Life of Megan

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Child's Play

Christmas season is upon us, and it's a good time to be thinking about how to help other people. Back when I lived in Clemson, I liked to get kids from HeadStart presents (they had a tree with paper ornaments the kids had made with gift requests). I always thought it was depressing how many kids wanted gloves and coats. Ithaca has more public spots for dropping off warm clothes, food, and toys, but I haven't found a similar ornament program to the one we had in Clemson that was within a thirty-minute drive.

Around this time last year, I was thinking about this situation, when I learned about a relatively new charity set up by the guys who write the webcomic Penny Arcade (generally not for kids or grandparents). It's called Child's Play, and its basic goal is to prove that gamers are caring, compassionate people by giving comfort to hospitalized kids. While you can donate money, most people just select a hospital from the map, which takes them to an wishlist. From there, you can browse the list and pick out a toy, game, movie, etc that you'd like to donate, add it to your cart, use the hospital's shipping address link, and pay. It's really simple, and you have the chance of giving the kids something that you would love (I donated the first season of Fraggle Rock to a children's hospital in the Bronx).

I realize this charity doesn't help prevent diseases or find cures, but those opportunities are always present. I've seen a lot of people saying that if you want to help sick kids, you should help medical researchers fight the diseases themselves. Maybe this would be better in the long run, but if we are willing to give poor children toys at Christmas, shouldn't we reach out to the ailing as well? Child's Play offers an immediate release to kids who are sick and suffering in hospitals instead of at home with their families at Christmas time. If Fraggle Rock can make a child smile and help ease his boredom, if it can help him keep a positive attitude, then in my book, it's well worth the cost.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thanksgiving Report

I spent this Thanksgiving at Jud's aunt's house on Martha's Vineyard. Most of his family gathered there so that we could host a small memorial service for Jud's great aunt Mickey, who was the first one to buy property on the Vineyard and create a fun environment for everyone. Mickey died earlier this year, and we followed her wishes to have a small gathering to spread her ashes at one of her favorite beaches. It was a nice service. I only met Mickey once, but she seemed like a fascinating person.

Anyhow, Jud and I left Ithaca early (for us) Wednesday morning and stopped by Bennington, VT, to pick up Jud's brother Austin at his college. The trip was long, and I ended up driving because Jud had car problems before we left, but the weather was okay. Once we got there, we spent most of our time sleeping, eating, and playing Scrabble. It's really nice to be around people who are always up for a game, and I think I am slowly becoming a better loser. I also learned that "jo" is a word--one I looked up in desperation--that means sweetheart. It's always good to learn new words.

Thanksgiving dinner was delicious. Jud's aunt brined the turkey before roasting it. It turned out really well, but I'm not sure I'd say it was worth the extra time. We ate mashed potatoes, squash, baked sweet potatoes, stuffing, creamed onions, cranberry sauce, and rolls along with the turkey. This was topped off with some sort of sour-cream-and-apple pie and with the most delicious pumpkin pie I've ever had. This is saying a lot because I do not like to admit that anyone could possibly make pie better than my mom or my grandmother, but it's the truth. I heard the secret to the pie was some brandy. I don't know. I just know it was awesome. I need the recipe.

The only problem with the whole trip was that Jud and I were both allergic to something there, and we sneezed, coughed, and blew our noses constantly.

A good trip all in all, but I missed my family. I'm hoping to take Jud to celebrate with them next year. =)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dogbert, my Hero

Ahh, Dogbert, you abuse poorly understood components of English grammar for profit. How can I learn your evil ways?

If you don't know what the heck I'm talking about, read today's Dilbert.

(Granted, you can't hear hyphens, but still...)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Happy birthday, Harriet!

To be fair, we don't really know when her birthday is or even her exact age, but today, we (okay, mostly the Australia Zoo) celebrated Harriet the tortoise's 175th birthday! Harriet marked the occasion with a pink hibiscus cake. Read the story from the BBC.

Friday, November 11, 2005

J'ai lu Huis Clos

That's "I read No Exit" for those of you who don't speak French.

No Exit is an existentialist play by Jean-Paul Sartre about three dead people. I don't really want to say much about it because the fun thing about the play is discovering what happens and who the characters really are. You are probably familiar with the play's most famous line: "Hell is other people."

Anyhow, it was a great play, and the French isn't too difficult. I encourage everyone to read it (in French, if possible).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Yep, I'm a Good American

There was some panic that I might not be able to find my polling place last night as I drove about one of the most confusing streets in Ithaca, looking for an often-named but difficult to find street in fading light with a bunch of angry people who just wanted to get home zooming around me, but I persevered.

I got to vote at an elementary school. This was exciting mainly because I got to park in the principal's spot, and I felt really, really tall. New York State hasn't updated its voting machines for a while. I don't know if the other people my age got to learn about voting when they were in second grade, but I did. My school was a polling place, and they brought in the machines the Monday directly before the elections. My class marched over to the machines, learned how you pull the lever to close the curtain, flick the switches to cast our votes, and pull the lever again to register the votes and reopen the curtain. We all voted on something like what game we should play at recess. It was exciting. I carefully stowed away the experience in my memory, knowing that it might be important for me to remember in ten years when I could vote. Second grade was an important one. We also learned how to write checks and balance our checkbooks, give change quickly, and write in cursive.

Well, it's a good thing I paid attention, because the voting machines here are just like the ones I used so many years ago. The machines are a little intimidating, but over all, I think they're the best I've used. You can change your mind as you're in there, and it's very easy to see all your votes at the same time. Plus, it's all mechanical, which is fun in this modern world.

In the six years I've been eligible to vote, I've now voted three times. Not a bad record, but I can do better. I plan to buck the predictions about young people and vote every year from now on. Who cares if I'm just approving people who are running unopposed? Maybe if I'm out there asking questions, casting my votes, and encouraging others to do the same, I'll help improve my community.

I vote and pay taxes. I have a voice in my city, my county, my state, and my country.

Now where are my running trails?!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Recuperation, Civic Duty

Today is election day, and I will be voting for the first time as a New York resident. We don't have any really interesting state elections, but the race for DA here in Ithaca has been pretty intense. I'm not entirely sure what else I'll be voting for. It's my understanding that most seats are uncontested. I do understand the positions of the two DA candidates. Sadly, neither of them are campaigning to have those doing community service work build more running trails. It really bothers me that people like to go about talking about how important local government is, and then no one, not even the local media, pays much attention to it. I think it's just another way that young people can be ignored. We have all these great ideas, and when we mention them, we're inevitably told, "that's a local issue." Then, no one wants to bother being a local official. Here, we students aren't really to blame--four or five Cornell students (as in current undergrads and grad students) are running for office. People are all over campus reminding us to vote and telling us where we can find our polling locations based on our address. There's even a map in the Cornell Daily Sun. In Ithaca, it's the adults who seem apathetic. How will "think global, act local" ever work if local politics aren't interesting enough to garner attention? Grr.

In other news, I somehow strained my hip flexor and rectus femoris (that's one of the muscles in the quads), and I'm off running for a while. Actually, they tell me I can run half my current mileage, but only if I run every other day and avoid hills. In Ithaca, that means that I'd have to use the treadmill. I am willing to do that, but I decided not to run at all until I am painfree with regular activities, like standing. In the meantime, I've been cross-training a lot more. The physical therapist seemed really hestitant to recommend the elliptical trainer and cycling, so I have been hanging out at the pool. Thank God I'm a decent swimmer, or I could be having a miserable time. I have rediscovered that 1) I like swimming and am good at it, 2) swimming uses upper body muscles that I have drastically neglected, and 3) no, my shoulders haven't magically spawned new cartilage. I don't think I can handle swimming more than twice a week with this shoulder pain, but at least it's something.

Today, I tried pool running for the first time. It was actually an interesting, challenging workout. I'm glad I did it. I went back to physical therapy today to discover that Chris, the therapist I've been seeing, happens to run the water PT program. So I have an appointment with her Friday morning to learn the proper pool swimming form, plus some other water exercises. Pool running is apparenlty more complicated than it looks.