Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Baby girl

It is my great pleasure to present to you the newest member of the Mr. and Mrs. Thel family.

Chloe, say hello to the internet:

She's been with us for two days now, and we're already in love. It doesn't hurt that she's perfect! Um, seriously--I have heard her bark exactly one time in two days (while we were playing tag in the yard this morning) despite all the other neighborhood dogs' frequent barking. She's housetrained, obedience trained, spayed, healthy, and happy. Her previous owners were loth to part with her, but their situation had changed and they didn't feel like they could provide everything she needs anymore. They obviously took great care of her and loved her very much, and we will carry on in the same vein.

Yep, we're going to become one of those insufferable couples whose dog is their "baby." And we're going to have a blast doing it, I'm here to tell you.

Welcome to our family, Chloe!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I was trying to find the classic Eschaton post wherein Atrios coins the "Preznit giv me turkee" phrase to link to for my previous post. My Google search took me to the 2003 Koufax awards for best lefty blog, where Atrios' post won for most humorous post. And there, to my surprise and amusement, I found my own comment quoted in the award text:

Commenter Mike remarked that Atrios’ post “was better than a New Yorker cartoon.” That is high praise indeed, in my estimation. Silencia noted that the post “quickly entered the lexicon of my household, and still elicits giggles every time it is spoken, always in a plaintive, childish voice.” Yes, our media often speaks in a plaintive, childish voice and Atrios’ post captured that voice perfectly. Congratulations, Atrios.
Silencia! That was the name I used for awhile, and I remember making that comment. Mr. Thel still occasionally pulls out his munchkin voice to mumble, "Preznit giv me turkee?" or "I kep my mouf shut." How crazy to find that quote, almost two years after I emailed and forgot it.

Preznit Giv Us Turkee

Internet, I am, at this very moment, baking a pumpkin pie. This pumpkin pie is no ordinary pie. Multiply this pie by the square of its radius and all you will have is a full belly area the size of Rhode Island. I was going to say Texas, but it isn't that big.

It's the first pumpkin pie I've ever baked, in fact. I even made the crust from scratch. I'd express my pride, but since the baking of the pie is still in progress, and the true test of its mystical properties will not come until sometime tomorrow evening, I will refrain. Anyway, I cheated on the crust by not going so far as to make the kind that requires the carefull rolling.

Mr. Thel and I are staying in Seattle for Thanksgiving this year. We spent Veteran's Day weekend with family in exchange for staying home and relaxing this weekend. Veteran's Day just happened to fall on the first Friday after we bought a new car! Well, not a brand new car, but a year-old car with barely 14,000 miles on it is new enough for me. Since its mileage was so nice and low, we quickly drove it to Oregon to click up another thousand miles on it. That way the car knows right from the start exactly the kind of hard work it's in for during our term of ownership. Although, as long as I'm anthropomorphizing the car, it probably took one terrified look at the old yet-to-be-sold car in our driveway and had a good idea how much we travel by car.

But not this weekend, thank all the gods. I have no love for Thanksgiving travel, and I'm delighted to just have a four-day weekend without the large travel brackets surrounding it. I get the impression that people doubt the sincerity of my pleasure to have a nice quiet Thanksgiving weekend, just me and Mr. Thel; a couple of friends from work sort of made sad faces when I burbled about how the two of us are just going to have some traditional Thanksgiving food and spend the weekend being lazy, and invited us to come spend tomorrow with at their respective family events. Um, thanks? --but no.

Thanksgiving isn't a holiday I have any great love for, anyway. At least since leaving home nine years ago, [--oh my god, I've been on my own for nine years already? Like, a third of my life? Holy shamoly....] bad things have tended to happen to me around this holiday. In 1996 I was in a minor car accident while carpooling down the freeway. In 1997 I was diagnosed with cancer the day before Thanksgiving; it's hard to top that when trying to find a real holiday buzzkill. Two Thanksgivings in a row found me going through relationship breakups. After that I started dreading the whole damn month of November. Although nothing awful has happened for the last couple of years, I still find myself wanting to hibernate through the month.

This year, though, I'm optimistic. Perhaps the curse of November has been broken. I have a pie in the oven, and tomorrow for the first time I'll be preparing a Thanksgiving dinner of my own. (Mr. Thel is in charge of the turkey, however. My kitchen skills skew more toward the baking side of things, not so much the meat side.) Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole (OF COURSE), and le pie, which is now cooling and to which I am going to give a tentative, pre-tasting thumbs up. It isn't burned, or runny, so it looks promising.

May tomorrow bring you a stomach full of good food (and unburnt pies), a house full of exactly as much activity with family and friends as you desire, and a heart full of joy.

Friday, November 04, 2005

What do you mean, high-strung?

Or, It's So Funny Because It's True

[Mr. Thel walks into a room containing several of his co-workers.]

Co-worker #1: Hey man, your ears must be burning.
Mr. Thel: Oh yeah? What's going on?
Co-worker #2: We were just talking about you.
Mr. Thel: What about?
Co-worker #1 [with mock-solemnity]: We have arrived at a conclusion.
Mr. Thel: And?
Co-worker #3: Well, we have decided...You need to start smoking pot.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Autumnally Yours

I never can quite decide whether I love October or hate it. We're still having these crisp sunny days, but they sprout from chilly mornings that make getting out of bed so very unappealing. I feel like I'm steeling myself, "girding my loins" for the long grey months ahead, the interminable string of soggy mornings waiting for the bus and the equally dreary afternoons of blowing my nose and clutching a cup of tea in my office to warm my clammy fingers.

On the other hand, October does mean hot cups of tea in my office, and busting out the fun hats and scarves, and snuggling in under the down comforter. So it's a mixed bag.

It makes me pensive. I've been thinking about reconciliation a lot lately. As you know Bob, I've spent a few years trying to distance myself from the religion in which I was raised. Like a lot of people, when I found that I couldn't and didn't believe in it anymore I felt all grouchy and bitter about the whole thing. I thought I could just wash my hands of it all, but it wouldn't all come off. Damn sticky stuff, the religion you're raised with.

In the process of re-evaluating my religious beliefs, I was also revising my political opinions--because nothing's as fun as simultaneously breaking down all of your lifelong assumptions about God and government! Wow, I wonder why those first few years after graduation were so unhappy and tumultuous... Anyway, as I became more aware of issues of social justice I heard a mention of an intriguing church. The description I heard was intriguing enough to make me Google it, and the snippets I found about Keystone United Church of Christ added just enough to my curiosity to make me visit.

After much procrastinating, finally one Sunday almost two years ago we walked through Keystone's doors. Four or five people sat chatting in a cozy lobby area between the entrance and the sanctuary, and they immediately welcomed us in and got us each a cup of coffee. I was surprised by the small size of the congregation after all I'd heard and read about the good work of this group, but it was a pleasant surprise.

I was in for a pleasant shock as soon as the service started, too. The song leader, a woman near my age who simply stood and led us in song with a gorgeous voice and flute playing, opened the music time by noting that one of the hymns we would be singing contained gender-exclusive language. "Instead of singing, 'God will bring his people peace,' we're going to change it to be more inclusive and sing, 'God will bring God's people peace,'" she said.

I can see the way some of my old Christian friends would roll their eyes at that, but I was delighted. That was exactly the kind of thinking that had helped ostracize me from the faith of my childhood: once I stopped thinking of God as a cosmic-sized man, and started pondering the feminine aspects of God, it didn't seem like I could possibly be referring to the same God I'd grown up with. The Christian friends who were alarmed by any mention of a feminine aspect of God only confirmed my sense that I wasn't "thinking like a Christian" anymore. So to hell with it, I thought. I felt pretty sure there was Something here, Something you might call God, Something that grounds and contains and surrounds and sustains the entire span of existence; but apparently if I didn't think that Something was limited to one set of people's impressions of it (or him or her), I couldn't be a Christian.

That was perfectly fine with me, though it did make me inordinately resentful of Christianity--right up until the moment Melissa stood up and asked us to sing a hymn to God and deliberately refrain from gendering God therein. And from then on, every Sunday I heard Rich Gamble speak I thought, "Well, I can call myself a Christian if that's what it's all about." When they started organizing last year's Festival of Hope, two days of a craft market / rummage sale that tries to raise $10,000 every fall, every single penny of which is donated to organizations that are fighting poverty around the world, I thought, "Sure, I can call myself a Christian if that's what it's concerned with."

But obviously I've still been thoroughly ambivalent about the whole thing. I have so much baggage with that word, that book, that set of beliefs. Blah.

So when I heard they were starting a six-week group to study one of Marcus Borg's books, The Heart of Christianity, I signed up. I am intensely interested to hear what this group of people has to say about what the heart of Christianity is for them. If it doesn't rely on literalism and fear, what does it rely on? If it doesn't make claims about its own exclusive hold on the truth, what claims does it make?

Wow, this post is incoherent. We met together for the first time last night, and I will have more to say about it. Of course Marcus Borg says it all better and more succinctly in his book, but you know...I'll still hash it all out on my own.

And that's what October is doing to me this year.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Serenity (no spoilers)

Ahhh, Serenity...

I didn't get lucky enough to go to one of the advance screenings they had during the summer (did they even have more than one in the Seattle area?), but I *did* get lucky enough to see it on opening night in the theater! I half-expected it to be sold out, but I went online on Thursday and got tickets to last night's 7:00 showing. We got to the theater just after 6:00 and there were already about twenty people clumped up in the lobby waiting for the doors to open. They let us into the theater about 6:20 where we sat and enjoyed the enthusiasm of all our fellow moviegoers, whose excitement was overflowing and contagious. (On my way out to the lobby to use the restroom, I passed a couple of guys just heading into the theater; one of them turned to his friend, his eyes aglow, and couldn't restrain his quiet "Eeeeeeee!" of delight.

I really enjoyed the movie. And it was so much fun to watch it in that theater, with a bunch of people who already loved the characters from watching Firefly, and all laughed and gasped and applauded together intermittently.

Everybody go see it. I *really* want to see another movie in that 'verse, with that bunch of characters, so go make it a hit. If I can, I'm going to see it again this weekend or this week, to absorb all the details I'm sure I missed last night--the pace of the dialogue was just as rapid as anything else Joss Whedon's ever done, and I didn't have time to watch the background very closely.

I've been looking forward to seeing it all summer, so three cheers for a Serenity that didn't disappoint.

Monday, September 05, 2005


This is what we're all thinking, of course, what Tom Tomorrow says:

If you live in a major American city, you better pray there's never a terrorist attack of this magnitude. Because this is the best these fuckers can do with several day's notice before the disaster hits and 90% of the city having had time to evacuate beforehand. So unless the terrorists are kind enough to give advance notice, you are well and truly fucked.
The fourth anniversary of 9/11 is next Sunday. My vacation starts on the tenth. Why yes, we will be heading for the hills during that time.

Of course it's silly to fixate on one date over any other, so we're quietly restocking our first aid kits and making sure we have "jump kits" ready to go. What's a jump kit? That's the bag you keep right next to your door so in an emergency it's there, all you have to do is grab it on your way out. Since shortly after my encounter with the elderly woman who had broken her ankle last year, I've kept a small kit in the bag I carry with me on my bus commute. Another kit in the back of the car. Another kit at home. I know it may seem over the top, but you know what? I can't predict where I'm going to be when something goes wrong. Might as well be as well-prepared as possible, no matter where I am when something happens. Jim Macdonald knows what he's talking about; check out his list and assemble what you can. The best time to prepare is now.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


See, here, the nihilistic kid makes a point I incoherently stammered about yesterday:

Sniping actually takes a fair amount of skill; some schmuck in a white shirt on a street corner firing a whatever and missing everything is, at best, engaging in an ambush, not sniping. That Washington DC area "sniper" from a couple years ago was equally misnamed.
The main thrust of his post is to note that reports of "insurrection" in New Orleans may be greatly exaggerated. Do read it, my three readers: I command thee.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Battered Nation

There's a certain hollow feeling you get when you're trying to earn someone's approval, a faintly desperate determination to claw your way back into their good graces. It's like this: you can't figure out what you did to make Dad so furious, but you know if you just try hard enough you can ease his temper. You're so certain that if you're really really super good, if you can be on your very best behavior, you can through sheer effort make him happy with you.

So you creep quietly down the hallway and clean up your room. You share your Barbies with your little brother without whining. (If you're really desperate, maybe you even get out your crayons and write a cheerful little "I love you Daddy" card in a last-ditch effort to earn a smile.) You play nicely all evening, and help set the table for dinner, and then you start to wash down a too-hot bite of chili with a swallow of milk and Dad abruptly snarls at you, "Goddamn it, don't be such a pig! Finish chewing before you take a drink."

And that's the moment the bottom drops out of your belly in despair, that moment when you realize that you tried as hard as you could but you couldn't be good enough, and you believe with all your heart that it's your own fault. If only, you think. If only I could be a little bit better, he wouldn't hate me.

From there it's a quick trip to thinking, I hate myself. I am a bad kid. I will never be able to be good enough. And from there it quickly makes sense to say, "Fuck it." If you're bad you get punished; if you're good you get punished anyway. Why bother with the extra effort to be good?

That's the memory that swept through me when I saw this quote:

"The people are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians."
I don't know what to tell you, but that broke my heart right there. Oh, you poor huddled people. Senators and governors and the director of FEMA himself are ready to blame you, to say that if only you weren't so stupid none of this would have happened. So you line up and clean up and try to convince them you're good enough to be rescued, good enough to live--and when the messages keep coming, maybe you think, "Well, the hell with trying to impress them, then."

Oh, you wonderful people, this is not your fault. Powerful people are having their criminal level of negligence and exposed and questioned, and they want to blame someone else for their ineptitude. But if I have learned anything I have learned this: the name for a person with more power and influence than you, charged with protecting you, who rages and belittles you when you need their help, is abuser. There's no other word for it but abusive, whether they're a dad with a drinking problem or a politician with an accountability problem.

They've diverted the money that was supposed to protect us, and they viciously attack us when we ever-so-meekly dare to point that out. I just wish I knew where the battered nations' shelter could be found, or how to take out a restraining order against them.

What. The. Fuck.

It's been four days since Katrina blew through New Orleans, and there STILL haven't been any food and water drops to PRE-ARRANGED SHELTERS? What the ever-loving FUCK, people? Seriously, okay, obviously you can't just drive in and deliver a tray of sandwiches, but there are news helicopters flying around at the very least. Can we not manage to do some kind of fucking food drop from those helicopters, even if we can't manage to get the government to pull their heads out of their asses long enough to coordinate it? Oh, hey, I see on CNN that they did finally manage to drop a few MRE's today. Jesus.

You know the death toll estimates the governor of Louisiana has given, that deaths may reach into the thousands? Hundreds more are going to die that DIDN'T HAVE TO. Obviously the hurricane, the flooding, the people trapped in their houses--that's one thing. But leaving tens of thousands of people in squalor for a week or so will sure make that death toll skyrocket as the medically fragile perish, as diseases flare up, as violence spreads.

Meanwhile the asshole conservative fringe is already springing into gear to sneer about those darn refugees waiting for a handout from the government, questioning whether the government really ought to provide any aid at all to people who surely must only have stayed because they were stupid. You know, this dude has the final word on that bullshit:

Where do you live, that's so free from natural disasters you can pat yourself on the back for your excellent judgment? The Pacific Northwest? Volcanoes and rain! The Midwest? Tornadoes, blizzards, thunderstorms! The Gulf Coast? Hurricanes! The South/West? Droughts! Major cities? Blackouts! Bangladesh? Typhoons! Malaysia? Tsunami! Japan? Godzilla!

Look, if you get caught in a natural disaster, it's your own damn fault for one primary reason-- having been born somewhere on the surface of this fucking planet. Circumstance is chasing us all down, slowly but surely. There's an expiration date stamped on all of us. Empathy, sympathy, and respect all stem from recognition of this. And there's nothing cheaper, nothing less considerate, nothing more full of witless sound and fury, than sitting in comfort and safety and taunting the drowned, the displaced, the diseased, the lost, and the destitute for not being the Awesome Hurricane Warrior you would have been in their place.
Hey, you know what else, by the way? On behalf of Mr. Thel? The word "sniper" doesn't apply to just anyone firing a weapon. "Sniper" is a very specific term for a very particular situation, and any fool firing like an asshole on an aid helicopter doesn't qualify as a sniper. Jesus.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


We break our exhausted silence for this public service announcement:

When you see clean, coiffed national "news" anchors contorting their makeup-heavy faces into expressions of horror and disgust at all "those looters" in areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, pause a moment before you let them get your gut all churned up into self-righteous anger at those bad bad looters.

Pause and think about it for a split second.

From Boing Boing:

The poorest 20% (you can argue with the number -- 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn't leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn't be able to get out. The resources -- meaning, the political will -- weren't there to get them out.

White per capita income in Orleans parish, 2000 census: $31,971. Black per capita: $11,332. Median *household* income in B.W. Cooper (Calliope) Housing Projects, 2000: $13,263.
From Making Light:
First, I believe it was St. Thomas Aquinas who said that if a man’s family is going hungry, it’s no sin for him to steal a loaf of bread.

Second, anything salvageable the kid finds in a grocery store is something that won’t have to be cleaned up later. Besides, where’s the store where he can make legitimate purchases?

Third, yes, I absolutely agree that looting has to be suppressed. Some people will loot any time they think they can get away with it. Others will loot if they see those first people getting away with it. It’s a behavior that’s guaranteed to snowball (which is why I still say we were at fault for allowing the large-scale looting of Iraq to get started and perpetuate itself, right after the first wave of the invasion). Civil order is important.

Fourth, I have yet to hear one mention, one murmur of a hurricane evacuation plan, that didn’t consist of “everybody gets in their cars and drives somewhere else.” This, in a city which was guaranteed to sooner or later need evacuating, and which had something on the order of 100,000 citizens who didn’t drive cars.

New Orleans kept its light rail system during that period when other cities were going over to an all-highway system. It has streetcars. It’s a walkable city. That’s a mercy to the poor: you can live a poor but decent life, get to your job, do your shopping, without having to support a car. Until, of course, the day comes when any prudent person would get out of town.

I heard the city officials, before the storm hit, explaining that the Superdome would be a shelter for people with medical problems, people with special needs, who weren’t prepared to evacuate the city. Malarkey. It was, as they knew all along, the first last and only refuge for tens of thousands of New Orleans citizens who had no way to leave the city.

Not all of them are in the Superdome, or the other refugee centers; but no matter where they are, the majority of New Orleans’ beleaguered and flooded-out residents who’ve remained are the city’s poor.

That’s not looting. That’s plain old survival.
Really, read all the comments at Making Light, too. I know I keep sending you over there to read what other people have to say, but hey--when smart people have already made the points I was fumbling at inside my brain, why not save some time listening to me stammer and just see what they've said already?

**EDITED TO ADD: Somebody else who gets it.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I had a nice conversation the other night with a college friend I haven't stayed in touch with very well. (Oh, wait, that describes all my college friends.)

She told me a story about one of her high school buddies getting in touch with her through something called, and said quite a few of our college acquaintances have accounts at myspace. She convinced me to sign up; I doubt I'll use it much, but maybe I'll be able to reconnect with some long-lost friend that way. I like to try to leave the universe as many openings as possible through which it can work its magic.

Soon after signing up, I received a confirmation email from myspace. It was one of those automatic emails acknowledging my new account. The email listed my account name and password, followed by this line:

"Keep it secret. Keep it safe."

It made me a happy little geek.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Murderer's Accordion

Hey, check it out--Murderer's Accordion made the PI's list of recommended self-released albums! "So Little Left to See" was released this spring right before the band dissolved due to Steven and Donna's move to NYC. Like the article says, though, Steven has promised to return for shows, and I'm told the Tractor Tavern said they could play there anytime he's in town.

You can also buy a song or two off of "So Little Left to See" at the iTunes Music Store. Give it a trial run here first, if you like.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Just Imagine How Much More Deodorant I'd Need

I've lived in Seattle for nine years next month. Periodically we talk about moving back down to Oregon at some unspecified future date; most of my family lives there, and it would be nice to be closer to them. Not that my parents are anywhere near feeble or elderly, but, you know, time flies. Housing prices are certainly far lower in rural Oregon than in our urban area, which is a big plus.

But here's the thing: right now in Seattle it's 84 degrees. I don't want to be any hotter than I feel at this moment. And in my parents' zip code in southern Oregon, says the current temperature is 94 degrees Fahrenheit. It's more than enough to give me pause. I know I'm a big fat pansy to have reached my heat limit at 84 degrees F, but that's just the way it is. Pass the iced tea, please.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


All I have for you tonight is more curmudgeonliness. But I can start off on a positive note, with praise for some hard-working janitorial service providers. And really, they don't get enough praise, do they? I mean, have you hugged your janitorial service provider today?

Last Sunday, see, we drove over to Lake Cle Elum to do some fishing. We had to use the facilities, and wandered up to the public restroom above the picnic area. I always approach such structures with great trepidation, but this time I was pleasantly astounded: the campground on the lakeshore had the cleanest public restrooms I've ever seen. Maybe it's just that fewer people are using the facilities since the lake's level has sunk so low? In any case, they were delightfully spotless and odor-free as well. Way to go, Cle Elum facilities cleaners!

Outside the restrooms a sign warned sternly against "mudding" in four-wheel-drive vehicles along the lake. "Don't believe the SUV commercials," it said; "mudding is illegal." I always gripe about those commercials that show jackasses carelessly motoring across meadows and beaches, fucking up the landscape with their stupid SUV's, so I was tickled to see cranky language against such rank idiocy right up on a sign in black and white.

We started moving boxes into the garage of the new place today. We also made the unpleasant discovery that a horde of ants dwells in the kitchen of the new place. I wish I'd seen them earlier so I could have asked our landlady to attend to the issue before we started moving in, but hopefully the ant poison we purchased and set up in strategic locations around the kitchen will take care of the little buggers. We bought some bug bombs as well, just in case we have to resort to more extreme measures, but I hope to find that our initial tactical strikes are efficient enough.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Family-Friendly Friday

It was family-friendly in the sense that I spoke to all four members of my immediate family tonight. There weren't even any family emergencies--I just managed to talk to all of them in a row. I spent about two hours on the phone, and by 9:00 my ear was sweatier than I prefer, but it was worth it. I already talk to my parents about once a week, and to my sister almost that often, but my brother and I don't usually talk to each other except when I go down for a visit. Even then, sometimes I don't get to see him; last Thanksgiving he never showed up at all.

Part of it is that he's just 21 and flaky, and part of it is that he more or less thinks of me as a dangerous heretic. Tonight my sister pointed out a plausible third element in his avoidance, which is that I'm one of the first people in his life to seriously challenge his lifelong assumptions. He and I had a couple of long, serious, argument-heavy discussions a couple of years ago (sparked by his discovery that Mr. Thel and I were, you know, living in sin) which led him to abruptly distance himself from me, and Sister speculated that his shock at finding the stark differences between our faith journeys led to a sort of ego-blow to him.

That makes sense to me, and was my own casual assumption about the distance he's maintained since then, though I hadn't put it so succinctly. The three of us all went to Christian schools and attended a thoroughly conservative, borderline fundamentalist congregation in our hometown. I left for college in 1996, and subsequently had my certainties rattled. My sister married and moved away in 2000, which precipitated her own first major exposure to subcultures and assumptions differing from her own. Brother hasn't yet left our hometown, and we surmise that his beliefs haven't had to face any serious challenges yet; my crazy-ass liberal faith may have really been his first inkling that Christianity isn't a homogenous dish.

I wish that had occurred to me, oh, about two years ago. I might have tried to be a little more diplomatic. On the other hand, Brother was all but accusing me of being the Devil's handmaiden, and I stubbornly kept trying to demonstrate that there are more things on heaven and earth than were dreamt of in his philosophies, and even vast chasms of variance among various Christian sects. But he was still in that state of believing that only his particular set of beliefs reflect the True Faith, and all who disagree are deceived. Naturally, my protestations were just more proof of my waywardness.

Anyway, I didn't take his snit all that seriously (though it did make me a little depressed once or twice when it got really obvious), and talking to him tonight made me shrug it aside even more. The sooner he accepts that people he loves may disagree with him, and accepts that he isn't therefore required to cut them out of his life until they repent and agree with him, the happier he'll be. We chatted for twenty minutes tonight, and it was good. He didn't even try to witness to me.

I hear horror stories of people whose family members truly do cut them off because of their religious differences, and I'm eager to avoid exacerbating that possibility between my brother and me. Keeping those lines of communication open, however casually, can only help that goal.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Movin' to the Music

So the living room and dining room are almost completely packed up, and I started in on the bedroom tonight. It's nice to have this much time to get it all done in, but I'm afraid it's making us lethargic about the whole process. Just like everything else, packing and moving will get done in a rush at the last minute, no doubt.

I'm sure nobody cares to hear the details of an apartment move, but that's really all I have for you today. Unless you care to hear more thrilling tales of the petty things that irritated me at work today, perhaps? I spent about half an hour trying to come up with a polite way to say, "Hey, friend, your sloppy disinterest in doing your job thoroughly is directly responsible for making my job harder."

Really, if you're entering data into a database and you've already got a name entered, is it really all that hard to enter the address while you're there? Because really, all that says to me is that you think you're far more important than me, and that you feel free slacking off because you know I'll be forced to do your work for you. And that's just plain mean.

I don't usually assume other people are mean by default, but half the afternoon wasted correcting someone else's mistakes is enough to make a person's mood a little curmudgeonly.

Speaking of curmudgeons, this morning I was merrily toodling along a side street (speed limit: 30mph) on my way to work when a car came roaring up behind me at an alarming rate of speed. I don't think it's an exaggeration to guess that the driver was barreling down that side street at about 60 miles an hour. Well, that just makes me contrary, so I very obnoxiously stayed just under the speed limit. The impatient driver hovered as close to my bumper as she could until we reached a stop light where I was going straight, and she whipped around me to turn left. As she shot by I looked over with a disapproving frown and was startled to see the unmistakable face of local TV personality Jean Enersen! I don't know what she was in such a big hurry for--isn't she on in the evenings? Anyway, this was at 8:00 a.m., so she would have already been hours late for any morning show she was trying to get to. Hey, Jean--slow down!

While I'm on the topic of slowing down, that's what my brain is doing right now. Hey, tomorrow's Friday and I'm off at noon, and maybe we can start moving into the new place. Heh heh...excellent.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

That Librarian Was Probably a Partner in Crime

Last night I dreamt I stood in a library with my wallet in my hand. A librarian asked me to help her move something, and I looked around for a place to put my wallet while I helped her. I couldn't fit it into my pocket, and I didn't have a purse, so I opened it and balanced it on its open edge on the floor, thinking, "Meh, it'll be fine. Nobody steals things in a library."

I went off to help the librarian without giving it a second thought. When I returned, my wallet was still balanced on edge where I'd left it, but my debit card and my credit card were missing. I was furious, and stormed off grumbling indignantly to cancel my cards before the thieving library visitors could put them to any nefarious use.

When I woke up I thought, Gee, could the meaning of that dream be any plainer? Let's I ever do stupid things and then get angry at the rest of the world when the predictably negative results of my own damn actions boomerang around to bedevil my life? Hmmmm....

"Social-service Lifers"

Shorter Nicole Brodeur:

OMIGOD, like, I can't BELIEVE you social service working people dared to get upset at the poorly-chosen wording of my recent article! When I expressed my fears that the King County Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness would be twisted and ruined once the "social-service lifers" get their hands on it, obviously the target of my withering scorn was the people who USE social services, not the ones who work in social services! Because those homeless people are the ones who will definitely ruin the plan. I mean, duh, if they would just get their act toGEther, the plan would be such a success!

I so totally did NOT mean to insult social workers and their ilk, and if you thought I did, well OMFG WTF are you stupid. I can use whatever words I want to use whatever I want, and if you misconstrue it, well shame on you. Especially you, Church Council of Greater Seattle, you stupid stupidheads. I love homeless people. You can tell because I once wrote about one of them for a whole year! And if you didn't take the time to re-read my entire archives (which you can easily access through a quick twenty-seven step registration process at to glean every word I have ever previously written about social services and homeless people, well I wash my hands of you, but not before I take up half my column sneering at your, like, total jumping of the gun, because it's so much easier to fill space that way. Love ya! -Nicole

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I picked up a cheap pack of boxes at Office Max this evening, the kind with lids and handles, and packed up all ten of them tonight.

Whew, ten boxes! That seems like a lot!

Er, at least, that's what I thought until I looked around and realized that I had only been packing up books. Ten boxes full of books. How on earth did they all fit into this apartment? And how many more boxes will we need in order to move everything else, when ten full boxes has hardly made a dent?

Oy. I'm going to be dreaming about cardboard containers and newspaper wrapping before this month is up.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Over at Bitch Ph.D. there's an ongoing discussion of the various ways in which misogyny manifests itself in everyday life.

This spring I posted about a couple of my own experiences, the kind that throw you off balance while you try to decide what just happened and what to do about it. It's often so subtle that you might not notice it, might not even think about it except to roll your eyes or laugh at it.

Notice it.

Today on our way back from a fishing expedition we stopped at a convenience store for something cold to drink. The guy behind the counter was talking to a friend of his at the counter. They were talking about taking a trip before August is over. "Yeah," said the guy behind the counter, "you know I won't be having any more fun after the wedding, so we'd better do it before then. One last good time."

There's an example of misogyny in every day life: the ingrained assumption that a woman is naturally just out to keep her man from having a good time.

Or the presumption that the primary function of any woman in public is to look pretty for you, so that you think it's acceptable to say, "Hey, smile!" to any female looking anything less than euphoric.

Or the idea that of course condoms are legal and unregulated, but we just can't let women get their hands on emergency contraception without really making it a challenge.

"Sarah in Chicago" left a comment in the discussion at Bitch Ph.D. that made it click in my brain:

Men's classification of women as moody, irrational, and emotional because of their PMS is misogyny because they are judging women on some male standard of not being hormonally effected. It's using a male default as the standard and then because (well, duh) women are different from that standard, we are found lacking.
That's it. That makes sense to me. Any time you find someone using men or men's behavior as the norm, and dismissing or belittling any behavior that doesn't match their ideal of how the mythical Exemplary Man would behave--that's misogyny.

Just something I've been thinking about. Other than that, it was another lovely day. We drove over to Cle Elum, did a little fishing, a little reading, a little basking in the sun (a little being careful to put sunscreen all over me, except for forgetting to put any on my face...).

I'd type a bit more, but this wireless keyboard seems to be dying on me. Plus, it's bedtime anyway. Sunday nights are my least favorite time of the week--all that weekend behind, all that workweek ahead... To bed, to sleep, perchance to dream!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Diablo Lake

As promised, K. and I left Seattle around 1:00 yesterday afternoon and were enjoying the sunshine at Lake Diablo by 4:00. We were only up in the mountains for a few hours; we walked a nature trail overlooking Gorge Dam and wandered around an overlook above Diablo Lake. Then we spent some time wading gingerly in the freezing water at Colonial Creek Campground before heading homeward.

The North Cascades Highway is such a gorgeous drive that I didn't spend much energy lamenting the brevity of the trip. I did, however, make note of several tantalizing trail heads along the highway with the strong expectation of returning for a backpacking trip someday soon.

More pictures from the trip are up at my flickr page.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Office Drone Escapees on the Loose!

My fellow office drone K. and I are taking off at noon for a brief day trip into the North Cascades. Yes, it's silly to have a day trip so far away and not even be able to leave first thing in the morning; this was all very last-minute. We might even just pop up a tent and stay overnight, although I doubt it. Just in case, though, I've been putting together all the things we'd need to make such an sojourn possible. I felt well-prepared as I surveyed my tidy bundle of supplies, but checked to see if I had managed to get all the Ten Essentials. Mr. Thel rattled them off: map, compass, firestarter & matches, water, food, extra clothes, flashlight, first aid, knife, and sunglasses & sunscreen. (Okay, we got stuck at nine and had to look up the final one, but it turned out to be something I already had packed anyway.)

"Hey, I already have all that together!" I said proudly.

"Well, I told you, you were trained by an expert," Mr. Thel replied.


K. and I plan to drive up to Diablo Lake. She moved here from Florida last summer, and she has a specific memory of seeing a picture of Diablo Lake in a magazine on her way here and promptly deciding she wanted to see it firsthand. She's excited to finally realize that ambition, and I'm excited because I've only been there once before. If we stick with Plan A, we'll just drive up, spend some time looking out over viewpoints and taking a few tiny nature trail walks, bask for a lazy while in the glorious summer sunshine we've been seeing so much of lately, and drive back to Seattle. (With any luck, we'll be the only ones driving toward town, as all the SeaFair crowds clog the roads heading back out of town.) But if we go with Plan B, we'll have the supplies to make it easy.

I'll post pictures to my Flickr page after we get back. Hasta!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Dear Sir

Deer Mister President,

I was delighted and releaved to here you this weak reiterate your statement that public schools should teach all kinds of answers to a question if some people's beleafs disagree with the mere facts that answer that question.

When I was inn school I was very traumatized by a situation like this. If only yew had been my teacher, think of how many harmful facts I could have avoided! It was our study of the whether that confused me so. My deer mother had tot me that thunder and lightening are caused by angels bowling in the sky. But in school they only tot us about air pressure and warm and cold fronts, without allowing for the alternate explanation to be given. It was quite distressing to me to have my religious beleafs squashed on like a tiny bug this way.

Luckily my mother new that this so-called "science," invoking invisible air currents that nobody can even see or prove, was just a plot of the secular atheists to shake my beleaf in the great eternal bowling game played by God and His angels. From then on I new the importance of allowing children to hear every possible answer to a question, weather the controversial topic be the whether, the evolution, or the spelling, so they can just decide which answer they like the best. This is the beleaf I have always clung two since then, and no one can deny my intellectual suckcesses.

Keep up the good work.


A fello defender of intellectual freedumb


To my recent anonymous commenter:

I don't know much about gnosticism, but I replied to your comment here. Thanks for saying hello.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


The apartment I mentioned yesterday? In less than 24 hours we looked at it, applied, and signed the lease. I am boggled at the simplicity of the process, for a change. Moving into my current place two years ago involved all kinds of back and forth. First I filled out all the paperwork and the landlady offered it to me. Then, the day I was supposed to sign the papers, she said it wasn't available after all, that the current residents had changed their minds about leaving. Then, after I frantically resumed the search for a place (having already given notice on my previous place, and having only about a week left in which to find a place), she called me back and re-offered it--but now the rent was higher than she'd stated earlier! Alas, at that down-to-the-wire date, I had no other good options left, so resentfully paid the higher rent anyway.

This time everything came together so beautifully I felt like it must all fall apart at any moment. Surely some monkey wrench would throw the whole thing off!

I have, however, signed the papers and paid a deposit and even received the keys. And the garage remote. (Oh, that's right y'all, this place has a garage, in which we can store camping gear and carpentry tools, and in which occasional carpentry work can be accomplished.) Something could still blow the whole deal, I suppose, but I think the signed papers make that less likely.

My one source of grief is that the apartment isn't located in Ballard. *Sob* After four years of walking down to Turtle Press whenever I needed a paper crafts fix, or breezing down to Epilogue Books for a lazy browsing session, or just walking down to the Locks or to Golden Gardens for a nice quiet stroll... I'll miss it. And oh, I'll miss the girls at Firehouse Coffee, and the cheerful stickers they would plaster to the lid of my coffee in the morning! It seems a bit silly to feel sad about a mere four-mile move, but there it is. At least we'll be pretty close to Carkeek Park; my saddest loss will be the ability to cruise over to Discovery Park in a quick half-hour walk, but I think Carkeek will be within similar walking distance from the new place.

I tend to get really emotional about changes like this; even when the changes are wholly positive, I get preemptive nostalgia for all my familiar routines and scenes. When last I moved, my roommate and I camped out on the living room floor of our emptied apartment on the last night of our lease. We stayed up most of the night talking and sniffling about the good times we'd had there. I'm not sure Mr. Thel will be up for any tearful reminiscing, but for the rest of our lives this apartment will be preserved in our memories as the first place we ever lived together. For more than two years we've cooked dinners, baked bread, battled ants and spiders, viewed three Tours de France, watched the fireworks over Lake Union and Elliott Bay (and had some rather less pleasant fireworks of our own...and survived), squeezed dozens more books into our full shelves (did you know that a KEXP membership gets you 20% off all purchases at Third Place Books--both new and used? Ho ho ho, is that ever going to be handy this year!), made music, love, and popcorn.

I'm not even going to try to tally up how many pizzas Pagliacci has delivered to us.

On the other hand, the new apartment's bedroom window lacks a Sloop Tavern below it. That single fact goes a long way toward evening out the ratio of regret to excitement. Add in the new garage and yard, and the scales are decidedly tipped. After all, we'll still be near all our friends (and, in fact, nearer to some). We'll become regular customers at some other coffee shop, and find new routines and secret pedestrian passageways. Now that we have a yard we can even have a proper hoedown/shindig/barbeque kind of thing. Friday nights will remain Firefly nights for the next two months, and you're all still invited, Internet.

So: onward! Upward! And other motivational words! Hey, somebody call Pagliacci. We're gonna need an Agog Primo, stat.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hello, Internet!

There are so many things I want to tell you. Like all the details about my adventure last month on the fastest vacation ever (Seattle to Sacramento and back, via train and truck, in less than 36 hours!), and my tentative steps toward getting back into the career field I belong in. I've written about half a post about why I am firmly pro-choice (after being raised among folks that revered people like Operation Rescue nutball Randall Terry as saints and angels), and why any talk about repealing Roe v. Wade is a direct threat to people's parenting choices above and beyond the question of abortion. I have stories about blandly quiet alcoholic vagrants down the street and the obnoxiously disruptive police force that came to roust them the other afternoon, and stories about the unintentionally hilarious bits of the SeaFair parade in downtown Seattle last weekend (with pictures!), and so many other things.

Alas, Internet, whenever we meet our time together is completely devoted to the things you have to say. You have so many things to say, Internet, that I can't bring myself to get a word in edgewise sometimes. So I'll just say this, for now: After two years and two months of living right above a tavern and a VFW hall (and of the two, the VFW hall has roused us cranky from our slumber at two a.m. far more times than the tavern's not that the little old VFW men are loud, but they rent out their space to such very loud people on the weekends), along an arterial street which frequently hosts ambulances and firetrucks in full siren, as well as the occasional late-night impromptu drag racer along its perfectly straight length below us...Ah, as I say, after two years of this, we are finally in a place (financially and mentally speaking) where we are able to pursue Better Options. Not, that is to say, home ownership--not yet!--but at least finding more reasonably priced digs along a less aggravating street. Maybe a place where my car won't be broken into on an annual basis.

We looked at an apartment sort of place today. It comprised a small living space (kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom) above a spacious garage and unfinished storage space. It's connected to the house on the lot only through the laundry room between them; the two spaces share no walls. The apartment is in back, along the alley; the neighborhood is completely residential, but within walking distance of, say, the shopping district in Greenwood. And the rent is $100 less per month. The landlady seemed really nice, and I suspect we were the first ones to turn in an application for the place (she was showing it to several of us at once, but the other man left as soon as he saw the inside, saying it was too small for him, and the other couple hadn't shown up by the time we departed), so I have my fingers crossed for it.

One big bonus: Mr. Thel could set up his drums in the storage space off the garage and leave them set up there, instead of stacking them in a corner of the living space the way we do now. He was instantly smitten by this possibility (and I can't blame him); when I started thinking out loud afterward about how we might be able to fit our furniture into the smallish living space, he said, "You do whatever you want with the furniture as long as I can have that garage space."

It's a deal. I hope.

Monday, August 01, 2005

One More Tiny Argument for Contraception!

Seduced by their sunny fragrance, I bought a little box of cherry tomatoes at the Ballard Market today. They were packaged in an open plastic container with a small mesh covering secured over the top with a rubber band. When I got home and removed this mesh cover, I absently slipped it over my hand, the rubber band holding it in place.

Hmm, I thought, this would probably be the perfect size for an infant hairnet.

Although I could think of no good reason for an infant to need a mesh hairnet, for a few seconds there I fervently wished I had a baby handy to model the plastic headwear; moreover, I'm pretty sure that were I in possession of an actual baby, I would have tried it. Just for a second, you know. Just to see what it looked like. I mean, it's not like I'd be hurting her. And the baby would never have to know as long as I never showed her the pictures, right?

Yeah, okay, we'll stick with the contraceptives.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Access Brain, Press "Play"

KEXP and the iTunes music store have conspired to introduce me to more good music this year than I can ever remember being exposed to previously, bless them. They have also compelled me to buy more music than I used to, damn their eyes. Yesterday morning, for example, I happened to hear a song that caught my fancy on my short drive to work. (Of course, that in itself never used to happen, since before I found KEXP I would likely spend my entire twenty-minute drive hearing only commercials, relieved only by perhaps Yet Another Repetition of whatever Dave Matthews song was newest.)

When I got home that evening the song had lingered sufficiently in my memory that I remembered to go to the KEXP website and look at their playlist for that hour to get more information about the song. Artist and song name in hand, I toodled over to the ITMS and bought it. 99 cents later, I have a new song. Granted, I'm sure the artist only got about a penny of that (if they even saw that much), but that's a penny more than they'd have got out of me last year. And I now have the eerie, sexy catchiness of TV on the Radio's Staring at the Sun to listen to.

Speaking of new means of delivering media to my eyes and ears: Firefly. Firefly, Firefly, Firefly. Please allow me to just gaze off into space and dream about this fictional universe. See, I never heard of this show while it was actually, briefly, on the air in 2003, since it only ran for about ten episodes. But a few months ago there was an outburst of excitement at Making Light about an upcoming movie called Serenity. Upon investigation I found out the movie had emerged from the ashes of the short-lived TV series Firefly, and put the whole series on our Netflix queue. Thanks to the magic of Netflix, the DVDs arrived two days later. We waited until Friday night to pop in the first episode, curious as to what all the fuss was about.

We ended up watching the entire season that weekend. Instantly hooked.

Spaceships, lost causes, terrifying invasive technology, bitter ex-soldiers, clever dialogue, wonderful character development--I love this show. I watched the trailer for the movie Serenity after watching the show, and how much do I LOVE Malcolm Reynolds when he says darkly over the intercom, "This is the captain; we have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight...turbulence, and, uh, explode."

Um, so anyway, the SciFi channel is airing Firefly on Friday nights for the rest of the summer, to lead up to the movie's release on September 30th. We had some friends over last Friday to watch the first half of the first episode, since SciFi couldn't manage to arrange their schedule well enough to fit the WHOLE first episode into one showing. It was fun! We had people over, and we didn't melt or accidentally insult them or anything! See, we can be social.

Here ends the lesson.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Perfect Saturday

I strolled up my recently-discovered "secret" pedestrian/bike trail through the blue heron habitat to Discovery Park on Saturday. I was feeling restless enough to walk to the park, hike the 2.8 mile loop trail around the park, and back home, a nice little five-mile trek. Not as good as going out and doing an actual hike, but better than playing on my computer all day.

This is a shot across the field of my favorite part of the park, the South Meadow. The "Bike the Bluff" route took the bicyclists on a paved trail through this area of the park while I was lazing in the meadow. A few rode past me, and I nearly shouted encouragingly at them, "Allez! Allez! Allez! Allezallezallezallezallez!" to help them pretend they were riding in the (ongoing!) Tour de France...but I didn't want to alarm them, and so refrained from bellowing at them as they passed.

The sun was high and bright by this time in Seattle, but wisps of clouds still clung to the trees on Bainbridge Island. "Ha, ha, Bainbridge Island," I thought smugly. (I mean, "How lovely," I thought contemplatively, and took a picture.)

Yeah, it was a good day.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


I took a mini-road-trip on Saturday to meet my new niece.

On the way back, twenty miles from home, I found my right lane turning into an exit-only lane, and put on my blinker to move left. The big van to my left graciously slowed to provide a gap for me, so I glanced over my shoulder to make sure I had enough room and began to move left, waving my thanks. As I eased into the lane, though, I happened to glance left again; to my horror, a car two lanes to my left had decided to dart into the same gap and apparently hadn't seen me. I instinctively swerved right to avoid a collision

and my view of the road abruptly yawed back and forth as my car lost traction and fishtailed across the right lane. I tried to steer through it, but after a few seconds of swerving I lost it and spun once, twice? which way am I going?, rubber burning, bracing myself for a collision, smacked into the guardrail (oh my neck that's gonna hurt), spun again, slowed now, bumped off the guardrail again and came to a rest facing the freeway with me on the side of oncoming traffic aw fuck I'm about to get pulverized dead on.

But my car was almost completely on the shoulder, just the nose of the car barely jutting into the right lane, easily avoided by traffic that continued to whiz past, uninterrupted. I jammed the key forward and the car started instantly, so I pulled it all the way onto the right side of the shoulder and turned it off again.

I sat there shaking for a few seconds, moving all my limbs, unable to quite believe that I'd apparently hit nobody else, nobody else had hit me, and I wasn't, I don't know, on fire or something. A white car had pulled off behind me, and I waited for a break in traffic and bolted from my car to meet the black woman driver who was now running toward me. "Girl, are you okay?" she asked. "Somebody hit you, it looked like!"

"No," I said; "I'm okay but I don't think I got hit." We inspected my car together, finding a gash in the front bumper where I'd hit the guardrail hardest and another in the back bumper. (She kept finding additional tiny damages, but I had to keep saying, "No, that was already there, it's just an old car...")

"I can't believe nobody hit you!" she exclaimed after we'd looked at the whole car. "God was really looking out for you!"

I didn't respond to the God thesis (although I seem to be just enough of an obstinate ass that even at that moment I thought, "Hm, so God didn't give a shit about everyone else who died today?"). I just nodded and asked dazedly, "Can I hug you right now?"

She laughed and hugged me. I thanked her again for stopping, and we got back in our cars and drove away. And that was it.

My neck hurts like fuck today, but, well. I'm lucky to be alive to have an aching neck.

I've always hated driving on the freeway, and had a deep dread of meeting a bloody death on the pavement. This is actually the second time I've been spun on the freeway without colliding with another driver, although I was a passenger the first time, nine years ago. I'm sure this latest accident will be a big help in improving my paranoia. What, the third time is going to be Death's charm? Fan-fucking-tastic.

Seriously, I have enormous gratitude to that lady for stopping. And to everybody else for the defensive driving skills that apparently allowed them all to avoid me while I was spinning across I-5--well, thanks.

Friday, July 08, 2005


OF COURSE I am following the Tour de France again this year. Thomas Voeckler as adorable as ever (and who's surprised?), and Lance Armstrong/Discovery Channel Team are, as Mr. Thel pointed out, somewhat comparable to the Yankees..."of course the team who can throw the most money at the sport are going to do well."

I find the names ringing in my head after watching the Tour coverage: Thor Hushovd! Robbie McEwen! Jose Luis Rubiera! Jose Azevedo! Jan Ulrich, Floyd Landis, Ivan Mayo, Ivan Basso! I don't know enough about cycling to know their histories, but hearing Phil Liggett's melodious voice calling out their names for an hour or two is enough to imprint them in my ears.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Boy, the decision to pretend that Saddam Hussein was the biggest threat to the world's security really just looks smarter and smarter, doesn't it?

This only deepens my fervent desire to return and spend some more time in London as soon as I can, flight phobia be damned.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thel vs. Thel

Here's a discussion I've been having inside my head lately: -Hey Thel, what's up with the church thing?

-The church thing?

-Well, you don't take any of it literally, right?

-Not for a few years, no.

-A few years?

-I guess so. Sometime after college.

-Okay, so...? If you don't believe it's necessary that a person must base their morality either on the patched-together religious texts of an old Middle Eastern tribal community, or on the confusing and contradictory hearsay record of what an itinerant Israeli might have had to say a couple millenia ago, then why do you still head over there every Sunday to hear all about it?

-Look, it's not like it's some fundie place. Nobody is interested in shoving anything down anyone's throat. They're all about the peace, love, social justice, taking care of each other, that kind of thing--they couldn't care less whether eveyone's matching up their innies and their outies correctly, or any of the other inane shit that seems to pass for Christianity half of the time.

-But you already know all that. You don't need them to validate what you know about living well and doing right. You wouldn't change your mind or your convictions about right and wrong even if they said God told you to, right?


-So why go?

I haven't come up with a good answer even for myself yet (so naturally I'll drag the issue out into the blog). It's something blurry like, "I like the people there; I've made friends there; they give me hope that people of faith are not necessarily small-minded and afraid, that many of them are expansive and generous to a fault. Plus, they're a more-or-less organized and optimistic group of liberals--how rare is that?!"

(It doesn't hurt that the pastor lets us borrow his canoe.)

Last week I stumbled a little closer to the answer when I got back from a trip to Value Village. We'd taken over a carload full of stuff to donate--old vases and candle holders, knick knacks and random clutter that's been shuffled from place to place with me for years. I got tired of griping about all the useless crap we have lying around and made good on my lazy vow to throw it all out someday.

One bag that we left at Value Village was full of old stuffed animals. I rescued most of them from my parents' house last year when they sold it. For eight years an assortment of lumpy teddy bears and threadbare dolls sat quietly in the tiny closet of the upstairs bedroom my sister and I had shared, the same bedroom my mom had lived in when she was in high school. (She had painted the walls a brilliant groovy aquamarine color sometime between 1968 and 1972, and they stayed that color until my sister and I moved in in 1994 and painted them an extraordinarily creative and daring shade of white.) I went through the closet last summer and took a few of the stuffed animals that held the most sentimental value and evoked the most vivid memories, leaving the rest for my parents' Goodwill donation.

I brought the scraggly things back up to Seattle with me, but they just sat on the dresser looking foolish for a year. Really, what use does a 26-year-old woman have for a collection of stuffed animals? With less than 700 square feet of living space...well, I had to admit that the floppy creatures were not paying their share of the rent.

I had to do it fast, once I'd acknowledged that getting rid of toys was not the same as throwing away memories, because if I let myself I will always get maudlin about change. I knew that if I had a chance to sit down and reminisce about how I carried Tizz the fuzzy dog with me everywhere I went for a year or so, or how my sister and I set up elaborate housing developments for our animals, sentiment would prevail over reason and I would end up dragging a motley set of raggedy-ass creatures with me for another few years until I once again got sick of the clutter and let them go.

So, out they went. Quick and painless. But sure enough, about a week later I found myself regretting it. I thought about that floppy-eared dog, Tizz, and how soft she was when I'd cry into her, and how much life I'd imagined into her, and I suddenly felt like I'd abandoned a real pet. I imagined her staring at me reproachfully, unable to believe that I could cruelly let her go without so much as a goodbye, and I got myself almost worked up enough to shed a tear for Tizz the poor abandoned puppy.

This is ridiculous, I thought. She was a childhood friend, in a way, but you outgrew her a long time ago; and then I thought, This feels familiar.

It took me a few seconds to place it, but I got it. It's the same feeling I get when I think about what my youth group leader used to gravely call, "Leaving the faith." When I think about openly acknowledging the fact that I don't see religion as a core part of my life anymore, I feel that same guilty pang. There was a picture of a doe-eyed Caucasian Jesus in the children's illustrated Bible I had when I was little, and I always start to feel like I'm abandoning him--the invisible friend who promised he would always like me, regardless of my current rational beliefs about his existence or lack thereof.

It's exactly how I felt when I returned from dropping off my old friend Tizz at Value Village.

On the other hand, the stuffed animal was, finally, just a representation of a few good memories. She was an object that evoked a certain thoroughly rose-tinted picture of my childhood, but leaving her at the thrift store was a relatively painless act. Me and Jesus, though...I mean, he represents an entire worldview, one I lived in for most of a quarter of a century, and I went through a lot with him. I've spent a few nights talking things over with him, sniffling snot all over, and I've done my share of snarling and swearing at him, too. We're past all that: I feel like I've made a kind of peace about him, now, and I don't have a lot of strong feelings left one way or the other. But,'s still pretty tough to think about leaving Jesus at the Value Village, and that's how I feel when I think about identifying as an atheist.

I guess I'm just not up to it yet. I can't be sure I ever will. That's about as honest as I can be about it.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Independence Day

"The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?"
-Pablo Casals

"God upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but God frustrates the ways of the wicked."

-Psalm 146

Friday, July 01, 2005

Ivy Creeps Up a Rusting Fence

I Bit My Tongue So Hard It Creased

One of my friends at work just moved to Seattle from Florida a bit less than a year ago. We've become pretty good friends despite being on opposite sides of the political divide (see, it can be done!), mostly by avoiding political conversation as much as possible--although we have had one or two cautiously polite discussions about such things without ill effect.

Anyway, she's not much thrilled with the Seattle summer weather. She was complaining about it again today, grousing that it just doesn't hold a candle to a Florida summer. I gently pointed out that, after all, we are about as far from Florida as you can get within the continental U.S., but of course that was little consolation to someone missing their regular hot summer.

I sympathize with her, really; it must be difficult to adjust to such a completely different climate. But I still wanted to say, "Well, what's that line Republicans are always trotting out whenever anyone has a criticism of the U.S.? Oh, that's right: 'Love it or leave it.'"

I decided to make more sympathetic noises instead. I do try to be diplomatic.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Sly Pedestrian

Really, it's a remarkably short distance from our apartment in Ballard over to Discovery Park. There's no excuse for me not to walk over there more often. I've made the obvious trek a couple of times, crossing the canal at the Locks and walking up West Commodore Way to the north parking lot of Discovery Park. Usually from there I'd stroll up to the Daybreak Star Cultural Center overlook to gaze at Puget Sound.

Tonight, though, after I crossed the Locks and went through Commodore Park I noticed for the first time a little sign indicating a pedestrian / bike trail up a dead end road. Hiking up the road led me to a wooden bridge across the train tracks and along the "Kiwanis Ravine," a wildlife corridor intended especially to increase blue heron habitat. Did you know, great blue herons have built forty-four nests in the ravine this year? I've certainly seen a heron or two at the Locks, but I had no idea there was a protected habitat for them right in the neighborhood.

Charmed, I hung out on the bridge for awhile, hoping without luck to have a train rumble beneath my feet, before continuing on to the South entrance of Discovery Park where I sat down for a few minutes at a picnic table in the sun before retracing my steps.

I love these pedestrian surprises--the stairs up to 85th from Golden Gardens, this hidden ravine trail and habitat in Magnolia, the tiny beach below the train trestle just past the Locks. They make me feel like I've got a secret--granted, thousands of other people know about these places, but everybody knows about Discovery Park itself. I'll wager far fewer know about the Kiwanis Ravine.

I guess that means it's just an excuse for me to feel superior to people who never get out of their cars. Well...I'll try not to be too smug about it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Meaning of Life

A long time ago (in an archived blog post far, far away) I posted a link about the wave of awe that hit me when I got a glimpse of just how big the universe is. Someone responded by saying something like, "What are you saying, the universe is so big that we don't matter to God!!?!!!one! Nuh-uh!!"

I never got around to publicly rolling my eyes at the nervous defensiveness of that comment, but I was reminded of it when I read this excerpt at Pharyngula quoting Townhall columnist Dennis Prager:

Nature has been created for man's use; and on its own, without man, it has no meaning....When man is reduced to being part of the natural world, his status is reduced to that of a dolphin. It is one of the great ironies of the contemporary world that humanists render human life largely worthless while God-centered Jews and Christians render human life infinitely sacred. Man's worth is entirely dependent on a God-based view of the world. Without God, man is another part of the ecosystem, and often a lousy one at that.
Hm, perhaps Dennis Prager doesn't actually know the definition of the word "humanist?" And, what, if "without God" humanity is just another part of the ecosystem, does introducing God into the picture somehow place humans outside earth's ecosystem?

PZ Myers ably heaps some much-deserved scorn on Prager's nonsense:
His irony is a fabrication; humanists don't regard human life as worthless. Rather, one life in the here and now is all we get, and it is infinitely valuable. Furthermore, we don't need to boost our fragile self-esteem by deprecating everything else—dolphins are great and beautiful creatures, as are spiders and sea anemones and scrub pines and E. coli. The universe is a wonderful place, huge and complex and diverse and largely independent of my existence, and I am greatly privileged to be one small but precious voice singing in a mighty cosmic choir. Embracing the majesty of existence does not make me a smaller man.
Exact-diddly-actly. Seriously, I don't understand the barely-hidden panic behind this. The image of humanity as merely one part of the cosmos is hardly a new idea, nor, in fact, an idea absent from the Hallowed Bible Itself, as Josh Rosenau points out in his posting of some choice excerpts from the book of Job.

I Think That You Came Too Soon

Right, I'm only about seven years behind everyone else who's heard of Joseph Arthur, but this song, "Honey and the Moon," was on the "Live at KEXP" CD I got for supporting their pledge drive, Better late than never, for sure. Excerpt:

Remember when we first met
And everything was still a bet
In love's game
You would call; I'd call you back
And then I'd leave a message
On your answering machine

But right now everything is turning blue,
And right now the sun is trying to kill the moon,
And right now I wish I could follow you
To the shores of freedom,
Where no one lives

We're made out of blood and rust
Looking for someone to trust
Without a fight
I think that you came too soon
You're the honey and the moon
That lights up my night

But right now everything you want is wrong,
And right now all your dreams are waking up,
And right now I wish that I could follow you
To the shores of freedom
Where no one lives

Monday, June 27, 2005

Laptop Popsicle

You know, I seem to remember someone commenting a while back, about their new laptop, that it was so pretty and shiny that they just wanted to lick it.

That is exactly how I feel about our newest toy. God, my mouth waters when I look at it. How weird is that?

You have my word that this is our final major purchase this year. We were good, we saved some money, we bought some fun things, and now we can start adding to the savings again.

Now that I have this laptop to lick, I guess we'll be able to save some money on food, too!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

To Whom It May Concern

  • To the person who found my blog by asking yahoo how to put staples in a heavy duty stapler:

  • It was quite a coincidence that on the very day you were searching for this answer, I spent ten minutes struggling with the very same problem! Clearly neither of us are cut out to be office drones. I tried to ram a stick of staples into our heavy duty stapler for almost five minutes before realizing that the stapler was jammed, not broken. I felt very clever that I had mastered the subtle art of stapler diagnosis, un-jammed the stapler, and tested it out on a nearby stack of paper. When I shoved the handle of the stapler down, though, its spring-loaded backside was somehow propelled out and shot across the office, just missing its chance to wound a coworker who had walked away a few moments before.

    This would seem to be final proof that the stapler was broken, but when I examined my sample stack of paper it was successfully bound with a heavy duty staple; so, I retrieved the spring-loaded portion and surreptitiously re-inserted it into the stapler, which now waits ominously in the file room, all primed to assault the next unsuspecting office drone. I sincerely hope it won't be you, yahoo-searcher!

  • To the person who was searching for a "cool aunt:"
  • Well, shucks, I guess that'd be me. And it's about to be "cool aunt x 2," because my sister will be giving birth to another little girl any day now. Last time I saw them, my sister's three-year-old was talking a lot about the "tiny little baby" on its way. She was also very interested in the fact that, "I was a tiny wittow baby, but now I'm not. Now Ehwlie is a tiny wittow baby."

    I asked her, "Are you still tiny?"

    "No!" she laughed.

    "So are you big?" I said.

    "No!" she laughed again.

    Confused, I asked, "Well, what are you?"

    She looked at me with wide, serious eyes and said matter-of-factly, "I'm Ruth the superhero."

    I'm thinking if I have a superhero for a niece, my ticket to coolness is all ready to be stamped. See, I have it right here in my pocket. Wait, no, look! Don't run! I'm cool! Come see my ticket!

  • To the googler who also loves Thomas Voeckler:
  • Well, I saw him first. But hey! the Tour de France is less than a month away, right? I'm sure we're both looking forward to seeing that grim determined smile again!

  • To the Brazilian googling for "She can turn a drop of water into an ocean:"
  • I do believe you're the first person ever to find me by searching for the Dream Theater lyrics. Mr. Thel is a huge fan (why yes, we do own two full DVD's of live Dream Theater concert footage!), and I have to admit that I've been drawn into the love a little--enough so that I happily went with him to a Fates Warning / Dream Theater / Queensryche show at the Paramount here in Seattle a couple of years ago. Good times with the metalheads, good times.

  • To all the people around the world who are finding this blog through pictures on Google Images:
  • What on earth are you searching for that my silly pictures pop up? Alas, my referrer will not say. Teases.

  • To the seekers of "God beyond all names:"
  • I'm with you.

    And to everyone who reads without commenting: I dare you to say hello. I double-dare you! No, I triple-dog-dare you to comment on this post.

    Please? [whine]C'mon, I had cancer![/whine]


    Mr. Thel the accomplished carpenter (like Jesus, but with more swearing!) has headed south for a week or two to do some work on a friend's house down there. I am left here in the cold for the duration--literally in the cold, as it's barely fifty degrees this morning. My breath visibly steamed out into the chilly air this morning on my way to work, and I was all shivery when I got out of the shower. This seemed...unusual for June, even in Seattle. Beautiful vindicates this impression by noting that June's high temperatures for this year so far are about four degrees less than normal. Which doesn't sound like a big deal, but, you know, I could see my breath this morning! NOT normal.

    Nevertheless, I went ahead and cut off all my hair last night. Now I am a superstar! With short hair! And a bachelorette for another week and a half! Boy, I'm really gonna live it up.

    Just as soon as I can find my hat and a sweater.

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    Project Number One!

    My first knitted item! The picture is blurry, and the knitting is mediocre, but it's done! I even got fancy and put some stripes of stocking stitch in there, as you can see (yes, they were done on purpose, although I didn't quite get them to match up like I'd expected...something happened and an extra stripe showed up without warning...) But "Baby Ehwly," as Ruth refers to her impending sister, will have a knitted drool-catcher/scarf when she arrives. Whether she likes it or not, it is ordained.

    There's something very calming about sitting with a pair of needles in hand, slowly turning a ball of yarn into a garment. I can almost convince myself that all is right with the world: that my nation is not actually detaining, torturing, and killing innocent people without trial; that an increasingly large group of my fellow Americans don't fervently believe I'm a traitor (and thus, presumably, worthy of same detaining, torturing, and killing) just because I vote Democratic; that "Christians" aren't really bleating about how persecuted they are in America, vowing to take control of the reins of government and turn the U.S. into a blessedly theocratic Gilead ("where all the women are meek, all the men are good-looking, and beating children is average").

    Granted, as soon as I look up from my lumpy scarf all those things cascade into view again. But as long as I'm holding the knitting, it all feels more manageable and worth fighting. I'm working on carrying that feeling with me, unspooling it from my solid ball of conviction and working it into something strong and wearable--not mere feeling, but action.

    And in the meantime, I'm calming myself and turning yarn into something. Hey, even Emma Goldman started out working in a clothing factory.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005


    One of my informal resolutions for 2005 was to learn how to knit. I've been crocheting for a few years, but knitting intimidated me. Two implements instead of one! Purling! Counting! It all seemed Too Hard for this bear of scattered brain.

    About two weeks ago I picked up a knitting book at Powell's City of Books (aka the Heaven in which I'd like to spend any Eternity I encounter) in Portland. A beginner-level book, it had actual pictures of a person's hands and her knitting, instead of the stylized drawings I usually see. I bought knitting needles the next morning and over the course of the next week I successfully knitted my first garment, a scarf for my new niece (due one month from today).

    It's not much to look at, and it's riddled with errors that I didn't yet know how to correct, but it all hangs together and I'm going to post a proud picture later. What's more, I've already started a light wrap for myself, using a lovely wool/mohair blend yarn I picked up at the yarn store down the street. The stitches are so large that it grows swiftly; I already have over three feet of it finished in just four evenings of work, and I can't wait to finish it and wear it this summer.

    I like crossing goals off my list, and learning new skills. I'm a knitter now! And after next weekend, I'll be a canoe-er, too! I am so well-rounded.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005


    At work, occasionally I hear the rapid beat of a child's feet pattering down the hallway toward my office. When I turn around, a three-year-old, briefly escaped from his caregiver, peers curiously in at me from the doorway.

    Now, our first floor is set up so that you can make a loop from the front lobby, down the east hallway, through the kitchen and staff lounge, and up the west hallway back to the lobby. So this child darts up the west hallway, sees his mother coming toward him from the lobby, and turns away from her, running back toward my office. I step up the hallway a few steps to cut off his access to the kitchen and the endless loop. Crouching at his level, I half-spread my arms as he gallops full tilt toward me.

    I was just trying to corral him for his mother, but his exuberant three-year-old mind sees a smiling adult with outstretched arms, and he opens his arms and launches himself at me for the hug he thinks I'm offering. We giggle together and I take his hand to lead him, not at all perturbed by this abrupt termination of his escape, back to his mother.

    Those are the best moments in my day.

    Sunday, May 01, 2005


    When I sat down, after a full day of rearranging furniture, to write an ad to give away a bookshelf on, I got a little silly. But it worked--the bookshelf is already gone!

    Half a score of years ago, in the blushing spring of my own youth, my parents bestowed upon me a brand-new laminated particle board bookshelf to spruce up my very first college dorm room. It was a modest bookshelf, at 39 1/2 inches high, but its depth of 9 1/4 inches and its width of 22 1/2 inches easily contained the shiny new texts of my college education.

    Many springs have passed since then, and the bookshelf has travelled loyally to and fro, through many moves from dorm room to apartment, steadfastly holding its full share of books without complaint. Its service to me has left scant markings upon it which do not betray its years to the eye of an onlooker.

    But now, dear friends, the bookshelf must leave me to make its own way in the wide world. It has my blessing in its travels. Welcome it into your home, and suffer not your cat to scratch upon it, and it will bear your books for long years as it has borne mine.

    Go in peace, good shelf. Long shall thy name be praised from the lips of those that knew ye!

    Thursday, April 28, 2005

    Foot It

    I've become fond of taking a stroll on my lunch break, walking down to the market for a soda or a snack. With that in mind, I usually wear shoes that are comfortable to wear for a half-hour walk. This morning it was damp and foggy, and the weather forecast predicted showers and rain, so I wore my less comfortable heeled shoes for a change.

    But now the sun is out, and it's gorgeous and warm outside, and yet I'm more or less stuck inside on my dainty heels. While I've walked to the store in these shoes before, my feet were always kind of annoyed with me afterward--and right now I have a wart on the ball of my foot that makes it uncomfortable to walk even in sneakers, and in these shoes it's almost impossible to walk any distance farther than, say, from my office to the front desk without feeling like every step is landing on a rusty nail. That excellent four-mile walk on Sunday really pissed off the wart, apparently, and it's been punishing me all week.

    Stupid warty foot. Stupid pointy shoes. I feel like a grounded child. I'm going to go hobble around the block, anyway. Maybe I'll be back before the vengeful wart notices.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2005

    The Journey

    Sunday afternoon I wandered down Shilshole Avenue in the warm sun of a late-April day in Seattle. I hadn't planned to walk all the way to Golden Gardens but I was there more quickly than I expected, so I crossed under the railroad tracks and started up the winding road that carves up the bluffs to 85th St. I'd only taken a few steps when I saw a dirt pathway trod into the ground to my left, straight up away from the road. I clambered up, pretty much on hands and knees to scrabble over the last steep bit below the lip, and found myself outside an off-leash dog park area.

    I had cut out a loop in the road, and across it a wide concrete stairway continued the climb to cut out the next huge loop. Sweaty and determined, I hiked up stairs, along a level dirt pathway, and up another hundred or so stairs. It occured to me that this would be a nice place to prepare for a hike with a lot of steep elevation gain; minutes later I crossed paths with a couple with the same idea, wearing full-on backpacks and hiking gear. I climbed and climbed, feeling a bit like Aerin in Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown, dizzied by the hypnotic repetition of stairs beneath my feet. And when I reached the top and found myself at 85th, directly across the street stood a little cafe where I could get an icy Italian soda and cool off for a few minutes before strolling down 32nd back to our apartment. For a moment there I felt like I really had been climbing a stairway to heaven.

    Anyway, I'd had no idea that staircase was there, and I googled "'golden gardens' stairs to 85th" at home later that evening, curious what I might find out about it. And the very first promising hit, number 4, was "ghosts and other things." And if you like that (and unless you're a complete troglodyte, you will), read "the story of the hedge clippers" too. And "stand by me." Or you could just do what I did and start systematically reading through the archives until you realize with a start that your eyes are dry and sore because it's 12:30 in the morning and you've been mesmerized by Joshua Norton II's writing for three swift hours.

    Google, I thought, I could kiss you on the mouth for pulling that out of the murky depths of the internet for me.

    Then, as if Google hadn't tried hard enough to get in my pants, it lured me even closer when I found this poem today. There's a period of a year or two in the recent past that I'm not ready to write about yet except in vague allusions. Mary Oliver's poem "Journey" ("there was a new voice / which you slowly / recognized as your own") lyrically captures the essence of my sentiments about it, anyway:

    The Journey, by Mary Oliver

    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice--
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles.
    "Mend my life!"
    each voice cried.
    But you didn't stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations,
    though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen
    branches and stones.
    But little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do--
    determined to save
    the only life you could save.

    God Beyond All Names

    We sang this on Sunday. For the first six months we attended Keystone last year, every Sunday morning one hymn would make me weep. I hadn't been to church in several years, but before that I'd never been one of those overly emotional people in church. (I used to pretend to be, to fit in, but that's another story.) Nevertheless, when we started going to Keystone, every Sunday some song would make me emotional. I was quiet and unobtrusive about it, nervously blinking away my silent tears, but it was inexplicable and embarrassing. Fuckin' A, I thought, I don't take any of this literally--I don't even pretend to believe it anymore--and still these ridiculous heartbroken tears.

    This was one of them. We sang it again last Sunday for the first time in months, and sure enough my throat started tightening and my eyes prickled. I quelled it pretty well, know....well, it is a lovely sentiment. "In our living and our dying, we are bringing you to birth. Hm.

    God, beyond our dreams, you have stirred in us a memory,
    you have placed your powerful spirit in the hearts of humankind.
    All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
    In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

    God, beyond all names, you have made us in your image,
    we are like you, we reflect you, we are woman, we are man.
    All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
    In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

    God, beyond all words, all creation tells your story,
    you have shaken with our laughter, you have trembled with our tears.
    All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
    In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

    God, beyond all time, you are laboring within us;
    we are moving, we are changing, in your spirit ever new.
    All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
    In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

    God of tender care, you have cradled us in goodness,
    you have mothered us in wholeness, you have loved us into birth.
    All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
    In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

    --Bernadette Farrell