Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Quote of the Week

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
- Author Unknown

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mission Not Aborted

On this 35th anniversary of the landmark decision Roe vs. Wade, the ruling which gave women the right to an abortion in the United States, the issue is still a divisive one in our nation causing much debate and conflict in our social and political landscape. While this milestone should be a cause of celebration for pro-choice supporters, anti-choice groups continue to chip away at the control women gained over their own bodies on January 22, 1973, threatening the health and equality of women nationwide. A small minority of people, 18%, opposes abortion in all situations, a statistic unchanged since a 1975 poll; the vast majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe vs. Wade. This small group of “all or nothing” anti-choice advocates claim their protests, lawsuits, propaganda and education focused on limiting abortion access and forcing women to keep their fetuses have saved the lives of babies and the souls of women, but have all their efforts actually achieved the opposite? Do women in the United States have more abortions because of the so-called “Pro-Life” groups?

The US has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world and after years of seeing those rates decline is now watching them climb again. Half of all pregnancies in the United States are reported as unintended and 40% of those pregnancies end in abortion. If anti-choice leaders put nearly as much effort into the prevention of unwanted pregnancies through reducing sexual violence against women, making birth control safe and available to those who need it, and educating teens on pregnancy and prevention as they do in trying to overturn Roe vs. Wade fewer and fewer women would require an abortion. Anti-choice groups are part of the reason for our country’s abysmal pregnancy prevention rates, wasting valuable time and resources focusing on the effect of unwanted pregnancies rather then why they happen and combating their causes.

Contrary to some beliefs held by anti-choice groups most women do not plan for their unwanted pregnancies; abortion is a decision of last resort when having a baby is simply out of the question. This is an issue faced by women regardless of age, race, religion, socio-economic conditions or marital status. Our mission should revolve around providing women a world where the choice to have an abortion never has to be made in the first place. Until we live in a society where women are not raped, incest does not exist, pregnancy has zero complications that threaten the life of the mother and ALL women receive sex education and access to birth control there will be abortions, legal or illegal.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quote of the Week

“We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box.”
– Anonymous

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quote of the Week

Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours."
- Robert Byrne

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hearings like deja vu all over again

How many countless hours have our political leaders focused on the issue of steroids in baseball? It is an election year where the United States is involved in a winless war, the “American Dream” of homeownership is turning into a mortgage crisis nightmare, our economy quickly slipping into recession territory, public schools churning out thousands of children who cannot read or write, and residents of New Orleans are still living in FEMA trailers over 2 years after Hurricane Katrina and congress is holding yet another round Major League Baseball hearings. With all the issues that are plaguing our country are another round of steroid hearings the best use of Washington’s time and taxpayers’ money?

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the main investigative arm of the U.S. House of Representatives with jurisdiction to probe any federal program and matters with federal policy implications. To begin investigating the MLB and players congress had to devise a way for this non-federal program to fall within the definition of “matters with federal policy implications.” The website for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform published the following statement to “justify” their focus on the issue:

“Steroid use among teenagers is increasing rapidly, with some experts estimating that nearly half a million teens have used steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in recent years. The related health risks can be devastating: heart and liver damage, infection, changes in sexual characteristics, violent rages, and even severe depression that can lead to suicide. Because of the influence of professional athletes on teen behavior, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating steroid use in professional sports and the adequacy of efforts by the Major League Baseball, the NFL, and other professional sports leagues to eliminate their use.”

Essentially the excuse used by congress to waste their time and your money on this issue is because teenagers are easily impressionable and take steroids because they see ball players doing it. While I see the logic behind this train of thought I still question whether this issue is within the jurisdiction of the federal government or whether there are other reasons behind the decision to pursue these matters within the walls of the US Capitol. If there is an “Impressionable Teenager” litmus test for determining the need for a congressional investigation will Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and the Spears girls be brought before congress to testify on their impact on teenage drinking, drug use, pregnancy rates, spending and eating disorders all of which impact far more then the half million teens estimated to use steroids. Is congress just as “star-struck” as teenagers that when presented with the opportunity to meet, subpoena and question baseball players they had to take it?

Baseball did permit, and by some accounts encouraged, the use of performance enhancing drugs and that is certainly an employee abuse issue that warranted examination by the department of labor, not congress. Even the Mitchell Report concluded “that everyone in baseball is responsible: the owners, the commissioner, the union and the players." Major League Baseball has a serious Human Resources personnel issue, not a federal one. Congress should stop wasting their time and our money investigating frivolous nonsense and “play ball” on issues that really effect US citizens.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I ♥ Coffee

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, an old adage that applies to affairs of the heart and the stomach. In an attempt to cut down my 6 cup a day coffee habit I decided to endure the pain and suffering associated with caffeine withdrawal and give up my daily java habit cold turkey. Once getting past the lack of energy and mind crushing headaches I discovered the sensory deprivation of life without coffee left me cold and miserable.

I love the taste coffee, the rich complexities of a fine bean brewed under perfect conditions. Coffee, when well made, does not need to be enhanced by flavors like milk or sugar but enjoyed for the pure strength and beauty contained within a steaming cup of black liquid. Coffee is a beverage that can be enjoyed both hot or cold making it the perfect beverage regardless of the season. Coffee beans, like wine grapes, take on different taste characteristics based on based upon bean type, soil conditions, weather, care and blending. Virginia Madsen’s monologue on wine in the movie Sideways can could easily convey the beauty of coffee; “I like how (coffee) continues to evolve, like if I opened a (bag of beans) today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because (coffee) is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.” A good cup of coffee is as beautiful as a fine glass of wine and takes more then just beans and water but true love from growers and roasters to be worth of vintage mention.

I love the sound of coffee, regardless to whether the sound comes from an espresso machine or a percolator it is like music to my ears; water heating, the first drop hitting the pot, a cup being filled. Especially melodic is the sound of beans being ground just seconds before their brewing; it is the sound of flavor.

I love the sight of coffee, people sitting around a table laughing and enjoying find conversation over a cup of java. Dark coffee shops with orange mood lighting perfect for a poetry reading. Bright and cheery shops, bursting with light from big windows, friends gathering over white ceramic mugs steaming with the drip of the day. Coffee brings people together and there is nothing that looks more beautiful then togetherness.

I love the smell of coffee; there is no other scent that evokes emotions of warmth and comfort like coffee brewing. The smell of coffee brings me back to family gatherings, adults sitting around the table for coffee and conversation while we all played games and eavesdropped. Once the smell of coffee wafted through the air we all knew that pie, cake and cookies were not far behind.

I love the way coffee makes me feel; what other beverage can be used to become more alert, awake and ready to take on the world or to lay back and relax in calming comfort. Comfort is also found in the routine of coffee; the morning ritual of brewing a pot to start the day, retrieving the large coffee urn from storage for large family gatherings, the way a long order like a Venti Half Caf Non Fat Extra Hot Sugar Free Caramel Latte just rolls off the tongue. From the time we are babies humans thrive in an environment of routine and structure and routine is still necessary in our adult years to provide a sense of calm and control that is lacking in so many of our lives.

Without coffee my senses are dulled, things do not taste, look, smell, sound or hear the same. I almost feel lost without my daily cup of coffee. This type of attachment to is synonymous with addition but mid-way through January it is time to admit failure on kicking the coffee habit and move on. With all the medical studies linked to the benefits of coffee consumption there are far worse addictions to have. Knowing you have an addictive personality is hard but finding something an addiction that can actually help my health and well being is priceless.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Evaluate Thy Self

My time devoted to pleasurable writing this week was disrupted by one of the most painful experiences in any corporate environment; yearly self evaluations. Each year I struggle, trying to find the fine line between self marketing and conceited boasting. Worse then blowing your own horn is trying to determine what areas of improvement to focus upon to counterbalance the bragging without exposing too many shortcomings. After over a week of writing in hour long clips, trying not to puke at the things I did over the past year and how they sound on paper, the yearly undertaking finally came to closure last night. To ensure I adhere to the writing goals set forth in my New Year’s Resolution list here are excerpts from my self evaluation; proof that I wrote some beautiful “non-fiction” prose this week.

Michelle partnered with Account Executives, Client Implementation and Sales to steward client goals and visions, interfacing throughout the organization to bridge silos of expertise with groups including Account Management, Marketing, Finance, Operations Delivery, Training, Reporting and IT while developing relationships to effectively execute strategy. During this process she began developing greater cross-product team relationships to drive long term strategies for product and operations integration efforts.

Designed business and operational processes to ensure that populations with differing health and wellness requirements could receive the services they needed without sacrificing the integrity of the product line or success metrics while ensuring data designs supported outcomes reporting.

Michelle identified opportunities for process improvement, facilitated design and process enhancement workshops, executed process updates, educated stakeholders on process design best practices, authored and supported the development of business requirements, validated deliverables against business principles and goals, collaborated with cross-functional representatives and advocated change within the organization.

Michelle’s big picture understanding allowed her to recognize the broader needs and issues surrounding each product and functional area during her work with client solutioning to ensure issues were addressed and small decisions would have minimal impact on downstream teams and processes.

Michelle’s understanding of corporate and internal systems and her ability to translate business and operational needs into technical requirements is a great benefit to the organization. As she moves out of more tactically focused work Michelle needs to gain more experience driving operational strategy to fully capitalize on her background and abilities.

With this complete it is now time to focus more on my societal observations and less on my contribution to "the man."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Quote of the Week

The reason I have so much trouble with my New Year's Resolutions (and everything else in life)...
I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.
- Mae West

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Feel Great in 2008

After my abysmal results with my 2007 New Year’s Resolutions it is time to get back on the horse and declare my 2008 goals. As tempting as it is to be a little bit more vague to get better results I am following the advice of my health coach for creating resolutions that stick; set realistic goals, be specific, write it down, tell family and friends, reward and report personal progress, learn from setback rather then giving up.

Chelle’s 2008 New Year’s Resolutions
  1. Classy Lady: Take one continuing education class on any topic; photography, cooking, ballroom dance, tennis, creative writing, underwater basket weaving, etc.
  2. Let’s Get Physical: I will do something physical (walk, jog, blade, bike, etc.) for 30 minutes a day, every day.
  3. Hydrate: 8 glasses a day, every day.
  4. Cruelty Free Beauty: By the end of the year all the beauty product in the house, from shampoo to face cream, will be from companies who abstain from animal testing.
  5. Photos Finished: All photos will be uploaded to the internet within two weeks of taking them.
  6. Loan Free: Pay off car loan by end of year
  7. Face First: Reaching an age where facials are necessary and no longer a luxury, I will make the time to get facials quarterly.
  8. Reading: Finish 12 books.
  9. Writing: Post on blog an average of 3 days a week.
  10. Don’t let the sun shine in: Apply sunscreen to my face every morning.
  11. Variety is the spice of life: Get out of life ruts by trying a new “thing” every month; restaurant, museum, park, sport, stage production, etc.
  12. Weight of the world off the shoulders: Relax tense back and shoulder muscles with a deep body massage quarterly and hang on the inversion table at least 4 days a week.
  13. Maintain Happy Weight: Get back into the 170s and stay there!
  14. Great Skate: Complete another Inline Marathon.

Some of these goals are quite indulgent but align with my overall goal for the year; look and feel great in 2008. Sometimes it is necessary to take an easier course load; I suspect these more decadent resolutions will also help with my overall adherence!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Quote of the Week

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.
- Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Another list bites the dust

It is the moment I have not been waiting for, revisiting last year’s resolutions and grading the results. The bad news is I didn’t receive a passing grade. The good news is I don’t get left back and still get to graduate into 2008 and now have a whole year to improve these scores.

1. I will control my personal spending which means no new camera equipment over $500 and no longer having to steal money from savings to pay off my credit card bill (after March… Weddings are expensive, especially when they are your sister’s)
  • F : While camera equipment purchases were kept at a minimum credit card bills were not kept at a minimum.
2. I will run 1 mile a day, 5 days a week. I can do more then one mile, but I can do no less.
  • D+ : I accomplished this goal from 1/1/2007 – 4/2/2007, lost weight and felt great. Unfortunately I came down with a nasty cold, got out of the routine and never picked it up again. This same pattern is one I haven’t broken from in the past 5 years where my workout routine is thrown off by a bad cold and never picked up again.
3. I will take the GMAT this year.
  • F : I purchased the study guide and it’s still in plastic. The root of this issue is the lack of desire to go back to school. I know to avoid the proverbial glass ceiling I need to get my MBA but honestly; I think it is nothing more then a bunch of letters and a waste of time and money.
4. I will finish the Northshore Inline Marathon under 2 hours.
  • D : Although my finishing time of 2:28:52 was my worst time ever, the race was the most difficult and mathematically I improved tremendously against the field. If conditions were better I truly believe I would have broken the 2 hour mark.
5. I will drink 8 glasses of water a day.
  • C : I am ashamed not to get an A on this resolution. Such an easy thing to do with such amazing benefits and I was unable to accomplish this goal on a regular basis. I did so poorly one month that I got a kidney infection.
6. I will get back down to a size 14 and fill my closet up with 14s rather then with 12s and 10s I never stay in.
  • F- : Is an F-minus a real grade? I actually accomplished this goal prior to Thanksgiving and in celebrating the accomplishment gained every pound and then some between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
7. I will floss at least 4 days a week (everyday has never happened and been on the list for 10 years)
  • B : I gave up on flossing regularly and instead purchased one of those electric toothbrushes with the built in flosser so technically I’m flossing twice a day!
8. I will upload all my photos to the internet within 2 weeks of taking them and catch up on all the photos on my computer from 2004.
  • B : Even with a new computer loaded with Microsoft Vista, the most useless operating system ever launched, giving me major issues with all of my photo software I was still able to keep up with loading my photos onto Kodak Gallery (nee Ofoto) within 2 weeks. I experienced a few delays in the summer or I would have given myself an A.
9. I will finish at least 4 large scrapbooks and 4 small scrapbooks.
  • F : No excuses, I did not scrapbook the entire year.
10. I will apply sunscreen to my face every morning and use all the pretty scrubs and lotions to look and feel better rather then have them go bad in my cabinets.
  • A : Every morning without fail.
11. I will call a different friend every week and actually talk with them rather then just email.
  • F : I am a terrible, awful, horrible friend. I wish I had the time and energy at the end of the day to call friends. I am always concerned that a call is going to take 3 hours and I just don’t have that time.
12. I will read 2 books a month.
  • F : The more time I have in an airplane, the more I read. Without regular airplane time I need to find a way to get reading back into the schedule.
13. I will brush the dogs once a week.
  • D : The dogs hate being brushed and therefore I hate doing it. To make up for their lack of brushing they are getting groomed more frequently.
14. I will write on my blog at least 3times a week.
  • A : At least I did something right!
With how miserably I failed at my 2007 resolution list I will be approaching my 2008 list a little differently. Stay tuned…