Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Last of July

One July Summer

What has happened to summer,
That's what I want to know.
Is she on a vacation -
Who knows where did she go?
Tell, what was she wearing;
A zephyr breeze and rosebud
Or grass and wild berry?
Could she be honeymooning
With spring or early fall
Or has she gone so far away
She'll not return at all?

Dorothy Ardelle Merriam

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bob Vila Strikes

Let's start with this peaceful image of two cats watching the Tour de France this past weekend. It's the last peaceful and quiet image for a while, so soak in the furry contentment. Warm place to curl up. Sleepy morning house. Got the image? Ahhh....nice.

OK. So here's the setup. Mojo has wanted a deck for...well, for a long time. And we've both been working hard and have put money aside. Money for mei-mei, travel, post-gotcha leave, money for, well, pretty much whatever we want. And what she wants is an attached deck.
So two weeks ago I spent a long afternoon at the City getting permits. And last week the workmen arrived.
Here's the northeast house interior the morning "before". Note the lovely bay windows, installed by the previous owner after a house fire in the 1980s using the nastiest, cheapest prehung windows in existence. The stories I could tell about black mold along window frames...but I won't.
Here's the living room after the first day. This is the beginning, as you can see, of the next week of living in barely controlled chaos. The Peeper described this thrillingly as "the job site"!
The contractor finished the demo in a single day. One interesting note was the amount of badly charred or soot-blackened framing they left in place. These guys did everything on the cheap. I hope they had an Atomic-Mama-kind-of-Vegas-blowout with the insurance money, 'cause they sure didn't spend it on repairing their house.

The next day saw the new door - a lovely little mover we picked up for a mere couple of thou at our little DIY boutique ("Depot a la Maison") - in place and framed. Mojo said that the hardest part was the poor guys delivering it carried it up the front stairs into the sideyard and nearly spavined themselves.
One of the many fun peculiarities of having an older house is that it has its little "quirks". Ours has a northeast front that sags like Morganna Roberts in the shower. We know this, but there's knowing something and knowing it. Once the nicely plumb door was in we knew it. The carpet level, well below the door lintel on the north side, was so high on the south side the door opened only with difficulty.
This carpet was stained and reeking in a way that only decades-old carpet that has been the prime sleeping spot of a stanky, old (but sweet) dog can be. So, begone, foul carpet! We cut out a square around the door. Then some more . Then ALL the carpet in the living room. Then all the carpet in THE ENTIRE HOUSE.
So now the east wall of the living room is a new unframed door, the carpet is up exposing the badly stained, scarred and battered fir floor AND the cheap (did I mention the former owners were fucking cheap?) fiberboard underlayment these nimrods used instead of floor-grade plywood for the burned section repair. And thousands of little staples they used to hold the carpet down. Thousands. Of little staples. Thousands. Of little, tiny, almost-buried-in-the-floor

Y'know how in the plays in Shakespeare's time they used to do a lot of the dirty work offstage to avoid having to lug heavy actors around after they "died"? You know how one of the more respected literary devices is to avoid description of the reeeeeally bad stuff, since the reader's imagination can provide a more horrifying image of the foul deed than any mere words in print.
I'm not going to say anything more about the thousands of little fucking staples, then.
But, skipping that, here's the new door Sunday! It's nice to know that if I ever commit an act of professional incompetence so massive that I loose my license to practice geology that I can get work as a drywaller.

And since, what the hell, we've always hated the color they used in the hallway, we painted that. Here's Mojo and Shea's beloved babysitter Lilo painting away like, umm, well, like painters.
Okay. So the hallway is all taped and partially painted, the floor is a crusty mess awaiting the new laminate cover and floor, the drywall is up but needs sanding, more joint compound, texturing and painting. What is a battered family to do?
We go to visit Christine and her two boys (Oscar the Ginormous Fish's family) in their new house! Yaay...! We had a lovely visit, Peeper was utterly thrilled to be with his bigger friend The Poet (who is six but is great with his little admirer), we had a nice time with Christine and Plantinga, her older son and my "Lord of the Rings" wargaming partner. Ate, played, went to the park, had lovely time and then home to the frantic screaming and struggling of trying to get a splinter out of the foot of a desperately tired four-year-old. There's another little scene I'll just let you imagine for yourself.

Miss Lily's comment was "What are these crazy humans thinking, for Bast's sake. People were made to lie in the sun and sleep. Someone should tattoo that on every human's forehead."
So much for a busy weekend.
See you at work

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Death Cat Blogging: Long Pig Edition

In our sleepless quest to bring you all things "Death Cat", here's someone not afraid to ask the question we've all been wondering about, courtesy of Amanda at Pandagon:

"OK, now I’m left to wonder (she writes) … if Oscar isn’t really interested in people, is it really ok to attribute Oscar’s curling up to the terminally ill to some sort of sympathetic desire to comfort the dying? Maybe he really likes being in a building with a bunch of weak old people.
…In fact, maybe he’s getting really pissed off that he goes through all the trouble of staking these people out and is then removed from the room before he can eat them.

You can’t blame cats. They spend all their lives around the large, hairless monkeys and they have to wonder if we taste better than that damn kibble we feed them. So they wait and watch and on very rare occasions, one actually has the chance to know if we really do taste like raw pork."

Speaking only for Miss Lily, she does like a little nip o' the long pork once in a while. But she claims that, unlike the scurrilous cannibal rumor, we actually taste like chicken.
Update 7/28: The Death Cat appears to have taken up politics.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Le Chatte de Mort

Okay, let's start with the premise that most newspapers are crap. Some, mind you, are more crap than others. But give or take a few Los Angeles or New York Timses, pretty much crap.

Now our local Oregonian is usually not the floaty-est turd in the newspaper crap bowl, but today's edition was almost beyond belief. Out in the big, scary real world the U.S. Attorney general was flat out lying to Congress, wars, disasters, cheating cyclists...all these things were happening yesterday. So what's above the fold on today's Oregonian front page?

An article about how if you get fat all your friends get fat, too (or maybe not...!),

I'm serious. No shit, I couldn't make this up.

Jesus wept, no wonder people in general are so fuckin' ignorant.

La Mort du Tour?

They just keep coming. The cheaters and the cheating; first Vinokourov. Then Moreni. Now Rasmussen. It just seems like you open the paper or go on the web and all you see and hear is another doping story. Is this The End? Should this year's tour be halted? Is cycling done for as a sport?

I keep coming back again and again to this guy:

He never gave a thought to shutting down the game. The idea wasn't to just throw up his hands and surrender - Kenesaw Mountain Landis just wasn't that kind of guy. I mean, look at him. Mean, irascible, arbitrary...but not your basic cheese-eating surrender monkey.
Here's what he had to say about the cheaters of his day:
"Baseball is something more than a game to an American boy. It is his training field for life work. Destroy his faith in its squareness and honesty and you have destroyed something more; you have planted suspicion of all things in his heart.... Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball."
The current president of the Tour was interviewed this morning and he said this: “We have to break every link of the chain, not only the riders who are the final part. Now we have to pursue the doctors and managers of the riders. When I see riders sitting down to protest against doping at the start of the race, it’s completely different to what happened 10 years ago. It’s the absolute opposite because, at that time, they were protesting against the controls. That means that we have a part of the path [to a clean sport] has been forged. In the future the access to our races, which will be determined by a sporting criteria, will be primarily determined by ethics. We will create a new set of conditions involving the institutes like the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD). We won’t give our confidence to people who no longer deserve it.”

Almost...Kenesawesque. It sounds like - and I hope - that he's not going to let the dopers and cheaters take away the chances of a great young rider like Contador. These scandals and defenestrations mean that the dirty riders are being caught and being thrown out of the sport.
Let's keep riding. Vive le Tour!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The world turns on its end

Not much to look at, is it.

But this sheet of foolscap says if effect we are now, officially and legally, a mom and dad for the second time. We are stunned and thrilled at the same time. We were expecting weeks - it took 18 days.

Uh. OK.

And now we wait for the travel authorization.

"There's the way we may appear
but that will change from day to night.
Would you ever see within?
Underneath the skin?
Could I believe you had that sight?
And so a woman leaves a man.
And so a world turns on it's end.
So I'll see your face in dreams
where nothing's what it seems;
still you still appear some kind of friend."

Suzanne Vega

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Big news. Huge news. Great, big, ginormous, fucking tremendous news. As soon as possible.


I guess there's two ways to look at the latest incident of doping on The Tour.
It's a sign that the sport of professional cycling is hopelessly tainted and dying, soon to wither into a sideshow the likes of WWW wrestling.
Or it's a sign that the system is working, and the dirty riders are being culled from the peleton.

It's hard for me not to love a sport that demands this level of committment, sacrifice as well as the physical demands of speed, agility and strength.
Millions of others love it, too, and hope that it survives and becomes stronger. That love will help racing, and the Tour, in these bad times.
Here are two good antidotes to the gloom-and doom predictions for The Tour.
And here's something else to mull over, something that we have probably forgotten, it being so long ago. A much better known sport here in the U.S. was in deep trouble back in the Ragtime Era. Trouble so bad that the entire power structure of the sport was changed to give one man the authority to clean up the sport. And to his credit that man did, restoring the game (with a little help from a disobedient bad boy from the Baltimore slums) to the popularity it kept for half a century.
It's worth noting that the same sport is in trouble again - with doping.
But my point is that it took Kenesaw Landis more than seven years to clean up baseball, and he had to throw 19 men out of the game, many of them big stars of their day. Several others had to be warned to stop associating with gamblers, and were threatened with expulsion if they did not.
Cleaning up anything that has fallen into bad times and bad ways is always ugly. But for the sake of cycling I hope this latest bad news is a sign that the illness is leaving the body rather than the spirit is failing and the flesh is weak.


Alexander Vinokourov has tested positive for blood-doping, the test being on the sample he submitted after his incredible time-trial victory in Stage 13 of the Tour. He has been kicked off the Tour, and Team Astana has been asked, and has agreed, to withdraw.
I am greatly saddened. Vino's Tour this year has been a fustuarium of pain and difficulty, his riding seemingly heroic in its obstinate disobedience to suffering.
And here we are, again, exposed by our own desire to see as unconquerable will what now appears to be the effect of ingenious medicine and a compelling need to overcome weakness and pain with technical tricks.
It makes all of Vinokourov's riding in this Tour a lie. Whether he was cheating on other days becomes immaterial. This one failure cheats all his other successes of their meaning.
David Millar, the British cyclist for SDP, cried today in an interview about the news. I understand the feeling; I could weep, too. Not for the shock, because it's not a shock. But for the feeling that an illusion, the wonderful illusion that we could reach out and touch a bit of human greatness in the person of a cyclist, a piece of a dream has slipped a little further from our grasp.
Why, Vino? Was it worth it, those two brief days of success? Did it matter to you, that the cheers and the glory were lies? Why did you cheat yourself and us of what should have been days when you were bigger, better, than yourself?

Monday, July 23, 2007


Every so often something happens that makes you just shake your head. An unexpectedly brilliant sunrise on a gray morning. A random act of kindness from a total stranger. Or, as in this case, a perfectly heroic ride - heroic in the sense of pure, pointless determination and endurance - to shake up an otherwise same-day-at-the-office painful stage through the monsters of the Pyrenees.

This guy is a dead man riding. He's not going to win the Tour this year, not unless some sudden and virulent plague wipes out all 22 of the top riders above him. And, given his age, and the damage he's done to his body this year, he's not going to win the Tour, now, not ever.

So why keep riding?

Perhaps because today, just for today, he rode himself bigger than he was, bigger than I ever thought he could be. Bigger than the wind, the pain, and the other riders trailing behind him like the sputtering brilliantly-colored tail of a comet. As big as the wild riders of Kazakhstan. Rode a ride he can remember when all else that remains is the pain in his knees and the dim memory of the wild cheers that followed him across the finish in Loudenvielle.

So you keep riding, Vino. Ride for your past, for the suffering of your aching knees and all the sweat and blood you've spilled as a professional cyclist. Ride for the great riders of the past Tours.

Ride for yourself and the feeling inside, the feeling that pulls you up that last climb when your mind and body scream for you to stop.

Busy Saturday

As Miss Lily here is explaining, Sunday was a very quiet day around the Fire Direction Center. We slept in, watched the Tour, did some minor housework and then Mojo and Peeper went to the pool while Daddy napped and mowed the lawn. Dinner. Bedtime. Mojo and I played strip-dominoes (we have the rules, in case anyone's interested...) and then off to la-la land.

Ah, but Saturday!
Saturday was another country heard from.
First, we went to see Millicent & Floyd's 1899 House. If you have been following their great blog Different Dirt you know that they are pulling their beautiful old Victorian back together after a disastrous fire.

Well, here it is. Note the sideyard is looking summer-lush. When we visited in February things looked a lot less promising. But everything except the back yard is looking great in July
Peeper had a lot of trouble using the porta-loo, even after we described to him that this was the restoration crew's way of really restoring the 1899 House to 1899, complete with period plumbing.

Here's the back of the house. The fire started here, and this exterior wall was the most badly damaged. Look closely at the lovely shingle work. The restoration is going to match the original almost exactly.
I don't remember where we heard this - Millicent may have told us - but the granite basement walls? Came to Portland as sailing ship ballast (granite is NOT found in Oregon west of the Blue Mountains or north of the Klamaths).

Here's the east front, very little damaged in the fire. Just to give you an idea of the original grace of the house.

From there, we went to Heidi's for an adoptive-family get together. This is Heidi of the "Village" in Kelli's Waiting for Sprout. She has a lovely little home near the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Portland. We foregathered there to meet the other parents in our original adoption travel group, eat and talk.

Kelli herself was an object of great fascination for the Peep. I should note that all the following pictures are his. He did a great job with the camera, but his real interest was Kelli. When I downloaded the pictures I found - actual count - fourteen pictures of Kelli. Most looked just like this.

Except this one. I like the expressive hands.

Portrait of the Artist as a Rude Boy. Not sure what the fingers were doing and I'm not sure I want to know.

Heidi's backyard with part of the little group. Ironically, this being our first travel group get-together, about half the group has found alternatives to standard China adoption through the Special Needs/Waiting Child lists.

Peep the auteur. Nice atmosphere shot of Heidi's backyard. I should note that her baby room (linked to her name above through Kelli's posting at WFS) really IS gorgeous, the kind of thing we'd love to do if we had more time, more money and less Peeper. Beautiful colors, a lovely crib, cute furniture...nice, Heidi!

In fact, her entire house is gracious and inviting. We had a very good time just socializing, and the Peeper was a terrific little boy and very polite. I think that Kelli's delicious marionberry preserves must have had some Ritalin in them or something.

Heidi utterly knocked us out with her cooking. After the outstanding buffet we had her homemade apple pie and ice cream and in this shot the Peep pays tribute to his favorite part of the afternoon.

Although the excitement surrounding the extermination of the yellowjackets in the eaves of the house next door was first-class, too.
Well, there we are. A little blurry, but outstanding job of scrapbook photography by Little "Danny Moder" Pea. Thanks to Heidi for being such a good hostess and to Kelli for being such a femme fatale for one four-year-old.
Off to work.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Into the Pyrenees

Great, great stage today, up into the Pyrenees, into Basque country, with two massive climbs at the end of the stage, first over the top of the Pont de Pailheres and the finish on the evil Plateau de Beille. Nothing "belle" about this climb - brutal grades and a driving headwind that scatters the field like chaff.

Contador takes the stage for Discovery and his native Spain after riding a cunning but ugly last 2k, forcing Rasmussen to drag him up to the line and the win to defend yellow. But Rasmussen himself shows today, with his brilliant attack on the slopes of the Plateau, that he deserves to wear the Yellow and may in fact be a great champion of the Tour.

Sadly, my guy Vino cracked on the slopes of the Pailheres and never caught up. For him the Tour is over. The only question now is whether he continues to try and help Astana or abandons. He must be in terrific pain.

Can't understand Cadal Evans. He looked dangerous all the way up to the yellow jersey attack on the way up the plateau - and then he was gone. Nothing. Maybe yesterdays TT took too much out of him, as it seems to with Vino.

Discovery, BTW, is really impressing me. Last year they were utter crap. This year they are well in the running for the team competition and still have two, Contador and Leipheimer, in striking distance for yellow. Hincapie is a mystery to me. He just doesn't give up but he hasn't really been pulling his weight, either. Group News Blog (the first link at the top) passes on a rumor that he's thinking of jumping to T-Mobil next season. Hmmmm...

And Iban, Iban...if you were gonna suck, why not stick to sucking at time trialing. You really blew today, after your team worked to hard to set you up. You little bitch. I don't love you anymore. So, there.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

What is it with cats? They are more photogenic than Paulina Porzikova. And I love this little girl. How the heck did she fall asleep like that..?

Okay, I know THIS feeling...
And not to leave out the Star Wars fans...
There may be things less kitschy than funny cats but I can't think of any. But after looking at Dick and Dummya's ugly mugs, I'm fine with the cats.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Constitutional Crisis Blogging

What does it take?

We have an Administration that publicly asserts that its actions are above the law. This shouldn't be news, exactly. We've seen and heard this before.

What's sickening to me is that we, the People, now apparently lack either the capability or the willingness, or both, to BE sickened. That's fucking wrong.

This country was founded by people - let's face it, by men - who were so sickened by the arrogance, despotism and contempt of their sovereign that they we willing to risk their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor" to be rid of the royal pest. Have we - are we - so much less than they that today that we will suffer this wretched little man, this smirking, sneering, privileged patrician twerp, to undo in two piddling terms of office what the Founders fought and died to establish, and the hundreds of thousands who fought here died to preserve?

Do these words have no more import then the scribblings of a hoodlum on a bathroom wall:

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has
refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and
eat out their substance.
He has affected to render the Military
independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
For depriving us in many cases,
of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

Jefferson famously said: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure." Our present leaders consider that bullshit will serve.

Why aren't we furious about that?

Update 5pm 9/20/07: Glenn Greenwald says it again, and better here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Early Morning

I love to wake and walk outside in the cool of early morning in the summer. The sounds of the traffic are still low, and the neighborhood is mostly hushed, or silent. In the high, brightening summer sky the sounds of the small city dwelling birds are sharp as little knives. Inside the silent house my wife and child curl in the night-tangle of sheets and blankets, skins soft and warm, faces blank with the emptiness of sleep.
I love the dust-sharp smell of the morning street, the oily hint of asphalt, the prairie-husk of dried grass. Breathe deep and the faint dampness, tiniest hint of warm humidity, fills my lungs with the promise of a hot day.
I love the steam rising from a new cup of hot coffee, dark richness of grounds and frothy sweetness of cream warming my hands.
I love watching the gray haziness of the pre-dawn sharpen, shadows forming like bad habits under limbs and behind porches as the light deepens so that in the old way of defining day from night you can tell a white thread from a black.
I love to just sit quietly under the vault of the Heavens and watch the next day begin.
Where the Telemetries End
Brian Turner
Such is life:
We make love and the dry sheets
crackle in blue sparks. Water
slides vein by vein
over the face of stone.
We share a long night
of breathing. And when the dead
speak to us, we must ask them
to wait, to be patient,
for the night is still ours
on the rooftops of the Al Ma'badi,
with a tracery of lights
falling all around us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Doomed - the Comic

Here's the McEldowney strip referenced below large enough to read. Damn Blogger, anyway...


Once upon a time a young and gullible Chief taught at the local Community College. It was fun, because I love Geology, and it was fun, because it was more than a little like performing and I love to perform, and it was fun because I liked the students, generally, and I had good students. But it was also fiendishly hard work. It paid less than working at the Car Wash. And the hours were hell.
I'd leave for work at 6 and return home after 10, three nights a week. So after the Peep was born and I got back into consulting I hung up my Powerpoint, never again to meet the hordes of grade-frenzied undergrads on the fields of academic strife.
I said I loved the students and I did. But I also worked at two different campuses and the inadequacy of both abilities and attitudes at the franchise I'll call the "Legin Campus" was shocking. I had so many students ask me that I actually had a seperate card in my course introduction lecture that read "Asking me how little you can do and still get an "A" is a perfect strategy for not getting an "A". And another that said: "Yes, the material is hard; if it was easy they'd call it "high school". Some of these poor gomers were mental worm food and yet they raged, raged against the dying of their GPA like I was some sort of mad academic Dr. Kevorkian. And being the good little adjunct instructor I was, I always tried to be kind and sympathetic, regardless of...ahem...my internal attitude. But the attitude was still there.
Hence my enjoyment of today's "9 Chickweed Lane":

Sideyard Sunday

Mojo and I agreed: it was an odd sort of Sunday.

Started off with the Tour, as I described in the post below. Actually, no, it started off with me posting about soccer in the pre-dawn basement, with Peep and Mo asleep.
The little guy had gotten a very late bedtime the night before - due mostly to the deep conversations he was having with Snaky the Snake about global finance (I think).
Great peeper moment, tho: I went in to tell him to stop kicking the wall and he looked out of the pile of bedclothes and said: "It's my wall!" I had to agree (before adding "...And I want you to stop kicking it.")
But the following morning was really lazy, in a sort of disaffected way. As the picture on top shows, I got out the ladder our friend
Christine (of Oscar the Ginormous Fish fame) had left with us to scrape paint off the gable ends but it was too short.
Mojo's quilt went unquilted - she's having trouble and we agreed that a hobby that frustrates you isn't a fun hobby.
We piddled around the house for a bit and finally decided that it was time to clean out the kitchen cabinets and install the "Rationell" sliding cabinet inserts I'd brought home from The Pile Pour in Seattle.

So we emptied out the groceries - a job in itself, I tell you, which involved sorting through a bunch of food-like items and discarding anything with a pre-2005 expiration date.

Though I want to state for the record that the dried shaved squid had NOT gone bad. Godammit, honey, it's supposed to smell like that!
We managed to get everything out of the way and then Daddy went to work with drill, screwdriver and lots of Bad Words. I'm not sure which of the three drove Peep into his room, but he didn't emerge until the entire process was completed.

And here they are. Lovely to look at! Delightful to hold! Damn, I do good work...
The next excitement was the arrivals of our friends the Rava family, with their full quotient of noisy fun. Their two kids, Ethan (who is nine) and Etzion (who is Peep's age) and Peep had a great time playing, first outside...

...then with the Hot Wheels track (and there were some spectacular pileups there, let me tell you)...

...and then in the nearby McKenna Park.
There was lots of running, lots of shrieking, a bit of soccer playing (though it is hard to stop the Peeper from using his hands - soul of a goalie, that boy). All conducted at great volume and intensity - hallmarks of a Rava visit.

Here's a fierce Peep emerging from the Twisty Slide, also known as the Ass Grabber, cunning trap for all middle-aged butts.

Until finally evening arrived and all had to go home. Peep went to bed early, tired out, the little sweetie. He was a total lovie all day. Nice.
And we went to bed early, too. All this child-rearing and home improvement - it's tough!
But good. Damn good. The payoff isn't in riches or fame, but love and laughter. There's a wonderful bit of dialogue in Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons" where More's syncophant Richard Rich asks for "a position" and More replies that he, Rich, should be a teacher, that he'd be a great teacher. Rich wails that who would know, who would CARE, if he were a teacher!? More (in the cragged person of the rough-velvet-voiced Paul Scofield) looks down at Rich and says carefully: "You. Your students. God. Not a bad public, that."
You. Your kids. God. Not a bad public at all