Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Long on goals, short on reality

I feel a little dirty.

Parts of George W. Bush's Stat of the Union speech made me hurrah, which promptly made me slap myself, bringing me back to the reality that it's all conditional. I want to believe you, Georgie Boy. I want to tell the world that my president isn't giving me lipservice about my economic prospects as an American. I want to believe that my president will put the same kind of money behind research to perfect alternative fuels and energy as he puts into subsidizing the petrochemical industry, or the factory farm, or many of the other Uber-corporate institutions that have made America a culture of corruption and greed.

On a more positive note, more women are giving up their babies conceived out of wedlock or they're taking sole responsibility for them. In other news, it's okay for the Prez. to spy on Americans because he's preventing terrorism, but unlike the War in Iraq, there's no deadline for how long he can do it, because honestly, will terrorism ever really go away?

My thinking is this: Terrorism isn't nearly a big deal unless it involves a terrorist attacking America. Then, you bet your ass we're coming after you, mofo.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Food, wine, memories and the subsequent washing of dishes

Every time I drink Chardonnay I feel like a middle-aged housewife.

My college roommate, Lauren, used to be a close, close friend. Sometimes on weekends we'd go to Houston and I'd stay with her family in their provincial Cinco Ranch home with the customary white-columned entry. Her mother was ripe and fun, tit job and all. Usually, after a bottle of Penfolds Chardonnay, she was a hoot, if you could get past the slurred speech.

Now, if the bottle of Chard wasn't chilled when it arrived, Lauren's mother would toss a couple of ice cubes into a glass and fill it to the brim with the cheap Chardonnay. Nancy was usually the loudest and most congenial at dinner, and most often the most sauced.

Lauren used to be in the Corps., but you wouldn't know that just looking at her. She was a 20-something-year-old kid, engaged to an Army Reserveman. She got married to the soldier, and I wasn't even invited. She said I was her maid of honor.



Two culinary successes in a row? Is it possible, dear Watson? Yes; yes it is. On Saturday it was a roast chicken (my first attempt ever, and its breasts were juicy) and stuffed bell peppers. But that was nothing compared to the eggplant and sunflower seed pate. Just ask Dave. It was charming.

Tonight, I tried the taste of a different continent. It was black bean and garlic noodle soup with bok choy, sugar snap peas, tofu and shelled edamame. Everything turned out so well that I can't wait for lunch tomorrow. Thank God for leftovers. It wasn't quite like Mu Du Noodles, though. The Malaysian Laksa there is to... die... for.

And I thought I had it bad...

You can't even understand how disgusted I was. I mean I was gagging when I saw two under-30 Hispanic women picking up the trash at the Lovers Lane Station with, get this, NO GLOVES!!! Not even the latex ones that that you see in the doctor's office. These women were transferring refuse from one disease-laden container to another without wearing any protection!

Does the city of Dallas not provide these women with gloves, or are they so confident that there isn't some spent needle from some random junkie in there, just waiting to poke and infect them with whatever terrible affliction said junkie is carrying? Do these women have a death wish or is this just the tip of the mammoth public health issue iceberg?


Dave was kind of congested when we got back from Santa Fe, so much so that his ears wouldn't pop and he had no shortage of phlegm. After going to the doctor and getting some prescription decongestants and other stuff, he was feeling better.

I woke on Saturday at about 10:00 a.m. feeling less than optimal. So, I grabbed a book, my knitting and the paper and decided to stay in bed a bit longer. When Dave returned from his Saturday shift he noticed I wasn't quite up to snuff. He offered me some of the decongestants that the doctor had prescribed for him. "No way!" I countered. "I never take prescription drugs without a script. Never!"

Every time I'm offered a few pills out of someone else's prescription I'm always reminded of the Heroin Bob's plight a la SLC Punk. Heaven forfend I chaise a prescription pain pill with whiskey and not wake up the next morning.

Remember Heroin Bob when a friend offers you a little off the top of their prescription...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Leavings from the feast

No matter what horrid creation I contrive with the remnants of my pantry and fridge, Dave courageously adds a few drops of Tabasco and a shake or two of pepper and gobbles it down like an inmate in general population. I made one of my worst meal-time improvisations a few days ago.

Sweet potato crusted chicken breasts. Sounds harmless enough, right? But I have yet to master the art of pan frying, or frying at all, for that matter, and the idea of fluffy, lightly browned sweet potato covering a juicy, tender chicken breast kind of clouded my mind. What I actually got was a burned, greasy slab of chicken smeared with a few glops of orange, lumpy yam. Nevertheless, Dave obliged it completely, attesting that it was good, and he'd take care of the leftovers. Thank God the poached Northook limas and sauteed spinach with red onion turned out. I would have starved.


Before life decisions are made, high school seniors are told that it's best to be well-rounded, to have a good idea of what you like and what you aspire to before you head off to college, but don't get too set in your goals, because life has a few tricks up her sleeve.

Sometimes life sends you careening into a hairpin turn, and all you can see is a 40-foot wall, but just a few feet to the left is the rest of the course. Can you adapt? Can you pump the brakes and hit the accelorator at the last minute to pull your craft out of what looks like certain death and still go on to win the race? Or do you hit the Bond-like blinking red "EJECT" button, jettison yourself and the drivers seat only to have the parachute, which should have insured your safe return to solid ground, fail?

When I was a sophomore at Texas A&M University, I took a Biomedical Genetics course from a tenured professor that had recently recovered from pituitary cancer only because they removed a chunk of his cerebrum (for lay persons, your pituitary is sandwiched by your brain and controls a lot of your basic functions, like telling you that you're hungry or making sure that your salivary glands produce enough to dissolve carbohydrates).

I know, you're thinking, "Hey, they took out a piece of this prof's brain and the Aggies still let him teach?" But it's true. In that same semester I took Organic Chemistry and Chordate Anatomy with a Film Analysis class. Because I couldn't manage the three difficult science-oriented courses, I made three D's that semester. I realized I couldn't hack.

So, I started exploring my options. Can't hack it in Biomed hard enough to make it into Veterinary School at A&M, much less OSU, so I'm screwed in that department. I don't want to get a degree in some mediocre biology or micro-bio major and become a lab rat. Where's my emergency brake? Where's my "EJECT" button? Or better yet, WHO THE HELL RIPPED OFF MY SECURITY BLANKET AND LEFT MY ASS IN THE COLD?!

In Aggieland, a glut of students pursue majors in Hard Science (Chemistry, Geology, Mathematics and Engineering), Agriculture or Business. Those three majors tend to have more campus-wide facilities than other majors. Other popular choices are Political Science, RPTS (Recreation, Parks and Tourism Science) and Architecture. Almost all other majors are underfunded an obscure. Lucky for me, I was able to find one obscure enough that several Aggies that asked the ubiquitous question "What's your major?" responded to my declaration with "We actually have that major?"

Agricultural Journalism. It allowed me to transfer most of my existing science credits while not setting me back a semester. I was also able to emphasize my studies in Renewable Natural Resources. I pulled out of that hairpin turn with gusto and a skyward wave of my 10-gallon felt.

If you were wondering, I went into Aggieland majoring in Biomedical Science, Pre-Veterinary Medicine, and minoring in performance violin. Change of plans, huh?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

For fear of being ordinary

I can't help but be afraid that when I sit down at my desk and in front of my blog that I will pour something idiotic and generic on the page, much like Snoopy did, describing all those dark and stormy nights when all he wanted to be was a World War II flying ace.

That fear is quite a hurdle for many writers, or aspiring writers for that matter. It's that lack of confidence that really gets you, that fear that the pages and pages you pore over day after day will be as insignificant to you as a letter from some far-off collection agency.

Mediocrity. That word screams failure. Some think that "mediocre" is acceptable. Maybe for a half-assed report on Jane Austen or a statistical analysis of how many cows give birth after Artificial Insemination, but not for journalism. Writing for news or for periodicals is something that is done in attempt to grab an audience (sometimes literally) and captivate them. But, what do you do when you've got them in the palm of your hands? That's where outstanding journalism really comes into play.

Let's say that you really like breathing. I mean, you REALLY like it, well, you know, because it keeps you alive. And, like many people, you don't want to die like that chick in "Total Recall" that almost suffocates from the oxygen-depleted atmosphere of Mars, like you would without air to breathe.

Because of your passion for respiration, you decide that you will convince those that do not feel so passionately about air that they should be, that it's important. You sit down at your desk and you write:

Everyone needs to breathe because it's good for our bodies and it keeps us alive. You should like breathing air that is breathable, too. You're human, and like all humans, we need great air to fill our lungs, so come on and get on the bandwagon for air!

Mediocre. Isn't it? Now, what if I think that building a developing nation's economy on sweatshops and prostitution tourism is a bad idea. I mean, I think it's a REALLY bad idea. So, I try to convince others who do not feel the same way I do by writing a letter to the United Nations or some other agency that actually cares about the plight of the world's poor. I sit down at my desk and I write:

Fairouc is an 11-year-old boy in Moldova, a small country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine and once a part of the Soviet Union. Although liberated from Communism in 1991, Moldova remains occupied by Russian forces. Bitter winters put hardship on young boys like Fairouc, since his mother died and his father abandoned him and his younger sisters. Fairouc and his two sisters, Illyada and Gorcheeva, must work to pay for enough oil to keep them warm in their shanty just outside Chisinau, the capitol of Moldova.

If Fairouc is to earn enough money to keep warm during the semi-Siberian winters, then he must keep two jobs. One is at a local textile plant where he straightens cotton combs, a dangerous job that requires his nimble arms to navigate large steely machinery and dislodge objects that impede the combs. His other job is working in a grain storage warehouse with several tons of corn and rice that has all been treated with chemicals that are deemed toxic in more developed regions.

DDT contaminates the food supply, the soil and the groundwater and slowly poisons Fairouc, Illyada and Gorcheeva because they lack the resources to purchase clean drinking water. On many winter nights Fairouc has had to choose whether he and his sisters will eat or stay warm. This is an important choice because until last winter, they were four children living in the shanty, but Fairouc's twin brother Achaev got pneumonia.

Illyada and Gorcheeva are looking towards a pretty dim future as well. Once abandoned by their father, the girls have no one strong enough to protect them, and just as the first melt started and Gorcheeva went to an unpolluted spring to fetch water, she was attacked and raped. Many girls their age are sold by their families into an elaborate tourist-prostitution market where pre-teen girls are indentured sex servants. Gorcheeva and Illyada will live forever with that pain, until that is, one or both dies from a rampant disease outbreak.

To many people in the world, their lives are expendable. The are treated like cattle; just a few insignificant means to a few ends for a few people that will make a few bucks off of their withering, their death. This is not a way to value human life. This is voluntary genocide in a weak republic with leaders too greedy to see past the ends of their noses.

Just to be completely honest, these characters were completely fabricated. There is nothing true about this story except the part about Moldova being a former Soviet country that is occupied in part by Russian forces and is located between Romaina and Ukraine. But do you see my point? Personalizing the consequences, giving people an example of the virtues of your convictions, that's persuasion with an intent to convince.

Now, if that diatribe up there was factual and I had provided a few statistics (which, by the way, are perverted easier than Larry Flynt) you might actually be convinced, if you weren't already, that governments of developing countries should take more responsibility of their citizenry. Fairouc, Achaev, Illyada and Gorcheeva should have been put in a group home, somewhere with a warm fire and three squares. They should have had a shot at a happier, healthier childhood.

But, as I said before, mediocrity is standard, but for me, it just won't do.

Friday, January 13, 2006

In the wee hours, inspiration

If he's told me once, he's told me a million times that he wasn't much of a poet, much less a writer. I'd say that, too, if that's all that the people I loved the most ever told me. If all I heard from my family and loved ones was that I couldn't do what I want, that I'd be a complete failure, that I didn't work hard enough and I didn't have the brains/ambition/skills to be successful, I'd say I wasn't much of a writer, much less a poet -- but that equates to a difference in perception.

But last night, he had pangs of guilt when asked to take a break and leisure with me. He couldn't put his work down.

He said a week ago that several ideas had been rolling around his head. I visualized one of those Labyrinth wooden puzzles that required a person tilting a plane to get a ball through a maze while avoiding treacherous holes. From start to finish, the ball was ruled by gravity, and if you could avoid the pitfalls and hardships, the you would roll to the finish and fall in place.

Things are falling into place. He told me last night that one of his coworkers knew of a house that was going to be up for rent soon. We're leaving for Santa Fe tomorrow. We're going to do all the things we always wanted to do ... together.

Amazing what a little inspiration can do.