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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Random stuff 

Dyslexia: The other day, T (who is so dyslexic that it amazes me that he enjoys reading) emailed me a link to a Craigslist ad with a note that said "You should try out for this, it sounds perfect for you!" The ad was for auditions for a Greek chorus troupe that was just starting up.
I was extremely confused. Now, I used to do some semi-professional singing in choruses and an acapella group, and I do still love to sing, although my smoking habit has caught up with my voice in recent years (yet another really good reason to quit). But a Greek chorus? I have no particular interest in Greece, ancient or modern (NB: neither do I have anything against the Greeks, although I do fear them when they bring gifts, so keep your ouzo at home, OK?). I don't even really know what a Greek chorus is, if it involves singing - I had formerly had the impression that they were the ones in the masks speaking in unison in plays by Sophocles.

When T got home from work, he asked me if I had gotten his email. I said I had but wondered why he thought it was "perfect" for me. "It's a geek chorus," he explained. An expression of horror spread across his face when I explained to him what the ad had actually been for.

Ferret update: After a forty-five minute phone interview yesterday, I have been pronounced fit to own a ferret or two by the Cascade Ferret Network, a ferret shelter here in Portland. On Friday I get to go down there and meet the ferrets and see if any of them take to me (and if I take to them). I was pretty nervous about the interview - I mean, I know I'm a responsible person and take good care of my pets, but what if I couldn't convince them of that? It didn't help that early in the interview, half of the supplies I bought were pronounced substandard by my interviewer. At this point I became convinced that I must be a horrible candidate for ferret-parenthood. Surely anyone who was really serious about owning a ferret would have known that those litterpans were too small and flimsy to actually be used by any self-respecting ferret! Never mind that they said "ferret" on them - they're obviously really meant for gerbils, or perhaps dwarf rabbits.

And my cage - too big. How could I possibly have thought that more space was better, that those hyperactive little members of family Mustelidae might enjoy more room to run around when they can't roam the house? Also, it is improperly constructed of below-code materials, and chicken wire may not be strong enough to keep those hardened little criminals from escaping - possibly by tunneling into the foundation of my house, donning tiny sets of SCUBA gear, breaking into the water pipes and snorkeling to freedom. Also the food I bought is no good, and I will have to buy other food.

After that we moved on to other topics, such as my housing situation, my roommates attitudes toward animals, my vet (also suspect, although not a firm black mark against me), my blood type, diet, credit history and sexual preferences (OK, I lied about the credit history) (OK, I lied about the last four things, actually) and my attitude towards cleaning up ferret pee and poop, running after the little beasts constantly, having them destroy everything I own, and being bitten by them. I think the winning answer to that last question was when I said that I'm not afraid of anything I can pick up by the scruff of its neck - my hands are covered in scars already from a cat we used to have that was a biter, so a few more puncture wounds won't kill me.
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Sunday, June 20, 2004

In Which I Suspect I Have Not Been Deemed Worthy Of The Ferrets 

I've always wanted a ferret or two. Well, not always. But for a really long time, and could you quit being so goddamn literal? Jeez. But ferrets are illegal in Hawaii (along with gerbils, hamsters, snakes and generally any other animal that doesn't already exist there - tiny islands, fragile ecosystem, etc. But the good thing is that we have no rabies or Lyme disease - just spinal meningitis that you get from swimming in streams that pigs pee in. But I digress). About three weeks ago, when we went to the West Coast Game Park Safari (which is the coolest place ever), I got to play with some ferrets along with a baby skunk (descented) an adult skunk (also descented), two fox kits, a baby possum and a three-month-old raccoon, and I realized that there was nothing stopping me from getting ferrets anymore. In fact, given that I live outside the Portland city limits on unincorporated land, nothing was stopping me from keeping any sort of animal I bloody well pleased. Well, nothing except my lease, but the nice thing about renting a house from your parents is that they can't really evict you unless you burn the place down. And I cleared the ferrets with them, anyway.

Thus began the quest for ferrets. But first we had to make certain preparations. We needed a cage, first of all. So T, who was in between projects, started building me the best ferret cage ever. It's five feet high, nearly four feet wide, and two and a half feet deep, with three levels, ramps and dowels from which I can hang toys and/or ferret hammocks. I lined it with contact paper (the kind you line drawers with) to make it easier to clean. I called my vet and made sure that they had someone who knew ferrets. I started finding out what shelters carried ferrets and reading up on their care and feeding.

This morning, T woke me up to tell me that there was a posting on Craigslist for two free ferrets - someone who was moving and had to get rid of them. Free sounded a lot better than $80 apiece, which is what the shelter charges, and still had the feel-good benefit of taking in ferrets who needed a home. So we emailed her. A few hours later we heard back: could we tell her a little more about ourselves, since she wanted to make sure her little fuzzies went to a good home. I responded, describing in glowing terms the fantastic cage we had, the completely ferret-proofed room for them to play in, the three people who were home all day with nothing better to do than amuse a couple of little Mustelidae monsters with a hyperactivity problem.

The thing is, she hasn't emailed back, and the posting has been deleted from Craigslist. This leads me to suspect that she hasn't chosen to bestow her furry friends upon us. Such is life, I suppose. Time to call the shelters...
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And lo, the floods were unleashed 

In the beginning was the leaky toilet. And the leaky toilet was annoying, and verily did the roommates complain of its leaking and hissing, day and night. And monthly did the water company hang notes upon the door, like a voice in the wilderness, crying out that the meter reading was too high. And so the roommates ventured forth into the wilderness, seeking that which would stop the leaking.

For nigh unto forty minutes they wandered, through the halls of pipes and palaces of plumbing in the land of Home Depot, until they came upon the ballcock. And they saw that ballcock was $9.99, and the price was good. And they purchased the ballcock, and brought it back to show the household. And the household saw that the ballcock was good, and the people rejoiced, calling out, "Surely now our leaking is at an end!"

And the younger brother declared that he would install the ballcock. The people were wary at this, for the younger brother was inexperienced in the ways of plumbing, and they remembered the horrors of the shower incident some months before. But the younger brother reassured them, saying, "I know what I am doing. This will not be like the shower incident." And the people were uncertain, but they allowed themselves to be soothed by the brother's words, and returned unto their blogging.

But the LORD heard the brother's proud words, that he and he alone would stop the flow of the water in the toilet, and the LORD was greatly displeased. And so He made the wrench turn in the brother's hands, so that the pipe broke off instead of loosening, and unleashed a mighty flood upon the bathroom. The people were distracted from their blogging by the thunderous sounds of the flood, and cried out in dismay when they saw the rising waters, for they had trusted in the Covenant and built no more arks.

And still the waters rose, lo, unto an inch above the floors, and waves began to wash upon the carpeted shores of the hallway. And the people were frightened, and cried out, "LORD, save us!" Some of the people were overcome with a madness that caused them to laugh unendingly in the threatening face of the waters. And the boyfriend saw the rising waters, and the LORD spake unto him, saying, "The water must be shut off at the street." And so the boyfriend ventured forth from the house, and went down into the street, and shut off the water, and the floodwaters ceased to rise. And the people were comforted, but still in disarray, for the face of the bathroom was covered over by the flood, and the carpets were exceedingly damp.

And the people brought many towels to the flood, and lamented that they did not own a mop. And with buckets and with wastebaskets the people attempted to bail out the floor of the bathroom. And the people cried out, "LORD, why hast thou forsaken us?"

And I can't write in that style anymore, because I'm tired of taking a page and a half to say what should take a sentence. Although it does convey the endless-seeming horror of this afternoon. And we're not through yet! There's the part where I go to the downstairs bathroom to get the last few dry towels, and realize that the water has seeped into the heating vents in the bathroom and is pouring out of the downstairs vents...not to mention through cracks in the vents into the walls, and then out of the walls in unlikely locations, including over and into an electrical outlet. I think it's still dripping now, eight hours later. That really deserves a whole other post, with lyrical descriptions of the system of buckets we had to set up to catch the dripping, and the delightfully disgusting *squish* the carpets down there make now, and the fact that I had to use my new Ralph Lauren towels, my currently most prized possession, to sop up yucky carpet-water.

But the long and the short of it is, we called a plumber, and two hours and $250 later, we have a toilet that neither leaks nor unleashes Biblical floods, and some very wet carpets, towels and jeans, and two entire rooms in which we're afraid to use anything electrical until we're certain everything has dried out. And J is forbidden from doing any plumbing ever again. The shower incident could have been an anomaly, but this just confirms it: Anything that boy touches in a plumbing sort of way immediately begins spewing vast quantities of water, and the rest of us are just not up to dealing with it a third time.
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Saturday, June 19, 2004

eek. 

So this afternoon I was on the phone with my mother, blathering about I don't know what - the fact that T finished staining/sealing the deck this afternoon, maybe - when J comes rushing into the room and tells me that somebody just got killed down the road from us. I tell my mother I have to call her back, and hang up and go out front with him and L. Every cop in the county must've been down there, blocking off the road in both directions with police cars and that yellow tape, wandering back and forth between the ambulance and the fire truck, generally causing a commotion in the neighborhood.

We stood there for a few minutes, speculating as to what could be going on (J opined that it was a terrorism-related raid on the financial services firm on the corner that we all think must be a front for something, whereas L and I were certain it wasn't far enough down the street and it was in fact something domestic taking place in the Trailer Trash Townhouses (not that there's anything wrong with townhouses in general, you understand. I was born in one, in fact. But these townhouses are just sleazy-looking)). Then a shot rang out. A. Shot. Rang. Out.

Now, maybe those of you who grew up in big cities are blase about this sort of thing (I know that when I fled into the house and asked T if he'd heard that, he said 'The gunshot? Yeah. Sounded bigger than a pistol.' and went back to his book), but I grew up in the suburbs. I have never locked my doors, I walk down the street alone in the middle of the night, and the only other time I ever heard a gunshot before this afternoon was when my uncle let me try shooting his .22 out in the woods once, when I was 14 or so. And you know what? It sounded a lot like a firecracker. In fact, we spent a while arguing over whether it was a gun, a firecracker, or a car backfiring.

At the end of the day, it turned out the whole brouhaha was a domestic dispute that turned even uglier than usual, he fired a shot but didn't hit anyone, and ended up getting taken away by the police in handcuffs and - according to the neighbors - a straitjacket.

So we settled back down to our regularly scheduled afternoon and I called my mother back to let her know what had happened, and as far as I know you can now drive down our street without being turned away by the police. But it's really a bit of a paradigm shift for me, to think about my neighbors having guns - and firing them at people - and wondering whether all those times I heard cars backfiring in this neighborhood were cars after all.
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Friday, June 18, 2004

An Open Letter to the Weather in Portland 

OK, look. I moved here because of you. You were supposed to be so great - warm with a few weeks of invigorating hot in the summer, cool but not too cold in the winter, and with such beautiful falls and springs.

"Move to Portland", my brother told me. "Sure, it rains all winter, but you're used to that after Vancouver, and it never snows in Portland. It's perfect weather."

Well, I want to know what the hell is up. Was it something I said? From the day I moved here, you've been the opposite of what was advertised. You're capricious, moody, petty. 100+ degrees the first month after I moved here, just to be close to you. And that doesn't even begin to describe last winter.

The winter! A side of you I wasn't looking forward to meeting, I'll admit - used to lazy tropical meteorology, I expected to spend most of the time inside, hiding from you. But I didn't expect to be forcibly detained. Three days snowed in after Christmas. An entire week after New Year's. "It never snows in Portland" - you just had to prove them wrong, didn't you? I was sure glad I made that trip to Fred Meyers to buy catfood and tuna fish in those three days that I was allowed to leave the house. I wished for chains for my car, but of course I hadn't purchased them, because I had been assured they were unnecessary.

And that brings us to this spring. What were you thinking? For two weeks in May, you were gorgeous. I felt myself falling in love with you all over again, if again is the correct term to use for a weather pattern that has cruelly tricked you so many times. It averaged 73 degrees, the sun was shining, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We went hiking up at Mirror Lake and had a snowball fight in 80-degree weather. I thought you and I might finally work things out, but you had other plans.

First you dumped us back into winter. The rain fell constantly, and the thermometer never climbed above 65 degrees. I wondered what I had done to deserve this treatment, and resentfully dug my sweaters and thick socks back out of the depths of my closet.

Then today, with no warning at all, you swung to the opposite extreme, taking us up to 92 degrees without a by-your-leave. The sun beat upon us mercilessly. I took to drinking my coffee inside the coffeehouse again, who had so recently joyfully carried my cup outside to read while I imbibed my caffeine.

I guess what I'm saying is that things can't go on like this. I can't keep putting up with your mood swings, never knowing when I wake up in the morning what you're going to be like, whether you're going to be blowing hot or cold. I'm willing to work on our issues, but you're going to have to meet me halfway. I don't want you to change who you are for us, but if you can't show me a little consistency, I don't know how we're ever going to build a meaningful relationship.
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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Fashion Sense 

weird thing #1: Barbie now has her own clothing line.

But well, if Mary Kate & Ashley can have one, I guess Barbie can, too.

weird thing #2: It's for adult women.

weird thing #3: I am oddly tempted to try on a few barbie outfits - but only if they have that shimmery petticoat-filled cocktail dress with matching shoes I dressed my Barbies up in right before they got kidnapped by Evil Ken.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Name That Song 

I've a rich understanding of my finest defenses
I proclaim - the claims are left unstated - I demand a rematch
I decree a stalemate
I divine my deeper motive
I recognize the weapons
I practice them well - I fitted them myself

Googling is no fair. The winner gets - well, nothing really, except to know what CD is playing in my car at the moment and what song is stuck in my head.
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Torture and International Law 

All the attention on whether the torture that has taken place at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo has focused on whether it was illegal under the Geneva Conventions. This is convenient for the torture apologists, as the Geneva Conventions lay out ground rules for conflicts between ratifying parties - meaning that the US has at least a claim on a loophole in that 'terrorists don't sign the Geneva Convention' and so on. (This argument conveniently ignores the fact that Iraq is, in fact, signatory to the Conventions, but I digress)

However, these pro-torture pundits are framing the debate very selectively and ignoring the fact that the Geneva Conventions are not the only treaties or laws that prohibit the use of torture. Another such treaty is the UN Convention Against Torture. Ratified by the US in 1994, it binds the signatories to "take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction." Both Guantanomo Bay and Abu Ghraib were unquestionably under our jurisdiction at the time that torture took place.

But what if we really, really, really needed to torture someone, for a really important reason? The Convention Against Torture says:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
Darn. But what if the President told me to? He's the Commander-In-Chief, we all have to listen to him!
An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
But wait - there's more. The Convention goes on to instruct the parties to the treaty that:
No State Party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
I'll bet Maher Arar wishes we'd paid more attention to that one back in the day.

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Monday, June 14, 2004

I know it's a hackneyed topic 

But I do occasionally like to check out how people get here. Mostly, of course, I'm interested in curious search terms used to find my blog. In the 'not-very-interesting' category is whoever came here by searching for Eliot Spitzer and was almost certainly disappointed to read about the Radical Beer Faction instead (I suppose I've just earned myself two or three more of those visitors).

Firmly in the Huh? category, however, is this search, for "glass bottom boat fetish". OK, whoever you are, fess up. Tell the tale of your sordid little translucent ocean sex adventures to the world.

We won't judge you, I promise.

(even more interesting is the fact that I've never once used the words "glass bottom boat fetish" on this site. Apparently Google has some new 'these words were found in sites linking to this site' technology, and it's one of my incoming links who shares this see-through sea perversion)
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Holy Crow 

Powdered alcohol?

(found on Vice Squad)
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Sunday, June 13, 2004

Strange Association Chains (College Memories Edition) 

A chain of association is when one word, phrase or concept sets you off on a free-associating path to some entirely different idea, making several stops along the way and causing you to wonder how, exactly your brain works, anyway? The Internet is a powerful tool assisting in the strangeness of these chains, allowing us to achieve weirder connections than ever before. For example, the (circular) chain I just created in my head as an example went like this:

Ronald Reagan -> Ronald McDonald -> Big Macs -> Junk Bonds -> S&L Scandal -> Ronald Reagan.

See how that works?

Now that everyone's on the same page, here's the strange association chain of the day:

This thread on DailyKos mentions Eliot Spitzer (NY AG) as a possible Kerry AG. It seemed to me that I don't like Spitzer, but I couldn't actually remember why, so I Googled him to see if I could refresh my memory.

That search led me to this post on Virginia Postrel's Dynamist Blog, about Princeton student government elections and the Antarctica Liberation Front, a party in those elections that once pulled off a surprise upset on a platform that included annexing "all the spaces between the yellow lines on highways".

That reminded me of my days at The University of British Columbia, and how seriously we took our student elections. Not. Well, the business school kids seemed to, and I guess a few other people must've, but to most of us, the Alma Mater Society was just a lame group of keeners who took $40 from us every year and never gave us much for it, not even the Arts County Fair.

Specifically, it reminded me of the Radical Beer Faction, a student government slate I supported wholeheartedly throughout my university career, much to the disgust of the keeners who tried to convince me I should vote for a "serious" slate who wanted to "accomplish" things and "improve the student experience". Well, beer improved my student experience a whole lot, let me tell you, so why shouldn't I vote for it? Besides, the AMS gave us that stupid student health insurance program ($236 a year for mandatory health insurance? In Canada? You've got to be kidding me, right?) and couldn't manage to swing the discounted bus passes, at least not while I was there. It needed some shaking up.

Then I got pretty nostalgic for my days at UBC, and started thinking, maybe it wouldn't look so bad if I did my grad school at the same place as my undergrad after all. At least I know I could afford it, and Vancouver is so pretty... But that's a discussion for another day.

When you vote for the RBF, you're sending a message, one that says "The AMS is so irrelevant to my life, I'm willing to turn it over to a bunch of ethically challenged borderline alcoholics just so I can have a good laugh as they burn the place to the ground!"
Those were the days.
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Friday, June 11, 2004

AP push-polls for Bush 

Got really mad while I was reading this piece by AP staff writer Ron Fournier. It seems like his name turns up on the byline of almost every misleading or slanted AP article I read.

The gist of the article is that AP ran a poll wherein they called voters, asked them their opinion of Bush, told them that 1.2M jobs had been created in the last six months, and then asked, "How do you feel about Bush now?". In other words, push-polling. Misleading push-polling at that, since the jobs factoid ignores the fact that Bush is still 1 million jobs behind where we were the day he took office, and more than six million behind what we would have needed just to keep up with population growth.

So why is the AP carrying Bush's water for him? I wrote them a nastygram to find out, but they (unsurprisingly) haven't responded. The article also contained this gem of a slam on Kerry:
Kerry will try to keep voters focused on the most dismal economic data while fueling their anxieties about interest rates, health care premiums, tuition bills and other costs of living.
Note how the assertion is totally unsourced, and in fact represents nothing other than Mr. Fournier's opinion - but doesn't it make you mad at Kerry? Maybe the AP can add that question to their next push-poll.
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And in other news... 

From the Center for Science in the Public Interest:
Quorn is the brand name of meat substitutes that are made from a vat-grown fungus. Some people have dangerous allergic reactions to the fungus and suffer nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and occasionally hives or difficulty breathing.
...
Medical studies have proven that Quorn's fungal ingredient is an allergen, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency still allow its sale. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit food-safety organization based in Washington, D.C., has heard from more than 600 consumers in Europe and the United States who have suffered reactions to Quorn.
In other news, people are allergic to stuff! Isn't that crazy? And sometimes they get sick or even DIE if they eat the things they are allergic to! Even common foods like wheat and peanuts can become DEVASTATING INSTRUMENTS OF DEATH in the wrong mouth! 7600 people die every year in the US from adverse reactions to over-the-counter analgesics! And yet none of these things have been banned yet! Isn't that amazing? Are you outraged yet?

No, me neither.
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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Speechless 

This story is incredibly powerful and moving. In it, the author recounts how he was savagely raped, at the age of seven, by a friend of his family, and his subsequent plans as an adult to kill his attacker. Drudge has got it up on his front page as a sensationalistic hooraw, but it deserves something quieter - something hushed and respectful. It is not a titillating story in the least.

I don't have anything clever or insightful to say. It must have taken unbelievable courage to write the story and then allow it to be published. He has apparently been arrested on charges of stalking the man who raped him.

Read the story, and give it the moment of silence it deserves. That's all.
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