December 31, 2011

Two Thousand Eleven

After the disappointment that was 2010 I decided 2011 was going to be better. It so fucking was.

First, it was a year overwhelmingly full of love. I fell in love with San Diego all over again, discovered a love for running (which I'm working on rekindling as the year closes), and fell ridiculously crazy in love with a wonderful friend who I absolutely cannot wait to spend the next year with. I love my neighborhood, my brat of a cat, my apartment with the bars on the windows, and my new car. I loved seeing my friends move on in adulthood and succeed, paying off the debt I'd carried around since graduation (one of my favorite accomplishments), and seeing my sister get serious with someone who's great for her.

I started off the year by participating in a flash mob. I enjoyed it a ton, even though my roommate got really sick the days leading up to it and wasn't able to do it with me and now that flash mobs are so last year, I can at least say I participated in one. For silliness.

Easily my biggest accomplishment for 2011 was finishing 3 half marathons, 2 5Ks and a 4 mile race for a total of 49.3 racing miles and who knows how many training miles. I bought two new pairs of running shoes, several pairs of dry wicking socks, a running jacket, shorts and an iPod and send a few hundred dollars on entry fees and transportation. I have a small stack of bibs, 3 finisher medals (one of which glows in the dark!), a bunch of safety pins and more technical t-shirts than I know what to do with. It's a good feeling, and when I continue in 2012 I'm gonna try to beat that 2 hour mark.

Probably my second biggest accomplishment for 2011 was not moving. That's right, I had the same address for a full year, something which seriously doesn't happen very often for me. One of my goals for 2012 (a ridiculously easy goal, at that) is to make this address the one I live in the longest in San Diego. I have absolutely no intentions of moving, and unless my roommate decides to buy a place she doesn't either. North Park certainly feels a lot more like home now, and I've learned to appreciate what it offers.

I also was able to find a job in my area, one in which I'm using my degree (and, for the most part, need it) and making a higher rate than I ever have, which, now that there's a car payment, still seems like I'm just getting by. My commute is short, my hours are good, my coworkers are a lot of fun to be around and my boss can be pretty generous when he wants to be. It may not be my dream job, and one goal for 2012 will be to find my dream job, but it's good for right now, and it's helping me learn a lot that's going to help me in the future.

This year was not without it's down moments, however. In a coincidental yet poetic turn of events, the day before my birthday, which just so happened to be a day before the 1 year anniversary of my dad officially cutting me out of his life, I went to his house and gathered the last of my belongings there. It was civil and very quick and I'm glad to have gotten it over with, but it has made the last few months extra full of anger and resentment. Every time I see an older woman with red hair I feel incredible hatred towards these perfect strangers. It's becoming difficult to understand how such hatred can exist in the same place as such incredible love.

It was also not a good year for electronics. My camera battery is 99% dead, and the minute or so that it holds a charge really isn't long enough to take and download even one picture. Also unfortunately, I don't think they make those camera batteries anymore (at 4 years old it might as well be ancient) so it looks like I might have to buy a new one. Lucky for me, however, I have my own personal photographer (ok, he's not my own personal photographer) who is usually willing to take my pictures for me, so buying a camera isn't an immediate need. My computer also took a turn for the worse- a laptop without a working screen isn't good for much. The weird thing is after all the shit I put that machine through it still works perfectly and is way faster than the one I've been borrowing for the last few months, except for the screen. A new MacBook Pro is very, very high on my list of things to buy once I pay taxes. Finally, though this isn't really an electronic, my trusty Hyundai Accent died, forcing me to buy a new car.

Other events this year included two cousin's weddings, a trip to Disneyland, discovering goodies at my farmer's market, the rapture, the return of 90s TV shows, learning to drive stick shift, paragliding, getting my 6th piercing, not cutting my hair (it's super long!), a power outage, and getting more fish. It's been a very full year, and I'm proud to say I achieved the goals I set for myself at the beginning. I'm also happy to be looking forward to 2012, taking steps to accomplish my new goals, and sitting with my boyfriend and a bucket of popcorn as we watch people flip out over the Mayan calendar prediction.

December 29, 2011

Conservation Lows

More than a dozen dead elephants in one box.

This year wasn't a particularly good one for a lot of people, mostly due to the world economy, but it was a particularly bad one for endangered animals. In addition to smuggling, a man releasing his private zoo before offing himself and the essential acceptance of global climate change as legitimate fact, poaching was steeply on the rise in 2011. More than 400 rhinos were poached this year (compared to less than 15 just 4 years ago) and thousands of elephants were killed for their tusks. Millions of dollars worth of illegal ivory was confiscated and showed that poachers are getting smart in the ways they kill elephants and transport ivory to Asia.

Which really pisses me off. As awful as rhino poaching is and as useless as it is (really, Asia? Powdered rhino horn is going to cure your cancer?) at least they believe it has medicinal properties so valuable that they'll pay it's weight in gold for even a few ounces. Elephant tusks, on the other hand, are used purely for decoration. Ivory is carved into shapes (sometimes, for irony, in elephant shapes), used to adorn silverware and handles and added around the house to show off wealth. How fucking vain. Oh, and sometimes elephant feet are also chopped off to be used as a side table to display more wealthy shit. Even ivory. Cause, you know, that's high fashion. And totally worth causing an entire species to decline and untold amounts of pain and suffering.

Again, I'm left to wonder what will happen when these animals do disappear from the planet because, let's be real, it's only a matter of time for most of them. There's only one species of rhino that is doing alright and that's only because of extreme protection, and even they had record deaths this year, and the rest are on the fast track to extinction. I'm still not sure what people will do when there's no more supply of rhino horn... will the existing horns skyrocket in price? Will Asian medicines be altered to include parts from other animals? Will the other animals used in Asian medicine be poached even more (bye bye tigers)? Will people realize they were silly to think that rhino horn or tiger penis had any benefits whatsoever and shrug that they're gone now? Will ivory become even more prized and will people begin hurting each other for a piece?

And what about the rest of us? I'm always one to revel in "I told you so," but (to quote my favorite movie butler/caretaker), "on that day... even I won't want to."

December 21, 2011

Goodbye, Accent

My first car.

Much like when I was 15 and thought my cat would be with me forever, I really didn't think the day would come when I would say goodbye to my car, that I'd be 35 and still driving the car I got when I was 16. That car and I have been through quite a bit in the nearly 10 years I had it: my first job, a tire blowout, moving to San Diego, a near death experience with a dead battery, half a dozen trips to San Francisco, a weekend drive to Humboldt, 15 months of a 90 minute daily commute to Africa and countless (OK, 11) addresses.

My Hyundai Accent was $10,000 new in 2002 and I unwrapped it on the lot. It had .2 miles on the odometer and over the next nine and a half years I put 141,000 more on it. My intention was to run it into the ground and only upgrade when I had no choice. Fortunately, that happened at a time when I was in a position to upgrade. I was able to make the decision to buy a new car rather than be forced to pay for the necessary repairs and go days or even weeks without my car. It's a huge relief to know I won't have to worry about problems or repairs for a good long while, but handing over the keys was a little heartbreaking.

Although, the whole car selling experience fascinated me. For the last month I was under the impression that selling a car was a much bigger deal than selling any other used item, but it really wasn't (for the most part, the same went for buying a car). I posted my car on Craigslist at 6:30pm and it was gone within 3 hours. My phone was ringing off the hook and the first guy to look at it wanted it. My car was barely even working and people were calling and emailing offering cash without even seeing it, which makes me wonder if I priced it a little low (honestly I didn't... the car needs work). I made the buyer sign a form I created myself stating the car was sold "as is" and without a smog check (required by law, but obviously I would have been unable to fulfill that requirement) and signed my title away.

I'm going to miss that car. For what it was, it required very little maintenance and effort on my part, got great gas mileage and despite the noises and quirks I knew it'd get me where I needed to. It was time to say goodbye though, and I hope it'll have a few more years once it gets a new transmission.

Bye, Accent. You were a great first car.

December 19, 2011

Living Alone

Making it.

Exactly one year ago today I started this blog post after reading a hard-hitting New York Times article about the trials and challenges of being young and living in New York City and trying hard to make it. (The only reason I didn't publish was because I didn't save the link to the article and then couldn't find it again.) The point was supposed to be college graduates will do what it takes to live in the city because doing what they're passionate about matters to them, which is not something our parents and grandparents did. I expected to read stories of aspiring actors and artists working multiple serving jobs, taking any role or gig just because it would get their names out there and that's where you start. What I read was entirely different.

The article opened up with an inside look into some kid living in the center of the city, in a tiny apartment, trying to make it, and was quoted talking about sacrifices he makes in order to live where he does (unsafe neighborhood, run down building, no space to turn around). The kicker? His mom pays his rent.

What. The. Fuck. I'm making it on my own as a college graduate in a shitty economy and my mommy isn't paying my rent. I'm working because I have no choice but to live on my own (when I started this post a year ago I had written "I'm working in a crap job because I have no choice"), but I wouldn't want it any other way anyway. My job choice is important to me, like this kid, and I've left jobs before because I was unhappy, but I have yet to let someone pay for my rent or bills because I just didn't like my job or it wasn't what I went to college for. Clearly: I spent over a year of my college educated life driving a broken van part time for just above minimum wage because it was paying the bills at the time. But you know what? My princess cat wouldn't do so well homeless.

The rest of the people they interviewed were at least paying their rents, but 2 of them had professional jobs and just chose to spend their entire paychecks living in a 8X5 room in a posh neighborhood. That's not "oh it's sooo hard to make it in this economy!" That's making a choice and living with the consequences. Hey, I'd have tons of credit card debt too if I ate at restaurants and went to clubs every night, but I don't. I make choices, and I live with the consequences. Not going out means I don't get into debt. Seems worth it to me.

I'm also reminded that the time is just around the corner for those wonderful Christmas letters we get from people we apparently don't speak with anymore because they think we care about the very mundane aspects of their lives. A couple of years ago (or was it last year? I'm getting old...) one relative sent out her family letter and ended it saying how, like everyone, they're getting by and waiting for the economy to turn around, because life got so much harder with the increased taxes on the wealthy and now they have to pick and choose which charities they donate to.

Such crap.

December 18, 2011

Religious Questioning

First thing that came to mind when I did a Google image search...

Not long ago I had a random question about God being omnicient: if God is all knowing and knows what a person will do, what a person will be like and what will happen to a person before that person is even conceived, if God creates a person knowing full well that this person will be bad and will not repent or change his ways at any point during the person's life, why wold God make such a person?

As a Catholic I was raised to believe that all people have free will, and that's why bad things happen to good people, but that even the worst sinners can repent at any time, call Jesus into their hearts, and be saved and welcomed into Heaven with open arms as long as the repentance was genuine- even if it's on a death bed and likely fueled by fear of Hell (which, to hear many Catholics and Christians tell it, is a perfectly acceptable reason to believe in God). So Hitler, who lived with such hatred for a very large number of people, could have called out to God, sorry for the way he lived his life and sorry for the atrocities he caused, and God would have happily called his soul to heaven (I'm going to leave out the fact that most sects of Christians, including Catholics, are supposed to believe all other faiths are damned to Hell, so in that sense Heaven would actually be the perfect place for Hitler).

But there's a huge problem with that logic, if God knows what's going to happen to every person then He should know whether or not a horrible person would eventually repent, and if He knows if a person wouldn't repent why should that person be created in the first place?

Additionally, and this is my mere human logic, why not just not make a bad person, repentance or not? What if Hitler had a moment of clarity before his death and repented to God for his actions? What if Hitler is in Heaven? Leads me to believe, if repentance and turning to God at the last moment no matter what the sins is so important, that God is pretty selfish. Seems pretty human.

I've also been going through some Jehovah's Witness literature (not because I sought it out, because it's been sitting on my boyfriend's table after they talked to him, and he asked so many questions they ended up leaving). The material is supposed to explain why you should want to be a Witness, why it's best to devote your life to God/Jehovah, and what it is the Witnesses actually believe. Sex before marriage is a big no-no (it will undoubtedly lead to disease and an empty, vapid life), everyone should definitely get married, and all married couples should have daily prayer time. The booklet I read had a true life account from someone who grew up in a bad neighborhood (in an impoverished country), got caught up in gambling (he was "passionate about horses") and led a life filled with alcohol, women and bad decisions. He turned to Jehovah's Witnesses and is now married with a daughter. Ta dah! What a great life. Except in the story he says he doesn't hide anything from his daughter and tells her about his past in order to show her what a life outside the Jehovah's can be like. I'm not a parent, but I'm not so sure that's a great idea- all those "I used to be on drugs and was in jail but then I got clean and now my life is fantastic" presentations throughout school only shed light on the possibility that you can do whatever the fuck you want until you decide to adult-up and then everything will be ok.

These things just shed more doubt and uncertainty on the whole religious idea. I know it's the whole point of faith, but having blind faith without real or solid answers is a little difficult. Even when I was a kid I asked "why?" and "because I said so" never cut it. Why would I be different now?

December 7, 2011

A Cynic Falls In Love

This one has a pretty big say in my romantic life.

I feel like I've reached the age where I've seen enough real life relationships succeed and fail to know what makes one work. A few years ago, during one of the times I was contemplating ending things with The Ex, someone told me that if we did break up it would be a successful relationship, that just because the relationship ends doesn't mean it's a failure. A failure, similarly, doesn't just mean the couple split; it could mean they've stopped being in a relationship but haven't split up because they don't have the guts.

Most of the last four months I've been head over heels crazy for one of my closest friends, and although I'd missed being in love and wanted to be with someone I could feel strongly for, the speed and intensity with which it all happened is very unlike me. I'm a cynic. I don't believe in love at first sight, soul mates or destiny. And yet there hasn't been a day since August that I haven't felt powerful. I have that I'm-in-love feeling every single day. No one's made me feel this way about myself before. It's pretty incredible. One of the biggest differences between this relationship and every other person I've been involved with (or know) is that we want the same things. Or values line up, which means there's no automatic end to the relationship. It's not like he's allergic to cats. Or wants kids. Or likes pulp. We have the chance to give it a shot and not assume we have an expiration date or that there would be some huge hurdle to work around. That makes me really relaxed and unconcerned about where it's going or what it means or what we're doing. The big stuff isn't a problem and it makes the little stuff seem... little.

There are things you can't force or fake in a relationship: a genuine interest in what the other person does, a genuine desire to be near him, attraction (and chemistry), a genuine desire to facilitate his life and an appreciation for him as a person. And then there are things you can force, or at least remind yourself to do every now and then: take on an extra chore, let him pick how you spend your Sunday together, use your manners and let the little things go. I'm a volatile person sometimes. I pick fights, I'll argue any point just because I can and I'm proud. I learned a long time ago that I need to put most of that on the back burner if I want to have a meaningful relationship. But it really helps when you genuinely want to make someone as happy as he makes you. And that my cat is just as smitten as I am.

December 5, 2011

Zoom Zoom

So I bought a car.

Yay!

This was not something I was expecting to do for a while, and not something I was prepared for, but I'm pretty excited about and happy with what I got. It's a Mazda 2, something that's only been around in the states for about a year, the manual sport model (which sounds fancy, but it's the base model because that's what I can afford), and I'm still figuring out how to drive it. My friend helped me get it home the first night and gave me a much, much needed refresher course on how to drive stick (I stalled a good half dozen times before having a successful start) and I've been trying to get the hang of it ever since.

I broke it in this weekend with a trip to Las Vegas. (Hey, I spend ~$15 thousand on a new car I'm not going to spend another $200 on a plane ticket, OK?) There are some questions I have about driving stick, and about driving this particular car, but I think I'll get there quickly.

I'm pretty proud that I was able to do this, and do it 100% on my own. I got a loan from my credit union (which was a BITCH because of my employment status- never doing 1099 again), had a decent down payment saved up, great credit and did all my research in about 2 weeks. On the one hand, it really sucked that as soon as I'm in a position to buy things I want and save up some money my car breaks and I have to get myself into a load of debt, but I'm fortunate that I don't also still have my credit card debt, bad credit, or less than what my current work situation is. It's nice knowing I can do this.

Saying goodbye to my Hyundai Accent isn't going to be easy. I might have given that car a lot of shit in the past but for 140+ thousand miles in 9 years and very little maintenance requirements, even after what would be considered an accident, is pretty great. I did love my little car, but there was no way I was going to rebuilt the transmission. I'm sad it didn't make it to 10 years though, and I'll miss that car. But it's going to be very great to not have to worry about car repairs or whether or not my car will make it on a trip for a good long time.

So if you're looking for a fixer-upper car I've got an automatic 2002 Hyundai Accent that needs a new transmission, battery, tires, brakes and shocks with your name on it.

November 15, 2011

Slugging


And then society does something awesome: carpooling with strangers.

Slugging, as it's called, is when a car pulls up to a line of waiting people, calls out a destination, picks up 2 random strangers, and hops in the carpool lane. Yes, trusting complete and total strangers with your commute, your car, and your life.

Why oh why would people do this, and in DC to boot? Hint: not because carpooling is environmentally friendly. Slugging has a number of benefits for both driver and passenger, which is what's making it so popular. The driver gets a quicker commute by skipping congested highways in the much emptier carpool lanes (and in some places escapes a toll, saving actual dollars) and the passengers get a free ride that's much faster and cheaper than public transportation. Win win!

The thing that makes slugging great (or rather, the thing that made news organizations take notice) is not necessarily that it's environmentally friendly or a nice time saver for everyone, it's that it came about organically and without government assistance or encouragement. People wait in line at the big employment centers in the city and sooner or later someone going their way will come along and offer up a ride. Completely for free.

I actually found out about this months ago (like, 8 months ago), but I was reminded of it this week because I've become carless.

That's right... my trusty little Hyundai which wasn't actually so trusty has finally gone kaput. It was a slow end and I kept telling it to just do this one thing (make another drive up to my hometown, jump my roommate's car, drive a little faster because I was running late) and I'd get it fixed. I also promised it new tires and shocks. But when Kelly Bluebook said my car wasn't worth even giving me an estimate (they can do that???) I decided it was time.

And now I really wish we had slugging in San Diego. Or some form of reliable public transportation. However, I'm incredibly fortunate to have people I can depend on. My roommate just so happens to work right down the street from me and usually starts and ends around the same time I do, and she's been awesomely driving me to and from work most days. I'm also fortunate to have a self-employed boyfriend who will let me use his car on days he doesn't need it and offers to drive me on days he does need it. And, by a stroke of good luck, my boss happens to have a spare truck he isn't using (due to some bad business luck on his end) and has generously offered to let me borrow it.

I wish I lived close enough to work to ride a bike, or that my city had public transportation (there isn't even a bus route near my work). But because most of my whole country is a must-have-car place I'll be buying myself a new car pretty soon here. Which makes me a little sad. I thought my car would make it to our 10 year anniversary, and I thought (and feared) I'd have it forever.

November 14, 2011

Barbaric


It's not surprising to hear stories like Ethiopian tribes killing their infants and children for what seem like ridiculous and insignificant reasons.

Like when a baby is born to a woman who hasn't gone through the marriage ceremony rites, or when a baby's top teeth come in before his bottom teeth, or when a child is injured in certain ways. These babies, called mingi, are cursed, and must be killed in order to protect the rest of the tribal members from drought, famine and death. The tribes don't see it as murder, they see it as protecting the rest of their members. By sacrificing one infant they see it as a sort of insurance policy that must not be allowed to expire.

Naturally, the mothers of these mingi children are sad at the loss of their babies. The connection they have with their babies while they're still developing is understated, and even when the women know they must give up their babies (often without even being able to look at them before they're killed) they still want to keep them. But they don't because they don't have a choice.


North Carolina used to (as recently as 2003) legally allow the forced sterilization of people deemed to have undesirable genetic traits, which included poverty, alcoholism and promiscuity, in order to improve the genetics of the area. The state eugenics board (aimed at "improving the genetic composition of a population") was formed in the 1920s and tens of thousands of women and men were sterilized until the 1970s. Many of the victims had no idea what was happening to them. One woman was sterilized at 13, immediately after giving birth to the child she had after her rape, and didn't find out about it until she was married 6 years later and trying to have more children.

This is America. Things like that should never happen here. It should never happen anywhere, but we're supposed to be a country of educated, free people. These victims, the ones who are still alive, might not even be compensated. The state issued an apology a few years ago, which was seen as too little too late. Sad.

November 5, 2011

No Excuse for Abortion

A person.

A proposed law in Mississippi will make it illegal to have an abortion except to save the mother's life. The new law will define "personhood" as a fertilized egg. Not even a growing fetus- a fertilized egg, two cells that haven't even implanted yet, which haven't even grown and don't have any nourishment in order to have a life. A fertilized egg will have full legal protection according to the law, which means it has the same rights as you and I and a person can be prosecuted for harming a fertilized egg. Including the mother carrying the fertilized egg.

So what if she has a natural miscarriage? Will it seem suspicious if she's unmarried? Or what if she does harmful things (drinking, eating mercury-laden fish) because she doesn't realize an egg has been fertilized? Sometimes women go weeks or even months before realizing they're pregnant, and if a fertilized egg is a person then a woman could be jailed for unknowingly harming or killing a "person."

What about birth control methods that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting? Or medical treatments that are lifesaving for a person but damaging to a fertilized egg? Even IVF is going to be sketchy under this law (and IVF is for people who want to have babies): an egg is fertilized outside of the uterus and then inserted in the hopes of implantation. Several eggs are used at once to increase the odds that one will implant and turn into a fetus and then into a baby. But what happens to those extra eggs? This new law will make it illegal for them to be discarded, which could mean parents who really want one baby might be forced to have several at once.

What about rape or incest? This new law insists that a resulting pregnancy will be more blessing than reminder of the rape, that women who go through with the pregnancy are happy they did, women who choose abortion regret it, and hey, there's always adoption (because there are so many families just waiting for an unwanted rape baby). One woman is standing up in favor is this proposed law, saying she is a rape survivor and regrets the abortion she had 13 years ago. Her words? "Rape is no excuse for abortion." She believes that what she did to her baby (the two cells that found each other in her uterus much like a tumor) was far worse than what her rapist did to her. And maybe it was. Maybe her 31 year old self is now regretting the baby she could have had at 18. But at 18 years old could she really have been in a good position to raise a baby she was forced to have? Does he really believe forcing other 18 year old women to have their rapists babies is for the best?

My biggest gripe with people who are so anti-abortion/pro-life as to want to legislate it and make it a crime for others to choose a different outcome is that adoption is always used as a fall back. Just have the rape baby and give it up for adoption, as if a life in foster care is good enough.

Maybe I'm just biased because I grew up knowing I was planned for, wanted (at least by one parent), provided for and taken care of, but I think all children deserve the same chance I got. Growing up in foster care, or in poverty because the mother had no choice but to give birth at a time she wasn't ready, or knowing you're unwanted and a burden, doesn't make for healthy productive adults. Sure there are those success stories of people who started out in shitty childhoods and became something great but they're not the majority. Shouldn't all kids be wanted? How would it feel to grow up in foster care because your mother couldn't bear looking at you because half your DNA and physical features belong to her rapist? How would you feel knowing our father was a rapist and probably has no idea you even exist? It doesn't seem reasonable to me. And that's why I believe the option to abort a fertilized egg or fetus should remain legal. It just means there's a choice, it doesn't mean that legal abortion becomes mandatory. If you want to have the baby you conceived after being raped you can, but if you decide that's an undue punishment you don't have to, and if you don't want an abortion but don't want a baby you can give it up for adoption. Three options to choose from, since no one chooses to be raped.

But that's just me. And if this thing passes Mississippi will be even more missable.

October 29, 2011

Louder Than Words


People are really good at telling others how they are. I've been hearing a lot of it lately, and the more I hear it the more I believe it's not true. When I was in high school and all the girls were wearing shirts that said ridiculous things like "Mrs. Timberlake," or "Caliente" it was blindingly obvious that the people buying and wearing them were anything but. I'm well into my 20s now and not only am I hearing it more, but I'm hearing it from people who are older than me and should know better. But they're still wrong.

When I started at my current job the office manager would talk about how her husband makes 6 figures and only works because she gets fulfillment out of making a company grow, something she's done in the past. But certain things make me think maybe she really does need the work: working 10+ hours a day in a highly stressful environment for little money, wearing clothes with holes in them or clothes that don't quite fit, bad spending habits in the past, and her mother-in-law lives with them in their apartment in a shady neighborhood. Granted, some of these things I do too (hell, my apartment has bars on the windows), but I'm not claiming that I don't absolutely need to work, and all of these things make me question whether that's really true for her.

I've also heard "friends" go on about how important friendship is, how much they value others, how they want others to value their friendship, too. Proclamations like these aren't true but I get the feeling that the people saying them likely want them to be true, at least for the time being. A couple years back I was friends with a coworker who said these things all the time and I fully believed it. Then I left that job and realized he was using me for a ride to work and a couch to sleep on. When I started hearing those same proclamations some months back from a different friend I was skeptical. Turns out I had a right to be. Certain people have different ideas of what friendship is, and when your ideas on your respective roles in that friendship differ it's hard to maintain a relationship. Fortunately for me it was good to get out of that first friendship and not too hard to let the second one slip by.

We judge others all the time, but I think our worst and least accurate judges are ourselves. We're so quick to tell others what we're like instead of letting others find out for themselves. And why don't we actually live up to what we say we are? Show your friends, coworkers and acquaintances what you're really like with actions, not with empty words.

October 26, 2011

Palm Oil Invasion

Wish I had my photos... I could show you a lady I know.

Right before bed last night I read an article about palm oil. In addition to the damaging effects I knew about (deforestation, rampant species extinction, encouraging poverty), the article describes how is encourages child labor and slavery. For many months I've been reading the ingredient list on all of the packaged or processed foods I buy (which actually isn't very much) looking for palm oil and palm kernel oil. Turns out I should be looking at the products in my shower, too.

Sodium laureth sulfate is an ingredient in many shampoos and body washes. I recognize this ingredient because for the last two years I've wondered if it's a contributing factor to having irritated skin in certain areas and have been trying to find shampoos that are both cruelty-free and sodium lareth sulfate free. Know how hard that is? I checked the bottles in my shower this morning, including my beloved St. Ives Oatmeal and Shea body wash and Apricot face scrub, and lo and behold SLS. I honestly woke up saddened at the realization that SLS is in fucking everything and then got even more sad as I discovered the ingredient in products I've loved for years. For most of the day I felt a sort of helpless. I really try to make environmentally conscious decisions every day: how many paper towels I use when I dry my hands at work, running errands close to work or home so I'm not driving out of my way and wasting gas, making sure the lights are turned off, turning off my fan every morning... yet by buying products I thought were good for me and good for the Earth I'm actually contributing to loss of forests and the extinction of species.

But this story isn't all bad. On my way home from work I stopped at Sprouts to pick up some groceries and my face lotion. While I was there I figured I was in a good place to check out body products that meet my standards. Turns out Sprouts is a very good place for that! There's a great variety of brands that are within my price range, have the leaping bunny logo, and even many that are sodium laureth sulfate free. I understand my price range for these products is significantly higher than most people's but for what I'm getting I think it's worth it. Knowing the things I use on my body aren't tested on animals, that the money I spend isn't contributing to species loss and also not irritating my skin is well worth the nine bucks.

But it looks like I'm now in the market for a new body wash that meets those specifications and also moisturizes super well, so, you know, if you've got one I'm interested. Otherwise I'll be spending the next several months testing out various brands until I find one I like enough to stick to, which was a rather expensive and disappointing 2 year process with shampoos.

October 6, 2011

Apple


Anyone who knows me knows I'm a big fan of Macs and Apple products. I never really had a preference when I was starting out with computers; all I really knew was that Macs were twice as expensive as other computers, so why spend the money?

Looking back, I remembered the first computer I was exposed to was a Mac in 4th grade. But it wasn't until I was in 7th grade that my family got our first computer. I have no idea what it was but it didn't last very long. That was the age of AOL and dial-up and me getting yelled at for taking up the only phone line for chatting online with my high school boyfriend. After that computer we got an e-machine, which was assembled by a family friend who was our go-to computer guy. This family friend later told us the computer had problems because we rearranged the shortcut icons on the desktop. I didn't know much about computers, but I knew that couldn't be true.

When I was 18 The Ex introduced me to Macs. He was frustrated with my limited access to the family e-machine so he lent me his old, black, plastic Mac. Six months later I bought my first PowerBook (ironically, I'm using a PowerBook to write this...) and I never looked back. I used that computer for 5 years, all through college and beyond. I loved it because it was mine: I bought it, I used it. But it was amazingly easy to use and didn't have the same problems the family computers had.

Since then I've used a Mac at home and a PC at work, and I just get frustrated at work. Also since then, the company that created that PowerBook has changed the way the entire world communicates. Even if you're a PC person you have an iPod, you use iTunes, you want an iPad and you use or are super familiar with the iPhone. All of these inventions? Steve Jobs.

Also, Pixar. Some of the best Disney movies were great because of the animation Pixar did, which was headed by none other than Steve Jobs. He changed movies, computers, cell phones, music and the way people communicate with each other. He talked about passion, determination and making a difference. It wasn't just a fad or just a popular thing to like Apple products: they were easy to use, intuitive, and endlessly stylish.

The world lost a great person yesterday when he died, but he's one of the lucky ones who was able to live to see his ideas change the world for the better. When I buy my MacBook Pro in a month or so, and when I likely eventually get the iPhone, I'll be remembering the genius behind the person who put all these ideas together.

October 3, 2011

364 Days

On October 3, 2010 I woke up on a couch after a night of partying in San Francisco with my best friends. I remembered having one of the best nights of my life and certainly the best night of that year, but in the next second I realized my dad never even sent a text saying happy birthday.

On October 1, 2011 I went over to my dad's house to gather the few boxes of old books, photo albums and knicknacks from my childhood because the previous three hundred and sixty four days had made it abundantly clear that he wanted to forget he had any ties to me.

I felt the strong urge to tell my dad what I'd been thinking for the last 364 days. I knew it wouldn't help anything but getting it off my chest to the person who's caused me more grief than anyone else would have made me feel better. Instead I said 4 words:

Me: *knock knock*
Him: Come in.
Me: We're good.
Him: *comes to the door and indicates the garage* Your things are in there.
Me: Thank you.

And in about 6 minutes we packed our things and ourselves into my little car and left. He didn't overtly watch us pack up and go, but I hadn't even started my car before he'd closed the garage door. No goodbye.

On the upside, I remembered just how much elephant things I've accumulated since childhood. My sister tore into a garbage bag with all of my old stuffed animals and tossed them to me: "Elephant, elephant, elephant, bear in an elephant costume, Raggedy Ann..." Some things just never change.

I now have some amazingly embarrassing pictures, some treasured pictures of Milo, my high school cap and diploma, and cards and keepsakes from friends. I'd completely forgotten the vast majority of the things I had there, but we had a great time going through them and laughing and remembering being kids. But some things I just don't have room for, and can't justify keeping in an apartment especially with as often as I move, so I'll be keeping only the things I absolutely can't part with.

In the end, I'm very glad to be done with my dad. It's hurt me more than I cared to admit the last 364 days (well, more than that, but at least before then I thought there was a chance), and I'm ready to not be angry anymore. If he wants to believe we have a relationship, that he's doing everything he can to be a dad, there's nothing I can do. If this were anyone other than my dad people would be telling me to stop trying. It's only because he's my dad that it's acceptable to keep beating a dead horse. But I have too much self respect to allow it beyond the 364 days I've already allowed it, and a father shouldn't ever treat his daughter this way. This isn't me taking a stand so much as giving in to the stand he took October 3, 2010. I have to accept the things I cannot change.

And hey, I'm 26 now and I've got a pretty good life going on. And I'll always have elephants.

September 29, 2011

In Which I Am 4

How I feel most of the time.

When I get discouraged about the world, especially if I don't have a job, the first thing I do is stop listening to or reading the news (and why I turn to Fark and Reddit for my news more than ever). The news can be really depressing, and if you're spending weeks and months looking for a job or stability hearing how the economy might be double dipping isn't very encouraging.

Even though I have a job the news is still discouraging. The somewhat recent Rupert Murdoch scandals and the political turmoil over the United States debt makes me feel like people in high places are just as out to get us as anyone else. And now there's even more games in our government with the upcoming debates and elections, now the only word on our minds is "jobs" and we're throwing away our environment because the jobs are worth it right now. Which makes me wonder, like a child, why do people do bad things to other people? Am I just naive to think that people, especially those in higher positions, should be good and decent? Is it really silly to think that the people we hire and elect to protect us and our interests should actually protect us and our interests?

I haven't decided if I'm an idealist or just naive, but I don't think it's very hard for the world to be a better place. Children should all be wanted and have good lives, leaders should protect their people and not starve or kill them, and people everywhere should act like people, not wild animals. But we have greed and corruption all over the world that make it near impossible for the honest people to get a leg up, or even keep going. Sometimes it feels like the bad people overwhelm the good ones. It'd be nice if everyone could be good and we could all get along.

Maybe I am 4 again.

September 25, 2011

Happy 18th Birthday, Milo

It's definitely getting harder and harder to still say he'd be however old if he were still alive; cats can live to be 18 but not very often, and especially not if they go outside. But I can still pretend.

Usually twice a year I write about how that cat was more than a cat: the day he was born and the day he died. Milo was the best Christmas present I could have ever imagined and there's nothing I could think that could be better. I might've only gotten 8 years with him, which was entirely too few, but in those 8 years he affected a lot of people.

Milo was the love of my life. But he was a lot of things to a lot of other people, too. Milo was the big strong brother of Peanut, my sister's cat. He defended her against the other cats in the neighborhood, taking them on in the middle of the night, even losing part of his fang. Milo and Peanut would tear though our house like horses, chasing each other in their games. They would both taunt the neighbor dog, a giant German shepherd, who got loose twice to nearly kill each of them.

When we got bunk beds, Milo spent more nights in my sister's bed than mine because cats like to be up high. One morning she woke up covered in feathers and had a small panic attack. Milo was a very successful hunter and she tore through her bed looking for the body of the poor bird he had undoubtedly dragged to her bed. It turned out that he only killed her dream catcher, not a live bird.

Milo didn't get along with the other animals in our house, though. He'd watch the birds with interest, probably wondering why we'd keep them in the house in a cage, he ran from the dog, and he mostly hated my sister's cat, Scar. Scar was BFF with the neighbor cat and they played all the time (Milo was way too good to join in). But when their games led to Scar's death, Milo started to tolerate (even befriend) the neighbor cat. I found them laying on the sunny grass right next to each other, as if having some sort of cat conversation.

Soon after that, Milo started to go over to the neighbor's house in the mornings. He'd help himself to the other cat's food (it was more expensive than what I fed him), get into bed with the neighbor girl and wake her up, and spend a few minutes with the family. The mom was the first one to find him after he'd been hit by a car, and she was as distraught as my own mom.

I'd always thought I'd take Milo to college with me, and it wasn't until I got there that I realized he would have hated it. I suppose it was for the best that I didn't have to make that decision; in our home he could roam where he wanted, he knew enough to avoid predators and cars (making his death highly suspicious), and was king of his land. He might not have done so well in San Diego, but leaving him would have killed me.

As always, I'll end this by saying I know no cat will ever be like Milo was, even though that will never stop me from keeping and loving Chloe and any future cats. But maybe tonight Chloe will get some extra love, a can of wet food and maybe a little catnip, just because.

September 11, 2011

If We Don't Finish What We Started, The Terrorists Win

The morning of September 11, 2001

Ten years ago I was a new junior in high school. It was homework period in colorguard so I wore something a little cuter than normal because I didn't have to worry about getting them dirty spinning in mud. But when the carpool arrived, the mom shouted across the driveway to our mom that the World Trade Center went down. None of us knew what the World Trade Center was, but we could tell this was something big. At school, first period was homework and listening to the radio. I still didn't understand what was going on, only that terrorists from the Middle East somewhere flew our planes into two buildings in New York and a lot of people died.

I could grasp the seriousness of the situation but understanding it would take much of the next decade. Class that day consisted almost exclusively of teachers trying to answer questions and letting us mostly listen to the radio or do work silently. When I got home the news was on (it would stay on for a whole week) and both my parents were home. Over and over we watched as one plane after the other came out of absolutely nowhere to crash with incredible accuracy into the side of one of the tallest buildings in the world and stay there, burning a giant hole. Then we watched as smoke, ash, papers and debris flew over the streets of New York City covering citizens and firefighters from head to toe, people lying injured and bleeding, people running literally for their lives as cameras bravely rolled on. Then, we saw footage of people in the towers jumping from windows far, far too high. Many people jumped, which is something I still don't quite understand. That was perhaps the hardest thing to witness.


As a nation we were first shocked and scared, but we quickly turned to unity with one another and became angry, fully backing the war we'd just been brought into. Whatever it took to make the perps pay for the thousands of lives they cost (and the hundreds of thousands of lives that would eventually be lost) was justifiable.

Over the years America became overtly racist towards Muslims and anyone looking even remotely Middle Eastern. Then we started losing our own rights, one by one, in the name of protecting us from terrorists. First the Patriot Act, then losing virtually every freedom we had in airports, then allowing our phones and conversations and sometimes even our properties to be monitored by the government, all of which is justified by saying you have nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide. What ever happened to "give me liberty of give me death?"

We've become so paranoid about another attack that we're willing to live in the shadow of fear for the rest of our lives or give up what were once basic rights. Because of one attempt we now have to take our shoes off at airports, plus all metal, plus go through a metal detector, and now (in addition to everything) body scanners that show our naked bodies and be pat down by a disgruntled and underpaid TSA employees. For what? Are we safer? Does turning over our nail clippers make us less likely to encounter another terrorist? I don't feel like it does.

However, I'd rather live with that risk and have an enjoyable life. I'd rather not be looking at every person with dark skin and a beard or a hijab and wonder if they're plotting against me. I'd rather take my chances when I fly than be forced to undress for a stranger. I'd rather live freely in the Land of the Free than be afraid of the police who are supposed to protect me, wondering if some innocent thing I do will be considered suspicious. But I feel alone in these preferences. So many of those I know would rather spend an hour in airport security half naked because it makes them feel safer in the air, or allowing phone tapping because, as true patriots, they have nothing to hide. If there's even a chance that these measures will prevent another terrorist attack they'll allow them, even if it impacts our way of life.

This is not what it means to be an American. If we were attacked for our way of life we should be living that way of life louder and prouder than ever. We should taunt those who hate us, beg them to try again. But we aren't. For the last ten years we've been afraid, deeply divided, and hateful of anyone that isn't us. We've given up on our schools, our economy, and fortifying the strength of our country on our soil in favor of "helping" other countries form democracies and ensuring our safety overseas.

What if we just said fuck it, we're done, we tried and we're calling quits. What if we stopped spending the billions on Iraq and Afghanistan and started spending that money on educating our kids so we can be even stronger in 40 years, or providing jobs to those who have been out of work for 6 months or more so we can have a strong and vibrant economy again? What if we cared about our people and our country half as much as we cared about other countries, and what if we spent our defense money on protecting our borders? I'd be very interested to see.

There are hundreds who died ten years ago saving, or trying to save, the lives of others, and hundreds of thousands of others deeply affected by September 11, 2001. I'm grateful I didn't lose anyone in those attacks, grateful those I know in our armed forces returned to their families, grateful I was as old as I was when the attacks happened. I'm sad to see the direction my country went after that day and I hope one day we turn around and can become the hopeful, strong, leading country we used to be again. I also hope those who lost someone due to the attacks and the wars that followed will heal and were OK today. Finally, I hope those lives weren't lost in vain and that something good will again come from all of this.

September 8, 2011

Power Outage 2011

This thought did cross my mind.

I remember where I was September 8, 2011, the day of the Power Outage 2011. It was about 3:40 in the afternoon and I was sitting at my desk at work, taking a mental break from writing about garage doors and reading about the toll September 11, 2001 had on the children of those who died. This is something I found funny… reading about destruction and despair as the whole city (and soon other states and part of another country) loses power. We’ll lose power for a few minutes because of bad weather or some car accident, but it’s usually localized and back on in a matter of minutes. I immediately posted my enthusiasm for the break in routine to Facebook and then texted my boyfriend. It was when he responded with “here, too,” that I knew the power outage wasn’t localized and wasn’t likely to be back on. He was on the other side of town, so far away that there was no way some accident or overuse of power or other normal cause of an outage was the culprit. This was citywide.

Soon I got text messages from other friends, and started sending them to people in San Diego’s extremities. Downtown? Out. Escondido? Out. Coronado? Out. The power outage had reached from Carlsbad to downtown/Coronado, and from the oceans to La Mesa. This was going to be big.

Within the first half hour reports came in that the outage extended as far north as San Clemente (Orange County) to as far south as parts of Mexico (a whole other country), and as far east as Arizona and New Mexico (other states). I was constantly texting my friends and refreshing Facebook for updates; I knew that Los Angeles was safe from the lack of updates from Facebook and because my family members hadn’t texted, but the rest of us were in for an interesting night.

That was when the excitement really hit. At first the power outage was an interesting distraction from the monotony of work. But after the first 30 minutes it became clear this wasn’t going away soon, and because by then it was already after 4pm there wasn’t much reason to remain at work. I did, though, because no one else was leaving and because I’d heard that the freeways were more like parking lots, but when 5pm rolled around and the power still wasn’t back on I peaced out.

I headed to South Park with a friend in search of fun. We found free gelato and $1.50 beers in a candlelit bar. After that I met up with my boyfriend at his friend’s house in my neighborhood for more candlelit atmosphere (and more beer), and after that I headed home, because my day tomorrow is scheduled as normal.

And as I write this (on Word, using the battery on my borrowed laptop), I’m alone in my candle-lit apartment, snacking on my dinner of cold jalapeno artichoke dip and chips, and feeling like my boyfriend should be here to appreciate the ambiance. Candles might be girly but they’re also ridiculously sexy. Candlelight makes anyone look hot and sets the perfect mood… as much as I wanted to be alone tonight, now I wish I wasn’t.

Although I do need the money, I hope the power outage lasts long enough to let me leave work tomorrow. If that happens I’ll bring the fish that’s sitting in my fridge (that I *just* bought) to my friend’s house and with her gas stove and/or barbecue we’ll make a feast. It’ll be a day I’m not at work, which will make it automatically good, and it’ll be a day I’m with my lady, which will make it automatically great, and eventually the power will come back on and everything will return to normal and, hopefully, I won’t have lost much food. Because honestly that’s the worst that can happen.

Oh hey, it's 11pm and the power came back on. Well what do you know.

September 2, 2011

Do Not Want

Alright, guys... here's your fair warning to turn away now. This is another post about my bodily functions.

I'm pretty sure I'm just looking for an excuse to use this.

I got my period. Again. (You were warned.)

Normally this is not ever an event worth talking about (much, much less one worth committing to the Internet), but due to recent events I'm back on birth control, after a glorious whole 5 week break, and once this period is over it means I'm safe.

Hale-frickin-luja.

The other day I went to the San Diego Museum of Man and one of their exhibits is about reproduction and birth. The most disturbing thing in the whole museum is a 3D display of how a woman's pelvic bone expands to allow a baby's head to fit through it. Bone fucking moves. First off, it's incredibly amazing that a woman's body can do that (and also, babies skulls are soft and they sort of squish to pass through the bone... incredible). It should not be possible, but it is. Second, holy FUCK no. I'm absolutely convinced that I would die if I had to go through childbirth. Even though I know women much smaller than me have been successfully giving birth to much larger babies than I was, it still seems far too impossible to be real. It didn't help much to view that exhibit the day I should have gotten my period; when my period is even a few hours late I go into a mini freak-out mode because I'm paranoid, but because I've messed with it a bit the last couple months (and my body and I are pretty tight... I knew what was up) I kept mostly calm. But looking at how a bone goddamn moves to allow a giant baby skull to pass through it when your period should have already come is enough to drive a sane person mad.

Hence the post about me getting my period.

Also, as much as I love writing about condoms, and using the image of the pope when talking about sex, I really hate using them. I'm not entirely sure what it is about them; I thought it was a latex sensitivity but the latex-free ones aren't any better. Regardless, a little discomfort during sex is ten bazillion times better than passing an 8 pound baby (aka the only STD that can outlast you), so latex sensitivity or not, I'm gonna have to suck it up. Because...

This made me lol.

September 1, 2011

Elephants in Raincoats

Go ahead. Just try to find a cuter picture.

I've recently been introduced to my calling.

Over two years ago I realized I'll probably never be happy unless animals are a very large part of my life, which means they'll need to be part of my work life. Whether that's working with them directly, writing about them, or working with people for their benefit, having animals only in my personal life just ain't going to cut it.

Then I saw this article. Because of human actions these baby elephants are orphans. However, because of human actions these orphan elephants are loved and cared for. They even get raincoats! That's what I want to do. I want to give orphan elephants their raincoats.

Elephants are like people, perhaps more than any other animal. We might be almost genetically identical to bonobos but when it comes to animal emotion I'm convinced elephants share a more similar mind. This means elephants, especially baby elephants, experience something very similar to PTSD. Just like a human child would be scarred for life after experiencing the death of a parent, a baby elephant would be traumatized.

If I had a lot of money I would buy a lot of land (like, tons) and use the space as a sanctuary for elephants here that are neglected, abused, unwanted or unable to be cared for. They would be able to live out the rest of their lives on that land, be fed, be able to interact with other elephants, be cared for when they needed it, and not be made to work or perform. It would be like the Black Beauty Ranch, except just for elephants (and hey, maybe Babe would want to come to have some company).

And then there's this picture:

How fucking amazing is this?!?

Clearly I am not in the right place in the world. Screw my fear of chemistry and being halfway decent at math... I could be in veterinary school right now.

When I become a world famous author and have the money or enough pull to get the fundraising necessary to pull off my dream, that's exactly what I'm going to do. In the meantime, I'll find a way to meet myself halfway.