Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two dishcloths... both alike in dignity...

Yes, I've read far too much Shakespeare in my life...

I had an abundance of red cotton yarn from when Michael's last had their "Dollar Days" sale. I tell you I must have bought over 30 balls of dishcloth yarn! Went nutz I did... Didn't know what to do with the red until inspiration struck! These were the results...

I made them a few weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to blocking them... Still not sure what I'm going to do with the finished products though... They'll probably sit in my "gift drawer" for the next several months...

The one above was knit from the center out on double-pointed needles. The pattern can be found here. I rather think it looks like a poinsettia...

This one is supposed to be a poinsettia. There are bobbles in the middle, and the rest is done in a reverse stockenette relief. You have to join the Monthly Dishcloth pattern KAL Yahoo Group to get the pattern though... This one was the Mid-November 2006 pattern. Sorry the picture looks so odd. My camera phone didn't like the light I guess...

Now, I'm obsessed with kniting round dishcloths... I don't know why I call them "dishcloths" though because they make much better hot pads for putting under hot dishes and the like... I still have some red yarn left... Enough for maybe one more... And I'll be taking patterns with me on vacation...

I leave tomorrow morning very early, so I won't be checking in here or my e-mail as regularly as usual for the next few weeks.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My poor cat...

My poor, sweet Dixie has had a trying day. I've been meaning to take her in for her annual checkup for about 2 months... Kept forgetting to make an appointment. Finally figured, I'd go at the end of this week after all my exams were over with. So I took her this afternoon after my final was over. And it's a damn good thing I did!

She has an infection in her mouth, which probably just developed in the past few days, because she has a rotting tooth in the very back of her mouth (as cats her age often do). She's lost more weight (as she has been for the past year, as the Vets well know) in the last few weeks. Now, she's down to 4 lbs. 13 oz. This is probably due to the tooth making eating painful so she's probably been eating just enough less than usual to loose weight, though not enough to make me notice. (She's now happily eating soft food, as she has been for the past two days.)

Still, the vet took blood to check for problems with her liver, kidneys and thyroid, just in case. The doctor said that her kidneys seemed a bit small (but I'm not overly concerned there since she is a very petite cat). But there were no irregularities other than that and no odd lumps, lesions or things of that nature, which is good.

She was dehydrated, which is cause for concern. They aren't sure why since I have seen her drinking regularly, as usual. It may have just developed today (so doubly good that I took her in!). So they gave her subcutaneous fluids to get her electrolytes back to normal and make her feel a bit better. Oh, she was not a happy kitty! Screamed for the whole hospital to hear. But she seemed to perk right up after about ten minutes. So that's an excellent sign. She was jumping all over the place when I got her back in the car, looking out the windows and being very curious, back to normal... so also a good sign. She drank some water when I got her back home and ate some of her soft food and now she's curled up on the couch, napping.

So, for the infection, we have some antibiotics. And the vet will call with the results of her blood test on Monday. We won't be home, but they're going to call my cell phone, and if they can't get me on my cell, they are going to call the house to leave a message here, either on the machine or with Joe. If I don't hear from them, I'll call home on Monday to see if Joe heard from them and if not, I'll call the vet myself. If she is having some kind of problem, we'll discuss options then.

Final Exam - done!

I've just gotten home from my Final. I think I did alright. The arguments seemed sound to me... obviously, they must have because I made them... I hope Prof. Milton concurs. Will know by the end of next week when grades are posted.

I got my term paper back. It is still deeply and profoundly flawed (but will be shared if you really want to see it, even though it can't be taken as an authoritative work, merely as the ramblings of someone who evidently has not yet mastered the sources she's using). But lucky for me and my grade for this class, Prof. Milton seems to be very critical when commenting, but very forgiving when actually assigning a grade. This is good, I think, because it demands improvement without discouraging.

I think Prof. Milton expects me to continue with this topic next semester in my seminar class with him.... He's told me that I *can* do that, at least. He said on my paper, next to my grade, that "[my] paper just keeps improving. Good work!" And he also told me, in whispered tones because the rest of the class was still working on the exam, that I might want to think about submitting something to The Historian, the Phi Alpha Theta (that is the National History Honor Society) quarterly publication, for consideration. I can't believe that he thinks my writing is that good when it still needs so much work, but I'll take the compliment anyway.

I don't really want to continue with the topic next semester though for two reasons. 1.) I am *so* over medieval Iberia! and 2.) I've been wanting to do a paper on the role of women in the medieval Scandinavian wool trade since I heard that the topic of the seminar is medieval economic history. That involves two things I love, Viking women and wool. It's an area I think deserves study... I'm at a loss however as to what to argue in that area and what sources I have access to that will apply... If I can't find any sources, I might have to stick to this semester's topic out of desperation.

It was the night before the Final, and all through the house...

Not a student was sleeping, not even... I can't think of a word that rhymes with "house" other than "mouse" and I'm... not a mouse...

But still, not sleeping right now.

Thank goodness I only have one exam I have to take tomorrow... I'm just not up to taking two right now. Just not...

Grades have been posted on the USF Blackboard system just a little while ago (looks like my Prof is having a late night too). I have a 94.9 in Medieval Spains going into the exam, having earned a 98 on my term paper (Don't know how I managed it, but apparently, I did. Will know more once I actually see the graded paper.). This is good because even if I get a zero on the exam tomorrow, a total impossibility as long as I attempt it, I would still have a 75.94 in the class, a solid "C." And I've at least got a good shot at an "A." That would be nice, since with my "A" in Latin, this would be the second time in my school career (albeit, this time I'm only taking two classes, so perhaps it shouldn't really count) that I've earned "straight A's." It would also go a long way to improving my GPA, which has held at a steady 3.14 since my Sophomore year.

Now that I've worked that out, I feel a bit better going into the exam tomorrow, which I've been frantic about most of this week. At the very least, I know I'll have a passing grade no matter what happens, and that will go a long way helping me fall asleep quickly... I hope... I have to wake up at 8-ish... just a few scant hours away... ::sighs:: Yeah, I need to go to bed... now. Good night!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

EPA forced to comply with the Clean Water Act


Who knew that a Federal organization called the "Environmental Protection Agency" was really working for Big Sugar? Not me!

But I'm certainly glad that someone was on the ball and that the courts ruled in favor of protecting the environment and the general public of south Florida at the expense of Big Sugar and their pet, the EPA. Read more about the case which is going to save Lake Okeechobee from extra pollutants here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Take a moment to help...

The Wilderness Society is sending letters in opposition to the leasing of public lands for oil and natural gas drilling and wants everyone to help. Go here to send a letter to your elected officials. It's quick, it's easy, and it just might make a difference.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Month's FEED

I highly encourage everyone to read this month's FEED from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

There's info on the GE rice that was released by Bayer CropScience (yes that would be the same Bayer that makes the asprine). Due to the contamination of food supply rice crops that USDA rushed through approval which it was in the process of denying at the time of the contaimination. Because of the contamination, Europe closed it's borders to American rice and have cost rice producers in the US millions of dollars. Rice farmers have filed a class-action law suit against Bayer. In the meantime, rice that was genetically engineered for some to resist Bayer's weedkiller chemcials, has been released into the wild in Arkansas and Missouri. By getting fast track approval, after they were going to be turned down, Bayer gets to skip a lot of the safety checks and other proceedures they normally would have had to comply with. They are being rewarded for "accidentally" contaminating the food supply. This, even after 15,000 people wrote letters to the USDA asking for sanctions... "The people's department," my ass. Yet more evidence that the USDA has been bought and the individual farmers have been left out in the cold.

There's also a petition to sign for turkeys and some other stuff... I have to go eat dinner now... TTFN.

There are no weapons of 'mas destruction...

Where are those weapons of 'mas destruction?
A long story short: the war on Christmas wanes.
By Greg Beato
GREG BEATO writes a column about pop culture for Las Vegas Weekly.
December 9, 2006

THE DAY AFTER the midterm elections, the stage seemed set for the bloodiest war on Christmas yet. Democrats were taking over Congress, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a favorite "secularist progressive" scapegoat of conservative pundits, soon would be sworn in as speaker of the House. How would she use her power to destroy the sugar plums dancing in Bill O'Reilly's head? Would reinvigorated coastal cosmopolitans try to destroy Christmas once and for all, hunting down workplace secret Santas, forcing brewers to produce kosher versions of their annual Christmas ales?

But just as it was beginning to look a lot like the holiday that dare not speak its name, Wal-Mart came out of the Christmas closet and embraced the Christ child's birthday with explicitly merry greetings and full-frontal shots of Christmas trees in its December ads. Target followed suit with a plan to sell limited-edition angel ornaments, with the profits going to the Salvation Army.

Meanwhile, Hollywood, ground zero of Christianity-hating secularism, continues to stuff theaters and basic cable with pro-Christmas fare such as "The Nativity Story," "One Magic Christmas," "A Season for Miracles" and so on -- pictures that rarely win big ratings or substantial box office and that the movie industry apparently produces out of simple Christmas cheer.

And the Democrats have yet to outlaw those pine-tree air fresheners that look like little Christmas trees.

For the yuletide soldiers who've re-upped for the annual fight against the war on Christmas, all this peace on Earth presents a problem. Two years ago, Jerry Falwell explained how Jesus-hating secularists were scheming to "steal Christmas from America." O'Reilly, Fox News' most dependable yule log, called their efforts an attempt to "destroy religion in the public arena" and open the floodgates for the progressive agenda.

Secular America's insufficient merriness was such a hit with Fox viewers that the network renewed the war on Christmas story in 2005. According to, Fox aired 58 segments on the subject during one frantic five-day holiday binge last December. In O'Reilly's mind, apparently, only a thin line of theologically frank Hallmark cards was keeping us safe from "gay marriage, partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs [and] income redistribution through taxation."

This year, however, the Catholic League alone has found much success in sussing out new dangers. In the spirit of St. Nick, the religious watchdog group is making a list and checking it twice via its "Christmas Watch" website, which encourages volunteer elves to snitch on naughty "retailers, schools, websites, towns and municipalities that refuse to acknowledge Christmas as part of the 'holiday season.' " Currently, the list features a mere 33 "Grinches," which, given a U.S. population of about 300 million, means we're statistically safer from Christmas attack than Whoville.

As the Who's learned from experience, even one hairy green secularist can do tremendous damage. Still, unless someone discovers new weapons of 'mas destruction soon, peace and joy could erupt at any moment.


Well, I went to Walmart today actually... Just *had* to have the first season of "Bones" on DVD and also "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." It was a freaking *zoo.* I almost felt dirty when I left. The check-out woman was polite, but she did wish me a "Merry Christmas!" as I took up my bag and receipt. To this, I chimed back, "Happy Chanukah!" I was somewhat disappointed that she didn't seem to notice. I'll admit, I was hoping to shake things up a bit.

Even so, this will be my standard response to all in the retail-employed people who tell me "Merry Christmas" for the duration of the season, especially if I'm wearing a magen david... I can hear my mother saying that I shouldn't expect people to be observant of such things, but I do expect it anyway. Call me silly or over-sensitive, but I find it annoying that people *assume* I celebrate Christmas or that I'm anything other than what I am (I've had people take notice of my magen david before, like actually comment on it, and then the next thing out of their mouth is to ask me if I'm a Christian... I can only say, "wtf?"... Then again, I've also been asked if Judaism is a type of Paganism before as well, so I don't know why that kind of stupidity surprises me...).

Truth is that if it weren't for other members of my family celebrating Christmas because it's important to them and if it weren't for this season being a very convenient time of year to visit with family I don't get to see anywhere near often enough, I would go to the movies and out for Chinese like Jon Stewart says all the Jews in New York do on Christmas Day.

I really think everyone should have stuck to the much more inclusive "Happy Holidays!" of last year. After I heard of Walmart's hard-line stance, I was tempted to get a t-shirt from Cafepress last week. It said, "Don't assume I'm Christian and I won't assume you're Jewish." Unfortunately, it wasn't being sold in my size... Until it is, I'll stick with saying, "Happy Chanukah."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mel Gibson's new foray into the bloody and bizarre

Well, after news that Mel has rescinded his plea to Jewish leaders in July that he meet with them to "heal" the rift, and refused to meet with one of the leading people of the Zionist movement (not because he was busy or something, but because he just doesn't feel it's something he needs to do)... I've decided that he *definitely* doesn't need my business or my money. The only thing concerning Mel that I will watch is the parody of him on "South Park" because that's freaking hilarious. Even with that considered, if he were the most Jew-friendly guy in Hollywood, I still wouldn't see this movie because to this day I can't watch the last 20 minutes of "Braveheart." Blood and gore is just not me...

Another bloodbath
Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" doesn't miss an impalement or a dismemberment.
By Kenneth Turan, Times Staff Writer

Who knows what violence lurks in the hearts of men? Mel Gibson knows, and he just can't resist putting every last ounce of it on screen. He also can't resist pulling those bloody, still-beating hearts out of human bodies and putting them up on screen as well. And that's just the beginning.

Numerous good things can be said about "Apocalypto," the director's foray into the decaying Mayan civilization of the early 1500s, but every last one of them is overshadowed by Gibson's well-established penchant for depictions of stupendous amounts of violence.

Despite a genuine talent for taking us to another time and place, a gift that under other circumstances would be worth experiencing, Gibson has made a movie that can be confidently recommended only to viewers who have a concentration camp commandant's tolerance for repugnant savagery.

Mountains of hacked up corpses, exit wounds spewing fountains of blood, spears shattering teeth, warriors literally beating each other's brains out, it's all here in living and dying color.

This is the kind of movie in which a person known as a finisher does not work on your floors, a jaguar graphically munches on a man's face, and when someone says, "I will peel his skin and have him watch me wear it," we can only pray that it doesn't come to pass.

Perhaps even Gibson himself doesn't know what deep need is satisfied by putting this kind of brutality on screen. But no one who's seen the disemboweling scene in "Braveheart" or the torture and crucifixion in "The Passion of the Christ" (not to mention the Gibson parody on "South Park") can doubt that need is there.

Given that penchant, it was only a matter of time until the director would find his way to a civilization that enthusiastically practiced human sacrifice. If ever there was a filmmaker congenitally unable to resist shots of severed heads bouncing, bouncing, bouncing down the side of a steep pyramid, this is the man.

In a Gibson-directed movie, it's usually not very long until someone sticks the knife in and does his worst, and "Apocalypto" is no different. It opens with a ferocious tapir hunt in a verdant jungle that ends with the animal impaled and eviscerated with its throat cut for good measure. Welcome to Mel's World of Fang and Claw.

The men in the hunting party, including tribal elder Flint Sky (Morris Birdyellowhead) and his son Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), soon to be the film's protagonist, are weighed down with so many body and facial piercings, including what look to be nuts and bolts under the lower lip, that it would not be surprising to see True Value Hardware with a product placement credit.

These men are part of a small village living in peaceful serenity in all that jungle. (The Mexican rain forest of Catemaco location has been beautifully shot in high definition digital video by Dean Semler, an Oscar winner for "Dances With Wolves.") The first hint that the future will be less bucolic is an encounter with the fleeing people of another village. The look on their faces is enough to cause Flint Sky to give a pep talk to his son, telling him that fear is a disease that must be kept at bay at all costs.

That talk turns out to be especially timely, as early the next morning the ultrafierce Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo) leads a group of sneering, sadistic warriors from a more advanced civilization in a savage attack on the village. Women are raped, men die in grotesque ways, but, for reasons we can easily guess, the attackers are as interested in taking prisoners as in meeting Gibson's bloodshed quota.

After hiding his pregnant wife, Seven (Dalia Hernandez), and their small son in a deep hole, Jaguar Paw gets captured and taken on the long journey to Zero Wolf's city. Along the way he sees crop failure, drought and plague, all symptoms of a civilization in serious crisis.

It wouldn't be fair to detail all the trials the script by Gibson and Farhad Safinia puts Jaguar Paw through, though his exploits do make the sprinting in "Run Lola Run" look like a Sunday stroll. Attention must be paid, however, to the pains that have been taken to make the look and feel of this vividly imagined world both authentic and involving.

For one thing, Gibson has insisted that all his actors, most of whom are new to the screen, speak their dialogue in the primary Mayan language of Yucatec. The director also employed a movement teacher to ensure that everybody's body language would be convincingly primitive.

Equally impressive is the high quality work that has gone into the physically imposing Mayan buildings and pyramids (Tom Sanders is the production designer). Ditto for the convincingly otherworldly head-to-toe look of the urban Mayans themselves, who look like habitues of the "Star Wars" cantina crossed with extras in a Carmen Miranda musical.

Gibson unblushingly intends "Apocalypto" as a clarion call warning modern man to watch his step or risk following the Mayas into decline and near-extinction. To this end he opens the story with a famous quote from historian Will Durant about the fall of Rome: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within."

This is all well and good, but the reality of "Apocalypto" is that this film is in fact Exhibit A of the rot from within that Gibson is worried about. If our society is in moral peril, the amount of stomach-turning violence that we think is just fine to put on screen is by any sane measure a major aspect of that decline. Mel, no one in your entourage is going to tell you this, but you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. A big part.

MPAA rating: R, for sequences of graphic violence and disturbing images. Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes. In general release.


Now, two things...

1.) The reviewer made one faux pas, calling the body language "primitive." It's not "primitive," my ethnocentric friend, it's "Mayan." To use the word "primitive" connotes all kinds of things I'm sure you don't really mean, so be precise and accurate and say "Mayan." Not that you'll ever read this...

2.) From what I understand, Gibson didn't really go far enough in the correct direction to have the Mayans look really authentic. Mayan elites would embed jewels and precious metal in their teeth. Mayans would also shape the heads of babies with wooden boards, and they would try to make the line from forehead to the tip of the nose completely straight, and if they couldn't manage it while it was developing, they would wear these things that made them appear to be straight... That was pretty much only those who could afford to do such things, but all those things went into their beauty ideal. All absent from "Apocolypto" from what I understand. But the facial piercings, from what I've seen in previews, are correct, although they might be overdone... I don't know 'cause I haven't seen the movie, but I'll never really find out 'cause I'm not going to see it either.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Uh-hun... ::blink, blink::

Conservative Jews Allow Gay Rabbis and Unions
By Laurie Goodstein
December 7, 2006
New York Times

The highest legal body in Conservative Judaism, the centrist movement in worldwide Jewry, voted yesterday to allow the ordination of gay rabbis and the celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies.

The decision, which followed years of debate, was denounced by traditionalists in the movement as an indication that Conservative Judaism had abandoned its commitment to adhere to Jewish law, but celebrated by others as a long-awaited move toward full equality for gay people.

“We see this as a giant step forward,” said Sarah Freidson, a rabbinical student and co-chairwoman of Keshet, a student group at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York that has been pushing for change.

But in a reflection of the divisions in the movement, the 25 rabbis on the law committee passed three conflicting legal opinions — one in favor of gay rabbis and unions, and two against.

In doing so, the committee left it up to individual synagogues to decide whether to accept or reject gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies, saying that either course is justified according to Jewish law.

“We believe in pluralism,” said Rabbi Kassel Abelson, chairman of the panel, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, at a news conference after the meeting at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York. “We recognized from the very beginnings of the movement that no single position could speak for all members” on the law committee or in the Conservative movement.

In protest, four conservative rabbis resigned from the law committee, saying that the decision to allow gay ordination violated Jewish law, or halacha. Among them were the authors of the two legal opinions the committee adopted that opposed gay rabbis and same-sex unions.

One rabbi, Joel Roth, said he resigned because the measure allowing gay rabbis and unions was “outside the pale of halachic reasoning.”

With many Protestant denominations divided over homosexuality in recent years, the decision by Conservative Judaism’s leading committee of legal scholars will be read closely by many outside the movement because Conservative Jews say they uphold Jewish law and tradition, which includes biblical injunctions against homosexuality.

The decision is also significant because Conservative Judaism is considered the centrist movement in Judaism, wedged between the liberal Reform and Reconstructionist movements, which have accepted an openly gay clergy for more than 10 years, and the more traditional Orthodox, which rejects it.

The move could create confusion in congregations that are divided over the issue, said Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive director of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the movement’s more than 750 synagogues with 1.5 million members in North

“Most of our congregations will not be of one mind, the same way that we were not of one mind,” said Rabbi Epstein, also a law committee member. “Our mandate is to help congregations deal with this pluralism.”

Some synagogues and rabbis could leave the Conservative movement, but many rabbis and experts cautioned that the law committee’s decision was unlikely to cause a widespread schism.

Before the vote, some rabbis in Canada, where many Conservative synagogues lean closer to Orthodoxy than in the United States, threatened to break with the movement.

But Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, said: “I find it hard to buy the idea that this change, which has been widely expected, will lead anybody to leave, because synagogues that don’t want to make changes will simply point to the rulings that will allow them not to make any changes. This is not like a papal edict.”

The question of whether to admit and ordain openly gay rabbinic students will now be taken up by the movement’s seminaries. The University of Judaism, in Los Angeles, has already signaled its support, said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, its rector and the vice chairman of the law committee. He co-wrote the legal opinion allowing gay ordination and unions that passed on Wednesday.

The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the flagship school in Conservative Judaism, will take up the issue in meetings of the faculty, the students and the trustees in the next few months, Chancellor-elect Arnold Eisen said in an interview. Mr. Eisen said he personally favored ordaining gay rabbis as long as it was permissible according to Jewish law and the faculty approved.

“I’ve been asking the faculty, and time and again I got the same answer,” Mr. Eisen said. “People don’t know what they themselves think, and they don’t know what their colleagues are thinking. There’s never been a discussion like this before about this issue.”

The law committee has passed contradictory rulings before, on issues like whether it is permissible to drive to synagogue on the Sabbath. But the opinions it approved on Wednesday reflect the law committee’s split on homosexuality.

The one written by Rabbi Roth upholds the prohibition on gay rabbis that the committee passed overwhelmingly in 1992. Another rebuts the idea that homosexuality is biologically ingrained in every case, and suggests that some gay people could undergo “reparative therapy” to change their sexuality.

The ruling accepting gay rabbis is itself a compromise. It favors ordaining gay rabbis and blessing same-sex unions, as long as the men do not practice sodomy.

Committee members said that, in practice, it is a prohibition that will never be policed. The ruling was intended to open the door to gay people while conforming to rabbinic interpretations of the biblical passage in Leviticus which says, “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.”

The committee also rejected two measures that argued for a complete lifting of the prohibition on homosexuality, after deciding that both amounted to a “fix” of existing Jewish law, a higher level of change that requires 13 votes to pass, which they did not receive.

Rabbi Gordon Tucker, the author of one of the rejected opinions, said he was satisfied with the compromise measure. “In effect, there isn’t any real practical difference,” he said.

The Conservative movement was once the dominant stream in American Judaism but is now second in numbers to the Reform movement. Conservative Judaism has lost members in the last two decades to branches on the left and the right. Pamela S. Nadell, a professor of history and director of the Jewish Studies program at American University, said, “The conservative movement is wrestling with the whole question of how it defines itself, whether it still defines itself as a halachic movement, and that’s why there was so much debate and angst over this.”


So the change is that same-sex "unions" (note the shying-away from calling it "marriage"... grrrr...) and gay rabbis are okay, as long as if it's two guys, they don't actually have anal sex. Pretty much anything else is fair game. This is the way some Orthodox Jewish homosexual men have been interpreting halacha for years, from what I understand. And there are no restrictions for lesbians. Yeah, 'cause that's fair to the guys... ::rolls eyes:: Still gonna stay on the left side of this fence myself, thank you...

Now, in the effort of full disclosure, the Reform movement doesn't officially call same-sex marriages "marriages" either. They call them "commitment ceremonies" (which was the most popular euphemism 6 years ago when they were approved, if one remembers, now pretty much overshadowed in the media by the phrase "same-sex unions") or "holy unions." However, the ceremonies are identical to traditional marriage ceremonies. Reform rabbis can also choose whether or not to perform the ceremonies, according to personal discretion, just as they do with interfaith couples, as far as I know. I do wish that the Central Conference of American Rabbis would discuss it again and change the word to "marriage." I hate euphemisms... They create a sense of otherness, a delineation which can suggest "less than." That leads, inevitably with some people, to condoning discrimination and intolerance, and I don't like it. They won't take it up again anytime soon, I know, in an effort to be "sensitive" to those who might be "sensitive." ::snorts:: I don't even want to think about what America would have been like today if that was the official attitude of the government and liberal religious organizations, such as the Reform Jewish movement, during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s... Oy! ... ::sighs:: Whatever...

But I suppose, on some level, this is a step in the right direction.

Sigh of Relief

Thank goodness! I got the e-mail from Prof. Manolaraki exempting me from the exam. I thought that maybe I hadn't. I have been waiting for it since yesterday afternoon. I had to go looking from my junk mail folder to find it. Yahoo likes to filter out my school mail no matter how many times I mark them as "not spam." I've gotten e-mails from the USF administration telling me that they have tried through official channels to get Yahoo to not filter out the mail that goes out to us, the students, but Yahoo refuses to exempt their server from the spam filter. ::sigh:: Most frustrating... But at least I found the letter eventually!

Second shawl done...

Here's the second 1864 Godey's shawl I've completed... Just took it up from blocking. It's all handspun Corriedale wool. The brown is natural and the pink is the 4th batch of yarn in the pokeberry dyebath. I think it looks quite nice together.

Ahhh... another season... another Knitty...

So the new issue of Knitty was published today! Woot! New patterns for me to ogle, but not ever actually knit. That sounds far more cynical than I intended. Truth is, I very rarely knit anything from Knitty, but I do love to look at the patterns. I particularly like Calorimetry, Corazon, Tiffany, Brown bag, Piggle, Norberta, and Sheldon. I would love to knit the Legwarmer socks, Eiffel, Twinkletoes, and Slingshot for myself. (anyone want to buy me the yarn? j/k)

Slingshot at the very least is something I could really, really use. I don't want to even think about how many times this semester I burned myself carrying my hot tea either from the Einstein Bros' Bagels at the Marshall Center food court or from the Starbucks in the Library to my Latin classroom. Don't even want to think about it, but it was far too often. Something like Slingshot would totally help with that! I really need to knit that up over the break.

Knitting Venezia would be a good way to learn how to knit with wire, something I've been wanting to try for quite a while.

All this, and the fact that I'm waiting with bated breath to hear from Prof. Manolaraki as to whether or not I have to take the final next week, has got me thinking that I should offer to teach some of the others in my Latin class next semester how to knit. They're always so interested in what I'm doing and ask questions and stuff. I think a few days before classes start up again, I'll go on the Latin blog and tell everyone to bring a ball of cheap cotton yarn and size 7 needles and show up early for class and I'll teach them how to make the grandmother's favorite dishcloth/washcloth. It's cheap to make, but teaches a lot of great knitting skills, and having a finsihed product that works up fast and can actually be used on a daily basis, I think, would help with building confidence in new knitters. It's what Maria started on and even though her first one looked horrible, now, just a few months later, she's knitting the Nagano Sakura and it looks great!

Other great things about this issue of Knitty:

This article.

The "Knit Like A Man" regular article.

I'm not sure how much I buy what Symeon says in this issue's Get Spun though... specifically what that one should "shock and whack" spun wool to set the twist - putting it in scalding hot water and then cold water and then whack the excess water out by slamming it against the side of the tub - as opposed to blocking with any weight, especially when using the handspun for knitting. I use my handspun for knitting all the time. I've had no problems with it "sproign"ing back from being blocked and screwing with the look of the finished product. Neither have I had problems with pilling. No, no problems with pilling at all... not with my handspun anyway. Some mill-spun cottons, yes, but not with my handspun wool. Perhaps, it's just with her thick and thin, single bulky yarn that she recommends this method with and not in general so that it would apply to 16 wpi 2-ply? I dunno...

I block and I block and I block for everything... I set the twist on singles (because it's sometimes months between spinning singles and plying and I don't have a lazy kate so I ply from balls of singles... hey, it works.) and I weigh the 2-ounces of singles yarn down with two little bottles of water or I leave them on my water-proof niddy-noddies while they dry. Then I roll them into balls, ply them and set the twist again. Then I put them in skeins and they stay that way 'til I knit them. Once knitted, I usually block the finished product lightly (at least, steam-block), just to give it a very finished looking shape. I've had no problems thusfar. ::knocks wood::

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pig out!

I feel like I've pigged out today! But, boy, was it good!

This morning, I was running late so I didn't have time to pack a lunch for school. I'm totally tired of all the food on campus so I had no clue what I was going to do for lunch... Went anyway...

I got to class and it turned out that two people decided to do a presentation instead of writing a term paper. And just my good luck, they did it on medieval Iberian food. Woot! So I got to taste gazpacho... which wasn't bad, but I'm terribly unfond of tomatoes. I also got to have paella, which I had somehow avoided when I was in Spain 6 or 7 years ago because the whole prawns frightened me. They also had olives, roasted chestnuts and clementines - all staples of the medieval Iberian diet. They also brought in these delightful almond cookies that were made by nuns, who gave them to the farming peasants who provided their convents with food as a "thank you" if not a real payment.

The only issue I had with it is that they made modern paella and modern gazpacho rather than the medieval versions, which omitted the tomatoes, peas and carrots which they included. Gazpacho originally did not include tomatoes, which were brought to Spain after Columbus from the Americas. Originally, it was made with a water and olive oil base and seasonal vegetables, stuff like onions and cucumbers, etc... It was always served cold. That was generally served as the lunch of field hands and serfs, so the nobility scorned it because it was considered common... Paella was a dish very popular in southern Spain, the areas dominated by Muslims for the majority of the period. Muslims brought rice to Iberia (and also the clementines mentioned earlier). It was used sparingly by the non-Muslim Iberians at first, but eventually made its way into the mainstream diet. Paella also included seasonal vegetables and any kind of meat that was on hand, if meat was on hand... including but not limited to all the seafood that is in the typical modern paella. It was traditionally cooked by men, outside in the open, in a pan which was a Roman design (basically the same kind of pan used today to cook paella), and was then eaten straight out of the pan. A single pan typically fed about 7 people. Paella was considered a hearty meal and was eaten by farmers, peasants and some merchants and artisans. It was therefore also considered a peasant food, so the nobility and those who had ideas of grandeur didn't eat it.

All very interesting!

Dr. Milton also explained about meat, which they didn't go into in the presentation very much (he said he didn't fault them for that, he just wanted to add it since he thought of it). Mutton was favored by Muslims as Christians didn't generally like to eat it if they had access to other types of meat (most especially pork). Jews had their own slaughterhouses and their food was usually kept entirely separate. He also said that the Christians of Iberia loved pork so much that it almost became a 6th food group in the years after 1492. One way to show that one was a good Catholic was to be seen eating pork, since abstaining from eating pork was something that the Muslims and Jews did. So pork was put in almost every dish to force people to eat it or really make a scene in not eating it so that they would be caught by the Inquisition. The popularity of pork remains to this day. He said it's almost as if culturally the Spanish don't consider pork a meat, so that if you order a salad in Spain, 9 times out of 10, you're going to get ham in it. And so it's very difficult to travel in Spain if you either don't eat ham or you're a vegetarian because unless you can really speak the language people likely won't understand why you can't have pork in your food. Made me think of the line from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding": "What do you mean he don't eat no meat! ... Oh, that's okay. I make lamb!"

Totally makes sense now why I had such a difficult time in Spain. It was either totally gross seafood or pork every night, and ham everywhere during the day. After the 4th night of that, I couldn't take it anymore and I asked our tour guide to make sure I got a vegetarian/kosher meal that night (because they were one in the same). I and the three vegetarians on the trip were shocked and vaguely appalled when our hotel wait staff placed a plate of boiled spinach with pine nuts and raisins in front of us as if it were spaghetti... That was our dinner... Couldn't believe it. But now, it makes sense...

Anyway, so I had lunch for free. Then after my Latin class I bought a piece of rocky-road fudge and a brownie from a sorority who was raising money for the Children's Miracle Network, a Make-A-Wish Foundation-like charity. Ate those...

Then I got home and my mom was making tacos... I hate my mom's tacos... most tasteless things in the world! So I made myself a Morningstar Black-bean burger with pickles, relish, and horseradish sauce, on a Smart Balance-ed multi-grain bun with garlic-basil-parmesan red potato wedges on the side. Yummy! I totally recommend that instead of a hamburger, at least sometimes (I'm not a vegetarian, I just like some vegetarian-like food once in awhile). I figure it cuts out a lot of the fat and calories that hamburgers generally have, but it's still super satisfying in the same kind of way.

Anyway... I just had to share my totally yummy day... I'm stuffed!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"Gay Sheep" killed in search of "cure"?

Meant to post this the other day when I got it but forgot to do that until just now...

Okay... PETA *is* nutz, and usually I don't trust anything I get from them because they're just too extreme and have a bad tendency to exaggerate information, just as their extreme right-wing counterparts do... but apparently, these experiments have been confirmed by other sources, not just PETA. I'm most disturbed by the scientists' claim that they will apply these findings to humans. I'm even more disturbed by that than I am by the news that they are receiving public funding for this study. "GATTACA" or "Brave New World" anyone? This is sick, sick, sick!

The following is copied from the PETA website:


Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Oregon State University (OSU) have received thousands of letters and e-mails protesting their unethical hormone-altering experiments on "gay sheep". In response to this public outcry, the universities are now scrambling to come up with excuses to justify the experiments, but they don't have a leg to stand on. Please read our detailed letter to OSU, which refutes all the school's allegations.

In addition to being blacklisted as one of PETA's picks for the 10 worst laboratories for conducting crude and useless experiments on monkeys, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) is now facing public condemnation from animal rights and gay rights advocates and scientific experts for its ill-conceived "gay sheep" experiments.

At the heart of these multimillion-dollar experiments, which are funded by taxpayers through the year 2008, is the goal of hormonally manipulating sheep's sexual-partner preferences to be heterosexual. These experiments also carry the insidious implication that homosexuality in humans needs to be "cured". OHSU experimenter Charles Roselli is killing scores of sheep and cutting open the brains of rams he calls "male-oriented" (homosexual) in an attempt to find the hormonal mechanisms behind homosexual tendencies, so that they can subsequently be changed.

Roselli is also working with experimenter Frederick Stormshak of Oregon State University (OSU), who has surgically installed an estrogen implant in the bodies of rams in an effort "to restore tissue levels of estrogen comparable to those of heterosexual rams and affect sexual behavior accordingly."

In a March 5, 2004, news release issued by OHSU, the university admitted that Roselli and Stormshak would "like to know whether sexual preferences can be altered by manipulating the prenatal hormone environment, for instance by using drugs to prevent the actions of androgen in the fetal sheep brain."

Equally disturbing is the experimenters.. stated intention to apply their findings in sheep to humans. This is highlighted in Roselli's application for public funding from the National Institutes of Health: "The [sheep] experiments proposed in this application will furnish important information that is needed to formulate and test novel hypotheses about the biological basis of sexual orientation in higher mammals including humans." Roselli goes on to note in one of his published journal articles that "this research also has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans."

This is not only a needless slaughter of animals and an ethically indefensible experiment; it has also been condemned by experts on scientific grounds. Dr. Malgosia Cegielski, a Portland-based clinical psychologist, calls Roselli's gay-sheep experiment "frivolous" and "frightening." She says: "I don't see any clinical utility or human benefit with what he's doing. The gene expression and biological differences at a cellular level between [nonhuman] animals and humans is so huge. To draw conclusions between animal behavior [and] humans is a joke."


Wouldn't go so far as to say "to draw conclusions between..." is a joke, because there are parallels between human and animal behavior, if not biology, but certainly this experiment does seem frivolous. I don't have a problem with killing animals for food or even other reasons on a small scale, for science, etc... So that they are killing rams doesn't bother me... What bothers me is that they are doing experiments with the intent to apply the results, whatever they are, to human biology... that they are potentially intending to "correct" or "cure" something which I don't think we have any business even saying needs to be corrected or cured.

Sigh of Relief and Groan

Reposting this from my myspace blog where I posted it yesterday (Monday) afternoon...

I finished my term paper and turned it in this morning. Thank goodness that's done... Now, I have to focus on exams week... just around the corner.

I went to Next Big Thing yesterday with Maria and Laura. Silly me, I hadn't finished my homework or my paper yet. "Procrastination" is my middle name. So I spent most of the day backstage in the catering trailer doing that. I figured, the reason I was there was to see 30 Seconds to Mars, since I didn't know any of the music of the bands who were playing earlier in the day. Maria and Laura though, responsible students that they were, had thought ahead and took in the show from the side of the stage, which is exactly where I wanted them to be. Don't mistake me.

So I figured, I'll finish all the work I can, eat some really good food, and then get on the stage for 30 Seconds to Mars... Wrong... The security guards kicked us off, very rudely I might add. Said we didn't have the credentials to be on stage for them or some such stupidity, didn't matter a bit that we were on their guest list. They also tried to kick off some of the people who worked either for the station, 97X, who put the whole thing together, or the band. I don't know which, but they were obviously working and not fans. They were harassing everyone like the President was coming through or something. Did not like those security guards.

So went up to our seats and watched from there. Could only see Jared because he was wearing white. The rest of the band was completely invisible because of how the stage was lit. And the amps were working way harder than they had to be. The nifty thing about amphitheatres is that they are set up to bounce sound very well, so that no matter where you're sitting, it sounds like you're up close. Obviously, whoever did the sound missed that memo. I don't know who does the lighting or the sound for the Amphitheatre, but they suck big time. I think they need to go back to school and learn how light and sound waves work. I also think a freshman stage tech student from Blake High School (my alma mater) probably could have done a better job. I know a senior could have. Still, we had a better view than the people up on the lawn did and ear plugs helped a lot with the sound issues. (Seriously, a deaf person could have heard that music it was so loud.) We were having a great time, despite being up there and not on stage. So minding my own business, some guy comes walking past with a big cup of beer, trips over my purse and spills the entire beer all over me and all my stuff. Miller Lite might be less filling, but it still makes your jeans sticky when it dries on them. Ick!

On top of all that, the people working the ticket booth could not have been less organized if a tornado blew through. Took a full hour to get them to find and give me our tickets.

Now, from what I understand, I should have known going in that the Ford Amphitheatre sucks. It gets a thumbs down from Josh, who's worked shows there with the bands' crews, and also from my Aunt Helen, who has sworn to never go back there for a concert no matter who is playing because they suck so badly. Note to self... I concur!

I want Next Big Thing back at Coachman Park next year. Coachman was *way* better!

I also woke up this morning with my cold back in full force. DayQuil saved my life!

There were three good things though...

1.) Jared Leto walked past me at one point backstage and I could have reached out and touched him. He was inches away... And totally beautiful. All white suit, black hair, the underlayer dyed cherry red, heavy black eyeliner. Hotness personified. I restrained myself however, like a good girl, and did not gawk. He probably didn't even notice that I was there.

2.) Maria and Laura were there.

3.) I looked damn good, if I do say so myself.

Pictures, such as they are, to follow as soon as I get them printed...

Excellent News for Amazonia

Got excellent news about Amazonia this afternoon that I just had to share. Go here to read the article.

Brazil's govenment has set aside a total 37 million acres of rainforest (that's roughly the area of Illinois) for conservation in seven different areas in the state of Para, Brazil. This is more land than has ever been set aside as conservation land at one time ever before. Wonderful, wonderful news! These areas are added to the millions of acres which have already been set aside. To see a map of the area, follow the link above and look to the lower, right-hand side of the screen.

A few interesting things...

I was looking for my pictures of the ballet pink pokeberry yarn and I found another post of mine that I thought particularly topical... considering the Pope's recent visit to Turkey and the protests that surrounded it...

But here are links to the pokeberry dye pictures:

All four batches.

Just the ballet pink, wet.

The actual color of the ballet pink yarn doesn't show up on those photos. It's really somewhere in between those shades and, in reality, is about the same as my pointe shoes. (I don't really dance. I just like putting them on every now and then and pretending that I do... Silly? Yes... very...) But that picture of the shoes doesn't really show the real color. This one does though, and it's the same color as the pokeberry yarn, but it's a different pair of shoes than the ones I have...

Pokeberry yarn experiment

I've not done any new dyeing, but here's what I did do...

I finished the 1864 shawl in brown and ballet pink corriedale yarn. The pink was the 4th batch of yarn to go into my pokeberry dyebath.

I theorized that the yarn that goes in first absorbs the majority of the tannins, leaving mostly just the pink dyes for subsequent batches of yarn. This could in fact be true.

For those who are new to this and don't know what I'm talking about, the problem with pokeberries is that they are believed to not produce a dye which is either lightfast or washfast. Lack of washfastness isn't a surprise really because apparently, no berry-based dye is washfast except cranberry. But the lightfastness was a problem because the yarn would brown and fade as the tannins were activated by sun light.

After finishing the shawl, I had a lot of yarn left over. So I took a three inch piece and taped it to one of our south-facing windows. It's been there all day long for four days now and has not browned or even faded. I just took it down a few moments ago and the color is not any different than the yarn in the shawl. So I can conclude that the majority of the tannins probably were absorbed by earlier dyebaths.

I have taped the yarn back up to the window and will continue checking it to see how long it does take for the color to fade.

As I use the other batches of yarn, I'll test each one in turn, provided that there is enough yarn left over from the project.

I would share pictures but my camera phone is being finicky and won't let me do that today.

Friday, December 01, 2006

So he's "famous," is he?

I was recently in Latin class waiting for class to start, and my friend Mia was talking about the Next Big Thing concert, complaining about how expensive tickets are this year. (The ticket price is ridiculous... Who do they think goes to Next Big Thing? They're charging $60 for tickets, doubling last year's price! Surely, they don't realize that it's mostly poor college students and high schoolers? At least, that's what it looked like to me last year...) I mentioned that I was going to the concert because my brother, Josh, got me tickets and backstage passes. Knowing my last name, she kind of exclaimed in awe something to the effect of, "Your brother is Josh Stern! He's famous on the internet!" I laughed, in my head if not out loud. Totally news to me...

Went home, told my parents. They were quite amused too... Told Josh when I called him to double-check that I am on 30 Seconds to Mars' guestlist... (Totally excited! *Three* sets of tickets/backstage passes! Totally love my brother!) Josh was amused but couldn't fathom why he'd be famous on the internet. Well, I got curious and set out to find out just how it is that he's famous with punk music fans on the internet, since he's a pretty behind-the-scenes guy and really isn't into the groupies... They scare him... because groupies are scary... *Really* scary...

Found out some punk bands (at the very least, Good Charlotte) have really messed up fangirls. There are a few who have some very disturbing ideas about Josh. Will not go into details. It's too distrubing to repeat really and I skipped reading most of it... I don't feel like being traumatized today, thank you.

I did find that stupid girl in California who got backstage at a Good Charlotte concert by scamming the security guards into thinking that she was our cousin and that she'd lost her backstage pass in the crowd. She was bragging about it on some forum somewhere. That incident was not funny and it really pissed my brother off when he found out that she lied about that and it worked (and the rest of us were pissed too when he told us about it).

Will try to find out from Mia on Monday just how she found out about him to see if there's more than what I was able to find in five minutes of searching. Although, I'm not sure how much more
I want to know about...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Tudors

Just a FYI and a note to remind myself, if no one else...

"The Tudors" is a new dramatic series about the life of a young Henry VIII. It will begin airing in January on Showtime.

It stars Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry the VIII. He's also been in (to name a few) "Alexander" as Cassander, "Velvet Goldmine" as Brian Slade, "Bend It Like Beckham as Joe, the HBO remake of "The Lion in Winter" as King Philip of France, and the awful but colorful "Vanity Fair" as George Osborne.

Jeremy Northam will also be in this show as Sir Thomas More. He was also in (to name a few) "Gosford Park" as Ivor Novello, "An Ideal Husband" as Sir Robert Chiltern, "Happy, Texas" as Harry Sawyer, aka Steven 'Steve', "Amistad" as Judge Coglin, and "Emma" (the one with Gwyneth Paltrow) as Mr. Knightley.

And Sam Neill will play Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. He was also in (to name a few) "Wimbledon" as Dennis Bradbury, "Merlin" as Merlin, "The Jungle Book" as Colonel Geofferey Brydon, "Jurassic Park" as Dr. Alan Grant, "The Piano" as Alisdair Stewart, and "Ivanhoe" as Brian de Bois-Guilbert.

That's about it for Big Name Stars in "The Tudors." The rest seem to be relative unknowns. I'm looking forward to the series...

Seems like all kinds of exiciting things are happening on tv in January... In addition to "The Tudors," "Rome" will be back on HBO, and "Prison Break" on FOX and "Ghost Hunters" on Sci-Fi will both be back from their two month hiatus.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Four-dollar word" is my favorite...

A most amusing article...

Did I mention...

that - yay! - my indigo arrived today?! Woohoo! Now, if I can only find some time to try it out... won't happen this weekend, but perhaps later next week.

Yet another reason I don't plan on ever owning pigs...

Delhi boy eaten by herd of pigs

A three-year-old boy has been eaten alive by a neighbour's herd of pigs on the outskirts of the Indian capital, Delhi, police say.

The boy, Ajay, strayed from the family home as his parents and other family members were having lunch.

When his mother went to look for him, she found the pigs chewing something and spotted bits of her son's clothing.

She threw stones at the animals but they turned on her. Her screams alerted neighbours who came to her rescue.

Relatives in the village of Samaipur Badli in north-west Delhi told police the boy had been carrying bread, which might have led the animals to attack him.

A senior police official, Manish Aggarwal, said a local man who owned the pigs had been detained for causing death due to negligence.

"Three children were playing outside their house when the incident took place," Mr Aggarwal told the BBC.

"The victim, Ajay, strayed from the area but his parents or relatives were not there to save him since they were having lunch inside their house."

Story from BBC NEWS
Published: 2006/11/29 13:39:19 GMT

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Black Friday

I made a day of it! In the morning, I went to Walmart - found absolutely nothing of even remote interest. Then, I went to Ulta and spent way too much on makeup, but I'm telling myself that that's okay.

Maria, Laura and I went to Countryside Mall in Clearwater in the afternoon. It's huge claim to fame is that it has one of the only, if not the only, indoor ice-skating rinks on the Sun Coast of Florida. Mostly kids use it...

We did not, however... The reason we were at Countryside is that it's got a Torrid, Lane Bryant and a Forever 21... The only mall within a hundred miles that has a Torrid actually... And Torrid was having a 50% off all clearance sale, as well as discounts on various other things. So I got a bunch of socks and a t-shirt there. Again probably spending way too much money, but can't bring myself to care right now. Then we ate lunch at the food court, giving in to Laura's contagious craving for "mall pizza."

Then we went to Forever 21. Laura's dad had given her $200 with an order that she spend it on frivolous things. 60s mod and 70s disco glam are very in at Forever 21 right now. I was so tempted to buy this one dress for Susan because it wasn't that expensive and she'd probably get a kick out of it. I saw it and heard "The Hustle" playing in my head. I can't find it online. I'll have to get a picture of Laura wearing it. But it kinda looked like this one. But it had a very up and down stripy pattern going on. Skinny, wavy little lines in teal, olive green, wine, brown, and cream. Laura looked great in it and I told her she had to buy it, so she did. She didn't want to because she said she didn't have anywhere to wear it, but I reminded her that she was supposed to buy frivolous things and I may or may not have threatened her. ;D We'll *find* some reason for her to wear it! Her almost-boy-friend, Tobias, will love it, I'm sure. By the time we got next door to Icing, Laura was really excited about the dress and picked out earrings to go with it.

Then we went to Lane Bryant. I didn't find anything to buy, but Maria got a really cute red shirt... and possibly a few other things as well.

By that time, it was about 6pm and we were tired. On the way out of JC Penny, Maria and I both took advantage of the pillow sale they were having and bought pillows. Two, high quality, made-in-the-USA pillows for $8.99. Can it get better than that? I don't think so.

We had a fabulous day! Whoever said that Black Friday is a stressful day to go shopping must have never come with us because we had a total blast! I'm only sad that all three of us won't be able to go again next year because Maria will be in South Korea going to school by that time. Ah, well, Laura and I will be able to go, and Maria will be there in spirit.

What to wear?

My brother is really, really awesome sometimes... Once again, he's getting Maria and I tickets to the Next Big Thing concert. ::knock on wood:: He told me I have to check with him next Friday to make sure that my name is on 30 Seconds to Mars' guest list. But as long as it is, we're in... and he's 98% sure that we've got backstage passes too. So with some seriously good luck, we'll be standing 5 feet from Jared Leto for another hour of our lives. Woot!

Seriously excited. Already planning clothing, makeup, etc.

I got new eye makeup yesterday at Ulta and today at CVS. I figured awesome eye makeup is a must this year because 30 Seconds to Mars is very intensive with theirs. It's *the* thing at these kinds of concerts if the last several I've been to were any indication. I've still got a few more things to get... There's this new product that will put little jewels on the tips of eyelashes... got to get that. I also might need to get some eyebrow something or other... I got out my old bindis (you remember when Madonna was wearing them? Like 7 or 8 years ago? Well... so was I...) and will use small jewels for the corners of my eyes. I may need to get fake eyelashes... My makeup has this peacock feather kind of thing going on... Here's a bad picture that doesn't really show the color right:
The color is much more intense than this.

I've got spray glitter for my hair and body glitter for strategic places on my face. Now, I just have to figure out what to wear. I have no clue 'cause this kind of makeup isn't the normal thing I go for, so getting my clothes to properly match or contrast the intensity is going to be a challenge.

Empire waist stuff is very "in" right now. I've got a black, off-the-shoulder, smocked baby-doll top. Matched with jeans, it would have that stylish look, but would be subdued enough that my eyes would be the star without the overall look being too over-the-top. I think anyway. I also have a red/teal/white silk/chiffon halter top which is empire waisted and has fringe and sequines. It's very over-the-top. I have yet to wear it anywhere. But it may go with the eye makeup... I dunno...

I'll wear flats, whatever I do. I know the limits of what my feet tolerate and standing or walking in heels for any longer than an hour is pretty much it.

Even if we don't have backstage passes, we'll not be going in the mosh pit, so I don't need to worry about having to wear something that can survive such a trial.

I need to remember ear plugs! Last year we were standing behind the speakers for two hours without them. We were deaf for quite a while and slowly our hearing came back over several hours. It was so worth it though! But would be good to be prepared. Also, need to get Kodak High Definition film! Definitely want a repeat of the good photos.

Did I mention that I have to make sure I'm all done with my term paper before the concert? 'Cause it's due the next morning at 10 am... Timing, oy!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Holy Shit!

I just found a gray hair... And it's not just gray, it's white! And... and a very wiry texture. :-( I don't like this... Just minding my own business, washing my hands at the bathroom sink and the light caught it so that I noticed it. Dried my hands and picked it up, and sure enough - white hair. It's as long as all the rest of my hair too, so I must have had it for awhile. If it's just the one, that's somewhat comforting, but still... wah...


Two reasons I love being a Reform Jew: Emphasis on Tikkun Olam and Social Justice.

Some Jews today are making dietary laws even stricter: But is it kosher?
by Sue Fishkoff
JTA news service
Printed in the November 10 - 23, 2006 issue of The Jewish Press of Tampa.

San Francisco - Reform rabbis are talking their own board of kashrut.

Alternative minyans are offering vegetarian or kosher-approved vegetarian meal options. Synagogues are contracting with organic farms in the name of Jewish Values.

Something is going on in the world of Jewish dietary practice. But is it kosher?

That depends on what you mean by the word. In addition to following more kosher laws, many Jews have changed their notion of what constitutes food that is "fit to eat."

Even as the kosher food industry continues its explosive growth - it's now a $10 billion market, showing 15 percent growth over last year, according to Lubicom Marketing, which runs Manhattan's annual Kosherfest - some individuals and groups are exploring creative approaches to kashrut in the name of pluralism, holiness and social justice.

Eco-kashrut, which includes notions of sustainable agriculture, fair labor practices and ethical treatment of animals in its definition of what is kosher, or fit to eat, has been a staple of Jewish Renewal since Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi began promoting the term decades ago.

As environmentalism itself entered the American mainstream, eco-kashrut gained currency in more Jewish circles.

Tu B'Shevat, which marks the new growing season, is commonly observed by such activities as tree plantings, beach or park clean-ups and recycling projects. Jewish schools and camps promote recycling in the dining hall as a Jewish value.

The "green synagogue" movement, which encourages congregations to build and maintain their shuls according to sound ecological practices, is based on the same notion, that Jews can find support for contemporary sensibilities within Jewish tradition.

Now a handful of Jewish groups are poised to take eco-kashrut to the next step, creating a symbiotic food-production chain whereby synagogues and other Jewish institutions buy their food from local organic farms.

This growing season, five synagogues and Jewish community centers [JCCs] in New York, New Jersey, Washington and Texas contracted with local farmers for all or a significant part of their harvest, giving the farmers financial support while encouraging their own members to eat locally grown, organic produce. Five more cities will be added to the program next year.

"We want to reframe the question of kashrut, not to abandon it, but to ask what it means to keep kosher in the 21st century," project coordinator Leah Koenig says. "Is it kosher to eat food sprayed with chemicals? Is it kosher to eat eggs from chickens kept in tiny, cramped cages?"

The project is the perhaps first Jewish entree into the world of CSA, community-sustained agriculture.

Synagogue or JCC members pay in advance for produce boxes, which they pick up at the institution on a weekly basis.

"It's pretty radical," Koenig says. "The synagogue becomes not just a place to pray or drop off your children, but where you pick up your organic produce. It gives people the opportunity to see the synagogue in a new way."

Next spring, a new organic farm just outside Baltimore will begin growing produce for a conference center owned by the Baltimore Jewish Federation. The 1.5 acre Pearlstone Farm is projected as "a model for small family farms trying to stay in business," says director Yaqir Manela, 24.

There has been "a groundswell of energy" these past two years in the field of eco-kashrut, Manela says.

"People realize it's a way of supporting Israel and ourselves, to not be energy-dependent. The halachah is right there: Don't reap the corners of your field, share your harvest. In Judaism you create social justice by the way you take care of the earth. This is kashrut in a big way."

Not everyone is buying in, however.

"The Orthodox Union has had this discussion, in terms of animal welfare and healthful foods," but ultimately decided that its mandate is simply to provide certification of what's kosher according to halachah, not decide what's "healthy" or "ethical" food, says Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of the organization's kashrut division.

Jack Wertheimer, provost of the Conservative Movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, agrees.

"As a Jew who believes kashrut is a part of the discipline of Judaism, kashrut is kashrut. Eco-kashrut is something different," Wertheimer says. "Not that I'm opposed to eco-kashrut, but's it's something else."


Me again - to explain what that was all about for anyone who might be confused.

vocabulary - "halachah" is Jewish law. "kashrut" - the proper name for the body of dietary laws - is really just another term for "kosher" - which comes from the Hebrew for "fit."

Reform Jews don't really keep Kosher, as it is traditionally understood. Some do, and the number who do, from what I understand, is growing all the time. But as with most things in Judaism, we believe that it is up to the individual to decide whether or not something like keeping dietary (and other ancient Temple and Israelite) laws is something we need to do. As we see it, Judaism has evolved as the understanding of Jews has evolved. This is not how everyone sees it. Orthodox Jews are like the keepers of the old ways, which are not always good, though they are to them. They do what's traditional for the sake of it being traditional, with no or little thought as to why it's traditional, how it became traditional or its original purpose. Conservatives... well... to me they are like fence-sitters. Most, if not all, keep Kosher and do other obligatory traditional things because they are traditional, as a matter of course, but they let the women sit with the men as equals in the synagogue. I see leaders of both the Orthodox and Conservative movements as being sticks-in-the-mud on this issue. They tend to not like the things the Reform movement comes up with, the religious justifications we find for things like the above described are really quite radical to them, when we see them as self-evident.

With the Reform movement, which is far from perfect (please, don't think that I mean to suggest otherwise), the emphasis is on individual choice according to individual understanding when it comes to tradition (as well as having a *huge* emphasis on democratic governance and carrying through the will of the people). So keep Kosher if you feel it's important to you, if not, don't if you don't want to, or come up with your own definition of what is "fit to eat," what is kosher. That is what the people in this article have done. They might keep kosher in the traditional sense or, like me, they might not, but in addition or in place of the traditional definition of "no pig, no shellfish, no anything that eats the dead, etc." they also want organic, local food. Which I think is all good. If you can institutionalize something like supporting local farmers and organic and ethical agricultural practices in religious teachings, I think that's the greatest thing ever. Making something so everyday a holy act makes it more likely that more people will adopt the ideals, I think. This goes along with the long time emphasis in the Reform movement on the Tikkun Olam commandment. Tikkun Olam means "repair the world." Any act which will improve, repair or help the world is a mitzvah. So picking up trash in a park, planting a tree, recycling, sending aid to Darfur, voting... all of those are religious acts for Reform Jews. They might not think of them as such, 'cause I know I don't think about it that way on a day-to-day basis, but technically, they are. There is also a major emphasis on social justice in the Reform movement that goes along with this - the whole "if one human is denied a freedom, then no one has that freedom, so we must ensure that no one is denied their rights" thing. This was, I believe, a 20th century addition to the Reform movement (and to other Jewish movements as well, because Judaism does emphasize this, it's just the Reform movement emphasizes it a bit more and above other issues, which the others do not), which manifested (if not before) in Jewish participation in the Civil Rights movements of the later half of the century, as well as in the GLBT rights movement, which continues world-wide to this day. It's the major reason that I'm so involved and concerned with the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals. Which brings me to the next article:

In precedent-setting ruling court says state must recognize gay marriage
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

In a precedent-setting ruling, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that five gay couples wedded outside of Israel can be registered as married couples. A sweeping majority of six justices to one ruled that the civil marriages of five gay couples obtained in Toronto, Canada, can appear as married on the population registry. The gay petitioners sought to force the state to give equal recognition to common law marriages of heterosexual couples to those of gay marriages, which can be performed in certain countries.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel that filed the petition on the behalf of the couples, argued before the court that the Interior Ministry's refusal to register them as married compromises their right to equality and to hold family life, and is based on "homophobe social perceptions."

The court rejected the position of the State Attorney, that states recognizing single-sex marriages cannot expect Israel to recognize such nuptial agreements drawn in these countries. The state told the High Court that "Israel lacks the appropriate legal framework for such marriages," and therefore it cannot register them.

After the ruling was issued, the Civil Rights Association said it is "all the more important in the wake of the [recent] public turmoil stirred by the gay pride parade in Jerusalem."

Itay Pinkas, a prominent member of the gay community who married his partner in Canada said in response: "This is an historical day for the [gay] community and for democracy. This is our real pride parade. We will keep battling for full equality in other areas."

The minister in charge over religious affairs, Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) said "the High Court has sunken in the gates of defilement and has torn out the last mezuzah from its doors. Marriage can only be held by the faith of Moses and Yisrael [the traditional Jewish marriage vows]. "The dam that protected the Jewish state has been burst open under the auspices of the High Court, asking for an anti-Jewish deluge clad in black capes," he said.

"We don't have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here," said Moshe Gafni, an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker, referring to two cities the Bible said was destroyed because their citizens were so sinful.

"I assume that every sane person in the State of Israel, possibly the entire Jewish world, is shocked, because the significance is... the destruction of the family unit in the State of Israel," Gafni told Army Radio.

Yossi Ben-Ari, who petitioned the court along with his partner, Loren Shuman, brushed off Gafni's comments as a continuation of the ultra-Orthodox "frenzy" against Israel's gay and lesbian community. "This is only the beginning of the battle. The courts here are very progressive... but the battle is for the face of society," Ben-Ari told Army Radio. "The battle for our rights doesn't end here, it is still very long."


Once again, as you can see, the ultra-Orthodox are being sticks-in-the-mud, but the Reform side of things goes for social justice despite it... They can throw all the rocks they want, it's not going to stop or deter the rest of us.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Yes, Virginia, there are gay penguins...

A children's book, And Tango Makes Three, was recently published about the gay Chinstrap penguin couple, Silo and Roy, and their baby, Tango, at the Central Park Zoo in New York City.

Silo and Roy, after years of trying to hatch rocks, adopted a fertilized egg which was abandoned by its biological parents in 2001. They took care of the egg until it hatched, and raised the chick as their own. I think it's very cute. The book is causing controversy in elementary schools though, of course, something which was written about by the associated press here. Sadly, Silo and Roy broke up in 2005 after six years together... aw... Silo has taken up with a female penguin, named Scrappy, imported from Sea World San Diego, and Roy remains single.

Silo and Roy were only one of several homosexual penguin pairs in captivity. In 1997, the Central Park Zoo also had 3 other pairs of gay penguins. They tried to force them apart, but the experiment failed, resulting in only one of the 8 penguins involved creating a "pair-bond" with a female penguin instead of going back to pair-bonding with males. It was after this occurrence that Silo and Roy pair-bonded and built their nest.

There's also the somewhat unique case of Wendell and Cass, both African black-footed penguins, at the New York Aquarium at Coney Island. Unique because they have been together for twelve years now, since they were 3 or 4 years old, possibly one of the longest monogamous relationships observed between penguins in captivity. They have never broken up and have never shown interest in any other penguins. They also have never seemed to show any interest in raising a chick either because they've not tried to hatch rocks as Silo and Roy did, and they don't seem to be upset by the fact that all their frolicking never produces any eggs. They do however have a nest together, which is coveted by all the other penguins in their exhibit, high up on the fake rock enclosure - a penthouse really - with a view of the water and easy access to their food. (I find that extremely funny...)

There are also about 20 homosexual penguin pairs known to be in various Japanese zoos. And there are several more in Europe of which I'm aware. There's a lesbian pair, which mated with male penguins only to produce fertilized eggs and then raised their offspring together. And there are several other gay pairs of Humboldt penguins at the Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany, which were very upset after the zoo isolated each male with only a female companion to try to force them to mate and produce offspring. Like in New York, the experiment didn't work there either, but the zookeepers are determined to keep trying because the Humbolt penguins are extremely rare and endangered and it is important to try to produce as many offspring from as many individual penguins as possible to save the species. Zookeepers insist that their efforts are not to discourage the natural homosexual behavior in their penguins, but rather they are just doing what they have determine must be done in order to save the Humbolt penguins from extinction. I can't say that I agree or disagree with them on that, but I don't think that they will have much success with those particular penguins.

Like humans, penguins like to find a mate and in most cases, are monogamous while they are together. Sometimes, they mate for life, and sometimes, they pair-bond just long enough to raise offspring. There are observed cases of homosexual mating pairs in wild penguins and their adoption of abandoned eggs is not unusual. Male/female penguin pairs can only care for one egg at a time, so in cases where two eggs are produced, they abandon one of them in order to give the remaining egg a better chance to reach adulthood. Gay penguin pairs sometimes claim and care for these abandoned eggs. Confirming cases of wild lesbian penguins repeating the behavior observed in the zoo is more difficult, but probably also occurs.

I think it very interesting that these aspects of natural penguin behavior is completely left out of movies like "Happy Feet" and "March of the Penguins". Though, of course, I get the movie-makers' reasons for not being more inclusive. They want as many parents as possible to take their kids to see these movies so that they can maximize their profits. Since Conservative parents are funny that way... well... they leave out stuff like that which might upset them. Not right, but it's what they do... Lucky for the rest of us fair-minded people, there are books like And Tango Makes Three.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

USDA Corruption Article

Very interesting...

Time very tight right now... Should be able to catch up with posts and e-mail tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm in love with Timberland

I just have to tell everyone: I'm in love with Timberland. ... Yes, the boot company... To see why just go here. I think I need to buy stocks in them tomorrow... or as soon as I get a chance, if not tomorrow.

You can also see their CEO being interviewed by Stephen Colbert soon at the Comedy Central webside, or if you catch this post in the next 17 or so hours and you have cable, you can see it on your television on the Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Check your local listings for time and channel. ;D

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dirty Coal Plants Being Built in Texas

From the New York Times:

Committed to Coal, and in a Hurry, Too
by: Matthew L. Wald 7 November 2006

FAIRFIELD, Tex. — In a huge pit, gigantic bulldozers and earth-moving machines are removing two layers of coal, the last shavings in a monumental task that has dug 200 feet down and expanded across 20 square miles over the last 35 years.

The coal feeds two plants nearby that help keep the lights on and the air-conditioners humming throughout Texas. But in doing so, the operation has released hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide, the main contributor to global warming.

Now, the pit's owner, the TXU Corporation, is embarking on its next monumental task: the nation's single largest coal-oriented construction campaign, with a plan to add more than 9,000 megawatts of new capacity, the equivalent of 3.5 percent of the nation's current coal-fired capacity. That is enough to power millions of homes, using coal from other giant pits like this one and still more in Wyoming.

Even as some utility executives are joining environmentalists in seeing future controls on carbon emissions as inevitable, TXU is betting that it can beat the consensus, placing a $10 billion wager on 11 new coal power plants that will produce copious amounts of global warming gases for decades to come.

[On Monday, TXU announced that in addition to 9,000 megawatts of capacity in Texas, it is considering 7,000 to 14,000 more megawatts of capacity in other parts of the country, possibly including the Northeast and Midwest, which would make it a national player in the industry.]

Maybe this is good energy-system planning, or maybe it is environmental brinksmanship, outsiders say.

For people who want to limit global warming gases, the moves by TXU, which is based in Dallas, are a reminder that outside the laboratories and hearing rooms where scientists and policy makers talk about limiting carbon emissions, some power companies are racing to build infrastructure that will put carbon into the atmosphere into the middle of this century or longer.

Whatever the cost to the ecosystem, it could be an immensely profitable bet. Company executives say the plants will provide cheap electricity for Texas, make lots of money for shareholders, conserve more valuable natural gas and reduce the pollutants that make smog.

[Perhaps in a recognition of the growing concern over emissions, TXU also said Monday that the new plants would have room for construction of additions intended to capture carbon dioxide. Moreover, it said it was conducting research on oxygen firing, chilled ammonia and other technologies to capture carbon.]

But outside groups, including Public Citizen, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Natural Resources Defense Council say that TXU is embarking on its immense construction campaign without taking account of its role in an emerging environmental catastrophe.

Unlike California, which has long taken the lead among states in advancing energy efficiency and is now moving to curb carbon emissions by those supplying electricity to the state, Texas has no goals for cutting carbon emissions. Indeed, the state's Republican governor, Rick Perry, who has received campaign support from companies that burn or ship coal, has fast-tracked coal permit applications from TXU and other companies.

Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Mr. Perry, said all permit applications were subject to the same environmental standards. If donors were trying to seek favor in official decisions, she said, "they'd be better off sending their money elsewhere."

TXU is not building natural gas plants, which would throw off half as much in carbon emissions as coal plants. In fact, the new plants might sideline some gas plants. The company is considering building a small number of nuclear reactors, which do not produce carbon. It is not aggressively pushing energy conservation, which many see as the cheapest way to satisfy the needs of business and consumers.

Instead, company executives insist that the only technology that is proved to be reliable and economical and can be built fast enough to keep the air conditioners from going out on hot summer afternoons is old-fashioned pulverized coal.

Some independent experts, like Ernest J. Moniz, co-chairman of the Energy Research Council at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former under secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, agree that for now coal is the most attractive fuel. And the traditional pulverized coal-burning plant may be the best way to make electricity — adding carbon capture later on — instead of coal gasification, which is favored by environmentalists.

If new rules ultimately impose controls on emissions, environmentalists say, TXU seems to be betting that restrictions will not apply to plants that are already up and running; environmental groups say that TXU's ambitious coal construction plan is intended to be built and running before any new rules go into effect.

"Either it is plain old denial," said Ralph Cavanagh, an electricity specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, "or they think they can be grandfathered" so that any regulation does not apply to their existing plants.

If it won such an exemption, then not only would TXU be able to operate carbon-dioxide-emitting plants, but it might eventually close the plants or clean up their emissions and sell its rights to produce emissions to other companies, for cash.

It is not a wild theory, electricity experts say, and they point to the regulations that took effect in the 1990s on emissions of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain. The federal government handed out allowances, or permission to emit a certain amount of the chemical, in proportion to how much the plants produced before the law took effect.

The government also put a cap on total emissions, and set it progressively lower in future years, permitting companies to trade their allowances so that the goal was achieved most efficiently. By installing scrubbers that captured the sulfur, companies could free the allowances they were given, and then sell them. One result was to give existing polluters an advantage over new-plant builders, who often had to pay cash for the right to pollute.

TXU executives deny any such calculation. "There's not some game theory here around carbon," said Mike McCall, the chief executive of TXU Wholesale, which is planning the company's construction campaign.

Mr. McCall said building extra coal plants to get in ahead of a new rule was impractical. No one wants to build plants that will sit idle if there is too much capacity.

Not that he worries much that any new plant in Texas will sit idle. The population of Texas is booming, and the average new house is 2,500 square feet, often with 11-foot ceilings, in a climate where air-conditioners run around the clock for three and a half months a year.
Nationally, the industry expects 19 percent growth over the next decade; in Texas, it is 25 percent. The state's peak electric demand grew 5 percent last summer, compared with the summer before.

Environmentalists are fighting TXU's plans and some elected officials have echoed their concerns. But the builders are plowing ahead and raising the specter of rotating blackouts in 100-degree heat unless the plants are built.

"It wouldn't be the regulator or politician that would have egg on their face if this market failed," Mr. McCall said, "it would be us."

TXU says it is also adding wind power and has tentative plans for nuclear reactors. But it dismisses a newer variant, gasified coal, as untested and too expensive despite the view of many experts that it would be easier to adapt later to capture carbon emissions.

Indeed, for the most part TXU is choosing the technology that will produce the cheapest power consistent with existing environmental regulations. The new plants planned by TXU and others operate at higher temperatures and pressures, and thus wring a few more kilowatt-hours of electricity from each ton of coal. With scrubbers, filters and catalytic converters, the new plants will be a lot cleaner than the smog-producing conventional ones.

In fact, at the plant in this city of about 3,500 people roughly 80 miles south of Dallas, the twin stacks called Big Brown are so filtered already that it is difficult to tell if the boilers are running from a distance.

To sweeten the deal, TXU has promised that it will cut its overall emissions of smog-forming pollutants and soot by 20 percent. That means a 70 percent cut from existing plants, although it would eventually have had to make some of those improvements anyway.

Part of the motivation for coal is that the new plants will do more than meet new demand; they will also displace old plants that run on natural gas. With Texas far more gas-dependent than other states, it was hit hard by the tripling of natural gas prices in recent years.

Wind is an even cleaner alternative than natural gas. Texas recently surpassed California as the nation's No. 1 producer of wind energy. And wind sells well here, according to Gillan Taddune, the chief environmental officer for the Green Mountain Energy Company, which sells electricity from wind to homeowners. But all the windmills in Texas amount to only one-third the capacity of one midsize coal boiler. Windmills do not run as many hours of the year as coal boilers, either, and they tend to be particularly lackluster on hot summer afternoons, when electricity is needed the most.

Coal plants, on the other hand, are available to meet load more than 90 percent of the time when needed. The result is that wind can be used to save fuel in fossil-fired plants, but the coal- or natural-gas-fired plants have to be built anyway, according to system planners.

With costly natural gas, long construction times for nuclear plants (and some uncertainty about their costs) and the unpredictable wind, that leaves mostly coal, utility officials say. "We seem to have a good case for it," said William Bojorquez, director of system planning for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The council operates Texas's power grid.

Tom Smith, the director of Public Citizen in Texas and a longtime activist on electricity issues, said that Texas was missing an opportunity, however, both to save money and help protect the environment. "There's cheaper, cleaner and cooler ways to provide the energy," he said. If Texas householders used electricity as efficiently as those in New York and California, he said, the need for new power plants could be cut by half.