Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Many More Baby Kittens Have to Die???

What's this crazy shit I hear about PETA sending Ben & Jerry's a letter asking them to start using human breast milk instead of cow juice?!? Eeeeeewww!!! I'm every bit a teary-eyed, animal loving pansy (my animals are spoiled rotten and I get all choked up when I see certain roadkill...seriously), but PETA makes me a little crazy. Pissing folks off and making completely untenable suggestions like Boobie Ice Cream does nothing to further their cause. I wonder how many innocent baby kittens have been stomped on because PETA pissed someone off?

None, I hope, but this is a sick, sick world in some parts.

My mother once noted, somewhat wryly, that I always bawled like a little bitch at any movie or TV show in which an animal died--I moped around for a month after reading Where the Red Fern Grows--but couldn't care less when people died in movies. I remember thinking, the people probably deserved it.

And yet, I somehow didn't end up in prison and/or a sociopath. Go figure.

On another subject, it's just starting to feel like fall around here, and I'm googly-happy about that. See, it's been many years since I've been able to enjoy this season without (a) being in the desert, where fall looks about like any other brown, ugly season, (b) living under threat of impending deployment just as the leaves were starting to change, (c) in the middle of a great deployment--this last one--but only here in Mississippi for a couple of weeks, or (d) in the middle of a horrible deployment, home (in upstate NY) on leave, and walking around with a grapefruit-sized ball of dread in my belly, knowing I'd have to go back to Iraq and stay there for ten more months.

I lugged that tumor all over the Adirondacks in September 2004, which were just painted with glorious color that I couldn't enjoy because that deployment was making me so crazy I couldn't sleep at night. I had to go back and work for that horrible, spiteful man I detested so much my stomach curled in around the ball-o-dread whenever I caught sight, sound, or smell of him.

I hope I never meet another human being for whom I feel something that uncomfortably close to real hatred. I never had before and I have not since. I couldn't just leave that particular situation, but if I ever encounter it again, I'll quit a job, move, whatever I have to do to get away from it. That much disgust brings out the worst in anyone, me especially.

So this fall has special significance for me. I plan to ride Piglet all over the countryside when I can make time from law school work. I will spend Thanksgiving break studying, baking my famous gingerbread, and concocting some sort of fabulous dish to bring to the family Thanksgiving supper. I'm thinking sweet potato casserole with some sort of ginger, pecan-laced streudel on top. Molasses. Nutmeg, cinnamon, and a touch of cardamom. I may have to bake several of them to get it right, which would be just a damn shame.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

...Or Not.

Everyone is livid down here about the possibility of the debate getting delayed or cancelled. Seems a dicey move on McCain's part--I'm not at all convinced either Presidential candidate would be very useful in getting the bailout plan hammered out. Neither one is an economist, we have experts already on the job, and now, more than ever, we need to hear from the candidates.

What exactly does he think he can actually DO? Walk into Congress and start ordering people around? Claim credit when it gets passed? It's just like his otherwise-inexplicable selection of Palin--purely for his own potential political gain, with no real consideration for what's actually best for America.

The focus of the debate may (and perhaps SHOULD) focus on the economy. Foreign policy is critical, but right now, the abiding crisis that touches every single American is the economy. I've personally watched a very large chunk of my law school savings circle the drain through my mutual funds. Thank GOD I had the foresight last January to stop contributing to them and shift all my subsequent contributions to my money market. And as for the mutual funds? I just won't touch them until I absolutely have to. Maybe I'll be able to stretch everything out long enough to sit on them until they recover, however many years down the line that might be.

As far as Oxford is concerned, the citizens in this town and all over the state--the poorest state in the country, I might add--have spent millions of private dollars to host this debate during a time when we could afford it least. It's a slap in the face to even suggest not having this debate.

If anyone thinks these events are government funded, think again. 5.5 million dollars were raised, mostly through University alumni, from private citizens and businesses. That doesn't even address the money spent by Oxford on the big events on the Square, or the extra police presence, the logistical nightmares, or the big bucks local merchants have shelled out plumping their inventories and decorating for this thing. The hotels have been booked since last February in anticipation.

This is about the economy. Just not OUR economy.

I predict that McCain will milk as many empty photo ops and sounds bites out of this as he can, then "suddenly" decide to get down here sometime tomorrow. This move has already backfired here--people are furious, Democrats and Republicans alike.

I love how we've responded, though--we're having a party with or without one of the two guests of honor. I'm going to a big debate party at a law firm on the Square, and I am terribly excited about it. I'm even wearing a pretty dress so I can sit on the balcony over the Square, drink wine, and bitch about it all with my friends and the new ones I'll make.

I even managed to talk my date into going, even though this is a decidedly Democratic crowd and he's waaay Republican. Goes to show you, he is a good man, and for him (and ultimately, for me, too) it's about the event, the process, not so much about one candidate or the other. That's why I'm excited. And besides, this is not a crowd that would say anything untoward to him--these are reasonable people and this is a small town where his dad was an Assistant US Attorney for years. We're just not a fighting bunch, we're more like a "discuss it briefly, then agree to disagree" kind of town.

If our roles were reversed and he'd invited me to a big Republican shindig overlooking the Square at a law firm where I'd meet a huge chunk of the Oxford legal community, damn skippy I'd go. I'd wade right into red territory wearing a blue dress and an Obama button. Don't think I wouldn't!

Monday, September 22, 2008

FOB Ole Miss

It's on!

Ole Miss hosts the first Presidential debate this Friday, and today was the first day that Things Started Happening. My law school is around the corner from the debate itself, and the campus looks like a FOB in Iraq, only with you know, pretty trees and flowers and grass so green it'll knock your eyes out. (FOB=Forward Operating Base, by the way, the heavily-secured camps all over the International Zone and the city of Baghdad and well, the whole country of Iraq. And Afghanistan.)

There are big fences and blocked-off areas, crowds, satellite dishes going up. It's all very festive and I'm so proud of this little town--how could you come here and NOT walk away with a very different view of Mississippi? This town has restaurants that I'd put right up there with gigs in New Orleans. It's gorgeous and quaint and people here are exceedingly warm.

I have to park at the mall and walk about two miles to the law school. I could take the shuttle, but I'm told there were over 200 people lined up for it this morning and it took a long time to get on a bus. I wouldn't know, I was the first in the lot at about 6:30 and I walked right up Fraternity Row and through the oldest, prettiest parts of campus. The sun was just coming up, the birds were singing, a baby squirrel followed me for about a block...and I plan to walk every day this week.

I'm bringing my camera tomorrow--I'll post pics of my lovely morning walk and all the excitement here. The Grove is filled with soapbox speakers and journalists, and you'd have to be pretty jaded not to feel the patriotism, the pride, the festive mood. It feels like this event in this place is about voting and the joy we take in the democratic process, and less about the contentious nature of the campaign. I'd pledged to hole up in my house for all the events this Friday--the big-screen TV's in the Grove and downtown on the Square, the live bands--but now, I'm catching it.

It feels like the best county fair ever--one with international attention and significance, where we get to show our adorable little town to the world.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I'm always VERY leery of mass emails of any kind--but especially those concerning either political candidates or medical studies. There's usually a very good reason why the information isn't reported by credible news sources who may be held liable for defamation and subjected to a tortious law suit.

Anti-perspirants cause cancer. Camel spiders eat flesh and can leap higher than a basketball player. Our modern Santa Claus was created by Coca-Cola. George W. Bush , having been tested, has the lowest I.Q. of any recent President and refused to sell his home to a black family. If any of these things were true, we would've heard about them through other sources besides a forwarded email with no sources credited. Such is the power of rumor--perception, even when unfounded and rumor-based, is often considered reality.

I don't fully trust the media, either. But I trust emails with no quoted sources even less. They never contain a link to a real document or the actual name of a person from whom the information originated.

My source for fact-checking these emails is, which is a non-political, non-partisan site that investigates email/internet rumors by scouring the same credible news sources that generally steer well clear of the information these emails contain. McCain's page is much shorter than Obama's--perhaps there's a much more vigorous effort (although I wouldn't call it concerted or organized) nationwide to taint Obama’s character and candidacy.

Patently untrue--Obama's tax plan, rumored to cripple most Americans:

File under "Can't Prove a Negative." Biden's intention to claim health issues and quit the race in order to allow Hillary to run, which would basically guarantee Obama's defeat this late in the game:

Sarah Palin has her own Snopes page, but as with McCain, there just aren't that many inflamatory emails circulating about her. Although, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel to come up with a few rants not based in fact that people would believe, like "Palin intends to use American troops as instruments of God's wrath and declares she'll invade Iran that same day if McCain leaves office." Believable because she called Iraq "a mission from God." It's easy to take one factor of a person's character and twist it into some apocalyptic vision of what their Presidency might look like.

And if I got that email about Palin? Even though I don't trust her, I would have to look it up. Candidates don't get where they are by making statements that would amount to political suicide, like doubling the middle-class income tax or declaring intent to invade every Muslim country on the map.

I'm not lamenting this Presidential race as the end of the Age of Reason--politics have ALWAYS been soaked in spook-propaganda and rumors that play to people's most basic fears in order to sway them to one side or the other. At least now we have the interenet and it's relatively easy to research claims in blog postings and internet emails.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Silly Rabbit

What the hell's wrong with me? I'd just waxed poetic about some "Be who you are" bullshit, then turn around and try to act all Southern-belle for this unfailingly polite man. Who didn't seem to care about the rant last Friday, as we had lunch today.

But even if not? Best to find out now.

Well, I'm not acting all Southern belle, per se, but I am trying to mind my manners a bit. Law school isn't the Army and when in Rome, do as the Romans do, or be cast out. Or kicked out. He's one of those old-school Southern men with those impeccable, genuine manners and wouldn't know how to have it any other way in their own behavior.

OH who the hell knows, maybe he's been on his best behavior as well.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Damn Turret's!!

I love law school. I really do, I'm not just saying that. Although some leisure time would be nice and I'm down to 2-3x a week at the gym. Seriously, this law school thing is like having two full-time jobs. If I lose fitness, I can get it back. If I don't make the grades I want--and it's HUGELY important in law school--I can't take that back.

Besides, the walk from my car to the law building is like the damn Bataan Death March--about fifty pounds of books and Mississippi late-summer heat. I'm still slowly losing weight, maybe because I'm too busy to think much about food, other than to throw everything in my fridge that once lived onto the grill every few days. I bring filet mignon with gorgeous grill marks, marinated in lime, cilantro, and chipotle, and some people in the student lounge look like I've just produced a crack pipe and a lighter.

I did join the nicer gym across town. It's not the drive or the expense that keeps me from going more, it's the mountain of work that I cannot get behind on.

OK, Funniest Moment in Law School So Far:

One of my professors is this wonderful, old school Mississippi lawyer, probably in his mid-to-late seventies. Think seersucker suit, hat, bourbon on the front porch. We're talking Old School in that wonderful way that made me chuckle in admiration when the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court came to speak to us in a fine suit and cowboy boots. He sounded like a preacher and I was prepared to testify by the time he finished...praise Jesus!!

So we're discussing this 1970 case, Breunig v. American Family Ins. Co., in which the plaintiff was injured when struck head on by one Mrs. Erma Veith. See, Erma followed a "white light," which was Christ incarnate come down to guide her to the light, as God controlled the steering wheel (I swear I'm not making this up), pulled into the lane of highway with oncoming traffic, saw Mr. Breunig's truck approach, and sped up because, "I can fly like Batman."

So the question was, can you be negligent if you're insane? Turns out, yes you can, if there was reason to believe you may be insane and folks let you (or you know, GOD) drive your Batmobile anyway.

So then all the What If's started. Sometimes I quite like the what-if's, sometimes they get on my nerves...usually, I'm wondering the same thing and I'm glad someone else is asking.

So someone behind me started tiptoeing around the what if you're mentally handicapped question, fumbling for the right words to say and not be offensive to anyone who may have a little brother with Down Syndrome or something.

The professor looked a bit befuddled, then said, "Uh, are you talking about a retard?"

People, I know it's wrong. I would never say it myself. But it was so unexpected, I just burst out laughing and couldn't quit. And I'm sitting here at my computer's so wrong. But damn it's funny.
I'm sorry, I'm a bad person...but I cannot quit laughing about it.

And another Turret's moment, this one purely mine. I had a very nice date Friday night with someone I have always thought had real potential. Very attractive, smart, never been married, the whole package. And in my usual spirit of self-sabotage, I straight blew it.

We walked around the Square to watch all the Friday night drunks out on the curb, talking about what used to be where (we actually went to the same high school and we're close to the same age), how Forrester's used to be next to the Oxford Eagle before it was farther down Jackson and after it was down the hill where it's all condos now, City Grocery used to be Syd and Harry's and still has the best shrimp and grits in town, etc.

So we're having a perfectly lovely evening and I'm on my best behavior, because I like this guy, I don't want to screw it up by showing him my now-inappropriate, Army soldier side, the gallows humor and the potty mouth and saying outrageous things because people in the DoD just don't offend easily. They just don't. In fact, that rough edge is pretty highly prized among rough people.

But these are not rough people. This is the South. I know that, and I swear I'm working on it.

Then we ran into a friend of his who is, as far as I can tell, much more liberal than I am. I vote Democrat, but I don't really like to argue about it and it's not a central theme in my life, even in an election year. I'm actually pretty moderate--I'm all for increased drilling (both offshore and ANWR) I own two pistols, and I still don't know what I think about immigration except something's got to stem the flow. I wouldn't have spent so long in the Army and DoD if I were some flaming liberal.
I have my opinions, they're based on all the years of experience doing every conceivable thing (chef, waitress, sculptor, soldier, teacher), but I really don't need to shout about it all on the mountaintop. I'll discuss it if the topic comes up, but I'm not usually the one to initiate that conversation with people I don't know well. I got used to that in the Army--that was about like being in Mississippi, as far as politics go.

So his friend mentioned Sarah Palin and started going off. Then I chime in with my Turret's-induced rant about her as Commander-in-Chief. And as a former soldier who spent 3.5 years in combat, I'm well entitled to that opinion.

But I should not have been so...I dunno, unladylike, shrill, nutty, adamant, whatever. I didn't curse, which is fortunate, given how strongly I feel about it (come ON people, "We're close to Russia???") but I may have said, um, disaster, book-banning Jesus freak, McCain's old and could drop dead, what the hell was he thinking, etc.


And then I looked at my date. He was uncomfortable. He may have even been fairly horrified. It was one of those oh-hell-I-really-just-stepped-in-it moments.

Um, can I take all that back?

I am, without a doubt, in one of the reddest of the red states and probability is always high that anyone I'm talking to LOVES Palin. My date does not, but I could tell I'd been pretty undiplomatic about it. Which sucks great big donkey balls (there's that soldier again), because I really am good about discussing things much more delicately, even things that really piss me off. Especially with other reasonable people, which he clearly is.

Another thing he clearly is? Not a rough person. Double damn.

I think her selection touches a nerve with me. I think it's astonishingly disrespectful to claim enough foreign policy experience to make life-and-death decisions based on such silliness. It's disrespectful to the military whose lives get irrevocably altered--or taken--by the decisions made by a Commander-in-Chief.

No recovering from that one, I'm afraid. He is, of course, Republican (which doesn't bother me a bit), and I haven't heard from him since. Triple damn.

I wonder if my professor had that instant oh-hell feeling?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Slogging Along

The first week of my new law school gig, I completely blew off the gym. BAD soldier!!

I'm back in there now, but I may need to look around for a different gym. I love going on the weekends because it's usually damn near empty. But yesterday, all these big guys had taken over, monopolized all the weights and the whole area, and the worst part of all--they all dripped sweat all over the equipment, and I never once saw one of them grab a towel and take care of business. The nerve!!!

And then I looked around--there were none of the usual "Be Considerate, Wipe Equipment Down" admonishments. There is only one spray bottle, it's nowhere near the weights, and there's one ratty-looking washcloth with it. Wiping up your disgusting body waste wasn't listed in the gym rules that were posted. All the equipment is brand-new and I like this gym because it's relatively cheap and on my side of town. But is it worth it when the culture (and management) there does nothing to encourage cleanliness?

I joined for two months to check it out, and my trial membership expires in about a week. I'm seriously thinking of switching to the much more posh gym across town, which has fewer young students, more locals and professionals, and looks like a spa. It's much less convenient, considerably more expensive...but possibly worth it. The gym I use now is a sorority/fraternity meat market mid-day.

I actually skipped two exercises yesterday because I was so grossed out by all that sweat on the equipment. Normally, I would've just sprayed the crap out of it and wiped it down, but the guys were all black and I was somewhat afraid of looking like a total assclown white bitch sterilizing the equipment. I am, after all, in Mississippi, and I'm very cognizant of How Things Look. Silly, I know, but believe me, I can absolutely see how the perception would be negative, especially since I had only half-heartedly wiped down the non-sweat-covered equipment before hopping on.

So, gag reflex at the gym vs. longer drive and more expensive? I can afford the expense and the longer drive. So I'll try it for a couple of weeks and see how much I mind the inconvenience.

I'm still trying to run, by the way, but my damn knees are not cooperating. I feel great while I run--I stick to only 15 minutes a couple of times a week--but later? Getting out of the chair is a little crunchy. I need to get to an orthopedic surgeon and see what can be done--I've spent over three years trying to self-help with weights to strengthen the surrounding muscles, knee braces, etc. It's helped a bit, since they don't hurt when I walk, but I have to wonder if I'm going to end up unable to crouch in the garden at some point. Hell, I can leg press over 220 pounds, I don't think the muscles need any more strengthening.

Wish me luck! This fitness/not-fatness thing is a constant struggle, but worth every modicum of effort. I bought some size 8 Levi's last week and I feel like a minor goddess wearing them on Piglet. Now, if only I could get rid of this damn belly once and for all...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Before paint and flooring.

After. Amazing what color will do.

My home has always been the thing I'm willing to spend the most time and money on, after spending copious amounts of both, it's my nest, my pride and joy. I left my parents' house in 1988, and I've been accumulating bits and pieces ever since.

It's nothing special that I've done. Well, except the rugs, they all came from Afghanistan and Iraq and would've been too expensive otherwise. I inherited a couple of nice antiques from my folks, but the rest has been piecemeal--a little extra money at the end of the month meant I could replace the crappy old coffee table with something sleeker.

The point is, I lived very small all through my twenties, worked my ass off in the Army, and after twenty years of gathering and improving on what I had, I ended up with a very comfortable place to nest. I'll never take it for granted.

And really, at 38? If you haven't been able to get it together (and not just home-wise), you're probably doing something wrong. Or not wrong, but you could be doing it better if you were willing to work hard and always keep your eyes on the future when the present becomes a struggle.

I think the same principle applies to school. I wasn't trying to boast or sound cavalier in my last post--I'm just fortunate to have worked long, hard days in the past. I have a different basis for comparison. I can see how it could seem overwhelming--I would've been completely punked out by this stuff if I'd gone to law school at 22.

Law, at least so far, is strikingly similar to intelligence in many ways--there are rules, procedures, databases, writing, etc. While it's like drinking from the firehose, it somehow feels familiar.

I'm not exceptionally smart, I just work hard and always have--so the skills I have now are the cumulative effect of all the problem-solving, years of research, and standing in front of cantankerous senior infantry officers to tell them things they didn't want to hear. You learn to be VERY well prepared, anticipate the issues and questions, so you don't get caught stammering through it in front of a huge audience, most of whom already assume you're incompetent just by virtue of being female. I don't expect that dynamic is the sole domain of the military--I'm sure it'll rear its ugly head from time to time in law...maybe not in school, but I'd bet it's out there.

Although screwing up in law school holds no real consequences to anyone but the screwer-up. Getting something wrong in intel could translate to a casualty. Or several casualties. That threat has a way of forcing one to pay very close attention.

I'm accustomed to paying that kind of close attention to both details and concepts, big picture and small, simultaneously and thoroughly. I didn't come to the table with any inherent advantages, except maybe a lifelong love of reading and writing. I had to work at it, earn it, and at some points, go through absolute hell for it. Iraq in 2004-2005 will forever stand in my mind as the lowest point in my life--I just cannot imagine anything coming close to it.

So right now, I'm beginning to really come into the fruits of hard labor--many difficult years just now paying off. Maybe that's why I enjoy it so much, take so much pride in it. Anything you've had to really work and sacrifice for feels so much more satisfying once you attain it.