“Ain’t I a woman?”

April 28, 2011 at 15:44 (Rambles and Rumbles)

I’ve just read the horrible things Representative Sally Kern (R – Oklahoma City) said during a recent debate in the State Capitol.  Instantly, I was reminded of the words of Sojourner Truth.

I don’t think that anyone could have put it more aptly.  Furthermore, I’m sure that Mrs. Truth would be quite disappointed that this issue hasn’t been long ago resolved.

Ain’t I A Woman?

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
Delivered 1851
Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio
via Internet Modern History Source Book
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/sojtruth-woman.html

But hey, then again it has only been ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY YEARS, right?  Maybe we’ll just have to wait a little longer for the progress she imagined in her speech to take place.

Thank you, Sojourner Truth.  Very well put indeed, even so many years later.

Yours in the spirit of service,
-mk

Side Note:  It appears that there is some controversy as to the exact words of Mrs. Truth during this speech.  So, in the interest of being fair, below is the alternative version of her speech, as reported first by Marius Robinson.  (The above version was released in 1863, twelve years later, by Frances Dana Barker Gage.  The Gage version became the historic standard.)

I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble. I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.

via Wikipedia at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain%27t_I_a_Woman%3F

Regardless of which version is the “real” version, the essential message is the same.  Maybe someday society will learn this lesson.

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Rally to Save the American Dream

February 24, 2011 at 02:54 (Rambles and Rumbles)

From the great people at MoveOn.org:

Rally to Save the American Dream

South Steps of the Oklahoma State Capital Building
N. Lincoln & N E 21st ST
2300 N.Lincoln
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Saturday, February 26th, 12:00 PM

Let’s keep the momentum going! Please sign up for this gathering right away!

*Emergency Call to Action *
50-State Mobilization to Save the American Dream
Saturday, February 26 at 12pm to 3pm

Calling all students, teachers, union members, workers, patriots, public servants, unemployed folks, progressives, and people of conscience:

In [Oklahoma] and around our country, the American Dream is under fierce attack. Instead of creating jobs, Republicans are giving tax breaks to corporations and the very rich and then cutting funding for education, police, emergency response and vital human services. The right to organize is on the chopping block. The American Dream is slipping out of reach for more and more Americans, and we have to fight back.

We call for emergency rallies in front of every state house this Saturday at 12 Noon to stand in solidarity with the people of [America]. We demand an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. We demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.

After decades of stagnant wages and a crushing recession, this latest assault on the American way of life is one the middle class cannot endure.

We are all [Oklahomans].

We are all Americans.

MoveOn.org.

Share this event on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=165577953490982

You guys know where I’ll be on Saturday.  There’s not much more important to me that preserving the REAL American way of life.

See you on Saturday!

-MK

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Use your voice, your computer, and your printer to SPREAD THE WORD!

February 24, 2011 at 02:44 (Rambles and Rumbles)

Just a short and sweet post to help you spread the word about SAVING SERVICE.  The link below is a PDF file that shares information about the impact HR-1 CR FY 2011 Budget.  Please, print them out.  Post them at school.  Post them at work (if you can).  Post them in your neighborhood.  Hand them out.

AmeriCorps Support Flyer

Just help us get the word out.  WE CAN SAVE SERVICE!

In the Spirit of Service,

-MK

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What is America Coming To!?

February 19, 2011 at 21:32 (Rambles and Rumbles)

Today, I received the following VERY DISAPPOINTING email:


Dear “Save Service” Partners,

Early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, legislation that would make deep cuts in government spending for the rest of the fiscal year. The measure – which eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service and its programs — passed 235-189. Click here to learn how your Representative voted.

The House vote is just one step in the legislative process. The bill has been sent to the Senate for their consideration, and the Senate and the President will have opportunities to shape and influence the final spending package. But it is up to us to make certain that the final bill restores funding for service!

Members of Congress have left Washington and returned home for a week-long recess. They will be back in their states and districts talking to constituents, and this presents the perfect opportunity for us to express our disappointment with the House vote and ask that funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service be restored in the final spending bill.

We must take full advantage of this Congressional break and this starts with “Save Service District Day” on Friday, February 25th. I encourage you to visit www.saveservice.org

for more information and to sign up to visit your local congressional district office with other service champions.  On www.saveservice.org, you will also find a Save Service widget to add to your organization’s website.  Additional tools and instructions are being added to the site daily.

We also suggest you send letters to your local paper, attend town hall meetings, and use every available opportunity to talk about what will be lost if H.R. 1 becomes a reality.

We know H.R. 1 – as it passed the House – will not be the final funding package. But Congress must reach a compromise before March 4th or the government will shut down.   Tough choices on funding priorities will have to be made and we have to work very hard to ensure that any compromise restores funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

This coming week – please focus on three assignments:

  1. Call your Representative and tell them you oppose H.R. 1.  Explain what services will be lost in your community if that bill – as passed – becomes a law.
  2. Visit www.saveservice.org and sign up to participate in “Save Service District Day” on Friday, February 25th.  Please help us recruit and organize others by emailing your network (suggested template below) and inviting all your supporters to also join a Congressional district visit.
  3. Call your Senators and ask them to pass a Continuing Resolution that restores funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service.  Talking points and call instructions can be found on www.saveservice.org/pages/action-center.

Last week, we launched on several key social media channels.  Our Facebook page is www.facebook.com/saveservice and our Twitter handle is @saveservice

.  Please share, follow and promote these widely to your networks— the greater following we can develop, the quicker we will be able to widely disseminate information and updates on the campaign.

H.R. 1 included deep and devastating cuts across a wide swath of federal agencies and programs.   Programs funded through the Labor-HHS-Education portion – just like the Corporation for National and Community Service – took the biggest hit under the bill.   It is critical that we mobilize to restore spending for service.  Congress has to make several difficult decisions in the next two weeks and restoring the CNCS needs to be high on their list.

Thanks for everything you are doing to mobilize to Save Service in America.

Sincerely,

AnnMaura Connolly
Campaign Director
Save Service


This isn’t quite the end yet, but it will take the hard work of the American people to stop this from happening.  Please, sign up for District Day on February 25th.  We MUST make our voices heard if we will make ANY kind of a change to this issue.

-Katrina Henderson (aka mk)

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Think YOU won’t be impacted by the CR Budget Cuts? Think AGAIN!

February 19, 2011 at 15:13 (Consumerism, Freedoms, Law, Oklahoma, Protests and Boycotts, Rambles and Rumbles, Responsibilities, Rights, Views and Opinions, Voluneering and Community Service)

So, you think these new budget cuts won’t impact YOUR life, YOUR family, or YOUR jobs?  Well, here’s a short list from the House Committee on Appropriations that might make you think again…


The List of some of the more than 70 Spending Cuts to be Included in the CR follows:

[Take from http://appropriations.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=259]

·         Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy   -$899M
·         NOAA   -$336M
·         National Drug Intelligence Center   -$11M
·         Law Enforcement Wireless Communications   -$52M
·         US Marshals Service   -$10M
·         FBI   -$74M
·         State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance   -$256M
·         Juvenile Justice   -$2.3M
·         COPS   -$600M
·         NASA   -$379M
·         NSF   -$139M
·         Food Safety and Inspection Services   -$53M
·         Rural Development Programs   -$237M
·         WIC   -$758M
·         FDA   -$220M
·         DOE Loan Guarantee Authority   -$1.4B
·         Smithsonian   -$7.3M
·         National Park Service   -$51M
·         National Endowment for the Arts   -$6M
·         National Endowment for the Humanities   -$6M
·         Job Training Programs  -$2B
·         Community Health Centers  -$1.3B
·         Maternal and Child Health Block Grants  -$210M
·         Family Planning  -$327M
·         Poison Control Centers  -$27M
·         CDC   -$755M
·         NIH   -$1B
·         Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services   -$96M
·         Community Services Block Grant   -$405M
·         HUD Community Development Fund   -$530M


And it’s not stopping there. Some programs that aren’t mentioned specifically here are thinks like PBS, the Corporation for National and Community Service (aka AmeriCorps, SeniorCorps, Learn and Serve America, and others), YouthBuild (a Department of Labor Program), NPR, Heating Assistance for Low Income Families and Seniors, Food Pantries, Homeless Shelters, and who even knows for sure what else!

This is a sad, sad time for America. But we’re not beyond hope yet.

On Friday the 25th, 2011, I will be taking part in the Save Service District Day at James Lankford’s office in downtown Oklahoma City, at the corner of 10th and Broadway Avenue (just north of Automobile Alley, north of downtown OKC). The event will take place from about noon to 1pm. Please fee free to join me! Send me a message for more details.

Together, You and I can help SAVE so much that is important to our nation. I hope to see you there!

Yours in Service!
-Katrina Henderson (aka mk)

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A Call to ACTION! Help SAVE AmeriCorps and YouthBuild!!

February 14, 2011 at 16:47 (Rambles and Rumbles)

Dearest Friends and Family,

As I write this letter, Congress is looking at serious cuts to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), AmeriCorps, and YouthBuild (a Department of Labor job training and education program).  In fact, Congress isn’t just looking at cutting funding to these institutions, but dissolving them entirely.  This action would result in a horrible setback for our Nation and our people.

AmeriCorps was officially started during the Clinton administration, but the programs that make up AmeriCorps (as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service) go back as far as the Kennedy administration.  The goal of AmeriCorps volunteers is to “Get Things Done” for America.  AmeriCorps volunteers perform direct and indirect service in a variety of fields, from criminal justice to health care to social services and beyond.  Thousands of Americans perform service each year, impacting millions nation-wide.

Furthermore, the costs of AmeriCorps are minimal in comparison to the gains.  A full-time AmeriCorps member can make roughly $10,400 in living stipend payments, along with about $5,000 in educational awards at the end of their service.  This means they volunteer at least 40 hours a week, all for less than minimum wage per hour.  Yet the service they provide to their community is invaluable, including fighting poverty, improving education, and much, much more.

YouthBuild has a strong tie to AmeriCorps.  Originally started in the late 1980′s, the program was designed with a dual focus – provide safe, affordable housing for low-income individuals while at the same time offering job training and education opportunities to at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 24.  Begun in New York, there are nearly 300 programs in the United States, as well as several programs internationally.  Each program seeks to improve the lives of low-income families, decrease unemployment, increase education levels, and even fight gangs.  YouthBuild impacts the lives of thousands of people each year, again, at a minimal cost.

Yet despite the good these programs do for our Nation, Congress is now trying to place them under the knife in the name of the Federal budget.  As has been said so many times over our recent recession, the American people need a “bail-out” as badly, if not more so, than big businesses.  AmeriCorps and YouthBuild constitute an effective and productive bail-out, but it is now on the chopping block.

YOU, however, CAN HELP.  Contact your Congressman (and/or Congresswoman) TODAY.  Tell them that the services AmeriCorps and YouthBuild provide are IMPORTANT, not just to you, but to our NATION.  They aren’t “welfare” programs, but better.  The impact of AmeriCorps is clear.  They seek to help individuals and families raise themselves up, reducing the need for welfare and public assistance!  Few other programs in our Nation have such lofty goals, and even fewer actually deliver them, like AmeriCorps and YouthBuild do.

Below is a letter from Dorothy Stoneman, the founder of YouthBuild.  It provides some further instructions on how you can make a difference and help SAVE AmeriCorps and YouthBuild.  Please take a moment to read it, and maybe make a few phone calls to your representatives in the Congress and Senate.  Tell them that these programs are important, not just to you, but to everyone.

Together, we can save these programs and preserve them for the future!

Yours in Service,
Katrina Lynam-Henderson
AmeriCorps Program Coordinator
Eagle’s Nest YouthBuild
Eagle Ridge Institute
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Dear YouthBuild Directors, Coalition Members, Advocates, Alumni, and other Friends of YouthBuild:

We are writing you today with an urgent call to action.  The majority in the U.S. House of Representatives plans to cut $100 billion from the Federal budget, primarily focused on discretionary domestic spending affecting low income people.

Specifically, the Appropriations Committee proposes to eliminate the YouthBuild program under the Department of Labor; and proposes to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service programs, including AmeriCorps.

We ask that you TAKE ACTION and call your Member of Congress as soon as possible this week,  and explain how these cuts would hurt your communities.  Urge them to VOTE NO on a Continuing Resolution that eliminates funding for YouthBuild and for the Corporation for National and Community Service Programs, including AmeriCorps, and for many other important programs affecting low-income communities.

At the same time, please forward this call to action to your other networks.

Background:
Starting on Monday, February 14, the U.S. House of Representatives will begin consideration of a Continuing Resolution that will fund the last 7 months of Fiscal Year 2011. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers has announced that the bill will immediately cut $100 billion from the President Obama’s proposed FY’11 budget.

Know that the Senate and the White House will still have their say.  The Senate is unlikely to agree to these cuts, but they need to know that their constituents care also.  Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Tom Harkin (D-IO) have traditionally upheld YouthBuild as a key strategy for reconnecting youth, and we believe they will continue to do so.  They need thanks and encouragement from their constituents.

The full list of House recommended cuts:

http://republicans.appropriations.house.gov/_files/ProgramCutsFY2011ContinuingResolution.pdf

The list by appropriations subcommittees:
http://republicans.appropriations.house.gov/_files/FY2011CRSpendingTablesbySubcommittee.doc

The full legislative text:
http://www.rules.house.gov/Media/file/PDF_112_1/legislativetext/2011crapprops/AppropCRFinal_xml.pdf

How You Can Help:

1. We need to reach every single Member of the House of Representatives many times over and urge them to vote NO on a continuing resolution that eliminates funding for YouthBuild and for the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps. Talking points and information on how to contact your Congressperson are below.

2. If you are the leader of an organization, please sign the letter from Voices for National Service, America Forward and ServiceNation urging Congress to fund the Corporation for National and Community Service.  More than 300 people have already added their organizations to this letter.  The deadline to sign is Monday, February 14th at 12pm EST, so there is little time.  To read the letter and sign, click here.  You will be asked to provide your organization’s full name, the name of your CEO or Executive Director, and a list of the states where your organization serves.

Talking points for Calling the House of Representatives:  You can speak about either or both YouthBuild and AmeriCorps, depending on your expertise and interest.  Or if you have read the details of the cuts and have other cuts to speak about, go ahead.  Use whatever of the following you find compelling.

* I am calling to urge you to vote NO on any proposal to eliminate funding for YouthBuild and for AmeriCorps or the Corporation for National and Community Service.
* The CR as a whole will decimate vital services in our communities when millions of Americans need food, shelter, health care, job training and educational support.
* Communities are counting on YouthBuild as a critical opportunity for unemployed low-income young adults to rebuild their communities and their lives through education, job training, and community service.  (If you are a YouthBuild graduate or director, give them details about the impact on your own life, program, or community.  Tell them why it is important not to allow millions of low-income young adults to remain unemployed and under-educated in America.)
* Research shows that every dollar spent on a YouthBuild student returns a minimum of $7.80 in value over the lifetime of that student; and if the student has been court-involved the minimum is $10.90.
* The high school drop-out rate in American is at crisis proportions, (50% in low-income communities) and those young people are lining up outside the doors of YouthBuild programs seeking a hands-on education that will put them back on track for a productive life.  Furthermore, AmeriCorps programs are helping lower the drop-out rate by providing services inside the public schools through Teach for America and CityYear and other good programs.
* Communities are counting on AmeriCorps members, national service participants and community volunteers to meet the increased demand for services.
* The CR will only push unemployment rates up. Unemployment numbers — particularly for young people, veterans and military spouses, older Americans and people of color – remain alarmingly high.
* For Americans who are struggling to find work, YouthBuild and national service programs offer participants the opportunity to earn a subsistence-level stipend, develop skills, and create pathways to future employment. Eliminating programs like YouthBuild and AmeriCorps and VISTA will result in jobs lost for the corps members and the staff who supervise them.
* The federal investment made in faith based and community organizations through the Corporation for National and Community Service leverages $799 million in matching funds from companies, foundations and other sources.
* If you de-fund YouthBuild and the national service programs, whole organizations will shut down in the communities that need them most, and most will not be able to reopen again even if funding is restored.

HOW TO CONTACT YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS

* If you need help determining the members of your congressional delegation, visit www.congress.org. This database will provide you with contact information for your elected officials.
* You can call your Representatives directly or be connected through the House Operator (202-225-3121). Once connected, give your name and identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak to the Legislative Assistant in charge of job training, national service, and education issues.
* Given the severity of the cuts proposed by the House, you may experience some difficulty calling the Capitol, so it is probably better to get the direct line to your own Rep.  It is important that you keep trying. If you can’t reach your Representative by phone, please send a fax communication to their office, or call their local office.  This is a time sensitive ask. Emails or mailed letters will not reach the decision makers in time. It is critical that our lawmakers hear from the constituents directly impacted by their decisions.
* While you’re at it, you could call your Senators to tell them how disturbed you are by what the House majority is planning to do and urge them to stay on course with their own Continuing Resolution.  So far the Senate leadership has not announced anything so they need to hear from their constituents also.
* Organize anyone else you can to call also.
* Keep all communication courteous and respectful;  we aim to increase civility at all times no matter how upsetting some of these cuts may be.

STEPS RELATED ONLY TO YOUTHBUILD:   Some of you have asked what we are doing focused solely on YouthBuild:

There is a letter going to Congress from the National YouthBuild Coalition that will include the names of all Coalition members, who have already authorized us to use their names when advocating for YouthBuild appropriations.  It includes over 800 local organizations.

We are asking ALL local YouthBuild programs to steadily and now rapidly build relationships with all three of their legislators to make sure they hear the messages about YouthBuild and national service.

We are asking our corporate supporters to weigh in as the process goes forward, and the Mayors.

More as we go forward….we think alumni will be organizing messages on Facebook.

In solidarity,

Dorothy Stoneman
Chairperson, National YouthBuild Coalition

Charlotte Golar Richiie
YouthBuild USA, Senior Vice President for Public Policy

(YouthBuild USA organizes advocacy and lobbying on behalf of the YouthBuild program and other important public services, but it does not use any public funds for those  purposes.)

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On Christmas Giving – and Why I’m NOT Doing Much Of It This Year…

November 27, 2010 at 18:38 (Christmas, Consumerism, Holidays, Rambles and Rumbles, Voluneering and Community Service, Work and Life)

Before you rant your “baa-humbugs” at me, please actually read what I have to say.  It is both important for me to say it and important for me to have you read it.

Christmas today is an overly commercialized spending guilt trip, juxtaposed with Christian religious overtones.  Maybe once upon a time, the gift buying and giving had a REAL meaning, but today, it’s harder than ever to see it.

I won’t go into the TRUE origins of Christmas because of two reasons: 1.) I don’t know enough about it and whatever I DO say I’m sure to get flamed on and 2.) I’m not in the mood to look it up for you for once.  I seem to remember it dealing with the Baby Jesus being born to a virgin Mary in some far off place long ago.  I stop at there.

I believe that the gift God gave the world in the form of his only Son is not only amazing, but simply unmatchable.  Not even the top-ten most expensive list, specially made Neiman-Marcus, certified-non-combat diamond encrusted edition of the Bible, written on gold sheets, with Jesus’ words inlaid in microscopic rubies, even comes close.  And NOTHING ever will.  That’s the point, people!

The celebration of Christmas today is,  as I mentioned, a time for us together together, give thanks for what we have (although American’s seem that one winter holiday to give thanks to God isn’t enough, so we have Thanksgiving too!), and exchange gifts probably can’t afford for ones with ones that we probably don’t need.  For some reason, however, the whole “gathering together and giving thanks” aspect of Christmas almost completely outweighed with the “buying STUFF” aspect.  How could we get it so backwards?!  (That is a rhetorical question, I won’t even try to answer, and I suggest that, for your own sanity, you don’t either.)

I’m not sinless here, in the “buying stuff” category, but I’d like to think I’m less obsessed with it than most people.  First of all, I LIMIT who I get “stuff” to give.  For example, I’ve bought things for my husband, my littlest nieces, my Dad (and step-mom), and I’m going to try to figure up something to get for my mom.  And I have a REASON I get stuff for each of them!

I buy things for my husband for two main reasons: 1.) I love him and think he’s wonderful and want to get him everything his heart desires because of it; and 2.) he values it in his heart.  That said, I don’t get him things for Christmas that I wouldn’t otherwise get him any other time of the year.  Or, in the case of some items, I save up the ideas for Christmas to make them especially special.  Or, last but not least, it’s something he needs anyways, and Christmas just happens to be a good time to get/give it.

I buy things for my nieces because of the fun it is to be a child on Christmas Day (although so do the other 5,000+ relatives they have, so they are actually pretty hard to buy for).  For their Christmas’ and Birthday presents, I try to remember what I loved about being a kid and what my favorite things were (not favorite GIFTS, but favorite THINGS – most of the time I can’t remember if my favorite things were gifts or not).  So I opt-out of the super-new high-tech, or the uber-educational, or the biggest-thing (or next-biggest-thing) and try to get simple.  This year, they each will be getting a CD (and book, which goes with the CD but which I KNOW will be lost – just like mine was – with in minutes of opening the CD [OK, mine ways an AUDIO TAPE, if you remember what THOSE were]).

I probably listened to these two tapes by myself, in the car, and in any other tape player I could use – until either the tapes broke or the player broke (and I seem to have a memory of tapes being eaten and torrents of tears until the tape was replaced).  Some odd twenty-years later, I’m sure my mom and dad (and sister, although probably not so much my brother because he’s 15 year older than me and could have avoided it) STILL know the songs from the tapes.  And now my nieces will get to enjoy them too.  :D  Yes, Kim… I DO love you, and someday you’ll forgive me for giving your children this wonderful gift.

As for my parents, the reason I buy something for them is simple.  They gave ME the gift of life (with acknowledged help from God, I kn0w).  Still, much God’s gift to the world, I really can’t top what my parents did for me.  I can never show how much I appreciate my life, the opportunities that I have, and the things I am and will become because of them.  So if I try each year to give them something that shows my thankfulness for what they gave to me, great.  I’ll never even come close to “matching” the cost or emotion that has gone into my almost-thirty years of life from those two people.  And I know that even know, it’s often bittersweet for them.  I’m not perfect; I’m often sick, either of mind or body; I don’t always agree with them – and my flaws by far make me undeserving of the love and caring they have given me all through my life.

So, for Christmas, and for their Birthdays (when I can), I try to tell them in words, deeds, or gifts what I feel for them.  How very much I love them.  There would be NO Christmas’ or Birthdays, no Easter’s or Thanksgivings’, no daily drives to work and no celebrations of life – there would be nothing for me if they (and, again God) had not made me. So Mom and Dad, though you aren’t reading this, Thank You.  Thank you for ME.

*Pause for author’s crying and recovery…*

Getting back on topic, I believe that, with the exceptions mentioned above, and even with-in those exceptions, glutton purchasing at Christmas is not right.  We don’t have the money; we don’t have the time; we have other, more important priorities.  But society has placed upon us this mantel of requirement that says “GO FORTH AND BUY CHRISTMAS PRESENTS FOR EVERYONE!!”  And gosh-forbid that some one buy YOU something and you didn’t buy THEM something.  Not only is this a social faux pas, it is seen as insulting to the giver and the giftee.

FREAKING INSANE.

If I don’t buy you a Christmas present, or a card, or whatever is somehow expected of me in our society, why is that so important?!  I don’t expect anyone to get me anything, although people usually do, and that’s nice.  But I can honestly say that one of the gifts I received last year from a person who shall rename nameless, who bought me a gift because they felt they should or whatever reason – I NEVER USED IT.  Ever.  Tried, a time or two, but just didn’t get to it.  Sorry!  It isn’t that I don’t value your gift, but it just isn’t the kind of thing I use much.

Which brings me to another point.  Whenever you buy ANYONE a gift, for whatever reason, don’t waste your time and money (and their time and feelings, because believe me, getting a gift from someone that just bought it for you to get something for you and didn’t take into account who I am as a person hurts a little) if you don’t take the time to KNOW the person and know what to get for them that THEY will like.  All to often, people buy other people gifts that THEY want or think would be cool, with out really taking the giftee into mind.  Really, what’s the point?

Christmas is a holiday intended to bring about love and caring for our fellow man (and woman).  That feeling doesn’t have a price tag on it!  It can be shown with thoughts, words, and deeds just as much as it can be shown with “gifts”.  And it doesn’t even have to be regulated to one time of the year – it should be the constant spirit with which we deal with each other, every day.

So, on closing of this blog post (hey, I’m still feverish – maybe that accounts for some of this post, actually…), I will say this.  To my friends and family – I care deeply for you and love you despite our differences – I shouldn’t have to buy you gifts to show you that, as I try to show you that with every step I take in my life.  To those I don’t know very well – I wish you all you hope for in your soul (not your mind).

I’m sure I’ll touch on Christmas again before the season is out, but for now, one last thing:

I’m NOT Jesus or God.  I can’t give you myself unconditionally as They have.  But I have spent two years of my life volunteering to make THIS world, OUR world better.  I continue to volunteer in one way or another – and I do it for YOU.  That is my Christmas-Birthday-Holiday gift to you, forever.  I work to do good in this world, and I do that good so the world will be a better place for you and your children.  I volunteer not for the glitz and glam and paycheck (obviously), but as my continuing gift to you.  It’s got no dollar value, and maybe if I stopped doing it, few would notice.  Maybe you’ll never see the benefits yourself (and maybe I won’t even get to see them).  But that isn’t the point.  The point is to make this world a better place through our own accountability, thoughts, actions, and deeds.

You can take a grain of sand from a beach, but you can’t begin to build a beach with out starting with just one grain of sand.

Yours in service,

-MK

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Shameless Plug for Extremely Useful Technology!!

November 25, 2010 at 22:00 (Firefox and Add-Ons and Themes, Internet, Rambles and Rumbles, Technology)

As many of you know, I am a bit of a techie.  In fact, I value and treasure awesome innovations in technology, especially if they happen to be either extremely neat or very useful to my regular, everyday computer interactions.  And, since my last few blog posts were, perhaps, a little intense, I thought I’d prove some needed “comic relief” (aka I need to make a post about some thing which isn’t heavily weighted with important issues).  So I hereby introduce a new segment called “MK on Tech”

Recently, I have been having a love/hate relationship with my laptop mini.  I love it for its size and convenience, but hate it because of some of its initially overlooked limitations – in short, solid state hard drives – or at least the ones in this system – aren’t quite what I had in mind when I puchased my lil’ pink box.  (And no, the color was NOT the driving reason for the purchase.  I was motivated instead by the $200 price tag and the solid state hard drive(s) – which I wish I had understood more at the time of purchase, but I’m dealing with them, at least most of the time.)

Anyways, due to a bit of a user error on my part, I managed to completely screw-up my settings (and bookmarks and addons) for Firefox last week.  Despite being extremely upsetting and frustrating to me at the time, I’m recovering well and have decided to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the past few days.

First and foremost, if you don’ use Mozilla’s Firefox – GET IT AND START USING IT!  Right now… right here (Firefox 3.6.12 for Windows).

Strangely enough, I hated the origins of Firefox (and Mozilla) – the dreaded NetScape Navigator.  When it first came out as one of the first alternatives to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, I detested NetScape.  Over the years, however, as my detest for Microsoft has risen, and any and all alternatives to using Microsoft products became my technological goals, I unknowingly returned to NetScape through the reinvented form via the Mozilla Project.  I promptly fell in love with Mozilla (and, since, Firefox, Flock, Thunderbird, and other open-source software).  I’ve been using some version of Mozilla for probably nearly ten years now.  And it’ll take Hell and hot, boiling lava to make me give them up now.

One of the biggest and best things I love about Firefox (which I know that Microsoft has tried to also, but has failed horribly to immitate or even really effectively duplicate with their newest devil-program Internet Explorer version Who.Knows.Who.Cares.900.6.6.6) are the company and user created add-ons.  These tiny kilobyte jewels not only make using the internet easier, but also more time-saving, safe, and effective.  So, after crashing my Firefox accidently by rolling back my Microsoft monster to a restore point while trying to deal with my dual solid state hard drive issues earlier, I was once again forced to re-build my Firefox Dream Machine.

So, here and now, I want to list for you my new and old favorite add-ons for Firefox, and insist that, after you ditch your IE, you get most if not all of them shortly after you download Firefox.  In fact, I demand it, dan it!!!!

Here, in short-ish order, are my new favorite add-ons  Look them up, download them, use them, live them, and love them.  I ask (read DEMAND) nothing less.

1.  Ad Block Plus.  This little gadget has done for me what pop-up blockers only dreamed at before.  This bad boy turns your regular, ad-assaulted internet surfing into blissful harmony, mostly free annoying advertisements information destinations.  It effectively kills almost every ad on any website you visit.  It’s like TV, with out the annoying commercials.  Granted, a few still squee through from time to time, but the vast majority are so thoroughly gone it is like they were never there to begin with.

There are a few drawbacks to this for some people (like my husband, for example).  Some people actually LIKE ads.  Granted, from time to time (when I’m not using adblock, or when I’m using a different computer/browser with out adblock), I might see an ad for a company or website that interests me.  So, by losing the ads with adblock, I know I’m missing out on a few things.  But in reality, I’ll take what I’m missing out on with a grain of salt given the fact that missing out on a few things far outweighs (for me) being able to miss out on completely the vast majority of JUNK in internet ads.

The second drawback of AdBlock is that some websites obviously don’t like it.  I mean, some of them get most of their income from ad-generated sales, and AdBlock keeps them from their money!  One website specifically (last.fm) sometimes refuses to run if AdBlock is turned on.  Luckily for me, I can usually just keep reloading and trick the website into playing my music for me with out disabling AdBlock.  Another nice feature is that there is an option in AdBlock that lets you turn it off for specific webpages with out turning off the AdBlock add-on altogether.  (Or, if you don’t want to go through that trouble of specific website programing options in AdBlock, just click the AdBlock stop sign at the bottom of your FireFox status bar to deactivate it, and do the same to reactivate it.

Overall, I give AdBlock Plus a rating of “MUST HAVE”.

2.  Colorful Tabs.  This artful sounding add-on is actually more than just cute – it’s very useful!  In addition to adding a splash of color to your tabs, it can help you organize and distinguish your tabs very simply and easily.  Some of it’s great features include being able to assign a color to specific websites (which is neat, but I rarely use), and being able to adjust the color intensity of non-active tabs (so basically, the tab you are using is in “bold”, while the others are faded).

If you are a tab-addict like I am, Colorful Tabs is the way to go.  The colors make distinguishing between tabs quick and easy, and you can always know which of the half-dozen tabs you are working in with the color intensity scaling.  Another cool thing is that it randomly assigns colors to tabs and that includes such a variety of colors that you won’t very often have to yellow tabs right beside each other.  Again, with the ability to assign colors to specific websites (or domains) and a multitude of other color setting options, keeping things clear and in order for multi (or, like me, massive) tabbed browsing makes Colorful Tabs an essential add-on.

Overall, I give Colorful Tabs a rating of “Pretty Darn Cool”.

3.  Smart Bookmarks Bar.  If you are a tab-freak like me, than most likely you’re also an organizational freak too.  For example, when my “Bookmarks” list in my browser gets “too full” for my liking, I HAVE to go and reorganized it (making new folders, catagorizing links, moving from here to there, deleting useless ones – you get the idea) [I also regularly do this sort of thing to my desktop and "Start" menu/programs menu.  I can admit it, I'm OCPD - and I'm OK with that....just so long as I don't have to sit at YOUR computer and deal with YOUR cluttered desktop and start/program menu.  Then, we'd have problems.]

Anyways, Smart Bookmarks helps solve the problem of the “too many bookmarks on the bookmark bar, and not enough room”.  Sure, you could add another line to your bookmark bar, but why do that when you can get Smart Bookmarks?!  Ok…enough about WHY you need it, here’s what it does.  Simple: it hides the full name of the bookmark and just shows you the webpage icon (like the facebook “F”, or the craigslist peace sign).  This can let you fit probably twenty times the bookmarks on your bookmark bar, all with out sacrificing anything!

But, you may ask, what if my favorite website doesn’t have an icon?  No problem.  Smart Bookmarks settings let you show a bookmarks full name if it doesn’t have an icon.  In addition, if you can’t always remember what icon goes with what link, you can set it to show the full site name of the favorite when you roll your mouse over its icon.  Plus, with the option of being able to chose what size the icons display as, you can ensure you always have the favoritest of your favorites right in your browser where you want them.  The only thing that is missing from this current incarnation of Smart Bookmarks is the ability to SET an icon for websites that don’t have one.  It used to have that feature, but either it wasn’t useful (or I can’t figure out how to do it anymore).  Still, this add-on not only adds practicality to your browsing, but also a hint of awesomeness.

Overall, I give Smart Bookmarks Bar a rating of “MUST HAVE”.

4.  WebMail Notifier.  While I said earlier that I like Thunderbird, the truth is that, if given a choice, I prefer the webmail interface hands down.  Of course, not all webmail interfaces are created equal, so obviously Gmail is my favorite.  Still, no matter how good your webmail may be, there is always the issue with either frequently visiting the website to see if you have “new mail” or keeping the webmail tab open in your browser ALL THE TIME to keep up with your messages.  WebMail Notifier makes that all a thing of the past!

WebMail Notifier not only makes it easy to tell when “You’ve got mail”, it also keeps it out of the way when you don’t need it.  It supports almost every variety of major webmail there is out there, including gmail, hotmail, yahoo, aol, and many more.  Plus, unlike some other similar add-ons, you can monitor all your webmails at once!  (This feature is great if you, like me, have more than one gmail – I combine the two (or more) gmail accounts using gmail labs, then monitor my main account using WebMail Notifier – and never miss an important (or unimportant) email again!)  The new mail notifications are also nice because they aren’t “IN YOUR FACE” or overly annoying.  There is a small pop-up in your lower right hand corner (and this pops up so long as your have an active browser open, not only when you are using your browser), and a short, soft “beep” like noise is played – all letting you know that its time to check your mail.  You can set it to check at any time interval that you want (I generally set it to every 5 minutes), and forget about it – till it reminds YOU!

Other great settings include opening your webmail in a new tab (or browser window) so you don’t loose your work or place in the current website you are using, being able to simply click on the envelop tab in your status bar to get into your webmail (skipping login screens and such), and programming it to monitor more than one type of webmail (like your gmail, your hotmail, and your yahoo mail).  Heck, you can even customize your “new mail” notification sound and other settings besides.  With the invention of this add-on, anyone who habitually keeps their webmail window open just to check for new messages is officially a n00b.

Overall, I give WebMail Notifier a rating of “MUST HAVE”.

5.  Update Notifier.  If you use add-ons (or themes) for FireFox, you know it’s important to keep them up to date.  Of course, this isn’t exactly hard to do, but I don’t like habitually going into my add-ons manager and checking for new updates all the time.  The add-on Update Notifier fixes this problem!  By putting a little gray arrow right under your minimize/maximize/close program buttons, you are kept up-to-date on all the newest versions of all the add-ons you use!  It checks for you every 8, 16, 24, or 48 hours for all of your add-ons for newer versions.

If there is a newer version of an add-on (or theme), the gray arrow turns blue (for add-ons, green for themes).  Hovering over the arrow tells you which add-on has been updated, and clicking on the arrow gives you several options, including installing the newest updates.  You can even have it automatically install new updates.  Finally, remind you to restart FireFox after updating an add-on (or theme) by turning the gray arrow into a red exclamation point (or you can have it automatically restart FireFox after installing updates).  For add-on and theme addicts who like to keep it current, you can’t miss out on this gem.  It is so simple, seamless, and painless that it lets you keep up-to-date with out a hassle.  The short list of features in its options menu are all practical, keeping you from useless or unneeded choices.

Overall, I give Update Notifier a rating of “MUST HAVE”.

6.  Add-ons I often use but, for one reason or another, I haven’t gotten back to installing again yet.  I’ll be short and brief on these, and while I may not be using them right now on my netbook, I’ve either got them on my desktop or work laptop and think they are great!

A.  FoxyTunes.  This handy add-on allows you to control playback of your music player right from the convenience of your browser (since we all know that we’re usually browsing when we’re listening to music (or listening to music while we’re browsing) anyways).  It supports almost every music player known to exist (and perhaps some not generally known about), is fully customizable (lets you pick a WIDE variety of buttons to display or not in your browser status bar), and even has the neatest pop-out option that lets you use the FoxyTunes controls when you’re not in your browser (like when you’re in Word writing a term paper).  There isn’t much this thing doesn’t do, and if you’re a music lover like me, this is a MUST HAVE!

B.  FoxClocks.  For some people, the only time that matters (besides party time and happy hour) is the time it happens to be in their current location.  For others of us, there is FoxClocks.  With a plethora of options of what time it is around the world, FoxClocks lets you add a clock (as simple or as complex as you want it to be) to your status bar.  With almost as many settings as there are locations to know the time of, you can make it simple (hovering over to show the time in other places) or complex (using the status bar to list the times anywhere in the world you want).  If knowing the times around the world is of any importance to you, FoxClocks is definitely a “Pretty Darn Cool” add-on.

C.  Sun Cult.  Ever had one of those days when you were SURE it was a full moon, but didn’t have a calendar handy (and didn’t want to google moon phases) to find out?  Then Sun Cult is a fun little add-on to put the answer at your fingertips.  Although called “Sun Cult”, it covers much more than just moon phases.  I can tell you, according to your geographical location, sun and moon rise and set times, the current phase of the moon, when the next full/new moon will be, and other sun/moon related details.  Although not strictly needed for most people in today’s modern society, this is a super fun add-on, earning a strong “Pretty Darn Cool” rating from me. [Sadly, development on Sun Cult has basically ceased, and it is not supported on FF 3.  I'm not sure if there is another add-on that has taken its place or is similar, but I really hope support for this is brought back soon, as I really liked it.]

D.  Meebo.  The internet has brought us almost as many chat clients, websites, and programs as there are languages to in which to speak (ok…maybe not THAT many, but it’s probably getting pretty darn close by now).  And although there are several programs out there that seek to help you combine your 40-odd chat screen names, one that rises heads and tails above the rest is a little web-based program called Meebo.  Unlike some other chat program compilers, Meebo not only supports through its web-based format almost every chatting platform out there (again, maybe not everyone, but at least the 8 main ones, and lots more besides), it will allow a user to log in (and chat and manage them) ALL at the same time.  Even if you have three AOL screen names, you can sign into them all at the same time with out conflict (something that I’m not even sure you can do with the AOL chat program itself!).  Additionally, Meebo will let you bring all your IMs together under one Meebo ID, letting you IM with whoever you want from anywhere you want, all with no software to download.  The Meebo IM lets you take Meebo a step further by integrating it into your browser.  This means you can sign into Meebo (and at the same time, ALL your IMs), then be notified by a simple pop-up (which disappears after a few seconds) when you get an IM.  While this add-on isn’t perfect yet (you DO have to keep at least one tab or browser window open to Meebo at all times to keep Meebo signed in and the add-on working), it beats the alternatives (like Trillian) to pieces.  In my opinion, it is definitely a “Pretty Darn Cool” add-on.

E.  Cooliris.  If you are a frequent browser or searcher of images, you’ll love Cooliris.  It can turn any search for an image into a WALL of pictures that you can easily browse, meander through, and marvel at.  Simple mouse-only navigation combines with the smooth interface and easy image selection to make this add-on the “tool of choice” for those that love images.  It works for most image websites, including Google, Facebook, and Flickr, and even works for videos!  Makes finding the perfect image not only easy, but lots of fun by eliminating the need to “click” through pages and pages of pictures.  This add-on has come a LONG way since I first discovered it, but unlike some things, it has gotten better with time (and development).  Hands down, this add-on is “Pretty Darn Cool”.

7.  Still evaluating, but things are looking good so far!  In this category, I’ll again try to be short and sweet.  There are a few add-ons that I’ve recently discovered, or for one reason or another have gotten (either on my work laptop or desktop) but have yet to really use enough to determine whether or not I like them enough yet.  The ones I’ll mention here have great potential, and may soon become in part of my list of “tops”.

A.  ScribeFire Blog Editor.  As you read this, you are reading my first blog post created using ScribeFire.  I’m still evaluating this add-on, but it’s not too bad.  There are clearly some features that could be improved, and I’m not sure that I wouldn’t just prefer to use the WordPress interface, but there are also some advantages over the WordPress dashboard (so far).  The main advantage is the formatting options.  While with WordPress, you can essentially format something to look just about anyway you want it to, much of that formatting is can require at least basic (if not advanced) HTML knowledge.  So far, however, ScribeFire seems to allow for simpler, easier formatting, which I like (I’m a little formatting obsessed, among my other wonderful obsessions, lol).  Though I’m still in the “we shall see” stage with this add-on, I’ll rate it “I like what I see so far”.

B.  CLIP: CraigsList Image Prefetcher.  I really like CraigsList (or however it’s supposed to be spelled or written).  What better site than a non-ad-infested classifieds?  It’s like a search-able old-fashioned classifieds section of the newspaper!  You can find free stuff; you can find cheap stuff; you can find sex (ok, not technically anymore, but let’s be real here, people – oh, and NO, I don’t USE CraigsList for that, but a person COULD); you can find people to come and haul off your old junk you don’t want anymore; heck, you can even find people who will PAY YOU to haul off old junk you don’t need or want anymore!  What better website is there for someone that needs or wants something?!  The add-on CLIP takes an already good thing and makes it better.  Fairly simply, it shows you the picture related to a CL post with out making you click on the post JUST to see the picture.  This makes CL’s browsing much faster – especially when you’re like me, and only really interested in posts with pictures most of the time.  Although I’ve only been using this add-on for a week or so, I rate it “A Keeper”.

C.  Google Shortcuts – All Google Services at a glance.  As the name implies, this add-on puts ALL the tools of Google at your fingertips – something even Google’s websites themselves haven’t done very well yet.  There are probably nearly one hundred Google-ets that they make, including gmail, google docs, google maps, google reader – to infinity and beyond.  But till I found this add-on, sometimes I’d have to search google itself just to find the ones I was interested in (like Google Health, and Google Voice).  Even in my gmail account, I don’t have easy access to those google-ets that I frequently use (most of them, yes, but not all of them).  Google Shortcuts fixes that problem with amazing ease!  It puts a button on your tool bar that links you to all of google’s services.  Even better, through the options and settings, you can customize the list of services included in your google shortcuts button.  Now, I have almost instant access to my Google Docs, Google Voice, Google Mail, Google Calendar, and YouTube – all in one simple button.  And I can add or take away as many services as my little heart is content to demand.  Again, I’ve only had this beauty for a week or so, but I also rate it “A Keeper”!

D.  Lazarus: Form Recovery.  This is another add-on that I really like the idea of, but haven’t had the need for exactly yet, so I can’t be sure if I like it or not.  Essentially, the idea here is that if you’re typing some long form submission, and for one reason or another you lose it, it can be recovered easily.  I’m sure this is something that has happened to most if not all of us, and this tool looks promising to really relieve the frustrations that come with losing the data, but as I really try to avoid getting into the circumstances that result in this in the first place, I’m not sure what to rate this, so I’ll just say “Pending On Form Failure”, lol.

E.  Extended Copy Menu.  If you are like me, then you do a LOT of copy and pasting from websites.  I do it at home, at work, in the car – ok, not really, but just about every day, hundreds of times, for lots of reasons, I copy and paste something from my browser to another document.  And there is NOTHING that annoys me more than to copy not JUST the text, but the formatting, coloring, web links, and anything else the selection contains – WHEN ALL I WANT IS THE TEXT!  There is another add-on that I used to use, called “Copy Plain Text”, but it doesn’t seem to be working or supported anymore.  So I’m downloading this extension tonight.  As far as rating goes, the best I can do is rate it “Hopeful”.

I’ll conclude this post here.  There is lots more I can say, but I’ve written enough for today, and it is now time to kick back, nibble leftovers (CHEESEBALL!!), and give thanks that I don’t have to go back to work for the next three days!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  For you guys that are psycho enough to go shopping tomorrow, good luck and yes, there is medication for that.

Yours in service,
-MK

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WTF?! “Walmart is now following you on Twitter!”

November 25, 2010 at 15:55 (Freedoms, Protests and Boycotts, Rambles and Rumbles, Views and Opinions, Voluneering and Community Service, Work and Life)

First of all, let me preface this with the fact that I really don’t “get” Twitter yet.  I’ve tried.  I’ve got an account and all, and even used to make quasi-regular posts to it.  But despite my efforts, I never really “got” it, and pretty much gave up using it.  Granted, I linked it to my (aka this) blog recently, but that was just in some desperate attempt to attain readership and fame (hey, I try to be modest in my life, but I don’t often succeed!  Forgive me there…)

Anyways, I woke up for a second time today as about 1430 (that’s 2:30pm for those you can’t read military time).  No, the second sleep wasn’t cause by turkey-induced lethargy, but rather by pure exhausting at having been up since 5am VOLUNTEERING!  Today is the day of Eagle Ridge Institute’s major fund raiser, our 11th (or maybe 12th, I can’t remember now) annual Turkey Trot Classic.  So when the race was over and my Thanksgiving Day volunteering was done, I tried to sleep just a little more in preparation for Turkey Dinner later today.  Oh, and I had to crawl into bed beside a warm body to simply thaw out from the FREEZING COLD the race was held in today!

So, upon my second rising, I skipped to my computer to see if any real people had sent me an email.  Out of the 18 or so emails I had, none was the responsibility of a human hand directly, but the result of some cold server-computer somewhere who’s human overmasters are determined in getting my “holiday buck” this year.  Yes, 18 emails, and not ONE from a “real” person.  Sad, really.

To my shock (read: disgust, awe, aghast, and disturbance), I was greeting from Twitter with the following email:  “Walmart is now following you on Twitter!”  Pinching myself to ensure I’m still awake and this wasn’t some horrible dream (it hurt, so I was awake), I pondered what on EARTH I could have done to bring the interest of “Walmart”.  Yes, I know it isn’t the “REAL” Wal-Mart of Bentonville, Arkansas – despite their twitter name of “@RealWalmart“.  A cursory view of their tweets told me that obviousness (that, and they are “from” San Fransisco – huh?!).

Then I remembered the conversation I had with my husband yesterday.  While discussing basically unimportant things (like the recent episode of Futurama – Season 2 we had watched on NetFlix), I told him that I had been of recently conducting a voluntary, personal, and basically unstated boycott of Wal-Mart.  (Yes, however.  I am a hypocrite in that I still shop at Sam’s Club – but damn it, I LIKE Sam’s Club’s Pharmacy team!  They remember me, and are nice to me, and make me feel like a person, not just another shopper.  Still, I digress…)

My husband was a little surprised at my personal boycott.  First of all, I think he thinks it’s basically pointless.  My not shopping at W’s won’t really impact much on W’s bottom line.  But I know that, and it’s NOT my point in my boycott.  Over the past few months, it has become more important to me than ever to patronize organizations or companies that 1.) I like, and 2.) who’s business practices don’t disgust me in one way or another.  I’ve never really “liked” Wal-Mart to begin with – I have seen them as a mostly necessary evil in today’s society, and one that can’t easily be avoided, but I’ve never stretched my feelings to say I “liked” them.  Basically, I tolerated them, sort of like I tolerate the Oklahoma State Tax Commission.  Again, not an organization I “like”, but one that is pretty much unavoidable in life.

On the second point, not patronizing companies that have business practices that disgust me in one way or another – allow me to look back into my history.  Almost four years ago, I had a complete mental and emotional breakdown.  The result was that I spent three mandatory days in the “happy house” (aka Saint Anthony’s Inpatient Psychological Ward), followed by several MONTHS of almost daily, intensive out-patient therapy to piece back together my sanity.  I place most (but, honestly, not all) of the blame of my breakdown on the company I was working for at the time – Securitas Security Services, USA.  LOOOOONNNNGGGG story short, my job required me to beg, threaten, plead, and all-but-abuse the employees of that company to help meet the over-demand we had for security guards due to both overcommitment and under-staffing.  If a shift didn’t get covered, it was my fault – no matter what the reason.  I was responsible in screwing any employee I could to get those shifts covered.  This “9-5″ job really went on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because, again, as scheduling manager, in the end, if something didn’t get covered, it was MY ass.

In short, my job was to screw (figuratively) our employees, pressing more hours out of them than they wanted to (or often even COULD) work like a person presses oil out of an olive.  It wasn’t just my JOB, it was my LIFE.  I abused others so that someone else (aka the company and the stockholders) could get rich.  But my own personal morals and ethics would only allow me to go so far to influence a person to work extra shifts for me.  I would ask, beg, plead, but I wouldn’t threaten to fire them, or demote them, or never give them extra hours if they needed them if they said no.  If they said no, I just said okay and moved on to my next victim/employee.  I tried to do the job with a heart, and that was my downfall.

The stress of this all-but-impossible job finally got to me one Monday morning in January.  After being told by a guard that he wouldn’t be in for work that day because HE WAS JUST DIAGNOSED WITH FUCKING CANCER, I had to tell my “boss” (one of two overlords I served) that I simply didn’t have anyone to cover the shift.  Not only was I out of people in general, this site required specialized training, evaluation, knowledge, and more – so I couldn’t put just anyone I had out there.  (Now, don’t get me wrong.  I had known for MONTHS this site was a problem site.  I had begged to have more guards certified to work there, or others hired to work there, or ANYTHING – and my efforts had gone basically ignored.)  None the less, when I told my boss I had nothing, he simply said (in his wonderfully tactless way) “Cover the shift” – which I took to mean come up with SOME poor bastard to do this in a way that won’t make our company lose the contract, or it’s your ass and your job that will suffer.

I snapped.  Driving home from work that day, my biggest concern wasn’t HOW I was going to kill myself, but praying that when I drove my car into a bridge, I wouldn’t accidentally take a vanfull of a family out with me.  The next day, I was checked into the hospital and began to work on my mental recovery of the stress (and abuse and torment) that job had put me through for more than nine months.  It was probably one of the darkest six months of my life – and the hardest psychological relearning to think that I have ever gone through.  In the end, I came out still recovering (which I consider myself to still be today, and always will be – like some kind of addict).  I never went back to work for that company.

All this story leads to this: a few weeks ago, someone I know went through a similar mental breakdown caused by – you guessed it – Wal-Mart.  Knowing that this wasn’t a one-off case, knowing a few more details about the management system at W’s, I decided to make the conscious effort to keep my money and support from such an abusive company.  I knew (and still know) that I’m losing out on the convenience and cost-savings Wal-Mart offers consumers.  I’m also losing out on the selection of items I have to chose from (there were quite a few “Wal-Mart exclusive” items that I really liked and miss).  And I know that such a small-scale boycott won’t really effect W’s bottom line.  But I have the personal satisfaction of doing what I know is right versus simply what is easy.  I’ll gladly take the sacrifices I have to make and miss out on the items and the “savings” so that I will, in the end, feel good about myself and where I chose to spend my money.

So today’s irony of being “followed” by “Walmart” just amuses me.  In fact, I almost feel stalked, lol.  Like they are saying “we’re WATCHING you, you non-WallyWorld person, you!”  It almost makes me feel like I’ve been put on McCarthy’s blacklist.  But, really, it changes nothing for me.  I will continue to shop, as I vote, in accordance to my beliefs.  At the same time, I know that most likely, some of the places I’m shopping at instead of W’s practice many if not all of the same unethical and immoral practices that W’s uses – but I just don’t know about it.  When and if I ever find out, I’ll probably try to stop shopping there too.

I may suffer by spending more and losing convenience by not heading to the Wal-Mart, but what I gain personally knowing that I’m not supporting something that I believe is wrong is far more valuable to me.  Many people dog capitalism in one way or another, but one of its values is that it gives a person power to support or not support a company based on the all-mighty dollar.  For that reason, I chose to use my capitalistic pursuits to spend or keep my money from those who I don’t deem worthy of it.  I work hard for what I get paid, and I think the companies that reap the benefit of my hard work need to earn it.  I don’t think Wal-Mart does, so they can keep their “low, low prices”, and I’ll keep my dignity.

Follow away, Wal-Mart.  Till YOU change, I will try not to.  My money won’t be yours.  It won’t hurt you overall, but it makes me feel better about myself, and that is what matters most to me.  Being true to my beliefs is far more valuable than “rollbacks”.  It’ll cost me more, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Yours in service,

-MK

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Why do I live here again?

November 23, 2010 at 21:16 (Freedoms, Law, Oklahoma, Responsibilities, Rights, Views and Opinions)

First of all, it saddens me to write this post.  Once upon a time (perhaps a time that held a more naive me, but still), I was very proud to live in and be considered a citizen of the state of Oklahoma.  These days, however, I’m questioning it more and more.

Granted, there have always been some things I didn’t like about Oklahoma.  We’re rather full of ourselves, to begin with.  Yes, we do have quite a bit of history to be proud of, but we also have quite a bit of history and current affairs to be ashamed of.  I can give specifics of each, but that really isn’t my point here.

My point in this: why am I continuing to live in a state that does not reflect my personal beliefs and views.  Wait, let me go a step further.  Why do I continue to live in a state that not only doesn’t reflect y personal beliefs and views, but also tends to almost demonize those in this state who have views that don’t follow the state’s “mainstream” ideas.

The recent election results are my first point.  The voters in Oklahoma have basically rejected international law.  In the guise of trying to “defend” Oklahoman’s against “Muslim radicalization”, they crafted a state question which prohibited the use of Sharia (or Islamic) law for consideration by Oklahoma judges.  The state question said, specifically  (State Question 755):

“This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other.
It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.  The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.”

Now, I’m going to try to leave the Islamic relations issue aside from this for a moment and focus on other, important issues of this question.  First of all, Oklahoma hosts dozens of sovereign nations with in its borders – Native American Tribes.  If our state courts can’t use “international agreements as well as treaties” to interact with these nations, is the state basically not saying “Hey, the Federal US Government says you’re your own thing – but, here, you’re not.  Sucks to be you!”  Goodbye tribal sovereignty!

Next, there is the issue of the origins of Oklahoma law to begin with.  While we are not considered a “common law” state, much of the law on the books originates in English common law.  Since the England I’m talking about here isn’t Gary, and is just the slightest bit…international…has the state almost not just said that they are invalidating the basis on which most of Oklahoma law was formed and designed?  Think about that…

Now, I’m no expert here – but I do have a little background in understanding of criminal law and criminal justice (you know, only a BA in the category).  And once upon a time, I was actually a state employee.  So I know just the slightest bit about the “oath of office” of any state employee.  It might interest someone to know that the “oath of office” for the Governor of the State of Oklahoma is the exact thing each and every state employee swears to when they are officially hired.  Now, I don’t remember it word-for-word, but I do recall it dealing with upholding the LAW OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA.

So, don’t get me wrong here…I disagree with this state question on MANY different areas, but WHY are we making a law to make our state officials follow Oklahoma law – WHEN WE’VE ALREADY MADE THEM PROMISE TO DO THAT TO BEGIN WITH!!?  I firmly believe that it is pretty damn pointless to make something illegal that is already ILLEGAL – and this seems to be another case in point.

Now, moving on to yet another state question, No. 751:

“This measure amends the State Constitution. It adds a new Article to the Constitution. That Article deals with the State’s official actions. It dictates the language to be used in taking official State action. It requires that official State actions be in English. Native American languages could also be used. When Federal law requires, other languages could also be used.

These language requirements apply to the State’s “official actions.” The term “official actions” is not defined.

The Legislature could pass laws determining the application of the language requirements. The Legislature would also pass laws implementing and enforcing the language requirements.

No lawsuit based on State law could be brought on the basis of a State agency’s failure to use a language other than English. Nor could such a lawsuit be brought against political subdivisions of the State.”

Let me be clear first of all, I don’t read, write, or speak Spanish.  I can read, write, and speak a little (VERY SMALL) bit of French, and I can occasionally mutter in Russian – but as far as foreign languages go, that’s it for me.  I get just as frustrated as the next guy when placing an order at McDonald’s to someone who doesn’t seem to have the slightest idea between the difference of the English words “small fry” and “big mac”.  I think that it is socially acceptable and expected to speak the language of whatever place your are living and working in, and that if you don’t, (and even if you are just visiting a place that doesn’t speak your native tongue), there will be annoyances and problems for you.

That does NOT mean I think that in Oklahoma or the United States, we should mandate one “official language”.

My reasons for this are varied.  First of all, English is in no way a true “native” tongue of this nation (or state).  Nor is French, Dutch, German, Spanish, or Russian.  America has no one original native language.  Instead, when the “civilized” countries reached its shores, they not only attempted to indoctrinate the land with their own language (and religion and other ideas), but the established “civilization” even made almost every effort to eradicate these “native languages” of America.  Quite frankly, the only reason we speak English here to begin with deals a lot more with the success of England to colonize the United States (which history has shown to have been more successful than France’s or Spain’s or other countries) than any real basis for English to be the “native” language of the United States.  It goes back to British Colonialism and the saying that the sun never set on the British Empire.

A large majority of Americans probably can’t even name a “native” language of America, and I’m sure that probably 90% of citizens most likely don’t even know ONE WORD of a “native” language of the United States.  How in the HECK, then, are we qualified to “establish” and “official” language here?!

Then there is the smallest, tiniest problem with a thing called the US Constitution (and US Code, and case law).  A combination of the 1st Amendment (which included such fundamental rights such as freedom of speech) and the 14th Amendment (which told the states they had to respect the rights set forth in the Constitution and Amendments and provide them to their people), followed by years of case law, pretty much said that the United States couldn’t establish an “official” language.  The main reason for doing this has a lot more to do with fundamental rights and freedoms that it does with getting your big mac minus pickles.

The United States realized pretty quickly that if there was no method of protecting the common citizen’s rights, then these rights would cease to exist.  While there are many important rights, one of these is due process of the law.  The Supreme Court has long seen the legal system as stacked against the common man, and thus has at least attempted to stop or prohibit the government from being unfairly targeted by its own juggernaut.  To cut to the chase, a person’s ability or inability to speak the common language of the land (aka English) has been targeted as an easy way to disenfranchise someone from the rights of the Constitution (which isn’t limited to citizens, by the way).  So the Court has said time and time again that if a person does not speak English, some accommodation must be made for the person so they are not disenfranchised from their rights because of proceedings they can not and do not understand because of a language barrier.

So that’s the history (albeit very abridged) behind the United State’s overall inability to establish an official language.  And the states are REQUIRED to follow this established practice, both by the 14th Amendment and other rules and case law.

But apparently, Oklahoma wants to be the exception to the rule.  By passing State Question 751, they essentially said “screw you” to the law of the US Government because they think that Oklahoma is better than they are.  OR DID THEY?

Did anyone notice the little sentence in the question wording that said “When Federal law requires, other languages could also be used.”  Doesn’t sound too significant, does it?  But IT IS.  Because FEDERAL LAW ALWAYS REQUIRES IT.  So, hats off to you, Oklahoma, for making yet another pointless, unenforceable, and time-wasting law.  Good job.  Way to make a statement with out either 1.) really understanding what the FRAK you are doing or 2.) that has absolutely no teeth but looks pretty on paper.

Sorry, everyone.  But if you really don’t want to deal with the issue of those who do not speak English, THEN DO NOT PATRONIZE THE BUSINESSES WHO HIRE SUCH EMPLOYEES.  If that means you don’t get your big mac, then sorry, but you probably don’t need it anyways.

Of course, Oklahoma doesn’t really want to stop there in their effort to disenfranchise the rights of the common man.  Let me introduce you to State Question 746:

“This measure amends statutes relating to voting requirements. It requires that each person appearing to vote present a document proving their identity. The document must meet the following requirements. It must have the name and photograph of the voter. It must have been issued by the federal, state or tribal government.  It must have an expiration date that is after the date of the election. No expiration date would be required on certain identity cards issued to persons 65 years of age or older.  In lieu of such a document, voters could present voter identification cards issued by the County Election Board.  A person who cannot or does not present the required identification may sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot. Swearing to a false statement would be a felony.  These proof of identity requirements also apply to in-person absentee voting. If adopted by the people, the measure would become effective July 1, 2011.”

This is another sounds-good-on-the-surface-but-deep-down-is-really-bad law that Oklahoma keeps insisting on creating.  As you can probably see, the intent of this law is to require that, in order to vote and ensure that your vote is counted, you must have an unexpired photo ID.

Bare in mind that it is already illegal to cast a vote claiming to be someone that you are not.  In fact, it’s pretty established to be illegal to claim to be someone you are not in any capacity most of the time.  So, to some degree, Oklahoma is yet again dealing with a redundant law (making something illegal that is already illegal).

But this law tries to go further than that.  It all goes back to disenfranchisement of the rights of the common man.  Now, to most people, getting a photo ID isn’t a problem – although it can be a huge hassle, and a possible significant costs.  But, essentially, to exist as a person in the US, you not required to have a photo ID.  Granted, it’s pretty hard to get by with out one, but it’s also pretty hard to get by with out having a driver’s license.  And while a driver’s license is required to drive, there is not law that requires you TO drive.  It’s a privilege, not a right.

Voting, however, is generally assumed (with some limitations, albeit ones that I find to be questionable according to the Constitution) to be a RIGHT.  One person, one vote.  Much blood, sweat, and tears (and significant loss of life) has been expended in the US over our history to attain this right and protect it.  Equal effort has been spent, at various times, to keep that right out of the hands of those who society deems undeserving of that right (case in point, woman’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow Laws, and other historical attempts).   And yet, at the end of the day, the US Government and the Supreme Court have pretty much said that it is illegal to take someone’s right to vote away because it disenfranchises them of that right and a host of others.

Now, current political thought would have one believe that making a photo ID a requirement of voting isn’t setting the bar too high for the citizens.  And they would be wrong.  As I mentioned before, while it can be a pain in the ass to get a photo ID, it isn’t too difficult for most people.

MOST PEOPLE, but not ALL people.  To get a photo ID, you need a few things.  First of all, you usually need your birth certificate and your social security card.  But to get those, you need something much more significant – MONEY.  You need money for transportation to the places you have to go to apply for these documents.  You often need money to even GET some of these documents (specifically your birth certificate).  Even if you apply to get these items by mail, you still have to have money for the stamp, for crissakes.  So how exactly are you supposed to get these items if you don’t have money?

Essentially, that is my main argument against this law.  There is far more of a chance that a poor person will be unable to afford to obtain a photo ID, and thus unable to vote, than there is a chance or threat that someone will vote illegally.  The risk (the disenfranchisement of a person’s vote) outweighs the alternative (people doing something ILLEGAL, for which they can be arrested and jailed for because it is ILLEGAL!).

While that is my main reason against this law, it isn’t my only reason.  The reality is there are circumstances that can arise that can make a legal US citizen completely unable to get the documents required to get an ID.  These include cases where disaster has destroyed the access to the documents states maintain to establish identity.  The most recent example of this is Hurricane Katrina, where many state agencies were rendered incapable of even being contacted, much less locating the requested documents.  Other examples include data loss due to fire, flood, theft, mismanagement, or other issues.  Simply put, there are a few unfortunate people who can’t get their documents for an ID because they no longer exist.

Which brings us again to the issue of MONEY.  In those cases, in order to basically get your identity back, you must get involved in the legal system.  This means not only the costs of the legal system, but often times a specialized (read EXPENSIVE) attorney to navigate you through the system.  So if you are poor, forgetaboutit.  It isn’t going to happen.

The end result is clear: disenfranchisement of an individual based solely on their personal economic situation.  This is not a new concept to the US Government, nor is it one which they do not have a well-documented stand on.  It has been found time and time again to be illegal to disenfranchise someone based on them being poor.  An example of this is that if you’re poor and accused of a crime, the state must provide you an attorney.

But now the State of Oklahoma wants to put the rights of one of the already most disenfranchised group of people in jeopardy again by requiring them to present a photo ID to vote.  As I have explained, this is wrong on so many levels, people must really think they are holier-than-thou simply to entertain the idea once they have really examined the concept and the surrounding issues.

It all comes down to this, for me.  I am living in a state that, while I have a deep (perhaps illogical, but still present) love for this state of my birth, my homeland state, I am increasingly becoming more and more disgusted with its ideals and practices.  These state questions are but the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately.  I can (and at a later time and date will) go on, but I’ve said all I can stand for today.

This state stands for the mainstream, the normal, the status quo.  Those that are different, that don’t fit the norm, that hold a conflicting opinion are not welcome.  Even worse, those who are brave enough to speak their contrary opinion of the state are not just unwelcome, but demonized and outcast.  This is not acceptable, not in Oklahoma and not in the United States.

Maybe I should move.  Maybe someday I will move.  Or maybe I’ll take the harder and more difficult road of staying where my roots are and fighting against the wrongs I see, to improve the state I love and preserve freedom, liberty, and the REAL good it is to be an Oklahoman for future people and generations to come.

I pray I have the strength to do that which is right rather than that which is easy.

Yours in service,

-MK

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