Monday, October 08, 2007

Once more: Yes, we do torture.

`I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

`But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'*

I listened to the President's protestations (admonitions to the rest of the world?) that America does not torture with sadness and a total lack of surprise. This administration, no, this man, either does not understand what communication means or really does not give a damn. Or probably both.

I actually would have more respect for George Bush if he came out and said "Yes, we torture. We believe it paramount to our national security. We grieve the fact that we have been driven to this point, but there it is." I would still find his actions abhorrent, but he would get some credit in my book for honesty.

Instead, we have this absurd kabuki whereby the President of the most powerful nation in the world acts as though by fiat or executive order he can change what words mean. As if words and what they mean were not the ultimate realm of democracy: for communication to have any meaning whatsoever, people have to have some sort of common understanding between them. And most of the world has an understanding of torture and what that word (or its equivalent in the local language) means. And it includes many of the things we have done to "suspected terrorists". It includes even more of what we send people away to other countries to have done.

All of the hand-waving , all of the Presidential pouting, will not change the fact that some of what we have done to prisoners is viewed by most of the world as torture and is viewed by much of the world as barbaric. As politician Al Smith once notably said, "No matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney." Or, no matter what pretty names you attach to it (and doesn't extraordinary rendition have such a nice ring to it?) it is still evil.

I cannot believe we are still having this conversation. That it is still necessary to have this conversation.

God have mercy on our souls.

* Yes, I know I used this exact same quote from Alice in Wonderland in one of the first posts I made in this blog. This administration simply seems to call for it -- much the same way they seem to evoke references to Orwell's "Newspeak."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I was not going to write about the school race cases the Supreme Court handed down recently. I'm sort of burned out, to tell you the truth, and there is nothing they could do at this point that would surprise me very much.

However, there is a catchphrase that I've seen repeated numerous times around the fluorosphere*: "The Supreme Court overruled Brown v. Board of Education."

No, they didn't.

For people who don't remember, Brown v. Board held that a government entity -- a school board -- cannot discriminate as a matter of law on the basis of race in admitting students to schools.

Nothing in these decisions would allow a school board to set up as a school where students of one race were allowed but students of another were not. Not remotely.

Yes, these decisions make it hard for school districts to take actions that correct for past segregation. Not allowing any consideration of race in effect acts as though segregation never took place, as though differences in racial makeup of schools were some sort of random historical accident, not a result of decades of deliberate government action. Creating a society where there is truly a level playing field, where the echoes of past evils do not continue to plague future generations, has become more difficult after the actions of Roberts, et al.

But that is a very different creature than allowing the reinstitution of "separate but equal" as a matter of law.

It is very important for progressives not to exaggerate the damage done by the Court, or indeed by any of the right-wing. It is always bad policy to do so, but right now it is paramount.

Because so much of what they do is so appalling as it is. The undercutting of worker protections (Ledbetter v. Goodyear, Inc.), allowing Congress to usurp doctors as medical decision makers concerning late-term abortions (Gonzales v. Carhart), ruling taxpayers have no standing to challenge the use of federal funds to faith-based organizations (Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation), the gutting of campaign finance regulation (Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC). All of these are enough to give most people who are left-of-center (or even left-of-right) nightmares **

Exaggerating simply causes progressives to lose credibility. It makes it easy for others to point and say: "See? You're exaggerating. It can't be that bad."

We already face that danger when we speak the stone-cold truth. We can't afford to do otherwise.

* A much nicer word than "blogosphere."

**It is also important to recognize the things the court has done right, among them: stating that a passenger in a car has a right to challenge the constitutionality of a traffic stop, and staying the execution of a Texas death-row inmate who, the state of Texas's insistence as to his mental competence notwithstanding, claimed that the state was executing him to prevent him from preaching the word of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A reminder

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Art. II, Sec. 4.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Reason For the Day

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Letting go.

It's been a year today since Nadia died.

I think it's time I took her number off my cell phone.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rock of ages...

One of the fun things about having a teenager is sharing music. He introduces me to Sublime and Gnarls Barkley, I introduce him to Eric Burden and the Animals and Jefferson Airplane*. It's a two way street; albeit with a lot more traffic coming my way since I seem to have raised a major-league (or aspiring to be major-league) rock music geek. It's rare that I can actually introduce him to a band he hasn't heard before, whereas he has managed to get me to listen to people I didn't listen to when I was young, such as Led Zeppelin and Frank Zappa, in addition to more contemporary acts. (And he has a fondness for oddities: Tori Amos's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," e.g., which is simply wonderful. His fondness for heavy thrash metal I find less explicable and less lovely, but then I suppose there have to be some generational differences.)

We have free-ranging discussions about technique, meaning, musicality. Yesterday's discussion centered on why "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen worked, while "Mr. Roboto" by Styx (or anything else by Styx, for that matter) didn't. (Namely, Queen obviously was not taking themselves seriously. Whereas Syx took themselves far more seriously than any of their music deserved.)

What I've always found interesting, both with him and his two younger brothers, is how to explain songs that depend upon experience for their meaning. Mostly, I just say "You'll understand it when you're older," which is seen by my children as being either lazy or evasive, depending. This is not about sexual content, either, but about, say, complicated relationships ("Drops of Jupiter" by Train) or coming to terms with the fact that life is uncertain and Truth-with-with-a-capitol-T is unknowable ("Closer to Fine" by the Indigo Girls). (I tried to explain that last one to my ten-year-old, and after he said "I still don't get it" several times, settled on "You'll get it when you're older." He was annoyed.)

And then there is one of my very favorite songs: "My Back Pages," as written by Bob Dylan and performed by The Byrds.

"It doesn't make any sense," my eldest said.

"Oh, yes it does," I chuckled. "It's about not being as smart as you think you are."

"I still don't get it."

"Don't worry, you'll understand it when you're, oh, forty."


It's true, though. I listen to "My Back Pages" and either smile wryly or grimace faintly, recognizing myself in its verses:
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
"Rip down all hate," I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

What, you think I'm a ranting, moralizing crusader now? You should have known me when I was twenty. I'm positively mellow by comparison.
Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Indeed I am.

*That would be Jefferson Airplane, as opposed to Jefferson Starship, which he had heard and pretty much dismissed as being lightweights.
When Mercedes Benz purchased the rights to “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin for a car commercial, it seemed like someone at the ad agency was trying to be too hip and ironic for their own good.

When Ronald Reagan wanted to use “Born in the USA” as a campaign theme song, it was clearly a case of “unclear on the concept.” Make that completely clueless.

When Cadillac appropriated Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” to sell sedans, it was a boring company trying to remake its image.

When Royal Caribbean Cruises chose Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” to sell vacations, you can bet they depended upon a large segment of their target population being unfamiliar with the ode to wretched excess.

But the low-water mark for the misuse of great rock songs* in pursuit of filthy lucre has always been Nike’s “Revolution” campaign….

Until the other day, when I saw a Kaiser Permanente ad set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’.” The voiceover prattled on to the effect that it was time to make a revolution in your lifestyle habits.

No….. just….no.

A generation’s greatest declaration of war upon the times they in which they found themselves, reduced to an exhortation to exercise and eat right.

Solipsism is alive and well in America.

*Of course, there is always the misuse of classical or religious music in commerce. A few years ago, when Mitsubishi used seventh movement to Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring” in a commercial, I wanted to throw something through my television. “Appalachian Spring” – or at least the movement used in the ad – lifts the melody from the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”, a deep and profoundly moving piece of anti-materialist music.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Trying to reason ...*

Today, June 1, is the start of the 2007 hurricane season.

The state of Florida has declared today a Day of Prayer. I object to this strenuously as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Having grown up in the state, and having family within spitting distance of the Gulf, I can certainly understand the sentiment, however.

Here's hoping we all get through the season with the minimal amount of damage possible.**

*It's a Jimmy Buffet song.
**Over at Making Light, Jim MacDonald has some information to help keep you safe.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm calmer now...

And I'm ready to talk. No, make that ready to listen. I have nothing to say.

That's not "I have nothing to say to you" that's "I don't know what to say anymore." I have followed the directions in the Democracy 101 handbook -- as have a large number of my fellow citizens -- and it has gotten us bupkiss. I mean, if I felt I were alone.... But polls show consistently that a majority of people in this country oppose the war. What has that gotten us? A "surge"! And a Congress too lily-livered to actually stare down the president, even though only one in three Americans approve of the job the man is doing. So if you were a Bush supporter, and now aren't, and can think of anything at all to do that might actually change things, short of violence or overthrowing the government, I'm all ears.

In any case, I decided to post tonight not because I had all that much to say but because I really did not want last night's -- er, this very early morning's -- rant to sit all atop my blog for days on end. I'm not going to take it down; I figure I need to live with my mistakes as long as they're not actionable, but on the other hand I don't want it to be the first thing I see for n days until I can get the next post of substance finished.

So, just odds and ends...

Substantive posts I am working on, to be finished on Island Time, are about the upcoming Florida Democratic primary election and how that's screwed six ways to Sunday already and it's not even 2008. And about Cindy Sheehan folding her tents and heading home and what it means for everyone else who opposes the war. And about, what else? voting rights and what it means in the context of the Supreme Court, and ways in which the FEC has been politicized under the current administration. Oh, and at some point I want to do a post about what the Justices did before they became Justices, and what that means for the country. Hopefully at least one of those will see the light of day.

Oh, and one on Wikipedia and Devon Island, but that one is taking a while. I was going to do one on SixApart/LiveJournal and their tendency to run around like chickens without heads, but that seems a little pointless now.

On a more frivolous note, I have taken up beading.

(That would be sodalite, freshwater pearl, sterling silver balls and wire, and carnelian and lapis lazuli chips.)

You should see the aragonite, aventurine, and mother of pearl sterling silver bracelet I made. I'll post a picture once I get around to scanning one in.

It's getting late, and I'm getting tired, so I think I'll turn in before I get cranky again.

Sleep tight, boys and girls, and don't let the bedbugs bite. Or anything else for that matter.

I don't want to hear it.

It's very late, and I'm very tired, and very angry, and shouldn't be posting at all, but you know what?

If you are as completely, wordlessly outraged by the Ledbetter decision as I am, or the Attorney General Scandal, or the insanity that is the "surge" in Iraq and...

You voted for Bush in either of the last two elections? I don't want to hear what you have to say. You have forfeited all claim to complain to me of this man's actions. There is no way in hell we would be in the place where we are if GWB were not in the Oval Office. Okay, so I am willing to cut people slack for 2000, even though I think a lot of his actions over the next seven years were predictable even before he took office, since the press did a piss-poor job of actually covering, you know, the ISSUES. But 2004? No way in hell. You people had four years to watch the man in office. And you voted for him anyway.

And the effect of that lapse of judgment on your part will be with us for a very long time: those two new justices Bush appointed created the most reactionary court since... I don't know when... a majority made up of men who live in a cloud-cuckooland where Congressmen are better able to make medical decisions for women than their own doctors and where women will of course know the moment they are being paid in a discriminatory manner so they can file suit before the six-months statute of limitations runs. And those men? Are all relatively young. We will have to put up with a Supreme Court that doesn't give a damn about actual living human beings -- as opposed to fetuses and corporations -- for the next decade, at least, probably two.

And you people who voted for a third party candidate? Revel in your sense of superiority. I don't want to hear from you either. Politics is messy. And yes, the system is not perfect, and yes there are a great many things I am not happy about with the Democratic party both in 2004 and now. (A very big one would be the non-filibuster that did not keep Alito off the Court.) But sometimes the choice between the lesser of two evils is a very stark one indeed. By declaring yourself above the fray, you helped throw it for the other side. Feel good about that, do you?

And you people who did not bother to vote at all? I really don't want to hear from you. There were people who were unfairly denied the right to vote (through erroneous roll purges in Florida and other voter suppression tactics) and people in our history have died to get people the right to vote and you treat it like it doesn't matter. It mattered. Oh, God, how it mattered. How it matters still.

I know I will get over this, and be able to talk to people with other viewpoints, soon, but right now, I just need to get all this down... primal scream therapy for the politically strangled soul.

I'll be back to normal soon. I hope.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's been twenty-four hours since I found out, and I still can't believe it.

I expected the ban on partial-birth abortions to be upheld. I was hoping it wouldn't be, but I thought the chances with the new make-up of the Supreme Court of it being struck down were slim at best.

But this....

Yesterday, the Supreme Court in all its wisdom essentially gutted the right of employees to sue over discriminatory pay. Well, five of them did, and that's all that's needed.

In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire, the Supreme Court stated that the six-month statute of limitations for bringing claims did not arise from discovery of the pay disparity, or from continuing discrimination, but from the date the discriminatory act -- the original awarding of less pay for equal work -- occurred.

Lily Ledbetter was originally paid the same as her male counterparts, but over time received smaller raises than they were. After 19 years, she was being paid $6,000 less than the lowest paid man at the same position. Performance, said Goodyear. (Performance? If she was so bad, why did you keep her around for 19 years?) Gender, said Ms. Ledbetter, and a jury agreed with her to the tune of roughly 200K compensatory and a whopping 3.3 million punitive damages.

Take special note of those punitive damages. We're not talking about a minor mishap. Clearly what the tire giant did was outrageous enough to inspire a jury to try and send a message to Goodyear Corporation.

Too bad, said SCOTUS. She sued too late. It didn't matter that they had been systematically paying her less than her coworkers for years, she had to have sued within six months of the first time they decided to pay her less than her male colleagues.

Talk about not living in the real world. A woman -- or a black man, or an older person -- may become aware of discrimination only after the statutory 180 days has run. According to this ruling, that woman (or black man, or older worker) is just shit out of luck, now, isn't she (or he)?

This decision gives an employer a way out for years of discrimination. If future pay raises are based on pay decisions made earlier (i.e., when raises are percentage of wages), all an employer has to do is state that their current pay decisions are equitable and ignore the effects of old injustices.

As Ruth Bader Ginsberg pointed out -- in a dissent read from the bench, which is usually reserved for opinions which the writer feels particularly strong about -- pay discrimination is categorically different than discrimination in promotion or firing/hiring. Who works for a company, and what position they hold, is pretty much public knowledge, pretty quickly. As for who gets paid what....

Why, yes, my employer makes all of their salaries public -- doesn't yours? No? Well, actually, mine doesn't either. I have no idea what my co-workers at the small nonprofit where I work make. I have never worked in place where information about other people's salaries were readily available, or certainly not in close enough to real time to allow for a lawsuit under the reading of the statute that the idiots in the majority have adopted.

Ginsburg is right about something else -- this paves the way for more discrimination lawsuits, not fewer: "Today's decision counsels: Sue early on, when it is uncertain whether discrimination accounts for the pay disparity you are experiencing." From a worker's perspective, it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario: without clear evidence that discrimination is behind the pay disparity, what lawyer will take the case? By the time the discrimination becomes established enough to be worth having a case, though, you are barred by the statute of limitations.

All of which will be quite good for employer/worker relations, I suppose. Not to mention productivity.

Ginsburg urged Congress to take action. I do too -- and please contact your House members and Senators so we can fix this NOW.

It's too late for Lily Ledbetter. But not for the rest of us.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fifteen second movie review...

I saw Shrek the Third over the weekend. All I can say is...

Best use of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" ever.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hi ho, hi ho...

After several years away from the paid job market, I'm working for money again. It's the first time I've worked in an office in over a decade (my last paid job was freelance -- I only went to the office once in two-years to work out a payroll problem).

Okay, so it's a minimal part-time job, it's still a job. I'm working for a nonprofit that I've been volunteering at for nearly a year.

It's amazing how being paid changes my perspective. Before I was completely confident -- what were they going to do if I screwed up, dock my pay? Fire me? Yeah, right. Now, of course, they can do those things. And I find I'm nervous to the point of driving myself to drink. Well, not really, but I think about it. I've driven myself to chocolate, certainly.

I really like the work I've been assigned. I feel a need to do it as well as possible and therefore am probably taking longer than I might otherwise, but by golly I am going to do this right. This is a problem.

It's a problem because I could easily see myself putting in a lot of uncompensated overtime. Not because I was asked to, mind you, just because I really want to get this done, and done well. I have trouble walking away before I have gotten to "a good stopping point," and have trouble not fretting about it when I am not at work. I have to resist the temptation to go in to work when I am not required to be there.

Obsessive, much?

It's going to be a struggle for me, finding a good work/life balance here. And I am worried that the stress I am subjecting myself to will make me stupid -- it's already doing so. And I'm worried about burnout -- and that if I burnout, it will be from self-induced stress, not from the work itself.

Still, a job! What fun.

"Hi ho, hi ho..."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Just a thought...

Whenever anyone starts decrying the fact that those numbers about the monetary value of the work that stay-at-home mothers do are just so much hooey,* and that the real problem is that working mothers are never paid enough to "make their labor profitable" (as I heard a commentator on NPR say yesterday), and yet in their entire five-minute diatribe didn't utter the word "fathers" once, it means they really don't get it.

As long as we as women -- as mothers -- allow the discussion to be framed (or have it framed for us) as a matter of how to structure motherhood, instead of how to structure parenthood and family life in general, nothing will really change. Single parenting aside (and I recognize it's a big aside, but the nastiest battles in the mommy wars are fought between women who are married but who made different choices), raising a family is a joint responsibility between (and among, I suppose, in multi-partner households) the adults responsible for the children.

All the adults. Not just those with two X chromosomes.

* Which they are. The commentator -- whose name escapes me -- rightly observed that the accurate cost of what a stay-at-home mother's labor is worth is what you would pay a nanny and housekeeper. Hers made $35K a year, not over $130K. Of course, there is a question of whether or not she underpays her help, but in general her point is well-taken.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Not a lot of people read the blog. Therefore there have been no trolls and I have had nothing to moderate.

However, I have permission be as ruthless as I need to be in the cause of blog civility here. I even have a certificate from Teresa Nielsen Hayden (the first name in blog moderation -- inventor of disemvowelling) granting me such. (Said certificate was fetchingly designed by Patrick Nielsen Hayden.) Not that, as Ms. Nielsen Hayden pointed out, any of this isn't anything other than common sense, or that any of us really need anybody to tell us that we can do exactly what the certificate suggests we do.

I could do a long post on this, but I mainly wanted to post the certificate. It's hysterical.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Birth Days.

I am 46 today.

I celebrated by meeting with the head of Career Services at Stanford Law School.

It had been a long, long time since I had been on the SLS campus. I have even avoided driving anywhere on the Stanford Campus other than the Medical Center. There is a great deal of “What if someone asks just what I’ve been doing the past fifteen years?” and “You mean you spent sixty thousand dollars, and took up valuable classroom space in a top five law school, to stay home and raise children?” that I worry about.

I have watched as classmates went on to do great things – running for mayor of San Francisco, becoming Executive Director of the ACLU. (And let me just say upfront that Matt and Tony are terrific people who deserve every bit of hard earned success they get.) Stanford alums tend to be high profile people.

So I put on business casual (I figured a suit would be too much) -- except for the pantyhose -- and my best no-nonsense-I'm-a-lawyer-don't-mess-with-me-demeanor (usually reserved for dealing with unpleasant airline gate agents) and sallied forth. After I got there I was much more relaxed -- I reminded myself that I had a right to be there, dammit, I have a piece of paper on my wall which proclaims that I went there and not only got a J.D. but graduated with distinction. Whatever I chose to do afterward, that was *not* chopped liver.

Susan Robinson, the Dean of Career Services, is a lovely woman, and she helped me identify a couple of areas of interest: namely, education disabilities (one of my sons is high-functioning autistic) and election and voter law (gee, I wonder why I might be interested in that?). She gave me information about how to indentify opportunities and look for volunteer opportunities in each field, so as to create networks (something I've never been very good at before, but I'm trying). She also talked with me a little bit about resume construction and gave me pointers about people working with homemakers returning to professional positions.

It feels like I am embarking on a large new adventure. I am by turns exhilarated and terrified. It definitely means stretching out of my comfort zone.

Really, a good way to spend a birthday, with a new undertaking.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech: such unspeakable tragedy. 33 dead, as of the time I read of it, and many more wounded. May the good Lord have mercy on us, and comfort the families of the poor students who died or were wounded, in body or mind. I can only imagine the damage done by seeing people you know blown away by a murderous nutcase with a handgun.

And what was the response of the White House to the shootings at Virginia Tech? According to a White House spokesman, the president offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia. "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Thirty three people lie dead. But somehow, the president thought it necessary to talk about the right to bear arms. As if any of the laws on the books would have made one damn but of difference to the shooter.

We don't know the specifics yet of how the gunmen got his weapons, or his ammunition. There will be time later for consideration of action to be taken. There will be time to talk of guns, and rights, and the intersection between the right to bear arms and reasonable regulation that can help all of us be safer.

Now is not that time. Now is the time to mourn, to weep.

It is not the time to play to your political base.... it is the time to remember the fallen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

And so I'm back.

I gave up blogging for Lent. It was an interesting experience.

Originally, I was giving up the Interenet for Lent. That lasted, oh, forty-eight hours. I am a stay-at-home mother with significant health issues, and some days the only significant intellectual interaction I have with people over the age of sixteen is on peoples' blogs.

Instead, I simply didn't blog myself. I had gotten to a point of obsessiveness. I was thinking about blogging all the time, even though I was not writing all that much: everything become potential post fodder, considered and discarded according to its possible readability. I was checking my site-meter stats to see if anyone was reading me -- and who, and where from. I became, as my friend Jen put it, like those people who go through life looking through the lens of a camera, who can't simply look at things without needing to take pictures of them. I would joke that I needed one of these shirts.

So I took time off. I started experiencing things for themselves. Or not -- I found myself much less dialed into to current events, the scandal du jour of the Bush administration (both Walter Reed and the prosecutors scandal broke during Lent) and the turmoil in the Anglican Communion. I found myself struck by outrage-fatigue. I wasn't trying to communicate what was important to anyone, so I found myself saying "What does it all matter? Nobody's paying attention anyway." The act of writing about what is going on the world helps keep me engaged in the world.

I still have decisions to make about the direction I take this blog. In the past I have written both personal posts and political posts. I'm not sure if that dichotomy has served me well. I would like to actually attract a steady readership (which means, of course, I have to settle into a steady writing routine.)

I'm sure I'll still be feeling my way. But for now, at least, I'm back.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

A day late...

I'm out of here for awhile, until the second week in April. I don't blog a lot but I think about blogging a lot, and I spend an insane amount of time lurking around other people's blogs. I avoid doing work I need to do.

Lent seems to be a good time to change that, to re-orient myself. So that I seek out people -- not distraction.

Besides, anything but giving up chocolate, don't you know.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

My take on the Edwards blogger controversy

A recent kerfluffle in the blogosphere has been the hiring/non-firing/resignation of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan from the blogging post for John Edwards campaign. William Donohoe, conservative head of the Catholic League, had screamed for the two to be fired for alleged anti-Catholic and profane remarks that they had made on their personal blogs, Pandagon and Shakespeare's Sister, respectively. The bloggers on the left, correctly, had pointed out the Donohoe was no one to be calling anyone bigoted, given his own history of anti-Semitic public remarks. In some cases I read, they also criticized Edwards for being too lukewarm in support of the embattled bloggers.

Edwards said that he found the remarks offensive, but that he had talked to the bloggers and was satisfied that they had not intended to malign anyone's faith, and was not going to fire them (they later resigned anyway). Should he have been more forceful?

No. His campaign never should have hired them in the first place.

Look, I am all for free speech. I support McEwan's and Marcotte's right to make the most outrageous and inflammatory remarks on their blogs they desire. And to do so free from the intimidation that has been thrown their way by fanatics -- inflamed by people like Bill Donohoe. They should be free from having to deal with people lobbing obscene and hateful names at them -- not to mention threatening email. The vile and personal -- and potentially violent -- abuse that these two woman have been subject to is a scary reminder that there are some very sick people out there, indeed.

But their inalienable right to free speech does not bring with it the right to any given platform they desire, even if they are not reporting on their own views. A presidential campaign, like it or not, does have to consider all potential voters, for the simple reason that if the candidate is successful all of those voters will be his constituents. This does not mean a candidate needs to pander, but it does mean that candidates -- and the people who work for them -- should strive not to gratuitously give offense. When you refer to a segment of the populace as "wingnut Christofascists," as McEwan did in one post, or speculate about what would have happened had the Virgin Mary taken an emergency contraceptive as Marcotte did, it is beyond credulity that you did not intend such statements to be offensive. Of course such statements were intended to be offensive: just to people who the bloggers believed to be not worth caring about.

The bloggers have claimed that what they wrote on their own blogs is irrelevant, since they would be reporting on their candidates views and not their own. So this means that if John McCain hired Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, known to espouse views that sometime cross the line of common decency (most recently a suggestion that the U.S. should assassinate Iranian government officials and scientists), the left-blogosphere would not immediately jump on this as (further) proof of McCain's lack of fitness for office, and demand that he go? Riiiiiggghht. And I have some lovely prime real estate in Monroe County, Florida I'd like to talk to you about.

A president has to be careful whom they assume to be beyond the pale of civilized discourse. That the people surrounding the current occupant of the White House seem to believe otherwise and resort to stating that those who oppose them "embolden the enemy" doesn't change that.

Bloggers and commenters I have read have argued that there is too much deference given to religion, and that one should be able to discuss or challenge religious principles without being attacked as being disrespectful of religion and religious people. Point taken. But the answer is not to drag discussion of religion -- or the intersection of religion and politics -- into the sewer where so much of the rest of public discourse takes place these days. And I'm not referring to merely the presence or absence of profanity: the right-wing blogosphere, which prides itself on refraining from four-letter words, contains many a high-profile cesspool. Simply because something is not profane does not render it not obscene. (See above suggestion by Glenn Reynolds.)

It is possible to discuss politics and religion -- heatedly, even -- without viewing the people on the other side as less than human. And unless we do that, the breech in the national fabric is only going to get wider.

Because, whether people in the blogosphere, right and left, like it or not, we're all in this together, "profane anti-Christian bloggers" and "Christofascists" alike. The world is a complicated and nuanced place. We need to grow up* and act like we recognize that fact.

UPDATE: You know, I really shouldn't bother writing these, since between the time I started writing this (I write things, and then put them away to think about them) RMJ of Adventus came along and wrote about the whole situation more completely, more cogently, and more eloquently than I could. You can read his take on things here, here, here and here. Heck, just read the blog. It's worth it.

* Ovlzl has compared the blogosphere to high school. That sounds about right.

Friday, February 09, 2007


A few weeks ago, in a discussion in a different forum, I commented that I was "articulate with rage." Not what I meant to say, of course, and when I changed it to "inarticulate," several of my friends jumped in to say, no, the first wording was more accurate. I was flattered, and then a uncomfortable.

The source of my discomfort is simply that I don't write when I am outraged. Not consciously. I sit down at my computer, and write, and then I say "Who the hell is responsible for that?" How I write when I write deliberatively is different -- more casual, less structured.

So the last time I wrote something in a state of complete outrage, I listened to the voice that spoke the words in my head.

It was Keith Olbermann.

It seems I channel K.O. when I get good and angry. What Would Keith Write? Not that I try to do that, mind you, or that what I write is as good as Olbermann's, just that his writing -- his voice -- has had an influence on how I channel my own outrage.

Although I should note that I have always distanced myself from my own outrage, even before I had ever heard of Keith Olbermann. (Actually, that's not quite accurate: I've known of Olbermann for years, but only as "that guy who used to be on SportsCenter.") Anger comes from a place deep inside of me that seems somehow detached from my meek mild exterior -- my warrior woman.

There has not been much of her lately: not that there hasn't been much to be outraged about, just that it's really hard to sustain the appropriate level of outrage. The Vice President surely was involved in the smear campaign against a CIA operative, and the press didn't care enough about its sources to make a big deal of it? Old news. The death Anna Nicole Smith -- a woman whose main claim to fame is her marriage to an octogenarian millionaire who died -- is more important than the latest casualties from Iraq? So what did you expect? The president is making menacing noises towards Iran? Yeah, like any of us can do anything about it. The new budget figures are made of smoke and mirrors, and anyway result in large cuts to government agencies to pay for this useless war in Iraq? Pretty much SOP. Even the machinations of the schismatics in the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican reactionaries in Africa and elsewhere elicit merely a weary shrug.

Outrage fatigue has set in. I look at the world, and America, and who we are, and what we have done and what we are doing, and I can't even weep anymore. I can simply sigh.

Fortunately for all of us, Keith Olbermann still has plenty of outrage left -- witness this latest special comment about the President's State of the Union address. Not as good as his best, which was called "The Beginning of the End of America" about the Military Commissions Act, but still quite good, nonetheless.

Maybe if he can stay outraged, he can inspire me to remember my outrage, too.

Notes from art class

I am taking a drawing class. Oh boy.

I earned this class by virtue of volunteering at a local arts organization for 100 hours -- answering the phones and staffing the reception desk, mainly. "No, sir, the pastel portrait class is still cancelled, and no, the instructor will not give you a different answer. If you insist, I will give her a note to call you." "No, I can't give you the phone number of the painter whose work you saw in an exhibit in a gallery in the city last month -- especially when you're not sure of the last name -- because I've never heard of them and they're not listed on our website." "Yes, you can register for the Zen of Printmaking* which started last week, but you still have to pay the full amount of tuition. No, we do not pro-rate fees. No, the instructor will not give you another answer." "If you want to drop off crafts to sell in the gallery, you need to make an appointment to see the gallery director. Really." "Sorry, the Insanely Popular Collage course** is full. It fills up the first week of registration. You can speak to the instructor, but there are two people already on the wait list and you will be put at the bottom." And so on.)

I wasn't sure if I was going to go today; it's raining and my legs and elbows are hurting. I made myself go -- drawing class is something I look forward to a great deal and I figured it was good for me to get out of the house. I had to sit down for class, which makes drawing trickier, but I still went. Yay me.

Herewith my notes from art class:

Aaaaaarrrgggghhhh!!! still life! Complex forms!!!! FLOWERS!!!!! Run away!!!!!

I hate ginger jars. Damn things are hard as hell to get proportioned right. Give me a wine bottle any day.

Apples are not round are not round are not round. Oranges are round. Pears are.... um, pear shaped. Grapes are a pain in the ass. Which is why I decided to draw the stupid ginger jars, remember? So I wouldn't have to draw the grapes?

Gee, I never thought of it before, but R. (the instructor) is sort of a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Keanu Reeves. Which could explain the popularity of his classes. Good thing he's also a good teacher.

Yay! R. said I had a good composition! So the fact that I cannot draw the thumbnail sketches (to determine composition) to save my life but instead have to sort of figure it out as I actually start drawing didn't kill me.

Why do the other students tell me I'm doing a good job? I don't feel like I am. It's so damn frustrating -- I can't translate what I see to what I can put on paper. It's almost enough to turn one into an Abstract Expressionist.

Damn, forgot to turn off the cell. No, Not-so-little Drummer Boy, I am not going to drive over on your lunch period and drop off the lab notebook you left at home. I'm in class. I'm making art, here.

Actually, what I'm making is charcoal dust, which I am getting all over myself. Once again I end up looking like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. I might as well take up sweeping chimneys and be done with it.

Oh, well, as the song says, art isn't easy.

But it is fun.

*Not a real class. But wouldn't it be great if it were?
** Not a real class, either -- but a description of one of the classes we offer. It's not a beginning class, so people repeat it. There is a mad rush when registration opens to get signed up.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I got bored, and decided I missed my old color scheme. It took me all of a few minutes -- with no mucking about in HTML -- to get it back to the way I wanted. Unlike when I first set it up.

Have I mentioned how much I love the Blogger template customizer?
It's been a day.

Not much of a day, but a day, nonetheless. The house is filled with the incense of wine and oregano, as the pot roast slowly simmers towards its ultinate culinary destination. Dinner was originally suppposed to be around 7:30, but as I picked him up from school the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy announced that he had a percussion group practice in preparation for a charity performance tomorrow night. And oh, yeah, he wasn't quite sure where the practice was located.

A frantic Google session allowed to figure out where he thought it might be, and after a delay while I browned the beef and got the roast simmering, we headed out. Fortunately, he was right, and he showed up, late, but at the right place.

I came home and had to oversee Echidna Boy's project -- the one that he was supposed to have done a couple of days ago. He had called from school to let me know that he was "benched" -- kept in from recess -- until he got it finished. He now has a fake newspaper (on heavy watercolor paper -- he turned down the newsprint) all about Johnny Tremain and the Revolutionary War.

My house is not clean, but that's okay. I am listening to good music, and there are wonderful smells coming from the kitchen that hold the promise of delights to come, and I have slain one very small dragon today: I have learned how to sharpen my charcoal pencils.

I take a drawing class. We work in charcoal, probably because charcoal is very forgiving of the incompent -- you can practically erase it with your hand, especially if you use vine charcoal and don't draw darkly. Some of us appreciate this quality a great deal. We also use charcoal pencils, which we are to sharpen with our x-acto knives.

Each pencil is supposed to have a 3/4 " lead. Right. At this point, I have sharpened away more than three inches on one particular pencil in my search for that elusive stretch of naked 6B charcoal. But even where I've managed to get enough open charcoal, I've never quite understood how to sand it properly. I always end up with a point -- which sort of defeats the purpose of all that carving, no?

Tonight, as I settled down with my supply box to prep my pencils for tomorrow's class, it came to me. There was no blinding light or dove descending from the heavens, but just a clear sudden understanding that, hey, if you sanded the charcoal on the side you didn't get a point but a line of charcoal, allowing you to use the entire 3/4"! Calloo Callay!

As I said, a very small dragon. But sometimes the small victories can be just as sweet.
When I started this blog, I was hoping to post every day or two. Clearly this was optimistic, to put it charitably. The past couple of months, however, my posting has been spottier than usual, with days going by with no posts (sometimes followed by days with multiple posts). There has been a lot of stress in my personal life, but the most significant issue has been pain. As in, a lot of it. All mine. Sometimes the pain -- or the pain medication -- makes it difficult to concentrate, and on other occasions it hurts to walk so I spend a lot of time at my computer.

I have fibromyalgia. I've had it for years, actually, and it has been an occasionally discomfort, and very occasionally significantly painful, for short periods.

Until this summer, that is. Since this summer, I have had more days in pain than otherwise. The pain ranges from achiness to, some days, severe enough to make it difficult to walk. And if I ignore the pain and "play hurt," the muscles will stop responding, and it will be difficult to walk at all. A good day can be followed by a bad day. It is hard, on days when I feel "almost normal" not to do as much as I used to do all the time -- because if I do, then the next or the day after that will be horrible. My doctor and I are working on ways to control the pain, and I have a referral to the Pain Clinic, but right now, I'm in pain. I keep praying that this is temporary, that the fibromyalgia will disappear as quickly as it appeared in June, but it hasn't, yet.

I am trying to let go of this. I am trying to learn to turn this over to God. I am failing.

I do not ask "Why me, Lord?" I keep feeling that somehow I must have done something to deserve this, even though the rational part of my brain says it's just a disease, and God doesn't work that way. I do not feel anger at God, only shame before God.

I know that there are psychologists and theologians out there who have done work on the pictures of God that people have internalized. I want to believe that God is love; I really truly do. And part of me does. But part of me internalized an angry, vengeful God, who is punishing me for who I am and the sins I have committed. And all my knowledge of a nurturing, caring God flies out the window in the face of that picture. My understanding of the falsity of that theology -- rejected expressly in the Book of Job! -- does not to lessen its grip on my psyche.

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RIP, Molly

Molly Ivins died of breast cancer yesterday. Damn.

She was only 62. Way too young.

I can't eulogize her. I'm still in shock, and besides, she speaks for herself, in all the myriad words she wrote "afflicting the comfortable" and calling on all of us to fight for our nation and ourselves.

She, and the late Ann Richards, and (the fortunately still with us) Linda Ellerbee, were the best things to ever come out of Texas. A triumvirate of brilliant, funny, strong women. How can the same state produce women like that -- and George W.?

In her last column, Molly said

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

I'll do my best, Molly.

Oh, and say hello to Ann.


While I was trying to make dinner last night, on a day when I was in the midst of amassing more miles than a Boston cab driver on a good night, I kept getting bombarded with questions by my offspring, as usual. We were having tortellini with homemade alfredo sauce, which takes all of about twenty minutes to make, but their little enquiring minds still demanded answers.

These questions included, but were not limited to:

"What's my email address?"

"Why doesn't my email work?"

"What was the last battle of the Revolutionary War?"

"Are you sure it was Yorktown?" (No, I wasn't.) "I thought it was Bunker Hill. Wasn't it Bunker Hill?" (No, it wasn't Bunker Hill. Go look it up.)

"Why can't I get the confirmation to the game website on my email? I can't play until I do."

"Can you come look at my email, Mom?"

"In colonial times, would blacksmiths have been rich?"

"Would they have been as rich as silversmiths?"

"What show is that song from?"

And my favorite, from Echidna Boy, who's all of ten:

"Mom, what's the plot to Les Miz?"

The Not-So-Little-Drummer Boy had only one question, in keeping with his teenage priorities: "What's for dinner?"

At least that one I didn't have to think about to be able to answer.

And they wonder why I look so harassed all the time.

The long fight is over.

This is the obituary I've been waiting to write for six months -- which was at least five months too long.

Barbaro has finally been put down. It seems the whole country was pulling for him to make a miraculous recovery. Not surprisingly, since he had cheated death twice before: once from the massively fractured right leg that ended his racing career and in past times would have ended his life, and once from laminitis, the same disease that felled Triple Crown winners Affirmed and the magnificent Secretariat.

He developed an abcess in his left hoof (the one that had had laminitis) a week ago, followed by yet more surgery, followed by the discovery of laminitis in both his front legs, leaving him, as his surgeon noted , "with not a good leg to stand on." Unable to rest, the colt was clearly in significant pain, and the owners decided that they could not subject him to any more, and had him euthanized.

The entire case of Barbaro raises significant ethical questions, most notably: when is enough, enough? By all accounts, laminitis is a painful disease. And surely, both the broken leg and the abcess would be painful. And yes, he would have been on painkillers, but still... his handlers insisted all along that he was not in pain. A horse cannot talk; what if they were wrong?

And there is the question of resources: Barbaro underwent nearly two dozen surgeries and other procedures. Yes, it is the owners' money to use as they see fit. But is it really wise to spend so much in such an elaborate attempt to keep one horse alive? Especially from such devastating injuries? As much as I love them, horses are not people. Measures which may be justifiable to keep, say, a newborn alive may not be justifiable to keep a thoroughbred alive.

Then there is the question of precedent. We may be dangerously close to breeding horses that are lightning fast and china fragile. If we are willing to go through all this for this horse, what will we do for the next good horse that breaks down? And should we? Barbaro's treatment has pushed the boundaries of what is possible. What is in the best long-term interests of the breed may be another thing altogether.

Aside from the ethical questions, there is simply the sadness of the loss of what was surely going to be one of the great ones. I have seen the Triple Crown winners and other major race horses since I was about ten : I fully expected Barbaro to be in their league. (Well, maybe not Secretariat: he was in a class all his own.) After his phenomenal career, we expected Seattle Slew; we got Ruffian.

There is talk of burying him at Churchill Downs. I hope they do that; the site of his greatest triumph, it was the place where for a shining moment all of us caught our breath as possibly the greatest horse in a generation thundered past. Barbaro was in the house, and all was right with the world.

I don't fall in love with horses easily, anymore; Ruffian taught me the pitfalls of giving your affection to large animals with slender legs. But Barbaro made me fall in love with a horse again. I'm glad he's no longer in pain. But as his owners said in a press conference Monday, "Grief is the price we all pay for love."

Rest in peace, Barbaro. You fought a good fight.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

It's that time of year again....

Woo hoo!

The pro football (that's American football, none of this soccer stuff) conference championships are this weekend. And this year, the choices are pretty easy for me.

None of my favorite teams (Bucs, Dolphins, Raiders) made the playoffs. But several of my second-tier teams did, and two of them -- New Orleans and Indianapolis -- are in the championship games.

I've always been fond of New Orleans. My family used to live there, and I was born in Oschner Hospital. And the Saints -- neƩ the "Ain'ts" were for many years the league's most hapless and lovable losers. I have a soft spot for losers -- hence my support for the Buccaneers and the Democratic Party. (Just kidding.) And the city needs this: the Saints have a large impact -- psychologically and financially -- on New Orleans. Although the game is being played in Chicago, the better the team does now, the more enthusiasm for next year, the more tourists, etc. Besides, in a city still reeling from the effects from Katrina a year and a half later, don't you want good things for them?

And then there is the Manning factor. That would be Archie Manning.

Archie Mannning was maybe one of the best quarterbacks of all time. He just played for the Saints. For ten years. Ten years without a single winning season. According to Wikipedia, had sacks against been an official statistic, he would have held the record. In 1972, he set the League record for pass attempts and completions, and for yards passing, all for a team that went 2-11-1. Hell, the one year the Saints hit .500 (1978), Manning was named NFC Player of the Year. He ended his career with the Oilers and Vikings, teams which went a combined 6-35 when he was with them.

He survived all this with grace and humor. He once said, "“I never intended to stay in New Orleans, ... [But] along the way, New Orleans was really good to me. We were the only pro team in town. We weren't too good, but the fans were passionate about the Saints and extremely good to me and my family.” Such an attitude is rare in professional sports. Archie Manning was -- and is -- a class act.

Now, of course, he's mostly known as Peyton's (and Eli's) dad. And Peyton plays for the Colts. It would be lovely to have one of Archie's kids go to the Super Bowl, since he only had the chance of a snowball in hell of going himself when he was playing.

But the real reason I root for the Colts these days is Tony Dungy. Tony Dungy used to be the coach at Tampa Bay, which is my team. He was a damn fine coach there. He made the Bucs respectable -- so that we could say "I'm a Buccaneers fan," and people would no longer laugh at us.

Dungy was unceremoniously dumped in 2002. He had gotten the Bucs to the playoffs, but not to the Super Bowl. It was handled poorly, and many people thought he got a raw deal. The Bucs brought in Jon Gruden, who won the Super Bowl the very next year.

With the team Dungy had assembled. Completely. In the four seasons since, the Bucs have only had one winning season -- 2005, when they won their division -- in contrast to the three seasons before that, when they had made the playoffs every year.

Dungy moved on to Indianapolis, but many Bucs fans still have a warm place in our hearts for him. He and his family are still so well regarded in the Tampa Bay area that when his son committed suicide in January 2006 -- four years after he left the team -- it was front page news in the St. Petersburg Times.

So this week I'll pull for the Colts against the Patriots (and haven't the Patriots just been to the Super Bowl too many times already?) and the Saints against da Bears. If they both win and go on the Super Bowl, well, I'll worry about that then.

I'll root for the Clydesdales.

Dear Mr. President...

I saw how in that interview with Jim Lehrer the other night you said we Americans “sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible image of violence on TV every night.” You went on to say that “the psychology of the country…is somewhat down because of this war.” You said this in explanation of why you would not ask us to make sacrifices to support the war effort.

You insult us, sir.

Each and every American. Do you really think us that frail and delicate that we cannot make difficult choices when neccessary? Do you really think us such a whining bunch of babies that we confuse being upset with what we see on television with real honest to goodness sacrifice?

Or is it you who are afraid to make sacrifices? Is it you who are afraid that if you ask more of us that the majority -- yes majority, much larger than you ever had when you were elected to office -- of Americans who oppose this war and who you have steadfastly ignored, and the even bigger majority who oppose the increase in troops you are pushing for, in contravention of all common sense and the recommendations of even your own blue-ribbon commission, that we will raise our voices and become even louder so that you cannot ignore us any longer? Are you afraid of upsetting the rich and powerful, who are more than willing to send young men and women to risk their lives in the hellhole of a civil war that Iraq has become, but who balk at actually paying for it?

You won't even rescind the ridiculous tax cuts you pushed through, with the aid of a cowardly Congress. And the budget deficit which was nonexistent (in fact a surplus) when you took office heads into the stratosphere. We will not have to sacrifice, oh no: our children and our grandchildren will. Shame on you.

Our parents and grandparents knew sacrifice during World War II: they rationed everything from sugar and gasoline to nylon. They bought war bonds. They planted victory gardens. They worked and sacrificed in support of the war effort because their country asked them to.

Hell, even during Vietnam, Americans faced the uncertainty of the draft, which brought the war home in ways that today's volunteer services -- which cause the sacrifice to fall most heavily on only a part of the nation's young people and their families -- don't. Or don't you remember? Oh, that's right. You chose to take a course which would avoid you seeing combat, or even going to Vietnam at all -- and your fellow Republicans had the unmitigated gall to mock your opponent who actually served in Vietnam and performed heroically.

Maybe that's the problem: you have no idea of real sacrifice because you have never in your life been asked to make any.

I do not know how America would respond to being asked to sacrifice in the name of the Iraq War. My belief is, given how the majority of Americans are opposed to this war, any efforts would be soundly defeated. But not because we're shrinking flowers who can't face the truth.

It's because we realize sacrifice in support of one man's insanity is in itself insane.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"In Summer and in Winter I shall walk..."

Most war poetry speaks to the situation of the soldier. One of the most subtle speaks to those left behind:


I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.

My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles
on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon --
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Amy Lowell, 1874 - 1925

"To children ardent for some desperate glory...."

[Note: as of December, 2010, this post was by far the most viewed on my blog. People get here through Google Searches, usually for the phrase "children ardent for some desperate glory." If this describes you, I would strongly urge you to  hunt down a site than covers Wilfred Owens' work more generally.  He was a brilliant poet who died all too young, in the last week of the very war he wrote about.]

My eldest son is studying the poetry of the First World War in his literature class (along with All Quiet On the Western Front). Looking over what he was reading, I noticed one of the poems I find most moving. Rereading it, I was struck by how much the last four lines seem to resonate with me, when I think of the escalation of the Iraq War, or the saber-rattling towards Iran that our Administration is currently engaged in:

Dulce Et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Wilfred Owen, 1893 -1918

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Odds 'n' ends.

My friend Jen has seen the light, and now has a blog of her own, Small Moments of Grace. Jen is thoughtful, faithful, honest, and writes well. She also knits -- really knits, not just makes funny motions with yarn and needles, the way I do. Her "Works in Progress" post is a bit intimidating. *waves at Jen*


It came to my attention that my blog was banned in Pakistan. I was about to feel terrific about this -- even though I have a tiny readership, someone must have objected to something I said! I was speaking out for truth and justice! I was making waves! -- when I learned that the government of Pakistan has a blanket ban on all Blogspot (Blogger) blogs. (You can stop laughing now.)

Oh, well. A girl can dream.


We had our fifth night of sub-freezing temperatures last night. If I wanted to deal with this, I'd move somewhere with a lower cost of living. Brrrrrr.


Until January 30th, Barnes and Nobles, at least the ones in my neck of the woods, are having a "Buy One, Get One Free" sale on boxed television program sets. Which allowed me (using a forty dollar gift card) to get the eighth season of "Red Dwarf" and "Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 2" for $25. Not too shabby. I had been wanting to get the latter of those two for some time because it included "What's Opera, Doc?," which is listed on the National Film Registry (as is "One Froggy Evening," also in the set).

"Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kiiiilllllll the waaaabbbbiiiiiittttt............"


Speaking of the National Film Registry, the 2006 additions were released on December 27. They include Blazing Saddles, Rocky, Halloween, and sex, lies and videotape. Fargo made the cut the first year it was eligible. To be selected, a picture must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Which leaves me wondering why they selected Groundhog Day....

Overall, not as much fun as last year's class, which included the footage from the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Toy Story, and best of all, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now there's a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" picture. Even more so than This is Spinal Tap, which made the cut in 2002.

I still can't figure out how they can leave off the Apollo 11 moon walking footage, though.

On a serious note....

Growing up in Florida, of Southern parents, and then living later in Atlanta, I have never bought the contention that bigotry is solely a Southern phenomenon. Over at Orcinus, Dave Neiwert has a piece on "Sundown Towns" and the horrific effect of racism across the country. Fascinating reading.

The reason it matters? Because pointing fingers at the South does nothing beyond stir resentments, while not addressing the widespread nature of the problem. Just yesterday, for MLK Day, someone in a condo across from the Starbuck's had hoisted a Confederate flag. A Confederate flag which doesn't fly any other day of the year. In California.

The piece on "sundown towns" part of a series on eliminationism in America. Important -- if scary -- reading.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Food for thought.

When I gave food to the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked why the poor were hungry, they called me a communist.

Dom Helder Camara

This week I'm worried about fruit.

We've had a cold snap, with temperatures in the high twenties and low thirties (no snickering from those of you who live in genuinely cold places), and the tangerine tree in the backyard has taken a hit. We strung Christmas tree lights up to try and raise the temperature a few degrees, and probably saved most of the tree, but the fruit is done for. (I started to say the fruit was toast, but realized that would not be the best metaphor here.) I pulled some of the fruit -- maybe 150 -- off the tree on Wednesday before the weather hit, and have been giving them to friends since them. We will see what survives: the frozen ones should drop to the ground in a few days, and the rest we can pick.

This is the third year that we've lost some of the tangerine harvest. The past two years, fruit thieves stripped the tree -- and I do mean stripped, not a fruit was left, not even a green one -- before we could harvest the tangerines.

This annoys me no end. First of all, we use the tangerines: the tree supplies our fruit for lunches and snacks for a good couple of months. Tangerines picked right off the tree are wonderful. We juice them. We cook with them. We put them in salads -- ambrosia and green (lettuce, tangerine pieces, pecans, dried cranberries, with a raspberry vinagraite, yum). And we help feed the hungry.

Some portion of our harvest -- anywhere from 10 percent to as much as a third -- is dropped off with the Second Harvest Food Bank.* They give it to people who need food. Simple as that.

California is the land of the ornamental fruit tree. You can't drive down a street without seeing at least one orange or lemon tree (and usually more) laden with fruit. More fruit than can be eaten by an average family. And not just citrus: persimmon, fig, apple, pear, and pomegranate all can be found in the city I live in.

A lot of that fruit goes to waste. You see it on the ground, or you see it being cleaned up. Lately that's been bothering me: how to get the fruit that would otherwise go to waste to people who can use it?

I try to do my part. Concerned about thieves, this year the first harvest went to the food bank -- some 400 tangerines. Only then did we think about picking for ourselves or our friends. I was still unhappy that I had been unable to make my usual donations the past two years. But I keep feeling the need to reach others.

I was fretting on this, and then I found Village Harvest. Village Harvest, among other things, sends teams of volunteers to pick fruit off trees which is then donated to food banks and other charities. I can't volunteer to pick -- picking the fruit off my own tree was hard enough on Wednesday, and the earlier harvest of 400 was done my eldest, who was paid a nickel a tangerine -- but I can get the word out. That's what I am going to try to do.

Which begs the question, why do we have a society with such a driving need for food banks anyway? Part of it is the war, and the billions of dollars being siphoned off every month, money that could go a very long way towards eradicating hunger. But more than that is the discomfort we feel at the notion of poverty among us. Poor people are scary -- because we hate to face the fact that, given the right set of circumstances, we might be where they are, too. So poverty becomes a moral failing, thus relieving us of our duty to help people.

How come so many politicians and others who trumpet their special relationship with Jesus Christ so studiously ignore his words about helping the poor?

* According to the Village Harvest website, the SH Santa Clara warehouse is not accepting home-grown produce due to a med-fly quarantine. On the other hand, when I showed up with the produce, they took it (and I talked to a warehouse person, not simply left it in a bin). So which is right, I don't know. I'm concerned that the fruit may have simply been thrown out when I could have taken it elsewhere (other food banks, including the San Mateo County SH, are still accepting home grown produce). However, it looks like the Village Harvest website may just have been out of date: the quarantine was lifted on September 7, 2006. Our fruit would not have been from within the quarantined area to begin with -- the medfly quarantine was limited to the San Jose area.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

EchidnaQuest 2006, Part II

EchidnaQuest Part I, here.

The fateful day arrived. Echidna Boy could hardly contain his excitement.

We arrived relatively early at the zoo, and there were already long lines for tickets. Going to major tourist attractions during the week between Christmas and New Year's is always stressful for the crowd-averse (i.e., moi), but at least it wasn't Disneyland (*shudder*).

We had determined that Victor the Echidna was in the Children's Zoo, right near the petting zoo. We set out, going right by the long lines for the "sky-fari" and the tour bus, and dashing past the beautiful blue macaws and the flamingos. Some of us were not especially happy with this.

We followed the signs to the echidna enclosure. And there was Victor. Curled in a ball, with only spines showing. Asleep.

Echidna Boy was ecstatic. We sat there and watched Victor for a long while, during which the only thing he did was snuffle occasionally. People would come and go, usually walking up and saying "Look at the porcupine!" Echidna Boy would quickly say "It's not a porcupine, its an echidna!" I was chagrined, and told him it was rude to correct people.

After a while, and far too many people who couldn't be bothered to read the large sign which said "Short-beaked Echidna" I (and the rest of our party), found ourselves saying to passers-by "It's not a porcupine, it's an echidna."*

The rest of us got bored and wandered away, mostly to look at the wombat around the corner. I had been under the mistaken impression that wombats were roughly the size of housecats -- instead, they're the size of small pigs. The eldest child was driven up a wall by parents saying to their kids "Look at the piggie!" He took to saying, "It's not a pig, it's a wombat!"

My kids, pedants through and through.

We finally convinced the obsessive that we could come back later in the day to check on Victor, that the rest of us wanted to do something else than watch a sleeping ball of spines. Like the polar bears and pandas and gorillas, or just about anything else.

After we left the children's zoo, our friend had the brilliant idea of calling the zoo's office and explaining that we had a child who had come all the way from the Bay Area just to see Victor, and couldn't someone come and wake the echidna up? A very nice keeper named Richard met us at Victor's enclosure.

He held Victor up, and the echidna seemed none too happy about this. My kid was over the moon. He could see the face and underside. The keeper gave a short talk about echidnas (by this time other people had gathered), and asked Echidna Boy if he knew any cool facts about the animals. EB, who on a normal day can talk for hours about the stupid things, became extremely self-conscious. Finally, he stammered that echidnas have been known to live fifty-six years in captivity.

Good answer: it turns out that Victor was closing in or had surpassed the echidna longevity record. He had come to the Zoo in 1952, and had been at least 2 when he arrived, making him at least 56 this year. He is the oldest animal at the zoo. EB beamed with delight. He then got to pet Victor, at least until Victor decided he had had enough and put his spines up. EB delirously -- and predictably -- announced that he would never wash that hand again.

Richard put Victor back down and left. We got people washed up and had lunch and then saw the rest of the zoo, staying until it closed at five. The other big hit was the gorilla enclosure, although I had a lot of fun watching the river otters. (I skipped the pandas, even though everybody else stood in line to see them. They're cute, but they are not the only cute animal in the world, and I didn't feel like standing in line for half an hour.) Dinner was aimed at adults: we ate at a great Mexican restaurant in Coronado, so that some of us could window shop at the boutiques in the Hotel Del Mar. Picking up insanely decadent desserts at a dessert restaurant (the name of which escapes me) completed the evening.

The next day we headed home, relatively uneventfully. Five of the six people in our group geocache (guess which one doesn't?) so we stopped several times along the route to find caches. I was okay with this and went along, until we hit caches located in the middle of agricultural fields in pitch blackness. Having read too many novels about serial killers, the thought of being out where no one could help us if something went wrong did not appeal to me. So I (and the middle child, who is none too keen on dark deserted fields himself) camped out at a local Starbucks while the crazy people went off with their flashlights.

A late dinner at Harris Ranch (if you're ever there, get the pot roast, it's out of this world), and a quick gas and coffee stop at Casa de Fruita (fortunately, we arrived there after almost everything had closed -- my kids love Casa de Fruita) and we straggled in after midnight.

It was a pretty good trip, all in all. I really could do without the car breaking down and the eldest getting sick, but seeing Echidna Boy's face when he stroked Victor sort of made it all worthwhile. It's not often you can give a kid his dream -- and have it be just as wonderful as he imagines it.

*Knowledge is contagious: A man came up with a child and said, "Look at the porcupine!" I replied, as usual, "It's not a porcupine, it's an echidna!" A minute later, his wife came up and said "Oh, a porcupine!" The man said to her "It's not a porcupine, it's an echidna!" I felt I had accomplished something.

Monday, January 08, 2007

EchindaQuest 2006, part I

My youngest son is insanely obsessive about echidnas. They are his favorite animals. He can tell you all about them. Where they live (Australia and New Guinea), what climate they like (temperate), how they give birth (leathery eggs like reptiles, then the young stay in a pocket like marsupials), which ones are endangered (long-nosed) and which ones are not (short-nosed) and how long they live in captivity (over fifty years).

We're not quite sure why he became so obsessed, since an echidna looks pretty much like a porcupine or hedgehog. Sure, they lay eggs, but so do platypi, and those are seriously trippy animals. Part of it may be that he can say "I just love echidnas!" and quite a number of people -- kids and adults -- will say "What's an echidna?"

Not every zoo has echidnas. They're not common, like giraffes or lions. So, at some point this fall, it was decided that during the break we would drive to Los Angeles to see the echidna at the L.A. Zoo, since K. had never seen one. (Neither had anyone else in the family except my husband, but the rest of us didn't really care.)

Oops. We found out, a week or two before we were to go, that the echidna from the L.A. Zoo is on loan for breeding purposes. It looked like the pilgrimage was over before it was begun!

But then there was Victor. Victor is the echidna at the San Diego Zoo, and we decided that, what the hell, we were driving the five hours to L.A., might as well drive the additional three to San Diego. I wept a small inner tear for Santa Monica and Hollywood, as well as the La Brea Tar Pits, but it did seem like the best solution. Especially since we could also hit the San Diego Model Railroad Museum for my train-freak middle child, and go to Harris Ranch for the teenage carnivore. (The last was miffed because he could only order an eight-ounce steak for breakfast -- we wouldn't let him order two -- instead of a sixteen-ounce. We made up for it be also eating dinner there on the way back, much to the annoyance of his two younger brothers, who decided early in November that they were going to be vegetarians for ethical reasons.)

So we loaded up the van and headed off. The weather was not fun -- nasty wind gusts, intermittent showers, dropping temperatures -- but we had gotten an early start and made very good time and was looking to pull into our hotel at about 4:00 p.m. We stopped for a late picnic lunch at a park just off the freeway in Pasadena, that my husband knows about because it is on the way to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he often goes for business. As we were leaving, the van died.*

My husband went with the van and the tow truck (in spite of our instructions to the tow-truck company, they sent a tow truck which could carry only one passenger), leaving me and the boys stranded in the park, with nothing to do, and with rapidly dropping temperatures. We would end up sitting there for two-and-a-half hours. Attempts to get a cab failed when the cab company refused to send a car out because I did not know the address of the park.

Anyone who thinks it does not get cold in Southern California has never been stranded outdoors in Pasadena in late December, in a relatively light fleece jacket. By the time my husband came to get us with a rental car, it was close to freezing, and getting dark. The boys had been running around (thanks to the inspired efforts of the eldest, who organized games for the other two)and so were pretty warm, but I had been sitting down and was chilled bordering on hypothermia.

After getting hot drinks from Starbucks (which only warmed me up a little -- I stayed cold most of the night), we fought rush hour traffic through L.A. and made it down to our motel about 8:30. The friend who was meeting us there had already checked in, which was good, so I could simply veg out while the other adults went out for pizza.

The next day had originally been planned for the zoo. Change of plans -- my husband had to go back to Pasadena to pick up the van and drop off the rental car, and I was going to go with him so he could take advantage of the car pool lanes and so I could drive back. So we went to the Model Train Museum in the morning -- my husband and I, our friend, and the two younger children. (The eldest spent the entire day in the hotel room vomiting uncontrollably.) Then the van rescuers left, leaving our friend to take the kids around Balboa Park for the afternoon (they had a marvelous time -- well, except for the eldest, who was back at the hotel). We picked up the van, fought more traffic, rolled back into San Diego at about 8:30 -- fortunately missing the Holiday Bowl traffic -- having spent a good seven hours driving back and forth from San Diego to L.A.

The next day was the Zoo. And Victor.

[To Be Continued ....]

*This is the same van that died in the Central Valley on our way back from San Diego in June, and that conked out in October -- and it is less than three years and 70K miles old. It has led to two things: it is the last vehicle we will buy from Ford, and it may be the last time we drive to San Diego, at least for a little while, until the curse wears off.