Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Italian Stallion

Y'all. Some things are just WRONG. And I would posit that anything containing the words "Stallone," "high-protein," and "pudding" ought to qualify.


DM 101

DC does it again. The voter guide for the Sept. 12th primaries arrived. Wow, I thought. Good job, DC. It contains a sample of every ballot for every party and every ward in the city so you can familiarize yourself with it before the big day. I was really impressed until I saw on my mailing label that my polling place was, for example, #7 on the provided list of locations. But that can't be, because #7 is the Georgetown polling place, which is the furthest point west from where I live, ie, a 40 minute metro ride, a 25-minute car ride through traffic, etc. They can't possibly want me to go to Georgetown to vote, can they?! In searching through the large list of polling places I found the one closest to my house: #74. OOPS. Looks like someone didn't check the mailing label printing and the final digit made the line too long for the space allowed.

Grrrr. One of the basic tenets of direct marketing (ie, mail, email, etc to customers, constituents, clients) is to check that all the elements of the address block fit on the mailing. My first job out of grad school was at a DM agency, where I spent a lot of time randomly sampling 30 out of 1,000 labels to check that the line length didn't cut off apartment numbers, etc. It was the job of a database person to ensure that addresses were entered in "block" fashion, ie, Apt.# under the street address rather than on one long line, to avoid just that mailing catastrophe, and it was the job of lowly Me to make sure it didn't occur.

So how can the DC Board of Elections and Ethics send out a mailer to thousands and thousands of people without noticing that anyone with a double-digit polling place is being sent to a location far afield from their home? Isn't that one of THE things they'd proof for? It's kind of the entire purpose of the mailing, isn't it? Here's the ballot--and here's where you go to cast it. Duh.

I'm so irritated because this is precisely what drives down voter turnout. I'm lucky enough to have the time and technology to visit their website and look for a solution. But how many people who don't have my resources will travel to Georgetown and be turned away? Or how many people will just say, "I can't get there" and not vote? It's just another example of DC somewhat-improved-business-as-usual: all the pieces are in place, the intent is there, but the execution is sloppy and the "fix" for the sloppy execution is, as with everything else here, necessary but not sufficient.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wicked Pissah, Papi

Okay. Whoever is sticking those voodoo pins into the Red Sox doll can stop now. As my old boss in Georgia used to say, "We're tireder than a one-legged guy in a butt-kickin' contest."

Short of calling in the snake charmer faith healers, how can we get this team healthy? Tae Bo? Biofeedback? Jazzercise? I'm open to any and all suggestions.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Bust Belt

Ladies, you know who you are. I've seen you all around the grocery store and around the JHU medical campus lo these past many days. You were raised to believe that untucked shirts look sloppy. You have a collection of absolutely adorable belts. You genuinely believe that wearing one of those darling belts will highlight, define or enhance your waist, thereby making you look slimmer.

I'm sorry to be the rookie officer in the Fashion Police Department who has to cite you for the misdemeanor known as "Cinch & Pinch an Inch," or "36-32-38" as its call numbers go. ("Yeah, 10-4, we have an APB out on a 36-32-38. Mid-forties, otherwise attractive, but belt pulled as tight as a tourniquet just below her boobs. Last spotted wearing light blue/chambray "mom jeans" in the vicinity of FashionBug/Sears/DressBarn").

You know who you are. Or maybe you don't, you poor dear. Here's the breakdown: Don't do it. There are only a few occasions when you should ever need to wear a belt. Karate competitions are one of them. The others don't immediately come to mind. Instead of cutting yourself off visually in the middle, making yourself look like a big ol' package of sausage links, may we recommend purchasing quality shirts that hit just below the belt line on your pants? This way, your belt loops are covered, you can rest easy that you don't look unkempt, and you can look at least 5 pounds lighter, or in other words you can look like yourself.

Take it from someone who knows. When I look back on my fat kid photos (118 pounds at 4'11" in 7th grade, baby!), I was clearly under the delusion that wrapping a belt around me was the key to looking thinner. You don't need me to tell you (if you've seen the photos) that the odds of making myself look thinner by squeezing a belt around my tummy chub are slim and none. Or, more accurately, fat chance.

So from one sausage link to another: give all of your belts to charity, buy some length-appropriate shirts, and stop creating an empire-waisted outfit by belting your pants just 'neath your bust. Set your ribcage and your waistline free, sisters! After all, it's not only good fashion; it's the law.

Next up: Men. Chino shorts. No socks. Maroon penny loafers. The crime: Relaxation with Intent to Be Hirsute.

More Macaca: George Allen's Hate Group Photo Op

An interesting piece on Allen's photo op from '96 with the Conservative Citizens Council who, among other things, "...oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."


I really, really hope he wins the GOP presidential nomination because I won't have to wonder ever again, "Gee, what should I blog about today?"

Mayor Bambina

On days when I'm home with her, Bambina and I go through the mail, looking through catalogs, ripping up junk mail and putting in the recycling, stacking bills for later. Like the little old soul she is, she LOVES getting the mail. Our mailman ("mem-men"), Mr. Tim, is second only to The Wiggles in rock star status. When she sees him she yells, "Mem-men! Tim! Mem-men!" Every letter carrier truck in any part of the city elicits the same: "Mem-men! Tim! Mem-men!" The only thing she likes more than the mailman is the mail itself.

Yesterday we looked through the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. Not because we are insane enough to buy anything from it (not having won the lottery yet), but because it's a good place to get ideas that we can then purchase at Target. And also because they often have pictures of dogs with the kids, which makes her giddy with excitement. This issue had Halloween costumes for sale (only $89!! As If), where Bambina decided that she wants to be a puppy for Halloween. So now I'm looking for a cute (and NOT $89 puppy costume). We also perused the two pamphlets for Mayor, from Adrian Fenty and Linda Cropp (as previously discussed a couple of posts down). I said, "So who should mama vote for mayor?" She immediately pointed to herself and said gleefully, "MAYOR!!" I said, "Are you going to be Mayor?" "Me! Me! Mayor!" I asked her if puppies could be Mayor, and she looked at me like I had just asked the stupidest question of all time. OF COURSE puppies could be mayor. They'd make the Best Mayors Ever. So her refrain for the latter part of the day was, "Woof woof! Mayor!"

So there you have it folks. DC's first Chinese-Jewish-American-Puppy-Toddler Mayor. All we need now is a lawn sign and some write-in votes, and we've got this thing locked up.

Woman Driver

I was returning home yesterday, parallel parking my car in front of my house as I always do, when a strange man started shouting and gesturing at me behind my car. I was so freaked out, like, what is this f'd up dude doing?! What does he want?! Go away! Can't I get in and out of my house without having to deal with weirdos?! NO, you cannot wash my car. NO, you cannot do any yard work for me. NO, you cannot come in and make a phone call. D*mmit!! What does he want?!

I parked and stopped the car, and he then just turned around and walked away down the street, which I found to be quite odd since they usually wait to engage you outside the vehicle. Then I realized: he was not a half-drunk weirdo dude, he was a regular guy "helping" me to park my car.

I'm sure I've posted about this before, but can I just say it again? Gentlemen, RESIST the urge, in the name of all that is holy, to offer unsolicited "help" to a woman parking her car. What goes through your mind when you see a woman parking that you must immediately run over and start yelling, "you've got plenty of room! Come on back! A little to the left!"? Don't you have places to be? Things to do? I park here every day and haven't hit a telephone pole yet. Or a child. Or a dog.

But come to think of it, next time I might not be able to miss a guy standing at my back bumper...

The Perils of Negative Campaigning

The race for Mayor is in full swing here in DC, with pamphlets arriving in the mail every other day, and lawn signs as far as the eye can see for Linda Cropp, Adrian Fenty, and a couple of others. I've taught sections in my class about negative campaigning, its effects, ethics and impact on fundraising in a national campaign; but it has only now become real to me on a local level. Put plainly, Linda Cropp has sent no fewer than three mailings telling me what an A-hole Adrian Fenty is. She has indeed created reasonable doubt in my mind about what kind of person and public servant he might be. But here's the catch: Linda has, as of this posting, given me NO reasons to vote for HER. Fenty's mailings have been uplifting but very nonspecific, with no response to Cropp's quite extensive accusations of mismanagement, etc. So, what to do? Well, I'm researching them both to find the kernel of truth that lies in between the campaign literature for and against.

What do I think will happen in the end? I'll probably vote for one of the other candidates, unlike a good number of DC residents who will simply say "to hell with them both" and stay home on election day. And it will just fuel my desire to move out of DC. Because if this is how they both campaign, I am not interested in seeing how they govern.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Carville Preachin' The Word

JC's latest right-on quote: "If we can't win in this environment, we have to question the whole premise of the party."

A breakdown of how control of the Congress may go in November at Al Hunt

Willful Suspension of Disbelief

What is wrong with us these days? It seems like we are so desperate to believe that is all is well with the world that we will believe anything anyone says even when it is in direct conflict with obvious reality and, well, something they've said. Whether they actually "mean it" mean it is irrelevant. My point is that we are all-too willing to let liars, lunatics and laggards dictate truth, rather than demanding it in its true form. If we are too lazy or too apathetic or too scared to demand that people be accountable for their exhortations, then I don't know that there is any hope for us as a democratic nation.

Katherine Harris.
Separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told." Separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers...If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin."

Follow up "clarification":
Harris' campaign released a statement Saturday saying she had been "speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government." The comments reflected "her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values," the statement said, adding that Harris had previously supported pro-Israel legislation and legislation recognizing the Holocaust.

Haggis thoughts: An obvious attempt to have it both ways; to be all God Squad to one audience while being all "freedom of religion" with another. Love how they throw the Judeo- stuff in there, as if Harris' offense was toward Jews, rather than toward the Constitution of the United States of America. And, my personal annoyance, when someone claims their non-bigoted bona fides by assuring you that they would not have supported the Holocaust. Duh.

Mel Gibson.
"You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me." The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

Follow up "clarification":
"I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said."

Haggis thoughts: Apology, good. Refusal to attend rehab as promised in said apology. Not good. Continued belief that The Passion did not come from a "Christ killer" state of mind? Delusional. As they say: In vino veritas?

Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
"The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," the president told a conference in Tehran on Wednesday, entitled The World without Zionism. "The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land." "As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," referring to Iran's revolutionary leader Ayat Allah Khomeini.

Follow up "clarification":
At a later news conference on January 14, 2006, Ahmadinejad claimed his speech had been exaggerated and misinterpreted. "There is no new policy, they created a lot of hue and cry over that. It is clear what we say: Let the Palestinians participate in free elections and they will say what they want." What is also notable is that flurries of Western academics swooped in to say that he didn't say it, since no such idiom exists in Persian. They parsed his words to make it say "erased from the pages of history," which CLEARLY means something entirely different of course. All of their efforts are hindered by the translation on the Iranian government's own website which clearly states: "wiped off the map."

Another notable Westerner carrying water for His Excellency is none other than Mike Wallace who said after interviewing him, "Yes, he says wipe off the map, and of course I asked him over and over about that. He says in effect, hey, it's perfectly sensible to do … pardon me. It's perfectly sensible for them … it's perfectly sensible, if there is a Holocaust, and let's buy the fact that there was a Holocaust. Where did the Holocaust take place? Did it take place in an Arab neighborhood? Did it take place in Jerusalem? No. It took place in Germany. Then it seems to me, under those circumstances, take Israel, the Zionist entity, he called it, move it to Germany. Move it to Europe. That's where it happened." Wallace said Ahmadinejad doesn't like the United States because it is supporting Israel, however, he is not anti-Semitic.

Haggis thoughts: Just because the truth ain't pretty and is, in fact, kinda scary, doesn't mean you ought to ignore it or "translate" or "interpret" it away. He's on record; he wants a world where Islam is the rule of law for all nations. That means you too, anti-Zionists, anti-Semites, Bush-haters, Clinton-haters, Deaniacs, Katherine Harris voters, and apolitical people of all stripes. You won't get points from Ahmadinejad for agreeing with him, ignoring him, or pretending he didn't exist back in 2006.

And, Mike Wallace, you self-important, out-of-retirement-for-this-interview ego-m**turbator: Your doctor just called; your anti-hallucinatory meds have arrived.

Honorable mentions:
--Mayor Ray "New York's Hole in the Ground/Ooops I Mean Undeveloped Site" Nagin
--Ashlee "Girls Should Be Proud of Who They Are/Do You Like My New Nose and Boobs?!" Simpson
--And, of course, President George "Too Many of These Things to Mention" Bush

Anyone I've missed?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

"How's it going down there?"

I have now seen it all.

Open your weekend newspaper coupons and you too will likely see this ad:

SAVE $1.00
"How's it going down there?
What you think is a yeast infection could actually be something more serious.
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection that requires a doctor's care...."

It directs you to
"To get your $2.00 rebate on Fem-V or more information on vaginal health."

So, of course, I went. Where I learned that, not only is there a National Vaginitis Association, but that a Gallup Survey, conducted by said association, "found that 95% of women had heard about yeast infections but more than 60% of women were unaware of the other possible causes of a vaginal infection." In the FAQ section, it makes clear that the product does not diagnose BV or any other type of infection, like trichomoniasis. It just tells you that it ain't yeast.

So, my mirth at this whole "vaginal health" marketing push is not that it appeals to the 6th grade boy who somehow resides in my psyche. Well, not entirely. It's more my sense that perhaps this is a product we don't need? Go with me here. You get itchy, burny and dischargy "down there." You buy a yeast infection treatment. You get no relief from said itchy burny discharginess. You call your doctor. You go there and get tested. You get what you need to restore your hoo-hoo's yin and yang. End of story.

Alternatively, if Fem-V tells you it "may be" yeast, you go buy a product and get relief. IF it's yeast. End of story.

Alternately alternatively, if Fem-V tells you it "may be" BV or Trich or something else, you go see your doctor to get tested and get relief. End of story.

I guess I'm just not seeing the sweeping need for this product. It strikes me as in the same category as douching: something marketed as a way to take advantage of women's discomfort with things downstairs when a simple chat with your doctor's nurse triage telephone line, or your doctor herself (or a friend, or a sister-in-law who volunteers for planned parenthood for that matter)could save you ten bucks and a day of wondering how "it's going down there."

That said, I'm saving the coupon should the need arise. A dollar off is a dollar off. ;)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Arctic Shrinkage

In the words of George Costanza: "I was in the pool! I WAS IN THE POOL!" OF COURSE polar bear genitals are shrinking. It's freezing up there! Give the poor bears the benefit of the doubt!

As the exchange went on Seinfeld:
Jerry, George: Elaine!
Jerry: Do women know about shrinkage?
Elaine: What do you mean, like laundry?
Jerry: No, like when a man goes swimming; afterwards.
Elaine: It shrinks?
Jerry: Like a frightened turtle!
Elaine: Why does it shrink?
George: It just does.
Elaine: I don't know how you guys walk around with those things.

What Is She? The Question Ought To Be: Who The Hell Are You to Ask?

Yes, folks, it's time for my quarterly Adoptive Mama rant. Fasten your seat belts.

First, let's just get it out of the way: I think the story of The Two Mias (the twin girls who were adopted separately from China and whose parents realized on a listserve that their girls were identical twins and both named Mia, and whose story has electrified the general public) is lovely. Really. Twins ought to know each other. But here's the thing: the story has become a way for random people to be rude to me and my daughter. They always say, "Did you see that story about the two Mias? Isn't that wonderful??!!!!!" And then they ask if I'm on some kind of similar "searching for biological siblings" web site because "wouldn't it be great if she had a sister out there?"

Helloooo? First of all, Do I know you? Secondly, why would that be your business? Thirdly, No. The reason The Two Mias is newsworthy is because it's notably rare. But let's be honest, it's because it feeds the feeling (even among some adoptive parents) that biological is better. If we truly mean it when we say that there is NO difference in how we love our kids and how they love us between adoption and childbirth, then why are we so desperate to give them a biological connection? There is no question that having a murky biological family tree will be something Bambina will have to work through as she gets older, but to somehow say that I should be searching for some phantom biological connection for her when the realistic truth for most of the thousands of kids adopted anywhere is that there is none to be found is just feeding the "long lost sister" soap opera storyline that people who don't understand adoption love to think about. And if I'm telling her that she's normal and awesome and fantastically loved regardless of how we became a family, then why would I create dissonance by putting such a focus on finding her a biological connection?

Okay, next topic. FYI: It's RUDE to ask a total stranger "where's she from" while pointing at her child. It's rude to ask anyone that question, however intriguingly multi-racial they may look to you and how desperate you are to have your curiosity satisfied. I'm so f'ing sick of the question because it inevitably leads to random conversations with strangers that go like this:

"Where's she from? Vietnam? China?
Me: "China."
"My sister's friend adopted from China. Those kids are great; better than the Indian ones she adopted later."
Me: Silence.
"So was it a long and hard process to get her? How much did that cost?...." ad infinitum.

What's my point? That Bambina is a kid, not an object of public curiosity. She's now a toddler and she understands and repeats everything people say. I don't want every g**damn trip to the grocery store to be an Adoption Story Field Trip. Yeah, she WAS adopted, but do we have to talk about it all the time? It's a non-issue for us. She's just our kid. End of story. So shut up about it already. We don't care to hear about the latest adoption story in the news, we don't care to know your opinion on adoption, we don't care whether you think it's "wonderful" that we adopted. We don't know you. We're just carrying out a transaction at the store. So why are you having a personal conversation with strangers? What I'm trying to say is that yes, she was adopted (again: not IS adopted, since it's not some chronic condition like "she IS HIV-positive" or some statement like, 'And this is Shelley, she's a breech birth, and this is Conor, he's our 9-hour labor from hell kid"), but it's not something we think about on a daily basis. It's a fact, and one that will have implications for Bambina when she's older; but those will be her personal issues and her personal stories to share when SHE wants to tell them. It's the line between saying that adoption is normal and no big deal (for those of us who've done it and aren't infected with the Primacy of the Personal Sperm and Egg worldview) and not something we're embarrassed about or ashamed of, but at the same time refusing to allow it to be THE topic of conversation every single time we leave the house. (OR if you have that kind of family, at Thanksgiving dinner tables). She was adopted. Get over it. Let's talk about something else.

All of the foregoing should be emphasized in light of the fact that Bambina deserves to go out in public and not be a topic of conversation for her ethnicity or her method of becoming our child. She hears you and she understands you and I swear to god I'm going to get militant if the rudeness doesn't stop. You wouldn't say, "So--how'd he end up in the wheelchair?" or "Was her conception amazing or just so-so sex? Did you give birth vaginally? Did you get an episiotomy or did you just rip?" You would tell me that these questions are A) rude B) intrusive and C) irrelevant to your love for and life with your lovely 2 year old child. That's all I'm saying to you too.

So now my answers will be as follows:
"Where is she from?"
Me: DC
"No, where is she from?"
Me: Do we know each other? (followed by) "Why do you ask?"

There seems to be no other way to make the person just have to say: "No, we don't know each other; I'm just intrusive with strangers. And I ask simply because I'm curious and rude."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rudy G: "America's Mayor" or Just a PR Genius?

OH man. It's on! A new book, Grand Illusion, lifts the lid on Rudy Giuliani's role in NYC's lack of preparedness for 9/11, detailing how he "in fact ignored repeated warnings from the experts, including his own commissioners and aides. Instead of confronting the looming danger, they tell how he grew increasingly distracted by pet projects, political turf wars and an extraordinarily messy personal life."

Some good reading is on the way! I'll buy it, read it, and then send it to anyone who wants to read it too.

Shia and Sunni: A quick primer

From my former professor and favorite conservative, Jim Pinkerton over at Newsday, a little bit of info on the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims, which I have to confess to not knowing before reading this.

What Righties See When They Read the NYT

This is high-larious. And kinda true. Enjoy. Some parts NSFW, btw.

Pat Buchanan: Angry White Man

Ya gotta love Pat Buchanan, keepin' it real for the white race. ThinkProgress says it better than I can:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

All Dressed Up With a Crappy Place To Go

As I mentioned, I spent today at Johns Hopkins. Most of us there are, shall we say, sartorially laissez-faire due to the loooong days and the whole needles/meds/chemo/blood things going on. Veterans of these things can always spot the fresh meat by their snappy attire; they haven't barfed enough from chemo or sat still for 7 hours enough to know that those Elie Tahari skirts or Ralph Lauren pleated chinos with pastel fabric belt are going to make you feel uncomfortable on your keester for 7 hours and wrinkle up/get stained by vomit or blood or saline so you look homeless by the end of the day.

Today's newbies we will call Mr. and Mrs. Potomac. Sport coat and slacks for him, St. John knitted number for her. Cargo pants/Scottish Mafia T-shirt/SmithandWesson baseball cap for me. I was dressed for infusion success. They were dressed for lunch at the country club, or perhaps more accurately like they were about to board a Pan Am jumbo jet to Monte Carlo and oh Theodore isn't this just diviiiine!? You know what I'm saying: different generation, different socioeconomics, different zip code, different life experience, ie, they don't own cargo pants.

They were from Potomac, MD, 20854. To give you a little flavor for the locality, the creator of Beverly Hills 90210 originally wrote the show about kids in Potomac 20854 but the TV powers-that-be didn't think it would resonate as much as Bev Niner.

And speaking of resonating, Hottie Hematologist, or "HHMD" as I now call him, stopped by to check in. Luckily he caught me reading "Memoirs of a Mangy Lover" by Groucho Marx and told me how funny and well-read he thought I must be to be reading something so old school. I didn't tell him that I had just finished proofreading my own manuscript entitled, "Ten Steps for Stalking and Scoring a Nice Jewish Physician: Even if He's Married and Treating You For a Rare Bone Marrow Disorder." I'll give you a sneak preview:

Step One: Know Your History. Know the difference between late 80's crooner Richard Marx and jokemeisters Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Karl and Shemp.

Step Two: Always Look Your Best. Yeah, yeah. I know I'm in cargo pants and a shirt that says "Scottish Mafia: Frugal But Deadly," with massive bedhead under the baseball cap, but that's just my way of flirtatiously showing him what I look like in the morning, if you know what I'm sayin'.

I could give you the rest of the steps, but the truth is that the three of you who are interested then wouldn't have to buy my book; and if I ever hope to live in Potomac and wear St. John outfits to my transfusions to see my hot hippocratic hebrew hunk, I'm gonna need your $19.95.

Ewan McGregor's Privates

It is no secret to readers of The Haggis that I have felt lust in my heart for Mr. E. McGregor. Lifting up mine countenance upon him has always filled me with a singular feeling of joy.

Until today.

Today I was getting a multitude of blood products at Johns Hopkins' infusion center, where all transfusees sit in a quilting bee circle and get juiced. Unfortunately for my as-yet-unrequited devotion to EwanSweetEwan, I looked up from my book in said quilting bee circle and saw Ewan tending to his mother who (that's weird!) didn't sound Scottish and who (oh sweet mother of god!)---Ewan is a woman!!!

Yup. A woman. A woman who could hands down win any EMcG lookalike contest; hair, clothes and all. I don't know about you in a similar situation, but I instantly felt dirty. Not "dirty" in a homophobic sense, like, "OMG, I can't believe I feel attracted to a woman by accident/default." I am completely comfortable in my heterosexuality; comfortable enough to have a ready answer for that parlor game "If you were lesbian which female celebrity would you sleep with first?" So, not homophobic dirty. More like dirty in the "OMG--Ewan McGregor without a p*nis doesn't interest me" sense. It made the whole celeb crush thing just seem so seedy. All this time I've been saying its about rugged Scottish good looks (Woman McGregor? Check!) and "f-'em" attitude (Woman McGregor? Check!), but when faced with those precise qualities in a person of the same gender, I quickly realized that I must, if I'm honest, really like him for his boy parts. How else to explain my mini-freakout when I realized I was looking at his doppelganger and thinking, "wow, he's really cute--like Ewan McGregor--oh my lord! It's a girl!"

Oh wait. I know what it is! It's the accent! Yeah! That's it! She doesn't have the accent. Right?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ravi Shankar: My Sweet Sweet Daddy

I read a while back on DubiousQuality
about, where you upload a photo and it tells you who you look like. I finally got around to doing it, and guess what, friends? You are talking to the love child of Kate Hudson and Ravi Shankar, baby!!

Woo Hoo!

Van Halen 5150

That's the soundtrack to my best summer ever. I was young. Too young to know that life would take me places I didn't want to go; too young to know that those detours would often be the best things that ever happened to me. Too young to feel tired. Too young to worry. Too young to think about anything but hanging out with my friends, getting swoony over boys, talking endlessly on the phone to my BFF Kelley, with whom I was going to move in and totally have the Kate and Allie experience during and after college. Too young to imagine that life would take us in wildly different directions to the extent that I don't even know where she lives these days. Too young to know Van Halen with David Lee Roth before the 1984 album, and too young to imagine that Sammy Hagar would be long gone by the time I was 20. And certainly too young to imagine that the son of President Reagan's seemingly-boring VP would in my lifetime become President himself. Wow.

But I go off on an anti-GWB tangent...

Refocusing: I was in the park with The Bambina yesterday, and something about the blue sky, the smell in the air, the heat of the sun and the glimmer of its shafts of light across my face instantly started the 5150 album playing in my head. It was green lights, open roads, the world at my feet, in love with five different boys, totally rocking my long permed hair, modeling myself on Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles (although perhaps achieving more of the Slightly-Weird-Guitarist-From-The-GoGos look), and just thinking about how much fun it was to hang out at the beach, talk nonsense, gripe about your clueless and totalitarian parents, and think you had life by the tail because you were, like, a totally mature 16 years old.

I smiled at my youthful naivete, and asked my Mom what her "summer album." As you can imagine from a Scottish woman of a certain age, she looked at me like I'd sprouted three heads, one of which looked like David Lee Roth. I realized this was not a topic in which she and I could share.

So--am I alone out here? Is the notion of a "summer album" a product of my sad and diseased little mind? Or do other people have one too? If so, what is yours? Go ahead and share, even if it's "Blister in the Sun" by the Violent Femmes. ;)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Crime Emergency Declared in DC; MPD Writes Tickets To Pay For It

You may or may not have heard about the crime emergency that has been declared here in DC. The declaration allows the police chief to limit vacations, call officers in, and extend his budget to ensure the safety of the District's citizens. This is in response to a crime wave here that took something like 11 lives in 14 days, along with a rash of robberies and sexual assaults on the national mall itself. Scary times, somewhat allayed by the declaration of the emergency.

So imagine my surprise when I received on my car a ticket, written at 12:30am, in front of my house, for the crime of being "more than 12" from the curb." Now, I don't want to be one of those people who says when their 16 year-old is picked up for drunk driving, "Don't you people have REAL CRIMES to solve?!!" Those people annoy me, as if 16 year-olds driving a deadly weapon under the influence is not a crime, or as if affluent kids should be held to different standards than kids committing "real" crimes. Crime is crime, no matter where you live or who your mommy or daddy work for, bank with, or are related to.

But can we be real for a minute? We have a crime emergency in this city, and you're telling me that a member of the MPD was out in the dark measuring the front wheel of my car to ensure it was less than a foot from the sidewalk? Can I direct his attention down the hill 5 blocks to the drug gangs hanging out in the school yard all night and harassing neighbors? Can I ask him to look a few blocks east to the dudes hanging out on the porches drinking and harassing people walking by? Can I...for heaven's sake!...can I direct him to do ANYTHING but be checking wheel distances from curbs?!!

At the very least, might the supervisors in this area agree that sending MPD out to monitor parking "violations" is perhaps not the most suitable allocation of emergency resources? Because here's the kicker: our sidewalks are so messed up that you could be rubber-to-road against the sidewalk on your back tire and two feet out on your front and still be parked straight. Otherwise you have to mount the sidewalk with one tire, and gee, I wonder if I'd have gotten a ticket for that...

Only a Fakakta Politician Calls Someone Macaca

A great post at carpetbagger about the George Allen "macaca" flap. For those of you who haven't heard the news through all of the JonBenet media clutter, Senator (and Presidential hopeful) George Allen referred to a volunteer of Indian descent for his senate opponent Jim Webb as a "macaca" in front of a southwestern Virginia crowd. He then said, "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." Ironically, the volunteer, S.R. Sidarth, is a native of Virginia, unlike Senator Allen. And he is neither a monkey nor the racist term for a North African.


Angelina Jolie: Messenger From the Beyond

Bambina and I slept over at my Mom's house the other night. My Mom and I slept in her bed, which of course used to be her and my dad's bed. She sleeps on his side of the bed now, so I was on hers. As I was closing my eyes I could hear my mind saying, "Well, Dad if you are anywhere, you are definitely here, so if you want to chat with me, feel free. I'd love to see you again." I fell asleep.

So, of course, as always happens when you wish to connect with your deceased parent from the beyond, who shows up but.....Angelina Jolie. Yup. Fell asleep and dreamed about Angelina Jolie, a person I have never in my life really thought of awake much less asleep. (Unlike several men [and women!] I know...)

She was walking me through a strange building when we came to a door with a big window in it. I looked through and my there was my Dad waving at me, smiling, and saying hello. By which I mean waving when he could tear himself away from doing his pow-wow dance in his turquoise native american tea-length smock dress with matching mid-calf moccasin boots.

You can't make this stuff up, folks. Oh wait; you can! Anyway, I looked through the window at him, so happy to see him so happy and having so much fun and so physically fit and nimble and dancing, although consciously thinking, "he always said turquoise is 'a woman's color' and not for real men to wear..."

Angelina made me leave the building after a couple of minutes, so we stood outside for a while leaning on a big blue mailbox. By which I mean that she leaned on the mailbox with her elbow while all 5'2" of me leaned up against it craning my neck to talk to her. I started to cry and said that I wanted to go back and see him some more. She said, "Well, see, that's exactly why it's a bad idea for people in heaven to visit. It doesn't make it easier, it just makes you want more and more. The first visit doesn't give you peace; it makes you want a second visit and a third visit, and that's not good for you." I reluctantly agreed. She handed me a VHS video tape of my dad doing his powwow dance in his turquoise smock, and said, "you've got the video right here; you don't need to see through the window again in real life. He's dancing, and you've got two girls who need you to dance with THEM."

Then I woke up (I think), jumped out of bed, walked into my mom's kitchen and picked up my cell phone thinking it was morning and time to get in the shower. The time said "1:48." Which was the exact time back in February that I called my mom and sister to say that my dad was going to be intubated (we had been doing shifts at night with him in the hospital and that was my shift). Shortly thereafter was the last time my Dad spoke to me.

So, what do I think about all this? Well, I haven't told anyone because I don't want them to think I'm a psycho. On the one hand, it seems like a fitting narrative from JP: I'm sure, in selecting a messenger he would no doubt have Miz Jolie high on his list, since I'm sure Sophia Loren and Raquel Welch [ie, full-lipped, full-figured women] were busy with other bereaved children that night. I'm sure he would have picked turquoise specifically to tell me that he is no longer the person he was here on earth. He wears 'women's colors' and he's happy to be wherever he is, healthy and vibrant. And I'm certain he'd want me to have a VHS tape because who the hell needs to spend money on a DVD player when you've got a good old VCR already?! On the other hand, I'm not sure I believe in John Edwards/James Van Praagh type stuff, and I'm definitely sure I don't want to sound like them!

But whether it was indeed my Dad or whether it was just my subconscious mind telling me something I already knew, the message was a good one to receive: Stop looking for things you can't and shouldn't have. Focus on the people who need you right now in real life. And wear a turquoise smock if you damn well feel like it. :)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Biases

Take this quiz about wartime photos from the middle east. It will knock you out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

This Old Man and Other Childhood Nightmares

I make much hay of the Wiggle obsession in my home, but I have to tell you that their music is fantastic and amazing when you compare it to all the absolute and total crap out there for kids.

One such case: A CD from Sunny Day Studios called "Playtime Songs." It is so bad I can't even conjure up the words to adequately describe its badness. It's like your mom and your neighbor going into one of those amusement park "recording studios" where they sing along to a track of Lucille by Kenny Rogers or Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper, and they get to take it home for $20. Picture a woman who can semi-competently sing (but only in the upper registers) and a guy who sounds like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world, doing multiple duets on Row Row Row Your Boat, Teddy Bear Teddy Bear and The Wheels on the Bus. Perhaps the most annoying thing about the CD, besides the spectacularly amateur singing, is the fact that the lyrics all sound like they're from 1950. Por ejemplo: "Teddy Bear Teddy Bear please skidoo." What the hell is "skidoo?" "Eency Weency Spider." Who doesn't say Itsy Bitsy since circa 1977? And "This Old Man?" That song creeped me out as a kid. What exactly is "knick knack" and why is an old man doing anything like that on my thumb? And what does Paddywhack mean before he gives the dog a bone? I always thought it was a song about a creepy old man whacking a dog and then feeding it. Kept me up nights. Apparently still does...

So now picture your kid LIKING those three songs and asking fervently that they be on constant loop. I seriously consider opening a vein every time we turn it on. Which is why, I'm sad to say, that it has gone missing. Mommy has NO IDEA where it went. None at all. I'll bet we left it somewhere in the house (and by the time we get back you'll have forgotten to go look for it).

From my blog to God's ears, please.

Get Ready To Wiggle

Next week. Bambina and The Mamele. We've already made two signs to bring with us. One that says "HI WIGGLES!" and another for Bambina's very favorite Wiggle Murray, once again proving the theory that chicks always dig the guitarist most. Murray has a bright red guitar which he shreds on such hits as "Play Your Guitar With Murray," "Starry Sky," and "Thumbkin."

I always swore I'd never do this, that I'd never pay actual l'argent for anything Wiggle-related that was more sophisticated/marketed than a DVD or CD. That meant no lunch boxes, no pillowcase and sheet sets, no action figures. But the truth is that *I* kind of want to see The Wiggles live. I've paid my dues, man. Almost two whole years of "hot potato" and "where's Jeff?" Never hearing NPR in the car when I'm driving with Bambina. Always hearing Wiggles. Showing her how to use a little junky laptop and her wanting immediately to see Wiggles. Knowing more about Jeff Fatt and Murray Cook than I know about some of my own cousins. I've paid my dues, man. I DESERVE this payoff. That payoff being having her mind officially blown by being in the same arena (or as she calls it "the big room") with The Wiggles, and perhaps (perhaps?!) having that be the denouement and therefore the culmination and therefore the beginning-of-the-end of all that is Wigglemania in this child's life.

Either that, or it spells Day One of my quest to find the appropriate blanket to go with Wiggles sheets and wallpaper...

Defcon One

From Raine over at Thought Storm
where I steal all my good stuff.

Will Work at the Polls for Food

I just read a really disturbing article in this month's Campaigns and Elections magazine, entitled "The Neglected Threat." Oh dear lord; if you are not scared about the precarious nature of our democratic elections, then you have not been paying attention. Forget the big brouhahas over the evils of electronic poll machines, poor ballot design, push polling suppressing turnout or broken machines. "The single greatest threat to the 2006 elections probably is human error on the part of the nation's more than 1.5 million poll workers..."

Poorly trained poll workers and bad polling site management have historically accounted for the most egregious cases of "lost" votes in elections. The article details a few, including the loss of more than 4,400 ballots in Carteret County, NC when poll workers didn't notice the machine's blinking "capacity reached" light, and kept on sending voters to that booth. It gets worse, but my acid reflux can't take recounting the other stories here.

The average age of poll workers in 2004 was 72 years old. Working required shifts, in some cases, of 16 hours. Making (depending on the region) between $75 and $200 TOTAL. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 allocated some money to the Election Assistance Commission to recruit college students as volunteers to help fill the 2 million poll worker slots needed for a federal election. Want to guess what has happened now that the press attention has been diverted? Yup. The budget was cut from $600,000 to $250,000. Good luck with that.

And increased training? Guess who is handling that, in the absence of federal financial assistance? Yup. Diebold, along with other voting machine manufacturers. What could POSSIBLY go wrong with allowing a corporation to train people to run a free and fair and democratic election?!

So what we have, as usual, is media attention on all the big, sexy superficial things like high-tech machines and Katherine Harris' makeup, when the real attention should be paid to the more internal and less-sexy stuff like actually keeping the bones of our democracy strong. Because after all, this is a government for, by and of the people, and if we can't find and value people to help manage its biannual physicals, then no amount of plastic surgery (bigger machines! shiny ballots!) will save it in the end.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ode To Bruno

The Wagon Wheel Coffee Table

I just read that the actor Bruno Kirby died yesterday from leukemia. Bruno was a key part of my later adolescence, as Billy Crystal's friend in When Harry Met Sally (see above) and as a semi-regular for a time on Letterman where he would break a window or sneak up on Dave in the stereotypical TV cop way and announce, "I'm not just a cop. I'm a cop on the edge!"

He was the sidekick in almost every movie he made, and he made sidekickery look good. Thanks for the good times, Bruno.

My favorite (paraphrased) lines from City Slickers:
Woman: I just don't get it why baseball is so important. I mean why do you guys have to remember every little fact, like who... played 3rd base... for the 1961 Pittsburgh Pirates?
Guy: Don Hoak...
Woman: See, that's what I mean. It's crazy!
Bruno: So what do you and your girlfriends talk about when you're together?
Woman: We talk about friends, know, things that matter.
Bruno: Then it's no contest, we win!
Woman: How can you say that?
Bruno: 'Cause if yours was more important, they'd have trading cards for it.

This, I Love

This story requires no introduction, which is all well and good since I can't seem to think of one to do it justice.

Google Trends: The mind of Utah
Curious, entertaining new search tool also might offer insight into human nature
By Bob Mims
The Salt Lake Tribune

Want a peek into Utah's psyche? Click onto the Google Trends service, type in a collection of terms and brace yourself. You are about to gaze into a digital mirror to see Zion's cyberspace ghostly double - the mundane, bizarre, ribald, homey, gluttonous, addictive and slightly perverse and surreal world of your Web-surfing friends and neighbors. Google Trends ( charts the frequency of search words or phrases as entered in different nations and languages by users since 2004, and ranks cities' entries accordingly. The results can be both confirmation of, and contrary to, regional and cultural stereotypes. Consider that predominantly Mormon, family-friendly Utah leads the nation in searches on such terms as LDS Church President "Gordon Hinckley," "Jesus," the "second coming," "scrapbooking," "baby names," "potty training," "quilting," "Barbie" and the sappy 1980 romantic movie "Somewhere in Time." Utahns also apparently are hungry, and guilty about subsequent feasting. Salt Lake City ranked No. 1 in the nation searching for "Twinkies," "smores," "cookies," "chocolate" and "fry sauce" . . . and for "bulimia" and "anorexia."
The Beehive State also loves professional basketball, ranking No. 1 nationally for the term "NBA draft," and its sports jones extends to the nearby slopes of the Wasatch Range: Salt Lake City is No. 3 for "skiing," trailing only snow meccas such as Denver and one of its suburbs. But explanations fail for some other search entries for which Salt Lake City computer users take top ranking: "Sponge Bob Square Pants," "sheep," "earwigs," and "boogers." Utah's capital also has a strange interest in "gerbils," second only to Cincinnati. And there apparently are more than a few Utahns looking over their shoulders as they troll the Internet realms of the salacious and fetishism. Salt Lake City ranks No. 1 for the term "panties," loses out only to Detroit for the voyeuristic "up skirt" search, and is No. 3 - runner-up to first place Meriden, Conn., and No. 2 St. Louis - for "masturbation."

Monday, August 14, 2006

It's Nano-tastic

I was stunned to learn that some of the most random things in our lives are the result of nanotechnology. For your edification and delight:


Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Pain Principle

I was gone a for a wee while there. Ended up back in the hospital for another skin-of-my-teeth, hair-raising adventure in US Healthcare. Woo Hoo!!! Getting tired of this narrative? Me too, brothers and sisters; me too.

My platelet count tanked, which in and of itself is no big deal. But my gums started to spontaneously bleed around 5pm, hadn't stopped by 6:20pm and were still going strong at 7pm, prompting me to inquire of The Baby Daddy if I might perchance avail myself of a ride to the ER. Hung out, as most ambulatory, "non-critical" people do, at the ER for a while, soaking through gauze pads like I was a new investor in Johnson and Johnson. A bit freaked out, to be honest, at the incredible power of the human gums to produce so much blood through such small crevices; less worried about the gums themselves and more about what the leaks represented, ie, the potential to massively internally bleed by bumping myself on the edge of a table or on a car door. Supah!

As every one of these episodes does, much like every episode of Little House on the Prairie, it made me laugh a little, it made me cry a little, and also Learn An Important Lesson About Myself. So what was last night's Very Special Episode about? Wherein I learn that Ma and Pa Ingalls are heartbroken about Mary's blindness? Or about Almonzo's hard work at the mill? Well, I realized last night that having all of these medical experiences has fundamentally changed the way I think about life and about how I approach--and what I expect from--relationships and friendships.

The nurse was trying to find a vein for the IV, and the pressure was on because I wasn't clotting for sh*t, so as few holes as possible was the name of the game, since there is no point in springing additional sanguinary leaks courtesy of the people trying to plug the existing ones. As expected, she tried twice and failed, and had to go get someone else to get the vein. As she was leaving she said, "I went for the veins in your hand because those are less painful than ones in your forearm, but unfortunately they both blew." Gee. Ya think? I'm bleeding out the gums, lady!! Why would the small, delicate veins in my hands hold up under a needle puncture if the small cracks between my gums and teeth aren't holding up under nothing but the standard 14.7 pounds per square inch of atmospheric air pressure everyone else seems to thrive under quite happily?!

In comes Michael. I said, "So--I assume you're The Closer?" He laughed and said, "Well, I don't know about that." He looks at my arm for .03 seconds and says, "I can get this vein but it might hurt a bit because the skin is sensitive on the underside of your arm." I said, "Whatever you have to do, Michael, just nail it." .05 seconds later, the IV is in, taped up, and I am rockin' with Dokken. I said with no small amount of relief, "Thank you!" and he said, "Well, now that it all turned out okay I can answer your question: Yeah. I'm The Closer." I laughed and asked him to marry me. We laughed, chatted some more, and as he was walking out of the room I jokingly said, "Thanks again, Michael. Call me!"

So what life lesson did I learn via Ma and Pa Phlebotomy? What nugget of self-awareness did I glean from my time at Doc Baker's office in downtown Walnut Grove? Put simply, that I am all about the quick and the painful if it saves us both some time.

The human animal is programmed to avoid pain and seek pleasure, sometimes using the latter to facilitate the former (hello alcohol, heroin, deceit, infidelity and one-night stands). Now, while I'm all about pursuing a life of sunshine and lollipops like everyone else, I'm also becoming less and less committed to avoiding pain at all costs. Maybe, as ascetics would argue, a certain amount of physical privation keeps you mentally clear (as in, the more needle sticks you get, the less you feel them or worry about them). Or maybe I've just decided that evading and avoiding inevitable pain for short-term relief is a theft of valuable time that could be spent seeking long-term pleasure (as in, put the damn needle in the damn "painful" vein already, so I can get back to reading about Assica Simpson in this here issue of US Weekly without two extra "courtesy" holes in my rapidly bleeding hands).

All I know is that I don't really enjoy games anymore (if indeed I ever did). I just want to say what I mean, mean what I say, and expect the same from my friends. If you want to break up, just say so. Don't cheat. Don't lie. And certainly don't cheat then lie then lie again. Just put the damn painful needle in, and be on your way so I can spend the time I'd otherwise spend pondering the delta between what is real and what is rhetoric, on actually being happy elsewhere. If you don't like my work, just say so and I'll make it right, rather than spending time tiptoeing around the issue to our awkward mutual discomfort. Deliver the pain and then let's get back on the right track. If you feel that I have hurt you just bring it up so I can explain or make amends. Don't do the passive-aggressive, please-read-my-mind stuff from freshman year. Just deliver the pain and let's get back to being friends.

It's just that simple. Deliver the pain, and also be willing to accept it. If you messed up, take your medicine. If you disappointed someone, say you're sorry and resolve to do better next time. You know when you've done wrong, and you know when amends must be made. So just do it, pain be damned. Because what is the alternative? Wasted time, wasted effort, wasted opportunities to be truly happy in the skin you're in. Which, now that I think about it, is the worst medical condition of all.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Don't Get Mad; Get Bubbly

This guy has the right idea for dealing with the long security lines and the new regulations:
Photo from the AP

Airline passenger Anton Gerasimov enjoys the last drink of his champagne before boarding a flight to Russia, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2006, at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco.

What Should the American People Know?

Thanks to my girl "Aunt J" for the following link:

This is a riot. I kid you not...there is a "what should the American people know?" entry with a one-line non-response.


At least we now know for sure that women won't have to drink their own breastmilk and that thousands of travelers will be arriving without toothpaste, lip balm, and shampoo. Remember, though, that I can fly with knitting needles which pose no threat whatsoever.

Out To Lunch

I've been insanely unable-to-sit-down-and-post busy, so once again The Haggis has descended into lame-itude. Lo siento mucho. When I get a minute (tonight?!) I will join the legion of people heralding The End of the Democratic Party as We Know It, due to the loss of Joe Lieberman in the CT primary. Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.

In other news, I'll tell you how I broke up with my hottie hematologist for an even hotter hematologist. It'll be funny (I hope), but we'll also ask them to "bring down the lights a little bit" to talk about kicking depressing (even if hottie) doctors to the curb. Because no one is THAT good looking that they should get to suck the hope out of you on a biweekly basis.

We're going talk about the terror cell discovery in the UK, which dovetails nicely with the recently-announced fact that 30% of Americans don't recall the year in which the 9/11 attacks occurred. Obviously some Brit sickos thought a reminder was in order.

We're all going to talk breathlessly about Vince and Jen's potential engagement!! Um. Or not.

Okay, gotta go to work. In the words of Ali G: "Respeck."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Question of the Week

Have been having Blogger tech troubles so couldn't get in to post. Check back tomorrow and I swear I'll have my three days' worth of drama posted for your enjoyment.

In the meantime, "Pop" asked the following question, which I throw out to you good people for an answer:

Why do people call tuna "tunafish"? We don't have a salmonfish salad or a salmonfish sandwich. We don't have an anchovyfish pizza. So why the "tunafish"? And if it IS indeed tunafish, why do the cans just say "tuna"?

My guess? Straight-up Pleonasm. You know: pleonasm. The use of redundant words, like "tiny little baby" or "safe haven" or "tuna fish." Or maybe it's kind of like "pasteurized cheese food product" which signifies that the Cheez Whiz is a cheese-esque substance but not exactly cheese. Or like Pizza Hut's "pork topping" or movie popcorn's "buttery topping." Not pork and not butter. Just sorta pork and sorta butter. Perhaps tunafish is sorta tuna?

You tell me.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I Swear On My Father's Life That He's Actually Dead

This story reminded me of the hassle we had closing my dad's bank account, which I'll tell you after the jump:

Even dead people can't escape AOL
By David Sheets

Maxine Gauthier doesn't own a computer. She doesn't know the first thing about Web browsing or sending e-mail. She's not even sure where to find a computer's "on" button, as she describes it. Yet for the past nine months, she has been fighting one of the most persistent and some say irritating institutions in cyberspace: AOL, formerly known as America Online. "They just haven't wanted to let go," the 55-year-old St. Louisan said. "I don't think they'll ever really let go." Her struggle has involved about a dozen phone calls often ending with an AOL customer service representative or manager hanging up on her. She even tried impersonating someone else in a couple of the calls. The giant online service provider wouldn't budge. The problem? An AOL account once held by Gauthier's late father still showed billing charges accumulating against it. The account had been dormant for months; the credit card he used for it was inactive at least as long. Nevertheless, AOL kept charging $25.90 each month for dial-up online access. Late fees for non-payment accumulated on the credit card, too. Gauthier even offered to send a copy of her father's obituary as proof he truly was dead. AOL was unmoved....{more about the resolution after a year}. Finally, this month, Gauthier was able to cancel her father's credit card. The AOL charges, going back to last summer, were wiped away, and she was reimbursed for both the charges and late fees. But the story apparently isn't over... A few days ago, Gauthier obtained a letter from AOL that was sent to her mother in Florida. The letter was addressed to Melvin Berkowitz. "Dear Mr. Berkowitz," it said. "We hope you'll come back to AOL."

So my Dad passed away in February, which meant handling all of those business things you have to handle at that time. The most ridiculous was our attempt to close my father's small credit union account. We went to the office in person where we sat in a man's office while he played gangsta rap on the radio as he did that annoying fake "I'm sorry for your loss" business-speak. Whatever, dude. Just close the account. Turns out the Flossie over in Accounts at the office three towns over handles the closing of deceased accounts and we need an original copy of the death certificate, notarized. Fine. We go get that. We come back. Hello Gangsta Dude. Fax this stuff over to Flossie. My mom and I leave the man's office to the tune of "Big Pimpin'." Nice. Four days pass, no word from Flossie. So I call. She says, "yeah, I had the paper here but I didn't know if you wanted me to close it now or after the next deposit cycle." Okay, Flossie, could you have lifted the phone and asked someone? Or are you otherwise busy having your nails done while on the clock? What IS your job if it is not to competently handle the closing of accounts of people no longer living? So I said, "close it now." She said, "I need to speak to the next of kin, which is the deceased's wife." Fine. I put my mom on the phone. We were assured it would be handled in the next 24 hours. Two days later I call to find out why my father's meager savings had not yet been transferred to my mother's account--and do you all know that her rent is due kinda soonish, so can we get on that? More incompetence, more "it's not my job/I don't know/I'll call you back." My mom ended up driving to Flossie's office and sitting at Flossie's desk until Flossie physically closed the account and transferred the money. This a week after her husband of 40 years had died unexpectedly. I was f*&^%ing livid. I called the manager and explained my displeasure at the hoops my grieving mother had to go through to have access to money that was legally hers. Was given assurances that such a thing would never happen again. Felt somewhat mollified, if only because I'd gotten the chance to express my total disgust for their customer service.

Moved on to other business. Forgot about the bank situation, sort of. Until a month later a letter arrived at my mom's place. Addressed to my father. From the credit union. It was a survey asking him to rate the service he had received in his recent transaction.

So, I did what any concerned daughter would do. I filled it out, using clean but If-I-Find-You-I-Will-Kill-You language, correctly filling in the little circles with a #2 pencil, and offering my thoughts on how to improve their customer service. Starting with: don't mail letters to recently deceased people whose accounts your lazy-assed employees have so incompetently, stupidly and finally managed to close just three weeks ago. I'd publish their logo if I wasn't afraid of being sued, but I'll just say instead that they should become the M*d**lant*c Asswipes R Us Federal Credit Union, and save some other families the trouble they gave us.

OK, I guess it's time

I've been avoiding writing about the situation between Israel and Hezbollah for a couple of reasons, mostly because I feel so pulled in multiple directions about it. Here are some thoughts:

A. A country has the right to defend itself from attackers. No question. Anyone who suggests otherwise is engaging in either massive self-deception or in what I like to call the The Arrogance of the Unaffected. "I live in LA, I make 6 figures a year, I'm Protestant, I haven't had one day in my long life that could remotely be considered 'dangerous' unless you include that time I dropped acid in '93. But from my safe little high-rent cocoon, I feel qualified to tell another nation that it should not respond with force to rocket attacks on its people; that it should not respond to an act of war with war, lest I label THEM a terrorist state." I have an idea: let's move your mom and dad and sister to Israel, and then let's see how you'd like their new government to respond to rocket attacks on their city. With an olive branch? A "measured" response? What form would that measured response take? And how would you suggest your family's government deal diplomatically with an organization whose sole existence is predicated on annihilating your country and people from the earth--ie, your mom, dad and sister? If you're honest with yourself, you know that the answers aren't as easy as you want to pretend they are in the name of "peace." Peace for whom? And at what price?

B. At the same time, any competent general will tell you that simply winning the firepower war will not secure victory. You cannot win if you have lost the hearts and minds of the people. You cannot win if you think that simply killing many people will remove the scourge of terrorism. The enterprise that is terrorism (of which Hezbollah is a clearly well-funded subsidiary) is a many-headed hydra. Cut off one head alone and you will not kill the beast. Cut off some heads and new ones appear. You have to drive a stake through its heart. Its heart. How? By politically and strategically maintaining the upper hand psychologically. Not with those who support Hezbollah and its ilk, who will never change, but with those who (I maintain) represent the worst elements of this battle: selected parts of Europe and the USA and their apologists for terror in the name of peace. Those who wanted a "measured" response, those who compare Israelis to Nazis. Those whose countries are so creaking under the weight of unassimilated, young, jobless Muslims that they themselves are perhaps only months or scant years from becoming religio-cultural powderkegs in their own right.

Israel would say that they are done taking orders from people they don't trust, that "measured" responses have historically emboldened the very people they were trying to stop. True and true. But, there is such a thing as a Pyrrhic Victory, and I fear that Israel is well on its way to winning one.

C. A movement's fault lines show when it must resort to framing the guilty. To wit, if those who oppose Israel's response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of its soldiers and its rocket attacks from Lebanon really had faith in their position, they would not have to lie to make it resonate. Take Qana. Do I mourn the deaths of 28 people any less than I'd mourn the deaths of 58? Why lie about the number? Why add obviously fake smoke funnels to an already compelling photo of the Beirut bombing? If you have to lie when the truth will do, you obviously don't really believe in the power of what you're selling.

D. It's time for the Anti-Israel But Not Anti-Semitic Club to do a purge of its membership rolls. From the Wall Street Journal: "A study in the current issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution ( by Yale University scholars Edward Kaplan and Charles Small offers solid statistical evidence that the harsher one's views of Israel, the likelier one is to be an anti-Semite...Five thousand people in 10 European countries were asked to agree or disagree with 11 statements about Jews: for instance, that "Jews are more willing than others to use shady business practices" or that "Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind." (Agreeing with more than five of the questions qualified one as an anti-Semite, according to the ADL.) The respondents were also asked to agree or disagree with four questions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as whether Israel's treatment of Palestinians was similar to South Africa's treatment of blacks during apartheid.

The results were remarkable. Among those who held the most negative views of Israel, some 60% also believed that Jews engaged in shady financial practices, and more than 70% thought that Jews had too much business power. Whatever the respondents' religion, nationality, sex or income level, the more intense their dislike of Israel, the likelier they were to be anti-Semitic. Altogether, 56% of those harboring strong anti-Israel feelings were also anti-Semitic. (For the record, the survey found that Spain was the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, with 22% of respondents qualifying as anti-Semites, while Denmark and the Netherlands, at 8%, were the least.) This does not mean, of course, that even the most strident opponents of Israel are necessarily anti-Semites. But in a telephone interview, Mr. Kaplan explained the significance of his findings this way: "Say you're at one of those anti-Israel rallies. Say you ask them whether they are anti-Semitic. Say all of them say no. Statistically speaking, more than half of them are lying."
It's saying that I could scratch more than half of those who are anti-Israel and find an anti-Semite, which means that it behooves those who are truly just simply anti-Israel to do a vast and thorough housecleaning of those who would hijack the movement and who contribute to the lack of trust engendered by this conflict. The litmus test question I'd ask? Were you as outraged when Hezbollah killed Israeli people (both Jewish and Arab) with their rockets as you were when Israel killed Hezbollah members and Lebanese people? Do you see the nonstarter of the argument that Israel is so well-funded and militarized and their adversaries are not (Hello Iran and Syria!)? Are you willing to allow for the fact that you have not walked a mile in the shoes of anyone living in Israel, be they Muslim, Jewish or Christian, and therefore may not have the solution at your fingertips from your digs in Rancho Palos Verdes or Minneapolis?

So what to do? Hell if I know. What I do know is this: it's not world war three, even though the evangelicals would love it to be in order to herald the rapture's approach. It's not going to go away easily, and it's not going to be solved by requiring Israel to abdicate its responsibility to its citizens, nor by allowing the fighting to continue unabated. If I had the solution I'd be over there right now making it happen. Instead I'm sitting here, feeling terrible for the loss of life of civilians on both sides, knowing that much of the anti-Semitism we're feeling is connected intimately to the rising tide of anti-Americanism, and wishing we had a shred of foreign policy strength or credibility as a country to help stop this conflict.

Shady Dealings at Reuters

I'm no photoshop expert, but surely SOMEONE at an international news agency could take one look at this photo and know it was fake?

Reuters news agency admitted on Sunday that one of its photographers had digitally altered a photograph of an Israeli attack on Lebanon on Saturday, showing more smoke than was actually present. The photograph, as initially published, showed an aerial view of Beirut after an IAF attack, with two large pillars of smoke rising over the city. The caption read: Smoke billows from burning buildings destroyed during an overnight Israeli air raid on Beirut's suburbs. The agency has since withdrawn the photograph, issued an apology and released the unaltered picture. Its public relations department said the photographer had been suspended until the investigation was completed. Reuters was notified of the alteration by American bloggers who noticed repeating patterns within the smoke plumes, indicating that part of the image was duplicated several times.

The scene was photographed by Adnan Hajj, who had also photographed the aftermath of the Israeli attack on Kana last week, in which the Lebanese initially claimed 58 fatalities, but could later only confirm 28.

Important to note that the "Qana Massacre" is now the reason many are giving for their support of Hezbollah. One picture is worth a thousand lies, I suppose.

Gettin' Ready for The Rapture

Word on the street is that the White House invited a Christian science fiction writer to discuss his philosophy of The End Times and how they might affect the situation in the Middle East. I'm speechless. They cannot be serious. This shows the depth of the evangelical reach into not just the hearts but also the minds of this Administration. What possible role could a fiction author have to play in a roundtable discussion about our Middle East policy?

Not that our wild-and-out policy couldn't use a little help from anyone willing to give it...


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Love Thyself (For A Good Cause)

Not sure what you think, but this just sounds nasty. Group wanking?! And the theory is kind of silly; that young people will avoid unsafe sex if only they know about masturbation. Don't most teenage guys do both?!!

Regardless of its "charitable" nature, this just creeps me out. Et toi?

Controversial Sex Event Held
Updated: 22:53, Saturday August 05, 2006

More than 250 people have pleasured themselves for charity today in Britain's first "Masturbate-athon". Participants from all over the UK queued outside a converted photographic studio in Clerkenwell, central London, to take part in the controversial event. Organised with the help of sexual health agency Marie Stopes International, the event aimed to raise awareness of safe sex. Event organiser Tony Kerridge had expected the event to attract protesters. But he was relieved when only one peaceful campaigner, armed with a small placard, arrived.

Participant Neil Crawforth, 28, left his wife at their home in Cambridge while he came to do his bit for charity. "I'm not a good swimmer and I can't run very far, but this is something I can do for charity," the software engineer said. Mr Crawforth said he had managed to raise £50 through sponsorship - money that will go towards sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust. Mr Crawforth, who described himself as "shy", added: "I do not like to talk to people very much, but I compensate by being an exhibitionist."

Filmed by Channel Four as part of a series of shows dubbed Wank Week, the Masturbate-athon is the first event of its kind in Europe having been exported from the US. Protester Matthew Bull, 34, said: "I'm offended by the whole thing, not the act itself, but it being such a public event. "As an Islington resident, I was not asked whether I wanted this in my backyard. I feel it is wrong and should not be accepted."

Participant Hal Musazlioglus disagreed. He said: "It is masturbating for a good cause. It's a fun thing to do and isn't hurting anyone. We are not doing it in front of anyone. It is in a building." Inside, there were a number of rooms. Each decked out with comfy Moroccan-style cushions. There were separate areas for men and women, a mixed room and an exhibition area for those who didn't mind being filmed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mama's Boys

I've just returned from Gymboree with the Bambina. My experiences there, at our library, in our park, at museums, and anywhere children and their parents congregate, lead me to wonder (as the mother of a girl) just what kind of men these boys are going to grow up to be.

I know it's a little bit of a reach to extrapolate the behavior of 2-5 year-olds out to manhood, but go with me here and help me out if you can. The only way I can describe most of these little boys is "off the chain," as in wild as all hell. They are beyond rowdy, moving toward insane, and the moms (unfortunately, it's still mostly moms with them) are completely oblivious or apathetic to the destruction they leave in their wake.

I know some people think "well, that's how little boys are, you know." But the truth is that I DO know some really lovely little boys whose parents teach them to be careful around smaller kids, who tell them that no, it's not okay to throw the building blocks at other kids, and that using the toy hammer on another child is not okay. And the further truth is that The Bambina would be one of those kids throwing the blocks and randomly clocking other kids if I didn't teach her not to. So the gender thing only goes so far.

What seems to me to be the issue (and I may be pulling this out of my butt here) is less of a biological gender thing and more of a straight-up socialization thing; to wit, a complete unwillingness on the part of the mothers to 'sissify' their boys. It's like teaching the boy to play gently with smaller kids is somehow going to suck the masculinity out of him or something. They seem to derive a weird pleasure in watching their boys basically go destructo on a museum playroom's toys and fixtures, and if the boy happens to hit another kid in the process, the mom will just say, "Oh, I'm so sorry; these things happen with boys, don't they?" And I'm watching this happen and thinking, "NO! These things do NOT just happen! Accidents happen, kids run into each other, they are oblivious to the presence of other kids, smaller or larger; that happens. But hitting and essentially tearing up shared community property without any parental intervention doesn't 'just happen;' it's learned, selfish, antisocial behavior under the guise of "being boys."

At Gymboree, one little boy was a complete terror. He walked up to Bambina and just grabbed her hair and pulled it. I ran and pulled his hand off her and said, "that wasn't nice." His mom apologized to me, but didn't make him apologize to Bambina. The next class, I was keeping my eye on him, but obviously not enough, because he did it again. This after he had made another boy cry by pushing him off one of the climby things. At that point his mom took him home because we were all keeping our kids away from him. The third class I was ready to say something if he even got near Bambina. I was just going to be real low-key and say, "I think it's best if we just keep them separated for today, if you don't mind." Well, Bambina went running off to go sit on a bouncy thing, he ran over and shoved her off it so hard that I heard the smack. That was IT. I yelled, "Whoa! No hitting! Say you're sorry right now!" Luckily, Bambina was more confused than upset, just looking at him like, "what is wrong with you?" So as I sat with her and said, "that boy wasn't very nice; hitting is wrong. Are you okay. etc etc" the mom just packed him up to take him home again. She looked back at me and mouthed the word "sorry" with a smile, and I just looked at her blankly. This, again, after he had not only hit another little boy, but her response had been, "that wasn't nice; go give him a hug sorry." The little kid was terrified! Can you imagine someone smacking you and then his mom forcing you to receive a hug from him?! It was unbelievable. And she, like so many moms before her in my experience, just brushed it off like "oh, he's just big for his age and he's so physical, but he really doesn't mean it."

Lady, if your TWO year old consistently just walks up to kids and smacks, pushes, hits and elbows them, you have a massive, major problem on your hands. I know plenty of two year-olds, and NONE of them get away with unprovoked aggression toward other kids. And, this is where I'm going to sound all post-feminist, but I honestly think it's absolutely unforgivable for a boy to hit a girl at any age. If my son ever hit a girl, he'd maybe live to regret it. Maybe. That is one of those lines that just should never be crossed. Obviously, you don't want him hitting anyone, but a big boy walking up to a 20-something pound girl and clocking her, with no consequences, is beyond unbelievable.

So--as I generally posit at this part of my rants--what's my point? I guess it's this: as the mother of a girl, I don't understand the raising of boys. But I have to assume that the principles are the same: no hitting, share, be gentle with smaller kids, take care of other people's property, take turns, use your inside voice, say you're sorry when you hurt someone, and learn by my teaching that actions have consequences. You can't tell me that that is an emasculating childrearing philosophy; but you CAN tell me that it's just easier for you to not bother and then blame it on being a boy.

You CAN Make That Stuff Up!

I recently had dinner with a friend who, for as long as I have known her, has used made-up words that she thinks are real. It's hilarious because she is a very intelligent, talented and competent woman, but she constantly uses words that sound like real words but that are just different enough (or in a different enough context) to catch your attention. It has been nine years since we met, and I love every dinner we have because it's always fun. It's like having Yogi Berra for a friend; it's part of her charm and I never assume, until I have arrived home and looked it up, that the word isn't just one that I have yet to learn. She's my very own Spiro Agnew, he of "nattering nabobs of negativism" fame. It's the nature of our friendship; I like her made-up words and she likes my made-up jokes. Everybody wins.

Some of her best include:

Inveritably. As in, "invariably."
Perimeters. As in, "parameters."
Supposably. As in, "supposedly."
Indubiously. As in, "indubitably" or "undoubtedly."

And my personal favorite: "I told him he has no couth."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yes, We Have No Real Posts Today

Why? I'm having a George Costanza kind of day. Apparently didn't close the fridge door all the way last night, so the entire top shelf of food was hot from the fridge light. Had to throw it all away. Trash men came. Bag ripped open in street. Trash men drove away without a care. Warm milk, ricotta cheese, baby yogurt and cheese all became HOT milk, ricotta cheese, baby yogurt and cheese in the street in front of my house. Had to get The Bambina up and out today, so couldn't clean it up first thing in the AM before the fahrenheit became far-out-heat, 101 to be precise, so finally got out there with a trash bag at nap time. There is nothing in the world like hot, bloated packages of dairy products, covered in flies and ants, in the sunshine, in 100 degrees, in front of your house. It was like a freakin episode of CSI:DC. In addition, I clogged up my toilet this AM too. I don't know what happened; nothing of any great import occurred (if you know what I'm saying), I hadn't eaten a bunch of onion rings and pumpernickel bread with Belgian beer or anything (if you know what I'm saying), so why the toilet jammed up on me, I just don't know. Maybe just to serve as the appetizer to the bloated dairy entree I was about to enjoy; who knows.

Which is why the Haggis is lame today. The time I would have taken to write something somewhat interesting rather than just making linky-linky was spent in the food morgue that is my front sidewalk, and in the loo takin' care of the "business" with a plunger. Thank god I had previously cancelled an afternoon client meeting or I'd have been arriving on site smelling faintly of sour cream, fleas and poop, and that's just bad for business.

Sign Me Up!

is a link, via, Rejuvenile, to the National Association of Staredown Professionals. Did anyone else like this game as a kid? I loved it. I wanna join.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Actually, Missouri, Please Don't!

From the good people at

Patriotic Irony

A piece of litter on the National Mall on a recent trip to one of the museums. Big gold star to the person who comes up with the best caption.

Some Good Onion

Once again, The Onion makes me laugh out loud. This one is entitled: Bush Grants Self Permission to Grant More Power to Self.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Definition of Chutzpah

Oh Mel Mel Mel Mel Mel.

We hardly knew ye.

Who knew you harbored such deep, dark fears of the world Jewish conspiracy that starts all wars and controls all media? After all, you seem to have done pretty well in spite of it. Poor misguided, troubled, intolerant Mel. If Jews were really pulling all the levers you ascribe to us, you'd be pumping gas somewhere in Brisbane instead of being a gajillionaire actor and director in Hollywood, you self-important and pompous a**.

To be fair, we've all perhaps said things we didn't mean while under the influence. We've perhaps been meaner than we would have been sober, or less diplomatic, or less kind. But drunken remarks tend to pertain to the environment at hand, ie, if one is with a spouse one might bring up hurtful things from the past; if one is with a bunch of friends, one might say something uncharitable that has been on one's mind. What is rarer is when someone is out driving drunk alone and his first comment upon being arrested is a diatribe against another religion. Had you just come from a bar mitzvah? A debate on Lebanon? You say you didn't mean those things, so tell me, Mel, from whence they came. How do you make the leap from "oh sh*t, I've been caught DUI" to "Jews start all the wars"?

That's something soul-deep, Melly Mel, and it is not at all my job or the Jewish community's job to help you heal. Only you can do that. You are nowhere near ready to take real responsibility for your actions, as evidenced by your recent statement. Anyone who can say the following with a straight face needs some more rehab, both for drinking and unmitigated chutzpah: "I'm not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one-on-one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing," Gibson said. He said he has begun "an ongoing program of recovery," but admitted "I cannot do it alone." "I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery," Gibson said.

If you insist on needing my help (since of course you understand that, in the history of world Jewry, there is not now and has never been a monolithic "Jewish community," right? {ever heard the quote 'two Jews, three opinions?'}), then here it is: I'm not sure about Christianity, but in Judaism, forgiveness is asked for and EARNED. So go away. Heal. Stop drinking, if not for yourself then for your kids. Stop making movies. Stop talking. Stop apologizing. Just go and be silent and heal yourself. And by kicking the drinking, you will have shown yourself to be serious about your apology. Until then, worry about yourself and your family. Perhaps focusing your hatred on us is precisely what has hindered your recovery in the past; after all, directing your hatred outward is a textbook method of avoiding the fact that you hate yourself.

Mystery Solved

I was about 20 minutes late to a client meeting today in Bethesda because of dead-stopped traffic near Bethesda Naval MC. Then I was late getting home because I was stuck behind a motorcade of those totally rockin' 10 foot wide bulletproof Cadillacs. I couldn't figure out what was going on, and I was irritated to be so delayed. Mystery solved.

I hope they found some polyps, just to make it worth my troubles... ;)

Bush Undergoes Annual Physical Exam
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) - President Bush will spend about four hours being poked and prodded at his annual physical exam Tuesday morning.

The 60-year-old president will be checked at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Bush is an avid mountain bike rider and goes out of his way to maintain his fitness. His last exam was last summer when the president was pleased to learn he had lost eight pounds since his 2004 exam, when he weighed just under 200 pounds. Bush said he had gained weight in 2004 because of munching on too many doughnuts during his re-election campaign. A four-page medical summary from the White House a year ago said Bush remains in the "superior" fitness category for a man of his age.

Purple Nurple

So, how is YOUR morning going?!

Mine started like this:

Me getting into the shower. Bambina pointing at my chest and saying, "boo boo." I bent down, she purple nurpled me, and I said, "ouch!" She said self-satisfied, "Boo boo."

I had to explain (notwithstanding accusations in my earlier days that I was indeed toting around "mosquito bites") that I did not say "ouch" because I have boo boos but because those are nipples, which should not be twisted mercilessly for any reason. (Advice that has implications for men as well as children...).

The good news is that she knows not to twist people's nipples. The bad news is that she is now thrilled to have a new word to insert into her singing (to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star): "Nip-ple, nip-ple, nipplenipple! nip-ple, nip-ple, nipplenipple!"

Just in time for visiting Grandma.