Monday, February 27, 2006

looks can be deceiving

Movies and Babies:

On the drive home today, I heard Terri Gross interviewing the director of Tsotsi. One of the most interesting and memorable parts of their conversation was the sequence in which the director reluctantly explains away a gruesome scene. In the film, a thug finds a baby and has a desire to take care of it, though his idea of nurturing would make the most hardened child welfare rep. cringe. At one point the baby gets swarmed by a mass of biting ants.

Gross asked, "How in the world did you find a mother who would allow this?" The answer is that he didn't. Gavin Hood admitted that the ants were computer-generated, though he said, "I hope that doesn't ruin it for people watching."

Another telling example of how something horrendous turns out to be a benign trick of the eye--the dog who gets kicked so hard his back breaks. Hood enlisted the work of several dog trainers who taught dogs how to crawl on all fours as though their backs were broken. The problem was that the dogs were so happy to be pleasing their owners/trainers that they were wagging their tails the whole time they crawled. In the end, Hood used a Rottweiler simply because they don't have much of a tail.

Again, he apologized for giving away some of the movie's "dark secrets." It's interesting how hard people work to appear hideous. I guess that's what poetic license is all about.

Latest illness update: The little girl is sick again, and there's a moratorium on anyone kissing anyone else in our house for at least 7 days.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

virus tag

I'm losing.

Friday, February 24, 2006

sick day

The little one is ill. She can't hold any food down and can barely summon the strength to whimper and clutch at our legs whenever we set her down. There is nothing worse than watching someone you love in pain.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Golden Mosque

Something beautiful is dying.

If this is what marks the beginning of an all-out civil war, what destruction will mark its end?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

medical ethics

The big news in California is the delayed execution of Michael Morales. (What kind of a state do I live in that executions are A) so frequent and B) so controversial? See Tookie Williams for another example.)

Anyway, a judge decided that a lethal injection is indeed cruel and unusual punishment. Therefore, two anesthesiologists were ordered to be on-hand in case the prisoner showed any signs of pain or regaining consciousness. The AMA and others were livid. Doctors are kind of staunch about that Hypocratic Oath thing and understandably want no part (however trivial) in the ending of someone's life.

At the last minute, literally the eleventh hour, the execution was postponed. I heard this morning a judge had decided the prison should just use a lethal dose of a painkiller, but now it looks as though the convicted felon will be on death row a bit longer than anticipated.

Reminds me of that tragic story about a man with frighteningly low IQ in Texas who greeted news of his clemency with mixed emotion. "Do I still get to eat my last meal?" he reportedly asked.

Monday, February 20, 2006

destroying nations

I spent President's Day losing my first game of Axis and Allies. I don't really get all the interest in WWII games. Whatever it is, I think it's linked (at least in principle) to the success behind the Civilization games.

Maybe people get into the alternative history or maybe it's the thrill of pseudo-world domination. After trying to ferry all my silly little plastic men (and women, too, in my world) around the islands of Japan on transports that never seemed to be in the right place at the right time, I'm inclined to believe that it's just a really complex game of Chinese checkers.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

building trust

Va. cops told to stop buying sex on the job

Favorite quote from the article: "He said multiple visits were necessary so detectives could build trust with the operators."

Friday, February 17, 2006

easy target

Many of my liberal friends out there have blogged great paragraphs of patronizing regarding Cheney's happy trigger finger. I'm not with you on this one.

Embarrassing, yes. Tragic, yes. Yet another reminder that the White House is slippery and unreliable when it comes to informing the public, yes. Anything new or worthy of mockery? Eh. (a midwesterner's way of saying no politely)

Guns are scary and evil. I don't see anything wrong with hunting, though. It's a hell of a lot more effective than keeping the deer population down through auto accidents. Birds--not my thing, but Cheney and I don't have much in common. Mostly I just see this incident as a really bad accident, like reading about how a legislator collided into a motorcyclist on the freeway.

For topics worth poking fun at, I'd rather write about Amitai Sandy, an artist from Israel who masterminded the contest for the best anti-Semitic cartoon--drawn by a Jew. That shows chutzpa.

He described an example of his own "anti-Israeli" art that responded to the crisis of defining a Palestinian state and Jews' own mixed feelings on the subject. Apparently, it was not uncommon for someone driving down the street to see another Israeli and yell out the defamation: "You F--- with Arabs!" So he drew a picture of a fair-skinned girl holding hands with a dark-skinned boy. The caption read, "Yes! I f--- with an Arab."

I love the strength and humor Sandy shows by turning such a sad series of insults and racism on its head. We'll see if the winners get reprinted.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

ready or not, here I come

I'm playing hide and go seek with my furnace. It's winning. This is especially unfortunate because it is COLD* and it doesn't seem to respond to the thermostat. Where is that thing?

*Ok, I can't compete with most of your chilly temperatures. This morning there was actually frost on the ground; that's a first.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

game show mania

I've started watching a very silly tv show on the Discovery channel called Cash Cab. My favorite part is the way they have the ceiling rigged to flash in multicolored lights. It's terribly trivial, cheesy, and fun to watch people win a few hundred dollars when they expected to be paying 1/10th of that.

My hope is that one day I'll walk into my classroom and disco lights will start flashing while the principal announces over the loudspeaker "You're in the cash class! We ask you questions that require a high school education and you can go home early with $200."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


How quickly a few decisions can change your life. My husband says he has vertigo from all that has happened to us in the last 10 months. I'm ready for a predictable life where the little one is the only one doing much changing.

A friend is faced with some tough decisions about where to do her residency. She'll make a phenomenal doctor wherever she ends up. Still, the decision has lots of rippling effects.

In the meantime, hug someone you love. Happy V day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

feel good story of the day

Rather than calling attention to the unsurprisingly scathing report about how our government dropped, fumbled, and lost the ball on the Katrina disaster, I thought I'd highlight this article about families looking to adopt children with Down Syndrome.
A close friend just ended two heartbreaking years of failed in-vitro and has decided to adopt. She and her husband are going through an agency to find a baby from Korea. She herself was an adopted Korean baby, along with her two non-biological brothers. No matter what you think about international adoptions, her story is a good one. I can't wait to see her as a mom.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

science projects

Last week science projects were due. I first learned that "every student at this school MUST complete a science project" back in December. I feared the worst. These are people who never complete even the simplest homework, forget to bring a pencil to school, and are often gone 2 days a week (some I haven't seen in nearly a month).

But I conned myself into believing they could do it. We did as much in class as we possibly could. I gave them lots of time on the aging computers to type up their problems, hypotheses, even bar graphs on PowerPoint. I bought them all the infamous tri-fold posterboards. And somehow, every student ended up coming out ok. It's nice to have students who exceed your expectations every now and then.

The top project was the experiment on which type of bread molds faster. The student did a phenomenal job displaying everything, researching the differences between types of bread, and keeping track of her results. It looked great.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

sheets in the windows

Our new town is in the process of some radical gentrification.

I happened to mention to someone how we're still settling in and have sheets temporarily hanging in the windows. She joked that we'd fit right in. It took me a second to realize she was referring to the old neighborhoods where houses are rickety and separated by chain link fences. This town used to be pretty impoverished.

Actually we do fit in. There is so much new development here, most people are slow in getting their feet on the ground and their blinds in the windows. (My favorite is the rose-adorned dining room window around the corner from us.)

Gentrification is never a delicate process, nor is it necessarily always a good thing. It helps the city make more money, and I've certainly bought into it, but it's worth reflecting on the concern that there is a lack of affordable housing. Some people are being bought out of their own neighborhoods. The price of their own land goes up, but the quality of their house is so low comparably that they can't afford to move.

In the meantime, the discrepancy between those who have and have-less is jarring. I know the region will thrive in the new development; I just hope the rest of the people survive, too.

Monday, February 06, 2006

July 18

My official due date. That means Baby X is now the size of an avocado (about 5 inches / 12.7 centimetres long from crown to rump and weighing approximately 6 ounces / 170 grams). Or if you prefer a sports metaphor, one-quarter the height of the Lombardi trophy.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

political cartoon

There's nothing comedic about the international reaction to the Jyllands-Posten charicatures of Muhammed. Kudos to Wikipedia for republishing the images. Unfortunately, it looks like copyright issues required them to only display a low-res image where you can't read the text on all the frames. Yesterday, I could view them in detail.

I come down heavily on the side of free speech on this one.

Two things especially bug me:
1) The original context of the cartoons. There were twelve cartoons regarding Mohammed and Muslims to accompany a thoughtful, honest article about the difficulties of self-censorship, freedom of speech, and fears about retaliation in a climate of "Islamophobia." The cartoonists were not only satirizing radical Islam, they were satirizing themselves. If I remember correctly, one even said, "Relax, guys, this was just drawn by a Dane in South Denmark."

2) The hyperbolic, violent reactions. This is the same religious fanaticism that made Salmon Rushdie's life a living hell. Why are they honestly so upset about one guy's opinion halfway across the world? So upset that they're willing to set fire to embassies and call for the author's death.

Admittedly, this isn't a perfectly cut-and-dry situation. Should cartoons be allowed to publish racist, intolerant, bigoted cartoons? My opinion: yes, at the discretion of their editors and publications, remaining accountable to their readers. Sometimes it means a paper drops The Boondocks because they want to avoid controversy or a company like Abercrombie pulls a line of dumb-girl slogan t-shirts due to a "girlcot." So be it: the beauty of a free, market economy.

"Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -B. Franklin

Saturday, February 04, 2006

looking forward

There is something beautiful about lazying around a house (hooray), kicking back on a sofa, eating brats and saurkraut, and watching the Seahawks win the Super Bowl. At least that's my goal for Sunday afternoon.

The house part is ready as soon as I move enough boxes to see the tv, the first sofa I've had in 10 years arrived today, the hubby is the king of Wisconsin cooking, and the Seahawks can take care of themselves. So I'm set!

Friday, February 03, 2006


In our quest to install a gas dryer, I learned a lot about pipes. First of all, pregnant women, don't try this at home.

Our house in new. As in, the cap on that gas pipe has only been there since my last haircut. This would imply that it should come off easily. It couldn't possibly be rusted. Painted shut? A wrench should take care of that. And it did begin to turn, except that it was the pipe going into the wall that was turning, not the cap.

I actually do like mechanical things. Despite my inexperience, there is something comforting in the neat fitting together of parts. That's why I'm the one who sets up the speakers and puts together the crib each time we move.

But this job was my husband's territory. Gas lines and plumbing scare me. At least I've learned enough to know when it's a good idea to ask for help.

I watched him struggling as he holds the wall pipe with one tool and twists the cap with the other. I wished there were some way to reason out the problem, but this seems a matter of brute force. I call my step-father-in-law, the handiest person I know, who also lives three time zones away. The proud husband doesn't see the point in telling him we're not strong enough to unscrew a cap, so I make the call.

"What kind of wrench are you using?" he asks. I start describing the pliers. Then I desribe the rusty wrench we decided wasn't working well enough and had just gone out to K-mart to replace. "You have two options," he says. 1) Buy a handy tool we'll never use again in our lives, a pipe wrench. 2) Unscrew the pipe out of the wall.

We're reluctant to do #2, but it seems the simplest solution. As hard as we've both been yanking, I question if a pipe wrench will help. I take both pieces, securely attached, to the local hardware store. Clutching greasy gas pipes and being a pregnant woman who really shouldn't be doing strenous activity like yanking on pipes added to my usual self-consciousness while wandering around and checking out the prices of pipe wrenches.

Everything is in cages, even the $12 wrenches, so again, I ask for help. He pops the pipe in a large clamp, digs out a pipe wrench the size of my head, and gives it a few twists. Nothing. Except that he's adding to the metal scratches on the pipe and the cap is not budging. We walk to the pipe aisle and I solve my problem for $1.19.

The trickiest part was then hoping there's no gas leak in the wall. We could test the outer seal with dish soap, but there's no way to see or test the connection in the wall. Having a super-sensitive pregnant woman sense of smell sometimes comes in handy. No gas.

What I loved most at the end of the day, with the dryer humming along contentedly, was that we did manage to reason our way out of the problem.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

direct deposit to God

It makes sense, but there's something a little odd about the idea of paying a tithe through an automatic withdrawal from your checking account.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

the state of the union

Oily. In regard to people, policies, principles, and pressures.