Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gray Day

Not weather-wise; outside looks pretty beautiful right now.  Gray, as in that space that's not quite white, and not quite black.  That has tons of shades and variations that all go by the same name, but look completely different from each other.  That tends to get me into trouble because I play in the gray area far too much, and pretty much avoid black and white at all costs. 

Today's shade of gray lives between personal and social responsibility.  I was raised to believe in both, practice both, and recognize the benefits and downfalls of each.  Obviously, one can't lie around eating bon-bons all day and expect to have society give them everything.  As much as I would love to live that life some days, it's not going to happen.  At the other extreme, one can't be completely self-reliant either, or the world would be covered by roads marked "My road" and "Your road" and "His road" and "Her road", ad nauseum.  And vigilantes would roam free, parsing out what justice they saw fit.  Both aspects must occur together in order to have a functioning society.  Mind you, I'm not defining social responsibility as solely government, because I think that organizations and non-profits can also do some great work, and government shouldn't handle everything- there's a real value in communities helping other members of the community and more personal involvement in society.

My love of gray leads me to do some silly things at times, like hosting a purse party.  No, not Coach and Gucci- Haitian Creations.  Purses made by women in Haiti.  It's personal responsibility in that the women are learning valuable skills and a paycheck to help support their families (not to mention self-confidence and independence), and social responsibility in that it's an organization (Heartline Ministries) that is bringing people together to help others through donations, volunteers, and purchases that go to support education.  If you're familiar with the Women's Bean Project, it's a similar concept.  A friend of mine (Julie, of Mining with RareJule) hosted one a while back and turned me on to the project, because of the closeness in time with the Haiti earthquake and the program itself.  So I'm hosted a purse party this Mother's day evening.  I could claim it was intentional, the connection with women's rights and education with celebrating moms, but no- I just screwed up because I could have sworn Mother's day was later in May.  Oh, well, it works, right?  And I'm announcing the party today, the three month mark after the earthquake, which again I could claim as grand planning on my part, but again is just coincidence.  I didn't realize it was today until I was writing this post during World Have Your Say.  If nothing else, I'm lucky.

Stop on by the event page sometime soon, maybe pick up a gift for mom, if you're in the Kent area, stop by that night for some good food, and support Haiti's women.  I have instructions on how to order on the events page as well, or just email me- I'll ship anywhere.  Encourage social responsibility by supporting a great organization, and encourage personal responsibility by helping these women to support themselves.  Now that's a win-win.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good-ish news?

Today is a big day.  Today, the sentencing date has been set Mark Kellogg over 100 counts of criminal fraud in the case of the foreclosure crisis in Slavic village.  I haven't been able to find the results of his sentencing, but I'll be updating as soon as I do.  This is exciting because it's new.  Mark Kellogg, along with his co-defendant Beverly Cody and others, made fraudulent purchases and sales of 78 homes in Slavic village and defrauding people and companies of a total of $5.8 million dollars.  Mark Kellogg was the mortgage broker in this scam, and Beverly Cody acted as the buyer, and five other defendants- other phony buyers involved- plead guilty in November.  Kellogg plead guilty to all counts of money laundering and theft by deception and other charges, as did Cody. 

As far as anyone can tell, these are the first cases in which criminal fraud charges have been brought that include harm done to other home owners in Slavic village that were damaged because of the consequences of Kellogg, Cody, et al.s fraudulent activity.  Consequences that include nearly all of the homes in Slavic village currently being in foreclosure thanks in large part to sub-prime mortgages and under-water mortgage loans.  Kellogg is eligible for a maximum of 106 years in prison and $6.6 million in fines and restitution.  I'll be happy to see this man get put away.  He helped to orchestrate the devastation of a neighborhood.  The message that feeding off of others is morally abhorrent must be sent across the wires post haste, and loud and clear.  The message that dollars matter significantly less than people must be heard.  The message that predatory actions upon the least among us is not acceptable.  Excuse me, NOT acceptable.  I don't normally like to shout, but that one needs shouted.  It is my hope that this case is just the beginning of a deluge. 

On a tangential note, this same stand-up human being, Mark Kellogg, is also being charged with breaking and entering a home in order to steal the copper piping.  Yep, prize-winner, he.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Communities: Organically Growing

No, this post is actually not focusing on food, at least not in a central way.  I'm not really focusing on gardening, either.  I'm talking about "organic" in the sense of bottom-up instead of top-down processes.  I've briefly mentioned Kent Community Time Banks here once before, but this post is dedicated to KCTB. 

After World War II, the US experienced a surge of suburbanization and urban sprawl.  The "norm" went from small, walkable, urban communities with many row-houses and apartments to spread out, driving-distance, subdivisions with large lots within a few decades.  Public transit went from a necessity to a tax burden, cars moved from street-side to attached garages, walking went from the sidewalk to the treadmill and shopping moved from the corner store to the enclosed mall.  Cleveland, my paternal family's homeland, now covers twice as much land as it did fifty years ago, with roughly the same number of people.  That's a doubling of per-capita land usage. 

Later in the seventies, white flight reinforced distrust of neighbors and a disdain for urban "ghettos"; multiple family housing units were associated with poverty, the welfare state, and morally abject behavior.  These are, of course, broad generalizations, and there were exceptions, but they illustrate how society can change in a short amount of time.

Currently, there is a recognition that maybe our current model of living is not the best practice.  People are isolated from their community, neighbors don't know one another, families are widely dispersed and interaction takes place over a wire instead of a kaffee klatsch or hedge.  Not that this nostalgic scene was perfect either, as Stephanie Coontz's "The Way We Never Were" documents quite nicely.  Along with this recognition that progress isn't always the best thing is a movement of recreating communities in a new form.  The internet may be often blamed for its part in the destruction of geographically based communities, but it is now being repurposed as a tool in the community garden of these new communities. 

In a time when individuals and families may be transient to a community, and may not know who and what resources are available in a city, Time Banks provide a way to connect with others, with money not being an issue.  It serves as an equalizer, valuing the time of a doctor and a high school drop the same.  If you can walk a dog or provide a listening ear, you can be a part of the community, and obtain needed services like medical advice, tutoring or electrical work.  Everyone has something to offer.  The computer software and website provide a way to connect with someone offering a service you need and needing a service you can provide, but more importantly, they provide a way to start relationships, they provide a way to reintegrate marginalized citizens into the larger community, they provide a decentralized currency that is backed by something more substantial then bytes of data- a currency backed by other humans.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


1) At what age did you find yourself passionately drawn towards reptiles and amphibians? And what do you think triggered this?

The herp thing started in my undergrad years, summer of 2002 specifically, thanks to Eric Juterbock and Patrick Owen, both of Ohio State at the time, but Pat has since moved on to bigger and better things at University of Cincinnati.  Eric is worshiped by all Desmognathus fuscus (Northern Dusky Salamander) as a god, and he showed me the wonder of herps.  Pat induced my obsession with Lithobates clamitans (Green Frog, formerly Rana clamitans).  I'm 90% convinced the real way to tell Northern Duskies from Mountain Duskies (Desmognathus ochropheaus, a related species studied by Lowell Orr of Kent State University) is to ask them the simple question "Lowell Orr or Eric Juterbock?"  Keel or no keel be damned.

2) What made you decide to want to be a surrogate and a donor? Was this realization like a bolt of lightening, or more like a lingering, slow-developing idea?

It was slow, for sure.  My mom had talked about wanting to be a surrogate when I was a kid, because she enjoyed pregnancy so much, so the seed was planted at a young age.  She never did, because let's face it, when I was young the only option would have been traditional surrogacy, and while she loved being pregnant, I don't think she would have been able to give away a child genetically related to her.  I have no such attachment issues, as evidenced by having offered Ken to random strangers on more than one occasion (joking!), and ART has progressed enough that the genetic link is taken out of the surrogacy equation far more often than not, as was the case in my journey.  Before Ken, I pretty much hated kids.  They were annoying, loud, obnoxious, smelly, and too dependent for my liking.  The first few weeks he was around, I was still ambivalent about kids.  But we eventually worked things out, and he has since proven to me what amazing things kids can be, and what a life changing experience becoming a parent can be.  I think everyone that wants to be a parent should get the chance, regardless of their sexual orientation, but that's not the case with many adoption agencies today.  And because discrimination on the basis of an innate trait is wrong whether it benefits the majority or minority group, you can't say homosexuals can have surrogacy but heterosexuals have to adopt.  It's equal treatment or nothing.  I like to do what I can to help (something else that was ingrained in my head early on), so I became a surrogate.  Same with my donations (hair, milk and egg)- I wanted to help, but I didn't want to be pregnant right then because of my crazy schedule, so I did what I could.  Being a milk and hair donor were both also ways for me to get the closure I needed after the surrogacy.  

3) What are you thoughts on chemtrails? (Call me crazy. I don't mind. =) )

Crazy Meg, this is actually the first I've heard of chemtrails, so all I have to say about them is "Que es esso?"

Now let me know where to send chocolate.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My week thus far

Yep, that's about how I feel, pulled in a bunch of directions, all at once.  Do I feel elated for my younger-older brother in law's marriage, or do I feel horribly upset about the separation of a couple that have been closer to me at times than much of my own family?  Do I feel so stressed out that I may puke with all the writing stuff with deadlines this week, or do I feel ecstatic that there may be an end in sight?  Do I feel horribly anguished for the couple that now has a child with a disability, or do I feel blessed to have been a part of their becoming a family?  Do I feel stupendously proud of my little boy, who will most likely be starting kindergarten next fall, or like a failure because I'm so relieved to have less time with him after a week of spring break that left us both in tears?  The answer is a resounding YES! to all of the above.  Gah.  It's the start of my annual dying-time, and this year is not looking like it will be a smooth one.  It's been 15 years now, why does the saga seem to hit replay whenever I can handle it least?  June fourth can't come soon enough right now.  At least Black Out Stout is in season, although I may need some Absente soon if the emotional roller coaster continues to be this severe.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

There are no successful ecologists

Or rather, the typical measures of "success" in society or academia really aren't well suited to ecology.  Defining success by the number of papers authored, chapters written, grants won, citations, books edited or written- not so relevant to improving our environment.   Defining success by species named vastly favors ecologists that may have never even considered the term ecology, let alone called themselves such.  Certifications and degrees may be useful, but they simply mark one accomplishment.  Defining success by on-the-ground measures such as species saved, habitats restored, or hectares conserved may accurately measure the success of a person in ecology, but those successes usually can't be attributed to a single person.  Instead, it takes dozens if not hundreds of people including legislators, managers, lay activists, volunteers, land owners, non-profit workers, and more, so a single individual's contribution may be relatively small.  Describing a new ecological theory or building a comprehensive model of some system definitely can change the way the world thinks of ecology and how ecologists research, but it's a lofty goal that very few people- even those currently considered "successful ecologists"- ever attain. 

How do we measure the success of an ecologist then?  I propose that we define success in ecology by living the life we teach- living sustainably, and lowering our own ecological impact as best we can, and the number of people we encourage to live similarly.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the whole world to save our biome.  And thus, I tender my resignation from the pursuit of "success" in ecology.  The other goals I listed above are important also, but they don't define and aren't the primary factor in defining success in this academic discipline. 

Ecology is a process, and as such, one's success in ecology isn't an endpoint, but a process.  If you've written your theory and now do little else while living a comfortable life utilizing lots of resources, you're not a successful ecologist.  You may have once been, but you aren't any longer.  In this case I'd argue this person is a less successful ecologist than the child that helps pull garlic mustard all summer and participates in citizen scientist endeavors regularly.  Maybe the reason so many US citizens have disdain for ecologists is because we're too busy trying to measure our success in disingenuous ways.  Shall we change that?  Will you join me?

Friday, April 2, 2010

One year, one hundred minus one posts

I'm celebrating my blogiversary!  I did it.  I wasted a ton of time.  I wrote about stupid stuff.  I bored you to tears.  And yet, you're here.  Why???

Whatever the reason, I want to say thanks.  Thanks for being bored.  Thanks for commenting.  Thanks for letting me vent.  Thanks for being there.

And to say an appropriate thanks, I wanted to give you, dear reader, a small token of appreciation.  Leave a comment on this post, let me know you're there, and let me know what you'd like to see more in this space or what you'd like to know about me and the insanity I call my life.  On April 9, 2010, I'll pick a "winner", and they get a half pound of Malley's Gold Cup chocolates.  I promise to get to answer all the requests/questions that are left in the comments on this post within the next month, as well.  So everybody wins.  Shameless plug for feedback?  You bet.  Below the scrap of dignity I have left?  Apparently not.  But there's chocolate.