September 30, 2010

Somewhere I Belong

These guys are my friends.

Sometimes it's easy to feel like you don't belong anywhere. Often enough I didn't feel like I fit in with my family, I didn't fit in with coworkers, and I didn't fit in at school. The first time I really felt like I belonged with people was in photo caravans. All of a sudden there were these people who shared the same interests as me. And they were really passionate! Like me! It was the most exciting time of my life. I grew so much in 5 months, learned I didn't really belong in my relationship, learned I didn't have to compromise what I really cared about in order to have meaningful companionship. And I felt fantastic!

Few jobs in my working life did I feel more outcast than in Flightline and at Sammy's. Currently, there are certainly those times when I feel like I don't belong. Walking through the office I'm sometimes talked to like I don't understand what's going on. I mean, I'm just the driver. Few people know I have a degree, few see my dedicated work ethic, and few imagine that I know as much as I do about the secret goings on of the school. When the salaried staffers are taking off at 4:59PM, buzzing about getting to happy hour and I'm just walking in for the night shift I feel a little left out. It also doesn't help that my job entails taking bus loads of kids to clubs downtown.

The other day I was feeling especially frustrated, not just because of work. But these students are incredible. They can tell in 2 seconds if you're having a bad day and they make you feel so much better. One girl gave me Swiss chocolate (the real deal), one boy is trying to help me find a new roommate, and some seem to think they have a right to the passenger seat. I actually look forward to Wednesday nights (In Cahoots) and Friday nights (lately it's been Fluxx night) because they get in these ridiculously infectious good moods. It's sad to see them go back to their countries. Some would seek me out before they left just to say goodbye- it made me feel like I was a significant part of their experience in San Diego.

We just got about 120 new students who will be with us for the next 6-9 months and so far so good. Because I welcomed a good 40 or so as they stepped off the plane I'm learning the new faces and names (and house families) quickly. And they recognize me. And with them I feel like I belong.

September 27, 2010

Gluten-Free Is Silly

I've heard (perfectly healthy) people (who can regularly tolerate gluten) talk about how cutting gluten from their diets has made them less lethargic or crabby, but I wonder what's really causing the difference. It could be that they're just eating less, or eating more vegetables, or cutting back on fat and salt, or exercising more, or just experiencing a placebo effect. Tons of people who aren't normally affected by gluten have decided that gluten is the devil and must be avoided at all costs. Look around in the grocery store: gluten-free brownies, gluten-free pizza crust, even gluten-free bread!

Granted, if you have celiac disease you probably don't want to die... but this isn't about that 1% of the American population, it's about the rest being silly. My dad's girlfriend is all about gluten-free; when my sisters were living with them they complained about there never being any food around. While there was always food around, it was either raw vegetables or gluten-free (not exactly easy to prepare on the run and not exactly tasty). They complained gluten-free pancakes didn't taste good, and I scoffed at them and suggested they suck it up for the free food. While I was visiting I made some Trader Joe's gluten-free brownies, thinking if it's from Trader Joe's it must taste good. Not true! That pan of brownies sat there all weekend... no one, not even my dad or his girlfriend, ate them (highly uncharacteristic of my dad to refuse brownies).

Don't search for images of food when you're hungry or craving sweets.

Which leads me to the word of the day: uncharacteristic. Except for those with celiac disease, people are generally fine with eating gluten. True, it's a relatively recent thing for our bodies to learn to accept in terms of intestinal evolution, but you may have noticed humans are pretty hardy little buggers; if we've been A-OK with it for the last 10,000 years, why has the last year or so been so tough on our little tummies? Because it hasn't! We're just fine with eating gluten, but celebrities and fad diets have told us otherwise and now a quarter of US adults are buying everything gluten-free.

But there's a giant glitch: gluten is a naturally occurring protein in wheat, barley and rye. You know what else comes from wheat, barley and rye? BEER. True, there are gluten-free beers available, but just try going into your regular bar or restaurant and ordering one. I would love to see someone order a gluten-free pizza crust ($5 extra) and a Bud Light. How silly.

September 25, 2010

Love Of My Life

It doesn't feel strange at all to me that the first time I felt real love was for my cat Milo. I loved my parents and my sisters, had some obligatory love for more distant family members, really liked my friends, but that cat was different.

And it's not just me saying that: ask my family, my friends who knew him, even my old neighbors. He was mine, and he was universally loved. (Well, almost universally loved, but that's another story.) Once, my dad and my first boyfriend were talking about him and my dad said, "It's a shame you never met him." My boyfriend laughed, thinking my dad (who never admitted liking animals, especially cats) was being sarcastic, but my dad quickly corrected him, saying, "No, it really is a shame. He was a good cat."

I loved my boyfriends, but now that they're out of the picture that love is gone. Milo has been out of the picture for almost 9 years but he's still the love of my life. Today he would have turned 16. I would have made him a cake (wet food on a plate with dry food sprinkled all over, topped with a candle), would be telling my friends to come celebrate, and would have taken pictures. He would have hated it but he would have put up with it, because that's just the kind of guy he was.

It was with him that I recognized that warm spark in my heart, and because of that I was able to recognize it with others, even Chloe, as different as a cat could possibly be from Milo. Somehow animals give more than people do, something I'll always be grateful for.

September 23, 2010

Being A Girl

The best picture I had of me being a girl. It's called, "Om nom nom."

I hemmed and hawed over whether I should write girl or woman... I picked girl because half the time I still don't consider myself more woman than girl, and even the strongest most adult women have girly moments. Especially when it comes to boys.

It's so easy for a woman to say she hates being female. We have to deal with periods (which suck), we have greater burdens in society (see my earlier post about it being cool that you have a career but not as cool as having a family), we want so badly to please whatever man we're with that we ignore our own needs, and when some man disappoints us in some way we're all torn up about it. That last part is true no matter what the situation is: good and not so good men disappoint women, women who often deserve more because of that desire to please. (Granted, this is not a 100% universal truth, but I bet you know more than a handful of people who can attest.)

I'm not quite sure what it is about me that makes me follow this pattern, but in my rather limited dating experience I've managed to pick boyfriends those close to me don't necessarily like. There was one certain boy who seemed to charm everyone, but that didn't last long and those close to me didn't get to know him well. But my most recent love interest was much trickier: something in me knew not to trust him, knew there was something deeper that I wouldn't appreciate, but that damn accent and charming smile and shared love for nature that we could discuss for hours roped me in. Thing about this particular situation was I knew it was temporary, so part of me wanted to ignore the overpowering rational side of me that was saying, "Caution!" and let the quiet romantic side of me take over. Goddamn rational side always wins these arguments. So, though I regret that there wasn't more time to get to know each other, the things we didn't do, the conversations we didn't have, I don't regret the decisions I made. And though I'm definitely pretty sad over the loss of someone I had feelings for, someone I considered a friend, and mostly upset that I am sad over those losses, I still love being a girl, emotions and all.

Feeling this sadness proves those romantic feelings in me exist, proves I took what time I had to get to know someone at least a little despite knowing it had a definite expiration date. It proves also that I can see the good in people, can recognize the talent and beauty in them. And that's what I appreciate. I know my friends are flawed, I know my family is flawed, I know I'm flawed. We all are, but I'm ready to see the best, give someone the benefit of the doubt, see everyone's glass as half full.

At least until you give me no reason to do so anymore. I'm not above writing people off... After all, I'm just a girl.

September 21, 2010


You're either with us or a fucking terrorist.
"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it." George Bernard Shaw
This must be necessarily true in order for a person to be a good and loyal patriot. Americans seem to take it to heart; we really believe we're the best despite the shit we pull on other countries (though, to be fair, no country is good and pure). Now we're in this thing against Muslims and people are so uptight and afraid over silly little things. A school group, studying the world's religions, visited a synagogue, attended a gospel, and met Hindus. But people don't get all upset until they visit a mosque. And they don't even get upset when they visit the mosque- they wait until there's all this renewed tension surrounding Muslims to release a video of some of the students participating in the prayer to get all upset. The cool thing is the parents aren't upset at all- school officials are saying it was a bad move on the teacher's part. Which is silly: they can visit holy places of other religions, but the very fact that people got upset over them visiting a mosque is the whole point of the class, called "Enduring Beliefs and the World Today."
"The backlash against the visit... underscored the need for such exchanges."
Um, exactly. How can Christians, who are supposed to turn the other cheek and be accepting of others in the name of the Lord, be so hard hearted against another group of people, for no reason? I understand the flaw in my rhetorical question: humans are flawed, religion or not. But when the religion you profess to follow preaches such humble traits, aren't you a little more of a hypocrite if you don't follow?

These maps are awesome!

1. Fox is the Devil's station.

F = 6th letter

O = 15th letter (1+5=6)

X = 24th letter (2+4=6)

2. Sarah Palin is an anagram of Sharia Plan. Think about it. (Thanks, Reddit!)

September 13, 2010

Fall Is Here!

Get ready, California. It's fire season!

San Diego may not have realized it was summer until August, but boy come September and it's already excited about fall.

OK, I may be projecting my excitement on a city, but there is a change in the air.

Some people say that San Diego has only one season: summer. Or, mostly summer. And sure, we don't get snow and our streets aren't lined with fallen leaves (they're lined with palm and pine, instead), but those people don't notice the more subtle changes of the seasons. Going for a run in the mornings is a lot more comfortable since the temperature dropped, and the gathering of dark clouds over my neighborhood the other day (with a bonus of sprinkles!) made taking my car in for work almost not completely miserable. And then I remembered all the amazing things fall brings, like apples! And fall beer! And pumpkins! And orange things! And my birthday! And fog! And warm clothes! And hats! And Halloween!

And Oktoberfest!

Fall also means I can drink tea without it being uncomfortably warm. And light candles for the mood and for warmth. And I won't have to add ice cubes to the fish tank. And the cat will shed less. And I can wear just a sweatshirt. And I can cuddle with blankets on the couch. And maybe it'll rain, and I can listen to it fall in the street right outside my window.

Not to mention, this fall will hopefully bring some new opportunities. And that I'm definitely ready for.

September 8, 2010

Urge To Fly

I've been restless. Pretty much since the first days of 2010, when I first began to realize my job was leading absolutely nowhere, I've felt caught in a rut of shit jobs and abandoned dreams.

But I may have found a way to break the rut, if not follow my dreams. As you may have read before, it's come to my knowledge that I'd probably make a pretty fantastic English teacher. I met with the academic director at my school and she suggested that the only way I could be a better candidate for when they're hiring is if I get a TEFL certificate.

And you know what? I could teach anywhere in the world with that. And that's kind of exciting.

I've had the urge to leave San Diego. California, even. Not forever, but long enough to scratch the itch that's been growing for the last 9 months. I was thinking East Coast, but with a TEFL certificate I can go to the UK or Australia... or maybe elsewhere in Europe, or even South America. As a native speaker with a degree and a certificate I can teach at any number of language schools around the world or here in San Diego.

And that's where I'll start. I was feeling kind of down about myself for being weeks away from 25 and have made negative progress on my masters degree (hell, I don't even know what I want to do...), but isn't now the time to go where the wind takes you? Isn't your twenties the time to travel the world, gain international experience, meet new and interesting people and have the kinds of stories you tell your grandkids? And if I'm having the itch now, well dammit I oughta scratch it.

September 6, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

And boy can we be stupid sometimes.

A certain pastor by the name of Terry Jones is epically stupid. He's decided that he's going to burn multiple copies of the Koran, the Islamic holy book, on September 11th. Dammit, man, shit like this is what gives Americans a bad name.

Let's count the contradictory statements made my Mr. Jones:

1. Mr. Jones says he's going to burn the Koran because "it's full of lies," and later in the same article says he has "no experience with [the Koran] whatsoever. I only know what the Bible says." No where in the Bible does it say the Koran is full of lies, and I challenge him or anyone else to prove me wrong.

2. Mr. Jones "said he sincerely hoped" the burning would not lead to violence. Yet he's receiving death threats and carries a .40-caliber pistol on his hip, saying, "we have to be careful." What the fuck is he going to do with the gun? A Christian pastor preaching peace does not burn the sacred book of another religion or carry a gun because he fears he may need protection. He receives three times as many negative e-mails as he does positive ones, and church groups and organizations the country and world over are calling for this ridiculousness to stop.

3. Mr. Jones does not think his demonstration will put American troops at risk. But because he's now made his intentions clear to the entire world he can't really be surprised when some very offended Islamic radicals decide to attack the greatest symbol of America they can find: our troops. Our troops are over there trying to defend this idiot's freedom to be an idiot, even though this idiot is putting their very lives at risk. Not to mention, normal Muslims are disgusted at this man's outright ignorance and hate and feel the need to defend their beliefs.

4. Mr. Jones claims in one interview that he isn't spreading hate because he's spreading truth. Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, says, "[this] is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community." See that, Mr. Jones? You're the one terrorizing now.

5. Mr. Jones as been denied a permit for the demonstration and the burning by the fire department (citation #1, citation #2) but plans on going ahead anyway, saying "it's just politics." Also, he expects "quite a scene." But in this interview he claims the fire and police departments not only have no problem with what he's planning on doing, but will defend his demonstration.

I could point out a few inconsistencies with the Bible, I could point out America is not a Christian nation, I could point out this idiot is doing the exact opposite of what the Bible actually calls on Christians to do. But it wouldn't get anywhere. Part of me wants to say he's a senile old man looking for some recognition and found a really dumb, obvious way to get his name in the papers, but most of me knows he really does believe this, really does believe God is so proud of him, and really does think that burning the hold book of an entire religion will get them thinking, "hey, maybe Christianity really is the way to go. Huh, good thing Mr. Jones helped me see the light."

Part of me hopes God will be judging everyone when we die because if it's the God I know/knew/wanted to believe in He would be standing there laughing at people like Mr. Jones when they come to the gates of Heaven saying, "but... but... but... I did it all in your name!" And God and the angels would have a hearty laugh, wipe away some tears, and tell the poor soul, "um, no, I did not ask you to persecute whole peoples, but to quietly evangelize by being a good example. You failed. Off to Hell now, bye bye."

But most of me kind of knows that isn't what's going to happen when we die. And in that case, Mr. Jones needs to kick it now.

September 5, 2010

Poison Apple

Laws protecting the Earth from human greed exist everywhere, but aren't always as effective as they intend. Sometimes the average Joe feels the need to take matters into his own hands.

Ed Hern owns the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in South Africa and is raising the baby rhino orphaned when its mother, the last adult rhino on another reserve in the country, was killed by poachers (I wrote about it here). His idea is to inject cyanide into the horns of the rhinos on his reserve. Theoretically, according to Hern, the cyanide won't harm the animals because there are no blood vessels in the horn to transport the chemical to the rest of the body (rhino horns are like fingernails or hair: connected to the body, but what we do to our nails and hair doesn't affect the rest of our body in any way). Hern says,
"The aim would be to kill, or make seriously ill anyone who consumes the horn. If someone in China eats it and gets violently sick, they are not going to buy it again."
He does have a point. Rhino horn is used in ancient Chinese remedies, so I imagine it acts as a giant placebo, seeing how rhino horn (keratin) has no healing or aphrodisiac properties whatsoever. But if generations upon generations of your family members have used rhino horn, why wouldn't you use it? And if it's so expensive and hard to get, it must work, right? So if people start dying after consuming rhino horn maybe they'll see the connection and stop buying it. And if they stop buying it poachers will stop making money from it and stop hunting rhinos.

But there is a good counter point: attempted murder. At least in America it's illegal to purposefully taint products with the aim of causing harm or death. I have no idea about South Africa, but I can see the moral qualms with such a plan. Killing rhinos and buying rhino horn are illegal, so could poisoning the horn be justifiable?


HA! Yes.

I suppose I knew this day would come sooner or later.

A couple of my more loyal readers have asked, "what if someone you write about reads your blog and gets upset?" I'd taken this into consideration and decided when I began to not use any names or nicknames, with few exceptions (certain people know who they are and so does pretty much everyone else, so why bother?). A person reading about themselves will probably recognize themselves, but no one else likely will (again, except for those few exceptions).

The other day I got a phone call from a certain person who, having discovered this little corner of the Internet from another certain person (who, by the way, went to the Glenn Beck rally in DC, which is a whole 'nother can of worms) expressed extreme displeasure at some, um, less than flattering (but not untrue) depictions. Because this certain person brought it to my attention, saying some rather unflattering things in return, I promised to exclude her from this blog in the future.

Which brings me to the point of this whole ordeal.

I started writing publicly when I was laid off from my writing job. The point was to keep my mind working during the in-between period, to keep practicing my words, and also learn more about writing on the Internet. I consider myself a writer: I may not be getting paid to write (THANKS A LOT BLOGGER) but I studied English my whole life, earned a degree in writing, and have an enthusiasm for language that I hope will soon earn myself a little more than what I'm currently bringing in. I also decided that I wasn't going to censor myself for fear of hurting someone's feelings.

And guess what? I hurt someone's feelings.

This certain person is of the opinion that only flattering, nice things should be said about certain people (certain person included), and we argued because I, surprisingly, am not of that opinion. I've only written real, true things, and some of them happen to be unflattering. The problem, however, lies in misreading and misinterpreting by certain people looking for a specific answer, which I can't help or change.

Those close to me know that sometimes my life ends up in writing on the Internet. I'm not out to air petty arguments or disagreements. That's boring. Also silly. But some things about my life and my history do affect who I am and I write about it. Sugar coating life is not what I'm interested in, so I hereby issue an apology to anyone past, present and future who is or will be offended by what I write. Except for the certain person who expressly asked me to refrain from writing about her in the future, I don't plan on changing. It's a risk I knew I was taking when I started and after a year and a half it caught up to me. I could change who I am and what I want to be or I could chalk the experience up to job risks.

To the rest of you unaffected by what I write, enjoy.