Wednesday, December 16, 2009

come to think of it google, that's what I think of YOU

When someone leaves a voice message on Google Voice the service will transcribe it and send it as a text message. It's cool, and practical, because it's easier to scan a text than listening to someone talking.

Some words stump the software, though.

So, this is the reason I had a text message from a student that began, "Hi Professor crap, this is Laura...".

Thanks Google. If that's what you think of my last name.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I am the captain of my ship

I liked Clint Eastwood's Invictus. It's uplifting, and it's an interesting comment on reconciliation.

Matt Damon plays the captain of the South African national rugby team. He's good. But you have to wonder, why him? I am sure there are hundreds of accomplished South African actors, who would have been able play the same part without having to spend all that time practicing the accent.

Someone did the math and figured that Americans wouldn't watch a movie set in South Africa if it had actual South Africans in the lead roles. Or, using American actors is a way of saying that the themes of racial tension, reconciliation, and forgiveness, have bearing on American society too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

or, I could just 'unfollow', I guess

I am following Sarah Palin on twitter. I think for every time she mentions 'Wounded Warriors' I will mention another professional group that unselfishly spend their lives serving others. I'll start with nurses and janitors.

the angry chicken

Here is a link for anyone interested in cool, creative stuff you can make yourself. Cooking, sewing, baking, crafts. And making your own deodorant. I love this blog.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I am sorry, but this is just silly

Bill Cosby must have an honorary degree from somewhere because now he is being addressed, and referred to, as 'Doctor Cosby' on morning television. (Yeah, they are all serious about it too.)

Monday, December 07, 2009

so that's a first

There was snow on the mountain peaks this morning, and then in the afternoon - hail!

- Posted from my iPhone

the snl tiger woods skit

Watching this you also learn what a Swedish accent sounds like to the Americans. Turns out it sounds just like a German accent. But who cares.

Oh, wait. I do care. I don't like stereotypes any more than anyone else. And I have to admit it's a little bit startling to see strength and independence portrayed like this.

I hope she leaves him.

Something else, a very funny bit from Andy Borowitz, the Huffington Post:

In one of the largest mass demonstrations in recent history, over one million women claiming to have had sexual liaisons with Tiger Woods marched on Washington today.

Shandy Shanoyne, a 22-year-old thong publicist who had an on-again, off-again relationship with Mr. Woods, said that she organized the march to demand benefits, such as health care and workmen's compensation, for the golfer's many girlfriends.

"We are sick and tired of being told to take our names off our voicemail greetings," she said. "We have demands and they must be met. Quickly. Huge."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

from babs

skin deep: cosmetics safety database

One of my students mentioned the cosmetics safety database the other day. It's a website with a database that allows you to check the toxicity levels of your cosmetics and body products.

The skin lotion I like: 8 out of 10. Woops.

Thanks MacKenzie.

Dan, who reads fine print, suggests checking the info on the rating system, here. An excerpt:

The hazard score represents a synthesis of known and suspected hazards from more than 50 definitive databases. The hazard rating of a product can be higher than for its individual ingredients — it adds up the hazards of all ingredients, and is scaled higher if the product has penetration enhancers or other ingredients that increase skin absorption.

The "data gap" rating is a measure of how much is unknown about an ingredient. Not all ingredients have the same amount of safety data. For example, some ingredients may appear to have low hazards, but this may be due to the fact that they have not have been studied or assessed completely. Other ingredients may appear to have low hazards and have been thoroughly studied or assessed. This score helps differentiate between ingredients and products that have been studied to different degrees.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

the way we think out here in the un-real america

I am following Sarah Palin on Twitter. At 8:45 on Thursday night she has this to say:

Flying 2 Dallas now where bus meets us 2 get early start tomrrw w 1000s of good Texans who are lot like Alaskans:independent/bold/patriotic.

I like to think that I am pretty independent, and sometimes bold too. But I am also a bleeding liberal, and I was raised to believe that international solidarity is healthier than patriotism.

I still think international solidarity (or any solidarity, for that matter) is healthier than patriotism.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

his name was einar

When I was a kid I read a long series of books that had belonged to my mom. The heroine was a young woman, and the books chronicle her life growing up, getting married, and starting a family. Along the way the readers got a few valuable life lessons. What particularly stuck in my mind was the the idea that if you go out without your wedding band, you have to watch out because men will think you are available and it will be awkward.

It was all steeped in 1940s morals and values, and I gobbled it up.

The main character gets married around book 2 or 3. The courtship is traditional and safe, and she marries someone her family know well and love.

The traditional heroine in those books from when my mom was growing up married her first cousin. So, I've always associated marrying your cousin with safety.

In the US, not so much. From today's New York Times:

WHEN Kimberly Spring-Winters told her mother she was in love, she didn’t expect a positive response — and she didn’t get one.

“It’s wrong, it’s taboo, nobody does that,” she recalled her mother saying.

But shortly after the conversation, Ms. Spring-Winters, 29, decided to marry the man she loved: her first cousin.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

substance, substance, substance

I've read Sarah Palin's book Going Rogue. I was going to say something smart about it, but it's just really tedious. Poorly written, 400+ pages, nothing interesting.

What I remember a week after finishing the book is the constant presence of Ms. Palin's young daughter Piper, 7. Her mom mentions her often, and Piper really seems to be a spunky little girl.

And then it hit me: That's how Sarah Palin wants us to see her. Spunky little girl. That's probably what she was at that age, and it's what she wants to remain.

Sad part is, though, that when you're a grown-up all attitude isn't enough.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

if you have cancer, you want to know it, believe me

There are new guidelines out for mammograms and women's self exams in screening for breast cancer. In short, in the US mammograms will no longer be mandatory for women in their 40s, and women will no longer be taught to examine their own breasts for lumps.

I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer when I was 46 years old. I had found the lump myself. I was not part of a risk group. I have no family history of breast cancer. Most breast cancer patients don't.

I understand how statistics work. The bottom line is that on the whole, the gain of all of those mammograms, and all those examinations, don't outweigh the costs, risks (x-rays equal radiation, never a good idea), and anxiety that is created. From the New York Times story: Over all, the report says, the modest benefit of mammograms — reducing the breast cancer death rate by 15 percent — must be weighed against the harms.

If you're part of those 15 percent, things look a little different, though. If a woman like me didn't have mammograms, and didn't know how to do a self exam, chances are that she would live much longer with aggressive cancer spreading, making treatment less effective.

Part of the research that has informed the new guidelines is Swedish. A Swedish friend told me about it a while ago. She also said that in Sweden women are no longer advised to do self exams, because it causes anxiety. Someone on one of the morning shows today said that "our breasts become our enemies".

The bottom line for me is that in the end, life is going to kill all of us. There is no avoiding that. But we have to make sure that whatever we have, that can be treated, gets detected as early as possible.

So, if we won't have mammograms until we turn 50, we need to make sure we learn how to examine our own breasts.

If it freaks you out, get over it. You really have no choice.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

you tell me

This is a two month old little girl. I've borrowed the photo from the front page of the November 16, 2009, online edition of the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. The headline says that a billion people in the world suffer from hunger. And then there is this pull quote from a UN expert: "There is no lack of food, it's a matter of social inequality."

It seemed to me that a mainstream American paper wouldn't use those words, 'social inequality', so to compare I looked up a similar story in the New York Times. It was the only story on global hunger that had a picture. Here is the photo they used:

And here is the quote from their UN expert: “The way we manage the global agriculture and food security system doesn’t work,” said Kostas G. Stamoulis, a senior economist at the organization. “There is this paradox of increasing global food production, even in developing countries, yet there is hunger.”

There you have it. The Swedes call it social inequality. To the Americans, it's a 'paradox'.

When I was a kid there were posters with photos of starving children on them on the walls of the school cafeteria.

No really, there was.

If I didn't know it before, I learned at the age of 7 that I was privileged. And they told me that with privilege comes responsibility. Where does it say that the readers of the New York Times couldn't handle the same truth?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

the little house on the prairie, all grown up

Annaa Mattsson - we've never met, but we did have the same teachers for high school, ten years apart - wrote on her blog recently about having read a pile of American fiction, aimed at women. There was a theme, she said, and she summarized it like this (translation is mine, Annaa writes in Swedish):

A smart young woman grows up in small town, and leaves to a different and preferably larger town for school or work. She starts her career there, and she finds love. Then something dramatic happens, and the young woman abandons her career and, if she can't convince him to come with her, she also abandons her new found love. The young woman then returns to "where she belongs", the small town where she grew up, and her large family. And her friends, who, according to Annaa, have outrageous demands on her time and availability.

What's going on? Annaa asked on her blog. Family and friendship is more important than love and personal success? What kind of crap is that? She didn't recognize this moral-to-the-story, and figured it had to be an expression of American culture.

I have been thinking a lot about women and choices the past few months, because my friend Barbara and her daughter Shannon are writing a book and a blog on the topic. Often when I talk to Barbara or read their blog I have an unsettling feeling of being out of my element. I understand what they are talking about, but at the same time I don't. Sometimes I think I am just stupid, and sometimes I think there are actual cultural differences.

Annaa's question, and her observation, really helped me. I felt validated. I think Annaa did see an American theme. I think there is a strong pull for American women to stay home and take care of their families. To Swedish women that can be jarring, because we've been raised differently, and Swedish society works differently.

After I had been thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized that Annaa had described almost exactly the life of internet sensation Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman. She is a woman in her early 40s, who has just published her first cookbook. She also has a large sprawling website. She is incredibly funny and talented, and popular among women. Right now her cookbook is number 11 on Publisher Weekly's list of bestsellers, non-fiction.

The New York Times describes Drummond, and her book, like this:

Ree Drummond lives on a cattle ranch in Pawhuska, Okla. She is also a writer, photographer and home-school teacher to her four children. She is also funny, enthusiastic and self-deprecating, making the book appeal to pavement-pounders and pioneer types alike. A self-described “career gal in black” and a vegetarian, she was between jobs in Los Angeles and Chicago when she met the man who would become her husband during a stopover in her hometown. Now, she is rooted in a community where meat is eaten at all three meals, pasta is still regarded with suspicion and vegetables other than potatoes are considered entirely optional.

I wonder if the popularity of The Pioneer Woman can be explained at least in part by the fact that while she is living out, very happily, women's fantasy of being whisked away by a handsome cowboy (she refers to her husband as 'Marlboro Man'), she is also fulfilling a social norm, the American social norm of returning home. And, not only does she return 'home' as in to her part of the country, she's returned 'home' in the most American sense of all: home to the prairie.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

california economy

From the HR department:

Please be advised that pursuant to a recently enacted California state law (the income shifting and tax acceleration provision of ABX4-17), state wage withholding rates will be increased by 10 percent. This increase will be effective with your November 23, 2009 paycheck.

In the event that you wish to make changes to withholding amounts for state taxes, please complete and submit the Form DE 4 to the Department of Human Resources.

Please visit the State of California website for more information on the new withholding requirements:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

simple swedish

This is funny, but probably incredibly confusing for the non-Swedish speaker when he gets to substantiv (nouns).


Today it's one year exactly since I finished cancer treatment!

- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, November 07, 2009

out of office auto-reply

I just got this, in response to an email I had sent:

I am out of the office today on a mandated, unpaid furlough day due to severe state budget cuts imposed upon the California State University system. As a result, I will be unable to reply until my next business day or later.

Most employees of California State University, East Bay are being furloughed an average of two days per month from August 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, due to deep cuts in State support for the CSU budget. Classes will remain in session on furlough days, but most administrative offices are closed. The Library, Student Health Services, and Student Housing offices will be open, but with reduced staff. The Bookstore and food service operations will remain open with possible adjusted hours. The University Police Dispatch Office and patrols will remain fully staffed.

Please refer to for a list of furlough days for the balance of the academic year. Thank you for your understanding during these difficult economic times.

For the record: All California State University employees are subject to a 10% pay cut. Even if classes won't be canceled during university-wide furlough days - meaning administrators are out - classes may be canceled for faculty furlough days. At California State University, East Bay, each faculty member has been asked to pick two unpaid furlough days per month during the fall quarter. Those days may or may not be teaching days.

Friday, November 06, 2009


marina, calif. nov. 1

I made it 60/40 fennel heavy and that was pretty good

Today's organic produce delivery had advice attached: to make a salad from fennel, mandarin oranges, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Yum.


Watch this and be inspired. Explanations to the images can be found here.


I've been sick with the flu for a couple of days, so I haven't really watched any news. Yesterday I listened to The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Project Runway.

This morning when I read The New York Times, and then turned on MSNBC, I learned that there has been not one but two mass shootings in the US during the time I was away from the news.

I have nothing to say, other than that it is very sad.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

it's gorgeous out here: 68 degrees, sun, blue skies, blue ocean, a little breeze

Why would anyone drive to one of the prettiest places in the world, the Central California coast, only to sit in the car and read? With your back to the view?

-- Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

here it is, finally: the explanation to the man-flu, and the man-cold

The New York Times is quoting research that has found that "women’s bodies generate a stronger antibody response than men’s do". As there is a shortage of influenza vaccine (the swine variety) they were trying to figure out if half-doses of the influenza vaccine will be enough. The answer seems to be yes. And especially for women.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

cheerful, I know

Here is a good New York Times article on cancer treatment.

what oppression looks like

My friend Babs told me the other day that she likes foreign movies and TV shows because in them, people look like people.

I thought of that this morning when I came across a pledge drive on my local PBS station that featured two British actresses. My guess would be that they are in their 40s, because they looked it. They had wrinkles and dyed hair, and one of them was overweight.

There needs to be a movement against the impossible-to-achieve ideals for women that are coming out of almost all American film, TV, and advertising.

It gets into your head, no matter what you do. And you forget what real people look like. So that when you see your own face in the mirror, you think there is something wrong with you.

I remember watching an interview with Frances McDormand about ten years ago, where she said that she would never have any work done to her face because that way when she got to be 60, she would be the only one in Hollywood who would look 60 and she would get all the parts.

Next time I saw her was about five years ago in Something's Gotta Give. And, guess what, she was skinnier than all hell and I was sad.

Then I saw her just now, in this photo on her imdb page. I didn't recognize her. Pretty, yes. But also an entirely new face.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

with the intense 1980s revival that is going on, it was bound to happen sooner or later

Today I bought a dress that looks exactly like one had 20 years ago. Black, short sleeves, square neck, mid thigh length. (Size 6, thanks for asking.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

my god the rain

California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, sits on top of a high hill. How can it get flooded?

-- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, October 18, 2009

maybe I'd like the guy a little bit better if he wasn't wearing those silly glasses all the time

I've been telling people lately that Europeans really want to like the US, but that it's been really hard for them to do so the past eight years.

I think that's part of the reason why President Obama is so popular abroad. Obama gives people in many nations an opportunity to renew their hope. Not their hope in him necessarily, but their hope in the US.

Guess who just stole this whole line of thought and had it printed in the New York Times?

Yep, everyone's favorite Irishman, Bono.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

happy national coming out day

The Human Rights Campaign: The Coming Out Project helps LGBT, as well as straight-supportive people live openly and talk about their support for equality at home, at work and in their communities each and every day.

I just caught the end of an HBO documentary, OUTRAGE: Do Ask. Do Tell. From the synopsis:

An official selection of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, OUTRAGE investigates the hidden lives of some of the country's most powerful policymakers - from now-retired Idaho Senator Larry Craig, to former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy - and examines how these and other politicians have inflicted damage on millions of Americans by opposing gay rights. Equally disturbing, the film explores the mainstream media's complicity in keeping those secrets, despite the growing efforts to "out" them by gay rights organizations and bloggers.

Through a combination of archival news footage and exclusive interviews with politicians and members of the media, OUTRAGE probes the psychology of a double lifestyle, the ethics of outing closeted politicians, and the double standards that the media upholds in its coverage of the sex lives of gay public figures. As Barney Frank, perhaps the best-known openly gay member of Congress explains, "There is a right to privacy, but not a right to hypocrisy. It is very important that the people who make the law be subject to the law."

Friday, October 09, 2009

clogs, anyone? anyone?

I got this link from Noel. "I thought of you when I saw this", he writes. Why? Probably because I am the proud owner of two pairs of kurbits decorated wooden clogs, dark blue. Kurbits painting is a traditional style of Swedish painting: stylized flowers, colorful and squiggly. (It's what's all over those wooden horses, actually.)

Anyway. Clogs are in every 7 years or so, and this time Karl Lagerfeld is making an attempt for Chanel. New York Magazine doesn't seem to appreciate it. I kind of like these ones.

he could just give the prize money to fund free health clinics

So they gave the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama... I think that's a measure of two things:

First, it's a measure of the impact of the US in the world. This country is so strong, that anything that happens here impacts people in all other nations in the world.

Second, I think it's a measure of how divisive George W. Bush was that anybody who comes after him, and sets out to actually listen to other nations, gets a peace prize.

I also think the Europeans are still in the honeymoon phase with Barack Obama.

more from caitlin, she calls it 'inspirational'

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

watch it

Just as I was going to find the link for today's hour long 'Special Comment' by Keith Olbermann, I got this email from Caitlin:

It's long, but thoughtful; and I found it politically entertaining enough to watch it twice.

Olbermann: Health care as basic as life itself

Oct. 7: In a Special Comment Hour, Countdown's Keith Olbermann points out that there is no higher human priority than health and therefore no more basic government responsibility than ensuring the care of its citizens.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

and then what happened?

I saw Michael Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story tonight. What really got to me was that in his State of the Union address in 1944 (that's 65 years ago) Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a "second bill of rights":

... under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

The Christian Science Monitor calls the scene showing FDR reading this part of his speech a 'previously unseen clip', so I guess I wasn't the only one who hadn't heard about it. The ideas were modern at the time, and they sound familiar to a Scandinavian. But in the US the list is still Utopian.

the value of education

I had a letter from the California Faculty Association today. That's the union that organizes state employed university professors. They say that between 2002 and 2004 half a billion dollars was cut from the California State University budget. In January of this year governor Schwarzenegger proposed another $386 million in cuts.

Faculty have taken a 10% pay cut this year.

Why do I have a feeling the Schwarzenegger children are in private schools?

to all american men: just so you know what people are saying about you

Anna Anka, married to Paul, is starring on Swedish TV in a reality show called Swedish Hollywood wives. Her gender-conservative views have caused concern in Sweden:

Anna Anka, who had a brief role in the film Dumb and Dumber, writes in an opinion piece for the Swedish website Newsmill that Swedish men, once proud Vikings, have been turned into "diaper changing" pansies who are too occupied with equality and instead should be like real American men. [American men] would apparently panic if they were left alone with a child for more than 20 minutes, and don't make dinner or do the ironing. (Full story here.)

I remember a young Mexican-American woman, one of my students, telling the class that her dad would do the laundry and the ironing at her house, but only if the shutters were closed so that no one could see him.

How about some male voices in the discussion about gender roles?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

women and a-g-e

Two things have happened recently that have made me think of women and age. First, a recent study showed that statistically American women get sadder as they get older, with a significant leap downwards in the late 40s. Shannon Kelley touched on this in her post on Undecided yesterday.

You don't hear a lot of women talking about why this might be. Women in their early 40s say things like "turning 40 made me feel stronger", but how do the supposedly sadder 47-year-olds really feel?

I am 48, and I am going to tell you what I think.

Turning 40 was a breeze. Turning 45? how shall I put it? Less of a breeze. It sucked, frankly.

At 45 you know that your next milestone is going to be 50, and that takes some getting used to for anyone. I am sure it's the same thing for men. Around the same time, middle to late 40s, your body starts giving in. And I am not talking about sagging, I am talking health problems. Earlier this year I met close friends I hadn't seen in years, and as part of the massive catching up we had to do we spent at least an hour talking about serious health issues.

And then there is the sagging. After 45, if you don't make changes to your diet and exercise habits, you will get fat. Your body burns less, and gets stiff if you don't stretch. Your face changes. Your arms change. (And creams don't work.)

Add to this that however you feel, in the eyes of the world around you, you are old. The check-out guy doesn't flirt. Heads don't turn, faces don't lit up. It's a tiny bit disheartening.

In my late 40s, and especially last year, when I was fat after chemo and my hair was gray because I hadn't gone back to coloring yet, for the first time I realized how much I have been depending on the attention from strangers. Not necessarily a healthy habit. It was a good reminder to have it go away.

It's real work to decide for yourself who you want to be. Getting your head and your body to align again. And act on how you feel, not what others think of you.

Which reminds me of that other period in our lives when mind and body are out of sync. The dreaded teenage years.

Roman Polanski raped a 13 year-old girl in 1972. He was arrested in Switzerland earlier this week. Friends and colleagues have come out in his defense.

Without getting too involved in that discussion, let me just say this: Reasonable people are making excuses for an adult having sex with a 13 year-old. Anyone's mind boggled?

We live in a male-dominated world. That means that the eye we have upon us is male. At 47 women may feel the same way they did at 42, yet "we" see them as old. Why? Because "we" have a male eye.

Anyone who has been a 13 year-old girl, or known a 13 year-old girl, know that at 13 a girl is still a child, even if her body looks grown-up.

The fact that people come out in defense of Roman Polanski is proof enough that in our society it's OK to treat a girl like the woman she looks to be, not the child that she is.

The eye is male. What a woman looks like to a man becomes the truth. What a woman feels like becomes the un-truth.

These are the notions we're up against. Guys and girls, it's up to you to decide what you want to do about it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

why I love rachel maddow

1. She is a smart woman, and not afraid to show it.
2. She is funnier than Hillary Clinton.

this is cute: ellen putting make-up on louise

Video of the Day: Ellen's Miss California USA Makeup Tips - The Ellen DeGeneres Show

you know what that word means, 'option'?

How is it freedom of choice with no public option?

shameless self-promotion

I wrote another guest post at Undecided, Barbara and Shannon Kelley's blog about women and their choices. The topic: last week's discussion about American women's declining happiness. Preview: I think being unhappy can be an appropriate response.

And, guess what? Barbara and Shannon are working on a book on the same theme, to be published in 2011. Woo-hoo! If you want to know more, they have a Facebook group, and they are looking for input. If you're not on Facebook you can obviously communicate with them on their blog.

barbara calls it 'hideous'

Here is some news that will make you sick.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

just look at that

I haven't even read the article yet... can't get past the photo collage. All navy blue except for David Gregory?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

there is an n-word that comes to mind (no, not that one, another one)... it's at the tip of my tongue

When you send an email from your iphone unless you delete it a default line will appear at the bottom: Sent from my iphone. Marketing move, obviously.

I just got an email from someone who had changed the word from iphone to i+his first name: Sent from my iMichael.

Something about that freaks me out.

happy birthday, mexico

It seems there are white people in the US who don't like having a black guy in charge.

And I think the fear that the president isn't up for the job is nicely balanced by the fear that he will actually succeed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

true story

Someone told me a story a little while ago, about a black man who had gotten a ticket for driving 36 mph in a 35 mph zone. This is what happened when he appeared before a traffic court judge:

- Sir, why are you here?
- Because I am a black man and I drive a Porsche.
- I am so sorry, you shouldn't be here. Case dismissed.

be inspired

Ted Kennedy's memoirs were published yesterday. Today I heard an interview with the editor and publisher, Jonathan Karp. One thing they talked about was the reason why Ted Kennedy worked so relentlessly for health care.

Mr. Karp said that the conviction had come from something that happened when Kennedy's son, at 12 years old, needed treatment for bone cancer. The boy ended up being part of a group that was treated with an experimental drug that was paid for through a research grant. When the grant ran out, participants had to pay for the remainder of the treatments out of their own pockets. Kennedy found himself surrounded by other parents, all equally concerned for their children. But while Kennedy could pay for what his son needed, other people mortgaged their homes and risked their jobs.

In teaching about racism there is a shift that happens when a white person realizes that the world is fundamentally different for someone of color. After the moment of realization nothing is the same. You can't turn back.

It sounds to me as if Ted Kennedy's experience had the same quality. Once we've been made aware of social difference, we cannot not see it.

if this doesn't stop you in your tracks, what will?

In Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming domestic violence is a pre-existing condition.

That means that in those states insurance companies will deny women* coverage of medical costs related to domestic violence.

* or men, but women tend to get beaten up more often than men

Sunday, September 13, 2009

just wait

The iphone can shoot video.
And I have a youtube account.

I'm an american now


1. I've already started planning my Thanksgiving decorations (=dried mini ears of corn). (I grew corn this year, but it never made it to adulthood.) (But maybe the fact that I have no idea what went wrong actually disqualifies me from being an American?)
2. When I saw turkey footprints in the park today I thought "yum".
3. I just made creamed corn.


Maureen Dowd in the New York Times on Joe Wilson:

But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!

Read the rest.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

health care (IV)

I was talking to someone about health care the other day, and I told her that it is hard for me, as a Scandinavian, to get my head around the fact that Americans are so reluctant to act politically on behalf of others. She agreed, and said something like, "and yet doing for others is what makes us human".

I think that is true.

There is a quote by Dr. King: "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."

That means, to me, that my freedom isn't worth much until it's shared by everybody.

The Lutheran Church of Sweden, where about 75% of Swedes are members, elected Eva Brunne to be the new bishop in Stockholm earlier this year. Eva Brunne is the first Swedish bishop to live in a registered same-sex domestic partnership. According to a National Catholic Reporter story Eva Brunne "is believed to be the first openly lesbian bishop in the world."

I am not a member of the Church of Sweden, but it makes me proud that my people not only acknowledges rights, but expands privilege.

Another quote by Dr. King states that, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

Maybe it's true that a society has not started
living until it can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

health care (III): where is the outrage? and where is the solidarity?

I talked to a friend last week who told me that her 2-and-a-half year old little boy had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She said she had the lyrics for a song ringing in her head, something about being "one call away". She had been reminded, again, that we're all only one call away from a crisis, or really bad news.

It's true. One minute you're fine, the next minute you know that you have diabetes, or cancer, or something else.

It's beyond me that Americans will not support a bill just because they don't think there is anything it in for them. If people have health insurance, they are not willing to act on behalf of the 40+ millions who don't. They don't think of the uninsured people, and they don't think of the cost to society.

And, they obviously don't realize that tomorrow it could be them.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

health care (II)

If you use the social networking site Facebook you know what I am talking about, but if you don't, imagine this: You open up the site, and what you see is a page where all of your friends have entered a sentence describing what they are doing. For the most part what people are saying is kind of funny, or kind of interesting, but no more than that.

This morning, in the middle of that blur, this statement popped up:

XX thinks that no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

Needless to say, I copied and pasted the statement onto my own status line.

Then I went to my friend's page to see what kind of comments he had gotten. The first one was this:

RIGHT NOW, We save you even if you don't have money and even if you are not a citizen. Now you get a choice in hospital and doctors. The new healthplan will eliminate your choices. You want the goverment to pay for your healthcare, remember you always get what you pay for! I work at the hospital and doctors work hard, get up and take call in the middle of the night for a patient with no money, because the insurance people make up for the rest. Just think if the doctor was salaried, hum, he would make the same amount of money if he slept or if he came up there in the middle of the night. You want THAT care?

I am quoting this to show the nice people of Sweden who read my blog how those Americans who oppose health care reform think. It makes me mad, and sad, that people are so ill informed. Actually, it really scares me.

There are roughly 46 million uninsured in the US. They, of course, have no choice whatsoever. But even if you do have insurance, right now, the insurance company can drop you when you get sick. And if you are or have been sick, they can refuse to take you on because of your "pre-existing condition".

There is a memorable scene in Michael Moore's Sicko where Americans living in France are hesitant to fill out the paperwork that will enroll them in the French health care system. They think that if they list their illnesses they will loose health coverage. The idea that the French want to know their medical history in order for them to provide better care is mind boggling to the Americans.

Dan was at a town hall meeting earlier this week where a minister had stood up and suggested that instead of health care reform we should go back to the "Good Samaritan model." People taking care of each other, that sounds good, right? But who would be willing to pick up the bills for the 9 months of cancer treatment I had last year? Anyone? No one? Oh.

Another way to look at it would be to say that if we are to take care of each other, lets be rational about it. Lets collect from everybody ahead of time what they can afford, so we will be prepared to provide for those who will be in need later. What was that? That's socialism, you say?

Well, what it is, is government funded health care. And it works.

This is how I responded on my friend's Facebook page:

The "salaried" doctors in my country of origin (Sweden) provide care that helps Swedes end up in the top three of the healthiest nations in the world, along with Iceland and Finland. Iceland and Finland also have government funded health care programs. The US ranks 11 according to Forbes. Ahead of the US are 7 other countries with national health care programs: Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Denmark, Canada, Austria, and the Netherlands.

Then someone jumped on me for using Forbes and not the World Health Organization. If you're curious, according to WHO, the five top nations are: Japan, France, Iceland, Sweden, and Cuba. The US ranks 37.

Update: At 4:37PM President Obama posted this statement on his Facebook page:

Encouraged to see this going around today:
"No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day."

Everyone's connected.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

lost in translation? hated it.

For whatever reason I completely missed The Virgin Suicides when it came out as a movie.

I had missed the novel also, but I read it earlier this summer and loved it. So I got the film on Netflix. I watched it just now. Didn't like it.

Closing credits told me why: Sophia Coppola. I guess I really hadn't been paying attention because I had missed that one too.

I am sure she is talented and everything, but I haven't seen a movie of hers that I've liked so far. Sorry.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

belle and sebastian: look, there is animation, mayka

paul weller

So yeah years later than everyone else I've started using I typed in The Style Council, and let me tell you, there's a lot of Brit Pop... and at the same time, there is not. Paul Weller is everywhere. This is really good. And then there is this:

health care (I)

I have been planning to write something about health care reform, and about the differences in health care systems between the US and Sweden. But I haven't gotten anywhere because every time I think about it I get angry. I can't handle the 'Obama is Hitler' arguments, and I can't handle the misconceptions in America about what nationalized health care really is, and how it works. A decent society takes care of its citizens, that's how I feel. And anyone who doesn't understand that... See, this is where I get mad. HOW can anyone not understand that?

So, I was really happy when I found this article in by an American who lived in London for 12 years. Thanks, Stephen Amidon, for being cooler than I.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

hydrangea bulb


morning glory


boycott whole foods

This is why the Whole Foods boycott is interesting: Whole Foods' customers are educated people with time and money on their hands. That's why they shop at the stores to begin with; they make choices. They are more likely to bother with finding alternatives than someone who is pressed for time and money.

I'm invested in health care reform. The words "pre-existing condition" carry more weight when they apply to you, I can assure you that.

I will not spend my money at a store whose CEO is out to make it harder for the bill to pass. In his Wall Street Journal piece he says,

While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

I happen to think that food and shelter are rights too, in a decent society. But, then again, I don't make my money selling one or the other.

Friday, August 14, 2009


leningrad cowboys

I just remembered this band... and half an hour of youtubing later, I found another gem. Watch it.

In my mind Leningrad Cowboys are linked to this song by Sting. I hate it. Of course Russians love their children. I can't handle Sting, and I can't handle Bono. Sorry.

"the funeral parlor of the gods"

Very funny story in Vanity Fair about Larry King as 'America's grief counselor'.

sorry whole foods, I'll get my organic milk elsewhere

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., quotes Margaret Thatcher and speaks out against Obama's health care reform. Here is his op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. And here is an LA Times write-up. And one from The Huffington Post that's pretty funny. And mad.

Of course there is a Facebook group: Boycott Whole Foods. I've joined.

There are discussion forums on the Whole Foods site. One person writes: I'm a long time customer who has been shopping at your original Austin store since the '80s.
From this day forward I'll take my business elsewhere. Suck it Mr. Mackey.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I just figured out that you have to be a talker before you can be a writer. Thanks, 10 years of teaching.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

eunice kennedy shriver

The legacy of a sister to the president. Doesn't it cross your mind how the world might have been different had we had gender equality?

Monday, August 10, 2009

what took me so long?

Yesterday we ground up some green cardamom pods with the coffee beans and put in the low-tech espresso maker. Wow.


I know someone who is trapped in his own body in a horrific and heartbreaking way. This is his favorite song:


Here it is, Julia Child cooking in "Oslo":

Saturday, August 08, 2009

hybrid culture

So, yeah, Julie & Julia is lovely. Meryl Streep is fantastic as Julia Child, and Stanley Tucci is great as her husband Paul Child.

Paul Child was a foreign-service officer, stationed in Paris, where Julia took up cooking. Later they leave Paris for a post in Marseille, and some time after that they move on to Oslo.

The scenes from Oslo jumped out at me. In case you're wondering, 'Oslo' in an American movie is white painted wood panels in a kitchen, a light wood coffee table, and a wooden bowl. And it was funny to me that even though it's supposed to be Norway, the first thing I see is something Swedish (a print on the wall that I recognize from my grandparent's kitchen).

It doesn't matter, unless we decide that details do matter. (The Norwegian traditional painting style rosemaling is different from the Swedish kurbits.)

But, to speak semiotics, it's not Norway. It's signs for Norway.

Or, as Dan pointed out, it looked like IKEA.

twitteresque tease

Loved Julie & Julia. More to follow.

Friday, August 07, 2009


In several classes that I have taught there have been moments when students have shocked, offended, and disrespected each other. A male student used the n-word (yeah, the actual word) sitting opposite an African American young woman this past spring. A female student called a Chinese immigrant young woman "ranting and raving" when she expressed understandable frustration with dominant culture. I could give more examples, but the pattern is always the same: Strong emotions, a heated discussion, and, usually, apologies made, and apologies accepted. True learning moments - I bet the students remember them.

One time a student said something that made me react with the same kind of fierce emotion. I had asked a class, all sitting in a big circle, to identify their cultural belongings: white, black, Mexican-American, Chinese, Vietnamese, however they wanted to label themselves. It so happened that a few students in a row identified as 'white'. Upon hearing that, the next student, before he spoke, raised his fist and said jokingly, "White power!".

To me that wasn't a joke. I heard those words, and I went cold. A couple of the students jerked. A couple of the students who were not white really jerked. A black guy looked scared.

When you are the teacher you cannot start yelling at a student in the middle of class, so I didn't do that. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I pointed out that what he had said was inappropriate, and I think we moved on.

Before meeting the class again I spoke with a few colleagues. I needed help tempering my emotions, and guidance in how to handle the situation.

The only person I talked to who really understood how I felt was a black sociologist. He told me that naturally a reference to white power would stir up emotions in someone from northern Europe. I hadn't been able to pinpoint it myself, but he was right. Obviously I had reacted strongly because of my own cultural background.

As a white person I don't use the n-word. I can't feel the pain associated with the word, but I know it's there, so I don't use it.

As a foreigner in the US I don't make jokes about 9/11. I can't feel the pain associated with the events of that day the way an American feels it, but I respect the feelings of others.

I think of this when I see the images where President Obama has been made to resemble Adolf Hitler. I think of it when I hear Rush Limbaugh talk about the Democrats using Nazi symbols. It makes me sick to my stomach. It's mind boggling to me that anyone in a democracy would say something so outrageous, with a straight face. The only explanation I can come up with is that if you say it, that proves that you have no idea what you are saying.

And you also have no sense of what it may mean to others. How is that even possible?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

it never rains in california

I actually never rains where I live between April and October. Except for today. It just started, and when it started the rain pulled with it down across town the cloud of bacon fumes that had been lingering since people fried their breakfasts this morning. I have no other explanation for what just happened: rain, with the smell of bacon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

sage advice from robyn

She is quoting Charlie Brown: Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?" Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I've redesigned my homepage. Use Internet Explorer if you look at it... Firefox makes it look randomly weird. (Hear that, Firefox?)


Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

We laughed at Susan Boyle:

- How old are you?
- I am almost 48.
- Hahahahaha!

Will we laugh at a man turning 48?

we all have our own stories to tell

So I was reading this sordid piece about Ryan O'Neal hitting on his daughter Tatum at Farah Fawcett's funeral. Interviewed about the incident in Vanity Fair he says:

"I had just put the casket in the hearse and I was watching it drive away when a beautiful blonde woman comes up and embraces me. I said to her, 'You have a drink on you? You have a car?' She said, 'Daddy, it's me — Tatum!' I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter. It's so sick."

So, yeah, obviously the word 'Swedish' jumps out at me. That explains a thing or two.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

the president is black (III): you're better than this, america

I taught a course earlier this summer that discussed relationships between media, underrepresented groups, and dominant culture. Knowledge and power were important concepts, as were Michel Foucault's observations about situated knowledge, and truth regimes.

The idea is that in a hierarchical society, the world looks different to you depending on where you are standing. The world is different to you depending on where you are standing.

The term 'situated knowledge' points out that knowledge is produced in local social settings, and that there is no objectivity.

But: The more symbolic power you enjoy (=the closer you are to the top of the hierarchy), the more likely it is that your ideas about "truth" coincide with the official version of the truth that is broadcast and printed in commercial media.

So, we learn that there are parallel truths in the world, but that only certain truths will get elevated to be perceived as truths for an entire society, country, or social setting.

Enter Professor Gates, Sergeant Crowley, and President Obama. And Lucia Whalen, and the Beer Summit for Three. (You do the math.)

The twist is this: Even though Barack Obama is the president of the United States, he is also a black man in the US. He knows what the world looks like from the point of enormous privilege, but he also knows what the world looks like from the perspective of black men. He knows what you can do as a black man, what you can't do, and when you will get questioned because you look out of place.

The majority in the US do not have this first hand experience. The majority live by a different set of truths. They often think that there is no difference between people based on race. (Because in their experience there isn't.) They think that if something happens to you, it's because of something you did, not because of who you are, where you are, or what you look like. (Because in their experience, it is.)

Every time someone voices an experience that is not shared by dominant culture, the majority, that act challenges the status quo.

I've seen it a hundred times in my classes. It takes guts, it makes people uncomfortable, and it makes them mad.

Attorney General Eric Holder did it.

And President Obama did it. People have spent a lot of time this past week saying that he shouldn't have said what he said. He shouldn't have weighed in on the side of Henry Gates. They have said that up until now he has avoided divisiveness in racial matters, he has proven that he is 'beyond race'.

It seems to me he had been waiting for this moment. It seemed to me that he was eloquent, speaking freely without notes, for exactly that reason. He had been preparing for it for a long time. He knew exactly what he wanted to say, what hidden truth he thought needed to be lifted up: Racial profiling exists. The world looks different to a black man than it does to someone who is white.

White people, dominant culture people, often think that talking about race makes it worse. That if we don't talk about differences they don't exist. What they fail to see is that that is their truth. It's true for them that if we don't talk about differences they don't exist because they don't exist in their lives. But that is not true for anyone of color, any LBGTQ person, any woman, or anyone with a disability.

So if we don't talk, the only thing we accomplish is more of the same. We continue to buy into the "truth" that is produced by the dominant group, for their own benefit.

I think it's great that the United States has a president who is willing, and prepared, to challenge that.

No, that's an understatement. It make me teary, that's what it does.

And then it makes me mad that the fact that a black president says that "race remains a factor in society" can cause controversy.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

blame google

I can't help but do this. And this.

dr's orders

Last time I had a concussion I was 13 and fell off a horse. This time I was 48, and bumped my head on a tree.

That was on Thursday. Whenever I tell someone that the doctor told me to take it easy for three weeks they respond the same way, "THREE WEEKS???"

The same doctor recently told someone else, who is not all that overweight, to loose 50 pounds.

I think it's fair to say this physician exaggerates.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

from martha

Obama después de visitar al doctor de Michael Jackson. (Get it?)

"the first in American history guilty of being p.w.b., president while black"

Stanley Fish's column in The New York Times on the Gates scandal ends like this:

Gates and Obama are not only friends; they are in the same position, suspected of occupying a majestic residence under false pretenses. And Obama is a double offender. Not only is he guilty of being Housed While Black; he is the first in American history guilty of being P.W.B., President While Black.

But you really need to read it all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

like I said, if it wasn't for jon stewart

Jon Stewart is America's most trusted newsman, according to a new Time Magazine poll.

The Huffington Post: Matched up against Brian Williams, Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson, Stewart prevailed with 44 percent of the vote.

the president is black (II)

LA Times today: The measured and cautious Obama that Americans have come to know might have demurred when, at the end of his prime-time press conference, he was asked about the arrest last week of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a prominent African American-studies scholar and friend of the president's.

But Obama was surprisingly emotive and unequivocal when answering the question and concluding that the Cambridge, Mass., police had "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates, who is black, after he tried to pry open a stuck door to gain entry to his own home.

Obama said he did not know what role if any race played in the matter. But he also seemed to welcome the opportunity to teach a larger racial lesson. Obama used the question to recall his sponsorship as an Illinois state legislator of legislation to crack down on racial profiling, noting that "there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped" disproportionately by police. (Read more.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

but where is john oliver?

For a bunch of different reasons I have a hard time listening to arguments against national health care. And as if that's not enough, in an attempt to take the edge of the president's efforts the right wing crazies have started up the Obama birth certificate issue again. There is a lot of yelling, and there is a lot of stupidity.

I am just saying. If it wasn't for Jon Stewart you'd think the world was mad.

from mayka

A woman's struggle with breast cancer:


Unfollowing John Cleese made me feel I live in the 21st century. Following Sarah Palin makes me feel like I just took a big step backwards again.


My friend Babs blogs about the senate hearings with Sonia Sotomayor last week. This is the part that got to me:

South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham suggested to Sotomayor that she had “a temperament problem” and advised that “maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection.”

And Coburn not only lectured Sotomayor on the “proper role” of judges, but read her the oath of office.

It reminded me of a party I was at once, for someone who had just become an American citizen. There were balloons, apple pie, champagne, and little American flags. We each brought gifts: My friend and I gave the food snob new American a box of Twinkies.

Someone else gave him a pay stub, and said, "Now you'll have to start paying tax!".

It baffled me. He thought only citizens pay tax?

What kind of lives do they think other people have? Ones where judges don't know their own oaths? Where green card holders don't pay tax? Where Latina judges have attitude problems and need to calm down, and be lectured?

please explain

Someone had, in all seriousness, posted this quote on their Facebook status:

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. - Proverbs 31:30


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

catie made me look this up


When Dan's aunt Gloria decided not to be helpful I realized I was on my own when it came to figuring out how to make a good salsa. Four batches later I can tell you this:

1. Roma tomatoes.
2. Use a variety of peppers.
3. Cut tomatoes and peppers in half. Seed peppers. Place everything skin side up in a roasting pan, and drizzle olive oil on top. Put under the broiler and burn the heck out of it.
4. When it's almost done (=black and bubbly), add cloves of garlic, and red onion. You don't want to burn the garlic and onion.
5. When it's done, put all veggies in the food processor, and pulse.
6. Add cumin, salt, lime juice, and cilantro.
7. Pulse a tiny bit more.
8. Let cool.

Monday, July 20, 2009

you can put a man on the moon but you can't fix... this.

Prom Night In Mississippi: Nothing changes until you do.

boy, oh boy

Watch for the moment when Walter Cronkite is speechless, and takes off his glasses:

July 20, 1969. It was after 3 in the morning in Sweden and I was asleep at my grandparents' country house. My brother who had better stamina than I was awake with the grownups. He came to get me. It was a light Scandinavian summer night. We ran across the courtyard between the house where we slept and the main house, sharp stones hurting our feet.

And then, in my memory, it happened.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

hell is other people

Don't (I): Shop at Whole Foods in Los Gatos on the weekend. People just stand around and chat and you can't get to anything.
Don't (II): Hike the Los Gatos mountain trail on the weekend. People just stand around and chat and you can't get anywhere.