Thursday, January 31, 2008

Election blogging

These days, I find myself nodding in appreciation every time I read a post about the Democratic primary by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville (or Shakespeare's Sister right now, as I think Shakesville is having server problems). McEwan was an Edwards supporter, so sometimes I didn't agree with her. Still, I really like her feminism, snarkiness, and determination to cut through the BS, especially the media's BS.

Anywho, here are some good examples:

- What are the biggest selling points for you on Hillary Clinton and/or Barack Obama? [Yea! Looking for the positive from both good candidates!]

- I have questions for Barack Obama [Yea! Looking for substance! And I think Obama would easily win the nomination if he answered these questions well.]

- The Return of Nader [Yea! Calling a spade a spade!]

- Shut Up, Maureen Dowd [One in a series, the subject of which you can easily guess.]

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chelsea Time

Looks like Chelsea Clinton is taking a more active role in her mom's campaign. Not surprising given that she's probably the only member of the Clinton family with really high positives and really low negatives. And no doubt she's being deployed because of Obama's high numbers among younger voters.

Her quotes in these articles show some impressive depth. I'm not sure why, but I always like hearing from candidates' adult kids. It's no surprise that Chelsea would have a strong grasp of policy, though. Still, I think it gives voters a unique view of the candidate when the candidate's adult children hit the campaign trail. I remember seeing Karenna Gore at a Tampa rally in 2000. She blew the Spanish-speaking media away when she happily answered real policy questions in Spanish. I thought Kerry's daughters were an asset in 2004. But I guess we all know how those races turned out.

Anyway, if you're curious like me about what the former First Daughter has to say about her mom:

-- From The Post

-- From The AP

-- From The Salt Lake Tribune

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Children say the darndest things. . . or at least my niece does.

My brother-in-law Taber just informed me that his 6 year old daughter Lauren said the following:

"Talk to the booty, 'cause the hand's off duty."

That is the funniest thing I've heard in quite a while.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Let the home renovation begin

Finally the painters are here. After 13 months of living in our home, our walls will be painted with colors we actually like. In theory anyway. We spent so long picking out the downstairs color that by the time the painter came to give us an estimate, we hadn't thought much about the bedrooms and bathrooms. We picked those colors on the fly. So we'll see.

This past weekend was a whirlwind of domestic activities. New mirrors for the master bathroom. New light fixtures for the whole house. New ceiling fan for our bedroom. An actual comforter set for the guest bedroom. New artwork for the whole house. Including the coolest Chicago picture I've seen in quite a while. We even returned some things we've needed to return for a while.

We sorted through the massive pile of boxes in our littlest bedroom so that we could move my mom's and my twin sister's stuff over to my little sister's house. (Ah, the benefits of not being the sister with the most storage space....) Soon we will actually be able to make use of the room. In short, maybe we'll be fully moved in by the time we hit month 14.

In other news, seeing as I do nothing but complain about customer service on this blog, I should point out that the salesguy at REI in Schaumburg could not have been nicer to us when we went in on Saturday to buy ski pants. Less than a month until we go to Jackson Hole. Yea!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

There is always a new battle

Through a friend's blog, I recently found an inspiring blog written by a woman battling inflammatory breast cancer. Just this week, the woman underwent a double mastectomy. Happily, it seems that she is on the mend. And cancer free!

Below is the post that she wrote on her blog on July 23, 2007 about her disease, about which I was completely uninformed. She's asked other bloggers to spread the word about inflammatory breast cancer, so I'm happy to oblige by sharing her post with our small readership:

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which you probably know was the US Supreme Court decision that held that a woman's right to abortion is constitutionally protected. Not surprisingly, Roe v. Wade has been a touchstone ever since for those who support a woman's right to have an abortion and those who oppose that right.

If you know me at all, then it's beyond old news that I consider myself pro-choice. But just in case you don't know why, I'm joining the national campaign to blog for choice today to say a few things about that belief.

Blog for Choice Day

I don't know when I first took on the label of pro-choice. I think I remember vague discussions of the issue with a friend in 8th grade, which means the foundation of my beliefs on this issue come directly from my parents. Yet I'm quite certain my parents never said the word to me before that point in my life. Somehow though, I had the sense that a woman should not be forced through pregnancy.

It's not surprising I would get this belief from my parents. My mom who believes that imposing your moral or religious code on another person is the most immoral thing you can do. My dad who, while driving me to my first high school football game, told me that if I ever had a problem and if I ever needed anything, I could come to him. Not knowing what he meant, I just nodded, but he continued, "If you're on drugs, if you're pregnant, if you're ever in trouble, you can always tell me and we will work it out." Of course at this point I'd not yet even kissed a boy and to this day I have never even smoked a cigarette, but still today I appreciate the sentiment.

Still, although quite the liberal, I was not an activist in any sense of the world as a teenager. Even in college, my crowd was the theater scene, not the political crowd. But by the end of college, a shift had begun. I knew women who had been raped. I volunteered as a rape crisis counselor and met these women, some as young as I was when I first discussed the idea of abortion yet before I'd even had my first kiss.

And then I knew women -- women very close to me -- who needed abortions and had them. I could envision what their lives would have been without the right to abortion. It made me take the word of anti-abortion advocates very personally -- they were labeling women I love as murderers. That could not have been further from the truth.

So, somewhere along the line, the abstract idea of abortion became a concrete reality. The broad notion of choice became a series of intensely personal, thoughtful, individual choices. The hypothetical woman with an unplanned pregnancy became a pregnant woman I knew and loved. That is a reality that many, many, many opponents of abortion do not acknowledge. Yes, they acknowledge the very small minority of women who use their past abortions as a platform to deny other women the same choice. But they do not acknowledge that as many as half of the women in their lives have silently undergone that same procedure. These women are real.

So today I blog for choice because abortion is a personal issue for me. Not because I have had one, but because the idea that the women in my life are incapable of deciding for themselves whether or not to be pregnant is insulting at best. At worst, it is a remnant of the days when we believed women were incapable of any rational, intelligent thought. We should be long past that notion in the 21st century. But we are not. In fact, just last spring the majority of the Supreme Court upheld abortion restrictions as constitutional on the theory that women are too emotional to make their own choices about pregnancy. I kid you not.

In this election year, as in every election year, I will only vote pro-choice. Abortion is not a black or white issue; that is its one truth. Because it is so personal, so individual. When a candidate says they oppose abortion rights for all women, that is painfully meaningful to me. It goes beyond their own personal moral code or personal family choices. It means they don't trust the values of women in my life -- the very women who I would trust with my life. I cannot support a candidate with so little faith in the people I love the most.

When abortion is illegal, women die. We know that every seven minutes a woman in the world dies because she did not have access to a safe, legal abortion. And when abortion is illegal, women are second class citizens. Their autonomy is removable by the state. Surely these are not the ideals to which American democracy aspires.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


It's a two year streak of having one of our teams in the Super Bowl. Sweeeeeeeet!!!

We both almost had heart attacks in the fourth quarter, but somehow we survived to see that winning kick. No the only question is whether to blow through some of our savings account and head to Phoenix in two weeks. Hmmmm....

PS Awesome to have to company during the game of Nick & Resa, Jeff & Sara, Eddie, and Dad & Sharon. And awesome that everyone understood the need to move to a different position in the room before the Giants' OT field goal to reset the karma!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More problems with the proposed border fence

I had not read much about the border towns and communities that will be affected by the fence America is planning to build along its border with Mexico. This article in the Tribune shows what happens when we have politics for show instead of politics that solves real problems.

For Nydia Garcia and her family, who own border farmlands just up the road from Tamez, the objection is more pragmatic. Most of their fields would fall on the outside of the proposed route, still on American soil but consigned to a new no man's land between the fence and the Rio Grande.

"Are we going to have to ask permission from the Border Patrol every time we need to plow?" she asked as she led a reporter on a back-roads tour of her family's property.

As if to answer her question, within a few minutes a Border Patrol agent drove up and asked Garcia who she was and why she was driving near the river.

And another excerpt:

"I do respect the fact that our government wants to keep our country safe from terrorists," Tamez said. "But there have been no terrorists wading across the Rio Grande. The 9/11 terrorists came in legally, through the front door."

Blog for Choice

Next week is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and NARAL Pro-Choice America (I still don't understand why they changed their name) is hosting a Blog for Choice day. Rob and I have signed up, thanks to a friend who pointed out the event to me! If you've got a blog, you should blog for choice next week too!

Blog for Choice Day

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Bishop!

Last night Rob and I hit the town with my friend Bishop and his wonderful girlfriend Karen (who is fast becoming a favorite Chi-town friend!) to celebrate Bishop turning old. Bishop, I won't out your age publicly, don't worry.

We went to a great restaurant called Red Light in the West Loop. We were chatting so much it took us a long time to get around to ordering. I can't remember the last time I saw Bishop, so clearly it had been far too long.

Bishop and I met when we worked together at a Chicago law firm during the summer before our clerkships. I had just moved to Chicago and Rob was still in DC. I was studying for the Bar and enjoying the excitement of Barbri classes (ha). But there weren't many folks from Penn Law in my Barbri class in Chicago. Ever the social butterfly, Bishop insisted I come sit with his crew of classmates and a great friendship was born. Through Bishop I met most of my first new friends in Chicago. It's definitely the mark of a good person to welcome without hesitation a stranger into their circle of friends. :)

After our summer gig was up, Bishop moved to Denver for his year-long clerkship, where he met Karen. (Yea!!) Happily, they've been back in Chicago since early fall, but of course I was working like a maniac all fall, so last night we all finally got together.

So here's to birthdays bringing good friends back together! I can't wait for the four of us to hang out again!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Not again...

** This post has been edited to protect the not-so-innocent **

Oh customer service, where have you gone? Long story short: did you know that if you timely pay $2000 on a $2200 bill with 0% interest, you still owe $1700? Yeah, me neither. Now for the long version.

I can't remember if I blogged about our [couch-buying] experience yet and I'm too lazy to read my own archives. In September we bought a new couch and chair, of which I've posted pictures. We couldn't be happier with the furniture and the salesperson who helped us was a perfectly nice man. The salesperson told us we could get 10% off if we opened a [store] credit card that day. We were planning on paying cash, but the card was 0% interest for a year. The only catch was that we had to pay 25% of the balance with the first bill. Sounded like a decent deal. A couple hundred bucks off our bill.

We got our October bill, paid a little over $500 on our $2200 balance. I was on trial in November, so I just sent out another $500 from our online banking system, not having seen the new bill. I come home to find the December bill says the balance is $2200. Huh? How does a $2200 original balance minus $1000 in payments equal $2200?

I also notice that even though we only opened one credit card, we somehow have two lines of credit. Then I noticed we had a $500 credit on the second line. It turns out that this is what [certain stores] do... and the fun part is that if you pay your bill online, they automatically credit it to the line of credit that usually has no balance. I can only imagine the number of people who have done this and waited until month 12 of their no-interest year to make the bulk of their payment, only to have all the back interest charged to them because they paid the "wrong account." Not to mention to people who might never realize their balance isn't going down, so they just keep paying.

So I spent a couple hours on the phone... I think talking to India... one December night. Then the phone goes dead. Sweet. I think it was my low battery. During the call I did get the credit on the one line moved to the other line. I also got multiple explanations for what happened to our other $500 payment, after they eventually acknowledged cashing that check: (1) I was told that I had made another $500 purchase; (2) I was told that the cost of the card was a 25% "non-refundable deposit"; (3) I was told that the cost of what we did buy was $2800. My favorite was explanation number 2, which meant that Rob and I were stupid enough to pay an extra 25% on our bill just so we could get 10% off our bill. Eventually Rob told me to insist they walk me line by line through the bill, and of course this led them to what I thought we actually owed.

I called again the next day and after a looong phone call full of math problems and lots of time on hold I was assured my bill had been corrected. Just to be sure, I took down the representative's name and id number. I also got assurances that my future online banking payments would not be credited to the wrong line of credit.

A week later I paid our December bills and since we hadn't received an updated bill, I just paid $1000, knowing that would leave less than a couple hundred dollars left. I definitely didn't want to overpay and then have to try to get money back from [the store].

Last week we got the January bill. Our balance was $1767. Seriously. It's as if my three hours on the phone didn't happen except that at least they had moved the one $500 payment to the line with an actual balance. No sign of the latest payment. So yesterday afternoon I made another phone call.

I started with the first problem -- the missing $1000 payment. She said I had made a payment to the wrong line of credit. (Unlike our November and December bills, but like our October bill, our magical second line of credit did not appear on the January bill at all. The customer service rep got annoyed with me when I kept calling the second line of credit "a magical line of credit we never signed up for.") I told her I'd been assured that my payments wouldn't be misapplied again. She explained that to have my payment correctly applied when paying through online banking, I had to delete the number "0" from the end of my account number and replace it with the number "32." I'm sure she was telling me the truth, but I was a little floored that in order to pay my bill I have to use an account number that does not appear anywhere on my bill rather than the only account number that does appear on my bill.

We moved on the problem of the $500 payment [the store] had re-refused to acknowledge. It took a long time to explain the problem and once again I got explanation numbers (1) and (2) from above. After lots more time on hold, I was told I needed to be transferred to the furniture customer service department. When I refused and gave the woman the name and id number from the man who fixed my bill in December, she told me that there was no one on file with that id number and no record of any call from me on that date. Wow. So I let her transfer me after getting her name and id number as well.

It was getting close to the 45 minute mark for my phone call and after another 30 minutes on the phone with the furniture woman, she told me she had to transfer me back to the credit card folks. I tried to refuse, so she said she'd get a supervisor from that department on the line. Thirty minutes later she came back on the line to say we were still waiting for a supervisor. Another 20 minutes went by and she came back to tell me that the correction had been made and would show up in 1-2 days when it was formally processed. Silly me, I believed her.

I told her I wanted to pay off the balance on the phone because I had no faith that my next payment would be applied properly and I refused to write the wrong account number on a check. She said fine, but it'd cost me $10. If I hadn't been so irritated, I would have laughed, but instead I told her that was ridiculous and the fee should be waived for a customer entering her sixth hour on the phone with customer service in phone call number three after a total of just four billing cycles. She put me on hold again.

I kid you not... a HALF HOUR later she came back to tell me that not only would they not waive the $10 fee, but that they couldn't correct the balance after all. Argh! My greed in not wanting to pay that $10!!! The rep said they'd have to call the store and discuss the bill with the furniture department there. Although I refrained from obscenities, I was far, far, far from pleasant in hanging up the phone.

By this time, it was after 5pm. I picked Rob up from work and we set out for the suburbs where we bought the couch. We got to [the store], asked for a customer service department, and were told there wasn't one. We went to the furniture department and were told there were no managers around at night. However, our salesperson was there... and incredibly enough he had received a phone call from the furniture customer service woman I'd spoke to earlier. (I was shocked that there'd actually been some follow through.) He couldn't do anything for us, but he was able to copy the receipts I had -- not all of which the store had! -- and said he expected it would be taken care of by his manager the next day. If it had been anyone else, I would have probably refused to leave the store without the problem solved, but he has always been nice to us so I couldn't bear to be a jerk to him.

When we were leaving the store, I asked the him, "I'm not crazy, right? Even if the first $500 is labeled as a 'non-refundable deposit,' it's supposed be credited against our balance, right?" "Yes!" he said quickly, as if it couldn't be more obvious. The first person at [the store] to acknowledge that fact. A tiny victory.

So we'll see what happens. Sometimes I think that I'm going to run out of places to do business with... because I've already got a decent-sized list of companies who I've informed have lost my business for life. Not that I'm a grudge-holder or anything. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

One for two

It could have been a worse football day in our household. Much worse. After all, most folks were betting on the Manning brothers' win-loss column stats to be the reverse of what actually occurred on Sunday. After game 1 on Sunday, no one expected Eli to pull out a victory on a day when Peyton could not.

Rob and I hosted a marathon football watching shindig on Sunday afternoon, so at least I had friends and family to keep my in good spirits. It kicked off with the Colts game kickoff at noon and lasted through the final seconds of the Giants game around 7pm. Much blue was worn -- including three Manning jerseys and a Harrison jersey.

Resa, Nick and Stephanie set the record for most football watching hours logged at Kat & Rob's house on Sunday... arriving during the first quarter of the Colts game and staying until the end of the party. Jeff and Sara were a close second, arriving shortly after Resa and her crew. Ali & Eddie and Alan & Jen joined us for the entire Giants game. Apparently, though, we needed to reach that critical mass a little before 3pm if we wanted to score a double victory.

I am beyond bummed to see my Colts in defeat. It's tempered quite a bit by Rob's excitement that the Giants are in the NFC championship. Yea! And thankfully, I think either the Packers or the Giants would put up a good fight against the Pats in the Super Bowl. A Pats victory would be more than I can take this season. Hopefully the Colts learned a lesson though -- don't rest your starters in Game 16 when you have a first-round bye!!! First of all, the playoffs would have shaken out differently with Cleveland in the playoffs. (And since Cleveland is my other NFL team, apart from the Colts and the Giants of course, that would have been extra cool.) But Marvin could have used some real playing time in the last, oh, two months.

So I guess next year the Colts will need to carry a perfect season into week 17 so they can continue on a rampage into the post-season despite resting a week. While we all wait for that... GO GIANTS!!!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Yet another response to NH

This is much like the last one and once again I agree wholeheartedly.

This might explain it even better

This article crystallizes my exact response to the media over the last week... and might go quite a bit of distance in explaining New Hampshire.

Wow -- New Hampshire, you are a mystery to me

Just when you think the unexpected can't happen any more in politics (unless it's being disappointed beyond your imagination yet again), along comes a big surprise.

Prefacing this with the fact that I like both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama a lot for different reasons (and up until Tuesday I liked John Edwards pretty well too, but now he's fallen rather far out of favor with me), and that I don't want to express too many specific preferences in a public blog, I can admit that I was hoping for a close race in New Hampshire because I think we the voters benefit from a longer primary. Of course, I had no expectation that would happen given the poll numbers. Apparently no one did.

So how on earth did Hillary pull back into the victory lane? Well, I don't know anything, so I'll just throw out the facts I've heard which may paint a possible explanation. Still have to start digging into the pundits' explanations this morning, so maybe none of this is unique thinking.

First, according to the exit polls 15% of Dem primary voters yesterday had not made up their minds until the day of the election.

Second, apparently Hillary's 48 hours of events leading up to the primary found her staying late at each stop to answer every substantive question that every person wanted to pose to her. That's a lot of attention to individual concerns and policy details that likely didn't go unnoticed or un-talked about.

Third, Hillary showed some genuine emotion (sure, skeptics abound) the day before the primary that seemed to show she was in this because she truly believed she could make America better. I was rather moved when I saw it. Edwards' response to it was a bit offensive, while Obama could have cut off its impact by co-opting the passion behind it, but instead he just chose no comment.

Fourth, the exit polls showed a super-majority of Dem primary voters said they voted on the candidates' positions on the issues, not the need for change. Some might say the Clinton team has put more substantive policy proposals out there than Obama. Whether this is true or not, it's still probably the general perception.

Fifth, the educated and the rich broke for Obama, but the less educated and the less wealthy broke for Clinton... coupled with the fact that most folks aren't rich and the economy is the number one issue among Dem primary voters.

Sixth, the polls showed Obama so far ahead that maybe some Obama-favoring independents chose to vote in the Republican primary for McCain out of distaste for Romney. I think the numbers show that the Dem primary voter turnout was up from 2004 quite a bit, but not as far up as Iowa was.

If you add up all of those factors, you can see how in each category a few more voters might have said, "I want Hillary to keep going in this campaign," even if they're not yet sure whether she or Obama or anyone else in particular should be the nominee.

I'm excited that there's a race going on between strong Dem candidates. And I can't help but think that New Hampshire women reading this wouldn't have been given pause. It's not that Obama is undeserving of the enthusiasm he's generating, or that he should be somehow punished for it. To the contrary. Instead, it's just acknowledging the reality that a woman clone of Obama would not receive that same enthusiasm. Our society isn't at that point yet.

But on the bright side, I couldn't be more excited that the frontrunners in the Democratic candidates represent more diversity than any set of primary candidates in the history of our country.

For the first time in a long time, I'm getting excited about politics again. Nice.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Two years and counting...

Today is Rob's and my second wedding anniversary. It's a little unbelievable that two whole years have raced by since the big day. I feel like the wedding was yesterday. But then again, I also feel like we've been together forever.

We have no huge plans, except for a nice dinner tonight. We've also noticed that the Giants play better on our anniversary eve than on the day after our wedding or the day of our anniversary. Of course we have no data points for how the Giants do a week after our anniversary... yet! Next Sunday promises to be an awesome football day for our household.

But I digress. Happy anniversary to the best husband on the planet! (That'd be you Rob.) I am so blessed to be married to you.