Sunday, September 30, 2007


It's late Sunday night, and Mojo and the Peep and Shaomei are upstairs watching "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and trying out the new swing we're going to try and get Shaomei to sleep in tonight. We called the doctor, who thinks she may well have an ear infection. We're taking her in tomorrow to get her checked out. Big thanks to Kelli of Waiting for Sprout for her congee: it was a firestorm of little people success. Even her daemon lover th Peep thought it was terrific!

I'm going to go and help with the younger set, and hopefully get some sleep tonight. Tomorrow I want to start the new month with the story of the little girl from the big city, the child who came home from Guangzhou with us, and how our family came to be.

Until then - goodnight.

Yun-yun's Story: The House Carpenter

They had not been at sea two weeks
I'm sure it was not three
When this poor maid began to weep
And she wept most bitterly

O do you weep for your gold, he said
Your houses, your land, or your store?
Or do you weep for your house carpenter
That you never shall see anymore

I do not weep for my gold, she said
My houses, my land or my store
But I do weep for my poor wee babe
That I never shall see anymore

They had not been at sea three weeks
I'm sure it was not four
When in their ship there sprang a leak
And she sank to rise no more

What hills, what hills are those, my love
That are so bright and free
Those are the hill of Heaven, my love
But not for you and me

What hills, what hills, are those, my love
That are so dark and low
Those are the hills of Hell, my love
Where you and I must go

for May Baoxin Gellar

Yun-yun's Story: Cock-crow

Wednesday night was awful. Little Baoxin didn't sleep and neither did we, dreading the morning and the return to Guangzhou Children's Hospital. After another terrifying cab ride - the intellectual concept of "lane" appears to be nonexistant in south China and the only traffic regulation is "show no fear" - we were again inside the tile warren, again in a crowded waiting area, again before a doctor, this time the neurologist, who would determine the fate of our child and us.
This time the physician performed actual neurological tests, manipulating her limbs, stimulating her to crawl and stand and noting the difficulties. The original diagnosis was modified to "unspecified brain injury resulting in significant mental/physical impairment" or what in the bad old days we called "mental retardation".
We cried. Our hearts went out to her. But we couldn't possibly take her home, not with everything else in our past, memories of a daughter lost and worries for our own home and family. We had decided, in the dark hours of Wednesday night, that if the diagnosis confirmed a brain injury to turn her back, even thought it might mean coming home without a child. But we also knew that in doing so we probably condemned her to a life of barely surviving in the cheerless institution we had thought to take her from. We felt like heartless Judases but, in choosing, chose ourselves and our family over her good. That is a cruel choice, and nothing can disguise it. We deliberately chose our own welfare over hers, and we will have to live with that for the rest of our lives.

Having made that choice, the rest of Thursday was an extended frenzy of paperwork and phone calls. First we were told that she would go back to the orphanage that day, then that evening. We were told that we could not move to the non-special-needs category and that it would not be possible to complete the adoption in our original time period (and our travel dates were not mobile!). Then, late in the evening, with Mojo and Baoxin in exhausted sleep, Rob the guide called to say that the nannies had just got in and couldn't be at the hotel before midnight. In one of my most foolish decisions I asked him to put off the handover until the following morning.

Baoxin didn't sleep more than an hour that night, and poor Debra ended up sitting up with her on her chest, feeling every little movement, the pulse of that tiny, injured heart against hers, hating it, hating herself, hating life and the Gods of Children for their unrelenting cruelty. She passed a night so bleak I cannot imagine it, and cannot describe it. But I mention it so that you can imagine for yourself, if you can, those long, dark hours of bottomless sorrow.

The next morning we went back into the city, to a warrenlike hotel where we returned her. She was overjoyed to see her nannies, they crying out cheerfully when she appeared. The cab ride back to the White Swan was sad but not as bitter as we had imagined. We had made the decision and were willing to live with it. Another referral had been mentioned. We were starting to hope again.

But, of course, Fate had a last dagger hidden. I went to the "Garden Pool" to swim and decompress and returned to the room to find my wife all in pieces.

"Rob called" she sobbed "He says he was at the nannies' hotel. Says she was doing all the things they said: walking, talking. Says he wnts us to come and see, that it's our last chance."

I thought about all the possibilities, about our hopes that this sweet little girl had fooled us all, that we had a chance for a full and happy life, that the doctors were wrong. And then of the awful chance that these small things were all she could do, that we would spend the next twenty years hoping for a flower that would be forever a bud, worrying about every setback, every low grade, every speech problem or coordination difficulty.

We never saw her again.

I am crying now, as I write this, for our little mei-mei, for the lost love and hopes we had, for the little girl back asleep in her crib in Liangjiang. We still love you and hope for you. I'm sorry, Mei-mei, that we weren't big enough to be what you needed for a fuller life and a brighter hope. I will be sorry until my own life is over.

Next: The House Carpenter

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Yun-yun's Story: a Tragedy in Two Acts

So I suppose that most of you reading this, as we did when we left Portland for the interminable flight across the Pacific on Friday the 14th of September thought that we would be returning with the little Girl from Liangjiang, Lian Baoxin. It was with her referral in hand we arrived in the dog's-mouth heat of Guangzhou city and the overpriced luxus accomodations of the White Swan Hotel therein.
That was the plan all along. We had read up on her "special need" (polydactyly), learned about her home town and her province, bought clothes for her and anticipated meeting and seeing her for the first time. Emotionally, she was "mei-mei".
And so the first couple of days were really just meaningless. I could describe the old colonial enclave of Shamian Island for you, or talk about the sights and sounds of southeast China, but that would be about another subject, and this story is, purely and simply, a tragedy.
I suppose that human nature prevents us from seeing ourselves as players in a tragedy, from seeing tragedy as something that happens to us rather than actors in a play or on a screen. But suddenly there you are, your chest breaking open with the sobs you can't keep in while you know that, even as you cry your tears are vain. That the Wheel of Suffering is exact, and swerves not a hair, sparing no one and nothing. That you will be called upon to receive the fullest measure of pain to the satisfaction of the Giver and not the capacity of the Gifted. And so our calvary began Monday morning when a little girl in a white onesie was carried into the "gotcha" room at the Civil Affairs Building in Guangzhou.
It was a brutally quick handoff. The nannies appeared, gave us a quick precis on her likes and schedule, passed her to us and departed. We were informed that in Liangjiang dialect the "xin" in her name was pronounced "yun", "Baoyun", and her orphanage nickname was "Yun-yun". Xin or yun, she sobbed equally on Mojo and myself, comfortless amid the crowd of wailing, babbling, cooing and crying families. For the rest of the morning she lay on Mojo's breast, clinging to her with her tiny simian hands and feet in a desperate search for human contact.
The next two days passed in a confused crescendo of parental worry punctuated by official paperwork. We, of course, were helpless. Clueless. Utterly unsure of why this tiny human seemed so inert. We tried to make sense of the problems, tried to reason ourselves into some rational order. Of course she was hurt. Traumatized, bereft, probably wonder she couldn't raised herself up from the prone, roll over, stand from sitting, vocalize except for crying. On Tuesday we noticed white lesions on her tongue, which the White Swan "doctor" diagnosed as something to do with "food sitting in her mouth" and prescribed some sort of hideous 18th-Century iodine swab we dutifully applied to her tongue twice a day.
But even after meeting the nannies again on Tuesday and desperately trying to find reasons for her intertia, by Wednesday afternoon we were near panic. This was not the active toddler we were told to expect. This was more like a six-month-old, and a weak and sick one at that.

So Wednesday night we called "Rob", the agency guide-cum-fixer, and told him we wanted to go to the Guangzhou Children's Hospital. This hollow, ringing porcelin tile sanitarium is a medical facility in the Graham Greene tradition of southeast Asia, full of immense, dimly-lit halls and entire mendicant families huddled around their sick offspring. There, in an open examination cubicle, an appropriately 19th Century-white-gowned and -masked medical person peered at our sagging daughter, picked her up and set her down on her feet and directed Mojo to do the same. She felt the baby's leg, went back to her desk and started writing, saying something to Rob.

"She say something is wrong with the baby's braid." I thought I heard Rob say.

"Braid?" I was stunned "Rob, this child has no hair whatsoever. What is she talking about?"

"No, no..." Rob replied "...something is wrong with brain."


Moments later we had the adoption agency's rep in Beijing on the phone. Her English is notably better, and she explained eaxctly what the doctor had said:

"She says your baby has cerebral palsy."


Mojo burst out sobbing, and I stared at the phone in sick disbelief.

Next: Before the cock crows shall ye deny me.

We're back

...tired, dirty and emotionally wrung out.

We have a little girl, a lovely shy little girl with big eyes and soft hands. But...and thereby hangs a tale...NOT the same little girl we left two weeks ago to bring home.

I'm exhausted, and I can't post any more than this. But I do want to tell Baoxin's story, as painful as it is, and let you know about Shaomei, our new daughter, the little rose blossoming at the end of a very bitterly barbed journey.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Time to go... put on our traveling clothes and head out the door. Time for Tubby Bye-byes.
Why post this picture now?
(For those of you who visited last weekend - THIS is what the living room looked like, back in the day, April, 2004, to be exact. And what the Peeper looked like as a 11-month-old. Like today only shorter and rounder and less verbal and non-self-locomotive. Mmm, OK, not much like today.)
Because it wasn't that long after this picture was taken that we started this whole paperchase. Home studies. Fingerprints. Haunting the Rumor Queen. Meeting others clutched in the same process. Bringing us to this morning, where I'm sitting up, nervous, typing in the darkened house, waiting, just killing time before we can get in the airplane and begin the next part of the next phase of the rest of our lives.
I'm not going to get all ladybuggery on you, but there's a huge part of me that wants to be able to tell my daughter when I am an old, old man and she a young woman, the two of us travelling together in different directions, that this was the first day of our years of lifelong love. The first step out the door and down the path of our mutual caring and commitment that made all the tears and hurt and pain the bearable cost of life. The first of a long chain of days and years that will bring her footsteps, and the footsteps of her children in turn, to the place where they remember me and their mother, to sit and just say to the bright emptiness: you helped us be who we wanted to be. You were a good man. You're welcome, and thanks.
All true wealth in life is biological. I hope that today we are on the way to a new and hopeful treasury.
Goodbye. I'll be here again, inshallah, in two weeks.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Radio Silence

You know I love y'all, right? I love you when you give me bloggy happiness, and I even love you when you don't comment on my witty spasms of erudition or my personal joys like cycling and the films of Russ Meyer.

And I love coming here to write, think and respond - although I think I expected the blogosphere to be a little more...interactive. Y'know, a sort of digital salon where I'd throw out some salacious tit-bit and you'd pounce on it like a Fat Nitty with the edge of the living room rug, showering me with flailing metaphors and flashing wit, provoking a sort of Algonquin round-table on-line, only with the refrigerator and toilet closer by...
But never mind. The point is that I'm normally very attuned to the comings and goings in the digital world, adding my mite where and when I can.
But tomorrow morning it stops.
For two whole weeks I will be without my faithful laptop. Over the hills (okay, well , over the ocean) and far away. And I've decided that I want to take a break, a real break, and just concentrate on my lovely bride and the little girl who will be the newest part of our family.
I'm not out of business. I may even still pop up, if I can get on the workstation in the "White Swan" and do a little blogging or three. But serious posting?
In the Army they have a term for when you just sit by the radio, listen to others and be patient - "radio listening silence". Let's call it that. So for the next two weeks, when you stop working for a moment...when you open your eyes in the deep night...when you pause at the streetcorner; that nothing you hear? That silence, the caesura between sounds?
Yep. Me.

See ya tomorrow morning.

Down to a wake-up...

No more days left. Down to one. Now its only hours, the clock ticking down the hours from now until wheels-up. Hours. Only hours.
I'm starting to get nervous and jittery, my thoughts are chasing themselves around inside my head frantically twitching their tails and chittering like squirrels.
Only hours now.

La Vuelta a España 4: Muy calor

Long, hot day in the saddle for the riders of the Vuelta, now closing on the halfway point. Flat stage, fast ride, no change in the overall picture, with Denis Menchov of Rabobank still in gold. One little disappointment for me was to see Discovery's Stijn Devolder slipping back - he's down to 9th - as Miguez (who?) of the Karpin Galacia team takes over the 5th GC spot. Funny how the locals always seem to do better at home, eh, China?
Yesterday's winner, Alessandro Petacchi, got a great leadout from Milram teammate Erik Zabel to win the sprint and the stage. Nice to see Petacchi enjoying his win after a tough summer that saw him sit out the Tour de France because of allegations that he abused a perscription ephedrine anti-asthma drug. Bravo, Alessandro!
Tomorrow we're into the...well, not the mountains, but the hills, with some bigger climbs to come over the weekend. We might see a shakeup in the GC - but maybe not. Rabo is reinforcing the impression I got of it in Le Tour: this is a truly solid team. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep Menchov in gold all the way to Madrid.
General classification after stage 11
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 44.27.25
2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 2.01
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 2.27
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 3.02
5 Ezequiel Mosquera Miguez (Spa) Karpin Galicia 4.35
6 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 4.42
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 5.49
8 Manuel Beltrán (Spa) Liquigas 5.56
9 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 6.28
10 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval - Prodir 6.34

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Silk Road: WWC Days 1 through 3

I have to say up front: it's very difficult to blog about anything except the looming reality for us that in 29 hours we fly halfway across the world.
And in less than a week will we hold our second daughter - our first living girlchild - for the very first time.

That's a mailliot oro, a yellow jersey and a world cup all in one twenty-pound wriggler!

But life is what happens when you're busy doing other things, and there IS something pretty exciting for soccer cranks like me going on in China other than Lian Baoxin having some tasty rice congee' for breakfast. The first week of the Women's World Cup has been fun. A little excitement, a little danger...another great bit of the beautiful game.

I don't want to do a long post on the USWNT vs. North Korea - it was a great game but it was just one game, so I'll try and give a quick rundown of the games played from Monday 9/10 until today.

Monday 9/10
The opener, Germany v Argentina, was an 11-0 laugher. The sad truth is that for all their skill and standing in the men's game (and, to a great extent, because of the attitudes of the players and fans) the Latin and South American women's teams a traditional doormats and bottomfeeders. In the 2003 WWC one of the asian teams, Japan, I think, put 6 past Argentina. The other thing involved here is that FIFA has ranked the U.S. WNT number 1 in the world lately, and the German madel haven't forgotten handing some Americans their asses four years ago. This was their way of saying "Wachet auf, Amis!"

Tuesday 9/11
Three games today:
US v North Korea - I missed this game, maddeningly, because I didn't know it was the early (3am PDT!!) match. The accounts say it was an outstanding, end-to-end contest, lots of attacking, lots of fireworks. I can't say much since I didn't see it, but my impression from the game reports is:
1. The U.S. team came in a little shaky, and possibly a little casual. Kim Jong Il's little ladies came to kick some Yankee ass.
2. The wet field made for some really sloppy play: NK's first goal was an ugly keeper error, Hope Solo letting one in off her hands. That's overconfidence, too, thinking she could catch what, given the conditions, she should have boxed away.
3. I blogged before about how dependant the US is on Abby Wambach. Well, Abby got her bell rung and went off in the 52nd minute with the U.S. up 1-0. Thirteen minutes later it was 2-1 North Korea with the Yank gals scrabling to get back and cover. They were said to have "settled down" after Wambach returned, and Heather O'Reilly got the equalizer 69 minutes on. I still think that the U.S. depends too much on Wambach, and that they see her presence - and absence - is too critical for their game. A good team, like Germany, is going to use that, mark Wambach out of the game, and then what...?
England v Japan - good game for Japan, getting them a point they didn't deserve. England far the more dangerous of the two teams, and Kelly Smith..! 'Ere's a luverly bit o' goal-scorin' crumpet, as the Brits would say. Helluva player, sweet touch with both feet and two nice goals to show for it. But...Engerlund! How the hell do you give up two fucking goals on two fucking set pieces? Free kicks!? That's Brit stuff, that's what you gals DO! Awful. Hopefully the Three Lionesses pull themselves together before's Germany and Birgit Prinz. Want to bet anyone wil be humming the Dambusters theme?
Sweden v Nigeria - another good one. I think the Swedes were surprised by the Super Eagles. The IKEA gals were all over the first half, and after their terrific forward Victoria Svensson put a bulge in the old onion bag I think they thought it was over. But you don't ever count out the gals from West Africa. Plus you gotta love a team whose players have names like Precious Dede and Chi-Chi Igbo. So a tough draw for Sweden, who needs to come up big against the Yanks on Friday.

Wednesday 9/12
Already a couple in the books today:
A couple of laughers: the Brazilians drilled New Zealand 5-0 and Australia hammered the Black Queens of Ghana 4-1. The Brazilians are on their usual course, and it was time and more than time that the Matildas got something for all their hard work. But was there ever a team that underperformed in the WWC like Ghana? I don't think those poor gals have won a game yet. I'm not sure what that says about African soccer. But I'm sure it's nothing good...
And the Canadians and Chinese teams are up 1-0 at the half...
Update 9/12 3:30pm:
So the Chinese gals played a blinder at the end and won 3-2, setting up a tough match with Brazil on Saturday. And my poor Canadians to Norway lost 2-1 - I feel protective of the Canucks because of my heroine, Chris Sinclar, but not even Tall Gal footy goodness could overcome the Norse ability to grind out a win. Damn. This will set up a tough third match next week for them against the aussies.
Good games, great sport. Sorry to miss this.
But not as sorry as I would have been to miss my little girl's first look at her new world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quondam pulvus et umbra sumus

We were once dust and shadows.

Another year. Six, now, since that morning we woke up and it seemed like the world changed.

But it didn't. And six long years later it feels like sixty, or six hundred. The pain and hot, bright anger of that morning has twisted into a gray numbness. The small days of our lives since then have muted the emotions, the lies and arrogance of our "leaders" have deflected the anger and turned our suffering into suffering for others while the guilty have fled and evaded punishment. In our rage and revenge we have become like that we hated, and have grown prematurely weary in fighting what we don't understand, even in our fighting against ourselves.

I wish we could go back to that sunny September morning and change who we became, change who "lead" us into this dismal confusion. But I can't. And now whenever this day comes around I feel old, and tired, and wish the day be done.

" some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori."
Wilfred Owen
I have to add...I'm getting very tired of writing these posts every 9/11. Every year that goes by the event seems more distant, sadder, just emblematic of a hideous waste and a sickness. How do you feel about this day?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kicking Ass: Atomic Mama

It's not like she couldn't kick you ass and mine too: we're talking the gal was a roller derby jammer and is still ready to throw down. In all respects, she rules.
But there's a side of her you don't always get to see. We did, when she sent us this incredible blanket for our little mei-mei. It's hard to describe how cool it is, from the totally toothsome bandanna-pattern on the topside to the warm, fuzzy and soft black bottom...we're in love with your gift, AM, and don't know what to say except - thank you.
The only problem is that there's only one terrific Atomic blanket and two jealous little people to try and claim it. Here the Peep, fetchingly "sky-clad", models his idea of how the treasured blanket should be worn.
Oh, dear. I see a regular crash coming when these two li'l skaters duke it out over this lovely present. Sorry, Peep - the girl gets the prize...
And I thought that A.M. would be tickled to know - our very own Portland was the venue for filming the 1972 Raquel Welch opus "Kansas City Bomber", the Chief's personal favorite roller derby flick. Get some, gals.
And thank you, Atomic Mama. You totally rawk.

La Vuelta a España 3: Alta arriba!

Another day in the mountains, another change in the GC...

Having held the malliot oro for only a day, Discovery's Stijn Devolder had a terrible day Sunday on the slopes of the Estación de esquí Cerler (Cerler Ski Station), finishing 42nd in the stage and losing the gold jersey to the wily veteran Denis Menchov of Rabobank, who rode a terrific race to finish just behind the stage winner Leonardo Piepoli of Saunier Duval-Prodir, whose relentless attacks shattered the GC and left the shards scattered on the high, hot roads up to the 1800-meter high Cerler peak.
Devolder fell all the way to fifth, with the hard-riding Cadal Evans moving up to third and the always dangerous Carlos Sastre lying fourth. Vladimir Efimkin, who has held the gold jersey for longer than any other rider so far in this year's Vuelta, is holding onto second two minutes behind, not a real impediment for him.
Perhaps the saddest story of the day was Oscar Periero's, whose combination of big time loss and physical discomfort drove him to abandon at the feed station today. Goodbye, Oscar, and farewell. For you, this is not the year.
Tomorrow, another punishing day in the mountains, with the final HC climb up to the Ordino Arcalis peak in tiny Andorra. Look for more fun for the climbers, more punishment for the sprinters, and more changes in the GC! Goodnight!
General classification after stage 9
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 33.54.46
2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 2.01
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 2.27
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 3.02
5 Ezequiel Mosquera Miguez (Spa) Karpin Galicia 4.02
6 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 4.28
7 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 4.42
8 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 4.58
9 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 5.07
10 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quickstep - Innergetic 5.19

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Orphanpalooza Portland

The last hardcore partiers finally toddled off into the night, Mojo is curled up in bed and I've retreated downstairs to put this into pixels for the record. Portland ALTercation "Orphanpalooza" 2007 is history. Wow.

Before I go on - this is the view out of little Nola's window in Millicent and Floyd's beautiful Victorian house. Is this great, or what? It's like she's going to be living in the treetops!
Anyway - what a cacophany of ALT-parent energies! We had meself and Mojo (and the Peep), the Austin inamoratas from Walternatives, B-gal from Moonbeam, W&J from Buttercup, Millicent from Different Dirt and Kelli from Waiting for Sprout. Much emotion was outpoured, much drink was intaken. All things adoption were thrashed out (with dark looks cast towards the Dark Lords of the Adoption Sith, who hold us all in their thrall), much else was dragged out and beaten to death (you haven't heard impassioned until you've heard Millicent talk about getting mugged and the unreal experience of getting U.S. fire-and-murder-news in the E.U.) and a genuinely good time was had by all.
In my experience there are few who I would trust implicitly with my money, my drink or my woman. These people...they're paisans. My muckers. My companeros. Good times...good times.
We started over at K's with an incredible Chinese dinner Saturday evening. Her "village" showed up in force, with little adorables in tow, one of whom to my inexpressible delight decided to take up residence on my knee while endlessly dipping her green bean in the soy sauce and sipping it (her mom said that it wasn't exactly a shock - she's a soy-sipper from 'way back...) She nibbled tiny chicken bits from my fingers and was, in all respects, a darling. Don't get me wrong - the Peep is mah boyee - but this little sweetie captured my heart with her gentleness and her incredible personality. And only two!
I only hope our mei-mei can be such a little darling!
The next morning we foregathered at Millicent's to admire the work her people have put in on her beautiful Mississippi district Victorian home. As you know if you've followed her - or this - blog, she and husband Floyd have been working to get their home back in shape after a disastrous fire for little Nola, the girl from Fujian they're bringing home within a month. The fire was horrific - I don't think I realized just how awful until today, when I stopped to look at the back fence. As you can see from the picture, the fence post was charred by the heat - and this post was at least twenty feet from the back house wall where the fire was the most involved!!! I stopped taking pictures and reached out to touch the post: deeply charred on the house side, nearly untouched on the far side. This is what the fire was doing. All I could do was stop in wonder. My god.

But, like a phoenix, the Victorian house is rising from its pyre. The inside is lovely, grand, but still a home, from the gorgeous Roman mosaic on the shower floor to Nola's eyrie on the top floor front. The group all loved the promise of Millie and Floyd (and Nola's) beautiful home...

In the Fire Direction Center tradition (started last week), I have protected the group's identities in the attached snapshots by giving you just the feet to work with. So here's the ALT-gang in Millie's future family room: from left to right, Mama Sprout, JzBoy, Millie, wzgirl and Poodlemama. C and H were already downstairs, gloating over the gorgeous countertops, the rich detailing of mouldings and wall colors and the sensuous texture of the fir floor underfoot.

OMFG. There's a little girl waking in Fujian province who has no idea that this loving home is waiting to enfold her.
Later today the group coalesced again, this time at the Fire Direction Center for an afternoon BBQ and hang out. Much drink was taken, everything from quinoa salad to lamb shish-kabob was ingested and the conversation ranged far and wide. Again, here's the nether regions of the group: Mojo on the right, buttercup, Millie and walternatives right to left. A nice snapshot of the gang breaking in the new deck...
And, of course, no evening would have been complete without the Peep adding his unique brand of entertainment to the mixer. And sweetBabyJesus does this boy love him some Kelli. It'd be embarassing in a sort of Anna-Nicole-and-J-Howard-Marshall way except that the Peep is totally clueless on how to gain the affections of his beloved: the closest he came was to badger her to come downstairs to listen to BlueGal sing "The Meanest Mommy" song. We're still unsure what this meant to him. It sure didn't work for her...
But here he is anyway. We sure had fun at the ALTercation. Hope everyone comes back real soon to meet our little girl and the big grown-up Peeper. We sure had fun with y'all.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

La Vuelta a España 2: Cuando el tiburón muerde

That's why he wears the white-red-black-gold jersey: he's the time trial champion of Germany.

Bert Grabsch of T-Mobile took the stage win today with a blistering time trial, coming in half a minute ahead of Bodrogi of Credit Agricole and 48 seconds in front of Stijn Devolder of Discovery.

But the Belgian rider wears gold for the former Posties, Efimkin not able to hold on to the lead on a hot, flat day designed to seperate the men from the criterilists...
Probably the hardest hit rider of the day was Periero, who is reported to be sick as well as slow on the hot, windy roads to Zaragoza. His 45th finish today knocked him down to 15th n the GC and he is also said to be thinking of abandoning.
The GC picture is interesting. Denis Menchov rode a great TT and is in second, just 30 seconds back. Efimkin is third, and Cadal Evans fourth, both within two minutes of the new leader. Also in the top ten are Sylvain Chavanel, Vladimir Karpets and Carlos Sastre - all threats for the overall win.
And the race still has two weeks to go!
But today was Grabsch's, and Devolder's, and even Miguel Indurain had to give it up for the tough guy from Flanders under the sharkmouth helmet of what we once called the Blue Train.

General classification after stage 8

1 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 29.25.55

2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.30

3 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 1.28

4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 1.54

5 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 2.12

6 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 3.00

7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 3.15

8 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quickstep - Innergetic 3.41

9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 3.44

10 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Liquigas 4.03

ALTercation Portland 2007

Today's the first day of the ALT-DTC06 Portland "Orphanpalooza". Hungry-eyed, unchurched and empty-souled prospective adoptive parents of heathen Chinese orphans, driven frantic by the long wait for referrals, will descend on Stumptown to revel and drink and curse the CCAA and all things redthready-and-ladybuggery. Stay tuned for intimate reports from inside the Belly of the A-Parent Beast as we take the latest spin on the Chinese Wheel of Orphan.

Groundhog Day

As I'm working on the second installment of "SPQR", wherein your humble author sets out to prove that he, you and everyone you know in the United States is living in the 21st Century equivalent of the Late Roman Republic, I note that the news is full of the supposedly pivotal "report" from GEN Petraeus, the theatre commander in Iraq, on how the whole "surge" thing is working out

Some of the silliest wriggling I've read lately has been regarding whether the "surge" has been working or not, and what this "report" will mean, or if it will mean anything.
IMO this is just another example of how stuff disappears down the collective memory hole. The ONLY justification for this escalation was to create the climate for a "political solution" since wars are only won when...ummm...there's a political arrangement where both sides accept some sort of end state, even if that end state isn't a true end to the war (the sixty-year ceasefire in Korea, for example). We have forgotten - or have been bullshitted into ignoring - the fact that the Iraqi factions are, if possible, further apart than ever. Working? Working as what, a security guard force for the cloth market in Hilla?
So, no, the "surge" isn't working at anything that will produce a result after the last American boot steps out of the marketplace. And, since we have no larger scale plan, the same holds for the Middle East in general. And nothing short of defenestration is going to change the Administration's approach to this war. They're going to continue to stick their head down this rathole because they really think they can win by killing rats one at a time. They're mesmerized by tactical success ("We have Sunni allies in Anbar!") because strategically they're at a third-grade level, they have no plan for Middle Eastern policy other than to keep shaking that place up in hopes that something they like will happen. They actually believe that their plan to return Iraq to a pre-Ottoman, pre-Westphalian state condition by arming individual tribe to fight as our proxies, a plan also known as "Arm 'Em All And Lock The Doors", is going to create some sort of "bottom-up" political accomodation in Iraq because, well, after all, it worked so well in Germany during the fucking Thirty Years' War.
So the Petraeus "report" and the subsequent "debate" on our ME policy is primarily smoke and mirrors: smoke from the Democratic opposition's part, who claim to want to extract our military from a socially and politically complex mess but are unwilling to do the hard work of, y'know, actually doing it; and mirrors from the Administration, who knows what it wants but can't say so because it knows that the non-25%-koolade-drinking portion of the American public wants nothing to do with running a "soft empire" in the ME (since there's nothing "soft" about a lot of what we'd have to do to do it - much like we're doing now).
ISTM that this whole ridiculous kabuki play is emblematic of the larger problems in our country and our government. In a real democracy we, the People, would be clamoring for hard answers from our government while our armies are fighting in a foreign land and our public largesse is being handed over primarily to the wealthiest citizens. Instead we get this...this...charade.
And the truly sad part is that there's SO much screwed up in our country right now - not that our country is screwed, just there's a lot of hard work to do - and we're caught on the cleft stick this jackanapes and his conservative friends have whittled for us.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Ha! Finally! Drove the last pile today at 2:45. Number 56, I want to note, of a program that originally included a total of 40 piles driven over three days. We started this job August 28, took Saturday and Monday (Labor Day) off and finished this afternoon. Drove approximately 1,500 linear feet of pile to depths between 11 and 43 feet.
I feel like I drove all of them with my forehead.
Mojo is off babyshowering for our friend Millicent, who will be in China adopting her little girl Nola at the same time we are going to be meeting out little Baoxin. Hope the gals have a fun time tonight - it's been a long August for her (and for Millicent) and they deserve a little pull-down-your-pants-and-slide-on-the-ice fun. So the Peep and I had Boy's Night: we went to Fred Meyer and bought some Hot Wheels cars, had ice cream at "Mommy's Ice Cream House" (a.k.a Dairy Queen), came home and played with the cars, ate more bad food, watched Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! until our eyes bled and then it was off to Peeper-La-La-Land.
Meanwhile, on the road to Logroño, Oscarito - Oscar Freire - did something that no one in this year's Tour de France did: won back-to-back stages! Freire, having won half of this year's six stages to date, powered out of a bunch sprint to take the stage today with the other sprinters, particularly Alessandro Petacchi, not able to take advantage of the long straight finish and strong tailwind. Discovery's Allen Davis made a gutsy break for the line but went too early, only to be caught by the sprint group, with Freire firmly in control. Well ridden, Oscarito!
The gold shirt is still on the back of Vladimir Efimkin of Caisse d'Espargne, but nothing new has happened in the GC for a couple of days. This will change: tomorrow's finish in the town of Zaragoza (ancient capital of the Kingdom of Aragon and home of the Napoleonic Agustina de Aragón) is known for its vicious crosswinds, and Saturday the second time trial will show the cyclists a different side of the Aragonese capital.
And...a week from tomorrow we will be on our way to a New World.
General classification after stage 6
1 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 24.34.51
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.06
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC
4 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone
5 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
6 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval - Prodir
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 1.28
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 1.33
9 Ezequiel Mosquera Miguez (Spa) Karpin Galicia 1.36
10 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Liquigas 1.49

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Long day...difficult and confusing, structural engineer changing things on a part of the site seems to have no bottom...

I wanted to summarize today's stage, but I'm really beat. In a word: Efimkin.
The Casse d'Epargne rider was first to the top of the Lagos as the GC contenders came forward and the sprinters like Friere and Bettini dropped off the back or struggled to stay in the peleton. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the ride of Stijn Devolder of Discovery, who hung on to the chase led by Carlos Sastre of CSC and Denis Menchov of Rabobank. He ended up in fifth overall and looks a pleasant surprise for Discovery in the GC.
The reports I read all commented on the repeated attacks on Cadel Evans of Lotto. It's worth noting that glory, in cycling as in life, is fleeting and triumph is met as often with fleering as with respect. Evans' podium finish in Paris makes him a marked man. No rider will let him break away without a response, or fail to attack him when they sense vulnerability. The reward for success in cycling is unrelenting vigilance.
Probably the most disappointing day's ride would have to be Oscar Periero, who struggled in 14th overall. Although he's CdE's GC favorite I'm sure his team is debating giving Efimkin the green light to defend the Gold Jersey.

Another day in the mountains tomorrow - hopefully I'm not as tired and can talk a little more about the Vuelta and the race to come. Goodnight.

Standings after Stage 5:
1. Vladimir Efimkin (Rus), Caisse d'Epargne, 16:02:50
2. Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank,at 1:06
3. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, same time
4. Maxime Monfort (B), Cofidis, s.t.
5. Stijn Devolder (B), Discovery Channel, s.t.
6. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval,s.t.
7. Cadel Evans (Aus), Predictor-Lotto, at 1:28
8. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, at 1:33
9. Ezequiel Mosquera (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 1:36
10. Leonardo Bertagnolli, (I), Liquigas, at 1:49

La Vuelta de Espana 1: En las montañas

It's already race day 4.

Didn't know that, eh? Not surprised - for most people the Vuelta de España is the lost, unviewed sequel to the Tour de France. I've always liked the VdE, though. Its mountains are as tough, and the heat and the altitude bring out other qualities in riders than those demanded of the competitors in the TdF. No question, however, that the teams don't bring their "A"-squad to the Vuelta. You won't see the podium finishers in Paris mentioned here...

This year's Vuelta has gotten off to a riotous start with three flat stages in the provinces of Galicia and Asturias in northwestern Spain: a time trial Saturday in the city of Vigo (no, not the "Master of Evil" from Ghostbusters 2); a 145km flat stage Sunday from Allariz to Santiago de Compostela (home of the patron saint of Spain, Saint James - not only cyclists race to get here since Santiago has been a pilgimage destination since medieval times) and a 155km flat stage Monday from Viviero in Galacia to Luarca in Asturias. Today is the first day in the mountains (unlike the Tdf, where the whole first week seems a chowchow of sprints and crashes on the flats) with a big climbing finish on the Lagos de Covadonga.

The first three days - after a nice time trial win by Daniele Benatti of team Lampre' - have been a battle of the sprinters, with Oscar Freire of Rabobank (who won on Saturday) battling Paolo Bettini of Quickstep, who had the better of the day Monday. Throw in a monster crash Sunday and the beginning of the mountains today and it's shaping up to be a fun Vuelta.
I'll continue to blog the results for those interested, but the comprehensive coverage is over here at Cyclingnews.

Right now Oscar Freire is wearing the mailliot oro...but not comfortably. The mountains are ahead and he is bunched in with a number of excellent riders including Zabel of Milram, Cadel Evans and Beltran of Liquigas. Surely today will see some fireworks, and the "gold jersey" may find another wearer at the summit of the Lagos.

Overall, after Stage 3
1 Óscar Friere (Sp), Rabobank, 11:22:54
2 Leonardo Duque, (COL), Cofidis, s.t.
3 Erik Zabel, (GER), Milram, s.t.
4 Rene Mandri, (EST), Ag2r Prevoyance, s.t.
5 David LÓpez, (ESP), Caisse d'Epargne, s.t.
6 Cadel Evans, (AUS), Predictor-Lotto, s.t.
7 Manuel BeltrÁn, (Sp), Liquigas, s.t.
8 Xavier Florencio, (Sp), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
9 Ezequiel Mosquera, (Sp), Karpin Galicia, s.t.
10 J. Ángel GÓmez Marchante, (Sp), Saunier Duval, s.t.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I am a Camera

I sometimes wish my Daddy didn't blog so much. He needs to be playing trucks with me more, or building me a really BIG wooden train track, or a track for my Tonka train, or watching "Fireman Sam". But I do like when he takes pictures. I like to take pictures, too, and I have been taking really good ones, so I asked Daddy to put them in his blog thing. I call the first one "Now and Future Mommies". They were talking about boring stuff about their mei-mei's. My mommy saw me take her picture and gave me A Look. But that's OK, looks are just looks.
I like this one. I call it "Half Empty". Mommy feels this way when her latte' is all gone and Daddy doesn't make her another.
I liked the contrast between the hard, red plasticity of the firetruck and the flesh-and-bone of Daddy's heel. I'm thinking of calling it "Flesh and the Devil" (because of the firetruck being red) but I'm not sure if that's too obscure.
I like the contrast here. The shiny newness of the chain makes a nice counter to Daddy's scuffed and nasty old boot. The red of the carabiner struggles with the green porch floor and the beige brush back. And it all has the haphazard arrangement of a mise'-en-scene. Altogether, a very satisfying composition. I've called this "Dick Chain-y Gets The Boot" - I was feeling very...political...that morning. And I wanted a sippy of milk all the way up to the top and nobody would stop talking and get me one. So I felt more than a little snippy, too. Otherwise I agree that puns ARE the lowest form of humor.
I thought about calling this "Silent Spring" but Mommy pointed out that it's almost Fall. So I remembered Keat's wonderful lines "And this is why I sojourn here/Alone and palely loitering,/ Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake/And no birds sing." So I titled this "La Belle Dame Sans Merci"
I included this one even though Daddy took it. I think it expresses a mood, though, and I call it "Portrait of the Artist as a Funny Face". I think Daddy can be pretty silly, too. But he's usually a pretty nice Daddy. He just doesn't understand that you can be an auteur and STILL think about toys and TV and sugary treats.
Leave a comment and tell my Daddy what you think of my art. Thanks!
The Peeper