Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Good bye Frick.

Frickers left yesterday morning to head to O'hare. I thought I saw him a block or so from my house as I biked to work and began waving excitedly at him. He bust out into a great big grin – and then I realized with embarrassment that not all men in black jackets and gray caps are my little brother. I felt myself blushing and started giggling at myself. The stranger looked really happy, too and continued wearing his smile.

Considering that it was gray and raining, two more smiling people on Chicago’s streets on a Monday morning certainly seems more than worth a little embarrassment.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dating, Gayish or Married?

Or so I thought I heard a high school friend ask me at my ten year reunion this past weekend. I incredulously asked her to repeat the question and she repeated the much more reasonable, "Are you dating, engaged or married?" We both giggled when I explained what I mistakenly heard – then her husband interjected, "did you just ask her if she was ‘gayish’?" The giggling spread around the table for quite a while before I could answer this simple question.

Towards the end of the night I spoke with a different woman who inquired about my husband. Errr..... She explained that the group she was speaking with earlier told her that I was married. Our rumor mill is very efficient for spreading false information, just like in high school.

I was very much looking forward to class reunion, and unexpectedly got somewhat nervous right before it, too. I ended up feeling uneasy almost the whole time I was there. I have weird thoughts about the event, while at the same time perplexed at why I care, since most of these people have nothing to do with my current life.

First, I arrived to learn that the small group of people already there were talking about me. Two of the people in the group were people whom I distrusted/disliked in high school because they constantly made fun of other people behind their backs and had a cooler-than-though attitude.

From what I gleaned, the topic of conversation was that I biked a lot, with the general examples of biking between Chicago/Milwaukee, Chicago/Wisconsin, Milwaukee-Kenosha. The specific example was when Paul and I biked from Steph’s wedding ceremony to the hotel/reception a few months ago. It was a little disturbing to know that other people, whom I never got along with, knew and were talking about my life when I wasn’t privy to the conversation and therefore unable to explain, clarify or hear the tone of the conversation.

It could have been:

"jojo lives in Chicago and bikes everywhere – it’s really neat and she has this whole community of friends who do the same"
– OR –
"jojo bikes everywhere like some sort of freak – don’t even get her started talking about it, because she is a bike-zealot who has joined a cult."

I suspected that it was nearer to the latter. I also suspect that one of my close friends offered up this information as a gossip token, which is rather disturbing because she often did the same thing to try to curry favor with this group during high school.

[Warning: This whole post is mostly ridiculous, with a strong resurgence of latent high school insecurity–I’m embarrassed to write many parts.]

Several women who I didn’t like in high school because they were fake, back-stabbing bitches greeted me with sugary sweetness. At different points in time I had been somewhat of friends with each of these women, but long before graduation I had ceased any semblance of friendship with them when I realized that they were only friendly to me when it was convenient to them. I have pretty much always had the policy of treating people the way I feel about them: If I don’t like them – they are aware of it; If they are my friends, then I am loyal to them. I don’t pretend to be friends with people I do not like – I will be civil, but don’t offer any illusion of friendship. I have no tolerance for two-faced, back-stabbing behavior in myself or others.

So anyway, I was very uneasy when these different women greeted me as if we were friends. I knew that it has been ten years, and people change, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were just being nice to me to gather gossip fodder for a later conversation in my absence. I tried to be open-minded, but at times I could feel my hackles were up and I bristled during some conversations.

There appeared to be a strong divide between the ‘cool kids’ and rest of the group. Unfortunately "Chicago" and "attorney" were the first two answers to the questions people asked me. As much as I tried to downplay this when speaking with people who still lived in the area, it seemed to create an immediate barrier between myself and classmates I haven’t seen since high school. Several people just mumbled in response that their lives were probably dull in comparison. There was a surplus of awkwardness to go around during the evening.

I don’t think it helped that I didn’t get trashed along with everyone else. My baby brother Frick graciously agreed to chauffeur me around to prevent any possible drunk driving. However, I didn’t join the rest of people who got blitzed that night. I don’t trust myself to get drunk when I feel anxious, awkward, angry or any other negative emotion. So besides the pregnant women, I was probably the next most sober person in my graduating class. I suspect that the massive amount of fun that many other people had should be partially attributed the corresponding amount of alcohol they consumed.

I didn’t expect this, but most of the people who lived in the general hometown area seemed to have just ‘built a house out in the country.’ Funny, considering that earlier in the day, Frick and I drove around to see how much worse the sprawl had gotten since our last visit. Older farm houses that raised large families years ago sit empty because they aren’t large enough for today’s small families and their accumulated belongings. It is very sad and many of my classmates are contributing to this situation.

Random observations:
  • I think I was the only woman who wasn’t wearing make-up.
  • Quote: "I’m considering having another baby so I don’t have to work anymore." (Woman who went back to work this Autumn because her children were now in school).
  • At the five year class reunion, a lot of people looked doughy and worse for the wear. I was expecting this year to be even worse. Surprisingly, the people who attended for the most part looked pretty good – two even looked much better than in high school. My suspicion is that those who aged poorly declined to attend.
  • Many people had children. Except for the relatively small group of professionals who now live in larger cities (mostly the ‘cool kids’), almost everyone had children, or were at least married. I saw lots of pictures of children.
  • My ass was grabbed/patted by two different people. I’m still completely perplexed by this.

Even given all of the mentioned weirdness, it was nice to see many people. I will probably look up several of them if/when I am next visiting the cities that they live in. Some people it was just plain nice to connect with again and we might attempt to resume some sort of friendship in the future. Unfortunately, most of the people whom I were most interested in seeing again were not present.

The ‘Cool Kids’

I wasn’t a cool kid growing up.

I was too geeky, too eager, too fat, too unathletic and too poor (to wear nice clothes/concerts/toys...)

At different times in high school several of my friends were accepted/befriended by some of the cool kids. Also, since I was involved with a lot of activities, I regularly associated with some of the cool kids. I was never one of them, however. Often I was torn, because I desperately wanted to be liked by the cool kids, but at the same time I didn’t really even like them because they often seemed shallow, mean and/or dumb. Also, I didn’t trust them because much of their conversations involved speaking badly about their friends who weren’t around. Certainly, if they said bad things about their actual friends, they wouldn’t hesitate to rip to shreds a fat, geeky girl. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time that I sought the approval of people whom I actually didn’t respect or trust. Very odd.

Most of the cool kids who attended now live in Milwaukee or Madison, WI. They graduated from college and are beginning their climb up the corporate ladder in jobs that sounded pretty typical and not particularly interesting. Standard young, urban professional lives and jobs. Most conversations just glossed over jobs, so I very well might have missed learning that someone has a super-interesting job.

I occupied a strange social position at the reunion that rather unbalanced me – and I am quite accustomed to being an oddball in most company. According to the organizers, who learned what most people were currently doing, my life was the most interesting and exciting of the classmates who responded: I live in Chicago investigating police brutality as an attorney and live my bikey lifestyle/adventures. In a strange twist of events, I am also one of, if not the most, successful members of my class based on the attorney/Hbar gig. Plus I weigh about twenty pounds less when the trend for most people was slight weight gain. I didn’t attend the reunion with any concern of being thought a disappointment. To be honest I went back exceeding any rational expectations based on my high school record.

Given all of this, the ‘cool kids’ easily embraced me in their circle, which also made me uneasy and yet strangely pleased. While taking trips down memory lane, they erroneously inserted me into their memories. Several times their, ‘remember when we......" inquiries were answered by my, "no, I wasn’t there" and they seemed honestly perplexed. I should have just bluntly explained, "please remember, I wasn’t cool enough to be included back then."
The cool kids aged pretty well. No one was stunning, no one was hideous. Pretty much what was expected – attractive kids ten years older.

One thing that was quite apparent though, was that no one really dressed with real style. I think if I were given about 30 minutes in both Sears and any bland, trendy store (New York Company, H&M......) I could almost perfectly copy everyone’s outfit. I’m no fashionista by any stretch, but I was probably the only person whose clothes showed any sign of individuality – which is not at all what I am used to with my creative bikey friends. Seemingly without effort, my bikey friends often look great and wear clothes that aren’t common on store racks. Also, the cool girls were all wearing those obnoxious chandelier earrings that were on almost every woman who walked in fashion lockstep’s ears two years ago. I was amused that these women still seemed to think they were fashionable.

One thing that they did have in common with Chicago women, was they, too were also almost all wearing icky fashion shoes. Gaudy, horrible, impractical shoes adorned many of the female ‘cool kids’ feet. Thanksgiving day gave us weather in the teens, followed by a snowfall. The roads were slick and there was a decent amount of snow to walk through in parking lots. Therefore, I consider the following shoes inappropriate: strappy heeled sandals, open-toed heels, stiletto heels, ballet-style slippers. Also, if you wear heels, I think you damn well need to be able to walk in them. Teetering around like you have a stick up your ass isn’t attractive even while wearing the sexiest shoes ever created.


[climbing off urbaner-than-thou-horse and continuing with my more legitimate analysis/gripe]

I didn't like the way that many of the ‘cool kids’ who mocked or excluded people in high school now seemed to sweetly pretend that we were all just one big, happy family. Especially since I noticed that they still seemed to ignore the bulk of our classmates who didn’t appear to have done anything particularly interesting with their lives or looked somewhat frumpy. It was apparent that they were still very much judging and excluding people, only this time around, I made the cut and was worthy enough to be included. Or maybe that is just my warped perspective on the situation.

Still other former ‘cool kids’ continued to blatantly act as if they were superior to the majority of our classmates. They sat around making fun of other classmates who weren’t present – especially some of the developmentally disabled (retarded) kids who they taunted and teased in high school. I walked away from this conversation, but am kicking myself for being so passive in my disapproval. Instead I wished I would have loudly declared something along the lines of, "it has been ten years since graduation, I hoped that you would have done something worth talking about in the interim instead of resorting back to making fun of disadvantaged people who never did a single thing to hurt you and aren’t around to defend themselves." Alas, I didn’t though because on some level, I still wanted the ‘cool kids’ to like me.

I didn’t expect to really care what people thought – I was surprised to feel the once-familiar high school insecurity desire for approval welling up – and I didn’t know how to react to it. Maybe at our fifteen year reunion I will actually be as mature and secure as I like to imagine I am.

Results: Class Reunion Scavenger Hunt

Found:
  • Lives with parents
  • Never left ________, WI (same as lives w/ parents)
  • Received PhD
  • Lived abroad for more than a semester
  • DUI
  • Spent time in prison (OK, not present because in prison at time)
  • Born Again
  • Same hairstyle as high school
  • Loss of >20 lbs
  • Married another classmate

Not Available:

  • Divorced twice
  • Parented children with different mothers/fathers
  • Took the Twelve-step walk

The above categories that I arguably could fit into (none are a perfect fit):

  • PhD (I have a juris doctor -- some people consider this a doctorate degree, but I don't .)
  • Spent time in prison (I often interview witnesses in jails or prisons.......)
  • Same Hairstyle (long, straight, blunt-cut, however my bangs are grown out now.)
  • Loss of >20 lbs (I actually don't know the exact poundage lost, but is around 20lbs).

More on class reunion later......

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Class Reunion Bingo

This Saturday is my ten-year class reunion – and I getting pretty excited/nervous about it.

When contemplating class reunion a few years ago, my friends and I came up with the idea of Class Reunion Bingo (although it actually is part scavenger hunt). It involved creating bingo cards with different activities on each square. The goal was to match people with the activity to complete squares according to the rules of bingo. Now that class reunion is fast approaching my friends have decided that this idea is ‘mean.’ I still think it is funny, and I am going to treat it like a scavenger hunt and see how many categories I can discover among my former classmates.

Here are the categories I am going to seek out:

• Lives with parents,
• Never left _________, WI
• Received PhD
• Resides in trailer
• Lived abroad for more than a semester
• DUI
• Divorced twice
• Spent time in prison
• Born Again
• Same hairstyle as high school
• Gain or loss of >20 lbs
• Parented children with different mothers/fathers
• Married another classmate
• Took the Twelve-step walk

Any other suggestions for this search?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Poser.

When I was in high school our economics class took a field trip to Chicago to visit the stock exchange. Our high school teacher dressed himself in suit, carried a briefcase and walked at least twenty feet ahead of his students, completely ignoring us and trying to disassociate himself from us. He obviously was living out his fantasy of working on the trading floor instead of just being a visitor. You could tell that he wanted to shed his regular persona and pretend that he too was making million-dollar deals and working in this prestigious environment with high-stress and high stakes instead of a high school. At the time I didn’t wonder that he was regretting choices not taken or experiencing a crisis of some sort: I just saw a pathetic man, lacking the courage to run from his unhappy life, and as a poor substitute, running from his students in a sad attempt to pretend for a few hours that he was a stock broker.

On Monday I rode the Mint Julep, my fixie, into work for the first time since I hurt my knee in September. It felt great to ride her again and my knee feels almost as good as new. Yippee! However my glee quickly died when our reflection in a window revealed the following details:

Sweet fixed gear bike w/ streamers (sweet in my opinion, at least),
Messenger bag,
Skater style helmet,
Arm warmers (brrr....must. tape. bars--raw metal is cold in freezing temps!)
Cropped pants,
Striped knee socks

I look like the wannabe love child of an indie rocker and a bike messenger.

Fuck – I am a Poser.

History reveals that the changes have been small but steady since April........

First my beloved hybrid, The Tank got stolen and replaced with the Bianchi and I was introduced to both road bikes and clipless riding. Then I signed up for a workshop to convert a bike into a fixie and the Julep was born.

The Julep doesn’t have a rack, so I began using backpacks and satchels instead of my sensible paniers. A few weeks ago there was a sale on messenger bags and I finally took the plunge.

The helmet was offered by my bro, when I mentioned that it was the time of year to sew my super-great, but super-dorky, fleece earflaps back onto my helmet. He offered me his too-small rock-climbing helmet, that looks like a skateboarder helmet except is has built-in earflaps. I have since received gads of compliments on it, to the point that I feel like I am committing fraud by wearing it without some sort of message disclaiming my unworthiness.

The socks as arm warmers aren’t new, nor are the cropped pants or striped socks. I wore them when it got too cold for riding bare-limbed last year, too.

The combination of all of these incremental changes is startling. Instead of looking like a clueless dork – I look perilously similar to those whom often exude a cooler-than-though attitude. My boring hairstyle is all that saves me from being a total fraud.

Despite my fake messenger/hipser appearance, my riding style is anything but messenger-ish. I stop for red lights and then wait for the green with a foot firmly on the ground because I am too chicken to even attempt a track stand. Skid stops – Ha! --I don’t foresee ever riding without a front brake. I signal before changing lanes in traffic and wait my turn at all-way stops. Sure, I curse at misbehaving cars or men who yell sexual stuff at me, but the only time I responded physically, I hurt my hand. All signs point to ‘Dork’ as the most accurate description of my riding style.

Now the question becomes, ‘what to do?’ Do I continue to perpetrate this fraud? Should I put paniers on the Julep? Create a disclaimer on the helmet, "Warning: the wearer of this helmet is less cool than she appears?" Start wearing more lawyer-garb to destroy the whole illusion? Get my ass back on a squishy dork hybrid seat where it belongs? Do nothing and wait for someone to call me out?

I don’t want to be a poser like my high school econ. teacher.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ethics, Locks and Lawyers

I was cleaning out my email inbox when I found this essay I wrote to myself in summer. I don't remember what prompted it, but I decided to post it instead of delete it, even though it meanders to its point:

There are many constraints under which humans operate. Ethics are only one of them–but they permeate our lives.

We have pure physical constraints–I cannot fly like a bird or run 60mph because gravity and physics will not let me.

Legal constraints prohibit people from burning tires in parks or stealing from each other. Legal constraints are enforced by the state’s ability to punish those who do not respect the law. Even though the likelihood of detection and prosecution is low, the threat and fear of criminal punishment is a strong deterrent.

Social restraints deter people from flirting with the edges of legal behavior. There are many, many, many ‘anti-social’ activities that people could legally engage in, but are unpleasant to others. Social restraints are often much more of deterrent than the actual law. There are no laws which require people to wait in turn at grocery stores, yet people overwhelmingly stand in line to conform with the social expectations of the situation.

Finally, there are ethics. Ethics are not the law. Nor are ethics enforced by society. Ethics are derived from a person’s sense of right and wrong. Many people obtain their ethical code from their religion. But while ethics and religion may overlap, ethics and religion are not be the same. There are unscrupulous religious people and saintly atheists.

Many people have trouble understanding the concept of ethics. They confuse ethical behavior with legal behavior and this leads to messy thinking.

Consider this: you are walking in a secluded area and see a person whom you can easily physically overpower. Maybe the person is very old, or young or small or weak. There is something that the person has that could benefit you or bring you pleasure. Maybe an expensive watch or diamond ring; their sexuality; or maybe just the experience of hearing bones crack. Whatever the benefit is, you understand that you have the ability to take it. Let us also assume that the seclusion guarantees your privacy and will cover whatever action you take. The chance of getting caught hovers near zero, especially if you end the other person’s life.

Does this sound tempting? Hopefully not. This is where ethics come in. Sure, robbing, raping, beating and killing a person are illegal–but the example negates those concerns. Also, the seclusion nulls the scorn from society. The laws of physics and gravity will work in your favor. I expect that it wouldn’t even cross most people’s minds to strike out violently at another human being simply because they are weaker and you feel no fear of retribution. The thought is abhorrent. I expect/hope that most people would be disturbed if an inclination for this sort of violence even crossed their minds.

This means that our system of ethics is working to at least some degree. We have determined that other people’s lives have value and deserve respect. Not because the law requires it, but because we have internalized this concept and are bound by it. This is an extreme example, but certainly there are many smaller examples in our daily lives whereby we might be able to ‘get away’ with certain behavior, but don’t consider it because it goes against our ethics. Fear of life in prison does not deter me from murdering my neighbors–it is respect for their lives.

There are some areas where the law is actually more strict than societal expectations. We find that these laws are broken with abandon. The easiest examples come from driving: speeding, unnecessary honking, lack of signaling and improper parking are all against our laws–but accepted by society. This causes these activities to be engaged in frequently. Smoking is an example of shifting social expectations as it becomes less and less acceptable (although still legal). Drunk driving is an issue that encompasses law, social constraints and ethics. Some people are most deterred by the legal ramifications, others do not drive drunk because of peer pressure, while still other people will not drive drunk because they consider it threatening to others.

Technology, and the internet in particular, have created situations where average people now have available a huge range of activities that are legal, but not necessarily ethical, at their fingertips. Since they can engage in these activities anonymously, the social restraints also fall away. The results of this intersection are not very pretty and have wrecked havoc on privacy and honesty. Apparently many people’s ethics are not as high as I hope they would be.

Privacy. For many years there have been public records of various transactions and situations. It was possible to go to the Clerk’s office to discover how much your neighbors paid for their homes along with their criminal background. This however took time, energy, money and the risk of social stigma, because few people want to be the ‘nosey neighbor.’ Now this same snooping has become easy, free and anonymous. To engage or not engage? I personally think it is a violation of privacy–not an illegal violation, but a violation indeed. Learning things about your friends, neighbors and co-workers that they choose not to disclose to you and is None of Your Damn Business is a violation. I consider this equal to finding a friend’s diary and reading it.

The flip side of delving into friend’s public records for private information is publishing other’s information. We bloggers should take care with this, in both words and photos. Certainly the freedom of speech is an invaluable right. However, discretion, tact and fairness need not be discarded simply in an effort to push the bounds of this right. Speech is not a finite resource–there is no prize for using this right to its extreme. People are free to insult every person whom the walk by on the street–but most of do not because of ethics and social constraints. People have also been free to take unflattering pictures and publish them in newspapers. However, once again that would be creepy and cost money. But the internet removes these barriers and people jumped at it. In my opinion though, It Is Still Creepy and Inappropriate. Just because it is legal and easy, doesn’t mean it is right.

My parents and I had this conversation last year. They were screening potential tenants and part of this process involved them researching court records. One applicant had a long criminal rap sheet, and my parents almost immediately removed her from the pool. However, they continued to read the various charges against her and the jail time and fines she served. I thought this was inappropriate, because their purpose for researching her had already been filled. Now it was only curiosity that drove them. I implored them to stop but they argued that it was legal. I accepted that it was legal, but I still didn’t think it was right. My mother’s only reply was that it was legal. She couldn’t understand the distinction between ethics and law.

Unfortunately, I don’t think she is alone. Loopholes in laws are sought out to evade the purpose of the laws. A lot of people also seem to think that so long as you don’t get caught, you haven’t done anything wrong.

Honesty also is a huge problem on the internet. How many people shamelessly lie and possibly hurt others for their own amusement? Obviously this is not illegal, but it concerns me that it is so accepted. How does this affect people’s regular life? Can a person be upstanding and honest in their personal, face-to-face life, but then lie easily and often to people on-line? What about the results of their lies? I engaged in on-line dating for a brief period of time about two years ago. Some of the men I met were appalling in their deceit–nothing unusual, just the standard outdated, 20lbs lighter picture along with extremely flattering descriptions of themselves that even their mothers would not believe. Another man I know has had similar experiences with women. Apparently it is par for the course. When did lying become acceptable?

Besides a personal code of ethics, many people often take oaths of ethics as part of their profession. I am under an ethical duty to my clients and to the courts. I take it seriously. However, it really doesn’t seem burdensome to me, because most of it is second nature (once the idea of a fiduciary is firmly grasped). To others it is a hurdle to wiggle around and gnash their teeth at. How very bizarre.

The free market is a very strange place, because it has all but abandoned ethics. Aside from the occassional boycott or successful lawsuit with punitive damages, companies are bound only by the rule of law–laws it both tries exhaustingly to maneuver around and lobbies to draft to its benefit. There are interesting cases where corporations were sued for not being as ruthless as possible and for donating money to charity. The rationale was that the corporation’s function is to make a profit–anything else is unnecessary or improper.

This never-ending search for profits is disgusting. Look at the way our huge multi-national corporations behave in developing nations: sweatshops, child labor and environmental degradation are rampant. Their actions in nations where protective laws are weak displays the amount of respect they have for human life, human health, human dignity and the environment. Corporations are the model of how an unethical entity, constrained only by laws, behaves. It isn’t pretty.

Does this reveal the true nature of humans? Do we really prefer to live in a dog-eat-dog world? Are we just as likely to spit at each other as we are to share our resources? Does our inclination towards war and violence not only depict our history, but also cast our future? Am I simply soft, one of those to be treaded upon, instead of one of the ‘winners’ because I don’t condone this behavior? Are ethics the refuge, the justification and the crutch of the weak–or do they have a legitimate place in humanity?

I understand that talking about ethics to a strict Darwinian is about as effective as a Christian trying to persuade me with bible quotes. I feel like I am forced to resort back to my law school discourse when I make the case for ethics in general by framing it in terms of efficiency. Yes, efficiency is the direction that the invisible hand purportedly points. Efficiency, the alter upon which economic theory bows down. Efficiency, that cold, hard goal that shows no mercy and knows no sympathy. Efficiency is the only mode of discourse available when debating with a free market freak.

So here goes: Rampant, unchecked capitalism which plays upon the fields of free markets is not, and cannot be efficient. Traditional Ethics are necessary for true efficiency.

Valuable resources such as raw materials, time, effort, money and most importantly, opportunity costs are sacrificed when there are no regulations to dictate the terms of play and no ethics that bind entities to those terms.

Think of all of the things in our lives and all of the time we spend simply dividing up goods and then guarding our spoils. I lock my bike every day to prevent assholes from stealing it. I also lock my home. I have a home to keep my stuff. I have passwords to protect my digital world and bank accounts. My office is locked. Almost all of my work is spent fiercely protecting the assets of individuals or companies from other individuals or companies who want what they have.

All of these protections are reasonable once we have accepted the dog-eat-dog framework of assumptions and behaviors. We explicitly condone and promote this behavior. We are not taught mercy or empathy, but instead to be ruthless and grab for the brass ring. When this fierce winner take all behavior is displayed, it confirms our theory that competition is natural. Once we have decided it is natural, we illogically decide that it is also good. Competition extended to its natural conclusion is domination, homicide and on a grander scale–war. This Hobsian explanation of the world is only a theory–not an absolute and certainly shouldn't be accepted meekly as inevitable.

Imagine another paradigm whereby competition is not exhalted, but instead compassion and sharing were the real virtues of society. Not lip-service to the idea of compassion as virtue, but a structure where the goals are kindness and understanding. Would behavior be different or would people simply compete covertly to be adjudged the most compassionate and kind. Would cut-throat competition even be possible in this paradigm, or would it simply mutate into a different form? This concept is so startlingly different that I can't even begin to wrap my mind around it.

I don't know what a non-competitive society would look or act like, much less how its individual would think. However, I don't accept as fact that the hyper competitive world both observed and promoted by free-market idolizers is absolute. Haven't we seen that of all of its functions, the free market is best at concentrating wealth and causing those at the losing end to scramble harder for their ever-shrinking piece of the pie?

Yet this is considered efficient and good. More and more money and time is wasted slicing and splicing our resources. A considerable percentage of society's smart individuals will never endevor to produce anything. We instead become lawyers and MBA's. Though our crafts are different in technique, for the most part we work to hoard, divide, protect and realocate resources. So much energy is spent playing these high-powered zero sum games that it is mind-boggling to think that this system which supports such a massive army of parasitic managers is considered to promote efficiency.

Necessary does not mean efficient. This culture that is so dependant on locks and lawyers would be improved by reappraising its ethical code. Or maybe defining efficienty to prohibit this wasteful squandering of resources would also help. Whatever the solution, I see an inherent problem with endorsing a free market that purports to increase efficiency while at the same time creating evermore demand for locks and lawyers. I also suspect that such a system is supported by a code of ethics that is rotten at the core or absent altogether.

Commuting Adventures/ Biking Double Standards/Brrr

Last Monday morning I was buzzed by a man driving a red mini-cooper. This was on the ‘under the El’ stretch on Wells St., which means that the El supports don’t leave much room to maneuver on the right. He buzzed me to get to a red light, so I pulled up alongside him and told him that he passed me too close and should be more cautious. His excuse was that he "stayed in his lane and didn’t cross into the other lane while passing me."

Ummm.....That Is Exactly What Was Wrong!!

His failure to leave his lane was what caused us to be cozy as he passed me. Yet somehow he believed that this actually justified his behavior. Dumbass – passing vehicles almost always requires entering another lane of traffic. Our conversation was civil, but he couldn’t understand what he did that was wrong – then he rolled the window back up while I was trying to explain further. Grrr.

Tuesday morning I left Paul’s place with just enough time to get to work. My first pedal strokes revealed a problem and when I stopped to look at my rear wheel, it was confirmed – a flat tire. I went back up the stairs and we started changing the flat. I found a tack in my tire in the same position where the tube was leaking. We patched the flat, and heard a hissing sound near the patch – apparently the tack punctured it twice, so we patched that spot, too.

Somehow the removal of the wheel caused my fender to get out of whack, so that required adjusting too. I had already called into work with the flat, so I wasn’t in a super-great hurry. I ended up arriving just less than an hour late for work. My boss wasn’t in the office yet, so No Harm, No Foul. Still it wasn’t an ideal way to start the morning.

Thankfully none of the people who like to give me shit about biking were in the office today. It’s weird, but on the very few occasions when I have bike maintenance problems that cause me to be late, the bike as transportation is blamed (blamed in a somewhat kidding, somewhat serious manner). Yet when a partner is late because he is caught in bad commuting car traffic, nobody blinks. Same thing for car flat tires, winter battery failure or other mechanical problems–they are just considered a normal part of life. When people are late because their train was late, again no one says a word. Yet when I get held up for some biking reason, several people have to make comments about the inherent ‘problems of biking’.

I know that this is mostly just said to rile me, but I know that it holds more than a kernel of truth for most people. I’m not late because ‘shit happens’ but instead because I choose to bike to work. Likewise, when I was sick last winter, people blamed it on me biking in the cold. Everyone else’s illnesses are blameless, but I somehow bore responsibility for mine. Same thing for the cold -- if I am cold and pink-cheeked upon arrival to work, it is because I biked in, but other people are cold....because the weather is cold.

Since my office is weird in other aspects, I’d like to believe that this is just another manifestation, but I fear that other bikers get this weird double standard, too.

Speaking of cold -- I was completely unprepared for the deep freeze we experienced last week. I didn't know that it was going to get so cold, and I didn't realize how cold it was. I assumed that I was just being wimpy for feeling so cold, guessing that the weather was really around freezing, even though I felt colder as I biked to/from work in a thin shirt. My exposed forearms, ankles and neck/face felt as though they were freezing off, and I was embarrassed for losing my resistance for cold over the summer. When I got to work and weather.com informed me that the temperature was actually in the teens, I was vindicated. No wonder I was so cold and the security guard gave me such weird looks.

Now instead of feeling wimpy about the weather I feel once again that my second BikeWinter will go as smoothly as my first. The BikeWinter Calendar is awesome and provides lots of fun activities in the cold months. Looking at the BikeWinter homepage reveals that an important cold-weather biking city is missing.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Roomie Weekend

This weekend was all about my roommate's organized events.

Friday night he organized a Pub Crawl in our 'hood, Chicago's Ukranian Village. This was super fun. I ate varenky (saurkraut filled dumplings w/ mushroom gravy) and borsht at the first place -- it was pretty good, but not the type of food that I want to eat regularly. On we marched and met up with my friend Isaac at Ola's, a bar/liquor store. It was a good time and I got to visit a lot of neighborhood bars for the first time.

There were lots of people and we tapped out the kegs at more than one establishment. Lots of these places were old-time hole in the walls where English was not the primary language spoken. We probably tripled (or more) their receipts for the night in the hour we spent at each place. Good stuff.

Saturday Paul and I spent collecting ingredients for and cooking dinner for my roommate and our friends Anne and Grant. John and Grant had a gig at the Hideout for their band, Illinois First. This was absolutely fun -- lots of dancing to the silly-but-accurate songs about Illinois history. For the second night in a row, I went to sleep smelling of smoke.

The Hbar has spoiled me from smoky bars. Chicago is considering passing a smoking ban for its bars/restaurants. Even though this could cut into the Hbar's business, I woul totally love for that to actually happen. There are gads of public-safety requirements (health code/fire code/liquor-licensing....) that the Hbar and other bars/restaurants have to conform to -- I don't understand why the debate over smoking pits this issue as if it though were an unprecidented infringement on the choice of business owners.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pussy

This topic has been festering in my mind recently and Jim’s post spurred me to write about the meaning of many gendered phrases that people, including myself, toss about commonly. We insult people by calling them 'pussies' 'sissies' or otherwise labeling them as female.

I have worked in several physically demanding jobs (all male, except for me) in which workers who were slacking off or whining about the challenges of the job were called ‘Nancy’ or ‘Sally.’ At first I didn’t understand these labels and assumed that they were in reference to specific people named N or S. Nope – it was explained to me that the men were being chided for acting like a girl. My scowl must have reminded the men that they were in fact talking to a girl, and immediately they muttered something along the lines of ‘present company excluded.’

This language is peculiar and insulting to women. It directly correlates women with being weak, cowardly and pathetic. The behavior expected of someone ‘being a man’ in a situation is opposed to the behavior we expect of a ‘sissy’. Besides the generic comments about ‘throwing like a girl’ ‘crying like a girl’ also pay attention to the language that we use especially relating to genitals:

Having or using ‘balls’ ‘nads’ or ‘testicals’ implies taking risk and courage.

Being a ‘pussy’ means the exact opposite.

Funny. Imagine both a man and women are struck in their groins – which of them is likely to fall to the ground, whimper in pain while clutching the crotch? I suspect that the man is going to cradle and coddle his balls while the woman grimaces. She reserves her wailing for when she gives birth – that activity when a pussy delivers a new child into the world. I have neither balls nor children, but it seems like the connotations of the gendered terms should be reversed, because one involves succumbing to the slightest contact and the other involves triumph over an extended, painful experience.

Also, I understand that the terms of ‘prick’ ‘dick’ and ‘cock’ are not very flattering. They don’t however denote weakness, but instead selfishness, thoughtlessness or aggression.

I don’t really know how ‘cunt’ or ‘bitch’ work in this line-up. They certainly aren’t positive. ‘Cunt’ is generally only applied to women. The meaning of ‘bitch’ has changed in the last few years. It, along with ‘cunt’ had an aura of aggression to them. However, now ‘bitch’ can be used to denote submissiveness, by ‘being someone’s bitch’. ‘Bitch’ seems to be the contradicting label for both submissive and aggressive negative behavior.

Recently I have started to cringe when I hear myself mocking someone else with the term 'pussy' or 'sissy.' I dont' want to perpetuate this language but it seems built into my vocabulary. It is certainly interesting to ponder these different terms, though.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Minneapolis Weekend

I’m breaking the weekend down into topics so as to not bore people too much:

The Bikey-Drinkey Outing

Bathrooms

Spencer

Midwest-Mountaineering

Amtrak-Chicago-to-Minneapolis

Amtrak-Minneapolis-to-Chicago

The weekend was totally fun! It was nice to meet the people I read about all of the time.

Thanks again to my bro for getting Spencer, picking/dropping me off at the Amtrak station & giving me a futon to crash on.

Thanks again to Gilby for loaning me Spencer!

I have a spare room in Chicago and a meal at the Hbar for y'all to use.

Bathrooms

I had two weird bathroom experiences in Minneapolis.

The first was at Psycho Suzie. The birthday boy and a woman from his table were having some sort of ‘deep’ drunken conversation in the women’s bathroom. The dude was so out of it that he wondered outloud several times why ‘women kept barging in on them.’ Survey says – because you are in the women’s bathroom, dumbass. The toilet in the first stall was completely full and ready to overflow. The second stall had vomit on the floor. I didn’t use PS bathroom again.

I immediately went to relieve my bladder upon arriving at Grunions. [During dinner I consumed enough water that my bro had to comment. I like water.] An older, drunk woman came in loudly proclaimed something like, ‘what’s up with all of the fake people!’ I was the only other person, and I took a few steps away from her drunk ass. She then exclaimed, ‘Get outta here!’ as if I just told her something both amazing and amusing. I hastily left and dried my hands on my pants.

The bathroom at my bro’s place was quite boring in comparison – but it was cleaner and had a shower.

The Bikey-Drinkey Outing

As you all know, Sascha didn’t wear underpants.

We arranged for several of us to meet at Park and the Greenway. Me and the Bro were running late – first because he was adding a fender to his mtn bike, and then right when we were almost out the door, I realized I didn’t have my ID. I tore through my belongings and couldn’t find it. I was fearful that I left it at Midwest Mountaineering while I tried on clothes. This could cause huge problems getting back to Chicago. Finally, I found it and off we went.

I was roasting in my rain pants, rain coat and new snowboarding helmet. When we met with Sascha, Scott and Andy I stripped out of my rain gear. A block later it lightening, then it thundered, rain started falling and then it fell heavier. I pulled over under a large overhang to reapply the raingear. This is how raingear works – taking it off is irresistible to the RainGods and they are forced to deliver a downpour.

While I put the raingear back on, Sascha remembered that we were supposed to wait forAnnie and Nate at the Greenway. She immediately called them to inform them what a bad friend she was and where we were. It was pouring pretty bad, but Annie and Nate set off to meet us while we stayed cozy and dry under the overhang. Annie was on a clunky hybrid and we all set off into the rain for Psycho Suzie. She was funny to watch as she frantically pedaled and seemed to attempt to get into the imaginary drops of her hybrid.

At first the bouncers told us that there wasn’t room for us. This was incredible since it wasn’t even 8:30. We decided to go somewhere else and sent someone in for Gilby. Then other patrons left and we got tables amidst mass confusion. Sascha switched from the status of ‘Worst Friend Ever’ to ‘Great Friend’ when she picked up the first round of drinks. Nate ordered the Flaming Volcano after he received assurances from the rest of this lightweight group that we’d help him drink it. One of my bro’s friends, Landon, showed up, too.

We were seated in booths, which meant that mingling wasn’t very easy. My bro and I sat with Gilby and Andy. It was nice to speak with Gilby because I met her when she stayed at my place in Chicago, but I felt bad that I wasn’t chatting w/ Sascha and Annie. Too bad Gilby isn’t coming to Chicago as forecast. Conversation veered from the sexual habits of Furries to Body Sushi. Gilby thinks body sushi would be improved if instead of an attractive young woman as a platter, she was presented with a rotund, hairy man. My bro didn’t think he would be able to resist dipping his chopstick into the platter’s belly button. Tickling the platter, or making the platter sneeze with black pepper were options for body sushi trouble-making. Gilby was concerned about platter molestation.

Then two tables eventually opened up so we could interact as a single group. The Volcano was becoming depleted and its fire was burnt out. When our last glasses were drained, we decided to move.

We biked to Grunions to have some more booze, ignoring Landon’s attempt to take us on a route that would get us dirty (?). We were told that the bar was a small, hole-in-the-wall place, but it was pretty big and contained lots of people. I think we were the only helmeted people in the joint. I don’t know if it was the physical set-up, or the creeping intoxication, but we mingled more at this joint, and conversation seemed easy and natural.

Good Times.

Spencer.

Gilby lended me Spencer to ride on my trip. He is an orange fixed gear Bianchi Brava with a beautiful Brooks saddle. Thank you so much for letting me borrow your baby!

Now about that saddle – it is completely not meant for my tender flesh. I rode probably between only 20-25 miles on that bike – and felt every mile. My crotch was still sore and slightly raw on Monday from riding on Saturday. This experience makes me wonder whether it is Gilby or me who is defective. It seems crazy that we could both have anatomy within the ‘normal’ spectrum, but this saddle is perfect for one of us and so wrong for the other.

I’m not sure whether this was good or bad luck, but I think the alcohol in my blood prevented me from feeling the damage this saddle caused me on the trip back from the bars.

Saddle aside – Spencer is a very nice bike. He rides smoothly and made me miss the Julep. He is geared lower than the Julep and didn’t hurt my knee at all (or the discomfort in my crotch/sitbones camouflaged any knee pain). I think I’ll try taking the Julep for a spin sometime this week.

Thanks again for the bike!

Midwest Mountaineering

My bro and I went shopping. This is embarrassing since neither of us shop very often. The outdoor store had an expo that we went to check out. I ended up buying a fancy, under-priced rain jacket and three pairs of travel pants. Then we went into the basement to check out the cave climbing/bouldering indoor rock climbing.

My hand still hurt from punching a cab earlier in the week, and I could barely do any climbing. To be honest though, I don’t think I would have been able to do much anyway. The point of the room was basically to climb across the ceiling, upside-down and horizontal. We weren’t roped in and the floor was heavily padded. I am not a monkey – I am cowardly and the whole concept just seems....wrong. When I did my most impressive climb, and relied on my injured hand it didn’t feel good at all and was sort of pink and puffy afterwards. So I stopped at that point.

The best climbers were a group of pre-teen, early-teen boys. Several were completely fearless and monkey-like. I think/hope that they had tried this before. The bro is ripped, so whenever he climbed around his muscles bulged. My guess is that he might be too bulky/heavy for this sport, since most of the people I see doing it well are muscular, of course, but with considerably leaner muscles than he has.

It rained as we rode home, so I tried out my new raincoat and stayed dry. We didn’t do dodge ball because of the rain and the huge amount of time we spent at the store.

Amtrak: Minneapolis to Chicago

The train was late on the return trip and didn’t actually arrive in Minneapolis until over an hour after I got to the station. Boo – that hour would have been much better spent hanging with the bro, sleeping or showering. I did get to hear an old woman waiting for her son to arrive on leave from the military to grip about 1). The utilitarian nature of the station/trains compared to their luxurious past glory; 2.) The high cost of tickets, and; 3.) The government subsidization of Amtrak. Hmmmmm....... Seems to me that she has some inconsistencies because somehow she wants passengers to pay less to travel in more luxury while also removing the government funding. Certainly more efficient management could free up some funds, but her expectations seemed quite unrealistic.

Finally we boarded and I headed straight to the observation car to nest again. Both customers and crew were bitching about the hellion boys who kept everyone awake the night before. Apparently their mother couldn’t/wouldn’t control them and they didn’t listen to the crew. According to the stories, they were running up and down the aisles fighting and yelling all night long. The boys had just fallen asleep and many of the adult passengers suggested that they band together to be loud and obnoxious and prevent the boys from sleeping in retaliation.

The crew didn’t know what to do. My thoughts were this: Approach the mother and tell her that the next time her boys are seen breaking rules by a crew member, or the crew receives another complaint, then they will be discharged at the next station – and then follow through. I can’t even begin to imagine how much it would suck to get kicked off the train in Winona and have to find an alternate way to Chicago. I saw the kids – they were all around pre-teen age – certainly old enough to understand this threat and also old enough to know better. For all I know the crew maybe did give this family the smack-down, because I barely saw/heard them.

The other kids on the train were basically well-behaved. I hate ill-behaved brats and their parents, but I do recognize that most children behave reasonably well. One child was approximately two years old and she behaved perfectly every time I saw her. A few times when she started to get excited and begin speaking even slightly loudly her mother calmly reminded her to speak quietly – and she did without a fuss. She is at least one example of a very young child being able to learn to behave. I think it can be done, but parents have to instill discipline and expectations early. I remember many occasions when I was bored out in public with my mom, or with guests and simply sat their daydreaming. I don’t however remember running around squealing, nor do I remember my parents ever pleading or yelling at me. I knew what was expected and did it. Why is it so hard for so many parents today to convey this to their kids?

Two women complained for over two hours about needing a cigarette. They couldn’t stop talking about it. Then they complained about how their family and friends wanted them to quit and how they were sick of hearing about it. Randomly, they both mentioned that their most successful attempt to quit was ruined by a driving – one woman took a long road trip and resumed smoking, and another started smoking when she accepted a new job that required commuting by car. The stress of driving was what each woman said triggered her renewed smoking. Hmmm..... I thought driving = freedom/excitement/fun. The stressful nature of driving rarely gets mentioned.

Once in Chicago, I found my bike safe and sound at the rack in front of the station. Most people seemed concerned about leaving a bike there overnight, but mine has never been messed with.

Amtrak: Chicago to Minneapolis

My love affair with Amtrak might be over. I still often act like I am a poor college student, but I need to comprehend that actually, I have a lot more money than time. Flying to Minneapolis probably would make more sense in the future. OR, getting my laptop running again would have allowed me to do work, play games or write stuff during my 16 hours of Amtrak. Considering that I was at the office from 5:00 - 10:00PM on Sunday doing work – I really could have been productive on the train. Instead, I didn’t even have a book to read on the trip to Minneapolis. Stupid. Stupid.

One of the ticket collectors/train attendants made me fearful that the trip was going to be horrible. First, she called all children ‘angel face’ and spoke loudly in a syrupy-sweet voice. "Oh, there’s another angel face, you certainly are a pretty angel face, your mommy must love you angel face.........ad nauseam." Puke. Plus, when I saw some of these angel faces, I really couldn’t agree. Most of them were fat and actually on the ugly end of the kid spectrum.

Finally she left the family car and started collecting our tickets. When she saw younger people she assumed they were in college and announced loudly, "College girl. Single." Very bizarre and irritating – especially considering that male attention often comes unwanted on the trains. I glared at her and she didn’t try to engage me in conversation or announce anything. Likewise a woman behind me pre-emptively said in a caustic voice, "I am neither single nor in college." To which the ticket-taker offered encouragement "it’s never to late to go to school and get your degree, honey." The woman replied in a withering voice that she already had her degree. The attendant didn’t get the hint and continued her pronouncements of "Single" and "college boys" through the rest of the car.

At last I was able to leave my car to head for the observation lounge, where I spend most of my train trips. There I had to deal with the drunks. White trash people making it their purpose to get as drunk as quickly as possible. They were loud, brash, dumb and drunk.

Amtrak got rid of its smoking car since my last long train ride. This was mostly great, because normally the horrible stench from that room permeates the surrounding cars. Plus a lot of bad parents hide from their bratty kids in the smoking car for most of the trip. Apparently Mr. Super-drunk, white trash, t-shirt w/sleeves torn off didn’t find the absence of a smoking car appealing. He tried sneaking off at every stop to smoke and then bragged about this victory to people surrounding him who didn’t care.

To my delight, the conductor of the train was fantastically sarcastic. He announced over the public address that their was to be no smoking, except for the designated stops in Winona and Minneapolis. He continued by scolding that Winona was Not Wisconsin Dells, Not La Crosse, Not Tomah (even if they rhyme)......... Then he mentioned that we were behind schedule and the smokers were sabotaging his attempt to catch up and reach the stations when the passengers expected. I wanted to hug the sarcastic conductor.

I watched the sunset and then tried napping when it got dark. Then "March of the Penguins" played on the TV. Holy shit! I knew that people liked this movie, but I didn’t know anymore than that it was about penguins. It is a documentary about the crazy breeding rituals of the Empire Penguins. They withstand starvation, boredom and really friggin’ cold weather to incubate their eggs & protect their chicks. Other people see this movie as a sign of the dedication and love of parents for their offspring. I saw it as an example of the craziness and unacceptable sacrifice that comes with kids. Knowing what the process entails, if I were one of those penguins I’d abandon my egg to freeze on the ice. Given how clumsy I am, it probably would happen naturally. I couldn’t help thinking how much a few layers of pink styrofoam insulation on top of the ice would help those birds out.

Anyway, I napped some more, listened to the chorus of snores snuffling out of my fellow passengers and then finally arrived in Minneapolis. The train was early, my brother was late so I had to wait about a half hour at the station.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Minneapolis Weekend

From the Windy City to the Land of Lakes in less than 48 hours. Ready or not, here I come Minneapolis!

I’ll be in Minneapolis this Friday night and Saturday. The word is out and I might get to meet some more of the cool Minneapolis bikey people on Saturday night. I’m letting my Big Bro take care of the where/when details, but feel free to join us. Sascha seems to imply that drinking my lightweight self under the table will somehow be a challenge – sure, if you are twelve year old diabetic. Otherwise, it only proves that you aren’t allergic to alcohol.

The possible itiniery for the short weekend includes:
Cave bouldering,
Bike riding (Gilby offered me a bike to ride),
Dodgeball,
Cooking, and
Drinking.

My train leaves early Sunday morning. Unconscious or not, I need to be on it. Those who plan to drink me under the table best be prepared to haul my ass onto the train – if need be, I’ll pin my ticket to my shirt.

What a Morning

Luckily I showered last night before going to bed because I knew I had to get to work early this morning. I had the strong urge to try another bottle of the hard cider that Paul and I brewed – so I granted myself the luxury of drinking booze in the shower. Truly this is one of the small delights of life – especially after virtuously doing my laundry and cleaning my bike chain earlier in the evening. My hair was clean, I was warm, wrapped in my cozy robe and slightly buzzed as I wandered into bed.

It was crazy windy on the way to work. The wind was often at my back, but there were weird wind tunnels and intersections where a cross wind swept in to try to tip my bike over. Fun stuff.

The wind-circle intersections are truly crazy to ride through – you have to lean strongly against the wind in one direction, only to ride immediately into another stretch where the wind changed and now you find yourself leaning with the wind and having to quickly lean the other direction or else wipe out. Chicago’s wind tunnels/circles are something I have never experienced this strongly before in other cities. There are many times when an incredibly strong blast of wind ambushes riders after picking up speed in the alley or sidestreet networks. Damn near knocks me on my ass – and suddenly I find myself two feet from the path I remember. Plus there are the roaming gangs of newspapers and plastic bags waiting to get caught in my chain or spokes. Fixies Beware!!

I may have broken a bone in my hand. On the Wells St. Bridge, there was a cab blocking the bike lane. Bikes petitioned the city for coverings over the open grate bridges and Wells St has the proto-type. Cars often drive with their two right wheels just on this covering because apparently they like the extra stability, too. Fine. However, this cab was completely in the lane and not leaving enough room for my bike to fit by. This is completely rude, totally unnecessary and indicative of a jackass cab driver. I pounded my fist unto the trunk of his car, causing him and the passenger to startle and look back at me as I yelled, "get out of the bike lane." I wiggled around them and raced the remaining two blocks to work and realized that my hand really hurt. It still hurts and feels funny. My pinky finger is thankfully completely bendable and mobile – but it protests when I move it and there is a puffy, pinkness to the side of my hand. Yes, I’m a dumbass.

Anyway, I had to get to work early this morning to interview Mr. Serial Rapist. My boss left halfway through the interview, so I got to finish it myself. When he returned to the office he quipped to another attorney that he left me alone with a serial rapist. Boss Humor.

I got a referral from CBF for a biker looking for an attorney to represent him after he was hit by a car. Bringing in more clients certainly isn’t a bad thing.

Amazon.com delivered me a 12-quart All-Clad stockpot/steamer/pasta pot and three silicone baking sheets/pans. Life is good.

Best of all – I got to bundle up the file of my most-hated client. Our motion to withdraw from representing this cuntrag was recently granted. She was the biggest pain in my ass of all of my files and I am ecstatic that we dropped her.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Email MeltDown

Oh. My. God.

My yahoo email account hasn’t worked all day. I am obsessed with continuing to futilely access the account. Worse is that on my Yahoo homepage, I can see that I now have twenty-three unread messages. It was seven this morning.

I cannot help but wonder who those additional messages are from......
Is it Big Bro providing me with super-fun Minneapolis options? Is it Frick sending me his flight schedule for Thanksgiving weekend – OR – maybe Amsterdam ideas...... Could it be another discussion amongst the Hbar owners regarding the NYE party...or the Hbar remodeling...or the new menu...or.....? Or maybe these messages are invites from friends to hang out tonight. Maybe people are changing plans. Maybe my bank has noticed suspicious activity. Perhaps Paul got tickets to the symphony tonight. The options are endless......and my curious mind can’t handle not knowing.

I have closed the browser window several times......I have re-logged into Yahoo......I have turned off my computer.......I have cursed and begged........I have tried doing work and ignoring the problem.....I have tried other computers. Nothing works. I am tapped for ideas. Fuck -- now it's 29 messages.......

Monday, November 07, 2005

The World is Going to Hell

There are some pretty f-upped things going on lately:

1. Body Sushi.

I’ve heard about this bizarre dining experience from friends who lived in Japan. Apparently now it is available in Chicago, too. It involves using a woman’s bare body as the buffet/tabletop/charger/platter/whatever.....to serve sushi upon. Too weird. This seems to be some sort of uber-objectification – plus, how friggin’ creepy! Imagine how weird it would be to have even a clothed, motionless person lying in the middle of your dining table – now take of her clothes and put the food atop her.

This was a businessmen event in Japan – I’d be very worried about the confidentiality of a business deal when there is another person listening in. It seems like in order to not be self-conscious about the experience, you’d have to completely forget that the woman can hear, feel and think. Success would be denying this woman her intelligence (and dignity); failure is just a really expensive, awkward experience.

Anyway, I don’t think this is at all cool. What a bizarre job. Too bad it didn’t stay in Japan.

2. The Religious Right heats up for Christmas.

God, what a bunch of assholes worship you. Doesn’t it seem weird that in order to prepare for this religious celebration, the diehards wage battle? Where exactly is the ‘Christmas Spirit’ in this sort of demonstration? How is it possible that they believe that they are somehow being oppressed in America? It appears to me that schools and other public institutions have been bending over backwards to continuously try to keep Christmas in the schools. They offer token nods to Kwanza and Hanaka only so they can claim that they aren’t promoting any single religion.

This country is overwhelmingly Christian. We have prison and military chaplains – the vast majority of them are Christian. Churches get tax breaks. Our ‘winter breaks’ are truly Christmas breaks in disguise. We have ‘holiday’ parties, parades and other government-sponsored events, but once again these are really just secular Christmas celebrations.
The branding of the ACLU as the devil intent on destroying Christianity is just absurd. The ACLU is interested in upholding the separation of church and state, as outlined in the Constitution. This separation has been shoddy for many years and the Christian Right just keeps trying to further push its religious views into the public sphere, including government. Why they seem to strive for a watered-down version of Christianity on the courthouse steps or school plays is beyond me anyway. It seems that along with the commercialization of the Season, this continued watering down of the religious aspects in order to try to get it over the Church/State dividing wall is doing more to devalue the meaning of Christmas than the ACLU ever will.

My non-Christian eyes see the continued over-commercialization of Christmas as much more harmful than not having a bunch of squirming second-graders refrain from singing "Silent Night" off-key. Gaudy angels and ostentatious nativity scenes shouldn’t be the be-all to celebrating a religious holiday. What about the poor? What about forgiveness? What about love? Aren’t these part of the Christian/Christmas tradition? Where exactly are these values when the Christian Right vows to go to war over fourth grade concerts and city ‘holiday decorations’? I also seem to remember something about false idols......... Oh yeah, if you are celebrating the season by getting your son the newest copy of grand theft auto, and sending your pre-teen daughter to a spa, you might want to re-evaluate your priorities.

3. The American Girl boycott.

I am truly, truly conflicted on this issue. I *hate* the people who *love* American Girl. A red American Girl bag is almost a sure sign that the carrier is a dumbass. There are different profiles of AG purchasers and I definitely think both the red and blue states have their own annoying breed. The red state AG purchaser is super-patriotic, in a flag-waving, magnetic ribbon on their SUV type of way. They consider themselves to be good, god-fearing, honest people. The blue-state AG purchaser is very interested in developing their girls’ self-esteem and creativity. All of them think it is perfectly acceptable to buy their girls expensive dolls.

The AG store is a huge tourist mecca in downtown Chicago. I think the blue-staters come from the ‘burbs, but the red-states are tourists from out of town. Besides their penchant for spoiling
their girls with high-priced status-symbol dolls, they also Do Not Know How To Move In A City.

This is how my hatred of them developed. They are the people who obliviously walk six abreast in downtown Chicago, stopping randomly and frustrating all of the other people with whom they are sharing the sidewalk. Everything about the El and other CTA is perplexing – the ticket machines, the schedules, the turnstiles, the etiquette, the idea that the currently stopped train/bus will actually begin moving and everything is amazing. Once again, they will clog up a train station or bus stop without knowing how many people they are inconvienencing or annoying.

Basically these people don’t have any idea how to behave in close proximity with others. They don’t know how to share space. They also don’t have any concept that most of the people on the sidewalk or El actually have places to go – namely jobs to arrive on time. To them the city and all its people and sites are all an elaborate creation to provide a setting for their vacation. Fuckers. Oh yeah, they also are pretty blatantly scared/impressed/nervous/excited that there are black people around, along with Asians, women with headscarves, people speaking other languages, street performers, beggars and the wonderful fabric of diversity woven in urban areas. Staring, pointing, laughing and fearful clutching of purses and children are the typical reactions. Dumbasses.

So anyway, I started realizing that the most annoying people tended to have these red American Girl bags in their hands. I began seeing the bags and then noting the behavior. Sure enough – there is an amazingly strong correlation between head-up-their-asses tourist behavior and theses red bags. Now they are an early warning sign of people to try to avoid lest they be given the slightest opportunity to annoy me.

Oh – The Boycott. Some pro-lifer’s underpants got twisted when they realized that AG supports Girls, Inc., a group that among many other things Promotes the Following Anti-FamilyAgenda:
  • "Girls Incorporated supports a woman's freedom of choice, a constitutional right established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade."
  • "To make responsible decisions about sexuality, pregnancy and parenthood, girls need and have a right to sensitive, truthful sexuality education; convenient access to safe, effective methods of contraception and protection from disease; and referral to comprehensive information, counseling, clinical and other services that support their responsible decisions."
  • "Girls have a right to positive, supportive environments and linkages to community resources for dealing with issues of sexual orientation."

In addition, Girls Inc.'s list [PDF] of "Sexuality Resources for Girls" includes books promoting premarital sex, birth control, contraception and abortion. And while Girls Inc. says they promote abstinence, their program for pregnancy prevention depends on providing birth control, and Girls Inc. opposed additional funding for abstinence education in the U.S. Senate.

"While Girls Inc. has some good programs, they also support abortion, oppose abstinence-only education for girls, and condone lesbianism."

So here is my conflict – do I scoff at the boycott because it is retarded – OR – do I delight in it because it might hurt the AG store? Some of the quotes regarding this boycott are hilarious, because they demonstrate grossly materialistic values being held dearly with super-religious pro-life values. Many of the quotes are along these lines, "I usually spend thousands of dollars every Christmas on AG dolls for my daughters/granddaughters. I was really looking forward to continuing this tradition, but I just have to stand up for what I believe in." Really? You spend thousands of dollars on dolls for Christmas? That doesn’t sound like a very Christian lifestyle.

Also -- the abstinence-only education just needs to stop. Studies show that it doesn't do anything that its proponents hope. It doesn’t reduce the rate of teenage/premarital sex among those who are taught it. Nor does it reduce the rates of STDs or unplanned pregnancy. Nor does it reduce the rate of abortion. In kids who are taught abstinence-only sexual education often have higher rates of STDs and pregnancies than their peers. Abortions also rise.

Nice job. Strangely, the statistics bear out some interesting facts. Most importantly, abortions are sought by pro-choice and pro-life women in about the same frequency. Funny. Catholics have the same rate of abortions as other women. Hmmm......

People who push for abstinence-only education have their heads up their asses. Just another stupid example of the ass-backward results of ignoring science and statistics. Now these rocket scientists are boycotting a doll manufacturer for giving money to a charity that doesn’t comply with their retarded, non-sensical dogma.

Fletcher

The first floor dog Fletcher I am beginning to really hate. His owners are Matt and Kimmie, both probably about my age. They drink a lot. They both work at health clubs. She is a spinning instructor who doesn’t own a bike and he works as a personal trainer. She is about 30-40 pounds overweight, he is probably 50. I don’t understand it. He also works as a substitute teacher and generally seems dumb as a post.

They bought a dog in early summer. I was worried because they seemed so irresponsible. It was a cute puppy. Now it is a mangy dog. They often don’t pick up its poop from the yard, the breezeway or the walk. It poops in my herb garden sometimes and he never cleans it up– Matt says it is helping to fertilize the ground. Fucker. I was taking in my herbs last weekend when Fletcher was let out – he ran straight for the garden and pissed. Matt laughed.

They often don’t come home for long periods of time and then Fletcher barks. He usually doesn’t begin barking until about 9-10PM. I think this means they haven’t been home all day. It used to bark when they left for work in the morning, but I haven’t heard that recently. I really hope that if this is a pseudo-child experiment, that they both get sterilized immediately. They should not be in charge of another creature.

Matt and Kimmie always want the gates closed so they can just let the dog loose out the back without having to go outside with it. Fair enough. However, there are several times when I come home and the dog is in the yard – and obviously wants to escape into the alley. I yell for it to back away from the gate so I can enter my yard. Kimmie will hear this and direct, "don’t let him out!" but not come outside to help with the situation. I’m wheeling my bike and don’t have spare hands to hold the dog back.

Recently the dog has begun jumping up on me – dirty paw prints and all. So far this has only been in scruffy clothes, but I swear if that dog tries to jump on me when I am in business clothes, it is getting kicked. This morning Kimmie was doing laundry in the basement when I went to get my bike – Fletcher was with her and tried jumping all over me. I completely yelled at him and Kimmie thanked me for ‘helping to train him’ but once again didn’t march over to physically restrain the mutt. Earlier in summer there was dogshit in our storage space. Grrrrr.

I don’t like dogs by the way. I grew up out in the country where dogs were territorial and oftentimes mean. I don’t trust dogs that I don’t know. I hate many city dogs and their owners. Dogs off leash make me nervous. Dogs charging at me while their owners yell something along the lines of, "don’t worry, she only wants to kiss you" drive me mad. I don’t want to be licked, sniffed or jumped on by random dogs. I don’t think this is unreasonable. However, now we have Fletcher.

After writing this, it is obvious that I need to have a calm conversation with Matt and Kimmie about their dog. Other critisicm by other people in the building have not been well-received. Kimmie and Matt accuse the poop/barking on Gabe the other dog in the building. Sorry, but Gabe is older and super-mellow. We never had barking or poop problems until Fletcher arrived (actually, Gabe’s owner says that she often picks up Fletcher’s poop – it may be that Fletcher’s owners never pick up his poop from our yard). Paul has had very few interactions with the dog and he already hates it/the owners. Paul likes dogs and doesn’t get annoyed as easily as I do, so I feel justified in my annoyance.

Also, I recently saw a woman carrying a small dog in the produce store. Last night a girl was holding a kitten in the grocery store. WTF? Animals in food stores? This is just not acceptable.

Blackhawks Box Seats

Hui Hwa invited me to join her in her boss’s box seats for a Blackhawks game. I am not a sports person, but I do like to watch hockey games, so I excitedly accepted. We were the scruffiest bunch of people that I saw in any of the box seats. Plus, we apparently didn’t have the best ‘box seat etiquette’. There are fancy waiters that check in on the boxes – but you can only order food or drinks in quantities of six. Instead of doing that, we were leaning over the edge to get beverages from the beer hawkers. One hawker informed us that this was unusual behavior.

It made watching the game much nicer, because our view was good and we didn’t have annoying people by us. I also liked having a private bathroom just steps away. We talked briefly about bringing the couches from the inner box to balance on the seats, but decided against it. Sorry Frick. We gigglingly referred to the rest of the stadium as ‘commoners’ "prols" or "riff-raff." Then we giggled at ourselves. Charming, no.

The Hawks won in overtime over the Phoenix, ummm ....Coyotes? It was some sort of dog-like creature. Good Stuff. There is a lot of beer and alcohol advertised at sporting events. Miller products; Crown Royale (whiskey); Smirnoff (vodka); Captain Morgan (rum).

When I went outside there was a kid with his family messing around with my Bianchi. I walked across the street and stood behind him before barking, "Hands off the bike, kid." He jumped with surprise/fright, his parents were too busy taking pictures and I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.

Pate a Choux (pat a shoe)

Mia had a BBQ on Saturday night, and a weird string of conversation led to Paul and me deciding to make gougere (creme puff dough w/ cheese). He has been hinting that for being a former pastry chef, he certainly isn’t eating, seeing or learning to make any pastries. My local grocery store didn’t sell any gruyere cheese, so we just went with parmesean and I decided to add some of my fresh rosemary, too.

He was amazed at the process of making the dough and seemed to really like working with a piping bag. His parents don’t know how to cook, so he thinks he will make these for them when he goes home next. I very much like pate a choux paste, because it isn’t a fussy dough like puff pastry, pate brisee or pie crust. It isn’t hard to make and if you do it even basically correct, it will work.

So here is the super-yummy recipe we created:
1 stick butter (I used salted, add salt if using unsalted butter)
1 C Flour
1 C water
4-5 eggs (large)
(the above is the basic dough – add a tablespoon of sugar for cream puffs or other dessert applications)
3/4 C. Roughly grated cheese
1T+ Rosemary, fresh, chopped
Fresh grated black pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Melt the butter in the water in a 2 quart pot. While this is heating, crack one egg into a bowl and beat with a fork. When the butter has melted, remove from heat and dump in all of the flour -stir with a wooden spoon until it is a smooth mass. Return to heat and continue stirring for about a minute – you will see a film begin to form on the bottom of the pan.
Add the four eggs one at a time – stirring each egg in completely before adding the next one. It will become work to stir. This is the only tricky part about making this dough. You are looking for a batter/dough that slides like a ribbon off of the spoon – it shouldn’t plop off in a clump. Add small amounts of the beaten egg until it reaches this point.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Take two sheet pans/cookie sheets and line with waxed or parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag with a large straight tip and either make individual rounds, or almost-touching rounds in ring shapes (they will then fuse together during baking for a pretty ring that works well for entertaining, because a bowl can be placed inside, or a mound of crackers or some other food can become the center of the ring). If you don’t have a pastry bag, just spoon the paste onto the pans. Wet your fingers and smooth out the mounds – peaks will burn. Take the remainder of the egg, add a little water for egg wash and brush onto the paste before baking.

Bake for about 15 minutes in a closed oven. After 15 minutes open the door for a minute or so to let the steam out. The remainder of the baking time is used to dry out the inside of the puffs. They should be pretty dark when they are done.

If you added sugar instead of cheese, you have cream puffs. Piping the dough in long lines instead of mounds will create eclairs. The sweet dough can be filled with whipped cream, pastry cream or many other yummy fillings.

These are best eaten shortly after baking – especially if they are filled. They will eventually get soggy and lose their outer crispiness, and fillings speed up the sogging. However, these are great pastries to prepare ahead of time without any loss of quality. Make the dough, pipe out and freeze. Do NOT thaw, but simply toss in the pre-heated oven. Very easy to keep in the freezer for fancy unexpected entertaining. OR, bake the puffs, freeze and re-crisp in oven. Do NOT freeze the mass of unformed dough – you will have a mess.

Sorry – I’ll try not to turn this into a recipe page too often.

The people at the party loved the puffs. Paul and I got completely drenched biking back home. It was the night of the Indiana tornado, and we were biking in a nighttime, November flash thunderstorm. Ugh – drenched denim.

Rock-climbing

Paul and I went indoor rock climbing on Friday night. Damn – am I a chicken about falling. I nearly cried each time I had to let go of the wall and relax into my harness. By ‘relax into my harness’ I mean clutch the support rope in a death grip with both hands, flex all of my muscles, whimper and start sweating profusely and breathing heavily. The people next to me on the wall or on the balconies were concerned/laughing at my obvious fear.

Twice I tried to rest before continuing to climb, but as one guy pointed out – " you are using a hell of a lot more energy hanging in your harness than you use hanging on the wall." It’s true – holding onto the wall was easy – letting go was excrutiatingly difficult and hanging in the air was horrifying. I’m a big friggin’ chicken.

Still, except for my terrifying moments in the air – I really dig climbing. Paul liked it a lot, too. We hope to start going regularly once our schedules calm down a bit – which probably means 2006. He’s in his work-crunch time of year and I only have three more ‘normal’ weeks left in 2005.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

My crazy Boss.

As much as I bitch about his craziness, I don’t think I accurately convey how humorous it often is. Humorous in a head-shaking, snickering, "that boy just ain’t right" way.

Currently he is on the phone trying to get ahold of an attorney at another law firm. This other attorney is in a meeting but my boss won’t give up. He is calling the secretary of every other attorney in the meeting to try to get through to him, AND constantly pestering the attorney-in-question’s secretary to interrupt the meeting. She is continually refusing, so that is why he is calling the other secretaries. He is tying up all of our phone lines trying to reach this attorney. Now this is just obnoxious and obsessive, but not really crazy.

What IS crazy, is that in his frustration, my boss is also frantically paging the staff in OUR office, too. I am hearing a repeat of the same basic, retarded, conversation:

Boss, "Maria, I am on hold with X law firm, trying to reach Mr. Attorney."
Staff, "Ummm.....is there something that you’d like me to do?"
Boss, "They keep putting me on hold. I’m on hold. I hear music."
Staff, "How can I help?"
Boss, "I’m on hold. I’m on hold."

Then he hangs up and buzzes another support staff or attorney to repeat the nonsensical conversation. I sit here giggling my ass off awaiting the buzz of my phone.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mentees, Chaufers and Pedestals

I volunteered to be a mentor for a University of Chicago first year law student.

For those who know of my undying bitterness towards that institution, my dislike of law, my unemployment after law school, and me in general – I won’t be offended if you cough, laugh, roll your eyes or shake your head in puzzlement. However, I honestly answered the survey, and a 1L voluntarily picked me to mentor her. Tehehe.

I met her last night and she seemed quite nice. My advice is actually very, very good because I have great hindsight about how I should have handled law school and job searches. All of the youngsters who I advised in law school ended up getting kick-ass summer jobs because they ventured off of the beaten path suggested by Career Services. Even given my ability to provide useful, concrete advice – it is still pretty hilarious that this girl imagines that I am a successful attorney. Jebus – I’m even snorting and laughing as I write this.

Anyway, she and I obviously have very different ideas about transportation policies and independence. She is dating a fellow student – they are an orientation-week couple. She lives in Hyde Park, and he lives in the South Loop. She indicated that she would be taking the CTA, so I specifically picked a restaurant very close to an El stop. Her boyfriend gave her a ride though. She also called him to pick her up. Even worse, apparently he also will drive back to Hyde Park to pick her up at the library at night to drive her the seven blocks to her apartment. My stomach honestly twisted with disgust upon this revelation.

Understand that Hyde Park is ridiculously safe in terms of violent crimes. People don’t get killed and women don’t get raped. Muggings are pretty common, but people really don’t get hurt. The campus employs the 7th largest police force in the state for an area about a square mile that houses about 40,000 people. It is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city.

Still he will make about a fifteen mile round trip to save her a seven block walk. She will wait twenty minutes for a ride. This is crazy to me on several different levels:

Gas, cars. What a fucking waste of driving. I don’t think anyone needs to stretch their imagination to understand my thoughts on this situation.

Him. What the hell? Why in the world would you volunteer to chauffer another adult around all of the time. He should have better things to do. Plus, he shouldn’t assume that she needs to be protected.

Her. Again – what the hell? She lived in Hyde Park while getting her masters degree. She says she is queen of the CTA. I would (and have) scoffed at boys who wanted to chauffer me under much more reasonable circumstances (rain/sleet/snow; 4" heels; 4:00AM; 2 CTA transfers; bad neighborhoods.....). Some of these decisions weren’t particularly smart or pleasant – but I hated the idea that I was considered either a possible victim or too delicate to have to endure the journey back to HP alone. The more a boy pressed, the more I resented the offer.

I mentioned this at the office today and apparently I am alone in my views. Both the secretary and paralegal thought that this boy was very sweet and gentlemanly for ‘taking care of his woman’s needs.’ The secretary especially insisted that this was the type of behavior that she would demand from a man, along with opening doors, pulling out chairs and buying her dinner/flowers/gifts. She said that it would be unacceptable for her to ride the CTA or walk places while dating someone, because if he loved her he would do whatever would make her happy. Apparently happiness is rides in automobiles and she considers it a sign of respect. She is a single mother who hasn’t had a date in the 13 months that I have worked at the firm. I don’t think she should hold her breath waiting for her Prince Charming to come along. Not to be mean, but she can’t cook, isn’t pretty, is about sixty pounds overweight and has a five year-old daughter. Although she seems to desire the traditional male role of provider and protector – it certainly doesn’t look appear that she is living up to the corresponding feminine ideal of that arrangement.

The paralegal said that she very much appreciates it when her husband offers to drop her off or pick her up so she doesn’t have to take public transportation. She doesn’t demand it, but apparently manipulates it so that he is more likely to offer. Both of these women agreed that they would happily wait much longer for a ride, than walk or CTA to the destination. This wasn’t reserved for situations of shitty weather, safety concerns or awkward packages. I am completely perplexed.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a black man on a bike a while back. He remarked that he would love to find a woman to date who rode bikes, too. However, he said that the ‘sisters’ never, ever want to date a man without a car, always expect to be driven around and would never consider riding a bike, besides for exercise. Obviously this isn’t universally true, but my secretary certainly fits his description perfectly. Also, it is pretty rare that I see black women biking around the city. Black men – yes, definitely; white women – absolutely.

Any insights on this? Is there a possible racial component to this mindset, or do most women truly want to be chauffered around? Criminy. Brothers – how commonly do you encounter these expectations in women? Or do women like this avoid you like the plague, because they can tell you won’t put up with this shit? Is there a racial/age/class/geographical component to these 1950s aspirations? What happened to feminism? I’m feeling ill just imagining either of you dating a woman who expects to be adored and pampered atop her pedestal.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Abortion

I am pro-choice. There were definitely times in my life when I would have considered having an abortion had I become pregnant. All through college, even though I worked full-time, I earned about $13,000/year and didn’t have benefits or insurance. I don’t think I would have been able to provide a particularly stable home for a child, plus I probably would have been resentful towards the snot-nose. Even the idea of giving the child up for adoption didn’t seem plausible because several of my jobs involved heavy, physical labor. There is no way that I could have continued working at the tire warehouse, or even at the restaurants (lots of heavy lifting) during the last several months of pregnancy.

Luckily I never became pregnant and never had to actually make the choice between living in poverty while raising a child or having an abortion. For the last several years, I have decided that if I do become pregnant, I will have the child. Not because I particularly want a child, but more because I don’t have the excuse of poverty any more. I somehow feel like this is some sort of betrayal of my pro-choice position, because it obviously demonstrates that I consider abortion to be more than simply a medical procedure without a moral component.

This type of thought is rare in the public discourse regarding abortion, but permeates the thoughts of many other individuals. Definitely there are many people to whom abortion is anything but a black/white issue. The mouth-foaming, rapid pro-lifers who don’t want any consideration made for rape, incest, health of mother are rarities in the pro-life movement.

Once again abortion looms large as we contemplate another candidate for the Supreme Court. It is an issue that makes me want to bitchslap the protesters on both sides and make them shut up so we can have some reasonable conversation as a society, instead of allowing the clamor from the extreme nutjobs on each side to frame the debate.

My first gripe is that I suspect that a lot of pro-life people are actually anti-sex (sex outside of marriage, at least). I have no respect for any person whose motivation for prohibiting abortion is caused by a desire to punish a woman for having sex. That position holds no credibility for me whatsoever, but I feel that it is a strong undercurrent for many pro-lifers. I think it is also the basis for the rape exception – not to protect the woman from further bodily and psychological trauma, but because she didn’t ‘deserve’ the pregnancy and therefore is excused from the consequences.

There are so many problems with this position that I simply don’t know where to begin. I think it is important to grasp how unbelievably crazy it is to think that it is good policy to force a girl/woman who has demonstrated a strong likelihood of irresponsibility & immaturity (by having unprotected sex) to become a parent against her will and be responsible for another life. We generally reserve additional responsibilities for people who can handle them. Irresponsible children are not punished by having to babysit other children, instead they are generally prevented from the additional privilege/responsibility of babysitting because of the expected disastrous consequences. Children should not be the punishment for making bad decisions.

Abortion on Demand. Dear Lord, do I hate this saying. Very, very, very few women treat abortion lightly. Women don’t skip happily to the abortion clinic. They don’t treat it like a haircut. It is a very serious decision for them. The extremely small minority of women who do have abortions on a whim would likely make horrible mothers.

Example: One woman I knew years ago had an abortion because she wanted to drop acid with her friends. There had been an ‘acid drought’ in her area for a while and she had planned on having the baby. One of her friends scored some acid and had a party. She knew that taking acid was dangerous for her baby, so she decided to have an abortion and dropped acid with her friends. "Horrible! Scandalous! A negative result of abortion on demand!!!!!" would certainly be the response of many people. I certainly don’t think it reflects well on the woman. However, I shudder to think what sort of mother she would have been with her priorities. Without abortion as an option, she very well might have added LSD to the chemical stew of alcohol, tobacco & pot that she was pumping into her uterus to marinate her baby. Besides the possible birth defects, she probably would have continued to rank partying higher than the child. I think the equation would result in a very fucked up kid. Do pro-choice people really think that abortion was bad in this instance? Who would have benefitted by forcing her to continue the pregnancy?

All of the waiting periods, required counseling and other bullshit introduced in the last few years is ridiculous. These additional hurdles don’t make women change their minds – they only make it harder and more expensive for them. One definite outcome is that more women wait longer to get abortions – making it a more painful, expensive and dangerous procedure. Congratulations pro-lifers – these policies have caused poor women and teenagers to switch from first trimester abortions to second-trimester abortions.

Partial birth abortion. Yes, I am using the terminology of the rabid right because this is what most people understand.

The way this issue is discussed makes me furious. As mentioned above, most women are not like the druggie who chose abortion on a whim. It is an intensely personal decision that has a lot of cultural stigma. Therefore, even ignoring the expense and danger of later term abortions, it is reasonable to expect that women would prefer to have an abortion as soon as possible and before people realize she is pregnant.

For these reasons, partial birth abortion is extremely rare. Can you imagine what might cause a woman who is eight months pregnant to have an abortion? Women are huge at this stage – people have been rubbing her belly and smiling at her. Everyone in her daily life knows that she is pregnant. (Except for those weirdos who amazingly manage to conceal it from everyone, which I don’t understand At All).

The Right is amazingly silent about why Ms. Eight-month pregnant woman seeks an abortion. I think the silent implication is that Ms. 8-month’s reasons are the same as someone seeking a sixth week abortion. I doubt this is true. Ms. 8-month really has nothing to gain and a lot to lose by carrying the child to term, because she has already dealt with the anger or disappointment of those around her. She cannot easily convince herself that an abortion at this point is simply a medical procedure, because she is all too aware that she has a baby squatting in her belly. She is getting pommeled internally and can probably identify the hands, feet and position of the baby inside her. Her body has already been stretched to hell, and she has incurred the risk to her figure already. Even is she doesn’t want to raise the child, she only has to remain pregnant for another few weeks and give it up for adoption. Certainly the guilt of having an abortion at this point, when it is obviously a baby, would be overwhelming. Can you imagine the horror of her friends, family and co-workers if she suddenly was not pregnant and announced that she had an abortion just for the hell of it?

So given this context, what would possibly make Ms. 8 consider abortion? Threats to her health, notice of severe birth defects or death of the baby are the main reasons that I can think of. (I seem to remember reading that one use for this procedure is to remove a baby that died instead of risking infection and additional psychological trauma on the mother while she waits for her body to expel the corpse naturally. I don’t know for sure, though). The whole ‘health of the mother’ is not a red herring in this issue. I’d bet that the possible death of the mother is the primary cause for most late term abortions. Women die from pregnancy and labor. It is a lot less common than it used to be, but it is still a possibility.

Our second cousin died giving birth in a Catholic hospital in the eighties. I was too young and I think a lot of details weren’t disclosed, but some of the whispers alluded that if given the choice, she probably would have opted to risk her life for the chance of saving the baby. The baby survived, but the mother died, and the father was a wreck for years. I cannot believe that anyone would ever want to force a woman to make the choice that killed this woman. Yet all of the laws that have been passed about partial birth abortion, and then deemed unconstitutional, were dismissed for failure to include a ‘health of the mother’ clause. It is obvious that there are people who don’t want women faced with this horrible, wrenching decision to have the choice to preserve their own lives. I consider this absolutely unconscionable and a demonstration of how little women’s lives and autonomy is valued.

The partial birth abortion procedure is considered by many on the Right to be the logical battleground because it can be painted as such a horrific, unbelievable procedure. Yes, the procedure sounds horrible – but it may be the most compassionate, sane and least horrible of all of the other options. It seems that given the realities of late term pregnancy, the women who are considering an abortion at that point should be given the most deference and least judgment, instead of the bullshit and rhetoric being tossed around about this issue.

Since this is the battleground issue of abortion, the Supreme Court uncertainty is really frightening. Like I mentioned above, I no longer consider abortion a choice that I would consider, so I am not personally invested in the issue. I definitely think it should be available to other women, though.

Partial birth abortion is an issue that potentially can affect all fertile women however. All women capable of becoming pregnant could be faced with complications in the last few months. These certainly aren’t desired and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to make the choice between risking her own life or definitely killing a baby that they have been planning for, but this is a possibility that any woman could have to face. Sure, the odds are really low – but the consequences are life itself. People, and women especially, should really consider that this most-horrific sounding procedure might actually be the most important form of abortion to protect, and the most tragic to lose.

How dare the government, be it the legislature or the court, presume to intrude by diminishing a woman’s options? How dare the discourse be so fragmented and angry that we can’t even have a sensible societal debate about this issue?

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