Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"...I want to change the world, instead I sleep..."

I haven't made a New Years' resolution in like, a severely long time. For the most part, I believe that if you want to achieve something you shouldn't wait for the calendar to change over to a new year to start working towards that goal.

That being said, I'm making a serious resolution this year.

I'm going to start running again. Serious. Running. Ready for a 10K by summer running.


Ever since my hip flexor injury in the summer of 2006, my exercise routine has gone through serious changes. I couldn't run anymore, so I did physical therapy for 3 months, worked with a personal trainer until summer 2007, got back into the swing of working out on my own for about 8 months and then just totally fell off the exercise wagon in February 2008 when I got a new job.
To throw more non-motivation into the mix, I'm now in a relationship. And anyone will tell you that a new relationship can and often does derail good habits.

That being said, I miss working out and I miss running. I miss that time to myself. No cell phone, no talking. Just me, the pavement and my iPod. It's a travesty that I got a new pair of running shoes 3 months ago and they're still brand new.

That will change. Tomorrow.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"...are we human or are we dancers?..."

I've never really been a fan of New Years'. It's always been kinda depressing, I think.

This year, for the first time ever really, I'll have a significant other to share my evening with. He pretty much shares my mindset when it comes to New Years' too. Loud drunken party? No thanks. Loud, smokey, drunken bar scene? No and no.

Quiet homemade dinner with my guy then maybe drinks at a friends' house afterwards? Sounds nice.

::PT's evil "mushy girlfriend side" is coming out. Here be monsters::

Call me lame, but the thought of having a quiet, peaceful, snuggly New Years' makes me want to get up and dance around in happiness.

::PT beats back her evil "mushy girlfriend side," let's her "angry shopgirl side" come out to play::

And by the way, if one more person today tells me "I'm in a hurry. I need this done as soon as possible," I'm going to kill someone.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"...Over and out she sang as the telephone rang..."

Christmas has, of course, come and gone too fast. But as far as Christmas goes, 2008 was an excellent one.

I seem to have gotten a touch of the flu and wasn't able to eat my weight in fancy holiday food, but even a bit of sickness wasn't enough to dampen things.

I'm extraordinarily lucky to have such an amazing family and boyfriend. And I'm doubly lucky to have been able to have four days off to spend with them during Christmas.

I've been trying to think of stories from Christmas that made me laugh. It might be the flu medicine I've been taking, but I can't point to any one thing in particular that made me smile on Christmas -- just a general sense of peace and happiness that lasted all day is the only thing I can report.

Some of the most entertaining bits happened the day after Christmas at Ma and Dad's house when we plugged in the new Wii they got Sara and I. Damn entertaining that Wii is...

In addition to the Wii, Sara and I also mutually received a wine cellar for our house.

As such, we've decided that we will now have WWF Wednesdays at our house... no, there won't be a staged wrestling match... It's Wino, Wii and Fondue Wednesday.

You're officially invited. :-)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"... What a bright time it's the right time to rock the night away..."

Tonight is my company holiday party. I'm excited because I could use a little party time. And I get to wear a pretty new dress by Angel Rox, my favorite new designer. [I'll be wearing the Audrey dress. Check out all of the fabulous designs here:]

What better time to wear a new dress and wear sparkly makeup and bright red lipstick than a holiday party right? Who doesn't love being glammy?

As I putz around, waiting til I can start getting ready for the party, I'm watching the Garfield Christmas Special from the 80's. Thank you, YouTube.

Here is my Christmas gift to all of you, parts one, two and three. :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"...Ooooo-oooo I can confess, I don't know what to make from all this mess..."


Life is messy. And sometimes I don't know how to react to things that happen. I'm sooooo not that "I'll be strong for you" person. I'm much more that "I'm here to cry with you" person.

I'm making an effort to be the strong one instead of the crying one.

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"... The tears are comin' down, they're mixin' with the rain..."

You know how somedays when you wake up in the morning, you kinda of get a feeling that things aren't really going to work out for you as the day progresses?

Yeah today is kinda like that for me.

Everyone is pissing me off. Everyone is making me emotional.
My bank account has exactly three dollars in it. I had to ask my parents to pay my student loans this month and I admitted to my mom that all I want for Christmas is money to pay January's bills.

Being an adult is hard. Working long hours and still not having enough money to live a moderately nice life sucks.

I feel so guilty now about that twenty dollar breakfast I bought for Sara and I at Eat 'n Park last Friday and very selfish for buying a $6 lunch yesterday.

It's hard to put into words how frustrated I am. So many people are "the working poor" these days.

Thank god I have a family and a boyfriend who dont care about presents and really only want to spend time with me for Christmas.

And I'm amazingly lucky to have understanding and supportive parents. I am 100% positive they went completely overboard on Christmas gifts like they do every year. And as I sit here, coming to terms with the fact that one week before Christmas I had to ask my mother to pay a bill for me, all I want to do is cry.

And at 8pm when I get off work and start my long, cold walk to my car, I will be doing just that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"...rain, feel it on my fingertips, hear it on my window pane..."

The other day, we had some crazy bad weather here in Pittsburgh. Cold, icy, snowy weather.

Jason had my car that day because his bike wouldn't start that morning. So he dropped me off at work and used my car to get to work and do his errands after he got off.

As the weather deteriorated and Walnut Street became a sheet of ice, I was so thankful that I didn't have to worry about driving home that night.

Around 5 when he got off work, Jason called. I was convinced he was going to tell me he got into an accident because of the roads.

The conversation transpired as such:

"When is the last time you got new windsheild wiper blades on your car?"


"Are you serious?"

"Yes. But in my defense, I've only owned that car since last summer."

"How long do you think wiper blades last?"

"I dunno, like five years?"

"I'm going to the auto parts store. I'll see you at 8."

Practical gifts make smile. And I have to say, these new windshield wipers work so much better than my old ones. Who knew that "car maintanence" isn't just putting gas in it?

Monday, December 8, 2008

"...sixteen tons, whaddya get, another day older and a-deeper in debt..."

The only thing I've had on the brain today is the economy.

This morning,'s lead story was "67% of consumers cutting back." Of course I can't find a link to the article anymore. But one of the scariest stats I've ever read was smack in the middle of the article: Three-quarters of people who responded to the poll that was conducted answered "yes" when asked if they've had to cut back on "grocery items, medicine and/or heating their home."

How fucking scary is that?

Almost as scary as this article: How to salvage your retirement.

I'm going to go home and drink some Bushmill's whiskey from my liquor cabinet... while I still have a home and a liquor cabinet to go to...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"... so keep your love locked down, love locked down..."

I just got off of the phone with my mother. Apparently there is some drama brewing with the extended family about the holidays.

For a very long time when Sara and I were little, we didn't have big family get-togethers at Christmas. We just spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with ourselves for one reason or another. I always kinda missed big family gatherings.

A few years ago, my parents started having Christmas Day at their house. And the whole family came to our house. Sara and I loved it. And so did Ma and Dad.

Everyone knew and still knows that if they start anything, Dad will end it and we'll go back to "just the four of us" for Christmas again.

After hearing the drama that is afoot already, I have to say I think I may have had my fill of extended-family-togetherness for now.

I want peace. I want quiet. I want to be away from masses of people.

I'm raising my coffee mug and saying a prayer that Christmas is as lovely and peaceful as Thanksgiving was.

Here, here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"... And if it's written on my face, I hope it never goes away..."

Generally I'm not the type of person who gets all wound up and bent out of shape about new consumer products. New Apple computer/iPod/iPhone products and new types of mascara are the exceptions.

Over the weekend, I went to the evil Walmart for some mascara. In my endless mission to get the longest, fattest eyelashes on earth without having to wear false eyelashes, I rarely buy the same mascara more than once. I was completely hooked on L'Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black mascara with the curved brush for like, YEARS. Then this summer I up and decided to buy a $20 tube of Dior mascara which I loved, but since I go through a tube of mascara roughly every 3-4 weeks, it's a bit too pricey.

On to the next mascara... Maybelline Colossal Volum' Express. As far as cheap mascara goes, I have to say this one is my favorite. I never thought anything would edge out L'Oreal Voluminous but I think this one has. This mascara lasted a good four weeks for me...

... but like I said, this weekend it was time to buy a new tube. You'd think I'd stick with the Maybelline. But no. I read too many fashion magazines and have now learned about something called mascara "tubes" - the latest and greatest apparently being L'Oreal Double Extension Beauty Tubes. And I'm all wound up and excited about it. And naturally, the Walmart by my parents house is a total backwater and didn't have the goods.

So, naturally, rather than reinvesting in the Maybelline Colossal Volum' Express, I had to be a retard and buy something new that I hadn't researched. I bought Maybelline XXL Volume + Length. I willingly spend like a ridiculous amount of time on mascara application each day, but I really hate the whole "put this white conditioning coat on first and then do the black coat" two-step mascara crap. And that's what this stuff is. And it's crap. Crap! Too much work and not enough payoff.

Here's my evidence. At left, you can see the lashes are kinda stubby looking. At right, they do look a little longer, but not very full. Lame.

So what did I learn?

I learned I shouldn't get wound up about new mascaras and I shouldn't believe the hype, the marketing pitch and the claims on the package.

Total bummer.

I haven't decided if I'll use the whole tube or not... I'm very tempted to go back to my Colossal Volum' Express. I think I may have learned my lesson.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"...And oh-oh just to be with you..."

This Thanksgiving, I have alot to be thankful for.

Just one short year ago I was in a really bad place in my life. Heartache that just wouldn't go away, a horrible job and the drudgery of graduate school were all piling enormous pressure on my (at the time) very, very slim (from not eating for seriously a year) shoulders.

So it is worth repeating... this Thanksgiving, I have alot to be thankful for.

Yesterday was such a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. Nothing terribly exciting or wonderful happened. There was brunch at my parents' house, then laying around in front of the fire to work off the mimosa buzz and then dinner at an aunt's house. But I got to be with most the people who matter the most to me. I got to be with my parents and Sara. And I got to spend the day with Jason, whose calmness around both my nuclear and extended family is just amazing.

As I'm sitting here writing this, David Gray's "This Years' Love" just came on my Pandora station. It's appropriate. I feel so loved and taken care of this year. My family's and friends' support of me has never wavered and now this year I am lucky enough to have the support and affection of an amazing guy who just happens to find all of my annoying little quirks endearing.

I missed Ginny and Andrew and Ushma and Meredith yesterday and having them around would have been exquisite. I think my heart may have just burst from happiness. And I quietly missed Nana and Pap and Aunt and Uncle but each time I started feeling weepy, Jason somehow found his way over to me and put his arm around me. I think he's already developed a 6th sense about how to head off waves of angst or melancholy that can sometimes wash over me.

In a way, all of the small things about yesterday that made me smile add up to everything I'm thankful for this year: a family who loves me, a boyfriend who stands by me, and friends I'm lucky enough to have and whom I miss dearly.


Amongst all of the love and affection and heavy emotion of yesterday, Aunt Pat provided some comedic relief. As we were leaving her house and I was hugging her, she said to me "Your boyfriend is cute you know." I said "Oh, I do know." She pulled back from our hug and put her hands on my shoulders and said "Ok, good. I was just checking to make sure you knew."

Monday, November 24, 2008

"...And to the earth it gave great light..."

People who know me will tell you I'm one of the most irreverent people they've ever met when it comes to religion. I come by it honestly. I am my mother's daughter... Once, upon seeing a bust of the pope at a Buca di Beppo's Italian restaurant, my ma said "Oh look! It's the pope! I wonder if he's made of Parmesan cheese?"

That being said, I love Christmas. I've come to realize that I love Christmas not in the traditional "it's a high holy day for Christians" kinda way, but in a secular "I love twinkle lights and pine and ornaments and feasts with family and stockings hanging on the mantel" kinda way.

And I love love love Christmas music. I'm one of those irritating people who can listen to Christmas carols non-stop from now until New Year's.

It's a dreary and rainy day here in Pittsburgh and for some reason, the mood just struck me and I decided it's time to listen to Christmas music. So I'm signed into my XM Radio Online account and I'm listening to the "Holiday Traditions" station. The first song I heard was my favorite Christmas song of all time -- The First Noel. It's one of the more religiony, Jeebusy songs, but it makes me cry every time. And it reminds me of being with my family.

So. There's that. :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"... Even if you were broke, my love don't cost a thing..."

This year, Oprah's people have announced that her "Favorite Things" episode is going to be "recession friendly" - no whacky HDTV refrigerators, or crazy-expensive gourmet cupcakes. According to press releases, Oprah's favorite favorite thing this year doesn't cost anything. What the heck could it be? A hug? A make out session with George Clooney?

I started thinking about things I love that are cheap or free. Here's my short list of favorite low-cost but fun things to give for gifts during the holidays.

1. Cookies in a little gift sack. Sure, cookie ingredients are expensive, but if you use a recipe that makes a billion cookies (Like the classic "Mrs. Fields' Chocolate Chip Cookies" which yields like 12 dozen) you've got yourself a pretty cheap pile of gifts to pass around. No, it won't work on your Mom or your boyfriend, but cookies are great to give to someone you work with or randomly know who expects a little something from you around the holidays.

2. A handmade wreath. What the hell are you going to give your grandma? Or your significant other's mom? Hellloooo handmade wreath. Hit the craft stores NOW to get cheap stuff to put on a grapevine wreath or hold of until the week after Christmas to make a nice winter wreath with all of the discounted gold and silver do-dads. You can give the homeowners whose house you go to for that New Years' Eve party a pretty wreath for their front door. I saw this wreath at a local craft store pre-made by the floral department. It cost $100 to buy ready-made. I found the grapevine wreath, similar do-dads to put on it and ribbon to make my own bow. Total cost for me (minus all of the swearing and labor when I make the bow) : $19.57.

3. A nice mix CD. Don't deny it... everyone still enjoys a good mix CD. Hit up one of the big box electronics stores the day after Thanksgiving for super cheap spindles of blank CDs. Last year when I was at Best Buy with my dad on Black Friday, I got a spindle of CDs for $3.99. Can't beat that!

Be creative. Think of things you like to get. You can't go to all of those holiday parties at peoples' houses empty handed, but you don't have to break the bank either!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"...There's a corner of your heart...for... me..."

Yesterday, the lovely Ushmama and I were discussing things we can't live without. Namely cheese and chocolate. We agreed that we just don't understand people who aren't extremely pleased by chocolate. Like, most guys, for example, couldn't care less about a candy bar. Most women on the other hand, would eat a king sized candy bar instead of their dinner if they thought no one would find out about it.

I've tried giving up chocolate for Lent, for New Year's Resolutions... it's never lasted more than a week. Maximum. This leads me to conclude that we shouldn't feel bad about liking the things we like. Social norms tell we human beings, especially women, that we should feel bad about enjoying things that are "bad for us" or "fattening" or "a waste of time." On the contrary, I think we should embrace the things we like, whether it's food or trashy romance novels or a nice night alone in front of the tv when you watch that really embarrassing show you don't want anyone to know you LOVE (I'll admit mine - Ace of Cakes on the Food Network.) Doing the things you love and WANT to do or eating a decent piece of chocolate once in a while balances all of the bland, boring things we HAVE to do everyday.

Here is my top 5 list of things I enjoy immensely from time to time and refuse to feel guilty/dumb about:

1. Chocolate (Obvs)
2. Belva Plain novels
3. Children's activities - i.e. coloring, reading picture books, carving pumpkins, getting really wound up on Christmas Eve, animated movies... etc, etc.
4. Paying alot of money to get my hair done
5. Eating a really, really late fancy dinner and then going to bed with a belly full of yumminess.

There you have it. I am a chocolate-loving, romance novel reading, pumpkin-carving, fancy-dinner-eating woman. Shammmmmmmmmmmme! ;-)

Monday, November 17, 2008

"...the wind plays with the leaves, the weather turns colder..."

I woke up this morning, still cuddled under the blankets, and looked outside to find snow clinging to the trees and flurries flying through the air.

And in that split second... you know... right after you wake up when you're really not sure what day it is and what you're supposed to do with your new day? Well in that moment, I really thought it was Christmas morning.

I was warm, I was well rested and I was being held. Christmas morning indeed.

It is of course mid-November, not Christmas morning. And ever since I got out of bed today, I've been cold. The sprinkling of snow on the ground has melted...

...But it's still flurrying outside and I can still feel that warm, happy feeling I had this morning.

And now I think I'm finally ready for the holiday season.

Also, check out these awesome bangles!


They're available online at I want one! It's the perfect kind of bracelet to wear on top of a tight fitting sweater to give it some kick and I totally want one with the outfit I'm wearing right now!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"...I wanna know what it's like on the inside of love..."

"This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it."

Keith Olbermann's special comment about California's Prop 8

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"...S'ppose I never, ever met you..."

I'm sitting here in my shop, listening to music, sipping coffee and watching shoppers walk down Walnut Street. And I find my mind wandering....

... to thinking about how happy I'll be to see Jason and squeeze him tightly after his long weekend away to go dirtbiking with his buddies...

... to the Amalfi Coast...

... to Milan...

... to family vacations in Hilton Head...

... to that seemingly far-off trip to Colorado that Jason and I are planning to take in February...

I've been given to such strong fits of wanderlust lately... even thinking about being in an airport, decked out in some dark glasses; travel tote in tow; scarf tied hastly around my throat to ward of the chill of the plane... getting off of the plane in a new place... just the thought makes my skin tingle. So many things to look forward to...

I'm thankful for being able to go to all of the places I've been to.

And I find myself counting my blessings that Jason is a part of my life. What if I'd never met him? Alot of things would be different... I'd never have a desire to go to Colorado that's for sure. But since he lived there and it was a place he loved, I want to see it. And walk down the streets bundled up in a puffy coat, coffee in my right hand and his in the other...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

" everything, turn, turn, turn..."




Monday, November 3, 2008

"...We are coming up..."

Tomorrow is election day.


I'm so nervous.

::crosses fingers, goes and watches Obama's "Yes We Can" speech on YouTube for the millionth time::

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"...we're one but we're not the same..."

From Amnesty International (Source):

Somalia: Girl stoned was a child of 13

31 October 2008

Contrary to earlier news reports, the girl stoned to death in Somalia this week was 13, not 23, Amnesty International can reveal.

Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was killed on Monday, 27 October, by a group of 50 men who stoned her to death in a stadium in the southern port of Kismayu, in front of around 1,000 spectators.

Some of the Somali journalists who had reported she was 23 have told Amnesty International that this age was based upon a judgement of her age from her physical appearance.

She was accused of adultery in breach of Islamic law but, her father and other sources told Amnesty International that she had in fact been raped by three men, and had attempted to report this rape to the al-Shabab militia who control Kismayo, and it was this act that resulted in her being accused of adultery and detained. None of men she accused of rape were arrested.

“This was not justice, nor was it an execution. This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups who currently control Kismayo,” said David Copeman, Amnesty International's Somalia Campaigner.

“This killing is yet another human rights abuse committed by the combatants to the conflict in Somalia, and again demonstrates the importance of international action to investigate and document such abuses, through an International Commission of Inquiry.” Amnesty International has learnt that:

Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was reported as being 23, based upon a judgement on her physical appearance, according to one of the journalists who had reported the stoning. Her actual age was confirmed to Amnesty International by other sources, including her father.

Her father said she had only travelled to Kismayo from Hagardeer refugee camp in north eastern Kenya three months earlier.

She was detained by militia of the Kismayo authorities, a coalition of Al-shabab and clan militias. During this time, she was reportedly extremely distressed, with some individuals stating she had become mentally unstable.
A truckload of stones was brought into the stadium to be used in the stoning.

At one point during the stoning, Amnesty International has been told by numerous eyewitnesses that nurses were instructed to check whether Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was still alive when buried in the ground. They removed her from the ground, declared that she was, and she was replaced in the hole where she had been buried for the stoning to continue.

An individual calling himself Sheik Hayakalah, was quoted on Radio Shabelle saying:``The evidence came from her side and she officially confirmed her guilt, while she told us that she is happy with the punishment under Islamic law.'' In contradiction to this claim, a number of eye witnesses have told Amnesty International she struggled with her captors and had to be forcibly carried into the stadium.

Inside the stadium, militia members opened fire when some of the witnesses to the killing attempted to save her life, and shot dead a boy who was a bystander. An al-Shabab spokeperson was later reported to have apologized for the death of the child, and said the milita member would be punished.

Background Amnesty International has campaigned to end the use of the punishment of stoning, calling it gruesome and horrific. This killing of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow demonstrates the cruelty and the inherent discrimination against women of this punishment.

The reports on this killing should be understood within the climate of fear that armed insurgent groups such as al-Shabab have created within the areas they control in Somalia. As Amnesty International has documented previously, government officials, journalists and human rights defenders face death threats and killing if they are perceived to have spoken against al-Shabab, who have waged a campaign of intimidation against the Somali people through such killings.

Since the death, a number of individuals have told Amnesty International they have fled from Kismayo out of fear of suffering a similar fate to Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"...I-I-I had a feeling that I belonged..."

Tomorrow night is the grand opening of Eyetique's sixth store location.

Say hello to store number six - Eyetique South Side Works.

Come to the party from 7-11 for free food, wine and live music.

Who could say no to free wine and couture eyewear?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"...even if you cannot hear my voice I'll be right beside you dear..."

Proof that you're never too old for a stuffed animal...

While browsing today with Mr. Eric, I came across a sidebar advert for - a website that retails "giant round fuzzy stuffed animals."

I'm not feeling well today - a little bit of the blues and a little bit of a sore throat are making me a little weepy and whiney.

All I can think about is crawling into bed and snuggling with either my Bun and/or one of these Squishable Buns.

It's so hard to resist the urge to buy one of these!

I mean look how cute they are!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"...I lower my eyes wishing I could cry more and care less..."

So it's been seven years since the September 11th attacks on the United States. We all remember where we were. We all remember how it felt... how afraid we all were. The most poignant memory I have of that day happened just as I was realizing what was going on.

I'll always remember that September 11th, 2001 was a Tuesday because I had a 9am - 10:15am class, my first feminist theory class at Pitt. I never turned the TV on or fired up my laptop before that early class. I walked to class not knowing anything had happened at 8:45... No one sitting in class had any idea something was going on either. I got back to the dorm room Sara and I shared just as the North Tower was falling at 10:30. Sara was sitting on her bed with her laptop, white as a ghost. As I came through the door, she didn't say anything, just pointed at the tv. I started to cry and looked back at her. She turned her laptop around to show me the screen - the front page. It was completely white with one picture of the damaged New York City Skyline and one headline that read "Under Attack." There was no other copy, no advertisements, no other pictures.

Alot of things went on that day. I'm sure the rest of classes were cancelled. I'm sure I talked to alot of friends who were at other college campuses around the country. And I do remember that after we knew it was all over and after we talked to our parents, our Dad came and picked us up from our dorm and took us home for the night, where we sat and cried and watched CNN for hours.

But the look on Sara's face and the look of the frontpage are most prominent sensory memories about September 11th that sneak up on me sometimes. And even after seven years, when those memories flash through my mind on another anniversary of September 11th or when someone talks about where they were.... those memories still make me weepy.

Today is no exception.

Last night, Keith Olbermann made a special comment about September 11th and what the Republicans have turned it into... "9/11(TM)." Click here to read or watch Mr. Olbermann's amazing emotional and firey special comment. This man gives me goosebumps and consistently moves me to tears.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"...there's a fire just waiting for fuel..."

Yes, I saw Palin give her speech last night.

No, I will not be voting for McCain now just because she is on the ticket.

Why? Because I'm like all of the other RATIONAL women in the United States: I would never in my right mind vote for a woman just because she is a woman.

Palin's positions on social issues, foreign policy, domestic policy, off-shore drilling....etc, etc, etc are the exact opposite of my positions.

I am hoping with all of my might that the Republicans don't find a way to win this election. If they do, I'm moving to Italy once and for all.... or at least Toronto...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"...put a smile on your face..."

Sarah who!?!?!?
see more funny political pictures

"...yeah everything will be fine and I will stay with you..."

I've been trying to form thoughts about McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate....

...thoughts that are more than just a lot of swear words....

... I'm not there yet. But I will say this: if by some miracle McCain gets elected and then kicks it while he is in the White House, I'm going to go batshit crazy if Palin gets to be the first female president.

And that's all I have to say about that.

In other news... I just realized I'm wearing a white dress after Labor Day. I hope Clinton and Stacy from TLC's What Not To Wear aren't taping secret footage of me...

When I got dressed this morning, I felt motivated to get a little more glammy than I usually do...

Last night my guy and I went for a walk in the park after dinner that ended up turning into a hiking adventure over brush and rocks and hills. There was dirt in my shoes and hair. My legs were scratched and bruised. I was so flithy and sweaty when we got home. But it was fantastic. Being dirty and outdoorsy is fun. And it's been forever since I've been that yucky.

...but that was my motivation to be extra girly this morning when I got ready for work. :-)

Monday, August 25, 2008

"....One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you..."

So.... Joe Biden, huh? I guess he's as good a choice as any to be Obama's running mate. If it couldn't be Hillary, I'm glad it's someone I know and like.

What I like the most about Joe Biden, aside from his very liberal opinions about women's health and reproductive rights, is his wife.

Jill Biden is, by all accounts, a woman with a heart of gold. An educator with a PhD, she works at a community college right now and has worked in the past with students with disabilities. She also spearheaded the Biden Breast Health Initiative -- a program whose goal is to educate young women and girls about the importance of breast self-exams and early dectection for breast cancer. (Source)

As the daughter of a teacher, I have to tell you that teachers have a special place in my heart. They're the soul of our country. Where would we all be without our first grade teachers when we were learning how to read and write? Where would we all be without that English professor in undergrad who finally made us LOVE that one Shakespeare play we had always hated.

Well done, Senator Obama. You just made me like you a little bit more. Having Jill Biden around is going to be awesome.

And on a totally different note.... look at these BOOTS!

I Like:

L4935 by Justin at Zappos.comL4935
by - Powered by Service

Friday, August 22, 2008

"...I like it in the city when two worlds collide..."

As I was driving around today I had alot of time to myself. Usually, this leads to a pretty angsty state of mind. I am proud to say that I did not lapse into any maudlin self-reflection.

What could this mean?!


It must mean I'm truly content and at peace with life!

::Peaceturkey passes out::

Makes me want to walk out of my store right now and go dance on the street in the amazing new outfit from Sugar that I'm wearing today!

Monday, August 18, 2008

"...It's calm under the waves in the blue of my oblivion..."

Alot of things are swimming around in my head today.

At the forefront is the realization that I am not, in fact, done with grad school yet. I fucked up a class, thought I could get it straightened out and ultimately it turns out that I need to retake the class. More money, more juggling with a full-time job, more waiting for that diploma. Bloody hell. I'm so tempted to say "screw it" and just not finish. But I know I'd end up really regretting that in the long run.

Also on my mind is the Democratic National Convention. I'm still holding out hope that Obama is going to make Hillary his running mate. What can I say? A girl can dream. And stranger things have happened in politics! So you never know!

Fall, winter and the holidays are also on my mind. I can't wait for fall. All of the amazing clothing options... all of the fun things to do around the city when it gets cooler... watching the leaves change... drinking hot chocolate... and most of all... the bonfire my parents have each Halloween that is replete with pumpkin carving, hotdogs on sticks, hot chocolate and s'mores. This year, in particular should be fun... as it seems I'll have a significant other to bring to the festivities.

...and now that I've typed that, I do realized that I just jinxed everything...

::PeaceTurkey knocks on her wooden desk::

I'll conclude this daydreamy post with a picture of boots I'll be lusting for more and more each day...

This amazing boot is by Cole Haan. They can be found here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

"...I can feel the distance getting close..."

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder...

...I'm here to tell you they're right.

It's funny how quickly you get used to someone being a part of your life...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"...And there's reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last..."

Pretty straightforward article about former Serb leader Karadzic on today:

It's interesting to see how post-war sentiment in the former Yugoslavia countries keeps changing. In the age of the internet and instantaneous communication, we all hear about rallys and protests as they happen, or in this case, before they happen. One has to wonder if all of this civilian political participation happened after WWI and WWII. Of course we all hear about citizens rallying around their heroic leaders in countries that were allied with the United States, but what was it like elsewhere?

It's fascinating to me to see how countries redevelop and evolve after a war.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"... 'cause baby, it's you..."

News flash:

It seems that I like taking care of people.

Just call me Florence NightenSally.

It's amazing that when you care about someone, you don't mind cleaning out his cuts and scrapes because you don't think his blood and guts are nasty. You're too worried about him being in pain from getting all banged up.

You stop caring about looking perfect.

You don't mind when your hair gets messed up because he is playing with it.

You stop worrying about having lipstick on because you know he's going to kiss it off anyway.

I just had to let this out.

Now, back to snarky, political musings. Maybe... :-)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"...come to me now and lay your hands over me..."

I get seperation anxiety for the people I care about.

I'm not talking about seperation anxiety when they go on long trips or anything like that.

I mean on a daily basis. An hourly basis even.

...Poox2000 is moving to DC. I cannot even verbalize the depth my seperation anxiety will reach when he's no longer a 5 minute drive away from me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"...You greet another son, you lose another one on some sunny day and you always stay Mary..."

Read this article from CNN. (Source)

Officer breast-feeds quake orphans

From Hugh Riminton CNN International

JIANGYOU, China (CNN) -- A Chinese policewoman is being hailed as a hero after taking it upon herself to breast-feed several infants who were separated from their mothers or orphaned by China's devastating earthquake.

Officer Jiang Xiaojuan, 29, the mother of a 6-month-old boy, responded to the call of duty and the instincts of motherhood when the magnitude 7.9 quake struck on May 12.

"I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies. I didn't think of it much," she said. "It is a mother's reaction, and a basic duty as a police officer to help."

The death toll in the earthquake jumped Thursday to more than 51,000, and more than 29,000 are missing, according to government figures. Thousands of children have been orphaned; many others have mothers who simply can't feed them.

At one point, Jiang was feeding nine babies.

"Some of the moms were injured, their fathers were dead ... five of them were orphans. They've gone away to an orphanage now," she said.

She still feeds two babies, including Zhao Lyuyang, son of a woman who survived the quake but whose breast milk stopped flowing because of the traumatic conditions.

"We walked out of the mountains for a long time. I hadn't eaten in days when I got here and my milk was not enough," said that mother, Zhao Zong Jun. "She saved my baby. I thank her so much, I can't express how I feel."

Liu Rong, another mother whose breast milk stopped in the trauma, was awed by Jiang's kindness.

"I am so touched because she has her own baby, but she fed the disaster babies first," Liu said. "If she hadn't fed my son he wouldn't have had enough to eat."

Jiang has became a celebrity, followed by local media and proclaimed on a newspaper front page as "China's Mother No. 1."

She's embarrassed by the fuss.

"I think what I did was normal," she said. "In a quake zone, many people do things for others. This was a small thing, not worth mentioning."

There has been a huge outpouring of support from families who want to adopt babies orphaned by the quake. But that process takes time and there are mouths to feed.

Jiang misses her own son, who's being cared for through the emergency by in-laws in another town, but she is aware of the new connections she's made.

"I feel about these kids I fed just like my own. I have a special feeling for them. They are babies in a disaster."

This article has me intrigued...

But let me back up for one minute... I'm about 110% sure that if I have children, I will not breastfeed them. My mother did not breastfeed either my sister or me. And she had us at the height of the whole "You're a bad mother if you don't breastfeed" bullshit that started in the 80's and continues today. Shirl believed, and still believes today, that there is nothing wrong with bottle feeding your child. Once in a while, she'll still wax poetic about the beauty of her husband being able to get up at 3am to feed the child he helped create.

Now, Sara and I are both highly educated, productive members of society (which throws out the "if you don't breastfeed, your infant won't be smart when she/he grows up" argument.)

We weren't sickly as children (which throws that whole "you'll fuck up your infant's immune system if you don't breastfeed!" story some doctor's believe.)

We don't have attachment issues with our mother (which nullifies the "your child will feel abandoned and become codependent if she/he doesn't experience breastfeeding" crapola.) And while I am occassionally codependent, I truly believe that I alone am the one to blame for that. My mother letting my dad get up at 3am to feed me with formula from a bottle once in a while can't be to blame for any of my poor decisions lately.

All of that being said....

Holy canoli, the human body is amazing. The fact that women are able to breastfeed is really an incredible thing. Hell, birth and reproduction still amazes me. If Officer Jiang had not been breastfeeding her own child, odds are the orphans she fed would have starved. There have been anecdotal stories out of various war zones about other women doing the same thing Office Jiang did. It's more proof that humans are capable of surviving horrible things. And that in horrible circumstances, some people will rise up and be saviors.

(But I'm still not breastfeeding my own kids.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"...And the little plastic castle is a surprise every time and it's hard to say if they're happy, but they don't seem much to mind..."

What can anyone really say about what's going on in Myanmar in the aftermath of the cyclone that hasn't been said? What is amazing to me is that the citizens there have not overthrown the government. Is it because they have been repressed so long that there is simply no fight left in them? It's hard to imagine what life is like there. For all of our talking about how well international governmental organizations keep much of the world in check, all it takes is a country like Myanmar being in the news cycle for a few days to make all of us sheltered academics realized that the world we live in is very far from the world we wish we lived in.

I'll admit I don't know much about Myanmar and its past struggles. For times like this, I turn not to Wikipedia, but to the CIA WorldFact Book. I can thank my sister, Sara, for introducing this resource to me.

If you, like me, don't know why Myanmar is called Myanmar now instead of Burma or how the junta came to power, give Myanmar's entry in the World FactBook a read.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"...I see you, you see me differently..."

Anddd the conversation about torture this semester comes full circle. Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes interviewed Antonin Scalia. Here are bits of it as seen on the Daily Show yesterday.

Scalia: "Has anyone ever refered to torture as punishment?"


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"...I wish everyone was loved tonight..."

"...This is how it works, it feels a little worse..."

Torture Kitteh Makes Doggeh Talk (Source)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"I am on your side, I just want to tell you off"

Since "What do the presidential candidates think about Issue X?" came up several times in class on Monday, I did a little digging and found this lovely little resource. Somewhere along the line, the American Society of International Law did surveys with all of the presedential candidates. There is some pretty interesting stuff in there, including all of their positions on the ICC and other things dealing with international law. A good resource to have for those IA students of us who will be voting in the primary a week from today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle! Tramontate, stelle! All'alba vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!"

(Above: NASA photo of a sand dune on Mars Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech)

I've sat down to write what I've realized will be my last blog post for class. And it's finally sinking in that this semester is over. And graduation is next week. For as difficult as it has been these past two years to go to school full time while also working full time, it was my choice. I chose that difficult schedule. Friends who have seen me on campus see me always walking around with a cup of coffee and a huge tote bag full of books and school work and work work and probably have always seen me mid-yawn, to be honest. Three to five hours of sleep per night has been my standard these past 24 months...

...and now looking back on it all ... and seeing that it's all over... I wouldn't change it for anything:

when I was so tired that only having Poox2000 sitting next to me, nudging my arm kept me awake in class; when being at work at UPMC was so depressing that I would call my mother in the middle of the day just to remind myself I was worth something; when I was awake for two days on end to finish an assignment; when I was an emotional basket case because of things going on in my personal life; when I had to call off work the morning after hanging out with my GSPIA friends all night the night before; when I survived only on caffeine and the food I had time to buy at Einstein's in Posvar Hall... All of those things, those small and insignificant things, have added up to a life that I'm actually happy I've lead. And that life has been supported so much by my family and my friends. I know I've been difficult and taxing and just an out-right bitch sometimes to them. But their support has never waivered so I know they'll be sitting at commencement to clap for all of us next Saturday.

Transitioning into a life that does not include school might be easier for me than it will for others since I have been working. But it makes it no less emotionally challenging. And no less difficult when we all realize that we're not going to see each other every day. I'm lucky to have found a few people at GSPIA who are not just friends, but truly a part of my family now. And for that reason, I am in love with GSPIA because it brought me to people I now love.

Finally, I have to give credit to Dr. Carpenter for coming up with the lovely idea to have us all write blogs this semester. I've loved doing it. And I will continue to post to this blog long after this semester is over. Having a professor who knows that teaching is more than just lecturing and assigning papers has been uplifting. Recognizing the humanity in her students is a characteristic Dr. Carpenter has that other professors, campus-wide, would be well-served to adopt.

Mornings always bring out my tendency to be maudlin. And as I sit here, in my new house, on my sunny sunporch with my two kitties, I'm just going to let it all sink in.

I'll post the academic post I had intended to write when I sat down here 15 minutes ago later on today. Thank you, as always, for indugling me, dear readers.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"...And it's time, time, time that you love... And it's time, time, time..."

Sad news out of Rwanda today.

This news story speaks to the chapter we read in Johnson's book about how one of the most difficult things to overcome in an intra-state post-conflict situation is the hatred that the different sides still may feel towards each other long after the fighting is over.

How do you make people like each other again? Live next to each other in peace again? Shop in the same stores? Share the same values?

It's just really sad. Nothing more to say really.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"...there goes my hero..."

Today, the lovely Poox2000 and I met Hillary Clinton.

She held a rally at my alma mater, Hopewell High School (home of the undefeated Fall 2000 Lady Viking Tennis Team) in Aliquippa. She was lovely and tiny and soft-spoken and endearing. Anyone who has not heard her speak should try to do so while she is stumping in PA.

Here are some key points she talked about today. The NYT Politics Blog had this to say about her speech.

McCain is going to regret that "100 years" remark. If the Iraq war went on that long, do you think the US would still be able to remain aloof from the ICC? Would still be able to avoid being charged by an International Criminal Tribunal with war crimes? Would still be a super power?

I would answer no to all three of those questions, particularly the question about war crimes. Can you imagine how the war crimes and crimes against humanity would pile up in the next 100 years? Just the charges brought on by all the torturing would be enough to fill the Hague for another 100 years.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"...Let's conspire to re-ignite all the souls that would die just to feel alive..."

I read this article on the Human Rights Watch website this morning and it's stuck with me all day. I think it's been on my mind because I've been trying to figure out what sort of IHL or Geneva Convention, if any, is being violated by the Chadian government. Forced migration and ad hoc, governmental seizure of property is illegal in Chad according to a 1967 Land Law that prohibits deprivation of ownership without due process and also stipulates that the government can only take possession of private property after it has compensated the citizens who are being forced to move. But are there international laws being violated here?

Our Crimes of War book mentions seizure of property in the context of armed conflict so I'm pretty sure that the Geneva Conventions and particularly Additional Protocol I don't apply to this situation.

I guess the point of my post is to point out a gap in protection for people who are forced from their property by their home governments when there is technically no war within the borders.

What can be done for the thousands of Chadian citizens who find themselves forced from their land by their government? Is this something that should even be on the radar screen of the international community? Certainly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that people are entitled to shelter. If that right is violated, who becomes accountable? How can Universal Human Rights be enforced?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"...This place is a prison and these people aren't your friends..."

I really had to force myself to get all the way through the presentation about the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) for a couple of reasons: it's disturbing how willy-nilly researchers were allowed to conduct experiments with human subjects in pre-IRB days and it's ironic how similar the situation in Abu Ghraib was to what went on during the SPE. It has been proven that certain guards in the Abu Ghraib prison did have backgrounds spotted with abuse, emotional problems or even substance abuse problems. The past experiences of those guards could explain their behavior in Abu Ghraib, but how do we explain improper behavior by guards who had no prior record of being an abuser of some sort?

The SPE proved that an environment like Abu Ghraib could turn anyone into an abuser. The simulated prison situation at Stanford was nothing compaired to the situation in Abu Ghraib so if regular people off of the street turned into jerks in a simulated situation, it's no wonder even "good cops" turned bad.

It's really hard for me to place myself somewhere on the "bad apples" v "rotten barrell" continuum. I generally do believe that the majority of humanity is decent. If I were asked a week ago where I stood on the BA v RB continuum, I would have said that it's only a few bad apples who tarnish the shine of humanity. Now, however, having watched Ghosts of Abu Ghraib I'm beginning to think that maybe there is a darkness that is a natural part of human beings. Who is to say that any person regardless of class, sex, age, race, etc wouldn't act the same way? The SPE makes me fear that if I, a highly competitive person who has a really strong urge to "win," were in that guard v. inmate situation, I would end up being the bad cop.

I guess then, the long answer to the question about the BA v RB continuum is that maybe we're all part of a rotten barrell. Maybe our inate nature as human beings is actually quite dark and it is only our constant fight against that darkness that lends us all to our tendency to strive to be "good."

Monday, March 17, 2008

"But come ye back"

This is worth a second post of the day:

Thanks for the link, I.T.

"...Once I built an ivory tower so I could worship from above..."

Not to belabor the point I was (ineffectively) trying to make in class today... but the whole "Bush Vetoes Bill Banning Torture" thing really, really frosts my cookies (mmm cookies...) I see the point several people made that worrying about US citizens' opinions about the torture norm might be less important than worrying about whether or not our government is following the norm. Clearly, the two go hand in hand. Here you have the (arguably) biggest world power condoning the use of torture to further its agenda in the GWOT and it's just supposed to be acceptable to the American public because Bush vetoed a bill on torture? Nevermind the fact that the veto is antithetical to an international norm?

This is the kind of rhetoric being put out there into public discourse:

"This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," the president said. (Source)

Like Dr. C said -- whether or not there is proof that it works, torture is still wrong according to the international norm. We shouldn't be asking how effective torture is or if it is in fact keeping America safe. We should be asking ourselves and our leaders why we are having a debate to begin with about whether or not it is ok. Of course it's not ok. Like Alex Bellamy pointed out in the article we read for class, there is really no evidence that the torture of the Algerian "ticking time bomb terrorist" yielded any information that was more effective than the routine search of the man's property by police--further proof that not only is it not ok, but odds are, torture doesn't achieve anything other than tearing away at the morality of a state and its representatives.

It will be interesting to see if and how a new administration will change the nature of the discussion about torture. I grew up hearing my mother say "I don't care if Bill Clinton had an affair. I didn't elect him as a moral leader. I elected him to run our country." She has changed her tune a bit. We're not talking about extramarital affairs anymore. We're talking about torture and death and a loss of a most basic understanding of what humanity is at the hands of the current administration.

Maybe this time around, we will be electing a moral leader, not just a political leader.

And now I need to go find myself a cookie.

I iz scared K, I�ll come out for cookie.
see more crazy cat pics

Sunday, March 2, 2008

"And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives... where we gonna be when we're 25..."

Lately all I can think about is graduation... with every assignment I complete, I think "well, I'll never have to do that again..." Such a bad attitude. But at least I'm honest about it.

It's quite ironic, though, that I just realized that the deadline to apply for graduation was Friday. Did I apply? Of course not.

Also? Let's not forget that I still haven't passed the evil, hateful, terror-inspiring, anger-evoking, wretched, wretched class that is Macroeconomics.


Speaking of rage, anyone who graduated from high school in 2000 or later is going to hate me for this... but here you go. :-)

Good luck trying to get that song out of your head.

Who wants to go to Shady Grove on Wednesday again and drink wine to celebrate Spring Break?

Friday, February 22, 2008

"...You're beaaaaaaaaaaautifullllllllll...."

I find James Blunt a bit irritating and his music overly-emotive (ha, how ironic that I think someone is overly-emotive.) But I came across this on YouTube and felt compelled to share it. I was totally unaware that he was in the British Army. In Kosovo! I can go to bed now -- I learned something new today.

And now that you've suffered through that, watch this. Because it is hysterical. And it'll get James Blunt's falsetto voice out of your head. :-)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"...why can't weeee be friends?..."

(Pre-script: My dad's side of the family is Croatian and Irish. We've always "identified" with the Croatian identity more than the Irish identity, I think. That pull that some of us feel to Eastern Europe is something we can't really desribe or explain. That being said... I don't feel any ill will towards Serbs, nor do I think their arguments about Kovoso are unfounded. I kind of forget the point I was trying to make... but I think I just want to point out that I really am trying to be objective even though I identify my ethnicity with a state that may be part of a war-zone again.)

In light of all that is going on in Eastern Europe right now, I thought it would be useful to (at least tangentially) tie our blogging assignment about Lt. Col. Marttala's presention to Kosovo.

And I'll do that.... after you all read this article from the BBC.


US embassy in Belgrade attacked

Police were not guarding the embassy at the timeSeveral hundred protesters have attacked the US and other embassies in Serbia's capital in anger at Western support for Kosovo's independence.

Protesters broke into the US compound in Belgrade and briefly set part of the embassy alight.

Firemen later found an unidentified charred body inside.
Other embassies were also targeted. The United Nations Security Council condemned the violence.

The attacks followed a peaceful rally by at least 150,000 people in the city.

Most Serbs regard Kosovo as their religious and cultural heartland.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica delivered an impassioned speech condemning the territory's secession.

In pictures: Belgrade rally
"As long as we live, Kosovo is Serbia. Kosovo belongs to the Serbian people," he told the flag-waving crowd.

Later about 1,000 protesters smashed their way into the US embassy, throwing flares through the window while others scaled walls to rip down the US flag.

At the time there appeared to be no police protecting the embassy, but riot police later intervened, firing tear gas.

'Mob attacks'

The fires raged for half an hour, and when firemen finally managed to get inside the building they found a charred body.

The main rally outside parliament was peacefulThe body has not been identified, though US officials said all embassy staff of US nationality had been accounted for.

White House spokesman Dana Perino said the embassy had been "attacked by thugs" and that Serbian police had not done enough to stop them.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the US had warned Mr Kostunica and his foreign minister that it would hold them personally responsible for further damage.

Mr McCormack added that the protesters had entered the chancellery but had not breached the embassy's secure area.

Smaller groups later targeted the Croatian, Turkish and British embassies but were beaten back.
In New York, the UN Security Council condemned what it called "mob attacks" on US and other embassies in Belgrade

In a unanimous statement, the council recalled the inviolability of diplomatic missions under international law, but welcomed steps by Serbian authorities to restore order.
Kosovo 'stolen'

Serbian President Boris Tadic appealed for calm.

"This only keeps Kosovo distant from Serbia," he said.

Serbia, supported by Russia and China, says Kosovo's Sunday declaration violates international law.

During Thursday's rally, ultra-nationalist leader Tomislav Nikolic accused the US and EU of trying to steal Kosovo.

"Hitler could not take it away from us, and neither will today's [Western powers]."

After the speeches, the crowd marched to the city's biggest church, the Temple of Saint Sava.
Thick, black smoke had also earlier billowed from the crossing point at Merdare, 50km (30 miles) north-east of Kosovo's capital Pristina, as Serb army reservists tried to enter Kosovo.

"We are here in support of the Serbs who still live in Kosovo," Dejan Milosevic, one of the organisers, told the Associated Press news agency.
The Kosovo police, backed by Czech troops from the Nato-led peacekeeping force, put a steel barrier across the road and were able to hold their line.
Protest rallies were also held in the Bosnian Serb republic (Republika Srpska) here were unconfirmed reports of injuries as several hundred protesters clashed with police outside the US consulate in Banja Luka.

In the coming weeks, an almost 2,000-strong EU mission will be deployed to help Kosovo develop its police force and judiciary.
So.... two things:
One, the use of tear gas by riot police to disburse the crowd at the American Embassy in Belgrade. It's interesting that this came up since I think it's safe to say that we were all a little shocked when Lt. Col. Martalla told us tear gas can be used on civilians but not military personnel.
And two, what happens to people who attack an Embassy? Technically an attack on an Embassy is an attack on the homeland that that Embassy represents, right? So are those protesters today who threw flares into the American Embassy enemy combatants right now? And what about the ones who scaled the building and tore down an American flag? (Ten bucks says that Congress brings that good, ole "resprect the flag" legislation out again over that.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"...friends shakin' hands sayin', 'how do you do' ... they're really sayin 'I love you.' "

I know this blog is supposed to be academic, not personal. But I can't help myself sometimes. And this is one of those times.

Today is my last day of work at UPMC -- at my high-stress, low-paying, degrading job. I was so afraid that when my last day rolled around, I would be panic-stricken. I was terrified I'd end up regretting my decision to leave. I'll be completely honest with myself and all of you, dear readers...


(unless Colin Farrell was sitting in the sidechair in my office with me right now, smiling at me and chainsmoking.)

I was standing at the bus stop this morning at6:45am (for the last time), freezing my ass off on the wind tunnel that is 5th Avenue in Shadyside and watching the cars go by. My bus stop is at an intersection with a redlight, so often, I get treated to snippets of peoples' radios as they're waiting for the light to turn green.

This morning right before my bus came, a car stopped at the redlight. The lady was smoking so her windows were cracked just enough for me to clearly hear what her radio was playing... and I heard these lyrics before the light changed and she sped off...

"....think to myself
what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow
so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people passin by
I see..."

There's so much ugliness in the world and so much doubt by we mere mortals about whether we can actually make our lives meaningful; whether we are making the world a better place by being in it. Something as silly as hearing that song on a day when I am actually thinking what a wonderful place this world is was enough to make me smile this morning before I had even had coffee. And now that I have my coffee, I find myself smiling even more.

Thank you for indulging me.

(One last personal note -- It's Wino Wednesday at Shady Grove. I will be there, drinking wine heavily in celebration of hanging up my UPMC security badge. Come have a glass of merlot with Turkey, Poox and Beck.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"...I know nothing stays the same, but if you're willing to play the game, it's comin' around again..."

We all knew it was coming, but it's still one of those "HOLY CANOLI!" moments. And so is President Tadic's statement about international law at the end of the piece.

Kosovo Declares Its Independence


Published: February 17, 2008
Filed at 10:25 a.m. ET

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) -- Kosovo declared itself a nation on Sunday, mounting a historic bid to become an ''independent and democratic state'' backed by the U.S. and key European allies but bitterly contested by Serbia and Russia.

''Kosovo is a republic -- an independent, democratic and sovereign state,'' parliament speaker Jakup Krasniqi said as the chamber burst into applause. Krasniqi, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and President Fatmir Sejdiu signed the declaration, which was scripted on parchment.

Across the capital, Pristina, revelers danced in the streets, fired guns into the air and waved red and black Albanian flags in jubilation at the birth of the world's newest country.

Serbian President Boris Tadic immediately rejected the independence bid, saying his country will never accept Kosovo's ''unilateral and illegal'' declaration.

Sunday's declaration was carefully orchestrated with the U.S. and key European powers, and Kosovo was counting on swift international recognition that could come as early as Monday, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, Belgium.

''From today onwards, Kosovo is proud, independent and free,'' said Thaci, a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which battled Serbian troops in a 1998-99 separatist war that claimed 10,000 lives. ''We never lost faith in the dream that one day we would stand among the free nations of the world, and today we do.''

''Our hopes have never been higher,'' he told the assembly. ''Dreams are infinite, our challenges loom large, but nothing can deter us from moving forward to the greatness that history has reserved for us.''

Thaci pledged that the new nation would be ''a democratic, multiethnic state'' -- an attempt to reach out to Serbs who consider Kosovo the cradle of their medieval culture and religion.
But he also had stern words for the Serbian government, which last week declared secession illegal and invalid, saying in the Serbian language: ''Kosovo will never be ruled by Belgrade again.''

Reacting to the declaration, Serbian President Tadic urged international organizations ''to immediately annul this act, which violates the basic principles of international law.''

Friday, February 15, 2008

"...Cause things are gonna change so fast, all the white horses are still in bed..."

I wrote the following post after the Virginia Tech shooting last year and posted it to another blog. It's interesting to note that some of the points I made in that post are things we have discussed this semester in our class. The point I'm trying to make by re-posting something that is almost a year old is that it's hideous that this is just as timely now as it was all those months ago because of the shooting yesterday at Northern Illinois University:

"Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where do we go from here?
Category: News and Politics

When things happen like the shooting at VA Tech yesterday, I find that the only thing I can think about is how it could have been prevented. I guess it's a hazzard of what I study in school. We're taught to look at disasters (man-made or natural) and piece together policy recommendations that, if adopted, can either prevent disasters or keep the damage the disasters cause to a minimum.

I've done an semester-long case study on hurricane Katrina. I've done research on Darfur and sexual violence during wartime. All of these incidents have long-term reprocussions. And none of them have simple solutions. I'm starting to think of the random gun violence that afflicts the US in the same light.

Before I learned how hard it is to adopt and implement new policies, I always thought gun crime would be preventable if there were tougher laws here in the US about who can buy guns and what kind of guns are allowed on the streets. As I do more research and see that the world is not black and white, but shades of gray, I have started to realize that all of the laws and policies in the world cannot stop anyone from doing what they want to do. Even if what they want to do is harmful or illegal or morally reprehensible. Laws and policies are only useful if the people the laws are made to protect are willing to accept them.

After seeing what happened yesterday on that college campus, I'm reminded of how fleeting life is. Of how lucky we all are to feel as safe as we do on a daily basis. So many people have so many critisisms of the US. I am one of those people. I don't agree with any of the domestic or international policies of the current administration. I do know that Americans have lives that are alot better than the average citizen of the world though. In many countries in the world, violence like the kind that happened yesterday in Virginia is a regular occurance; something the citizens of those countries have to deal with on a daily basis. Studying genocide and ethnic and gendered violence has opened my eyes to this. And it's made me more thankful for the things I have; for being lucky enough to have been born in a place as safe and policitally stable as the US.

But death and violence and political conflict need not make us cynical or harden us against the world. And this is something I need to remind myself, too. We all have to remember how tiny and rare and precious we all are in this world and that we are not, that none of us are alone in all of this mess. (Thank you, Jodie Foster speaking Carl Sagan's words in Contact.) And it is an event like the shooting at VA Tech that always reminds us of this.

Let the next step be remembering this all of the time. Let that be where we go from here.

Currently listening : Both Sides Now By Joni Mitchell Release date: By 21 March, 2000"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

You say "potato," I say "it's torture."

In his book "War Law," Michael Byers states:

"Previous administrations at least paid lip-service to the existence of normative constraints by concealing and denying their covert operations. The Bush Administration… lets the mask slip, to the discredit of the nation and… at the peril of the soldiers whom so many of the rules are designed to protect." (page 135)

In light of the Bush Administration's justification of waterboarding as a tactic to be used during interrogation of suspected terrorists detained by the US, this quote rings pretty true. It's almost as if by openly supporting waterboarding the current administration is taking the high road. As if they're saying, "Yes, we know some of you hippie liberals think this is bad. And that all of you Amnesty International folks think this is torture. But we're doing it for your own good and that makes us right. So really, you should be grateful. P.S. -- Watch your back. If we think you're a terrorist, we'll do it to you too."

As so many of us have said all of the time in class and on our blogs, IHL and norms are basically impossible to enforce. We as human beings have to rely on good defeating evil. But what is good and evil now? What if the good guys start doing bad things to win? Terrorism and suicide bombings and assassinations of political leaders begging for reform and genocide and sexual violence are rampant on our beautiful planet.

But is engaging in interrogation tactics like waterboarding, sexual humiliation and sleep deprivation for the people who are suspected of perpetrating these crimes justified? Eye for an eye? The crime is violent so we should punish the perpetrators by bringing more violence into the world?

No. No. A thousand times no.

Bush is doing an injustice to the Geneva Conventions by openly flouting them. But by doing so, he's also opening up everyone's eyes to exactly what is going on in the War on Terror. Better to know the evil that exists than to live in blissful ignorance. He would be doing a greater disservice to the Geneva Conventions by sneaking around and breaking the conventions while we all bicker about who the next president will be. At least this way, the international community and concerned citizens of the world can begin to raise their voices in protest.

I want to end this post by sharing another passage from Byers' book. It is hopeful and shares my sentiment that while IHL and norms are so freely broken by world leaders, we have to believe in something. So we may as well believe that all of these hard-to-enforce-norms will one day be adhered to and become enforceable:

"International humanitarian law is, in part, what you and I and the rest of the people on this planet determine it to be. In the lead-up to future wars - and throughout the ongoing occupation of Iraq- we should insist that all countries uphold the strict standards of international humanitarian law, not because it is expedient but because it is right." (page 126)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"...You are my sweetest downfall..."

I'm sitting here at Crazy Mocha reading over my policy memo to CIVIC and the more I read it over, the more I dislike it.

(Let me just make an aside and tell you that part of my irritation right now may be coming from the fact that the woman sitting next to me is listening to music on her laptop WITHOUT HEADPHONES. And I can hear it both over the music in the coffee shop and the Patty Griffin I am listening to on my headphones. She's violating a norm. And I should say something to her, but quiet frankly, I don't want to talk to anyone who listens to Taylor Swift in public.)

I think I dislike my memo for the same reason I ended up disliking my policy paper last term about reforming Sudanese rape laws: It's because realistically I know policy reform and norm building are really difficult things to execute. I know if the Sudanese government read my policy paper about reforming rape laws, the reccommendations would have been completely ignored (partially because I am a Westerner and partially because I am a woman -- which, whatever, they're entitled to their cultural norms but only to the extent that those norms don't turn into policies that actually end up endangering women even more.)

I find myself being much more of a realist these days. I fear that building a norm that would hold governments accountable for the harm they cause to civilians during war is next to impossible.

My policy memo is written with a light of hope and idealism shining on it. But my downfall these days is allowing my hopefullness to be severely tempered by doubt - doubt that the humanity of well... most humans... is enough to rely upon.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"...And the moment is slippin' away and the answers you give aren't that great..."

"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that." -- Charlotte, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

I have a few moments to myself as I sit in this lovely house just outside of Philadephia, where people have come and gone all day. And I find myself thinking something so mundane that it might just be sublime...

When something happens, be it good or bad, and people gather to eat and talk and laugh and cry... there is one thing that most people want and need and when it's there, it is accepted willingly and almost unconciously. And when it's not there, it's a letdown --

It's a pot of coffee. That's it. It's simple and it's ordinary. But when you walk into someone's home and there is a pot of coffee sitting on the counter, it's like you're being told, "yes, it's okay to stay long enough for a cup of coffee. Actually, can you? I'd like that."

I've never been the strongest person in my family or even in my group of friends nor am I one of those amazingly poised people who just instinctively knows what to do in troubling situations.

But if there is one thing I know how to do, it's make a good pot of coffee. And today, that one gesture is (aside from hugging my dear friend) the only substantive thing I've been able to do.

And somehow... maybe that's enough.

The point of exposing this particular soft and extremely personal anecdote to all of you is to point out another norm with which I think we all struggle: having the humanity to know when to stand back and not say anything even when you want to talk and think you know the right thing to say. Because more often than not when someone is grieving, nothing you say can help. So you stand back. And hold a hand. And be a friend... then walk away to put on another pot of coffee.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

"...Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

So I've been thinking about this blog post all week and I decided that there are so many norms we all follow that are so similar, that I'm going to sum up my thoughts about norms by telling everyone a horrible story.

(I would like to preface this all by saying that I really do think norms are useful and are an integral part of civil society. There was a reason why people were appalled when some guy on the bus spit chewing tobacco on my new suede Stuart Weitzman boots a few months ago -- It was gross, people are increasingly ugly about chewers/smokers anyway, and it's not nice to be a shithead to the girl with the achy feet who takes the last seat on the bus at 4pm in Oakland. Hence why I thought it was perfectly acceptable to take his silk hanky out of the breast pocket of his suit coat and wipe my shoe with it before I threw it back at him. So yeah, norms usually keep situations like that in check. As well they should. No one likes situations like that because both he and I ended up being out of line.)

Now, my story:

In December, the Post-Gazette reported on UPMC's decision to donate $100 million dollars to the Pittsburgh Promise which will give scholarships to Pittsburgh Public School high school students to help them afford college (UPMC Gives Huge Grant for Tuitions.) As an employee of UPMC, I gotta say I was really unhappy about this donation. I am the product of public schools so my beef is not with Pittsburgh Promise itself, but rather UPMC's decision to donate so much money to the city so they'd get good publicity while there own employees (ie - me and my officemates and nurses and medical assistants and clerical workers, etc) barely make a living wage and get paltry tuition benefits from a company that is actually a PART of the University of Pittsburgh.

I, in my constant state of aggitation about UPMC anyway, decided I was angry enough to write a letter to the editor.

Annnnnd it got published.

Annnnnnd my boss's boss called me into his office and (excuse my norm violation here) told me: "You fucked up and you need to sit down and shut up if you want to keep your job" and later: "You should consider yourself a very lucky little girl that you're still sitting in your office" when all of this blew over.

The norms at work here are so numerous and so conflicting that it's hard to even address them all. (And let me just say I can't even get INTO the whole "lucky little girl" comment because it would be full of explitives and would add nothing to this conversation.)

First of all, the First Amendment basically tells me that I can say what I want. And I think one of the best ways to exercise your First Amendment rights is to add something to the public discourse about divisive topics. We're expected to be good citizens. And truly good citizens follow their own self-interest by exercising their constiutional rights.

Second, my letter was respectful so I actually followed a norm, there. It was not inflammitory. It was about my personal situation and it did not attack either the division for which I work or other employees. I acted in my own self-interest by voicing my distress about UPMC's actions. Why? Because it's in my self-interest to make a living wage and have tuition benefits. And as an employee at a "non-profit" company that netted a profit of billions of dollars last year, a living wage and good tuition benefits shouldn't be an outlandish expectation.

When my boss's boss called me into his office (which is five feet from my own office) and gave me a verbal lashing, he was following his own set of norms and his own set of interests. His self-interest told him that having an employee who is a complainer might make him look bad. And after all, doctors are supposed to be the most visible employees of UPMC, not secretaries. (Teehee, for one week I was the most visible employee... oh the POWER!)

That being said, sometimes I am a realist and I really can't blame Doc for saying what he said to me. We all look out for our own interests. In this situation, both he and I acted exactly how we wanted to... to hell with the norms that are socially acceptable to our peers.

But I violated the "sit down and shut up and do your job" norm that is at work in nearly every workplace in every corner of our plant. And Doc violated the norm that tells us all it's not nice to use the f-word or put women in their place by calling them little girls.


I'm sure there are ways I can apply this situation to state behavior and make some comments about the regulative and constituative effects of the norms at work in my story, but I'm going to be honest and admit that I'm exhausted from typing all of this and I really just want to sit and watch the Democratic debate (It's an old fashioned Hollywood Debate!) and drink wine.

Kudos to you if you made it to the end of this long diatribe. Turkey sandwiches for you!

P.S. -- For the win: UPMC is getting my letter of resignation on Monday. I survived this totally shit situation and now I'm leaving on my own terms :-) Wanna know why? Send me an email.