Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Follow up on the Bulgarian nurses & Palestinian doctor
One week ago today, the 6 Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor known as the Benghazi Six were released from Libya after being accused of infecting over 400 children with HIV and sentenced to death.

Despite testimony from some of the top scientists in the world that the children had been infected long before the medics arrived at the hospital, they were imprisoned for eight years. During this time they were tortured for their confessions.

Drs. Luc Montagnier and Vittorio Colizzi testified in person that through hospital records, and the DNA sequences of the virus, they traced it to patient n.356 who was admitted 28 times between 1994–97 in Ward B, ISO and Ward A, and theorized that this patient was the probable source of the infection. The first cross-contamination occurred during that patient's 1997 admission. The report concludes that the admission records of a total of 21 of the children
"definitively prove that the HIV infection in the Al- Fath Hospital was already active in 1997"
The epidemic snowballed in 1998 to well over 400 children. Montagnier and Colizzi both testified in person at the trial of record for the defense, and the report was submitted in evidence.

Ultimately, the Libyan court system would not listen to HIV experts around the world, 114 Nobel Laureates or the U.N. The medics were only released when money from various countries was promised to the Libyan government for hospital upgrades and training for medical staff in addition to $1 million USD to each of the families of the HIV infected children.

The names of the released are:

Kristiana Malinova Valcheva
Nasya Stojcheva Nenova
Valentina Manolova Siropulo
Valya Georgieva Chervenyashka
Snezhanka Ivanova Dimitrova and
Dr. Ashraf al-Hazouz

They were raped, threatened with their families deaths and the rape of their family members. They had electric shocks applied to their genitals and were bitten by dogs. They were all injected with a substance and told that they had been intentionally infected with HIV.

They are home with medical problems and psychological issues that will last a lifetime. But they are home.

I wish for them:
  • peace
  • a place to express their anger
  • loving family and friends
  • dreamless sleep
  • and gentle days.
Welcome home.

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Monday, July 30, 2007
I watched a documentary this weekend called Trembling before G-d (2001) about frum gay Jews. I was so struck by the beguilement of doctrine on people who have been ostracized by their yeshivot, their shuls and their families. They have been sent to therapy and to rabbis and to Israel "where there are no gays" for the purpose of becoming heterosexual and getting rid of this particular evil impulse (yetzer hara - BTW, this link is a brilliant StarTrekkian analysis of the concept).

Religion, especially ones with intricate rituals, create structure for our lives.

Jews know that on Friday afternoon we bake challah and at sunset we light candles, say certain blessings and welcome the Sabbath bride.

We know that on other days we fast, we dress a certain way, we eat certain foods and don't eat others, we have our own language and special laws that we follow.

In reading one of my favorite Jewish blogs Renegade Rebbetzin, a commenter wrote,
"The measure of a first-rate intellect is its ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time."
I think this is the concept I have been searching for in the impasse between being an atheist and being identifiably and enduringly Jewish. I believe it to be a similar predicament faced by those who are gay while maintaining their belief in the Orthodox interpretation of Torah.

It is embracing these two contradictory ideas. Being Jewish is and is not a culture alone. Is and is not solely a religion. God is an integral component of Judaism and yet, I am Jewish without belief in God. My Judaism informs me on a regular basis, provides me with cultural touchstones and yet there is a substantial element of Judaism from which I am estranged.

I welcome these contradictory ideas today because I am not attempting to conform to some archetype, whereas I think, in the past, I think I searched for an unachievable change in my nature.

What a relief.


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Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Yesterday, on the Jewish calendar was Tisha b'Av (ninth day of the month of Av). It is a fast day commemorating the destruction of the first and second Temple in Jerusalem (the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E.; the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.).

Coincidentally, it happens to be the day the Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492 and the day deportations began from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.

Since most Jews today, with the exception of some Orthodox, are not looking for a return to temple practices (which include animal sacrifice), the symbolism of the fast day has, in some places taken on new meaning.

I love ritual. It is one of the things that most connects me to my Jewish community. That there is a proscribed time and a place for everything, for mourning and for giving to the poor, for getting drunk and for working toward a better life. These are all things that we are reminded to do throughout the year (not that we can't get a little drunk or give to the poor at other times...).

Anyway, I need Tisha b'Av, a time and a ritual to mourn destruction. I think we all do otherwise our time to mourn the losses of our past get filtered a little into our everyday lives, feeling like we never have a proper time to mourn anymore.

I'm not saying that we should not or do not feel our grief and sadness the rest of the year, but we have no place to say, "On this day, I mourn. I mourn my childhood, destroyed at the hands of someone else. I mourn the loss of a generation to HIV. I mourn for the deaths of children, and women and men throughout the world due to violence."

I believe it to be so important. And so, on this day, I mourn.

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Monday, July 23, 2007
What I did on my summer "vacation"
Friday night - midnight.
Me: asleep in my bed. I know I said I'd be in line for Harry but when I went to get my wristband, they had already given out over 1,000 and so on my way home I called Target. The nice lady said they had copies. They were opening at 8 a.m.

Saturday morning

7:30 a.m. Me: in the Target parking lot with a steaming cup of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (my favorite) and the L.A. Times.

7:45 a.m.: People start lining up.

7:55 a.m.: Target guy comes out and starts handing out tickets to the 50+ people in line. He lets us know he has 600 copies. We will all get a copy. Two if we want.

8 a.m. the doors open. I get my copy plus two extras.

8:45 a.m. Mia, the cutest child in the entire world comes over for a day of activities with Aunt Faith. I trade the father - (1) adorable baby for (1) copy of Harry Potter.

I, having not even opened Harry, begin a full day of activity. These activities include a play date with Allison and Evan, Jane and Emmett and a photo shoot for L.A. Parent Magazine. Lest you think we are completely crazy and going all Mama Rose on y'all, Tough Cookies (my sister's store) actually advertises in L.A. Parent and had a booth at this event.

3:30 p.m. I deliver Mia back to her smart, funny, exhausted and grateful parents. I realize I have fed the child four times since her dad dropped her off. I have not, however, fed myself even once. I consider the amazing work it is to raise a child, much less raise a child while owning one's own business.

I race home. I pop a bag of popcorn. I open the book.

5:00 p.m. Michael comes home from work. I am non-responsive. He says, "Honey...we need to talk. I think you might have a reading disorder."

Ha ha. Very funny. (Actually, it is pretty damn funny)

Michael leaves for the evening. I mumble "bye." Barely.

9:30 p.m. It has been a very long day. I fall asleep at page 420.

Sunday morning
6:30 a.m. - I open the book. I am only slightly aware that I have two events I need to be at today. One at 12:30 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m. I read while making oatmeal. I read while turning on the sprinklers. I read while wrapping gifts. I am officially a total dork.

12 noon - I put DOWN the book and go to the first party. I leave Harry at home for fear I will be tempted to read at red lights.

4:00 p.m. I pick the book up again.

5:45 p.m. Mrs. Funbutt picks me up for second event. I say goodbye to Harry and off we go.

9:45 p.m. I arrive home. I pick up the book.

11:00 p.m. I finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I did not check the internet. I did not turn on the television. Total moratorium on all outside media until the book was finished.

And that is what I did on my summer vacation.

The end.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007
WTF (There are no spoilers here)
OK - this post is about all of these freakin' people who think it's funny to spoil the Harry Potter book. I know nothing and I have a complete moratorium on all news sources until I have finished the book, which should, in my estimation, be around 3 p.m. on Saturday. Unless, of course I decide to savor it, and then it will probably be sometime early next week.

I hate people who want to ruin the party!

What is it?
  • Is it a sense of superiority that you know something that the rest of us don't?
  • Is it a feeling of schadenfreude at turning anticipation into disappointment?
  • Is it that you think you're going to get your 5 minutes of fame by being one of the people who spoils it for the rest of us?
  • Could it be that you're just assholes?
For Book 5, I actually went to the midnight event at Borders. It wasn't a huge deal but it was fun and seriously, I never stay up that late.

So, this Friday night, if you're looking for me, just search the nearest Borders. I won't be wearing any silly hats, I have no wand and I'm not buying Every Flavor Beans but I'm totally going to be there.

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Monday, July 16, 2007
The terms of war have, almost without exception, included rape. Usually, the invading army comes in, kills the men and rapes the women. It routinely serves a strategic function in war and acts as an integral tool for achieving military objectives. HRW accessed 7/16/07.

According to Amnesty International,
In every armed conflict investigated by Amnesty International in 1999 and 2000, the torture of women was reported, most often in the form of sexual violence. Rape, when used as a weapon of war, is systematically employed for a variety of purposes, including intimidation, humiliation, political terror, extracting information, rewarding soldiers, and "ethnic cleansing".
Although women have served in various roles in military forces throughout the ages, including but certainly not limited to camp followers, military suppliers, medics and soldiers, never have we been more active in the military than today.

Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Nepal, Switzerland, Great Britain and Israel all have women in combat functions in their military. The Coalition forces in Iraq have lost 84 women to date.


In 1987 I took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test as required by my high school. I aced nearly everything. Despite being voted Most Likely to Join the Peace Corps (I kid you not), I very seriously considered joining the Navy in order to become a chaplain.

Reagan was in the White House though and the Berlin Wall was still standing and the threat of war with the Soviets was something I was not willing to bet on. So, I chose not to join.


Most of the rapes that have occurred by fighting forces involved the other side. The enemy. Not that that makes anything any better - any more sane. Whether a murder was "in the heat of passion" or premeditated murder matters not to the deceased.

Things seem to have taken a turn though. Last month in Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau introduced Cora, a sexual assault specialist working with the VA. Apparently military sexual trauma (MST) is so widespread within the ranks of female soldiers that Doonesbury has picked it up as a story line.

This is not the so-called "enemy" assaulting our female soldiers - these are men with our flag on their uniforms who are assaulting women in the showers and latrines.

Men who answer to our Commander in Chief who demand sex from their female subordinates.

Men who are protecting the "home front" who are denying medical attention to sexually assaulted soldiers and placing them back into the units in which their rapist still serves.

Salon.com features an article entitled, The Private War of Women Soldiers on sexual assault occurring in the military. This article is a "must read" and if you can stomach it, the letters to Salon are also pretty enlightening.

The Denver Post reported on a woman named Danielle who was raped in Kuwait.

Women's Policy Inc. reports on Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD among women.

In 1987, I attended a party for a friend, K. He was returning home from Camp Pendleton. He was the first person I had ever known who had joined the military. When he was allowed to write, he did so, telling us stories of all of the trials he went through in order to become a U.S. Marine.

That night, like all other nights at K's house, his single mother was nowhere to be found and there was enough alcohol for all of us. With the few memories I actually have of any part of high school, I remember wearing a pair of baby blue leggings (1987, remember).

K arrived at his mother's house with a new friend that he brought home from boot camp. We were all in the backyard. K went to hug his friends. When he got to me he said, "Hi. I'm K." and put out his hand for me to shake. I had become so thin that he didn't recognize me.

Later that night, drunk and stoned off my 16 year old ass, I was making out with the other Marine, R. We went to K's room. I don't know what I had planned but it wasn't having sex with him. To this day I tell myself I should have known better. After all, it was his first hour home from boot camp.

Eventually, K heard me screaming. Or someone heard me screaming and K broke down his own bedroom door. There was a lot of yelling. He threw R out. The party ended. Someone took me home.

No one ever talked about it again. I wrote about it in a journal that was a required assignment. My English teacher never read it. She handed it back to me. It got an "A".

One guy I knew somehow found out about what had happened. He told me he wanted to help. He told me he was going to tell the school counselor. I told him if he did, I'd report him for drug use.
I don't know what the military teaches people about how other human beings should be treated. I hear that the military is a place of honor and trust. I was raped under a bumper sticker that read, "Semper fi".

What ever it is that the military teaches, I want so badly to be wrong.

I don't think I am.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007
Not for the squeamish
You've been warned!

I never really have had a squeamish bone in my body. I gave myself injections starting in 8th grade. I've seen the insides of all kinds of things but these days...well, let's just say, the more disgusting, the better.

Friday I got all inked up. Let's just say, it's a pretty large space. As of Monday it started getting itchy. Of course, I have to share this with Michael, who does actually get a little nauseous when I start talking about the Faith jerky flaking off all over the house. Sorry honey!

The really gross stuff started when I started working in the HIV industry. My office mates were always talking about their rashes and diarrhea. I was teaching groups of volunteers how to comfortably talk about fisting on the Hotline. It was all fun and games I tell ya.

Anyway, on Tuesday, I made an unannounced visit to my old lab group. They happened to be in the middle of a video conference call. I was invited in for a peek.

My old group does research on rectal microbicides. The leader of this group, Dr. A, is an incredibly sweet, very attractive and charismatic man. Patients get crushes on Dr. A, while he is looking up their asses with a flashlight. That is how cute he is.

One night about 6 years ago I was at a fundraising dinner with Dr. A. He was presenting to donors about his latest research. He had a slide show. I hadn't seen the slide show before he presented it. It started out just fine. There were data. Charts. Dot plots. Bullet pointed goals for the research. Then there was the slide of a normal vs. a diseased colon. During dinner.

Now, this would not phase a group of researchers at all but these weren't researchers.

I swear to god I heard gagging.

There are other people in this world that don't want to look inside another person's ass while they are chewing on their chicken marsala. This was news to my sweet Dr. A. I love this man. I made him promise to never show colonoscopy slides during dinner ever again. Under any circumstances.

So Tuesday, I happened to pop in during a conference call. The latest research seemed to be going well and so they were talking about moving up to a Phase II trial. Phase I trials are exclusively safety and so they are always done in so-called normal participants. For instance, if you have an HIV drug, you give a small dose to "healthy" non-HIV infected volunteers first to see what it does to them. If there aren't any hideous side effects or adverse events, you can usually go on to dosing trials and trials where it is used in the population it was intended for. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

This trial was for a rectal microbicide so it was being used in people who weren't regularly using their rectum for sex but they were moving into Phase II trials where it would be used in frequent douchers.

Can I tell you how much I miss my old group. I miss talking about frequent douchers. I miss talking about the difference between gloopy and drippy. It's true.

It may be wrong, but it's true.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Mrs. Know it all

I love this picture of some anonymous little girl. I love her eagerness. Her confidence.

I wonder why that gets sucked out of us at such a young age.

I used to be her. (I'm still a total know-it-all - just ask Michael). I'm just no longer quite as eager as I used to be...not quite so bold.

I sometimes feel like talking about myself makes me a big drama queen...an attention whore. Like that's a bad thing. But I guess in my life, in a lot of ways, being the center of attention is not necessarily the best thing. Especially when you're a little-miss-know-it-all.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't trade being smart for anything. The one time I ODed, the one thing I was worried about was that I would have lost so many brain cells that I wouldn't be smart any more....can you say "DORK!"

Last night on the elliptical, I rocked my brains out to "Stupid Girls" by P!NK. That girl has big ol' brass ones. I adore her. I also rocked it a little old school to Cherry Bomb - the original by the Runaways. There's nothing like a little Joan Jett when you're feeling blue.

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Bribing the bureaucracy
A couple of months ago I talked about what I do for a living - it involves ethics and clinical trials.

Yesterday in China, the government executed Zheng Xiaoyu, former chief of the State Food and Drug Administration for taking bribes and damaging the reputation of the safety of Chinese food and drugs.


I'm not thrilled with this administration but:

A) I'm glad none of my f-ups reached this level - of course I've also never taken a bribe. Lately, it's become so strict around here that we're not even allowed to use pharmaceutical company pens or notepads in the clinic. Forget pharma lunches...those are completely a thing of the past. So unless sitting with a pharma rep and listening to them talk about their super-cute new doggie is considered a bribe...and I don't think it is...then I've definitely never taken a bribe. Phew!

B) Despite the fact that W has damaged the reputation of this country and compromised our safety beyond all reasonable measures, probably taken innumerable bribes (Halliburton anyone?) - I still wouldn't recommend the death penalty.

C) If I thought for one minute that it would make my job any easier I would consider taking the entire IRB out on a golf retreat or some such thing, but frankly I think it would just leave them further behind...

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Monday, July 09, 2007
Branching out
Writing is, in many ways, my saving grace.

I write all the time. I have an entire shelf of old journals in my library. I write so that things are real. So that I can prove to myself that I had that thought before or so that I can prove how far I've come (or regressed).

In junior high, a very perceptive teacher told me that instead of interrupting when I had a thought, I should write it down and then raise my hand. This has been useful throughout my life. To think, it was just thrown off to keep this annoying Ms. Know-it-all from monopolizing the class.

Thoughts come to me in great waves and writing it down helps me to keep track. To stop ruminating about the same crap over and over again.

In May of 2006 I started a blog dedicated just to dealing with the really deep and hideous stuff. I shared it with only a few people. I closed it down in November.

In the interest of:

1. Being honest with myself
2. Being fully committed to getting healthy

I'm starting it up again. I promise to keep up with both...after all, y'all never knew I had the other one in the first place.

The url is crazyjeans DOT blogspot.com. It's a closed list. You'll have to email me to obtain access. Email me at soqueer AT gmail DOT com.

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Fruits and nuts

I've been promising photos of some of the lovely fruits and veggies I've been growing with my own two hands. Here are three for the road.

Also, I got my right shoulder blade tattooed this weekend and though it's a little sting-y, I'm totally in love with the art. I promise to post photos soon.

I actually asked my tattoo artist how he felt working on my back. Basically, I'm really uncomfortable with my body so I wanted to know if he was too. It's something I've been wanting to ask him for years but I've never been in a place where I could hear an answer. What he said was perfect..."He told me that I was a canvas, all canvases are different."

I feel pretty good about that. In the long run, in becoming more comfortable in my body, thinking of it as a canvas is something new to ponder....

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Friday, July 06, 2007
My Space
The other day I saw a scene that could have been out of a cartoon. A man came to a dead screeching stop in a parking lot in front of my car. He leaned out the window of his car and his eyes bulged out. A beautiful woman in a white sundress had just walked into the lot.

19 years ago this month, I moved to Kibbutz Tzora, just outside of Beit Shemesh, in Israel. While I lived there, I got involved in a group called Women at the Wall.

At the time we were 5 to 40 women who gathered at the Kotel to pray on Rosh Chodesh. I was the youngest woman there at 17 years old. As is customary, I wore a long skirt, long sleeves, usually a headscarf - although I don't remember if I wore a scarf that particular day. I am sure that, though I was as tznua [modest] as a 17 year old Reform American chick in Jerusalem would be, it still doesn't matter what I'm wearing.

On the way home from the Kotel, I had taken to stopping in the market to buy some groceries on my way back to Kibbutz. On one occasion, my friend and I decided to go into a little stall that was selling dresses. She tried one on behind a purple curtain. I sat waiting for her on the little cement steps leading down into the shop. The owner of the shop, an older man, came to sit next to me and since I was young and very eager to practice/show off my conversational Hebrew, I was not at all concerned when he touched my arm. After all, he was an alter kakher, what could he do?

What he did was reach over and grab my left breast. Plain and simple, like it was his to take. It shocked the hell out of me and because I was afraid and in shock, I stood up, told my friend we had to go and got the hell out of there, the old fart smiling the whole time like he had found the fucking afikomen.

It wasn't the first or the last time I was touched inappropriately in Israel, Egypt or back at home. For a while, I felt like a magnet for men with no boundaries.

I don't understand this concept and perhaps someone can explain it to me. Why do men think they can reach out and grab a woman and/or say something vulgar?


A couple of months ago, half a lifetime later, I was at Trader Joe's. Again with the alter kakher. Again with the grabbing. He reached out and grabbed my face. He told me I was beautiful. I'm sure the old man thought he was paying me a compliment. But what happened to paying a compliment without the touching part? For those of you who think mental illness...he was not impaired, physically or mentally, he just felt he had the right to touch me.

When I wear a burka of fat on my body to protect me from the world, it doesn't work.

I get thin, it gets worse. The night I was raped, a good friend, home from boot camp didn't recognize me because I had become so thin. For my high school graduation, as a gift to myself, I gained 50 pounds.

I arrived in Israel, lost all of that weight and on Thanksgiving afternoon I was taken to an empty lot in Bet Shemesh by a cab driver I had hired to take me home from the market. I left the cab unharmed but I had to walk a long way back home with my groceries and my Thanksgiving, despite the all-American effort, was not quite the same.

It sucks to be afraid of people.

It sucks to even have the thought, "Did that man in front of me at the ATM rape some girl?" "Is the guy in the truck next to me in traffic who is air bouncing his breasts at me going to go home to a daughter?"

I don't want to have those thoughts but I do, and so do these people.

And I want to thank them for this! Holla back people!!!


Gwen Stefani

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons
For me to run and hide
I can't do the little things
I hold so dear
'Cause it's all those little things
That I fear

'Cause I'm just a girl
I'd rather not be
'Cause they won't let me drive
Late at night
I'm just a girl

Guess I'm some kind of freak
'Cause they all sit and stare
With their eyes

And P!NK
At the door we don't wait cause we know them
At the bar six shots just beginning
That's when dickhead put his hands on me
But you see

I'm not here for your entertainment
You don't really want to mess with me tonight
Just stop and take a second
I was fine before you walked into my life
Cause you know it's over
Before it begins
Keep your drink just give me the money
just you and your hand tonight

And I think that is enough for this morning.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

I went out of town for a long weekend. I don't know what made me think I'd post. Clearly, I didn't. I had a great time though, thanks to Mick, Jim, Larry, Steve and the Funbutts.

I read, swam, napped and played with the little Funbutts in the 119 degree heat of Palm Springs.

I just drove back this morning, I'm back at work and I need to clean up some fires but I swear I'll be posting again tomorrow.

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