Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"happiness delivered"?

I received a catalog in the mail yesterday, and on the front was the caption "happiness delivered." That really bothered me and caused me to think about the American consumerist society. Why do we think that having more stuff will make us happy? Sure, if you don't have the essentials that you need then getting those essentials will make someone happier. But once you have what you really need does having more make you happier? I guess that I have thought about this over the last year or two as I've read some on recent studies and books about happiness. Happiness doesn't come from material possessions, at least not lasting happiness. But especially at the holidays there is this expectation to buy for friends and family to show that we love them. My mother seems to believe this. She got tired of having me return most of what she bought for me when I was a teen, so one year she asked me to give her a list of things that I would like for the holidays. I did, and every year since she calls or emails in the fall and asks for my list. I'm 46, not a six year old with a list for Santa. I don't need more stuff!

I see this "more is better" mentality when I go to a shopping mall, which isn't often. I see store after store filled with stuff and I wonder if we need most of this, and does having it make people happier? Our former President encouraged Americans to go shopping at the beginning of the last minor recession about 10 years ago - he made it sound like our patriotic duty. That was great - rack up credit card debt to buy stuff you don't need. Even now the newspapers cheer on excessive spending at the holidays as a sign that consumer spending is up and therefore the economy is improving. Why not suggest that people cut back on spending and pay down debt?

After the holidays I plan to contact my family and suggest that we only buy gifts for the kids next year. I really don't need my family to buy me gifts to know that they love me.

Sorry for the rant. I just feel that our priorities about buying for others and accumulating more possessions is misplaced.

Monday, November 22, 2010

slushie versus sushi, and "You aim for the drain."

Yesterday Leo wanted me to tell him a funny story about our family. He enjoys hearing family stories. So I told him about the time that I spilled a slushie down my mother's neck and back while she was on her lunch hour. He asked "What's a slushie? Is that like sushi?" I had to smile at that question. I realize that is how we are raising Leo - he's totally comfortable with sushi but has no idea what a slushie is.

Yesterday David did something that surprised me. I was on the toilet getting rid of some santorum (Google that if you don't know what it is. Thank you Dan Savage). David had to urinate, and since we were having a good post coital conversation, he decided to just urinate in the sink. I heard what he was doing and asked if that was what I thought it was. He said "Yes. So?" I said that I thought that it was a little strange, that we have two other bathrooms that he could use. He said that he didn't want to interrupt our conversation, and it was no big deal. I said that it could be messy if there was any splatter. He said "You just aim for the drain and it goes right in. It all ends up in the same place anyway." I should mention that David's mother ran a waste water treatment plant for many years, so conversations of what happens to "stuff" after you flush was normal dinnertime conversation at his house. He also wanted me to add that he is 6'4" tall (1.83 meters) so it's a straight shot down for him. Just so you don't get the wrong impression, David doesn't go urinating on trees in the park or anything like that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

blue moon, and Turkey Trot

Today there was a blue moon. From what I understand, the third full moon in a season with four full moons (instead of the usual three) is referred to as a blue moon. Today was one of those rare full moons.

Yesterday I ran a local Turkey Trot 10k road race. It is always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year it was overcast and cold, and rain began to fall during the race. Luckily I was bundled up and wore a running rain jacket. Leo ran the kids race, but luckily it had stopped raining by then.

Leo's ADHD is either a bit better lately or we are just learning how to manage it better. The hyperactivity and distractibility don't bother me much, and the out of control temper has been better.

Not much more going on lately.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I should be careful what I wish for

It now looks like Steve Cooley, the Republican District Attorney from Los Angeles, will win the election for California state Attorney General. He moved ahead of Kamala Harris, the Democratic District Attorney from San Francisco, as more of the absentee ballots are counted. The absentee ballots often favor Republicans, since older, whiter and richer people are more likely to vote by absentee. (I always vote that way since it's easier - the ballot comes in the mail and I can fill it out at home and send it in and avoid the polling places. Any registered voter can be a "permanent absentee" voter. Why not have all elections that way and save money?) So now Prop 8 and its supporters have the California Attorney General defending it. But the next trial starts in less than a month, before he takes office. So will the courts let him defend it? Who knows? If the case is appealed to the US Supreme Court he can defend it there. Plus now our Attorney General will be reluctant to defend gay rights or any other progressive/liberal group or law.

Friday, November 5, 2010

long time, US elections

Hi again. It's been too long since I posted, but not much has happened.

The big news is the midterm elections here in the US. "Midterm" means half way between Presidential elections, when all of the House and 1/3 of the Senate are up for re-election, plus many state and local elections. The GOPs (which is an acronym for Grand Old Party, or the Republicans - why are they grand and old? The Democratic party is older and the Republicans are not grand) regained control of the House and lowered the Democratic margin in the Senate. Some good people won't come back to DC - Russ Feingold in the Senate and Patrick Murphy in the House come to mind first. The New Hampshire legislature will have Republican majorities that can undo the same sex marriage law, and they have a veto-proof margin, so the Democratic governor can't stop it. But the most upsetting elections to me were the ouster of three judges in Iowa who ruled that marriage discrimination was unconstitutional under state law. Why get rid of a judge for upholding the law? Bigotry has no limits, I guess.

One election that has not been decided since the votes are still being counted is the state Attorney General here in California. Kamala Harris, the Democrat from San Francisco, has a very small lead over Steve Cooley, the Republican from LA. The legal strategist in me (that is a joke) wonders how that outcome might affect Prop 8. The current governor and Attorney General, who is also the governor-elect, refused to defend Prop 8 in court, so its backers did. But whether they have legal standing to defend it is an issue. If Cooley wins, he will defend it, but will the courts let him since he wasn't in office when the case was argued in the district court? If the appeals court finds that the backers of Prop 8 don't have standing, and the only people who do, the governor and Attorney General, refuse to appeal, the courts may let the ruling that 8 is unconstitutional stand. Then the backers would likely ask the US Supreme Court to take the case. But it has been the conservatives on the Supreme Court who have made standing so narrow. I believe that Justice Scalia and a few others won't let a technicality like the law get in the way of their religiously based biases against gays and lesbians. But how would the Supreme Court rule? The court generally tries to duck controversial issues like this if it possibly can - look at the Newdow ruling about the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance case. This would all be interesting to ponder if people's lives weren't at stake. And lives really are on the line every time a court decides a case about gays and lesbians. Because when the government says that it is OK to discriminate against gays and lesbians, kids see that and take it as tacit approval of bullying or as another sign that everyone is against them. I remember how devastating the Bowers versus Hardwick decision finding that gays don't have a right to have sexual intercourse was in the 1980s and don't want to see something like that for marriage equality.