The Human Garbage Epidemic

A wonderful, thoughtful blog post from my sis, Beans

My Wildhood

[Warning, this post is not as Light-Tight-And Bright as I normally keep my posts.]

While I was teaching biology labs in Grad School, I had the opportunity to get on my soap box from time to time, and say the things that matter most to me, and hopefully pass on some knowledge other than what was in the textbooks.

It’s been a while since I was on my soap box.

I have missed my soap box. [Steps up, and clears throat]

I posted this on my Facebook page here, but I felt that it was not quite enough to get my words out. It didn’t cover enough ground. I needed a bigger outlet. So I’m re-posting it here, with a little more oomph.

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I saw this video posted on Facebook about Midway Island. It’s a tiny island 2,000 miles from the nearest continent, that is frequented by seabirds like the…

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January 29, 2014. Tags: , , , . Eco Stuff. 1 comment.

Worst Book in the World: The Kite Runner

kite runner

Many people will be offended that The Kite Runner is our current Worst Book in the World. I mean, it’s a best seller, so how can it be the Worst Book in the World? Because it’s 97% tragedy. The other 3% is only there to keep you reading, hoping for something good to happen to balance out the horror. Here is the basic plot:

*SPOILERS: I’M TELLING YOU EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS, OK?*

Amir and Hassan grew up together as best friends, even though Hassan was the servant. Hassan is doggedly loyal to Amir, who gets him in trouble and torments him constantly. Hassan’s father, Ali, is a lifelong servant in their house and grew up almost as brothers with Amir’s father, just as Amir and Hassan were raised. Hassan is a different sect of Islam and a different ethnicity than the majority of Afghanistan (uh oh, this doesn’t bode well). Because of this, he’s treated as a second class citizen.

One day, a neighborhood bully corners Hassan in an alley and rapes him. Amir witnesses this, but is too much of a coward to do anything. Afterwards, he is so tormented with guilt at his inaction that he can’t stand to be around Hassan anymore. Poor Hassan has been traumatized, and now loses his best friend with no explanation. Amir asks his father to dismiss Ali and Hassan so he won’t have to face them anymore. Baba rightfully refuses and is outraged that his son would try to get rid of people who are basically family, with no cause. Amir then resorts to hiding money and a watch in Hassan’s bed, and then claims he stole them. Ever loyal, Hassan admits to stealing so that Amir won’t get in trouble. Baba forgives him, and asks them to stay, but Amir has finally driven Ali and Hassan to leave.

Years later, the Russians take over Afghanistan and Baba and Amir escape to America (there’s more suicide, attempted rape, and child rape along the way, but I’ll spare you the details). In the US, Amir meets a girl and they get married. You think things are looking up, right? Don’t get excited. Baba gets cancer and dies, and Amir and his wife can’t have kids. At this point Amir is so despicable, I’m glad he’s not reproducing.

A few more years later, one of Baba’s old friends (Famir, I think), calls Amir from Afghanistan. He’s dying also, and Amir needs to come witness it to drag the plot down further. Amir goes to see him and they start talking about Hassan. He had gotten married and had a son, and had been helping Famir take care of Baba’s old house. Six months before Amir’s visit, when Famir was out of town, the Taliban accused Hassan of stealing the nice house, dragged him into the street, and shot him dead. His wife flipped out (understandably) so the Taliban killed her also (I’m surprised the author didn’t take this opportunity to have graphic scenes of her being raped repeatedly, but she’s not a young boy, so I guess he wasn’t interested). Their son ends up in an orphanage, and Famir reveals that Hassan was actually Amir’s half brother all along!

Amir goes to the orphanage to track down Sohrab, who he now knows is his nephew. He finds the right orphanage, but it turns out Sohrab has been sold into sex slavery to none other than Assef, the bully who raped his father!

Amir finally does something brave and tries to fight Assef for Sohrab. A needlessly gruesome fight ensues. Amir and Sohrab get away, and Amir is in the hospital for awhile. Amir wants to adopt Sohrab, and promises he will bring him to the US, BEFORE investigating whether or not it’s possible. They run into a ton of red tape, and are told the best way to accomplish their goal is for Sohrab to go back to an orphanage. He flips out and cries himself to sleep.

Amir gets good news that some friends in the US can pull some strings to get Sohrab into the country without having to go back to an orphanage. Amir goes to tell Sohrab the good news, and finds him in the tub, having slit his wrists.

Sohrab survives, but is in the hospital for awhile. They get him to the US, but he’s so traumatized that he doesn’t speak for at least a year. At the very end of the book, Amir is flying a kite with Sohrab, and Sohrab MIGHT have smiled. THE END.

There, that’s the whole horrifically traumatic book. Now you know what happened without all the disgusting details (and there were a ton of them). After reading this book, my brain feels dirty. I will never understand why people feel the need to wallow in depressing stories like this. Real life is depressing enough; just watch the news. Books and movies should be an escape from reality. A certain amount of tragedy is fine, like Romeo and Juliet, but this books has more tragedy than Shakespeare could ever have imagined. It has almost no light moments to balance out the dark, and the few light moments in it are heavily shadowed. Khaled Hosseini is a talented writer, but he needs therapy.

I’m going to read some Calvin and Hobbes to clean my brain out.

January 21, 2014. Tags: , , . Book Reviews. 2 comments.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

This is what I’m calling a “Classic Post”, meaning I started the post FOREVER ago, then forgot to finish it. I just found the pictures, and I think they’re funny, so here’s a “Classic” Post.

The Clone Wars was the only show Hubby and I actually watched on television. Everything else is Netflix, or neglected. The show used to be scheduled to come on Friday nights. Unfortunately, they moved it to Saturday mornings, the one day a week I usually get to sleep in. I am too damn old to get excited about getting up on Saturday mornings. Hubby, however, is not, so I decided to power through, motivated by nostalgia:

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Forbidden sugary cereals! Hooray! Obviously, I had to supplement mine with coffee. Money may not grow on trees, but consciousness does, in the form of tiny, stinky beans. I looked for a Star Wars themed cereal, but the whole cereal aisle is being over-taken by grown-up “healthy” cereals. Even if we don’t have themed cereal, we can still have a nerd-tastic breakfast:

Lightsaber Spoons

Lightsaber Spoons

You know you are so jealous. We have the R2-D2 cookie jar also, but it’s in our safety deposit box, so don’t bother trying to steal it. The show is fantastic, and it’s really sad that it was prematurely canceled. Supposedly a bunch of episodes were complete and just waiting to air when Disney pulled the plug. I really hope they get released on DVD at least so we can find out what happened. If you missed out on the series, go ahead and catch up. It still ended with closure UNLIKE FIREFLY. Plus this way you can watch it whenever you want instead of having to get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday!

January 17, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Nerd Stuff, Random typing. Leave a comment.

How to be a pregnant/new parent friend

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Previously, I discussed how to be a good friend to a friend who is expecting or just had a kid. But friendship goes both ways, and just because you’re having/had a baby doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. As a new mom myself, I’m also writing this as a reminder to future me.

DON’Ts:

  • Don’t act entitled. Your friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances don’t owe you gifts and worship just because you’re breeding. It’s not that special. Everyone who exists came out of someone like you. I’m not saying don’t enjoy your pregnancy and new baby, just don’t get all Bridezilla about it. And don’t talk crap about someone’s gift to you. Maybe they didn’t spend as much as you think they should, or bought you something you don’t like. Be appreciative that they obviously care about you.
  • Don’t overshare. When you’re talking to friends, they may not want to hear the details of your cervix, or about your kid’s diapers, even fellow parents. (Although I did have someone ask me if I pooped weird while pregnant, so you never know). It’s hard to keep perspective when you have just had 8 different medical personnel digging around in your lady parts, but do your best.
  • Don’t talk exclusively about your pregnancy or bundle of joy. Ask your friends about their lives also, and show genuine interest. Yes, having a kid is a huge thing that absorbs your whole brain, but you used to be able to have normal conversations. Try not to lose that skill.

DO’s:

  • If people ask you personal questions, like “Do you poop weird?”, try to answer candidly. There is so much that no one tells you about pregnancy until you are actually pregnant, that I had a ton of friends who were just plain curious. I always feel that if someone has the guts to ask you an awkward or embarrassing question, it shows that they feel comfortable with you. You should go ahead and answer, rather than being judgmental.
  • Be interested in things other than your baby. You had hobbies and interests before the kid. Maybe your model train building gets put on hold, or slows down somewhat, but you don’t have to sacrifice that part of yourself on the altar of parenthood. When that kid is no longer dependent on you, you still need to be a complete person. You also still need interesting things to talk about at dinner parties (or Super Bowl parties, whatever).
  • Be grateful. When someone has gone out of their way to get you something or make you food, say thank you. Send out thank you notes for gifts you receive. Send the gifter a text later telling them the food was delicious, or that you’re using the stroller they gave you and you love it (this is in addition to thank you notes, not instead of).
  • Try to keep up a social life. It’s so easy to just hide in your house and focus on raising your new little munchkin (especially for me, but I tend to be a hermit). However, you don’t want to lose touch with your friends. Maybe you can’t get to every craft night, movie night, or bar fight, but make an effort to get to the big events, like birthdays and Harry Potter marathons. Friends will be understanding that you aren’t always available, but don’t take them for granted.

January 13, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Baby Stuff. 1 comment.

How to deal with a pregnant/new parent friend

8 months pregnant

At this point, now that I have a 1 month old, I think I’m qualified to explain what to do and NOT do with someone expecting, or who just had, a kid. Some ranting ensues:

DON’Ts:

  • Don’t send them negative media. Sending articles about why it’s better to be childless, or how bad for the planet a baby is, how much babies cost, or anything like that is just plain rude. If you had just bought a home, and I gleefully sent you websites that said “Only idiots buy houses”, I would be a jerk for raining on your parade. Maybe I’m ok with living in an apartment or condo forever, but you made your choice to purchase a house. I should be happy for you, or at the very least, keep my damn mouth shut since it’s too late to change anything now.
  •  Don’t ask about parenting decisions. “What if he wants to go to [name expensive college]?” “What age will you get him a cell phone?” How about you let me worry about birthing the kid before I concern myself with any of that crap? Do I really need to decide those things right now? I mean, I have a few years before he can even make sentences. I don’t think we need to decide Harvard or Yale until he’s at least 5.
  • Don’t ask “Are you getting rid of your pets?” No. Why the hell would I? On the off-chance that my baby Nacho might be allergic? When you adopt a pet (and all of ours are rescues) you make a commitment to house that animal for its whole life. Obviously if one of the cats was to try and hurt Nacho, we would adopt it out, but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. And why is that a question people ask? Also, don’t say “Once you have a baby, your dog will just be your dog, not a baby”. RUDE.
  • Don’t bring up possible medical problems. “What if he has [name horrible incurable disease/disability]?” Any expectant parent is ALREADY worrying about that stuff. Don’t bring it up. This is just another way to crap on my joy. Remember, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Don’t bring up tragedies. “Did you hear about that newborn that [insert horrible tragedy, i.e. ‘died in a fire’, ‘got eaten by tigers’]? What would you do if that happened?” Again, I am already worried about all of that. I don’t need you reminding me that horrible things happen. If you have no other point of reference to discuss children other than child slavery, just talk about something else entirely. Just because I’m gestating doesn’t mean my brain died. I still listen to NPR and read books. We can talk about North Korea or Game of Thrones; take your pick.
  • Don’t gloat. You can drink alcohol and eat sushi, go to the gym, and sleep in. Good for you. I KNOWINGLY made a different choice. Hell, I had a kid so I have an excuse not to go to the gym. It’s much more understandable than “I was leveling up my mage in Skyrim”.
  • Don’t concern yourself with my diet or medical needs. If you are not MY OBGYN or pediatrician I don’t need to hear your opinion you read online once, or that thing your grandma told you. Saying “Should you be eating that?” or “That’s bad for the baby” should be grounds for public caning. Unless you see a pregnant woman doing something blatantly dangerous, like smoking or stunt driving, keep your mouth shut. Even if you are a qualified medical professional, you are not MY qualified medical professional.
  • Don’t share your parenting or pregnancy horror stories. You have 3 kids and want me to be prepared for the bad things: “Just wait until he has explosive diarrhea!”, “You’re going to have to do something with all those books, or else he’ll ruin them all”, “Say goodbye to your boobs!” (<—actual quote), or “Little Johnny threw up on our wedding album on purpose, then burned my wedding dress in the yard!” I get it, you’ve been in the trenches before me, and you want me to be prepared, but there are so few opportunities in life to be joyful. Unless your story is hilarious, at least ask if I want to hear it.

All of these boil down to “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. And yes, all of these happened to me.

  • Don’t touch a pregnant woman without her permission. If your best friend is pregnant, it’s probably fine to rub her belly. Stranger in the grocery store? Not so much. I don’t care how delighted you are, and how excited you are by the miracle of life. Would you walk up to a non-pregnant random stranger and rub their belly? No (or you should stop, please). She still deserves her personal bubble of space. I was very lucky not to experience this. I think it’s because I have a naturally forbidding face, which is good because I am VERY protective of my bubble. I hate places like concerts, festivals, or popular discotheques (that’s where the cool kids hang out, right? Right??) because of all the sweaty people pressed up against me. Blurg. Keep in mind, pregnant people are people, too. This goes for new babies also. First, WASH YOUR HANDS. Then say to the new parent “I just washed my hands, can I hold the baby?”
  • Don’t buy giant items or noisy toys. Stick to the baby registry, or else say “My friend’s baby love such-and-such, would you like one?” or “Do you have room for a rocking chair?” And whatever you buy, get a gift receipt if you can, and tape it to the item! It’s always possible to get duplicates, even with gift registries, so make returns as easy as possible.

Ok, enough negativity. What should you do?

  • Do bring food. Especially something I can just microwave and stuff in my face. It’s a good idea to text or message ahead of time to ask about food preferences, allergies, and freezer capacity. When the baby is brand new, lots of people are probably bringing food over, so bringing something that is frozen or can be frozen can be a big help. That way the new parents have food a couple weeks from now, also, and don’t have to worry about eating everything before it goes bad. Baked goods are great, but abundant, so bringing a casserole or soup can be helpful. I ate SO MANY Christmas cookies this year! You could even bring some basic groceries, like paper towels and toilet paper. You know they’ll get used, and it might save a trip to the store.
  • Offer to help, but offer something specific. What are you good at or willing to do? It’s much easier if you say something concrete like, “I can mow your lawn Saturday morning, does that work for you?”, “I can’t cook, so let me come mop your floors”, “Can I come play with your baby while you take a shower?”, or “I’m going to the store, what can I bring you?” rather than “Do you need anything?” I may have a totally different idea of what I’d like you to do versus what you’re willing to do. For pregnant ladies, try to think of something they can’t do themselves, like lifting heavy things, or reaching things that are very high up or low down.
  • Be unobtrusive. Send a text or email rather than calling if you can, because you never know when they might have just gotten a colicky baby to fall asleep, or have finally fallen asleep themselves, or are at a doctor’s appointment. Offer to drop off food instead of visiting, and if you do visit, keep it short. The new parents might protest, but if they’re yawning, you get out of there.
  • Tell them they look good. If a woman is hugely pregnant or just had a baby, you tell her she looks great (but don’t use the word “glowing”). Tell new parents their baby is adorable. Reality does not matter, just say something nice.

We are so fortunate to have so many fantastic friends and family members that did so much for us. Sara of the Long Red Hair brought us a ton of food, about half of it already labeled and  frozen. My sister, Beans, did an awesome photo shoot of my new little family. Lots of people brought food and gifts.

My brain twin Kornberg went above and beyond when I got pregnant. First. she volunteered to pick up Flapjack and dog sit while we were in the hospital, something it hadn’t even occurred to me to think about. When I went into labor, I sent her a text so she knew to get Flapjack. While Hubby and I were at the hospital, she changed the cat boxes, took out the trash, and did the dishes. While I was in labor, she sent me funny stuff on Facebook to distract me. When we came home from the hospital and she brought Flapjack home, she brought us a homemade casserole, listened to me blabber on about my precious, adorable baby, and only stayed a couple hours. Of course, being my brain twin is a special bond, and it was all incredibly thoughtful and helpful.

Now us breeders are not off the hook for appropriate behavior. See part 2 here.

January 11, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Baby Stuff. 4 comments.

New Year, New Goals

Happy 2014! I can barely even wrap my head around the fact that it’s not still 2007, but we’ll just pretend time isn’t accelerating past me at an alarmingly increasing rate.

Most people make New Year’s Resolutions each year. I don’t, because I’m already perfect, but I’m here to guide the rest of you on the pathway of Cleverness. Most people have money goals, so I’ll discuss those. Those of you with fitness goals, I can’t help. I don’t go to the gym, I’m just naturally like this.

Here’s a wrap up of my Money Basics series:

Money Basics Part 1: Budgeting

Money Basics Part 2: Prioritizing

Money Basics Part 3: Avoid Spending

Money Basics Part 4: Spending with Friends

Money Basics Part 5: Reduce Bills

Money Basics Part 6: When you have to spend

Money Basics: Save on Vacation

I’m sure there will be more to come, as I am constantly looking for ways to save money, and I can’t help but share my thoughts and advice with anyone who will listen. For now, I hope these tools will aid you on your quest.

January 1, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Thriftiness is Cool. Leave a comment.