Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

I've Been Busy


Here's my latest project - a collaboration that took many month's work - enjoying his first visit from Santa yesterday. Christopher James arrived on the 23rd - Christmas eve eve.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Couldn't Resist

Last night in our final baby class, they passed out these Cabbage Patch Kids while we watched a video on swaddling. It came time for the break.

Instructor: "You can use the restroom, but be sure to take your doll with you and to hold it safely."

Me: (Raising an eyebrow) "Okay, if this is supposed to be 'Baby Think It Over' . . . you're a little late."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

REM PLZ?

I understand that pregnancy can make you tired. I understand that pregnancy can make you frenetically wired to get the house in order. What I don't understand is how it can simultaneously make your mind race so badly that you feel you need to get up and do something at 3 am, and so tired that you nearly fall back asleep before you can open the bedroom door, so you say f*ck it and get back in bed. After using the restroom (AGAIN), of course.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scene from Baby Class

The instructor is summarizing the relaxation and massage techniques we've reviewed during the session, and how they apply to labor and delivery. "Think of the contractions like waves on the sea. You CAN ride above them, almost like riding on a surfboard. These techniques will help you on that board . . . if you believe."

I look over at D to see how he's taking this, and notice him surreptitiously and silently clapping his hands in his lap. After a snort of laughter (rapidly suppressed) I join him: "I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!"

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bueller? Bueller?

The pre-birth class I've had to sign up for has us doing this "baby dance" thing, which supposedly helps shake the kid down (?!). Anyways, you’re to stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on hips and rotate your hips in a circle. Naturally, as soon as I saw it I started doing the Time Warp.

Nobody got it. I also asked Don if I could have a Hippety-Hop instead of just sitting on a birthing ball.



Again, nobody got it. When asked what I was most looking forward to about the kid, I said: "It's all about the toys." Instead of laughing, the instructor asked me very seriously to recount a memory of a cherished childhood toy.

Jebus, don't these people have a sense of humor? They act as though we can flunk the course and not be allowed to give birth with the rest of the class.

It's going to be a looooooong six weeks.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Freaking Hilarious

While I'm sitting at home with this stupid bug, I thought I'd be productive and work up a tentative birth plan. Then I found a better idea from Let's Panic: a mad lib birth plan.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Adventures in Pregnancy - flu shot edition

So, I've done a bunch of research on flu vaccines recommended for pregnancy, since I definitely want to get one. I already feel like I can't freakin' breathe and don't want the flu - swine or regular - on top of it. After looking through the CDC and the FDA as well as the anti- vaccine sites and the anti-conspiracy sites debunking them, I come to the personal conclusions that: 1) Concerns about squalene are probably crap, and it's not being used in any US vaccines anyway, so who cares? 2) Concerns about thimerosal are likely also crap, but there's a thimerosal-free vaccine especially for pregnant people and young kids, so might as well take that anyway. I mean, if they can tell me "better safe than sorry" and blithely prohibit a bunch of things I really want to do with zero evidence it will effect this baby negatively, well, I can say it right back when it comes to dubious claims of medical risks that are probably crap. Can't I?

So I set out to call around and find a single-dose flu vaccine, the regular kind so I can get it out of the way by the time we can get around to the H1N1 - the sources don't seem to be able to make up their mind as to whether they can be taken contemporaneously. I call the local clinic first, 'cause it's right down the road. Here's how that went:

"I'm looking for flu vaccines."
"We have a clinic this Saturday from nine to noon, you can just walk right in."
"Great. Do you know whether they have the single-dose, mercury-free ones? I'm in the second trimester of my first pregnancy and I'm just trying to be extra careful."
"It's . . . they have the regular kind. Oh, or we could give you a nasal spray. That might be what you're looking for."
"But isn't the nasal spray a live vaccine? I thought you weren't supposed to get that when pregnant."
"Then it must be the other one then."
"Okay. Um, thanks. Bye."

I do presume that no doctor would have given me the spray after seeing my 'condition.' Still, that's a tad troubling.

Next I call Walgreen's in Iowa City. Not only does the pharmacist know what I'm talking about, she can tell me the brand and manufacturer of the vaccine, and yes it's Thimerosal-free. I've got a 2:30 appointment.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What a Coincidence!

(Blog Post) According to the website Think Progress, Chuck Grassley has stated that "I base my decisions not on polls but on town meetings and mail” when it comes to allowing a public option in health care.




So I went to his website to see when he's holding a meeting in my neck of the woods, so I can put my two cents in. Huh. Apparently there are no meetings in Eastern Iowa during this session break, he's confining himself to the very conservative counties out west. Perhaps this is because the polls show that 56 percent of Iowans favor a public option? Mr. Grassley: why don't you just give it up, place your fingers firmly into your ears and say "LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU?" It would actually be more subtle.

News Flash

(Blog Post) Going Vegan causes women to lose their bellybuttons!!



Geez, guys, couldya lay off the Photoshop? There's gotta be a support group.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Healthcare OpEd Fail. Hilarity ensues.

"Investors Business Daily", ran an editorial, on July 31, 2009, regurgitating several erroneous statements regarding the supposedly abysmal state of the UK healthcare system, and how the public option will mimic it by compelling seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years about alternatives for end-of-life care.

The best part? This quote:
People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.




PS - Professor Hawking pointed out that he is, in fact, a natural-born British citizen and "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," he told us. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived." This prompted the Investors Business Daily to remove the sentence from the article and issue this informative correction:
Editor's Note: This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK.
Yep. 'Cause that was all that's wrong with the article . . .

Hey, at least they didn't refuse to believe his birth certificate.

PPS - I swiped the Double Facepalm from this comment on the issue in physicsforums.com, because it made laugh so hard water came out my nose.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Okay, Now I'm Getting Frustrated

I've really been trying not to politi-blog. Basically, being preggo means that whenever I get tense, I get an incredible stomach ache. So my "side notes" have mostly been focused on the alien in my stomach, or other daily trivia.

But . . . I hate misinformation. I hate blind sloganing - Two legs good, four legs baaaad! And I truly despise people of any political persuasion who knowingly spread false slogans and propoganda in order to confuse an issue. Our entire fucking democracy is dependent on informed, independent voters. So I'm going to suck it up, down a bunch of Tums, and blog.

To get an idea what I'm talking about go look at Politifact.org's healthcare page. Seriously, go. I'll wait for you.

On the first page alone, I count six "pants on fire," seven "false," one "half-true," three "mostly true," and two "true" statements. Thirteen outright lies, and only six statements with any level of truth in them. In fact, it weren't for one old guy from New Jersey who racked up one "true" one "half-true" and one "mostly-true," there would only have been three statements with any truth in them on the entire freaking page.

And these are not minor lies, either. They're flipping doozies. But before I go further, I have some bias I need to disclose. I've worked inside the insurance industry as a legal advisor. I've also worked for the government as an attorney. So I have some inherent knowledge of how each of these systems work, and some inherent biases formed by my experiences with each of them. Why is this relevant? Well, if you take away all the propoganda, we're trying to decide if we should rely solely on private insurance companies to supply health care insurance to the masses, or add a government option. That's the bottom line.

So let's look at some of this misinformation that's floating around. Palin's claiming that if we add a government option, there will be "death panels" who decide whether we get lifesaving treatment paid for, or are told to go screw ourselves because we're not productive enough. Let me think through what that might look like:
A roomful of high level bureaucrats discusses a claim, say a drunken high-school student who is rendered a quadriplegic in an auto accident. They'd probably discuss in cold terms how many wheelchairs and vans and meds this kid will need. Someone will point out that it would cost millions less if he'd just died. They'll examine the language of the coverage to see if there's any way to reduce his recovery - a loophole of some sort? It will be noted whether the kid got good grades before the crash - can he reasonably expect to get some kind of job? Or was he a blue-collar type that won't work in the future and just be a drain on society? Maybe we can work that angle? What if we can prove it was self-inflicted harm? Does that work?
Yeah, I can see it. Clearly. See, I've been in a room like that one, discussing a case like that one, and trying to convince insurance claims and underwriting VP's that we really do not have any loopholes and this kid is entitled to his benefits or the company will be in a shitload of trouble. On another case, I've had screaming middle-aged men in my face telling me they don't care what the law is, we never intended to cover that expensive of a loss. The best part? The company I worked for, which also had lots of good people who were NOT assholes and so I'm not going to name it here, is a NONPROFIT. Their policyholders were their owners. In theory, this gave the recipients control of everything, and should have acted as a check on this very type of behavior. Nice idea, in theory. Not so much in practice. The insurance industry is also regulated up to the eyeballs, and there are huge penalties for wrongful denial. And yet this continues. In a non-profit. I should note that the right prevailed in both my examples. But it was not certain and not easy. You wanna bet how much worse it gets in a for-profit company? Take a look at some of the bad faith verdicts handed down against insurers. You will see some of the most egregious behavior, on a par with big tobacco or any of the other industries that intentionally try to cover crap up in order to make a profit.

My point: Although Politifact correctly points out that Palin is lying, it calls her idea a "sci-fi scenario". I disagree. To some degree, it is very far-fetched. But in another sense, it is exactly what is happening now. Not with the public option, with private insurance. Because that's the way the industry is set up, folks. It is NOT DESIGNED TO ENSURE HEALTHCARE, but to INSURE.

Insurance as an industry started with just liability. Technically, it was people in China who shipped goods downriver who decided that if each of them put some of their goods onto ten different boats, instead of all onto one boat, they'd minimize their risk of loss. As a business, it is designed to provide coverage for uncertain, unusual events: a car accident, a lightning strike. If a bunch of people pay in premium during the many times when nothing is going on, there should theoretically be enough money to cover them when something wonky does happen. If you've got one guy who is being too risky - sending all his goods in boats with leaks - you want to exclude him out from the group because he'll always be getting payouts and never put enough in to cover it. It's branched out to auto, home, farm, and so forth, but the theory is always the same. A bunch of prudent people facing no known losses will put in premiums when they don't need to with the idea that if an unintended, rare, freak loss occurs, there will be enough money to cover it.

I know this seems like remedial insurance 101, but it's important to remember: INSURANCE IS NOT DESIGNED TO COVER CERTAIN, REGULAR, KNOWN, AND SURE LOSSES. Like getting old, getting sick, having babies, and dying. We are looking to Insurers to Ensure our healthcare is there whenever we need it. That is not what they do. You are asking a bear to be a duck.

Why are there "death panels"? To exclude people who are, in a sense, medical leaky boats. Get them out of the group. This is true even if you are a nice, middle-class, responsible person who pays large premiums, because you can't possibly pay enough premium to make up for the losses paid out. And, no, the companies don't care if you've been a loyal customer for twenty years, and always paid on time, and (blah-blah-Ginger). There's sixty gagillion more people who are also regular payers, so don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. Besides, by the time they get done denying your behind, you've probably missed more than your alloted sick days, so unless you qualify as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act and you can prove a reasonable accomodation can be made to allow you to work, well, you're fired. Say buh-bye to "Middle class."

My very long point is that having worked for both Government and Insurance, and not having an incredibly high opinion of either, it is a no-brainer to me that the public option is necessary in healthcare. We can't keep asking Insurance to be what it isn't.

I will address other concerns later, this post is already too long. But to short-cut it:

1) A Public Option will bankrupt private insurers! Like public universities have bankrupted all the private colleges? Like public buses have bankrupted taxi services? I can go on and on with this one.

2) It will make waits too long! Do you want to wait eight hours for simple care? You do realize that what you're essentially saying is that if poor people can go to the same docs you may have to wait your turn? I don't take well to snobbery.

3) If they can't make a big profit, Doctors will leave! Yeah, in droves. They'll all move to Europe. No, wait, Canada. Erm, Mexico? Seriously, here's the point: lots of lawyers do public defender work. We don't get paid jack compared to the bigshots in large firms. But we're paid much better than most of you working at lower-level white collar jobs. We're not going anywhere. If they did the same to the docs, they wouldn't go anywhere either. And BTW, it's not necessarily the dregs of the profession, either. I pulled a B average, but I'm not in a big ass firm. I want a life, thanksverymuch.

4) Economic principles will cover this in a market system! Healthcare costs are naturally limited by what people can afford to pay! Medicaid picks up the slack! Holy crap, are you out of touch. Firstly, free market only works on non-essentials. Take food, for example. In an absolutely regulation-free market, if there were a serious shortage there would be no limit to the price of food that vendors could charge. Prices would go up and up, and the number of people who could afford food would shrink and shrink, until eventually everyone else had died off and a surplus was re-established that way. Even if one of the stores tried to take a larger slice of the market by dropping prices, they'd eat through their supplies in a heartbeat and go under. Competition be damned, there's no limit to price. Medical aid is a similar commodity. If you're dealing with serious diseases, it is not optional, but essential. People will pay whatever they have to in order to stay alive, until they can't afford it and die. There is no free market.

I'll take my Tums and go off to my hearing now.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Remind me again why I feed you?

My cat disappeared last Friday, then casually came back last night - just when I'd finished notifying the shelters. She eats, purrs a bit, then tries to sneak right back out again. Now she's all like: "What? I just want to go hang with my friends! You never let me do anything! I hate you!" Then the dog looks at me like: "WTF? I get punished for just barking at the mailman! She gets away with everything!"

Anthropomorphized teenage angstiness abounds.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I did slightly better then 6

I was tagged on this by my niece . . . I think I read too much.

BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions:
Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read. Tag other" Book Nerds".

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte X
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X
6 The Bible X
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens X

Total: 10

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy X
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare ( 1/2 credit - only some of them, I've not read the sonnets, etc.)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier X
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faul
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger X
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

Total: 6 1/2

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell X
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams X
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carrol X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame X

Total: 6

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy X
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens X
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis X
34 Emma-Jane Austen X
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden X
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne X

Total: 7

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins X
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery X
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood X
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan X

Total: 7

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert X
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon X
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez X
Total:6

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov X
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold X
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas X
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville X

Total: 4

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens X
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker X
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill BrysonX
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray X

Total: 4

80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker X
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert X
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle X (And all the others, so do I get extra credit?)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

Total: 5

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad X
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas X
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl X
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo X

Total: 6

Grand Total= 61 and 1/2

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Guess what we made?




According to the technician, it's a boy. I think it looks like Skeletor, myself. Or perhaps a Rorschach test. But they kept pointing at blobs and telling me what organs they were, so apparently they did find all the bits they were looking for.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Arizona Strip Search Case is Up

Strip searching a 13-year-old girl without "any indication of danger posed by drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose" the child was carrying the drugs in her underwear is a violation of the girl's constitutional rights.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What she said

Dalia Lathwick has an awesome article regarding the oral arguments in Safford School v. Redding, the "let's strip-search a 13-year-old girl, 'cause another 13-year-old we just caught with contraband said she might have ibuprofen" case. Apparently the old dudes on the bench have completely forgotten what it's like to be in junior high, with Justice Breyer saying stuff like "I'm trying to work out why is this a major thing to say strip down to your underclothes, which children do when they change for gym, they do fairly frequently, not to -- you know, and there are only two women there. Is -- how bad is this, underclothes? That's what I'm trying to get at. I'm asking because I don't know." (p 45). Clue to the clueless: it's bad. Really bad. I'd've dropped out of school over it at that age (which apparently Ms. Redding did).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Mind Your Own F*cking Business

So here's the scenario: Not a day passes from the decision in Varnum v. O'Brien before I'm getting emails from relatives in other states urging me to write my legislators in support of an amendment to block gay marriage. Annoying, but not unexpected. Thing is, this email contained a link to a site designed to send an email for you. How handy. (Insert sarcasm here). Here's the text pulled from the site:

Iowa Marriage Amendment

Following the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court ruling Iowa marriage laws unconstitutional, the only recourse is for the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to be voted on by all Iowans.

We've identified key Iowa House members who need to be reminded that marriage belongs to all Iowans -- not just 7 judges in black robes.

Please use the form below to send these legislators an email urging them to vote yes on the motion to bring HJR 6 to a floor vote before the session ends on May 1st.

Then urge friends and family in Iowa to send a message, too!

Shomshor, Paul (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 100 , IA
Steckman, Sharon (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 013 , IA
Kuhn, Mark (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 014 , IA
Quirk, Brian (Democrat) - Assistant Minority Leader , Iowa House District 015 , IA
Beard, John (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 016 , IA
Kelley, Doris (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 020 , IA
Burt, Kerry (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 021 , IA
Berry, Deborah (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 022 , IA
Ficken, Gene (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 023 , IA
Thomas, Roger (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 024 , IA
Bukta, Polly (Democrat) - Speaker Pro Tempore of the House , Iowa House District 026 , IA
Murphy, Patrick (Democrat) - Speaker of the House , Iowa House District 028 , IA
Zirkelbach, Ray (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 031 , IA
Bell, Paul (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 041 , IA
Huser, Geri (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 042 , IA
Smith, Mark (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 043 , IA
Heddens, Lisa (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 046 , IA
Miller, Helen (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 049 , IA
Petersen, Janet (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 064 , IA
Ford, Wayne (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 065 , IA
Abdul-Samad, Ako (Democrat) - House Assistant Majority Leader , Iowa House District 066 , IA
McCarthy, Kevin (Democrat) - House Majority Leader , Iowa House District 067 , IA
Frevert, Marcella (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 007 , IA
Mascher, Mary (Democrat) - Minority Whip , Iowa House District 077 , IA
Mertz, Dolores (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 008 , IA
Reichert, Nathan (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 080 , IA
Thede, Phyllis (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 081 , IA
Gayman, Elesha (Democrat) - House Assistant Majority Leader , Iowa House District 084 , IA
Marek, Larry (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 089 , IA
Bailey, McKinley (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 009 , IA
Whitaker, John (Democrat) - House Assistant Majority Leader , Iowa House District 090 , IA
Swaim, Kurt (Democrat) - Representative , Iowa House District 094 , IA
Reasoner, Michael (Democrat) - House Assistant Majority Leader , Iowa House District 095 , IA

Dear (name):

I am writing to urge your support for HJR 6, the constitutional amendment on marriage. Specifically, I am urging you to vote yes on the amendment to bring HJR 6 to a floor vote before the end of this year's legislative session.

The recent decision from the Iowa Supreme Court makes one thing crystal clear: We can't leave marriage in the hands of 7 judges. It's time that the people of Iowa had a chance to have a say in the matter of defining our most basic social structure.

There is no doubt about the views of Iowans on the matter. In a recent Hawkeye Poll, fewer than 30% of Iowa voters supported same-sex marriage.

In 30 out of 30 states where voters have had a chance to vote on marriage, they have spoken loudly and clearly: Marriage is the union of a husband and wife.

Marriage is too important to leave in the hands of a few judges. Please support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage -- and bring it to the floor for a vote yet this year so we can get the process started

You will receive an email confirming that your message was sent. Check the box if you would also like to receive a copy of this letter.


Thing is, all my out-of-state relatives have already gone to the site, clicked on the "send message" button and sent this email to their (?) Iowa legislators. The Connecticut branch, the California branch, the North Carolina contingent, the Illinoisians, they've all contacted Iowa legislators (but only the Democrats - interesting) to tell them what Iowans think. Really?

May I politely say that it none of the rest of the nation's d*mn business what the Iowa constitution states on this issue? Yeah, I know, you have laws recognizing other state's marriages. So, theoretically, Iowa's recognition of gay marriage could backdoor it (pun not necessarily intended) into your state. So write your own fracking legislators and get those laws changed. Keep out of our business.

Many papers are predicting a mass invasion of these carpetbagging meddlers who know so much better than we do what our law should be. Frankly, I'm not incredibly worried. Iowans have always had a large dose of "get the f*ck out of my face" when being told what we should do. I'm not certain where the majority of Iowans will fall on this issue - polls seem to indicate that most favor some sort of civil union, but I'm not sure if "civil marriage" is too divisive a term (the opinion explicitly protects the right of religious institutions not to perform a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples on the grounds of religious freedom). Regardless, it will be Iowans who decide the issue, not some Mormon enclave from Utah. And while I'm sure most Iowans will be far more polite than I in saying to the rest of the country "Mind your own f*cking business," that's what nearly of them will be thinking.

UPDATE:
From the Iowa Courts website -
News Release

April 7, 2009

Contact:

Steve Davis, Court Communications Officer, (515) 725-8058

Varnum v. Brien: Effective Date of Decision

Des Moines, April 7, 2009— Under the Iowa Court Rules, a decision of the supreme court takes effect on the date the court issues procedendo, which normally occurs twenty-one days after an opinion is filed, unless a petition for rehearing has been filed. In the case of Varnum v. Brien, the twenty-one day period ends on April 24—a day that all court offices are closed because of budget cuts. Consequently, unless a petition for rehearing is filed in this case, the court will likely issue procedendo on Monday, April 27.

Iowa Supreme Court
1111 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-3952


UPDATE UPDATE
From the Gazette this morning:
Your View poll results for April 8

We asked today: Do you think the Iowa Legislature should debate a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage this session?

Here's what you said:

YES: 39.2 percent
NO: 60.8 percent

No. of votes: 896

Caveats: It's not exactly a high volume poll. They should've publicized a little better, I hadn't heard of it. With such a small sample size, I don't think it can be considered scientifically accurate even setting aside the bias involved with having participants contact the pollster instead of vice versa. However, I do think it's worth noting.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
From the Gazette this morning:
Your View poll results for April 11


We asked today: Do you think Iowa legislators should allow voters to decide whether to amend the state Constitution regarding the right to same-sex marriage?

Here's what you said:

YES: 58.2 percent
NO: 41.8 percent

No. of votes: 471

Slightly different question, much smaller sample size, different slant. It'll be interesting to watch this all develop.

Friday, April 03, 2009

For anyone shocked by the idea Iowa could possibly be progressive:

In the first reported case of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Iowa, In re Ralph, 1 Morris 1 (Iowa 1839), we refused to treat a human being as property to enforce a contract for slavery and held our laws must extend equal protection to persons of all races and conditions. 1 Morris at 9. This decision was seventeen years before the United States Supreme Court infamously decided Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 15 L. Ed. 691 (1856), which upheld the rights of a slave owner to treat a person as property. Similarly, in Clark v. Board of Directors, 24 Iowa 266 (1868), and Coger v. North West. Union Packet Co., 37 Iowa 145 (1873), we struck blows to the concept of segregation long before the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954). Iowa was also the first state in the nation to admit a woman to the practice of law, doing so in 1869. Admission of Women to the Bar, 1 Chicago Law Times 76, 76 (1887). Her admission occurred three years before the United States Supreme Court affirmed the State of Illinois’ decision to deny women admission to the practice of law, see Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 130, 139, 21 L. Ed. 442, 445 (1873), and twentyfive years before the United States Supreme Court affirmed the refusal of the Commonwealth of Virginia to admit women into the practice of law, see Ex parte Lockwood, 154 U.S. 116, 118, 14 S. Ct. 1082, 1083, 38 L. Ed. 929, 930 (1894).


From p. 17 of today's opinion in Varnum v. O'Brien (.pdf file).

Gay Marriage A Non-Issue?

The story barely ranks the top ten in CNN, and is ranked lower than "Villagers chase away Google car." There's a thesis in that somewhere.

Varnum v. Brien

The Supreme Court website is finally operational, albeit slow.
Also, Scribd has a copy:
Iowa Supreme Court Ruling legalizing gay marriage in Iowa Iowa Supreme Court Ruling legalizing gay marriage in Iowa GazetteOnline


So now the only question is whether procedendo (I translate it in my brain as "an order to proceed as indicated") issues - the last sentence of the opinion states "Our decision becomes effective upon issuance of procedendo." The footnote in the opinion refers to Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.1208 (stating procedendo shall issue twenty-one days after the opinion is filed unless a petition for rehearing is filed). For any geeks who want to know how to track this: you can search case status at the Iowa Courts Online Search. Click on appellate search and type in "Varnum" or "O'Brien" in the party name, or Docket number 07-1499. Once you get into the case, if you click on "Docket" you'll see a list of what's been filed in the case. A filing of a petition for rehearing is likely, you'll see it there once it's been filed, and any subsequent filings (granting of the petition for rehearing, or denial and procedendo issuing are two possibilities).

Jeez

So the Supreme Court is supposed to publish the gay marriage opinion this morning by 8:30. It's twenty minutes later and the site is still not loading? Come on, people. Download the .pdf and move on so others can read.

The Gazette says gay marriage is now legal in Iowa, but I can't get at the opinion to find out what it says.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Theater Blogging

Going to see The Foreigner tonight. From the ICCT website:


directed by Gerry Roe
March 13-15, 20-22 (Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, Sunday matinees at 2pm)
Sponsored by Rene Lenoch

with Tim DeMuth, Lane Hanon, Scot Hughes, Erin Mills, Glenn Singer, Evie Stanske and Ken Van Egdon

An inspired comic romp, The Foreigner enjoyed a sold-out premiere in Milwaukee before moving on to a long run Off-Broadway where it received two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production. The Foreigner is set in a fishing lodge in rural Georgia often visited by "Froggy" LeSeuer, a British demolitions expert who occasionally runs training sessions at a nearby army base. Accompanying “Froggy” on this visit is his friend, a pathologically shy young proofreader named Charlie who is overcome with fear at the thought of making conversation with strangers. To allow Charlie the peace and quiet he seems to need, “Froggy” announces that Charlie, a native of an unnamed foreign country, speaks no English. Believing that Charlie doesn't understand a word they say, everyone at the lodge reveals far more of themselves than they intend. Ultimately, Charlie’s disguise as a foreigner allows him to expose the “bad guys” and, as Shue said of the play, “make everything turn out all right for the good guys.”

Crap that's in my Brain

A snippet from a movie commercial during Battlestar: "One bright day in the middle of the night." Suddenly I'm chanting this in my brain:
One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise
And came and shot those two dead boys.
If you don't believe it's true,
Ask the blind man, he saw it too.

Going on the 'net, I see it's a slightly different version from what most people learned. Though the oddest thing I found was a mashup with the old "Ladles and Jellyspoons":
ladies of the mens club,
i come before you to stand behind you
to tell you a tale you know nothing about
admission is free so pay at the door,
pull up a seat to sit on the floor
one fine day in the middle of the night
2 dead boys got up to fight
back to back they faced each other
drew their swords and shot each other
a deaf policeman heard the noise
and came and killed those 2 dead boys
if you dont believe my tale is true
ask the blindman he saw it too

I learned that one as:
Ladles and jellyspoons
I stand before you to sit behind you
To tell you something I know nothing about
There will be a mothers meeting
For fathers only
On Ash Wednesday which is Good Friday
No admission
Pay at the door
Pull up a chair
And sit on the floor.

I'd swear I learned it from Zoom.

Anyway, after that five minute tangent, I gotta start to wonder what the h*ll else is floating around in there, and why I can remember all that stuff but can't remember stuff I really need to. Though I swear if I ever had the money to go to school for no reason, I'd go do a masters on the evolution of modern children's rhymes. Which 'Ghost in the Graveyard' counting chant did you learn?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Apparently we're bigamists

Too funny: a Dear Prudence letter about a wife doing (horrors) FOUR SHOWS A YEAR with her local theater. To be fair, she's also considering summer stock which would be a tad much for most people. But what I find freaking hilarious are the comments:
A hobby? No, she is married to the community theatre. She is a bigamist, only the real husband is clearly the less important of her two husbands.


i dont think theatre is interchangeable with other hobbies. theatre brings you into constant contact with attractive, outgoing people who are on the make. thats not true of stamp collecting or curling up with a good book. she's getting out of the house for a purpose, and its only tangentially related to boredom.


I'm sure there are well-run (read, large) theatre companies but in my experience, the smaller the company, the more ego and libido driven and incestuous they are. Please! Why do you think so many leading men and women fall for each other (and so easily fall out when the curtain comes down)?


So community theater is a exactly like bad Hollywood tabloid, and D and I are both bigamists. Who knew?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Things I've found on the 'net lately

A homemade cake, decorated by Yoda.

What the inscription on the Lent fish keychain thingy (IXOYE) technically means. I can never keep this one and INRI straight for some reason. I need to study more Greek.

But instead, I'm studying Irish for free! It's a special offer for St. Pat's day.

Just about every culture has a version of motherf*cker as a swear word. In case you were wondering.

You've gotta love practical yoga tips: Are your feet sore from those four-inch Louboutins? Alleviate the pain of wearing high heels by ascending and descending to chair pose, balancing on the balls of the feet with the arches and heels lifting. . .

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

For all of you who grew up in Iowa City

I'll just let this speak for itself:
An Iowa City police sergeant has been charged with drunken driving and interference with official acts.

Police say that Sgt. Sid Jackson was arrested early Saturday by University of Iowa police after an officer saw him sitting in his car with the door open.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sesame Street Day

Apparently it's time for a bunch of Sesame trivia, 'cause there are a pair of articles on CNN entitled 'How do you get to 'Sesame Street' and 'Surprising stories behind 20 Muppet characters.'

When I was three, I was convinced Sesame Street was right down the road, only the 'other way' as I called it then. See, our house sat about two blocks off a main road. So naturally, all the 'grown ups' took a left out of the driveway, a right to the main road (North Avenue, for those of you from Chicagoland) and then proceeded on to wherever we were going. All I knew was, every time we turned out of the driveway, we went left. So I was convinved that if we went right instead, that must be where Sesame Street was. Seemed logical to me. I recall my father deciding to take me on a walk that way, to show me there was no Sesame Street there. I guess my mother was afraid I'd decide I'd rather go live with cookie monster and make the hike on my own. Dad kept saying stuff like, "See? No Sesame here." Problem was, the suburbs are endless. We walked a few blocks, but there are always more blocks to walk, the possibility that it was just around the next corner. I returned home convinced we had just not gone far enough. Though I remember getting the feeling I shouldn't mention that to Mom. It was just one of those things grownups didn't understand.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Made me giggle

Fox stops in mid-fight. Comedy ensues. "Hey! What is this, then? Bouncy!!! Bouncy!!!!" Is it just me, or is the other fox kind of hanging back, saying: "Oh, grow up!"

Friday, February 06, 2009

Tidbits

I'm sure you've all heard the audio of the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 by now, but I still have to link it. I'm absolultely amazed at how steady and calm that pilot was in the middle of a huge crisis.



Kinda makes the whole Christian Bale thing look even worse, no? Pilot facing mortal peril with hundreds of lives at stake = James Bond cool. Actor distracted from the scene = raving f*cking lunatic. Nice perspective.

Oh, and this. Just 'cause:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Risky Business

A Consumer Reports telephone survey of 1,000 adults apparently shows that we're all living on the edge:
It found nearly 3 of every 4 Americans put cotton swabs inside their ears, risking a perforated eardrum. Nearly 4 in 10 admit eating raw cookie dough, which can carry salmonella.

Only half the respondents have a carbon monoxide detector at home and 61 percent don't have a rubber mat in the shower. Thirteen percent admitted sometimes drinking beer while using power tools.

Q-tips being used in the ear!!! I'll bet we've run with scissors, too. Raw cookie dough!!! OMIGOD! Never mind that most of us have eaten that our entire lives without ill effects. No rubber mat in the shower!!!! (Side note: does anyone still need those? I mean, about every shower I've been in since the eighties has a non-slip floor). Drinking beer using power tools!!! Wait . . . Dammit, I just spilled my Blue Moon all over the electric stapler.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Stimulating Thoughts

Here's how I see it:

The companies at the top have lost in their speculations, which has left them strapped for cash. Only no one wants to loan to them anymore due to the speculations. So they want cash to avoid going belly-up, throwing thousands of workers out of work.

Meanwhile, the lack of cash flow has led smaller companies to have to cut down. Thousands Over a million workers have already been thrown out of work.

Further, people who had money in investments have watched those all go bye-bye, and so their disposable income no longer looks so disposable. They've stopped doing much of the big-ticket spending, and are starting to trickle to a halt on the medium-ticket nonessentials. People are buying less stuff, which leads companies to need to make less stuff, which means they're downsizing and . . . . over a million workers are out of work.

Okay, so we need to stop a huge circular clusterf*ck, right? Well, there's three things I see that are being talked about as solutions: 1) Band-aid some of the companies that are bleeding by throwing money at them, to let them go on functioning. 2) Throw money into stuff. Buying goods and services gives those companies profits they wouldn't have otherwise and keeps their people at work. Stuff that will be useful, not just anything, but still, let's buy us some stuff. 3) Take some of the money and use it for social programs to help the people who are already out of work, or are soon to become unemployed, so that they don't die or fall so far down the socioeconomic staircase that they and their kids will become permanent drains on the system instead of a recovered middle class once this is all over with. That means providing some fail-safes for food, shelter, and physical and mental health. 4) Take things that are simply waste and eliminate them. 5) Give tax breaks to people who've managed to keep their jobs, hoping that the extra will be considered disposable income and be spent and not hoarded, this way the government doesn't do so much of the spending to start the economy, the people do.

Some further observations:

Obviously the whole "give the money to the companies" thing was a good idea in theory, but in practice they're using it to fund luxury vacations and jets (indirectly, granted, but I presume that if the company had tanked by not getting bailout funds, it couldn't pick up the tab for these things). As a pragmatic matter, I suppose this is still "stimulus" in that the people who work in the vacation and jet industries get to hold onto their jobs a bit longer. However, I'm not certain that we're prepared to pay for Nero to fiddle while Rome burns just to keep the fiddlemakers in the black. Oversight appears necessary.

The "tax breaks will lead to growth" thing only works if the people spend the rebates. If they're using it to pay bills (which is what mine was used on last year) or stuffed in a mattress, it isn't going to work. This holds true even if we include businesses in the tax breaks. If all the Jane Consumers aren't buying clothes this year because they need to stash the cash to recompense a tanked savings fund, then clothesmakers aren't going to use a tax incentive to expand their business. No market = contraction, not expansion. Also, a tax break to a corporation also has no oversight. They might reinvest it in workers and expanding the factories, or they might use their refund to pay for vacations to Tahiti. Normally, I wouldn't give a damn what they do with it. But since we're considering giving them this money, I think we might want to know what the plan is, and have a bit to say in how it's spent (see previous paragraph). For all those business leaders who will b*tch about this - you shouldn't have changed my mind by buying jets, luxury vacations, and crap. In screwing us, you screwed yourselves.

It's easy for me to say "eliminate waste" and not so easy for the sides to decide what is waste. So maybe we should come up with a system for rating these things, not just believe politician's buzzwords. How's this: 1) Does it put or keep someone in a job? 2) Is the proposed end product useful? 3) Does it prevent the unemployed from bottoming out in crucial areas (medical, housing, etc), or help them to improve their job prospects? 4) Is the industry targeted in actual trouble? 5) Is there some oversight to ensure the above will happen, or is it just a blank check (i.e. throwing money at a company or giving a huge tax break tantamount to throwing money at a company)?

These are, IMHO, the crucial questions to be answered in order to target the stimulus properly. There may be more factors, if I think of any I'll list them in an update.

Where am I going with this? When I saw in this article where the Republican leaders have weighed in on their idea of waste, I take issue with some of the list. Keeping the factors in mind:

• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.
It will create construction work, and technological work. Perhaps some shipping of the parts. Can we make sure we are dealing with US suppliers? Just a suggestion. As for the inefficiency, I'm not sure one way or the other. In doing a bit of checking, this has to do with coal and new technology to refine it and reduce emissions, etc. I'm seeing one side say that the technology is just too expensive to be efficient at this time, and another side saying it was only too expensive when Illinois won the bid for the project over Texas and Texas-linked politicians decided to take their ball money and go home. It may be a boondoggle, or it may be a good example of investing in the future. So which is it? I think we have to ask the scientists. In absence of a clear answer, I'd say no to this one, but I'm open to correction.

• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.
Are movie producers in trouble? I'm thinking not, or not yet. While producing film does fund jobs making film, I don't believe there will be less film bought if we don't fund it. So, as it fails Factor #4, I wouldn't be in favor of this.

• $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.
Are they locally built? If so, it keeps jobs going. The things are handy for the digital switch (Though I'm tempted to deduct points because I'm not so sure I agreed with the digital switch in the first place, however, given it's a done deal, the things will count as useful). I'm not sure how you would categorize "people that make TV converter boxes" as a job, but the people who sell them - Radio Shack, Circuit City, etc. are showing a downtrend, so the industry probably qualifies as troubled. So, all in all, it's valid. There is one negative, however, that doesn't fit neatly into the boxes above: We loves us some TV. I know people who would starve before they shut off their cable. So I'm not so sure we need this much funding. Let's make sure only the needy get the coupons. Can we go halves?

• $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (arctic ship).

Creates jobs? Check. Creates something useful? Actually, a huge old Check. We need the things. Is the industry in trouble? Again, not sure which industry, but it sounds like generic factory work plus tech people, plus people to truck the parts, etc. This sounds like a good investment.

• $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters. • $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.
Create jobs? Oh, yes. Construction jobs, furniture makers, shipping, architects, and so forth. Is it an industry in trouble? I think construction qualifies, not sure about furniture makers but my instinct tells me probably yes - I'm fairly sure new furniture falls under "luxuries to cut" for most people. Is the product useful? Well, they need a headquarters, and this particular site, while controversial, has already been approved. So I guess it's only wasteful to go ahead and build the damn thing? Oookaaay. Kinda surprised the Reps were the ones bitching about this.

• $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees.
Create jobs? Yep, auto industry sucks right now. Useful product? Absolutely, given gas prices and pollution reduction. So what's to whine about? Not understanding the problem here, either, except perhaps a knee-jerk "blech" reaction to anything with the word "green" in it.

• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's.
Job creation? Medical workers, receptionists, basic desk jobs. Industry in trouble is n/a because it's not handing money to an industry, it's a government entity so by nature all its funding is government. It does provide medical assistance to those people who are not working, though I see where the Reps are upset - it has to do with sex. Okay, fine. I get that nobody is supposed to be having sex, hence the removal of the birth control portion of the bill (though why in the h*ll they think it will be cheaper to pay for welfare babies than the pill is beyond me). But what about making it part of a more comprehensive health provision? I'd expand, not contract, this puppy.

* * * *

I won't go into each and every provision, the rest are listed below, but you see where I'm going with this and apply the theory. We need to bring some brains to bear on this topic, and stop the partisan bullsh*t.

• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.

• $125 million for the Washington sewer system.

• $150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities.

• $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.

• $75 million for "smoking cessation activities."

• $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.

• $75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI.

• $25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction.

• $500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.

• $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.

• $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings.

• $500 million for state and local fire stations.

• $650 million for wild land fire management on forest service lands.

• $1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.

• $88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service.

• $412 million for CDC buildings and property.

• $500 million for building and repairing National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland.

• $160 million for "paid volunteers" at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

• $5.5 million for "energy efficiency initiatives" at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

• $850 million for Amtrak.

• $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint.

• $75 million to construct a "security training" facility for State Department Security officers when they can be trained at existing facilities of other agencies.

• $110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems.

• $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Um, Say Again? *Updated with further thoughts after a modicum of caffiene*

Okay, it is Monday morning and I'm undercaffienated, but please explain to me this logic:
[U]nder new procedures coming this year, Iowa drivers will wait up to 10 days after renewal to receive a new license card in the mail.

The new renewal process, expected to start as soon as this summer, is aimed at improving security, Iowa transportation officials say.

"It's a mechanism we're using to help ensure our process does not lend itself to identity theft," said Shirley Andre, director of the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles.

It takes awhile to get all my cylindars firing, but I'm pretty sure that the stated reason for this change - it prevents identity theft - makes little sense. Sure, you might be closing one loophole, wherein someone who illegally acquired a driver's license, or forged a bunch of other id, and happens to look just like the person could theoretically have come into the station and demanded a new one. Now it would be mailed to the old address instead. But what are we really changing?

1) How often do people who illegally acquire licenses actually fit the stats of the person whose license they acquire sufficiently to pass the security involved with going in and getting the license changed? In other words, this is not generally a crime of opportunity - I'd imagine there's planning involved. Planning connotes a capability of circumventing the little "oops, it's going to be mailed to me?" idea.

2) Doesn't subjecting the license to the mail, rather than handing it to the individual involved, create a greater risk that the license will be illegally 'acquired' in the first place by someone simply stealing it from the mailbox?

3) Does this really solve the problem? I mean, I presume there will still be a mechanism for changing our address on the license, unless the powers that be intend that we never, ever move again. As they've not mentioned any changes to this process, I further presume it will be similar to the one in place now - bring in a utility bill or something showing where you live now. Okay, if I'm someone whose going to go to the trouble to have an illegally acquired license/id and actually take it on as my own by changing the address to mine, is it really that hard for me to forge a utility bill? I'm thinking not so much. Give me a color scanner and ten minutes' time and I'm pretty sure I could have a passable phone or electric bill for you.

Given this, will someone please try to explain to me why we're doing this again? Particularly given that this will increase costs:
An average of 850,000 driver's licenses are issued by the Iowa DOT per year and with the increased cost per card, the state will be paying an estimated $120,000 more per year, she said.


Of course, they "think" it might lower costs in the end by having a central processing area. Pretty sure they won't then drop the fees for the license, though, if that does turn out to be the case.

I realize that the DOT has unilaterally decided this under the administrative rules, but I'm wondering if we can't bring some pressure to bear on this subject? I, for one, would rather drive to freaking Des Moines to physically acquire a new license than to have one mailed to me.

If anyone4 can think of a reason why this would be a good idea, please leave it in the comments. My still-tired brain thanks you.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hidden Wonders

I keep track of Snopes' New Urban Legends, primarily because I have a bunch of people forward me conspiracy crap and I like to do my part in stopping it in its tracks. But every now and again, I get a good lesson myself. This morning's addition was true, and one to contemplate:

A Most Interesting Story

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?


The original Washington Post story is here. It has video. It's worth reading.

As for me, I'm making one of those resolutions to find more beauty in my day.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

End of an Era

Bill was there for my first ICCT show, back when I was 18, playing the doctor in Blithe Spirit. He was in my first show back when I returned in my thirties, as the cab driver in Harvey. Geez, we were talking about him at Vicki's on New Year's Eve, when the subject of ICCT came up.

Like Dweeze, I wonder if anyone will mention at the memorial his half-joking idea of being stuffed and set in ICCT's lobby to hold programs. I remember him talking about it once, and someone saying he could incorporate animatronics so he could bow to people.

I wonder if he'll have the ring, and if we can rub it one last time, for luck.

I wonder if we could set off some of his special effects so he can go out with a bang.

I wonder if we could work "three and a quarter" into the eulogy, 'cause that's funny.

We'll miss you, Bill.