Cocking A Snook Too!

Independent, Irreverent Unschoolers – or at least one – Take On the Universe

Oh man you guys I am so excited May 8, 2009

Filed under: Calvin,Movies + Life — Meredith @ 11:57 am

I’ve been a geek all my life – it’s just well-hidden because I’m bad at video games and have highly developed social skills. I have a box of DC comics from the 60s in my room (Batman and Superman); I know Tolkien’s Elvish alphabet; I adore the original Star Wars trilogy and think it’s a shame that they allowed Lucas to ruin the new trilogy; I love reading, and am, in fact, a grammar nerd; I’m halfway through watching Firefly, need to finish watching through the first season of Battlestar, and will be deeply upset if Dollhouse gets cancelled.

All this geekiness I claim on my own terms, but since Calvin and I started going out almost three years ago, he’s introduced me to even more geekiness. He’s a Marvel man, so I can add Spiderman and the X-Men to my repertoire. He’s a serious gamer (and when I say gamer, I mean FF10 gamer, not MaddenWhaterver gamer), so even though I have the dexterity only for Lego Indiana Jones, I’m aware of that universe. Calvin also plays Magic and Warhammer (he paints all his own models exquisitely.)  He and I also read Watchmen together, way before the movie came out, and then we went to see the movie together, and when the four-hour extended cut DVD comes out, we will watch it again.

But the biggest and most important thing Calvin has introduced me to is Star Trek. All of it. I have seen at least ten episodes of every series, more of most, and movies 2-4 and 6-10.

And I am so excited about the new movie. Calvin and I are going to see it tomorrow, and I wanted to do something to mark the occasion. Poll time!

Advertisements
 

Well, at Least We Don’t Live in Australia: Thoughts on Abortion April 21, 2009

prochoice21

I woke up to the sound of a vibrating cell phone.

Since it only vibrated once, it was almost undoubtedly Calvin texting me. I figured this morning’s text would be something about the day-to-day operation of the Venn diagram that is our lives, pertaining to our plant or trip to the beach, but it was the other kind of Calvin text: the Kind that Keeps Me Angry/Amused About the World Around Me.

He’s a very good news source, and he knows exactly which stories will make me scream/laugh. Today was a screaming day.

A 19 yr old Australian is facing 14 years in prison for “organizing her own miscarriage,the text read. [Abortion is] legal there, just illegal to seek.

That makes no sense, I texted back.

Correct, he agreed.

So if someone jumps out of an alleyway and gives you one against your will, it’s OK, but if you make an appointment, it’s not?

Sort of. The law is 100 years old and doesn’t even make complete sense by today’s legal standards. “Seek your own” is the key phrase, but it isn’t defined.

According to Wikipedia, the law in Australia is pretty similar to the state ours was in pre-Roe – cases turn on a state-by-state basis. Abortion is the law of the land, there, in the sense that an abortion performed based upon the health risks of the mother is always legal, but each state has the right to define what that means.

Therefore, the young woman in question, who facilitated her abortion with the much vilified “abortion pill,” is in violation of the law because she based her decision to abort not on health concerns, but on the fact that she’s nineteen years old, for god’s sake. The pill, misoprostol, is essentially banned in Australia, and was smuggled in from the Ukraine.

Luckily, much of Australia seems to be with her, although most of the news stories I can find make the old mistake of saying “pro-abortion activists” are rallying. This is a label that rubs more and more on me these days, creating an emotional and political blister the size of Kansas. No one is “pro-abortion.” No one likes the idea of it. Nobody has one with relish. What I am – and what most people in the pro-choice movement are – is a person who wants control over my own life.

This story hits home with me for several reasons, not least because this girl is my age. If I were to require an abortion at this point in my life and someone were to get in my way? Oh, there would be carnage, and damn the consequences. Conservatives try to obfuscate the issue by whining about life. What about my life? I am a fully developed person, a citizen of these United States, and I have certain unalienable rights to this vessel which is my own personal body. Sure, a fetus has the potential to become a life. I am a life already.

There were several moments in Barack Obama’s campaign that made me want to vote for him twice. One of those moments was during the Saddleback forum, hosted by the Devil. The Devil asked Obama about abortion (although he did not challenge him to a fiddlin’ contest, which is a shame), and Obama responded thus:

“I believe in Roe v. Wade, and I come to that conclusion not because I’m pro-abortion, but because, ultimately, I don’t think women make these decisions casually. I think they — they wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors or their spouses or their doctors or their family members.”

Thank god that we are not in Australia, and that this man is our president. But does anyone remember that, for a while there, we were alarmingly close to this?:

Sarah Palin and her child named after a tree or something

Sarah Palin and her child named after a tree or something

Q: Your stand on abortion?

A: I’m pro-life. I’ll do all I can to see every baby is created with a future and potential. The legislature should do all it can to protect human life.

Source: Q&A with Newsmax.com’s Mike Coppock Aug 29, 2008

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a nuance gap between two candidates.

I think it comes down to this: the pro-choice concept is difficult for some people to latch on to because it involves the complex task of making your own decision with no guidance from anyone else.

Think about it. Atheists make religious fundamentalists uncomfortable because we manage to operate by a moral code which we ourselves developed, free of biblical intervention. Religious fundamentalists are people who cling to the chains that bind them, who genuinely don’t know how to operate without a set of rules handed down from on high. Why wouldn’t these people want abortion legislation?

I think women who are anti-choice are that way because they are as horrified by abortion as, well, anyone. And they are even more horrified by this thought:  what kind of monster am I if I decide to have an abortion? If abortion is illegal, well, congrats, you don’t have to struggle with your better angels at all. Decision has been made for you, and you have an excuse not to think about unpleasant things.

I am an inverse fundamentalist christian. I want everyone to step into the light, to see the beautiful future they can have if only they believe in it. But that future is not accessible through hate and fear. It is accessible through freedom, it is visible in the first steps taken away from dogma and puppet-strings, toward the terrifying brilliance of a world you can create yourself.

 

Couple Things August 12, 2008

Filed under: Calvin,Criticism of the Stupid,Funnies,Politics — Meredith @ 9:05 pm

In any relationship, it’s important to spend time together doing things you both enjoy – “Couple Things,” if you will.

Calvin and I like to paint Warhammer figurines, watch The West Wing, and yell at people on the internet.

Warhammer, for the uninitiated, is an addictive and expensive hobby which involves the acquisition and painting of small plastic and metal creatures which are totally awesome. These creatures are then assembled into armies of different point values which can square off against each other in accordance with very complicated rules which I do not understand at all (I just like the painting part).

This is the first guy I painted - a Wood Elf riding a War Hawk

This is the first guy I painted - a Wood Elf riding a War Hawk

The story of how I began painting “mens” as Calvin calls them, is a stereotypical one: Boy becomes mildly obsessed with something, girl, noting that boy is increasingly absorbed by said thing, begins to participate, if only to interact with him more. So now at least half of our date nights are spent sitting very happily on the floor, giving color to increasingly detailed models. The whole thing is incredibly geeky.

I will sprinkle pictures of some dudes Calvin and I painted throughout the post. They took lots of manhours, but it’s some fantastic work, well worth it.

While we paint, we like to watch the West Wing, for simple, easy-to-understand reasons:

1) It is the best show ever

2) We really, really wish that President Bartlett were the real president

3) It is the best show ever

The show follows the staff of a fictitious White House during a thoughtful, intelligent, democratic administration which, in a cruel twist of irony, mirrors the chronology of Dubya’s. Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is without peer, witty and sparkling, and the material dealt with is more intelligent than in any other show, before or since. (more…)

 

My dad, Calvin’s mom, and those who would like to preapprove us all July 10, 2008

Filed under: Calvin,College Stuff,Edumucation,News to Ponder — Meredith @ 5:30 pm

My dad is a pretty cool guy. He’s dapper, charming, and polite to a fault. He comes from hardy Yankee stock, and often makes references to childhood stories that give us pause (“My father and I built that chimney,” “That reminds me of the time we put a firecracker in a fish and threw it over the bay,” “It’s no fun to wake up and find that poodles have peed in your shoes,” etc).

But, perhaps because he is one of those “liberal Yankees” we so often disparage Down Here, he has several other, more abrasive traits which I find rather endearing. He has an almost overdeveloped sense of right and wrong – if his belief in justice were any stronger, he’d have to wear a cape. This couples with the sort of tenacity rarely found outside of Christian missionaries and 19th century British colonialists to create one hell of an investigator.

He started out as a journalist, first up north, where nothing happens because it’s snowing, and then in Tampa where nothing happened because the Mob ran a tight ship. I jest, of course, he covered a murder his first day in town and eventually did an almost-award-winning series on the “Cigar City Mafia.” (If you recognize that as the title of an acclaimed book, you’re correct. If you notice that that book was not written by my dad but utilizes much of his research, you are also correct. Note I did not link to its Amazon page.)

He’s something of a folk hero even within the family, my boyfriend Calvin holding him in particular reverence. He whispers “badass,” when he hears one of the oft-retold stories of his exploits, and has said, “your dad could go to a hot dog stand and it would turn out to be a mafia hot dog stand.”

The nature of dad’s work has always made him better informed than we mere mortals, from “do not shop in that store – trust me,” to “Oh, god, it’s the former commissioner of such-and-such, I hope he didn’t see me, he’s such a jerk.” He’s always repeated to us, mantra-like, to always, always, always read the fine print, and to never, never, never, give out our personal information. In my house, much like Calvin’s house, credit card companies were at best a ravenous monster which we should trust minimally and use warily, and at worst the harbinger of the Antichrist.

Calvin’s mom, in fact, indirectly blames credit cards for all of Calvin’s childhood issues with school and society. She was a stay-at-home-mom when his older sisters were growing up, but feels Calvin lost the benefit of that because scarily mounting credit card debt required her to go back to work when he was still very small. She looks back on this bend in the road wistfully, thinking that if it had gone differently, her son would have had a better childhood and a better relationship with her.

College was another well-tended expectation in both our houses. My mom came from an academic family of teachers, professors, and perpetual students, and of course, had her own Ph.D. My dad came from a family for whom immigration was no distant memory – for him, college was a way to prove himself and reach for something better than roofing, which was his father’s profession (Dad always said, “my father’s idea of power tools was two guys with shovels”).

Calvin’s parents and sisters all graduated from Florida State University, the former putting themselves through working as lab techs before a degree was required to become a lab tech. His brother-in-law is at present working on his Ph.D., and the whole family has enough Master’s Degrees between them to frighten a coal-mining town.

So Calvin and I were more than a little dismayed to learn that the Great Evil of credit cards and the Great Good of college were strolling off arm-in-arm into the sunset.

Back to my dad: He’s now a top-notch fraud investigator at a nice law firm, where his aforementioned tenacity and sense of justice can sometimes lead him to put in hours and hours of work investigating things which are clearly wrong on many levels but not necessarily prosecutable.

One such recent case involved him looking into the level of care Florida State put into handling their students’ personal information. This was of direct concern to me, as I’m in the process of giving them all of my personal information in order to apply for admittance in the future.

As it turns out, the University I’ve revered since childhood has taken to giving Bank of America their students’ names and home addresses so as to more easily market FSU themed credit cards to them.

I can’t get past how sleazy this is. It’s beyond cavalier indifference to the students’ well-being, it’s something much more sinister, much more wicked and hypocritical. To make videos alerting college kids to the dangers of credit card debt and to then turn and sell them to those very creditors?

The whole student body is so attuned to physical danger, to the big scary world outside their hometowns, a world of date-rape and bars and the vulnerability that shadows loneliness – and yet without their consent or knowledge, the digital bits and pieces that make up their very identities are being offered up to people who are infamous for trashing and erasing them.

My Dad made an attempt to interview some students on campus the other day, unimpressed by his suit, business cards, and salt-and-pepper beard, about half of them automatically assumed he was a creepy old guy who wanted to throw them in the back of a van for some nefarious purpose. Admirable caution.

But what to do when the people to whom we have entrusted our safety prove untrustworthy? When even playing it safe isn’t safe enough?

Calvin tells me that I should always operate at cop-level awareness, a hangover from his days in the local police cadet program. He has a whole color coded awareness chart, just like the Department of Homeland Security. The lowest level is white, and he says the only time I should ever be there is when I am asleep.

It is in that spirit that I’ve written this blog: awareness. We should all be looking out, looking as far ahead as we can, for ways we can get hurt. And if we see a societal problem, the least we can do is pass it on, change it if we can, or at least help others avoid it.

To learn more about the how some schools are profiting from their students’ personal info, check out this site my dad’s working on right now. And please, pass it on.

 

Head-Cleaning Day Again January 24, 2008

Filed under: Calvin,College Stuff,Funnies,Random Drivel — Meredith @ 11:36 pm

The only thoughts I think these days are half-formed fragments of days, randomly retained moments, flashing images that, when pieced all together, look like a turn-of-the-century movie made by a crazy man perpetually high on opium and determined that his film make no sense, even to him.

I thought I’d share this delightful feeling with all of you in the form of another head-cleaning day, mini-stories that struck me as interesting but go nowhere; trunk songs taken out, aired, and thrown into a highly inappropriate revue.

It may not be a well-thought-out blog, but it’s better than no blog at all.

Math
It seems rather cruel to me to make people in a basic math class discern and type the last 4 digits of their student ID number into computer before you’ll even pretend to teach them anything.

More Math
And when I say “pretend to teach,” I mean it, although I’m not sure how much they’re even pretending any more. The whole class is conducted through computers, and the “teacher” is there merely to check your homework, which she does merely to make sure you aren’t cheating (we’ve been informed that if we are so much as seen holding an electronic device while class is in session, she will assume it is a calculator and throw us out). “Show your work, show your work! Squawk!” (this last bit is where she turns into a giant primordial bird of some sort and eats us all).

I’ve been behind on homework assignments two or three times now, and every single time it’s been because she forgot to tell me what, specifically, I was supposed to do. At least she has the grace to look mildly chagrined when I come in and it isn’t done and I’m obviously blissfully unaware it’s due.

I know I am a words person and not a numbers person because when the computer explains that Juan was stacking sweaters by color in the stock room, I wonder several things:

  • I wonder where Juan works.
  • I wonder why he isn’t out front, attending to customers. Is he not allowed? Did he once bite someone or tell a woman she looked fat in her jeans, or what?
  • Why is he stacking the sweaters by color? Why sweaters? Why by color and not size? Is he gay? What’s going on here?
  • I wonder why Juan is so interested in using the associative properties of multiplication to count the stacks of sweaters. Presumably they’ve already been inventoried.
  • I do not wonder what great truth Juan uncovered about the associative properties of multiplication after all his stacking and color coding, because they didn’t bother to make me connect to Juan or care about him as a person. I do not identify with his strife.

Oh, I could write a whole literary review on these travesties they call “math questions.” Don’t even get me started on Lindsay, who works in a sporting goods store and apparently has nothing better to think about than how many tennis balls she’s sold today and how many of them were green and how many of them were yellow.

A Woman Outside a Cigarette Shop
There’s a cigarette store next to the Chinese restaurant where I eat on Thursdays, and today I noticed a pregnant woman standing in front of the store, peering into the windows. As I walked by, she glowered at me, as though it were my fault she has an extremely high probability of birth defects.

Your Brain
There’s a part of your brain where all your short-term memory is stored, and apparently mine is damaged, because I don’t remember any of the names of the parts of the brain that we learned about in psychology today.

Heath Ledger

He has died, and as such I will have to accept the fact that, no, he is never going to come to his senses and marry me.

Wife Swap
Last night at Calvin’s house, I watched “Wife Swap” one of our Wednesday night timewasters. One of the families in question was a freewheeling brood of magicians who devoted almost all their time to their beloved craft (their son was the youngest professionally ranked magician in the world) and the other a family with two OCD parents who made the kids do something like five hours of chores a day and never played with them or let them go outside alone.

I’m now beginning to wonder if I may have hallucinated the whole thing.

Calvin’s Second-Oldest Sister

She can write. I mean, really, seriously, write, in a way that makes me jealous. Granted, she’s something like ten years older than me, so she’s got that advantage. And she’s actually been through our local University’s kick-ass creative writing program, as opposed to me, pining for it and mooning over its course requirements webpage. (You have to take 3 semester hours each in British Literature Pre-1800 and British Literature Post-1800. Have to? Really? That doesn’t sound like a ‘have to’. You won’t let me take it instead of math?)

Be that as it may, she’s one of those writers you run into every so often and just go, “Well, damn.” One of those people who make a voice wake up in the back of your head as you read, a voice which says, “Now, this is good writing.” This is a person who just wrote a self-reflective note on facebook that sounded like it should have been in some sort of collection of essays somewhere, or at the very least published as a ‘my view’ column in Newsweek. And she wasn’t even trying. I want to be that good. My English Guru (the man who taught my first-ever college English class and who seems to think I’m amazing, and as such is my sort-of-mentor) once wrote a line about Kerouac’s On The Road that really spoke to me, something about how the book reads like an improvised jazz solo, blurted out in fevered brilliance and relatively free of subsequent editing (for the record, I added the part about the fevered brilliance).

If writing is improvisational jazz, I’m that kid in Drumline who could play anything just from hearing it once and write genius drum solos but who still had a lot to learn about pesky things like rhythm and notes and teamwork. And Calvin’s sister is Satchmo.

A Poem
I’ve actually had my English Guru on the brain today – I ran into him in a hallway in the English building, and we had a nice brief chat, and then I got on the bus and saw someone who looked like him – but who I realized pretty quickly was more or less a homeless person. And I was compelled to write a poem about it.

I Thought I Saw You on the Bus Today

I thought I saw you on the bus today

Well, it was sort of you

You

A little sad

You

A little homeless

You

A little schizophrenic

You

But shaggy

You

But careworn

You

But not in a sweatervest and checkers

You

In a knit cap pulled low over your brow

Which was not thoughtful

But furrowed over your eyes

No longer kind

But empty.

 

O Calvin My Calvin April 30, 2007

Filed under: Calvin,Connections,Edumucation,Funnies — Meredith @ 2:18 am

I am a woman obsessed. I have just discovered Calvin and Hobbes.

I cannot even articulate how this comic strip has changed my life. As Kikki once said about our beloved singer Tori Amos, “It occurs to me that she has not been in my life that long. And yet I already have no idea how I ever managed to live without her.”

Calvin is a ridiculously gifted six-year old, and, like many gifted kids, he spends a lot of time being bored by those around him. Calvin’s best friend, and the only character able to keep up with him, is Hobbes the tiger, who, though appearing as a stuffed animal to everyone else, comes deliciously alive in Calvin’s eyes.

Calvin and Hobbes is the smartest comic to ever appear in print. Calvin uses bigger words – and has bigger ideas – than half my college classmates.

In several strips Calvin builds snowmen – but, as he explains to Hobbes, these are no ordinary snowmen. In one strip, Hobbes finds Calvin building a snowman who holds a snowball in his branch of a hand. “Why is this snowman looking at a snowball?” Hobbes asks. “He’s contemplating snowman evolution. Obviously, if he evolved from a snowball, it raises tough theological questions for him.” Calvin explains. “Like the morality of throwing one’s precursors at someone?” Hobbes responds. “Sure,” says Calvin, “And what about shoveling one’s genetic material off the walk?”

But let’s put Calvin and Hobbes aside for a moment so I can tie them back in later.

Apart from introducing people to comic strips they should know, one of the funnest things about blogging, I think, is thinking up aliases for your friends and family so you can tell stories about them. For example, my friends are referred to as Jules and Kikki, my mom calls me “Favorite Daughter” and variations thereof, and I call my mom – well, my mom. Unimaginative, I know.

But today, I wanted to say something about my charming significant other, and found myself in need of a nickname. Should I call him my BF? My SO? Nothing felt right. And then it came to me, bringing with it, mercifully, an idea for a blog.

My significant other, whom I’ve decided to call Calvin (explanation to follow, be patient) had a rather rocky start to his education. At least the public school part. Let me begin by explaining that Calvin is one of the smartest people I know. Like a lot of kids who are smart and know it, Calvin spent a lot of time in school being 1) bored and 2) kind of a jerk to everyone who was less intelligent, including the teachers. He was also a very excitable and active kid, and, as near as I can tell, spent much of his childhood being scraped off the ceiling. (more…)