Monthly Archives: November 2013

stone crab fossil, a poem

ocalina floridana stone crab fossil

Stone Crab Fossil

My daughter and I
wear our matching crab T-shirts.
We are known for our prickly natures,
our quick defenses.
We stare at Ocalina floridana,
which, though dead, reaches out
as if for rescue with its fat claws —
now pale, delicate shades of gray rock,
not orange and black as in life:
a desperate ghost crab.
Entombed in mud for millennia,
turned slowly to stone
by seep of minerals. The flesh
would have been delicious
with melted butter. Side-walker,
harbinger of bad luck, omen of the great flood,
enemy to all snakes, brave
in the face of death, the humble crab
goes down swinging. The crab does not run
from danger, the crab does not abandon
pride in the moment of attack.
When I was pregnant with her,
I had a taste for crab-cakes.
Sometimes I wear a hard shell,
sometimes I wish I could shed it,
leave it rolling down the beach
while I slip back into the clear water.
This year she learned to read,
tells me the name of everything
in the museum. Sometimes, just like me,
she doesn’t want to talk, she wants
to be alone. I hope someday,
should she ever have need,
she seeks me out, reaches toward me
in her distress, lets me in again.


Filed under poetry

this article disappeared off the web almost as soon as it appeared. curiouser & curiouser.

female genital mutilation razor blade

Woman challenges tradition, brings change to her Kenyan village

When she was 14 years old, Kakenya Ntaiya entered the cow pen behind her home with an elderly woman carrying a rusty knife.

As a crowd from her Maasai village looked on, Ntaiya sat down, lifted her skirt and opened her legs. The woman grabbed Ntaiya’s most intimate body parts and, in just moments, cut them out.

“It (was) really painful. I fainted,” recalled Ntaiya, now 34. “You’re not supposed to cry.”

For generations, this ceremony was a rite of passage for every Maasai girl, some as young as 10; soon afterward, they would marry and drop out of school.

About 140 million girls and women worldwide have been affected by female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision. The procedure is commonly based on religious and cultural beliefs, including efforts to prevent premarital sex and marital infidelity.

While female circumcision and child marriage are now illegal in Kenya — new laws banning genital mutilation have contributed to a decline in the practice — officials acknowledge that they still go on, especially in rural tribal areas. Despite free primary education being mandated 10 years ago by the Kenyan government, educating girls is still not a priority for the Maasai culture. According to the Kenyan government, only 11% of Maasai girls in Kenya finish primary school.

“It means the end of their dreams of whatever they want to become in life,” Ntaiya said.

But when Ntaiya endured the painful ritual in 1993, she had a plan. She negotiated a deal with her father, threatening to run away unless he promised she could finish high school after the ceremony.

“I really liked going to school,” she said. “I knew that once I went through the cutting, I was going to be married off. And my dream of becoming a teacher was going to end.”

Dreams like Ntaiya’s weren’t the norm in Enoosaen, a small village in western Kenya. Engaged at age 5, Ntaiya spent her childhood learning the skills she would need to be a good Maasai wife. But her mother encouraged her children to strive for a better life, and Ntaiya heeded her advice, postponing the coming-of-age ritual as long as she could. When her father finally insisted, she took her stand.

Ntaiya’s bold move paid off. She excelled in high school and earned a college scholarship in the United States. Her community held a fundraiser to raise money for her airfare, and in exchange, she promised to return and help the village.

Over the next decade, Ntaiya would earn her degree, a job at the United Nations and eventually a doctorate in education. But she never forgot the vow she made to village elders.

In 2009, she opened the first primary school for girls in her village, the Kakenya Center for Excellence. Today, Ntaiya is helping more than 150 girls receive the education and opportunities that she had to sacrifice so much to attain.

The Kakenya Center for Excellence started as a traditional day school, but now the students, who range from fourth to eighth grade, live at the school. This spares the girls from having to walk miles back and forth, which puts them at risk of being sexually assaulted, a common problem in rural African communities. It also ensures the girls don’t spend all their free time doing household chores.

“Now, they can focus on their studies — and on being kids,” Ntaiya said. “It’s the only way you can give a girl child a chance to excel.”

Students receive three meals a day as well as uniforms, books and tutoring. There are also extracurricular activities such as student council, debate and soccer. Class sizes are small — many schools in Kenya are extremely overcrowded — and the girls have more chances to participate. With these opportunities and the individual attention they receive, the girls are inspired to start dreaming big.

“They want to become doctors, pilots, lawyers,” Ntaiya said. “It’s exciting to see that.”

Just 4 years old, the school already ranks among the top in its district.

“Fathers are now saying, ‘My daughter could do better than my son,’ ” Ntaiya said.

As a public school, the Kakenya Center for Excellence receives some financial support from the Kenyan government. But the majority of the school’s expenses are paid for by Ntaiya’s U.S.-based nonprofit. While families are asked to contribute to cover the cost of the girls’ meals, an expense that can be paid in maize or beans, Ntaiya covers the costs of any students who cannot pay.

Each year, more than 100 girls apply for approximately 30 spots available in each new class. Parents who enroll their daughters must agree that they will not be subjected to genital mutilation or early marriage.

Many families are willing to accept Ntaiya’s terms, and that’s the kind of change she was hoping to inspire. It took her years to drum up support for the project, but eventually she persuaded the village elders to donate land for the school.

“It’s still quite challenging to push for change. Men are in charge of everything,” she said. “But nothing good comes on a silver plate. You have to fight hard.”

Who should be CNN Hero of the Year? Cast your vote!

Chief John Naleke, a village elder, can testify firsthand to Ntaiya’s powers of persuasion. As recently as 2006, he claimed there was no need for girls to be educated. But she managed to win him over; he’s now an important partner in her efforts.

Naleke said Ntaiya’s accomplishments and spirit have made her a role model, noting that villagers also respect the fact that she didn’t forget her promise.

“We have several sons who have gone to the United States for school. Kakenya is the only one that I can think of that has come back to help us,” Naleke said. “What she tells us, it touches us. … She brought a school and a light and is trying to change old customs to help girls get a new, better life.”

In 2011, Ntaiya moved to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, with her husband and two young sons. She spends about half her time in Enoosaen, where she loves to visit with the girls and see them evolve.

“When they start, they are so timid,” she said. “(Now) the confidence they have, it’s just beyond words. It’s the most beautiful thing.”

Her nonprofit also runs health and leadership camps that are open to all sixth-grade girls in the village and teach them about female circumcision, child marriage, teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.

“We tell them about every right that they have, and we teach them how to speak up,” Ntaiya said. “It’s about empowering the girls.”

In the coming years, Ntaiya plans to expand her school to include lower grades. She also wants to provide tutoring for the students from her first class when they head to high school next year, and she wants to eventually open a career center for them. She hopes that one day the school will serve as a model for girls’ education throughout Africa.

Ultimately, Ntaiya wants girls to have the opportunity to go as far as their abilities will take them.

“I came back so girls don’t have to negotiate like I did to achieve their dreams,” she said. “That’s why I wake up every morning.”

Want to get involved? Check out the Kakenya Center for Excellence website at and see how to help.


Filed under recommended reblogs

airplane lands at wrong airport in kansas

hmmm.  I don’t think we’re in Kansas, anymore, co-pilot darling!

except we are.  we’re eight miles from the airport we were supposed to land at.

don’t end a sentence with a preposition!

sorry, i’m nervous.  didn’t smoke enough hay before takeoff.

shhh!  the faa is probably listening!

nah, they’re busy fighting terrorism.  besides, does the faa even exist, anymore?  isn’t it the tsa???

oh, shut up.  there goes the morning.  now we’ve done it.

no, you’ve done it, Ollie.

oh, shut up!


Filed under humor


Abigail, Being Born

When I first saw you, I did not know

whether you were male or female,

I did not know whether you were plain or beautiful,

I did not know whether you were smart or dumb,

kind or cruel.  I saw your eyes, blinking slowly at me,

dark with secrets.  You were a mystery to solve,

a puzzle to assemble, a story to hear,

a symphony to explode over me like salt waves,

healing and exhausting.  I knew only that I loved you,

wanted to love you, would dedicate the rest of my life

to loving you.  The moment after your birth,

I did not know you at all, but I was ready to learn.


Filed under poetry

Great book: The Tyranny of Good Intentions

tyranny_good_intentions original hardcover image

“That which thy fathers bequeathed thee, earn it anew if thou woulds’t possess it.”  (old Anglo-Saxon maxim).  The English legal system we who now live in the United States of America inherited, historically reflected “a [very strong] tradition of the defense of individual rights against the state,” (at least since “The Glorious Revolution” in 1688).  You’ll have noticed by now, I am sure, that the far, radical Right has long referred to President Barack Obama as either “the Antichrist,” or “Hitleresque.”  They are in fact on to something, but not the right something.  A quick comparison of the status quo in effect currently, versus the situation in Germany when Hitler was “elected,” is highly illustrative.  In post-WWI Germany, “German law reflected the tradition of a strong state as the embodiment of the community by which individuals would be granted such rights as were considered compatible with its interests.”  (Jeremy Noakes & Geoffrey Pridham, eds., Documents on Nazism, 1919-1945 (New York:  Viking Press, 1975), at p. 226-27.)  Thus, Obama, even if he desired it, could not possibly have the kinds of powers Hitler wielded in the short-lived “Thousand Year Reich.”  Or whatever the hell that freaky, Hitler-moustachioed murderous asshole who ruled Germany for a while called his horrible regime — which regime is an undeserved stain on the beleaguered German people, who have since recovered that fumble neatly, and in fact probably have less economic inequality than those of us in these United States of America.

“The character of this [English-inspired, individual-oriented, American] legal system ensured that it would be revered.  In recent times, however, reverence for our legal system is being replaced by fear, distrust, and dissatisfaction.  For example, inner-city juries routinely refuse to convict criminal defendants on the basis of prosecutorial and police evidence alone.”  Witness O.J. Simpson!

“The twentieth century’s belief in government power as a force for good has encouraged the practice of chasing after devils.  Like a national emergency, a righteous cause can cut a wide swath through the law to more easily apprehend wrongdoers.  In recent decades, both conservatives and liberals cut swaths through the law as they pursued drug dealers, S&L crooks, environmental polluters, Wall Street insider traders, child abusers, and other undesirables.  Impatience, frustration, hysteria, political scapegoating, and greed have caused police, prosecutors, victims, and the plaintiffs’ bar to grow weary of laws that protect those accused of crimes and negligence.  The question is raised, “Why should the guilty have the benefit of law?”  Sir Thomas More’s answer (as presented in A Man for All Seasons) is that when the law is disregarded to better pursue the guilty, it is also taken away from the innocent.  What are we to do, he asks, if those chasing after devils decide to chase after us?  If the law is cast down, what protection do the innocent have?  A little liberty taken here, a precedent there, and the Rights of Englishmen become history, a clear-cut area where once mighty oaks stood.”

The Tyranny of Good Intentions, How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice, Paul Craig Roberts & Lawrence M. Stratton, authors, ISBN 0-7615-2553-X, FORUM press, an imprint of Prima Publishing, 3000 Lava Ridge Court, Roseville, CA  95661 (copyright, 2000).

the spookiest thing, for me, as a person??  this was all written & predicted well before 9/11 or the Patriot Act, or two bizarre wars which we are still sort of in but sort of not, before Obama, before the “Tea Party,” the current crop of mad hatters & dormice… before any of it.  why aren’t we calling these guys to hear what they have to say next??????

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Filed under legal writing, notes