Monday, February 28, 2011

Education Funding

Paul Krugman's article, "Leaving Children Behind," gives some facts on education in Texas. I found the article to be really good, and here's a segment:

Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.

But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Movie Reviews, Cont.

Well, I've watched hours of the red carpet walks this evening; I wish I wasn't addicted to award shows and the accompanying ballyhoo over fashion . . . but I find something very rewarding in seeing how everyone dresses.

On the complete opposite of end of the Oscars, Bill and I watched William Shatner's 1977 Kingdom of Spiders. There's not too much to say about a movie of a small Arizona town that gets overrun by spiders who have mutated to become more venomous due to DDT. The gender dynamics between Shatner's character and the female lead (Tiffany Bolling) were interesting because she is a research scientist and women's libber. Shatner's character is, as Bill put it, "a horn dog"; I think the movie had a positive political aspect, then, because it allowed a female lead to stand by her feminism and career and it also came down against DDT. All of this, though, at the sake of a cheesy plot!

The list I've started keeping of movies I've watched this year:
Eat, Pray, Love: Nay
Black Swan: Yay
Hannah and Her Sisters: Yay
Chinatown: Yay
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask: Yay
True Grit (2010): Yay
Inception: Yay
How to Train Your Dragon: Yay
The King's Speech: Yay
The Big Sleep: Yay
Kingdom of Spiders: N/A (due to kitsch factor)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pema Chodron Advice

If you don't have a copy of Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, then you should probably get one--or see if you can read free selections on Amazon. If it were possible to underline an entire chapter, then I would have done it the other night while reading the chapter "Secret Oral Instructions." (Enter Mike Myers at Coffee Talk: "The instructions are neither 'secret' nor 'oral. ' Discuss.")

Here's a long selection; I just found that this is what I needed to hear, so I wanted to share it. (I kinda just jump in, but I think you can get the point easily enough.)

We continually find ourselves in that squeeze. It's a place where we look for alternatives to just being there. It's an uncomfortable, embarrassing place, and it's often the place where people like ourselves give up. We liked meditation and the teachings when we felt inspired and in touch with ourselves and on the right path. But what about when it begins to feel like a burden, like we made the wrong choice and it's not living up to our expectations at all? The people we are meeting are not all that sane. In fact, they seem pretty confused. The way the place is run is not up to par. Even the teacher is questionable.

This place of the squeeze is the very point in our meditation and in our lives where we can really learn something. The point where we are not able to take it or leave it, where we are caught with both the upliftedness of our ideas and the rawness of what's happening in front of our eyes--that is indeed a very fruitful place.

When we feel squeezed, there's a tendency for mind to become small. We feel miserable, like a victim, like a pathetic, hopeless case. So believe it or not, at that moment of hassle or bewilderment or embarrassment, our minds could become bigger. Instead of taking what's occurred as a statement of personal weakness or someone else's power, instead of feeling we are stupid or someone else is unkind, we could drop all the complaints about ourselves and others. We could be there, feeling off guard, not knowing what to do, just hanging out there with the raw and tender energy of the moment. This is the place where we begin to learn the meaning behind the concepts and the words.

We're so used to running from discomfort, and we're so predictable. If we don't like it,we strike out at someone or beat up on ourselves. We want to have security and certainty of some kind when actually we have no ground to stand on at all.

The next time there's no ground to stand on, don't consider it an obstacle. Consider it a remarkable stroke of luck. We have no ground to stand on, and at the same time it could soften us and inspire us. Finally, after all these years, we could truly grow up. As Trungpa Rinpoche once said, the best mantra is "OM--grow up--swaha."

. . .

So how do we relate to that squeeze? Somehow, someone finally needs to encourage us to be inquisitive about this unknown territory and about the unanswerable question of what's going to happen next.


I agree that we need encouragement and to encourage others! It's ok to not know something and to turn our attention to it. This is one of the best features of children--their ability to ask questions and to be curious. They don't have a story behind their questions or their sense of self; they just want to know things. I want that same thing for adults!

NPR Article on Spanish and American Banks

I heard this article, "When Borrowers Don't Pay, Should The Bank Take Everything?," on NPR last week, and it has stayed with me because some of the logic kind of bothered me. The article shares that Spain will still pursue any homeowners who walk away from their mortgages; this practice stands in contrast to American banks that cannot go after someone who walks away from his/her mortgage. Part of the article's premise was that Spaniards fear their banks while Americans don't. I wanted more answers about who, in Spain, seeks homeownership and whether their is a culture there that is more or less willing to take on debt. It made me wonder about the lending companies in America that preyed upon those who were unable or unwilling to understand that they were signing bad loans.

It all makes me wonder if there could be a bank that provides loans with the best interest of its customers in mind. I don't think we've seen this in America. At all. And the protests in Wisconsin over public workers' unions, along with the budget concerns over the discretionary spending, make me think that any talk over money is distracting us from the larger concerns. The larger concerns being the military.

It all just bums me out, so I want to seek out some answers. I was thinking of starting with this book on unions, which I found on the Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group blog. It's not about world economics, so I'm still looking for information about that.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gender and The New Yorker

A good friend passed this link along to me about gender inequity in the pieces The New Yorker publishes."Does The New Yorker Have Girl Problems? Reader Demands Gender Balance or a Refund."

I think the comments after the article are mostly insufferable. And I can't quite get to my opinion on the topic, but as I wrote my friend, whose cousin wrote the letter, it starts to seem like publications are lazy--instead of just sexist--in ignoring women writers.

My opinion is contrasted to what I think about the NYT blog series I read about the lack of women writing for Wikipedia. Maybe my thought these days is that I don't believe that everything needs to have equal representation of voices; but we need to be sure (damn sure) that we aren't mistaking any one publication to be representing a universal voice.

Movie Reviews, Cont.

Last weekend Bill and I watched Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep. It was such an enjoyable experience! It's exciting watching work from iconic actors and it's nice to watch a movie with an expert, who can point out things that I otherwise wouldn't notice. For example, one shot shows the edge of the sound stage; I wouldn't have recognized this nor did I notice it at all. I like when you can be taken by a movie and also remain outside of it, too.

The list I've started keeping of movies I've watched this year:
Eat, Pray, Love: Nay
Black Swan: Yay
Hannah and Her Sisters: Yay
Chinatown: Yay
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask: Yay
True Grit (2010): Yay
Inception: Yay
How to Train Your Dragon: Yay
The King's Speech: Yay
The Big Sleep: Yay

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This Blog: Gaining Focus, Shifting Purpose

I want to report some changes that are happening on this here blog.

First, I am paying Arianna Huffington millions and millions and millions of dollars to buy To Someone Likeminded. I think this is will produce like a lot of synergy.

And I'm all about synergy!

When I started writing this blog, I was trying to figure out so many different things. I named this blog what it is because I was seeking reassurance in my own self by imagining other people who might feel the same way. In doing that, I've talked about different personal experiences; many of these experiences would be better situated in a diary! There are times when I look back on old entries in horror and there are times when I look back and think, "Yes! That is exactly how that felt!"

I feel very grateful to have the space to write and share; I'm grateful for all the comments I've received and people who read this blog. Sometimes it means so much to read a comment or see a new follower!

I'm entering a phase in my life where I feel stronger and healthier than I have before. I'm junking out (whatever, exactly, that means) things that keep me--or I keep in order to keep me--feeling down. This has been an exciting and scary process for me! (Emphasis on the scary!)

So I'd like to junk out the depressing parts of this blog . . . but it's not like I'm going to read it from here! And what is depressing one day may not be depressing the next . . .

So instead, I'm going to refocus. I want this blog to be a thoughtful and intellectual exchange of ideas centered around what I care about and not so closely tied to my personal life. So, to that end, I am doing the following:
-Shifting the design of the blog.
-Stating a new purpose for the blog, focusing primarily on politics, art, and religion.
-Asking for thoughtful contributions in the form of comments or on Talk to Me Tuesday.

Additionally, I'm shifting stuff for my little, eensie business, Mareah's, to a new blog. I hope anyone who is buying or selling homemade things will be a part of Mareah's.

I've learned so much about writing this blog. I've struggled a lot, for example, with boundaries. But in that process I've come to learn what is important to me--I've gotten to know myself better.

I hope that as I develop as a writer and businesswoman that I can look back on this blog without cringing! To do that, though, means that I need to both honor my past and let it go, too.

What I more importantly hope is for everything--my life, this blog, everyone else--to be touched with more love and more grace and more tact and more insightfulness. I hope for more peace. I hope for having strength to do hard work without ever giving in to bitterness or melancholy. "I hope," as the Dixie Chicks sing, "for more love, more joy and laughter."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Things That Will Out

As Beamy once about dating, there's no need to worry about a guy because, "The douche will out." He'll show himself, as douches will.

This has been a guiding principal, a testament to Beamy's hilarity, for the past couple years.

Yesterday I was catching up with a friend and expressing gratitude for having some time to develop my creative side; she said, "Art will out!"

It was such a great moment, and I shared Beamy's phrase, and we had a laugh! I so much like the idea that things--douches and art alike--will out.

From the not funny at all file, I wanted to pass along a petition from the Human Rights Campaign about LGBT rights in Uganda. Here's a link to send an email to three pastors in Uganda who are supporting Uganda's position against homosexuality. Here's the text from the petition:
A Ugandan gay rights advocate was bludgeoned to death in his home this week. His name had been among those listed in an anti-gay magazine, under the headline "Hang them!"

Right-wing U.S. extremists have fueled a climate of hatred in Uganda – and it's got to stop.

A few months before a bill was introduced in Uganda that would make homosexuality punishable by death, Scott Lively and two other anti-gay ministers from America held an anti-gay conference in Uganda.
Prominent right-wing leader Lou Engle visited Uganda this year to preach against "the threat of homosexuality" (portrayed as a "satanic attack against families") at a rally that focused on prayers for the bill.
And now, Georgia-based pastor Carl Ellis Jenkins is opening 50 new churches in Uganda that exist to preach against "bad morals, including homosexuality" and they're expanding across East Africa.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Movie Reviews, Cont.

It was a weekend of movie-watching (sometimes I wonder, "Do I do anything else?"). I rented Inception and How To Train Your Dragon.

I liked both movies. All through Inception I was thinking, "I can take the Juno actress as a serious actor?!" While watching the movie, it felt similar to that of watching Black Swan in the sense that both movies seem to want you to be on alert through the entire thing. The music and the general intensity (I'm not sure what creates that, exactly, in either movie) put my emotions on a heightened level that just worked to annoy me as time went on because I felt like I was being intentionally manipulated. Which is just to say that I thought both Inception and Black Swan could have backed off a little and maybe achieved a little more by doing so. That's just one girl's unsubstantiated opinion.

I thought How To Train Your Dragon was totally cute. Nothing new, but fun to watch.

And then Bill and I reunited, after being snow-separated for almost a week, for a date. We ate dinner and then went to a movie as an excuse to make-out. So what's the best movie to make-out to for the 30-40 year-old age demographic? Why, it's The King's Speech! And we weren't the only ones to think so, considering KY Jelly had an ad for their his/her lubricants. (The ad made Bill feel predictable; I just felt happy to be kissin' again.) I think Bill liked the framing of many of the shots in The King's Speech. I thought some shots were just strange. I liked the acting and I loved the costuming; Helena Bonham Carter wears a fantastic hat in one scene. It's not the kind of movie that made me think about life differently. Overall, The King's Speech is a great movie to make-out to.

The list I've started keeping of movies I've watched this year:
Eat, Pray, Love: Nay
Black Swan: Yay
Hannah and Her Sisters: Yay
Chinatown: Yay
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask: Yay
True Grit (2010): Yay
Inception: Yay
How to Train Your Dragon: Yay
The King's Speech: Yay

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tell Someone You Love 'Em

Valentine's Day* is near, and here's a good way to tell your special someone how much you care: send 'em a lovely, homemade Valentine!

Each card is cardstock and machine stitched with some of the following materials: tissue paper, feathers, magazine paper, ribbon, plastic, fabric, and various paper collages. The cards come in off-white or shades of pink or green and measure 4.75" x 6.5". Cards are blank inside so you can do your part in keeping the art of handwriting alive.

Individual cards sell for $2 each; a group of five or more cards sells for $1.50 each.

*Made-up holiday or no, it's still nice to share nice sentiments with each other!







Thursday, February 3, 2011

Quote on Kindness, II

This is from Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. (Which, knock on wood, I'm reading just 'cuz . . . not because things have fallen apart.)

So, along with clear seeing, there's another important element, and that's kindness. It seems that, without clarity and honesty, we don't progress. We just stay stuck in the same vicious cycle. But honesty without kindness makes us feel grim and mean, and pretty soon we start looking like we've been sucking on lemons. We become so caught up in introspection that we lose any contentment or gratitude we might have had. The sense of being irritated by ourselves and our lives and other people's idiosyncrasies becomes overwhelming. That's why there's so much emphasis on kindness.

Sometimes it's expressed as heart, awakening your heart. Often it's called gentleness. Sometimes it's called unlimited friendliness. But basically kindness is a down-to-earth, everyday way to describe the important ingredient that balances out the whole picture and helps us connect with unconditional joy. As the Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says, 'Suffering is not enough' (74-75).