Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Home is where the hearth is

The above shot is of the backyard of my parents former house, taken from the pool slide in the back. From this angle you can pretty much see everything that worked well about the place.

The house itself, a ranch-style home from the suburban obsessed fifties, is a classic of the type. Low lying, eight foot ceilings, and the front’s main design feature a two car garage. Inside there’s no sense of space, a lack of center replaced by that ubiquitous hearth of a television. Even the spaces held over from 19th century residential design, living and dining rooms, were amorphously blended into each other, reflecting the still developing tenets of modernist design.

Contemporary designers somewhat derisively refer to them as ‘ranchburgers.’ Enough time has passed however that these houses are now viewed fondly in a nostalgic sort of way. But that’s as far as it gets, as there’s not much interesting that can be done with them; and to do anything with them can be a bit of work, as they are often a strange tectonic hybrid. Space and design are almost throwaway, akin to temporary architecture, but they are often built to last; in the case of this house double brick construction with most of the major infrastructure (plumbing and gas) embedded in the concrete foundation.

These houses, like most of suburbia, have a strong temporary feeling to them. There’s nothing permanent, and visions of these endless square miles a thousand years in the future yield nothing more than images of dust. They remind me of many ancient archeological sites – all that remains of Angkor Wat, a city of a million people, is the central stone core of the city. The inhabitants all lived in wood housing surrounding it, and nothing remains of that save for some occasional post holes. Most cities are like this – a central area of ‘permanence’ surrounded by miles of transitory structures that might as well be tents.

Creating a sense of home in this environment is the same as changing a campground into a place. Nothing exists in the house to invoke a sense of belonging – often the design and fabrication counters it. My memories of 5422 East Rosewood are entirely that of family and friends. Events that happened to take place there, not events that were brought about by the house.

Save for the backyard of course. Marked by two main features, an enormous ash tree (which, unfortunately, is probably on its last legs) and the large even by Tucson standards pool. Those both created events and created place. And those are what I will miss. My parents have no love lost for the pool, mainly for the same reasons that Kathy and I have no real love lost for our car that we got rid of. Tons of maintenance and quite a pain in the ass to deal with and worry about. But the backyard was the one part of the house that was truly enjoyable to spend time it. That’s the place that I will miss.

Monday, February 27, 2006

R.I.P. Kolchak

Darren McGavin: 1922-2006

Who's your Daddy?

I would like to get some time to post on something other than current political affairs, but I keep running into bad craziness at work, and then I read even crazier stuff that makes me want to comment briefly. To wit:

After Iraq, Katrina and a bollocksed Ports Deal, it looks like the Republican Party has thus far this year pretty much screwed the pooch when it comes to running for reelection on a National Security Platform. New Opinion Polls actually show them actually polling behind the Democrats on National Security issues. What to do, what to do...

From USA Today:

"Efforts to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children are emerging across the USA as a second front in the culture wars that began during the 2004 elections over same-sex marriage. Steps to pass laws or secure November ballot initiatives are underway in at least 16 states, adoption, gay rights and conservative groups say. Some — such as Ohio, Georgia and Kentucky — approved constitutional amendments in 2004 banning gay marriage..."

That old warhorse is being trotted out again, though to be fair to them, it did have some success at driving out the party base of the lunatic fringe last election cycle. This time, however, there may be an effective counterattack (courtesy Nathan Newman at TPM Cafe):

"If a Youngstown lawmaker's proposal becomes Ohio law, Republicans would be barred from being adoptive parents.

State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to `introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents.'..."

Nothing like some lateral thinking...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

My Mom Warned Me it Would Come to This

Yes, it's time for Service Pack 4.0: Via CNN:

Pentagon: Ports uproar may pose security risk

President tries to calm furor over takeover of port management

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The second in command at the Pentagon said Thursday that people who publicly oppose allowing a Middle Eastern company to take over management of some U.S. ports could be threatening national security.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told the Senate Armed Services Committee that blocking the deal could ostracize one of the United States' few Arab allies.

"The terrorists want our nation to become distrustful," England said. "They want us to become paranoid and isolationist, and my view is we cannot allow this to happen. It needs to be just the opposite."

So now I am a Traitor and a Security Risk. Somehow I don't think my parents are too suprised to find that out...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Piled Higher and Deeper now:

Via Atrios we hear:

“The Central Intelligence Agency did not target Al Qaeda chief Osama bin laden once as he had the royal family of the United Arab Emirates with him in Afghanistan, the agency's director, George Tenet, told the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States on Thursday.

Had the CIA targeted bin Laden, half the royal family would have been wiped out as well, he said.”

Dubai Ports is a company entirely owned and operated by the UAE Royal Family.

Today it also comes out that the administration broke the law and failed to follow a mandatory 45 day investigation into the deal:

“Yet, the investigation never happened. Bush administration officials ‘could not say why a 45-day investigation did not occur.’”

So what to do? Well, of course, roll out Service Pack 3.0... or as Kos lovingly terms it, ‘Operation Bush is an Out-Of-Touch Dumbass.’:

“President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.”

Unaware? It’s going to be fun to watch the squirming over the next few days.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Back from the trip we took to Tucson to help my parents move from the house they’ve lived in since 1970 to a new place in town. I’ll post more on that later when I get some pictures up and running. Give me patience, as work is pretty insane right now, especially with my having to play some catch up with projects left a bit in the lurch with the Tucson excursion.

But I see that the insanity didn’t abate while I was gone. Reading the paper today I note that the Bush administration has decided that it is in our nation’s best interest to outsource port security in New York City and five other ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates. Mind, not a company in the UAE but a company owned by the UAE. A nationalized company.

What has given the right wing vapors over this is their usual xenophobia on the issue – witness the rending of garments over the potential sale of Unocal to the Chinese petroleum company earlier last year, and the citing of national security as the primary reason. Never mind the fact that most of Unocal’s oil holdings are abroad, not in the United States, and that any effort by the Chinese to corner the world oil market would be a dismal failure, up there with the 1980’s Japanese efforts to corner the US real estate market.

Of course what people are finally waking up to realize is that at no point in our history have three Chinese nationals participated in a massive terrorist attack on the United States mainland, and at no point in our nation’s history did said terrorist organization have logistics meetings in a city in China.

Even the rabid right is recognizing this decision as Harriet Miers 2.0. Unfortunately the bugs in the software haven’t been fixed yet, and the stakes are now higher, what with the Bush Service Pack fix out today, promising to veto any congressional override – what would be the first of his presidency.

Digby sums it up nicely in his post today, The Trifecta, but he also makes the point well in a post from Monday:

“I've never really subscribed to the great man theory, but I have to say that in my experience organizations do take their cues from the person at the top. When you have a president who says things this ridiculous every single day, for more than five years, I think it's safe to say that he is a boob. And his government is a perfect reflection of him: incompetent, arrogant, short-sighted, impulsive, secretive. A failure. That is the story of Bush's life. let no one ever say again that it doesn't matter who the president is because he'll have great people around him. Bush's government is as bad as anyone could have predicted when we saw him flub that answer about foreign leaders back in 1999 --- he was clearly unprepared and unqualified. And he's proven it.” [corrected for some spelling mistakes.]

Earlier last week a meme on the developed that never took hold, probably because the snow in New York City never took hold either: A comparison between how the federal government handled New Orleans after Katrina and how New York City’s government handled the worst blizzard since the Civil War. The contrast between a gutted and outsourced FEMA screwing it up at every possible moment and in every possible way and an Old School Unionized Department of Sanitation solving the problem in 16 hours and in time for a problem-free Monday rush hour. People talk about how conservative government concepts regarding minimal and outsourced government services is the solution to our glorious and tax-free lives. It seems to fail on all counts. Putting someone who despises government solutions in charge of government is going to be as successful as putting a large group of non-violent pacifists on the front lines of an army. Our President, of course, would have no personal knowledge of that analogy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Combat 4 Christ

I see that The General has written another letter, this time to the friendly folk running the Combat for Christ Camp.

Sounds like fun, especially the weapons courses. Think of it: Both handgun and shotgun training. Bet Cheney's wishing he had gone there.

Let it snow

Apologies for the lack of posting. It has been snowing here metaphorically as well as physically. Ruminating on the two and a quarter feet of snow that we got on Sunday (a record as most of you know) I wish to mention the two hard and fast rules of snow that I never fail to bore people with whenever I get the chance. Again, these rules are mathematically provable, scientifically accurate and demonstrably true. Inotherwords no one can deny them.

Rule 1: There is nowhere a more beautiful place on the entire planet than New York City right after a snowfall.

Rule 2: There is nowhere a more ugly place on the entire planet than New York City 24 hours after a snowfall.

When they say Blizzard of '06, I want people to say the word 'ought' as in 'Back in ought-six when I was a kid they had snow drifts as high as the moon and I had to walk to work on pavement strewed with broken glass.' Blizzards should only ever be spoken of by people who are in their nineties. Otherwise the language has no impact.

Meanwhile it is 50 degrees outside and while the memories of the Blizzard of ought-six are fading as rapidly as the snow outside, the 2006 blizzard of work at my company continues unabated. I'll be in Tucson this weekend helping my parents move, so there will be sporadic posting for a while.

In the meantime one can peruse another blog I cam across. It is the winter olympics after all (in keeping with the snow theme). While I couldn't care less about the games, DFL is blogging on the last place finishers in the Olympic Games:

"More than anything else, I think, this blog is opposed to the idea that anything short of a gold medal is a failure on the athlete's part..."

It's worth a gander, and fun to keep up with people who will be forgotten quicker than a blink in our winner-take-all culture.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

Crazy day filled with crazy stupid people doiing crazy stupid things. So today's cat blogging is from the vaults, and of a cat I wish I still had around for days like this: Menelaus 'The Blob', King of snippy.