Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sound the Alarm--the Girls are Catching Up

I've been irritated all week by the Portland Press Herald's series on the "Gender Gap" in education--referring to the fact the males are statistically falling slightly behind females in college enrollment and academic achievement. 
One article states:
Today, while men still hold 64 percent of full-time teaching jobs at four-year colleges, the pendulum is swinging the other way. At USM, for example, 11 of the 21 sports teams are female, the women's studies program just celebrated its 25th anniversary, and last year female students at USM earned 64 percent of the degrees awarded.
Implying that having more sports and a women's studies program means that "the pendulum" (a phallic image if I ever heard one) is swinging the other way.  I'd be interested to see an investigation of how the degrees are split up by gender--business majors, early childhood education majors, english majors, chemistry majors, etc--and how the earning power of those degree recipients measure up, since even though women are taking over the colleges we still only earn $0.73 for every male dollar.
OK, it's important to keep in mind that Maine's population according to Census 2000 is 51% female and 49% male, so it makes sense that the female enrollment would be higher if all things were equal.
The article goes on to talk about the inherent classisim in this divide (although it's not, of course, identified as such):

On campuses in Maine and across the country, the dwindling percentage of male students is sounding alarms. In the University of Maine System, the enrollment gap reached 63 percent women to 37 percent men in 2004.

The gender divide is close to even at elite private colleges such as Bates, Bowdoin and Colby.

So more women are enrolling at cheaper state universities, but it's business as usual at the private colleges.

Most irritating of all is the implication that Somebody Should Do Something to make sure the poor guys don't fall behind.  This kind of thinking is like providing affirmitive action for white folks.  What's so scary to people about women succeeding?  When men make up the majority at colleges and are doing well, there are no week-long investigative reports to explain why (unless it's International Women's Day). 

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


New Orleans, December, 2005


for Meg


I can't see you there—though I look, every time—

in the cold deluge of TV newsbursts

that soaked me every hour those first days.

The scene repeats at eleven, the bus again sideways in a pool of debris

again my grief-soaked Sonia

pointing outside the camera's view, again

your red shoes neatly side by side

disaster netted by news casters, displayed in gruesome glory.


It's the weight I cannot hold, its sudden mass too heavy:

the immensity of our dreams speeding

through an eight-lane disaster-zone highway, the heaviness

of doubt that forces our final slide into the guardrails,

the burden of grief that grows in that place like mildew.

Parched in the shattered scene stirring sixteen hundred miles

away, my fingers touch the dry TV screen.

Half a country from that Louisiana tarmac, I am stranded here

in strange atmosphere, gasping and flopping in a world

tipped like reason undone.  And you,



A single wave rising

cannot be understood

without the context of the ocean. 

One loss cannot be sounded alone

against the great tumble of death

in that city of romance and ruin. 

Here is my shout in chorus

with the great cry that rose with the flood waters,

my anger mingling with the rage

left behind like toxic mud. 

Here are strong hands I love returning

to scrape and mend and tarp and plant

in a land of strangers knotted tight by grief.

Here is the lesson of tragedy:

we can live in the wet, if we grow gills

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wash Your Hands

I don't know why I torture myself like this.  I have a few [ahem] issues with germs and dirt, especially other people's germs and dirt.  My own is pretty much OK, except for that black cruddy stuff that collects around the faucet.  That stuff makes me shiver and cower.  
Sci-fi novels and movies about epidemics literally keep me up at night (cumulatively I bet these have cost me a month's worth of sleepless nights: The Stand [which I read when I was fifteen and haven't recovered from yet], Parable of the Talents and Parable of the Sower, 28 Days Later, The Sheep Look Up) 
So of course I love to visit websites like this one, the World Health Organization list of disease outbreaks by year, and to share knowledge like this with others--even though nobody really needs to know it at all.

Talk about sickness...

Thanks, Bec

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oh, You Know... Got a Job, Had Some Kids, Got Headbutted by a Cop

Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to those folks I went to high school with. Well, here's one answer.

I went to school with Mr. Colthart and his brother.
According to the Press Herald, Peter Colthart has charged a Portland cop with headbutting him during a "confrontation:"

"Such misdemeanor charges are not usually presented to a grand jury, but because Nguyen was on duty at the time of the alleged conduct, the district attorney's office decided to seek an indictment.

Peter Colthart, the alleged victim, was not seriously injured in the incident."

Design Flaw: His Hair Would Block the Cameras

From Mike Heath's blog today ( ).  But don't visit it, because the last thing this guy needs is to think he's got support.
In case you're not familiar with Michael Heath (lucky you)--he's the weirdly-coiffed, queer-obsessed leader of the Christian Civic League of Maine (the folks who circulated those petitions trying to overturn the queer civil rights bill last fall).
"I'm running for Governor (not really)
"On April 1st I'm going to announce that I'm running for Governor of Maine.  I just don't like any of the current crop of candidates.  ... I want a governor who carries a gun and we ars LL Bean boots to the office.  I don't know if Woodcock is a hunter.  I don't care if he's a hunter or not.  I want him to bring the gun to work because he can, and to tick off the pagans who have moved into the State House.
"...My second priority will, of course, be to honor gaydom.  I'm going to do one better than protect people on the basis of their "sexual orientation."  Since gaydom is all about making our personal relationships more fluid, more free, my second act in office will be to create the "Office of Homeland Insecurity."  Now, I'm going to need someone really good at speaking up and making people feel safe and protected, especially the feminized and transexual.  They seem to really really really really ... no really ... want the protection of the government. Therefore, I have decided to appoint the most manly guy I know to provide this needed protection.  Paul Madore of Lewiston will be the Commissioner of Homeland Insecurity.
Madore is going to need a good Attorney General to help him.  Since I hate lawyers and believe they are bottom feeding scum suckers I can't appoint one of them.  Lets see.  I need a man who has shown that he is willing to take on unpopular causes for the good of the people.  I know.  My Attorney General will be Mike Hein of Augusta.  He is the only man in Augusta with the common sense to suggest that underwear clad young women shouldn't cavort with naked men wearing fishnet in picture windows on Main Street.  He'll make a great AG.
I won't need Commissioners of Education and Human Services cause I'm just going to close those departments.  That will cut the budget by two thirds, definitely a good thing."
I like to try to empathize with everyone, because [well, because I'm a bit of a voyeur, but besides that] everyone's person-ness carries equal weight in the world.  And, everyone's viewpoint comes from somewhere, and understanding that where is important because then you can see how they're different from you--and occasionally have fruitful debate/conversation with them.
OK, that's all a little flaky even for me--but the point is that I can't understand Mr. Heath's worldview.  What does he expect will happen with no schools and no safety nets?  Would he prefer beggars on the street?  Hm.  I guess maybe he would.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bug House

I love my apartment, but I do not love sharing it with my six-legged friends.
In the summer, it's ants--largeish black carpenter ants all over my kitchen.  They inhabited my garbage can, formed neat military lines along the floor at the bottom of the cupboard, and were always appearing at the corner of my vision as they crawled up the walls.  I had dreams about them until the cold weather drove them back into their little nest under the back steps.  (I did inform the landlord of the problem, but, being the sexist charmless bastard that he is, he declared that they couldn't possibly be carpenter ants and that I didn't know what I was talking about.  Ah well, his walls, not mine.)
This winter it's grain moths.  They flit mindlessly around my house after hitching a ride in with some oatmeal from the bulk foods section at Hannaford.  They're really difficult to get rid of, and they leave little larva and webs in my dry goods.  I actually don't care about eating bugs--as long as I don't know I'm eating them.  That is to say, it's the thought of them in my mouth--not my stomach--that bothers me.  I used to try to take a philosophical approach to bug infestation, saying to myself (and to anyone else who would listen) that bugs are just trying to live, like the rest of us, and that as long as my food was clear of them we're OK sharing space.  However, the bugs clearly did not get that memo about mutual respect of arbitrary boundaries, and they have crossed the line. 
I invested in some large freezer bags, threw out those old boxes of cous-cous and last year's easter candy, but the moths won't.  go.  away.  They're no longer in my food, but are living somewhere in the plastic-wrapped nether-world of my shelves.
[cue snare drums] I do not feel philosophical and peace-loving any more: I have pulled the last larvae from my pasta, rinsed the last moth from my drinking glass.  [cue strings] It's war, little buggies.  [cue strings] The bleach monster is paying a visit this weekend.
[orchestra swells, fade to flapping flag] Mwaahhh haa haaa. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Soleil-1 Mom-0

So, in a previous post I described an intricate and carefully-crafted points system with which I would gently mold my daughter's behavior, using a system of rewards--the end result of which would be a cheerful, well-adjusted, independent girl. 
Ha.  Turns out she's much smarter than I am.
She earned about 45 points (enough to go roller skating and get popcorn), but now refuses to use any of the points and sees no need to earn any more.  The little bag of sugarless gum and hard candy sits forlornly on the shelf; Saturday mornings are cinnamon-roll-less. 
The thing is, she totally called my bluff.  She immediately earned enough points to go roller skating with a friend, and we intended to go, but then it was snowing, and then the next week there was an Orientation Gathering for the Free Space; one thing led to another and the roller skating plan kind of slid off the back burner...
So much for positive behavior modification.  Maybe I should work on modifying my own behavior instead.


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