Sunday, December 31, 2006
Boltgirl's Best of 2006, Off the Top of Her Head:
1. Best movie: did I go to any movies in 2006? I don't remember. I heard Cars was good, and I finally saw Pirates 2 on DVD the other night.
2. Best album: Whatever that new one is Brazilian Girls put out, or Ghostland Observatory's debut. I don't get Tom Waits; I just don't. The new DeVotchKa was pretty cool too.
3. Best book: Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel.
4. Best meal I had: Cafe Poca Cosa the night before they moved to the new location, in February. Mmmmmmmmmole.
5. Best wine: finally discovered Red Truck. Yummy, yummy.
6. Best Notre Dame quarterback in a generation: Brady Quinn.
7. Best social event: the annual Christmas party. Were you there? You should have been.
8. Best news: the November elections.
9. Best Nelson moment for gay folk: Ted Haggard. Ha-ha!
10. You want ten? Make 'em up yourself!
Thursday, December 28, 2006
People seem to fall into two camps: the grit your teeth and deal until Christmas is over camp and the fuck 'em, I don't care if they're old camp. My uncle and his wife yet again made the five-hour drive from Chicago to the small downstate Illinois hometown to be with Grandma on Christmas Day, fighting stomach flu and insane western suburbs freeways and foregoing their own Christmas celebration to sit in her kitchen for three days and repeat every conversation at least four times because he's the only one of her sons left within driving distance. On the phone, with some wonderment in his voice, he says,"I'm 63 years old. I can't believe I'm letting my mother still do this to me... But I didn't want her to be alone for Christmas."
Other friends had similar experiences. Aging parents create very interesting cycles of demand and guilt, duty and exasperation. This one needs to be in assisted living but insists she'll be moving back home to live alone very soon, despite being unable to perform basic tasks without help. This one harangues both the help and the grown children who come to visit, and then wonders why everyone is so reluctant to spend time with her. This one doesn't understand why the one child left in town won't drop everything on a moment's notice to bring her a sweater or run an errand. Over and over, people wonder aloud why they put up with this crap and simultaneously swear they'll never do the same thing to their own kids.
My parents aren't there yet. They're still dealing with their own mothers with varying degrees of patience. My visits up to Flagstaff to see Dad still have enough perks to be enjoyable rather than a dreaded obligation, although he's increasingly displaying the same traits that drive him completely nuts in his mom. I asked him for advice in dealing with the last leg of this trip, the stopoff in Phoenix on the way home to see my mom's parents, the grandmother I finally realized I avoid talking to because every conversation comes with a heaping dollop of guilt for not visiting or calling nearly enough. His advice boiled down to: getting old doesn't give you an excuse to be rude, and I don't care if you managed to survive to 85 if you're just being shitty all the time. In retrospect, not much help there.
Someday I will be old myself, or at least I hope I'll make it as far as my grandparents have, and I'll probably chafe at absent kids and grandkids, ungrateful bastards the lot of them. I hope I'll remember what it is like to try to balance the familiar role of child/grandchild with the newer role of parent/partner with a life of her own and an immediate family to prioritize. I remember traveling every Christmas with my mom, making that five hour drive ourselves to the hometown to spend the week with the grandparents, and being thoroughly delighted by the whole experience. Now, as a worn-out adult, after three days away I simply want to go home.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
UFO hovering menacingly over Mt. Elden.
Sure, it looks like a cloud. I choose to believe it was a flying saucer looking for cows or stray elk to suck up. Luckily, it didn't abduct us on our way into Flagstaff.
In other news, the drive through Phoenix sucks more than ever now that Phoenix officially starts at Riggs Road (site of first narrowly avoided chain-reaction rear-ending fest) and doesn't dissipate until well past Anthem (latest insta-"community" of crap-ass stucco houses, complete with a brand new high school and strip mall shopping opportunities). Soon, the glory that is greater Phoenix-cum-LA will be repeated at least a couple of times, obliterating the dusty little farming towns currently gasping for breath between Tucson and Phoenix. Where will the water come from, you ask? Good question. The solution involves some combination of groundwater depletion, diversion of Colorado River water, and prayers to Santa.
Maybe that's why the UFO didn't stick around long.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Too Weird for Words: This month's Bitch magazine has a story about girl-centered marketing, with the resigned conclusion that magazines, toy manufacturers, programmers, and webmasters talk about empowerment until they're blue in the face, but end up going with the pink princess on a pony theme damn near without fail. I thank the universe I had a boy just about every time I go through Target and pass the racks of pint-sized sexy clothes and the aisles of pink toys involving makeup, hair, or domestic scenes. I hated that crap when I was a kid, favoring Tonka trucks, Best of the West action figures, cap guns, and my chemistry set.
Yes, as a matter of fact, it did take me until I was 31 to entertain the notion that I wasn't exactly a typical straight gal. Or even an atypical straight gal.
But anyway, and to the point, the sentence that blew me away in this article is right there at the top of page 75:
...the media never really represents the tuba-playing, soccer-playing, science-loving, bird-watching girl because she's just not an easy sell.
Emphasis mine. Jesus Haploid Christ! I don't even know the person who wrote that, but she's managed to encapsulate my entire existence in what, nine words? Nine words! Not that she's totally inside my head or anything, but within the span of a few hours today I did play my bass along to my Christmas with the Canadian Brass CD (I played tuba for a while in high school, but didn't have one on me this morning), rearrange my soccer bag, browse a couple of my favorite ScienceBlogs blogs, and take a break from raking the yard to run inside and grab my Peterson's Western Birds to confirm the presence of a couple of Lesser Goldfinches in the mesquite tree. I mean, fuck!
Friday, December 22, 2006
Christmas Eve I went to midnight mass with my dad's family. Grandma and Grandpa were the choir directors at the church--Grandma's still plugging away, pounding the keys and drilling the choir to exhaustion at 88--so it was unavoidable, but I got to sit up in the choir loft and get an angel's-eye view of all the candles and pine boughs. When I was in high school I hopped in with the choir; Grandpa always let me sing with the tenors even though I was a girl. Afterwards it was straight home and straight to bed, at least until I hit college. Once I hit some magical age--20, perhaps--I was invited to stay up with the other adults after mass.
All those years I'd gone to bed at the same time as my brothers, completely unaware that the adults got to stay up and sip hot toddies by the fire for an hour or so before turning in themselves. I was flabbergasted. What a completely civilized way to end Christmas Eve and toast in an early Christmas morning! The specific toddy was the Tom & Jerry, sort of a creamy warm eggnog with lots of rum. The recipe looks repulsive, but by firelight, sitting around the tree with parents and uncles and grandparents, finally in on the generations-old secret, it's a winner.
Later on, when I was officially grown up and a parent myself, I still loved taking that last hour or so after putting the boy to bed to turn off all the lights except for the tree, snuggle up on the couch, and sit in the quiet for a while, soaking in the peace, re-living for a few moments everything that simple act brought back to me from long ago and far away.
Maybe I will recapture some of that this year, finding a way to push away the chaos (generally happy chaos, but chaos nonetheless) long enough to close my eyes, take a deep breath of pine, and see the world however briefly through brightly colored lights.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Except when they don't agree with me, of course, in which case I'll ignore them too.
The debate over sending more U.S. troops to Iraq intensified yesterday as President Bush signaled that he will listen but not necessarily defer to balky military officers, while Gen. John P. Abizaid, his top Middle East commander and a leading skeptic of a
so-called surge, announced his retirement.
140,000 combat troops can't subdue Baghdad, but an additional 30,000 will? Throwing extra guys into the fire with a vaguely defined mission will magically end the futile cycle of patrolling, flushing out the bad guys from this house or that block, only to come back and do it again the next night and the next night and the night after that, ad inf.? Please forgive me if I am somewhat skeptical that "the surge," the oh-so-ballsy "double down," will do anything more than exactly squat to improve the situation over there for anyone. Bush is grasping at straws and, in the process, shoving away the few actual life rings still bobbing in the water within his reach. How many more guys are going to die before he runs up against the reality that we can't "win" there?
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I have never been in a place so green. Moss covers the rocks, the bridges, hangs down in long dreadlocks from the trees. Water runs everywhere. The hollows are filled with ferns. And early on a midwinter's morning the only sounds are the water falling over stone and the half-snow bouncing off the branches. Seriously, I would have been less surprised if a hobbit or elf had shown up than I was when none did.
From La Tourelle I motored along the road to a vista point next to a stone house stuck out on a cliff over the gorge. The wind picked up and the truck rocked pretty significantly as the other side of the river got swallowed up by a full-on snow. I had the place to myself as I picked my way back down to Multnomah Falls, the showpiece of the historic river highway. This one's the second-highest falls in the contiguous states, if I recall, with two drops into pools. The CCC architecture was almost as enjoyable as the natural scenery, the graceful stone arches of the bridges being slowly reclaimed into the landscape by the ever-present moss.
I made that trip to meet up with someone who, as it turned out, was playing me like a cheap guitar. These years later I still think it was worth it just for that breakfast in the Columbia River Gorge, sipping bourbon in a beautiful place I'd never seen before, alone but warm as the snow fell and the waters rushed on.
Monday, December 18, 2006
The dogs didn't move all day Sunday. At least Max only threw up once.
Now I remember what I was forgetting to do the entire evening. Take pictures. I did at least remember to eat this year, as I noticed halfway through the first beer that I was already in deliberate enunciation mode and figured I'd better get some food in my stomach before I fell over talking to the ex's wife.
People brought lovely gifts of food and wine and beer, Jesus god do we have beer left over; if you need beer any time in the next six months save yourself the eight bucks and just stop by to grab half a dozen bottles out of the cooler. My dad contributed 30 cans of Coors Light, bless his good intentions; I told The Boy he is welcome to use the fascist beer for BB gun target practice. Shake 'em up and the blow up right purty when you plug 'em.
It was, ultimately, our Christmas gift to ourselves as much as to the 60 friends and relatives who showed up, a gathering of interesting and friendly folk who created a wonderful puff of goodwill and love on a cold winter's night in midtown Tucson, meeting and greeting and being happy to see each other and spend a few quality hours sharing food, booze, and conversation.
All the rest is just icing.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Without a troop increase, McCain said at the news conference, "the results are going to be inevitable, in my view" — a defeat for America and for its Iraqi allies that would create a terrorist haven that could be used as a base for attacks in the United States.The ISG report made it clear that Al Qaeda accounts for only a small percentage of the attacks against US forces in Iraq. AQ will be gunning for us no matter what we do in Iraq. The big guns over there, though--the Shiite and Sunni militias and death squads--are highly unlikely to hop on boats and planes to bring their fight to America. Once we're out of their way, they'll continue on with the deadly serious business of blowing each other up.
He contrasted the situation with the Vietnam War, saying, "when we came home, the war was over." But now, he said, Iraq's Islamic militants "will follow us home" if the American effort fails.
McCain is a fearmonger who is all too happy to exploit people's ignorance in order to pick up votes. He--and everyone else who bleats the "we fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" mantra--need only look to Afghanistan for a reality check. We actually were fighting AQ and the Taliban there, and when we shifted most of the effort away from there to a different there, they didn't exactly follow us in droves. They simply regrouped and re-established their dominion over much of the territory a couple hundred US and coalition guys gave their lives to drive them out of.
But McCain said personal ambition would not guide his Iraq policy.Oh. My bad. He is distancing himself from the Bush model after all. Shite.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.
... Such a proposal, military officials and experts caution, would be a gamble.
... The wild card in the Pentagon planning is Robert M. Gates, due to be sworn in Monday as Defense secretary.
Double down. Up the bet. Raise the stakes. Play a wild card. Texas Hold 'Em for a New American Century. Glad to see the Poker Nation didn't lost its trendy cachet before it could be co-opted as our next official foreign policy.
The only problem with the metaphor and the mindset of the people is that these aren't poker chips they're talking about, not even the really nice 7-gram clay ones. They're human beings in uniforms being thrown into a situation whose likelihood of resolution through military means, we heard just last week, is rapidly declining.
Any chance of success probably would require major changes in the Iraqi government, they said. U.S. Embassy officials would have to help usher into power a new coalition in Baghdad that was willing to confront the militias.
And the strategy also would require more U.S. spending to increase the size of the U.S. military and for an Iraqi jobs program. "You are dealing with an inherently difficult undertaking," said Stephen Biddle, a military analyst called to the White House this week to advise Bush. "That doesn't mean we should withdraw. But no one should go into this thinking if we double the size of the military, the result will be victory. Maybe, but maybe not. You are buying the opportunity to enter a lottery."
Okay, so the setup was that we were planning to fling another 40,000 infantry into the grinder so maybe possibly the Mehdi Army would go away. In a hopeful development, however, the outcome of W's meeting with the Joint Chiefs during the day yesterday actually turned out to be a new strategy of pulling brigades out of combat, transitioning them to advisor and training roles with Iraqi troops.
Administration officials stressed that Bush, under pressure from Congress and the electorate to abandon the United States' open-ended commitment, has made no final decisions on how to proceed in Iraq. But the new disclosures suggest that military planning is well underway for a major change from an approach that has assigned the bulk of responsibility for security in Iraq to more than 140,000 U.S. troops.
The chiefs also want to see a new push on political and economic issues, especially employment programs, reconstruction and political reconciliation, to help quell the problems that have fueled both the Sunni insurgency and Shiite-Sunni sectarian strife, say defense officials and U.S. military officers in Iraq. A new jobs program is considered key to pulling young men from the burgeoning militias.
Pentagon chiefs think that there is no purely military solution for Iraq and that, without major progress on the political and economic fronts, the U.S. intervention is simply buying time, the sources said. They particularly want to see U.S. pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to offer amnesty to Sunni insurgents, approve constitutional amendments promised to the Sunni minority, pass laws to ensure equitable distribution of oil revenue, and modify the ban on members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party taking government positions.
Well, hallelujah. It makes me wonder, though, where all the pokerspeak came from two days ago, and if it was just a ruse to get Bush engaged in the meeting with the Joint Chiefs in the first place.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
In a perplexing development, our house is the only one on our block--and, actually, on our street for several blocks--to have put up lights. The neighborhood is usually lit up pretty well, so this year the girlfriend scrambled and got the front of the house tastefully strewn with electric festiveness the day after Thanksgiving. Ha, we said, we have finally beaten Mario across the street for once. Eat it, Mario! The days and now weeks have dragged on and no other lights have appeared. Was there a neighborhood protest of Christmas we weren't invited to? Perhaps our lights are so incredibly awesome as to make everyone else decide it is not worth trying to top them. I'm flattered, but sad.
Bibliophilia corner: Current concurrent reads are David Copperfield and an utterly bizarre Bookman's find called Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures. It caught my eye because it's big, robin's egg blue, and on the spine has a drawing of a weird little horned, pink puppy clutching a sword. And was printed in Canada! Quelle exotique! It's a fantasy, but not one of those annoying fantasies where all the characters are named Galadriel or Etherial and speak in hack faux-Elizabethan prose. In a huge plus for a grownup book, it's full of pen-and-ink drawings reminiscent of Edward Gorey, if not as dark. If you hated Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you'll probably hate this. If you liked it, maybe give Rumo a shot, for the pictures if nothing else.
Never got around to reading Copperfield in school, and I am pleased to find that I like it. I liked A Tale of Two Cities when I read it last year, after loathing it as a high school sophomore, and have decided that people shouldn't be forced to read Dickens as teenagers because they'll probably end up screaming every time they hear him mentioned and won't give him a second chance as adults.
Same for Faulkner. Reading The Sound and the Fury off and on is rather not unlike wading through molasses, having to go back every three steps to retrieve your boots yet again, but it feels worth the effort. I did give Cooper a second go several months ago, managing the first fifty pages of The Spy before admitting defeat. Is that the one he wrote on a bet with his wife, that he could churn out better fiction than what she was currently reading? That must have been one fucking dull book Mrs. Cooper was saddled with at the time.
Panic mode! Again! Christmas in 13 days! Fuuuuuuuuuck!!!!
Friday, December 08, 2006
Doctor: You're going to have to relax your butt. I want my finger back.
Boltgirl: Then perhaps you should have thought about that before you jammed it up there.
Verdict? I am savagely healthy. So healthy, as a matter of fact, that I don't have to get labs done until next year. Sorta like good homework grades getting me out of taking the final. Small consolation after the various insertions, prodding, and scraping, and I would have preferred an ice cream cone, but I'll take it. Boltgirl and needles are a whole 'nother orthostatic story.
But just days after his new defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, and his close friend Blair both said that they believe the United States and Britain are not winning the war, Bush bristled when asked if he was "still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq."
"It's bad in Iraq," Bush replied sharply, glaring at the reporter. "Does that help?"
The president added: "In all due respect, I've been saying it a lot. I understand how tough it is, and I've been telling the American people how tough it is . . . I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail."
Rewind. Play. Gates says we're not winning. Blair says we're not winning. Baker and Hamilton say a purely military solution will not succeed. The Marines have ceded Anbar Province as unwinnable.
I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail.
The middle three days of this week brought eleven, seven, and seven US KIAs. And roughly 75, 75, 75 Iraqi deaths.
I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail.
The girlfriend's aged ex-mother-in-law broke her leg a couple of months ago and has been in assisted living while she recuperates. The girlfriend visits every couple of days, runs small errands, waters the plants back at her house. The elderly lady's memory fizzles sporadically, and she refuses to exercise her leg as it heals or entertain any possibility of going to physical therapy. The date for the brace coming off has been the beacon in her mind, and she unwaveringly insists that on that day, she'll go back home and go back to life as usual. Despite having been in a wheelchair for twelve weeks, she fully expects to stand up and walk, drive, do her housework, go to the store, everything she used to do. Despite the memory lapses, she's going to start thinking straight again the minute she walks through the door, will remember how to turn the heat on, how to set the burglar alarm, remember to turn the stove off when dinner's done. December 18 the brace comes off and I'll go back home and I'm sure everything will get back to normal.
I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
In what amounts to the most extensive independent assessment of the nearly four-year-old conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 2,800 Americans [my note: 2,902 as of this morning] and tens of thousands of Iraqis, the Iraq Study Group paints a bleak picture of a nation that Bush has repeatedly vowed to transform into a beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
First, the more frequent and thoroughly understandable Google searches that bring people here:
aimee short tucson referencing my most involved reader! Who, alas, hasn't left any mongo comments lately. (note to Aimee: the BreakDown gang hit my son's school a few weeks ago and left them in tears. From laughter. You might want to lose the guy who adamantly states he's not even going to kiss a girl before marriage. Your cred with the under-15 set is hovering near that of Richard Simmons just about now)
purity ceremony/purity locket (lots of these. I'm thinking they're looking for instructions, perhaps ready-made kits. I'm hoping they stick around long enough to read and maybe think just a tad about what they're planning to do to their kids)
abby wambach dyke (woohoo!!!)
Then there are the odd but intriguing ones:
clap really loud (why? I am dying to know)
how loud is a handclap (Boltgirl on the Loose: Your Number One Champion Handclap-Based Tube on the Internets!)
su almizcle huele encantador (Boltgirl on the Loose: Your Number One Champion Otter Pop-Based Tube on the Internets!)
shit job fridge magnet (do I want one of these? does anyone?)
But then come the disturbing ones. And sometimes really disturbing ones.
food poisoning pei wei (I do not want to know. Especially if it involves the pad thai.)
witch interrogation clitoris (a clitoris that interrogates or is, itself, interrogated? If the former, okay, okay, I'll cave, just ask me one more time please)
hot lesbian bride (huh?)
find submissive wife (oh, go away. now.)
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Of the seventeen people in the room, we had five men and twelve women. One of the five guys is gay, two of the women are for sure and a third pings strongly. One person of the seventeen is a semi-observant Jew, but as far as I know none of the others currently adheres to a religious affiliation; at least five of these are strongly opposed to organized religion of any strain. Ten are married, two are in committed but non-state-sanctioned relationships. Four that I know of have been divorced. Nine have kids. Two are vegetarian. All have at least a bachelor's degree; six hold a master's, and eight have doctorates. Everyone votes Democratic, as far as I know.
Spending 40-odd hours a week in this environment, and then spending a significant chunk of my weekend time with my soccer team (5 dykes out of 15 women on the roster), at Bookman's, or at Trader Joe's (helloooooo) means that most of my daily interactions take place within a very progressive sphere. My experience with homophobia has largely been voyeuristic, reading stuff in the paper or online, wondering what it would be like to face bigots in real time, separated only by the air we both breathe. Secondhand accounts, pounding out fuming responses to comments on blogs and online newspapers... my anger is real and feels visceral enough, but still I sense the separation between my theoretical sparring with anonymous posters via pixels on the screen and a face-to-face confrontation.
In my world--despite what my apparent fixation on gay issues for this blog would suggest--I think of myself as just another person. Teh Gay is a part of my identity, but it's allowed to languish pretty far down on the list of attributes. To borrow a vile phrase from the bigots, my sexuality isn't shoved into my face by people who would define me solely on the basis of who I happen to fall in love with, who would reduce my entire being down to a specific sex act based on my wardrobe or the way I carry myself or the fact that, as a straight friend once pointed out, I don't get a lot of attention from the guys at the Ace Hardware because I walk in looking like I "know how to do projects." Got no experience with harassment in the workplace. The home loan officer didn't bat an eye when my partner and I sat down to sign the mortgage papers together. The lady at the gym approved my request for a family membership and looked at me like I was weird for doubting that same-gender heads of household qualify as a family under their policies.
So I worry, sometimes, that my bubble has built a false sense of security in my head (similar to this couple in Wisconsin). I felt it with each new state constitutional amendment that passed in November, felt it for sure when Prop 107 here in Arizona was defeated by a much closer margin than I had anticipated. The naive question keeps bumping up against the inside of my skull: who are these people? How can anyone still be so mean-spirited? I will find out, I'm sure, sooner or later. No bubble lasts forever.
Monday, December 04, 2006
I hate not knowing what I am doing at work. Archaeology is generally fascinating. Be that as it may, every once in a while a pile of utterly uninspiring artifacts from The Land of the Prehistoric People Who Couldn't Make a Decent Looking Stone Tool to Save their Sorry Asses (yes, Phoenix, I am talking about you) lands on my desk and I start to question my career choice. Great things appear to be expected, and I am certain I cannot deliver on this occasion. I am certain I must curl up into a ball under my desk and cry.
I hate... well, that sums it for now. Here's hoping for a Tuesday Love edition tomorrow.
Friday, December 01, 2006
He may have been trying to channel The Matrix but came off as more Hogan's Heroes than anything.
He slapped the gloves at the girl enough times that a few people paused their conversations to stare at him. Finally he sat next to her, both of them next to me, and proceeded to have a singularly one-sided conversation. I must say the topic was not what I was expecting.
"I had a really bad dream this morning. I dreamed my hair was, was, uh, you know those long plastic things?"
The girl nodded vaguely.
"You know, I mean, like, you know how fishing line is when it gets all tangled? Like, uh, ten-pound test that's been sitting in the water and it's all dirty and fish have been gooing all over it, you know how that feels in your hand?"
How this 90-pound wisp of a bleached blonde would have the slightest notion of how that feels escapes me, but she gamely played along.
"Well, I dreamed that's how my hair felt on the ends and I had to cut it. It was awful."
Luckily, G showed up at that juncture and I missed the rest of Matrix McSlappy's cognitively dissonant discourse. If Keanu fishes, I guess he might talk about his hair that way, but that early in the morning it made my brain hurt.