Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bona Fide Good Cause Alert

If you're looking for a worthy target for your charitable donations this week, please go read about Pretty Bird Woman House, a domestic violence and rape shelter for abused women and their children on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. Native American women experience sexual assault at a rate several times higher than other American women, and law enforcement in their cases is generally grossly ineffective. Pretty Bird Woman House, named after the murdered sister of the woman who started the shelter, was burned to the ground by arsonists who broke in to steal electronic equipment, leaving many victimized women with no place to turn for shelter and aid. The people who run the shelter are attempting to buy replacement property in a safer location and have started a 501(c)3 fundraising campaign; they need another $9k or so by Friday to make the purchase happen.
PBWH provides emergency shelter, advocacy support, and educational programs for women on the Standing Rock reservation who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Its services are badly needed; according to the Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice - The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA:
High levels of sexual violence on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation take place in a context of high rates of poverty and crime. South Dakota has the highest poverty rate for Native American women in the USA with 45.3 per cent living in poverty. The unemployment rate on the Reservation is 71 per cent. Crime rates on the Reservation often exceed those of its surrounding areas. According to FBI figures, in 2005 South Dakota had the fourth highest rate of "forcible rapes" of women of any US state.

The whole thing is well documented and explained on the PBWH website. Give it a look and think about including the women of Standing Rock Reservation in your charitable giving this year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Post-turkey Ruminations With No Discernible Point

It's been one long holiday weekend hangover here in the desert, where it still can't quite decide which direction to go on the seasons, vacillating between summer and fall on a weekly basis. Perhaps the climate took one look at the Christmas decorations that popped up at Target before Halloween had even come, and threw up its hands and said fuck it, if the calendar's not relevant any more then screw the moon and tilt of the earth's axis too.

So the calendar says Thanksgiving's gone and it's coming on Christmas. We got five days or so of glorious cold nights and mornings, with cloud cover tossed in as an accent, and now we're looking at four or five more of 70s and sun. It never quite felt like Thanksgiving, and despite the Celtic Christmas CDs spinning away in the living room, it doesn't feel like December is imminent either.
The streets have been pretty empty the couple of times I ventured out to reconnoiter the shopping prospects. Did everyone finish what they needed to do on Black Friday, or drop from exhaustion trying? I refuse to buy anything on Black Friday; my own shopping has been scattershot and opportunistic for the past several months. Upside? Not rushing around like a maniac at the last second and feeling a big hit in the wallet. Downside? Well, the last-minute rushing around did have a few festive overtones from time to time, and served to remind me what the date was.

Now I'm mostly waiting. Waiting for the girlfriend to get home, waiting for her next trip before Christmas to come and go as quickly as possible, waiting for it to start feeling like the holiday season. Waiting for it to snow.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I'm very late to the table with this one, but hooray for the USSF hiring Pia Sundhage to manage the women's national team. She will bring a sorely needed outsider's perspective and international experience to the job. In her first interview with the Swedish press after getting the job, she stressed the need for dictating the tempo of the game (hello, midfield? apparently you've not been permanently forgotten after all) as well as the need for open communication and maturity (hello, queen bees? apparently you're not running the ship any more). So we can hope that Route One is a thing of the past and that creativity will be encouraged. Lori Chalupny, you're on notice: we are expecting great things from you now.

In other soccer news, Notre Dame ousted the Tarheel Mafia on Saturday, 3-2, to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA women's tournament, where they will play Dook. The quarterfinal game to watch, though, will be UCLA-Portland. Portland's been on a tear despite losing the Rapinoe twins to ACL tears, and UCLA has been nearly unstoppable all year. How Arizona held them to only three goals in the regular season is a mystery to me.

Final soccer note, that will likely appeal only the die-hardest NCAA fans out there, is that the Pac-10 all-conference selection committee must stop paying attention after filling the first-team roster. I have no other explanation for the choice of London King over Jasmin Day for second team honors. King is a fine player, but she's a forward who spent the season mostly lost in an unfamiliar midfield position; her forte is making runs onto through balls, not creating out of the middle. Day, a converted track athlete, is a natural forward who moves off the ball and challenges in the air better than anyone else for Arizona, and she runs like a freaking gazelle that is chasing the lion to stomp it into tiny little bits, albeit in an elegant fashion.

Final final soccer note: I may be retiring from competition after 31 years. Not sure, though, that I'm willing to hang it up before Brett Favre does.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More Surname Fun

I may have mentioned a while ago that people invariably transpose two of the letters in my last name, transforming my heritage from partly Bohemian to partly Hispanic, just like that. The NY Times last week published a study of surnames in America, and included a search form that tells you where your name ranked in the year 2000 and how that ranking has changed since the 1990 census (the point being to highlight the growth in Hispanic surnames).

Okay, so I gave it a whirl with my actual last name, and...

Sorry, the name


was not one of the 5,000 most common surnames
in the nation during the year 2000.

Humph. Well, hell, I thought, let's see how the alternate last name fares. Aha!

214 S**** 47 occurrences per 100,000 people
254: rank in 1990

I bet at least some of those 47 are the result of people with my name having it officially misspelled, going from vice pivo, prosim to mas cerveza, por favor with the stroke of an Ellis Island pen.

In other surname news, my almost-name-doppelganger continues to follow me into the most unexpected places as our lives take eerily similar paths. We already share the same first name, and essentially the same last name given the world's propensity for changing my surname to hers, and the same general practitioner (where I first learned of the other Boltgirl's existence when my doc started rattling off a list of meds she wanted to see if I was still taking, before realizing she was talking to the wrong Boltgirl). Then last month, as I waited to hop onto the cardiologist's table for an echocardiogram, the technician confirmed my birthdate of 10/23/64. Which is in the right decade but otherwise isn't close to my birthdate. Confused, she asked why I was back since I was just there the previous week... which I wasn't. Oh my god, I screamed, she's here too?!? The other Boltgirl had been in for the same test I was about to take. Jesus. I feel like I ought to buy her a beer or something. I've seen more of her medical records than I have of my girlfriend's.

Lesson? Always confirm the birthdate. Spelling the name, spelling it again, correcting the spelling they write down, and correcting the pronunciation doesn't work.

Friday, November 23, 2007

In Which KFC Raises the Bar on Quality Control

I don't indulge in KFC, as a rule, unless (1) I'm starving and (2) my son was going there anyway. So today, still deeply engrossed in writing Very Important Archaeology, I was starving, he was going, so yeah. This was proudly stamped on the bag he brought home, and I promptly remembered why the Colonel and I parted ways a while ago:

KFC: We Cook Food Thoroughly.

McDonald's and Taco Bell, you have been put on notice. KFC cooks their food. Says so right on the bag. I don't remember seeing similar proclamations on your bags, Jack in the Box! What are you hiding?

Jesus. Is that seriously the best they could come up with?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Market Day!

As threatened yesterday, we are celebrating the inaugural Market Day today with moderate festivities that may or may not involve coffee, pumpkin bread, colored lights, and Irish cream. Unless you're the boss, in which case absolutely no Irish cream came to visit except in our imagination.


The rest of the festivities involve writing archaeology reports, which, I am happy to confirm, do tend to get finished much faster when the writing process is accompanied by coffee, pumpkin bread, colored lights, and not-Irish-cream.


I confess that I didn't wait for Market Day to do my Thanksgiving dinner shopping, instead knocking it out last night in a fit of pique. Granted, it was only a bag of potatoes and two trays of rolls, but it's finished, and I may spend the evening making rum balls for Christmas instead. As for the big meal itself, my girlfriend is back east visiting her college-mired daughter, so I will be dining with my son, my ex, his wife, her kids, her mom, and her gay brother. Then the next night is dinner and drinks with my girlfriend's ex and his girlfriend. All in all, a pretty traditional lesbian Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The collapsed Catholic in me still holds up Holy Week as the model for what all major holidays should be like. That runup to Easter contains specific special days with prescribed rituals preparing the faithful for the grand finale of Sunday, all with their own props and fun activities (wave palm fronds! watch people squirm uncomfortably when the priest washes their feet! take part in community theater! get copious amounts of holy water flung your way!). The other holidays lurk under the bed, rustling louder and louder as the calendar flips in their direction, but, ultimately, they still jump out, grab you by the shoulders and shake, and then sprint away again to hide until next year, leaving you rattled, hair mussed, glasses askew, unsure if you should be relieved or saddened, but thoroughly bewildered.

That's how they treat me, anyway, even in the modern era of Christmas decorations cropping up at Target before Halloween. No matter how much preparation goes into it, Thanksgiving is still just a single day on the calendar, with normal life expected to go on as usual right up until about five in the afternoon the day before and starting up again at the crack of dawn the day after.

I don't like it.

Tomorrow needs to be a national holiday too. Most people take at least part of it off already, to join the frenzy at Safeway or get on a plane to wherever they're having dinner on Thursday. The rest of us just get drunk at work. We should just call it Market Day or something and be done with it. And Friday, of course, should be Recovery and Leftovers Day. How much writing am I really going to get finished on a pie and stuffing hangover? Seriously. And that doesn't even account for all the wine that will need to be polished off.

List of things I am thankful for this year? Very short list, just one item, really. I have a sense of contentment I've not experienced in recent memory. All the relationships are clicking, and that's all I need. Even if it doesn't make for riveting blogging.

Monday, November 19, 2007

LOLcats for Colorado

In Which the Legal System is Brought to its Knees by a Non-independent Two-celled Organism

Your new blastocyst overlord.

Well, not quite yet, but that's the spectre that's on the verge of being released in Focus on the Family's Colorado.

A proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would give legal rights to fertilized human eggs may be headed for the ballot next year...

The measure, just one paragraph long, would ask voters whether inalienable rights, due process rights and equality of justice rights as defined in the state Constitution should be extended to “any human being from the moment of fertilization.”

The proposal must go through several other steps between now and Election Day 2008, including gathering of enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Really. Fertilized eggs get full legal rights. Full personhood. From the moment of fertilization.

And in his well-appointed lair somewhere in the Hamptons, the Law of Unintended Consequences pours a second glass of Glenfiddich and starts giggling uncontrollably.

Wow. Imagine. This brings abortion to a screeching halt, of course, as it is the underlying motivation for introducing this bit of ridiculousness in the first place. What else might it do? IUD possession will be tantamount to holding a smoking gun. Maybe lawyers will line up to bring suits against women on behalf of ectopic pregnancies (perhaps softeningly retitled "Managua Maternities?") everywhere. And nutter billionaires will no longer need to keep a small lap dog on the premises just to have someone to will their fortunes to in order to spite their ungrateful grown children--they can name any of the thousands of fertilized eggs languishing in a freezer somewhere as full beneficiaries.

Lost, as usual in this particular brand of asshattery, is the role of the woman, the woman whose uterus is the claim of squatter's rights by the now fully enfranchised fertilized egg. There is no mention of the fully formed, several-trillion-celled human being whose bodily autonomy is discounted in favor of the two-celled cluster being venerated by the forced-birth contingent. Woman? What woman? We have a blastocyst to defend here, people!

And lord knows the blastocysts need help. Roughly half of them fail to implant in the uterine wall anyway and are expelled from the woman's body without her having any inkling they ever existed in the first place. It's been remarked to the point of exhaustion that this one-in-two rate of failure to implant makes God the biggest abortionist in the world. The fertilized egg is indeed alive, but it doesn't come anywhere close to fitting the definition of viable. It's a potential-filled rogue, but a rogue nonetheless, floating in the general direction of the cervix, but sometimes implanting in the side of the fallopian tube instead, at which point--if we're going to carry the absurdity of full legal personhood to its conclusion--if left unchecked, it becomes the instigator of a murder-suicide. Even making it into the uterus is no guarantee of making it to the point of viabililty. A hundred years ago, that point was pretty much the moment of birth, providing the mother didn't die halfway through delivery, asphyxiating the infant. In 2007, viability means about seven months' gestation. Is that life? Well, it can breathe with a little help and has a shot at an unencumbered adulthood, so yeah, that's life. An egg that was fertilized an hour ago and has even odds of not surviving the next 72 hours inside the woman's body, and exactly zero odds of surviving outside it? Not so much.

Dale Schowengerdt, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal organization based in Arizona that supported the ballot measure before the Colorado Supreme Court, said the timing of the proposal was “pure coincidence,” to next year’s elections.

“It’s an important debate that people ought to have, and Colorado ought to have, about when does life begin,” Mr. Schowengerdt said.

Ah, that one's easy, Mr. Schowengerdt. It begins when it is politically expedient for you to have it begin. And if you really want "life" defined as "sperm crashes into egg; gains full legal standing as US citizen," well, sir, be really, really careful what you wish for.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Not List

Things I did not do last night:

Didn't go to the Arizona-Oregon game, even though I suspected this might be The One for this year, you know, the one game where the planets align and the 'Cats act like they know how to play football and drub a vastly superior opponent. And indeed, they flattened the #2 Ducks, 34-24. All this does, of course, is knock Oregon out of the national championship picture and give Mike Stoops another week's breathing room before the chorus starts up again after what will probably be an ugly result at ASU. Unless ASU's starting QB blows a knee in the first quarter too, a la Dennis Dixon.

Didn't go see Neko Case at the Rialto, which is even more disappointing than passing on the football game. My officemates went and said she was marvelous. Damn these kids and their late start times, but if she comes back to Tucson I'll coffee up and make it.

Didn't throw up! Although it was close for a while. Where that came from, I have no idea.

Didn't gasp in surprise when I watched ESPN's report on Barroid Bonds being indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Nor, it should be noted, did I shed a tear.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Daily Disconnect: Bush on Fiscal Responsibility

Oh, my. W vetoed the bipartisan-supported health and education bill because $606 billion is more money than he wants to spend on, well, health and education when he could be spending it on wars. That part is at least consistent with what we know of the president's priorities. The reasoning he claims for it, though?

Bush hammered Democrats for what he called a tax-and-spend philosophy:

"The Congress now sitting in Washington holds this philosophy," Bush told an audience of business and community leaders. "The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it's acting like a teenager with a new credit card."

Hold the phones, George. Wrong analogy. You see, taxes=income, which gives you the money to spend. That's actually more like a teenager with a new job planning how he's going to spend his first paycheck. Setting $4B a month on fire in Iraq while simultaneously cutting taxes and fighting to make those cuts permanent? Yeah, that's where your credit card analogy comes in, but in this case you're the teenager who doesn't get that the card comes with an insane interest rate and no personal bankruptcy escape hatch.

Good try, Mr. President! You almost have that simile thing down!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Required Reading

On a slow day occasioned by the need to really, really get some archaeology report writing closer to finished than it was yesterday, I offer up (via Pharyngula) these two instant classics from John Scalzi, an intrepid blogger who dared venture into Ken Ham's Creation Museum in Kentucky. The photo stream and accompanying essay should keep you occupied and spewing coffee for the next hour or so. Seriously, the funniest shit I have read in a while, even if it knocked back my productivity quotient by a factor of about a thousand this morning.

But their days were numbered!

Monday, November 12, 2007

See? Good News from Iraq.

Never let it be said that I ignore the good news coming out of Iraq. The paper had some just this morning:

Associated Press figures show a sharp drop in the number of U.S. and Iraqi deaths across the country in the past few months. The number of Iraqis who met violent deaths dropped from at least 1,023 in September to at least 905 in October, according to an AP count.

The number of American military deaths fell from 65 to at least 39 over the same period.Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. forces south of the capital, said Sunday he believed the decrease would hold, because of what he called a "groundswell" of support from regular Iraqis.

"If we didn't have so many people coming forward to help, I'd think this is a flash in the pan. But that's just not the case," Lynch told a small group of reporters over lunch in the Green Zone.

He attributed the sharp drop in attacks to the American troop buildup, the setup of small outposts at the heart of Iraqi communities, and help from thousands of locals fed up with al-Qaida and other extremists.

Well, there it is. If it reflects reality rather than wishful thinking, which I hope is the case--the reality bit, not the wishful thinking--then it's great, great news (although I'm not sure I'd characterize the drop in Iraqi deaths from 1,023 to 905 as "sharp," and that's still a big damn number to wrap up as good news). If the shine is starting to wear off some, you know, of the endless cycle of bombings and murders, and that means we can bring the guys home sooner, fabulous. I'm all over it. Let the good news keep rolling in so we can get the hell out of there.

And let's support the troops while we're at it. Of course, since I am a hopeless liberal, after all, by "support the troops" I mean "fulfill their immediate and long-term physical and mental health needs resulting from military service, in a timely fashion, with the best level of care, rather than seeing how many hoops they can jump through while seeking treatment before denying healthcare benefits on whatever pretext can be located or fabricated." John Edwards, who has similar notions, has proposed a modest $400 million plan for treating veterans afflicted with PTSD--in other words, a price tag coming in at less than half the cost of a month's worth of war--and, even if he wins neither the nomination nor the presidency, maybe it's an idea with legs enough to be picked up by a Senate sponsor at some point.

"I strongly believe we must restore the sacred contract we have with our veterans and their families, and that we must begin by reforming our system for treating PTSD. We also must act to remove the stigma from this disorder," Edwards said in prepared remarks his campaign provided to The Associated Press. "Warriors should never be ashamed to deal with the personal consequences of war."

Edwards said that despite his opposition to how the war has been waged, the enlisted men and women deserve the nation's support when they complete their service.

"We must stand by those who stand by us. When our service men and women sacrifice so much to defend our freedom and secure peace around the world, we have a moral obligation to take care of them and their families," he said.

To reiterate, standing by them means much, much more than slapping a ribbon on the car and cheering as more and more men and women get shipped over to the grinder. Most Americans' fondest hope is that they start coming home quickly (von dein Mund zu Gotts Oiren, Rick Lynch), and when they do they are going to need a hell of a lot more help than the Army is currently giving. If that little problem is another one Bush is happy to leave to the next administration, let John Edwards' ideas be in the forefront of addressing it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Emergency Contraception and Pharmacists, Again

Skimming the Daily Star this morning...

Court: Washington State Druggists May Refuse to Prescribe "Morning-After" Pill
In an injunction signed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton said pharmacists can refuse to sell the morning-after pill if they refer the customer to another nearby source. Pharmacists' employers also are protected by the order.

Two pharmacists and a drugstore owner sued the state in July over the new rule, saying it violates their civil rights. They asked the judge to halt forced Plan B sales while the lawsuit is in play.

Many critics consider the pill tantamount to abortion, although it is different from the abortion pill RU-486 and has no effect on women who are already pregnant.

In other words, many critics are fucking idiots. All together now, please. Emergency contraception. Does NOT. Cause. Abortion.

EC works, instead, by preventing ovulation. If you've already ovulated in the 72 or so hours prior to unprotected sex, EC will not help you, just as if you're already pregnant, EC will not terminate that pregnancy and will, in fact, probably give that pregnancy a helping hand by maintaining the richness of the uterine lining. If you have not ovulated, EC keeps your ovaries from releasing an egg into the hordes of sperm stampeding up your fallopian tubes for a few days until all the little buggers are dead.

That is not abortion. That is not the destruction of a fertilized egg. That is not even the frustration of an egg and sperm gazing at each other all moon-eyed through a veil of latex, because EC keeps the egg from being there in the first place. Sperm get to do their spermy thing, swimming in circles and snapping each other's butts with their flagellae and standing in the street looking wistfully up at the ovary and yelling yo, you coming down or what, but the egg stays snug up in the ovary reading Katha Pollitt with a cup of tea and says, no thanks, I'm busy tonight.

Not that it matters to the pharmacists trying to exercise what's pathetically titled a conscience clause. You know damn well they understand the physiological mechanism the EC pill triggers (considering that they got through pharmacy school and all), and that it's not even vaguely related to abortion. They are not attempting to escape being involved in an abortion. They're simply flexing a newly created muscle that allows them to intercede in a woman's life when she deigns to have sex in a context they disapprove of. That is, any context not precisely equal to married and desirous of producing children.

Pharmacy is not simply another service industry sector. The license required by state regulators does not simply indicate competence but grants pharmacists a quasi-monopoly on drug transactions. Because the only way people in this country can legally acquire the controlled medications they need is by (1) getting prescriptions from their doctors and then (2) having medications dispensed by a licensed pharmacist, pharmacists have an absolute duty to fill all prescriptions brought to them in a timely manner, and to stock all drugs that can be reasonably expected to be required by the populations they serve, particularly medications that respond to acute needs. Like nitroglycerine, or asthma inhalers, or emergency contraception.

The fact that EC may now be purchased without a prescription doesn't change this basic argument, because, while no prescription is needed, the drug still must be dispensed from behind the pharmacy counter.

The pharmacist's job is to check dosages and potential drug interactions the physician may have missed, and to make sure the patient is informed about use instructions and side effects. It is not to increasingly interfere in people's lives under the banner of morality, or to make value judgments predicated solely on the medication prescribed or sought without the context of the life of the person seeking the medication. RU-486 opened the gate to pharmacists who were able to make an accepted argument against being required to participate in abortion, and now that gate is in danger of being flung wide open by those who would us the RU-486 precendent as justification for refusing to dispense any medication to be used in circumstances that run afoul of their own personal standards of conduct. That alone is cause enough for concern. But when the focus is consistently narrowed down from any morally ambiguous circumstances to those specifically and exclusively relevant to sexually active women, and adjudicated on the basis of one particular strain of one religious sect, it's completely unacceptable and abhorrent.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

In Other News: Water Wet; Fire Hot

Abstinence-only Sex Ed Ineffective, Study Finds
Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

"At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners" among teenagers, the study concluded.

The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex-education programs were having "positive outcomes," including teenagers "delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use."

The study flatly contradicts the usual bogeymen trotted out by the abstinence crowd that giving teenagers accurate information about physiology, reproduction, and sexual health is akin to shoving them into a room with a rotating bed, mirrored ceiling, and chucka chucka bwow music playing. Kids who get that information actually tend to wait longer before having sex and use contraception when they do.

What's this tell us? Besides the fact that knowledge is the first, best line of defense against the crap life throws at you, it's instructive--at least to me-- in another direction I don't often see commented on. While federally funded abstinence-only instruction cannot include explicitly religious content, it places a great deal of emphasis on moral imperatives regarding sexuality and is most fervently supported by (and adopted primarily in areas that are home to) evangelical Christians.

The problem.

When kids from conservative Christian backgrounds stray from what they've been taught and have sex, a lot of them don't bother with contraception. The overwhelming reason for this is likely because they haven't learned accurate facts about their options, but instead have been told that condoms don't work to prevent pregnancy and work even less to prevent HIV. I suspect that a contributing factor, however, is the belief that simply hitting your knees after the deed and telling God you're sorry gives you a great big do-over that wipes your slate, penis, and uterus clean along with your soul.

The abstinence movement likes to be a big tent operation that welcomes even non-virgin people in, which is a good thing since it has to be in order to guarantee its continuing solvency in the face of the sky-high rates of teen sex, pregnancy, and repeat teenage pregnancy posted by its adherents. If you're not a physiological virgin, you can still re-pledge abstinence and get your virginity back in the eyes of God. While extending the olive branch to less-than-perfect people and declining to kick them out of the club for behaving like sexually functional beings is laudable, the availability of nightly get-right-with-God sessions likely goes a long way toward the development of a consequences-free mindset when it comes to sex.

We saw it with David "I Have Requested And Received Forgiveness From God" Vitter. We saw it with Ted "I Am One Hundred Percent Heterosexual" Haggard. We see it in statements from kids who regret past promiscuity and promise Jesus to be virgins forever this time, really. Until the next time. I have had conversations with people who readily admit to all manner of minor sins every day--'cause nobody's perfect--but believe they are washed clean each night because they tell God they're really, really, really sorry. Preventative measures don't go very far against that mindset.

In Which We Ponder New Career Directions

I have been an archaeologist for a long time, starting with my first fieldwork in southern Peru in 1987, to lab work in grad school, to freelance artifact illustration after grad school, to the fulltime gig chasing rocks here in the desert since 1994. I have a few "real" publications on my resume and wheelbarrows full of CRM "gray literature" to my name. I've named a few projectile points and put together a regional typology other researchers have adopted. I'm teetering on the edge of putting together a definitive big-picture treatment of a major prehistoric arrowhead industry in Arizona. Grad students call me with questions. Professionals ask my opinion.

And I think I'm sick of it all.

During my freshman year in high school, we took a career aptitude test. Sister Jeanne told us to take it seriously, and I was thrilled to be missing her algebra class period for the test, so I cheerfully complied and answered the multiple-choice activity preference questions as thoughtfully as a 14-year-old can. The results came back some time later. My suggested future careers? Rabbi. Or handbag assembler.

Rabbi? I had checked the "Catholic" box on the form.

Archaeology is very much a jack-of-all-trades sort of profession, incorporating elements of history, biology, anatomy, geology, geomorphology, soils science, hydrology, chemistry, physics, geometry, metallurgy, tribology, agronomy, botany, zoology, sociology, political science, cartography, art, technical writing, essay, and landscaping. First-aid skills are a plus. What other work does this actually prepare me for? Fuck if I know.

Training assistance dogs would be rewarding. I don't know how you break into that field. Engineering awesome prosthetic limbs for people who got blown up in Iraq would be extremely rewarding, but I'm thinking that takes higher level math than my brain can handle. I like hiking, picking up rocks, taking pictures of dramatic scenery and pretty flowers, and writing about it afterwards. That probably doesn't pay too well; actually, it's what I mostly do on this blog, and no one has yet come forward with a fat contract for me to sign.

The dream job, really, would be running an independent bookstore with a good coffee bar inside, next door to an Irish pub, with a good bakery down the street. Boltgirl Books. Did I mention the coffee bar also has Guinness on tap?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Michael "I Dunno" Mukasey Nomination Going to Vote

Spectacular. The Attorney General nominee isn't sure whether waterboarding is torture or not--no word on whether he takes the Giuliani "it depends on who does it" tack or the Limbaugh "splashing a little water in a guy's face" angle--and Bush says it's an unfair question because he hasn't been briefed on top secret enhanced interrogation techniques and Feinstein and Schumer say he's the best we can expect from this administration and he promises to enforce any future laws that may ban torture, should the Congress ever grow a spine, so bam, there you have it.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) spoke out furiously against Mukasey's answers on torture, specifically dismissing the assurances the nominee gave to Schumer last week that he would enforce an anti-torture law if Congress were to pass one.

"He will in fact enforce the laws that we pass in the future? Can our standards have really sunk so low?" Kennedy said. "Enforcing the law is the job of the attorney general. It's a prerequisite, not a virtue."

In related news, reported by The Guardian,

The top legal adviser within the US state department, who counsels the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on international law, has declined to rule out the use of the interrogation technique known as waterboarding even if it were applied by foreign intelligence services on US citizens. ...

When Mr Sands said he found Mr Bellinger's inability to exclude waterboarding on Americans very curious, the US official replied: "Well, I'm not willing to include it or exclude it. Our justice department has concluded that we just don't want to get involved in abstract discussions."

I am not sure where abstraction comes in to this discussion, unless the question of precisely how inhuman it is to convince a person he's seconds away from death by drowning has suddenly moved from the concrete, material world to the lofty sphere of philosophy. Perhaps by "abstract discussion," Mr. Bellinger means to say "hypothetical question," such as "when George Bush and Dick Cheney attempt to travel to their retirement estates in Uruguay in January 2008, will they be subject to arrest and prosecution for crimes against humanity, much like Augusto Pinochet was and, more recently, Donald Rumsfeld almost was?"

If Mr. Bellinger and Mr. Mukasey require more information to help them move from abstraction to reality, they can give a look; the site was helpfully put together with people just like them (actually, people exactly them) in mind. would like to offer to help the nominee become more familiar with water-based coercive interrogation techniques. Using unclassified sources, news reports, and historical records we are attempting to put together as clear a picture as possible of this technique, its history, its legality, and the scope of its use. We are also attempting to organize a group of doctors, paramedics, lawyers, and volunteers to allow anyone who remains confused or unclear on the details of waterboarding to safely subject themselves to as much of the technique as they are willing to endure.

We look forward to advising, educating, and assisting Michael Mukasey, future candidates, public figures, and anyone else who professes ignorance of our nation's most controversial coercive interrogation technique.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hunting the Wild Chert in Central Arizona

I spent this past Thursday and Friday tramping along creeks and down the sides of highway road cuts outside Payson, in search of the sources of the many lovely varieties of chert people at one specific site used to make bucketloads of arrowheads way back in the 11th century. It was a mostly successful venture.

The Home Depot of A.D. 1000 Payson, located roughly between the two large alligator junipers (red arrows) near the top of the right side of this ridge. Click to supersize.

Four or five different cherts outcrop here and roll down the hill in the form of fist-sized nodules. Some of the people living in the small settlement below scooped them up, knocked thin flakes from them with round stone hammers, and turned those flakes into arrowheads by pressure-flaking tiny chips from their edges. The analytical problem I'm exploring is how the staggering number of artifacts--mostly waste flakes that are the byproduct of the manufacturing technique and broken arrowheads that got thrown away--can be used to infer the scale and organization of the little industry centered here at the base of an otherwise unremarkable hill, one among dozens in the immediate area, but one that just happened to be loaded with the kind of stone favored for arrowheads back in the day.

One of the larger nodules on the hill (above handle), with prehistoric flakes (below handle). Click to supersize!

I came home with a backpack full of samples and a roll of maps I have yet to mark up. The scenery was lovely, even if fall has been a bit late in coming this year.

Oak leaves against a brilliant blue sky.

Butterfly on thistle, with inquisitive bee making an appearance at lower left.

I leave you with this image from Star Valley. I do not know why the adult cabaret chose a giant steer as its mascot, except that there are a lot of ranches in the area. We tried not to think about that one too hard when we drove by.