Monday, February 27, 2006

Rove's Prognostication Manipulation

From Drudge, re a new book called Strategery:

Rove agreed in a question-and-answer session in his West Wing office for STRATEGERY, which is based on exclusive, lengthy interviews with Bush, Cheney and their top advisers. The third in a series of NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers chronicling this unlikely yet historic presidency, STRATEGERY is the most comprehensive, behind-the-scenes account of Bush’s narrow reelection and the tumultuous 14 months that followed.

“She is the dominant player on their side of the slate,” Rove said of Clinton. “Anybody who thinks that she’s not going to be the candidate is kidding themselves.”

Okay, hear me now and believe me later. Hillary Clinton CANNOT be the Democratic nominee for President. It can't happen, even if Rove The Oracle says it will. My personal opinion is that Rove is sowing the seeds of her candidacy because he'd like nothing more than to see her run.

For the love of God--and this country--Hillary simply cannot and must not be the Democratic nominee for President. It's political suicide to the tune of a 51% margin who said they wouldn't vote for her in a recent poll.

Surely we can do better than this.

Good Grief!

Grieving is simultaneously one of the most personal and most public things a person can ever be expected to do. Your feelings of loss--and how you express them--are uniquely your own, no matter how many people over millennia have been in your shoes. At the same time, funerals are important because they honor the life of the person, allow family and friends to share their grief, and also mark the finality of the death. It is that intersection between personal and public grief that many people--including myself--find to be the hardest part of losing a loved one.

Oftentimes when we are grieving a loss we want others to grieve alongside us in the same manner; it validates our feelings and lets us know we are not alone. So we wonder why so and so is not crying, is not crying hard/long/frequently enough, or why so and so is ALWAYS crying and can't seem to get their sh*t together for even 5 minutes. Every one of these questions demeans the grieving process by seeking to make it an Oprah show or a Very Special Episode of Will and Grace. Life (and death) cannot be condensed into a TV timeline; they cannot be scripted, and they cannot be coached, directed or executive produced. Grieving someone out of existence simply is what it is...for you, for me, for each of us--in whatever form it takes.

As if you couldn't guess, I am much more on the "I'll cry when I get home" side of things. I'm just not a public crier, not because I'm fighting back the tears but because I simply don't need to cry when I'm surrounded by 30 people. My tears come when I am putting The Bambina to bed and we do our standard evening run-through of all the people she knows and where they are right now, and yes they are going night-night right now too. We do cousins, aunts, uncles, mama, dada and grandparents. And every time I get to Bumpa I now say, "And Bumpa is in Heaven now," which gets me through the next three minutes till she gets in bed and then I leave her room and cry for a little while. Then I have a wee cry in the mornings when I wake up, open my eyes and think, "OK, another day without him in the world with me; I can do this;" then I fully awaken and feel his presence in my heart and head and realize that today really will be okay and I can stop crying now. Rather than hating these moments I am grateful for them because they let me express my sadness in a way that works for me, gradually, honestly, meaningfully.

I know there will be people concerned that I didn't cry at my dad's memorial service, but the concern is misplaced. Looking around the room and seeing our friends standing with us gave me hope that the pain would pass, gave me faith that we'd be okay, and gave me pride that so many people loved my dad. I felt the exact opposite of crying; I felt certain that my father was there with us in the faces and hugs of all of these people, and that he was liking the celebration we'd put together for him.

The bottom line is that losing a parent no matter how old you are quite simply makes you a different person. There is a sense of psychic safety, a sense that All Is As It Should Be when both of your parents are alive. When one or both depart this life you are forced to realize that you are now the grown-up, that you will have to dig deeper within yourself for things you used to take for granted as somebody's child, and that you must create an identity for yourself for the next 40 years that is independent of (or perhaps in addition to) your identity as your father's daughter. The knowledge that I will meet people in the future who will never meet my father is almost unbelievable to me, and yet it is precisely the life my parents--and countless others with them--created year after year without their own parents, and that therefore somehow seems achievable to me. Except at bedtime and in the early morning when none of that seems important because I am simply just missing him.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I Know Where My Dad Is Right Now...

From Scotland's Sunday Herald:

The world’s “most alcoholic single malt whisky” looks set to be created tomorrow at an Islay distillery.

The usquebaugh-baul blend will be at least a senses-stunning 92% alcohol and possibly as high as 94%, and comes from an ancient island recipe in which a single malt is quadruple distilled.

Bruichladdich, the firm behind the “whisky adventure”, have been working on the project for months. Mark Reynier, managing director of the firm, said: “To be honest I’m just hoping the distillery doesn’t explode.”

Friday, February 24, 2006

God Hates Gays--and Apparently Soldiers Too

Six members of a fringe church in Kansas picketed Thursday outside the funeral of a Minnesota soldier who was killed in Iraq, leading to a heated exchange with the grieving mother. The six men and women, standing outside the Anoka funeral for Cpl. Andrew Kemple, 23, who died Feb. 12 after his vehicle came under fire, are members of a church in Topeka, Kan., that espouses the belief that God is killing American soldiers because they fought for a country that tolerates homosexuality.

They were countered by a group of 20 affiliated with the Patriot Guard Riders, a rapidly growing nationwide movement organized to offset the fringe group's message.
"We're just trying to show honor and respect for families," said John Lutsch, a St. Cloud resident who heads the Minnesota branch of the Patriot Guard. "I was appalled when I read about these protests, that they'd use a solemn occasion like this as a forum for their views."

He was interrupted by Steve Drain, who bellowed that God hates gays and their enablers and "so, therefore, God hates the U.S. military."

According to an account reported by the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, about a half-hour before the service, Deirdre Ostlund, Kemple's mother, approached the six Kansans and told them in a cold fury: "I'm Andrew's mother and I want you to know you are truly hateful people." As Ostlund turned away to enter Zion Lutheran Church, Shirley Phelps-Roper taunted her: "Adulterer! You can't admit you sent your own child to hell! If she does not heed this warning, she will look up from hell with him."

Phelps-Roper is the daughter of Fred Phelps, the pastor of the nondenominational Westboro Baptist Church. During the 1990s, church members were known mostly for picketing funerals of AIDS victims.

My question is three-pronged:

Part The First: What is with the fundamentalist viewpoint that every bad thing that happens is as a result of "God's Punishment" for sin?

Part The Second: Why haven't they clued into the fact that their list of culpable connections is a bit tenuous? Dead Soldiers-Iraq-USA-Gays-God's Fury. I don't really see the logical progression.

Part The Third: Assuming their belief that God delivers punishment for sin on a global scale, why have they not considered the possibility that God is killing US soldiers in Iraq because America is a country that tolerates a**holes doing evil, unkind things at funerals in his name?

Just wondering...

Thursday, February 23, 2006



I don't know what I think of the UAE ports deal but I do know that I'm really tired of having this administration tell me that every time I disagree with something they do, that I am aiding, abetting or refusing to fight terrorism.

Can't I love America and be concerned about our national security without having to also love George Bush? Why is every piece of dissent characterized as pro-terrorist or at the very least apathetic to America's security?

These guys are good at manipulating sentiment. They just happen to be bad at governing ethically and intelligently.

Oh--but here is a good piece at Crooks and Liars about the Bush family ties to UAE. It ain't pretty:


Ribaldry with the Rabbi

I think I frighten the rabbi.

As you can probably tell from previous posts, we are a bit of a gallows humor kind of family, mostly due to the influence of the man whose photo is featured below. My dad joked about things that were just not supposed to be funny at times when you were just not supposed to be laughing, and somehow he made us laugh regardless.

Enter the rabbi stage left. I was talking with him yesterday about our memorial service plans (it's actually a Celebration of the Life of... because my dad would be mad if we had a memorial service).

I was talking to the rabbi about what we'd do/say/etc, and he said that we could either have one or two people offer brief eulogies or we could just invite people to come up and share their memories of my dad. I immediately said, "Oh my goodness, no. We'll do a eulogy. My dad absolutely hated Open Mic Nights."

Silence on the other end of the phone......

We then started talking about the length of the ceremony, and we agreed that it would be 45 minutes max "because my family wants this to be something in keeping with who my dad was, and any longer than 45 minutes and he himself would be getting out of his seat, looking for a cup of coffee and a cookie in the kitchen, and would generally just have been trying to escape no matter how much he loved the person being memorialized. He'll be there, so we want to officially mark his passing before he himself gets antsy."

Silence on the other end of the phone......

Ooops. He knows my dad but doesn't know me from Adam, and I just made two separate snarky funnies the day after my father's passing and in reference to his Celebration.

I have officially freaked out the rabbi.

My dad would be proud.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Toast to My Father

My father passed away tonight. We were all there with him, for which I will always be grateful.

I always promised myself that this blog would never become an online journal, and I remain committed to that promise. So I will say only that I am offering to my dad's life and memory the same toast he always gave us:

"Lang may yer lum reek, yer willy dreep and the skin of yer belly trip ye."

{Long may your chimney smoke ie, you have a house and the means to heat it, your "willy" be functioning and may you have enough food that your belly is so big it trips you.}

Cue "Scotland the Brave" on the bagpipes for the man who fulfilled one of his life's dreams by having his photo taken next to the Archie Bunker and Edith chairs at the Smithsonian.

My Dad

Brief Hiatus

Y'all. I'll post as I can, so please definitely check back, but I'm pretty much in the hospital with my dad all the time, which equals zero internet access. Not to mention that my burning desire(?) to discuss George Bush, politics or anything of remote interest to my loyal three readers--has all but disappeared for the time being.

Thank you to everyone for the wonderful emails and calls. They mean a lot, even if I'm kind of avoiding human interaction right now.

In the meantime:

Prayer for healing
Hear my prayer, O Lord, heed my plea for mercy.
In time of trouble I call You, for You will answer me.
When pain and illness are my companions, let there be room in my heart for strength.
When the days and nights are filled with darkness, let the light of courage find its place.
Help me endure the suffering and dissolve the fear; renew within me the calm spirit of trust and peace.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Ro-fei HaCholim
We praise you, O God, Healer of the Sick

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Those Collaborators at Google

Pretty sad for a company whose slogan was "Don't Be Evil," huh?


Good Karma

My dad was asking me if he was going to die. I told him that bad things don't happen to people wearing SpongeBob SquarePants pants.

I think I'm right on this one...

{photo uploaded with his compos mentis permission, btw. He loves being a fashion icon...}

Phone Home. Tonight.

Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn't verbalize, explain or quantify it, but you just knew that something was wrong?

I was talking to my dad on Friday, pursuant to hearing that he had been diagnosed with pneumonia and given antibiotics and bedrest, checking in on him. He sounded a little bit "off" and I almost talked myself out of being worried. I called my sister just to talk through my ostensible overreaction which prompted her to leave work to go check on him. I then called the Baby Daddy to get on home to watch The Bambina, and I headed on up to his house as well. Even as I was driving up there, I was preparing my defense for having created a family drama where none existed. But a part of me had a bad feeling, just knew that something was not right even if I couldn't say specifically what.

Short story long, we got to my dad's house to find him lying in bed, gasping for air and looking gray. Niiiiice. Cue the 911 call, the 14 hours in the ER, and various diagnoses ranging from pneumonia to congestive heart failure to rampant infection of unknown origin to ARDS to multiple organ failure.

It's now Sunday and I'm writing this while sitting next to my dad's hospital bed where he--finally--is getting some sleep. He was up all night unable to breathe due to fluid in his lungs and heart. I went home last night to get some sleep and awoke to my sister's "get here now; things are not good" phone call. It was such a punch in the stomach because he had seemed to be improving last night to the extent that I actually left the hospital and went home to get some desperately-needed sleep.

My mom and sister have gone to get us some lunch and I am sitting here, quietly reading some Robert Burns to my dad as he sleeps. As I look at him, this now-frail, struggling-for-breath wee man, I feel the same way I do when I look at the Bambina. Those tender feelings for someone you love infinitely, want to protect desperately, and want to meet their every basic need. It is a feeling simultaneously heartbreaking and humbling. Heartbreaking because I want him to once again be the dad I know, the eccentric, gregarious, devil-may-care, completely embarrassing, energetic, go-get-em man who taught me to fly with the wings I have rather than curse my wingspan.

It's humbling because I feel a sense of gratitude that I have the opportunity to care for him, that I can alleviate his pain in some small way by rubbing his feet or putting the straw in his mouth for water or (dare I say it) helping him with his physical needs while ensuring that I give him his dignity as both a man and as my father. So many people don't get this opportunity; they lose people suddenly, shockingly--or they lose them over the course of years where no amount of tending can alleviate their pain and trauma. I feel lucky to have this time with him, whether he is conscious of it or not.

I believe my dad will be okay and will live to embarrass me again. But I also believe that if he does not, that being so close to him during these days will someday give me a peace and contentment that I cannot currently see or feel when I ponder what my life without him would be like.

So what's my point?
Never silence your inner voice when it's telling you something is wrong. And call your mother. Call your father. Tell them you love them. Do it every week no matter what. You will never regret it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Too Beat to Blog

I'm not ignoring SSHaggis; I'm just swamped with and beat from too much work. Be back tomorrow.

Enjoy the silence. It doesn't happen that often... ;)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cheney's Chappaquiddick

Great link courtesy of the good people (person) at DubiousQuality.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

America's Sure Shot

I've been avoiding bringing up the Dick Cheney-shoots-friend-in-face story because it seems too easy, too perfect, too...something to be worthy of a blog post. It's the blogging equivalent of making a joke about Bill Clinton's weiner issues, Britney Spears' redneck husband issues or, well, Brad Pitt's weiner issues. It's too easy to poke fun at, and so I just figured I'd stay above the fray and let qualified funpokers such as my soul mate Jon Stewart do their thing.

But then I was listening to Sure Shot by The Beastie Boys and I started putting Dick Cheney lyrics in as I was singing along:

You can't, you won't and you don't stop. [Dick Cheney] come and rock the sure shot....I've Got More [Guns] Than I've Got Grey Hairs, And That's Alot Because I've Got My Share. I've Got A Hole In My Head And There's No One To Fix It; Got To Straighten My Thoughts, I'm Thinking Too Much Sick Sh*t...

It would appear from this weekend's events that the Vice President might need a refresher course from that august "gun safety" organization called the NRA, huh? It would also appear, were Al Gore to have shot someone on a Saturday and only had it come to light late Sunday, that a full-on independent counsel investigation would have been ginned up to get to the bottom of why Al Gore was trying to kill his friend who probably knew too much about shady dealings in the White House, since you know that Bill Clinton had several of his friends murdered secretly to hide his malfeasance (according to Rush Limbaugh and his compatriots). I wonder if they'll see the same malintent from their beloved, yet ammo-incompetent, VPotus.

Yeah, I didn't think so. As the Beasties say:

I Can't Stand It
I Know You Planned It
I'ma' Set It Straight This Watergate
I Can't Stand Rockin' When I'm In Here
'Cause Your Crystal Ball Ain't So Crystal Clear
So While You Sit Back And Wonder Why
I Got This F*ckin' Thorn In My Side
Oh My God
It's A Mirage
I'm Tellin' Y'all It's Sabotage

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Rights of the Born

A few days ago I read a truly thought-provoking article in the LA Times about the right to choose--that of course the good people at Sozadee linked to right away before I could get my linking mojo working.

Here is the article via sozadee:


Outrage-ous Hypocrisy

This person gets it right. The Islamist response to the cartoons is pure hypocrisy. And, as noted elsewhere on this site, via Michael Kinsley: "…the limits of free expression cannot be set by the sensitivities of people who don’t believe in it."


Bill Frist: Second to None

According to Crazy Uncle Bob Novak, Senator Frist is distancing himself from GWB in preparation for a 2008 run for the presidency. He's been second-guessing his svengali's troop numbers in Iraq, breaking with him on cutting National Guard numbers, and in general trying to do a bit more of the Al Gore "I am my own man" dance.

Hmmm, I always kind of thought that Frist would be running for Vice-President being that he has had the kind of year that one would think to be synonymous with "presidentially unelectable" (Terry Schiavo, anyone?) and the fact that he has zero of the charisma or charm generally necessary for a successful national campaign.

But who knows? Stranger things have happened. Just look at who holds the office right now...

Winter Wonderland

It finally happened: The local news channels' euphoric yet ominous warnings that "a major Noreaster" would hit DC actually turned out to be true. We got about 6-8 inches downtown which has been total fun--especially since I had a full fridge and didn't need to brave the panicked masses at the grocery store who somehow believe that they won't survive if they are stuck inside for two days...

It's that wet type of snow that is so beautiful to look at but not so great when it freezes, makes your sidewalk impassable and pulls down the power lines. But it sure is pretty. Bambina had a fantastic time as usual, as you can see:

Friday, February 10, 2006

Long Way Round

I have just finished watching, courtesy of Netflix, the British TV miniseries called Long Way Round. It is the documentary of Ewan McGregor (surprise, surprise why I queued it up) and his friend Charley's motorcycle trip from London to New York via countries like Germany, Ukraine, Russia and Mongolia. It is fabulous! If you like motorcycles (which I do) and you like Scottish men who tell it like it is (which I do) and you like seeing Discovery-channel style views into other cultures, this is the show for you.

My favorite scene (spoiler alert!) is in the Ukraine where a friend has told them to stop in a certain city to get a massage at a swank spa. Ewan is narrating his and Charley's excitement at finally getting some relaxation after 1000+ miles on a bike, and then the next scene is the two men naked on a tiled bathouse floor with sumo-style fat men in speedos straddling them, essentially pummelling their naked backs and buttocks with their fists and Ewan's voice over, "this was literally the most painful experience of my entire life."

Ewan also proves that my family is not the only Scottish group of people who believe that the Scots invented civilization. At one point in Mongolia he talks about how he can't believe how much of the landscape looks like Scotland, which confirms his belief that Scotsmen created the world in their own image as a gift to the world's people. There is a senior citizen living in Del Boca Vista who quite emphatically agrees...

Short story long, you should see this series. It's a fantastic window into cultures such as the Ukrainian mafia, Russian customs and Mongolian food (such as sheep and cow testicle soup), not to mention being a fantastic buddy movie and BMW motorcycle fan club.

It's good times. Trust me. Even the animal ball soup.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

For My Fellow Americans Who Think Brits Are Polite

From my Uncle Bill, the Man With the Plan on Two Continents:

Complaint Letter of the Year. The British do have a way with
words.... A real-life customer complaint letter sent to NTL (to their
complaints dept....)

Dear Cretins,
I have been an NTL customer since 9th July 2001, when I signed up
for your 3-in-one deal for cable TV, cable modem, and telephone. During
this three-month period I have encountered inadequacy of service which I
had not previously considered possible, as well as ignorance and
stupidity of monolithic proportions. Please allow me to provide specific
details, so that you can either pursue your professional prerogative, and
seek to rectify these difficulties - or more likely (I suspect) so that you
can have some entertaining reading material as you while away the
working day smoking B&H and drinking vendor-coffee on the bog in your

My initial installation was cancelled without warning, resulting in
my spending an entire Saturday sitting on my fat arse waiting for your
technician to arrive. When he did not arrive, I spent a further 57
minutes listening to your infuriating hold music, and the even more
annoying Scottish robot woman telling me to look at your helpful
website.... HOW?

I alleviated the boredom by playing with my testicles for a few
minutes - an activity at which you are no-doubt both familiar and highly

The rescheduled installation then took place some two weeks later,
although the technician did forget to bring a number of vital tools

such as a drill-bit, and his cerebrum. Two weeks later, my cable
modem had still not arrived. After 15 telephone calls over 4 weeks my
modem arrived... six weeks after I had requested it, and begun to pay for

I estimate your internet server's downtime is roughly 35%... hours
between about 6pm -midnight, Mon-Fri, and most of the weekend.
I am still waiting for my telephone connection. I have made 9 calls on
my mobile to your no-help line, and have been unhelpfully transferred
to a variety of disinterested individuals, who are it seems also highly
skilled bollock jugglers.

I have been informed that a telephone line is available (and
someone will call me back); that no telephone line is available (and
someone will call me back); that I will be transferred to someone who knows
whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been cut
off); that I will be transferred to someone (and then been redirected to
an answer machine informing me that your office is closed); that I
will be transferred to someone and then been redirected to the irritating
Scottish robot woman...and several other variations on this theme.

Doubtless you are no longer reading this letter, as you have at
least a thousand other dissatisfied customers to ignore, and also another
one of those crucially important testicle-moments to attend to. Frankly I
don't care, it's far more satisfying as a customer to voice my
in print than to shout them at your unending hold music. Forgive
me, therefore, if I continue.

I thought BT were shit, that they had attained the holy piss-pot of
god-awful customer relations, that no-one, anywhere, ever, could be
more disinterested, less helpful or more obstructive to delivering
service to their customers. That's why I chose NTL, and because, well, there
isn't anyone else is there? How surprised I therefore was, when I
discovered to my considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment what a
useless shower of bastards you truly are. You are sputum-filled pieces of
distended rectum incompetents of the highest order.

British Telecom - wankers though they are - shine like brilliant
beacons of success, in the filthy puss-filled mire of your seemingly
limitless inadequacy. Suffice to say that I have now given up on my futile
and foolhardy quest to receive any kind of service from you. I suggest
that you cease any potential future attempts to extort payment from me
for the services which you have so pointedly and catastrophically
failed to deliver - any such activity will be greeted initially with
and disbelief quickly be replaced by derision, and even perhaps bemused

I enclose two small deposits, selected with great care from
my cats litter tray, as an expression of my utter and complete
contempt for both you and your pointless company. I sincerely hope that they
have not become desiccated during transit - they were satisfyingly moist at
the time of posting, and I would feel considerable disappointment if
you did not experience both their rich aroma and delicate texture. Consider
them the very embodiment of my feelings towards NTL, and its worthless

Have a nice day - may it be the last in you miserable short life,
you irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Definition of True Love

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I have been thinking recently about the definition of "true love," ie, how do you know when you've found it, what are the signs that indicate its presence, and what are the behaviors associated with keeping it alive?

I was reading a Tony Robbins book (don't laugh!), and he had a chapter on what he called a Hierarchy of Values. He was saying that, in order for any relationship, be it business or personal or romantic to be successful, each partner must understand and consciously acknowledge the other partner's Hierarchy of Values. It was an interesting and provocative (although perhaps not original?) way of looking at relationships that kind of hit home.

He lists a bunch of "values" and asks you to rate them from 1 to 20 or whatever. Some of the values include honesty, independence, lack of conflict, emotional security, financial security, social status, and intellectual challenge. I then thought of all the conflicts my friends (and I) have had in our relationships, and realized that almost all of them were as a result of the two partners not recognizing and/or valuing the other's Hierarchy of Values.

Case in Point: My friend's husband has a dog that he loves. She likes the dog fine but is essentially "Fido's" primary caretaker while husband works long hours. They used to fight tooth and nail over "that damn dog" until her husband finally just said, "I love the dog and I'll do what I can to get him trained so he doesn't make your life a living hell as you also raise our kids, but when you dis the dog you are devaluing something of great importance and emotional significance to me." Okay, he didn't quite get it out that articulately, but he made his point. That was when my friend realized that the best way to demonstrate her love for her husband was to learn to love his dog. She recognized that her Hierarchy of Values always put Domestic Order and Organization (which a shedding pooping pup ruins every day) above his major value, which was his need to have his wife acknowledge and embrace something that mattered to him--for the sole reason of it mattering to him. It wasn't her job to understand why it mattered or even to approve of why it mattered; he just needed her to love something that he loved because it mattered to him.

Dispute solved.

I've had similar Hierarchy issues in previous relationships. My Hierarchy of Values begins and ends with "Honesty." I even want honesty before kindness, before emotional security, before anything. It's just in my personal makeup that I can deal with anything--anything--as long as I know what it is and as long as I heard it from YOU first. When you date or marry someone whose primary value is Independence or Lack of Conflict or Emotional Security, it can spell disaster right out of the gate if you don't understand where each other is coming from. So a guy who doesn't tell you about the lap dance, the "harmless" kiss or the "office spouse" because it will cause conflict "needlessly" or who doesn't come right home but gets mad if you wonder where he went for two hours after work is probably not a great match for a woman who puts honesty at the top of the hierarchy--unless you have both talked about how you will handle those kinds of situations from a place of understanding for each other's needs.

For me, the essential question I've asked partners to ask is, "Am I not telling her this to save HER from worrying about something irrelevant--or to save my own ass from something I probably deserve?" And my approach has been to ask myself the same sort of question: "Am I asking this question about his activities because I'm just wondering/interested/genuinely caring or because I'm feeling somehow, somewhere insecure and I think that hearing the answer will make that go away?"

Other friends have had this issue with p*rn, inlaws, money, you name it. And I guarantee that if you sit down today and ask your partner to list in hierarchical order the things that matter most to him or her, you will find the root of your conflicts.

Whether you call it a Hierarchy of Values or something else, no matter how Anthony Robbins or any expert in interpersonal relations puts it, the only hope for having a long and happy relationship with another human is to understand, internalize and care about what matters most to them. Then, as we like to say in Judaism: Everything else is commentary.

In short, my little 5 cent psychobabble contribution to your happy valentine's day is precisely what I told my friend: you don't need to understand why it matters to someone you love, you just need to know that it does and act accordingly. Or, as I also said to her, the bottomline is that when a man tells you he loves something--most especially a dog--your first instinct needs to be to get onboard and love the dog. Anything else is a sign that someday, somehow, things are gonna go real wrong, simply because you have not internalized that a man saying, "I love this dog" is tantamount to him saying, "I love my mother, my child, my college roommate," and you are saying that you have already decided that you can't or won't love something he loves--even if you don't know why.

So maybe the answer is that I should condense Anthony Robbins' chapter into three sentences: Love a Man, Love His Dog. Love a Woman, Love Her Friends. Live Happily Ever After.

You're Welcome.

Rock The Vote is a Sinking Ship

The following article wants to make the point that Rock The Vote, that legendary MTV-generation votegetting machine, is going under because its leaders lacked nonprofit management experience.

Perhaps. It certainly seems to be the case when they hold fundraisers that result in them OWING money to creditors. But might the larger issue be their partisanship? Rock The Vote was, for all intents and purposes, a liberal voter registration organization. As much as they wanted, hoped, and maybe? tried to be nonpartisan, they were--and were seen to be by decisionmakers and political stakeholders--as a big fat liberal organization. And when you lose bipartisan credibility as a major player in the youth voting realm, you lose power. And when that happens, liberals stop giving you money--money that used to hide the fact that you got so little from conservatives.

In addition, RTV's quasi-liberality hurt its effectiveness programmatically, never mind financially:

The mass influx of liberal votes from college campuses has become a myth, said Carrie Donovan, the youth director for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

"I think a lot of people still assume that college students are very liberal based on how young people used to be," Donovan said. "It's definitely not like that; the difference is only maybe five percentage points, not 30."

A year ago, it seemed Democrats had lost college students altogether. A survey conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) in October 2003 found that President Bush's approval rating was higher among college students than with the rest of the populace. He led by seven points among college students over any Democratic challenger.

By Election Day, Bush's support among college students fell, but IOP data suggests that it had more to do with the war in Iraq than the president's conservative policies. Bush's approval rating among college students slipped as disapproval of the war grew, but they still said he would "keep the country safer and more secure" than Kerry and favored his "clear stance on the issues," according to the survey.

Although Democrats carried the youth vote in the 2004 election, young people are not the Democratic demographic they once were. According to exit polling data from the Voter News Service and CBS, senior citizens were more likely than those aged 18 to 29 to vote for Democrats in four of the five prior elections.

Yet there was a time when the idea of the liberal youth held true. It originated when the voting age was lowered to 18 during the Vietnam War, leading hordes of anti-war activists and potential draftees to the polls.

Through the early 1980s, young people were a cornerstone of the Democratic Party. The party won 18 to 29-year-olds in every election, and in 1976, Jimmy Carter won the youth vote by a wide enough margin to take the presidency despite losing every other age group.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan swept through his second campaign, taking 59 percent of the youth vote. That election, said University political science professor Michael Krassa, changed the face of conservatism for young people. Reagan made conservatives more likeable, Krassa said.

In subsequent years, fewer young people voted for Democrats. Krassa added that although there were more conservatives on campus, they still felt outnumbered. Because people in the minority are less likely to vote, the shift from liberal to conservative could be even greater than the voting data shows.

Part of the reason the trend has been overlooked is that it has happened over time. Krassa said the line between conservative and liberal has been shifting for decades.

"If Nixon ran for president today, it would have to be as a Democrat," Krassa said. "His social policies were more liberal than Clinton's."

As young people shift, the ranks of the College Republicans are swelling. Almost 53,000 new members joined the organization in the time leading up to the election, said Doug McGregor, the deputy executive director of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC).

LA Times

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bush The Budget Buster

Okay, folks. So I have my household budget for you to peruse. I've broken it down into major categories such as domestic expenses, travel expenses, entertainment, incidentals, etc. This is a budget so far in the black that it doesn't even know what "red" means.

Um. Well, except for the fact that:

Under housing I did not include my annual mortgage costs.

Under travel I did not include all of my expected airfare costs.

Under entertainment I did not include my monthly netflix subscription.

But in the black we are! Aren't I such the fiscal conservative?! Because, after all, including the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan in the defense portion of my budget would make it all seem so incredibly large, so I just decided to not include them. I'm making them extrabudgetary for the purposes of this budget, which makes me a fiscal conservative because I have slashed the requisite number of programs, offices and of course that old chestnut "fraud and waste."

Who writes a budget that doesn't include your most expensive--and volatile--expenditures?! That is insane.

But not as insane as the fact that we now pay 9% interest on our national debt. Yep. NINE percent of the budget proposed by the President is simply the line item to pay interest on our debt. But god forbid we pay down our debt; god no. We can't have that. Isn't there a program we can kill instead?!

This budget is a joke. A $2.77 Trillion joke.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl Time Warp

The following two things happened during tonight's Super Bowl that 100% demonstrated my ever-increasing age:

1) I actually said the following statement: "That was a great half time show! The Rolling Stones were perfect! They are absolutely multi-generational, family viewing material." You can therefore tell I was not yet born when they were precisely NOT considered to be multi-generational, family-viewing fare but that I am now old enough to have witnessed and understood the significance of the metamorphosis.

2) I saw a player with "Tatupu" on his jersey, flashed back to all my 1986 Patriots v. Bears Super Bowl nostalgia and said, "Mosi Tatupu is still playing football!?? Awesome!" Oh you poor dear, E. That's his son. It's been--count 'em--20 years since you watched Jim McMahon, The Fridge, Walter Payton and Mike Singletary have their way with Steve Grogan, Tatupu and Friends. E is OLD! Mosi is no more playing Super Bowls than you are drinking New Coke while wearing your Madonna Wannabe crucifix necklace and messy hair, all the while wishing you could wake up and look like one of the women in that Robert Palmer Addicted to Love video...

Yes indeed. If nothing else, Super Bowl XL has shown me that no matter which team wins, I will still be one year older.

The Bambina: Milliner to the Stars

Perhaps the funniest moment of my mommyhood occurred yesterday. I tell it to you, my closest most personal friends only, because The Bambina would absolutely cringe when she turns 14 to find out that anyone else had been told about this incident. Aw, hell wid it. That's my job as the parent: to embarrass her with cute stories.

As you know, The Bambina is now mostly using the potty except for the times when she just kind of wants to sit around on it without actually "producing" anything. She just kind of likes road testing it, I think. As you also know, I haven't peed alone since March of 2005, since infants require constant attention and toddlers can't imagine that you have any business that doesn't by definition involve them. The truth is, Dr. Spock says that kids learn to use the potty by seeing others do it, wanting to emulate, and learning to not be afraid of it. So I am all okay with her hanging out with me while I'm on the toilet, and I'm pretty sure that's one of the reasons she has pretty much potty trained herself with minimum drama (so far). As long as she's been sentient, she has known what the Mommy Potty is and what the Bambina Potty is. Recently, however, she has been exclusively using the Mommy Potty, finding the Bambina Potty to be a tad juvenile and more useful as a stepstool for toothbrushing at the sink. To that end, she takes her little potty seat and starts trying to put it on the Mommy Potty WHILE MOMMY IS ON THE MOMMY POTTY. This of course has sparked numerous physics-related and existential discussions between us along the lines of, "My love, you cannot put the little seat on the potty while mommy is ON the potty! How would that work?! Show me how that would work." Which prompts her to do it again.

Yesterday I left her futzing in the bathroom as I ran into my closet to get some non-kiddie play-doh'd food stained clothes on for going out. She followed me into my closet with potty seat in hand. While I was putting on my jeans she decided to do a little vaudeville act for me, first doing peekaboo through the seat hole, then putting it on the ground and putting her feet in/out, in/out of it, ending spectacularly with her next act which was to put it on her head like a hat. I clapped but then immediately happened to look away in order to pull a sweater over my head. When I looked back at her, she was starting to whimper and get upset. Why, you ask?

Because the seat was stuck on her head. And stuck so securely that even I could not get it off with a few gentle tugs or twists. So I, blessed and compassionate mother of beloved child, started involuntarily laughing to the extent that I was having trouble staying physically coordinated so as to assist with the "hat" removal. I was saying, "oh sweetie, it's okay, mommy's getting it off; don't worry; just hold still. Hold still. Hold still!" But I was saying it while laughing because, well, there is nothing else to do when your child has a plastic potty seat stuck on her head.

I managed to sit her down, calm her down, and get her to sit still for 0.7 seconds so I could ever so slightly shift the angle of the seat hole---and VOILA!--once again a hatless Bambina getting lots of hugs and kisses from her still laughing mommy. She obviously sustained no physical or psychological damage from The Potty Hat Incident.
Just don't tell her I told you, and definitely don't say that it is the number one funniest thing she's ever done. Because she'll probably get all uppity and say that her best work is yet to come...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Movie Review: The Island

I can't come up with a wittier title than that simply because my brain is fried from watching this movie. The Island, starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannssen, seemed from the Netflix description to have a little something for everyone. It had so much potential to explore the morals and ethics of human cloning; the story could have been really riveting and meaningful and fun to watch. Instead it was a laughable piece of crap with precise moments where you could imagine that the suits had changed the writer's original story.

I definitely got the sense that the original screenplay was probably pretty good. But then it got bloated out to two hours, additional inane dialogue added in, and all essential meaning excised.

My favorite SNL/Monty Python/TV Batman-worthy moment was a scene where Scarlett tells Ewan to run along to that ubiquitous Generator/Boiler/Perpetual Energy Machine That Powers All of The Bad Stuff. She says, "You've gotta shut it down! Go!" Next scene: Ewan enters the room where Perpetual Energy Machine is housed (they always manage somehow to get in no matter how critical a machine it is, don't they? You'd think the security people would have done a better job at protecting the Machine That Powers All of The Bad Stuff). Regardless, he enters the room and you see that The Machine has a sign on it. It says, "Do Not Shut Down."

That was when I started snorting-laughing out loud. Funny that the sign on the machine should bear the exact syntax and verbiage used just moments ago by the movie's co-protagonist, is it not? I mean, wouldn't a real sign have said something like "doors to remain unlocked while store is open" or "hard hats required" or "Do Not Touch: High Voltage?" When have you ever seen a sign saying, "Do Not Shut Down"? Especially when, coincidentally, someone has told you to "go shut it down"?

Lazy, is all I can say. Lazy film-making. Lazy writing. Lazy acting. Don't get me wrong; there was lots of running and lots of Scarlett's boobies doing the totally-accidental-I'm-sure running bouncing heaving thing. But the whole production--including my beloved E. McGregor--just had this dire phoned-in quality to it that at first bummed me out but then made me laugh and now just makes me want some money back.

Short story long, the DVD should have a sign that says: "Do Not Play: Risk of Major Suckage."

Super Bowl Prognostication

Pittsburgh will win. By 14.

I know because my Magic 8 Ball told me.

Friday, February 03, 2006

There Ain't No Cure...

...for the bone marrow blues.

Irony. Alanis Morrissette had it all wrong, as we all know.

As our friends at American Heritage Dictionary, definition 2a declare: Irony is "incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs."

I went to JHU expecting to be sucked into the bone marrow transplantation vortex, only to be told that, as sick as I may be, I just ain't sick enough for their tastes. How do you like that?!! Doctors telling you to F Off Home because, medically speaking, you are right as rain compared with all of the other patients they see.

It sounds bad, but it's really good. Hence the 2a Irony.

I left JHU feeling happier than I've felt in a long time, most specifically because the doctor said the following thing:

"There is no treatment for your condition, no drug that will fix it, no medication that will alleviate it. The only cure is a bone marrow transplant that you can't get right now."

Sounds horrifying, right? But it made me smile. I instantly felt relieved of the burden of all the multiple drugs I've been on, wondering what I did to make them not work, feeling like a loser for being no match for their side effects, willingly riding the rollercoaster of "maybe this is the one that will make it all okay" and then being depressed and angry when it turns out to not be the one that makes it all okay.

I guess what I'm saying is that there is a certain joy and relief and contentment in the knowledge that there is nothing that is going to make it okay. Because then you stop looking for the silver bullet and stop getting suckerpunched with reality on a rolling 4-6 month basis. You just accept that this is how it is, and this is how you're going to have to roll. It's not a lack of hope or faith, it's simply a golden opportunity to redirect my energies toward things that are more important and more likely to keep me mentally and emotionally (if not also physically) healthy in the short- and long-term.

One such thing is my group of amazing friends. You certainly learn who your friends are when you have a chronic illness. I am lucky to have a perfect mix of all the kinds you need: the ones who just call you up and say, "you've been avoiding me and I want to know what is going on with your health because we're here for you even though you don't want to be 'a burden';" the ones who email you to check in but let you decide how much you want to say; and the ones who never bring it up, knowing that you will say something when or if you ever feel like it. The latter group are also key because it's easy to "become" the disease in the eyes of people who love you, and sometimes (most times!) you just want to have an entire conversation with another human being that doesn't reference your health, your feelings or your fears about same.

The other amazing thing about good friends is that they are a forgiving bunch. They cut you slack when you do avoid them for fear of having to once again talk about stuff, they cut you slack when you sometimes ONLY call them when something has gone so wrong that you know you'd better get out in front of the friend/family news cycle, they cut you slack when you exhibit annoying or sometimes uncool behaviors caused by whatever latest hellacious drug cocktail you are taking. I've been off the hellacious med for a couple of weeks now, and I can already feel myself returning to normal (or at least as "normal" as I ever was!). But those were some bad old days, lemme tell you. For instance, the drug packed 12 pounds on me, gave me horrible acne (both of which precipitated much complaining and weeping and wailing on my part to friends who I'm sure were so over me), and which gave me mood swings ranging quite ridiculously from depression to anxiety to anger--and all about nothing in particular.

I would cry at almost anything that upset me, like the time when I had to park three blocks away from a building I was visiting, only to walk past an empty space about 40 yards from the building. I literally had to breathe deeply and stare at a fixed point on the horizon to avoid bursting into tears about how horrible my life was that I was so stupid that I couldn't even competently find a suitable parking spot. I'm embarrassed to even write this, but less embarrassed than I felt 30 seconds after originally feeling like crying when I was like, "what in the hell just happened to me there?! How bizarre was THAT?!"

In addition to crying I would also get mad at inanimate objects, something I have always heavily derided the males in my family for doing, ie, "why are you mad at the broken TV?! That is so stupid. It's a TV! It's not TRYING to piss you off!" Famous last words. In the 5 months I was on The Eeee-Viiilll Medication, I found myself enraged by no less than the following items that I KNOW developed a higher level of consciousness for the sole purpose of ruining my day:

One kitchen stepstool
One sticking drawer holding Wiggles DVDs
Two bathroom faucets that could not manage to stay clean
One newfangled can opener that did not come with instructions for The Enraged Medicated masses
One Shoppers Food Warehouse shopping cart with the universally-understood bum wheel

Yep. Those were the bad old days when I had hope that a medication would work. Now, I just get to be the real, recognizable, somewhat slim, non-zitty, non-Roid Raging Me.

Now my friends will just have to deal with all of my ORIGINAL annoying and uncool qualities.

In short, thank god for friends (and family).

Just In Time for Valentine's Day

I thought this was funny:

And then I thought these were hilarious:

And because I'm making an effort to be bipartisan here:

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Why There Will Never Be Peace in the Middle East

Because you cannot diplomatically engage in foreign policy with militaristic political parties who react to a *NEWSPAPER CARTOON* with armed attempted takeovers of buildings, threats of kidnappings, and insane threats of violence:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Armed militants angered by a cartoon drawing of the Prophet Muhammad published in European media surrounded EU offices in Gaza Thursday and threatened to kidnap foreigners as outrage over the caricatures spread across the Islamic world.

About a dozen gunmen with ties to the Fatah Party approached the office of the EU Commission. Three jumped on the outer wall and the rest took up positions at the entrance.

In a statement read by one of the gunmen, the group demanded apologies from the governments of Norway, Denmark, France and Germany and called on Palestinians to boycott the products of these countries.

Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Nablus said they were searching apartments for foreigners from several European countries to try to kidnap them to protest the drawings. The claim by the gunmen could not immediately be verified independently.

In a phone call to The Associated Press, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, said members of his group are also asking hotel owners in the city not to host citizens of five European countries, including France and Denmark.

In Paris, the daily newspaper France Soir fired its managing editor after it republished the caricatures Wednesday, and Pakistani protesters chanting "Death to France!"

The furor over the drawings, which first ran in a Danish paper in September, cuts to the question of which is more sacred in the Western world _ freedom of expression or respect for religious beliefs. The cartoons include an image of Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse.

Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry. The drawings have divided opinion within Europe and the Middle East, where they have prompted boycotts of Danish goods, bomb threats and demonstrations against Danish facilities.

France Soir and several other European papers reprinted the pictures in a show of solidarity with the Danish daily.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Johns Hopkins Knows Where You Live

Was at JHU yesterday getting my bone marrow groove on. Unbelievable medical facility, unbelievably smart doctors. Not so great phlebotomy, but we'll get to that later. The major point of this post is that JHU has a Spielbergian card ID system that lets them know where you are at all times in the building. You are given a card with a barcode at Admitting and every time you enter a room or clinic or department, you have to run it through a card reader that then reads out "Thank you, First Initial-Last Name." And then as if by magic, people come out of a door and call you in before you even have your butt in the waiting room seat for 5 minutes. Now, I'm all for efficiency, but how can you trust doctors who DON'T make you wait 2 hours to see them?! Are they just in the back doing sudoku puzzles until the card reader tells them that you have entered their air space? How can such (albeit kinda creepy) efficiency be permitted in American medicine?! These madmen must be stopped or else Americans will start to actually think that they are entitled to doctor's appointments that aren't synonymous with 3 hours of reading outdated Field and Streams sitting in chairs manufactured circa Ollie North's congressional hearings.

So back to the phlebotomy. I didn't get a chance to eat my breakfast bar before getting called in to phlebotomy, so I was getting blood drawn on an empty stomach. I've done it before, so it's generally no big deal. But this time I got That Lab Tech. You know The One. The one, out of all the phlebotomists, who just basically sucks at drawing blood from other humans' veins. Think about it. Every industry, every office, every department of every company in America has The One; the person who is skating by, not quite competent, but managing to muddle through regardless. The only difference being that their job is not to jam needles into the veins of other humans at 7 freakin' AM, so they can stay under the radar without necessarily doing a great deal of harm to themselves or others. Not so the phlebotomist. She was nice enough, but almost in that studied way that belies her hope that perkiness will make up for incompetence.

First the right arm. Puts the needle in while giving me a play by play: "okay, deep breath, big pinch, I'm in!" I was like, "are you telling ME or are you telling yourself?!" She then proceeded to narrate to me how the needle was just "bouncing off" my vein and not actually penetrating it, so just hang on and we'll "reposition" it. Reposition. Sounds kind of strategic, doesn't it? Like how the Pentagon would reposition troops or perhaps an armored aircraft carrier. Methodical, strategic, precise. Yes? Yeah, NO. By "reposition" she meant "root around in your arm for any part of the vein I can catch." It was horrifying. I have had so much blood taken, so many needles in so many places, but even I was starting to feel unwell. I finally said, "how about we try the other arm?" She almost relievedly said yes.

So we go to the left arm. I'll spare you the play-by-play by just telling you to reread the previous paragraph. At which point I was REALLY not feeling well and said so. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling well enough to say "I'm feeling Barfy Lightheaded as opposed to Passout Lightheaded" so she calls for help and they shove those smelling salts under my nose which of course almost ENSURES that I'm now definitely going to barf, which luckily I didn't. During this time she has managed to get some blood into the vials and I am walked over to a bed where I can lay down in all my Lightheaded Shame to recover.

Alas my suffering was not yet complete. Apparently she had drawn my blood into the wrong type of vial. Different tests require different types of vials, some with certain proteins in the bottom to react with the blood. That is why each type is clearly marked with a particularly colored cap. Purple for one kind of test, green for another, etc etc. Apparently, Perky Phlebotomist drew my blood into a green top rather than a purple top, thereby rendering the sample useless. Oh dear god. Timor mortis conturbat me. Get me out of here! This woman's gonna kill me! Finally another phlebotomist came over and drew my blood, managed to find a vein first time, drew the blood without incident, and told me, "You got to eat before getting your blood taken, baby. I am so sorry about this." She was sweet and I could tell she was not happy with Perky Phlebotomist, a feeling I wanted to further inflame in the hopes of getting her fired.

Really! How can you be a phlebotomist and not be adept at taking blood?! In the past 5 years I have never had a phlebotomist at a major/leading medical institution require more than one stick to get what they need. There was one woman at NIH who stuck me (and I assume others) three times, but I never saw her again after that day because NIH "disappears" you if you don't get your sh*t together. Think about it, if your life's work involves putting needles in someone's arm to get blood and you can't actually do it--even and especially the challenging ones--why are you there? Shouldn't you go sell shoes or something? Especially something like phlebotomy which is generally (after Admitting) the first place all new patients have to go and which therefore sets the tone for the patient's experience at your institution, and which requires people who are most likely already suffering enough to undergo further physical pain. It's almost morally incumbent on a medical facility to make sure their phlebotomists are at the top of their game. After all, I can make an attempt to somehow dodge the Orwellian Human Locater Machines, but I cannot dodge the phlebotomist.