Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Hampshire: Halfway There

The New Hampshire senate voted 13-11 today to approve a bill that creates marriage equality by conceptually separating it into its de facto civil and religious components, a move many national equality proponents have been suggesting for a while.
"This bill recognizes the sanctity of religious marriage and the diversity of religious beliefs about marriage while still providing equal access to civil marriage to all New Hampshire citizens," said Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat from Exeter.

The bill allows churches to decide whether they will conduct religious marriages for same-sex couples. Civil marriages would be available to both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

The bill scores high in the well, duh department by explicitly pointing out that the government won't be forcing churches to perform ceremonies they don't want to, but it never hurts to short-circuit a common anti-equality argument before it even gets uttered for roughly the kawhillionth time. Now it heads to the NH House, which can approve it as is, request modifications, or kill it outright. I don't know which way they're leaning, but I refuse to take the Senate action as anything but good.

By the way, this keeps Nate Silver's marriage map right on schedule--with help from a surprisingly positive endorsement from a Maine legislative committee, crap-ass testimony by certain segments of the Maine public notwithstanding--so I suppose this means I have two years left to go shopping for that perfect wedding outfit here in Arizona. Look out, Savers and Goodwill! Sporty dyke brides are heading for your door, and goddamn but we have muscular shoulders.

A good day for the Northeast. Keep it rolling!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009



Does this mean Kathleen Sebelius will finally get confirmed?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Holy Shit.

Jonathan Mann was on Maddow a couple nights back, singing about Paul Krugman. Where that was delightful, this is horrifying. This is a song actually "written" by the Bush lawyers who decided to twist both language and law to the point that up is down and black is white and waterboarding is an afternoon at the beach, a song whose lyrics were taken without modification from the memoradum explaining how detainees could be tortured without having to call it that. This is where the pick-your-own-adventure moral constructs of the Bush administration have brought us. If Obama does nothing else in his adminstration, it's his absolute moral duty to bring us back.

(Homer found this first)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Governor Notices Arizona Only Ranks 5th in Nation on Teen Birthrates, Acts Accordingly

Arizona's teens are currently getting their collective birth-giving asses handed to them by the kids in Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas, so Governor Jan Brewer is springing into action by opening the floodgates to the federal abstinence-only funding that her rational predecessor, Janet Napolitano, said uh, no to.
"This governor believes that abstinence education is the right path to take," said gubernatorial spokesman Paul Senseman. He said the fact the program won't cost the state anything only bolsters Brewer's belief that it makes sense.

See? It's free! What's not to like? Oh.

Napolitano, in refusing to take more federal funding last year, cited a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It found that teens in abstinence-only programs "were no more likely than youth who were assigned to the 'services as usual' control group to have abstained from sex."

Acting state health director Will Humble (no relation to state environmental quality "commissioner" Benjamin Grumbles) likes the abstinence-only curriculum because it promotes self-esteem and decision-making for teenagers, at least when that decision is to not have sex. Interestingly, while Humble thinks pairing those inarguably important skills with actual information about contraceptive would be a good idea, he's not even inching out onto that limb when it comes to his official job of, I don't know, safeguarding kids' health.

Humble also said he personally believes that birth control "probably should" be part of a high school curriculum. None of these funds, however, can be used to tell those teens who are going to be sexually active how to prevent pregnancy or avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

Yeah, "probably." But with contraception off the table, what kinds of things, then, will the federal dollars allow teachers to tell Arizona children?

Federal regulations say the dollars can be used only for programs teaching that abstinence from sex outside of marriage is the "expected standard for all school-age children." Programs also must teach that sex outside of marriage "is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects..."

In other words, the federal funding cannot be used to provide factual information about preventing pregnancy and life-threatening diseases, but it can be used to tell kids lies. Because nothing prepares kids for healthy adult sexual relationships like instilling the belief that a gold ring will magically protect them from whatever viruses their spouses might have picked up before the second or third time they renewed their virginity by making yet another purity vow, or will miraculously transform an abusive or exploitative relationship into the stuff dreamed by rainbow unicorns who breathe whipped cream with sprinkles. And, honestly, the greatest part of that funding by necessity will have to go toward busy-work modules that can be stretched to cover an entire semester's worth of classtime, since abstinence education can be boiled down to "no sex before marriage because it will make you insane and then kill you; the end," which can be communicated in just about as much time as it took you to read the sixteen words between the quotation marks there. Even allowing an extra second's dramatic pause there to accomodate the semicolon, it leaves an awful lot of instructional time to fill. And when you can't talk about things like biology or contraception, well, worksheets all around! Don't color outside the lines, kids!

The state of Illinois is re-evaluating abstinence programs this week too, with, not surprisingly, the same sets of arguments and data at loggerheads there as well, with the difference that sex-ed curricula are determined by local school districts rather than being standardized by the state education department. Roughly 40 percent of Illinois students get the abstinence-only classes, and the patchwork of lessons taught in middle schools makes high school health teachers pull their hair out.

Joliet Central High School teacher Susan Cailteux is reminded of how varied the sex education curriculum is at the elementary and middle school level every time she begins a unit with a 25-point quiz on the reproductive system.

"I'll get kids with a 5. They don't even get the uterus right," said Cailteux, who teaches high school sophomores about both abstinence and contraception. "It's very frustrating at times because you expect them to know the basics, but the basics have not been taught."

Sophomore Tim Nemec, 16, of Joliet acknowledged that he never learned much about reproduction or the risk of infections until he took the health course required of all sophomores at Joliet Central. After that, he noticed a shift in some classmates' attitudes.

"There were some kids who went in like, 'I don't care. I'll do what I want,' " Nemec said. "But after a while, they were sort of like, 'Wow, I don't know if this person is clean or not,' or, 'I could actually get someone pregnant.' "

In a country where two-thirds of high school seniors report being sexually active, with one in five of those reporting more than three partners, the need for universally taught, accurate information would seem to be self-evident, but too many people favor the fingers-tightly-in-ears, eyes-closed, la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you approach to their kids' *shudder* sexuality.

Abstinence-only advocates contend that, just as adults drill teens not to drink and drive, educators should teach them to avoid risk by maintaining celibacy until marriage.

They have their metaphors slightly out of focus. Providing accurate data about biology and contraceptives is not. the. same. as tossing your 16-year-old the car keys and a fifth of Jack. No, we don't want kids driving drunk. So we tell them not to drink, but we also tell them that if they do drink, or if the person they're riding with drinks, that they can call us for a ride home with no questions asked. We put a cab company's number in their cell phones and give them a twenty to keep in their wallets so they'll have a safe way out if they get into that situation. That in no way equates to saying well, I know you're going to drink anyway, so go ahead and take the Mustang! Driving drunk does not equate to having sex, but it does equate to having unprotected, stupid sex you're not mature enough to handle. So we do tell our kids that the only surefire way to avoid pregnancy is to keep penises far, far away from vaginas, and the only surefire way to avoid every STD is to not touch anyone ever, but then we also equip them with knowledge and the means to protect themselves when reality asserts itself. Because to do otherwise is to willfully punish them for their humanity by letting their lives get really fucked up by unwanted pregnancies and unwanted viruses, whether they're married at the time or not. And no amount of federal freebies--or the prospect of Arizona being NUMBER ONE!--can ever make that a good bargain.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More Storms

The migraine fairy came again--gonna shoot that fucking asshole one of these days, I swear--so for now, I leave you with more on the scary gay marriage storm.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just Because I LOVE This Graphic

Shamelessly nicked from FUCK YEAH RACHEL MADDOW.

Everything’s coming up gay this week!

Trumpets and Angel Choirs

They're blaring in my head, anyway, because I finally finished the freelance illustrating job that has been plaguing me for weeks. I am very grateful for the opportunity to earn some sorely needed cash, but all that crouching over the light table has left me with a sore back and bleary eyes.

It's a lovely flake of breccia.

A fragmentary stemmed projectile point.

Oh what a beautiful hammerstone.

So yeah, that's been my life. I am looking forward to spending some quality time tonight with the Chicago Red Stars (thank you, DVR gods) and Martha Stewart.

Oh. Guess That's Settled, Then.

Last week I wondered if Obama's troubling decision to let bygones be bygones and not prosecute order-followin' CIA torturers was simply a token olive branch to the pro-torture camp, a gesture that would free him up to go after the White House legal flunkies who wrote the memos stating that torture was fine and dandy in the first place.

Apparently not.
Asked Sunday on ABC's "This Week" about the fate of those officials, Emanuel said Obama believes they "should not be prosecuted either, and that's not the place that we go."

O_o. Is there anyone we can prosecute, or do we just leave all-expense-paid tickets to Madrid lying around in strategic locations and sit back and hope the Spaniards follow through? This is getting more disillusioning by the day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Maybe It Was the Gay Teabagging He Didn't Like?

Updated twice now, with all brilliant references to potential tea terrorists left intact because, frankly, without them this posting fizzles to little more than "oops." Lord knows I'm all about historical context, anyway. Anyway! Debbie informs me in the comments that this was indeed a separate protest not connected or adjacent to any idiotic Fox-ophile teabagging. I feel much better about the whole deal now, and will try to find time over the weekend to take a friendly look at CARE, the group behind the large-flag protest. Hat tip to Debbie, half of the "old straight couple" that turned out to support their LGBT friends.

Updated: It was indeed a protest against taxation without equal rights, according to, and the confrontation was spurred by a 911 call complaining that the gay protesters' flag was blocking the view of traffic at an intersection. The cop told the protesters they had to ditch the flag, they asked where they could move without the flag size being an issue, and the cop replied that they could not fly their flag anywhere within Casa Grande without being arrested; ergo, the kerfuffle and entry of the ACLU. The CGPD is investigating whether their officer acted inappropriately, and the chief will meet with the group staging the protest. The comments on azcentral, as always, are an entertaining ride.

And now, the original and now most irrelevant post:

Have you ever been to Casa Grande? The town, not the excellent ruins in nearby Coolidge? I have not, except to stop at the Wendy's at the outlet mall that one time coming home from Phoenix, so I don't know anything about the place. In any event, four gay people got busted for waving a rainbow flag in Casa Grande yesterday.
The incident happened Wednesday when four members of a gay rights group began waving the large flag as part of a tax protest.

Organizer Christopher Hall says he checked first with a city official who said as long as they stayed at least five feet from the sidewalk they would be fine.

But a police officer soon approached and told Hall his group would be arrested if they didn’t stop waving the flag.

This fails to compute on so many levels. Gay teabaggers? I mean, like Fox News-variety teabaggers? Waving their flag as part of the tax protest, or in protest of the protest, or adjacent to the protest? The fact that the group had an organizer who checked beforehand on city regs makes it sound like more of a counter-protest, considering the failure of genuine tea baggers in Washington to realize that dumping tea in a public park requires a permit they didn't have and throwing teabags over the fence onto the White House lawn gets you roughed up by the Secret Service and possibly charged with terrorism. Were they protesting taxation without equal civil rights? Does Casa Grande has a no-rainbows ordinance? I hope more details are forthcoming, because I am fascinated. Casa Grande suddenly became interesting!

Obama: Let Bygones be Bygones

Hmm. Ah...
President Obama absolved CIA officers from prosecution for harsh, painful interrogation of terror suspects Thursday, even as his administration released Bush-era memos graphically detailing — and authorizing — such grim tactics as slamming detainees against walls, waterboarding them and keeping them naked and cold for long periods.

Obama said he wanted to move beyond "a dark and painful chapter in our history."

So the people who conducted activities best described--especially by one-time candidate Obama--as torture are getting a free pass. Because... well, apparently because Bush administration lawyers wrote memos saying the techniques were A-OK, that, say, subjecting a person to controlled drowning right up to but not crossing the line into actual death is not torture because it does not result in "severe pain or suffering." Apparently it tickles so much that people decide to talk just to stop the laughter, and that's why the CIA was so desperate to keep it on the list of approved extreme interrogation measures.

Jesus. Well, okay, so now we have a bunch of torturers exonerated because "I was just following orders" is now back in vogue as a bulletproof excuse. Is this simply the opening gambit in a larger gameplan to go after the people who wrote the memos? Or the people who asked other people to write the memos and then signed off on them? Or possibly their boss, or their boss' boss? Because after making so much noise on the campaign trail about Bush ceding the moral high ground with his torturefest, issuing get-out-of-jail-free cards is kind of a bad idea, isn't it?

Obama disagreed, saying in a statement, "Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

Really? Really, Barack? Please tell me that was just a very unfortunate choice of words and not an accurate representation of your--or, more saliently, your Justice Department's--viewpoint on the last administration's war crimes. Nothing will be gained? Nothing will be regained. Like our standing in the world and the trust of our allies. Or our national integrity. We have already laid blame for the past, so in that sense you're right in not seeing the need for more resources to be spent in that direction. Making amends for the past and bringing to justice the people who led us down that path? Lots and lots will be gained by spending time and energy in that arena. Some stuff you can let slide. Other stuff you need to exact retribution for. Please don't think for a moment that you can pass off the torture doctrine as belonging to the former category.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In Which George Will Shills for the Seersucker Industry

George Will does not like my blue jeans. He does not like yours, either, nor the single pair he owns after--quelle horreur--being forced to purchase said dungarees in order to attend a senator's themed birthday party. Jeans are kiddie clothing, George says, and their adoption as our official national uniform has condemned our country to a hopeless, perpetual infantilism. Because we're all dressing up like tough male gold miners while going to our effete jobs as opinion columnists, or something. This is what George thinks we need to do instead:
For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.

I take it, then, that I am also to wear heels at all times and walk backwards. Neat! Thanks, George! You are wearing your spats and straw boater today, are you not?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Blah, Easter Hooray

It started out as a fairly blah Easter, due to (1) lack of belief in Jesus, at least the resurrection end of things, (2) lack of kids in the house to either color or search for eggs, and (3) backlog of freelance work (me) and work work (girlfriend) that put the kibosh on our vague plans for a hike on what would have been the first free weekend day we've had in ages.

So we spent the day sitting at the kitchen table, me drawing and her editing but me mostly scowling and (mostly) silently cursing a crap Easter day, until mid-afternoon, when we returned a movie to Casa (success!) and looked for a new kitchen table at World Market (fail!) and, what the hell, took the leftover gift cards from Christmas on a field trip to Barnes & Noble.

And lo, there did I an Easter miracle witness.

First off, I'm pathological when it comes to bookstore gift cards. I'll take a chance on something at Bookman's, since it's essentially free and it probably going back to be traded in eventually anyway. But a new book? A nice new shiny book that's sat on no one else's shelf? God, the pressure. So I'd been saving the cards for something special, something that I might want in hardback, something I wouldn't flinch at dropping 25 or 50 bucks on because it's just that awesome, and had settled on The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechdel, and anything by Daniel Martin Diaz, a Tucson artist who paints and renders in graphite freaky Latino-Catholic-derived stuff that's just totally trippy. And today at Barnes & Noble, there they were, one copy of each, hardcover and spotless, and covered by what was left on the gift cards.

The newest acquisitions.

The girlfriend made me sloppy joes for dinner to make me feel better about the lack of eggs, bunnies, and a ham. She makes the finest sloppy joes in North America and possibly the entire hemisphere, so I felt much much better indeed. It was the perfect capper to the book coup. Hope your day had its own pleasant surprises.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Shameless Saturday Morning

As in shamelessly repackaging from Americablog, but it's only to streamline your viewing experience. I was laughing too hard yesterday to find these videos myself.

The Republicans are protesting bailouts, taxes, and Obama in general with tiny little remixes of the Boston Tea Party, but rather than dressing up like Native Americans, stealing onto ships at anchor in the dead of night, wrenching open large wooden crates of tea, and dumping the contents overboard in protest of taxation by the Crown without representation, they're... well, I'm not sure what they're doing, but I think it involves slitting Lipton's bags open and sprinkling the contents lightly on the ground. Or setting them on fire. Or something. That would be worthy of only a shrug and a meh if not for the really unfortunate name they decided to adopt for their neo-Boston Harbor antics.

With a completely Tobias Funke level of cluelessness, the Republican opposition is protesting in a park near you. And they decided to call it teabagging.

Rachel went to town on this Thursday night, and the impressive thing is that she only lost it once, while Ana Marie Cox kept a straight face throughout.

My right-wing brother has yet to invite me to one of these events. I cannot wait.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Quick HIt

Spare time, I no haz it. A rush freelance illustrating job is sucking up the after-hours clock these days, the kind of work I can't turn down even though the artifacts are, for the most part, either dubious or dullsville, because the contracting person is from a distinguished American family that shreds money over their cornflakes for breakfast and I'm in dire straits.

Giant chunks of quartz. Yay!

Anyway, when I'm not slaving over the drawing board I'm moderately intrigued by happenings in Iowa, Vermont, and DC. I fear I can't fling myself wholeheartedly into Nate Silver's lovely wishful-thinking map--seriously, Arizona voting for marriage equality by 2011 and Utah by 2012? Do the LDS have secret plans to forbid their members from voting for anything ever again that the rest of us don't know about?--but I do have a glimmer of hope that the timing and the tides and the hearts and minds are starting to flow in a different direction. Also, Sully waxes more eloquent that usual for the Daily Dish here.

Yes, we toasted Vermont Tuesday night with Ben & Jerry's, and I added corn to my breakfast potatoes and onions in honor of Iowa. Now North Carolina and Tennessee need to get on board, cuz I could use some BBQ just about now.

Also, CUBS IN FIRST PLACE. The magic number is 160. More from my ink-stained fingers when I have time to think.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

One More Reason to Like Vermont

Joining Ben & Jerry's and lovely autumn foliage on the "pro" list for Vermont is a little thing called The First State Legislature to Approve Gay Marriage. And they did it by overriding a governor's veto.

note:I did not realize the embedded video of the roll call vote would automatically launch, so I've taken it down--follow the link to the Burlington Free Press if you'd like to watch.

A major anti-equality argument against Massachusetts', Connecticut's, Iowa's, and--while it was in force--California's marriage laws has been that they were all the results of judicial action rather than the state legislatures. Since no demon-possessed judicial activists were involved in the Vermont action, I wonder if these same detractors--who frequently push for legislation insulating anti-marriage amendments from judicial review--will be clamoring for the Vermont Supreme Court to overturn a law that came to life the way they claim it had to in other states in order to be valid.

For now, however, it's a happy day, and I may just have to raise a pint of Phish Food to the northeast in a toast to equality under the law.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Another Unsolicited Note to Tucson's City Planners

On Saturday, the Daily Star reported that Congress Street--the main artery through Downtown, and home to business anchors Hotel Congress, the Rialto Theater, Grill, Chicago Store, Hydra, and the Fox Theater--will close for six months for sidewalk improvements and the installation of tracks for the hoped-to-be-iconic streetcar. Fine, the business owners said, we get that it's gotta be done, but could it please be done over the summer when business is slow anyway? Sure, said the City of Tucson, and then, without explanation, announced that the project's been put on hold. Indefinitely.
City Manager Mike Hein and others were vague about why they put the brakes on and said there is no timetable for getting the project restarted.

Hein said funding, other street work in progress and the timeline for recruiting new businesses Downtown ... are why it's impossible to predict when the project will go forward.

Let me see if I got this. The city was poised to get cranking on the final piece of the Downtown/4th Avenue underpass renovations that were supposed to bring people Downtown and make the place more appealing to established winners like Janos Wilder, Tucson's certified rock star of a chef, and then suddenly decided it isn't quite ready after all and can't really say when it might be ready? Meanwhile, Janos is planning on opening by the end of the year, which may or may not put his ribbon-cutting ceremony smack dab in the middle of a closed street populated mainly by backhoes.


On Wednesday I took my visiting family members to Barrio Brewing Co. for drinks. Barrio is a local brewery/bar situated in an old warehouse next to the train tracks southwest of Downtown proper, and by all appearances it's hanging on pretty well even in this crappy economy. We sat on the shady porch, sucked down a few quality beers, hoped a train would go by, and decided it's too bad for Downtown that this awesome little place is stuck in the middle of an industrial zone next to 17th Street Market instead of in some funky space closer to Congress Street. It would be a perfect nugget to build a public space around. People like historic buildings connected to their city's past, as long as the plumbing works and the ceiling's not likely to fall in. They like comfortable, shaded outdoor places to sit with drinks and food. And they like it when those drinks and food are very very tasty, and are probably put in the mood to stick around a while and shop once their bellies are full and their livers start to fall asleep. Why haven't you brought us here before? they asked. We want to come back next time we're in town.

That should be music to any city planner's ears. Jim Counts (of Nimbus Brewery) tried to play that angle up, but probably went too far in trying to tie a condo development to his proposed downtown brewpub, both of which fizzled back in '06 when the city said go for it but you gotta show us the cash in 90 days.

Can everybody listen up now? The city and Counts are locked in another pissing contest, with the city holding up the liquor license Counts wants for the Sam Hughes neighborhoodcorner taproom he opened a couple months ago that is currently nearing its death throes due to being limited to subs and soft drinks, neither of which are putting a significant dent in the traffic heading to Bob Dobbs' across the street. Everybody just stop already and give Counts his license for a place downtown somewhere on Congress--lord knows there are plenty of empty storefronts with adjacent vacant lots left by the demolition of one historic structure after another that would be perfect for a brewpub and roomy outdoor beer garden--and let the beer start flowing and the food start marching out of the kitchen and people might start coming. My out-of-town relatives are willing to give it a shot. Just imagine what might have been if the spring training stadium had been built down there too rather than next to juvie on Ajo Way.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Recovery Package

Recovering? Yes I am. The family was here in various permutations for a week, and now that they've gone back home I have taken the deep breath I've been needing... and find myself wishing they were still here, or at least coming back sooner than they actually will. We did far less hiking this time around than in previous years, so I don't have many general-interest photos to share.

We did make it down to the Nature Conservancy's Patagonia-Sonoita Preserve on a horridly windy Friday to search for birds that, like us, weren't smart enough to stay hunkered down someplace sheltered. Sonoita Creek, fed by groundwater, flows perennially and is so clear and surrounded by greenery that it looks fake.

Sonoita Creek burbling along.

Whimsy! Snakey decoration on handrail on Creek Trail.

The preserve has a few miles of interconnected trails, about half of which follow the creek before looping around through a partially burned mesquite bosque. The birdwatching was probably hampered by the wind, but we managed to spot a thick-billed kingbird (rare in Arizona), a Cassin's kingbird, several vermillion flycatchers or possibly a single, very energetic flycatcher, finches by the bucketload, a black phoebe, and a pair of gray hawks that we heard whistling for an hour and a half before we finally saw them wheeling in the updrafts.

The preserve is notable not only for the year-round stream and numerous bird species, but also for its stands of old-growth cottonwoods, some of which top out at 130 years old and about a million feet tall. These are the oldest and largest cottonwoods on the planet.

Giant cottonwood.

After a day well-spent, we retired to my back yard and watched my aunt grill up slabs and slabs of ribs, and then we worked off dinner in the best possible way.

The family gathers 'round the TV machine to watch Rachel.

Tonight I'm watching basketball and thinking I'm pretty damn lucky to have been born into this family. Good times, people!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Sighting of the Rare and Elusive Boltgirl

It's the annual family confab in Tucson, which has left my calendar a bloody mess when viewed from a distance--gotta switch from red ink to a more soothing blue--and my blog neglected in the corner, sniffling. What can I fling at you as I sprint by the computer between rounds of cards, grilling, and backyard birdwatching fueled by high-quality merlot and shiraz?

Meat! Meaty meaty meat meat. I have been a vegetarian off and on for the past twenty years or so, but right now am definitely peaking in the meat quadrant of the graph. Costco sells lovely slabs of top round that grill to tender perfection, which you might not expect from something with "round" in the title, but damn. Damn. I like to cover one slab with a rub of equal parts brown sugar, black pepper, hot ground roasted red chili, and garlic powder, with a half part of kosher salt and let it think about it for a few hours before hitting the grill, and then do the other with simple salt and pepper. And then some lovely thick rounds of onion around the edges until they caramelize. Nom. The grill is getting a workout this week.

Economy! I'm sorry, but at this point I am utterly confused. US auto execs are getting fired by the White House on the same day banking execs are invited over for tea? Meanwhile, my friends and I are coordinating those Costco runs for days when Tucson is not being invaded by family members who gleefully pick up the tab. Recommended bargain of the week: giant clamshell pack of Cherubs grape tomatoes, $4.49. That gives you a week's worth of salads, pastas, omelettes, and lovely snacks. A little olive oil, some basil, salt, and pepper, and bam smacky, you're eating like the king of your very own tomato patch.

Gardening! I suck at it. I know people who very successfully grow tomatoes and peppers and thus avoid that portion of Costco, but I am not one of them. High and subsequently dashed hopes in the past have included tomatoes, jalapenos, anaheim chiles, squash, red bell peppers, lettuce, and snow peas. This season I stuck to herbs and have managed to keep sage and mint alive; the cilantro, to my great chagrin, collapsed and died within three days. Oh, wait--I have had marginal success with potatoes, and am currently sitting on a harvest store of four yukon golds ranging in size from small grape to golf ball with a thyroid problem.

Basketball! My brackets are dead in both men's and women's, although I still have the Heels alive for the men's championship and UConn for the well, duh category in the women's. And the Irish rolled over and died in the NIT semis. That is all.

Arizona! Our esteemed Governor Jan Brewer (R-Harpytown) appointed the illustrious and beloved-by-Shakesville Mr. Benjamin H. Grumbles as head of the state Department of Environmental Quality, which is something akin to appointing a hyena as head of kitten welfare. Grumbles is a Bush EPA hack whose major accomplishment at the EPA was being concerned about pharmaceuticals in groundwater. Well, he was actually only concerned about nitroglycerin, and then only because it's an explosive. Anti-depressants and anti-inflammatories are apparently okay because--let's be honest here--they're making you feel better, aren't they?

Baseball! Pima County wants to build another stadium in hopes that maybe they can lure like three teams back from Glendale to Save Spring Training in Tucson, which will only cost about $137 million in a state that is shuttering state parks and firing teachers as fast as it can in order to fill exactly two sandbags that can be stacked up in front of the 75-foot tsunami that is the current $3 BILLION budget deficit. But it is important to soak people with an increased sales tax so that they can build a stadium that may or may not be used for an entire month every year if the teams decide to relocate to the cotton fields of Marana before bolting to the next sweet deal being offered by a municipality someplace else. Arizona: 49th in education, 2nd in teen pregancy rates, numero uno in short-sighted stupidity.

More to come! Later!