01 September 2005

Phoning it in...

I did my first shift on the phone bank at my local Red Cross today. It was quite an experience.

First of all, the number of people calling in who want to help is really overwhelming-- in a good way. As I mentioned below, the Red Cross here is offering a fast track disaster assistance training program, and all the classes (5 sets of classes, 100-odd people each) are already full. We're taking down peoples' names for the next round of classes, and we probably have at least another 500 names on THAT waiting list. And the calls are still coming in. And bear in mind that these are all people who are willing and able to commit 3 weeks (minimum) of their lives to living in the same conditions as the people we all see on television right now-- no running water or electricity, not much food (MRE's, at best), sleeping on a cot (or the floor) at shelters, etc., etc. It's pretty cool that there are, literally, thousands of people who are willing to help-- and that's just in a couple of days in one medium-sized city.

And there are the people who can't give their time, but are incredibly generous with their money. Two separate donations today of $1000, many many more measured in the hundreds of dollars.

And then there are the people who call to rant. I had two of those today.

The first one was appalled that people who were being evacuated from the New Orleans Superdome were being sent to the Houston Astrodome. "That's ridiculous, " she practically shouted at me. "You need to move people into real shelters and homes. You can't keep putting them in these horrible places."

The second woman was in tears, outraged at something she's seen on TV (or maybe in the newspaper): a little boy wasn't allowed to take his dog on the evacuation bus. "How dare you not allow people to bring their animals with them? How dare you?"

I understand their frustration, these two women. I really do. They're seeing things on television that are unspeakably awful, outrageous, simply wrong-- unacceptable in every sense. And they don't know who to complain to, have no idea.

So they call the Red Cross. Sure, why wouldn't you call the Red Cross? They're practically synonymous with "disaster relief," not just in this country, but all over the world. So they call the Red Cross to complain. And complain they do. To me, a volunteer who walked in off the street yesterday to help answer phones. I am about as far removed from the chain of decision-making as possible-- just as far as removed as these people who have called in to complain.

I tried (and, I think, succeeded) in explaining this to them. I symapthized with them-- because I agree with them-- if not exactly, then at least in spirit: this situation, what we are seeing on television and reading about in the newspapers and on line, it's unspeakably awful, outrageous, simply wrong-- unacceptable in every sense. Someone should DO something.

Which is why I'm sitting there taking their calls.

31 August 2005

Katrina and Disaster Porn

I've spent the last 3 or 4 days gorging on distaster porn on CNN / MSNBC / Weather Channel / the internet, and today I reached a breaking point. I turned to myself and said "Self, what the fuck are you doing? You've been watching this shit for 72 straight hours. You're unemployed, and not doing shit. Get off your fucking ass and fucking DO something."

So this afternoon I went down to my local Red Cross chapter, and asked them what I could do. Well, it turns out that they have a fast-track disaster training program. So I signed up for it. I'll be helping them out in the office and on the phone banks for the next two weeks, after which I get two days of fast-track training. After which they will send me ("deploy" me, they call it) to the Gulf Coast for 21 days.

I don't know where, in particular, I'll be sent. I don't know what I'll be doing. But I do know that I'll be doing SOMETHING.

As my brother put it when I told him, "Hey, you're doing penance for having worked on Wife Swap for so long."


I know nobody is actually reading this anymore, since it's not like I ever update it, but I'm going to try to be better about that now. I'm going to try to be better about a lot of things now.

17 June 2005

Let it rest you fucking freaks.

Oh, for fuck's sake. Will these fucking asshole fundies and conservatives just fucking let the god damned Terry Schiavo thing rest already?

I mean, she's dead, the autopsy confirmed she had irreversible brain damage and was blind (and thus COULDN'T have shown the reactions Sen. Kitten-Killer and the fundies' pet quack doctor tried to claim), so now they're trying to start this whole fucking thing up all over again, apparently once again attempting to drag her husband through the mud.

Well, fuck you very much, Governor Bush, for continuing to try to score political points off someone's VERY personal tragedy. I don't think your God would be proud of you for this, and it saddens me that so many of your deluded co-religionists are.

07 June 2005

Jack Off.

Jack FM is starting to piss me off.

06 June 2005


This is freaking me out.


Ohmigod, is this for real?

Is homeland security propaganda now officially produced by Stalinists?

09 May 2005

Mote Pelado

I just bought some of this. Well, not this brand, but the same stuff. I think it's the same as posole, but I'm not sure. I'm going to try to make posole out of it anyway. Hopefully that'll work. Either way, it's the biggest damn kernels of corn I've ever seen. Almost half an inch across.

I have no point here.


07 May 2005

How to Drink to the Wolf

"If you happen to be unencumbered by childhood's scruples and maturity's sage ponderings, you will have gone to a great many cocktail parties in your time and will have decided, along with almost every other human being left alive, that they are anathema. They are expensive. They are dull. They are good for a time, like a dry Martini, and like that all-demanding drink they can lift you high and then drop you hideously into a slough of boredom, morbidity, and indigestion."
-- M.F.K. Fisher, "How to Cook a Wolf," 1942

I love M.F.K. Fisher. Best. Food writer. Ever.

And I love this quote because it reminds me of a revelation that I had some time in my late 20's. Yes, it took until I was almost 30 before I realized that I wasn't actually missing something crucial by staying home on a Friday or Saturday night.

Now, as I enter my mid-30's, this is still something of which I am occasionally forced to remind myself-- that a quiet drink at home with a very small number of friends and loved ones (or even just with my cat) is infinitely more enjoyable than some crowded, overly-raucous party full of forced joviality and false comradeship.

That's not to say that I hate parties in and of themselves, it's more that I have become substantialy more choosy when deciding which I will attend. And, more often than not, the answer is "not that one."

There's a certain irony, I suppose, in the fact that it is indeed Saturday night, and I am indeed staying-- well, not "home," precisely, since I'm trapped in suburban corporate-housing purgatory for another few months while I finish a freelance job.

But still.

I have, in fact, this very evening turned down an invitation to go out drinking with my new coworkers. If you'd met my new coworkers, you'd understand. Alright, that's not entirely fair, as several of them are as pleasant as one could hope for, but it seems there is a substantially larger number of them who are not quite...how to say it politely...the kind of people with whom I generally choose to spend my time.

Let's leave it at that, shall we?

But the important thing is that, unlike a decade ago, I no longer feel as though I might be passing up (or be passed up by) an incredible opportunity to-- to what, exactly?

And that is my point.

People Do This?

I am SO confused. I'm not even sure what, precisely, is being banned in this article, but it appears that California has banned "hunting over the internet."

You might well ask, "WTF is 'hunting over the internet' ?" I know I did.

On this, the article is somewhat less than crystal clear, but it appears to consist of websites-- or, rather a website, that allow(s) hunters to "fire at real game with the click of a mouse."


I don't get it. Seriously. Someone please explain this to me. People actually do this? Or, at least, are interested in doing this?

Perhaps I should be less than surprised, however, by the fact that the web site in question comes out of Texas, a state which seems to produce an awful lot of people with a penchant for remote control killing.

06 May 2005

The NYT is Stalking Me

Seriously. The Times' travel section is totally stalking me. First, as noted here, they do an article on California's "Lost Coast," and now, in their 36 Hours in Memphis (registration req.), their very first suggestion is a stop at Payne's Barbeque.

I once drove 500 miles to eat lunch a pork sandwich at Payne's. Well, actually, two pork sandwiches. One chopped hot, one chopped mild.

The hot one was better, but both still rank in the top 5 of things I have ever put in my mouth. Was it worth the 500-mile drive? Well, I was on my way across the country, so I would have been making the drive anyway, but I forced myself to wait and eat lunch at about 3 PM (after not having any breakfast when I woke up in Bristol, TN that morning) and every hunger pang was absolutely, 100%, worth the final payoff.

The place was totally empty except for me and the older couple who run the joint. I stepped up to the counter, ordered my sandwiches and a coke, and ate them in about 60 seconds flat.

I was sorely tempted to get a couple more to go (they were cheap cheap cheap-- 2 or 3 bucks each, at most), but there was no way I'd have been able to eat them in the car without covering myself in delicious, delicious pork.

Damn, just thinking about it makes me hungry for good BBQ, but since I'm trapped in suburban Pennsylvania for the next 9 weeks, I think I'm pretty much out of luck on the 'cue front.


Perhaps if I actually had any readers I could get some suggestions, but since I don't, I'll just have to make my own damn food.

05 May 2005

More sports?

I mean, I like sports and all, but I never expected I'd be making two sports posts in a row.

Anyway, the "Message Board for Tacklers Who Are In the Process of Missing Dante Hall" is not only a dead-on message board parody, but also truly hilarious from a football perspective.

Found this one via a MetaFilter comment.

He's back...

I've mentioned Phoenix Suns' player Paul Shirley's blog before. Now, the good folks at MetaFilter inform me, he's back, blogging the playoffs.

And I'm just as puzzled as ever as to how a guy who writes things like:

"Fortunately for my own self-respect, I am missing whatever gene is required to do things like paint my head orange for a basketball game. I think the same set of DNA is responsible for those people who at Pearl Jam concerts scream out totally inappropriate [feces] like, “Eddie, you kick [gluteus maximus]!” (In other news, I hate exclamation points, and only used the preceding one because it was absolutely necessary. Therefore, I have used up my quota of one per month. I would like to see others adopt my rule concerning this form of punctuation.) "

...ends up in the NBA.

But, y'know, more power to him.

02 May 2005

Time Travel Convention

MIT is hosting a time travel convention:

May 7, 2005, 10:00pm EDT (08 May 2005 02:00:00 UTC)

East Campus Courtyard, MIT

42:21:36.025°N, 71:05:16.332°W

(42.360007,-071.087870 in decimal degrees)

The hope (apparently) is that future time travellers will find out about it and attend. God I love people who are even geekier than I am.

01 May 2005

What Once Was Lost

Normally I'd be upset that the New York Times has an article (registration req.) about one of my favorite, relatively unknown places in the country, but California's "Lost Coast" is such a pain in the ass to get to that I'm not worried that it'll ever be "spoiled."

I was there, basically by accident, this past winter. I took a side road off 101 just to see what was there. What I found was probably the most amazing stretch of coast line I've ever seen.

Even the road to get there is spectacular. Imagine the most insanely tortuous, steep road you've ever travelled. Now multiply that by, like, twelve, and you've got Mattole Road, which winds its way up and down the sheer cliffs of the King Range (I think...) from Ferndale out to the coast. We're talking 180-degree hairpin turns while ascending at a "My-car-is-going-to-tip-over" angle-- all of which turns are banked the wong way.

Eventually, after passing through a collection of farm buildings optimistically called "Capetown," I found myself at the ocean's edge. It wasn't until later, when I did a little research to figure out where the hell I actually was, that I discovered that I was almost certainly the furthest west human being (does that make sense?) in the contiguous US.

On the way back out (Mattole Road does a big loop) after once again ascending and descending the mountains guarding the coast, I saw the road ahead of me suddenly appeared to disappear into darkness.

"Huh. How strange," I said to myself. "What the heck is that up there? A tunnel?"

And then, just like that, I was on Endor.

It turns out that the road runs right into the back side of the Humboldt Redwood forest. 300-foot tall, 3000-year-old trees are always pretty damn impressive, but when you're not expecting them, and you're the only one around, it's positively breathtaking.

But, as I said, it's such a pain in the ass to even get to the Lost Coast, that I'm not worried about the damn Times giving away the best kept secret of the California coast.

25 April 2005

Anthony LaPaglia is from where?

I dunno, maybe this is common knowledge, but I had no idea that Anthony LaPaglia was from freakin' Australia.

I just always assumed he was from Brooklyn, as all his characters seem to be.

Huh. Learn something new every day, I guess.

23 April 2005

Best. Personals. Ever.

22 April 2005

This Confuses Me.

I do not understand how someone like Paul Shirley ends up in the NBA. I mean, I get that it's because he's extremely good at basketball, but I'm confused as to how someone with his writing ability, sardonic personality, etc. etc. actually ends up being that good at basketball.

It can't just be because he's tall, can it?

Anyway, I strongly advise reading his "online journal," for a perspective on the NBA that you're unlikely to have ever seen before.

Additionally, he has begun to answer readers' questions on Bill Simmons's espn.com web page.

This is great stuff, even (or, perhaps, especially) if you don't like the NBA, and I recommend it strongly for anyone who'd like a laugh.

21 April 2005

Just Another Danish Girl

Ophelia's Blog. Very clever.

As if there weren't enough reasons....

... to boycott Microsoft.

Best Slideshow Ever?

I think the terrorists may have already won.

Product Rotation

I've been commissioned to use my mad poetry skillz (see this post) to promote the idea of businesses featuring large, rotating representations of their product(s) on top of their buildings.

I expect to reap many, many mint juleps in payment for the following work of genius:

"Turning and Turning in the Promotioning Gyre"

A loaf of bread like a tweaked-out dervish,
Spinning like a Sufi on speed;
A giant milk carton like a lighthouse beacon,
Telling me what beverage I need.

A Cadillac car up above the lot,
Drawing all the suckers in;
A Seven-Up bottle like a great green idol,
With children worshipping "him."

Never neglect to rotate your products,
Up high in the evening sky;
Put them on the roof of your concrete warehouse,
And everyone will buy.

20 April 2005

Anti-Christian bigotry my ass.

Best line in this article (registration required) about anti-semitism and religious discrimination at the US Airforce Academy:

Tom Minnery, an official at Focus on the Family, disputed claims that evangelical Christians are pushing an agenda at the academy, and complained that ''there is an anti-Christian bigotry developing'' at the school.

Err... right. Almost 4000 of the 4300 cadets at the USAFA self-describe as Christian, and there's "anti-Christian bigotry" there?

That is SO fucking typical of groups like Focus on the Family: to complain that they're part of an oppressed minority, as if we've had this absolutrely endless stream of non-Christian presidents, senators and congresspeople in charge of the country for decades...

Right. Cry me a river, guys.

Little content, little people.

There will, eventually, be some actual content here.

For now, I give you a poem about little people:

Midgets are cool.
Midgets are neat.
Midgets are teeny,
From heads to their feet.

19 April 2005

Some Stuff.

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