Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Contracts versus Mommies

Crazy week this week. Poor Mojo is completely slammed trying to get half a dozen ginormous contracts, purchase agreements, etc., cranked out by Friday.

Monday was moderately crazed - she got home at 6:30 or so. Tonight it was 9:00 and tomorrow and Thursday look just as bad.

So that means that Daddy gets to take up the slack - which is a lot, my DW is a spartan around the Fire Direction Center - and I'm not able to do nearly as much blogging.

Bad week for it, too, what with Spring arriving on Amherst Street with the first pink and white blooms budding out, Little Miss developing new heights in willfullness and the Peeper's awesome "counting-to-100" accomplishments.

Aaaannnd the G-20, with Brazil's Lula promising to whip up on some greedy white blue-eyed-financial-devil ass. And our boy Karzai plumping down firmly on the side of "She's your wife, Rahim, don't beg like you're whipped, boy, just TAKE that ass!" in grateful acknowledgment of the debt he owes to patriarchal Republican Christopaths everywhere. And of course we're up to our ass in the usual economic Sea of Troubles.

Oh, yes, and speaking of ass, Justine Lai is up to the 18th President in her "Join or Die" portfolio showing the artist having sex with America's chief executives.

Not to blab or anything, but...Ulysses, who knew? Did you EVER tell Julia about this spanking thing..?

And I'd never have figured Frank Pierce for such a playa. Just goes to show ya...

But at least I can say that "Monsters versus Aliens" is a very nice little movie.

It's a Dreamworks deal, so it's no Pixar. It lacks...something. The action parts don't quite carry it and the character development doesn't quite click; too little or too much.

But Reese Witherspoon (whom I usually can't stand) does nice vocal work as I-am-50-foot-woman-hear-me-roar, there's lots of monster funny and alien battles to amuse the Peeper and Steven Colbert and pop culture riffs to amuse the Daddy (though I have to say I got most of my laughs out of the straight-up send-ups of the classic monster movie stock characters, especially the giant kaiju mothra clone). It's not too scary for over-fives but might be for under-fours. If you have a littlie, and a rainy day, it's good popcorn fun.

Just remember that they won't understand the "Doctor Strangelove" reference at the end and, yes, freezing your head DOES hurt and is NOT a good idea for trying out on your baby sister just to see. Just in case. Because. You never know. Really. Reeeeaally...

C'mon, Peep, knock it off.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cool Things in North Portland: Rose City Rollers

Okay, so their home is really down in chi-chi Sellwood.

But with their punk/goth girl chic, their tats, their muscle-T's, Portland's Rose City Rollers flat-track roller derby skaters are right at home here in North. They like all the stuff we like: good beer, hard shots, and seeing a sweet young thing from the Shithole on the Sound get slammed down on her Starbuck's-bloated ass!!My buddy Brent and I took in the Wheels of Justice - Portland's all-star team - take down the Rat City Rollergirls tonight at the famed Portland Expo Center.

It was good, loud, low-down fun for us voyeurs. But I want to say for the record that as a recreational ice and in-line skater, I came away flat-out amazed at the skills both teams displayed. In particular Portland's #357, who skates under the name "Rhea Deranged", was incredible; strong enough to fight over, quick enough to skate past, and agile enough to slip through the Seattle blockers. You da woman, Rhea!

Funny thing is, I was in high school in Chicago in the late 60's and early 70's when the old banked-track roller derby, real Kansas City Bomber stuff, was popular enough to be on the local UHF stations and draw genuine crowds. It always seemed to me a sort of female pro wrestling, and I thought of it, when I did, with a certain mocking contempt.

But the rollergirls out skating tonight were in no way contemptable or faking. They skated their asses off - and, speaking of that, Portland #9, you are my queen, and the way your use your backside is a pure poem in black pleather - and put on a great show. If you haven't had the chance, try and find your local flat-track venue and go cheer for your local rollergirls. They'll give you a hell of a fun evening.

And you da woman, Mojo, for staying with the kidlets to let me have a fun night out. I owe you, and payback is tomorrow. I love you, my own Kansas City Bomber.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fear Itself 2: Fall of the Masters of the Universe

I'm not as smart as Paul Krugman.

I know, I know, it's hard to believe. Sometimes I don't believe it myself.

But then I do something like wash my cell phone because I forget I put it in my pocket and I get that face-palm moment of "Fuck, goddam, I'm an idiot..!" and I fall to earth.

So I could drone on and on about the Great Recession and how we, and the greedy, venal rat bastards we elected helped make it, smooth it's way and sell it to each other as the Bestest Most Wonderfullest Shiny Pretty Thing Evah. I could give you chapter and verse about how a nation, a people and an economy that deliberately warps itself away from growing and making things into spinning paper profits into more paper profits is in a mug's game and will, as surely as picking up skeevy people in sleazy bars, come to grief sooner or later.

But why? Paul Krugman (the guy who is smarter than me) has already done it. Just go and read his column for this Friday.

Here's his money graf, and the reason I'm increasingly unhopeful for and unimpressed with my country and the so-called "leaders" who run it by proxy for the Rich, the Well-Born and the Able:"But the underlying vision remains that of a financial system more or less the same as it was two years ago, albeit somewhat tamed by new rules. As you can guess, I don’t share that vision. I don’t think this is just a financial panic; I believe that it represents the failure of a whole model of banking, of an overgrown financial sector that did more harm than good."

The bottom line on this entire debacle is that the point of the past 20 years has been to transfer wealth from the bulk of the population to the top 1% to 10% that have the ear of the congresscritters and the wealthy insiders who serve at the top of most of the executive agencies.

It's worked.

Despite the "populist rage" at things like the AIG bonuses, what odds what ANY of these malefactors of great wealth will lose so much as a nickel? Or that they will spend so much as a night in jail?

Watch. I'll bet that Madoff's family walks away with millions, that the very same Wall Street Masters of the Universe that engineered this immense derivative and securitization Ponzi scheme will still be beavering away, spinning money from nothing, years from now.

Nothing will change.

Except we just won't know about it because there, under the bridge where we'll be huddling out of the cold rain, we won't have CNBC, we'll be sleeping on the newspapers instead of reading them and, anyway, we'll be too fucking busy trying to eat bark to care.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Scary Things

It isn't always easy being an adorable little almost-three-year-old girl.

The world doesn't always stop and let you take your time. Mommies and Daddies don't pick you up when you ask them, and they even won't let you watch Caillou every time no matter how often you tell them how important that is. Big Brothers sometimes push you, or take your stuff. Baby Ryan, your beloved daycare diva rival, is an ever-present threat. There's never enough juice.

But there are every scarier things. There's the Dark. And loud, barking dogs! And scary monsters that Daddy and Mommy don't see. So when your coughing wakes you in the night, it does help to have a Daddy come and cuddle you close and give you Good Medicine (liquid Benedryl) for your cough. And it helps to have a Big Brother draw you a friendly T-Rex to scare the scary monsters away.

Oh, little sweetheart. I wish I could protect you from the real scary monsters outside your bedroom. Hard fists to hurt you, and harder words to wound you. The people who will judge you for your face, and the even more treacherous ones who will lust after you for it. The pain of loss, the fear of poverty and helplessness. All the sharp, hard, painful edges that wait for you that I can do nothing about but worry and love you.

But this morning, at least, I can sit with you in the dark, rub your frail shoulders through your soft jammies and watch you yawn, your sweet eyes blink, and droop, and then close back into peaceful sleep.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Decisive Battles: Badr 624

Battle of Badr Date: March 17, 624AD (17 Ramadan, 2AH)

Forces Engaged:
Muslims: 313 or 315 mixed spear and sword light infantry, with a sprinkling of bowmen and perhaps a handful of cavalry and camelry; approximately 60 are Meccan followers of Muhammad, identified as “al Muhajir” or “followers”. The remainder are “al Ansar”, “supporters”, Medinan converts to Islam. Under the direct command of Muhammad, Prophet of Islam and his immediate family, in particular his cousin, Ali.

Quraishi Meccans: supposedly about 1,000 in all, mostly footsoldiers similarly armed as above but including 100 true (probably light) cavalry, all from the “Quraishi” tribe of Mecca, under Abu Jahl. The actual total engaged on the day of battle was probably less and possibly much less (see “The Engagement”, below).

General Note: It is worth keeping in mind that these people are NOT the romantic Bedouin desert nomads beloved of both Western and Arabic imaginations alike. They are what a British colonial officer would have called “town Arabs”, rural smallholders, pastoralists and merchants, living in fixed houses in towns and small cities. Their military skills would have been those of a city guard, local militia. A few may have been professional caravan guards. So if you’re picturing Omar Sharif and Tony Quinn in romantic flowing robes with tulwars, get over it. These guys were fellahin, really.

The Situation: Let me start by saying that Badr may be the goofiest – it’s certainly the smallest – “decisive” battle in history. Even by the standards of 7th Century warfare it would have been accounted little more than a skirmish by the warrior peoples of Eurasia, or the great civilizations of Central and South America, where the “flowery wars” waged by the Maya, the Toltec and Aztec merely to procure human sacrifices involved thousands of warriors and a fairly sophisticated logistical train. It seems a little ridiculous to throw this tiny skirmish between a scruffy bunch of town Arabs up there amid the transcontinental wars of the Mongols, or the vast campaigns of the Twentieth Century. Badr set alongside the lofty megalomania ambitions and bottomless charnel wreckage of a Napoleon or a Hitler..? Naaahhh…

Badr, by way of contrast, started as an act of political banditry pure and simple. But first, let’s talk about how the two sides arrived at this fairly insignificant little well in the first place.

Muhammad, son of Abdullah, was born in Mecca in the year 570 by Christian reckoning. He was orphaned at a young age, reared by a paternal uncle as a merchant and pastoralist. His youth and young adulthood were unremarkable as was his entire adult life until about age 40, when in 610 AD he says he received a revelation from God. This revelation, which becomes the founding portion of the Qur’an “The Recitation”, is said to have been held and matured for three years before Muhammad’s first public preaching. Like much about the early years of Islam, there is some question about the veracity and sources for this history.Suffice to say, however, that the Meccans (who must have known the Prophet since his birth – Mecca was a small town in 613) greeted the revelations of their fellow citizen with the same enthusiasm and acceptance that greets most park preachers. They booed and hissed him, threw fruit at him, and when he persisted, began to violently attack him and those who adhered to him.In 622AD Muhammad and his followers up sticks and moved to Medina, a town north of Mecca, where they were generally welcomed (though not by the local Jews, a great disappointment to the Prophet, who considered them as “People of the Book” ,i.e. professors of a revelatory faith transmitted in print and likely allies). Their old enemies in Mecca, however, continued to keep a hate on for the Muslims and seized their property in the old hometown. Since payback is a motherfucker the Muslims took up Meccan caravan-raiding for a living. So it was that in March of 624 the Muslims straggled out to hit a reportedly-rich Meccan caravan moving south from Syria. The Meccans got wind of the ambush and diverted the camel trains west, but decided to put paid to these damn Muslim thieves once and for all. They marched out of Mecca looking for trouble and, by Allah, they found it.

The Sources: The problematic part of Badr is that there is no “other side of the hill”. The sources are all Muslim, and all the sources are theological in nature, either the Qur’an itself or the compendia of Islamic oral tradition and histories called hadith. There are problems with both.

The Qur’an is a work of theology, not history, and as such is more concerned with the acts of God as they worked on humans rather than the acts of the humans themselves. So the battle in the Qur’an is treated as a “furqan”, a miracle, rather than a human event, and the divine rather than the human is emphasized. The hadiths are even worse; unapologetic oral histories and as contradictory, and confusing, as oral histories always are.

And even more problematic is the issue of authenticity. Islamic theologians and scholars, of course, insist that the Qur’an (as observant Jews would insist of the Torah and Christians the Bible) is an inerrant and divinely-inspired testament of God (although they would, also, of course, disagree on which God). Modern non-doctrinal Qur’an scholars have serious reservations. They note that not only is there not a written copy of the Qur’an from Muhammad’s lifetime or even the lifetime of the next generation, but that the first complete copies (i.e. worded similar to the modern accepted version) extant are from the Ninth Century. These scholars also insist that there are internal contradictions that suggest that the text was probably assembled well after the lifetimes of Muhammad’s generation from sources that may have included the words of others or even influences from the other monotheistic religions.

So that the broad outlines of Badr would seem to been transcribed faithfully between the battle and the first writing seems plausible, the details – and for a tiny engagement fought between largely illiterate pastoralists and merchants there are a vast store of details – may be considered highly speculative...but this does not mean false. Illiterate tribal societies tend to develop ways to transmit stories orally, and one thing that particularly gets reembered are battles and the deeds of the warriors. So stuff like who killed who and Muhammad throwing the stones at the Meccans? These probably happened as they are reported. What we don't and probably may never know are the details like the actual strength of the Meccan force and why they broke so quickly...

The Campaign: Like I said, the Badr campaign starts with plain old highway robbery.

Word arrives in Medina that a caravan, led by the man who at the time was Mecca’s most implacable Muslim-hater, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, is traveling southeast down the Arabian peninsula from the Levant. Muhammad assembles a force of some 300, the largest Muslim “army” to date, to spoil this rich prize. The force includes his close friend and uncle Hamzah, cousin and son-in-law Ali, and friends and companions Umar and Abu Bakr. Outnumbering the caravan guards by some 10-1 Muhammad doesn’t expect any real fighting; the sources claim that this little army is mounted on only seventy camels and two horses.

However, Abu Sufyan gets word that the Allah-pesterers are planning to waylay him at the water stop at Badr and turns southwest towards the coast and sends a rider to Mecca for assistance. The Meccans turn out in what must have seemed to them overwhelming force to head off their Muslim enemies, who have camped by the wells at Badr.Here’s where things start going badly for the Quraishi of Mecca. First, hearing that the caravan is our of danger several Mecca clans (including Banu Zuhrah, Banu Adi, and some from Banu Hashim, according to the Muslim sources) turn around and go home after some considerable disputation with Abu Jahl. The sources don’t say whether this defection reduced the original 1,000 or whether the original number of Meccan fighters was larger and the 1K figure is what's left after the desertions, but this mess has to have an ill effect on the group than slogs on to Badr.

Then, after a nasty march to Badr (it rained heavily, say the sources, and the going was very bad) the Meccan army gets another one of those weird, militarily implausible surprises that infidel armies in religious literature seem to always get slapped with. Their scout, a fella by the name of Umayr ibn Wahb, returns reporting that although the Muslim force is tiny and shows no chance of reinforcement, he has seen “the camels of Medina laden with death”, i.e., that the coming battle will be exceptionally bloody.Outside of agricultural societies that must defend their crops or die most nomadic, pastoral and tribal cultures treat fighting as a combination sport, exercise and commercial enterprise. Sanguinary struggles to the death have especially little appeal for low-population desert tribes like the Arabs of the Seventh Century. So this report – although why Umayr believes this and what basis he has for assuming it are not reported and do not, in fact, seem plausible to the skeptical reader – occasions much argument among the Meccans. But Muslim tradition says that between them the Meccan leaders Abu Jahl and Amr ibn Hishām manage to get the boys from Mecca all marching the same direction again by reminding them that 1) their enemies are STILL in front of them, 2) that they still owe a blood feud debt to the Muslims over some guy killed earlier, and 3) just STFU and get in line, jackhole (or the 7th Century Arabic equivalent thereof), and the battle begins with a traditional Arab and tribal flourish, the combat between champions.

The Engagement: Studying the Badr story from a military standpoint one gets the strong impression that Abu Jahl was the George MacClellan of his day. Outnumbering the Muslims 3-1 and with the only organized force of cavalry, ol’ Abu does absolutely nothing with it.

He tries no maneuvering, no stratagem, no nothing. He just boots his probably grumbling Meccan jawans into line and marches out to meet the fanatics from the north.

The storyline of Badr starkly simple:

1. The champions meet.

The entire business starts with farce, as the Muslims send out three guys from Medina (“ansars”, non-hijra Muslims) to meet the Meccan trio, Utbah Ibn Rabi-ah, his son Al Walid and his brother Sheibah. The Meccans, not wanting to start any NEW blood feuds, wave the Medina guys off like a hockey referee kicking the Montreal center out of the face-off circle. So Muhammad sends out three of his homies: Ali, Al Hamza and Obeidah Al Harith. Ali kacks Al Walid and Al Hamza does for Utbah; then they both have to help poor dumb Obeidah against Sheibah. Sheibah bites the dus but not before lopping off Obeidah’s leg, who becomes the first battlefield martyr for Islam. But clearly the Meccans have taken it in the shorts - call it 3-1 Muslims.

2. The bowmen shoot.

Both sides exchange fire, resulting in two dead Muslims and a larger number of Meccans dead and probably a fair number of wounded. The sources don’t say how long this went on, but it mustn’t have been very long given the low Muslim casualties.3. The Muslims charge.

At some point Muhammad gives the order to close and attack. Normally the idea of charging to close with an enemy that outnumbers you 3-1 would seem like an invitation to suicide. Muhammad, whatever the peculiarity of certain of his modern-day adherents, was NOT suicidal. So he must have seen something that gave him confidence. The low numbers of Muslim dead during the arrow exchange suggests that the Quraishi were not shooting well. Perhaps the Prophet saw that groups and individuals were edging away from the Meccan flanks and rear, or noted that the Meccan line itself was shaky and looked breakable. Perhaps he knew something of the commanders opposing his people and their incapability.

Perhaps it was just faith and dumb luck.

Whatever it was, the Muslims charge, the Meccans break, and the Battle of Badr is all over but the butchering.

The Meccans run until the Muslims get tired and then keep running until they get back to their city. Between the brief melee when the Muslim charge goes in and the slaughter during the pursuit the Meccans lose something like 70 killed and another 70 captured; Ali is said to have killed or captured almost 1/3rd of the total – the man was a fucking beast! If the original Meccan strengths are correct then the losses are less than 15% of their number. A modern military unit is considered combat-ineffective if the casualty rate reaches 30% - this should give you a good sense of the military fragility of these early Arab fighters.

Especially important are the losses among the Meccan notables. So many of the Meccan commanders are killed, including the luckless Abu Jahl and Amr ibn Hishām, that Abu Sufyan becomes the Meccan headman. In the end this makes all the difference; Hishām or Jahl would never have compromised with the Muslims – the hate was just too deep. But Sufyan isn’t that sort of hard man. Six years later, after much more fighting, scheming and betrayal, Sufyan makes a deal with Muhammad, converts to Islam and helps the Prophet accomplish the bloodless (okay, well, sorta bloodless; ten people including “four women who had been guilty of murder or other offences or had sparked off the war” were given the chop) conquest of Mecca that begins the incredible century that ends with this:The Outcome: Decisive Muslim tactical victory.

Badr, as simple as it is, drives home Sun Tzu's maxim about knowing your capabilities and knowing your enemy's. My assessment would be that the Meccan failure resulted from a combination of:

1. Leadership. On the Meccan side, Abu Jahl comes across as a bullheaded tribal elder who lacked the diplomacy to hold together what amounted to a coalition expeditionary force. Coupled with his tactical sterility, he ended up leading a fractured and badly demoralized rabble straight into a small, cohesive group of religious fanatics fighting for a man they venerated. For the Muslims, Muhammad just has to avoid making mistakes and act inspired, which he does. It helps that he has Ali, his personal 7th Century Arabic Johhny Rambo, to cut through the Meccans like a razor.

2. Motivation. The Meccans have no unity of purpose, and what esprit they have to begin with is badly undercut, first by the loss of their original purpose (defense of the caravan), then by the defection of the clans, then by the whole oddball "death camel" thing. On the other side, the Muslims are fighting for God, a frighteningly implacable and effective morale builder. When it comes to killing people, having someone tell you (or believing) that God wants you to kill those people is a hell of a good fifth column...

The Impact: Badr is, in a sense, a one-sided “decisive battle”. The Muslims didn’t win the war with their Meccan rivals at Badr. Six more years of war, and several battles, would separate Badr and the fall of Mecca. But a Muslim defeat at Badr might well have meant the end for Islam as a global religion. Had Muhammad been killed, or the Muslim force scattered and defeated (which would have gone a long way to discrediting him as a religious leader), the next fourteen hundred years or so might have been very different.So to have won at Badr was Islam’s Cannonde of Valmy. It kept the faith, and the adherents of that faith, alive for another day. And sometimes, that’s all a great leader needs…

Touchline Tattles: I’m afraid that I don’t have any fun gossip and backstairs tattle about Badr. The battle was recorded, transmitted and probably sanitized by prophets, preachers and holy men. These sort of people usually have little time and less patience for levity. So although I’m sure that, like all battles, Badr had its idiotic moments, it’s silly, pointless, and even comic (although usually humor in battle is the grim sort that consists of getting an arrow in the ass or something…) moments these are lost in the sands of the Arabian desert and time.

I will say that I consider Badr, like Milvian Bridge, to be one of history’s meaner jokes. Religion is a harsh master, and religion coupled with the sword usually makes for a hard and ruthless time. Islam is a great and powerful religion, and, like almost all great and powerl religions the first thing it did, after it was spared at Badr, was begin killing people. We're still killing each other over Islam, Christianity and Judaism, even now, more than thirteen hundred years later.

So when you read something like this from the Qur’an:
“And be not like those who started from their homes insolently and to be seen of men, and to hinder from the path of Allah. For Allah compasseth round about all that they do. Remember Satan made their acts seem alluring to them, and said: "No one among men can overcome you this day, while I am near to you": But when the two forces came in sight of each other, he turned on his heels, and said: "Lo! I am clear of you; lo! I see what ye see not; Lo! I fear Allah, for Allah is strict in punishment.” (Qur'an 8:47 )
It would be well to remember this:
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.”“O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!“We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

Could it be...Satan?

Watching youtube with the kidlets tonight and came across this:It's one of a number of kid videos made by something called "rajshri.com", a big-time Bollywood video distributor.

Please note that the little video clearly proves that all those fundamentalist preachers are correct that entertainment is the Devil's Tempting Shop, since it features Satan as the Black Ram of Damnation. If the segment where the Black Sheep grins out at you doesn't give you nightmares of eternal damnation and gazing up at the triumphant grin of the Lord of the Flies from the deepest Pit of H-e-double-hockey-sticks you clearly haven't spent enough time obsessing over your soul.

This video will change that. It's exquisitely horrible.

Den Haag

I came across this and had to post it.

It's in this month's Mother Jones, and tells the story of a couple in India whose little boy was stolen to sell to an American couple looking to adopt. It's hard for me to read, and even harder for me to imagine the lives of the parents, knowing now that their son is being raised by parents who love him, too. There's truly no "bad guys" here between the parents.

But there IS a "bad guy", IMO, and it's the same one I've talked about before; the pernicious "adoption fee" system that pays off people and organizations to produce healthy children for adoption. Especially when you put it in the context of the difference that $10,000 dollars makes in Cleveland versus Calcutta, or Canton. This is a horrific thing. It could be settled quickly and easily by simply putting an end to the fee system. If the countries involved in international adoption took a single fee to cover the costs of the orphanage at least the motives and opportunities would be centralized. As it is, the pay-the-orphanage practice practically drives the individual institutions to play snatch-the-baby and destitute parents sell-the-baby.

And the article points out that the Hague Convention on International Adoption "...isn't much help. It neither lays out whether kidnapped children must be returned to their birth parents nor considers the impact of such a reunion on a child with no memory of those parents." As usual, Brian Stuy has the goods on the exact same issues with China adoption.

I was terrifically uncomfortable with the money involved in our adoption and still am. I love our little Miss and hope like hell that her mom really did voluntarily give her up for adoption. And I hope like hell that we aren't the adoptive parents of a little girl whose mom is still searching, still grieving, for the sweetheart who was stolen from her.

All adoptions begin with a tragedy. For her birthmom to have had to give her up by poverty or desperation rather than cash doesn't make the story any less tragic, it just absolves us of being the agents of the tragedy. I sure hope that our story isn't even more tragic that that, and that all of us in the adoption community can work together to put an end to the nightmare that visits Sivagama every time she closes her eyes.

(h/t to Karthika at Alterdestiny, where I first encountered the MJ article.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fire Guard

Everyone else is napping on this lazy, rainy Sunday. I was, too, but got up to blogread and lounge. Ahhh. Nice. I'm sort of the fire guard for the Fire Direction Center today, only without a CQ to come and jack me up for dozing on shift.

I want to think some more about the economic mess we're in, and there's a couple of Decisive Battles for March. So check back in later today and early next week.

I'm going to sit for a while and listen to the rain.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Story Time

At the end of a long day, let me offer for your viewing pleasure Little Miss, reading us "I am a Bunny" with ilustrations by Richard Scarry. Here's the first part of the story:
And here's the end:
You're a wonderful storyteller, sweetie.We love you. Goodnight.

Fat-bottomed Girls

One last thing I wonder about.

Does this woman look "fat" to you?Her name is Meghan McCain, and she is the daughter (I'm sorry to report) of John McCain, though I have no idea if she is the child of Crash and his Stepford Wife (a.k.a. The Second Mrs. McCain). Doesn't really matter.
[Although, let me state for the record: Yikes! That's scary! One of the few things I respect about McCain is his willingness to approach that face unclad. I couldn't do it without my testes clambering to re-ascend into my abdominal cavity like Italian infantrymen escaping Caporetto...]
So, anyway, someone called Laura Ingraham, who is described in this article as one of the "conservatives never reconciled to John McCain", upset that Ms. McCain bitched about shemale pundit Ann Coulter being a train-wreck public face of the sneering, pompous, self-satisfied asshats that populate the GOP "leadership" (if by "leadership" you mean "handful of crazed fanatics attempting to suicide-bomb their own compound because their party isn't as fanatic as the 12th Century Inquisition or as heartless and larcenous as the Sheriff of Nottingham"), responded by hammering young Ms. McCain with Fat Girl jokes and similar juvenile coprolalia.

I'm perfectly fine if Republicans want to feast on each other's flesh; they've had enough of everyone else's the past eight years, it's only fair that they consume some of their own, frankly.

But how in hell is this woman fat?

And more to the point, WTF? I mean, there's FAT; dangerous, scary, heart-attack-fat, stroke-fat, joint-failure, hip-breaking fat. But short of becoming a medical problem or forcing you to look like an utter dork meeping around the Safeway in one of those little electric carts, what's the problem with a little...extra?

If I were to admit to an erotic attaction to standard-issue 2009 GOP conservatives, which to my mind would be like sleeping with a hostile alien species determined to exterminate the human race, I would have to admit that I find Meghan McCain VERY attractive; very feminine, very oomphy, very...sexually desirable. Certainly much more so than I find Ms. Ingraham:who appears to be not only a fine example of an authentic smugly Bush-luuurving dominatrix but looks to fulfill every quality of my old Ft. Bragg buddy Alfie Castello's warning about sleeping with a certain type of skinny blonde: "They're entitled, they're edgy, they'll get you in trouble and laugh as you try and talk your way out of it. Their hips are so bony that it's like making love to a sack of old razor blades. And you KNOW that they love themselves more than they'll ever love anyone else."

So aside from the nasty little woman's generic juvenile idiocy of mocking someone because they're chubby, aside from the question of whether anyone should be mocked for being chubby...how in hell, in what kind of fucked-up society, can the woman in the top picture be derided for even being chubby?

I don't get it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Skeered o' Nuthin' and other trivia

There's a lot of idle thoughts floating about the hanger-like cavernousity of my brain. But before I go and write anything further, I have to stop and say this:

If I was a pirate (and why not?) and I was reaving the littoral waters off Somalia (and who wouldn't?), I'd hate like hell to have to face the wrath of the Republic of Korea Ship...MUNMU THE GREAT!!

Is that a terrific ship name or what?

I understand the great traditions of the U.S. Navy and why our ships are named after things like battles and states and venal, racist senators and nasty, dimwitted, senile actors. But when I contemplate the fear that the foe facing the mighty Munmu must feel...

...I have a certain sympathy for the Honorable John S. Williams (D-Mississippi):"
Whereas the British Sea Monster which we are imitating has been named Dreadnought- an archaic name- this man-o-war is hereby named Skeered O'Nuthin as an expression of our true American spirit; Provided further, that it is hereby made the duty of the first Captain who shall command her to challenge in the nation's name, the so called Dreadnought to a duel a outrance, to take place... in sight of Long Island and that on the occasion of the combat the President and his cabinet... being fond of the strenuous life, shall be entertained on the quarter-deck as guests of the ship and the nation."
So, while I'm just woolgathering...couple of other things.

What is it with people going "outdoors" looking like they were going to the goddam mall? The nice people from the parks service that staff Sabino Canyon make sure you understand that the canyon is a desert. It's HOT. It's DRY. It's SUNNY. They even give you a picture to show you the best way to stay safe and comfortable walking the main access road. Hat, loose clothing that covers you, some trail food, sturdy shoes, sunscreen, water.

So what did we see getting on and off the tram that runs the length of the canyon?

Wifebeaters. Flip-flops. Titty tops. Assgrabbing shorts and babies in little umbrella strollers. Cans of soda pop (if that) and a handful of Cheetos.

Wassup wit dat? Are these people just not bright? Do they not care, or do they think that the real outdoors is like a Disney park where you can duck into Donald's Drink N' Doze if the beer nuts run out or the baby gets sunburned or the little woman blows out a flippy? I mean, it's not THIS bad


C'mon. Are we really that stupid?


And speaking of wierd stuff in public...did you know that public frottage is a real problem in Japan?

Yep. You know what frottage is, right? "Frotteurism"? Oh. Well, okay, that thing where you rub yourself up against someone to provide you or them (or both of you) with sexual pleasure?

Frottage. Frotteurism. Whatev.

BUT. Apparently one of the hazards of the crowded Tokyo (and other big Japanese cities) public transit systems is that anonymous people will...ummm...rub you the wrong way.It's called "chikan" in Japanese, 痴漢, チカン, or ちかん, and is also a common theme of Japanese porn (which, for reasons best know to the Japanese, also involves a lot of "Shibari" - rope-tied women. For some sort of cultural reasons Japanese men consider sex just "enh" but tying your woman up with elaborate rope trusses? Yowza!! Go figure). And the problem is so bad that the Tokyo transit people actually offer women-only cars to keep people's (OK, men's) grubby little hands to themselves.

Damn, people are wierd.

And in the category of "wierd people"?

Republican governors.

Here's some idiot called Sanford, and no, it's not the Fred character from the old sitcom, the GOP gov of South "We LIKE our roads shitty" Carolina, saying - actually SAYING - "What you're doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don't have and send it to different states, we'll create jobs. If that's the case, why isn't Zimbabwe a rich place?"

Wait, sunshine, wait...are you saying that spending fake money, money not backed up by tax revenues, is BAD? Like, Zimbabwean bad? Like the sort of thing that only poor, stupid nigras do?

But...but...how does that square with the fact that your fellow GOP jackholes just managed to spend EIGHT YEARS driving our entire COUNTRY from a multibillion-dollar surplus into a multibillion-dollar deficit (you know, where the outlay exceeds the income? Yeah, turdblossom, THAT deficit) to fight a bunch of land wars in asia and enrich the two-yacht family? To ensure the decline of your country, never mind your crappy little impoverished state, into an oligarchy with more convicts than millionaires?

Can you explain that to us, dummy? Or can you at least draw us a picture of how defict spending to fight moronic wars of choice = good while deficit spending to try and keep people from starving and losing their homes = bad? And why Republicans BELIEVE this mindless drivel, not only since their history in the Depression proved them flat-ass wrong but......now with fifty percent more frottage!?!

Oh, sorry, Dubya. I thought you some weird Japanese guy on a train or something. I see you had important...ummm...business of state to address.

Anyway...you say those are GOOD reasons to just "print some more money". That then it's OK. just so long as you weren't jerking around like some dumb ol' Aferkin nigras trying to, y'know, help stave off A FUCKING DEPRESSION!!!

Jesus wept.

So I needed some good thoughts, and whenever I need that I just head over to "Waiting For Sprout" to check up on brand new mom Kelli and her little Madeline.

Cute? OMFG, we're talking a Cuteness Tsunami! A veritable Black Plague of Cuteness! The Great Awakening of Cutitude! These two are Cute Squared to the Nth Power of Cute!

Joe Bob says: check 'em out!

OK. Done meandering. Back tomorrow with more real thinking. Have a good day and watch your ass in crowded subways. Banzai!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Home from the Hill

Whatever minor god looks out for the welfare of casual travelers was putting in some overtime this past week. All of our flights were on time, prompt and smooth. Rental car and hotel reservations went without a hitch. Hiking trails were as advertised, parks and historic sites open and thoroughly well staffed, meals delicious. Even the weather cooperated, mild enough for cold-habituated Oregonians but warm enough to thaw chilled visitors.

And our friends! J and I (and little X!) and V and K - you know who you are! - THANK YOU!! You are pearls beyond price, your welcome, and the enjoyment we had in your company, shine like good deeds in a sorry world. From hiking to dinner, drinks to card games, you brought Tucson to us through your welcome, and we will never forget. You are all welcome to come and camp in our living room, drink all our alcohol (except the little manly man, but he is welcome to the apple juice...) and watch hockey well into the early morning hours any time you please. Consider it our responsibility for the wonderful time you showed us.

The flight last night got in late to a cold and rainy Portland, and the lights were low by the time we pulled up outside the house. The babysitters, Peeper's beloved nanny J and her spouse T, filled us in on the kids' week. And we tiptoed in to the Peep's bedroom to kiss him goodnight only to find him awake. The happy little boy voice and the soft hugs from little boy arms were perhaps as happy a homecoming as we could get...

Until this morning, when I went in to pick a sleepy little Miss out of her big girl bed. She sat up, sleepy-eyed, and looked up at me - perhaps not the most unalarming sight at 6:30 in any morning - and her face lit up in a huge smile. She spread open her arms and embraced as much of me as she could, I picked her up, and she snuggled her soft little girl hair down against my chest.

"Good morning, sweetie..." I said as I kissed her, breathing in the warm, baby girl smell of her, like vanilla and sunlight. "I'm so glad so see you again."

She looked up out of the corner of her eye.

"Daddy work done, come home. I happy." she said, huffed out a little sigh, and closed her eyes to nap against my chest, safe and content.

So as good as it was to get away,

...it's good to be home.

Update 3/16 pm: Just so you believe we were really there - and so's not to do a whole damn post of travel snaps - here's some of the best pictures, and memories, from our trip:Saguaro at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson...18th Century twisted mesquite beams in the convent close at San Xavier del Bac, la Paloma Blanco del Desierto...Even more ancient: the interior of the Great House, seven-hundred-year-old Casa Grande ruins...A sturdy little fellow points out where a bird MIGHT be if there was a bird there. Never mind. His fun and funny self, his mom, and dad were all we needed!...but you want birds? Okay! Here's a tiny Anna's Hummngbird nesting in a patio plant in Tohono Chul......and a Cactus Wren nesting in cholla at San Xavier del Bac.Vacationers at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Outstanding place.The haunting nave of the church at San José de Tumacácori, where you can feel the shades of priest and pima alike pressing down upon you from three hundred years ago......and the even more haunted ruins of the church at Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi, here with "Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto" telling the story of Gevavi, Padre Garrucho and the 1751 "Pima Rebellion"...The stark beauty of the Sonoran desert......to better set off the elegant beauty of my love.A restful and delightful interlude. And now back to our regularly-scheduled lives...