Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Employers Offer Incentives to Lose Weight

I found this article to be a bit disturbing (click HERE for link).

Apparently a local firm is offering incentives to lose weight because they think it will lower their health care costs. There are a few things that bother me about this kind of program:

  • There is no evidence that it will actually lower their health care costs. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that there is a likelihood that this sort of program could even raise a firm's health care costs. There are a lot of ways to lose weight and not all of them are healthy. In fact, most of them are not. Even the more healthy weight loss programs can put a lot of stress on a person's body which is only worth it if the person maintains their weight loss. There is solid evidence that shows that around 95% of people who lose weight do not keep it off. So really, this sort of program is actually encouraging something harmful.

  • I know this will sound silly but it almost doesnt seem fair to those people who are already very fit. What if you dont need to lose 25 pounds, reduce body weight by 15 percent or reduce body fat by 15 percent?

  • This is just another example of our culture's hatred of fatness. It is clear that this company probably would rather not have fat employees. Maybe this is an alternative to simply firing overweight employees? Whenever I read stories like this, I just think that it is soooo lucky for me that weight is a protected employment class in Michigan.

Now, I can understand why an employer might want to reduce health care costs and also why they might want to encourage healthy lifestyles among their employees. But it seems to me that there are better ways to go about this. I would suggest that a firm who *really* wanted to improve their employee's health go about it by actually encouraging healthy BEHAVIORS rather than encouraging something like weight loss which may or may not be a result of healthy behaviors. Encouraging healthy behaviors probably would result in some or many employees losing weight but, more importantly, it would probably actually improve their health. So this is what I would suggest an employer do if they really wanted to encourage healthy employees.

  • Provide showers at work. That way people could be encouraged to walk or ride their bikes to work.

  • Provide bike racks in a sheltered and secure place.

  • Build an excercise room onsite or give employees free memberships to a local health club.

  • Heck, *pay* them to excercise. Give everyone an extra half hour break once a day to take a walk (the people who dont want to walk wouldnt get the break). Just doing that would probably make a huge difference.

Isnt it too bad that I dont rule the world? ;)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Holidays

I hope everyone had a nice holiday. I did the usual thing where I went to my Aunt Nancy's house on Christmas Eve and did the traditional Russian Christmas Eve dinner thing. It was yummy as usual. Then, on Christmas, I went to my Aunt Ann's house and had a good time.

I dont know how much I will be blogging in the next week or so. I havent really felt much like writing lately so I think a break might do me good. I'll see you all in the new year though :)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Where's Santa?

I just wanted to take a moment on this Christmas Eve to wish everyone a happy holiday. I volunteered to work today so I dont have much time to write too much but I would like to share this fun webpage. Did you know that NORAD tracks Santa???

And all this time, I didnt think Santa was real. I'll bet the Bush administration is keeping us all safe by monitoring his phone calls too. ;)

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Missing Computers

Today at work, I was talking to a co-worker who has been given the task of tracking down some missing computers. He has found all but two which is pretty good. Still, he has spent a bit of time on the task. I kind of thought that the effort was a bit much for some old computers that cant possibly be worth much. So I went onto ebay to see how much these systems were going for. I found a bunch of similar systems selling for $1. ONE DOLLAR! That totally made me laugh. Now, of course, that is just the starting point and these systems had no bidders and still had a day or so left for bidding but still. It made me laugh. I had to print out *that* ebay page and pass it around the office.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Don't Think of an Elephant

Like a lot of people on the left, I find myself confused when faced with certain neocon positions. I listen to them talk about things like this war in Iraq or about education or marriage and I cant fathom where their views come from. That a good number of people in this country share their views scares me.

I was commenting at work to a co-worker about how I just couldn’t get these neocons and my co-worker lent me a book that had some pretty interesting ideas in it. The book is Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff. It is the first book I have read that has a plausible sounding explanation for the world view of the neocons. Some of it was new to be but some of it was a reinforcement of what I already believed.

Lakoff talks a lot about how people think and about how people think in frames. It turns out that people will reject information that doesn’t fit their frame (and I am sure we progressives do this too). He also talks a lot about how language helps us form our frames and how today’s conservatives have become very good at presenting their ideas in frames that a lot of people can relate to.

Lakoff says that our frames come from how we view the world. That people have frames based upon how they view the nation as a family metaphor. Progressives come from a nurturing parent point of view and neocons come from a strict father point of view. All of this is explained really well at the Rockridge Institute’s webpage about the nation as a family

All in all, it is a good read.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Gifts of Breakdown Kits

Last August, I went camping with Shannon, Caleb, and their family. On the way there the car broke down. We had some warning that it was going to break down so before it did, Shannon and I were talking about breakdown kits to have in the car. Since in this day and age, no one ever really is able to fix their own cars by the side of the road, breakdowns usually involve waiting for a towtruck...sometimes for hours. So we thought that a good breakdown kit would have the stuff you *really* need when your car breaks down and not stuff like screwdrivers and other tools and stuff like that.

So for Christmas, I am making some breakdown kits for folks. Here are some of the things I am going to put in.

  • A book to read: I thought The Worst Case Scenario Handbook would be a good choice.

  • Chocolate

  • A pack of cigarettes and a lighter (for the person who smokes, the others dont get this.)

  • A deck of cards

  • A leash and some dog treats (for the person who has a dog)

  • Some of those little bottles of booze like they have on airplanes. I figured that once the car is broken down, the driving is over so it would be ok to have a cocktail by the side of the road.

I need some other things though. I am hoping folks can help. So if you were stuck by the side of the road: What would you want?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Thoughts on Writing

One of the parts of my job that I dislike is the requirement that we have that we document all of our knowledge. I guess I just don’t like technical writing. Which is something for me to keep in mind when I look into changing jobs. Technical writing is just a form of writing with about the least amount of autonomy one can find. It always has to conform to some form or another. Personally, I think people in the tech industry get too hung up on that but I guess ultimately it makes it easier for the people who have to actually use the documentation which is, after all, the point of it. I still don’t like writing it.

I do like other forms of writing though. I occasionally write bad poetry full of clich├ęs and such and I really like writing that although I would prefer to write good poetry. I have written only one or two good poems in my whole life. I wrote one when I was a senior in high school and I had a creative writing class. The class went on a field trip to downtown Ann Arbor and our assignment was to write a “catalog poem” where we wrote what we saw almost in a list form. I was out sick that day.

The weekend before, though, I had spent an evening with some friends at a park in Grosse Pointe. And I still remember some of what I saw: Lovers holding hands as they walked under street lights, a freighter’s lights out on the lake, a wedding at the War Memorial building. There were crickets singing and the occasional car going past on Lake Shore Drive.

I remember that wedding the best. We stood outside in our Brooks Brother’s Oxford shirts which were all the rage fashion-wise with my group of friends for some reason. There was a yellow pool of light on the ground to our right. It had crisscross patterns from the shadows of the window panes. Inside we could see people dancing and we could hear the sounds of a very elegant string quartet playing a waltz while the people inside danced and laughed.

And the bride! She was just a dream in one of those fluffy dresses that were common then. She was a Calla Lily waltzing in a bouquet of roses and carnations. Inside, the room was filled with light and laughter and family and love.

Outside, three bored teenagers stood looking.

It is funny how that one moment has stuck with me for so long. I don’t know why really. I don’t even remember the name of one of the two people I was with and lost track of the other over 15 years ago. But that poem I wrote about it was great. Even my mother, who was hyper critical of everything I did at the time liked it. I don’t know what happened to it. When the time came for our class to publish our poems in a teenaged literary magazine, my teacher asked me to bring it back it but it was gone. I never found it and never could remember quite what I wrote. (And part of me knows that is probably a good thing because at least this way, I can remember it better than it probably actually was).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Year in Review

I am feeling kind of lazy about the whole blogging thing today so I am going to do a little meme I have seen around. Basically, I have taken the first line from my first post of every month and have created a blog "year in review" which is interesting if somewhat incomplete.

January - Tonight is my last night here on Oahu

February – I have been thinking a bit about the front page of today and the questions it raises about self-esteem and how one might go about achieving it.

March - Grr. Huge windy snow storm today.

April - Worker #1: Are you serious, you have never had a mullet?

May – Dear Cookie, Sometimes I hate my job because I hate the way my bosses are on some kind of power trip.

June - Worker 1: [mumble mumble mumble]

July - *sigh* TBLOG, my blog host, is running as slow as molasses

August - The news story that caught my eye this morning was a ruling by the Michigan State Supreme Court that makes all great lakes beaches public property.

September - I have to admit that I havent been paying close attention to Katrina and the aftermath this week since I have been too busy playing in the California sunshine.

October - I went with Kate to see Serenity on Friday.

November - I actually left on time this morning for a change so I figured I would take Michigan Ave even though there is construction at Huron.

December - I have found that my brain isnt working at it's normal high capacity.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

I have never had a passion for writing. Like, when I dream of becoming an author and running around Paris drinking absynth in dirty backstreet cafes, it is the *Paris* part of the fantasy that gets my motor running. Ok, that, and I think I look good in a beret.

But every now and then, I read a story that makes me jealous of the author's ability to create something wonderful. Something so good that reading it almost feels like opening presents on Christmas morning...where each paragraph is there all wrapped up and shiny and all one has to do to get to it is to pluck the ribbon from the top.

And it is with Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain." A friend emailed me the link to the old archive version in The New Yorker and I have had to spend a good long time keeping myself from crying here at work on my lunch hour because this story is just THAT beautiful and sad. And now Ang Lee has done the film version? I cant wait to see it!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Some Thoughts about Lost Characters and Tookie Williams

I have been thinking a bit about what a weird culture we live in.

I am a big fan of Lost and one of the things I like about it is the complexity of the characters. I think there is a place in entertainment for “good guys” without flaws and “bad guys” who cant be redeemed but I also like characters who are more well rounded. At any rate, I have my favorite characters on Lost and I generally find all of the characters on the island to be likable and, more importantly, redeemable. Which is interesting since there are no fewer than three of them who have committed murder? And I am not alone in finding these characters likable. A lot of people do.

And then, on the other hand, we have that high profile Tookie Williams death penalty case in California where people are suggesting that redemption of character is an issue. Now, I certainly think redemption of character *is* an issue that should be considered in death penalty cases or rather, it is a major reason I generally don’t support death as a punishment in our society. I have never met him but I cant believe that he was ever a “bad guy” in the Hollywood one dimensional sense. I don’t believe he is some monster who needs to be killed as punishment or to make our society better or whatever. I also think that people can change and grow and that the person being put to death 24 years after being sentenced to death is probably not the same person they were then. And now, we might find that it isn’t some monster we are putting to death but a person who just might have something to contribute.

What strikes me as odd, though, is the number of people who are able to find fictional characters likable and to accept that such characters are redeemable while at the same time viewing a real man as simply a monster who must be put to death. I am sure that some of them make a strong distinction between fiction and reality in the sense that they believe that Williams killed a real person and thus, should be punished while on a TV show, it doesn’t matter if the characters get punished. But I suspect that still others simply haven’t bothered to learn anything about Tookie Williams or the person behind the name and so he is just a name to them. A name of a murderer. Perhaps it is easier to support the death of such a person if they are nothing more than a name connected with a crime that occurred decades ago.

It is also interesting to me that one man who made a career of playing one dimensional characters now finds himself with another man’s life in his hands. Schwarzenegger got where he is because of American’s love of seeing things in black in white; guilty or innocent; “good guys” or “bad guys”. Now he has the opportunity to show that Americans are capable of seeing things in shades of grey. That some of us, at least, are able to see that a criminal’s life can have value. Let’s not kick this one off the island lest we find we need him to shoot down some polar bears or something.

Related Links

New York Times article that mentions Lost characters

NPR Tookie Williams Timeline

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Case of the Lonlies Brought On by "The Thin Man"

I have holed up in my house for the second weekend in a row. I think I needed the break from all the holiday activity but it is still a little lonely. Which is ok really because there is nothing like a day of feeling a little bit lonely to make one appreciate all of the really wonderful people in one’s life. I have plenty, I just need to poke my head up out of my hole and get on with some holiday cheer :)

Loneliness can be funny though. I think I started feeling lonely yesterday night while I was curled up in my pajamas and engaged in one of my favorite “alone time” activities: watching old movies with a nice hot cup of tea and a snuggly cat on my lap and snoring dogs at my feet. Normally, I don’t feel lonely at all when I am doing that but I was watching one of those “Thin Man” movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy and there is something about the chemistry between those two that made me miss having that kind of connection with someone else on a regular basis.

And OK, I admit it, I thought the idea of being a rich heiress with a funny ex-detective husband who is a little bit of a drinker to be a pretty good fantasy. And in these movies, they get to take their dog anyplace they like which is another thing I am envious of. Plus movies from the 30's are always so glamourous....**sigh**

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hibernation and the Economics of Winter

It is really cold outside. Thursday's snow is still pretty. My furnace works and although I got my first big bill of the season, it isnt going to break me although I am pretty worried about the next couple of months which tend to be the coldest. I have decided to spend today putting up some of that horrible plastic sheeting over some windows in the hopes that it might help me keep my heating costs down.

I have a really old furnace. I think a new one might cut my heating costs by 1/3 but a new one would cost around $3000. Still, my bill last month was $200 and it will only get worse as the winter gets colder and still worse in the coming years as natural gas gets more expensive. But even if I could save $600 a year in heating costs it would take five years just to break even.

I could probably get better insulation in the attic which would help some but a lot of the cold comes in from my leaky windows and from my walls. All I have to do is touch my cold walls to know that they arent keeping all of the heat inside. But probably it is the windows that are the worst thing as far as leaks go. I have an old house and old single pane wood frame windows. I cant get new windows because I live in a historic district and the requirements for new windows make them far too expensive for me. Still the drafts from the windows are so bad that when the wind blows, I can feel it through the windows. And that plastic sheeting is cheap (around $20 per window) but so ugly. I guess I have to choose: ugly but warm or fabulous but freezing.

I am going with the ugly but warm but I think I'll put a copy of my DTE bill in my pocket so I can look at it everytime I look at that plastic on my window and hate it.

"Man, I HATE that plastic on the window. It is soooo ugly!!!"

**reaches into pocket and gets out bill**

"Oh yeah...riiiiiiight"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Welcome to Tech Support Hell

I am still having trouble putting things into words. It is weird because I have the same problem when I am depressed but then my cognitive deficits are accompanied with a strong desire to slit my wrists. I have not been using anti-depressant medications but have been using the full spectrum light for an hour or two per day. I have to say that considering how much cheaper the light is, I’ll live with a winter time problem although it can be honestly frustrating sometimes.

Yesterday my team at work had a meeting. During the meeting I suggested to my team mates that they aren’t always very nice to other teams. People on our Level One team have mentioned to me that they have felt patronized when talking to people on our team. So first these guys get very defensive which is understandable but then, in the same breath they were defending themselves, they said “But we are only asking them to do stuff that is common sense” in that TONE that is almost a stereotype for horrible IT help desk people. The tone you might get if you were to call tech support and have some arrogant jerk tell you that OF COURSE your computer isn’t working and if you had just looked at the hexadecimal value of the discombobulator in C:\PROGRAMS you would have known what to do. Sheesh!

So there I was accusing these guys of being arrogant pricks and their response was to BE arrogant pricks while asking me for specific examples of the behavior people were having a problem with and a normal person would have said “Listen to yourselves! LISTEN you Dogbert tech support wannabes. LISTEN”

But I didn’t. Instead I got into an argument about if it is common sense to get a phone number from a caller. They said it was and I said it wasn’t because 99% of the time we already have the caller’s phone number so people aren’t in the habit of asking and then I ended up concluding the whole thing with “Just be nicer” which is too vague to be any use to anyone.

Oh well, at least the guys have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Today when I went to a meeting with the team, I walked in and they said “Hey Level One Lover” so I guess they aren’t too mad about it. And maybe they’ll make an effort to be nicer but considering that the issue is more their tone of voice than what they say, I doubt they are even conscious of what it is that makes people on other teams feel they are being talked down to. *shrug*

Monday, December 05, 2005

No getting away from Monday

I stayed home from work today because I woke up with just about the most horrible menstrual cramps I have had in a long time combined with some pretty bad lower back pain. I am not sure if that is period related or a result of my snow shoveling activities yesterday. But it turns out that staying home does not mean one gets to escape Monday.

I found that I had no Tylenol or Advil or anything of that sort and I needed some of that action in a serious way. But when I went out to go buy some, I found that a tire on my car was completely flat. I swear! I get more flat tires. Is someone going around Ypsilanti dropping nails on the street or what? Ugh. I managed to use my foot pump (best $10 I have ever spent) to inflate the tire enough to drive on it and went to the drug store and then to the tire place. I was very very irritable while in the tire place even though they had good magazines and the Advil started working while I was there. I found that I wanted to yell but I didnt.

I did have to laugh as I was leaving. They couldnt figure out how to get my car in reverse. VW has this thing on manual transmissions where you have to push the shifter down before putting it into reverse because you know, VW’s are cars designed for dumb people like me who might accidently put the car in reverse when they want first or something. My car also will not allow me to lock driver’s side door except from the outside with the key which is why it is the first car I have ever owned where I havent ever locked the keys inside.

My mom borrowed my “dummy proof” car once a long time ago and she couldnt figure out how to put it into reverse either. I guess it isnt intuitive for people who havent driven VW’s. It is funny how things are designed sometimes. Like, on Thanksgiving, I almost burned the rolls I was heating up because my mother has a kitchen timer that requires a person to move the dial all the way past 55 mins and then *back* to whatever they want to set it. I just set it at 5 mins and it never dinged. I guess like my car, it isnt a very intuitive design.

I am sometimes fascinated about how things are designed. Things like cars. I especially notice such things when I am driving a rental car or borrowing a car from someone. It is sometimes very easy to figure things out and sometimes one needs a manual just to figure out how to turn the wipers or the headlights on.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ashes to ashes

I am going to go pick up Crissy's ashes tomorrow. That got me thinking a bit about death and afterlife and such. It is funny because in my grief, just after Crissy died, I found that I had all kinds of little daydreams about heaven and seeing her again and hanging out.

But today, now that my sadness has faded some, I find that I just dont believe in an afterlife. Deep down, I believe that when we die, that is that. And it isnt too scary but it isnt really comforting either.

I havent decided what to do with her ashes. The rose bush thing sounds good but I am so terrible with plants that I fear I will kill the rose bush I plant and then I'll get sad about that. But then, I honestly cant think of a single other thing to do with the ashes. Oh well. For now, I think I will just stick them in my attic and decide what to do later.

I am not so sure about all of these death rituals. When my cat Fred died, I never did anything. I had him cremated but didnt have the ashes returned to me. I dont regret that because, at the time, I didnt need to do it. I am not sure why I need to have Crissy's ashes this time though. I mean, I dont need a funeral to make it more real...her absense is real enough. *shrug*

I suppose it is possible that just this once, I can simply let myself need to have her ashes without pulling out my emotions and figuring out every possible reason I might have to want and desire such a thing.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What I've been up to

I have found that my brain isnt working at it's normal high capacity. I feel stupid but I figure it is just some sort of cognitive depression similar and perhaps related to the more common emotional depression I often have but dont seem to this year (yay grow light!). So I have been reading various articles and other people's blogs and such and they are still making me think about the things I usually think about when I read them but I have found that I am having a very hard time putting those thoughts into words. In a funny coincidence one of the things I read lately was an article written by someone who claims that language is necessary for a lot of our higher thought but I am having the opposite problem. I can think about the nuances of certain issues but cant verbalize them well.

So...I am on sort of a mental vacation. I am not forcing myself to write down my thoughts or talk about them. I am just letting them sit while I focus on more concrete things in my life.

Tonight I am going to go see some guy named Nadir play over at TC Speakeasy's. I hear he is really good and plays "Southern Fried Funk," whatever that is. It sounds like it could be fun though. It has been a really long time since I have gone out to a bar to see a band. I think it will be a good use of my time and it is one of those social things that isnt really social because generally the music is too loud to allow conversation. But one is still out of the house and in the company of others and there is the whole shared experience thing which is always nice because next week or next month or next year or whatever, we can all do the whole "Hey remember when we saw that guy Nadir" thing.

So...come on down if you want.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fun with Technology

Every now and then I find some bit of technology that just makes me all giddy and happy and I feel like I have to share this with everyone. I have found such a thing.

Last Wednesday when I went to see Pride and Prejudice, I got home late and then realized that I had forgotten to set my VCR to tape Lost. Now, I hate being so addicted to a TV show that I feel like I have to tape it but I am addicted to Lost so there you go. And yes, I was very bummed that I had forgotten to tape the show. So…I spent some time later in the week trying to figure out how I could catch this episode.

I have to confess that eventually, I decided to see if I could download it from the internet even though I know that is illegal. Yeah, that is right. I would sell out my morals for an episode of a TV show! I hate to admit it but it is true. Luckily, I didn’t have to.

My search for downloads led me to the Apple itunes site. It turns out that Apple has a deal with ABC and they are offering episodes of Lost for downloading at a mere $1.99 each and it is perfectly on the up and up and legal and everything. Also, no commercials. I was so pleased about that last thing that I might find myself downloading episodes anyways although, since one has to wait a full day after the episode airs to do the download, I might find that I cannot wait. Still, this is pretty good news and it means no more missed episodes of TVshows for me.

I hope more of the major networks will start doing this. I love the idea of On Demand programming and even pay per show programming is pretty cool. I wonder if this could lead to more niche programming. There are a lot of TV shows that I like that end up getting cancelled because a network wont support them. Sometimes they survive in syndication but sometimes they don’t. What would happen if producers of such a show could offer it on demand were people pay something like $2 to watch an episode? It could mean that more shows survive if they have enough people willing to pay.

It also means that TV shows would not be at the mercy of advertisers who have been known to pull ads from controversial TV shows. I have long thought that this is why almost all of the really good TV shows of the last five years have been on pay cable channels like HBO: Wonderfalls and Lost being the two exceptions I can think of.

Anyways, technology is fun isn’t it?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My Brother's Wedding

Jonathan and Katrina

I just got back from Toronto where my brother got married yesterday. It was a really nice wedding. They got married in a Catholic church. The priest was really funny. He was telling his little sermon and he started telling a story about sick man whose doctor told his wife that because he was so sick, he would really need to be taken care of. That he wouldnt be able to do anything around the house and she would have to cook for him and clean for him and essentially do his every bidding or else he would die.

I was sitting there thinking, "OH man, this is another one of those speeches about how a good wife has to obey her husband and cater to his every need" and while he was telling this little story I was already thinking about the blog I would write about how such attitudes grate on me.

Then, he finished his story. After the doctor tells the wife that she has to do everything for him (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc) including his every bidding or else he will die, the wife goes in her husband's hospital room and lovingly picks up his hand and looks deep into his eyes. The husband says, "What did the doctor say, honey?"

She says, "I am afraid it is bad, dear. It seems that you are going to die"

After the wedding, there was a reception at the hotel where everyone was staying and we did the usual chatting with everyone routine and getting to know Katrina's family a bit better. Katrina has a really neat family. They are all very interesting people. I really enjoyed talking to one of her aunts who is a Spanish diplomat's wife. She lives in Malina and flew all the way to Toronto just for the wedding. She said that all throughout her marriage they have moved to a different country every 3 or 4 years. She speaks something like eight languages!

Everyone at the wedding had all kinds of fun telling the story about how Jonathan and Katrina met. When my brother was eleven years old, my family was involved with a group called Children's International Summer Villages. They sent my brother to a village in the Philippines. Katrina's mother had recently gotten involved with CISV there and had sent Katrina the same camp. They included a photo of them both taken at the camp when they were 11 years old on their invitations to the wedding. Anyhow, they kept in touch through the years and one thing led to another and now they are married. Kind of cool when you think about it.

Anyhow, I had a nice time. Whatever bitchiness my mom had going on on Thanksgiving had worn off and she very pleasant the whole weekend. Everyone else in my family was on their best behavior too, including me. Even certain crazy members of the family managed to tune down the crazies and all was well and good.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Thanksgiving Report

I did Thanksgiving at my parents’ house as usual. And as usual it was kind of stressful. My mom always gets very stressed out about the whole thing and gets pissed if she doesn’t think I am helping enough. I am generally hesitant to help out though because if one doesn’t do everything her way, she gets all pissy about it.

My favorite part of the holiday is that time, after everyone has eaten and they are sitting around the table chatting and telling stories. That is the time when my mother wants me clearing the table or serving coffee or whatever. I got out of clearing the table because my sister was with us this year due to getting a divorce over the summer. But, I still had to go serve the pie RIGHT AFTER DINNER when no one really is ready for pie. Well, I wasn’t ready for pie yet anyways.

The pie serving wouldn’t have been so bad except she had to get up to criticize how I was doing it. My thought about that was that it probably took at least as much energy for her to get up and come into the kitchen to bitch at me about how I was cutting the pie as it would for her to cut and serve the pie herself. It certainly would have been easier for both of us if she simply did it herself. Or she could have relaxed at the table and not put energy into being such a bitch. She is only like this at holidays too. I think she has some notion that when she is the holiday hostess, everything has to be perfect (her version of perfect) or something.

It wasnt just the pie thing either that pissed me off. She totally *had* to get on my case about how I handled things last weekend with my dog Crissy. I spent too much money on an old dog. I should have gone to a cheaper vet. I shouldnt have run any tests. blah blah blah. She isnt usually this bad but she used to be like this EVERY day when I was in high school. I remember once she went to see a play I was in and then wouldnt shut up about how terrible it was and how she couldnt understand why we would choose a play that was written so badly (I told her that was because it was written by students). GRRRR. I would just as soon forget about that particular aspect of her personality.

It occurred to me, later on, that I would have had a much nicer holiday sitting home alone with a frozen turkey dinner. It wasn’t like I got to enjoy my favorite part of the day anyways Oh well. Maybe next year I will remember to demand complete pie autonomy and will bring the whole pies to the table with a stack of plates so I can sit and chat while cutting the pie. Ah well. Isn’t that how it always is? One always thinks of a better way to handle a situation after the situation is past and nothing can be done about it.

Or maybe next year, I will have Thanksgiving at my house. I’ll just get the Meijer turkey dinner and serve it all on paper plates. I’ll get everyone all liquored up first so they don’t notice that the dinner is from Meijer. When I told this plan to a friend, she said I should bring all the Meijer stuff home and put it in casserole pans in my oven so I could pretend that I cooked it all myself. Yeah…I think it could be a workable plan although I still think the frozen turkey dinner idea sounds attractive.

Pride and Prejudice

Wednesday night a friend from work and I went to see Pride and Prejudice. I think it was a good version although I will have to be very unoriginal and agree with almost every review I read about the film which is:

  • It is a pretty good version and mostly faithful to the novel.
  • They should have stuck to Austin’s dialog. I mean, Austin was a genius at wonderful witty little exchanges. Why mess with perfection?
  • It was well cast. There was one review that said that Keira Knightley was a bad choice for Elizabeth Bennet because she was too beautiful for the part and it is the older sister, Jane, who is supposed to be the great beauty. I guess it just goes to show you that different people have different standards of beauty because I thought she was fine for the part and not especially beautiful when compared to Rosamund Pike’s Jane. As for the rest of the cast, what can I say? Donald Sutherland! He is awesome. And Judy Dench too. She did a wonderful Lady Catherine de Bourg!
  • Even though it was really good, it was not as good as the BBC mini-series with Colin Firth.

All in all, it was fun to see. We saw it at the Michigan Theater which is always fun even though the seats aren’t too comfortable. The elegance and beautiful surroundings of the theater sort of make up for that though. There weren’t too many men in the audience which I thought was funny. Oh well, all those guys are missing out on a good story.

My favorite part was a group of teenage girls sitting down on the main floor giggling throughout the film in a way that really reminded me of Lydia and Kitty. I wondered if they saw themselves a bit in those characters. Even though Austin didn’t particularly paint them favorably, I have to admit that I always found that pair to be somewhat charming. The whole giddiness of their characters was always really refreshing and I hope that those girls didn’t feel they should reign in their joy because such behavior was, at one time, frowned upon. Judging by the noises I heard as that group exited the theater, I would say there isn’t much danger in that!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Thanks everyone for reading and have a good holiday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

GAS, Filanges, and Verbal Farting

A long time ago, some girl friends and I used to have a terribly sexist inside joke about what we called "male answer syndrome" I have since noticed that this syndrome seems to strike almost as many women as men so I now call it Gender-unspecified Answer Syndrome (GAS). Basically, it occurs when someone simply does not have the ability to say the words "I dont know" and instead gives a plausible sounding answer that isnt actually backed up by any knowledge on their part. Basically, they BS their way through an answer. I often think of it as verbal farting. Some people are really good at this. I see it all the time in my department at work. It makes me laugh though because often, I am an expert on the subject and I know that the words coming out of these people's mouths are just plain made up and wrong. But you know, if you put enough technical jargon into a sentence, non-technical people just don’t understand it.

And then there is the whole “Emperor’s New Clothes” phenomenon where people just aren’t able to admit that they don’t know what the sufferer of GAS is talking about. So, in the technical world, I often find myself at a lot of meetings where one person who doesn’t know what he/she is talking about is BSing their way through a meeting to a group of other people who wont admit that they don’t understand the BS. They usually go like this:

Person with GAS: I think the problem is that the filange packets are stuck in the flux capacitor of the server.

Management type: I see. Well what can we do to fix this filange problem?

Person with GAS: I think we will need to do a high colonic on the flux capacitor and write a script to sniff out the filange.

Management type: When can you do this? I am VERY concerned about this filange problem.

Person with GAS: I’ll get on it right now!

Management type: Good, I’ll check on you right after I attend my “Dihydrogen Monoxide and How it Effects Our Business” conference.

I bring all of this up because lately I have noticed more and more people doing this at work. I notice this especially in the areas where I actually am an expert and one of only two experts on certain things in the whole department. I read people’s notes and find myself cracking up because I know they are just making stuff up.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Dog's Death

One of the things I have noticed about my own personal grieving process is that once I get really sad, my mind often latches onto some long forgotten poem or song. I find myself repeating it over and over in my mind for days or weeks. It is oddly comforting although I am not sure why. So this time has been no exception. And the poem is one by John Updike called "Dog's Death" and even though it is about a puppy and Crissy was really old, there is some emotion that Updike captures that is hitting home with me. Maybe it is the whole idea that even when dying, a dog will still do anything they can to please their people.

DOG'S DEATH by John Updike

She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, "Good dog! Good dog!"

We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.

Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest's bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet's, on my lap, she tried
To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.

Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The End

Crissy had a rough night. She slept until 3am or so. Around that time, I heard her try to get up and I heard her collapse on the floor when she couldnt quite make it. She had some more diarrhea so I cleaned that up and I gave her some more water to drink.

At 7am, she wasnt sleeping but she wasnt doing much besides lying in her bed. Her breathing was labored and she didnt look particularly comfortable. I decided that I had to take her to the vet.

Unfortunately, my vet had a family emergency and wasnt there. The office was closed so I had to drive over to the Emergency Vet. They examined her and said it didnt look good. The vet there said that he was pretty sure that her organs were shutting down. I ordered a lot of tests anyways because I felt that I needed to be sure. They found that her kidneys werent functioning nor her liver which had a mass. Her red blood cells were very very low. Her heart was very enlarged. Basically, she was dying. So...I made that decision that is always hard to make and I had them put her down.

And now I miss her.

I don’t know much about her early life. She was adopted as a young adult dog by a group home for mentally ill adults. She lived there for several years until the company that ran the group home lost their contract to run it and the new management said “No Dogs.” The residents of the home were apparently heartbroken but the dog had to go.

I worked for the company that used to run that group home. Crissy was homeless and headed for the pound. I felt that I couldnt let that happen because since she was an older dog, going to the shelter probably would mean certain death. So I took her in on a temporary basis until a more permanent home could be found for her.

At the time, I had a dog at home (Brooke) who just wasnt doing well being alone during the day. I found that after Crissy came to live with us, Brooke’s daytime destruction and crying really got a lot better. Within a few weeks, Crissy had settled in. Even the cat liked her. That was eight and a half years ago.

Friday, November 18, 2005



I have a sick dog. A very sick dog. I am not sure she is going to live through the weekend but I am hopeful.

It started earlier this week with some diarrhea. Something that is pretty normal for this particular dog since she tends to eat all kinds of crazy things when we are out. When I came home from work on Wednesday, there was some diarrhea on the floor. I cleaned it up but wasnt particularly worried. I wasnt even worried all Wednesday night when she woke me up a few times during the night.

On Thursday morning, I was a bit worried because I had a lunch appointment so I knew I couldnt come home. I papered an entire room with old towels, news paper and puppy pads. She chose another room. When I got home from work Thursday night, it was like there had been a diarrhea explosion. She even somehow managed to poo down a heating vent which meant I had to unscrew the vent cover to get down there to clean it up. She woke me up more during the night Thursday night than she did the previous night and in the morning, she really didnt look too good.

I had to go to work this morning anyways but I went in an hour late and took her outside and made sure she had ample time out there. She seemed ok when I left for work and I was back to check on her in just over two hours due to an early lunch. One small bit of diarrhea but nothing like yesterday. But the dog just didnt look good. I took her outside and she collapsed in the yard. I had to carry her back in. I left her in the kitchen and went back to work.

Once there, I just couldnt concentrate. I talked my boss into letting me go home early without penalty which was very very nice of him to do. I know I have bitched a lot about work lately but I really appreciate that I was allowed to leave today.

I came home and found her shaking and lying right where I left a puddle of liquid diarrhea. It was clear that she had tried to get up but couldnt. I cleaned her up and checked her temperature (normal, thank goodness) and checked her skin. She was really really dehydrated.

I know I should have picked her up right then and rushed to the veterinarian’s office but I just couldnt. I guess I was afraid that they would want to keep her overnight and the last time I did that with a pet, the pet died alone at the vet’s office. I just couldnt bear the thought of that. So I got some chicken broth and put it in a dish and told myself that if she drank it, I would keep her here and if she didnt, I would take her to the vet.

She drank it! A whole bowl. So I got her another and she drank that too. So I got her a bowl of plain water and she drank that too and then another. She drank about a quart of liquid and started looking a lot better immediately. I got her to stand up and led her over to her bed which I had already covered in puppy pads. She settled in and has been sleeping ever since. She looks comfortable now but hasnt tried to stand up so I am not sure if she will be able to.

I went to the grocery store and bought several more cans of chicken broth and some beef broth too. I got her some plain rice and some gravy to put on it later if she can tolerate the rice. My plan is to keep giving her broth and water tonight. My vet is open on Saturday mornings so if she doesnt improve a lot more by morning, I will take her in. I have decided that I wont leave her there though. I am going to stay home all weekend and make sure she is drinking enough. I think she was so weak because she was dehydrated. I suspect that she was dehydrated because she has trained herself over the years not to drink much water when I am not home and I wasnt home. She is drinking now though and her skin is springing back so I think she has rehydrated significantly

It is funny too because even though she is really old and I have kind of been preparing myself for her death, when I actually thought about that earlier today I still got really sad. I know it has to happen and probably soon but I really don’t want it to be now. She is currently snoring loudly in her bed and it is the most delicious sound I have heard all day.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Love-Hate Relationship

It was snowing as I left for work this morning. Snow can be a real pain in the neck. It makes it harder to drive. It is cold. It means extra chores (shoveling). And yet, even though there is so much not to like about it, I always get this feeling of utter excitement the first time we have real snow falling.

Some people think of the beginning of winter as being the solstice in December. But for me, it is the first time it snows. So for me…it is winter now. And I love it too until around January when it gets *really* cold and I am sick of the snow and forget to notice just how beautiful it is.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Busy and just not into writing

I know I havent blogged in a while. I have been really busy for the past several days. Today is the first evening in almost a week when I have been able to simply come home from work and have the time as my own. I have been doing fun stuff though.

Another Wedding:

On Saturday I went to wedding #2 for my cousin Anthony and his wife Melissa. It was at the Russian Orthodox church. When I was invited to it, I thought it was just going to be a small casual church thing with just a few people. NOT!!! There was basically another wedding with a ton of guests and a catered reception and everything. I was rather hung over from the night before which was odd because I didnt really drink that much. Still, I was hung over enough that even when faced with an open bar, I couldnt bring myself to order anything other than just plain old pop.

Hanging With My Homies

I spent Sunday with my friends Andee and Luanne who are just amazing. I always love talking to them. First Andee and I did the whole Costco shopping thing which is always something I like to do even though I am prone to buying a whole lot of stuff I dont need. I was very good on this trip though. Then we met Luanne at the movie theater. We went to see The Weather Man which was way better than I expected it to be. All three of us were sobbing hard enough to require tissues. I guess you could say it passes the cry test for being a chick movie. But it was really funny too.

Anyways, I havent been writing much here but that is ok.

Friday, November 11, 2005

We Are Holding Our Own

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. A tragedy made especially famous by Gordon Lightfoot’s song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest shipwreck songs ever written. It has long been a favorite among my friends and we are known to start singing it loudly and badly when we are drinking (and sometimes when we are not drinking). It is odd that such a song about such a tragedy can become such symbol of close bonding but it just goes to show you that sometimes good can come of bad sometimes.

And yet, even though I have mostly good associations with Lightfoot’s song, I never forget about the event that inspired it. The sinking of a good ship and the loss of 29 lives. Sometimes I don’t think that people who have never been to the Great Lakes don’t understand the significance of the event. They don’t really realize that lake freighters aren’t small little boats. They are behemoths and giants. They are typically much larger than their ocean going sisters and the Edmund Fitzgerald was the biggest and best of them all. Lightfoot wasn’t exaggerating when he called her “The pride of the American Side” It takes a lot to sink a boat like that.

I used to live in Sault Ste Marie which is on the far eastern edge of Whitefish Bay. Because I was always intrigued by the song, I decided to drive up to Whitefish point one November morning when the forecast was for a storm. I remember standing there on the beach looking westward over Lake Superior. The waves were crashing and the wind was picking up. The sky was the most beautiful shade of dark grey and it reminded me of the color of a pair of eyes belonging to a man I loved. Snow flurries were being whipped around with the wind like little swirling mini-tornados. They looked like ghosts or spirits. It was cold with the kind of cold that grabs you by the bones and shakes you until you can hardly breathe. And the wind roars and the lake churns and it is then, just then, when one really gets what is meant by “Superior sings in the rooms of her icewater mansion”

I could barely stand it to be on that beach looking at the awesome beauty of Lake Superior gripped in the fury of a November storm. It was uncomfortable and brutal. It was then that I thought of the sailors out on the lake that day. Of how I might be uncomfortable but I was safe and had firm land under my feet and a warm house to go back to. I found myself sitting home later with my radio on and Gordon Lightfoot’s voice in the air. I was glad to be there.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down,
of the big lake they call Gitchigumi
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore, 26,000 tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side,
coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most,
with a crew and good captain well-seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
when they left, fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feeling?

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound,
and a wave tumbled over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
'twas the Witch of November come stealing
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait,
when the gales of November came slashing

When afternoon came, it was freezing rain,
in the face of a hurricane west wind
When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck,
saying, "Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya"
At seven p.m., the main hatchway caved in, he said,
"Fellas, it's been good to know ya"
The captain wired in he had water coming in,
and the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night, when its lights went out of sight,
came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
if they'd put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized,
they may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
in the rooms of her icewater mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
the isles and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below, Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go, as the mariners all know,
with the gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit, they prayed
at the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed till it rang 29 times,
for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down,
of the big lake they call Gitchigumi

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fashion Faux Pas

I woke up late this morning sort of. Actually, I woke up at my usual time but the dogs were all still asleep and not demanding to be let out so I just laid back and enjoyed listening to their snores instead of getting up and getting ready like I should have been doing.

When I finally just had to get up, I was late enough that I really just had to run downstairs and grab the first thing that was clean. I grabbed: purple plaid capris, a turquoise shirt that says "Hawaii" and a Teal Patagonia fleece pullover (with purple trim so it kind of matches the pants). The t-shirt is really long and the pullover is a little on the short side. I naturally didnt tuck in my shirt or anything.

Shortly after I arrived at work this morning, I went into the bathroom with the full length mirror and I had to gasp. I looked ridiculous! But hey, I punched in on time and it isnt like I have a reputation for being a snappy dresser anyways so I dont have to worry about ruining that. I had to laugh though. My hair was all over the place because I didnt brush it this morning and my t-shirt was enough longer than the pullover to make me look quite weird. It occurred to me that if I added some lime green leg warmers and then a mask that was just a plain black rectangle, I could have a Halloween costume as one of those "What NOT to wear" features in magazines.

I forgot about how silly I looked and decided to run up to the gas station at lunch. As I was waiting in line to pay, I noticed the woman behind me was looking at me in a seriously funny way. All of her body language screamed: THE HORROR!!! I thought that if this woman is a blogger, I might stumble across one of those “you should have seen the big fat woman wearing purple Capri pants in November” posts. Usually such posts end with “What was she thinking when she got dressed this morning”

The truth is I know perfectly well that I look silly. I knew it as I was getting dressed. But sometimes looking silly is worth 15 minutes of peace where one can lie back and be contented just to listen to a dog snore. Really. I guess that is one of the nice things about getting older…one’s priorities change. And one becomes freer in a way. Free enough to wear a red hat with a purple dress (ala Jenny Joseph’s famous poem) and free enough to wear purple plaid Capri pants in November.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day

Last Sunday, I read an interesting article in The New York Times Magazine about voting and about incentives to vote. Click here for a link. It was written by STEPHEN J. DUBNER and STEVEN D. LEVITT who are the authors of the popular book Freakonomics. Basically they point out something I have discussed with Econ professors in school before. What are the incentives to vote? As Levitt and Dubner point out, there is little individual incentive other than responding to social pressures. People vote more because they feel they should than because they can actually matter to the outcome of the election with their one vote.

However, one thing that Levitt doesnt get into is how groups can gain political power by voting. And while on an individual level, it might be pressure from the group that gets one into the voting booth, there is no way to deny that groups that are able to get their members out to vote have quite a lot of power *as groups* in the political arena. I can think of several cohesive groups that are able to get their people to the polls and those votes do change things.

And if I were a politician, I have to admit that when making policy I might consider the wants of the mega-church which can get its members to the polls over the wants of Economists who apparently as a group dont go to the polls ;) I'm just sayin..

Speaking of politics and how groups can change things: well...I think all of those churches who make up the religious right and who are so good at getting their folks to the polls certainly have something to celebrate in Alito. The guy is way to conservative for my tastes. So...if you are like me and want to show that you just dont want the guy, feel free to visit my friend Trace's blog ( for a lot of useful suggestions about what a person can do. And while you're at it, take a look at her anti-Alito cafepress store. It is all kinds of fun, I promise.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Cousin's Wedding

I got that dress in time for yesterday’s wedding but when I took it out of the box, I realized that the jacket was covered in glitter. I generally don’t like to wear sparkles but I didnt have time to get something else and, otherwise, I liked the outfit a lot. It worked though, my grandmother liked it a lot so it accomplished what it was supposed to.

The wedding was very nice. It was at one of those “mega churches” that I have read articles about but have never actually seen. The ceremony was a multi-media presentation with music, both live and recorded, and a slide show with baby pictures of the couple. Since I love looking at pictures, I enjoyed that part of the ceremony a lot. I often get mailings from this church and was a little bit curious about it. It is quite a large thing. It was more of a church complex than what I would consider a church. I imagine it becomes quite the social hub on Sundays.

I didnt feel terribly comfortable there although there was definately something welcoming about the people. I got the feeling that the pastor was a genuinely nice man. And yet, I found myself actually cringing at the vows which were a sort of modern equivalent of having the women promise to “love, honor and *obey*” I noticed several women around me crying at that part of the ceremony and while I doubt they were crying about the inequality of the vows, I got a little bit of amusement imagining that they were.

The Bride was very beautiful and my cousin looked pretty spiffy in his tux. I loved all the autumn colors they had. The flowers were potted mums and the church was decorated with fall leaves. The bridesmaids wore gowns in a brownish maroon that I thought was a particularly lovely color. All in all, it was a very nice, well put together, wedding.

The reception was held at some swanky country club in Bloomfield Hills with valet parking being the only option. Had I known that, I would have vacuumed the mountain of dog hair out of my nine year old rusting car...and taken the used coffee cup out...and the trash on the floor. But, oh well! I apologized to the kid parking my car. He was very charming and just said, “Hey, don’t worry about us, *we* are regular people”

Well...alllll righty then!

The funny thing is that they are having another wedding next weekend. They had this wedding in her church but they are going to do the whole Russian Orthodox wedding thing next weekend. I guess I'll go to that one too. I dont buy into the theology of the Russian Orthodox church but I think they have the most beautiful weddings I have ever seen. They are long though and the pews are hard. Northridge, btw, had deluxe padded pews. Something that if mentioned to the folks in charge the Russian Orthodox church would surely result in a reply of "You are lucky to have pews at all, in Russia, they have no pews and make you stand and kneel on the cold hard marble" ;)

The whole two wedding thing seems kind of interesting to me. My brother is doing it too but for different reasons. He and Katrina actually got married a few weeks ago so they can start the legal process of getting her a green card. As it is, she still wont be able to move to this country for some time after their big Catholic church wedding later this month. That has got to kind of suck...being married but not actually being able to shack up.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Full Service

I got in my car the other day and I noticed that the gas gauge was a lot lower than I would have thought it would be after only driving for a half of a week since filling the tank. The car also seemed to be driving funny and pulling a little to the right. Part of me knew right away what the problem was but the part of me that hates to check my tire pressure resisted the thought. Still, I checked the pressure this morning and it was way low so I had to spend 10 minutes at the gas station putting air in the tires.

Putting air into tires is a chore that I hate. I don’t know why I hate it so much either. I mean, it doesn’t take long. It doesn’t require any physical activity that is beyond me. Ok, I get my hands dirty when I do it but that isn’t a huge big deal since there are a lot of places in the world where one can wash one’s hands. The point is though, that I dread it. I dread it to the point where I have considered taking it into the tire place and asking if they’ll do it.

So I started thinking: wouldn’t it be nice if there were still full service gas stations where the people would check tire pressure and oil levels and then put air and/or oil into the car when needed? I am not a fan of checking the oil either and I have probably done it like 3 times over the life of my now nine year old car. Does anyone know of a full service gas station like that in the Ann Arbor area?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Morning Commute

I actually left on time this morning for a change so I figured I would take Michigan Ave even though there is construction at Huron.

I saw a woman walking on Michigan Ave who was clearly mentally ill and I was reminded of my years working with the mentally ill in this area. Back then, whenever a group home would try to start up in Ann Arbor there was usually a huge NIMBY outcry against it. That didnt happen too much in Ypsilanti and I have always thought that was one of the really cool things about Ypsilanti. One of the things I have learned is that people who have to struggle with obstacles in their lives such as a mental illness usually end up being very interesting and colorful people. I love it that there are so many such people in the town where I live.

One of the most frustrating things about my morning and afternoon commutes is that stretch of Michigan Ave between downtown and Ellsworth Rd where there is no left turn lane. This morning someone decided to turn left but didnt decide to signal first which sucked because I ended up getting stuck behind them for a couple of minutes. is only a couple of minutes but it can still be frustrating. I wonder what they were thinking when they built that bit of road with no left turn lane?

I almost saw a kid bite it on Ellsworth Road. Guess what people? There is a reason that the law requires traffic to stop in *both* directions when a school bus puts on its red flashing lights. Today a school bus stopped and some kid who was running late ran out of an apartment complex into the road without looking where they were almost hit by a car which was on the opposite side of the street as the bus. Luckily the car saw the kid and managed to stop in time. But seriously folks, kids do dumb stuff all the time. Kids run into the street without looking when they are late for the bus. That is why there are laws about stopping for school busses with flashing red lights. And ok...I admit it, I sometimes curse the bus and the little kids for disturbing my morning commute and I even use the F word as in "I hate those f*cking kids for f*cking slowing me down with their f*cking stupid f*cking god damn school bus" but they cant hear me and I say it from my STOPPED car so I cant kill them and really, isnt that the way it should be?

Lately there has been a lot of traffic on Ellsworth by Stone School and it is weird because it doesnt seem like there is anything different going on. I hope it is because there are more people working in all the office parks around there and is a sign of economic growth in the area.

I got to work 3 minutes late which isnt that bad really.

Monday, October 31, 2005

What Happens When I get Up an Hour Early

I was lying around this morning listening to the radio and the reporting on Samuel A. Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Now, I don’t know a lot about Alito but the folks on the radio compared him strongly to Scalia and that seemed pretty scary to me. So I started thinking about Harriet Meier and wondering if it is pretty unfortunate that she has withdrawn. As in…sometimes it is better to go with the lesser of two evils.

And then I started thinking about what it shame it was that Bush has nominated two white men to the court and how much it would be nice to have more women on the court. And then I started thinking about affirmative action and how much I don’t like that either. I guess I don’t want Bush nominating someone just because she is a woman. I would hope that he would pick the person he thinks is best qualified no matter what their gender. I guess I just want that person to be a woman.

And then I started thinking about how much crap Meier got *because* she was a women even from people on the left who probably consider themselves feminists. Someone started a blog supposedly written by her and while it *was* very funny, I have to wonder if someone would have taken that same approach with a male. That no one did with John Roberts that I know of is pretty interesting.

So I started thinking about all the subtle ways we still treat women badly in our culture. Maureen Dowd wrote an interesting piece in Sunday’s NYT Magazine about feminism and the lack of it these days. That got me thinking a lot about a couple of ways women are regarded in our culture. Namely, that a woman is valued on her looks and on her ability to catch a man. Of course no one has ever said to me, “Gee Lynne, you would hold a higher position in our society if you werent fat or if you had a husband” but somehow I got that idea. I have spent the better part of the last decade fighting against that notion and trying really hard not to believe it and I think that for the most part I have been successful. I mean, I think I have a pretty good sense of self esteem considering all the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) messages about my worth as a woman being tied to my looks and my marital status.

One of the frustrating things about this is that I am not too sure what to do about it other than to talk about it. People seldom are willing to admit to their biases. I often wonder if I would have even bothered to examine them if I had not found myself to be a fat spinster but instead was a woman with a body universally worshiped by others who was married to someone very important. I mean, I *had* to examine those beliefs I grew up with as a matter of self preservation. It was either confront those biases or hate myself forever.

But really, consider this. Do we as a culture really want our daughters, sisters, cousins, nieces, etc growing up in a world where being called “fat” is considered a worse insult to a teenaged girl than being called “mean” or “dishonest” or “stupid”? Do we really want to raise girls to become women who cant value themselves for themselves and instead value themselves by who their husband happens to be? I know I wouldnt wish that on any girl I know even though, sadly, I think they will all probably find themselves in such a world.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

One of Those Days

Today was one of those days. One of those days when the sun is shining and the sky is this vast and clear blue that only seems to happen in the fall. The leaves are all golden and bright crimson with bits of green here and there. Everything smells like autumn and everything is perfect.

I took the dogs on a drive and we ended up at the lake where we ran around and chased balls and ran in the water. (Ok, *they* did those things, I was mostly their personal ball thrower but get the idea)

I always feel so alive on days like this. Nothing else matters but how beautiful everything is.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Dress

I found a really great dress for the upcoming weddings in a catalog and I have ordered it and have paid extra for the express shipping. Hopefully it will get here before the wedding next weekend. I do have a dress I could wear if this one doesnt arrive but, although I like that dress, my grandmother doesnt and is just easier to wear something that she likes at family functions. I love my grandmother dearly but we have very different tastes in clothes. Every now and then, though, I find something that I think we both will like and I think that is the case this time. I hope I ordered the right size.

Next issue: Shoes. The only think I hate shopping for more than dresses is shoes. I always wonder about those women who enjoy shopping for shoes. I know that a lot of women were envious of Imelda Marcos's shoes but when I first heard about that, all I could think of was the torture that would be required to shop for all those shoes. But, since I have been forced to do a lot of shoe shopping in my time, I have found that there are shoes that are comfortable and stylish. These are made by little elves and can be found next to the gold at the end of the rainbow.

My only hope for the shoes at this point is to win the lotto so I can find someone with feet the same size as mine to hire to go shoe shopping for me. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 28, 2005

AATA leaves guy stranded

The following is an email a guy at work sent to someone in my department who said I could print it here if I made sure I put his name on it. So, this is a copy of the letter Adam Heskett wrote to AATA recently. I hear he is going to try to take the bus tonight. I'll have my fingers crossed for him. I know from personal experience that having a bus pass one by is really frustrating. I have been reduced to tears when it has happened to me which thankfully hasnt been for several years. And to be fair, even though it has happened to me with AATA, it hasnt happened nearly as often as it used to happen when I was a regular user of Detroit Dept of Transportation busses back in the day.

Last night, after a very long day of school and work, I was waiting to go home to Ypsilanti at the #6 bus stop on Ellsworth, right before Varsity. I get about three hours a night to spend with my family before I have to go to bed, and I was looking forward to doing so. After all, the joylessness of class and work needs to be balanced out by something positive; otherwise one’s day becomes clouded by anger and frustration.

When I saw the comforting pattern of lights that frame the front of the AATA bus, which portends the imminent arrival of a warm seat on which to rest my cold and weary bones, I felt very relieved that my day was finally at an end.

So I stand, in front of the bus stop sign, with dollar in hand, as I watch the bus continue past me, through the intersection, and down the road.

By the time the bus was out of sight, I had used the very last of my energy by running, waving my arms, gesticulating wildly, and shouting myself hoarse with a string of profanities that would make a sailor slap me. If I were an adrenaline junkie, I might have enjoyed such an exhilarating experience. Unfortunately, I am not an adrenaline junkie and I found it quite humiliating and degrading.

I will spare you the details of the rest of my evening, as I searched for an alternative to waiting an hour for the next bus, which may or may not have stopped for me. I won’t tell you about the cold walk back to the office, nor will I detail the interaction with the security guard while I begged to use the phone. I won’t bore you with the story of how I called the AATA customer service and main lines and didn’t even get an answer or voice mail. But I must say that I was very grateful that I didn’t have to use a payphone, simply because the only money in my pocket was twenty cents plus the dollar that I saved by not taking the bus. Twenty cents does not go very far when you are trying to track down someone who has nothing better to do at 8:00 PM than to come pick my @$$ up.

Now here’s the thing: I am not one who is in the habit of complaining. If I was, I would have complained about this the first time it happened. The last time this happened was last Wednesday, which happened to be the last time I had to take the bus home after working until 7:00. The first time, I thought it was a fluke, a mere mistake. Perhaps the driver just didn’t look over at the sign and see me standing there. After all, I’m used to the AATA bus system working in a less-than-perfect fashion. I am quite tolerant of late busses that I have to wait for, early busses that I miss, and the occasional bus that smells of urine. But this happened twice in a row and now I’m not sure that the work schedule that I so carefully negotiated with my manager will be possible, as I cannot guarantee that I will have a ride home. If sarcasm could come through clearly in an email, I would tell you want an awesome and fantastic situation I have been thrust into.

I have a few ideas that may fix this problem:

1.) I get a stuffed dummy and bring it to work with me. When it is clear that the bus is not going to stop, I throw the dummy in front of the bus. This would hopefully cause the bus to stop so I can safely board. However, such course of action does not guarantee the safety of anyone who might be unlucky enough to be anywhere around the area.

2.) I can get a rock. They are cheap and plentiful. When the bus fails to slow down, I can hurl it at the bus and just hope it bounces off the metal hull and not smash a window. This would grab the driver’s attention and he/she would hopefully stop to see what they hit. Of course, unforeseen consequences of a solid projectile being thrown into a busy street might prove disastrous, seeing as that my aim sucks.

3.) Signal flares. Of course, this may be cost prohibitive to me and the driver may read it as a warning to stay away as opposed to a signal to stop.

4.) Flashlight. Because shining a light into the eyes of a driver is a great idea.

5.) Someone can install a light above the sign located on Ellsworth, right before Varsity, going toward Ypsilanti. Not only can one entertain oneself with shadow puppets while waiting for the bus, but there would be an added bonus: A bus driver can easily see if someone is standing right in front of the sign.

6.) Drivers can be trained to look.

I do not know how the AATA can get my hours of wasted time back for me, but what I do ask is that there is some way that I can be assured that I can indeed take the bus home after the sun has gone down. I don’t have much of a choice. I have to work this schedule in order to finish my education and feed my family. I have been a resident of Ypsilanti for nine years, and I have depended on the AATA to get me to and from work many times. The service, while not perfect, has always been reliable, until now. I have always encouraged my friends to take the bus, but now I may be more inclined to tell them not to risk it and spring for a taxi.
Please respond to this email. I have to take the bus home tomorrow night and I need to know whether I should pack some signal flares or not.

I thank you for your time. -Adam Heskett

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Misc. Stuff:

Misc. Stuff:

  • I have been driving to work on Cross Street lately because of some construction on Michigan Ave. I noticed earlier this week that they have totally changed it. They reduced the road by a lane and added parking and a bike lane. So far, it doesn’t seem to make things move any slower even during rush hour when I am driving that way. So, maybe it was a good thing for those business located there. *shrug*. It was a little bit of a surprise though when all of a sudden, I realized I was in a bike lane that hadn’t been there a few days before.

  • My cousin is getting married next week and I don’t have anything to wear. I hate buying dress clothes but I guess I cant show up in jeans and a t-shirt ;). Oh well, I saw an outfit in a catalog that looks comfortable and it isn’t too expensive. The question is: Can I get it in time? I will look into that tonight. I am not a fan of clothes shopping. The whole clothes shopping gene must have passed me by. I really hate trying on clothes. I know a lot of people think it is fun but to me, it is just a great big chore. Oh well, I guess that it how it goes. At least my brother is getting married in November too so I can wear the same outfit to his wedding!

  • I often have to deal with the phone company at work. Even though there are lots of phone companies in the world, they are all the same and they are all The Phone Company to me. The Phone Company which knows they are the only game in town. The Phone Company, which has no incentive to provide anything close to customer service. If you call them and ask for a phone line to be installed and they say “That will take 3 months,” they know deep in their black hearts that you have no choice but to eat that POOP sandwich with a freaking smile. “MMMMMM 3 Months with no phone….this POOP sure takes yummy!” They sell the only sandwich in town and they know it and they act like they know it. I have often thought that I should be able to list “can wait on hold with The Phone Company for half a day without killing anyone” as one of my skills on my resume.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fun with Google

There are times when I sit down to write a blog and just dont have anything particular to write.

I mean, I could talk about my job and about how I got to work this morning and there was a crisis happening that I got put in charge of because I was the only person who could probably figure it out. I could talk about how I woke up late and skipped breakfast and ended up feeling like I just couldnt get my mind wrapped around this problem at work. It was something effecting five computers in the company which is a weird number because it is too many for the problems not to be related and too few to be one of the known global issues.

I could talk about how after a while, I finally just got too hungry and how I went to get an early lunch and then, while I was on my break, happily munching a most delicious salad...the answer just came to me in one of those AHA! moments.

I fixed the problem and then started thinking about how break time can be so important when one has a job where one has to think sometimes...and how unfortunate it is that my bosses now schedule breaks instead of allowing us to take them when we need them. Because we would probably be better workers and get more done if they did but they would rather sit around talking about our lack of "work ethic" and our "bad attitudes" and whatever.

Oh well, what does it matter to me? I get paid the same either way.

Yeah...instead of going on about all of that any more, I will just share a fun meme that has been making the rounds. Just google your name followed by the word "needs" and see what comes up. Here is what I got

Lynne needs a bunk mate
Lynne needs to follow up
Lynne needs three helpers
Lynne needs to look into other less expensive alternatives
Lynne needs an operation
Lynne needs two men
Lynne needs a description
Lynne needs language from Doug
Lynne needs a lot more support
Lynne needs to go to Dodge City.
Lynne needs to grab hold of her musical schizophrenia

That last one is my favorite :)

Monday, October 24, 2005

It's not what you know, but who you know.

I was thinking about my last post about cliques and I tried to think of advantages I have gotten from being friends with particular people. Here is a list of things I have gotten from one friend:

  1. My current job = economic advantage
  2. Introductions to new people = social advantage
  3. A really good role model especially in the area of kindness to others.
  4. The world's coolest quilt made out of 70's style polyester leisure suits.
  5. Furniture and kitchen appliances that I still use.
  6. A million good times
  7. Love and emotional support.

That, from just one friend. My place in life is certainly better because of who I know and I will never forget it when I look at people less fortunate. That friend, btw, is Jeanne and today is her birthday and you can bet I am glad she was born.

Happy birthday, Jeanne!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

cliques and human nature

This American Life had an interesting segment about children and about making a rule in school that kids are not allowed to tell other kids they cant play with them. In other words, making them kinder.

Adults generally arent as cruel on the surface as kids but even among adults, cliques still form. There are still people who are outcasts and still those who are not. I have seen this in every organization I have been a part of and I have always been fascinated with watching these groups form and the behavior of those in the clique towards those outside of it.

It is funny how people are too. I have watched people deny that cliques exist...that there is an "in crowd" or that people who are in the "in crowd" get advantages over others who are not. Usually it is people who are in the clique who cant see it or are unwilling to admit, even to themselves, that they get advantages from being in a particular group. They seem to deny it in the same way that many white Americans deny there is an advantage to being white or in the same way that many men deny that there is an advantage to being male...and so on.

I have seen people act like complete jerks and then accuse people of not liking them because of clique dynamics rather than because of their own behavior. I have overlooked such behavior in others if it was coming from someone in my own inner circle. That too is something I see over and over again. Bad behavior is tolerated much more when someone is "in" with us than when they are "out." This happens on many many levels too. Americans tolerate things from other Americans that they comdem in other nations. Republicans accept actions from Bush they would never accept from a Democrat and vice versa. People accept and overlook things in their friends that they openly condem in others.

This whole "us vs them" thing seems so inate and yet it causes a lot of trouble. From minor trouble like hurt feelings and broken friendships to much more major trouble like wars and genocide. One thing that scares me about this is that even though I often can see all of this very clearly, I find myself engaging in such thinking. I think of people as "us" and "them" all the time. I know I think more kindly towards those I consider in my group whatever it is. And it bothers me that even though I think of such thinking as dangerous, I still engage in it on some level.

But as a very wise friend once said to me "Awareness is half way towards solving the problem" So that is what I will do for now. I will try to be aware of this in myself.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Boring Life

I got a phone call from my friend Shannon yesterday and we chatted a bit. I have to admit that once we started talking about how our weeks have been, I felt a little lame when I realized that the highlight of my week has been a TV Show. Now ok, the show is LOST and it is a really really good one but you get the picture.

On the other hand, when times get boring, it also means that nothing bad is going on. Every time I have ever felt that things were too boring and that life being boring was biggest problem, something has come along and changed my life in a big way and not all of those changes have been pleasant. Which doesnt mean that I think that change is necessarily a bad thing.

So...I am in a holding pattern. I am spending a considerable amount of intellectual energy on a TV show but I am enjoying it. I am doing all the usual things: I get up. I go to work. I come home. I socialize and keep my friendships strong. I save some money. I spend more. And ta-da it is boring life time and it aint so bad considering the alternatives.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Customer Service

I have a pet peeve with many people who work in customer service type jobs. That is that when presented with a customer who complains, they often put the complaining customer ahead of other customers who dont complain. It is the whole "squeeky wheel getting the grease" sort of thing. I have this to say though. Doing that is NOT good customer service. Good customer service might be to not have a line in the first place or it might mean doing what one can to make the line move faster but it is not good customer service to put the complainer ahead of all of one's other, more patient, customers.

For one thing, just because customers are quiet, it doesnt mean that they are happy and putting the whiners and complainers ahead isnt exactly fair to them. I know I get pissed off when I believe that someone is getting better treatment because they are complaining. For another thing, it is, in my opinion, bad for society to reward people for acting like demanding entitled jackasses. I mean, don’t we have enough of that behavior without encouraging more of it?

I know I am not the only one to feel this way and my latest experiences with this sort of "Customer Service" have reminded me of a classic joke that I have always sort of liked.

An award should go to the Airline gate agent in Denver for being smart and funny, and making her point, when confronted with a passenger who probably deserved to fly as cargo.

A crowded flight was cancelled due to a mechanical problem. As would have it, the airline left a single customer service agent with the monumental task of rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way past everyone else in line to the front of the counter. He slapped his ticket down on the counter and said: "I HAVE TO BE ON THIS FLIGHT AND IT HAS TO BE FIRST CLASS!!" The agent replied, "I'm sorry sir. I'll be happy to help you but I've got to help these folks first, then I'm sure we'll be able to work something out." The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the other passengers behind him could hear, "Do you have any idea who I am...??" Without hesitating, the gate agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone and made the following announcement: "May I have your attention please..." she began, her voice echoing throughout the terminal. "We have a passenger here at the gate WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to Gate 17."

With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the United agent, gritted his teeth and swore. "(Expletive) YOU..!!!" Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to stand in line for that too."

The man retreated as the people in the terminal applauded loudly. Although the flight was cancelled and people were late, they were no longer angry at the airline.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lost and Babies

I dont have anything terribly interesting to blog about it seems. I didnt blog all weekend because I spend most of Saturday visiting people and then all of Sunday watching LOST on DVD. So now I know that my friend Aviva's new daughter sleeps in a position that is pretty much the same one football referees make when there is a touchdown which is an especially cute position for a baby to sleep in (and I forgot my camera!). I could go on and on about the new baby but I am not sure how to do that in a way that is interesting blogging. I dont generally consider babies to be interesting which is why Aviva thought I should adopt a seven or eight year old. She said that is "the golden age" where kids are young enough to be nice and old enough to not require too much energy to look after. Apparently "the golden age" lasts until they are teenagers. :)

I also know that I have another TV show to be addicted to and when I say addicted, I mean ADDICTED. I almost dont want to admit this but I watched 8 episodes of Lost on Sunday. That is pretty much all I did. Luckily the dogs were very tired from spending Saturday at the lake. And now, today, I still have eight episodes left to watch but the disks wont arrive from NETFLIX until tomorrow and I am seriously fiending. I keep saying to myself, "Hello? This is a TV SHOW! You can wait a day." But I keep wanting to chat up certain co-workers who have watched season one just so I can find out what happened.

And sadly, I bet I'll watch all eight episodes tomorrow. I think I will have to spend my evening doing chores so I wont have anything to do tomorrow night. And I will probably start watching season 2 which kind of makes me mad. I have fallen for ABC's plot to release season one on DVD in order to lure new viewers for season 2. GAH!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Why Parents Should Let Their Kids Watch TV

My friend Aviva recently called up Shannon and Caleb and Caleb answered the phone. He was raised without much TV. Aviva decided to play a trick on him and said, "This is Ed McMahon's office calling..." and before she could say "to give you a million dollars" he hung up the phone on her with a dismissive, "NO THANKS!"

She called him back and asked, "Have you even heard of Ed McMahon?"

He replied, "no"

She said, "Dude, if Ed McMahon calls you, it is to give you a million dollars so next time dont hang up the phone"

And that, according to Aviva, is why parents should let their children watch TV!

Which makes me wonder. So much of our culture is based on TV. I can recall being at a party once in another state surrounded by people I didnt know who had grown up thousands of miles away from me. But we all started talking about The Brady Bunch and realized that we all had shared a common childhood experience. And the conversation made me feel connected to these people who were otherwise strangers. Maybe TV and other shared mass media experiences unites us as a culture and as a nation. Certainly it does more than wars in Iraq and other foreign nations.

Sure, too much TV is a bad thing but maybe a little bit now and then is a good idea. I am not a parent so I never have to make such decisions for a kid and truthfully, I probably wouldnt allow too much TV because I have grown completely intolerant of commercial inturuptions. My dogs are allowed to watch as much TV as they want, of course, but for some reason prefer to watch the squirrels out of the window.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

New York is just one big Ann Arbor

This is from one of my favorite websites, Overheard in New York

Guy on cell: Yeah, yeah, it's pretty cool out here I should totally come visit...It's just...sometimes I feel like New York is just one big Ann Arbor.

--Houston & Suffolk

Help! There are Right Wing Weirdo's Under My Bed. (or maybe they are just dust bunnies)

I read a children's book today that was clearly propaganda for little right wing children. It reminded me of all the right wing internet trolls I have encountered and the things that they parrot (they aren’t generally smart enough to think for themselves). I have a few things I would like to tell those folks.

1) There is a difference between putting up a cross on public property and putting up a cross on private property. The former is forbidden by the constitution and the latter is protected by it.

2) Just because the founders of this country were Christian, it does not make the USA a "Christian Nation" anymore than their wearing powdered wigs makes the USA a "powdered wig" nation.

3) If you go on and on about how much you hate how the government tells you what to do and then advocate for things like drug use and abortion to be illegal, you look ridiculous. Yes, we all know that what you really want is for the government to leave YOU alone to pollute the environment and to force your neighbor's kids to listen to your public prayers at football games. You don’t want the government to let people have sex with anyone they want. You don’t want the government to allow people to use drugs recreationally (unless it is good old fashioned booze and cigarettes). And you don’t want the government to say out of pregnant women's lives. You don’t even want the government to offer its own workers competitive benefits packages because it might be treating same-sex unions like marriages. So...let's cut the crap and stop saying that you want the government out of people's lives.

4) Stop pretending that those on the left are forcing those on the right to pay more taxes than is fair. Consider that for the most part, the blue states are actually donor states that pay more in federal taxes than they get back. Calling a state "Taxachusetts" is only appropriate if one is acknowledging that Massachusetts is funding projects in states like Nebraska. Stop pretending that anyone whose income is above the poverty line in this country ever pays 50% of their income in taxes. Lets stop this "punishing people for working hard" rhetoric when what you are talking about are people in the CEO class who don’t exactly have a reputation for working hard. And while we are at it, let's stop talking about a "death tax" when what we are really talking about is a tax on million dollar plus inheritances. Let's call those "being born rich" taxes. And let's not pretend that such taxes will ever be a disincentive for people to be born rich. Trust me, people will still choose rich parents whenever they can ;)

5) Using racist rhetoric like telling false stories about how black evacuees from New Orleans rape, loot, and generally are uncivilized and ungrateful people unworthy of our help and then in the next sentence proclaiming that the USA isn’t a racist country anymore and doesn’t need affirmative action programs just doesn’t fly. This isn’t a debate about affirmative action and there are a lot of reasons why such programs might not be a good idea but "The USA isn’t racist anymore" isn’t one of them.