Thursday, August 31, 2006

Olbermann Schools Rumsfeld

This is good. It's scary how welcome a mainstream media voice is, when it actually points out the truth. Crooks and Liars » Keith Olbermann Delivers One Hell Of a Commentary on Rumsfeld

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another sign of the End Times

Groundhog in my tree.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Insane Troll Logic's Meme: The Balancing Act

Here are the rules: Answer all the questions with the song titles of one band/group/artist. Multiple albums are fine (recommended, in fact). State the band/group/artist you're using in the subject line. Perty simple.

Use songs whose titles answer the question, not songs whose lyrics do. Not all of us know these songs, so it's not as fun.

Covers are NOT legit unless it is on a normal (non-live) CD.

For a true 10 questions challenge, do this without the aid of the internet/CDs/outside sources. (I had to use The Balancing Act's page)

1. Are you male or female?: A Girl, Her Sister and a Train

2. Describe yourself: Kicking Clouds Across the Sky

3. How do some people feel about you?: She Doesn't Work Here

4. How do you feel about yourself?: A T.V. Guide In The Olduvai Gorge

5. Describe your girlfriend/boyfriend/interest: Searching For This Thing

6. Where would you rather be?: Between Two Oceans

7. Describe what you want to be: The Neighborhood Phrenologist

8. Describe how you live: Zig Zag Wanderer

9. Describe how you love: Wonderful World Tonight

10. Share a few words of wisdom: Sleep On The Trusty Floor

Monday, August 14, 2006

It takes Attitude, and some Defensiveness, to Offend the Village

It started with Lauren at Feministe, and then was picked up by Ilyka Damen. And my response to Ilyka's post got too long for comments, so I've brought it here.

There are nearly as many non-parent commentators feeling unjustly maligned in that thread as there are parents feeling the exact same thing

It's the polarization of choice. Because there are options available, everyone feels as though his or her choice is being criticized by everyone else all the time.

Most adults in the US can avoid kids if they want to. That wasn't true fifty years ago. Up until about 150 years ago, the demographics of humanity was skewed heavily to the 18-and-under crowd. Few adults lived to 50, let alone 80. High infant/child mortality and poor birth control meant a whole lot of children. Getting away from them was inconceivable. No one complained about kids in the workplace, except some do-gooders who wanted the kids to go to school. The only problem with kids in bars was when they wouldn't give you a seat.

Most of the world is still like this.

If someone can make money guaranteeing residents a community free of children, why shouldn't they?[...]What's the negative impact on society if this occurs?

Well, segregation is bad thing for society. The more isolated groups become, the less likely they are to a)accept one another b)treat one another well c)avoid abusing one another. If there are no kids in your community, or very few, it is unlikely that your community will consider them worthwhile members of society. You won't pay for schools for them, or medical care, or day care, or public transportation, or playgrounds, or anything else which is solely or mostly for them. This is bad, because most kids can't afford these things on their allowances and occasional tooth fairy bonus.

If there are no, or few, kids in your community, you will be deeply offended when they are brought to any of your public spaces, spaces which you have become used to thinking of as "for adults". You will be indignant at the imposition of children into public life, and you will resent any efforts to accommodate them. You will be annoyed at their sandcastles cluttering up your beaches, at their strollers blocking your sidewalks, at their fabulous parking spaces right up by the grocery store door when they can't even drive.

If there are no, or few, kids in your community, you will find the behavior of individuals strange and extreme, and you will be more likely to stereotype all on the basis of your very limited (and only noted where negative) experience. You will find their presence in groups of three or more to be threatening and hostile, you will find their high-pitched voices grating, their lack of height annoying.

All of these are attitudes have shown up in the comments of these two threads. There is a tremendous amount of justification and defensiveness on the part of childed and childless adults, both of whom feel attacked by the other. Because that's how humans tend to see the Other; as both crazy and hostile.

That family care is primarily a feminine responsibility in this society, and that women may be criticized by strangers for everything they do, wear, and think, only adds to the perceived hatin'.

Even as more people consider it inappropriate to discriminate on more subjects (to the old standbys of race and religion we've added sexual orientation, health/disability, looks, and weight), pretty much everyone seems to think that age discrimination is just fine. Either adults who don't want to be bothered with children in their spaces, or adults who have very clear opinions on what is acceptable for the children, and expect all of society to accommodate the prescribed needs of kids. It's either a two-year-old at an R movie, or an R-movie bowdlerized down to G.

Here's what it comes down to: My kids are perfect, and if you disapprove of their behavior, it's because you're bigoted against kids. I go out of my way to ensure that they are never disruptive or disturbing in any way in public, such that mostly I just keep them doped up and out, because I live in terror of anyone being in any way put out by them. The Spouse, though, he can take them out and do whatever, and he just gets heaped with praise. Of course, he's kind of big, and potentially scary, so no one would dream of ragging on him.

Everybody else's kids suck though, and it's okay to rag on them. Except the offspring of any of my friends and relations, all of whom are very nearly as perfect as my own kids.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's Still the Economy, And We're Not Stupid

Continuing the theme of Stuff Heard on NPR That Makes Me Crazy

The other morning on the way to work there was a brief commentary by an economics professor. His topic was fear about the economy, and his thesis is that Americans today are a punch of wambly, whiny, cakesniffers. Because the Economy is Doing Just Great. Really. He didn't offer any supporting evidence of the greatness of the American economy, because, well, I don't know, maybe he just couldn't be bothered. So. The economy is great, but Americans are whiny, non-Manliness* scaredy-cats. And for this he did drag out one piece of evidence: during the Carter Administration, 3% of the workforce became unemployed in any given month, and 3% of the workforce found employment. Today, he told us, those numbers are both 2%. Feel better?

No? I didn't either. Here's what he didn't bother to mention, before he went off on his digression into Manliness. He didn't mention that wages for all but the top 20% of workers have declined in real terms over the past forty years. He didn't mention that workers who are laid off now are typically out of work for at least a year, and that when they find work, it is at even less money. [I haven't found anything yet to tell me if that's been true for the past forty years or not]. He didn't mention that a much greater percentage of the workforce has attained anywhere from some to extensive post-high school education, incurring debt along the way, in order to get jobs that pay less. He didn't mention that despite tremendous gains in productivity, workers have been rewarded with neither shorter work weeks nor increased wages (except, again, those folks at the top of the corporate ladder).

He also didn't mention that the workforce has surged over the past forty years with an influx of women. He didn't have to. By bringing up Manliness he made an unstated, but nonetheless clear, message. All of this economic fear isn't based on anything real, he told us, it's just our womanly fear.

Once again, the women are to blame.

While looking around I found The Mismeasure of Poverty by Nicholas Eberstadt - Policy Review 138, where I learned that :

Mollie Orshansky intended her original standard for counting the poor to designate an income level below which “everyday living implied choosing between an adequate diet of the most economical sort and some other necessity because there was not money enough to have both.” [emphasis mine]

I like that as a definition of poverty, although it is by no means absolute. What constitutes a necessity is different to almost everyone, but the formulation of "cheap food or something really important, but not both" helps clarify. In discussions of poverty someone always seems to get incredibly annoyed at the foolish way other people spend their money (often it's me). And someone always points out that many people go through a period, often while going to college, or while starting a career, when they are broke, but with good prospects. Going back to Orshansky's definition for the American poverty level enables us to talk about the economy and what's wrong with it and how to make it better without bogging down in judgements. Okay, when we're talking about poverty, we're talking about food or shelter, food or medicine, food or education. Of course, many potential remedies to poverty will also help out people who are temporarily broke, or are struggling. Universal primary medical care, for example helps the poor as well as the uninsured grad student making a tiny stipend, or the average worker who has the misfortune to be laid off for a year.

*No, I am not going to link to that sexist, posturing drivel, thanks for asking.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Kids, Media, and other Trivia

NPR is running a series on All Things Considered about kids and the media. And each little bit is just making me sick.

The first segment was on Toddlers and Advertising on TV. I've watched a lot less Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon than Disney or PBS, just because of the commercials. Yeah, yeah, teachable moments, blah, blah, blah. But PBS does all their commercials-that-aren't in one fell swoop, making them easy to pass over for a Weather Update, and Disney only advertises more Disney, and largely those commercials are devoted to selling the brand, rather than a product. I find that much less annoying than kids clamoring for some stupid toy that's going to fall apart and not be any fun. Oh, yeah, the excitement wore off the Doodle Bears mighty fast (although the light pen is still popular).

So, I'm all in favor of restrictions on commercials during children's programming. I'm with the story there. And like the report, I have a problem with the licensing of children's show characters, but that's just because they never sell the stuff I want to buy. Forget a Harry Potter action figure, I want to buy a painting with a moving figure in it. Aren't those cool? I don't want Scooby plates, I want Scooby Snacks. Yum yum yum yum yum. I don't want a backpack with Dora's picture on it, I want a backpack just like Backpack, Map and all. And if it can interact with me and produce the contents based on a voice command, all the better, because I always have a hard time finding my keys when they slip down to the bottom.

But the big concern running through these stories is about sexual content. One quote about tweens encapsulates all my annoyance: "But they're exposed to a lot more than they used to be exposed to."

You mean, more than they were exposed to in the 50s when they got married right out of high school and became pregnant immediately, or you know, before?

Or do you mean, more than tweens would know about sex historically, or cross-culturally? The US is very big on kids sleeping in their own rooms, and no boys and girls sharing rooms, and if at all possible, no kids sharing rooms at all. But that's the preference of only a small percentage of humans over less than 200 years of human existence. Most of the children that have ever lived have gone to bed at night in the immediate vicinity of kith and kin who were busily creating more kith and kin. For that matter, most of humanity has a lot of experience with nudity, and very little with privacy.

I just don't get it. Yes, I understand about not wanting ten-year-olds to have sex. But I don't understand about not wanting them to see any naked humans. Nor do I understand why they need to be protected from sexual content. Not that I'm advocating for porn. But what do we even mean when we worry about "Letting an 8-year-old listen to music that's a little sexy"? My daughter doesn't like words written across her clothes any more than I do. But even so, "juicy" or "sweet" is equivalent to "cheer" in her view. It's all equally meaningless in that context. Her world view doesn't seem to include the notion of "a little sexy."

NPR : Monitoring Teens' Media Intake Poses Challenges

"But you'll probably also find things that would make the most liberal parents cringe, such as one Internet-based animated game allowing players to sexually humiliate a popular singer."
Abracaduh. I simply can't imagine it's possible for even the most devoted parents to monitor their kids' worlds. I find the suggestion rather creepy. My kids are going to interact with other kids, they're going to visit other people's homes, they're going to encounter all kinds of stuff I've never considered in school, in camp, at birthday parties. Is it really my job to micromanage their brains? Where do people get this notion that they must protect their children from words and ideas? And how do they reconcile that with their idea of "liberal"? [Me, I'm still pissed at Tipper Gore. I love Al, keep up the good work, I'll elect you again in a heartbeat.] But the contents of song lyrics are hardly the biggest threat facing our children. I don't think that a game based on sexually humiliating a popular singer is a good idea, but then again, I didn't think gobbling up little dots and ghosts was such a good idea either.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


This is Woof Woof Woofie, shortly before surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids. Holding the mask to put your child out for surgery that you know is going to cause a lot of pain - - not fun. Fun is the surgeon coming out to tell you how freakin' big those adenoids were, and making a little (and yet, freakin' big) origami adenoid to demonstrate. Her left tonsil was so big it was sticking to the uvula. And yes, I am enjoying the joke from Monster House.

That was last Wednesday. The pain was continuing and considerable, but it seems to have slacked off a bit now. She used a plant mister to keep the back of her mouth moist, without the discomfort of real drinking and swallowing. A week of having to wake up my daughter every four hours to give her pain meds makes me a little sleep deprived and cranky.

On the good side, the Possum started summer day camp this week. Swimming, hiking, crafts, snacks and lunch, plus some other stuff she hasn't much mentioned. Every afternoon I get the meal review, though. Along with such newly acquired information as "it's easier to peel the blue and yellow Roll-ups off the plastic." Good to know.

Yesterday's big move was that she went under water for the first (deliberate) time. She loves to play in the pool, but has been very wary of accepting this whole "floating" concept. Seven summers have seen a vast array of floaties, water wings, boogie boards, and noodles. Do you understand what I mean when I say she would not let go? And putting your head under water - why would you want to do that?

We'll celebrate this evening by blowing some cash on goggles. She deserves 'em for being such a good sport during her sister's convalescence, and for putting her head under water with no compelling reason.

Oh, and if you're wondering, I have pretty much always hated water running over my head, and didn't learn how to swim until I was 16.