Sunday, June 29, 2008

And, we're off ...

Friday at work was very busy. I got the budget proposal out that Confused N was after me about. I didn't do as good of a job on it as I could have (in my opinion and in the opinion of the well-meaning/over-achieving/business-minded co-worker who helped me fluff the thing up a great deal). However, it was ten times better (read: longer and with more pictures and tables) than the first draft. So N was thrilled. She even sent me a 'thank you for the great effort under the gun' email, cc'ing the whole team.

Yeah ... whatever. So long as she leaves me in peace for a few days after I get back.

We leave for our vacation in a few hours. We're dropping off Grendel at my sister-in-law's house, where he'll be for the next two months. Then, we're going to CT to play tourist (and to gamble a little at Mohegan Sun). On Tuesday we'll head back to RI to hang with the family for a bit. We plan on reading, relaxing, going to a few movies, and generally doing jack sh*t (courtesy of "The Sweet Potato Queens). We'll head back home, sans Grendel, on Saturday.

See you all next weekend. Maybe I'll have pictures.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One more day until vacation

Yesterday, I got saddled with another B.S. project by Confused N. Basically, she's having me write an 11th hour budget proposal, since all of her proposals got shot down. Now, let me point something out here. Prior to becoming our team lead, Confused N had operational responsibilities. Once she took on the management role, she couldn't balance the management responsibilities and the operational stuff. So, the team had to absorb her primary duties, and last week we found out that she was unable to back-up people on vacation (including me). So, vacationers had to find new back-ups and train them at the eleventh hour.

Fine. I get it. Management responsibilities are very taxing for Confused N.

OK. Then why am I (and two other people) finding ourselves writing business cases for Fiscal Year 09 projects? We all have operational responsibilities. She is a manager now. Why are we saddled with her old operational stuff AND managerial stuff that she feels would be better handled by operational staff? GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR............

I cannot wait to leave work tomorrow.

I was going to completely tune out while on vacation. However, one of my teammates has a line into H.R. This morning, he told me that one of his H.R. contacts told him about a position that is about to be posted for another group within the organization which could fit me quite well. So, I really want to see it when it gets posted. I want to know if it's the life preserver that I so desperately need.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No death penalty in Massachusetts

... and that's a shame in this case:

Neil Entwistle convicted in the murder of his wife and nine month old child.

What convicted him?

  • The gun used was HER stepfather's, which Entwistle drove 50 miles to return after the deaths

  • He surfed the Internet after they died

  • Knowing they were dead, he hopped a plane back to England

  • He claimed that the wife killed the baby and then herself, though the forensics say that the bullet went through the baby and into her; and that she would have then had to raise the gun above her head to fire her own fatal shot

What didn't help?

  • He was in huge financial trouble, living well beyond his means, researching bankruptcy on the Internet, and participating in online gambling

  • He was cruising escort sites on the Internet before the deaths

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and flies (to another country) like a duck, it must be a duck.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Medication doesn't change anyone's personality

Grendel has been on ADD meds for little over a week. While, in general, the meds have have helped a great deal, Grendel is still a teenager who is moody and must push the envelope. Also, Grendel's parents are not on meds (though we often wish we were), so we are still the same people with feet-of-clay.

This evening, Grendel and I had a pretty big showdown, the details of which really are beside the point. It just reminded me that the meds have not changed the fact that he is a teenager who needs to test the boundaries put upon him. Also, he pointed out to me that when I have a bad day at work my tolerance for his misdeeds is virtually non-existent.

I apologized for taking my bad day out on him. However, I also pointed out that sometimes Goblin and I take our bad days out on each other. People are imperfect. And, our imperfections do not absolve him for the responsibility for his misdeeds, regardless of our disproportionate response to those misdeeds.

I must confess to my humanity here. Several times during our 'discussion' I considering telling him to pack a few things in a pillow case and get out of my house. He was being a royal jerk, and it was not bringing out the best in me. However, I mostly held my tongue. REALLY!!!

This evening, before the incident, I had a meeting with my book group. We discussed some future potential titles to read and discuss. One that I really pushed for, but was unable to sell, was "The Stolen Child". It's basically a changeling story. I joked around about being the parent of a teenager and how I often wonder if my child had been stolen and replaced with a changeling. Everyone laughed in agreement. However, we opted for some other liteary suggestions.

C'est la vie. I liked the suggestions, and my book group is one of the things that keeps me sane.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Career dilemma

I think that I'm destined to be one of those people who is never really content with their lot in anything, at least not when it comes to my job. I always seem to have something to whine about.

I've had very few managers who really did, what I considered to be, their jobs. In my opinion a manager's job is to play to your strengths, coach you on your weaknesses, respect your experience, and to help you do your job. I had managers at NASD (two), AARP (one), and one (temporary) at my current organization who got that. Other than that, the rest of them have been varying levels of dysfunctional, psychotic, and/or sycophantic.

On to my current dilemma. I have been pursuing a career in Information Security steadily for about eight years now. I'm don't have my CISSP yet, but I could probably pull it off with a little concerted effort. Doing IT Security and Compliance has been in my cross hairs for nearly a decade, and I really have come along way up the ladder in the field.

However, right now, my current team lead and IT management overall are making me extremely bonkers. While I really enjoy the actual work I do, I'm getting pulled more-and-more into pointless and meaningless bull, and finding myself having to argue and fight for things that are obvious to lots of people in the trenches, but not to 'the powers that be'.

Recently, a contact in another part of my large organization encouraged me to apply for a position doing Linux administration and Perl coding. I'm pretty rusty on the coding end of things, but I could probably pull it off if I had to. Plus, coding can be a lot of fun for me.

So, do I jump off the career train I've been on to save my sanity, or do I grit my teeth an hope that something changes in my current situation? (Oh, BTW, I am again starting to apply for security positions outside of my current organization ... a really cool opportunity within 25 minutes of my house opened up. If they bite, I'll relate more later.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feeling like a guilty vulture

In the last few days, there have been rumors that our CIO has been considering getting rid of my current team lead, aka Confused N. Months ago, before she was made interim team lead, Confused N and I were on the same page and relatively friendly. However, what is it they say about power corrupting people?

Our CIO is frustrated with Confused N's communication and organization issues. Plus, it's beginning to be common knowledge that her entire team is fighting with her at this point. She thinks that the source for strife is all my doing; and I think she's trying to make a case against me with upper management for that very reason. However, I think her frustrations with me, in some quarters, have become endorsements for me. (Not quite this bad, but similar to: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.) Besides, every meeting I've ever had with the CIO he has been extremely happy with my presentations and the strategies I've suggested (several to the dismay of Confused N).

I really don't want to see Confused N lose her job. However, I get the feeling that the writing is on the wall. Also, I really want to be free of her influence.

On the other hand, I think the CIO may like me a bit too much. There are talks about breaking up my team, and sending some portions of my team to another department. I am pretty integral to the function that would go to the other department. However, several options have been rumored about where I would stay in IT, while the rest of my sub-team would move to another department.

I don't want to stay. I want to go with my sub-team, not just because the function is close to my professional heart. I enjoy my sub-team, for one. For another, I think I would be happier in the other department where processes and procedures are more mature, and individual effort is more quickly recognized and rewarded. Also, there's a chance for me to move up to a formal management role in the other department. A chance that I think I want.

There's also a chance for me to go for a management role in IT. However, I do not think I want that role in that department. There are too many uncertainties. Plus, I'd probably spend very little time doing productive technical work. In the other department, I would be a technical lead: the best of both worlds, I think.

So, back to my guilt. I really want the CIO to pull the trigger on some of the things he's been contemplating about my team. Confused N has to go. And, my sub-team needs to move to another department, preferably with me as technical lead. If I have to stay in IT on another team, I may just have to stick my head in a blender.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Happening and Shyamalan's work overall

This past weekend, Goblin and I went to see M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening". While it was not his best, we enjoyed it. If you are not a rabid fan of M. Night Shyamalan (which, we both are), the movie may not be your cup of tea. It is a bit slow paced. It wants to be a horror film, however, there is little tension. And, it's not quite a character study either. You only really get to know the main married couple (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel), and you don't really get to know them all that well. I think Shyamalan could have done a better job on both fronts.

After having a few days to sit with the film, here is my current ranking of Shyamalan's films from best to not as good (Sorry, I can't say 'worse' because I really do like his work, even if some of it could have used a little extra something):

  1. The Sixth Sense

  2. The Village

  3. Unbreakable

  4. Signs

  5. Lady in the Water

  6. The Happening

The film was not the comeback I had hoped of for Shyamalan. However, it was not so abysmal to shelve his career either.

Two things that we noted after watching this film. First, Shyamalan did not have an actual walk-on in this one (he's credited as a character who didn't end up with any screen time in the theatrical release - we'll probably see him on the DVD). He has in all his other films. Second, in discussing "The Village" we realized that it is the only one that does not require an acceptance of anything fantastic or speculative. Maybe that's why it's one of my favorite all time movies. Yes, I know I ranked it behind "The Sixth Sense". I did so because 6th Sense was very groundbreaking. And, it got Shyamalan noticed.

I still haven't seen his earlier directorial works "Wide Awake" or "Praying with Anger", but I intend to get them on my Netflix queue. Amusing trivia, he wrote the screenplay for "Stuart Little".

And, by the way, I like "Signs" more each time that I watch it. The first couple of times that I watched it, I was under impressed. However, the character development in the movie is what keeps me coming back to it.

I hope that Hollywood is not done with Shyamalan. He has a different sort of vision than most film makers. I look forward to his next offering.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Brain bon bons

Instead of sharing my various and sundry bits of angst and whines (work, school, family), I thought I'd distract myself by listing out some of my latest shallow distractions.

Television: I've been watching quite a bit of green television, two shows in particular: "It's Not Easy Being Green" about a British family trying to create a sustainable life on a small Cornwall holding, and "Big Ideas for a Small Planet" on the Sundance Channel. I find both programs amusing and inspiring. Maybe they'll help me to think more greenly.

With the end of the primary television season, we're looking forward to just one summer season show: "Rescue Me". Several other shows that we have watched in summes past did not get renewed for this summer. I guess that's a good thing in some respects. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing Denis Leary this summer.

Books: I've been trying to DRASTICALLY pair down my book collection. We hope to refinish our basement in the next year. Since most of our book collection currently resides in our unfinished basement, I've been contemplating putting books in storage while we have the project worked on. And then, I've been contemplating how much space we'll have for books once the project is complete. Sadly, we'll probably have to lose about half our current linear footage of book shelving. This is making me seriously reconsider which books are important to have available to us in the future. Much of the rest will be donated (read or not) to several local charities.

In the mean time, I'm reading "The Film Club", "The Zookeeper's Wife", "The Pirates Dilemma", and "The Joy of Drinking". I hope to have them all finished before the end of summer. When I leave for vacation in a couple of weeks, I'm planning on taking "The Holy Road" (a sequel to "Dances with Wolves") and "Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel", which I'm reading in preparation for listening to "Pillars of the Earth" for my August book group discussion.

Homemaking, and such: June seems replete with social activities. I've been making dishes to share at potlucks. I recently walked Goblin through the making of deviled eggs. He's always enjoyed them and wanted to grok how to make them. This weekend, we're going to yet another BBQ. I'm contemplating making some really gooey fudgey brownies, to try to use up some flour and chocolate chips from my pantry.

Stay tuned for a film review.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grendel on drugs

On Friday, we took Grendel to the doctor to get his final evaluation and potential treatment plan for ADD. The evaluation showed that Grendel definitely has some ADD traits. The doctor agreed with us that it was worth trying some form of medication to see if we could even out his school performance since his finals are coming up and his grades have been all over the place this year.

The drugs that the doctor prescribed are a mild amphetamine. Grendel took his first does on Saturday morning. Grendel hates taking pills. So much so, that there is usually lots screaming and crying involved. Grendel is so motivated to improve the quality of his life that he solemnly took the pill without much ceremony. Unfortunately (we'll get into this later), he took the pill at 9am.

Overall, here is our summary impression of Grendel on drugs: Why the heck did we wait so long to do this???

Grendel was pleasant, communicative, able and eager to focus on his studying today. Several times on Saturday, he offered to do things before he was asked (as opposed to being told three times to do the same thing, before doing a half-assed job when he finally did it). He played basketball this afternoon as a break from studying. He said that he felt like his game was better, that he was actually paying attention to what he was doing. He also said that he didn't mind studying and that the things he read actually seemed to stick in his head. He's still Grendel. He's just a lot less annoying to be around. Let's see if this lasts. However, I'm already impressed.

The one downside is that it IS an amphetamine, so he really could care less about eating. And, he cannot afford to lose any weight. So, we encouraged him to just eat on a schedule whether he really felt like it or not. Also, since he got up late this morning, he didn't take the pill until around 9am, which may mean that he may not be able to get to sleep at his regular time tonight. I guess it was good that we had this weekend to figure out what the effects were going to be.

Grendel normally goes to bed around 9pm. Last night around 8:30 he left the house to take out the trash, and then he went to play basketball for a while (in hopes of wearing himself out a bit for bed). It helped but he was still wide awake. Around 10:00 he asked what he should do about getting to sleep. We offered him several unpalatable options: warm milk, alcohol or Tylenol PM (? uh ... a pill ... No, thanks). He opted to wait it out.

Around 12:30 last night, as he was finally starting to fall asleep, he realized that he was incredibly hungry. He stumbled out of his room, and went the wrong direction into my office. He tripped over some computer cords (not an impossible feat, just a little strange ... but it was dark). He attempted to plug things back in, and then went downstairs. He ate three bowls of cereal, a pack of Pop Tars, and a package of ramen noodles. Then, he finally went to sleep.

This morning, our Internet was down, so he shared his overnight exploits with me. We sat on the floor of my room and diddled with the power and network cables on a couple of the devices in my room. Eventually, we got the telephone (Vonage) and Internet working again. He learned a bit about networking, and I am more inspired to redo the cabling in my office.

This morning, Grendel took his pill around 6am. We figured that the pill has a fifteen hour cycle. Fortunately, he gets up for school around 5. So, if he takes it right after breakfast, he should be ready to sleep around 9pm.

Grendel thinks the medication's benefits are worth the minor inconveniences (no appetite, taking it really early so he can get to sleep at a normal hour). I am really proud of his attitude about the whole thing and hopeful of the changes we saw in him yesterday.

We didn't want to be one of those families who medicate their kids. However, the medication seems to help him, and Grendel still seems to be himself in all the important ways. With the medication, he really is present in the moment and able to remember what he's doing and what's important to do.

After finals are over, I hope to have tangible benefits to report here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

We all float down here

Last year I had a woman boss, we'll refer to her as Psycho K. Psycho K was unpredictable, a poor communicator, and would throw anyone under the bus to save her own butt. In February, Psycho K left The Center for greener pastures.

One of my teammates, we'll call her Confused N, really wanted a shot a management. Confused N has years of experience, had been at The Center for a few years, had saved Psycho K's bacon numerous times, and had recently completed her Masters in Business. So, our new CIO decided to give her a chance as interim team lead.

What a disaster!!! Just because you have the knowledge, doesn't mean you have the skills.

The last few weeks our team has grown more and more discontent. Confused N is always late to meetings, highly disorganized, and has real problems communicating up and down. Our team meeting this week evolved into a scream fest (mostly me screaming at her). She decided that we needed more time to pursue the line of thinking that we were having none of, so she scheduled a second meeting for the next day. That meeting lasted two hours, ending with her admitting that the seven of us strongly disagreed with her and that we would not be following her vision, but that she still felt that she was right.

This morning, three of us found ourselves tasked with having to write business cases for projects by first thing Monday. Projects whose goals we were unsure of, whose urgency we did not fully comprehend. To 'assist' us, she sent us all a three page article on how to write an effective business case.

When she came in this morning (more than two hours after most of the rest of us got in) she asked me how my business case was going. I replied with a bristle that I had no idea what the project was that I was supposed to be justifying. She got very angry at me and said that the entire two hour meeting yesterday was specifically about that project and that everyone had bent over backwards to give me the supporting information for the project, whioh she then started to rattle off from her notes. I asked her if she could send me those notes in an email. She then got VERY angry wanting to know why I hadn't taken the notes myself.

I clammed up. The details she was rattling off were brainstorming ideas that we all were tossing about. I had no idea that she expected ME to draft a project plan from those ideas. The crux of the meeting really was us all fighting off her idea that all the data analysis work that I do could be scripted so that other people could help me do my job. Everyone disagreed that the level of analysis that I do could be scripted with anything short of an AI. This was the point that we all agreed on, except for her.

We did briefly touch upon one improvement that could be made in the process, which would be to beef up and centralize our logging infrastructure so that multiple disparate logs would live in one convenient, powerful, location.

After our screaming match about 'the project' this morning, where I agreed to pull SOMETHING together, several of my coworkers approached me about my project and the other two that had been assigned over night. Everyone agreed that she is in utter panic mode, that she can't communicate, and that she is alienating everyone.

In the last two months, so much about her behavior is starting to mimic Psycho K's. We are beginning to think that the job turns everyone into an irrational non-communicative monster. [ Hence the quote from Stephen King's "It" ]

My teammates are upset on two levels. First, they do not like what's become of Confused N and how she's attempting to manage us. And secondly, I am the next most senior person on the team. I help everyone. Most of them have expressed their fear of what's going to happen when I bail. Confused N and I are at such odds, that they are sure that I'm headed out the door. And, I have to admit, if an opportunity opens up somewhere else in our organization, I'm out faster than a greased pig.

At least it feels good to know that the bulk of the team appreciates my contributions and thinks that I, in particular, am being treated more than unfairly. C'est la vie, eh?

Beep, beep.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Three shower Grendel

My very wise friend, ChangeJunkie, gave me some good advice a while back. When it comes to teenagers and hygiene, let peer pressure do the work for you.

Well, we gave up on making Grendel put actual shampoo on his hair. And, we've been somewhat lenient on the entire soap-while-showering thing. Until tonight. It's been in the nineties the last couple of days. So, needless to say, without the use of soap: Grendel stinks!

Grendel does condescend into taking two 'showers' a day. However, these activities typically involve him standing naked under a stream of warm water for five minutes (or more, if he's too lazy to move on).

Tonight, the running of water took less than three minutes. So, I insisted that he revisit the activity in such a way that his pits (which I sampled) didn't stink. When he came out smelling about the same (after the second shower), I told him that he had a choice:

  1. Shower WITH SOAP

  2. Bubble bath

  3. Removal of his mattress from his room (sleep on the platform or the floor)

Choice #3 comes from the fact that we bought him a (somewhat) pricey mattress last year. He is rather tall. So, we agreed to get him a comfy mattress in the full-extra long size. This size is an utter pain, since sheets are hard to come by and never discounted. So, I refuse to let him stink up the mattress with his cloud of stench. I informed him that if he was comfortable going to school smelling like a swamp, that was absolutely fine by me. However, I would not be allowing him in my car for any reason beyond the absolute necessary transport (like doctor and dentist appointments, and guitar lessons) unless he lost the green cloud that surrounds him. Nor would I allow him to ruin his mattress with his putrid stench.

He agreed to a third attempt at showering. He came out with his hair smelling like shampoo and his body reeking a bit less (still some B.O., but to a smaller degree). So, he got to keep his mattress, for now.

I am a VERY MEAN MOM. Truly, I have given up on caring what he looks like or smells like. However, I won't inconvenience my nose for the sake of his rebellion. And, someday, he might want to sleep on a mattress that doesn't reek of the homeless.

Note: I know that there are worse problems that one could have with one's teenager. However, I had an epiphany this evening. The Fates assess what each parent's bar is for "acceptable teenage behavior" and they make sure that each teenager comes in JUST under that particular bar. It is a spiritually growth opportunity for both the parent(s) and child, regardless of the level of the bar.

I pointed out to Goblin that we should be grateful that we are not poor-white-trash, with a much lower bar for our progeny. Otherwise, Grendel would be stealing cars and shooting up on the corner instead of refusing to use soap in the shower.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bonding with my son

Last night was a very strange night in our household. My husband is away, and my son (Grendel) and I both had problems sleeping for some reason. Around 3 a.m., we were both up contemplating using the toilet. I came out in the hallway and noticed that his door was open. I looked around but didn't see him anywhere. I wandered into the bathroom, but decided to come close the door (just in case). And just as I reached the door, he was about to come in. We scared each other silly. I sent him to the downstairs bathroom, and closed the door.

In the morning, I felt like I'd been run over by a truck (stomach issues and general lack of sleep). He opted to sleep in an extra half hour, and skipped his regular first breakfast (a bowl of cereal ... he's been having a pack of Pop Tarts on the way out the door as a second breakfast). I opted to stay home to try to achieve the rest that I missed out on the night before. I was only very partially successful.

When Grendel got home from school, he took a nap while I went out and ran a few errands. When I got back, we watched a little television and then went to a Pampered Chef party together. At fifteen, he was the youngest guest in attendance by at least twenty years. However, he knew at least half of the adults from our church. In addition, he's really interested in cooking.

Grendel participated in the cooking demonstrations, since the demonstrator is one of his youth group advisers. Plus, Grendel is usually pretty helpful and cooperative with non-parental adults. Grendel helped convince me to make a few purchases. He asked to go home just before nine p.m., because he was tired. He was actually having a nice time talking with a couple of the other guests. He also said he wasn't too embarrassed by some of the stories I told about him. I also let him sip my Mike's Hard Lemonade, which he really enjoyed.

On the way to the party, he picked the music that we listened to in the car. On the way home, I picked it. We chatted in the car about school and such. We both had a really nice time. I hope I can hold onto this warm feeling the next time he really torques me off (say, sometime tomorrow).

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Her name is Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg

I was curious to read that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg had been named to Obama's Vice Presidential Candidate search team. I was PARTICULARLY curious that not one major news feed gave her full correct name.

Chicago Tribune

Yes, I know that she IS a 'Kennedy'. However, when she married she changed her name. Being a 'Kennedy' is not the end of who this woman is. I think that the media should be ashamed of themselves for short-changing this accomplished and intelligent woman, by robbing her of her identity beyond her 'Kennedy' ties.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Describe your perfect day

Just about two years ago, I had the opportunity to discover my 'perfect day'. I didn't quite achieve it, but I got awfully darn close. At that time, I was between jobs (not unemployed, just in a period between jobs where I still had health insurance from my previous job, had money in the bank, and had the least amount of stress I've ever had in my adult life).

Many of you who wander here have your own blogs. So, perhaps that is the best place to respond to this query: Describe your PERFECT day.

My PERFECT day involves the assumption that my house is in perfect order (if it weren't that would nag the crap out of me), that no one has demands on my time that I am not meeting (I'm not taking vacation/sick time from work, and my family is not being neglected by my actions).

My PERFECT day starts with me waking up whenever I am rested, not when the aches and pains of my body insist that I might as well get out of bed, since I won't really enjoy any more time in the sack.

My PERFECT day commences with 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on my stationary recumbent bike while reading something truly engaging.

Next up, I take a long relaxing shower with optimum water pressure at the highest temperature that my skin can comfortably stand.

I dress in some very comfortable clothes, and prepare a simple but satisfying balanced (carbs-protein-fat) breakfast, which I eat while watching some craft-oriented show that I recorded on TiVo.

After breakfast, I load my dishes into the dishwasher and head down to the basement to my craft area. I spend two or three hours 'playing' with some idea that I got from the craft show, or that I already had floating around in my head.

After crafting, I call up Amazon Unbox and select a movie that I've really wanted to watch and rent it. While it downloads, I either take a walk or pop over to the YMCA for a soak in the hot tub.

I then spend an hour online reading email, catching up with blogs and news, and posting to my blog or answering email.

I then prepare myself a wholesome and satisfying lunch, which I consume while watching the movie I ordered from Amazon Unbox.

Afterwards, I water and maintain my container garden.

Then, I have a relaxing cup of tea while reading a magazine article, followed by a perfectly timed and well deserved nap.

After nap time, I rise (at my leisure) take a drive to Barnes and Noble for a browse and a beverage (typically, including a magazine or book that I stumble upon that caught my interest) and a snack.

On the way home, I stop and take some photographs of something amusing or inspiring that catches my eye (with full intent to upload the photos and blog about them). I drive home and spend at least an hour writing for my blog, my private journal, or for some piece of fiction that I've been working on.

After my writing session, I either prepare or order dinner (depending on my mood).

After arranging/making dinner, I settle in for an hour or two's worth of reading while lazily enjoying said dinner, while listening to some enjoyable but not distracting music to accompany my reading.

After I clear away the remains of dinner, I pour myself a night cap and select something from TiVo or Unbox to watch. Afterwards, I prepare myself for bed and slide into an easy and welcome sleep.

Note: This is UTTER fantasy, for SO many reasons. However, I reserve the right to dream, and so should you. Please let me know if you decided to take the challenge and envisioned your perfect day on your blog.

Don't lie about virginity in France

I wonder if the French judicial system made an April Fool's joke in its April 1 decision to grant a Muslim man an annulment based on the fact that his bride had lied to him about her virginity.
...In its judgment, the tribunal said the 2006 marriage had been ended based on "an error in the essential qualities" of the bride, "who had presented herself as single and chaste."
Article 180 of the Civil Code states that when a couple enters into a marriage, if the "essential qualities" of a spouse are misrepresented, then "the other spouse can seek the nullity of the marriage." Past examples of marriages that were annulled include a husband found to be impotent and a wife who was a prostitute, according to attorney Xavier Labbee.

Some are upset with the decision because they believe that it is a reversal of women's rights, and that allowing a man to annul a marriage based on his bride's lack of chastity is akin trying to cancel a commercial transaction based on the exposure of hidden defects in the product.
A lawyer for the groom said that the actual lack of virginity was not the issue, it was the lie that was at issue.

Muslim women (in Western countries) are often caught between two worlds, one where they are sexually emancipated and another where they are expected to uphold traditional values. I appreciate the market for fake certificates of virginity, hymen repair surgery, and vials of blood spilt on the wedding night sheets, as a means of appeasing those expectations.

However, I think I have to go with the French court on this decision. The bride's virginity was an essential quality that she lied to the groom about. Marriage IS a contract. If you misrepresent yourself in a contract, the contract is void.

I do kind of have to wonder how the groom figured out that the bride was lying. Was it merely because he didn't have to breach a hymen or that there was no blood afterwards? Was it because she seemed to enjoy herself a little bit? And, what makes HIM such an expert on what to expect in bed from a virgin, unless (of course) he'd bedded a virgin or two himself before the wedding. You just have to love a double standard, right?

In any case, instead of lying maybe the bride should have gotten the surgery before the wedding. It certainly would have saved everyone, including the French judicial system, a great deal of grief.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Predictions and consequences

I commute 31 miles each way to my job. I get 28 mpg. Gas prices are just over $4 per gallon. Last May, I spent $182 on gas (according to Quicken). This May, I spent $278. That's a 52% increase in a year's time. Admittedly, gas prices are only up around 25-30% per gallon. However, we're talking about MY spending here. (grin) Besides, even at 25-30% per gallon, that's a huge impact.

It's no wonder that the cost of everything, especially food, is up. Most of our goods get to the stores we shop in by traveling hundreds of miles in fossil fuel-burning vehicles.

Since I got a standard (just under) 4% pay raise in January, I'm feeling the pinch. However, I'm not feeling it as much as those who make a lot less than I do are feeling it.

My current prediction is that gas prices will reach $5.20/gallon by Labor Day.

My next prediction is that masses of people will not be able to feed their children by October. If the administration doesn't offer a solution soon, the crash of 1929 and the resulting Depression will seem like a Disneyland fairy tale by comparison.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Words matter

My church book group recently finished reading a fabulous book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Paraphrasing the summary from Amazon:
After a failed ascent of K2, Greg Mortenson needed to recover in the small Pakistani village of Korphe. In exchange, he offered to build the impoverished town's first school. The project grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Throughout the course of Mortenson's efforts the reader is introduced to village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims. The authors argue that the best way to fight Islamic extremism in the region is though collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls.

During our discussion someone noted the difference in the subtitle between the hardcover and the paperback. The hardcover says One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations...One School at a Time. Whereas the paperback says One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time. The revision for the paperback was at Mortenson's insistence. He does not see himself as fighting terrorists. He sees his mission as promoting peace. He understands that words matter. He works very hard not to alienate anyone in the countries where he works. When faced with extremist hurdles to his work, he worked with Muslim supporters and Islamic courts to diffuse the issues. He also refused even indirect funding from the American government, so as not to make his motives suspect to the people he is trying to help. His story gives real insight into the everyday lives of the people of Central Asia, and shows that Americans are not blindly hated by everyone there.

Maybe our government is finally learning that words really matter as well. The Department of Homeland Security just issued a report urging caution with the use of terrorist language. While the article seems like common sense to most of us, it is extremely encouraging to see common sense start to come into some aspect of our international affairs. Here is the beginning of the CNN article:
Government officials should depict terrorists "as the dangerous cult leaders they are" and avoid words that aggrandize them, like "jihadists," "Islamic terrorists," "Islamists" and "holy warriors," the Department of Homeland Security says in a paper released Friday.

"Words matter," the agency says in the paper, which also suggests avoiding the term "moderate Muslims," a characterization that annoys many Muslims because it implies that they are tepid in the practice of their faith.

"Mainstream," "ordinary" and "traditional" better reflect the broader Muslim American community, it says.

Dan Sutherland, head of the agency's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and author of the paper, said the paper is a recognition that words can help the government achieve its strategic goals.

Sutherland said he is starting to see results, with government officials using the term "mainstream Muslims" in meetings.

Sutherland's nine-page paper says the government should be careful not to demonize all Muslims or the Islamic faith or depict the United States as being at war with Islam.