Thursday, March 30, 2006

I wish I had this job

I think of all the people I have ever heard about in my lifetime, the person that has the best job is Dr. Stephen O'Brien who I learned about last night on the PBS show "Secrets of the Dead." He is a geneticist employed by the National Institute of Health who researches the interplay between specific genes and viruses. He therefore does research in two areas which fascinate me, and which I sometimes wish I had the drive and ambition to have actually made my career, genetics and virology.

On Secrets of the Dead last night I learned about how inheriting two copies of the genetic mutation delta 32 prevented a person from contracting the plague and how people with one copy of the genetic mutation were more able to fight off the disease. The part that is truly amazing is that this same mutation has a similar effect with the HIV virus; inheriting two copies of the mutation means that you have HIV immunity and one copy means that your body will do a better job of fighting HIV infection and will delay the onset of AIDS. It is remarkable. These people that discover these things and research in these areas are amazing. I think right now, it is still a hypothesis (because tests have not been actually devised to bombard plague bacteria cells at cells with the delta 32 mutation), but it is amazing nonethless.

As soon as I watched the show, I wanted to go and have my DNA tested to see if I have the mutation. Interestingly enough, the mutation really only appears with significant frequency among individuals of European descent (along the route through which the plague spread in Europe). This has provoked some pretty entertaining conspiracy theories about the origin of the mutation and the origin of AIDS like this one by some guy Boyd Ed Graves (who appearently has a JD and who believes that AIDS was invented in a Manhattan Project-like experiment upon the orders of Richard Nixon to destroy the African population).

I hope that I am one of the lucky ones with the mutation because in the case of a biological attack using the bubonic plague or in case I decide to become a heroin addict and share needles, then I can breathe a slight sigh of relief.

More Duke athletes in trouble

Now Duke Lacrosse players are in trouble. This article is extremely illuminating and extremely disturbing at the same time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A new Solution to America's Immigration Crisis...

Jessica Simpson, following the lead of Angelina Jolie, wants to adopt international babies. Perhaps we can get all of Hollywood involved to adopt the millions of undocumented workers in the country at present and then we wouldn't have to worry about the ridiculousness going on in Washington over immigration reform anymore. . I don't understand this fury that people like US House of Representatives have right now about "border security" and criminalizing undocumented workers as a workable solution to immigration.

I am proud that Democrats are unified on this issue and that many Republicans are not afraid to challenge party leaders on this issue. Sam Brownback, Lindsey Graham, and others who voted in the Senate Judiciary Commitee to support the comprehensive immigration reform bill proposed by Edward Kennedy are to be applauded. And it appears that the Senate is going to be pursuing a more reasonable approach to immigration, no thanks to Bill Frist.

I just don't understand this exclusionist trend in America. In states like Georgia, people want to punish the same people who make sure that American families have food on their table every night. They want to jail the people that build their houses and keep their lawns green. It is the ultimate act of American selfishness, repaying the people who serve them every day with outward hostility and criminal sanctions. If people thought for five minutes about how unreasonable that is, then perhaps they would recognize the value and worth of these people who come to America because they want to provide for their families too. Of course, that would require most Americans to stop and think for five minutes, which might be too much to ask.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Saturday was Super Suburban (Semi-Southern) Shopping Saturday, because it was spent at suburban strip mall stores like Target, Best Buy, Pier One, IKEA, etc. Sometimes it gets a little exhausting and difficult to be a hip urbanite, so you need time at some one stop shopping strip malls at a nearby suburban venue. David is moving to a new apartment this week, so he needed to purchase some essentials and shop around for a dining room table (and the furniture district in Tukwila provided an easy stomping grounds to cover alot of stores in not alot of minutes).

I did my part to contribute to suburban consumer society by purchasing a new tennis racket, which I really wanted. Unfortunately, I returned home Saturday night to find out that I needed to pay $600 in utility bills this month. This means the lovely new tennis racket which I purchased now must be returned and I will have to play with my cheap vibrating intensive racket for a few more months.

There was more good news about Saturday though. What made it Semi-Southern is that the one known Popeyes in the Seattle metro area is located in Renton close to all of the stores we visited. So this means that I did get some delicious New Orleans style spicy chicken. I did have a good picture of my Popeyes bag on my lap, the grease from the chicken seeping through...unfortunately it will not upload, but you can just imagine how good that chicken looked.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Lets Blow this Mother Up!

Last night I saw the movie V for Vendetta. It is the movie that Natalie Portman was so proud of doing for its "subversive" qualities. I thought, going into it, that I would like the movie, but I really ended up disliking it in the end.
I think it is because I generally despise violent tactics as a means to social revolution. In the movie, V was so preoccupied with revenge that the movie lost its power to illustrate effective social commentary - because V was one man exacting justice on the world as he saw fit, which is anti-democratic as the "High Chancellor" who sought to quash all dissent by a marked campaign of surveillance and arrest and torture of dissidents.
I would be grossly naive if I didn't say violent revolutions have counted for something in our history. But it is my view of things that the act of the American Revolution itself is not what made America free, it was just to kick the British out. It was the slow, developed implementation of ideas before, during, and after the revolution which succeeded in building a democratic country. Early American leaders were elitist and dismissive of minorities and women. The Civil War - it was a bloody war that did not begin as a war to free anyone; it was only halfway through the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation proclamation. Even after the civil war, the slaves may have been physically free, but social justice didn't really emerge until the Civil Rights movement almost a hundred years later.
More commonly, war is used in the name of liberation but only feeds into the notion that real power can be manifest in violence. That notion is contrary to the fundamental principles that I value, that what really changes society is what changes peoples hearts and minds; what brings security and stability to societies is not the gun and the threat of the use of force but it is real human development and capacity building. If we think war "liberates" then we are grossly mistaken, that is my view. It just breeds another society that relies on violence as a means of legitimizing itself. Also, like in the movie, even if the principles that a violent movement may be fighting on behalf of are worthwhile and important, it makes it easy for a government to label the movement as terrorism, and therefore deflate the ability of the movement to appeal to the masses.
That is why I am so appreciative that I have friends like Blaine Johnson, who are true social revolutionaries, with ideas that become non-profits like Human Security International and which really seek to build stable and free societies.
Also, I didn't like the movie for its characterization that religion is always used to oppress people. The religious leader in the film was a pedaphile, the High Chancellor used religion to legitimize his position. I am not saying that in the name of religion people cannot do these things - because absolutely there is great corruption in religion and there is of course a history of oppression with religion as well. However, religion has also been one of the greatest social forces for good in human history. Many of the greatest revolutionaries in our world who have brought lasting social change have done so because they were motivated by their love of God and their love of all humankind. It was obnoxiously dismissive for the film to give so one sided a view of things, and played into the traditional notion of power, because it was only through violence that minds were changed - not through changing people's hearts and minds through exercises of love and humanity.
Finally, although I have been swayed in my life with the idea of "blowing things up" like Dams or Corporate Headquarters as a means of fostering radical change, this movie convinced me by its use of blowing things up to make changes that it is a really silly idea. Well, maybe for everything except the Glen Canyon Dam. I still hate that enough (and now I discredited myself in just one sentence).

Friday, March 24, 2006

How to cry in basketball

One does not have to guess at the sublime satisfaction I had with watching Duke lose last night. Well, it was a combination of watching Duke lose and listening to Duke lose (I had to listen to the last two minutes of the game in my car on my way to a Southern Sudanese Community meeting). The last time I listened to a basketball game on the radio was last year's game between Michigan State and North Carolina in the tournament on my way back to New York from North Carolina with my mom. I was similarly as gleeful. JJ Redick cast doubt on Glen Davis's claim to be the "Big Baby" when JJ walked off the court crying. He at least wanted to walk off the court being the best at something - "Who is the big baby now?" JJ Redick crying is so detestable perhaps because even in defeat he just seems so smug. "I am going to go write some poetry now about how everyone hates me."
When Adam Morrison cried after Gonzaga lost, I felt a bit more sympathy. But after all, isn't it somewhat more sympathetic to be a guy who is diabetic and forever stuck in the awkwardness of puberty stage (with his adolescent mustache and weird body structure). I like Adam Morrison, it must be the bangs. Judge for yourself who is more sympathetic:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Earthquakes and Diseases for a Happy Day

So yesterday was an absolutely terrible day at work. Horrible. So I thought to myself after work yesterday, what generally makes me feel better? Why, reading a good book of course not related to anything legal whatsoever. So I took a trip to the Elliot Bay Book Company last night in search of a much needed diversion (even though I am not quite done with the Carolina/Duke basketball book yet and I still have a Nadine Gordimer book sitting on my bookshelf that I need to read). I was quite proud of myself that I decided not to get the Jane Austen biography that I was carrying around, and that I also put back the Elizabeth I biography I thought looked interesting (It is a slippery slope down the road to ending up at the Jane Austen biography). So I returned to some books involving previous obsessions of mine - earthquakes and diseases. Perhaps my blog would be better titled "My obsessive tendencies"...

Anyway, when you are already feeling considerable anxiety about your abilities at work and your stability in the world it is probably not a good idea to read a book called, "The Hypochondriac's Pocket Guide to Horrible Diseases You Probably Already Have" (by Dennis DiClaudio). Now I am extremely paranoid that there are diseases out there just waiting to afflict me with symptoms ranging from a constant burning mouth to prematurely decaying flesh. In any case, maybe this will finally do the trick and break me from my unconscious thumb sucking habit.

The other book, "The Myth of Solid Ground: Eathquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith," by David L. Ulin, seems almost refreshing by comparison.

Way to cheer myself up.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mormons do have a sense of humor

A stake center in Charlotte, NC was set on fire by arsonists. That in and of itself would not be enough for me to post on the subject but in the BYU Daily Universe Article about this event I read the following about the sacrament meeting held after the fire:

"On Sunday afternoon the members had a combined sacrament meeting in another building.
Since Sigg was one of the few that had been in the vandalized building, he spoke before the congregation, telling members that their chapel would be repaired and that everyone would be better for the incident.
The members sang, "The Spirit of God like a Fire is Burning," for their opening hymn."

That part I just think is hilarious.

Speaking of Charlotte, I bought a ticket to go visit Grammy there for Memorial Day weekend. I love redeye flights to the East Coast - it makes travel so much more efficient.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A good dog can make any day better

My mom just sent me a great story about our dog Ralph (pronouced Rafe with a long "A" sound like Ralph Vaughn Williams or Ralph Fiennes because I am just that pretentious to give my dog a name that is obnoxiously British), which I wanted to post immediately.

Apparently, when my mom went to pick up Ralph from the kennel, after she returned to Pensacola from Seattle, the lady at the kennel told my mom that Ralph made alot of friends while he was there. In fact, when he was let out of his kennel for his playtime, he would use his big nose to go around and lift the gate latches for the other dogs so they cold go out and play too. In the words of my mother, "I always knew he was sneaky, but now my supposition is confirmed...I have raised a crook." I just love that image of Ralph letting all of the other dogs out to play.

What a great dog! I miss him so much!

Its a sad day in Tarheel land

So my Heels lost yesterday. I think it is partly my fault because I left church early to catch the end of the game, and my lack of good will with staying at church probably affected the cosmic balance of the universe. Yesterday, I spent part of the day comiserating with various family members and thinking about such a sad ending. David failed to be particularly sympathetic, but that is because he is a Duke fan who is secretly pleased everytime North Carolina loses. Now, since I didn't complete brackets this year, my one purpose in watching the tournament is cheer for Duke's demise.

Don't worry Tyler! I still love you (although I prefer Bobby Frazier's name because it is a great basketball name). There is always next year. Next year the 'Heels will rule the ACC!

And in other present tense good news: the Tarheel women are still alive! They could win it all!

I think that people who know me breathe a collective sigh of relief once college basketball season is over for the year. I can withdraw from my obsessive tendencies for the next six months. I can actually go outside now and enjoy the beautiful spring getting underway in the Pacific Northwest.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I prefer Green Belts to Green Beer

Last night I celebrated St. Patrick's Day by going to hear Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Price Winner, speak with David, Jennie, and Brigham. It was great. She has proved that simply planting trees can change the world.

My parents were in town visiting last Saturday until Wednesday. It was alot of fun. We went to all of the standard place - Snoqualmie Falls, the Ballard Locks, the Space Needle, and Pikes Place of course. To those places, we also took the ferry out to Whidbey Island on a lovely day and saw the daffodils blooming in Skagit County. On the two days I had to work, my parents went to Bremerton, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens. They actually beat me to Mt. Rainier because I still haven't been there. I was sad to see them go home. It turns out, I am quite a sap when it comes to my family. The older I get, the less time I have to spend with them, and the sadder it makes me. Nonetheless, it was a fun visit and provided a great opportunity to see some of those green places that make Wangari Maathai's message so much more potent.

Here are some pictures from their visit:

Here are me and my parents at Snoqualmie falls.

David and I on top of the Space Needle

Mom at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island

Mom and Dad on Whidbey Island

Dad and the Puget Sound from Whidbey Island

Thursday, March 09, 2006

My favorite part about the AILA Conference I attended...

The local AILA (American Immigration Lawyers' Association) president is named Cletus. I have never met anyone in my life named Cletus. I would expect, with a name like that he would look alot like this:
Sadly, he did not. It is too bad, it would have made learning about new PERM filings alot more entertaining. I feel sorry for the AILA Chapter President Cletus - he has probably had to spend the past ten years fighting against people who judge him because of his name and who assume that he is some slackjawed yokel.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Networking sucks!

I spent all day at the Northwest Regional Immigration Law Conference learing about business immigration law, because I thought it necessary for my employability in the future, should I ever need it. It was a long day, forcing myself to listen to something that I have only a marginal interest in because I am in constant fear of having to someday find a new job and realizing that I have no skills.

Suffice it to say, I do little to improve my career options when I spend a whole day with hundreds of immigration lawyer and the only conversation I have with anyone is to tell them where a restaurant is located and to thank them for complimenting my skirt. I am the worst networker on the planet. The whole idea of networking just scares me. It is the number one reason why it is so hard for me to find a job ever. I lack business social skills entirely.

Take yesterday in court for example. I think I pissed off every other lawyer in the room during my temporary orders hearing because I don't have any mechanism in my mind that allows me to show any reverence to an attorney just because they have been practicing law for twenty years. The attorney my case was against I am quite sure hates me now, and since he has been practicing law for twenty years, I am sure my name will be mud in the entire Pierce County legal community.

These are the kinds of things that cause panic attacks for me because I fear that my entire career is going to be a wash because I can't simply have a superficial conversation with someone.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Who voted North Carolina #1 in the USA Today Poll?

It was me!!
I guess after Saturday night, JJ Reddick will be writing more sad poetry. Those young Tarheels dismantled JJ and his equally beastly sidekick, Sheldon Williams, on what was one of the saddest senior nights in the history of Duke basketball. I love my Tarheels! Another reason why today is a good day to be a fan of the Carolina blue - the #1 women's basketball team won the ACC Tournament too.

In non-college basketball related news, Saturday the weather was beautiful here. The camillias are blooming on the eight feet tall bush in my front yard. It makes me sublimely happy because seeing camillias bloom is like being in the South in spring, and that is always a good feeling. I may not have magnolias or gardenias, but at least it is a start.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Go heels! Revisited...

So this is the next book I will be reading - To Hate Like This is to Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry. (Click on the link because the Slate article that talks about this book is absolutely hilarious and 100% true - of course also coming from a completely biased North Carolina fan). Will Blythe is a pretty perceptive man (which I can also say since he is a North Carolina fan).
In high school my friend and I would have bets every year about the outcome of Duke - North Carolina games. Lucky for me, that during the mid 1990s when I was in high school, North Carolina always won. Drew never did pay up.
David is also a Duke fan. I would be lying if I didn't say that this hasn't come up before as an issue. Truthfully, believing as I do that being a North Carolina fan means believing in populist America, and being a Duke fan means believing in elitist America, I am shocked that he is a Duke fan. David is a product of public schools (whereas I went to the private university), and he is a great people person, whereas me, not so much good with people. If David wasn't such a good person, I wouldn't have such a hard time believing him to be a Duke fan.
Ouch! That was pretty mean regarding Duke fans in general. I have had many Duke fans as friends in my life. I enjoy the friendly rivalry. It is always fun to have someone who thinks that they are better than everyone else humiliated in some small way on the basketball court (why everyone loves it when JJ Reddick tosses up an airball). Go heels! Do middle America justice!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My daily surprise

Here is something shocking - I actually agree with a letter to the editor in the Deseret News. No it isn't a letter from a member of the Eagles Forum, but it is a letter about how discriminatory the whole uproar over the Dubai ports deal is. What percentage of US ports are foreign owned? I believe I heard the statistic that it was about 90% for West Coast ports and around 50% for East Coast ports.

If you are upset about the paltry state of port security, that is one thing. But senators directing that frustration towards the Dubai company seems like well, something akin to what the Bush Administration would generally do. I can't believe I agree more with the Bush administration on this one than Democratic senators. Thank you Democrats, for reminding me that you too can discriminate against a group of people when it is in your political interest.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Willoughby You Cheat!

So once again, I have to post on just how perceptive Jane Austen is. Re-reading her books, I am just getting so much more out of them this time around. It is the type of insight puts the words that I lacked at the time to my life three years ago - from Sense and Sensibility Marianne says:

"My illness has made me think. It has given me leisure and calmness for
serious recollection. Long before I was enough recovered to talk, I was
perfectly able to reflect. I considered the past: I saw in my own behaviour,
since the beginning of our acquaintance with him last autumn, nothing but a
series of imprudence towards myself, and want of kindness to others. I saw
that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, and that my want of fortitude
under them had almost led me to the grave. My illness, I well know, had
been entirely brought on by myself by such negligence of my own health, as I had
felt, even at the time, to be wrong. Had I died, it would have been
self-destruction. I sis nor know my danger till the danger was removed;
but with such feelings as these reflections gave me, I wonder at my recovery -
wonder that the very eagerness of my desire to live, to have time for atotnment
to my God, and to you all did not kill me at once. . . Whenever I looked towards
the past, I saw some duty neglected, or some failing indulged. . . "

If I ever have daughters they will be forced to take Jane Austen much more seriously than I did my first time around! Because what she writes is so true. They will pre-emptively learn to stay away from the Willoughbys of the world.

I also must say, I love how Austen society always involves taking walks in the country. I think it has made me love my parents' "farm" in Mississippi even more. I shall resist the urge to expound more upon what similarites I find between the 19th century British lesser gentry and Southern culture. I may believe that direct applicability in my own life, but it is a bit of a stretch considering the Walmart culture of the South in the 21st century.

Here is a picture of my mom taking an Austen-like ramble in the country - without the empire-waist dress:

Here is a picture of me at my parents' new house they are building - from November 2005. I expect to be doing much wandering through pastures with it as my home base in the future:

And Justice for ...Anna Nicole

I just love that I live in a country where immigrants can be deported for just about anything but where Anna Nicole gets to have her case heard by the Supreme Court to decide if she is entitled to millions because she bagged an old man during her time as a stripper. It is every little girl named Candi's dream...

The depressing part is that I spent all day dealing with a similar case.

I am glad that in our country where children go to bed hungry every night, where people work in substandard conditions for substandard wages (because the people happen to be citizens of other countries), and where old people can't pay for their prescriptions the highest court in the land has time to pity poor Anna Nicole, just because she ended up in federal bankruptcy court. What a country!