Saturday, March 31, 2007

adventures in tech support, i mean, digital photography

This is NOT what a photo is supposed to look like. I mean, it's a sort of cool effect, but it is not an intended effect, and that's the problem.

This, my friends, is a corrupted image. I got that much out of the HP tech support person who answered my email last night. However, tech support's suggestion (format the camera) didn't help. I'm awaiting a follow-up email and we'll see what happens...

For now, don't expect anymore photo-essays on any new, exciting topics ("faces of loss" for example, the photo-essay I might do after SK leaves for England in ten short days, or "watch my plants grow," the one I was planning when I took the photo you see here).

Meanwhile, my camera looks at me and says "You bought me on e-bay, what do you expect?" And I feel like a sucker.

Friday, March 30, 2007

well that was... interesting

So, um... I'm back already. Our trip to the coast didn't really go as planned. I guess that's because there really hadn't been a plan. I know spontaneity is supposed to be really cool and all, but sometimes a plan is pretty cool too.

Of my two main goals, I accomplished half of one. I said I wanted to walk on a rocky beach, but the beach I walked on was sandy. Good enough. I did not, however, accomplish goal two: eat clam chowder.

We were very close to eating clam chowder -- we were tooling through a town that probably had a restaurant serving clam chowder -- but before we could make it we got pulled over and given a ticket by a very young officer pretending to be very nice, but in reality he was very, very MEAN because what kind of jerk gives my girlfriend a $250 ticket for gliding gently through a stop sign?? A big, stupid, mean jerk with too much free time on his hands and probably a small penis.

The very, large ticket from the very mean (but also quite friendly) Manzanita police officer sort of set the mood back a bit, along with the appetites. After that, I didn't want to give Manzanita another penny of my money. Word to the wise, if you're in Manzanita, don't even think about a "rolling stop." They will nail your ass to the wall.

So we came home a little early and I was able to then discover the next bad thing: all but two of the pictures I took are digitally unrecognizeable. Ie: they won't download on my computer and the camera calls them "unsupported images" even though I can see them on the little display screen. This shitty picture here is one of the only two that survived. Oh well. No momentos from a bum trip.

And I'm getting a cold.

On the bright side, my girlfriend is napping peacefully on my bed and some nice music is playing. That's good enough for now.

midnight snack

SK and I are going to the coast tomorrow... I mean... technically today, since it's after midnight and I'm breaking my "no-computer-after-midnight" rule. In eight and a half hours, she will pick me up and whisk me off for a day trip... somewhere! On the coast! We still hadn't hammered out the exactitudes by the time we spoke last, so... I guess SK will surprise me. I don't care as long as we 1.) walk on the cold, rocky coast, and 2.) eat clam chowder (not at the same time). I'm easy to please (but only in this one, very narrow area).

I'll be back (with pictures) Saturday morning. Ciao.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

m.c. rove

Oh. My. God.

I was going to post a link to the You Tube video of Karl Rove rapping and... uh... "dancing" at the Radio Correspondent's Dinner last night... but after I watched it... ugh... I will never be warm again.

Like, the creeped out shivvers just won't stop. I'm shivvering off my seat.


Don't watch it. It will ruin your whole day. It's not even funny it's just... ugh. I need a blanket.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


SK leaves for England in two weeks. She'll be gone for three whole months. The reality and the nearness of her departure has suddenly hit. For awhile, the time between "now" and SK leaving seemed indefinite and blurry. But now it's whittled down to fourteen completely identifiable days, a much more concrete proposition. Something to get anxious about.

This will be a lot like her two month trip to Australia last year, only this will be fifty-percent longer. It was a sweet time, despite her absence. We wrote voluminous letters and talked on the phone every few days. In some ways we were more in touch during those months than we are some days in the same city. I was constantly aware of her travels, each day I had a rough idea where she was and what she was doing. I had my own vicarious Australian adventure. I guess this will be similar.

In the meantime, I've got three months to get my own shit together so she'll come back to a fully functioning girlfriend with an income and (hopefully) only one job. (Translation: hopefully I won't still be working my midnight shifts at the homeless shelter. Hopefully I'll be making money with the law only.)

Now I'm going to catch my 12:06 bus and go home because graveyard actually showed up tonight! It's a miracle!

maybe this will help

On Monday I met with a woman from the Professional Liability Fund, an organization that provides malpractice insurance to attorneys in Oregon. Because the PLF will have to pay up if you fuck up, they are in the business of helping you NOT fuck up.

For an hour and a half, a very nice woman handed me page after page and pamphlet after pamphlet, explaining all the ins and outs of starting my own practice. She gave me all the info I was allowed to have before I'm admitted to the bar -- and it's a lot of info. Once I have a bar number, I'll have access to more.

There's just so much to consider. For starters, all the different office possibilities: entirely from home, rented office space, office-shares, office time-shares, rented conference rooms, etc, etc. Or the more complicated issue of taxes -- I have to decide whether to operate as a sole proprieter or to create some type of business entity (like a professional corporation) -- the tax ramifications will be different for each. Not to mention, depending on where I do business and where I have my offices, I will have various state and local taxes to contend with. The PLF lady advised me to "buy an hour from a CPA and ask some questions."

Wow. I took tax classes and business associations classes, but this stuff is so complicated I have to talk to an accountant. That sucks.

I learned one surprising thing from both the PLF lady and also from Shelley (a blogger and solo practitioner who took me to lunch last week and gave me some helpful advice) -- one thing that shifts a lot of my assumptions. I learned that your clients won't respect you if you don't charge much money.

I have long imagined myself becoming something of a "people's lawyer" -- charging affordable rates, meeting with people on their own turf, dressing down a little. I planned to work with lower income clients and I foolishly assumed that what holds true in social work would hold true in a lawyer-client relationship. In social work, especially with homeless clients, you don't want the difference between the way your staff looks to be to wildly different from the way your clients look. We dress down to make our homeless clients feel more comfortable.

Well, I see now that I have been wrong. People who hire a lawyer are expecting a particular kind of experience. They are expecting it to cost a lot and they are expecting their lawyer to fit a certain profile. Basically, people are *expecting* a status differential with their lawyer. They expect a certain level of polish and professionalism and if they sense that these things are missing, they'll start thinking you probably suck.

Both the PLF lady and Shelley confirmed: if you charge less than the going rate for services, your clients will treat you like crap. That's an eye-opener. And it sucks.

So, I'm reevaluating my strategy. To that end, I picked up a copy of John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society from work where the most random assortment of paperback books seem to amass, free for the taking. Leaving aside the irony of finding a book about affluence in a homeless shelter, I'm hoping this book will help me understand affluence from a different perspective. Until I do, I will keep behaving "poor" and I will keep *being* poor.

Already I'm riveted by something on page two: "So great has been the change [between true poverty and what we have in America now] that many of the desires of the individual are no longer even evident to him. They become so only as they are synthesized, elaborated and nurtured by advertising and salesmanship, and these, in turn, have become among our most important and talented professions. Few people at the beginning of the nineteenth century needed an adman to tell them what they wanted."

Wow. Ain't that the truth. We'll see if understanding affluence helps me with the professional-lawyer persona I will have to create in order to successfully build my practice. That and a good suit. And a new pair of shoes.

(P.S. Don't worry, SK. I'm reading The Lost first, then I'll read The Affluent Society.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

long lost word of the day


Pronunciation: im-'por-ch&-n&t, -tyu-n&t
Function: adjective
1 : troublesomely urgent : overly persistent in request or demand [importunate creditors]
- im·por·tu·nate·ly adverb
- im·por·tu·nate·ness noun

Thanks Merriam Webster.

cafe post script

I wrote that coffee roasting post in such a hurry yesterday, I left out some important things. Here they are:

1.) I told you that a stopwatch was essential, but then I told you that you can't roast by the clock. So why do you need a stopwatch? Good question. And while we're asking good questions, how long does this whole roasting process take?

Depending on the type of beans, the darkness of your roast, and the temperature external to the popper, roasting time will vary but will almost always be under ten minutes per batch. Sometimes, when it's cold outside, it takes the popper longer to raise the temperature in the popping chamber to the level it needs to be for roasting. Other times, when it's hot outside, the temperature in the popping chamber goes up super fast. Thus, roasting the same beans to the same roast-darkness might take a full two minutes longer in winter than it does in summer.

As I explained before, you can only really judge your roast by listening for the cracks, but I use the stopwatch to help keep me focused. I usually roast four batches at a time (one after the other, obviously) and I generally don't sit by the popper for the duration of each roast. I used to, but over the years I've started multitasking because sitting by the popper for 45 minutes can be boring.

What I do is this: I hit the stopwatch at the start of each roast, but I pay particular attention to the first roast. I notice when it hits first crack and when it hits second. That gives me a rough idea where the roast will be at different points in time. During the rest of the batches, when I'm paying less attention, I can always check my watch just in case. If I'm in the house watering the plants and I lose track of time, I can check the watch and see that, since "x" amount of time has passed, the cracks I hear must be second crack, not first crack, so the roast must be nearly done.

Some people can tell by the smell when the roast is where they want it, other people can tell by the color of the beans, but nothing is as easy to track as the sound of the cracks.

2.) Once the roast is technically over, you want to cool the beans as quickly as possible or else the roast will continue by default. I dump them into a bowl and agitate them until they stop cracking. The Sweet Maria's site suggests you use a metal spoot to stir them and get lots of air to them. I just shake them and shake them in the bowl and probably don't do a great job, but it works for me.

3.) Contrary to popular belief, "fresh roasted coffee" is not brewed directly after a roast. You must wait AT LEAST four hours (and maximum 24) before brewing. Freshly roasted beans are giving off tons of carbon dioxide and if you try to roast too soon you will get bad results. All the carbon dioxide inside the beans will be fighting to come out, while the hot water is fighting to come in for the brew and they will sort of cancel each other out.

In addition to waiting to brew, you must also wait to store your fresh coffee in an airtight container until 12 hours after roasting, or the escaping carbon dioxide will have nowhere to go. I usually leave mine sitting in bowls but you could also pour it into a glass jar and just leave the lid off. As soon as 12 hours passes, seal it up tight because *that* is the secret to keeping coffee fresh: an airtight container. NOT THE FRIDGE. NOT THE FREEZER. Please, for the love of Juan Valdez, don't put your coffee beans in cold storage. It makes them stale. Put them in a tightly sealed glass jar, out of direct sun, and call it good.

Sweet Maria's website says if you follow those instructions, you can call your coffee "fresh roasted" for five days. I tend to roast enough to last almost two-weeks at a time and I can assure you that it keeps tasting really good until the very last day. Although, the first cup is always the best. Possibly because, on the morning after your roast, when your beans have been sitting with the lid off all night, your house smells like the best smelling coffeeshop on earth -- in fact, it smells so good, it's not like any coffeeshop on earth, it's like a coffeeshop in heaven. It's indescribable.

4.) Don't be afraid. The first time will be nerve-wracking and you'll be like "how can I tell if it's cracking? How can I hear the cracking over the noise of the popper?? Is it cracking yet??? It must be!!!" Just relax and listen and if you fuck it up, throw those beans away and start over. You might have to toss the first couple of batches until you know what you're doing, but if you follow my instructions you should be ok.

Resist the urge to stop the popper and look inside, or even to remove the little butter melter flap while roasting is in progress. For best roasting, the temperature needs to stay constant throughout. Interruptions fuck things up, although peeking in once in awhile just to see what it all looks like won't be catastrophic. But keep the peeking to a minimum.

Also know that roasting DOES NOT smell good. It smells bad. Your neighbors might call and ask if your house is on fire. You will NOT want to breathe the exhaust from the popper. Don't freak out when your roast smells like something slightly toxic: that's ok. You're smelling the result of a series of chemical reactions inside the beans. After the initial cool-down period, freshly roasted beans start smelling good. I usually leave them outside for about an hour, then I bring them in. Otherwise, they stink up the house.

There is a difference, however, between normal bad-smell and burning bad-smell. If you let the beans go too long (longer than ten minutes is a rough guide), they will start to burn, a thicker smoke will come out of the popper and the smell will be extra-bad and burny. Please stop the popper before it catches on fire. And throw those beans away. Charcoal is what you've got when all the coffee oils have burned up. Like I said in the last post, you just can't roast charcoal. Chuck that batch and try again.

5.) Finally, for more information on roasting or green beans or anything, you should check out Sweet Maria's. They're great. The best: Tom imports all the green beans, he goes all over the world to select them, and he gives lots of helpful information about them. The selection is enormous and always includes organics and free trade beans. It's awesome.

Happy roasting.

Monday, March 26, 2007

adventures in coffee roasting

An attempted photo essay: enjoy!

As many of you know, I roast my own coffee beans. A long time ago, I wrote a whole post about roasting, but now that I have a digital camera, I thought the whole thing might be more interesting with pictures. First thing you need is some green coffee beans: as pictured here. I get mine from an online seller called Sweet Maria's.

Sweet Maria's was a tiny shop in Columbus, Ohio back in the day when I was actually learning to roast. My friend Connie had stumbled in and met Tom who introduced her to the wonders of home roasting. I eventually made my way there and Tom actually loaned me my first hot air popcorn popper to give it all a try. Eventually, I left Columbus and so did Tom and Sweet Maria's. Now he's in California operating a primarilly mail-order business.

Pictured here are both caff and decaf varieties. Because I can hardly stand caffeine anymore, I am roasting more decaf than caff these days. Here's a five pound bag of decaf and a one pound bag of caff. Including shipping, this whole order cost me $41.00 and will last me about 6 months. That's cheap, people. One good reason to roast at home.

To roast at home you'll also need: a hot air popcorn popper, a bowl or two, and a stopwatch. The bowl is for pouring the hot coffee in once the roast is over. The watch is to help you keep track of the time, but there is no way to roast by the clock. You have to listen for the cracks, but I'll get to that in a minute.

When choosing a popper, be sure you get the right kind. In this picture, you can see the bottom of the popping chamber: do you see those air-vents around the sides? Those are the kind of air-vents you want. Some poppers have a single airvent in the very bottom of the popping chamber. Those won't work for roasting coffee. The vents in the sides (like in this one) force the beans to move in a circle, keeping the air nice and even throughout the roast. That is essential.

If you're planning to roast at home, it's better to roast outside for a variety of reasons. Number one: the chaff. Caffeinated coffee beans are covered in a thin skin that dries up and separates from the beans during roasting. (decaf beans don't have a chaff anymore because it comes off during the decaffeination process). This "chaff" (pictured here) blows out the hole in the popper and makes a big mess. Better to let it blow out into the yard than all over your kitchen, although I hear you can put a bowl of water under the popper hole (where you'd put a bowl to catch popcorn) if you want to try roasting in your house. I'd still advise *not* roasing indoors because the process is very hot and smelly and is guaranteed to set off your smoke alarm.

So you've got your popper and your green beans and you're outside with a bowl and a stopwatch: now what? Pour the same amount of green beans into your popper as you would popcorn kernals, about two inches. Close the thing up, turn it on, hit your stopwatch and LISTEN. No matter what your watch says, it's what your ears hear that matters. Roasting coffee involves two cycles, called respectively "first crack" and "second crack." If you're roasting caffeinated beans, the first thing you'll notice is the chaff blowing off. That's pretty festive.

Shortly after the chaff has slowed to a near stop, you'll start to hear first crack: a series of tiny cracking sounds that will start intermittently and build to quite a racket. Soon, first crack will subside, and depending on your beans, a short or longish break will ensue when all you will hear is the whirr of the popper. Pretty soon, though you'll start to hear another series of cracks. The Sweet Maria's site has a really interesting explanation about the cracks: one is endothermic and one is exothermic, etc, etc. However, what you really need to know is that the instant second-crack begins, the coffee is technically done. The rest is a matter of taste. Above is a picture taken while roasting is in progress, in between first and second crack. You can see the beans are pretty brown, but they aren't done yet.

If you stop roasting at the beginning of second-crack, you've got a very light roast. The longer you let it go, the darker it will be, until you hit a french roast. The beans look different at each stage and the Sweet Maria's site has a great bean-color chart to help you match the colors to the names of the roasts. If you get too far beyond a french roast (when you can hear no more cracking at all) you're heading into the region of CHARCOAL and you can't brew charcoal, people. You just can't.

Here's what I ended up with: a sort of medium roast. These are my decaf beans, I chose this pic because it came out better than the one I took of the roasted caff beans. Different roasts taste different depending on your beans and this is a brand new batch for me, so I'm not sure which roast they're best suited to. We'll see. I used to roast all beans to a very dark, french roast, but eventually I realized I was just burning away a lot of the more subtle flavors. I've brewed lighter and lighter and finally settled in the mid-range.

Finally, here's one more plug for Sweet Maria's: this handsome, unbleached cotton bag that you can order your beans in for a paltry buck more (or something like that. I only ordered cloth bags a couple of times, but the bags are cute and I use them for other things. For example, I've been carrying my new camera around in this one until I get myself a camera case.

Anyway, I have no idea how these pics will come out or if the formatting will be ok. This has been a giant experiment. Thanks for bearing with me. :-)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

just sitting around

I love sitting around at coffeeshops. Especially when they have nice, outdoor patios with plants, like this one at Fuel on Alberta. This is where I went a few days ago. Check out that orange mug. I love that orange mug.

Anyway, it is very dreary and gray today and I'm holed up in my hovel with the heat on, reminiscing about sitting at the coffeeshop the other day. Good times.

Last night, SK and I went to the Lucky Lab to celebrate the departure of our boss at work. I am surprised to realize I'm really mad at him for leaving. I could hardly look at him all night, the big fat traitor. It's very disheartening. The upside was that there were a lot of dogs running around, and that always makes me happy. (The downside: children.)

I'm so close to the end of Brother's Karamazov, I'm avoiding reading it because I want it to last. I've been reading it for, like, three months now. I started it in January, but kept putting it down and reading other things instead. Not because I didn't like it, mind you, but because it was so good. I didn't want to finish it. And now that it's almost over... I'm feeling a little anxious. I'll have to go to Powell's and get Crime and Punishment. I keep telling myself I'll read these other two books I have laying around, but I probably won't. I won't be able to fight the urge to keep up my inexplicable Dostoevsky kick.

Why am I boring you all so? Because I'm addicted to blogging, that's why. I'm sorry.

Friday, March 23, 2007

glimpses of my identity crisis

Ok, I know this isn't a big deal. I still have my health, I have food and a place to live. I have an education... too much education, if you ask me. I am poised to enter professional life, with my professional degree in hand...

But, you know, I don't really want to enter professional life. I mean, my student loan debt won't allow me much room for recalcitrance, but still... I'll do it, but I won't like it.

For instance, my earrings. I will have to do something about them because they aren't very professional. My ears are full of standard-issue, surgical steel, circular barbells. These are not the pearls or diamond studs of my future colleagues. These are the ubiquitious badges of late-90's tattoo culture. And I *like* these ubiquitous badges. I don't want to change them out.

I could write a lot right now about the struggle to jump classes, from blue collar to white. I could write a lot about how my gender expression will be challenged within this very conservative field I have chosen for myself. I could speculate that perhaps I chose this very conservative field for the express purpose of having that challenge. Who knows.

All I know is that, right now, I feel I'm being forced by circumstances to walk the plank: take off the earrings, put on a professional disguise and try to convince someone to hire me. It makes me feel dirty inside. And angry. And scared.

Is it too late to run away with the circus?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

walk in a fog

I hate sleeping during the day. I feel ruined to anything productive for the rest of the day, even if I wake up early. Today I slept five hours, woke around 2, and washed my dishes. Then I ate leftover pizza from last night. Then I walked to The Fuel Cafe on Alberta.

The Black Cat is my old standby, on 12th and Alberta, but the last time I went in there it was crowded and loud and more annoying than usual. I like a nice balance of dykes, hipsters and nerds. I like the dog to child ratio to be very, very high. Like, 100 dogs for every one child. And I like to be able to get some decaf coffee from the press-pot now that I am old and decrepit and can hardly tolerate caffeine.

So, on all of those counts, the Black Cat is starting to fail me. Sure, there are plenty of dykes, but they're the painfully hip kind and that cancels them out in my mind. And despite the presence of a dog-grooming salon two doors down, the dog to child ratio is way out of whack. There are tons more of these hipsters with mohawked toddlers coming in than hipsters with, say, pugs in sweaters. And I'll take the pug in a sweater any day over a screaming toddler, mohawk notwithstanding.

Anyway, what the hell am I talking about? I have nothing valueable to contribute today.

What about this picture I took on my walk? This is a house just a few blocks away from my hovel. It has palm trees and little, concrete faces all over the columns in it's massive wall. I like it and I don't like it, all at the same time. Isn't that amazing? I love palm trees because they remind me of the summer road trips we used to make to Florida when I was young. We'd first start seeing palm trees scattered here and there in South Carolina, then more in South Georgia, then tons right after we crossed the state line into Florida. That's when the vacation really started. When we were covered up in palm trees.

Palms seem out of place in Portland, but they're around. They always look a little anemic and, well, like they could use a heatlamp, or euthanasia. They still sort of make me happy though.

good morning starshine -- now with updates!

Hi peoples. It is 12:14am and I am at work. I should have been on the 12:06 bus. Does this sound familiar? Does this feel like deja vu? Yeah...

Only this time, I don't get to leave at all because this time the graveyard guy is actually, completely not coming in and I am working a double. Poor, poor pitiful me.

Here's what a nice girl does when she realizes at 10pm that she's going to have to stay awake at work all night: she orders a pizza because she is hungry and can't go home for a snack. She also appropriates fifty cents from the workplace and buys herself a Coke.

You know, regular Coke is made from completely natural ingredients (if you consider corn syrup natural). That's how I justify drinking it every now and again. I try to forget that you can pour Coke on a corroded battery and it will eat the corrosion away. My stomach lining is not a corroded battery.

Fortunately, I have about 400 pages of Brothers Karamazov left to read. And also, everybody went away so I'm alone in the Drop in Center. No more talking, no more noise, no more people asking for stuff. That's good. Even my coworker disappeared. She has a headache and went to take a nap. Uh, yeah, don't mind me, I've only been here a whole shift already, I'm certainly not interested in a nap, no sirree bob, not me.

Ok, I'm gonna go read my book before this devolves any further. I'll be sure to check-in during the height of my sleepless delirium... like maybe around 4:30 -- that's usually when the crazies start to kick in... if I remember correctly...

UPDATE: 1:10am -- Just when I thought I was free from all the talkers, the phone rang. I was excited. I thought maybe it was an on-caller who finally checked his messages and wanted to come in and work. No such luck. Instead, it was a blast from the annoying past: a really long-winded client who used to live here a long time ago and who would have been really happy to talk my ear off for the entire duration of my shift. Oh my god. I finally got him off the phone after about 20 minutes. WHY'S HE CALLING HERE PAST MIDNIGHT? Attention people of the world: go to bed!!! I would, if I could...

Also, I ate too much pizza... :-(

UPDATE: 4:02am -- I just played an epic game of computer pin-ball. The amphetamine addicts have all finally gone away. They've been pacing and talking to no one and shadowboxing since around 1:30. Once they finally receded, I realized they woke up the old lady on the couch. I could hear her tiny stream of mumbles coming from under the blanket. Every time the front door opens and is left to drop shut, it rattles all the windows. When this place is quiet, it becomes obvious how loud everything really is.

The four o'clock hour is the last hour during which nighttime feels like night, before it starts feeling like the next morning. To me, the four o'clock hour is the weirdest, most mysterious, most unknowable, most not-real hour of all the 24 hours in a day. Maybe even more liminal than sunrise or sunset. The four o'clock hour is the truly transitional hour. In my opinion.

Oh, the amphetamine addicts are back.

I hate everybody.

FINAL UPDATE: 8:41am -- Home now. So, so sleepy. My coworker came down from her nap just after I posted that last update, and so I went up and took my turn. Unfortunately, I couldn't sleep. Just vibrated and hallucinated for 2 and a half hours. Came down at 6:30 and found my coworker at the computer. She said "come use your law degree, look over this and tell me what you think." It was some convoluted contract she'd written up full of unconscionable and unenforceable conditions. I gave her a hundred disclaimers that I'm not licensed and can't give her advice, but I did point out the parts that weren't enforceable. She tried to get me to change the language for her, but I said no way. Meanwhile, my head was swimming with sleeplessness and I wondered how she could sit there asking me to do something so complicated when she knew I was so sleep deprived. She's a jerk, that's how.

Now I'm going to bed. I still hate everybody, but I'm hoping I can sleep that off.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

rainbow memeing

But first, before I embark on this meme of epically-gay proportions, I must point out that this is post number six-hundred-sixty-six. That's 666, people. Satan's blog post. So here you go. A meme about gayness:

1.) Which of the names in the LGBTQQ rainbow best describes your own orientation?

For years I've preferred queer, b/c I thought of it as an umbrella term that encompassed all the many ways I wasn't mainstream. I also liked it because it was gender neutral and gave me a certain freedom. As time passes, though, I notice that I think of myself more as a lesbian now, a more narrow word that isn't inherently gender neutral. This shift is to do with settling more into womanness and leaving behind something that was more ambiguous. I could write a whole book on gender stuff, though. So I'll stop now.

2.) What is your first recollection of gayness in any form?

When I was 9, we lived in a newly built housing development in Durham, NC. These two men bought the house at the end of the street and immediately put up a privacy fence. They seemed nice enough -- we would often see them out taking walks around the neighborhood together or in the grocery store. They wore a lot of pastel, but it was the 80's... Anyway, mom called them "the gay guys" and, besides mom speculating on which one was "the woman" I never heard anyone say anything bad about them. It was just a fact of life that these two men lived together in the house at the end of the street: the gay guys. Looking back, I think the fact that not even the kids seemed to care about it... that's pretty extraordinary.

3.) Who is the first gay person you ever met?

Not countign the gay guys... I was at college orientation. I was 18. I watched Scott, one of the orientation volunteers, a sophomore and a real flamer, argue with one of the orienteers who had just made some dumb jock, half-assed, gaybashing comment. We'd all spent a lot of time together and we all really liked Scott, including the dumb jock. When Scott told the jock he was gay, the jock just kept saying "no man, no way" -- then Scott rummaged around in his bag and pulled out a set of pride rings. He held them up like a magical talisman, like his gay i.d. card, to prove to the jock that he really, truly was gay. I remember looking at those rings with envy. "Oooooooh, gay accoutrements! I want some!"

The first actual lesbian I ever knew (besides myself) I met at the beanstalk coffeeshop, a few weeks after the thing at orientation. Her name was Elizabeth and when we walked into the crowded upstairs of the just-off-campus coffeeshop, she was sitting on a stool in a corner, under a spotlight, with her intent little face focused on a poem she was reading to the room. She was wearing pride rings. I practically swooned. My first actual lesbian! And a poet! That night began a crush that lasted YEARS and was never, somehow, requieted...

4.) When and how did you realize you were LGBTQ or Q?

We used to take road trips when I when I was young, to see family. I vividly remember seeing female truck drivers on the road, looking butch and wearing flannel shirts (did I add that detail later??) -- and I remember, probably between 10 and 12, thinking "Oh, those must be lesbians," (a word I probably heard first on Oprah...). I tried to picture myself kissing them. With an air of resignation, I thought, "Well, I'll probably have to check that out someday," even though the concept was completely vague and I had no idea what I expected it to lead to.

Later, in high school, I returned to those thoughts about the truck-driving lesbians. I expanded my imagination and decided there was probably a link between those early images of the flanneled truck drivers and the debilitating crushes I was developing on girls at school. It was almost as though the truck drivers (representing something sexual) were in one room and the girl-crushes (representing something innocent and platonic) were in another room, separated by a wall. I thought about it awhile and finally said, "Ok, what happens if I let these two ideas mix?" I knocked out the wall between the two rooms and suddenly I recognized the crushes as actual, romantic crushes and not just something friendly and chaste. That changed everything.

5.) Coming out?

On my 18th birthday, I told my guy friend Donor that I thought I was bi. This was 1992. I didn't think I could say I was "gay" yet because I hadn't tried it. "Bi" was my gateway word. Donor was my dorky, REM-guy friend. We went to French movies at the art museum in Raleigh together, that kind of thing. He thought it was cool that I was bi. We were on our way to see a band called Mary's Danish play that night and I remember feeling excited that I might get to see cute girls and I was with my friend who supported me.

I started college the next fall, in '93, and somehow just flopped out completely without much planning. I got hit on by this guy during the first weekend, a big doofus who thought of himself as a ladies man, and I learned quickly that it never helps your cause to use "sorry, I'm gay" to deflect the advances of a smarmy bastard. The inevitable follow-up is "cool, do you have a friend you can bring along?" That story got out, but at first people believed I'd only told him that to get him off me. Pretty soon, a chick down the hall came to my room and asked if it was true. I said yes. She acted goofy and within a week we were a couple. Yay for me!

6.) How's the family feel about it all?

Oh the family.

I came out to my mom first, and by default, also to my brother Dave. Summer of 1994, the only summer I lived at home during college. I wrote her a letter and left it for her to find while I spent the weekend in Charlotte at the pride parade. We spent the rest of the summer fighting about it. She insisted that she didn't have a problem with the gays, she just took issue with the *way* I was being gay. Like going to parades and wearing pride rings and reading gay books. "If it's just love, then why do you have to read *gay* books? Why can't you read normal books??" Thanks mom, I see you really understand the issue. Your compassion warms me like a cozy blanket.

Anyway, she's still a stark, raving lunatic, but she's mellowed a lot on the issue. We haven't fought much about it since then. And she's always been genuinely warm and welcoming to any girlfriends I've introduced to her. She's a people person and really enjoys people -- it's politics and stuff that baffle her. She can't be bothered to try and understand any of it. But, anyway, I could do worse. And, of course, she forbids me to come out to any of her family because "I'm the one who lives down here with them," she says, "I'll be the one who'll have hear about it later." Thanks again, mom. I appreciate the way you stand up for me.

As for my dad's side of the family, we've been locked in an epic don't-ask-don't-tell for about 14 years now. God bless my awesome grandmother who finally snapped in 1998 and asked. She was surprisingly sweet and philosophical about the whole thing, considering she's just a little old lady who's spent her whole life in the mountains of North Georgia. I have had a weird and strained relationship with my dad and stepmother all my life and, early on, evolved the defense mechanism of keeping all things precious to me well hidden. It doesn't help, also, that they're fundamentalist Christians. Things have been loosening up between us all over the past few years, and I feel it won't be long before I finally confirm what they all already know. Until recently, it just seemed like more intimacy with them than I could handle. Now... we'll see.

7.) Do you have any stories about homophobia you've experienced?

Besides my family...? When I was younger, I had people yell "DYKE!!" out of car windows at me. That was fun. However, most of the stuff I've experienced was more to do with my gender expression than my gayness. I used to look much more androgynous and spent a lot of time: a.) being called "sir" and b.) worrying that I'd end up in a Brandon Teena type situation when it was discovered that I was not a sir. I took a lot of road trips and lived in fear of public restrooms, especially in the South. Sometimes I would just pretend to be a guy. I wouldn't correct people who called me "sir" and I would specifically accentuate my more masculine features just to feel safer. I'd sometimes use the men's room.

The scariest thing that ever happened to me happened on campus during undergrad. I had a class that let out at 10pm and I was walking alone to my car in a dark, secluded part of campus. The kind of thing everybody's always telling you never to do. Anyway, this carload of ballcap-wearing assholes drove by really slowly and once they were about twenty feet ahead of me, somebody yelled out "fucking faggot!" I was puzzled and worried and I just kept walking. Then they yelled out "You got anything to say about it, faggot?" And I really wanted to say, "hey dumbass, I'm a dyke not a faggot, what's wrong with you?" But instead, I said "No." And then they yelled, "I didn't think so, faggot!" And then they drove off. I just kept walking to my car, worrying that they would make the quick loop and come back to beat the shit out of me. But they didn't. Fortunately.

Another notable instance of homophobia came when the free-expression tunnels were defaced. At the time, I was co-prez of the queer group on campus and we had painted the tunnels for National Coming Out Day with all sorts of relatively tame, pro-gay statements. In 24 hours they had been defaced with lots of nastiness, including over 100 death threats and threats of violence. It was pretty fucked up. I remember standing in the tunnels, just looking at everything, and hearing this woman I knew start to sob. I was feeling pissed about it, and as I listened to her sobs echoing through the tunnel, I thought "Right: I'm pissed because I'm hurt. We're all hurt." It was pretty sad.

8.) Any proud gay moments?

When I was in undergrad, I used to volunteer to be on these panels to talk about gayness. Classes (like, for example, abnormal psychology) were always trying to get panels together to speak on certain issues. I volunteered for every panel I could. I have no idea what compelled me, I have no strong pull to public speaking and the panels were often humiliating. Students would turn in questions to their professors on index cards beforehand in case people were too shy to ask questions in class. Because of the anonymity, we got lots of questions like: "How does it feel to know you're going to burn in hell for being a homo?" And, "What do you do to each other sexually?" And, "Doesn't it gross you out?" I have no idea if our panels actually helped, but at the time, I felt it was a life or death thing: to speak to these people and put a face on the idea of gayness. And, you know, it was easier to talk to a room full of strangers than my homophobic family. I guess it helped me balance something out that felt ashamed that I didn't have the courage to come out to the homophobes in my own lfe.

9.) Favorite thing about gayness?

I used to really enjoy the accoutrements. I liked feeling like I was part of a special club, with special, identifying accessories. I liked knowing that I could go to an Indigo Girls or Melissa Etheridge show and it would be like going to a family reunion. I liked the specialness of it.

Now I feel like things are changing. Things are probably still the same in smaller, more rural areas. But here in the big city of Portland (ha) gender and sexuality seem much more fluid than they used to be and I don't really feel like I'm in a club anymore. If anything, I'm in a club of people who remember what it felt like to feel like we were in a club... does that make sense?

So, now I'd have to say, my favorite thing about gayness is the gayness. I love women and I get to be with them. That's the best part.

The end.

I tag all the homos who read this blog. What are your stories?

UPDATE: I take it all back! The Indigo Girls are on Talk of the Nation on NPR and I lied! I'm still in a club! I'm giddy with excitement about these two dykes on the radio and right now I am prepared to say that this feeling is my favorite thing about gayness... whatever this feeling is. It's awesome!

good morning

It's 12:40am and I am still at work. I should have been on the 12:06 bus, but one of the graveyard guys didn't show up until one minute ago. The next bus doesn't come until 1:36. And you know what? That makes me sad. But it will be ok, because I have a book to read. And also a positive attitude. Right? Right. See you in the morning.

Monday, March 19, 2007

don't worry, the giant parrot will protect you

SK and I spent the whole weekend walking through Forest Park. Three days, three long walks. I took so many pictures of mossy trees, ferns and lovely trillium flowers, I can hardly stand it. Of all those gorgeous pictures of the woods, I thought I would share with you, instead, the most baffling feature of the Forest Park experience: the giant parrot.

I can't remember if we ever learned the true story, but the most viable theory is that these giant birds (there are others, elsewhere in the park) were "installed" to deter... other predator birds? Something like that. Anyway, it's obviously ridiculous. My friend Leo never tires of telling me that the Pacific Northwest is a temperate rainforest, however, not the type of rainforest teeming with parrots. Couldn't they have put up a huge, wooden version of an indigenous falcon? Or an owl? Whatever.

Meanwhile, there was another anti-war rally in Portland and I didn't go. I went to the first one in 2003 and I went to the one last year. So, I guess I'll go every three years. Wake me up in 2009...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

good times

Yesterday, SK and I took a long walk through Forest Park, which is gloriously alive with spring. When SK wasn't busy mocking me mercilessly for my self-taken flickr photos ("looking up," she says, and laughs hysterically) she took the time to snap some very nice pictures of nature, including this lovely trillium. Meanwhile, I was crying on the inside.

After our lovley hike, and our lovely lunch at the L and M cafe, we took a nice trip to Freddies out on Broadway to find SK a suitcase for her upcoming 3 MONTH LONG trip abroad. We also found me a person-sized pillow to cling to in the night while SK is gone, but let's not talk about that.

Eventually, we parted for the evening. SK went off to see a German movie with Dr. Dutch and I went off to a BBQ at my friend Leo's house. I wanted to get there earlier than the 6:00 start-time because the weather was so gorgeous and I wanted to maximize my beer-drinking-in-the-sun time. However, despite getting there at 5:30, I had no beer-drinking-in-the-sun because the sun did not manage to find it's way into Leo's backyard. Or front porch. Or front yard. It was like a miracle of nature because, despite the fact that the sun was shining like crazy, it couldn't penetrate the aura surrounding Leo's house.

Once I realigned my expectations and waved good-bye to my dream of sitting in the sun with a nice, cold beer, I sat in the kitchen with Leo instead and watched her make this really incredible potato casserole with fennel and double-fat whipping cream and about a pound of grated assiago cheese. It looked incredible and it tasted like artery-clogging heaven.

People came, people went, there were dogs, we sat in the backyard and discussed woodstoves (a subject I think I know about because I bought one and had it installed my last house), the grill was finally fired up, meat was charred, it got dark, it got cold, we moved the party inside, I made a plate so packed with food I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I had packed it for two because I knew SK would probably swing by after her movie, and she did! And she ate and we all made the chit-chat and then we left.

And it was really, really good.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

new flowers

new flowers
new flowers,
originally uploaded by colemaster.
So I managed to sneak my photo of flowers in through the back-door of flickr. And let me tell you, I'm used to walking through the wide open front door of blogger. This is like crawling through a back alley all littered with bits of html code to go in a narrow, broken door that's hard to find. That's my grand metaphor for posting photos via flickr. Anyway -- it's all just a big adventure. And now I will officially apologize for the photo-abuse. Sorry. The novelty will soon wear off. Until then, you like my new flowers? I do.

you're spared, for now

I was prepared to apologize in advance for the inevitable abuse of my new picture-posting abilities -- however, blogger and/or my shitty computer are conspiring to prevent that abuse from ever happening. The photo-upload function has stopped working, just when I was getting really excited about all the mundane possibilities -- for example, if things had gone as planned, you'd be looking at a picture of the flowers I just potted today. Because, I know you'd like nothing more than an opportunity to gaze at my new flowers, am I right? Yeah. I thought so. But don't worry, I'll keep trying. And in the meantime, I'll tell you that they are orange and purple. And really pretty.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

tea, anyone?

Someday, I want to have a samovar kind of life. Somehow, everything I read lately mentions the use of a samovar. They're all over The Brothers Karamazov, they were in the Persepolis books about Iran, and I saw several in Joe Sacco's Palestine (which I finally finished).

It's not just that I want a samovar. I want a samovar kind of life. The kind where you sit around all day with a lot of people, drinking cup after cup of tea and talking-talking-talking. I mean, I wouldn't want that *every* day, but I'd love to have a reason to clap my hands together, encourage my guests to take a seat, and exclaim, "Ok then! I'll go fire up the samovar!"

That would be sweet.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Now that I have this new camera, I'm itching to get some photos up on the blog. So here's a test. If it works, you'll see two pictures. These are pictures of the only two windows in my little, basement hovel. As you can see, I have put as many plants in front of them as possible.

I have a feeling I have fucked this up somehow... lets see what it looks like...

in which i welcome technology into my life

Late one night a couple weeks ago, in the midst of what Waspy might call "bar psychosis," I bid on a digital camera on E-bay. To be specific, I bid on a Hewlett Packard Photosmart 735, with 3.2 mexapixels, a 64mb memory card, two rechargeable batteries and a portable photo-printer. And I won it.

To give my story some context, I should tell you that in November of 2003, two months after starting law school, my dad sent me (in the *mail*) an HP Photosmart 735 camera with a 64mb memory card as an extra-good birthday present which was actually a combination of birthday, Christmas and "congratulations on starting law school" presents. My dad, who has a pretty bad track record with presents, had outdone himself.

I loved the camera, used it a lot, and then, one dark and stormy night during the beginning of the end of my bad relationship with the alcoholic CB, I lost it. It was her birthday, 2004, and we were out at a restaurant in SE Portland. Her ex-husband and sons wanted to throw her a surprise party and it was my job to convince her to go w/o telling her why. I knew that an impossible task had been set before me so I gave it to her straight. I said "They're doing this for you, it's a surprise, and we're going, and you're going to pretend to be surprised and pretend to be happy."

She was bitchy all day and it was all I could do to make her get in the car and go when the time came. I was annoyed and disgusted with her, yet I took the camera along and dutifully documented the whole debacle. When it was all over, I got up and left my camera in it's case, hanging from the back of my chair and I never saw it again. Such was my disinterest in ever reliving that bad night, I didn't once think about looking at the pictures or loading them into my computer. Instead, it wasn't until Christmas, two weeks later, before I thought about using the camera again and that's when I realized it was missing.

After tearing apart the whole house and car, I called the restaurant and was told that no one had turned it in. Of course not. I considered reporting it stolen and trying to get money from my insurance company, but I didn't feel comfortable going that route. I've missed my little camera ever since. And I've had to make up excuses every time I've been to visit my family because I just can't bring myself to tell my dad I lost it. Why? For a lot of reasons, but mostly because, when I was about seven, he gave me a camera and I promptly lost that one too! And it hurt his feelings. And I would feel like a real shmuck if he knew I lost this one.

So I've been daydreaming about replacing the lost camera with an exact replica so I can a.) have a camera again, and b.) pretend to my dad that I've had it all along. That's logical, right? Whenever I've had a little extra cash, I've gotten on e-bay and bid on cameras like this, but I have always been outbid. Every single time. So, when I surfed onto E-bay, late one night after studying all day, in a kind of crazy haze, and bid on this camera, I did it without even thinking. I assumed I would be outbid again.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up and found I'd won! Yay me. I didn't feel so excited, though, I felt nervous. I hadn't really thought it through, I hadn't checked the seller's rating, what if I was getting ripped off? Then, when I realized mercury was in retrograde, I really freaked out. I would NEVER have made a big purchase (of something mechanical, no less) if I'd known we were right in the middle of such a shitty astrological circumstance.

One problem surfaced immediately: I couldn't pay. I'd recently cancelled my debit card and had a new one issued, but the new one hadn't come yet. I was expecting it any minute, so I kept waiting. After a few days, the seller emailed me and asked how I was planning to pay. I explained my debit troubles and he said no problem and I kept waiting. When I found out the bank had never actually processed the reissue of the card and it was going to take another 7-10 business days, I went down to the bank and got a cashier's check for the money and sent it.

The camera came yesterday and (crossing fingers) so far so good. It's so cool to have a camera again and now I can finally update my photo collections (aren't you all sick of my lame array of flickr photos? I know I am...). I've been walking around these past few days watching all the buds and blossoms and wishing I could document them. Now I can! My next task is to learn how to post photos on this here blog, then I'll really be in business.

Monday, March 12, 2007

he's got a cloud over him

One nice thing about my trip to the dentist: in the waiting room I started reading an interesting article in TIME magazine about Dick Cheney's downward spiral. I couldn't finish it before my name was called, but I came home and found it online. Thanks for not being tightwads, TIME magazine, and putting your content online for free.

It's an interesting, if a little lightweight, article explaining Cheney's diminishing role in the administration as it becomes more and more obvious that he's a liability. Bonus: you learn his kids call him "bull walrus" when he stops paying attention to them. If I was a bull walrus, I'd be pissed.

so far, so good

As you all know, I am FREE from all school/exam related obligations FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, pip. (Just so you know, pip is my new shorthand for "providing I passed." I will superstitiously tack that on to the end of any claim directly implicating successful completion of school and exams. Because, you know, I can't really be sure until I get my grades back.)

So, pip, I'm done! And I've had a nice time so far. Saturday was the ethics exam, which I've already described. Saturday evening I met up with Waspy for a couple drinks at my favorite old haunt, Hobo's. Waspy is the success story who gives me hope for my future. I have watched other law school grads flounder and end up taking jobs babysitting and making lattes because they couldn't find legal work. Not my Waspy. Six months out of law school and she landed herself a sweet job at one of the biggest firms in town and now she makes more money than god... I'm guessing... b/c she hasn't told me how much she makes, but I'm pretty sure it's more than god.

Anyway, so she's my inspiration and if she can land a hot job at a top firm, I can at least expect to be paid by someone to do something somewhere. Right? I hope so. So Waspy and I had drinks and made the chit-chat -- I always love to hear the dramas of life as an actual lawyer. *Sigh* -- maybe those will be *my* dramas someday...

That was Saturday night. Sunday was my first, and only really free day. I spent the first half puttering around my house in a fog. I took a bath, read a magazine and made a list of things to do. So exciting. Then I picked up SK for a walk in Forest Park. I love Forest Park and, despite the thick mud coating most of the trail, it was still an awesome walk. This time of year is so incredible -- buds are just beginning to swell and pop on trees, the trillium are blooming, the temperature was actually *warm* yesterday, despite the thick clouds. I ended up hiking the trail in just a t-shirt... and pants of course... you know. Anyway, it was lovely.

After that, SK and I went to a coffeeshop under the Fremont Bridge in a very industrial part of NW Portland and drank coffee and read the Sunday Times. I *love* sitting in coffeeshops reading and SK generally doesn't, so it was a super-big treat when she actually *suggested* it. I was pretty excited. During the darkest days of bar-study, I LONGED for the day I could finally just lounge around in a cafe with the newspaper and nothing else pressing or looming over me. Ahhhhh, freedom (pip).

Once we'd exhausted our interest in the newspaper, we went home, ate supper, and had an argument about American humor versus English humour. Then we made up, watched an episode of the English version of The Office, and went to bed. Yay.

And how did I follow-up that exciting weekend? I went to the dentist at 9:30 this morning because I've been having pain in a tooth. Don't worry, she thinks it's something that will clear up on it's own. No drilling, no novocane, no crown for me today. Just a few minutes with tools in my mouth. Now it's all good. Yay for freedom and easy dental work! Now I'm going to go celebrate my freedom with some pleasure reading. Yay!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

ethics, shmethics

A tale told in bullets:

1.) I woke up this morning at 6am. Not on purpose.

2.) SK made me toast and a boiled egg so I'd have some energy for my test.

3.) SK told me she was mauled by a hot dyke during her first-aid training yesterday. At first, she let me think it was not such a hot dyke who did the mauling, and I was ready to go find and beat up that dyke. But then she told me the name of the dyke in question and... well... she's pretty hot in a powerful and exotic sort of way. Somehow, my playful jealousy morphed into a sort of pride. Good job, sweetie. You attracted the attention of somebody really yummy. You get a gold star.

4.) I drove to the University of Portland. Woe be unto anyone who read my last post and believed what I wrote and went to take the MPRE at Portland State University. That was WRONG WRONG WRONG. I knew where the place was located, I just accidentally used the wrong name. Mea Culpa.

5.) Speaking of mea culpa, U of P had a lot of Jesus stuff around. Have I lived here 6 years w/o realizing U of P is a Catholic university? I swear to god, my exam room had a wooden crucifix hanging on the wall by the door. Yikes. I felt a little bit harrassed by that limp corpse of Jesus, just hanging there and looking down on me -- if I fail the MPRE, I'm suing.

6.) While the limp corpse of Jesus is allowed in the exam room, water bottles and earplugs are not. WTF??? Can I not stay hydrated while I take my exam?!? Can I not block out the sounds of my neighbors' sighs and shuffling feet w/ my giant, orange earplugs?? Are you kidding? How could I possibly cheat with a clear Nalgene bottle and foam earplugs? Felt like ridiculous overkill after the bar. Sure, they were adamant about NO CELLPHONES, but that makes sense. Water bottles and earplugs? I considered those things *necessary* until today. Oh well. Another reason to sue if I fail.

7.) That's all. It was over fast and I left in a hurry and now I'm home waiting for the reality of my newly realized freedom to dawn. Or waiting to feel motivated to clean my house. After two and a half months of neglect, it could really use it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

an excess of commemoration

I just closed the study book and thought I would announce to the world that I will never study anything again so long as I live. This marks the last of the studying. Yay.

While that may not actually end up being true, it is certainly true that I won't be studying anymore tonight or for the forseeable future. (Let's not discuss what will happen if I don't pass the bar...)

Now I'm off to the passport photo place because I have to attach a frickin' picture to my "admission ticket" to the exam tomorrow. The bar only wanted me to sign a signature card every fifteen minutes, but the MPRE wants a passport photo. AND they're making me bring my own pencils. Whatever.

Tomorrow I'm free, regardless of their petty demands. Yay for real!!

useless appendage

As many of you know, I took the bar exam last week after three and a half years of law school and two months chained to my desk with a pile of bar-study books in front of me. After all that, I find it strangely underwhelming to sit here all week studying (neverending studying) for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam which will be administered tomorrow on the campus of Portland State University.

Dude. Another test.

Despite the fact that I have been studying every day this week (like the good little studier that I am), I find that I have no feelings at all about this test. Maybe cuz it only costs fifty bucks (instead of 500), maybe cuz it only tests one subject (instead of 15), maybe cuz it only lasts two hours (instead of 12). I don't know. I just don't care. This week is like the appendix of my bar-study experience. Tacked on at the end and not good for much, but if it goes bad I could be in very minor trouble.

And all I really want to do is read all the magazines I bought last weekend when I still thought I was free, before I remembered it wasn't over. Sigh.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

plame will speak

Outed CIA operative Valerie Plame will speak to Congress next week. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has invited her and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to talk to lawmakers about the government's handling of the leak. She's already RSVP'ed, but he hasn't.

Good to know something is still happening with all this. Once again I want to remind everyone: her husband, a former ambassador, decided to go investigate the administration's claims that Iraq was buying enriched uranium from Niger. When he couldn't find anything to substantiate these claims (and when he wasn't quiet about it), his wife's identity as an undercover agent was suddenly and mysteriously leaked to the media.

Do I have to spell out for everyone how vindictive and nasty that is? And this is from OUR government. OUR people are responsible for this.

Even though no more criminal charges are being sought in the case, Plame and her husband have filed a civil action against Scooter Libby, Shooter Cheney, and a slew of other government types they think were involved. And, of course, I'm advocating impeachments all around.

who knew

I just heard this interesting story about autism on OPB. A woman with a severely autistic son learned a new way to possibly help her son communicate. After weeks of being taught to use a communication board to point to letters, he was suddenly, and for the first time in all his nine-year-old life, able to communicate to the world some of the stuff going on in his head.

I won't explain the whole thing right now, but it was a really interesting story. Now the boy is fifteen and an interviewer went to speak with him and his mom. The interviewer asked him if there was anything he wanted to tell people about autism. He slowly and laboriously (with lots of encouragement from his mom who had to keep reminding him "it's ok, keep going") spelled out: "Please realize we are intelligent. We can understand everything."

Wow. The mom said one of the biggest shocks once he learned to communicate was realizing how intelligent he was. She said she felt really bad because she'd been treating him like a three-year-old that whole time. It's really an interesting story. And if you know any autistic people, don't patronize them. They know what you're talking about.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

the season of false hope

It's like fool's gold, so shiny and promising, but it isn't real and it get's me every time. I'm talking about these gorgeous, summery days that start happening in Portland in late winter/early spring. We just had two of them, right in a row. The sun comes out, it actually gets kind of warm, you walk out of your house without a jacket and scarf for a change. It's awesome! You smell the daphne blooming and see the croci and daffodils here and there. You notice the tiny buds in the trees starting to swell and you think "THIS IS IT! Spring is coming!"

And yeah, sure, spring is *technically* coming, but despite the hour and a half you spent baking in the sun yesterday, trying to get some color back in your face, actually *sweating* from the heat in the air for the first time since, say, that last hot day in October... despite the fact that just *yesterday* you were walking up to the coffeeshop in a dream, your skin caressed by the warm air, with bridsong in your ears, despite it all: today is a new day. A cold, gray, rainy day. A *winter* day. Remember winter? Yeah? Cuz that's the season you're actually in.

Anyway, those faux summer days are so nice though, as long as you don't start getting your hopes up. Otherwise you'll go crazy. Remember, you can't be guartanteed summer weather in Portland until the end of June. That's just the sad truth. Anything else is just a bonus.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

in other news

Ok, so Scooter Libby's been found guilty, big whoop. Who cares about the Bush Administration's scapegoat? Personally, I feel sorry for the guy. You think it was *his* idea to lie? You don't think maybe his boss Dick Cheney had anything to do with it? I say impeachments all around.

Seriously, you guys, Libby wasn't even accused of the leak, he was only accused of lying during the investigation of the leak. WHO DID THE LEAK?? Doesn't anybody care? The Special Prosecutor says nobody else will be charged, which means we're all busy shaking our heads about Scooter Libby while the vindictive administration (and it's shadowy, anonymous actors) gets away with outing an undercover agent in retaliation against her husband who refused to tell the lies of the administration.

Let's not forget how fucked up this is and let's not forget that the people who actually did it are still out there, and they're still in charge of our government.

my last word on ann coulter

This is the last thing I'm going to say about that awful Ann Coulter. The latest on her "F-bomb" -- she explained on Fox News that "faggot" has nothing to do with sexuality. It's just a schoolyard taunt. Ohhhhhhh, ok. Just a schoolyard taunt. Much better.

Anyway, no big shock that Ann Coulter is shrill and mean and disingenuous, and contributes nothing but "schoolyard taunts" to political discourse. I think if she wasn't so perfectly aryan and modelly, nobody on the planet would give much of a shit about what she has to say. As it is, she's like a sideshow freak: an otherwise gorgeous woman with big eyes and a dazzling smile and yet, when she opens her mouth, WOW! She's nuts! Look at that!

Anyway, I read an article on about the reality that we all keep her in business by giving her so much attention and I decided they're right. I don't want to give her anymore attention. So, that's all. From now on, I'll just assume that anything else she does that's fucked up and ridiculous doesn't bear mentioning because it really doesn't make a bit of difference. Unless, of course, she shaves her head and goes into an ashram. I promise I'll tell you all about that.

Monday, March 05, 2007

bar exam, bar exam, rah rah rah

I know I said I would never speak of it, but I've had a change of heart. It's just that... well... i keep getting hits on the site from people searching for "Oregon Bar Exam 2007" and I feel bad because they're coming for info and I'm not giving any. So here's a very small breakdown of the weirdness of the bar exam.

First of all, the whole, two-day experience can be summarized by a four-word cliche: hurry up and wait. Check in was at 7:30 both mornings, but the exam itself didn't start until somewhere around 9. You're not allowed to have any printed materials anywhere near your seat, so that first day, I didn't bring anything to read during downtimes. Turns out, there were LOTS of downtimes.

I checked in at 7:35 on the dot, chose myself a seat, put all my pens and my earplugs on the table and then... you know... sort of milled around until the 8:10 in-your-seats time. I wandered to the back of the very enormous room (in a conference center next to the hotel) and began pacing. I wanted to keep moving and get the blood flowing because I knew I'd spend the rest of the day glued to my seat.

Soon I was joined by at least two other dedicated pacers in the back corner. We didn't talk. Like sharks or people in a mental hospital, we moved back and forth, back and forth, lost in our own little heads. At 8:10 we all scampered back to the seats we'd chosen and I was very concerned to realize I'd chosen to sit next to a man who was planning to eat an apple. You should know I hate mouth noises, ESPECIALLY apples. Blech. So, even as the woman began to read the day's instructions, I put one earplug in to drown out the sound of the apple-chomping coming from my right.

It took the woman about ten minutes to read the directions, which left us with another thirty-plus minutes to kill before the exam would actually start. Advice to anyone taking a bar exam: I don't care what they say about printed material, bring a newspaper and leave it wherever they let you leave your bags. Then you can just go over and read it during these interminable breaks and you won't be so bored and you have so much time to freak yourself out. The second day, I brought a magazine and left it by the wall in the pacer's corner.

The first part of the exam was the performance test. You're given an assignment, a "file" and a "library" from which to work and then you have 90 minutes to create some work product. I had to write a memo for a senior attorney at "my firm." I was so happy to get a type of assigment with which I'm already familiar. I've written my share of memos in school, I'm comfortable with those. If, however, I'd been asked to write a set of interrogetories, or closing arguments, I would've been fairly freaked out because I've never done either.

After that, we got a thirty minute break (five minutes of which I easily used in a trip to the bathroom, and the other twenty-five I spent in the pacer's corner), and then we were back in our seats for the first three essay questions. You get thirty-five minutes for each question and only three pages in which to write your answer. Plenty of time and space, in my opinion. There's nothing worse than the three hour law school exam with ONE QUESTION. That's miserable.

After the first three essays, we had an hour and fifteen minute lunch break. All I can say is: thank god for my school. They rented a suite over at the hotel and provided a nice lunch, complete with chair massage for anyone who wanted it. I demurred on day one, but by day two I was first in line. The food was good (assorted sandwiches, vegetables, and a huge dessert spread) and the acting dean and some women from career services were there to give us pep talks. I love the acting dean, but in the middle of the exam, I didn't find her story about leaving to take her kids skiing very comforting. I wanted to head-butt her.

After lunch, we all dutifully filed back over to the conference center for the last two sets of three essays. For some reason, day one was manageable. The first half of the day, I was driven by a feeling of inexplicable excitement. It was almost over! I wouldn't have to study anymore! I literally bounced like Tigger into the lunch room and stood bouncing until the acting dean started bouncing too. I was just so happy to be getting it over with. After lunch I had slightly less energy, but no mental fatigue. I just kept at it and when it was over I went home.

Day two was much harder. Day two sucked the spirit out of me. The whole day was multiple choice. One-hundred questions before lunch, one-hundred questions after. Three hours each session. This was fucking grueling. I didn't mind the multiple choice questions when I was studying. In fact, I kind of liked them, in the same way that I like crossword puzzles. There was only one right answer to each question, and if you paid very close attention and really looked at the details of the question and each answer, you could somehow figure it out, even if you didn't really *know* it.

Well, that's all fine and good, but it takes a lot of concentration. On day two I suffered from intense brain-fatigue. Especially after lunch. I had to read questions over and over again because I couldn't concentrate, I couldn't stay focused. It was pretty miserable. Usually, in an exam, I can lose myself in the taking of it. I read the question and enter an alternate universe where time seems to stop as I fully engage all my energy in the answering. With the last half of the multiple choice, none of that was happening. I painfully slogged through and kept checking my progress. "Only 75 to go." "Only 50 to go."

When I was finally done, I felt like I was crawling out on my hands and knees, it had been that fucking trying. And then, to have locked my keys in my car... there just aren't words for how fucked up that was. That was just fucked up.

One more thing. At lunch on day one, I sat at a table with a couple of people I didn't know. As we talked, it slowly came out that they were both taking the exam for the fourth time. The FOURTH TIME. I listened as they commiserated with each other about how hard it is to have to tell people you've failed, and all the asinine things people say by way of comforting you. And I realized that as much as I could empathize with them, I simply could not allow myself to live in a universe in which it was possible for me to fail this test. I knew I would not be taking it four times, no matter what. I might take it once more if, god forbid, I didn't pass this time. But if I fail twice, I will take it as a sign from the baby jesus that I am not supposed to practice law and I will move on. That shit is just too painful.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

maybe i secretly love her...?

No, no I don't. But check out this Yahoo story about my least-favorite "journalist" Ann "the devil-incarnate" Coulter. Read how the politicians are denouncing her left and right, which I doubt she minds. But more than anything, I want you to see the picture they printed of her. Does she desperately need a powder puff or is that just her skin melting off her face?


Last night SK and I watched Babel. I hadn't really wanted to watch it because I had a vague notion of all the things that happen in it and I thought it would probably just make me anxious to watch. But SK'd rented it and wanted to watch it and I'd heard it was really good, so I said ok.

It did make me anxious, but it was a really phenomenal movie and I recommend it if you haven't seen it yet. As much as I love Cate Blanchett, who plays an American tourist in Morrocco, I was pleased to learn that the movie doesn't focus completely on her and Brad Pitt, although the drama that happens to them is the fulcrum around which the whole rest of the movie pivots.

More screen time goes to the actors in Mexico, Morrocco and Japan than to Cate and Brad Pitt by far. The story is global but only incidentally political. Unlike Syriana, which was a political movie that was only incidentally personal, Babel immerses us in the personal lives of dynamic, fleshed-out, interesting characters who are all caught up in various parts of the global, political machinery.

I thought it was a really incredible movie, though I wish I could watch it again now that I know the different outcomes and wouldn't have to be so anxious. I kept expecting characters to behave in the typical, brutal, Hollywood way and I think I would enjoy the movie more the second time around, knowing what I know now.

For those of you who have seen it already: is it just me, or did anyone else catch the homage to Hemingway's 'Hill's Like White Elephants?' I could be totally wrong, but the scene when Brad and Cate are sitting in the dusty outdoor station drinking coke and sniping at each other seemed to be taken directly from this frequently anthologized short story. In the story, two American travelers are sitting in a hot, dusty Spanish train station bickering and talking very elliptically about whether the woman will have an abortion. It's a great story, if you've never read it, and really illustrates Hemingway's power to leave the meat of a story in the subtext.

Anyway, I immediately noticed the similarities in the two scenes, but a long shot of white hills in the distance confirmed it for me. If the filmmakers didn't intend that reference, then I'll be amazed. Has anyone else seen this movie? Did you like it?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

my good day

Blogged in bullets for speed and convenience:

1.) Woke up with my girlfriend for a change.

2.) Went to Powell's (one of my favorite places on earth) to trade some books and buy a copy of the New Yorker and a New York Times. Quality reading.

3.) Went to Vivace's on NW 23rd to eat a butter and cinnamon crepe (mmmmmmmmmm) and drink a decaf americano (yes, I am embarrassed, but what can you do) and read the aforementioned periodicals.

4.) Went back to my girlfriend's house for a quick visit while she worked hard transcribing a tape of the seminar she just organized on the coast.

5.) Came home and wrote a blog about that awful Ann Coulter.

6.) Walked up to Alberta St. and bought a bar of Forest Smell (not it's actual name) soap from the Alberta St. Co-op. I wanted more of my tried and true patchouli soap, but they didn't have it. I love buying soap there because they get it from a couple of local companies in giant blocks and you get to use what looks like a dough slicer, like we had at Little Caeser's Pizza, to slice a chunk of soap off for yourself. I picked Forest Smell soap out of a million choices because it smells so much like pine sap I kept expecting my hands to be sticky after touching it. It's awesome. I also bought a copy of Tikkun magazine, because I LOVE MAGAZINES! AND I HAVE TIME TO READ THEM NOW!

7.) Then I walked down to my favorite dumpy coffeeshop on Alberta to meet up with my friend Dre for a chit-chat. Now that studying is over, I can not only read magazines and newspapers, but I can catch up with all the friends I've hardly seen in three and a half years. Yay for socializing!

8.) Came home and showered with my new Forest Smell soap and it rocks!

9.) Now I'm heading over to SK's to take a walk in Forest Park. What with my new Forest Smell soap, it's like I'm in the forest already! But the weather turned lovely and mild with even some *sun* out, so we're going to take advantage of it before the sky remembers it's in Portland and turns back on the waterworks. Yay for spring fever!

evil incarnate

For anyone who loves to hate Ann Coulter, here's a video of her latest inflammatory theatrics. I haven't watched it, because I don't love to hate Ann Coulter, I just can't stomach her at all. But if you've got the stomach for it, you can watch her call John Edwards a faggot. Thanks Ann. Thanks for all you add to political discourse.

reunited and it feels so good

I feel much better after some quality time with SK. Muuuuuuuch better. Now I'm off to wander the nieghborhood and enjoy some of the leisure I've been missing these past two months. :-) More to come.

Friday, March 02, 2007

now that's hot

Check out what's showing at the Q Center here in Portlandia. (Hint, if you're too lazy to click the link, it's a show of historic photos of queer and transgender people in Portland.) The pic on the site is of a transgendered doctor from maybe the '30s. And, I don't know, maybe I'm weird, but that pic is hot. I love genderqueers.

status report

Hi people. I'm having a bad day. A bad two days on top of two other bad days on top of two long months. But they weren't really *bad* months I realize. They were just long. I thought they were bad, but it turns out they were ok.

I guess this is the crash I was expecting. The bar was holding all the tension in my life, holding everything taut. And now that it's over, it's like somebody cut the cable and everything went limp and slumped to the ground. I know it will pass, but for now, I'm just sitting in it.

I think I'm going to go take a hot bath. It's really cold outside. Maybe a hot bath will help.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

poem of the day

I think I've used this one before, but it bears repeating.

A Man Said to the Universe

by Stephen Crane

A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."