Thursday, June 29, 2006


So I just finished watching Al Gore on The Daily Show.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a President who can speak in complete sentences? Wouldn't it be nice to have a President who's in touch with reality? Wouldn't it be nice to have a President who believes that "moral obligations" mean saving the planet, not demonizing gay people?

I know he says he has no plans to run, but let's hope he either changes his mind or he's just keeping a low profile.

(And, oh, wouldn't we love to see Al TROUNCE Hillary in a primary? Yes, indeed, that would be hot.)

Speaking of hot, the shoulders on Al Gore??? I never noticed before.

Gore/Feingold: unstoppable.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rush Limpdick

Rush Limbaugh was detained yesterday at Palm Beach International Airport as he returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic after customs officials found Viagra in his luggage, for which he did not have a valid prescription.

The prescription was in his doctor's name, for "privacy" purposes. There's a lot to be said about those ethics right there, but I want to skip over that and get to the more important question that CNN didn't ask.

O staunch defender of American morals, thrice divorced and presently single, would you care to explain why you take Viagra with you when you vacation alone?

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Few Thoughts on the Parade/March

In no particular order:


The route is only about 4 miles. I walk 4 miles all the time. I just don't normally stand around for two hours before I start walking. Also, I am normally a very fast walker. Shuffle shuffle stop. Shuffle shuffle stop. Argh! I swear, we spent an hour on 8th Street waiting to cross 6th Avenue. My feet were killing me.

Also, my butt hurts. I think I pulled something.

I guess I just wasn't in the mood. I was just over it by 31st Street. (That's a paltry 21 blocks, with 23 blocks and 4 avenues left to go.) It didn't help that I nearly got arrested at 42nd Street.

I am cursed with a small bladder. I spied some portapotties set up outside the Central Library, and I ducked out of the parade for a moment to take advantage of them. When I was done, this jerk of a cop was not going to let me back in the parade. He said, "Hey hey hey whoa buddy, where you think you're goin'?" I said, "I'm rejoining my group, I had to use the restroom." "Yeah, I don't think so pal, you can't just come and go like that." "Well...okay, why not?" "We got rules." I said, "But my group is right there...see all those people with the t-shirts that match mine? Can't I just get back with them?" "Sorry pal, I let you in, I gotta let everybody in." "What? No, you just have to let people WHO ARE OBVIOUSLY PART OF THE PARADE in." "Look, this isn't fun for me either, I'd rather be home eating dinner." (Fortunately I restrained an antagonistic response that shot to mind.) "Well, what do you suggest I do?" "Cross over here, go down Madison Avenue and see if you can rejoin further down." And I'm thinking, so if you think some other cop will let me in at some random intersection somewhere else, why won't you do it when my GROUP IS RIGHT THERE??? So I just said, "Fine." I crossed 5th Avenue, spoke to the cop at the other corner and said, "I got out of line to use the restroom and that cop over there won't let me back in, can I please just rejoin my group which is right there?" And the cop said, "Yeah sure, whatever." Sheesh.

To the people who suggested that God is angry at the gays and therefore we didn't have a picture postcard day, allow me to respond: I think God (see Genesis, where He flooded the entire world, reduced two cities to smoldering heaps and turned a woman into a pillar of salt) can do better than 75, overcast and light sprinkles. If you really want to try to impart signs of God's anger to the weather, you might want to look a little further south. Washington, D.C. got flooded and a tree fell over at the White House. Hello.

I saw so, so many cute guys yesterday. Not "hot," gorgeous guys, cute guys. Boyfriend types. So many of them. Where are they the rest of the year? Why aren't I meeting any of them?


On a less irreverent note, here's why we do this, and here's the reason full marriage equality is important. It's about people. Real people who are hurt by the inequality.

After the parade I went to a barbecue for LGBT people and supporters at St. Bartholomew's Church. I met an elderly man there who told me, "I was in a partnership with another man for 45 years. He passed away 18 years ago." Then, with a tear forming in his eye and a little catch in his voice, "The hospital wouldn't let me be with him when he died."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Happy Pride!

This is the gayest picture of myself I could find -- as Dandini in Rossini's La Cenerentola. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, wherever they are and whatever they're doing. For those of you who are new to the blog: Why I March. Posted by Picasa

And remember, happiness is just a flaming 'mo away!

Friday, June 23, 2006 Thinks I'm an Opera Queen

I was updating my wishlist today when I noticed this message in the lower right-hand corner of the screen:

Customers who bought items in your Recent History also bought:
  • The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men
  • The Very Best of Alfredo Kraus


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Teach the Controversy

On Tuesday of this week, Stephen Colbert had as his guest Bart Ehrman, author of the important new book Misquoting Jesus. (Props to the Fabulous Jackass – a devout atheist – who gave me a copy.) As much as I enjoy both The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, one of the weakest aspects is the extremely limited time they allot to some of their incredibly important and interesting guests. Mr. Ehrman was particularly ill-served by this setup, whereby he functioned as a de facto straightman to Colbert’s comedy routine. There wasn’t the slightest opportunity for him to explain how his book has the potential to shake the very foundations of western civilization.

No, I’m not kidding.

Mr. Ehrman’s book does not contain any new information; in fact, the majority of it has been known for hundreds of years. But I don’t believe there has ever before been a book as accessible to the average person. Misquoting Jesus is a brief and extremely illuminating book about the history of the New Testament and the problems with translation.

There are millions of people around the world – many of them right here in America – who believe the Bible is the literal Word of God, passed down through the centuries, inerrant, inviolable and constant. They live in willful denial of the plainly obvious fact that biblical text is historically inaccurate, occasionally immoral and sometimes even contradictory. It cannot, in any intellectual sense of the word, be interpreted “literally” unless one is willing to live in a permanent world of cognitive dissonance.

The first and most important thing for fundamentalist Christians to understand is that we do not have the original versions of ANY of the books of the New Testament. I don’t feel like typing that sentence over again for emphasis, so please just re-read it. I am not kidding. We don’t have ANY of them. The oldest existing manuscripts are copies of copies, 200 years or more older than the lost originals. And those manuscripts don’t agree.

Actually, if you add up all the existing ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, the differences between them quickly run up into the hundreds of thousands. Many of them are insignificant, obvious errors caused by the difficulties of hand transcription. But others pose very serious questions indeed.

Whenever the sacrament of communion is performed, a passage from the Gospel of Luke is read: “This is my body, which has been given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Likewise after supper He took the cup and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, given and shed for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.’”

Ready for a surprise? None of the words following “This is my body” appear in any of the manuscripts judged by scholars to be the oldest and best. As an Episcopalian, I hear those words read aloud in church every Sunday. What are the implications for me if they weren’t originally part of the Gospel of Luke?

Ehrman details the arguments that many of Christianity’s most revered passages were added by later scribes, for a variety of possible reasons. The woman taken in adultery? Added later. Jesus sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane? Not original text. In fact, the entire book of I Timothy, one of the letters of Paul, most likely wasn’t written by Paul at all.

That leads us into a present-day controversy. Just this past week, the American Episcopal Church elected as its presiding bishop the first woman to lead a church in the worldwide Anglican Communion. In response, the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, which does not support the ordination of women as priests -- let alone bishops -- wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican church’s global spiritual leader, and requested “alternative leadership.”

Presumably, their justification for opposing women as priests comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which says, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.”

Guess what? Textual evidence suggests this passage is not part of the original epistle. Moreover, this contradictory passage from Galatians probably is original. This is just a tiny sampling of the places where the modern “Bible” differs from the manuscripts judged to be the most authentic.

The potential repercussions of the Christian religion widely recognizing that the Bible is, as I put it earlier, an edited anthology of approved historical writings about God, are enormous.

Does the fact that the “do this for the remembrance of me” passage was not part of the first version of the Gospel – as far as we can tell! – mean that it wasn’t divinely inspired? Absolutely not.

But Christianity should be a religion of integrity, and we owe it to ourselves and to our God to stop pretending that the Bible is and always has been the inerrant “Word of God.” Whichever version you’re reading is inevitably different than the original texts. Over a period of nearly 20 centuries, scholars have had to make choices based on the evidence available – and sometimes their personal biases – about what the orthodoxy should be. The online concordance I like to use, Crosswalk, offers 29 different English translations of the Bible. The reason there are so many is that scholars do not agree on either how certain words from ancient, extinct languages should be translated or which existing manuscripts are the most authoritative. And that’s just English! The Bible has been translated into over 2,000 different languages.

Regarding the theory of evolution, supporters of Intelligent Design claim that they’re not suggesting we stop teaching evolution, merely that teachers be required to note that there is disagreement (grossly exaggerated, I must add) within the scientific community. “Teach the controversy!” they harmlessly recommend.

They should recommend the same for Bible study.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Great Moments in Literature

At work today we were having a discussion about favorite sentences from great books. I think perhaps the greatest sentence I ever read was from One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

But I also clearly remember a sentence from a bodice-ripping paperback I found under a chair in the bandroom in eighth grade called Rangoon. The main character was an American woman named Lysistrata, of all things, who found herself in Burma in the 19th century, carrying on an affair with the aptly named local ruler Ram.

Heedless of her muffled cry, he ripped off his loincloth and roughly knifed himself into her.

That was pretty exciting stuff for a 13 year old. Nineteen years later, I still remember that sentence, and I still want to know who left it in the bandroom.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I've been reading the June 26th edition of New York magazine, featuring the first edition of the (presumably annual) "Urban Etiquette Handbook."

Two ideas spring immediately to mind: one, I'm going to write them and urge them to reproduce this as a brochure that I can hand out, and two, thank God someone has finally recognized that New Yorkers need not just a refresher course, but an actual introduction to basic etiquette.

New Yorkers pride themselves on their worldly sophistication. We use words like "zeitgeist" and "postmodern" and "Orwellian" and "fennel." We have Carnegie Hall, the Guggenheim, and the Waldorf-Astoria. New York is iconic, romantic. Woody Allen didn't make Minneapolis Murder Mystery. Would Miracle on La Cienega have been as charming? Autumn in Reno? Home Alone 2: Lost in Kenosha? Imagine if King Kong had gotten loose in Cawker City, Kansas and scaled the world's largest ball of twine, instead.

But New Yorkers are rude. Well, maybe "rude" is not the right word. Tourists always comment that they are surprised to discover how nice we are, but that's because they sort of expect our response to "Where's the Statue of Liberty?" to be "Fuck you, you fuckin' fuck," as we rob them at knifepoint. We're actually quite gracious to out of towners.

So, I guess I wouldn't say rude so much as pathologically insensitive.

I was delighted to see that the article included special sections on "Subway Decorum" and sidewalk behavior, though they left a few of the worst behaviors out.

On the subways: you people who ride nonchalantly just inside the doors, refusing to move fully into the car, inhibiting the movement of people entering and exiting the train, have forfeited the right to look irritated by people who dare to try to get on or off. An SUV-sized stroller with cupholder and luggage rack is not an exemption that allows you to stand here. If your stroller does not fit on the subway, you need to take the hint, pal. And why is your baby commuting at rush hour?

If I can hear your iPod over my iPod, yours is too loud.

If your child is too young to walk up the stairs in the station by themselves, just pick them up and carry them.

The poles on subway cars are for people to hold on to for safety, not for your child to swing around in circles in youthful disregard of passengers coming and going from the train.

On those older trains (A, C and E) that just have benches instead of clearly marked seats, sit as close as possible to the next person without actually touching them, especially at rush hour. While we'd all prefer to have a foot between ourselves and a perfect stranger, you're preventing probably four people at least from sitting down.

I've already blogged about sidewalk etiquette, but I was disappointed that New York says strollers always get the right of way. I would say people on the sidewalk need to watch out for strollers, but saying they have the right of way is like saying a station wagon can drive over the dotted line on a two-lane road and ignore stop signs just because there's a brat in the backseat. Strollers belong on the far side of the sidewalk by the building wall.

Also I take exception to the repeated admonitions New York makes against ogling women. The current urban fashion is to swell to, shall we say, Rubenesque proportions and then wear jeans and a t-shirt that would be tight even on Kate Moss. Yell at me for supporting a double-standard, but I'd say don't ogle a woman in a floral-print dress that goes below the knees with a lace collar. If a woman's pants are so tight that you can tell whether she's recently waxed or not, ogle away.

Overall, though, the article provides helpful answers to many dilemmas: When can you get together with your friend's ex? (Never.) Is it okay to smoke pot at a party? (Yes, pot is "a public good that belongs to all people, like radio airwaves and national parks.") How do you get a stranger to stop talking to you on the subway? (Pretend to fall asleep or die.)

There is one question I wish they'd answered, though. Is it appropriate to blog about an article from a magazine that came to your office for a deceased former employee?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunday Photo Blogging: Presenting Rocky & Starbuck

Well, after long conversations with them, I have finally settled on some names. None of the brother/sister pairs, as marvelous as all those suggestions were, really worked for their personalities. Plus, I began to feel that if I named them that way, each cat would sort of be defined by the other. So I gave them names that have nothing to do with each other. Starbuck is the little girl lying down; so named because she's smart and beautiful and clearly won't take crap from anyone. She may be small now, but I have a feeling someday she'll be running the show. Rocky is that handsome boy sitting next to her: their mother was rescued from the streets of Far Rockaway, out near JFK. He's my little tough guy from the backstreets. Posted by Picasa

Playtime! Posted by Picasa

Getting the US RDA of sandal strap. Posted by Picasa

My little champ. Posted by Picasa

I'm not kidding when I say they're climbing the walls. Posted by Picasa

Sometimes Starbuck looks so sweet and gentle. Posted by Picasa

And sometimes she looks like this. Here she is chasing her own tail, turning somersaults in my recliner. Posted by Picasa

Hard playing requires hard sleeping. Posted by Picasa

Fortunately, they are easily told apart. Rocky's in the back; hard to tell in this photo, but -- at least for the moment -- he's also much bigger than she is. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Just So You Know...

If any of my personal friends here in New York are wondering if they weren't invited to my birthday party, I just want to assure you that there wasn't one. I decided not to do anything special this year.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Our First Night

Well, we're home.

I picked them up from their foster mother after work last night; it was clear she didn't really want to let them go, so that was kind of awkward. I thanked her for taking such good care of them and then headed off for the subway.

Apparently I need to take my kittens on walks through Chelsea more often. I don't think I've ever gotten more winks and smiles than I did last night while walking down 16th Street. Everyone wanted to see who was in my cage. We were very popular on the subway, too. (Thank the good Lord, there were seats!) People would peer in and say, "What a cute kitt -- oh, there's two!"

The girl curled up in the back of the carrier and stared into the corner; the boy stood valiantly at the front door and mewed. Of course, he couldn't be heard over the traffic and subway noise, but he looked very brave. About 125th Street he gave up and sat on his sister for the rest of the ride.

Once home, the first thing I did was show them the litter box. Then they started exploring the apartment. The girl made a few loops around, then headed for the bathroom...and squatted in the box. Yay! And then I thought, where's the boy?

He was hanging from the bedroom curtains.

Oh boy.

They still don't have names. The foster mother told me she had named them Rio and Chantal. Rio is okay, I suppose, but Chantal? I am not giving my princess a white trash stripper name. (Apologies to any Chantals reading this blog.) At the moment I think the list of potential names is headed by Scratchy and Bitey. It doesn't matter which is which.

After their dinner, I stretched out on the sofa to watch TV, though mostly I watched the two cats dart from one end of the apartment to the other, up this, down that, under here, over there. The girl likes to get on top of things and ambush her unsuspecting brother from above. The boy likes to hide under the bed and leap out at her. And my feet. Presently the boy leapt onto the sofa and curled up behind my knees and went to sleep. Then the girl (maybe I could name them Fresh and The Girl? If you're not reading Fresh Pepper -- start!!!) joined us and went to sleep in front of my chest. Awww.

At bedtime, I discovered the girl's favorite game is "chase Andy's toes under the sheets." Ow.

This morning about 5:30 I was awakened with a paw in the face, and opened my eyes to discover both kitties smiling and purring at me, rubbing their faces against mine. They had come in to wish me happy birthday! (32 today!)

No, I'm not that naive. I know cats. I know how they use affection to manipulate their owners. This is the "Oh, I'm ever so good and I love you so much and I'm going to purr and meow and paw you until you get your ass out of bed and feed me and then I'll go back to attacking your toes when you least expect it."

They were both fascinated with the shower. I have a clear shower curtain. The girl sat on the mat and stared, while the boy was obsessed with chasing the water as it ran down the curtain. He only fell into the tub twice.

They were equally fascinated watching me shave. Of course, while I was standing there, the girl took a jump and a swipe at, know...and I said, sternly, "That's not for pussy." True story.

Right now they are running around playing with anything and everything. Who knew a beer bottle cap could be so entertaining?

I will try to get some pictures of them, but they don't stay in one place very long.

Cats can live to be 18. That means I could still have these guys when I'm 50.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Religious People"

Twice now in the past week I have encountered disparaging generalizations of "religious people" in the leftist blogosphere, highlighting one of the great hypocrisies of the liberal secular movement: for all their advocacy of diversity, people of faith are one demographic they prefer to do without, and they further fail to recognize the limitless diversity within various faith traditions.

In a discussion on the "Marriage Protection" Amendment that failed in the Senate, Homer had this to say: "Religious folks always want to feel superior to other people. They used to demonize godless communists, but that kinda ended in 1989. So then it switched to gays/lesbians. I personally could really care less about rules laid out in some 2000 year old book."

My response: "My, don't we feel superior." The subtext is that people of faith are maintaining hopeless fidelity to ancient, irrelevant fairy tales.

More recently, Beep! Beep! It's Me noted on Weltanschauung, "Religious people argue against what they call "moral relativism" even though it is obvious that morality changes according to culture, geography, religion and chronology. Religious people assume an "absolute morality" which they claim their god belief/god represents. I find this a difficult notion to agree with as the majority of people out there in the world can't agree on what colour to paint the kitchen, let alone which religious dogma represents absolute morality."

If she would only stop to consider that the vast majority of the planet's inhabitants are religious, then she would discover her own conclusion is that people of faith do not always agree. Hence, no argument that begins with "religious people are..." could be considered objective.

It's true that religious people with strong moral visions can be a total pain in the ass. Just look at the way Martin Luther King, Jr., pushed his faith-based ideas about racial equality on our society. What an asshole, right? Gandhi, too.

More recently, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush suspended laws requiring construction companies to pay employees prevailing wages. A coalition of religious people convinced the White House that helping wealthy corporations save millions of dollars was less of a priority than helping regional workers who'd lost everything rebuild their lives by earning fair pay. The nerve!

This is, truly, one of the great weaknesses of American society, in that we don't acknowledge firstly the diversity of religious thought and secondly that religion isn't always bad. "What about the crusades?" some ask. Well, the enforced secularism of the USSR and China didn't exactly lead to utopias, did they?

Another tragic misperception is that to be "religious" in America means to be "conservative." I work for a prominent LGBT civil rights organization, absolutely at the top of the list of enemies of groups like the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family and others. Because we are pro-gay, we are often accused of pushing an anti-religious leftist agenda. However, our staff includes not only me and several other people of faith, but also an ordained minister and a member of a church's parish council. At least two other well known LGBT organizations have very active faith outreach programs. Just a couple of weeks ago, I attended a rally at an Upper West Side synagogue for people of faith in support of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York state. The place was packed.

Last week I went to a cocktail reception at a church for its LGBT fellowship. Yes, you read that correctly. This is not a "gay" church, it's a large, mainstream Protestant church where gay people are fully integrated and welcomed into the congregation. I went back this past Sunday, and after services I and some people I met there went to brunch.

Among the many issues we discussed was the recognition that we can't necessarily fault secular types for believing that religious = narrow minded. In America, the extreme right wing of the faith community has totally dominated the conversation.

I believe this has occurred because of the corporatization of the news media (ahem, NOT the "liberalization"), whereby what should be informative programming is now being competitively marketed. There is also the unfortunate invention of the "soundbyte," where an idea has to be encapsulated completely within a 10-second phrase. Hardly room in there for a thoughtful, nuanced position. Let's face it, watching Ann Coulter badmouth 9/11 widows is more entertaining than watching a non-hysterical theologian calmly explain alternative interpretations of Leviticus 18:22.

If you need an example of what I'm talking about, I cannot recommend highly enough this exchange from Fox News between anchor Julie Banderas and Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Book of James tells us, "Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God." (There's a phrase I wish everyone who thinks the Bible consists only of Mosaic injunctions against sexual immorality would discover.) That lesson got lost in the above shoutfest. And so, I'm afraid, did God.

Ultimately what we are dealing with here are two paranoid extremes of society, neither of whom are open to the possibilities of doubt or humble enough to consider the ideas of others as potentially valid. I'm not sure what to say to conservatives, who pride themselves on being right and infallible. But liberals, however, traditionally value and respect diversity. All I can do is encourage them further in that direction.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Religious Conservatives and their Priorities

Prior to the Senate's vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment, I received an urgent email from Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, pleading with me to contact my senators to express my support for the measure which was, in Wildmon's words, "the most important vote of the year."

Today, being Flag Day, Concerned Women for America is holding a rally to defend the Pledge of Allegiance. From a statement by Government Relations Director Lanier Swann, "Our country's founding fathers were men of faith who intentionally included the phrase 'under God' in an oath that serves as a symbol of loyalty and patriotism to our great country. "


As Andrew Sullivan points out on his blog, the pledge was written in 1892. By a socialist.

"Under God" was added in 1954 by Congress as additional defense against godless Communism.

I'm not really given to quoting Sully, but he nails this one on the head: "They're welcome to their version of Christianity. They're not welcome to their version of reality."

Kitten Update

I will be picking them up and taking them home Thursday after work.

Thank you all SO much for the truly fantastic name suggestions below. No decision has been made, so keep them coming if you get more brilliant ideas.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Congratulations, it's a litter

Andy is going to be the proud papa of two grey and white feline twins.

They are twelve weeks old, male and female. The girl has the sniffles right now, so they are holding onto her for a bit so that in case she needs a veterinarian it's not my responsibility, but if all goes well I should be able to pick them up after work sometime this week!

Please submit name suggestions below. I will probably need to live with them a while before I settle on something. Preferably I'd lean toward a brother and sister from history, literature or mythology. Siegmund and Sieglinde are already out, those were the names of the two pigeon chicks who hatched on my shower window sill. Plus, I'd prefer something a little less tragic.

Pictures to come as soon as they're home!

Sunday Photo Blogging: Yachats

The first stop on my road trip last month was the small city of Yachats (pronounced YAH-hots), Oregon, about four hours from Portland. There is a stretch of rocky coastline here where the surf constantly sprays into the air, and the rocky promontories are dotted with tidepools. Unfortunately I arrived at high tide, so I wasn't able to get to many of the pools, but I did get some good pictures of the rough water. Posted by Picasa

I should just keep a copy of this photo on hand when I tell people here in New York that Oregonians go to the beach for the scenery, not to swim and lie on the sand. Posted by Picasa

Don't get too close... Posted by Picasa

When I was a kid, my family stayed at a hotel here a couple of times that looked out on this particular blowhole. All day long, every time a wave comes in, you hear this deep "thump" and a few seconds later a geyser of ocean water sprays into the air. Posted by Picasa

A tidepool. Posted by Picasa

Sea anemones in a tide pool. There was a crab in there, but he saw my shadow and darted back under the rock. Posted by Picasa

I got a little wet taking these pictures. Posted by Picasa

At low tide, a secluded sandy beach appears between these two rocky outcroppings that goes out about as far as the edge of this photograph. Once when I was 13 or so, I spent a couple of hours on a towel lying in the sun listening to the entire recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. Yeah, I was a weird kid. ; ) Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 09, 2006

History of the Universe, Volume 30, Page 325

So I'm reclining on my sofa in my living room after a long week, having enjoyed a dinner of Indian food, watching the final season of Sex and the City, when I hear an odd noise, distinctly like the tinkle-clink of dishes one hears in restaurants.

I look down at my plate, which I left on the floor until I next felt the urge to get off the sofa, and there, cleaning up the last fragments of rice, is a mouse.

What. the. fuck.

Fortunately, as it's still daylight, and the mouse didn't attack me, I did not scream. I bent down and said, "Um, excuse me."

The mouse looked up at me, blinked, twitched his whiskers and went back to his chicken tikka masala.

"Hey!" I shouted. He ran away and hid under the radiator.

Argh. I don't really mind mice, they're pretty cute. They don't scare me like roaches. But, they leave turds all over everything, they squeak, they get in my oven and make noise, and of course, they eat things. (Once, in my last apartment, I came home from a vacation and opened the cupboard to discover that a mouse had eaten his way through one side of a cereal box and out the other.) And then there's that whole running across the floor when you least expect it thing.

So, I resolved to get some more poison tomorrow. It worked pretty well the last time. I haven't seen a mouse in months.

I go back to watching SATC. Some movement under the TV cart catches my eye. A little tiny nose with whiskers pokes out, sniffing the air. Sigh.

And then another nose appears, right next to it.

Helllooooooo-ooo, this is not Noah's ark, I don't need two of everything. Actually I don't need any of you.

I'm not the greatest housekeeper in the world, I admit that. But I'm not that bad. Check with people who have been here.

There may only be one solution.

Volume 30, page 439.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mr. Right

Aber der Richtige, wenns einen gibt für mich auf dieser Welt,
Der wird einmal dastehn, da vor mir,
Und wird mich anschaun und ich ihn,
Und keine Zweifel werden sein und keine Fragen,
Und selig werd ich sein und gehorsam wie ein Kind.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I Would Have Made a Terrible Caveman

Tonight after work I attended an interesting seminar on the theological implications of evolutionary biology; specifically, are science and religion doomed to an eternity of opposition? (The best answer I can give you is, "No, not if you're Episcopalian.") The panel members were biology professors from Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown universities. Lots of interesting things were said, but what struck me the most was an amazing analogy from Professor John Haught of Georgetown.

Imagine, if you will, that the definitive history of the universe, from the instant of the Big Bang until the present moment, has just been published in a 30 volume edition. Each volume contains 450 pages, and each page covers a period of one million years. The first signs of life on Earth would not appear until somewhere in the 21st volume; the dinosaurs would be covered from pages 220-385 in Volume 30, and the complete history of modern man (homo sapiens) would have to be contained entirely within the last paragraph on the final page.


I came home to my apartment to discover a character introduced in the books on page 100 of Volume 30, the cockroach. (Yes, cockroaches showed up more than 100 million years before the dinosaurs, and they're still here. Fuckers.) Not one of the common German cockroaches, but one of the big biatches, aka "water bugs" or "palmetto bugs." I never had a single one of these things in the 10 years I've lived in this apartment until my new neighbor moved in next door. Arrrrrgggh.

I picked up a shoe...and I swear, the thing turned and charged me. It ran straight at me! I wish I could say I stood my ground and squashed it into to the hereafter; but no, I squawked in terror and let the thing chase me into the bedroom. So much for "he's more scared of you than you are of him."

It took refuge between a little garbage pail and the bedroom stereo. I dragged out my old friend the Hoover and prepared to hose him up. Then he did it again! He ran straight for me, and then hid under my bed as I leapt out of the way.

I have a dust ruffle. In my previous apartment, a roach-ridden studio on Broadway that occasionally had running water, I had once lifted up my dust ruffle to retrieve something from under the bed and right there on the underside next to my finger was one of these big roaches. Another time I was asleep in bed and I felt something tickling my leg. I shifted position, but felt it again. I threw back the covers to of the big roaches crawling up my leg.

So, with those memories in mind, I was not particularly thrilled that I had another giant cockroach under the bed. Clearly, I would not be able to lie down until one of us was dead, and I didn't plan on it being me.

Lifting up the dust ruffle was out, obviously. I picked up a shoe in one hand, and with the other gave the bed a strong push across the room. (Hurray for big, spacious bedrooms, hardwood floors and beds on casters.) And then...well, like you couldn't have predicted this, it charged me, I shrieked, I dropped the shoe, and it ran and hid behind the stereo again.

I began to think about what Professor Mark Kirschner of Harvard had said about the three pillars of evolution, one of which is "survival of the fittest." I was being chased around my apartment by a toothless, clawless, stingless, non-poisonous bug about the size of my big toe. I suddenly had new found respect for our ancient ancestors who lived with real terrors, and didn't have vacuum cleaners or tennis shoes. Or dust ruffles. But you will notice that the roaches are still here, and the cavemen are gone.

This time I had him cornered for good, however, so I got out the Hoover, took a deep breath, prepared myself for the onslaught, and sucked him up as he charged me yet again. I let the vacuum cleaner continue to run while I retrieved some powdered boric acid from the kitchen (it burns their legs off or something), dumped a bunch on the floor, and then sucked that up after him.

If I had been a caveman, I probably would have avoided going out and confronting dangerous animals in order to bring home food. I'd have been in the cave blogging on the wall.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Enter to Win Homeland Security's "Save Your City" Essay Contest

New York City was shocked last week to discover that the Department of Homeland Security had awarded it $83 million less in anti-terror funding than it had the previous year, a cut of around 40%.

DHS officials told The New York Times "the city had not only done a poor job of articulating its needs in its application, but had also mishandled the application itself, failing to file it electronically as required, instead faxing its request to Washington."

Obviously if the report was poor or inadequate or filed incorrectly, someone needs to look into that. But come on, people. You don't just up and determine a city's vulnerability to terrorism based on writing skills and technicalities like filing deadlines.

What do you say following the next terrorist attack? "Hey, if you people had just submitted a proposal we liked better, we'd have given you more money." Good luck with that.

There is reason to suspect this was a politically motivated decision. I certainly don't mean to suggest that other cities -- even small, out of the way rural towns -- are not potential terror targets. The government's response to our application, however, said "New York had no national monuments or icons." If this isn't evidence that they didn't really take into consideration the attractiveness of New York as a potential target, then I don't know what is.

Very few cities have the concentration of icons or monuments recognized not just nationally but internationally that New York City does; Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, and we can throw in the St. Louis Arch and the Space Needle and the Epcott Center, but how many other American cities are as instantly recognizable worldwide as New York? None. Would you recognize a photograph of the Cleveland skyline?

Without even really having to think about it, I can list Lincoln Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Central Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, Carnegie Hall, the Stock Exchange, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc., etc., etc.

These places are important not just because they are vulnerable and popular tourist attractions, but also because of their symbolic value. We must remember the signifcant and intentional symbolism of the 9/11 targets: the World Trade Center, an international symbol of America's staggering wealth; the Pentagon, symbol of ultimate power; the first and second largest airlines in the world, named "United" and "American" -- not Delta or Continental or Northwest; four airliners all manufactured by Boeing, America's only major manufacturer of airliners and one of the top military manufacturers in the world. None of this was accidental.

The World Trade Center in particular so dominated our skyline that even today the skyline is dominated by its absence. Every time we look at New York now, we remember. That's intentional. Very few other targets could have such lasting impact, and most of them are here.

There's another major target that's not so photogenic but is absolutely essential to our nation's economy: the New York City subway. The costs of losing subway service in New York, as illustrated by the blackout of 2003 and the strike of 2005, quickly run into the billions, and it has a national impact. We also learned from the A train fire in early 2005 that even a fairly minor incident has the potential to affect service for years. That's not to mention the potential loss of life that could occur from an attack on a subway in a dark tunnel deep under city streets. During rush hour, each subway car carries a hundred people or more; that's about 1,000 people per train. No other city in the country is as dependent on mass transit as New York.

Tellingly, the parts of the proposal that came in for harshest criticism were the programs the City has developed on its own. It's ironic, because the Republican position on disasters, as evidenced by Katrina, is that no one should be relying on the federal government, that it's up to local authorities to be responsible. Here New York City, tired of waiting for the feds to get their act together, has set up a series of programs to do just that. The Republican feds, insulted, apparently, that we took up our own initiatives, have decided to stop funding them.

If there were problems with the application, that should be addressed next year. If there were problems with the proposals, the government should have suggested improvements, not punished us by cutting our budget nearly in half. Funding for New York's anti-terrorism efforts should be based on serious analysis, not a contest.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunday Photo Blogging: Silver Falls State Park

Located a few miles east of Salem, Oregon, is Silver Falls State Park, one of the most spectacular places in the Pacific Northwest. Visitors can hike along the Canyon Trail, running about five miles through green, mossy, overgrown pacific rainforest, with spectacular views of 10 waterfalls. In some cases, the trails actually pass under and behind the waterfalls, a unique experience. I took many pictures here, so it was very difficult to narrow it down to just a few for the blog. This is North Falls. Posted by Picasa

The top of South Falls. Posted by Picasa

From behind South Falls. Posted by Picasa

Underneath Lower South Falls. Posted by Picasa

When I took this picture, I wasn't missing Manhattan in the least. Posted by Picasa

Lower North Falls. Posted by Picasa