So this post is going to have the overarching theme of: VOTE!  Next Tuesday is the mid-term election in the U.S. and people need to make sure they cast their ballots.  I’m honestly of the camp that I don’t care who you vote for as long as you get out there and do it.  I’ve been interested in politics since high school, but never on the level to seek elected office or even major in political science.  I’m just interested enough to make sure that I vote in every primary and election from the time I turned 18 (7 days after a major presidential election - grr!) until now.  I think the hardest part is keeping up with the initiatives!  Even the nonpartisan positions you can generally get a sense of the people running, but initiatives are so fully loaded, that it’s hard to figure out what you really want.

For example, in Washington State, there are two initiatives that are meant to overturn the Prohibition-era laws that allow the state-run liquor stores (1100 and 1105).  We can only buy beer and wine in grocery stores; the rest come from specific liquor stores that have specific hours of operation and prices set by the state.  One initiative is sponsored by Costco who want to be able to sell and price the alcohol as they do in many other states.  The other takes a slightly different approach, but has the same general idea.  The concept of getting the state out of the liquor selling business so they can concentrate on enforcement of liquor laws I’m all for, but I don’t think either of these initiatives are going to be the way to do it.  Why not have the state sell the liquor stores rather than forcing them to close?  Let’s get some money into the state coffers first if you’re going to do away with future income.  I’m also following this one because of the new issues regarding the energy alcohol drinks that are gaining popularity.  If one can of Four Loko or Joose is the equivalent of 5 beers and then also adds enough energy that instead of passing out, you can keep drinking until you get alcohol poisoning, that’s a red flag right there.  And I’m sorry, but the brightly colored cans are absolutely aimed at minors.  I’m sure if these products had come out 10 years ago I’d feel differently about them, but I’m an old fogey with kids now.

Another initiative is to add income tax to the upper income brackets in the state (1098).  I certainly don’t make over $200,000 as an individual or $400,000 as a couple, but I’m still not really in favor of opening the door for an income tax in the State of Washington.  I know the initiative says that it’s unlikely to happen, but there have been too many that have passed recently that have been put “on hold” or changed by the legislation and I would prefer that not to happen on this one.

What’s funny is that in having grown up in California, I always thought it was strange not to have liquor sold in regular grocery stores and income taxes were just how things existed, but now having lived in Washington State for the majority of my adult life, I’m not quite ready for the whole state to go those directions in the way they are proposed in this election cycle.  As I said at the beginning of this blog post though, I really just would prefer everyone to get out and vote!  It’s much easier to feel good about the outcomes when you know that everyone gave their say rather than just skip out and whine about the results when they don’t like them.

I know there are other initiatives out there in other states that people have opinions on – what are some hotter-button issues where you live?  Are you going to vote?
(Apologies for the delay in posting this one.  I had it all written out and then couldn't access my blog server to get it posted!)

I’m a little perplexed by the arguments that are being given for the ruling regarding gays to serve openly in the US military.  The judge ruled that it’s not okay for the military to discriminate based on sexual orientation, so the military told its recruiters to allow openly gay people to enlist.  Fair enough in merits, but then others are telling already enlisted service members to not come out yet since there’s still a chance that this might be overturned and DADT would be back in place.  Also fair enough, but that puts the new recruits in a tough position if it is.  I can see that there’s a little confusion for now, but this is a law being overturned, so it always takes a little while to figure out how things will all shake out.

Opponents are saying that there’s too much confusion, so everything should be put on hold.  If I agreed with DADT I would probably say the same thing, but the only reason it’s confusing is because there are people out there that are going to appeal the judge’s ruling.  It would be much less confusing if the military had seen this coming like three YEARS ago and started getting ready for the eventuality.  How hard is it to say “everyone can and will be a part of the team and treat each other with respect”?  Maybe the gay service members can teach the others a thing or two about being tortured since we all know they have gone through their (un)fair share of teasing and bullying.

Why in the world should the military be turning away and discharging the VOLUNTEERS that make up its ranks when we’re in a war?  I realize it takes time to assimilate new groups of people into the rank-and-file, but this isn’t like adding women into the mix where there is a distinctive physical difference.  This is much simpler – no new barracks or bathrooms required!  Let qualified and willing people serve.  Period.  I’m eternally grateful to those soldiers who have been willing to enlist to serve our country.  It is something that I was not personally cut out for, but am fully supportive of those who are.  I don’t draw the line at people who look, act, or feel differently than I do.

I laughed when I read that Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that “overturning this law will be enormously disruptive for the men and women who defend our country.”  Just like adding black servicemen or women was?  Does that mean we should have not allowed those things to happen?  Isn’t it disruptive to keep trying to “out” fellow soldiers?  Isn’t it disruptive to keep having this conversation about people who have already shown their ability to serve in combat and otherwise?  Let them serve and get over yourself already.

As an aside: Since we aren’t going the way of Israel yet and having everyone at a certain age go through Basic Training (i.e. we’re a 100% volunteer army), I can see this coming back to bite the military if they ever need to use a draft again.  How many people who don’t agree with the war would engage in just enough gay activities as to be either denied entry into the military or kicked out?  Fastest way to get out of a draft without getting in legal trouble?  It’s just something to ponder since I really have no idea what the answer to that would be.  If we’re in a draft situation and desperate for enough bodies in the military, why would you exclude that portion of the population?  If you need able bodies, don’t turn away the willing and able.  And if your answer is different for 100% volunteer versus a draft, maybe you should think about your volunteer answer a little more.
I've been following the ordeal off and on since August 5th, but the last 18 hours have been riveting for me.  To see that first rescuer go down the shaft and start loading the guys up - definitely makes you appreciate your family and the conditions we are privileged to work in here in the US.  I've had the streaming video feed online since they started and just watched as number 26 emerged from the top of the shaft.  I'm incredibly impressed by the effort and diligence that has gone into this rescue effort.  I'm also grateful that NASA was able to contribute their knowledge base as well - it seems like a great application of everything they've done in the last 50-plus years.

Though the mining operations around the world have little to do directly with my day-to-day life, the rescue of these guys is definitely a story that applies to everyone and I decided that if I was going to watch the first guy, each of them deserved the same respect.  I missed a few for work and sleep, but they all are equally amazing for surviving thus far and I really hope they get all the support they need to get readjusted to live above ground.

Just seeing the top of the capsule emerge with the first miner was enough to make me cry, let alone seeing him be reunited with his family.  Later when my husband came home in time to see the second miner, he commented on how he's not sure how the guys can bear to let their families go once they start hugging them.  I'll continue to watch until all the rescuers are out as well as the 33 miners and until then...

Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!
I realized I haven't been writing much about the twins on my blog lately.  They're very much enjoying life as 4-year-olds, figuring out the way that the world works and making sure the world stays the way they think it should be.  We're constantly asked "we're still 4?" by both girls ever since their birthday a month ago.

This weekend I had the opportunity to take them to the Wilcox egg farm for a look around the farm museums, a tour of the farm while riding on a tractor-pulled wagon, a fresh omelet, and they were also able to ring the schoolhouse bell.  High times for a preschooler!  They enjoyed seeing the free-range chickens as well as sitting on the hay bales for the tour around the farm.

Since I now work more than full-time with a long commute, I haven’t been able to do as much with them lately outside of tucking them into bed at night.  This farm tour was a way for me to take them out again and give their dad a good block of time to himself – he even got to take a nap while we were gone, the basic need for any parent of young twins.  :)  The other reason I wanted to spend the extra energy time with them was because I’ll be leaving early on Wednesday morning for a business trip to the Mid West and won’t be back until Friday afternoon.