28 May 2009

I'm not always sure

Next week, the state of Ohio is scheduled to execute Daniel Wilson for his murder of Carol Lutz in 1991. It was the 2nd time in his 21 years of life that he was responsible for the death of another human being. Wilson acknowledges his guilt. He is not claiming that he is innocent of the crime for which he is supposed to die. For reasons that (if you believe his confession) even he does not know, Wilson locked a 24 year old woman in the trunk of a car for a number of hours before puncturing the gas tank and lighting the car on fire with her in the trunk.

Prosecutors argued that he deliberated his course of action and chose to kill Ms. Lutz rather than risk incarceration by releasing her. He let her out of the trunk once to use the bathroom and spoke with her for a while as she plead for him to let her go. He also tried unsuccessfully to start the fire and chose to try again. Being burnt alive must be an horrific way to die and I feel sickened at the thought of it. On some level, execution by leathal injection seems hardly a fit retrobution for such an inhuman act, even with Ohio's shakey history of administration of lethal injection.

In the recently published report of the Ohio Parole Board of their clemency hearing,(pdf) the parole board included a handwritten statement from Daniel Wilson. (see image above for end of statement) When I think of how awful Ms. Lutz' final moments must have been, I cannot help feeling that a person capable of doing something so awful should not be allowed to continue to occupy space on this earth. I'm horrified, disgusted, and feel a desire for revenge on behalf of the victim and her family.

And here we encounter a problem. We, as a nation, do not really know what we want with regards to convicted criminals. Is the purpose of the legal system to exact revenge? Or are we, as we pretend, really seeking Justice?

Let's pretend that the purpose of the Justice System is to try to find some form of justice. Execution changes nothing. Carol Lutz will be just as dead and that death will have been every bit as horrific the day after Daniel Wilson's execution as the day he is killed. In 18 years, Daniel Wilson has become an adult, he has found ways to serve and to benefit his community behind bars. It is, perhaps, arguable that he is not the same person who walked into prison at the age of 21 with a juvenile criminal record that stretched back 9 years prior to that event. Wilson's lawyers are arguing that the sentencing jury was improperly instructed, that they were not allowed to consider his ugly childhood after being abandoned in his father's custody when his mother fled their abusivehome, and that they were not instructed about how to propperly consider the effect that large quantities of alcohol might have had on Wilson's reasoning. They would like the courts to award Wilson a new sentencing hearing where those facts (and hopefully the last 18 years of model prisoner behavior) will be taken into consideration.

Intellectually, I know that the death penalty is not a deterant. In Europe, where they've made elimination of the death penalty a condition of membership in the EU, there has not been an increase in previously capitol offenses now that the death penalty is no longer a potential punishment. The whole process, trial, sentencing, appeals, separate death row facilities, etc costs so much more than the cost of imprisoning someone for life without the possiblity without parole. There is, unfortunately, a very real possiblity of terrible errors resulting in wrongful execution. There are a great many logical reasons why I oppose the death penalty and hope that Gov. Strickland will commute Daniel Wilson's sentence to life without parole. I've spoken to family members of murder victims who opposed the death penalty for their loved-one's killer and to those who witnessed the execution of the murderer who cut short the life of someone they held dear. Closure is a myth.

That said, emotionally I'm torn. And I'm running out of time for this internal debate.

03 April 2009

Catching up... Part 1

I made a conscious decision as I sat down to write this not to look at any of my previous posts. In particular, I made a decision to avoid checking the date of my last update. I knew that if I actually confirmed for myself how long it had been since I had last written, I wouldn't be able to actually write anything. I'm like that sometimes... I allow myself to become so overwhelmed with the imagined scope of a project that I cannot find a starting point or a piece of it that I can begin to accomplish.

I have this whole list of things that I want to write about. Some of the posts would be long, possibly even epic, others would be short. I need to write about the process that my husband and I are going through as we try to make a real decision about Sprout's schooling next year. We are 90% decided on a course of action but I think that we each have a couple of minor issues that we want to iron out (and at least one really big issue...) I feel like I know what would be best for Sprout in terms of her academic development and we're not really worried about her social development. (For reasons that we cannot understand, Sprout is extremely social and we make a real effort to give her appropriate outlets for her social impulses...) For me, the big issue is that I'm not sure that what is best for Sprout is the best thing for me. I can't help wondering how much benefit there is for her in doing what is academically best for her but (in some ways) the worst thing for me.

The other big news in AndiLand is that I'm going out of business... This probably comes as little or no surprise to anyone. There are several reasons for the decision. The first, and probably most important is that I suck as a business woman. I just don't have the right mindset or organizational skills. More importantly, I don't really feel inspired to get into the right mindset or learn the organizational skills. I love making things, but beyond that, I'm just treading water.

What that means for the blog is... If you're following me for business reasons and you haven't been so discouraged by the lack of any real developments before now to run in the other direction, this might be the time to depart. I do hope to return to my studio, someday... For now, I'm content to knit or crochet (lately I've really enjoyed crocheting lace trim on doll clothing) or needle felt or whatever. I have hopes that there's a job in ceramics for me somewhere on the horizon but for now my focus will be on Sprout, my health, my family, etc... The truth is that most of what I've created in the last 6 months to a year has been work that couldn't possibly pay. I've spent countless hours working on felt dolls with no hope of ever being able to sell them for a price that would pay me for any of my time. But I have made them because it makes me happy to make them and keeping track of time and trying to put a price on them is a sure-fire way to ensure that I'll loose interest in short order. For at least the next year, I hope to concentrate on allowing myself to follow these impulses. Spend the time, make the things that I want or need to make, and try to drive all thoughts of saleability out of my mind.

So, yeah, I mentioned my health above and should probably follow up on that. I have a new family doctor and will probably be seeing a new prescribing psychiatrist/therapist in the near future for dealing with my depression. For the last few weeks, I have been trying to adjust my family schedule to allow me to return to bellydance and/or water aerobics. This morning my doctor informed me that in addition to the rapid heartbeat that I've just considered a fact of my life since jr high school, I have some alarming irregularities in my heartbeat and that she doesn't want me to return to bellydance or water aerobics until I get an all clear from a cardiologist. This is priority 1, according to the doctor, and we can begin to look at other issues. (Issues including but not limited to the potentially addictive miracle drug that the pill sherrif put me on to make up for the failings of the two anti-depressants I was already taking. I have to admit that I don't want her to take me off of the provigil because I feel as though it has given me back my life.)

22 January 2009

What I've been doing instead of blogging

You know what the real problem with needle felting is... if you stab yourself in the fingers often enough, it hurts to type.

If you enjoy it enough, these results almost make it worth being unable to brag about what you're doing on your blog...

15 December 2008

How long 'til Santa files for unemployment?

From: A Kidnapped Santa Claus
by L. Frank Baum

Santa Claus lives in the Laughing Valley, where stands the big, rambling castle in which his toys are manufactured. His workmen, selected from the ryls, knooks, pixies and fairies, live with him, and every one is as busy as can be from one year's end to another.

It is called the Laughing Valley because everything there is happy and gay. The brook chuckles to itself as it leaps rollicking between its green banks; the wind whistles merrily in the trees; the sunbeams dance lightly over the soft grass, and the violets and wild flowers look smilingly up from their green nests. To laugh one needs to be happy; to be happy one needs to be content. And throughout the Laughing Valley of Santa Claus contentment reigns supreme.

As children, so many of us are taught to believe in Santa Claus. It's a tradition that I'm wrestling with now in regards to how we will raise Sprout. The debate over what we should or shouldn't tell our children about Santa is not, however, the point of this blog entry. (I may write more on that later... There's a lot that I should write about but I'm trying to take this just a little bit at a time...) Back to the point... Through stories and songs, we learn that Santa works lovingly in his northern workshop making toys by hand with the help of elves or other magical creatures. This idea that the toys are made by hand is an important part of the Santaverse...

We live in an industrial world. Increasingly, the objects in our lives have very little contact with human hands before we remove them from their pristine (and excessive) packaging. I'm probably biased on this point, as a craftsperson and as a fan of the Arts and Crafts movement. I love objects that are handmade. I feel, when I hold them and turn them in my hands, a connection to the person whose labor and vision created them. A handmade object always feels warmer to me, as though some trace of the warmth lingers from the craftsman's touch. When I look into the eyes of a handmade doll or toy, there seems to be a spirit looking back at me and I find myself thinking that the sparkle I see there was ignited by the spirit of its maker.

I feel compelled to write about these things at the moment because the future of handmade toys in the US (and indeed any handmade object sold in this country for use by children) is questionable. You see, in response to repeated saftey recalls of toys and other items intended for use by children, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has created new guidelines which will go into effect in February of 2009. These guidelines require that any product marketed to children be subjected to exhaustive testing and stringent labeling. On the face of it, this sounds like a good idea. But lets take a closer look at the issue.

The testing required costs $4000 per toy. When this cost can be spread over tens of thousands, if not millions of identical toys, it doesn't seem like that much money. The expense is simply passed on to the buyer at a cost of mere pennies per toy. On the other hand, for a craftsperson (i.e. Santa) who labors in his workshop making one of a kind toys, $4000 per toy is not a cost that can be passed on to the consumer. Even if the artist is making several hundred nearly identical toys, the expense is still well above what the consumer will be willing to pay.

And, really, is this safety testing really necessary? The standards being set by the commision exceed those in any other country in the world, including Canada and the European Community where existing production standards prevent the types of problems that prompted these reforms. In fact, looking at the safety recalls that resulted in this new legislation, the vast majority (very nearly 100%) of the products were mass manufactured in China.

Over the last few years, I've been asked over and over why I don't make more puppets to sell. My answer has always been two-fold. First that the puppets are extremely labor intensive and that I'd rather teach others to make them so that they can give them to the people they love. Second that the legal requirements for toymakers are byzantine and that I feel ill-equipped to meet those standards. I admire those artisans out there who have dedicated themselves to continuing handcraft traditions and ensuring that another generation of children experience the joy of playing with toys that are lovingly handmade. I am greatly saddened that the new standards being proposed to protect children will allso serve to ensure that, unless their mother/father/grandparent/or other beloved adult is a skilled craftsperson for whom toymaking is an enjoyable hobby, future generations of children will not enjoy the opportunity to experience the pleasure of a well crafted toy.

For more information, please take some time to read some (or all) of the following links:

Eco Childs Play

Cool Mom Picks: Save Handmade

The Handmade Toy Alliance and their Proposed improvements to the CPSIA

I'm sure that you'll find a great many links from these pages to others with more information and more insight. In these difficult financial times, many people are turning to handcrafts to supliment thier incomes or to brighten their lives. There is a growing cottage industry of artisans producing small quantities of lovingly made work to humanize an increasingly impersonal world. It is difficult, at best, to run a small business and many of these artisans are struggling to by materials and cover their expenses. This legislation threatens to drive most (if not all) of them out of business. And to what end? To protect us from a threat that comes not from individual artisans making the best objects that they can with the best materials that they can afford but instead from huge conglomerations shipping millions of cheaply made mass-manufactured disposeable goods from half way around the world where the labor is cheep and the standards are non-existant.

TITLE: Santa Claus
CALL NUMBER: SSF - Holidays--Christmas [P&P]
LC-USZ62-113695 (b&w film copy neg.)
SUMMARY: Man portraying Santa Claus, half-length, facing front, in snowy scene.
MEDIUM: 1 photographic print.

17 September 2008

Happy Constitution Day

221 years ago today, The Constitution of the United States was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It would take a year and a half for enough states to ratify the new document to allow a new government to set to work under its guidance. It would ultimately take almost 3 years for the constitution to be approved by all 13 of the original states.

It seems fitting to me that I'm thinking about all of this as I watch the HBO mini-series John Adams about the life of our second president and his long-reaching influence on our developing nation. If you've not seen it, I recommend it. The performances are excellent, and there is much emphasis on the principals of the constitution and the ideals of our founding fathers.

12 September 2008

Politics: Health Care

Do you know someone who doesn't have health insurance? There's a stigma attached so it's possible that they've not mentioned it. It might be better to ask yourself other questions. Do you know someone who is self-employed? Do you know someone who is trying to run a small business? Chances are, they don't have health insurance. The statistics, which I'm feeling too tired and disgusted to look up at the moment, are staggering. But we're not actually talking about statistics here, we're talking about human beings whose lives are at stake. As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, a nation with med schools that aspiring doctors from all over the world flock to for training in their chosen field, it is inexcusable that every day in this country people die who don't need to because they don't get the preventative care that they need. They suffer with pain and go to work every day as it eats away at them with no idea of what is going on because they cannot get a diagnosis without a magic card.

My cousin had surgery today. After months and months of dealing with a degenerative problem, he finally managed to get in to see a specialist who would give him an appointment knowing that he didn't have insurance. That appointment with the specialist was about a week ago. In the last week, my cousin has racked up untold thousands of dollars in medical debt for a surgery which was his only alternative to life-long paralysis.

I didn't sleep well last night, thinking about what was ahead. Now I'm fighting to stay awake as I type this. There was so much that I wanted to say and so many eloquent points that I needed to make. What it boils down to is "Someone in your life does not have the medical insurance that they need in the unlikely event that something catastrophic happens to them." Their future and their health are riding on the results of this election. McCain and Palin want to further privatize healthcare and allow market forces to bring the pricing down.

What will happen to the nation's working poor, to those being laid off by plant closures and those kids coming out of college having trouble getting jobs? Can we as a nation and a society really afford the human costs of Laissez-faire healthcare?

I wish that I could stay awake to really talk about this, but I'm fading fast. Maybe I'll be clearer headed tomorrow.

06 September 2008

Sprout's first week of "preschool"

Originally uploaded by madaise
Tuesday was Sprout's first day at the Boonshoft Discovery Museum's Kaleidoscope preschool science program. When we arrived to pick her up after "school" on tuesday morning, and I asked her what she'd done during the day, her answer was, "I fell in love today." When I asked Miss Robin, her teacher, how Sprout had done on her first day I was told that she already had a boyfriend and that the two of them were inseparable. "I'm gonna have to keep an eye on those two." To have this followed by Sprout's assertion that she had fallen in love was cute, if a little disturbing. She apparently bonded with one of her classmates over a shared love of the Ramones and her shoes. To give credit where credit is due, her shoes are really, super cute.

With some gentle coaxing, I was eventually able to learn that they had built walls out of coffee cans, had a snack of "fruity smiles" and cheeze-its with apple juice, met some fo the museum staff and played a game called "skunk in the barn yard" and learned a bit about skunks.

Thursday it was a little easier to get information from her. She had fruity smiles and pretzels (with apple juice, again) and they went on a nature walk outside. They did an experiment with pipes and talked about water treatment. When we picked her up, Sprout cried. She didn't want to leave. She didn't want to wait until Tuesday of next week to see her friends and her teacher.

She's so excited about "school" that she can hardly contain herself. I'm trying to find things to keep her busy in the days between her school days so that it doesn't seem quite so much like she's living for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Wednesday of next week we're going to a MetroParks nature passport event at a nearby park. The event includes a discussion of tree identification and a nature walk. I'd hoped that her daddy would be able to take her and I'd be able to get some work done but it doesn't look that way. He has early morning teleconferences 3 days next week and will be dropping her Tuesday and Thursday on his way into work.

On a less pleasant note, we're going to be a 1 car household again for a while. The Radio Flyer was in a minor accident on Thursday evening. No one was hurt but our little red wagon has been forced into retirement. Fortunately, the repairs to Rosie went well and she's gonna have to be ok for her (hopefully temporary) promotion to primary vehicle.

05 September 2008

Politics: Fair Warning (aka I've lost my resolve)

I'm finding that, the closer we get to the election, the more difficult it is to separate my political passions from the rest of my life. Frankly, I don't really want to. So I have to ask myself, why am I trying so hard to keep the politics off my blog? Am I afraid of offending potential customers? (That can't be it, I'm doing nothing to attract customers and have little to offer a customer when they stumble across my work on their own.) Am I afraid of loosing friends? (Everyone who knows me in the "real world" knows where I stand. I seldom have conversations with any of them that don't touch at some point on something related to current events.)

I'd like to offer a compromise. I will make every effort not to sneak politics into "regular" blog entries and will try not to put other content in my political posts. This means that, if I have a studio/life issue to write about, it will be in its own post rather than mixed with a post about politics or what I've been doing at the Obama office. I will also, promise the following:

1. I will write life/studio posts first and political posts second so that if time is short the "on topic" posts will not loose out to politics.

2. Political posts will be easily identified by subject line and with a clearly political image. (i.e. The Obama logo above right which I've modified to add the Dayton skyline for use in conjunction with my local campaign activities...)

3. I will try to continue using my blog on my.BarackObama.com for the majority of my political blogging.

That said, I'm prominently placing a pro-Obama/Biden graphic in the sidebar of this blog and adding a link to the my.BO blog in my blogroll. I really want to be respectful of those with opposing views but I'm afraid that lately I've felt that avoiding these subjects is disrespectful of my own very strong feelings. (Just because we disagree doesn't mean that we have to venture into unpleasant territory.)

31 August 2008

Art Bead Scene August Challenge: Something to Say

I've thought about submitting something for one of the Art Bead Scene monthly challenges for quite some time. This month the challenge was so perfect for the work that I've been doing lately that it was just too hard to resist. I've had a project entry in my Ravelry notebook for ages that says simply "Miles of I-cord" with no further explanation and no pictures. This is another of my ongoing attempts to wed my disparate interests. Knitted I-cord that has been fulled to act as a base for neck cords. It's not that different from the concept behind emBead.

I didn't get too into embellishing the cord, but I think that the piece turned out ok...