Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I love my brother, truly I do. I generally ignore the right-wing crap he forwards my way, figuring that his time in Baghdad bought him several years' worth of me not taking his head off for not critically evaluating the stuff in his e-mails. I couldn't let this one go, although I did show admirable restraint in not sending my response to everyone else on his distribution list.

Have we all seen this one yet?
I found an interesting statistic for those who think we should pull out of Iraq because we have lost some military personel. I do not belittle their sacrifice, just trying to make a point. It may very well be safer to go to Iraq then to stay in the USA. Read this snippet: If you consider that there have been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq Theater of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000. The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000. That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in our Nation's Capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq. Conclusion: We should immediately pull out of Washington.
Groan. Basic math. Basic math, people! My response is below:

Statistics are fun! A correction to the stats provided: 2,112 deaths in an average population of 160,000 comes to 1,320 deaths per 100,000, although the majority of those are due to IED rather than gunfire. The original e-mail also assumes that the entire deployed force saw the same casualty rates, although the majority of the violence is centered in the Sunni Triangle. For comparison, troop strength in Baghdad has been increased over the summer to roughly 13,500 from 8,000. Working from the larger number, the 668 casualties from Baghdad still gives a rate of 4,948 per 100,000.
Current murders in DC stand at 188 in a population of roughly 550,000, which comes to roughly 34 deaths per 100,000.
In any event, neither is a particularly good place to be.

The dishonest use of casualty stats to justify the continued occupation of Iraq (hey, some guys died, but it's not as bad as... the Battle of the Somme!) or to vaguely argue against gun control laws is fairly distasteful. And what really pisses me off is the likelihood that probably 75% of the people on my bro's mailing list will read that stuff uncritically and swallow it whole.


The amazing find we can't talk about continues to consume the days. People file in and out of the room I work in, looking and looking at the artifacts, marveling at how this or that is the most incredible example of ________ they've ever seen. The energy level approaches giddiness; despite how jaded I have felt from time to time over the years (ho hum, here's another pile of artifacts to analyze), the buzz from this one still hasn't receded from the level of DAMN.

Meanwhile, my hand cramps from clutching a pen for hours on end. Note to all you Rapidograph warriors out there: the Staedtler Pigment Liner comes in 0.05 and 0.10 widths, nice one-piece throwaway pens that come very close to Rapidograph line quality with the added bonus of not bleeding or clogging in low-humidity settings when you stop drawing for more than 20 seconds. Drying time is longer than for Rapidograph india ink, but moving on to the next two, three, thirty points gives plenty of lag time before erasing.

While I've been busy, Rummy's been talking.
"What bothers me the most is how clever the enemy is," he said. Islamic extremist groups are trying to undermine Western support for the war on terror, he said.
"They are actively manipulating the media in this country" by, for example, falsely blaming U.S. troops for civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
That was Monday, reported without comment. Then, yesterday, he delivered what shall surely stand the test of time as the Gem of the Week as he managed to fulfill Godwin's Law in a rant against people who are calling for a phased withdrawal from Iraq:
Rumsfeld alluded to the failure to stop Nazism in the 1930s. Without naming Bush critics at home or abroad, he said, "It is apparent that many have still not learned history's lessons. I recount this history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," he said.
Oh, no doubt, the man is finally speaking the truth. He just didn't realize exactly what he was talking about.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Another Sunday, Another Hike

Saturday was taken up with a bunch of stuff I don't quite remember, not due to any altered states of consciousness, but rather to my brain increasingly failing to remember the mundane shit. Laundry may have been involved, if the pile of unfolded but clean clothes on the nightstand is a reliable indicator.

Sunday was far more interesting. The Boy and I hiked part of the Butterfly Trail up in the Catalinas, starting at 7900 feet and dropping a couple hundred over the first mile. So of course we practically skipped down for the first hour and a half. He also skipped the hour and a half back; I trudged. I swear it's a miracle I can even fucking walk around on level ground since I apparently have no quads any more.

Anyway. It was lovely. Yellow columbine claimed the best sunny spots, competing with red penstemons and blue lupine.

Here is a junco enjoying the bird bath provided by a big puddle caught in a fallen tree. Several juncos and some smaller birds that wouldn't hold still long enough for me to identify flitted around the water.

I also discovered that the "foliage" preset on the Canon SureShot 3.2 works well for closeups of flowers, but defaults to a sloooooow shutter speed. Greens and yellows are nicely enhanced, but the small LCD display doesn't always clue you in to minor blurring. Thus the lack of more than a few good shots from this hike.

In real world news, the primaries are coming up. If you live in AZ-8, please consider Jeff Latas.

Friday, August 25, 2006


I've been busy the past couple of days, called out for emergency duty manning the map on one of our sites. Several profound legal issues apparently make it impossible to publicize any specifics, so for now I will leave it at the appropriately vague "wow" level of commentary. I got to watch the most amazing archaeological feature I've ever seen be excavated, and I got to draw the pictures of it. I even got to pick some of the cool stuff out of the screens. The heat exhaustion and dehydration were definitely worth it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Grand Finale

Did I mention the wonderful monsoon? It's winding up with some short-lived but intense evening storms that hit at just about the right time to be lit up by the sunset.

This one dumped seven minutes of rain on TEP.

Nuthin' like the glow of the sun half an hour before it sets.


Okay, he finally said it. All you numbnuts out there who have clung stubbornly to the fictitious Iraq-September 11 link, you now have it from the lips of your War President himself: what did Iraq have to do with the attacks? Nothing.

Click, play, repeat, as many times as it takes for reality to sink in. Iraq was not connected to the September 11 attacks. The war you so heartily supported was sold to you like a Nigerian inheritance scam, with only slightly less flowery language and generally good subject-verb agreements.

Remember Osama? He's the relevant bad guy here. As you go to the polls this November, think about the thousands of good American soldiers, marines, and sailors who have been blown apart in your megalomaniacal president's exercise in ego-stroking, and then ask yourself how many of those deaths and life-ruining maimings have brought us even one step closer to catching Osama, or ensuring the nation's security.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pretty Pretty Mud

The monsoon this year has been just capital. After a few years of fizzling storms that didn't deliver much moisture, the Rillito River actually looked like a river for much of the summer, rather than its usual state as a 15-foot-deep, 100-yard-wide dry ditch. Monster storms at the end of July had it running bankful. We were drawn to the edges to gawk at All That Water.

I set out last week along the river path to enjoy the last bit of gurgling water sounds. Evidence of the water's depth and power were still evident everywhere, with tree branches and uprooted desert broom wrapped head-high around power poles and bridge supports.

This cottonwood was putting out new leaves like mad, oblivious to the debris wrapped around its trunk.

A few days ago the same walk was weirdly quiet, unaccompanied by the soothing water sounds that had been surprisingly easy to get accustomed to. Except for a few patches of damp sand and mud shaded by bushes laid low by the now-gone torrent, the riverbed was dry, littered with rocks, brush, the occasional shoe, the odd shopping cart. Water is a marvelous sculptor and painter, shaping the bed and dropping different sizes of sediment as its velocity decreases and its trajectory is changed by the very mud it itself changes.

I thought they were fascinating, anyway, these wet little moonscapes doomed to crumble in the sun. I'll leave you with four of them (oh, only four pictures of flippin' mud? yes, I am cruel).

Friday, August 18, 2006


Today I turn 39, round about 3:12 pm Illinois time. Birthdays stopped being a big deal a while ago. I'm not really concerned about adding years to my age; it clearly beats the alternative. The part-time housemate is taking me, the partner, and the kids to Vivace tonight in honor of both birthdays (the partner's birthday is tomorrow). Crab-stuffed chicken breast and tiramisu, here I come. It will be a welcome and (hopefully) mellow denouement to a draining week.

I certainly never expected this level of grief. It's on par with how wrecked I felt after my grandfather passed.

Anyway. Moving on. The upside is having had contact with people I haven't talked to for 20 years. Feeling a sense of community after so much time even when it's from far, far away and delivered by pixels on a screen is a fairly awesome experience.

Well, hell. It's my birthday. I might just possibly have ice cream for lunch, because I can.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Peep of Reason

Finally. The NSA warrantless wiretapping program has been ruled unconstitutional, and the government has been ordered to halt it immediately. Holding for the official WH response...

Anyway, the federal judge's ruling is the peep of reason. In other news, it seems that the immediate threat of the British liquid bomb plot may have been played up just a tad. I won't get into the discussion of whether some exaggerations were made or the schedule pushed up at American insistence to satisfy political ends--no energy for it this morning--but this, on the heels of the revelation that the three guys arrested in Michigan for mass cell-phone purchases (allegedly to blow up the Mackinac Bridge) were not, after all, terrorists, but just three guys looking to run an eBay scam... well, it makes a body weary. Credibility has to be one of the basic tools of the Homeland Security folks; without it they're some amalgamation of the boy who cried wolf and Chicken Little when they should be that industrious ant (it was an ant, right? the one being dissed by the grasshopper or cricket or other random ornithoptera).

Some people will stay ever-vigilant, ready to turn in the neighbors at the slightest whiff of strange activity, but I'm betting the majority of the public is going to become jaded by the constant stream of hysterical terror alerts that increasingly (not "inevitably;" I'm not that cynical yet) are followed by an official Never Mind. If they're not that jaded already.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Navel-Gazing Music

I love Mogwai. Mogwai works particularly well when it's a rainy day and you're feeling introspective. Go here and click away.

This is why, still.

I'll get back to the political yowling in a day or so. For now I'm contemplating the impact one man had on hundreds of people, evidenced by the numbers who showed up at the first memorial service. A lot of people have come to this blog by way of googling his name (hi, Tish!). He was the kind of teacher they make movies about, and I'd venture that the sheer numbers of us who count ourselves lucky to have been his students make it a happy ending.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How We Grieve

Terse e-mails from former classmates. Entries in the funeral home's electronic guestbook. I didn't really cry until I read his obituary today. I suppose if I were still the good little Catholic girl who sat in his classroom 22 years ago, I would have spent last night at a church, lighting candles and saying a couple decades of the rosary for the repose of his eternal soul. But I figure if a merit-based heaven does exist, he doesn't need my help to sail to the front of the line.

I wandered around a few bookstores instead, remembering how he introduced me to the amazing world of used books, how he gave everyone in his class a card from The Haunted Bookshop with his signature on the back guaranteeing the bearer a 10% discount. I still have the card, someplace, and I still have all the books I bought there in my junior year, the big Collected Works of Emerson, the Thoreau, the Hawthorne. So last night I stood in Bookman's feeling stupid to have tears in my eyes when I reached out to touch the titles--some of them the same editions--I'd written papers from back then.

I housesat for him and his wife for a week the summer after I graduated. One of the rooms downstairs in their little house was his library, all its walls covered with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves crammed with great literature. I made it a point to write down every author on those shelves so that someday I could have the same library. Last night I bought a few more volumes toward that end, Cooper, Chekhov, Stein. It seemed the most fitting tribute I could make, at least of the quiet, personal variety.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tom Gerencher, Rest...

E-mail came in at 2:11 this afternoon to say that Tom had died this morning. The finest teacher I ever had, the fabled high school mentor who made all the difference. He was... for a while there he was everything in my life. Taught me how to write, how to think. Books, books, books.

He was walking around the track at the school and had a heart attack. It's fitting, I suppose, that he died there. He graduated from the school himself and came back after college to teach literature and media (which essentially boiled down to all Beatles, all the time). This would have been his 34th year there, if memory serves. He commanded respect and not a little fear, but allowed students to call him by his first name. My early papers were handed back with so much red ink on them they looked like they'd been used to mop up a car wreck. My later papers were college level writing and clean.

We kept in touch over the years, primarily through Christmas cards. My consolation is that I did make sure to tell him exactly how much he meant to me and how important his touch on my life has been. Hardly a day goes by that I don't think of him or some lesson he taught me. He's in my head always.

Godspeed, Tom, and God help St. Peter if he stammers and says "um..." at the pearly gates, or tries to pass off an uninformed bias as a well-supported argument.

The Job I'm Glad I Don't Have

Channeling Michael Chertoff is not the way I prefer to pass time in the shower, but sometimes it just happens.

I was thinking of him standing there at his presser, detailing the new security rules that don't ban all liquids but allow up to four ounces of nonprescription meds, solid lipstick, and gel-based diabetic supplies, and imaginging what maybe he would like to say, were he able to shed his bureaucratic flunky shell and be nakedly honest for a few minutes:

Hello, my name is Michael Chertoff. Please make sure your cameras are powered up, your satellite feeds clean, and your pencils sharp, because I am about to commit political suicide and I'm only going to say this once.

The TSA is taking away your toothpaste, shampoo, and Chanel No. 5 because we have to do something to make it look like we're on top of things. We hope that if you're stuck in line for five hours waiting to pour your Diet Coke into an official trash can with all the other liquids, gels, soft solids, and random goos we can strip from your fellow travelers, you'll be too exhausted and frazzled to think about the thousands of pounds of cargo riding in the belly of the jet under your feet.

Because we don't look at that stuff. We don't have the funding or personnel, and if you think a GOP-controlled Congress will mandate security measures the airlines have to pay for themselves, well, you're wrong. So we put on our dog-and-pony show at the security gate with a handful of underpaid, undertrained workers and hope that makes you feel safe enough that you won't ask the hard questions.

The simple fact, ladies and gents, is that the potential for terrorist attacks is this big, with "this big" representing roughly the size of the universe.

And what we're able to do to ameliorate that is about this big on a good day. This "this big" is actual size.

The country's just too damn big and technology allows nefarious devices to be ever smaller, more concealable. Communication is instant. Very destructive materials can be packaged in very small delivery systems. If al Qaeda or my crazy Uncle Joe want to blow ten airliners out of the air simultaneously, they can do it and there's not a damn thing the US government can do to stop them.

The only impediment, really, is the incompetence of the foot soldiers they send out to do the job. Will somebody get nervous and blow his cover, or panic and back out at the last second? That's about the best we can hope for. Richard Reid can't quite get his sneaker lit, so the TSA makes everyone send their shoes through the X-ray machine. The Brits find a ring of guys trying to get their liquid explosives straightened out and the TSA bans lip gloss. Does this make you any more than marginally safer? No. It doesn't.

The point is that it doesn't matter what we find out about and add to the list of hoops you have to jump through before getting on a plane. There are always other ways, other things we just haven't thought of yet and won't until somebody tries them. We could, as so many people have groused, simply strip you all naked and have you ride in cages. That wouldn't do a damn thing to keep a Semtex-stuffed teddy bear wired to a timer sitting inside an iPod shell in checked baggage or undisguised Semtex in an air cargo crate from blowing the 6:15 to Cleveland right out of the sky. It won't do a damn thing to keep the uninspected suitcases on the Sunset Limited (read: all of them) from detonating as the train chugs past the munitions depot in Yuma or pulls into downtown LA. It won't do jack to stop coordinated hits in small towns throughout the Midwest--you know, away from any targets of tactical value, but right in the heart of what you thought were the last safe spots in America.

We can't do shit. We can, at best, protect you from the really stupid or incompetent terrorists who can't think outside the traditional knife-to-the-throat box of airplane hijackings. So we make you traipse through the security gate barefoot and dry to assuage your fears with the veneer of Doing Something, and hope that the majority of you will think that's great and continue to consider Republicans the Party of Strong on Terror.

You want consolation? Here's your consolation. In a nation of 300 million people, your odds of survival are pretty good. Thank you and have a nice day.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I Don't Fly, But Still...

Oh, where to start? It bothers me that I have become so jaded by the administration's breathless announcements of terra situations--coincidentally timed to wipe out negative news like Libby's indictment or Lieberman's primary loss--that my first reaction to the Liquid Bombs On A Plane story is to doubt it, or at least to question the true extent and signficance of it compared to the ominous picture initally painted.

Questions? I got questions. If the bad guys have been rounded up and the threat neutralized, why is the terra alert system jacked up to Kiss-You-Ass-Goodbye red? Isn't this more of a parallel How Bad It Could Have Been system at work instead?

If liquids pose such a deadly threat, to the extent that even the minute volumes contained in eyewetting drop bottles or lip gloss could destroy an aircraft, why did the TSA have passengers dumping them all indiscriminantly into the same plastic trash barrels at the security gate (as pointed out on AmericaBlog)? Seriously, how are we supposed to trust either the claimed level of the threat or the measures put in place to ameliorate it when this is the response?

Were I a terrorist mastermind (note to my NSA minders: I'm not really a terrorist mastermind, not yet, so this is pure conjecture), I swear I would send my lower-level flunkies onto planes with all sorts of absurd incendiary modifications in their clothing and necessary personal items. I'd pack plastique into a female flunky's underwire but leave the detonator cord dangling in plain view, so it would be discovered and the TSA would require all female passengers to shed their bras before boarding. I'd have an eldery flunky attempt to ignite his hearing aid. I'd have one make frequent trips to the bathroom, where he would make ominous clanking and beeping noises, to ensure that all the bathrooms on every jet would be boarded up.

Dance, dammit! Lemme see you dance!!!

Or maybe I'd just realize that every piece of checked baggage isn't opened and screened. If you're sophisticated enough to measure out quantities of explosives and disguise them as eyeliner, you're sure as hell sophisticated enough to put together a device that will detonate in the cargo hold. 60% of that stuff goes uninspected.

Anecdote time. Traveling more than ten miles through Peru can be a hassle, and was especially hassle-ish in the late '80s when the Maoist rebel group Sendero Luminoso was quite effectively blowing stuff up and killing people throughout the southern Andes. Airport security was unbelievably tight, but efficient. You showed up two hours before your flight, and the boarding process involved going to the waiting room designated for your flight, displaying your ticket, having it matched to your passport, and then plopping your checked bag on a table and opening it for the nice army officer to go through. Every folded bit of clothing was patted down, containers opened, unfamiliar items required to be explained (case in point: tampons). When the inspection was finished, you closed your bag and they sealed it with tape, and it went to the cart. The cart was then escorted to the plane by armed guards.

Nerve-wracking but effective, and definitely made more efficient by the sheer numbers of guys they had working the inspection tables. It would, of course, require a complete reconfiguration of airport security in this country. But I can't help thinking it would do more to actually ensure the security of an airplane than patting down a random sample of passengers, taking their shoes off, or confiscating their potentially deadly liquids by mixing them all in the same vat.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Death By Yoga

I have discovered a pathway that opens up heretofore unknown levels of self-loathing. It is called "Gentle Kripalu Yoga" and I am certain it was spawned by Satan, as I exited the hour and a half class (hour and a half!) contemplating the many forms of suicide that might be immediately available between the yoga room door and the front desk of the racquet club.

KRIPALU - A gentle class for a beginner or OLDER yoga student.
I love how "older" is double-emphasized, although I guess they could have twisted the knife a bit more with boldface and italics. Anyway. I think I was supposed to tap into my inner consciouness and external energy patterns and some fountain of light, but I ended up spending 90 minutes cataloguing all the body parts I hate and the new, wonderful ways my new friend Kripalu was making them hurt.

In rough order, I hate my ripped-up knees that keep me from sitting cross-legged like a good little yogista, my tweaked hip flexor that compounds the cross-legged-sitting pain, and my beer gut that gets in the way of the legs and prevents the key breathing from (through? I wasn't sure) my navel, then I circle back around for a fresh round of specific hate directed at the surgically repaired left knee that can't tolerate being knelt on, even on a squishy yoga mat, for more than about 15 seconds, then more general hate of my left achilles tendon, which refuses to be anything approaching pliable, of my repeatedly banged and partially separated and now arthritic shoulders, and finally of my neck, which grinds and pops alarmingly when put through what are supposed to be soothing rotations.

I turn 39 next week. The last 30 years of competetive sports have apparently aged my joints a bit ahead of the rest of me. All in all, a discouraging experience, although it was an interesting study in good old negative spiraling. It made me want to run up to the weight room and do pulldowns in a blind rage, but the instructor had cunningly put her mat right in front of the door, so there was no escaping.

On my list of things to do once I have attained that marvelous grownup age next Friday is to be more accepting of both the moment and my existence within it. Hoo ha ha. I'll keep you all posted on how that's going.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Not Much Else Going On, So How About Some Abstinence Talk?

Aimee Short (of the BreakDown abstinence Shorts, as ABB might say) is back. She left a lengthy comment while I was away, so I've not gotten around to responding until now. I'll give her this much; she's persistent.

Now about the blog posted on June 18th in response to my comment. It is encouraging to know that the blogger is not heartless and has the ability to step away from her strong opinions and see not just the values of another person, but the PERSON behind those values. It's easy to put another person into a box that they do not deserve when you know very little about them or what they really do. I have been guilty of that myself from time to time. But, I do not, nor does BreakDown as an organization fit into the "abstinence" box.

There is one major difficulty that I have with this blog. It is stated as a fact that "Ms. Short offers no solution beyond don't have sex." Now how would you know that? Have you been to a high school classroom with me anytime over the last 6 years while I am teaching a 5 hour course on sex, abstinence and relationships? How can you be so sure that I say "just say no" for 5 hours and throw a ring or a pledge card at the students as they are running as fast as they can from my class? Let me answer my own question. Because you put me, and the entire "abstinence movement" into a tiny little box.

Well, like you are with your responses to the postings and comments on my blog, I'm only going with the information I have. The newspaper articles I referenced didn't give details about the curriculum of your five-hour classes; they focused on encouraging abstinence through dancing and positive messages about self-worth. If I came away with the impression that your abstinence program presented an overly simplified view of human sexuality, it's because that's how it was presented.

You are correct when you say that sex is a powerful, powerful thing. I agree wholeheartedly. That's why I do what I do. Because sex is so powerful it has the potential to be so painful. 2 minutes of sex can destroy a lifetime. Young people usually find this out the hard way. I just want to be the voice of encouragement that inspires some young people to avoid the consequences all together, possibly even save their lives. People can write what they want and criticize, but I for one do not want to be remembered for sitting back and allowing the young people around me to have the accuse that nobody cared enough to tell them the truth and that they are worth more than our society gives them credit for. I want to be one who offers hope of a better way, inspires young people to believe in and value themselves, their bodies and their futures.

I'm all over that. Seriously, I am. Could it be that you've done your own bit of box-building, assuming that people like me, who object to abstinence-only education, are hedonists trying to rid society of the last remaining strictures against personal pleasure at all costs? I think abstinence is absolutely necessary for the vast majority of teenagers. Hell, there are plenty of emotionally immature or unstable adults who would do well to take a vow fo chastity until they get their personal shit together.

My objection has never been to the idea of abstinence for kids, but to the school of thought that demands abstinence education be completely devoid of accurate information about physiology and birth control methods. Let's face it--if you communicate your message of abstinence effectively enough, if it really takes root in a kid's head, the additional knowledge about condoms and less risky sexual behaviors is not going to compel him to run out and have sex despite truly believing he shouldn't. If your message doesn't convince a kid to remain abstinent until marriage, accurate information about safer sex practices will greatly reduce the risk of him impregnating someone or contracting a disease. I mean, it was drilled into me fairly early in life that shooting people is wrong. Subsequently learning to fire a rifle when I was in high school didn't make me more disposed to chuck my moral framework and start plinking folks from a clock tower.

I fail to understand how presenting the full spectrum of information necessary for healthy sexual behavior falls into the category of disrespecting kids, or is somehow designed to convince them their intrinsic worth is less than if we don't bother to teach them about condoms, or mutual masturbation, or piggybacking barrier contraception with the pill.

Yes, I understand that abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy and STDs. I truly hope that your curriculum does all you claim, that you present kids with realistic, workable options for making good choices and protecting themselves against coercion. I simply don't believe that withholding information about protection is morally defensible, given human nature and the extent to which teenagers are hard-wired to get it on. Yes, I believe that humans can rise above their instincts, if you want to look at it that way, and that teaching kids accurately about the risks of sexual behavior should and can make them decide to put it off until they're physically and emotionally ready. But knowledge about contraception has to be there as a backup. Withholding that knowledge puts kids at sea without a life raft, and I find that unconscionable.

Good old anecdotal evidence can prove anything you want it to, but I was fully versed in the physiology of reproduction from a young age. The sex ed curriculum in my grammar school covered the range of contraception available at that time, along with the effectiveness rates of each when used correctly. It also talked about the emotional risks of becoming sexually active too early. I decided I wasn't ready to do something that had even the remotest chance of landing me in the spot my parents found themselves in as teenagers (namely, pregnant with me and frog-marched to the altar). I made it through high school with my virginity intact, and when I later became sexually active, it was a carefully considered decision fortified with highly reliable, properly used birth control. My sole pregnancy was carefully planned, the baby wanted. Storybook. And in that storybook, knowledge is power.

So keep fighting your good fight, Aimee. I hope you can understand why those of us on this side of the fence think your curriculum should be augmented with precise instruction on what to do should the individual's informed conscience lead him or her into sexual activity before marriage.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Road Trip

Been away for a week, the annual trip up to Colorado to visit Mom and the grandparents.

Modest Mouse’s most recent CD is titled This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About. The drive from Tucson to Pagosa Springs (Colorado) is pretty long, but for the most part void of the dead spots, the long stretches of featureless interstate that put you to sleep despite gallons of coffee. Be that as it may, I still had plenty to think about over 11 and a half hours there last Sunday and back yesterday.

Uncharacteristic pea soup fog between Winkelman and Globe, wistful poetry composed in my head:

I liked you better when you drove that beat up old Rodeo
And wore your hair wild and free
Before you married that preacher man
And one of the pushpins on your wall map meant you and me
And a tent and a couple of dogs
In the Galiuros Mountains
A cold night curled up like kittens
And I could almost believe the world was all right after all.

Solid, steady, winter-like rain from St. Johns to I-40:

Driving through Apache lands
A water tank lies on its side
An impromptu pile of dirt keeping it
From rolling down the side of the hill
In a grassland town named for a shell
Hundreds of miles from the sea.

Okay, the poetry buzz ran out round about hour five. The rain lasted, unabated, through to Tohatchi on the Navajo rez north of Gallup. That’s pretty weird for this time of year. Other things I saw this time I’d not seen on the previous many many times I’ve made this drive:

1. Actual non-captive, alive javelinas north of Globe. Unfortunately, I think I also saw them on the return trip, on the same stretch of road, squished. Wasn't me.

2. On the “Watch For Animals” sign outside Show Low, “And Bigfoot” scrawled in Sharpie.

3. Munoz Avenue in Gallup under construction between I-40 and NM491. No, just kidding. I’ve actually never seen it NOT under construction in 12 years of annual to semi-annual trips. Gallup, as always, blows. The sole upside was GasMax, a nice little Navajo-run station selling 86 octane for 2.99, a full 16 cents under the price at the few remaining stations that have not yet succumbed to the decade of construction-induced chaos.

4. Almost all the washes running on the Navajo reservation between Gallup and Shiprock.

In Pagosa Springs news, the march toward Aspen-ization is meeting some local resistance, with a few scattered bumper stickers reading “Keep Pagosa Pagosa” and “Save an elk: Shoot a developer.” The downtown river area has been spruced up a bit with extra large boulders replacing the smaller cobbles that used to line the banks—better for basking in the sun—and a few little boulder pools have been constructed to catch the runoff from the hot springs on the public side of the river. So now us poor folk can enjoy the sensation of being slowly boiled alive in sulfrous water for free, rather than ponying up the 15 bucks for the same experience—albeit with more lobster pots to choose from—on the resort side of the river.

After I typed this I looked at the map of the pay-to-play pools and found that one is, indeed, actually called the Lobster Pot.

The most curious addition to downtown has to be the new bell tower sitting under the new stoplight at the Pagosa and Lewis intersection. It’s a nice little tower. More accurately, it’s a nice little handicapped-accessible unisex bathroom with a belfry. You’d think they might have put the door on the backside of the structure, so people in need of the facilities could enter somewhat discreetly rather than being on full display to cars waiting at the intersection. I don’t know if the locals are in the habit yet of honking when some unfortunate soul goes inside. Or maybe that’s what triggers the bell.

More scenery tomorrow; I know you're all just dying to see.