Saturday, February 28, 2009

Know Whose Shirts You Wear

OH. MY. GOD. Is Zach Braff writing commercials?

When the chopper hits the sink I spit whatever I'm drinking. I giggle when he says, "Martini bikini." When he asks us to check out his anatomy, I laugh like an eighth grader. But when he promises to make America skinny with a nut chopper, I laugh and applaud. That, my friends, is comic gold.

Friday, February 27, 2009

I'll Tell the Story Again

As I was driving to work this morning, Matt and Leslie were talking about this family that couldn't pay the mortgage and was selling its cave on EBay.

Me: I will gazoogle that when I get to work and write something pithy.
Me: Are you lisping?
Me: Note: don't talk to self while wearing ear muffs.

I didn't really know this but people live in some plush caves with some odd stories.

The family is hoping to raise enough money so they can stay in their home. But if things don't go as planned, they will give it up. The starting bid is $300,000.

The cave home is complete with all the modern amenities - a kitchen, laundry room and even a party room. It also has some unique features.

The eBay description says that geothermal and passive solar keep the house cool and warm without the use of a heater or air conditioning. And the house has its own ground water source, which yields an average of 100 gallons a day.

That sounds fantastic. I'd be heartbroken if that were my in-foreclosure home. From EBay:
The back chamber still has the stage where Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Ike and Tina Turner, the MC5 and many other bands performed.

I'm speechless. I've worked in bars that felt like caves but - in retrospect - there were few actual bats. So it turns out caves are for sale. Something about that suggests comic disaster in the offing, but if it is, it's at least convenient to wherever you are. In Bizbee, Arizona, one finds a beautiful cave/canyon complex with lovely bathrooms and abright sun room. I didn't expect that. Halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis, the owner of Jacob's Cave is retiring and the cave is for sale. I didn't know cave ownership included employment prospects, but then I'm learning a great deal about handicap-accessible geology, so don't rush me. In Dallas, we find a market for unfinished caves.
Own Your Own Wine Cellar!! Cave Travels 1400' Deep into the Mountain. White River Cave Located Just North of Rockmart in Polk County just Off Highway 113. Cave has Stream & Waterfall Far in the Back. Entrance From Top of Mountain Too! Also 2 Large Caverns far under the Mountain. Beautiful Building Site on Top of the Mountain Above The Cave Entrance. Incredible Cool Breeze Exiting Cave as You Enter Cave. Cave Homes are very popular in Spain. Several Caves For Sale in the USA. All over 1 Million Dollars. Great Investment Property! Call Tim 770-356-0708. See more pictures & info at Asking $139,900

In New Jersey, we call that and a realtor an 'attractive nuisance' and bust out the caution tape. Don't get me wrong, cave living done right sounds fantastic and ecologically sound. People have lived in caves since the beginning of time. Passive solar heating and cooling have a certain timeless appeal. Who wouldn't want a bright sun room and spelunkers ringing the doorbell? I guess this is the uneven hem of my class and location showing, but I'm surprised and I'm not sure why. One of those caveowners is asking about $900,000. That's a high-end cave. At the other end of the spectrum, one imagines people without means taking refuge in modest economy-caves with few amenities, which may or may not be a step up from living under a bridge, as people do here.

I guess the sad novelty of this story lies in the fact that, in 2009, the economy is so bad banks may force people out of caves and onto the street. For me at least, that is an unexpected discovery indeed.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

In the Attic Toys

This is interesting. Meet Carl Malamud, whom BoingBoing calls a "rogue archivist." Carl is the only person I've ever known with his own zip code - but enough about me, what's Carl on about?
This is a bit unconventional, but I have launched a front-port campaign to be nominated Public Printer of the United States. I'm inspired by Gus Geigengack, a working printer who convinced FDR to name him to the post.

I am thrilled to have such a distinguished committee backing my efforts, including the Honorable Cory Doctorow and the Honorable Mark Frauenfelder from Boing Boing.

To endorse my nomination, simply comment on any blog post (like this one!), tweet me, or send me email. The endorsements will be harvested, set into a book, and released as a free PDF file with paper copies dispatched to the White House Office of Personnel.

Thank you for your support.

The occasion of my acquaintance with Carl was that I was business manager of a radio comedy show and Carl was creating internet radio. Yeah, that guy. We were the first comedy show on internet radio and Carl was a stickler for deadlines. Ever manage a comedy troupe? Herding cats would be easier, so Carl's attention was kind of a double-edged sword for us. In particular, Mr. Wintle, who found this story, and I tore out our hair getting DAT to the post office. Thus, I was really interested to see at Yes We Scan where Carl was turning his pointy pointy attentions now.
Please allow me to highlight a few of the items that I think we all need to pay attention to, and I invite you to contact me so we can continue to talk about these issues.

I'm skeert! And I'm fresh out of hot pink wigs!
1. America's Operating System. The Government Printing Office serves all 3 branches of government and prints the Official Journals of Government. GPO should lead the effort to make all primary legal materials produced by the U.S. readily available. [more]

2. Librarians. Librarians are the bedrock of the public domain and the defenders of our fundamental right to access knowledge. GPO should work even more closely with our libraries and reform the Federal Depository Library Program to support them better. [more]

3. Jobs. As commodity printing goes the way of the PDF file and the copy machine, GPO must retrain and refocus its workforce, working with the unions and the employees so we may face the challenges of the future. If nominated and confirmed, I would work to establish a United States Publishing Academy, reviving the grand tradition of GPO being in the lead for workforce development, vocational training for students, and educating the rest of the U.S. government on how to print and publish effectively. [more]

4. Security. GPO produces passports and other secure documents. The current design for passports uses an RFID chip, which means that an American can be picked out of a crowd merely by having a passport in their pocket. If nominated and confirmed, I would ask security expert Bruce Schneier to form a Blue-Ribbon Commission to reexamine the design of passports and other secure documents so we can better protect the privacy and security of all Americans.

The seals of approval are a nice touch. Seems Carl's on the side of the angels after all. The RFID chips should have been a giant red DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! flag but instead - what? Sensible people who should've known better got passports and RFID-chipped in the name of freaking safety.

Carl's manifesto is indeed interesting. I'm willing to put aside my feelings about that year he made life a glamorous living hell because I've watched what the GPO has been doing for the last eight years and know it must change. You have no such impediment, but you're probably looking forward to improved government transparency. Will you endorse Carl?

It's A Thousand Pages, Give Or Take A Few

I really needed a good laugh.
Limbaugh To Convene A ‘Female Summit’ To Figure Out Why Women Hate Him

That'll do it.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

With Every Mistake We Must Surely Be

This morning, my friend of 30 years walked toward me in the library and whispered in my ear, "Dad's dead." His relationship with his father was, as so many of ours are, not without its complexities. I listened to him talk for half an hour, complicating my relationship with my job. Then I quoted a poet of our mutual acquaintance: Alice B. Talkless. Once there were many black kings, I said. Once there were many red kings, I said. There were many black holes full of things that did not fit.

"That's me," he laughed. "That's me, that's me."


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mean But I'm Changing My Scene

When I moved to Pete's house, I gave up cable, which had a few PBS stations I truly miss and a whole mess o' instructional videos I could use whenever I felt like it. The yoga videos were just as good for laughs as for stretching. A very satisfied-looking gentleman smiled a great deal as he conducted class, and I could just hear him as he gazed at his lovely assistant - oh yes, there was gazing - 'I am a very handsome man, and Suzanne is lissome in unspeakable ways, and we're going to spend this very afternoon investigating the body dharma here in San Souci. Don't forget to hold each pose for five breaths.' I miss that guy.

Pete's house has the dish, and with it, different channels. The trainwreck I can't stop watching is called Veria, and it is amazing.

What what what?

It's supposed to be programming about healthy living but I've noticed that such programs tend to omit just as many important words as they include so I end up with piles of questions. Everyone is starch-white and has a weird smile and speaks slowly. It's that red flag that hints at a cult, but I don't get how to connect that signal with what I see, which are excruciatingly serious talk shows about herbal work and alternative medicine and some pretty exciting forms of yoga I'll have to work up to trying. I mean, what the hell's going on?

When Amanda McQuade-Crawford discusses enemas you must not, under any circumstances, laugh.

The other day, I rowed for 30 minutes during a show about Dr. Bronner, who I thought all these years was a cult figure. Short answer: sort of. What? The same series profiled the man who created homeopathic medicine. He's got some nitwit followers who should never venture near a microphone again in support of their guru.

Anyway, what made me think of this was Sunday's (yes, I am rowing a whole lot) show about brewing herbal extracts and fermented Korean health beverages. I almost fell over when the herbalist said the next preparation involved rum. I surmised from surveying the channel that nobody touched a drop of demon rum. Now I wonder if they're all just drunk.


Monday, February 23, 2009

And It's Going To Break Sometime

Just so know: when Cinema Paradiso is on really late on a school night and you really want to watch it and you know you're up too late but - but - but - Cinema Paradiso! and you watch most of it in your living room and creep upstairs to lie in bed, pausing only to brush your teeth in a negligent whirlwind manner you will surely regret, and when you lie in bed with one eye open because surely that is close to sleep and that scene you can't bear to live without seeing is on soon soon soon and you promise yourself you'll close the other eye in a minute but you don't a few times, well, you are not actually sleeping, and you will regret that, probably.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Course Of A Lifetime Run

I swear I've been to parties that look like this Korean ice cream commercial.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lost As You I Swear I Am

I am ambivalent about reunions of any kind. For instance, I'd rather chew off my foot than attend my high school reunion, though I imagine the startled looks when people my age are old and I am still getting better looking, which is like a curse, only ...not. This morning, WRXP's Matt Pinfield was talking on the radio about tomorrow's Melody Bar reunion. It's all over Facebook and friends can't stop blabbing about it. I was there. It was cool and I was there. But how uncool is it to drag the black leather out of the back of your closet a decade or two after you left the scene and tell your former friends in mid-life crises your Mowhawk was just a phase?

What if you just want to dance?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

In For Bingo All the Nines

Get a load of this horseshit.
ND measure says fertilized egg has human rights

Aha. Lunch is in an hour, but I can start throwing up now.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A measure approved by the North Dakota House gives a fertilized human egg the legal rights of a human being, a step that would essentially ban abortion in the state.

The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended abortion rights nationwide, supporters of the legislation said.

Representatives voted 51-41 to approve the measure Tuesday. It now moves to the North Dakota Senate for its review.

The bill declares that "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens" is a person protected by rights granted by the North Dakota Constitution and state laws.

The measure's sponsor, Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said the legislation did not automatically ban abortion. Ruby has introduced bills in previous sessions of the Legislature to prohibit abortion in North Dakota.

"This language is not as aggressive as the direct ban legislation that I've proposed in the past," Ruby said during House floor debate on Tuesday. "This is very simply defining when life begins, and giving that life some protections under our Constitution — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Until they're born, then they have the right to starve, shiver and go suck an egg.
Critics of the measure say it will cost millions of dollars to defend. Ruby said the state has been willing to go to bat for other principles that were less important.

In Oklahoma, meanwhile, a state House committee Tuesday approved legislation that would prohibit physicians from performing abortions solely on account of the gender of a woman's fetus, even though the measure's author said there is no evidence the practice has ever occurred in the state.

The legislation passed 20-2 by the House Public Health Committee. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

The author of the bill, Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, said it is designed to stop couples from using the gender of a fetus as a reason to get an abortion. Sullivan said a doctor would be prohibited from performing an abortion if the mother specifically said the fetus' sex was the reason.

However, he said there is no evidence the practice has occurred in Oklahoma. "I haven't received any definite information that proves it," Sullivan said.

I can't find mention of this on CNN, which is certainly curious.

One of my sisters rejects the idea that Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned. Won't hear a word of it. Won't listen to discussion of current events and votes Republican. This attitude is not uncommon, actually.

How you like those Republicans now?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Extra Time And Your

Her name is exactly what you think it is when you look at her but we're calling her Doris. She's the hygienist at my dentist's office and I have seen her exactly twice. The first time, two weeks before my braces came off, was the week her husband left her and the children. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but the last thing you want is someone having a crying jag while sticking sharp objects into your gums. I love my dentist but it was two years before I worked up the nerve to make an appointment for another teeth cleaning.

Mercy, mercy, Doris' life is moving on even as time stops while I'm sitting in her chair. She remembers me. She asks how I've been. I can't tell the nice lady with the sad blue eyes that the memory of our last encounter haunts me and causes me to brush longer, so I tell her two years ago my life turned upside down, but things are better, and here I am. She tells me her brother drank himself to death and her estranged sister-in-law won't release the ashes. On a case by case basis I can be a compassionate person, but Doris' case has lost its handles. Thank Vishnu I've been using an electric toothbrush.

Speaking of not handling things well, there may be a better way to handle this.
Stop smooching.

That's the message of a new sign that went up outside a train station in northern England on Monday.

The goal is to stop departing passengers from pulling up in their cars at a crowded drop-off point and pausing to kiss each other farewell.

Virgin Rail says it installed the sign while refurbishing the station after a local business networking group said the place had to become more efficient.

But profit margins may have been a factor, too.

Virgin Rail says that if passengers want to share an embrace before they part company, they should pay to park their cars nearby where they can kiss all they want.

I can't wait until a local government ANYWHERE ON EARTH puts up a sign that says PARK HERE AND KISS. If this happened in America, those delicate flowers home-schooled on abstinence-only sex ed would take that as an order. What else could go predictably wrong?

Well, for starters, Doris wants me to floss.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's Me On the Outside

When the Israeli Defense Force sealed off Gaza and began shelling I found myself unable to speak my horror. I haven't written about it or the United States' pallid response that, essentially, the bombing would stop when those being bombed stopped being bombed. I have no words for what the IDF did to Gaza. In the waning days of the brutal and stupid Bush Administration, I admit I put my head down and waited for cooler heads to prevail.

I donated to the children of Gaza and so can you.
U.S. | U.K.

Via Minstrel Boy, we find Juan Cole calling for a Cyberspace Aid Convoy. Dr. Cole:
The United Nations Security Council again demanded that Israel let in food, medicine and fuel unimpeded. Since Israel is still technically the occupying authority in Gaza, insofar as it controls its borders and airspace, for it to engage in collective punishment on the Gazan population is a war crime forbidden by the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, which was enacted to prevent Nazi tactics from being deployed against occupied populatoins. UN relief workers, have been impeded from getting into Gaza by Israeli authorities. Those who managed to get through found between 14,000 and 21,000 homes destroyed and 240 of 400 schools badly damaged. The value of the destruction is estimated at $2 billion, and the essential infrastructure of the Strip has been deeply degraded, with potentially severe human health consequences. Much rubble has yet to be cleared away, so there could yet be more dead bodies found, and bomb clearing has not been completed, so people may yet be killed by accidentally setting off unexploded ordnance.

It is often forgotten that about half of Gazans are children, because of the ongoing population explosion, caused by insecurity, which has brought the Strip's population to nearly a million and a half. When Israel made a total war on the Gaza population, it was inevitably targeting large numbers of innocent children.

I actually don't give a damn who the bombs are falling on. Dropping bombs is barbaric no matter who does it, and dropping them on people who can't even attempt to get out of the blast zone is wrong on a scale where language fails me. Refusing to permit aid to bombed out people and shooting up U.N. convoys is so far beyond the pale I can only summon one thought: Israel has become the thing it fought. I have lost sympathy for our ally, which is painful for me as a Jew.

My father-in-law used to say we can't judge Israel because we're not the ones with the gun to our heads. In better days, I agreed that perhaps I was sheltered from certain realities and might temper my opinion. Not this time, and not anymore.

On a lighter note, direct action is the best remedy for what ails us. February 19th-22nd, we can drop off a new or nearly new women's suit or business separates at any Dressbarn throughout the U.S. to help deserving women entering the workforce. These Send One Suit events take place on a more or less regular basis because it ain't easy out there, so if you clean out your closet and need what you've got, don't sweat it. There'll be a next time pretty soon. But if you've just dropped ten pounds, take a truckload of stuff to Dressbarn this weekend. You'll feel a ton better.


Monday, February 16, 2009

But It Wasn't A Rock


I'm bummed because All My Children just offed Greenlee in a dumb, squirrelly fashion. Get a load of this: Miss Thing is persuaded to call off the wedding and pretend to have food poisoning but never takes off the frilly human sacrifice suit. Then, when she can't get her best friend's husband on the phone, she jumps on her motorcycle, still in the designer parachute but adding a black leather jacket, and speeds off toward the place where she called out sick to avoid. Meanwhile, the cranky best friend speeds off in a car back to the hotel or something. They'd collide if Miss Greenlee didn't sail over an embankment to her supertragic girlie death in her wedding dress, veil and riding gear that somehow reeks of stale Meatloaf songs. I mean, really. The one and only character on daytime TV that could tear off Bunny Bixler jokes deserved better.

As I said, I'm bummed, but I'm content to console myself with Michael Easton, star of another soap. Not only is he yummy, he and I share a birthday, which was yesterday. Michael Easton's character on his soap set up a joke about guns and Italian pastries weeks in advance of the actual delivery. I was impressed when the actor didn't wink at us on camera, because in his place, I might've succumbed to the urge. And speaking of urges, I'm kind of fighting the urge to quit blogging or turn pro or take up philately on a temporary basis, which everyone considers now and then. Yesterday, I remembered holding handstands in a split position, looking at my fingertips and placing my foot down behind me, between my hands, which I last did about 23 years ago. This evening, my yoga teacher called and classes start soon. I look forward to being the right kind of upside down.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Then You See Things The Size Of Which

You look at that Mexican blanket and you just know it's no match for three cats with claws.


Friday, February 13, 2009

And I Don't Think They'll Miss

Supposedly in America we don't talk about class. Seems to me we never stop.

Wish I could attribute this clever image to a wry commenter. If you know who made this, please zap me an email.

I'm no credentialed brainiac but I can't help noticing the budget-busting gagfest Confessions of a Shopaholic opened the same week Congress votes on a bill to save us from economic disaster. Creamy Jesus on a crouton, who thought now was the golden moment for a lighthearted romp about the rewards of living beyond one's means? What the fuck is this?

I probably wouldn't be spitting bullets about a chick flick if last night on The Daily Show Jon Stewart hadn't let John Sununu get away with twice saying the bullshit euphemism entitlement reform. I don't even go to the movies anymore because if I spend $10 on a bottle of wine and drink the whole thing I feel less stupid than I do leaving yet another mind-bogglingly bad movie. But it's just too much to have even a moment's patience with this tissue-thin premise when Republicans are campaigning to cut Social Security and Medicare and conservative Democrats might give 'em a hand.
President Obama intends to appoint a task force the week after next which will be charged with "reforming" Social Security. According to inside gossip, the task force will be led entirely by economists who were not able to see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which is giving the country its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.

This effort is bizarre for several reasons. First, the economy is sinking rapidly. While President Obama's stimulus package is a good first step towards counteracting the decline, there is probably not a single economists in the country who believes that is adequate to the task. President Obama would be advised to focus his attention on getting the economy back in order instead of attacking the country's most important social program.

The second reason why this task force is strange is that Social Security doesn't need reforming. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it can pay all scheduled benefits for the next 40 years with no changes whatsoever.

The third reason that this effort is pernicious is that this talk of reform is occurring with the baby boomers just as the cusp of retirement. Due to the reckless policies of the Rubin-Greenspan-Bush clique, this cohort has just seen their housing equity wiped out with the collapse of the housing bubble. Tens of millions of baby boomers who might have felt reasonably secure three years ago are now approaching retirement with little or no equity in their homes.

Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements in the pejorative sense this word has been used politically for the past couple of decades. They're investments. Our whole working lives we pay into the funds and when we retire, we are paid our due. Period. There's no reason to even talk about it except to say, "Isn't it lovely that we're so civilized? Yes, yes, it is" and SHUT IT - unless you disagree and show no class whatsoever.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Answer Is Blowin'

Tata: When Drusy goes to the bathroom with you -
Pete: Drusy doesn't go to the bathroom with me.
Tata: What?
Pete: She bats the pee stream.
Tata: ...I can't breathe!
Pete: I had to clean the bathroom walls of your last apartment once and that was enough.
Tata: So - what happens? The cats run to the bathroom with you and file their nails while they wait respectfully outside?
Pete: I don't know what they're doing. I'm inside.
Tata: Okay okay okay then you would not at all know what I was about to ask you if you knew, which is if you've seen the other cats feel around under the bathroom door and when Drusy sees that she leaps through the air. I mean, leaps straight up up up and pounces near but not on the upside-down paw. You haven't seen that?
Pete: Nope.
Tata: It's your turn to clean the bathroom.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Change Your Number

Pete doesn't watch cooking shows because he can cook. I watch cooking shows because I might actually learn something. Stop laughing! It could happen. Anyhoo, when I moved into Pete's house, I went from cable to the dish, resulting in the loss of my favorite channel: WLIW Create. Ah well. This is Daisy Martinez, whose show Daisy Cooks! was charming and funny and exciting. Daisy was bright and interesting, the colorful set had a nice vigor, the food looked like you could give her recipes a whirl. Daisy's sofrito, by the way, is to die for. I miss this show.

Thus, I was happy to discover Daisy's new show on the Food Network. Unfortunately, from the first moment of Viva Daisy, it is apparent that something is wrong. Daisy is subdued. Her eyes seldom meet the camera. Her kitchen is in neutral tones, as if an effort was made to blend Daisy into the furniture. I thought Daisy looked unhappy and distant, which made me sad. Sometimes, she lapsed into silence. I acted this way right after Dad died, so I wondered if maybe she was recovering from a loss, which also made me sad. Because I like her. I want her to be happy. I want her to have a TV show where she buzzes around the kitchen singing if that means I get to watch and learn. Imagine my surprise when I read the credits and found Rachael Ray's names among the producers.

Now I wonder if someone told Daisy to speak English and act her age.


Monday, February 09, 2009

To Bring the Balance Back Bring It Back

I'm no genius but this seems like it might be important.
Wikileaks publishes a billion dollars of semi-secret reports

Oh boy.
Wikileaks has released nearly a billion dollars worth of quasi-secret reports commissioned by the United States Congress.

The 6,780 reports, current as of this month, comprise over 127,000 pages of material on some of the most contentious issues in the nation, from the U.S. relationship with Israel to abortion legislation. Nearly 2,300 of the reports were updated in the last 12 months, while the oldest report goes back to 1990. The release represents the total output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) electronically available to Congressional offices. The CRS is Congress's analytical agency and has a budget in excess of $100M per year.

A billion dollars? How does one estimate a dollar value for "quasi-secret reports?"
However that hasn't stopped a grey market forming around the documents. Opportunists smuggle out nearly all reports and sell them to cashed up special interests - lobbyists, law firms, multi-nationals, and presumably, foreign governments. Congress has turned a blind eye to special interest access, while continuing to vote down public access.

Oh. There's a market for government reports. I should have known. That building my car drives to five days a week is a government document depository library, which means the public must be allowed access. Sometimes, that means people sleep on the sofas - okay, every day people sleep on the sofas - but it also means that no member of the public can be denied access to the documents. Those regulations may change as documents are increasingly online only. We have observed a sharp decline in the number of printed titles. The implications are sobering. I remember the first time I held in my hand the NTSB report on the downing of the Korean jetliner. I was holding history and my hand felt hot. Later, it turned out I was allergic to MSG and shouldn't have eaten the egg drop soup, but you know what I'm saying. Back to Congress:
Although all CRS reports are legally in the public domain, they are quasi-secret because the CRS, as a matter of policy, makes the reports available only to members of Congress, Congressional committees and select sister agencies such as the GAO.

Members of Congress are free to selectively release CRS reports to the public but are only motivated to do so when they feel the results would assist them politically. Universally embarrassing reports are kept quiet.

Each time the topic of opening up the reports comes up, it runs into walls erected by opposing lawmakers such as Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who "like many members of Congress, views CRS as an extension of his staff,". If the reports were made public, "every time a member requests a particular document, the public may infer that he's staking out a particular policy position." (Aaron Saunders, Stevens' spokesman, Washington Post, 2007)[4].

This article is having a bit of trouble with time travel, but who doesn't, really? After I visit the Middle Ages, I can't control my split ends, and let's not even discuss Ted Stevens' problem with chapped lips. So there are two lists: alphabetical , which is big and all, and chronological, which suddenly tells a whole different story. This stuff has been a secret? Look at the explosion of documentation during 1998 and 1999, leading to an avalanche of papers by 2000. Some of these reports read like freshman comp papers. What the hell?

Obviously, we've got some reading up to do.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Give Yourself Another Flower

The Fabulous Ex-Husband's(tm) current wife Karen proposed some time ago that we - she and I - take a gardening class. Most current wives of ex-husbands would be planning a prank with a woodchipper, but Karen is an absolute blast. We exchange Christmas presents. She's the cuddly Grandma my grandson Panky will admire as he's driving me to the liquor store. See? That works out for everyone.

Last summer, I made a feeble attempt to find classes, and by feeble, I mean I sat at the keyboard and whined, "Where are you, classes?" Actually typing words might've helped but I wasn't ready. I was moving. We were working on the kitchen. A Republican was in the White House. It was just the wrong time for me to try concentrating, but a few weeks ago, I got a little more serious about classes, and by more serious, I mean I whined at Siobhan, "Where can I find gardening classes?" She found them for me by typing words and pressing that enter key. Me, I've been so afraid to commit.

The unnamed university where I sometimes work but seldom pay attention for the last 23 years offers classes like container gardening, vegetable gardening made easy and wreath making. That last one sounds too much like work, but there's another class that sounds interesting called cold frame growing. Apparently that thing we call our greenhouse - it looks like a malnourished jungle gym after a slip cover accident - is a cold frame. Perhaps we could learn a more sophisticated method of keeping our sprouts warm on chilly nights.

In a rush of unexpected maturity, I signed up. I'm sorry to startle you like that. Later, I'll do something to make up for it like re-route traffic by the municipal building using orange cones and a German shepherd. The time is right for you to find classes where you are and to grow your own food. Type some words. Press enter.

Friday, February 06, 2009

It's Kiss Or Kill

I'm having a teeny problem with frustration.

Pete: Did you talk to your sister?
Tata: My sisters are so stupid!
Pete: Ah, so you did talk to Corinne?
Tata: I'm not speaking to Corinne so I don't shriek about how stupid she's being. Which is pretty stupid.
Pete: Well, how about Anya?
Tata: Anya is being stupid and I'm not talking to her because I'll tell her she's so stupid!
Pete: All right, then. Is Daria feeling better?
Tata: Daria can hardly talk. She's got antibiotics but she almost coughed up a lung when I told her cigarettes and whiskey on her night table would make that rasp glamorous. So she's stupid, too!
Pete: Would you like to make the salad?
Tata: No. I'd like to sulk, then pout, and later, I'll try to fit in some brooding.
Pete: You don't want to make the salad?
Tata: I'm stupid, right? Pot to Black Kettle! Come in, Black Kettle!

X's We're Desperate has repeated on the mental jukebox since I read Lux Interior died a couple days ago. Why not a song Lux wrote? Ya got me. Maybe watching Congress dither while America burns has got me down. Probably. Siobhan's cruising around the Gulf of Mexico, but she's never too busy to email celebrity gossip.

Tata: Ya drunk?
Siobhan: No, but I'm 15 feet from where Sarah McLaughlin and her daughter are swimming in a small pool.

When famously depressed Canadians are fine, what am I so fidgety about?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I Feel And I Feel When

Photo: Bob Hosh. Lilies at Longwood Gardens.

Every morning, I get up in the dark, pad upstairs accompanied by at least two feline companions and turn on the TV at a deafening volume. I row for a while while Mike and Darlene shout the headlines. We painted the attic a whispering yellow-green that reminds one of spring's earliest shoots, so sometimes I forget to turn on the lights. The cats love the attic, which is wide and long, reasonably clean and mostly used as a guest room. Thing is: it doesn't have a floor. It has 90 year old subfloor boards that mostly don't meet and 100 year old wool rug that came to America with Pete's grandfather. I'm allergic to the rug and to doing yoga where there's no flat surface, so we're making a floor. We shopped for weeks. Home Depot had the pressboard at a good price and was running a special on carpet installation.
Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

"This is the demise of a civilization," said Marcus. "This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it." [...]

"This bill may be one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life," he said, explaining that he could have been on "a 350-foot boat out in the Mediterranean," but felt it was more important to engage on this fight. "It is incredible to me that anybody could have the chutzpah to try and pass this bill in this election year, especially when we have an economy that is a disaster, a total absolute disaster."

East Brunswick Lumber delivered the boards on Monday. Pete sawed the 8'x4' boards in half. You haven't lived until you've seen a 5' woman carry a 4'x4' panel up three flights of stairs. Good thing I exercise! In the meantime, I wrote Home Depot's customer service, to tell the troubled retailer I was cozying up to new hardware and lumber suppliers. They responded:
Thank you for contacting The Home Depot Customer Care in this matter.

Our founder and former CEO was obviously using hyperbole to make a point about a specific piece of legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, and we will be sure to pass your comments along to him.

As it relates to EFCA, like most other retailers - including our main competitors - we think it's a bad bill that takes away American workers' right to a secret ballot, which is the most basic element of any democracy.

We look forward to your continued patronage and assisting you with all of your home improvement needs.

I was born at night, but not last night.
The bill does not, in fact, remove workers' rights to a secret ballot. It removes management's ability to harass card signers. Thus, you are perpetrating a falsehood. If you know that, you're lying. If you do not know that, you've been misled.

Further, if you're an American worker, and you side with management, you are working against your own and my interests. I'm union, as are many of the tradesmen and tradeswomen who shop your stores. Or did. I've made large purchases at Home Depot every week for almost a year, and as of last week, I've begun making them elsewhere. Can you, at a time when Home Depot's financial pitfalls are common knowledge, freely alienate your customer base?

If you can, you deserve the failure ahead. This is a very serious business. People have died for the right to unionize and your boss' hyperbole trivializes their sacrifice. Feel free to pass that on.

To paraphrase the ads: We can do it - without their help.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And I, I Could See

I've zipped my lips about blog politics for a good reason: mostly, I don't get it. I'm much too self-involved to understand the characters in As the Blogosphere Turns or I forgot soy milk again and the coffee in my office is super weak. I don't even have a blogroll. That would sound funny with a Scottish accent: I dunnaugh een hae a blogrooool. Please see skippy, whom I personally adore, for why today matters.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Life Before Was Tragic Now I Know

Sometimes, my people can be astonishingly stupid.
The drive to make Italians eat Italian, which was described by the Left and leading chefs as gastronomic racism, began in the town of Lucca this week, where the council banned any new ethnic food outlets from opening within the ancient city walls.

Yesterday it spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan, which is also run by the centre Right. The antiimmigrant Northern League party brought in the restrictions “to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines”.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on nonItalian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.

Milan. Really? Recent host of the Olympics?

You can find a motherfucker anywhere. There's one now. Here's a hint: the guy who says he stands for tradition is really interested in dismantling everyone else's.
Mr Zaia said that those ethnic restaurants allowed to operate “whether they serve kebabs, sushi or Chinese food” should “stop importing container loads of meat and fish from who knows where” and use only Italian ingredients.

Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”

Good. More for me. Also: my family's from there so I happen to remember the Veneto's vast empire was based on trade with the entire world, such as it was, including pineapple growers.
Mehmet Karatut, who owns one of four kebab shops in Lucca, said that he used Italian meat only.

Davide Boni, a councillor in Milan for the Northern League, which also opposes the building of mosques in Italian cities, said that kebab shop owners were prepared to work long hours, which was unfair competition.

What? What? What what what? What?
“This is a new Lombard Crusade against the Saracens,” La Stampa, the daily newspaper, said. The centre-left opposition in Lucca said that the campaign was discrimination and amounted to “culinary ethnic cleansing”.

Vittorio Castellani, a celebrity chef, said: “There is no dish on Earth that does not come from mixing techniques, products and tastes from cultures that have met and mingled over time.”

He said that many dishes thought of as Italian were, in fact, imported. The San Marzano tomato, a staple ingredient of Italian pasta sauces, was a gift from Peru to the Kingdom of Naples in the 18th century. Even spaghetti, it is thought, was brought back from China by Marco Polo, and oranges and lemons came from the Arab world.

Unfortunately, stupid seems contagious in Lombardy. Well, except for the chefs, who seem to know something - I can't put my finger on it - about food?
Mr Castellani said that the ban reflected growing intolerance and xenophobia in Italy. It was also a blow to immigrants who make a living by selling ethnic food, which is popular because of its low cost. There are 668 ethnic restaurants in Milan, a rise of nearly 30 per cent in one year.

The centre Right won national elections in April last year partly because of alarm about crime and immigration. This week there was a series of attacks on immigrants in bars and shops after the arrest of six Romanians accused of gang-raping an Italian girl in the Rome suburb of Guidonia.

Filippo Candelise, a Lucca councillor, said: “To accuse us of racism is outrageous. All we are doing is protecting the culinary patrimony of the town.”

Your crusade against kebabs will curtail rape complaints. I'm almost sure of it!
Massimo Di Grazia, the city spokesman, said that the ban was intended to improve the image of the city and to protect Tuscan products. “It targets McDonald’s as much as kebab restaurants,” he added.

There is confusion, however, over what is meant by ethnic. Mr Di Grazia said that French restaurants would be allowed. He was unsure, though, about Sicilian cuisine. It is influenced by Arab cooking.

...And invaded by everyone who every built a rowboat. My family's from there also, which would probably skeeve Mr. Di Grazia just a bit. I happen to know the Sicilians hate him back; that whole occupation thing, you know.

Anyway, this campaign is going to backfire because meat on sticks is undeniably delicious.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Phone'll Jingle Door'll Knock

We're walking through the park at an impressive clip.

Tata: Okay okay okay, so the other day, I said, "Pete, I'd like a bread machine for my birthday and he said, "That's good. I just ordered you one."
Leilani: It's your birthday?
Tata: It's in a couple of weeks, but I'm like a crazy planner. Yesterday, it arrived, hooray!
Leilani: Hooray!
Tata: By midnight, we'd already had two disastrous doughs and this morning, I tore the one we baked into bird-size hunks. Of course, I left them at home. Sorry, geese!
Leilani: Why are we here?
Tata: Two years ago, my dad got sick and I went to Virginia for a month. I blogged about it the whole time and I know it was sometimes very hard for readers to deal with how awful it was, and how funny. I mean, picture saying to people, "Please read about my dad's hilarious death."
Leilani: Omigod, how did you know? Yesterday, we went to see the rabbi and everyone talked at the same time. I can't imagine what people walking by thought, with the sobbing and roaring laughter.
Tata: What did you do last night?
Leilani: My friend Ranit came over. We went to Charlie Brown's and it was really nice. Quiet there. She doesn't drink but I did. I laughed and laughed, then I wondered what people might think.
Tata: Listen, you won't know what's going to help you grieve until you stumble upon it, so be prepared to stumble. Fortunately, you can stumble home from that place.
Leilani: I haven't got anything to wear to the service tomorrow.
Tata: Anyone's judgment is misplaced. You can go in a bathrobe, if it's cozy.
Leilani: Thank you for talking to me like this.
Tata: Pfffft, when Daria, Todd, Dara and I were in Virginia, we started doing this chanting thing. I mean, who can explain that? One day, we were normal nutbags. Next thing we knew we were standing around the kitchen, warbling about who was getting the paper towels to clean up the garlic off the floor. I don't know what that means, but I do think you should start a blog immediately. Immortalize your antics.
Leilani: Really? I'll think about it.
Tata: Good. Later, Pete and I will do donuts around a parking lot while I fling handfuls of gummy failed bread into the air while birdies roil and scream.
Leilani: You're coming back to the park?
Tata: Absolutely. And I'll blog the duck ruckus, because should that be lost in the mists of time?