Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Temperamental Tuesday

I've decided this should be Temperamental Tuesday.

I've had nuisance allergies before. I've never had incapacitating allergies and not breathing for days on end puts me in a foul mood. This week I'd like to be The Queen of Everything and ban the following:

1. "Flirty." If ONE more lameass publication trills about how "fabulous" it is for a woman to be, look, dress, live "flirty," and how she should long to achieve flirtiness, I will have to find someone to kill for it. This demeaning goal for women must be destroyed immediately.

2. Use of the word "dated" on HGTV. "Oh gawd, that is so-o-o dated." Anything that is not steel gray or mushroom beige is "dated." I guess a neat, clean, simple-design working oven that has a dial with numerals in an outdated font won't roast chicken.

3. Spies -- In my novel, I show rather cynical young women making fun of the fictitious college's Seven Ideals. I based these on the Ten Ideals, which were a real tradition at my college that we in the 70's considered a relic of the past. In that, we probably were a little too cynical, and at first, when I heard that the college has now revived it, I thought that might be kind of nice. But come to find out they've revived it as a secret society that evaluates people without their knowledge, including stalking them online to make sure they're Worthy. I am real real glad I'm not a student there right now because I find this appalling.

I know, it's only to give awards, not to criticize or penalize. I don't care. When I read : "Members agree the secrecy is fun and makes sense because it keeps students and employees accountable for their actions by not knowing who might be watching them," I shuddered.

4. Dear Quality Paperback Book Club - Finding me after a decade and sending a perky "We want you back" letter was rather impressive, but writing to my former married name was a big big mistake. If you have this address at all, you know that name isn't listed here and therefore isn't my name anymore. QPBRUstupid?

5. Styrofoam bras. 80% of every lingerie department consists of stiff preformed-foam brassieres that could drive home from the mall by themselves. Really. Go shopping and look. The racks look like a model for a domed colony on the moon.

6. Cell Phone assumptions -- You..have..one..new..message: "Hey, I'm the delivery guy for Chairs-r-Us. Call me back before 4 if you want your chair today. Bye." WHAT is your frikkin number? ...Oh, a thousand pardons, what am I thinking? Those of us who cling to the prehistoric land line and don't have each caller's number displayed shouldn't expect the world to accommodate our idiocy. Let me make several calls trying to chase down your number. I beg your forgiveness. Not.

7. Reptile prints. On clothes. On accessories. On anything. Make them go away.

I'll be normal again soon. Honest.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


So! We're out on the upstairs porch, where we have not hung out in months. It's a good vantage point for me, so that Larry can show me the yard work he did, which in part trimmed back a lot of limbs and vegetation to get more sun onto my new raised bed.

A ladybug has gotten in and is crawling up the porch screen.

Last summer we bought 4000 ladybugs, and if i can find a picture I'll add it - they seemed to vanish before I could blog about it, but they didn't really. Bit by bit over the summer and fall, it became clear that a lot were around, and as it warms, they or their progeny are reappearing.

This must be one of them, post-hibernation. She'll never find her way back out of the porch. I brush her into my hand and toss her outside.

Wait. There's another one...

And another and another and....


A female must have come in last fall, wintered in the molding someplace and hatched out a big, big family. And they're doomed if they stay there. A few might find their way through the cracks, but not many.

Those specks are ladybugs -- if you click it for a larger view, they're more visible.

We really had not planned to do a ladybug relocation, but Larry dutifully got the ladder and I went for the not-Tupperware. He brushed bugs into the plastic container and I shook them outside, while he repositioned the ladder.

Cool - got five this time!

Larry urges one to let the movers relocate her.

Hey, thanks for the delivery service!

(He didn't eat any, at least not while we were out there -- when he popped out from under the eaves, I started shaking the ladybugs out on the other side of the stairs.)

Clever little bugs - they kept hiding in the molding from these Big Predators who were out to capture them, and we maybe caught half of them. The rest -- a few more will find their way out through the crack around the door. Or maybe we'll do another sweep. We got maybe a couple of dozen this time around.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Gardening with allergies

Still haven't caught the gastro-intestinal virus (Thank You, thank You, thank You!!) but my close-up work in the dirt to finish the new raised bed garden did give me an allergy attack of epic proportions. I browsed online for safety masks, but my eyeglasses won't stay on when I wear those stiff ones. I looked at surgical masks, but all the options I saw tie around the head and neck and I hate ties or rubber bands pulling my hair and slipping down. I knew I'd never put 'em on.

Meanwhile Larry had a dental appointment and came home with the best solution ever. These masks that dentists and hygienists wear loop over my ears, and are wonderfully comfortable. The dentist was nice enough to give Larry a half-full box for me! Highly recommended for work that you love but that brings you in contact with allergens.

So - I got my seeds started, in JiffyPots [TM]. Next was how to keep the wildlife from digging in them.

We'd bought a cheap window at Home Depot, to use for a cold frame. Oddly, it's an exact fit for the raised bed, so Larry also came up with this idea for protecting the pots. We used one of the toppers and another broken one to block the uncovered end of the window and thwart our little woodland friends.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Beat the clock

Old box garden in foreground -- and a new one in the background.

We had our first warm day 3 days ago -- a month late (!) -- but I ran out and started this year's garden project, feeling like, in this climate, I really should have started the seeds in indoor pots at least a week ago. Didn't get to it. Maybe tomorrow.

I've been playing Beat the Clock. Not only to have the cool-weather-loving vegetables planted before it's too late, but to get the new box garden built before tomorrow's predicted rain washed the soil out of the wheelbarrow.

This is the new project yall get to watch me do wrong this year! Won't that be fun? What's "wrong" about it is that I've put it right next to the woods, which is practically like setting out a buffet for the wildlife. But for the right amount of sun and shade, it's the only place. It will also get a tall wire fence around it that won't be pretty but might help.

I had to grade the site to make it sit level. Then I needed to weed all the little grass and wildflower roots out of the dirt and shovel it back in.

There. Now it can rain all it wants to.

I used the top layer of concrete blocks from the old box garden -- instead of the one deep box I had last year, they now make two low boxes. The old box garden will stay put, but at a one-block height. It gets used later in the season for heat-loving stuff, so it's secondary priority.

The third reason I'm trying to beat the clock is that everyone here has had a Very Unpleasant stomach flu. In fact, make that two "Very's." I'm fine so far, but, as the Eternal Pessimist, I just know I will get it too. Actually, in this case, I'm more of a realist. So I'm preparing for it (with provisions, laundry, and due warnings to all who might need my services), and wanted this box built before the flu flattens me!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The infantilization of women continues

I never write about abortion, which could be kind of a cowardly thing to do -- I hate getting yelled at -- but in the case of that particular issue, it's more a matter of not having a solution. I don't think there is one, and if i'm going to infuriate people, I might as well save it for something I have a solution for. And I find abortion heartbreaking.

But once in awhile a stand is called for, and in this case it's gotten dragged into the health care debate.

Only, i outrage both sides. I support a woman's right to choose. Abortion is a tragic and nasty thing, but often precipitated by a tragic and nasty circumstance. It's a decision based on her situation and informed by her individual religious beliefs, and the correctness of those beliefs is something I don't think the legal system has any ability at all to determine with even a shred of justice.

But Planned Parenthood keeps sending me emails about how terrible the Stupak Amendment is, and these emails infuriate me just as much.

From an article that seems to be a clear explanation:

[The Stupak amendment] says no health insurance plan receiving federal subsidies can pay for abortion, except under the three exceptions already allowed by federal law. Women who want insurance coverage for abortion would have to buy a separate policy.

The Senate bill took a different approach. It says health insurance plans operating in a new consumer marketplace can cover abortion, but it may only be paid for with private premiums. Money from federal subsidies would have to be strictly segregated from any funds used to pay for abortion. Consumers would have to write two checks to their insurance plan, one for the regular premium, the other for abortion coverage.

Admittedly, I can't see what in the world made National Right to Life call voting for the Senate version "a career-defining pro-abortion vote." The difference I see is only about how the same restrictions would be administered. Maybe people who speak legalese see something I can't. But the Stupak thing -- my liberal friends will ream me for this -- looks acceptable to me.

ONE, it allows plans that get federal subsidies to cover abortion in cases of rape, incest, threat to the woman's life. Those are the "three exceptions" mentioned. I think it should include a woman's health, not just her life, but the Hyde amendment is what set those parameters, and i doubt if any greater degree of coverage could be implemented unless Hyde were changed. Protection for women who've been violated is in place.

TWO, if she wants coverage for elective abortion, she can buy it privately. (I realize "elective" abortion isn't a good use of the term, but I can't find a word that doesn't seem to label non-life-threatening cases as trivial.)

And why the bleep shouldn't women have to ... here's a wild idea .... make the decision to choose the coverage?

"Choose." "Decide." Recognize 'em? Those pro-choice terms we've been hollering for decades?

It burns me to remember supporting the concept of Empowered Woman, entitled to her own choices -- brought to me by the feminist movement. Only to find that same movement now demoting her to an ignorant being of limited thinking ability whose decisions just won't do and must be managed by The Wise Shepherds. The same feminists who loathe the Biblical excuses for limiting woman's legal powers -- "In pain shall she bear children, yet her desire shall be for her husband and he shall boss her around" [1] -- are now advocating a view of women as eternal victims run by their own reproductive urges.

We can't, they claim, have a system that requires women to plan ahead because nobody plans to find herself unwantedly pregnant.

I disagree. Yes, plenty of people lack basic reproductive smarts. That doesn't seem to me to be adequate reason for treating women as childlike creatures who can't plan or weigh alternatives. Remember, the issue is about women who are shopping the exchange for a health plan. Reading plan charts, talking to sales reps, considering options.

It was choice-opponents who said for years that women just don't make sound decisions.

I do understand that poverty keeps people in a survive-the-day state of mind. And I hate that some women say, "It won't happen to me," or feel too strapped or hopeless to invest a few dollars a month in a plan that will save them a lot more money, trouble, and lost work hours later. None of these arguments are without truth to them.

But it needs to be attacked on a different front, like, duh, education. In my legally-uneducated opinion, however much hardship people bring on themselves by not using power they have, the law must treat the right to choose and the responsibility to choose as inextricably tied. Each is meaningless without the other.

As is often the case with politics, I think advocates of choice are fighting a different battle from the one voiced in their emails about hardship. Planned Parenthood sees all these efforts for what they really are -- an attempt by the Right to Life movement to reduce abortion access.

Neither side likes to put its real agenda into formal statements for public consumption. Choice opponents are doing all kinds of little legal dances to wrap the process of getting a legal abortion in reams of red tape, under the guise of Terribly Supportive Concern like "presenting facts for making an informed decision," and "time to reflect."

I despise all efforts to treat women like idiots. But, legally, there's a line, and red tape doesn't cross it. It isn't good and it certainly doesn't treat women like competent adults, or treat people of faith like people who should have freedom of faith. The difficulties that poor working women have in performing all the hoop-jumping are real and need to be addressed.

All i'm saying is that, legally, Stupak's clause doesn't seem to me to breach the basic right, and doesn't set a legal precedent that could be used to dismantle the right.

Part of posting such a thing is to risk being called a terrible Christian and a worse liberal, but I'd be pretty cowardly to disallow comments. So - any and all respectful disagreements are OK, but invective will be deleted.

[1] Genesis 3:16. I mean, you know... paraphrased.