Friday, November 16, 2012

Learning How People Learn

Working in the Discovery Center and at the Zoo, I have to guess a lot about what kids know when they show up and what I could possibly teach them.  I am not very good at guessing ages, but I find a "shibboleth approach" works pretty well when it comes to gauging a child's knowledge.  When I am in the butterfly garden, I like to ask kids if they know that all these butterflies used to be caterpillars, and if so, what's the big word  that's used to describe the process of changing from that wormy thing into a butterfly?  If they balk, I'll start it for them, "meta-" still leaving a chance for them to get it even if it didn't come to mind immediately.  What doesn't really work is to just ask, "Do you guys have any questions?"  That's a little too blank-slatey for strangers, I think.

These are things it's taken me a while to figure out.  I do remember a few major failures I've had in interactions with kids.  Once, a mother came in with her son who needed to talk to "a scientist" for a Boy Scouts project.  I volunteered myself, and I forgot to get down to the kid's level, and totally lost him when he didn't know what DNA was.  After that, I ended up sort of explaining my last job (molecular diagnostics) to his mother.  D'oh.

I've gone over this in my head several times since it happened about a year ago, and I even woke up this morning thinking about how I could have done better.  Between that, and seeing this link to a series of videos aimed at small children who need to interact with doctors from a Pinterest buddy, I was inspired to write up some of my experience learning education by doing education.  Plus, I need a bit of an extra push when it's this chilly outside and I need to get to the zoo in a few hours.  

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Hall of Sexual Harrassment

This is what I dressed up as for Halloween.  I did a big drinky party on Saturday, and this Wed went out with a couple of friends to visit the haunted houses/woods.  We went to a couple, and this was a new experience for me.  I was a bit sleep-deprived, so I was sort of hard to startle.  For some of the people hiding behind corners getting ready to jump out and scare me, I was a disappointment - so much so that they followed me down the path trying to get at me.  I'll give them that as being legitimately creepy.  My two companions were a lot easier to get a rise out of.  And I'll admit a few things made me shriek.

I found that somewhat disturbing - very much like the phenomenon of men who won't let you walk by on a street without responding to a vulgar comment.  The worst was the dude who asked me if I was a "pussy-flavored-pop-tart."  Dude.  No.  You don't know what my costume is, let it go.

The most amusing part of one was a "public health care center" offering "end of life counseling."  I wonder if they have that bit in blue states.  And they had to change the death panel sign after a while, I'm sure.

I left feeling like I was made of stone, a Halloween grinch.  There are things that creep me out, but they tend to be slow to burn.  I have a very hard time with wind storms.  And almost every time I've come across a snake in the wild, it's made me shriek.  Embarrassingly, when camping, I listen very carefully for the bears that are surely coming to eat my marshmallows.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Location Location Location

A recently-concluded legal battle over the custody of IVF-created embryos involved at least one person who felt a lot more attached to her embryos than I ever have to any.  A couple created several embryos with the aid of reproductive tech, and only ended up having one child before they eventually divorced.  The mother, as it turns out, won custody of their daughter, and sued for custody of the embryos, which she won and eventually destroyed.

When it comes to reproductive choice, I've liked to discuss hypothetical situations about artificial wombs and claims to embryos and fetuses that would exist outside a woman's body.  It's sort of difficult to think about because it's so different than what humanity has been dealing with for all of our existence, but some court cases are demonstrating the simple-to-me principle that the right to abortion is one that exists because incubation occurs in a woman's body.  Once an embryo or other proto-kid of two parents is no longer in her body, the mother has lost her veto power.

Personally, I think that either parent should retain the ability to destroy embryos that are not in a woman's body.  In general, I think veto power should be retained when it comes to creating whole new people, so long as it doesn't require forcing abortion on an unwilling woman.  But I can understand why people would err on the other side.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Gallows of Good Faith

People love to make fun of "Hopey-Changey," and they're right to.  Obama's 2008 campaign was based to an embarrassing degree on sentimental and generic idealism.  However, I still think that he tried to put it into practice.  Ever since he came into office, there have been outraged progressives upset that he even tried for compromise on anything with proudly-intransigent Republicans.  He gave them the chance to step up and govern, like they've been elected to do, and when they declined, it became just enough rope to hang themselves with.  You only need to see Romney's attempt to tear down Wall Street and back "Romneycare" to see that obstructionism in a time of crisis isn't just treading water and storing up political capital for when you get back in power and can use it up.  Win enough weeks and you've won the war.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I just downloaded an Android app for tracking my menstrual cycle, and it's ad-supported.  So far all the ads are for apps which use GPS to stalk one's partner.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lots of dead ends

The IUCN has profiled a lot of the very endangered animals it likes, and the comments are full of the stuff that had kept me frustrated with environmentalism for most of my life, like desperate calls to "wake up."  A commenter says

According to the Queensland Museum book of dinosaurs we have already lost 99% of species on this planet over time. We have to be more responsible as a species to try and save what we have left. 
This stuff bothers me because it's framed as an alarming talking point, but it's really just how things work.  Natural selection gives us an unsentimental system that makes most species dead-ends.  Where one goes extinct, another is supposed to arise and take advantage of the empty ecological niche.  The problem is that people have stepped in to fill a number of niches, and that's been harmful to biodiversity.  Where people are, large predators tend to disappear.  

It's not that people don't understand that there are competing interests, it's just that they're very difficult to balance.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mature Enough for Girlhood

Jezebel is discussing the phenomenon of extra-girly famous women, with a tone that suggests worry.  Megan Reynolds has responded.  It is kind of true that women are embracing a lot of things that fit girls better than they do women - like glitter, unicorns, and cute kitties.  I can identify with this a little, since I just turned thirty and have only recently been confident enough to really consider experimenting with my own style.  I never learned to put on makeup until I was 25.  Going with silly fashion trends takes a certain amount of confidence.  Teenage and younger girls are usually giant balls of insecurity, so I don't know why we're looking to them for bold silliness.

As a teen, I was influenced by the swing revival of the 90s and dressed sort of conservatively.  To this day, I dress far older than my age.  My skirts are almost always full, swingy, and knee-length.  It was when I was about 22 that I finally realized that little tiny pigtails are the ideal way to pull back short hair for a workout (You can lay down on a yoga mat without having a big bump in the back of your head), and at the time I felt a bit too old for the look, but I've continued doing it since then.  It seems pretty unfair that once I get to a point where I feel like I can try some stuff with fashion, I'm "too old" for it.

Another dimension is that most of the women in the Jezebel piece are very financially stable, They probably have the sense that they worked their childhoods away so they could achieve that, and they are owed some latitude to play that they never got as children.  In fact, I have that feeling myself.  If I worked my way into a career that isn't going to happen now, I get to wear that sparkling cloisonne strawberry necklace.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Just too horrible to contemplate

Like many, I'm tempted to blow off Todd Akin's comments about pregnancy as the product of rape being impossible.  It's so obviously stupid that it's hard to know how to respond.  This has given me some insight into how anti-choice politics work.  Akin probably has a hard time believing something so horrible could just happen to someone who was raped (something already horrible having happened to her).  I concur that it's difficult to comprehend.  Once in a while, you hear about something so bad that it just can't be the case that it ever has happened or ever will.

Except it did happen and will happen again.  People do things to mitigate the horror of an unfair world.  In the case of rape producing pregnancy, most people tend to agree that the best thing we can do to mitigate the horror is to let a woman opt for aborting the pregnancy.  But if you live in a tidy world where there is always a correct, not-just-acceptable-but-good choice, you just don't get pregnant when you're raped.  If you're pregnant, you were obviously not raped, so STFU.

If the world were just, we wouldn't have to enforce justice on it.  If our leaders can't handle that, they're irresponsible vermin who should slink back into their fetid caves and hide until we've forgotten about them.

The last people who we need in charge are the ones who have not asked the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" because they think bad things don't happen to good people.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Throw Away the Key

In some ways, I am totally baffled by Romney picking Ryan as veep.  I agree with the analysis that Ryan's presence on the ticket shifts focus from Romney's strong issues (self-reliance, business, Obama Bad) to his weaker ones (social programs, taxes).

For a while, I've had a theory about vice-presidential selection that I think the GOP might be using: it's a great way to contain a weirdo.  Who's less relevant in Washington than the veep?  The conventional wisdom about a VP balancing a ticket hasn't really shown itself to be true.

When I do that thing liberals do - fantasize about what it would have been like if Gore'd gotten into the oval office - I think about how great it would have been to keep Lieberman locked up in the vice presidency.  

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

This again? Why won't people be serious about guns?

Florida is (again) trying to ban pediatricians from asking the parents of their patients if there are guns in the household.  This was already struck down as unconstitutionally-restrictive of the doctors' rights.  And it pissed me off royally, since people are always trying to regulate what doctors tell women about abortion, but see this as an intrusion on the second-amendment right to bear arms.

What?  Seriously?  A doctor asking if you have a gun in your home is making it hard for you to keep a gun there?  (Well, after you find out that if someone dies at the end of that gun, it's most likely going to be part of your family, you'll probably be a little less stoked about gun-ownership.  But God and the NRA forbid you learn that kind of thing from your doctor.)

It's one thing that this is stupid legislation.  It's quite another that it's being pushed again after a couple of high-profile gun crimes.

Just what about senseless gun violence makes Americans think it's time to pretend like we don't know they're dangerous?

I can usually ignore the gun control issue, but I'm getting riled up over how hard-headed Americans are when it comes to their guns.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Did you know that the hyrax is closely related to the elephant?

Working at the zoo, there are a lot of conversations where I have to sort of skip over complicated points about biology, and condense things into soundbytes.  My ultimate goal is to keep simplifying something from being dumbing it down.  It's the hardest part about working at the zoo vs. the Discovery Center.  I try to keep information concrete, which is pretty easy given that we have all sorts of animal skulls and stuff to teach with.

The place where this comes up most is in conversations about classification and "relationships" between animals.  I think people in general think of these things as more concrete than they actually are.  I know I always did.  Linneas had no idea what DNA was, so a lot of the relationships that were determined to exist historically were based on things like outside appearance.  After you spend some time learning about single-celled organisms, you start to realize that the traditional means of defining a species are really not so relevant.  Asexually-reproducing organisms are pretty much classified by how much of their genetic code they share.  After a certain degree of difference in highly-conserved regions of their genetic material, they're considered different species.

This was especially interesting to think about when I worked in medical microbiology.  These microorganisms are critters that you can't see without a microscope, and are really only interesting to us insofar as as they affect our health.  I got to a point where it began to sound like semantics to me.  I mean, once penicillin kills an infectious agent, who cares what species or subspecies it is?  In my own medical care, I certainly don't much care (not enough to pay for the tests).  When it comes to epidemiology, however, the story is different.  Genetic signatures can help trace the sources of outbreaks.

This is exactly what people are talking about when they say "race is a construct."  Race, and species classification, are just systems we use to understand and categorize the world around us.  The natural world doesn't need us to tell it what we think of it.

I do this science education stuff in an area where people are often a little hostile to the idea of evolution.  I think a better understanding of this kind of thing would be really helpful, because popular conceptions of evolution are convoluted by the hierarchical pictures like the above.  I wonder how much resistance to evolution would go away once people had a better understanding of it.

(I don't mean to give the impression that I always felt like I understood this.  Most of the insight I'm trying to get across here were realizations I had in lecture halls in college, feeling like I should have always understood this stuff.  In case you're curious, the classes that were most instrumental to these realizations were anthropology 101, history of biology, biology for majors, and genetics.)

A rock hyrax
An African elephant

Friday, June 01, 2012

Conflicted Interests

I started this post a few weeks ago, but after the NYT just took the subject on, I decided I should go for it. I thought it was a little too negative, but the stakes with endangered species are high no matter how you look at it.

I went through orientation to work at Zoo Boise this summer as a "Zoo Naturalist," and I went in with  few reservations.  I wasn't sure that even the best enclosures were quite good enough for wild animals.  I'm still not sure that they are, but now I have a slightly different attitude about it.  Zoos create an educational opportunity that can't be replicated anywhere else, and raise a ton of money for conservation.  I think of it a little like I do animal dissection in biology classes - it puts a few animals at a disadvantage so that people can learn more about them and be inspired to take the next step and really get into science and conservation.

As a kid, I was a totally annoying environmentalist who would give you crap for littering, and simply didn't understand why people use pesticides in producing food.  Through my life, I've gotten really alienated with environmentalism in general, and have struggled to understand it in a pragmatic way.  I'm hoping my time at Zoo Boise will help me get back in touch with my environmentalist side (it is extremely fun so far), and yeah, conservation is quite expensive, but that's why part of your admission to Zoo Boise goes to their conservation fund.

One thing that I was very impressed with is that one of the nature preserves Zoo Boise works with, Gorongosa National Park, is administered in such a way that things are tolerable for the people who live there.  Money doesn't just go to maintaining park grounds, but to health care facilities for neighboring people.

Mostly, I've never been able to balance out the human needs with the environmental ones, morally.  In general, I lean much more toward helping people than I do animals, and I've always been extremely grossed out by the imperialist overtones in a lot of conservation movements.

To illustrate something I think should work pretty well, The US is trying to reintroduce wolves to their natural range in the Western US.  A lot of Idahoans don't like it.  Even our governor wants to kill him some wolves.  Frankly, I don't get it.  We have replaced a lot of the herbivores that used to roam around here with domestic ones that we like to eat.  Oddly enough, wolves like to eat cows too.  Sometimes they kill one - usually the gov't will pay damages, and so will an environmental group.  What's the harm done, if you pretty much don't lose money on the venture?  Camping is a little scarier, but it's supposed to be a little tiny bit scary.  (Last week, a cougar was seen gallivanting around downtown Boise quite near my home.  Frankly, I stayed off the greenbelt for a few days.)

Let's just PREtENDA that the woman isn't even there!

Congress has no problem with discriminating against already-born, adult, American gay human beings, but has a giant fit about selective abortion.  I hate hate hate that this invasive thought-police stuff is happening, but it's all the more insulting that PRENDA passed when ENDA has no hope.

Of all people, Andrew Sullivan captures the root of why this is bad, bad law:

I'm just deeply skeptical of how legal authorities could determine such a motive if the women do not say so. Banning explicit advertizing or marketing for sex-selective abortion would be another thing. But my sense is that this is all underground anyway, very hard to root out, and the kind of government power that would be unleashed in trying to figure it out is not compatible with a free country. I mean, how do you prove motive in such cases?

Right.  Who's to say it's the wrong kind of discrimination?  And even if it is, who really really cares?  China is seeing strange and bad effects from widespread anti-girl bias in sex-selective abortion, but there's really no proof that this is spreading much further.  It proves nothing, but I'd rather have a girl baby, mostly because I've spent almost no time with little boys.  

That's just me admitting a preference, but not intent to abort if things don't go my way.  Frankly, the kid will be their own person, so it's a roll of the dice, boy or girl. 

And I think that's the major point that anti-choice legislators refuse to understand about reproductive rights.  A significant portion of what happens in reproduction isn't under anyone's control.  It's a terrifying and awesome process, and the control a person can have over it should be their right, especially when it's happening inside her body.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

And all of a sudden it slips away from them

They don't get it.  Republicans tried to harness identity politics with Michael Steele and Hilary Rosen, but they just don't get the core idea that people who aren't white men have legitimate greivances with systems set up to screw them.   Mitt Romney's trying to untwist the pretzel-logic of at-home mothers needing to work outside the home for welfare.  It doesn't make sense, and he can't force it to.  They're trying to raise the stupid ruckus they think that Democrats are trumping up all the time.

Seeing the tug-of-Mommy-War has made me think that this is when Americans can really attack the problem of support for families with children.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

What Ann and Mitt Romney are Ignoring

Hilary Rosen was right that Ann Romney can't identify much with the financial struggles of mothers who work outside the home.  She was wrong to say she hadn't worked a day in her life.  Ann Romney can afford help with her household duties, and having multiple sclerosis and five children, probably needs it.

This debate gets a little personal for me, since I am likely to embark on at-home motherhood quite soon - with uncertain health, and it seems like it's only a matter of time until someone tells me I haven't worked a day in my life.  I've gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that I can take care of myself financially (It's all a little rube-goldberg at the moment, which is still scary), and if I don't have Obamacare, I need my spouse's health coverage.

What bothers me most about this dialog is the way that conservative men act like the de facto restrictions they think women need (financial dependence on a man so they can follow the natural order and raise children) are a liberating force.  As a woman with ambitions toward motherhood, I can tell you that I don't want the devotion of my time to childcare to leave me even more vulnerable than I already am.  Unlike me, Ann Romney doesn't have to choose between treating her illness and sending her children to college.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I watch an appalling amount of TV, through Netflix and Hulu.  It turns out that I love Toddlers and Tiaras, and have a shameful enthusiasm for Intervention on A&E.  Hoarders is so-so, but I'm just emerging from a really nasty cloud of fatigue wherein I watched at lot of TV and am getting kind of sick of it.  

I know it's exploitative, and I was thinking about how bad to feel about watching this stuff, and I realized that the fact that Americans will go on television at their lowest point just to get the help they need is a pretty serious indictment of the American mental health care system.  It's more like an expose than entertainment.  

I'm just surprised that I've never heard anyone say this.  I don't think Americans think about mental health as something that a community needs to step up and take care of on a public scale, like we kind of do with physical health.  Unless someone with a mental illness makes a major imposition on the life of the public at large, we think we can ignore it.  

It's really exciting to think about a country in which people had access to the mental health services they needed.  The way mental health and incarceration and poverty intersect in our country is very complicated and sad.  

The major conflict I feel about expanding the reach of mental health services is what would be imposed on people who don't want or need "help."  I'll think about this for a while, and if I come to any conclusions, update my thoughts.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How Dare They

I love a lot of things about Idaho, and I'm in the process of putting down roots here.  I'd like to start a family very soon and my legislature is making me scared to.  If something goes wrong with the pregnancy I intend to have, I don't want to be stuck someplace where no one will help me without a bunch of hoop-jumping.  As it is, I'd be "high-risk," and I'm willing to accept what that means.  Maybe I just can't have my own baby.  Or maybe I can - I'd really like to - but it will not be a cakewalk.

Making a baby is serious business, which entails some major risks.  Strict regulations on abortion oversimplify the reality of childbearing dangerously.  The one who tries to think about this stuff ahead of time is made out to be the irresponsible "slut."  Excuse me for following all of your rules for my own reasons.  I'm a grown-up, smart, responsible woman, but I'm not treated like one.  If I need to opt out of a pregnancy, you bet I will try, and an ultrasound isn't going to change what my situation demands, or what I want.  I've spent at least 15 years thinking about what would happen if  I got pregnant - lawmakers seem to think it never occurred to me that I'd have to decide what to do.

I could go on for days about how busybodies want to complicate obstetric care, but the simple fact is that it's totally unnecessary, intrusive, and disrespectful.  That's the salient point here.  I don't deserve this kind of treatment.  

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Duck Face and Shame

If you're not familiar with the culture and customs of Facebook, you probably have no idea what "duck face" is.  I spend an embarrassing amount of time on Facebook, and I had to look it up, myself.  It's apparently a common pose young women assume in photos, and the most popular outlet for misogyny I see in my feed.  Here's a fine example.

The usual thrust of duck face humor is that it doesn't look very nice at all, so stop making that face in your pictures.

I think duck face is just a variant (meant to look playful and silly) on the face most people make unconsciously as an expression of shame.  Making that connection put some things in perspective for me.  Duck face epidemics are probably just epidemics of self-loathing, and the hostile response creeps me out.  Facebook is a great way to indulge vanity (which can be annoying, but isn't the worst character trait I can think of), and it's interesting to see how people try to do so by a sideways, not-obvious approach.  We demand a certain amount of vanity in women, but punish them for any display of it.  If you try to put a funny spin on it, like duck face does, you are the target of everyone's disdain.

I'd love it if I looked fantastically beautiful all the time, and I try to look nice in pictures, but I've come to the conclusion that I photograph poorly (in that I look bad in photos, but I also am terrible at taking them.)

While I'm on the subject of social networking and photos of people, I hate how you can't pull out a camera without people awkwardly hugging and posing for it.  I'd like it if I could take a picture of a party, not just the faces of a few friends at it.  

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Grow up, Leslie

I think Amanda Marcotte is right that NBC show Parks and Recreation is being set up as a sexist cliche, but I think her analysis of Leslie as a perfectly competent administrator and sane person are totally wrong.  Leslie's wanted to be a public servant to her town for all her life, and it's nice to see her follow her dream.  But she's not ten years old anymore.

As someone who followed her somewhat impractical dream all the way through college, I can tell you that a goal that stays static your entire life is kind of a limitation.  I was so focused on being a scientist when I grew up that I ignored pretty much all other areas of learning (and never noticed a talent and passion for writing)to focus on what I needed to catch up on to competently work in my field of choice.  Luckily, it turned out that an aptitude for these things can be developed if you don't already have it in you.

Having that uncomplicated route to a career derailed has allowed me to see that there's a lot more to me than liking science and tech.  I have to play to my strengths now, and that means some modification to my goals.

You can see Leslie slowly realizing this stuff, too.  She's a terrible campaigner, partially due to being clingy and unable to read people.  She's ignored serious romantic relationships in favor of her career (which is generally a false choice in fiction, but she's so set in her desire to stick with Pawnee, she's had to watch some potential happiness leave her there) and if she's going to be in the business of making life work better for people, she needs to understand what the lives of people who aren't so goal-oriented are like.  This stubborn streak is what she has in common with Ben.  He wanted something absurd for the town he bankrupted, and getting it was a disaster.  He's had to adjust his ambitions to fit his personality, and is trying to give Leslie the benefit of his experience.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bigotry Sells

So, Washington state is set to make marriage equality law.

Industry tends to support marriage equality, because it means that they can hire the talented gay people with families away from anti-gay areas, since they can treat them as employees should be treated.

This makes perfect sense, and you'd think it would get supposed free marketeers excited, but it tends not to (See the conservative states that have banned gay marriage over the objections of industry).  A lot of times, when a really obviously bigoted ad gets some attention, people argue that it can't be racist because it would alienate potential customers of color.  Markets are segmented and targeted all the time, which alienates potential customers, but will create some loyalty in the targeted segment.  No one blinks when an ad takes advantage of classism to position its product as one of the good things in life, so why wouldn't one take advantage of sexism or racism or homophobia?

I used to believe this market-based argument against bigotry in advertising, but I've since noticed how attached people are to their -isms.  Anti-feminism is important to some people, and they might buy manly Dr. Pepper. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ron Paul is the least racist member of Congress

The title of this post is actually a comment I've read from a Paul supporter.   Typical Lost Cause bullshit here: Yes, Lincoln's motivation for war was to keep the unity of the country together.  The South was in it to keep slavery, or maybe squeeze a few extra dollars out of slavery's demise in a scam like Paul is describing here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Intersecting Privileges and Oppressions on Facebook

It's true: the first thing I do when I get going on the computer is open up Facebook.  This morning was pretty interesting in terms of intersections of privilege.

The first thing I saw was a photo NPR had posted of amputee and runner Aimee Mullins, captioned "Inspiration, in On Photograph."  Mullins, a white, thin woman, is pictured in a bikini running on a beach, with the aid of prosthetic lower legs.  The comments turned into a little bit of a fight about how hard it would be for someone who wasn't so sexy to be called inspirational.  Mullins is a really attractive woman - it's true.  The thing that started to bother me in the comments were a lot of negativity about wheelchairs; Mullins had the good fortune to access the prosthetic technology she did.  Not everyone is so lucky.  Mullins works with organizations that seek to let everyone access this  tech, and educate people in general about disability, so she's no slouch when it comes to, well, anything.

Next up was an item from the Courage Campaign about Pat Buchannan's complaints that he's being forced out of MSNBC by "militant gay groups" and "people of color."  What stood out to me about this is the implication that people of color and gay groups (there's likely to be some crossover in the membership here) shouldn't have sway over what goes on at MSNBC.  Buchannan has been an embarrassment in American culture for too long, and he knows this was long overdue.

Oh, and what the hell.  I wrote a bit yesterday that would not have made a whole post on its own, so I'll just add it here:

Unfortunately, I am not in the regular habit of giving money to causes that need it.  In the past year or so, I've run into a few really absurd societal failures (like Topeka, KS stopping prosecution of domestic violence) that have prompted me to find a local program and send a few bucks in.  Today, it's transitional housing in Pennsylvania, since  if you have enough money on-hand to pay first and last-month's rent (ish, $2,000 in savings is the cutoff), you will no longer be able to get food stamps.