Tuesday, May 31, 2011

So, lately The Gambit's Twitter account hasn't exactly been the bearer of good news...among its latest tidbits of legislators behaving badly came this one from last week:
BREAKING: @ fails by 1-5 vote of state education committee. Sole vote to repeal: Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge.
...followed by this insult to that injury:
LSEA: "All of you have been able to get out of high school despite this 'terrible' law." - Rep. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, voting no on repeal
Well, at least we know who doesn't believe the children are our future.

The Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), for those not in the know, can be found here.  It is an intriguing and craftily creative exercise in how to allow creationism to be taught alongside the theory of evolution in public elementary and secondary schools in Louisiana without explicitly mentioning the word "creationism". If there is anything in this act that could possibly work in the favor of keeping the supplemental teachings of the C-word out of the science classes, it is this self-referential Section D caveat within:
This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.
...but saying that only that section is not promoting any religion or any discriminatory practice gets us into the realm of "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is."

This piece of garbage was signed into law by our governor nearly three years ago. One of the immediate reactions to Bobby Jindal's signature on it was for organizations such as the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology to take their conventions elsewhere, kicking New Orleans' recovery in the teeth in the process. And now it seems the only thing that will peel this complete nonsense back will be many, many expensive days in court that we as a state cannot afford, all because the Louisiana Family Forum, in concert with the Discovery Institute, has successfully imposed its values on the rest of us poor schmos.

What is the Louisiana Family Forum, and how were things allowed to get this far? Well, let's let Lamar tell you. They showed the lege the money through exploiting some non-profit organizational loopholes themselves, and now we have the LSEA. It'd be a perverse thing of beauty if it weren't wielded in the service of such stunning ignorance. It is in an atmosphere such as this when sometimes, a child shall and must lead.

Enter Zack Kopplin and his campaign to repeal the LSEA. It begins with the following:
While the misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act claims to promote critical thinking in schools, it is really stealth legislation worded in a way that attempts to dodge the Supreme Court rulings against teaching creationism (and its offshoot intelligent design) in the public school science class.  Louisiana’s kids deserve the best education possible, and should be taught proper and truthful science rather than religion in their science classes.  We need to be taught real science in order be successful in today’s global economy.
If that weren't enough for most people -and it apparently isn't - the reasons why such an act is wrong are in this post, and it snowballs from there, to the point where Kopplin is ready to up the ante despite being "stunned at the way (Rep. Julie Quinn) attacked the other kids (at the State Education Committee Hearing). We had about 30 kids, and she went after them."

To borrow a few pages from the Christian bible the LFF, Livingston Parish, and Louisiana legislators like Quinn seem to revere so, too many hearts have been hardened like Pharaoh's in the course of this mess. What plagues will be brought upon us as a result? Am I the only one who thinks the continued ignorance of the average Louisiana public school student is a pretty damned big one that isn't worth all of this grief?  Not to mention all the money that will be poured down the drain should the defense of this act ever enter the courts...

Louisiana legislators: let our children go.

Cross-posted at Humid City
Even though I own a copy of it, I've been reluctant to watch Who Does She Think She Is? in large part because I've lived large portions of what the artists in the documentary have gone through. I still see myself and my ongoing struggles in any book or essay, any film, any set of statistics documenting how damned difficult it still is in this country - indeed, in this world - to be a mother and to be an artist of any kind. I don't care who you are: if you are a mother, you still have to choose. Societal pressures dictate this. If you are not a slave on a pedestal in your own home as a mother, then you are a selfish bitch unworthy of your family. Okay, the extremes might not be there on a relationship-by-relationship basis, but the overall tendencies are there.

I have known this deep, deep down...but I don't think my husband really got it until the documentary cropped up on PBS Sunday night when we were channel-surfing and it was really the only thing on. His knee-jerk reaction when he sees my face light up at the mere mention of artists who are women, God love him, is "You should go back to your glassworking," which is what he said when we discovered Who Does She Think She Is? was on. We watched it after Dan put the little guy to bed, however, and both of us grew quiet, me because I was struggling with my feelings over what I knew was going to be said...but all Dan said, at long last once it was over, was that he was headed to bed.

I'm finding myself afraid to ask him what he really thought about it all.

Most of the women in the documentary ended up divorced, with one of them, artist Maye Torres, recounting her struggles over custody of her children once her presumed life partner decided he didn't want to be with her anymore. Her response, after discovering that no one in town would really help her with her custody battles, was to do her damnedest to become such a good artist that there would be no question in people's minds that that was what she was meant to do, therefore putting obstacles in her way as a mother could be seen in a different light. Artist Janis Wunderlich, one of the ones in the documentary who is still married, has to shoe-horn making her art in-between shuttling her five kids around and doing cooking and cleaning, and then she doesn't even get a chance to really take in the clay work she does once it's finished for fear of one of her children breaking it. Can you say recipe for exhaustion? 

These are the "options" laid bare, my biggest fears about marriage and parenting screaming out of the TV, and the truth is, I don't have faith in Dan that he could weather any of the turmoil that would be guaranteed to come this way were I to take up glassworking again today. I've sacrificed too much, and he hasn't sacrificed much at all. I'm all too conscious of how much money would be spent and of how time would be changed around were I to try to construct a small furnace in our backyard or set up a table torch for flameworking. I'm too aware of the house and the cars not being in my name, too mindful of the ways in which school hours and 9-to-5 work hours don't meet up for me to trust him with things as basic as dropping off the little guy and picking him up from school, too afraid that his lip service to my return to glassworking will cause harsh, hurtful things to come out of his mouth when faced with the realities of going back to it again and managing a household with a kid. I guess one could argue that I am not blameless in this, and I'm not - I've enabled him to think it'll be sooo easy for me to just pick up where I left off when I found out I was pregnant, because he's still doing the things he did before we were married. He's still going to all of his band practices after work, still going to Torah study and services on Saturdays, leaving me home with my son, and when there's a night I want to do something and he's already got something planned, there are cringe-worthy gripes about how much a sitter costs when I can't get another mother-friend to look after the little guy. I'm not supposed to be a needy person and ask him to give all that up, am I?

I hate feeling this way, that asking the man I love to overcome a few millenia of patriarchy and face the realities of juggling the undervalued and overlooked roles of parenting and housework will blow up in my face and implode our family, but it's there.  I'll have to ask him about it one of these days, I'm sure, and the answers will probably reinforce the reasons why I'm still on antidepressant medication and why I'm still a big chicken about setting up some kind of studio in my back shed.

Sometimes, no matter how good documentaries are, they still suck.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's a crazy dilemma, to be sure.

Yes, my son's school building is in dire need of the renovations that are planned to be going on for the next couple of years.  Yes, the kids can't be attending school in that same building with all that work going on.  Yes, I'm kinda happy that the proposed temporary site is much, much closer to where I live.


...when lead levels in the ground of the temporary school site are found to be much, much higher than normal, what will the school district be doing about it?:
The school board plans to remediate the future playground area, but didn't test a much larger area where modular classrooms and the cafeteria will be located. There is no word yet on whether that area will be remediated, even though it wasn't tested.
"I feel very strongly that the school needs to step up and protect our children and do it transparently," said (Audubon student parent Melissa) Piñera.
But Lourdes Moran, the school board president whose grandchild attends Audubon Charter School, said parents shouldn't be concerned.
"I would not jeapardize (sic) my child, my grandchild, or anyone's child," said Moran. "It's just not within my personality to expose any child to a perilous situation. It's unfortunate that some parents might disagree."
Moran went on to say that the site, which is owned by the Orleans Parish School Board, was chosen because school officials were unable to find another location large enough for the classroom modulars needed to accommodate hundreds of children who attend Audubon Charter School.
"It is not our intent to make [parents] feel uncomfortable, but unfortunately we really have no options," said Moran. "We've gone so far as to discuss with the Recovery School District to give back a building that they're not using so we could use that as "swing space" and not have to spend this much capital in temporary modulars, but unfortunately they could not acommodate(sic) us. This is the only solution we had at hand."
Concerned parents started an online petition Monday asking that the entire area be remediated with new soil and concrete.
"We're just trying to urge them to really look at the site, face the facts about the lead levels there, and really, remediate the entire place," said Piñera.
Parents also say they've never been formally notified the school is relocating for the next two years.
There were no links to the petition to the OPSD in WWL's report, which can be found at this linkLead is in most places in the ground in this town, to be sure, but the city is taking steps to remediate public playgrounds.  For the OPSD to keep the school at this site, however, they need to start the mitigation process now, for the entire site.

Over 900 more signatures are needed.  Give it a read, at least.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I've been out of the posting loop this week, as I'm still coming down from the successful launch of Endeavour I got to see from 3 miles away.

Tell the truth, it feels kind of like this:

Yep, that's ET-122 falling back to Earth.  Mesmerizing, isn't it?



Back to life on this planet soon, I promise.  Tide yourselves over with my Flickr pictures 'til then.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Here we go again, this time in the early morning.

 Yep, I'm there. Again. Just give the #NASATweetup hashtag a follow.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

We here are happy to be back after Blogger's nervous breakdown. Hey, I'd be needing a vacation, too, if I had to keep track of all these posts all by my lonesome. There may still be some hiccuping here and there with the system, but unlike so many I know, Blogger has been good up 'til now to this blogger.

BUT, as soon as it comes back, of course I gotta head back east to NASA Tweetup Number Two, where attempts to blog will be well nigh impossible for me....and where we will be, once again, cheering on these guys:

While I am headed for the spacey Space Coast, go read some stuff and see some movies. I'll give you some suggestions:

Drake Toulouse on the intersections between the Mississippi River spillways opening and the ways in which the oyster farmers will be screwed.

I told you to go see some flick.

Cliff worries that the Mark St. Pierre trial is being inundated by all the flooding river hysteria.  I most definitely see his point.  In that spirit, inundate your brains with Dambala's accounts of the trial.  You're not supposed to be looking at that big, bad river, anyhow...although, funny thing, my son's Little League organization is having an opening day second line at the Fly this morning, so I'll be hearing from my husband about the river today despite the city's admonitions to stay off the levees.  I wonder how many calls there'll be to the city about today's "suspicious activity".

NOLA Slate goes toe to toe, but not drink to drink, with Davis Rogan. Go get his Once and Future DJ album, lady, if you can find it.  Fun fact: first time I got really drunk as a skunk in New Orleans was at an All That show. Yes, that was me bouncing on that easy chair in the club to the music 'til someone had to get me to stop. Hiiiii, 1996!

And finally, the rapture cannot start without getting in your car, driving real far, driving all night 'til you see a light.

Don't strain your brain.  Be back soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My flood photos from the past few days.

The Mississippi River is a-rising, and it hasn't even crested here yet.

More on all this from me at Humid City.

Monday, May 09, 2011

It's hard to write about the NASA Tweetup I attended nearly two weeks ago. Somewhat surprisingly so.

"I've decided: you should stay," my husband said over the phone as I was waiting for the motorcade of the president of the United States to pass us by.  The arguments spilled out of the phone, despite the fact that I'd made the decision to come back home and not play the NASA waiting game.  They'd first told us it would be a 48-hour wait for a launch attempt after that worst right turn of the astronaut van, then it became 72 hours to the next attempt, and by then I could see the writing on the orbiter...although it didn't come until after I seriously risked my relationship with my employer by trying to change out a workday I'd already committed myself to a few weeks before.

I stood firm, though I knew that Dan still had in his head the idea I'd had to let go of in a hurry: that this was now a very rare event I would possibly be missing.  "Look," I explained. "I've met a lot of great people here.  I've had a great time despite this.  It's okay."  I was about 60% convinced at that point that I'd made the right call.  I wavered a tad when the fellow next to me overheard my end of the conversation and gave me a killer stare through his aviator sunglasses. "You have got to be kidding me," he said.  I then looked at his credentials on the lanyard 'round his neck and realized: Oh, dear, I'd wandered among those for whom viewing the launch was work, not play - it was a disgruntled journalist I was standing next to at that moment.  The scrubbed launch had made his job difficult, but he was missing the story that had been in his midst for the past day or so.

It's not easy for 150 people to drop everything and head to Florida for a few days, which is an amazing thing in itself - but when you throw in a couple of celebrity attendees, a few foreign nationals, a bunch of great speakers that included spacesuit developers, NASA's chief science officer, the flow director for Endeavour's last flight, an astronaut or two or threea LEGO designer (there's a good reason why: check this post at Spuds In Space for more) and people enthusiastic about space travel and research from all over the country, you get a whole lot of fun.  You get the people like Barbara Nixon, who hails from Florida and had the car with the Swiss Army trunk that was ready for any emergency except, of course, for fixing what ailed Endeavour on launch day - one look at her license plate told me what she was at NASA for.  Or Karen Lopez, aka, @datachick, who brought along a bunch of Barbies that even Seth Green was interested in.  Or Dr Lucy Rogers, who came up with the best response for why she, a Brit, wasn't at the royal wedding: "I got a better invite."  Or fantastically generous and humble Rachel Maddow Show producer Tricia McKinney, who lent me the use of her iPhone when my Droid's battery died.  Or horrifically jet-lagged Sydneyite Tim Bennett, who lent me the use of a USB cord.  Or Lisa Bain, who's gonna do her best to schlep all the way back from Idaho to watch the launch, if she can...

...which brings me to the reasons why this post is so tough to write.  I caught launch fever and it brought out the worst in me when I tried to remain in Florida a couple more days in order to stay on NASA String-Along Time (aka, NSAT), and I regret that.  At the same time, I kinda agree with fellow tweetup New Orleanian-in-attendance Chris Smith - the experience feels unfinished, somehow, without seeing a launch, although the last thing anybody wants to see is a repeat of Challenger.

The official launch date for STS-134 is to be announced today at 2 PM CST.  At least one mission astronaut says that NSAT will correspond. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

From a message to parents of my son's school concerning a fundraiser:
...donations support critical operating needs, including salaries for additional teachers and teaching assistants and teacher professional development....  It is important that (said school) have high family participation because foundations often want to know if we have the support of our own families before they will give money to the school. (boldface mine)
Oh, the horror.  The continued obstacle course that must be run or else our children's education will suffer even more than it already has.  Our state is cutting funding for schools so violently and deeply that if you don't show us the money, neither will these foundations we have to beg from.

Shouldn't educators and their administrations be doing something like, I don't know, actually teaching the kids?  I'm sure having to scrounge around for funding isn't sitting well with them, either.  I almost expect there to be bouncer/enforcers walking around at school fundraising opportunities next.

Make no mistake: I personally don't mind contributing some money to the kitty, but I think of the parents who just can't and I wonder how well this argument is going over with them.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Despite my previous post, there will be some NASA Tweetup posts coming.  Didn't think I was gonna let it all slip by, did you?

'Til then, here's something to contemplate: I didn't notice this sign outside the diner I ate in on the first day of the tweetup until I overheard an entering patron tell a waitress: "That is some sign you got out there."

Obama's being blamed for a lot of things he didn't start - and for a lot of things that are, sadly and not-so-sadly, ending under his watch - and hey, anybody following the train wreck that was Dubya's two terms was going to have a hard row to hoe.  The shuttle program was already being phased out around the time of Obama's election, but the anger at its end is clearly being directed at him.

Truth of the matter is, we in the U.S. no longer have the funding, or the political imperative that used to be goading us from the former Soviet Union, to continue space exploration all on our own...and if the continued trend towards cutting education and/or passing the management off of it to private enterprises keeps on, we will likely have a corresponding diminished role in the global scientific community currently launching people to the International Space Station, but planning for greater, farther destinations such as Mars.

I was also saddened to see Fox News on in the NASA employee cafeteria near the media site, too.  The misinformation it passes on is spreading like wildfire and contributing to the general stupidity - hence the signage I saw on State Road 3 just south of Kennedy Space Center.  Not that other 24/7 news outlets are much better...a truly critical eye on the media's reportage is an asset that must be developed now more than ever before.

How can we better educate folks in this current day and age about these issues?  Will Obama actually grow a pair and start to take a stronger stand on the things that matter like the sciences, and, more importantly, will a majority of Congressional members follow his lead?  I am, currently, at a loss concerning these questions...but I know there were 149 incredible, enthusiastic people chosen to be in that tent for two days learning about exploration beyond the Earth's gravity.

I even admonished one who said, "Oh, I'm just nobody."

No, you are somebody.  All of us are.

So what do we do about it?
A vacation from this past week's vacation is sorely needed, almost no question.  Not that I didn't enjoy myself, but the highs and lows in such a short period of time have been short-circuitous to my brain and psyche.  I should have taken a huge hint from the universe when I set out on my long drive to Kennedy Space Center after having dropped my big orange cat baby off at his regular vet - after he'd already spent a night at the emergency vet's under observation and testing and seemed to be improving.

So he hasn't always been the healthiest of cats.  In his younger days, he had some major skin irritation that flared up at the back of his neck and occasioned his first emergency vet visit many years ago and a surgery that proved to be inconclusive as to what the source of the irritation was.  It left my cat with his first scar, an irregular bald patch between his shoulder blades that would still get mildly irritated, but not like that one scary night I found him meowing from pain with a huge open sore there.  Things didn't get scary again until two years ago, when my husband had to take him in for surgery again, for removal of bladder stones, and I came home from my in-laws' to this sight:

It was still hurricane season. I called his collar the cat cone of uncertainty.
My husband wasn't always fond of the cat, and that feeling was mutual in the beginning when, in our first apartment together as a newly married couple, the cat crawled out on one of the rafters in the loft in the middle of the night and started hysterically yowling in panic at his predicament.  I awoke an hour or two after midnight to my husband laughing in a manner that was almost as hysterical as the yowling because the cat wouldn't come to him.  All it took to beckon my orange baby off the skinny board he was precariously perched on was my hand reaching over the upstairs banister and a few clicks of my tongue.

Eventually the cat warmed to Dan, too, but when Dan took him in for the surgery, he didn't need to ask me to know if he should do so or not.  Despite my husband's cat allergies, he knew how important the cat was to all of us, especially me.  I'd had him from when he was two months old and my ex-boss rescued him from a neighborhood crack house where - she learned later - if the litter of the cat's brothers and sisters that was still there weren't placed in other homes, they would've been put into a trash bag and hauled out to the curb for the sanitation crews to take them away.  I didn't intend to keep him, but he was mine from the second he climbed on my bed, found my hip, and took a long snooze on it.

But last Tuesday, when I came home, I could tell my cat wasn't feeling well at all. I'd never seen him looking that bad.  He wasn't breathing well, and his ears felt cold.  He hadn't moved from his spot on the floor by his water dish since that morning.  It looked bleak, and I started to mentally prepare myself to let him go.  He'd had a good 12 years or so on this earth, this big cat baby.  If the tests showed he was in decline, then it was best for him to go to his rest...

...but he rallied the next morning.  His blood work was good.  There was color coming back to his paws and his gums.  He even tried to groom himself, they said.  I dropped him off to his regular vet with hope in my heart and turned my car towards the east coast to the hotel I'd be staying in for three nights while I visited NASA.

After my trip down there, I am now firmly convinced of one thing: any navigation skills I might have once possessed before I married Dan are now nearly lost.  My husband called me while I was still on the road and asked where I was.  "You're where?" he asked incredulously.

Hey, it could happen to you, too, if you mixed up I-95 with I-75:

I am amazed I found Florida. Honestly.

The other reason for the phone call, aside from chiding me for going all the way to Tampa, was that my cat had taken a turn for the worse.  Dan was in Mandeville with the vet who had done the bladder stone surgery. My big fluffy orange guy had already stopped breathing once and was on life support.  It was a respiratory illness he'd contracted, and even though his blood work was still good, it was highly likely he'd be brain-damaged after having suffered one cardiac arrest.  I had to make the decision - on the road, while I was trying to extricate myself from my bad navigation decisions - to keep him alive or let him go.

I got to my hotel late at night with a heavy heart.  I couldn't let him suffer any longer.

My vet was upset.  My in-laws sent me condolences.  And I came home after my trip to a cat-less house.  I miss my fluffy baby.

Rest in peace, my Leo.