October 2006 Archives


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The phone calls from Maryland democrats have slowed down. Only one yesterday and one today. The one today started out with "I bet you've gotten a lot of phone calls!" Maybe just a couple.

He told me that they've moved the county activity from Havre de Grace to Bel Air, which is going to add about 15 minutes to my drive from Delaware. I kind of wish now I was going to Elkton! Oh well, at least I have good audio books on the iPod. He told me he would email me a schedule, and I asked for a short day on Monday since I figure Tuesday will be the big day. He said they'd put me on phone duty that day.

Well the schedule was a little too ambitious: first they put me canvassing Friday afternoon, when I will be driving up. Then 8 hour days on Saturday and Sunday, split between phone and canvassing, then 12 hours phone duty on Monday (!!!), and then 12 hours of canvassing on Tuesday.

Oh, and I have to be there 1.5 hours early on Saturday to train for canvassing. I don't think the training actually takes that long, they just need me there before the canvassing shift heads out, but then the phone shift starts later. I'm glad they're going to train me. In 2004 I don't remember getting any training, just a stack of pamphlets and a map.

I wrote back, told them I can't do Friday, and asked for a short day on Monday. They wrote back asking me to do 9 am to 6 pm instead. That's not really a short day in my book. I didn't feel like arguing any further, so I'll just show up and then plan on leaving early if I'm tired on Monday. What are they going to do, fire me?

make a date with lucy


The famous hominid skeleton called Lucy will be on display in the US for several years, starting in 2007. The only confirmed locations are Houston and Washington DC, but it sounds like the exhibit may visit other cities as well.

Lucy is an important part of our understanding of the origins of humanity, and this is a wonderful, and rare, opportunity to see it. The Washington Post article (I think registration may be required) said the fossil has been locked away in a vault somewhere in Ethiopia since its discovery. I hope we can visit Lucy in Houston when we're there for the art car weekend in 2008. If not, we'll be able to see the exhibit in DC.

vote early, vote often


I did early voting this morning. For Durham County it's next door to the Board of Elections office, across the street from the old ballpark. There was no line so I got in and out pretty quickly. I was kind of surprised that they didn't ask for ID, but at dinner this evening my friend Joe told me that it's illegal (everywhere but Arizona) to ask voters for ID. I don't know how I feel about that. On the one hand, I can see that requiring ID would be an obstacle to poor people who might not have a driver's license. But on the other, I'm a little alarmed by the idea that anyone who knows my name and street address could vote in my name.

It seems like early voting combined with no ID requirement could make voter fraud really easy. Just go to early voting and vote in someone else's name, then on election day go to your own precinct and vote in your own name. Note: I am not advocating anyone do this! On the contrary, I think it's pretty damned scary. I wonder what they do if something like that happens? I mean if you showed up at your polling place on election day and your vote had already been cast by someone else, what can you do? Anything?

After voting I walked a couple of doors down to the board of elections office, and asked the woman at the front desk if they have any plans to convert Durham County to electronic voting machines. She seemed a little flummoxed by the question; she didn't really answer one way or the other. I told her that I like the system we have now (for those of you not in Durham County, we use optically scanned paper ballots), and I hope we don't change, because I think this system is much safer. She said, "We all feel the same way." She suggested I talk to the guy inside the office, she didn't identify him but the sign on his desk said Michael Ashe. Later I looked him up and he's the director of the board of elections. Unfortunately just as I started to talk to him, he got a phone call that sounded like it was going to take a while, so I left.

So I didn't get any concrete information, but I was encouraged by the remark that they all prefer the current system too. I have to say, I don't know where this push towards paperless electronic voting machines came from. What is the rationale for switching to those machines? I mean sincerely, not just "so it's easier for them to steal elections."

change of plans


With a week to go I've been rethinking my plan to go to Pennsylvania and campaign for Bob Casey. I still feel very strongly about wanting to see Rick Santorum out of office. But (knock on wood) it sounds like it's going to happen with or without my help. I've been following the polls for over a month and Santorum has been consistently way behind, never gaining any ground.

thirteen update

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We got the tests back today. Thirteen doesn't have diabetes and she doesn't have kidney disease. Whew!

So what does she have? Well we don't know. Maybe mild hypothyroid. Maybe mild anemia. Maybe something else entirely. Maybe nothing.

There are a lot of options for test we could do. Really expensive options. Not that the expense matters if it's going to improve or lengthen Thirteen's life. When Lina tore the ligament in her knee, we went to the veterinary college in Raleigh for her to have bone surgery, even though she was 12 years old. She was so active, it was totally worth to money to keep her from losing mobility. But it doesn't sound like the same situation with Thirteen. These tests would basically be a shot in the dark. We might find nothing. And if we do find something, it would likely be something we couldn't treat anyway. If they do a chest x-ray and find a tumor in her lungs, what are we going to do about it? Nothing. She's too frail for surgery or chemotherapy.

I talked it over with Dr. Pagel and we decided to start by giving her more food and a vitamin supplement. She was, after all, on a weight loss diet. Maybe all she needs is more nutrition. If she gains weight, then great. If not, then we'll start with the tests. Probably the first one we'll do is a more thorough test for hypothyroid.

This evening I bought "senior" dog food for Thirteen, the first time she's been off "light" food in more than a year. Woo hoo! I looked at the vitamins at PetSmart but couldn't find what I needed. Dr. Pagel said Thirteen needs iron and B6. PetSmart has vitamins with iron but not with B6. I called St. Francis and they have something called Nutrical, a goo that I can put in her food. Mmm, goo.

skinny puppy


Had a marathon vet appointment this morning. Almost two hours, just for Thirteen! Poor dog, by the end she had been poked and prodded in every way possible. A full exam, blood work, ears cleaned, nails trimmed, acupuncture, urine draw, and don't forget the anal probe! If they would have told me in advance I could have gotten samples the easy way.

Thirteen's health seems pretty good overall; my only concern was her weight. I knew she had lost weight because I can feel her ribs and spine now when I pet her. But I was surprised by how much: she weighs 39 pounds today, down from 46 at the end of May. The vet seemed concerned too; that's why they did all the tests.

She was a little bit overweight before, and this puts her at a healthy weight, but it isn't healthy to lose that much for no reason. Her food and activity levels haven't changed at all. Her appetite isn't low; on the contrary she's been really hungry lately, always trying to get into Jane's dish.

We had actually been trying to make her lose weight early this year, and with a reduced diet and exercise had gotten her down from 51 to 44 pounds. That seemed like enough so I eased off the food restriction and she gained back a couple of pounds. Then in the summer her joints seemed better, so we stopped doing acupuncture for awhile. Without the frequent vet trips I didn't notice that she had started losing weight again.

They won't know for sure until the blood work comes back, but the likely culprits seem to be either kidney disease or diabetes. Between the two I'm hoping for diabetes; I did some research and it sounds more manageable with medication. The vet said they were also going to check her thyroid, but that sounds improbable. It could be kidney disease; she does have the early symptoms of lethargy and possibly more frequent drinking (not by much though; not enough to remark on until they asked me about it). But the lethargy, come on! She's 15 years old, of course she's lethargic.

I think diabetes is more likely because of the symptom of losing weight despite an increase appetite. My dog book says diabetes is one of the few diseases that does that. (Dog Fancy magazine decribed it as "a Bluto appetite and a Twiggy figure.") We'll know either way in a few days, but in the meantime we're going to increase her diet and see if she gains a little back, or at least doesn't feel so hungry all the time.

I suppose I ought to be upset, but I'm strangely not. Well okay, if it turns out to be kidney disease I will be upset. I did some research and it sounds like a step in an inevitable decline. But if it's diabetes, that's manageable even at her age. We'll learn how to inject insulin, adjust her food, and go from there.

slate's green challenge


Slate.com just started a new running feature on reducing one's carbon emissions. You take a quiz to establish a baseline, then each week they provide advice on how to reduce your emissions. They're going to give 500 t-shirts to people who reduce emissions by 20%. (by which I mean, 500 people will get t-shirts. Not that people will get 500 t-shirts. What would you even do with 500 t-shirts? I guess you could use them to insulate your house and reduce your heating bills.)

The challenge seems like a nice idea but skewed against people who already care at all about the issue. We're no paragons of environmentalism -- far from it -- but we already do almost everything they mentioned in the intro article.

Then again, the first week's challenge is about transportation. Where I definitely could do a better job. I do a lot of driving because of the art car events, and I've been thinking about buying a more efficient car when I can afford it (unfortunately several years from now). But their action items are mostly impossible for me:

Drive 65 miles per hour instead of 75. I already do this.

No more than 30 seconds of idling is needed to warm up a car, even on cold winter days. Do people warm up their cars? I thought that was only for old cars that wouldn't run otherwise. In any case, I don't.

Could you walk or bike to do that nearby errand? No. There are no errands near enough to walk, my road isn't safe for bikes, and I generally run errands on the way home from work anyway.

Could you carpool or commute by mass transit—even just one day a week? No. My hours are too odd for carpooling, and mass transit mostly doesn't exist where I need to go.

On relatively short trips—Boston to New York, for example—could you take the train instead of flying? I rarely travel on a train route, and I rarely fly. Most of my trips are art car events, where I have to bring my car for obvious reasons. I could take the train up to DE, but that would nearly double the length of the trip. And I'm usually going up for Thanksgiving and have a carful of casseroles and etc.

The only thing on the list that I can do is keep my tires full of air. I'm pretty bad about that. But I doubt I'm going to reduce carbon emissions by 20% just with that.

how to do a sixties hairstyle: setting

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  • Look at the illustrations in the links in the last post for how to arrange the rollers. If you want a fuller, more bouffant style, use the rollers on all your hair. If you want it sleeker on the sides, only put the rollers on top.
  • You should use enough product that when you take the rollers out, your hair stays in the same shape. If your hair is kind of straightened out and flops over, the rollers are too big. Comb the product through before putting in the rollers. And then after the rollers are in I like to spritz a little setting lotion into my hands and run them over the rollers, just for one last shot of product. If you have setting tape, use it to tape down your bangs and the curls on your cheeks. Or if you use enough product, you can just sort of plaster it down.
  • When the rollers come out, starting at the back of your head, backcomb in small sections to make it stand up. I like to pull the comb down three times for each section, and then wiggle it back and forth a little on the third time. Then I hold that bit of hair up and spray hairspray at the base of the hair. Try to blend together the chunks your hair naturally falls into from the rollers. In other words take one bit of hair that was one one roller, and another bit of hair from another roller, and backcomb them together.
  • When you've got the shape you want, cover it with hairspray. Use lots more than you normally would. You're definitely not going for touchable hair. The effect you want is that you could ride in a car with the windows down and your hair would be fine. I like to smooth it back with my hands while it's damp from hairspray. Unfortunately that tends to mush it down a bit, but then you can use the pick to lift it back up.
  • The best part of this style is that if you're careful, you can make it last for two days. Just wear a shower cap to keep it dry, and then gently reshape it with a round brush and comb. Don't add any more product; it will look gross. Trust me.

how to do a sixties hairstyle: supplies


There's been way too much politics on this blog lately, and it will probably continue until the election. So let's take a break with something fun and frivolous: step by step instructions on how to do a mid-sixties hairstyle.

When I decided to start doing my hair in a sixties style, I had a hard time finding out how to do it. It took a fair amount of searching to find a few websites with setting instructions. These are the ones I found most helpful:

This style is my favorite. Think Vidal Sassoon. I printed this one out and took it to my hairdresser, but she talked me into going longer on the sides. Next time I'm going to tell her to cut it just like this.
This page shows several curly styles. Think Goldie Hawn. Drawings only.
The classic bubble flip. Think Hairspray. This style is a lot heavier than the look I was going for, and also a lot more work. I haven't tried it but the instructions look good.

I asked my hairdresser to cut my hair specifically for a mid-sixties bubble flip, but that really isn't necessary. As long as your hair is moderately short -- from chin length to mid-neck when wet -- you can do this style. You just need a few supplies, which will be the topic of this post.

Necessary Supplies

  • Rollers. They should be big, depending on the length of your hair. When my hair was longer I used 3" and 3 1/2" rollers. Now it's shorter and I mainly use 2" and 1 1/2". Get a variety of sizes so you can experiment. I like the Velcro kind, they're comfortable and stay in place well. If you already have smooth plastic ones they'll work too.
  • Clips. I use plain old bobby pins, but they're kind of a pain and I'll probably get better clips soon. Still, bobby pins are cheap and thus good to start with.
  • Setting Lotion. Get this from Sally Beauty Supply. It's a blue liquid that comes in a tall bottle, and you mix it with water in your own spray bottle. One bottle will last forever.
  • Comb. I have a nice one with uneven teeth for back-combing, and a pick on the end. But any comb will do.
  • Hair Spray. The strongest, most shellac-like hair spray you can find. Aqua Net is the classic but anything marked "ultra hold," "extreme hold," etc., will do. It's a good sign if the packaging looks like it's aimed at goths.
  • Hand Mirror. Big enough to see the back of your head.

Not Necessary, But Make Life Easier

  • Vintage Hair Dryer. You can do without a hair dryer, but your hair will take 2-4 hours to set depending on its thickness and length. So I recommend getting the dryer unless you really like to linger over your beauty rituals, and you never ever run short on time getting ready to go out.

    Your modern hand-held hair dryer is not going to work here. Vintage hair dryers are readily available on Ebay. Or your mother may have one in the back of her closet. They come in 2 main types: bonnet, and helmet. The bonnet style has a plastic cap you put over your head, with a hose attached. The helmet style is like a salon hairdryer, but sits on a tabletop. I have the bonnet style because it's lighter and travels better. The bonnet and hose stow inside the dryer. Plus it's got a cute handle and "Lady Sunbeam" written on the side. Also space is an issue in my house and I wouldn't know where to set up a helmet dryer.

    Some stores sell a bonnet attachment for a modern hair dryer, but I do not recommend this. I tried it and it was a total pain. The bonnet had elastic so tight that I always messed up some of the curlers just getting it on, and then it left a red itchy mark on my forehead. And the hose was cheap plastic which melted with the hairdryer on "warm." The vintage hairdryer has a loose bonnet with a drawstring, much easier to put on. And it isn't as hot, so the hose doesn't melt. And it's more compact. Best of all, the vintage dryer cost less on Ebay, including shipping, than the crummy bonnet attachment.
  • Thickening Spray/Gel. Thick hair is essential for this style. Unfortunately, I don't have it. I don't know if these thickening products work or not, but two unrelated hairdressers swear they do, so I'm giving it a try. I've used Bumbble & Bummble "Thickening Spray," and Rusk "Thickr" gel. I guess every salon line has a product like this.
  • Other Styling Products. Whatever you have already. Just go for the "strong hold" products.
  • Round Brush. Not absolutely necessary but my bangs would look pretty bad without it.
  • Setting Tape and/or Straightening Iron. For your bangs and the curls over your ears, if you're doing them. Neither of these is really necessary if you're any good with a round brush. Or you can use a big roller but I think this makes the bangs look more girlish than I like.

    Setting tape is sold in the African American section of the hair care products. It's expensive, and basically just tape that won't pull your hair out. If you have gentle tape lying around the house (like painter's tape or surgical tape) you might try that instead. The straightening iron is only used for a minute or two so I don't recommend buying one if you don't already have one.
  • Pomade, Styling Wax, etc. If you happen to have it already, this is nice for the curls over your ears.
  • Hair Roll. I hear that this is a hairpiece you hide under the hair at the top of your head, to give you more height. I'd like to try it but I haven't found one yet.

I think that's it for supplies. Next time, setting the rollers!

oh for pete's sake


Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe seems to have a blind spot where pregnancy is concerned. A few months ago she advised a woman who didn't want children to have them anyway because the woman's family wanted her to. When people wrote in droves, understandably outraged, she responded with the equivalent of "Neener, neener, if you only had children you wouldn't be so bitter!"

Today her column includes a pregnant woman who wants to politely stop people from touching her stomach without permission. Now, I've never been pregnant (and probably never will be) but my observations confirm that this is indeed a problem. A surprising number of people feel like they have the right to touch, rub, or even grab a pregnant belly. I don't know how pregnant women can stand it. I find it annoying enough when people touch my tattoo without asking, and that's much less intimate.

What is Yoffe's sage advice? It basically boils down to, "get over yourself, honey, and let the gropers grope you as much as they want. Because it's their belly, not yours, as long as there's a fetus inside it."

The concept that a pregnant woman has no rights regarding her own body is usually regarded as the territory of the extreme right-wing. But Yoffe literally states that the letter writer's body doesn't belong to her for the duration of the pregnancy: "In a few months your belly will be yours again." Silly woman, she probably thought it was already hers. Good thing Yoffe was there to set her straight that she's a baby factory, not a human being with privacy and agency. I suppose Yoffe would also advise her to listen gratefully when strangers critique her restaurant meals, public activities, or the contents of her shopping cart based on "what's good for the baby." After all, her body will be hers again in a few months. How can she object to people making use of public property?

Yoffe finishes up with this line: "You should prepare yourself for the time when everyone who patted your stomach is going to want to hold your irresistible baby." Because, just like she has no right to refuse any stranger from groping her torso, she will have no right to refuse any stranger from grabbing her child. Sheesh. Slate.com were such fools to let Margo Howard go.

judges in code


We got a "2006 Nonpartisan Judicial Voter Guide" booklet in the mail. Each candidate for state-level judge gets a half-page to state their credentials and make a personal statement. Being a nonpartisan race, none of the candidates state their political party affiliations. And since judges aren't supposed to have "hidden agendas," none of them state positions on anything.

It's kind of interesting, though, how some of the candidates make their politics as obvious as possible. For instance Rusty Duke's statement starts off "I am a Conservative." And Rachel Lea Hunter (who, if not a total nut job herself, seems to be married to one) mentions progressive issues like the erosion of constitutional rights, and double standards for the rich and the poor. On the other hand, some candidates seem to take that "nonpartisan" thing more seriously. I wasn't able to figure out Mark Martin or Sarah Parker's political affiliation from the booklet. Now that I think about it, the incumbents in general seem to be less blatant about their politics.

That said, here's my Somewhat Accurate Guide to Decoding the Politics of Judicial Candidates:

endorsed by Elizabeth Dole and/or Richard Burr
deny being activist judge
use words "crime," "guilty" or "rule of law"

endorsed by organizations with "women" in name
deny having agenda
use words "rights" or "justice"

I must say, while I appreciate the sentiment about not having an agenda or being an activist judge or whatnot, I think it's a bit disingenuous. They're human. They have opinions and beliefs, and when they interpret the law, their opinions and beliefs are necessarily going to be some kind of a factor. Not to say they should decide against the law to suit their beliefs. But if there was no human element, we could just replace judges with robots and be done with it.

welcome to germ city


Fantastic time at the state fair today. The doggies of the wild west continue to be my favorite thing there. Before the show started I saw them walking the doggies, a wise precaution I'm sure. They had the biggest pooper scooper I've ever seen. They did the exact same magic trick as last year, and I was highly amused that she even used the same patter on her audience assistant as she had used on me last time. They added new dog tricks to keep it fun, including a dog who climbs up a tall metal ladder and then jumps off into his handler's arms. Pretty amazing.

We had great fair food: the ever fabulous mini doughnuts, butterfly potato chips (a pile of potato chips, thinly sliced and still connected to each other on one end, right out of the fryer), fresh ice cream from the John Deere ice cream machine and fresh apple cider from the apple people right near there. The only food disappointment was the pork chop biscuit from the farmer's market restaurant. It tasted good, but was nearly impossible to eat. Because it was a whole pork chop, bone in, deep fried and then stuck inside a biscuit. How in the heck are you supposed to eat that? I ended up removing the pork chop from the biscuit, pulling off bits of meat with my fingers, and then eating the biscuit separately. Good biscuit, and good pork chop. Just not good together, without a fork.

We did not try the deep fried Coke because we heard it was lame. Also did not try the deep fried cheeseburger, although I wanted to, but it was from the same place that sells deep fried Coke and had a huge line at all times. Was intrigued by a place selling "barbecue sundae," but it turned out to be merely a barbecue sandwich with no bread, in a cup, so we passed.

They had a new thing in the agriculture building: "Germ City," an exhibit to show you how disgustingly unclean you are. They give you lotion with glow in the dark pigment to rub into your hands. Then you go into a black light booth and see your hands all glowy. Next you wash your hands, then back into the booth to see how much glow residue remains. "Wherever your hands are glowing," the woman in the booth told us, "that's where you have germs." I washed my hands extra good but still my fingernails were covered with glow. As were my two rings and a spot on the heel of one hand. Of course I did this after walking around eating a pork chop with my hands. Figures!

We always go to the Village of Yesteryear and this year I bought a small vase from Turn and Burn pottery. They press horse hair into the glaze before firing, and the hair burns off leaving beautiful, intricate black patterns. I maybe could have gotten it cheaper from the big Seagrove pottery sale in November, but that's a long drive and I'm not really in the mood to spend a whole day next month shopping for pottery.

Normally we avoid the midway but this time we took a stroll around it before we left. It was getting dark and the rides looked beautiful all lit up. Beautiful and nauseating. I have never understood the appeal of midway rides. One in particular, I forget what it was called, but it was a long metal arm that swung around, with a small cage on each end. The cages also spun around on their own axis as the big arm was swinging. When we first saw it Georg said, "oh my god, that would be like riding on the end of a catapult." I replied, "I think it's more like a trebuchet." Whether catapult or trebuchet, I don't get why anyone would experience that on purpose, much less line up for the privilege.

We stayed for over 5 hours, and even though I wore comfy shoes my feet were sore. Still, I'm glad we stayed so long. I think it was one of our best years at the fair in a long time.

tell me something i don't know


The Casey campaign put me on their email list. Which makes sense, seeing as I'm volunteering for them and all. Most of the messages are irrelevent to me (announcements about events in PA that I couldn't possibly attend, that sort of thing) but they do sometimes have more general information.

So far their mailing list has done a great job of reminding me why I dislike Rick Santorum. On the other hand, telling me why I should like Bob Casey? Not so much. I'm not at all comfortable with Casey's social conservatism, for instance his anti-choice stance. The only good thing I know about Casey is that he's not Santorum. And to be honest, that's enough for me.

It may be enough for the Casey people too. Today they sent me a flyer for a rally in Philadelphia. The flyer uses Santorum's name more often than Casey's: "help defeat Santorum," "our fight to oust Santorum," etc. Seems like maybe they know that Casey's best asset is Rick Santorum.

jesus camp


October 14 movie: Jesus Camp. As alluded to in the previous post, last night Georg and I saw Jesus Camp with D. and S. As you've probably heard it's a documentary about an evangelical summer camp that indoctrinates children to be "soldiers for Jesus." The movie was actually less scary than I was expecting. I was expecting it to be like Soldiers in the Army of God which I saw a few years ago on HBO. Now that was fucking scary.

Not that Jesus Camp is all sunshine and lollipops; there are plenty of disturbing scenes. For instance a home-school mother smilingly telling her son that "science doesn't explain anything" and "creationism is the only thing that makes sense," and then making her children say a Pledge of Allegiance variation where they pledge to "the Christian flag," whatever that is, and to the Bible. Or (I think this is the worst) a scene where they drag out a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush in church, and have all the children put their hands on it and pray. I think they intended the children to pray at GWB, not to him, but it seems that the distinction would be easily lost on small children.

Of course it was disturbing to see children, sometimes quite young, be the subjects (or victims) of indoctrination techniques. Georg compared it, accurately I think, to an EST encounter group from the 70s. Except that since children are so suggestible, it doesn't require much to work them up into a highly emotional state of almost mass hypnosis.

It didn't help that one of the children in the movie looked uncannily like the little girl next door to me. The girl in the movie comes off as so sincere, so eager to please her parents by becoming the good little soldier for Jesus. Every time she was on screen I wanted to say, no, Kelsey!* Don't give that lady a Chick tract! Just be a kid! It was heartbreaking.

(*Kelsey is the name of my neighbor. I think the girl in the movie was named Rachel.)

It was almost a relief when a total hypocrite like Ted Haggard shows up in the movie. I think the high water mark for Haggard is when he meets a tween preacher who the movie has been following. He asks the boy if people like his preaching because he's a kid, or because of his "content." The boy looks confused, and Haggard helpfully tells him, "Keep doing the kid thing until you're 30, and by then, you'll have good content!"

I read on the movie website that Haggard was unhappy with how he came off in the movie. But S. mentioned having direct experience with him (saw him on a panel at a conference) and that his short appearance in the movie was very accurate.

The last thing I want to say is a point S. made. In all the preaching in the movie there was nothing about helping other people. Plenty of sobbing over plastic fetuses, but not one word about what a soldier for Christ might do for a person after they are born. No social justice, no food or clothing or shelter or visits to the sick or anything that might improve people's lives. The only outreach these kids learn is to ask people if they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and hand them a tract. It seems to me that there were a few words in the Bible about giving to the less fortunate in this world, not just hectoring them about their place in the next world.

I have a friend who is about to go on a mission, giving up her life and her family for a whole year to work for the needy. My friend is living her faith in a concrete way. She's everything the people in Jesus Camp are not.



Wrote a long post last night about the events of the last few days, and just when I was wrapping up my browser crashed and took the whole thing. I hate when that happens. I'm not going to rewrite the whole thing, so here's a brief summary:

  • Met many people at Whole Foods. Former boss not recognized and given distracted, non-committal wave. Which was about the ideal reaction.
  • Saw Suspiria at Carolina Theatre. Still creepiest movie ever. Cree-pee.
  • Leaning over balcony at the Carolina while wearing short skirt: very bad idea. Having a friend there to warn me that my ass was hanging out: better.
  • Pennies from Heaven: not as successful as The Singing Detective but shares the hallmarks of a Dennis Potter movie: dark, strange, ambitious, misogynist. Very misleading trailer.
  • Free mulch madness at the landfill over. Mulch sales may begin again next week.
  • Made a new dress yesterday afternoon. Finished the whole thing in five hours. Well, almost -- hem safety pinned in place and etc. Made me feel like a Project Runway contestant.
  • Mount Fuji: good food, annoying waiter who said "we" as if he was going to sit down and order with us.
  • Jesus Camp: not as scary and infuriating as expected.
  • Met a former neighbor at the theater before Jesus Camp who now works for the W3C.
  • Fast Food Nation trailer leaves no doubt as to why McDonald's didn't want them to film inside stores.

tights update


I'm fairly impressed with Socks Dreams response to my email about the tights. They said they use Crayola washable markers to write on invoices, so it might wash out. They offered me a choice: I can either wash the tights, and they'll give me a 50% credit if it comes out, just for my trouble, or replace the pair if it doesn't. Or they can send a replacement right away, including a postage paid envelope to return the damaged pair.

The ink mark didn't come from their invoice, because the mark on the tights is blue and the writing on the invoice is red. But what the heck, I'll try washing them first. Maybe I'll get lucky and it will come out, and then I'll have a credit for my next order. Which I will definitely be ordering again, I really appreciate their good customer service.

bad news and good news

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Bad news: my wrist is a little worse than I thought. I had to be on the computer all day today, and even wearing the brace my wrist was sore by the end of the day. I'm thinking about looking into an ergonomic keyboard.

Good news: Georg bought me a nice new wrist brace so I could wear it all day without looking gross. The old one was getting seriously ratty. The new one has better velcro, and one of those gel packs over the palm.

Good news: My Sock Dreams order arrived. I can't believe it came so fast: I ordered Friday night, there was no mail yesterday, and I got it today. From Oregon! Amazing.

Bad news: There was a blue ink stain on one pair of tights. I emailed them a photo. I'm sure they'll replace it, just wondering if I'll have to send the stained pair back or not.

Good news: After a horrible incident with a peach cobbler overflowing in the oven, we bought a beautiful new pan. It's an enameled metal "lasagna pan," but we'll use it as a roasting pan. To celebrate we roasted a pork loin with butternut squash and other root vegetables. Yum!

Better news: The pan was free! We had a gift certificate for Southern Season, a surprise wedding present. (Actually we didn't ask for wedding presents, so anything at all surprised us. But this one in particular was unexpected.)

two heads are better than one

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Had a great time at Divaville this afternoon, which I forgot to mention here in advance. Played some of my favorite songs like "Mambo de Paris" by Eartha Kitt, "Twisted" by Annie Ross, and "The Coffee Song" by Frank Sinatra. Also I played some songs I'd never heard before, which I try to do every time I have access to Christa's amazing music collection. Including a deranged version of "Boneca de Piche," (which I knew as a Carmen Miranda song), featuring Esther Williams, Van Johnson, and more hammond organ than you can shake a stick at. It was so fucked up. I sat in the MCR laughing with delight the whole time it was playing. Hammond organ, Van Johnson and Brazilian music? What evil genius came up with that? It was like the skating rink version of Carmen Miranda.

Anyway, I greatly enjoyed the show, and had no goofs except wasting time looking for a rumored George Formby CD that I never found (it turns out to be a few Formby tracks on a ukelele comp, at least I know for next time). For anyone who likes this kind of music enough to be interested, the playlist is here.

oi do i ache

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We took advantage of the cold weather yesterday to do yardwork all day. Really hard work, like we hadn't done since spring. It felt great.

We started early at Mulch Madness at the city dump. Turns out they aren't just giving away mulch, but all yard products: dirt, compost, leaf mulch, and wood mulch. I guess they have to get rid of it all because of the whole two-week fire and ensuing scandal. Oh, that. (Speaking of which, looks like we need another source for cheap dirt and mulch. I wonder what Orange County does?)

We had expected a long line like there was in the spring, but it actually went really fast and we were home before 10. We had breakfast and then unloaded the mulch and swept out the truck. Then, let's see, what did we do next. Georg pruned a tree that was overhanging the driveway, and I started work on a new bed. A small one, about 4 square feet, which had several volunteer saplings that had to be removed. None too big, though I did have get out the digging bar and Georg helped with the last one.

We didn't have any good soil amendments on hand so we ran out to Home Depot and got a couple bags of cow manure. We also picked up a few pretty orange mums, and checked out the selection of pavers. Which was pretty awful. They had a couple of things that weren't hideous, but they were so expensive! We might as well get natural flag stones.

After we got home and had lunch, Georg started weeding -- down by the road where it really needs it -- and I finished the new bed. Mixed in the manure, planted the new mexican sage and crinum lily, and mulched. I know, I know, you're not supposed to dig wet soil. But this was mostly removing clay, so I think it's OK. I used the clay to fill in the path around the cutting garden, which had sunk a bit over the summer. The path had also gotten all weedy and overgrown. This fall I need to put down landscape fabric and either gravel or mulch. I was thinking gravel, but maybe mulch would be better.

After finishing the bed I planted the mums we had just bought, then picked up the weeding where Georg had left off, while he went to the grocery store. Weeding is ten times easier when the soil is so wet like this. The roots pull up easily; you almost never have to dig. Between the two of us we got almost the whole bed weeded. To my dismay, under the weeds I found maybe two dozen baby yucca! My nemesis! The good news is that most of them came right up. Apparently, when I dug out the yucca last year I left a pile of little chunks of root, each of which sprouted a new yucca. They aren't well anchored so they pull right out of the wet soil.

Unfortunately there were also a few larger yucca that couldn't be pulled up. I suspect that I didn't get all of one last winter, and it regenerated during the year. Guess I'll have to dig that bed out again this winter. Honestly I would have been amazed if I'd gotten them all entirely out on the first try.

There are still some wild brambles that need to be dug out, but by that point it was late and I was ready to quit for the day. I'm glad I didn't keep working: I am sore all over! My wrist really bothered me last night. I guess I had forgotten how heavy the digging bar is, and I didn't take enough care in handling it. You'd think it would be the left wrist, as I'm left-handed, but it's always the right wrist. I tend to use the more coordinated left hand to aim the digging bar, and hold most of the weight with the right hand. The right hand is already weakened from computer use (I sleep with a wrist brace every night) so extra exertion like this always makes it sore. It's better today though. Well, it still hurts if I try to hold anything heavy, or twist it too far, but just a twinge. I have Divaville today and I think I'll carry the CDs up in two trips.

welcome fall


In the department of stating the obvious, it got cold all of a sudden. I wore tights, a sweater, light rain jacket, and my rubber wellies, and I was cold! Wish I had brought a heavier sweater. It was deceptively warm this morning when I left the house. I think the temperature dropped all day.

I think tomorrow is free mulch day, aka "Mulch Madness" (yes, that's what they call it) at the city dump, but we're lending out the truck in the afternoon and we may not have time to get the mulch, unload it and sweep out the truck. Oh well, mulch is cheap.

I got the application from the Chapel Hill Christmas parade. I'm not sure if I'm going to do it or not this year. I haven't done anything to the car and it's looking pretty ratty. I don't want to commit to a parade until it's looking nice again. And besides that, there's a $35 entry fee now. Maybe I should give it a pass this year. I think Mebane has a night-time Christmas parade, that might be better. UMJ still looks good in the dark, with its rope lights.

Now I'm watching Bette Davis on the Dick Cavett show. She was a great interview. Hilarious stories, many of a ribald nature. I love Better Davis's early movies, but I had remembered old Bette Davis (vaguely, I must admit I didn't have a clear picture) as a scary old crone with clown makeup. I must have been thinking of Hotel with a dash of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? But in this 1971 appearance she's attractive and stylish in a black minidress, black leather go-go boots, and mink beret. Sometimes while making a funny remark she gets this sly smile on her face, and she looks the same as she did in 1934. It's kind of amazing.

joe's blog


My friend (and in the interest of full disclosure, also my client) Joe Graedon has started a blog to go in a different direction from the newspaper columns he and his wife Terry write. He's a great writer with a lot to say. If you have any interest in alternative medicine or public health policy, check it out!


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I hate being sick. Especially when it's so nice out. I keep trying to convince myself that it was just a reaction to the musty air from getting my sweaters out of the closet. Or hay fever. Or something. Maybe I'll be better tomorrow. Sure, that's the ticket.

volunteer form


I got my volunteer form this weekend from the Bob Casey campaign. I can't remember if I mentioned before that I'm going up to PA to volunteer for Casey on election day & the days prior. More accurately, I'll be campaigning against Santorum. I feel kind of uncomfortable about taking a stand for Casey as I disagree with him on a number of issues. Still, I'm approaching it from a pragmatic point of view. Let's see, a senator who isn't ideal, or one I violently oppose on everything he stands for? Hmm, tough choice!

I also felt a twinge about getting involved in an election in another state, but a senator has so much national impact that the outcome will affect me directly. So much so that it doesn't feel like inappropriate involvement in someone else's election. I wouldn't go to another state to campaign in a governor's race, but that's really different from a senate campaign.

I thought about volunteering for an independant group like Philadelphians Against Santorum, but I decided that the Casey campaign might be better organized & better able to deal with out of state volunteers. I don't want a repeat of 2004, when I contacted the Durham County party several times and no one ever responded, so finally I just showed up at their office the day before the election. They found stuff for me to do but it seems like it might have been better if they had known I was coming. (For one thing, I would have started volunteering days or even weeks before if they had contacted me.) I could deal with that kind of disorganization with a local group, but I'm not driving 7 hours to do volunteer work unless I know they're going to be ready for me.

Well on first contact the Casey campaign appears organized. They sent me the form a month in advance, asking what days I'm available, my location, do I need a place to stay, etc. I told them I'll be staying in Wilmington DE and asked them to place me in Philadelphia or thereabouts. It looks like they want out of state volunteers to work on the Saturday and Sunday before election day, skip Monday, and then all day -- 7 am to 8 pm! -- on Tuesday. I was expecting to work Monday too but I'll be glad to have the day off.

This kind of work is very tiring, especially for an introvert like me. Trying to convince strangers to do something, over and over, all day long for several days ... I'm not literally cringing at the thought of it, because I remember in '04 thinking that it wasn't as bad as I expected. On the other hand, I never had to do phone bank. I don't know why calling people on the phone seems worse than knocking on their doors, but it does. Oh well, if they ask me to do it, I'll give it a try. Maybe like canvassing, it will turn out to be not so bad. In fact now that I think about it, the afternoon I spent canvassing near NC Central was kind of fun. I was with a neat group of people and we had some interesting conversations with folks we met.

The form also asked if I have a car and can drive people to the polls, and I checked yes, but now that I think it over maybe I shouldn't do that. I have such an astoundingly bad sense of direction. Spending all day trying to find locations on roads I've never driven before makes canvassing sound pretty good. On the other hand, I'm kind of tickled by the idea of Undersea Mah Jongg as an election transport vehicle. It probably won't even be an issue: they probably use locals for driving duty.

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