Thursday, August 30, 2007


Dear Mojolicious (name redacted),

DHS and NVC have notified us of the approval of your I-600A approval.Everything is set for your trip to China. Please be sure to bring alongthe other documents needed. You can find this list on our website:

Enjoy your visit to China. We look forward to seeing you on September 27 for the oath-taking ceremony.


(Name redacted)
Vice Consul
Adopted Children's Immigrant Visa Unit
US Consulate General
Guangzhou, China

I'll have that drink now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hot Day with Piles

Spent all day up on the north slopes of Mt. Tabor - the only volcanic edifice within the limits of a major American city, did you know that? - driving piles. Hot, dusty noisy work. I like it. Don't ask me why, I couldn't explain it. But pile driving has always been one of my favorite field jobs. Maybe, like the honorable gentleman from Idaho, Senator Craig, I like the idea of big, long hard poles driving into the warm brown earth.
But I'm, like, so not gay. Okay? Okay.
(It helps that the contractor, PLI Systems, does good work. House sinking into a gigantic hole? Give 'em a call. You won't regret it.)
Before I leave the entire moronic subject of young Mister Craig and his "wide stance", I'd like to echo Mark Kleiman and note that the real fuckwittery involved is the guy's attempt to bluff his way out of the jam by laying his senatorial I.D. on the cop. I could care less if my legislator is gay, but to try that weak-ass "do you know how important I am" stuff? What a maroon...

Oh - before we leave the subject of politics altogether, note the map at right. Each of the red dots represents the address of a recipient of a federal farm subsidy. The BIG red dots? More than $250K of your tax dollars at work. Yee haw! Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside!

Speaking of rural squalor, Mojo and I stayed up to watch in fascinated horror Rachel and the Stranger on TCM. In a lot of ways it's just another 40's oater, only set in the 1700s with Bill Holden buying indentured servant Loretta Young to be his new wife and mommy to little Davey, his loathsome spawn. Young, who I always associate with this sort of trembling, almost-tearfully-tragic heroine, does a workmanlike job of her role, but it's almost wasted in that the viewer is treated to 78 minutes of Holden and his film kid acting like utter dicks to Young as the titular Rachel. Loretta, who by repute was a very bright and capable woman, is the perfect fictional midcentury woman, pining for her Man even as she makes sure he's the boss of her. She's a genuine Prairie Muffin, for eighteen dollars and four oweing (sorry; "owin').
Add to this a young Robert Mitchum steaming up the screen as the "stranger" who gets Rachel's womanly juices flowing while at the same time gets "Big Davey" (Holden) increasingly pissed off by sparkin' the woman that Holden has treated like worm dirt. But we know that true-blue prairie muffin Rachel will Stand By Her Man through stranger, mountain lion and Shawnee attack. And we're supposed to get all weepy when Holden rebukes his get by telling him to "mind yore maw!" (Ooooh! She's now "the mommy"! Gee, how sweet!)

Sweet baby Jesus. Sometimes I wonder how the heck anyone made it through the 40's and 50's sane and sexually normal.
And speaking of sane...
Mojo heard from our congressional caseworker today. She (the caseworker) said that she talked to the USCIS staff person at the NVC that is supposed to be handling our 171-H. According to the caseworker, the USCIS person claimed to want to "take time to ensure the process was done right".
Time? Done right??
Let's see. Open e-mail. Review attached document for completion. Add new destination address. Press "send".
Homeland Security! No wonder going through airport security is so fucked up. This is the same group that runs the TSA. Who thought that putting these nimrods in charge of citizenship was a good idea?
If I had a really big hammer...

Tomorrow - tomorrow is the crux of the biscuit. We find out if the 171-H has made it to the consulate.

Come on, lucky seven...

On hold

There was a time - and not all that long ago - when my response to indecision, inaction or just simply waiting for something to happen was a volcanic anger that would worry my friends and anger strangers while frightening innocent housepets. After a lot of hard work, a lost marriage and time I am no longer the furious drill sergeant inside.

I am calm. I am patient. I am like a stone, gazing serenely at the clouds passing overhead. I am waiting quietly for the National Visa Center to forward our 171-H to the consulate in let this represent the hiatus that is today.

The nice people here in the Portland USCIS office sent our request to the NVC probably late yesterday, or they will early today. Which means that the e-mail should be forwarded to China sometime later today or early tomorrow. Hopefully. Deep breath. Relax. Inner poise. Let go of all the fear, frustration, anexiety and worry. Float, like a cloud over the mountain. Be, like the stone.

But lemme tellya...if something doesn't show up in Guangzhou by tomorrow morning...

Monday, August 27, 2007


The drama of the "171-H Saga" isn't's just on hold. We'll know more Wednesday. Until then, I wanted to take a break from all things adoption and talk about the OTHER big news Monday: the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales.The thing is, I like to think I'm a pretty politically savvy guy. And when I look over this whole Gonzo deal I'm not sure I get it. Why him? Why now?

I mean, like the tiny handful of you that watch CSPAN I also watched the guy wriggle and deny and "forget" and flat-out lie his ass off in front of Congress this summer to the point where if it'd been an episode of "T.J. Hooker" Bill Shatner and Adrian Zmed would have hauled his ass out behind the LCPD holding tank for a little wall-to-wall counseling. And what happened?

Nothing. Zero, zip, nada. The guy skated. Like everybody else I figured that was that, he'd walked. The Dems were gonna have to find some other Bushie stooge to torment. As far as I can tell the whole tempest had died down to a teapot, and a pretty tepid one at that. And now this.

WTF? Makes no sense to me.
If we were in another time, and our Chief Executive was a different man, I'd say that it was time for a Big Change. Maybe one of his aides could put it to Dubya (who, I understand, fancies himself something of a Baseball Guy) as his "Kenesaw Mountain Landis" moment.
Time to acknowledge that the gamblers have gotten all over the Inside, that the whole system is worm-eaten rotten and what is needed is a gimlet-eyed hardcase to restore the public trust. Finding himself a Babe Ruth would help, too. But the point is it's NOT a different time, and Dubya isn't going to send some straight-shooter to replace Gonzo. He'll nominate another Ranger or Pioneer whose primary loyalty is to the Decider. And to hell with the nation.

To me , the saddest thing about the whole Abu Gonzales story is the sheer pointless stupidity of the man's entire tenure. Had he spent more time doing the job the Constitution directed him to do and less time trying to find ways for Dubya to skate around the parts that he didn't want to obey...

One of my fellow commentors at Intel Dump observed that Gonzo's syncophantic approach to his job "hurt his client, George W. Bush, who needed wise counsel more than he needed another cheerleader at the time..." The problem with this notion being, I would opine, that his client has one of the most irritating and self-destructive traits in a client, which is that he doesn't want wise counsel if it contradicts what he desires and believes, won't listen to it when he receives it and will ostracize and eventually fire counsel who continues to provide him with such advice.
I have long accepted that these guys have the anti-Midas it the "Michael Bay Touch", in that everything they set their hands to goes to shit. But even for this inept crew it passes disbelief that they'd try this now if their idea was to huck out the deadwood before bombing Iran. That would be some level of stupid beyond moronically'd be weapons-grade stupid. I'm not sure that they're capable of such a sustained level of stupid.
So I still don't get it. This entire mess makes no sense to me, politically or in terms of the personalities of the people involved.
But at this point, does that really matter? Ex-Attorney General Gonzales, meet the Death Cat. He's here for your career.
Back soon with more China adoption insanity. Get in, sit down, shut up and hold on: it's gonna be a helluva fucking ride.

Cunning Plan

So Mojo has been working the phone and the e-mail all morning, trying to unkludge this whole 171-H problem. She started the day literally in tears at the Portland USCIS office, went through much of our Oregon congressional delegation, and finally reported back that the woman she had dealt with at Portland CIS had called her to say that she (the CIS person) believes she has stumbled on a way to flag our 171-H as an "emergency" case, which will supposedly force the National Visa Center to forward it to the consulate in Guangzhou within 24 hours of receipt.

From her lips to the Goddess of Bureaucracy's ears! If it works it will be as cunning as a cunning fox appointed Dean of Cunning at Cunning University!
Of course, it may not work...
Updates to follow.

Weekend update

It was busy, and yet...

I worked like a man possessed this weekend. Painted, sealed, replaced, improved, painted again, touched up, added to, took away, checked and rechecked.

And, after all of that, I left my camera over at Christine's (of Oscar the Ginormous Fish) last night when we went to visit. So I have no pictures of the whole farrago. Those I'll post later, but rather than remain blogless I've illustrated this post with some selections from one of my favorite pre-Raphaelite eye-candy painters, Larry Alma-Tadema.

So the point is that Mojo and I worked like latifunda slaves from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. This included:
-- watersealing the new deck
-- painting the underside of the pentroof over the deck door to cover the fire damage exposed by the demo of the old bay window
-- painting the deck door frame to match the other house doors
-- nailing down the flashing at the top of the pentroof (still trying to figure out how that stuff got pried up - stu-range!)
-- installing door stops on the deck door sidewindows
-- replacing the hinges on the living room china cabinet
-- installing a doorstop on the front door
-- touching up the exterior paint around the deck/house wall join
-- replacing the nasty landlord halo/snow globe light fixtures in the back hallway

The delightful part is that the new deck, side door, living room and back hallway are done. Complete. Finished.

All we have to do now is enjoy the nice results.

Which is good, because otherwise we'd be feeling like we had been gobsmacked by shit-luck. To wit:

Our travel authorization arrived last Thursday.


But wait...

Our agency called. "There's a problem..." - a phrase of evil import if ever I heard one.

Seems that when we re-filed our 171-H (federal application to adopt a foreign heathen orphan of parentless condition) we missed the little check-the-block that says "dear local USCIS office: please forward this to the consulate in the foreign land where our dear little heathen orphan is living". So the local federal immigration and naturalization office did...nothing! They used our 171-H as a coaster for Friday office parties, made it into a paper airplane, decorated their walls with it...everything but send it where it would be fucking useful, which is...the consulate in Baoxin's native country!!!


I have never had a great deal of use for office pogues in general and federal office pogues in particular. But this is beyond ridiculous. What the hell did they think we wanted them to do with this form..??!!

Anyway, now we're caught in the Hague Trap. The 2000 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption makes the whole cammora a federal-to-federal process. In the past we could have dropped off a note at our local Portland USCIS office and they'd have fired an e-mail with our 171-H attached to the consulate, presto! This being entirely too simple, under the new Hague Convention world rules, they have to send it to the USCIS central office somewhere back east, where someone, supposedly, will fire it off to China. Sometime. We hope.

Needless to say, we don't have a lot of faith in this entire process. Mojo is going down to the Portland USCIS office this morning to start the process, but we're also going to ring in an Oregon legislator or three to make sure we have someone leaning on all the federal officials involved.

And not to be a backbiting gossip, but why the hell wasn't our agency all over this? It's not like we haven't laved them in limitless wealth, filled their pockets with the riches of the Orient. WTF, people? We may have checked the wrong block on the 171-H, but where the hell was our agency rep when it came to checking to see if the p-work was all squared away?

But that's all that, there's nothing more we can do other than get the paperwork filed and continue to pester the faceless bureaucrats at the wherever office of USCIS to send our form on to China.
And as for me? I plan to spend this coming weekend doing...
...absolutely nothing. Play with my son, and my wife, lie in the late summer sun and sleep. Nihil agere delectat.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Silk Road: US v Finland 8/25/07

So that's that.
The U.S. women's national team played their final game before the opening match of the 2007 Women's World Cup tonight at the Home Depot soccerplex. Against a noncompetitor in the WWC, Finland.
One-sided would be a kind way to describe it. The final score was 4-0 with only chance and the Finnish keeper standing between another half dozen or so goals. The WNT flies to China Monday looking in excellent form.
Just a couple of notes:
1. Kristine Lilly is a genuinely great player. She still has great quickness, both on and off the ball even if her straight-line speed has faded. She finishes deftly but more critically sees the field incisively, passing into space and to players that another midfielder would hoof and hope towards.
So the question that sneaks into my head is; why isn't she as well known as Mia Hamm? My suspicious curmudgeonly side thinks this is because Mia is "cute" and Kristine is, well, not plain - she "cleans up" nicely - but looks very un-foofy on the field. She lacks the rounded, feminine softness that Hamm had and has, even when she was young and match-slim. On the field, Mia Hamm looked serious but fetching, like an actress playing a soccer striker. Kristine Lilly just looks angular and businesslike, like, well, what she is, a professional soccer midfielder.
I think it's an insult to Lilly, and to sport, that she's not taken more seriously as "the new Mia".
2. The U.S. defense looked exceptionally solid. Christie Rampone, in particular, had several lovely one-on-one stops.
3. The only troubling news from this game was the departure of Abby Wambach late in the first half. The report is that she "jammed her toe", which could mean anything from a hellacious bruise to a hairline fracture. Whatever the injury, a striker is a "beast of the foot" like a falcon, a horse or a hound in medieval venery: if you destroy the foot, you destroy the animal. As I wrote previously, while I appreciate Wambach's skill I am troubled by her place in the WNT's offensive scheme. So, while I hope that she is not seriously hurt, it wouldn't crush my hopes for U.S. X-chromosomal footy glory if she had to ride the pine for a game or three. The team looked terrific without her, wide open, aggressive and stylish.
到中国! To China! As Peter Fonda says in his brilliantly poignant speech near the climax of "Thomas and the Magic Railroad:
"The lights are all green for you now, Lady. Green for glory..."

Dusk walk

It's been a busy, wierd week. China returned our Travel Authorization (yay!) but there's trouble with our 171-H (shit!)...and it won't be resolved - if then - until Monday, so I don't want to say any more about it.

And I am working on the second installment of my ruminations on the parallels I see between our time and the end of the Roman Republic; this about the populares - We, the People. But with all the home-improvement and adoption crises I haven't been able to get all that excited about it. I promise I'll push on and finish this weekend.

No, what I wanted to do was just a little gentle recollection of one of the few slow, happy, peaceful times this past week: Wednesday night when Peeper and I went for a walk abound our block.

The sun was already sinking when we turned right, past the big dogwood in the front yard. Our objective was the new houses - the "construction site" - being built at the corner of N. Yale and N. Monteith. A wonderland of preschool boy adventure.
Along the way, everything has to be checked out. We looked for chickens at the Hippie House on the corner of Amherst & Monteith (no luck - I tried to explain what a "chicken nugget" is, to no avail). We looked for fallen walnuts from the many black walnut trees around our block.

Once at the construction site there were countless delights: lumber to climb, nailgun nails to pick up, walnuts (again!) to toss onto roofs, framing to slither through.
Here's the boy on top of the world. He's much better at climbing up than climbing down, BTW. I had to lift hi down from this one...

We scurried around - okay, HE scurried around and I leaned on framing or sat on stacks of lumber - and enjoyed a pleasantly aimless period in the unfinished houses.
There's a lot of this going around. When we moved here near the turn of the century (funny, to say that...I wonder if people in 1900 felt the same way?) there were still quite a few little houses on standard Portland 50' x 100' lots, or double lots with larger houses on them. We've already had two lots on the N. Yale side of our block subdivided. Now this one. It's the Future, I'm afraid...

Once we'd done enough clambering and nail-picking, Peeper took the camera for his own auteurisme. Here's the resulting photoessay I've called "Peepics"...
I call this one "Redwoods";
Here's "Underfoot". Note the sandal on the wrong foot.
Even the greatest of photographers has to do portrait snapshots sometimes. This is "Daddy"
This is "As the World Turns; a study in concrete". Still on the wrong feet, Peep...
Here's "Falling Dark";
"Study in Concrete and Leaves II";
"Sign of the Times"
At this point I took the camera back.

Three-quarters of the way around the block we turned up our alley. These curious mews are a North Portland artifact. I used to believe them an oversight - public streets never paved and often vacated. But while searching our plat for the new deck permit application I came across the tax lot maps and realized that they're platted public alleys, sub-streets, vestiges of the horse-drawn Portland when you couldn't park your horse on the street overnight. We still turn up remnants of the old stable/garage in our back yard.

I'll have to write about the alleys of North Portland some day.

But not this evening. This was just for strolling, for finding treasures hidden in the long grass behind peoples' houses.

We checked out the plum grave, pulled some more of the nasty deadly nightshade growing along our back fence, and looked to see if we'd caught anything in our powder trap.

By this time evening had truly come: the dragonflies were alight, and it was time to go inside and find our tub, and stories, and sleep.

Today we have lots of plans, friends to vivist with and chores to do, a deck to seal and house to paint. But what a lovely moment to have, last Wednesday evening, to just do nothing and be.

And so...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Peanuthu akbar!

Homeland Security sources across the river in Vancouver, Washington released this announcement today that a pair of jihadi suicide squirrels took out part of the downtown Vancouver power grid. More then 3,000 people were left without power as traffic snarled along Mill Plain and Evergreen Boulevards.

The squirrels apparently chose the substation at random, chewed through the power transformer cover squeaking "God is Great! Peanuts for the oppressed Palestinian chipmunks!" in squirrelish before exploding in a shower of sparks that left the equipment wrecked and the squirrels united with their 72 virgin hamsters in Paradise.

President Bush, when asked for comment, replied "You see why this squirrel terrorism must be defeated. If we don't fight them in their trees, they will follow us home and we will have to fight them in our garages. We cannot fail; we must win the War on Squirrelofascist Terror."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Painting at Night

So you've heard the expression "As exciting as watching paint dry"?

Okay; that's what I'm doing. I'm sitting at the computer downstairs waiting for the paint to dry on the interior of the porch door in the living room so I can slap on the second coat...and, yeah, it's that exciting. So I'm at the computer blogging and free-associating.

But it's not all boredom and painting everywhere. Pobaby would remind us that, it's August, so, hey, it's Armed Forces Day! Go, go, People's Navy! Happy 80th Birthday, Glorious Defenders of the Liberation of the Masses.

Speaking of China - and who isn't - the ass-kickin' gals of the U.S. Women's National Team play their last tune up game this weekend before jetting off on their quest to regain World Cup glory. Follow every throw-in, every training session and all the whacky antics of the Girls of Summer right here on their very own blog. It's about what you'd think, except I'm not sure I want to know Carli Lloyd eats toast for dinner.
As you can see, the new deck is in. Audie, our Deck Master, is proving to be...well, let's just say between us that Audie isn't exactly the longest plank in the deck, shall we? If the inspector shows up again and Audie and his guys haven't covered the spoil dirt - again - I'm gonna start getting miffed. Veeeery miffed.
What IS this white pock-mark below, you ask? Good question. That's a trap, you see. It's a powder trap, for...for things that get trapped in powder. The Peeper and Mojo put it there to see what kind of footprints will be there tomorrow morning. Hmmm... Not sure what to say about that. Silence may be best.

You should really read this post over at Fred Clark's slacktivist. The man is a terrific writer, and his annotated "Left Behind" is worth the price of admission alone; but the above-referenced piece is a very thoughtful exposition of what the Founders meant when they prohibited "cruel and unusual punishment".
Oh, yick. Fat Nitty just brought in a ginormous moth and is tormenting it. Oh, and now she's eating it...ewwww. God, cats can be gross, and the Nitteous One is a very catty cat.

Oh - funny Peeper story. We went to Starbucks Sunday a.m. and he got a milk (in a paper coffee cup) and a chocolate cookie. Drank the milk, ate about half the cookie. Somewhen between our return and the final placement of the last laminate floorboard the cookie disappeared, never to return.
So Monday morning I get a call; Mojo distraught, Peeper in tears. Can't find the cookie - tragedy, disaster, horror. They look everywhere, no joy. So Mojo tells me, later, that as they're searching the Peep finds a tiny brown crumb on the living rooms floor.
"Look, Mommy, a crumb from my cookie! It's pointing to the kitchen! That must be where the cookie is!"

Sad to say, no cookie. But a great story.
Well, the tasty moth is devoured down to the last crunchy bit of antennae-y goodness and I have to go paint. G'night.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Playing to the whistle...

...means that you keep the ball at your feet until the ref TELLS you to stop. And I've been trying, but this weekend was almost insanely busy, between work work and DIY home-improvement work. And the new deck (note partially completed deck - it's now at 90% and we're just waiting on the footing inspection.
And then there's the whole "laminate floor the entire front of the house in two days" thing.
I'm whacked. I do want to get back to regular blogging soon. Maybe tonight...
Just a couple of quick notes:
1. Welcome back to the Land of the Big PX, Millicent and Floyd! Welcome home!
2. You folks who read this blog know that my opinion of Mr. Bush and his cronies couldn't be lower if they were caught sacrificing babies and using the blood to write op-eds to the Washington Post lauding the power of the Executive branch. And usually I have a soft place in my heart for anyone else who shares my loathing and contempt for this smirking little man and all his works. But, sorry, Diego, you are one seriously whacked out dude. And it's sad, because you were a brilliant player once. Now, even your countrymen think your head is toasted by all the Peruvian marching powder you've ingested, as the cartoon below indicates...

Back soon - I promise.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


I've been sitting up late, thinking and writing, after a long day of work, both at home and out. When it's late I like to read poetry; it seems to sit easier in the dark hours of the night. This is from Brian Turner's work, "Here, Bullet". If I keep posting these it is because I love his work and I think you would, too. This is called "Jameel". Cowbirds rest in the groves of date palms,
whole flocks of them, white as flowers
blossoming into wings when the wind rises up.
Thistleweed bursts open in purple
while honeybees drone and hover
over the yellowing, early-summer field.
They say to produce one pound of honey,
bees must travel from flower to hive
at least twelve thousand times.
Such patience, waiting for this storm
to be carried over the far mountains,
where the earth darkens and the sky lowers
and cowbirds shield themselves under a wing,
and nectar swaying heavy within the closed flower,
the hive humming its prayer under the rain's falling hush.



...or "accipter gentilis.


Perhaps I wasn't quite as exciting as I should have been when describing our close-goshawk-encounter while on vacation last weekend.
The sight of this powerful raptor kiting down, wings pulled back in an all-out's hard for me to express what a heart-filling moment that was for me. I love birds, love watching birds, reading and knowing about them. All birds.

Okay, almost all birds. And, just for the record, who in Hell's Kitchen thought that thing looked like "Tweety Bird"? Tweety the Undead Bird, maybe. Eww.

Anyway, I love books, and I love birds, so naturally I love bird books. Perhaps one of the most delightful things about living when we do is that the past forty years - pretty much the span of my adult life - has seen a cascade of wonderful books about birds.

You have to begin with the "Field Guides" of Roger Peterson, who took the "bird book" out of the library and into the woods and fields. My very first bird book was a battered little paperback "Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America" my mother picked up, probably at some little secondhand store. I loved to pore over the pictures of brightly colored warblers; yellows, reds, blues, greens and blacks like little feathered gems.

As I got older I traded up - first for the National Geographic field guide - still my pocket companion on birdwalks and morning ambles - and then the new acme of the guidebooks, the Sibley Guide to the Birds.
All the field guides are wonderful books, bursting with lovely birds and the stories of their lives, where to find them and how to recognize them when you do. I love to read them on quiet evenings and think about how to find the birds themselves come daylight.
But it's only now as I grow older that I begin to appreciate the early bird books, the ponderous desktop tomes I once scorned as better suited for Hogwart's dusty stacks than explaining the bright, brief lives of birds.
Perhaps it's because I now have the perspective to understand that those early naturalists and ornithologists really were men of parts, striding out of the cities and paved places to bring the wild things back to people who didn't know how rich and wonderful these creatures and the places they lived could be. And that if we can now see far it is, as Isaac Newton is quoted, because we stand on the shoulders of giants.
Even their prose was, um, gigantic. Let me leave you, along with a plea to get up from the computer and go outside to find a chickadee or a heron or perhaps a goshawk, with the words of T. Gilbert Pearson's description of the Great Black-backed Gull:
"...his eye on a level with your own, the brow seems to beetle in a set frown, and the glass catches the expression of a deeply-set eye. It seems an old eye, wise, authoritative. If his displeasure is aroused, he will return again and again to swoop at you with menacing cry. 'The sea is mine,' he seems to say; 'and the smitten rocks. Get back to your brick-and-mortar cages with their glass peep-holes.' A century of the sea may well give a sense of prescriptive right."
Let me say for the record: they just don't write bird books like that anymore. And that's not an unalloyed pleasure.