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Sunday October 31, 2004

I am so angry. ANGRY!!!

About 30 minutes ago two of my rats, Nicodemus and Weezie, got into a nasty physical fight. Nikki is bleeding heavily from a huge gash on his back, and needs a suture to close the wound. Of all the emergency pet clinics in Northeast Ohio, only one (reluctantly) agreed to treat a rat, and wanted $250 for something that should cost no more than $40. It's outrageous!

If I had the materials, I'd do it myself. I've done brain surgery on rats before, so I'm sure I could suture his wound. But I don't have the means to do it. I am so angry right now. Why won't these animal clinics treat my pet rat? What's with the anti-rat bias? Are pet rats not worthy of getting any care? What's the deal?

Update: Nikki has a bandage with some Neosporin, but that's all he can have for now. Nobody will take him. I have a pic of his wound below. What kind of emergency clinic wouldn't treat that? Monday I'm taking him to my regular pet hospital to get him checked out. And while I'm there, I'm going to have Weezie, right, neutered. Maybe that will make him less agressive. Ugh.

Nikki's wound, and the culprit, Weezie


Saturday October 30, 2004

Stephanie's vocabulary part I

Last night my old roomie and I took a mini road trip to Mansfield, Ohio to visit a "haunted prison." We met up with my former lab mates, one of whom would not let go of my arm the entire time. I guess the cheaply costumed and heavily made-up employees scared her a little too much. I'm not one to brag (yeah right) but I didn't flinch once, not even when a young man in grim reaper garb jumped out at me from behind. Come on now, he was like 5-foot 4. I could've taken him in a heartbeat.

The lore of the old Shawshank-style prison didn't freak me out either. I'm as scared of ghosts as I am the boogey man. Neither of them are real. And I was more interested in the photography possibilities of the old structure than anything else. Really, the only reason I went was to see everyone. And I did, so I enjoyed myself.

During the 95-minute drive to the prison, my old roomie and I started talking about her friends, and how unfriendly they are. I shouldn't even call them her friends, because they're not. Friends care for each other; these guys care for no one but themselves. And everywhere they go, they create big drama. And, as my old roomie put it, they make every event they attend "dramafied." Never before had I heard this word. But it is a great one. I'm going to add it to Drina's personal dictionary.

Dra | ma | fied - adj. In a state of petty temperamental intensity

Daily gratitude: knowing the true meaning of friendship, and the people in my life that fully embody it (like my old roomie, Sarah, Klara, Tina, and everyone else I'm too lazy to mention.


Thursday October 28, 2004

The Sonafide Six - Pets

Ever since the Friday Five went to webpage heaven, I've been scheming to create a similar game of my own. It was always a good way of getting to know people and letting people get to know you, so it's a shame it ever left. What I've come up with is the Sonafide Six, and I'm probably gonna be the only shmuck to do it. This edition's topic is all about pets. Get excited.

1. Name all of the pets you've ever had: Many goldfish, two parakeets whose names I don't remember, a rabbit named Spuds, and rats Weezie, Nicodemus, and Fat Bastard.

2. Tell one funny pet story: I let one of my parakeets go when I was five years old because I wanted him be free.

3. If you could have any pet, what would it be? A lama, so I could say to it, "Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner!"

4. Where are your "eternally resting" pets buried? In the backyard under the garden. At least that's where Spuds is, I think. We always flushed the goldfish, and I never knew what happened to the other parakeet.

5. Do pets go to heaven? I don't know, that's up to God. I don't think he would deny his people the animals that they loved so much on Earth, but I can't say for sure.

6. You have a favorite. Admit it. It's Fatty. You knew that.

Daily gratitude: My awesome rats, who love to play with me, affectionately lick like a dog, and know when they're in trouble. Pets are the most awesome gifts.


Wednesday October 27, 2004

A life moving on

The mother of the autistic boy I work with told me her neighbors across the street brought home their 10 year-old son for hospice care. As I left yesterday, I saw a row of cars parked on their driveway. I think the boy may have died last night.

Daily gratitude: Never having spent a night in a hospital bed.


Tuesday October 26, 2004

Okay, another political thingy

I know I promised a while back to steer clear of more election year fodder until after the big day, but the Program on International Policy Attitudes has an amazing article out that shows how incredibly uninformed we are. From PIPA's report:

"Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program."

I really don't understand how this could happen... I mean, where are we gettings these beliefs from? It's not my intention to be conceited about it (really), but why the resistance to information that discredits such beliefs? Why do we ignore it?

Daily gratitude: Having direct and immediate access to vast oceans of information that was simply not available to people of previous generations. I'm so lucky to be alive today.

UPDATE: Looks like those Bush supporters never really did acknowledge the truth. They re-elected him. The papacy is alive and well in America, even among those who claim to oppose the papacy in Rome. We have our "infallible" leader, and now we must live with him. Bummer.


Sunday October 24, 2004

The joy of immigrant parents

My father left me a note on our kitchen's dry erase board, which I found when I got home last night from Sarah's costume party.

Tata's note

Croglish-English translation: Drina, you must get up at 6:00 in the morning and step in my office.

Daily gratitude: Being able to laugh at silly family members. Sometimes you just gotta love having immigrant parents.


Friday October 22, 2004

Autism and my sanity

Back in the spring I made the big leap from research to therapy, working with children from all across the autism spectrum. Some of the kids I've worked with can't talk, other ones can't be quiet. They're all so different, and in their own way, amazing. And I was excited to be part of the teaching process, helping them adapt to the world around them.

At first, it didn't seem like such a big jump to me. Sure, rats and autistic children are totally different creatures, but the principles of learning are the same for both. It seemed so natural for me to get involved in therapy. And after all, I've worked with kids so much in the past doing child care, art classes, and lots and lots (and lots) of babysitting.

But now I'm starting to wonder if this was a good idea. As much as I'm learning from my experiences with these amazing kids, it's starting to take a toll on my sanity. Yesterday I was training to work with a new child, a three-year-old autistic boy with violent tantrums. He nearly kicked the you-know-what out of the therapist I was observing. And she's been doing this for years. It was distressing.

Don't get me wrong, I love the kids I work with. It's just I'm starting to realize some people are better suited for research, and some are better suited for therapy. And personally, I really think I belong in a lab. Research did give me some frustration, but I always managed to keep my sanity intact and my face free of bruises.

So, it looks like I'm going to continue therapy for a few more months, but after I move back into a lab (any lab), I'm going to have let someone else take over. This is just not for me.

Daily gratitude: I'm thankful for figuring out where I wasn't meant to work, before making the mistake of jumping into it permanently.


Wednesday October 20, 2004

Getting Bush-Kerry over with

You knew this was coming. As all of my friends and family can probably attest (with looks of annoyance and irritation), I have some strong beliefs about the upcoming presidential election and which of the candidates should be voted into office. Although neither one matches my opinions perfectly, I believe that this year my choice is very clear.

I've decided to create a formal endorsement for my candidate of choice (because, you know, the world is waiting breathlessly for me to do so), and explain point-by-point why I've made the decision I have. This post has two sections: a critique of the current president, and a review of my reasons for supporting John Kerry. Let's start with my problems with George W. Bush:

  1. As former Republican Congressman Bob Barr points out, the Bush administration has engaged in “record levels of new spending, including nearly double-digit increases in nondefense discretionary spending,” which “are not the inevitable result of fighting terrorists.” In 2000 he campaigned as a fiscal conservative, yet has gone wild with spending that has driven the deficit up to record levels. Both Democrats and Republicans believe that George W. Bush is fiscally irresponsible.
  2. Bush claimed that the “vast majority” of his tax cuts would go to the bottom half, yet over 50% of his tax cuts go to the richest 1% in America. The tax cuts have helped inflate the $440 billion deficit, which future generations will have to pay for.
  3. Job losses, after decades of job increases.
  4. Bush's only two top-level advisors with any combat experience warned against invading Iraq (this includes Colin Powell). The rest of them, lacking any war experience at all (including Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld), ignored the warnings and went ahead against the advice of these accomplished military leaders. Since then, the war in Iraq has become a disaster; they country has erupted into chaos, and the administration has been shifting its rationale for the invasion.
  5. The two (initial) reasons for invading Iraq (WMD, 911) have proven false. First, the 911 Commission found no evidence for Iraq’s involvement in the World Trade Center attack, and even Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted, "I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links [Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda]." Second, post-invasion investigations have found that Iraq was not a threat to us. Although investigator Paul Bremmer later found that Iraq had no nuclear or biolical weapons and was incapable of producing them, Bush proclaimed in 2003 that our forces had "found weapons of mass destruction." (Fox News, 5/30/03) He lied to the American people.
  6. The Bush administration ignored the findings from the Department of Energy that concluded the aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq were not part of any nuclear program, and instead told the American people they were evidence of Iraq’s nuclear program. This was the only physical evidence of Iraq’s alleged weapons program.
  7. Republican Richard Clarke, terror advisor for Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, confirmed allegations that Bush was intent on invading Iraq even before the 911 attacks. Clarke testified that after 911 Bush told him to get information on Iraq's involvement in the WTC attacks. The Whitehouse first denied, then later admitted, that Bush had met with Clarke to discuss Iraq’s involvement.
  8. Bush told Pat Robertson last year that there would be no U.S. casualties in Iraq. His expectations were grossly unrealistic.
  9. Bush attacked John Kerry for voting against an $87 billion defense funding package after threatening to veto it himself. His campaign used this to paint John Kerry as a flip-flopper, yet Bush was planning to do essentially the same thing.
  10. Although calling Kerry a flip-flopper, Bush has wavered on Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11th attacks. He first said, "The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." (9/13/01). He then stated, "I just don't spend that much time on him," and "I'm not that concerned about him." (3/13/02).
  11. Despite his claims of promoting pro-life causes, the rate of abortion has gone up in the last four years, reversing a previous trend of decreasing abortion rates. U.S. Catholics Heidi Schlumpf had this to say: “I don’t think it’s an accident that the abortion rate went up under Reagan and Bush but went down under Clinton. We have to integrate parenthood and school or parenthood and work to relieve some of the social and economic pressures that make abortion feel like the only choice.”
  12. Both Bush and Cheney have attacked Kerry for voting to raise taxes in Congress, yet as a Congressman from Wyoming, Dick Cheney voted to raise taxes 144 times, 50% more than John Kerry.
  13. According to Families USA, the price of prescription drugs has increased at 3.6 times the rate of inflation. Bush still refuses to allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices.
  14. No Child Left Behind has failed, in part due to Bush breaking his promises to fund it. Ask your teachers.
  15. He refuses to admit mistakes, instead promoting a philosphy of creating his own reality rather than acknowledging it. Members of his own party have criticized him for this, and as John Kerry said, if Bush can't admit mistakes he's not equipped to fix them.

In sum, Bush's presidency has failed on many fronts, especially on his miscalculated war that is on pace to take thousands of American lives. Members of his own staff contend that the war was waged under false pretenses (Clarke, 2004), that it was subsequently mishandled, and that Bush had horribly unrealistic expectations for the outcome. Colin Powel admitted the situation is worsening, yet Bush refuses to acknowledge it publically. Osama bin Laden is on the loose while billions are being spent on trying to contain the mess in Iraq. Terrorists that were killed have been replaced with an endless supply of new recruits, and the Muslim world hates us now more than ever. Above all, he has accused his opponent of flip-flopping while doing plenty flip-flopping of his own. I believe America deserves better.

And now, my reasons for supporting John F. Kerry:

  1. Kerry supports allowing drug imports from Canada, which will lower the cost of prescription drugs in the United States. Current laws forbid using cost as a reason for seeking imported prescriptions drugs. Patients may only petition to purchase drugs elsewhere if they are unavailable here, not because they can't afford it here. Drug companies have become incredibly powerful because of this.
  2. He supports allowing price negotiations with drug companies, which is currently not permitted.
  3. He opposes tax breaks for companies that create jobs overseas. Currently there are loopholes that corporations use to increase their profits by hiring foreign workers on the cheap. John Kerry supports closing the loopholes, and will not promote outsourcing.
  4. He supports expanding education tax credits, and has fought for it in the Senate.
  5. Kerry supports states’ rights in legislating marriage, which is a responsibility of states, not the federal government. I do not believe that Texas and Oklahoma should control Massachussetts' and Vermont’s marriage laws. I do not support the Federal Marriage Amendment, and believe that divorce is a much greater threat than gay marriage. I believe that Republicans would rather focus on gay marriage than divorce because they don't want to call attention to how they destroyed their own marriages.
  6. Kerry opposed lopsided tax cuts that have helped create our record deficit, which we will eventually have to pay down.
  7. His amendment to the 1993 Crime Control bill that helped put 100,000 police officers on the street. This is a good thing.
  8. Kerry immediately embraced the findings of the 911 commission, rather than first rejecting it, then embracing it, like the Bush administration. I believe that the recommendations of the bipartisan commision should be implemented.
  9. He does not support certain provisions of the Patriot Act that would allow the federal government unprecedented access to intrude on the lives of private citizens. The feds should stay away from my library records. I do not support all of the provisions of the Patriot Act, including this one.
  10. Kerry has been more realistic regarding the cost of the war and the likelihood of casualties, and has been willing to admit mistakes rather than pretend they don’t exist.

John Kerry is widely regarded as an expert in foreign policy whose legacy includes investigations into U.S government's corrupt support of rebels in Nicaragua, government drug trafficking in Panama, and missing American POWs in Vietnam. I believe Kerry will have more credibility in his work with foreign leaders than George Bush, and I favor his philosophy of maintaining aliances throughout the world. He has also demonstrated a willingness to cross party lines, as he cosponsored the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings balanced budget and deficit reduction bill.

Although John Kerry is not my ideal candidate as I don't agree with him 100% on all of the issues, I believe he will be a better president than George Bush. Therefore, I hereby formally endorse John F. Kerry for President of the United States. Godspeed John!

UPDATE: Here's another to add to the list, the Bush campaign celebrating the release of a video showing Osama bin Laden alive and well, and threatening the United States. A GOP strategist called the terrorist tape "a little gift." From the article:

"We want people to think 'terrorism' for the last four days," said a Bush-Cheney campaign official. "And anything that raises the issue in people's minds is good for us."

They want Americans to cower in fear? Are Bush supporters not disturbed by this? Or is there a way to effectively spin the Bush campaign's elation over Osama's vigor and determination? This is not an administration I trust to keep me safe, and I will not reward its incompetence.


Tuesday October 19, 2004

To scan an acorn

Bet you never thought to do it, but Michelle did... that silly girl.


Monday October 18, 2004

The curse of Manny Ramirez

Once upon a time I was a shameless baseball fanatic. I lived for the Tribe. I breathed for the Tribe. I might have died for the Tribe should someone have requested I do so. All through high school, I missed nary a televised game. Each day I could have done a full recap of the previous night's match up, complete with inning-by-inning accounts of the stike outs, line drives, and 6-4-3 double plays. It was seasonal psychosis at its best.

Manny Ramirez, power-hitter extraordinaire, was my obsession. As a 16 year-old, I truly believed that I was the right-fielder's biggest fan. And I mean his BIGGEST fan. I scoured local sports shops for all of the Ramirez baseball cards I could find. I'm not sure how many I have, but my collection is pretty extensive. I've got jerseys, plaques, and autographs... His whole life story is etched in my brain. I was, in a word, hooked.

A few years ago my favorite right fielder decided to wave goodbye to Cleveland and run toward the riches of the New England coast. Today, Money, er... Manny Ramirez is a proud member of the Boston Red Sox. Instead of hitting homers at the Jake, he's swinging at the Green Monster. Whatever. He claimed at the time that all he wanted was the ring --after two trips to the World Series with the Indians, the title still eluded him (and the rest of us Clevelanders). So he said Boston would give him the best chance to win, but in reality, it was that big, fat paycheck that lured him away. He hadn't fooled any of us.

Since he left, I stopped following Manny's career. Why keep up with that little treacherous bastard? (Okay, that was uncalled for...) I just haven't cared since he waved Cleveland the proverbial finger. But I still love baseball, which is why it's so hard for me to deal with post-seasons like this one. Right now, Manny and the Sox are facing the Yanks for American League bragging rights, and I want both teams to lose. I hate the Yankees because they're, well... the Yankees. And I hate Boston because Manny is one of them. I feel cursed.

However this series turns out, I hope the National League teams kicks some butt when Boston or New York comes around their way. Grrrrr.


Sunday October 17, 2004

Whoa, Nelly... nominated?

I've been nominated for the most humorous blog award at Superblessed. What? Me, funny? Nah, couldn't be. Oh, but it is. Wow, I'm truly honored. I've been blogging for three and a half years now, and have never been nominated for anything. Thanks, Ganns.


Friday October 15, 2004

You're lucky, dummy

All too often I spend my days complaining about my life and worrying about my problems. I've asked myself, Why me? more times than I really care to admit. Seriously, why can't I look like Gwen Stefani? Where is my shoe closet? And how come I drive a crappy '96 Cavalier... When will Xzibit pimp my ride?

Every time I look around me and see other people enjoying all of the fabulous things that I don't have, I look back at my life and feel like I'm missing out. My stuff is just so undesirable in comparison. While my friends are out driving their cherry-polished, chrome-plated thrones, I roll in my former rental car, which, by the way, has no air conditioning or power windows. Woe is me.

Yes, woe is me. Poor Drina, who lives not like Paris Hilton. Of course, I really do have problems that could justify some whining. My friends, family, and myself have dealth with illness, alcoholism, death. These things aren't easy. But when I sit back and look at my life... really look at myself, I realize what an incredibly ungrateful bastard I really am. Here I sit, a first-generation college graduate, whose parents are still married, has lifelong childhood friends, sits at a computer everyday, and owns her own car.

Not everyone in the world owns a car, you know. Yeah, shocker. Actually, most people don't. While people all over the world hike miles a day, I complain about my ride.

What else do I have to feel fortunate over? That I have a roof over my head. And I have the greatest pet in the world, Fat Bastard. And I have some degree of intelligence (although this may still be in dispute). And I own books. I can read. My parents tolerate me. I have a grandmother who makes really awesome cookies. And she takes my side whenever my mom nags me about something. There are people who read my blog everyday --I have an audience for all of these rants of mine!

Okay, more? I have two working legs, and I don't have to depend on anyone to move me out of bed in the morning. Unless of course I've been up all night wired on Starbucks. But in most cases I stand on my own two feet. I've never had surgery. All of my broken bones have healed themselves (isn't that extraordinary?) and my heart beats on its own.

I don't think I have enough space to list all of the things that make my life completely and utterly kick-ass. I can see. There's another one.

Keeping things in perspective is hard for me, especially with all the daily teases reminding me of the many things I do not have. But it's important to try, because I easily forget that most of the people in the world aren't like me. They aren't as lucky, and they aren't as rich, at least in the material sense. And forgetting about them takes away any opportunities to help them out when they need it, which makes my fortune a wasted one.

So, in an effort to be more mindful of my great fortune, I've decided to name one thing each day that has made me really lucky. Of course, this resolution will probably go the same way as have most of my diets, so don't expect more than three days worth of added thankfulness. But as I said before, it's important to try to remember these things. And today, I'm adding artistic creation to that list. You?


Thursday October 14, 2004

Another debate night

My father and I watched part of last night's debate between the two main presidential candidates at home. It was another great one in which both candidates did very, very well. Of course, I believe personally that Senator Kerry easily won the debate on both style and substance, but I doubt anyone will be terribly surprised by my take.

Kerry brought up some great points, and I especially liked his reference about faith without works being dead. Talking about being religious may score big points with some crowds, but unless Bush's proclamations are consistent with his actions, no one outside of the most fundamentalist circles will take his word. And after sadistically mocking a Texas death row inmate pleading for her life, I don't buy his claim of being a compassionate conservative.

Bush also made no friends in the Vurbic household by denying his own statements on Osama bin Laden. Kerry quoted the President saying, "I just don't spend that much time on him," and "I truly am not that concerned about him." Bush called this accusation one of Kerry's exaggerations, yet the quotes were found on the Whitehouse's own website. Go figure.

Although entertaining, the debate changed no one's mind in my family. I'm still as supportive of John Kerry now as I was before the debate. At some point in the near future I'm going to act like I write a newspaper editorial and make a formal endorsement, outlining point by point why I'm voting for Kerry this year. Your job is to act like you care, and either write messages of support or verbally condemn me to the recesses of the great inferno. Just pretend to be interested, okay?


Wednesday October 13, 2004

Web-based epiphanies

I love those kind of A Ha! moments that catch you off guard when you've finally realized the solution to a problem that's been plaguing you forever. And after the brief high wears off, you start kicking yourself for not having made the very same (and very simple) realiztion much earlier. Today, I had one of those moments, and now I'm kicking myself for not realizing before why my website was taking an abnormally long time to load the last few months. I finally got it. And I fixed it. And I hope you guys are happy.

In case anyone is curious, it has to do with javascripts housed inside those pesky tables. May God bless my newly edited cascading style sheet.


Tuesday October 12, 2004

President Match

I had to admit, I took the test. Not that I thought I'd be surprised by my results, but I wanted to see just how the percentages came out. The AOL President Match Guide let me see how the candidates stack up.

No surprises here


Monday October 11, 2004

Preemptive benevolence

It's hard to find any compassion or mercy in a society that plants its roots in the soil of preemptive war. And I used that analogy intentionally because preemptive war is very, very dirty. The We'll kill them because they may at some point in the future possibly try to investigate methods of creating the same kinds of weapons we stockpile by the hundreds of thousands attitude is inconsistent with our purpose as human beings. Preemptive war destroys much and protects little. It inspires a never-ending crop of terrorists that rises up to replace the ones that were taken out. And the irreplaceable innocents whose lives are cut short are simply labeled "colateral damage." This is the world we live in.

Years ago a modern mystic wrote of the violence she saw in her future. Somehow, she knew her life would be cut short by an aggressive act of evil. Less than a year before her untimely death at the age of 17, she wrote in her journal an entry full of thanksgiving for her brief time on Earth. And on April 20th, 1999, she was murdered by her classmates during her lunch hour at Columbine High School.

Now here's the kicker:

Those who knew Rachel Joy Scott would tell you that while her friends organized themselves into fashionable cliques, Rachel cared only about initiating a chain reaction of kindness that would someday change the world. Even though she knew her life was nearly over, she did not harbor any hatred for her killers. She was not obsessed with preemptively thwarting their efforts by waging her own act of violence. The only thing she wanted to do was show people kindness in the hopes that it would profoundly change their lives, and that they would in turn pass on their good fortune.

How utterly un-American.

This absurd proposal (and I mean absurd according to contemporary rationality, not divine wisdom) has moved people to live compassionately the way no civic law, loaded weapon, or maladjusted televangelist could possibly hope to do. Millions of people around the world continue to carry on the mission of this slain high school student. So in honor of Rachel Joy Scott, who would now be 23 years-old if not for the Columbine massacre, go out of your way today to show kindness to someone who would probably like to kick your ass. As Rachel knew knows very well, a gun can only end a life, but kindness can profoundly change it.

Something to chew on: But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Luke 6:27


Sunday October 10, 2004

Rampant election year immaturity

Two Kerry/Edwards lawn signs were stolen from homes across the street over the night. One of them was taken from Sophie, a 90 year-old woman who lives by herself. Luckily, my family's sign remains untouched. That's most likely due to the entire city of Euclid fearing the wrath of my father, whose Bosnian temper and appreciation for civilian corporal punishment make him a force to be reckoned with. A few weeks ago I bought an extra sign to prepare for the inevitable onslought of election year property theft, so I'm giving it to Sophie. The immaturity of stealing political signs from the elderly astounds me.


Saturday October 09, 2004

Signs of the end

The end is coming. There are signs everywhere pointing to it. It's absolutely inevitable. And no, I'm not talking about the end of the world. People have been predicting that for several millenia now, and I'm no fan of Left Behind. I'm talking about my beautiful Fatty McFatterson.

Fat Bastard is my pet rat. From the day I brought him home he's been my partner in crime. He lounges next to my keyboard, eats all of my leftovers, and rolls on his back when we play. But Fatty, having celebrated his second birthday last month, is an old man. Rats don't live very long. They might get three years if they're born with good genes and taken care of extremely well.

Fatty has been taken care of, but after three rounds of antibiotics for his respiratory infection, he's been slowing down. His hair is getting a little yellower; he sleeps a little longer; eats a little less. I have no doubt he'll be around until Thanksgiving, but after that it's anyone's guess. He just may be on his way out.

I don't know what I'll do without Fatty snatching stray dollar bills from my purse and hoarding them on my bookshelf (or is it his bookshelf?) or curling up my sweatshirt for a nap. I don't know. I'll miss ya, buddy.


Friday October 08, 2004

Conflicted about Saint Anthony?

A few weeks ago my dad started nagging me to go with him to evaluate a five-foot tall Catholic statue in need of repair. He's a shrine keeper, and is responsible for restoring it. Ever so sensitive to the different specialties of studio art, he drafted me into doing the job even though I've never so much as touched a statue before.

I draw. I paint. I don't deal with plaster and concrete. But my dad doesn't care too much about that. So last week he brought me to the shrine to have a look. It was some saint holding the infant Christ, the latter of which had bright blue eyes and flowing blonde hair. I had to ask myself, who on this Earth believes Christ had blue eyes and blonde hair? (Answer: the Germans, circa 1940). And who paints statues? It's so... kitchy.

After determining that its stucture was light enough for the two of us to move, we hauled it home so that I could begin working. I slapped on some paint stripper, which removed one layer of paint and two layers of skin. My lungs are now lined with stray dust particles from the chalky plaster, and I accidentally broke two fingers off the Aryan Christ's right hand. It's not going well, and it will likely be a few more weeks before I can start repainting. Who the heck paints statues anyway?

I do, now.

This whole process makes me really uncomfortable, and not just because I'm stricly a two-dimensional artist with no sculpture experience. I don't like statues, at least not the Catholic kind flanked by padded kneelers. And this is one of those statues.

A lont time has passed since I last gazed into the eyes of a plaster Jesus or conrete Mary and felt that it had any kind of divine value. And those years have changed the way I feel about them playing such a huge role in my former faith. Statues are man-made objects, many of which are mass-produced in factories and sold at many times the production value. As I see it, that's all they are. They're no more sacred than my left shoe.

Of course, many people use them just as a reminder of God's existence, or perhaps even less religiously as a form of asthetic gratification. But for the most fundamental of Catholics, such is not the case. Why the adoration? These aren't people; they're not divine beings. They're lifeless, stone objects created according to man's fancy. America Needs Fatima says the statues are needed for "the urgent work of taking Our Lady’s blessings into the lives of as many Americans as possible." But are they really?

What will God do in the presence of a statue (crucifix, holy water, etc.) that he wouldn't do without it?

I guess this is one of the many things that leaves me at odds with Catholicism. And being the daughter of a Catholic fundamentalist (who subscribes to America Needs Fatima, by the way) forces me to think about these things almost daily.

Don't get my wrong, I'm not making a case for idolatry here. I don't think my mom kneels before her home statue collection because she believes that these things are gods themselves. I know she doesn't. But she does kneel before them, behaving as though a spirit somehow dwells inside it. This I see more as a product of our psychological urge to make the unseen seen, not actual object-worship. But faith is by definition believing in the unseen. What is the purpose of recreating religious heroes in plaster and concrete if you have faith?

The answer, I believe, is that there is no real purpose other than our own human desire to see tangible stand-ins. And this is what I'm thinking about as I sand the 150-pound centerpeice of the local Saint Anthony shrine (aha! It's Saint Anthony!). Hopefully in a month's time my dad and I will have moved it out of the garage and back to its grotto. Until then I'll just have to keep sanding and painting (ugh) because that's my job.

No matter how conflicted I feel, I have to finish what I started. A 63 year-old Croatian man watching CNN in the living room is going to make sure of it. Who says the draft has been discarded?


Thursday October 07, 2004

Je n'ai pas voté pour lui non plus

I read on Daily Kos today that a small American retail label that sells some of their messanger bags and briefcases in France has been adding a concilliatory note to their washing instructions labels, which are printed in both English and French. The French instructions carry an added phrase, "Nous sommes desoles que notre president soit un idiot. Nous n'avons pas vote pour lui," trasnlated in English as "We are sorry that our President is an idiot. We did not vote for him."

Although a little mean spirited, these are, to quote Kos, my sentiments exactly. I think I'm going to buy a Tom Bihn messenger bag. And send his employees some home made cookies.


Wednesday October 06, 2004

A cure for insomnia

I've never been an easy sleeper. Most of my nights are spent either tossing and turning, or ruminating for hours over everything I can possibly think of. I'm a worrier, and I do most of my worrying at night. In years past, I've tried many a remedy for this dreadful insomnia to no avail; warm milk and sleeping pills only make me drowsy, not unconscious. So insomnia is a huge problem for me.

The last few nights I've been plagued with a string of severe bouts of sleeplessness. More of that tossing and turning and ruminating I just mentioned. I've given up long ago trying to get rid of my insomnia, and I deal with it now by keeping myself busy. So after the second night of insomnia this week, I snatched up my digital camera and started snapping. On the third night I took my pictures and started messing around with Photoshop. And the fourth night was spent writing html for a new layout. And here I am on the fifth night; my vision is dancing from staring at my monitor for so long and I'm desperately sleepy.

I have a feeling that unconsciousness just may happen, thanks to this new layout for sonafide.com. Of course, there are more things I have to do. I know there are spelling mistakes and coding errors. There always are, no matter how many times you check before publishing. Something isn't going to work right. But really, I don't care. I'm too sleepy. And now I'm off to bed. Night night.


Tuesday October 05, 2004

Party! Party! Party! Woo

Happy Birthday Stephanie


Sunday October 03, 2004

The Gospel Experiment

Mike Todd has started an online push to help World Vision that he's calling The Gospel Experiment. Inspired by the video for Sarah McLaughlin's song World On Fire, Mike has started the Gospel Experiment to see how many people surfing through the blogosphere will turn their sympathy into action and contribute ten Canadian dollars ($8.14 American) to World Vision. You can find the link to the Gospel Experiment's Paypal account on his website. It's time not to think about it, but do it. Going to donate??


Saturday October 02, 2004

Murphy's (Wedding) Law

After having her dress maker ruin her wedding gown beyond repair 48 hours before the big day, and being left stranded by her limo bus driver who failed to pick up the wedding party on their way to the church, and being greeted by blistering rain at the chapel doors, my friend Karen Murphy finally said I do. After all of the drama, the day could have been a complete disaster (darn that last name) but after the vows were said, the rest of the festivities went off without a hitch. Thank God almighty.

The reception was a joyous celebration held in a ballroom-style party hall that had my family seated right next to the bar. The folks were thrilled. Everyone in attendance had a great time dancing to oldies tunes and Mambo Number 5 (though I have to admit, all-American weddings are aren't nearly as raucus and exciting as Croatian ones). I also enjoyed myself, even though my 3-inch mary jane heels were giving me fits all night. Chubby girls just don't belong on heels.

As usual, I had my digital camera handy, though it didn't handle well in the dimly lit hall. I did manage to score plenty of good pictures of my family getting intoxicated, though. This makes for great blackmail material, I must say, which is just one of the perks of being a perpetual designated driver -you get to gather evidence of everyone else looking stupid. Don't let anyone ever tell you there's no fun in sobriety... if I hadn't been sipping Sprite all night, I might have missed Dan and Kyong doing leap-frog on the dance floor. Priceless.


Friday October 01, 2004

Debates: Round one

My father and I watched part of the debate last night between John Kerry and George Bush, half expecting the side-by-side press conference to sound like nothing more than a 90 minute barrage of month-old soundbites. We were also hoping to hear a few gaffes and goofs, something to make it interesting. What we got was no real misspeaks, but an actual debate that engaged us throughout the 90 minutes.

We were also both thrilled by Senator Kerry's performance. He was very tough (and very presidential). As my dad said, it was like "vatching de teacher vit de student." I hope last night's debate helped some undecided voters get a clearer picture of the differences between the two candidates. And if it swayed them the right way (or, the left way, more appropriately) then it was an even greater success.

One debating tactic that neither my father nor I appreciated was the accusation that Kerry has been sending mixed messages to our terrorist enemies by saying that the war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. Bush did, after all, say on August 30th that it is impossible to win the war on terror, then retracted his statement the next day by declaring not only is it possible, but that the United States is also winning it. And in the past he has stated that he is truly not that concerned with Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11th attacks, and doesn't spend much time on him. These are as mixed as messages can get. I hope the undecided viewers picked up on that.

Kudos to both Kerry and Bush for maintaining civility throughout the night, and acknowledging the kindness of each other's families. The compliments seemed really genuine.

Rasberries to Fox News for tampering with the debate pictures to make their guy look taller.

And happy 80th birthday to former president Jimmy Carter. You've been an inspiration in your unceasing work for promoting peace, human rights and Christian charity. We love you!


Condensed biography

Drina What I love:
2. Psychology
3. Gilmore Girls
4. Maria
5. Chin's Pagoda
6. Target
7. Rats
8. Emo/screamo
9. Jim Wallis
10. More...

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