Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I just want to say WTF to a high school in Indiana that expelled senior Austin Carroll for posting a tweet containing the notorious F-bomb.  Now, if this was done in class, I can see the school having reason to be upset, although I think even in that case expulsion would still be going too far.  The tweet was posted in his home well outside school hours (about 2:20am), and he wasn't even using the four letter expletive to insult the school or anyone who works or goes there.  Instead, he was merely discussing the versatility of the term.  If anything, he could have called it an impromptu English assignment.  He clearly has a passion for language.

Granted, he used a school owned computer to post the offending tweet, but even so, students are still protected by the 1st Amendment.  If his activities weren't being disruptive to the learning environment of the school in any way, why should administrators be so upset?  Words are powerful, yes, but is this one word justification enough for all this?  I think not.

Monday, March 26, 2012


It's been a little while since I posted.  Life's been hectic as always.  There was a death in the family recently, so things like that always throw you for a loop.  My grandfather died of cancer on St. Patrick's Day, which oddly enough is the last time I posted.  Between this, my mother dying last May, my husband being in the hospital last July (though he's okay now at least), my dad getting into a nasty car accident that fractured his skull right before my birthday, and finding out on my birthday that we were being kicked out of our house and had a month to move, I find  it amazing that I've managed to stay sane.

Okay, I'll admit, I'm not entirely sure whether I've managed to stay sane.  I can only hope I have.

All right.  Venting over.  I needed to get that out there, even though I'm sure it's not the most entertaining of things to read.

I've been focusing a lot on the novel I'm writing lately.  I'm close to being halfway done with it, and I really only started working on it heavily last month.  That's pretty good for me.  When life threatens to bring me down, I leap into a fictional world and tear that one down instead.  Therapeutic and nicely absent of the legal ramifications of actually inflicting property damage on the neighbors (who are very nice people who wouldn't in any way deserve that---but psychotic rampages tend to happen suddenly and without reason).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here I am without 
much to say,
other than have a
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Santorum vs. Pornography: An Epic Battle

As if freedom weren’t in enough danger already, the threats just keep on coming.  Like it or hate it,hardcore pornography will be under attack if presidential hopeful Rick Santorum makes it to the White House.  He has vowed to enforce obscenity laws that would prohibit hardcore pornography from being distributed online, in stores, through the mail, etc.  The man who keeps talking about the importance of economic freedom is promising to shut down a multi-billion dollar industry that contributes countless tax dollars to the government every year, and whose sales “stimulate” the economy, so to speak.

He argues that pornography denigrates women, leads to violence against women, and weakens marriages.  First off, most women in the porn industry choose to be there for various reasons.  As legal adults, it should be their right to make that choice.  Second, the violence against women he talks about is already illegal, and not all studies conclude that it influences men to behave violently toward women.  If anything, it does men a great disservice to assume that watching pornography changes men so much that they can no longer control themselves.   And third, if pornography supposedly destroys your marriage, I assume there were probably underlying issues.   In that case, it is likely a symptom of a problem rather than being the actual problem.
My attitude toward so-called obscene material is this: If you don’t like it, then don’t watch it.  Regulating porn to keep it away from children is one thing.  Outlawing it altogether is going way too far.

One thing that worries me is the lack of clarity when material is defined as “hardcore.”  And knowing Santorum, he'll take it as far as he can.  If such a ban went too far, we could be looking at a bold new era of banned books, which, by the way, was a reality only a few decades ago.  Barney Rosset, who passed away this past February, fought for the freedom to publish and distribute books that were illegal due the obscenity laws of the day.  Though Santorum signed a pledge awhile back that called for him to fight against pornography, among other things, it seems interesting that he reiterates such a hard-lined position right after such a prominent crusader for the freedom of the press died.  Hmmm . . .  Coincidence, maybe, but it still seems a bit much.

As a writer, I can’t trust someone who wants to thoroughly control what you can watch.  If the obscenity laws are once again believed to apply to written materials, it could potentially affect me, along with many others.  We shouldn’t look at this as just being about porn, because that’s only scratching the surface.
No politician should have that much control over what we view in our own homes.  Or write.  Or say.  If you despise pornography but love the first amendment, this should still disturb you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rape Victim Commits Suicide

I wanted to share this story with others who may not have heard about it yet, though the news has spread quickly.  A sixteen year old Moroccan girl named Amina El-Filali  was made to marry her rapist.  The rapist used an old provision in Moroccan law to escape jail time by marrying her, and her family agreed to allow it.  Being raped is a mark of dishonor to the family, which likely influenced their decision to allow it.  After being married to her rapist for six months, she killed herself by drinking rat poison.

Luckily Morocco is taking action and has vowed to amend the law that allowed this to happen.  It's too late to save Amina, but hopefully it will spare many others.

I'm writing this because victims forced into such abhorrent arrangements need someone to speak for them.  If enough people had spoken out on her behalf before the marriage, this young girl would still be alive.  Being raped must be horrible enough, but to be forced to spend the rest of your life with someone who has such blatant disregard for you as a human being is beyond unthinkable.

Ladies, don't take your rights for granted.  Those of us who are free should appreciate what we have and speak out for those who are not so fortunate.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Power of Words: Personal Responsibility

We’ve been hearing a lot about Rush Limbaugh and other personalities that have used defamatory and degrading language against women.  Bill Maher is an example from the other side of the political spectrum.  Thanks to the wonderful thing that is the 1st amendment, we have the freedom to say things, but there are responsibilities that go along with the words we choose.  Words are powerful and have consequences, both intended and unintended.  We must accept those consequences, and we must think carefully about what we want to say.  I discussed this at length last week.

That being said, I’d like the present the other side of things.  As the person on the receiving end of harsh insults, we feel hurt and angry.  It’s all too easy to take insults to heart, especially if we hear them enough.  That’s why children who are bullied often experience low self-esteem.  You hear something said about you often enough, you start to believe it.

However, there comes a point when you need to take responsibility for who you are and how you feel about yourself.  Words injure, but only if we let them.  Half the power that words have comes from the person on the receiving end.  It makes no sense to yield all power to a bully by letting their word s damage you.  Try to be strong.  Stand up for yourself by refusing to believe what they say.  Show them that they’re wrong and that they won’t break you.

Half the time, the person tearing you down doesn’t really know you.  If they don’t know you, why should they play a role in defining you?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hold On . . .The Impossible Has Happened

Wow.  The world is certainly changing every day, but this one caught me off guard.  In reading something Pat Robertson had to say, I found myself agreeing with him.

Whew!  The world might actually end this year.  My issues with Pat Robertson stem primarily from the harsh extremism of his rhetoric and his ability to blame gay people for almost everything that goes wrong in our society.  At least he isn't nearly as bad as Fred Phelps.  The day I agree with Phelps on anything is the day I give up on life.

Although, come to think of it, Robertson has been softening up a little over the last few months.  And so here is the first thing I agree with him on.  The Republican presidential candidates are talking a bit too extreme, though I'm sure he has different reasons for thinking that than me.

Maybe it's old age, or maybe he's just realizing that he may be a bit too much for most people to take. Now, that being said, here comes the second thing I agree with him on. Pat Robertson is saying that the legalization of marijuana may help break the cycle of incarceration that has been blamed in destroying many young lives.

I won't say that legalizing pot will solve all problems, and may well create new ones we haven't thought of.  If it had never been criminalized in the first place, we probably wouldn't have the huge war on drugs that we have now.  Now, this is just an opinion, but seeing the rise of designer drugs that can be made out of easily purchased household products does support my point.

As for Robertson, I'm not sure why one kind of perceived "immorality" is okay to be legal and not the others he rails against, but you know what?  Personal opinion, while benefiting from the use of reason, doesn't necessarily have to correspond with reason.

One might argue that in order to avoid prison, the consequence in indulging in the illegal behavior, one should  not indulge in said illegal behavior to begin with.  That is a valid point, but I don't think touting the adage of personal responsibility is going to put a dent in a problem this large.  We have too many people in prison.  A lot of this comes from drug related crime.

And yes, I understand that a lot of drug addicts commit a good number of crimes in an effort to get their drugs, and even if legalized, jobs probably don't want to hire employees who come to work stoned.  Therefore, unemployed addicts may still steal to support their habit.

At this point, there is no easy solution, but it's an issue worth thinking about.

International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day.  For those of us women who are fortunate enough to live in a society where our voices are heard, even if not always appreciated, today is a good day to speak out on behalf of those who are not so lucky.  In some parts of the world, women are still treated as a commodity, useful for some purposes but also infinitely replaceable.  However, I am glad to note that the number of such places continues to decrease.

We may have a long way to go before people stop casually referring to us as sluts and whores (and I hear this from fellow women too, so I'm not trying to paint men in a negative light), but at least we have a voice here and in much of the world.  As long as we have a voice, things will continue to become more equal.  At least I hope that is the case.

In honor of this day, and in the hope this day will no longer be needed in the near future, I encourage those of you who are interested to read about the history of the holiday and to consider how we can continue to improve things for women around the world.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ah, Des Moines

For those of you who aren't familiar with Des Moines, Iowa this may not make much sense.  However, having lived in central Iowa my entire life, and going to school in Des Moines for four years, I can really appreciate this video.  I share with you a bit of my culture.

And the video raises a question I've always struggled with.  How does Ed Wilson, a meteorologist, have such large biceps?

 And here's a video that explains the disputed weather beacon code from the above video.


Monday, March 5, 2012

The Power of Words: The Rush Limbaugh Edition

Lately I’ve been angry about something, and it feels good to finally be getting it out there.  This has nothing to do with my writing, but it does deal with words and the power they hold.  I’m sure we’ve all heard by now how Rush Limbaugh spent three days on his radio show talking about Sandra Fluke and her testimony before Congress.  She made the point that the pill can potentially be expensive for someone in college, and that the pill is often used to treat a medical condition.  These things are true.  Are there cheap off brand versions available?  Yes, of course.  Then again, your doctor decides on your prescription, and some of the off brands don’t work for everyone.  If you’re one of these women, costs can add up.  That being said, should insurance companies be mandated to pay for these prescriptions in their entirety?  This is the question we should be focusing on.  Instead, this issue has turned into a mudslinging match of the worst kind.

Now, as a writer, I’m glad that we have freedom of speech.  It’s a wonderful thing, and every time I hear about people wanting to impose limitations on that freedom, I get very nervous.  If we lose that right, we may as well give up everything else as far as I’m concerned.  You can’t have real freedom if you can’t express yourself.  And when Rush Limbaugh made his comments about Sandra Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute,” he was certainly exercising his right to free speech.  You’ll never catch me disputing that.  Does that make what he said right?  No.

Let me explain my position.  I never subscribed to the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  That’s complete crap.  Bullies say horrible things precisely because they hurt.  The best we can do is not let the mean-spirited words of others get under our skin, which is much easier said than done.  I know this all too well.  The bullying I endured as a kid helped shape me into the person I am today.

So I can say this with confidence.  Words are powerful.  They can persuade, inspire, create, and destroy.  “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  This is a saying I can get behind, except, of course, someone’s actually making fun of me from the corner of a room while someone’s impaling me with a sword.  That is one instance where I may be inclined to change my position on this.

Rush used the words he did because he knew they were laced with powerful meaning.  He knew they would get a reaction.  I’m sure he said what he did to be funny, and many people did find it funny.  I won’t dispute that either.  However, his choice of words angered many, including me, because it suggested a belief that many no longer find acceptable:  if a woman is sexually active, it’s okay to call her a slut.  It’s not, in my humble opinion.  He even suggested that he’d pay to give girls aspirin to put between their knees.   Yes, sex is something that should be handled with careful consideration, but let’s not pretend that having sex immediately invalidates her right to be treated with dignity and respect.   Women shouldn’t be denigrated over their sexual choices, especially if men won’t be. 

A definite misstep was his calculation of how much sex Sandra must have been having to spend $3000 in three years of school.  First of all, she said it could cost that much, not that it did for her personally.  Second, we’re talking about the birth control pill. I never thought I’d have to take the time to say this, but you take one pill a day.  The cost is the same no matter how many times you have sex over that three year period.  While reading the comments sections of articles dealing with this issue, I was stunned by how many people didn’t seem to know this.  Third, he said that the taxpayers would be her pimps for paying her to have sex.  Tax dollars wouldn’t cover the cost of contraception.  Insurance companies would.  If anything, insurance premiums would go up, and I've even heard just as many people saying that they'd actually go down due to the decrease in unwanted pregnancies.  I don’t know how it would all work because I’m not an expert at these things, nor am I a fortune teller.  However, if we’re going to have the conversation, I’d at least like to get it right about what's actually at stake.

What Limbaugh did in using this language, besides hurting Fluke’s feelings, is distract us from the issue at hand.  There are a lot of valid questions to be asked, but they’re not really being asked or answered because of the controversy that sprung forth from this.  In an article entitled “Pills For Sluts?: Sixquestions for Rush Limbaugh about sex,promiscuity, and contraception,” William Saletan talks about some of the questions Limbaugh has raised, whether advertently or inadvertently, and should discuss.

1.What’s the problem with contraceptive insurance: socialism or promiscuity?
2. How much sex is too much? 
3. Is contraception a sex enabler?
4. What consequences should a woman face for having sex?
5. Is pregnancy prevention a legitimate medical need?
6. What responsibility should men bear?

These are good questions, and I recommend you read his article to hear what he has to say about them.  There is also, of course, the question that brought this about in the first place.  Does requiring religious institutions to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception infringe on religious liberty.

I’m all for having a good, honest debate about these issues, and I want to know people’s thoughts on these questions.  However, the way that Rush handled it in no way promoted civil discourse.  Of course, that wasn’t his intention.  He’s an entertainer, and as such, we have to expect this from him.  However, he also bears a responsibility in choosing his words.  People turn to him for information as well, so while he’ll undoubtedly put his spin on it according to his personal opinion, as he is free to do, responsibility also indicates he should at least be factual in the information he provides.  He’s doing more than entertaining, after all.

Now, do I believe he should be fired for what he said?  No.  His words may have been irresponsible, or merely poorly chosen, but he is free to say these things whether we like it or not.  That’s the beauty of America.  At the same time, he is representing his employer, so they are free to fire him if they want to.  Just as his advertisers are free to keep walking away if they want.  The advertisers who have walked away understand the power of his words as well as anyone, and they don’t want the beliefs reflected in those words to cast a bad light on them.  Rush and other people like him have to be prepared for this kind of reaction, because that’s the responsibility that comes along with his word choices.

Now, he’s since apologized for his words.  Is he sincere?  Or is he bowing to the pressure?  The fact that he went on a three day long rant before backing down suggests an answer, but who knows?  He may actually mean it.  As an entertainer, he pushes the envelope further because he needs to hold an audience.  Sincere or not, he still has to live with the consequences of what he said.

I only hope this mess settles down so we can answer the important questions that have been raised.  We need debate.  We need solutions.  As much fun as it’s been arguing over whether Rush went to far, let’s focus now on what actually matters.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Some Silliness on a Sunday

I felt like doing something a little fun and silly today.  Everyone who knows me knows how much I love my wonderful bookshelves.  When we eventually have to move out of this house, that's definitely the part I'll miss the most.  Though we won't be parting anytime soon, at least as far as I know, I still figured I could immortalize them here.

Beautiful, aren't they?

And here in tribute, is a poem I wrote about them.  And I assure you, this is all in fun.  I'm not actually crazy.    Or, at least not "lock me up in a padded room and feed me a bunch of pills" type of crazy.  (Not yet.)

An Ode to My Bookshelves

Oh wondrous shelves of wood,
you hold so much in so small a space.
Countless worlds reside upon you,
which you bear with remarkable grace.
Pages upon pages of dreams and fears
find a home in your sturdy structure.
I go to you to find inspiration and hope.
The hearts of many you may puncture.
Tales of sadness, joy, celebration, and loss
lure me back time and again, day and night.
I fill my world with your wisdom and verse
until I am filled to the brink with delight.
Oh, glorious shelves, I adore the!
Oh, let me count the ways.
Well, okay, I won’t do that, but only because
I would have us all here for days!