Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Happy Bday Shout-Out

To You Know Who You Are.

Some thoughts for the age-phobic:

"You're never too old to become younger." ---Mae West

Interviewer to Julia Child: "To what do you attribute your longevity?"
Julia: "Red meat and gin."

"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?" ---Satchel Paige

"There isn't anybody who doesn't like to see an old man make a comeback. Jimmy Connors seemed like a jerk to me until he was forty. After that I rooted for him all the time. How could you not?" ---T. Boone Pickens

And finally:

"Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life." ---Daniel Francois Esprit Auber

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'm Hooked on Scientology

Or at least a book about it. The following link is to a book written by Margery Wakefield, a woman who used to be a Scientologist. It describes her recruitment and initiation into the "religion," and d**n if I can't stop reading it. It could be a credible fictionalized suspense story, yet it is all the more suspenseful and creepy due to its (I assume) veracity. I clicked on it to read one chapter, and I can barely stop reading to bathe myself and throw a few chicken nuggets at The Bambina before she watches The View, Ellen and Ricki Lake while I keep reading.

When you've got some time, check it out. Then pray for Katie Holmes.

The Road to Xenu

There's No "I" in "me" in

...well, I guess there is. I recently read the following article in the Christian Science Monitor about email misunderstandings, so of course it was the first thing I thought of this morning as I received a reply from a colleague/former boss to an email I had sent last night.

What did I learn from this reply? That I am not even remotely funny, and certainly less so via email. What I assumed would be a sort of jokey, flip exchange regarding a class we are teaching became an agonizing realization that he had completely missed the jokey, flip part of my message.

E once again writes the book on how to win friends and influence people...

So I was sitting here wondering how to respond when the most revolutionary and insane idea came to me: Lift The G****mn Phone Already!!

How about that, huh? Picking up what an old development colleague called "the ten thousand ton phone" (as in, "that must be why so few nonprofit staff members pick it up to interact with their donors") and just chatting about the class like we'd do if we were in the same location. A stunning idea whose time has come.

As I thought about it this morning, I have a habit of (as the article below outlines) not reading my emails in the way the other person might perceive them. To me it's a throwaway question, to the recipient it's a many-headed hydra of angst about how to respond. To me it's a genuine statement of my positive feelings, to the recipient it's an inappropriately effusive come-on. To me it's a genuine yet restrained statement of my not-so-positive and perhaps hurt feelings, to the recipient it's an ad hominem attack on their person. Sometimes I think email will be easier, it will give the person time to read my words, think them through, and then either respond or not, depending on their preference. But I am thinking lately that email should really be used for little more than cursory communication of a non-emotional nature, be that emotion joy, sadness, mirth or whatever other emotion would cause a woman to actually use the word "mirth" in a sentence. Otherwise we are taking a big risk in assuming that people can see us smile as we type the joke; can hear our inflection indicating that the question is a quickie filler rather than an entree to a larger, deeper conversation about something; or can hear the pain in our voices as we write things they may not want to hear. I've often told myself, "well, we can't connect via phone, which is why I'm writing this via email," which is a big pile of hooey. Because, ridiculous and unbelievable as it may seem, not everything I want to say is worth saying. Except that part with the word "mirth" in it. That was a good one.

It's all about me: Why e-mails are so easily misunderstood
By Daniel Enemark | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

...Morris and Lowenstein are among the scholars studying the benefits and dangers of e-mail and other computer-based interactions. In a world where businesses and friends often depend upon e-mail to communicate, scholars want to know if electronic communications convey ideas clearly.

The answer, the professors conclude, is sometimes "no." Though e-mail is a powerful and convenient medium, researchers have identified three major problems. First and foremost, e-mail lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode meaning well. Second, the prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures e-mailers to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness. Finally, the inability to develop personal rapport over e-mail makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict.

In effect, e-mail cannot adequately convey emotion. A recent study by Profs. Justin Kruger of New York University and Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago focused on how well sarcasm is detected in electronic messages. Their conclusion: Not only do e-mail senders overestimate their ability to communicate feelings, but e-mail recipients also overestimate their ability to correctly decode those feelings.

One reason for this, the business-school professors say, is that people are egocentric. They assume others experience stimuli the same way they do. Also, e-mail lacks body language, tone of voice, and other cues - making it difficult to interpret emotion. "A typical e-mail has this feature of seeming like face-to-face communication," Professor Epley says. "It's informal and it's rapid, so you assume you're getting the same paralinguistic cues you get from spoken communication."

To avoid miscommunication, e-mailers need to look at what they write from the recipient's perspective, Epley says. One strategy: Read it aloud in the opposite way you intend, whether serious or sarcastic. If it makes sense either way, revise. Or, don't rely so heavily on e-mail. Because e-mails can be ambiguous, "criticism, subtle intentions, emotions are better carried over the phone," he says.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Yeah, it's a day off work. But it's also something far more important. It is a day to remember those who gave their time, talents and--sometimes their lives--in defense of the world we currently inhabit.

Specifically, in memory of my Great Uncle Charlie. RAF gunner. Shot down over Germany in 1943. Tortured and presumed dead. The notice of which from the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland I have in my posession. The notice of which brought my great-grandmother to her knees and a loss from which she never recovered.

We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Today is the day when we acknowledge that fact.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What To Do on Your Summer Vacation

For those of you eschewing tropical foreign destinations (terrorism! oil prices jacking up airfare! avian flu! French people!) for some closer to home this summer, may The Haggis suggest the following options gleaned from this months' Campaigns and Elections Magazine review of Chris Epting's new book on The Locations of America's Pop Culture Artifacts:

Presidential pet memorabilia
Presidential Pet Museum, Lothian MD.

FDR's leg braces
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene KS.
"We're not sure how Ike obtained FDR's leg braces. Finding out may be a good enough reason to visit."

Grover Cleveland's wedding cake
Cleveland Birthplace and State Historic Site, Caldwell NJ.
"It's all Cleveland all the time here in northern Jersey."

Emancipation Proclamation pen
Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston MA.
Don't miss plaster casts of Abe's hands too.

What's Good for the Goose...

I read with delight in this AM's WSJ that Dennis Hastert (a 'Pub) has complained to President Bush about the FBI's search of Rep. William Jefferson's (a Dem's) office. The constitutionality of the raid has been questioned by numerous other House leaders.

Perhaps the House leadership is getting a taste of what it is like to be an ordinary American citizen under this "security first" administration and finding it not to their liking?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My Victory Garden

I’ve always enjoyed gardening in a hacker sort of way. I like the notion of growing flowers and vegetables and having pretty things in the yard that attract butterflies and other fauna, but I cannot name flowers by sight or name the all-important “growing regions” that indicate when to plant phlox versus aster in different areas of the country. I love growing vegetables in the garden and have read a couple of books about it, but would have to go back to the dog-eared pages to remind myself how to actually put any of it into action. I buy seeds and throw them in the ground rather than creating seedlings indoors “8 weeks before the last frost” or whatever the directions say. So I am not a Gardener in the capital-G sense but could definitely see myself becoming one with more time and resources.

In the scant three months since my father passed I’ve found myself passing many an hour in the urban blight that is my garden, more determined than ever to coax some life and beauty from the earth. I’m not sure why. Partly it’s because the challenge of trying to get something—anything--to grow in a DC 6x6 back and front yard without insane amounts of money and professional landscaping is perhaps on par with keeping Marion Barry off drugs and off any electoral ballots. It’s The Impossible Dream. Or even The Crack Pipe Dream. Our next door neighbors, whom I’ll call Felix and Oscar, had their dirt scientifically checked. They said the heavy metal content was high enough to make them grow anything edible only in containers with purchased soil. Niiice. The guy who owned the house before it became Chez Haggis committed so many crimes against botany that I can’t even begin to list them, so the challenges are prodigious.

Perhaps the other reason I’ve found solace amidst the challenge that is my garden is the fact that it represents many of my father’s unfinished projects. I have three out of control rose bushes in the back yard that he was going to show me “as soon as I feel better” how to prune and shape in the most productive and bloom-enhancing way. The tomato plants that last year produced many flowers but then fruit that can only be described charitably as “blueberry tomatoes,” were going to be the object of his tomato plant obsessiveness this summer. Together he and I were going to grow enough tomatoes to put the Ball® mason jar company out of business and to keep Chez Haggis en la tomate all winter. And finally, I was going to grow him some rhubarb, a plant I have always hated but that he has always grown and loved. I choked it down as a kid because he and my mom loaded the stalks with sugar, and I can manageably digest it if it is in pie with strawberries. But mostly I just can’t deal with rhubarb, wondering how it came to be considered a food product in the first place. But I was going to grow the most robust and “delicious” rhubarb of all time and surprise him with not only a pie but a bushel of the infernal weed itself for his own nefarious culinary purposes.

So maybe I see my time in the garden as me taking up where he had to leave off, perhaps figuratively becoming the person I have to become without his physical presence in my life. Now I can’t say, “Oh, Dad will show me how to prune those roses later so we’ll do it then.” Now is later. And the “we” is me.

Maybe it’s also like the recently-passed poet Stanley Kunitz said about his passion for gardening in a book he published at 100 years old: “It’s the way things are, death and life inextricably bound to each other. One of my feelings about working the land is that I am celebrating a ritual of death and resurrection. Every spring I feel that. I am never closer to the miraculous than when I am grubbing in the soil.”

And for me, maybe I'm never closer to my father than when I'm grubbing in that same soil he grubbed in too, hoping to make something bloom from the work of my hands, the knowledge he gave me in my head, and the sometimes-steady and always-furtive water of my tears.

H is for Hell

Greetings from the hell that is the US medical care system. Having said my goodbyes earlier to the research studies of NIH, I am now a “civilian” again, a participant in the same health care system 99% of the country gets to enjoy. Today I am at a local hospital, getting my transfusions from harried and overworked nurses in understaffed outpatient departments, staying hypervigilant that I don’t get the wrong blood type or get the butterfly needle pulled out of my arm by accident when someone goes rushing by and catches the line on their hand. Just a few hours ago my blood pressure was 86 over whatever and I was feeling somewhat shpilkedic (sp?). So otherwise busy were the nurses that I had to yell out, “Um, hello! Is a BP of 86 OK or a bit low?!” A few crackers and some water later and I was back in the 90’s, but for heaven’s sake, who the hell is in charge here?! I don’t need to tell you that it’s exhausting to not only be the patient but to also be the last line of defense against human error in sickness and in health.

And, if you’ve read previous posts, you know how I feel about chemo nurses who can’t find a vein to save their own lives. I can see the borderline annoyed/terror-stricken look on their faces when I answer no to the question, “Do you have a port or a line?” (meaning, do I already have a contraption inserted in my neck or chest from which they can easily take or give blood and meds, or will they have to plumb the depths of their 30-years hence nursing school training to figure out how to advance a line into a vein). Today after the FOURTH attempt to find a vein with all of the weak excuses, “oh wow, your vein moved. Oh wow, your veins look good but for some reason they aren’t cooperating…” she called IV Therapy to come and “see what they could do.” Any shock that the IV Therapy woman showed up, found a vein from 40,000 feet, inserted a needle and set up my transfusion accoutrements in—I sh*t you not--less than 60 seconds?

I may have some lazy-assed bone marrow, but dammit I have awesome veins. My veins rock. I am the owner of the Donald Trump of veins: blue blooded, bold and attention-whoring, even without the combover. My veins BEG needles to come and take a look. And after so many years of this transfusion situation, I know which ones are the best and I direct the needle-stickers to them specifically. Which is why I know that anyone who can’t get some sangre in one stick is either having a bad day or needs to consider an alternative career in cosmetology or something. As I write this, the same woman who hacked up both my arms to the extent that my wardrobe choices will be limited for the next week lest I wish to revive the Oh-So-2002 “heroin chic” look, is saying the exact same thing to the patient next to me: “Oh wow. This vein is tricky…” Bee-atch. Perhaps you need a refresher course in phlebotomy, one in which YOU are stuck with a needle every time *I* am. Perhaps your success rate will improve a tad? It pisses me off. If you couldn’t tell…

Never let it be said, however, that I offer complaints without offering solutions. (Okay, that's my stock in trade, but moving swiftly along....)
The solution, my friends, is: Do NOT Get Diseases Which Require Blood Transfusions or Chemo.
Barring that option, Do NOT receive treatment anywhere other than at a world-class urban research medical facility.
Barring that, steal some lidocaine and inject yourself before offering up your veins to harried medical staffers.
Barring that, well, hmm…don’t fall asleep while being treated. You might wake up dead or maimed, or at the very least, short one line of blood tubing which will have to be reinserted after the 15th attempt at Vein Global Positioning by Nurse Marcy, Class of 1973.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, Plato!

Some Platonic wisdom from the man celebrating his 2,434th birthday today.

For the President of the United States:

“Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.”

“Knowledge becomes evil if the aim be not virtuous.” (are you listening, NSA?)

For the Democratic Leadership:

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” (are you listening, Nancy?)

“In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill... we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one.”

Join us tomorrow for punch and pie as we celebrate the 5/22/1859 birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Scottish writer and creator of the detective Sherlock Holmes, who once said, "I feel that there is reason lurking in you somewhere, so we will patiently grope round for it." Happy Birthday, Artie.

The Terrific, Terrible Twos

The Bambina is almost two years old, which completely baffles me every time I think about it. How can the wee tiny baby who slept (and actually fit completely) on my lap on the 21-hour trip home from China now be this walking, talking full-on dynamo of a human person who is two years old?! It's unbelievable, and yet the least unique thing in the entire history of parenting: baby becomes toddler becomes child becomes adolescent becomes adult. Textbook growth pattern. But somehow when it is YOUR kid doing the growing you think it's the most amazing thing in the entire universe.

She is a tremendously verbal little girl who speaks with that wide-eyed certainty that only children can and which forces you to look stern while telling yourself not to laugh. To wit,

She was acting up a bit and I said to her, "Does Bambina want to go to her room?" She answered, "Yeah!" I apparently have not made her bedroom into the Punishing Dungeon of Darkness I had hoped for...

When she was hungry she did the sign language move for "eat" while saying, "Eat! Eat!" I asked her, "What do you want to eat then?" Her answer: "Out!" while pointing to the door. I guess the choice between a bowl of spaghettios at home and three entrees and a side from Sizzlin Express is a simple one for a toddler...

When she was told that she had to finish her dinner before she could go out to play in her sandbox she took each little piece of pizza off her plate in a gesture of sharing them with me. Once they were all in my hands and I was about to give her props for good sharing, she proudly lifted her now-empty plate and cheered, "Done!" as she high-tailed it to the door.

Finally, and in my most favorite development yet, Bambina has finally achieved peace with the notion that when I go to work I always come home. As a way to help lessen the separation anxiety we taught her that "Mommy goes to work. Boo!" but "Mommy always comes home. Yay!" She used to say "boo" and "yay" individually, but just this week I walked downstairs in my suit (which, in a scathing indictment of me and my obvious daily lack of couture, she knows means I'm leaving the house) to hear her little voice yell out in full frat-boy/US Marine cadence: "BOOYA!!"

Good times, good times. Made only more special by her little friend down the street who loves to share his sandbox with her while his mom and I chat. He's a sweet kid and I've heard him say it a hundred times, but I still have to contort myself to not laugh when he has his x-wing fighters and Obi Wan character dolls in the sandbox as he says very earnestly and excitedly, "Bambina! Let's play Star Whores!"

Like I said, good times. Good times.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Not Mutually Exclusive

A recent study--Scottish Social Attitudes Survey of 1,500+ Scots--shows that Scottish people identify other Scots by accent rather than race. The survey found that "most believed that having the right accent made you Scottish - not the colour of your skin." Amen to that.

Since moving to the US I cannot count the number of times people have said things like, "Wow--Scottish AND Jewish! How does that happen?," have wondered why my childhood photos have Black kids in them, or are incredulous to hear that a few of my Scottish friends from University are not white.

Well, DUH!!

Point One: Judaism is a religion. It's also an ethnicity, I suppose. But if you can convert to it, then obviously you can be any nationality AND Jewish. There are Chinese Jews for heaven's sake. Born in China for several generations. Why so hard to believe that there are Jewish Scottish people if it's not hard to believe that there are Catholic, Protestant and Sikh Scottish people?

Point Two: Many of the doctors at my local hospital growing up came from African nations. If their children were born in Scotland, they were Scottish. And Black. It's not that odd. The major newscaster when I was growing up (our version of Tom Brokaw, if you will) was Black. Born in Scotland, with an accent as thick as my mom's. Totally Scottish. No big deal.

Point Three: Same as point two, I suppose. Although, the key piece of additional information from the survey is this: "Nine out of 10 people surveyed said a non-white person who spoke with a local accent could claim to be Scottish. But fewer than half said they would view someone born in England as a Scot, even if they had a Scottish accent."

Now THAT is quintessentially Scottish, my friends! Born in Kenya? Scottish. Born in Mongolia? Scottish. Born in Tasmania? Scottish. Born in England? Not a freakin' chance.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

From the "some people are just a-holes" file

From Sky News:
Outrage At Video Game

A computer game based on the Columbine High School shootings is causing outrage among the families of victims. Super Columbine Massacre RPG has become a hit since being posted on an internet site. It is based on the 1999 murder of 12 pupils and a teacher by teenagers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. They committed suicide after the shooting spree. Images of the pair are featured in the game, which includes crime scene photos. There are also images of terrified pupils running and crying, though it does not feature pictures of victims. Brian Rohrbough, whose son Daniel was killed, said: "We live in a culture of death, so it doesn't surprise me that this stuff has become so commonplace. "It disgusts me. You trivialize the actions of two murderers and the lives of the innocent."

The site's creator told the Rocky Mountain News he wanted to "promote a real dialogue on the subject of school shootings".

Yeah! I'd like to promote some "real dialogue" on the subject of child rape, so how about I create a video game in which children are stalked, kidnapped and molested. You can play a game in which you are either the molester or the child! And won't it be great because we'll finally be having some real dialogue on this terrible topic?! Oh--and I'll be sure to make the perpetrator an actual, well-known child rapist...

This guy is a dirtbag. He's the reason people who aren't gamers look askance at those who are.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I have been asked to discuss, post haste, my selection of the three august figures in my immigrant retrospective in the previous post.

Isn't it obvious? Why NOT Jamie Summers, the Bionic Woman, Neil Armstrong, he of the "small step for man" on the moon, and Baz Manilow, The Showman of His Generation? Don't each of these three figures represent what is wonderful about the good old US of A?!

The Bionic Woman. My childhood heroine, not the least of which because I wanted to be her especially if she and that hottie Lee Majors were going to start kissing. Yeah baby. And who didn't love Oscar Goldman!? Come ON people! He was the original TV bureaucrat; everyone on TV since has been doing a poor Oscar Goldman impersonation. They represented American ingenuity, technology, military power. You just can't argue with a woman who can jump 100 feet in the air, land and break something, and then have Oscar fix her with spare bionic parts out of his briefcase just in the nick of time. We have the technology! We can rebuild her!! USA Number One!!

Neil Armstrong. Cute man in uniform. Who cares if he's 80-something. He'll always be a cute man in uniform to me. As well as the man who represented something my own country had never done: walked on the moon. Again, American possibility, belief in the unbelievable, a commitment to sending a human being into space just because we said we would and we could. Neil Armstrong in my childhood mind just represented all of the wonderful things that I could do once I was in America. He wasn't rich, he wasn't famous before his big lunar moment, he wasn't related to anybody landed or rich or royalty. He was just a man who worked hard and ended up on the moon.

Barry Manilow. Do I even need to elucidate my reasons for this?! Come on! Who among you dares to challenge the recording and performing sales juggernaut that is Barry Manilow? The career longevity of a large-nosed, fluffy-haired, not-entirely-heterosexual, much-maligned but prodigiously-talented man is testament to why I loved him at the age of 9. He is all of the things that technically should preclude him from being a critical or commercial success. He's easy to make fun of. He's bizarre as people go. But damn if the man can't write a song that stays with you. To my 9 year-old self, he was so awesome: flamboyant, talented, positive, happy, and possessing amazing Farrah-like hair. Now, what could be more American than that?!


A poem from today's WSJ, by Ray Bradbury.

This poem really hit me between the eyes and in the heart. I remember flying to JFK from Scotland in 1981 with my brother, sister and Mum while my Dad stayed behind to sell the house and make a little last bit of money before joining us a month later. I was only 9 so had no real idea what I was doing, short of moving to the place where The Bionic Woman, Neil Armstrong and Barry Manilow lived and wasn't that going to be the coolest f'ing thing in the entire world?!!!! But now as I look back on my family's 25 years in this country; the ups, the downs, the poor times, the not-so-poor times, the struggles, the victories, all I can feel is gratitude. Gratitude to my parents' courage for doing something so risky and scary as leaving everything they had ever known and moving their three kids to a place they'd never seen all for the chance to give us a better shot at life. Gratitude to the country that welcomed us, the individual people who befriended us, the colleges who gave us financial aid, the fraternal societies like the Masons and our church and temple groups that gave us a social anchor in a very unfamiliar world. Gratitude to my parents' work ethic and their unbreakable spirits that saw us through our first years in The Land of the Free, which my Dad always reminded us included the flip-side of the word, that you were also "'free' to starve and be homeless" if you didn't work your ass off.

Today I'm middle class. I have people I can call to help us out if things go sideways, personally and professionally and legislatively. But I will never, ever forget the days when I wasn't. We were babes in the woods. We barely spoke the language, most definitely didn't understand the culture, and most decidedly spent most waking moments worried about money, food and education. Only as an adult do I finally understand the unbelievable amount of work and worry and sheer force of will it took for my parents to make it work and to produce three educated, successful, self-sufficient citizens and human beings out of a situation lacking any kind of safety net whatsoever.

So, in honor of my parents and all the parents who come to America on a wing and a prayer in the hope and faith that their children will have a better life:


We are the dream that other people dream.
The land where other people land
When late at night
They think on flight
And, flying, here arrive
Where we fools dumbly thrive ourselves

Refuse to see
We be what all the world would like to be.
Because we hive within this scheme
The obvious dream is blind to us.
We do not mind the miracle we are,
So stop our mouths with curses.
While all the world rehearses
Coming here to stay.
We busily make plans to go away.

How dumb! newcomers cry, arrived from Chad.
You're mad! Iraqis shout,
We'd sell our souls if we could be you.
How come you cannot see the way we see you?
You tread a freedom forest as you please.
But, damn! you miss the forest for the trees.
Ten thousand wanderers a week
Engulf your shore,
You wonder what their shouting's for,
And why so glad?

Run warm those souls: America is bad?
Sit down, stare in their faces, see!
You be the hoped-for thing a hopeless world would be.
In tides of immigrants that this year flow
You still remain the beckoning hearth they'd know.
In midnight beds with blueprint, plan and scheme
You are the dream that other people dream.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Great news, friends! I peed on the dipstick and it turned pink!

Which was quite alarming for the lovely people at the adoption agency because clients generally don't urinate in their board room while turning in paperwork...

I keed. I keed! By "peed on the dipstick" I actually mean that I jumped through the requisite GAZILLION hoops to prove that neither I nor any of my SO's, family, and current or future children are terrorists, HIV carriers, child sexual predators, drug abusers, corporal punishers or Yanni fans. By "it turned pink" I actually mean that the agency accepted the veritable ream of documentation without calling security to remove me from the premises.

So I guess this means that IT'S ON for #2! Or, as we like to call her, The Baby To Be Named Later (TBTBNL).

Which leads me to my next point: Why have we allowed strippers and porn stars to steal some really cute names? Every time I throw out a totally cute name or potential nickname, like Billie (as in Holliday), I am told "Ixnay. That's a stripper name." Same with Jordan, apparently: Stripper. Adriana: Stripper. Simone: Stripper. Is there no end to the names that will henceforth be off-limits to good people like myself who simply wish to raise daughters whose names just happen to be Porscha or Luscious?! For sweet pete's sake! Can't we just agree to seize back the modest and chaste power of the names Sapphire, Cheyenne and Tyffany?!!

I suppose not. Which is why, in order to preserve her dignity, she will be named after any First Lady from 1880 through 1955. I'm pushing for Mamie since I'm sure "Lady Bird" is on the stripper list too.

Friday, May 12, 2006

When Tom Cruise's Poll Numbers Beat Yours, It's Time to Reassess

From the Wall Street Journal, that liberal rag which must be lying about our great President:

Bush Dips Into the 20s

President Bush’s job-approval rating has fallen to its lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive poll. Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an “excellent or pretty good” job as president, down from 35% in April and significantly lower than 43% in January. Approval ratings for Congress overall also sank, and now stand at 18%.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say “things in the country are going in the right direction,” while 69% say “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” This has been the trend since January, when 33% said the nation was heading in the right direction. Iraq remains a key concern for the general public, as 28% of Americans said they consider Iraq to be one of the top two most important issues the government should address, up from 23% in April. The immigration debate also prompted 16% of Americans to consider it a top issue, down from 19% last month, but still sharply higher from 4% in March.

The Harris poll comes two days after a downbeat assessement of Bush in a New York Times/CBS News poll. The Times, in analyzing the results, said “Americans have a bleaker view of the country’s direction than at any time in more than two decades.”

Gee, ya think?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Death and Taxes

Pardon my lack of posting recently, friends. I have been trying to put to bed my business taxes, late as they are due to the death of my own father and that of my business partner's within 4o days of each other. Needless to say, neither of us gave a "fig" as an ex-boyfriend's mom used to say, about business, taxes and especially not our business taxes.

So how is it going now? Well, all I can say is that I am a convert to the whole "simplification of the tax code" movement.

Holy mother of god, y'all. We are a tiny partnership. We made, like, less than almost no money last year (which was really only a half-year in actual business). We own no real assets. We have zero overhead. We have no employees. We have no depreciation or appreciation of assets. We're just two people in business, making a living through the biblically-sanctioned "sweat of our brows." So doing the taxes for such a simple little enterprise ought to be a piece of cake, right?

Ha ha. You read my foreshadowing, didn't you? It has been a total f'ing nightmare. Everyone says, "you should have hired an accountant." Thank you. I'll get right on that for this year. However, who could have imagined that a wee little consulting concern could require accounting assistance costing almost more than we made last year total in order to file the taxes for said consulting concern?! It is total f'ing horsesh*t.

Every form I fill out seems to have a line that says something like the following:

Line 4d: Apportionable Income (Owner's share from PTE's Schedule 123A, Part B or Part C or 100%)

Okay. So do I now need to fill out Schedule 123A? Okay. So I download Schedule 123A which, you guessed it, has a line that says something like:

Line 3f: Apportionment Percentage (Owner's share from PTE's Schedule 166A, Part A, Line 4)

Okay. So do I now need to fill out Schedule 166A? Okay.

It's like a freakin' piece of MC Escher performance art. Every stairwell leads to...another...the same?...stairwell. Or a Rube Goldberg installation: the simplest way to find out that I owe you $800 is to make me fill out 4 different forms, each with no fewer than 13 pages of "instructions."

So. I have not been blogging. I have been attempting with all my might to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, if only he'd meet me half way. At the very least, all of the profanity and sulking at Chez Haggis notwithstanding, I feel somewhat comforted to be in such august company as Einstein himself, who said:

"This [preparing my tax return] is too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher."

Wish me luck. And a short jail sentence.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Tomorrow is my Dad's birthday.

If he'd been here, he'd have worn one of those Elmo's Birthday kiddie hats with the too-tight elastic that hurts like hell under your chin, he'd have eaten some kind of supermarket ass-tasting cake that his grandkids chose for him, and he'd have proudly worn whatever "I made this!" piece of haberdashery that only kids under the age of 9 can create.

He'd have encouraged the kids to put cake on their noses or stick out their tongues while full of frosting. Then he'd have looked around at the party carnage and said something inflammatorily "humorous" like, "A house full of women and not a dish washed!" Then he'd have marched everyone out to the garden to get some vegetables planted. He'd then have gone home, watched the History Channel and gone to bed, happy as a "pig in sh*t" as he'd say, to have spent his birthday with his grandkids.

The goal for tomorrow is to live through the void that is his palpable absence. To take the first baby steps toward having his next birthday be a celebration of his life rather than a poignant and painful reminder of his passing. Somedays I still can't believe he's gone and I have to remind myself of that fact. Other days, I feel the huge gaping hole in my life where he used to be from the moment I open my eyes till the moment I close them at night. I suppose that is grief. Although, attempting to describe grief to someone who wants to know how I'm doing is like trying to describe "purple" to a blind person. It is what it is, and there are no words to accurately verbally conjure up the tone, hue, luminence or saturation in a way that makes any sense to someone else. It just is what it is and must be dealt with on those terms.

Among the sympathy cards I received was this poem that I read when I'm particularly sad to remind myself that my Dad is still here, and that he'll be here tomorrow whether he can eat the ass-tasting cake or not:


And if I go,
while you're still here...
Know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure
--behind a thin veil you cannot see through.
You will not see me,
so you must have faith.
I wait for the time when we can soar together again,
--both aware of each other.
Until then, live your life to its fullest.
And when you need me,
Just whisper my name in your heart,
...I will be there.
(Colleen Hitchcock)

I'll Have What Kennedy's Having

I think you've probably all seen the story by now of Congressman Patrick Kennedy's early morning car "accident" and the ensuing special response by the Capitol Police. This is all I'm going to say since it's too easy to make a Kennedy Drunk joke: should I ever be pulled over here in DC, I am going to respectfully request of the officer that I receive the same treatment as Congressboy Kennedy. Equal protection under the law, right? If he can dodge a field sobriety test and be driven back home with no questions asked, then surely all of us can request the same high level of service from our dedicated law enforcement professionals, right?

I certainly think that anyone who has been involved in a suspected DUI but did not have the opportunity to opt out of the field sobriety test ought to ask the ACLU to represent them in their lawsuit against the Capitol Police. Don't you?

At the very least, two things are evident:

1) People with power and substance abuse problems (be it driving under the influence of alcohol OR Ambien) are only having their addictions enabled when law enforcement doesn't push the consequences of their actions---the same consequences all of the regular people have to face on their road to sobriety (or discussing their Ambien dose with their doctor).

2) In 2006, anyone benefitting from special treatment, including those with the last names Kennedy or Bush, cannot possibly think that no one will find out.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Home is Where the Hopelessness Is

There's a commercial airing during my favorite shows, like Lost and House, for the depression medication called Cymbalta. It starts with, "what do people suffering from depression have in common?"

The screen shots of the "before" situations cut from one kind of pained/sad looking person to another, black, white, male, female, etc, each more depressed-looking than the last.

So. The thing that each person seems to have in common?

Wood paneling.

Yup. Wood paneling. Either on their walls or on their bed headboard. Apparently, being depressed causes you to surround yourself with bad interior design. It also makes you rub your neck a lot and forget to do your hair. But mostly it makes you buy the house formerly owned by Archie and Edith Bunker.

Don't get me wrong. I grew up in a wood paneled living room myself. In fact, the whole dang house was wood paneled...and we thought it looked GREAT! We installed it ourselves (by which I mean my dad did it while we held wood caulking glue and listened to him swear about the g$#*&^mn uneven walls). But we was stylin, yo!!

And yet, sort of depressed now that I think about it.... ;)

So if you should ever find yourself unshowered, unshaven, and sitting in a wood paneled room while ignoring your kids, hie thee to your computer and visit Your feng shui depends on it.

El Presidente Habla Mierda

Bush sang Star Spangled Banner en espaƱol during 2000 campaign
Wed May 03 2006 09:35:20 ET

"When visiting cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia, in pivotal states, George W. Bush would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish, sometimes partying with a “Viva Bush” mariachi band flown in from Texas."

So writes author Kevin Phillips in his book AMERICAN DYNASTY.

Last week, at the height of the illegal immigrant's boycott build up, Bush told reporters: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Racist Bowling and Other Nonsense

There's an article in the Wash Post today about Lucky Strike Lanes near the MCI Center. Its draw is apparently its poshness and upscale atmosphere for those who like a higher-end bowling experience, if you can believe such a thing exists.

To that end, LS Lanes has a dress code at the door: "No excessively baggy clothing. No Sweats or Athletic Wear. No Skull Caps of Any Kind. No Clothing With Offensive Writing. No Exposed Intimate Apparel. No Sports Jerseys. No Excessively Long Sweaters or Jackets. No Chains..."

Of course, the Washington Post is now asking, "Do the 13 banned categories on LS's list add up to one conclusion: blacks not welcome?"


They wrote this story because one woman and her 12 friends couldn't get in, which has convinced her that "no colored people" are allowed. The article does sneak in the fact that, "in fact, plenty of black customers go to LS and seem to have a great time. The crowd is racially mixed and the atmosphere is jovial."

So why the race discussion at all? Why even write the damn article? If you are a journo who gets a call about a racist bowling alley, you go there and see a racially mixed crowd DRESSED APPROPRIATELY according the the establishment's request, what do you do next? A) Call the woman back and say, "sweetie, next time don't wear sweat pants" or B) Write an article about potential racism at the very bowling alley you just attended and saw was not racist? Never mind that you concluded there was no racism; you write the article anyway.

All the guy could come up with was that the dress code is poorly worded to sound exclusionary. I would say that a better angle would have been to explore why, even in 2006, it is not considered self-hatred to assume that if a business is keeping out inappropriate dressers, that they must be talking about African-Americans. I know plenty of white frat boys who walk around in sweats, plenty of girlie-girl hoochies who walk around with exposed intimate apparel, plenty of Eminem wanna-bes who wear excessively oversized clothing. I also know plenty of African-Americans who do not own a single item of clothing on the banned list, or who would not consider wearing them on a Friday night out like many other people of many other races and ethnicities. Why make this about race? If I showed up at the door in sweats and got in, well then they'd have a story. But they don't. Maybe they have a story about classism, I don't know. But mostly I think it's a classic case of "No shirt, no shoes, no service." Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Welcome to Our Very Own Hitchcock Movie

It's that time of year again. Asian Tiger Mosquito time. Unlike the mosquitos we grew up with, the ones that bit at dusk and night time, the ATM bites all day long. It can breed in a soda capful of water. It breeds on condensation left on plastic bags. Its ability to breed is damn near biblical, as is its ability to bite the hell out of adults and children all day long.

ATMs arrived in Houston in 1985 inside used tires from Japan which were being shipped for rubber recycling. They, according to the Washington Post, simply travelled the country inside old tires. They are currently biting people in New Orleans' post-Katrina neighborhoods at a rate of 75 bites per minute, more than double the average mosquito's rate of 30 bites per minute.

No surprise, the ATM essentially keeps you out of your back yard from May through September. Even in the day time. Seriously. It carries West Nile and encephalitis, and it bites like it's goin' out of style. It avoids only the highest levels of DEET in repellents, and that means that Bambina will be inside for most of the summer...

Let us all join hands and pray that our Mosquito Magnet works.