Saturday, March 30, 2013

To the new pope...

12oz Decaf Coffee (yes, just coffee)
Everything Bagel w/cream cheese
and a salted caramel brownie-pop thingy

(Okay, I had a tall iced soy caramel macchiatto already, too - happy?)

I was glad to hear about Starbucks' support of gay marriage (it's a free country, take your stock money elsewhere if you don't like it, buddy...), so I thought that was a good excuse for a return visit.  But this bloggy-blog is not about the Catholic Church's stand on homosexuality, or at least the right of homosexuals to legally marry.  Nor is it about women in the church, nor there being no biblical reason that priests should not marry (nor the sick and abusive results of that unnatural abstinence), nor anything that would pertain to exclusively church matters.  No, there is one piece of church doctrine that I want to focus on, and it is affecting the fate of all mankind on this planet: Contraception.

Okay, so global overpopulation is not the sexy topic that is climate change.  But while we might - possibly - succeed in keeping the earth habitable for human beings, if we do not stop the exponential increase in our number, then it won't matter.  We are going to run out of the resources we need to survive on this planet.  Period.  Even assuming the best-case scenario for developing sustainable agriculture world-wide, just think of water.  Even if we could tap into all the frozen fresh water, desalinate the oceans for our drinking - disregarding the consequences to all ecosystems around the world - we're still dealing with a finite amount of water.  We are not, however, dealing with a finite amount of people.

I can remember as a child thinking about one day maybe seeing humans reach the 6 billion mark.  I remember as an adult when we reached it.  We're already to seven.  How many billions more by the time my boys are my age?  (Which is not that old, by the way... just sayin'...).  The problem is of our own making, of course.  We're just not dying enough.  And yet we're still rutting like we've never discovered vaccines or refrigeration or social programs to feed the hungry.

All of our biological programming - be it natural or divine in origin - is designed to accommodate a world in which we have to have several children just to replace our existing numbers, because many of them won't make it to birth, let alone survive to their own reproductive years.  That is not the world we live in today, thankfully.  Our mothers rarely die in childbirth now, our children are nourished and protected and thrive.  We live, as a rule.  We live more often than we die... and that is the problem.  The old and not so old are not making way for the new fast enough.  So, how should we deal with that?

Fortunately, we are not without options.  **winky, smiley face**  Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to endorse them.  **frowny face**

The reason contraception is banned by various religious organizations is a grand excuse.  Contraception interferes with God's Plan, they say.  Abstinence is the only form of acceptable birth control, they say.  To which I say...

Okay, first question.  Doesn't abstinence interfere with God's Plan?  If I'm not allowing myself to get pregnant because I'm not letting my husband's baby maker anywhere near my baby greenhouse, then I'm thwarting God's ability to create life.  Why is acceptable to cock-block God from a distance, but not when He's oh-so-close to the finish line?  The end result is identical... except that condoms have a 95% effective rate (or higher) and abstinence-only has about the same odds of producing a child as plain old nookie (1 in 5)... and your spouse is less likely to be all wound-up and "throwy" when they're getting some on a regular basis... 

If abstinence is the only acceptable form of family planning, and we need to limit our population growth to only replace the mother and father, then the math works out to a husband and wife having procreative marital sex about 10 times ever (as I said before, about 1 in 5 chance of getting preggers if you're not using protection of some kind).  Ever.  Okay, maybe you guys can "go to town" while she's pregnant, but that's still another 18 months, best case.  We're living into our late seventies, on average, but that's all the sex we can have in our entire lives?  What about a naturally infertile or elderly couple?  Sex is okay then, right?  So why, after we've had our two population-replacing offspring and we know we're not going to have anymore, can we not use contraception?  Are we not supposed to touch each other ever again, until one of us dies (probably of acute sexual frustration)?  The ferocity of our biological sexual imperatives, and the joy in the successful fulfillment of those desires, were not made for only a handful of experiences in our entire lifetime.

There are some who say that no contraception should be used at all, not even abstinence.  We were given the order to be fruitful and multiply, a few thousand years ago, and they believe that we must continue to follow that order even when it is no longer fruitful to multiply.  But we can't have it both ways.  The numbers, the reality on the ground, shows us that we are on track to multiply ourselves out of existence.  And if they believe that God will provide the answer, let us remember what an "act of God" is, and how he would answer the problem of overpopulation.  Floods, plagues, some fiery rocks from the sky...  God uses catastrophes when His subtler alternatives are ignored.

How do we know that God did not plan for the development of contraception alongside the development of all these life-saving, life-extending advancements?  Isn't it an extraordinary lack of imagination on God's part if He were to inspire penicillin and anti-bacterial soap, and yet have no answer for the consequences of these wonders?  Who are any of us to say what is God's Plan - even the pope?  He may be a "man of God" - but he is a man.  Even if God speaks to him directly, he has only the ears of a man to listen, ears of the culture, of the time from which he has come.

I leave the new pope, and all religious leaders who preach this catastrophic philosophy, with this final question:  If life is sacred, why isn't the end of life sacred?  Why is it preventing God's will when you prevent a conception but not when you prevent a natural death?  Is death not God's will as well?  I, for one, do not want to go back to a time of more people dying - children dying from diseases we can now prevent, women dying in childbirth, men dying from infected boo-boos...  And I certainly don't want to give up the nookie.  That's not healthy.  Science says so.  But if we're not going to go back, then we must take responsibility for the world we want to live in now.

If this is a hard argument to accept, Mr. Pope, coming from a godless heathen like me, I ask you to put me aside and ask God His opinion.  Trust that He can roll with the times and that His answers may not be the same as you thought they once were.

Just pray on it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Alternative thoughts.

The Beanery
12oz Soy I'm not sure what it's called but it's some kind of awesome white chocolate lemon mocha thingy.

I used to do a lot of night driving through the desert and other California terrain.  The darkness of the road used to disturb me.  I used to cringe as the bright lights of the scarce oncoming car would half blind me in the otherwise black night.  I would be tensed even without the opposing traffic, bracing for a coyote, deer, (elk), or some small rodent to come shooting across the road out of the darkness on either side of my headlights.  I've known people who've totaled their cars colliding with an animal or trying to avoid one.  These are hazardous conditions, I would think to myself.  But how to fix it...?

What I came up with on my long drives may or may not be a financially practical idea.  But that should not be our first reaction when it's an idea that could potentially save lives.  Right?  Sure.  Here we go... Instead of towering street lights crisscrossing the landscape like landing strips for very small UFOs, we could have solar-powered, motion-sensor footlights lining these less-used roads.  It would still take some innovation to figure out the most durable, cost-effective design, but also, these footlights would need to be able to "talk" to each other so that when one sensed the motion of the oncoming car or roadside animal, lights further ahead would need to light up as well for the effect to work.  Just having the other ambient light - ahead of the speeding car - to counter the oncoming brights would diminish some of that blinding effect that makes this night driving so dangerous.  The sensors would also have to be sensitive enough and have enough of a range to pick on even small animals before they were too near the road.

This might be too sophisticated a system, though I'm betting it could be figured out pretty cost-effectively.  It might be that footlights that charged during the day and simply stayed illuminated throughout the night would be unobtrusive enough and still be safer than what we currently have now (even if they wouldn't indicate the movement of an approaching animal, you'd have a better chance of seeing it).

But then two more thoughts occurred to me.  Solar power is good for sunnier locales - I have a little solar-powered daisy that dances on my windowsill even on cloudy days - but for colder, darker regions, there might simply not be enough light to generate the power necessary.  And that's when I started thinking about our power-grid.  If we had power lines embedded in or near our roads instead of mostly overhead, we could tap into those lines directly and bleed off just enough to supplement the extra power needed for the illumination.  We know we need to do all this infrastructure rebuilding and power redesigning, this seems like it would be a good time to be thinking about this.

Think of how many miles of road there are in this country.  Imagine if, instead of swathes of solar panel farms, our roads were lined with solar panels that emitted a soft glow after dark.  Think of all the rooftops in even the smallest of towns.  What about using that space for other kinds of power generation as well?  Instead of giant wind turbines on outlying hillsides, micro-wind-turbines, mini-rainwater-mills, lining the perimeters of buildings, incorporated into the design as part of the architecture.  Any single spinning piece couldn't produce that much, but when multiplied... who knows?  The technology of today might not be able to garner much of a yield, but if we start down this path, challenge the thinkers in all the colleges and high school physics classes to find designs to lead us in a new direction, I think it is inevitable that we will find better solutions than what the old fossil fuel technologies could ever produce.

Okay, I'm going to just publish this and cringe later because the coffee house has already closed and I'm finishing this outside in my car... wasting energy to run the CD player and wear down my very old copy of Play just a little bit  more.  Which reminds me... Machete is a great track, and I think it's probably the best representation of Moby's techno and punk sensibilities in a single song.  Just saying.  Carry on.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I am not a magical flippin' unicorn.

Rogue Valley Roasting Co.
Sweet & Spicy Soy Chai

Wherein I bitch about shopping and body image and retailing for the lowest common denominator.  Fair warning, especially to my male friends and family members: if you read any further you're going to find out my exact bra size and other squirmy details.

I have been neglecting this blog of late because my Out Days have been overtaken by shopping.  There's been no avoiding it, I have lost too much weight (thank you, breastfeeding) and I now need to replace basically everything I own.  Even jackets and "forgiving" shirts can't be synched or tucked or otherwise fudged.  You would think I would be happy.  As a girl, aren't I supposed to be all into clothes, and spending money I don't have to buy them, and time I could otherwise be using to grow as a person to find them?  Alas, I was raised by wolves.  Male wolves, who do not esteem material trappings.

I have made ovations to femininity over the years.  I've made a concerted effort to tone down my hostility toward pink, and I discovered dresses were, generally, to my liking.  I've found it's nice to feel all femmie once in a while, but I can't quite bring myself to be girly.  Not even when I was a girl.  I think I still own make-up, though I am basically inept at applying it should the occasion ever arise.  I don't have pierced ears, though I have a couple tattoos.  And I still can't get into shoes.  (That lead to many a (gentle) gay joke among my friends, and an Onion-style piece entitled, "Woman with short hair, comfortable shoes defends sexuality.")

But wolves and hippy anti-materialism do not adequately justify my dread and loathing of shopping.  That belongs to American culture's body image hostility.  And the fashion industry.  And one of my own forebears - Issac Singer.  Sonofabitch.

An unhappy body image?  There's a shocker.  I can remember thinking I was fat when I was in kindergarten.  Flippin' kindergarten!  That's how early all the messaging gets in.  Earlier than that, even.  It's almost old-hat to rattle off all the examples of it.  It's all the many, many diet commercials.  It's the casting, the storylines of every commercial, TV show, anything, ever.  The woman is beautiful, thin, and getting thinner... to be desired...  And happiness always follows - only follows - from achieving her as the prize.  Anyone who deviates from this is a second-class story citizen.

And then there's the fashion industry.  Designers love unusually tall and skinny women because it better shows off their clothing.  There are women who are tall and there are women who are naturally thin (not just nearly starving themselves to get a modeling job), and there are women who are both.  I don't hate those women at all.  But that intersection of tall and thin is a comparatively small percentage and in no way representative of most women, let alone all women.  There is a range in heights, and weights, and all sorts of combinations of the two, not to mention all the deviant curvations.  But we are so inundated with skewed imagery that we don't know what we're supposed to look like anymore.  Not on average, not our specific self.  We couldn't pick a healthy body out of a mannequin line-up, and only partly because it probably wouldn't be there.  We wouldn't know a healthy body if it came jogging - nude - past this coffee shop with an entourage of lab-coat-clad doctors bellowing from bullhorns, "THIS IS A HEALTHY BODY," and "YOU COULD GO UP OR DOWN 20 LBS AND STILL BE GOOD.  SERIOUSLY."

The paper apartment
Hot Cocoa/Herbal Tea mashup
with Marshmallows

So, given that I was leaning toward "fat and ugly" on my way into the changing room as a fragile teenage girl, what happened inside was enough to put me in tears when I got home.  Nothing fit.  Ever.  And I used to think it was my fault.  It took many years, but I have finally come to the realization that the culprit for my post-dressing room tears is my great-grand-sire.

When Isaac Singer invented his sewing machine, he started a social revolution.  By bringing down the cost of clothing, and thereby creating the mass-production of clothing, even poorer people could be modestly well-dressed.  People could afford more than just one or two outfits.  In other words, they no longer had to look the part of whatever class they belonged to.  And let's not forget that a family with a sewing machine at home had the opportunity for additional income from "taking in" tailoring jobs.  The sewing machine made class mobility, a healthy middle class, a true possibility.

The downside for this descendent, however, is that mass-produced clothing has confined bodies to a handful of shapes and sizes.  People used to have clothes that were made specifically to fit their body.  Now all clothes have to be manufactured to fit the masses.  They are also designed to be disposable, like the rest of the products we consume.  Even if you don't care about which season you're wearing, the material is going to fade and fall apart so fast that the idea of bothering to get a t-shirt or jeans tailored to fit is completely alien to most of us.

Unfortunately, what I didn't realize when I was young was that I deviate significantly from the masses, and that, "it's not me, clothes, it's you."  And I am tired of it.  I recognize that a retailer has to keep its waste down, so it can't be expected to always accommodate every size.  But I am not a magical flippin' unicorn!  I exist and I need a goddamn pair of jeans and a bra.  Jeans, we have actually come a long way on since I was a kid in the eighties.  Target - though I am officially shunning them for making their employees work on Thanksgiving - has an assortment of "Fit" break-downs for their jeans.  Even if they are not there when I am shopping for them, at least I know that I am a size 10, Short, Fit 4.  I think.  But when it comes to bras, we've got a goddamn way to go, people.

It has been a saga just to find out what the right size actually is, mainly because almost no one carries it.  When I was in high school, I thought I was a 36D.  Now that I am almost back down to my high school weight again, I know that I was probably a 34D or DD.  Good luck finding an anything-DD at Target.  But I'm not quite a 34DD now.  No, I need a 34DDD nursing bra.  And keep in mind that I have been dropping weight.  The bra I just threw out - completely worn out and in no way hold up the girls anymore - was a 36F/G nursing bra.  That bra came from a specialty shop and cost an electric bill.  Unfortunately, that shop has stopped carrying nursing bras with underwires, and even their selection of regular non-nursing 34Fs isn't extensive, so my recent excursions haven't been very successful.  So what has that left me?

The mall.  Four hours yesterday.  Four goddamn hours I will never get back, scouring racks at two department stores.  And I found two.  Two 34DDDs out of hundreds, maybe thousands of bras.  No nursing bras whatsoever.  And here's my big beef with these stores, especially Kohls: If you are going to designate so much floor space to your bra department, why don't you try offering some products to more women instead of offering more products to fewer women?

Really, Kohls, you have too much product on the floor, period.  It's too much to browse - it's really too much to take in, even if you had my size.  But this space is so congested, you can't see the tags easily, so you have to try to shift each hanger - flick, flick, flick - and half the time you end up knocking some off because there's not enough room to hang there, even undisturbed.  It is no wonder no one offered me help, even though I did encounter one polite but distracted employee.  There is simply too much product which is too disorganized to manage it all and provide any customer service.  (That's a staffing model that Borders followed - to their demise!  But that's another blog...)

The way retailers stock clothing, the way designers create for a sub-category of the overall population, and the way manufacturers scale their production, together has created a frustrating and limited system which marginalizes significant portions of the population.  It's akin to having a Borders-sized bookstore that only stocked books on the bestseller list.  We can do this better.  Stop trying to maximize profits by reducing the number of people you can serve.  Stop trying to relegating us to specialty shops which may or may not exist.  We deviants are a market, and there is room for us on the floor.

I could go on, I could say this better, but my brain is done for the day.  Thank you for letting me bitch.  (See?  I am getting in touch with my girly side.)