Friday, June 30, 2006

getting it right

I read with great joy this morning about the Supreme Court's ruling in the Guantanamo Bay case. Apparently there are limits to the President's war powers. This is a huge ruling from the Court, and one that should be applauded. I particularly liked that the Court cited the Geneva Convention in the ruling, remarking that "military tribunals" would violate Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

Of course the Court has given Bush an out -- he has to get Congress to pass legislation allowing the trials to go forward, and then he can do what he wants. Congress has already leapt into action, and there seems little doubt that they will give Bush what he wants. But at least the process was respected and followed, and this does matter.

Bush has really stretched, and at times, completely broken, the system of checks and balances that are the heart and soul of our government. That the Court recognized this, and issued a rebuke (even a tepid one), is a step in the right direction. Someday we might actually get to where we should be; with full civil liberties for all.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

stormy weather

Stormy weather, ain't no sun up in the sky....

How can we still be so driven by the weather? We can send rockets into space. We can transplant a human heart. But we can't get the sun to shine.

It has rained here in Maryland for a week or so. Not a little rain, but downpours, with thunder and lightning. Rivers runneth over. We've had mudslides on the beltway. It is practically biblical. Some areas have gotten over 12 inches of rain in 3 days.

It makes my head hurt. It darkens my mood. It changes my routines.

I want blue skies. I want a breeze. I want sunshine to pour down upon me, warming my skin and lightening my heart.

Monday, June 26, 2006

the apple don't fall far from the tree

I got together with a few friends the other day. The conversation tangentially bumped into the idea of genetics. What is inherited? You are on pretty safe terrain when you look at a child, and say he has his father's chin, or his mother's eyes. But did that attitude come from the gene cocktail, or did it come from environment? Is curiosity inherited? can you be a smart-ass by birth?

How much of what we are is determined by birth? I look at my parents and pray that environment holds most of the cards. I look at my child and see one inherited characteristic after another.

When I was in college, I took a course that linked biology and behavior. I was outraged by the very idea that anything about my actions was determined by wiring. I had FREE WILL. I was no mere combination of chemicals -- I was a thinking rational being. Now, I am older, and have the experience to see that yes, there are some things that can't be explained any other way -- wiring does have a huge part in what we are, and how we act. It isn't everything, and I do think it can be battled with on a conscious level, but to deny it is there, is to move through life with blinders on.

I think we need to understand how we are wired. In a way, I think having a kid gives you a glimpse into your own "operating system". When I see certain behaviours that crop up in my son, I have this "a-ha" moment. The oh-my-god, it's genetic kind of moment. And I understand myself a little better, as I learn to understand him.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I normally have this under control, and usually don't covet what I haven't got. But this week has been a low-satisfaction week, so ENVY has reared its ugly head.

My son is going to summer camp at one of the local private schools. The campus is stunning, the curriculum is stellar, the faculty well-trained. It costs $13,000 less than I will pay in tuition next year. And so, the envy creeps in. I am jealous that our school isn't as nice, and I feel cheated that I have to pay so much more for my child to get an education. The truth is that my son isn't ready for a mainstream school. To move him would doom him to failure, which I don't want. But envy is less than rational, I find.

I am in a low period with my job: too much to do, no time to do it well, deadlines, competing agendas, yadda yadda yadda. And so I open the paper, which has a front of section article on the tech shortage. And how in-demand techies are now. And how the average database admin salary is $55 per hour. At my current 37.5 hour week, that is a little over $107K a year. Not what I make, not by a long shot. So then I started envying all the people who have somehow landed these awesome jobs...

Then I watched TV, and saw these fabulous backyard kitchens. More fabulous than my new kitchen in my house. And again, envy was lurking in every image. Why don't I have an outdoor pizza oven? granite counters, a fireplace, a pool right off the kitchen?

so this week's task is to remember how lucky I am. I have a wonderful husband, a terrific child, a good solid job. I have a house I love, friends I adore. I am someone to envy....

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

the hissing of summer lawns

Tomorrow is the official first day of summer. For me, summer started the day we had to start using the sprinkler to keep the plants from wilting in the heat. I love to listen to the sprinkler, while I sit on the porch. I love the smell, too, of the warm, damp earth, and the sparkle of the drops of water on the green green grass.

I like the heat that wraps around you when you step outside. The sky is bluer in summer, and the clouds are whiter. I like to pad around barefoot, to feel the grass and warm concrete under my toes. The smells of grilling meat, the way a popsicle melts, the way watermelon juice dribbles down my chin -- it all sings to me of summer.

In my mind, summer is always the care-free time of sunlight and vacations. That it hasn't been that for years seems to make no difference. The feeling remains. Summer is all warm possiblity and limitless horizons. It's relaxed in a way that winter never is. Summer is flip-flops; winter is socks and boots.

Summer is a warm peach fresh from the farmer's stand by the side of the road. It's fireworks and BBQs, dairy queen and fireflies.

It doesn't get any better than this.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

generation gap

Today I was talking with a young co-worker. It turns out she is 19 years old. This means I am old enough, with room to spare, to be her mother. This thought led to other thoughts. I am wondering if I am now officially experiencing a generation gap with my colleagues.

I for instance, remember 45s. You used to have a little plastic adapter, so you could play them on your record player. I remember record players, which later became turntables. Is there anyone under 35 that knows records used to skip? that you could tell how old a record was by the "fuzziness" of the sound?

We had eight-track tapes. Then we had cassettes. Now, I have an iPOD.

I remember gas-rationing. I read almost all of Anna Karenina while waiting in gas lines.

There were presidents before Ronald Reagan.

I used to buy penny candy. It really cost a penny. For a quarter, you could eat yourself sick at Dawson's.

There didn't used to be warnings on everything. No one ever told you how old you had to be to play with a toy -- they figured your parents weren't dumb enough to let you choke.

Kids flunked when they didn't do well in school. No one cared about our self-esteem.

The school nurse could give you aspirin. Kids could take aspirin.

Cereal came with good prizes; so did Cracker Jacks.

I had a pass book savings account; I actually took the little booklet to the bank when I made a deposit. They stamped my book and gave me a lollipop.

I actually had to go to the bank to put money in and to take it back out.

You used to have to ask people for directions. And find a pay phone when you needed to make a call.

I could eat at McDonalds for a $1. I could eat at McDonalds.

Paul McCartney was a Beatle. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilder.

Nobody had air conditioning. Getting a colored TV was a big deal. We used to hang our clothes out on the line to dry, and we used to have to run out to take it down when it rained.

There weren't walk in closets. There was no Wal-Mart.

Old people always talked about the way things used to be....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

just me

Does it bother anyone else that the US forces surrounded a house, had a criminal cornered, and then bombed the crap out of him? I don't mourn the loss of this particular individual, but this is out and out assassination. We didn't even attempt to capture al-Zarqawi. I think the world is better off without him. I really do.

If he had shot at our forces, and we returned fire, I would have no problem. If we had tried to capture him, and he resisted and was killed -- again, no problem. But we dropped a bomb on a man who was outnumbered and outgunned. We killed his wife and child along with him. Nice civilized behaviour.

Part of what bothers me is that it doesn't seem to bother anyone else. How we accomplish something no longer seems to matter. We want the results, and don't care about the means.

Oh well, I guess its just me.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

last days of Rome

Do you think, in the dwindling days of the Roman Empire, that they knew that it was over? That they would never rise so high, or be so great? Would it be like today in America?

We are apparently considering removing some key tenets of the Geneva Convention out of our troop training books. Specifically, we may permit "humiliating and degrading" treatment of prisoners. The same administration that expressed its sorrow (potentially, if any wrong was done, but still) over the massacre at Haditha, thinks its okay to abuse the prisoners in its care. Kind of like the the foul-mouthed parent that wonders where the f*ck their kids learned to talk like that....

Once, we were a great nation. Now we are a shadow of what we were. Hail Caesar!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

out of control

Today has been the day from hell. Not because of the number of problems on my desk, but because of what kind. I am staring at several large problems, with large implications, and no way to resolve them, because THEY ARE OUTSIDE MY CONTROL. I have a company that I have to deal with telling me there is no problem, when there is. I can't fire them, I can't change things from here to make it work, I can't do anything but sit and watch it be a problem. I have a web server sitting off in University-land, with a trouble ticket that is a week old, so far. Again, I can't do a damn thing, but send more nagging emails. We have an SMTP error, again, from a relay outside my control. The damn school keeps sending me more last few days events to attend, throwing my schedule out of whack.

I have to learn how to handle this. Someday.