29 June 2002
Still busy. Lots of thoughts.

House Updates

Things around the house are going well. I'm finally polyurethane-ing the doors. The brass hardware and handles cleaned up *very* nicely with the TSP--the paint came right off, and the polish actually made it look better than I expected. Michael found some glass glue that should help to hold the handles that are slipping, which should make the doors easier to use. Outside, the two evergreens which were interfering with the sewage pipes are gone--out neighbor gave us $100 for taking them down, so that was added incentive. The stumps of the "Trees of Heaven" that had taken over the back of the house are all out--our neighbor (the one trying to sell) helped Michael pull them out with his truck. Yee Haw! We also got all the block painted outside along the bottom of the house. Now the door in the kitchen really looks like it needs replaced. But not until we pay back Lowe's what we currently owe! (Thank goodness for 0% interest until January!) Some of my flowers are coming up, not as many as I'd hoped, but probably more than I deserve considering the lack of care I took when I planted them.

Politics and the Supreme Court

I have to say that I have been extremely unhappy with several recent Supreme Court decisions, and that has been on my mind a good deal.

One of the rulings I find most disturbing regards sex offenders in prison. Not because it dealt with sex offenders specifically, but because it seems to effect the rights of prisoners in general. In this case, sex offenders were required to attend a special rehabilitation program. In this program they were required to list prior sexual acts, including acts that may have been criminal offense, but were given no immunity from prosecution in this confession. So in essence, these prisoners were required, in essence, to incriminate themselves, an act that should be barred by the 5th amendment of the constitution. There is an interesting article at the FindLaw site on the ruling, which I notice basically went through with little commentary, I suppose because it dealt with sex offenders.

I also take issue with the ruling that vouchers can be used to send children to religious schools. I have a lot of problems with this. First, it is a state sponsoring of religion. It is forcing me to support religious education. Sorry, but I definitely do not want my tax money paying for religious indoctrination. And that is the only option for the voucher program. It doesn't give parents enough money to send poor kids to private schools, only to parochial schools, where the tuition is, to a degree, subsidized by associated churches and parishes. Secondly, it is an asinine way to attempt to deal with failing schools. Schools that are already failing their students, do NOT need what little money they have going elsewhere. It just exacerbates an already bad situation--in essence dooming the school to failure before it cane even try. Of course this idea is supported by our president who thinks that religious programs can easily and rapidly solve social problems--even though studies have shown this to be absolutely not true.

To give credit where credit is due, however, I think the Supreme Court was right on regarding the two death penalty cases: banning the execution of the mentally retarded and requiring the death penalty to be given by a jury and not a judge. Of course I do not believe that the death penalty can ever be administered fairly, so my opinion is very biased in this.

I was, admittedly, flabbergasted by the California ruling that the Pledge of Alligence was unconstitutional, because of the phrase "One Nation, under God". Of course the obvious solution would be to remove that phrase--especially since it was only added 50 years ago. Of course this will immediately be overturned by the Supreme Court if it is even allowed to stand in California. but I found it an interesting juxtaposition with the school voucher ruling. Not quite sure how I would feel about the ruling if the phrase "Under God" had been in the pledge from the beginning, but it wasn't, and so the obvious solution is to remove the phrase. Doesn't matter to me one way or the other whether the phrase in there or not, but I know that Lenny would love to see that phrase booted. I was, however, disgusted by the way politicians everywhere stood up and denounced the ruling. Rally behind the flag--especially if you want to get re-elected. GACK!

I was also pleased the the court ruled against HMOs, in that a patient has a right to a treatment if a separate panel of doctors rules that the treatment is medically necessary. The health insurance industry in this country is a racket--almost as bad as the pharmaceutical industry.


14 June 2002
Speaking of erratically updated....
Been busy, out of town, whatever. Spent half a week in Baltimore last week following the death of my Aunt Sophie. Went down Friday with my dad to spend time with my grandmother, the viewing was in Sunday, the funeral was on Monday, we came back Tuesday. It was shocking how thin she was, although my grandmother said the funeral home did a good job, and she actually looked better than she had the last week she was alive. It was sad, though I tried to keep in mind that she was ready to die, and she was ninety years old--having lived a very full life.


On other fronts, we've been busy with the house--unsurprisingly. We now how storm doors on the front door and the basement door--the door on the basement has been painted to match the house, with red trim around the entire frame. I've gotten nowhere with the inside doors in recent weeks, because either the weather was too miserable to work outside (i.e. the front porch) or we were out of town. And it's supposed to rain all this weekend.

On the greenery side, the plants seem to have survived our extended absence, although the cat nip was droopy--it perked right up after getting water. My dad has been trying to get a cutting from the Strawberry Bush in my Grandmother's back yard for years, so I've got bunch of cuttings in my basement window. I'm hoping that they'll do okay, although some of them got somewhat wilted in the trip back to Morgantown. I also took cuttings from one of the flowering shrubs that Grandmom really likes. Those are in her basement though. But I think perhaps some of my cuttings may be okay, because although some leaves are fried, others look pretty good, even now, several days after cutting them. Guess I'll just have to be patient.

If you're curious, I cut the green/softwood, striped off the lower leaves, and while working, placed the cuttings in a jar of water and rooting compound. Then I planted the cuttings in potting soil and watered them with the remaining rooting compound. The important thing was the softwood cuttings I think. My dad had previously probably been taking hard wood cuttings, which won't root easily (if at all). Apparently I can even take softwood cuttings of rose bushes, which might be worth trying if I can get Kim to let me take a softwood cutting of some of her roses. Of course I'd have larger roses faster if I just bought rose plants, but we can't have everything, now can we? Now that I think about it, I think I may take some cuttings from my father's Forsythia bush and get those started and planted. Free is always a good price to pay for a plant! Now I need to find someone with an abundance of Irises and Day Lillies who would like to give me some!

Heard an interesting tidbit on All Things Considered the other day about the FBI going through records of those who have taken scuba diving lessons. Since I knew two people who have been doing that, it really caught my attention. I wonder what activity will be next on the FBI radar.

Something else struck me today. In an e-mail discussion with Lenny, I mentioned the candle light vigils that were held in Iran for the victims of 11 September, and he hadn't heard anything about it. Just out of curiosity, I asked our GA Melissa if she had heard about it--nothing. I then asked Gina, my co-worker, and she had heard nothing about that either. All three, of course, had heard about the handful of Palestinians who burned American flags and danced in the street, but no one seems to know anything about Iran, an "enemy" of the US, where citizens spontaneously held candle light vigils. So here is a site containing information on the Muslim and Arab response to 11 September. And here and here are other articles that mention it.

Sometimes I really hate the news media in the US. They are more than willing to show an instance where a handful of people demonstrate ill will towards the US, but are silent about thousands showing good will and support. And people say there is not anti-Arab bias to the US media?

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today....


23 May 2002
What an unusually pleasant week! Andy has been in town, so we have actually been doing fun things! Best though, was seeing the new Star Wars movie. I really enjoyed the movie and had a good time--which is pretty unusual for me, since I typically hate movies. I thought this one was *so* much better than the last, and in general, excluding the mushy bits, was just fantastic. I guess we *had* to watch the developing romance between Anikan and Padmae, but couldn't they have done something interesting or productive while they were falling in love?

I really liked the way that things from the other movies worked their way into those movie--the way scenes reminded me of scenes from the other movies. But mostly I just liked the way that I came out of the movie feeling delighted.

I had lots more to say, but now that I'm sitting here typing, it's all gone.....


17 May 2002
Ahh...Back to work. So my new assignment is to work on our web site, and keep things updated. I guess this is to keep me out of trouble. Either way, it's a task that I think I will enjoy--certainly more than teaching MS Access.

Read a very depressing article on FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) in South African in US News & World Report (I am *really* behind on my reading). Apparently it was policy to pay workers in alcohol, and many vineyards still have a policy where wine can be deducted directly from a worker's paycheck, and so alcoholism is rampant in the area, and does not seem to be getting much better, even with industry reform. It is strange to think that FAS could be such a problem in this day and age, but then again the lives of those in Africa and other "third world" (no clue what the PC term is now) are also pretty incomprehensible. As Dee says, we're pretty damned privileged to live where and as we do, but it is easy to forget that sometimes.

So being out of town for the primary, we voted before we left, and they were testing out the new computer voting systems. I, of course, spoke up and said what a terrible idea I thought this was. I may even write a letter to someone. The woman "running" absentee voting (who kept referring to Michael and me as "girls", as in, "come on girls!" and "follow me girls!") thought it was a great idea, but since we were in a hurry to leave town I did not stay to expound upon all the reasons I left this was a terrible idea, so I'll do so here!
In Mon county, we have an optical voting system right now, which means that we fill out a piece of paper with a pencil, and turn that in. I find several advantages to this. If someone drops a box of ballots, they can still be counted and nothing will be hurt. Paper is inexpensive and easy to use. Paper and pencil still work in a power outage (that is still an issue in some of the more rural areas in Mon country, though I have to say that the electricity goes out at my parents house much less frequently than it used to), if a lightening strikes the polling place, the paper ballots will still work and will still be functional. Its quite easy to write in an alternative candidate with pencil and paper. I saw no easy way (or anyway) to do so with the system we used. Last but not least, I *work* with computers and know how horribly unreliable they are. Sure, the system may be fool-proof for those in charge of the polling place, but I see this as a ridiculous expense that Monongalia county can ill afford. Bah!

Just call me a Luddite.

Which reminds me (the election not the Luddites) I was quite surprised that all counties in WV resoundingly turned down the "Sunday hunting" (A resounding 67% No in Mon county) (aside: I really dislike what has been done with the WV Secretary of State page. I can't imagine how it could run more slowly and be more irritating to find what I want. I miss Ken Hechler.) It's almost difficult not to draw conclusions that play on every WV stereotype imaginable, but I begin to wonder if they may, in this case, be true. The news (See: Decisive Sunday hunting vote surprises both sides - 5/15 ) suggested that it was a religious choice, or that people wanted to have a day free to spend with their families or wanted a day to walk outside without hearing gunfire, which all seem to be reasonable answers, but I wonder if the true reason is not simply that those who would be most in favor of Sunday Hunting simply did not vote?

Voting leads me to the upcoming contest between Shelley Moore Capito and Jim Humphries--a rematch of the contest that Humphries lost two years ago. I was quite disappointed that Jim Humphries and not Margaret Workman won that race, because to be honest I do not think that Humpheries can beat Capato, and we have got to get Capito OUT. Not only do I not trust her (I fear like father, like daughter), but if the Democrats are to regain control of the House and stop Bush and his running roughshod over civil rights, we must get a Democrat back in that seat. Unfortunately, the fact that we are going to be looking at one of the most expensive house races in the country because of Humphries personal wealth disgusts me, considering that such money could certainly be put to better use in a state as poor as West Virginia. You want to impress people Humphries? Stop buying ads and put your money to charities. Of course that wouldn't make news in the ultra conservative and horrible Diminishing Pest in Morgantown, but it certainly would be a better use of money.


16 May 2002
Houston Trip!
Yup, Houston is quite hot, but we had a wonderful time anyway, seeing Ben's graduation from Rice and visiting Xiaorong. The graduation ceremony was nice, although hot, and it is always good to spend time with my family. Ben is probably going to join the Peace Corps and go to one of the former Soviet Republics in Asia and be gone for 26 months! I do not think that I could leave home for that long, but more power to him!

But all in all we had a wonderful time. On Saturday (between graduation gatherings) we went to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts; I found the older art much more impressive than the modern art, but it was entertaining anyway. After that we went to a party hosted by Ben's friend's family, where we had authentic Indian food, which was very good--and I generally don't like Indian food (I think it is the Tumeric in the Curry (spice) that I do not like.

The visit with Xiaorong on Sunday was great, she took us out for Dim Sum at an authentic Chinese restaurant, and it was fantastic. We made pigs of ourselves and weren't hungry for the rest of the day, but even so the visit was too short, and it seemed as if we had barely gotten to the Museum of Natural History in Houston before it was time to get on the road (we wanted to be outside Houston when we left town). So we travelled all the way to Houston and ate authentic Indian and Chinese food, but had no Mexican. Go figure.

The trip itself was long, but mostly uneventful. We didn't get lost, which is a bonus, and despite the fact that all our travelling was under storm watches, we managed to stay just in front of the storms and so the weather was quite pleasant for travelling--overcast, but not stormy. What more could we have wanted?

On the home front, before we left I stripped five of our seven interior doors, and was pleasantly surprised. The doors seem to be in pretty good shape, so I should be able to stain them instead of re-paint them, which is a big bonus in my opinion. Yesterday, on our day of recovery from travel, I sanded three of the doors and they turned out rather nicely, I just need to figure out how to get the last of the paint from the "trim" (can't think of the right word). I figured out how to clean up the handles, but still want to replace them, so now I need to figure out how to sell a bunch of old glass and brass door handles with hardware (1940s I think). I saw some enamel handles I liked, which were $25 each (sigh) which means that ones I would really like are going to be even more expensive. Ah well.


3 May 2002
So I skipped my last "Women in the Modern Middle East" class last night. I decided that it just wasn't worth it, although I do hope that the fact that so many people dropped the class will send a clear signal to whoever is in charge that this was not a good class.

So Laurie Garrett's book "The Coming Plague" has got me thinking about things again, primarily antibiotic resistance. This country is just messed up in our treatment of medications, and we are really starting to see some of the major consequences of this. The hospital is the worst place to get sick, because everything going around hospitals seems to be resistant to multiple antibiotics, and is quite difficult to get over. Of course it's easy in retrospect to see how this came about, I mean, who hasn't heard someone whining about going to the doctor with a cold and not getting any medication for it? And then there is the prophylactic use of antibiotics for poultry and beef cattle, and this is also leading to a tremendous increase in bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

So I wanted to say more about that, but it's been a busy day, and I did not get time, so I'll have to leave that for another day.....

On a different note, today was the last day of my "Faiths of Abraham class" and I am really sorry to see that class end. My professor, Aaron Gale is really fantastic, and not only was enthusiastic, but also managed to keep the class from exploding every time a contentious issue came up (which for this subject, was frequently) I really hope that they decide to keep him on, because that was a fantastic class, and he is an excellent teacher. In fact, I can't think of enough superlatives to describe Professor Gale or the class, so you'll just have to accept that I really enjoyed the class, and I am going to miss going to that class. I'd love to take another class he teaches, but I figure that there is no way my boss is ever going to let me take another class during the day again, and even if she does, I really want to take Russian, and that would be four semesters of a day time class.

Ah well.....

2 May 2002
So today is the last day of my "Women in the Modern Middle East" class, and the only reason I'm planning on going is because it is today we fill out the instructor evaluation forms. To say that this class was a disappointment is an understatement. On the other hand, I really have enjoyed my "Faiths of Abraham" class and am sorry that class is ending.

Which brings to mind a question I have had for awhile now. Why was the Red Cross operating in Afghanistan? Should it not have been the Red Crescent society, such as operates in the Palestinian territories? Why would the Islamist Taliban have allowed a quasi Christian organization into their country?

No one ever has an answer to these questions.

Less than a week until our trip to Houston. I can not wait to see Xiaorong--it's been about three and a half years since I've seen her. She is going to take us to a local Chinese restaurant that she says is excellent, so now we're just trying to find a Mexican restaurant.

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