Tuesday, December 13, 2011

60 Days and Counting!

Today marks the 60-day point on my countdown = just two months till I go to Peru for my Scientific Expedition.

Can you tell I’m excited?

My tasks for this month are as follows:

First – I have to gather all my gear together and make sure I have everything I need. I actually did that last night and am good to go. Surprisingly enough, it’s really not that much stuff. I will be taking a carry-on and a small day pack with me, and will actually have room left over. I figured that doing the carry-on thing instead of the luggage thing would be best. That way I don’t have to wait for my luggage, or worry about losing it or anything getting stolen out of it.

Second – I have to get all my prescriptions filled. I won’t have that much with me this time; just the anti-malaria pills and some anti-diarrhea pills incase I eat something that doesn’t agree with me. I’ll be taking care of that this weekend, I think.

Everything else is pretty much taken care of. February can’t get here soon enough...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

An Eventful Night

It all started out with a very uneventful day, and I was feeling very “unloved” and needy so was looking forward to spending an evening with just him and a movie. I had even picked up two cinamon rolls from the Great Harvest Bread Company for our dessert.

He had other plans, apparently. He came in from spending the day with his buddy, hopped in the shower to clean off, and then left again.

Once again, it was just me. I had watched enough TV, had read two books, and the girls had actually been snuggled enough so they had taken themselves off to the electric blanket for the night. I took their advice and went to bed early myself.

Only to be awoken a couple hours later by my house alarm! Let me tell you, when that thing goes off, it really goes off. It sounds like a 747 landing right there in your living room.

I thought at first it was it was him, coming home finally, but it just kept on going. So I went to investigate, and found the front door wide open. I very quickly shut the door and turned off the alarm, then set about trying to figure out how the door got open.

No worries - there was no intruder.

What I think happened is the wind blew it open. That is rather disturbing on several levels. First: the wind was really blowing! We’ve been having some freaky weather lately, with gusts of over 118 recorded – and last night was right on par. Second: apparently the locks on my door don’t work. Not sure what to do with that little tidbit of information.

I finally got everything straightened away enough to notice that he was still not home. I shot off a quick text asking if he was alright, then went back to bed.

Only to be awoken again several hours later – this time by 4 guys out in the road in front of my house. They were yelling and carrying on loud enough to wake the dead. At first, I was frightened, and almost called the police. They sounded very angry and were yelling things like “I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you!” but then I realized they were just drunks. I even got to watch one of them run over to the neighbor’s house and pee all over their garage door.

Lucky me.

The funny thing about all this commotion is that Thing managed to sleep right thru it all. She was snoring, even.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

401k Fund Eligibility

Yesterday marked my 6-month anniversary here at GDM Architects.

Yay for employment!!!

I am now eligible for the company’s 401k plan, so have been filling out paperwork this morning. It’s not the best plan I’ve ever participated in, but it’s so much better than nothing.

I have elected to divert 3% of my paycheck into the fund at this time. It’s not much – just around $50 a paycheck – but again, it’s better than nothing. When (or if) I get a raise, I can up that accordingly.

One thing that’s very odd about this plan is that there is no computer access to the account – it’s all done via the phones. Surely they have a website I can log onto, somewhere. I just need to track that down. I am not a phone person.

Write for Rights

Each year, Amnesty International hosts a Global Write-a-thon to fight Human Rights Abuse all over the world. They provide you with everything you need: information on the cases highlighted that year, addresses to send them to, and sample letters to follow in case you get writers block.

Since I am such a letter-writer, I have always tried to join in. This week I will be busy writing for the following:

AZERBAIJAN - Youth activist detained after using Facebook
     Hours after posting a Facebook message calling for protests against the government, Jabbar Savalan told his family that he was being followed. The next evening, police brought him to a police station, where they "discovered" marijuana in his outer coat pocket. Questioning him without a lawyer for two days, police reportedly hit and intimidated him to make him sign a confession. Jabbar Savalan maintained that he does not use drugs and that the marijuana was planted on him. Authorities in Azerbaijan have a history of using trumped-up drug charges to jail those seen as critical of the government. Amnesty International believes the charges against Jabbar were fabricated, and considers him a prisoner of conscience.

IRAN - Youth leaders imprisoned for speaking out
     Behareh Hedayat and Majid Tavakkoli are serving long prison sentences for seeking greater freedom in Iran. Majid was arrested and reportedly beaten by authorities in December 2009, after addressing a university rally in Tehran. Behareh was arrested later that month and charged with several offenses, including "insulting the leader" and "insulting the president." The two student leaders last year issued a joint statement from prison, encouraging others to continue to push for change in Iran. In response, authorities extended each of their prison sentences by another six months.

CHINA - Nobel Peace Prize laureate imprisoned
     Liu Xiaobo, recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, remains imprisoned for seeking for political and legal reforms in China. Charged with "inciting subversion of state power," the prominent scholar and human rights defender was sentenced in December 2009 based on articles he'd written that criticized corruption, censorship and one-party rule. In the articles, he advocated developing a democratic multi-party political system. The court considered this to be "rumor mongering, slander and smear" that exceeded the limits of freedom of expression. The court also cited Charter 08, a proposal Liu co-founded that called for protection of universal human rights and democratic reform in China, as "slanderous" and an attempt to incite the subversion of the current regime. While in prison, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his tireless, non-violent struggle for human rights in China. Amnesty International considers Liu Xiaobo to be a prisoner of conscience.

BAHRAIN - Teachers detained for supporting pro-reform efforts
     Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, former vice-president and president of the Bahrain Teachers' Association, were detained in March after their association reportedly supported a teachers' strike amid widescale pro-reform protests in Bahrain. Jalila (photo left) was reportedly held in solitary confinement and subjected to beatings for several days. She was released on bail in August, but Mahdi Abu Dheeb remains detained. Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi Abu Dheeb were sentenced by a military court in September 2011 to prison terms of 3 years and 10 years, respectively. They had been charged with a variety of offenses, including "inciting hatred towards the regime," "calling to overthrow and change the regime by force," "calling on parents not to send their children to school," and "calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations." Amnesty International believes they may have been arrested solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association.

INDONESIA - Jailed for raising a flag
     Filep Karma is serving 15 years in prison for raising a flag. A prominent advocate for the rights of Indonesia's Papuan population, Filep Karma was arrested for taking part in a peaceful ceremony that included the raising of the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence. Filep Karma has experienced serious health problems in prison and has been beaten by guards. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and calls on the Indonesian government to free Filep Karma and all other prisoners of conscience.

MEXICO - Indigenous women raped by soldiers
     For more than nine years, two women in Mexico have taken on military and government authorities to demand justice after they were raped by soldiers in 2002. Inés Fernández and Valentina Rosendo are Indigenous Me'phaa (Tlapaneca) women. Indigenous women in Mexico who are raped rarely file a complaint due to cultural, economic and social barriers. Inés Fernández and Valentina Rosendo have shown courage in reporting their ordeals and have followed up their cases in national and international courts. The women and their families have faced threats as their battle for justice continues.

CAMEROON - Imprisoned on charges of "homosexuality"
     Jean-Claude Roger Mbede is serving three years in prison on charges of "homosexuality," which is a criminal offense in the central African nation of Cameroon. Arrested in March 2011, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede is currently serving his sentence at Kondengui central prison in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, where he is at risk of physical attack and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Amnesty International considers Jean-Claude Roger Mbede to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely because of his perceived sexual orientation. Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is endemic in Cameroon. Arrests, prosecutions and trials of LGBT people, or those perceived as such, occur on a regular basis.

ZIMBABWE - Human rights activists at risk
     The activists of the human rights organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) know the price of freedom. For organizing peaceful demonstrations to protest the worsening social, economic and political situation in Zimbabwe, WOZA members have been repeatedly harassed, intimidated, beaten and jailed by authorities. For years, government officials have misused the law to arbitrarily arrest and detain human rights activists and perceived critics of the President's political party. WOZA activists have been arrested multiple times, forced into Zimbabwe's notoriously filthy, over-crowded, and disease-ridden jails. Yet, they remain undaunted in their pursuit of dignity and justice.

NORTH KOREA - Families imprisoned for life
     Shin Sook-ja and her daughters are among the estimated 50,000 men, women and children currently held in Yodok political prison camp. Yodok is one of six known camps in North Korea in which some 200,000 political prisoners and their families are imprisoned. Inmates, including children, are tortured and forced to work in dangerous conditions. Many prisoners either die in detention or shortly after being released. Authorities sent Shin Sook-ja and her daughters to Yodok in 1987 after her husband requested political asylum in Denmark. It has been over 20 years since the husband received any information about his imprisoned family.

USA (Guantánamo) - Indefinite detention
     Shaker Aamer has been held without charge by US authorities for more than 8 years. A former UK resident, he was originally detained in Afghanistan in 2001, then transferred in 2002 to the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, where he remains. At Guantánamo he has protested against conditions at the camp, including by participating in hunger strikes. He has spent much of his time there in solitary confinement. Shaker Aamer has alleged that he was tortured in detention in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo. He has never been charged, tried or convicted of any criminal offense by US authorities. His wife and children live in South London, and the British government has asked for Shaker Aamer's return from Guantánamo.

USA - Facing execution in Missouri
     No physical evidence, alleged police coercion, prosecutorial misconduct, a ‘stacked’ jury. Reggie Clemons was sentenced to death in St. Louis as an accomplice in the 1991 murder of two young white women. Clemons has consistently maintained his innocence. His case illustrates many of the flaws in the U.S. death penalty system.

SRI LANKA - Student killed by security forces
     Ragihar Manoharan was one of five Tamil students killed by security forces in January 2006 in the city of Trincomalee. Authorities have failed to prosecute anyone for their murder. His case is emblematic of the thousands of people subjected to human rights violations and war crimes in Sri Lanka by government forces or their paramilitary agents. Ragihar's father, Dr. Manoharan, has campaigned for justice for his son, accompanying Amnesty International in pressing the United Nations to establish an international war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka.

USA - Juvenile life imprisonment without parole
     At age 16, Christi Cheramie was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. She has now spent more than half of her life in a Louisiana prison. It is a violation of international law to sentence anyone to life in prison without parole who was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. Sentenced on charges of second-degree murder, Cheramie has been described by a prison warden as "a model inmate... worthy of a second chance in society." The US is the only country apart from Somalia to not ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the sentencing of juvenile offenders to life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

YEMEN - Death penalty following an unfair trial
     Fatima Hussein Badi is facing execution following an unfair trial. Fatima and her brother Abdullah were arrested in July 2000 for the murder of Fatima's husband. Police reportedly questioned Fatima for more than five hours without a lawyer present. When she refused to confess, Abdullah was brought to her with his face covered in blood. She was allegedly threatened with rape in the presence of Abdullah, who apparently confessed to the murder in order to save her from being raped. Fatima and Abdullah had no legal representation in trial hearings and were prevented from speaking in court. Abdullah was executed in 2005. Fatima remains at imminent risk of execution.

NIGERIA - Forced evictions of communities
     More than 200,000 people are at risk of forced eviction in Port Harcourt if Nigeria's authorities proceed with planned demolitions of all waterfront settlements without first implementing human rights safeguards. On 28 August 2009, the demolition of Njemanze informal waterfront settlement in Port Harcourt left thousands of men, women and children homeless. No prior, genuine consultation was carried out with residents. They received no adequate notice, compensation, alternative accommodation or legal remedies, although these are required by international human rights standards. Njemanze is one of more than 40 waterfront settlements in Port Harcourt slated for demolition, which state authorities claim is necessary for urban renewal. Residents of the affected communities were not consulted on the plans for redevelopment.

Temporary Insanity

I know, I know. I swore I would never have another roommate, ever again!

So what do I do? I agree to let him crash on my couch for a few weeks while he closes on his house.

The problem is “a few weeks” has somehow managed to turn in to “a couple of months” because of course closing on a house never goes as smoothly as one hopes.

It’s actually not too bad. He’s set up in the library on my futon, and has all his stuff packed into half of the garage.

But still… it’s somebody living in my house with me.

And then he goes and makes it that much worse. You’ll never in a million years guess what he did.

He got a dog.

He knew I didn’t want dogs in my house. We had talked about it earlier, and he agreed he should wait till he was into his own place.

That lasted barely a week.

She is a puppy, actually. A 9-week old silver Labrador named Daisy. She’s not potty trained or leash trained. She cries a lot and even howls when left alone. And she chews on everything.

Actually, it’s not all bad. She is adorable, and he keeps her in her kennel most of the time. He’s working on potty training her, and we’re both working on teacher her what she can chew on and what she can’t.

Update on Djuna

My little June Bug had a vet’s appointment Saturday. Since it is quite chilly outside, I fixed up her travel carrier with a hot water bottle that has a sheepskin cover on it. She loved that: it’s nice and warm AND fuzzy all at the same time. Almost makes up for having to go to the vet.


She is such a good little girl and has everybody over at The Pet Stop completely wrapped around her little fingers. They all love her, and keep commenting on how tiny she is. They can’t believe she’s not only all grown up (as in not a kitten) but is actually a grandmother!

The exam went well enough, with both good news and bad news as a result of it all.

The bad news:
     Her kidneys are not getting any better.

The good news:
     She’s not getting any worse, either.

The bad news:
     She has another infection. They had to keep her all day in order to get a urine sample, but I’m glad they did. I had no idea she was not feeling well again (and boy do I feel guilty about that) but now she’s back on antibiotics to fight it so all will be well again.

The good news:
     She’s gained weight! When she first came to live with me she weighed 5lbs 4oz. Now, almost 2.5 years later, she weighs 6lbs 3oz. That’s really good, and the vet was very happy about it.

So I guess our plan of attack is to continue with the weekly IV treatments, keep her eating wet foods and drinking as much water as possible, and take her in every 4 months to check her blood levels and urine.

My Second Cup of Tea

I received my second shipment from the Tea of the Month Club last night:
     4oz of Ceylon Balangoda Tea FP

The description on the package reads:
     The Balangoda estate is in one of the more beautiful corners of the planet. It is situated in the low-grown Ruhunu district and shares geography with the breathtaking Yala National Park. The park is comprised of wild brush, ocean beaches, jungles, rocky terrain, and numerous lakes and rivers. Because of the wide variety terrain, the park is home to animal life of all description, from leopards to Asian elephants, wild boar, crocodiles, painted storks, and of course the Sri Lanka Junglefowl. Although the Ruhunu district is perhaps better known for its parkland than tea acreage, the region produces some fabulous teas every bit as colorful and full of life as its wild inhabitants!
     This bold Ceylon Balangoda FP (Flowery Pekoe) Tea offers strength without bitterness, and a fine rich flavor. Strong enough for breakfast and takes milk and sugar well. Also a fine afternoon tea served plain. Use one teaspoon per cup and steep about 3 minutes in freshly boiled water.

I of course brewed myself a cup as soon as I got in the house and was very pleased with it. My niece came over to visit so I made her a cup, too. 

So far I’m thinking my little indulgence here is a wonderful thing!