Entries Posted in "May 2009"

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Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself
May 29, 2009

I'm cross posting this from the Lifestyle section because it's just too good. And in light of all the bacon sympathizers who sided with me in my epic battle with my husband over bacon, I WILL be buying this t-shirt, thank you very much. That is all I have to say about that.

Posted by Ambra in Marriage | Link to This Entry | Comments { 2 }
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The Battle of Words

spellingbee2.jpgWithout fail, the Scripps National Spelling Bee always manages to deliver on entertainment, educational value, and irony-laced words. Though I doubt it's ever intentional, some of the words spelled in the final rounds of the last few years have been incredibly fitting for the times we were in. For example, one of the harder words of 2007, was "Kakistocracy," which means "Government under the control of a nation's worst or least-qualified citizens." It was true then, and sadly, it's still true now. I tucked that word into my arsenal to use on my future children or the next time I got pulled over by the police for a random criminal check (a virtual certainty when you are black and breathing and live in Seattle, Washington).

Usually I am glued to a television during the Scripps Spelling Bee in the same manner many are currently observing the NBA Finals. That probably makes me a nerd, but unfortunately, giving several hours a week to the NBA isn't paying my bills right now so my loyalty is at about zero. Sadly, spelling bees offer no amazing game-winning, half-court three pointers, or big names like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. What spelling bees do offer is a chance to observe how incredibly powerful language can be. I continue to be fascinated by the English language, but particularly, I'm intrigued by these pre-pubescent, somewhat nerdy type-competitors who are walking dictionaries of etymology and lexicon. Winning a spelling competition seems a bit of a waste of all the knowledge if you ask me. Then again, I can't spell "definitely" correctly without my trusty spellcheck (also known as the biggest ignorance enabler of the 20th century).

This year, however, the Scripps Spelling Bee threw me for a loop when the final, winning word was, brace yourselves, "Laodicean."

Did I hear that correctly? Laodicean? Do you know how incredibly easy that word is and should be? Here I usually sit in a complete stupor for most of the spelling bee because I can't even pronounce let alone spell the words these 11-year-olds are decimating in the first round alone and yet I can spell the final, winning, championship word in my sleep? Trust me when I say, I'm just not that smart when it comes to these things. I am the girl who a few years ago, once asked in all sincerity, "What day is Cinco de Mayo?" A student of Spanish I am not. These wordmongers could eat me for lunch in a spelling bee. So trust me when I say it is a sad day in American when this here writer can spell the winning word of the national spelling bee. Yet "Laodicean" is ranked among the most "difficult words" and fit to challenge these top spellers? America, I am concerned.

You probably think me to be a bit melodramatic. After all, it's a spelling bee for goodness' sake. Perhaps I am overreacting, but humor me anyway. Let's go over some of the winning words of the last decade or so, shall we?

2008 - guerdon
2007 - serrefine
2006 - Ursprache
2005 - appoggiatura
2004 - autochthonous
2003 - pococurante
2002 - prospicience
2001 - succedaneum
2000 - demarche
1999 - logorrhea

Those are definitely some tough words. Some of the most difficult words to spell are actually quite short. The above words present a challenge because their pronunciations can throw off the speller, as do the silent letters and particular word origin. I know for a fact I couldn't spell 95% of them without at least being off by a few letters. So what is my beef with "Laodicean?" Quite simply, it's a very easy word for anyone who has ever cracked open a stinkin' Bible. Please note: I do not think the Bible stinks...it was merely an idiomatic expression. See how cool words can be? Moving on.

"Laodicea" is a pretty standard, run-of-the-mill Biblical word. "Laodicea" was an ancient city and the "Laodicean church" was often referenced in the Bible. And why do I know this? Because as early as I could be scolded for telling my classmate to "shut up," I had the Bible drilled into every crevice of my cerebral cortex. There was a time when people of many different religions, ethnicities, and walks of life actually had read or studied the Bible at some point in their lives. Not for indoctrination, but for educational purposes. Fancy that! If you go back a few generations, you'll fine few among them who can't quote at least one scripture from the Bible. Today, there's a whole segment of young Americans who can't even name the first book of the Bible.

While some dismiss it as merely a historical text or a bunch of "old stories," even the most atheistic of scholars would be remiss to not admit the Bible is one of the single greatest and epic pieces of literary illumination to ever exist on the planet. Not only is it a mastery of allegory, narrative, prophecy, sarcasm, hyperbole, verse and metaphorical brilliance, it also happens to be the best selling book of all time, ever, period, no contest. So much historical context and literary insight has been drawn from the Bible it's difficult to find the point where the Bible ends and our nation's history begins. Just reading the Bible cover to cover instantly puts the average person light years ahead of their peers in terms of endurance and subconscious insight. To this day scholars remain in all out war about what certain scriptures and passages of the Bible infer. I've witnessed it at the halls of my very liberal, very secular university. Safe to say, the Bible is a pretty important book.

So it is quite interesting to me that in 2009, and among the most challenging of challenging words and supposed best and brightest subjects "Laodicean" is even intended to present a real challenge. My how far we've fallen away from being a learned society. I wonder if anyone has drawn a correlation between the incredible generational success of people of the Jewish faith in America and the fact that many (though not all) young, Jewish teenagers in America actually have a rite-of-passage where they have to learn and memorize the Torah, the Talmud or at least part of its contents? It's something to ponder.

Perhaps I'm playing with a few ideas that need to be fleshed out, but I think there is something to be said for historical literacy. I've previously written about how robbed this generation is of the privilege of being well-versed in our nation's founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights. Just the simple act of digesting eloquent wisdom writings produces transference like no other.

Persuasive, intelligent and well-learned speech is hard to come by these days. Though if you'll observe history, persuasive speech is most often the primary means by which leaders (good and bad) rise to the top, and the vehicle for average citizens to change society. When we look back upon the lives of the great world changers who've passed on, we usually don't dwell on the way they dressed or their difficult childhood. Instead, we study the one of most potent things they've left behind -- their words. Be it the written word or oration, every day in this country, someone quotes something someone great once said.

I am probably the only person on the planet who gets teary-eyed while watching the movie "Akeelah and the Bee" -- a story about a girl who rises against the odds to become a great student of language. I am so not a person who cries during movies. In fact, I actually laugh at the people who cry in the movie theater. I can count on one hand the number of films that have brought me to tears. Yet, that darn little black girl and her big words get me every time. All evidence to the contrary, my emotion isn't the least bit sentimental. What moves me is the weight of the reality of how much battle a person can do with mere words. Words can change a nation. Words can destroy that which needs to be destroyed. Hearing the right words can set captives free. Hearing the wrong words can send people spiraling out of control. My insides get all knotted up when I see the evidence before us that there is an entire generation that isn't being trained up to effectively engage in battle with their words or their speech. The rampant mediocrity is disturbing to say the least.

So I congratulate 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, for accomplishing a feat many of us could never pull off -- and for spelling "Laodicean" correctly. I hope her vast knowledge of language extends farther than route memorization techniques and actually seeps into the fabric of who she is. We need more young people to step back into their "righteous minds." That is to say, we need more young people to deprogram themselves from the doctrine of popular culture and throw off the encumbrances of being ignorant to the clarity and insight of possessing historical context and cracking open an old, long, book.

How very ironic indeed that the literal dictionary definition of "Laodicean" is "Indifferent or lukewarm especially in matters of religion." In Biblical context, the mark of the Laodicean people was that they were, "lukewarm, neither hot nor cold." If you've ever had to fix yourself a drink, you know that hot or cold is optimal, but lukewarm is just the worst. As for the current state of my generation, well, you be the judge. //

I'd like to leave you with what I believe to be a fantastic metaphor for what I believe many people (all races, creeds, ethnic origins, and religions) in this generation are facing -- "Righteous Mind," one of my favorite Denzel Washington monologues of all time, from the film "The Great Debaters." This scene takes place as the professor (Washington) addresses the new debate team at Wiley College at their first official practice. It's a worthwhile film, even with its slight glorification of communism, but that's another post.

Draw your own present day analogies....

Here is the monologue text for those who can't view video:

"Anybody know who Willy Lynch was? Anybody? Raise your hand. He was a vicious slave owner in the West Indies. The slave owners in the colonies of Virginia were having trouble controlling their slaves so they sent for Mr. Lynch to teach them his methods. Keep the slave physically strong but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master. Keep the body, take the mind. I and every other professor on this campus are here to help you to find, take back and keep your righteous mind."

Previously
*Spelling for a Better World

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Education | Link to This Entry | Comments { 8 }
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Top 10 Best US Airports
May 19, 2009

Because I don't believe in being a negative nellie, as promised, I'm publishing the companion list to my "Top 10 Worst US Airports" list. I understand that all the fancy travel magazines and the FAA always publish their own versions of these lists based on silly data like arrival times, delays, and other nonsense. I on the other hand, compile my lists based on whether or not there's a Chick-fil-A in the food court and whether or not I get blisters walking to my gate, or have to stand in the security line for 72 hours only to be questioned about my 3.02 ounces of lotion in my bag.

So without further adieu, I give you my list. These are the airports in the US I just absolutely love and adore and would fly through, into or out of over and over again.

  1. DCA (Reagan National Airport - Washington D.C.): This airport makes the top of my list and not just because Washington D.C. is one of my favorite cities on the entire planet. Reagan National is truly a privilege to visit. Considering it is the only airport smack dab in the middle of the nation's capital, there are a host of security, and high traffic issues that could come into play, but you would never know it as a passenger. This is one of those airports where you can arrive 45 minutes before your flight leaves and be just fine. Everyone there is super friendly, the airport is small and easy to navigate, and there are rarely delays. If you're flying into the DC area, I recommend this airport versus BWI or Dulles simply for the accessibility. Not to mention, nothing beats the view when landing at Reagan. The landscape of Washington D.C. truly is a sight to behold.
  2. AUS (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport): Austin how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Austin's airport is another one that makes flying pleasurable. This small airport is pretty much what you see is what you get. You could arrive less than 30 minutes before your flight leaves and be just dandy. Plus this quaint little airport has is full of windows and natural light. Easy in, easy out. The nearly flawless weather (minus summer) doesn't hurt either. It's so delightful to fly into Austin in the dead of winter and it's pleasantly warm there.
  3. DFW (Dallas Forth-Worth Airport): For some odd reason a lot of people say they hate this airport. Well I absolutely LOVE it. For one, this airport has a food court that sells BBQ. Can't be that. DFW also has a very simplistic set up. Even the most dense of us can find our way around the two terminals. One of the things I love about DFW is it instantly reminds me I'm in the south. DFW even has a clearly displayed prayer chapel in their airport. This would garner PROTESTS in my hometown of Seattle whose chapel is somewhere hidden in Siberia.
  4. SFO (San Francisco International Airport): SFO has been nothing but good to me. My favorite aspect is the accessibility via the BART and also the inter-terminal transportation. It's bar-none. Also one of my favorite aspects of SFO is that it's literally on the water. Oh nothing beats landing in the Bay Area and smelling the fresh smell of sea water. I'm a coastal person for life.
  5. PDX (Portland International Airport): Portland's kind of a boring town to me, but I've literally driven from Seattle to PDX to catch a flight because it's a better airport and sometimes offers better deals to hot destinations. Small, simple, easy to navigate, great food/restaurant options.
  6. DEN (Denver International Airport): I don't care what any of you people say. Denver's airport is the bomb. Sure the likelihood of being snowed in for 17 days goes up if you fly through Denver in the winter, but honestly, there are few airports in which I'd rather be stuck. Just LOOK at the restaurant selections in this place. Unparalleled. Not to mention Denver nearly has an entire MALL inside of it. Maybe for some that's bad news but for a shopaholic like myself, that spells loads of fun. I have no problems with Denver, truly.
  7. RIC (Richmond International Airport): What? Richmond? Most people don't even know this airport exists. Some airports I think are just so inconsequential that they end up being really nice and problem-free. Richmond, Virginia's airport happens to be one of them. Seriously, I've arrived at this airport with 20 minutes to spare and STILL made my flight. RIC is also BRAND spanking new so everything is so fresh and so clean. It's one of my new favorite airports to visit and I fly into it a LOT.
  8. PIT (Pittsburgh International Airport): When you live in Pittsburgh, you have to have a nice airport. Because besides their airport and Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh as a city has NOTHING going for it. I used to recruit from CMU and that was the only reason I ever ended up at PIT. This airport has free wi-fi, simple design and it's rarely busy.
  9. BOS (Boston Logan International Airport): Yes I am the lone person in the entire universe who actually likes flying in and out of Boston. What can I say? The airport has charmed me. I think I like it because it's not too big. It's under a lot of construction and certain terminals look a little like Kosovo, but again, I can get in and out with relative ease. Also it's got a ton of direct flights via Jet Blue which I love. One negative is a lot of business travelers are there in the early mornings flying to and from New York. Security can be a pain at times, but I've never missed a flight there, or had anything terribly delayed. I've also never had to arrive 2 hours early unlike many of the airports on my worst list.
  10. CLT (Charlotte Douglas International Airport): I have to admit it. Charlotte's airport first won be over with their rocking chairs. They were the first airport ever to place traditional rocking chairs out for passengers to sit in. Nice southern charm if I do say so myself. But truly, CLT has become my new preferred layover destination as opposed to ATL (Atlanta). As a business traveler, I appreciate that Charlotte's airport provides many opportunities for me to plug in my laptop and get to work. Thumbs up, even if they don't have a Chick-fil-A.
It's much harder to compile a list of best airports because so many are just mediocre and when comparing to a place like O'Hare, pretty much everywhere else is better. I'm interested to hear your choices for this list.

Also, you'll note one of the big things that makes an airport stand out to me is the margin of time needed to safely catch a flight. If it isn't abundantly clear, I like to cut it close. I don't like waiting at airports so I very much prefer an airport where I can get there about 30-40 minutes before my flight departs (assuming I checked in online). I guess I'm just spoiled like that.

Not-related to airports, but rather airlines, I'd also like to a link another one of my favorite pieces -- a passenger complaint letter written to Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines and perhaps one of the funniest to date. Definitely worth a read: World's best passenger complain letter?

Honorable Mention: MDT - Harrisburg Airport, MSP - Minneapolis Airport, MCO - Orlando International Airport

Previously
Top 10 Worst US Airports

(Image courtesy of Forbes magazine)

Posted by Ambra in Lists | Link to This Entry | Comments { 3 }
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Emotional Documentation
May 15, 2009

declarationindependence1.jpgI'll admit it, I'm a bit of a sap when it comes to history. I've always been one of those people who has great appreciation for everything old. I love old movies, old music, old Bibles, old sayings, and old books. I even love old people...when they're not driving behind the wheel. And while I'm on the subject, can we please think about re-instituting some sort of driving test once you reach a certain age? I'm just saying. One of my favorite cities in the entire world is Washington D.C.. I get teary-eyed upon decent. I relish in the architecture, the museums, the symbolism and the foundational nature of the place. The fact that I enjoy the liberties I have today because I stand on the backs of others who've passed on is not the least bit lost on me.

So it's no surprise that when reading the Declaration of Independence the other day, I sniffled a bit. Okay fine I was probably a bit hormonal, but something struck me about the language and the definiteness of intent in that beautifully and masterfully written document. And then, as if straight out of the movie, "National Treasure," a poorly and monotonously delivered Nicholas Cage line came to me. I thought to myself, "People don't talk like that anymore....I'm going to steal it. I'm going to steal the Declaration of Independence." Just kidding about the second part. Oh the things people can say in movies. If Nicholas Cage's character had been a black man, that scene would've been so unbelievable (if it wasn't already). I hate to say it, but Nicholas Cage was right about the first part. People don't talk like that anymore. There is an eloquence of speech in that document that has been severely diluted over the years. Nowadays if you throw in an SAT verb or two, people accuse you of using "big words."

When you read a foundational document like The Declaration of Independence, your mind really does have to work hard to comprehend what it is they're saying. And yet, they wrote it in plain English. Woe unto us who have been completely robbed of the beauty and authority of intelligent linguistics.

What's sad to me is that most of us can mouth along the words on "Disco Night" of American Idol but we don't even know the preamble of the Constitution by heart. I'm talking to myself right now. How insanely powerful would it be if kids grew up memorizing the the Declaration of Independence? Maybe then we'd have citizens who actually held the government accountable for doing their job and not overstepping the boundaries of their authority. Did you know the Declaration of Independence says the people have the right to overthrow their government? That's some crazy stuff right there. Maybe my silly dream of pitchforks and torches wasn't quite so far-fetched after all.

My favorite part of the Declaration of Independence is the beginning, which reads like this (emphasis mine):

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Word. And now I think we all should go out and use "usurpations" in a sentence today.

Posted by Ambra in Politics | Link to This Entry | Comments { 6 }
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Caught in a Fashion Faux-Pas: Former Gov, Jesse Ventura
May 14, 2009

Anybody remember Jesse Ventura? No? Oh sure you do, just jog your memory a bit.

Mr. Ventura, we need to have a talk. You first busted on the big scene during your run for Governor of Minnesota. We tolerated you then. You were brash and little out there, but hey, it was refreshing. In an uncomfortable sort of way. Sure you were a pro wrestler, but you were a Navy Seal and we at least respected you for that. You've also been married to the same woman for over thirty-four years. That's more than Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons can say.

Back in your wrestling days, there were different expectations. Wrestling is all about the drama and the emotion (kind of like an all male soap opera), so even though it's not our cup of tea, we're okay that you looked like this:

jesse-ventura1.jpg

We didn't even suspect you might be gay. And Jesse, let me just say that few self-respecting straight men wear powder pink blazers lined with sequins. Do you see how much slack we've given you throughout your career?

When the public at large first became acquainted with you via the political sphere, you looked something like this:

jesseventura.jpg

Very fierce. A nice, understated bald head goes a long way in politics. We all took you seriously. We believed you actually had something worthwhile to say.

But now, Jesse? Now we are not so convinced. Why do you ask? Because now you look like this:

jesseventuramullet3.jpg

and this:
jesseventuramullet1.jpg


And after much patience, Jesse, it needs to be said, RECEDING HAIRLINE MULLETS ARE NEVER OKAY. Let's start with the basic premise of the mullet. It's always been ugly no matter which way you slice it, but in the 80s it was acceptable. Then add to that a clear recession of the hair line (nothing wrong with that as sometimes it's a fact of life). The result is utterly tragic and I'm finding it difficult to take anything he's saying seriously. Kind of like how I feel when Don King speaks. Please, stop the madness and cut off the shag!

Posted by Ambra in Fashion Faux Pas | Link to This Entry | Comments { 4 }
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Why Privilege Isn't Enough

There have been a few trending news stories in the media I'd like to comment on particularly because one hits close to home. Over the years I've noticed our culture has a strange fascination with what I call "well to do" crimes. We simply can't understand how it is that supposedly "good" people from "good" upbringings who went to "good" schools could ever commit any type of heinous crime. When someone from the "wrong" side of the tracks commits a crime, we chalk it up to their upbringing, but if someone is clean and well-spoken, we want to run forensics on their kindergarten lunchbox and dig all into their past to find out where things "went wrong." I do not understand the fixation people have with figuring out why people do bad things.

The way I see it, sinners sin. What's not to get about that?

Sometimes I think the world needs to stop watching so much Oprah. Wake up members of humanity, people are not inherently good (aren't you glad you came to read this cheery message, today?). There is nothing in the history of civilization that points to a society where people were just born onto the earth and woke up the next day to declare, "You know what? I think I'm going to do the right thing today." "Maybe I won't own slaves." "Maybe I won't slaughter innocent people." "Maybe I won't be a dictator." "Maybe I won't claim I discovered land that was already inhabited." The world we live in is not an after school special. It is a world full of people who have to wake up every day and make a decision if they will choose life or death and choose right or wrong. It is a world where peoples' worldviews are not always formed in healthy environments.

Do you see this picture?


This is the man we all know as Adolf Hitler. What has always been interesting to me about some of the people who have left a legacy of death and destruction in their wake is that they were once babies too. Am I the only person who finds that totally crazy? Yet it's incredibly humbling and a reminder to us all that we all had a clean slate from which to begin --- the opportunity in our lifetime, to choose what path we'll follow.

Last week, terror was unleashed on my former institution of higher learning, Wesleyan University. A young woman named Johanna Justin-Jinich was gunned down and killed while working her shift at the college bookstore/cafe (where I in fact, used to work). I cannot tell you the level of shock most of my former classmates and current students were in that something like this could happen at our "safe," distinguished, small-town, private university. Within a matter of minutes of news reports of the shooting, investigative reporters were on the hunt for information on why this smart, educated young woman was the target of a murder. As soon as knowledge of the killer was released, an even more thorough analysis was launched as to why this Stephen Morgan character would be led to kill this young woman.

Take note that a few months ago, the shooting at the historically black school, Hampton University experienced far less press coverage or analysis. Sure no one on that campus died (thank God), but it's sort of a consistent thing I've noticed with the media. If some random, young woman of color goes missing while on vacation in the Jamaica, it's the seventh story down, but if a blond-haired beauty is missing in Aruba, we hear about it incessantly for 12 months straight. We place varying values on human life and it's a norm that has got to change.

In the case at Wesleyan, the victim of this awful crime was neither blond-haired nor blue eyed, but she was a student at a very prestigious university. Moreover, her assassin was private school educated and had a "good" upbringing. Take note, the use of "good" is rarely ever defined. I'm not sure what truly constitutes a "good" upbringing, but when the media uses this term, they are usually trying to connote class, status and education. Meanwhile, just a hop, skip and jump from Connecticut we have the "Craigslist Killer." This Philip Markoff investigation going down in Massachusetts has the general public abuzz and genuinely intrigued. Many Americans remain baffled as to how on earth this "clean-cut" medical student from a "good family" managed to live such a double life.

America's grief over the sins committed at the hands of smart and well-groomed people is not a new phenomenon. Over the last few decades, we've witnessed the downfall of the likes of Scott Peterson, Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, The Menendez brothers and so many more unfortunate situations I don't wish to give any more airtime than they've already been given. What astounds me is how people continue to be rocked to the core when events like this occur in the upper echelons of society, yet show complete indifference when imagining those same events under a different set of circumstances.

However subtle the insinuation, there is an underlying belief, widely held by many Americans that being educated has a direct link to righteous behavior. To a certain extent, I understand how this logic has been perpetuated or even supported by graphs and spreadsheets and very impressive census data. Presumably when people are less educated, they have fewer opportunities available to them in life. If you can't read, there are careers and professions that are likely off limits to you. The basic assumption is that when people have fewer options due to their lack of education, they are more likely to choose the path of least resistance. In some cases, this means illegal activity for means of income or survival. This is a blanket assumption, but there is some worthwhile logic behind it.

When I worked in recruiting we would never hire someone into a finance role (high or low profile) who had poor credit or was in bankruptcy and owed tens of thousands of dollars in collections. The logic there was that if someone is in a desperate financial situation, giving them access to significant amounts of money may tempt them beyond reason to act unethically. On the other hand, we don't expect someone with clean credit to be a threat to the security of the position. Clearly the credit check scenario didn't work with Bernie Madoff. Similar logic is applied in the "education stops crime" equation. When it comes to doing what's right, we almost always expect more from people who are educated and come from a "good" upbringing.

I think it's time we all come to grips with the reality that no amount of education, proper pedigree, upbringing or money are key ingredients in an equation for righteous behavior. Even the rich, smart people commit murder.

The older I get, the more I am convinced that the continual blurring of the lines of morality in this country has left us in a quandary as to how to steer the next generation. Members of my generation may have grown up receiving a better education than those before us, but I'm not convinced we had it "better." If my math is correct, we are probably the first generation to pass through an educational system -- kindergarten through college -- that was entirely steeped in secular humanism. That is to say, whereas previous generations may have come through an educational system that acknowledged God or the presence of something bigger and greater than humanity was in existence, our generation was taught the complete opposite. In fact, that very message was pushed out of most classrooms in America and made too polarizing to even discuss in the workplace.

The subtle suggestions of our fabulous educational system have convinced so many in my generation that our lives are but a blip on the radar. That our arrival on the earth was some haphazard occurrence with no real purpose other than fate or coincidence. That we are the descents of primates and prone to animalistic and primal behavior. That not only is our life a blip, but so are the lives of our friends, our family, our coworkers and our enemies. That the definition of "life" is a gray area, up for debate and not something we can ever have a clear or sensible understanding of. That you should do what feels right. That you should always trust your heart. That leadership is only for an elite group of people. That success isn't something you can really control, but more the luck of the draw. This is the fancy, rigorous education many of us have been subjected to. This ideology preys on public school students and private school students alike. I can say without a doubt, that not once in all my educational pursuits was the value of human life ever an emphasis.

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I believe there is a reason why school shootings are a trend of the modern era. It strikes me as poignant that even someone as wretched as Adolf Hitler, had the opportunity to be modeled. Yet we rarely point to the foundational development of a generation as a root cause for anything. The one thing most Americans have in common isn't religion, race, ethnicity, or class. It's that they all came through America's educational system. Homeschoolers not included.

Trying to profile a killer is a waste of time in my opinion. It really doesn't matter what a person's background is. There is no amount of "good-ness" in a person's life that will automatically produce righteous behavior. I don't care who you are, what you call yourself or what worldview you subscribe to, if you don't genuinely believe that you have a higher accountability in life, you will not live a life of accountability. When people don't live in the reality that their actions have eternal consequences, it is a scary day anywhere.

When a person truly understands that every human being, no matter what stage in life, is uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully designed for a specific purpose on the earth, the value you place on your fellow man is pure gold. To me, that is the highest privilege.

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Current Events, Education | Link to This Entry | Comments { 4 }
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Top 10 Worst US Airports
May 13, 2009

busyairports.jpgI spent the better part of the last three years of my life on airplanes and in airports. No really. For like three years straight I was on a plane almost every month (and multiple times a month) of the year. Some of it was business. Some of it was pleasure. All of it was annoying. Is it even possible to travel anywhere on earth anymore without suffering major annoyance at the hands of TSA? Maybe outer space? Nope. Even there you have people monitoring your bowel movements with biomedical censors.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who has issues with airplanes or airports in general. I'll hop on a plane in a heartbeat and with no trepidations. My parents made sure that by the time I was 12, I'd already racked up a couple hundred thousand miles. I used to thoroughly enjoy airports and the experience of flying.

Unfortunately, traveling is no longer the bliss it was once was. Post September 11th travel is an entirely different breed full of gratuitous hoops we're forced to jump through to sell us the idea that somehow flying is safer now than it's ever been so we will continue to buy plane tickets. Government, I'm on to you. As much as I'd like to think I have my airport navigation skills down to a science, there are some airports in this country that manage to mess up everything for everyone time after time. In my travels over the last few years, I put together my list of worst US airports just for kicks. I wrote this list one day when I was bored on the plane (which obviously means I was NOT flying Jet Blue at the time). Best airline ever. When I say "worse" I mean I truly DESPISE these airports and make all attempts not to fly in, out of, or through any of them. Enjoy!:

  1. ATL (Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport): Most people don't know that this is the busiest airport in the United States. Yes, it's even busier than blessed Chicago O'hare. I hate the fact that there are two entirely separate terminals at this airport in addition to the fact that you feel like you are walking FOREVER to get anywhere. The airport is freakishly huge. And if you're catching a plane from ATL don't even think about trying to get to the airport at the very last minute. It will not go well for you. Lastly, because ATL is such a hub, there is a much higher chance you will get stuck in Atlanta if something goes wrong weather-wise. Random fact: On two particularly bad experiences at ATL, I ran into Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King, III.
  2. ORD (Chicago O'Hare International Airport): Honestly, if it weren't for the umpteen delays, weather challenges and the fact that flying through Chicago means you have a 97% chance you will have a delay, I actually wouldn't mind O'Hare. As far as size and layout, it's not the worst ever. As far as reliability is concerned though, it earns an F. I avoid flying through O'hare like the plague. I'd even pay more money and layover in the cornfields of Iowa to avoid it. Also, the food courts are really really bad.
  3. IAD (Dulles International Airport): Dulles just plain sucks. It's far off the beaten path of anything near D.C., Virginia, or Maryland. It's a pain in the butt to get to, and they have this horrible tram, shuttle thing that is something out of 1965 to get you from one terminal to the next. The last time I flew into Dulles I swore I never would again. So far I've kept that promise. The DMV area has three major airports to choose from. Fly to/from Dulles as a last resort. Incidentally, DCA (Reagan National Airport) ranks on my list of top airports.
  4. PHL (Philadelphia International Airport): This airport has two main problems. One, it's overcrowded and desperately in need of a remodel. Like literally there are more flights coming in and departing than there are gates to park planes. It's a disaster and leads to inevitable delays. Two, it's the U.S. Airways hub. Need I say more? U.S. Airways is horrible on so many levels, I need not count the ways.
  5. LAX (Los Angeles International Airport): It's in L.A. Need I say more?
  6. JFK (John F. Kennedy International Airport): I'm not even sure if this place should be called an airport. Most days, it feels like Beirut on a really bad day. A series of endless outdoor construction projects combined with the fact that it's the convergence zone known as New York City just make it a nightmare. But hey, if it's your final destination, the breeze you get walking the streets of Manhattan can dry your tears. I will brave JFK anyday to get to the Big Apple. I love me some New York City.
  7. MIA (Miami International Airport): Flying into or through this airport is like a culture clash of epic proportions. Hanging out in the International terminal is pure comedy. Being that it's on the coast, MIA is wrought with vacationers coming and going to their choice Carribean or Mexican destination. It's just entirely too high traffic for me. High propensity for flight delays too.
  8. LAS (Las Vegas McCarran Airport): Las Vegas' airport might not be on a lot of other people lists, but it makes mine! It's not necessarily an airport known for massive delays, congestion or poor design. It makes my list because it's just plain sad. Am I the only person who finds it really sad to see slot machines along the walls of the airport as soon as you get off the plane? Besides the slot machines, LAS is a really old airport that needs some updating. All the restaurants look pathetic. Even the fine folks who work there look miserable. LAS is an airport that thoroughly depresses me every time. Thumbs down.
  9. SJC (Mineta San Jose International Airport): For starters, I can't believe this airport has the nerve to call itself "international" but whatever, I get why. This is probably an unlikely pick for most. Few people have even flown into SJC and usually opt for SFO. I thought about giving the 9th slot to Houston Bush International or St. Louis's airport, but I wanted to show that even small airports can be crappy too. SJC is just a poor excuse for an airport all around. Bad design, old building, nasty bathrooms, and horrendous parking lot. When you're that small, there really is no reason to be terrible.
  10. SEA (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport): This list is not complete without adding my home airport. Seattle is on many lists as having one of the best airports. I don't see it! This airport was my literal home away from home for two years and I still can't stand the place. Seattle's airport has been under construction in some way, shape or form for oh, the last 15 or so years. Honestly, it's never-ending. On any random day it can be totally packed and understaffed. The congestion has no rhyme or reason. One day getting through security is a breeze, the next day it takes 2.5 hours. I tried to figure out a pattern but it's hopeless. I find O'Hare to be far more consistent than Seattle. Seattle does have a good food court. But that's about it.
Later this week I'll also write up my opinion on the best US airports. I'm interested to hear what airports you hate! Writing about airport hatred is cathartic. It's addicting. Did I miss any?

Finally, I would like to link to one of my favorite most hilarious essays written about a bad TSA experience (warning: some bad language, but well worth a read): My Penis May Be a Terrorist (from the blog "Witt and Wisdom")

(Image courtesy of Forbes magazine)

Posted by Ambra in Lists | Link to This Entry | Comments { 5 }
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In Quirkiness and Health
May 12, 2009

I so love being married if for no other reason than the pure enrichment it brings to my life, for better or worse. Guilt-free, married sex is a bonus too.

As of late however, the subject of bacon is seriously putting my marriage in jeopardy. No really, it is. Every married couple has their threshold. You know, those activities that are completely off limits because participation results in unnecessary conflict, one spouse not speaking to the other and a very chilly night? When it comes to food, do not MESS with my bacon. Before Andre and I got married, I thought painting would be the death of us. Together, we once painted a bathroom at my parent's house and after I learned my future husband was a criss-cross, sideways and sometimes diagonal painter who thought it fun to paint smiley faces on the walls and cover it up later, I was convinced he was not the man for me. Is there really any other truly proper way to paint with a roller than in an even up and down motion? I think not. I'm serious, people. Before you get engaged, try painting or wallpapering a room together. Brings out all kinds of fun and interesting animosity you never knew was there. While we're at it, I also recommend ballroom dancing. It's like marital counseling with a soundtrack and an up beat. But back to bacon--the current thorn in my marital side.

I have never been one to hide my love of all things meat. The blood pumping through my veins is hardcore carnivorous blood. I like my food to have once had a pulse. I relish in a good steak. My stomach grumbles at the smell of barbeque. I eat vegetarians for lunch. Not literally, just in theory. I get teary-eyed when I visit the meat section at Whole Foods because they carry venison and ground buffalo. I've never had ground buffalo, but it makes me feel warm and tingly to know if I wanted to eat buffalo burgers, I could. But my favorite and most cherished meat of all is bacon. And my husband doesn't want me to have it. He is a wretched, wretched man.

One thing I will say about marriage is that it certainly does keep life interesting. I've yet to decide if it's marriage itself that's so deeply fascinating or if I just happened to marry a very quirky man. Which isn't to say I am without quirks. I just happen to think my quirks are merely a byproduct of my inherent coolness whereas my dear husband Andre, quite frankly, is just weird.

And now these two quirky people are becoming one. Unfortuantely, there are certain aspects of this "oneness" I wish to reject. One of them being Andre's firm belief that ketchup is not merely a condiment, but in fact a universal sauce. I also wish to reject his insistence that bacon is terrible for the body. I have no logic to back up my sentiment other than it tastes so dang good. How can something that tastes so good be so bad. Surely God didn't create a thing as wonderful as bacon so that we'd never taste of its greasy goodness. According to Andre, there is a reason pork isn't Biblically kosher. And it's a good reason. According to Ambra, there is a reason bacon smells good. And it's because it's bacon. I don't eat pork, but I do eat bacon. You see, bacon is a separate classification of meat. It has its own category.

Believe it or not, our first real marital spat took place over the subject of bacon. It was a typical casual Sunday afternoon and we just left church to go do our usual weekly grocery shopping at Whole Limb Foods. As we approached the checkout line, Andre peeped the package of bacon I subtly placed in the cart and declared, "No way. We are not having that in our house. Let's go swap that out for a package of turkey bacon."

I clutched my pearls.

Then as if the universe had been thrust into slow motion, I repeated his suggestion back to him as a rhetorical question of sorts. I wanted to give him a second chance to redeem the blasphemous heresy that had just come from his mouth. "Turkey. Bacon?"

"Yes," he said with a calm blessed assurance that Jesus was his, "Turkey bacon is what we're buying."

How could someone be so matter of fact in their wrongness? If life were like a cartoon, there would've been literal steam coming from my ears at that very moment accompanied by a tiny thought bubble with a vignette of me tying Andre up and placing him on the train track. In the cartoon world I'd be much more violent.

Were we really about to get into an all out debate in the middle of Whole Foods over...bacon? Oh yes we were! To be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure what happened in that moment, but the next thing I knew, I had turkey bacon in my cart, and pork, I mean, bacon was no where to be found. Where was Ashton Kutcher because surely I was being punk'd. Maybe not punk'd, but definitely punked.

I often quip that my husband was probably one of those kids whose mom sent him to the sleepover birthday party with a note listing off all the major food groups to which he's allergic. My husband has more food allergies than the average normal person. By "normal" I mean any person who was born pre-1985, before everyone and their mother had an allergy and school buses were evacuated because a lone peanut shell was found under a seat. The combination of his food allergies and his research has made him a bit of a health nut--emphasis on nut.

Last week we had an incident that made me decide to coin my husband's quirks as "Andreisms." I was deep asleep in my nap and forgot to let the dog out as scheduled thus resulting in poop in the kitchen. Maybe I'm too cavalier about such things, but I don't think poop in the kitchen is a big deal. It could've been worse. It could've been on the carpet. Then again, I've owned three dogs. Few things phase me. When Andre came home to find what had taken place, he insisted the pizza I had sitting on the counter had to be thrown out. Why you ask? "Poop particles in the air." Did he really say that? Oh yes he did say, "There are poop particles in the air." Apparently, the presence of poop on the kitchen floor, meant fecal matter in the air, and thus the pizza could potentially be tainted and unhealthy to eat. And here I thought him painting a room diagonally was bad. For the record, I ate the pizza and it was good.

The crazy thing about marriage is how much you grow to love those same little quirks that drive you totally batty about person. My husband gives me so much to chuckle about throughout my day. Despite my annoyance at how often his opinions on the most minuscule things differ from mine, it's comments like "poop particles in the air" that remind me why I married this weirdo. I love to see what he's going to say next. I even appreciate that he challenges me about my love of bacon. He will get cut if he ever tries to stop me from buying it again. But I appreciate the effort.

When people ask me what I see as the greatest challenge of marriage, I have many opinions. But assuming two healthy people are joining together, I think one of the biggest challenges is actually in managing the small things. There are assumptions we all have about how every day life is supposed to be lived and you never think you are wrong until someone else comes along and does things differently. At that moment you have the choice as to how that difference is going to play out in your marriage. It's the most refining earthly relationship I've ever had and I highly recommend it.

Posted by Ambra in Marriage, Observations in Life | Link to This Entry | Comments { 12 }
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Chillingly Precise
May 8, 2009

In an address made last week, President Obama said the following:

"It is the grimmest of ironies that one of the most savage, barbaric acts of evil in history began in one of the most modernized societies of its time, where so many markers of human progress became tools of human depravity: science that can heal, used to kill; education that can enlighten, used to rationalize away basic moral impulses; the bureaucracy that sustains modern life, used as the machinery of mass death, a ruthless, chillingly efficient system where many were responsible for the killing, but few got actual blood on their hands."
President Obama said these words on April 23, 2009, at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony. His words were in reference to the Holocaust. What did you think the quote was about? Eloquence he has. It's the inconsistent application of the profound truth stated above that worries me the most. Amazing how a person can speak truth and yet indict himself at the same time. Again I say, truth always stands up in the midst of confusion.

(hat tip Sean Sperte)

Posted by Ambra in Abortion, Politics | Link to This Entry | Comments { 12 }
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New Lifestyle Blog
May 7, 2009

As you'll see I added a new feature to the blog. The tab at the top right hand corner of the page that reads "Lifestyle" will take you to a new sub blog I started to help manage my random love of everything fashion, style, home, food, and all that other stuff. I'll still do Fashion Faux-Pas reviews here, because those are just fun, but the Lifestyle section will be more about me highlighting my favorite things!

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hindsight
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show