Saturday, November 25, 2006

Kutti Pi

Some things make me want to turn vegetarian, such as finding out what kutti pi is.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thanksgiving: Pre-gorging Warning

The video clip below is from Addams Family Values:

Immediately following this happy song and dance number is what was meant to be an equally happy recreation of the first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims and Native Americans got together and had a feast. Instead, Wednesday Addams turns the entire play on its head. As a tribal leader, she foretells the dismal future that lay ahead of the Natives should they continue to welcome and share with the Pilgrims. Rather than succumb to this fate, she decides to attack the Pilgrims, thereby changing the future.

The scene is highly entertaining, and the humor is in no small part due to the truth of Wednesday Addams' speech. In elementary school, when my classmates and I were still young enough to be tracing our hands and calling the result a turkey, I wondered what had happened to all of the native folks after the first Thanksgiving. At that point in school, all history lessons had only had a happy, positive spin:

"America started with the Declaration of Independence, and shortly thereafter (presumably with no bloodshed), cut ties with England. England pouted for a little while, but we made up and we're friends again. There were once a lot of Native Americans, but gradually they disappeared for some reason. Then, there was a Civil War. The North side of the country said, "Hey, slavery is wrong!" and the South side replied, "Oh, right, sorry. We'll stop that." George Washington was the first President and had wooden teeth. Nobody interesting came along until Abraham Lincoln, and he wore a tall hat. You may have heard about President Nixon, but we don't want to talk about that right now. When you get to the fourth grade, we'll talk about the World Wars, but they're over now and everything is okay. Got it? Good. Now let's get back to coloring."

But I knew something was wrong. It didn't add up. Where were the Native Americans today? If we were all happy and sharing, where did they go? Why were my classmates all descendants of the Old World?

The answers are inappropriate for eight year olds, I suppose.

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth is the first presentation that I've seen which puts everything together in a clear and succinct manner. Al Gore first presents the available data on CO2 levels and the corresponding temperature of the planet, and builds his argument from there. Instead of ignoring the dissenting veiwpoints and interpretations of the data, he addresses them, points to the data that led to the dissent, and explains why these interpretations are incorrect. In short, he put together a solid and coherent argument, which is just about the only thing that could have possibly gotten my attention.

Like a good little moviegoer, I visited the website advertised just before the credits rolled, The website contains a lot of useful information, but what I found to be the most useful and practical is what I've copied below. It is a list of things that one we do without causing a major upset in our daily lives. This is important because completely changing your lifestyle just doesn't work, as we all know from numerous attempted, and failed, diets (I'm looking at you, Atkins- don't you ever try to take away my beloved pasta ever again!).

I'm putting this list up here partly to remind myself about them. I'm willing to buy the more expensive lightbulbs, but it will take a little while to find the best deal online (the local hardware store doesn't carry Energy Star bulbs.

I don't own a car, and purposely chose my current apartment specifically because it is near to four major bus lines that I can use as well as the train.

Recycling is much more difficult, since the cleaning service at the office tosses the contents of both the recycle bins and the regular trash bins together into one bag and tosses the whole shabang into the same dumpster. The city is also a problem; recycling services are provided only to single family homes and apartment buildings with four units or less (and my building does not qualify). I'm not sure what to do about these issues.

The laundary issue is simple enough; blacks should be washed in cold water, anyway. Only whites really need the hot water, and I simply don't have enough whites to do a complete load more than once a month or so.

The thermostat is more of an issue; last winter I never turned the heat on, but over the summer the air conditioning uses so much electricity that the monthly bill is over $100.00. I live on the top floor of my building; heat rises.

I don't think that it's legal to plant a tree on city property, but I know that it's really easy to request that the city plant one. There's a request form here: Plant a tree!

And then turn off electric devices when they are not in use, which I thought was common sense, because it is foolish to pay for electricity that you aren't using. But that's just me.

That's all for now. I need to find some lightbulbs.

Friday, November 17, 2006

From Overheard in New York

On Tomorrow's Celebrity Death Match: Vishnu v. Thor

Black Bible-thumper: Jesus will save you! Have you been saved? Praise Jesus!
Passerby: Praise Allah!
Black Bible-thumper: Fuck you, motherfucker! Jesus will kick your ass!

--42nd & 8th

Overheard by: The Jewish Asian

via Overheard in New York, Nov 16, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Integrity, or the Lack Thereof

I've gone out for drinks every night since Wednesday; this is highly unusual, and I'm not sure if this is a sign of my popularity or of an increasing need to drown my anger before it begins to interfere with work.

I try to do the best I can at my job, and part of doing a good job is knowing when to say no to a prospective client. For instance, if their request is for something that my office cannot provide, I say no. Politely. Recently, someone got pushy, and wouldn't take no for an answer. After trying a couple of different ways of explaining why my office could not provide what she was asking for, I gave up and asked my supervisor to step in. My supervisor took a look at the correspondence, agreed that I was in the right, and sent an even clearer explanation of why our office said no in the first place and will continue to say no. We don't have the resources to comply with the request. Harassing us is not going to make the resources suddenly and magically appear. No no no no NO.

Said prospective client decided to start harassing my supervisor's supervisor's supervisor. He came down to see what was going on, and my supervisor and I produced the correspondence to date and explained the situation. He took the information and returned to his office to think it over. Some time later, he came back with a "compromise": we would "magically" produce the resources needed (read: do it ourselves without extra compensation or taking time from any of our other pressing projects) and then send a stern email to the pushy client's boss.

I have no words for how angry this made me. I left the office because I was mad enough to cry, which hasn't happened, well, since I was a child. The message being sent by our office is this: no matter what you want (even if it is beyond our office's ability to provide given the resources we are allocated) if you make a big enough fuss, then you will get what you want. Even if the staff have to pull resources out of their asses, you will get what you want. It's akin to that lousy Sentra commercial, in which a driver gets a free carwash by causing a scene in a gas station (click on Day 5 to see exactly what I'm referring to). We are saying, "We'll give you anything you want to make you stop screaming."

I can't believe that my office didn't back me up. I can't believe that a fussy client got her way just by making a lot of noise. I don't know what the hell I'm supposed to do now- do I even bother to continue to uphold the policies set forth by our office, with the full knowledge that these policies mean nothing in the face of childish whining? I feel betrayed. It seems that only my direct supervisor and I have any integrity, integrity which is guaranteed to be undermined by our bosses.

So I've gone drinking every night since. In a situation where the people who control the paychecks won't even support their own policies, much less their employees, what else is there to do?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

2006 Election Results & Religious Ignorance

The election is finished, hooray! Everyone I talked to about the election in the days preceding November 7 was pessimistic about the outcome, but thankfully their fears went, for the most part, unfulfilled. Changes in Republican tactics were seen immediately:

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned Wednesday within hours of a stunning Republican setback in nationwide midterm elections, a vote that became a referendum on President Bush's strategy for the war in Iraq and on Rumsfeld's stormy stewardship of the Pentagon."

With the Democrats in control of one branch of the national government and the Republicans in another, I am happy. A stalemate between the two parties is far better for the country than an all Republican or all Democrat regime.

In other news, religion continues to insist that homosexual relations are against nature despite clear evidence to the contrary:

A Lutheran priest said he hoped the organisers would "burn in hell," and a Pentecostal priest lashed out at the exhibition, saying taxpayers' money used for it would have been better spent helping the animals correct "their perversions and deviances".

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Consortium News


U.S. Battlefield

In the view of some civil libertarians, a form of martial law already exists in the United States and has been in place since shortly after the 9/11 attacks when Bush issued Military Order No. 1 which empowered him to detain any non-citizen as an international terrorist or enemy combatant.

“The President decided that he was no longer running the country as a civilian President,” wrote civil rights attorney Michael Ratner in the book Guantanamo: What the World Should Know. “He issued a military order giving himself the power to run the country as a general.”

For any American citizen suspected of collaborating with terrorists, Bush also revealed what’s in store. In May 2002, the FBI arrested U.S. citizen Jose Padilla in Chicago on suspicion that he might be an al-Qaeda operative planning an attack.

Rather than bring criminal charges, Bush designated Padilla an “enemy combatant” and had him imprisoned indefinitely without benefit of due process. After three years, the administration finally brought charges against Padilla, in order to avoid a Supreme Court showdown the White House might have lost.

But since the Court was not able to rule on the Padilla case, the administration’s arguments have not been formally repudiated. Indeed, despite filing charges against Padilla, the White House still asserts the right to detain U.S. citizens without charges as enemy combatants.

This claimed authority is based on the assertion that the United States is at war and the American homeland is part of the battlefield.

“In the war against terrorists of global reach, as the Nation learned all too well on Sept. 11, 2001, the territory of the United States is part of the battlefield,” Bush's lawyers argued in briefs to the federal courts. [Washington Post, July 19, 2005]

Given Bush’s now open assertions that he is using his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief for the duration of the indefinite War on Terror, Americans can no longer trust that their constitutional rights protect them from government actions.

As former Vice President Al Gore asked after recounting a litany of sweeping powers that Bush has asserted to fight the War on Terror, “Can it be true that any President really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Voting Day

The elections are coming up, which means that every other television commercial is a political advertisment like this one:

or this one:

In the end, these ads are no better than grade-school smear campaigns, akin to one candidate saying that their opponent smells funny or eats paste. They are designed to sway the opinions of those who can't be bothered to think seriously on the issues for themselves, to decide on the behalf of the weak minded, and to reinforce the decisions of those who have already made up their minds. I wish that we didn't have to wait until November 7; I'm anxious to get it over with and find out the results.