Free-Floating Hostility

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Hoo-Ha Dialogues

I've been working on refining my snap judgments lately, particularly as regards my fellow students. Not all public health disciplines are alike, so it's important that my stereotypes be accurate. The Nutrition girls (and they are all girls) for instance, are almost universally bitchy and uptight, possibly due to low blood sugar--there is one exception, a disarming middle-aged hippie who has been known to put weed in her smoothies. My group, Epidemiology/Biostatistics, is really quite a good collection of folks, with only two ass clowns out of a group of 21 that I have identified so far. Infectious Diseases is more of a mixed bag, and I only know one Policy guy, though he's very sweet. I haven't met any Environmental Healthers, and although I know there's one other master's program, I can't even remember what it's called, something like Community and Social and Behavioral and Environmental and World Peace Studies. The coolest of all are the Maternal and Child Health students. I was chatting with two of them the other day named Jen and Rohini. Jen was sharing about how in the middle of epidemiology lecture someone had leaned over to her and whispered, "Did you know that gonorrhea usually involves green discharge?"

Jen was properly impressed, still shaking hours afterward. "Can you imagine?" she asked us, "Green ooze coming out of your..."

"Your hoo-ha?" Rohini suggested.

"Wait a minute," I interrupted, perturbed. "You guys are in Maternal and Child Health. Are you telling me you can't bring yourselves to say the word 'vagina'?"

"No, not at all," Rohini explained. "When you're talking about it being sacred and loving and giving birth and stuff it's a vagina. But when you're talking about green discharge, it's a hoo-ha."

I may have to switch majors.

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Crime Spree

I took a detour to work yesterday thanks to the yellow police tape blocking my normal path. It turns out there was a bank robbery at the place where I usually turn $10 bills into laundry quarters. They also usually have doughnuts sitting out in the lobby, which was mighty tempting when I was dieting.

It's all very shocking for our peaceful little town.

The assailants escaped on foot after the dyepacks they were handed exploded. So the good news is there are violent criminals running free in town, which means Davis is starting to feel a little more like home.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Catholic Church Outsources the Clergy

I've been meaning for some number of days to blog about the recent flurry of articles on the American Bishops deploying their gaydar in Catholic seminaries. Let's be clear: they are looking at a lot of different aspects of seminary education, partly in an effort to stop turning lushes and perverts in chasubles loose on the populace. I'm not going to address the rest of the purge, I'm just going to ask for the millionth time two important questions:

Q: Even if we concede that the Church isn't going to reverse it's position on homosexuality anytime soon, why do the American Bishops care so deeply about it that they'd jeopardize so much? That leads us to the next question...
Q: Don't the these guys know when their house is on fire?
Bonus Question: How are you supposed to figure out who's a celibate gay man? They all dress alike in seminary, you know.

To answer the second question first: No. Or if they do, they think they're going to get a nicer house built by Latino immigrants.

To answer the first question, I'm just going to reiterate what a lot of people have pointed out before me: When gay men, celibate or otherwise, are removed from the priesthood, there will be no more American priests left. On it's face, there's nothing wrong with that, especially not for a church whose fundamental doctrine is universality, and which has its strongest grassroots presence in Latin America anyway. But you should understand that a Catholic priest doesn't just apply to work in the Walla Walla Branch Office like any other employee of a multinational corporation. He goes where he's assigned, and if the bishops don't like him where he is he gets moved. A priest from a poor country who is sent to America is consequently far more likely to tow the line, ideologically or otherwise, if only to avoid being sent home. If the implications of that don't trouble you, you should check to make sure your cereal isn't being spiked with beta blockers.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Into the Rotation

Do I believe Geena Davis as President of the United States?

Not quite, although I imagine that if she were a real-life politician the press would eat up the fact that Davis is almost a world-class archer. It would be nice projection of strength. And imagine the photo op: Geena Davis going bow hunting with Ted Nugent. It would look better than Kerry's contrived pheasant hunting in Ohio

My verdict on tonight's pilot of Commander in Chief is that show is a fun little fantasy. But watching a woman deliver a speech in front of Congress or the first man picking out china patterns will get old in about two weeks. I think the show has potential, although it will be hard for it to come anywhere close to the West Wing. On the other hand CIC doesn't have to contend with any blatantly awful casting such as Moira "Toepick" Kelly from the first two seasons. Donald Sutherland was very good as the power-hungry Speaker of the House.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

In Which I Horrify Anna

Brooklyn Dodger reported last month that the majority of Americans, according to Gallup, don't believe in evolution. It's not even close. So when reading the Associated Press accounts of the trial in Pennsylvania in which parents are suing to force the Dover Area School District to teach actual science in biology class, I get the sense the rest of the country isn't reading with the same sense of horror that I am. There's a part of me that says sure, that local school board can mandate whatever it wants, as long as real institutes of higher education are not forced to recognize high school credits from science classes that don't actually teach science. So teach whatever you want, but when the valedictorian of Dover Area High School applies to college and wants his or her biology class accepted as proof of science education, fuck him or her.

Anna was horrified earlier today when I floated this theory. She's a scientist.

I am merely a reporter, and, as such, the the supporters of I.D. offend me with the case they make for "teaching the controversy." This is straight from the "balance equals objectivity" school, which I detest. Balance is merely balance. If I were writing a story, the juxtaposition of two viewpoints on an issue would imply an equal intellectual basis on both sides. These criteria, given, the facts on the ground
"There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory," Brown University professor Kenneth Miller added. On the other hand, he said, "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community."
have clearly not been met. Imposing balance on biology curriculum here is actually an act of ideology, the insistence that I.D. is actually an equally plausible.

The clear strategy of the religious backers of I.D. is to play up the holes and uncertainty in evolution, offer an all-encompassing solution and then hope rejection of the scientific explanation for the origins of life leads to a widespread rejection of secular thought. So there you go. And it's not a bad place to start. In his court testimony today, Miller said that science offers no absolute truths, just testable (and disprovable) theories. I.D. offers a complete worldview, where everything can be ascribed to divine origin. It's easy, but it's not provable.

People are entitled to their religious beliefs, and I have no problem with those who believe in creationism. But you can get that in church. This is about making sure that people have access to ideas beyond themselves in the public schools.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

In which I Evaluate my Performance as an Autodidactic Autodidact

A few months ago I realized I was about to read Book #100. The count started when I graduated college; I figured it was my only measure of how well I was educating myself. I believe I took the idea from Virginia Woolf, who was of course not allowed by her father to attend school, and so kept intimidating lists of the books she had read on her own. My list doesn't look anything like hers.

Anyway, I mentioned this milestone to Jeff, and he suggested I should blog my reading list. I haven't until now because I decided that I shouldn't be allowed to count books I had read before, or books that were obviously frivolous, i.e. Harry Potter and mysteries Erin describes as "the kind with puffy writing on the cover." So I axed 27 books off my list, and that put me back quite a few months. However, the list is now complete, and I present it for you to peruse or ignore as you see fit. Some notes on my inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  1. Some of the non-frivolous books on this list are quite awful. Their inclusion does not garauntee their value as much as my honest attempt to read something valuable. To avoid confusion, I have included my brief opinion of each.
  2. Why choose the unit of the book? Convenience. I haven't included any articles, or poems, and short stories have only been included when there's a whole book of them. I have likewise omitted the various manuscripts of novels, biographies, short stories, screenplays, poetry collections and outlines for peace in the Middle East submitted to me by my talented friends and family during this time. Or anything I had to read for school.
  3. The number 100 says very little about the quantity I've read. The diminutive Of Mice and Men barely broke 100 pages, whereas Hermione Lee's biography of Virginia Woolf clocked in at 761. It may not be the longest book I've read since graduation, but it was definitely the heaviest.
So where does all this get me? I seem to be reading more than some people I respect (i.e. Jeff), and less than some people I don't (i.e. Harold Bloom). On our visit to Seattle, Scott made fun of me for reading a book by Patricia Cornwell, and I bristled. "I have read 98 non-frivolous books since graduating college," I informed him, "And am more than entitled to my 28th frivolous book." "Fuck you," he pithily replied. I trust many of you will share the sentiment, but that's what being a blogger is. We're the pie-in-the-face people of the new millenium, if you will.

The List:

Atwood, Margaret. Alias Grace. (Not her best)

Atwood, Margaret. The Blind Assassin. (Excellent)

Baldwin, James. Giovanni's Room. (Excellent)

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. (Required Reading for Humans)

Barry, James M.. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. (V. interesting except when he digresses on the history of early American medical men instead of the history of the disease.)

Bentley, Toni. Sisters of Salome. (Enh)

Bohjalian, Chris. Midwives. (Give this a miss.)

Borges, Jorge Louis. A Universal History of Iniquity. (Lovely)

Brontë, Charlotte. Villette. (VG)

Byatt, A.S.. Possession. (VG)

Cantor, Norman F.. In the Wake of the Plague: the Black Death and the World it Made. (A real snoozer, and probably wrong about a lot)

Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. (VG)

Cather, Willa. Lucy Gayheart. (G)

Churchill, Winston. History of the English-Speaking Peoples. (VG, unless you know something about history, which I don’t)

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. (G)

Crouse, Timothy. The Boys on the Bus. (Highly entertaining)

Cunningham, Michael. The Hours. (G)

de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. Wind, Sand, Stars. (VG)

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. (Required reading for Humans, but not entertaining)

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. (Required Reading for Humans)

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. (RRFH)

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. (Ok, so this is kind of cheating, but it’s literature, it’s taught in English classes and shit.)

Dumas, Alexandre. The Three Musketeers. (G)

Dunant, Sarah. The Birth of Venus. (This is a truly awful book. Give it a wide berth.)

Eagleton, Terry. Literary Criticism: an Introduction. (Deathly dull, but glad I finished)

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose. (G, don’t really see why the hoopla)

Eliot, George. Middlemarch. (G)

Ensler, Eve. The Vagina Monologues. (Excellent)

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches you and you Fall Down: A Hmong Girl, her American Doctors, and the Collision of two Cultures. (Excellent)

Fielding, Helen. Cause Celeb. (Just barely makes it into the non-frivolous category b/c it deals with famine, but very light reading)

Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones. (VG)

Finlay, Victoria. Color: A Natural History of the Palette. (VG)

Fisher, M.F.K.. How to Cook a Wolf. (G)

Flaubert, Gustave. The Temptation of Saint Anthony. (snoozefest, and creepy)

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Everything is Illuminated. (Excellent)

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. (Excellent)

Frayn/Burke, Michael/David. The Copenhagen Papers. (Highly entertaining)

Friedman, Thomas L.. From Beirut to Jerusalem. (I just decided I had to know what I was talking about at least a little. Who knows if I picked the right one.)

Gawande, Atul. Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science. (VG)

Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform you that Tomorrow we will be Killed without Families: Stories from Rwanda. (RRFH, and Excellent to boot)

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. (VG)

Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. (Highly entertaining)

Horwitz, Tony. Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going where Captain Cook has Gone Before. (VG and Highly entertaining)

Hugo, Victor. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (OK)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes were Watching God. (Excellent)

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day. (Excellent)

Joyce, James. The Dubliners. (G)

Kafka, Franz. The Penal Colony: Stories and Short Pieces. (Now I can say I’ve read it)

Kahn, Roger. The Boys of Summer. (OK)

Kincaid, Jamaica. The Autobiography of my Mother. (Enh.)

Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. (G)

Lee, Hermione. Virginia Woolf. (Excellent)

Levi, Primo. The Reawakening. (RRFH)

Lewis, Michael. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. (VG)

Livio, Mario. The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number. (VG)

Malory, Thomas. King Arthur and his Knights: Selected Tales. (Technically I’ve read parts of this already in 8th grade, but I probably didn’t actually read most of them. Good to have under ones belt.)

Martel, Yann. The Life of Pi. (G)

Mason, Herbert (trans). Gilgamesh. (VG)

McCarthy, Mary. The Group. (OK)

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick. (Excellent until they get on the boat; all down hill after that)

Nabokov, Vladimir. Pale Fire. (Another one I’ve technically read already except had never actually finished. Excellent, obviously.)

Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir in Books. (Excellent)

Naipaul, V.S.. A House for Mr. Biswas. (Enh.)

Nuland, Sherwin B.. Doctors: The Biography of Medicine. (OK)

Olsen, Tillie. Tell me a Riddle. (1st two stories OK, last two stories Excellent)

Orwell, George. 1984. (OK)

Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia. (Excellent)

Parkhurst, Carolyn. The Dogs of Babel. (Surprisingly good, considering. A tearjerker though.)

Pym, Barbara. No Fond Return of Love. (Give this a miss.)

Roach, Mary. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. (VG)

Sachs, Albie. The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs. (VG)

Sacks, Oliver. The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales. (Excellent)

Schiff, Stacy. Véra: (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov). (Excellent)

Shilts, Randy. And the Band Played On. (RRFH)

Singh, Simon. The Code Book: the Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography. (Excellent)

Smith, Alexander McCall. Tears of the Giraffe. (V.v. light reading, but not, I think, totally frivolous. Delightful).

Smith, Alexander McCall. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. (see above)

Spark, Muriel. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. (VG)

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. (OK)

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. (Excellent)

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. (Entertaining)

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin. (G)

Sullivan, Robert. Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants. (VG, not withstanding the reverse litotes or whatever it's called in the title)

Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels. (VG)

Thurber, James. The Dog Department. (Hilarious, and elegant)

Turgenev, Ivan. Fathers and Sons. (can’t remember a damn word of it)

Twain, Mark. Pudd'nhead Wilson. (OK)

Verghese, Abraham. The Tennis Partner. (VG)

von Drehle, David. Triangle: The Fire that Changed America. (VVG)

Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose. (VG)

Walker, Rebecca. Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self. (G)

Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto. (hehe, so dated, but fun in MST3K way)

Waugh, Evelyn. Decline and Fall. (G)

Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. (OK)

Winchester, Simon. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. (VG)

Woodward, Bob. Plan of Attack. (G)

Woodward/Bernstein, Bob/Carl. All the President's Men. (VG)

Woolf, Virginia. Flush. (G)

Woolf, Virginia. The Voyage Out. (G)

Wrong, Michela. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Life on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo. (OK)

4 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at September 23, 2005 8:51 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Did you know that George Eliot is a chick? True story.

    Sure, I haven't read a hundred worthy books since graduation, but I have a level 57 Shaman and a level 44 Hunter to support.

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at September 24, 2005 7:34 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Don't be too impressed by Jeff's accomplishments. I had a level 60 mage a long time ago. I quit, but he has been sloaching for a long time now. On the plus side, I think Jeff had a level 100+ cockroach in his apartment. That's definitely an accomplishment.

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at September 29, 2005 9:32 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Another list of books - the 100 most challenged books, compiled by the American Library Association

    There's a bit of a challenge among public health bloggers as to how many they have read.

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at September 29, 2005 8:30 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Very interesting list, Dodger. I've read 19, if you count Where's Waldo? as reading.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Oeuvre de Toilette

At Berkeley, I do most of my peeing in Warren Hall. Remember when I worked for an Occupational Health center that was located on top of a half-cleaned Superfund site? Well now I go to a School of Public Health located in a building that is not up to code earthquake-wise. But that's where the student lounge is, so I spend a lot of time there, which necessitates frequent use of the ladies' room. It has four stalls, three of which are pristine. Stall #3, on the other hand, is a collaborative mural. The following is a transcript of the graffiti therein.

Venus favors the bold. --Ovid

Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people but great things only happen to good people, it just takes time, hard work and patience.

Hey ladies, take back your right to empowering birth! Choose midwives!

Girl A: Be kind to animals!
Girl B: Be kind 2 everyone!
Girl C: Be kind to me!

Girl A: Why do intelligent, independent, enlightened [women] fall for arrogant, cocky assholes who treat us like shit? Anyone have this problem?
Girl B: Low self esteem. Probably we have v. clever fathers who we wanted to impress intellectually and once we have we look to men to provide that challenge.

Girl A: I just masturbated in here.
Girl B: Right on!
Girl C: Why not? It relieves tension.
Girl D. Everyone should.
Girl E: Anyone up for trying sex in here?

[A passionate nine-part debate over the validity of reverse racism as a construct ended thus.]
Girl A: Racism is racism regardless of whom it is directed to.
Girl B: You mean regardless of to whom it is directed.

Girl A: I bet you feel pretty stupid.
Girl B: But I bet they're happier than you, i.e. not so competitive.

Utility is lame.

Wow! That's a first. Balancing your checkbook on a toilet stall wall?

Girl A: Why is it so hard to be in love with just one man? It's so dangerous to compromise. How do you compromise and yet protect your sense of self. Are there really so few great guys out there?
Girl B: Go for women instead--more great options.
Girl C: Maybe. But where are they?!

Wow, everyone who writes in here must be pretty short.

Girl A: Does anyone else feel completely alienated from most women?
Girl B: Until I connect with them in a forum of passionate bathroom graffiti. 3 cheers for chicks.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Scary Thoughts

I hate Quentin Tarantino's obsession with live burial. Everything that motherfucker does these days includes someone being put in the ground alive, from Kill Bill to the season finale of CSI last year that he directed. Being buried alive just happens to be my biggest fear. Probably something to do with the knowledge of impending death combined with being trapped in a confined space. It scares the life out of me.

So then I wonder what the people on the JetBlue flight whose landing gear failed today were thinking as they watched their plane fly on live television with serious sounding anchors trying to prepare everyone for a fiery crash landing on live television. It didn't happen, of course, but there you go.
(Passenger) Zachary Mascoon said it was surreal to watch the emergency unfold on news coverage on a television inside the plane. At one point, he said, he tried to call his family, but his cell phone call wouldn't go through.
I wonder if that would be better or worse. I can't imagine.

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I believe there is a special ring in Hell devoted to people who refer to Bernini as "schmaltzy." Thank you for your time.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Mozilla Beta Test

For the first time in my life I've downloaded something in it's Beta test form.

This is to see if I can still use Firefox 1.5 with Blogger or if I'm going to have to back to Internet fucking Explorer. So far, the program hasn't crashed, so I think we might be getting close. I hope so.

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Rail Time

I get a lot of funny looks when I say I'm commuting from Davis to Berkeley five days a week. There's the Mildly Impressed, the Full of Pity, the You Crazy Fuck, the I Just Don't Get It...Californians are not used to commuting, especially not by public transport. My train ride (assuming it's on time) takes me 1.25 hours, plus about 20 minutes on the bus between campus and the train station. Factoring in waiting time and estimating conservatively, I'd say it takes me about an hour and 45 minutes each way. It practically took me that long to get to high school every morning on the East Side. It's certainly no worse than traveling from outlying stations on the LIRR. Have some perspective, people. Obviously, it is not the same as nipping down Fifth Street to the clinic, but I'm loving this commute. It might be different if I weren't in school, but I do all my studying on the train, and I've never been this good a student in my life.

Most importantly, people who don't commute don't have good stories to tell. I've missed the subway more than almost any aspect of New York because nothing out here used to throw me into the space of my fellow humans, generating good stories. The train ride has restored that function. I sit down with a large textbook and highlighter in my hands, and if I keep my eyes glued to it I'll be marvelously productive. If, however, I allow myself to gaze out the window for even a second, the inevitable question pops up from the person sitting opposite me: "I'm sorry, I just have to ask. Biostatistics?"

This week alone I've met some interesting characters. Last Tuesday I struck up a conversation with a woman who was formerly an Occupational Nurse at Berkeley. She told me there is someone in her old department whose job it is to advise faculty, staff and students on their aging parents. When she heard I was interested in Aging issues she confided that her father-in-law had been having blackouts but was refusing to give up his driver's license, and that they were going to have to call the DMV, which was miserable.

Then on Friday I met a man named Joe who told me a little about his days in the Army. He served in World War II, but his stories were pretty different from my dad's tales of the 108th General Hospital. Joe's experience was something closer to Catch-22. He came to the war late, and when he arrived at basic training he had to be trained to shoot without any bullets. He was stationed at Midway, which by then was perfectly tranquil. "Good thing, too," said Joe, "Cause my first night there they told me to go patrol the perimeter. I said I'd never fired a gun and they said it was just as well cause they didn't have any bullets, either." Joe also told me that the day he got out of the army, a friend offered him phone numbers of three girls to go look up. The first girl wasn't home, and the second girl became his wife of 59 years, with whom he had ten children.

Yesterday I met a fellow named Dave who works for the National Park Service. We got to chatting while the train was stopped to pick a truck up off the track. He's been commuting on this route for five years, and he tells me that later in the year people really get into it, bringing crockpots and karaoke machines and crowding into the cafe car to watch Monday night football. I asked him about the conductor who instituted Hawaiian Shirt Day a few weeks ago, and Dave said he was the most professional person he'd seen in the business. He described how once a man in the cafe car became aggressive toward a female passenger, and the conductor put the man off the train in the middle of nowhere. "It's comforting to me to know that frontier justice still exists out here," said Dave.

3 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at September 21, 2005 5:04 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Your post is crazy. I realized, you are on the train in Ryan country, where any person will strike up a friendly conversation with you. Much better than my commute, where people who make physical contact with you will not even say "excuse me." Must make getting to school/work much better.

  •   Posted by Blogger Laura at September 24, 2005 12:12 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Oh, I'm jealous of your train commute. I have to take the bus for 20-30 minutes each way every day, which is fine--I like public transportation, as you do--but I get carsick if I read. I never get trainsick, though. So I end up with headphones on, and I don't get the sense of being in the midst of humanity.

    Also the train is a hell of a lot more comfortable.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at January 18, 2006 11:05 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Dear Anna:
    I was interested in your comment about your father's experience with the 108th General Hospital during World War II. The hospital was sponsored by the medical school of Loyola University Chicago. I am on the faculty of Loyola in Chicago, and the archivist and I are presently trying to complile a history of the 108th. We have located a few staff members who served with the 108th. In cases where staff members are deceased, their children or spouses have been able to share memories that have also been very helpful to us. If you or your father might be able to share some memories about the 108th General Hospital we would really appreciate your help. Please contact me at Thanks in advance for any information you might be able to provide. Karen

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Monday, September 19, 2005

FFH in the News

FFH's very own Mike has recently been quoted in a Newsweek article. Read about it here.

His newfound fame happily coincides with UC Davis' upset of Stanford, which, for those of you who ritually ignore sports, means that Birnam Wood has come to Dunsinane. It's happy because everyone is reading Mike's coverage. Sadly the blog is suffering.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at September 20, 2005 5:46 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I feel your pain. When I am home for weekend, I am studying my arse off. But, I am not sure that that many people would quit their jobs to be a first-year in law school.

    Today's word is "gjjowefy."

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fuck You, Firefox or maybe Fuck You Google

I've been shilling for Firefox everywhere I go these days, but I've just about lost my temper. For the last week, the program has crashed every time I've tried to log into the Blogger homepage. The problem started after I downloaded Google Earth. But Blogger is Google too (6 years ago that was a nonsense sentence.). You'd expect that they would compatible with each other. Maybe they just hate Mozilla. So, actually, I don't know who to blame.

I've been reduced to typing in Internet Explorer, which had fallen into disuse and now renders everything in some enormous bubble font. This is very strange indeed.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at September 18, 2005 8:40 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • As this confused shill erroneously posted on 34 a minute ago,

    That truly does sound painful. Do you have the latest version and everything? (1.0.6?)

    sorry I ain't got no other advice.
    - sol

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Like Meirelles I Make Mad Films, Okay I Don't Make Films, but if I Did they'd have the NIH

Did you know that 40% of snakebite victims are legally intoxicated when the paramedics arrive?

I knew that, because I go to Public Health School now. Among other things I've learned over the past three weeks: 1. When individual members of married couples are asked to name their best friends, the woman will typically name a female friend, but the man will typically name his wife. 2. The statistic I've been throwing around for the last ten years about how left-handed people die younger due to accidents with equipment made for right-handers is false, because the study in question confused the probability of dying stupidly given that you were left-handed with the probability of being left-handed given that you died stupidly. Mathematically, these are not equally probably events. 3. Bagel-slicing injuries skyrocket on Sunday mornings, and are strongly associated with high socioeconomic status. The safest way to slice a bagel is to use a serrated knife, and for the first half of the cut, press down on it with the hole parallel to the cutting board, then rotate 90 degrees in the sensible direction to finish out the cut.

So, basically, this is money well spent. Now on to some stuff that I think you all would profit from knowing, the sharing of which information was suggested to me by the movie Michael and I saw tonight, The Constant Gardner. It's a very good movie, they bothered to do meaningful research before slapping a film together, and I recommend it. It was so refreshing to see a movie whose writers knew at least as much about their topic as I did; given that it's a story about pharmaceutical companies running amok in Africa, that was the outcome I was least expecting. Anyway, my principle objection to the movie is that a good chunk of the plot relies on the circulation of a particular letter which is highly damning to its author, and I think it implausible that anyone connected with either pharmaceutical research, the British foreign service, or espianoge, would be willing to incriminate himself thusly in print. But that's a small objection.

In some ways Pharmaceutical Companies are an easy target--I only mean artistically. In practical terms they're almost impossible to target, unless they get caught doing something ethical like admitting a mistake, in which case they court bankruptcy. Now here's the movie I would have made, if I made movies.
The conduct of several clinical trials of antiretroviral drugs in African and other nonindustrial countries in the past several years has generated intense debate within the scientific community over trial designs that would not have met standards of ethical scientific practice in the U.S. Nine of the sixteen of these studies were funded by the U.S. government through the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health; the rest were funded by other governments and by the UN AIDS program. All nine U.S.-funed studies and six other studies used a placebo arm in investigating interventions into mother-infant (vertical) HIV transmission even though the antiretroviral drug AZT is known to effectively intervene in vertical transmission. (Craddock S. AIDS and Ethics: Clinical Trials, Pharmaceuticals and Global Scientific Practice. In: HIV and AIDS in Africa: Beyond Epidemiology. Kalipeni E, Craddock S, Oppong JR and Ghosh, J, eds. Blackwell Publishing, 2005. p 240)(emphasis and color scheme mine).

Let me translate a little further: in developed countries like the US the medical ethics governing research prohibit using a placebo in a trial if an effective treatment exists. In other words, you can't compare your new intervention to a placebo unless no known treatment exists, you can only compare it to the standard treatment. Research conducted in developing countries has a history of snaking through with lower ethical standards, and such was the case in these studies. We knew that AZT could prevent the transmission of HIV through breastmilk, but the control groups of these studies were not provided with AZT, on the argument that there is a different standard of care in their native countries. According to that logic, they would have had no care at all had the research not been performed there, so they were no worse off participating in the trial. The standard applied to Africans was lower than the standard of care for Westerners. You can see why people wind up acting on that logic, but God help us if that comes to be recognized as ethical practice. And, as you can see, the NIH and the CDC and the UN were all behind these studies, so unlike in the movie world the problem wasn't that the people involved were all villains, it's that the problem is large and the medical community fell down on the job, or chose to look the other way because the stakes were so high. That's pretty fucked up in a fascinating sort of way if you ask me.

Now, don't you think one of those sixteen stories is worth making into a movie? Joel? Meitav? Anyone?

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at September 17, 2005 6:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I am not sure if it is worth making into a movie, but Sharon thought it was worth making into a research paper. (She goes to Public Health School too.) In fact when you started talking about the "Constant Gardner" in your blog post, I thought it was about Pharma companies refusing to give working drugs to control groups. Anyway, Sharon can say more about this if she comes across this post. Maybe she will send you the research paper.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

What Dad did on his Summer Vacation

My dad recently returned from a trip to Washington, DC with my uncle and his wife. Dad's summation of the vacation: "My brother's ears have become extremeley large. He now looks like a very old elf."

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Remember this Tonight when the President Speaks

The Associated Press ran the following as an Alert on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said Tuesday that he takes “full responsibility” for what went wrong with the government response to Hurricane Katrina.

It says something about the current administration when the
president taking responsibility for the actions of his administration is moved on the news wires as urgent, breaking news. You can fill in your own blanks.

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Monday, September 12, 2005


You know what really works my nerves? Chris Rock is right about women, and I really wish he weren't.

For those of you less familiar with Chris's routines, he has postulated that women are smarter than men, and that the only reason they don't run the world is that women don't like other women. He elaborates that if you put a man between two friends of fifteen years, the friendship is off. I really wish I could just dismiss this as sexism, but the man has a valid point! I just stooped to posting on a Sports Journalists' web board because I simply couldn't stand what I was seeing. A pair of female sportswriters offered to answer every question the men had about women, and the answers they were giving worked me up into such a lather I reactivated the old email account I used to defame Josh's character on the Spec alias and joined up to put in my two cents, purely as a corrective. I couldn't in good conscience have looked away. This was the kind of wisdom being dispensed:

Q. [Pervy Sportswriter]:[Empty-headed blight on the name of Woman], ever consider a 3-some if asked? Tongue

A. [Empty-headed blight on the name of Woman]: As I mentioned before, they're only for special occasions. Or when someone buys me a new Jag.

This woman went to college!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The connection, which I realize is not foolproof, between this horse shit and women not sticking together is that the point of the above statement is to distinguish yourself from a crowd of women by being the first to sell your sisters out. Sure, I'll do whatever you want, both of us will, just pick me pick me pick me.

Are we really not past this stage yet??? GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

The end. Or probably not.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at September 14, 2005 6:18 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Some insight for these attitudes among women in male attitude dominated environment may come from reading this:

    Subst Use Misuse. 2005;40(2):241-67. Related Articles, Links

    Drinking like a guy: frequent binge drinking among undergraduate women.

    Young AM, Morales M, McCabe SE, Boyd CJ, Darcy H.

    Substance Abuse Research Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Booze for Breakfast

One of the oddities of life on the West Coast is the sports bar, which opens early on fall weekends for people who want to watch football on an east-coast schedule. I did this twice when traveling to Oregon last fall, to watch Michigan games. Being without TV this weekend, I also ventured to a place in town that said on its website they would have the Wolverines on the big screen.

They did. The Grad is experimenting with college football Saturday to compliment its NFL Sundays. The experiment, it seems to me, is designed to fail. I walked in just after 9 a.m. expecting a full array of greasy dishes, but there was no food to be found. The place does a full breakfast service on Sunday mornings for the pros, but has only beer, booze and coffee available until about 11 a.m. on Saturday. Fitting, a college student's breakfast. Of course, I couldn't pull the trigger on a 9 a.m. beer (my football routine, since I've work at games rather than attend has no booze component). Instead, I savored a cup of coffee that tasted as though it had been waiting for me since Thursday.

The best to be said for the experience, is that I did watch the game in near privacy, as I would have at home. For most of the morning I shared the large room with two other Michigan fans and a group of four Virginia Tech fans. Mostly we were a calm bunch. It was nothing like AmCaf on football Sundays, when there would be random clapping from some area of the bar when the Chiefs or Seahawks were closing in on the end zone. The ending of the game also sucked. I miss having my own cable.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Meeting the Canine Godchildren

After posting last night, we visited Alex and April and their eight-week-old boxer puppies.

The dogs arrived the day after we moved, so while we've been (not) unpacking, they've been cleaning up behind the puppies, who haven't yet remembered to crap on the plastic left out for them rather than, say, the cushions Alex and April have laid out for them to sleep atop. The dogs excrete something every four hours and Alex seemed exhausted from having to deal with all this cleaning. Anna's views on this are known. We got to see Alex and April in action because after an ice cream run, we returned to find both urine and something that was either shit or vomit. My vote is actually vomit because it didn't really smell all that bad.

After much back-and-forth about names, they settled on Sparta (the girl) and Quintus (the boy). This, they explained, is because the female is vicious when they are wrestling (during the extended session we watched, she went for Quintus' nuts on multiple occasions) and the boy (named after Horace) just goes with the flow. Both are fairly charming and exceptionally cute. We watched them play a 15-minute game of tug of war with a toy that until very recently belonged to Moby, their cat. Moby, who was, perhaps, not the most accomodating of cats to begin with, is not taking the arrival of the dogs that well. She has taken to prowling the outdoors getting in fights with other cats, and, Alex reports, winning. So that's something. We'll post photos at some point.

I'm not a dog person, but I've noticed that I tend to do better when I've known the animal from its puppyhood. It is one of Anna's great sadnesses that I never got to know Peggy, her parents' old dog. I have known Rhoda since she was very small, and we get along really well. I imagine that will be the case for these dogs. I am making an effort in the canine department because I know it means a lot to Anna.

I don't exactly know what we're supposed to do as puppy godparents, but I think it means that if April won't buy Sparta a Barbie doll to chew on, then Anna is supposed to. I think maybe I'm supposed to hold Quintus at his bris or something. We'll see.

4 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at September 11, 2005 8:24 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I feel like it is my responsibility to represent Sparta, who can not represent herself, and say that the Spartan people is not vicious. Spartans are in fact quite moderate tempered, unlike the freedom-loving Athenians who tend to be either flower children or wild pack animals. Spartans are closer to the Aristotelian ideal. I think Athens or Rome would be a more appropriate name for the dog. Not that this is any of my business...

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at September 11, 2005 12:31 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Not vicious, just tough.

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at September 11, 2005 1:22 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Then, I remove my objection. Tough is a "golden mean."

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at September 11, 2005 2:49 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • 1.86 units of toughness, roughly.

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Blog News

Unfortunately, everyone has to be punished because of the dastardly spambots.

I have turned on the word verification feature for the comments section, meaning you will have to take an extra step to post comments. I believe you'll just have to fill in a piece of ghostly text into box provided. I hope you will fight through it, because we love comments, and, frankly, my emotions can't take seeing the "1 comments" line and finding out that it's an ad for something else.

That's the update.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

My Friday off

Here are the things I didn't do today:
  • Laundry, because our bedroom is starting to look like my old room in East Campus, everything on the floor, nothing on the walls
  • Remove the flower painted in our window, because I love it and plan to tread on the line of eviction from the owners before finally capitulating.
  • Send out more cover letters and e-mail, because I seem to have reached a certain inertia when it comes to searching for a new job. There are only six places I'm looking and all of them seemingly haven't hired anyone in years. I guess I also delayed e-mailing the editors who have expressed some interest in talking to me.
  • Unpacking, because we are still have full boxes and we've both been very busy.
  • Devise a clever way of keeping our doors from slamming, because the cross-breezes we were so excited about are wonderfully strong, but our door jambs are not so much. Honestly, this sounds fairly out of my league. And actually I've almost tuned out the slamming of doors, but can't imagine what the neighbors think is going on here. I expect the cops to arrive any second.
Instead I watched The Big Lebowski, luxuriated in the warmth of our restored fast Internet and prepared to meet our canine godchildren this evening. We expect the puppies to be very cute. More on that later.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I was an Usher; the House is Still Standing

I, too, apologize for our failure to post over the past week. I'll be better now, and will have some school stories soon. Today I'm going to tell you about the wedding I attended over the weekend. Those of you who weren't at college with me might know the groom, Dave, as the usher who wore doggie slippers at our wedding. Otherwise, you might recognize him from stories in which I have described him as my Bad Angel, the person most likely to talk me out of, say, studying, and into, say, using my room for a pirate-themed party complete with a working cannon. Given Dave's propensity for creative ideas which he fails to execute, a number of us did not really consider the wedding plans final until we arrived at the chuppah, especially since the invitation only arrived last Thursday. Dave is a highly eccentric character and his transformation into Married Dude is in some ways a marker of the passing of my youth. It was nice, therefore, to spend Sunday evening in a time warp, hanging out with people I hadn't seen in years and behaving like a mildly prudish version of my eighteen-year-old self. In addition to a pair of my own ushing alumni, Andy and Trevor, I reconnected with a bunch of Dave's high school friends, with whom I used to hang out a fair amount back in the day. Apart for some net shortening of hair and weight gain, they had not changed one iota.

The wedding was held at an enormous castle, the location of which is still a mystery to me, as it is cleverly hidden behind a maze of 457 consecutive left turns onto streets named Chicken Valley Lane and Cocskpur Road, among other things. It belongs to a family friend with a banking job, seven children, 30 rooms, and, presumably, velvet toilet paper. I arrived late, thanks to some confusion between the arrival time for ushers and Dave's estimate of when I should leave in order to make it on time. I hitched with a friend of Dave's mom named Ruth, who was cool. I was a little puzzled when about an hour into our acquaintance Ruth said, "Ooooh, you're that Anna," but I knew Dave's mom liked me so I didn't give it much thought. The first person I espied on my arrival was the bride, Rovika, who is truly a knockout and of course was more so on this day. She put me in charge of locating the boutonnieres, which led me to cross paths with Tom, a high school friend of Dave's who was always a great favorite with me. Tom used to affect a certain hippy look which made for a most interesting contrast with his impeccable old world manners, so much so that Mike reminded me that when we first met I dubbed him Polite Tom who Looks like a Homeless Person. Since the name is not really apt any more and since I really quite like Tom, I'm going to shorten it to Polite Tom from here on out.

Anyway, I didn't think he would remember me, but he did, and I slid rather easily into the old crowd, who were all nice and all remembered me or got someone to refresh their memories before saying hi. There was one Mr. Rosenberg, who I generally refer to as Dave's Bad Angel, which makes his relationship to me something extraordinary indeed, and some other time I'll tell you about the time the three of us almost got arrested. There was Vishal, who continues to refer to himself as such though everyone else calls him Fish. Fish was the owner of the road-tripping vehicle affectionately known as the Terrorist Van, whose inner parts were 40% duct tape and outer parts 80%; I was sorry to hear he had reluctantly parted company with the van two years ago, truly the end of an era. Gaku, another of the ushers, had once been an inscrutable but accomplished...well, let's say he was in business, but he looked as though he might be on the straight and narrow; it was hard to tell because everyone looks respectable in a suit. He had been pre-gaming the wedding since the bar went up. The boutonnieres were located, along with Dave, and we promptly began poking ourselves in the thumbs with the pins that were supposed to affix the roses to our button holes (as the only female usher I was exempt from dressing requirements, which presented a problem as I had no button hole. I had affixed my rose to a wooden ring in my neck line via an ingenious wiring system when we realized we were short one and I yielded mine to Andy). Trevor sidled up to me with his wife Bevin in tow and demanded to know why I hadn't been able to attend his wedding; I explained to him cheerfully that it was all his own fault and we bickered just like old times. Eventually Andy turned up, too, with Fu. Fu is a delightful girl we knew in college, the funniest thing about whom is that she actually has some multisyllabic first name that nobody knows because her freshman roommate, known as Rikki the Physics Angel, named her after the college of Engineering the first week of school and it stuck.

Dave pronounced me Head Usher on the grounds that I was the most responsible member of the wedding party. This was both a practical choice and a sweet gesture, because Dave understands how much I enjoy a chance to act officious at a wedding. Tom and I were the only ushers evincing any interest in ushing; we got some rather vague instructions from Rovika, the meat of which was that we were to accompany the two grandmothers to their seats of honor to signal the start of the ceremony. Tom requested the more sturdy grandmother, so Rovika said he could have Dave's. At the risk of sounding anti-feminist I thought they'd probably want a boy to accompany Rovika's grandmother, so I nominated Andy, who was clearly the most reliable party. "My grandma will need a lot of assistance," said Rovika, "In fact, you'd better go through my sister." When I attempted to introduce Andy to the gradmother in question she stared ahead perfectly straight, perhaps vaguely aware that there was a wedding going on around her, but it was hard to tell. When I introduced Tom to Dave's grandmother, on the other hand, she responded with a degree of open flirtation that I would have found unusual if I had not known Dave's dad.

Our hostess instructed me to begin seating guests as soon as the rabbi arrived, which was estimated at ten minutes to seven. That was half an hour away, so I went for a stroll with Andy to catch up, noshed a few spring rolls and mingled. I kept meeting people who knew more about me than I did about them, which is unusual since I have a very good memory for gossip. I made a mental note to pay more attention to Mrs. Austerweil. I checked my watch and lo, it was 6:50, and lo, there was no rabbi. We waited. We consumed bruschetta and red wine spritzers. Lo, it was 7:30. Lo, where the shit was the rabbi? At this point Rovika told Dave he had better check his voicemail, which was how he found out that the rabbi was in a cab with no cell phone and that her directions had flown out the cab window. We will leave aside the discussion which obsessed the wedding party for the rest of the night, on whether and if so how this event might have realistically occurred. The couple kept admirably calm. Rovika confined her public commentary to the observation, “That’s a crazy story.” For his part, when I asked Dave, “Can I get you anything?” he replied, “Xanax, please,” but betrayed no other signs of anxiety.

As the guests progressed further through the supply of booze and hors d’oeuvres, a series of closed meetings began to take place in our host’s study. It was then that I decided that as the wedding party, this was our test. After a perfunctory solicitation of support from the young people I busted into our host’s desk and found a package of index cards—I was careful to ask permission from one of our host’s five-year-old children, which therefore makes it slightly less tacky than theft, especially since it was an emergency. With strategic assistance from Ruth and Dave’s brother Joe, we distributed index cards to the increasingly tipsy guests and asked them to write down something they’d be willing to say in public about Dave and Rovika—just in case.

The rabbi turned up of course, about two hours late, and we never had to use them. The seating was accomplished in record time though with low accuracy. Tom managed to wrestle a glass of wine out of Gaku’s hand before the bride appeared, but was unsuccessful with the cigarette, which Gaku finished smoking while holding up the chuppah with his other hand. The ceremony went as planned—this is a behind-the-scenes account, so if you want the lowdown on that kind of detail, go to someone else’s blog. Dinner and dancing followed, also as planned, except that during the toasts Gaku became voluble about his not having had a turn at the buffet, so I gave him my plate to make him quiet, which was fine. Dave had been allowed to choose one inappropriate song, so he selected “The Humpty Dance.” Four ushers stood rooted to the dance floor watching Rosenberg's girlfriend Amanda and Dave’s Dad do what can only be described as a booty dance. Dave’s uncle later told her, “You almost gave Art a heart attack.”

The last phase of the evening commenced with the cutting of the cake, and that last phase was called Rotating Gaku-sitting. As we filed back into the dining room, I caught sight of Tom and Gaku making an entrance reminiscent of The Princess Bride when Westley has only just been brought to life. We attempted to seat him, but to Gaku, chairs were no longer stationary objects, so I propped him up and took him outside for a glass of water. At this point Gaku began the first chorus of what was to be his refrain for the rest of the evening, namely, “Hey, wasn’t I holding a glass of Chardonnay?” I had talked him into downing about 32 ounces of water when Fish, who was a bit crapulous himself, appeared and allowed Gaku to finish his drink. Obviously I was pissing in the wind, so I transferred Gaku’s arms to Fish’s neck with an irritable, “Fine, you take him then,” and stalked off to do an inventory of the castle with Andy and Fu. At various points Gaku could be seen staggering about the property, now entering a bathroom under Rosenberg’s supervision, now leaning on the bar and demanding to be reunited with his Chardonnay, until he finally collapsed in a pool chair with his head in his hands, where he remained.

The older generation had mostly gone home by now, and the young ones had congregated in and around the enormous hot tub. Joe asked to be told stories about Dave, so I recounted for him the infamous Gnocchi Incident, wherein Dave and I opened a bottle of wine while cooking on an empty stomach and wound up vomiting pure purple instead of eating supper. Joe thought that was hilarious, and added, “Were you two still together at that point?”

“Say wha?”

It turns out that Dave’s family has been under the misapprehension that Dave and I were a couple at Columbia. They apparently couldn’t work up the nerve to ask Dave. It dawned on me that that was why everyone at the wedding knew who I was; they thought I had flown cross-country to see my ex-boyfriend married off and were waiting to see how I would take it.

Around 2 am we were summarily kicked off the property (for which our hosts were roundly abused later, despite having generously hosted a wedding for twelve hours already), and I had no choice but to become the sixth occupant of Rosenberg’s five-person car. I happen to have nightmares in which I am riding in Rosenberg’s car without a seat belt, but there were no more trains at that hour so I wasn’t really in a position to argue. Fish, Tom, and Gaku easily took up the back seat, so my attempt to wedge my own ample behind in was unsuccessful and I wound up essentially sprawled tightly across them. If I had found myself in this position with anyone other than the perfect gentleman that Tom is, it would have been obscene--Gaku at this point would have lost to Rovika’s grandmother at a game of Simon Says and was therefore not bothered.

I couldn't think of a proper concluding sentence for this post. Mazel Tov to Dave and Rovika.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at September 08, 2005 5:42 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Your posts are marvelously detailed. I am glad Dave's wedding lived up to the hype.

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at September 09, 2005 5:56 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Your account makes the weekend wedding in a redwood grove in Los Gatos seem postively Prussian.

    Your account drew the following ad:

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Politics of Suffering

We are without cable for two weeks as a result of the move, so I'm mostly spared the non-stop coverage of Hurricane Katrina. We spent Friday night/Saturday morning at a hotel in the South Bay, so I had my first real taste of how heartbreaking the scene is. There are over-the-top moments, like the CNN reporter doing a phone interview with a woman who has lost everything that degenerating into them talking over each other as he suggested ways to get help and she said it was impossible. It's fairly heartbreaking stuff.

I have lost patience with the line of argument that holds the Katrina evacuation in New Orleans was bungled because the victims were all going to be poor, black and descended from the French. It's a simplistic argument, and, to borrow a concept from Fritz, it ascribes malevolence as a motive where simple incompetence will do.

But maybe it's not fair to call the spectacular failure to evacuate people from the Crecent City incompetence because, really, the government acted exactly how the president and his allies wanted it to. It did nothing. For people who don't believe government affects their lives, understand that the suffering in New Orleans is a direct consequence of the current adminstration's governing priorities. Don't misread what I'm saying and think I believe that Republicans everywhere are rejoicing at the corpses on the streets in NOLA. But I do think the GOP needs to be held accountable for the human cost of its ideology. Governing has conseqences.

An administration determined to slash domestic spending so it can wage war and give rich people tax cuts is doomed to reactivity. With storms, to a certain extent, reaction is unavoidable, but watching the news reports out of New Orleans, one is left with the impression that there were no plans for what to do in case a hurricane hit (I mean let's play the probabilities, it only happens four times a fucking year). Bush is disingenous when he told Diane Sawyer, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." This is from an Associated Press story slugged "The Big One," which Aug. 28, about 24 hours before Katrina hit land in the Gulf

Experts have warned for years that the levees and pumps that usually keep New Orleans dry have no chance against a direct hit by a Category 5 storm. ... Experts have also warned that the ring of high levees around New Orleans, designed to protect the city from floodwaters coming down the Mississippi, will only make things worse in a powerful hurricane. Katrina is expected to push a 28-foot storm surge against the levees. Even if they hold, water will pour over their tops and begin filling the city as if it were a sinking canoe.

Of course, the president doesn't read newspapers because of the media filter. If he had, he would have seen the five-part series in the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 2002 discussing the very real danger the city was in from a direct hit from a hurricane like Katrina.

The unifying principle of the party in power is that government should exist only to wage war, protect property and stop abortion. This is a legitimate political viewpoint. It's not mine because I believe it demands a very narrow definition of cause and effect that strikes me as intellectually dishonest. If a hole in the atmosphere at the fucking south pole is contributing to skin cancer in the northern hemisphere, then the only conclusion is that nothing in the world is self contained. The wiping out of New Orleans drove up my gas prices in California. The loss of Mardi Gras will cost depressing perverts their "Girls Gone Wild" tapes next year. It's all connected.

I hope the people displaced are able to return home or restart their lives as necessary. But when we start apportioning blame, let's understand that failure in government doesn't have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Long Time, No See

We're sorry about the lapse in posting, but we were hit by Anna's first week of classes, my football special issue and our two-door move within the building. Exhale. So we're in the new apartment, which looks at lot like a box factory at the moment, although Anna says she'll set to work on fixing that when she returns from Austerweil's wedding. We'll post some pictures of the new place when the time is right.

The move itself was a fairly traumatic experience. The previous tenants were out on Monday, but the owners said they wanted to do an inspection, so we had to delay moving the dinky stuff until the following day. Apparently what inspection meant was marching in the next day and firing the on-site manager, who we liked a lot. I felt distinctly like a criminal as I moved boxes in and he started working the phone to find somewhere to stay, since his firing was also his eviction. I eventually had to leave for a while because the emotion was too much. Alex and April were the heroes of the move. We got everything cleared out in the space of three hours and went for sushi.

So, in no particular order, here are the things we've learned this week.
  • Our building owners are not very nice people. And that comes as a surprise because they're a couple of cute old folks, and you expect them to be grandparently, only then they're chastising you for the dust you never noticed on the blinds. Or telling you to take down the flower painted on the insulation squares on the wall, which is part of the reason you took the apartment. Or passive-aggressively picking paper clips off your old floor and making comments about it. I'm sure we'll be hearing from them when it comes to security deposit.
  • We certainly did live (and clean our floors) before we had a Swiffer, it's just hard to remember how.
  • I now like just enough sushi to be able go out and eat it with people, which was actually my new year's resolution. Strange resolution, you might say, but I'm someone who has to work on being social, and ruling out a class of food that a lot of people like, struck me as a defense mechanism that needed to be breached. So there you go.
  • Once you get used to living with a wireless connection, it's really hard to go back. I am on a dial-up until Friday and I'm considering spending more time in the office, that's how bad it is.
So that's it. Fritz and Queenie are in town until Wednesday, so we'll be trying the new restaurant in town, among other things.

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