Monday, June 30, 2008

Radio Silence Observe Radio Silence

I avoid using phones if at all possible. It's not that I have some tinfoil hat theory or think they're giving me cancer. Nope: on the phone, I might be just plain stupid. Pete, who spends more time with me than anyone I didn't gestate myself has, calls me every day at my desk.

Pete: I just called to hear the sound of your voice!
Tata: [Insert sound of post-pre-verbal stage person trying to remember what words are.]

I'm pretty useless on the phone; so much so that when the internet phone service message center became suddenly and explosively incompatible with my laptop, I didn't even miss much. I can see who called but can't hear the messages, which is fine by me because I don't check them for many, many weeks and can't muster the strength to hold grudges.

You'd think then a person who returns calls on a more or less monthly basis wouldn't have a fishnetted leg to stand on where return phone calls were at issue but no. Everyone knows I'm either sitting at my desk or sitting on my couch or haunting a grocery store or weeding my garden or gift-wrapping for the populace. My whereabouts are seldom mysterious, and when I want to talk I want to talk RIGHT NOW. I'm waiting for a woman to email me back. She checks her email every two or three days. What's the matter with her? Doesn't she know I'm waiting?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Sun Shine In

Via Firedoglake, we see the New York Times couldn't be more ambivalent about the Bureau of Land Management's two-year freeze and study of - get this - the environmental impact of large-scale solar power projects on public land. Look at the distancing language not at all in action here:
DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, does this make sense?
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Holly Gordon, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for Ausra, a solar thermal energy company in Palo Alto, Calif. “The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.”

Hey, did you know our executive branch is full of oil men? You do now!
Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land in the West is ideal for solar energy, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts.

The Bureau owns vast swaths of sun-drenched desert it could lease to fledgling solar power companies, which would make money for the taxpayers, but it would prefer to wait. And study. And wait. Study what? you ask. Good question.
The manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental impact study, Linda Resseguie, said that many factors must be considered when deciding whether to allow solar projects on the scale being proposed, among them the impact of construction and transmission lines on native vegetation and wildlife. In California, for example, solar developers often hire environmental experts to assess the effects of construction on the desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel.

Water use can be a factor as well, especially in the parched areas where virtually all of the proposed plants would be built. Concentrating solar plants may require water to condense the steam used to power the turbine.

“Reclamation is another big issue,” Ms. Resseguie said. “These plants potentially have a 20- to 30-year life span. How to restore that land is a big question for us.”

Because after the sun burns out, we'll have to go back to coal.
Another benefit of the study will be a single set of environmental criteria to weigh future solar proposals, which will ultimately speed the application process, said the assistant Interior Department secretary for land and minerals management, C. Stephen Allred. The land agency’s manager of energy policy, Ray Brady, said the moratorium on new applications was necessary to “ensure that we are doing an adequate level of analysis of the impacts.”

Studying water in the desert, and studying their ability to study! Studying after those studious do-gooder capitalists pay professional studiers. That, friends, is truly the doublespeak of a public relations master. My gardening hat is off to Misters Allred and Brady. Nothing abashed about those uses of language! FDL:
Cameron Scott, a blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes that he appreciates the government’s caution, noting that such ecological prudence would have been useful before the country jumped into the ethanol business, but that he sees something of a double standard:
[T]he government rarely proceeds with caution when it comes to public lands. In the last couple years, the Bush administration has proposed allowing commerce, roads, off-road vehicles, and concealed weapons on public lands, and has eagerly embraced drilling for oil and natural gas. If fossil fuels warrant endangering these lands, then surely solar power does, too.

Is the Bush administration really so set against decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels that it would fabricate concern for the environment in order to block alternative energy projects? It would appear so.

The Economist notes that the solar industry is now facing a double-whammy, thanks to Congress’s failure to renew a solar tax-credit:
Congress has been dithering over extending a valuable investment tax credit for solar-energy projects, which solar advocates say is critical to the future of their industry but which is due to expire at the end of the year. The latest attempt failed in the Senate earlier this month: prospects for a deal before November’s presidential and congressional elections now look dim. Uncertainty has led some investors to delay or abandon projects in the past few months. Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said if the tax credits are allowed to expire at the end of the year, “it will result in the loss of billions of dollars in new investments in solar.”

At this rate, I'm SO going to be on a "Morning, Sam" "Morning, Ralph"-basis with my Congresspersons. Feel free to contact yours.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Want To Be She May Be

This commercial warms my icy heart, combining as it improbably does my loves beee-YOO-teeful mermaids and totally spotless bathrooms.

Bless my buttons, so old am I I only saw color TV at Grandma's house until I was in high school. Imagine (or remember) what Adam West looked like in gray tights! Black and white left a little too much to the imagination. Even so, every graytone commercial for Weeki Wachee looked like a lightning bolt from the blue.
In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business. At the time, U.S. 19 was a small two-lane road. All the other roads were dirt; there were no gas stations, no groceries, and no movie theaters. More alligators and black bears lived in the area than humans.

The spring was full of old rusted refrigerators and abandoned cars. The junk was cleared out and Newt experimented with underwater breathing hoses and invented a method of breathing underwater from a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen from an air compressor, rather than from a tank strapped onto the back. With the air hose, humans could give the appearance of thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus. An 18-seat theater was built into the limestone, submerged six feet below the surface of the spring, so viewers could look right into the natural beauty of the ancient spring.

Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets. He put a sign out on U.S. 19: WEEKI WACHEE.

The first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened on October 13, 1947 - the same day that Kukla, Fran and Ollie first aired on that newfangled invention called television, and one day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. The mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.

In those days, cars were few. When the girls heard a car coming, they ran to the road in their bathing suits to beckon drivers into the parking lot, just like sirens of ancient lore lured sailors to their sides. Then they jumped into the spring to perform.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, I was probably two or three when I realized the most glamorous human beings on earth were wearing spangled costumes and sucking oxygen out of tubes 19 feet below the surface! The only way they could possibly be more miraculously fantaaaaaastic would be if they spent their days off waterskiing in tiara'd pyramids, like these ladies from Los Angeles, who are so glamorous you could just pet them all day. Some of us probably have.

Alas, my bathroom could be cleaner.


Not All the Prayers In the World Could Save Us

Oh, Jesus Christ:
The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”

What the fuck is wrong with these people that they can't even act in the best interest of their own goddamn LUNGS?
The derailment of the original E.P.A. report was first made known in March by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The refusal to open the e-mail has not been made public.

Funny thing about that: the cat's out of the bag. That ship's sailed. That frown turned upside down. Or whatever - get this:
In early December, the E.P.A.’s draft finding that greenhouse gases endanger the environment used Energy Department data from 2007 to conclude that it would be cost effective to require the nation’s motor vehicle fleet to average 37.7 miles per gallon in 2018, according to government officials familiar with the document.

About 10 days after the finding was left unopened by officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Congress passed and President Bush signed a new energy bill mandating an increase in average fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The day the law was signed, the E.P.A. administrator rejected the unanimous recommendation of his staff and denied California a waiver needed to regulate vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases in the state, saying the new law’s approach was preferable and climate change required global, not regional, solutions.

California’s regulations would have imposed tougher standards.

The Transportation Department made its own fuel-economy proposals public almost two months ago; they were based on the assumption that gasoline would range from $2.26 per gallon in 2016 to $2.51 per gallon in 2030, and set a maximum average standard of 35 miles per gallon in 2020.

Someone asked me yesterday if I thought we'd see $5 by the end of this year. With every bit of common sense left to me I blurted, "Of course! Does the Pope shit in the woods?" which is not nearly as profane as this gem:
In a speech in April, Mr. Bush called for an end to the growth of greenhouse gases by 2025 — a timetable slower than many scientists say is required. His chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality, James Connaughton, said a “train wreck” would result if regulations to control greenhouse gases were authorized piecemeal under laws like the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

I pray for the day we can scrape this bullshit off our collective shoe, but in the meantime, we're stuck with this piquant goo:
White House pressure to ignore or edit the E.P.A.’s climate-change findings led to the resignation of one agency official earlier this month: Jason Burnett, the associate deputy administrator. Mr. Burnett, a political appointee with broad authority over climate-change regulations, said in an interview that he had resigned because “no more constructive work could be done” on the agency’s response to the Supreme Court.

He added, “The next administration will have to face what this one did not.”

In that case, let's spend a little quality time with the Colbert Report and John McCain.

Off-shore drilling: it's the new black - for beaches, fish and wildlife.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Just An Old War, Not Even A Cold War

This is a real New York Times article dug up from the archives. Someone who is not me did the digging, though this article is on microfilm less than thirty feet from my desk at work. Two days ago, a commenter on Shakesville thought she was tearing me to pieces by saying my personal hindsight was not 20/20 vision. I laughed out loud in my living room. Because I've written my every stray thought since 1971, I know what I foresaw because I can re-read it. For instance, I predicted everything from institutionalized war crimes to Abu Gharaib, messy war expansion and a failing VA. I predicted the out of control administration would make the lives of its constituents worse and our returning soldiers would have a really hard time adjusting to civilian life, if they could at all. I predicted these things not because I'm clairvoyant, need a turban and should wear all-seeing fruit on my head. Nope. These things all happened before and because we as a society forgot, they were certain to happen again.

Last night, Pete made the simplest, most fantastic dinner of a few seared scallops resting in bowls of fresh gazpacho, whole wheat baguette with dipping oil and mixed greens. It was so light and delicious I predict we will eat that way all summer when we can. Further, when we can't, we will pine for it, because immediately after dinner, we made another pilgrimmage to Sears and Home Depot without feeling weighed down. I now possess a Brian Griffin Peanut Butter Jelly Time t-shirt, which may have been predictable but the $4.95 price tag sure wasn't. Unexpected Joy!

A section of my commute across the river has become dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. I've written three letters this morning, notifying people with of this public peril. A director's assistant here at the unnamed university called and was surprised when I wasn't deterred by "I'll relay your concerns." I'll keep writing. I predict nobody will do anything and by the end of the day, I'll be the pin-up crackpot at the Department of Transportation, and all of this is completely foreseeable if you're paying attention - to me, at least. But if I were going to really predict the future, I'd say you should stop what you're doing today, get to a garden store, buy some fruit and vegetable plants, and plan to grow your own food. Think I'm way off-base? Have you been watching the weather maps and the financial news?
The chaos that erupted outside Milwaukee County's main welfare office Monday over disaster-related food aid had more to do with a weak economy and crushing poverty in parts of this community than the devastating floods that swept through the state earlier this month, local government and food relief officials said.

About 3,000 people turned out for the assistance beginning at 3 a.m. Monday, creating a line that stretched several blocks around the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center at 1220 W. Vliet St. At least one woman said she was trampled when a crowd rushed the doors as they opened around 7:30 a.m., and dozens of Milwaukee police officers and sheriff's deputies were called to quell the scene.

"The food crisis in Milwaukee and throughout the United States is worse than many of us have realized," said Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines, who with other elected officials called on the community to support local food pantries.

"We expect long lines for free food in Third World countries," Hines said. "We don't expect a line of 2,500 people waiting for food vouchers" in Milwaukee. No one was seriously injured, and there were no arrests Monday, but those in line described the scene as chaotic. Many thought they would receive vouchers immediately, and frustration mounted when some learned that was not the case.

Perhaps you yourself are financially solvent. Good for you! Perhaps you're not. Ah, well. Neither is especially important to this particular bit of prognostication. Food banks are having trouble stocking their shelves. This phenomenon has meaning. The mortgage crisis means more people are moving out of homes and into rental properties. This has meaning. The midwest has been under water and crops have failed. This will resonate throughout the economy and the food supply. The average gas price nationally exceeds $4 per gallon, which will drive up the price of absolutely everything, including food. So: without getting excited or anxious, I predict that you will be much, much happier if you plant tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, mint and basil - vegetables you need and love - everywhere you can find a sunny pile of dirt.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Real Time Inverted Along A Faultline

Addendum to obituaries of George Carlin: it is still impossible to have an honest conversation about the wars in which our country is engaged. Most people have something to protect, and it isn't always what it might seem. Case in point: in the days following Hurricane Katrina, my co-worker Ellen asked if I thought the rescue missions were taking a bit long to launch. This interested me because her son is an Air Force pilot who has been involved in rescue missions all over the globe; he advised patience. Generally, I don't discuss politics in my office unless someone else raises a topic, but then I'll blurt what's on my mind.

Tata: They're letting people drown in the streets of a major American city because they're poor.

Ellen was a flight attendant in the sixties and has traveled the globe. Her eyes are open to a great many sights you and I will never lay eyes on.

Ellen: That can't be. I don't believe that.
Tata: We'll see.

And we did. Most of us now act as if it never happened because it is simply too monstrous to imagine that the United States did not mobilize Heaven and Earth to save its people, and we watched it on television. Remember how we used to hear that an astounding percentage of the populace believed everything on TV was real? I'm betting Katrina finally laid that problem to rest, along with 1836 real people who got voted off the Bayou. As the days passed, Ellen looked more shaken but said little, and gradually, we've found other, safer things to discuss. So I was surprised when she raised the topic of my cousin Tony, who shipped out to Iraq a couple of weeks ago.

Tata: I don't want to talk about it.
Ellen: You don't? My niece is going in November.
Tata: No, I don't want to talk about it. My family's lost its mind.
Ellen: It's 120 degrees and the wind is terrible. The conditions aren't good but the people want peace there.
Tata: What? There's a civil war going on there we know very little about, and we're eternally one pronouncement by Sadr away from total war on our people who, I'm sorry, don't stand a chance.
Ellen: The Iraqis - the people, they don't want -
Tata: If someone invaded your country, you'd be out in the streets throwing bombs, so why should you expect anything different because we did the invading?
Ellen: No, I wouldn't throw bombs. We wouldn't do that. The people -
Tata: Ellen, if someone invaded where you live, you would do something. You wouldn't just take it, would you?
Ellen: No, no. We aren't -
Tata: You're from Boston. Do the words THE BRITISH ARE COMING! ring a bell?

There you have it. Good people are paralyzed and mumbling; people who ought to know better want to believe we fight on the side of the angels, and that our cause is just. The trouble is that if we focus on the troops we lose sight of the generals, and the instigators behind them, who risk nothing, who will lose nothing, not even a night's sleep. For them, business is good, and, in post-Carlin America, it's still rude to talk about money.


Monday, June 23, 2008

To See It Once My Way

Oh George. I miss you already.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Now Lemme Get This Straight

Today's the Solstice, the year's longest day and the last day of the 180 days project, which went the way of the dodo when foliage blocked the view. I couldn't even be mad about it because: Hello! Foliage! My friend drew a labyrinth on the lawn of a church, so I went and walked it on my way to work. At its center, I left a bottle I've carried with me since 1996. It used to contain amber oil but now holds bits of broken glass. A labyrinth invites us to leave something behind and take something away. I left the symbol of everything about me that broke when Morgan left. I took away the question of how I might feel smooth if I didn't feel jagged anymore. Symbolism aside, summer's here, and I feel better already. I smell great too. Why?

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I'm practically nocturnal. Thus, every morning, I more or less tumble out of bed, get a pint of water, walk into a few walls, then try counting how many fingers I'm holding up. Most of the year, I do this in the dark, which is a real treat. Come springtime, I'm sick of myself, the stale indoor air and the too-cozy cucumber, shay or cocoa butter products I've been using all winter. I need something new to kick my ass and moisturize my skin. By spring, I crave grapefruit body wash. Orange, lemon or lime will do in a pinch, but grapefruit is the citrus bomb. Good thing it comes with this:

How to use: Pour onto moistened pouf, sponge, washcloth or hands. Work into lather and rinse. Avoid contact with eyes.

At 6:15 a.m., I can't be counted on to know that stuff isn't eyewash. But hang on! No self-respecting diva uses fewer than four products during even the quickest shower. What about the special needs of my glorious visage?

The Alba Coconut Milk Facial Wash may be the single most fantastic accidental discovery of my illustrious accident-prone career. A natural beauty can be careless about where she put her Pulitzer, but not about her skin. I was standing in the organic products ghetto at the grocery store in my home town, staring at a bunch of bottles because about twice a day I'm going to wash my face, and it might be nice to use something vaguely soap-like. Whatever, right? I love coconut-scented crap, so I thought I'd give this a try. Anyhoo, I would not care even the tiniest iota if this stuff were made of toxic waste because twice a day I put a dime-size drop of this goo in my palm, add water and slather all over my face, where it smells like DELICIOUS GIRL SCOUT COOKIES! Using Alba Coconut Milk Facial Wash is like washing your face with chocolately THIN MINTS WITHOUT YOU DOUBLING IN SIZE! Ooh, and it comes with thoughtful advice:

Directions for use: Apply a small amount of cleanser to palm and gently massage over face and neck. Rinse clean and pat dry. Avoid contact with eyes.

Sense a theme?


Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Personality Crisis Edition

I am sitting at my desk in a brown and tan dress I bought Sunday when my former mother-in-law died. Interesting coincidence: the husband of my co-worker drowned in the Atlantic in a storm, which is a lot easier to explain than drowning in one's garage, for instance; even so, there would have been significantly less need for explanation if he'd been wearing a life jacket. Probably. And now I'm wearing a big old dress and my department's caravaning to a funeral home below sea level.

Lovely Topaz lounges on the table next to my spot on the couch. The pussycats are shedding like mad now. Pete's surprised when he scritches Topaz and enough fur comes off that we could knit ourselves a kitten. For her part, Topaz will now sit between us on the couch sometimes and let us pet her. This trust is new and we pretend not to notice. It's funny to lie to a cat.

Madame Topaz is a sweet and timid person disguised as a lovesick teenage pussycat, except that on very rare occasions she will fall asleep on my lap. Mostly, Pete's lap and mine belong to Drusy, but once in a blue moon the black cat is Topaz. Here, she is napping a foot from my face, listening to me talk. Topaz always knows when I am talking about her and pretends not to eavesdrop when the topic is anything else.

I dislike the idea of wishing away time but can't wait for this week to end.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Of Anything At All


William "Jim" Haynes II, the man who blessed the use of dogs, hoods and nudity to pry information out of recalcitrant detainees, proved to be a model of evasion himself as he resisted all attempts at inquiry by the Armed Services Committee.

Did he ask a subordinate to get information about harsh questioning techniques?

"My memory is not perfect."

Did he see a memo about the effects of these techniques?

"I don't specifically remember when I saw this."

Did he remember doing something with the information he got?

"I don't remember doing something with this information."

When did he discuss these methods with other Bush administration officials?

"I don't know precisely when, and I cannot discuss it further without getting into classified information."

"I don't recall seeing this memorandum before and I'm not even sure this is one I've seen before. . . . I don't recall seeing this memorandum and I don't recall specific objections of this nature. . . . Well, I don't recall seeing this document, either. . . . I don't recall specific concerns. . . . I don't recall these and I don't recall seeing these memoranda. . . . I can't even read this document, but I don't remember seeing it. . . . I don't recall that specifically. . . . I don't remember doing that. . . . I don't recall seeing these things."

In two hours of testimony, Haynes managed to get off no fewer than 23 don't recalls, 22 don't remembers, 16 don't knows, and various other protestations of memory loss.

Our Watergate hearing nightmares have become the horror of our waking life.

Labels: ,

In the Dark, You Know Where

Governor Bobby Jindal
State of Louisiana

Dear Governor Jindal,

I was delighted to learn that SB 733, the LA Science Education Act passed votes in both houses of the Louisiana legislature, and that you intend to sign it. Your determination in the face of logic has always impressed me, like that time in college you exorcised demons from a woman. When I was in college, that's not what we called it, but hey, go you!

SB 733 is an attempt to introduce intelligent design into the schools, though it's a very thinly disguised attempt, like if everyone at the hilarious Discovery Institute wore mustaches on False Witness Fridays. But let's not get picky. Sign that bill and you do the residents of every other state a tremendous favor. Even Guam might send you a thank-you note. See: once you've taken the science out of science education in Louisiana, everyone else stands a better chance at getting into college. Once again: go you!

As a resident of New Jersey and the daughter of a science teacher, I had to thank you for doing your very best to elevate real science education by undermining it for your youngest constituents. I thank you, polytechnic institutes around the world taking fewer American students thank you and the job market thanks you. Too bad about those trusting little children you're condemning to a life of frustration, poverty and amusing righteous indignation. Isn't WalMart hiring?

Best wishes in your future endeavors. I look forward to the next thing you do to make American public life sillier and more dangerous for the rest of us.

Princess Tata

Crossposted at Agitprop.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Stars Already Crossed

I need to catch my breath. This is not the song I went looking for, but I couldn't resist the dreadful eighties hair and makeup.

I love Thomas Dolby with my whole black heart. The other song: maybe I'll get to that later.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is Wrong With You Is Wrong With Me

Yesterday, through an absolutely unreproducible series of circumstances, Daria and I missed the funeral. Auntie InExcelsisDeo and her daughter Monday drove like Jehu and skidded to a halt in the Jewish Cemetery, dressed like they were going to the beach. Monday was wearing her sister Sandy's clothes, so I hope the word JUICY wasn't printed across her butt. We were all caught flat-footed by the timing of the ceremony. I tried to remain calm in the face of this potentially disastrous morning, but Daria took a somewhat different approach, and by approach, I mean she approached a few drive-thrus.

Yesterday, Daria called me six times that I know of because checking my messages seems a little perilous right now. I'm not so great with the phone, while Daria's will one day graft itself to her ear. Anyway, after lunch, Daria called to tell me she'd gathered her wits and her recycling, her drycleaning and her children, and rolled out the giant Ford Excoriator. First, she stopped at Taco Bell for her middle child Sandro. There, she couldn't decide what she wanted, if she wanted anything, so she ordered a Mexican pizza, a crunchy gordito and something else shiny. After letting go of the drycleaning and the recycling, Daria hit the McDonald's to pick up chicken nuggets for tiny Fifi and couldn't decide between an Angus Third Pounder and a chicken sandwich. Because, you know, because!

Tata: Put three of those things in your freezer immediately and throw one away.
Daria: I'll eat something and Tyler will eat the rest when he gets home.
Tata: I do not have to tell you that some things do not improve with age, and hello! Didn't you two just spend about a year on NutriSystem?
Daria: Well, yes. But three more and I can start my Ph.Diet. So yeah, I'm not good with the letting go of stuff.

Sometimes, the subconscious serves it up piping hot, with pickles, to go. If I hadn't been at work I might've been wandering around a parking lot at Wendy's.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

All the Dues I Want To Pay

This afternoon, I walked around and around a store until I forced myself to pick something unobtrusive and in normal colors like gentle brown and quiet tan. I tried it on and was only moderately horrified. Even so, I hesitated. Finally, I took this monstrously overpriced gunnysack to the cashier, a woman of some taste and - judging by her blouse - terrible eyesight. I bit my lip.

Tata: If I were your former daughter-in-law and I showed up at your funeral in this dress, would you haunt me?
Cashier: Wh...what? No! [Confidentially:] Is she really dead?

Obviously, my lack of deeply inculcated religious belief of any kind is showing. I'm not reflexively as fearful of God as I am of wrath. But who doesn't fear wrath? Thus, I watched the first half-hour of Planet Green's Greensburg with the trepidation of the tornado-fearful and the impatience of a person whose imaginary friends might be symptoms. I almost changed the channel when the high school student said God sent twelve men to lift a truck off Grandpa, but Pete and I simultaneously grabbed at the remote when a whole town full of white people standing in front of huge piles of matchsticks said God was with them. Guess who was a carpenter!

I had high hopes for this show, but I can't stand all this talk about blue-eyed Jesus. After they're done being traumatized, I'll have a look at the green rebuilding efforts. Generally speaking, I might be a little cranky about greenovating. Years ago, I was part of a college radio comedy troupe comprised of 40-odd odd people, mostly musical technophiles and dancing computer nerds. Recently, I asked the erstwhile comedians to help me choose a composting technology to cope with some tricky conditions. As a line of inquiry, it seemed like a fantastic fit: a complex problem that happened to be both hilariously smelly and potentially puke-inducing. Almost no one gave it much thought. I considered throwing a hissy when I didn't catch on, but then I took a step back. Finally, I asked the group a question: without implying any judgment, I'd like to know why a group of homeowning nerds, most of whom have children and therefore a vested interest in the future, demonstrates little interest in green tech?

I've read a few answers and I still don't know. If plugged-in ubernerds aren't interested and buy SUVs, that has meaning. I have to think about this more. In the meantime, my sister Daria is full of crazy.

Daria: I didn't even know the Marcal came from recycled paper until you told me. I turned over the package and there it was!
Tata: So look at you go!
Daria: Yeah, I had a coupon. I bet that store you're haunting doesn't have any recycled paper products unless you're there.
Tata: What?
Daria: They see you coming and they all run to the back. "Here she comes! Get the paper towels!"
Tata: An entire grocery store chain is now humoring me?
Daria: Yup. They've got you on radar.
Tata: That explains this exotic and blinking ankle bracelet I don't remember buying.
Daria: Did you think there was a jewelry maker named COURT ORDERED. DO NOT REMOVE?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

She Is Dancing Away From You Now

I've been a little distracted, for which I apologize. Let's revisit this moment from Miss Sasha's wedding.
In the lobby, we line up and march in. Sharkey's got me by one arm and good thing because I keep trying to sprint in silver brocade slippers with an adorable kitten heel. I sit down next to my former Mother-In-Law, who couldn't be more marvelous if she were dipped in gold. Sharkey slides in next to me. My five-year-old nephews Tippycanoe and Tyler Two march to the priest with all the dignity ring-bearing little boys in suits can muster just before they need cookies and naps. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) delivers the bride to her groom in an arcane series of steps. Yesterday, I described this to my sister Daria.

Tata: This. That. This. That. This. That. I said to the priest, "We will never, never remember all this."
Daria: It's that complicated?
Tata: This Virginia Reel had better have a really good caller.

He sits down next to his mother. The bride and groom turn to face the priest and then it happens. Simultaneously, every member of my family sits up straight and starts twitching. The priest talks. The choir sings. The priest talks. The choir sings. The priest talks and talks. The back of Miss Sasha's wedding dress has my complete and undivided attention. A bow in the middle of her back appears to have unsnapped and it dangles. I whisper to Sharkey, "The whole left side of the church is trying to fix that bow telepathically." Meanwhile, my former Mother-In-Law is narrating in the way only older people get away with.

fMIL: That is a lovely dress. Of course, she's a beautiful girl. It's too bad about the rain. Your cousins look marvelous in their gowns. Which one is your sister? Have you ever been in this church before? That's your mother's choir, isn't it? They're not with the church. What beautiful voices! Isn't that Tom with the choir too? Is he singing? I'm so glad, that makes it special...

I am not at all encouraging her by asking questions. That would be rude.

A year later, the best man comes to escort me to the altar, where I am inexplicably trusted with something ON FIRE. Up the steps, off to the left and my wrist corsage gets caught on a flower arrangement behind me. The assembled gasp. I yank my arm free, though I fail to break anything. I light the candle and CLOP CLOP CLOP back to my seat. Everyone laughs.

fMIL: That really lightened the mood!
Tata: Thank you, darling!

This morning, my former mother-in-law passed away in Florida, on her own terms and at peace. My family, which never separated itself from the Fabulous Ex-Husband's (tm) after the divorce, will turn out for services in the coming days. We admired her greatly. This story illustrates why:

When Isabel and Ray fell in love in New York, it probably didn't seem like it could work out. Isabel was from the wrong side of the tracks and Ray's small family revolved around his mother, who wanted things just so. When Ray brought Isabel to meet his mother, they sat in the cramped kitchen until Isabel could stand it no more. She walked to the closed parlor were everything was covered in plastic slipcovers, pushed open the doors and said, "Why don't we talk in here?"

From then on, the parlor doors were never closed again.

* * *

Travel in light, Poor Impulsives.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Read My Circuit Diagram

Hat tip: that guy in the next cubicle who also sends me This Modern World.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And Shouting Out Rude Names

After a brief vacation, hiking in the Great Outdoors, Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief reports:
Unintended side effect of trip: work feels like an unforgivably criminal waste of human potential. I'm positive that I am the only person who has ever felt this way. Really. You betcha.

Image: Johnny, used courtesy of the artist, who has a great future ahead of him illustrating staff meetings.

Less than an hour later, Johnny wrote to say that since the hospital in which he labored was bought yesterday by a Christian healthcare conglomerate anxious to remove abortion from the list of possible services, perhaps updating the old resume was an excellent use of time.

"Don't worry," I said, "Art therapy is on the way!"

From Sharkey, who shares the Poor Impulsive's need to entertain himself with art and fast, comes Today and Tomorrow - molto interesante! - and this wild idea:

‘Passive Aggressive Anger Release Machine’ is an interactive sculpture by Yarisal and Kublitz. Experience the most satisfying feeling when a piece of China breaks into million pieces . All you have to do is insert a coin, and a piece of China will Slowly move forwards and fall into the bottom of the machine, breaking, and leaving you happy and relieved of anger.

[Sic, sic, sic.] My favorite thing about that image is the chalkboard to the right and the words Canadian food.

You see, art school is not just for dirty hippies. No, it takes real talent and insight into human nature to divine that somewhere a Christian healthcare conglomerate is buying up hospitals and women are going to die, which might create just a little stress on the staff. Inserting a coin and smashing a Chinese kitty into a million easily contained pieces might help, but I'd go for the positively tragic romantic couple figurine. Hope the condom didn't break for the little lovers! Just add money and schadenfreude and someone's going to crash.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You Know I'll Be There

It's Tuesday, 100 degrees and Sharkey is predictable.

Tata: Golfing?
Sharkey: Tonight, after work.
Tata: Daria says your going to play golf is the funniest thing she's heard in years.
Sharkey: What can I say, I'm a funny guy. Tell her I appreciate her concern for my wellbeing.
Tata: She's got pneumonia so you'll be pleased to hear the laughter almost killed her.
Sharkey: You're right, that IS funny.


Monday, June 09, 2008

As Close As Three-Part Harmony

I love this gorgeous image. I love the expression on his face. I love the determination in her jaw. I love the unity of purpose. I love the vivid purple of her dress. I love that they're approximately the same height. I love the simplicity of We. I love the confidence. I love their belief in one another. I love their handsomeness. I love the firmness of trust. I love this image. I love this image of boundless love.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Of the Lip Or Another

Pete and I have been working up to tiling the bathroom. I've never tiled before but after some instruction, I did the simple stuff while Pete cut tiles. We worked like a dog team for hours and tiled two-thirds of the shower in bright white with one slim, light gray stripe. The improvement over what we're replacing is vast. Also today: I cut our lettuce down and tomorrow, I'll plant three kinds of lettuces for the coming weeks.

Flying Spaghetti Monster! I can't lift my arms!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Full Of Jelly Jars Edition

A couple of months ago on a sunny Saturday, I worked at the family gift shop while my stepdad Tom manned the till at the toy store. During a fabulous dull stretch, we basked in the sun and chatted about biodegradable diapers. Tom is a biologist and up on the news. Tom said there have been recent studies of landfills where drilling down into a pile brought up decades-old pieces of carrot, still orange and carroty and not at all biodegraded because landfill isn't composting, it's storage. I've mulled this over at great length, and happen to be sitting at the World's Largest Encyclopedia. Let's ask it if stuff biodegrades in landfills.

Atticus surveys the 99 steps down to the Great Lake Darla lives above in her new home in Canada.

Organic substances “biodegrade” when they are broken down by other living organisms (such as enzymes and microbes) into their constituent parts, and in turn recycled by nature as the building blocks for new life. The process can occur aerobically (with the aid of oxygen) or anaerobically (without oxygen). Substances break down much faster under aerobic conditions, as oxygen helps break the molecules apart.

Landfills Too Tightly Packed for Most Trash to Biodegrade
Most landfills are fundamentally anaerobic because they are compacted so tightly, and thus do not let much air in. As such, any biodegradation that does take place does so very slowly.

“Typically in landfills, there’s not much dirt, very little oxygen, and few if any microorganisms,” says green consumer advocate and author Debra Lynn Dadd. She cites a landfill study conducted by University of Arizona researchers that uncovered still-recognizable 25-year-old hot dogs, corncobs and grapes in landfills, as well as 50-year-old newspapers that were still readable.

Well. That is shitty news, but it's not really news, which is one reason we always had a compost pile when I lived at Mom's house. Look, I was a commune kid. The gas crisis of the seventies for me conjures images of Mom sitting in gas lines, crying. I shut off lights, turn off water, and I am acutely aware of the ugly mess o' compostibles I'm not composting, but while I live in an apartment, what can I do? Wa$ted, an eco game show from New Zealand combining cold cash and hot schadenfreude, introduced - to me, at least - the notion of worm farming. This seems like a great idea for someone.

Atticus descends the stairs to the forest. I wonder if he remembers sleeping on my head.

Some folks sort the worms out of the castings and put the worms in fresh bedding. We have other things to do with our time and prefer a split harvest method. It helps if you have trained your worms ahead of time for this harvest method. To train your worms, you start feeding them at only one end of the bin. Do this for about a week. (Worms learn pretty fast.) Now take the bedding/castings out of the end of the farm where you were not feeding them and add it to your plants or garden. You will be removing about half to two thirds of the bedding/castings in this step. You will lose some worms, but those were the ones that were not very smart. Remember you trained the others.

Flying Spaghetti Monster! Train worms? I can't join that chicken outfit! - though, apparently worm training is hilarious. Back to shopping for another composting method. This shows promise, though it uses electricity:

Darla says Atticus roams far and wide and has introduced himself to the neighbors, Step 1 in his plan to hold some municipal office.

How it works: Deposit food waste items at any time, on any day. Add up to 120 lbs (55kg) per month. For best results, cut items into small pieces. Items remain in the upper chamber, with "hot composting" conditions: mixing, air flow, heat, and moisture (see diagram). The energy released destroys odors, pathogens, and seed germination. The compost is later transferred through a trap door to the lower cure tray chamber, where it continues to compost while you add fresh waste items to the upper chamber.

Interesting...interesting. I do wonder what someone who lives in a little home on the hundredth floor does with resulting buckets of nitrogen-rich soil, though I could march outside and dump compost into the complex's flower beds. It's a step in some right direction, but shall we dance?

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Luck Sees Us the Same

A zillion years ago, a man looked at his datebook, struggled with English and asked, "What's Jesus Flying Day?"

Jesus may fly but Mark Hollis is a god. This song, which I love with my whole tattered black heart, sounds to me like Judas sitting on a wooden chair at the window, staring at the bleak wintry countryside, asking himself what happened - unless it's Jesus, and oh boy.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Unlock the Secret Voice

My co-worker has been unloading spare plants. Yesterday, I turned the corner and my cubicle was full of hostas in a giant black trash bag.

If you're asking yourself, "Hey Ta, did Topaz and Drusy leap and gambol about the plants in your living room, did you in fact pedal your bicycle from your place to Pete's with those hostas in the basket, and did I hear you cackling from the other side of the Turnpike?" then the answers are yes, yes and yes, and if you didn't know, a giant bag of plant life is freaking heavy.

In Pete's front yard, we find two scrabbly patches busily eroding under the tall trees that line the avenue. Rumor has it hostas spread and take over, which wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to a scrabbly patch in full shade. My cubicle survived a narrow escape.

Are My Hands Clean?

Voice of America News:

The estimates of the number of Chinese people still in prison for their activities in 1989 range from 50 to 200.

John Kamm, whose San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation tracks political prisoners in China, says the list of so-called June 4 prisoners includes people all over the country.

"There's a fellow called Liu Zhihua, in Hunan," said . He's the last of a group of workers that organized one of the largest worker strikes in 1989, at the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Factory. Leader Chen Gang, everyone else, has been released. He's still in. There's a peasant in Guizhou, by the name of Hu Xinghua, Miao nationality, set up something called the Chinese People's Solidarity Party. He's still in."

Kamm's organization and other human rights groups are calling on the Chinese government to release people put in jail for their 1989 activities, as a goodwill gesture before the Beijing Olympics in August.

"China, if you want to do something to improve your image, how about setting free the remaining June 4 prisoners, putting June 4 behind you?" he said.

The Guardian:

The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

- snip! -

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

- snip! -

The Reprieve study includes the account of a prisoner released from Guantánamo Bay, who described a fellow inmate's story of detention on an amphibious assault ship. "One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantánamo ... he was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo."

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's legal director, said: "They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights.

"By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been 'through the system' since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them."

Twenty-six thousand.

Crossposted at Blanton's and Ashton's.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Around Your Old Address

Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.
— G. K. Chesterton

When one spends a great deal of time with a chef one doesn't so much lose one's waistline as develop a circumference. I am eager to get moving. Thus, last weekend, Pete and I conquered household tasks at his place together and separately, and with vigor. I went out and worked on the garden, which was reassuring. While I had my hands in dirt I was in no way making and eating exotic sandwiches. This reminds me: jazz, Georg and I and a dozen or so of our friends used to go camping and during the few hours between I Meant To Do That and When Does the Bar Open?, we played a glamorous game called I Am A Sandwich. It was like Twenty Questions, except with lettuce and tomatoes, and everyone's goal was to get over on the group with some obscure cheesy goodness. Speaking of tomatoes, I staked up the tomato plants with bamboo poles and zip ties, in anticipation of the day when fresh mozzarella and basil solve the problem of pomodoro prosperity.

One of my least favorite tasks is transplanting and tying up the bean plants. Pete had sowed the seeds generously, so I had to spread out my little hostages and wrapped a bit of cotton string around each. I tied the other end to a line stretching across each row. Beanstalks, as every child knows, climb to the firmament, though most stop after about three feet and seldom cost a cow. I transplanted my fingers to the bone but I only tied up about one-third of my leafy captives before moving on to other tasks like mulching, food prep and plotting the cocktail hour. You get just one 5 p.m. each day, and gin isn't going to drink itself!

Yesterday was the anniversary of Steve Gilliard's passing, and at the Group News Blog, you will find heartfelt laments. I can't add to that, and if I could, what would it bring into being? At lunchtime, I drove to Home Depot in glorious sunshine, bought four bags of shredded pine bark and after work, put down mulch with Gilly in mind. I used to go dancing when someone died because grief needs a place to go and we can't let it settle or it stays. Likewise, the house we care for now was the place Pete's family moved when his mother died, and grief settled in. Painting, gardening, sewing seeds and making repairs in anticipation of life celebrates what we had and what we will. So for Gilly, I put pine bark around a bed of decorative and fruit trees. In ways we are still learning, he was so very wise.


Boys In Bikinis, Girls On Surfboards

A few weeks ago, I started hearing a song in my head I didn't recognize, and didn't know where I'd heard it. With rings on my fingers and bells on my toes, I shall have music wherever the hell, and for a person who goes nowhere, I sure do get around. On Friday, I realized it was playing on Altrok Radio, so I called up Sean and said, "This is your demographic speaking. What is the name of this song?"

Sean said, "Sing it for me."

I said, "It doesn't have words I can hear but it's like a Beach Boys song played by Peter Gabriel's band after an exceptional night with hot- and cold-running vodka."

It's Yeasayer and 2080. This video made by a fan is a patient and lovely rendering of the piece. YouTube has a live studio version - which I would usually prefer - but I hear the singer's nerves.

I like it even better now that I recognize lyrics.