30 October 2006

Legal? Or...no?

So Ohio has passed a law that requires voters to bring ID to the polls. Seems to me that I remember a constitutional law class in high school that said that asking for ID at the polls is illegal, but a quick scan of the amendments of the constitution courtesy of Cornell Law School turns up nothing of the sort. There's the amendment against the poll tax, and the women's right to vote, but no amendment about ID. Can it be that my memory is faulty? Noooooo.....

I wrote to NPR and asked them if they would do a story about it, because I think it is illegal to ask for ID at the polls. Guess I will have to wait and see how it plays out in the courts.

Please remember to vote on November 7th. Here in Ohio, I'll be voting for pro-choice Ted Strickland and YES on Issues 1, 2, 3, and 5 and NO on Issue 4.

25 October 2006


The latest issue of Rolling Stone showed up in my mailbox yesterday. I got a subscription when I purchased concert tickets earlier this year, and when it started showing up in my mailbox, I was at first annoyed. I didn't ask for this! But it turns out to be a great read. The latest issue has a cartoon pic on the cover of the US capital building, and a fantastic article about the 109th Congress. Thank you, thank you RS, for making me feel vindicated. Here's the link to RS's homepage, but you're going to have to do some digging to find the article in question, which I don't have time to do this morning. Get out and buy a copy, or stop in and read it in a bookstore. But it talks about the erasure of some of America's most basic rights, courtesy of the Evil Empire Administration. Check it out, and remember to VOTE on November 7th. Apathy may be our largest problem.

Up next time: Ohio's new requirement that all voters have ID.

24 October 2006

Controversy over the hijab in Italy

I heard this on NPR today. The story is about, as my headline suggests, controversy over the wearing of the Islamic headscarf worn by some female practioners of the faith.

I feel very conflicted over this. As an American, born and raised, even though I'm embarrassed by that fact that I am an American from time to time by the bad behavior of my president or for other reasons that I don't need to get into right now, the belief that people have the right to express themselves however they choose is blood-deep in me. From an extremely early age, I was taught that if you wish to dye your hair purple, or wear orange and green together, that is your right. Freedom of expression is one of our most dearly held ideas. (And next in line is the right to poke fun at badly dressed celebrities such as on Go Fug Yourself. I'm kidding. Kidding!)

Freedom of speech means that you must work as hard or harder to protect the speech that you dislike as the speech you like. So the right of one of my Islamic neighbors to wear the headscarf is something I must work to protect even if I disagree with it.

But I'm not sure I do disagree. All I really know about Islam has been taught to me by popular culture and media, and you'll forgive me for being very skeptical that the media in America is the most reliable of teachers when it comes to non-christian religions. So I think that I know that some forms of Islam repress women, and it would seem that the repression is at least partially expressed by the hijab.

No one, however, is suggesting that female Orthodox Jews stop covering their hair, or that any other culture be forced to "intergrate" into Italian society.

I need to read the Koran so that I can have a better understanding of the basic tennets of Islam. More people practice that faith than any other in the world...

23 October 2006

Went to see the doctor man

I had an appointment with Dr. Hottie on Thursday. My asthma has been out of control this month (mostly due to the changing seasons, allergies, et cetera) and I have not taken any prescription or over the counter meds for asthma for about 5 years, so I thought it was time to run the tests again and see if I ought to be managing the disease better. Dr. Hottie had me do a test where you take a deeeeep breath, and exhale as forcefully as you can into a tube. You do that 3 times, and the test has some very silly sounding name, like spynomiter, but I don't remember what it is really called. The results show that yes, I still have asthma (what a surprise!) and he listened to my breathing through a stethoscope for a long while, and said that it wasn't all that bad yesterday.

"Of course, I'm not wheezing", I told him. "I just spent an hour and a half sitting on my ass in your waiting room. Let me run up and down a flight of stairs or 3, or spend 20 minutes on your treadmill, or you light up a cigarette, and then listen to me breathe." He agreed that I might have a point. Plus, the time spent in the gym each morning results in a pretty debilitating asthma attack on the drive home. My asthma manifests itself in a deep, hacking, I-smoke-three-packs-a-day sounding cough. I can exhale all I want, but I can't take a breath. And only after I'm done coughing do I wheeze. Heavy artificial fragrances, from perfume to air freshner can set it off. And while cigarette smoke is bad, cigar smoke is much worse in terms of starting an attack. I quit smoking probably about a year before I was diagnosed with asthma.

Speaking of smoking, and off topic for a second, Ohio has an "issue" on the ballot this November to ban smoking in all public places, from bars to laundromats. Actually, there are two ballot inititives; Issue 4 is from the tobacco lobbyists, and will not really ban smoking in bars and restaurants because it is full of the loopholes and exceptions you would expect of the typical lobbyist written bill. Issue 5 is the smoking ban, and I'm urging everyone in this reddest of the red states to vote YES on Issue 5. Link to full text of all 5 Issues here, but you'll need Adobe to read it.

Anyway, back to the doctor's visit. He prescribed 3 meds for the allergy/asthma problem; Advair, which I am to take daily, Sigulair, which I am to also take daily, and will treat both the asthma and the allergies, and Xopenex, which is a new rescue inhaler. I have not had a rescue inhaler for a really long time, because I really dislike the side effect of a racing heart.

He also prescribed Ambien, as I asked, for my sleeping trouble. But he gave me a sample of Rozorem too, with the instructions to try the Rozorem first. I did, on Friday night and the jury's still out. I was reading Augusten Burrough's memoir, Dry, and between one breath and the next, literally, I felt the drug take hold. A dizzying sensation, and immediate hyper-drowsiness. (if that's even a word). But I finished the book before going to sleep at 11pm, and I was up at 3 (wow, 4 hours uninterupted) and again at 4.30, and again at 5. I didn't go to the gym, as I had gone twice on Thursday, and had a really tough time getting moving, getting started on Friday morning. Friday night I took it again, with pretty similar results. Quick falling asleep (bonus), and quick falling back asleep after I wake in the middle of the night. (Also a bonus). But it does not stop me from waking multiple times, and makes me feel groggy in the morning which is not the result I'm looking for. So I filled the Ambien prescription, and took that last night. Around 7 pm, which is in fact too early. 7 pm + 8 hours equals 3 am. I did fall right asleep, was up at around 9, midnight, and then 3, but managed to fall back asleep each time, even being jolted out of a sound sleep by the alarm at 5.30, which meant I was late for the gym.

On the upside: more sleep, definately. And with the Ambien, my butt's not dragging, I don't feel all groggy. On the downside: still searching for the elusive, perhaps mythical 8 hours of uninterupted sleep.

Soundtrack: Jewel Kilcher had a song on her first album about "Let's go back to sleep"

18 October 2006

Thinking About Condee and My Sleeping Trouble

The nuclear crisis in North Korea has me thinking about Dr. Condoleezza Rice, current US Secretary of State. Mostly because she’s been in the news while she reassures Japan that the US intends to support Japan against North Korea’s insanity.

(In an aside, I happen to buy into nuclear non-proliferation. I think you have to be crazy to want the whole world to have access to nukes.)

Previously in the Bush administration (or as I prefer to call it, the Evil Empire), she was the National Security Advisor. While I despise most of what she stands for, and the fact that she works for the most evil human being on the planet, I admire her.

She is one heck of a smart lady; earned her doctorate in 1981, and has been on the faculty of Stanford University since she earned her doctorate. Since President Idiot was (not by popular vote) elected at the end of 2000, I have said that he at least has the wits to surround himself with VERY smart people…I’m a big fan of Colin Powell, the first Secretary of State for the Idiot Administration. And like him or not (and I don’t), Dick Cheney’s a smart guy too.

I’ve heard Dr. Rice a couple of times on the BBC in the last couple of days. I’m getting out of bed earlier to go get to the gym as a positive start to my days and the Beeb is on my local NPR affiliate from 5 to 6 (IN THE MORNING, folks). I find it very interesting that the Beeb always refers to her as “Dr. Rice” and NPR always says “Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice”. I wonder if that is a cultural statement from the Beeb (purposefully not mentioning that she’s SoS) or if the whole name/title is just too long to say over and over. Perhaps since Britain’s equivalent office is Foreign Secretary, the obvious confusion that would ensue from a listening British public is simply eliminated by them saying Dr. Rice. I hope, with all my heart, that she’s able to bring most of Asia into consensus about North Korea, and that this isn’t the beginning of the end of days.

Have I mentioned how poorly I’ve been sleeping lately? I note above that I’m getting out of bed earlier, not waking up earlier. I sleep from about 10 pm until midnight or so, and then again until 3 am and that’s about it. As a child, I would ask my parents, “Can I go to bed now?” and I’m known in my family for sleeping 10-12 hours and more, up until my 20s. Now I count myself extremely fortunate if I get more than 7 hours total sleep. I have trouble falling asleep; DH falls asleep like turning off a light switch, bam, he’s out. I take forever to nod off. And I have trouble staying asleep. I’m up at least twice every night to pee (keee-rist is that annoying) and then heaven only knows what wakes me otherwise, but I wake on average 7 or 8 times in those scant 5-6 hours of sleep I get. I’ve tried a couple of things; first, natural remedies like Melatonin, which is supposedly the chemical secreted by your brain that regulates your sleep/wake cycle (it didn’t work for me). Then I tried lavender essential oil; baths, rubbing it on my temples, adding it to unscented laundry detergent and washing all my bed linens in it. DH despises the smell of lavender, so that’s out if I want to continue to sleep next to my husband. It didn’t solve the problem anyway, other than making me feel a bit more relaxed because I <3 lavender.

After my honeymoon six years ago, which was spent in Alaska, I did talk a doctor into writing a prescription of Ambien for me. Seven days worth. To help my body’s clock reset itself to the Eastern time zone, which is I think at least 5 hours ahead of Alaska. I was having trouble readjusting, unable to fall asleep until the wee small hours. It worked, and for about a year, I slept all right. But by 2002, I couldn’t sleep again. And I went back to over the counter stuff (Nytol, Sleepinal) but only when I had a few nights in a row of sleeplessness.

And then Lunesta (eszopiclone) was unleashed on the world. Here in the US, Lunesta’s marketing campaign is spearheaded by a very cute green luminescent butterfly, which drifts into bedroom windows, and brushes its wings over the faces of sleepless adults who immediately close their eyes and get a good night’s rest. I bought into the hype; the commercial talks about “if you have trouble turning off your restless mind” and I do, so I mentioned my sleeping trouble to my friend and family doctor, who is nearly as cute as McSteamy on Grey’s Anatomy. Dr. Hottie first suggested that I get tested for adult ADD, but I really don’t think that is my problem. And I argued against that by saying that the main problem is getting settled into a good night’s sleep and that I’d really like to try the Lunesta. So in 2005, he wrote me a prescription for it, and I took it.

It did help me get a few night’s rest, but then the effectiveness diminished over time. (About a week’s time, not months.) And the commercial mentions that “side effects may include unpleasant taste”, but that sure didn’t prepare me for the sensation, which is best described as the taste left in your mouth by a three day drinking bender, combined possibly with cat urine, coupled with the unfortunate fact that it can’t be brushed or rinsed away by toothpaste or mouthwash. No, it just has to go away on its own, and that takes a whole day to wear off. “The Taste” makes EVERYTHING you put into your mouth taste bad; water tastes like “the taste”, and it flavors everything else you eat with its unpleasantness.

So I quit taking Lunesta last year and tried a product made by Tylenol, called Simply Sleep. As OTC sleep aids go, it has no side effects for me, is inexpensive, and gets me about 4 solid hours of sleep, so that’s fine. But it isn’t the long-term solution that I’m hoping for, and I don’t know what is.

There is another new prescription sleep aid on the market called Rozerem, with another slick advertising campaign, (featurning Abe Lincoln, a chess board and a beaver) but my research shows it is just a hyped up version of Melatonin, which I don’t think is going to work for me. And I don’t want to buy into the marketing hype again, I’m hoping that I’m older and wiser now.

I’ve started working out every day in an effort to get a better night’s sleep. I need to lose weight, probably about 70 pounds, (and I’m being BRUTALLY honest there) but that isn’t my main motivation in getting to the gym. Getting a better night’s sleep is. It seems to be working thus far (a whole 4 days into it) and I’m getting at least 4 hours uninterrupted. Right now I’m only doing 30 minutes of cardio each day, which is tough and intense because I’m fat and asthmatic. I’m using the elliptical trainers, which force you to move both your legs AND your arms (I’ve earned a sore shoulder, but no other ill effects) and each day increasing the amount of time I spend in my target heart rate zone. (18.47 today!) After I’ve done that for a month or more, I plan to add strength training to the regimen, and I’m also actively seeking to add a Yoga class now. I used to take Yoga from a lady named Pam, and I loved it. But she moved to Florida (smart Pam!) and I’ve never found another yoga practitioner that I clicked with so well. The Y has one yoga class a week, on Saturday mornings at 8 am. I don’t think that’s going to work in my schedule, but I am going to give it a shot this week and see if I like the instructor. I don’t want to join another gym just for Yoga classes.

Do you have sleeping problems? What works for you? I’m going to visit my sista in New York City next month…should I try to take a Yoga class with Mimi? I think that would be really awesome, and I should have at least one full day when my sis is working and I have nothing but time on my hands. But is that too stalker? I read Mimi almost every day, and I think it might be way too weird. What do you think?

17 October 2006

Chicken and Mice

When I was growing up, the dinner hour was sacred at our house. My mother, a SAHM until I was in high school, made dinner every night, and now that I’m all growed up and running my own household, I’m in awe of her skill; egad, how the heck did she get dinner on the table every night by 6pm, always cooked perfectly, always well balanced and nutritious?! One thing that she made pretty frequently that my sisters and I liked just fine and my dad hated was a chicken casserole dish. Dad called it Chicken and Mice. I dunno why he stuck it with that name, but when mum announced to dad that we were having chicken and rice for dinner, he always made a face and grumbled, “Chicken and mice? Again?”

I see the attraction that it held for my mum; cheap, quick, super-easy and with the addition of a green salad or another veggie, dinner was done. I would be willing to bet that you have all the ingredients in your pantry right now.

Chicken and Mice
2 cups rice
4 cups water
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 envelope Lipton’s Soup Mix , any flavor (I use Savory Herb & Garlic, but any of them would work. Just check the package directions to make sure you’re not supposed to mix with milk instead of water.)

Using a 9x13 casserole dish put the dry rice in the bottom. Mix the soup mix and water in a measuring cup. Place the chicken over the rice, and add soup mixture, pouring slowly and carefully. Cover with aluminum foil so the chicken does not dry out. Bake in a 350 oven for about 45 minutes, until the chicken registers 180 on a meat thermometer and the rice absorbs all of the water.

See? Easy. Quick. Cheap. It makes a ton of rice, but I like that because rice takes so long to make and I like to have leftover rice for other dinners. You could cut the rice down to 1 cup, and then the water should only be 2 cups. My mum would make this with 4-5 chicken breasts and about a cup and a half of rice. I made it for Sunday dinner for DH and I this week. He was in a meeting of our homeowners association when I put it in the oven, and when he came back, he opened the door and said, “What smells so good?”

DH is not a fan of onions, but I think this would be wonderful with the onion-flavored soup.

My other favorite quick chicken dinner recipe is something I’ve written about before; it is a crock-pot recipe. Ten minutes in the morning before you head out the door to work and when you get home, dinner is DONE. I love my crock-pot.

On the political front, I don’t have a lot to say today. The Foley scandal continues to unfold; don’t you LOVE his excuses for sending inappropriate messages to teenaged congressional pages? 1. I’m an alcoholic 2. I was abused as a child 3. I’m gay. A friend who is a recovering alcoholic told me that she finds his attempt to blame his behavior on his disease particularly offensive. Personally, I find it all offensive; he’s tossing excuses at the wall to see which one sticks. The fact that your sexual orientation is homo or hetero does not make you a pedophile; you’re a pedophile because you have something wrong with your brain circuitry. And scandals like this just confirm what red state-ers already think, that homosexuality automatically equals sexual predator. And that makes me angry, because it simply re-enforces that ignorant belief.

A complete change of gears now; it is fund drive time on all 3 public radio stations that I listen to. You know that you’re a complete public radio junkie when you continue to listen during the fund drives. I give to the station that I listen to online every day, which is a very unusual public radio station; they play “World Class Quality Rock” and I’ve heard more new music listening to them for about the past 4 years than I ever did listening to pop radio, which I can’t even do anymore because the commercials make me soooo nuts. I also give to the local NPR affiliate. NPR fund drives are kind of worse than the other station; I listen to NPR for news, and during fund drives they break into the news and interrupt the broadcast to beg for money. On the pop station, they do it where there would be commercial breaks on a regular station, so they’re not breaking in to your current favorite song to beg. But it does cut down on the amount of music they’re able to play.

I used to drive 500 miles a week for work when I worked for the big ol’ bank, and I listened to 2 NPR stations because the drive took me out of the range of one station and into another. You spend 6 hours a week in the car and then tell me that commercial radio is where it’s at. Here’s a hint: it isn’t. The commercial stations drove me so crazy during the 7 years that I made that drive. So nuts that I can no longer spend more that 10 minutes listening to them. DH alternates between top 40 and classic rock in his car, and it is hard to say which of the two stations irritates me more. Probably the top 40 station is the more annoying of the two, because it is heavy on the repetitive commercials and heavy bass. I often look over at him in the driver’s seat when we’re in his car and ask, “WTF are you LISTENING to?” because he /hates/ hip-hop and R&B and the top 40 crew plays A LOT of that.

If I wasn’t in my current field, I think I would like to work in radio. As an on-air personality, you understand, not ever in sales or administration. Here’s what I think my chances of doing that for a living are: zero. I don’t have a fantastic speaking voice; in fact, the sound of my own voice on tape gives me the heebie-jeebies. But I’d like to give it a shot. I’ve done TV interviews for work (so not fun) but I’ve never been in a radio studio, and I’d like to give that a shot. Could be fun, ya know?

Soundtrack for the day is Gnarls Barkley “Crazy”, from the St Elsewhere album

06 October 2006

Egad, has it been so long then?

Every day I come across things I want to write about. Things from commentary about a report from NPR to the strange leaf I saw to new music that The Summit shares with me to tangents that spring from a myriad of other bloggers like Scary's, Misty's, Zoe's, and Dooce's blogs, how what I read about makes me want to say something else. Unfortunately, I live in the real world, where I have a full time job, a home to care for, a daily commute to and from work (won't someone PLEASE invent a Thought-Writer so I can write blog entries in the car?) and a plethora of other things that I do each day. So it has been about 13 days since I posted anything new. Which is a bummer, because I love the writing process and I take incredibly silly pride in this project, wanting to share my wit and wisdom (or lack thereof) with the world.

So! What’s been happening? Well, I’m watching the Foley scandal unfold with barely suppressed glee. Heard Newt Gingrich on NPR on my way into work this morning talking about “liberals” forcing this into the news 5 weeks before the election, and Newt annoys me on so many levels, but honestly, Newt, could you not have complained without sounding like “Everyone’s out to get MEEEEEEE”? Barely suppressed glee, of course, because the Republicans could well end up losing some House or Senate seats over this whole mess, and that would be a SPLENDIFEROUS thing, people. Dan Savage has had some wonderful things to say about Foley, and you ought to check that out.

There’s Scary and Misty’s new project, Done a Poo which although tacky, gross, and possibly completely inappropriate is the funniest thing I’ve seen since the first time I caught “The Osbornes” on MTV. Maybe you have to be completely fucked up to appreciate it, but Misty’s photos of Dubya are priceless. (I think they’re both geniuses, myself.)

Then there is this lunatic, who thinks that the recent school shootings in America are due to (wait for it) THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS. Can you believe this? Ban HP, ladies and gents, and you’ll have the end of school shootings in the US. Right, cause we never had school shootings BEFORE Harry came along, and all the OTHER countries where Harry has been printed (notably ENGLAND) have sooooooo many school shootings due to the popularity of Harry Potter. To pull a quote from one of the HP books, “Load of old tosh.”

Which brings me to my Halloween costume. I love Halloween; it is possibly my favorite holiday. I have never stopped dressing up for Halloween. My sainted mother made many of my costumes growing up; a Native American Princess, a clown, a really cool pilgrim, and she helped me make over a costume purchased from the local theater’s production of Evita so I could go as a Flamenco dancer one year in my teens. I only stopped going Trick-or-Treating after my sophomore year of high school. In my defense, I do have a sister who is 9 years younger than me, and I took her with me. But I’ve been a witch for about the last 10 years, in the sense of the Wicked Witch of the West. And I’m tired of that witchy costume, so I’ve put together a fantastic HP-esqe costume. I’m a random Gryffindor student, not any one character in particular. At a local thrift store, I picked up a long sleeved white button-down shirt, a grey sweater vest, and a burgundy and white striped tie, which while not authentic WAS a dollar and fifty cents, so it will work just fine. From eBay I got two embroidered patches, one that says “Hogwarts” and one that says “Gryffindor” (no, I have not decided which patch will go where yet) and from Whimsic Alley, I got a FABULOUS cloak/robe/whatever you want to call it and a pin that says “Prefect”, because if I had been born a Brit or an Aussie, I would have been a prefect in school. I had to exchange the cloak for a smaller size (WHOPEEE, the extra-large was way too big) but the new smaller one will be here any day. And why, pray tell, am I gushing to the interweb about my Halloween costume? Of course, so that I can tell you that I’m throwing a Halloween party!!!

I’m getting a t-shirt for DH that says, “This is my fucking costume. You got a problem with it?” If you know him IRL then you will know that’s so perfect it isn’t even funny. We’re such opposites; I would dress up for a costume party any day of the year and he would do it on the 10th of never.

I haven’t determined the menu in its entirety yet, but I think I’m going to have candy, (can’t have a Halloween party without CANDY), pumpkin cookies, caramel apples with nuts, pumpkin mousse pie tarts (more about those in a minute), and I’m stymied about what else to have. Fall favorites round these parts tend to be apple dumplings (no, not for a party of 40+, I’m NOT making 40 apple dumplings), apple cider (yah, maybe, but only if I can find some way to booze it up, cause the cider I’m talking about is not hard cider, and my last party’s non-alcoholic punch was wasted on my boozy friends), pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pecan pie….and there’s nothing really of substance there. I would make some big pot of hot soup, but then there’s the problem of serving it in small quantities….

The pumpkin mousse pie tarts are something that I came up with all on my own, and I’m really excited to share this. In the interest of full disclosure, this is a recipe that started its life in my recipe book from a friend who had done Weight Watchers. But I don’t like the texture of the original recipe, and I messed with it until it became something not at all like the original. The recipe will make maybe 60 bite-sized tarts, or you could also put the filling into a 9 inch graham cracker crust and have a nice big pie instead. This tastes better and the texture is better too IF you make it a day ahead of time. Being low in sugar and low in fat, it is an excellent substitute for pumpkin pie, which is really actually quite bad for you.

Pumpkin Mousse Tarts

1 (3oz) box fat free sugar free pudding, vanilla
1 cup fat free milk
1 (8 oz) small tub fat free non-dairy whipped topping (such as Cool Whip)
1-1/2 cup pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, just pureed pumpkin)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spices (or a like-sized combination of cinnamon, ginger, & allspice)
60 fillo dough shells (like these)

1 LARGE bowl
icing decorating bag or a large zip top bag
star tip

To Make
Whisk the pudding into the milk in large bowl until it thickens. Add spices, then pumpkin and mix well. Gently fold in the whipped topping until well blended. Fridge overnight or at least 8 hours.

Place star tip on icing bag. Fill icing bag with mousse and pipe into fillo shells. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Could be garnished with a dollop more whipped topping, but I don’t usually bother.

Eat lots of them. They’re mostly fat free and mostly sugar free too.

What’s been going on in YOUR world?

Soundtrack: Jonny Lang’s new CD, Turn Around