Archive | September 2013

Uh, wait a sec. Dad, it’s for you!


Pips has taken to giving me presents. First, the gopher has been executed, then a fledgling bird, then I saved two other birds, and now  . . .  there are lizards.

I was lucky the first two times. I caught Pips in the backyard with it in his mouth. I was able to release them back into the wild.

The third time was not a charm. It escaped in the house. I trapped it in a hall closet and was able to restore it to the yard.

As for the fourth time, this morning? He brought in a really large whiptail that makes the one in the picture above look a dwarf.

I got him to release the live lizard in the kitchen, but when I went to box it up, it fled under the stove. Sigh.

I sealed the bottom of the stove to the floor with gorilla tape, leaving only one gap. There I taped a ziplock baggie to the floor and the stove. I had a clever plan . . . . .

I would turn on the oven to 300 degrees for an hour ( and simultaneously re-season my iron fry pan — two birds one stone, right?). The heat would force it out into the only available exit, the baggie. Then I’d just carry it out and release it.

Sadly though, the oven didn’t work because the turkey pan somehow jiggled the gas connection to the radiant bar.  The pilot light’s fine but it won’t heat.

Anyway, I’m hoping at some point the lizard goes into the bag, but if not, oh well.  I’m sure it will keep the ants and spiders and flies under control.

I’ve decide to find it charming. I’m going to name it Amelia.

I won’t dance. Don’t ask me.


I’m opting out of the Affordable Care Act.

I don’t feel invincible. But I do live a health-responsible life that includes proper diet, exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, and no smoking.

I spend a minimal amount on medical stuff to keep healthy. But that money spent is for types of care that wouldn’t be covered or reimbursed by any plan.

It just makes sense to pay the tax penalty. (Unless the most basic health care plan would cost me more than 8% of my income which would mean I’m exempt from the ACA mandate.)

Pooling resources to cover healthcare isn’t a bad idea. I’m pro-National Health. But for health insurance to be effective and affordable, three things have to come together.

  1. The insurance company, its doctors, and its hospitals, all have to be non-profit. That’s doable.
  2. The doctors have to give individual care that is safe, effective, and appropriate for that individual. According to a recent study by the Mayo Clinic, that’s far less doable, so doctors are best avoided.
  3. Insureds have to be health-responsible people who only through unpreventable misfortune become ill.  This last point being doable or not is really the crux of the matter.

As a nation we spend 18% of our GDP on healthcare. The CDC says 75% of that is spent on chronic diseases caused by 100% preventable behaviors like excessive drinking, smoking, eating a poor diet, or lack of sufficient exercise.

If people simply changed their habits, we could drop healthcare spending 75%. Will they do it though? Obviously not.

That said, it’s quite bizarre that the ACA includes tax penalties only for people for who are uninsured. There are no tax penalties for people who are insured but create their own sicknesses or for doctors and hospitals who provide poor care that harms or kills those in their charge.

All the ACA mandate seems to do is demand uninsured people buy expensive but useless plans so insured but health-irresponsible people can continue to live destructive lifestyles unabated and bad doctors can continue to be paid for giving those irresponsible people costly but merely palliative care.

I’m not using hyperbole here, it’s what Mr Obama himself said. “If healthy young Americans don’t buy plans, the ACA will collapse and fail.”

The ACA is simply perpetuating a broken system that doesn’t address or confront or penalize any of the people who are actually responsible. It’s bailing out those causing the problem without fixing the problem. If that’s sounding familiar to you, it should. Apparently US health care companies are also considered “too big to fail.”

So for me? I won’t dance. Don’t ask me.

The Standing Proposal

Next stop, adventure!

Next stop, adventure!

After much number crunching and thoughtful on-the-ground analysis, Der’s company decided California wasn’t really the best place to set up a West Coast North American office.  The firm has chosen Vancouver, in Canada, instead.

Der left on Friday.  He asked me not to take him to the airport.

It was a strange goodbye, full of things unsaid. Till the very last moment, when his transport arrived and his bags were being loaded in.

He asked if I would come and visit him in Canada. I said of course.

He said he felt as though we had something special. I said I felt that too.

Then gave me an emerald tennis bracelet, he said he’d picked up in the Jewelry District, for practically nothing.

He hoped it would remind me of him. I said it certainly would!

And then there was a silence. We could not lose each other, because we’d never had each other.  There were never strings attached.  And yet, we have a kind of harmonious affection which adds a form to all the fluid passions.

He asked if I would reserve him Valentine’s Day — in 2016. I said two and half years was a long time, anything could happen.

He said that was true. But just in case, if we were still both free and of the same mind, would that Sunday not be the ideal day? I agreed.

We both smiled and put the day into our calendars.

Then he kissed me goodbye and drove off.

Man overboard


I’ve been reading biography/history The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans & Their  Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.

So far my favorite bad sentence is:

The sport reeked of classiness.

Classiness. Wow.

The book is set in Depression Era Seattle and about UW’s mens’ rowing team. I chose it because it’s set in Seattle and about rowing, two things I like.  But even as true stories go,  it’s  not very original. It’s Seabiscuit meets Chariots of Fire.

I’m not sure why we’re reaching back 40-50- 60-70 years to find stories that fit the Dick Lit of America model.

It’s another poor, young, underdog, White male, who comes from an abusive / broken home, who works hard and triumphs over many obstacles to achieve success in sport while his patient adoring decorative young woman looks on.

It’s just all so dated. Oh and did I mention The Great Depression and the Nazis? Yep, the whole kitchen sink is in this one. No doubt this is why its option has been picked up by The Weinstein Company, which is working on a script adaptation as I write this. Sir Kenneth Branagh is set to direct.

While a story may be true and historical, for me that’s not enough to write it down (let alone film it). That story also needs to be really original or really interesting or both. The Boys in the Boat isn’t original, although it’s interesting to people interested in rowing or Seattle’s history.  For most people, this will be boilerplate Dick Lit. Men will like it way more than women, although I think women will feel sympathetic to the lives of those involved in the story.

I’m not trying to denigrate the incredible achievements or lives of the UW men who crewed by saying all this. Really, I’m simply asking why, in this modern age, publishers and movie studio execs choose to keep reaching ever further backwards in history to find this kind of dated “men accomplish, women adore” stories?

Because the truth is, women in those days could only adore because men forced them to stop participating in a sport they loved and excelled at. And nowhere is that more true that UW’s rowing program.

That's right, rowing in Gibson Girl hair do!

That’s right, it’s 1900 and female students at UW row!

For anyone that cares about rowing reality, women and men crewed at UW from 1900 – 1917. After that, the University of Washington was required to give their boathouses to the Navy (WWI). In 1920, UW revived men’s rowing but refused to bring back women’s rowing, despite it being the most popular women’s sport at the university.

The university’s “we can’t afford it” answer was ridiculous given it spent more money on men’s softball than ALL the women’s sports combined.

Women would not be allowed to row at UW again for 50 years (1969). UW Women’s rowing was not elevated to a varsity sport until 1975. And it wasn’t until 1977, after Title IX, that women were allowed to join the, till then all male,  Varsity Boat Club.

Find those men adorable? I didn’t think so.

Oh, omnishambles!

Malcolm Tucker

Photograph: Des Willie/BBC

Ominshambles is my new favorite OED word.  It has that whiff of 18th-century elegance yet a certain modern chic. It’s useful too.

Omni meaning all, shambles meaning a mess.  Together they mean a situation which is a mess from all angles. The situation in Syria could be described as an omnishambles.

On a smaller more personal scale, ominshambles can also be appropriate too. Say, one notices a small bump under one’s carpet in one’s Russian hotel room. One might pull back the rug and discover a thing very like a “bug,” which one might unscrew from the floor to examine more closely.

While contemplating the device in hand, one might hear a loud crash in the room below.  When several militarily dressed men come bursting  through one’s door (as one is holding the “bug” ) and begin to berate one for undoing the bolt of the chandelier of the room below and almost killing someone . . .  Ominshambles! might be just the word one needs.

(Yes, that all really happened to a friend of mine!)

Omnishambles was one of the more printable terms used by Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It — BBC Four’s award-winning, no-holds-barred, satirical romp exploring the inner debacles of British government. If you’ve not seen it, Hulu has some episodes for free.

I must say I’m deeply impressed (and rather envious). It’s not every month a man becomes the new Dr Who AND contributes a word to the OED.

Well done, Mr Capaldi, well done!

The Italians aren’t coming

One of my elderly great aunts, Rosa, died a few years back. She lived a long full life — well into her 90s.

She was an artist. She trained and lived in Italy. She knew everything about painting. She later married a very rich Italian business man, whom she loved madly all her life, and who indulged her every whim.

They lived in the US and Italy. He bought her anything she wanted. ANYTHING. And that’s how Rosa ended up with a top of the line Italian-made studio easel that really belongs in the art restoration department of a world class museum. It’s enormous.

Rosa had some success as an artist, her good friend Frank Sinatra asked her to paint a portrait of his mother Natalie. That’s the kind of life Rosa lived.  Really more socialite than artist, but 100% trained artist and 100% serious about her art. (Ok, and they both spoke Italian.)

When Rosa died, I inherited her huge electric easel. It was made in 1953 but still working.  Italians make great quality products.  It’s really no surprise the company has a reputation as the best easel makers in the world.  In fact, they still make this exact model easel, 60 years later.

A few weeks back I jammed my easel stuck in the tilted position. I  tried all the recommended methods for getting it unstuck. No luck. Finally, I wrote to the company, in Italy, and asked for help.  The reply was sooo Italian.

The company was shut down for the month of August. But they’d contact me as soon as they got back. I understood. It was Europe. People go on vacation in August. My bad.

Finally I took a wench to the easel and managed to unstick it without harming it.  Good for another 50 years at least.

I love the Italians, so charming, brilliant craftsmen, great design, wonderful customer service. But when it comes to getting something fixed in August? Definitely you want an American with a wrench.

(And yes, I would definitely go for a midnight ride with that Paul Revere!)