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Showing posts from 2016

The Divided States of America

I didn't get much sleep last night.  I woke with a knot in my stomach.  I am still in shock.  Disbelief.  I don't understand how this happened.

To me, this race wasn't about Trump vs Hillary.  It was about basic human decency vs saying whatever you want to say.  So many of my friends said "both candidates are bad" or some similar phrase.  No.  Emphatically no.  That is not true.  One candidate literally said on live television "You can tell them to go fuck themselves" and was applauded for it.  The other candidate said "When they go low, we go high.  We're stronger together." and she was almost elected, but not quite.

Hillary got about 200,000 more votes than Donald did, which I take as a small consolation prize.  But each candidate got just over 59 million votes.  That means there are 59 million people in this country who believe that Trump was the best person for the job.  Those 59 million people either intentionally or implicitly appr…

Cancel the gym

After I went to the gym this morning, I pulled in to the McDonald's drive through.  While waiting for my food, I played out in my mind a possible conversation I might have with someone concerning just this.  In fact, I have had many real conversations of similar nature.
"How was your morning?"
"It was good.  I went to the gym.  Then I grabbed a late breakfast at McDonald's on my way to work."
"Won't that cancel out?"
"Cancel what?"
"Going to McDonald's after the gym.  Won't that undo all the work you just did?"

I understand the humor.  I laugh about it.  It's funny.  And I think humor is an important thing, and that we should all laugh a little bit more and be offended a little bit less.  And so I write this not up-in-arms, but in the attempts of perhaps reaching some of those who literally believe this line of reasoning.

To the person who asserts that eating "cancels out" going to the gym, I ask just this…

Personably Responsible

The other day, I posted about personal responsibility.  One area in which I think we Americans need to be more responsible for our own actions is that of ethics in business.  We liberals often like to criticize big businesses for doing unethical things (or things we perceive as unethical, or at least questionable).  We criticize them for paying CEOs big bucks while only offering minimum wage to their workers--for maximizing returns to shareholders rather than increasing salaries to the little guys, for moving jobs to other countries where labor is cheaper, etc.

So this is a topic I have thought about a lot over the last few years.  One thing that always comes to my mind is "Am I engaging in the same behavior?  Am I dirtying my own hands?"  I can blog about how Walmart needs to pay its employees more or how restaurant servers should be paid at least minimum wage, etc.  But I have found that the loudest form of communication in our society is monetary in nature.  In other wor…

Going high

In her DNC convention speech this summer, Michelle Obama said "when they go low, we go high".  Many liberals have echoed this saying, and many have given their interpretation of what it means or have stated examples of how they wish to do follow the advice.  In its own rite, I believe it to be good advice.  And I wish to take this opportunity to talk about something that has been grating on me slowly over time but more increasingly during the last few days.

First, to exemplify the saying itself on an unrelated topic (but one where the example is far more dramatic), I would like to talk about foreign policy.  Many people (conservatives and liberals alike) will say things like "bomb the hell out of ISIS".  I understand that it is natural to want to retaliate.  It is human nature to want revenge.  When someone attacks us, we want to attack back.  But I also know that what Theodore Geisel wanted to teach us in his book The Butter Battle Book is true--that escalation on…

Personally Responsible

In light of current events, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the importance of personal responsibility.  I will do so by first providing an example in my own life.  This January, I was pulled over.  I wasn't sure why.  I didn't think I had been speeding.  The officer told me that my vehicle registration had expired.  In sincere incredulity, I responded "It is?" I honestly thought that I had remembered to renew it on time last year.  It turns out I had been driving around for six months with an expired registration.  When I realized this, after I was given the citation, I drove straight to the DMV to renew.  On the court date, I appeared in court, pled "no contest", paid my fine, and went home.

I was unaware that I had broken the law.  It was not intentional.  However, when it was brought to my attention, I owned my actions and did what I could to make it right.  I did not deny it.  I didn't blame anyone else.  I could have blamed the DMV o…

The house that Keith sold

Karen and I were a young married couple.  We were in love and ambitious.  I should correct that.  She was ambitious and her ambition sort of spread to me as well.  She was also very frugal, which I admired and respected.  We had just moved to Knoxville for me to attend grad school.  I figured that since I would be there for 5 years or so, it would be financially wise to purchase a house for us to live in rather than pay rent for that long.  So we stayed in on-campus housing while we went house shopping.

We looked at several houses.  Karen was really excited when we first started looking because there were houses in the $20k range.  Our realtor was adventurous enough to take us to one such house, and relieved when we decided we didn't want a house in that poor of condition.  (There were large holes in the floor, all the copper had been stripped, the house smelled strongly of urine, etc.)  We shopped around a lot, and possibly would have looked at other areas in town if it weren'…

The arc of the universe

Sunday morning, a horrific act occurred.  It was not the first and it will not be the last--whether you consider mass shootings or attacks on gay clubs, or terrorism or any kind, etc.  But the reaction to it has made me glad.

Answering the call for much-needed blood in the area, thousands of people lined up to donate.  Ironically, sexually active gay people are still banned by the FDA from donating blood.  But to see the overwhelming response from concerned neighbors, friends, family, and perfect strangers is very heartwarming.

I remember as a child seeing something about gay people on TV.  The memory is vague, but as I recall there was some debate as to whether or not it is a choice to be gay.  I remember at that time there was a general feeling of disgust toward gay people--either from the TV show itself or from my family.  On another occasion, I was watching a TV show and there were two teenage boys who were friends.  At one point in the show, the one boy confesses to his friend th…

Damn privileged people

Someone that I know recently made the comment "damn black people" in reference to problems with crime.  When I voiced my concern about the blatant racism in this comment to a mutual friend, the friend said "Well he's right because most of the crime in this area is committed by black people."

So I wanted to take some time to explain why this is upsetting to me.  I work at a historically black college.  All of my students are black.  My employer is black.  Most of my coworkers are black.  The people I associate with on a daily basis at work are almost all black.  And they are good people.  I see my students work hard and accomplish great things.  They learn what I teach and do well on my tests.  I also listen to them and try to understand what it's like being black in the USA.

I am white.  For that reason, I am privileged.  I belong to the privileged class simply because the melanin count in my skin cells is a certain level.  Many people who belong to a privi…


I have paid more attention to this primary presidential race than any previous race in my life.  I paid a lot of attention to the 2008 election, where I was a strong supporter of libertarian Ron Paul.  My perception at the time was that most of the candidates sounded the same to me, aside from Paul.  I didn't like most of the Republicans running against him and I certainly didn't like any of the Democrats.

Aside from being liberal now, instead of conservative, I feel very differently about the election this year.  To me there is a marked difference between the behavior, the dialogue, and the campaign of the Democrat candidates and the Republican candidates.  I have watched three or four of the Republican debates and several of the Democratic debates and town halls.  Without exception, every Democrat debate has been a respectful event.  The candidates did disagree on many issues, and they even interrupted each other and their voices even grew mildly irritated at some times.  B…

It's my loss too

We humans aren't always very good at expressing empathy for one another.  We probably feel it more often than we express it, and when we express it it may not come across as empathetically as we intended it to.  But even then, I think that we don't feel empathy as often as we could--or should.

I have lost so many friends over the years I couldn't hope to count them all.  Sometimes it's harmless--time or distance allows people to grow apart.  Sometimes it's gradual, sometimes it's abrupt.  Sometimes it ends very disappointingly for both parties.  It may be very hostile or peaceful.  Sometimes it hurts more than others.  I mean to focus on those times when it hurts deeply.  Perhaps it was a close friend, or perhaps the fight which ended the friendship was particularly intense or personal.

I appreciate my friends who say things to try to cheer me up when a friend is lost.  Most of the comments which people make are, in my opinion, clearly of the nature of trying t…

Our business is rejoicing

I like to think that I'm a positive person.  I like to think that I'm generally friendly, amiable, and easy going.  I like to think I have a good mix of positive things to say among the less-pleasant things.  But I just wanted to take a moment to push back against what I can best describe only as the Disney-esque positive-only perspective that I see from time to time.

I had a couple cousins on Facebook who sometime around a year or two ago made a post something to the effect of "I don't want to see any negative posts in my newsfeed.  If you like being negative unfriend me."  I'm paraphrasing, this is strictly from memory, but it was the gist of the post.  So I unfriended them because I know that a good portion of my posts are negative in nature.  I post things which are critical of religion, of conservative views, etc.  Many of my posts are the opposite of feel-good lovey-dovey posts.  I didn't feel particularly close to these cousins, so it wasn't re…

I care

So, as I often do when I'm alone, I was talking to myself while I was cooking dinner just now.  I was recalling a conversation I had with an individual recently.  Based on the things he said in the conversation, I imagined in my mind's eye calling him an asshole to his face the next time I saw him.  Then I realized this particular individual might not mind being called that.  Then I realized I would mind being called that.  It would bother me if someone did.

I won't pretend that I've never been unkind toward other people.  I do it far more commonly that I would like to admit.  But if someone points it out to me it makes me feel bad.  It makes me want to change.  But there are many people who do not feel that way.  So I started thinking about all of the things I care about.

I realized that I want to be all the "good" things.  I want to have all of the attributes which are commonly associated with a good person, a good role model.  I want people to think that …

Negative fat

I've been thinking lately about the way people react when I mention my weight or body shape.  I mean for this post to be a commentary on our society, not a criticism of my friends or their comments.  I know that my friends mean well when they say these things, and I am not offended by them.  These comments have, however, given me food for thought.  I've considered them and digested them--pun intended--and what I have decided is that they are an indictment of our society.

So let me be more specific.  I occasionally say or do something which points out that I have gained weight.  A year ago, I was roughly 50 pounds lighter than I am now.  There are many different ways in which I disclose this information and many different reasons for why I do so.  For example, I may poke my belly out and pat my gut--with or without words accompanying, such as "look how fat I am" or "I really like donuts."  Sometimes it's mere whimsy.  I want to show off my belly or do so…


I visited my family in Utah for Christmas this year.  It's the first time I've been out for Christmas since 2010.  My husband and I visited in 2012, but not for Christmas.  During this trip, my sister planned a tour of the welfare facility run by the LDS church in Salt Lake City, called Welfare Square.  The tour was interesting and educational.  One thought that I had while on that tour stuck with me and I wanted to write about it.

When I started saying things critical of the LDS church in a (semi-)public setting, one of the most common comments I heard from my Mormon friends was "You should say nice things about the church too, not just critical things."  Logically, this is a silly notion.  But it isn't a logical idea, it's a human idea.  It's how we humans think.  We have tunnel vision.  We often feel a need to vilify anything that we see as different or threatening in any way.  So, it is important to remember to include positive things as well as negat…