Monday, April 30, 2012

Being alive.

I  made a pair of earrings today.

Not repaired, made. I have not made new jewelry in almost a year.

A year ago, I was prolific enough I considered selling my work on more than an ad hoc basis.  Then life intervened, in the form of illness and other crises, and jewelry-making seemed so much less critical than anything else. I still have a lot of pieces from that period languishing -- tarnishing -- in my jewelry bag.

The other day I was in Michael's getting beading wire to restring an already designed bracelet, when I was snared by a pair of platinum-plated butterfly-shaped connectors.  I do not believe in totem animals, but if I had one, it would be the butterfly. Many years ago I had a cotton shirt with a butterfly that I had painted on the back, and I wore that shirt until it fell apart.  It was a part of me, the way that particular pieces of clothing become part of you when you are too young to know how foolish that is.

I bought the connectors, not quite knowing why, thinking sourly that it was simply another thing to lie dormant in my beading box. Today, I took them out.

I did not have sterling silver earwires. I used stainless.  I had to remake them twice after I changed my  mind on the color scheme. I ran out of silver wire -- being able to finish only because I found a piece not quite long enough in my metals scrap bag. I made it work. There is a facile parable in there somewhere about life handing what you need, but I think I'll skip it.

I remade them because I decided the amethyst color was wrong; wrong for me at any rate.  I chose an indigo blue that is the color of the ocean at the horizon on a clear day.  I only had hearts, not baroque drops, so I sighed and used them anyway, sort of wishing the whole endeavor was not turning out so cutesy.  Hearts and butterflies. Teenagers wear them, not women with my years under their belt.

The wirework -- the craft I have always prided myself on -- is awful.  (Please do not even think "It's better than I could do," even if it is true: I have sold my work before and know what I am capable of.  This is not it.)  The wraps are uneven and the wires have not been snipped closely enough.

The new meds I am on make it difficult to work: they cause hand tremors and blurry vision, as well as drowsiness and occasional vertigo. I have been assured that the last three will correct themselves in time; the tremors (a certain level of which I already had) I am probably stuck with. I did the work anyway.

There is love there.  The feel of the silver wire in your fingers, the flash of the crystal as the light hits it, the silly shine of the platinum-plated connectors.  I can work only slowly, and badly, as of yet.  I have lost the muscle memory that once made making a pair of earrings such as this a matter of minutes, not of an excruciatingly slow hour.

Love is when you know whatever you are making will turn out badly, and you do it anyway.  That is true of jewelry making, of tennis, of pottery.  Of writing.

It is a daydream of many people that someone might show up and simply pay them for being themselves.  Not me.  I can't stand myself much of the time, and being paid for that would be a burden.  My daydream is that some one shows up and pays me to create.

Pays me to feel the slick wire in my hands, with the tools that shape them into earrings or necklaces; or pays me to hear the click of the keys under my fingers and see the words escape from my brain. Pays me to create. Pays me to live.

Because that is what creating is: life. Writing is half that, but not the whole.  I am glad that I have rediscovered the other piece.

Living life imperfectly -- is there really any other way? -- is so much better than the alternative.








Aunt Tessie might like this....

...remember, the one who sends you all the emails, whom you then have to reply to with "Check Snopes before sending me this stuff," and who still sends them to you anyway?

She might like this story from Cracked.com,  "Five Frivolous Lawsuit Stories That are Total B.S."  It debunks the stories that are tossed out from time to time to show how broken the American legal system is when it comes to tort awards, usually by people arguing in one way or another for "tort reform."

I have tried for years to tell people the true story of the MacDonald's lawsuit (because I am a somewhat ludicrous crusader for factual accuracy wherever possible) but I can't be everywhere.  And I have my own Aunt Tessies. (No, I am not going to identify them here).

As I said, she might like it.

Except for the occasionally obscene language, of course.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

This is disturbing.

A  flash drive disguised as a tampon.

A rose by any other name...

I am restless, at least when I am not zombified.*  I keep thinking I should change the name of the blog.  Broadway songs and their lyrics offer a lot of options, for both blog titles and subtitles:

"All That Jazz" [from Chicago]
"Corner of the Sky" ("I've got to be where my spirit can run free...") [from Pippin]
"Just Another Day ("I'm livin' on a latte and a prayer..."**) (Edited to add: there is also "what doesn't kill me doesn't kill me...") [from Next to Normal]
"Pandemonium" (Life is random and unfair; life is pandemonium...")*** [from The 25th Putnam County Spelling Bee]
"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" [from Spamalot]
"Being Alive" [from Company]
"By My Side" [from Godspell]
"I'm Still Here" ("I got through all of last year, and I'm here...") [from Follies]
"Follow Me" from [Camelot] (nothing like the direct approach of begging for an audience)
"It's a Fine Life" ("If you don't mind having to like or lump it....") [from Oliver!]
"No day but today...." (from "Life Support" from Rent)

And so on. (I would like to note that I only have two Sondheim titles on here.) I have not even tapped other music sources.

Changing the title of the blog would be a bad idea, though.  I know! I'll start another blog!

Or not.  But what do I do with all these titles?

More importantly, what do I do with all this restless non-energy?

 *Is "zombified" even a word? I guess so, since  "zombification" crops up in the Wikipedia entry on zombies, and Wikipedia is the source of all wisdom and knowledge on the Internet, and in a lot of high school term papers as well. [/sarcasm mode]
**This last line should look familiar: I like it so much it is on my sidebar.
***I like this so much that title and lyric are the title and subtitle of my Live Journal.



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Love.

Love is giving a gift that you know someone will love, even though you really don't, and even though you know that you will regret it.  Soon, and for a long time.

The Rocket Scientist loves me.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

My mom turned eighty-five today.

She was born in 1927 in Sarasota, Florida.  For most of those eighty-five years, she has lived in Florida, in Sarasota, or, later in life, in St. Petersburg.  In that, she follows a long line of native Floridians -- some of my mother's ancestors have been living in Florida since before Florida was a state.

For most of those eighty-five years she has been a nurse.  She was a stellar nurse, full of caring for those around her. I had her help after the birth of each of my sons, and for the first two seasons that the Rocket Scientist went to Devon Island.  I am not sure how all of us would have come through some of those times without her loving and quietly dependable support.

She is for the most part nonjudgmental. When she says she will pray for you, it comes from a deep sense of caring, from an honest (if sometimes mistaken) belief that you would live your life happier if you followed the mandates of her God.  Just because you don't doesn't make you less of a person in her eyes.  She prays for me to find peace, often.

She had to put up with my sometimes difficult father, who grew to be an old man before he would publicly acknowledge her worth in any manner other than condescending.  His compliments so often came across as vaguely insulting.  She was not an intellectual, as he was, and his snobbery was contagious: I was well grown before I recognized (as he had come to) how remarkable she was. It was commonly agreed among me and my four surviving siblings that while she could live (and has lived) a long and satisfying life after his death, he would have lasted less than five years without her.

She lived through the Great Depression, developing habits that would drive the rest of us crazy years later. (She is an inveterate leftover saver.) She lived through World War II, unhaunted by ghosts except for those that afflicted my father.  She lived through the death of one child, and the troubles that afflicted her others. She is, in her way, as steady and dependable as a rock.

She is healthy, and happy, and optimistic.  After the death of my father she blossomed into what seemed like an entirely different person -- except in the essentials, where she is what she always has been. I always say that I wish I had half her energy, half her joy in life.  I have always suspected that she will outlive me. I hope not -- somedays it is the thought of her grief  should I die, as much as those of my sons, that keeps me headed forward, and caring for myself.  No mother should have to outlive her child, and no mother should have to do so twice.

She says she is not afraid to die, and unlike most people who say that, I think she honestly feels that way.  She hopes to die like her mother did -- my grandmother who went to take a nap in her nursing home one day, and simply didn't wake up.  Her only fear around death -- at least that she has told me -- is that she will die like her father, who left this world withered and insane from atheriosclerosis, unable to recognize those he loved.  She has clearly told all of us that she wants no extraordinary measures to extend her life.  When it's her time to go, she is going hand-in-hand with the Reaper, not kicking and fighting.

I hope that doesn't happen for many, many more years.  Even if I am a bad child who neglectfully does not call her nearly enough, just knowing she is in the world makes me happier.

"You mom is awesome," The Red-Headed Menace just said.   Isn't she though?

I love you, Mom.

Factual accuracy in small things matters too.

Dear Ken Burns,

Astroturf was named after the Astrodome.  It was NOT invented for the Astrodome. It was renamed after it was installed in the Astrodome Its first installation was at a school in Providence, Rhode Island.

Get it right.

Me

Quote of the day.

Football combines the two worst aspects of American life.  It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.  George Will.

I do not agree with Will on many things -- even football -- but even when I disagree with him I love to hear him speak or write.  He is brilliant, especially on baseball.

Brains...... Brains......

I am on new medicines for fibromyalgia.  One of which, Lyrica, is turning me into a zombie until about three o'clock each afternoon.  This is inconvenient beyond belief.

My face is puffy. I am not drooling (yet), but I look dazed and confused.  I cannot drive.  I had to rip out three different knitting projects yesterday because I kept dropping the needles. I was able to re-string a broken bracelet, but it took me an hour when normally it would take fifteen minutes, if that. (This was a repair, not a design job, and no wirework was  involved.)  My typing is ... well, let's just say that it took  me twice as long to write this because I kept hitting two keys at once.

Supposedly, the drowsiness (and the vertigo!) will go away after a week or two.  If not, I am getting off the Lyrica -- living like this long-term would be unbearable. Being free of the pain does me little good if I become nonfunctional due to the medicine's side effects.*

I think whether or not it has cognitive effects is an open question.  When the doctor was looking at drugs, I told him the one side effect I could not cope with was cognitive impairment.  But again, being able to think is not helpful if you can't really do anything.

I do feel like screaming for brains.  If only I had a way to transplant them.....

*And let's not discuss the weight gain and fluid retention.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Adam Lambert was on Jimmy Kimmel Live, singing "Never Close Our Eyes."  The Resident Shrink and I were listening, and we agreed...

We hated the mid-'80s the first time around, and neither of us sees any reason whatsoever to revisit the era.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Playlist for today...

"Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On," Jimmy Buffett*
"Closer to Fine," Indigo Girls
"End of the Line," The Traveling Wilburys
"Corner Of The Sky," John Rubinstein (from Pippin)**
"Happiness," Anthony Rapp, B.D. Wong, Ilana Levine, Kristin Chenoweth, Roger Bart and Stanley Wayne Mathis (from the revival of  You're A Good Man Charlie Brown)
"Here Comes The Sun," The Beatles
"I Am What I Am,"  George Hearn (from La Cage Aux Folles)
"All Star," Smash Mouth
"Kyrie," Mr. Mister
"Life Support," (from Rent)
"Move On," Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin (from Sunday in the Park with George)
"The River," Garth Brooks
"Asking Us To Dance," Kathy Mattea
"Ordinary Day," Great Big Sea
"Something Beautiful," Great Big Sea
"The Bug,"  Mary Chapin Carpenter
"We Shall Be Free," Garth Brooks
"Defying Gravity," Kristin Chenoweth, and Idina Menzel (from Wicked)
"Bridge Over Troubled Water," Simon & Garfunkel
"Travelin' Thru" Dolly Parton

Why yes, we were trying for a inspirational theme, why do you ask?

And yes, I realize that I followed a song about chasing the sun over the horizon to find the place where you belong with a song about celebrating very simple pleasures.  They seemed to fit together: I think I need to do more of each of those (metaphorically in the former case).

* I am bothered a bit about this song,  except that I remember that Buffett was from Pascagoula, and has lots of friends, families and memories in that region (not to mention a restaurant in New Orleans), so I am willing to cut him a little slack for what otherwise might seem like callousness.
** Having yesterday had a long conversation about how being an artist does not automatically mean you are a decent human being (centering around Frank Lloyd Wright), it occurred to me today that this song has strong (Ayn) Randian overtones.  I have not seen the musical (I have not particularly liked the other songs I have heard from it), but I keep feeling that there is an even chance that Pippin was a selfish, whiny jerk.  I still like the song, however.

Must be all that pent-up testosterone.

I have finished online traffic school.  And although I said otherwise on their mandatory course evaluation survey (they have my completion certificate on their servers and I'm paranoid), I really would not recommend these people to anyone.

Their website was pedestrian, not particularly interesting, and written for fifth-graders. (They also did not explain why you got a question wrong, simply telling you to go back and re-read the chapter.) On one chapter, I answered a question correctly, had it marked wrong, and then re-answered it using all the answers in turn, and the correct answer was finally marked correct.  It cost me probably twenty minutes, and six weeks off my life in frustration.* There is a downside to going the cheap route. (I do so wish I had had the extraneous $200 to blow on the MCLE4Lawyers traffic school.  It at least would have been better written than this site.) On the other hand, they recycled the questions for the final from the questions in the quizzes, so all I had to do was remember what I had answered the first time.

These people went off the rails when it came to the DUI chapter, however.** Drinking was evil incarnate.  They went into how much alcohol damages your body.  It read much like a DARE pamphlet.  And even when they came back to driving, the subject they were supposed to be lecturing me about, they tended to be seriously over the top.  My favorite paragraph:


How much does alcohol affect your driving? Your awareness of your surroundings decreases in proportion to how many drinks you have had. As a driver's awareness and intelligence decreases, physical impotence increases. One psychologist put it quite well, saying “Nothing like alcohol to increase the desire and reduce the ability.” And an impotent drinking driver is a danger to others on the road, as well as to his own safety.


I know guys sometimes use their vehicles to compensate for deficiencies in other areas, but really.

*I was going to say six months, and then decided, no, it had been frustrating, but not that frustrating. I am working on my tendency to blow small things out of all proportion.  Fixing that personality flaw may make me a decidedly less interesting person, but it will make life easier for everybody who has to deal with me on a daily basis.
**The chapter on defensive driving had its own surreal moments, but that's for another post.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hiatus?

So I have not posted yet today.  I may not really post anything substantive tomorrow, either.  (Even though a Facebook friend posted link to a really cool article about, I think, causality from arstechnica.  I think I understand it, but  IANAP.)

The reason?

I am engaged in a serious endeavor that has significant implications....


Online traffic school.

Oh, and knitting a scarf.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day!

Today, April 23, is the Fifth Annual International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.

I don't have much time here today, so I would refer you to the Wikipedia link for full information. There is a link at the bottom for the Live Journal group dedicated to the Day.

I don't kid myself; the quality of writing in this blog is nowhere near professional.  I think (and perhaps this is delusional) that if I obtained more training, I might write at that level, but I am not there right now.  Still, I applaud those professionals whose words spill out across the fluorosphere, lighting bonfires in what can be a very dark world.

Edited to add:  one of those professionals is science fiction writer Elizabeth Bear, who has her story for IPSTD, "Los Empujadores Furiosos," here.

Law and traffic school.

I am doing traffic school online this week for a ticket I earned in October. Shasta County sent me a list of approved online providers, and one caught my eye: MCLE4lawyers.  From their website:

Time is scarce for everyone, especially lawyers. Traffic school takes an entire day, and so does an MCLE course offering 6.5 credit hours. Now, you can reclaim a full day of your most valuable resource … time … by taking MCLE 4 Lawyers’ traffic violator school course. 
Since 1997, we have been offering California lawyers the opportunity to earn 6.5 MCLE credit hours (including 1 credit hour in substance abuse) and a traffic violator school completion certificate AT THE SAME TIME!

This is genius.  Completely.  I was all set to take it (even though I have no need of MCLE hours, since I  am not licensed to practice law because I have not paid my bar dues in years) until I saw that they were charging nearly $200 for it.*

There are limits to professional curiosity.  Usually about $50.

*Actually, that's not bad for an MCLE course.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Post under construction.

(For those who may have seen it before it disappeared, it has been taken down to be incorporated into a longer, more incoherent rant about the subject matter of frivolous lawsuits.  Hopefully.  If I can't get it together to write said longer post, I may at a future date repost the short one, since it contained a sentence which may be the best thing I've written in months, but which would look odd out of context.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Some things you just cannot make up.

Those of you familiar with the Boston\Cambridge area have seen the "smoot" markings on the Harvard Bridge, painted  on originally in October, 1958.*  The unit of measure was a Lambda Chi pledge, one Oliver R. Smoot (5' 7"), who went on to....

Head the American National Standards Institute and the International Standards Organization.

*The smoot markings have become so much a part of the local landscape that when the Harvard Bridge was renovated in the '80s the Cambridge Police requested that they be retained since they had become a useful tool for identifying accident sites.  The contractor complied, even scoring the concrete on the sidewalk in 5' 7" increments rather than the traditional six feet.


Poster-child.

I mentioned Demotivational posters in my last post.* I looked once again at Despair Inc.'s website -- the maker of the very best in uninspirational office decor -- and was reminded of how much I love their work.

My favorite is Persistence ... no, Blogging ... no, Worth ... wait a minute! Achievement!** Except there is also Romance, and Madness, and  Potential, and Limitations, and Tranquility (every parent needs this one), and Mistakes, and Opportunity....

Actually, my very favorite is Despair.  Perhaps because it is so very, very true.

With that said, have a nice weekend everybody.  If you can.

*You do read the footnotes, right?
**My grandboss at the Census, a wonderful man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Dick Cheney, and who joked about it, passed the Achievement poster around the office.  A truly great guy to work for.  Once, in response to a comment I made about our mountain of backlogged work (caused by incompetence in the DC and Indiana Powers That Be), Tom commented, "Yeah, welcome to Bataan."

Pretty as a picture.

The Pentagon is a serious place. 

That fact  makes this prank even more hysterical.  What I like best about this story is not just the prank -- which is epic -- but the description of the guys who were part of it.  The subject of the picture was described in his Naval Academy yearbook as someone who  "never let academic problems interfere with his two favorite pastimes, drinking beer in dives and playing the ponies." The office where the pranksters worked -- which included British and Canadian officers -- sounds like a very cool place: I wonder how many Pentagon offices have their own beer fridge? (It was the Brits and Canadians who were responsible for actually hanging the picture.)

I can understand why the Pentagon took the picture down: you don't want to encourage people to just  hang things on the public corridors.* Still, it might have been nice to allow this to stay a little longer. 

In memory, not of Ensign Hord, but of a few Merry Military Pranksters.

*Unlike, say, at NASA.  The Rocket Scientist once went around posting Demotivational posters on the billboards around his building, which were usually filled with large posters about current or recently completed projects.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Class warfare, part deux.

I never watch Fox News.  I don't even get to watch the Daily Show or the Colbert Report or Rachel Maddow that much, which is where most of the people of my political stripe tend to get their exposure to Bill O'Reilly and his friends.

All of that may be why I found the quotes in this savagely funny piece by Jon Stewart so very disturbing.  First, there is the factual idiocy (just because someone pays no federal income tax does not mean that they are freeloading and not paying taxes at all), but more there is the selfishness and self-righteousness of the commentators.

The shocker was the guy -- I did not catch his name and I refuse to watch the clip again, as it makes me feel sick to my stomach -- who was complaining about all the electronics and appliances that poor people have.  

He bemoaned the fact that 96% of people have refrigerators. I can't figure out how to respond to this, it is so appallingly ridiculous and mean-spirited.  Other things that he complained of indicate he is simply out of touch with life as real people live it: the large percentage of people who have a cellphones may have no landline -- if you are going to have to pay for one or the other, having a landline makes no sense if you are out of your house at all.  I know at least two people for whom this is the case.  There are so few pay phones any more that being absent a cell phone can pose serious problems, especially for parents.  

He reminds me of the people who complain about poor people having cars and also bitch about taxes to pay for good (or even adequate) public transit systems.  Or  who insist the Postal Service should be abolished.  Or who fail to understand that people can work full time and not be able to afford a place to live (there are only four (four!) counties in the entire country where a worker making the minimum wage can afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment) and who scream bloody murder when the minimum wage is raised.

Many of these are the same people who proclaim that we are a Christian nation.

There is a failure of empathy and compassion across the land.  We will pay the price for it -- all of us -- at some point.  You sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.

God help us.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I have no words for this, only sadness.

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 
The Gospel of Matthew, 25:42-45. 

 The city of Bonita Springs, Florida, has enacted a moratorium on homeless shelters.  

I think the best perspective on this sort of feeling was stated by Stephen Colbert:
Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it. 

"I'm the friendly stranger in the black sedan..."

Well, hey, I'm the friendly stranger
In the black sedan
Won't you hop inside my car
I got pictures, I got candy
I'm a lovable man
Let me take you to the nearest star

"Vehicle," The Ides of March.


Everyone has guilty pleasures, things which they are vaguely ashamed to admit they like.

A lot depends upon the social context, of course.  I would view watching Survivor as a guilty pleasure, because I think it has no socially redeeming value and it created a genre which threatens to engulf all television.* (I actually don't watch Survivor, mainly because I find most of the contestants beyond annoying.)  Most people in this country would disagree, given its ratings.

Then there is music.  There are people (such as the Not So Little Drummer Boy) who are appalled at my love of Jimmy Buffett.  I feel the same way about thrash metal, but I don't think it is anything to be ashamed of, simply a matter of differences in taste.

But there are songs which espouse world views that I find disturbing. "Don't Fear The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, for example. Its pro-suicide call is unsettling, to say the least, cowbells or no cowbells.

Or "Sweet Home Alabama."  The defiant response to Neil Young's "Southern Man," and even more the shout out to George Wallace ("In Birmingham, they love the governor") carries a racist undertone that really makes me cringe.  I still listen, because the song also has the most infectious honky-tonk piano work ever.  As I get older, I like the song less and less, piano not withstanding.

Then there is the whole genre of "pitiful woman" songs from the sixties.  The entire oeuvre of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap falls into this category, as does "The Worst that Could Happen" by Brooklyn Bridge.  I find these songs at the least annoying or at the most infuriating.

Except for "Vehicle" by The Ides of March.  I love this song.

Part of it is nostalgia.  My eighth grade jazz band played it, and it has always been a favorite of mine due to its kick-butt sax part.  The horn parts are marvelous as well, energetic and exciting.

But the lyrics are seriously creepy.**  This sounds like the man that all of us were warned about in third grade. And high school: "If you want to be a movie star, I can take you to Hollywood...." 

I keep trying not to like this song.  I keep telling myself it is anti-feminist of me to like this song. I keep telling myself that this guy sounds like a stalker.***  And I keep failing: I still am in  love with the horns and the deep growl of the lead singer's voice.  If this guy sang this to me, I might actually get inside that car.  Well, probably not, but I sure wouldn't mind him singing to me.

There.  That's one of my guilty pleasures.  And you know what? Even after talking about it, I still like it.

*Of course, if you want to really talk about a lack of socially redeeming value, there is always Rock of Love, which I watched for three seasons.
**But not nearly as creepy as "Father Figure," by George Michael.  Eewwww.
***But not as much as the guy in The Police's "Every Breath You Take."  Sting said he was astounded when he heard that some people played this at their wedding reception.  I can understand his reaction.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

That month, again.


April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"

Happy Tax Day.

Tax Day -- usually April 15th but April 17th this year -- is but one of the disagreeable occasions that occur or have occurred in the fourth month of the year.  April is a dangerous time.

April 1 is of course April Fool's Day. That is not the only "holiday": April 22 is Earth Day, the third Monday is the Boston Marathon, April 13 is New Year's in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, and the Conch Republic Independence Celebration in Key West is April 23d. 

And, very importantly, Yuri's Night, April 12, celebrating mankind's first trembling steps into the cosmos.

A few other good things have also happened in April -- Jackie Robinson broke the color line in major league baseball on April 15, 1947, and Daffy Duck first appeared onscreen on April 17, 1937.  Apple Computer was founded, as was Microsoft. And same-sex marriage became legal in the Netherlands, the first country where it was.

On the other hand (in no particular order)...

Abraham Lincoln's death. April 15.
Adolf Hitler's birth. April 20.
The sinking of the Titanic. April 14.
Tiananmen Square, April 21.
The 1927 floods in Louisiana.
The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. April 18.
The 2010 West Virginia coal mine explosion. April 5.
The Virginia Polytech shootings. April 16.
The FBI raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. April 19.
Oklahoma City bombing. April 19.
Columbine. April 20.
The Bay of Pigs invasion. April 17

The last has significance for me, as I was born at roughly the same time the counterrevolutionaries were hitting the beach in Cuba. So today is my 51st birthday.

You can make of that last paragraph what you will.   

I am pleased that I share a birthday with Daffy Duck.  As for the rest.... eh.

As I said, Happy Tax Day.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Life happens.

For reasons beyond my control, my posting here (which has been sporadic the last week or so) may get even more sparse.

Then again, it might not.

We'll see.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Yesterday was Kara's gala, "April in Paris." I was registration manager, at which I did an acceptable albeit not stellar job.  I had a headache and left after my work was done.

I also had to listen to an accordionist play for forty-five minutes.* Atmosphere, don't you know.

I think I've done my duty by the organization.

*Don't get me wrong, I like accordions under certain circumstances.  Last night was not one of them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A couple of notes on going to the gala...

Dear Oracle Corporation:

Having driven past your headquarters at least twice this afternoon while wandering the wilds of Redwood Shores, I just want to say that those are some ugly-ass buildings, guys.  Maybe it's just me, but all that chrome and glass just seems soulless.  On the other hand, you are a very wealthy multinational corporation, so I suppose you get points from me for not pretending to be all warm and fuzzy.

And you have a serious geese problem.  When geese feel comfortable enough to stand in the middle of the road, not moving or even flinching, as cars stream by in the next lane over at 25 mph, you've got a mess in the making.

*********************


Dear Pat:

That it took you twenty minutes to find your way from the 101 Marine Parkway exit to the Hotel Sofitel -- a distance of less than a mile -- should be a stark reminder of exactly how severely directionally challenged you are. Redwood Shores is not a complicated urban wilderness. 

Get the stupid GPS working, already.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Spring, summer, fall, love.

"Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal." Attributed to George Will.

When I was eleven, my favorite Christmas present was "The Big Book of Baseball." I can't remember if this was the exact title, and I can't remember the author.  But I remember how I loved it.  I got up at five a.m. December 25 and had the entire book read by dinner-time, which since it was Christmas, was around 2.

The names rolled off the tongue: the Georgia Peach, Double XX, Big Train, the Iron Horse, the Bambino, The Splendid Splinter.  Matthewson, Young, Feller, Berra, Koufax, Mantle, Seaver.  Murderer's Row*, Dem Bums, the Gashouse Gang. The Senators, "first in war, first in peace, last in the American League."

Baseball was one of the holy sporting triumvirate: baseball, football and horseracing.  I could be on occasion talked into watching basketball (especially the Celtics), and I watched every minute of every Olympics.  But professional ice hockey? What's that?

St. Petersburg did not have a team, which allowed for a lot of flexibility in which team you could adopt as your own.  My father was a Braves fan, and a Red Sox fan; my mother's family were Reds fans. (My mother herself did not care about sporting events, period.  When she did become interested, it was in football, and that mainly so that she could watch the Buccaneers play with my dad.  My siblings didn't care about baseball either.)

I was a rebel:  I was in love with the Mets.  I had classmates who felt similarly; years later, one of my friend Lisa's prized possessions was a bat signed by Sid Fernandez -- who would two seasons later play a pivotal role in Game Seven of the 1986 World Series.**   I had a brief detour, to my father's everlasting dismay, into rooting for the Dodgers based mainly on their past history in Brooklyn -- a history that had ended four years before I was born.

At one point, I could name every member of the 1969 and 1973 Met teams.  I loved them because of their checkered past, because they could be so unpredictable.  (No, we will not talk about 2007.  Completely off limits.) I rejoiced for all of forty-eight hours before finding out that Sidd Finch was a hoax.***

When I married, it was a mixed household: a Mets fan and a Braves fan, each of whom detested the other's teams.  We agreed on liking the Red Sox and, later, when we had moved to the West Coast, the As, and in hating the Yankees.

In 1989, I went to two playoff games -- As against Blue Jays -- and two Series games -- As against Giants.  I had tickets to two more, but the Loma Prieta quake and an As sweep (which I have always felt was a result of the Giants being demoralized by the quake) ended that.

Then I had kids.  Kids take time, and my thoughts turned to more mundane matters.  The baseball season I became most invested in involved children under 13.  Games became more and more expensive to go to, especially with a family of five, and my kids didn't particularly care for watching sports anyway. I did go to the occasional As game (before it was renovated to suit the Raiders, the Oakland Coliseum was one of the loveliest fields in the majors), and I went to one Giants game where Railfan sang with a choral group he was involved with.

I would still catch the playoffs and the Series, but the passion, the immediacy, had abated. I had a new team, the [Devil] Rays****, but they were on the other side of the country, and even though I loved them, I found them difficult to follow.  This was especially true during the first ten years of their existence, when they were consistently the worst team in baseball -- frequently challenging the worst season record mark. They were not merely bad but execrable. Newspapers in the Bay Area only covered them when they were playing (and usually losing to) the As.

The last couple of years, though, with the kids mostly grown and the summers seeming less crowded, I have started following the sport again. That the Rays made the Series a few seasons back (and the playoffs last year) didn't hurt either.

Then this past week I started watching Ken Burns' Baseball.  It is marvelous.  It is hearing once again about all the names I learned growing up. It is seeing the history that once meant so much to me.

It is love rediscovered after long absence.

I can hardly wait to see where this season goes.

*When I discuss my loss on Jeopardy!, it is always in baseball terms.  Losing to Ken Jennings, I  say, is like losing to the 1927 Yankees: you lost to the best, there's no shame in that, but you still lost.
**Yes, there was a Game Seven.  I promise not to go into my "It's not Buckner's fault" rant, especially since I've already done that.
***For those unfamiliar with this gem, in 1985 George Plimpton and Sports Illustrated executed one of the best April Fool's Day hoaxes ever, with a story about a fictitious miracle pitcher for the Mets named Sidd Finch. (I have always held that they chose the Mets because the Mets were -- and are -- the only franchise screwy enough to spend time and money on an untried unknown from Harvard who allegedly learned to pitch in a Tibetan monastery.) The cover date -- April 1 -- was supposed to be a clue, but subscribers got their copies the weekend before they hit the newsstands, and I never checked the date.  It wasn't until somebody pointed out that the initial letters of the first words of Plimpton's story spelled "Happy April Fool" that I got it.  It was completely brilliant, although it took me two decades to forgive either the writer or the magazine.
****I am still miffed that they changed the name, even though that coincided with an improvement in their baseball fortunes. "Rays" is generic -- it could be a team anywhere.  "Devil Rays" is pure Florida, as much a marker of their home territory as "Marlins" or "Padres" or, to draw from another sport, "Packers." My Rays hat is one with the original design, with the fish on it.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

A travesty, is what it is. A complete travesty.

We take a break from out scheduled sporting season to return to the previous one (of any significance, anyway).  There is a scandal not merely brewing but full-blown in the world of football.

It turns out that one of my favorite teams, the New Orleans Saints, has been guilty of unsportmanlike conduct in the extreme. (The Saints are my most favorite team behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.) The Saints had a system of financial rewards for injuring players on other teams, especially players who were important to those teams' successes.  Michael Crabtree of the 49ers, for example, had a bounty on his head -- or more accurately, on his outside anterior cruciate ligament.  Under the right circumstances, ACL injuries will not only put a player out for the season but can be career-ending. Frank Gore and Kyle Williams were to be hit in the head; especially troubling in Williams' case because he had already suffered a concussion.  Concussions -- especially repeated ones -- can not only end a career but seriously damage a player's post-football life.

The Commissioner has responded by suspending players for varying amount of games, suspending the defensive coordinator indefinitely, and forcing Sean Peyton, the Saints' head coach to sit out all of next season.  This is absolutely outrageous.

It is outrageous because these penalties go nowhere near far enough.

If it is true -- and the evidence is pretty solid that it is -- Peyton and his defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, as well as any coaching or head office staff who knew about or condoned this horror should be banned from football for life.* Any player shown to have participated should be suspended for all of next season.  I would not have a problem if the entire team was forced to forfeit all of next year.

Football is a violent game.  Those of us who love the sport defend this by saying that a certain amount of injury is only natural when you have very strong, often very large men running into each other.  There are always attempts -- properly so -- to make football safer, both in terms of rule changes and advances in equipment.

Purposefully causing injury does far more harm to the integrity of football than that little spying scandal of Bill Belechick a couple of years ago.  It does more harm than steroids -- although steroids do more to harm individual players as a whole (at least those not targeted by the Saints' defensive line). It does the most harm to the perceived integrity of the sport than anything I can think short of gambling and fixing games, and even then it might be a close call.

I love football, and would hate to see it destroyed over this.  But I cannot support a sport that does not put the safety of its players as foremost in its cost-benefit calculus.

*Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is not only venal but stupid: all of this came to light because he allowed a filmmaker access to a team meeting prior to the playoff game against San Francisco.

Friday, April 06, 2012

It's Opening Day!

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."

A. Bartlett Giamatti
President of the American League
Commissioner of Baseball
for far too short a time
One of the Good Guys


I have a post in mind, I swear, about baseball and what it means to me, complete with appropriate quotes from Ken Burns's wonderful series Baseball.  I am just not sure I will get to it today, and it is important to mark this beginning of the better half of the sporting year.  In the meantime, I wanted to reacquaint you with this quote by Bart Giamatti, one of the best Commissioners the MLB ever had. (I worry that he will end up being remembered chiefly as the father of the actor Paul Giamatti.)

Also, I wanted to link to a post I made six years ago (six years? how the hell did that happen?), about another baseball season.

This is why we have a justice system, remember?

I hate it when good guys use reprehensible tactics.

In the midst of the Trayvon Martin travesty, writer/director/gadfly Spike Lee decided to take matters into his own hands.  He Tweeted what he claimed was the phone number of George Zimmerman, Martin's killer. Unfortunately, the phone number was that of an elderly couple, who have since settled with Lee.

What needs to be said is Lee should never have made that Tweet in the first place, even if he had gotten Zimmerman's number correct.

This is a call to vigilante justice. We on the left decry anti-abortionists posting the private information of abortion providers, with good reason. Even accused murderers -- and more importantly their families, who have done nothing wrong -- deserve to live their lives in safety.

Should Zimmerman have been arrested? Yes.  Is the Florida "stand your ground" law which protects him an abomination? Undoubtedly.

But to do what Lee did is to argue that it is okay to harass this man at his home. To decide his guilt or innocence by popular outrage is antithetical to the belief that people are innocent until proven guilty. And as much as the "stand your ground laws" undermine the rule of law, the taking of justice into private hands does so more.

The ends -- calling George Zimmerman to account -- do not justify the means.

You want justice? There is still a grand jury that will consider whether charges should be brought.

More importantly, fight to change this insane law -- not just in Florida but in the many other states that have them -- before another young man who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time gets murdered.

Life is hard.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, 
To the last syllable of recorded time; 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death. 
Out, out, brief candle! 
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage 
And then is heard no more. It is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury 
Signifying nothing.

 Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Generally speaking, I try to keep the material in this blog PG, or at the most PG-13. My kids read it, after all. Language aside, I try to be respectful of people's sensitivities. I have not, for example, discussed Dan Savage's hysterical (and definitely not safe for work) “Santorum” campaign.*

 Today, we're veering into adult fare. I feel compelled to pass along information of a more R rated nature.

Because every sexually active adult male, regardless of sexual orientation, needs some of these.** [Need I say this is NSFW?] It would definitely be possible to get matching accoutrements, such as socks, gloves, or for those into religiously-themed fetish play, rosaries.***

You're welcome.

*If you don't know what this is about, and are easily offended, don't Google it. Trust me on this one.
**Then there is this [also NSFW], but I find that too disturbing for words.
***I am so going to hell for that last suggestion.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

What exactly do you mean by "a sense of humor"?

The secret to success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. Jean Giradoux

Dear Foundation:

You, as well as the organization I applied to yesterday, state that one of your important qualifications is "a sense of humor."  While I happen to think that I have an excellent sense of humor, I am baffled as to how to communicate that on a resume or a cover letter.  I know that if I get an interview I may well be able to thrill you with my genuine wit and sparkling repartee,* but I need to get that interview first.

Also, upon further reflection, what does it mean about working conditions when you need a sense of humor to be successful? Humor takes you a long way in dealing with other people, especially in the workplace, but is yours so stressful that laughing is important to keep from crying?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Sincerely,

Your potential Administrative Associate.


*Sarcasm mode engaged.

Cryptic comment for today.

I am too cranky to be Jenny, too lethargic to be Amy, and I lack Joanne's strength of personality.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Today's automatic-writing query

Spontaneously generated during a slow spell in tonight's trivia game:

Why do people hate Comic Sans so much? I think it's cute.  Does that say something disturbing about my character? Or at the very least my sense of taste?

Progress.

I was sent a job lead last week -- unfortunately just before I found out about my fellow group member's suicide.  I have been in some state of shock for the past several days -- the little bits of writing I have done here are pretty much at the limit of my intellectual capacity. Except...

I did write a cover letter.  After struggling for a couple of days trying to "punch up my prose," so that it was both concise and informative, I read a website that suggested using bullet points.  That helped me pare down the writing, making it more active and immediate. Also, I thought it gave a nice, clean, look to the letter.

I hope the people at the Foundation like the letter and resume: when I read the job description, I said (out loud, even), "They could have written this position for me." I am unhappy with myself that it took me three days to send it off.

But send it off I did.  So now I can go to trivia tonight with a clean conscience and a light(er) heart. My brain? The jury is still out on that. 

It's getting better, though.

Monday, April 02, 2012

This post by Reginald Braithwaite at raganwald's posterous identifies the problem of employers -- or prospective employers -- demanding to see people's private social media posts with precision and humor.  My favorite sentence?
I’m extremely vague on the correlation between faux-promiscuous sex or drinking and employee performance, but as she is a seasoned veteran, I have to trust her when she says that things like this overrule my judgment as to who is and who isn’t fit to be a programmer in our employ.

For myself, all my Facebook, LiveJournal and Twitter posts are friends' locked for a reason.  I do not want just anyone looking at them. (Although, to be perfectly honest, you would learn more about me reading this blog than you would from my Facebook page.  FB is for people who already know me.)

And yes, I suppose I should be more circumspect when blogging here, but, given that this is not so much social media as a creative endeavor, I think this xkcd cartoon covers that territory.

I get so tired of idiocy.

Dear Mr. Santorum:

Not only does the University of California system have American History courses, contrary to your claim to a crowd in Wisconsin, they require American History in order to obtain an undergraduate degree. Now, admittedly, all campuses except UC Santa Barbara allow students to take this in high school, but all campuses except for UC San Francisco have actual American History courses.  This could possibly be because UCSF is a medical institution. They have classes in nursing, dentistry, and biomedical engineering instead.  Not to mention a medical school.

You might try to lie instead about something that cannot be disproved by a five-minute Google search.* At least give those of us who live in the reality-based world a run for our money.

*Slow connection.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Why, yes, I can be charming and persuasive.

Before things went very bad on Thursday, I was making cold calls to businesses who had donated to the Gala in the past but who had not done so this year. Out of nine calls, I had gotten three definite "yes" answers and one "call back and talk to the general manager and we'll see what we can do."  That is between a .300 and .400 batting average.  Not bad.

I was pleased.