Saturday, June 5, 2010

It was inevitable...

I can't write about the oil spill. It's too sad. But this pretty much sums it up:

"So I’m finding it hard to talk about the BP oil spill. It is horrible in the most literal sense — it instills within me a sense of true, deep, abject horror. It is creeping and (for the moment, at least) unstoppable. It is killing everything it touches, and it is huge, and it is trying to touch everything.

Jesus Christ. We broke the ocean."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Case No. SPR-81815

This is the case number of my latest/most justified source of outrage. I'm also a tiny bit in hate with Charles Barkley right now, but we must pick our battles, and I don't think I could take Chuck. Actually, this makes me so angry that I don't even think I can make jokes. So I will have to explain what is going on here with bullet points and question words.

Who: Clay Greene vs. Sonoma County et al.
What: Embroiled in despicable legal battle of an inconceivable nature, which you will shortly discover
Where: Sonoma County, California.
When: April, 2008 - today
Why: Because there is evil in the world. Even in stupid sunny California.

Now, I did not actually set out to be a champion of LGBT rights, but come on people. This is getting seriously out of hand. Ok, I am going to try to power through this without hyperventilating, and/or too many unnecessary all-caps pontifications.

  • Clay and Harold live together as partners for 20+ years
  • Clay and Harold know they're getting on in years, and name each other as beneficiaries in their respective estates and assign each other as an agent in medical decisions
  • April, 2008: Harold, 88 (not in great health to begin with), slips and falls on front steps 
  • Clay calls an ambulance and Harold is taken to hospital

  • The men's agreement is COMPLETELY IGNORED by the County
  • County refers to Clay as a "roommate" and treats Howard in the hospital as though he has no family, revoking his powers of attorney
  • County liquidates an investment account to pay for medical expenses
  • 3 months after initial hospitalization, Harold passes away HAVING NOT SEEN CLAY EVER AGAIN
  • Clay now has nothing left of his life with Harold, and has been unable to recover any of their possessions, including pets who are most likely dead too

Clay is suing the following people/entities: A few specific members of the Sonoma County Government, including the Director of the Human Services Department, the Public Guardian/Conservator, and several Deputy Public Guardians; North Bay Auctions, LLC - the auction company that STOLE 20 years worth of belongings, some of which were actually quite valuable; and Agua Caliente Villa, the nursing home gulag where Clay was held AGAINST HIS WILL.

I went ahead and did some detective work, and you can read all about this so-called "assisted-living community." Purportedly, Agua Caliente Villa meets "the needs and desires of our residents by dispensing in balanced measure activities, freedom, solitude, companionship, choices... and love. Our singular goal is to provide a home environment for people who need more care than they or their families can give them." You can go here and check out their information page for "residents" prisoners. 

Directly beneath the words "Residents Rights" is the following paragraph (all typos are certainly not mine): "Agua Caliente Villa provides care to all with the utmost concern for the dignity and personal independence for every resident. Realizing each resident is unique, it is out goal to provide supportive care which enables everyone living in the facility to enjoy life to the greatest extent possible. Should there ever be an incidence of verbal or physical abuse of any kind, you are encouraged to report it immediately to a staff member or the administrator. Every staff member pledges to uphold resident rights which include at a minimum the rights listed here. "

If you click on the link (which I conveniently transported to my blog from their unedited website), you are lead to a list where Number 6 refers to the RIGHT TO LEAVE THE FACILITY AT ANY TIME.

There is CLEARLY A LOT MORE THAT I COULD SAY HERE but like I said, the anger is getting a little too palpable. I have no words for this. It's abominable, despicable, appalling, shocking, vile, horrifying, contemptible, straight-up criminal and completely unimaginable. Ok so I have some words. 

Since there isn't really anything anyone can do to make life any better for Clay at this point, the NCLR has launched a visibility campaign to get the word out. So get the word out. Tell people how this is the opposite of human. And that it is SO SO SO WRONG. I'm babbling now due to rage-induced delirium. If I ever find myself in this particular part of the world, I will be throwing lots of rocks. Especially if I've just gone wine tasting. There better be enough friggin' rocks.

**If you need to vent somewhere slightly more visible, go here**

4/20/10 UPDATE

The Sonoma County newspaper finally ran a story about this today. The headline reads "Lawsuit ignites firestorm in gay community against Sonoma County." Even this title makes me mad - I wish we could create an actual firestorm. Flames! Grrr! I'm thinking this particular firestorm would involve much more than just the "gay community."

Anyway, the county is saying that the two men were kept apart due to a domestic violence incident, not intolerant, inhuman maliciousness. Now, is it just me, or do people not call the police when an incident like that happens? If Clay assaulted Harold so badly that he was never able to be released from the hospital and passed away after 3 months, why did no one call the police? Because it's bullshit, that's why. The 3 page article has these 3 sentences to say about the so-called firestorm (once again, the typos are not mine - does no one proofread anymore?): 

"Outrage spilled onto a Facebook page advocating justice for the couple. Organizers urged people to write legislators and news sources. Other vented about the handling by Sonoma County officials or called for a boycott of all local businesses."

The rest of the article is basically about the county's defense strategy, which apparently is to lie.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Usain Bolt of Lightning Fast Twitch Muscle Fiber One Love

Whew. You follow that, Wheel of Fortune? Best Before & After ever! And it totally works as long as superhuman Jamaican sprinters actually like to fuel up on high-fiber cereals. Even better, in the amount of time it took you to read and comprehend the title of this post, Usain Bolt could have run 17 miles.

The historic event about which I am word-playing is, of course, Insane Bolt's* ridiculous world record shattering 100 meter dash(es). Dude's fast. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he won the gold in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay. Those are all the fastest races - when you add them all up they take just over a minute. Depending on how much PBR you drank, that's less time than it takes to pee!

Gee, I wonder who will win.

So Usain Bolt set a world/Olympic record in 2008 of 9.69 seconds. Luckily, he had enough time and energy to spare for a 20-meter-long celebration. He stopped racing and did this weird NFL-style victory dance. Some people were irked, but probably because they had just been thunderstruck by the realization that they would never be world record holders. Because no one is beating this guy. He now holds the current world record (set in Berlin in 2009) of 9.58 seconds. 

Take a second and think about that. One mississippi...

If you had taken 8 more seconds, he would have finished the whole damn race, danced a jig and cracked a Red Stripe already. Jeez. Side note: he also holds the world record for the 200m dash - 19.19 seconds. 

As a former sprinter, this completely blows my mind. I happened to run the exact same races as this guy (he's younger than me so I automatically have a small amount of bitterness). My best 100m time was probably 13.something, and 200m was probably 26 or 27.something. And I was fast for a 16-year-old girl! Perhaps I was jinxing myself by not wearing multiple pieces of heavy jewelry, as seems to be all the rage among the elite sprinting community. I bet the rhythmic clanking of a big gold chain against my sternum would have helped propel me across the finish line faster. Pshh.

Anyway, Usain Bolt of Lightning has totally upset the curve of world records. Here is an interesting article about his life as a mutant. If Michael Phelps is a shark, this guy's a cheetah.

That outlier on the bottom right is Usain Bolt breaking his own record (the closest competitor is himself). People have done all sorts of extrapolations and decided that the 100m dash could be run as quickly as 9.48 seconds. Superfast. If anyone can do it, this dude can. As long as he keeps up with his Fiber One.


*I am sure other people have nicknamed him this, but I thought of it all on my own, so I will continue to revel in its appropriateness. Yes, appropriateness is a word.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Above the Clouds

Today's post involves an internet scavenger hunt. But it will be easy because I will tell you where to go.

Ok, so this isn't historical in the larger sense (or at all), but I do what I want. So my good friend Lisa works with her Dad at Above the Clouds. Above the Clouds is an adventure travel company, putting together unique itineraries for trips to Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Patagonia. I had the good fortune of trekking in Nepal with them last summer, and had an amazing trip. ATC just launched a blog to share stories about travel, adventures, and life from staff, friends, clients, and ME! Check it out! But read the other posts too. And if any of you are planning a trip to any of these awesome places in the future, you know who to go to for help.

Monday, April 5, 2010

No Prom!

This just in:
The country club prom was a FAKE!

Instead of canceling Furniture Prom last week (only to later announce a new prom at an even weirder location - Country Club Prom), these underhanded bigot parents/school-officials-who-lied-under-oath did the unspeakable: they SECRETLY RELOCATED PROM!! Only seven students, plus Constance and her girlfriend showed up at the country club, where, presumably, Nelson from The Simpsons laughed at them.

We knew this was bad, but wow. This is so bad that no one even thought of it as a possibility. I would link to the actual news article, but it doesn't seem to load. Curious.

I have no words. This is the most despicable thing they could have possibly done. ACLU, please destroy these people with your lawyering.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Prom. No Prom. Prom. No Prom. Prom!

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know about the whole Constance McMillen thing. In case you have been living under a rock, allow me to summarize: Itawamba Agricultural High School (Fulton, Mississippi) had a regularly scheduled prom. Then, Constance McMillen asked to bring her girlfriend as her date, and to wear a tuxedo (Gasp!). Surprise! - they said no. When the ACLU informed the school district that this was all sorts of not cool, they canceled the Entire Prom. Even though they'd probably already paid the DJ. Then the prom was back on, but it was a privately organized parent-supported prom at a furniture store (what?), but Tuxedo Constance and her girlfriend were not invited. Then Constance (presumably the bravest 17-year-old girl Ever) sued to try to force the school board to un-cancel the original prom, and then the parents got scared that they'd get sued as well, so they canceled the Furniture Prom, too! So it was on, then off, then on, then off, and, you guessed it, on again! The parent-sponsored prom is now back in business, except this time at the local Country Club. Because Country Clubs are famous for their open-mindedness...

And get this, the school board testified - under oath! - that the "media attention generated [by Constance contacting the ACLU] distracted the school from its educational mission, and that the board canceled prom in an attempt to restore order." Imagine how much less distracted and disordered they'd be if they had just let the poor girl enjoy her prom in the first place.

Now, this is Mississippi we're talking about. We don't honestly expect all of our civil liberties to be upheld in Mississippi. "First Amendment? What's that? Is that the one with the guns?" But come on. It's also the twenty-first century. You can't openly discriminate (against someone who is clearly a very smart girl) and not expect to get called out for it. Well, I guess you can try. But then you get all flustered and have to cancel and un-cancel the stupid prom a million times. During all of these proceedings, it came out (hah!) that Constance wasn't the only student at IAHS to contact the ACLU this year. A transgender student who attended the school for one (1) day (!) was sent home on his second day. When he returned after his suspension, they suspended him again. When the ACLU asked the school district to provide reasoning for his suspension (which was conveniently left blank on his suspension forms), they refused to talk about it. Luckily, this student has since found a safer, more accepting place to be, but holy crap Mississippi. Not building a good reputation here with the American Civil Liberties Union. Or our first gay president.

Anyway...on to the historical part of this ridiculous ordeal...

Meanwhile in the Blue States, there has been an overwhelming outpouring of support for Constance from all around the rest of the country. Facebook's Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom currently has 423,000+ supporters. This is more than 100 times the population of Fulton, Mississippi. In the regular, slightly less bigoted world, people have crawled out of the woodwork to make sure this school district gets what it deserves. Dan Savage took it upon himself to sic his loyal, kinky readership on the Itawamba School District: "Now it's our job to make discriminating against (and retaliating against) vulnerable gay students a much bigger distraction for the Itawamba County School District understand than allowing Constance McMillen to attend prom ever would've been." Well put, Dan, well put. Thousands of people have written angry, distracting letters to the superintendent and school board (you can, too!). On March 19, Constance went on The Ellen Degeneres Show and was awarded a $30,000 scholarship (presumably for college learnin'). And best of all, a high school in Marin County, California has openly extended her and her girlfriend an invitation to their enlightened liberal prom. She hasn't RSVP'd yet, but they're hopeful. It's nice to see so many people outraged at such a ridiculously intolerant event. Bigoted school boards in Mississippi remind us that we still have a long way to go, but we've certainly come a long way, too.

Here's Constance's Thank-You message to everyone who has supported her (try to ignore the southern accent). I sure hope her prom date is worth all this trouble. Oh, and suck it, Mississippi.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Take THAT, Orthopoxvirus variola vera!

As a general rule, we humans think we're pretty special. Our collective species-ego is probably the biggest in the universe (except for maybe these guys, because look how badass! If only they breathed fire and flew around hunting women and children - then we could slay them!). Anyway, it is true that we have accomplished some pretty impressive stuff. If we hadn't, then I would have nothing to write about (the real travesty). One of these impressive things is the eradication of smallpox, which actually happened in the haze that was the 1970s (even more impressive). Just to give you an idea of how incredible this was: smallpox is thought to have killed somewhere around 300-500 million people in the twentieth century alone. This is roughly equal to the total number of people currently on Facebook. The World Health Organization reported two million deaths (out of 15 million cases) as recently as 1967. After some serious vaccinating, the eradication of the disease was certified in December of 1979. To this day, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to be successfully eradicated. Holy Awesome Batman!

Here's a quick and dirty background on the smallpox virus. It is believed to have emerged in the human population around 10,000 B.C., but who knows, really - we weren't keeping great records what with the Ice Age and everything.  It became known as "smallpox" in 15th century Europe to distinguish it from the "great pox" - syphilis. Silly, slutty Europeans. Transmission occurs through inhalation of the airborne virus, usually after close contact with an infected individual. The virus invades the respiratory mucosa or mouth and throat, spreads to lymph nodes, and eventually ends up in the bloodstream, spleen, bone marrow, bla bla bla, you get pox. Along with the characteristic skin lesions, smallpox causes fever, muscle pain, fatigue, headache, and digestive issues. Depending on the virus type (there are a few), fatality rate ranges from less than 10% to nearly 100%. So it's really kind of a toss-up.

Way back in 1796, we understood about vaccinations (we really are quite impressive). Edward Jenner discovered that inoculation with material from a cowpox lesion resulted in immunity to smallpox. Besides being ridiculously disgusting, this is where we get the word "vaccine." Vacca is Latin for cow. Today, the smallpox vaccine is less gross, but it does cause a pus-filled blister, and leaves a small scar.

Edward Jenner, cowpox pus extraordinaire

The eradication of smallpox required lots of intense monitoring, surveillance, and containment. Whenever an outbreak occurred, infected individuals were isolated, and everyone living close by was vaccinated. This prevented the disease from spreading, and the effort was helped immensely by the fact that smallpox has no animal host, and no carriers. By 1980, smallpox existed only in two laboratories: the CDC in Atlanta and the VECTOR Institute in Russia (it actually has a conservation status of "Extinct in the Wild"). Now we only have to worry about smallpox as biological warfare...

Now, I may be a bleedin' heart liberal, but who the hell are we to decide which viruses can continue plaguing us mercilessly and which cannot? I mean, it's cool and everything that smallpox isn't out killing millions of people a year, but if we learned anything from Jurassic Park, it's that "life...finds a way..." 
Thanks, chaos theorist Jeff Goldblum

This one might come back and bite us. Maybe not as an angry T-Rex, but still. Regardless, the score is currently People, 1, Orthopoxvirus variola vera, 1,000,000,000. It remains to be seen who will come out on top.