Politics

Unequal Terms

Unequal Terms.

Inequality: A small word with the potential for a big impact.

What does inequality mean to me?

Inequality is about fairness, honesty, and opportunity. It’s about comparing two unique people side by side and deciding that they are not valued the same. It’s about comparing differences and not being able to see the similarities. It can be about sports, life, work, love, gender, race, religion, and age. It can impact the way you are viewed and how you view others.

Sometimes it’s hard to be impartial but it’s harder to admit when you’re wrong about someone. Inequality stems from preconceived notions about a person. This can be anything from “he’s an athlete so it’s probably not that smart” to “a black woman wouldn’t be as capable in this job as a white man”. We need to look past the shells and see the person underneath. Are they smart? Are they capable? Are they nice? Are they a bad influence?

One of the biggest examples of inequality in my own life is about tattoos. Every day, I’m still shocked at how many people view body art with such negativity. Granted with those my own age, I am far less likely to experience this but I often feel the urge to cover up my tattoos when I attend “professional” events or even interviews. It’s a societal “norm” that makes me feel like I will be judged on how I appear rather than on what my resume or the words coming out of my mouth say about me. We’ve been making strides against this idea (the CIA even has a paragraph about how having a tattoo will not disqualify you from working there) but there are still some people who see tattoos as irresponsible, dangerous, or stupid.

Perhaps tattoos isn’t as bad as inequality for something like gender or race but you’d be surprised at how it can impact things. I have personally never felt inequality against me as a woman but maybe I just wasn’t keen enough to see the signs. Or have been fortunate enough to work with people who value equality as I do.

Every day should present us with new ways to make the change, to bring inequality to its knees and form a world that can see the differences and similarities without assigning value to them. They are pieces of data not knowledge about a person. How people look or what they believe in might shape their actions but then again, it might not.

Inequality in laws and in every day has been reduced significantly since the formation our nation but we’re not done. We need leaders who represent the general public in true ways and ones that will stand up and fight for us. We need more diversity in our government so that all the voices can be heard. We need to recognize our neighbors as people and our countrymen as allies. This fight belongs to everyone because equality is for all mankind not just for those who think they’re entitled to it.

Writing 101: To Whom it May Concern

Writing 101: To Whom it May Concern.

Dear Kat,

Guess what!? I received my orders today. It turns out that next summer I will actually be in your area. Isn’t that awesome? I already googled it and the base is about 3 hours away by car. Can’t wait to see you for Christmas so we can celebrate my commitment together.

Hope you’re well,

Your Brother

 

Dear Brother,

Congratulations! What else can I say? I am so proud of you. And I’m so impressed that you have made this commitment to our country. But I’m also pretty terrified to be honest. I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m glad I will get plenty of opportunities to see you before you settle in to your base or get shipped out. It’s been pretty lonely down here. Too bad you won’t be around for our birthdays!

With Love,

Kat

 

Dear Kat,

I know I’ve told you this like a million times but you worry too damn much. Everything will be fine. At least I’m not going overseas right away. And yes,  it would be sweet to celebrate our birthdays together. But orders are orders and my ass is officially owned by the US  Government. (Hell, I can’t even get a tattoo without permission!)

Miss you,

Your Brother

 

Dear Brother,

Guess you’ll have to wait to get the American flag tattooed on your ass then. Promise I can see you before basic?

I miss you.

Kat

 

Yes, Kat. I promise. Orders or not, I will see you soon.

Love you.

 

Okay. Love you too.

 

(The word I chose was “orders” from pg 29 of The Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner.)

Earthships Are Not Meant To Fly…

…they are meant to sustain.

What is an earthship you might ask? It’s a fully functional house that is completely off the grid. It makes its own power, collects its own water, processes its own sewage, and can grow its own food. It’s made from recycled materials and can be built in any climate. While the idea may sound a bit odd, think about this: no electric bill, fewer emissions, low carbon footprint.

Sound better now?

alt design earthshipI personally think that sounds amazing. And they look pretty cool too. They blend in with nature instead of tearing it down and dominating it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a nice house as much as the next person but these are nice houses, they can even be customized!

A house that maintains its own heating and cooling? One that reuses materials that would otherwise be sitting in a junkyard? One that is aesthetically pleasing and economically friendly?

They cost about the same as any other house on the market, except that they are built when and where you want them to be.

Check out this Web site for more information: Earthship Biotecture

Make a difference, own your own home, and live a healthier lifestyle. It’s all part of the new American Dream.

No Excess

No Excess.

“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.” – Edna Ferber

I definitely agree with this sentiment. Think about it with me for a minute. The more we try to stretch something, the less it is able to be what it is supposed to be. The more we try to do everything, the less we are actually doing well. The more candy types we eat, the sicker we can become.

That’s not to say that trying new things or expanding our horizons are bad ideas, but we need to exercise caution when doing so. Our society, culture, and government are all prime examples. Trying to please everyone and be everything they need has deformed our country in some ways (although it has been beneficial in others). We are trying to be everything but I think it’s taking away from the things that we could be doing much better than we are.

And look at how much trouble the wealthy get into with their excess time and fortune. There are many stories filling the news of this celebrity or that tycoon on drugs, getting caught up in a money scandal, or getting arrested. So yes, too much can be just as bad as not enough.

Make It Count

Make It Count.

Dear John Boehner,

As Speaker of the House, I’m hoping that this message reaches you in good health, a peaceful state of mind, and that you choose to share it with those who reside in the chamber with you.

I’m not going to introduce myself beyond what is the readily available information. Simply, my name is Kat Webber, I am a master of library science student, and I am not registered to vote.

That being said, I would like to explain why I have made this important choice. It used to be because I didn’t care much about voting or government or politics but over the years as I have followed the politics, I realized that it is much more than that. My reason remains that I believe there is no one worth voting for in our government. There is no real change happening. People posture and make pretty speeches and say there will be change but the truth of the matter is is that there is a sickness that has crept in the hallowed halls of our federal city.

When was the last time you sat down and had lunch with someone who voted for you? Talked to one of them for more than five minutes at a time? When was the last time you spent a significant portion of your day in your home state doing nothing but living life? When was the last time you went hungry? When was the last time you lived paycheck to paycheck? When was the last time you had to make a choice between feeding your kids or paying the electric bill? When was the last time you were waiting on a pension payment that never arrived? When was the last time you had a medication you couldn’t afford? When was the last time you were without a job? When was the last time you had to make a payment on a student loan? When was the last time you remembered to represent the state of Ohio and its citizens?

I ask these questions not to place blame or to complain about your wealth. But because these are issues that your voters, your fellow citizens face consistently. You were elected to your office. And as such, you have a responsibility to uphold the agreement you made with your constituents. That you would support the issues that matter to them. Not the ones that line your pockets or do a favor for someone else.

It is my belief that our great country is on the verge of falling into disrepair. We are broken. We are in debt. We are filled with unhappy Americans. And it’s not just about the money. And it’s not just about the laws. It’s about the general lack of leadership.

People are so concerned with their own party, or even a small sect of their party, that they completely overlook the voters screaming at them about the choices they are making. Dividing the country into two parties isn’t working anymore. With the rising of diversity, shouldn’t there be a rise in parties to choose from? Shouldn’t the lesser parties have a chance to be heard? Shouldn’t people be able to vote for the person they want elected not just the party ideals? Take the money and the campaigning out of the picture. Let everyone make a short and sweet speech and let the nation cast their ballots.

There is a book that I’m reading for a class of mine. It’s called The Trusted Leader and I think you should read it. It discusses how to be a leader, a proper one, and the difference between being that and being a manager. I think it could go a long way into helping you and many of your coworkers to understand why you are no longer leaders. It also touches upon inter-agency communication and how to improve that because that’s definitely impacting the way this country is being ineffectually run. So many things can slip through the cracks because there isn’t a system in place to catch them.

The United States is being treated like a poorly run business. And it’s “too big to fail”. It is supposed to be managed by the few people who are making choices for the greater good but lately it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like every time I look to the news, I am bombarded with another way that we have overstepped our boundaries or our reach. We have issues within our own borders and yet we are more concerned with overseas affairs. Isn’t it time we brought the fight back here?

Are you aware, Mr. Boehner, that we have mission groups from other countries that come here to help our poor and unfortunate? That we have people suffering in this country who don’t have a voice to stand up for them? What about the fact that Social Security was intended to be a temporary system? Or that the rising cost of college education (and loans) continues to increase because now jobs are demanding advanced degrees beyond undergraduate studies?

So don’t take it personally that I didn’t vote for you. And not voting may not give me the right to complain about any particular person but these are flaws in the general system that need to be fixed. We need to focus on making people in this country happier, healthier, and safer before we worry about what the rest of the world is doing.

Now I’m asking you to stand up for me. For everyone who agrees with even one thing in this letter. Hand out copies of this on the street if you have to. Slip it under your fellow Representatives doors. And if you like, I can even send you a copy of The Trusted Leader so you can get a jump start on making some improvements. Be a leader. Lead the way to change. Lead the way to a better way of life. Lead the way for your fellow leaders to stop being so selfish and party-minded and do what they were elected to do: make choices that will positively impact those who voted for them.

Sincerely,

Kat Webber

Concerned Citizen of the United States of America

Banned Books Week 2014

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Books! Everywhere! Books!Wouldn’t it be neat if we had a week to celebrate Shakespeare? A week when everyone was to read Charles Dickens or Mark Twain? A day even when everyone was supposed to talk like a character in a Jane Austen novel (as compared to a pirate)?

Nah, we book lovers get Banned Books Week. Where all of us book readers get to shake our heads collectively and wonder what others are thinking. The funny thing is most people that try to ban a book don’t actually read the book in question. A few years ago there was one protestor who strived to get Harry Potter banned from her school library. It made national news. She was discussed on all the Potter forums. What we discovered later is that she had never read Harry Potter and was worried it would drive kids to Satanism.

I don’t even know where I would…

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Back to School… or not?: Education after the Apocalypse and in the Dystopia

The Book Wars

Post Apocalyptic Toronto! So much better than another shot of the Statue of Liberty ;) Post Apocalyptic Toronto! So much better than another shot of the Statue of Liberty 😉

As a dystopia and speculative literature lover and critic I get asked a lot why kids like these kinds of incredibly bleak books (which I don’t really think are all that bleak, but that is not the general perception). Thinking about this month’s theme a potential reason (among so many) dawned on me… Perhaps dystopia, and in particular post-apocalyptic literature, is so popular amongst youth because there is no school. And even better, school and the entire education system is often totally destroyed. I mean what better wish fulfilment could a young person ask for? If kids aren’t flocking for a kind of education that is magical and  mysterious as with the Harry Potter series (and the like) or hilarious schools full of more hijinx than actual education as with so many middle grade series (Pseudonym Bosch’s…

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Renewable Energy

hydropower

Few things get me more excited than hearing about cities and government doing good!

In this case, Burlington, VT is now receiving 100% of its electricity from renewable sources like wind, water, and biomass (biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms that is burned to produce energy).

For a city that is comprised of approximately 42,000 people (including the University of Vermont) this is an impressive feat. I, for one, could not be happier with Burlington helping to pave the way for other cities to follow suit. Read the full article here.

The importance of renewable energy cannot be stressed enough. The more we invest in this technology now, the less likely we are to suffer under last minute constraints or adjustments. Nature is a powerful force and if we harness it, the world will last longer.

us electric

From deep river technology to ocean currents, windmills, and solar panels, we have an array of options to choose from and making the effort to change now might save us in the future. I know that I’d rather living on a planet that has a healthy ecosystem than one that is dying. I’d rather deal with hearing windmills than breathe in smog.

Imagine for a minute, a city like Boston or NYC become completely sustainable on renewable energy. Picture what that would look like. Cleaner air, less pollution, healthier living. People always talking about living well, living healthy, but rarely take the steps to do so. Think of renewable energy as a step in that direction.

National Book Festival

NBF14A day of books. What could be better?

The 14th Annual National Book Festival put on by the Library of Congress happened today. And if you were lucky enough to be there then I’m sure you had an awesome time. And if you didn’t attend or didn’t enjoy it, then let me share some of my happiness with you. I will admit, firstly, that I didn’t know a lot of the authors going into this event. Which I’m a little ashamed to admit. But I didn’t let that damper my joy! I Googled and Goodreads’ed the crap out of the authors that interested me in the genres that I find fascinating, namely History, Science, Contemporary Life, Poetry, and Teen. I also stumbled upon a few Children’s authors (and well-done picture books) that I was happy to find,

A colleague of mine and I strolled through the metro stop and down the carpeted steps and entered the Convention Center. There were people waiting with boxes of programs at the bottom, happily smiling and handing them out as you approached. The best thing about government funded systems supporting an event like this is that it’s free. No ticket required, no fee to get in, just breeze on past and enter the wonderful land of books (and sticky children).

Once you figure out the lay of the land, it’s not so bad to find your way around. Although I spent more of my day walking thru the center than actually attending anything (not really, but that’s what it felt like). When I first heard about this event from my aunt, I was ecstatic thinking this is was basically like a Scholastic book sale but for adults. However, once I view the Web site, I found that this was not the case. And while I was struck with a little vein of disappointment, I was still excited to attend a conference of books, of sorts.

The program was basically divided up in several subjects that you had to pick and choose from to create your own hodgepodge schedule. I arrived just before 11am and already the area was packed. Not that I was really surprised. So my friend and I ventured first to the Pavilion of the States where each state and many of the territories were represented by people from those states which was awesome!! (Shout out to both Maine and Massachusetts who chatted me up with equal interest, miss you guys!) Each station had people to talk with, handouts, lists of authors/books from that state, and usually a goodie or two. What fun!

After that, we went to the actual books sales portion of the event. It was a rather large area, however each section heading, i.e. Science, History, etc. held a dining table of about 3 feet by 8 feet and stacked with books. Each table had maybe ten titles on it. Not at all what I expected but it did contain the titles that the present authors would be willing to sign which was a good thing, I suppose. After some serious eyebrow raising over the book prices (no wonder I buy nearly everything from Amazon), we both decided not to purchase anything and headed off to the next part of the event.

horse lover 1177 war

Sandra Day O’Connor interviewed her brother, the rancher, and his co-author on their book The Horse Lover at 11:50am, which was the first actual event we attended. Apparently, I didn’t read the paragraph for Mrs. Day O’Connor carefully enough because I actually thought that she was going to be speaking. She did give a little intro and an anecdote on her life growing up and how the family ranch came to be called “The Lazy Bee” but other than that, Alan had the reins. Which was definitely interesting. It was compelling to hear him talk of the wild horses and his life among them. Made me want to uproot and move to South Dakota to help.

After a delicious but far overpriced lunch, we listened to Eric Cline discuss his new book 1177, including the trailer for it (which we also watched). His book discusses the collapse of society at the end of the Bronze Age. There are lots of writings and archeological digs that were mentioned plus many more names of people that I couldn’t hope to remember, given their unique nature. And he really had me hooked into his concept and theory. So much so that he has definitely been added to the TBR list. The thing I liked best about Eric was his insertion of jokes, both onto his slides (which were barely visible to most of the room, unfortunately) and into his presentation. He kept me awake and alert which is a definitely plus in my book!

Next up was a delicious and highly talented chef by the name of Cathal (pronounced ka-hal) Armstrong, who hails from Dublin and has his main restaurant here located in Arlington. It’s called Restaurant Eve and I can’t wait to visit! We watched him prepare his chicken stew and listen to the story of how it came to be named “President Obama Stew”. He made me laugh, awed me, and titillated my senses. It’s really too bad he’s married. But I will be picking up a copy of his cookbook, My Irish Table, which I suspect will help to keep me warm during the fall and winter…meals.

The Library of Congress Pavilion was then presenting on the Magna Carta and its importance on modern law. Plus discussing a preview of an upcoming showcase for one the original copies on loan from London in November! It’s actually the same copy that we borrowed for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. If you don’t know what the Magna Carta is, then go back to school or just click this link. The document is also currently on display in Boston if that is closer for you to see. I, for one, will definitely be in live to see it when it arrives. Maybe I can even go to the gala…*sighs hopefully*

Not long after, my colleague and I separated, he was ready to move on to a different event of the day but I had one last presentation in mind to attend. Ian Morris was going to be discussing his book War! What is it good for? and that definitely sounded like something I wanted to hear. Morris discussed the merits and detriments of war and how the chances of violent death have actually drastically deteriorated in the last 10,000 years (although according to the news, it may not look it). His topic was controversial, prompting lots questions after, but it was worth listening to. War isn’t all bad and in some cases might benefit the greater good. It gets a little sticky but I enjoyed hearing the discussion.

I just realized how insanely long this post is but I feel it’s necessary. I love to document all the fun (and bookish) things that I do and I think you all probably find it interesting as well. At least, I hope you do. After Morris’ event, I did leave the Book Festival, but I did so with a smile on my face and aching feet. A sign of a good day. And for that, I am thankful. Here’s the maybe seeing some of you next year. Until then, keep on reading!

Teen Topic Tuesday: Body Image

 

The first time I heard “All About That Bass,” all I really listened to was the catchy tune and the lovely tagline chorus. It was nice to bop along to in the car and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I eventually listened to the actual lyrics and realized that it’s a song about size, skinny vs. fat. And it was actually sending a really good message. Meghan Trainor has come out of nowhere to blindside me and tell me that it’s okay to be curvy or big, that you don’t have to be a size 2 (but that’s also okay if you are).

I’ve rarely heard songs that talk so openly about body issues, especially in today’s world of songs that do nothing but demean women and tell them to shut up and shake their ass (something which has unfortunately transcended all genres). And now with all the slut-shaming and people on the opposite side of the Nicki Minaj issue claiming they love to see a curvy women taking a stance on her body that puts out a positive message (still not sure about that).

I cringe every time I see ads in magazines, even in passing. And even worse, when tabloids catch a bad picture of a celebrity and then demean them publicly. What kind of example is that setting for our youth? Don’t we want people to be accepted regardless of color and sexual orientation? Yes! Then how is judging someone based on their weight or looks any better?

Young women (and men) are being giving false ideas of what the perfect specimen of their gender looks like. For crying out loud, the people in those pictures don’t even look like that in real life! So what’s the point of air-brushing and photo-shopping them into oblivion? And especially when it comes to role models, like Jennifer Lawrence, why are changing what are perfectly good-looking people and making them into something that not even they can attain? It’s one thing to use angles or an old picture to make yourself more appealing to others but it’s another to alter an image that makes you into someone that you aren’t.

No wonder kids are being diagnosed with eating disorders at a young age. We give them a fictional vision of what they should look like, what will make them the most attractive to the opposite sex, and not telling them that that isn’t even what they can look like, that no one is perfect.

I’m stopping all that here. I want you to go to a mirror right now and say the following to yourself 5 times: “I am beautiful. I am desirable. And I am worth it.” Now repeat that every day when you get out of the shower, say it into the mirror, and say it with meaning, with feeling. Because once you believe it, then no one can take it away from you. And confidence is the sexiest thing that a person can have.