Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas

Tree is lit, turkey is stuffed, stockings await, kidlets are still snug in their beds, and I'm having a quiet cup of coffee while watching my girlfriend wrangle more onions. Have a lovely day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Forward, Back, Forward, Back

Goddammit. President Obama's "Out of many, we are one" moment had me hopping out my chair with a swelling heart yesterday morning. Then there's this.

Barry, honey, wrestle with it on your own time. You essentially told Commandant Amos to wrestle with the concept of out gay Marines yesterday morning because, as you said, we are not a nation that says, "don't ask; don't tell." Because it's the right thing to do. Our clock is ticking. Do the right thing and sort out your discomfort later.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Score One for St. Joe

In what was probably intended as a punishment, Mullah Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has stripped St. Joseph's Hospital of its Catholic affiliation for its Satan-inspired decision to perform a life-saving abortion on a pregnant mother of four who was at a nearly 100 percent risk of dying from pulmonary hypertension.

"In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld," Olmsted said at a news conference announcing the decision. "The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph's medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed."

Olmsted is correct that the disease needed to be treated, but forgot the part about the only treatment being ending the pregnancy. Ah, but why split hairs when the Church needs to remind people that "dignity of the mother" is just another handy Catholic hierarchy catchphrase that sounds very measured and logical and thought-through but really is just a flapping red flag meaning: warning, oppression ahead (see also: intrinsic moral disorder)?

My lingering question is whether the administrator nun Olmsted excommunicated for approving the abortion gets her job back now. Well, that and why anybody willingly lets this guy be their spiritual authority.

Monday, December 20, 2010

End Times

End of the year, that is. Despite the changes that rolled in, moving some people around the country and sending some people into eternity, the calendar relentlessly marches along. Christmas knocks on the door and dances inside, trailing familiar players and trappings in a cloud of new traditions and arrangements. I'm not sure who's in charge now that my grandparents are gone. I think it might be me. My parents and uncle and aunt spent a week here, sightseeing and helping prep for our annual holiday party. Now they are back home and I'm taking a breath before the next wave of relatives from my girlfriend's side of the family come to town and trying to remember that we're still waiting for Christmas Day to come.

My grandparents' bedroom was always off-limits in December, partly to shield scattered unwrapped presents from prying eyes, but mainly to shield my grandmother's dignity from relatives seeing the utter chaos that lurked behind the door during those 24 days, paper and ribbons and boxes covering every horizontal surface as if a Christmas bomb had gone off mere moments before, no matter when you looked in there. I went back into my own bedroom this morning to retrieve my shoes and realized that one more circle has come full. Jesus. The Christmas Bedroom Bomber has tracked my genetic code 1,600 miles from southern Illinois and detonated several megatons' worth of paper, ribbons, and boxes all over every horizontal surface. And so it goes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Hiatus

The boy is back from college, the family has descended on Tucson in droves, the annual holiday party is looming, and I've had waaaaaaaaaay too much egg nog. Posting will be sporadic for a while.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Uh, No

Anthropologists have been thrown into turmoil about the nature and future of their profession after a decision by the American Anthropological Association at its recent annual meeting to strip the word “science” from a statement of its long-range plan.

Well, I'm a fuckin' scientist. With stats and graphs and everything. Screw the Triple Ehs. The end.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Straight Privilege and Double-Dipping in Illinois

The Illinois legislature passed a civil unions bill earlier this week that gives same-sex couples all of the same rights the state accords opposite-married people. Medical access and decisions, inheritance, immunity from testifying, pension survivors benefits, the whole deal. And there was much rejoicing.

When it became apparent that the legislation would sail through Governor Pat Quinn's office, barely stopping on his desk long enough for him to scrawl his signature on the giddy bill, the what's-next discussion turned to whether civil unions will be a stepping stone to full marriage rights in Illinois or a final, second-class destination, although, absent changes to the federal DOMA, it looks like semantics at this point. As in, about the only change you could make to the Illinois civil unions to advance them into the "marriage" sphere is to go ahead and start using the word "marriage;" the state-level rights are in place--although whether insurance companies or benefit managers might try to be dicks about it like they did, for example, in New Jersey after that state enacted their own civil unions--remains to be seen.

However, what's next is something I didn't quite anticipate: straight people, and old straight people in particular, want in on the action.

While celebrated as a historic step forward for gay rights in Illinois, the new civil union bill that awaits Gov. Pat Quinn's signature also offers opportunities for heterosexual couples who don't want to wed but seek many of the legal protections of marriage.

Granted, this is likely to be a narrow swath of the population, but those who drafted the law felt it important to be inclusive, particularly given that the bill's intent was to open up rights that had long been denied to a demographic group.

"It just seemed wrong to me to write a law that would be discriminatory," said state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the bill's chief sponsor in the House.

He said some senior citizens lobbied for the bill. Seniors with survivor's benefits from Social Security or a pension could lose that income if they remarry. A civil union allows them to keep that benefit while providing the same state-level rights as a marriage.

"If you go to a senior building, you'll find a lot of people who face this dilemma," Harris said. "They may be the largest single group of beneficiaries by number."

In other words, a demographic that (1) spent much of their lives benefiting from their (and their parents') ability to marry and (2) historically has opposed extending those same benefits to gay people now (3) want to keep the benefits they accrued by being in a state-sanctioned opposite-sex relationship while simultaneously (4) glomming onto benefits that are now being extended to people in same-sex relationships who historically have been denied the exact kind of financial security the oldsters are loathe to give up now that they've met someone new.

I understand why it is important that a law about inclusion appear to be as inclusive as possible, even including groups who, at first blush, do not seem to need the protections extended by the new law because they are already covered by existing laws. And I understand that some straight people don't want to get federally married for realz until equality is extended to everyone. That's lovely, y'all, really, thanks.

But it wears on my very last nerve when one of the loudest responses to this legislation is BUT WHAT ABOUT THE STRAIGHT PEOPLE. But what about the straight people who want this new, lesser-than status? What about the straight people who want health benefits without having to get married first? What about the straight people who don't want to give up a Social Security survivor's benefit?

Well, what about them? If you're in Illinois and you trip-trap down to the courthouse for a shiny new civil union because you've been going out with this guy for a few months and really need health insurance, well, surprise, when you decide to dump him after you land a job that gives you your own coverage, you're going to find that CUs don't just approximate marriage fairly well. The process of getting out of one also approximates divorce to a T. If you're in a CU, you're married without the feds and federal programs being involved. There is no advantage if you're a straight couple. And then there's this:

Courtney Greve, spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr, said the clerk's office gets weekly calls from heterosexual couples who don't want to marry but are interested in some sort of domestic partnership. Some, she said, are young couples facing a loss of health insurance, who want to wait to get married until they can plan a more elaborate wedding.

Yeah, fuck that. Civil unions, flawed as they are by being limited to state-level legislation, are still closer to the brass ring than anything in Illinois has been before. People have fought for this stuff for years and years. They fought for domestic partnerships and the small set of protections those brought. Now they finally won civil unions, the culmination of decades of struggle, and... young straight people want to use them as a stopgap measure until, you know, they can have the real wedding of their dreams, and old straight people want to use them as a double-ended scoop that gives them the benefits of both their former marriage and their new relationship.

Can we just have our nice thing, please? Or as nice a thing as we can get until civil marriage simply means civil marriage across the board?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

And There You Have It

Grandma was the organist and music director at St. Joseph's Church in Olney, Illinois for... 30 years? 40? 50?--a very long time, in any event, before finally giving it up a few years ago--and was a stickler for precise performance. She insisted on playing the organ for one son's wedding and two grandchildren's weddings, for a great-grandchild's baptism, and for countless other weddings and funerals besides a million or so regular Sunday masses.

The choir sang at her funeral mass this past Monday, of course, but the current organist was out of town, leaving them without an accompanist. But--but!--back in 2004-2006, the current music director had spent many sessions making digital recordings of Grandma playing the choir's entire repertoire on an electronic clavinova in case they ever found themselves without a backup organist...

And that's how Grandma managed to pull off the exceptionally rare trick of playing at her own funeral. WIN.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Life Continues, Chapters 1 and 2

Thanksgiving week really throws a wrench into things like, say, funerals that require people to travel from a couple different states, so Grandma's wake and funeral has been put off until Monday, allowing us to spend just enough time dithering on Travelocity to watch ticket prices magically jump $200 in the 5 minutes it takes to confer on whether 44 minutes is enough time to change planes in Phoenix (it isn't) and then decide to take the flight that turns that layover into a whopping two hours and eighteen minutes, all the while gritting our teeth and trying not to think about the fact that it only takes ninety minutes to drive to Phoenix.


So if the first step in what is turning into Mary's Epic Funeral Week Extravaganza was booking flights and cars and hotels and wrangling family members who have decided to make the coming weekend the opening ceremonies for the Douchecadet Olympics, the second step was more of a side trip in the completely opposite direction. That being the road to Mesa and my (still very alive) maternal grandparents' house for Thanksgiving, where we were joined by some elderly second cousins and two neighbors from Calgary. Suffice it say that it was fairly pleasant until the inevitable spectre of politics popped in for pie, and the consensus around the table (with one abstention; I'll let you guess who) was that George W. Bush will be deemed by history to have been one of our greatest presidents, possibly the greatest ever. Also: if you voted for Obama to prove you're not racist, who are you going to vote for to prove you're not stupid? I almost think "Sarah Palin" is supposed to be the totally sincere answer to that one, but it was hard to tell.

It went ever so slightly downhill from there, so I graciously excused myself before I stabbed somebody in the face with a pie fork.

The grandma we're burying was a passionate Democrat. End of story.

Anyway, here's a preview of Chapter 3: get up insanely fucking early on Sunday, inconvenience a friend by getting her to give me a ride to the airport, fly on a goddamn airplane to Phoenix, sit around for 2 and change, fly on another goddamn airplane to St. Louis, take a shuttle to the rental car lot, drive two hours to the tiny ancestral Illinois hometown just in time for the wake, endure the wake for three hours, get carryout from an actual Mexican restaurant in the tiny hometown that's gotta be filled with guys wondering what cracker nightmare they wandered into, for fuck's sake, have a drink, go to bed, wake up the next morning, go to funeral mass, drive to the next town over for the burial, drive back, have a drink, hope that the moroseness devolves into bad singing rather than factionalism and gunplay, go to bed, wake up, kill a morning, drive to St. Louis, fly to Phoenix, sit around for another two and change, get back to Tucson at 11:30 pm.

So much to do, so little patience for doing it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Crazy. Everything has been crazy since Friday night. My beloved grandma had a stroke, and finally died early Sunday morning. I have been in a daze since then, trying to make travel arrangements back to Illinois (at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, LOLOLOLOLOL) and trying to sort through my feelings while texting with my brother nonstop. The consensus is that we want a time machine set for our childhood, equipped with a giant PAUSE button.

Grandma was a prodigiously talented musician and a gifted teacher who guided generations of students through Every Good Boy Does Fine and everything that flows therefrom. In 1988, the town where she and my equally talented grandpa lived and taught hosted a salute to them, inviting 40 years' worth of students back to sing, dance, and celebrate their touch on their lives.

Want a story? All you had to do was say Grandma, tell me a story and she'd say all right, give me a minute, and after 20 seconds or so of gazing intently at the far wall, would launch into a richly detailed and complex yarn--all from scratch!--populated by some of your favorite children's literature characters plus new ones of her own invention. Twenty minutes later, after hanging on the edge of your seat to find out what would happen, you marveled at the story. And she went back to whatever she was doing without skipping a beat.

Her house is gone now, sold to a younger guy in the small town she stayed in until the end. My childhood is now consigned to the realm of memory, my heart forever living in the yellow house on North Avenue, at the end of the long gravel driveway, where the screen door slapped shut and you walked across the porch and through the Dutch door into the kitchen. If it was winter, the heat blasted you in the face with a wave of coffee and whatever had most recently roasted in the oven, a pie or a cake on the counter, Grandma up to elbows in flour or soapsuds, always delighted to exclaim your name and put down her work to come hug you. If it was summer, the buzzing green floor fan carried the scent of lemons from the pedestal dish on the table to your nostrils, followed by the scent of the old wood in the walls.

Forever, if I want to be back in Grandma's kitchen, I only need to briefly hold a lemon to my nose, close my eyes, and breathe deep. And I am there. But she is gone.

Well now, she would say briskly. Well now, let's get on with it. Forthwith, Mary Elizabeth Collins (January 9, 1918-November 21, 2010).

1920, age 2, wearing the baptismal gown her brother George (left) had worn before her, subsequently worn by her sons, me, my brothers, and my son.

1922, age 4, Lawrenceville, Illinois.

Age 10, roughly, with her mother, Maude, and beloved father, George Sr. George was an Irishman who could do a mean jig.

Age 12, more or less, on a pony whose name was not recorded for posterity.

On a college trip to St. Louis (middle) with a friend and her beau and future husband, my grandpa Gus.

Wartime mom with my oldest uncle. He was born while Grandpa was stationed in Blackpool, England, directing the US Army band.

Flash forward to 1997. Tromping through mayap
ples while mushrooming in southern Illinois.

On her 90th birthday.

The last picture I took with her, July 2008, on her back patio, Olney, Illinois.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Helpful McCain-English Translat-o-matic

Oh, good. John McCain went on Meet the Press this morning and clarified the little kerfuffle involving his wife, a video camera, and a jaw-dropping twelve hours during which we thought there was a voice of reason in that marriage. In case it isn't clear, we're giving the senator a hand with what he's actually saying.

McCain: "I respect the First Amendment rights of every member of my family."

Actually means: But fuck if they get to exercise them. This isn't a fucking democracy here. So forget what the trollop thinks she thinks. There is one opinion here, and it is mine.

In the same vein, you may recall that Walnuts said he'd accept a DADT repeal if the military leadership wanted that, and then, after the military leadership said they wanted it, McCain said no, what he really wanted was a Pentagon study. Now that the Pentagon study has been leaked, well--quelle surprise--he doesn't want that either.

"A thorough and complete study of the effects, not how to implement a repeal, but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness, that's what I want," he added. "And once we get this study we need to have hearings, and we need to examine it, and we need to look at whether it is the kind of study that we wanted."

Actually means: We need to look at whether the study shows that the fags will destroy the United States military, because that is exactly the kind of study we wanted, where "we," of course, means John McCain.

And, apparently, if he gets the kind of study he wanted but the results aren't quite what he was banking on, he will call for hearings in his new now-with-38%-more-Republicans Senate. Because if there's one thing the GOP can do like pros, it's move the goalposts and spin and massage until the original facts become the truth they want.

McCain: I'm John McCain.

Actually means: I am the shameless asshole in charge here, and there's not a goddamn thing you can do about it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Never Mind

Wow. Well played, Cindy McCain. Well played. You totally got me with your appearance on that NOH8 video, where you took the brave step of calling out your dickhead husband's position on Don't Ask Don't Tell as a major contributing factor to an atmosphere that leads gay kids to off themselves. I mean, I was really impressed. We've all seen Walnuts blow a fuse or two, and since probability dictates that you two have a one-in-eight chance of randomly ending up at the same house at the same time somewhere down the road, we figured you were setting yourself up for some unpleasant interactions with the hubby but still spoke out for what was right anyway, just because it was the right thing to do.

Seriously, you totally had me going, so, wow, the lulz are totally on me this morning when I see this:

I just hope your husband didn't call you "cunt" too many times in whatever little discussion led to your tweet yesterday. Later, Cindy. It was nice while it lasted. Enjoy the small private plane.

Friday, November 12, 2010

In Which I Take It Back

During the '08 campaign, I snarked on Cindy McCain for saying the only way to get around Arizona is by small private plane. Oh, that's still a dumbass thing to say, coming from a place of way underexamined privilege, but I'll give her a pass on the Cessna because she came out and did this:

What a fascinating dynamic they must have at home. I wonder at what point Walnuts realized he'd blundered by failing to realize that his knockout blonde millionaire heiress trophy replacement wife also came equipped with both a functioning brain and a conscience.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Won't You Please Share Your Opinion?

Please take a few moments to let the Family Research Council know exactly what you think of them. If you just get stuck on some of the questions, here are some of my responses for inspiration.

I forgot to add "Tony Perkins' soulless dead eyes."

Well, they asked.

Which is also why I avoid Chick-Fil-A, though it breaks my heart. Curse those crazy Christians and their delicious, delicious chicken!

I hope I hear back from them, after taking all that trouble, but as far as I know the Corinthians never wrote St. Paul back either, so I won't hold my breath. Surveys are fun!

WCQ Wrapup

Nothing like an unexpected loss to propel a match previously considered a gimme to the primetime spotlight on ESPN2. The surest indicator that people were suddenly thinking about the US women's national soccer team, or at least one part of it? This blog got triple its usual number of daily "abby wambach girlfriend" hits in the three hours leading up to kickoff time. go figure.

Anyhoo, the... Mollies? Does anyone remember when the US supporters made a tentative attempt at getting that nickname to stick, in honor of Molly Pitcher? Would've been so cool, even without the bared bosom. Whatever we want to call them, the US women won last night on the strength of three goals, all in the first half, two by Sarah Huffman's girlfriend. Lauren Cheney got the other.

What did we learn? Mostly, that the US is indeed able to move the ball smartly around the field when they are largely unopposed. The precise passing game was lovely to watch for the first 25 minutes, until I remembered that Costa Rica is ranked 46 spots below the US in the FIFA rankings, and noticed that right there around minute 25--perhaps out of frustration at the decided lack of an avalanche of goals--the US reverted back to long balls flung into the box from 40 yards away, hoping to find Wambach's head. The goals came when they settled down after another 10 minutes or so, but the final one came on a counter after a Costa Rican forward broke free down the middle and screamed in alone on goal, only to put the ball wide when Barnhart came out to challenge. Six inches to the left and it might have been a very different dynamic at the end of the half.

And Amy Rodriguez came in as an early second-half sub to play on the wing. Interesting! And with that, having waited to start watching the DVRed game until 9:00, I promptly passed out on the couch. So I have no idea how that worked out, although the score didn't change. I like Cheney up top with Abby, and still hope we see a three-front on the chance they make it to Germany this summer.

So it's on to Italy, then Chicago. We will see.

Monday, November 08, 2010

New Year in the Women's Soccer Calendar Cycle

Wow. It's so hard to get worked up for writing a lather-filled screed about a game that was a giant pile of meh, so let's have a gallon or two of coffee and try to ramp up gradually here.

The US-Mexico Women's World Cup qualifying match exposed the same US weaknesses we have fretted about since 2007 (lack of speed, lack of technical precision, snooze-inducing tactics, over-reliance on Route 1 to Abby's head), but did so in a way that we hope is horrifyingly novel enough to have gotten somebody's attention. You know, somebody else who might be able to do something about the situation.

The 4-4-2 is over. Time for a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, something to beef up the attack. Something with options besides Wambach, who can find the back of the net with her head like no other and is demonstrably tougher than nails (say what you will about her occasionally limited game and questionable past leadership; nobody could watch her standing there with blood pouring from her head and being stapled--stapled!--up on the sideline and not bust out with a well fuck all, go America!). Keep her up there in the middle as an aerial option, but please, please, please, start Alex Morgan and Lauren Cheney up there with her as more mobile, slashing, versatile attackers. Amy Rodriguez is very fast, very very fast, but until the goals are expanded (see: barn, broad side of), she isn't a realistic scoring threat on the international level.

Speaking of scoring threat, any level, Carli Lloyd? Really? Still on the roster at all, let alone starting? Really? Pia, honey, we can put that long-overdue discussion about the merits of wearing a bra on the back burner for now, because we really need to talk about some of your personnel decisions. Lloyd sucks. Trust me on this; I'm a Red Stars fan. Boxx? Oh god. I love Boxxy. But at 33 she's lost a step, and holding mids (remember that position?) need a step. She is perhaps emblematic of a problem where many players appear to be on the roster because, well, they made the roster at some point in the past and you're reluctant to discard people that are past their shelf lives. You can afford one long-long-long-term savvy veteran on the field, if you surround that player with a bunch of young legs, so sure, keep Lil parked in the midfield. Everyone else, though, needs to perform or lose their spots.

Krieger? Nogueira? Averbuch? Rapinoe? Until Heath is healthy again, I do not know where the answer lies in the midfield. Back line? Brrrr. LePeilbet is fine. Rampone, I suppose, can still get it done but needs to have some real afterburner speed next to her. Mitts? Not so much. Cox? Maybe.

Keeper? Until Solo is back and demonstrably her old self, what the hell, throw Loyden in there and see what happens. Or Ashlyn Harris, who has demonstrated the ability to stand on her head and pirouette and tap dance all at the same time if it keeps the ball out of the net.

Just change it up, Pia. Jesus. Please. What you've been doing does not work. Player combinations that first fielded ten years ago do not work now. The baffling lack of a short passing/creative runs control game really does not work. Just running full out worked fifteen years ago, but now the rest of the planet has caught up, and we no longer have the monopoly on good athletes who can run circles around everyone else well into their thirties. Now we need great young athletes and tactical superiority just to keep up with Germany, and Norway, and... Mexico.

One and done territory, kids. Lose and the US does not go to the World Cup, which is on the level of the Yankees being mathematically eliminated on May 15. Win and the prize is a two-leg play-in game against Italy, with the last leg on November 27. In Chicago. Fucking hell. Catch the carnage on ESPN2 at 6pm EST tonight.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Arizona Voters Do Not Fail to Disappoint

Pima County acquitted itself fairly well yesterday. The rest of the state, unfortunately, not so much.

Governor: Jan Brewer bravely overcame the revelations that she is (1) in bed with the private Prison industry, and (2) a blithering idiot, to beat Terry Goddard, although at 53%-40% it wasn't quite the trouncing I expected. Her first priority is to scrounge money from dedicated funds to move into the state's general fund, but, luckily, one of the few bright spots in the statewide balloting was the defeat of initiatives that would have let her raid the land conservation and early childhood development funds.

Senate: Walnuts McCain stomped Democrat (nee Republican) Rodney Glassman, surprising exactly no one. I am not at all sure that Glassman would have been better for Arizona so much as a different flavor of sleazy.

US House: Still undecided! Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords are currently clinging to leads of a couple thousand votes with about 350,000 left to be counted. Most of the yet-to-be-counteds are from Pima (hopeful!) and Maricopa (brrrr!) counties, which might end up canceling each other out. We hope.

AZ Attorney General: Noted dim bulb Tom Horne edged out a Democrat I'd never heard of but who, I thought, had at least a coin flip's chance of having a few more brain cells to rub together than Horne does on any given day. The bright spot? He's no longer in charge of what passes for an education department. The dark spot? Tucson Unified School District has been in his sights for a long time for having the temerity to offer Latino heritage and culture classes to their Latino-majority student body, even after Arizona passed a law explicitly aimed at making ethnic studies programs Tom Horne doesn't like illegal. And now he's the chief prosecutor in the state? Have fun with that, TUSD!

Secretary of State, otherwise known as Lieutenant Governor: Republican Ken Bennett in a wash, meaning that if Jan-Jan resigns or just plain forgets to come in to work for a year or so, the governorship stays in Republican hands. Which does not bode well for the future, considering that noted white supremacist-consorting, private prisons lackey Russell Pearce is the new president of the state senate.

Prop 106 (Fuck Healthcare): I must say that I'm impressed with the drive and determination of Arizona voters. Not content to be at the bottom of national rankings for education and children-in-poverty levels (we recently passed Alabama to claim that title), the voters made sure that we will soon be at the bottom for healthcare as well. Prop 106, which passed by 130,000 votes, amends the state constitution to say no Arizonan is required to buy health insurance or participate in a health plan. Yeah, we'll see.

Prop 107 (Fuck Nonwhite Nonmales): The voters decided even more resoundingly to make affirmative action illegal. There are still many questions about whether this will end programs designed to keep female and nonwhite students in college (despite the fact that Arizona universities and colleges currently do not consider race or gender in admissions). Tom Horne is undoubtedly lining up the lawsuits as we speak.

Prop 203 (Medical Marijuana): Barely losing at the moment.

Well, at least Ken Buck and Sharron Angle won't be haunting Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio will, and, saddest of all, Russ Feingold will be watching this one from the bench. I remember how the morning after Election Day 1994 felt. This feels worse.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Oh, Jesse.

Can I just say that I love Jesse Kelly's new ad? Jesse is trying to take Gabrielle Giffords' US House seat (AZ-8), and is feeling some heat for some of his positions, like, say, eliminating the federal income tax in favor of an across-the-board 23% sales tax, and eliminating food inspectors (because we are all responsible for taking care of ourselves, which apparently means following people home from Safeway and carefully watching them for 48 hours after their backyard BBQs to see if they contract e. coli from this week's bargain hamburger before we feed it to our own families), and, oh yes, outlawing all abortion no matter what.

What's Jesse's approach in the face of these crippling revelations about his creepy-ass ideas? Why, it's this: AMERICA, BITCHEZ.

Ha ha, there's just no time between now and Tuesday to address the issues Congresswoman Giffords has helpfully pointed out to the voters, so AMERICA! Cut taxes, cut spending, and KEEP AMERICA STRONG! Did you know I'm a Marine? Oh, all that stuff you've been hearing about my complete douchecadet positions on women's reproductive freedoms, and wanting you to fork over an additional $23 bucks on your weekly $100 grocery bill? For food that may or may not kill you? Don't worry your pretty heads about that, because: AMERICA!

Please go out and vote tomorrow. It's kind of a big deal.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

US Soccer is Wearing on Boltgirl's Very Last Nerve

CONCACAF qualifying for the 2011 World Cup is underway, and in a surprise to no one, we beat Haiti again. Haiti have never scored against us, at least on the women's side, and tonight the US poured in five goals that could easily have been ten. That's fine; I'm actually glad that the score stayed both in single digits and in the bottom half of one through ten, since blowouts don't do anything for either side, nor for the game in general. My problem is with this:

Lori Lindsay goes to the spa plays soccer in a jersey that renders redundant the giant O HAI I'M A GURL sign the Fed would clearly prefer.

What, US Soccer, the holy hell is this? I muddled through the men's World Cup this past summer and those godawful 1950s throwback jerseys with the knowledge that at least the women's side wore sharp-looking shirts. Well, I'm glad the Fed jumped right on it and brought that nonsense to a stop. The clean lines are gone. Now we have weird wraparound piping that makes Wambach et al. look like they're tied into those awkward kimono things you put on before getting your highlights touched up.

The upside is that the level of fug almost keeps me from being annoyed that you can't buy these things anywhere--but, of course, the official US Soccer store will still sell you any permutation of the men's kit you can think of, as well as a Freddy Adu hero t-shirt, just in case anyone's left who still thinks they guy has a future. Or maybe they're banking on people confusing him with actual starter Maurice Edu and buying up all the stock before they have to put it in remainders.

Anyway. The women go at it again on Saturday night against Guatemala, and the match is being streamed on the CONCACAF website, kimonos and all, so give it a look and see what you think. I think I don't like it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

While I Was Away

I swear, you can't leave this state on its own for more than 24 hours without someone forgetting to shut the door and letting the stupid in.

To be fair, there was already a shit-ton of stupid here (Exhibit #1: RealSheriffJoe). Palin's Maricopa County-issued pink panties are just the stupid cherry on the stupid cake.

In other news, it turns out that one of the judges who will be deciding whether Arizona can go ahead and start enforcing the odious SB1070 papers-please law was himself almost deported back in the 1950s when he was a resident alien. Turns out it was just a small series of mistakes on the then-college student future judge's part compounded by an INS officer, but an appeals board sorted it all out and the future judge eventually attained citizenship. Of course, the Daily Star's usual commenting pack of reading comprehension champions are convinced that the judge is a Cuban (Spaniard, actually) draft dodger (he wasn't) appointed by Clinton (by W, actually) who needs to recuse himself right away because he cannot possibly be neutral in any immigration matter now.

This is the same pack that howled about Sonia Sotomayor potentially deciding cases involving Latinas, wise or dull, and about big gay judge Vaughn Walker nixing Prop 8. Corporate lawyer John Roberts siding with corporations in Citizens United, though, was simply jurisprudence. The pack might not have agreed, but it was the decision they took issue with, not the perception that the background of the person making it had any influence on it whatsoever.

What will Arizona do today? I shudder in anticipation.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear Teabaggers

Dear Tea Party Americans:

Let me be the first to admit that I qualify as what you most likely define as an elitist. I have a college degree. In fact, I have a master's degree on top of that. I read a variety of newspapers and works of fiction and non-fiction. I have strong liberal tendencies. I speak and read German tolerably well, can get by in Spanish, and can phonetically read Hebrew even though I don't understand a lick of it. I am a student of the Howard Zinn version of history, not the Glenn Beck chalkboard revisionist version. I spent my college and young adult years in Chicago and have traveled and worked abroad. I hate country music and do not believe that driving a car around in circles for hours counts as a sport, no matter how fuckin' awesome the burnout at the end is. I do the New York Times Sunday crossword in pen. Jane Addams is a personal hero. Oh, and I've got The Ghey.

Elitist to the core.

Be that as it may, I don't want people just like me running the country. I want the people running the country to be smarter and more capable than I am. I want them to be able to grasp complex geopolitical and economic concepts, do a million things at once, and function on very little sleep. I do not want the average American Joe off the street or average Boltgirl off the blogosphere running the government with good old common sense. I want policy analysis with some teeth to it.

I definitely do not want poeple like Sharron "Hispanic? You look Asian to me" Angle and Christine "the First Amendment says WHUH?" O'Donnell anywhere near the halls of power unless they are clutching tourist maps and paying attention for the first time in their lives.

"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"

"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.

That's not elitism, Tea Bag Nation. That's the fucking common sense you keep howling about. I don't try to fix my plumbing because I don't know what the fuck I'm doing with home repair once we migrate away from wood and nails. I get Mike from Expert Plumbing to come out and do it for me, because he's excellent and fast. I don't want him writing legislation for me, however, no matter how good he is at sweating pipes together. Putting witchcraft and Hare Krishna-ism and the aversion to wanking aside for the moment, do you think Christine O'Donnell is a salt-of-the-earth common person just like you? Awesome. Good on you. She's cute and perky as all get out. But governing is complex, and hard--just like Barbie always said math is--and it takes more than pluck and a smile. A basic understanding of the Constitution you're sworn to uphold might make a nice start, and since that inherently requires the ability to rub two brain cells together, well, 'nuff said.

love and kisses,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stuff on My Mind

1. Rage! At work! Enter my new sunshiny office with caution. If you're preceded by a plate of cookies or bottle of single-barrel bourbon, you stand a better chance of leaving with your head.

2. Sharron Angle! Jesus Christ. I listened to twenty minutes of her debate with Harry Reid tonight before hitting my limit, and now give mad props to Harry Reid for not vaulting over the lecterns and tearing her insipid, insipid throat out before it could vomit up more tripe like "Obamacare" and "legislate from the bench" and "one man one woman."

3. Pinot noir! Did not like! But this Mirassou '09 is quite delightful.

4. Rage! At the gym! Because rehab is not progressing the way I would like. Also I discovered that I really do not enjoy being naked around a bunch of strangers. Worried about homoseckshuals stalking you in the shower? I should be Exhibit One re: keeping eyes so downcast and working so hard to get dressed in a flash that I managed to (a) put my boxers on backwards, then b) turn them inside out while trying to get them off and then back on in a hurry, and finally (c) topple over into the lockers in the process.

5. Mays Counter in Tucson. Go there and eat a lot.

6. Rage! Over DADT! Is the DOJ appeal simply another brilliant move in Obama's brilliant three-dimensional aikido Holmesian chess game that we mortals simply will not understand until the whole thing comes together in a giant fucking explosion of oh, so that's what the fuck he's been doing all this time? Or is it just another unfortunate opportunity to get comparisons between gays and goat-fuckers into the official record? Only time will tell.

7. Rage! Seriously, the work thing has me down, and is sucking the confidence and poise right outta me. I'm back to being the funny-looking kid from the sticks, at least in my head, and IT SUCKS.

8. Well, Mays. Jesus cornmeal-breaded Christ, that place makes everything better. Just get your cholesterol and all that shizz checked before you eat there, not after. Your arteries will protest but your soul will be very, very happy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In Which the Arizona Governor's Race Gets Even More Stupid

So the guy who lost the Democratic senate primary in Arizona to closet Republican Rodney Glassman (who will be trounced by Maricopa County Republicans voting for John McCain anyway) posted this little nugget Friday on his Facebook:

Is it just because Jan Brewer looks and sounds like a chain-smoker who's been lying out in the Phoenix sun eight hours a day for the last 40 years? I'm more concerned with her lack of mental acuity than the tarballs she hacks up each morning, and actual attributable information is always a plus, but to each his own.

Brewer's puppetmaster, private prisons lobbyist Chuck Coughlin, sprang to her defense with the kind of class that, frankly, we've come to expect: he called Terry Goddard, Brewer's opponent in the gubernatorial race, gay.

Her top campaign adviser blamed her opponent, Terry Goddard, for fanning the gossip and said it was irrelevant.

But then the adviser, Chuck Coughlin, went on to say that if the media are inquiring about Brewer's health, reporters should question Goddard about his sexual orientation.

Remember, Arizona: there are only 20 days left before November 2, and Chuck Coughlin has set the bar for political discourse pretty frickin' high here. Get on it, son!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Today is the Boltgirl Heritage Derby, featuring Ireland and Slovakia in a qualifying match for the 2012 Euros, and I am anxiously awaiting to see how Ireland can get screwed over in a football match this time. I hope it at least involves a streaker, a referee payoff, and a duck.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Reading

Need some absorbing reading for your lunch break? We highly recommend this. Then get revenge for all the unhinged e-mails your right-wing brother has been sending you since the last presidential campaign started, and send it along to him and put your phone on vibrate.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Measure of One Man

My grandfather died seven years ago, and not many days in a row go by that I don't think about him. Sometimes I see him in my dreams when I most need to, and sometimes I'm surprised to see him in my waking hours when I come across someone who shares his mannerisms, or his eyes, or the cadence of his speech.

I saw this on the Maddow Blog this morning, and in John Walker's quiet compassion and measured reason, I saw my grandpa again. Mr. Walker would kick ass even without that--his account of thinking around the biases he was raised to have should be required instruction in our time--but it was a nice little extra on an otherwise gloomy day in the desert.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another Day, Another Kerfuffle

Hey, brother.

Michigan's assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell is in trouble for cyber-bullying the president of the University of Michigan's student government, with blog posts calling him, among other things, a radical homosexual activist--excuse me, let me make sure I quote Mr. Shirvell accurately--a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST. I vaguely wondered if there was any chance that this might be yet another tired cliche of a self-loathing homo acting out by attacking a gay person, even though it's been done to death recently (really, Eddie Long, it's so derivative at this point--but the iPhone Under-Armour-in-the-bathroom pics were a nice touch!). So I figured I'd watch the video, and then Mr. Shirvell started talking at 0:24 and by 0:26 my gaydar was completely melted down into the same puddle with my irony meter and I spent the next seven minutes giggling uncontrollably.

Oh, Andrew, honey. You had me at "Well, Anderson..."

I have so many questions. How did this guy manage to get a job in the first place, much less manage to keep it more than a week? As assistant AG? Really? He's really an assistant attorney general? Like, for a state? And he really doesn't think any of his Perez Hilton stylings are the tiniest bit inappropriate for any, you know, actual adult who's decided to pick on a college kid? Oh, wait, that question answers itself.

“Did he think he was just going to get some kind of free pass just because he’s gay or whatever?,” Shirvell said earlier this month with Detroit TV station WXYZ. “I mean, we’re all adults here and so, you know, we’re treating him like an adult with adult level criticism.”

The University of Michigan must be so pleased. As a Notre Dame fan, I certainly am.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Sarah Palin, was it not enough to foist your goddamn spawn onto Dancing With The Stars? Did you really have to show up tonight and make me hit the mute button and throw the remote to my partner and jam my fingers in my ears yelling lalalalalalala just in case the mute didn't work and contort awkwardly in the recliner to hoop* the laptop up on my knees to block the TV, running the risk of spraining my spine in order to spare my eyes?

Fuck off, Sarah Palin. I need my mindless entertainment once a week, and you're getting the fuck in the way.

*yes, it comes with a sound effect. It sounds like hoop and comes from the diaphragm.

In Other Words

John McCain, referencing the Defense Department's OMG what if the Marine in the next bunk haz Teh Ghey survey, says we absolutely need to hear from people in uniform before we decide to stop axing Arabic translators for the sole reason that they are cunning linguists in more than one way.

The Air Force, in blessedly futile arguments that Major Margaret Witt should not be reinstated to her job as a flight nurse for a medevac team, says the opinions of people in uniform don't matter a rat's ass.

Her attorneys, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, insisted that Witt was well respected and liked by her colleagues, that her sexuality never caused problems in the unit, and that her firing actually hurt military goals such as morale, unit cohesion and troop readiness. Several members of the squadron testified to that effect and said they would welcome Witt back to the unit.

Lawyers for the Air Force said such evidence was irrelevant.

Military personnel decisions can't be run by unit referendum, they said.

They need to get on the same page here, because it at this point it looks like The Ghey is subject to referendum, but only when the overwhelming response comes back the way they were hoping. And given the wording of many of the DOD survey questions, the response they're fishing for is pretty clear. I am very curious about what the official reaction might be if even that survey ends up showing that most military people really don't care about team members' orientations as long as they do their jobs.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Day in Sports

In volleyball news, last night the Philadelphia Independence downed the Boston Breakers and advanced to Sunday's championship match on a sweet kill by middle hitter Danesha Adams. Oh, wait, I'm getting a correction in my earpiece from my producers... Ah. It appears that the Breakers-Independence matchup was actually a soccer game--that would explain the nets being at the ends of the field instead of in the middle--which means that the game-winner was actually a Thierryffic hand job instead of the header Adams and the rest of the Independence decided to celebrate only after it was apparent referee Kari Seitz was calling for a kickoff from the center circle rather than a restart for Boston out of their own goal area.

Then Alex Scott had a OMG I CANNOT BELIEVE THE NET IS THAT WIDE OPEN I BETTER JUST LIE DOWN moment and whiffed from the six and that was that. I have done that before. You welcome death. Poor AS; can't imagine the plane ride back to England is going to be a whole lot of fun for her household.

Well, at least this way Philadelphia get to be the sacrificial lambs for Marta and the Supremes this weekend and Kelly Smith can get a jump on fixing whatever she did to her knee this time around. Frozen peas ease almost any pain, love.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Easy Way Out

Ah Christ, apparently those of us afflicted with The Ghey got shit on again in various ways today. I nicked all these from Joe.My.God because he's way more together than I am today. Also, I love Al Franken, even when he makes me cry.

First, John McCain splits a nut claiming that shit that happens doesn't actually happen.

Then Al Franken gets choked up.

And then, just for fun, a Saxby Chambliss staffer picked the wrong day to tell us all to drop dead.

Mercy, that's a full day right there. Why do I do this, again?

Feeling the pressure to post, to maintain my ZZ-list status in the blogging world.

I got nuthin'.

Maybe in a day or two. I'm still a bit boggled by the empty house.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Taking Leave

The morning and early afternoon in Seattle were sunny and pleasant. We had breakfast on a cafe patio and walked a few blocks to the grocery store to stock him up on ramen and Cheetos. As the clock ticked away into late afternoon, the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. We went halfway up the hill to the parking deck and I hugged him and said goodbye and walked away alone in a cold, steady rain.

Triple digits and a too-empty house await in Tucson tomorrow. This is how whatever comes next begins.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gone Fishin'

I am in Seattle for the week, getting the boy settled in to his new college home. There is so much goddamn good food here I could weep--but I can't stop eating long enough to sniffle, so there you go.

Posting will resume somewhere around the 20th, although the odd food photo might show up from time to time.

Takoyaki from Wann-Izakaya. Holy shit.

Friday, September 10, 2010

In Retrospect, I Suppose the Vests Should Have Tipped Me Off

Washington state GOP House candidate Hans Zeiger, a while back:
The Girl Scouts allow homosexuals and atheists to join their ranks, and they have become a pro-abortion, feminist training corps. ... If the Girl Scouts of America can't get back to teaching real character, perhaps it will be time to look for our cookies elsewhere.

Future homosexual atheist pro-abortion feminist in training.

The most amazing thing to me about this is that Mr. Zeiger was actually a punk-ass teenager when he posted this to the Interwebs, rather than the bitter 60-year-old he apparently channeled while typing. And seriously, looking elsewhere for your cookies? Can Safeway give you something better than Thin Mints? I don't think so.

Friday Fulminations

Why are the media giving the out-of-control, tantrum-throwing toddler of a minister in Florida so much power? Have none of these people ever been the parent of a three-year-old? Ignore.

Speaking of ill-parented children, I am still pissed about the Johnston-spawning Palin spawn mucking up my Dancing With The Stars, as a cautious foray into the ABC message boards indicates the presence of a rabid audience that is determined to tie up their cell lines, landlines, e-mail, and any unattended phone in the vicinity to OMG VOTE 4 BRISTOL and keep her on into perpetuity. And I so wanted to see Margaret Cho eviscerate the poor little thing with a smile.

In other news of questionable taste, my high school alumni group is in a kerfuffle because a Native American historian across the street at Notre Dame noticed that the school's mascot is an Indian, and has asked the diocese of South Bend to look into making a change. My reaction was wow, I can't believe they managed to hang onto the Indian this long, but judging by Facebook comments, the larger reaction is OMG TRADITION POLITICAL CORRECTNESS BUT NOTRE DAME'S MASCOT IS A SHORT IRISH GUY AND NOBODY COMPLAINS MUSLIMS QURAN !!!!!11!!!!!!111CHEEZITS!

The school board apparently checked with the Pokagon band of the Pottowattomie a few decades ago and got the okay to use the word "Indians" and a single image of a guy in a Lakota-style headdress (in northern Indiana, go figure). I do not know if the current Pokagon leadership have been consulted--although the band's education coordinator graduated in my class and, very not surprisingly, has so far declined to weigh in on a comment thread in which a bunch of mostly white people are insisting that it's not at all disrespectful to let a white kid in fringed pajamas and face paint hop around a basketball court at halftime, or for a bunch of white kids in the stands at a football game to do the Florida State/Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop. Or that it's no more insulting to Native Americans to call our team "Indians" than it is insulting to some curiously unspecified group to have nearby Mishawaka High School call their teams "Cavemen," or, inexplicably, insulting to... Catholics? martyrs? that the New Orleans NFL team is called "Saints."

If the Pokagon really think "Indians" and the logo and the Florida State-style spear on the football helmets is a nice tip of the hat to their culture, then I don't have a problem with it. If they'd like to set new guidelines ensuring a respectful appropriation of their ethnic group and cultural artifacts, I'm all for that too (maybe retiring the old "Indians, St. Joe Indians, whoop whoop!" cheer would be a good start? I'm just sayin'). And if they decide that all the half-assed good intentions in the world about honoring some vague notion of Native American nobility and courage through a 1950s caricature of a chief just don't cut it any more and put the kibosh on the whole thing, I'm okay with that as well. They're knocking down the old school building pretty soon anyway and moving to a new campus downtown; when it's over, it's over.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

In Which Arizonans Baffle Me By Being Even Stupider Than I Feared

Jan Brewer verbally stumbled, went silent and mangled her grammar during last week's televised debate.

The result of her performance, a new statewide survey indicates, is that she is even more popular.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen found 60 percent of the 500 likely Arizona voters questioned in the automated telephone survey on Tuesday said they intend to vote for the incumbent. That's up three points from a survey taken a week before the debate.

Just as soon as I finish banging my head against this nice big rock I found, I will remind myself that polls conducted via landline calls disproportionately sample old people, and that old people in Arizona disproportionately think good thoughts about reanimated corpses (see: Jan Brewer, John McCain).

Meanwhile, the Arizona Green Party is trying like mad to get rid of the Democratic vote-diluting fake candidates Log Cabin Republican Steve May recruited from a pool of homeless street performers in Tempe. I need to stop going to bed thinking the sun has just set on the stupidest day possible, because it keeps coming up the next morning, dragging even more idiocy along with it.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

In Which We Confess to a Touch of Writer's Block

So much for writing every day; three and out, just in time for football season.

The calendar, despite all my protestations, has insisted on not only rolling around to September but ticking away the days faster than I could ever have imagined was possible.

Six days now until I bundle my son and several overpriced bags onto the plane for the trip to Seattle and college. Twelve days until I trudge onto the plane with a couple empty bags stuffed inside my suitcase, alone.

I do not know how people who actually lose children to things like disease and war manage to keep going. I do not know how my father survived sixteen months of my brother being deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. My son is healthy, thriving, and excited about getting on with his life. I am left living inside a Norman Rockwell painting.

I did not expect it to be this hard.

Friday, September 03, 2010

In Which Jan-Jan Does Her Best Sharron Angle

You've seen our esteemed governor's "opening statement" in the debate Wednesday night, if "..." properly qualifies as an opening statement, and while 36 hours really isn't enough time to recover from that display of fuckitude, now there's more, courtesy of the ABC affiliate in Phoenix and the Tucson Citizen.

In Governor Brewer's defense, this was a difficult situation for her, and not one that lent itself to her staff's go-to problem-solving tactic, which is, of course, to stop everything and pray. Maybe that's what she was doing in her head during the lengthy pause between the question and her declaration that it had been an interesting evening; clearly, the prayer warrior consensus went something like this:

This morning, in a stunner, Brewer announced she's not doing any more debates.

"All you guys were doing and talking were beheadings, beheadings, beheadings," the governor said. "That is something that has stuck with you all for so long, and I just felt we needed to move on."

Beheadings are such a drag, people. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Uh, Fellow Arizonans? Please Do No Forget to Vote in November.

This is the current occupant of the Arizona governor's office. She wants to come back for more.

Jesus god. Please vote Goddard in November.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Unrepentant Geekery, Part Deux *UPDATED*

Now with more explanation, below.

SOFA, bitchez.

p = .738

My heart flutters.

Statistics have been the bane of my existence since junior year in college and the stats course that was required for my anthropology major. The class was taught by a wee, marginally insane Scotsman who claimed to be able to identify the county in which any given scotch was distilled, simply by sniffing it.

Suffice it to say that I would have done better if the class had focused on the whisky and not so much on the numbers. It got so bad that I resorted to carrying the floppy disk with my homework projects on it (this was in the long long ago time far far away, when data were stored on bendy rectangular media the size of a cd sleeve) through the library security zone and actually rubbing it on the sensor so I could say whoops, disk must've gotten bunged and take the blind F rather than letting the TA see incontrovertible evidence of my incompetence.

The prof ended up giving everyone a C instead of the Fs we deserved since failing an entire class presumably would not have reflected well on his teaching skills. The TA went on to pursue a career as a car show model. I kept my textbook and made occasional and inevitably tear-inducing attempts at using it as a reference over the years.

And now I found SOFA, and my life has changed. It is an open-source online stats package that evaluates your data and walks you through the process of selecting tests. It cranks out graphics. It produces results I can use. I understand, finally, and now I still weep, but this time in joy and relief.

Oh, science. We're on again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The View from Here

My new window view.

After 16 years and four weeks, I got a window at work. My office is much brighter than it used to be, considering that "used to be" meant whatever light sort of filtered in over the bookcases and through the storage shelves. I thought I liked it that way, but since I spent today quite productively wrestling with statistics packages rather than morosely staring through my monitor into a black, black future, I am thinking that maybe light isn't a bad thing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Public Service Announcement

If, like me, you regularly need terrain, elevation, and distance data at work and, like me, tend to have requests for map-based data answered with the question but what are the UTMs?, only for that answer to be, invariably, fuck if I know, a miracle has arrived. A gift from the mapping gods, who, previously unbeknownst to me, are named Zonum Solutions. They have a free online toolset that ties in with Google Maps and lets you get spot elevations, or set points to measure linear distance, or define a polygon to measure area and perimeter of spatial features. And--and, miracle of miracles--a window in the sidebar shows the UTMs for wherever you have the cursor positioned in the map.

Then, the FireShot add-on allows you to download the onscreen map (plus any lines or points you've drawn on it) into Photoshop to further muck around and save. I'm not sure about permissions for using the images you generate this way in publications, but at the least, you can generate nifty draft copies to hand to the AutoCAD guys down the hall, and make all the maps you want to hang on your wall.

appy archaeologist.

Just another way the MaddowBlog serves the world.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The monsoon season continued to disappoint for the better part of two months. Oh, sure, clouds built up and danced around and even sometimes flashed lightning and growled thunder somewhere just out of reach, but the promised rain materialized exactly three times. Even then it didn't have the courtesy to put on a show during daylight hours when we might be able to watch the clouds with rising anticipation, waiting for the telltale gust of suddenly cool wind to cue the rain out of the wings and dance across the desert stage.

No, no, always at night, and usually in such wee hours that we were sound asleep and couldn't be roused to at least hear the water and hail tapdancing on the roof. Three summer mornings we awoke to sodden ground, crumpled programs of downed palm leaves and moraines of mesquite pods left by the rivulets of water across the yard like so much spilled popcorn kicked aside by the audience as it left, the curtain down, the show long over.

Until today. Today, finally, gloriously, afternoon clouds flung lightning to the ground close enough to knock out the power to the office, thunder rattled the windows before skidding off to the east along the curb of the Catalinas, rain slammed down in drops the size of bullfrog tadpoles. You want rain? I got yer rain right here. Rain rain rain, going on for hours now, the initial downpour replaced by steady sprinkles. The trash cans in the park down the street are all on their sides, dazed, accompanied by slightly less surprised tree branches; closer to home, my shovels have been blown across the yard, along with my buckets. Stacks of styrofoam cups that protected plants from the frost a lifetime ago, back when it still dipped below a hundred degrees here, have found new lodgings in the flower bed, the fence, the chiminea, possibly the neighbor's roof. The yard is a lake.

This is usually the time of year that the monsoon winds down, and after months of the near-daily routine of heat --> humidity --> clouds --> thunder --> SPLOOSH, we're usually about ready by now for it to be over. I wonder if it is still almost over this year, now that feels like it's just begun.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On We Go

Write every day, says my newly emerging star writer cousin. Write every day, says the wavering whispery voice that serves as my Jiminy Cricket at work, preferably about archaeology. Heh. Write every day, says my fantasy self in between doing sets of crazy weights and fending off Rachel Maddow's advances and pursuing a career that benefits humanity.

Fuck it, my kid's leaving, says dumpy tubby slacker me, and she sits staring blankly at the laptop, feeling vaguely guilty about not being more productive today and not spending more time reading to him when he was little and not playing Monopoly more often, contemplating checking the SunTran schedule to see when the next bus that might squash her head will be tooling by. Unless they're still on strike, that is; God, it's hard to keep track of these things sometimes.

I wonder if my mom felt this way as I was gearing up to go off to school. Unfortunately, at the same time she was also gearing up to pick up and move 900 miles away from South Bend to Dallas, so she may have been a bit distracted. She and my stepfather hit the road a week after graduation, my beagle sticking his head out of the back window of the old blue Pontiac as Mom waved frantically and disappeared up the hill and I stood in the driveway watching until they were gone and tried to absorb the fact that I was alone and home wasn't home any more. I looked through the windows at the empty rooms, half-heartedly rattled the locked garage door, and finally got on my bike and pedaled over to my German teacher's house to bunk for a while. A couple of weeks later I would shift back to the old neighborhood, this time to my English teacher's house down the block, where I lay on an improvised pile of cushions and blankets in the upstairs spare room and stared at the ceiling. I was two months shy of 18.

Eventually, the day after my birthday, I made my way to my dad's house in southern Illinois, riding the same bus south to Indianapolis I'd ridden a million times before, killing time during the two-hour layover, and finally taking an ancient I-V Coach on the last leg to Vincennes. Dad was there as usual to drive me across the river into Illinois, and after a week or maybe two he drove me farther west across another river to St. Louis, and I got on a plane and got off in a foreign country called Texas and maybe a couple weeks after that Mom flew me back up to Illinois, to Chicago, and after a few days she said I've got to let you go now and hugged me goodbye in the parking lot behind the dorm across the street and that was that.

I took the train home to South Bend several times, but it wasn't home any more without my mom and my house and dogs and bedroom, staying with different friends, occasionally running into acquaintances from high school with them and having to consciously remind myself that these were my former classmates too. It was far too easy to fall back into the third wheel mode I was used to from spending summers at my dad's, in the small town I'd lived in until I was nine, hanging out with old elementary school friends and trying to fit in with their high school friends but never quite having the right common frames of reference.

That was 25 years ago. I will be telling my son goodbye almost 25 years to the day after my mom told me goodbye. No matter how different the situation, the sense of unreality is the same. Home without him will not feel so much like home any more, and I will not feel so much like me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Birthday Blog

43 years later, I guess I've done okay for myself. Birthday breakdown:

6:00 a.m.: girlfriend delivers coffee in bed (from Coffee Times, highly recommended if you find yourself driving on Speedway in the vicinity of Country Club).

7:00 a.m.: officemates show up with orange juice and champagne, respectively, and mimosas commence.

9:00 a.m.: meet my son at home and take off for Mt. Lemmon.

9:45 a.m.: arrive at Molino Canyon to find next to no water, but a few tiny tadpoles save the day.

Birthday tadpoles.

11:30 a.m.: son serves lunch of homemade coconut shrimp with (blue) lime sauce.

12:00 p.m.: first batch of cookies come out of oven.

1:30 p.m.: son accompanies me to gym.

2:30 p.m.: frozen pea application; SportsCenter.

6:00 p.m.: Girlfriend, both kids, and I hit Barrio. Tacos and beer.

sometime after that: happy collapse.

Bring on the 44th year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Extra Time

I much prefer sports metaphors that open a little window of understanding life over sports metaphors that, well, define life.

Time is fluid in soccer. The match is supposed to last 90 minutes, but the referee may add time and allow play to continue if numerous injuries, substitutions, or other interruptions have conspired to prevent a fair full 90 minutes of competition. This makes for an agonizing experience when, say, your team has dominated possession and outplayed the other side and finally put a shot in the back of the net in the 89th minute. The clock rolls over 90:00 and you think the game's over, but because somebody's head got split open and had to be tended for a while, and somebody else needed lecturing after a yellow card, and the guys being substituted strolled off the field instead of sprinting, the referee says no, the game's not over yet. So you play on and wait and die every time the other team puts a shot on goal that takes a weird hop or deflects off a defender and you think goddammit, we had this thing won and you try to hold on until the whistle finally blows.

So now, after watching Vaughn Walker chest the ball off his own goal line and dribble circles around Prop 8 for the length of the field and fire an unstoppable shot into the top corner for a sure winner, we have extra time. Yeah, Walker put the first extra two minutes on the clock himself--the metaphor breaks down here a bit, but still--but now the 9th Circuit has added what feels like an entire additional half.

A federal appeals court decided Monday to put same-sex marriage in California on hold at least until December, interrupting the wedding plans of scores of gay couples who were hoping to exchange vows later this week.

We are told this is actually a good thing from a strategic standpoint, since it prevents the case from being prematurely kicked up to a Supreme Court that might not rule in our favor.

Loyola Law School professor Richard Hasen said Monday's order was strategically advantageous for supporters of same-sex marriage, no matter how disappointed many couples may be. If the panel had refused to place a hold on Walker's ruling, the supporters of Proposition 8 were prepared to seek a stay from the Supreme Court. The court is believed to be divided on the question of gay marriage, with Justice Anthony Kennedy considered a swing vote. A vote on a hold might have pushed the justices into taking an early position on the question.

"I think there are strategic reasons why even the most ardent supporter of gay marriage could opt for a stay," said Hasen, an expert on federal court stays. "The concern is that rushing things to the Supreme Court could lead to an adverse result [for supporters of gay marriage.] If this case takes another year to get to the U.S. Supreme Court, there could be more states that adopt same-sex marriage and more judicial opinions that reach that conclusion."

Hasen said the hold "takes the heat" off Kennedy and takes the case "off the front burner for a while."

I'm not sure how a year's extra time makes Judge Walker's findings of fact any more or less compelling to Justice Kennedy, nor am I sure how many more states are poised to adopt marriage equality instead of strengthening its prohibition. And I'm really not sure how the scoreboard showing states approving and states opposing any civil rights legislation is relevant to the Supreme Court's evaluation of the legislation's constitutionality. As much as I would love to see, say, 45 more states adopt marriage equality in the next year, that shouldn't be a necessary or even contributing condition to Anthony Kennedy deciding that the 14th Amendment really does still count, and that equality is not negotiable.

Yet again we are being told to just wait a little longer, to be patient, to let the dust settle and not pressure people in power, to see if maybe somebody somewhere in some other state will pick up the slack and do something, because if enough states do something, maybe it won't be so hard for the people who can do something federally binding to actually do it.

Hey, you've already played 90 minutes plus two, so what's two more, and two more, and two more after that? And if the other team manages to poke one in because you're exhausted and your keeper's screened? Well, you're used to losing, so no big deal, right? Right.