Thursday, May 31, 2007


In nine hours, I will be at the hospital. They will be prepping me for the removal of the "foreign object." I will not get to keep the "foreign object." It will be taken for forensic purposes. If they convict Tyrone Singleton or someone else for the crime, I may get it then. Who knows...

The whole "foreign object" thing is really amusing to me. Why do we have to be so euphemistic with language? (And I don't just mean in this instance.) Why not just describe what the object is? Does it remove the reality so that the physician does not have to consider the circumstances as s/he performs the procedure? So that it is all just a procedure?

I ponder this partly because the process has been so fascinating. At no point in this process, from the shooting to the doctors' follow-ups, have I had any control. I have been told when my appointments will be--even if they don't jive with my life--and when my appointments will not be. I understand that the trauma circuit is a difficult gig, but that doesn't really seem like an excuse for treating patients like commodities with no restrictions of their own, as though we do not have to worry about our own schedules. It's patently absurd. I have to compromise my work timelines with my clients' schedules. Why should physicians be able to to insist that everyone work around their schedules?

Then again, I have only met my attending physician once--the night I was shot. I've seen other doctors and residents since, but not met the man who is supposedly responsible for me since that night. It's as if I am no more a person than the alias I was given for my stay in the hospital--Mr. Plum is a phantasm, not a real person with real worries, and therefore can be manipulated like a marionette.

Not quite... At least I got them to move the surgery reporting time from 5:30 to 8:45.

Target steals designs.

We were cruising around Target this afternoon for the first post-move Tar-zhay run. I was, of course, putting more in the cart than expected, and breaking the basic budgeting rules by not coming with a list. Anyway, we wandered into kitchen wares and Banana asked if we could get the pink and purple cups. At $1.99 for four, I was fine with it. At the next end-cap, however, I saw familiar looking cups and utensils.

Anyone with kids and an IKEA nearby knows the utensils, bowls, and cups I'm referring to. They are ubiquitous, with design flourishes that make them popular with the kids too. Target's versions are in the some of the same colors, but they lack the funky utensil tops that let the kids figure out which piece is which.

Thankfully, Banana still preferred the tumblers to the knock-offs.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


The magnitude of this process keeps amazing me. Tonight I started trying to pull the living room into some kind of shape, and after a couple of hours of aches after shoving things one way or another, half of the front room is now effectively liveable. It's not perfect, and it's going to take a while to make it ideal. Regardless, the other half is now in worse shape, and every time I glance into my bedroom it's clear how much more still has to be done.

Thanks to a couple of good friends, I've been forcing myself to pare down. Items that I haven't used in years have begun to go. Broken things that I swore I would fix one of these days have gone in the trash. Sentimental items that have lost some of their value are gone. There have been a couple of major Goodwill runs, but I could still do a lot more. (Suggestions from anyone about how to sell old Spode china and decorative plates are needed.) Tackling Anna's toys is a major next step. I've already warned her that many of the toys she has will be going away. She seems mostly okay with this.

Sidenote: Thinking about my father and other men I've grown up around, I've started to believe that we are congenitally designed to be packrats. From a biological/nature perspective, I'm not sure why this would be the case. In any case, I'm trying to buck the system and strip down to the things that are important and useful.

What has really begun to happen with this move is a new start. A stripping out of items left over from the last few years of madness and roller coasters. A step toward stability and pasitive forward building for Banana and me.

Okay. Enough navel-gazing. More thoughts and details later.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

almost there

Everything is in--almost. Nothing is in place yet, but we're in. FiOS is turned on, and it is good. Abnormal posting and communication to resume later today.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


For the few readers that I have... I am in the fine hell of moving and will resume regular posting when all of this is completed. In fact, I will write a fucking essay about the cleansing properties of the whole process.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Pinnacle of Laziness

Picked this up from Gizmodo, and I have very little to add. I'm caught between horror over the sloth and anticipation of the accident. Then again, to be successful at this maneuver, she probably practiced it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oy vey

This is what our Iraq experiment is becoming. Sickening. Really.

Night Terrors

Is a deathly fear of the dark and/or being alone a natural part of being almost-five? The constant run of nights with bad dreams and an utter terror of being alone in the dark even though there are two nightlights in her room is really starting to get frustrating.

Good News/Bad News

First, the good:
Administration officials and Congressional leaders said that the lobbyist, Michael E. Baroody, decided to step aside after it became clear that his nomination would be rejected by the Senate commerce committee.

The fox has decided not to go into the chicken coop. No wolf among the sheep. Then again, it will be interesting to see whether he is given a recess appointment in a few weeks.

Second, the bad:
The decision by the Democratic majority to strip the measure of a timetable for troop withdrawal has raised the prospect that it could be approved mainly by Republicans with scattered Democrat support. The idea that many Democrats would be left on the losing side in a consequential vote has exposed a sharp divide within the party, drawn scorn from antiwar groups, confused the public and frustrated the party rank and file.

But in recounting the leadership’s thinking, senior Democrats and other officials said that by early this week they had concluded there was no alternative but to give ground to President Bush despite their view that he had mishandled the war and needed to be put under tighter Congressional rein.

Capitulation?!?! Is this what we fucking fought for in the last election? Is it possible that they are so cowed by a president who can barely muster a thirty percent approval rating? Is it possible that they are so afraid of Fox News and CNN that they will give in when they finally gained the majority? What kind of Kool Aid are Bush&Co giving them? Do we live in Topsy-Turvy Land?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stupid Packaging 1

Every so often, I come across an prime example of wasteful, stupid packaging. This one really hits a sore spot for me... Let's create the ultimate, kid-friendly bottle of water--small and manageable, with a sport nozzle for a top, easily packaged in large quantities, and safe. How is it safe? By using a non-removable cap. This is of course for the most altruistic reasons--god forbid a child choke on a bottle top.

Why is this stupid? Why?

Because it creates a completely disposable product. Rather than being able to refill your water bottle as do many of us who practice the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra, this item must be thrown away. (If you dig into Deer Park's good neighbor statement, their corporate copywriters tell you they care about waste and sustainability. Bullshit!) It is a prime example of pure marketing and consumption. The companies have already created the need--bottled water is safer--and now they meet the ultimate, lazy parental demands for convenience.


Does the bullet know?

Does it know that I am going to have the pre-op checkup this afternoon? Is that why it's hurting more today than it has been the last few days?

Monday, May 21, 2007


I am about to surrender fully to The Pink. Banana and I painted two big swatches of pink on the walls of her new room this afternoon. Whichever one wins will cover the walls. And then I will add some IKEA wall decorations or even better these to funk it up a bit.

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to the move. So much has happened in the last (few) year(s) that it feels like we're stepping into a new, better phase. Even if a pink room is part of the price.

Time, time, time...

It's an old saw, isn't it, that there's never enough time to do what we need to. We stress ourselves out over the perception that we're too busy. And then, sometimes, we really are too busy. At least that's the way I feel right now. The paradox is that I thrive on this--or at least I get more engaged when I'm under the gun. Put me on a production deadline. Give me a week to move. I begin to work. Give me lots of time to make something happen, and I'll wait until it's critical.

File this under: Bad Habits I'd Like To Change.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Red Dirt Girl

Banana and I headed down to Brown's Island this afternoon for the Canal Walk festival. The ultimate reason for goingwas the Emmylou Harris show. I was a little leery of the $40 charge at the door--mind you, it would have been $30 if I'd been willing to commit myself to it a day earlier. Ah well...

Banana had a hell of a time on the various moonwalks and climbing towers, and then we headed to the front of the stage area for the show. At first, with a burger in her hand, Banana was calm and enjoyed the show. Once she'd finished her burger, however, it was time to play. Thankfully, most of the people around us were tolerant of her, and of the little boy she eventually drew into a game of tag.

So, the show...

Emmylou Harris has a stunning voice. For me, that is the first and most important fact. It almost didn't matter what she sang, so long as you could hear her sing it. Anyway, her combo was simply the guitarist and singer Buddy Miller and bassist Chris Donohue. The three of them stood center-stage and had the audience rapt for nearly two hours on a stunning, clear May afternoon.

She hit on a number of covers of tunes by Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt, and others. A few selections off of Wrecking Ball and Red Dirt Girl were thrown in. She dipped back a ways into her catalog, and then came right back up to the most recent album with Mark Knopfler for what hit me as one of the most stellar moments of the whole show--"Love and Happiness." She wrote the song with a friend as they were thinking about being parents of adult children, and she dedicated it to her niece who was at the show with her young child.

I'm a sap lately, I'll admit it. But when I think on my life and what I hope for Anna, lyrics like this mean a great deal:
You will always have a lucky star
That shines because of what you are
Even in the deepest dark
Because your aim is true
And if i could only have one wish
Darling, then it would be this
Love and happiness for you


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Spring Beers, pt. 7

Just one in this installment...

Aktien Maibock

Again, the originators of the form have it right. This one is a damn-near-perfect maibock--malty without being too heavy, the color was a perfect wheat, and it had the right alcohol turn without being overwhelming. Good stuff. Really.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dean on Colbert

Howard Dean was on the Colbert Report tonight, and he was great. I am always pleased that he is working to build a progressive movement, rather than having dripped away like some other former candidates. And when it came down to it tonight, he was just solid. It was one of those great moments when Colbert doesn't even bother to satirize what his guest is saying. Catch it if you can.


Lots of linking the last day or so... This one is from Consumerist.

The South--cap-S--might be backwards in lots of things, but at least they finally have the wherewithal to ban the importation of potentially tainted fish. Furthermore, imports like this drive locals out of business, and push our food sourcing beyond the limits of rationality.

classic euro-modern

Via daddytypes, I came across this vintage design archive. There was a bit of a surprise to learn that Elmer the Elephant has been around longer than I have. Be sure to click through to one of the other thumbs for a cool cube toy that Milton Glaser designed for MoMA.

parody, ahoy

This is awesome. I am always impressed when someone has the time and thorough sense of humor to carry a good parody through on so many levels.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the shooting, an update

I am healing well. The pain meds are gone altogether, except for the occasional ibuprofen. Tonight, however, is a little more uncomfortable. Maybe I shouldn't have given Banana the piggyback ride all the way to Plan 9. I guess I fool myself about how much better I'm feeling.


Here's the rest of the story, such as it is right now...

Tyrone Singleton is still in custody, though they have not brought him to trial yet. According to the Commonwealth's Attorney, this is because they still do not have anything tying him directly to the crime. What is particularly galling about this is that the detectives seem to regard it as a done-deal.

In their pursuit of the case, the detectives do not seem to have worked to find the car that was witnessed leaving the scene. I guess this because none of the other prosecutors or other police officers I have spoken to realize that I and my neighbors said we could also identify the car. They also waited six weeks to talk to Phil, who was on the porch with me that night. Granted, he wasn't sure he got a good enough look in the first place, but by the time they actually called him, his recollection was too crowded.

On the subject of ID-ing the suspect, my neighbor and I identified the same suspect. the picture was not, however, the suspect the police really expected. Nonetheless, one of the lessons here is that real life is not like Law & Order. Not at all. If it were, we would have identified Singleton--or whomever--in a real-life line-up, rather than a photographic line-up. And what amazes me about the process at this point is that we haven't even been given this option. I can see the scene clearly in my mind still, and I think I could be confident in my testimony and identification if I were actually able to see the shooter's eyes.

The police from the local precinct worry about the case going cold. I do, too, but I also think it will go cold--if it does--because of lax attention. None of this, of course, helps with my psychological recovery.

best recent ad

Great concept and writing. The visuals are awesome too. I particularly like the rehabilitation.


This jogs a few memories. And they all look so young...

A quieter, tamer Wilco--not quite

Like a good Wilco-obsessed geek, I ran out to pick up my copy of Sky Blue Sky today. It was, of course, not the first time I'd heard the album. In fact, a copy hacked from the streamed album has been on my iPod for a couple of months now. That's the important disclaimer.

I really haven't spent much time with the album over those couple of months. First off, my iPod listening rarely tends to be album-based. More than that, however, was the fact that the album really hadn't grabbed me yet.

My early reactions were that it was good, more song-driven, quieter in some ways, and far less filled with ambient experiments. Unfortunately, there also wasn't anything that really grabbed me. Take any of their previous albums, and there is always one song that just turns the album from good to necessary. On Summerteeth, it was "Via Chicago" or "Shot in the Arm." On YHF, it was the opening track and every one after that. The other albums all have their standouts, too.

What I hadn't realized until today--and the third time around on the disc--is how cohesive the new album is. The songs are tight and clean. Tweedy's phrasing is as good as ever. More than that, the remarkable talent on all ends of the band seems to have coalesced into a real, solid entity. Cline's guitar balances Kotche's percussion. Tweedy and Stirrat seem to be having fun. Jorgensen and Sansone are messing around with keyboard and random instrumental lines in ways that work to build the songs rather than tearing down all the walls.

I'll leave the in-depth dissection of the tracks themselves to real critics.

I remember, as I listen to this album, seeing the band a little over a year ago. They looked like they were having fun on stage. That's a necessity, of course, but it was even clearer when they tested one of the tracks from this album--"Walken." The song brought out into an honest-to-god blues-rock jam. It wasn't precious. It wasn't clean. It was rock-and-roll, and that may be why the new album feels like a great album from a great band.

dead frog baby

Banana came back from her weekend with Mommy with two baby frogs in tow. They were tiny, maybe the size of small crickets, and she'd found them on the ground just after they left the water at a state park south of town.

The frogs came home with us. Banana put a home together for them in one of her many bug and animal containers. The home consisted of a few rocks, some dirt, and a small lid full of water. The frogs hopped around, and I suggested to Anna that she probably should leave them alone.

Fastforward two days. Anna came to get me after my shower this morning to ask wheterh the frog stretched out in the small lid of water was sleeping or dead. "Sleeping," she thought. But I said it probably just hadn't been able to make it. Meanwhile, the other one seems strong, almost feisty. Banana has decided this is the girl-frog--the frogs were indistinguishable to my eye, but almost-five year-olds see remarkable things.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fish? Where?

With all the notice climate change is finally getting, I wonder whether the collateral effect will be more notice for other environmental problems. I was impressed, for instance, on our visit to the New York Aquarium that the conservation message was wrapped so much into a slice of trained-animal-entertaiment like the sea lion show. The announcer talked about the kinds of fish that were environmentally-safe to eat while the sea lions clapped or shook their hands at the right moments. Great, right? but I do have to wonder how much it ever sinks in.

And then there are articles like this one from Sunday's Times. (Basic access is free.) The central point is this:
The eradication of our seafood bounty through overfishing is one of those Lorax-like stories that inspire sad books like “The End of the Line” and “The Empty Ocean.” Many biologists believe that the populations of large, commercially sought-after fish worldwide have been reduced by as much as 90 percent of their historical size.

As dire as this sounds, Greenberg goes on to make the point that most scientists believe that fisheries could heal themselves--if given the chance. For me, it's the last part that raises the real questions, the same questions as the other food supply problems I've touched on in other posts: Are we as a species capable of slowing our voracious appetite long enough to avoid killing ourselves and the Earth?

time, time, time

navel-gazing moment

The shooting sparked good things like writing, again. It sparked bad things like traumatic stress disorders. It also completely threw me off my game with the day-to-day matters of life, work, and parenting. Seven weeks later, I am still struggling to catch up and get back on top of all the little details.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have the time and energy for a pithy post about the PTA. (Fun with alliteration!) For now, though

Friday, May 11, 2007

No Surprise Here

From today's Washington Post:

American inspectors who arrived in China last week to investigate the two companies that exported tainted pet food ingredients found that the suspect facilities had been hastily closed down and cleaned up, federal officials said yesterday.

Why am I not surprised?

But what's most frightening as you read down into the article? This: " many as 198 U.S. fish farms and hatcheries may have received fish feed contaminated with the chemical melamine..."

Happy eating!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Green Design update

So the initial cost estimates for a publication with a Yupo (locally-produced) cover and Mohawk text (sourced from 100% PC content and produced at a wind-powered mill) literally doubled my expected budget for the job--taking us from my goal of $1.80/book to $3.75/book. If we were selling these or, better yet, were a private sector company with money to burn, I could probably argue for it. Sad to say, that neither is the case, and I've had to pull back significantly on my goals in favor of a more economical book.

Ethics are, indeed, expensive, and as we well know, ethics are rare in our government.

Does an almost-5 year-old ever get the concept of _now_?

First, a bit of background: in the last week, we have gotten a couple of boxes from Hanna Andersson. Really cute clothes that Banana really digs. She also got a pair of classic clogs which she was very excited about since another girl in her class has the same ones in a different color.

She was concerned that she couldn't wear them to school since they didn't have a back, until I showed her that the strap swings back. This was great news, greeted with the response, "But I'm not going to wear them to school." What? "I'm not going to wear them until my birthday." Fine, this is two months off. No big deal. I knew she'd change her mind in the meantime. I just wasn't prepared for when she'd change her mind.

Mornings are always a bit of a challenge. I'm not a great morning person, and between my increasingly late bedtime since the shooting and Anna's recent need to sleep past 7:30, we're usually scraping just under the wire to make it to school on time. This morning, as I'm going into the final get-us-out-the-door frenzy, she comes to me to say that she wants to wear the clogs. First off, it's a gym day, so I ask her not to. Second off, I just don't want to deal with it at that moment. I tell her to go put something else on. A couple minutes later, as I'm putting the dog's food down and heading to the door, I look into Anna's room where she is sitting on the floor--no socks, no shoes, and very proud look on her face as she tells me that she figured out how to get the strap down on one of the clogs. I was half an inch from exploding. And to add insult to injury, she decided to go back to the living room to get her blue mary janes.

In retrospect, I could have been either more stern or more accommodating, but the reality is that life with an almost-five year-old is a little crazy and weird. Kids' personalities are so clearly developing, as is their ability to reason and negotiate. Add to that the post-separation dynamics, and the fact that she lives with me full time. It becomes a constant search for the right mix to get us where we need to go.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

potty accidents

A week or so after I was shot, Banana started having potty accidents. Nothing really seemed to precipitate it, and there doesn't seem to be a medical cause. Nonetheless, every few days she has an accident in her bed. She has also been waking up in the middle of the night, saying she's scared of the dark. Sometimes she'll talk about a dream she's had--a scary house, a monster, a robot--and that's the reason. She comes into my bed and seems to sleep all right rest of the night.

I've tried to reassure her that there are no monsters out there. She has a couple of cool IKEA nightlights to keep the room from being too dark. But nothing seems to help.

Time to do more research, I guess, to figure out if this is just a normal phase for her age--apparently the potty accidents are--or if this is somehow her channeling of my fears and anxieties. It's hard to say and doesn't help my own sleep difficulties.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Dug this up because I'm thinking about going back to work on the book.

Richmond local edition

Two years after moving from Robinson to Morris, World Cup closed a couple weeks ago. They are being taken over by Crossroads Coffee in Forest Hill. For those who know the intersection, a funky star-shaped mingling of streets, the name is perfectly appropriate. What pleases me further about it is that they will be serving coffee from Rostov's. It's always nice to see another local business get a boost.

Tuesday, depressing news edition... What is wrong with people?

The little girl will survive, but she's going to have a sad legacy to deal with. I can't imagine being the person who has to tell her what happened to her mother. No doubt the messenger will find the nicest way to describe the indescribeable. But what of her reaction years from now when she learns the details? Sad, sad...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Being a single dad

It's not like the sitcoms. I'm not rich like the Drummonds or the Schroeders or any number of the single dads we grew up with on TV. I'm closer, maybe, to The Courtship of Eddie's Father, except that I don't have a nice Asian housekeeper to rely on for day-to-day matters. Some days, I think I'm just a variation on Caracticus Potts from Chitty, Chitty Bang-Bang.

One of the hardest things about being a full-time single parent is keeping up with everything. Keeping the house clean and (relatively) neat, washing the dishes, making sure the refrigerator is stocked at all times, paying bills and not losing mail, walking the dog (as much as possible), washing and folding and putting away the clothes, cooking meals, keeping up with Banana's homework (even in pre-K), turning in all of the forms and little collateral items from school on time, making plans for the future... it goes on, of course, and it's not news to anyone has gone through it.

Mornings like today, parenting gets funny, weird, and irritating all at once. After a rough night--one wake up from bad dreams and another from a potty accident, and not such great sleep on my part either--I was slow-moving, and Banana was late and slow in waking up. Once we finally got moving, things seemed to be pretty smooth. Breakfast happened. Her lunch was packed. Reilly was fed. She decided to clean the bathroom sink rather than brushing her hair and putting on her shoes... and with that we ran late. When I got her to school, the teacher asked me if I had any PTA raffle or lotto tickets to turn in. One more thing. One more. The lottery tickets--for little things they were going to do for winning students--were sitting on the kitchen counter where I'd left them the night before. Right next to the forms for the school pictures that were due on Friday.

Yeah, it's about keeping up, and some weeks it works, some it doesn't. Before I got shot, we'd gotten into a pretty good rhythm and the loose ends were tightening up. Ever since the shooting, however, I've been struggling to get back on my game.

Venting over, for now...


I used to curse Steinbrenner for buying Clemens years ago. Along with Giambi, he seemed to be one of the stupidest acquisitions. Oh, but how things change... the news that they're bringing him back gives me hope that the Yankees might eke out a winning season.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Who are these people?!?

After watching part of the GOP debate last week, I was stunned at how frighteningly ignorant these men were who harbored ambitions of running the country. The flat-earth society seemed to have found its mouthpieces. Furthermore, the anti-choice factions had found their scions. What I didn't realize was that a few days later Mitt Romney would prove himself to be even scarier in his ignorance and pandering than I'd even thought possible:
"In France, for instance, I'm told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past."

Honestly, who the hell are these guys? And who are the people who believe things like this? I don't get it; then again, I also don't get how thirty percent of the populace can still support Bush&Co.

UPDATE: Wonkette gets it.

Spring Beers pt. 6

Yet another installment...

1. Bock from Anchor
This was a tasty bock with a sweet, malty turn to the flavor. I would almost be tempted to describe the sweetness as chocolatey. The body was full, but not so full that I couldn't drink a few of them. (Full disclosure: this is the first one I've bought in a six-pack.)

2. Two Hearted Ale from Bell's
Yes, it's another beer from Bell's. Clearly, I have a bit of an obsession with Bell's these days. And there's good reason. This one is another damn fine example of its style, in this case the classic IPA. The flavor is sharp, crisp, and full of hops. At 7%, it's got a bit of a kick, but any good IPA should. There are certain breweries--Brooklyn and Fat Tire, for example--that rarely make a mis-step; Bell's is now in that category.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Our Brand Is Crisis

I've had the urge to watch Rachel Boynton's documentary Our Brand Is Crisis since it was released and got a lot of press last year. The film is a fascinating document about the ways in which the U.S. has exported its political inventions along with so much more of our culture.

Boynton followed James Carville, Tad Devine, Stan Greenberg, and Jeremy Rosner to Bolivia as they joined the 2002 Gonzales presidential campaign in Bolivia. In the course of developing the relationships with the consultants and the candidate, she clearly developed a remarkable level of trust. Her camera follows the events of the actual campaign as they craft the message--the brand--and work to build Goni's poll numbers. But it doesn't just follow the movements of consultants and candidate; the camera seems to be part of the process, an omniscient but intimate collaborator and recorder. It is stunning work, particularly when you consider that the process is, at times, a frightening validation of electoral cynicism.

Spoiler alert... stop reading if you don't want to know what happens.

What she also achieves beautifully is building the two parts of the story--the story of Goni and Bolivia, and the story of the consultants for whom losing is not part of the equation. Ultimately, these lines come together explosively when Boliva melts down in the year after Goni is elected--with far less than a majority, I might add. The consultants have to face failure, and Goni returns to the States where he was raised after his own father went into exile.

As a writer, what fascinates me about this is that she could not have known the outcome of this when she took on the project in 2001. I wonder, in fact, what kind of storyline she envisioned as she began writing and shaping the documentary. How did it end up on storyboards? And yet, in a bittersweet turn of fate, she ended up with compelling film because all hell broke loose in ways none of the parties involved predicted.

On a personal note, watching the film and listening to part of the director's commentary reminded me of meeting Boynton at Interlochen in 1989. She was studying theater — fifteen, sharp and intellectually mature beyond her years. It's good to see her succeeding.


navel-gazing moment...

We're on our third day of intermittent rain in Richmond. This is great for the gardens—for me, not so much. This weekend is the first since the shooting that Banana and I have had in Richmond and with nothing on the docket; this weekend also marks the one-year anniversary of the meltdown. It's hitting me harder than I expected.

It's been hell of a ride over the past year. No question about that.

Friday, May 04, 2007


From Gothamist: A New York woman lost her toddler in a freak accident. Two months before the boy was born, her husband was killed in Iraq.

Chinese "Food"

I've been paying close attention to the growing controversy over Chinese food exports and production, and this piece on Consumerist was more than a little revolting and frightening. It also reminded me of a few things.

When I traveled to China for a couple of months in 1996, food was one of the more interesting adventures. Not just in terms of knowing what or how to order, but knowing what in fact you were being served. This wasn't as much a problem with the private cook my mother shared with a few other professors in Nanjing or with the the bigger, more reputable restaurants in large cities. Rather, the problem came up more often at "tourist" restaurants where you were herded into a large space and fed a "traditional" chinese meal of egg roll, sweet and sour pork, green vegetable (usually either bok choy or choy sum), and duck.

A few times in such restaurants, particularly when we were traveling down the Yangtze, I made the mistake of asking what we were being served because the meat was clearly nothing I had tasted before. In every case, however, the answer was the same: Pork. Apparently, pork is the universal choice for feeding westerners who, as a rule, do not speak the language. Even if it's not pork. There were no pigs to be seen anywhere in these towns, and these are not places that bring food in.

Anyway, they were treating our tourist groups like rubes the same way their agribusiness has been treating us like rubes by intentionally filling food ingredients with dangerous additives. What is truly frightening is that companies in China produce an increasing amount of our food ingredients, including shrimp, crawfish, rice, and much more. If neither we nor they are really policing the safety of production, how far will this reach?

For lots of reasons, I see a correlation with the number of incidences of toys made in China coming up with warnings for lead poisoning hazards; a quick search of the CPSC site for "china lead" turns up 1,451 recalls.

Is it possible that our drive for ever-cheaper and more abundant is catching up with us—with dangerous results?


You'll have to excuse this and other occasional navel-gazing moments...

In the past few years, I've spent a lot of time reassessing my life, from soup to nuts. I've thought back on relationships and jobs, music and travels, decisions and living-by-chance, childhood and what it means to be an adult. One of the things that I've spent a lot of time thinking about was the way I "acted" through life. That is to say, I figured out what part to play, and I played it. It's a really lousy habit.

Tighten up to the last year and the introspection becomes more intense. After the final marital meltdown a year ago, a lot of patterns became clear. All the thinking and talking I'd done about family history clarified as well. In the end, it became clear that I couldn't "act" any longer; doing so was too dangerous for me—and for Anna, since I officially have sole responsibility for her. The shooting was, in a sense, the final step in the process.

When a bullet comes within less than an inch of killing you, everything changes.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Spring Beers pt. 5

For tonight's selections, I moved out of the Midwest and opted for the other coast and another flavor — Pilsners from Cali...

1. Scrimshaw from North Coast Brewing
The label calls this a "Pilsner Style Beer," an apt description of this mild pils. It has a nice clean hoppy finish, but I can't get over how mild it is. Maybe I'm spoiled by some of the really hoppy pilsners out there, but this one didn't leap out the way I'd hoped.

2. Lagunitas Pils from Lagunitas Brewing
I'm curious to taste more from these guys. This was a crisp, interesting brew with enough hops to give it good character, but not so much that it overwhelmed the other flavors. I have to give these guys props for label design, too. The weathered look and line-drawing are something I've become partial to lately. I like the weaving of random copy into the design, too. In particular, I love the small-caps note in the deposit line: "(WHOA...)"

My shoulder hurts

This isn't too surprising, I know. There's a bullet in there, and a hole that's still healing up. Even so, it's rainy here this morning and I feel like I should be saying something like, "Eh, there's rain in the air. I can feel it in me bullet." Ah well... The pain and discomfort change as time goes by. The medication the doctor gave me--Neurontin--has helped with some of the worst discomfort. That doesn't change the fact that it's downright weird to feel that the lump on my back has gotten more pronounced as the bullet works its way out.

All together now: "Ewwwwwww."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Little Children, the movie

Excellent movie with strong performances. The insights about surburban social dynamics and tension between two people whose lives essentially preclude their relationship from following its course is near-perfect. I kept worrying that the third line--that of the sex offender returned home--was going to go over the top, but it also seemed well-tuned and human; you could see the emotionally hermetic world he too was locked in. Each of the three threads ended in ways that were foreshadowed early-on, but the filmmakers were careful enough not to tip too much of their hand, so that the ending changed very little outwardly for the core protagonists, while changing everything inwardly.

One down-moment hit when Winslet's character who is apparently ABD says, "My professors would kill me for saying this, but in her own strange way, Emma Bovary is a feminist." Of the writing team--Tom Perotta and Todd Field--who have credit for the screenplay, I have to wonder which one crafted this line. Anyone with passing experience in post-modernist, feminist, post-feminist criticism from intensive English degrees knows that this is actually a standard reading of Bovary. Still, it was the right novel for the moment in the plot.

As cliched as it was the closing lines from the omniscient narrator, another nice nod to Bovary--"You couldn't change the past, but the future could be a different story... but it had to start somewhere."--struck the right chord with me. After all, my one worry when I rented the movie was that it might hit uncomfortably close to home. It did at moments, but this sentiment was well-timed as the plotlines resolved themselves.

Spring Beers pt. 4

Tonight's match-up is a throwdown between two Michigan breweries.

1. Whitsun from Arcadia Brewing of Battle Creek--which might explain why their site is sobad
This is their take on the English version of the classic wheat. Apparently, they top the flavor off with "the addition of Michigan honey," which explains the sweet, heavy finish. Basically, it's a nicely rounded beer, with a fair balance of hops to counter some of the wheat and honey sweetness.

2. Oberon from Bell's
Summer has lots of suitors vying for the role of her perfect partner. From Celis White to Brooklyn Weiss to the ubiquitous Magic Hat and beyond, there are plenty of good suitors. True to his name, though, Oberon is king of them all. Okay, maybe that's a bit of hyperbole--but it's going to take a lot to knock him out of the top spot.

More old pictures

I came across this one on Gothamist... Old Pictures is a killer resource if you're an antique picture and/or history geek. I found the site a little hard to navigate at first, but it's forgiveable considering the depth of material you can find on it. It really is a hell of a treasure trove of American history.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Spring Beers pt. 3

Moving to Europe for part of this evening's selections was a mixed decision.

1. Erdinger Pikantus Weizen-Bock from Erdinger [in case you read German]
Figures that a near-perfect beer comes from the Germans... anyway, this was a fine example of a weizen-bock. The taste was nice and malty, with a light balance of hops. the color was bronze, with a nice head on it. In short, it was great.

2. Hofbrau Dunkel from Hofbrauhaus Munchen
The first whiff out of the bottle had a bit of skunk to it, and the first few sips worried me. Given a little air and time in the glass, the taste improved. It turned out to be a good Dunkel--basic, but good.

3. Bell's Lager from Bell's Beer in K-zoo
According to the web site, the batch my bottle came from was bottled on January 11. Being able to track this information is very cool, and very geeky. Anyway, this was a lager that tasted more like a pilsner on the first sips, not surprising given the Pils malt. Anyway, this was a crisp, clean beer that drank easily. It certainly kept up the standards of the other Bell's beers I've enjoyed. (And for the record there will be a couple of Bell's in tomorrow's run.)

More from the annals of consumer safety sold to the highest bidder

So what is it, I mean, what is it really with the Bush&Co selling off every piece of the government to business interests. The examples are too numerous to list, but the latest one is every bit as galling. Daddytypes also links through to The Consumerist on this one. None of this should be surprising, of course, given the idiots running things, but this one galls particularly. They are putting a man in charge of consumer safety who has developed a record of complete disdain and disregard for consumers, parents, children, society. These people are pathetic.

Submersible ships!

Like a child's toy, only a hell of lot bigger. This is just really cool, and you can check out the video here. There are a few more links over at Gothamist.