Archive for April 2004

Full-throated Spring Barrels Into the Northwest

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The combination of spring moisture and a spate of premature summer sunshine has fueled a burgeoning of plant activity around here this last week.  You can hear the rustle as blades, buds and blossoms jostle each other to fill the space.

I’m not sure if there’s anything more inexplicably festive and gaudy than a bleeding heart.  And that azalea could find a spot in the paddy wagon with the other shameless hookers showing their wares on the street.

The Japanese maple forms a canopy under which our dumbshit cats loll and hide from their neighborhood “playmates”.  It’s also a secure redoubt from which to attack bare feet as they pass.  I planted it 26 years ago.  About 20 years ago, it died back to just some dried sticks, and I gave it up for dead.  Then, two years or so later, a new tree sprouted from the part I hadn’t had the heart to remove from the ground, and it has flourished.  They’re VERY slow growing.

That yellow rose follows the lilacs in the blooming queue in our yard.  These are the first 4 or 5 buds to bloom, but there are probably about 200 more to come, each one a giddy promise of a long summer day to come.

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Outlived His Usefulness

I’ve said here before that Baghdad Jim McDermott, my congressman, is a virtual voting machine for me.  I’d have to really dig through voting records to find a vote with which I didn’t concur.

Today, he came close to being my proxy again when he omitted the words “under God” while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before the House of Reprehensibleness.  I don’t believe in God.  I think the words “one nation, under God, indivisible” are the most preposterous oxymoron imaginable.  There is nothing more divisive than mixing religion with civilian affairs.

McDermott tried to make a statement today by his omission, but he made two errors, from my point of view.  First, if his intent was to refute the “under God” inclusion, he should have just stood silent instead of saying anything.  I operate by the legal concept of “entire agreement” regarding the Pledge - if I can’t say all of it, I can’t say any of it.  I can’t say the pledge as currently configured - it’s not good enough just to leave out the words I don’t like.

Second, after his oratorical statement of intent - and if you watch the video, you’ll conclude with me that it was clearly intentional - McDermott dissembled, as he has before, and tried to claim, through a hapless spokesman, that it was a mistake and he wouldn’t do it again.

If he’d have stood by his act, and expanded on it by calling for the excision of “under God” from the Pledge, I’d be wholly in support of him.  But he’s left me, again, with the sense that he’s a fop and a loser, an owner of an almost impregnable electoral sinecure from which a great liberal leader could thunder eloquently from a bully pulpit, and he simply lacks the gravitas to fulfill his destiny.  He pulled the same vanishing act when he was a state senator from Seattle, unbelievably ceding political power to Dixie Lee Ray and the woodenheaded Pierce County (Tacoma) types that came to dominate state politics in the 80s.

I’m embarrassed by Jim McDermott today.  Not, as the Republican imams say I should be, because he dared to say the Pledge as it should be configured, but because, at a critical tipping point in the “separation of church and state” debate, he’s lost his mojo again.

“Under God” must go.  And so should Jim McDermott.

Divorce Forces Sale

I don’t know how long this will stay up at eBay, but someone should seriously recruit this guy as a Salon blogger.  Absolutely hilarious.

Update:  The Seattle Times carried this column today that gives a little more backstory on Larry Star.  Since blogging is merely an intermediate step in achieving one’s 15 minutes of fame, and Star is already getting his, we probably won’t see him blogging any time soon.

The Nickel Drops

I’m not an educator, and have no expertise in the field beyond what it takes to write a tuition check, so I haven’t tracked the “No Child Left Behind” thing much more deeply than to assume that if the Bushies promulgated it, there must be a catch.  (Up until this moment I hadn’t connected it with the Left Behind book series, but that may bear some analysis as well.)  And I had a gut feeling that we needed some consensus on how to measure achievement, so I discounted a lot of the wailing about the testing regimen.  Still, if push came to shove, I was against it because Bush was for it.  One thing my education gave me was consistency in my prejudices.

Then this morning I saw this article, and the things I couldn’t reconcile about NCLB came into focus.  Much like you’d turn up the heat on an employee you wanted to drive out of the firm, NCLB seems designed to predefine vast areas of the public school system as a failure, then go about dismantling and replacing it with a combination of vouchers and charter schools and some fundamentalist Christian form of the madrassa system.

I can’t really say anything authoritative in support or rebuttal.  I do feel that the basis for any improvement in the system is a Marshall Plan kind of investment in dollar terms, in order to attract top talent to the teaching and administrative ranks, and to provide a physical plant that faculty and students will inhabit voluntarily, even happily.  Without Iraq kind of money, without new-stadium kind of money, no initiative of any ideological stripe is going anywhere.

I Feel Safer Today Than I Did Yesterday

An eastern Washington (Prosser) high school art teacher posing as a nurturer of talent and self-expression narc-ed on a student that drew, among other antiwar drawings, a muslimy looking guy with GWB’s head on a stick, under a caption advocating the end of the war in Iraq.  The teacher was so unnerved by the violence in the drawings that he took them to the principal, who took them to the police, who notified the Secret Service, who took either a black limosine, black SUV or a black helicopter (or maybe all three) out into the sagebrush to question the seditious 15-year-old.

These (the school officials) are people who live less than 50 miles from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation…and they’re spooked by a 15-year-old kid with a pencil and a little lack of nuance in his satirical renderings.  Personally, I think it’s a toss-up as to which is scarier - Bush’s head on a stick, or attached to his body.  It probably functions equally poorly grafted to either host.  The lad was not expelled (the pen may be mightier than the sword, but it gets through the school’s metal detectors), but was given an undisclosed punishment.  I vote for repetitive viewings of The Passion and an essay on how we can channel our violent thoughts into positive art.

From the Gut

Well, I took the plunge yesterday and announced officially that I intended to lose weight.  This is a quantum step above some other short-lived efforts where I whispered to myself that it might be a good idea, if it wasn’t much of an inconvenience, to shed a few pounds.  These efforts included the obscure reference that has resided in the column to the left to “Column of Shame” that I put up last October.  Now that I’m “out” in the house, food availability will probably dwindle and eyebrows will raise if I’m apprehended in the kitchen without a clear non-caloric purpose.  Mrs. Perils of Caffeine, I should note, is trim, buff and a rock-climbing machine.

Historically, in order to remove my shirt out-of-doors or go out and buy new clothes, I should weigh 145 or less.  I’m laughably small-boned.  I stayed happily in the range of 140 - 145 for over 15 years.  In 2001 I started creeping up little by little, arriving at my present 155 - 156 sometime last year.  Not sure exactly why.  Might be from working out of the house and not getting the exercise I used to get walking from the bus stop or parking lot to an office, walking out for lunch at noon, etc, running from co-workers and supervisors that want to kill me.  I’m pretty active physically - I run 8 - 12 miles a week, do a Nautilus workout 3 days a week, plus a lot of collateral exercise on hikes, kayak trips and walks around the neighborhood, but I’ve lacked a lot of discipline in eating, especially when I’m out of town and eating more fast food.

I’m not doing anything branded like the Atkins or South Beach diets, I’m signing up for my wife’s old, reliable standby - the “Quit Chewing and Swallowing” diet.  I’ll limit between-meal grazing, and I’ll drink less, both to save the calories from the drinks themselves and to avoid the “eating” trigger that a couple drinks trips in my head. 

I hit the scale whenever I go my Nautilus club.  I’ll update the results in the revived Column of Shame at the left, and try not to post about it constantly.

No Reinstatement For The Draft

Few people could have been more forlorn than Maurice Clarett last weekend.  He’s the Ohio State running back that challenged the NFL/NFL Players Association agreement that players have to be three years beyond high school graduation in order to be eligible for the draft.  He had received a favorable ruling, had hired an agent, left school and participated in combines and drills in preparation for this year’s draft, but was thwarted by a US District court a couple weeks before last weekend’s draft.  A last-minute appeal heard by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (try getting that kind of action for something important) was denied, and Maurice was left with nothing to do over the weekend except watch as a record 14 of his Ohio State teammates were drafted.

I personally think that players should be able to go pro any time they feel they’re ready.  I have trouble understanding OSU alums that somehow feel personally insulted that Maurice wants to flee the hallowed halls with such alacrity.  That said, I don’t feel too sorry for Maurice.  It took a major effort on his part to screw up the situation he had at Ohio State, where he had an injury-prone freshman year with flashes of brilliance, then got suspended for his sophomore year for taking money from a guy from his hometown with possible gambling connections, and for lying to police about the value of goods stolen from a car that a local dealer had “loaned” him.  He had an opportunity for a breakout sophomore season, erasing (or confirming) doubts about his brittleness, perhaps playing for another national championship and perhaps winning the Heisman.

But, if he was simply finished with the College Joe scene, he should have been able to enter the draft without restriction, and taken on his merits.  I felt for him a little bit as the rounds trickled by.

Dueling Weeklies

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Seattle is blessed with two “alternative” newspapers.  The Weekly was established sometime in the mid-70s and for a long time was the rich-hip-elitist’s paper.  Where the dailies were writing about Dennys restaurants and barbershop quartets, the Weekly reviewed the top-of-the-line eateries, and took strong stands on the local arts scene, etc.  Businesses in the 80s started skewing their offerings to the “Weekly demographic”, boomers who were just then coming into significant disposable income.

In the 90s, The Stranger came on the scene with an edgier, sassier flavor aimed largely at Gen-X and -Y, people who went to clubs and in general stayed up past 10.  It is the flagship paper, for instance, for Dan Savage’s “Savage Love” column, and he has been the paper’s editor for the past few years as well.  What the Weekly probably didn’t bargain on, I believe, is that boomers, suffering an image crisis as they aged, began posing as Stranger-bait.  I know we do.

This started to bring the Stranger closer to the wheelhouse of the Weekly’s advertiser base, and their comparative circulations approach equivalence.  Whether as a result of this competitive pressure or not, the local publisher of The Weekly sold out to the Village Voice several years ago.

This week, after apparently arduous and delectable research involving several staff members and a couple hundred restaurants, The Weekly brought out a “dining guide” issue.  The Stranger must have a mole on the Weekly staff, because it was able to hit the street, the same day, with a “Restroom Guide” parodying the Dining issue, reviewing the city’s most picturesque rest rooms, with a cover photo closely mimmicking the Weekly’s.  Had the Weekly issue been titled “Restaurant Guide”, the effect would have been that much more apt.  I detected no crossover on the two lists - that is, The Stranger didn’t review any restroom of a restaurant that The Weekly reviewed.  That may have provided a prima facie test of the veracity of the restaurant reviews.  They need me on staff.

The Stranger did, however, provide a review of the restroom at The Weekly:

As a cultural space in the life of this city, it is a great restroom, as many current and former Seattle Weekly employees can attest, to go into and cry after being senselessly mauled by the interests of a corporation (a corporation that, by the way, has made huge contributions to George W. Bush’s relection campaign).  Finally, it is also a great restroom to emerge from having resolved to send an e-mail from your Hotmail account to the editor of the other, better-written weekly newspaper in town begging for work…

While The Stranger had its fun, obviously, The Weekly gets the lasting laugh: The Weekly’s dining guide is larded with food and beverage industry advertising, while the restroom guide features ads from Pabst and a tattoo shop called Slave To The Needle.

Still, ya gotta love it. 

Back To Civilization

and facing a desk that, in the words of the IT manager at one of my clients, badly needs to be “defragged”.

There’s a day-by-day journal of our junket in the category to the left.  I’ll shut up about it now.

Day 9: Fun’s Over

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A picture named OceanHavenWindow.jpg It always feels like you’ve got one more day of vacation left on the day you check out, but the reality is that, with checkout at 11am, combined with the fact that we’re late sleepers and never pack in advance when it can be put off, it’s usually a ratrace just to get out in time.

One task is always making an entry in the journal in the room. I’ve never been able to figure out why everyone’s entries in these journals ends up effusively thanking the owners for the privilege of paying them to stay there.  Actually, we’ve been making payments on the place longer than they have - we should have a minority interest.

We like the place a lot, though, obviously.  It’s called the Ocean Haven Lodge, located between Yachats and Florence.  At right is the view from our window.  The suites are spacious and comfortable, with kitchens but no phones or tvs.  (What posting I did while there was done using my laptop connected to my cell phone)  The atmosphere is emphatically - maybe relentlessly - ecofriendly, which suits us just fine. Quiet hours 10pm - 9am, no smokers and no pets.