28 October 2008

Still waiting

A while back, I asked for some rational arguments against Same-Sex Marriage.

I'm still waiting.

I still have yet to hear one - just ONE! - rational reason why Californians should pass Proposition 8 - which is an attempt to alter our State Constitution to define "marriage" as a "only between a man and woman".

I've heard lies.

I've heard misdirection.

I've heard ignorance.

I've heard fear.

But I have not heard one logical, legal argument as to why Citizen A should be allowed to enter into a legal contract with another consenting adult of his or her choice but Citizen B should be denied that same right.

Your church will not lose it's tax-exempt status. Your pastor will not be arrested for preaching about homosexuality. Your Bible will not be banned. Your kids will not be forced to learn about homosexual intercourse. Your own rights will remain unchanged.

Oh, and Prop. 8 won't "restore" marriage to any previous definition overturned by "activist judges legislating from the bench."

What it WOULD do is endanger our Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights - not just for gays, but for EVERYONE.

Those judges were doing exactly what they are sworn to do: Interpret and uphold the Constitution. And the most basic premise of our State and Federal Constitutions - the very foundation of our whole Nation - is that ALL people are EQUAL under the law.

How can anyone possibly reconcile that deeply held American value of equality with the intention and consequence of this Proposition?

So, I'll say it again: Prop. 8 is thoroughly UN-American.
Proposition 8 puts discrimination INTO our Constitution. It requires the government to treat it's citizens differently under the law. And THAT undermines the very foundation of equality and civil rights we ALL enjoy as Americans.
Whether you personally approve of homosexuality or not is irrelevant. The real question we are deciding next week is whether or not the Government can pick and chose which of its citizens may have certain civil rights and which may not.
Is that really a slope you want to start travelling down?

They first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up.

Democracy is not the law of the majority but the protection of the minority.-- Albert Camus
A people who extend civil liberties only to preferred groups start down the path either to dictatorship of the right or the left.-- Justice William O. Douglas
The privacy and dignity of our citizens [are] being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen -- a society in which government may intrude into the secret regions of a [person’s] life. -- Justice William O. Douglas
The whole of the Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals... It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.-- Albert Gallatin
The first thing to learn in intercourse with others is non-interference with their own particular ways of being happy, provided those ways do not assume to interfere by violence with ours.-- William James
Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.-- Thomas Jefferson
The best principles of our republic secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights. -- Thomas Jefferson
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. -- Thomas Jefferson
The busybodies have begun to infect American society with a nasty intolerance -- a zeal to police the private lives of others and hammer them into standard forms -- A Nation of Finger Pointers.-- Lance Morrow
From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own." -- Carl Schurz
We must remember that a right lost to one is lost to all.-- William Reece Smith, Jr
The constitution does not provide for first and second class citizens.-- Wendell L. Wilkie

20 October 2008

I know it's here somewhere

I seem to have misplaced my Calm.

I know it must be around here somewhere. I mean, I just had it a bit ago.

I know I had it this morning when my four-year-old threw up in his bed. And I'm sure I still had it when I could not find the one-year-old's shoes. I think it was still there when the zipper broke on the baby's brand-new jacket.

I remember clinging to it desperately when the four-year-old threw a tantrum for no particular reason, causing the one-year-old to follow suit as I was trying to get them both in the car. But by the time I had gotten to the sitters' house and realized I'd forgotten their day bag, it was well-and-truly gone.

I know if I could just set aside this pile of little frustrations, I would find my Calm underneath them all.

So I need to wash bedsheets tonight ... so I was a little late to work ... so the kids went an hour without their bag ... so what?

I have two beautiful, healthy children ... I have a wonderful babysitter who loves them like they were family ... I have a loving and helpful husband who doesn't sweat the small stuff ... I have a kind and understanding boss who realizes that some mornings are just out of control.

The four-year-old is not sick. The one-year-old is warm. The shoes will be found. The Husband delivered the bag to the sitter.

Everyone is where they need to be and doing what they need to do. The world is an amazing place. This day is an amazing gift. All is right with the world.

Ahhh, there it is. That Calm wasn't so hard to find, after all. And it's brought a Lesson back with it:

I must work on growing my Calm, if I want to keep from misplacing it again.

After all, my Calm must be too small, if I was able to lose it among such little things this morning.

"Calm in quietude is not real calm.When you can be calm in the midst of activity,
this is the true state of nature.

Happiness in comfort is not real happiness.
When you can be happy in the midst of hardship,
then you see the true potential of the mind."

~ Huanchu Daoren

19 October 2008

The Force is strong with this family

Friday, we took the Minions to trick-or-treat at the "Zoo Boo" - an annual Halloween party at our local zoo.

In true geek-family fashion, the minions went as Jedi. Minion #1 was a young Obi Wan and Minion #2 was Yoda.

Adorable, they were.

We saw one or two other Padawans wandering about, but not many. It seems Spider-Man was the Tickle-Me-Elmo of Halloween this year. You could hardly turn around without tripping over a friendly neighborhood web-crawler. There were also a suspicious number of pirates about.

I suspect the fleet was in town.

For the girls, of course, it was all about the Disney Princesses. Though I did see several witches and some female super-heroes - which would have been encouraging had it not been for the fact that some of the costumes were way to0 sexy for six-year-olds. That just made it kinda creepy. Can I just say one more time how happy I am to have boys?

Sorry, where was I?

Oh yeah: Trick-or-treating Jedi.

The boys had a good time wandering about scavenging candy from the vendor tables and seeing the animals at night. We are members and visit the zoo a lot, so you'd think they might have been a little blase' about the venue. But no, they had a blast.

"Obi-Wan" can't wait for Halloween now ... wants to know when he gets to don his light saber and "get more treats". In fact, he's hardly put his light saber down since Saturday. He'd have slept with it last night if I'd let him. :)

"Yoda" isn't old enough to to have developed the candy avarice yet ... but he had a lot of fun people-watching. So I think he'll enjoy our little outing on the 31st, too.

We don't do the traditional door-to-door thing on Halloween, because: 1) The kids are really too young, and 2) Mommy's never liked it ... dark streets, candy from strangers, and teens who think the night is designed for mayhem? No thanks.

Instead, we go to our local mall's Trick-or-Treat Party. Lighter, safer, climate controlled ... Now that's my idea of a good time. :)

Personally, I think the best part of both the Zoo Boo and the Mall Party is just seeing all the kids (and some adults) in costumes. (But if you ask The Husband, he'll tell you it's the candy.)

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite adult costumes from the Zoo Boo:

Cute, huh?

I think the guy "riding" the ostrich is my favorite, but you totally have to give props to the bald guy donning the pumpkin stem, eh? The girl? Well, it's HP - I couldn't pass that up. There was a also a cute trio of witches a'la Macbeth, but I didn't get a pic.

I also didn't get any good pics of other kids - but there were several cute and clever costumes, including twins dressed as Mario Brothers, an adorable little Raggedy Anne and Andy pair, and a jumpsuited Elvis, thankyouverymuch.

So, what are you going to be for Halloween?

15 October 2008

No On Prop 8

Thanks to Dave2 at Blogography for pointing me to these great videos!

As I've said before - and will continue to proclaim from my tiny little soap box - Proposition 8 is unconstutional, unfair and downright un-American.

Vote No On Prop. 8

14 October 2008

The Lies of Locke Lamora

I read for a lot of reasons - to stretch my mind, to enhance my mind, to change my mind, to calm my mind. But, sometimes, I just like to read to entertain my mind ...

Yep, my dirty little literati secret: I love "brain candy" ... books with no redemptive value beyond the pleasure of the moment.

Since Minion #2 was born just over a year ago, that's been the main fare around here on the literature front. I don't have the time or energy for the meatier tomes.

Nietzsche-Schmietzsche ... just give me a few minutes a few nights a week with something light and fluffy - science fiction and fantasy being my favorite flavor - and I'm happy enough.

My "to read" pile has gotten very tall indeed as most of my literary meat and potatoes - and even the more exciting steak and lobster - have been pushed to the bottom to make room for the cotton candy and bubble gum.

I thought I was choosing more of the same when I recently picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

But I was only half-right.

It was candy, all right ... but it wasn't bubble gum, or even a chewy nougat-y treat.

No, it was more like an exotic truffle - one that hits you upside the tastebuds with a rich and complex flavor and texture. Mmmmm. Not exactly nourishing ... but extremely satisfying, none-the-less.

I enjoyed it so much that I immediately ordered the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies and devoured that as quickly as the first. Now I have to wait until 2009 for the third course. And I find myself awaiting that as eagerly as ... well ... dessert.

I won't give away any spoilers - because I hate it when people do that - but I will say that it was a great story, with interesting characters, nice pacing, fun twists, skillful foreshadowing, and a riveting attention to "background" detail in a uniquely imagined - but still believable - world that was simultaneously alien and familiar.

It's a little bit Fafhrd-and-the-grey-mouser-meets-Ocean's-Eleven ... with a side of Oliver Twist and a dash of Renaissance Italy. And it's a good mix. It left me satisfied with a well-told tale ... but still wanting more of these characters and their lives. That's not a bad for a first-time author. Bravo.

Was it Chaucer or Dickens or Twain? Nah. But it was yummy anyway. You should try it.

What are you still doing here?

Go. Read it. Let me know what you think.

11 October 2008

Quote Junkie: On Bunny Slippers and the Human Condition

A collection of quotes from one of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz:

“Some people think only intellect counts: Knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion and empathy.”

“One of the greatest sorrows of human existence is that some people aren't happy to merely be alive but find their happiness only in the misery of others.”

“We are an arrogant species, full of terrible potential, but we also have a great capacity for love, friendship, generosity, kindness, faith, hope, and joy.”

“Do as little harm to others as you can; make any sacrifice for your true friends; be responsible for yourself and ask nothing of others; and grab all the fun you can. Don't give much thought to yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow, live in the moment, and trust that your existence has meaning even when the world seems to be all blind chance and chaos. When life lands a hammer blow in your face, do your best to respond to the hammer as if it had been a cream pie. Sometimes black humor is the only kind we can summon, but even dark laughter can sustain.”

“When tempest tossed, embrace chaos.”

“Like all of us in this storm between birth and death, I can wreak no great changes on the world, only small changes for the better, I hope, in the lives of those I love.”

“Human beings can always be relied upon to exert, with vigor, their God-given right to be stupid.”

“A fanatic is a nut who has something to believe in.”

“I think it's perfectly just to refuse service to anyone based on behavior, but not based on race or religion.”

“I try not to spend too much time on partisan politics. Life's too short for that. I don't really believe that there have been many human problems solved by politics.”

"I'd give Charles Darwin videotapes of 'Geraldo,' 'Beavis and Butt-head' and 'The McLaughlin Group.' I would be interested in seeing if he still believes in evolution."

“In my books, I never portray violence as a reasonable solution to a problem. If the lead characters in the story are driven to it, it's at the extreme end of their experience.”

“Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled.”

“Six billion of us walking the planet, six billion smaller worlds on the bigger one. Shoe salesmen and short-order cooks who look boring from the outside - some have weirder lives than you. Six billion stories, every one an epic, full of tragedy and triumph, good and evil, despair and hope. You and me - we aren't so special, bro.”

"I believe that we carry within us a divinely inspired moral imperative to love ... We have within us the ability to change for the better and to find dignity as individuals rather than as drones in one mass movement or another. We have the ability to love, the need to be loved, and the willingness to put our own lives on the line to protect those we love, and it is in these aspects of ourselves that we can glimpse the face of God; and through the exercise of these qualities, we come closest to a Godlike state."

“Bunny slippers remind me of who I am. You can't get a swelled head if you wear bunny slippers. You can't lose your sense of perspective and start acting like a star or a rich lady if you keep on wearing bunny slippers. Besides, bunny slippers give me confidence because they're so jaunty. They make a statement; they say, 'Nothing the world does to me can ever get me so far down that I can't be silly and frivolous.' If I died and found myself in Hell, I could endure the place if I had bunny slippers.”

09 October 2008

Stars upon thars

Sometimes I feel really out of place in my little town.

I'm a non-religious, left-leaning, tree-hugging, civil-rights advocate surrounded by "god-fearing" right-wing, Christian "morals and values" conservatives.

Now, don't get me wrong: Most of the folks I know and interact with everyday are really very nice people. And, in general, there is a lot to like about our community and the people in it. But, every now and then, it is brought home to me that I am, indeed, a Plain-Bellied Sneetch in the land of the Star-Bellies.

This week, I have grown especially tired of listening to the fear-mongering, right-wing rhetoric regarding Proposition 8.

It's been in my newspaper, it's been in my mailbox, it's been in my inbox, in my office, in my grocery store, on my computer, on my streets. And I'm fed up with the manipulative misinformation.

For anyone who might not know: Prop. 8 is a measure on the November ballot here in California that attempts to make an end-run around the State Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year that denying same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. So, the people opposed to same-sex marriages decided, well, we can fix that right up ... and are proposing to change the State Constitution to reflect their "moral values" that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California".

It should be obvious that I'm opposed to this measure. To me, it is a simple matter of civil rights. I can respect that other people see it differently. I think they are wrong. But I can still respect their right to that opinion.

But if one more person tells me that Prop. 8 is going to hurt kids and churches and puppies ... I might scream.

If you want to support this Proposition, fine. That is your right and I encourage you to exercises it as you see fit. But base your arguments on FACTS, please, not hyperbole!

Here is what the California Legislative Analyst's Office has to say about Prop. 8 ... and the official California Voter Guide ... and Wikipedia ... and the L.A. Times ... and the San Diego Union-Tribune ... the Santa Cruz Sentinel ... the SF Chronicle ... the NY Times ... Oh, and let's don't forget what the California Supreme Court had to say on the subject (if you don't want to read the full 175 pages of legal-ese, here's a nice little summary).

Prop 8. Fiction vs. the Facts

Fiction: People can be sued over personal beliefs.
Fact: California’s laws already prohibit discrimination against anyone based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This has nothing to do with marriage.

Fiction: Churches could lose their tax-exemption status.
Fact: Nothing in Prop 8 would force churches to do anything. In fact, the court decision regarding marriage specifically says “no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”
Fiction: Same-sex marriage would be taught in public schools.Fact: Not one word in Prop 8 mentions education, and no child can be forced, against the will of their parents, to be taught anything about health and family issues at school. California law prohibits it. A Sacramento Superior Court judge has already ruled that this claim by the proponents of Prop 8 is “false and misleading.” In fact, the “case” that is cited in the ad is from Massachusetts…the proponents knew what California law said, so they used another state, again to mislead voters.

Fiction: Four Activist Judges in San Francisco…
Fact: Prop 8 is not about courts and judges, it's about eliminating a fundamental right. Judges didn't grant the right, the constitution guarantees the right. Proponents of Prop 8 use an outdated and stale argument that judges aren't supposed to protect rights and freedoms. This campaign is about whether Californians, right now, in 2008 are willing to amend the constitution for the sole purpose of eliminating a fundamental right for one group of citizens.

07 October 2008

Again with the science stuff

As it has been clearly established that The Minions are in charge of 90 percent of show selection from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., I am increasingly thankful for Tivo.

With the miracle of Tivo, The Husband and I can not only record appropriate shows for the kids (because, really, some of the stuff they aim at preschoolers these days? Blech!), but we can also record "adult" programming to help ensure that our brains don't melt out of our ears as a result of prolonged exposure to puppets and toons.

Yes, Tivo enables our mild addiction to science TV - wait ... what did you think I meant by "adult" programming? Pervs.

Anyway ... Left to his own devices, The Husband would probably watch nothing but the Discovery Channel, Science Channel and History Channel. Except on Sundays, when it is all about football and The Simpsons.
While I also enjoy some more mainstream TV shows, I have to admit to sharing his geeky addiction to science shows. And neither of us can understand why the hell people watch those awful "reality TV" shows when there are so many great "real" shows on channels like these.

I can usually resist the History Channel stuff, because he mostly watches the shows on warfare and such. Some of them are interesting, (like when they built a working trebuchet). But usually, I'm kind of ... Meh ... on the history stuff. Neat, but I can live without it.
But the science shows always suck me in ... particle physics, space exploration, biology, earth science ... man, that is some fascinating stuff!

As a long-time sci-fi geek, I especially enjoy the exploration of the connection between science fiction and real-world advances.

But I also love the fun and irreverent psuedo-science of "Mythbusters", the melodrama of "Shark Week", the trivia of "How It's Made", and even the not-very scientific, but always interesting "Dirty Jobs". (Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that Mike Rowe is a hottie.)

I also absolutely adore Alton Brown. He might be on a different channel, but his show offers a healthy dose of science, albeit of the culinary variety.

I guess what I love best about these shows is that they make the marvels of modern science accessible to me on a level that I can understand.

As a former journalist, I know how very difficult it can be to take a complex topic and make it understandable to the general public. Especially when you consider the average attention span of the modern TV viewer.

So, if they can help me - a complete layperson - get the general gist of some very complicated theories and research ... well, I'm impressed. And thankful.

Unlike the other kind of "reality" TV, these shows are inspiring and uplifting. These shows remind me of the amazing potential of our species. They are a celebration of our curiousity, our ingenuity and our interconnectedness with our universe and each other.