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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Delicious Irony

Alberto Gonzales resigned. I celebrated by going to see The Lives of Others, a German film about the evils of wiretapping and corrupt government officials. I liked the film, and felt a satisfaction with its depiction of small time heroism by a gray little man who didn't get caught up in the big gray crush of a broken system. Acting with decency and humanity when the zeitgeist pushes us toward self-protection, exploitation, and greed is a noble thing. Gonzales's resignation though, is likely a sorry attempt to save his lame ass from prosecution, or from going down with the sinking ship that is this administration. The Lives of Others helped underscore just how pathetic every member of this administration is.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Becoming More "Real"

My virtual world and my real world collided this past weekend.

I spend a lot of time over at Lookout Landing... a Seattle Mariners baseball blog. Recently, a poster over there started organizing a softball game for regular readers. Naturally, I jumped all over that. My softball season ended a couple of weeks ago (with more of a whimper this year than a bang) and I miss playing.

When the day came, I stuffed my backpack with essentials: batting gloves, mouthguard, mitt, cup, and as many Henry Weinhards as I could carry. I walked over to Garfield at 23rd and Cherry and found a rugged, athletic bunch of computer geeks all getting warmed up. I had never met any of these folks before (actually I had met Phil down in Portland several years ago, but that hardly counts) and I wasn't sure how things were going to go down. I figured out who a few people were by their screen names, but I was basically lost in a sea of virtual community suddenly materialized.

I gazed around the field, instantly spotting the guy who claimed to be "as tall as two men" on the blog. He was actually only about 6'8" but I could see his point. Overall, they were a younger lot than I expected, with many minors in the crowd. And they seemed to be a mixed bag of those who actually played baseball, and others who just liked watching baseball.

Then a weird thing happened. Chas, the guy who started the idea over at Lookout Landing, called everyone in and said we should pick teams. Immediately, a sense of dread overwhelmed me as I replayed all those cliches about establishing schoolyard pecking-orders in my mind. This group was pretty clearly mixed in terms of jocks and geeks and I worried about who was going to get picked last. Someone else said, "Let the two biggest guys be captains," referring to me and the "tall as two men" guy. This gave me an opportunity to do something different. I immediately suggested that since we didn't really know each other (and I didn't want to wind up taking the scrawniest-looking guy last,) that I would just take all the guys to my right, and the other half would "go with Paul Bunyan over there."

From that point on, everything was very cool. When it was obvious that they had a bit more talent on their team, they suggested a trade of one of their big hitters for one of our average guys to even things out. We also agreed on no walks and no strikeouts to prevent anyone from feeling bad. Of course, this backfired when one guy swung and missed about 30 times in an excruciating at bat. Again, friendliness prevailed as no one gave him a hard time. Experienced players gave him some encouraging words... and when he finally hit the ball (and beat out a basehit) everyone cheered. It was awesome to see jocks being cool to geeks. I guess that happens once you're out of the school environment.

I was pretty jazzed about the game this whole weekend. I posted a bunch of photos over on the Lookout Landing blog, and I'm hoping we play again soon. I don't participate in many virtual communities, other than Walaka's informal blog ring... so this was a surprising turn of events. I don't know if other people have had the experience of actually meeting their virtual communities, but I recommend it highly.

Doing what I love the most.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

This always looks wrong, but what is right?

Could someone please explain the exact differential meanings of (and pronunciations for) yeah, yah, yeh, yea, and ya.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Kingston Nostalgia

Soapy gave me some photos about a year ago, and I just finally got around to scanning them. They were taken shortly after I graduated from Evergreen (around 1997) and was living back in my hometown of Kingston. I believe Soapy had driven all the way out into Kitsap to see a production of Deathtrap that I was performing in.

Back then, Carrie and I stayed on my family's acreage in an old double-wide mobile home, where we installed a woodstove, built a woodshed and a compost bin, planted a garden and turned the two extra bedrooms into a music studio and a meditation room. It was my first experience trying to mold a home into the lifestyle I craved. Looking back on it, I was proud of that place... and it was sad to see it change after we left, even though we knew the new tenants would put their unique stamp on it just as we had.

We spent so much time there, cooking food from the garden, entertaining friends, working on projects. I remember recording sessions when Justin Madsen would come over drinking poppy tea and sing beautiful melancholy songs into my undeserving mics. And we'd have Spectrum kids over to sit on the floor, watch movies and eat Doritos. I remember afternoons when Carrie would go off to volunteer at an organic farm on Bainbridge Island and I would oil up my dad's chainsaw and slice fallen logs into foot-thick rounds.

I'm not sure I've really had that "home-building" experience living in Seattle. In a series of apartments, where painting the walls isn't even allowed, I haven't been able to shape my surroundings nearly so much. I think Olaiya and I have started to conceive of our place in these sorts of terms... which is exciting. I've missed having a home that feels like I own it.

Wandering outside in my morning socks, drinking coffee on the porch... with the overgrown gardens behind.

The sun-drenched music studio, where I played with my guitars and four-track.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Breaking Atheism News

In my last incarnation with JFS, I helped organize a senior activity program in partnership with a nearby synagogue. Yesterday, my old group, called Endless Opportunities, hosted a discussion forum on the topic of atheism, with guest speaker Rabbi Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai.

They talked about the recent trio of God-bashing best sellers by Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I spoke to the new organizer of this group, Ellen H., who was amazed that almost a quarter of the record-setting audience volunteered that they were atheists themselves. Given that this group was meeting at a synagogue and featured a congregational rabbi as the guest speaker, that says a lot for the interest level and courage of those participants. I was thrilled to hear that so many atheists showed up, and I heard that the group discussion was interesting and appropriate. Ellen reported that the rabbi was sympathetic to many of the critics of organized religion; and apparently the atheists were sympathetic to the believers. Such civility in the face of all the recent hubbub! It makes a social worker proud.

As I was reading a review of that trio of recent atheist polemics... I stumbled across one published in the New Yorker (May 21, 2007) by Anthony Gottlieb. Gottlieb seems to be pining for the days of Bertrand Russell (with his "crisp wit") and David Hume (who evidently made his protests with humor and discretion instead of bashing believers in all their forms and guises.) He summarizes Hume's view as "God is merely the answer you get if you do not ask enough questions." Gottlieb, and I agree with him on this, would be more favorably inclined to hear the arguments of atheists if they refrained from the same kind of saber-rattling and name-calling that they decry in their enemy. It's like listening to Air America. I can't stand it. I'm sympathetic to the viewpoints of the liberal hosts, but because they co-opt the angry shrill style of conservative talk radio hosts, they become unlistenable.

I'm glad to hear that Temple De Hirsch Sinai and Jewish Family Service (at least) are able to be a bit more congenial about the whole thing.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

JFS Filing Cabinet: No Longer My Nemesis

Long time readers may remember the day I first used my trusty set of EZ Pickins lock picks to open a filing cabinet at work. And let me tell you friends, that was a pretty sweet day. Some may even remember the second time I bragged about defeating this pesky lock. Today, I have bested it yet a third time.

Once again, someone ignored the bold "Please Do Not Lock" sign affixed to the top of the cabinet. Once again, an office panic ensued. How would people get to the interagency forms? What if they needed a Release of Information form and didn't know how to get one off the server? A clarion call issued forth, and a hero responded. I was that hero friends, and my lock picks were like my trusty sidekick. We call ourselves Slim and EZ. You got a problem, yo, we'll solve it. Check out the cylinder while my torque wrench revolves it.

And this time, who was watching as I performed this act of unparallelled skulduggery? None other than CEO Ken, who's like the Holy Moses of our agency. I was all like, here let me help you send that fax Ken... oh, and by the way, excuse me while I open this lock (for which there is no key.) Yeah that's right. Pretty kick ass skillz, huh? And Ken was all like, OMG, That's so badass, UR so kewl!!1eleven!! I'm totally going to invite you to be my Myspace friend. And I was all, Heh... yeah right. Myspace... what a dork... you just better hope I don't pick the lock on your office and steal all your filez suckah.

So... long story short... I think I need a new archenemy. This file cabinet lock is getting old. I don't even know why they haven't just removed it. I mean, why would you keep it around? That's like leaving a broken piece of glass on your bathroom floor but figuring its okay because you put a sign next to it that says, "Don't step on this or you'll slice your foot off." And who does that? That's just stupid. I need to be testing myself against a worthwhile opponent... not some stupid lock that's already felt my wrath thrice over. This hero needs a real challenge... but who or what my friends, who or what... ?


Friday, August 03, 2007

OMG Best Boggle Board EVAH

Loopy and I were chilling on the couch playing Boggle (she's the only one who will play with me anymore,) and we came across this board. Yowza there's a lot of words on here. I'll post my list in the comments section. Rules as always: 5 letter minimum, no proper nouns.

If you haven't found 50, you're not trying hard enough


Wedded Bliss

O and I drove up to Bellingham last weekend to attend Brandon and Molly's gorgeous wedding. I used to hate weddings... I think I attended too many where young couples ceded control of the event to their parents and grandparents who decided to have a priest perform the rites, even when the participants were pagans or atheists. But lately, the weddings I've attended have been meaningful mixes of tradition and innovation that reflect a genuineness and emotional depth I didn't think possible. Kudos to all you marriage embracing folks, and to all of you mail-order ministers who outclass ordained clergy in every way.

O and I getting our seats early

Olaiya rocking the red wrap with Boat Street boss lady Renee

Brandon and Molly standing in front of the dramatic sea and sky backdrop.

Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Petit-Wizenberg or whatever they're calling themselves now