle to the bottom of the ocean. For now, I'm donating my dresses to Cinderella's Trunk - a cool place that recycles prom dresses for gals who can't afford the outrageous prices. I'd post the link, but my internet provider is being incredibly stupid right now. Please, if you do this, be sure your dresses are in good shape: no sweat stains or tears. I'm amazed at some of the stuff our clients find at clothing banks: people, if you won't wear it because it's too ugly or because it has a hole the size of a football in it, why would you expect someone else to? Just a thought.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Growing up is overrated

Tonight's theme on Grey's Anatomy revolved around the notion that growing up is highly overrated. They're right: behind the independence and intimate encounters, there's a minefield of missteps, anguish and uncertainty. At least, that's how it feels to me and every other twentysomething I know.

Take today, for example: around 5pm, I snapped out of a cleaning-induced trance and realized I was sitting on my bed in a COMPLETELY EMPTY ROOM in my family's home. An empty room that used to be mine.

Technically, it still is mine -- but the walls are bare and most of the furniture is gone. All traces of my adolescence have been boxed up, thrown out or placed in a yard sale pile. In a few weeks, Bryan and I will move in and fill it up again with our things, but the room itself has changed irrevocably. It feels significant, like my life is suddenly shifting onto a new plain with opportunities I never imagined, and where my steps are deviating from the path I'd kept to in the past. I keep looking back wistfully, but I know I have to move forward...but it is so hard.

Everything is changing at once: in four months, I'll be a married graduate student in a foreign country, on a track that may prove serendipitously right but could just as easily be blatantly off course. I know I have to move somewhere rather than accept stagnancy, but the destination of that where is somewhere out on the horizon. It's like taking a blind leap of faith or fording a river whose opposite bank you can't discern -- right now, everything is this overwhelming mix of excitement and fear, anticipation and dread. I'm both eager to go and begging to stay put where the boundaries are safe and known.

The room made it all real: this is happening NOW. Not a year away, not in that hazy distant future, but in the immediate moment. This is life in the present tense, the moment I've supposedly been waiting and hungering for since childhood. So why am I yearning to put things on pause for awhile?

Things that give me comfort: my fiance's unwavering devotion, my best friend's steadfast support, the love of my family and the knowledge that I am not alone. Every time I hear someone else voice the same concerns, I grab ahold of the conversation and dig in with all I have. I wring it out until there's nothing left but our mutual uncertainty. This awareness of being in the company of others is a salve for my frantically whirling thoughts - it's good to know that everyone my age is living this, one way or another.

After I realized that England was a reality, I adopted a new philosophy: it's all coming, so I might as well roll with it instead of wasting sweat and tears to fight the change. Rolling has demonstrated itself to be considerably easier on my heart, although it does make me dizzy on occasion. I know I'll get through this in one piece - I'll land on my feet in England and will be walking around confidently before I know it. For now, though, I'm just sitting on my bed, gazing through welling eyes at the whiteness of my walls and thinking back on all that was...and all that will be.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Yet another reason for me to buy a Mac

I'm at work and really need to be working, but I couldn't believe this story. Microsoft just backed down from supporting a bill in our state legislature that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.

It seems we can thank the good ol' Antioch Bible Church for this one (gotta love those guys). According to the article:

Dr. Hutcherson, pastor of the Antioch Bible Church [Meg's note: a local church known for its incredibly antigay activities], who has organized several rallies opposing same-sex marriage here and in Washington, D.C., said he threatened in those meetings to organize a national boycott of Microsoft products.

After that, "they backed off," the pastor said Thursday in a telephone interview. "I told them I was going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about," he said.

The article goes on to say that he also demanded Microsoft fire employees who testified in support of the bill. Apparently, Hutcherson told Microsoft he could organize a huge boycott if they didn't back down -- and, while he might have been able to do so, I still think Microsquash execs are a pack of cowards for placing their bottom line ahead of their ethics. It must feel very uncomfortable to be a gay employee at MS right, how successful could such a boycott really be? Unless all of Hutcherson's supporters are willing to forgo using computer products for awhile, they don't really have a lot of options for operating systems.

I am most definitely buying a Mac. Consider this my anti-boycott-boycott.

Eye for an eye: a very long post

Three days ago, Sister Prejean gave a talk at the University of Washington titled: “Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, Sister Prejean is the nun who wrote the aforementioned novel; the movie it inspired brought the death penalty into close, personal focus for millions of viewers around the world.

I expected Sister Prejean to be diminutive and frail, like the wizened elderly nuns who still teach at local Catholic colleges. Instead, the woman who walked onstage was a stocky, self-assured public speaker who exuded compassion and wisdom. She discarded her habit for an 80s-style blazer, complete with linebacker shoulder pads. From the moment she began to speak, she captivated the audience.

Her talk focused on her activities since Dead Man Walking; Sister Prejean has been present at the executions of several people now and has counseled countless others as they prepared to die. The entire time I listened, my heart pulsed a little faster: my experiences working with lifers made it easier to connect with her “controversial” argument that the death penalty is a form of torture. But she’s right – the entire prison industry perpetuates a culture of violence, sadism and dehumanization. As Sister Prejean said, it’s very easy for people to write off prison rights advocates with surface level arguments, e.g., “Nothing we do to them will ever be as bad as the crimes they committed.” But at a very fundamental level, taking life can never make amends for the original loss.

Many studies have shown that families are not comforted when their relatives’ killers die; rather, they spend years or decades waiting for the moment of closure that is supposed to come when the executioner flips the switch – and then it comes, and nothing changes. Executions do not bring about healing – instead, people usually feel empty inside and angry that they were told this would fix everything. The death penalty only continues the cycle of violence by leaving another family bereft of a loved one, by causing prison guards and execution teams to suffer horribly because of what they’ve witnessed, and by making it that much easier for those of us on the outside to view other people as less than human. Violence begets violence: state sanctioned violence is no different.

Please, believe me as someone who once supported the death penalty: once you’ve looked into the eyes of a man in prison for life and have talked with him over a period of months, you lose the ability to revoke his humanity. You realize that there is a fundamental part of your soul that cries out against the eye-for-an-eye maxim of our prison system.

In an old interview, Sister Prejean gave one of her reasons for opposing the death penalty:

“…There are some human rights that are so deep that we can't negotiate them away. I mean people do heinous, terrible things. But there are basic human rights I believe that every human being has. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the United Nations says it for me. And it says there are two basic rights that can't be negotiated that government doesn't give for good behavior and doesn't take away for bad behavior. And it's the right not to be tortured and not to be killed. Because the flip side of this is that then when you say OK we're gonna turn over -- they truly have done heinous things, so now we will turn over to the government now the right to take their life. It involves other people in doing essentially the same kind of act. In executions that have gone on here in Louisiana and one very recently I heard that the captain in the death house said to one of the people there as they were leaving, he said, leave this place and leave this to us idiots to do and there were tears running down his cheek because he was involved in the process of killing a fellow human being.”

She’ll also argue you under the table if you try to quote Scripture – and she has a point. Yes, the Bible sanctions death for murderers. It also orders us to kill adulterers, people who commit bestiality, people who insult their priests in the temple, etc, etc. The Bible, after all, was written millennia ago by a people with its own moral code, one which varied wildly from anything in existence today. And the whole “eye for an eye” quote actually begins, “And the whole “eye for an eye” quote actually begins, “You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you, do not resist evil. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer them the other.” Just an interesting note there.

Anyway, this has gone on far too long, and I doubt anyone’s still reading. Regardless of what you might think about Prejean, her insight is worth hearing. She is one of the few leaders in this country willing to pull the veil away from the death penalty by forcing us to see it for what it is: the deliberate killing of someone else’s father, sister, cousin. We are far beyond the point where we should have held a reasoned discussion about why our enlightened society needs this archaic practice when there are other options available. Last night, I realized I need to help Sister Prejean and her supporters by pushing the issue with my own small circle of friends.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Viking victory!

My brother got into WWU! Yay!!! I am so, so happy for him - he has worked his ass off for two years and really deserves to enjoy college life for awhile. Three cheers for you, bro'!

I also saw an inspiring talk by Sister Helen Prejean of Dead Man Walking fame, but I will blog on that tomorrow -- tonight, I am going to finish addressing invitations (finally!!) and go to bed.

Things that annoy me, exhibit A

You, with the dog on that little stringy roller leash, the one that extends the full length of my bike trail but that won't retract for the life of me. You know that you are on a path shared by other dog walkers, joggers, rollerbladers and cyclists, yet you still allow your perfectly groomed purebred to wander across the path whenever it damn pleases. (For the record, I am a dog lover, and my own dog is a purebred - but he understands the need for a leash of normal length.)

I realize it may not occur to you, but you might want to reconsider that leash when I am coming up from a long distance away, traveling at a fast clip on a bike that is incapable of stopping on a dime. Last time I almost clotheslined my bike on your dog's leash when it decided to bolt away from you in pursuit of an interesting squirrel. Trust me: my bike might get a few dings and I might lose a few teeth if we collide, but your arm will be much worse for the wear. I'm sorry that I lack the psychic powers required to predict when Fido might swerve unexpectedly, although I don't think a collision would change that. Still, if given the choice between flying off the path down a hill and running into you/your leash/etc, I would choose the latter.

Don't make me start carrying scissors so I can snip wildly at every leash that crosses my route. I know I might seem a little crazy when I roll past you screeching "On your left!" and giving you the evil eye, but try to put yourself in my (clipless pedal) shoes. If you were bolted down to your bike and some person let their dog pull its leash into your front tire, wouldn't you also have to suppress slightly homicidal tendencies?

What's the point of those leashes anyway? The dog is still on a leash - it's not like you can actually play fetch with him. Instead, it lets the dog get just far enough out of reach to be in real danger if it dawdles when you cross the street. Because of the somewhat faulty retract button, it also lets the dogs pull you almost anywhere - the one time I used those leashes, a pair of exuberant goldens almost dragged me into a pond. Those leashes are clearly health hazards, contributing to strained forearms, sore shoulders and back pain: really, the FDA ought to ban them for the public good.

If we live in a cosmically just universe, the person who invented those retractable leashes will suffer some sort of untimely demise involving his own creation. Until then, I'll just keep swerving and longing for the good old days, when all you had to worry about were off-leash psycho dogs tearing off your back tire.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

It's in the blood, y'know

Gee, who would have guessed the results of this quiz? You should try it, too ;)

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!
You drink everyone under the table.

That's me before I trip after leaving the bar...shouldn't wear skirts when drinking, lass...then again, maybe that's the point!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Be in awe

It is a royally difficult task to address 50 invitations by hand when one has the handwriting skills of a thumbless chimpanzee. I only hope that my friends and family feign appreciation when my scribbles arrive in their mailboxes. Now that the invitation phase of wedding planning is wrapping up, here's what I've learned:

Wedding Guide #1: Make Your Own Wedding Invitations

  1. Compile your guest list.
  2. Realize you left your *insert important relative here* off the list. Realize you do not have his contact information.
  3. Call other relatives.
  4. Add important relative to list. Finish list.
  5. Realize you forgot your *insert really close friend here*.
  6. Track down friend.
  7. Finish list.
  8. Beg FH to finish his part of the list. Ignore pleas that he has more important things to do, like publishing a paper.
  9. Create invitations on Illustrator.
  10. Realize you know nothing about Illustrator.
  11. Drag FH away from paper to create invitations. Marvel at his previously unknown design skills. Mentally remind yourself to lock him in a room with a computer when the programs need creating.
  12. Purchase matching paper and envelopes.
  13. Realize envelopes are not a normal size.
  14. Redesign invitations to fit your abnormally skewed envelopes.
  15. Print test pages of your invitations.
  16. Print more test pages.
  17. Drag your pile of invitations to the nearest paper cutter and begin slicing.
  18. Wonder why we can genetically engineer tomatoes yet be completely incapable of designing a paper cutter that cuts in straight lines.
  19. Stand over paper cutter for 4.5 hours trying to make crooked lines less obvious.
  20. Return home triumphantly.
  21. Locate potato poker or ice pick.
  22. Find heavy piece of wood.
  23. Spend Sunday night finding the center line on your invitations. Poke with potato poker.
  24. Poke second page of invitations with potato poker.
  25. Insert tiny brads into potato-poked holes.
  26. Hold invitations at arms-length and squint. Decide that almost straight is good enough.
  27. Measure envelopes. Draw straight lines for address blocks.
  28. Begin to address envelopes.
  29. Throw out 12 that demonstrate your complete inability to make two consecutive letters the same height.
  30. Run out of ink.
  31. Purchase new pen.
  32. Finish addressing envelopes three days later.
  33. Attempt to purchase stamps that aren't ugly as sin.
  34. Settle for funny looking, bugeyed birds. Place envelopes in mail.
  35. Retrieve envelopes from mail and insert invitations.
  36. Return envelopes AND invitations to mailbox. Resolve to send telegrams next time.

More thoughts on the Pope

Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I’m still just devastated by the news of the Pope. I heard a great thought a little while ago: shouldn’t it take more thought to elect the next Catholic leader than can be provided in the space of two days?

NPR just mentioned that Ratzinger is the one who upbraided Archbishop Hunthausen 20 years ago for daring to welcome gays and lesbians into our church. Great.

If there’s one thing the Church has done well in recent years, it lies in its efforts to reach out to other faiths, as John Paul II did with Muslims, Jews and other Christians. Now, according to ABC news, we get the guy who “blocked German Catholics from sharing communion with their Lutheran brethren at a joint gathering in 2003.”

He has been a serious roadblock in the wake of the sex abuse allegations: Ratzinger doesn’t believe the problem is endemic within the church, nor does he seem to feel that our rigid rules have anything to do with what happened. Notes the Boston Herald: “He tends to regard the abuse crisis as a result of the decadence of American society seeping into the seminaries and into the clergy, with the understanding that the American press exaggerates it because it's interested in sensationalism and titillation,'' said Stephen Pope, chairman of the theology department at Jesuit-run Boston College.

The Seattle Times found nervous Catholics at Seattle University, the college where I spent two years. Today’s article quotes Father Mike, an incredible Jesuit who I respect and love:

For Father Michael Bayard, a priest who performs ministry on the campus of the Jesuit university, the selection of Ratzinger "in some ways feels like a step backwards" for the church, especially given Ratzinger's earlier pronouncements against women in the church and homosexuality. But a friend provided comforting words, Bayard said, reminding him "we are a people of hope."

"We're people of faith and we have to trust this is the right choice," he said, "so let's give him the benefit of the doubt."

As a woman, I don’t think I can do that. I feel very alone right now, like my Catholic sisters and I have been left out in the streets while our brothers are invited inside the Church to celebrate. What happens now? Will Ratzinger continue to tell Africans that condoms can’t prevent the transmission of AIDs? Will he crack down on Jesuits like my friends at Seattle U, who are the only reasons I still cling to the faith today?

Supposedly, people are celebrating tonight. So why do I feel like I’m in a permanent state of mourning?

Beware the wroth of Ndugu

I think Ndugu is plotting something. Sure, he looks innocent with those big, iris-less eyes and that smug tortoise face, but mass destruction is clearly in the works. Yesterday, he toppled one of his big plants and started tearing it to bits; the day before, he flipped his flower pot over. Methinks the sunny weather has encouraged our little chimera to resume his normal activity level. I can only imagine what he’s doing now, while FH and I are out of the house…

Not MY father

I can’t contain my disappointment at the selection of my Church’s new pope. It’s a slap in the face to everyone who argues for logical, just reform within our institution. This insults every person who believes that it’s time for Catholicism to reconsider dated traditions, like the gender-based stratification of the Church. Ratzinger is such a hard-line theologian; I fear that my Jesuit mentors back at Seattle U will be silenced by his policies as pope. He has never supported liberation theology, nor does he understand that the Church’s policy on AIDS is killing thousands of faithful Africans. This is such a shame.

I’m not sure what I’ll do now. I’ve been dancing around the Church for several years, coming in for an occasional embrace but spinning away in the end. It might be time for me to consider another faith – and yet, I don’t want to leave! Why must the stubbornness of a few old men have such an impact on everyone else?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Life sentence

I can’t believe it. The Seattle Times may be the first paper I’ve seen to run a fair, incredibly accurate story about whether it’s just and right to give extraordinarily long sentences to violent juvenile offenders. As someone who has volunteered at local prisons for several years, I am almost never able to have a calm, rational discussion about this issue – the second I start talking about juveniles who have committed murder, everyone and their mothers start on the “They gave up their rights as soon as they committed the crime” rhetoric.

I know that I won’t win here, but that is only easy to believe if you’ve never spoken with one of those convicted kids who’s now all grown up and still behind bars. Because I am technically supposed to be working right now, I am going to cheat and just tweak some of my thoughts from a piece I wrote for NEXT a couple years ago…

I still believe that criminals must be held accountable for their actions, but there’s something wrong with a society that replaces restorative justice with dehumanization and more violence.

At Seattle U, I was part of a student group that worked with lifers who had committed violent, non-sexual crimes. Over the course of two years, my encounters with some of the men made me question whether it is morally tolerable to condemn every incarcerated person as though all are dehumanized monsters incapable of ever returning to society successfully.

One person still lingers in my thoughts. He grew up surrounded by drugs, gangs and brutality and soon succumbed to the culture of violence, receiving a life sentence before he turned 21. When I met him years later, he was working with facility officials to keep volunteer programs in operation and teaching young offenders to read.

Like many inmates with whom I spoke, he worried that those who were eligible for release would re-offend because they lacked job and social skills that might help them stay out of trouble. Many of the men I met were not criminals because an inherent evil force consumed them but because they never had a chance to become anything else. They had all been convicted as juveniles; some would spend their lives behind bars, while others would be released after 20 or 30 years – but after decades inside the dog-eat-dog prison world, there is no way that they will be functioning parts of society. Prison takes people who could be rehabilitated them and wrings their last drops of humanity out of their souls. It’s a place where residents always look over their shoulders, where every conversation and interaction reinforces a hierarchy based on power and fear.

The men I knew seemed starved for human touch. Prison severs social ties, so those who finally leave have weak support networks to help them reconnect with the community. Prison is not the picnic many outsiders believe: It is hell, and its dehumanizing process often makes incarceration a vicious cycle. The younger men I knew told me they always believed they were worth nothing to the world, and prison enforces that perception by revoking almost all contact with people beyond the walls.

Some would argue that this is all prisoners deserve, but it is only possible to make such generalizations because outsiders are content to develop stereotypes about prisoners based on sociopathic TV and movie characters.

Society rarely recognizes that criminals are also brothers, sons, mothers. Instead, when people enter correctional facilities, we never need to think about them again — and if you never encounter a population, it is easy to make assumptions about every person in it.
It requires more than serious introspection to fully comprehend the complicated situations that lead people to imprisonment. It is criminal to remain ignorant about the incarceration system, because it allows us to throw away lives that could be redeemed if we progressed beyond initial gut reactions toward crime and challenged ourselves to treat offenders as human beings in all their complexities.

Is the boy who offends at 17 incapable of returning to society with adequate rehabilitation and support? Many studies suggest that it depends on the person. To differentiate between those who may re-offend and those who could return successfully to the outside world, citizens must be willing to support a panel to review individual cases, so limited funds support the inmates with the best chances. Some people could begin to make reparations for their transgressions if we push for rehabilitation and job-training programs that prepare eligible convicts for work in areas like social services.

Today, we view the prison system as a fix-all for problem kids; in reality, the steady stream of juvenile offenders will not abate until we devote more resources to addressing the roots of the problem, like poverty, homelessness and child abuse. Kids who kill almost always come from abusive, chaotic backgrounds; the system failed them long before they committed their crimes. I hope the current legislation passes in both the Senate and the House. Our country incarcerates more people than any other developed nation, yet most people have no concept of what that system looks like, how well it functions, or what it really accomplishes. Right now, we aren’t simply punishing juvenile offenders: we are destroying them, taking an eye for an eye and more. It speaks poorly about the “culture of life” we claim to value.

Drunk as a skunk

Oh man…it is not easy to complete a mail merge while nursing a White Russians and beer hangover. For some reason, my hangovers always start later than they should; I slept well last night, felt fine when I woke up – if a bit sluggish – but then, as soon as I left for work: BAM! (I say that with all of Emeril’s intonations; I really do feel like a piece of chicken that he’s pounded with a meat mallet.) It’s all I can do to sit here, sip my green tea, and try not to think about how fuzzy my head is.

I love it :)

I don’t get to do this enough, or at least I don’t let myself. I actually think that’s a good thing, at least for me, because every drunken experience is always a novel one. I never feel bored or stuck in a rut because I never go to the bars enough to have any pattern in place! Yes, that may be justifying my inactivity – but it works for me.

Had another long, long conversation last night with FH about being in our 20s. I’ve now held this discussion with three different people, and it still remains a relief to hear that I am not the only one who feels like everything is in flux. It was also reassuring to have so many coworkers affirm that it gets much easier in your 30s. I’m just amazed by how tumultuous life feels: even though so many things are sort of established, it still all feels chaotic. I mean, I’m getting married and going to grad school – but who the hell am I?! And what the heck am I doing going to grad school – am I really going to want to be in academia for the rest of my life? Should I drop out right now and write that novel I keep meaning to start, or become a therapeutic riding instructor, or sell all of my belongings and go on a years-long trek through another continent? Why do I feel like I’m looking for stability even though I’m terrified of how boring it will be when I find it? Why does the world – and particularly the powers that be in my academic life – expect me to know exactly who I am and what I want when my life is just beginning to take shape? GAAAAH!

Good god, no wonder everyone’s in therapy.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Birthday girl!

FH rocks my world.

Tonight, for my big 2-4, he cooked a fabulous concoction: spicy corn quesadillas, followed by an ever-popular vegan carrot cake. He also made mojitos, my favorite drink since my trip to Cuba. There's nothing better than sharing a romantic, homemade meal by our front window as the sun sets across the canal.

Have I mentioned how much I love him?

I'd continue gushing until you wanted to crash this webpage, but I have to go out drinking now. Hey, a birthday girl's gotta have fun, right? :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Mourning Thucydides

It is entirely appropriate that this cursed computer ate my original, beautiful elegy five minutes ago.

Oh, I hope my honors friends read this...

I just took the stacks and stacks of notes from my honors classes...and threw them into the recycling bin.

I know I have no rational reason for keeping these papers. I will never again need to know how Machiavelli's French detractors responded to his political theories, or how the Elizabethan worldview took shape. I will certainly never need to write another paper exploring the symbolism of the Fool in King Lear. Nor will I be drummed out of graduate school for failing to remember how contemporary cartoonists depicted the French Revolution as it slouched towards its bloody end...

But I will miss these papers so much. There are so many memories squeezed in between those sheets of college ruled pages. They evoke images of long nights spent reading until 12am, or of sitting in the same classroom quarter after quarter, frantically scribbling several pages of notes as Dr. Earenfight bestowed her brilliant ideas upon us. Honors was an excrutiating experience, but it was also a period in my life where I experienced the truly subliminal sensation of living solely to learn -- and loving every warped minute of it.

I don't have room for these notes. I don't have a single practical reason to keep them. Yet, I wish I could justify saving every notebook and three inch binder, despite the lack of storage space and the fact that I will never review them again. Somehow, I wish I had a reason to let them continue living in my closet, dusty and dignified, instead of putting them out in a blue plastic bin to wait for the garbage service...

Farewell, Thucydides. I loathed every moment of our brief acquaintance, but now I mourn your loss.

Moving daze

My God. Now I know why those nice people on craigslist gave us their beautiful moving boxes for's because they breed. Suddenly, my entire living room is littered with boxes, all of them just waiting for me to turn my back, when they will multiply again and again until there's nothing left of my apartment but cardboard and packing peanuts! They are also homicidal. One of them fell over the other day and nearly landed on top of my tortoise, who perhaps should not be permitted to rampage through the house right now when there are so many dangers lurking around the corners. Although he thinks he's in paradise: there are interesting things to sample and eat everywhere!, from the crinkly clear plastic wrapping that fell off my box of crackers to wizened jalepeno seeds stuck to the kitchen floor.

Have I mentioned that we are not actually slobs?

It's just very, very difficult for me to care about sweeping the floor when I'm in the middle of planning a wedding, quitting my job, moving back home and trying to figure out how to relocate from the US. Suddenly, that layer of road grit under my bike stand doesn't seem so important. I'm starting to figure that as long as I don't lose Ndugu in it, there's really no reason to change.

On a lighter note, I love Texas. No, really. It makes me feel so much better about Washington when I read about how messed up Texas is. Apparently, some people in Texas have even greater job burnout than my friends and I. This from today's news:

WATAUGA, Texas -- A 911 dispatcher was reprimanded for responding to a mother's plea for help with an unruly child by saying: "OK. Do you want us to come over to shoot her?"

I could see how a truly wornout, slightly twisted individual could find that humorous - particularly when they are being harrassed by a mom who thinks it's okay to call 911 when her 12 year-old kicks a hole in the door. That's probably why I'm not an emergency dispatcher...

Also in today's news (and, conveniently, originating in the same state), Tom DeLay has apparently realized how incredibly ludicrous he's been sounding of late:

WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay apologized Wednesday for using overheated rhetoric on the day Terri Schiavo died, but refused to say whether he supports impeachment of the judges who ruled in her case.

DeLay backtracked as White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush considers the Texas Republican, who is battling ethics allegations, a friend, but suggested that the majority leader is more of a business associate than a social pal.

"I think there are different levels of friendship with anybody," McClellan said.

At a crowded news conference in his Capitol office, DeLay addressed remarks he made in the hours after the brain-damaged Florida woman died on March 31. "I said something in an inartful way and I shouldn't have said it that way and I apologize for saying it that way," DeLay told reporters.

Shortly after Schiavo's death, Delay said it represented a failure of the legal system. DeLay's statement also said, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

DeLay said at the news conference that he was eager to appear before the leaders of the House ethics committee and give "everything I have" in connection with allegations of misconduct.

You KNOW it's gotta be bad when the Bush Administration doesn't want to be your friend anymore. I hope DeLay finally hangs himself with the terribly long noose he's been weaving. I usually try to say something evenhanded about politics, but this man is an embarrassment to the American political system. In an era where we've had a lot of things to be ashamed of, it says something that he is a credible frontrunner for Most Corrupt Politician of the Decade. You know, I don't think I'm going to miss this part of being in the US at all!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Beauty in the breakdown

Pardon the obscure Garden State reference, but it seems appropriate right now. Hm. You know, when I used to imagine what my mid-20s would be like, the fantasies always involved gleefully pounding back Long Islands on Thursday nights and taking spontaneous trips to random places when my internships ended. I thought I’d be floating in a sea of possibilities, all of which would be invigorating and exciting and would somehow involve traveling to exotic locations.

Now, I’m standing on the brink of 24 years old, and my reality is looking a little bit different. Technically, my future is going to involve traveling abroad – but so far, the most exotic thing about England is a dearth of food that tastes good. When I do go out on a Thursday night – which isn’t often, I’m sorry to say – Long Islands are no longer my drink of choice. I slammed back a few too many two Apple Cups ago and barely avoided vomiting in front of a patrol car on the viaduct as I staggered back early from the football game. Long Islands never really worked for me again…and the whole spontaneous trip thing sounds great in theory, but on my salary, I can barely afford trips to exciting locales like Moscow, Idaho or Wenatchee, Washington. The only way I could go anywhere exotic would be to crate myself up in a packing box, sneak onto a cargo ship, and spend my days hopping trains and sleeping in fields. You know, that actually doesn’t sound bad!

This isn’t to say that my 20s suck, although the romantic glow has turned into a sort of sooty, smudgy blur. The only thing that really bugs me is how damn mature my friends and I have become. Circumstances have made it hard to lapse into any sort of irresponsible behavior – instead, we’re all tucked away in grad school or in real jobs, diligently working towards the future. I realize that this isn’t a bad thing at all, but every once in awhile I think, “You know, I’d really like to blow off work for a day,” or “I know it’s Tuesday night and all, but I still want to go bar-hopping.” And then I lift some weights and play with my tortoise instead. Lately, I just want to be a little less mature: all of this long-term planning for grad school and beyond is making me feel older than I want to be. I have to make choices now that will affect Bryan’s and my ability to purchase a house down the line; we’re strategically selecting graduate schools to improve our chances of coming back here to settle…it’s all very adult and overwhelming. Sometimes, I wish I were ten years old again, when the biggest thing I had to worry about was whether I could stop my bike before I reached the end of the cul-de-sac.

There are good things about these changes, too. The best part, of course, is being unabashedly me around the man I’m going to marry. I thought I would wait for many years before I found love, but I was wrong. This is the kind of love that lasts, too. It isn’t a storybook romance – but its imperfections and occasional frustrations are threads in a masterful tapestry. I realized how much this relationship means to me the other day when the pressure of graduate school and moving away reached a boiling point. I was talking to a friend from work about how different things are now. In the past, whenever I had a fight with a boyfriend or when our futures didn’t seem to mesh synchronously, I could just say, “Screw it,” and walk away. It never bothered me before. Now, I want to work through things and I want to find a way for us to be together forever, even if it means spending our grad school years in different places. I want to invest my time and energy in this relationship because the returns are worth every drop of sweat I perspire for them.

This isn’t going to be easy, and part of me is terrified. In a few months, I have to get on a plane and leave my friends and family, then get on a train and tell my husband I’ll see him in a couple of weeks. That’s the pattern my life will take after September. Pretty scary, huh? Deep down, I know it will be okay; people endure far greater challenges, and I’ll probably be so caught up in my studies that I won’t have time to become depressed about missing everyone. Still, sometimes my life feels like a Garden State moment. Everyone I know is in limbo: we're caught in between childhood and adulthood, trying to be responsible when we really just want to hop on a bike and get the hell out of Dodge. Life is a blur of experiences and emotions right now, a whirlwind picking us up and expecting us to know when to get off the ride. I wish this wasn’t all happening so fast. I wish I could be a know-nothing kid again, just for a little while.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I couldn't do it without you...

Just when I think I am about to hit bottom, I manage to land in the arms of supportive friends. I've never figured out what I've done to deserve so much love, but I hope I can reciprocate even a fragment of what I've received. Thanks, all - you know who you are. ;)

Sunday nights have officially been designated as "do nothing" nights. Well, actually, we do do something, but it consists of vegging on the couch to watch three of our four shows: Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy.

Yes, DH is a horrendously cheesy, trashy, over-the-top soap masquerading as a real tv show...but I don't care. As the ultimate film and literature snob, I still can't deny its appeal.

We re-start tango lessons this week! Hopefully, the flu won't thwart our intentions this time...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Does trouble come in threes?

I really hope so, because in the past week we've had a ridiculous amount of it:
  • My funding didn't turn out to be quite so wonderful as I'd hoped
  • Both FH and I were rejected by another major funding body, even though FH in particular was highly qualified for their fellowship
  • We had one of those slight misunderstandings couples have about rather major things -- I thought we'd come back to Seattle after graduate school, while he thought we agreed that it would be after postdoctoral work. Oops.

I'm going for a run now, and then I'm going home to clean my apartment and work on mundane tasks that have no potential to erupt into slavering monsters.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

My head is spinning...

There is indeed such a thing as too much good news. At least, too much when strings come attached.

For example, grad school. Funding is great, but the stipulation is that I have to leave the country for it - more difficult than it sounds when my friends and family have always been my life.

Then, there's marriage. The love of my life and I have to spend three years sleeping in separate towns to make this grad school thing work -- and, while it is still better than the original nightmare, to be apart in Boston and California, I still find myself dying inside a little whenever I think about being away from him for more than a day or two. Funny how the ultimate lonester girl doesn't really savor total solitude anymore. We'll have approximately every other weekend together, but it still isn't easy.

A lot of things are like that right now. I feel like I have too much to process -- nothing's really had a chance to sink in, but I don't have time to ponder it, either. I regret that tremendously, but I'm not sure how else things could have fallen into place. As it is, I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, trying to reconcile what I wish for with what must be.

Sorry to be on such a downer tonight. Life's like that.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Back online

Sorry about the lapse in posts - I was away in Wenatchee this weekend, and my computer at work also seems to have blocked Stupid security rules.

Well, the Pope is finally at rest. I am relieved for him, but also saddened to bid farewell to our Church's charismatic leader. We agreed on very few doctrinal issues, yet I still love and respect him for his unwavering beliefs and for his steadfast pursuit of global peace. How many other leaders maintained strong diplomatic relationships with both President Bush and Fidel Castro? I heard today that Castro declared a week of mourning for the Pope - no small feat in a nation where citizens refused to disclose their religious affiliations when I talked with them.

I also had never seen pictures of him in his youth or from the earliest days of his papacy. He possessed such vitality, such tranquility; always, in every photo and film clip, he moves forward with the wisp of a serene smile on his face. He was contentment personified. I can't imagine facing the world with so much happiness -- I can't even get through a signel day without reverting to sarcasm and cynicism, and I'm just an entry-level administrator at a social services program. He will be missed greatly, and I just hope the next Pope continues the Church's dogged push for peace while acknowledging that it may be time for a change in the priesthood.

On the wedding front, a recent spate of rain in the Cascades has enabled the ceremony site to erupt in a riot of spring greens. New growth is pushing up through the damp, dark earth, and the place has an air of pregnant anticipation about it. At any moment, petals will start bursting out from their buds and our backdrop of wildflowers will come into bloom.

Now, if only the civil front were as invigorating as the physical world. It's real fun trying to convince people that our wedding is precisely that: ours. Not yours, not the property of the crazy distant relative, but mine and my man's. I'm suddenly understanding why people elope. :)