Saturday, January 31, 2009

Someone somewhere is sitting on a giant pile of money...

I saw this today while reading a comment on an archived post in my cousins blog The Profound Thoughts of a Frivolous Mind. "Don't you feel like someone somewhere is sitting on a giant pile of money?" This was in reference to dealing with insurance companies. And I would agree that there are some Insurance top-dogs that are surely hoarding the cash. This economy seems to be killing everybody. We're all in the same boat and we're all feeling it. Oh except for some. And I found out yesterday who is sitting on the biggest pile of OUR money...

Exxon Mobil Corp.

Yes, you can read all about it at Yahoo News or anywhere else I'm sure. Here it is: Exxon Mobil Corp. on Friday reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company... So the record for the most a US company has EVER made in a year was just set by Exxon Mobil, pushing the old record down to the number two slot - old record ALSO set by Exxon Mobil.

Am I allowed to say "Greedy fucking bastards" on the radio? No? Well I guess it's good I'm not on the radio anymore and this is my blog huh? Because that's exactly how I feel about Exxon Mobil right now.

And lets not forget about credit card companies either. I have only SLIGHTLY less disgust for them, and this is only because I myself (we can't include the few small credit cards I married in this statement) have no credit card debt and haven't for several years. Here they are screaming & crying for bailout money. Federal interest rates are at record lows and credit card companies are charging record high interest rates. Now that federal interest rates have dropped, do you think card rates will go down? Don't bet on it. Do you think they'll lower rates when they get all that sweet bailout cash? Don't bet on it.

I can think of quite a few people that are sitting on huge piles of money.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Who knew Showtime would eventually bring polygamy back in vogue?

X has been kind enough to pass on five fun and thought provoking questions so that I may entertain all you readers with something other than pictures of my munchkins, ramblings about my writing project and unprovoked political diatribes. This comes from my request after her own revelations last week - fun post, you should go take a look. For all interested in their own "Hey read all about me" interview questions, I would love to send you a few. Now here are my answers to five questions I never expected to answer!

1. If you became a polygamist tomorrow, who would you want your second wife to be and why?
I had to think about this one for days but when the answer came to me I thought "Oh duh. Why didn't I think of that sooner?" You think I'm about to say Alessandra Ambrosio don't you? Well yeah, that would be one option... but I think I would go with my girl Cindy. Why? Because she's the closest I've had already to a female partner and I think we'd do better together than anyone else. I love her and think she's amazing. And maybe one of these days she'll actually come for a visit. And really that's as close as it would get to this strange polygamist fantasy. sigh

2. What do you think happens when we die?

I am finally in a place in my life where I'm content to not know. It's a comfort that I don't hold to any hopes that may not come to be, especially after losing loved ones - I would hate to operate all my life under the assumption I would see my dad again and then be wrong.

3. If you could bestow your children with one talent, what would it be?

I would make them charismatic communicators. Being able to speak to others, get your point across, sway opinions to align with your own... these skills are invaluable.

4. When was the last time you felt true jealousy and what caused it?

Anthony and I had an understanding about the exclusivity (or lack of it) in our relationship early on while I was still living in Ventura. We were so far apart, it wasn't reasonable to be alone all the time. So I think the last time I felt real jealousy (not the kind I felt last week as my mother attended the presidential inauguration ceremony) was toward the end of that arrangement, right before we finally admitted to each other that we were more than just FwB's, were madly in love, and wanted to be together.

5. If you could change just one thing about the Mormon religion, what would you change?

Okay there isn't one thing that if changed, would bring me back, so I had a hard time thinking what one thing could possibly be important to me at this point. Since I'm pretty live & let live... but then it came to me. I would only have them stop knocking on my door. :)

Here are the meme details:
If you'd like to play along, just follow these instructions:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me." (And realize I might take a while to get back to you.)
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions. (Eventually!)
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Experience at the inauguration of Barak Obama

This post was guest written by my mother, Michele Bennett. I will return to post more after the envy-green fades & I can see enough to type again.

Hello My Friends and Family!

Through the serendipity of being related to a senator, I was able to score some tickets to the inauguration of our 44th president, Barak Obama. I realized that because I am currently living in this area, it was an opportunity that I might not have again and I should take advantage of this chance. Any inauguration is a moment in history, but this inauguration seemed like an especially pivotal moment, so I felt particularly compelled to make the effort to go.

For those of you who don’t live here in the area of Washington DC, let me tell you – IT IS COLD! There had been predictions of the largest numbers of people ever to attend an inauguration, of extreme cold temperatures and of snafus in an aging and overcrowded public transit system (while at the same time almost forcing us to use this aging system because cars were not allowed in the downtown core). I toyed with the idea of spending the night at the spa where I work, so that I could avoid the metro system and just walk to the ceremonies, but I don’t sleep well in my own bed. Sleeping on a massage table was unappealing in the extreme. So, I decided that I would sleep at home and brave the transit system with the masses. I went to REI the day before to obtain some cold weather gear. (I know, you are all exclaiming that I come from the snow belt and should already be outfitted for the cold, but alas, I am not. And, somewhere in my move from Utah to Washington DC, I lost my gloves.) My trip to REI was strange. REI originated in the pacific northwest, so those of us from the west think of REI as the ultimate store for outdoor gear – complete with a rainroom to test out your wet weather gear. Many people here have never heard of REI and the store here is very small. But, those that have discovered REI had cleaned it out of all things made for cold weather. There were no hand & foot warmers left, no long underwear, and two pair of boots, neither of which were my size. So, I left the store with some new gloves (complete with liners) a hat, some over-the-knee socks and a couple of probars (sustenance for the long wait inside a perimeter without food available), and grateful that I found that much.

I awoke to a weather report that said it was 9 degrees out and wouldn’t get much warmer when the sun came up. I do tend to be a little claustrophobic, so the thought of a crowded metro was a little daunting. I lay in bed at 5AM debating with myself. I could watch the ceremonies on TV. I didn’t really need to go out. It would be much warmer. For half an hour, this debate went around in my head. Finally, the argument that no one else in my family or circle of friends would be able to see this event won out and I dragged myself from my warm bed. I put on tights, long-johns, over-the-knee socks, pants, walking shoes, a sweater, a light quilted jacket, a heavy wool coat, a big scarf, a hat and gloves with liners and headed for the train. I felt like the small child in the movie “The Christmas Story” who is so bundled up that he can’t put his arms down. At 6:30 AM, the train was filled to capacity with a noisy group of cheerful and excited people all headed to watch history made. No one was sleeping. No one was complaining. All were grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the moment. When I arrived at Union Station, I headed toward the yellow security checkpoint. I had a yellow ticket and we were all assigned to our color-coded checkpoint. The line to get to the checkpoint was several blocks long but moved fairly well. With so many thousands of people moving through the line and all excited, we were all conversing with others in the line. I was standing near a young couple, just married talking about this – the first time they voted, their first time to witness an inauguration, their first time ever in Washington DC. It was so cold, but they had big furry parkas and were excited that they had tickets in the seated section. I began to inquire how they had been able to come by their tickets. The young man said “I’m an intern for Senator Bennett from Utah.” Turns out that they are from Logan and he is a senior at Utah State. What a small world it is. We shared some stories and the comraderie of the occasion. Once we were through the checkpoint, they went to their seats and I went toward mine. By the time we reached our seats, it was still only 10AM and we had over an hour before the ceremony started. I decided to take a few pictures. I went to a stairway to get higher to take some pictures, but since the only camera that I have is my cell phone, I got two pictures (attached to this email) before it wouldn’t work anymore (too many cell phones for towers to be able to handle all the service, so it just shut down). I headed back to my seat and realized that I had lost one of my gloves (yes – one of my newly purchased gloves – complete with liner). But, I still had one glove and the other hand stayed firmly in my pocket. We sat and visited with the people around us. Sitting in front of us was a cute family with two daughters, approximately 8 and 12. The 8-year-old was bouncy and happy to be there. The 12-year-old was not happy at all. For half an hour, she complained about the cold, about her parents forcing her to come out way too early, and that she wished that she were home. Her mother gently chided her about her complaining and her father tried to lighten things by taking pictures of the girls. He tried to get her to stop crying, saying that she wouldn’t want to be crying in the pictures, but she just explained that she would remember this as the “worst day of my life!” At one point, she turned around and looked at me, so I took the opening to say to her that someday – and in the not-too-distant future, she would be proud to brag to her friends and later to her children, that she was here at this particular event, whereupon, she gave me a very dirty look.

Then the ceremony began. Aretha sang – sort of underwhelming. Then Nancy Pelosi, who conducted the ceremonies, introduced the “esteemed senator from Utah, Robert Bennett.” I of course cheered. I was the only one who did so and realized that everyone around me was staring, wondering who was this strange woman cheering for some republican senator from Utah. But, hey! He’s family. One must cheer! Senator Bennett then introduced the supreme court justice who administered the oath of office to Joseph Biden. Then there was a quartet, a piano, a violin, (Itzak Perhlman) a clarinet and a cello (Yo Yo Ma)! I was astonished that any of them could make their fingers work – and work so well in the cold. They did and it was astoundingly beautiful. Then it was time for Barak Obama to take the oath of office. The reverence was palpable. It was like being in church. The oath is 35 words, uttered by every president since George Washington said them for the very first time. After he gave his oath, he gave his address to the nation. What a truly inspiring orator! He called us to service. I haven’t been LDS for a very long time, but one of the things that I truly admire about the religion of my heritage is that it is founded on the cornerstone of service. This man, whom we now have as our president, is defined by his affirmation that we all have the opportunity and the responsibility to be of service, whether it is the fireman who charges into a burning building or the parent who nurtures and teaches a child. He demonstrated that impetus the day before his inauguration by spending the day in service. His wife was at a soup kitchen handing out meals and he was in his jeans and tennis shoes at a teen shelter, chatting with homeless and/or runaway teens while painting the shelter. One of the girls at the shelter made the comment that she hoped to be moving soon to a real house, and President Obama said “I’m moving tomorrow. It’s an old house.” So unassuming, yet so at ease in his ability to inspire – and he does inspire. He has inspired me and I have run into others who have never given a thought to volunteer for anything before, who are moved to volunteer, to do something – anything – to be of service to others.

I left the ceremony in a crowd of people as we sang the National Anthem together. We all felt moved and inspired. We all felt as if we are truly bound together by hope and common purpose. We returned to Union Station to make our way home again. At the station, we decided to find a little lunch. So had thousands of others. There was almost no place to sit, so we invited an older woman who appeared to be alone to sit with us. She told us her story. She came from Detroit on a bus with others from her church. They had no tickets. They were so far back in the crowd that they couldn’t see or hear anything. Yet, they still felt blessed to have been here to bear witness to this moment in history. There was another young woman here with her three small children – one a two-month-old baby, who came here from Texas. She also had no tickets, and couldn’t see or hear anything, but felt compelled to be here. There were so many like that, who came from far away, just to be here, just to share the moment with others.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King day. Dr. King said that he wished for his children that they be judged not for the color of their skin, but for the content of their character. I saw that take shape today. I was here. I was witness to it. I am blessed for having participated.

I have attached two pictures – the only two that I was able to take before my phone shut down. But, you will get an idea of just how close I was. It was truly wonderful!

Love and cheer to you all from Washington DC

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gun Safety and Grandma

I wanted to get this posted in a timely manner since the questions I got are so pressing... or maybe I'm stalling because I've hit a rough spot in my other writing.

OGUN asks: Wonder-Rachel, what's the color of your favorite trigger-lock?
Well I guess the logical answer here would be pink. But I'm not really sure if a pink trigger-lock exists. And the trigger lock that came with my gun is blue. So I guess that's my favorite. Though thinking more about it, maybe blue should be my least favorite trigger-lock color since I really hate mine and never use it. In fact, I couldn't even tell you where it is! The thing about trigger-locks is that if a kid monkeys with it enough or if it's not on just right, the gun can go off. This is why I bought a cable lock. It's black. The revolver chamber rolls fully out of place & the cable threads right down the barrel - no chance in hell that baby's goin off.

And Sus wanted to know: When can I hear some of that hot "Rachel Sings Whitney Houston" that I remember from so long ago? :)
Alas, now I only sing in the shower. If you want to come over & hop in sometime, I'll try to remember a few bars of The Children Are Our Future. Anthony was always trying to get me to sing Karaoke when we were dating (before my awesome eBay night job)but here's the thing: The last time I sang in public was the final of many recitals Grandma Stamm made me sing in. So I sang Mozart to friends, family, neighbors & strangers at countless recitals for years. Since then no one has been able to prevail upon me in quite the way that Grandma was capable, and I have never performed since - quite happily I might add. Now I sing at home and leave the public performance to my capable and willing cousins and as always, my beautiful & talented Grandmother.

And that's all we have time for today folks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why are we here?

Procrastinating Blogger Update: I have written almost two chapters (or possibly well over two chapters but I've still only broken it into two parts. hahaha). Perhaps, when it's all all done I'll put something up here.

So back to business...

Why are we here indeed... I'm sneaking up on you with this one because I already know the answer I'm going for here.

I'm wondering what we take with us when we shuffle off this mortal coil see I'm feeling all authory so I'm throwing in cheesy quotes from my own fave. I know I won't be taking the paintings on the walls much as I love 'em, or the awesome collection of baking pans I've been slowly amassing, or even my damn wedding ring! But does it matter that when I die I don't take the ring?



Because I take the man.

No, I don't mean when I die I'm going to murderously haul my husband into the great unknown with me. I mean that in whatever form we find ourselves on the other side, I'll have the experience & enrichment of our relationship to take with me.

So why would we be here but to learn & grow and take as much as we can with us into the next phase/era/dimension/whatever? And how do we do that? By enriching our lives with as many personal and social relationships & interactions, by always striving to learn more and more about whatever you want just as long as your mind is active, by being open to anything new that comes your way I'm not saying be accepting of everything, I'm just saying open to the possibilities.

I think I'm feeling irritated by a glaring & recent lack in this department. I've been guilty in the past of neglecting personal relationships and have, in the recent past, tried very hard to be better about maintaining communication, being a better friend... It's hard for me. A combo of depression & busy life makes for days that fly by but I'm better than I was. So it surprises me when other people seem so unwilling to be friendly at all. Are you so selective in the people you speak to that I don't make the cut? I hate to harp on it, but this feels seriously like it's because of that certain club I don't belong to. Hm.

Well, I think I've hit on something besides the hot cocktail waitress at Fridays last weekend with this idea that we're here to know people - as many people as we can know. It's just a thought I guess, but it seems to ring true and I've found that to be reliable for me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wafa Sultan interviews on Al Jazeera television

I got a link to an interview shown recently on an Arab financed TV station in Dubai, Al Jazeera television. The woman is Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist from Los Angeles and I've included the link because her tone of voice and body language is wonderful - I recommend everyone watch it if possible. As well, the body language of her male colleague is very telling - he is so dismissive and condescending.
Arab TV Broadcast

The clip has been edited - I think the interviewer may have said a few things that were taken out due to being repetitive or inconsequential once she made her reply. So it's mostly Wafa Sultan speaking about the clash between Western & Eastern culture and some back & forth with the obnoxious bearded turban guy who clearly will never agree with her.

I've also included a transcript of her interview since popular opinion is that the clip from Arab TV won't be around for long. So I'm sorry if it's gone. I'm amazed at the things she says, and that they were broadcast on that station. I think it's something that needs to be said and needs to be heard. I admire her for saying it because this sort of logic is completely dismissed by eastern traditionalists when delivered by a westerner. Likely, it will be dismissed coming from her as well because she's "a heretic" as her condescending colleague points out. I respect her for saying what she says - she has every right to say it, coming from that heritage. I don't know that I have the right to be so outwardly critical, or would I then be making myself into what she criticizes when quoting her colleagues terms for us... But I do hope to always be an example to other humans in how I live & interact with my fellow man, and I am really at a loss as to how to be an ambassador to the Muslim nations at this point in time. How do you befriend someone that doesn't want to be your friend? (Gee, I feel like I know a little about that one, living here in Utah) I guess my approach would have to be an attempt to get rid of the "us & them" idea. But it's hard to be friends with isolationists. And this battle going on is serious, with no end in sight. There's no reason for those intent on making war to stop. The only thing that will change the situation is a shift in thinking. Hopefully with enough people speaking out, it will slowly occur.

Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand,and the violation of these rights on the other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.

Male Arab Muslim Interviewer: I understand from your words that what is happening today is a clash between the culture of the West, and the backwardsness and ignorance of the Muslims?

Wafa Sultan: Yes, that is what I mean.

Interviewer: Who came up with the concepts of a clash of civilizations? Was it not Samuel Huntington? It was not Bin Laden! I would like to discuss the issue if you don't mind...

Wafa Sultan: The Muslims are the ones who began using this expression. The Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations. The prophet of Islam said: "I was ordered to fight the people until they believed in Allah and His Messenger." When the Muslims divided the people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called to fight the others until they believe in what they themselves believe, they started this clash, and began this war. In order to stop this war, they must reexamine their Islamic books and curricula, which are full of calls for takfir and fighting the infidels. My colleague has said that he never offends other people's beliefs. What civilization on the face of the earth allows him to call other people by names they did not choose for themselves? Once, he calls them Ahl Al-Dhimma, another time he calls them "People of the Book," and yet another time he compares them to apes and pigs, or he calls the Christians "those who incur Allah's wrath." Who told you they are "People of the Book"? They are not the People of the Book, they are people of many books. All the useful scientific books that you have today are theirs, the fruit of their free and creative thinking. What gives you the right to call them "those who incur Allah's wrath," or "those who have gone astray," and then come here and say that your religion commands you to refrain from offending the beliefs of others? I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others' right to believe in it.

Male Arab Muslim Colleague she refers to: Are you a heretic?... Are you a heretic?

Wafa Sultan: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural...

Male Colleague: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran...

Wafa Sultan: These are personal matters that do no concern you! Brother, you can believe in stones as long as you don't throw them at me. You are free to worship whoever you want, but other peoples beliefs are not your concern, whether they believe that the Messiah is God, son of Mary, or that Satan is God, son of Mary. Let people have their beliefs. The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. we have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim or burn down an embassy. Only Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. this path will not yield any results! The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My apologies

I'm very distracted lately and it's kept me from posting much of anything on here. I've been working on writing something. Something longer than 4 inches of computer monitor. It has me completely wrapped up. I hope you're all still interested in returning to check in on me, when I come up for air. If there's anything you're wondering about, want to know, want me to write about Some examples might be "Wonder-Rachel, what's your favorite color?" or "Wonder-Rachel, what are your views on trigger-lock laws" etc. ... Leave a comment and maybe I'll be able to find some inspiration from your suggestions and write a few computer-inches on the topic!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Intentions for 2009

New Years Resolutions always seem to be promises of weight loss that are forgotten by February. Since I don't need to lose weight and I'm not a huge fan of purposeful failure, I usually try not to make resolutions. That and I can never seem to think of anything good till well after New Years, at which point I feel like I've missed some sort of deadline. Like my resolution would mean nothing if I wasn't working on it all of the years 365 days.

But I believe in the power of intention, as you may know or might have guessed from a previous election post. So, inspired by a great New Years post written by my online blog buddy OGUN, I've decided to state a few intentions for the next year.

1. I intend to make more eye-contact when conversing with others.

2. I intend to work on my writing project weekly.

3. I intend to work on the constant job of de-cluttering my house weekly.

4. I intend to finish painting our walls.

5. Would it be pushing it to say I intend to get a new fridge? LOL