Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dinner at Trailheadquarters

One of the rather many hardships we endure during Mr. T's international absences is the cooking of TK's breakfasts. Breakfast is usually the province of Mr. T, except on weekends when I make buckwheat pancakes or french toast or whatnot. Today, we had breakfast for dinner -- or at least TK did. He announced at 5:30 p.m. that he wanted a "yolk egg."

Uh-oh. I cannot prepare a proper fried egg to save my life. This is because up until birthing this little son-of-another-fried-egg-lover, I had never bothered to try. Principally because I find them disgusting. Mr. T and his progeny, on other hand, apparently find them a delicacy on par with the world's finest caviar.

So I gave it a try. I always give it a try, and I'm fortunate that TK has not yet developed a discriminating palate able to distinguish between his father's fried-egg masterpieces and my significantly inferior offerings.

I discarded the first effort, as I discovered after plating it that I had not cooked the white long enough. (Lovable Mutt was pleased, though, as I dumped it into her bowl along with some kibble and secluded her from the harassing attentions of Thomas so she could partake in peace.)

The second two eggs fared better, though one yolk popped in the pan and ran all over during the flipping process. TK did not notice, to my profound gratitude and relief. He ate the two eggs and mopped up the yolk with a slice of whole wheat bread. Then he announced he was still hungry.

"Get me some jelly bread," he demanded. We've been working on the politeness issue; and by that I mean I've been trying to teach him not to behave like Henry VIII at the table. After we'd worked that out and he'd issued a proper query on the availability of jelly bread, accompanied by a "please," he found himself presented with another slice of whole wheat bread spread thinly with organic strawberry jam.

I prepared my own dinner while he ate it.

"Mommy, can Lovable Mutt eat bread?" Because TK often asks whether the dogs can eat one item or another, I replied distractedly that, yes, the dog could eat bread but it might not be the best idea.

A few minutes later, he asked for another piece of jelly bread. TK often goes through growth spurts where he eats like a fiend. So while I would have preferred that he eat a piece of fruit or a vegetable, I get significantly more easygoing on these matters when Mr. T is gone. I served up another piece of jelly bread.

"Mommy, please cut off the brown. I don't like the brown."

I was puzzled. "But TK, you ate it on the other piece of --- wait a minute. Did you feed the crusts on the first piece to the dog?"

TK clearly knew he'd backed himself into a corner. If he admitted feeding it to the dogs, he was busted. If he didn't, that meant effectively admitting he'd eaten the crusts on the first piece, and he knew I'd say he could just eat them on this piece, too. He practically had "I am so screwed" tattoed on his forehead. So he tried another approach.

"Mommy, you didn't spread the jelly right. Daddy always spreads it in little circles."

Ahhh, a time-honored tactic. Look! Over there! Something shiny!

I know from experience this usually works on lawyers, and even sometimes judges. Parents, however, are generally made of tougher stuff.

Monday, August 28, 2006

For Tony

I was rather drily scolded by Tony during an instant messaging session this morning:

Tony says:
love the chinatown pics... just what I needed

[Trailhead] says:
you being sarcastic?

Tony says:

I suspect Tony has arrived at the "fuuuuuuuuuuck, I wanna go hooooooome" portion of his international travels. So in order to make amends for inflicting the Chinatown photos upon him, I thought I'd post some other snapshots of our fair home to ease the misery.

Even though I know it's his kids he misses the most, and not the landscape. :)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Humor me

T Bro took this one. You can see my black rain jacket that he got carsick on later in the afternoon.

Lotus flowers, golden monkey tea and Hung Far Low

One of the things my brother and I do when he comes to Portland is visit Chinatown and take in the Classical Chinese Garden, its authentic tea house and surrounding environs. This itinerary always presents a plethora of opportunities to indulge our inner twelve-year-olds in between sitting reverently in the tea house drinking tea and walking the gardens.

We go from this:

To this:

We like a little diversity in our states of mind.

Hung Far Low is a now-defunct Chinese restaurant and bar that benefited handsomely from its willingness to cater to the lowest common denominator (such as myself and T Bro) in its name selection. The damn thing's been photographed a bajillion times. And you know what? It's still funny.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pink's Open Letter

Posted by Wasteland Fan

I love this song for the music as much as the lyrics.

Thing is, I'm not sure it's fair, though. (Even setting aside any concerns about someone coddled by the celebrity culture lecturing anyone else.)


Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Chipmunk Blogging

Today, Trailhead Brother and I drove up to the Timberline Lodge ("Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance...") We ate lunch at the Cascade Dining Room, then went outside, where we met this guy. These are T Bro's pictures. I think I might take my gear up there soon and see if I can get them to pose for me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I made an offhand comment last week about going on a "beat-the-shit-out-of-myself" hike along Eagle Creek. I felt a little sheepish after I got back, because it was 6.4 miles of relatively easy uphill and downhill walking.

But I really did beat the shit out of myself Sunday. Mr. T, Thomas, TK and I packed up and lit out for the Saddle Mountain Natural Area in the Coast Range, with a view to hiking up to the summit of Saddle Mountain. The hike begins in a cool, scrubby alder forest, and proceeds upward.

The first 1.7 or so miles are just your standard, uphill hiking. It's not too difficult -- at least for an adult. TK, however, announced that he was finished and wanted to be carried at about the 1.2 mile mark. He'd already done a pretty good job, so Mr. T put him on his shoulders and we pushed on.

But about .3 miles up the trail, the trees disappeared and the hot sun replaced them. Mr. T, usually a man of seemingly superhuman physical capabilities* ,announced that he would prefer not to keep hiking uphill in ninety degree heat with a hydration pack on his back and a 35-pound 4-year old on his shoulders.

I couldn't really blame him. But I really wanted to get to the top of that mountain. So he encouraged me to keep going, which I did. So TK and the puppy stayed behind with Mr. T, and I pushed on uphill for another half mile. The trail ducked briefly back into the forest, and emerged again in the full sun.

The trail reached a broad saddle (get it? Saddle Mountain!) and I got a view of the final push to the top. Ugh.

See the trail with the tiny little people?

So from there I had to descend sharply (the trail in the foreground is overlaid with chain link fencing to aid your footing), then start the steep approach to the top. This would have been merely lung-busting, but the terrain was unstable, with loose rocks and scree sliding under every step. I made extensive use of the cables and improvised stairs that were occasionally available. Going up isn't the problem on ground like this -- it's realizing you're going to have to deal with the same ground on the steep descent, which is much more difficult.

Then, as a bonus, when I reached the very top I got swarmed by blackflies! Nature's own reward. But the views were wonderful.

If you look a little bit to the left of the cliff's edge, you'll see Mt. Rainier, partially obscured by smog.

Clearcuts. Not so beautiful.

Realizing I was nearly bonked from the climb up, I scarfed down a few fistfuls of trail mix and some water from my hydration pack. Descending would be precarious and difficult, and my leg muscles would require energy to gain purchase on the scree. After I finished, I asked a group going down to advise the guy with the towheaded kid and the puppy that his wife had made it and would be heading back shortly.

As it always is, descending was harder than climbing up. It was the kind of descent where you wince when you hear the telltale "roooooooossssh" of someone behind you sliding on the scree, expecting them to carry you down the mountain at any moment. As of yesterday, my legs and back were still sporting a nasty ache, and my knee didn't want to bend without a bit of agony. But my strategy of popping Advil and hoping it would go away worked wonders, and I'm in fine sporting condition today.

This was the scene when I returned to the family:

And this was the scene from my perspective at a TK-requested rest stop down the trail, as I lay limply back on a boulder:

It was a delicious hike. It should, however, be done with proper foot and ankle support, lots of water and, if you are knee- and ankle-weak like me, a pair of trekking poles for the descent.

Incidentally, Bert has done the same hike this summer, apparently with far less pain and agony than I did. Methinks Bert is in very good shape. (He also got better pictures.)

*I'm not exaggerating about Mr. T's endurance abilities. It's true. Once he did a six-mile hike up a mountain carrying both a full backpack and my 30-pound photo pack on top of that, because my knee hurt. Then again, it was only about 55 degrees, too.


Posted by Wasteland Fan

I am waxing a bit nostalgic this afternoon.

My relatively small, university-dominated town just got a new Qdoba Mexican Grill casual burrito restaurant (to join the relatively new, but already established, Moe's, Chipotle, and Bajio, as well as the old standby La Bamba, with the "burritos as big as your head"). In addition to being another data point in the burrito's slow but sure usurpation of the burger as fast food of choice, the Qdoba reminds me of the two-hour lunches TH and I used to take when we were both in law practice in Indianapolis. (Is two hours accurate, TH? I don't think they often approached the three-hour milestone, did they?)

I miss that.

P.S. We didn't always go to Qdoba. We also frequented the Nordstrom Cafe and a little Indian buffet called India Garden. Speaking of India Garden, if you get the chance, ask TH about her not-so-secret admirer.

Complaint department, Tuesday morning

Blogger has been such an asshole lately. I've been trying to do a post for the last two days on Sunday's hike, but one minute pictures will load, and the next minute they won't. I'm not a big Blogger hater -- for the most part it has worked swimmingly for me. But the last two days have posed a serious challenge to my temper.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

In which disgust renders me speechless

Remember these images?

From Oregon Live:

Fireworks may have ignited a fire Saturday afternoon that burned about an acre in Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach.
The fire started about 4:15 p.m. on a bluff near the main parking lot. The popular coastal park was evacuated while 40 to 50 firefighters from several fire departments and the state Forestry Department battled the blaze.
I took those images of or on that very bluff. It's an touchingly beautiful place. The Oregon State Police are in pursuit of "two male teenagers" they suspect set off the fireworks in the parking lot adjacent to the bluff.


China, Montana, what's the difference?

So Mr. T's back off to China next week with co-worker, China virgin and Trailheadcase commenter Tony. I won't be going along this time, because 1) I don't feel like going to south China during typhoon season, 2) my mother-in-law has no more vacation time left for the year to babysit, and 3) the sole memory I have of the city they're traveling to is the view into the toilet.

So you can imagine that I've spent much time, both in person and over instant messaging, haranguing Tony about the things to do and not to do to avoid getting sick:

1. Remember the adage, "peel it, boil it, or forget it."

2. Take Immodium along but don't be silly enough to think it will actually help.

3. Do NOT take your cues from Mr. T, who has been there six times, and who was never very careful to begin with.

4. Don't forget to brush your teeth and rinse your toothbrush with bottled water too.

5. Don't eat anything that looks like it might contain butter or cream, and thus potentially harboring those preformed toxins that made me ill. (Do click that link, or you'll miss my fish head picture.)

Obviously, I don't mean to suggest that somehow China is more likely to make a person ill than any other country. I followed these same guidelines when T Bro and I went to Europe. But the food in Spain was a little closer to my every day fare than what I got in south China. I suspect that has something to do with it.

I've also been trying to persuade Tony to e-mail me some posts to put up at his place (keeping in mind that he won't be able to access Blogger on the mainland.) Of course, that would break his record of not having posted since June, and we can't have that.

For my part, I'll be entertaining Trailhead Brother from this coming Wednesday till Sunday. We're doing a neat little exchange at the airport Wednesday. T Bro comes in at 11, we'll all have lunch together, then put Mr. T on his plane at 2:35.

Then, when Mr. T gets back on September 2, he's actually taking a week of real, live, no-work vacation! Yipppeee! We were going to take a road trip up to Yellowknife in Canada's Northwest Territories, but for a number of reasons we'll be spending it in Montana instead. Thus I will be spending my birthday there, which I find quite fitting. Unless we do a road trip up into Canada, this shouldn't affect my blogging.

That's the report. As you were, folks.

Fun With Pugs

Posted by Wasteland Fan

Lots of dog blogging here lately. I don't have a dog. Still, not one to watch a theme weave it's way through the blog and not participate, I thought I'd share the following:

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wow -- Because you certainly wouldn't want to do it intentionally

Headline of the day:

"Las Vegas accidentally passes public defecation law."

Better than a kidney stone, I suppose.

Friday Dog Blogging

Lest you form the erroneous impression that I play favorites, I offer you this Friday Dog Blog of the esteemed Lovable Mutt. This dog's entire life strategy, with a single exception involving her regard for high value food items, can be expressed by the words go with the flow. Because I am wholly unacquainted with that philosophy myself, this at once inspires in me respect and annoyance. At times I can see that she desires something, but is maddeningly unwilling to expend the slightest effort to pursue it. When I pick up the leash, she jumps about excitedly, but when I attempt to get her out the door, she demurs. When her dogly counterparts (both current and past) have received treats, she has stared at her companions intently while they ate them. But when offered her own, she invariably sniffs in a bored manner and wanders away.

Her attitude is almost uniformly deferential, especially to me. But occasionally she will become interested in a toy, rawhide, or other food item, and will act as though she would happily take off my hand if interfered with. (Interestingly, this does not extend to TK, though I've drilled it enough into his head to leave her alone at those times.)

There is also a touch of mental vacancy to her that I have concluded is really a front for stubbornness. She is a dedicated wanderer when allowed outside, and will pretend to be unable to hear or understand a command to return.

Though ancient enough now to be extremely sedate, she was capable of much tomfoolery in her youth, especially in cahoots with our dear and departed Golden Retriever, who was of an age with her. Mr. T and I would return to our crappy student apartment after a day of toil to find coffee tables overturned, phones off hooks, and household items shredded to tiny, unidentifiable bits. The two little brown ponies would be reclining nonchalantly on the couch, completely oblivious to the state of the living room. Butter, had they managed to steal it from the refrigerator, would not melt in their mouths.

These days I call her the Last Dog Standing. Her much feistier contemporaries have gone to the great bark park in the sky, and yet still she remains, unobtrusive and silently shadowing me around the house. At the age of 14, I'm afraid that won't be so much longer.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A walk among waterfalls

The Columbia River Gorge is home to the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America.* It's also a mere 40 minutes from my house, and it seems closer than that. Thomas and I, along with a friend, hiked about 6.4 miles along the Eagle Creek Trail today, past Punchbowl Falls and up to High Bridge. (All while poor Mr. T was getting a root canal.)

I really like Punchbowl Falls.

A quick .3 mile side trail leads down to Lower Punchbowl Falls, and when you hike upstream on a gravel shore for a bit, you reach this:

See that gentleman in the picture? Though I'm fairly certain I've never seen him naked (one's memory isn't infallible, of course), I do know he's suffering from a terrible case of shrinkage, and quite possibly poor judgment. I bring this fact to your attention thanks not to my eyes, but to simple Aristotelian logic: That water's friggin' cold. Upon reaching the stream, I donned the wicked new sandals I'd packed in the day pack, and entered the water. Thankfully, the pain gave way to simple numbness after 30 or so seconds.

It's lovely there.

*I have seen the claim made that the Gorge contains the highest concentration in 1) the Pacific Northwest and 2) the world. I'm unclear what the truth is. But there's a snotload of waterfalls, which is all you really need to know.

More on Childcare

Jeannie has weighed in with her thoughts on the parenting issues, and I (as usual) weighed in with a lengthy comment.

For now, I'm off for a lengthy, beat-the-shit-out-of-myself hike this afternoon. So I'll be out of it for awhile.

Not a temperate post

If this case proceeds to sentencing, I hope this sick fuck goes to prison. But I suppose since he's a rich, entitled country singer, that's less than likely. This shit makes me ill, people.

And these folks have a problem with the Dixie Chicks?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Note to Thomas

What, me?

No matter how innocent you look, you must acquaint yourself with this immutable principle forthwith: If you want to remain in my good graces, you will never again shit in my shoe. That is all.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Eye pop of the day

This was definitely not on my birth plan.

Monday dose of Thomas

Three weeks in the life of a puppy is an eternity. He was small and compact when we got him, but now he's taller, and all legs. And we are still fighting the Chewing Wars. Fortunately, this has given TK the opportunity to exercise his blossoming sense of humor. In an effort to imitate the puppy, this weekend he walked into the room with one of my shoes in his mouth. He was endlessly pleased that I found this hysterically funny.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The kids are fine

So, over at Rose's there's a discussion about her decision to go back to work after several months at home with their new daughter. Jeannie, another favorite of mine, had asked her 1) how she does it all, and 2) whether she feels guilty about going back to work. Rose wrote a good post that explains her feelings on the subject.

So, pressed for time, I popped up in the comments and asked this one question: Why doesn't anyone ever ask men whether they feel guilty going back to work? Gloria Steinem put it another way: "But the problem is that when I go around and speak on campuses, I still don't get young men standing up and saying, 'How can I combine career and family?'" Steinem put it much better than I did. People tend to hear my question and translate it to, "Why doesn't your husband feel guilty about being away from your kid(s) like you do?" That's not what I meant.

We can assume until the cows come home that most fathers miss their kids deeply when they are away, are involved in their lives, and so forth, and still ask ourselves the question of why our culture principally (if not solely) concerns itself with mothers who go back to work.

My grandmother, born as she was of another generation, tells me constantly how lucky I am that Mr. T "helps" with TK. And every single time I (patiently) remind Grandma that Mr. T does not "help" with the house and the kid. He does his share, and I don't look at that as anything greater than him fulfilling his basic obligations. To phrase it in terms of "helping" implies that Mr. T is assisting me with a responsibility that is primarily my own.

That dog, as we say in the Midwest, don't hunt. At least not anymore.

I start from the premise that, in a family headed by a couple, (1) the care of children and home and (2) the financial support of the family are joint obligations. From there, a couple may elect to divide these duties up in different ways at different times as circumstances dictate. What annoys me is that often, our culture does not start from that premise, but rather immediately assigns mom responsibility for the kids and the house, and dad the responsibility for the financial support, and maybe yard and car maintenance in some situations. (Of course, I could go off on a complete other tangent about how these days, women contribute more of the money but are also still frequently expected to bear, in addition to their job, their traditional burden of caring for the house, all while feeling the requisite amount of guilt that their children are in daycare. But that's another post.)

I guess part of the reason for my view is I'm not much of a gender essentialist. Some of you are shaking your heads right now and thinking, well, mothers are just hardwired to worry more about being away from their kids and to want to be with them all the time. Eh, maybe. Or maybe the culture has just drilled it into our heads that we suck if we don't torture ourselves with guilt for working outside the home.*

And a big reason I'm not a hardcore gender essentialist is that I've seen those boundaries break down in my own family. When TK was born, Mr. T was just starting his first year of an extremely demanding MBA program. I was the sole wage-earner in the family, and self-employed to boot. (Talk about fear.) And here I was, the primary caregiver (and foodgiver) of a newborn as well. Fortunately, I work at an office with my family, and my dad thought it would be neat to have his grandkid at the office every day.

But these circumstances compelled me to crystallize my view of family care, and all it entails, as a joint obligation between myself and Mr. T. There was absolutely no way I could take it all on myself. And frankly, I had no wish to. Mr. T stepped up, of course, both because he's just that kind of guy, and because I refused to have it any other way.

Today, I would have to say that Mr. T does slightly more of the daily, nitty-gritty kid care. On the other hand, this trip makes five weeks that he's been away from home this year so far. By the end of 2006, it will be up to eight weeks, possibly nine. So I'd say on the whole, we're about even.

I don't feel guilty that I work for pay instead of care for TK full time. What I do feel is not guilt so much as a longing to be near him, which I know Mr. T feels as much as I do. And here's the thing: TK is fine. Mr. T and I have a tenuous balance that we are constantly readjusting. (Case in point: it has become clear to me that if I were to go back into a traditional legal job, things would have to be signifcantly reworked.) But I do what 1) our finances require and 2) my mind and heart demands that I do. He's better off with a happier mom. And he's a pretty well-adjusted little dude as it is (if you count out some of the more obvious quirks that come with this family's genetic territory).

I think the real problems arise when you're not doing what you're comfortable doing. A good friend wants nothing more than to be home with her three kids, but they can't survive on her husband's income alone. This causes her real and deep pain. With me, I recall the exact moment I knew I had to get the hell out of that house. It was two weeks after TK was born and I was sitting on the couch, nursing him and staring at the rock wall opposite our stairwell. Nothing dramatic -- I just knew. Later that afternoon I packed up the kid and his gear and went into the office.

But back to the original point, which was why it's rare for someone to ask if fathers feel guilty going back to work. That's actually easy -- because they have women to do it for them for the most part. Mr. T actually stayed home with TK for six weeks between getting his MBA and starting the job out here, while our nanny was on maternity leave. I felt not a shred of worry, not a scintilla of guilt, because I knew he was with the other person in the world who loved him as much as I do. I suspect it's certainly much that way for most men.

What I'm certain I will now hear in response to that paragraph is "oh, I/my husbandwould love to stay home with Junior. If I/he could." Let me say that, while I generally defer to one's explication of their own feelings, this is an assertion that I cannot help but take with a tennis ball-sized grain of salt. It's the "if I could" that always gets to me. Usually the fathers mean "if finances would allow," and I accept that. But I've known too many high-earning professional women who give up big money to go home to assume that giving up a high salary is the real reason most men don't do it.

Obviously this suspicion cannot be generalized to everyone. For example, neither Mr. T nor I could give up our jobs right now without, well, losing our house. (Mr. T never says he'd love to stay home, either.)

And none of this is to criticize Jeannie for her question. She was discussing the issue with Rose, not a man. But it did tickle my gray matter and prompt me to open my trap and openly wonder something, as I am often inclined to do. And despite the long-ass post, I still haven't addressed all the issues involved, or all the possible personal permutations of this question. (For example, Full Moon will have a very clear statement on what it means to not have the choice at all.)

Oh well. Back to work.

*I don't mean to suggest there is no difference between the way fathers and mothers feel about their children ever. But I think the differences wane ever more quickly as the child gets older. When TK was born, I felt a powerful, unshakeable urge to be near him. When I was away, I felt somehow incomplete; when we were reunited, I felt almost a surge of relief. But in any event, those feelings have lessened a great deal as TK gets older. Which makes eminent sense; children are supposed to become more independent of their parents as time goes by.

See, I told you so

(As an aside, I note that these conclusions were published in the Australian Law Reform Commission Journal. Heh. Good luck with that.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

An Idler's Lament

I'm busy. On the other hand, this means I'll be able to eat this month.

That post I've been meaning to do is about half written. I've not forgotten.

Meanwhile, what's the weirdest thing that's happened to you recently?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Substantive post renting space in head; eviction notice to come later today tomorrow

Okay, I have a post in mind inspired by Rose and Jeannie that I intend to write, but I'm working on a big project that's hit a snag and our mortgage broker is coming by at noon to bore us with paperwork related to our refi that I'm actually going to have to read since I'm the lawyer in these here parts, and Mr. T is headed out to Salt Lake City this evening for six days (including our 12th anniversary on Sunday) and the puppy threw up all over our bedroom carpet last night, so I have to get out the steam cleaner. And the only thing I've managed to accomplish with that last sentence is to inflict a screeching agony on the latent English teacher renting space in Kristy's head.

But hey, I have Sinatra on my iPod:

Without a song
The day would never end
Without a song
The road would never bend
When things go wrong
A man ain't got a friend
Without a song.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I can't say I'm surprised

You Are 24% Lady

You tend to make up your rules of etiquette, throwing all conventions aside.
And while you try to be a lady (sometimes), your behavior is often quite shocking.

It appears the 24% springs only from 1) my refusal to tell racist or sexist jokes and 2) my general disinclination to ask others how much money they make. Hardly exceptional.

The endless flexibility of puppy ears

Because you haven't seen enough of Thomas already.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Indifferent Shittiness of the Universe, Part I

Back in Indianapolis, Bloggerdad and Trailhead Brother are both neck-deep into racing, and it seems that if one of them doesn't know a big racing muckety-muck, the other one does. It was these fortunate connections that allowed us to take Trailhead Kid to his first Champ Car race in Portland back in June of 2005 and meet a whole slew of cool people.

One of the people TK was lucky enough to meet was the incredibly kind Cristiano da Matta. Immediately before the race, he took the time to sign TK's T-shirt and talk to him, then got in his car and won the race. The thing I noticed about da Matta was that he didn't seem like he was on autopilot while he was doing it. Understandably, some of these guys see so many people and faces who want their attention that I think they end up just glazing over. But he seemed genuinely engaged. This was such a great thing for us on a number of levels -- TK thought it was cool, and Trailhead Brother and I were documenting the entire day in order to create a photo collage that now hangs on Bloggerdad's office wall.

That's one of the big reasons we're all dashed to hear the news that da Matta is in intensive care with a brain injury he sustained after hitting a deer at 90 m.p.h. during a test session at Road America. Despite the eight-foot fence surrounding the track, the deer nonetheless wandered onto the track in da Matta's path. We're pulling for him, and Trailhead Brother is e-mailing the latest updates.

Shit, this blows. A freak accident puts a great driver in intensive care, fighting for his life. Bleh.

The New Montana

Bloggerdad sent me this article today about the transition from the Old West to the new, and how it's playing out in Montana. There's a similar thing going on in most of the states in the mountain west, including Oregon. I'm of two minds on this. Obviously, I'm not a native westerner, and tellingly, I've met very few people since moving to Portland who are. I can probably count them on both hands. (Hi, Tony!)

But humans have been doing this since before they started walking upright and stopped picking nits off their mates -- that is, getting defensive about others who would encroach upon their territory. I'm amused that some caucasian westerners grouse about these modern interlopers with no sense of irony whatsoever. The relatively tiny speck of time that the descendants of Europeans have populated the American west is still apparently long enough to allow them to forget how recently their ancestors were the interlopers, the land thieves.

Still, this is a matter of significant concern:

Montana still amazes -- with beasts, with distance, with its famously big crystalline sky that doesn't get all soupy in high summer heat. Yet, as a morning in Malta, in the plains of northeast Montana, and an evening in Bozeman, in the mountainous southwest, clearly show, this iconic Western place has been reformulated: cut into separate and unequal parts, cleaved along a fault line of wealth and bankruptcy, growth and decline, ebullient newcomers and aging descendants of the homesteaders.


All of which leads me to my supper in the so-not-dying city of Bozeman, the heart of Gallatin County. It is the fastest-growing county in the state, a place where residents -- compared with the average Montanan -- are richer, better-educated, more likely to have been born in another state and much more likely to be living off investment money.

Ebullient newcomers. That stings a bit, but I recognize the truth of it.

Our house is not in Bozeman, or any of Montana's "big" towns. It's near a small northwestern mountain town decimated years ago by asbestos mining and the ills that came along with it. A few years ago, the sawmill -- the last big employer in the area -- closed down, taking jobs along with it. You can still get a four bedroom house in the middle of town for less than a hundred thousand dollars. But that's dwindling fast, because even that little corner of the state is giving way to the phenomenon discussed in the article. Retirees and seasonal visitors with money are moving in. Hell, I'm one of them and my father-in-law is one of them, as are my brother and sister-in-law. Real estate appreciation has been clipping along at ten percent a year, until last year. When it skyrocketed. The industrial economy is out, the retiree and tourist economy is in.

This might be great for the older Montana natives who own their homes -- they will receive more equity in their real estate than they ever probably imagined. But what about their kids? What about the kids who want to stay in the lovely place they grew up? Will they be able to afford their own homes when they have to compete with people like me, raised and educated elsewhere?

But what if people like me and my father-in-law weren't interested? Where would the town's economy be then?

But what of this:

To the regret of many longtime Montanans, these New Westerners are getting awfully thick on the ground, especially in Gallatin County. They are building monster houses, seeding the periphery with big-box stores, and sullying the Montana that they and their birdhouse-building kids came to celebrate.
The only thing I can offer as an individual is that I love the place, and I try to respect it. When I'm there, I try to be polite. If I need something, I buy it at small, local establishments instead of bringing it in or, say, picking it up at a big box store when I'm in Kalispell. I try to be mindful, and I hope others like me will also try to be so.

It's the last sentence of that quote that scares me the most.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Speaking of Chewing Dogs . . .

Posted by Wasteland Fan

Oh, the bearmanity!!!

Puppy-Chewing Casualty List, First Two Weeks

One pair of purple women's underwear (pervy little pantysniffer)
One size seven women's shoe, black
One puppy harness (repaired)
One size eight preschooler shoe, blue
Several pairs of white boy's socks (see photo)

Attempts made, but ultimately foiled, upon:

three bras (not telling you the size) pulled furtively out of hamper in bathroom
Rug in the living room
Blue chenille throw (with puppy-attracting fringe)
Asolo 535 hiking boots (you can cut that crap out right now, little mutt.)

Search of the Day


Apparently from my comment on Wasteland's vasectomy post.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bad Night

Posted by Wasteland Fan

In the comments to a prior post, Fullmoon challenged me on my objections to M. Night Shyamalan's films. And, having gotten no response for several days, she's getting understandably impatient.

I'm really pressed for time this week, but I'll try to do a quick, non-exhaustive list of several things that bug me about Shyamalan and his work. But, in fairness, I'll start with some positives:

  1. I thought The Sixth Sense was quite good. I've got no real complaint about it. It was engaging, well acted, solidly constructed, and beautifully rendered in many ways. And the big shock at the end holds up pretty well to criticism. It's no Citizen Kane [or insert your favorite high-brow classic here], but it's a fine film.
  2. Until the stupid ending, I thought Unbreakable might even be a better film than The Sixth Sense. The way Shyamalan was able to create a foreboding mood, both in terms of pacing and visuals, was impressive.
  3. Though I'm no expert on film criticism and have less than passing familiarity with the technical aspects of filmmaking, my sense is that Shyamalan is a talented director.

The bad and the ugly:

  1. He can't act. Yet, he features himself more and more prominently in every film. That and other details of his behind-the-scenes persona smack of a hubris that I don't like.
  2. He is a one-trick pony. Enough with the "it was there all along but I'll shock you at the end with this fascinating twist" movies. With each film it becomes less interesting and more strained.
  3. He is unoriginal. When Wasteland Spouse and I walked out of The Village, she said, "Could he have ripped off Running Out of Time any more?" WS has taught the Haddix book to several classes of elementary schoolers, so she's quite familiar with the book. This was no idle that-kind-of-reminded-me-of musing. And, sure enough, others agreed and not long thereafter Margaret Peterson Haddix's publisher was at least investigating whether a copyright violation occurred. (I couldn't find anything that suggested there was ever legal action taken, but you don't have to violate the federal code to be guilty of being unoriginal.) Other Shyamalan movies have been subjected to claims of ripoff as well. While he may be completely in the clear legally on any and all of these claims, it's a disturbing pattern.
  4. Signs and The Village were mostly just ponderous and boring. The couch potato critic in me can't get any more bottom line than that.
  5. The critics agree that his films just keep on getting worse.