January 31, 2012

Illegal Abortion

I get to use this image again!

For whatever reason, whether or not women should be allowed to get an abortion is a political issue, and some people believe there is absolutely no reason abortion should be legal, even in cases of rape (fortunately, even the craziest people think an abortion can sneak by when the pregnancy will kill the mother, but if not that would be condemning a woman to death).

But all this got me wondering: what would I do if I were raped tonight and forced by law to carry a resulting pregnancy to term? For the sake of depression, and because the thing that started this was a presidential hopeful suggesting women view babies conceived through a rape as a "gift from God," which you surely wouldn't return, I'll include raising a baby bestowed upon me by the gift of rape.

First, going through a rape (something I fortunately have never experienced and hopefully never will) is one of the most traumatizing things a person can experience. Some statistics say between 15-20% of the population have been raped, but I'd be willing to bet it's more than that because men who are raped almost never report it and women who are raped are often too afraid, too traumatized or don't believe it's rape because the criminal was someone they knew. Even still, at least 15% of the population has been traumatized by rape. First off, if this were to ever happen to me I'd be at the police station and hospital to report it and have any evidence collected to catch the son of a bitch. But I would be devastated. I would replay it in my mind again and again, trying to come up with something I did wrong, some way I could have prevented it or stopped him. It would depress me intensely, most likely affecting my sleep, my day to day activities, and most certainly my relationship. As much as I can say now I wish I were stronger than that, sex would be entirely different after a rape, and there's no way that wouldn't be an issue. And if the rape resulted in a pregnancy and I was forced to carry it?

I currently make about enough to pay rent, utilities, car payments, car insurance, cell phone, food and gas with just enough left over to put aside for taxes in April and car insurance in July. Other than what I'm currently saving, which is already ear marked, I have no savings. I would have to keep my current job, even though it does not provide any benefits whatsoever, because no company would hire a woman about to need medical leave in 9 months. This would mean that any time I needed to go to the doctor or felt too sick to work would be unpaid, and my eventual maternity leave would be 1-3 months of no income. Plus, I would likely lose my job during the leave (they would have to replace me) and finding a job that paid decently or maybe even one that provided benefits would be next to impossible as a brand new, single mother who will need flexibility to care for her baby.

In addition, I have no health insurance so all those required doctor's visits would be debt under my name. Of course, I would have to have health insurance for myself and my baby once it's born, but I couldn't exactly go get pre-natal insurance after I got pregnant, now could I? My credit limit is $5k, which isn't anywhere near enough to have a healthy baby in a hospital. Actually having the baby would cripple me, and if there were any complications whatsoever I would never recover from the debt. Diapers, a car seat, baby clothes, and whatever else you buy for a baby (even Target maternity clothes are expensive) would be beyond my current budget, which would change to zero once I became unemployed.

could cash out my stock, but it would only be a temporary fix and only enough to cover basic doctors visits or maybe the time I would be unemployed, if I somehow found a job soon enough. Plus, cashing out would affect me at tax time, so the benefit would be further diminished.

(Should I decide to give the baby up for adoption and happen to actually find a couple willing to adopt my rape baby, they would most likely pay for my medical bills and giving birth. However, they would probably not pay for sick days when I was puking or at the doctor or for maternity clothes. And they definitely would not pay for a gym membership so I could work on getting my body back and try going back to my normal life.)

I would be forced to move out of my current apartment and find a studio or 1-bedroom apartment, which is already something I can't afford, much less after at least a month of unemployment and thousands in medical bills. I could probably move back to my hometown and rent out a room in my mom's house, but I would still need a job to pay for rent (which wouldn't be much cheaper than a place in San Diego) and baby stuff (and like I said, I have no savings). Plus, it would involve leaving my friends, my boyfriend and my life in San Diego.

Speaking of boyfriend, that would most likely end. I feel fortunate to be with someone who feels the same as I do about having kids, but unfortunately for this hypothetical situation that's that we don't want them. Even if my boyfriend wanted to be supportive and helpful, I could never ask him to stay when I have a baby that belongs to a rapist, not to him. Being pregnant is enough of a strain when the baby belongs to both people in the relationship, but a rape and a pregnancy together would be too much.

Things I Would Give Up:
All hope of getting my Master's degree (student debt on top of medical debt? Yeah right.), my dream job (taking any job without considering the flexibility, the benefits, the day care), possibly freelancing, traveling, having a horse, spending any time taking care of animals for a living, and having anything else that goes along with the somewhat exotic lifestyle I want.

My whole life would be living so that a baby I never wanted would have a chance at a decent life because, despite it just being the right thing to do if you bring a child into the world, it's against the law to neglect it. I suppose I could just go on welfare. Let all the other taxpayers pay for me and my baby, and just not work. God, this is depressing.

I might also have to let go of what I hope a marriage would be like. Dating wouldn't be for me anymore, it would be to find a husband who would be a good father for my rape baby, who would not have a father. Not to mention, between working and raising a baby I'd never have time to actually date. Meeting a man who already has a child (and probably an ex wife) would most likely be my only option, and then date nights could be movies at home with the kids. Lounging in bed for hours, making brunch and mimosas on Sunday at noon, hanging out writing this blog, spending time on Reddit, and  staying out late at a bar will be things of the past. And forget reading. Well, forget reading anything at my reading level. 

Additional Comments:
Should I ever be raped (which I'm just going to hope never happens... keep my wits about me, stay out of creepy dark alleys...) I really hope the criminal wears a condom. Fortunately as far as pregnancies go I'm already on birth control and have access to Plan B, so the chances of me becoming pregnant are pretty slim. But there's sexually transmitted disease and the trauma to worry about, one of which I will most assuredly have to deal with. The bottom line is rape is something so truly awful and should never happen to anyone, but that's unfortunately not the world we live in. I just hope I'm never forced to bear the consequences of someone else's criminal actions.

January 23, 2012

A Case Of The Mondays

Well, the week got off to a great start.

Got my first paycheck of the year and lost almost twice what I expected to taxes. I now pay more money in taxes per month than I do for my rent, including the increase that takes place in April. Which is fucking nuts. The US tax code is wildly confusing- I've never gotten a tax return more than $400, and that was once when the $300 make work pay thing was in effect a couple of years ago, and last year I owed taxes despite working and having taxes taken out. Paying a quarter of my income in taxes seems like so much to me. I made more money than this in the past and got to see more of my paycheck then... where does it all go and how to other people get hundreds on their returns?

Add to that people were absolute bitches on the phone at work, going so far as to yell at me and hang up when I mentioned our minimum (FYI: you're going to pay good money for a remodel, you can't go calling around and say you want the cheapest thing possible and get mad when businesses tell you they like making money) and my headache from Saturday night that never truly went away, I had to remind myself a few times that I got to wake up with wonderfully warm arms around me and that my car wasn't damaged from the car fire parked right behind it (terrifying few seconds while I checked it out, though).

One thing I took away from my parents' marriage was to worry about money, even if there's no need. I've never not been worried about money. My life is in perpetual save mode: for the next 3 months I'll be saving for taxes (I'll just barely make it), and until July I'll also be saving for car insurance, which I most certainly will not make at this rate. I had planned on joining a gym this week to train for the non refundable half marathon I already signed up for but now that's an unnecessary expense I might not be able to justify, especially when I should be spending that same money on new running shoes.

Makes me wonder how a person working full time for a decent wage and relatively low rent and living expenses can feel like she's just making it. I've been just making it since... well, I've always been that way, from college to now, and my current rent is only $100 more than it was when it was its lowest. The only addition is a car payment (which is low enough to be affordable) and full coverage insurance (which is a bitch); other than that my lifestyle hasn't changed too much. I still eat rice and potatoes a lot, going out to eat means parting with $5, and my wardrobe hasn't changed since right before I got laid off 3 years ago. Granted, there's no way I would have been able to afford a new car or this level of insurance at any point in the last 3 years, but I'm working so much more now. Doesn't that make a difference?

The thing that scares me is I'll talk to a professional about my tax situation and be told that's just the way it is, whether or not I'm able to understand it. And if that's just the way it is and a quarter of my paycheck goes to taxes, I still won't get a return. And if this is all the case, why am I not doing something fun for work? Why do I sit inside and look at a computer 2 feet from my face for 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week? I was making more money per hour when I was happiest, when I had more energy, when I didn't hate Mondays. I thought I was getting ahead but now it feels like the more I try to move the more I stay exactly where I always was.

And I couldn't see the rain today. Being stuck inside in a fluorescent room with a computer sucks on beautiful days, but it also sucks on the rainy ones. I love the rain and don't get to see it enough here... I'd like to at least watch it out the window. Hope this season is another wet one so that eventually it'll rain all weekend and I'll get to see it.

January 22, 2012

One Is Not Like The Other: Part 1

This is what's wrong.

Let's get this straight right at the beginning: animal activism does not equal veganism.

Surprisingly, it is actually possible to eat meat and animal products and still support animal rights and welfare. I know, right? Now, this will involve educating yourself on your meat and animal choices and reevaluating where your food comes from and exactly how far you're willing to go to meet yourself in the middle. But it's really not hard, especially if animal activism is important to you.

Up until my preteen years I was an avid meat eater. In a way I identified with predators (my cat and dog, the hawks and owls I watched around my house, even the way my rat ate bugs), and meat was tasty. Especially sausage. Mmmmm, sausage. My tastes have changed over the years and although I eat very limited amounts of meat now I don't like the notion that you have to be vegan in order to support animal welfare.

I come across websites that imply (or outright state) that the only way to be a real animal activist is to adopt a vegan lifestyle. While I fully support those who are vegan and sometimes wish I had the courage and tastebuds there's just no way I could do that. And that's because I love cheese. Cream cheese with salsa or cottage cheese and tomatoes for breakfast, potatoes with eggs and cheddar in a burrito, mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, grilled cheese sandwiches, pepper jack or gouda with crackers and apple slices, rice and beans with cheese... I love cheese. The only meatless things I can order when eating out have cheese. And I'm OK with that.

But here's the thing: I love animals. Animals will always be around, and not having a pet in 2008 was the most depressing time in my life. Seeing wildlife every day at the Wild Animal Park made my year in 2009, I vote for animal rights when they're on the ballot. I make choices based on how it will affect animals and their environments and choose the meats I do eat carefully. But I also love food. Like, really love food. Cooking, creating new dishes, sharing food with people, grocery shopping, and eating. I love eating. I will never be one of those skinny twigs because I love food. 

Probably 90% of my grocery shopping is done at Trader Joe's and Sprouts, which is about as local as it can get without going to a farmer's market (which is great, just a bit out of my budget for most things). I support local hunting and fishing and don't believe that eating animals is inherently wrong. It's the way we get our meat that's wrong, but that's in another post. It's also the idea that we must be eating meat for our meal to be "real"or for us to be healthy that's wrong.

Eating meat does not make a person an opponent of animal welfare just like not eating meat does not make a person a supporter of animal welfare. There are plenty of people who eat meat and support animal rights, people who want to see the way our animals are raised change, people who acknowledge their place as an omnivore who also believe animals we eat deserve a better quality of life and death. Suggesting otherwise is a little closed minded.

January 17, 2012

Intellectual Property and SOPA/PIPA

So, in a very timely surprise, I discovered a blog I write at work has been plagiarized. The blog is about garage doors and has several categories of posts, including cool and interesting garage doors, garage door repairs, garage door accidents and new products highlights. However, another garage door blog (seemingly unaffiliated with a garage door company or service, unlike mine), copied and pasted my words into their own WordPress blog. Word for word, except for a slight change to the first sentence and the omission of a phrase in parenthesis in one or two places. 

I noticed last week while researching a new blog to write about and started reading this other garage door blog. The words seemed very familiar, and a few sentences in I realized I was reading what I'd already written. My writing style is very personal- it's so easy for me to recognize my work, and when I had my other blog opened in another tab and could compare the words, it was obvious I had been plagiarized. This other blog stole two of my posts, that I knew about (searching through the entire website to find more of my work is on my to-do list this week), and made no attempts to change the wording or the meaning. 

So I wrote them a comment on each of the blogs. It's not necessarily bad that they're ripping me off - in part, it's a little flattering that they're reusing my words - but it is stealing when they aren't giving me credit. In the comment, I said I didn't mind them using my work as long as they included my bio and a link to my website and gave the website my contact information. That was, what, Thursday? I checked the website again on Friday and my comment hadn't been approved yet, and there was no action on their part. Monday I went in and checked the website again and still nothing had changed. Before leaving work today I checked once more: still no credit, but now there was a new blog post. And it was stolen from me.

And now it's time to fight. That website is a blatant rip off of my work and who knows how many other legitimate blogs and websites. After politely and generously permitting them to use my words, words I researched, crafted and spent my time putting together along with SEO techniques to help them show up in Google searches and appropriate and cited images where applicable, with a small and legal acknowledgement that I was in fact the person doing the writing, they completely ignored me and went on to steal again.

Fuck. You. Goddamn garage door blog. Fuck you for being so cocky that you're not approving my request for credit and still ripping me off when you know I'm watching. Fuck you for changing the first sentence in an attempt to mask what you're doing. And fuck you for not being cool about it and throwing my website a link. The whole point of my garage door blog is to bring in website views for the services we offer, the services that support our company, the services that contribute to my paycheck. And this other website is out there stealing my words and pretending I don't exist.

So I got Google involved. And WordPress. And the big dogs will, hopefully, rain swift justice on them and force them to take my stolen posts down. Maybe the website will get investigated and shut down for stealing intellectual and copyrighted data.

The fact that all of this is going on immediately before SOPA and PIPA are being voted on is just timely. As of writing, Wikipedia is blacked out in opposition to SOPA (which is currently "shelved indefinitely") and PIPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, respectively, and Reddit will follow in a couple of hours (as well as a number of other much smaller or personal websites). The supposed intent behind SOPA and PIPA is to protect artists and intellectual property holders from having their content stolen, either through illegal downloading or blatant plagiarism. Copyright protection sounds like a noble cause but the reality is it would allow big corporations to go after individuals and who's to say the profits would go to the artists in the end? 

Further, now that SOPA is shelved I'm convinced SOPA was just a front for PIPA to pass quietly. Here's why: SOPA was a big deal when it was announced. Once the public (slash the internet) discovered exactly what it was and what it could mean (because it was vague in all the wrong places) it became the devil. Groups became very vocal against it, calling senators for days and requesting meetings and seemed to eventually do enough to get it shelved for the foreseeable future. But PIPA isn't much better than SOPA and that's still on the table. In fact, it's getting voted on in a few days. And because it's been much quieter it has a good chance of passing. Which leads me to believe SOPA was just bad enough to get people riled up enough to make a fuss, on purpose, so they could cancel SOPA and slip PIPA through.

Normally I'd be linking a few different things in this post to outside sources for reference and citing, but SOPA and PIPA would probably go to Wikipedia pages, and the English versions are blacked out for the next 23 hours (as of writing), so I'm just not going to link anything.

January 15, 2012

Making A Point With Money

The majority of my recent post have been somewhat depressing: between palm oil, poaching, the USDA killing birds, more palm oil, and the economy, there hasn't seemed to be much good in the big wide world out there. People are greedy and willing to do whatever it takes to make a buck or get things done the easy way, the rest of the world be damned.

All of this led to me wondering about the business practices of large corporations... the latest disappointment is from a company I love and have recommended for years, yet now all I hear is Apple buying products from what are essentially slave and child labor companies in China in buildings that work people 12+ hours for pennies and have suicide nets as a standard office amenity. Apple is wildly successful and insanely popular and their young, hip and socially aware following gives Apple the ability to change world business practices, so why support unfair and cruel business practices?

I know the answer, and it's the same reason high quality food companies use palm oil when they know it's low quality and environmentally damaging, but it's depressing. Corporations can make a higher profit margine by saving money on production, and if palm oil and child labor are the means to the end then so be it. It's got me thinking twice about getting an iPhone (and a MacBook Pro) when the time comes... I don't like the other products out there, but if buying from Apple means supporting horrid labor practices I can't feel good about that, and I really, really want to be excited about those purchases. (I know that other computer and phone companies are exactly the same, and that no matter what I buy I will be supporting environmental damage or child labor or some other horrible business practices, but Apple is so popular and believes so highly of itself that it should be above that. A silver lining may be that Apple has now, finally, disclosed almost every supplier for its products, allowing third party auditors to assess the conditions of the factories and create better positions for the workers.)

Last month I bought an American Apparel hoodie because I had a Groupon for half off. I always really liked the styles of the jackets and they seem to last forever, but even still I could never justify paying $50 for a jacket. At $25 it was way more reasonable, especially since the lower quality jackets at Target were $20 this season, and I'm glad the only negative business practice that purchase supported was skanky models and a skankier CEO. But I'm not hipster enough or rich enough to shop there all the time, so Target and Ross it is for the rest of my clothes, which no doubt save money with Chinese slave and child labor (not to mention Target's financial support of anti-gay fanatics).

One of the reasons I want to be quasi-wealthy one day is so I can spend $50 on American made jackets, buy sustainable and organic food at farmer's markets every week and really make an effort to make a difference with my money. And it's sad that doing so requires a certain amount of wealth, but it does. I already spend $8 on a bottle of shampoo (and am looking for new body wash, face wash, face scrub and hand soap), buy high quality cat food, avoid palm oil, get fair trade and organic tea, and only buy sustainable fish when I eat meat, but I know all or most of my clothes were originally made in a sweat shop somewhere, the battery in my phone was mined in Africa and probably cost someone his life, and now my computer (and iPod and likely every other electronic I own or use) is manufactured by little kids or miserable adults in China.

So what am I supposed to do? Ignorance really is bliss. Not knowing, or caring, can make life so much easier. Better, maybe not, but easier.

January 12, 2012

Palm Oil: Taking Over The World

Palm oil free and the best cookie dough in the world.

Since hearing about the damaging effects of palm oil production more than two years ago I've been checking labels trying to buy products without palm oil (besides, it's just used as a cheap shortening and I prefer real butter anyway). When I discovered some of the things I regularly bought had palm oil I stopped buying them and adjusted my eating or found an alternative product somewhere else. And when I found out that shampoos had palm oil? Well, we can relive my crushing sadness.

I shop mostly at Trader Joe's and Sprouts and most of the prepared products I buy are made directly by the companies, so I know which products are palm oil free. Fortunately, Trader Joes is pretty good about having nothing but real, genuine ingredients in their food, which makes it all the more disappointing when their freezer lunches occasionally have palm oil (I wrote them a letter). I love, love, love that Trader Joe's packaged cookie dough doesn't use palm oil because they have the best cookies and I would be devastated if I couldn't buy from there anymore. But because you never know where palm oil and its league of awful sidekicks are going to show up next, I still always check the ingredient list when buying just to be safe.

Which brings me to the point... It's become a compulsive habit to check food labels, so when I picked up a dark chocolate and unearthly delicious caramel Ghirardelli square I browsed the label. Palm oil was right there, like the fifth ingredient.


It's almost not even sad anymore. It's just literally in everything. Palm oil isn't even a quality ingredient: it's used as a cheap and lower-fat butter, so why would a high quality company like Ghirardelli use it? And now that I think back on my visits to Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, their famous ice cream sundaes use Dreyers ice cream, which I learned a couple months ago has palm kernel oil.

Oh well... Ghirardelli Square is out of the way unless I'm already in Fisherman's Wharf, so it looks like I won't be making a trip there next time. Disappointments all over. At least their brownie mix doesn't have palm oil, and the directions call for vegetable oil, so I'm still buying that. And thank goodness, because Ghirardelli brownies are hands down the best you can buy in a box.

January 11, 2012

Not So Mysterious Anymore

Remember several months ago there were whole flocks of birds literally falling dead from the sky? It was happening all over the United States though it concentrated in the South and East. Birds fell from the sky for several months last year and experts blamed a wide range of causes, from extreme weather to unusually loud noises to disturbances like fireworks. But the results of necropsies were inconclusive and at the time of publication for some of the articles chemical testing hadn't come back yet.

Now the answer may be a little more dark than a few flukes... it turns out a project called Bye Bye Blackbird is responsible for the deaths of many of these birds. The project is headed by the USDA and they are poisoning millions of black birds and other bird species across our country's agricultural center, from South Dakota to Arkansas to Maryland. Birds are being killed because they're eating grain and other crops from farmers. The birds then fly to other cities where they die by the hundreds and thousands, and take down birds of prey and other predatory animals who happen to eat these poisoned birds. The USDA disrupts the whole food chain and kills many, many more animals than it intends with these bird massacres. Unless the USDA is incredibly crafty and completely evil and purposely poisons black birds, knowing they'll be eaten by many other animals we call pests...

The coolest part? All these animals are being killed with our taxes.

The weird thing is there are also unexplained bird and fish deaths in Europe. Can the USDA have a hold on those animals, too? Are officials in Europe doing something similar? Are the people in this world really resorting to this blatant massacre of animals without even trying less lethal methods? Will we always be at war with the animals who were here before us, who are doing what they've always done, just because we're here now? Will we never think to use methods that allow us to coexist?

January 10, 2012

Why I Love Chipotle

Living in San Diego, with the abundance of real, delicious and amazing Mexican food, it feels a little wrong to love Chipotle so much. It's not real Mexican food, and it really is like the Subway of Mexican cuisine, but my goodness it hits the spot. For around $6 you get a burrito that easily weighs two pounds, stuffed with fresh ingredients that you pick and choose and can see them prepare. For a little more than a dollar extra they'll give you a bag of some very yummy tortilla chips (seasoned with big bits of salt and lime!). I judge a Mexican place by its chips and Chipotle has them down.

I've loved Chipotle ever since I found out about their food purchasing habits: a significant percentage of their vegetables are purchased from local farms (about 20-30%) and so much of their meat is from naturally raised sources that when their suppliers can't meet their demands they post signs saying so. Chipotle supports the food documentary Food Inc, which is still on my Netflix queue, which leads me to believe they must not have much to hide. Ten years ago there wasn't much of a demand for sustainably raised meats, for animals to be treated humanely or for local shopping options, and now there are farmer's markets all over my city, Whole Foods is a sustainable Mecca and Chipotle and their "food with integrity" program is the leader in buying animals from real ranchers who don't use antibiotics (cue heavenly music). All, as in 100%, of Chipotle's pork is from natural ranchers (pastures, vegetarian food, letting pigs be pigs), and they're working on getting 100% of their chicken, beef and dairy from the same sources.

Chipotle also re-evaluated their menu a little while ago, now providing calorie counts next to their menu items, brown rice in addition to white and kids options. They also made the price of their salad the same as everything else to encourage salad eating.

Plus, their literature is snarky, and how can I not get behind that?

But the reason for this post? Every time I go in there when I'm feeling un-awesome they seem to pick up on it and make my day. Once I went in amazingly hung over after my worst night of drinking and a full shift the next day and got the most massive burrito and a sympathetic look from the workers who knew exactly what was up. Recently I went in on a frustrating lunch break and the cashier slipped me a mini bag of chips and a soda. It's not much, at all, but man does it make me happy. A little kindness goes a long way, and Chipotle is certainly doing it right.

January 7, 2012

Driving Stick


It's been about a month since I bought my car and I think I've really gotten the hang of the whole driving stick thing. At first it was a little frustrating because I kept stalling and was nervous about pissing people off and being too slow, but some encouragement from a friend and the stick-driving Reddit community made me less worried. I still have to concentrate on listening to the engine when I'm driving around town but the sweet spot is showing itself must faster now.

Parallel parking is coming easier, making me more confident that I can squeeze into those tiny spaces, and I've tackled the big scary hill by my apartment a couple of times. I still get excited when I shift smoothly and angry with myself when I make a mistake. But the mistakes happen a lot less often now.

There are still a couple situations that I don't have a handle on: letting the engine slow the car down in a low gear (the engine sounds like it's freaking out) and inching forward in traffic (it's probably best to just not do that). But learning all these things, and the intricacies of driving a manual transmission, is a lot of fun and it's really exciting. I can't wait until I'm good enough to teach my friends.

If there's any one part of manual driving that makes me think I have a handle on it, it's driving in heels and flip flops. In the last month, I've driven in my normal shoes, a couple different pairs of flip flops and heels at New Years and the only time I had a difficult time driving was when I drove barefoot after getting a pedicure. Driving in flip flops and heels was a slight concern when I started because The Ex would never drive in flip flops, saying it was too hard. Though he wouldn't walk in flip flops without intense prodding on my part either, so now I'm thinking it was more of an insecurity than a hardship... there's no way I could be a San Diego girl and not know how to do anything and everything in flip flops, and I can't very well always bring an extra pair of shoes when I need to wear heels, now could I?