Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Question for my Republican Friends

Why do you support candidates and a party that supports this discrimination?  I know many Republicans who seem to have zero personal issues with gays and who have been personally supportive of my relationships; yet they give their votes and dollars to a political party that fights to deprive us of equality.  I am forced to conclude that they have made a calculation that the equality of their gay friends is less important to them than other issues.  Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot.  I can't imagine any of my straight friends remaining friends with me if I supported others who worked to to deny them equal rights and who devalued their relationships.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Common Phrases in Dating through the Years

1970s:  "What's your sign?"
1980s:  "How much do you make?"
1990s:  "Can I message you?"
2000s   "Sup?"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Washington Post Muddles Story on Gray Campaign and Public Housing List

The Washington Post broke a story yesterday that the campaign of Mayor Vince Gray had a database containing the names and address of residents of DC public housing:

The database, part of a cache of documents The Washington Post obtained from former campaign workers, includes residents’ names, addresses and telephone numbers. One of the documents designated “team captains” responsible for reaching out to tenants in specific housing complexes.

Oooh!  Team Captains.  Shame.

I'm not saying the Gray campaign is innocent of any the skullduggery it's being accused of lately.  But this story, written by Nikita Stewart and Mike DeBonis is sloppily written in a way that makes it sound like a common campaign practice of keeping lists of people that you plan to contact is in and of itself sleazy.  Why, they not only have list (excuse me, "database"), they actually have people ("team captains!") who actually go and talk with them.   Don't you realize that sort of thing could get more people involved in the political process.

Okay, so, DeBonis' article does say that the information "appears to be an unauthorized use of private government information."  But the vague way it is written leaves open the possibility that the Gray campaign obtained the data through legitimate means and the piece reads more like insinuation against a legitimate campaign practice and less a piece of good journalism.   Campaigns buy data all the time.  There are multiple businesses here in Washington (and elsewhere) whose sole purpose is to sell it to them.  Even if the data of "public housing residents" wasn't a list available commercially, I could create one by matching a list of DC residents against a list of addresses of DC public housing apartment complexes.

This point is so muddled by the original article that DuBonis has to go into the comments posted below the article and clarify:

The list, to the best we have been able to determine, appears to have been generated internally at the Housing Authority. It included names, addresses and phone numbers for residents, as well as the names of the associated public housing complexes. Both DCHA and Gray campaign officials, during the several weeks of reporting that went into this story, were given the opportunity to explain how the information was obtained or could have been obtained through legitimate means. Neither party did so. 

If the Gray campaign somehow obtained the list directly from the DC Housing Authority that is a horse of a different color.  Why DeBonis and his editors found it necessary to omit this specific information in the body of the article isn't clear.  By painting with such a broad brush they tarnish what is a perfectly acceptable (and laudable) campaign practice -- reaching out directly to the voters.

And that requires a database.  Not to mention "Team Captains."

Friday, July 20, 2012

For Aurora

Here is a recording (audio only) of Frank Ticheli's American Elegy.  It was composed to honor the victims and survivors of the Columbine Colorado shooting.  It seems appropriate today.  From the program note:

An American Elegy by Frank Ticheli is, above all, an expression of hope. It was composed in memory of those who lost their lives at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, and to honor the survivors. It is offered as a tribute to their great strength and courage in the face of a terrible tragedy. Frank Ticheli hopes the work can also serve as one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings.

Its a gorgeous piece, worth the time, especially today.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Zoo the Day

“I’m bored.”

My seven-year-old son spoke the words every parent of a young child dreads.  And while they may have sounded like a mere statement, it’s really a command:  “Entertain me.  Now!”  And a complaint:  that “entertainment” you gave me to do already?  Lame!

Wanting to be a good Dad and not merely sit my son in front of the TV for another episode of SpongeBob Squarepants (“the adventures of a relentlessly optimistic sponge who lives under the sea” according to the TV guide – really if I had come up with that concept look where I’d be now.  Although I suspect the best I could do would be the adventures of a manic-depressive spatula who lives under the sink). 

Wanting to meet his boredom head on, I decided to do something active that didn’t involve toggle switches and waving white hand-held devices at the TV screen.

I decided to take him to the National Zoo.

Perfect!  Kids love the zoo! I could picture it:  we’d have an ideal father-son day, bonding over our fascination for the animals before heading home, possessing new life-long memories to cherish.

One challenge: we would have to get there.

In theory you’re taking the kids somewhere they want to go and where they will have fun. But they will make your life a miserable hell every step of the way while getting there.

Whoever said the point wasn’t the destination but the journey never travelled with a seven-year-old.

It’s not so much the physical journey.  It’s the psychological warfare along the way.

As a Dad without a car, this makes getting from Point A to Point B a constant battle.  Even when Point A is a smallish apartment and Point B is a place filled with lions and tigers and bears. 

Oh, sigh.

Although claiming to be bored to tears, he didn’t want to budge.  So I used the best motivational technique I could pull out of my father-of-the-year bag of tricks.  I bribed him.  I promised him ice cream.

So off we went on our quest.  Me looking forward to seeing furry critters and son looking forward to frozen cuisine.

But first we had to get there.  The National Zoo is a mere five miles from my apartment, by Metro – D.C.’s subway system –just nine stops.  The Metro station is a two block walk from my front door.  Yet for all the protesting you could have thought I asked him to walk the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail with 70 pounds strapped onto his back in winter through five feet of snow.

And he didn’t endure the trip in silence.  The whole time I endured a steady barrage of withering complaints thinly disguised as questions.  Why do we have to take the Metro?  How long do we have to wait?  Is it always this slow (admittedly these are questions Washington commuters ask everyday).  Why do we have to change trains?  How come this is not our train?  How far do we have to walk?  Can’t we take a bus?

But the most frustrating is the game of slinky.  I ask him to walk with me.  He does, for a few seconds, then falls behind.  I ask him to keep up.  And this repeats.  I try walking slower, to let him set the pace.  He simply slows until we come to a dead stop.  And then he gets impatient with me.  “Go on!” he says, like I’m the one holding things up.

Eventually we reach the zoo.  I resist the temptation to kiss the ground. Finally, let the fun begin!  First, buy him the promised hot dog and ice cream.  How hard could that be?  The answer:  hard, of course.

The next challenges began when  I realized I didn’t have much cash on hand.   No problem, I knew the zoo had an ATM.

It was broken.

No problem, the cafes take credit cards.

Except, as I soon learned, the ones that do don’t have ice cream or hamburgers or hot dogs on the menu.  Those items you have to buy from one of the cart vendors.  Who only take cash.

Really, National Zoo, do you have to make it so hard for a Dad to buy his son a simple hot dog lunch with ice cream?  It doesn’t need to be as difficult at breeding pandas.

A helpful zoo lady told me I could walk out of the zoo and go to a nearby 7-11 which had an ATM.  But leaving the Zoo after just enduring the Bataan Death March to get there wasn’t happening.

I did manage to scrape up some loose change and a few stray dollars to buy one hot dog which the kid declared awful and wouldn’t finish.  Meanwhile a swarm of bees attacked his Sprite ruining what little chance of having a fun lunch remained.

By this time it was around 1 p.m.   We hadn’t seen any animals yet (having spent most of our time getting there and trying to figure out how to buy a hot dog and ice cream) and I learned that the zoo was closing at 2 p.m. for a special event (“Brew at the Zoo,” where the zoo is selling beer to help pay for all the exhibits that aren’t open). 

The day might have been lost but for the lions.  Oh, the lions.  I love the big cats at the National Zoo.  There is something about the combination of their grace and power that I find captivating. I’m off to the big cat compound each time I visit like a mouse to cheese.

And thankfully the cats didn’t disappoint this time.  The lions were out, getting fed and feeling feisty. They fought over the raw meat and bones of what I hope was a leg of beef and not the remains whiny tourists who complained about having to pay cash for crappy hot dogs. 

The cats were the extent of our safari, though (unless you count the bees).  No interest in the pandas.  And the petting Zoo was closing.  So, ice cream-less we left.  Thankfully I was able to make good (kind of) on my promise as there is a Fro Yo place across the street from the zoo.  And they take credit cards.  And we at least got to see bears – the gummy bears he put on top of his cup of yogurt.

Finally, we returned home.  Getting there was easier, either from his being full or worn out from the morning battle.

Once home he happily began playing Legos.

“Dad?” he soon asked me.

“Yes?” I answered, thinking he would reward my efforts of the day with a nice comment like saying what a great time he had, or by thanking me for the hard-earned frozen yogurt.

“Dad,” he said.  “I’m bored!”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

To Sail Beyond the Sunset

“For my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.”

In the past year plus change, I’ve lost my father, ended a 24-year relationship, lost my job, endured a confounding series of medical issues with my eyes that has threatened my vision, and went through a nasty breakup with a new boyfriend.

There are a lot of items on the positive side of the ledger, but if I’ve ever endured more loss within such a short time span before in my life I’ve forgotten it.

Funny thing about loss.  It tears open holes, but it can also lead to new frontiers.

Today I set sail on board the cruise ship Freedom of the Seas.  I am in the company with my son, my mother, my sister and her family.  I can’t think of a better way to recover and reset.

I’ve put together some new plans that include moving to Seattle in the New Year where my son and his moms live, to start a new career there.   Both the promises and challenges of the new beginning excite and scare me.

But the scariest journey is within.  For the first time in my life I am truly alone.  That indeed is a new frontier.

And so, I embark. Here at the mid-point of my life I leave familiar, comfortable shores for the unknown.  I hope, as Tennyson says, “some work of noble note may yet be done.” 

Middle-aged I may be, but I am not without hope that somewhere out there is a better world and that I can gain a foothold on its fairer shores.