Monday, May 21, 2012

What I'm Reading Now-Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men

Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men by Mara Hvistendahl--According to my notes, Jonathan Last's Wall Street Journal Review is what prompted me to add this book to my reading list, and, wow, has it been a journey! It took me a long time to get through this book, not because it was boring or a chore to read but because I could only read a few pages at a time before having to set the book down for a cooling-off period. This might be the most infuriating and frustrating book I've ever read. It's infuriating for the attitudes that led to and continue to support the practice of women aborting babies because they are girls; it's frustrating because there are just no easy answers. I think the epigraph at the beginning of Chapter 15 sums it up the best:
There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong.
--H.L. Mencken  
Most people are at least somewhat familiar with China's one-child policy. It's pretty self-explanatory--basically, couples are allowed one child. Although, I have to admit, I wasn't sure what the consequences of having more than one child are/were. According to the book, compliance with the policy resulted in preferential health care and education benefits (p. 144). According to a 2010 article by Hvistendahl, the consequences included forced abortions and sterilizations and excessive fines. While the one-child policy was a mostly well-intentioned attempt at population control for the good of the planet and the nation, the consequences have been dire. Most couples in Asia, when faced with the reality of only one child, would prefer a boy over a girl, plain and simple. Infanticide was common, but emerging ultrasound technology made sex-selective abortions a quick and relatively easier way for couples to make sure their one child was a boy. When it became obvious that infanticide and sex-selective abortions were taking place on a large scale, the government did loosen up its policy to say that if a couple's first child was a girl, they could try again for a boy. (After all, not even the Chinese government is unfeeling enough to make parents settle for one crappy-ass, worthless girl child. Sorry. See what I mean about needing a cooling-off period?) While this has helped to protect a lot of first-born girls, it still didn't help many would-be second-born girls.

Knowing what I knew about China's one-child policy, I went into this book prepared to be all, "Way to go, China!" while flipping it the bird, but it turns out that it's much more complicated than that. First of all, the problem is much more wide-spread than just China. Second, as it turns out, the United States and other Western nations actually had a pretty heavy hand in this whole population control thing, and it's not just because we didn't anticipate the results. (The results, by the way, are that, as of 2005, approximately 163 million females were missing from Asia. That's more than the entire female population of America.) Scientists saw the potential problems created by a society full of men with no potential mates. The British microbiologist John Postgate understood that, "Women's right to work, even to travel alone freely, would probably be forgotten transiently. Polyandry might well become accepted in some societies; some might treat their women as queen ants, others as rewards for the most outstanding (or most determined) males." (p. 102-3) Well, sign me up! Sounds good, eh, ladies? Despite this bleak view, he believed that "sex selection was advisable, for 'the only really important problem facing humanity to-day is over-population,' particularly in 'under-developed unenlightened communities.'" (p. 103). Way to take the long-view, Postgate.

The trouble now, from a U.S. perspective, is that most people here would agree that sex-selective abortions are wrong; attitudes about girls need to change. The problem is, while Americans are all pretty much in agreement that it's abhorrent to abort a fetus just because it's a girl, and we're ready to tell Asia to get its act together, we're not quite ready to lead by example. (By the way, it's not always a matter of abortions being legal/illegal; it's often a matter of enforcement.) Pro-lifers are all over this, of course. Restricting abortion on any grounds is a move in the right direction as far as they're concerned. Pro-choice folks are having a harder time though. Restrictions on *some* abortions is a pretty slippery slope to restrictions on *all* abortions. It's even hard to get people on the same page about sex selection. What if the sex selection is pro-girl? That would be progress, wouldn't it? Girls are now being valued--that's good, right? What if the reason girls are being selected for is because now poor rural families can expect to receive high bride prices from rich families trying to marry off their sons?

As it turns out, Americans are, generally speaking, pro-girl. In the latest iteration of pro-creative technology, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) allows couples seeking in vitro fertilization to choose the sex of their babies, and Americans seem to prefer girls. In fact, "[f]or the most part parents going through PGD or sperm sorting dread having a boy. Girls are the goal for 80 percent of [Huntington Reproductive Center] Fertility's patients..." (p. 256). So, as Americans, we're mostly agreed that sex selection is wrong...when it's anti-girl, and we can pretty much agree that aborting a baby just because it's a girl is wrong...but what if we just discard the boys before they are even in the womb? Like I said, no easy answers.

I posted some thoughts on when I was about half-way through the book, and you can see a lot more quotes there. This book covers so much ground and provides so much food for thought. I haven't even scratched the surface in this review. I highly recommend it, just give yourself plenty of time to get through it!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Deflated Corpse Flower at Foster Botanical Garden

Well, I didn't get to see the Corpse Flower in all its grandeur, but, even in this slightly deflated state, it's still pretty impressive; and I can't say that I'm all that sad about the smell having faded. Really, I wanted to see it more than smell it. So, all in all, this worked out OK for me!

(Click to enlarge)

Foster Botanical Garden did a nice job of documenting the progression of the Corpse Flower's opening. Click on the link and scroll down to see more photos.

Quilts on Display in Honolulu

The Hawaii Quilt Guild is holding its annual show at Linekona Art Academy, 1111 Victoria St., Honolulu, May 11-20, 2012. All the quilts on display are impressive and clearly a labor of love, but these were some of my favorites. I apologize for the poor quality on some of these photos. I was trying not to use my flash, trying to back up far enough to get the whole quilt in the picture, trying to see as many as I could before my meter expired, and/or just not paying good enough attention to what I was actually getting in the frame! You get the general idea though, and if you are in the area, it's a nice (air-conditioned!) break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Stop by, be impressed and inspired, and vote for your favorite. 

"My Blue Hawaii" -Wendy Pulsifer
I don't know how you tie-dye a gecko pattern, but Wendy figured it out!

"Traveling Flower Garden/Grandmother's Flower Garden" -Patricia Lei Murray
There are more than 6,000 pieces in this quilt, all of which were hand pieced 100 years ago in Germany by Marie Baumgarten. Patricia is hand quilting it for Marie's great grandchildren. 

These African and Japanese prints are the front and back of the same quilt, "The Best of Two Worlds" by Linda Dayag.

"My Father's Garden" -Jeannie Salmon
I love Jeannie's story about learning to design by going out into her yard and picking flowers to trace. Her father only loved anthuriums. 

Did you know you could send a fabric postcard? Designs by Barbara Vasold, Sharon Nakasone, Mary Harmon, Ann Boring, Joan Apana, and Arlene Adams.

"Hawaiian Monsterra" -Pat Gorelangton (design by John Serrao)
I love the colors and the design on this!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-May, 2012

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! It turns out that May is a pretty happenin' month out in my yard, so let's get started!

My lobelia have come back from a near-death experience in February, so I'm happy about that!

This day-lily, which smells wonderful, seems to be blooming a little early this year, but there are a lot of buds, so maybe it will continue to bloom into its normal June time-frame. 

My Texas sage still has me mystified. I can't quite figure out exactly what combination of neglect/water/drought/sun/etc. prompts this to bloom, but it's always a nice surprise to find a few flowers.

My lavender is also making a nice comeback after the same near-death experience that my lobelia suffered.

The bougainvillea is in full swing right now.

My lime tree is starting to put on some new flowers, and some teeny, tiny little limes!

The puakenikeni has been perfuming the entire yard lately! Here we've got a newer bloom (cream) and an older one (one- or two-days old).

This is a young-ish red ginger starting to open up.

Lots of spider lilies (Crinum asiaticum) out and about today.

These little buds on my bleeding heart (Clerodendrum thomsonae) are just getting ready to go full-bloom. Pretty soon they will look like... 


Then, apprently, they start doing this...whatever this is. I've never noticed this twisty, cork-screw filament thing happening before. I don't know if this is a sign of fertilization or if it's trying to self-fertilize or what.

It's kind of cool looking though.

I have, once again, been lured into buying a delphinium...wish me luck! If the slugs haven't eaten it by the time the next GBBD rolls around, we can celebrate.  

My Blue Daze (Evolvus glomeratus) seems to be blooming in a more...multiple? fashion than before. I used to only get one flower per stem, now I've got several.

I couldn't pass up these red orchids at the flower shop the other day. I don't know what they are, but they looked really nice with the lilacs and peonies that I also got that day. Unfortunately, these are the only survivors after just a week. 

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a plethora of blooms in her May Garden today, so head on over to May Dreams Gardens ('s all starting to make sense now!), say hi to our GBBD host, Carol, and see what else is blooming!

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Timely Post...For Once!

Okay, normally I put this out after Mother's Day, but this year, I thought I'd get ahead of the game and actually make a Mother's Day recommendation before Mother's Day...imagine that!

If you want to send flowers for Mother's Day, of course I would always recommend supporting your local florist, but if you're far-away and don't know the local florists where your mother lives, I would recommend Organic Bouquet. Not only do they make lovely arrangements, but they are less likely to send your mother flowers soaked in pesticides and fungicides, so...yay! Also, they will donate part of the proceeds from any of their Flowers for Good collection to charity, so...yay again!

I have used Organic Bouquet in the past and always been very happy with the results. I've sent flowers to my mom for her birthday and Mother's Day, and she always sends me pictures of the bouquets. So, although I don't have any personal experience with the products, I still feel pretty good about recommending them.

If you need to get flowers to someone in the Colorado Springs area  who would like a tropical arrangement I would also highly recommend Dawn's Creations. She pulled this together for a same-day delivery to my Grandpa for his 95th birthday in December. If she could do this last-minute in the middle of winter (well, OK, fall, but whatever) I'm thinking that advance notice in springtime would also yield some fabulous results. Back in December, I don't think Dawn had a web site, and I just assumed that she did local deliveries, but now there's a web site, and it appears that shipping is available, so...yay!...AGAIN!

And, finally, if you need flowers delivered to someone on O'ahu, Rainforest at Kilohana Square makes beautiful arrangements. I'm not sure if they ship arrangements to the mainland, but you can get a lei shipped to the mainland. Their web site is a little detail-heavy, but they are trying to make sure they give their customers all the information they might need when considering an order. If you want to actually place an order, the best way is probably to call and talk to them. You can't just click on a picture and say, "Send one of these." Each creation is unique and depends on customer need and floral availability. I've never dealt with their delivery service, but I have picked up a sympathy arrangement (cat not included) and some loose flowers for my own arrangement at home.

I'm not getting any kick-backs or anything for any of these endorsements. These are just companies that I have had good results with in the past. I want to get the word out so that my readers have some reliable places to turn to, and I want to do my part to support the businesses that I like.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stealth Fail

"Birth, life, and death--each took place on the hidden side of a leaf." --Toni Morrison**

It was like Wild Kingdom out on my front porch today. I missed my Moonflower opening (sneaky little bugger!), but when I went outside to admire it, I found a whole host of other critters. I was mainly focused on these beetles, which, after a lot of research, I am pretty confident are Steelblue Ladybeetles (Halmus chalybeus). While I was watching this one motor around, it actually stopped and picked an aphid off my Moonflower. Like any good gardener, I cheered. I didn't manage to get that on camera, but, trust me, it happened (both the aphid eating and the cheering).

Not very exciting in this light, but below, you can see the subtle metallic hues that make these look like little jewels. Or fancy helmets. I like to imagine Darth Vader running around in one of these when he wants to feel fancy. 

These guys are so shiny my face is actually reflected in this one's shell! It's hard to get it big enough and clear enough to see here, but, again, trust me, it's there! I was worried that the ants might try to run off the ladybugs, but this stand-off seemed to end peacefully.

After I saw all the big ladybugs, I started noticing a few of these guys on the undersides of the leaves. I'm pretty sure they are baby ladybugs. Yay, babies! Now, go kill some aphids!

I was so caught up in my study of all these tiny bugs, that I nearly missed this big guy: 

He's doing a pretty good job of blending, and since he was on a leaf above my head I would have missed him entirely, but I happened to look up and saw something that didn't look quite right.

What the...? When did my Moonflower sprout antennae? 

Stealth fail, Mr. Grasshopper, stealth fail.

**All of this "invisible" activity happening right outside my own front door reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, which I discovered thanks to a fellow blogger, the late Dewey.

What I'm Reading Now-The Submission

The Submission: A Novel by Amy Waldman--When I reviewed That Day in September, the lovely Wendy mentioned this book as a candidate for a good companion read. I hadn't heard anything about it before that, even though it has garnered quite a bit of acclaim, but I was definitely intrigued. Well, it took a few months, but it did finally make its way to the top of my reading list.

I didn't LOVE this book, but I did find it interesting; and by the time I was done reading I was definitely curious about how closely this fictional novel mirrored the actual events surrounding the design selection for a September 11 memorial. A quick look at The National September 11 Memorial and Museum web site leads me to believe that the general memorial competition and selection process described in the book was probably pretty accurate. In 2003, thousands of designers submitted plans, and a Memorial Jury was in charge of making the final design selection. The book adds a twist though: the winning submission was designed by a Muslim, and, as you can imagine, here is where the trouble begins.

Now, maybe that part happened in real life too and we just never heard about it. If so, then the real-life jury was better at sweeping things under the carpet than the jury in this book. Either that, or they made contingency plans ahead of time for just such an occasion...which brings up the question, what is the proper contingency plan for something like this?

What if a Muslim wins a design competition for a memorial honoring all the people who were killed by Muslim terrorists? Should Muslims have been excluded from the competition? Well, of course not, you couldn't come right out and say that, even two years after the September 11 attacks. Besides, certainly some Muslims lost their lives in those attacks, and their families are surely mourning just as much as anyone else's. What if the designer won't answer any questions about his design, a design that has what some people consider Islamic elements? What if his design is really a memorial to the brave terrorists who died that day? What if it isn't? What if it's just a beautiful design that evoked a sense of healing in the one family member who served on the jury? Should he have to answer questions like this when the same design could have been submitted by a non-Muslim without anyone questioning its "real" meaning?

These questions and more are explored in this book, and it makes for a thought-provoking read. Unfortunately, I also found it extremely frustrating. Many of the characters seemed very one-sided, almost like caricatures; I kept thinking, Is the author trying to annoy the hell out of me with these characters? What idiots! Who acts like this? but then I realized that so many of the people we see in the media act exactly like this. It's the extreme radio shock jocks who will say anything to incite debate, the reporters who will run any story no matter how ill-gotten the information and no matter the potential consequences, the people who will fight based on personal belief, no matter what the actual facts might be, the conspiracy theorists. So, then the frustrating thing started to be that, yeah, this is probably exactly how this would go down.

I have to say that I couldn't come up with a decisive answer after reading this book. As annoyed as I was with a lot of the characters in this book, I could also understand where many of them were coming from. I know that today, not having lost anyone in the September 11 attacks, I would say that, absolutely, the winning design should be the winning design, regardless of who designed it. I can't however say that I wouldn't have felt differently if I had lost someone in that attack. I'd like to say that I would still be able to maintain an objective, all-Americans-deserve-the-same-chance attitude, but I don't know if that's true or not. I don't know if I would have been overcome by my own fears and anger, especially a mere two years out.

So, even though I didn't LOVE this book, I still think it's a worthy read. I'd also recommend checking out the book's web site. I went there looking for more information about the inspiration for this story, and I kept getting frustrated. It took me a liiiitle longer than it should have to realize that you can click on all the pictures that come up on the home page, so let me save you some frustration: you can click on all the pictures that come up on the home page.