Monday, July 30, 2007

Medical Tip of the Day

I just want to say, you don't have to be a paranoid hypochondriac to freak out and Google every known disease on the internets after you eat beets--looking for possible symptoms of of colon cancer. Being one just makes the Googling more frantic and slightly funnier in hindsight.

I did not do this. I'm just saying it could happen to people. Especially after they read The New York Times.

The moral of this story is that you should communicate with your doctor regularly and research symptoms on the internet. Do not rely on one opinion, and especially do not rely only on what you read online.

Oh, and I am not a paranoid hypochondriac.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mood: Overcast, Slight Chance of Showers

So if you happen to have read my ramblings lately, you will know that there has been a slightly dark cloud of pessimism over everything I say and write. I'm not sure why, but every once in a while, I'll go through spells where I set aside the sunny, cheery side of my personality and let the pessimist in me run rampant.

Of course, these bouts are always triggered by real life events that justify panic, frustration and overall freak-outedness every once in a while. Or so I'd like to think.

Most recently, the news and world events have just been driving me crazy. I always read the news, political blogs, etc. but every once in a while, there seems to be a perfect storm that makes me run around like my Curious Hair is on fire. And it's not always the big and obvious news events. Recently, I read about a newborn who had survived being buried alive in India--BY HER GRANDFATHER. Why? Because she was a girl, and he couldn't afford the daughters he had, much less a granddaughter who would just become another burden. Honestly, after reading that article in the morning, I burst into tears as I was getting ready for work. And there's everything else, the obvious stuff that drives everyone crazy. Add to this, the anxiety of another friend being diagnosed with cancer (third in less than two years); unsatisfying, dead-end job; crazy family stuff...It just makes me want to get on a little internet soapbox and bitch about everything.

Unfortunately I have no solutions, and this feeling of powerlessness and anxiety stresses me out even more. I am just capable enough of seeing all of this and recognizing how horribly wrong everything is. I can't think of any effective responses at all.

So I guess that's what I've been doing lately. The good news is, the clouds seem to be clearing a bit--in my mind at least. I'll be back to my goofy self soon.

Thanks for your patience. If you have any ideas of how to stop the insanity that seems to be taking over the world, please comment.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Feigning Objectivity

I must say that while I was saddened by watching the two attorneys at work last week, I appreciated the presiding judge. He was strict and direct, and didn't let anyone get away with much.

In the natural course of such matters, he asked if we had any reason that would prevent us from serving objectively, etc. Being Juror Number One, I mentioned that I had lost my aunt and a friend to drunk drivers. He looked at me straight in the eyes and asked, "Do you think you cannot think logically, and separate your personal loss from the facts that will be presented to you?" Of course I can think logically, and I told him so--and I added that I would try to be as objective as possible and not think of the people I loved and lost. "That's all I ask."

I must say, I don't strictly believe in objectivity. I think objectivity is nearly impossible to reach. We are the sum total of our beliefs, experiences and knowledge. We do not and cannot leave that knowledge behind when we encounter situations where we have to decide and take action. Perhaps relative objectivity is the best we can do with our limited capabilities. Which is why I think the idea of twelve people being trusted to be objective in deciding the guilt or innocence of someone is a pretty tall order.

Which brings me back to my thoughts on the whole justice system. It seems from my past experiences being eliminated from juries, as well as this occasion, all parties involved try to select people who know as little about anything as possible--similar unfortunately to how many people vote. This is how we end up with innocent people on death row, or even worse perhaps, languishing for years in jail and how guilty people walk free and write books about the crimes they have committed. If I were presented with truly technical information about certain things, there is no way I would be able to understand it; especially because jurors are forbidden to research the 'facts' that are presented to them. Which means the two sides must resort to bringing their 'experts' to educate twelve people in a short period of time. How objective can paid experts be? And how do those jurists separate conflicting expertise and make a decision that impacts the lives to so many people?

Again, I don't have an answer; nor do I think any other system is especially more just or fair than our current system. I just think our myth of justice is so strong, we have stopped thinking of ways to improve the models we have today.

Any thoughts from the philosophers in the peanut gallery?

Sleepy Justice: Finally Rests

We were a decisive bunch.

The trial officially started on Thursday, we heard witnesses, saw charts and went into deliberations today. It took us a grand total of an hour to all agree; and so justice was served.

The trial was for a DUI, being prosecuted and defended by three incredibly inexperienced lawyers. The defendant was obviously not well off financially, which is why he had court appointed public attorneys. In my mind, the facts that were presented would have convicted him regardless, but his attorneys' inexperience did him a disservice. When your defense attorney argues your innocence by saying the entire burden is on the prosecution, and she could just sleep through the trial--it should make you worry a little. I do not think defense attorneys get rich by promising to nap through trials.

This being my first time on a jury and seeing first hand how things worked, made me truly wonder about our justice system. Actually, I have been thinking about the system and how it works the entire time I wasn't either in the jury box or reading. I'm not too familiar with how justice is applied in other countries, and am willing to believe ours is one of the better systems out there--but I also think there is a great deal to be desired. I say this, not because of obvious failures like the OJ Simposons of the world, but because of the many nameless and faceless cases that come and go through our justice system, but never get justice.

I'll have to continue this and a bunch of other thoughts later this weekend--after I address Laundry Mountain, Cooking 101 and possibly boogie boarding (yay!). But for now, I'm glad I put aside my personal feelings and memories for long enough to make a decision that I'm pretty comfortable with--despite the impact it had on a man's life.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Still Not Getting It

I mentioned last night that I wasn't too impressed with Michael Chertoff's (aka Skelator) gut instincts warning us of impending doom. Not because I don't believe in impending doom, mind you. I'm a pessimist by nature and cannot help but fear impending doom at any given moment. I lie awake at night dreaming up bizarre things that can go wrong.

No, I'm more concerned with Skelator's guts. This is the same man who didn't know that a city was underwater and its residents were crammed in its Superdome and Convention Center--WHILE IT WAS ON TELEVISION AND ALMOST EVERY RADIO STATION!!! Eye witnesses were looking at the buildings, telling him of the desperation and madness, and he brushed them off as liars pretty much--ON LIVE RADIO BROADCASTS. He was warned of a Katrina-like scenario, and still claimed no one could have predicted it (except for a bunch of journalists and scientists, but who listens to those nutjobs?). And notice, he's still not referencing anything concrete that has anything to do with intelligence or intelligent thought.

And I'm supposed to trust his guts? Does he have guts? And if so, where were these sensitive innards in 2005? Could he still be gutless?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sleepy Justice: Day One

Well, I am pretty sure who ever decided to put me on a jury didn't hear my hysterical laughter at slightly inappropriate moments. Nor did they see the strange glances that were shot at me all day long. I guess being dignified is not a prerequisite for serving on a jury.

All in all, my first day at the Downtown courthouse was quite nice, despite the fact that I got up at an ungodly hour. This is surprising considering how generally resistant and resentful I am to waking up early. I took the train for the first time, got to the courthouse early and started reading one of the books I had packed for the day. I was looking at the day as a mini-holiday from my office work and the mountain of laundry taking over my home.

I am one of those strange people who enjoys politics, world events and the news. I do not consider network or cable news to be real news, because a) I worked at a local TV/news station at one point and know what kind of people put the news together and b) cable news sucks. So you can imagine why I would look forward to someone else recognizing the crappiness of the state of the news.

The brilliant part was, as I was reading, CNN Headline News was on in the background. And almost every single topic that was mentioned in the book, was discussed on the news: airplanes (multiple, and all in FL) falling out of the sky (with bonus 911 call of hysterical woman); missing white woman; new words added to the dictionary; scary and vague warnings from government officials to put the fear of death in people; hot summer weather references; mention of ridiculous "Top Stories" from CNN website... I'm pretty sure the only things missing were the shark and hurricane stories. Although, there was that giant squid in Australia. What was the most popular story on the website at one point of the day? A woman who had lost 100+ pounds in less than a year. This was news on CNN!

Had I not been reading the book (which is funny and accurate as far as I can tell) I would have pulled my hair out and probably banged my head against the wall until they released dismissed me. As it was, I was erupting into peals of laughter at the most inappropriate times because I would catch whatever was on the 'news' as I was reading how it is NOT NEWS, complete with examples. It was almost as if someone at CNN had this book in their hand and was working off of it verbatim.

This is what got me the amused/dirty looks from people. Although I think it is tragic that a plane crashed into a residential area and killed people, I don't think it is national news that needs to be repeated every half hour along with the 911 call of a horrified woman. A young woman who was missing and has been found dead is tragic--to her family and perhaps the local community. How is that significant to the rest of the country? Nor do I take terror threats lightly, but Skelator warning me of impending doom based on his gut instincts is even more stupid than that color coded chart that Homeland Security came up with a few years ago. How could I not laugh at that? Especially because they do this all the time. They follow a ridiculous formula of crying 'Wolf', but are completely and utterly clueless and incompetent when it comes to real threats.

So long story short, I enjoyed the book. I finished it just before I was called to sit on a jury. The only problem was the repeated reference to 'slow news days'. How can there be a slow news day with these clowns in office, and the world in the state it's in? Perhaps if anyone bothered to discuss actual news (and people bothered to pay attention), we wouldn't have either problem.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sleepy Justice: Duty Calls

I have been called to do my civic duty and serve on a jury. This is my third time being called to serve, but I have never been selected to actually sit on a jury. Each time, I have had to wake up at ungodly hours, drive in circles in whichever downtown I happen to be in--desperate for parking, sat around all day avoiding eye contact with people, and finally been thanked for my time. It seems defense attorneys don't look kindly on jurists who work in news rooms or express strong feelings about alleged 'domestic abusers'.

Of course, I may be called to sit on a jury for a trial of political significance. I will feel very special if I give a lot of thought to the evidence presented, and find out that my decision has been brushed aside by a politician who considers my opinion too 'harsh'.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Wishlist: Book

Of course, I'll have to modify the title a bit, but very accurate description of my week overall.

Downward Facing (Pissed Off) Dog--Ommmm

All I wanted tonight, was to attend my yoga class, relax and come home. Instead, I unrolled my yoga mat, sat on the floor, closed my eyes and jumped out of my skin when the 'yoga' instructor inserted and blasted a Bossa Nova CD that was so loud, she had to yell over it. WITH A MICROPHONE. For some reason it never occurred to her to turn down the music. Oh, and she wasn't a yoga instructor, she was the pilates instructor, who was subbing for the yoga instructor, "Because, like, we really wanted you guys to have a class since you were already here for something."

This to me was much like craving an ice cream sundae, going out of your way and ordering one, only to be told that "Like, we know you wanted ice cream, but we're giving you a big cookie. Because, like, we know you wanted something, but this is all we have." Not that you don't love cookies, it's just not what you wanted.

So for an hour, I kept reminding myself how much I used to enjoy pilates and this was a nice accident. Or at least I tried to when the music wasn't hurting my ears and the instructor wasn't yelling to make herself heard over the noise. The final insult came when she threw in downward facing dog and child pose, "Just to like, mix it up a little and make it more like what you thought would happen."

The only thing that kept me from going ballistic at some point after the class, was running into my neighbors. Their two year old son ran to me and gave me an unsolicited hug. Otherwise, I would probably be acting ridiculously undignified.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

(Re)Born on the Fourth of July

Some-teen years ago today, I sat on a bouncing patio chair slowly eating a Chicago-style hot dog and digesting the fact that I had just become an American citizen.

I had put quite a bit of thought into the idea of becoming an American. I didn't need to do it, but I had wanted to. Having left a country I had considered corrupt and unaccountable, I embraced--very idealistically--the idea of what America was. I knew it wasn't always pretty, but there were laws that promised everyone was equal. Even if it took a while for people to realize that everyone, really did mean everyone, regardless of their race, religion or creed. I loved that. Everyone equal and accountable before the law. For that, I had stood in a gymnasium full of excited people and pledged to uphold and defend those values.

I made that pledge, despite memories of my previous life in this country. I had always been the "Eye-ranian" girl and the raghead, burner of flags and hostage taker, despite my age and lack of access to flammables. I had been beaten and ostracized; mocked and humiliated for most of my childhood. Yet, with that knowledge and memory, I still decided to move forward, because I was sure my past had been an unfortunate exception. This was the land of the Constitution, Freedom and Ideals; and I wanted to be a part of all of those things.

Today, I wonder where my country is headed. The Constitution a piece of paper, dragged out for show when convenient; but seemingly under attack by people unworthy of upholding its values. Our freedoms are being eroded everyday, and few people notice. The ideals that make this country the envy of people everywhere, are giving way to cynicism and apathy. We may wrap ourselves in the colors of the flag, but we barely remember what they mean or how to defend them. There is no longer accountability, and not all people are equal before it. Our corruption, is not so different from that of others. How did we get here?

There is a sadness in this anniversary for me, and hope. Hope that this too, is an unfortunate exception.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Us vs. Them

It seems other countries handle their political scandals differently than we do. While we bestow Medals of Freedom to people who generally turn everything they touch to shit; brag about how well appointees are doing, even after they let cities drown while they pick out their wardrobe; and decide to commute sentences of federally convicted criminals, other countries deal with their idiots and incompetents differently.

In Japan for example, when their parliament and cabinet members say stupid things or conduct themselves less than ethically, they are shown the door and their resignations are accepted. Some even commit suicide for bringing such shame to their families. Not that I'm advocating suicide for all politicians' criminal activities--there would be too many funerals in DC and not enough people to attend them. But I really thing we should stop with the bragging and rewards--it's just unseemly.

Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends

It is no secret that I have been frustrated at work lately, for reasons that are completely unoriginal and redundant. This morning, as I was carpooling with my friend/co-worker (A), I had to take an early exit and sit in a liquor shop's vacant parking lot gasping for air and trying to compose myself. Composition being elusive, I tried to get to a point where I could drive and not endanger people. We made it to work alive.

Before we walked into the office, I sat in the car, staring at my steering wheel. Nausea, vertigo and lack of oxygen is a heady combination on a Monday morning. "I'm running out of time, and I have accomplished nothing. Nothing. I'm going to die soon and will have been a waste." As the words came pouring out, I realized I was contributing to my friend's sense of panic.

I made it through the day, writing angry responses to emails that were so stupid it was amazing I didn't go and smack someone upside the head. I exercised further self restraint and didn't send any of the angry responses, opting to wait a little while and respond in a more professional tone. That did not mean that I wasn't scaring people. When A came and asked me how I was feeling after a string of emails was being tossed around, doubling and tripling my paper shuffling duties, I looked up at her and quoted a new favorite writer of mine, "I'm motherfucking ZEN, goddammit."

"Ok, well--let me know if you need anything."

And such was my day. As I dropped A off outside her house, she tried to be reassuring mumbling something before she got out of the car. Suddenly, as if she had stumbled upon a great idea, she said, "Hey, go home and read your friends. That should cheer you up."

She's right; these 'friends' do cheer me up.

So thanks friends. Yes, that means you, you, you and you.