Sometimes You Just Have To Laugh

Because otherwise you might want to cry. Especially with the way the economy is these days.

This morning I logged in to the New York Times website, which is a typical first glance before I start my work day routine for me. And I almost started laughing because I saw as one of the pictures in their “Picturing the Recession” segment was a photo of a store that I have passed by on my way to work quite often. In fact I found the sign in that photograph that says “RECESSION FLOWER PRICES $1.00/stem” so amusing that just a week ago I had taken a photo of it on my phone and sent it to a friend of mine because we were just talking about buying flowers for a birthday party. And what girl doesn’t love to get flowers? They’re just so beautiful. At any rate, I know many of the recession photos are quite sad but personally I like things like these because they make me chuckle.

Here’s the photo I sent my friend:

recession flowers
recession flowers

How Just Is The Justice System?

You know people talk about the law as if it were a black and white issue when in reality there are so many varying shades of gray that it is sometimes impossible to fathom all the possible outcomes of any one case. Just last week I was reading an article about the pressure that our lovely new fearless leader is facing because he doesn’t know who to support on an issue of partner benefits for federal employees. Well, the state of California recognizes these couples as legally married same-sex couples who should be able to have benefits for their partners but because of DOMA that isn’t true federally. Now I’m not a lawyer and I don’t necessarily understand all of the legal jargon that goes with this but I will say that I think it is problematic when states are allowed a certain type of behaviour while the federal government will go and contradict them. This is not to say that I agree with the federal government (in this case… and come to think of it most cases, I tend to favor what they are doing in California) but it still causes problems within the legal system of this country. Even if the law is not black and white it is still supposed to provide some sort of guideline to allow for equal rights for our citizens. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is doing such a great job of that right now.

I sincerely hope that President Obama will take this seriously enough to understand that he did campaign on some very serious promises for change and I understand that the financial crisis may be taking precedent right now that does not mean that this is something that can be avoided or left unaddressed. Personally I am thrilled that there are some judges who are willing to say what Judge Reinhardt did. This one bit of the article really struck me as something I wish more people would consider:

Judge Reinhardt confronted the question differently, and concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act, as applied to Mr. Levenson’s request, was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment guarantee of “due process of law.”
“A bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot provide a rational basis for governmental discrimination,” Judge Reinhardt wrote.
In adopting the Defense of Marriage Act, Congress said the government had a legitimate interest in “defending and nurturing the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage.”
But Judge Reinhardt said the denial of benefits to same-sex spouses would not encourage gay men and lesbians to marry members of the opposite sex or discourage same-sex marriages.
“So the denial cannot be said to nurture or defend the institution of heterosexual marriage,” the judge wrote.

Sunday Morning Reads

I have a tendency to flip through my Sunday T Magazine a bit quickly because I should really be doing homework and not reading the paper for fun – especially not the style magazine of all things but I very rarely can resist. It is my favourite part of the Sunday paper, I just adore looking at all the beautiful clothes and new styles but I often find that I don’t see many articles that truly catch my attention (I’m more a science section fan in that regard).

So imagine my surprise when I found the article “Butch Fatale” and my delight when I saw the fabulous outline of Rachel Maddow. As a member of the queer community it is always a pleasant surprise to see any such thing put in to the news. Especially into T Magazine, I mean that’s a pretty great place to be. It’s interesting because the article speaks of how lesbians very often overlooked in the gay community and for that matter pretty much everywhere else. I mean there are always more than enough lesbian stereotypes to go around the table but if anyone should ask what would image would you conjure of a “hot” lesbian, I don’t think anyone could answer it. There are just too many differing views. And honestly with lipstick lesbians running about how do you even know if they’re gay? But Daphne Merkin makes a great assessment when she said that the lesbians finally have a real icon to turn to in Rachel Maddow. Maddow has captured the hearts of gays & straights, men & women… in fact, I’d say she’s bewitched pretty much anyone who leans a touch left. I’d say that’s score one for the girls that so very often get overlooked. I mean who wouldn’t want to be funny, smart, well-respected and a bit of a wallflower if you could be like Rachel Maddow? I certainly would. In the words of Daphne Merkin, I am offically a fan that “Lesbian Glamour Steps Out of the Closet” in the form of Rachel Maddow.

My next fabulous find of the morning was a piece on the absolutely classic, timeless packaging of Chanel No. 5. Perhaps it is simply because No. 5 happens to be one of my all time favourite fragrances or perhaps it is because there are certain packages that I just adore (Chanel No. 5 being one of them) that I love taking a look at how it came about. I mean I think Gabrielle Chanel was one of the most forward thinking women of her time to be able to come up with such timeless classics. I mean to understand how to imprint something into one’s memory in that way takes talent that very few people have. I always tend to relate these things to the only other thing that I think has such a timeless quality and that is the little blue box of Tiffany & Co. I know being part of the queer community that this may sound a bit like a pipe dream but I have always said whoever gets me a little blue box or a little red box (Cartier, of course) will have my hand. While I may not be entirely serious about it since I do believe in spending the rest of your life with the person you love, not just anyone that gets you the ring of your dreams but it would definitely make me think twice before refusing should it not come from the person I was hoping. Granted this is all theoretical since I am nowhere near decisions like that but I think the fact that so many of my very near and dear college friends are getting married that it does make it stand out a bit more. Not to mention in the midst of the recession things like engagement rings and Chanel just cheer up the spirits a bit. At least they do for me.

What Every American Should Know About The Bailout

Now I am no economist, in fact, I will readily admit that there is a wealth of information about the banking system that I know nothing about. But I do try to be informed and to keep up with the news and current events. And considering the state of the economy I have been paying a bit more attention to accounting and how the banking system actually works.

So here are a few things that while everyone has been watching these bailouts go out that should be known. Thanks to John C. Coates (a professor at Harvard Law School) and David S. Scharfstein (a professor of finance at Harvard Business School) who wrote a beautiful op-ed in the New York Times, I now know that the bailouts did not actually go directly to the banks that are having trouble lending but rather to bank holding companies. In their piece they ask why the government would give this money to a bank holding company as opposed to a bank, I mean we aren’t bailing out the automotive companies by giving the money to the equity firms that own those companies so why would we do this with the banks? I realize that we, the people (at large), may not be informed of this. But I would hope that those members of the House Financial Service Committee would be aware of this and would have created legislation to be appropriate to the situation instead of going this awkward (not to mention inefficient) way about it.

The next point was raised by yet another fabulously written op-ed by James Deitrick and Michael Granof (professors of accounting at the University of Texas at Austin). The point that they brought up is how the banks are having such trouble accounting for the money being lent to them by the government. But this should not be so difficult. Every non-profit is required to have their accounting systems in order such that they can be held accountable for the funds they receive from various parties. Now, if a non-profit organization can keep their books accordingly, one would imagine that this should not be such a difficult task for a bank. I mean banks are financial institutions, which leads you to believe that they should have a sufficient understanding of accounting to be able to manage the money that they have. I mean isn’t that the point of a bank. If one were to decide to be a banker, it shouldn’t be so difficult to imagine that said banker could be held accountable for their actions. And that they would be capable of having it done correctly. I mean if bankers cannot do this then why are they managing banks, perhaps we should be turning to the accounting teams at non-profits for some guidance. But in all seriousness, it should not be cause for this much of a stir, it should be standard business practice or at least one that they are familiar with.

Lastly, I’d like our government to remember that these are not free handouts to spoiled children who misbehaved. It may be critical to our economy to aid the banks but it is also critical to our economy to not encourage poor practices. However, it is critical that we encourage those wayward souls to start implementing best practices, such as responsible accounting so that things like this will have less of a chance of occurring. Let us remember that it was no accident that we ended up in this position. And if our lawmakers, who are bailing these irresponsible people out of a self-made crisis, do not set the record straight about what is acceptable and what is not, I have little faith that such an event will not occur again in the future.

When Good Is Not Enough

Why is it so difficult for politicians to admit that they make mistakes? And why is it that we think that reaching across the aisle is more important currently than making effective changes to the major bills going through Congress to actually effectively change the way things are headed. I mean surely making nice with the Republicans, who I would like to note, have quite successfully been ousted out of the House, Senate and White House or we could pass some legislation that actually puts some good back into this country. Tax cuts are not effective and they are not the path to helping out people who are truly struggling. Let me tell you those tax cuts are not helping the guy that just got laid-off… you know one of the most recent in the 500k+ that have lost their jobs thus far.

I love reading Paul Krugman’s op-eds (like the most recent one) because while they can be a little depressing, he is generally quite insightful. Also, I have noticed he has become more emphatic as the economic crisis has been getting worse, which I am eternally thankful for because it is nice to have someone actually care and speak intelligently about what is going on. What I can’t fathom is why we still have these Wall St schmucks advising our new President. I mean, really, it would’ve been such a tragic idea to take someone who may not be in industry but, oh, maybe a Nobel Prize recipient instead who can actually speak intelligently about economic theory and perhaps not go down the same path of greed that Wall St has been following for far too long.

For one, I think the politicians are understating the severity of this situation, which is really not helping our cause. Not to mention the fact that everyone wants to be a “centrist” because it’s oh so safe in politics. But in reality they just created a big gaping hole in some of the most significant legislature of our time. Seriously, was that necessary? It’s so hard to hope for change and for rebound when it just seems like they aren’t getting the memo.

Let’s Lower Standards Some More

That sounds like a great idea. I love reading articles on education just to frustrate myself a little more with what people think are great ideas for the young people growing up in this country. My pet frustration of the day is how some schools are now expanding options for the “middle tier” of kids. So maybe I’m a little biased having been in honors/AP classes for my academic career. But I do not believe in catering to the so-called middle tier at all.

Perhaps what this system really needs are classes that cater to the fact that students are different but I don’t think we should be dragging the best and brightest down into the masses. If we have gifted and talented programs they are there for a reason! There are so many bright kids even in those classes who are not challenged enough. To drag them further down is criminal, in my opinion.

What this education system needs are people who think logically. Let’s think about it the so-called middle-tier are having issues because you have too many kids in classes that are too large for skill sets that are too diverse. If you simply cut down the class sizes and put kids that are on the same page in the classes that will solve all sorts of problems. I remember one of the best classes I took was my 3 person AP French Literature class. We learned so much in that one year because we were all on approximately the same level and could actually get through massive amounts of material and our teacher could cater to our actual needs. But she also wouldn’t let students into the class if you weren’t ready to take it, which I think makes sense.

In fact, in my high school they had 4 sets of classes. The ones I was in which were part of a special program that you had to apply to get into, much like college except there was no application fee required. Then there were honors classes that were part of the “regular” school and regular classes and special education classes. I think that system actually worked fairly well. Surely, some of the teachers in the “regular” school could have been better and that is something I feel very strongly that needs to be worked out.

But I don’t think that smart children should have to have their classes infiltrated by students who are not ready for those courses. It doesn’t help when you get into college and you have to compete with students from other countries who are the best and the brightest. It doesn’t help when you are in the work force and you are competing in a global economy. Not to mention a global economy that is currently crumbling so being the best is even more crucial. Being mediocre is not something to strive for and it is not something to cater to. I am all for pushing one’s boundaries but I don’t think compromising standards to allow more students into difficult classes is the right direction to be going in.

Fitness Dieting Bets?

Now that’s certainly an idea that never occurred to me until one of my childhood friends’ fiance told me that he had a bet with his best man that whoever lost the closest to 10% body fat by his wedding they would donate some amount of money to the charity of their choice. Now this was an especially interesting bet because the fiance is significantly more conservative than his friend so the charities that they picked out were specifically chosen to irk the other person and to give them motivation to do better than the other guy. I remember hearing this idea and finding it quite amusing but brushing it off as just something a couple of crazy guys were doing until I opened up my Thursday Styles to find: Dieting? Put Your Money Where Your Fat Is.

I currently find this a really intriguing idea because typically I think most dieting incentives that I’ve seen work for people tend to go hand in hand with dating. Actually one of my friends has an interesting theory that whenever people first get into relationships they start with this “must go to gym and get hot” mentality because of course you want to impress the person you’re dating. And according to her then it moves into the “happy fat” part of the relationship and if there is a break up then there is the post-relationship “get back in shape” to burn stress and then cycle repeats.

So I think this diet betting is an interesting idea to keep some of the motivation after you have found the person you have reached the “happy fat” phase. And hopefully won’t have to go through the pain of a break up to maintain a certain level of fitness. Or you know, you could be one of those motivated people who just likes to go to the gym. For myself, I find joining sports teams works as motivation to stay in shape because otherwise you end up letting your teammates down. And let’s face it, who really wants to lose? I mean everyone says losing isn’t a big deal, especially if you’re play for “fun” but I don’t think anyone actually means it. At least not anyone that has ever played competitively in their life. We may be willing to admit that we aren’t at the same level of fitness that we once were when we were competitive but by no means do we actually want to be a “bad” team.

Is There A New First Lady Of Politics

Well Kirsten Gillibrand does seem to be making quite an impression. In fact I believe she has been in the New York Times every day since this past Saturday when I first read this piece on her. I know that there has been much skepticism amongst the Democrats of New York but considering the NY political scene isn’t exactly the kindest world I have to say I am impressed with her from what I have heard. She seems to be a woman of many talents and I respect that.

Quite frankly even being poster-child for the NRA doesn’t bother me because she actually has valid reasons behind it, perhaps not reasons I agree with or viewpoints that I care for but I appreciate that she can justify them. I also like that she’s ambitious and spunky and at ease in the city and the country. That’s a great thing to have in a Senator. I have high hopes for the new Junior Senator from New York. And I’m excited about what she may be able to accomplish. It’s great to have another woman fill Hillary’s shoes, an accomplished woman at that who has earned her way into the seat and did not have it handed to her as it would have to Caroline Kennedy. Not that Caroline Kennedy isn’t smart but really I don’t see how her credentials could have stood. I’m glad to have a woman who actually has made a concerted effort to work her way into such a position.

Mapping The Ocean

I’m not sure I ever would have thought that mapping the ocean would be that cool… ok, that’s not entirely true, I definitely think it would be cool but I certainly wouldn’t have thought about it for the same reasons that Dr. Sylvia Earle has. In fact, after reading this beautiful article about her, I would kill to be like her when I grow up… except that I, technically, am already grown up. Oops.

You know my favourite section of the newspaper is the Science section on Tuesdays. It doesn’t always have great stuff but there are definitely more than a few interesting articles to be found there.

Anyway, whenever I read things like this I am always stunned by just how much one woman can accomplish just out of sheer interest/fascination with a subject. Who knew that mapping the ocean could be so cool especially the plant-life. It’s just amazing what curiosity can do for science. The world would be a far less interesting place without people like Dr. Earle.

Seriously, A Love Potion?

Now I don’t know about you, but I can say that I have certainly had times when I wished there existed some sort of love potion or even anti-love potion. But who would ever think that such a pipe dream could ever make it into reality? Certainly not I.

At least not until I stumbled across this. Now just imagine if we could turn on/off that “love” switch all by ourselves… wouldn’t that be amazing? Ok, well in theory I think it could be but in all honesty, I think I would miss some of that confusion and unknown. I mean would you really want your partner to be able to give you some drug to make you be “more in love” with them? It’s an interesting dilemma and possibly a great ethical question considering you are playing with someone’s emotions.

Regardless of the ethical dilemma and all those higher level questions on a purely scientific basis, this is possibly one of the coolest discoveries I think has been found to date. Although I do wonder if anyone could truly bottle love, I do like to think it is one of life’s biggest mysteries.