Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brain food and eye candy

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." — Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule whose use of nonviolent civil disobedience inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world

TODAY the Rotary Club of Des Moines and the Greater Des Moines Partnership held a special joint meeting. Tom Hoenig, who has served as chief executive of the Tenth District Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City since 1991, was the guest speaker — and he was terrific! More about him later.

The invocation was given by Monseigneur Frank Bognanno, and in it he quoted Mahatma Gandhi's list of Seven Deadly Social Sins. They are:
  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Science without humanity
  • Knowledge without character
  • Politics without principle
  • Commerce without morality
  • Worship without sacrifice
Coincidentally, the night before hearing Mahatma's list, I listened to a Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast about the famous Dandi Salt March he led in 1930. It was a major turning point in the fight to end the British Raj, and inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to use similar methods some 25 years later in the civil rights movement here in the United States

Below are pictures of our three furry children. Sweet dreams.

A sweet sleeping Shiva.

A sweet sleeping Shye.

A sweet sleeping Boy Boy.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

US expands human trafficking blacklist

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. — Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

ACCORDING TO AN MSNBC article from yesterday, June 27, the US State Department has designated 23 countries as failing to meet minimum international standards to stop human trafficking. An estimated 23 million men, women and children are enslaved, but the majority of victims are women and children. 

US expands human trafficking blacklist to 23
List of countries that may face US sanctions nearly doubles; 41 countries on watch list

June 27, 2011

The Obama administration on Monday nearly doubled the number of countries that may face U.S. sanctions for not doing enough to combat human trafficking, calling on those and other nations to get serious and take tough steps to eradicate the lucrative illicit practice.

In its annual Trafficking in Persons report, the State Department identified 23 nations as failing to meet minimum international standards to curb the scourge, which claims mainly women and children as victims. That's up from 13 in 2010. Another 41 countries were placed on a "watch list" that could lead to sanctions unless their records improve.

The report analyzed conditions in 184 nations, including the United States, and ranked them in terms of their effectiveness in fighting what many have termed modern-day slavery. The State Department estimates that as many as 27 million men, women and children are living in such bondage around the worlds.

Click here to read the entire MSNBC article.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Yeah, me neither

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well. ― Aristotle, 4th century BC Greek philosopher

THANKS TO COUSIN Pam for forwarding this quote. Sums up my feelings exactly.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Skinhead redemption

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." ― Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches 

THIS SUNDAY NIGHT, June 26, at 9:00 PM Eastern and 8:00 PM Central, MSNBC will air Erasing Hate, "a documentary that chronicles the redemptive story of a violent, racist skinhead who renounced the white power movement and, with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, underwent an excruciating series of laser treatments to remove the racist tattoos that covered his face and hands."

Click here to read more about the upcoming program and here to watch a clip.

Paul and I visited the Civil Rights Memorial in November 2010, the same place where the photo of Byron and Julie Widner was taken that appears in the linked article.

At the Civil Rights Memorial in
Washington, DC.  
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Jeff Angelo rocks

"This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love." — Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State 

THE UNITED NATIONS passed a resolution on Friday supporting equal rights for all regardless of sexual orientation. It was introduced by South Africa and is the first UN resolution concerning human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Its' about time.

On the Iowa front, former Iowa State legislator, Jeff Angelo, announced on June 1 that he has formed an organization called Republicans for Freedom in support of preserving the right of gay people to marry. He had written an opinion piece that appeared March 31 of this year in the Des Moines Register describing the evolution of his views from being very vocally and publicly opposed to gay marriage as a state legislator to his current position in favor of marriage equality. I called him a few days after his opinion piece ran. He said he was surprised and pleased that I'd taken the trouble to track him down and call since he's no longer a legislator and no contact information was listed. I hope he felt encouraged, admired and appreciated.

It requires backbone for anyone to reconsider a long-held view, particularly when, in his case, he'd taken such a high-profile stand on the issue. It takes even more courage to be this public in his change of heart in light of the reactionary views of his party. If there were an Iowa Profiles in Courage award given as there is nationally, I would nominate him. Time and public opinion are on his side. More than 50% of people in the United States are now in favor of allowing gay marriage. Jeff's original article from March 31 is below.

Why My View on Same-sex Marriage Has Changed

By former Iowa Sen. Jeff Angelo
March 31, 2011

I served 12 years in the Iowa Senate, and I, like all other legislators, took an oath to defend the our state’s constitution. During my tenure in the Senate, I voted for a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and I was lead sponsor for a similar amendment.

I heard from my church and my fellow Republicans that homosexuality was wrong, and I thought I could lovingly disagree with them. I could “hate the sin, love the sinner” as people say when they do not believe gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry. But there came a point when I could no longer ignore how much this attitude hurt the people I know. Because this issue is not about rhetoric; this issue is about people and their freedom to choose a spouse.

Our constitution exists to protect the rights of individuals, and does so by limiting the government’s power to control the lives and properties of citizens. A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, instead of limiting government control, would limit the ability of a select group of citizens to enter into civil marriage, therefore violating the very purpose of our constitution.

When we start allowing constitutional amendments that limit individual control, and give that control over to the government, we open ourselves up to more limitations on our individual freedom. It’s easy to feel so passionately about an issue that you don’t look at it objectively, but what happens when the individual freedom we’re discussing is gun control or universal health care? We need to set aside the rhetoric and look at the slope on which we’re starting to slide.

This debate centers on a devaluation of the lives of select group of people. At its worst we are being asked to believe that our gay friends and neighbors are involved in a nefarious agenda, the outcome of which is supposedly the unraveling of society itself. It’s tempting to place the blame for all society’s ills at one doorstep; indeed, that has been the plight of minorities throughout history. But a villain like that only exists in movies. In reality, the forces we face are all the same: getting a good job, supporting our families and making our communities better places to live.

The stability of marriage and the sanctity of personal liberty are the foundations of conservative values, and we should be glad those values are spreading and being embraced in so many different walks of life. They are universal and fundamental.

There is no reason to think heterosexual marriage is threatened by gays and lesbians getting married. There will be the same number of heterosexual marriages, divorces and children born. Churches can choose not to marry same-sex couples, and churches that do have the religious freedom to perform those ceremonies.

Whether or not you agree with gay marriage, we’re all joined by our love of liberty. Free citizens are allowed to disagree and live their lives as they choose without fear of government reprisal as long as life and property are not threatened.

The tenor of this debate does not serve the people Iowa well, and is not in keeping with an Iowa culture known nationwide for displaying respect and generosity of spirit. Each day, Iowans worship with, work with, live with, and love people who are gay. Together we make a great state, facing the same problems and, hopefully, the same bright future.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Saving baby girls

“There is not love where there is no will.” — Indira Gandhi, fourth Prime Minister of India 

IF YOU'VE read Hey Look more than a few times, you know I've passed along articles about the killing of baby girls in India, Pakistan and many African countries. I have been wondering why governments trying to stop the practice of sex-selective abortion don't provide financial incentives to mothers who have and raise girls.

Apparently, such an idea is being tried in India with uncertain results, although it sounds as though the effort is being administered so poorly that it's hard to judge how efficacious a program of this nature could be if it were well managed and properly tracked. Here's an article from the June 8, 2011 Christian Science Monitor.

India tries cash incentives to save its girls
By Ben Arnoldy
June 8. 2011

MULLAHERA, India — Not long ago, Mullahera, a village on what was then the outskirts of New Delhi, was the kind of place where families wanted a boy. Their reasoning was simple: A boy could inherit farmland, work the fields, and provide space in his future home for elderly parents.

But in January, local officials came to Mullahera – now nestled alongside the glass towers of the ever-expanding city – to present residents with a significant gift: a check for 100,000 rupees, or $2,200, for producing more girl than boy births.

With selective abortion of girls in India worse than ever, the state of Haryana – which has one of the worst birth ratios – has started to reward the village in each district that is defying the odds. Haryana is not the only state trying such a tactic. 

The federal and state governments in India are testing cash incentives to encourage pregnant women to not screen for gender and abort their girls – a problem that grows with wealth and access to ultrasound technology. But while the programs offer stories of progress, activists say they distract from serious crackdowns on illegal gender testing.

Click here to read the entire Christian Science Monitor article. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And that party was Paul

"I'm here to accept responsibility for some very dumb decisions." — Andrew Weiner, disgraced US Congressman 

PAUL'S MOM has come up with some funny lines lately. On Paul's birthday, she called to wish him many happy returns and to recount a little Paul story. When she was pregnant with him, she began experiencing some pains and decided to go to the hospital as a precautionary measure. She told the nurse that she and Paul's dad had attended a party the night before, and she'd eaten too much; she was sure that was all that was going on. The nurse said, "Well, you're going to a party right now." And that party was Paul.

About the Andrew Weiner scandal: she quipped on Facebook that "there was obviously something missing in his life — a brain!!"

Speaking of Facebook, I'm brand new to it. When I sent my very first message, it was to my friend Ann's son; I've known her since she was three and him since babyhood, and I accidentally sent it to everyone. Sound familiar?! It said, "Hi Sweetheart, how soon do you graduate?" So if you hear a report of me having a "sweetheart" on the side, it's Jonathan.

Paul snapped this picture of our abundant rose bush. It's going gangbusters this year. We're so behind, though, on the rest of the yard. We've got six more beds left to plant. Yikes.

Our house and the north side of what we call our driveway garden.

In the Friday, June 10 Des Moines Register there was a little piece on page two of the NCAA Track Extra section titled First Impressions. Cathy and Mike Rotilio, who attended the championships to see their daughter April compete for West Virginia, were asked about what they thought of Des Moines. They said, "It's amazingly clean, everyone is very polite, it's easy to navigate and everyone goes 65 (mph) where it says 65." Hmm, I'd have to say I'm not sure about that last one! I'm hoping they meant polite — and friendly! Paul and I sat right behind them and cheered along with them when April ran, and because they didn't have a video camera, Paul recorded April's race and posted it to YouTube for them.

Saturday night I worked the Polk County Democrats/Obama booth at PrideFest. What a fantastic party! Seriously, if you want to rock out, go next year! I had a blast slapping stickers on everyone and registering people to vote. 

Front: Felicia Williams and Chris Butts.
Back: Kim Boggus, me, Betty Brim-Hunter and Rep. Bruce Hunter.

Sunday night Paul played the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. Cousin Riley's wife Teri was one of the singers; Paul said she's really talented. He also said that the green room is way cool because the walls are signed by hundreds of entertainers who've played the Surf. The bad news is that Paul literally fell off the stage at the end of the performance! He got pretty banged up, and his trombone had to go to the trombone hospital. And so once again, Paul was the party.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Our sporty summer

"I never believe I can't go any further. There is always a way and always an opportunity to get better." — Walter Dix, American sprinter

THIS PAST WEEK Paul and I attended the 2011 NCAA Track and Field Championships held at Drake University. I'd never been to a college track meet until the 2008 Drake Relays, and then I only went because I volunteered with other Rotarians to help in one of the hospitality tents. 

The few races we could see while working were so thrilling that Paul and I got tickets to the NCAA Championships two months later, also held at Drake. It was an Olympic year, so we knew we would be watching potential Olympic champions. I picked out Walter Dix in the early heats; he just seemed like he had the goods. Walter went on to qualify for the 2008 Olympics where he took bronze in the 100 and 200 meter races.

Walter Dix

That NCAA track and field championship meet in 2008 was the beginning of what we called our sporty summer. Later that same month, we flew to Philadelphia to attend the United States Olympic trials for gymnastics where we cheered on home-town girl, Shawn Johnson. By accident we were seated next to Jonathan Horton's parents and agonized and cheered along with them. He went on to help the American men take the Olympic all-around team bronze medal, and he won silver on high bar, our only men's individual medalist, and he was the 2009 and 2010 all-around national champion.

I picked Jonathan in the early rounds of the Olympic trials before he became such a star.

The women were awesome at the '08 Olympics. The team took the all-around silver medal, Nastia Liukin won gold and Shawn got silver in the individual all-around; Shawn earned silver on floor and Nastia took the bronze; Nastia won silver on the uneven bars; Shawn walked away with gold on balance beam and Nastia won the silver. We absolutely loved seeing all these incredible athletes and their coaches up close and personal and having the opportunity to talk with parents and even some of the team members.

We got to see all these young women compete! Shawn JohnsonNastia Liukin
Chellsie MemmelSamantha PeszekAlicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan.

That same summer, the USA Olympic swimming trials were in Omaha. How could we not go when they were so close?! Neither one of us had ever been to a swim meet, so we weren't sure how we'd like it. We loved it! 

The Olympic pool and arena in Omaha are built perfectly enough that it's impossible to have a bad seat. We saw so many Olympic stars compete, not the least of whom was Michael Phelps, winner of eight Olympic gold medals that year. We also saw Jason Lezak, Peter Vanderkaay, Larsen Jensen, Aaron Peirsol, Ryan Lochte, and Matt Grevers to name some of the stars. The men went on to take gold at the 2008 Olympics in:

  • 200 meter freestyle
  • 100 meter backstroke
  • 200 meter backstroke
  • 100 meter butterfly
  • 200 meter butterfly
  • 200 meter individual medley
  • 400 meter individual medley
  • 4x100 meter freestyle relay
  • 4x200 meter freestyle relay
  • 4x100 meter medley relay
It was a great year! We also got to see the incomparable Dara Torres who competed in the 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008 Summer Olympics and has  a total of twelve Olympic swimming medals to her credit — four gold, four silver and four bronze.

In 2007 at 40 years of age, just 15 months after giving birth to her first child, Dara won the gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle at the USA Nationals. A year later we were yelling for her at the Olympic trials, where at age 41 she became the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on an Olympic swimming team. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics she won a silver medal in the 50 meter freestyle, and 35 minutes later she was the anchor swimmer on the 4x100 meter freestyle relay where she helped the team get silver. Her split time in that race was the fastest freestyle split in relay history. 

Dara Torres and her daughter

Our last venue that summer was the national championships for acrobatic gymnastics — a different category from artistic gymnastics and rhythmic that you see at the Olympics. They were held in Des Moines, so it was easy to add it to the list.

Since our sporty summer, we've attended the Outdoor National Championships for track and field held last year at Drake, and of course the NCAA Outdoor Championships this past week. We thought we'd get bad seats because we were only able to take time to buy them the first day of the meet, but we ended up with seats at the finish line. Behind us there was an extra-nice bunch of retired guys from Oregon who follow their track and field Ducks all over the country. Track is almost a religion at the University of Oregon, and boy-howdy, do these guys know all the teams, times and rivalries. 

The championship ran Wednesday night through Saturday, but Paul got stuck at the office with the phone system installation guy for much of the evening Thursday, so I was there by myself. I happened to sit next to Lamont Johnson, a sprinter coach at the University of Alabama. Having him fill me in on which teams, coaches and individual athletes to watch in which events made the meet extra interesting.

We got rained on a lot Thursday and Friday and had to evacuate a couple of times for lightning, but we had so, so much fun. Saturday, we did what we did last year for nationals; we watched the last day of finals on TV at home in bed. We were worn out! But we discovered that it's actually a great system: watch all the preliminary heats, semi-finals and many of the finals in person at the stadium, then watch the last day of finals on TV. By that time you've gotten to know which teams and individuals you're most interested in, and you can watch them with the clarity and unblinking focus of a TV camera zoom lens that follows them the whole way round the track.

Over the course of four days, there were triumphs and disasters — favorites who pulled up lame, split-second finishes, batons dropped, hurdles missed and gutsy comebacks, but the most dramatic and scary moment was Wednesday night during the women's 10,000 meter final. It had been really hot and humid all day, and two runners collapsed during the race. Betsy Saina from Iowa State, who had led much of  the race, collapsed at 8,750 meters, and Morgan Haws from BYU collapsed about two body-lengths from the finish line. She crawled on her hands and knees to put one arm over the line to finish 12th. She would otherwise have placed around 6th or 8th, but I'm pretty sure she finished first in the esteem of everyone in the stadium for literally laying it all on the line for her team.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

The female of the species

"The female of the species is more deadly than the male." — Rudyard Kipling, English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist

YESTERDAY, June 9, our new phone service was installed at work. We think it will be a big improvement because it costs half as much as we were paying Qwest, and we're getting much more service — individual voice mail, calls automatically forwarded to our cells plus new phones and other cool stuff.

The installation was scheduled for noon yesterday (Thursday), but throughout the day it kept getting pushed back later and later. Under other circumstances, that would have been only a slight inconvenience except that by now we had been without internet service at Brainstorm since Monday!! Migration from Qwest to our new provider was scheduled to take place yesterday, but Qwest apparently decided to punish us for dropping them by taking down our connectivity the previous Monday.

About the fourth time our new provider phoned to set back the time, I happened to answer instead of Paul, and I think I was clearer about the immediacy of our needs. The installation person didn't arrive until past 4:00, but he stayed until 7:30 to finish the job. I don't weigh in often on transactions between Brainstorm and vendors, but by the time I do, I'm pretty determined to put an end to whatever the problem is. Paul says calls me Kali, the Hindu goddess of creation and destruction. And thus I was reminded of this poem by Rudyard Kipling.

And now for your reading enjoyment, The Female of the Species. (Of course I don't agree with the "not governing" part.)

Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling

The Female of the Species


When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the other's tale --
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations-worm and savage otherwise, --
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger --- Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue --  to the scandal of The Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity -- must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions -- not in these her honour dwells.
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions -- in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies! --
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges --  even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons -- even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
And the victim writhes in anguish -- like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it cames that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice -- which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern -- shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.

I relate to Shye, she's the timid, adorable, hide-under-the-bed one — until cornered, 
whereupon she'll slice you to ribbons.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Promises, promises

"Now I can look at myself and be proud; I'm laughing out loud." — Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Promises, Promises

I'M PLAYING a little catch up here: Mary Menke asked about recipes that call for lemon or basil olive oil. You don't really need a recipe to use either one; just add it to almost anything you're cooking. Use it in anything that calls for oil — or even if it doesn't.

Paul adds a little of the lemon to pasta after he's cooked and drained it. The lemon imparts a delicious flavor and aroma. It's good for cooking meat, fish, potatoes, vegetables or in salad dressing. Adding it to asparagus cooked in a wok is extra good. It would be interesting to try it in cake and cookie recipes that call for oil. Ditto on the basil oil added to meat, fish, vegetable, salad or pasta. Negatory on the basil in dessert recipes. Doesn't sound at all appetizing.

Sunday night Gloria Gray and I attended Chicago, the Musical, at the Des Moines Civic Center. I've seen lots of musicals, but for some reason never this one. John O'Hurley (Seinfeld and Dancing with the Stars) played male lead, Billy Flynn. The two female lead character parts, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly were played by a couple of Broadway pros, and Amos Hart was played by Ron Orbach. Gloria and I were curious whether Ron was related to the late Jerry Orbach (Law and Order and a frequent Broadway lead; he played the male lead in the original Broadway version of Promises, Promises). He is; they were cousins.

Speaking of Promises, Promises. Paul and I went to see the revival in New York City this past September. The lead role, played by Jerry Orbach in 1968, for which he won a Tony — was played by Sean Hayes in the revival. We're both big Sean Hayes fans. Kristin Chenoweth was the female lead, and Molly Shannon from Saturday Night Live was also in the cast. I was over the moon to be in New York to see this remount of a Broadway classic with such an excellent cast and from fifth-row seats!

Jerry Orbach
Cover of Cover of Promises, Promises

Last night Paul and I helped the Corporation for Economic Development in Des Moines (CEDDM) celebrate its 30th anniversary at Tursi's Latin King. Mayor Cownie was there, as were city manager Richard Clark, Governor Ray, Congressman BoswellCity of Des Moines Office of Economic Development director Terry VorbrichPolk County Treasurer Mary Maloney and lots of bankers. We were invited because Paul and I designed CEDDM's new website, unveiled at last night's party and because we're both graduates of the first E-200 class, sponsored in part by the Corporation. E-200 is a federally-designed "mini-MBA" program that business owners who meet certain criteria, in enterprise zones in selected cities, are eligible to take.

Paul had such a frustrating day at work today! We're switching phone and DSL carriers, and in the process we lost our internet, access to the websites we host, email capability and the link to our database from home. It went down Monday. Paul has been banging his head against the wall trying to figure out whether it's Qwest, our new carrier, interruption from nearby construction or some combination or D) all of the above. Paul is so smart that he can usually troubleshoot and fix anything that goes wrong himself. He had service people come out this morning, but they were not helpful. Paul was chagrined because he knew more than they did. It's almost impossible to get any work done without connectivity.