The Flawed Language of Protest; hilarious misspellings at Tea Party protests. In general, I think it's a sign of a lackadaisical attitude towards grammar and spelling. In so many different venues, I see just atrocious attitudes towards grammar, but no overwhelming attitude to impress on people that knowing the difference between then/than and you/your/you're is important nor do people seem to care to get it right.
Thanks to the magic of Netflix's on-demand queue, I was finally able to see the first two episodes of the Discovery channel's "Everest: Beyond the Limits." From a pure documentary point of view, it's pretty good -- it's got characters, drama, plotlines, angst, everything you'd possibly want. I enjoyed it, but man. I knew Everest was a miserable experience, but this documentary/show really brings that to life more than the IMAX or books ever did. So far so good, so I'm giving the series two thumbs up.
A provactive article in the NY Times: How Christian were the Founders?. From my perspective, this rewriting of textbooks in public schools is super scary and while I'm a big supporter of public education, this is the first time I've wondered about private school -- provided there is such a thing as secular private school. Other than that, it means keeping a close eye on what's taught in public school and what's not and addressing appropriately. Still I find it quite alarming that people with no real educational background are dictating curriculum for the vast majority of the country.
But there has to come a point at which a movement or party so abandons core principles or degenerates into such a rhetorical septic system that you have to take a stand. It seems to me that now is a critical time for more people whose principles lie broadly on the center-right to do so - against the conservative degeneracy in front of us.
A manifesto of his reasoning follows and reading through it, it reminds me why I can never vote Republican, not when the standard bearers are people like Palin, Limbaugh, Glen Beck, etc. The tent is becoming increasingly small and exclusive but I suppose that also helps the echo chamber. I'm glad that people are starting to take notice and distance themselves from certain people and their whacked out, uninformed statements.
Of course all of this is a moot point as I've never claimed less than being a left of a center Democrat, but there have been times in my New England past when a Republican candidate appealed to me over the Democrat. At the risk of contradicting myself, I would prefer less government spending -- don't even get me started on the bailout! -- but I would rather spend money on health care reform than these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I can't say that I'm thrilled with Democrats either. I accept Obama's Afghanistan surge because I know it's what he needs to do. I don't like it though, but I understand it. I am mortified with the Stupak amendment included on the House version of the health care reform bill. I hate that we bailed out the car companies even though on a deep down level, I understand that too.
The point is, as much as the Democrats have done things I don't like, it seems like they're the only choice. Claiming Independence as a voter makes no sense when the differences are so stark. You can be a conservative Democrat, but it doesn't seem that there is such thing as a liberal Republican and I think the GOP is going to pay for that if they continue to hail Limbaugh and Company and/or seriously parade Sarah Palin as a contender for 2012.
I mentioned the Starbucks habits in yesterday's post. I don't think I know anyone who actually has a hardcore Starbucks habit, but then I run in different circles than the people described in the article. That being said, I do consume Starbucks about 4 or 5 times a year, most recently about a month or so ago because we thought they were offering free cups of their new instant coffee. Alas, we were wrong and ended up buying highly priced house coffee.
I love coffee. It makes me go in the morning, it perks me up. I don't drink a lot of coffee, maybe 2 cups a day (1 cup today), but I do enjoy a good cup. So this last visit to Starbucks, when you're forking over more than $2 for a plain ole black coffee, you expect something good. But instead, it was what I've come to expect from Starbucks -- as if someone overroasted the beans and then used the burned parts to brew the coffee. It. Was. Not. Good. The only thing more disappointing about a bad cup of coffee is one that cost more than $2.
The Starbucks wasn't giving out free tastes of their instant coffee as advertised but they did give us a packet to try later. I had it one Sunday morning instead of my usual instant Taster's Choice and again, It. Was. Not. Good. I have no idea how much that instant costs, but I definitely won't be trading in my current coffee for it. A friend tried it recently and his verdict was the same as mine. Not. Good.
I do have to give a shout out to Nescafe though. I had some really good Nescafe packs in Budapest -- they come pre-mixed with sugar and creamer and great for on the go. It could be that I was so excited about non-shot glass style expresso that I found the Nescafe (purchased at a train station kiosk) absolutely wonderful, or was it was really that good? I might try again in the future. The problem with nostalgia is when you revisit, the memory is sometimes better than the reality.
How is it that Americans, so solicitous of the animals they keep as pets, are so indifferent toward the ones they cook for dinner? The answer cannot lie in the beasts themselves. Pigs, after all, are quite companionable, and dogs are said to be delicious.
Scary article from the NY Times - Driven to Distraction - At 60 M.P.H.. Honestly, I can barely flip radio stations and drive at the same time, let alone check email/voice mails etc. I suppose most people who are like me put the cell phones away while driving, while everyone else is talking on the phone or texting and thinking they're doing just fine.
It scares me I'm on the road with people who are this reckless and careless. As my earlier saga with the car illustrated this past summer, people are trying to save themselves 10 to 20 minutes but in the meantime are costing the rest of us time and as this article points out, sometimes something much worse.
The article also comes with a game to test how distracted you are while driving and texting. I failed miserably. I can't text when I'm parked and concentrating 100% on the text, let alone while driving.
However, as I said, I think people who realize the dangers have already put away their cell phones. Everyone else thinks they're invincible or better than everyone else and nothing you say will ever convince them otherwise.
All you people on your cell phones who think you are driving really, really well? No, no, you're not. And yes, we can tell that you're talking on your phone while you're driving -- it's that obvious. So cut it out already. You're not cool, you're dangerous.
Interesting article about the costs of healthcare in the New Yorker.
"Health-care costs ultimately arise from the accumulation of individual decisions doctors make about which services and treatments to write an order for. The most expensive piece of medical equipment, as the saying goes, is a doctor’s pen. And, as a rule, hospital executives don’t own the pen caps. Doctors do."
One thing that's bugging me about the Sonia Sotomayor story is people keeping saying her parents immigrated from Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is part of the US, so I'm not sure "immigrated" is the right word. It makes it sound like she's not American, that her parents weren't American, and that's not true. "Immigrated" in the same way that I moved from Small Mountainous State to Very Red State... well, maybe not quite. But the point is, Puerto Rico is part of the United States.
"... does the cartoon image of it — encapsulated in the dread slur 'socialism,' which is being lobbed in American political circles like a bomb — match reality? Is there, maybe, a significant upside that is worth exploring?"
"Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe," [Governor Bill] Richardson [said].
So I have to eat my words from yesterday as I decided to try traffic wave experiment aka "traffic jam reduction". I was convinced it wouldn't work in Sweat Sock City because honestly, whether it's a car or real estate, every free space in this city must be occupied; no two molecules of oxygen may flit and float without hindrance. I intentionally left about 15 seconds between my car and the car in front of me; my driver's ed teachers would be so proud. So I drove the speed limit, all the while maintaining the space. The space never really disappeared. It got smaller sometimes as I got closer to the traffic, but it never was less than 6 to 7 seconds in size. For the first time in months, I didn't need to apply my brakes at all on my commute home.
What fascinated me most was the fact this space was rarely taken advantage of by other drivers on the road. Even an 18-wheeler in the lane next to me didn't seem interested even though he could have easily fit. On the 25 miles to downtown, I saw maybe 5-6 cars take advantage of the open space and for the most part, they came from the lane on the right. It's as if the wide open space scared the other drivers; we're so used to being a culture where we try to jam as much as possible into a tight space that this concept of a 15-second space was foreign.
Of course this is all unscientific, based on one trial, and traffic for these past two weeks in Sweat Sock City has been light. I will continue to experiment and monitor. If this is indeed a true phenomena, then... WOW. Never (well, almost never) get stuck in traffic again.
I'm intrigued by this concept of hypermiling -- getting the most possible out of a gallon of gasoline. I read a story over the weekend where one guy got something like 150 miles per gallon, which completely blows my 32 miles per gallon right out of the water. Of course, he probably takes 80 million hours to get to work, and some of the techniques are not safe on a 70 mph (ha!) interstate, but I've been attempting some when it seems feasible, such as cruising to a red light or letting my foot off the gas on a "potential" slope. Since I drive about 50 miles RT a day, even a 10 percent reduction would be of benefit to me. I haven't tried reducing traffic jams yet, but boy if that works...*
* It's a fact that here in Sweat Sock City any open space, regardless of its size, will be immediately filled with a vehicle. If the vehicle is larger than the space, then tough cookies to the vehicle just to its rear. Passing on the right is also acceptable when a space immediately opens up, especially if it means crossing across four lanes of traffic at 80 mph.
I finally got around to seeing this movie this past weekend and it was a delightful treat, much better than "Thank You For Smoking", which I'd originally been more interested in. "Little Miss Sunshine" is the most dysfunctional family movie around, but it's charming and sweet and funny in its own idiosyncratic way. The movie takes the old convention of a family roadtrip and spins it around, populating its yellow VW bus with a stressed out housewife, a failed motivational singer, a gay scholar who just tried to commit suicide, a Nietsche fan who doesn't speak, a grandfather with more than a few vices, and of course, Little Miss Sunshine herself, the effervescent Abigail Breslin.
The humor in the film starts out on a subtle note and becomes more and more slapstick and more predictable as the movie progresses, but somehow that didn't bother me. On the contrary, my amusement level grows as the roadtrip from hell means these disparate characters are forced to interact with each other on levels they're not used to, and how their relationships change and how they work together to get Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine pagent is wonderful. The acting is very good, the dialogue is sharp and funny (though a note here on some bad language and adult humor -- despite the young main character, it's not a children's movie). Definitely one of my favorite movies of the Oscar season.
In December, my aunt and I were having a conversation about taxes and I said that I was planning to do my own and then have my dad check them over. I've been doing my own taxes since I graduated from college. I first started using the workbooks and worksheets and have since gone on to software. I equate the process to how you have to learn how to add and subtract on paper before you move on to the calculator. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned to my aunt I was compiling a list of things every woman should know.
A lot of the things we came up with seem self-explanatory but it's amazing to me how many women will flinch from doing them or even learning how to do it. Knowledge, I think, is just as important as experience. I know the process of how to change oil in a car but that doesn't mean I'm going to change the oil in my car. It simply means I know what the mechanic ought to be doing and how to check his work and make sure that he did install a new oil filter. It's nice to have someone else to depend on who knows how to do some of these things or to pay someone else to do the work, but it's not always possible or affordable. Plus, I think there's a special kind of pride that comes with independence, the knowledge you can depend on yourself no matter what.
Most of the things we came up with fall into typical male gender roles -- finances (taxes, investing in the stock market), car related (Jump-starting a car, changing a tire, putting air into a tire) or yard work a(mowing the lawn). Those are the big ones in my mind because so often I hear other women telling me they leave those kinds of things to their significant others. I hate to be a downer, ladies, but what happens when the SO is no longer around? Women outlive men and tragedy is not the time to start learning some of these things that we traditionally delegate because it's not what we women traditionally do.