Tuesday, September 27, 2005

White House Disconnect

Someone needs to tell the guy in the Oval Office that if he's serious about his pleas for Americans to conserve energy, he really shouldn't have just made his 7th post-Katrina trip to the Gulf region for photo ops.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Doth Methinks I Protest Too Little?

This weekend marked the first time in a number of months that there was a DC protest against the war in Iraq. Kathy and I went to a number of rallies in the months leading up to the war, and also attended one after the war had begun. That being said, even though I support the cause, and the protest took place in my hometown, I wasn't there. The reason is simple -- the organizers don't oppose the war in Iraq.

Ok, they do, but they also oppose about 38 other things, all of which were given a platform at the demonstration. To begin with, the date was chosen because it's the same weekend as the fall meetings of the IMF and World Bank, so there were actually two sets of protests taking place downtown. But the war and globalization weren't the only issues raised. The Reuters article noted that:
In addition to anti-war and anti-globalization groups, the demonstrations drew anarchists, communists and environmentalists. Others called for an end to the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba and expressed solidarity with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Palestinians.
If you've been to one of these rallies, you wouldn't be surprised by this -- as they have done in the past, one of the sponsoring groups promoted it as a collection of issues, rather than as a march against the war. ANSWER's flyer for the event identified the following issues:
  • The Iraq War
  • Palestinian Right of Return
  • Universal Healthcare
  • U.S out of Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Staying out of Cuba and Venezuela
  • Ending the Occupation of Haiti
  • U.S. out of the Philippines
  • Opposition to Racism
  • Military Recruiters out of Schools
And while MoveOn.org safely identified the rally as being sponsored by a group called United for Peace & Justice, and the link MoveOn uses takes you to a single issue rallying point, ANSWER's list of speakers for the rally included individuals on behalf of all these issues and more. Furthermore, a closer look at UfPJ's website reveals that their past activities have been focused on many of the same issues identified in ANSWER's flyer.

It's fine for this group to see the war in Iraq as one of many elements of U.S. imperialism and as a direct result of capitalism, but that's not what it's about for me. And I've spoken with a number of friends in the area who also stayed away from this rally because they've been to similar ones in the past and felt out of place. I imagine there are others as well who don't want to be associated with causes they don't support. Instead of uniting millions behind one cause, these organizations divide us due to their attachment to many. Still, the protests attracted an estimated 150,000 people, so either fewer people were as bothered by the multi-focus, or the crowd could have been even larger if it'd been a single-issue program.

Interestingly enough, even though the Reuters article noted some of the various causes tied up with the protests, the Washington Post article made no mention of the other causes, and a couple of our friends who went said that the march attendees were overwhelmingly single-issue. When I asked about the speakers at the rally, they said they didn't stick around for the rally, instead leaving as soon as the march was over. Perhaps these friends had the right idea, and this is what we should have done.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

San Francisco Morning

Last Saturday while we were on the other coast, we had plenty of time to kill, with no idea how to spend it. We ended up taking the BART over to San Francisco, exiting at Embarcadero. We walked toward the Bay, and were delighted to come across the market in full gear. We wandered through the artists' tents, and out of the corner of my eye I spotted one that looked interesting. I got Kathy's attention and we wandered over there, delighted by the colorful whimsy we saw. We contemplated a number of them, but in the end we bought a print of the one that first drew our attention:

I'm not sure why we like it so much -- Kathy said it's because we're couch potatoes who love nature. Perhaps, but I think there's more to it (though I could be wrong -- the artist had a sign up that said, "My paintings don't have deep hidden meaning unless, of course, you find some"). We need to get it framed, then figure out where to put it.

We wandered deeper into the market, which was taking place outside the Ferry Plaza.

The market wasn't limited to art, as the bulk of it was actually focused on food. Where there's food, you'll invariably get lots of people, plus a large number of other interested parties:

Beyond the market was the bay, and the great weather we had (at least in the morning -- it clouded up in the afternoon) made for some spectacular views, and brought the boats out.

After hanging around the Ferry Plaza, we made our way up the Embarcadero, the walkway along the Bay, to just short of Fisherman's Wharf, before turning back. We then made our way to a brewpub, followed by meeting up with a friend of mine from back home, and hanging out with him for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Addictive Games

I get into ruts where I play the same game over and over. I eventually get sick of it, and go back to sanity, often never to return to the troubling activity. Currently, I'm in the throes of sudoku, which seems to have popped up everywhere overnight. I've found a site with an essentially unlimited number of puzzles, and have been racing to see how fast I can solve them. Even though I've only been playing it for a couple of weeks, it's become a major timesink, and I'm looking forward to burning out -- I've been neglecting jumbalaya (Boggle), and I'm overdue to put in some time with my friends there.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Traveling Fool

August 6 was the last Saturday that Kathy and I slept at home. Since then, we've been in Copenhagen, London, Wilmington DE, Minneapolis, Woodbine MD, and Oakland. I have no out-of-town plans for this weekend (though I'll be in Denver the following weekend), but I have to admit that if I had the opportunity, I might take it -- surprisingly, I'm not sick of it (though I haven't asked Kathy if she's ready for a breather). I've been having a blast going from place to place, seeing neat stuff, getting together with friends (something I've done in each of the places we've visited), and drinking the local beers. Wilmington was to meet up with Kathy's family (her grandmother lives there, and her folks and sister came down). We stayed with a college friend of Kathy's in Minneapolis. The trip to Woodbine was to visit friends about an hour from here -- they're in the middle of nowhere, so it was almost a retreat (plus, we were able to bring the dogs). Oakland was for a presentation Kathy had to make for work that I decided to tag along for. All of it has been lots of fun, so I suppose it's no wonder that I'd be up for keeping on going.

So much to see (and do), so little time.

Friday, September 16, 2005


On Wednesday someone directed me to one of those "how long will you live" sites? The answer when I typed in my info was 89, which seems like a pretty long time, but of course it could be way off -- the proverbial car that may run you over is just around the corner. And of course, you do such a test on a lark, rarely thinking about it for more than a day after you do it. The irony of doing one of those things was not lost on me when that same evening I received the following e-mail:
dear kids- I may or may not have gone over this with you in the past, but I want all four of you to get a cholestrol profile test- there is a very strong family history of heart disease on my side of the family (my father and his brother, my first cousin Michael (who died in his thirties), and my brother - the genetic issue is a low HDL which is the protective (good) cholesterol. Mine is also well below nomal limits and I suspect the fact I haven't been a smoker is the only reason I haven't had any heart disease. All of you should clarify your own status, as newer medications may be effective, and each of you has a 50% chance of having this defect. Sorry I may have passed this on to you- but in addition you also get a chance of depression and weight issues, but the good news is that there is also a strong genetic dose of intelligence- so all is not lost. Judging from the grandchildren that has been passed on even to the non-genetic grandson!
I went in for a physical almost exactly a year ago, and noted that my HDL was below normal (turns out it was even below my Dad's) -- I've been trying to consume foods that are supposed to help HDL (mostly nuts), but hadn't paused to consider that this could be genetic. Until that e-mail, I hadn't really paused to consider my health -- after all, not only have I remained in good health, so has my family (parents are now in their early 60s and both still healthy, no serious health issues for them or any of my siblings). Dad believes being a non-smoker has helped him, and I imagine that my not eating red meat puts me in even better shape.

We're all going to die, and the question is what will cause it. If heart disease due to low HDL is my fate, so be it, but I don't imagine that I'll be dwelling on it -- I've slept fine the past two nights. Still, this news is making me think, possibly for the first time, about my mortality. I guess I'm pretty fortunate that it took me over 37 years to get around to it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lack of Music

We're into our 9th month of 2005, and I've only gotten a handful of albums this year. The lack of a good radio station makes it tough to find new artists, but I had been doing pretty well despite that obstacle until this year. Does anyone have any albums to recommend, especially from this year? As a side note, it seems that I've ended every sentence in this post with the words this year. Is this common, or am I the first person to do that this year?

Monday, September 12, 2005

My Account of the Events of the Week in Question

And in this moment, I need to be needed
When my self-esteem is sinking, I like to be liked
In this emptiness and fear,
I want to be wanted
'Cause I love to be loved
I love to be loved
I love to be loved
Oh I love to be loved
--Peter Gabriel

A Long Time Ago.
His mother answers the phone. "Hello, may I please speak to L?"

"Certainly -- may I ask who's calling?"

"This is Aaron."

A pause, then L -- "Aaron, what do you want?"

I don't hesitate, saying the words I've long practiced. "I want to tell you I'm sorry for what I did."

"Sorry? After what you did? How could you? M and I are engaged, and that didn't stop you."

He's right, they're engaged, and there's no excuse. In many ways I am appalled at what I did. But. Even though I hurt him, I have no regrets -- how can something so wrong make me feel so much better?

I let him rant at me, saying nothing in my defense. Yes it takes two to tango, and yes M's the one who's engaged, not me. She was free to say no at any point. But I say nothing, because I value her friendship too much, and as long as she felt compelled to tell L, I need to apologize, unconditionally, else risk losing her friendship. He will heal, they will heal, and they will even invite me to their wedding in a couple of years.

Four years earlier.
I am alone, and I know almost no one in this town. I've been here five days, and my roommate, a fellow law school student, is kicking me out of the condo she owns. I am at the bottom, and I call M. It feels good to talk to her, we could always talk about anything, and she has the ability to make me feel better. I was going to ask her out in college, but I was so shy. After the summer, I told myself, but when I returned to school after the summer, she had already started dating L. And now, in my state of despair, she says what I've always thought.

"If I hadn't gotten together with L, I don't see how we wouldn't have ended up together."

Even as I seethe inside at my earlier inaction, she lifts my spirits. It feels so wonderful to know someone would want me.

Shortly before A Long Time Ago.

I am still not over my ex, even though she left me months ago. I feel that I am unwanted, that no one will ever want me again.

When I see my ex again, after I've moved to DC, I still want to try again, even though I know it won't happen. I ask her what she ever saw in me, to want to be with me in the first place. She offers no salve, unable to come up with a single positive trait.

Even then, I can't let go of her presence, and when I foolishly ask if she wants to come to the group beach house, she even more foolishly says yes. She is uncomfortable for the three days she is there. Even though I give her space, and am on my best behavior, she acts like a bitch, a defense mechanism after I'd expressed my continuing interest. She recognizes what she's doing, and is unsurprised when I ask to see her alone outside on a deck.

"What?" she asked, her arms crossed between us in a posture of hostility, defiance, anger, rejection.

"It's M's and Y's birthday this week, and I was wondering if you'd be able to bake a cake for them?"

My unwillingness to confront her threw her for a loop, but still she had won. Her behavior, regrettable as it was, had already worked its magic on me, and I was over her.

Ex leaves, M is still there, and when we drive to the bowling alley she muses on the past, asking if I remember what she'd told me four years ago. I assured her that I hadn't forgotten.

Later that night, as the two of us take a walk on the beach, I move to kiss her. She resists at first, but does in fact reciprocate, and the barrier between friends and more is broken. Though we don't have sex, I cannot help but recognize that I am still desirable. Once again M has lifted my spirits, though this time in a way she never has before.

The week at the beach house goes by, and after it ends, M stays at my place for one last night, before going back home in the morning. Cuddling under the blanket watching the movie, we move to fondling and groping. There are no words, both of us knowing that to speak would mean we would think, and if we stopped to think, it would break the moment. I am passive like I have never been before, letting her take complete command, afraid to go any further than she would take us. We go further and further, but before consummation she speaks, "No, I can't do this," and the spell is broken. I make no effort to go any further, slipping back into friend mode, even with clothes absent from where they belong.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

So like, I finally read this book I've been meaning to get around to reading, and it's totally Wicked (sorry, I couldn't resist)!

How do you turn one of the most reviled characters in our collective consciousness into a sympathetic character? If you're Gregory Maguire, you do it cleverly and ingeniously. Maguire is making a habit of turning fairy tales sideways, and Wicked is the first of them I've read (it also recently became a musical). The basic concept of the book is that The Wicked Witch of the West, the villain in Baum's The Wizard of Oz, was a complex but well-meaning character who happened to be born with green skin and an allergy to water. The story we all know doesn't touch on who the Witch was, or how she came to be a wicked witch. For that matter, we know nothing of the great and terrible Wizard of Oz (if you recall how he greeted Dorothy) -- why did he hide his real identity, and how did a guy from Kansas end up ruling a foregin land? The book begins with a chapter that chronologically would belong near the end of the book, wherein the Witch eavesdrops upon Dorothy and her companions discussing what drives the Wicked Witch of the West, her psychology and sexuality, the rumors and innuendo. Maguire's point is a simple one, that we don't really know the first thing about her.

Maguire has constructed a rich tapestry of backstory to fill in such gaps, explaining how Elphaba (the Witch's given name) became who she was. In college, Elphaba, the poor daughter of a rich girl whose fidelity to her husband (a country minister) is suspect, rooms with shallow and upper crust Galinda, who as we all know will become the Good Witch Glinda. During their college days, we see Elphaba as a champion of social justice, distressed most of all by seeing the Wizard taking away the rights of Animals (not regular animals, designated by lower case, but those who can think, such as the Lion that ultimately accompanies Dorothy) -- these are sentient beasts, but by fiat from the Emerald City, their rights are being taken away. Elphaba ultimately drops out of school once she concludes that the school's head is part of the problem, and goes underground to combat the evil in the land. Even though disaster strikes, driving her to a convent for years of escape from the outside world, she recovers, eventually finding her way to a fortress in the western part of Oz, where she inevitably grows in power and becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West.

As suggested above, the politics of Oz play a key role in the story, helping us understand the Witch's motives, the point being that what seems "Wicked" may appear that way because one lacks context (and also, what may appear good may not be, for the same reason). Indeed, there is much discussion on the nature of evil, certainly an appropriate one given the central character.

It's hard to tell a story when the reader knows the conclusion, but Maguire does a wonderful job. Interestingly, while he weaved a wonderful world, he failed to account for one of the givens in the story, the Scarecrow. The story introduces us to mechanical creatures, and the Tin Man could be one. The Lion is an Animal (unlike, Toto, who is a lower-case animal). But in this world where Maguire has free rein to explain the Scarecrow's origins, all Maguire does is acknowledge the Witch's confusion at his very existence. Still, the story is quite engaging, and left me saddened at Elphaba's demise. It turns out that Maguire is releasing a sequel in a couple of weeks, entitled Son of a Witch -- I have a feeling I'll be reading it.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Been Thinking

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately -- I seem to be going through a burnout stage that I imagine most bloggers have to work through. Either you're successful at getting past it, or your blog joins the millions of inactive ones. I hope to be in the former camp, but we'll see. I've also been traveling lots, which almost necessarily creates some missed days.

Regardless, I've definitely had a lot on my mind.

First off is the whole baby thing -- at what point do we throw in the towel with respect to trying to have children? We tried naturally for several years, we tried IUI, and now we've tried IVF. We can use the two frozen embryos we have, we can try IVF again, we can adopt, we can use donor eggs, donor sperm, and donor embryos. Kathy is still young in fertility terms, so we could try one or several of these options over the next several years. While the remaining options seem boundless, however, our patience is not. There's a feeling of being in limbo for the past several years, and it's draining to remain in such a state. We'd like to move forward, either down the path without children, or the path with them -- we don't want to wait at that fork in our life road indefinitely.

We're going ahead with the two embryos, probably next month or the month thereafter, but we're not sure we'll do anything more after that. The thing is, if we're not successful using them, we'll have to figure out what to do next at that time -- we've found that planning doesn't work with respect to dealing with such emotional questions. And so we remain in limbo.

The other issue weighing on my mind at the moment is Katrina. FEMA is seeking federal employees throughout the government to be detailed with them, to work 30-day shifts dealing with the aftermath. I am interested in applying, though because I have none of the job skills/experience they're seeking (law enforcement, language, medical, etc.), I don't know if I'd even be selected. Regardless, I have concerns working for FEMA, not just because of the screw-ups they've had in getting the relief work going, but also because the description of the work with which we were provided in considering whether to volunteer (and stories I've read) suggest that FEMA is at least as concerned with protecting their (and the administration/government's) image as they are with helping people. I do want to help, but I wonder if I'd feel that I was helping, or would I end up completely frustrated, feeling that the long hours in rather unpleasant conditions were a waste of time?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Informed Opinion

Recently a news article stated that a woman had filed a complaint with the New Hampshire medical board over a doctor calling her obese. In a general politics forum that I read, that article prompted the mostly male group to jump all over the complaint. Personally, I would tend to agree that a doctor advising a patient that she's obese is no cause for a complaint. But a few days later, more information on the complaint was revealed, namely, that the doctor had allegedly stated that, "Let's face it, if your husband were to die tomorrow, who would want you? Well, men might want you, but not the types you want to want you. Might even be a black guy." It was also revealed that the complaint was over the racial remark, not about being lectured. Needless to say, these additional facts change the tenor of the complaint from one that sounds utterly ridiculous, to one that may have some legitimacy.

The reaction to this story makes me think of all the times I've read an article or column, and in so doing immediately formed an opinion. I don't see how this opinion can be considered "informed" at this stage, given the limited viewpoint that's presented. Even when I reinforce my knowledge of the situation by additional articles or editorials, these articles are often cobbled together from the same limited set of facts. So many times facts are hidden, either from the world at large, or simply by the slant of the article or editorial. Rarely do I stop myself from withholding judgment, but I wonder whether I should do so more often. Truthfully, I don't think it's possible, partly because of my disposition, but also because it's impossible to have all the facts about virtually any matter of State. Thus, to require one's self to obtain all the facts would preclude one from having a political opinion.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but I think it's more sensible to keep an open mind even after one has formed an opinion, recognizing that additional facts may reasonably cause one to rethink one's position. Perhaps this is where I can improve. I of course recognize that such an approach goes against the grain of our increasingly partisan society, where opinions are formed over 30-second sound bites, and where changing one's opinion is "flip-flopping." But I don't see why that should stop me.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Vision of Yesteryear

DC United thrashed its opponent, the expansion club Real Salt Lake, in last night's game, 5-1. United was sloppy, and a better opponent likely would have scored a couple more times (and held us to fewer goals). Still, there was plenty of action, which made it fun to see. It was also good to go, as all my recent (and upcoming) travels have conflicted me out of about half my season tickets.

One image that stays with me from last night had little to do with the action on the field. With about a minute to play, RSL had the ball deep in United's defensive end. At midfield, SLC's central defender Eddie Pope, number 23 in the vistors' white, was marking our substitute forward, Jamil Walker, wearing number 23 in home black. Pope was there to prevent Walker from getting an easy goal if United were to regain possession.

Pope was with United for the first seven seasons of the league, starting as a kid taken in the college draft and ending as a perennial all-star and U.S. National Team fixture, a status he still maintains. United's championship in the league's inaugural year was won when the rookie headed the winner in sudden death overtime. The Eddie Pope Foundation, working with underprivileged children, was the charity that our supporters' club gave money to, from our annual charity event -- Pope was genuinely appreciative of the money we raised to support these kids. Even now, nearly three seasons removed from his time with the franchise, I still think of him as one of the mainstays of our team.

No one else was around them, just the ever graceful Pope marking our current number 23, someone we grabbed off the scrap heap at the start of the season. It just seemed wrong, somehow sacrilegious.