Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lest I forget

I am going to California for a week for my new employer's big trade show. So I may or may not be updating the blog before I get back next Wednesday.

Also, I forgot to give you today's cycling log: 24 miles on a combination of all three bikes. "All three bikes?" you say? That is a story for another time.

Note to my tentative fiances

If this woman's right about health insurance, maybe we don't need to get married, after all.

Preserving our freedom, and eating bratwurst

As you have probably figured out by now, I am a bleeding heart liberal who does not believe that the unfettered economic activities of corporations inevitably result in a freer society. And since I like using the Internet, I would hope that access to it is not controlled by a handful of telecom companies. According to my fellow revolutionaries at Free Press, "The nation's largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all. They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors."

And the Federal Communications Commission is considering a way to make it easier for these companies to have their way. A proposal being considered by the FCC would turn over a large chuck of the public airwaves, which can be used for transmitting data over the Internet, to the big telecoms. Please click here and urge the FCC to reject this proposal.

Okay, now for the long-awaited Brat Fest pictures.

See, I'm not the only person who says that Madison's is the World's Largest Brat Fest.






In case you were thinking I was always irresistably sexy, now you know that sometimes I am just disgusting. But one must act the pig when eating one's Boca brat and kraut. (Yes, Phil, Boca makes vegetarian brats and they serve them at the World's Largest Brat Fest for just $1.50 apiece, so you should bring your whole family to this event next year.)



Here is a picture of me pouting in front of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. I originally smiled for the camera, but my photographer thought the picture would be better if I pouted. It brings out the child in me. (In case you're trying to read it, the t-shirt says "Homeland Security: Fighting terrorism since 1492.") If you want a picture that actually gives you a good view of the Wienermobile, you'll have to post a comment to that effect.

Anyway, if you live in Madison, you get to see the Wienermobile a lot. In fact, anytime you want to see one, all you have to do is go by a certain parking lot near the Truax campus of Madison Area Technical College and there's a good chance you'll see more than one just sitting there.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hackneyed Pretension

I have a migraine today. Sometimes beer works to dissolve the neck tension that can lead to a migraine, but it didn't work this time. Now I have a full-on migraine (not as a result of the beer -- it was only one beer), and the Imitrex is being a bit of a wuss. Oh, well. I haven't much to complain about. In college, a full-on migraine involved a full night of sleeplessness, tremors and vomiting. These days, it's just intense pain but, as you can see, not so intense that it keeps me from typing.

No Brat Fest pictures today. Having trouble uploading them.

I'm listening to Damien Rice "Accidental Babies" right now. I can't decide if it's one of the world's more beautiful songs, or if its pathos pushes it over that fine edge into hackneyed pretension.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Water Glasses

Remember the little girl from M. Night Shyamalan's Signs that left half-drinken glasses of water around the house? She told her father it was because the water would start to taste funny once she began drinking it. I have been accused by some of my friends of being like that little girl, and not without reason. Yesterday, I found at least four unfinished glasses of water that I had left in various parts of the house. When I was a little girl with untreated OCD, my reasons for abandoning glasses of water were similar to hers. But now, I have no reason. I simply forget where I've put each glass, or that I have any out at all, and I go down to the kitchen and fill up another one, only to return to whichever room I've been in and realize that there's already one or two half-full glasses sitting right there on a table or bookshelf or dresser or, occasionally, inside a box or a laundry basket. Apparently my OCD has been replaced by early senility.

Cycling/walking log, just in case you were wondering:
I rode 27.8 miles today and walked a mile or so to break in my new Earth shoes.
I rode about 7 miles on the pink bike and walked about 3.5 miles yesterday.
On Friday, I rode 15.6 miles.
On Thursday, I rode 18 miles.
Wednesday, 15.8.
Tuesday, 18.
Sunday 5/20, 18.
Saturday 5/19: 6 miles on the pink bike.
Then it gets a little foggy ...
Sunday 5/12, 17.
Saturday 5/11, 6 on the pink.
Thursday 5/9, 27.
Tuesday 5/7, 6 on the pink.

I went to the world's largest bratfest today. For those of you not from the Upper Midwest, that's "brat" as in "German sausage," not "brat" as in "annoying, arrogant or spoiled child." Perhaps I will post pictures tomorrow. Right now, I should go to bed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Stuffed nose?

Check this out.

Wednesday evening

Despite what the date stamp on this entry says, today is Wednesday, and right now it’s 9:20 p.m. Central Time. Which means I should go to bed soon. My Internet connection isn’t working right now – well, not my Internet connection, per se, but rather the one on which I most often rely – and so I must write this off-line and post it later.

The second day at the job went well. My new boss has such confidence in me, it kind of worries me. Not that she shouldn’t have confidence. I am a solid researcher, a decent writer and a persnickety editor. But I am more used to supervisors who compliment me after I’ve completed my work, and then usually in a rushed, “by the way, good job” sort of way, lest their praise be mistaken for soft-heartedness. I guess the experience at my last job makes me prone to thinking that when people are nice to me in the workplace, they are just trying to butter me up so that when they ask me to do something unethical later, I might fall for doing it. Or that they are trying to assuage their guilt over their decision to lay me off. One or the other. But I have a sense that my new boss may, in fact, be a genuinely kind person. Perhaps I really am back in the Midwest.

I rode my bike to work today. It was 7.8 miles both ways, even though I took slightly different routes. The bike ride to work was 40 minutes, only 10 minutes longer than driving to work during rush hour, and much more pleasant. I kept an 80+ rpm pace pretty much the whole way, and I think I was generally going about 15 miles per hour, but those traffic lights slow a person down. There are showers at the office. The bike ride home is a bit shorter because it is more downhill, and comes out to about the same length as the drive home. Sweet, indeed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I've got a job, i've got a job, I've got a real job ...

My stomach troubles returned again yesterday. When I have them, I feel like there is a balloon inflating inside my stomach. It makes eating undesirable. I wonder if this is what it feels like to have a gastric bypass.

There are many things that could have caused it -- the weather, fate, distress over recent Supreme Court decisions - but the most likely culprit is the amount of aspirin I consumed over the weekend. If I were a Christian Scientist, I might even call it an ungodly amount. That, or the large plate of rice noodles with broccoli I scarfed down at my friend David's.

All of this occurred before 6 pm, when I received a call offering employment and a request to report first thing Tuesday morning (yes, today). "That would be wonderful," I said, but my stomach felt no hungrier.

I will have to get used to being in an office again. Three weeks of unemployment have spoiled me -- even if I was complaining of ennui just yesterday morning to my lovely friend Clare. But I think I can get used to it. There are some improvements over my last job, including a window and a door. The salary is not as high as at the last place, and the desk chair needs to be replaced, but there is a lot to say for a window and a door and a wall on which to hang the framed artwork of 3-year-old friends.

Alas, during a meeting with my new boss and a co-worker this afternoon, I kept noticing how full my stomach felt despite my barely having eaten anything all day and, being that I was in my afternoon lull, my mind decided to leap to thoughts of tumors as large as grapefruits. I couldn't decide if I had colon cancer of if one or both of my ovaries, for which I have so little use, had been colonized by fibroids that were growing so large they were pushing against my stomach. (I never entertain thoughts of ulcers or stomach cancer because I had an endoscopy last year that showed naught but an inflamed stomach lining and an irritated esophagus.)

But then by the time I got home, I felt slightly hungry, and I decided to treat myself to my favorite Tuesday afternoon delicacy: Fruited Irish Soda Bread by Nature's Bakery, 1019 Williamson St., Madison, Wisconsin. The fine folks at Nature's produce this bread only for the Tuesday afternoon Eastside Farmer's Market, which is not to be confused with the Dane County Farmer's Market I matronize on Saturdays. The Eastside Farmer's Market is a humble affair with a dozen vendors, more or less, and runs from 4-7 pm by the railroad tracks on Ingersoll and Wilson Streets.

I can usually down a whole loaf in one sitting, but this afternoon, I managed only a third, which is approximately equivalent to eating one scone.

Oh, another good thing about my job: It has a "no personal e-mails" policy. Before my previous job, I might have thought such a policy excessive, but given the number of inappropriately detailed accounts of people's medical conditions I received by way of e-mail "prayer requests" aka "gossip" in my previous job, I will be glad to abide by this policy. (Side note: Usually the person describing the medical condition was not the person suffering the medical condition. These e-mails usually came in the form of, "Please pray for our co-worker ____ who is having a hysterectomy today. I believe it will also include the removal of her ovaries. Pray also that the doctors have wisdom in prescribing her hormone treatments after the surgery.") I guess any co-worker who wants to correspond with me personally will just have to ask for my personal e-mail address. Or vice versa.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Freedom From Religion

The last time I lived in Madison, I found the Freedom From Religion Foundation highly annoying. Name a problem in the world, and they could find a way to blame it on religion. I appreciated it when Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF, gave me full access to her files while I was working on an article about government funding of faith-based initiatives. I appreciated the lawsuits that FFRF initiated against various government entities that sought to promote religion. But I wished that FFRF could just leave it at that, and not act so much like what I termed "evangelical atheists" -- folks who want to point out every last problem with religion, not recognize any of its benefits, and convince the whole world to forge a deity-less path.

Now, having spent two or so years immersed in a real Evangeland -- where the cubicles were decorated with cloying prayers, where the surest way to get ahead in the company was to attend one of two local megachurches, where conversations at after-work outings deteriorated into speculations about who in the office was "saved" and who was not, where I was always the last to find out about the office-wide speculations on my relationship and engagement status (since marriage and piety are the same thing in this version of Christianity), where attendance at non-compulsory weekly Bible studies was compulsory if you wanted to be perceived as a "team player" and reduce your risk of lay-offs, where the Catholics were nagged with questions about whether they had a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ, where the one Jewish guy became known as "the Jewish guy," where I and my fellow agnostic singles were inundated with invitations to one singles ministry event after another, and where I finally began to understand why so many in the English-speaking world use "Jesus Christ" as an expletive -- I can find no fault with FFRF.

For this morning's devotions, I found "What Can We Do About Medicine?" from FFRF founder Anne Nicol Gaylor's Abortion Is a Blessing particularly edifying.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Farmer's Market Saturday

I was going to write about my trip to the Dane County Farmer's Market yesterday, but my pictures wouldn't upload until today. Here I am on Saturday morning, approaching the Capitol from King Street. This hill is a wonker to pedal up on a one-speed, but I'm getting used to it again.

The Dane County Farmer's Market is the biggest such market in the country. Vendors line the sidewalks on all four side of the Capitol. All the vendors have raised or made the food or flowers their selling themselves. There are no crafts for sale and all the produce is local. It is absolutely amazing and makes all the "farmer's markets" where folks are selling produce from halfway around the world look pretty pathetic.

And here I am at my favorite pit stop on the Square, Cress Spring Bakery. Cress Spring makes real sourdough from naturally occurring yeasts already present in the flour and air -- no baker's yeast added. It is excellent stuff. My usual practice is to buy a four-pound loaf of mixed grain bread called "Big Country" to last me through the week (you can see Big Country loaves in the display case in the foreground), plus a chocolate brioche and a chocolate chip scone (two if I'm going on a long bike ride) for breakfast/mid-morning snack. But this week, I bought a 1.5-lb Expedition loaf and 1.5-lb caraway rye. I'm living on the edge lately.

Ralph Ovadal is a local preacher who likes to go to the nude beach in Mazomanie, a bit west of Madison, to tell the sunbathers that they are going to burn in hell. His followers were at the Square on Saturday morning, passing out this brochure written by Mr. Ovadal himself. I read the brochure and, frankly, it didn't make any sense. All about how human beings think they can control whether or not they get into heaven, but they can't control it at all, because the Heavenly Judge controls everything, but if you pray to the Heavenly Judge to let you into heaven through the Blood of Jesus Christ, then you can go to heaven. And I thought, "Um, Mr. Ovadal, aren't you saying that humans can, after all, determine their post-mortem fate by either choosing or not choosing to say the prescribed prayer? And doesn't that contradict everything you previously stated?"

I used to get really pissed off about this kind of sloppy theology, but now I just shrug my shoulders and think, "Poor fools." I used to get wound up in how people like Ovadal were misleading their followers and separating them from true fellowship with God, but now I think, "Oh, well, these followers obviously long for another person to tell them exactly how to live their lives, and they're going to find it no matter how much I fume." And I used to think a lot about how legalism was just another form of idolatry. But now I proclaim it.

I was thinking maybe I should print up little tracts that say, "Jesus Wants You to Have Non-Procreational Sex," and hand them out at the next Farmer's Market. Of course, I don't believe that it would be true for everyone who received a tract. But it would be no less a lie than the hocus-pocus, mumble-a-few-words-and-follow-a-cultic-Christian-leader-and-go-to-heaven crap that is more frequently distributed on the Farmer's Market's hallowed grounds. And it would occasionally be the truth, which is a lot more than I can say for the brochure I received from Ovadal's followers Saturday morn.

Sunday morning reading

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." -- the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America

My dear friends -- radicals, policy wonks, aspiring lawyers and citizens of the United States who aspire to replace our oligarchic government with the republican government we profess to have -- this makes for fun Sunday morning reading:

http://celdf.org/ProgramAreas/CorporationsDemocracy/ModelBrieftoEliminateCorporateRights/tabid/167/Default.aspx

Friday, May 18, 2007

You can now post comments

I changed the blog settings so that people can post comments whether or not they have a gmail account. Please keep in mind that, if you want me to know who you are, you need to sign your comment with your moniker or include some telling clue about your identity in the comment itself.

My Life According to Maury

Last night I was on the phone with one of the guys who proposed marriage to me in March. I had described him once to a friend (who happened to be the second man to propose to me in March, go figure) as the kind of guy who, if called onto a paternity test episode of the Maury Povich show to determine whether he was the father of his girlfriend's child, would agree to raise the kid regardless of the results. "Wow," said second proposer, "he's a great guy. You should marry him."

"Well," I said, "he is, but it could also be that he's really apathetic and never wants the status quo to change. So, if he's already with some woman, he's not going to break up with her just because she's sleeping around. It would mess with the living arrangement."

Back to last night's phone conversation with first proposer. He was telling me about some training he's going through with his job and he said, "Isn't this fascinating? I think you should write about it in your blog." I said I didn't think the topic was quite interesting enough -- certainly not as interesting as the type of outfit I choose to wear to a second interview. He said he was sure he could say something interesting enough to merit entry in my blog. For example, what about that marriage proposal? Wouldn't that have been a good story to post, had I been blogging in March?

So I decided to ask him about the Maury Povich scenario: "If I married you and got knocked up by another guy, would you raise the kid?"

"Yeah, probably," he said.

"With me, or by yourself?"

"Well, I think the idea is that I would continue living with you."

"And would it be because you didn't care that I was sleeping with other people, or because you're a great guy?"

"A little bit of both, I think. I'm a middle child, so I'm naturally helpful. And I'm not in love with you, so I wouldn't feel threatened if you fell in love with someone else or had a fling as long as we stayed living together. But I would hope that, if I were helping you to raise this kid, you would have sex with me every now and then. You know, a fair trade of benefits."

"And is this something you would do just for me, because I'm a stellar person to live with, or would you do it for any woman?"

"Oh," he said, "any woman."

So there you have it. I know him so well.

Coincidence?

Two things I've noticed since returning to Madison:
(1) I've been drinking more beer.
(2) My skin's gotten clearer.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Idolatry

This morning I read an interesting article on a Christian news service about the World Congress of Families, which met this weekend in Poland. The leader of this organization expressed concern over the declining birth rate in developed countries and said,
“A great struggle is going on over competing world views regarding the family and Europe is really one of the battlegrounds for that right now. Militant secular individualism tied to a vision of socialism which sees the state replacing the family that’s one view. I think it’s probably could be said to be the dominant view here. The other view is one which understands and recognizes the natural family grounded in religious faith is in fact the best hope for human kind [sic]."
Are these people reading their New Testaments? What would they make of Jesus "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" of Nazareth?
And then you've got the book of Acts, where the followers of the Way are "all tied to a vision of socialism" in which they share what they have with each other irrespective of marital and biological ties.

Don't forget Paul "It is good for a man not to marry" of Tarsus, who basically founded the church. He made concessions for marriage only because he feared that Christians would devolve into promiscuity without it. People were going to have sex, whether Paul liked it or not. Knowing the human capacity for jealousy, even among the saints, and the economic hardship that would be faced by children whose fathers refused to claim them (or perhaps did not even know that they were fathers), he favored monogamous marriage over sleeping around. Paul certainly did not believe marriage to be an exalted state, much less God's plan for human happiness. And he would have viewed as blasphemy the suggestion that the family is "
the best hope for humankind."

I'm sorry. I thought the best hope for humankind was God's love. Silly me.

I better go out and build me an altar to marriage and family so I can be a real Christian.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Reverend Kiapita

Today I became an ordained clergywoman in the Universal Life Church. This may present some problems later on if I ever want to pursue ordination in the Mennonite Church, but then again, so would my sexual history, so I'm not too concerned. Anyway, I've got more pressing matters to consider, such as the wedding I agreed to officiate in July.


The State of Illinois, where this wedding is to take place, requires the officiant to be a state official or recognized clergy in a religious body, and since I'm not a state official, becoming clergy seemed the way to go.

Now, there is one loophole in the law. If you belong of a faith tradition in which marriages are solemnized without clergy -- say, you're a Baha'i or a Quaker -- you can get married without the intercession of an officiant recognized by the state of Illinois. But if you just belong to the egalitarian humanist hippie league and you want to be legally married, you are required to have an officiant who is recognized by the state of Illinois.

This all reminds me that I don't believe the state should have any involvement in marriage at all. It ought to be a purely personal matter. But as long as there is no universal healthcare, the system of private property and inheritance prevails, and hospitals refuse visitation rights to non-family members, I will reluctantly work within the system I've been handed.

Who knows? Maybe I'll succumb completely and get a state-sanctioned marriage myself one of these days. Shared health benefits are so seductive.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ann Taylor and my natural environment

I went for a second in-person interview today at one of my potential employers. (Third interview total, if you count phone interviews.) I received notice of the interview on Friday. After I got off the phone, I panicked momentarily because I own only one interview suit, and I'd already worn it to the first in-person interview. Thankfully, my friend Gina had lavished me with Ann Taylor clothing before I left Pennsylvania, so I managed to put something together. The fashion muses must have been feeling beneficent, because they led me to choose an outfit that included a lot of red, and when I arrived at the interview, I found that my interviewer -- the head of the joint -- was wearing red-framed glasses.

Clare asked for pictures of me in my natural environment. Here's one of me riding my pink town bike. You can see the Isthmus Bike Path, including its intersection with Thornton Avenue, behind me.

Here's another one of me on the edge of a dumpster. It would have been more natural to have me in the dumpster, but it was dusk and those pictures didn't turn out.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

some people false-date their posts ...

... to make it look like they update their blogs on a regular, timely basis. But I know that's just a technologically sophisticated form of lying. So I will freely admit that I did not get around to starting this blog until now, almost two weeks since I left the den of iniquity in suburban Philadelphia. Here's a little photo journal of the experience.

I own too much crap. This is not even the half of it.








This wall used to be red. I was pretty impressed with my scrubbing job, assisted valiantly by Gina. It should be noted: Although Gina is a great help with wall-scrubbing, be careful about giving her crayons, because she will draw hearts on everything. I suppose I shouldn't hold it against her, because she let me sleep at her house on the evening of May 1 after my moving assistant John got lost bringing the Budget truck from the rental place to my apartment and a number of other incidents occurred, delaying departure by a day.

We left Wednesday morning, May 2, from Phoenixville, PA, after I bought a latte at the Dunkin' Donuts. I am not supposed to drink coffee because it burns a hole in my stomach, but I asked for extra whipped cream to act as a buffer. John doesn't drink coffee, so when he got tired of driving the truck, Miss Kitty had to take over for awhile.



I took this shot from my Toyota Prius. I know you're not supposed to take pictures while driving, but I thought it was important to have evidence of this event. Anyway, there was a turtle on my dashboard to keep an eye on the road for me.





See? I told you.








On Wednesday night, we stayed at the house of some high school friends of John's outside of Columbus, Ohio. Their kids know a lot of good knock-knock jokes:
"Knock-knock."
"Who's there?"
"Tennessee."
"Tennessee who?"
"Tennessee you tonight?"

In the morning, I bought my last latte of the trip at Caribou Coffee. It was the best of the three, and also the one that finally burned a hole through my stomach lining. Oh, well. That's what I deserve for not drinking fair trade.











Can I tell you how much I disliked Indiana? Maybe it was because I ran out of good books on CD to listen to and kept trying to find the public radio stations on the low end of the dial. But all I could find there were these heinous, ahem, Christian, ahem, radio stations talking about how wrong it was that a minority of parents could sue to keep religious instruction out of public schools, even if the majority of parents in a school district wanted religious instruction.

Apparently, they had never heard of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights or, for that matter, Jesus Christ, who never told his disciples to use the power of the state to force their religious beliefs on others.





I forgot to take any pictures in Illinois, because by that point I was super-cranky. Also, everything was very familiar, so I forgot I was still on my big road trip.

And then I was in Madison. This is the church where my favorite AA group meets on Monday nights. And no, I haven't broken my anonymity in this print or broadcast report, because I'm not a member of AA. I just think it's fabulous. I guess you could call me an AA groupie.






This was the final destination. John thought it would be funny to take this picture of me getting my new house key out of the mailbox. Don't be so distracted by my ass that you don't notice the fabulous shoes.

Oh, yes. This residence is my place of abode for the summer. It is very yoga-centric. Maybe you guessed that from the doorway hanging.