Harpowoman Honks

Hello, I must be going . . . The Eclectic Musings of a Screwball

Bloggers for Hire—Embracing their Passion February 7, 2007

The AP reported last night that Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, wants John Edwards to fire two bloggers on his staff because of past posts.  The bloggers, Melissa McEwan and Amanda Marcotte, published posts on their site that strongly criticized the Catholic Church for its stance on homosexuality, abortion and contraception.  I myself have criticized the Catholic Church for the same reasons and, being baptized Roman Catholic (I am recovering as they say)—I feel I have a responsibility to criticize when I see a spiritual stance, or a dogma that hurts so many.  This gets to the point of what I wish to write about. 

Why on earth would Edwards take heed of Mr. Donohue’s demand and fire these young bloggers?  Not that he would, but Mr. Donohue’s suggestion is absurd to say the least.  If I were to fire everyone from my life who did something or said something contrary to my beliefs, or said something that I deemed rude and inappropriate—I would be a very lonely, stagnated, gal.  I run with a diverse crowd.  People around me, including my dear family (immediate and acquired) often say things that piss me off and offend me.  That, Mr. Donohue, is life.  And I am glad for it.  If I only gathered around me folks who thought the same way I do, said the same things I said, and behaved in the same way I do, I would never be challenged.  I would never be questioned.  And . . . I would never grow.  Stagnation kills, Mr. Donohue.  Furthermore, such a stance is not democratic and Edwards is running a democratic campaign, not, I am assuming, a dictatorship. 

Bloggers today are more than the simple odd counterculture group writing about their personal lives:  dates, relationship problems, music, TV and the like—they are, often, touchstones to the beat of the nation’s pulse. One should never confuse bloggers with news reporters.  We are not news reporters, but a hybrid born from the editorial persuasion united with the water cooler talker who reflects on politics, social issues, cultural issues, religious issues and the like.  Bloggers of this nature are passionate creatures; this is what makes their posts interesting and worthy of a read.  When campaigns embrace bloggers, they need to embrace the spirit of blogging.  If, for example, Edwards were to freak out over this non-controversy and fire these ladies—hiring, instead, writers who would tow-the-line in creating bland posts which offends none and moves even fewer–he would be a fool. Also foolish would be for political campaigns to avoid hiring any blogger who did not write passionate posts, or who never offended a soul.  Campaigns who do this want simple advertisers, not real voices who challenge the status-quo.  In that case, please avoid hiring true bloggers. 

harpowoman

Interesting related post: A look at John McCain’s blogger-consultant

 

Climate Change versus Global Warming January 31, 2007

Well, I read last night that the Bush administration has spent the last 6 years pressuring scientists to down play global warming by not allowing some scientists to give media interviews on their research. . .

Read: Lawmakers hear of interference in global warming science.

. . . Playing down research and rewriting key phrases such as “global warming.” There is a general feeling among some republicans that science has not proven that global warming is linked to human activity and increasing greenhouse gasses and, as Bush apparently believes, it is just too expensive to put a cap on greenhouse admissions. And if you remember, in his address to the Union last week, Bush did not use the phrase “global warming” but he said “climate change.” This is significant because “climate change” sounds far more like a natural, although worrisome, than “global warming,” which has been linked to human’s doing. “Climate Change,” rather, sounds like a phenomenon that is out of our hands. It is nature’s doing and nature will do what nature will do.

These two phrases do not represent the same thing but they are being used rhetorically to confuse the issue. This is vital. Why even good old Wikipedia has two separate entries, not one, detailing what is Global Warming and what is Climate Change.” This is politics. If we equate “global warming” with natural “climate change,” we can keep on doing what we have been doing to the earth. The phenomenon could just be natural and we could just be experiencing a normal “warming” trend which, in the end, would amount to nothing. So let’s not get hot under the collar shall we???????

So, there is the question of politics in science. It was suggested by Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist from the University of Colorado, that science and politics are simply mixed, and that all sides of the ideographic spectrum “cherry pick” the issue: democrats make a bigger deal out of global warming and Republicans play it down because, I am assuming, of lobbying interests of big corporations that want to continue shooting greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the air. Certainly Dr. Pielke is right, that science sponsored by the government or a certain company will often reflect that company’s or government’s ideology—we have to remember who is singing those paychecks and handing out those research grants. This is not to say that all science is tainted, it is a complicated issue. But as much as we would like to profess the pureness of science—science, just like everything else, can be skewed to fit the circumstances. “Facts” are not simply “facts.” This is why Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia said that “I am no climate-change denier, [but] the issue of politicizing science has itself become politicized.”

Pleazzee—oh god the rhetoric! First, notice that Rep. Davis also, like Bush, used the phrase “climate change” and not “global warming.” It is easy not to be a “climate-change denier,” because climates do change—the questions are:  How fast and why?  Second, he changed the focus on issue as well, from the activity of repressing scientific research regarding Global Warming, to a political question regarding politicizing politics! I admit it was a graceful frame changing technique, done smoothly, but done specifically.

 

Continuing the Conversation with Hillary Clinton January 26, 2007

In the last six years, America has been asked to live in an either/or framework, as embodied in President George W. Bush’s 2001 statement: “You are either with us or against us.”  Frankly, this is very powerful rhetoric.  It has been known to create solidarity where there was none.  It can help create a sense of nationality, and to affect a call to arms.  But it is one of the most dangerous calls ever invented by humanity.  Cloaked in a guise of unity, the either/or call divides—neighbor against neighbor—nation against nation.  It is a division that quickly gives way to exclusion as it demands adherence to a singularity of thought and being, regardless of the consequences or correctness of the call.  It creates, simply, tragedy.  This is not an American call.  This is not an American ideal.  Regardless of past faults, the American call has always been a call for plurality.  The acceptance of difference, deliberation and democracy.  Democracy can’t exist in an either/or frame, nor can America demand or promote democracy using this mistaken call to division.  And yet, for the last six years, this is exactly what the current administration has tried to do.  And with this call, with this insistence, our nation has been divided against itself, divided against its allies, and tragedy has touched thousands.  Not only with the war in Iraq, but here at home in the United States.   

We have gone from a balanced federal budget to a skyrocketing deficit, which leaves Americans vulnerable to competing national interests.  As with all debt situations, we must ask ourselves, what will happen when our creditors come to call?  How will we repay our debts and at what cost?  Will more social programs, designed to help the least but still deserving citizens in our community, be lost in the shuffle?  Other issues hang in the balance as well.  The National Coalition on Health Care reports that approximately 46,000-48,000 thousand people are without healthcare in this country (See the NCHC Report ), and more people still rely on insurance policies that hardly cover costs when serious illness strikes.  We find ourselves at the mercy of private drug companies and medical insurance companies whose major concern is their financial bottom line—not the bottom line of a human life.   We also face a crisis with natural resources, such as our reliance on oil.  However, even with all the rhetoric from the current administration regarding the need to find alternative fuels, little incentive has been offered to car makers to change their designs or to convince Americans to embrace a new direction.  We are asked to use less gas, but are not asked to create new national habits.  This, in turn, impacts our environment.  Why, I find myself asking, have we abandoned our commitment towards lowering greenhouse gasses when it has become abundantly clear that we are negatively impacting our environment and contributing to global warning.  

There is, of course, the war in Iraq.  The most dividing of all issues.  How do we honor our new found responsibilities there and, at the same time, allow the Iraqis to take control of their own country?  How do you fight a war on terror, a war that has no set geographic location?  How do we rebuild international relations that have been polarized because of this “war on terror?”  

These and many more issues (cultural, economic, political, and international) demand not a division of interests, an either/or frame, but a community of conversation, debate, and the creation of new habits not only in Washington, but among all of us citizens.  The problem with the either/or equation is not only that it calls on us to make a choice between two polar opposites, but it suggests that there is an absolute end product, an end to the conversation.  Yet we know, from our own daily lives and realities, there can be no true end, only the hope of an end.  This hope propels us to create evolving solutions to evolving problems.  This is the hope, I believe, that results of the 2006 election articulated.  It is also the hope that Hillary Clinton offers us.  An invitation to continue the conversation is an invitation to end an either/or articulation.  Let’s ready ourselves for the challenge.  That is, after all, what democracy is all about. 

 

Google’s Book Search January 3, 2007

Filed under: Communication,Google,Google Book Search,Great Sites,Internet Links — harpowoman @ 12:02 pm

I wanted today to offer a review of sorts regarding Google’s new Book Search (currently in Beta). First, I must mention that for me ebooks are a wonderful.  Being a bookworm (books are the one thing I constantly try to hold onto), I do love the smell of the paper and ink.  I truly enjoy that musty smell one finds with a really old book. I also love imagining who had read and touched the pages before me.  What was the history of that book from author conception to the reader’s eyes?  For example, I recently got an older Kenneth Burke book from the library and while looking for a particular quote I knew would be in there, a pressed flower fell out onto the floor.  I made a book mark out of the pressed flower—somehow it made me feel good.  But the truth is, ebooks are wonderful.  I owned the first Rocket Reader

 Rocket Ebook Reader

(NuvoMedia) in Grad school and loved it, absolutely loved it.  I found it versatile (I could also sink my own documents to it, as well as free ebooks I found at Project Gutenberg. I could add notes and bookmarks).  I read my first Dan Brown book for under two dollars, Angels and Demons, before he was discovered by the world.  Then I owned the RCA ebook and found that one less versatile, I had to update it over a phone line and such, plus there were lovely restrictions on the books, on book formats, and the books started to get more expensive.One thing before I get to Google’s new Book Search, I think it is horrible that ebooks are now becoming just as expensive as regular books.  I don’t get it.  Technically, they should be cheaper because you aren’t paying for printing costs, paper costs and binding costs.  Further, in order to create a paper book, you first need an “electronic” version—thus, the cost, in the end, should be cheaper.  Yet I am finding that this is no longer so, and it is a shame because if ebooks were really cheaper, more people might be using and reading them and we could save a few trees in the process.  Further, there are too many “exclusive” formats now, with each company coming up with their own format that can only work on their own product.  The fact that ebooks are not versatile enough to read on any type of reader is a drawback and one that has now stopped me from being a regular ebook reader.  But I digress.

One great thing about ebooks is that you can search them for a keyword or phrase.  As I am an academic type, this rocks.  And it was how I accidentally came across Google Book Search.    Google states on their website that Google Book Search offers you the ability to “search the full text of books to find the ones that interest you and learn where to buy or borrow them.”  For some books, the one’s where the copyright has expired or the ones where the publisher has given permission, you can read and search the entire text.  For books without copyrights, you can actually download (PDF) and print the book if you wish.  For other books, such as popular ones!, there may only be a “Limited Preview,” a “Snipped View,” or a “No Preview Available” option.  Largely, I found that most books offered a limited preview with a fairly large area of search possibilities (meaning that only a few pages here and there were blocked from viewing).  Finally, when viewing the book, to the right side of your computer screen, you find links to where you can buy the books or libraries that happen to carry the books. 

The fact that libraries are included was particularly nice as, for folks like me; I often find I run out of money to spend on books.  Writing a dissertation, I am buying a lot of books, but as our budget is not allowing me to buy all the books I need—I am finding the library a beautiful place.  Google’s new service opens the door to many possibilities.  Not only can I spend more time with a book, reading it and looking over the contents, before I buy it or check it out, it also aids in the process of finding those hard to find quotes in older books missing an index.  This is appealing to me.  For example, I had checked out, read, and taken extensive notes on Kenneth Burke’s Philosophy of Literary Form.   But yesterday I found I needed a note on what makes a tragedy that I had not taken down specifically.  I was doing a search, “Burke on tragedy,” and found the book I needed on Google Book Search.  It found my quote for me, and I was delighted.  I also had the info I needed to be able to cite the quote correctly.  This could have been a huge problem for me involving getting the book retransferred to my branch at the library again, and then checking out the book, and then going through the whole book again to find the quote.  In this case, Google’s Book Search did the foot work for me.So, I applaud Google’s effort here and I also will end by offering a list of where you can get free ebooks or check out ebooks to read:

Gutenberg 

University of Virginia Library‘s Etext Center

The Net Library

And, of course, Google Book Search

 

Merry–Merry December 20, 2006

Filed under: Activism and Humor,Christmas,Florida,Seattle,Video — harpowoman @ 12:18 am

Sorry for being gone so long. Oddly enough I had to move to Washington State in order to get a Florida like Wind storm with winds, in some places, up to 90 mph. Well, we lost our electricity for several days, froze our butts off, and cursed the winter. Given the choice between being without electricity in a Florida Summer or a Seattle Winter, I am all for Florida!

Well to make it up to everyone, I have created a tacky, and some might suggest poorly produced/with questionable content, video. My first post on YouTube! I hope you enjoy it.

R

 

Deconstructing the Culture of Commercial Flying December 12, 2006

I get more material from airports! From the spaces (the few that there are) allotted to smokers, to the hierarchal structure that airlines creates for their customers, the material sometimes feels endless. Just in time for the holiday traveling, I thought I would examine the latter.

On my last trip to Florida and back, I found myself cloistered into what I will call spaces of “flight class.” From purchasing my airplane tickets, to waiting to board the plane, to my experience on the plane, I found myself wound up in a tangle of capitalist division where I was one of the “second classes” of flying culture.

First, let’s start with the ticket buying process. I am not an “elite” anything. I do not have “points.” I do not belong to any special flying “club.” Nor do I own and utilize any of those special credit cards that make me a “gold,” “platinum,” or “preferred” member (more on this later). I am quite simply a woman looking for the best price I can find on tickets, which means I scan the internet for those “cheap tickets.” I used to go through the airlines, but I found that nine times out of ten they were more expensive than the internet sites. However, because of this need to find the most economical way to fly, I end up taking different airlines and do not accrue points for a later date. Even if I did accrue the points, I would be confused as to how, when, and under what conditions I would be allowed to use those points (oh the horror stories I have heard from friends and family on this account!). Nevertheless, my point is if you cannot afford to use the same airline every time you fly, you can’t earn their points (which they try to not let you use) and so you can’t earn the special favors or the elevated status of “preferred.”

Add this experience with the other cultural practices and you start to feel like you are nothing better than a piece of chewed-up gum under the shoe of, say, US Airways. Now I only pick on US Airways because they happen to be the airline I was stuck with on this flight. I could easily use many of the other airlines to make my points as the airline culture does not differ radically between airlines (although I do know some are not as “elitest” oriented as US Air). But US Air it was, and so they are the ones that will get the brut of my critical observations.

First I check in. Because I am not a “preferred” person or a first class flyer, I get little to no help. Although you can check in online, I avoid this as I once had a terrible experience doing it. So, it is to the long lines and the computer setup areas. Of course the “preferred” folks have the short line and get to talk to what one assumes is a live human being. Yet these “elite” folks are few, as their line is small. To the Airport culture, mirroring our everyday culture, the elite are a small population compared to the amount of gum-on-bottom-of-shoe folks.

After checking in and having a human person check in my bag, I walk to security where everything is scrutinized. Here there is no elite line (although I have seen in some airports a first class passenger line where the folks get the ‘royal’ security checkout); we are all in the same boat. I take off my shoes, coat, and watch and am grateful that I can keep my underwear and bra on. However one wonders about the bra. On this trip I was sporting an under-wire bra and if a metal nail file can be considered a weapon, what about the wire in my bra???? But I digress. After disrobing, showing the contents of my medication (unlike Rush Limbaugh, I keep the goods under my name), and re-collecting the under 4oz of hand sanitation liquid, toothpaste and cough syrup, I walk to my gate and am verbally accosted by US Air employees wanting me to apply for their special Visa card where I have to pay a yearly fee (privilege ?) of $99 for a variable APR interest of 18.24 percent. I am told that this card is a “special” card—one that will give me, immediately, 25,000 bonus miles once I put only 1 dollar on the card, that I will become a “preferred” person when I fly and I might get a free ticket for whomever I am traveling with. But they lost me at the $99 annual fee and the 18.24 interest rate. However, it is nice to know that elite status can still be bought even if it wasn’t inherited or bestowed divinely! Ah capitalism! But again, I digress.

I then wait for my “Zone” to be called. I am in Zone 5 and there are only 6 Zones so I know I have a long wait. The woman next to me asks me what Zone I am in while telling me, and see seemed delighted by this proclamation, that she is in Zone 1: “But you know, I bought this ticket ages ago and so I get to board after the first class.” Zones would make sense to me if they were arranged in such a way as to load the plane from back to front. But this is not the case as when I enter with my other zone 5 mates, I noticed that people are seated all over the plane—front, back, middle—and so it does appear as if my “zone 1” friend was right: “first come first serve!” It is simply another way to let you know how “preferred” you are in the grand scheme of “preferrededness.”

Anyway, as I sink into my rather small seat, I am indoctrinated with phrases of “preferrededness,” by the flight attendants to remind me of my gum-on-bottom-of-shoe status: “preferred members,” “elite members,” “first class passengers,” “star alliance network members” and so on. Each of these different members get special privileges such as, I am guessing, free headphones and an extra bag of those awful snack mixes!

The headphones are such a bloody scam! You pay to buy a pair of headphones that will ONLY work in their plane because of the two prong design (I have noticed that this 2 prong design is different for most airlines making the headphone non-compatible with other airlines). And here too I was reminded of my gum-on-bottom-of shoe place as one male airline attendant snuck a free pair of headphones to another male passenger while approximately 20 of us were waiting in line to use the bathroom. The passenger who received this gift saw that I saw the hand off and smiled sheeply at me: “go ahead” I thought, “take your free headphone . . . I think they are stupid anyway!!!!!”

This brings me to another “preferred” airline culture fact: there are only 4 bathrooms on a plane that sits approximately 160 people–two in the front of the plane and two in the back. The front bathrooms are saved for the first class folks (all 10 of them) and the back two bathrooms are for 150 non-preferred folks –that is a 75 to 1 bathroom ratio. Now, I was sitting next to a man who really, and I mean really, needed to use the bathroom. He saw the line of folks for the back of the plane and, pragmatically, went instead to the first class area to use the bathroom. He was quickly kicked out even though no one was using the bathrooms up front, and was forced to stay in line for the non-preferred, elite, US Air club and non-star alliance network bathroom. My bladder felt for him . . . the insanity!

Finally, when the flight was almost over, we were again bombarded with the opportunity to get that special visa card from our flight attendants who worked hard to sell the program and get us to fill out the application right then and there. Folks who were sleeping found applications sitting on their tray tables or laps (one attendant put an application on the lap of my poor bathroom man while he was sleeping). The implication was if we wanted the status, if we wanted to use a bathroom with relatively no wait, if we wanted to use the airport elite-preferred club, or get those miles, we will pay for that privilege. To not to pay, to not consent to the concept of debt, was at once equated to not being part of the group, not enjoying concepts of preferrededness, eliteness, star potential (as in their star alliance network) and other catch phrases coined to make one feel special and noted. As for me, I guess I will continue to be that gum-on-the-bottom-of-the-shoe flying passenger—I will just make sure to use the bathroom at the airport several times before I walk onto the plane for a long flight!

 

Updates on My Return December 7, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — harpowoman @ 10:07 am

Good day good people,

Well, I am back from Florida and back from taking my oral exam/proposal defense.  I am delighted, and extremely relieved, to say that I passed the defense and have now advanced to candidacy. All that is left is for me to write my dissertation—the final hump in the long process, one I will most likely be sad to see end.  Florida was glorious—indeed it was like being home with the sun wrapping me in warmth and the ocean lapping at my toes.  I would like to thank my dear friends who put me up, took care of me, made me laugh and listened to my insane ramblings regarding my research and theoretical ideas.  All in all, the trip was crazy busy but rejuvenating. 

I will return to my normal blogging efforts starting next week–beginning with a deconstruction of airport culture just in time for the holidays!  I hope all of you dear folks are doing fine and well.  Let me know what you have been up to. 

Honk, honk

R