Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thank you, Anonymous Googler

I didn't know that my blog would come up first if you search, "bloody human toss," but now I do. And I think I'm better for it. Sorry you didn't get what you were looking for. Better luck next time.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Pros & Cons: Getting Fired

Pro: Plenty of time to wrap xmas presents!
Con: You returned most of them to pay your bills

Pro: You no longer have to go to a job you can't stand
Con: Not having any structure in your day can be scary

Pro: You're still young and cute enough to wait tables
Con: You have to put up with douchey cat-calls if you want good tips

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Be a good employee

Or, how I can maintain some semblance of good humanity in my job search.

Have you ever thought about what you're actually trying to accomplish at work? Besides getting a paycheck, making your boss happy, making your clients/customers happy, etc. I used to work for a company in a particularly soulless industry. Our goals were plain: create situations where our undeserving clients could make even more money than they already have. We helped no one and did no good in the process. It was disgusting.

Besides my more pressing needs, like eating, getting laid, and not getting evicted, I really, really, really don't want to work for the same kind of clients again. I just need to know that my 40 hours (more like 50-60 if I'm honest) are contributing to something that matters to me. It's a little Gen Y, I know, but I can't help it if everyone has spent my whole life telling me that I'm special and that I should do what makes me happy.

Luckily my skillset is easily transferable to the non-profit sector. I'm also lucky to live in NYC, where tons NPs have corporate offices. Everyone says that NPs don't pay very much, but not very much > nothing! Also, I'm willing to sacrifice a few thousand in take-home pay if it means that I'm making a real difference blah blah blah bleeding heart, etc.

For the past 6 months, I've felt tremendously hypocritical. I try to be a good human and think of new ways to do so, but only on my own time. Then I go and spend like 11 hours every day getting paid to do just the opposite. It was getting hard to reconcile the two halves of my life into something I didn't hate. Does that make me naive? Over-idealistic? Probably. But honestly, there are enough people out there who are only concerned with getting paid. I don't need to be one of them.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Talking to myself

I'm 22, just a babe really. Or so I like to think. Sometimes I get caught in a moment where I remember something from years ago and then think, I can't believe I even have memories from years ago! I recently got my high school's newsletter in the mail, complete with donation request. First, I'm just incredulous that I graduated 4 and 1/2 years ago and second, they must be crazy to ask me for money fresh out of college. I don't even know how they found my address, but anyway.

I started thinking of everyone I used to know. It was really weird. Then remembered how NOT a good human I was. Ugh! High school girls are such bitches and I was no exception. And so if I could talk to my 17 year old self, this is what I would say:

  • Dump him. You're way better and he's dragging you down. I promise you'll find someone awesome in a couple years.

  • Also, the way you dumped that kid sophomore year was entirely too harsh, bordering on cruel. On his birthday? In front of all his friends? BITCH! (But ohhhhh so satisfyingly funny. He was pretty creepy.)
  • Remember how you sometimes felt the need to bust your ass to get an A when a B would've been just fine? SUCH A WASTE OF TIME. You'll make the same mistake in college. You'll know by then that your GPA is pointless, but that's not going to stop you.
  • Lay off the fucking partying! Christ! What are you even trying to prove?

  • Just kidding. You're not hurting anyone. In fact, you still look back on your 17th birthday with furtive exhilaration.

  • I totally can't believe you got away with writing that in the yearbook! Also, he gets fired anyway.

  • Take a good look around. You'll be back exactly twice after you go off to school and if you ever think about giving up and coming home, this is where you'll probably end up. We both know you can do better.

  • Your sister turns out way hotter than you. Sorry, but if you think you're jealous of all the attention she gets now, you're definitely in for it later.
  • Swimming in the lake turns out to be way more fun wearing all your clothes than anybody thought. You'll regret that you didn't do it enough.
  • Stop ignoring all your friends when you get a boyfriend. It's a really shitty thing to do and they WILL get mad about it.

  • Some people will always be douchebags. You don't have be.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Pros & Cons

My college friends made endless pros & cons lists. They are helpful for making difficult decisions, but also to alleviate boredom and recognize when things are awesome and/or sucky.

Pro: Christmas Presents!
Con: The inevitable ill-fitting sweater

Pro: Cheap Wine @ Trader Joe's
Con: Makes my liver hurty

Pro: AIM/gchatting/txtng
Con: Can't see my friends in person

Pro: WGA strikers still sticking it to the man
Con: Reality TV

Does anyone have any good pros & cons?

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't be that guy

(Note: I edited this post like a day after I posted it because it felt a little bit like an overshare. The main idea, however, is still intact.)

I knew a guy in college and he was a DICK. It was clear to me that he hated women. He was always making rude comments and inappropriate jokes and all the guys would laugh and think he was being so risqué. No one ever said anything when he crossed the line, probably because none of the guys wanted to be that guy, the one who looks like a pussy. Or maybe they thought he was just kidding and didn't really believe all the stupid shit he said.

(What do you tell a woman with 2 black eyes? Nothing! You already told her twice! Ha!)

Then one night after a bunch of us went out to the bars, he somehow made it back to my dorm room. (No wonder college age women are at the highest risk of sexual assault!) I try to give everyone a fair shake, even if it's obvious that they suck at life, so we chatted for a while. When I was ready to go to sleep, and for him to leave, he decided that he wanted to stick around. Things got ugly and I ended up having to physically fight him to get him out of my room. Ugh what a douchebag.

No harm done, however. I'm tough.

The thing is, this fuckstick never should've been going out with us at all. I didn't like him one bit and neither did most of the guys I knew. But he persisted in being his douchey self and everyone else persisted in not telling him that he was a misogynist asshole.

So imagine my delight when in my Google Reader appears a perfect blog post with everything I've ever thought to say to those guys who don't want to be seen as that guy. Here is a small excerpt, although it's really worth it to read the whole thing - and then forward to like everyone you know.

"‘Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about crazy bitches and dumb sluts and heh-heh-I’d-hit-that and you just can’t reason with them and you can’t live with ‘em can’t shoot ‘em and she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid and if they can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and if they can’t play by the rules they don’t belong here and if they can’t take a little teasing they should quit and heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning and they’re not fit to be leaders and they’re too emotional to run a business and they just want to get their hands on our money and if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and…

I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass."

From Shapely Prose via Zombie Z.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Why I love Keith Olbermann

Found this via YBNBY. It's over 8 minutes long, but soooo worth it.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Fiscally responsible charity

A while back, I lamented on my lack of knowledge of charities, namely which ones are worth giving to. Jean Chatzky wrote an informative piece in Money Magazine with some answers from a dry, financial perspective. She says, "Fiscally sound groups are more likely to be effective." So right. Now if only I understood WTF else she's talking about.

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Internet Volunteerism II

I (unshockingly) passed the background check! Now I've got a lot to do before I can volunteer for RAINN's online hotline. It's a total of 40 hours of training, stretching all the way into February. Here's what I have to do next:

1) 10-hour online tutorial about rape and sexual assault
2) 10-hour online training program specifically about the Online Hotline
3) 14-hour in-person training which will be held on February 2-3, 2008.
4) 6-hours of supervision

It all sounds so intense and probably very uncomfortable. But y'know what? I'm excited! It feels good to have a goal with clearly laid out steps to achieve it. I'm going to start this weekend. Relevant updates to follow.


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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Light reading

The 49th Carnival of Feminists is up at Days in a Wannabe Punk's Life and there's almost that many entries! I've only been able to skim through (stupid job taking up all my damn time), but I've gotta say there are some great posts in there! Tamil was also gracious enough to include my 16 Days of Activism inspiration post. Go check it out!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Watching you watching me

I've been messing around with Google Analytics lately. I wanted to give a shout out to some particularly awesome readers in:

-Irvington, NJ
-New York, NY
-Hamtramk & Detroit, MI
-Atlanta, GA
-Manchester, United Kingdom
-Taejon & Seoul, South Korea (Hi Mike!)
-Hobart, Australia

Thanks for your loyalty and/or extended visits.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

My NYC Subway Hero

I've been kinda stressed out lately, no more than anyone else really. So I haven't really been eating regularly and I'm getting over a cold. This morning I was crammed, sardine-style into the downtown 5 train when we hit some delays. The normally 3-4 minute ride from 59th St to Grand Central stretched over 10 minutes and I was getting hot. And weak. And...

Fade to black

I woke up on the platform at Grand Central (SRSLY EEW). Someone put down a newspaper, which I very much appreciate. There was an annoyed-looking MTA worker in an orange vest standing a few feet away and a woman crouching over me. Everyone else blurred past me, hurrying to get to work on time.

The woman called me Sweetie and asked me if I was alright, what day it is, who the president is, etc. She helped me up, walked me upstairs and bought me a juice after I incoherently explained that my blood sugar was a little low. Then I realized I didn't have my bag with my wallet/cell phone/ipod inside. She was carrying it for me.

As my disorientation cleared and I felt I could get on by myself, I asked her name. "It's Aida," she said, "and I hope you feel better." And then she left. I just stood there for a minute, incredulous that a complete stranger would take time out of her morning commute to help me, just when I was really questioning my faith in humanity.

Thanks Aida.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Internet volunteerism

A few days ago, I mentioned a non-profit that I really like and support: RAINN. Like I said, it's so easy to say you're against rape and sexual violence. It's not so easy to be proactive in fighting it. Feeling motivated and inspired, I took my own advice and went to RAINN's volunteer page and applied to be an online support staffer.

It works like IM basically, which all my friends and I still use every day. (SRSLY, I've had AIM since I was 13 and briefly messed around with ICQ, Yahoo & MSN messengers, but we all know AIM is king.) RAINN's online hotline works a little differently in that it is a wholly self-contained system. Everyone has to go through the RAINN website, which is helpful because it's secure and free and anonymous. Someone who has been sexually assaulted for example, can just log on and talk to a trained volunteer and get some help.

I feel really good about this. In an increasingly digital world blah blah blah people my age and younger are communicating and finding information online blah blah blah. According to RAINN, 80% of victims of sexual violence are under age 30 and they are exactly the demographic this online hotline is shooting for.

So I submitted an application and now I have to wait to be contacted if they want me so I can set up a training session and then wait for a background check. Hope those youthful indiscretions don't come back to haunt me! (jk jk jk) I haven't heard back yet, so we'll see.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

16 Days of Activism

With little mainstream fanfare, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence started on Nov 25th, which was International Day Against Violence Against Women. Dec 10th, International Human Rights Day is the last day. The idea is that female rights are human rights and these 16 days of activism should be linked.

While I'm a little late to the party, I'm starting to take a huge interest in the feminist agenda. Here's why: I know a lot of weak women. I know women who literally turn their lives inside out (even to the detriment of their mental health) because they want to keep a man. Women who choose abusive men over their own children because they don't want to be alone. Women with no education, working minimum wage jobs and barely providing for their kids as single mothers. Women who don't even know that they deserve better.

The thing is, as much as I'd like to grab them and shake some sense into them, I never do. I think, hey, I know you're trying to support your kids, but you're not doing them any favors by being so miserable. Or, HEY! Wake the fuck up! Look at your life! You married an asshole and you need a fucking divorce!

But I don't say anything because it's hard. Because it's not really my place. Because when you're poor and uneducated, the last thing you want to hear is some uppity college grad lording her success over you and telling you how to live your life. Because I don't want to deal with the tears or the denial or the anger or any of the emotions really. Because if you act like nothing is wrong, you can't be held responsible for the consequences.

I've been feeling a lot of regret about this lately. I know that I can't control anyone else's actions. I can't make sexual predators, wife beaters, and child molesters change their ways. I can't force anyone to pursue an associate's degree. But I never tried. Sometimes sins of omission weigh more heavily than the ones we actually commit.

16 Days of Activism has inspired me to do what I can. And I can do a lot. I can call
CPS and report abuse. I can research good divorce lawyers and counselors and offer recommendations. I can speak up when I know there's a problem and not shuffle it under the rug. I can keep trying when I meet resistance and accept that rocking a very delicately balanced boat will often lead to some things going under.

Now if you will excuse me, I have some phone calls to make.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Non-profits I like: RAINN

(A semi-regular post that features, duh, not for profit agencies and organizations I like and support.)

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is one of those non-profits doing the really shitty work that absolutely needs to be done. They're the largest national anti-sexual assault organization.

Here are some scary stats:

  • Someone is sexually assaulted in America every 2 and 1/2 minutes.
  • 80% of rape victims are under age 30.
  • Almost 60% of sexual assaults go unreported.

RAINN runs a national sexual assault support hotline and has an online support line in beta. They run educational programs that reach over 120 million Americans each year. They're considered the go-to source on sexual assault statistics, prevention and information. Donate here. Check out the whole site though, because the people at RAINN are a huge reason why sexual assaults in the US have dropped almost 70% since 1993.

I was going to put a feminism tag on this post, but chose not to because issues RAINN deals with are not confined solely to women, although we do make up the majority of the victims. Again from the website, "About three percent of American men — a total of 2.78 million men — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime according to the 1998 Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women study." Men are also much less likely to report a sexual assault.

It's easy to be against rape and sexual assault. It takes some effort to do something about it. RAINN has volunteer opportunities here. Be a good human and do it, please.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bloody rant

(Note: I edited this post on 11/30. I need to remember not to blog angry!)

Ok so back in the beginning of the month, I decided to organize an office blood drive. I called the NY Blood Center and set up a time and place. I then asked around my office to see if anyone would be interested. Turns out, no one was.

Then one person said she'd donate with me. Hooray! I happily made the appointments for this Friday. Only, 3 weeks later, now she's sick and on antibiotics. That's a blood donation no-no. So now it's only me again.

Today my boss decides that we should have a brainstorming lunch meeting on Friday and the exact time I'm scheduled to give blood. Dunno what to do. Skip lunch or skip donation?

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Be Thankful!

Happy Thanksgiving! Here at Be a Good Human, as is my wont, I will follow the trend and list what I have to be thankful for. You should too!

1) My smokin' hot bod. Well ok, I've actually packed on a few pounds and I don't exercise nearly as much as I want to, but so far, I haven't been confined solely to my bed. And here's something awesome: Extra weight = bigger tits! That's good for everyone!

2) Upwardly mobile career path. I've been "taking more initiative" at the office and I think it's starting to pay off. I'm getting more responsibility, which will conceivably lead to a promotion or at least a pay bump. It's nice to see that I'm getting somewhere.

3) Kickass BF. We've been together like 3 years and he's perfect for me. He's so chill. When I get all type A crazy girl, he evens me out. When I freak out that we spent more than $100 on groceries for the month (see: poor childhood) he tells me it's ok to eat more than once per day. (Photo from, duh)

4) My Dentist. I have TMJ like you would not believe. My insurance is spotty, at best (I blame Michael Moore) and the good doc is comping a lot of the services he would normally charge for. It almost makes up for the fact that his teeth are crooked. (SRSLY! WTF!)

5) Libraries. A seemingly unending supply of free books! How great is that?

6) Native Americans. You wouldn't know it by looking at me, but I am of American Indian descent. So I am thankful for my people, their casinos, cheap cigarettes and low gas prices. I'm also thankful they took those smallpox blankets and trail of tears in stride. I'm also thankful for the peyote. (jk jk jk)

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Monday, November 19, 2007

My readers is edjumacated

cash advance

Found this interesting. I wonder how they actually tabulate the "readibility." Who cares? You guys are smart!

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Feminism for humanity

I'm working on being a better feminist. No man's gonna hold me back from what I want, but.... OMGTHERE'SABUGKILLIT!!!! I still have a ways to go, I suppose.

My appreciation of Planned Parenthood showed a nice spike in readers (Thanks, Google Analytics!) and so Menstrual Poetry decided to include it in the latest edition of Feminism at its Finest. Go check it out!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

You can't give away what you don't have

I'm trying to be a good human. I'm really trying to be nicer to people, volunteer my time, give notice to worthy causes, be less of wastoid, etc. I wrote last month about the things that inhibit me the most in my quest, but I left out the giant elephant in the room: money. I'm going to deviate from my normal blogging topics because money is an overarching theme in the lives of those who don't have it.

I don't have a lot of money. My boyfriend and I live in a very expensive city and almost 1/2 of our income goes directly to rent. We also have a combined $50k in student loan debt, of which I carry the majority. That's a lot.

Last year the bf consolidated his $20k student loan debt and chose a graduated repayment plan. Big mistake. Sure, his payments for the first 2 years are about $100 cheaper than they would be if he just chose a level repayment, but his payments are pretty much all interest, as in, he's making almost no dent in the principal balance. It kind of feels like treading water, he keeps paying, but the balance doesn't ever seem to go down.

Now on my end, I just consolidated my loans, something I really didn't want to do. I didn't want to stretch out the repayment term because I know that doing so adds thousands more in interest. Plus, the interest rates are astronomical right now! But I really didn't have a choice because I can't afford the monthly payments otherwise. So I consolidated at 6.75%, and now I'm stuck with it. Even though as the economy continues to tank, the rates will drop, but I won't be able to re-consolidate at a lower rate. This is one serious flaw with the Federal student loan system and it shackles so many college grads with unnecessary interest debt. Not cool!

In the end, I decided to go with Bank of America over Sallie Mae for my consolidation. I guess there was some change in the law (of course I'm fuzzy on the details, I'm only one of thousands being affected by it!) so that many lenders are no longer offering a 1% interest rate reduction after 36 consecutive on-time payments. B of A still offers this, along with .25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in direct deposit, both of which I'm going to take advantage to the fullest. And yet, I'll be 42 at the end of my loan term.

I know in the greater context of the world, my student loan debt isn't such an atrocity. However, shelling out $300+/month to pay for my admittedly mediocre state school education when I could be putting that to better use at the food kitchen or sponsoring some kid in Africa or sending presents to brighten my little sister's day, well it really kind of sucks. If there were ever a topic to get this generation off their keisters and write their representatives in Congress, this just might be it.

Here are some things I could do with $300/month instead of pay back this damn loan:
1) Donate a laptop.
2) Save for 3 or 4 months and get a damn couch.
3) Sponsor 12 poor kids.
4) Leave a HUGE tip the next time I get my nails done.
5) Save it, so my little sister won't have the same headaches later on.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Of Saints and Real Estate

My grandparents put their house up for sale over the summer. It's huge: 5 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, formal dining area, fireplace, etc. The price is exceedingly reasonable/ somewhat low, in my opinion. And yet they've only had 2 people even stop by to look, nevermind actually make an offer.

The problem? Well besides this whack housing market, the house is located in Western NY, a region that has been hemorrhaging people since the '70s, including me.

My grandparents are awesome people. They opened their huge-ass house to their kids and grandkids when they needed some help or a place to stay at the expense of their privacy and a whole lot of money. They're in their mid-60s right now and are so freaking sick of Lake Effect snow. They just want to pack up and head down South where they can enjoy their retirement without astronomical heating bills.

The main story of the housing slump is the ridiculous number of foreclosures and all the people losing the homes they really couldn't afford in the first place thanks to wildly unscrupulous lending practices. However, there are also people like my grandparents with the exact opposite problem - they are stuck with a house they don't want and can't find a buyer.

So I've decided to put god on their side, in the form of his servant, St. Joseph. If you haven't heard the story, apparently you just bury good old St. Joe upside down next to your mailbox and then he'll work his stepdad o' the savior magic and voila! You'll sell your house!

I got my St. Joe from Home & Beyond, but you can also find them at your local Christian store or by Googling "St Joseph statue." If you think about it, you probably know someone struggling to sell their house. Be a good human and pick one up for them. Then you can take all the credit when they get deluged with offers.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007


(February 2007: That's me. And my old neighbor in the full length camo snowsuit Yeah, the snow is as tall as I am.)

I'm originally from Western NY. You know, by Buffalo, where it snows a lot. Then I went to school in Oswego. Maybe you heard about it on the news? I'm intimately familiar with the dreaded lake effect snow. What I'm trying to say is, it gets really cold. And snowy. And sucky.

And now that I live in NYC, the weather has been a lot better. But this week it's been freaking cold! And I haven't fully unpacked since moving here (don't judge!) so I couldn't find my winter coats. That blue one in the photo is so warm and awesome. I've had it for years and it's held up to some brutal winters.

I thought, "This is no problem; I'm from Upstate! I've lived with snow and bitter temperatures all my life! Only the locals (or what I used to imagine the locals looked like) would need a coat down here. I'm too tough for this." And so on.

But I was wrong. As it turns out, without my awesome Columbia Bugaboo, I'm no tougher than the locals. I found it today and I was soooo relieved.

I started thinking, what if I didn't have a winter coat at all? Lots of people don't. So this woman in San Francisco (do they even need coats there?) started One Warm Coat, which is where you can donate warm winter outerwear, find a coat drive in your area or start one of your own. They even get sponsors like the Burlington Coat Factory and The Gap to pitch in. Awesome right? So look them up, then be a good human and look in your closets and donate! One Warm Coat makes sure that the coats and mittens that they receive are given away for free to those who need them.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Don't call it volunteering

So here at Be a Good Human, I'm documenting my efforts to... uh... be a good human. And I'm trying really hard! (At being a good human, but not so much documenting my efforts.)

Irregardless! I'm looking to volunteer more. Right now, I don't actually volunteer at all. Sad story, I know. I want to volunteer at Planned Parenthood, but I think I'd really like to work directly with kids. Also, there isn't one in my neighborhood. WTF! So I've been checking out Nework for Good in order to find something I'm interested in. There are a lot of possible places I can volunteer my time.

However, I don't really like the calling int "volunteering." That makes it sound like my time is idle, and a couple of Saturdays every month don't matter. Well actually, I'm pretty fucking busy! I have to commit to block out time to devote to charitable work. And it also makes it sound like it's unnecessary. Like not everyone needs to volunteer; only those who have the time. That's silliness, as everyone should be able to make the time.

There's gotta be a better way to say it. Or maybe I'm just being sensitive about it. Maybe, as I've tagged it, I'd rather take action to fill a need that I see. I do like the idea of siezing the opportunity rather than just raising my hand and volunteering for it.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Planned Parenthood is Awesome

I'm a huge fan of Planned Parenthood. I used to go there when I didn't have health insurance and they gave me birth control pills for $15/pack. That's a good deal!

But besides the money I saved on pills, they saved me a lot more by making helping me choose not to have children. From their website, "For 90 years, Planned Parenthood has served women and men who want to decide when and whether to have a child — who believe that every child should be wanted and loved."

That's not to say that I wouldn't love a child. Duh - of course I would! But I definitely don't want one, not right now. I'm seriously considering getting rid of cable so I can have an extra $60 or so per month - there's no way I could afford a kid. And that's the thing, every child should be wanted and loved. Love isn't enough to raise a family.

But what I really like about PP is that they're more than just birth control and abortions. They offer a full range of reproductive health services to women in an honest, supportive, non-judgmental way. From what I've been told, the doctors and nurses there don't make whole lot of money, but they work there because they know they're providing an invaluable service.

I was just reading a PP sponsored blog, Emily X, "the true-life diary of a frontline Planned Parenthood worker and activist." It mostly features various PP doctors, nurses and volunteers talking about their interactions with protesters and picketers at their local health center. This was in response to anti-choice groups starting a picketing campaign from 9/26-11/4, called "40 days for life." The Nov 2 posting, from a doctor who practiced in the same clinic as Dr. Barnett Slepian isn't particularly riveting - it's just some guy talking - but when you think about it...holy shit! There was a very real chance that he could have been killed and yet he still went to work everyday to provide these services for women. That's ballsy. If I ever saw him out, I'm sure I'd buy him a drink.

In sum, Planned Parenthood is awesome. The people working there provide great services, even in the face of danger. You can find a local health center by going to their website. I just thought you should know.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Boss Signs Off

So I'm still really want to get a recycling program started in my office building, as we currently don't have one. I asked the accounting department if we're paying for recycling services that we're just not using. We're not, which kind of makes my goal a bit harder. I brought up the issue with my boss, an EVP in my company and the head of our office, and he responded very enthusiastically. Which is great!

Only, we're super busy at work right now, and it looks to continue this way until at least February. That means long hours and very little personal time to accomplish this goal. (Excuses, excuses.)

My next stop will be the building manager, who I chat with every morning while I wait for the elevator. Hopefully he'll be amenable to helping me.

I also need to get a hold of our lease and see who handles the trash disposal and how much it costs. This is a bigger undertaking than I anticipated.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

International Unions

Just read this informative article in Mother Jones. (A great magazine, btw, and I really should subscribe because I buy like every issue at the newsstand.) It raised a possibility that I have never even thought of: international labor unions. The article says the United Steelworkers, which represents workers in the US and Canada and the United Kingdom's Unite, are in talks to join forces.

I like the basic idea of this arrangement. Corporations and manufacturers have been going international for years. This is evident by the change in the prototypical average American job - it used to be working in the factory; now it's on the sales floor at Wal-Mart.

However, the idea is just a bit off base, in my opinion. Manufacturing jobs aren't leaving the US and going to the UK. They're going to Mexico, China, India, Bangladesh, etc. These are the countries who should have a union. Sounds obvious, right? The workers in these countries don't make a living wage, have no hope of proper health care and no guarantee of safe working conditions. The reason factories are going to these places is because the workers come so cheaply. Sometimes they are literally a dime a dozen. They NEED an organized and experienced voice to speak for them. If this international union merger works out, they should set their sights on a country more in need of one.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jim Jams

I recently found out about the Pajama Program. They donate pajamas and books to kids in foster care throughout the country. Boring right? Did I lose your interest? While this charity doesn't exactly provide life-saving services, I think it's really important.

There are over 800,000 children living in foster care in the United States.

Think about that.

That's 800,000 kids who were pulled from their homes because their parents were unable or unwilling to provide a safe, loving and nurturing environment.

They don't have pajamas to wear to bed so they sleep in their jeans. They don't have the nightime ritual of taking a bath and snuggling under the covers for a bedtime story. 800,000 kids who don't get to experience this simple and enduring form of love.

That's why this charity is so great. Their purpose is very specific - give kids pjs and a book to read for bedtime, just a small homey comfort in an otherwise confusing and hurtful world.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


So last week I broke down just what it is that compels me to strive for goodness. And I've been thinking about what stops me.

1) Ignorance. I've said it before I need to find a charity to support. But which one? Why can't there be some kind of easy way to know what charities are reputable and deserving of my hard-earned money? What percentage of my donation will go towards the people/land/animals/diseases that I have intended?

2) Laziness. Of course my ignorance is borne of laziness. I could find all the answers to my questions if only I took the time to look them up. But my time is precious and I only have so much of it to spend watching Gossip Girl or whatever.

3) Selfishness. Out of my ignorant laziness is, of course, selfishness. How am I supposed to want to help others when I'm barely keeping my head above water? It's so easy to think about what I don't have (furniture!) or can't afford (vacation!) and it obscures what really matters.

Ugh. This was hard to think about. I suck.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Proper Motivation

I want to be a better human being. Better to myself, to my friends and family, to strangers and people around the world who are suffering, to the environment - I just want to be better over all, to be good.

If I think about it, I'm motivated by a number of different things:

1) Guilt. As a college-educated American, I have a lot going for me in comparison to say, anyone in Burma, or Darfur, or anyone else who doesn't enjoy my comfortable pillowtop mattress and non-backbreaking office job. I think about this more often than a lot of people (which is to say, more often than a fleeting thought of "oh that's too bad" when images of utter inhumanity are glossed over with a flashy graphic on the evening news) and it kind of eats away at me.

2) Praise. I admit it: I'm a praise whore. I love doing nice things for people because I like to be thanked and noticed and appreciated for my efforts. (A blog is helpful in this endeavor.)

3) Atheism. It's true - I have no faith in god, religion, unicorns or leprechauns. It annoys me that I have to point out that just because I'm not religious, doesn't mean I don't care about anything. In fact, the opposite is true. With no god and no heaven and no possibility of an afterlife filled with cocoa puffs and bubble baths and choirs of angels, the only thing that matters is right now.

That's just what makes me want to be a good human. I'd like it if everyone believed the same things as me, but duh - that's not going to happen. So really whatever your motivation is, seek it out and run with it. If you want to take in a dozen foster kids because of something in the Bible, please do it. Next week, I'll try to figure out what typically holds me back. My anti-motivators, if you will.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Sweetest Day

I love the Sweetest Day. I don't even care if it was made up by candy companies in an effort to push more product. I prefer to more romantic idea that Herbert Birch Kingston, a blue-collar candy factory worker, wanted to do something nice for the poor, the aged and the sick - the people that society generally forgets. That's how I try to celebrate the Sweetest Day.

This year is going to be fun, I just know it. I'm living in a new city that typically doesn't celebrate the Sweetest Day (it's more of a Great Lakes region/midwest holiday) and my mom is coming to visit for the weekend. She's also never been to NYC before, which is kind of exciting for her, and kind of a lot of pressure for me. I want to make sure she has a good time.

Here are Five Fun Ways to Celebrate the Sweetest Day, even if you have little to no money:

1) Call your Grandmother. Or send her flowers or some yarn for her knitting or a nice thoughtful card. If she's not around, go to a nursing home. You'll get over the smell in like 15 minutes and it turns out, old people are a lot fun. And even if they're mean and crotchety, you can laugh to yourself and hope you'll be that feisty when you're 160, too.

2) Go to the Hospital. Find the ward with all the sick people in it. Hang out with them. Play some video games. Bring a deck of cards or a board game. Don't let them win - they know when they are being patronized.

3) Make Dinner. At the local food pantry. Don't just donate food or money to your fave charity; actually go there and pitch in. Clean up a park. Apply to volunteer at the local Boys & Girls Club. Donate blood. Look up more ways you can get involved in your community here.

4) Give a Kid a Laptop. Yeah, it's like $200, but you get a tax write off (whatever that means). If you wait until Nov. 12, you can get one too. I'd love to drop $400, but then I couldn't pay my rent.

5) Spend Time with People You Love. Invite some friends over and cook up a nice meal for them. Enjoy their company and let them know you like having them around. The Sweetest Day is a great opportunity to tell people how much you appreciate having them in your life. But don't say it just like that; it sounds creepy and weird.

BTW, mark your calendars: the Sweetest Day is always celebrated on the 3rd Saturday in October. It's on 20th this year.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dove Onslaught

Ok, I totally love the new Dove video. I love the message and I love that it goes a little far with the plastic surgery snippets.

I really like the marketing scheme Dove is currently working. The whole "you're beautiful just the way you are - with our products" is a refreshing change from the industry standard of "you're hideous/fat/wrinkly/etc., but our products will make you into a beautiful flower."

As much as I like this, I'm just not going to buy more Dove products. I tried the shampoo when they first debuted it and my stylist said, "I want you to go home and dump that shit down the drain. It's sucking all the shine and moisture out of your hair." So I did. But the deep moisture body wash is pretty great.

ANYWAY, I hope this Campaign for Real Beauty actually permeates the entire marketing landscape. It's scary just how many messed up images we're inundated with on a daily basis. Yuck.

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Friday, September 28, 2007


I just had to share this video, even though it's totally bootleg and filmed from a camcorder in front of a TV. I loved Rocko's Modern Life when I was a kid.

So I work in an office building in midtown Manhattan and we don't recycle. I hate it. Think about it: what is the majority of garbage created in an office building? PAPER! Easily recyclable paper! I asked the building manager and he said there is no program in place. So I emailed accounts payable, just to be sure that we're not paying for a program that we're not using.

I often work until 7 or 8 in the evening, so I'm here when the cleaning lady comes and I can verify that all the garbage, even the recyclables goes in the same trash bag. I'm not ok with this.

So I'm going to see if I can start a recycling program for my building. It's 2007! Shouldn't this be mandatory? Updates on my progress to follow.

And now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Toss our throw-away culture

Check this article from the Toronto Star. It's worth a full read. Reporter Tyler Hamilton cuts right to our wasteful lunch habits in the first paragraph. Plastic utensils, styrofoam to-go boxes, paper bags all languishing in the garbage, destined for the landfil because we're too lazy to pack our lunch.

Since I work in Manhattan, I started bringing my lunch because I was hemorrhaging cash by buying everyday. Now I get the added bonus of producing less waste with my PBJ along with the $10/day saved.

But it's not just lunch leftovers that are causing our landfils to overflow. It's pretty much everything we buy. Think about it - is all that flashy packaging really necessary? NO. So it's worth it to write a letter or call the companies that you purchase from regularly and complain about the packaging. Chances are, all that plastic and styrofoam is costing them a lot of money as well. As Hamilton puts it, "Kids toys are the worst – an endless struggle with plastic film, polystyrene foam and plastic ties, all tightly glued, stapled and knotted to a recyclable cardboard structure that's so mangled in the end it never reaches a blue box." He even goes one step further to suggest that legislation to limit the percentage of packaging in product volume should be considered. And I think that's awesome.

If you're looking for something to write your representative about, why not start with this?

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Write your representative

OK, I admit it: I've never written to my representatives in Congress. I don't even know who my rep is in the House (although, to be fare, I did just move). It's just not something I thought about doing. This Consumerist post was just what I needed to hear. It makes it so easy to just grab a pen and write your rep. I mean, how are they supposed to know what we want if we don't tell them?

"Members of Congress work for you. Without your votes, they won't stay in office. They go to great lengths to cultivate a positive relationship with you, their boss. Very few people take the time to write to a Member of Congress, so the few that do carry a disproportionate influence.

Fifteen minutes is well worth the time to influence a $2 trillion enterprise."

Oh and by the way, you can find your representative in the House here and in the Senate here.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The idea of limited energy

In my job, I have to read a LOT - magazines, newspapers, online news services - you name it. It's actually what helped me decide to begin this blog and try to change the way I live my life because for the first time, I was spending a significant amount of time every day learning about what's going on in the world. And while I definitely do recommend getting a subscription to a newsweekly like Time or Newsweek and catching the evening news when you get the chance, no one should have to spend as much time as I do with mass media. Yowza.

ANYWAY, in my daily media deluge, I came across this article on MSN. It's a pretty straightforward way for people (especially the car-owning, suburban type) to use less energy. Here is an excerpt:

"I’ve found it helpful to think of my energy use like I think of money — there’s a limited amount of it, and I have to plan how I’m going to use it. Should I mow the lawn this week? Maybe it can wait until next week. How can I make my trip to town go as far as possible? Budget your energy and see how well you’ve done at the end of the week. It’s best to judge by kilowatts used and gallons of gasoline consumed. At the beginning of the week check the meter and your gasoline gauge and then record the use from there."

I've never really thought about it like this before, but I guess I've been doing little things like this for a while. It started in college, when I had like no money and needed to make everythink last longer. My old rule of washing my jeans after each wearing was quickly forgotten and I started using the same drinking glass all day long (rinsing after each use, obvs) instead of getting a new one each time I got thirsty.

The section on sharing is a particularly good one. Get more done in less time by relying on friends and neighbors. When I had a car, I crammed my friends inside for a grocery store/beer run and we all got what we needed. When I no longer had a car, my friends returned the favor.

It's not so hard to make nice with our planet. One little change precedes the next, at least that's the hope anyway.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Let's get specific

Being a good human is not something I can accomplish immediately. In fact, I don't know if I can ever classify myself as "good" without sounding pretentious. So instead I'm striving to be a better human than I currently am. This is what I will do to get there:

Be Nice.
Sometimes I'm a bitch. That's not ok. I'm going to hold my tongue more often and be polite to strangers and send flowers to my grandmother. People appreciate niceness.

Go One Step Further.
That's part of this blog's purpose. Discovering new worthwile goals and writing about them is not the same as doing them. Yes, I recycle, but I can just as easily reduce what I use in the first place and make even more of an impact. Sure, I dropped some change in that homeless woman's cup the other day, but I'm not at the food pantry doling out green beans to the people waiting in line.

Appreciate the Goodness in Others.
I can't and certainly don't want to do it all alone. Finding examples will help me figure out what I can do. Like that One Laptop Per Child program. That's pretty cool.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, however, I think it's a pretty good start.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Charity begins at home

Charity is important. Giving to those in need feels good. But I have some misgivings about charitable giving. Like why the hell are there so damn many charities in the first place? I can't even figure out what issues matter most to me, let alone which organizations I want to give to.

I used to send $20/month to Greenpeace, but I recently stopped because I have no idea what my donations were being used to finance. What does Greenpeace actually do?

So here's a goal: find a charity whose endeavors I believe in and donate as much as I can. The second part is going to be hard because I'm fresh out of college and my living room furniture consists of a chair, but I know that comparatively, I'm way better off than most.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

A Brief History of Labor Day

Labor Day, aka The Last Real Weekend of the Summer, never used to be about heading down to the shore and having a barbeque. For a really interesting, in-depth look, check out this article from Forbes. Here's the Reader's Digest version from the History Channel Website:

"On May 11, 1894, workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago struck to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. They sought support from their union led by Eugene V. Debs and on June 26 the American Railroad Union called a boycott of all Pullman railway cars. Within days, 50,000 rail workers complied and railroad traffic out of Chicago came to a halt. On July 4, President Grover Cleveland dispatched troops to Chicago. Much rioting and bloodshed ensued, but the government's actions broke the strike and the boycott soon collapsed. Debs and three other union officials were jailed for disobeying the injunction. The strike brought worker's rights to the public eye and Congress declared, in 1894, that the first Monday in September would be the holiday for workers, known as Labor Day."

I think it's interesting that the entire country has forgotten about what Labor Day is really about, especially since worker injustices just keep piling up even today. Do you shop at Wal-Mart? STOP IT. I haven't shopped there in years, and not just because there isn't one in New York City. Check out this website and watch this movie if you don't know what I'm talking about. Ugh this deserves a special post all to itself.

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Saturday, September 1, 2007

What it's all about

Of all the titles I carry, (girlfriend, sister, renter, etc.) the one I want to be better at is Human. I spend a lot of time trying to make my own life better and sometimes, usually when I'm lying awake at night, it hits me that I'm not doing anything to make anyone else's life better.

I'm not ok with that.

So what do I do about it? Well I plan to do a lot about it. I'm kinda fuzzy on the details right now, and that's ok, because I'll work it out as I go. This blog comes in as a sort of motivational tool. I would definitely feel like a tool if I come in here with big aspirations about changing the world and then don't do anything worth posting about. Public shame is a pretty good motivator, I guess. Plus, if I'm a better human, then it stands to reason that I'll be a better everything else, right?

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