Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Wai-aiting is the Hardest Part

So I'm glad it's over.  I'm also glad the answer is yes.  Now on to the longer- but much more active- wait.  Sitting on my hands and *just* waiting is a killer to me.  I don't handle it well.  Waiting while having things to do makes me much happier.  Now I have my things to do, and I'm elated.  Although I think it's safe to say that there are two people out there that are even more over the moon than I am.  And that's a good thing.  :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Human Touch

We're currently living in an amazingly connected world, thanks to 24-hour news channels, satellite TV/telephone, the internet, social networks, 3G notworks, cell phone and other innovations.  Because we are such a connected world, last week I was able to sit and watch live streaming broadcast of parts of the rescue of 33 Chilean miners, broadcast by a British television company.  Forget two places at once, I was (virtually) in three places at once.  More if you count the fact that I was on the Tor network while doing all this, so there were at least three other intermediary locations as well.  In many ways, we've condensed the globe down to the size of computer chip.

But more importantly- do you know all the neighbors on your street?  If you were out of flour, would you have to go to the store or could you ask a friend next door?  With internet bullying in the forefront the past couple of weeks, I think we really need to consider our reactions to the virtual world and the physical world.  I'm not knocking the virtual world- I think the interconnectedness is great.  We can experience other cultures, get our news from a variety of sources, learn about so much more than our own little block, but it's for sure not the end-all-be-all, and it's important to keep that in perspective.

As humans, we're social beings and wired with the need for interaction with others.  There's variation in how much interaction we need or want; ask an introvert and an extrovert how much time they like to be with people in a given day and you'll get vastly different responses.  But besides the variation in quantity, there's also variation in quality.  In person contact makes the biggest difference in our lives, with phone contact coming in close.  Written letters make a fair amount of difference in how connected we feel to people, although virtual communication over the internet registers as almost nothing positive psychologically.  Especially in times of stress, we need human contact.  We need to feel like we belong.  We need to feel like we have a place to turn.  We need a shoulder upon which to cry.  We don't get those things from the newer forms of communication.  Instead, most people tend to feel less connected.  There is no human touch like in a hand written letter, no quick response like a phone call, and definitely no physical connection or facial display of empathy.  When the chips are already proverbially down, that added draw on our emotional reserves can be tragic.

Additionally, the anonymity of the internet allows people to not have to face the consequences of their actions, so the norm of being civil gets broken down.  Unfortunately, it's harder to break down our need for empathy.  All in all, moving more and more of our communication into the virtual world leaves fewer of our social needs met.  At its worst, we end up with situations like some of the recent bullying and harassment cases, and as we've seen, potential to tragic deaths.  Figuring out how to navigate this brave new world is going to have more bumps along the road, but I'm hopeful that we'll manage to figure it out.

And yes, I get the irony of writing this all on a blog instead of calling to talk to someone about it.  :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hope, Disappointment, Despair, Outrage, and back to Hope

Admittedly, I voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary, and I mostly voted against McCain in the general election, but a part of me longed for the hope and change that Barack Obama promised.  I had a young child, how could I not want things to be better for him than the way things were looking?  But it soon became apparent, and increasingly so, that change was not coming and hope might be futile as well.  Eighteen-plus months into his presidency and Guantanamo is still open, we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan, wireless wiretapping has been expanded, torture methods are still on the books, DOMA stands solid, the wealth gap is increasing, average folk are hurting financially and unemployment is high.  We did get health care reform, but the health care reform we got still leaves lots of room for inflated costs, high insurance company profit margins, and exorbitant executive benefits packages.  Similarly with college loan reform and financial oversight and consumer protections.  It's been too little, too late and poorly executed.

I realize that Obama is not alone in the blame, our Congress has also done their part.  One party is obstructionist, and the other ineffectual.  Hell, I haven't even been horribly thrilled with the judiciary lately, except for in the case of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  On that issue, the presiding judge took the correct stance and even made sure her ruling had teeth.  DADT was declared unconstitutional and an injunction was declared, having the net effect of killing DADT, something that Obama has said he wants done.  Simple, right?  The judge took the decision out of the hands of the legislature and still got what Obama wanted.  Yeah!!! 

So why's the Department of Justice asking for a stay and considering an appeal of the judges decision?!  They claim they have to uphold the law, but DADT is already only sporadically enforced.  The judge's decision does leave the law on the books, but as an unconstitutional law, which would not be able to be enforced at all.  I'm not sure that there's a functional difference there?

All of this is to say that I'm really pissed off and fed up with the lies out of this administration.  Today I hit a brick wall.  I couldn't help but have a good long cry.  And then I hit the heavy bag for a while.  I hugged my baby little boy (he's five in just a couple of months!?) close and promised he'd have a better life if it took every once of fight I had in me until my last dying breath.  Now I'm sitting and watching Amandla while I write this, and I can't help but be inspired.  Individuals can make a difference.  We can change things for the better.  We can start a revolution.  We can love one another.  We can leave our corner of the world a little better than we found it.  That is all we can do, and it is all that we must do.  Let it begin with me. 

Now to complete my circuit back to some semblance of hopefulness, I'm going to have some spreadable chocolate.  It may or may not be spread on anything.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Lately, we've discovered duck eggs.  Never many at a time, just a few here and there mixed in with our meat CSA egg orders.  I love them!  Their wonderfully flavored, beautiful yolks, and slightly different qualities than regular chicken eggs.  In baked goods, they easily rise half again (or more) compared to chicken eggs.  They're also a bit bigger than our usual, but our usual eggs are only about a medium/large size according the standards.  Duck eggs are easily extra large.  Just cooking eggs bring a while new dimension of flavor to omelets and scrambled eggs (although I'll admit, fried chicken eggs are better than fried duck eggs).  They stand out front and center nicely. 

It doesn't seem like there should be much of a difference, comparing chicken and duck eggs, especially when talking about regular old domesticated things.  Farmers have most likely been selecting for similar traits in both birds- size and number of eggs, health as adults, low fragility of egg shells, etc.  But the end-products are worlds apart.  I would assume that it's the little details- little as in actual size.  I don't think there can be many "big" details in an egg of any size, except maybe ostrich eggs.  Differences in the presence or absence of chemicals, the proportions of the chemicals that are in the egg, that sort of thing.  Whatever the reason, I think I've found a new tool in my cookbook.

So what do duck eggs have to do with anything other than culinary matters?  Well, I at least think it serves as a great reminder that even given fairly similar products- even the same packaging- the source matters.  Whether that new T-shirt comes from a local thrift store, an organic manufacturer in the US, or a national brand made in China and sold in a big-box store, the source of two very comparable products can be night and day difference.  I've heard a lot of talk lately (like this story, on our local NPR last week) about fair trade, local, and organic products.  The discussion is typically framed as "Is it worth it?" or "Is it a good value?" or "Can you afford this?" and I get that those are important in our current economy.  But please understand, whoever might be reading this, that in times like this it's especially important to stand up for our principles.  In the case of fair trade, it's a human rights issue.  Why do US workers deserve to make a fair wage, if our brethren in China, Malaysia, or El Salvador don't?  Why do we deserve to feed our families more than workers in developing countries?  In the case of local products, why shouldn't we band together to keep more of our dollars in our community instead of in multi-nation profit margins?  Why shouldn't we help our neighbor keep their shop or farm going instead of keeping stocks high?  And in the case of organics, why shouldn't we reward companies with similar beliefs to ours?  Why shouldn't we support transparency instead of obfuscation? 

These things matter.  We matter.  ALL people matter.  And if we decide now that our pocket books are more important than helping our fellow humans, then we really don't deserve all the gains we've made thus far.  If we can't see the forest for the trees, we don't deserve any of the products from either.  It's when push comes to shove that our principles are tested, and it's then that it's most crucial that we stand up and be counted. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dough Party

It's Cookie Dough Fundraiser time at Kenny's school!  Buckets come in all sorts of flavors, and are $9 each or 3 for $25.  If you want to support the Kent State Child Development Center and get some tasty buckets of cookie dough- GO SOME WERE ELSE!  I can even give you the contact info for another parent that is selling the junk.  Kenny and I, however, will not be doing that.  Instead, we're having a dough party- our version of the Boston Tea Party. 

Don't get me wrong, I love his school.  If I didn't, I wouldn't be spending more on his early childhood education than I'll probably some day spend on his college education.  The fundraiser goes to a great cause, the Center Family Connection (our version of the PTA).  The CFC hosts Free Family Fun nights every semester, topical parent meetings to help educate parents, provides spectacular supplies for the students both indoors and outdoors, as well as functions in the community through the Haymaker Farmers' Market Kids at the Market and other venues.  I am 100% geeked about his school and what they do. 

Except this fundraiser.  I understand that it has a decent return on time/effort investment- 40% of all proceeds go to the school.  At the same time, we've hosted multiple events discussing the importance of childhood nutrition.  We have a school  vegetable garden.  The kids' snacks are healthful.  They have a strict snack policy for parties and events.  Then we sell this junk.  Great! 

If you would like to stand up with me and support Kenny's school while not teaching that hypocrisy is fine, then feel free to contact me.  Kenny and I will still be taking donations for his school, and if you want tasty treats as well, we'll happily bake a dozen cookies for you- to your specs.  Your flavor, your dietary restrictions, whatever.  Heck, I'll even bake cookies for some else if you want to gift them to some one or an organization.  Just help us raise money for Ken's school (specifically, the outdoor environmental education center that we're working on funding) while at the same time sending a message that kids deserve better.  Kids deserve authenticity.  Am I being a kill-joy?  Absolutely.  But I'm a principled kill-joy. 

"Be the change you wish to see in the [playground]."  Mahatma Ghandi