Friday, December 15, 2006

The Battle of Home Depot

I went to Home Depot last night for a few items...some curtain rod equipment, an extention cord (okay...we don't have an outdoor outlet to plug our Christmas lights in to. How does this happen?), and I also found a metal hangar item to hang my bike in the garage. On my way in, I decided to take a look at thermostats, since the ones we have are original to the house (1954ish) and the whole heating system has been a little tetchy lately, which we think the thermostats are in on. I wanted to scope it out because I know that programmable thermostats can really help regulate your oil use and lower your bills. Let me point out that the reason I know about this is in large part because I process thermostat rebates at work, and therefore not only know the benefits, but also know stuff like model numbers and ranges. Remember that, it's important.

So I am standing in front of the thermostats, and the Home Depot dude asks if I need help. No problem, I tell him I'm all set, and go back to looking at the thermostats, because as we know,
"no, I'm all set thanks" indicates to English speakers that a person is...all set.

"So, looking at thermostats, huh?"

Oh, this is the game. Okay. "Yes." And of course that isn't enough to signal him to leave, either, because he then begins taking them off the shelf and explaining them to me, at which point I say "Yeah, I know. I work at an energy conservation company, and I process the thermostat rebates. I look at this stuff all day." I also touched the pad of rebate forms hanging right on the shelf to demonstrate that these, in fact, were the ones I processed, which they were.

What would you do?

Because I, personally, would go find someone else to pester, like the guy toting around a weedwhacker examining the oil line, or the guys with backwards baseball caps on at the end of the aisle. However, the Home Depot guy is clearly nothing like you or I, and instead begins explaining that you need thermostats specific to your heating fuel.

At this point I'd really had it. Just because I'm wearing a pink shirt and pointy shoes does not mean I'm a home improvement/heating/whatever moron, and I have just told you I'm fine SEVERAL TIMES and explained that I DEAL WITH THERMOSTATS AT MY JOB. So I turned around to him, and said "You know what, I KNOW that you need different ones for different fuels. I probably know more about it than you do, so if you could just fuck. Off. And let me look at the goddamn thermostats, that would be great." Maybe it was an overreaction, but I am pretty sure it was the only way I was going to get rid of him, so I was okay with the drastic action. He kind of shuffled away to go pester the baseball cap guys. I hope they did better with him than I did.

I don't get this whole thing of girls not being able to do stuff. I was flipping out the other day at a TV show where the insinuation was that girls don't like sports. I love sports. LOTS of girls I know love sports. My most frequent rival is the Sony Bravia TV, the makers of which believe that the gender line divides all, thus women like shoes and never, ever action movies, and men like action movies and never, ever shoes. They have this goddamn commercial where it's basically a long shot of the Bravia TV, and then there's a flash of something that you need to pause with your DVR to see. It's something where you have two options that you theoretically go to their website to vote is one a blue background saying "would you rather watch some kind of action movie blah blah blah explosions blah blah blah" and the other is on a pink background saying "would you rather watch some movie about a woman marrying her prince blah blah blah shoes blah blah blah." What the hell? Maybe I want to watch BOTH. Maybe it's okay for me to simultaneously wear 4 inch heels while screaming at the rooted tree of a defenseman to move his ass and hit someone at a hockey game. Maybe you shouldn't assume that because I have tits I want to watch some boring ass romcom with Jennifer Aniston. Maybe the Transporter is one of my favorite movies. Maybe I have over 50 pairs of shoes.

Meanwhile, we also went out last night to buy $1000 of toys for Friendly House at Walmart, and one of the things I knew the girls would love but hated to buy were these stupid Bratz dolls...they are miniature hookers, guys. Seriously. Where is the one wearing soccer pants and a hoodie? Where's the one NOT DRESSED LIKE A HOOKER? Where is the Congress Barbie and the rock climbing Barbie? Where's the kick ass without feeling like your skirts need to be an inch below your vagina to make an impact doll?

Where are the real live versions of these dolls?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's force of habit that makes us think immediately of how much we have lost when someone close to us passes away. You can't call or write any more, you can't stop by, you don't need to set out their place setting at holidays. And these are all sad things. But so often we forget that we also gain so much what a person leaves us...the opportunity to review their glorious life while writing an obituary, the renewed reminder to cherish family and friends, the new knowledge that someone you love will always be keeping an eye on you from above.

My mind sprang immediately to how much I would miss Grandad when someone won the World Series. He was the one who sparked my interest in the game. I remember his being at our house one time and insisting on watching the game on TV. All around him, people were buzzing around, getting ready for dinner. No. He was watching the baseball. Eventually, Mom sent me in to collect Grandad, and I found him sitting on the couch, head back, mouth open, snoring. I figured then that there had to be something special about a game that led people to insist on watching it and then put them to sleep.

Now, Grandad had the sense to be a Phillies fan, whereas I took a wrong turn somewhere and sentenced myself to being a Red Sox fan. Grandad was the first person I thought to call when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004...luckily, I couldn't get good reception in the place I was calling from, since I'm not sure I was calm enough to use actual english words, but the next day I called, and got the classic Walter Brown "well how 'bout that?" which I hear in my head after most great plays and surprising wins. I loved Grandad's baseball...full of memories and stories. And I will be sad when someone winds the Series, because I won't be able to discuss it with him and hear what he thinks, but I know he's watching the hames and that at least part of what he would say is "well, how about that."

I've been lucky to be able to talk baseball with my grandparents. I discovered how unsusual it was to have so many living grandparents in college, where people were astounded to hear that I not only had the basic four pack of grandparents, even a six pack from a divorce and two remarriages on my mother's side. I do remember not feeling so lucky when I was younger and thought Grandad was about the most intimidating person alive. Try and remember when you were small...lower elementary school perhaps, when adults didn't exist and there were only Grownups. Now imagine a grown up almost double your height, with a bald head and big grownup glasses. And by the way, this super-grown-up has a great booming voice, smokes a pipe, which you've never seen anyone else do, and has a certain fondness for giving indian burns. Terrifying, right? He also didn't dumb down his jokes too much, but rather expected kids to be smart enough to figure it out. Thankfully, I finally put on some height and was able to understand how funny and warm Grandad was...I would have really missed out on a phenomenal man had I not come to understand these things about him. Unfortunately, he never really gave up on the indian burns.

It's so wonderful to see you all here today. I encourage all of you to find someone from a completely different part of Grandad's life and find out about their Walter Brown. Part of what made him so wonderful was how much he did...I passed his obituary around to one of my friends who had met him, and all I can say is that when you have lived for 88 years and people still wonder how you had time to do everything you accomplished, you have lived a good life, an exemplary life. Today, talk with each other about Walter. Talk about this good man and his good life, and gain from today, as we have all gained an eternal watchdog and spirit on our side. Let go of the feelings of loss and regret, and know that we all have gained by knowing him, and that he loved us all. Today, celebrate his life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Do The Right Thing

As you may have heard, I work on a loan program that helps people put in new furnaces, boilers, hot water systems, windows and insulation. It is an awesome program, with the one drawback being that you get to see how jerky some contractors get. Customers get cranky too, but it's generally the kind of cranky that only hurts their own case, whereas a lot of these contractors completely screw up the process for these folks and delay their work.

On the other hand, sometimes you get to see people being completely awesome, upstanding folks.

I got a call a couple days ago from one of my favorite customers (I am a sucker for senior citizens who refer to me as "honey," etc.) that sounded like it was headed for a disaster story. The old boiler had been removed, and as the contractor went to put in the new one, they managed to crack the cast iron casing of the unit. Uh oh. The contractor immediately apologized, and told the customer that he would be able to get a new unit from Rhode Island if the customer would be willing to accept an upgrade. Obviously, the question was what "accepting an upgrade" meant. The contractor answered that the replacement unit would be a new, super-awesome System 2000 EK-1, which was more efficient, but would cost the contractor about a thousand bucks more. What would be the cost to the customer? "Nothing, since it was our mistake." Obviously, the customer could hardly believe it. He pressed the contractor a little more, and they continued to say, no no, it was our mistake, there won't be any cost to you. The system was in the next day.

Needless to say, the customer said that the oil company would be HIS oil company until he croaked. (Which is what he actually said, which is awesome.)

Isn't it awesome to hear about a company doing the right thing? Especially on that kind of scale? I wanted to run out and hug the contractor, but instead I'll tell the story here and tell you that the company was Albert Culver Oil, and they are based out of Rockland, MA. Their number is 781-878-5050 and if you live in the Rockland area, I highly, highly recommend them. They have had a couple other customers go through the loan program and they are always courteous and professional, and get the paperwork we ask them for in almost instantaneously.

Friday, November 10, 2006

CNN Is Now Projecting Tony the Tiger as the Winner in Columbus, GA Mayoral Race...

Okay, one more thing to add to the Things I Like List...the random crap that people put in the "write in" box on ballots. Have you ever checked this out? Fantastic. Here is a sampling.

Tony the Tiger
Anyone but her
I vote Democrat
Mickey Mouse
from the Columbus, GA Ledger-Enquirer

Snoop Doggy Dogg
Porky the Pig
Bonzi Wells
Barney Fife
Yoko Ono
Pooh Bear
Fidel Castro
GI Joe
from the SacBee

Ted Bundy
Jane Fonda
Santa Claus
Lorde Mayor
Joy the Bear
Chuck Norris
from the Baylor Information Network

The Rambler, The Gambler, The Back Biter

Additions to the happy list: Donald Rumsfeld stepping down, and John "Useless Dickhead" Bolton potentially/probably being ousted from his pissy little outpost in the UN Ambassadorship. (I hate that guy.)

Last night I was watching VH1 and saw a world premiere video for a Cash song I really like. It's called "God's Gonna Cut You Down" and I downloaded it a little bit ago and quicly began obsessively listening to it. What can I say, I love marching-ish, rhythmic beats and Johnny Cash's big ole rumbling voice. But here's the we know, Johnny Cash died a while back, so he wasn't able to create a video for this posthumously released tune. However, a bunch of artists got together and made one for him. These artists included the following.

Iggy Pop
Kanye West
Chris Martin
Kris Kristofferson
Patti Smith
Terrence howard
Adam Levine
Chris Rock
Justin Timberlake
Kate Moss
Sir Peter Blake
Sheryl Crow
Dennis Hopper
Woody Harrelson
Amy Lee
Tommy Lee
Dixie Chicks
Mick Jones
Sharon Stone
Shelby Lynne
Anthony Kiedis
Travis Barker
Lisa Marie Presley
Kid Rock
Jay Z
Keith Richards
Billy Gibbons
Corinne Bailey Rae
Johnny Depp
Brandon Flowers
Graham Nash
Brian Wilson
Rick Rubin
Owen Wilson

Now some of these make sense. Fine. But the VAST MAJORITY of them gave me this super-creepy vibe of exploitation...supposedly these folks were making a tribute video for the Man in Black, and what they came up with was a bunch of "I am SAD" shots of all of THEM? Gross. Just gross. Also, if you're going to take part in a tribute? Think about whether your presence will seem SO GODDAMN WEIRD that it will jolt the watcher right out of the experience to figure out what the hell you're doing there. I am talking to you, Johnny Depp, and I love you dearly. You know what, I love the video that a huge swath of artists did that was a remake of "What's Going On" with the blindfolds and everything, thought it was cool as hell. And they did it to raise awareness/money for AIDS...double great. They didn't just jump on someone's song and film a video of them all looking pretty while the camera jumped around for that added epilectic effect.

It just grossed me right out. I like to think Cash would have slapped the stupid out of all of them.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Singing The Stars And Stripes Forever At Top Volume


I LOVE election day, not least because the people in my little demographic alcove of Folks Who Are Perhaps A Bit Too Psyched About Things Like The Electoral College completely lose their minds today, and it never fails to delight. Needless to say, I have some thoughts.

Once upon a time, I was riding the Metro and explaining Massachusetts to someone. I explained that pretty much the whole state was Democrat, but then every couple of years, we dug around under rocks and stuff to find the only Republican in the state and elected him or her Governor. The person behind me on the Metro, who turned out to be from Quincy, started cracking up, clapped a hand on my shoulder, and said "that's the best summary of Massachusetts politics I think I've ever heard." It was kind of great. This year, however, we have a Democrat at least 30% up in every poll you can think of, and that is a thing of beauty.

Running this year are Christy Mihos(I-W.Yarmouth), who ran a fantastic commercial featuring cartoon politicians shoving their heads up their butts (yeah, you read that right) when questioned about what was up with problematic state politics, including one who looked exactly like Lt. Gov. and Republican candidate Kerry Healey. It also bears mentioning that in the first debate, he smacked Healey down so hard even people who DIDN'T LIKE her were calling in to Nerd Radio 580 all "Gee, settle down, guy," and that on his website, he has an entire section of his website dedicated to DOGS that support him (yeah, you read that right, too), an initiative apparently headed up by his own dog, Reagan. Don't you kind of want to vote for him?

The other third party contender is Grace Ross(G/R-Worcester), who is a nice lady who has held up well in debates but whom I suspect could not really cut it in the corner office. She is involved inpolitics pretty heavily, and clearly understands what needs to get done without being ridiculous about it and making change for change’s sake, but I think she is one of those people who is better and more effective at a lower level of government, rather than the glad-handing super-leadership levels. But the thing is, you need a good hardcore trenches person, and I think she's it. If the Patrick/Murray gang is smart, they will snap her up and get her working for them.

So now we come to the main event. For the Democrats we have Deval Patrick(D-Milton), running with Tim Murray, Mayor of Worcester. Patrick has basically been doing the equivalent of planting his hand on Kerry Healey's forehead while she whales away, trying to end him for all time. Ain't happening. I don't necessarily blame this on the huge cavern between their ideologies (I don't think the gap is that drastic, to be honest with you), but rather on the incredibly negative campaign she has run. I personally voted for Patrick for three, Tim Murray, two, Patrick's been effective at getting shit done in both government and in the corporate world, and three, Kerry Healey is a useless pest who ran a hideously nasty campaign and who I don't want being the first woman ANYTHING much less Governor of the state I live in.

And then we have the infamous Kerry Healey (R-Beverley), who was the incumbent Lieutenant Governor and has very pretty blonde hair. I think if she'd run a less aggressively negative campaign, she would have had a chance, but once she went negative, so did her poll numbers, and they never really rebounded. When I woke up Election Day morning, she was 30 points or more behind Patrick in every poll you could find. She also did something that I HATE politicians doing, which was to make a 50 point list of stuff she would's just too much in the sound-bite society we're all operating in. Pick your ten favorites and then discuss the rest on the trail. Criminy. Ain't no one gonna read your 50 points except the dorks like me, kid, and we already know who we're voting for.

Can I just tell you that I love voting for the Hon. James P. McGovern SO MUCH? He wasn't even running against anyone this cycle, and I'm there in the voting cube coloring in the little circle all "YEAH! UNH! GO JIM!" in my head. He is everything I love about politics and I am SO HAPPY to have him as my Congressman. He will be the second ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, which is so, SO huge and I am psyched.

Other things that make me happy:
  • Democrats taking the House!! And maybe the Senate! But even if they don't, giving the GOP a run for their money!
  • Record turn out across the board - get outraged! WOOOOO! Vote with your iron ballot of influence!
  • Someone using a glass paperweight to smash a voting machine in Allentown, PA.
  • Showing up to vote and finding LINES rather than a ghost town.
  • Semi-drunk texting between Scarlett and I about how awesome everything is involving lots of profanity.
  • First messages of the day with Scarlett, to wit: "I KNOW!!!!!!!!!! fuck i am tired dude and still drunk but what the fuck is going on with VA i'm so pissed i went to bed at like 4 and webb had won lol"
  • Santorum getting ousted. (FINALLY! Good job, PA, dude was poison.)
  • Ted Kennedy, in general
  • Ted Kennedy wondering aloud why anyone would want to be out in California, Maria.
  • Ted Kennedy's Arnold Schwartzenegger impression. (No, I'm not kidding. I laughed until I choked.)
  • Did I mention Jim McGovern is now the 2nd ranking on Rules? Because he is.
  • CNN's election coverage...your regular news is crap now, y'all, but your election stuff still rocks.
  • McCaskill vs. Talent...she pulled it out. Not that it was worth my contract, but still.
  • James Carville, in general.
  • James Carville, snapping at Paul Begala to shut the hell up.
  • Jim McGovern getting arrested at a protest

Things that did NOT make me happy:

  • John Freaking Kerry being all up in the place with Kennedy and Patrick. STOP ENCOURAGING HIM, PEOPLE.
  • Staying up late only for stupid Virginia to go to a recount.
  • ...stupid Virginia.
  • Kerry lurking in the background of EVERY SHOT.
  • Having Kennedy walk across the stage for like TEN MILES to talk about Deval Patrick...dude is fantastic, but he is also old, and he looks it when you watch him like that.
  • Not being in DC for the election.
Oh man that was so great. Still waiting on Montana and Virginia but I am so pumped.

Monday, November 6, 2006

If I WANTED You to Call Me Jessica, I Would Tell You.

Oh, the customers.

Did it somehow become passe to worry about pronouncing people's names right while I wasn't paying attention? I mean, there are a lot of semi-archaic things - usually grammatical - that bother me when they shouldn't, but I always thought getting people's names right was an important thing that people would always sort of make a game attempt at. Apparently, once again, I am wrong.

Last week I either received faxes addressed to or was referred to as the following:

ONE WEEK, PEOPLE. And my favorite was the guy who was trying to talk me into making an exception for his totally stupid contract which would actually take his household efficiency BACK several paces, and who mostly liked being in charge of people and thus kept referring to me as "Josephine" in a demented attempt to invoke the effects of the Patented Maternal Deployment of The Full Given Name technique and make me feel like a three year old so I would knuckle under. Note to Mr. Dipstick: that technique, if not in use by my mother, only makes me feel ornery. Also? Nice try, but my name ain't Josephine, so you lose ALL intimidation potential. The thing is, too, that if people ask for my name, I spell it, and I spell that bastard ALL THE TIME. I also sing the Josie and the Pussycats song if they are still confused. It's JOSIE, goddammit!

I've worked with people too, who can't be bothered to slow down to pronounce a name right, which is business last name is easy, but Speed's could go a couple ways, so when someone gets it wrong, I just immediately ask what they're selling. Not that people HAVEN'T gotten my name wrong, because they have, and those people make me weep for the future, except for the awesome, awesome lady from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation who stumbled on it, garbled it, paused, then said "you know what, I think maybe I should go back to school. Preschool." It's one thing to use shorthand between coworkers - my loan buddy here and I refer to the folks with more insane and consonant-based names in shorthand all the time because no one wants to spend ten minutes just saying someone's name, but when I get on the phone, it's the whole thing, and if I'm not 100% sure, I ask. It's just manners, people. Your name is such an important part of your some respect and at least make the effort.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

To Fashion, With Love.

Dear Fashion Industry,

I am writing today to inform you that whoever told you that fat people want nothing more out of life than to wear muumuus might have been lying to you. I'm not sure what nefarious purpose that would serve, but you have clearly been misinformed. I would understand if just a few companies here and there were churning out the diaphonous shape-free gear...the obvious motive there would be to bring down the victimized companies and relegate their designers and creations to the worst dressed lists for all time, but it seems like the same devious bastard has hit all of you. I hope this will help - I'm worried about you guys!

I am fat. I am not thrilled about it either, quite frankly, but we all put on a few pounds in college and I just got a little overzealous about it. I didn't decide one day I wanted to look like I do, so I've been doing the right stuff to get un-fat. But here's the thing, guys...I would rather have clothes that don't emphasize my weight and aren't covered with sequins. I have lost over thirty pounds so far, and I am still going into stores and basically choosing the least horrible things on the rack. I am just confused, because I don't know a single fat person who WANTS to wear this crap. IT IS UNFLATTERING. Adding another three inches in drapey fabric on every possible surface is NOT HELPFUL. It is ugly.

Here's the other thing that confuses me - you seem to be aware of a large population of gargantuan prostitutes. I'm not sure where they are, and I am happy about that, but the alternative to wearing an actual sack (available in three different hideous prints) is wearing a denim bodysuit or a micro mini. NO ONE wants to see that. I see myself naked every day and I know no one wants to see that. Why is there no middle ground? Why are the options "parachute" and "hooker"? Where are these enormous prostitutes?

And let's talk for a minute about something that won't change even if I'm a size 6 - my shoes. People with size ten feet wants cute shoes too. I don't want granny boots, I don't want weird sneakers with lots of neon, and I DEFINITELY don't want a shoe that's so aggressively ugly that children run shrieking away from me. WHAT IS THE DEAL? Why can I not go into a shoe store and find a cute shoe in a size ten? Don't get me wrong, I love Zappos, but it can't quite match the instant gratification of going into a shoe store and not having to settle for (AGAIN) the least horrible shoe option in my size.

In review - start making some cute shit. Fat girls want to be fashionable too, whether they need some cute duds while they slim down or need them while they revel in being a size 20. People with big feet want cute shoes. It's crap that you give up once you hit size 12 in women's clothes and size 7 or 8 in shoes and start making hideous sacks and combat boots. You guys make some totally cute stuff! Why do you get so stumped when people get bigger than a size 3?

Get on the stick, you guys, and make some cute clothes and shoes. I promise you we will totally buy it. Let me know when you're done.




Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Crossword Scores

So, I diligently started writing down my MSNBC crossword scores, with the intention of posting them here, and then promptly forgot to ever enter them. I usually update from my lunch break at work but do crosswords at home, so the twain have never met until now. So therefore, I give you....the crossword scores.

Sunday 9/10 - 9:35
Monday 9/11 - 13:05
Tuesday 9/12 - 10:51
Thursday 9/14 - 17:10
Saturday 9/16 - 11:37
Sunday 9/17 - 8:24
Monday 9/18 - 8:58
Tuesday 9/19 - 8:35
Wednesday 9/20 - 10:54
Thursday 9/21 - 16:06
Friday 9/22 - 11:34
Saturday 9/23 - 17:15
Sunday 9/24 - 10:36
Monday 9/25 - 9:32
Tuesday 9/26 - 7:07
Wednesday 9/27 - 13:55
Thursday 9/28 - 12:08
Friday 9/29 - 11:30
Saturday 9/30 - 11:31
Sunday 10/1 - 9:17
Monday 10/2 - 9:03
Tuesday 10/3 - 18:57
Wednesday 10/4 - 14:58
Thursday 10/5 - 11:35
Friday 10/6 - 12:27
Monday 10/9 - 7:25
Tuesday 10/10 - 13:28
Wednesday 10/11 - 9:04
Thursday 10/12 - 9:47
Friday 10/13 - 12:33
Monday 10/16 - 12:35
Tuesday 10/17 - 11:35
Wednesday 10/18 - 8:54
Thursday 10/19 - 10:42
Friday 10/20 - 14:37

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Created In His Image

I've been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash the past couple days, in particular a song called "God's Gonna Cut You Down," which goes as follows:

You can run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time;
Sooner or later, God'll cut you down.
Sooner or later, God'll cut you down.

Go and tell that long time liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back-biter,
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down.
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down.

Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news,
My head's been wet with the midnight dew.
I been down on bended knee,
Talkin' with the man from Gaililee.
He spoke to me with a voice so sweet,
I thought I heard the shuffle of angels' feet.
He called my name and my heart stood still,
When he said "John, go do my will."

Go and tell that long tongued liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back-biter,
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down.
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down.

You can run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time,
Sooner or later, God'll cut you down.

Sooner or later, God'll cut you down.

Well you may throw your rock, and hide your hand,
Workin' in the dark against your fellow man.
But as sure as God made black and white,
What's done in the dark will be brought to the light.

You can run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time,
Sooner or later, God'll cut you down.
Sooner or later, God'll cut you down.

Go and tell that long time liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back-biter,
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down.
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down.

I really enjoy that concept of whole picture of God has been sort of wobbly over the years. I think it's foolish to assume that God actually gives a crap about the minutae of your life, but I think there's a certain insurance involved that he'll keep you from getting killed at random if you generally do the right thing and make good decisions. Doesn't that make more sense? When people haul out the "well, it's all God's plan" lines when someone kills themselves by driving into a tree at 90 miles an hour with a distillery running through their veins, it just about makes my eyes roll out of my head. No, he did not drive into a tree because it was His Will or His Plan. He drove into a tree because he decided it was a good idea to drink two handles of vodka and then try and operate a vehicle. That kind of blind faith scares me a little, because I have seen how people crumble when they realize that God is not always keeping tabs on you. It's impossibly sad - their faith can do so much for them in times of crisis, but eventually something will happen where you realize that all the prayer and worrying and abstention from "sin" is only making you feel better about yourself.

I like Johnny Cash's version of God...if you do bad stuff, God's gonna get you in the end. I tend to think that free will rules the Earth and God deals with you once you die. Really, not much will stop you if you want to do something bad, but I like to think that there will be consequences in the end. Sort of like an annual well, and you get a promotion. Screw it up, get a demotion. (Heh. Okay, not going to lie, I am really proud of myself for that one.) I just wind up thinking about God as an actual religious concept pretty often lately. It sort of upsets me to see a good concept - religion as a guide for being a better person - twisted so violently for political gain these days. God does not care who wins the election! He cares about you not being a dick.

So anyway. Sunday was the Columbus Day Parade, which was fun. We had about 30 people there between the Booster Club folks and the Sharks office and some of the players. It was a TOTALLY gorgeous day out...I started out with a black turtleneck on under my Booster Club teeshirt, and that only lasted about an hour! It was a little hairy rounding everything up, but that's sort of the nature of the beast. There were the usual snags - one guy showed up with this real chatty-drunk vibe going on...I don't know if he was actually drunk (It was 10 am, so I would hope that no one was hitting it that hard so early in the morning. I dunno.) or what, but there were some attention issues and dumb behaviors going on. There was also the usual Boosters Are Creepy vibe from the usual suspects, and the Useless Information Fountain from the usual source. All in all it was fun. and a good time was had by all!

Monday, October 9, 2006


My dad is secretly one of those experience-life-through-music people. Ma's pretty open about it - she sings along with the radio all the time and once fronted a Janis Joplin cover band called J.C. and the Disciples (...I shit you not.), but you kind of have to catch Dad downloading Napster when it first came out or stealing your Ace of Base CD to even suspect that he might be the musically inclined type. He and Ma used to have a record store in Gettysburg, called Square Records and marked by a really cool carved wood sign that's still in the basement at their house. Again, you start to suspect, but you never know until he emails you a song at work or you somehow stumble into a conversation about it.

Since I was really into music in high school, he heard me sing a LOT of stuff. Choral pieces, small groups, solo....classical, pop, jazz. One song that he really loved was "Seasons of Love" from Rent, which I sang at the Quabbin Music Festival in my...junior (?) year of high school. It was one of the few he mentioned to me specifically, rather than sticking to an overall "that was great" type remark. I really loved it too, as overused and overdone as it has become, mostly because I could really uncork it on the tune, but the whole concept is wonderful and meaningful.

Grandad died this Friday, peacefully and surrounded by family, and I find myself thinking again of "Seasons of Love" and the question it poses - "how can you measure the life of a woman or a man?" You realize, as you start losing friends and family, that you really can only know the tip of the iceberg for the vast majority of people, especially those who live far away and are older than you are. There just isn't enough time in holiday visits and phone calls to really hear about every detail and every moment of every life. So we rely on clues from what we do know to make our determinations about the people we love, extrapolating a love of baseball into a mind for detail and a deep nostalgic tendency, a life in the Navy to patriotism and selflessness, a life spent travelling to a sense of adventure and an open worldview.

I'm glad I got to see him before he went.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Dear People on 495, Please Stop Driving Like Blind Monkeys. Thanks! Love, Me

I always check my clock at the exit before the one I take to get on 495 (from 290) to see how I'm doing. I try not to check before then, because I get all neurotic and weird about how I'm going to be late and that helps no one. I used to put a Post-It over the clock, but then having the Post-It there started pissing me off, so I just came up with the exit check system. Yesterday, I checked my clock, and it said 8:11. Pretty good time. Generally, 8:11 at that point means I'll be at work before 8:20, and I'm due at work at 8:30, so I'm good.

About three seconds later, I hit ginormous traffic on the 495 exit. I got to work at 9.

There had been some kind of accident RIGHT at the end of the exit ramp. Presumably, one of the assholes who just can't wait to get on 495 and therefore cuts in front of three people finally got Smreked by another jerk (most likely of the "if I pretend I don't know that the people want to get into my lane they will be invisible" variety). So that was fun.

This morning, I hit the exit before my exit at 8:08. Awesome!

Traffic. Accident just past the end of the exit ramp. It was just getting cleaned up, so I don't know what was going on there. And for added fun, the backup was causing the most irritating thing in the world to happen, that being that the assholes who are too good to wait in the obnoxious traffic like every other damn person come flying up to the start of the exit ramp and then try to muscle their way in. Oh my GOD that irritates me - I just sat in traffic for 15 goddamn minutes and now I should let YOU come in and not sit through it? TO HELL WITH THAT! So I spent the remaining logjam time cursing people for letting them in when clearly they were total wastes of oxygen and should have been shoved over to drive on the grass. Needless to say there were also the obligatory jerk-offs who went flying along the shoulder so they didn't have to wait, either.

Who ARE these people?!

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Right to Bear Arms

I always liked the columbine flower. I've always been about the flowers, instead of inheriting Ma's adoration for colorful foliage. Until April of 1999, all I thought of when I heard the word "columbine" was those sweet little flowers, bobbing in their soft blue-purples and deep pinks. On April 19th of 1999, I never thought about the possibility that someone could come into my school with a gun for the express purpose of shooting me or someone else I went to school with. It just never occured to me, even though we went to school in a small town where guns were definitely around, particularly for hunting. There used to be a stag statue in front of the high school, but eventually it needed to be taken down since so many people shot at it, either because they were dopes or they were bored. No, on April 19th, I was worrying about the stupid MCAS, and pissing and moaning about the dress code.

On April 20th, two boys walked into a high school in Colorado, and everyone forgot that a columbine was a flower. Fifteen people were dead at the end of the day.

Those two boys had amongst them a 12-gauge Savage-Springfield 67H pump-action shotgun, a Hi-Point 995 Carbine 9mm semi-auto rifle, a Tec-9 9mm semi-auto handgun, a 12-gague Stevens 311D double-barrelled sawed-off shotgun, and a variety of knives, homemade bombs and ammo.

There are a million issues surrounding the Columbine shootings, and those that followed it. Some of the outcry was sensible, some was crazy. A lot of it reflected the current trend (at least as far as I can see) of shifting responsibility for individual actions away from...the individual, which - what? Anyway. Whether or not Marilyn Manson, Doom or The Basketball Diaries caused those two kids to shoot up their school, the guns themselves present a considerable issue. All of those guns listed can be bought from legal firearms dealers. In fact, all of those guns WERE bought legally by a friend of Harris and Klebold's, through something called a "straw purchase," wherein a purchase is made by a third party so as to disguse the true owner of the item (this happens a lot with cars, too...bad credit, etc.). Do we really need access to that kind of firepower?

My parents have an exchange student living with them who is from Norway. She's astounded by the fact that people can just buy guns whenever they feel like it here. It really makes me think - we talked about this pretty early on in her stay here, and I've thought about it ever since. There's so much going on in the Second Amendment. You have the right to bear arms, fine. One of the things I like about the US Consitution is that it is so adamant about defending the people's rights - the right to recall, repeal, take by force the power granted to our elected officials if they misuse said power. But would we really raise militias to depose someone we didn't like? I honestly can't imagine anyone hating a President or a government enough to want to take on our military, which by the way is one of the largest and most technologically advanced in the world. We can't even get people out to vote, for chrissakes. Also...wouldn't that kind of be a complete disaster? I can tell you that from my experience just firing a Glock 9 and a .45 of No-Ex-Marine's, if you told me to pick up a Tec-9 and hit ANYTHING, much less oncoming US military, it would not go well. The number of people to whom guns are so familiar that having said guns would actually help them defend against a violent government/external enemy is so small, compared to the population at large and the military itself, I don't really believe that it would get the job done.

Here are some figures from a University of Washington study - "an estimated 35 percent to 50 percent of all homes in the United States have firearms, accounting for an estimated 200 million privately owned firearms." Consider the firepower of the US Military...there may be less than 200 million people in the military, but a.) I have to believe that at least half of said military folks are issued more than one type of gun, for handling different ranges, etc., and b.) all of their weapons are specifically designed for killing people. Not hunting, not display, but killing other people before those other people can kill them. And that's only considering small arms, not the rockets, tanks, and other military trappings that would face any militia that chose to take on the US juggernaut.

Plus, you have the armor aspect - from that same study from U-Washington, 38 percent of gun owners purchased a gun for protection, 16 percent for display, and 40 percent for sport or hunting. (Bear in mind that this is a study done in Washington State, so it's not indicative of the whole country, but the points are the same.) Now, of all those folks, I think at best you could expect that 38 percent who bought weapons for protection would have body armor suitable for any combat. Obviously , the display folks are out, and the hunting people may have light protection, but nothing that would stand up effectively to military combat.

I also think that the Second Amendment's time of conception is important...bear in mind that when they started this whole "making a new country" project, no one was 100% sure it would work. A lot of things in the Constitution and in state and local law have taken on a certain archaic air as the country has worked various issues out, but those issues were really important back then. America was a loosely connected bunch of...outposts, really. Now that we have government watchdog groups and international monitoring bodies like the UN (not that the UN is a huge force, but still, it discourages bad behavior a little), some of the American citizens' responsibility has shifted from being prepared to march on Washington armed to the teeth to making sure that they find out about problematic individuals or policies in the government BEFORE you need to don a bandolier, throw a knife in your teeth, and start hiking to DC. Government is not as rough and ready now as it once was, nor is it lacking for oversight. We've reviewed the construction, made changes, and now we have a system that runs slowly but relatively smoothly.

There's always the fear of bad guys as well...most people don't buy guns for protection against the government these days, they buy them for protection against the bad guys, and in that sense I can sort of see an argument. Globalization has made the world with all it's good and bad very accessible, and as such, you can begin to see how drug lords in Colombia might be game for shipping some semi-auto guns along with their shipments of drugs to help their men on the ground with enforcement. So if a bad guy then wants to hurt you, shouldn't you also be able to lay hands on a semi-auto to defend yourself equally?

Well, I personally don't really think someone robbing your house needs to be killed to defend it. Even if the mugger/burglar/whatever has a 9mm handgun on him, and you have a 9mm in your bedside table, if one of you winds up dead, that's where the equality ends. If I thought every gun owner could be trusted to shoot to disarm rather than kill, then I wouldn't mind so much, but that's not how it goes.

I think that the "keeping up with the Mansons" concept is misguided...there is a great exchange in either a movie or a book that I can't for the life of me remember (may even have been Law & Order) but basically, there are two guys, at least one of whom is a cop, discussing escalation, to wit: "We buy semi-autos, they buy automatics; we buy kevlar vests, they buy armor piercing rounds. Where does it stop?" (I am starting to think that it was Batman Begins, which was an awesome, awesome movie that rocked my pants off.) Where DOES it stop? Or more specifically...where does it begin? At what point do you acknowledge the problem in this escalation and see it as an argument for more stringent gun control and limitation? Doesn't that make it more important to make owning a gun through illegal means or for nefarious intent carry harsher punishment? Why isn't there more incentive for turning in guns?

Why not apply the psychotically strict and overwhelmingly USELESS penalties attached to drug use and possession to illegal use and possession of firearms? Drugs were the big thing with Nancy Reagan and that exciting little got to the point where Newt Gingrich actually suggested that people be put to death for having in their possession TWO OUNCES of marijuana - as Dave Barry once brilliantly put it, "the botanical equivalent of two bottles of vodka." Put to DEATH! Ridiculous. Anyway. There are mandatory minimum sentencing requirements now for drug related offences. Now, I think that the entire thing is stupid, for a couple reasons...first, there is no rehab happening in (the should be watching that show) of prisons, so once the prisoner has served out their mandatory sentence, they'll just be back in again, and secondly, it just jams up the system with stupid college kids and minor offenders without making a distinction between big-league thugs and dealers and kids who suck at hiding their weed.

Not that drugs don't create violent crime, because they do, but that violence is much less certain than it is when someone obtains an illegal firearm. I have no complaint with those who go to the store, get the training, use their own ID, get licensed, go through the waiting period and act as responsible gun owners, but it seems to me that someone buying an illegal firearm, be it a .22 or a bazooka, is probably not doing it for a good reason, nor can they be expected to behave themselves. If you can't even bring yourself to BUY the thing responsibly, how can you be reasonably expected to USE it responsibly? The gun ownership rules in the US are relatively low-key, considering the gravity attached to what guns have the capacity to do. What do you need a gun in such a hurry for? Why is your need for a firearm such that you don't feel you need to bother with getting licensed?

I don't know what my final opinion on guns in America is (not that the country is waiting with baited breath for it or anything, I'm just saying is all), but I do know that there's a lot to it. I used to be adamantly anti-gun, but then two things happened - I lived in a city, and I went shooting with No-Ex-Marine. I would trust him with a gun of any size while holding everything important in my life, because I know he is a responsible, well trained gun owner. And in the city, I had my share of those Scary Big City Moments that everyone has if they actually leave their home once in a while, and I understood why I might feel a little safer walking home from the Metro if I had a handgun. It's just to hard to decide.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lesson One From The Loan Department: You Are Not A Slip And Slide.

I work on a loan program that helps people finance a variety of energy efficient home improvements, including heating systems, at a low interest rate. Most people probably put stuff like this on a credit card at a mid-to-upper-teens interest rate or take out a home improvement loan at 9% or more. Our loans are 3% max, so it rocks pretty hard. We also help people figure out what rebates they may be eligible for, etc. Free money AND low interest? Neat.

There is, of course, a catch, that being that you need to fill out the correct forms.

When did this become startling? If you want someone to pay $500 of one of your bills, and they told you, "okay, but you have to fill out this here paper," wouldn't that seem like a kind of easy way to get someone to pay $500 for you, and therefore...wouldn't you just fill out the goddamn form? I've had people call in and be all "well I didn't think you actually NEEDED this form...god, what a pain, my contractor has to sign it? Shee-it. Can't you just give it to me anyway?" Why, because you're cute? Because you have a wicked smoker's cough, and that makes me doubt that you are THAT much of a Brad Pitt clone that I should fork over $500 on your say so.

But even better is something called a heat sizing. This is something that's required for both the loan program and one of the utilities' rebates. I'll say it up front - it's kind of a pain. You have to measure walls and ceilings and windows and all kinds of stuff, and then you need to calculate the hourly BTU output that the heating system needs to get out in order to effectively heat the house. Most contractors just look at what heating system is there and get one the same size, or measure the baseboard, multiply accordingly, and call it a day. The reason it's important is because a too small system - obviously - won't heat your house, and a too big system will be continually kicking on and off, which totally takes out your efficiency ratings. Clearly, both are bad.

Oh. My. God. Do people not want to do these heat sizings. And it's understandable when it's the contractor complaining...if you didn't do it when you were out there to quote the job, then you have to go back there and do it, and it's a lot of work, and it sucks. Fine. What I REALLY don't get is when the customers want to DO THE SIZING THEMSELVES. The thing that cracks me up is that they always trying to be all smooth about it, to wit:

Me: you need an intake form, your proposal and a heat sizing calculation for your home.
Client: What's a heat sizing?
Me: It's an accounting of the space your heating system needs to heat. The contractor measures things like the walls and baseboard and produces a profile of your home. Your contractor either will have done it when he quoted the job, or they'll need to swing by and get one done for you.
Client: So they need to measure the walls, right?
Me: Well, that amongst other things, and there are a few more steps to complete the calculation. Like I said, your contractor should be able to provide the calculation for you.
Client: Well what else do they need to measure?
Me: It's not just measurements, sir, they need to perform a series of calculations based on those measurements.
Client: So what does he need to calculate?
Me: *pause, while breathing deeply through my nose and clenching the chair arm*
Client: So I can tell him, I mean.
Me: Sir, if he has any questions, you can direct him to this number.

Note to my customers...YOU ARE NOT THAT SLICK. Okay? You're not. I know you're trying to figure out how to do it yourself so you don't have to call your contractor, which you're resisting for some weird reason. I KNOW. You are the FIFTH PERSON THIS WEEK who has tried to play this game. AND IT IS WEDNESDAY. I am not faxing you the form to do the sizing, I'm not walking you through it, I'm not HAVING it.

When was this okay? Did someone pass a law saying all rules were to be followed as you feel necessary? Because I could TOTALLY ditch some of the rules of my life, and if we're allowed to do that then great.

Le sigh.

Monday, September 11, 2006

American Girl

Every year on September 11th, and usually several times in between, I read an article from my favorite online author, Sarah Bunting, who goes by "Sars". She writes columns on her website, Tomato Nation, and if you're reading this blog, I've probably sent you at least one of her articles. I even print them out for the technophobic New Jersey Grandparent Contingent. It's funny how you come to things. Someone who was far away from me five years ago sent me her article about September 11th because, as they said, they didn't know what else to do except show me that other people were going through all this, too. About a year later, the SecGen turned me on to Television Without Pity, which Sars also runs. Eventually, on a day when I'd run out of TWoP recaps to read, I found my way to Tomato Nation, from whence the article my friend had sent me over a year before came.

The article I read, every year, without fail, is Thou Art With Us, Sars' account of her day in New York when the towers came down. Every year she writes something, and it's always exactly what I feel about the anniversary, but Thou Art haunts me, and makes me cry. It's so different from what I experienced, and so much the same. It's the side events - Sars mentions seeing the hairdresser and waving, like any other day, cheering for rescuers when they crossed her path as she drove home. I remember the people who sat outside along Ward Circle and cheered on the emergency vehicles as they went past. I remember getting my hair cut because when they called to see if I wanted to move my hair appointment. I didn't know what else to say but yes, so I got my hair cut, and it came out crooked because both the stylist and I had been watching CNN in the mirror, half-turning to read the ticker. I paid $43.28. I remember what the sky looked like, both looking up and looking towards the Pentagon from the roof of the dorms. I remember what the night sky looked like, too, when I couldn't sleep, so I wandered the streets around campus. The weather was perfect, absolutely perfect.

It was perfect the next day, too, when there was a bomb threat and I had to call my mom and tell her. I remember the Metro station supervisor letting me through the gate even though I didn't have any money and the credit card Metrocard machine wasn't working. I went to work, of all things. I wound up giving water and bandages and idle talk to the rescuers down at the Pentagon, the people who had been there for more than a day. I remember what we talked about - the DC sports teams, a couple UMD Terps comments, hometowns, kids, jobs. One guy told me about how he and his wife were leaving the next day for Nova Scotia. They eloped and never got around to the honeymoon, so that was the plan. I have a hard time thinking that plan got followed through on, since I had to fight to keep him there long enough to get a full bottle of water into him and a bandage on his gashed arm before he went right back into the smoke and darkness.

Every year, I read that article and I find more things in it. I find the same thing with my memory of 2001. There's more I can remember, more I can appreciate, more to cry over. Spinnaker, G-Man, Beastie, Janice, Dropkick and the Holy Man came down to DC 11 days later in the Holy Man's gigantic Excursion. I remember it like it was yesterday. I don't like the way the media and the regular people are treating this anniversary, with the fame- and honor-whoring...believe it or not, not everyone's story needs airtime. I nearly slugged someone in Philadelphia over their attempt to shove themselves into the light of glory for no goddamn reason. I just...I wish we could learn. I wish I could feel like we were safer. I wish we WERE safer. I wish I could be proud of Bush again, be optimistic about Bush again. And sometimes, because I wish all of those things, I wish it was still September 11th, 2001, when we were all helping as best we could, and everyone was ready to make things better.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Putting the "Random" in "Random House." Or the "Effing Stupid," Depending On How You Look At It.

Apparently I'm the only person who watches the commercials on TV promising to get you money for anything that's happened to you at any time that you exited your home and thinks "Eeeee, that Barry Feinstein really has the pig eyes working. I hope he doesn't try and eat my soul," instead of mentally reviewing every foray beyond the front door for potential lawsuit fodder. When did that happen? I always watch those commercials and laugh, and I have special love for the ones that scroll their specialties behind the Aggressively Arm-Folding Lawyer (and/or actor...yeah, you, Captain Kirk.) where they start out strong with personal injury, wrongful termination, and libel and then by the end of the 30 second commercial, they've lost steam and are listing things like dog bites and "the icy patch from the Muppet Christmas Special You Watched When You Were A Kid." Oh, lawyers.

Maybe I'm an elitist snot (...okay, fair point) but if I went through the living hell that law school so often is, and someone came to me telling me that they slipped on ice in a New England WalMart parking lot and wanted to sue WalMart for all they were worth, I would be inclined to tell them to go screw and stop wasting my time. It's the suing over accidents, over things like ICE, over things that are just so insignificant and so firmly in the "shit happens" category that really gets to me. No one has accidents anymore. Let me tell you a story about a winter at my house. We live in New England, and we have bluestone stairs (this is at my parents'), which means that the second you see snow, you get out there, you shovel, and you encrust the steps with salt, because the bluestone ices up really fast. My mom and I were going somewhere one day, and even though the steps were cleared, she managed to step on an ice patch and went down like a sack of lead. Scariest. Moment. Ever. We got her inside and a few days later were enjoying the amazing Circus Side Show Freak Quality bruise she'd earned. It sucked REALLY hard, but Mom didn't immediately file suit against the people who put the bluestone down. She sucked it up and dropped trou for everyone who wanted to experience the amazing sight of a full-butt-cheek-AND-most-of-a-thigh bruise. But some people WOULD sue, and that really...concerns me. Don't they have something better to do? I mean, ANYTHING? Start a stamp collection, for chrissakes.

When I heard that people were actually SUING James Frey and Random House for being a lying liar who lies and a publisher who aided and abetted a lying liar who lies, I laughed and listened to the story and then sort of packed it away into the "small talk" file, assuming that a judge would tell them to screw.

Oh, what a fool am I.

Apparently, if you rip the cover off of your paperback, and a certain page out of your hardcover copy of A Million Little Pieces and mail it to Random House, they will pay you a little over twenty bucks. Are you KIDDING with this? I guess I'm glad I don't have to read about this stupid lawsuit eating taxpayer dollars, but I wish Random House would tell the people to go screw.

Look, I read A Million Pieces and I didn't take it at face value. I figured it was a life embellished. But more than that, when I heard that he'd made large sections of it up, I didn't freak out. My life didn't crumble. But most importantly, the message of the book - "haul your ass up already and make your life better" - didn't diminish for me. The Harry Potter books don't teach kids any less about loyalty, friendship, etc., because they are fictional. I thought it was a cool story by a decent writer who was very evocative, and that he used a funky but effective presentation style. I don't understand what the hell is worth suing over, but I AM sure that if you are this emotionally wounded by some dude WHO YOU DON'T KNOW making up some stuff in a book, you really need to find some kind of alternative meaning for your life.

The fact that people would sue over this crap irritates the bejesus out of me. While I think its dumb and sucky for Random House to cave like that, I can see how they didn't really have the option. Since judges and juries don't seem to demand personal responsibility any more, much less have the sack to tell people that sometimes bad things happen and it isn't anyone's fault, I guess that settling like this is really just the least taxpayer-dollar-sucking of two crappy options.

Doesn't this just make you feel gross?

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Haute Couture

A couture gown costs around $60,000 to $100,000, and can easily be more, depending on the house and what it being made.

There are maybe 10 women, tops, in the world, who buy couture gowns.

I will never own a couture gown. Even if I somehow came into a spare $125,000 to cover the expense of the gown, time spent in Paris having it made, etc., I think I would feel like I was spending my money foolishly, what with the whole being able to buy, you know three or four new luxury cars outright. But hooboy, would I like to own just one couture gown. Le sigh.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Coup de Boule, Coup de Boule!

The French do a lot of weird things, but sometimes they are just made out of pure awesome. You just have to admire a country that wholly embraces a soccer player who headbutts someone on an international stage, in a sport where honor, dignity and not fighting people in weird ways are still big things. Your admiration can only increase when a French band then makes up a song about the incident with a kicky, Venga-Boys-esque beat to it, and that the French then love the crap out of that song so much that it ends up number one on the charts. And the lyrics? FanTAStic.

Some folks may know about Flyboy's Headbutt of Love. He's very into expressing affection by smashing his furry little noggin into you. He tends to aim for your head, but he'll settle for your arm, leg, neck, knee, stomach, whatever, if the head is not available. It's pretty cute and actually has gotten a bit dangerous as he's gotten older and bigger...both Rich and I have taken sudden, unexpected hits and nose shots that have been a little painful. My point is that all I really want out of life right now is a picture of Flyboy photoshopped into a Zidane jersey with that headbuttin' look in his beady little eye. The ideal, of course, would be VIDEO of him headbutting various people, set to the dulcet tones of "Coupe de Boule," perhaps interspersed with footage of the Zidane headbutt itself.

So, I had my first workout with Ma's personal trainer, whom we shall call Mr. Goodbody, per Speed's nickname for him. My legs are KILLING me today, but only during the sit-to-stand transition, which is good. My arms kind of feel pissy if I poke them. Speed STILL holds the tomato pizza that Mr. Goodbody brought to last year's Christmas party against him - it's a damn thin crust pizza without eighteen pounds of grease and a whole cow on it! LEARN TO DEAL. I think almost nine months is a BIT long to hold a grudge over pizza. Heh. (Yes, I know you're kidding, DEAR.) It feels muy awesome to be working out again and such. I'll even take the sore stuff for it!

Grandad is back to standard after a brief but exciting disaster when they injected him with the radiation stuff for the brain scan. I think his body probably was just too exhausted by everything to put up with it. They had to bring in an emergency crew and everything to get him stable again, but he seems to be okay now.

I leave you with....un coup de boule. (The translation might be a little off because I'm a little rusty but I think the general effect is there.)

Attention c'est la dance du coup de boule! (Coup de boule, coup de boule!)
Watch out, it's the headbutt dance!
Coup de boule a droite! (Coup de boule, coup de boule!)
Headbutt to the right!
Coup de boule a gauche! (Coup de boule, coup de boule!)
Headbutt to the left!
Allez les bleus allez!
Go Blues, go!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!

Le rital il a eu mal, Zidane il l'a frappe;
The guido was hurt, Zidane hit [him];
L'italien ne va pas bien, Zidane il l'a tape;
The Italian's not doing well, Zidane slapped [him];
L'arbitre l'a vu a la tele, Zidane il 'a frappe...
The ref saw it on TV, Zidane hit him;
Mais la coupe on l'a rate, on a quand meme bien rigole!
But we lost the Cup, but we had a good time anyway!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!

Trezeguet n'a pas joue quand il a joue, il a rate;
Trezeguet didn't play, and when he played he sucked;
Il a tout fait capoter, la coupe on l'a rate;
He screwed up everything, we lost the World Cup;
Barthez n'a rien arrete, c'est pourtant pas complique;
Barthez didn't stop a thing, it's not complicated;
Les sponsors sont tous faches mais Chirac a bien parle...
The sponsors all were pissed, but Chirac spoke well...
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!

Attention c'est la danse du coup de boule!
Watch out, it's the headbutt dance!
Coup de boule a droite! (Coup de boule, coup de boule!)
Headbutt to the right!
Coup de boule a gauche! (Coup de boule, coup de boule!)
Headbutt to the left!
Coup de boule a avant! (Coup de boule, coup de boule!)
Headbutt to the front!
Coup de boule a arriere! (Coup de boule, coup de boule!)
Headbutt to the back!

Et maintenant penalty, attention il va tirer...
And now it's the penalty, pay attention, he's going to shoot...
Un, deux, troiiiiiiiis...c'est rateeeeeeee!
One, two, threeeeee....he missed!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!
Zidane il a frappe, Zidane il a tape! (coup de boule!)
Zidane hit [him], Zidane slapped [him]!

On a quand meme bien rigole, Zidane et Trezeguet!
We had a good time anyway, Zidane and Trezeguet!
La coupe on l'a rate, Zidane et Trezequet!
We lost the World Cup, Zidane et Trezequet!
On a quand meme bien rigole, Zidane et Trezeguet!
We had a good time anyway, Zidane and Trezeguet!
La coupe on l'a rate, Zidane et Trezequet!
We lost the World Cup, Zidane et Trezeguet!
Et Trezequet et Trezequet et Trezequet!
And Trezeguet, and Trezeguet, and Trezeguet!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Words Are Not Toys

9 minutes and 39 seconds for the 15x15 grid crossword on MSNBC published on 8/23/06.

9 minutes and 31 seconds for the 15x15 grid crossword on MSNBC published on 8/24/06.

I don't really like the MSNBC puzzles, but I am more or less used to not liking puzzles that are not in the Washington Post or New York Times. I'm not sure if it's that the puzzlers and editors of the Post and Times puzzles just think about language and words in a similar way to the way I do or what, but something with those crosswords feel like I'm getting a good brain workout for all the right reasons. When I talked with my old friend The SG, it felt like doing a good crossword - we were both fairly evenly matched, intelligence-wise, both expressed ourselves well and on the same level of vocabulary, and we didn't always agree, so it was like working to express yourself the way you wanted to in a way that would translate for people.

With the MSNBC puzzle (and these are online, by the way) I have found at least a handful of words where I couldn't get the words figured out not because I didn't know the word, but because the word straight up did not mean what the clue said. Neither of the two puzzles I gave you the times of above had any mistakes like that, but I'll keep an eye out and give a good example. Complaints about the MSNBC puzzle aside, I DO like that it times you while you work, because I'm a competitive sum-bitch and I like to know the times. I am out of practice, since I was spoiled by AU's providing the Post, Times and USA Today (whose puzzle I disliked for the same reason as the MSNBC puzzle) free every weekday. I can still generally do the Sunday Boston Globe puzzle in somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes. The last two years that I did the Post puzzle every day, it didn't ever take me over 15 minutes to complete a weekday puzzle (unless I was double-teaming said puzzle with Fellow Puzzle Fiend the Statesman, in which case there would be lots of yakking interspersed with arguing over whether one should cross out just the number when you got a clue [the Statesman] or the whole clue [me].), and the Saturday and Sunday puzzles usually fell in the 15-30 range.

The local paper's crosswords are bought from a syndicated puke-out-a-puzzle company and are intensely aggravating because they are poorly constructed. It is bad news.

Now, the NYT is a whole other ballgame. I love the Times puzzle and I love that "Wordplay" exists (Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, Mike Mussina, Will Shortz and lots of dorks who kick crossword butt...perfect storm of AWESOME if you ask me.), but holy CRAP is that thing hard. I can usually finish the weekday editions, but it usually takes me between 20 and 30 minutes. I have finished a grand total of 29 Sunday Times puzzles over maybe four years of serious puzzling. THOSE were completed in anywhere from 20 minutes (I nearly fell off my chair when I discovered I had finished so fast) to two days. I used to carry those bad boys around in my wallet so I could bust them out on Metro rides and in boring classes.

Language is not a toy. It IS an issue when you use the wrong word. It IS an issue when you can't communicate effectively. And it IS an issue when you cost me precious seconds trying to think of a crossword answer that has nothing to do with the clue. Chumps.

In other news, sometimes doctors confuse the crap out of me.

So, Grandad has been in the hospital for a couple days - he went in with fluid in his lungs and an infection, apparently, but it seemed to be manageable for the time being and they started working on getting that fluid out and getting the infection under control. Fine. But the other day he was really shaky and had what the docs initally thought looked stroke-y. They were going to do a brain scan on him last night. It didn't get done, not sure why, but in any case, this morning not only was he doing better and concious and talking, but he didn't remember the whole episode the day before. Now, call me crazy, but if someone has something that looks like a stroke but you're not sure, and then the next day he doesn't remember anything about it, wouldn't that make you MORE determined to get the scan done to see what, if anything, had happened? Apparently not. I just don't get it.

Now here's the thing - Grandma is a ninja. There's a certain amount of Don't Ask Don't Tell in the day-to-day relationship there, which I think is inevitable. I mean, you ask Grandad how he feels, he's going to say he's fine, because he doesn't feel any crappier than usual. He's an old guy who has been smoking a pipe since he was 12 and he's been sick a long time. Being sick stinks, period the end. But then you get Grandma in the hospital, and seriously...knowledge kung-fu. She is SO up on all the options and what's going on and all that stuff. Between her and the Aunt and Uncle Troops On The Ground, there is major ass-kicking going on. Good hands all around. I'll be praying for Grandad.

One more thing on the Grandad Front is that I always ask Dad how HE is doing when we talk about this stuff. I usually get some variant of "eh, I'm fine" but last night we had a slightly more in depth chat about it. His thoughts were that while he obviously wouldn't be thrilled if Grandad passed away tomorrow, he also wouldn't feel like there were still major State of the Relationship discussions that had been un-had or anything like that. That's a great way to be - I try to keep tabs with as much of the fam as I can for that reason. Well, and because they're neat.

Shut Up, Kids.

Okay, can I talk to you guys for just a sec about kids?

I am down with kids, more or less, although I am in no particular rush to have my own. I think that's more a function of my life being hectic and busy right now than actual biological clock's hard to imagine adding kids into the mix. However good or bad a parent I may be when I get around to that milestone, though, I plan on doing one very important thing, which is PAYING ATTENTION TO WHERE IT'S APPROPRIATE TO BRING MY GODDAMN KID.

There are two little beasts in the office right now who have been stampeding around all day. They belong to the same woman (I think) who has been bringing her mid-teenaged daughter in on and off (more on) over the course of maybe a month, apparently so the girl can go on MySpace and pass the time. Does Mid-Teen Daughter bother me? No, not really, although I do think it's slightly odd that she would want to hang at her mom's work. She doesn't bug me because she is QUIET and NOT DISRUPTIVE. THREE TIMES I have had to shut my door just in order to HEAR PEOPLE on the other end of the phone. TWICE, these children have come into my office for various reasons, all annoying. All I can hear, above everything, is shrieking and giggling. SOMEONE PLEASE KILL ME.

It's the same thing that bugs me about Meeting sometimes. I just outright don't like having kids in adult Meeting, while Ma is down with kids being there for 20 minutes or so and then being shooed out to Sunday school. I can live with the 20 minute concept, I guess, but the thing is...well, do you remember playing "the Quiet Game" when you were little, where someone would arbitrarily decide a start point and then everyone would be "quiet" as long as they could? Remember how your group, no matter what size, could only be "quiet" for about 5 minutes, tops, except that one kid who grew up to read depressing French literature and could be actually be quiet, and proceeded to do so for the next three hours? And remember how "quiet" actually meant "squirming around in your seat and messing with the seatbelt and flicking your brother in the head while making any noise that could not be constitutionally declared an actual word, i.e. humming, snorting, and other assorted noises"?


Kids don't do an hour's worth of not talking. They squirm, kick their seats, pester their parents, etc. It's supposed to be silent reflection, okay? Not "mostly everyone not talking except that kid who is fidgeting and talking about Cheez-its." Amongst other things kids don't do? Eight hour workdays. I don't do eight hour workdays, and I actually have a job to do when I am here. I am old enough to vote for the President, and I get all kinds of ADD and boredom and irritation and whatever, and AGAIN...I have a reason for being here. Love my job, totally love it, but yo, sometimes being here eight hours straight is not really my thing. And you want a kid - and we ARE talking kids, these gals can't be breaking 8 - to amuse itself (not a slam on kids, I just don't think themself is an actual word) for eight hours? AUGH. Not! Appropriate! This is not a babysitting agency. Get a sitter. Christ.

I cannot WAIT for this day to end and to be rid of these children.

I am starting with Ma's personal trainer tomorrow - I am psyched but also nervous. But hooray for being less fat! HOO, HOO, HOO, HOO!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

If You Wake Up in the Morning and All You Want to Do is Write...

Okay, seriously now, this book attempt is killing me.

Also, why do cats love laptop computers so much? Flyboy always wants to lie right against my stomach, on top of the touchpad and first two rows of keys. And he does not just sit there. Oh no. He luxuriates. Very weird cat. Thought it was jealousy. But now Sweetheart, the family cat who lives at the parents', is loving the HELL out of the side of the screen. So maybe Flyboy ISN'T weird.

Yeah, no. Did I tell you about the time the other day when I had to put him into the basement after he dove headfirst into the glass slider trying to catch moths? Right.

So the book attempt. I can never remember who knows this and who doesn't, but for a little over a year, I've been trying to wrestle a full size novel out of a series I started on the website I used to post on a lot. As of right now, it is the longest thing I have ever written, coming in at 47 pages and 27,796 words. For whatever reason, I've latched onto the ballpark of 50,000 words for my ideal length, but really it's a matter of getting all the concepts that are in my head onto paper, which is proving difficult. In my noggin, it's all done. I know who is going to do what when and where, but getting it in compelling prose is...jesus, it's AGGRAVATING, is what it is.

I hate it. I like the story, I like the writing, I like my word choice and I like my characters...but when I read back over what I've written, I convince myself that it's a juvenile, pedantic story with no interest, shitty dialogue, and crap writing. Does everyone go through this? How I am going to edit it, I have no idea, since I'll just hate it all and rewrite everything whether I should or not.

I guess it's probably a part of the whole process, but I wish I could somehow puke the whole story onto the page and then fine tune...but no. Le sigh. In time, I guess.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Meownos: The Paws of Fate

Once upon a time, there was a dark mystery, settled like a crow on the roof of our home in the quiet town of Holden.

No, it was actually dark, as in, the cat's paws were black, y'all.

One morning when we were getting ready for work, Flyboy came bopping in, looking very satisfied with himself. He hopped up on the counter, and I saw that his paws were FILTHY, covered with black soot of some kind, and he had a crown of spiderwebs on. I didn't really have time to discuss it with him, but when Speed and I got home that night, he was STILL totally gross, and remained so through a couple of washings.

We figured that Flyboy - however improbably - had somehow developed enough grace to have jumped the fireplace screen without knocking it over, and to then hop out again after having a nice, satisfying romp in the grate. Now, if you're a cat owner, you know how cats are - one moment, full of lissome movements and impossible, invisible, silent escapes and attacks, the next second, managing to knock over an entire bookcase and its contents, your TV, and following it all up with a dash directly into a door or similar solid object. We chalked it up to the former, mostly because we had no other option. Speed turned the screen around so it was flush with the bricks of the mantle, and we figured we were good.

Well, he appeared a few more times, looking dirty again and bedecked in spider webs. Since he didn't present anything as impressive as his first performance, we assumed he was just nosing into dark and spider infested corners of the basement or something.

So tonight I was switching the laundry, and I noticed some dirty pawprints on top of the dryer. And then I looked up the wall, and saw dirty pawprints THERE. What Flyboy had been doing was hopping up on the pipes along the wall over the washer, and using that access route to get into the ceiling space and then to the boiler room. This also made clear another cat incident, wherein Speed came home to hear mewing in the basement, and upon checking it out, found Cady stuck in the boiler room.

Le sigh.

Monday, August 7, 2006

I Want You On My Team/So Does Everybody Else




I am the only person in the department until the 16th, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I am doing everything...phones, paperwork, calling people, etc. On the other, the Insta-Panic mode that Podnah brings to the department is blessedly missing, which is a huge relief. You can see where the Insta-Panic evolved from - she's had a bunch of jobs where it was either a really cutthroat atmosphere or her bosses treated her like dirt, so she's constantly afraid of being...fired, I guess. She KNOWS her shit, but she's not confident enough in the ability to make independent decisions, so it becomes this period of anywhere from 5 minutes to a full day of agonizing over whether or not something is the right decision. And then she does the thing I HATE, which is to ask me what she should do, and then obviously not pay attention and say she's going to do something else. You know what? If you aren't going to LISTEN? Don't ask! Just. Don't. Ask. I'm not one of those people who can't deal with it if you don't do what they suggest when you ask advice. But if you're taking the time from my day for me to think about it and then respond to you, then at least have the courtesy to liiiiiiisssssten. Criminy.

So, Uncle Alligator passed away yesterday. He was another one of those relatives - I had this issue with my grandfather on Dad's side - who was terrifying until you were about 12 or so, at which point you were old enough to appreciate the humor and you were big enough to not be intimidated by their size. Grandad was just tall and spindly, same way Dad is built, but Uncle Alligator was built like the the metaphorical brick shithouse, with a big booming voice and a deep barrel laugh. He was so funny, and just a loving, thoughtful person. It's really sad to see him go, but there were two silverish linings - first, he'd been sick and the family had had some time to prepare, and second, Aunt Alligator's two daughters were down there with them when he passed. Hopefully I will make it to the funeral, but all I've heard is Friday, in which case I would not be able to make it. Fingers crossed. Spiritus sancti.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

The Cat Chronicles: Volume Oh For God's Sake Already

Cats are amazing creatures, aren't they? Faster than an escaping tail attached to their own butt, more powerful than a beta the size of a quarter, able to leap tall pieces of furniture in a single bound and then continue over the other side and into a box of something very small and scattery, all that jazz.


Have I mentioned lately that Cady's favorite food group is "things that are not cat food"? It's true. Carpenter ants, little pieces of paper, gnawed cardboard, dust. And you know what's great for dessert? Did you guess YARN? Because let me tell you, yarn is fantastic.

Cady ate some yarn maybe 4 months ago, and pooed it out, which was QUITE the extravaganza and [after the fact] very amusing. So we put all the yarn into a bureau inside of a closet, and there we go. Last Sunday we woke up and found that greatest of cat owner gifts, puke on the carpet. Thanks, cat! This was the beginning of a two day vomit spree as conducted by Miss Cady, while Flyboy alternately caused trouble and stayed the hell out of it. We took her to the vet on Monday and did the x-ray thing, and though we could see something in there, it didn't seem like enough of a problem item to be causing the problems we were seeing. Awesome Vet and Cady Love Interest Dr. Campbell and I decided to keep an eye on the situation, and I went home with some more easily digestible cat food to try, none of which she ate. The next day, still puking, so after work I took her to Tufts.

Well, hooray for Tufts. We went to the emergency room and after a relatively short wait, went in to see Awesome Vet and Classmate of AVaCLI Dr. Campbell Dr. Roble and the student assisting, whose name I believe was Sarah and who took a very good and complete medical history before the Doc got in. It bears mentioning that NEITHER of these people either yelled at Cady or called her an idiot when they were unable to listen to her heart because she was purring her fool head off. Dr. Roble was very suspicious of the feel of her tummy (as had been Dr. Campbell), and wanted to get her in for an ultrasound. He suspected a "linear body," i.e. yarn is a delicious treat for girls and boys, and if that was the case, he wanted to go into surgery that night. He quoted us - now would be a good time to sit down, if you're not already - $3,500. Cady is lucky that she and her brother are our kid substitutes. So, I plunked down half of that, took the carrier, and headed home, sobbing most of the way there and composing myself long enough to drive through Holden and then burst into tears again when I saw Speed back at the house. We got the "oh yeah, something troublesome is cookin' in there" call around 11:30, and Cady went in for surgery, getting out around 1:15 am or so.

Let me take a brief Flyboy interlude now...he was PISSED. It was like he was trying to interrogate Cady's position out of us. Meowing, sulking, glaring...the works. And of course, since there was no Cat Wrestling Federation to fill his nighttime hours, he was bored, so he entertained himself by meowing pitifully outside our door. Being the sucker that I am, I thought he was making a ruckus because he was lonely and wanted someone to snuggle with, so I went out to sleep on the couch, where I discovered that what he REALLY wanted was to continue the interrogation by way of Feline Stomping Torture, in which he spent a lot of time headbutting me and walking over my head. Thanks, cat.

So, the next day, Speed and I went to visit Cady at Tufts. She looked like a little war veteran. Both front legs had little 1.5" shaved cuffs above her paws, and on her left front leg, she had a little IV dock wrapped in a big blue bandage. Her whole tummy was shaved and she had 14 stitches in there. She started purring pretty much the second she saw Speed and I, and didn't stop until we left almost an hour and a half later. Come to think of it, we didn't hear her stop, so she may have just continued on. She spent time being patted and curling up against us and zonking out, and she looked GREAT. Very perky, obivously feeling better. The report from the student assigned to the case, Jen, was that she was being VERY affectionate with everyone, and behaving herself very well (even though she'd gotten a little bitey and scratchy on her way into surgery - I think, and the surgeon agreed, that she was just totally freaked out.). Apparently Jen had been trying to feed her by putting some wet food on her finger and holding it out to her, and Cady just mashed her face into it and kept rubbing her face on Jen's hand. Oh, Cady. It's a good thing we got you the surgery, because obviously you will be the cat who cures cancer.

She came home on Thursday instead of Friday as planned, which meant that it "only" cost $2,005. What a steal. She had some light pain meds for three days, and seemed to not even need them - there was no whining or hurty cat behavior as we got closer to time for a dose, etc. For the first couple days, she was hesitant to hop up even onto the couch, but since then she's even made it up to the top of the fridge (the better vantage point from which to observe her domain!) and is having no problems. For several days, she smelled so strongly of vet that Flyboy wouldn't have anything to do with her, but the smell has worn off and they are back to messing with each other. The stitches come out on the 8th, and if she ever pulls a stunt like this again, we're selling her to gypsies.

Crazy weather last night - Holden Street looks like a tornado went down it. Whole trees knocked over, ginormous branches, etc. Brief but tough storm. A very large branch went down on our street, landing squarely in our neighbors' driveway and snapping a power or phone line (we did not lose power). Madness.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Think I Must Be Missing Something Here.

Is there something I don't understand about this whole stem cell thing? Is this somehow not a no-brainer?

I'll take one second here to just say I LOVE when Congress squabbles...the Senate comes up with this whole smooth plan on how to give George W. Bush some political cover, and then the House is all Rowdy Little Brother about it and doesn't really follow the plan. Awesome. GO CONGRESS!

Okay, so the stem cell thing. I THINK I kind of agree with the whole no fetal farming thing. If nothing else it seems creepy - creating mini humans with the express intent to destroy them? Yeesh. If that was the only way scientists were proposing to get stem cells, then yeah, I'd want them to come up with another way. But the unused in vitro fetuses...that's where I'm missing something. Conservatives don't rail against in vitro fertilization in any meaningful and/or loud way on a regular basis, but the fetuses that aren't implanted and carried to term just get thrown away for the most part.

So...on the grand scales of morality and common sense, isn't it better to use the unused fetuses to help develop cures for people with debilitating diseases than to throw them away? Isn't curing diabetes a more noble end for these fetuses than a biohazard dumpster? I feel slightly insane over here, because people are in such a LATHER over this and it seems so simple to me - fetuses get "made," one fetus gets implanted and carried to term, other fetuses who would otherwise be thrown out are used for stem cell research. Either way, those fetuses are not going to see childhood or adulthood. Period the end. So why the outcry over their being used for something useful rather than just being thrown away?

I understand that this is a lot like organ donation...I think everyone's heard or had concern over whether or not emergency personnel or hospital doctors will work as hard to save your life if someone in Omaha REALLY needs a heart and shares your blood type. You kind of have to trust that they will, and that there are rules in place governing it, and that if in fact, they do lose you, your organs will be doing great things for someone else. An organ donor can save - SAVE - up to SEVEN lives. How many lives would one fetus save?

This is just mystifying to me. The benefit seems so enormous, all around.

Maybe I'm missing something.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain!"

A few years ago, a friend of mine had a visit from his grandfather. We all went out to dinner, along with said friend's apple of his eye and our roomie, at Chef Geoff's in DC. My friend and his family are Jewish, and his grandfather, being fairly large of income, donates a good amount of money and time to helping Israeli charities...for instance, I think he donated the funds to build a gym for schoolkids. Cool stuff like that where you're not arming militias, but rather helping make life somewhat more normal for kids who had the crap luck to be born in a perpetual war zone.

Anyway, one way or the other the Israeli-Palestinian debate came up (I think there was a ruckus going on once again), and I would have expected that both my friend and his grandfather would be solidly on the Israeli side of the debate. Instead, the grandfather sat at the end of the table and told us that really, both sides needed to be allowed to just duke it out until someone won, because it's been going on for thousands of years and diplomacy is not really working in any significant way. I found that really startling, but there's a certain amount of sense to it - how will you ever resolve this, when everyone now, Israeli and Palestinian alike, has a relative, or a friend, or a child who has been killed or wounded or discriminated against at the hands of the other side? How will you negotiate peace with Hamas? Because Hamas doesn't just not really like Israel, guys, they refuse to acknowledge them as an entity. If kindergarden kids ever get ahold of that technique, it is going to be ON in the schoolyard.

Kid 1: You took my swing!
Kid 2: That's 'cause you're ugly!
Kid 1: Well you're stupid!
Kid 2: Well I refuse to acknowledge your existence!
Kid 1: Um.

I have to say that I really do not like Bush's strict adherence to the Israel = good policy, which I think is misguided to begin with. I generally am more okay with Israel's behavior, but I think it's really a lesser of two evils scenario - it's a day by day determination of who is being a less violent terrorist. Both Israel and the Palestinians are dealing with disputes by killing or threatening to kill the other party, and if any other nation pulled that shit, it would be condemnation and finger pointing all over the damn place. In this situation, particularly, I think singing "Stand By Your Israeli" is a particularly bad idea, because this is a BAD situation. Maybe I don't have the whole picture, but from what I'm hearing and seeing, this is an excuse for Israel to do some shit-stirring. Can anyone explain to me why when Israel started moving troops and SHOOTING THINGS over the kidnap of a soldier, no one took them by the shoulders, shook them real hard, and said "guys, SERIOUSLY"? I mean, not to discard the soldier, because he is NOT in a good place right now and no one deserves this guerrilla-kidnap routine, soldier? To base an entire military action, and arguably an act of war, on? Shady.

My favorite line of this conflict, by the way? "Israel has stated that these are legitimate targets, blah blah blah." Okay, here's the thing...I would consider placing George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld in a square, standing in the middle with a crowbar, and then spinning around gracefully, whomping each of them repeatedly in the head with said crowbar to be a completely legitimate action that was wholly deserved by all four. But my saying it does not make it so. Also? THE SAME RULE APPLIES FOR NATIONS! I'm sure Hitler thought that the Holocaust was a totally legitimate, great concept! But he was wrong! Like, couldn't BE more wrong! Same for Lenin and Stalin! Thought they had great ideas! Polar opposite of legitimate! WHY DOES IT TAKE VLADIMIR "LET'S BRING BACK THE GLORY DAYS OF THE KGB" PUTIN TO CALL BULLSHIT ON SELF-DECLARATION OF LEGITIMATE BEHAVIOR AND TARGETS?!

So, moronic statements aside, this thing has gotten even more exciting. While Israel was busy poking the beehive that is Gaza, Hezbollah got sad because they weren't invited to the party, so they ganked TWO Israeli soldiers. Naturally, Israel whipped around, snarled, and started whomping them back in response, and now you've got Israel and Hezbollah fighting, with the actual government of Lebanon kind of off to the side going "oh, shit" and Israel is demanding that the Lebanese army be deployed to deal with Hezbollah, but here's the thing...according to several dudes I have heard on NPR in the past few days? Hezbollah could take the Lebanese Army. (Confidential to Lebanon: Shoulda gotten Hezbollah the hell out of there before they got organized, armed and powerful enough to control your country. I'm just saying.) And of course, Bush & Co. are right in there with the "IRAN AND SYRIA ARE DOING THIS," which, yes, Iran and Syria are well known for being supporters of the Hamas/Hezbollah Dynamic Duo, but that doesn't mean that they are calling the shots. They should cut the shit and stop funding/arming these groups, but I will be ASTOUNDED if they do. Even if they stop doing it so overtly, they'll find a way.

We're only a week into this and already I'm ready to just see all the people who aren't Israeli or members of Hezbollah get evacuated and then have the two parties just beat the shit out of each other until there's no one left. Intelligently, I know that's not the solution, but I think this is one of those situations where LONG AGO, the international community, as one, should have said to ALL parties involved, "this is not an acceptable way to resolve your differences. Talk about it, write up an agreement, or just plain ignore each other, but as long as you're reacting to differences of thought by killing each other, you will not only receive no aid in ANY form from us, but we will also do everything in our power to make sure you have no assistance from non-nation groups. Doing business with you will become illegal in our countries, and we will stictly enforce it." And then - and this is the important part - sack up and do it. There would be a lot of anger and a lot of hurt feelings, but come on...there is no crying in baseball, girls. You don't get to reap the benefits due to a contributing and law-abiding nation while engaging in a variety of terrorist actions.

This whole thing is foolish and has been tolerated way too long.

So let me tell you about my night last night. Bogey of the Basement decided to call in to work and spend the time drinking. Fine. I watched Transporter 2 and Unleashed with him, along with an episode of a Batman cartoon that was neat. So after that, I went to bed, as did Speed, and we read for a while before it occurred to Speed to go out and make sure Bogey had in fact called in. Wakes him up - by clapping loudly, after regular speech fails to get the job done - and asks if he called in. Bogey exactly zero real English-language words. Great. Dude needs to call in, and he's babbling. Speed gets him to regain his formation of sentences powers, and he says he'll "call into work after he finishes [this thing on TV] [which in this case was the menu of the Batman DVD]." Speed goes back out to check and make sure he called in about an hour later and the situation basically replays itself. We assume that he just passed out again after Speed checked on him, because his mom called at like 5 am to ask if he was there - work called her looking for him. GOOD JOB, BOGEY. Bless his little heart, and he was probably just reveling in his car being fixed after his Deerslayer Experience and being able to just chill out, but what you gotta do, eh?

In other news, I received the most awesome shoes ever in the mail from Zappos the Awesome. They're called "Courtesan" from a shoe company called Irregular Choice and they are stunning...a short, pointed toe for a really funky look, and lots of cool detailing with ribbon roses and beads. The heel is REALLY comfy, too, which is unusual for such a tall - 4" - heel. Irregular Choice's shoes are SO fantastic...they definitely have some crazy shit, but the detail on so many of their shoes is AMAZING.

Also, I am learning candlepin bowling (invented in Worcester and really only played in New England!), and Speed's Mommy gave me her old bowling balls, so Speed's going to take them to use at his bowling league tonight so he can clean them and spiff 'em up since they've been sitting in a closet or something for a while. Yay! I totally, totally suck at candlepin right now, but I am showing improvement. We're going to go again this Friday. Last Friday we went together and stopped by Skylite afterwards, and then the Friday before that we went with Ma and Dad, then went to Sakura Tokyo.

We have found a new favorite Japanese place, though, Osaka, right in White City, over the Lake Quinsig bridge maybe a block up from Vinnie Testa's on the opposite side of the street. They have FANTASTIC sushi - perfectly seasoned rice, very fresh, very flavorful fish - and the charred flesh eater of our duo says that their filet mignon and chicken is very good. I order the sushi dinner, which arrives in this REALLY cool boat dish and has six California Rolls and an assortment of nigiri sushi. I have also had lunch there, which is a steal for something like nine bucks, which gets you a salad and 8 pieces of sushi. The presentation is great. Speed praises the variety of mix-and-match type dishes, i.e. chicken and steak, steak and lobster (not that a crustacean will ever pass through his ruby lips), etc. He liked the chicken and filet combo, in which all of the meat is cubed and cooked with great seasoning. We also prefer the salad dressing to Sakura Tokyo''s a little less bitter. It's a really cool little place, with a bunch of cooking tables, if that's your thing, but the rush gets HARDCORE around 9, so we recommend going earlier, around 6:30 or 7. Check it out, man!

Don't say I never gave you good advice.