Thursday, January 20, 2011

You should really read this article

Solitary confinement is torture and doesn't work.

The simple truth is that public sentiment in America is the reason that solitary confinement has exploded in this country, even as other Western nations have taken steps to reduce it. This is the dark side of American exceptionalism. With little concern or demurral, we have consigned tens of thousands of our own citizens to conditions that horrified our highest court a century ago.

Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.
. . .
Is there an alternative? Consider what other countries do. Britain, for example, has had its share of serial killers, homicidal rapists, and prisoners who have taken hostages and repeatedly assaulted staff. The British also fought a seemingly unending war in Northern Ireland, which brought them hundreds of Irish Republican Army prisoners committed to violent resistance. The authorities resorted to a harshly punitive approach to control, including, in the mid-seventies, extensive use of solitary confinement. But the violence in prisons remained unchanged, the costs were phenomenal (in the United States, they reach more than fifty thousand dollars a year per inmate), and the public outcry became intolerable. British authorities therefore looked for another approach.
Beginning in the nineteen-eighties, they gradually adopted a strategy that focussed on preventing prison violence rather than on delivering an ever more brutal series of punishments for it. The approach starts with the simple observation that prisoners who are unmanageable in one setting often behave perfectly reasonably in another. This suggested that violence might, to a critical extent, be a function of the conditions of incarceration. The British noticed that problem prisoners were usually people for whom avoiding humiliation and saving face were fundamental and instinctive. When conditions maximized humiliation and confrontation, every interaction escalated into a trial of strength. Violence became a predictable consequence.
So the British decided to give their most dangerous prisoners more control, rather than less. They reduced isolation and offered them opportunities for work, education, and special programming to increase social ties and skills. The prisoners were housed in small, stable units of fewer than ten people in individual cells, to avoid conditions of social chaos and unpredictability. In these reformed “Close Supervision Centres,” prisoners could receive mental-health treatment and earn rights for more exercise, more phone calls, “contact visits,” and even access to cooking facilities. They were allowed to air grievances. And the government set up an independent body of inspectors to track the results and enable adjustments based on the data.
The results have been impressive. The use of long-term isolation in England is now negligible. In all of England, there are now fewer prisoners in “extreme custody” than there are in the state of Maine. And the other countries of Europe have, with a similar focus on small units and violence prevention, achieved a similar outcome.
. . .
Commissioners are not powerless. They could eliminate prolonged isolation with the stroke of a pen. So, I asked, why haven’t they? He told me what happened when he tried to move just one prisoner out of isolation. Legislators called for him to be fired and threatened to withhold basic funding. Corrections officers called members of the crime victim’s family and told them that he’d gone soft on crime. Hostile stories appeared in the tabloids. It is pointless for commissioners to act unilaterally, he said, without a change in public opinion.

Little Egg

Sooo pretty.


I think these might be my favorites for wedding shoes right now. mmmmmm.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Holy Eff, Scary

But I DO love that they rhyme "jail" with "hell."

Via The Daily Dish

Strata and Celebrants

I love that word, celebrants. It’s so much more … celebratory than officiants. It says the right kinds of things for me about the ritual we’re going to take part in. Celebrants. Celebrate. Cele-HUH!

Yesterday, Phil and I held a cele-brunch. (Sorry) (Not really) We invited the four dear friends we’ve asked to officiate our marriage for Strata and Serious Discussion. Sadly, one of them got sick and couldn’t make it, but with three of four, plus a hungry little ring bearer, we charged bravely onward into the unknown. It was a difficult but a lovely start.

We had a general idea of how we wanted things to go. Ideally, we’d all start talking about our thoughts on Marriage and Weddings and Family and then move into the specifics of what to include in the ceremony. But things like that are hard to dive right into, and I felt awkward forcing the discussion. Luckily, our dear friends are thoughtful people and always game, and we came away with some wonderful thoughts and a feeling that we had chosen well.

One thing I found difficult is that we didn’t know who should be in charge and open or lead the discussion. Us or them? They know more about marriage, having engaged in the practice for several years, but we’re the ones asking them to do this thing and marshaling the troops, so to speak.

That question was not ultimately decided, but it became unimportant and worked out, as these things do, if a bit haltingly. After a bit of initial hesitation, our friends shared ideas and opinions and lessons they’d learned. Phil and I shared our still-solidifying thoughts. We talked about choice, and convenience, and hard work. We talked about community and romance and tiger mothers (of course). We talked about the difficulties of families.

We didn’t get to the detail stage, as the impatient controlling planner in me had hoped, but I feel good about where we are. I am also pretty sure that the strata made everything easier, delicious as it was. (How’s that for a shitty transition)

It’s a do-it-before, throw-in-whatever kind of dish that makes hanging out with your guests, drinking coffee and mimosas, so much easier.

Phil and I took an hour or two on Saturday evening to work together in the kitchen constructing breakfast. How appropriate are we? And how astonished and happy was I that we did not fight as we are wont when cooking together?

We did a loose take on the strata recipe in the Bon Appetit Cookbook – the big orange one from a couple of years ago. It was the simplest thing, and all the ingredients came together beautifully into a lovely, savory, puddingy delight. Just what I hope for my marriage. :D

Sausage Mushroom Strata

Cut the crusts off a 1-lb loaf of levain and cut into cubes. Worry that you don’t have enough bread, take a few slices of wheat sandwich bread out of the fridge and do the same to those. Stick them in a bowl in a 200 degree oven to dry out a bit while you do the rest. Stir maybe twice.

Brown some sausage. We used a mix of spicy Italian and country pork, about 4 patties worth; the latter had a nice maple flavor. Once brown, scoop out the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Toss some sliced mushrooms into the hot grease and let them get all cooked down and a bit brown. Drain those on top of the sausage.

Meanwhile, you should be caramelizing your onion/onion-and-a-half—sliced thin and placed in a pan over very low heat with a little knob of butter and a sprinkling of salt.  Cover and let it go forever, and then remove the lid and turn up the heat to let the caramelization get going.

In a LARGE bowl, mix 8 or 9 eggs, 3 ½ cups milk, a bit of thyme, some salt and pepper, a good handful of grated parmesan and a handful of shredded gruyere. Then mix in all of your other delicious stuff: sausage, mushrooms, onions. Then add the bread. We were able to mix in most of the bread, but a few cubes had to go directly into the pans, which we had previously buttered. We don’t have a 9x13 dish, so we used two 8x8’s, which worked very well. Pour the mixture in the pan(s) and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

The next morning (or later), preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and pop the strata in there for 45 minutes. Take the loveliness out and sprinkle more cheese on top of your strata: a good chunk of goat cheese, crumbled, a handful more of shredded gruyere, and a handful of shredded mozzarella. Bake it for 5 or so minutes more, until the cheese gets melty. Pull it out and let it sit for five minutes before you serve.

We added tiny roast potatoes, a simple green salad with citrus vinaigrette, and honeydew to round out our celebrant-ory meal.

Bing, BANG, Bong

I gave myself bangs on Friday (and then had someone fix them). Partly because I think I'm getting bored growing my hair out, and partly, I'm not gonna lie, because I saw Salt the other day.

I think I'm pretty happy with them. Though, GOD, I am turning into such a fripping hipster.

So far I've gotten Moe (from myself), Gidget, and Veronica. Not too bad, I guess. I also got a kiss on the cheek from a bartender yesterday, which I'm not sure whether to attribute to the bangs or the fact that he'd had a bit to drink. Either way, I love that guy.

Here they are.  My hair is still messy from sleep, and I guess I'm concentrating.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pretty Cake

Now this is a cake I can get behind.  Pretty, simple, and cheap.

Found at Once Wed.  Made by Whole Foods for $50!

New Background Trees for the New Year!

Happy New Year! The first week of 2011 is drawing to a close, as is my period of applying to credential programs.  Fingers and toes and eyes and whiskers and legs and hair all crossed!

I went back to volunteering yesterday, more firmly resolved to stand my ground, but tested to the utmost by the faces and jokes and all-around awesomeness of my kiddies.  The progress of their social development is so much fun to watch.  There's even more teasing of the opposite sex going on this semester.  The students call names, pull faces - all while grinning wildly at the attention they're generating from that girl across the room or the boy sitting in the back row, their brains audibly whirring as they take in each minute change in expression and tone, process, and respond in a nearly unending cycle, like crazy hormonal whirlygigs.

I'm going back and forth on whether to make resolutions.  I have plans, certainly:  to get married, to enter a credential program, to get back into shape for the wedding and continue on the healthy-lifestyle track.  And I thoroughly expect this will be a fabulous year - better and better and better.  Everything's coming up Milhouse! It's all happening!  Other good movie quotes about good things!!!!!  But I'd rather not decide now that, for instance, taking more pictures, spending more time at the beach, crafting a budget, crafting period, will be what makes the year good.  Because I make lists like that for myself all year long anyway.  I think I just want to take it as it comes and make the year and my life fun and good and honest and worthwhile. 

So, here's to a fabulous year, however it may manifest itself.

That's me being taught to do some sort of Jazz kick move by a fabulous teacher (and my soon to be cousin-in-law).