Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Openly Gay"

Isn't it time for the media to retire this tired phrase? As in this story:

[DC City Councilman David] Catania, who is openly gay, also complained that the clinic does not have the resources needed to stem the city's HIV/AIDS epidemic.

First of all, is the fact of Catania's sexuality really germane to the story, which is about Catania's belief the clinic is being mismanaged? Yes, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects the gay community, but this story isn't about that. It's about bookeeping and compliance with Federal laws. If Catania were straight, would the Post have found it necessary to point that out?

And if they need to mention Catania's sexuality, why not just say "gay?" It's not as if they're going to write, "Catania, who is secretly gay..."

The problem I have with "openly" is it implies there is something to hide. As if being "open" is unusual and out of the ordinary. That might have once been the case but hello, Washington Post, they're marrying the gays in Iowa! The closet has vastly shrunk. Worse, the qualifier "openly" makes an important but mundane aspect of Catania's life sound tawdry. It sounds like condemnation. "Catania, who is openly an arsonist..."

Catania. Is. Gay. Not a biggie.

The phrase "openly gay" needs to follow its predecessor "practicing homosexual" to the ash heap of history.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Nationals and the District of Columbia: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I shouldn't be surprised the Nationals are screwing the District. After all, the song warned us:

Take me out to the ball game

You can't get there yourself?

Take me out with the crowd.

Gee...we have to take everybody?

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks

We have to feed you too?

I don't care if I ever come back!

Hey...we don't have to keep Metro open late!

Oh its root, root, root for the home team

How's that going?

If we don't win it's a shame

No, the shame is the way th eDC government kowtows to MLB

Oh it's one, two, three strikes you're out

Three strikes and counting, and out of how much in taxpayer money?

At the old ball game!

Friday, April 24, 2009

DC Nationals -- What DC Metro Late Fees?

If you're a group like, oh Susan G. Komen for the [breast cancer] Cure have to reimburse Metro if their events require it to open early or close later than normal, to the tune of $27,000 per hour.

But if your a major league baseball team named the Nationals don't worry -- the DC City Council has decided that the city -- i.e., taxpayers -- will pay the fees!

What budget shortfalls? What understaffed police force? What economic downturn? What axle busting streets?

And last Monday, when Metro stayed open past it's normal midnight closing to accommodate a late-ending game, how many thousands of people did we save from having to endure, oh, I don't know, arranging alternate transportation?


The city paid $27,000 to give 16 people a train ride.

That's what I love about the DC City Council. They care so much. As long as you're major league baseball bent on raping and pillaging the District of Columbia. It seems Mayor Fenty and the Council are to the Nationals what Vichy France was to the Nazis.

So if you're a cash-strapped non-profit trying to find a cure for cancer and need some free help from the city, dress up your cause in something the Council will find socially redeemable Tell 'em you're not walking for a cure, tell 'em you're walking for Major League Baseball. Apparently that will open doors and the city coffers.

Play ball!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Facts

Founded by a Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970...and is not connected to Communism as some have said. All that and more about the origins of Earth Day at WildSingapore News.

Happy Earth Day!

Joe Rospars vs. Michael Palmer

Dude -- the election is over. You lost. Get over it.

I watched Michael Palmer, McCain's eCampaign director and Joe Rospars, Obama's Director of New Media, in a panel discussion of how they "Did It" (Thank God it wasn't James Carville and Mary Matalin, as a how we "did it" discussion may have a whole other meaning).

It should have been on Celebrity Death Match.

Palmer decided to turn the session into a grudge fest.

He didn't have a "celebrity" candidate. He didn't have enough resources. And the media was out to get them.

Rospars got a few digs in too, but it was Palmer who came across as whiney, petulant and unprofessional. I've been in DC for well over 20 years and this is the first time in going to sessions like these I've seen a campaign pro loose his professional detachment post election (see Carville-Matalin). This is either a sign of the time (last shriek of the right as we've known it) or an indication of Palmer's professionalism.

Behavior aside, here's a key take away point.

Palmer made a strong point that new media is just a tool in a tool box (and he did have a great line about Twitter being a bent screw rattling around in the bottom of the tool box). Point taken.

But Rospars pointed out how the Obama campaign made their online activities strategic, by building and reinforcing their message of empowering voters to come together and share their efforts to bring change...to not follow Obama but to work together. To show fundamental respect for voters and their role in the process.

To me, it was that strategic use of new media that puts the Obama campaign ahead...leaving the Michael Palmers nipping at their heels.

NASA Image of the Day: Earthrise

Taken by Apollo 16.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Circle of Life

I don't think I've ever been to a funeral that made me feel full of life.

But let me tell you what happened this weekend.

On Saturday, the LTR and I drove to southeastern Ohio, to his family's farm there. I've long thought that farm, purchased by the family decades ago and the residence of the LTR's oldest brother, was his family's spiritual home.

It was my father-in-law's favorite place.

It is nestled in the soft foothills of the Appalachian mountains from which the LTR's family emerged. On the rolling land sits a small farmhouse overlooking two ponds the family created, surrounded by two sun-filled meadows.

The LTR's father had asked that his ashes be scattered there. Regular readers here know he died last fall.

The family added its own touches. We would, on a sunny April afternoon, close to what would have been his 80th birthday, plant a tree on the farm in his memory.

And so it was that we gathered there last Saturday.

We gathered, after sharing a few drinks and happy talk and laughter, on a rise on the meadow opposite the farmhouse across the larger of the two ponds, to plant the tree. Each of us took turns, sons, a daughter, in-laws and wife, making a space to nurture the living memorial.

I've not planted many trees. I doubt that many, if any, have been planted with as much care and love as this one.

And soon it was time to spread the ashes. The oldest brother -- the family patriarch now -- said a few words. The LTR, true to his public relations self, had prepared a few words. He said:

I know that our Dad is looking down from Heaven and smiling. I know that
because he always loved this farm. Mostly because he saw it as a place
that brought the family together. So here we are today carrying out his
last wish. And we can't forget that his ashes are being scattered on the
place he loved so much by the people he loved so dearly.

I read a letter he had written to his parents while in the Army. The words of a young man concerned about his parents' worries were heard on those Ohio hills. Others family members movingly spoke. And then, one by one, we reached into a box and shoveled out and scattered around the base of the tree the ashes left from the flesh and blood of the man who had brought us all to this place.

I can't help but contrast this to the funerals of my grandparents. I loved my grandparents and my family did what we thought was best to honor their memories at their funerals -- the traditional way. But at each one someone would invariably say, gazing into the open coffin, "She looks good."

No, I thought. She looks dead. Actually, she looks like a figure from Madame Tussuad's gallery. Have you ever touched an embalmed body? There is nothing natural or human about it. And then you escort it to the cemetery to see it dropped in an expensive box into a lead lined vault for eternity. It's as if we're trying to preserve the moment of death -- to forestall the natural order of things as long as possible.

I much prefer the "ashes to ashes" approach.

What we did for my grandparents was expected. What we did for my father-in-law was beautiful. One entombed death in time. The other embraced the circle of life.

Years from now, long after we are gone, after the tree we planted is gone, his DNA, if not his spirit, will still be a part of that place.

In the meantime, every April, the month of his birth, a tree we planted for him, nurtured by him, will bloom.

What a tribute. And it moves us all.

1980. Not.

I often (somewhat) jokingly ask my Republican friends it they realize it's not 1980. In an effort to get back to their Gipper-roots, they often seem to be parroting his anti-tax, anti-government message as if the challenges we face today are the same (they're not) or as if the last 20 years of history had not occurred. David Ignatius points out today's Republicans are missing a more fundamental key to Reagan's success:

The Republican leadership, with its gloom and doom talk about the budget, is falling into a trap that its modern patron saint, Ronald Reagan, would have dodged. Reagan succeeded by contrasting his optimistic vision about America with the malaise and intellectual exhaustion of the Jimmy Carter era...Now, the Republicans have taken over as the "tut-tut" party, and they are unwittingly embracing the narrative of America as a nation in decline. That's never a good bet.

Ronald Reagan had a message that was pitch perfect for his time. But this is not 1980. And singing the same tired refrain is going to get the GOP tuned out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Teabaggers Turn their Lonely Eyes to Reagan

I don't like taxes either (unlike top officials of the Obama admin, I do pay them).

The teabaggers, best I can tell, want to return Reaganism. Let's look at some numbers.

In 1988, the last year of Reagan's term of office, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans had a tax burden of 57.2 percent.

Obama is proposing a tax rate on the top 2 percent of wealthy Americans to around 38 percent.

So in order to be like Reagan the teabaggers would have to raise taxes for more people much higher than anything Obama is proposing.

Is this why the Governor of Texas is threatening seccession?

Another comment on Reagan. Ronald Reagan built his political career with the goal of limiting communism. Republicans today seem intent on building their party by limiting the rights of other Americans. That doesn't seem very Reaganesque, if you ask me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fish Story

I've given in to my long desire to have a saltwater aquarium. I had several freshwater aquaria in high school and was intrigued to go to sea.

I was also lured in by my saltwater aquarium "how to" book that having a fish tank is relaxing and soothing.

Well, I can tell you that is total bullshit.

I mean if you let the salinity vary you're doomed. Temperature varies, doomed. Don't get the nitrogen cycle right? Sorry, Charlie.

I now have starter fish in the tank. They're Damselfish and you get them because they are hardy and can help get the nitrogen cycle going (the conversion of bad chemicals into safer chemicals).

They're also mean as hell (maybe because you expose them to all the bad chemicals so they can make it good for other fish? I'd be pissed off too). One of them is literally eating another slowly, chasing him around the tank and slowly biting pieces of him off. I tried removing the little devil, but can't catch him. As soon as the net enters the tank, he hides in one of the nooks or crannies of the rocks I was told to place in the tank so the fish would have a place to, uh, hide in.

So what do I do? Tap on the glass and shake my finger, "Bad fish! Bad fish!" I spent Saturday stressed out over a $5 fish? This is soothing?

And get this. Whatever you do, maintain constant salinity. More important than keeping it at the right salinity is making sure the salinity of the water doesn't change, to keep the fish healthy.

But wait -- what do they tell you to do if a fish gets sick?

Dip it in freshwater!

Hello! I think that would qualify as a sudden change in salinity!


One of my new critters is a green serpent starfish that is close to eating from my hand...plus a hermit crab we've named "Obi-Wan," and a long-legged sally lightfoot crab that resembles someone I know -- they are cool.

So if I can get the fish carnage under control this might be fun.