Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flag-Folding Followup

Mass hysteria! Logic felled by punches below the belt! And a perplexing revelation. Just one more day in the most recent flag kerfuffle to strike our great nation. On Monday the papers carried the story of the Veterans' Adminstration deciding to ban a commonly used "Meaning of the 13 Folds" script from the funerals of military personnel and veterans at the 150 National Cemeteries across the country in response to one person's complaint about one line in the script referencing the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Christian persecution complex, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

House Republicans responded predictably on Tuesday, introducing a resolution condemning the VA's condemnation of the script, with several legislators writing outraged letters to the VA demanding the return of the ceremony.
"The VA is being manipulated by out-of-control secularists," said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.
Deep breaths, people. What the VA directive actually does:
In a memo last month to directors of the agency's 125 cemeteries, a senior VA official said they should not distribute or post non-government handouts on "The Meaning of Each Fold of an Honor Guard Funeral Flag."

The memo said the handout and its religious references shouldn't be used as a script at committal services unless the next-of-kin requests it.

House Republicans? There's really nothing to see here. The VA correctly recognized that while explicitly religious texts are permissible when delivered by private parties in national cemeteries, they cannot be mandated in official military regulations. All these legislators saw was single atheist bitches and brings military funerals to screeching halt, spits on God for good measure, and leapt into condemnation mode. Little problem there. About that single complaint? It turns out that the complainant wasn't offended by the reference to God, but by the mangling of the line from glorifies in the Hebrews' eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to glorifies in the Hebrews' eyes, the gods Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Given that... uh, major misunderstanding, the VA eyeballed the whole script and figured out that it might be problematic in a lot of ways should it be construed as an official government-issued ceremony.

The complaint prompted the VA to focus on the recital and determine that it shouldn't be used by VA employees or honor guard volunteers from the American Legion or other veterans organizations unless specifically requested by family members. [VA spokeswoman Lisette] Mondello stressed that honor guards would also honor requests from families of any religion to recite texts of their choosing.

"The key is that the family has to request this, and we would acquiesce to any family's particular religious views and/or traditions," Mondello said. "I would describe it as a clarification of a policy so that we make sure that everyone throughout our system knows that there is consistency."

The policy was not clear to lawmakers Tuesday who interpreted comments from VA officials to mean the 13-fold recital could no longer be recited at all by cemetery workers or volunteers.

(for a fine discussion of the misconceptions surrounding the flag and the inane folding script in question, please see this post at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cardiac Diagnostics Day

Not exactly how Boltgirl looked on the treadmill.

This guy is way too happy. Otherwise, yeah, pretty much a mirror image. I trundled away for ten minutes before hitting the target heart rate, and had to bail out not because of any need for a defibrillator but because the front of my left shin started to cramp like a motherfucker. What the hell do they think they're doing tilting the treadmill up like that? If they'd kept it flat I could have gone on and on.

Anyway, I managed to churn out a lovely series of peaks and valleys on the EKG. Now I get to wait another ten days to get the cardiologist's interpretation and verdict on whether I can continue my accustomed cheesesteak and red wine justified with regular bouts of chasing a ball lifestyle.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Recovery Monday

This weekend's visit to the grandparents was smoother than expected, save for a quick light fixture-replacement job that, thanks to crappy mobile home ceiling construction, turned into an hour-and-a-half sweatbath. And since my grandmother is still relying on Cooking With Salt for dinner recipes, I'm a little parched this morning.

We will return to cutting-edge commentary once I've rehydrated a bit.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

LibraryThing Joy!

Tim the LibraryThing guy is the best online book cataloging guy in the history of the universe, like, ever. If you see him on the street, buy him a beer. I am very, very happy tonight. That's all I'll say. Tomorrow? Onward with the books!

Awesomest Book Guy Ever Trophy, awarded this year to Tim.*

* okay, this may actually be the George Stainforth Trophy, awarded to the best overall performing division in the RAF's Strike Command, but we're giving it to Tim instead.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Videos and Streams

Two people we heart mightily: Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow. First, has put together a compilation of Stewart's greatest Daily Show gay hits. We have many straight allies out there, but when it comes to having our back, Jon Stewart is king.

If you have any afternoon left after watching these, zip over to Air America and stream yesterday's Maddow show. Brilliant, cute as a button, and a self-described giant lesbian. Hot, hot, hot. What's not to love?

In Which We Reaffirm Our Identity as Both an Annoying Establishment Clause Junkie and Free Exercise Clause Fan

This morning's Daily Star reports on non-fire-related strife from Riverside, California, regarding the flag-folding ceremony at veterans' funerals.
Through thousands of military burials, Memorial Honor Detail volunteers at Riverside National Cemetery in California have folded each American flag 13 times and recited the significance of every fold to survivors of those being laid to rest.

The 11th fold celebrates Jewish war veterans and glorifies the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

A single complaint lodged against the words for the 11th fold recently prompted the National Cemetery Administration to ban the entire recital at all 125 national cemeteries.

Hmm. I wondered if the complainant took more umbrage at the recognition of Jewish people than at the more obtuse God reference, which I figured must be the only nod to a deity in the ceremony. So I read the full explanation of the folds provided in the sidebar and came away deeply confused.

1. Symbol of life.
2. Symbol of our belief in the eternal life.
3. In honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.
4. Represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for his divine guidance.
5. A tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."
6. Represents where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
7. A tribute to our armed forces.
8. A tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother's Day.
9. A tribute to womanhood.
10. A tribute to father.
11. In the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
12. In the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.
13. When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, "In God We Trust."

My first reaction, based on the flowery language, religious references, and non sequitur grab-bag Americana, was that it must have been written by Stan down at the VFW 357 Pulaski Post, so what's it doing in an official military ceremony? I mean, seriously, someone was faced with a total Furr's Buffet of Establishment Clause violations wherein seven of the thirteen points make a religious reference and he chose to be offended by the single one that explicitly mentions the Jews? But it turns out this is not part of the US Flag Code after all, which is a relief. As points out, the thirteen folds involved in creating the nice triangular flag packet were not designed with any symbolism in mind; it just conveniently works out that the number of folds required matches the number of original colonies. No one seems to know where the ascribed fold meanings came from, but the thought process behind them is apparent (and clearly stated here):

The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded.

At least one site recognizes that the multiple references to God violate would military guidelines and the Establishment Clause, should they be used in an official government-sponsored ceremony. The amazingly conservative and evangelical Air Force, of all branches, has adopted a new flag-folding script for these very reasons.

Individuals who hear those scripts end up attributing the contents of the script to the U.S. Air Force. But the reality is that neither Congress, nor federal laws related to the flag, assign any special meaning to the individual folds. Hudspath said that was the primary motive for creating a new flag-folding script.

"Our intent was to move away from giving meaning, or appearing to give meaning, to the folds of the flag and to just speak to the importance of the flag in U.S. Air Force history," he said.

The new script, approved in July, focuses on flag history and the significance of the flag within the Air Force: "Today, our flag flies on constellations of Air Force satellites that circle our globe, and on the fin flash of our aircraft in harms way in every corner of the world. Indeed, it flies in the heart of every Airman who serves our great nation. The sun never sets on our Air Force, nor on the flag we so proudly cherish," the new script reads.

Well, good on them for not pandering to Teh Sappy. Anyway, given all this, I'm not sure that the activities of the Memorial Honor Detail are subject to Establishment Clause restrictions. They are a strictly volunteer organization that performs a ceremony at the request of the deceased veteran's family. Their participation in graveside services is permitted by the National Cemetery but is not compulsory, so in that sense they are no different from the religious minister or atheist Uncle Joe a family might ask to say a few words in memorium at a burial there. I can't imagine the National Cemeteries' blanket ban of this particular volunteer-led flag-folding ceremony will withstand even the lowest level challenge, as it's a free exercise issue, not an establishment issue. Was this entire kerfuffle an exercise in anti-Semitism masquerading as a church-state argument? That one's murkier.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

LibraryThing Heartbreak!

Bastards reeled me in, then it hung as I was attempting to add my 1961 Signet Classic edition of Babbitt. Free memberships limited to 200 books. Upgrade to an unlimited membership for $10 a year. Oh, sob.

Other things I could buy with ten bucks:
* a CD at Bookman's
* twenty Wendy's hamburgers
* one (!) Sam Adams at Chase Park with a whole dollar left over to tip the beer guy
* two tickets to a UA women's soccer game
* a quarter tank of gas


You Have Got To Be Shitting Me

DCI Counterterrorist Center "Terrorist Buster" logo

Oh, Jesus. This is the CIA's new counterterrorism logo. They actually call it "Terrorist-Buster" on their website. I am not making this up. I especially like the scimitar-shaped bayonet at the end of the ghost’s terrorist's AK-47, because you know how those Arabs love their curvy swords.

Are we supposed to take this seriously? Is al Qaida supposed to take it seriously? Bill Murray approaches with threats to make us toast! Curses! Frank James at the Chicago Tribune says it best:

Look upon this, Osama bin Ladin, and be afraid. Be very afraid.

Nimbler Tongues than Mine

Yeah, what Grant Wahl said (scroll to the bottom).

In the wake of Solo's apology and self-imposed three-game suspension, it's a shame that Ryan never accepted responsibility for the chaos (on the field and off) that his decision caused. Nor should anyone continue buying into the notion of the U.S. women's national team as some sort of idyllic oasis free of the sports world's typical big egos and Machiavellian locker-room lawyers.

That was never the case anyway, not when even the team's legends (Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy) maneuvered behind the scenes to oust former coach April Heinrichs.

And you know what? That doesn't make them bad people. It just makes them normal, flesh-and-blood human beings. Those players aren't deserving legends because of some I'll have two fillings marketing campaign. They're deserving legends because of their remarkable winning achievements on the field.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Unscrambling the Egg

Two items in the Tucson paper yesterday served as wistful vignettes on the inevitable march of the universe toward increasing entropy. On the local scale:
A historically significant U.S. Magnetic Observatory building that was supposed to be left standing in Udall Park while others around it were demolished was mistakenly taken down [to make room for a new sports field].

The gaffe by a city contractor leaves only four of the original 15 buildings standing.

The mistakenly demolished building dated to the 1920s, a little later than some of the turn-of-the-century buildings on the site. But it was more important for historic research than some of the others that were saved, according to a historian who lobbied to preserve the site.
And at a larger scale:
Construction of two miles of border fencing in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area will resume following Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's decision Monday to invoke a waiver that exempts border fences from any law. ...

Home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, and the last remaining free-flowing river in Arizona, the San Pedro has earned international recognition as a rare treasure. In 1988, Congress established a 40-mile stretch of the upper river as the nation's first Riparian National Conservation Area.

There's no going back for either situation. People can construct a building and, if it manages to hang around for at least fifty years while remaining a pristine example of a distinctive architectural style and/or housing a significant event or person, we can protect it through historic preservation. But if we demolish it, even inadvertently, we can't rebuild it and have the same significant, historic building. At best we can build a replica incorporating some original materials. But the thing created, once destroyed, cannot be perfectly recreated with its history intact. When the continuity of the timeline is disrupted, history stops.

A bulldozer through an old frame building. A fence through the center of an ecosystem. The San Pedro River will continue to flow, but now it will be around permanent vehicle barriers built of train track. A 12-to-14 foot high fence will cut through two miles of the most important riparian area in the border region, including the ranges of the mountain lion and the jaguar.

Granted, ecosystems are different from historic buildings. We talk about preserving the integrity of historic structures and areas, knowing that true restoration isn't possible after something is destroyed. With nature we have more wiggle room for do-overs--water can be made to flow again, plants to grow--but the disruption to the land mammals whose territories will be impacted by the fence may be a hell of a challenge to overcome. Of course, that's precisely the intent behind the border fence, the disruption of one specific land mammal's migratory route.

Two eggs scrambled, one small and one extra large in the grand scheme of things, both decisions in response to the pressures of an ever-burgeoning population.

Tucson is bursting at the seams and has chronically overcrowded soccer fields. So we shrug apologetically as we erase history to fill an immediate need. We went through this at a larger scale in the 1970s, demolishing acres of historic neighborhoods in order to build an ultra!modern downtown Tucson that promptly turned into a ghost town and has been the subject of attempts at revival for close to thirty years now. Before that, the remains of the Spanish colonial convento built in the 1800s were bulldozed to make room for... a landfill. Now that property is in the process of being restored, albeit with the completely new construction necessitated by the total destruction fifty years ago. And opinion is hotly divided over whether such a reconstruction should even be attempted, given the complete lack of an original structure beyond part of a building foundation. That's how thirsty we are for historical continuity here, having finally recognized the magnitude of what we didn't just lose but what we willfully discarded all those years ago in the interest of what, at the time, seemed like a really good idea for the present.

People are streaming north across the Mexican border, impelled by poverty at home and the promise of jobs in the US. So we shrug apologetically as we disrupt an entire ecosystem for the foreseeable future to fill an immediate need. Maybe the fence will slow the flow of migrants and stem the tide of trash and waste left along the trails trampled in their wake. Will that be the tradeoff for the San Pedro? A fence will stop jaguars and deer in their tracks. I'm not convinced it will stop people who are desperate to get to the other side. Even the Berlin Wall, with its no-man's-land and razor wire and machine gun emplacements, couldn't stop everyone who was desperate to chase the hope of a better life. When that fence came down, the surrounding city eventually flowed back together across the scar it left, but it took several years for the two different environments created by the wall to finally re-mesh. Now Michael Chertoff will build his own fence in defiance of laws and biologists telling him it will have dire long-term consequences. We can't know what the next generations will have to do to repair them, or the lengths they'll want to go to undo something that they may find mind-bogglingly short-sighted.

Human agency does not stop and time is linear; decisions resulting in material change can't be reversed. We need to think very carefully before cracking the shell.

News Flash: Most Gays Not At All Like Will & Grace, Actually

Breaking news! A study commissioned by two California marketing and brand-management firms has found that gays in America fall into demographics other than rich young white boys with pockets full of poppers! Who knew?
Corporate America frequently stumbles when it attempts to sell its products to gays, the study's authors say. They blamed a one-size-fits-all marketing approach.

"It would be wrong for marketers to think that this was a rich and white, male, partying group," said Christine Lehtonen, president of Asterix.

The study found African-Americans and Latinos along with whites. Curiously, many gay Americans do not live in the Castro, but in suburbs. Some have cash to burn. Many hold down jobs yet struggle to make mortgage payments. Some live alone. Some decide to settle down and establish a household that may or may not have fabulous window treatments. Some of those households even have kids that they schlep around to things like "school" and "soccer practice."

In other words, they look suspiciously like straight Americans. More research is surely needed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ding Dong?

Greg Ryan's gone. Now what? A committee is being put in place to select a new coach in the next month or so, with Mia Hamm expected to play a significant role. So does this signal a fresh start, or can we expect more of the same good ol' girls approach that brought us 2003 and, now, 2007?

Names are being bandied about, Gebarra and DiCicco and Sundhage and Smith. Will the new guy or gal have the power and courage to clean house from top to bottom? The US program is at the point, given the recent result in China, of needing to decide what the top priority is. Is it winning, no matter whose egos get bruised in the process, or is it carrying the banner of one great decade and the two Cup wins and handful of great players it contained?

Football, soccer, basketball, sport--sport, as any other human endeavor, requires building on experience in order to propagate success. We can nod in recognition and respect of great names and great accomplishments, but it has to be in passing. We should take them with us, but sometimes that needs to be as lessons learned rather than as teammates. Great names who won great victories are absolutely necessary to build a tradition. But in order to produce continuing success for their teams, they need to come with fast legs and quick reflexes or the game passes them by at a sprint. Basking in past glory is for the Hall of Fame.

Building for the future means painful decisions. The stagnation evident at the World Cup should leave no roster spot guaranteed. The modern game--you know, the one Ryan so memorably declared was about boot-and-run--belongs to Brazil and Germany, and is built on technical precision, small-ball buildup, individual creativity, and speed. If you can't keep up, you can't compete.

Where do we go from here? No idea. Is nine months long enough to get there? We'll see.

Friday, October 19, 2007

To the Fed

Hey, USSF person, if I do have your attention... can you do something, please? Do you have any idea how badly I want to love this team, how I have waited for the past two years, watching more and more nervously for something to happen during this long slow decline into Route One bootball? How I have fidgeted with increasing uneasiness as the program flailed around for the next Golden Girl who would carry on the cult of straight-girl-next-door personality the '99ers established as the only way soccer would hit the mainstream in this country? How my own teammates and I have been left gaping at the trainwreck of the Brazil game and its aftermath? When the program closes ranks not to solve problems caused by a coach and a system that have been exposed as ineffective, but to tag one player as a scapegoat over and over and over and then one more time for good measure, you've lost me. When you feed into the worst stereotypes of Mean Girls and middle-school cliques rather than proving yourselves athletes above everything else (hello, Nike?), you've lost me.

1999 is over. 2004 is over. Mia has retired. Thousands of young, capable, creative players are waiting in the ODP pools. What are you doing to ensure that creativity isn't being strangled out of them? What lesson are you hoping to teach by the performance and behavior of the senior National Team? That hard work and performance matter? Or that carrying the banner of the last truly successful team trumps everything else? Are you worried when you see little girls carrying signs that say "I love Mia?" Are you nonplussed when Nike markets more shirts with Mia's name and number than any other player's? You should be.

I want to love this team. I want to see my support echoed by a Federation that understands the value of meaningful live competition and international club play. I want to see my support echoed by the Fed's official partner (hello, Nike), not a series of demeaning ads that parody the lack of marketing and team development we've had in the past several years. But beyond that I want a group I can support. The "team" we have seen since the end of the World Cup is not the team I thought it was. When the team leader says out loud that no one's really sure what went wrong at the Cup, I worry. When the team leaders continue to pile on Hope Solo rather than addressing the overall problems with tactics and personnel that desperately need addressing, I worry.

I want my team back, USSF person. Thanks for your time.

Homosexuality: It's not only Wild, It's INSANE!

Oh god. Liss put this up at Shakesville and I just may never be able to have sex again. At least not with a straight face. Or lesbian face. Or, or, uh, um, oh nooooooo...

Friday Sports Report

The US women's soccer team continues to, shall we say, comport themselves poorly in the wake of l'affaire Solo. The initial premise that you do not talk about the team in public was quickly applied to Hope Solo and just as quickly discarded, as the coach and various non-Solo team members have spent the past three weeks persistently speaking about betrayal, their inability to forgive, and a loooooooong slow reconciliation/healing process that no one is quite sure how to jump-start. Meanwhile, Solo has been silent, save for a mechanical formal apology released prior to the first match of the three-game US-Mexico Victory Third-Place Tour, and while she's under contract, she has been left off the official roster for those games, sitting at the end of the bench in street clothes. By all reports her teammates are maintaining their distance.

And the half-full stands are mostly populated by little girls, some of whom are still clutching hand-painted signs squealing that they love Mia. I read that Greg Ryan received some hearty boos when he was introduced in Portland, and a few fans have been photographed with anti-Ryan, anti-sorority system signs, but for the most part it appears to be business as usual. Meaningless games against an overmatched opponent, with the old guard getting too many minutes.

It's a year until the Beijing Olympics. After the World Cup exposed the fatal weaknesses in the team and the system, preparation should have begun on the plane ride home. But Solo's heat-of-the-moment words shifted the rally point from we must be better than this to our aging heroines must be venerated. Now it's simply a matter of waiting until January, when Ryan's contract expires, to see the direction the Federation chooses to go. New blood, creativity, and merit-based team selection, or the hegemony of the '99ers? That decision will let me know whether I can start caring again.

In other sad sporting news, Notre Dame has decided to honor its 1977 national championship by busting out the throwback uniforms this week. Against USC. Do you really honor a championship team by sending this year's mostly incompetent lot out in costumes to the slaughter? Does slapping on a Superman t-shirt and cape give me the ability to fly? I do not think so. Maybe they'll surprise me--this season has been completely unpredictable, after all--but come on. The green jerseys sparked an unbelievable fire under the '77 team when they walked back into the locker room after the pregame warmup, but the most recent outings in green have not gone so well for the Irish. Tomorrow, oh god, I'll watch, but I'll avert my eyes.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ugh, Again. Ughain?

Our Lady of Relpax.

Fuck. Got all the repercussions of a two-day bender but without the fun of an actual bender. Migraines are the only argument you will ever need to blow away proponents of Intelligent Design, unless they're willing to concede that the Designer is a sadistic bastard.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Breaking News: 9/11 Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Congress is ready to extend the NSA surveillance program, provided court-issued warrants for wiretapping continue to be required. Dubya has threatened to veto the legislation unless retroactive immunity is guaranteed for telecom companies that turned over customers' phone records to the government in the absence of warrants.
Bush warned that he would not sign the Democratic legislation unless it gives U.S. telecommunications firms retroactive immunity from lawsuits for lending assistance in counterterrorism investigations after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
After the September 11 attacks. After. That phrase is going to cause some problems.
A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.

Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.

September 11 changed everything? Not so much. January 20, 2001 changed everything? Much more like it. The government went to the telecoms scarcely a month after Bush took office to enact a spying program the adminstration insists is necessary to prevent another 9/11 attack. Except that the program was in place before 9/11, and 9/11 not only happened anyway, but was immediately thrust forward as the reason why the program is necessary. It's logic, Mobius-strip style. It's one more example of enacting a policy, based on deception, that immediately becomes an inescapable causality loop.

Pelosi, Reid, where are you? How many more times will you allow this administration to go all Uri Geller on our reality, bending the Constitution and our lives in one giant stage show designed only for the perpetuation of its own power?

In Which We Realize We Would Be a Really Crappy Cancer Patient

Or any other acute condition patient, for that matter. Fuckfuckfuckityfuckfuck.

Boltgirl's new constant reminder that she is certifiably old.

So I turned the corner around forty and ran smack into the crap-ass genetics that were waiting for me in the alley. Both my grandmothers have really lousy hearts, not in the metaphorical sense--they've both been dandy in the hugs-and-cookies department--but in the here, have a pacemaker sense, so it shouldn't really come as a huge surprise that I have some cardiac issues brewing.

I started almost-blacking out while sprinting during games late this summer and chalked it up to the heat (thirteen years in the desert and my body still insists it's in Chicago and would like to know where this fucking oven came from, please), but when the wooziness-upon-exertion followed me into the air conditioned racquetball courts and weight room at the gym, I figured I couldn't ignore it. So now I'm in week three of the no-strenuous-activities order from my doctor, and just starting week one of the next four under scrutiny from a cardiologist.

A girl cardiologist, I might add, which strikes me as a bit unusual, but very cool.

Anyway. Every time I feel arrhythmia kick in, I get to punch the button on the very stylish portable Looping Event Monitor pictured above, which is connected to electrodes stuck to my chest with disturbingly skin-like patches of damp sticky stuff. After five episodes are recorded I stick the monitor against the phone and send in the readings. This lasts two weeks. Next week, an echocardiogram to make sure there's no myocardial hypertrophy that might make me keel over on a treadmill. The week after that, the treadmill. After that, who knows.

It's probably nothing major. But the enforced lack of activity is gettin' me down, man. Screw the five stages of whatever--I moved directly from "huh?" to pissed off and am staying there. Can't play. Can't work my weekend job. Can't go to the gym. Can't move big rocks around the yard. Still drawing breath is a big upside, but fuck.

This is really cutting into my earning potential, although some people would argue I would referee just as well from a chair on the sideline as from the actual field, so...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Desert Museum Comes to Senses

After a day-long kerfuffle, the Desert Museum has decided to ignore the True AmericansTM who have been screaming about the Mexican flag flying next to Old Glory and put both flags back on display. They will also be adding a map explaining that most of the desert the museum is dedicated to is actually located in Mexico.
"Our work is not about border issues, it's not about immigration issues," said Robert Edison, executive administrative director of the museum. "It's about helping people understand that the Sonoran Desert exists in two countries."

But the museum is increasing its spending on security, and will work with local law enforcement to develop protocol for dealing with threats to its staff or animals in the future.

Poetry Center

The University of Arizona threw a funky housewarming party yesterday for its new poetry center, and it was probably the coolest event I've been to in a while. The center's home is not a large building, but it's striking, all angles and glass and wood and polished concrete. The main building manages to be open and airy while simultaneously creating grounded spaces that invite curling up with a blank book and a pen. One sloping glass wall overhangs a sunken performance space outside the south end of the building, while a more intimate garden with a low stone-slab podium is sheltered along the east edge, a long, narrow slot canyon bounded by glass on one side and sun-pierced block on the other, ready for torrents of words.

Hundreds of people and a few dogs showed up to listen to the Tucson Poetry Slam Team and write their own poems and sketch pictures to go along with them. A service was even available to put poems together into hand-bound books for people who wanted them. Plus, there were flamenco dancers and Taiko drummers. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera to take pictures of the nifty chalk art by the Madonnari folks, but the guy from the Daily Star did. Poetry kicked serious ass yesterday. Fiction, the ball is in your court.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Coming Out Day

Ahem. *cough cough* Is this thing on? Yes? Can you hear me in the back? No? How about now? Yeah? Okay, great. Ah, well, today is National Coming Out Day, so, uh, my name is Boltgirl, and I'm, uh, well, I'm gay. Really.

I've related my own coming-out experiences more than once on this blog, so that dog's already been properly patted and brushed and then some. The world didn't end back then in 2000, at the end of the six-month process it took to (1) figure it all out and (2) inform the relevant parties, and despite some rough patches along the way (hi, Dad!) my life has settled back into the banality of daily existence. Get up, get dressed, make breakfast for the kid, drop kid off at school, go to work, look at artifacts and think deep thoughts, pick up kid from school, buy groceries, help kid with homework, make dinner, pay bills, toss baseball, watch The Office, rearrange library, put kid to bed, read book, go to bed.

I'm very lucky. My family loves and accepts me and, with only one exception (hi, Granddad and Grandmother! Still falling asleep to The O'Reilly Factor?), accepts my partner. My boss and co-workers don't give a rat's ass about anyone's orientation. My neighbors are friendly and don't seem inclined to burn a rainbow flag in our yard. My son's friends don't care that his mom's a big ol' dyke. I've never been harassed by a stranger. A lot of people aren't nearly as lucky. Here's wishing you a lovely coming out day if today's when you decide to take the plunge.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Desert Museum Knuckles Under in Border War

The rampant asshattery swirling around the margins of the US-Mexico border security debate has slammed directly into the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the crown jewel of natural history here in Tucson. The museum is dedicated to the Sonoran Desert ecosystem, which has the temerity to extend across the international border to encompass portions of the states of Arizona (US) and Sonora (Mexico). Thus the name. The saguaros, cactus wrens, collared lizards, black-tailed deer, coyotes, mountain lions, and pygmy owls don't notice the line on the map--although they may well notice a 700-mile-long fence--and the exhibits at the museum don't distinguish the American Sonoran Desert from the Mexican Sonoran Desert unless actual differences in ecotone dictate.

So when you walk into the entrance you go past flagpoles with the American and Mexican (a gift from the Mexican government, 50 years ago) flags flapping in the breeze. Or at least you did, until yesterday. Yesterday both flagpoles were removed because people complained about Teh Messican flag flying on 'Murcan soil. Actually, some numbnuts went beyond "complaining."
The incendiary border debate not only fueled complaints about flying the Mexican flag, [Trustee Winifred Warden] said, but she had also heard there were death threats against the museum's animals.

Because that's the best way to have a rational debate about immigration: by threatening to kill animals that probably aren't going to cast deciding votes either way (although we can't be too sure about those shifty jaguarundis). And lord knows we can't have Mexican flags within eyesight of Real American patriots, lest they develop the irresistible urge to take low-paying crap jobs and unwind afterwards by watching soccer on Telemundo. The result is that an educational institution that makes its mission to demonstrate to people that the natural world exists independently of political borders feels it's best to remove an innocuous display rather than telling people to grow the fuck up, because those people are taking up more and more of the employees' time with their complaints and are threatening violence against innocent non-actors that have absolutely no bearing on the political issue at hand. What's that called, again? Oh, yeah, terrorism.

"The Mexican flag has not been there for 50 years to symbolize a territorial issue," [US Representative Raul] Grijalva said. "It represents an ecosystem that stretches across both borders and both nations. This is where the whole discussion about everything on the border kind of deteriorates. It's sad."

Grijalva said taking down the flag appears to be an overreaction.

"For the life of me, I can't understand the significance of taking it down and I can't understand who we are satisfying," he said. "This doesn't make the border more secure."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wait 'til... ah Shite

Goddammit. The Irish's unexpected win over UCLA (thank you, Maurice Crum) notwithstanding, it's been a hell of a fall in the sporting world if you share my rooting proclivities. The only consolation is watching both New York teams getting bounced from the NL and AL division championship series. My odyssey to Chase Field last Thursday ended in heartbreak, but I gotta admit this was pretty damn funny:

I guess no matter what goes wrong in my life, it could always be worse; I could be Steve Bartman.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tucson Purity Week!

You know, I must be getting jaded. I open the paper this morning to see this above the fold...

Dads help daughters pledge 'sexual purity'

Friday, October 05, 2007

BookGeek Heaven

Oh my. I think I know what I'm doing this weekend. LibraryThing is an online personal library catalog with social networking tossed in. I added a few books to my shelf, just for fun, but probably should do something billable today, so I'll leave the rest of the exploration for tomorrow. It looks like once you get your booklist put together, you get linked to other people's libraries based on common titles. And there are about a zillion discussion groups set up. It would appear to be one big happy recommendation list.

If it turns out to be from the Devil, I'll let you know.

Well, Who Could Have Known?

Back at the end of 2005, in response to accounts of the abuse of detainees at Guantanamo and other military prisons, Congress voted to ban cruel, inhumane, and degrading interrogation techniques--or "torture," in the quaint language of the Geneva Conventions--including simulated drowning and exposure to extreme cold. The New York Times reports that secret DOJ memoranda released yesterday maintain that such techniques are, in fact, legal.

One 2005 opinion gave the Justice Department’s most authoritative legal approval to the harshest agency techniques, including head slapping, exposure to cold and simulated drowning, even when used in combination.

The second opinion declared that under some circumstances, such techniques were not “cruel, inhuman or degrading,” a category of treatment that Congress banned in December 2005.

Administration officials said Thursday that there was no contradiction between the still-secret rulings and an opinion made public by the Justice Department in December 2004 that declared torture “abhorrent” and appeared to retreat from the administration’s earlier assertion of broad presidential authority to conduct harsh interrogations.

So when George Bush stood up before the nation and said, "We don't torture," it was purely an exercise in semantics. We don't torture because we can simply change the definition of torture to whatever we want it to be. It's abhorrent enough that the government would move the goalposts on this one, but doing it in secret while throwing up a facade of ethics and integrity simply reeks.


Hmmm, that didn't turn out so well. Perhaps taking their long-suffering fans' just wait 'til next year mantra to heart, the Cubs were in prime mid-April form, dropping balls, mis-timing leaps for balls, not running out long balls to the wall, running rather than tagging on flyouts, failing to cover the bag on bunts, and being unable to pitch their way out of a wet paper bag. Or, really, even out of an imaginary wet paper bag. Maybe Lou left Lilly in so long--even letting him hit in the bottom of the third with two on and two out--as a little vaffanculo to everyone who was after his head for pulling Zambrano too early on Wednesday. In any event, the series moves back to Chicago on Saturday and I spend the rest of today trying to keep my eyes open.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Best Randomalia We Can Muster

I am going to a Cubs playoff game tonight. Even though they're down 1-0 in the series and their bats are asleep, I am too excited to put together anything very coherent.

No, you might not notice the difference.

Forthwith, a whole mess o' things that have been clanging around in my head recently:

1. The best evidence I have for spending far too much time reading blogs and, more specifically, comments on blogs is how jarring it is to see certain words actually spelled correctly. There I am, skimming through a sentence, with my brain jumping a few words ahead, anticipating, just knowing what phrase is coming next, bracing itself for the inevitable "back on their heals" or "tow the line," and then somebody drops the correct spelling on me and I'm boggled. Maybe foot-related words are the problem. I don't know. Ammendment. Rediculous.

2. I am very tired of the phrase "thrown under the bus." Even when it's the most apt turn of language for the situation being described, come on, people, let's stretch a bit. Have I used this in the past? Quite possibly. I'm trying to avoid it from now on.

3. Even sadder than watching the Cubs score one run on four hits last night was watching the TBS camera stay on Muhammed Ali as he settled into his front-row seat at Chase Field. He was shaking from Parkinson's, which we're all used to by now, but as he sat, a long silvery stream of saliva escaped his mouth and dribbled down his front. The lady to his left quickly dabbed his chin with a handkerchief that she then passed to him, and he continued to wipe his mouth as the camera circled around him. Nobody said anything.

4. Why does House keep getting nominated for best drama, when it's clearly a comedy/fantasy?

5. Speaking of medical fantasy, yesterday President Bush vetoed the extension of SCHIP (federally funded health insurance for low-income kids whose parents earn just enough to be disqualified for Medicare) because, you know, there's really no reason for the government to pay for kids' healthcare:
"The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America," he said. "After all, you just go to an emergency room."

6. Updating the blogroll today, mostly with sciencey stuff that makes me feel smart.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Breakup, Day Four

Sigh. She was perfect, y' know? Aw, man, she was soooooo hot. And smart, and funny, and she liked all the things I liked, you know, not just the whole soccer thing but guitars and crosswords and red wine too. Jeez. You think you know somebody. How long was it? Four years, five? I lost count, I was so swept up. Then she goes off acting like a queen bee sorority girl who finds out her roommate swiped both her last smoke and her Xanax. I guess I could take her back, but, shit, shit, shit, a girl's gotta have some dignity. What am I gonna do now?

Abby, Abby, you broke my heart.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Memo to Tucson Traffic Managers: Look to Oak Lawn

We so totally need these in Tucson. Oak Lawn, Illinois has a problem with people running stop signs, so the mayor tacked extra signs under the regular signs at about 50 intersections in the Chicago suburb.

Main Photo

Monday, October 01, 2007

A great many Cub fans were born, lived, and died without ever having the chance to see their team make the playoffs. An entire generation lived and died without seeing them win the World Series (last in 1908), and much of a generation died without seeing them even make it to the championship (last in 1908). The bulk of us born during and after the Baby Boom got to at least experience the rush of the odd division title (1984, 2003), while knowing we had no shot at tickets that would actually put our butts in stands festooned with playoff bunting. So many lifetimes of waiting with no reward, eternal hope very rarely met with the chance to catch a few games on TV.

But today when I got to work, my girlfriend slid a piece of paper into my hands. Tickets. Cubs-D'backs, Game 2. For me and my boy. Once in a lifetime just happened. I bawled like a baby.