Friday, June 30, 2006

Remembering War

I found two blog entries about growing up in Beirut during the war, 13 turns 31 and War and Remembrance. Both are followed by comments of people remembering their own war experiences in Lebanon.

I felt very fortunate after reading of the experiences of others. Many had traumatic stories to share. Many of the experiences happened after my family had already left Lebanon or took place in Beirut itself. Many of the bloggers are Muslim. We were more protected in our small Christian village tucked in the mountains above Beirut.

Despite differences of time, place, and religion, I could connect with the memories. I can also hear Israeli planes flying low enough to break the sound barrier and scare those underneath. I also can walk among shrapnel decorated buildings until they are normalized, and watch boys play war knowing that one day the "toys" they play with will be real and deadly. I also collect shell remains following my retreat to the shelter.

I don't have anything striking to write about these memories now. I may not ever. Or at some point, I may have a flood of memories and thoughts. Perhaps when I am in Lebanon this fall.

I will conclude with a quote from Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller, who grew up in Rhodesia now Zimbabwe during the civil war:

" Those of us who grow in war are like clay pots fired in an oven that is overhot. Confusingly shaped like the rest of humanity, we nevertheless contain fatal cracks that we spend the rest of our lives itching to fill."

At this moment, I see the cracks as stretch marks created by my experiences both in Lebanon and beyond. I don't see them as negatitive as Fuller's seem to be and I surely do not see them as fatal. They are the marks of my shaping and I was fortunate enough for some of this shaping to occur in Lebanon.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Today's Find

I am really having fun with blogging. I never know what I am going to do, learn, or find. One day I can write about something I am reading either on or off-line, the next day I can be rediscovering my favorite painters or learning code. Learning code, even hearing myself say that is amazing.

Today I started clicking the next blog icon and after a view blogs and a link, I came across Wooster Collective, "showcasing and celebrating ephemeral art placed on streets in cities around the world."

What about ephemeral art in rural settings like Andy Goldsworthy's but without the artist name recognition? I'm sure I could find such a site if I tried. In the mean time, check out Wooster Collective. Its fun and at times, serious. The pictures I posted are from the site: Ckoe's Bees in Amsterdam posted by Mike.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Thur's Templates

I just figured out how to add quotes to the sidebar. Yippee! I must credit my source, Thur's Templates. Thank you, Thur!

I even was able to add color and italics. Plus, I changed the title's font. Now I want to figure out how to:
  1. Add pictures to my sidebar.
  2. Categorize my posts by topic.
  3. Put an image behind my blog title.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


This is an interesting image. Am I the only one who sees a female vulva in this? Why the association with "hombre?" And why a cat's face in the center? While many women (and humans in general) find companionship with cats, the sexual reference is incongruous.


I want to add some pictures to my sidebar and perhaps my title. But until I sit down and figure out how to, here's a reproduction of a painting by Remedios Varo.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Choice and South Dakota

I read an interesting article by Cynthia Gorney in the New Yorker this weekend, "Reversing Roe." I recommend the article. Gorney explains that abortion opponents have said that South Dakota House Bill 1215 is the "Wrong bill. Wrong language. Wrong time."

Gorney argues that since the Roe v. Wade ruling, it has been easy for people to say they are "pro-life" without fully defining what that means. However, what South Dakota legislators have now done is create a situation which forces people that are usually "pro-life" to define what this means to them.

South Dakota law allows for voters to gather signatures and to have state legislation voted upon in a referendum. This is now what is happening in. HB 1215 will be voted on by South Dakota voters in November.

And when this happens, HB 1215 may not remain law because it only allows for one exception, a woman's near death. However, most "pro-lifers" believe that there are other exceptions such as rape, or incest.

This is where it gets interesting. The "right-to-life" premise is that human life begins at the moment of conception. Therefore there should technically be no exceptions. However, most "pro-lifers," including politicians and our dear President Bush, support exceptions. Following this line of logic, exceptions for rape, or incest mean that "either it is justifiable to kill children in some circumstances, or what grows in a woman's uterus is a child if the woman had sex voluntarily but not if she was forced to."

Making decisons for women is a complicated business. There are a multitude of exceptions and flaws in the moral argument and the more that are highlighted, the less absolute one can be. Quoting Gorney:

How prudent is it to push people who might otherwise be your allies-who might be at least partially helpful to your cause-to examine the inconsistency of their own positon?

The Richard McGuire illustration says it all. A pregnant woman stands in a room with fingers pointing at her. She protects her womb with her hands. How come the person who understands her own situation the most is the one person who is not asked?

It's Hot!

It is hot in my home nest. I have the fan going but the air is still heavy and dead. My skin is clammy and my desire to be productive is close to nil. Maya is sprawled out on the kitchen floor. She only stirs when I wander in, at which point she lifts her head and gives an atypical meow. Usually she is always under my feet demanding food, but not today.

It is hard to believe that I used to be able to live in this. I remember taking lots of showers but I must admit that my level of production was always below my ability, as it is right now. I had debated doing some logic modeling this evening for work but have no desire to in this heat. I'll work on it tomorrow during the day at work where it is air conditioned.

Air conditioning. To think that I lived in South Texas and New Orleans without it. Now I grumble when it reaches 90. I even bought an ac unit which will be installed in a few days. I will try to use it sparingly.

I'm such a complainer. People like River go days without electricity in Iraq and its alot hotter there. Perhaps I will do some reading and writing. It is good to push myself in this heat.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Clinical Economics

I just read Chapter Four of Jeffrey Sach's "The End of Poverty" and enjoyed it. His thesis in this chapter is that development economics needs to function more like modern medicine. Ph.D. economists are not being adequately trained to address the complex needs of world economies.

Sachs argues that unlike clinical medicine, development economics does not ask enough questions and often uses the same economic prescription for very different situations and economies. Sachs' wife, a pediatrician, can spend an hour asking her patients detailed questions in order to properly diagnose a medical condition, "Doctors know that lots of things can go wrong and that a particular symptom, such as high fever, might reflect dozens, or hundreds, of underlying causes."

According to Sachs, the IMF's main prescription is "budgetary belt tightening for patients much too poor to own belts." In the IMF's one size fits all approach, countries must use tax revenue to pay back debt instead of building infrastructure, as well as cut back on education, health and social services, and privatize, privatize, privatize.

This may be appropriate for some countries, but not for all and not before a detailed diagnosis similar to a thorough medical diagnosis has occurred, hence the term "clinical economics." Sachs is basically describing systems theory, or the understanding of individuals or entities (in this case economies) within the context of the systems within which they function.

Even social workers learn this their first week of class!

Clinical economics should train the development practitioner to hone in much more effectively on the key underlying causes of economic distress and to prescribe appropriate remedies that are well tailored to each country's specific conditions.
When in Afghanistan or Bolivia, the IMF should think automatically about transport costs. When in Senegal, attention should turn to malaria.

Sachs created this amazing "Checklist for Making a Differential Diagnosis." Which I found at

I will only give you the basic question categories to ask as you can link to the article if interested.

1. What is the extent of extreme poverty?
2. What is the economic policy framework?
3. What is the fiscal framework?
4. What is the physical geaography and the human ecology of the country?
5. What are the country's patterns of governance?
6. What are the cultural barriers to economic development?
7. What are the country's geopolitics, or the country's security and economic relations with the rest of the world?

If economists haven't been asking these basic questions when determing an "economic diagnosis," I am apalled.

In my world, you can't expect a dime from any funder if you cannot prove that there is a reason for your project and that you have done the contextual research to assess the need. But then again, I am only asking for a few pidly thousand dollars to help teenage girls not get pregnant before they are ready. The IMF, on the other hand, is working with billions and obviously has no accountability.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Women's Stories

I came prepared to share women's experiences, collected through journals that we put in the waiting rooms in the abortion clinic where I work. I left disheartened when they adjourned the hearing before I could testify. It demonstrated once again just how wide is the gap between the abortion "issue" and the abortion "experience." Women's lives and struggles continue to be lost in the debate.

These are the words of Chrisse France, Executive Director of the Preterm Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio after she attended a hearing on Ohio's proposed abortion ban. She's right. It's not about women's experiences and stories. The story has been lost in a quick one-bite visceral message. The creators of this message could care less about women and their stories.

Those that listen and form opinions based on the quick emotional and value laden message need to take time to listen to the stories.

So do all the women that have never lived in a world where abortion was not legal. Talk to your mothers, grandmothers, teachers, coworkers. They're still around. And they all have stories to tell. Listen to these stories and to those told by women who are making the decision to terminate a pregnancy today.

It takes more than a quick message to hear their stories, just as it does to listen to any of the stories that develop as we live our lives.

Please take the time to listen. And if you think the stories aren't available, you are wrong. They are all around you.

After I finished reading Ms. France's commentary, I felt cynical and resigned to the fact that women's stories do not really matter. But then I started thinking about the play that her clinic is performing. Art and human creativity always renew my spirit. Women's stories will continue to be told and spread.

With a click of a mouse, the stories reproduce and multiply.

To my unborn child: When I made the decision to let you go, it was the best for you and your sister. It was hard for me to have a baby at 16 and go to school and work. I don't want you to have to suffer because it is not fair to you. --Journal entry by Preterm client

This wasn't an easy decision, but the right one. I'm sad and hurt, but strong. The tears I cry are for the child I'll never know. If I had one wish … that this child knows it took great love to do this.

And with a click of a mouse, I found even more:

I am a mom, in my mid thirties, with two wonderful teenage boys. My husband and I love our boys tremendously. Every free moment is spent coaching , supporting, and generally enjoying either one son or the other. I absolutely adore babies and have dedicated my life to children.

That said, my husband and I are also looking forward to a time when the boys are independent and we can spend more time with each other.

So, I find myself pregnant, first at 33, then again at 35. Adding a baby to the mix at this point would not be the best choice for my two older children or for my husband and I. Adoption was never really considered, because I don't want my sons internalizing the fact that I am willing to give up their brother or sister. When they are adults and faced with difficult decisions I may share my abortion story with them. It's not something I'm ashamed of, just something they're not ready to hear yet.

I made a choice to end two pregnancies. I made a choice to continue to give my two sons the time and attention that they deserve. I made a choice to not burden our family financially. I made a choice to spend more time with my husband and to help our relationship, as not only parents, but as lifetime partners, flourish. I don't regret my decisions and I'm not sorry.

Thank you for letting me share my story.

This is Alyssa's story. You can read hers and those of others at I'm Not Sorry.Net.

Je seme a tout vent. I believe in the power of the story.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lebanese Political Journal

Lebanese Political Journal
This blog may be interesting to check in on from time to time. Plus it links to some other interesting blogs such as In Lebanon and Daniel Pepper Blog along with Daniel Pepper's Website and Before and After Photos of Lebanon.

I wonder how my upcoming trip will affect my nostalgic childhood view of a wartorn Lebanon. I've had this image of pockmarked building skeletons for years.

What will I think of the renovations? Has Beirut turned into a Disney Land comparable to Dubai or the future new New Orleans? Where do people on limited incomes live and work? Is there a place for them there or like New Orleans have those that don't meet economic and racial standards been conveniently swept out by tragedy?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Quote of the Day

Emily Dickinson wrote, “hope is a thing with feathers”. If what she wrote is true, then hope has flown far- very far- from Iraq…

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Father

My father is a very special person to me. In fact, he is the most important person in my life. Part of the reason is that he is the person who has had the most continuous presence in my life, from the time I was born until the present. Not that we were always getting along or at times talking; but even when I had distanced myself from him, he was still the person that I thought most about.

I am continually amazed by him. As I have grown, so has he. We both have worked very hard on our communication skills and I am often amazed at how calm he has managed to become with me. It is my impression that he avoids my trigger points and that he just ignores it when I still manage to find his.

When I give parent workshops, I love to tell parents about my father. Despite his reluctance and at that point still close espousal of gender roles, he managed to help a very reluctant 14 year-old use a tampon. My swim camp was the next day and I had no desire to use a tampon. I cried and cried as he coached me from the other side of the door.

Dad, you are wonderful.

I love you,

Saturday, June 17, 2006

What is Global Warming?

After blogging about global warming and the film "Inconvenient Truth," I realized that not everyone may not be convinced that global warming is a threat. I hope that is not the case as unusually hot summers, mild winters, recent natural disasters such as the Tsunami that devastated South East Asia or closer to home, Hurricane Katrina, make global warming a blatant reality to me. However, as Gore explained, while all of the articles published in peer reviewed scientific journals unanimously delineated that global warming is a reality, approximately 50% of popular media sources did not agree that global warming was a problem.

Therefore, I wanted to make sure I provided readers with the facts that I have copied and pasted from the film's website:

Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.

The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence. The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.

We’re already seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing.
The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.
The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.
At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.

If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences.
Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.
Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense.
Droughts and wildfires will occur more often.
The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

Please help save our earth and ourselves in the process!

Goodnight my dear, Earth

I thought I'd close my blogging evening with this photograph of the Earth which is younger than I am. I did not realize that until 1969, humans did not have a photograph of the Earth. This complete photograph of the earth was taken in 1972.

It would be interesting to learn more about how this photograph has impacted our world. In a way, its like looking in the mirror after a long respite without one. My understanding is that the environmental movement really took off after this photograph was widely distributed.

Good night my dear, Earth. I will try even harder to respect you by being mindful of how my actions affect you.


Hubbard Glacier

Funny thing is that the cruise helped spark my interest in glaciers. I hadn't really thought much about them until then. It is also serendipitous that I saw "Inconvenient Truth" a week after I returned.

I was going to add some photos of Hubbard Glacier that a fellow passenger sent me but I seem to have disposed of the link before downloading them. :( Oh well.

Visualize a tacky ship with a pool and a glacier in the distance. Hubbard Glacier looked rather like a jagged mountain with lots of snow on it. There was also a flat expanse of ice keeping the passengers a safe distance from the glacier. Sorry, no touching the natural art work.

One postive report is that Hubbard Glacier is actually growing. I think the onboard naturalists said that this was the only Glacier in Alaska that was growing in size. Yippee! One small point in favor of the Earth.

Melting Greenland

This photograph is of an ice cap in Greenland. Al Gore explained that if a significant amount of Greeland's glaciers melted which has already begun to occur, the world ocean levels would increase by 20 feet. Huge areas will be under water including the World Trade Center Memorial site, a point Gore made for visceral detail.

A New Times journalist, Andrew Revkin traveled to Greenland and wrote a series of reports which I plan on spending more time reading.

Friday, June 16, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I went to see "Inconvenient Truth" this evening, a documentary featuring Al Gore as he uses his slide show to speak about global warming. I recommend that everyone go see it. It is very impactful. So much so that I don't know what to do right now.

I came home and started surfing the web. As is my nature, I wanted to take action, and in so doing, fix the problem immediately. I started by calculating my carbon impact which higher than average. This surprised me as I have tiny electricity bill usually and drive a Honda. I do, however, also put too many miles on my car by insisting on driving to work and by needing to escape to Seattle every few months. Worst of all are plane trips to Seattle. Its taking off that uses the most fuel and so flights with longer flight times are actually more fuel efficient.

While I wanted a quick legislative fix, instead websites such as suggested that I change my everyday habits. This upset me as my assumption that I am extremely ecoconscious was being threatened.

The documentary had suggested that Washington State did not have legislation dedicated to reducing global warming.

Washington State is supposedly working with Oregon state to to put stricter limits on automobile emissions. Exactly where they are in the process, I have to figure out. I can say though that Washinton State did pass legilation that establishes market access for ethanol and biodesiel.

What I would like to work on is getting our country to sign the Kyoto agreement but other than trying to get my local city council to issue a statement in support of the agreement, I have yet to find my quick fix action. Perhaps with a bit more searching and praying.

In the mean time, I should work on my habits and actions.

In terms of habits, I can buy eficient light bulbs, bike more often, turn off lights, bring a grocery bag to the store, and carrying a washable cup to put my coffee in. These actions seem trivial to me but for now, that seems all that I can do as quick fixes are hard to come by.

Also, I can consider Al Gore's patience and calmness. He has been working on this issue for 40 years. As he says in the documentary, he believed in the political process. He gave the impression that his faith in the process is not as strong. How could it not be after all that he has been through? He is now taking the approach of connecting with people individually. Trying to spark a flame in people through his power point, his book, and the documentary. And yet he remains patient and calm. I always want things to be solved immediately. I must think of Al Gore and be patient. Hopefully then I will not be patient in vain.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
- Harold Whitman

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Former Gold Mine

This is a former gold mine in Alaska.
I didn't know that it took at least 400 years for a new growth forest to recreate itself into an old growth forest. Old growth forests contain many layers of vegetation and attract a variety of wildlife. The way I understand it, they are a complete ecosystem.
Everytime we take from the earth, we have to understand that it will take some time for the earth to regenerate itself.
And when we take from the earth and use deadly chemicals in the process such as cyanide, we'd better hope that the earth can regenerate itself.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cruising Toward a Barber Shop

I went on an Alaska cruise last week. For some, this may have been the ultimate vacation. Great food, being served at all times, quality shows, a pool, alcohol, off-ship excursions,...
Some of this I enjoyed. Especially having a good cup of cappucino and listening to a string quartet. I also enjoyed talking to people from other countries and practicing my decrepit French and Spanish. Of course this, along with my zeal for reading, and my tendency to live my social work profession even when I was on vacation is what got me in trouble.

I learned alot on this cruise.

Most of the staff are on 8 month contracts and mostly came from Goa, India; Honduras, Peru, the Phillipines, and the Baltic states. Very few women except in cocktail, cleaning, spa, and performing roles. A color, race, and nationality hierarchy was apparent to me as well. Most of the waiters, kitchen workers, cabin maintainers, facilities workers were dark skinned; while the maitre d's, the managers, and customer service workers were predominately light-skinned.

What most struck me were the hours of the restaurant staff. I would see them in the morning for breakfast and again for dinner every day. I later learned that if they received a three hour lunch break, they were lucky. One night my waiter was talking up the midnight buffet. I of course, was more concerned about his sleeping patterns. He wasn't going to go to bed until 2 am and I knew he had to get up again at 6 am. "I signed up for this, madam," was his response. Yes he did, and yes he is returning to his home in Goa after many years of contracts for the last time.

He will now open a barber shop back home.

I am glad that he has a chance to make money, mostly from tips. He has worked hard and like others working the ship will be able to go back to their economically poor countries with a little capital to start a business of some sort.

This doesn't diminish the fact that he works hard hours and that U.S. labor laws would not allow this. It does not diminish the fact that I feel uncomfortable knowing that often arbitrary economics has determined that some of us can be served on the ship while others serve.

Canaveral's Cruises is a good place to check out if you would like to learn more about labor issues on cruise ships and what people's lives are like back home. Also Global Policy Forum.

I think more than anything else, the cruise opened my eyes to a world I did not know of. I gained some knowledge about environmental issues as well but I will save that for another day.