Saturday, November 29, 2008


I may have peaked too soon with yesterday's Christmas card, but check this out.

I came across this while collecting 70s Christmas images. Please bring back a world where barefoot children did wheelies on banana seats without helmets.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Popcorn Plaques

#16 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

According to the calendar, holiday decorating frenzy season is officially open. Time to dust off your popcorn plaques!

I won't pretend to have known what these were called, and it took some searching to come up with it. This is the term used by no less a 70s kitsch authority than the Miles Kimball catalog for the whimsical holiday figures formed of colored chips of plastic melted together.

See also
shrinky dinks (always more of a Halloween favorite than Christmas)

And when I say dust off, I mean it. These little flecks breathed some sort of vapor all year long in your attic that gave your Rudolph the surface of fly paper, so that when you pulled it back out into the light it was covered in cobwebs, fly-specks, and strands of the santa beard you kept in there with it.

"Santa's beard makes me feel woooozy..."
"Let ME try!"

A good hosing from a Wham-o Water Wiggle ought to do the trick.

These are flat hangings, and not very large, so the idea is to have TOO MANY of them. All over your house. Or cubicle. Or sad little front-desk of your storefront real estate office.

Today's kids will remember (with the same curiosity, if not more) the inflatable snow globe, which now make the popcorn plaque just look like a lonely kindergarten teacher set loose on the neighborhood. The yard inflatable challenges the very idea of zoning laws.

this one is 8 feet tall.

Deck the Halls by all means, if it keeps you from decking the parking lane.

So you know what I did. I Googled "inflatable arm-flailing tube man," which, according to The Family Guy, is what he is called in the tacky traffic-stopping crap trade, to see if anyone had yet invented the inflatable arm-flailing tube Santa (snowman, Grinch, Rudolph, Balthasar...). The company that makes them prefers that you call them Airdancers.

Ok Airdancer. now that you have back-linked to this page, I am giving you a freebie. Put a beard and a hat on the red one, a christmas tree in the hand of the green one, a top hat on the white one... OOo, Oo! A wooden soldier! And a nutcracker!

For the purists, then: what is the 70s without a slide show?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So terribly clever

I have to say I have been terribly pleeeeezed with the outcome of the blog exercise this month. I don't think I will ever do it again, and I am glad I didn't set out to do it, but how nice to report that I have posted a -fresh every day, including the 4 days to come, which are completed and scheduled for your (my) convenience.

This is a long way from last year, when I was backposting, because I couldn't keep up AND I couldn't stand the look of dead air. I foolishly believed that newcomers would want to "catch up" on our story thus far, though I can confirm that Blogger doesn't make this convenient, and I have been doing this far too long (rather like this sentence) to think anyone really could...much less would want to.

But because I know you like to see the inner workings, and because I can't seem to stop myself from showing them... a few short lists:

Topics I tabled up in case I needed them, then didn't need them:
1. "Single Girls Have Taco Night Too" This will eventually get posted. It just now clashes with the holidays.

2. "20 Years of Phantom" Do you know some in the orchestra have been playing since opening night? (Not nonstop or anything, I'm just sayin'... )

3. Lots of 70s series stuff I don't want to reveal just yet

Thing I have been working on for years and can never get structured:
1. It is called "Washing Judas' Feet" that tries to explore topics of forgiveness and redemption. All part of an ongoing argument I am losing with Dietrich Bonhoeffer because I can't understand what he is talking about.

Things that happened this month that I left out:
1. "You Got Played" - a piece for the Finishing School involving trouble in paradise between The Boss and The Rock Star and how not to be a pawn in the great game between upper management and upper-middle management. Still to come, I think. I need some closure on it -- just for the narrative, you understand, not for me.
2. 130K on the car they don't even make anymore.

3. Bearing the burdens of others' secrets. I think I am sitting on 4. But I am trying to forget them.

4. Remember the She Veep? She showed up at the Mill as a client. So I still have to be nice. But I can also still be FROSTY

Topics to toss into the basket of crescent rolls if there just isn't enough fighting:
1. "Predatory lending, my eye. Those people knew what they were signing."
2. "Sure was different in your war, wasn't it, grandpa?"
3. "Why do you care who they marry?"
4. "I'll tell you what that kid's problem is...."
5. "So... how awesome is my President?" This works no matter which button you want to push.

Happy Holidays. When you've had too much, loosen your belt and wrap it on your hat, like our forefathers did.

If you want to upset the New Englanders, remind them Jamestown was settled first.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I don't even run with the queens anymore....

.... but even I know they are all rehearsing Beyonce's
"Single Ladies."

Am I right girls?

Do I love this or hate it? I don't even know.

Holy...Cultural...Message Confusion.
At its heart, it has that Beyonce Paradox we loved so well in "Check on it": Stop lookin' at me dancin' all like this.
Here is another song with the message "That's right, I AM all of that. And you just stand over there until I decide whether this is for you or not."

Movin on, yo
Remember when Beyonce put everything you owned in a box to the left? And said you were replaceable? Well, she is now working that program.

real Single Ladies lyric:
I'm up on him, he up on me/Don't pay him no attention/Just cried my tears for 3 good years/Ya can't be mad at me/ Cause if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.

But she would take him back
She got another you in a minute, but buried in Single Girls, which you won't hear because you will very distracted, I don't care who you are, she comments, "Your love is what I prefer, what I deserve....Pull me into your arms, say I'm the one you own..." (own. Girlfriend said "own.") "If you don't you'll be alone/And like a ghost I'll be gone."

Damn, Beyonce, I can't even think
An actual/cyber friend/Friend turned me on to this song less than an hour ago. And she said, "the song is VERY catchy and very brain wormy so beware." So true. The kind of song that made me glad I stopped listening to the radio soon after "La Vida Loca" went from freshest thing on the airwaves to "for the love of humanity, someone put a fork in my head so the sound of my own screaming will drown out this madness."

That is one money-making HOOK.
Steve Martin once said you can't play a sad song on the banjo. Similarly, I posit... Beyonce can not really sing a sad break-up song.

And... you have melted my eyeballs.
Beyonce is not yet 30. So enjoy this while you can. I'm talking to you, Beyonce. You listenin to me? Your knees will go first, but will earn a standing ovation from everything else they are holding up.

You might expect Miss Bender to be shocked and disapproving of this video and the song behind it. But what Miss Bender appreciates is a job well-done, no matter what it is. If you're going to do a thing, commit to it, I say. See also Eminem, Bonnie and Clyde '97.
How to burn the brainworm into your head forever
This Fierce Mister, who should be headlining at Scandals
The mash-up, featuring 60's era Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse choreography
Enjoy it now, before you never want to hear it again.

I'll leave the academics to decide whether this is Feminism or not; I am too busy trying to figure
out what muscles move that way.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mild Innuendo

Whatever could it mean??

Does it mean the ratings board couldn't reach consensus?
I think we should mention the innuendo."
Innuendo? Hardly. It's so subtle no kid would get it."
"Then mild innuendo."

Isn't Innuendo mild by definition?
"an indirect intimation about a person or thing, esp. of a disparaging or a derogatory nature."
In Latin.. "to nod toward"

And if innuendo were mild, wouldn't it be more... direct?

OR... is it innuendo about something mild? That is, titter-titter, it is clever bawdiness, but nothing really sexy.
Like a double entendre.

Besides, when you're 6, aren't all jokes about butts and underpants anyway? what's subtle about that?

In case you're wondering, the movie in question is Enchanted.

I decided to see what Kids in Mind had to say about it. This is a website I've linked to before. They obsessively count swear words and naked body glimpses for you, so you can phone in your parenting. I admire it for its compulsive attention to detail more than its politics.

Here is their assessment of the "mild innuendo." I have applied my own Mild Metre, and spelled it the British way to look sophisticated. The descriptions are theirs. promise.

Most Innuendoest
A man climbs out of a well, men standing around him ask if he too is looking for a woman and he tells them that he is looking for a prince (they seem to understand that he is gay).

Most Mildest Innuendo
A man knocks on a door, another man opens the door and smiles invitingly (implying attraction) and the first man walks away seemingly confused.

Regular Innuendo
A woman discovers an almost nude woman (she's wrapped in a towel) and a clothed man together, she is jealous and angry and makes a remark about leaving so the man could have "big girl time" with the partially clothed woman.

The kind of joke Disney adds to prompt your children to follow-up later
A girl tells a woman that she shouldn't wear too much makeup, that "boys will get the wrong idea" and that "they are only after one thing"; she then says that she doesn't know what that "thing" is.

Most Obsessive-compulsive
A husband and wife kiss several times, a man and a woman kiss and hug, a man kisses a woman three times and then another man kisses her and she kisses him back, and men and women kiss in a few more scenes. A man and a woman hug in a few scenes. A woman kisses a turtle on the cheek and the turtle blushes.
what in the bloody what?

Most "you read that into it"
A woman falls into a man's lap and they sit very close as they ride off together on horseback with her in his arms.
I defy you to leave room for The Holy Ghost on horseback

Even I don't get it
A woman talks about searching for a perfect pair of lips (for a prince replica she has built) and tries different items, including a pea pod and a caterpillar.
Ok, I don't want to know what that is innuendo for.

If you really want to enjoy this website, read descriptions for films you have never seen.I can't wait to see what they do with Twilight.

# of times the word "innuendo" appears in this post (including this one) = 13

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sarah Hale, what are you on about?

Does this blog feature Lincoln more than the average? Or am I just tapping into some collective unconscious? I suppose in junior high school history class we learned about Sarah Hale (or in my junior high, she was featured in the Find-a-Word Puzzle) but I had no knowledge of her enthusiastic campaign to have Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday. And by "enthusiastic campaign," I mean the chain of letters she sent President Lincoln imploring him with everything from it was good for our souls to it would prevent the war.

Mrs. Hale (Twain might call her The Widder Hale) was a definer of national culture and mores in the early 19th Century. Though she was hardly Oprah in terms of her influence, she was at least Martha Stewart, with the occasional hint of Dr Phil. Mrs. Hale felt, "We have too few holidays," and in 1827 that was probably true. After all, we hadn't invented the weekend yet, and even the Mill Girls were too busy counting their money to count their blessings.

Mrs. Hale commented, "There is a deep moral influence in these periodical seasons of rejoicing, in which whole communities participate. They bring out . . . the best sympathies in our natures." The House divided Against itself also had trouble picking a uniform Thanksgiving Day.

There are reportedly thousands of letters like the one below in the Presidential papers. This was not the last of them.

From Sarah J. Hale to Abraham Lincoln, September 28, 1863
Philadelphia, Sept. 28th 1863.

Permit me, as Editress of the "
Lady's Book", to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and -- as I trust -- even to the President of our Republic, of some importance. This subject is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.

You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.

Enclosed are three papers (being printed these are easily read) which will make the idea and its progress clear and show also the popularity of the plan.

For the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea in the "Lady's Book", and placed the papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories -- also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen -- and commanders in the Navy. From the recipients I have received, uniformly the most kind approval. Two of these letters, one from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan are enclosed; both gentlemen as you will see, have nobly aided to bring about the desired Thanksgiving Union.

But I find there are obstacles not possible to be overcome without legislative aid -- that each State should, by statute, make it obligatory on the Governor to appoint the last Thursday of November, annually, as Thanksgiving Day; -- or, as this way would require years to be realized, it has ocurred to me that a proclamation from the President of the United States would be the best, surest and most fitting method of National appointment.

I have written to my friend, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and requested him to confer with President Lincoln on this subject As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories; also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag -- could he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus the great Union Festival of America would be established.

Now the purpose of this letter is to entreat President Lincoln to put forth his Proclamation, appointing the last Thursday in November (which falls this year on the 26th) as the National Thanksgiving for all those classes of people who are under the National Government particularly, and commending this Union Thanksgiving to each State Executive: thus, by the noble example and action of the President of the United States, the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.

An immediate proclamation would be necessary, so as to reach all the States in season for State appointments, also to anticipate the early appointments by Governors.

Excuse the liberty I have taken
With profound respect
Yrs truly
Sarah Josepha Hale,
Editress of the "Ladys Book"

Madam, you do indeed take liberties. And I question your apostrophe choices.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Just look what they shoved us around in

The boys from shop class have tricked out a grocery cart for your trip to the park!

Sorry about the sunburn, but the handle is adustable!
Rubber pants + vinyl cushion + foam stuffing equals one heck of a rash.

Wherever will Mommy set her latte? Good thing we haven't invented them yet, and Mother's little helper takes a pill form.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I have a TSA claims agent

And get this: His name is Ernest.
That's a joke, right?

Reminds me of a funny bit I got into with a friend. (Is it a bit? or a riff? I don't know these things. Ask a Comic)

I said that I missed good Puritan names like that, like Ernest. We should bring them back.

And she said that a friend of hers wanted to name her daughter Patience, so that when she started to lose her temper with her, she would have to yell, "Damn it, Patience! I've had it with you!" and that would calm her down.

To which I said, "Justice, play nice!"
And she said, "Prudence, put your clothes back on!"

and as usual, there was no topping that.

click here to get my TSA story. We are now on Step 4a, "Churn," where he re-asks me the questions on the form and I will retype what I wrote already.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Healthcare math

Happy Open Enrollment.

And this year the Company wants you to know that they reaaally could have raised your premiums, Gawd knows they are paying through the nose, what with the crazy Massachusetts required healthcare. But they didn't -- no they did NOT -- because that's not the kind of company they are. But seriously, (the note goes on), this can't last forever, so quick picking the expensive health care if you don't need it. Because the government pays in Dubrovnik, and that is starting to look pretty good.

Anyway, the letter says, read this pamphlet, go to this website, listen to this podcast, lick this postage stamp, and pick your coverage already.

I have the Middle Path coverage, also know as "Damn, that's annoying." (relive the enjoyment of the stupidity of healthy people, in which I manage my managed care for the first time) So the math I am trying to do is the value of my personal convenience.

The E-ticket healthcare (the one the company has martyred themselves over, absorbing the $1200 annual increase instead of passing it along to you, the day laborer) is in premiums, $400 more over the year than the Middle Path. Did I, in fact, spend more than $400 this year on staying alive?

no, guess. go'head, guess.

We may both have to because I can not make sense out of my Sh**ty Healthcare "self-service" page. You know, like how the New York Public Library is "self-service." Is it View Statements? Oh, Account Balances. Here's the math. I don't care if you know what my healthcare costs. You're going to delve into my personal life; you have to sit here with me while I do this, because it is due Friday.

It's not real money. And you already know 1 pill costs $20.

Middle Path totals about $800 p.a. (Latin!) in premiums. That's if I never even show up.
Includes $500 on an "expenditures" card and covers your Mamm-o-Gram gratis (more Latin!)On top of that, I spent $800 in medical school loan payments and antibiotic placebos.
cheap, right? Oh, but it damned annoying

E-Ticket premiums for the spinster girl are $1200 for the year.
Requires a $40 co-pay, so that would have been 40 x 4 office visits, or $160, but no HRA debit card and no deductible. So the a la carte nonsense, you see, would have been "included." Like champagne is included in First Class.

The $120 antibiotic would have cost $10-35 dollars, for example, on a RX co-pay. (likely $35)Throwing a stink cost me only $27. Blogpost of the year....priceless.

I feel like I should be able to put this together dollar for dollar, but the real decision maker is... do you have the cash to pay the doctor when you need to pay the doctor? Or don't you?
I do.
The Middle Path it is.
And Yes, I turned off commenting for this post.
Because this is already the most boring topic ever. Let's not drag it out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Late for work because of NaBloPoMo

I didn't even set out to achieve National Blog Posting Month status. And now I feel like it is a must-have requirement. And I will be late to work because of it, and I have nothing meaningful to say.

Here, then, to pander to the reading public, some puppies.

From your favorite border collie,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Come to the Jubilee

A reader in Virginia remarked that a Black friend asked, Didn't White people realize a Black man was elected President? And when our reader said, yes, with a kind of "where we going with this" eyebrow, our speaker said, "you don't act like it."

Here I pick up this discussion, and attempt to provide something of an response.

We do
Possibly, in Virginia, this is not very noticeable. Here in the Bluest of the Blue states there was dancing in the streets. Crying at the polls. In my Facebook network -- among the liberalest of the liberal -- all statuses all day all week were about Obama. I myself changed my profile picture to Michelle's for the day, and suggested to my Southern Cousin that she craft a yard sign to read "Roll Al-Obama."

Take another look at the crowd in Grant Park.

But in Virginia, they know about Jubilee. And no doubt they expected to experience something as momentous in the City of the Monuments.

We can't experience what you are experiencing
Not really. We can experience the dawn on a new America, the glow of progressivism, the hope, and the audacity. We know the wonder of a Black man...leading America? shooot... never gonna happen. And it did. I have stood for South Africa, I have met Jesse Jackson, I know that bigotry is the chain that binds all of us, I have Dr King as my IM icon. But I can not feel what this feels like for you.

We can't express what we are feeling
It takes an extraordinarily intimate inter-racial relationship to be comfortable with this conversation. White people have no racial identity. And our ethnic identify, when we do experience it, is not the same thing. Sure, Greek America would have thrown a party had Dukakis won the White House, and Italians have been looking for their "president ending in a vowel" for generations. But didn't we make fun of Romney trying to play "ethnic," though the Mormons were a persecuted people if ever there were any whiter than the Irish.

Our multicultural nation stopped melting us all together, and that is a good thing. But the resulting Otherness with which we see each other -- in our race, gender, sexuality, disabilities, marital status, the way we pray or the way we don't -- takes a "do your own thing" turn that often deftly skirts around real empathy. Sometimes it does mean the best we can offer is to "tolerate" each other.

We worry about getting it wrong
A friend once said to me, "it's like this: Don't think of me as Black. And never forget that I am Black." She added, "I realize that's a struggle. But there it is." Even when we are thinking about race (and we do think about it more than we let on), white people can't tell for sure if what we are thinking is racist to start with.

We don't express ourselves very well
I'll speak for the WASPs at least: we can't get through an office party without something to take the edge off. Black folk are likely to come to a White funeral and say, similarly, "Don't you realize somebody is dead here? You don't act like it."

Combine all those factors, and you get a White America that is not going to throw a Jubilee. But we are excited, and we need to stay excited. We need to keep campaigning for all the things we said were important throughout this journey.

And most importantly, in the words of Harry Belafonte, we need to "...not abandon Barak Obama." By this I do NOT at all mean agree with everything he says, forgive him unconditionally for things we disapprove of, expect him to walk on water. What I mean is that we need to keep participating in our democracy and carry some of this load. Bring is back to your daily life; now that you voted, why not try it again. Now that you've volunteered, keep volunteering. Now that you have discussed politics outside of your comfort zone, keep those doors open.

and welcome him into the city.

It was to be expected, that a population that three days since were in slavery, should evince a strong desire to look upon the man whose edict had struck forever the manacles from their limbs. A considerable number of the white population cheered the President heartily, and but for the order of the Provost-Marshal, issued yesterday, ordering them to remain within their homes quietly for a few days, without doubt there would have been a large addition to the numbers present. New York Times, April 8, 1865

Monday, November 17, 2008

Crazy things boys do

1. Refuse to hold an umbrella

2. Thunder down a flight of stairs (tha-DUMP-tha-DUMP)

3. Side hug

4. Wash everything in one load

5. Spit

6. Drink from the bottle

7. Walk it off

8. Drive lost

9. Keep an empty chair between them

10. (your pick)

Yes, I am baiting you. I haven't seen traction since I dissed Keith Urban.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Old Girl network

Leave it to The Baroness to know I already had a connection to the TSA. A woman I went to college with invented it. Not the NTSB, who are these people, and have been around since 1967, but the I-am-not-kidding TSA.

The Baroness has always been better at these things than I am: the instant networky, 6-degrees of you-can't-stump-me, weren't we in Brownies together kind of things. I am good at doing-your-dirty-work-and-no-one-needs-to-know kinds of things. Put those 2 skills together and you understand how we agreed to pluck each other's chins in the nursing home. But that's not the story I'm telling.

Here is the story of how Liz Brownlee invented the TSA. Not like Al Gore invented the Internet. According to this article, she did the kind of thing I do all day, which was she wrote a white paper saying "what if we federalized airport screening?" The trick is having anyone with any power pick it up and act on it. Well what have I done with my life? I think about that scene in Apollo 13 when Jim Lovell says, "Neil Armstrong? Neil Armstrong?"

The other culprit might be failing to work in any industry where white papers have any influence. A typical Mill event is when a 4-page proposal I put together and pass to a Product Director is answered with, "Have you called *****? Because she already has something going on this. You should get looped in with that."

looooooping is a big term in our particular garment industry. And I actually said to ***** (or really, to her sidekick, but right in front of her, because I don't speak directly to the brass) "I am just glad someone with more power and authority is behind this." (see also - dealing with idea stealers) She said (asterisk did, not the sidekick - I am not telling this story very well), "I don't think I have any more power," which was kind of nice, but not at all true, and I said, "than I do? I think you do. [pause] Man, I hope you do."

But of course if she did, I wouldn't have spoken directly to her. That's probably why my white papers don't turn into federal agencies.

I came up the ladder with any number of women who are now federal agents. I might be one; you don't know. Two of the women in the picture above are. I don't really know that. I don't know who they are. It was just the closest I could find to madras shorts and pheasant pants.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gonna Fly Now

blow-by-blow of a working Saturday down-the-mill

6:00 wake up
Often on the weekend, I sleep in my guestroom and pretend it is a Bed&Breakfast. I am not really fooled. Neither are you. The truth is that by the end of the week there are more clothes piled on my bed than not. I know where another bed is.

6:39 finally get up
I still can't get up in the dark. I am confused by this every year, as if I have never seen it before. I also think of that scene in Rocky when he wakes up in the dark and drinks the glass of eggs. Every time. 30 years.

Open this post.

7:30 on the job
Breakfast is provided for the weavers and is fairly picked over by the time we arrive. All the bacon is gone. And you know I loves me some bacons. I choose some squirmy sausage and english muffin with butter. Grease, essentially.

And it was delicious.

8:20 testing begins
This is difficult to explain to someone who doesn't do this work. Think of air traffic control, only no one will actually die, despite the heightened sense of crisis. It is also a little like backstage at the drama club, where you sit around on the lighting stools waiting for someone to yell down "take 3 to half and 4-blue." And you do, then sit down and wait some more.

One college production, when I was lighting crew chief, we read aloud to each other out of Rona Jaffe's Class Reunion. I hadn't yet heard of The Best of Everything . I can't link you to her official website because I don't want to pay her royalties.

The whole test cycle is orchestrated through chat windows, so you really could subcontract yourself if you needed to. Some suspect one of our team is working from a bar.

9:30 - Tests for my project go pretty quickly,
mostly because the designers have already uncovered so many things wrong with it. Too bad the Quality Assurance cycle hadn't, but that's what builds the plot.

10:45 Project checkpoint
This was internal to the project team I am on. How great is the mute button. really.

11:25 The Boss checks in.
The Boss is not on-site for these Be-Ins. But she can't stand a sleeping Blackberry, so this is about the time she comes knocking. She is also not invited to the chat room or checkpoints. She has some trouble with that.

Very funny (now) story about the month we ignored her frequent calls for a status report, because we have SOP about when we send these things and did not think we should provide them on demand. And by "we," I mean "me." Following Monday, my thinking was corrected in that regard.

11:30 cage match
Also known as the release checkpoint. This is the time when dozens of stakeholders on dozens of projects scream at each other about who's broken is more broken.

yeh, that's about right.

My role here is to cajole the designer into agreeing with me about priorities, usually through a little log-rolling and tsking about how disappointing the customer response to this exciting new feature will be, and by unbuttoning my blouse.

12:00 the wait
We wander in search of pizza and entertainment. I start outlining this post. The designer and his content team kick a balance ball from one end of the hall to another.

We start to complete testing across 4 time zones. Broken things start becoming "pre-existing conditions" because they were released before midnight.

12:15 testers released from my project. They hope they will get to go home, but they are usually "repurposed" to some other project they know nothing about. This is where the Americans were getting off easy by saying, "I ain't speak no nuther language," until we learned the art of quick deployment, and moved Dubrovnik onto Moscow, Moscow to Montreal, and the Americans onto any other English-speaking site. And Hawkeye to Adam's Ribs.

My project team opens 1 defect with a list of everything that is wrong when working through a certain browser. I rank this as my top priority.

Primer: how the priorities work
Let's say your little piece of the puzzle works on a certain browser, but appears to be drawn by Picasso, it doesn't offer up the "save today if you buy a gross of this crap" message that is expected, it doesn't work in Austria at all but Austria has no customers, the ad Discovery Channel Shark Week bought is covered by the empty "save today" message box, and the instructions for printing a document are in French.

Who owns the Zebra?

These are the kinds of negotiations you get to broker with your fancy-pants liberal arts degree.

12:30 toe-to-toe with project manager
So this guy says that he doesn't think my Priority is worth fixing today. (see how I capitalized it?) Because (he shrugs) "I don't think people are going to call." and I said, "I don't think you know that."

and a lot of other choice corporate words like "role," "appropriate," and "in future."

2:00 2nd checkpoint

I dial-in with the product team, after having learned that they can't stand the project manager either, and we enjoy more fun with the mute button. So much fun, that we elect to stay on for the after call, when "A, B, and Q, stay on please," and we are neither. But honestly, in a conference call world, how do you think that is going to go? Designer and I high-five when the facilitator announces he is "dropping the cone of silence," Weavers in Dubrovnik don't get it.

2:30 signing off
I and the rest of my department offer our priorities and the release team starts figuring out who owns the zebra.

3:00 pm stabbed in the back by my pjt mgr

Ass-clown volunteers that he does not think my Priority is "worth it" and it falls to the bottom of the heap.

watch this space.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Higher Learning

Mary O asked, "Have you learned more in your four years at The Mill or your four undergrad years?" And I said, "well that's a blog right there."

I am fantastically over-educated, after all, for a 12 year public school girl who spurned the National Honor Society and couldn't break 1000 on the SAT. (the old one - without the writing section). I did learn a great many things in my 4 undergrad years:

1) How to talk critically about anything, including things you have not experienced (see previous post).
2) How to read Henry James in a week
3) How to command a room (elocution I had already learned at Petersburg Middle School)
4) How people live who are very different from you
5) How to lead a team
6) How to manage a lot of time and very little money
7) How to handle a grain cup, a cigarette, and an hors d'oeurve plate and still shake hands with the Dean
8) ....the fallacy of dichotomous question framing
9) How to work a theatre lighting board made of 6 giant handles like something from the Acme catalog
10) How to become the girl I mean to be

And many other talents that would exceed a properly structured list. Like how to make a properly structured list. It's hard to know whether foundational skills such as these are more learning. We haven't established whether we mean collectively more or quantifiably more. Impressionably more, to be sure. My brain had fewer wrinkles in those days.

Things I learned at the Mill:
1) How to talk critically about anything, especially things you have not designed
2) How to read a functional spec in an hour and a half
3) How to hold an argument
4) How people think who are very different from you
5) How to work as a team
6) How to manage very little time and a whole lot of email
7) How to handle a chat room, a conference call, and 2 In Boxes and still facilitate a WebEx
8) ....the opportunities presented by good problems to have
9) How to set up my draft folder so it looks like I wrote those emails during normal business hours
10) How to hold on to the girl I created

She does all right, most days. She keeps Henry James on the nightstand.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dark Shadows

#15 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

These kids today and their vampire worship. If only they had had the chance to celebrate the phenomenon of Barnabas Collins.

Were the 70s the true height of soap opera madness? On 3 -- count 'em 3 -- channels, we managed to pack in 20 DAILY soaps. Only one of them featured vampires.
10 min clip warning

This is one of the cases where the facts and my memory were at odds with each other. According to (and they must be correct, right, or they wouldn't have scored the domain name), Dark Shadows aired on ABC at 3pm. But we were a Guiding Light family, so how could I have been watching Dark Shadows? It took some digging to confirm that in 70-71, The Guiding Light was on at 2:30, so that explains that. And we can get back to Baaaaarnabaaassssss. Whispering this was guaranteed a pillow thrown across the room by Greatest of All Sisters.

You can clearly see from the clip above that the only thing scary about Dark Shadows was the Theremen. Well this is a little scary, I suppose.

Now, I don't read the modern vampire romance, but I am going to comment on them anyway, and the rest of you can chime in. (chime....midnight! baaarrnabaaassss...)

Apparently, part of the hook of the modern vampire is that he lives in the open, and doesn't have to attack people, either because he has found a synthetic substitute, or because you he really likes, so he would never subject you to... it. What is IT a metaphor for, anyway? If you are a 15 year old girl, I suppose you read IT as a metaphor for sex, that burbling boy-craving that drives him mad at night, but not when he's with you. It is a sort of Mormon sensibility, when you think about it.

After a little life experience, though, it feels more like his repressed blood-lust stands for his mental illness, or his anger, perhaps his addiction that just sits under the surface. Do emo-boys grow up to be House?

ooops - sorry. wrong Hugh Laurie pic. I meant this one. Now that's a vampire he shouldn't have let out.

I was only 6 when Dark Shadows went off the air, but I could keep up by Viewmaster (see series 12 and photo above).

Dark Shadows did attempt a comeback in the 90s, and actually won an Emmy. Well, it won it for hairstyling, but I think my point is that the brooding outsider will still draw a crowd, and a fleet of suitors who think they can change him. An old friend once said he understood why he was drawn to Beauty and the Beast, but he didn't like the fact that he was.

no, not that one.

that one.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What does Cynthia McKinney do now?

Did you know a Black woman was running for president?
No, of course you didn't.

The Greens estimate they got .1% of the vote (120,000). So, no Green states, but here are the top 5 green....ish results:

California 27,855;
New York 11,743;
Illinois 11,562
Louisiana 9,184
Michigan 9,123

Now that's a pit bull. Would have been an interesting debate.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How to file a claim with the TSA

So you've arrived at your destination and you find a love note in your luggage from your Homeland Security Junta, instead of some beloved belonging of yours. And let's just say that instead of anything of real value, like your camera, your phone, your charging devices, your clothes and jewelry -- which would just make them crooks in low-paying jobs in a time of great economic difficulty -- but your journal. Which just makes it creepy.

If any one of these posts haven't gotten me detained yet, this one ought to do it.

In the spirit of good will, I can provide some instruction into how the system expects you to respond to this situation. Like the sweepstakes, and the IRS, it has a lot of multi-step paperwork in small print, and counts on you not to save any of the important "supporting documentation." Work from within the system, Mrs. Perkins always said.

Start on the website, of course:

Dig who's on the watch list.

Am I supposed to come to the conclusion that this girl is safe, or suspicious? Because her anachronistic hair and distance from her own carryon makes me think she is a midget subversive who ought to be patted down.

From here, search for the claim form. Oh, you'll never find it. It's here.

First you'll get a disclaimer that says, basically, the world's an imperfect place and screws fall out all the time. Then you are offered a window of opportunity (60 days - 6 months) to tell you they can't find it. "Critical life-supporting medications and property will be expedited through the claims process." Don't you want to know how that happens?

The standard process is this:

  • You file a claim (more on which in a minute. say those 2 first words together fast).
  • Claim goes into claims management system (pile)
  • You are provided a claim number (false sense of security) and asked for more information. This step alone takes 3 weeks. Better hope you didn't lose your kitten.
  • Claim is sent to an Investigator
  • Investigator will review (lose) your supporting documents and ask you for more information
  • Investigator will make a recommendation (The TSA themselves puts this in quotes)
  • Your claim is assigned to a Delegated Authority official (accounts payable clerk)who will request your reimbursement.
    Notice that so far, no one has looked for your item
  • You get a check from the Coast Guard.
  • You find your stuff in the pawn shop on Airport Rd.

Or, Smurph suggests, you find it published on a bookshelf in Barnes & Noble. "heeeyy... wait a minute..." It was Smurph who suggested I include a handwriting sample in my supporting documentation. This will either do the trick or get the FBI watching my mail. ("...which she seems to send a lot of...")

The form itself is SF-95 Tort Claim package. Notice that the form was written years before 2001. It is 4 pages long, and you can complete the form on line, but you can NOT... wait for it... save a soft copy of the form. Oooh, they are the slyboots, aren't they? One prints out the completed form and faxes or mails it (what manner of ancient alchemy is this?) to the claims office.

The form has NINE useful hints. "Jimmy, you done with that form yet?" "Hold up, I need a 10th hint. Somebody give me a hint." "Here's a hint - The Boss doesn't like late work." I'll give you the 10th hint. Don't put anything valuable in your luggage.

It's a one-stop form for claims of "Damage, Injury, or Death." One shudders to think.

Here are the things you will need to provide with your form and have already thrown away in the seatback in front of you:

  • Insurance coverage information
  • Itinerary
  • Baggage claim numbers and stickers
  • Related incident report numbers

Now you wait.

The Claims Management System is currently "under construction" to upgrade the system and enhance its performance. Therefore, the ability to look up the current status of your claim is inaccessible at this time. We do apologize for this inconvenience....Although our number of phone lines is limited, you may call... between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and we will make every attempt to answer your call in a timely manner.
You will have to wait with me to see how this show turns out. This is what we used to call a "two parter."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Planet Money

Hey, don't forget that the financial meltdown didn't go away while we were watching election returns, or Dancing With the Stars, whichever.

I have to say I have never tried harder to understand a national crisis since Watergate, and now I don't even have Mad magazine to help.

What I do have is Planet Money, a new NPR podcast that is to the financial crisis what Nightline was to the 1980's US Embassy Crisis. Planet Money was born out of This American Life -- the hip-to-be-square weekly radio magazine hosted by Ira Glass and his stable of oddly un-radio-voiced contributors. You don't have to a lisp, a nasal squeak, or a short Brokaw L.... but it helps.

In May of this year TAL aired its instantly famous "Giant Pool of Money" story, which would have won the Pulitzer Prize for radio journalism if there were such a thing. You can listen to it here (30 mins) or read the transcript, which I will caution does not have the emotional punch of the real thing. Hear how it all went down from the guys who sold the loans and the guys who were awarded them, all because they could. Call -n radio listeners often demand to know what punishment will be handed down to these "predatory lenders" (as we now call them). This story reminds us all that no laws were broken.

You can also purchase it on CD -- the perfect holiday gift for the 1st time buyer and eager flipper still left in your life.

Just as we began to understand what it meant to lend $500,000 to people who made $60,000, the whole worseness got worser. And Planet Money was born.

This is a blatant and unpaid plug for this program. It is a daily, about 30-40 minutes long most days, perfect for your commute if you can not read The Economist while you drive. Or if you never understand what the people in the The Economist are on about. It has a global view, a breakdown of secret money-talk language, and a "stop and explain that to me" sensibility that won't make you feel stupid. It was not Planet Money that pinpointed Wimpy as our economic thought-leader; that was mine. It was Planet Money that helped me realize that our entire financial trade system is based on repaying on Tuesday for a hamburger today.

If you prefer lunchtime reading, try their blog (which is quite shorter than this one) or their Facebook page (before the company cuts you off). Finally, if you just aren't getting enough email, they have a newsletter as well.

So be informed. Don't be afraid to understand this, even if it does make you want to hide under the bed. That's where the monsters are.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

4 years at the mill

Happy Anniversary to Me

On Day One, I didn't think about how long it would last. At the beginning of the 2nd month I tried to resign. At the end of the 1st year, there was nothing to resign from. At the beginning of the 2nd year, I was nearly fired. In the middle of the 3rd year I slid back into the arms of workoholism in a pointless attempt to herd the rain. Not only did I fall off the wagon, but I fell off "the train," a term down-the-Mill that stands for being "onboard." Part of the future. A keeper. Lost my "flawless" status, my top-performer ranking, turned in my lieutenant's bars, threatened to move to Texas.

I could never have predicted marking a 4th anniversary at this clown college.

I've never lasted much longer than 4 years at one of these institutes of higher drudgery. I get Senioritis, and by the time some drama occurs (lay-off, buy-out, takeover, relocation) I have divested so much emotionally that I just pack a bag. The same event occuring during my bedazzling first year or my kick-ass-and-take-names 3rd year would see me leading charges up every available parapet. By the time the 4th year hits, I usually slurp my coffee, look over my glasses at whatever sophomore is caught up in the mayhem and say something unhelpful like "What are you going to do about it, though?"

So I am both nervous and calm about this upcoming year. I am pleased to know that very little rattles me anymore, but concerned that my history suggests I may not last much longer anyway. But I won't worry about that now. I'll just take a day of R&R and not check the email, bank up my rest for next Saturday's working day, and look forward to my next vacation. Count the blessings of my Delta Force teammates, my unbelievably gifted boss, the friends I have hung onto who don't ask about The Mill and spend our time together as if we were all blissfully unemployed.

And take it one day at a time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why I hike

I am, by most calculations, an "indoor girl."

Early mornings are for lying in bed reading Vanity Fair, not for running. Evenings are best spent with a movie. Nearly all of my hobbies involve a screen and a keyboard, including this one.

I am generally an Armchair Traveler, and when I do travel, I will opt for the art museum over the dolphin-swim. I go our nation's capital and go to the Library of Congress. That kind of sightseeing.

But I do love my ramble in the woods. People who do not hike always express some concern for my safety in the woods. People who do far more dangerous daily activities, like driving a car or raising children, don't want to think about the simplest conservation land trail tramped by a hundred people in an afternoon.

They say, "I could never do that." As we say in the Blindness community, "Of course you couldn't. You don't have training." That's actually an over-answer, because I don't have much training in the woods at all. What I have is experience. And mind you I am not a climber. I just hike. In fact, most of the time, I just walk. This photo is of a natural bridge in Yellowstone. Not a big famous one, just one of the kinds of phenomenon you encounter in the wild. I sat right there in that notch under the arch and ate an apple. But I didn't require any equipment to do it. I just walked.

People say "do you take a cell phone," and I answer that I do, but a cell phone is not what keeps you safe in the woods. What keeps you safe in the woods aer the same things that keep you safe in life: being prepared; having a plan and a map; being in physical shape; a sense of adventure that doesn't exceed the limits of your ability; a few safety nets like a flashlight, a blanket, and an extra pair of socks (the same things you are supposed to carry in the trunk of your car); an awareness of your surroundings, and some good horse-sense.

This time of year, as we enter the darktime, and the gloomy November drizzle begins to descend, I start to miss my hikes. I wonder if this Saturday might be one last outing before the books and magazines take over the empty furniture cushions. Filling the hole the ramble leaves is a central focus of winter.

Why I Hike.... as an exercise of life skills in an abstract context.

10) Every walk is different

In one way or another. One, because I do try to find a different spot each time. In Central Mass, you'll be tooling along your ordinary daily commute and pass signs like this on the side of the road. Anywhere. What is it? Trails. Just trails. Come on in. Some trails are better than others of course -- Pete and I enjoy one of our newest stories about trying to find a good walk. And really we just wanted a walk, not a real hike, with boots and backpacks, just a walk in the woods. We ended up here, which ordinarily should have been more than enough. But we couldn't find a trail that served our needs without hiking 10 miles to it. Standish is really quite awesome; we just went about it the wrong way. So you never know what you are going to get.

9) No one is there
...or it seems like it, which is really what I want. In my worklife, I have fewer than 4 feet of personal space between me and the next girl. The Lieutenant I laugh that we can reach out and hold hands. And that is not a joke. we just laugh anyway. I live in a condo next to a yap-dog and neighbors who don't know they can congregate indoors. So I need all the solitude I can swallow.

I used to wake up early in college and walk the campus like it was my estate. Before that I knew every corner of every alley between the yards in my neighborhood. Mass Audubon, the largest of New England's conservation organizations, maintains 45 parcels and estimates half a million visitors annually. The trails are maintained, the public houses open and clean. I am never out of earshot of the sound of passing cars. And you feel like you own the place.

8) You have to follow a trail
I have no sense of direction. I can't recognize a face in a crowd. Instead I have an impeccable sense of time, I pay attention to detail, and I can read a map. There is always a moment, more than once on the trail, when you think you might have wandered off. You can't follow the trail under your feet; you have to look up for blazes. Animals make their own trails, and so do fallen trees, and running water. Flat ground doesn't mean you're on the trail. And when you think you've wandered, you stop. You look around slowly, tree-to-tree-to-tree... there it is! And you press on, remembering at the next turn that you should glance back periodically and make sure the return trail is equally blazed. This is a good thing to remember in life as well.

7) The good kind of sweat
The sweat I get on the job -- the kind that trickles down my neck during heated negotiations, the pit-pools formed while racing to a deadline, the forehead heat from the occasional beer at lunch (oh, yes. better believe it) -- is not the good kind of sweat. Pausing on the middle of a rock-fall called Bicentennial Trail on Mt Wachusett, taking off my backpack to take a drink and feeling the cold chill down my soaking wet back. That is the good sweat. This is as athletic as I get. I have never been one for organized sports, I am no survivalist, I can't even much stand to be wet. But when I have earned this kind of exertion, I feel more alive.

6) How awesome is public land?

5) Unexpected surprises
Most trail maps and kiosks will alert you to the big attractions along the trail. Some are manmade, like bog boardwalks, and bird blinds. Some are salamander ponds, and randomly occurring quartz boulders. Some are unexpected, and unexplained: the piece of a rock cistern, lying nowhere near water. The split-trunk tree. The skeleton of a duck who crashed into a tree.
You will only appreciate them by...

4) Staying alert in the depth of reflection
This should probably be higher on the list. I just like the way it goes with #5. This is what it is really all about. Something about having to pay such sharp attention to literally seeing the forest for the trees helps me sort through the rest of the junk rattling around in my head.

3) Chipmunks
Even in Wyoming, I have seen very little of what I would reverently call wildlife. I have come across my share of deer at the Quabbin Reservoir, and once at Walden Pond I sat for an hour waiting to see what was so vigorously digging its way through a pile of leaves. I was rewarded with a black mole, and though it was hardly big game, I can tell you I had never seen one in life before. I haunt Wachusett just for the prospect of encountering a porcupine in the wild.

My delight with chipmunks is just the fact that the animal world has its own lookouts, who scream "5-0" all down the trail ahead of me, which explains why I never see any wildlife.

2) The pay-off
I don't mind how long or high the effort, how much the beating sun finds the one bare spot on my neck, if there is a pay-off at the end. Ideally a water fall, or the ruins of a mill. But a view, a lake, a bush of honeysuckle, will all do just as well.

1) the anticipation of the next hike

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One for the ladies

I am about to speak on a topic you may wish to avoid. But if you do, you may miss out on a simple special gift for that woman in your life, unless she reads about it here and buys it for herself.

Please be advised that this posts acknowledges the existence of certain reproductive organs.

You remember that for a brief time, many many years ago, Tampax included -- free in the box -- a plastic tampon holder. It came in navy blue or magenta (Mattel pink), held 2, and worked kind of like a Pez dispenser. I have one left, and they are nowhere to be found -- not even on eBay, where you can find everything else, including a dozen other designs of tampon holder.

What I wondered was, why don't they just hang there in the aisle, like the can openers do next to the soup, like the flea collars do next to the kibble? Why should this be so difficult? What an easy market this is.

My dear friend Karen, who has handled her hygiene in more developing economies than you, said, "Oh like this?" and shows me the one from the O.B. box. I think she had it stored under her fingernails. I just paused and rolled my eyes. To OB or not OB is the Mac/PC of Girl World.

Those dozen other designs on eBay are all terribly kitschy/cute, and believe me, I don't need my tampon holder to be discreet. It can actually look like a tampon for all I care, I just need it to be sturdy. A Band-Aid tin used to be perfect for this. Band-Aid tins were perfect for everything.

The Glam and Retro cases are well-made, and chic enough for your formal bag, but I don't know that my case should cost more than a 40-box.

Then there are Ragtotes - more cheaply priced, more cheaply made, but do the job. Check out the sports variety!

If you do need discretion, try Discreet Innovations, "in 5 vibrant colors." I want to be discreet... but VIBRANTLY. There was a time, on my quest, where I thought that an antique cigarette holder might serve my needs. Especially if it had an endearing engraving on it.

Then just a couple of months ago, in my own Shaw's market, in the very small Health & Beauty aisle, they were hanging there, just like can openers. Nothing fancy or cutsie. Just an entire rack of "tampon purses" made by Evriholder. Mattel pink still available!

I bought 5. A week later, when I saw my best friend for her birthday, I said "I brought you something." She said it was the best gift ever.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Find your twin

Register your face with god-knows-who and be first in line when the boxcars pull up.

Facebook's targeted advertising methodology has a way of passing the that's-for-me! effect straight to who's-outside my-window. The ad is coming from inside the hhhhouuuussse.

This "fun game" simply "everyone" is playing, called Find Your Twin, sent every one of my lights blinking. Could this graphic be any creepier? Does it remind you of anything good?

Here's the game:
"I Look Like You .com is the meeting ground for anyone interested in finding their look-alike or twin." The website offers a hypothetical where actual twins are trying to find each other... and they do...and oh, their countries are at war.. it is so tragic. Aging and morphing software can help find lost loved ones, and show the "changing face of humanity." It's all in fun, says iLookLikeYou (and it must be fun, because look at the contempo-way they spell their website name) It is kind of fun. Until you wonder where the database of photos is and what else it could be used for.

From the privacy policy:
"While actual use of any information collected may be used quite conservatively, you must assume that it is not. You must assume that information collected is shared with other persons or entities for commercial purposes."

"Any material downloaded or otherwise obtained through the use of the service is done at your own discretion and risk and that you will be solely responsible for any damage to your computer system or loss of data or other liability that results from the download of any such material."

You almost want to admire a privacy policy that is that screw-you.

"This Privacy Policy is dynamic. It will continually change. You may not assume that it remains the same and you agree to check the policy each time you visit the site for changes. Unless, in the sole opinion of the website, this policy changes so drastically as to suggest a posted notification on the site or via email, you will receive no notification of changes to this Privacy Policy nor, under any circumstances, does this site promise notification. "

Some relieving news:
No one under 14 may play.

Some disturbing news:
That means 15-18 can. And it seems most of them are.

Even creepier links off this site:
Free legal advice
My acne story
My Twinn just like me dolls. "Why would you misspell 'twin'" is not one of the FAQs."

I found this website much more entertaining - Find your Star Wars twin.
Mine is Admiral Ackbar, with C3PO rising. But you knew that, of course.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Other stuff that happened today

Polls closed moments ago in the Commonwealth, and I am following returns via NPR where the calming soothing voices of the most creative names in broadcasting are reading senate wins and percentages all in a blurry ear-wash behind my head.

Other stuff is happening in the world today, though, and maybe only NPR will tell you about it. It is high Supreme Court season, which means Nina Totenberg re-enacting the transcripts for you.

Since traffic had come to a standstill on the state road that runs right past Bolton Town Hall (1 driveway in, 1 driveway out), I was treated to Nina's retelling of our highest court in the land arguing the finer points of "profanity vs vulgarity" and how much trouble a network should get into for letting it slip onto the air.

If you have a lunch hour to listen to the broadcast, you might prefer it over my re-cap, but I promise to excerpt the better moments.

Miss Bender the persona is not so much for swearing. This is a family show. But the woman behind her is a big fan -- the Middler the English, the better. Excuse your French? That ain't French, honey. Try swearing in French, and see what kind of looks you get.

Legal definition of profanity:
Profane material is defined as including language that denotes certain of those personally reviling epithets naturally tending to provoke violent resentment or denoting language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.

Whew. and people say I write over the heads of my audience.
When I want to provoke violent resentment, I just talking in long rambling legalese sentences like this. I think, in short, this means "you knew it when you said it."

Ginsberg: "There seems to be no rhyme or reason for some of the decisions that the Commission has made. I mean, the Saving Private Ryan case was filled with expletives, and yet the film about jazz history, the words were considered a violation of the Commission's policies. So that there seems to be very little rhyme or reason to when the Commission says that one of these words is okay and when it says it isn't." uunnngh! how you like that?

And they were just getting started. I liked this moment, when the Justices and Counsel are deconstructing "the F-word," as they continue to call it, what time of day it magically becomes acceptable on television, and what life-altering effect it is having on children who might be watching The Golden Globe Awards (where everyone is drunk, by the way). Or as the attorney put it, "...the extremely shocking and graphic nature of using this language at 9:00 p.m. on an eastern night. " (I think "dark Georgia night" is always a more effective phrase for moments like this.)

And Justice Stevens says, " there ever appropriate for the Commission to take into consideration at all the question whether the particular remark was really hilarious, very, very funny?"

we need a gavel rim-shot right there.

Scalia agrees: "I mean, bawdy jokes are okay if they are really good. "

Uh-oh. Antonin Scalia and George Carlin... same age. Something has happened to the court. Can't you see Scalia in Foster Grants listening to the Class Clown album in someone's sunken living room, and appearing to be shocked/titillated? (Titillated you can still say) Picture James Womack from Courtship of Eddie's Father.

Counsel: "I think you can recognize the potentially greater harmful impact on children where you have celebrities using particularly graphic, vulgar, explicit, indecent language as part of the comedic routine during a show that children are comprising a substantial part of the viewing audience. "

Children watch the Golden Globes? Get cable.
On this note, I tried to find out how the FCC reacted to the Oscar Night streak in 1974, and found this exhaustive write-up where it is revealed he was not even arrested. Wardrobe malfunction, my ****.
At this point, the Court begins to use the word "prong" repeatedly, to describe 2 points of the FCC's policy, as being argued. Like this:
Breyer: "So that had to do with prong 1, not prong 2. "
You know Thomas would have giggled, if they ever let him speak. Ginsberg chimed in with the phrase "the bottom line of your brief."

It was in reading this transcript that I learned the phrase "heckler's veto." Don't be surprised when I use this on our next conference call, because I am dying to throw it out. When a law or a govt body curtails your right to speak out of fear of the party who will react to you... this is called the heckler's veto. If you say it about 20 times in 2 minutes, this is today's Supreme Court hearing. I am pretty sure in my environment that I will find a way to play this card.

This post is not particularly entertaining, and comes to no conclusion. But it isn't about the election.
You'll grant me that.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Don't take your wheelchair to Savannah

Plenty to do in Savannah, GA for a weekend or longer.

In researching this post, I found it referred to as "New Orleans Lite," a comparison I had made myself (less elegantly) when I described it to a friend as New Orleans without the debauchery.

Think Branson:Las Vegas as Savannah:New Orleans

But please be physically fit. Savannah is begging for an ADA Lawsuit.

Just in time for Disabilities Awareness Month, October 2008, I visited Savannah, GA and the Southeast ADA Center began a report on 2 Georgia cities. Quoting the report:
In these two communities [Athens and Savanna], the research teams visited and evaluated the accessibility of information, the physical accessibility and the services provided at the City Hall, a library, a civic center, and a park. They also evaluated the ability of the police to provide information about emergency evacuation services as well as the accessibility of public transportation services.
The evaluation was conducted by a team of 5: 3 with disabilities, 2 without. Results are still being analyzed, but I can save you the wait. Savannah has a long way to go.

The historical district, where we stayed, is a beautifully picturesque minefield of uneven sidewalks, slippery cobblestones, narrow winding staircases, and historic homes whose guided tours are likely to include grand ballroom staircases and servants' stairs, and unlikely to include a chair or lift. Please do not lean on the walls because they are also historic. Just stand there and pant.

Before you fall for Walking magazine having once named Savannah one of America's best walking cities, remind yourself that this is Walking magazine. Not AARP, Mobility, or even Southern Living. There may be more than one reason Walking is no longer in publication.

Believe instead Insider's Guide: Savannah and Hilton Head, which advises:

All these stairs are old, and many aren't particularly easy to navigate, such as narrow slate steps curving a long a stone wall with an aged metal railing. The steps tend to be beside the ramps that carry traffic to River St. Be extremely careful, and if you want, walk down the ramps that cars use to get to the river.
Although you can avoid the tricky stairs this way, you won't avoid the cobblestone ramps, another potential pedestrian pitfall. the cobblestones are very beautiful and not as steep as the stairs, but beware walking on them with any type of heeled shoe.

The city has put in an elevator to the waterfront, and the tour guides recommend that you use it. If you do happen to tumble in the sidewalk (for example -- I'm not saying it happened, but for example) you will be nowhere near a CVS. Carry your own first aid kit.

Hotels do not have shuttle vans to the airport. The taxi cartel is a fleet of shared van services, though we were never asked to share. They are your standard mini-van affair, which is to say 3 feet off the ground without running board. Ask for the step stool.

The trolley tours are charming -- Savannah Tours boasts the most personal/unscripted experience, but there are several to choose from. All will lack assist-steps and seats wide enough for the average American party of 2. Strictly a no-wheelchair/no-guide dog situation.

Disclaimer: the photo below is not from Savannah. But doesn't your heart break for these poor put-upon creatures? Special dog heaven for the Assistants.

I am still recommending Savannah. It is fairly inexpensive, historically/artfully/artistically interesting, a good slow pace with fun for the whole family (kids under 10 might find it totally beat, but your Girl Scouts will dig the pilgrimage). Nearly all the shops and restaurants are local establishments (disregard the Outback across the street from our hotel), the SCAD vibe keeps it current; the low country vibe keeps it gothic. Spanish moss is real. Southerners are friendly.

And where else would I have seen this:

It is a Thomas Kincaid
Of a NASCAR race
Featuring an Air Force flyover and fireworks

ye-haw, ya'll.