July 31, 2012

In Which I Am A Hippie, and 13 Again

Because it's a condom with an elephant. I can't not love this.

Well this is just getting frustrating. (Boys may want to stop reading riiiiiiight now.) While I'm all about conserving resources and being environmentally friendly in every way possible, there are just some things I was OK being wasteful with, and those things center around hygiene. This is especially the case with the so-called "feminine hygiene" products, or tampons and pads. Those use once then throw away goodies felt good: fresh, light and most importantly clean - kind of important during a time that can feel messy and unhygienic. 

And then the body all of a sudden decides that those things aren't going to cut it anymore. Thanks to the dyes and chemicals and handling that consumer products go through, which all end up absorbed in the body, pads and tampons are toxic. They have the unfortunate task of associating themselves with the most sensitive body parts, and when those toxins are absorbed directly inside the body, not just on the surface of the skin, it feels uncomfortable*. And lucky me, all of this just happens to occur during my period, when I'm already not feeling terrific.

I've switched almost every body product I can so that I'm avoiding the majority of the toxins that can be absorbed in the skin (my shampoo, conditioner, lotions, face wash, face scrub, and bar soap are all made without SLS, animal testing and [mostly] parabens) to lessen the negative effects of eczema, but it still rears its ugly head on occasion. This time the culprit was pads. Fortunately my period is incredibly light, so it's really not bad at all, but it's so light it makes wearing tampons uncomfortable for most of the week. I usually stick to light pads or pantiliners because that's all I need. But I guess the plastic (latex), chemical absorbers and other additives got to be too much for my sensitive skin. 

I went to Planned Parenthood hoping they'd have an answer and all the nurse needed was one look. She said lots of women are irritated by pads and confidently and immediately told me to switch to tampons. Do not use pads or pantiliners anymore.

Which has me looking at websites like this and this and wondering how I'm going to deal with a period that is too light for tampons (which can be uncomfortable and a little bit dangerous on light days) and skin that doesn't like pads. I should be the perfect candidate for those washable and reusable pantiliners because I guess I can't wear the disposable ones anymore and I'm already passionate about conservation, but honestly the notion makes me a little weary. This was one of those things, along with paper towels, that I was OK using because of their hygienic benefits, especially considering my attempt at being mindful of the waste both create. Guess I'm taking more and more steps to being a complete hippy...

I used to be so resilient, always thought I had tough organs, especially skin. Apparently that's changed and I have to be very picky about what I put on, and in, my body. The sensitivities (they still feel too slight to be full blown allergies) are piling up and making basic tasks very frustrating. Here's to feeling like a girl again and not knowing what the next month will bring.

*Uncomfortable: A horribly itchy, sometimes painful sensation that lasts for days and makes everything from walking to wearing underwear noticeable and unpleasant.

July 29, 2012

One Is Not Like The Other: Part 2

I used this image because the images in my search were too horrifying.

In this installment of things that should not be compared as equal, we'll discuss how female circumcision is not the same as male circumcision. I'm not advocating male circumcision, I'm just frustrated at the prevalence of "yeah, I feel your pain because I was circumcised as an infant" talk from men in threads on female circumcision on Reddit. For the record, I don't have an opinion one way or the other about male circumcision. On the one hand, I can see the benefits (mostly from a female perspective which I discuss at the end), but on the other hand it is a little shitty to do something so permanent and altering to someone who can't make that decision for himself. 

How they're similar:
For one, they're both called circumcision (this isn't entirely accurate... I'll get to that in a bit). For another, both involve cutting off a part of the person's genitals.

How they're different:
In every other fucking way. Male circumcision is practiced widely in developed countries as a way of preventing specific health issues in both men and women. Male circumcision is usually performed by a trained professional (almost always a doctor, but some religious parents ask a trained Rabbi to perform the procedure) in a sterile medical setting with the latest tools and effective healing techniques to eliminate infections and reduce pain. Male circumcision is performed on days-old infants who will not remember or even realize what happened and almost always with anesthetics to reduce pain. Pardon the comparison, but breeders clip dog tails at the same age and in a similar way, and zoo keepers clip bird wings at the same age and in a similar way. I don't agree with clipping dog tails, but if it's going to happen it might as well happen when they're too young to realize.

As previously mentioned, I've read a few threads on Reddit related to female genital mutilation. In addition to general questions about the practice, there have been a couple of young women posting asking questions about themselves to gauge if they're normal, and recently one from a young man trying to figure out if what he's doing with his girlfriend is normal and what he can do to make sex pleasurable for her. One of the best explanations for the difference between male circumcision and female genital mutilation comes from a user called superdillin: 

I think the intent and damage differences between male and female genital mutilation does need to be pointed out. What we do to our baby boys, often with no medical reason, is bad. Very bad and we should stop. BUT, what was done to OP's girlfriend was done to take away her sexuality, and to control her. It has put her life at risk at worst, and at best has taken away her most sexual pleasure organ, and it was done with the intention of her becoming a breeding cow to be used for a man's needs for the rest of her life.
What we do to our boys is due to misinformation about health and hygiene, combined with unhealthy aesthetic expectations and tradition. What some cultures do to their girls is deliberate, controlling, life-threatening and inherently sexist. [Her emphases.]
Female circumcision is performed in developing countries, with inexperienced operators, a lack of medical equipment and sterilization when the girl is old enough to know what's happening to her but without her consent. The intent behind the procedure is what makes it brutality; the practice is illegal in many countries due to its horrific procedure, complete lack of health benefits and high risk of complication. Young girls, as in 7 years old, have their clitorises (the part of female genitalia that is exclusively for sexual pleasure) cut off to prevent them from having sex before marriage or experience sexual pleasure at all. It is often falsely assumed that removing the clitoris will prevent the girl from ever experiencing sexual desire. Some people even sew the labia together making penetration impossible, which requires that husbands use a knife to cut open their new wives on the wedding night, giving them the ultimate proof of virginity. For a long and horrifying list of complications, read this section of the Wikipedia article (and click on the links if you dare).

Back to the word circumcision: I've noticed an increase in groups publicly opposed to male circumcision (part of this was seen during our recent Gay Pride parade), and some argue that male circumcision should be called male genital mutilation, to more closely align itself with female genital mutilation. Although circumcision in both sexes involves the cutting of the genitals, and both procedures can be unnecessary at best, only female circumcision can actually be called butchering because of how it's performed and what its purpose is. It's called "circumcision" to make it seem more acceptable and to hide what it really is. (Hell, even the Wikipedia page for female circumcision is titled "female genital mutilation.") 

I wouldn't publicly advocate one way or the other for male circumcision because there are benefits and consequences of the procedure that must  be taken into consideration. I can, however, speak from the only experience I have, which is as a woman who has had sex with both circumcised and uncircumcised men. My experience taught me that male sexual pleasure has absolutely nothing to do with having been circumcised as an infant and that my own sexual pleasure had nothing to do with whether or not my partner was circumcised. However, if asked my opinion I might point out that even the cleanest of males can be less hygienic and more likely to spread a disease or infection with their foreskin intact, which from a female standpoint is a huge concern since an infection inside the vagina can be much worse than a topical penile infection. It seems to me like male circumcision has more benefits for a male's sexual partner than for the male himself.

I truly believe, when performed by a surgeon or urologist in a hospital with the proper tools, that male circumcision should be an option and that parents of sons should educate themselves on whether or not to do the procedure. But I also believe that even if female circumcision were to be performed in the exact same situations as male circumcision (on infants, by medical professionals in a sterile setting) that it would be genital mutilation. The intent automatically makes it wrong and the way a female's body is designed opens the poor girl up to dozens of complications, many of which are life threatening. Male circumcision and female genital mutilation are not the same thing.

For Part 1 of this small series, go to One Is Not Like The Other: Part 1.

July 28, 2012

Civil Rights: A Review of Gay Pride Weekend

Now add another decade and realize how things haven't changed.

I hope one day gay pride parades, festivals and celebrations don't exist anymore. At least, I hope they don't exist because they won't be needed to bring awareness to the gay community because gay people aren't seen any differently anymore.

I had a discussion the other day with a rather conservative family member about Pride, which was last weekend here in San Diego, and we discussed mostly why they felt like they needed to have a parade and why they needed to be so overtly sexual (paraphrasing... can't remember the actual words used) with their displays during the parade. (For the record, this person knows full well of my support for the gay community and was probably trying to instigate an argument, not necessarily be enlightened to another viewpoint.) I offered that maybe it was because doing so would not only bring up the subject of sexuality and the gay lifestyle and encourage people to talk about it, which would hopefully eventually get people to realize gays deserve the same rights as everyone else, but also makes the argument that sexuality, even gay sexuality, is not something to be ashamed of. By parading around (punny pun pun) in booty shorts those in the parade were not making any apologies for who they are. And that's kind of the point of gay pride weekend, I think. We have gay neighborhoods, gay bars, gay clubs, even a gay brewery now so that gays have a place they can go and be themselves and among like minded individuals without worrying about offending someone. Isn't it the same reason people go to sports bars? All that hollering at the TV, jeering with total strangers, and ignoring almost everything else going on would be offensive at another bar or establishment.

I also pointed out that "the way times used to be," as I too often hear older generations talking about, probably wasn't all it's chalked up to be. Human beings have likely always been this way, we maybe just didn't talk about it as much (which this particular relative sort of agreed with, and then said that it's more decent that we don't discuss it). And now that we're OK discussing our sexualities and the so-called weird things that we do, which are only weird because we have a sense of self and guilt that many other animals don't have, now that these things aren't as taboo as they once were, some people consider our society to be degraded. I just think we're getting to the point where we won't have self-imposed guilt anymore for living our lives the way we've lived them for generations. In fact, from a feminine standpoint, I'm pretty glad things aren't "what they used to be" because if my husband cheated on me it would have been my fault for not pleasing him enough, having a job would have been classless and not having kids would have given me an unsavory label. And if we go back further, I would have been sold by my father to the highest bidder. No owning property, no voting, no speaking out of turn, no leaving the house without a male relative to escort me, no rights or individuality. Just a walking pair of boobs that might entice a helpless man if someone isn't there to protect me.

Maybe gay people feel different-in-a-bad-way too often. Sure they can't marry the person they love or even provide that person benefits no matter how long they're together and in many places cannot adopt a child, but that's a federal issue. Maybe it's less deep than that: maybe gay people feel the need to function in a straight world where their individuality isn't celebrated in the same way as others' is. And maybe Pride weekend is an outlet. Maybe those participating in and watching the parade last weekend aren't all flamboyant and overtly sexual and slutty, but maybe it's about fitting in, being noticed for being different, or even just proving a point.

Speaking of which, my whole point was gays might not feel the need to have that outlet or create that awareness of gay or straight didn't matter. There was a time, long before I was born, where people were campaigning for a right I now very much appreciate. Had my boyfriend and I been born just a few generations ago it would not have been appropriate for us to be seen together, much less date. It would have been illegal for us to get married, and our kids would have been ridiculed, having no place to belong. Fortunately, we were both born long after those civil rights were obtained and now it's not unusual at all to see us walking down the street holding hands; no one would bat an eye at  our wedding, and our kids would be welcomed into any group. Watching the parade with him made me realize in a tangible way that this civil rights fight is exactly the same as the one we're benefitting from: it might not be unusual for a black man and a white woman to walk down the street holding hands, but a lot of people still feel uncomfortable seeing two men holding hands or two women stopping for a quick kiss. Those couples have to deal with that discrimination (even when it's not blatant) every day. They might be in love but feel like they aren't allowed to express it. They might want marriage and kids like most people do but the government, and plenty of their fellow citizens, don't think it's a good idea. Actually the government and many Americans think it's a very bad idea, and one that would directly contribute to the downfall of our country. Just like they once did when the idea that races could intermarry and *gasp* have mixed children (the poor things!). 

I know deep in my heart that a generation or two from now all of this will be in the past and my grand nieces and nephews will ask questions about it, wondering why it was such a big deal. I won't know what to tell them, but at least I'll be able to say I didn't agree and did what I could to change things.

July 27, 2012

London Olympics

The opening ceremonies start tonight in London (actually, they start tonight in the US, they've been over for a few hours already in London) for the 2012 Olympic games, marking 4, 8 and 12 years since a memory or event from my past. The Olympics are big enough to form these kinds of associations, even though the games have absolutely nothing to do with the events from my life. Well, except for the first one...

In 2000 the Olympics were in Sydney, Australia and we named my sister's cat Sydney Alexander Australia in part to commemorate the games and in part because of the book Alexander and the Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Day because of the first day poor little Sydney had (he was a flea infested pound kitten and did not have a pleasant first experience with the bath). In 2004 Sydney died, two months before the next summer Olympics in Athens (very sadly poetic). In 2008, when the games were in Bejing, The Ex and I promised that we would make it to the next games in London, in 2012. I fantasized that that trip, since we'd been to London together already, would be when he'd propose. Because that'd be poetic and romantic as hell. And now it's the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, and guess who's not in London? This girl.

(Side note: the opening ceremonies are today, which is three years to the week from when I ended the relationship that was supposed to culminate [in my fantasy] in engagement this week. It's also one year to the week from when the boyfriend and I had our [second] first date. Interesting business.)

Instead, this girl will spend the 2012 Olympics in San Diego, happy to be nowhere near London, celebrating her one year anniversary with the boyfriend. I have an alternative take on the saying "you never know what you have until it's gone": when you lose something you often see it for what it truly is, without the benefit of rose colored glasses. You can see what you lost for what it actually is, rather than what was yours, which is always going to be better simply because it's yours. I saw my relationship with The Ex wholly differently once it was over and realized how much I'd given up for the sake of the relationship. The fantasy of a proposal in London this year only existed because by then we'd have been dating for almost 8 years and I was sure we'd have had everything figured out by then and be sure we wanted to be together forever. But after the break up I was able to see far more clearly how badly that would have been for the both of us. Just because we had been together for a long time did not mean we should stay together, and when I finally realized that (in addition to how incompatible we actually were) I was able to let the relationship go. 

(And in exchange I got someone who I know I'm compatible with on every major issue, someone who makes me laugh every day, someone who I look at and cannot believe my luck. I don't think I need to let him go to know what I've got.)

Meanwhile, back to the Olympics. I feel like this year there's a lot more controversy around the games. I know there has always been some sort of news story that sweeps the world about doping or accommodations, or the awful air quality of China... but this year we've had the embarrassingly poor photos of the US athletes, and I have not stopped hearing about how branding the Olympics has gotten so wildly out of control. It almost doesn't seem like anyone's having any fun anymore. Maybe it's just the news sources I tune in to, but I have yet to hear something positive about these games. Instead, I've heard how mom and pop shops near the games can't sell products because of branding restrictions, how Olympic employees are forced to sign gag contracts to not discuss anything about their jobs or let family or friends visit them, how two Olympic athlete siblings are competing for one spot, how there are missiles on apartment rooftops for "security reasons," and how travelers need to learn how to not look like a terrorist to not be suspicious (that last one is supposed to be funny). It isn't seeming worth the trouble and expense. But there are, this year and always, hundreds of thousands of people who do care to make it worth the trouble and expense, even though the Olympics will always have this sort of trouble.

July 21, 2012

One Week: Two Years Later

Random collection of characters in extraordinary costumes.

The last week has been thoroughly out of the ordinary, much like last time.

Last Saturday I went to Comic Con for the first time. I'd been around downtown San Diego during Comic Con before but had never been inside. I'm not a big enough geek (or that into pop culture) to justify buying an expensive ticket or spending an entire day waiting around for something, which was my impression of Comic Con before, but the boyfriend, leading the charmed existence he does, won a pair of day tickets on the radio with his Star Wars knowledge. So I got to go! 

I have to admit, a good part of Comic Con was exactly what I'd imagined: a lot of people walking around in costumes and lots of waiting around. But a bigger part of Comic Con was something I'd never have discovered without going. The costumes, for example, were amazing! So much time, thought and detail went into creating them, and anyone who was dressed up was constantly stopped and asked for a photo. Plus, the range of characters, from TV shows, movies and comics, was astounding. So many genres were represented. It was pretty awesome. 

The all around eye candy in the convention center was also pretty amazing. So many enormous TV screens playing video games, trailers, clips from shows, interviews and promotional material, not to mention the rows upon rows of booths giving away comics, flyers and cards, had my eyes wide open. They give everyone a bag to carry around the swag in, which was half my height, and saying no to free material was actually pretty hard. I enjoyed going, but if we'd wanted to see the panels we'd have had to spend our entire day waiting in line, and that just doesn't seem like a good way to spend a Saturday... but that's why people buy multiple day passes. And The Oatmeal wasn't there, which was the one booth I was looking forward to.

Then Monday I went into work and about half of the company, myself included, was laid off. No warning, no notice, not even severance. I didn't even get paid for going into work, despite being there for almost two hours before finally leaving with my check from last week. Total shit. I'd wanted out of that company pretty much since starting more than a year ago, but I wanted to do it on my terms and be able to walk out of there having said what I felt, and that was taken away. The upside is the rest of the week has been a much happier one, where I woke up and felt ready to take on the day, went to bed at night with an accomplished feeling and have been far more satisfied with my life simply not having that job. I can't be in a job I hate, not for long anyway, and having done so was really taking its toll. In fact, I'd taken the Friday before off mostly to job hunt because I wanted out so badly. Of course, not having an income sucks and prevents me from truly enjoying this time off as much as I'd like to, but that's what unemployment insurance is for, right?

I spent the rest of Monday drinking, first with one also-laid-off coworker and then with friends, and had a lovely Monday for the first time in months. I have to say, summer is a great time to be unemployed. 

Tuesday I was very productive: got in a great morning work out then spent the rest of the afternoon applying to jobs. I found one that's actually in my own neighborhood (walk to work?!) and seems completely perfect for me. I took a lot of time crafting an application and personal email and they responded asking for a phone interview! The interview process at this particular company is long and involved because they're looking more for the right fit, but that makes me feel like I have an advantage. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, because the people in my life are awesome, I went to opening day at the Del Mar Racetrack with one of my best friends. I'd been to the races before but never on opening day, and so much eye candy! Fabulous dresses and even better hats were everywhere. It was so much fun getting dressed up and walking around with all of the other people. We took the free shuttle from the Solana Beach train station and our fellow passengers were so drunk (at 1pm) that we could smell the alcohol on them. Once we actually got in it was obvious the vast majority of opening day patrons had been drinking for some time. We met up with my friend's coworker, who was having a bad day, but it seemed like everyone else was having a bad day too. Around 4pm there were a lot of ladies who were yelling at their men or just sitting down tired, drunk and angry. It didn't affect us though - we enjoyed seeing the horses and all the dolled up ladies all day, even if we were the only ones in a halfway decent mood. But I'd have never had the chance to go to opening day and prance around in a hat and dress if I was employed!

Thursday night, again taking advantage of my newfound unemployment, the boyfriend and I and his friend saw The Dark Knight Rises at midnight. I won't say anything about it except that it was great and totally worth seeing at midnight. However, I don't think I'll be seeing any more midnight showings, job or no job, because apparently I'm old and it's become too hard to stay awake. 

Friday the boyfriend and I ran some errands, getting a cage for his very fruitful tomato plant, and met up with his friends in my neighborhood for happy hour. One of his old friends from college was in town for Pride and their whole group got together. It was a fun night, especially because everyone seemed to be in such a great mood.

It's an awful cell phone picture, but those are dancing super heroes.

And finally, today is Gay Pride. We went to the parade, walked to Balboa Park (where apparently the festival is $20 per person), and then walked back. The people watching during Pride is one of my favorite things to do, and I always try to go at some point of the day. We saw a girl walking around in just shorts and star-shaped pasties on her nipples, right past a cop. He told her to put a shirt on. She complained and the poor cop just shook his head as in, look, you can't go walking around naked, just put a shirt on. It was a little ridiculous. But then so was the foam-mobile. 

Tonight might consist of sushi and drink specials and maybe walking around Hillcrest for Pride. This year, though, is going to be decidedly different from last. This year will not involve me making out with a gay man, or annoying anyone's boyfriend, or walking through Hillcrest barefoot because my heels hurt too much (I still shudder that I actually did that). This year will more likely consist of me saving the boyfriend from the clutches of very outgoing hopefuls around town. Seeing everyone happy and free and out makes me feel happy, which is why I love Pride.

It's certainly been an interesting week! I'm going to make an effort to better enjoy this time of no-work because I know that soon enough I'll be back at it 5 days a week. 

July 15, 2012

True Love

I found demotivational posters. In Spanish.*

So, the boyfriend and I are really comfortable with each other. Like, really comfortable. The other morning  we were getting dressed and I saw him make his “I’m gonna fart” face. I already had one in the works and I had a split second decision to make: do I suppress it and let him be the gross one or do I go for it? 

I went for it. 

And then I called out, “I win!” because mine was louder even though he argues he should have won because his was longer. I know, we're disgusting.

It reminded me of HIMYM when Marshall, in a fit of desperation, shaved off part of his hair right before his wedding. Marshall worried that Lily wouldn't marry him now, and asks Ted if he would marry him. Ted responds, “No but not because of the hair, because I have a rule. Never marry someone you’ve had a farting contest with.” Marshall freaks out even more and says, “Oh great. So now you’re saying Lily and I shouldn’t even get married?”

I then acted out that scene, causing the boyfriend to laugh uncontrollably for a few minutes.

Yep. I found a keeper.

*About the photo: I had wanted to find a clip of the part I described in the "Something Borrowed" episode but I'm not good at searching through YouTube, apparently. But a picture of Marshall and Lily in their pirate and parrot costumes with a LEGENDARIO caption in Spanish works nicely.

July 14, 2012

My First World Problem

I hate my full time job but can't afford to leave it.

I'm really sick of hating my job. I've hated my job for close to 3 years, and it's really starting to weigh down because I've had jobs I've really loved. I just haven't had one in years. And that gets old.

I honestly feel like I'm a hard working, dedicated and loyal employee. I want to see the company or group I'm with succeed and I want to help it do so. But I don't want to work for a company where the boss gets rich and the employees are overworked, mistreated and/or peons. I don't want to work for a company that is only concerned about the income and completely unconcerned about customer service or the quality of the product or service they provide. I don't want to have a pit in my stomach on Sunday nights or get a headache driving to work in the morning because I'm fed up, angry, and exhausted. I don't want to see my name being used on shit articles or associated with a company I would never in a million years recommend to anyone. 

I want to do something that matters.

I'm not looking to get rich (with a degree in Literature and Writing and an interest in non-profits I've long ago made peace with the fact that that just will not happen even if I want it to), but I don't want to be taken advantage of. I know I can survive on incredibly little money, so a high salary really isn't going to be a deal breaker or even much of a requirement. That being said, I do have a college degree and I'm not going to be happy with a $10 an hour gig no matter how great it is. 

All this being said, I can't help but feel like a whiney little girl. I have a full time job at a decent hourly rate (not as good as I'd like but a lot better than a year ago) and can afford my apartment, my car, my new computer and save for a vacation. My life doesn't suck; it's actually pretty great from 530pm to 9am, and I'm at least working with people I really like and am using the skills I learned getting my degree. So why all the complaining? Because it's not enough. I want it all, I really do, and I know I won't be happy until I have it all. And I'm so close. All I want is to work for a company I believe in, a company that deserves my loyalty and dedication, a company I can be proud to work for. And isn't that the American Dream? Am I really asking for too much? I was not led to believe that working a mediocre job was the plan or the goal or even how I would spend my twenties. And wanting every week day to pass by quickly so it can be the weekend again is wasting my summer, my year and eventually my life and that is most certainly not how I want to live.

I'm not asking to find my dream job, though that'd be nice. I'm just asking to not hate the thing I spend the vast majority of my waking life doing. 

July 9, 2012

Why Pinterest Is So Popular

You should pin this image. Because it's beautiful.

It’s almost surprising that Pinterest was created so late in the game, and its popularity and massive growth isn’t surprising in the slightest. The social media site Pinterest is literally a collection of inspiring pictures that other people can like, share and collect. So ridiculously simple.

It also shouldn’t come as a big surprise that 80% of Pinterest’s users are female. Apparently we’re pinning (technical term) ideas for our weddings, tips on raising our kids, neat ways to clean and organize the house, room designs we love, food we want to eat, and funny e-card sayings that are so true (knowing this, is it surprising that the vast majority of Pinterest users aren’t college educated?). When you describe it that way it sounds pretty dumb, especially since I guarantee the vast majority of Pinterest users are not actually using the tips and ideas they’re pinning in real life, but as a Pinterest user I think the site is pretty great. And here’s why it’s become so damn popular in such a short amount of time:

It's exclusive.
This is how they get you. I don’t know what it is about being told no, but we simply cannot have it. If we’re told no, or even not yet, we must have that thing. Just watched the episode of Friends where Ross tells Joey not to go after his hot nanny which only made Joey want her even more. Similarly, when Google+ was by invitation only I had to join. Same with Pinterest. Don’t you dare tell me no! I swear, all sites should do this. Every time a site is like “join now!” I’m all, no. But tell me I have to request an invite and I’m all over it. It’s dumb, I know.

It's inherently girly.
From the layout to the font to the friendly "about" page and how-to tutorial, Pinterest is for the girls. Not to mention the name: Pinterest is very cute. You pin things you like to a pinboard like you used to do with photos of friends in college. I didn't live in the dorms in college but I'd imagine there weren't a whole lot of dudes with cork board photo collages. Plus, it's all about organizing things into lists! Girls love lists!

It has lists and you organize things into lists.
There's not a whole lot more that needs to be said about this attractive feature. It's really not just girls who love lists... we as human beings like to organize things. There are whole stores devoted to organization. Grocery stores are laid out in a very specific manner to appeal to our sense of organization. We just gotta put stuff where they belong. Maybe it's a control thing.

It's pictures.
The age of the internet has made us far more predisposed to pay attention to something if it has an image; blog posts and articles are less likely to be read if they do not have an image, Facebook posts with an image are more likely to be shared if they come with a photo, and our diminishing attention spans (is that really a thing or is it just the older generation being frustrated with the younger generation?) mean we can glance at a photo, gather its meaning, and move on within a second or two. Plus, pictures are pretty, and Pinterest is loaded with high quality photos for our eye candy pleasure.

It's got our friends, but it's also got cool strangers.
Pinterest encourages users to connect using Facebook or Twitter so that you can immediately follow your friends. Then, it recommends strangers for you to follow based on your interests. Anyone you automatically follow you can manually unfollow and you can pick and choose an individual's boards to follow. Basically, Pinterest combines the usefulness of all the other social networking sites and eliminates everything except the pictures and the comments: you have only the friends you like, plus strangers you have common interests with, and you share photos of things you already like. Freaking genius.

No wonder Pinterest became as popular as it did in as little time as it did. I started using Pinterest for work because they initially gave do-follow links back to the website hosting the image (we’d pin the image of our blog posts, getting a quality link back to help us rank better in Google search results). The point was to get as many other pins as possible because each was its own link back to our website, which was awesome. But then I started seeing stuff on there that made me realize I could start SEOing my own blog (not this one, since I do a lot of stealing from the internet for my photos [sorry, Internet]). I did this not to get the do-follow links, which are now no-follow, but to share the amazing recipes the boyfriend and I make with people who are predisposed to like it and use those techniques to expose as many people as possible to it. First, our recipes are almost exclusively easy to make and quite inexpensive, but they look fancy enough to photograph, which the boyfriend does very nicely. In short, our food blog is the perfect pin source. Now go pin things from it!

July 7, 2012

Why Obama Will Be Reelected

If the Democrats like it we hate it!

Alright, hush. I'm not a politician or political analyst, but I am an American and I have an opinion and you're on my blog anyway.

No secret that I'm a fan of Obama and lean to the left on a lot of social issues. I voted for him and I think he's doing some pretty great things. At the very least, he killed Osama bin Laden, stood up for gay marriage and is trying to get Americans better access to healthcare, which is something I need to start researching. I get really frustrated with the Republicans in office who have all but come out and said that if the President supports it they will oppose it, regardless of how good of an idea it is. Case in point: Mitt Romney (the supposed Republican presidential candidate, but we'll get into that in a minute) enacted nearly the exact same health care plan for Massachusetts when he was governor and now has nothing good to say about it, even though if he were really all about the country he would openly agree the President has a good idea and that he supports it (to be fair, he did once do exactly that, but now that he's trying to get the president's job he's backtracking, saying the exact thing he did for his state, which was good then, would be bad for the country). But you can't do that in an election year, and I guess Republicans can't be caught agreeing with a Democrat or all the kids in school will pick on him.

I miss my old gynecologist.

The biggest reason I think Obama has it in the bag is that Republicans so far don't even have a contender. FYI, guys, it's July. Pick someone already. Acknowledge that Romney is your guy or find your knight in shinning armor, like, now, cause it's getting down to it. Didn't McCain get the nomination in February or some other really early month? And now it's July and the GOP still can't admit they're going to back Romney? Even though every other candidate has bowed out of the race? If even the Republicans don't like him, what chance does the party have? There aren't enough I'll-vote-for-anyone-but-Obama-because-I-don't-want-to-wear-a-burka votes out there to make that matter.

The second biggest reason is that in the middle of an election year Obama is growing a pair and taking a stand on some super controversial subjects which has got to drum up favor among supporters and those who say he's been lax. First, he openly declared his support for gay marriage. While he can't just go make it law, much to the relief of our Christian overlords who feel the need to legislate our private lives, he says he believes this is the major civil rights issue of this time and that he will do what he can to give the same rights and privileges to gay Americans as the rest of the country receives. Applause, sir. Way to stand up and stick it to the fundies where it hurts. I still don't understand what's so horrible and awful about gays marrying the ones they love (please, someone, explain it to me in a rational manner that doesn't involve quoting the Bible), and I'm glad the President feels the same way. Which, to clarify, is that religious beliefs don't mean squat, and civil rights are civil rights.

Mr. Obama is also pushing for his Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, now that the Supreme Court says he can. Now, I don't know enough about the bill, and do not have the time/energy to research it right now, but I do know enough to say that I can't make a decision one way or the other about whether I support it. I know it will require every American to have health insurance and there will be a fine (or tax, if that's what you want to call it) for those who "opt out," which may be plenty cheaper than actually having insurance. I also know individuals and employers will still keep their plans if they want, that insurance companies can't deny a claim based on a pre-existing condition or drop people for no reason, and that Americans will have to choose between a private insurance company like we have right now or the to-be-created government option (unless that got cut... again, need to do my research). On the one hand, I would love to have health insurance. I'm clumsy as fuck and it's really only a matter of time before I need stitches or a cast, and it'd be nice to not be in debt up to my ears for something like that. And I really need to see a dentist. But on the other hand, I am a pretty healthy young person and have not been to the doctor (except for the gynecologist, but that's taken care of thanks to Planned Parenthood) in years. Years. Not since I was in college. Except for that one time I went to Urgent Care for eczema, and that was over 3 years ago. So, I dunno if that's something I really need to pay over $100 a month for, considering how often I'd use it.

Damn sluts trying to have sex and not get pregnant!

He's also trying to bring a human side to America's illegal immigration problem, which some believe is going to be the absolute death of our country. Illegal immigrants who came here with their parents before the age of 16, who either are successful students or served in the American military, who pose no criminal or security threat, will get a 2 year reprieve from being deported. I'd say that if an immigrant served in the military he or she should be granted citizenship, but for some reason that's not enough proof that they'd be good citizens. Plus, it's not even like he's giving them anything more than a chance to finish school, finish serving, or start the citizenship process.

I think Obama's actions during this election year are going to speak to pretty much everyone except the fundies: the young, the gay, the female, the foreign, the sick, the poor, the educated, and probably even a few of the religious, too. His actions seem rooted in what he believes is best for the country as a whole. While he may be singling out some religious groups with his support of gay marriage and his requirement that employers cover birth control (which they're exempt from anyway... another thing someone needs to explain to me), he's embracing the gay population and almost the entire female population. He's telling young immigrants that he won't punish them for the crimes of their parents. He's telling sick people they won't be turned away from affordable care just because they're sick. I can get behind that. 

But what do I know? I'm a young woman with gay and foreign friends, so I clearly don't know what's good for my country.

July 5, 2012

Why California Is More Awesome Than Your State

I've used this before and I'll use it again.

The news has been dominated with stories of just how hot it’s been in the country lately, as we’ve had the hottest two weeks in recorded history. Temperatures are in the triple digits in many states and a massive power outage on the East Cost left thousands without air conditioning. 

And the other day after work I went for a nice run, rather than to the gym, because it was so cool out. I frickin love San Diego.

It’s really hard to sympathize when other states pick on California for being weird or prissy or stuck up or radical and then complain that they don’t have AC when I can feel ocean breezes at work (and at home, on my lucky days). Sure we get temperatures over 100 degrees here, and in fact I worked in 110+ degrees three summers ago (really, it’s been 3 years already?) in a truck in “Africa” without AC. And I dealt with it. And lost 5 pounds. I will say, however, that our cool weather has been wonderful, but it was a bit too cool on the 4th of July; I wanted an iconic, hot summer day and got mist in the morning and clouds that never gave way. Oh well.

The other day I stumbled upon a Twitter profile for Count on Coal, a company that’s all about the benefits of coal powered energy and why we need it. I also happened to stumble upon photos from Pittsburgh from the 1940s when everything was coal powered and the streets and buildings were black from smoke. Seriously, you couldn’t even see across the street in broad daylight because the smoke was so thick. Pittsburgh doesn’t look like that anymore because of sweeping clean air standards that were soon implemented nationwide and even in countries around the world. Count on Coal’s Twitter feed talked almost exclusively about how cheap coal energy is and why we as a country can’t afford to get rid of it now. Somehow, though, they think we can afford the threat to national security that coal energy requires, the damage to the environment that will take decades to repair, the damage to our lungs and bodies that is irreparable, and the loss of jobs that clean energy production can provide (yes, getting rid of coal will get rid of coal jobs but that's a very, very tiny percentage of the population).

Energy is set up to be a rather large player in the presidential election in a few months, with our current president trying to remove coal as a main source of energy and replace it with clean, renewable sources of energy in the form of solar and wind and biofuels where possible, while those within the coal industry will do whatever they can to keep coal useful, despite its health and environmental costs. On NPR yesterday I listened to a person employed by a coal company say Hussein (our president’s rather unfortunate middle name) is Arabic for “I hate coal workers.” Real mature. During the same story, one woman explained that the coal workers in Virginia don’t know anything else and that losing their coal jobs (most of which are mining, a deadly job) would be devastating. I didn’t hear anyone say they’d be opposed to learning a new job, such as, say, clean energy production, and when you realize that jobs in Virginia are actually up 7 or so percent in that state it’s hard to take the coal miners seriously. I think I’d be OK to be rid of my dangerous job, which will most certainly give me a terminal disease in my old age if it doesn’t outright kill me, especially if it meant being transferred to a much better, safer job.

It seems like there will never be a good time to make the changes that our country needs. It seems like a pretty big coincidence that this major heat wave and freak storm that caused the power outage is going on right when we’re all complaining that we can’t afford the clean energy, that we can’t afford to stop our planet from killing us. We’re in an amazing cycle right now that will ultimately culminate in a mass extinction that will almost certainly wipe us out: we use incredibly damaging products and energy sources because they’re financially inexpensive for the producer or buyer (usually thanks to horrific labor and environmental regulations in another country, which we like to ignore), the Earth’s climate starts to change because of these processes, we use even more damaging energy to deal more comfortably with the new climate, and so on. Meanwhile, we’re in a financially fucked period which actually has a lot to do with how we get all that cheap energy and the only choice we have is to keep buying that cheap energy. When will we ever sit back and realize we have the means to make the changes we need to make? When are we ever going to admit we’re financially comfortable enough to pay a little extra for the clean energy? Even American millionaires say they struggle to make ends meet.

Thing is, cause there’s always a thing, clean energy isn’t as expensive as the coal industry is saying. It’s not like our costs are going to double and we’re only going the clean energy route to be altruistic hippies. Here’s the truth: it’s actually cheaper. Clean energy is less expensive to buy and use than coal energy, which is why many businesses are moving towards clean energy. But coal isn’t going to admit to that. The initial costs of converting to a different energy source (borne by the energy utilities and certainly passed on to the consumer) will exist, obviously, and they might be more than what some people are willing to pay. It’s like planting a garden: setting up a bed, buying soil, seedlings and fertilizer is tons more expensive than buying a few tomatoes at the store. But when you don’t have to buy tomatoes for the rest of the summer, and your costs every summer after that for tomatoes are a fraction of what they used to be, it starts to look a lot more affordable. Plus, there’s the mass market factor: one person buying clean energy is going to cost more for that one person than it would if everyone on the block bought clean energy.

My long winded point is that the time has passed us. There won’t ever be a right time for us to convert to a better energy, and the planet is just going to suffer for it. Incidentally, after doing some research on our planet’s history the other day I came to the conclusion that the planet will actually be quite fine. It went through ice ages before that were so cold the oceans froze, had massive meteors hit that caused dust to choke out life, and will last through this heat age we’re contributing to. The sad thing is many people, if not all, will die, as will the majority of the species currently in existence. The rhinos and tigers and frogs and whales and pandas… everything except the super adaptable will die. Maybe a few people will survive, but human subspecies have gone extinct before so it can happen again. Then, some thousands of years later, plants and animals will begin to evolve again and all new life will start over, and maybe some new subspecies of human will walk the Earth again.