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August 31, 2008

A tribute to puppies.

So I think I'm going to finally get a pet. I've already started using it as a bargaining tool to get my kid to behave (school is starting and that homework isn't going to do itself!) Now obviously, we're going to get a dog because dogs are awesome and everyone loves dogs.

Or not...

Now Jezebel and I don't disagree on that many things. So far, pretty much the only things we've disagreed on are Olympic gymnastics (I'm Team Nastia and she's a Shawn girl all the way) and reality TV (it's mainly about Megan from I Love Money/Rock of Love but we've had some words about Julie vs. Coral from the Real World challenges as well). So of course, you can understand my dismay at the fact that Jezebel is a... cat person.

She has a pet cat and is allergic to dogs! It's really not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. It's not as though I have to actually interact with her cat, so I'd be sure to keep my new puppy out of her way when I finally get it... (plus I'm looking for one that's relatively hypoallergenic anyway). But it always is kind of shocking for me to realize that we don't agree on certain things.

Cat people and dog people are very different, mainly because cats and dogs are so different... It's sort of like that whole pirates vs. ninjas debate. (Dogs are obviously pirates and cats are ninjas... And if you disagree, then you're just crazy). I'm just really not into cats. They just seem so snobby and distant. They scratch things! And they pee in a box. I mean who does that? I much prefer dogs. Dogs totally have better pet toys than any other animal. They've got more choices of bling (you know, on their collars). And try getting one of these cute flotation vests on a cat! (No really, try, I'd love to see that). Either that or one of the cute little doggie raincoats!

Yeah so dogs are better than cats. Let the hate mail begin! (Don't worry, I'm sure Jezebel will get back at me sooner or later and write a tribute to kittens).

All links to pet shopping guides courtesy of shopwiki.com. I'm about to become obsessed with that site as the answer to all my pet shopping needs... (seeing as Jezebel is going to be no help to me and my only other doggie experience was, um, less than ideal). Not only did I find everything for sale on the web, but their guides really helped me know what to look for in the first place. Okay, my little endorsement is over now, haha. All adorable puppy photos courtesy of cuteoverload.com. I've already been obsessed with that site for years.

Related Posts:

Pro-Life Isn't: What We Deserve

With the recent news that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is a member of the group Feminists For Life, we thought this would be a good time to post this amazing video of Sonya Renee performing her poem "What We Deserve". The poem was inspired by an ad on a bus that said "women deserve better than abortion", which also happens to be the slogan of Feminists For Life.

The poem was dedicated to Choice USA, an organization that was founded 15 years ago by Gloria Steinem and other feminists to give "emerging leaders the tools they need to organize, network, and exchange ideas to build a youth centered pro-choice agenda and mobilize communities for reproductive justice". From the choice USA site:

Sonya Renee is the director of Peer Education at Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), a non-profit organization that promotes HIV prevention and empowerment programming in Washington, DC. At work, she recruits, trains and supervises current and former sex workers to act as sex educators in their communities. In addition to her professional job, she is a National Poetry SLAM-winning performance poet who is committed to using the power of spoken word to bring empowering and progressive ideas to the public.

How did your poem “What We Deserve” come about?
Initially I wrote the poem in response to a new advertising campaign running on the DC metro transportation services called women deserve better than abortion. I was just baffled that someone had spent so much money on that campaign when they could have put it into social services they claim are lacking. When I found out about the work that Choice USA is doing and saw their commitment to the full range of reproductive rights for women, I decided I wanted to dedicate the poem to Choice USA.

What does it mean to be pro-choice?
To me, it means having faith in a human being’s ability to make decisions for themselves. We all have an innate ability to decide what is right for us and I think the pro-choice movement validates that right.

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August 30, 2008

Women Speak at the DNC

Since I know that not everyone is a political junkie watching convention coverage on C-SPAN like I am, I thought I'd do a quick roundup of some of the speeches given by women at the Democratic National Convention.

~Michelle Obama

~Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America

~Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill

~Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano

~Pauline Beck, a home care worker from California. Barack Obama spent a day at work with her last year as part of a 'Walk A Day In My Shoes' campaign. (Video of them working together is here.)

~Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barack Obama's sister

~Hillary Clinton

Video Tribute to Hillary:

Hillary's Speech:

Also check out some more on the DNC's website:

  • Lily Ledbetter's speech on Women's Equality Day about equal pay
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota on joining the Senate at the same time as Barack Obama
  • Amanda Kubik speaking for a group of young delegates about how young people are smart and can get shit done
  • Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, US Army (Ret.), the first and only woman to achieve the rank of three star general in the Army on military issues and Major Tammy Duckworth, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and wounded Iraq war veteran (she lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down) on veteran's needs and rights

Related Posts:

August 29, 2008

Totally Scary/Cool Technology Update: Spy Phone!

The Internet is an amazing place... You can find anything on the Internet and sometimes you're surprised by what you found.

We recently came across a blog about the Phone-007 (that's really what it's called) and man, we're so tempted to buy one. Of course, we don't currently have a pressing need to bug anyone at the moment... but it's just so simultaneously awesome and terrifying, that we still sorta want one

Phone-007 is described on its website as a "spy phone", which paired with its James Bond inspired name, sounds pretty cool. But it's also kinda creepy, as most "pretty cool" things are...

Apparently, it's a phone with a built-in recording system that can record not only entire phone conversations, but also conversations and other sounds happening in the room where the phone is kept. It looks just like a regular telephone; in fact, it looks eerily similar to the phone they had at my last place of employment. (No wonder I never got that raise I wanted). You can secretly eavesdrop from another phone, playback phone conversations online, and even get a detailed call log. It will even email or text you every time a call is made from the Phone 007.

There are so many uses for this phone... some of them slightly more disturbing than others. The main uses given on the purplegoods.com website include catching a cheating spouse, controlling your dishonest teenager (or unruly employee), and long distance baby monitoring. (No, they're not suggesting you leave your baby home alone with just a spy phone... but it's a nice way to check in on your baby without going upstairs or to keep tabs on a nanny while you're gone).

But it occurred to us that there are even more ways to use it that purple goods might not have even thought of...

  • Victim of prank calls? Got a stalker? Someone violating a restraining order? Your ex getting offensive during a nasty divorce or custody battle? You don't need a spy phone to have a record that an "undesirable" is calling you... the phone company can handle that. But wouldn't it be nice to have proof of what they're saying?
  • You know how when you call a customer service line, they often say "this call may be recorded for quality assurance?" Ever time a customer service representative has done something wrong (such as giving me incorrect info or being extremely rude) they claim there's no record of it. Apparently they only tape the calls where I'm wrong? With the Phone-007 you can prove that your operator really did tell you that you had an extra thirty days to pay that bill or that they really did guarantee that your new copy of Rock of Love: Season 1 DVD would arrive by Friday.
  • On a similar note... did you forget the name of the operator you were talking to? Didn't have a pen to write down an important message or a shopping list your significant other just gave you? Are you one of those people who forgets important details of conversations immediately after hanging up? (Yeah, that's me). Purple goods can have all that information stored online for you and you can call in/log on to access it when you need it.
  • Doing research or a phone interview? Don't worry about taking notes or dealing with clumsy tape recorders... call your interview subject from the Phone 007 and the entire conversation will be recorded for you to refer back to when you're ready to write up the article. (This one may not apply to everyone out there, but it works for us!)
I think the ESC might just have to pick one of these babies up for our future office. (Oh and don't even get us started on our future office. It's been pre-decorated in our minds for years now. The amount of things we've bought for our non-existent "office" is really truly pathetic). But if any future boyfriends are reading this... um, we'll never call you from the Phone-007. Because, um, we like totally trust you. No, we really do.

Related Posts:

Remembering Del Martin

Sad news from Wednesday - lesbian activist (and newlywed) Del Martin has died at the age of 87. Martin and her partner Phyllis Lyon were together for 55 years, and were legally married just a few months ago when gay marriage became legal in California.

Martin and Lyon were some of the earliest public advocates for lesbian rights. They were among the small group that co-founded the advocacy group Daughters of Bilitis in 1955 and have been activists ever since. I've been reading Martin's obituary from Equality California, trying to figure out how to condense the list of her accomplishments here, and you know what? I can't do it. Check it out:
Del Martin used her writing and speaking talents to challenge misconceptions about gender and sexuality. “We were fighting the church, the couch, and the courts,” she often remembered years later, naming the array of social and cultural forces early activists confronted when homosexuals were treated as immoral, mentally ill, and illegal. As the first President of DOB, she penned stirring calls to arms. “Nothing was ever accomplished by hiding in a dark corner. Why not discard the hermitage for the heritage that awaits any red-blooded American woman who dares to claim it?” She was the second editor (after Phyllis Lyon) of DOB’s groundbreaking monthly magazine, The Ladder, from 1960 to 1962 and ushered in a new decade of political engagement and media visibility for the nascent gay rights movement. The Ladder grew from a mimeographed newsletter in 1956 to an internationally recognized magazine with thousands of subscribers by 1970, and thousands more readers who copied its contents or circulated it among friends and coworkers. Martin’s many contributions to The Ladder ranged from short stories to editorials to missives: one of the most famous is “If That’s All There Is,” a searing condemnation of sexism in the gay rights movement written in 1970. Due to Martin’s influence, The Ladder provided one of the few media outlets confronting misogyny in the decade before the rebirth of women’s liberation.

In 1964, Del Martin was part of a group that founded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in order to lobby city lawmakers more effectively to reduce police harassment and modify the sex laws that criminalized homosexual behavior. In later years, Martin was also a founding member of the Lesbian Mother's Union, the San Francisco Women's Centers, and the Bay Area Women's Coalition, among other organizations.

As an early member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Del Martin worked to counter homophobia within the women’s movement – fear of the so-called “lavender menace.” She and Lyon were the first lesbians to insist on joining with a “couples’ membership rate” and Martin was the first out lesbian on NOW’s Board of Directors. Their efforts helped to insure the inclusion of lesbian rights on NOW’s agenda in the early 1970’s.

Lesbian/Woman, the book they co-authored in 1972, is one of Martin and Lyon’s landmark accomplishments. The book described lesbian lives in a positive, knowledgeable way almost unknown at the time. In 1992, Publishers Weekly chose it as one of the 20 most influential women's books of the last 20 years.

For many years, Del Martin was a leader in the campaign to persuade the American Psychiatric Association to declare that homosexuality was not a mental illness. This goal was finally achieved in 1973.

Del Martin’s publication of Battered Wives in 1976 was a major catalyst for the movement against domestic violence. Martin became a nationally known advocate for battered women, and was a co-founder of the Coalition for Justice for Battered Women (1975), La Casa de las Madres (a shelter for battered women) founded in 1976, and the California Coalition against Domestic Violence (1977). She lectured at colleges and universities around the country. Martin received her doctorate from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in 1987.

Martin’s keen political instincts and interests extended her influence into the mainstream Democratic Party. She and Lyon were co-founders, in 1972, of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, the first gay political club in the United States. Martin was appointed Chair of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women in 1976 and served on the committee until 1979. She worked as a member of many other councils and boards including the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. Throughout the years, many politicians recognized their stature as community leaders and sought advice and endorsement from Martin and Lyon.

In a statement, Phyllis Lyon said "Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side. I am so lucky to have known her, loved her and been her partner in all things...I also never imagined there would be a day that we would actually be able to get married. I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed."

"We are saddened to lose such a wonderful friend to our community and our love goes out to Phyllis and her family during this most difficult time," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "We would not be at this incredible moment in history, where all couples have equal rights under California law, if it had not been for Del's lifetime of courage and leadership. Our community will forever honor her life and legacy."

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donna Hitchens, a founder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said, "Del lived her life with great compassion, wit, tenacity, generosity and valor. She inspired thousands of us to be more courageous and energetic than we thought possible."

State Senator Carole Migden released the following statement in response to the death: "Del Martin slipped away from us just moments ago but her spirit and legacy will never be extinguished within the LGBT community. Del and her loving, longtime partner, Phyllis Lyon, were harbingers for change and activism long before lesbian issues became au courant and socially acceptable. All people and movements in search of true liberation owe an immeasurable debt to Del Martin who, along with other early brave souls, was determined to speak out and change the world to better the plight and lives of those whose voices are not heard. "

Barack Obama issued a statement saying "Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear that Del Martin had passed. Del committed her life to fighting discrimination and promoting equality. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her spouse Phyllis Lyon, and all those who were touched by her life."

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom spoke briefly about Del and Phyllis at the LGBT Caucus at the Democratic National Convention:

Newsom later said, "I just found out about it right before I went up on stage. And you know, it’s hard to describe my respect and admiration for Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, what they’ve done to change this country and to change people’s hearts and minds and to reconcile those that may be a little different than others, but to humanize the LGBT community and to do what they’ve done in advancing fundamental human rights is second to none. And to hear that really one of the heroes of the civil rights movement in this country passed away, and someone that I was privileged to marry just a few months ago, was difficult for me. And I know politicians aren’t supposed to get up there and show any emotions, but it was human and real because she was an extraordinarily human person, and a person of total authenticity and lived her life out loud and never took no for an answer and demanded equal justice and equal rights. And she got it just a few weeks before she passed away."

According to Equality California, gifts in lieu of flowers can be made to honor Del’s life and commitment and to defeat the California marriage ban through NCLR’s No On 8 PAC at www.nclrights.org/NoOn8.

August 28, 2008

The Olympics: Sportswomanship

So the Olympic athletes have made their way home from Beijing, and some of them are appearing on talk shows this week to talk about their appearances. I was watching Jay Leno talk to Dara Torres about her great show of sportsmanship before one of her semi-final races, and I thought it would be fun to share that story and some of the other really cool stories of sportswomanship from Beijing.

[We also thought that these stories would make a nice counterpoint to some of the stories of poor sportsmanship that unfortunately surfaced during these games - the wrestler who dropped his bronze medal on the floor and stormed out in the middle of his event's medal ceremony, the picture that surfaced of the Spanish men's basketball team slanting their eyes while posing for an ad, the accusation of unfairness and dishonesty in a men's tennis match, the IOC's criticism of world record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt, and of course the taekwondo competitor who kicked the referee in the face after being disqualified.]

~American swimmer Dara Torres was getting ready for the semi-final of the 50m freestyle event when one of the other swimmers, Therese Alshammar of Sweden ripped her swimsuit. (The new suits that many of the swimmers wear are very tight and the material is thin, so rips do happen sometimes.) They tried to fix the rip but weren't able to, and when Dara and the other swimmers got out to the blocks, Dara noticed that Therese was missing and realized that she had gone back to try to quickly change into a new suit. Instead of saying 'great, one less person that I have to beat to qualify' or 'that's her problem' or just ignoring it and trying to get focused on the important race ahead of her, Dara went over to the side of the pool to tell the officials what had happened and see if they could hold up the race to give Therese a minute to change, which technically they didn't have to do and might not have done if they weren't informed about why she was late. Obviously Dara's focus wasn't bothered, because she went on to finish first in her semi-final race on her way to an eventual silver medal in the final. And I guess at this point I should mention that Dara Torres is 41 and has a two year old daughter. I hardly need to considering how often the media mentioned her age during the games, but that's no reason not to point out how amazing it is for her (and for the gymnast that I'm about to mention) to be able to continue to compete at the highest level of her sport after having a child, especially when that sport is one in which many of her competitors are half her age.

Dara Torres and daughter Tessa

~Oksana Chusovitina is the first five-time Olympian ever in the sport of women's artistic gymnastics. In Beijing, she won a silver medal on the vault at the age of 33, which is way over the hill in gymnastics terms. But that’s not the amazing part. Oksana competed on the unified Russian team in 1992 and then later for Uzbekistan, until 2002 when her 3 year old son Alisher was diagnosed with leukemia. Uzbekistan has no developed children's oncology programs and full hospitals in Moscow couldn't make any promises, so she called a friend who was a coach of the German team, where she had done some training previously. The team told her to come to Germany with her family and that they would do everything they could to help. With help from the team, the University of Cologne, Toyota (the team sponsor), WOGA (the gym in the US where Nastia Liukin trains), and some other donations from around the gymnastics world, Oksana and her husband were able to cover the costs of Alisher's treatments, which included seven rounds of chemotherapy over two years. She also kept going with gymnastics partly as a way of continuing to raise money for the treatments. Oksana said of that time, "At the time, I was still competing for Uzbekistan. They told me if I take German citizenship, after three years, everything will be free for Alisher. I think in my place, every mother would do the same thing. The child is first. For me, it doesn't matter if I ever compete in a world championships again; I was only thinking about Alisher."

Today, Alisher's cancer is in remission and he is healthy enough to follow in his mom's footsteps by doing gymnastics. "Germany has done many great things for him. We never thought that another country or another people would help you like this. I now know that the world has more good people than bad people. When we came to Germany, in one week he was already in the hospital and receiving treatment. Germany gave life to my son," says Oksana. And her good performances in international competition helped the German team to qualify for the Olympic team competition in Beijing. "She is a very big motivator for our team," said national coach Shanna Poljakova. The silver that Oksana won on the vault was the first individual Olympic medal of her career (she won a team gold medal in 1992), and she hasn't ruled out trying to compete in London in 2012. We wouldn't bet against her.

Oksana Chusovitina and her son Alisher

~During the women's gymnastics team final, Alicia Sacramone made two big errors in the final two events, leading many people (including Alicia herself, it seems) to put a lot of the blame on her for Team USA's second place finish to the Chinese team. Of course, that really isn't fair considering that China's margin of victory was much bigger than the deductions from those two errors, and obviously it was a team event and she wasn't the only one to make a mistake during the competition. During a team interview afterwards, Shawn Johnson was asked about Sacramone's performance, and she replied by saying "Alicia is the strongest person I know", going on to say that they were a team, that Alicia was part of the team, and that she was proud of what they had been able to accomplish together and how well they represented their country in winning the silver medal. The reporter seemed a little disappointed that instead of any hint of criticism or placing blame, she got team unity instead.

Alicia Sacramone and Shawn Johnson

~At the age of 38, Constantina Tomescu-Dita became the oldest woman ever to win the Olympic marathon.

~South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, who lost her leg in 2001 when her scooter was hit by a car, made history this year by being the first athlete ever to qualify for both the Paralympics and the Olympics. She's only the second amputee, and the first female amputee, ever to qualify for the Olympics. (The last time it happened was in 1904.) Natalie competed in the 10k open water swim, a grueling event where it's not unusual for competitors to try to grab and dunk each other, and she finished 16th in a field of 25. 16 year old American swimmer Chloe Sutton said, "I was swimming next to her and she beat me -- and she has one leg. It's incredible she was able to do that." And Natalie says she'll be back in 2012.

~Palestinian swimmer Zakia Nassar was one of two women on the four-member Palestinian Olympic team. "Nassar, a 21-year-old dentistry student, is one of the few women from her region ever to swim in the Olympics. She did most of her training - sporadically and without a coach - in a 12-meter pool because she lacked a permit to reach the nearest Olympic-size pool in Israel."

~Sprinter Dana Hussein of Iraq posted the 59th fastest time in the qualifying round of the 100m race, a personal best time for her. She has faced constant threats and hardships while training in Iraq, and has even been shot at: "...she's dodged more than just tufts of grass on the crushed 1980s concrete that serves as her training ground. Threats, checkpoints, and very real bullets have been just three of the obstacles. And with her trainer, a Sunni, (she's a Shiite), she has also sprinted improbably past three brutal years of sectarian killings. One of only two Iraqis to compete in track and field this summer, Hussein is proud and determined to represent Iraq, despite the odds. Still, her dreams extend beyond the medals. Says Hussein: 'Sports can unify the Iraqi people — no Sunnis, no Shiites, just sport for the country'."

~American weightlifter Melanie Roach has three kids (one with autism), has recovered from major back surgery, and has campaigned for her husband, a Washington state representative who is up for reelection. Somewhere in there she found the time to qualify for the Olympics. She finished sixth overall and set a new American record. "She let out a satisfied scream after releasing the bar on her final lift, an expression, she said, that was 'relief, it was joy, it was excitement, it was the culmination of 14 years [as a lifter] and definitely eight years waiting to come back to the Olympics. .. Definitely, worth the wait'."

August 26, 2008

Olympic Women In Pictures

Guo Jingjing - China - Diving
[Photos from Yahoo]

Nastia Liukin & Shawn Johnson - USA - Artistic Gymnastics
[Photos from Yahoo]

Samia Yusuf Omar - Somalia - Track & Field
[Samia was one of two athletes and the only woman to represent Somalia in the Olympics. Photo and story on Yahoo.]

Evgeniya Kanaeva - Russia - Rhythmic Gymnastics

[Image from Getty Images via Jezebel]

Natalie Du Toit - South Africa - 10k Open Water Swim
[photo from Yahoo]

Aleksandra Fedoriva of Russia and Roqaya al-Gassra of Bahrain - Track & Field [More on Roqaya al-Gassra and the growing numbers of women in the Olympics from the Wall Street Journal]

Debbie Phelps, mother of 8-time Beijing gold medalist Michael Phelps

[Photo from the Baltimore Sun]

Team USA - Basketball
[The American women have won four straight basketball gold medals. Photo from Yahoo.]

Constantina Tomescu-Dita - Romania - Marathon

[Tomescu-Dita won the gold medal in the marathon. She also happens to be a 38 year old mother. Photo from the L.A. Times.]

Elena Isinbaeva - Russia - Pole Vault
[Photo from China Daily]

Susann Steiner, wife of gold medal winning weightlifter Matthias Steiner of Germany. Susann died in a car accident last year, and Matthias said "I won this for her". [Image and story from Fox Sports]

Kerri Walsh & Misty May-Treanor - USA - Beach Volleyball
[Photo from Yahoo]

Jiang Tingting and Jiang Wenwen - Synchronized Swimmers (and twin sisters) from China
[Photos from Yahoo]

Team USA - Women's Eight Rowing
[Photo from AP via Yahoo]

Team Germany - Equestrian (Dressage)
[Photo from Reuters via Yahoo]

Team Japan, Team USA, and Team Australia - medalists in softball's last appearance as an Olympic sport until at least 2016

[Photo from Reuters via Yahoo]

This space reserved for the first woman to represent Saudi Arabia in the Olympics.

August 25, 2008

The ESC's Guide to Shopping for College Students

As we've already mentioned, back to school shopping is a big deal when you're a parent. However, it's a totally different experience for the students themselves. We realized that a lot of our readers are college students and for them, the phrase 'back to school shopping' brings on a totally different meaning. So here is a totally not complete, but sort of fun, 'school supplies' shopping guide.
  • You know how your mother always told you to wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident? In college, that becomes wear non-embarrassing underwear in case you 'accidentally' have a drunken hook-up with that cutie down the hall! Plus, you don't want to be caught in the laundry room washing your old, ugly, holey, stained undies! (Although you probably won't be doing laundry that often, so be sure to bring a few extra pairs to get through til your next trip back home to Mom and Dad). You can't go wrong with the classics like Calvin Klein or a pair that sends a message... that you're STD-Free!

"Now 100% More Chlamydia Free"

  • Speaking of which, almost every college student needs an abundance of condoms! (Even if you aren't having sex, your roommate/neighbor/friends might be... it's always better to have a condom and not need it, than need a condom and not have it). The Durex Condom Variety Pack includes 48 condoms and 3 vibrating rings.
  • If you're lucky, you can persuade your parents to splurge and buy you a sweet, new laptop computer. But remember, it's not just for porn and myspace. You should use it for your classwork too.
  • Never shared a bathroom before? Good luck! Our recommendations include... flip flops (trust us, you don't want to go barefoot in there), a shower tote, and of course, air freshener!

  • Get your schedule organized with a new calendar so you never miss a party or a date... or you know... a test. We like these two:

Gil Elvgren Pin Up / Studs 'N Spurs (Calendars.com)

  • I don't know if you've seen a dorm room lately, but it's pretty blah. So you need to decorate it!
  • College athlete? Stock up on whatever you need now. Whether your sport of choice is baseball, golf, dance or even um... fishing? (Nah, scratch that last one. Fishing is not a sport and we really hope you aren't fishing in college).
  • A friend of the ESC told us this story. Before leaving for college he was told to bring a small tool kit. He kept protesting "I don't need a tool kit in the dorms! I'm not building the room myself!" On the first day of school a girl from the hallway knocked on his door "does anyone have a screwdriver?" They ended up becoming very close friends. You just may find love over a hammer and nails!
  • One universal rule about college food is that it sucks. (Except maybe at Skidmore. That was the best dining hall food we've ever had). It's not really easy to cook for yourself in the dorms, but if you want to avoid ordering pizza every night, it might be a good idea to pick up an electric tea kettle or crock pot. (Warning: These may or may not be allowed, depending on your school, so look into the rules first and don't get caught. Oh and if you happen to set your room on fire... well, you didn't get the idea from us okay?) You don't need tons of dishes, but you should have at least one bowl or mug for cooking up the ultimate college staple: ramen! Don't forget a few forks and spoons too and you might even want to invest in a mini-fridge.
  • While we're on the subject of college eating... let's not forget college drinking. (Now of course, we would never condone underage drinking... but if you are going to drink, please do it responsibly, don't get caught in an unsafe situation and never ever drive while intoxicated.) Don't forget to stock up on aspirin for the next morning!
  • Oh and I guess every college student needs... books. Maybe someday we'll make a list of books every college student should read... but not today. In the meantime though, you can check out these:

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August 22, 2008

The Olympics: Bikini Table Tennis?

What do beach volleyball and table tennis have in common? Not much, but that may change if some table tennis officials have their way.

Table tennis doesn't quite make the list of most popular sports in the world, and recent reports indicate that some members of the International Table Tennis Federation think the outdated baggy uniforms may be partly to blame. There's not necessarily anything wrong with wanting to update the uniforms, and judging by this New York Times piece, it seems that there are a bunch of male and female players who are ready for a change, and one even suggests that an updated uniform might help her game.
“Some say, this is what they wore 20 years ago already,” said Süss, gesturing at his loose gray shorts, which did not match his polo shirt, which was done up in Germany’s national colors of red, yellow and black. “Now we are such a professional sport. You see the tables and everything else looking different. But the clothes? Yeah, we have to improve a little bit more.”

Gao Jun of the United States was stuck with a navy zip-up shirt and a pair of baggy shorts with an elastic waistband. “I would like to see the girls wear a skirt,” Gao said Wednesday after defeating her miniskirted opponent, the Slovak Eva Odorova, 4-2, in the second round of women’s singles. “When I practice, I do wear a skirt. We just receive this, you know,” she said, motioning to her outfit, “so I will wear what it is we received.”

The idea pleased Zhang Yining, a table tennis player who is a household name in China. Zhang’s cropped hair gives her a tomboy look, but she recently posed for a glamorous photo shoot on a Chinese Web site. In an interview after defeating Pavlovich, 4-0, Wednesday, she said she would appreciate clothes that maximized speed and spinning the ball. “I’d love to see tighter and shorter sleeves,” she said.

The problem comes when 'hey, it might be a good idea to update our uniforms' seems to really mean 'let's try to boost the popularity of our sport by sexing up only our female athletes'.
We are trying to push the [female] players to use skirts and also nicer shirts, not the shirts that are made for men, but ones with more curves,” International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) vice president Claude Bergeret said.

“It’s just a question of being well-dressed,” said Claude Bergeret, a Frenchwoman who is the executive vice president of the federation. “We say in French, ‘ne pas être habillée comme un sac à patates.’ ” Or, you do not want to be dressed like a sack of potatoes.

Several players agree. “That is a very good idea, actually a must. Look at those tennis players — miniskirts, tight shirt,” said Lau Sui Fei, a player from Hong Kong, in an interview after defeating the French player Xian Yi Fang, 4-1, in the second round of women’s singles Wednesday. “When I play for a European club, my boss required me to dress pretty. Otherwise, how can you attract more spectators?”

Really? This is the only way to attract new spectators? Not campaigns to raise awareness about the sport, maybe visiting schools to try to get younger kids into it, or trying to get some more programs started in countries where the sport is less popular? A miniskirt isn't the only way to attract more spectators; it's just, apparently, the easiest.

The Times also mentions that table tennis has a big age range, with some players continuing into their 40s and 50s, which makes it more difficult to come up with a new uniform that will work for everyone. But we think it would be a little easier if officials focused more on what will help table tennis players perform the best at their sport, and stopped fantasizing about winning over beach volleyball fans. (The comparisons to 'regular' tennis are a lot more understandable, at least.)
Bob Fox, the United States’ team leader in table tennis, said he favored spicing up the uniforms if for no other reason than it may attract new fans. “I mean, look at beach volleyball,” he said. “I don’t think I need to say anything else.”
Nope, we hear you loud and clear, Bob. You're announcing that you're going to compete from now on in a tiny bikini. We'll be watching!

Actually, maybe Bob is onto something. Maybe this is an opportunity to bring a little balance back to the Olympics. If beach volleyball is going to stick with their bikinis for women and baggy shorts and tanks for the men, let's do the reverse for table tennis. Let the women wear shorts and comfy t-shirts, and make the men wear the same uniforms that male divers wear.

We think it's only fair.

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August 19, 2008

I Love Celebreality

Have you been watching I Love Money? It is so awesome and so horribly bad at the same time... I'm loving it.

I haven't really watched enough of it to come up with any strong opinions. All I saw was a couple of minutes of everyone arguing about how Rodeo should go home. And something about cookie dough.

Yeah I think Megan should've sent Hoops home instead of Rodeo, but they both sucked and the guys would've turned on her if she chose Hoops so it worked. And wow. I'm so embarrassed that I know all the inner workings of their many alliances.

Man, I cannot stand Megan. I don't know why I hate her so much.

I'm starting to secretly love her.

Even seeing her in pictures, I'm like 'Go home already!'

I mean, I hate her as a person, but I love her as a TV villain/mastermind. She's hilarious.

I still hate her.

It's terrifying that she's apparently the smartest person in the house. She's just good TV.

I don't think we've disagreed about a reality show character since Mormon Julie from the Real World.

The whole thing with her dog is fucking hilarious.

The dog is great, but Megan's evil. Maybe they can send her home and keep the dog.

I hated her on Rock of Love 2, but on this show she makes me laugh. It's like she went so far over the edge of hate that it turned back into love. She's so bad she's good.

Much like the show itself.

You know, I just realized that I Love Money is like one of those 'Celebreality Crossover shows' that you proposed a long time ago.

It totally is. I was very proud of that blog. Well, maybe 'proud' is the wrong word.

But I must say there's not enough Heather awesomeness on this show.

That's definitely true.

She needs her own spin-off.

Oh, apparently they're going to do Rock of Love: Charm School with Sharon Osbourne.

Oh my god! Really?

That should be interesting.


Looks like they haven't announced who is going to be on yet.

Oh man, I hope Heather does it. I don't see her actually being on that show, but I'd like to see her on another show. I love her. Real love, not this fake 'TV Megan love'.

Heather will probably think she's 'above' doing charm school, and she's right.

I bet Lacey would do it.

I'm not sure I'm ready for Lacey on my TV again.

Maybe Brandi?

Which Brandi?

Either. Both.

There's always Angelique/Frenchy/whatever her name was.

Oh shit! Yes, she would rock that. If anyone needs 'charm school', she does! I wonder if Daisy would do it. Destiney doesn't need it... Inna? Dallas!

Maybe Tiffany from the first season will do it.

I hope she threatens us with a good time.

And just because she's too good for charm school, that doesn't mean Heather shouldn't get her own spin off show. Kind of like I Love New York.

They should do a show where people compete just to be buddies with Heather.

Or like that stupid I Want to Work for Diddy show. People could compete to be her personal assistant.

Oh god, think of all the self-tanner and hairspray they'd have to deal with every day.

What about a Heather makeover show? Instead of What Not To Wear, Heather will come and teach you how to tease your hair up really big and wear stripper clothes.

Awesome. I want this to be a real show! Where do we send our petitions?

We should totally pitch it to VH1.

We'll have to work on that.

Oh, I saw some headlines about A Shot At Love coming back, but maybe without Tila Tequila. But I couldn't bring myself to actually click and read about that. So why couldn't they do A Shot at Love with Heather?

I'd watch that show. Hell, I'd be on that show. I'd totally go gay for Heather.

Well, Tila seems to be a fake bisexual anyway, so no reason why Heather couldn't do the same. Bret always thought she was into chicks anyway.

Oh speaking of pseudo-bisexuals... I saw Chris and Adrianne from My Fair Brady on a weird show the other day on WE. They went to Russia. It was called 'Chris and Adrianne Do Russia'.

I wonder if they'll end up back on VH1 eventually.

WE doesn't get any of the same quality trash programming that VH1 gets.

True. They're stuck with crap like Bulging Brides.

I think Adrianne will have to have a baby in order to get another season of that show.

I definitely agree. I couldn't watch too much of the last season they did, between the argument over her being a lesbian, and then the 'choose between your boob job and a baby' nonsense.

Especially since she didn't want him to get a vasectomy the last season, so why is he fighting over having a kid that season?

He seems to enjoy manipulating her. 'I'm going to have a vasectomy without telling you! ...Wait, now that you're maybe okay with not having kids I want them!'

And I can't think of a single other man on the planet that would be upset at his wife taking sexy pictures with another hot naked girl. That's like the #1 thing guys want. What is wrong with him!?

And claiming that it made him insecure like she might not really want him was bullshit. She went after him relentlessly and practically browbeat him into marrying her. Yeah, she's totally not that into you, Chris.

I know. The whole show made me sick.

Yep. I hate him.

I hate him too.

At least that we can agree on.

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August 17, 2008

The Olympics: Women's Right to Compete

We wrote the other day about our confusion over the very slight discrepancy between the men's and women's beach volleyball uniforms. Today we're thinking that at least those women were able to come and compete in the Olympics, because here in the year 2008 there are still a few countries who do not allow women to participate.

I only watched part of the opening ceremonies, but I did see Saudi Arabia's entrance with their all-male team, and NBC commentators noted that Saudi women aren't allowed to represent their country at the Olympics, or do other fun activities like drive cars or leave the house without a man's permission.

In fact, Saudi women are not just barred from the Olympics, but from participating in sports of any kind. There are no sports programs for women in schools and the Ministry of Education has rejected proposals to introduce them, and there are no official federations to support women's sports. "Saudi Arabia’s rulers follow the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam...According to an IGA policy paper released last June, Saudi clerics have released fatwas effectively banning women from sports by banning sports centers for women."

Some Saudi women disagree with their rulers' interpretations, and they are speaking out. Recently BBC News spoke to the founder and some of the players from Jeddah United, an "unofficial" Saudi women's basketball team. (The article also has a short video of the women playing and talking about the impact of sports on their lives.)

"A lot of the women were depressed and this just lifts them up. It gives them a sense of meaning and belonging," said Danaya al-Maeena.

The women of Jeddah United exemplify how reform is slowly coming - led by young people who want the country to modernise in a way consistent with the teachings of Islam.

"We are not asking for something against our culture or our religion," said Danaya's sister Lina. "All of the Arab and Muslim countries around the world have women competing and a few years ago we had the Bahraini 100m runner who ran in her veil. These people should realise we can compete within our religious and cultural framework."

As Lina points out, many other countries have Muslim female athletes. Some of them wear headscarves and/or some manner of modified outfits to compete and some don't, depending on the sport, the country and culture that they come from, and their personal choice. Here are just a few examples:

~"The women in Roqaya Al Ghasara's home town in Bahrain are so proud of their pioneering Olympic sprinter that some of them got together to design and sew a set of tailor-made aerodynamic veils for her to run in."
~"For some countries, women's clothing mandated by the conservative interpretation of religion precludes their participation in most sports - for instance, Iran's female Olympians were limited to pistol- and rifle-shooting at the Barcelona, Sydney and Athens Olympics." "Iranian women still battle restrictions but three, in headscarves, will compete in rowing, taekwondo and archery."
~"Algeria's Hassiba Boulmerka won the 1,500-meter race in 1992 wearing contemporary running shorts."
~In 1984, Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco became the first woman from a Muslim-majority country to win a gold medal. And just this month she became the first Muslim woman elected to the International Olympic Committee's executive board.
~Bonus example - " Muslims who take a more relaxed view of Muslim taking part in sports sometimes point to the example of Mohammed. One of the hadiths, or traditional writings and saying about the prophet, says that he ran a race with one of his wives, Aisha. Aisha, who was much younger than Mohammed, won the race, but some years later, after she gained some weight, they had a rematch and he won, according to the hadith, narrated by Abu Dawood."

For many people, the growing numbers and increasing successes of these women makes Saudi Arabia's position that much harder to justify or accept. And it turns out that discrimination on the basis of gender is actually a violation of the Olympic Charter. The fifth item on the list of Fundamental Principles of Olympism reads:
Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.
So. If gender discrimination is "incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement", why are countries still allowed to prevent their women from participating? In 1964, South Africa was banned from the Olympics because of discrimination against black athletes under apartheid. The IOC went through with the decision to ban even after South Africa agreed to put some black athletes on their team, because a ban remained in place within the country on competition between white and black athletes. "The IOC said nothing short of a public announcement made in the newspapers and on the radio renouncing all racial discrimination in sport would be acceptable." The ban remained in effect until the 1992 Barcelona games, which took place a year after the repeal of apartheid laws in South Africa.

If South Africa announced tomorrow that they had decided to return to a policy of segregation and exclusion of black athletes, they would probably be re-banned immediately. So why is gender discrimination treated differently? Why is the IOC unwilling to take a strong stand against gender discrimination? Part of the answer may lie in the makeup of the IOC itself. "Of the IOC's 110 members, 16 are women - and only one serves on the powerful 15-member executive board. A sizable majority of the 205 national Olympic committees have executive bodies that are at least 80 per cent male, and only two of the 35 Olympic sports federations have women as presidents." The IOC was formed in 1894, but did not include women until 1981. (Saudi Arabia does have a representative on the Committee - Prince Nawaf Faisal Fahd Abdulaziz. Maybe his seat should go to a leader from a country that respects the Olympic Charter...and women?) It may be time for the IOC to review its own charter and commit to change from within.

Obviously, not everyone favors banning Saudi Arabia for their discriminatory policies. Some have argued that a ban would be unfair to all of the male Saudi athletes who have worked hard to make it to Olympic level. It would be, but not nearly as unfair as never getting the chance to participate at all. And if a ban were to happen, those male athletes should place the blame for it right where it belongs - in the hands of the Saudi officials who have earned it by choosing to exclude women in violation of the Olympic charter.

Another popular argument is the ever-popular "but it's their culture". Says who? There are many Saudi women (and some men, and Muslims from other countries) who say that it isn't. That they can compete while still respecting their religion, their culture, their country, themselves. Why shouldn't they be heard? And what about respect for the culture of the Olympics? Saudi Arabia shows none when they show up with a team that violates the Principles of Olympism set forth in the Olympic Charter. The IOC also shows none when, by turning a blind eye, they send a message to all of the women who are competing at these games, and to everyone watching around the world, that discrimination is sometimes okay and that exclusion is worth no action when women are the victims.

The BBC article on Jeddah United and the state of sports for Saudi women suggests that some action is quietly being taken.

No-one from the Saudi Olympic Committee was available for interview, but the International Olympic Committee is thought to be putting increasing pressure on them to include women in the future.

London 2012 may therefore see Saudi women Olympians for the first time. If not, it is conceivable the Kingdom may not be allowed to enter an all-male team.

We hope that's true. And here in the U.S., Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is planning to put some pressure on the IOC.
When the U.S. Congress returns from its summer recess in September, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) will push a resolution calling on the IOC to strive to make the next summer Games, in London in 2012, the first in which every country’s team includes women.

“Congresswomen DeLauro is a very big advocate of encouraging women in sports at all levels,” spokeswoman Adriana Surfas said Thursday. “When young women get involved in sports it has a profound effect – in their studies, their interaction with friends and others, and in their future success and careers.”

Asked about countries which for cultural or religious reasons put hurdles in the path of women in sports, Surfas said “other countries have overcome the challenges. If applied sensitively, we know it can be done.”
There are also some small signs of progress within the sports organizations in Saudi Arabia. This year, Arwa Mutabagani was appointed to a spot on the board of the Equestrian Foundation, making her the first Saudi woman to be appointed as a top sports administrator. And last month, "Sarah Mouwad was appointed to a senior position in the college football league in Riyadh. 'I hope to make a dent in the Saudi sports scene in whatever way I can,' she recently told al-Riyadh newspaper."

The number of women competing in the Olympics has been steadily increasing: "Of the 11,427 athletes participating in these Games, 4,845 are women — 500 more than in Athens four years ago, 1,000 more than competed in Atlanta 12 years ago". In 1996, 26 countries sent all-male teams to Atlanta. In Sydney the number was 12 and by Athens it was down to five. The two nations making their Olympic debuts this year, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, each have women on their small teams.

Oman and the United Arab Emirates are allowing women to compete for the first time at these Games. Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum also carried the UAE's flag during the opening ceremony. Of course, in the case of the United Arab Emirates, the two women who were allowed to break ground by competing for the first time happen to be the daughter and niece of the Prime Minister. But hey, sometimes small steps are good, right? Maybe some talented female athletes in the UAE can use the precedent being set in Beijing to argue that more women should be included next time. Maybe one of the women competing here will do very well or even win a medal and help to convince officials in the UAE and elsewhere that maybe this women competing thing isn’t such a bad idea.

Rashed al-Heraiwel, head of the Saudi delegation, confirmed no women would be in the line-up, apparently due to opposition by powerful clerics to women's participation in sport. Heraiwel said now was not the time for the Saudi authorities to consider allowing women into sport. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said, suggesting that issue had not been discussed due to the de-facto ban.

I think it’s time for the IOC to tell Saudi Arabia and any other country that chooses to exclude women that the time has come to cross the bridge or stay home.

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