Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not Well Played, NYT

Monday night (probably Tuesday in the print version), the New York Times reported on a federal judge's decision that the FDA acted improperly in setting an 18-and-over age restriction on the over-the-counter availability of Plan B.

Sidebar: Woohoo! Now, science people, don't freak out. I still feel sort of queasy about non-scientist judges making rulings about science. However, this decision was not actually about science; it was about government officials using politics to game the approval process. So I can celebrate the reproductive rights moment without feeling awkward. Besides, if Susan Wood-- who resigned from the FDA because of this issue-- is happy, I'm happy.

So if I'm glowing from women's collective win, why am I pissed at the New York Times? It's because I'm one of those masochists who reads the reader comments. What's worse, I'm that girl who reads the comments and then tries to figure out how the editors chose their "Editors' Selections." Allegedly, the rationale is as follows:

"NYTimes editors aim to highlight the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views."

Okay, fine. I even acknowledge upfront that they are inevitably going to pick some comments with which I disagree. No problem. Of course they were going to highlight a comment from someone who thinks Plan B is going to be the end of western civilization. I was ready for that. Hell, that's why I clicked on the comments page in the first place.

However, I have a major problem with tagging as "interesting and thoughtful" a comment that includes factual errors. I'm looking at you, Comment #10:

"For those of us, who respect the sanctity of life and believe a soul is imputed to a human being at conception, this is yet another travesty in a series of tragedies." The poster goes on to condemn "support for Licentious behavior" (bonus point for vocab, deduction for random mid-sentence capitalization), liberal politicians, and people creating baby mama drama (not in those words).

Fine. If the NYT editors think it looks magnanimous to give a shout-out to conservative reader, whatever. My problem is one of the following:

a. Comment #10 guy doesn't know how Plan B works.
b. Comment #10 guy doesn't know how conception works (less likely, not out of the question).
c. Both a. and b.
d.-f. Repeat a.-c., but replace "Comment #10 guy" with "NYT staffer moderating comment board."

In case I have confused anyone, here is my problem in a less passive-aggressive format. From the Plan B website: "Plan B® works like a birth control pill to prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary." If you read the pamphlet (linked above), you'll see that they allow that it is possible that Plan B also prevents fertilization and implantation. However, in the intended, proven function of the drug (the no egg part), conception is not in the picture. So if you're going to rail against something using only "life begins at conception" and your self-righteous recollections of a bygone time when dirty liberals weren't running the show, please direct your comments elsewhere.

Furthermore, NYT, please step up your game. Misconceptions (ha.) about the function of a pharmaceutical product couched in pro-life rhetoric hardly qualify as "thoughtful."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kate Experiments with Clothing... Again

As a loyal viewer of What Not to Wear and a true life victim of my own fashion choices, I am a believer in the power of clothes.

Now, I love the Hartford Whalers. I don't care that they are no longer an NHL team. It's irrelevant. You are probably wondering what this has to do with clothes. Well, I recently decided I needed a Whalers shirt that is not the sweat-stained, paint-splattered, hole-under-the-left-arm "Top 10 Things to Love about the Hartford Whalers" shirt I got when I was 10 years old and now wear to the gym. I still love this shirt and will continue to wear it until it is no longer a shirt (my friend Becca once said, "pants are pants until they fall down"; I think a similar axiom probably applies to upper-body garments). But sometimes you want to show your love without the constant fear of people stopping you on the street to say, "Look into bleach."

So I found myself a new shirt. It is great. It is simple-- heather grey, just the logo on the front. I cut off the collar, as I am wont to do, and now it is perfect. The only problem is that when you work in an office and spend the majority of your weekend hours in your pajamas or your aforementioned sweaty, painty Whalers shirt, you don't have so many opportunities to wear your awesome new shirt. You can't necessarily wear it to go out on Saturday night--it's pretty hipster to wear the tee shirt of your now-defunct NHL team (though massively cooler than wearing the tee shirt of the band you're going to see-- don't be that guy). Which is why it was so convenient that I went to a party in Columbia Heights Saturday night. If you can't dress up as a hipster to go to Columbia Heights, then I don't know when you can. Okay, when you go to H Street, but I digress.

I should also note that this Whalers-centric outfit was a pretty daring (read: dubious) choice. Marissa almost talked me out of it, and were I a more reasonable person she would have succeeded. But as I said, I will only be young enough to make egregious fashion mistakes--like a Whalers shirt with a frilly, borderline-too-short skirt and heels--once, and I have to get them all out of my system now in case I am ever famous enough to get called out for these choices in a public forum. Plus, I know how I react when I see people who identify themselves as Whalers fans, and I sort of wanted to see what would happen.

What happened: people love the Whalers love. More importantly, the Whalers shirt lends itself to a conversation a little more than, say, the plaid skirt and draws comments from specific types of people:

a. Guys from Canada ("Well, you like the Whalers, so I respect you.")
b. Guys from New York/New England ("Are you from Hartford?" "No!" "Oh, okay.")
c. Guys from North Carolina ("[slurred, drunken teasing about the Carolina Hurricanes]")

Lesson: The Whalers shirt is always the right decision. I would never encourage anyone to pretend to be a Whalers fan. I get very upset by disingenuous wearers of Whalers gear-- really, ask the guy who was sporting a vintage-esque Whalers shirt last time I was in Front Page. When someone asks you about your shirt, the answer is never, "Oh, I don't even like them. I'm from L.A."

But if you can hum the Brass Bonanza, you should know that proclaiming your pride in your now-lost NHL team can have positive results. And if you happen to encounter a Captain No-Fun who leans over and says, "You do know the Whalers are no longer a team, right?" you can just smile and say, "They live on in my heart."

This will keep you from saying what you're really thinking (well, also thinking): "If you can't say anything nice, stop looking at my boobs."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kate Gets Domestic, or The Importance of Power Tools in Decorating

I decided a few weeks ago to take today and Monday off. I have been avoiding a lot of chores and errands, using excuses like, "But I don't want to spend a quarter of my weekend ironing." Yes. I actually avoid ironing with such skill that the "to be ironed" section of my closet merits designation as a large-scale project/federal disaster area. But when your weekend is twice as long as usual, there is no excuse. That said, I couldn't face my wrinkly shirts on the first day of Kate's Big Productive Weekend, so I opted for domestic project number two:

Do something with the big, awesome map I bought at Eastern Market IN DECEMBER that is still sitting on the floor next to the TV.

Long ago, when I was foraging for Christmas presents, I visited the map man at Eastern Market, who happened to have these sweet city planning maps of D.C., including one with our apartment. Unfortunately, it is big and an odd size, and I have been too lazy/cheap/unmotivated to get it matted and framed. I decided I could get a shelf at Target and stand the map up on the shelf. I know this sounds weird, but I promise it sort of works in person.

With this plan, I commenced avoiding a Target field trip, until I realized that this long weekend would give me the perfect opportunity to go, with the added bonus of missing the masses that descend upon Target on the real weekend. This is how I ended up in our apartment this afternoon with my delightful shelf, puzzling over the instructions for mounting it on a wall.

Brief time-out: bear in mind that I picked "Project Interior Decorating" instead of "Project Actually Have Clothes to Wear to Work Again" mostly because of the equipment involved. DeWalt drill = way cooler than miscellaneous iron. Before I even went to Target, I unpacked my drill and started charging one of the batteries. I was excited.

Then I came home with my overpriced chunk of particle board and was a little sad to see that the instructions called for a screwdriver. Just a regular old screwdriver without any voltage. I consoled myself with the sweet drywall anchors and the fact that with their hanging hardware, it seemed like I had a shot at making the shelf level on the first try. And if you know me, you know that whatever I build/assemble will probably end up level(ish) but that it might take four or five extra holes in a wall and at least that many expletives.

As it turns out, the hanging hardware provided with the shelf was a complete farce.

We will overlook the drywall anchors that were totally useless, because it's possible that I shouldn't have even tried to use them on our walls; whatever. I abandoned those and decided to screw the bracket on which I was to hang the shelf into the wall. DeWalt to the rescue! Pre-drilling was the only way those screws were going to go into the wall; I seriously hope no poor schmuck tried to use a screwdriver and elbow grease.

So the bracket was on the wall, and it was shockingly level, considering that there were only three new holes in the wall and all of them were in use. Now to slide the hardware on the shelf onto the wall bracket, and...

...and why is the shelf still in my hands instead of on the wall? Shit.

Now, I have no misconceptions about my strength as a scholar of physics. But even I have a vague understanding of gravity and force and vectors-- concepts that seem to have eluded the person who designed this misnomer-ed "hanging hardware."

Nor do I presume to be a scholar of the law, but I have some idea of what liability is and of the fact that you probably have some if the shelf you put on the wall over your couch falls off the wall and onto the person sitting on your couch.

However, I can definitely, authoritatively tell you a thing or two about shoddy construction. And I know that in the absence of inherent structural integrity, you can just keep adding shit until all the ancillary pieces you throw into the mix hold your original thing together.

It is with this philosophy in mind that I embarked on a field trip to the hardware store, where I acquired a variety of festive metal brackets in a delightful brass finish. And after much pre-drilling and second-guessing about whether two brackets would be enough (answer: when you're as paranoid as I am, two is not enough-- two on the bottom and two smaller brackets on the top is closer without looking like you're completely psychotic), I am pleased to report that the shelf has been on the wall and the map has been on the shelf for six hours now. It is shockingly level, at least in the plane that mattered to me. And it has yet to fall on anyone's head.

Although if I have to fix the shelf, maybe I can put off ironing a little longer.