Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Goofiest Liftoff Ever

HOUSTON, Texas (AFP) -
NASA administrator Michael Griffin said Sunday that the US space agency had "goofed" on vital safety checks before launching the shuttle Discovery and that it was "lucky" the shuttle had not sustained serious damage during liftoff.

Facing down questions over a stray shard of foam which broke off from an external tank during Discovery's launch on Tuesday, Griffin told NBC's "Meet the Press" that pre-launch checks had fallen short.

"Our judgement at the time was that it was okay," the NASA chief said of the structural reviews of the external tank and other vital equipment that was examined before Discovery's liftoff.

"As everyone has said without any attempt to hide it ... we goofed on that one," he said.

Um, did the Director of NASA actually use the term "goofed" to describe the potentially life-threatening gaps in safety checks prior to the shuttle launch? GOOFED? How about "everyone involved is being fired" or "this type of shoddy workmanship is unacceptable for any reason"? The lives of the Discovery crew is at stake, and these guys "goofed"?! No. They were lazy. They were imprecise. They were incompetent.

Geez, I sure hope the pilot of my jetliner doesn't "goof," I hope the guy driving my kids' schoolbus doesn't "goof," I hope my brain surgeon doesn't "goof." The use of that term is as embarrassing as it is appalling. Someone get this guy a PR handler, and fast...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Feelin' Like Poop

Yes folks, The Haggis has been feeling like poop lately. (Note my effort to rehabilitate my language on behalf of The Bambina). I've been avoiding writing a post about it on account of its total lameness as a funny, witty or remotely interesting topic. But since I'm going to be here at my doctor's for about 12 hours today, I have decided to afflict you as I am being afflicted. :)

Today I am writing from NIH where I get treated/researched upon/given amazing care for my ongoing hematologic issues. Whenever I have to come here I feel two things: A) Fear and loathing that I'm going to be surrounded by sick people whose presence forces me to accept that I am one of them, and B) After the initial fear and loathing, a sense of comfort being in their presence. It's almost as if the ritual of getting out of the car, going through security, getting my blood drawn, and then heading down the long gleaming hallways into the hematology clinic itself is a mental and emotional transition all its own; a transition from "Person With F'd Up Blood Counts Passing as Healthy" into "Person Who Is Here Today Because Her Blood Counts Won't Keep Up the Charade."

It can often be a difficult transition to make between the world of the healthy and of the sick-to-varying-degrees. I find myself using phrases like, "on the outside," ie, "My doctor on the outside says I should do Y. What do you recommend?" It's almost as if, within NIH, I am in my cocoon where it's safe to just feel whatever I feel that day, which, by virtue of my presence there, is usually "not that great." It is a place where everyone understands why you don't eat off buffets (germs can kill), why you open the bathroom door with a paper towel (who doesn't?!), why people coughing on planes is one of the scariest sounds ever heard, and why some days you just don't feel like pretending you're doing great. Here at NIH "on the inside"--feeling tired, out of breath, exhausted, older than your chronological age, and on many occasions just flat out scared that your physical body is failing you so profoundly--is normal. And, sad as it sounds, there is something depressingly comforting about feeling normal even if it means admitting that your 33 year-old mind, heart and soul are trapped in a body with the bone marrow of a 75 year-old (and a pretty unlucky 75 year-old at that!).

As I thought about this transition, I wondered why I feel so compelled to keep the lid on how I'm feeling physically when I'm "on the outside." Why do I work so hard to act "normal" when sometimes I'm actually kind of tired or feeling sorry for myself that I will never be able to run a Mother-Daughter 10K or whatever. Intellectually I want to answer that it is because I don't want to be a burden to the people who love me. Mostly true. But honestly, I think the real answer lies more in feeling some small sense of shame that I have something that makes me not perfect, not fabulous, not carefree, and not like everybody else. (I can hear my brother saying, "Oh, were we supposed to be under the illusion that you were perfect? Oh okay. Shock! Horror! You're not perfect! Mostly because you have trouble getting over yourself...")
My brother is funny, but some part of me obviously believes that admitting you struggle with a disease is tantamount to admitting that you have not met expectations, and never will be able to.

So why am I "admitting" all of this now, besides a surfeit of time in a clinical setting and a dearth of good magazines? Well, because I believe that once you tell someone your Dirty Little Secret, it's no longer dirty or a secret. I also believe that once you tell the other ostensibly "normal" people about the thing that makes you not normal, you learn that they all have something that they carry around which they think separates them from "normal" too. In that realization lies the freedom to just be yourself--whomever and however that may be. So--onward to my Dirty Little Secrets:

1) I have Aplastic Anemia
2) Some days I feel like crap
3) Most of those days I pretend I don't feel like crap; but not for my own benefit which would be positive, but rather for others' benefit, which isn't.
4) Like "Richard Gere" and "Gerbils" or "Michael Jackson" and "Young Boys," I live in fear of being defined by a disease; that someone will say "E" and they'll immediately think, "Oh poor sick dear that she is..."
5) I know that, short of being hit by a bus, I will more than likely die of Aplastic Anemia.
6) That knowledge scares me; the fear of it colors a lot of how I choose to live.

and, because you know how I am, big bold confessions notwithstanding:

7) If you try to speak to me about this, I will probably change the subject.

So what's my point? Turning The Haggis into some ghastly maudlin self-indulgent online diary of diverticulitis, myasthenia gravis, hammer toes and simple chronic halitosis? I'd rather run naked down the DC United pitch mid-match. (Oh wait...never mind)!

My point is to say, by way of revealing something about myself (which is totally against store policy, not my SOP, and strongly discouraged in the most emphatic terms), that sometimes sharing a perceived weakness with others gives them the freedom to do the same. Further, it forces you to acknowledge that you are not alone, not an island, and--most critically of all--not a burden to people who love you. Yes, there is a risk in letting people in, but the risk of not letting them in (and we've all known that someone who went his or her grave still "in character") is to risk never knowing what it feels like to be truly loved and cared for no matter what, to put yourself out there with all of your seemingly terrible flaws and to have the people around you say "so what?!"

So--if you are currently operating under the fiction that someone else has The Perfect Life for which you will always press your face up to the window but will never be able to acquire because of your shortcomings--why not just take a leap of faith with the people who love you? Tell them your Dirty Little Secrets (don't post them here!), and I bet you will get a big "so what?!" a heartfelt, "we love you anyway" or [if your brother is like mine] a swift kick in the keister to deflate your prodigious sense of self-involvement.

Yeah, you'll feel a bit lame and maybe a bit embarrassed when you finally tell people that you can't always meet their expectations. But you will be so glad you did it when you finally realize, once and for all, that the only impossible expectations you haven't been meeting are your own.

Program note: For those of you who are still reading through this magnum opus, I want to assure you that I will never Drink and Drive, Put a Knife in the Toaster or Write Another Post While Trapped in a Doctor's Office.

There's no "DC" in "ESPN"

From the AP:

Now Jesse Jackson is involved in trying to convince ESPN that its 50-state tour of sporting events should include a stop in the nation's capital.

The activist and former presidential candidate says it's insulting that the cable network left D.C. out when it came up with its plans. Jackson says he'll go to the network's Connecticut headquarters if they don't change their tune.

He also might picket the ESPN Zone bar in the city that's home to the Nationals, Wizards, Mystics, United and Capitals. Plus there's the Redskins, if you want to figure Landover into the mix.

The network says it'll mention D.C. when broadcasting from Virginia and Maryland.

Now, as much as I'm not such a fan of The Reverend Jackson, and as much as I don't really see myself holding an "ESPN UNFAIR TO DISTRICT" sign outside the ESPN Zone bar for hours on end, I do find it kind of insulting that ESPN said they'd "mention DC when broadcasting from Virginia and Maryland." Well, why not just mention Vermont when you're in NH and why not mention Rhode Island when you're in Connecticut? I mean, come on, RI is so small. How many teams can they possibly have there? How does RI rate a stop when DC has FIVE teams not including the Redskins?!

I'm sure they think DC is the same as Virginia and Maryland. Riiight. So, with that logic, how about just mentioning Kentucky during your trip through Western PA, also known as Pennsyltucky? Same thing, right?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bush's "Nickname for Roberts" Contest

This article made me laugh. Can we think of any others?

Weird Science

Actually, cool science.

While I'm recovering from a nasty bout of 24-36-48 hour flu somethingorother, I give you Mr. Bill Harris of Dubious Quality for your blogger enjoyment. His science links below are pretty cool. Enjoy.

And send more pedialyte, gatorade and ginger ale my way, please. Things be ugly in Haggis Health these days...

Dubious Quality-Science Links

Monday, July 25, 2005

Parade Magazine Rains on My Parade

We all know that Parade Magazine (that insert you get with your Sunday paper) is a piece of fluff. But my blood was absolutely boiling yesterday when I read "Walter Scott's Personality Parade," which is where readers' questions about celebrities are answered.

In answer to a question about how many kids Steven Spielberg has, the answer mentioned his child with Amy Irving, Kate Capshaw's with Mr. Capshaw, and then the following:

"The pair have three kids of their own -- Sasha, 15, Sawyer, 13, and Destry, 8 -- plus Theo, 17, and Mikaela, 9, who were adopted."

Jeez, and all this time Theo and Mikaela have been walking around under the bizarre and absurd notion that they are the ACTUAL children of Steven and Kate! Stupid moronic kids! CLEARLY they are not the Spielberg's "own" children; they're just, you know, the two adopted ones. I'm certain Steven and Kate introduce their kids with, "This is Sasha, Sawyer and Destry--our own kids--and this is Theo and Mikaela--they're actually not our own."

I just wrote an email to
and clicked on "Email Walter Scott" politely asking that they amend the way in which they discuss adopted children to reflect a more modern/less neanderthal view that all children are their parents' "own" regardless of how they join the family.

I was polite in my email, but Ken at Popehat captured my feelings far more succinctly:

Screw You Parade Magazine

Sunday, July 24, 2005

In Oprah We Trust

I love Oprah.

There. I said it. I love Oprah. I love the magazine, love the show, love her can-do spirit.

However, it could be argued by people of good faith that our Oprah is a wee bit pretentious and fat-headed with all of the Chopra-Orman-McGraw "insights," not to mention her own prodigious sense of self-satisfaction at being such a generous, spiritual being.

With that in mind, I have decided that I will impart a nugget of Oprah's Wisdom to you each month as I receive each magazine in order that you too can benefit from Oprah's Wisdom, lesser spiritual being that you are.

July's Wisdom:

"Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own."

That breakthrough idea ought to get your week of to a roaring start! TGI Oprah!

Rest in Peace Admiral Stockdale

Buried in today's Washington Post is a small article covering the funeral of Admiral James B. Stockdale. Most of us will recall him as the seemingly bumbling and fumbling VP candidate on the ticket with Ross Perot. His philosophical questions of "Who am I? Why am I here?" at the opening of the VP debates were apparently misunderstood, and seared him into the minds of Americans as a senile old coot.

I was one of those people until I learned more about him during his defense of John McCain when his "temperament" for the presidency was questioned. Admiral Stockdale spent 7 and a half years in the Hanoi Hilton, where he was tortured brutally and unceasingly for that entire time. He had a hearing aid at the VP debates (which people found humorous) not because he was old, but because he was beaten so badly by the Viet Cong that he lost his hearing in that ear.

When I learned about all that he did for the other prisoners, and all the unspeakable torture visited upon him because he refused to provide any information to his captors, I felt so ashamed that I had found him to be an object of derisive humor without knowing anything about him.

Admiral Stockdale endured things that I cannot even fathom mentally much less survive if they were done to me. He was an American hero and patriot and clearly a tough-as-nails leader during the worst of circumstances. Where he erred, Dennis Miller once said, was in "committing the ultimate crime in America today, which is being untelegenic." Sad to say, that is true.

So if you are having a drink tonight, say a toast to Admiral Stockdale. Whatever your views on war--Vietnam in particular--this man deserves his due.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Movie Review: The Bloviator

Oops. I mean "The Aviator."

Oh my freakin' g-d. I watched this movie about Howard Hughes last night, courtesy of Netflix. The only good thing I can say about the movie is that I didn't pay eight bucks to see it. I know, I know: It won Academy Awards (tm). Leo was a revelation. Gwen Stefani shone in her big screen debut. Kate Beckinsale did a star turn as Ava Gardner.

So so so so so SO wrong.

Let's start with the fact that the movie is TWO HOURS AND FIFTY MINUTES long. I've flown to Denver in less time than that. The movie quite literally traces Howard Hughes' life from the late '30's through his death. Every scene was designed to make the point that HH was a perfectionist who would go to any lengths to Do It Right. OMG, it was excruciating. The first 30 minutes of the movie focused entirely on his perfectionist pursuit of making the movie Hell's Angels. Perhaps the director of The Aviator was trying some cinema verite, where we the audience get to experience the numbing tedium and micro-detailed existence of a person working for HH himself back in the day. Either way, it was painful movie watching.

Let's move on to the actors:

Leonardo DiCaprio. Um, what can I say except that he is not Johnny Depp. At every stage of HH's life, Leo simply grows a moustache, grows a beard, puts on glasses, takes off his clothes, etc. At no time in this movie did I ever become unaware that I was watching Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role of Howard Hughes.

Gwen Stefani. Appears in the movie for all of 90 seconds. Has about 4 lines. Whatever. Not sure what the buzz was all about.

Kate Beckinsale. Boring. Totally freakin boring. And another cast member who never actually inhabited the character she was given. It was "oh there's Kate Beckinsale doing a crap accent while mistaking petulant scenery-chewing for what should be simmering-to-boiling ire." And, unfortunately for the lads, she didn't even get her newly-enhanced and horrifically stretch-marked t*ts out, which we know Ava did quite well in real life...although I think hers were real. Total waste of a part. It should have been Liv Tyler or Scarlett Johansen; someone more sultry, more tempestuous. Kate was fat-free, no-sugar vanilla pudding to the real Ava Gardner's cherries flambe.

The One Bright Spot: Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn. Wow! She was fabulous; she had all of the verbal and physical elements in place without becoming a caricature of the real woman. The only bummer is that, once again, the movie fell flat where her storyline was concerned. She and HH broke up after she met Spencer Tracy, but only after months of neglect and disrespect from HH. The movie goes from them having one argument to her walking in and saying she has fallen in love with someone else and is leaving. All I was thinking was "could we have spent less time watching HH select one of his airplane's steering wheels from several design options and more time showing how he slowly became a recluse by shutting people out of his life one by one?"

At the one hour-forty five minute mark I gave up and went to bed. I simply physically couldn't watch any more of the excruciatingly detailed-and yet-slipshod pseudo-character study of Howard Hughes solely in the name of getting on the Oscar buzz bandwagon.

Bottom line? Save yourselves, readers! Don't believe the hype! Rent "Finding Neverland" instead. Or Porkys. Or Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Whatever gets you excited. But do, I beg you, avoid The Aviator as if your Friday night depends on it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bush Selects Hispanic Woman for Supreme Court!


You mean he didn't???!!!!

So what about all the talk of a Hispanic, female, Zoroastrian goatherd from Uttar Pradesh as the only logical choice to fill the seat of the esteemed and august Sandra Day O'Connor?


It's just like the VP selection process strategy, where *mentioning* a person or a set of characteristics is designed to give the public impression that those people/characteristics are on your short list because you really really really do care about them. All the while, you have zero intention of selecting them, but the public floating of their names gives you the cover of having "considered" them.

So now Bush looks so au courant for having "considered" minorities for the Supreme Court, without having to actually appoint one.

Not that I care in this case, to be honest, since whichever race, ethnicity or gender the nominee is, s/he would have been a far rightie regardless. No thanks.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Karl Rove In Depth

For a pretty scary summation of Karl Rove's life, you have to check out this link to Read. Seethe. Discuss:

Friday, July 15, 2005

Two Teeth and No Brains

I was just on the receiving end of the most racist remarks I've ever heard.

And here's the best part: They were delivered by an African-American woman. How do ya like them apples?

She was the cashier at the grocery store where I had The Bambina in the baby bjorn on my chest. As we were checking out, the cashier said, "So you adopted her, huh?" Yes I did. From China.

"Oh, China. You know, most people don't like those Asians, but I say as long as you got love to give you go on and give it."

I looked at her quizzically, because how do you respond to that? I then mustered up a, "Well, I can't imagine what's not to like about a baby."

Cashier: "Oh I don't mean the babies. I mean the others. You know them."

"I"m sorry I don't."

"The ones who got them attitudes. The little ones with the attitudes. So, how did your family take it? Her being an Asian. Were they upset?"

"They are thrilled as any grandparents would be!" I'm saying this with that tone of voice of "I have no idea what you are getting at, ma'am. I don't understand the premise of your question because the idea is so foreign to me."

But on she went, to The Question that all adoptive parents get at some point or another: "So--do you think you'll have your own someday?"

"I think one of my own is enough right now, thanks."

She even said, "You know, some people get such attitudes when you ask them questions but you're just answerin' like it's no big deal." To which I replied, "Well, what can you do. [stupid] People are people."

Little did she know that I walked out of there so f'ing angry that I was ready to ask to speak to a manager but just wanted to get my kid as far away from morons like her as possible, not to mention that it was almost nap time. So as I was putting the stuff in the car I was talking to The Bambina as if she could understand me: "Baby girl, mommy was polite to that woman in there because that woman was very stupid, and mommy knew that getting angry with her was not going make her smart. Mommy wasn't polite because anything that woman said was true. Okay?" Good rehearsal for the inevitable when Bambina can understand and feel minimized by what the Stupid Lady With (I'm not Kidding) Two Teeth is saying.

It's a tough call: get mad or be seen to be suffering fools who f with your kid. I thought about it all morning and decided that making a big stink to the cashier would, when my daughter is old enough to understand, give her the impression that she is something in my life that causes conflict. I guess there is no right answer..or is there? I do think I'm going to call the manager of the store now that the bambina is not with me to see the drama, just to alert him to the fact that his employees are making personal and inappropriate conversation with customers.

In a larger context, my experience today disproved the assertion (by the Nation of Islam and others) that African-Americans cannot be racist. She was as racist as it gets. So racist, in fact, that I'm certain that if I pointed out to her that her views of "those Asians" is racist, that she'd genuinely disagree on the grounds that Asians, in her opinion, have more power than her, so how can SHE be racist against a (real or imagined) more powerful group of people.

It's a thorny issue, and one I am a little bit hesitant to tackle for all the obvious reasons. But I know my daughter will face it, and so I have to think about it, for her benefit--and for our country's in general.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lay Off Carol Darr, Blogmorons

If you read The Daily Kos and you will see a series of ad hominem attacks on Carol Darr in response to her testimony before the FEC regarding the campaign finance issue discussed below.

What strikes me about the "debate" being championed by Kos and SwingState is not that either they or Carol Darr is wrong or right. It is that bloggers arguing for the "media exemption" just like The New York Times enjoys have behaved in a manner unbecoming the "profession" if you are inclined to call it that. Can you imagine The New York Times calling Ms. Darr "clueless" and advocating that she be "shitcanned"? It was astounding to see grown men supposedly arguing for the right to be treated as members of the New Media, when they are behaving like cuckolded adolescents. So Ms. Darr disagrees with you on a couple of points (but if you actually read her full testimony you will see that she is largely on "your side"), and so your readers call her a b**ch, a c***, and various other expletives, both on your site and in messages to GW University's president.

Tell me--why the vitriol, gentlemen? I know Carol Darr. And she happens to rock. She is a cool, smart, funny, beyond-intelligent, savvy and tremendously decent woman. Her insight and advice and decency have saved my sorry ass on several occasions, and I simply do not have time for people who make HER the issue when they really disagree with her opinion. I've got Carol's back regardless of her opinions on the blogosphere, so back yourselves up y'all, or it's gonna be ON with The Haggis.

So--a word of grown-up advice in what is apparently the Blog High School Cafeteria: Negotiation Basics 101--Argue needs, not positions. Don't take a position and stick to it. Discuss what you need to get out of the negotiation and why, and then stick to THAT. You are taking POSITIONS without hearing the other side.

And grow the f up. Because there is nothing less convincing--and more laughable--than a guy who has to call a woman a stupid b**ch in order to win an argument.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The FEC: A Blogger's Friend or Foe?

There is an arcane, but important debate currently raging in DC and in the blogosphere. It concerns the "media exemption" for the media during elections.

According to The Post, "That exemption allows journalists working for corporations such as The Washington Post, Fox News and WTOP to go about their daily business without having to worry about running afoul of the law. Those protections, designed to protect the freedom of the press, allow newspapers, for example, to endorse political candidates without having those writings be considered contributions to the campaigns. The FEC is now considering whether rules should apply to publications on the Internet. It announced earlier this year that it is inclined to formally extend the exemption to the Web sites of traditional news operations, along with such sites as Slate, Salon and the Drudge Report that exist only online. The panel did not take a position on granting the protection to bloggers, some of whom have incorporated for liability purposes. Instead, the agency asked the public for comments on the issue and held two days of hearings, much of which focused on the exemption question.

Many bloggers say they not only are entitled to those same protections but also will need them to shield themselves from legal harassment."

What do you think? It's a tough call. On the one hand, I'd hate to be fined for making exceessive "contributions" to a campaign. On the other hand, what obstacles would there be to Philip Morris or Lockheed Martin or whatever corporation setting up a "blog" that supports their candidates and issues.

I'm on the fence. Uncharacteristically so.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Prince of Darkness Brought to Light

I have often said in these pages that Karl Rove is the Prince of Darkness. So much so that it is almost a cliche at this point. However, NOTHING makes me happier than to see his name all-but-confirmed as the Valerie Plame leaker. He is pure evil. Evil in the service of his master. The GOP touts itself as the party of military strength and competent espionage. Funny how the grand poobah of the administration's strategy (let's not kid ourselves that it is GWB or Dick Cheney) risked the life of a CIA operative--and who knows who else--for the brazenly political purpose of defending a political decision. THAT, my friends, is pure evil.

I'll write more on this later, but suffice to say at this point that I relish the vision of the GWB administration parsing legal language (since whether he said her actual name to the reporter (rather than just "she is the wife of xyz," is of legal import in his culpability) a la the GOP nemesis Bill Clinton (It depends what your definition of "is" is). Let's all sit back and see them take a page from Bill Clinton's playbook--all the while calling Dems immoral, godless people.

In my next installment, I will discuss the joy of seeing Machiavelli himself be out-Machiavellied. Sah-weet.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Too Much F'ing Perspective

The title of today's post, for those of you familiar with the movie, is from Spinal Tap, when they're talking about death. I think its David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) who says, "Well, that puts it all in perspective" and Nigel Tufnel (Harry Shearer) responds, "Yeah. Too much f*&^ing perspective!"

I thought that as I read this email from a friend (hastening to note that I usually hate forwarded emails like this that are supposed to tug at my heartstrings but usually just tug at my "Delete" finger). That said, here it is:

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be nonwhite
30 would be white

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian

89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.

80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.

The following is also something to ponder...

If you woke up this morning with more health than are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation ... you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to are richer than 70% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace ... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If your parents are still alive and still married ... you are very rare, even in the United States and Canada.

If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bush's Inspired Oratory

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on London's public transportation system, Tony Blair, as usual, was able to show emotion with strength by using his oratorical skills to make his point: "We shall prevail; they shall not."

Then our very own GWBush made his statement. Full of "ums" and "uhs" and his usual staple of "evil" and "freedom" words thrown in. He couldn't even put his purpose at the G8 Summit into a concise, clear, impactful sentence as a means of drawing a comparison between cowardly acts of violence on innocent people and working to assist developing nations economically and socially. Whether you believe the G8 was a waste of time or not, this was GWB's opportunity to draw that distinction clearly, to perhaps convince a few people of his belief in the G8 Summit. A litany of "ums" and "uhs" and recycled platitudes from 9/11 just fell flat. Missed opportunity; but that is no surprise.

In another missed opportunity to look like a good friend to the British people and Tony Blair in particular, GWB's statement, which after two sentences about London and its people, veered off into what the US was doing to secure its own citizens on their way to work. On 9/11 did Tony Blair say, "We feel bad for you, America. Now back to us!!"? No. He at least made the effort to talk about the tragedy for Americans for longer than 60 seconds before launching into his plans to keep Britons safe. I was embarrassed. Just completely embarrassed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I'm Saved!

Chez Haggis received a lovely newsletter on our doorstep over the weekend from the august Tony Alamo, leader of the New Jerusalem Churches Worldwide.

Oh boy! I read it and could not wait to share its gospel of good news, hope, and love in Jesus Christ. For example:

"What hope can be had by the unsaved, defiant, sinful wretches of this age, those who reject God's beloved Son, Christ Jesus...those who refuse to follow God's life-giving words of instruction, but instead worship false religions such as Hinduisim, Shintoism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, Satanism, Catholicism, and every other 'ism' including Judaism (because it rejects Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior the Messiah)...."

Who in the hell still says, "Mohammedanism?" And who puts Satanism with other religions? Geez, this guy is a real peach. And just when you thought it couldn't get worse, get a load of this little piece of God's Good News--

"God is allowing [these plagues] to happen throughout the world, just as He allowed Titus, Babylon and Nazi Germany to overpower his own chosen people. I've said this in the past, and I'll say it again: If God has allowed such things to happen to his own highly chosen people, what do you think he's going to do to you Gentiles, those of you who worship idols and commit other abominable sins?...You'd think the people of Indonesia and India would wake up, as well as the people of Florida...All of them have suffered terribly from earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, pestilence and many other plagues..."

Can you feel the power of the joy of the Holy Spirit?! Woo Hee!!! I see the light! I feel the love! May you feel it too. Unless you have been ravaged by natural disasters, in which case you deserve all the pestilence you get.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Good Clean City Livin'

The Baby Daddy and I were chatting yesterday about how important it is for the Bambina to grow up in DC, to have a slice of the world at her fingertips, to have the Smithsonian museums, the Capitol at the end of her street, the political vibe, the wonderful parks and neighborhoods, all of the things that make DC such a neat place to reside.

No sooner had we said that, while walking through one of the "wonderful parks," than I looked over to see a homeless dude lying prostrate on a park bench--JERKING IT. Seriously! At 2pm! Broad daylight! Just layin' down, takin' care of business. Although she was completely oblivious, we hustled the Bambina out of there ASAP. Not to mention ourselves!

As I thought/laughed about/was disgusted by it later, I realized that there was a silver lining, perhaps two.

One: At least he didn't whip it out. All of the activity was going on "indoors" so there was no full frontal situation. Just a whole lot of "activity" akin to someone tucking a shirt into his pants---over and over again while grunting. Bleeaaah.

Two: Not that I want my child anywhere near the onanism section of any park, but maybe there is some value in life to having been surrounded by total f'ing weirdos as a child, in that you are far better able to deal with, ignore, or smack down the weirdos who will find you later no matter where you live.

In either case, however, the next time it happens I'm going to tell him to move the party behind a bush or something. yeah right! The only thing you should do when confronted with a man engaged in public "self-love" is engage in a swift dash in the opposite direction. But you already knew that.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Happy Fourth!

To all my American readers: Happy Fourth of July! To steal the sign on Murky Coffee Capitol Hill's door, "Closed for Independence Day. Happy Independing!"

If you have not already, you should read Jeff Shaara's The Glorious Cause. It is a completely riveting and interesting piece of historical fiction around the Revolutionary War. What makes the book--and the history--so fascinating is your realization at several points during the narrative that we d*mn near lost about 10 times throughout the course of the war. Every time, some piece of dumb luck or covert operation or critical turning-point decision by George Washington, would turn the tide. My fellow Americans, we are all here by the grace of God and luck and chance and good judgment and strategy and so many tiny decisions and occurrences that you almost can't bear to have the knowledge that it all could easily have gone so differently. Otherwise, we'd be neighbours--drinking tea, singing God Save The Queen, and naming our children Desmond, Emma and Rupert.

For my Canadian readers, we're sorry we're such crap neighbors sometimes. Please don't call the police tonight when our fireworks are too loud. We didn't call on your last week for Canada Day. (Do we get any points for knowing that it was Canada Day?!)

For my British readers, admit it. Ruling America was "The Most Fun You Never Want To Have Again." It was a rollicking good time until it wasn't, simply because we're clearly an un-ruleable nation. And we don't like marmite. Not even a little. It would never work out between us.

The Haggis' July 4th activities will involve attendance at Dogs 'n Hogs, the annual barbecue/fundraiser held by a dear friend here in DC. It's a boozefest free-for-all (with hot dogs and pork barbecue, hence the name), the only admission requirement is that you bring all of your spare change. The person with the most spare change gets to name the charity to which everyone's spare change will be donated. It's the easiest way to justify drinking ludicrous quantities of alcohol, and hey--it's for a good cause!

Well, as the sign said: "Happy Independing!"

Mama Knows Best

Or something like that...

Maybe everyone feels this way at some point in their lives, but I think mothers especially get hit with it on a regular basis. It's that feeling after you become a mother that you have somehow morphed in people's minds into The Neverending Need-Meeting Machine for every person in your social orbit.

Perhaps you know what I mean by that. You feel kind of like the Wants and Needs Delivery System for your loved ones. Where are my shoes?--ask Mom. Why isn't that fixed yet?--ask Mom. What about the doctor's appointment?--ask Mom. We are out of milk;--ask Mom. Does she know her alphabet yet? Why not?--ask Mom. Do you think she's pooped in her diaper?--ask Mom. I really need someone to listen.--Ask Mom.

My other Mom friends and I have been commiserating at the very subtle but very real change that occurs in your life when people get comfortable with seeing you as The Mom. Perhaps it's a sign of your family's profound confidence in you, but the subconscious belief that Mom Has It Covered, while in some ways ennobling and encouraging, is mostly an invitation to performance anxiety like you've never experienced. You want to be that Mom, the one who can do it all and Have It Covered, but in reality you know you aren't and can't and, quite frankly, don't want to be.
Primarily because such a Mom does not exist without a Ritalin addiction (see last season's Desperate Housewives).

Secondly because sometimes 14 hours of meeting my family's needs (heresy of heresies) is just not enough to make me feel like my presence on the earth mattered today.

And thirdly because sometimes it's nice for someone else to JUST THIS ONCE cover it for you simply because it's a nice thing to do and so you might actually be able to leave the house today feeling like an actual woman: with blow-dried hair and shaved legs and nicely nail-polished toes, all of which [believe me] are the first things to go when you are taking 3 minute showers and getting back to baby ASAP.

It's not that fathers do not have their own set of pressures related to parenthood. But I'm the mom and that's all I can speak to. Besides, mothers have the weight of History and Expectation upon them in ways both large and small. If the father comes home late from work and still wants to go work out to stay in shape, no one questions his commitment to his children. If the mother wants to go work out after the father comes home, and therefore misses dinner and bedtime with her child, people wonder what kind of mother would not be present for such important daily rituals simply for reasons of vanity, like exercising. Then the MOM wonders what kind of mom she is for missing such important daily rituals. So it's a combination of the differences in societal expectations for women and men in parenthood, as well as the expectations that women place upon ourselves and each other.

There was recently a very in-depth article in the Washington Post about career women who become either full- or part-time stay-at-home mothers. The thesis? Bringing the same level of perfection and competitiveness to your family as you brought to your job will kill you. Holding yourself to your zero-error rate "at work" standards while you are at home will kill you. Competing with other women for achievement via your "product" will kill you and your kids. In short? You cannot possibly be all things to all people, and you cannot possibly always have that daily sense of project completion and gratification you get at work.

After reading that article, I have tried to get some peace with the fact that I am trying to work while trying to nurture my most important priority: the bambina, and quite frankly ending up exhausted and feeling like I'm doing neither job very well. I found myself almost longing for the life my mom told me about when she stayed home with us till we all went to school, where she said she was so desperate for adult conversation by the end of the day that did not mention children, that she wanted to scream sometimes. When she told me that story I felt simultaneously bad for, and grateful for her. Now I think about that story and think, "well at least you were feeling inadequate in only ONE area! At least you weren't also missing important client deliverable dates and struggling to find 10 minutes to speak on the phone with a client without Elmo singing in the background! You had it EASY!" Not the case, I know. But tempting to believe nonetheless.

I guess what I have concluded is the following:

You cannot have a happy, engaged, curious, active kid and a spotless home (for those of us who clean it ourselves).

You cannot measure your child against anyone else's child to see his developmental progress.

You cannot every day simultaneously feel fulfilled as an individual and as a mother. You have to pick the day and time when you will get to feel the former, because being the latter is, by definition, all about fulfilling the needs of your kids. Assuming you can feel both every day is a one-way ticket to daily two-wine lunches, a prozac dependency, and/or a truly frustrating and quietly desperate existence on this planet.

There are no quantitative metrics or benchmarks, really, for being a good mother, short of avoiding school expulsions, jail sentences and (as we say in DC about political black holes to avoid) any situation involving dead women or live boys.

Other than that--to be a good mother and a happy, fulfilled woman--all you can do is block out the real or perceived judgments of others, lose the expectations in your mind and in your ears, follow your own heart and head, and--as Mom always said--Just Do Your Best.

Lose the Adjective

Before I even begin my mini-rant about the meaninglessness of the Live 8 concerts, I just have to offer, for your review, the following two photo captions about celebrities attending the concerts:

"Live 8 attracted plenty of non-singing celebs - such as Gwyneth Paltrow and daughter Apple who turned up to Hyde Park to support Coldplay...."

Contrast this with:

"Angelina Jolie arrives with her adopted son Maddox at the concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall."

It absolutely irritates me beyond words that they qualified Maddox as Jolie's "adopted" son. Not just her "son," which he is, but her "adopted" son. Why the necessity for that adjective? Because he doesn't look like her in the photo and some stupid person who inexplicably cares might actually wonder, "Well, shucks! He looks durn near Oriental, durn't he?! He don't look nuthin' like her! Where'd HE come from? I wish they'd tell me where he came from!"

By that logic, why is Apple not Gwyneth Paltrow's "created by sexual intercourse with Chris Martin and delivered vaginally" daughter?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

SDO's Successor

See Alex's post on SoundFuryetc for a discussion of who might be the next pick to replace SDO on the court. He says it better than I do, so why replicate all that typing just to hear my own voice (finger?), right?



Look at Me, I'm Sandra D...

I'm too bummed to write much about this right now. Stay tuned. Now GWB will have TWO chances to pack the court with right wing nutcases. But I've gotta give it to my girl Sandra D for stealing Rehnquist's retirement thunder.

Okay, more later after a few daiquiris to blur the reality of the situation....