Monday, July 21, 2014

Just gonna say:

I watched most of an interview with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu this weekend.

And I'm just gonna say: I wish our current leader was more like him. Forceful, sure of himself, no BS that I can detect. Committed to defending his people yet at the same time points how the great pains that are taken to avoid collateral damage on the other side. Not unwilling to shut the interviewer up when he gets shirty with him.

Oh, I'm sure there are things to dislike about Netanyahu, and I'm probably seeing this as grass on the other side of the fence, but I suspect we'd have fewer foreign-relations problems (and fewer at-home problems) than we do at the moment if we had someone who was more willing to say what he really thought, rather than what he thought people (potential voters) wanted to hear...

Friday, July 18, 2014

All those people

I admit, as someone who's been a fearful flyer since she figured out it was possible for planes to crash, this kind of thing just horrifies me.

It horrifies me even more that it seems to have been confirmed that Malaysia Air 17 was shot down. Shot down from 30,000 feet. I didn't even know there were surface to air missiles that could do that, that had that kind of accuracy. That's chilling.

All those people. I hope they died instantly and didn't know any terror. And I also feel sad for the people who are the farmers and such living in that area, who had plane parts (and other things) come down in their yards.

What makes me especially sick? The US response to this will probably be a finger wagged at whoever is responsible, and that's it. And the situation in the Ukraine will continue to spiral downward. I'm trying to tell myself this isn't how World War III gets started, but I'm having a hard time convincing myself.

And it doesn't help that there's ugliness elsewhere in the world. (Though I will say, if what I've read about how Israel does its rocket attacks is true, it makes me hate Hamas even more, and feel even more like Israel is in the right - essentially, it sounds like Israel is doing *everything possible* to avoid loss of civilian life on the other side, and Hamas is trying to time its rocket attacks for when Israeli schoolchildren are going to or from school.)

Everything's such a mess right now. And we don't even have strong leadership to try to sort it out or even provide any kind of useful response.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"First World Problems."

There's a trend I see, among some who write/talk about food, economics, and health. One example is Mark Bittman's piece here.

I call it "First World Problems" because I hear people bemoaning how "awful" it is that food is cheap, and I do the confused-dog head tilt: "You'd rather there be a famine going on, then?"

And yes, I understand that the argument they are making is that when food is cheap, people eat more, and they eat more sugary and fatty food. But it's more complex than that. In the US, obesity is often a problem of people who are less-well-off because the cheapest calories for the money tend to BE things like dollar-menu hamburgers. And chips. And soda. Vegetables are expensive. (I think I paid close to $4 for a head of cauliflower recently). And then you have to prepare the vegetables - and if you're living where there's a less-than-ideal kitchen, or you're working long hours, or having to care for children on your own, or or or, it becomes harder.

I'm not saying it's impossible to eat healthfully when you're stressed. But it's harder. Even for me - and I make a good salary, I don't have any dependents I have to care for, and still, there are some days I look at that cauliflower in the vegetable bin and go "Meh. It's 6:30 pm. I'm hungry. I don't want to take fifteen minutes to cut this up and fifteen more to steam it, or forty-five minutes to roast it in the oven" and I go for something faster, like cereal.

But this is one of the things about some segments of our culture I find distressing. We've solved a lot of the big problems, and we're forgetting to be grateful for that.

People mostly aren't starving in the streets any more. Instead of rejoicing about that, we wring our hands about "cheap food" and the consequences thereof.

People aren't mostly freezing to death in the winter any more. But we worry about "cheap energy" and its effect on the environment. And try to do things like ban wood stoves because of the (OMG!) smoke. (I know a few people whose homes are electrically heated. And electricity is EXPENSIVE here, y'all. But they have a wood stove, and they have a woodlot. That seems like "problem solved" but there are some who don't want to let them use the wood stove - or require environmental retrofits that would price them out of being able to use it)

People aren't dying from bacteria in the water. Yet there are some who talk about the hazards of chlorination. I dunno; I'd rather risk the small hazard of chlorine by-products than the big hazard of possible cholera or dysentery.

Lots of diseases have been largely eradicated thanks to vaccines. But OMG, my children are too special for that tiny risk that a vaccine might pose, instead, I'd rather have them face the big risk of getting (whatever disease) and maybe passing it to a kid who couldn't be vaccinated for medical reasons. (I would have no problem with anti-vaxers - well, other than that their children don't really get a say - if there was no such thing as herd immunity.)

(Also, an aside: another way certain forms of extremism are awful - there's concern that polio may show a resurgence in Afghanistan and other mullah-dominated areas. Because apparently vaccines are a tool of the evil West. Sigh.)

And on, and on. I've talked about the whole milk-pasteurization thing before. Okay, I admit it: I wouldn't have a problem with people being allowed to choose and buy CLEARLY LABELED raw milk. But I'm gonna keep drinking the pasteurized stuff. I had ancestors who had milch cows and I heard stories of stuff that can be transmitted in milk. (Again, the kids, who might be affected more strongly, don't really get a say in this, it's their parents' decision. But I maintain that if people know the risks they should be permitted to buy the stuff. But they have to know the risks! And they can't sue the farmer if they get sick from raw milk.)

I don't know. Like I said, some of the people agitating about "oh, we have it too EASY now" almost sound to me like they WANT to see people dying in the streets. I'm sure that's not the case but it does seem to me to represent a lack of gratitude. Me? I'm grateful for Pasteur and Jenner and Salk and all those guys (and they were mostly guys) in the past who figured out ways for people to not die of stuff.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I still love Mike Rowe

Dirty Jobs may have ended its run (but Animal Planet sometimes shows re-runs, especially of the animal-oriented episodes) and Mike Rowe seems to have moved on to other things.

Kind of awesome things. He's promoting the idea that instead of getting a four-year degree in some subject that it will be hard to find a job in come graduation, that a lot of America's young men and women should look towards a more technical education, or a skills education. Or at the very least, be willing to get their hands dirty, to do jobs some might say was "beneath" them, to do hard work and to do honest work.

He's written a whole thing, called the SWEAT pledge ("skills and work ethic aren't taboo") and the idea is, he's helping to fund a scholarship for people willing to take this pledge.

(Frankly, if I had a kid, unless s/he was absolutely driven to a particular field, like I was with biology, I'd strongly suggest they become a mechanic, plumber, or electrician. Good honest steady work, work that can't be outsourced, work where very often, if your boss is an idiot, you can pick up and move to another employer - or become your OWN boss.)

Anyway, here's the pledge, it's one of those things that has gone viral:


(Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo)

1. I believe that I have won the greatest lottery of all time. I am alive. I walk the Earth. I live in America. Above all things, I am grateful.
2. I believe that I am entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nothing more. I also understand that “happiness” and the “pursuit of happiness” are not the same thing.
3. I believe there is no such thing as a “bad job.” I believe that all jobs are opportunities, and it’s up to me to make the best of them.
4. I do not “follow my passion.” I bring it with me. I believe that any job can be done with passion and enthusiasm.
5. I deplore debt, and do all I can to avoid it. I would rather live in a tent and eat beans than borrow money to pay for a lifestyle I can’t afford.
6. I believe that my safety is my responsibility. I understand that being in “compliance” does not necessarily mean I’m out of danger.
 7. I believe the best way to distinguish myself at work is to show up early, stay late, and cheerfully volunteer for every crappy task there is.
8. I believe the most annoying sounds in the world are whining and complaining. I will never make them. If I am unhappy in my work, I will either find a new job, or find a way to be happy.
9. I believe that my education is my responsibility, and absolutely critical to my success. I am resolved to learn as much as I can from whatever source is available to me. I will never stop learning, and understand that library cards are free.
10. I believe that I am a product of my choices – not my circumstances. I will never blame anyone for my shortcomings or the challenges I face. And I will never accept the credit for something I didn’t do.
11. I understand the world is not fair, and I’m OK with that. I do not resent the success of others.
12. I believe that all people are created equal. I also believe that all people make choices. Some choose to be lazy. Some choose to sleep in. I choose to work my butt off.

I love the whole thing but I especially love #1 - because I see far too many people who feel like they're "victims" of some kind when really, they just hit a rough patch but they have giant opportunity. And it's kind of uncool right now to say you are grateful to live in America, but I'm totally okay with being uncool: I am grateful, incredibly grateful, to live here. Yes, we have some problems but we still have great opportunity and still have great freedom.

I also love #4. I have days when I'm not "feelin' it" when I gear up to walk into the classroom so I do what I can to MAKE myself feel it. Also, by bringing your passion with you,  instead of "following" it, you can better deal with whatever changes or reverses you have in life. I got a gig in a state I had never visited before I interviewed here. In a lot of ways the culture is different from what I was used to. But I wanted the job, I recognized it was a good deal, so I made it work. Again, it's not perfect, there are always problems, but on balance I see things as being far, far better than they COULD be.

The whole theme of the pledge is "taking responsibility for myself" and I think we need more of that right now in this nation. I would love to see people start pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, stuff getting better economically, us electing some politicians who take the Constitution more seriously, and everything getting better and better. I think it will take individual citizens choosing to be this way, though, rather than anything that comes out of Washington DC or anywhere. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

a quick thought.

I have real issues with the whole "check your privilege" idea - the idea, apparently, that you should somehow feel guilty for the accident of being born white (or male, or hetero, or American, or whatever) and should somehow, I don't know, ramp down how you do things in life because of it.

The problem is, in my mind, that kind of closes out some of the opportunity for gratitude as a result of undeserved good things. And as a Christian, I've been taught all my life that there are a certain amount of good things we enjoy that are totally and utterly undeserved.

In another way of saying it: I don't think I should feel guilty that I can afford to comfortably pay all my bills; I should feel *blessed.* And I do. (And yes, I give to a few carefully-chosen entities that help those who are less blessed than I am, so hopefully they can get a hand up and can have a life where they get to earn a decent living and come to enjoy some of the blessings I have...)

Monday, June 30, 2014

I just wanna say

To all of the more left-leaning folks that are around me, and that I follow (or, now, used to follow) on social media:

Kindly take a deep breath.


This isn't the end of "America." My understanding is that it only affects a few corporations, only CERTAIN forms of birth control, and it only affects IF THE CORPORATION WILL PAY FOR THEM. Hobby Lobby isn't gonna fire you for going out and buying it with your own money.

And this seems to affect only a few corporations. For which you don't have to work, and, hell, which you don't have to shop at if you don't want to. (Seriously. I saw someone say she was going to "give up crafting" because of the Hobby Lobby decision. Honey, you might rethink that, making stuff is good for keeping your blood pressure down.)

I'm also so not ready to deal with the anti-Christian snark that's going to come from predictable sources. This is one sliver of Christianity. And okay, I kind of agree with some aspects of it: I loathe the idea of abortion and wish they never happened. (And yet, I recognize it's not a perfect world). 

One way that I'm coming to hate social media: poorly informed people coming out and just spewing moments after something happens. It's all knee-jerk, it's all emotion.

Emotion's gonna be what does us in, I bet.

I....think I'm gonna avoid social media for the rest of the day. Just got too much to do to deal with the outragey outrage.

It also strikes me as interesting that there's huge reactive commentary (mostly snark, very little thought-out commentary that I've seen) about the Hobby Lobby case, and essentially NONE about the unions case (that a public union cannot make non-union members pay fees). I thought that was another decision that some people said would ruin this country if it went "not their way" (which it did.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

thank goodness, voting is tomorrow.

As someone who still has a landline (one of the few) and someone of the lesser party affiliation in my area, I've been barraged with robocalls and "surveys" this past week and a half.

I'm glad it's nearly done.

And a pox on the politicians for thinking this will get people to want to vote for them. Same thing with spamming our mailboxes daily with fliers. I'd choose to vote for the guy who didn't do it but they ALL do it. It sucks.

At least this time we seem to have fewer character-assassinatey ads than some go-rounds.