Thursday, July 31, 2008
I am deathly curious to learn the exact nature of your yard improvement project, specifically, the attributes it possesses that are so crucial to the continuation of the species that you needed to be out pounding rebar into the ground for it at 5:30 this morning. I suspect you were simply moving your horseshoe pit, since the daily round of clank-thud commenced shortly thereafter. Actually, I guess I have a second question now: precisely how careful do you want me to be when I cut down the salt cedars on our shared property line? Mull that over before you haul out the sledgehammer tomorrow morning.
Note: the following exchange has been scrubbed from the MSNBC website. If even they are protecting Pat Buchanan's delicate sensibilities, conservative media bashers really don't have a leg to stand on.
Second note: video link originally courtesy of commenter rhit over on the Maddow blog.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
First stop: the site of the Haymarket Riot of 1886. From the plaques at the base of the memorial, which depicts labor activists speaking from a wagon before the meeting turned ugly:
On the evening of May 4th, 1886, a tragedy of international significance unfolded on this site in Chicago's Haymarket produce district. An outdoor meeting had been hastily organized by anarchist activists to protest the violent death of workers during a labor lockout the previous day in another area of the city. Spectators gathered in the street as speakers addressed political, social, and labor issues from atop a wagon that stood at the location of this monument. When approximately 175 policemen approached with an order to disperse the meeting, a dynamite bomb was thrown into their ranks.
The Haymarket Memorial, 151 N. Desplaines St.
The short version of the aftermath is that 7 cops and 4 civilians were killed by the bomb, thrown from Crane's Alley, here:
Crane's Alley, east side of Desplaines.
The slightly longer version is that, despite the failure to identify the bomber by either name or affiliation, the organizers of the meeting and several other people with unpopular pro-labor political beliefs were arrested and imprisoned after sham trials. Two organizers and two speakers were executed; another was murdered in prison while awaiting trial. The Haymarket Affair ultimately became a rallying point for the modern labor movement.
From the memorial at Desplaines and Randolph, it was a decent walk down to the ultimate Chicago historical site: the origin point of the Great Fire. The O'Learys built their barn on DeKoven Street just east of Jefferson. October 8, 1871: cow, lantern, wind, history.
The red brick building behind the monument? The one that says "Chicago Fire..."? Yeah, the full sign reads "Chicago Fire Academy." Too fittingly, the original fire site was taken over by the fire department to build their training academy; the back of the brick building is lit up at regular intervals to teach cadet firefighters how to ameliorate the effects of modern day O'Learys.
Boltgirl demonstrates callous disregard. It wasn't me, honest!
From there, a stroll up to the south Loop, where Dearborn Station overlooks the south end of Printer's Row.
Dearborn Station's tower, somewhat shortened after a fire--what else?--destroyed its original high peaked roof.
Next time: fun architectural details from historic Loop buildings. For now, the Cubs won in Milwaukee and are sitting in first by four.
One Wednesday evening in late July of 1992 my dad walked over to his house as he got ready for his retirement concert, the last he would direct after 40 summers at the town park's bandshell, to give him a bit of news about me. Well, Grandpa replied, maybe on the night I lay down my baton I'll get a great-grandson.
It didn't happen that night, but it did on the next. So happy birthday to my now 16-year-old son, who I shamelessly claim as the best boy ever. Grandpa would be beyond proud. Shout out!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sunday night was the more personally irksome incident, on the soccer field during a co-ed game. One of my male teammates runs pretty hot and tends to respond to overly physical play with verbal attacks. He has a knack for identifying the basest target he can aim for and hitting it right away, whether it's relating details to his opponent about the opponent's mother or, as was the case Sunday, loudly informing his fully transitioned MTF opponent through word and gesture that he still has his penis.
At halftime I told him he needed to knock that shit off. Well, she pushed me, he said. I don't even know if it's a she or a he or what. She's a she, so push her back, I replied, but do not bust on her for being transgendered, and just do not even say that stupid shit to anyone, ever again. After the team captain and her mother for good measure chastised him as well, he went over and apologized to the other player, who amazingly accepted his apology instead of just kicking him in the nuts to check to see if he still had those too.
Monday passed without incident.
Today I'm at the gym lifting weights when two early-20s guys come in. It's not the hugest weight room in the world, and there's no music or anything, you can hear pretty much every conversation that goes on. First guy does some curls and passes the barbell off to the next guy, who reracks it and grabs a lighter one. First guy snorts with laughter. Well, if you're gonna be a vag, I guess you're gonna be a vag! Seriously, fellas? Seriously? I'm old enough to be your mother, I actually have one of those dreaded vagi, and oh, by the way, I'm outlifting both of you. Like, OMG, STFU already.
On Sunday, the crime wasn't the push so much as the perceived affront against nature, manhood, Jesus, Thor, and all of existence represented by a guy trading in his dick for a vagina and becoming a woman. Today it was a guy demonstrating physical weakness and thus, for all practical purposes, simulating a woman, which meant, of course, being reduced to the only really relevant part of a woman in his buddy's mind, which--despite being a very desirable part said buddy undoubtedly likes having wrapped around his dick--is something to be despised, something shameful to be equated with.
In neither case did the poorly behaving guy exhibit any shred of awareness that what he said was much different from lovely weather we're having today. The guys in the gym went on at full volume, despite half the people in there being female. The guy on the team thought it was funny until his teammates let him know in no uncertain terms that it wasn't.
It's hard work being a dour, humorless feminist. And it's only Tuesday.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I loathe this time of year. Absofuckinglutely hate it. The thunderstorms are lovely, when they fire up over midtown instead of just taunting us from the east side, the south side, the northwest, but they don't come every day. Just the clouds and the oppressive thick air, clothes that won't dry, a swamp cooler that snorts with laughter and says yeah right, talk to me again in October.
Floor fans. Cold lime seltzer water from Trader Joe's. Immobility. These are the top priorities today.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Maybe ten years ago I happened on Scott Sanders' In Limestone Country in the "midwest" section of Bookman's. Hmmm, nifty. Over the years the book metamorphosed from an interesting read to a pilgrimage guidebook on my trips back to southern Indiana, which happens to be underlain by the finest building stone the planet has to offer. Indiana limestone built the Empire State Building, the National Cathedral, and several statehouses across the country. The book talks about the history of quarrying in two counties southwest of Indianapolis, but, best of all, also describes quirky places and monuments you might miss if you weren't looking for them.
So I've been looking for them.
Past trips have taken me to the Empire Hole between Oolitic and Needmore, where, if you took the Empire State Building apart and laid it back in, block by block, you could fill the hole back up to ground level. The edges of the great hole are lined with trees, and the walls stairstep starkly down to the green water that's filled most of the yawning opening in the intervening decades since the rock was cut out. All the old quarries have similarly been converted by time and rainfall to overgrown swimming pools, deserted except for the birds and weeds, and everywhere, everywhere, stacks of extra or rejected stone piled up like so many giant babies' building blocks.
Generations of men spent their lives in the quarries working the stone. When they died they were buried in shallow graves right on top of it, with a limestone monument placed above them, sandwiched for the rest of forever between layers of gray stone. The past trips also led me through tiny Oolitic, with its limestone statue of Joe Palooka downtown, to Bedford, the seat of Lawrence County and the absolute center of the Indiana quarrying industry now. Specifically, I went to the cemetery in the middle of town to see its amazing hand-carved gravestones from the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the cutters were honored with monuments of limestone rather than the modern granite, obelisks and tablets but also lifelike tree trunks covered with carved vines and ferns so detailed as to be identifiable to species. Doves perched on bouquets of stone flowers. A full-sized golfer standing with his bag of clubs. A carver's workbench covered with tools, all preserved in stone by the man's grieving workmates, a stone snapshot of his bench on the day he died.
Those were past trips. This time around I was with a bigger group that had been promised a geode hunt, but the flooded creeks and my inability to remember exactly where we found the good ones a long time ago made that a bust. We still made it to a Limestone Country landmark I hadn't found before, Hopkins Cemetery, a tiny burying ground perched on a peninsula of unstripped land surrounded on three sides by steep quarry walls, south of Needmore, where old Indiana 37 has been chopped in half by a quarry, directly north of the Empire Hole. Graves at the northern edge have begun tumbling over the side.
It's still an active cemetery, but it's old. We walked around quietly looking at the stones. It didn't take long to notice that a lot of families lost a lot of kids at very young ages, or that even this small community had stark disparities in wealth. (if you'd like to see details, all images can be embiggened with a click)
A finely worked scroll and a verse for Joseph Massey.
A lamb for Zella.
A bouquet and an unconscious dove for Hershel.
An obelisk for a newborn.
But this one is the one that got me, a simple uneven tablet that was carved with an unpracticed but loving hand, for Kenneth Dale Moffatt, dead at nine. Click to enlarge the photo and you can make out, in the upper right, "Asleep in Jesus," with the J carved backwards, the dates of the boy's too-short life awkwardly squeezed at the bottom under his name, and in the top left corner, in what my stupid sentimental mother's heart sees as a gesture of love and hope, and perhaps a memory of happier times, a sun rendered like a child's drawing.
A stone for Kenneth Moffatt.
It wasn't sadness that quieted our steps as we wended through the gravestones raised by the families of the rich and the poor so long ago so much as the contemplation you can't escape when you come to a place like this. Must've been a hell of a life, my brother said softly as he examined the row of stones set by a family that had lost five children before the age of two. So many kids, so many women dying young, so many men who barely made it past fifty before silicosis or blocks unexpectedly breaking free of their lines caught up with them. But they kept on. And they poured their regard for each other into the stone they carved to set up in memory.
Many of the inscriptions have been rendered unreadable now by decades of rain and wind; limestone's softness makes it excellent for carving but not so great when it comes to permanent memorials. But it's that failing that makes it the best medium, I suppose, for carving out initials to mark peoples' brief stay here, the eyeblink of their lives above the stone. The grass gets mowed and the weeds get pulled and flowers get left even as the names fade from the faces of the monuments, toppled obelisks are carefully propped back up, and the graves sliding out of the north end of the cemetery are, I hope, occasionally grabbed back from the precipice.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
On June 17, I got married in California. Somehow, this was deemed newsworthy. We had two paragraphs in The New York Times, were the lead story on KOLD-TV at 5 and 6 o'clock, and had a multimedia slide show in the Palm Springs Desert Sun, to name only a few of our contacts with the media.The reason we garnered so much attention was that I married a woman.I could have married a man I met on the street and if I died the next day, he would get my Social Security benefits. Yet my partner of 18 years, who has stayed home for the last 10 years to raise our sons, would get nothing.There is something inherently wrong about that.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Abby is asked why she didn't scream in pain upon the break. She says she hasn't seen the hit. She says she thinks her experience and competitiveness helped. She didn't want to negatively affect the team by making a scene. She wanted to set an example for her teammates...
She plans to watch the games with other injured players. She intends to grow from this experience. "There's not question in my mind whether or not I'm going to make a comeback - it's just a matter of time. I want to come back and be great again." Abby says she's ready for the hard work that will involve. She's aware of her responsibility as a role model in dealing with challenges and wants to be inspired by that. She wants to show kids how to react when things get tough. She vows to come back...
When she's asked to name three players who people should look out for, Abby says she can name 18.
Not bad, not bad at all.
After watching the replay of the game last night, I am increasingly impressed with Amy Rodriguez' speed and work rate. She is desire for the ball embodied and whizzing around the field on a blur of legs. Lauren Cheney has been brought up as Wambach's replacement on the front line; watching the two of them together is going to be very interesting. And hopefully will create unanticipated problems for the opposition.
Updated: the link to the audio of the conference call is up at US Soccer.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Anyway. Wombat's surgery was successful, and she now has a shiny new titanium rod to keep her tibia company on cold nights; no word as yet on whether Megan Rapinoe continues to be a component of those cuddle plans. However, the initial 12-week estimate for a comeback was probably premature and not realistic.
“She’s sustained a very significant injury to her bone,” said Dr. Valletta. “It can sometimes take a year to return a professional player to her previous level of activity, but the expectation is that we will have an aggressive rehab program and progress her weight-bearing rapidly to minimize her time lost for competition.”
Speaking from the pretty much completely unrelated experience of a bone bruise, that aggressive rehab will not be pleasant. She's proven the ability to gut it out through a broken toe and a split-open, stapled-back-together head, and she's seen teammates come back from equally bad injuries ahead of schedule without losing much of a step, if any, so I believe she'll get there. What the team she returns to will look like is the bigger question at this point.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
If you don't have the patience for non-embedded video, this is her key point:
...in Arizona, the only way to get around the state is by small private plane.
Delivered without a whiff of self-consciousness, maybe because she specified "small" instead of "737." But Obama is the elitist in this election, and don't you forget it.
Brazil play dirty. Period. And they don't need to. Jesus, they absolutely don't need to, at least not when their holy trinity of Daniela, Cristiane, and Marta--otherwise known on the BigSoccer boards as Fast, Faster, and Fastest--are playing. Which they were not, in this series of stateside friendlies, and the US still barely escaped each time. The only consolation from last night, the only thing that kept the Wambach injury in the ah shite category rather than prompting me to whisper in Dick Cheney's ear that Brazil harbors prime al Qaeda training camps, is that it came on a clean play. It's a microscopic consolation at best.
What's this mean for the Olympics, with the Wombat watching from the sideline on crutches with a titanium rod in her shin? Amy Rodriguez brings one-on-one creativity and fearlessness on 21-year-old legs. Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O'Reilly have shown great flashes of combining well when they're on the field together. Carli Lloyd has power, turns well on the ball, and isn't afraid to shoot from distance, but sometimes has trouble keeping the ball on frame. Tash Kai is a huge ball of random puppy energy. Just ask the Brazilian player she barreled into when she came on the field in the second half. Her entry into the game turned the fire back on in the US attack, and she did get the deciding goal, but can she magically find the focus knob and learn which direction to turn it in the next three weeks before the Olympics start?
Final notes. Things I was wrong about: Mitts can play after all. She was very strong last night, and obviously worked her ass off to come back from her ACL tear suffered just before the World Cup. Angela Hucles' continued presence on the roster is no longer a mystery to me. Solid. And a thing I wasn't wrong about: completely aside from Wambach's behavior during the Great Hope Solo Fiasco, completely aside from how she may or may not comport herself with teammates, damn. The woman is made of rock, iron, and any number of other extremely tough things. After snapping both bones in her lower leg (watch the replay for the rebound after her left leg hits the ground and then undulates up in a way it's really not supposed to), she calmly waved for assistance and smiled a little rather than doing anything I would have done in that situation, which probably would have involved scream, puke, pass out, repeat.
Career-ender? I hope not. Her eyes as she rode the gurney off the field will haunt me for weeks.
Two ways to look at it. The door's open now for the young talent to show what they can do up top. Or there's now a huge hole up top left by the absence of one of the most prolific active goal-scorers in the game, who incidentally in the last year had added a decent amount of speed, foot skill, field vision, and distribution to her formerly head-based arsenal. Three weeks, Pia. Get to it.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
They were looking decent against Brazil, playing more of a control game with some tantalizing 20-yard through balls onto perfectly timed runs by the forwards, creating some chances.
Then Abby Wambach snapped her left leg.
Brazil have been fouling through the entire first thirty minutes, hitting Wambach in particular, but this was a 50-50 ball, no foul. Just a full-speed followthrough by the Wombat's left shin into the Brazilian defender's full-speed onrushing right knee. Still no score at the end of the first half, but my god. The decent crowd at Torero Stadium in San Diego is stunned and subdued. The team is soldiering on, almost scoring in near the end of stoppage time, but Christ.
Maybe it's not as bad as it looked. Wombat kept a brave face while being loaded into the ambulance, but her eyes told the story. Maybe it's not as bad as it looked. Maybe.
Predictably, now the conscience meme has spread beyond the initially promised narrow spectrum of pharmacists, nurses, and doctors to the entire range of healthcare funded by the federal government. The Department of Health and Human Services, perhaps bolstered by the growing tendency of state education departments to decide "science" means "whatever we damn well say it is," has taken the mind-bending step of basing crucial biological definitions on public opinion polls. Zogby polls. Which typically have an error in the +/- four million percent range.
In a spectacular act of complicity with the religious right, the Department of Health and Human Services Monday released a proposal that allows any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman's access to contraception. In order to do this, the Department is attempting to redefine many forms of contraception, the birth control 40% of Americans use, as abortion. Doing so protects extremists under the Weldon and Church amendments. Those laws prohibit federal grant recipients from requiring employees to help provide or refer for abortion services. The "Definitions" section of the HHS proposal states,Abortion: An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. There are two commonly held views on the question of when a pregnancy begins. Some consider a pregnancy to begin at conception (that is, the fertilization of the egg by the sperm), while others consider it to begin with implantation (when the embryo implants in the lining of the uterus). A 2001 Zogby International American Values poll revealed that 49% of Americans believe that human life begins at conception. Presumably many who hold this belief think that any action that destroys human life after conception is the termination of a pregnancy, and so would be included in their definition of the term "abortion."
Something like 40% of Americans also believe in the Genesis creation story and eschew evolution, so I expect HHS to make the administration of medications based on evolutionary biology optional as well. Enjoy your camphor oil, people, and be sure to close up your windows tight so you don't get the night vapors!
Jesus. Why does this matter? It matters because of this:
Up until now, the federal government followed the definition of pregnancy accepted by the American Medical Association and our nation's pregnancy experts, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is: pregnancy begins at implantation. With this proposal, however, HHS is dismissing medical experts and opting instead to accept a definition of pregnancy based on polling data. It now claims that pregnancy begins at some biologically unknowable moment (there's no test to determine if a woman's egg has been fertilized). Under these new standards there would be no way for a woman to prove she's not pregnant. Thus, any woman could be denied contraception under HHS' new science.
Any woman could be denied contraception by HHS. If your employer-provided health plan continues clinging to a slender thread, you'll be okay, provided, of course, you have access to a pharmacy whose employees are required to do their jobs rather than proselytize. If you rely on federally funded clinics--in other words, if you tend disproportionately to be low-income and/or a woman of color--you're screwed. Twice.
All together, please. Science is indeed a consensus, but it's not a democracy. Public opinion is lovely but has exactly no relevance to the definitions portion of the program. Against abortion? Don't have one. Really super duper against it? Don't go into healthcare.
Thanks to Top!Secret G-woman for the tip, and for starting my day on a very stabby note.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
The falls, McCormick's Creek, southern Indiana.
This is where I was. And it's where my mind still is, mostly, when it's not off wandering North Side neighborhoods in Chicago looking for the next bakery with promising cupcakes. I came home to a Tucson that is much greener and damper than when I left, although the big monsoons have yet to fire up overhead since I've been back. Half the flowers in the yard are dead, a bumper crop of weeds is springing up, and green fuzzy stuff that is probably mold but that I'll hopefully call short moss has taken over one of the rock terraces in the back.
My office failed to spontaneously combust during my absence, so today I have to make good on a vague promise to myself that the piles of paper will be plowed under at least once a year.
Politics rage on. Bush is lifting the offshore drilling moratorium, causing Bomb Bomb McCain to clap his hands with glee. The New Yorker has put out a deeply satirical cover this week portraying the Obamas as angry black Muslim terrorists, forgetting that most of the country doesn't (a) recognize satire or (b) know that the proper response is not fuck yeah that's what Rush has been saying for months! And the people who led the fight against Arizona's most recent anti-gay-marriage amendment are admitting that they were only in it for the straight couples who might have been adversely affected, and so aren't really interested this time now that gays are the explicit, exclusive target. Awesome. Thanks for the welcome home, guys!
Sunday, July 06, 2008
My only point is this--historically I have been a strong believer in a woman's right to choose with her doctor, her pastor, and her family.
This was part of his clarification of statements about abortion made in an earlier interview. Statements indicating that he thinks mental illness doesn't count as debilitating enough to terminate a pregnancy, that "partial-birth abortion" is valid terminology to continue slinging around, that women pop off to the abortionist on a whim because they periodically feel a little down.
Now, I don't think that "mental distress" qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term...
The new explanation:
It can be defined by serious clinical mental-health diseases. It is not just a matter of feeling blue.
Okay, look. Even if the greater context of the statement was to take on the usual anti-choice meme that women in their 36th week get an abortion to counteract that nasty case of the Mondays, especially if they break a nail or something, he's not doing us any favors by phrasing it this way. I completely agree that feeling blue is not a valid reason for a late-term abortion. Good for you. Now maybe you can point out that feeling blue is really very probably and most likely never a proximate cause of late-term D&Xs anyway, and that suggesting it is in the first place completely trivializes an agonizing decision process and ascribes to women the agency of a five-year-old.
And the fact that you even made the statement that the only health exception you'd consider for a woman who, by the way, is not now and never will be you, would have to be physical? Not that I don't appreciate the clueless clarification, but that crap never should have fallen out of your mouth in the first place. Who are you preaching to? It sure as hell ain't the pro-choice choir. Oh, and you think I should be able to make the choice with my pastor? How wonderful. Because my pastor's always been a key player in my healthcare decisions. Especially since I don't have one. Quit sucking up to the goddamn religious conservatives who aren't going to vote for you anyway and remember the rational, intelligent bloc whose votes won you the nomination.
I'm still voting for you in the fall, but I'm less enthused about it by the day. If you come back from Iraq sounding more like McCain than McCain already does, we are going to have some serious issues.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
`Section 1. This article may be cited as the `Marriage Protection Amendment'.
`Section 2. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.'
Yes, that one. That's not the ah shite moment, though, not yet. That moment comes when you read the list of co-sponsors. Who's lurking there alongside usual suspects Sam Brownback and James Inhofe? Is it possibly David "Whore Diapers" Vitter and Larry "Tappity Tap" Craig? Why, yes. Yes, it is.
I can sincerely think of no two better pure and holy warriors for the cause of marital sanctity than those two. I mean, at least Vitter chose a hooker who not only looked like his wife but had the same first name too! If that doesn't scream devotion I don't know what does.
Keep it classy, GOP!
Courting evangelicals and other religious voters, Barack Obama today called for an expansion of President Bush's initiative distributing federal aid to church-based groups that provide community services.
"The challenges we face today - from saving our planet to ending poverty - are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need an all hands on deck approach," Obama said a few moments ago at a press conference outside a community ministry in Zanesville, Ohio.
Obama promised the faith-based initiative would be "central" to his administration if he is elected.
Oh, awesome. Just awesome.
Seriously, what the hell is this? How does Obama propose to conduct the oversight that will be necessary to insure that no proselytizing goes along with whatever government-funded service the individual faith-based programs are providing? And does he do it with a straight face?
Barack. Change-meister. Buddy. You can do better than this. I get it, really, I do--you're trying everything you can to pick up the Christians who are disillusioned with the Republican party--but can't you come up with a different, a better, a, a... a more Constitutional, perhaps, way of doing it?