Friday, September 30, 2005

Rough Draft
Don't blog this one, you asked,
because then it wouldn't be just mine,
and I said, of course,
but it's nothing compared
to the one I've been writing in my head
since the first time I woke up to your smile
like the Milky Way on a cloudless night
for the rest of my life
and wondered if I could even do it justice.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I've seen several attempts to explain why poverty was so bad in antediluvial New Orleans, but none of them (so far) seem to deal with the fact that the public school system there was a clusterfuck of Biblical proportions. It's pretty obvious, to me, at least, that for folks with nothing to spare, public education is the only ladder out of poverty. When that ladder is used mostly to enrich corrupt administrators, poverty is bound to get worse. After all, it's a lot easier to get poor than it is to get rich.
Halloween is coming soon. All I need now is a plastic skull.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

When I shuffle off, I so want to be mulched.
Two thoughts this morning, then I'm back to staring vacantly at the cubicle wall and thinking about how staying up late reading mysteries and getting up early to go to the gym just don't go together:

If I were independently wealthy, I'd send every Intelligent Design proponent in the country a copy of Chariot of the Gods.

If the Christian Right really is right about this being the end times and all, I wish the rapture would hurry up and happen so the rest of us can have our frickin' country back.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mushroom Sutra
With the air turning cool these days, Christie's been craving fall flavors. This past Saturday, we walked around downtown, reading specials boards and menus, but they were still calibrated to summer, so instead we headed to the grocery store for mushrooms and squash.

That afternoon, we stood on opposite sides of the island while I sliced the 2 lbs. of baby portobellas I needed for mushroom soup, and she diced the squash, minced the onions, crushed garlic, got out the dishes and alphabetized the knife drawer. And still, I sliced. The strange thing was, I couldn't stop smiling.

I was standing opposite my favorite woman in the world, and we were cooking and laughing together. The knife felt right in my hand, and rocked easily back and forth as I sliced the 'shrooms. I had no fears, no worries, not even anything I could really call thought. Just happiness with where I was and what I was doing.

It's exactly what my mom must mean when she says, "a really good recipe, with a satisfactory amount of chopping."

On the other hand, I did sort of stab Christie this one time, but it was only a little bit, and I barely even broke the skin. So, when chopping vegetables, "in the zone" is good, but zoning out is bad.
Good Fun: Evil Clown Generator
The day after the hurricane hit New Orleans, when we were both looking for things to do, Christie called me with a name, the father of a coworker, and asked me to put my searching mojo to work tracking him down, since nobody had heard from him yet. I wrote it down on a scrap of paper on my desk and hit Google. Knowing his name and that he lived in New Orleans, I was able to find out what he did and where he worked, but nothing since the hurricane. I set up a Google News Alert, and checked every message board I could find. Nothing.

At first, I check every hour, then several times a day, and also at night, when I couldn't sleep. Then it faded back to once or twice a day, when I'd glance down at my desk and see his name on that scrap of paper. All I'd every found were messages from his coworkers, also trying to track him down.

Yesterday, I found a "yeah, he's fine" message. It was secondhand, but it was something. I passed it on to Christie, and she confirmed that he's fine. The consequences of this are, effectively, zero. I don't know the man, and his family's probably known for over a week that he's fine. It's just this: He was on my list of things to worry about, and now he's off the list. There's nothing quite as nice as the closing of a thread.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Dangers of Reality Television
Christie: I was having the weirdest dream. I was competing on Iron Chef America, and my teammates were the guys from Orange County Chopper. Senior just kept yelling at us to go faster, and Pauly wanted everything to have a "fire" theme. He kept painting flames on the tortillas with cayenne pepper. And Mikey just kept asking what things were. Those guys were useless!

Me: Sounds like it.

Christie: And Paul Sr. was the worst! I'd just get something plated, and he'd go up and eat it! He's talking with his mouth full, saying, "Yeah! That was good. Make more of that!" and I'm like, "Duh! Now I have to! Asshole." It was very frustrating!

Update: Christie has reminded me that Vinnie was there, too, trying to make Creme Brulee with a tig welder, which Christie insisted wouldn't work as well as a blowtorch, but he seemed to think he could make it work. No more Discovery Channel before bedtime for Christie.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Too busy playing catch-up-with-my-life to really do a full on blog post right now, but I'm bag, and all is good, and I want to make the following unqualified recommendations:

1. Jasper Fforde is fun, funny, moving, and will make you glad to have read all the things you've read without feeling guilty about the things you haven't. The Eyre Affair is the one to start with.

2. Anansi Boys is really good.

3. Kitchen Confidential is very funny, and features Nick Brendan (dude that played Xander on Buffy) as a kick-ass pastry chef. You and everyone you know must watch this show, even if you don't like it, because it's on Fox and they're really stupid about cancelling cool and original shows if they don't get a bazillion viewers right away, and I'd like to be able to keep watching it.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Travel To-Do
  1. Get cash for trip.
  2. Print map of the hotel and meeting locations.
  3. Print e-tickets, itinerary, and schedule.
  4. Pack toiletries, clothes, and travel briefcase.
  5. Prep PDA for trip.
  6. Write presentation and store it online and on jump drive.
  7. Fix hose so Christie can water the lawn while I'm gone.
  8. Relax. It's just travel. Wherever you go, etc.
As ready as I'm going to be. Off to Boston in the morning. Back soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

In Chicago, a mother is awake, watching her daughter stir in three a.m. dreams that rustle the hospital sheets, wondering how much heartbreak is left in the world.

In Slidell, a man lies awake in the heat, wondering how he could have forgotten to pay the flood insurance.

In Houston, countless children are without parents, families without homes, couples lost to one another, and I can't imagine too many of them are sleeping well.

And me? I'm lying awake, too, my body showing all the signs of fear, and my mind, two steps behind, racing for a reason like a cat trying to track down the scratching sound of a mouse in a close kitchen cabinet. Checkbook? Plumbing? Work? Roof? Car? But there is no mouse, and no reason. Just a body inundated with enough disaster images to leave my adrenal glands on a hair trigger.

So, what to do?

Nothing. And I mean that quite literally. Turn off the TV, cut the RSS feeds, stop reading news sites and obessing over things I can't change and problems I can't solve. Narrow my focux to the people I actually know, and the problems I can reach. And take time to sit every day.

So that's why, if you're wondering, I've cut back on blogging about Katrina.
I've been punked before, but this is just too damn weird not to post. And it's a Reuters photo! Click here to see the president writing a note to Condaleeza, then here for a closer look at what it says. Let the conspiracy theories begin!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We don't exactly have a place for this, but I think it'd be perfect for dog people, who obviously like this sort of thing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bathroom Before and After

Bathroom Before and After
Originally uploaded by Litcritter.
Project Weekend
One more small step toward bringing our Very Eighties House into the 21st century, aesthetically speaking: painting the bathroom.I can't claim much credit for this one. I just helped with the masking and hung the new mirrors.

While she was doing that, I was tearing out the old shelving in the pantry, and putting up new wire shelving in a much more usable configuration. See here for the before and after shot.

Not only did the old pantry have 20 years worth of smells built up in it (a new coat of paint fixed that), but only a couple of the shelves were shallow enough to be organizable. The rest were two feet deep, and so close together that you couldn't even see what was back there, let alone put your hands on it in a timely fashion.

Monday, September 12, 2005

If I get to work now, I could have this finished by Christie's birthday: RipTide's Arcade Style Dance Dance Revolution Metal Pad
Immoral, indefensible, and reprehensible behavior by the Gretna Police Chief. For the record, he's a Democrat. And because it's Say Things That'll Make Republicans Happy day, I'd like to point out that the regional FEMA director for my local area seems to actually be qualified for his job.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The old house was just that: old. Well, not that old, I guess, but sixty years is old enough for the kind of house that it was. Most of the projects there were of the "it broke, so now I've gotta fix it" variety. The new house is only twenty years old, and it was built with a fair attention to detail. So not too many things have broken and need fixing. Now the projects are more of the "this bugs me" variety, or just a matter of bringing things into the 21st century.

So, without further ado, here's my list:
  1. Get the lawn established. Why the lawn was new this spring is a story for another blog post, so suffice it to say that this August was too hot and dry for our barely-established lawn, so now we've reseeded, and are hoping to get some decent turf going. At this point, it's less about aesthetics than it is about erosion.
  2. Finish lighting the front steps. When we first bought the house, they were unnavigable after dark. I put lights on most of the posts, but there's one more I'd like to do before I declare victory.
  3. Light the path to the back door. Same story, basically.
  4. Replace basement stairs lightswitch. It's a brown switch, and pretty much invisible in the dark. I'd like to replace it with one that lights up when it's off.
  5. Replace jacuzzi timer. Yeah, we've got a jetted tub. And we use it, too. Great for migraines and tension headaches. But the switch on the jets is a 12-hour timer. What kinda sense does that make? I bought a 1-hour timer to replace it.
  6. Install a dimmer for the light over the tub. Like I said, the tub's mostly for use when I've got a migraine, so bright light = bad.
  7. Organize the workshop. This will be a life-long pursuit, but I'm including it because I'm an incurable optimist.
That's it, for now. Why am I telling you? Partly to organize my thoughts, but mostly so there' something up here that isn't bitching about the hurricane relief.
Bush? Impedes real rescue work, takes many pictures and as much credit as possible.

Gore? Does real rescue work, refuses to take credit. (More here)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The National Guard is barring journalists from reporting on various aspects of the situation in New Orleans.
Well, the bullshit machine has started up. I'll say it again, because it apparently needs to be said: FOX News lies.

Let's break it down:
Bullshit: Governor Blanco delayed declaring an emergency, which prevented FEMA from coming in.
Fact: She declared the emergency before the hurricane even landed, so that prep work could begin.

Bullshit: Neither Nagin or Blanco were going to evacuate until Bush called them on Saturday.
Fact: He called them a couple of minutes before the press conference where they announced the mandatory evacuation and explained how it was going to work. Yes, he did urge evacuation in that call, but given the complexities of evacuating a major city, there's no way in hell that they weren't already in the process of doing so when he called.

Bullshit: There was no way of knowing things were going to be that bad.
Fact: Now they're not even bothering to keep their lies consistent; they're just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. And if Bush didn't know things were going to be that bad, why did he want them to evacuate New Orleans?

Bullshit: FEMA doesn't even really have jurisdiction, and is just helping out because it's the "right thing to do". Coordinating all the aid is somebody else's job.
Fact: The presidential declaration of emergency clearly puts FEMA in charge of coordinating relief efforts. Caveat: For some reason, the declaration lists the parishes in which it takes effect, and it ignores the coastal parishes likely to be most effective. I cannot think of a reason to do this, other than incompetence, and I have heard no attempted explanation from anyone associated with or sympathetic to the administration.

Bullshit: Blanco won't give up control to FEMA.
Fact: This one's true, but her refusal came only after they'd demonstrated their incompetence and indifference. I'd do the same damn thing.

Bullshit: Mayor Nagin left 600 busses empty that could have been used to evacuate people.
Fact: Evacuate them to where? In what world does a mayor have jurisdiction to dump 60,000 refugees on some other town's doorstep. Plenty of offers have come in now, but nobody was offering anything before the storm.

Bullshit: They report, you decide.
Fact: They report lies; you decide not to watch. If your cousin lied to you again and again, never admitted it, but still kept doing it, would you still depend on him to tell you what's going on in the world? Then why are you still watching FOX News?
I was feeling just an itsy bit bitchy yesterday, and couldn't stop myself from swearing at some woman in the Lowe's parking lot who gave up her turn at a three-way stop three times in a row so other cars could go. While I was behind her! What was she thinking?

Christie wondered out loud if she should drive, but I assured her that I was fine (Fine!) and there was no need to worry. To demonstrate my fine-ness, as we pulled out onto Broadway, I even slowed down to let some idiot woman into our lane, because she, like me, wanted onto 63 South, but unlike me, hadn't had the foresight to get into the proper lane. But I'm a spiritually evolved person, so I let her cut in front of me.

What I hadn't counted on, though, was that 63 South went from two lanes down to one about fifty feet past the entrance ramp, and the woman I'd kindly allowed in front of me refused to go over 50 miles an hour. But I'm a spiritually evolved person, so it didn't bother me being stuck behind her. What did bother me was the insensitive bastard who had been four cars behind me coming onto the entrance ramp, and managed to pass three cars in fifty feet, and almost rear ended me.

Being the spiritually evolved person that I am, I started slowing down, ostensibly to give the woman in front of me plenty of room, but really just to bug the tailgating jerk behind me. Christie raised her eyebrow at me, so I explained why I was slowing down. She turned around to see, and, yeah, this guy was tailgating and looking very annoyed at my 45 mile an hour, spiritually evolved self.

The next exit was ours, so I pulled off, and Tailgater floored it, only to be brought up short by Slowpoke. Christie giggled and said, "They deserve each other."

I grinned back. "I'm glad I let her cut in. It's true what they say: a good deed is it's own reward."

And just like that, my bad mood was cured.
Today's Must Read: Matt Welch on New Orleans rumors being reported as fact.

Rapes in the Superdome? There's no evidence they actually happened. Murdered babies? The same. Worst of all, the shooting at rescue helicopters that caused rescue efforts to be suspended? An FAA spokewoman says, "We're controlling every single aircraft in that airspace and none of them reported being fired on."

The First Rule of News: In the absence of real information, rumor floods in to fill the vacuum. Corollary: In a world with multiple 24 hour news channels, rumors will be reported as fact.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Speaking of the '51 flood, one of the songs that keeps popping up in my head these days is The Rainmakers' We Walk the Levee:
In the '51 flood the river got mean
The levee broke at a town downstream
Up on our levee where the county lines meet
Caught a couple of their boys with some TNT

Something had to give and it gave down there
My thoughts are with you but my family's here
It was you this time it was us before
Nothing's fair in flood and war

And blood's thicker than water
But thin and cold in the flood
The mud and the guilt and the gun get heavy
We do what we gotta
We walk the levee

The other one, "Five Feet High and Rising" is a little lighter, and almost happy, for a flood song.
My folks came to town this weekend, and Christie got to hear a family legend, with a twist that was new to me:

Mom: You've got to understand, I've got kind of a different perspective on this, since I watched Kansas City flood back when I was, oh, I don't know, seven or eight. We all sat up on the bluffs and watched the water come in. But at least we got out.

Me: You had to get shots, right?

Mom: Typhus shots, yeah. Because my brother went into the stockyards to bring cattle up out of the floodwaters for ten, fifteen bucks a head.

Me: That was good money, though...

Mom: Only the people paying weren't necessarily the rightful owners.

Me: Wait a minute. I never heard that part before. You're telling me that Uncle Harry was rustling cattle in downtown Kansas City?!

Dad: That's not rustling. It's called salvage.
From a Louisiana law firm's web page:
Louisiana Criminal Negligence
LA R.S. 14:12

"Criminal negligence exists when, although neither specific nor general criminal intent is present, there is such disregard of the interest of others that the offender's conduct amounts to a gross deviation below the standard of care expected to be maintained by a reasonably careful man under like circumstances."

Christie and I caught a big hunk of Meet the Press yesterday. Enough, at least, to see Aaron Broussard break down describing the death of a coworker's mother due to lack of aid, and enough to hear the Mississippi governor, a Republican, say, "Well, I can't speak for Louisiana, but we've gotten a lot of help, and things are going great." Apparently having a Republican governor makes all the difference in the world when it comes to this sort of thing.

My wife's hometown has been destroyed, because the Republicans running our government had better things to spend our money on than shoring up the levees. Thousands of people have died because the Republicans in charge of our national emergency management system all seem to think it was somebody else's problem. Millions of people have no homes, jobs, or property because the Republicans in Washington think it's safe and prudent to ignore scientific studies if they tell you something that makes you unhappy.

I will not forget this, and I will not forgive it. These motherfuckers have been asking what our government can do for them since the day they took office, and I will not vote for one of their tribe again. My friends can tell me all they want that all politicians are bad, and that both parties are corrupt. That attitude is a great way to keep the kleptocrats in office. Maybe, just maybe, the dynamic will someday change, and when it does, I'll reconsider my position.

In the meantime, I will not vote for anyone who supported that sonuvabitch George Bush in his efforts to drive this country into the ground, and I will consider D for Democrat to be a sign that the name that comes before it may belong to a no-good, rotten son of a bitch, but at least he's a no-good, rotten, son of a bitch who knows he's got a job to do while he's sucking at the public tit.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

New "Chandelier"

dining room before and after
Originally uploaded by Litcritter.
There have been requests (OK, well, one request) that we post more pictures of the new house, so here's one. We picked up a new light fixture on our trip to northern Missouri last weekend, and today I hung it over the dining room table, taking down the ceiling fan that was there.

That's actually the least ugly ceiling fan in the house, so we're going to reuse it somewhere. We're just not sure where yet.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When the hurricane first hit, I jokingly said, "I blame the government." And Christie's mom, I've been told, blames Bush personally for the whole thing. It's good fun, and gives us something else to talk about besides flood waters and wind damage.

But then I read articles like this one and this one, and I wonder how differently things might have turned out if we'd had someone in the White House who believed in the good that good government can do. Someone who didn't send our National Guard off to fight in an elective war, instead of keeping them at home where they could do the kind of work they signed up for. Someone, well, competent.