Friday, May 29, 2009

Behold, my baby!

Isn't she pretty?

Happy thinks she's a fascinating read. She gave her two paws up.

After all this hard work, she deserves some time to chillax, don't you think?

Here she is catching up in her Charmed DVDs...

... smelling the roses...

... enjoying the beautiful Texas spring weather...

Her three sisters were shipped off to Salamanca today. I paid $93 to get them there by Monday; according to the guidelines in my little booklet the committee has one month to read the dissertation and grade it, which means I should have a response by July. (They only read dissertations from October to June. Yes, I like to leave myself LOTS OF WIGGLE ROOM.)

And speaking of wiggle room... my little booklet also says that the deadline to turn in a dissertation is two years from when the student finishes the second phase of the program... which, for me, was July 2006.

I don't know how serious they are about that deadline. If they are very serious, then you shall see me doing a whole lot of this. Just a lot louder and for a WHOLE LOT LONGER.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Facts? We don't need to teach you no stinkin' FACTS!"

Here in Texas, we don't need to worry about silly things like scientific facts when we teach, like, science (I mean, really -- HOW are those even related!) Evolution? That's so weak. There is no proof! It's just a theory! We're not going to let the LIBERAL MEDIA brainwash our children with their "insufficient" theories on, like, evolution and the Big Bang and whatnot.

You see how much we value factual information in our classrooms. So it is really a surprise that we don't want no stinkin' medically-accurate information in our health classes?

So far the three bills introduced in the Texas legislature this session trying to get FACTS in sex ed classes have gone nowhere. What did these radical bills demand?
  • SB 1076 / HB 1567 "would require that information about contraception and disease prevention in sexuality education classes be scientifically accurate. It would also require that sexuality education classes not discourage sexually active people from using any form of contraception or method approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for reducing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases."
  • SB 515 / HB 741 (Education Works) "would require that information taught in public school sexuality education classes be medically accurate. They would also require that schools teaching about sexuality education include information about the importance of abstinence and medically accurate information about contraception and other methods of responsible pregnancy and disease prevention."
  • SB 1100 / HB 1694 "would require that sexuality information taught to students be medically accurate and that schools inform parents about what they are teaching in sexuality education classes."
(emphasis mine)

RADICAL, I know. We are "stealing children's innocence" by giving them MEDICALLY-ACCURATE FACTS!!! How much more depraved can you get!

As Planned Parenthood of North Texas put it in an email sent out last night,

PPNT alerted you a few days ago that representatives in Austin were introducing amendments to an education-related bill (SB 283) that would require information taught in sexuality education courses be medically accurate. Thank you to everyone who called or e-mailed your legislator in support of these amendments!

Unfortunately, the House bill sponsor Rep. Mark Shelton (R-Fort Worth), who is a doctor, chose not to accept these amendments. They were then withdrawn after a point of order ruled they were unrelated to the subject of the bill. The bill pertained to School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs), locally appointed councils whose function (among others) is to recommend sexuality education curricula to their school boards.

This means there is no guarantee Texas' teens will receive factual information in their sex ed classes next fall.

Currently, Texas law does not require that the health curriculum in Texas classrooms be medically accurate. You might think such a law would be unnecessary, but a recent survey of sex education curriculum in Texas schools* found that almost half of what is taught is scientifically unsound.

However, the session is not over—any day now, the Texas Legislature could consider other bills that could restrict access to health care or information. Stay tuned for future updates.

*by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund

(emphasis theirs, links mine)

Somebody remind me again why I live in this state?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I <3 spam!!!


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Privacy Policy

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Sadly, the issue is way more complicated than that...

[Edited to include the video and give the names of the people involved.]

Yesterday I saw a YouTube clip of some Congressguy Congressman Tim Ryan on some cable news show Hardball talking about President Obama's speech at Notre Dame, and his call to us to find common ground on the issue of abortion and provide access to birth control to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The Congressdude Congressman Ryan was described as "against abortion rights" but he was working with, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a pro-choice legislator to make birth control more affordable and accessible to women, specifically low-income women, to reduce the need for abortions.

I'm all for that, but one thing the guy Congressman Ryan said bugged me. He also went on about adoption and social services, to encourage women to carry the pregnancy to term. As I write that I realize that this guy did a lot of things I like (I might have to go find the video now); he used the words "carry the pregnancy to term" instead of talking about babies or other words that make the issue more emotional. He also pointed out that not having the abortion means carrying the pregnancy to term and needing social services to care for the child, so we need to provide appropriate health care for the infant and welfare for the mother and child. (So often in the abortion debate the anti-choicers scream and holler about the "baby" but forget to add its post-partum existence into the equation.)

But back to what bugged me -- I know he had very little time to make his points and the interviewer dude kept interrupting him and asking stupid questions he'd already answered, but I got the impression the Congressman thought the only reason a woman chooses to abort instead of carrying the pregnancy to term is economic restrictions: if we provide more info and support for adoption services, women will be convinced to carry the pregnancy to term; if we provide them with proper welfare and social services programs to help them care for the child, women will carry the pregnancy to term instead of abort.

Again, the issue is not that simple. There are many, many reasons why a woman would choose to terminate a pregnancy. This is not a minor inconvenience, this is a life-changing event. Even if she does not intend to keep the child, the pregnancy itself will have a huge impact on her life (and take a huge toll on her body). Think about it. Think about, every day of those nine months.

Going to work, pregnant. Dealing with morning sickness (that lasts all day long). Fatigue, because your body is taking every available ounce of energy to form the fetus growing inside of you. Showing.

Buying new clothes to fit your new body -- bigger bras, because your breasts will get bigger (they're making milk, remember?) And, in case you don't know, bras are effin' expensive. Buying new pants. Buying new tops. Buying new shoes because your feet and ankles have swollen that much.

Think about doing your job every day, pregnant. FOR A CHILD YOU WILL NOT KEEP. Are you on your feet all day? Are you talking to people who will ask you about "the baby"? (Most low-income women -- who have difficulties affording birth control -- don't have cushy desk jobs; they have more physically-demanding jobs. Do you want to wait tables or scrub toilets or restock shelves in your third trimester? Or maybe you have a customer service job, where people will ask you all kinds of baby questions and insist on touching your stomach. What fun!)

Can you afford maternity leave? Even one weekend, to give birth and allow your body to recover? What if there are any complications with the pregnancy, and you need bedrest? Can you afford the pre-natal care? Can you afford the time off from work for the pre-natal care doctor's visits? If you suffer post-partum depression, will you be able to afford more time off to go see a psychiatrist or psychologist? What about anti-depressants, will you be able to afford those?

How are you going to face all those people you interact with on a daily basis after the baby is born, and you don't have it? How are you going to deal with their questions?

And even that is not even scratching the surface of the reasons why a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy.

This is a deeply personal issue. The reasons I had for choosing to terminate my pregnancy are totally different from the reasons any other woman in the waiting room with me in the clinic that morning had. For some, the economic factor is a big deal. For others, money is not the problem -- the problem is much bigger than that.

This is why we need to leave the option open.

We need to do everything in our power to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place (birth control, comprehensive sex ed), but we need to leave the option open, for all the other reasons that your average Congressman can't even fathom.

Yesterday I used obesity as an analogy for the reproductive rights debate. I felt a little uneasy writing about it, because I am rather ignorant on the topic. Today, I read Julie Neumann's post on's Women's Rights blog, and I felt even more unqualified to have written what I did. Eating disorders are an extremely complex issue and the reasons why a person develops an eating disorder are very personal (unique to each person, there is not one easy answer); yesterday I reduced it to the stereotyped, simplified version (in my defense, I was not discussion the issue itself in depth, I was mentioning it as an example, but still).

Julie shares quotes from several people with eating disorders saying what their eating disorder is "all about" -- the reasons why they do what they do. I felt extremely narrow-minded and ignorant as I read; there is so much more to this issue that we don't even realize, because we are not there. (It's an excellent post, please read it.)

We're not going to fix it with a Band-Aid (eating disorders or reproductive rights). We need to do everything we can to fix the known causes and fix the stuff that we can fix (health care, access to birth control, comprehensive sex ed), but we're never going to make it go away completely. Which is why we need to allow each woman to make the choice for herself.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Lesson in Semantics: Pro-Life v. Pro-Choice

I'm sure by now you've heard about the Gallup Poll's report that More Americans “Pro-Life” Than “Pro-Choice” for First Time. As you can imagine, I have a few things to say on the subject.

The poll asked if people identified as "pro-life" or "pro-choice." The problem with asking people this question is that few people understand what these terms mean, especially when we're asking questions about political policy.

You may remember I have ranted on this topic before. This is the Cliff Notes version:

"Pro-life" does not mean, "Well, I personally would not choose to have an abortion." It does mean that you agree with a group of people who want to impose their personal beliefs on everyone. This group also seeks to limit women's access to birth control, and information about their own bodies by forcing abstinence-only programs in schools.

"Pro-choice" does not mean, "I would totally have an abortion. Rock on! I think I'm going to have unprotected sex RIGHT NOW so I can have an abortion!" It means that you understand not everyone's life is as pretty as yours, and that other people want different things and believe different things than you. It means that you want women to have access to birth control and information on how and why to use it.

Pro-life and pro-choice are not about what you would personally do with your body -- they are political stances about what laws you want the government to enact. Pro-life means you want to make one choice for everybody. Pro-choice means you want the government to step back and allow each individual woman to make the choice for herself.

Also, talking about these two sides merely in terms of ABORTION is stupid and small-minded. Discussing reproductive rights only in terms of abortion is like discussing obesity only in terms of lap-band surgery.

How do you fight obesity? Eat healthy food, eat smaller portions, exercise. Is this going to work for EVERY person? No. Some people don't need to exercise because they were blessed with good genes and a high metabolism, so they're thin and healthy naturally. Some people eat all the right foods and get regular exercise but still have problems with weight because of glandular problems, etc. (I'm not a doctor, so I can't elaborate). Some people eat crappy food and never get any exercise and develop health problems, others eat crappy food and never get any exercise and don't develop health problems. Some people are so scared of "getting fat" they develop eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia because of messages the media sends about body image and what "pretty" is supposed to look like.

"Well, people wouldn't be fat if they just went to the gym every week!" Um... that only works if you can afford a gym membership. Or the time to go to the gym or work out. And you own lots of work out clothes, so you can sweat in them and not have to do laundry every day. (No, nobody thinks about that, but do you know how many socks I had to buy when I was training for my triathlon? Do you know how expensive sports bras are? Do YOU have time to do laundry daily, especially when all you have to put in washer is a pair of socks, bike shorts and a sports bra? But I digress...)

"Well, people wouldn't be fat if they just kept their mouth closed and didn't eat that extra piece of chocolate cake!" Yes, that'll work effectively. Let's shame people into getting thin. Not like that creates eating disorders or anything. And that's the only reason people become overweight, that extra piece of chocolate cake. Life is so simple, isn't it?

The issue is complicated. Many of us don't know everything that is involved in the issue because we are not medical doctors who understand how different bodies metabolize food and process calories and protein and so on and so forth.

Do some people need surgery (lap-band, gastric bypass) to help them overcome weight problems due to obesity?


Should every overweight person undergo surgery?


If we make these surgeries legal, and allow people to have their insurance companies pay for them, would everyone above a size 10 run to get surgery?

Uh... I dunno, are they? Oh, that's right -- NO, they're not.

Discussing the issue in terms of lap-band surgery is not going to help anybody.

Providing factual, medically-accurate information about what a healthy body weight is, how to eat a balanced diet, how to incorporate regular exercise into your daily or weekly routine... these things will help people, and will help take care of the problem before it becomes a problem.

The more we talk to people about ways to prevent obesity and provide them with the tools they need to take care of their bodies (make fruits and vegetables available in grocery stores, create hike and bike trails in cities so people have a safe place to walk/jog/bike), the less people we will have needing these surgeries or suffering from weight-related problems.

This makes sense when we talk about health and obesity. Why does this not make sense when we talk about reproductive rights?

We spend all this time yelling about abortion, instead of talking about the ways to solve the problem and reduce the need for abortion.

"Pro-choice" means you want schools to provide medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sex ed to teens.

"Pro-choice" means you want insurance companies to cover birth control (at least as often as they cover, say, Viagra).

"Pro-choice" means you want rape victims to be offered emergency contraception when they report the crime in the ER.

"Pro-choice" means you want EC to be available to women.

"Pro-choice" means that you agree a woman has a right to decide what happens to her own body -- that nobody has the right to mandate what choice she cannot make.

Meghan McCain recently wrote a post on the Daily Beast about the Republican Party's problem with sex. She was right about everything, except for one thing:
Here’s what I’ve never understood about the party: its resistance to discussing better access to birth control. As a Republican, I am pro-life. But using birth control and having an abortion are not the same at all. Actually, the best way to prevent abortions is to educate people about birth control and make it widely and easily accessible. True, abstinence is the only way to fully prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Still, the problem with abstinence-only education is that it does not make teenagers and young adults more knowledgeable about all the issues they face if or when they have sex—physically and emotionally.
Meghan, if you want access to birth control and comprehensive sex ed, which you must because that's what you just wrote, then you are pro-choice. You may not like abortion, and you may never choose one yourself personally*, but if you want better education about sex and contraception, if you want women to have access to birth control, then you are part of the pro-choice movement. It's not about abortion, it's about reproductive rights. This includes birth control and comprehensive sex ed.

As Jezebel pointed out:
It seems, slowly, that the anti-abortion folks are being incrementally successful in defining "pro-choice" as "very, very pro-abortion".
We're not "pro-abortion." Our goal is not for women to get abortions. (If it were, we'd join the abstinence-only, no-EC, birth-control-not-covered-by-insurance bandwagon in a jiffy! Really, can you think of a better way to increase the number of abortions? Whoo-hoo!)

Our goal is for women to have access to a safe and legal abortion, if they ever need it. In the meantime, we're doing all we can to prevent the situation where she would ever need it.

Eat your veggies. Take the stairs. Use birth control. Be pro-choice.

Or at least admit to it, since more than likely you already are.**

*Not saying anything about Meghan, but I used to think I'd never have an abortion. Until I got pregnant. Many women tell the same story. Just something to keep in mind.

**Your voting patterns say so (make sure you make it to the end... the article has a lot of anti-choice nonsense, skim through that).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Buy or Not To Buy: the Sequel (or, How I REALLY Feel About My Dissertation)

Marcy (via comments) and Jeff (via Facebook) brought up a good question: do I want to make this paper perfect, or do I want to BE DONE with this bleeping paper?

At this point, I think it's pretty darned good (as soon as I fix the little things I noted to myself in the last draft). Buying the other book might add some spice and insight to my paper, if the book focuses on Jorge Gonzalez's (singer/songwriter's) life in the 80s and his political views then and now (quotes from the horse's mouth never hurt), but I have a strong suspicion, based on the drama that has gone on since the band broke up, that the book might focus more on how Gonzalez feels about Claudio Narea, the guy whose book I just finished, guitarist for the band (Gonzalez had a fling with Narea's wife; Narea left the band because of that and creative differences with Gonzalez, who is a very opinionated, passionate, pig-headed person, as creative geniuses tend to be). Also, Gonzalez has been in and out of drug rehab, so the book probably focuses on that journey, so on and so forth.

If I could buy the book anywhere near here, then I'd get it. But given the cost, I don't think my paper will be lacking without that info (I do have quotes from interviews and another book that's basically one long interview with the three members of the band). So, final answer: to not buy.

I'd still like to read the book, because I'm curious about these guys' lives and all, but I need to get this paper finished and sent off so I can have my bleeping degree already.

Today is the day to finally put this dissertation out of my its misery. If it's not DONE after today, then I'll shave my head and find some bridge to live under. Or jump off of.

(See how distressed I am about this? I've ended two sentences with a preposition.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Editing letter by Lara Zielin (or, How I Feel About My Bloody Dissertation)

My dissertation has been hanging over my head for AGES. I have finally kicked my butt into gear and done some serious work on it; I thought I was DONE, and I sent the work to my dad and brother to read. You know, to proof, make sure I didn't have stray commas or typos... make MINOR changes and suggestions.

INSTEAD, I was told to add HISTORICAL CONTEXT to all the stuff I was saying. So I had to do ALL THIS RESEARCH and get FACTS and INFORMATION to back up the claims I was making.

THEN I was again DONE -- to the best of my knowledge. Then my dad sends me ANOTHER BOOK, the autobiography of one of the members of the band (whose song lyrics I'm using to reflect the social, cultural, and political feelings of the youth in Chile in the 80s, under Pinochet's dictatorship). I have sticky notes all over the first half of that book, more stuff I can out in my paper to make it better.

So NOW I have to get the lead singer's autobiography too. After all, he's the guy who wrote all the songs I'm talking about, and he's the one with the angry political sentiments.

But, you see, this book isn't really and Amazon Pick of the Week type book. I found one place where I can order it, for $16. Which is not bad. But my two shipping options are: 3-day shipping for $46, or 20-day shipping for $22. There's a bigger difference between 3 and 20 days than between 22 and 46 dollars, don't you think?

(If you'd been working on this bloody paper as long as I have you would very much indeed think, trust me.)

Do I just leave the bloody dissertation as is, or do I fork over $62 for this book?

I found another site that will sell me the book for $9, with $39 shipping, but those amounts are in Chilean pesos (I'm too lazy to look up the exchange rate) and I don't know how long the shipping will take (it does say DHL, so I'm assuming it's relatively not-eternal). Do I go for that one?

I've tried buying the $62 book twice now, but the server can't process my transaction at this time. Is this God sending me a message?

Blogosphere, what say you?

To buy or not to buy, that is the question...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some thoughts to share on Mother's Day

First of all, happy Mother's Day to all the women out there doing the hardest and most important job out there.

A special mention goes to all the non-biological moms: adoptive and foster moms, and all those other women who don't hold an official title other than friend or family member but who have seen the need and stepped in to the mother's role, for whatever reason.

But I also want to take today to say thanks to all the women who have taken pains to not become mothers -- either just yet or ever. Motherhood is the hardest thing you or your body will ever do; it demands everything from you. It is not for everyone, not matter what society or religious fundamentalists try to feed you.

No woman should ever be forced or shamed into motherhood. She doesn't deserve it and neither does her potential child.

Thank you to all the doctors and scientists who have developed medications and medical procedures to allow women to take control of if and when they want to become mothers. Thank you to President Obama for cutting funding for abstinence-only programs, so our young women can have the facts they will need to make choices about their bodies, and to take control of when or if they want to become mothers.

Thank you to all the women who came before us and fought the hard fights to win our right to make our own decisions about when or if to become mothers. Thank you to the women who keep fighting, so we can keep those rights.

And thank you to the women who have had to make an unpopular choice, because that choice was the right thing for them and their potential child.

Motherhood is not a job to be entered lightly. Motherhood is a big deal. It's not mandatory and it should never be a punishment. Our women don't deserve that, and our children certainly don't.

To all the mothers out there, raising our future generations, thank you.

But I have to also send a shout-out to all those women who know they're not ready for the job at this point in time, or who know they're not interested in the job at all, and have to deal with a society that looks upon them as three-headed lepers. 'Cuz that kind of sucks too.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fight the abortion ban in the Domincan Republic

You may or may not have heard that the Domincan Republic approved a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or for the health of the mother, which is preposterous. "Right to life" from conception to birth; after that, SCREW YOU. Thank you, Catholic Church!

However, there is still hope: the article must go through a second reading, and be discussed again. We must speak up for these women. Write your country's Dominican Embassy today and tell them to oppose Article 30!

For contact info and a sample letter, read this post on Akimbo or this one on Feministe.

Health Insurers Agree to End Higher Premiums for Women -

From Health Insurers Agree to End Higher Premiums for Women -

In interviews last fall, insurance executives said they had a sound reason for the different premiums: Women ages 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men of the same age because they typically use more health care, especially in the childbearing years. Moreover, insurers said women were more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription medications and to have certain chronic illnesses.

So, by the same token, if your child is an honor student, you will have to pay higher taxes to the schools. Because your honor student will be less likely to skip school, will be more likely to ask for make-up work when absent, and will be more likely to ask questions in class and come in for tutoring when needed. Which will requires the teachers to, uh... do their job.

Isn't the point of health insurance that it allows you to "visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription medication"? WHAT AM I PAYING FOR???

Oh, that's right... I forgot I must be punished for being born with girlie parts...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

DFW Writers' Conference

Last weekend I attended the DFW Writers' Conference. I'd heard about the conference over a month ago, and had wanted to go... but kept flip-flopping on it. The conference was 10 minutes from my house, and the price was extremely reasonable, but I was too chicken to call myself a real writer and go.

Thankfully, Friday I came to my senses. (And thankfully, the conference accepted walk-in registrations.)

And you know what?

Turns out I'm as much of a poser as I thought.

I have written novels, but I have not yet taken the time to sit down and edit/rewrite any of them. I did the easy part, I vomited out a first draft. I have beautiful excuses why I have not yet done the hard part, but as pretty as my excuses are, the magical writer's elves have not yet snuck into my laptop and worked their elvish magic on my manuscripts. I don't feel I can call myself a "writer" because I haven't done the hard part of writing.

While I have not been writing/editing, I have been reading. Reading agent blogs, reading queries, reading blog posts on how to best edit your ms, so on and so forth.

The conference started with a Q&A with the agents who were there for the pitch sessions. Everything I learned in that Q&A I'd already learned in #queryfail and on agents' blogs. I even knew why the questions that were being asked were, for the most part, pretty dumb questions.

I know I'm a newbie, and I know I have a lot of work to do on my manuscripts, but I'm not a clueless newbie. And I know what I don't know, and have an idea of how to find it out.

The conference was organized by the DFW Writers' Workshop, a massively large critique group that meets, again, a hop, skip, and a jump away from my house. In order to join, you must pay a $100 yearly membership fee, which is what has kept me from going to their meetings (you can go twice for free, to feel them out, but after that you have to pay). Having met some of the members of the group at the conference, I'm much more inclined to fork over the money, especially since there are published writers in the group who write in my genres (my other crit groups don't have YA/chick-litty/women's fiction writers). And while $100 seems steep, if you think about it, with 52 weeks in a year (they meet every Wednesday -- regardless of rain, sleet, snow, hurricanes, or holidays), that's $2 a meeting. While my other crit groups don't have membership fees, we meet at Borders, where I usually spend $5 a meeting to stimulate the economy and thank Borders for letting us use their cafe (because, yes, you have to twist my arm to get me to buy that chai latte and banana chocolate-chip muffin). So, when you think about it, $100 is not that bad, is it?

Plus, if I'm paying to be in the group, that might motivate me to actually bring stuff to read...