09 April 2010

When's the Vote?

I've been wondering when the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act (bill HB2514) was finally going to be voted on in the House. The Reader answers thus:

As the chief sponsor, Lang decides when to put the bill to a vote. He says he'll wait until he's sure he has the votes he needs, because he can't afford to fail: "Many members will vote for this but they'll only do it once. They'll go out on a limb once."

The current legislative session ends in early May. In the fall the General Assembly will convene for a veto session; its formal purpose is to consider legislation the governor might veto over the summer, and although the house could consider new business like the medical marijuana bill, a supermajority of 71 votes would be needed to pass it. "It is entirely possible that I won't take a vote until January," Lang says. A new General Assembly will be sworn in on Wednesday, January 12, and on the preceding Monday and Tuesday the old assembly will convene to wrap up unfinished business. Only a simple majority will be required to pass legislation on those two days, and Lang thinks he might be able to talk a few lame duck lawmakers into changing their positions on HB2514.

Aside from them, where could the remaining votes he needs come from? Linn believes some Republicans from collar counties can be persuaded.

"Yeah, that's true," says Lang, "and a few suburban Cook legislators too. Some of the downstaters are hopeless, but we're working on it."

If the act doesn't pass before January 12, it's history. Lang and his allies in the house and senate would have to start all over again.

Sigh. We have seen Prohibition fail to work with a far more dangerous mind-altering substance (alcohol), so let's end this Prohibition. I wish I could afford to send every Illinois lawmaker a copy of Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (and figure out some way to make sure they all read it).

Again, I say, Sigh.

The entire article is in the current on-line Reader.

Reading IS Fundamental!

The New York Times is reporting today that federal funding for RIF is in grave danger under Department of Education budget proposals. Reading this made me feel ill and, as a proud Chicagoan, almost betrayed by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. His mother is a respected educator in Chicago, having worked on the southeast side of The City for nearly 50 years. I am quite sure that Mr. Duncan has known from his earliest years just how important it is to cultivate a love of reading in the hearts and minds of our most at-risk children. After all, they will be leading us one day!

When I was in the first or second (I think second) grade, we didn't have much. One magical day, our teacher led us to the school library where tables were set up, piled high with books. Now, I always loved a trip to the library, even then, but on that day, something astonishing happened - she told us to look carefully at the books and then... we could choose one to take home and keep! It was like Christmas and my Birthday and the Luckiest Day Ever, all rolled up together. And, boy, did I take my time! At long last, I settled on Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. (Some of you remember the awesomely trippy purple cover.) No one told me I was too young or tried to change my mind. The nice RIF lady just confirmed, "That's the one you want? Okay."

I still have that book. There were many times I didn't have "kids" novels in the house. I read the World Book and Harlequin romances and a collection of Poe stories and whatever I could find. I even re-read all the Dr. Seuss books we had around the house, but that novel was something else.

Darlings, I am growing old. That was close to 30 years ago (ack!) and I still remember how special I felt and how that fed my (admittedly, already pretty strong) love of books. And now we want to take that same opportunity away from other kids, those who probably need it more than I ever did?

Shame on you, Arne Duncan and Department of Education. You have cleft my heart in twain.

NOTE: RIF is asking supporters to urge their senators to sign a letter in support of RIF. You can get more info here.

08 April 2010

Three Themes?

I think this blog, if I sustain it this time, is going to end up being quite different from what I started. I’ve noticed that, with the many links I post on facebook, they generally fit into one of three categories - libraries and literature, health and fitness, and marijuana policy reform. How did that happen?

Well, I think no one on earth who has ever met me would be surprised by the focus on the world of books. Family legend is that I taught myself to read from a very young age, well before kindergarten. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that I have loved books forever, since my memory begins. So, that’s a no-brainer.

But health and fitness? That story is a little longer. For much of my life I was overweight. No, let’s be honest. I was fat. And I was not fit or very physically active. And, for the most part, I was okay with that. I felt like I wasn’t eating that much and I thought I was pretty healthy.

I met Science Boy when I was fat and he loved me the way I was (although he did encourage me to exercise with him because, he claimed, he wanted me to be a little healthier, not because of my weight). I was determined not to give into societal pressure or to make myself miserable trying to meet someone else’s standards. But then, on (I think) July 5, 2006, something changed. I don’t even know what, exactly, it was. SB and I were in Grant Park at the free India.Arie concert and I announced to him that I planned to lose weight and that I needed him to be supportive to let me do it my own way. He was and I did.

Now, although I have not yet reached my goals, I see that I have made tremendous progress. For the first time in my life I am athletic. Maybe not an elite athlete, but an athlete nonetheless. I am eating healthier. I have lost more than 70 pounds. I have muscles. I do not know everything, not by a long shot and I have yet to conquer my relationship with cigarettes, but I am a work in progress and I am going to keep working toward progress.

I have become passionate about learning more and sharing information, particularly with children and families. (Lucky for me, the amazing corporation that funds our grant project has recently asked us to make fitness and nutrition a part of programming.) I think a lot of people just don’t know some things because no one ever told them. I just want everyone to have access to the information (that’s the librarian I am at my core). What they do with the information is up to them, but they should have access to it. (For example, I think restaurants can serve 3,000 calorie chili cheese fries if people want to buy them but, as a consumer, I want that nutritional information available so I can make an educated choice.)

So. That’s the second focus.

And now. Marijuana Policy Reform. That one either shocks the hell out of people or doesn’t surprise them in the least. First of all, I am not a frequent – or even regular – user. I have indulged (and inhaled). However, in general, I have control issues and prefer to have complete control of my facilities. (This is the same reason I very rarely drink much.) For me, the issue of Marijuana Policy Reform is one of Justice and Fairness.

As I have done my whole life, when I began to wonder why marijuana is regarded so differently than, say, alcohol, I started to research. I have read many different books and articles as well as considered personal accounts (both written and oral) on both sides of the issue. I have thought about medicinal cannabis and whether it should be considered in a different way than cannabis used for recreational purposes. After much thought, I think it is ridiculous to enact Prohibition against cannabis when alcohol is legal and far more sinister. I hate the drug testing laws. In theory, I can drink all weekend, beat the shit of kid or partner while drunk, maybe drive drunk and endanger a few lives and show up to work Monday with a raging hangover headache and keep my job.

On the other hand, if I take a hit of week Friday night, maybe eat a few more cookies than I should and go to sleep, then show up to work stone cold sober on Monday, I could lose my job if a random drug test is demanded, regardless of how exemplary my performance at my job. (That goes for if I have used cannabis not recreationally but under a doctor’s advice to ease the nausea caused by chemotherapy.) How does that even make sense?) So. I think that the Prohibition of Marijuana is ridiculous. (I won’t even go into how legalization would lead to regulation, which could enable taxation which could help many states that are currently in dire financial straits, plus ease the hold of some drug cartels, plus actually make it harder for kids to get weed – a business owner who stands to lose his license and face a huge fine is less likely to sell to a kid than an unscrupulous thug on the street corner. At least right now I won’t go into all that. No promises for later.)

So, let’s see where this goes and how long I maintain it this time. Maybe having the netbook will help. Both of these entries were written when I had no internet access and then posted to the blog that evening. (I recorded the time when I wrote them.) So, that gives me more opportunity to write.

Building a Healthier Chicago

I have been attending the Building a Healthier Chicago conference the past few days. There has been a lot of fascinating information provided so far and a number of things I plan to look into more thoroughly. Beyond my personal interest, I am interested in ways we can better integrate messages that stress better nutrition and fitness into our library programs. I have encountered some resistance form a few people who think that, as librarians, that “is not our job,” but isn’t a healthier community the job of EVERYone who serves that community? I am not saying that we sacrifice the literacy and love of reading piece of our work to become nutritionists, but it is vital to help families understand healthy living messages when we can. It has been proven through plenty of research that children learn better when they receive proper nutrition and appropriate physical fitness. If they are eating well and getting movement, they will also be able to better love reading. All the pieces fit together, people!

Yesterday, I got a pedometer from the conference. The recommendation is that everyone takes 10,000 steps a day. I thought, piece of cake! I am active. 10,000 steps will be nothing! Well. As I write this, it is 11:30am and I am right around 4,900 steps. And that’s when an extra 1.5 mile walk from the parking garage to the conference and a walk during break factored in. I think I will hit the 10,000 steps today, but what about a “typical” day when I am *not* walking 1.5 miles one way to work? I plan to wear the pedometer tomorrow to see what I get when there are no special events or extended breaks and I guess I will work my way up.

Dr. James O. Hill presented the Keynote Address yesterday and he was fantastic. He emphasized how important it is not to be too stressed about reach goal immediately. He gave the example of a woman who started using a pedometer and found she was taking 2,000 steps a day. She wanted to improve but became discouraged because after using a pedometer again a week later, she was only at 3,000 steps a day. He pointed out that that had been a “heroic improvement.” I think that’s true. We beat ourselves up for not achieving perfectly, instantly, instead of looking at where we are coming from and appreciating that any improvement, no matter how small, is still an improvement. So, we’ll see. Wherever I find my step count tomorrow, I won’t beat myself up over it. I’ll just figure out ways to take more steps and I will reach 10,000, then make that sustainable.

07 April 2010

No Excuses

I have no excuses for how woefully remiss I have been about blogging - unless you count exhaustion, some mild depression and too much time at work vallid! It probably doesn't help that Facebook makes it ever so easy to post articles, which I do often. The downside of that is that I usually post the link to the article and that's it. Often I offer no commentary or anything.

I hate to make promises to start posting here again; I have broken those before. Hell, I don't even know if anyone is even still reading! But I am going to try. I've really missed my musings here. I have things to say. Right now, I am really interested in helping children (and their adults) live healthier lives through incorporating health messages into literacy based programming, the "no excuses" brand of school reform (particularly in low-income communities) I have been reading about, and marijuana policy reform. Let's see if I can get my act together enough to start writing again...