• Hike, Life

    Posted on July 3rd, 2013

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    Hiking the Twin Falls Trail

    The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been glorious these last few weeks. We had a few weeks of unseasonably gorgeous June days followed by about a week of cool, rainy, and windy – more typical for that time of year, they tell me. (One woman said to me in the elevator, “What happened to our ‘Junuary’?”) But over the weekend and yesterday, temperatures rose into the 90s. Granted, there’s hardly any humidity here when it’s that hot so it’s not like a 90 degree day in the swamp of St. Louis at all. But we are talking about an area where most of the housing built before the 90s – and a lot built since – doesn’t have air conditioning. At all – not even window units. Many restaurants and shops either don’t have it, or won’t turn it on. Smart people flee to shady or breezy locations.

    Sunday was supposed to be ninety, and we had planned on hiking in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. They have a boardwalk trail out into a marsh that is supposed to be great for viewing all kinds of wildlife – birds and sea creatures alike. We chose it because it was near two other objectives: Cabela’s 4th of July sale, and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, which boasts a bridge made of Chihuly glass.

    Alas, it was not to be. When I saw the forecast I revised and we headed east past Tiger Mountain to the Snoqualmie area instead. There, in the Twin Falls Natural Area, lies the (appropriately-named) Twin Falls Trail. A nearly one-mile hike along a relatively level trail that follows the riverbank of the South Fork Snoqualmie River to the bottom of a series of switchbacks. Climb the switchbacks and you reach a viewpoint overlooking not one but two waterfalls of some good size. Better yet, an additional mile – up steeper terrain – takes you out onto a wooden bridge that spans the gorge just over the top of the upper falls, which is really a series of cascades through the narrow stone throat of the chasm. The WTA calls the switchbacks “gentle” but there were a lot of people who looked like they disagreed with that assessment in several places. The trail guide says that you only gain 500 feet of elevation, but you do it at least twice on each leg of the hike, so that description is pretty deceptive. Still, all of the uphills have steep sections interspersed with wider, level spots to stand and catch a breather. The trail is completely shaded by towering trees and softly carpeted with evergreen needles – though only a few old growth – and the river is accessible in several places along the first mile of the trail. I think that fact contributed greatly to the number of people gathered there on Sunday. The trail was packed for the first mile, but many families and groups with older people turned back at that point – or stopped to splash around at the ice-cold river’s edge. Once the climb started, the hikers were more sparse but the trail was still more crowded than I prefer. I’d like to go back in the spring, before Memorial Day and when the river is still rushing full of the snow runoff.

    My sister is not much of a hiker, and I am not in the best shape of my life, so we were both pleased and proud to reach our destination and savor our lunch of beef jerky, bananas, nuts, and Gatorade from our spectacular vantage point on the bridge, where the rushing water drowned out every other sound. We were even more pleased to summit the last major slope on the way back to the trailhead and rest up on the bench overlooking the falls, knowing that we would be down in the water in only minutes.

    There is very little in my life that has felt as good as that ice-cold rushing mountain river when I finally prised off my hiking boots and thick, cushioned socks and stepped with bare feet into freezing water just above my ankles. Even better was when I found a rock about a foot offshore, big enough to sit on, and was able to untie my sweat-soaked handkerchief I’d used as a headband, rinse it out, and wash my sweaty, dusty skin until I was as cool as if I were sitting in air conditioning. We splashed and basked in the water for at least half an hour before making the final trek out to the trailhead, past the (capacity) parking lot, and down the road to where we’d left the car.

    On the way home we stopped at a roadside cherry stand and bought two pounds – one Rainier, and one bing. We drove home with the windows down, spitting cherry pits like machine gun fire, worn out and perfectly content.

  • Life, Seattle

    Posted on May 14th, 2013

    Written by

    Adjusting to Real Life

    If you are an admirer of ladies’ necks, then Seattle is not a great place for you because for 9 months of the year, all of the women – and I’m talking, 9 out of ten of the women you see on the streets downtown – bundle their lovely necks in scarves of all hues, materials, and textures.

    If, however, you’re a leg man, then this is your town. The overwhelming majority of women in Seattle wear skirts and dresses almost constantly. Granted, the skirts and dresses usually have tights or leggings beneath for much of the year – hey boys, it’s chilly and wet here! – but many people think that nice hosiery really only enhances good legs. This is a city where people walk a lot – both downtown during the work day, and out in the woods, mountains, and beaches on the weekends – so there is an abundance of strong and shapely legs. The calves are frequently encased in the softest leather, because boots are another common denominator on the Seattle fashion scene. And I mean, boots of every description: Cowboy, Ugg, ankle, motorcycle, wedge, hiking, and go-go; high-heeled and short; knee-high boots that pull on and knee-high boots that lace; big bulky snow boots with pom-poms dangling from them and bedecked with fleece or fur; boots made of sweater material, boots of leather, nylon boots. And rubber boots galore, in every shade of the rainbow and every height and style imaginable. I have seen more thigh-high boots in the month I’ve been here than I’ve seen IRL in the entire rest of my adult life.

    Women here dress in a way that would be considered in the Midwest to be quirky, verging on unsuitable for the professional environment. Just this morning I saw a woman wearing a houndstooth-patterned wool pencil skirt with a plain black tshirt and what can only be described as flip flops with a pretension to formality. But she also had on flawless makeup, appropriate jewelry, and was carrying a very tasteful high-end leather messenger bag, so the whole thing came off as stylish & attractive. You’d never get away with wearing that outfit to work at, say, a law firm in St. Louis, and that’s just really too bad. Cowboy boots paired with full, knee-length skirts and an obviously-expensive denim jacket is another favorite. Maybe I’m just not noticing the schlubs but the people I see on the streets here – the ones who look like they have jobs, anyway – are all very pulled-together-looking. Men, too, but I notice the women more because they tend to be more unique. The men look nice but usually all of them look nice in one of only three or four different ways – the hipster nice, the metro nice, the former frat-boy nice, and the Serious Businessman nice.

    My fashion sense is a whole lot more Portland than Seattle so I’m definitely on the lower rung of fashion here, although I certainly don’t stand out with my Converse-and-slacks approach to work like I did in St. Louis. My friend who visited this week put it perfectly when he remarked “I have this conception of Seattle as being a lot more granola; I had forgotten how urbane it is.” This is an international powerhouse of a city, and it shows in the way people dress. In Portland I could have gotten away with hiking sandals, casual pants with zip-off legs, and a plain t shirt to work at the Justice Department, and not just because I was a clerk – the lawyers dressed that way too. (They all kept a suit or two hanging in their office in case they needed to go to court or meet with a client.) Here I can’t be quite so blatant, especially since the other women in my department seem to put a higher-than-average (for the County) emphasis on their appearance. Alas that I’m not a man, as one of our two wears jeans, a nicely starched button-up (in some shade of blue), and work boots every single day. I’d love to get away with that as my uniform. (The other wears suit pants, polished loafers and a button-up, but he’s (A) gay, and (B) still trying to recover from having lived & practiced law in St. Louis for ten years before fleeing to the coast.)

    There’s a switch that has been flipped in my head since I’ve moved, and it tells me that this is it – I’m not going anywhere else. This is, finally, my Real Actual Life. That impulse is leading me to make thoughtful but expensive purchases – a bed set, some classic wardrobe pieces, dishes. Things I’ve never wanted to mess with before because in the back of my head there has always been this voice telling me not to get too much stuff, not to get too comfortable because I’m just going to be moving on again soon. (That impulse is leading me down some other paths, too, but that’s another post.) I tried so hard to squelch that voice in St. Louis – I really did. I wanted to put down roots. I wanted to make a life where I could be happy. I still wonder a little if I could have been content if I’d just lived a little closer in – South Grand, or Shaw maybe.

    Turns out I couldn’t be happy anywhere but here, not even in my precious Portland. Here I don’t feel the constant annoying prog-smug peer pressure from people who have (1) too much money they didn’t earn to spend on their “green” or “environmentalist” lifestyle choices and (2) not enough sense – or maturity? or life experience? – to know that it’s okay for people to not walk in lockstep; that you really can be friends with people who think for themselves, and you might even learn something. Clearly my experience in Portland was colored by the environment I was in – an elite private law school – but I feel more comfortable a month after arriving here than I did after three years there. Maybe Portland was the training wheels I needed to get to where I am now.

    Here I also don’t feel the constant annoying sense of mingled longing/disbelief that characterized my life in Missouri: I wanted to be back in the Northwest, but doubted it would be as good as I daydreamed. No, that question has finally been answered: It really IS that good. I was right all along. That feels good to me but not nearly as good as the constant sense that I’ve finally done everything I can do to set myself up for a life of happiness, comfort, security, and adventure and now all I have to do is live it, day by day.

  • Culture, Women & Men

    Posted on May 10th, 2013

    Written by

    Garth Brooks is the Jane Austen of Country Music

    So my iPod coughed up the Garth Brooks song “Shameless” today while I was at work, and since I was just working with uploading & downloading files, I was actually listening to the song instead of it just being background noise, and I noticed something: Shameless may be the country love song for the ages.* The story told in Shameless is pretty much Pride & Prejudice!

    Jane Austen and Garth Brooks

    See, it starts out with a guy telling us how he’s a big strong man – he’s never compromised. He’s proud. He’s never encountered anything in the world that he couldn’t walk away from – until he meets Her. He’s so besotted he’ll do anything, declare in front of the entire world if that’s what she wants.

    Then he starts singing about control. He can’t walk away from her, which implies that he has tried. Even though “I’ve never had so much to lose,” he sings, he’s too shameless in his love for her to do anything but please her. By the end, he’s so in love with her that he’s totally powerless, and he’s actually okay with it. “I don’t have the power now,” he confesses, and then “but I don’t want it anyhow.”

    Well I’m shameless
    When it comes to loving you,
    I’ll do anything you want me to,
    I’ll do anything at all.

    And I’m standing
    Here for all the world to see,
    Oh, baby that’s what’s left of me,
    I don’t have very far to fall.

    You know now I’m not a man who’s ever been
    Insecure about the world I’ve been living in.
    I don’t break easy, I have my pride,
    But if you need to be satisfied

    I’m shameless.
    Honey, I don’t have a prayer.
    Every time I see you standing there
    I go down upon my knees.

    And I’m changing,
    Swore I’d never compromise,
    Oh, but you convinced me otherwise.
    I’ll do anything you need.

    You see in all my life I’ve never found
    What I couldn’t resist, what I couldn’t turn down.
    I could walk away from anyone I ever knew,
    But I can’t walk away from you.

    I have never had anything have this much control on me.
    I’ve worked too hard to call my life my own.
    And I’ve made myself a world, and it’s worked so perfectly,
    But it sure won’t now, I can’t refuse,
    I’ve never had so much to lose.
    And I’m shameless…

    You know it should be easy for a man who’s strong
    To say he’s sorry or admit when he’s wrong.
    I’ve never lost anything I ever missed,
    But I’ve never been in love like this.
    It’s out of my hands.

    I’m shameless.
    I don’t have the power now,
    And I don’t want it anyhow,
    So I gotta let it go.

    And I’m shameless.
    Shameless as a man can be.
    You could make a total fool of me.
    I just wanted you to know
    That I’m shameless.

    Come on, Janenites, and admit it – Garth Brooks is singing the story of the proud and aloof man who has been “shewed” that all of his pretensions are insufficient to please a woman worthy of being pleased.

    *I know that Shameless was actually written & recorded by Billy Joel first. But I think Garth’s version is better, and also I think more of my Jane-loving friends would be horrified at first, and then slowly persuaded, by the comparison with someone like Garth Brooks. Or really, just Garth Brooks because honestly, who else is like him? Nobody.

  • Life

    Posted on May 2nd, 2013

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    May Day in Seattle

    People who follow me on Twitter have already heard about this, but May Day in Seattle is a very special day, and not in an entirely sane way. I’ll let Slate explain – go read it & come back. Back? I got yelled at this morning by a guy riding down the street dressed as Darth Vadar, declaring to all that he was the EMPEROR VADER, dammit, the EMPEROR. All week the costumed superheroes have been congregating in Occidental Park downtown, which just happens to be a couple of blocks from my office and which is where I got approached from the half-robot Future Man the other day.

    costumed heroes drinking coffee

    Image from MSNBC.

    Even the police – whose deadpan seriousness was hilarious in its own way – take May Day with a grain of salt. However, it’s not all fun and games. As I write this, the Seattle PD are clearing the streets using pepper spray and “blast balls” – tiny fireworks that go off with a bang and release pepper. Protesters are responding by throwing bottles and pipes at the police. CNN International reports someone threw a skateboard. If you’ve never been in the midst of a huge protest, it’s hard to understand the crowd dynamics and how quickly it can go from marching & chanting to full-on anarchy. I participated in the Iraq War protests in Portland as a legal observer – wear a white hat, watch the police & report on any brutality against the protesters (and serve as a witness to actions taken against the police although, funny enough, the trainers at the law school didn’t really spend a lot of time on that part of it…) – and there were a handful of times when I felt endangered, and one for sure when I was. I was standing in front of Bank of America, and there were a bunch of people in suits behind the locked glass doors looking out at the protesters marching by, and then all the sudden people were throwing rocks and beating on the glass. It wasn’t a great time.

    Image from JustPiper.com

    Seattle is a weird town, a fun town, a fashionable town, but it turns violent really quickly and all of that angst is somehow right there under the surface, even on the nicest days. It’s a strange place, certainly FAR less laid back than take-it-easy Portland. Life here is a lot more corporate-seeming, and there’s a proportionate amount of anti-corporatist backlash that arises out of that.

    But hey – the weather was great today and my commute home was smooth. Despite the tussle between the clowns and the heroes at 5th & Jackson – right by the train station, in other words – I didn’t have any problem getting out of the city. I feel sorry for the people who ride the buses and have to get stuck in every single special event downtown, whether it’s May Day, Seahawks games, baseball, big conventions, or just an incredibly gorgeous day when a lot of people decided to head downtown and see what they can see. That’s one of the best things about where I live – the commute on the train hasn’t had a single problem since I’ve been here. The northern route gets caught in mudslides and washouts all the time, I hear, but not my route.

    I went out into the woods last weekend. I went up to Tiger Mountain, and didn’t go very far – just a short loop trail off the road – but getting out and breathing mountain air, standing underneath the towering moss-covered trees, was all the spiritual healing I needed. This move has been strange. It happened so fast I didn’t really have time to get emotional, let alone process anything. These last two weeks, just as I’ve been settling in, have been emotional roller-coasters. I swing from wildly elated to (last night) huddled in my bed unable to even make dinner. I’m sure things will level out soon but it’s a bit much to deal with for now. I’m planning a longer hiking trip this Sunday, at least a half-day journey, and this time I’ll take photos, I swear.

  • Blogging, Culture, Life, Seattle

    Posted on April 10th, 2013

    Written by

    Surviving Seattle

    pig's head

    That's all, folks!

    Seattle is full of interesting sights, sounds, smells, and people – people everywhere, of every possible description. And the mix of cultures makes for most of the interesting things to see, do, eat, try, observe, overhear, and avoid. Today, for example, I wandered into Uwajimaya, Seattle’s Asian supersized grocery store. I happen to work two blocks from the Chinatown gate, or the “International District” as it is oh-so-correctly put in the official sources. This place is so huge and well-known, it has its own wikipedia entry. (I highly recommend, as one Google reviewer suggested, buying a durian and taking it on the light rail, just for the fun of it.) I, of course, had no clue. I mean, I knew that area was called the International District (the “I.D.” in transit parlance, as in “the ID station”). I had no idea about the Chinatown gate, and I had NO idea about Uwajimaya until I walked in the door and found myself in a wonderland of Asian (and American) groceries, fresh seafood, meats, and a bakery – complete with a food court serving hot and delicious Korean, Chinese, Thai and Japanese food.

    Geoduck clams

    Gentlemen, please! There are ladies present.

    For a person like me, who is totally into Asian food, it was heaven. They had things there I had never seen before, but even better they had a HUGE selection of everything I’ve ever spent days looking for and finally ordered online. For 99 cents you can get a huge container of baby pea sprouts, to cook or to eat raw. You can get the durian of your choice, and any number of other exotic fruits and vegetables. Taro root? Dragon fruit? Kaffir lime leaves? You betcha. You can get fresh clams of several varieties – including the infamous geoduck clam (shown left), whole cooked dungeoness crabs, steamed Tako (some kind of suckered fish, presumably octopus), and a huge variety of fresh fish, whole, or in any bit you care to take (including just the heads). The pastries were unbelievable, and the place was topped off with a convenience-case behind the deli counter containing perfectly white, pillowy soft steamed buns.

    I didn’t even get to spend much time in the housewares department, where there were stacks and stacks of dishes, utensils, and – oh, glory! – bento boxes galore. There was a whole section of nothing but Hello Kitty merchandise. There were toys and chopsticks, teapots and strange snacks and candies and cute umbrellas and hair-care products whose names I couldn’t read. I can’t wait to go back with my sister and spend a few hours browsing and buying.

    Each day at my lunchtime, I strike off in a new direction from my workplace. For the past few days, I’ve confined myself to heading down towards 1st Street and exploring all of the shops, eateries, galleries, and (of course) coffeehouses in a four-block stretch near Occidental Park.

    Speaking of coffee, I work at the intersection of 2nd & Jackson. On the four city blocks that touch that intersection there are FIVE separate coffee places. That’s not just in my neck of the woods, either. There’s one place where there’s a Starbucks on one corner, and the corner opposite has a soaped-over storefront window where they are obviously working inside, and the sign says “Coming Soon – Starbucks!” This is a coffee-drinking town, and they don’t just drink coffee, but they savor it. They discuss it like sommeliers discussing the latest vintage. They compare notes on where the best coffee places are – not just how the coffee tastes or the price, but which barrista they prefer, who gets you in & out quickly, who has the best bakery for their breads and pastries. The first time I met the boss of the whole department, he commented on my travel mug from the coffee shop across the way (Zeitgeist): “Their coffee isn’t very dependable, it’s pretty weak sometimes. I like Tully’s downstairs.” “Tully’s is good,” chimed in my co-worker; “They’re really fast. But their baked goods suck.” “Yes,” agreed Mr. Bossman, “their stuff tastes…” (and here he paused, and wrinkled his nose and said in a tone of great disdain) “…frozen.  At least Zeitgeist has a great bakery.”

    Speaking as someone who dumps in milk and a packet of Splenda and doesn’t really even taste the coffee while it’s going down (just want the caffeine, yo), I couldn’t care less if their baked goods were handcrafted each morning by Belgian monks wh0 skiied in from the organic wheatfields of Waterloo on the backs of a pair of orcas. I just bought the cup because I can get 16 oz. of drip coffee for $.90 (the refill price!) if I bring the cup. And it’s right across the street from my office, and it isn’t a corporate chain. Criteria for my new personal coffeehouse: Met!

    It’s been an interesting few weeks, getting here & settling in. The weather has been lovely and mellow. It was gorgeous, clear and in the mid- to upper sixties the first three days. Then it cooled a little, and last Thursday it started raining and didn’t stop (other than about a three-hour window on Saturday) until midmorning on Monday. Sometimes it rained harder, sometimes it barely sprinkled, but it was wet falling from the sky for four+ solid days. I had forgotten what that was like. I like it a lot, but I found every hole in my Converse on Thursday when I was walking around at lunchtime, so over the weekend I got a few pairs of more appropriate shoes. (No heels – the hills downtown are crazy! but that’s another post.) I need a rain jacket and I’d like to get a rain-proof bucket hat, but I haven’t found one yet that fits my giant noggin so for now it’s a fleece hoodie (the only thing I hate about rain is getting it on my glasses!) or (when it’s raining hard) a huge umbrella, which I’ve found is the only way to get personal space on the sidewalk, anyway.

    I’ve got tons more to tell but it’s late and I’m still so tired. I’ve been sleeping like the dead every single night and still come home exhausted every day. The stress of the new! It will go away soon and I’ll feel like I’ve been here forever.

    I bet.

  • Blogging, Life, Seattle

    Posted on March 6th, 2013

    Written by

    It’s the “I’m moving to Seattle & promise to update often” post

    People I work with keep asking me to tweet, or post pictures, or blog my move and my life in Seattle. I am tickled a bit at the idea that I’m going to be doing something photogenic and blog-worthy every day. Part of me just wants to remind people that for the most part, I’m just going to be going to and from work, shopping at the grocery, and sitting (on the floor) in my empty apartment. On the other hand, Seattle is so very scenic – not to mention, new and therefore a curiosity to most St. Louisans – that I will probably be able to spot at least one thing every day worth snapping a photo of and jotting a few lines about. Plus you know that the weekends in the Northwest mean, for me at least, getting out into the wilderness.* I suspect the posts on those kinds of adventures will be the most well-received.

    So here’s me expressing my sincere plan to post more often, a plan that will be greatly assisted once I settle and get myself a new smart phone with a better camera.

    Won’t be joining Instagram, though. (Copyright issues; that’s another post.) And probably won’t start posting on Facebook anytime soon, although I may figure out how to auto-post links to my blog posts there for all of my friends who will insist on using Facebook to the exclusion of all other forms of communication.

    So the plan right now is to nail down a place to live this week (hopefully); yard sale this weekend; load up our stuff into our pod for shipping next weekend, and depart the following weekend after Morgan’s play on the 21st. I have to report to my new job April 1, but since we’re only taking what fits in the cars, it isn’t like we need a whole bunch of time to move in and settle. I’ll basically be camping out until my pod arrives with just my clothes & personal necessities, a few crucial kitchen items, and my computer. I’m kind of bummed about starting over YET AGAIN but I sincerely hope this will be my last cross-country move EVER. And I find that, the more stuff I get rid of, the less stuff I’m actually seriously attached to. I see most household items purely for their functionality and right now, they’re just in the way of me getting the house emptied so I can get out here. Plus, it will be kind of cool to have matching (or at least coordinated) furniture.

    I do, however, have some serious plans for IKEA hacker projects and Pinterest-inspired ideas for various furniture and household items once I arrive in the Emerald City, so I have the feeling I’m setting myself up for some serious stuff-attachment in the future. But that’s okay, because the next time I move, it will be local and hopefully long-term.

    I can’t wait to get home.

    tidepool

     

    *(They have wilderness in the West in a way that Midwesterners can’t really understand until they’ve experienced it; but that’s another post for later.)

  • Abortion as Fund-Raising

    I love this video of Anderson Cooper beating up Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for raising money off a campaign lie. First, because he looks really cute when he dons his reading glasses to read her the correct quote, while explaining to her that she used it in an entirely dishonest way (he puts them on at 4:02 in the video); and second, because he’s beating up Wasserman-Schultz.

    Her response? “It’s not a lie because Republicans are bad.” She doesn’t say it in exactly those words, but if you watch the whole video that’s exactly what she says.

    Democrats are making a huge deal about this rape/incest exception for the abortion issue. I don’t understand why Democrats are doing this. They shouldn’t be dumbing down their standards to respond to whatever issue the Republicans throw out. Democrats like Wasserman-Schultz should be able to go on CNN and calmly (and truthfully) explain that rape and incest exceptions to abortion laws do NOT improve women’s control over their reproduction.

    Why?

    Because you pass a law restricting abortion access except in cases of rape or incest, then you’re setting the government up to decide who qualifies to partake of the exception. Republicans hope that the shame of rape victims and the shame of incest will keep people from speaking up and getting abortions.

    But so what would getting that exception entail, exactly?

    • Would it have to be a rape where you filed charges and your attacker were found guilty? Some criminal proceedings drag on for months, if not years. Hard to see how this would work.
    • What if you don’t file a police report or press charges? Will some governmental agency develop regulations to decide how to tell if a woman has been “legitimately” raped? You know, rape-raped.
    • Even if I do report it or press charges, do I have a certain time frame that I have to report it within?
    • Short of a conviction, how does one “prove” one was raped to avail herself of the rape exception to an abortion ban?
    • And what if you get a conviction, is the next step a paternity test? Because after all, making an exception for rape victims is really about making an exception for a woman who was forcibly impregnated.
    • What if I have sex with my boyfriend and the condom breaks, and then I get raped the next day? Should I be able to get an abortion only if the rapist turns out to be the father?
    • If I won’t have to prove I was raped, how will the government enforce the abortion ban? After all, every woman can just claim she was raped if she wants an abortion.
    • Under the new health care laws, would all the rape-claiming abortion-havers have to get therapy for their trauma?

    I’m not even going to get into the incest question. Look at all the questions here and tell me this is a sane, workable policy. But instead of pointing that out, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz fumbles the ball and ends up getting called out on national television by no less than Anderson Cooper.

    Way to stand up for women everywhere, Debbie. Keep it up and you’ll lose the election.

  • Current Affairs

    Posted on August 19th, 2012

    Written by

    Paul Ryan Wants to Insert Himself Into My Uterus – True/False?*

    When the news broke last Saturday about Paul Ryan being picked for Romney’s veep candidate, I rolled my eyes and thought “Cue the hysteria and insane claims by everyone who loses their minds when the Republicans do anything remotely newsworthy.” (I mean, come on – someone was questioning Ryan as the VP choice because of his lack of private sector experience? HeLLO? Can Democrats honestly make that argument with a straight face?)

    The benefits of an efficiently functioning free market

    Image courtesy of Hey Girl Its Paul Ryan

    People freaking out about how rich, white, and male the Republican ticket is are not worthy of being answered (because that was such a HUGE concern in 2004 with rich, white, and male John Kerry and John Edwards, right? Right?! *crickets*); and the idea that Ryan wants to push your granny off a cliff in her wheelchair is actually being deftly dealt with by the campaign. But some of the criticism of Ryan deserves a closer look. This is one thing that enrages me about political season – how are ordinary people, who have busy lives and don’t follow the ins and outs of politics – supposed to know what to think or who to believe? There’s a reason that confidence in all of our institutions, including Congress and the media, are at all-time lows. And I share that low opinion.

    So my approach is, investigate for myself.

    Last week Debbie Wasserman-Schultz emailed the following claim (among others): “he [Ryan] also supported a bill that could ban birth control and all abortions — even in cases of rape and incest.”

    Is that true?

    Technically, yes. Continue Reading…

  • Life

    Posted on August 7th, 2012

    Written by

    You Can’t See Me

    kitty tail

    She likes to play in the sheets when I'm changing the bed

    Polly likes to hide under the sheets and chase the air pockets as I shake out the top sheet when I’m changing the bed. She’s very stealthy…except when she lets it all hang out. I took the second picture because she was just sitting there like that – I didn’t interrupt a bath or anything, she was just sitting on my bed, hanging out.

    kitty in a strange posture

  • Dastardly apps. Users beware!

    Convenience is a great thing when it comes to managing your online life and identity(ies). I remember back in the day I had a chat account with AOL chat, one with MSN Instant Messenger, and another with ICQ. Every time I logged into the internet on my computer (dial-up back then, you know!), I had a tray full of little icons and programs logging me into the various chats so my “friends” would know I was online. Then along came Trillian. Just put in your info for each service and bam! you’re logged into all three under one interface. The convenience was like magic.

    Nowadays, a lot of websites take a shortcut when it comes to registering. The Post-Dispatch switched to Facebook comments earlier this year in the hopes that tying people’s comments would encourage more responsible commenting. (Judge for yourself whether it worked or not.) I objected at the time due to my deep appreciation for anonymous commentary, but I can totally see the lure from the paper’s perspective. Getting users to sign up for an account with your site is a tough prospect. Getting users to sign in with a service they already use is much, much easier. Easier sign-in = more users, more clicks, more eyeballs on the ads.

    But.

    Yesterday I read a sad story about a Post-Dispatch employee who lost his job last Friday (which news he received while sitting on the can, incidentally). The post he wrote about the experience was titled “My Career Ended While I was in the Bathroom.” I wanted to post a comment to the effect that they could end his job, but only he could end his career. This guy is the (past?) President of local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He wasn’t fired for doing something wrong, he was laid off from a dying (?) industry. I suspect he’ll survive to write another day.

    Why didn’t I leave my comment? Why, despite this post having received over 4,200 page views since it was posted yesterday, are there only three responses?

    Two words: App creep.

    In order to leave a comment on his site, I either have to (1) create an account for Posterous, or (2) sign in via Twitter. I declined option 1; I’ve never been asked to create a Posterous account before, so it’s not something I expect to come up enough to justify taking the time & trouble to create an account and remember a password. Also, I don’t give out my personal information to just anyone, and I didn’t have time to look into the site at that moment. So Twitter then, right?

    No effing way.

    Click the option “Twitter: Sign In” and a box pops up offering the following (click for full-sized):

    Popup box describing account privileges granted to Posterous

    Okay, so it can read tweets from my timeline, that’s public anyway. It can see who I follow – public, no biggie – but wait a minute, it can follow new people? Um, no. I only follow people with whom I personally engage on a regular basis. Plus, I don’t want to end up following people whose views I find odious.

    Reading further: It can update my profile? Why does Posterous want to update my profile in exchange for letting me comment on someone’s site?

    And here’s the kicker: It can post tweets for me? Forget it! (See why I’m so concerned about things I did not write being attributed to me.)

    Now, the gentleman in question may have many good, sound reasons for using Posterous and only allowing comments through those two methods. But from my perspective, as a potential reader of his site, I’ve drawn several conclusions based on my brief experience yesterday:

    • I’m very unlikely to return to his site because I can’t participate in it without signing away too much of my identity. I didn’t subscribe to his RSS feed (or even look to see if he has one).
    • Posterous is now, in my head, a creepy site that asks for too many rights – way more than it needs. I won’t do business with Posterous, use its software, or ever create a Posterous account now.
    • If I have this reaction, he’s probably losing other readers for the same reasons. True, some people will opt for convenience over privacy and/or control over their own Twitter feed; but I suspect anyone who actually reads what kind of access they’re granting would be turned off by the prospect.

    I’m sure that I’m more concerned about this kind of thing than the average person, but this isn’t the first time I’ve refused to grant an app more access than it needs. I refuse to play Zynga games on my phone, even after I’ve already purchased them (when they were still owned by the independent company that created them, before they sold out for big money (the lucky bastards)), because I refuse to connect my Facebook account and let some game annoy my friends with my scores. And I post fewer comments on the Post Dispatch website because some of the things I have to say are politically sensitive in a way that might get me in trouble at work, so I don’t want to connect those opinions with me personally.

    I certainly find it less convenient, but I feel more confident about the integrity of my online identity. It’s a price I’m willing to pay.

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