Why Some Pet Owners Suck

October 2, 2009 at 7:00 pm (Life) (, , , , )

Today, on our way to school and work, C. and I got stuck in traffic. The traffic patterns at one of the pikes has been reset because they have been futzing around with construction a lot. So for a while, we were only inching along. At one point, we come to a halt. I make the mistake of looking out the window. What do I see?

That’s right, someone’s run-over pet.

The poor cat had probably been hit by a car and managed to drag itself off the road before it croaked. It was clearly someone’s pet – well-fed, otherwise in good shape, still fairly young. I couldn’t see its face, thank God, but it lay on its side, legs splayed as though it were running and twitching in its sleep, blood caking its mouth.

Until recently, my family basically always had a pet. We never had cats, but Lena was a regular old escape artist of a dog and whenever she disappeared, it felt like a little part of me died. She was a Golden Retriever – that means a BIG dog, the kind you can see in case it streaks across the street in front of your car. However, that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do it totally unexpectedly or that you would be able to break in time not to hit her. Much like Winnie the Pooh, she had more fluff for brains than anything and she certainly wasn’t gifted with common sense. We always understood that having a pet escape and run about was a dangerous thing – most dog owners comprehend this matter. Cars are not safe to be around as a pedestrian, why would that be any different for a four-footed family member?

What I DON’T get is how this seems to be too hard for a lot of cat owners to understand. A cat, dear friends, is a PET. A cat is an animal. No matter what you may think, cats are not smart; most dogs have more common sense than a cat ever will have. Cats are, above all, arrogant and will not understand that a ton of metal will crush them. Some cat owners place way more faith into their cats than is ever warranted. Let me repeat: it is a RARE instant for a cat to be smart. Frankly, cats are also nowhere near as FAST as you think they are. A car is faster, bigger, meaner.

What I’m trying to get at is this: If you love your cat, don’t let it out. Just don’t. Unless your cat’s a Main Coone (thus a huge bugger), it is small and almost invisible, especially in the US where everyone drives SUVs which are generally higher than most European cars. People’s reaction times are slow. A cat doesn’t stand a chance.

Today, I saw someone’s beloved family pet dead at the roadside. I’m very sorry for their loss. But I can’t help but wonder if they really loved that cat since they let it out of their house in a high traffic area. Since I no longer have a pet of my own, it makes me resentful that someone would gamble with their pet’s life that way.

This cat lost the gamble and its carcass probably traumatized a bunch of small children who were on their way to school this morning. Please don’t be that cat owner.

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Yom Kippur

September 27, 2009 at 10:59 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , )

I did manage to find a place to go for Yom Kippur. However, it’s not somewhere I see myself going back to after my obligation for Yom Kippur is over. The congregation is large, impersonal and conservative. The latter wouldn’t bother me too much, but it’s a little . . . restrictive, in a way. It’s the kind of place where you’ll see older people and young families and very little in between.

Not only that, but the rabbi started being a solicitor for various funds in the middle of services, which I thought was incredibly inappropriate. We’re RIGHT smackdab in the middle of Kol Nidre services. And you ask people to put money into Israel Bonds? REALLY? YOU THINK THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA? He also started harping on our need to support Israel and donate and blahblahblah.

I have no issue with charity. I do have an issue when a religious official uses his role to push political agendas; it’s not something I have ever seen a rabbi do and I hope I’ll never have to see it again. It’s not something I associate with Judaism, the begging for money and propagation of political things is more a Christian phenomenon. Or it was until now.

The whole thing just made me incredibly uncomfortable. A religious official is supposed to offer advice, not preach from the pulpit about how I as a Jew am obligated to support Israel in every possible way. That’s like someone telling C. that she has to support the Pope because she’s Catholic despite the fact that dude’s batshit crazy, not to mention assbackwards on basically every matter of social importance. I am in no way obligated to support a country simply because I am part of a religious entity. I will not publicly support a country and a government on the basis of this.

I appreciate Israel’s existence, but I do not agree with a lot of their policies. I believe displacing Palestinians is wrong. The way Israel was founded is very much akin to the Europeans marching into North American and displacing all the American Indians. I don’t believe military action is necessary all the damn time and I am absolutely horrified at the sense of entitlement that many European and American-born Jews have when they make aliyah, and how perfectly acceptable the racism towards Palestinians is within those Jewish communities in Israel.

So, no, Rabbi Whateveryournamemaybe, I am keeping my money out of Israel Bonds and in my damn pocket. This kind of conduct does not leave me feeling spiritually cleansed, forgiven by God or enlightened. It makes me think I ended up an awful place for a very emotional time, and that makes me sad.

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A Curious Case

September 13, 2009 at 10:52 pm (News) (, , , , , , )

By now, the news about Caster Semenya is all over the place. My main concern with the whole deal is how poorly she (YES, SHE) was treated and how much of a disgrace the IAAF and SA Sports Management have been in the matter. It is in extremely poor taste to publicly demand gender testing and then publicize the results without contacting the person first.

All I see right now is a bunch of smug people saying, “I told you so,” because they thought Caster Semenya looked “manly.” And a lot of people, like myself, who are absolutely livid about the way Semenya’s privacy was violated. Would it not occur to officials that, oh, a young woman who – as it turns out – is intersex and still a teenager might need time to adjust to the results of her testing? Homosexuals and transgender folk go through a lot of emotional turmoil trying to figure out where they stand on their issues; why should it be any different, if not even more difficult, for someone who has been harassed about her masculine appearance her whole life?

I’m absolutely tired of people basing their opinions on her appearance. So what if she has manly features? There’s plenty of heterosexual, gender-normative women who have many attributes we would describe as masculine. I know a lot of men who have very feminine features. Appearance has absolutely nothing to do with her performance as an athlete, her right to identify as the gender she feels she is, nor has it any implication to her sex. Period. It is one dead horse I wish people would lay off. Get over yourselves; it is inappropriate and uncalled for.

Semenya is not the first nor will she be the last intersex athlete. The question is, do we really have the right to take away the one thing she loves and does best – running in competitive sports? She has always identified as female, regardless of her genitals or hormone levels. Even if she does produce more testosterone than your average female athlete, she still has lower levels than a male athlete. What are they going to do, make her compete in the Paralympics? Ban her entirely? Open up an entirely different category for transgender and intersex athletes? I do not believe it would be fair to ban her from her vocation, she didn’t deceive anyone on purpose and she was abused by officials greedy for medals to be attributed to their nation, and abused by officials wishing to call more publicity to their organization. I hope to God that poor girl is compensated somehow.

I wish this would trigger intelligent discourse, but I know it will not because the majority of humankind is stupid.

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I Call Shenanigans

June 28, 2009 at 1:04 pm (Writing) (, , , , )

I was rereading Shirley Darsgaard’s series last night when I came across a section in “Witch Hunt” in which the protagonist’s friend, Darci, is putting up with a MAJOR red-flag guy. Ophelia, the protagonist, notices this and immediately bitches and moans about it. Her grandmother, Abby, is supposed to be this loving mentor figure who understands everything.

And, guess what? Ophelia points out Danny’s red flag behavior and all Abby has to say about it is to the effect of, “Some men just want to be the center of their partner’s universe. That’s Darci’s problem, not yours.”

Seriously, ma’am? I get that you’re older and were raised in the Appalachians and whatever other stupid-ass excuse you can come up with. But how DARE you hold Abby up as a prime example of good female knowledgability and matronliness, and then have her say something like that?

Danny is a red flag male. He controls Darci, pushing different clothes and different beliefs on her. He tells her what to think and what to say. He tells her it’s “for her own good.” He isolates her from her friends and loved ones and forces himself on her by pushing Darci to let him move in with her after a murder occurs in her house instead of letting Darci find other real estate. That kind of behavior is a warning sign of future abuse to come, and you basically have your character green-light this because it’s “Darci’s problem”?

I call bullshit. I feel angry enough about this to actually write to the author.

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An Open Letter

June 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , )

Dear Sir,

I realize you thought you were doing a good thing. Your thoughts were tainted by the grandeur of martyring yourself for the cause, ending a reign of terror, a genocide. You were stopping a godless murderer from ending the lives of defenseless children, those who had no voice. You and your friends, you were to speak for these innocents, you were going to protect them.

What you call ideology I call madness. What you call an innocent child I call a cluster of cells, a the half-formed beginnings of what – after birth – will be a human being, with no personality or viability. What you call murder I call choice. Those you condemn I support.

What you do not realize, sir, is that you have no right to make decisions for someone with little choice in the matter. For every woman who, in utmost emotional pain, fells the decision to have a “late-term” abortion does so with a heavy heart. It is a traumatic, invasive, terrible procedure. Those “children” are wanted. You have no concept of the terror and anger and sadness these women feel as they grasp their partners’ hands throughout the procedure. You have no idea of how these people have to pick the pieces of their shattered dreams and hopes they pinned on that pregnancy. Everything they’d wished for is dashed with one visit to prenatal care.

You may think you have the right to judge and shun these women and men, harass them and shame them. It is my duty to correct you, sir.

You are no hero. You are, in fact, an awful human being, as is every single one of your friends at Operation Rescue. How dare you take it into your own hands to pass judgement on someone else when you spend so much time arguing your belief in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. You are nothing but a useless worm. Do you think this is what your God wants?

How ever did you think it was right, even just to shoot another living, breathing human being? You are no martyr, sir, you are an asshole. You committed a heinous crime against another person, defying one of the Ten Commandments, if you feel inclined to placing worth on your own goddamn Bible. Does “thou shalt not kill” ring a bell? No? Then perhaps you are not as familiar with your own scriptures. You are a horrid person, sir. What you and your friends are doing is called domestic terrorism. You shot a man providing invaluable, important services to those who needed them the most. You shot a true humanitarian. Countless of Dr. Tiller’s patients are stepping forward to tell their stories. You are instilling fear in the hearts of innocent people, making them afraid to seek the help and make the choices they need to. Did you know all of them are anonymous because they are afraid of you, of the things you do in the name of a God who surely condemns what you did just as much as anyone with even an ounce of brain matter does?

I hope you rot in Hell.

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The Idiot Pandemic

May 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm (Life) (, , , , , )

I truly believe that is what we are fighting these days. Not swine flu, not cancer. The idiot pandemic. Idiocy spans the globe and is somehow distilled down to its essence by the time it reaches the internet, making for one gigantic influx of stupid that kills your brain cells by simply looking at it.

A recent development in my Facebook news feed has left me with the distinct feeling of wanting to smack my forehead against a wall. Preferably solid brick wall. The stupid is just insurmountable. Somehow, a lot of my German friends have taken to calling each other “homo.” A lot. Every other status update, its comment section or wall post includes the word “homo” as an insult or greeting.

Now, in theory, it should not bother me. The root of the word is in Latin. Simply, it means “human.” However, I will not accredit them with that much intelligence. What they mean is “homosexual.” Their goal is to insult each other.

I fume at the misuse of said word, turning a simple description of someone’s perfectly acceptable sexual orientation into something bad. This is exactly why we’re having such trouble. So many people are latently homosexophobic and because many homosexuals are afraid of being outed, no one tells them these people are being assholes. The fact people seem to think it’s okay to use this word as an insult or form of greeting is horrid. I know that at least one of these people has an openly homosexual friend. That is what ticks me off most – you have a friend who has entrusted you with the knowledge of them being different from about 97% of the population. And yet you see it fit to use their sexual orientation to throw around carelessly?

I do not like the implications of this ignorance. I have made a point to point it out in my own status update, but I still feel that all of the offenders deserve this:

middle-finger

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Edumacation

April 21, 2009 at 6:49 pm (Life, School) (, , , , )

A certain quiz has been popping up on my Facebook news feed a lot lately. All my German friends have been taking it. As is the nature of all these quizzes, it is arbitrary and stupid; however, this one also takes on a whole different level of offensive.

The title of this quiz is “Which Gymnasium in Stuttgart should you have gone to?” A Gymnasium, in Germany, is one of the three branches of schools you are sorted into after grade four. Gymnasium means you most likely will be pursuing college once you graduate. It is a college-track system with a diploma, the Abitur, that will allow you to actually go to university. A Realschulabschluss or a Hauptschulabschluss do not do the same.

My point is not to discuss the extremely faulty German education system, at least not at this time. Many of my friends have been getting the following result: “$$$ Money makes the world go around $$$ – Abitur hat eben seinen Preis $$ Auf der M. kostet es eben etwas jedoch hat dann auch jeder eine Chance.” (Roughly translated: An Abitur has a pricetag. It may cost a little at the M., but at least everyone has a chance.)

Yes, I attended a private school. Yes, there was an inordinate amount of idiots at my school who should not have been let anywhere near the Abitur, but that is beside the point. The point is that I have never met or heard of anyone who had to do anything less than work for their Abitur. Getting your Abitur is a grueling task; this diploma spans two years, in which all your grades count towards your general GPA. You have five four-hour classes a week along with at least another four or five that are two hours. You take two exams – all essay and analysis questions – in the four hour courses per semester, and one exam per semester in the two hour classes. Again: ALL these grades count towards your GPA.

In semester four, you take a standardized exam – again, essay questions and analysis – in four of your five four-hour courses. German is mandatory (for this, you have to read certain books over the span of those two years and hand in a blank copy you can use during this exam), as is Math. An exam in a foreign language is also required. The fourth is one of your choosing; it can be a science (profile courses) or anything else (chosen). If you take PE, Music or Art, you are required to do a practical examination in which you complete certain hands-on tasks of your field. The Abitur is compiled by calling in state-wide teachers’ conferences a few years before a final is assigned. There, questions and topics and themes are brought together and it is left up to a very exclusive committee to write them. The day before the exam is given, a courier brings the double-sealed exams to the school where they are placed within a safe and not touched until the date they are to be taken. If it leaks, the entire state of BaW├╝ is assigned a whole new exam.

I will not claim I did not have any free time when I worked towards my Abitur, that would be a lie. I usually had an easy time with academics. However, nobody did anything less than challenge us on a daily basis. I did less work than I should have, excelling in subjects that required little effort and almost flunking those that were hard for me. This is why I graduated with only an average GPA. My friend L. graduated with the best GPA, and that took a lot of effort.

A few years ago, a parent who had some beef and minor influence with one of the local newspapers pulled some strings so a reporter and a photographer ended up coming to school to write a profile on us. This article, as it turned out, held no praise for us – instead, it tore down every student who was interviewed, twisting words FauxNews-style and essentially blaming our school for all the evil in the world.

We were accused of being nothing more than a bunch of people whose main job was being heirs; who paid for their diplomas. One student in particular was interviewed, and his words were used as ammunition. See, at our school, we happened to have teachers who actually gave a shit about us. Our exams happened to be the week after Easter vacation, which meant our classes would not meet for two weeks before our Abitur finals. If we had any questions at a different school, we were hosed.

This student had been honest when asked whether or not attending this school made a difference. He said that, yes, it did. Our teachers cared. A lot of them invited us into their homes so we could do extra study sessions and voice any concerns we had. My German teacher, for instance, sacrificed an entire week of his holiday to go over the three books we’d had to read. He asked the church where he played the organ if he could have the classrooms in the mornings. My biology teacher made sure that those of us taking the Bio final had his mobile number so we could call him at any time. Germany does not have a private school email system for its high schools, so we received private email addresses. The religion majors’ teacher organized private study sessions.

All of this, mind, was unpaid. These teachers did it from the goodness of their hearts, and all they receive for doing so is scorn from a newspaper and the public. The year I graduated, the teachers weren’t even supposed to do any of what they had done for the classes before precisely because of the public perception of their work. They did it anyway.

My parents did not pay tuition so that I was guaranteed an Abitur. My parents paid tuition for smaller classes and higher quality of education, for teachers who actually worked with their students instead of just talking at them. I find the quiz on FB, to come full circle, incredibly insulting to the people at M. who do good, dedicated work, and to anyone who graduated at all. It took work. Money had nothing to do with it. I also wish my friends weren’t even taking that quiz because all they’re doing is perpetuating the stereotype of our school.

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A Royal Pain

April 14, 2009 at 6:51 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , )

bo obamaAs we welcome our newest member of the Obama family into the White House, there has been unprecedented nastiness pervading the nation. People are all up in arms about the fact that Bo, seen on the left, is a purebred Portuguese Water Dog. Many are complaining that the Obamas should have picked a shelter dog! Why did they not pick a mutt! Wah wah wah!

My dears, let me clarify: Malia Obama has severe allergies to dog dander. No matter how good your intentions, it is best to pick a purebred dog that will not set off her allergies. There is no such guarantee with mutts. When you buy a purebred, you know exactly what you are in for; there are no unexpected signs of aggression, no mysterious illness, nothing. Purebreds are predictable in temperament and this is precisely what anyone who has never owned a dog before needs.

Secondly, Bo IS a rescue dog of sorts. His previous owners returned him to the breeder. He was homeless. He needed a family. He seems like a sweet, even-tempered dog, which is ideal for first-time dog owners and especially owners in such high-level stress situations. They need a dog that will not piss itself with excitement every time a helicopter lands on the White House lawn or a foreign dignitary comes to pet him.

Bo’s breeders are respectable, registered, humane breeders who had the good sense to take a dog they had sold back when said dog could no longer live with his family. Humane breeders will always, always take a dog back, no matter what the circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the humane breeders who are contributing to the homeless pet population and influx of sickly purebred animals. It is backyard breeders, puppy mills and idiots who do not get their pets neutered. People also seem to forget that the First Family is not their personal Sims computer game; we have no right whatsoever to interfere with their choice of school for their children, their choice of designers – or not – to wear or which dog they adopt. There was no such outrage when Clinton adopted Buddy, a purebred chocolate lab; or when Bush brought his two Scottish Terriers to the White House. Why now?

I, too, am the owner of a purebred dog. Lena joined my family when she was thirteen weeks old, after she had been returned to her breeder by her previous owners. Lena earsMy parents had previously taken in dogs that had been abused by their owners, a cocker spaniel and a mutt, and had bad experiences with both of those dogs. When we purchased our first Golden Retriever – after much research into what breed would be compatible with a family with small children – we knew exactly what to expect. Whisper was the sweetest, dearest dog you could ever imagine.

Lena, my current dog, is a sweetheart. She’ll let you do anything to her (as evidenced by my younger sister torturing sad puppyface on the kitchen floor). If she’s had enough, she will get up and leave, preferably seeking shelter with me. She has not been around young children much, yet instinctively knows that she is not to play rough with them, has never snapped at one or made any threatening move. Much as I like mutts, I have had better experiences with purebreds simply because I knew what behavior to expect when. Besides – mutts wouldn’t be around were it not for the purebred dogs mingling, no? People pick what is right for them and their circumstances, and in the Obamas’ case, it was a purebred dog that would be of even temper, would not set off allergies and would be compliant to training.

To the whiners, I say: Shut the fuck up. It is not your decision to make which dog enters the White House, just as it was never your decision to yammer about which school Malia and Sasha Obama would attend.

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Bad Habits

April 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm (Life, School) (, , )

One of my many vices is procrastination. I have been combating it this semester in an attempt to drive it out of me like the devil it is, but it’s finally caught up with me again. Partly, I think, it was based in frustration with English class – because this is where it happened that I did not have an essay done on time – but partly also on laziness and the fact that the internet always offers welcome distraction.

I’ll try to not let it happen again; I finished my essay today, as well as the double notebook, both of which were due last Tuesday. Thank God I could get the deadline extended, but it still makes me unhappy because I have managed to stay on top of things from the very beginning of the semester. I have a good work ethic because I make an effort, but that won’t be enough. I skated by school before and now I have the chance to excel, yet I am letting myself drag. I need to stop this.

Oh, my burgeouise first world problems.

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My Beef

April 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm (Life) (, , , , , , )

I am part of a liberal Jewish community back in Germany that is based around the MTV military chapel. We have not had a rabbi in years; to give you an idea, there currently are 1,426,713 active duty service members and another 1,259,000 in the reserves. There are about twelve rabbis in uniform, nine of which are orthodox.

My community hasn’t had a rabbi in years. The community has been pretty self-sufficient; we arranged for services on our own, contracted a non-trained cantor, had a ley leader represent us at the chaplains’ meetings. I invested a lot of my own time into this community, leading services when our cantor was gone, kashering the kitchen, keeping children entertained, clean-up duty, organizing services, going through checklists of what we did and did not need. While we weren’t many, we usually did okay – some people rotated through, but there was always a stable core to the community that was formed, in fact, by local civilians, not by service (wo)men or dependents.

As of last month, we have a rabbi again, an orthodox one. In one fell sweep, he has ripped any and all control over how we conduct services, how we organize situations, has completely changed times on when services are held, etc. According to those who I am in contact with, he is not exactly hostile towards the civilians, but not terribly welcoming either.

So, what inspired this? Well, as you all know, it’s Passover now. Usually our community organizes it and has a pretty grand old time. This year, the rabbi decided he needed to take things into his own hands despite the fact he would not be there. Instead of letting us do our normal thing, he imported a yeshiva student to conduct the service.

Our community has not had a rabbi for about ten years. This means ten Passover seders we managed to conduct on our own. What did he think we do before God sent us this divine message in form of Rabbi Jerkwad? Scratch our ape-like heads and chant “Ugga!” like heathens?

Christ on a cracker. If there is a God, then please, I would like for him to take this jackass back off our hands. I refuse to attend any services this man holds just because he is orthodox and I do not agree with orthodox Judaism. For all I know, he might very likely be segregating the community by gender and because he’s orthodox, he is sure to believe women are not allowed to touch the Torah. Fuck this shit.

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