Thursday, April 28, 2005

Eight Years

Today is my eighth anniversary of working at my current company. Sometimes it is hard to believe it has been eight years already; other times it is hard to remember what life was like BEFORE this job.

Anyway, I thought a little "then and now" might be fun in honor of the day...

(minor update...blogger didn't seem to like my table, so I eliminated it)

THEN: Laura and I had been together about one year.
NOW: We've been together 9 years and are working on year 10!

THEN: Laura and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the far north side of Chicago. See aerial shot. I can't recall the exact address number anymore. Ours was actually the courtyard building a little further west than the point shown on the google map. Scroll eastward to see how near we were to Lake Michigan! We were on the verge of moving since my commute to a job in the suburbs was inconvenient.
NOW: We live in a suburb about 60 miles west of Chicago, in a two bedroom house. Seeing as that house is now for sale, we are clearly on the verge of moving again.

THEN: My company had fewer than 20 people in it.
NOW: Well, we grew to about 116, then were acquired by a huge company at the end of last year. So instead of being one of 20, I am one of thousands.

THEN: I had just left my job at Arthur Andersen for this new position.
NOW: Well, Arthur Andersen has had a bit of trouble since then and doesn't really exist in the same form it used to.

THEN: We owned one dog, Bailey. He was not quite one year old. This picture is actually from a few years later...our photo album of puppy pictures has gone into hiding:
Bailey on Couch
NOW: Our pet family grew to include Xena the cat and Cricket the terror...I mean rat terrier/chi mix:
Xena Lounging on My SweatshirtCricket Doing Some Blogging

THEN: My home computer was a Macintosh LC III with a 160 MB hard drive. I had never heard of high-speed Internet access. I think I used AOL.
NOW: My home computer is a laptop with a 40 gig hard drive and I am running out of room. I use DSL to connect to the Internet and can't imagine using dialup again. Or AOL, for that matter.

THEN: The Hawaii gay marriage case was in the news.
NOW: Everyone has forgotten about Hawaii. Massachusetts is in the news. I shouldn't say that everyone has forgotten about Hawaii -- many people (like my mother) are convinced that same-sex marriage is legal there. It isn't. The state amended their constitution to prevent it.

THEN: I had just recently bought a Dodge Dakota pickup truck, without paying much attention to minor things like gas mileage. Hey, I hadn't owned a car for four years at that point, so I never even looked at the price of gas!
My Old Truck
NOW: I now drive a Honda Civic and grumble that the Toyota Prius was impossible to get last year when I traded in my truck. I rarely miss the truck, although I did need to invest in a roof rack to transport the bikes (yes, it does reduce the mileage a bit, but it isn't that bad).
Car with Bikes

THEN: I was not yet an aunt.
NOW: I now have two adorable nieces, ages 6 and 4.

THEN: I weighed [mumble].
NOW: I lost a bunch of weight while training and riding in an AIDS ride (in Montana!). After my riding dropped down to normal (rather than obsessed) levels, I gained it all back. So now it is pretty much where it was eight years ago.

THEN: I had really long hair.
NOW: I have short hair. I don't know why it took me so long to chop it is so much easier now

I'm sure I could come up with more if I really tried...

Monday, April 25, 2005

For Sale

So, today, my house officially went on the market. There is a big old sign in front, letting the whole world know that my castle could be theirs:
As it is today, with For Sale sign

I took a vacation day today. We spent much of the weekend and all morning cleaning and organizing large volumes of stuff. This afternoon, some professionals came through and did an incredibly thorough cleaning. Tomorrow morning the carpets will be steam cleaned. Everything is in order.

I have mixed feelings about this. I love this house; this is the first house I've ever bought. Really, it is a great little house, and I'm not just saying that because I want someone to buy it. When I bought this house, most of the houses now in this neighborhood didn't exist. My house didn't exist either; it was just a patch of dirt:
The empty lot for my house

Laura and I watched the house emerge out of nothing. I still have the notes I made back then on the progress as it was built. We visited the house as it grew -- sometimes driving out there twice a week to see it, in the evening after work.

The footings, sometime in September 2000:
The footings for the house

The foundation, poured at the end of September 2000:
Recently poured foundation

Walls, a roof, and a porch - actually resembling a real house here. I believe this was in October or so of 2000:
Finally looking like a house

We picked almost everything out ourselves, and surprisingly our tastes are similar enough that we didn't even have to argue much over it. We chose the carpeting, the cabinets, the doors, the color of the siding and shutters, the placement of cable TV and electrical outlets. We said no to the wall dividing the living room and family room, preferring the more open floor plan. We said yes to the bay window and front porch -- a fairly costly upgrade. We agonized over whether we made the right decisions, both for our own happiness in the house and for the future "resale value" that we couldn't even imagine. It took about six months to build and during that time I worried about all sorts of things -- would interest rates skyrocket? Would the mortgage company change their mind? Would Bigelow Homes suddenly go under (highly unlikely, I know)? Would my job suddenly disappear?

I closed on the house January 11, 2001 -- two days before my 30th birthday. For some reason, it pleases me that I bought my first house while still technically in my twenties.

Now, four years later, that resale value that we couldn't really imagine matters. This is sooner than I originally planned back in 2000, but I think that moving now is the right decision for us. We haven't begun looking for our new house yet; I don't want to own two houses at once, so I intend to wait until I have a solid offer before making an offer on another house myself. I have a rough idea of where we will end up living, but that's all I can really say right now. We have, though, looked at countless houses online. We've talked to a realtor who will help us find the right house. We have a rough idea of our budget, but I don't want to fall into a trap of setting the asking price for my house based on what I need to buy the next one. That's the other reason I'm not rushing out and making offers right now.

I don't know how long this will take. We are hopeful it won't be too long. Keeping the house as spotless as it is right now will be a challenge for a couple of messy packrats!

I do know that it may be a little hard to say goodbye when the time comes.
House as it is today

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I'm Not Catholic

I'm not Catholic, so all this business about the new pope is A) pretty mysterious to me, and B) not something I particularly want to care about. Some folks are ruminating on his conservativeness. I'm sure many conservatives are delighted. More liberal-minded people are appalled.

The thing is, I don't really care that much about the rules that the Catholic church declares. Celibacy requirements for priests? No non-procreative sex? Insisting that men dominate women? If Catholics want to live their lives according to those rules, that's their business. I realize that many Catholics don't actually agree with those rules and push for change from within. Andrew Sullivan had an interesting post yesterday about the fact that the church can and does change. Interesting, yes, but something I come to as an absolute outsider. Not only am I not Catholic, I wasn't raised with any religion. More power to those pushing for change, but again, I'm not Catholic and it isn't really my business.

But the actions of the Pope and the Catholic church become my business when they start insisting that their rules should influence the Law for all Americans, Catholic or not. That's when I start getting, shall we way, twitchy. What do I mean here? Sodomy laws. Blocking gay marriage. Insisting that discrimination in employment and housing is somehow part of God's plan and the duty of all. Blocking access to birth control. Pushing lawmakers to interfere in personal right-to-die decisions. On and on. Dan Savage sums up some of the damage done to gays (including non-Catholic ones like me) by the Catholic church (you have to skip past the zombie business):
When the pope -- the dead one, the next one, the one after that -- says something stupid about homosexuality, straight Americans take it to heart. The church's efforts have helped defeat gay-rights bills, led to the omission of gays and lesbians from hate-crime statutes, and helped to pass anti-gay-marriage amendments. But when a pope says something stupid about heterosexuality, straight Americans go deaf. And this pope had plenty to say about heterosexual sex -- no contraceptives, no premarital sex, no blowjobs, no jerkin' off, no divorce, no remarriage, no artificial insemination, no blowjobs, no three-ways, no swinging, no blowjobs, no anal. Did I mention no blowjobs? John Paul II had a longer list of "no's" for straight people than he did for gay people. But when he tried to meddle in the private lives of straights, the same people who deferred to his delicate sensibilities where my rights were concerned suddenly blew the old asshole off. Gay blowjobs are expendable, it seems; straight ones are sacred.
I'm not saying that Catholics don't have a right to an opinion on these matters; I'm saying that they don't have a right to encode their particular beliefs into the law and force all of us to obey them. If you think it is morally wrong to, say, marry someone of the same-sex, then there is a very simple solution available to you -- don't.

I confess I have never understood the urge that religious people have to make those who don't share their faith follow the same rules. Is it just easier to do what you believe your god demands when everyone else does it too, so you never need to question it? Imagine, for a moment, the outcry if, in some red-state town, Hindu clerics pushed for legislation banning the sale and consumption of beef. No more burgers! The horror!

What purpose would be served by such a law? How could anyone possibly see such a law as a just use of state power? Yet sodomy laws did not fall away until June 26, 2003, and plenty of conservatives foamed at the mouth about it, insisting that policing of private sexual activity was a good use of state power. How is a sodomy law different than a law prohibiting the sale of items that violate dietary codes of a religion? I mean really, the very name we use for these laws comes right out of scripture!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Down by the River

So, we didn't get a ride in this weekend. At the moment my road bike is in the shop for a tune up, so a ride would mean hauling out my mountain bike. Not a huge deal, except that at the moment it doesn't have clipless pedals. I've gotten rather spoiled by my clipless pedals (basically, pedals with cleats that lock your feet to the bike. It sounds scary at first, but once you're used to them, it is hard to go back to normal pedals. Mine are Shimano mountain bike pedals, similar to these).

So, instead we went for a walk on a small portion of the Fox River trail. As on any day with good weather -- particularly in early spring -- the trail had a fair amount of traffic. Most of the bicyclists passed us safely. I like the fact that I use these trails both as a pedestrian (with dogs!) and a cyclist; it gives a good sense of perspective. As a rider, I try to be considerate of the walkers, and as a walker, I try to be considerate of the bicyclists. That means pulling my dogs off to the side and out of the way when they pass. On really beautiful summer weekends, I do tend to avoid certain patches of this trail during the busiest time -- usually afternoon. Early morning is the best time if you want to ride fast and not endanger small children.

Anyway, I grew up along these trails and never bothered to take any pictures until today...

From the beginning of the trail at Les Arends park. Hard to see, but there are some stairs going down to the actual path:
Starting at Les Arends Park in North Aurora

I think this was looking to the North, but I'm not positive.
Looking down the bike path

If the above picture was looking North, then this was looking South. Or maybe I have it all backwards.
Looking the other way

Yes, there really is a river here.
View of the Fox River from the Path

Another shot of the river:
Fox River

A close up of the little purple flowers along the side of the path -- something hard to see when on a bicycle!
Flowers along the Fox River

Finally, some Canadian geese hanging out along the river. Behind me is a huge back yard for a giant house. I think I envy the people who live with the river in their backyard!
Geese along the river

Saturday, April 16, 2005

First Bike Ride of the Year

I am really behind on bike blogging this week. Last weekend, we went on our first ride of the season. It felt great to get out on the bike, but I definitely felt the lack of pedaling over the last few months.

The ride was pretty short -- only about 12 miles. Even in good shape, neither of us are very fast. On this ride we averaged about 11 MPH. Considering the time since our last ride (last September) and the headwind on the way out, we were pretty happy with this.

We rode to Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve, which has a crushed limestone bike path looping through it. I find it amusing that it is called a "Forest Preserve" when there is no forest, just prairie. The path is a little bumpy on a road bike, but not bad.

The majority of the ride was actually on the road, between our house and the path. Somehow there seemed to be a lot less traffic on this road last fall when we did this route.

When we got home, Laura road up the alley while I took some pictures. She wanted a profile photo for her blog, Fat Girl on a Bicycle. I modified the pictures on the computer a bit. My vote was for this one, photoshopped to look like a pencil drawing:

Laura on Her Bike (Drawing Version)

Alas, she preferred the Sepia version you can see on her blog now.

Hanging Out in the Sun

I actually took these last Sunday. Cricket likes to bask in the sun in our backyard.

The first few I took from inside the house, through the screen. This one turned out OK, but you can see the mesh of the screen door.
Cricket on Bench

So, I went out in the sun for this one:
Cricket on Bench, Basking in Sun

This is a pretty accurate representation of Cricket's demeanor when basking on a sunny day.
A Blissful Sunny Day

Incidentally, the weather today has been just as nice.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Happily Paying the Price For Your Bias

This article describes a study showing that store clerks tend to be more rude to obese customers:
Investigators found that when women wore a prosthetic suit designed to make them look obese, they were treated more rudely, and received fewer smiles and less eye contact from sales clerks at a Houston, Texas, shopping mall than when they shopped without the fat suit.

Sales clerks -- almost three-quarters of whom were women -- also tended to end interactions with obese shoppers more quickly, and use a negative tone with them.
Laura writes about this from her own personal experiences shopping. Alas, a Blog addresses the idea that sales clerks are expressing "moral disapproval", since they became more friendly to customers who mentioned that they were dieting.

These are all interesting perspectives that you should definitely read, but one thing from the article just leapt out at me:
A survey of shoppers also showed that people who were obese said they experienced more discrimination from sales clerks, which caused them to spend less time in a store and less money while there. This shows that store owners have a financial, as well as ethical, incentive for addressing discrimination among their staff, King said.
(Emphasis mine)

Set aside, for a moment, the rightness or wrongness of treating people rudely because of your own bias. This is a prime example of how bias and discrimination has an economic cost that tends to get forgotten. Or, put another way, sometimes doing the right thing pays off more than doing the discriminatory thing. For me, this really brings home just how pervasive certain prejudices are. People cling to them even when it is costing them money. How whacked is that?

Now, maybe these clerks don't see the economic impact. If they're not paid on commission, then the economic result of their rudeness is a little less tangible. I also understand that working retail isn't always very fun and being polite to customers all day long can wear you down. But still.

This reminded me of something that Laura observed several years ago when working as a salesperson at a furniture store. She and her co-workers were paid on commission. One of the guys there was a self-professed racist...he actually admitted it. If, say, a Hispanic couple walked into the store looking for furniture, he would always show them the cheapest item in the store. He always assumed they couldn't afford anything better. He wasn't particularly friendly to them, either.

Laura, on the other hand, would actually treat all the customers equally. Many times, the Hispanic couple had just as much money to spend as anyone else. Treating all customers with respect netted her larger commissions.

When hearing stories like this, it is worthwhile to think about the implications beyond things like shopping. How does this dynamic operate in the workplace, for example? Oftentimes the argument against anti-discrimination laws for employers suggests that companies would never discriminate because it is against their own economic interest. Corporations always hire the most qualified people, right? Well, if individual humans sometimes let their personal prejudices cost them money, isn't it just as likely that companies -- which are of course made up of those individual people -- might do the same?

Something worth thinking about.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

He, She, or It

Over at the Whatever, John Scalzi takes on a few reader questions in today's post.

The whole thing is good, but being someone who writes technical manuals for a living, I was particularly amused by his commentary on "'He or she' or singular 'they'?" Here is what he says:
They. There are times when sexual differentation is grammatically relevant, but most of the time it really isn't, and there's not a single person who actually believes that the generic "him" isn't actually the work of some long-dead grammarian with a micropenis and a pathological fear of speaking to chicks. Screw Mr. Micropenis. Long live "they." Having said that, there are times I'll use "he or she" or will use "him" or "her" generically, because I want to. I'll also use it when I'm writing professionally, because it's not generally worth my time to piss off a copyeditor, whose job it is to preserve the long-dead Mr. Micropenis' editorial strictures because that's what their employer demands of them. I'll just use it on my own time and maybe as more people think as I do, the great publishing houses of the world will tell the unlamented Mr. Micropenis to take a hike.
Gotta love the bit about Mr. Micropenis!

At any rate, for some reason the singular "they" grates on my ears. In the documentation that I write, I usually use "he or she" if I need to. The thing is, it is pretty easy to work around this whole issue for the most part, at least in MOST technical writing.

First, in docs that address the user, do it in the second person: "To do some great, fabulous thing with this software, choose the OK button."

For some of the stuff I write, the "you" is someone like a system administrator. He or she (ha, there it is!) is the person doing the procedures, but also has "users" further down the line to which I must refer. So I have to say things like this: "To change properties for an individual user, select ABC and choose the OK button. He or she will see the change immediately."

I have two strategies that work around the awkward "he or she" in most cases:
  1. Word examples as plural. Then, the "they" is actually grammatically correct.
  2. Create a specific example using a gender-specific person's name, then use the appropriate pronouns. This works pretty well for me because I show lots of sample data in my docs, and many of those screen shots include names. So I have to come up with a variety of names anyway, and it isn't any trouble to choose some to use as examples. I have a few that I frequently use -- both male and female -- and the gender in a given example is pretty much random. Well, except for ONE scenario. Certain procedures are things that secretaries or administrative assistants do. For those examples, I always like to use male names if I can -- just to turn the stereotype on its head ("the secretary Roger can take care of his boss Lisa's needs by..."). I doubt anyone else has ever noticed, but it gives me a sense of satisfaction anyway.
If neither of these are feasible, I use "he or she" and live with it. Doesn't happen too often.

Incidentally, this issue pops up from time to time on a tech writing listserve I read. Just go to the Techwr-L archives and search for "he or she" or "s/he".

Sometimes, people posting on these discussions refer to the "gender neutral" method as being "politically correct." That attitude rather pisses me off. Acknowledging that the world -- and the set of people your writing is addressing -- contains both males and females is simply logical. Ask a five-year old boy to read a sentence with "he" in it and ask what kind of person he pictures. I am certain he will say "boy" or "man". Duh. (note this is an example of method number 2 - create an example with a specific person with a specific gender. Then you can safely say "he"! See how easy that is?)

Back in college, I recall a computer science textbook for one of my classes actually used "she" and "her" as so-called gender neutral terms throughout the entire book. The intro included a footnote explaining that after centuries of male dominance, the tender sensibilities of the readers should be able to handle reversing things in one textbook. Something to that effect, anyway. I recall being somewhat amused by this. It is amazing how quickly the "we can use just one pronoun to represent everyone" crowd changes their tune when the pronoun chosen for that job is "she"!

The People Who Actually Have to Live With These Policies

I’m getting rather tired of posting about the contraceptive / pharmacy issue that I have been talking about lately. I wasn’t planning on talking about it again today, but then I found this story over at Pacific Views.

Natasha tells about what happened several years ago when she discovered that she had a large ovarian cyst, at the same time she discovered she was pregnant.
I was told that it required immediate how-fast-can-you-put-your-things-in-order-and-get-on-the-schedule surgery, and that I could bleed to death if it should burst for some reason. It was suspected that the condition was aggravated by scarring from a major abdominal surgery I had as a child.
(Emphasis mine)

Lets explain this real slow here. Her life was in danger. Clear enough?

Moving along, her health care service was Catholic, so an abortion was out of the question. Surgery couldn’t happen without one, either. Fortunately for her, she did miscarry naturally. She has quite a bit to say about the pain and seriousness involved in the surgery and recovery – making the very strong point that “female problems” can be a hell of a lot more serious and life-threatening than, say, mild monthly cramps that men seem to imagine.

Anyway, tying this in with my pharmacist posts. Six months after the surgery, the cysts started coming back. The treatment to fix it was – you guessed it – birth control:
Lucky me, I live in a state where pharmacists have to do their jobs or find another line of work. I was no longer married then, and after a lot of recent and bitter wrangling, I wouldn't have been up to the task of explaining to some ignorant busybody that I really needed my prescription. The surgery had ended up costing me an ovary, and I was petrified of losing the other one, or losing my job because of missing too much work for more inpatient treatment.

Her last few paragraphs basically sum up my feelings on this whole issue:
Because I'm a woman, a routine medical problem for which there was a widely known treatment could have become life-threatening. Because I'm a woman, the medication which prevented a relapse might now in some parts of this country be denied to me at the whim of a pharmacist who doesn't even know me. Because I'm a woman, there are people who think they should get a say in my private medical decisions. People who think they have a right to endanger my life because some medieval-minded lunatic needs to get the faithful worked into a lather.

I have two words for those people and their so-called 'conscience.' Take a wild guess what they are.
(Emphasis mine, again)

My comment here -- birth control is medically necessary, goddammit. And it is not up to that guy behind the counter at Walgreens to decide when it is necessary and when it isn’t. Period.

The link to Natasha’s story was via Amanda at Pandagon.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Getting Back to the Pharmacist Issue

I've been meaning to come back to the issue discussed in this post. In the comments, OneMan said this:
"My issue isn't really the drug, it's my fear that we are going to require medical professionals to be forced to turn off their own Moral judgments because the state says they will."

The way I read this, OneMan worries about pharmacists (and perhaps even doctors - more on that in a later post) being subjected to unwarranted government intrusion.

Perhaps we can find some common ground her, because my position on this comes from a very similar worry on the other side. I worry about patients being subjected to unwarranted intrusion into their health care by pharmacists.

It boils down to this question: how much power should a pharmacist - who did not go to medical school and is not a doctor - have over your health care? Pharmacists are trained (I assume) to understand drugs, side effects, and drug interactions. I'm sure this list is far from complete and I mean no disrespect to pharmacists, but I don't think they are necessarily qualified to diagnose medical problems. That's why they fill prescriptions, rather than write them.

By refusing to fill a prescription, a pharmacist is essentially usurping the role of the doctor. He is saying, in effect, that you don't really need that drug after all. His "diagnoses" is based entirely on his own opinion or whim, not any sort of objective criteria like a medical examination.

Frankly, as a patient, I would much prefer that doctors do the work of diagnosing my health issues, not the guy behind the counter at Walgreens.

Again, I remain fairly convinced that this sort of law would have been tossed out long ago if the drugs were something completely unconnected to sex, and even more so if they were drugs commonly used by men.

Lets take this to the logical extreme. A pharmacist we'll call "Bob" has a moral opposition to just about every imaginable drug. And so he spends his day behind the counter at Walgreens reading novels and turning away customers. Because he justifies this with proclamations that these drugs are immoral, Walgreens is prohibited from firing him.

Yes, that is a ridiculous scenario. But, what is the difference between believing that birth control is immoral and believing that anti-psychotic drugs used by schizophrenics are immoral? Answer: there is no difference. In both cases the pharmacist is relying on his own opinion and is using that opinion to overrule a doctor's recommended treatment.

If you believe that pharmacists have the right to use their own opinions of morality when choosing which prescriptions to fill, then you must allow that right to be applied to any drug, not just contraceptives. That is what I find terribly scary. This policy opens the door for strangers to meddle with my health care on very flimsy "morality" claims. Since a "personal moral judgment" is, well, personal, I cannot counter it with any objective claim. Any and every legal prescription drug is at risk under this kind of law.

For example, I have an uncle who is schizophrenic and the years he spent without medication are pretty much lost to him. Even with meds he is "not quite right," but at least he can function. His doctors monitor his condition and select the drugs that work for him. They are the ones who have examined him. It seems outrageous to me that some guy behind the counter at Walgreens should be allowed to overrule those doctors and deny my uncle his drugs just because their religious beliefs dictate that mental illness is a character flaw that can be cured by concentrating and praying real hard. They are entitled to those beliefs of course, and they can live their OWN lives in accordance with them. They just don't have the right to impose those beliefs on someone else.

Explain to me the difference between this scenario and the oral contraceptive scenario. Should the pharmacist be allowed to deny my uncle his drugs? If not, why is he allowed to deny a woman birth control? In some cases, both can be equally necessary for maintaining health (as I've mentioned many times before, birth control can be used for health issues that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy).

Here's another example - let's say the pharmacist believes that AIDS is God's punishment for immoral behavior. As I recall from the 80's, this used to be a very common belief (and probably still is in some quarters). So, the pharmacist refuses to fill prescriptions for AIDS drugs, under the argument that combating the disease is thwarting God's plans for punishment.

Do you really think this is a good idea to give pharmacists such power? To let them be the gatekeepers who decide who gets their health problems cured and who doesn’t?

The argument that one could always go to a different pharmacy, or come back later, only works so well, particularly in an emergency situation. Where I live, sure no problem - there are plenty of other places nearby. In, say, rural Montana you might be talking about a 2-hour drive to the next major town. And then you have this situation, in which the pharmacist refused to transfer the contraception prescription to another pharmacy.

Finally, there is an argument that surely a free-market, business-friendly, capitalist Republican ought to agree with - what about the rights of the pharmacy or store itself? Stephen Chapman addressed this one in this column in the Chicago Tribune.

“Walgreens or Osco might rather put customer needs above the preferences of employees. But that choice is off the table. Under the conscience law, employers involved in health care can't discriminate against employees who refuse to do something they find morally objectionable.”
If I own a pharmacy, why should I be forced to keep an employee who turns away and alienates PAYING customers? The current law allows exactly that. This is strange because other jobs do not offer such blanket protection of personal morality. If the company for which I work asked me to do something that was completely legal, yet immoral in my mind, I could certainly refuse, but it is unlikely that I would keep my job.

Chapman's compromise, which I could sorta live with, is to let the pharmacies choose what drugs they will carry and require their employees to dispense them. Pharmacists who object to birth control can find jobs at pharmacies with the same philosophy. This doesn't seem to be an undue hardship for them -- the rest of us have to find some way to reconcile our livelihood with our own ethical principles. A committed vegetarian is unlikely to get a job working at a butcher. If he did, then refused to sell meat to paying customers, I don't think his employment would last very long. I think telemarketers are a scourge, so you will never catch me working for one. It would be absolutely ridiculous for me to get a job at a telemarketer, then refuse to call people on the grounds that I think it is wrong.

I personally believe that most pharmacies would choose the keep-our-customers-happy option over the turn-away-customers-and-piss-them-off option. This system would work even better if the stores advertised their respective policies up front. Even though I don't use any sort of contraception, I would make an effort to shop only at contraception-friendly stores on principle. Furthermore, this advertising would make it easy to know where to go (and where not to go) in the event of an emergency.

This obviously wouldn't help someone living in the boondocks somewhere if the only pharmacy in town was run by a fundamentalist Christian, so it isn't perfect, but it would certainly be better than the current system in which your healthcare is determined by who happens to be working current shift at Walgreens.

I have to admit, though, I still do not understand how dispensing drugs to a stranger can possibly be an affront to anyone's moral values. That is, I can certainly understand that an anti-contraception person would turn down such drugs herself. In the case of a man, perhaps he would insist that his wife not take them. That would be a matter for an individual couple to decide on their own. But how does it infringe upon that pharmacists rights for someone else -- like myself -- to take those drugs?

In his comment, OneMan also asked whether doctors should be required to write these prescriptions. I have thoughts on that issue as well, but I think this post is already too long, so I will address that issue shortly in another post.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Welcome Post (With a little relationship advice)...

Please give a warm welcome to my lovely partner Laura's blog: Fat Girl on a Bicycle.

I admit I am a little jealous of the name she came up with. It is much more interesting than the very dull "Sara's Spot," which was the best I could come up with when blogger was sitting there asking me what I wanted to call my blog.

I like the way the name "Fat Girl on a Bicycle" invokes images that seem incongruous, while at the same time being completely true (What? Some people outside the narrow range of socially acceptable weight in our society are actually healthy people who exercise? You're kidding!). Laura does like to bicycle. Last year she rode 342 miles; the year before, 476. I intend to get photographic proof of her (and my) riding now that I finally have a digital camera. For more about why she started riding, see this post.

As for the "fat" part, well, she is certainly free to use that term. Being a Very Smart Spouse, I prefer to say that she is merely "larger sized," but I admit that "Larger Sized Girl on a Bike" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Speaking of being a Very Smart Spouse, I do believe that my ability to navigate certain dangerous waters has helped our marriage to last for these past nine years. Nine years -- wow, that seems amazing to me. I can't claim all the credit of course -- Laura makes it pretty easy to be smart. For example, she would never ask a trick question like "Do these pants make my butt look big" and expect anything other than an honest answer. That answer should be tactful ("hmm, I don't think that style is particularly flattering, maybe you should try these other ones instead"), but it should be honest. After all, it would not be very loving to let someone buy a pair of expensive, unflattering pants and walk around thinking they look great, would it?

Here's the promised relationship advice:
  • Answer questions honestly, but tactfully.
  • Don't ask a question if you don't really want the answer.
Getting back to Laura's new blog, although she lives here in the Midwest, she is, as she notes, a Montanan in exile. Here are some good links to illustrate why:
The picture showing Aurora is situated to show our actual neighborhood. Zoom out a few times to see the rest of the Chicagoland area and scroll around. Endless suburbs that run from one into the next with no discernible line between them. Zoom out the Missoula picture and see the difference...towns far apart (if you can even see them in the picture). All those little "wrinkles" that represent mountains. It is a completely different world.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Some minor blogroll updates...

Finally fixed the link to Alas, A Blog to point to the "new" location (which isn't that new anymore).

Removed MouseWords (since Amanda doesn't seem to be updating it anymore) and replaced it with her new home Pandagon.

Added Shrubville, which is an amusing single-issue blog mocking the comic strip "Prickly City" (a strip which unfortunately wastes space in the Chicago Tribune).

Added Sara Skates, a blog by another SaraS. Unlike me, she can skate. Last time I tried skating on ice it was not particularly pretty.

Added The Zero Boss just because it usually makes me laugh (and the kids are cute, though I have trouble keeping track of how many he has).

Added Mickey's Musings, home of Carnival of the Dogs.

Also updated the Montana blog list with Speedkill because I've been reading it for a while and didn't realize that it WASN'T on my list already.


Hey, it is springtime. Seems a good time to talk about birds.

First, a shot of an ordinary bird up on my fence:
Bird on My Fence

Then, this one. This bird is not in the greatest of condition any longer:
Bird Skeleton

I found the skeleton under an old wooden box used for barbecue tools and supplies. I have no idea how it got there or how long it has been there. I think this shot turned out a little better -- I scooped it up with an old shovel:
Bird Skeleton II

Finally, back to living birds again. This picture is a few years old. A bird took to relaxing in my hanging basket on my front porch. I actually managed to get outside, on the porch, and up a step-stool to get this shot. The bird blends in a bit, so you have to look closely.
Bird in Hanging Basket

The weather today is just beautiful, but unfortunately other commitments got in the way of the Spring Forward ride we planned to do today. I hope we get out riding again soon!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Dog With Blue Hair

Cricket Wrapped in Blanket
Originally uploaded by SaraS.

Well, not really. Cricket likes crawling under this blanket, and I think the fringe looks like funny blue hair.

Here's another one. I think she decided to just take a nap.
Trying to Get Some Sleep Here

Good to see this

Gov. Rod Blagojevich does not agree that pharmacists have the right to refuse to fill prescriptions.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich approved an emergency rule Friday requiring pharmacies to fill birth control prescriptions quickly after a Chicago pharmacist refused to fill an order because of moral opposition to the drug
The rule apparently does allow a little room for the opposition:
Under the new rule, if a pharmacist does not fill the prescription because of a moral objection, another pharmacist must be available to fill it without delay.
Via Amanda at Pandagon.

I'm not terribly fond of our governor, but I think he's got this one right.

I don't understand the opposition to oral contraceptives. For one thing, we're talking about birth control here. You know, contraception. Preventing pregnancy before it starts is not equivalent to abortion in any way and in fact prevents abortion.

Furthermore, many women take these medications for reasons that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy -- they regulate the hormones and cycles. One woman I know suffered very unpleasant symptoms before she started taking the pills, and, according to her doctor, the level of hormone imbalance could lead to other health problems down the line. Could someone please explain to me exactly why protecting her health should be considered immoral?

Finally, I have to wonder if the people who are so eager to let the pharmacists overrule their doctors due to "ethical concerns" would still feel that way if drugs that they needed were also threatened.**

For example, suppose a pharmacist had a sincere, religious belief that mental illness is caused by the devil and can be cured with prayer. That has about as much grounding in science as believing that birth control is immoral. Would people support that pharmacist's "right" to turn away patients with prozac prescriptions? Should a pharmacist be allowed to turn away people who need pain medication? Cancer drugs? Viagra? I'm sure someone could come up with a moral opposition to just about any drug.

Somehow, if those were the drugs that pharmacists complained about, I doubt we'd be having this conversation. The drugstores, and the law, would simply tell them that they should find a new line of work and that would be the end of it.

**Obviously, there are times when a pharmacist should overrule your doctor -- i.e., if you have a potential drug interaction. That would be overruling for a medical purpose -- which is entirely different than overruling due to what is essentially nothing more than a personal opinion regarding morality.