Wednesday, June 30, 2010

13 days till we close

house picture o' the day:

The deck on the side of the house. The deck opens up onto the driveway, and we'll prolly be using this door as the entrance to our house instead of the actual front door. I'm thinking this may be a good place to hang out when grading papers. I'm also thinking some sort of porch swing may be in order...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Top 10 things I WILL miss when I move

Two weeks from today we will be driving down south for the closing of our house (Which is 2 weeks from tomorrow!!!). Our mortgage has gotten it's final approval, so all we have to do now is wire an obscene amount of money over to our attorney for the downpayment and closing costs. After the closing we'll be coming back up north, spend about a week packing up whatever is left, cleaning our apartment, and loading up some pod things, and then we'll drive down one last time with all our pets.

We still have a pretty big list of things to do moving-wise, but many are things we can't even do yet (apparently you can't cancel your cable service in advance you have to wait till 2 weeks before you move cause comcast is a bunch of bastards). Mostly I've been sorting through things and putting lots of stuff out on the curb, and packing up the non-essentials. I finished packing the books yesterday- and we have about 20 boxes in total (but at least half of those go to my office). We also took apart my old bed frame and put that outside yesterday (it was gone within an hour). Today I started on the kitchen stuff that we don't use frequently.

Anyways, without further ado, 10 things I will miss about living here:

1. The music scene
The city I live in has a great music scene, and I've taken full advantage. Since moving here 6 years ago I've been to over 90 shows, the vast majority of which were small local bands in small local venues. For a few years when I was single I went to a show nearly every weekend.

2. My festival friends
This is related to the first- by participating in this music scene I've met a great many people, and I count many among my good friends. At a Phish show I went to the other week I ran into at least 20-30 people that I know. Down south there will still be music festivals, but I know that in the northeast if I went to any music festival that involves jam band music, I am guaranteed to run into someone I know- and usually someone I know and LIKE and who I have hung out with before. And at every festival I go up here, I have a built-in group of people I can camp with and have a great time with. Not so in the south. They have festivals there, yes, but I don't have a group of festival friends built up there. I can and likely will build up a new one, but that will take a few years- I've been hanging with my current group for 7 years, and I know them pretty well, and I'll miss them.

3. The sunflowers on my block
there are 3 places near my house that grow sunflowers, and I like walking to visit the sunflowers with barkley. It's a little thing, I know, and I can grow my own sunflowers, but these are just particular sunflowers that I have visited regularly for the last few years, and I'll miss them. Fortunately the heat wave we've been having brought on a few early blooms this year so I got to see them again before I leave

4. My officemate
Some people might see it as a good thing to move into an office by themselves, but I always work better when my office mate is around- having someone who can look over my shoulder makes me less likely to mess around on my computer when I should be working. Plus my officemate is super cool and is great to bounce ideas off of. And he's German, and his wife still lives in Germany so he goes to visit her quite often, and always brings me back German chocolate.

5. Food Trucks
My school's campus has an amazing assortment of food trucks where you can get incredible food for really cheap- including the standard egg sandwiches, but also chinese, vegetarian, crepes, indian food, korean food, japanese food, greek food, mexican food, and there is even a cupcake truck that only sells cupcakes. My favorite is the greek special from the vegetarian truck- feta cheese, olive and balsamic salad with a piece of spanakopita and 3 stuffed grape leaves. I also really like this egg truck where I get a egg white and cheese sandwich on whole wheat nearly every morning- and they already know my order when I get there.

6. Sidewalks
My neighborhoods has lots of sidewalks, my new neighborhood has none at all! But the streets are very quiet, so it prolly won't be so bad.

7. The crazy garden of the lady down the block.
My neighborhood is made up of old Victorian rowhouses, each of which has a small garden plot out front that's about 8 feet by 8 feet. One of my neighbors has filled her plot up with an incredible collection of flowers, that bloom during every season. Last year she started expanding the garden to those little strips of grass they have between the sidewalk and the street - she started planting more flowers up and down the street in front of some of the houses that have renters and/or are empty.

this isn't that garden, this is my neighbor's veggie garden.

8. being close to my friends
Actually, most of my close friends don't live in the same city as me anymore. But I'm only 2 hours from home, so I have lots of friends/my brother who come visit on a semi-regularly basis. It'll be a lot harder to visit when I'm 10 hours away instead of 2 hours away. :(

9.My local coffee shop
Best bagels in town! I lived less than a block from this place when I first moved here, and when I moved I purposefully moved within walking distance. They are the only place I've found that has GOOD bagels, and they usually run out of them by around 10am. When I first moved here it was a very small convenience store with great coffee and bagels, a few years ago it got bought by someone else, and now they have fancy pastries and fancier coffee instead of the convenience part. But it's still great. I usually walk barkley there, and they have a little hitching post with a bowl of water next to it for tying up your dog while you go inside.

10. being a student
yeah, i suppose it had to come to an end at some point. Counting Kindergarden and Pre-k, I've been a student for 24 years. It has it's drawbacks, but it also is pretty awesome- discounts on movies, being able to take off pretty much whenever, not working full time hours...yeah I'll miss it. Profs still have a pretty flexible schedule (other than classes and meetings) but as they can work any 70 hours of the week.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

discrimination against atheists

It's weird how I switched from a religion with a major persecution complex to religious views that are actually discriminated against. As a jewish person I never suffered from clear discrimination. There is nothing I think I can't do due to me being jewish at this point in the US. Yes, my house got egged when I was a kid cause the neighbor kid next door was an anti semetic douche, but I never felt as if my opportunities were actually restricted due to my religious views.

Today in Philadelphia the boy scouts won the right to continue renting land from the city at the dirt cheap rate of $1 a year. The city was trying to kick them off their land (or start charging them real rent) because the Boy Scouts' policy on not accepting homosexuals violates municipal anti-discrimination laws. The jury decided this was an infringement on freedom of speech. I think the city has a right to rent or not rent to anyone they want, that they should have the right to not rent their land to private companies that violate their anti-discrimination laws, and I hope they appeal this decision.

But that's not really the point of this post. The point is, I think everyone knows that boy scouts don't let gay people in at this point. But in one of the article comments, someone mentioned that atheists and agnostics can't join the group either. That I hadn't previously known about. So I went over to wikipedia to check it out and found this:

The Boy Scouts of America's position is that atheists and agnostics cannot participate as Scouts (youth members) or Scouters (adult leaders) in its traditional Scouting programs. According to the Bylaws of the BSA, Declaration of Religious Principle:

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members."[6]

During the membership application process and as a requirement to obtain membership, youths and adults are required to subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to agree to abide by the Scout Oath and Law, which include the words, "do my duty to God" and "reverent". Youths are also required to repeat the Scout Oath and Law periodically after being accepted as Scouts. The BSA believes that atheists and agnostics are not appropriate role models of the Scout Oath and Law for boys, and thus will not accept such adults as leaders

So the rule is that gay people can't be LEADERS in the boy scouts. But apparently, atheists and agnostics can't be leaders OR scouts. So that seems even worse! But no one gives a crap about that part of the rules apparently, because people don't think about atheists as a discriminated-against group that merits protection?

I'm sure there are other examples things that you can't do if you're an atheist (that you can do when you're jewish). One example I can think of offhand is that one of the steps of alcoholics anonymous is that you have to accept a higher power (AKA god)- so atheists can't really take part in alcoholics anonymous (or they can, but not to the same extent- and I would be super uncomfortable joining that kind of program, presuming I needed that kind of help). I checked the internet, and apparently there are a few non-god-centric alcoholic support groups/programs, but they are extremely rare and it's hard to find meetings for them.

So two services that are not available to atheists: your kids can't join the boy scouts and it's harder to get help if you're an alcoholic. What other examples can you think of? FFTA in the comments.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In unsurprising news....

A new study examined the brains of religious Pentecostal Christians and what happened to their brains when they heard a prayer spoken by a regular christian, a non-christian, and a "healer." (they were all actually just spoken by regular christians)

Meanwhile, when they were listening to prayers that they thought were spoken by regular people not much happened. But for the religious folks (but not the non-religious folks):

Parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, which play key roles in vigilance and skepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say, were deactivated when the subjects listened to a supposed healer.

So when this group of people were told that someone with special spiritual powers (rabbi's anyone?) was saying something, the parts of their brain that are responsible for skepticism SHUT OFF. Now that explains a how my mother, who is one of the most skeptical people I know 95% of the time, just seems to have a giant hole in her skepticism when it comes to anything her rabbi says. She seems to have passed the skepticism on to me, but not the belief part. Maybe it's genetic- I just don't have the brain for religiosity.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things I am soo looking forward to once we move:

Top 10 things that will be awesome about our new house that are major annoyances in my life right now:

1. Central Air! These stupid window units don't do shit! Also Air conditioning in our bedroom! Right now we have a fan aimed at the bed. I can't sleep as well when something is blowing on me, but when it's not blowing directly on us, it's hot as balls. We can't have an AC in the bedroom cause there are bars on the window (although we can have AC in the living room and office cause we have those air conditioning bars on the windows in those rooms).

2. A washer and dryer without having to go outside! Right now we have to go outside to our backyard to get into the basement. When it snows we have to dig out the basement door to do laundry. Sometimes, if it snowed a few days ago, the door will be completely frozen over. Of course there is no back door to the house..we have to go out the front door and navigate the glass and trash filled alley to get there! And don't pay too close attention to what you're stepping on, cause you can easily bang your head on those air conditioning bars that stick out into the narrow alley!

3. Not having to dry my clothes 3x to get them dry! Not only do we have to go outside to do laundry, right now our bullshit washing machine doesn't actually spin during the spin cycle, so our clothes come out sopping wet and need to be dried 3x or else it stays damp forever and sometimes starts smelling like mildew. The landlord doesn't believe this happens cause once 2 years ago he did a cycle with 1 towel and "everything worked perfectly." So he basically refuses to replace it. I've been dealing with this bullshit for approximately 3 years, and it sucks. Especially since every time we want to put another dry cycle on, that's another trip down the alley to the backyard.

4. Not having to save up/go to the bank to get quarters for the washer and dryer! One wash cycle + 3 dry cycles @ 1.50 per cycle= $6 in quarters for every load of laundry. That's 24 goddamn quarters per load.

5. A dishwasher that actually washes the dishes! Ours can make them really hot, but won't clean anything. Also it occasionally leaks all over the kitchen floor for some mysterious reason.

6. A full sized modern refrigerator! Our is like 3/4th sized now and is really old so needs to be defrosted frequently or else the tiny freezer turns into a solid block of ice and paradoxically stops cooling all the rest of the food, which then spoils much quicker than is normal. This gets especially bad in the summers when the humidity in this city is unbearable.

7. Toilets that actually flush all the way the first time! Ours need to be flushed at least twice.

8. Not having to walk Barkley 6-9 times a day!! We will have a fenced in backyard so we can just let him out to pee! Is it weird that nearly every morning I day dream about being able to just get up to let Barkley out the back door? The back door which is (awesomely) right next to the master bedroom in our new house!

9. Being able to set up B's office right next to the living room! so we don't have to yell at each other back and forth all the time! Right now his office is all the way in the back of the house and the living room (where I hang out with my laptop) is all the way in the front of the house (There's a twisty hallway and a bedroom and bathroom in between), so we end up yelling back and forth and not hearing half the things we say. Which really annoys both of us. Especially B. :)

10. A driveway!!! Not having to wander around for half an hour looking for parking any time we come home after 8pm! Not having to wander around for at least 10 minutes the rest of the time! Being able to park right in front of our house all the time! Not having to move the car every 2 hours because of stupid parking rules!!

It's the little things, really...

Friday, June 4, 2010

purging the clothing from my orthodox jewish life...

One of my favorite things about big moves is the chance to go through all your stuff, figure out what you want to get rid of, and then throwing out/donating all that stuff.

My favorite thing is the clothes. The past 2 days I've been going through all my clothes and separating it into 3 piles- donate, trash (for stuff horribly stained/torn) and keep. The donate pile is almost as big as the keep pile at this point.

When I first moved away to grad school I got rid of 22 years worth of junk/clothes that had been sitting around in a closet in my parent's house. During that move, 6 years ago, I was still in a pretty ambivalent place religious-wise. I was not keeping kosher/shabbas at all at that point, but was still occasionally attending some orthodox jewish events, like Friday night shabbas meals/onegs at my parent's shul. And I was moving from my parent's house, so I couldn't exactly just chuck out all my skirts without my parents being all weird about it. So I moved over a whole bunch of skirts. And suits. Skirt-suits to be exact. The type you wear to shul and not anywhere else.

When I teach I don't wear a suit (I usually wear a blazer and/or a nice shirt with some fancy pants). I have one nice pants suit for job interviews (even though I hope to never go on any of those again) and other fancier business-type occasions. I have my wedding dress to wear to fancier non-jewish occasions (one of the reasons I didn't get a traditional white poofy dress- so that I can wear it again!).

The only time I NEED to wear a skirt at all is at orthodox jewish events. The orthodox jewish events I go to nowadays are all weddings and funerals. At weddings over the past few years I've always worn the same blue skirt. At funerals I have a nice long black skirt.

Meanwhile I moved all these skirt-suits down here to grad school, and they've been sitting in the back of my closet the entire time I've been here, and I haven't worn them once. So those are all getting donated. Also going are nearly all of my skirts- lots of gothicy type skirts that I wore in high school when I was kinda goth-ish (as much as you can be in a high school that doesn't allow you to wear make up). Some hippie skirts that I don't wear anymore. And lots of a few-inches-below-the-knee and ankle-length skirts. Those are almost all black for some reason, so I basically have around 15 nearly-identical skirts. I almost wish I had some orthodox jewish friends in this city so that I could give them to someone who could use all this stuff.

The high heeled shoes I wore to shul with my skirt suits...those are also all going. I never wear heels at all nowadays, and if I do want to I think the one pair of nice black heels that I'm keeping and my navy blue heels (left over from my wedding) are enough for the amount of times I need to wear them (0-2x/year)

But yeah. This feels good. Especially getting rid of all those's been like weird baggage from my religious days taking up space in my closet. Before now I felt like I shouldn't get rid of them because they were expensive suits (although it was my parents who paid for them), so they have just sat in my closet, a reminder of my former life every time I got my clothes. And the skirts just sat there because I told myself that I might need to wear one at some point, and also I've been just too busy/lazy to go through them. But with the move, I finally have the excuse (and motivation) I need to donate it all.

It'll be really nice to not have that stuff around anymore.