Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dorothy Stratton

Yesterday I was reading the newspaper and came to the obituaries page. In the lowest left hand corner there was mention of a Dorothy Stratton, age 107 dying. Because of her age, I read it…and was blown away.

Let me just list the accomplishments on Ms. Stratton:

  • Graduated from Ottawa University in 1920 and received her Master's degree from the University of Chicago.
  • Received a Ph.D. from Columbia University.
  • Taught at public high schools in Brookfield, Missouri, Renton, Washington and San Bernardino, California.
  • Purdue University: dean of women and assistant professor of psychology.
  • Served on the selection board for the Women's Army Corps V Corps area.
  • Took a leave of absence from Purdue in 1942 and joined the WAVES, and was commissioned a lieutenant.
  • In late 1942, she was ordered to Washington, DC to the office of the Commandant of the Coast Guard to organize the Coast Guard Women's Reserve, and was transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard.
  • She came up with the name SPARS using a contraction of the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus and its English translation Always Ready. She was appointed its first director with a rank of lieutenant commander. Stratton continued in the post until 1946 and rose to the rank of captain. As director, she oversaw over 10,000 enlisted women and 1,000 commissioned officers. She left the Coast Guard in 1946 when the SPARS were demobilized. For her service she was awarded the Legion of Merit.
  • Served as director of personnel for the International Monetary Fund (1947 - 1950).
  • In 1950, she became national executive director of the Girl Scouts of the USA, a post she held until 1960.

Talk about being a role model.

Rest in peace, Dorothy.

[This is not Dorothy Stratton, the playboy model murdered in the 1980s’s.]

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bias in journalism

There are so many things I would like to post about.

Everyday something happens that makes me think: I need to post about that.

The other day it was the frustration over articles in the newspaper. I was shocked at how subjective things are. Perhaps I am overly sensitive to certain things, but I found the wording in this paragraph about the WTC rebuilding efforts lacking in objectivity (you have to register to read the article):

The players who have helped shape that effort include family members of the victims: a governor, George Pataki, with an unblinking eye on the White House and his legacy; a shameless developer, Larry Silverstein; a master planner, Libeskind, with a remarkable talent for compromising self-preservation; and a giant bureaucracy, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Okay, the part that annoyed me? It was the “shameless developer” part.

There was no other mention of Silverstein in the whole paragraph explaining why the article’s author, Christopher Hawthorne, considers him “shameless”, just the declaration that he is. The other two in the paragraph came off a little better, and Hawthorne elaborated on them a little more either in that paragraph or in the rest of the article. But Silverstein was only mentioned once, and just remained the “shameless developer”. Why? Well perhaps Hawthorne was looking for a description for Silverstein, and just thought…hmmm, what adjective is most often associated with a developer? Ah, “capitalist scum”…hmmm, can’t write that. How about “shameless”? Yes, it’s like saying a “yellow banana” or “carefree child.”

This is just a tiny example of subjectivity in journalism, and it scares me how this author’s opinion might slant his reporting on other issues.

For all I know Silverstein is a shameless developer, and from what I know about the WTC rebuilding efforts, he probably is. However, it just seemed really out of place in the article, and it reminded me of how biased and irresponsible American journalism is becoming.

Some people...

When a loved one is deployed it is an emotional rollercoaster that is difficult to comprehend, if you haven't gone through it yourself.

If people aren't killing you with their pity, it's their complete lack of sensitivity.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I drove a forklift

Yes, I did.

I am loving my new job. It's all very confusing and overwhelming at times, but it's very interesting and I am learning a lot.

I am also finding out that you don't have a lot of spare time in the real world. My second week of work I went to bed at 9pm on a Monday. I was shocked. Goodbye student hours, hello real world.

Being back in the US is still a huge novelty for me. And the weather...*sigh*...Southern California is just fabulous.

Life is good.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Decision to Live

Sarah wrote an interesting post examining the behavior of terrorists’ hostages, and expressing her hope that if she were taken hostage, she wouldn’t bow to the terrorists and claim to convert to Islam or beg for her release, but instead she hoped she’d
stand up for what she believes in “and show the enemy how an American dies.”

I too have always admired Fabrizio Quattrocchi for the words he screamed before being executed by his captors: “Now I'll show you how an Italian dies." It was an amazing sign of courage. With those last words, he managed to destroy any kind of propaganda value of the footage of his execution; instead the terrorists just became snuff film producers. I am surprised they even released the footage, considering how embarrassing the message was to their cause: even when faced with certain death, Quattrocchi refused to bow to the terrorists. He wasn’t scared. They were never going to be the masters of his fate. Even though he died at their hands, he wasn’t going to let them “own” him or even take responsibility for his killing. With those last words, he took back his life. He died fighting terrorism, but he didn’t lose to terrorism.

Marianne Pearl writes a monthly article for Glamour magazine, and wrote of her husband’s bravery during his captivity, how he smiled when they filmed him with a gun to his head and never really lost himself during his captivity, never caving in. She has also been a beacon of hope in many ways, vowing to live her life honoring Daniel’s death. When their son was born a few months after Daniel’s brutal and very public murder, the photo released showing her glowing face next to their newborn’s, was a slap in the face to any message of fear her husband’s murderers were trying to convey.

I don’t know how I would behave if abducted. It reminds me of that old anecdote about a dinner discussion over prostitution. At an uppity dinner party a woman says she how vile she finds prostitution, and her conversation partner, and older and quite dashing man asks: “well, would you spend the evening with me for a million dollars?” And she laughed, responding that she would consider it. And then he asked: “Well, would you sleep with that man over there for $10?” And she exclaimed: “Never! Do you think I am a whore?” To which he responded: “Well, we have already established that you are, but now we are trying to find out your price.”

And that is how I view peoples’ behavior in captivity of hostages. I think everyone has their price. A threshold beyond which their values can be for sale. For some the price is lower than others. For Quattrocchi, his life wasn’t worth giving up his values. The Pearls and Quattrocchis of this world are an inspiration, but I really don’t know what my threshold is.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back Home

After an absence of about 9 and a half years, I am finally back home.

I went through immigration and had a heart palpitation moment: the officer asked me how long I had been out of the US, and I said since mid-January. He frowned and said that was over 6 months, and I agreed, yes, it indeed was. And he stated that he was actually supposed to take my Greencard from me if I am gone longer than 6 months. I don’t know if this is true or not, I know that before it used to be 11 months or more. So the 6 month thing must be new. But he said, he wouldn’t, but just for future reference, if I were to be gone longer than 6 months in the future, I should apply for a special allowance.

I was a little annoyed by this: if they did change the limit, how are Greencard holders supposed to find out about this? I am sure it is posted somewhere online, but other than checking the Homeland Security site every 2 weeks, I think it is absurd to expect people to know the regulations changes.

This is why I think he was lenient with enforcing the rule. But for a few seconds there I thought I might be entering America on a 6 week tourist visa.

But it is kind of exciting that now that I am back in America, I can start the naturalization progress. In five years I can be an American citizen (you need 5 years of consecutive residency, which I have botched up since living in Europe. Also I left when I was 17, a year before I was able to apply for citizenship).

I mentioned this to my mother last night, and she said, she thinks she will also apply for citizenship. It makes me laugh, because she has been living in the US since the mid-60s. So after about 40 years she wants to become an American. I love it! Maybe we can do it together, and have a joint Naturalization Party!

Other than that, I am very happy to be back home. The temperatures in the Valley are rediculously warm compared to Germany, and I am so glad to be back in the region of pretty predictable warm weather.

On another note, I was reminded that I was also back in the country of somewhat absurdities. As I have jet-lag, I woke up to watch some TV, and saw the most repulsive commercial. Many may correctly guess that it was for a medication. But this was more perverse than the usual, “PeptoBismol, for when you have overindulged” commercial. Nope it as far worse: “Diurex, so you can fit into your skinny jeans!”