Monthly Archives: August 2011

Women’s Rights: 1, Rick Perry: 0

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Women’s rights activists won a battle today in Texas when U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks (notably appointed by George H.W. Bush) declared that Rick Perry’s law fining doctors who did not show sonograms to women seeking abortion is unconstitutional.  The plaintiffs, a group of doctors as well as the Center for Reproductive Rights, brought eight claims against the law that was to go into effect tomorrow.

(1) The Act is unconstitutionally vague
(2) The Act compels physicians to engage in government-mandated speech violating the 1st and 14th Amendments
(3) The Act violates the 1st and 14th Amendments by requiring patients submit to such speech regardless of its medical necessity or want
(4) The Act unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sex, thus violating the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment

are we seeing a pattern yet?

(5) The Act unconstitutionally discriminates between abortion providers and other medical facilities in violation of the Equal Protection Clause
(6) The Act unconstitutionally discriminates between women who live within 100 miles of an abortion provider and those who live 100 miles away or more from an abortion provider, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause
(7) The Act violates women’s 14th Amendment right to bodily integrity by requiring them to medically unnecessary ultrasound procedures
(8) The Act violates the 4th and 14th Amendments by subjecting abortion facilities to random, unannounced, and warrantless searches.

The Act’s onerous requirements will surely dissuade or prevent many competent doctors from performing abortions, making it significantly more difficult for pregnant women to obtain abortions. Forcing pregnant women to receive medical treatment from less-skilled providers certainly seems to be at odds with ‘protecting the physical and psychological health and well-being of pregnant women. – U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks

Image Credit: Chronicle/Kurt Rogers

Thanks to Sparks, individual rights won today rather than the moral majority who would rather focus on religious grounds than the Constitution.  While the state attorney general will certainly appeal and Governor Rick Perry will continue to wage a war against women’s rights, this battle goes to the women.

Read more: Abortion Information 101, Jezebel, Hay Ladies, The Texas Tribune

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One Step At A Time

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Title:  Otavi Community Based Rehabilitation Project

Location: Otavi (Location), Namibia (taken in March 2011)

Background: One of the projects that I initiated in Namibia was an awareness/fund raising event that helped people living in the Otjozondjupa region of Namibia gain access to disability equipment and share disability awareness.  From that event we were able to raise funds in order to provide services and wheelchairs to residents in Otavi, Grootfontein, and Otjiwarongo.  Pictured above is a woman who lives in Otavi and was provided a wheelchair to help her with her mobility and functionality within the household.  We stopped by her home to ensure that the wheelchair was properly aligned to prevent sores and share some physiotherapy activities that her children and grandchildren could practice with her to improve her mobility.

History: Many people living with disabilities are excluded from aspects of daily life due to the prohibitive cost of rehabilitation equipment. The availability of wheelchairs, crutches, and other adaptive equipment can substantially increase the user’s quality of life by providing mobility and freedom.  In Otavi alone there are more than 50 people living with physical and mental disabilities. Unfortunately there is not a system in place to ensure that these individuals receive the care or support that they need.

The Shitenge Project

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I do not sew.  I am not crafty in any sense of the word.  Well, that’s not true, I made a quilt out of old college t-shirts and some pillows once.  However, I’m more than happy to fork over my hard earned cash to artisans who are actually good at their job.  But, as I am currently freelancing with copious amounts of free time between projects, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to attempt a sewing project.

When I was in Namibia I became addicted to buying shitenge material.  Who can blame me? They are brightly colored with unique designs and can be used as a sarong, dress, baby carrier, towel, blanket, tablecloth, wall decor, purses, etc.  Each piece of material is about three feet long and two feet wide and can be purchased at local markets for N$25-40 (US$3-5.50).

Image Credit: Clay O.

Needless to say, I ended up with LOTS of shitenges and I’m still trying to think of unique ways to integrate them into my daily life back in the U.S.  I’ve brainstormed a few ideas for fun material uses and my first project was an iPad cover.  I’d seen some really neat iPad covers on Etsy and figured it couldn’t be too hard (says the novice).  Since I am crazy I decided to go pattern-less and see how the final product would turn out.  Fortunately my mom was a home economist and helped me with the tough parts (like figuring out how to use a sewing machine).


Here’s the finished product.  We added a front pocket for the cords and made it a bit larger than the iPad since I’m splurging on a ClamCase that will make it a bit wider than the iPad is now.  I also added an antique button from my great-grandmother’s button collection for the flap.  It’s not as padded as I would like; I ended up using a quilting pad that seemed thick at the time but doesn’t really offer enough padding for electronics.  But, all in all, not a bad job for my first shitenge project.

Please leave any ideas for future shitenge projects in the comments section but please remember I’m a novice seamstress!

I think the problem is that you’ve never actually known what the question is

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NPR recently compiled a list of the Top 100 Science-Fiction/ Fantasy  Books and as a certified sci-fi geek I am making it my duty to comment on said list.  This is definitely a list to be reckoned with; most of these books are by sci-fi heavy hitters such as J.R.R. Tolkein, Douglas Adams, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury  to name a few.  However, the “Young Adult” writers were left off this list to be considered for a future “Young Adult Reading List” despite the fact that I think they definitely deserve to be considered alongside the “Traditional” science fiction writers.  With that being said I’ve decided to compile my own comprehensive Top 10 Science-Fiction/ Fantasy Books for your consideration.

A Robot Reads

Image Credit: Chris Silas Neal

10. Y: The Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra 
This graphic novel series explores what the world would be like if a plague killed every living mammal possessing a Y chromosome except one man and his male Capuchin monkey.

9. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
I love both of these authors and together they are unstoppable.  Good Omens is a parody on books/films that explore the birth of the son of Satan and the End Times.

8. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
This book makes me cry every time I read it.  It tells the story of a man, Charlie, the first human test subject to enhance his intelligence through artificial means.  It handles the ethical and moral issues surrounding the treatment of people living with disabilities.

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brave New World is intriguing because it looks at a negative utopia based on the principles of mass production and Pavlovian conditioning.  The caste system, material consumption, and recreational sex are topics used to engage and reflect upon modern issues and the possible consequences.

6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
As a feminist, I can’t help but appreciate what Mary Shelley endured as a female writer in the 19th century.  Beyond that, however, her book endures the decades and continues to paint a chilling portrait of a scientist obsessed with creating life whose success comes at a great cost.  This theme is as relevant today as it was then.

5. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott
This falls under “Young Adult” fiction, however I’ve always loved mythology and Scott develops these gods, immortals, and monsters so effortlessly that they jump off the page and make you believe maybe Mars Ultor or Bastet, The Cat Goddess really do live in our modern society.

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
While there are many books about Dracula this tale hunts Vlad the Impaler from the 15th century through the present day in a dark, historical thriller.  I don’t know if it’s my love of history or perhaps my interest in vampires that makes this one of the best novels I’ve read.

3. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz and I loved this interpretation from Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West’s standpoint, who was really just a misunderstood girl.  Maguire has written other stories, that bring new life to old fairy tales including Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister and Mirror, Mirror.

2.  His Dark Materials Trilogy (Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman. 
Even though these are classified as “Young Adult” I love them. They are so well written and weave a masterful tale of Good vs. Evil with allegories that upset the church.

1.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I can’t help it, I love this series; it’s irreverent and fun and shares the meaning of life. 42. Duh.

A lot of great tv shows and films have originated from books including True Blood (The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris), The Lord of The Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein, The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowlings, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin), The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and countless others.  Some of the tv series and movies are arguably better than the books.  Honestly, I love the soap opera drama of True Blood but the Sookie Stackhouse books are so poorly written that I couldn’t get through the first book and while I admittedly read The Harry Potter series there are so many other novels with multi-dimensional characters and superb plotlines that I can’t count it among my favorites.

Bonus: Here’s a list of my Top 10 science-fiction/fantasy films and tv shows

10. The Wizard of Oz

While I watched this film as a kid I didn’t come to love it until I watched it shown alongside the live music of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  The musicians were able to bring the story to life in a way that the film was never able to accomplish on its own for me.

9. The Princess Bride
How can you not love this story with rodents of unusual size, a battle of wits, and the cliffs of insanity? It’s definitely not your typical Disney love story.

8. X-Men Film Series
There are a lot of really good science fiction films and superhero genre films but I really enjoyed this particular series because of its evolution and how much dimension there was to individual characters.

7. Dead Like Me
This short lived tv series combined a coming of age sory with a dark comedic edge.  George, an 18 year old girl, lived an ordinary life until one day she died and began an even more extraordinary afterlife as a grim reaper.  This series shares a twisted look at life and death.

6. Battlestar Galactica (the new series)
This show takes stories such as I,Robot one step further and investigates the repercussions of artificial intelligence and what could happen to humankind if artificial intelligence overtook the human race.

5. Serenity
I loved the tv show that this film was based on, Firefly, and the movie was even better.  There are plenty of space exploration films but there aren’t many space westerns.

4. Coraline
The film (and book by Neil Gaiman) are magical.  Perhaps it’s because I had an overactive imagination as a child but I could see how this magical world could materialize from everyday interactions.  It is a re-imagining on a popular idea that brought Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz to life.

3. Torchwood
Anyone who watched the newest Doctor Who series knows Captain Jack Harkness and the troubled Torchwood Institute (Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who).  It’s a darker, sexier, adult version of Doctor Who, which I hear may be getting an American update soon.

2. Doctor Who
I started watching this show as a kid when it reran on my local public broadcast channel.  I was so excited when they announced that a new doctor would reignite the series and I love what Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant brought to the new doctors.

1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer 
I was *slightly* addicted to this show in high school and college.  My college roommate and I would have Buffy night with our dorm-mates where everyone would  crowd into our room each week to watch the latest episode.  While at times it could be hokey (especially Season 1) it defined my college experience which is why it deserves top honors.

The Sunflower State

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In case you haven’t spent any time in Texas for the past month, here’s an update, it is hot.  Hotter than hot.  So hot I don’t know why I left Africa.  Therefore when the opportunity arose to leave Texas for the weekend I was ecstatic.  Drive 6 hours north to Kansas?  Chill out in the cool 90 degree F weather? Sure, sounds refreshing!

Here’s a short trip recap:

Friday morning: pack – underwear? check. tank top? check. toothbrush/paste? check.  computer/ipad? check.
Friday afternoon: throw on some headphones and play solitaire until the carsickness forces me to sleep
Friday evening: check in at the hotel.  I feared the worst but surprisingly our hotel was nice; my last stay in a Hutch hotel included an airless room with sticky sheets, the pervasive smell of lung cancer, and an incessant buzzing noise.
later on Friday evening: short visit with my grandfather and his wife followed by dinner at a “Mexican” restaurant, Carlos O’Kelly.  My dad insisted that I’d eaten there before but I’m pretty sure I’d remember having Mexican food at an Irish restaurant.

Saturday we spent the day with my grandfather and his wife at Hutch’s main attractions; the Cosmosphere and  the Underground Salt Museum, TWO of the eight wonders of Kansas.  The Cosmosphere houses a huge collection of U.S. Space Artifacts including flown spacecraft; Liberty Bell 7, Gemini 10, and Apollo 13.  However, I thought the coolest aircraft pictured was the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane that is the fastest plane ever built; at it’s top speed it could fly across Kansas (east to west) in 10 minutes.

From there we headed over to the Underground Salt Museum.  Where we plummeted 650 feet below the surface of the earth to see the tunnels and mazes created from decades of salt mining.  We took a tram ride into the dark corners of the mine where they proceeded to turn out ALL of the lights.  Sitting in utter darkness sparked images of salt monsters and missing miners.  I was relieved when they finally turned the lights back on as  I prefer to look my monsters in the eye before I’m devoured.

Alas, the snowman was not made of salt.  However, one of the cool things about the salt mines is that they are able to be used for storage for rare documents and movie/tv show props.  This snow man appeared in the film, Jack Frost, with Michael Keaton in 1998.  And, since I’m a history nerd at heart, one of my favorite parts of the museum was the original newspaper with a feature about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln Assassination Feature
Not too bad for a weekend trip to Kansas.  Quality time with the family + nerdy museum visits = super fun weekend for me.

Thando Iwam (Marry Me)

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It’s interesting how sights, sounds, tastes, and smells can trigger a once-forgotten memory in our minds.  I often associate music with certain places or people and create playlists based on the memories they evoke.  One of the songs that immediately reminds me of Namibia is Thando Iwam (Marry Me) by South African Kwaito star, Bojo Mujo with Namibian singer, TeQuila.  The song was a hit in Namibia and you could hear it played deep into the night at local shebeens (bars), blaring from car stereos, ringing out from cellphones, and danced at weddings.  The song was ubiquitous and I immediately associate it with my memories of Namibia.

Here are a few other songs that remind me of  people I met, places I visited, and events I was involved in during my time in Namibia:

Africa by Toto
The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism by The New Pornographers
Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys
Waka Waka Time for Africa by Shakira
Waving Flag by K’Naan
Ona Mami by Ozzy, JK, and Petersen
Yori Yori by Bracket
With My Own Two Hands by Ben Harper
Thando Iwam by Bojo Mujo featuring TeQuila

The lyrics (partially in Oshiwambo, partially in English)

Oh my love
Will you marry me?
Sthandwa sam
ungo wam
thando lwam
Hole yoye ohole yange
I wanna know, do you really love me too?
I deserve to know, do you feel like I do
So come on girl, marry me, marry me
If I marry you, will you marry me?

P.S. I LOVE the video.  It is Namibian through and through with the storyline and random dancing throughout.  Namibian music videos are so entertaining!

Do you have a song that reminds you of a time or place from your life?

Democracy, Equality, Reconciliation

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Title: Democracy, Equality, Reconciliation

Location: The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa (taken in August 2007)

Background: After the fall of the Apartheid state, South Africa’s democratic parliament drew up South Africa’s new constitution.  At the heart of the constitution are seven fundamental values which are represented by pillars that visitors see upon their arrival at the museum; Democracy, Equality, Reconciliation, Diversity, Responsibility, Respect, and Freedom.

While the words emblazoned on these pillars have come to represent the values of a nation who fought against apartheid they also remind us of the contributions women made to ensure that future generations could live in a free, non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic country.  As Nelson Mandela once said;

To be free is to not merely cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

National Women’s Day:  Yesterday, August 9th, was the 55th anniversary of Women’s Day in South Africa.  This day honors the 20,000 South African women who staged a peaceful march on the Union Building in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the “Pass Laws” that limited their freedom of movement.  The women stood silently for 30 minutes and then sang a protest song that was composed for the occasion: “Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!” meaning “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.” In the years since this phrase has come to symbolize the resilience of South African women, their sacrifices in the struggle for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, and the courage and strength of all women.

This is an important holiday; not only to remind South Africans of the incredible courage of the women who stood up for their rights on August 9, 1956, but also to remind people around the world that liberation is only complete when women are free of all forms of oppression.