The Cubs are in town. This year they are here for four whole games, which is a lot to attend (two is no problem, three is a bit much).  I haven’t done four in a while. OTOH, 3/4 of them are at night, which is not true for weekend four-game series in Wrigley. So I got that going for me.  Less heatstroke.

I don’t buy tix in advance in DC. I show up, decide how much to spend, and spend it. It feels so reckless to show up without tickets!  It’s not, of course, considering that the Nats are suck and DC does not give a rat’s ass about baseball and the only sellout ever was one of the nights when the Red Sox were in town. But to Cubs fans, who need to secure their tickets over the winter, it is bizarre.

Since DC thoughtfully acquired an NL baseball team before I relocated here, I can mark my DC time by Cubs series.  In 2006, I had gone to Chicago for Opening Weekend, and my friend and fellow Cub sufferer Jake came to DC for their series in July.  We went to all three, I think…two at least.  My strongest memory of those games is that the Cubs sucked. I took my favorite “agony of defeat” photo:

cub fandom

hee hee! God, I love that photo.  It actually made me feel better to look at it last fall when…well, you know. (and if you don’t, look back a few posts on the blog.)

I don’t remember 2007 too well, I didn’t make it to many games that year. It was the Nats’ last year in RFK, that I do recall.  On July 4, I went down for a last-minute ticket and happened to run into my friend the LA native and Dodgers fan. DC is like that–go out relatively often and be relatively social and you will see people you know everywhere.

2008 was memorable in many ways:

1) I made a “baseball friend” a week or so before the series. She was selling me shoes and happened to have a team bracelet on, which began a conversation, etc.  Our chats helped me psych myself up for the series.

2) After a game I ran into Len Kasper and Bob Brenly in the Metro. They didn’t want to wait for the bus, they said, because “the guys take forever in the showers.” (In case you are wondering, the team stays at the Mayflower Hotel.)  I thought of something intelligent to say to them about 10 minutes later.

3) What with ballpark food and tickets, I had budgeted myself a pile of cash for the weekend, and on Sunday found myself with a lot left over. Hmm…why save what you can spend? I bought myself nice seats right next to the visitors dugout.


4) Kerry Wood signed my hat.

So all in all, last year set a high bar for Cubs series awesomeness. My materialist goals for this year are:

–Have Carlos Zambrano sign my hat.

–Have Aramis Ramirez sign something. My hat? My Ramirez jersey? Not sure…

–Spring for awesome seats again at least once.

But it’s the intangibles that count, and in that department I am already on track. Tonight: I bought good seats in my favorite area and jumped to even better seats in said area.  I was surrounded by the best kind of fans: knowledgeable enough to respect the other team, chatty but not overbearing, and hilarious.  The Cubs won handily, D-Lee hit a nice home run right to our area of right field.  And on the way home, despite us leaving at different times and taking different trains, I ran into the same fans!  DC is like that.  We had a lovely chat about the Nats’ patheticness (too easy a target), the President’s skill in sports picks, and general Chicago baseball fandom–they had grown up as near Comiskey as I had near Wrigley. (They weren’t the hating kind of Sox fans, but there was something odd about them.  “I’m a Sox fan,” one said, “but I root for the Cubs when they’re in the playoffs.”  …huh?)

OK…better get to bed, I have a long evening of baseball tomorrow.

good deed for the day

15 June, 2009

Downtown I was, pre-dentist, grabbing a quick sandwich at a quick-sandwich place, when something green caught my eye. A table over from me was a young woman with long blonde hair.  A law student summer intern if I’ve ever seen one.   Her skirt suit was new, a young fabric and retro cut yet conservative enough to work in even a stodgy law firm. Her 3-inch black patent leather shoes were also new, as were the blisters they had created on her heels. The green was a scrap of green paper she had put over one heel by (poor) way of cushion against the grippy pointiness that is the back of a new pair of patent leather shoes.

Now, about interns for my non-Beltway readers. We DC “residents” are supposed to despise and detest the interns that descend on us for the summer.  Not without reason, mind you: the archetypal jerkoff is the guy who wears his Congressional ID badge on the Metro…on weekends.  In such a situation I am supposed to mock her naivete re professional dress, and her gall for daring to come to Our Nation’s Capital to further her career and eat lunch near me.

But no. My heart went out to her.  I have been there, and if you have not been there, then you are a man. A poorly dressed man.  I’m pushing 33, and seeing this woman made me realize that I actually have learned a thing or two in the last decade.  This particular lesson is a hard and often expensive one: as you walk slowly around the store in your hot shoes the Sunday before your job starts, you are so psyched about how good you look and so stressed about how little time you have that you ignore the glaring signs that the shoes will rip your feet to shreds in three blocks.  The sub-lesson: keep band-aids on hand for emergencies, and they should be big enough such that the crappy shoes don’t scrape them off when you need them most.

Nu? I offered her two large band-aids from my mini-purse (a smaller bag of goodies that can fit in any of my main purses).  I thought she would cry.  Me, I got a warm glow, and, I hope, some karma.  Maybe I should start “Be Kind To An Intern Day.”

Hey, audience participation! Ladies and smart men, what’s in your emergency kit? Mine:

  • Aforementioned bandaids (~1.5x~2.5″)
  • Normaler-sized bandaids
  • Pencil, pen, laser-pointer USB pen
  • Pseudo-sudafed (sometimes Advil too)
  • Earplugs
  • Lady products (both kinds, and pantiliners)
  • Nail file/s, nail clippers, cuticle oil
  • Lip balm (slightly reddish so can double as lip color)
  • Lotion
  • Compact
  • Hair rubber band and little clips
  • Business cards (in holder so they don’t get grody)
  • Razor blade
  • Stamps
  • Reusable shopping bag
  • Moleskine slim notebook
  • The card from a bouquet of flowers my man sent me last Valentine’s Day when I was out of town
  • Copy of the Constitution (for which I have already been mocked, thank you)

Note this is the non-mother edition.  That is a whole other ballgame…


7 June, 2009

OK, take two.

So, how you doin’?  Anyone with me still in their RSS, please comment.  Me, I’ve been fine.

Fine! Ha!  Let’s see, my last real post, not counting Cubs angst…around a year ago…hmm, not as bad as I’d thought.

Too much has happened for a wordy catch-up post.  The bullet list of major recent changes:

  • got back with Reaganite, shacked up, moved to new neighborhood, downsized cats to one
  • left job/career/identity of 10 years for new job/career/identity
  • left old job’s 15″ MacBookPro for new iPhone, iMac
  • denouement of family suicide #2 (terminal cancer) included modest financial security
  • sister: bought a horse, moved to Montana, is now leaving Montana
  • parents: both moved to Kalamazoo (that may have happened before my hiatus)

It’s been a lot to deal with. Work is the biggest adjustment. I work for the government now. I’m no longer a Scientist. Work doesn’t have to rule my life–there is just not enough to it for that. But it’s surprisingly hard to change old habits.

While not everyone had to have a blog back in the day, in the last year twitter and facebook seem to have become de rigeur for everyone. I’m there (under this handle, of course). But neither are quite my form. For one, you can’t do them on the Metro with an iPhone. And it drives me NUTS that I can’t categorize incoming updates.  To have posts from good buddies buried amidst posts from people I haven’t spoken to in 15 years is frustrating.  Not to mention the twitter phenomenon of following businesses, blogs, celebrities, etc.  Is there a way to do this that I’ve missed? Can anyone advise?

So back to blogging. I think I will have a pattern of only lightly edited midi-posts, maybe an occasional longer one.  You can expect to see

  • more Metro observations/griping
  • evolving obsessions
  • more work-life balance observations/griping


cub fandom

5 October, 2008

More to come.

Listen, and understand.

What’s there to say, really?

…hmm, a lot, actually.  I’ll spare you the 2003 reminiscing and just ask my question.  Someone, please, answer me.

So in ’03, we choked in Game 6, big time. GAME 6…of a SEVEN GAME SERIES.  What stopped us from winning Game 7?  No, seriously. WHAT?  I still don’t really know. “Because we’re the Cubs,” blah blah blah, spare me. That’s not an answer.  WHAT. STOPPED. US?

2008. October 1. OK, Dempster got in a spot…in GAME 1.  We fell behind and got demoralized. IN GAME ONE. HELLO! 4 MORE GAMES TO PLAY!  What was stopping this team, the best Cubs team in my memory and my father’s memory and his father’s memory, from just, you know, PLAYING? Believing in themselves?  I’m serious, WHAT?  Can someone please tell me?

You know, though?  Here is the even more real question. Was it the same thing? In 2003 and 2008?  Who cares, losing is losing, you say. I disagree. The answer matters, and I’ll tell you why.  2003 was a gift. Everything came together in that lucky once-in-a-blue-moon way, and it was magical, and it woulda been magical if we’d gone all the way, but something happened.  In immediate hindsight the Game 6 choke seemed easily explained: lack of playoff experience, lack of big-game experience, tripped players up.  And as chokes do, it spread, in a series of bad decisions and bad luck and Golden Glovers misplaying ground balls and coaches not taking out finished pitchers and spazzy outfielders and ugh, ugh!

Sorry. Note, though: the failure was contained. Contained within the game–the NLDS was thrillingly fought, the NLCS until that point was also.  If you like, you can further argue that the failure due to inexperience was contained, within the season.  It didn’t say anything about the Cubs as a franchise, despite what people thought.  It was just a year. Disappointing sure, but it was just what sometimes happens to teams that improbably fight their way to the playoffs. The Marlins did the same, and just got a little farther.  It happens–that’s why we have a postseason at all.  Right?

2008?  This year was different. THIS YEAR WAS DIFFERENT.  We were plain good.  We clinched over a week before the end of the season. Best NL record. Most runs in NL. God knows how many other bests, firsts, best since’s; I’m bad at keeping track of that stuff.  But it was a Cubs team like none of us have ever seen.  And that team just didn’t fucking show up for the most important series of the season.  Here’s what freaks me out, here’s what kept me up last night: if THIS team couldn’t pull it off, what Cub team can?  How good do we have to be to make this happen?

(Maybe making it happen isn’t about being good.  Maybe it was too easy. Maybe you need to fight all the way, like in ’03.  ?)

Here is the emotional doublethink that defines my Cub fandom*.   Deep down I have a core of hope and belief that they can do it. But I also have a core of doubt and resignation to loss. And I never know which one is deeper.  Which is the core of which? I can’t tell. Maybe I should call it doublefeel.

*Maybe it’s everyone’s fandom, for all teams.  But I don’t remember feeling this way about the 1990s Bulls and I doubt Yankee fans feel this way.

Maybe that’s the difference between 2003 and 2008.  I was at the 2003 NLCS Game 7.  Not 24 hours after the Game 6 choke, I made and carried a sign to the park that said just “I BELIEVE”.  Why COULDN’T we win? WHY NOT come back from a bad game?  That was the day before!  That’s why it’s not a one-game playoff, the postseason, because a bad inning, an off day, can happen anytime. I believed. But that was the heart speaking. In my head, I could see us being outplayed, in slow motion.  You knew that a debacle like that wouldn’t happen to the Marlins.  And, doublefeel-wise, when the loss finally came, it felt both shocking and inevitable.

This year was the other way around.  Rationality was on the side of optimism. For once, for ONCE, we were just that good.  Look at the numbers!  But you can’t turn off that emotional side that is keeping you on the edge of cynicism and defeat.

So this is mostly just shocking. No, really. “Durr, it’s the Cubs, what do you expect” people will say. Well, I’ll tell you. More. I expect more.  Because it’s expecting less that makes people think jokes about lovable losers are acceptable.  This looked to be the year we left all that bullshit behind.

OK, you know? I was feeling maudlin. I couldn’t get to sleep last night til 2:30 (apparently neither could Mark DeRosa).  Today, I had listened to the Steve Goodman song I linked to up there, I sat down to write this, catharsis, etc…and now I’m just pissed.  This year WAS different, goddamnit.

See you in '09

Postscript: As usual, Al says it better.  Wanting it too much…is it that simple?

Damnit, you can’t read that at all can you.  What it says is: at one location, you can get a plain ol’ hot dog, a “Nats dog value pack,” a Hebrew National, AND a Ben’s half smoke with chili. That’s right, no need to stand in line at the one Ben’s stand in LF.   And hilariously, NOT ONLY are these “Nats Dogs” badged stands everywhere, there is one AROUND THE CORNER from the Ben’s stand.

Lotsa snapshots of the stadium coming up. I am so psyched.

We call this place heaven.

Originally uploaded by techne.

They are playing Morphine’s album Cure for Pain. What year was I….a junior?…at the end of the semester I started spending time with a woman I’ll call B. I have NO IDEA how we found each other, classes? friend of a friend? Anyway, her two obsessive loves were Morphine (the band) and Aliens. She had the director’s cut and knew bits of trivia about it that were very obscure in 1996…now, of course, you can find them all on IMDB. (Kids, we used to have to fight for the knowledge that made us cool and/or geeks. Also? We had to spend money on music, either directly or by buying tapes to copy from friends. Also? We couldn’t even really copy movies since double VCR decks were a lot rarer than double tape decks, so if you had a copied movie it was probably taped off TV. Also? Get off my lawn.) Anyway, Tryst. They do this to me all the time, what with the music.

Ah, B. Why was I so interested in you? I think we shared a level of snark. Also a level of depression. For the last few weeks of the semester we spent many hours in her basement cave of a dorm room listening to Morphine or watching Aliens while not really having sex. There was a degree of sneaking around involved as she hid me from her hallmates (and hid herself from herself). It was all very tension-filled and dramatic for reasons I just cannot remember. The end of semesters was always a hothouse in some way. Girls, depression, euphoria…something was always going on, at a much more intense level than usual, for everyone on campus, me included. Unsurprising I suppose. So yeah, things with B were intense. And then we went home for break and that was that. We never really spoke again.

I swore off straight girls soon after, but she wasn’t the final reason, just one of the nails. (Heh. Nails. Oh wait! IIRC B also liked Nine Inch Nails.) The next summer, I innocently tried to get in the pants of C, a very cute, bubbly woman who lived on my hall in the summer dorm. In retrospect, I think she was from Minnesota. She was one of those happy straight girls who thinks they are just being nice to everyone, but in the outside world that everyone else lives in they are madly flirting with everything that moves. I flirted back, as you do. C realized she was in fact attracted to me, but she was 1) very Baha’i (Baha’i are as anti-gay as any other denomination, it turns out) and 2) very conflicted about her sexuality. Needless to say, perhaps, I never got into those pants. Instead I witnessed epic levels of angst and soul-searching. I felt bad for the girl, here I was just wanting a little fun, and I make her question her faith and very identity.  Sheesh.  Also perhaps needless to say, she came out f’reals a few months later. Hey — no need to thank me. Glad I could help!

Haven’t listened much to Morphine since. As I have now been given the chance to remember, they do get a bit repetitive. I don’t seem to have them in the ol’ iTunes, seeing as how — see above — I only had them on tape. I did see them in concert once. My review: I didn’t know you could be that high and still hold an instrument.

I do, however, own the director’s cut of Aliens. Outright. It’s one of my two desert island movies. I mostly watch it at night…mostly.

(You can expect more college reminisces between now and my 10th reunion in June.)

What I got

14 March, 2008

In early November of 2000, I was in New Orleans at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference. My boyfriend had come along, and we were staying in a beautiful bed-and-breakfast that, needless to say, was NOT on the conference hotels list. It was the internet boom–we ate so well that, to this day, our friends are sick of hearing about this trip. The election was going on–you may recall the election of November 2000 and how, er, stimulating it was. It was my first conference, my first presentation, and I was utterly psyched. SFN is infamous for its size (over 25,000 attendees) and its scope (“neuroscience” can mean almost anything, and at this conference, it does). All the posters and science to see and absorb…and then in the evening, all the ancillary events. Panels, interest groups, receptions, and I belonged there. Everything was possible.

As was my wont, I went to a career panel. I knew even during my undergrad years that academia was not for me, and that I was interested in an “alternative career” (a disgusting ivory tower phrase for the outside world, IMO). Of course, being an idiot who went to grad school for only the dimmest of reasons, I had no idea what I wanted beyond that. So I tried to go to a lot of panels and read a lot of books about “alternative careers.” This panel was not specifically about that–it was intended to present the diversity of options that would lay before me someday in the distant future. Good enough. I vaguely remember that it had a representative from the classic academia tenure track, a science writer, and somebody else–probably a researcher/administrator from industry or biotech.

But I CLEARLY remember the man who represented science policy. He described his days as a science and technology policy fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He had worked in the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, which did what it sounds like it’d do: assess technology for Congress. An intertube describes it this way: “The OTA was created in 1972 to provide Congress objective analyses of major public policy issues related to scientific and technological change.” A Congresscritter would come to them and ask for a report on any topic under the sun. They’d research it and write it up in a nonpartisan fashion. Another quote:

Holt pointed out how many of the OTA reports, from over a decade ago, are still timely and pertinent, including reports like “Retiring old cars: Programs to save gasoline and reduce emissions,” “Renewing our energy future,” “Potential environmental impacts of bioenergy crop production,” “Innovation and commercialization of emerging technologies,” and “Testing in America’s schools: Asking the right questions.”

This sounded like pure heaven. Then, as now, I was a dilettante, interested in too many things, and I was beginning to see just how fucking stupid I had been to go to graduate school, the entire POINT of which is to train you in specialization. The idea that I could grow up and use my prospective science and research skillz to tackle all sorts of different projects–and for a purpose? To a specific end? (I was also beginning to realize that my penchant for efficiency might have been useful day-to-day, but could never have a place in research as a lifelong endeavour.) Turns out the guy was there specifically to promote the AAAS Science Policy Fellowship that had gotten him to OTA. One needed one’s Ph.D. in hand to apply. Still, I took the application packet and read it cover to cover.

I did the same thing at my next conference, and the next, and at local panels, and eventually I was going to panels and I already knew everything they were saying about the fellowships. When I’d network and discuss science policy, I’d hear about the fellowships and how many doors they opened. In dark research moments I’d read about science policy and notice that nearly everything I read was written by a former fellow. While writing my dissertation, I found an ad for a related job in the back of the journal Science, cut it out and taped it in the “escapism” corner of my desk, near the photos of Paris and the ocean at Sharm el-Sheikh (a resort in Egypt where my sister had spent a summer). When considering jobs, the fact that my current job would put me in DC, where I would have top networking opportunities and learn incredible amounts purely by osmosis, was a consideration.

When I got here, I picked every brain I knew, developed my network, picked their brains, and then asked THEM for people whose brains I could pick. And picked them. All of them said the same thing. You must apply for the AAAS fellowship, it’s invaluable, it’s great, it’s perfect experience and perfect for the resume. They all said it was very competitive and then said they had gotten it on the first try. They all took great pride in telling me a particular insider “secret” about the system, such that when I spoke to a new person and I heard them get quieter and conspiratorial, I knew what was coming. I acted surprised each time.

The time finally came: my career had reached a turning point. I was on top of my field and had to either fight to stay there or bow out. The deadlines and start dates and end dates of my commitments and the fellowship lined up perfectly. So I applied. I came out to my boss as an alternative-career lover. I converted valuable research-world patrons into references in fields where they were virtually unknown. I spent valuable research time, time that our rivals were using to do science, writing my application. I doubted my decision when research went well, stood by it when not. I wrote and wrote and wrote about myself (the app was an essay, a CV, another essay, and a biography). I asked for help from aforementioned network. When they started giving me contradictory advice based on their personalities, I knew I had worked it for all it was worth. I sent it in and I waited. I got an interview and one last hoop: write a one-page memo about something and in the interview you will present it and we will ask questions. I sat down to write the memo and I realized that, after all these years of saying “I want to do science policy,” I didn’t know what “policy” meant. I figured it out. I sent it in. I interviewed.

I got the email at noon today: I got the fellowship. Now it’s 8. And I have no idea what to do now.


14 March, 2008



10 March, 2008

Well well well, I suppose the DC-based Emperors’ Club whores juuust weren’t good enough for Mr. NY governor. Typical NYC thinking, “we are the center of the world and better than everywhere else.” Well, neener neener neener, look where your NYC snobbery has landed you. Ha!

However, all may not be lost, Governor John. I have spotted a loophole.

The Mann Act, passed by Congress in 1910 to address prostitution, human trafficking and what was viewed at the time as immorality in general, makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution.


Via strange maps — a very cool blog — I find this:

Turns out this is a Thing: making Excel graphs of rap/hiphop lyrics. This page has the most comprehensive collection I’ve found.

I seem to be late to this meme, but jesus. I haven’t laughed this hard since I first found LOLcats. Here’s the one that got me the worst:

Of course I have been trying to think of my own. Here’s what I got:

Who should put it in the air?

a big bouquet of cactus

7 March, 2008

A Leonard Cohen phase is coming on. I can feel it. My iPod is presently about 75% hiphop; that percentage has been creeping higher and higher over the last few months, and I’m reaching saturation. This is how I do music: several months of immersion in an artist or genre, then on to either the next thing or revisit an old thing and immerse in that. (I’ll have to make it back in time for Mr. tha Funkee Homosapien’s concert at the 9:30, though.)

Cohen is, for me, an old thing. It dates back to around 1988. My mother had two albums on heavy rotation: Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat and Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man. And when I say heavy rotation, I mean: NOTHING else in the CD player. Nothing. I was 12 years old and my family was on a nickname basis with the man (we called the first album “Jenny sings Lenny”). I looked high and low for a blue raincoat of my own (no luck, even now when I don’t want one anymore). And it wasn’t even young-poet-living-in-Greece “Suzanne” Leonard Cohen, but darker, aging, “Ain’t no cure for love” Leonard Cohen. That can’t have been good for my perceptions of romance and adult relationships. (Srsly. I was reading Bop and Seventeen, listening to Tiffany and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, and singing along to “Or I’d crawl to you baby and I’d fall at your feet/And I’d howl at your beauty like a dog in heat/And I’d claw at your heart and I’d tear at your sheets/And say please…(please…)”)

Still, those albums were my mom’s. They still feel that way. But when the tribute album “I’m Your Fan” came out…that was mine. REM! James! The PIXIES, fer chrissakes! Yeah, that’s the one I’ll put on my iPod first, it’s how I start. We’ll see where I go after that.

This all was inspired by stumbling upon this paper on my blogadventures today: “It Doesn’t Matter Which You Heard”: the Curious Cultural Journey of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. I know you’ve heard this song. THREE-YEAR-OLDS have heard this song. It’s a nice analysis of why, exactly, I know that you’ve heard the song.

Yeah, so I read that and my Cohen phase began. Since the internets it always seems to include reading this interview. I bring you an excerpt that always makes me smile. Have a good weekend, all.

MUSICIAN: I understand that somehow during the course of your travels you ended up in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

COHEN: … I went down there and immediately found myself accurately described as a “bourgeois individualist poet.” I said, “That’s right. Suits me to a tee.” I wrote a poem in one of my early books: “The Only Tourist in Havana Turns His Thoughts Homeward.”

I was walking on the beach in the middle of one night and was suddenly surrounded by about 11 guys with Czechoslovakian submachine guns; I was an American who didn’t speak Spanish, and they thought I was the first guy off the landing boat. I was the first guy arrested. It was a bit tricky to sort this thing out. But they happened to be very gracious. Wherever they took me, by the end of the night we were drinking toasts to each other and “the friendship of the people,” and they let me go.

A little later it hit the newspapers in North America that the airport had been bombed. I’m in this little seedy hotel in Havana and somebody knocks on my door and says, “You have to go down to the Canadian consulate right away.” They don’t like the look of me there because I really do look like a Cuban revolutionary – I had a beard and wore khakis. Finally I’m brought in to one of the secretaries of the consulate – I’m pretending to be pretty tough. And he says to me, “Mr. Cohen. Your mother is very worried about you.”

The best feeling in research

22 February, 2008

When your experiment succeeds late on a Friday! Sends you home right!

(The worst feeling: well, you can figure it out.)

Aaaaah, what a nice feeling. I’ve been out of it, lab-wise, for weeks. This week I finally snap into what’s going on, step on people’s toes in my struggle to make them explain it to me, and in two days I’ve solved a problem that had been tripping the lab up for weeks.

That’s just how I roll.

(And now off I go to my phone-less, internet-less home, and neighbors who practice good wireless network security techniques. Damn them! Damn you, Verizon! Goodbye, sweet Internets…)

Love at first sight

18 February, 2008

So there I am, sitting in the Udvar-Hazy Big-Ass Hangar outside Dulles Airport. I’d been there for a few hours, wandering about with some of the DC flickrites. The floors are concrete, I wasn’t seeing anything; my feet hurt and I was discouraged. I looked up.

G13763 part one

Ah, now THAT’S the stuff. Snap snap.

G13763 part two

Wow, look at that baby. Have I ever seen anything so graceful?

G13763 part three

You know…I’m no poet. Maybe it’s true what they say about the thousand words, so here. Just look at her.

G13763 part four

Ah, there she goes. Keep your wings level, beautiful.

I scuttled around on the floor trying to get all kinds of other angles, but there was an SR-71 Blackbird in my damn way.

Blackbird SR-71

Did you know it’s the fastest plane in the world? Visitors to the Udvar-Hazy Center like to point this out. Heck, I was even doing it. (Mach 3.)

Proof: rally caps

27 January, 2008

Wrigley Field, June 7, 2003

Originally uploaded by techne.

Faboo Cubs blog Bleed Cubbie Blue is whiling away the dark winter of the baseball fan’s soul (19 days left!) by counting down the top 20 Cubs home runs. Here is BCB Al’s number 18, a dinger I remember very well. You can find my stories about it in the comment thread for his post (search the page for techne). Non-baseball-y readers can click through to this picture’s flickr page for a shorter, less technical version. (Note to all: “Twitchy” is Sammy Sosa.)

In this photo Jake (l), Paulo (r), and I are sporting rally caps, a baseball technique. Some background: there’s a lot of superstitions in baseball, and one large subset of the superstitions involves changing or not changing things. You don’t change things if you are streaking–eat the same meal, sit in the same place on the plane, shave or don’t shave, do what my die-hard Cub fan middle school math teacher did during the 1989 playoff race and don’t change your socks. Likewise, if you are slumping, you need a slump-buster of some kind, from dietary to sartorial to, er, sexual.

This is the theoretical basis of the rally cap. Is your team behind? Do you need a rally? Clearly, what you have been doing in the game thus far is not working. So you mix it up and wear your cap backwards and inside out. Laugh all you like, but look at the picture and read the post/comment, people: rally caps WORK!

“But Techne,” you say, “I am still skeptical. And you are just a fan, anyway, shouldn’t it be players who would have to wear rally caps?” OK, smartass. You want more evidence? Listen to this! An internet (Wikipedia) tells us of two situations where players allegedly used rally caps:

  • New York Mets, 1986 World Series
  • Detroit Tigers, 1945 World Series


?!! Sexual innuendo much?!

22 January, 2008

Come on. I can’t be the only person who thought so when I heard this.

MODERATOR: The Nobel Prize-winning African-American author, Toni Morrison, famously observed about Bill Clinton, “This is our first black president, blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.”

Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black president?

[blah blah]

OBAMA: I have to say that, you know, I would have to, you know, investigate more of Bill’s dancing abilities.


OBAMA: You know, and some of this other stuff before I accurately judge whether he was in fact a brother. But…


MODERATOR: Let’s let Senator Clinton weigh in on that.

CLINTON: Well, I’m sure that can be arranged.


OTHER STUFF“? That needs to be investigated? Like what, exactly? We already know about the fried chicken and the soul handshake (scroll to the end).  And he DID marry a white girl.  Hmm, what else could there be, I wonder?

I await the Message‘s take on this.

the coffeeshop matrix

13 January, 2008

Once, this blog broke ground with its characterization of the “Woo Girl.” The post made quite a splash, but as is common in science, following up is harder than it looks.

Let’s explore a new idea. I’ve been working more at coffeeshops the last few months and it is time to do a rigorous comparison. By which I mean, graphs. All we need is 3 variables, and we can graph coffeeshop quality. In 3-D And color.  In 3-D color! Maybe even rotating 3-D color!! Doesn’t that thrill you? You can even pick the colors.

And all we need to make it happen is your data! In the comments, please classify DC-area coffeeshops that you know well on at least these three measures:

  • Ambience
  • Internets/work
  • Fare

We can, of course, think of many other judging criteria: we could break any of those categories down into their own three subgroups, for example. But at a minimum please at least give a 1-10 rating on the above three factors for each establishment.

Here is an example.

CRUMBS AND COFFEE: Adams Morgan, on Columbia above 18th

  • Ambience: 3. Fluorescent lighting, soft-rock music station, small, not terribly comfy chairs, fluorescent lighting, and does not make you feel all “I’m cool, I’m in a coffeshop, I have tattoos and a think tank job which lets me telecommute and I am blogging RIGHT NOW,” which another area cafe, which shall remain nameless, aims for. No, it doesn’t go for anything ambience-wise (which of course makes today’s creative class hipster feel an “I’m too cool to care about tattoos and blogging, and also, actual workmen who do actual work come in here every now and then which makes me feel like I am communing with the working class” ambience). In the plus column, smallness is such that it never really feels crowded, non-chatty counter service, large windows mitigate the lighting, and you’d be surprised how often a soft-rock-station tune will make you sing along or at least send you down memory lane.
  • Internets: 6. Great free wi-fi which is on 7 days a week, unlike another area cafe, which shall remain nameless. Outlet situation moderate to good although some serious tripwire situations can occur (yay, MacBook Pro with the magnetic power dingus). Tables and counter a bit too high and close for comfort.
  • Fare: 7. Ice cream as well as the regular array of pastry/sandwiches. Unpretentious selection but lackluster presentation. I don’t think I’ve actually had the coffee, I’m transitioning to tea…but I can report that they don’t use cereal-bowl-sized cups like another area mugs, which shall remain nameless. This is much of the reason for the high score, in fact.  I hate those mugs with the passion of, hmm, let’s say 19 suns.

Let’s hear it! Science needs YOU!


The knitted brain–holy shit. The quilt is groovy, but I’m a knitter, and I love the 3D aspect. No experience has been as important to my understanding of neuroscience and neuroanatomy as dissecting a brain in my first year of graduate school. Which is kind of “duh”, I know…but to handle a human brain every week, cut away pieces and really see how it was put together…

OMG! A zipper as the corpus callosum (the structure that links the left and right lobes of the brain). Bril.

There is a disclaimer:

While our artists make every effort to insure [sic] accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.

Good thing they covered their asses there!

I found this page through MindHacks, a fun blog based on the O’Reilly book of the same name; both aim to provide “neuroscience and psychology tricks to find out what’s going on inside your brain.” And they do it well–I haven’t bought the book yet, but I paged through it a few years ago for a friend who asked me to vet the neuroscience, and IIRC I was impressed. Hardly a shock considering the publishing house, which is known in the tech world for its high quality.

Today the MindHacks folk featured Blue Jean Brain II by artist Lee Pirozzi.

Which reminded me of LAST week, when they had me humming “if I only had a brain handbag”:

Designer Jun Takashi has created a high fashion handbag, shaped like a brain. Why? You ask. Why not? I answer.

At this point I would like to make it clear that the idea that we only use 10% of our handbag is a myth.

Scientific studies have found that all of the handbag is in constant use, although some parts may be more active than others.

(I like how they debunk the ridiculous 10% myth. It might be true in the Angel from Montgomery sense*, but not in the neurological.)

The Wizard of Oz joke up there is that I have a lot of bags. By which I mean purses. I blame the DSW Shoe Warehouse in Chicago on Clark and Wellington, which was not only within easy reach of public transportation but had free parking. (I got a lot of shoes there too, but those are more socially acceptable, and I tend to purge shoes more as they age, but bags don’t wear out as fast.) I remember one day when I came home to Chicago Ex and said, “Look at this bag I bought!” “Oh good,” he said, “You needed more bags.” I was flattered that he’d noticed, a second later I figured out I was being teased. These days, with every new bag I acquire, Reaganite slightly-sardonically asks “So….is THIS one the Perfect Bag?” I have to explain that the perfect bag is a platonic ideal**, and that different needs require different bags, so no one bag can ever be perfect, so it is not an answerable question. He laughs at me anyway. Perhaps he has never taken philosophy.

Here is the ironic part: I have a dearth of luggage, the most useful type of bag. I also have no professional-looking bags for interviews and other sorts of days when I need to look like a grownup. Purses, purses everywhere, and not a one to take to San Diego for a conference.

I tried to take a picture of the closet that has most of my purses in it, but it didn’t really get the point across. I have them all hanging on racks and hooks on the back of my front/coat closet door, and well, let’s just say that the door basically has to be forced closed.

Maybe I should shoot each one and make a grid of them, or something. That WOULD help me purge, as some of them are probably embarrassing, stylewise. I could try to do them chronologically, then I would have an excuse.

You know, because I don’t have enough to do.


*”How the hell can a person/Go to work in the morning/Come home in the evening/And have nothing to say?

**Have you ever noticed that every time the Platonic ideal idea is explained pedagogically, the teacher uses the example of a chair? 4 out of 4 times in my academic experience. Bizarre.

About every other lip gloss I try smells like frosting. It’s distracting.

In other news, the government has returned flickr to the land of the open internets. Whew! There’s a meetup tomorrow, first one in a long time. Dr. B, will you be there?

I am sorta taking pictures again, but my latest mental block seems to be editing. I get bored before I even begin. Well, not bored, but I feel guilty about using my work computer for photo editing. I hope to get over it soon.

Speaking of guilt, I had a dream last night wherein I was in charge of a beehive (this was inspired by a recent New Yorker article from Elizabeth Kolbert about the bee collapse). I know exactly which line inspired the dream; it’s been bouncing around my unconscious for a week:

I set up my hive at the edge of a small brook that runs through the back yard. Within a day of being installed, my bees—Italians—were hard at work. They could be seen zipping out of the little opening in the front and returning with yellow wads of pollen stuffed into the baskets on their legs. Even my teen-age son found the sight of their proverbial busyness hard to resist. On returning home from school, he would lounge against a nearby tree and watch.

In the dream, I was in my boss’ backyard, in a rush to catch the train to southern England. (This trip was a whole other thread of the dream which I’ve mostly forgotten.) I have this hive and I take it out of the fridge, where it is resting, cause I am too curious to see the bees, real quick before I leave. I open it, trying to ignore the tickly on my hands from the bees walking on me, reminding myself that these worker bees have no stingers (dunno if it’s true, but it calmed dream-me enough to proceed). I’ve never been stung (in my waking life) and I don’t wanna start now. As I get used to the feeling I look and see that the bees are leaving legs and antennae on my hands as they land, which continue to tickle even when no bees are on there.

The hive seems almost empty. I put it down and turn it over and see the queen (cartoonishly large and colored) but I see that the nurse bees are prepping another queen, to replace it since that one isn’t working, I guess. I feel sorry for Old Queen for half a second, then I get distracted by the activity around New Queen. They are attaching all this stuff to her posterior (think the queen in Aliens, but smaller) and I can see it growing right before my eyes. How cool is this! I marvel. New Queen is swelling, she’s all soft and gel-like as if she’d just molted and is hardening. I can’t resist touching the queen even though there is an insistent dream-voiceover, as in a nature documentary, lecturing that touching them when they are soft like this is likely to kill her, especially (as I touch the wings) if I touch the wings. The voice is about a half-second behind my actions, but even if it weren’t I probably wouldn’t have reacted in time. I am sort of compelled to touch her and, having touched her, to put her down gently, which is when I touched the wings. I put her down and hope the universe didn’t notice and that she will work the odds and survive.

The hive gets wet somehow — I think due to my actions, not sure. I go inside. Everyone is washing dishes and cleaning up before the train. I think I’ll wrap the hive back up and put it in my boss’ fridge while I’m/we’re gone, I hope he won’t mind but I don’t plan on telling him anyway. When I go outside the hive is a soggy mess. Note here that I have NO idea what I am doing what with the apiary maintenance, and I am acutely aware that I am totally winging it. (I’m not too anxious about it though, they are only bees.) I pick it up anyway and set it on the counter next to the fridge and begin looking for Tupperware to put it in…but before I find anything it spills or decomposes or something, and honey runs all down the side of the drawers and into the drawer I had open. The drawer was on the bottom, was only around 8 inches square, and it had a chef’s knife (pointing up at about a 45deg angle, oddly) and some other utensils (strewn along the bottom) in it. Not a large volume of honey spilled, just enough to make it sticky, not enough to pool up or anything.

So much for the hive. I mentally write it off (I am even relieved that it took care of itself and became a non-problem, instead of needing more care from me) and turn my mind to getting the drawer unsticky before the train arrives, so when Boss returns he will not find a mess. This is everyone else’s objective also, but MY mess wasn’t in the normal course of things, it was extraneous to whatever had been going on to produce the other, more manageable mess, so I feel extry-responsible while they all just feel the obligation of the post-get-together guests. I take the drawer to the sink but someone is there. They seem almost done but there are only 5 minutes before the train.

I think the moral of this dream is that I should get back to work.

Yes Hymes, I know….if only I had as much to say as you do!

Where to start after a long silence such as mine? I hate it when ppl apologize and make excuses for blog silence, so I won’t do that. If you’re sick of loading an unchanged page, I have one word for you: RSS. (Mom, I’ll help you set it up.)

Well, this blog is about my latest obsession, so how about an obsession check. First, the usual cast of characters.

Photography: Stagnant — sigh. Should get better when I visit my family at the end of the month, because my aunt wants me to do portraits of them. I find it hard to keep my eye open (if that makes sense) if I don’t carry the camera every day, and I find it hard to carry the camera every day when my eye isn’t open.

Baseball: On an upswing. You see, it seems that the Cubs are in second place and have a bit of momentum going into this here All-Star Break. And they were in town last week and I went to three consecutive games. I knew from experience that this is about 0.5 games too many, but I had been so baseball-deprived that it actually felt really good. I hadn’t been following too closely before that. There are so many new guys I had never seen play…and it’s hard to keep up with who’s who when all you have is names spoken on the radio….but now that I’ve seen (and scored) a few games, they are a lot easier for me to follow. Boy, was I spoiled, a season ticket holder living walking distance from Wrigley Field. Not to mention the hot dogs. Maybe there will be nice-enough housing near the new stadium in DC….but then I’d be even farther away from NIH.

In AL news, I actually have some. I finally made it to Orioles Park/Camden Yards a few weeks ago, on an invite from a Yankee-fan friend (the visiting team). The game was miserable. It would have been a good bit of baseball to enjoy, except we got there late, there were two rain delays and it was ultimately postponed, in our haste we parked very far away, and on the way out there was a comically slow-moving train blocking our egress (47 cars, yes, I counted). But it’s a very nice park which contrasts beautifully with RFK’s shitholishness. And during one of the rain delays they showed a documentary on Cal Ripken Jr, about whom I knew only a little. Apparently he was the second pro baseball player to actually be an indestructible robot. (And it could be argued he’s the first, what with not yet dying of a degenerative nerve disorder.)

Knitting: Ha! It’s summer. And as much as I think every fall “Gee if only I’d started knitting over the summer I could have so many awesome Christmas presents,” mittens are far from my mind right now.

Blogging: As if you couldn’t tell where this one has been on my list.

Music: Hmm, maybe I should refill my iPod. And listen to it sometime.

Politics: Fuck them fuckers. (I’m still in outrage fatigue. Thank goodness for Comedy Central’s news shows.)

Research: Ah, research. Lots been going on. Collaborations mostly, all stemming from the paper and how to take the data to the next level. In a nutshell, in that paper, we looked at one type of genetic variation in two samples. Now a third sample is publicly available AND there are other types of genetic variation to look at, not to mention the stuff that is publishable but didn’t make it into the first paper cause we were in such a hurry. I’m doing all 3 of those things, as well as trying to finish a paper that I really oughta have finished last year before I started the now-published paper. So now it’s a year out of date, which doesn’t help anything. Lessee, four papers in the works…how’re we doing on those clones?

Yoga: If I left work just a BIT earlier, I’d make it to yoga more often. But, see above. Also, I drag my feet because I’m SO out of shape that I feel embarrassed about going. How ridiculous is that?? I’d like to run, but it’s 750 degrees in DC these days, and I have asthma, making it hard to breathe unless I want to run at 4AM. Which I don’t. In case you were wondering.

That’s all the obsessions I have tags for in my sidebar. Stay tuned for tomorrow, in which I reveal…the current obsession!

Jackie Robinson Day

15 April, 2007

So today Major League Baseball celebrates the 60th anniversary of its integration. If you don’t know the story, yet would like to call yourself an American, go read about it ASAP.

At the 50-year mark, MLB retired the number 42 for all teams, but apparently Ken Griffey Jr. had the idea for players to honor Robinson today by wearing 42. The idea has spread around the league and morphed into either “one dude on your team wears the number,” “a few dudes on your team wear the number,” or everyone on your team wears the number.” Personally, I prefer the last of these options, and think the position stated by the Twins’ Torii Hunter in the article — that it somehow dilutes the tribute to have too many people wear the number — is ridiculous. If only one or a few players get to wear #42, it’s then about those players — but it should be about Robinson himself. Here’s a shout-out to the teams that are all wearing #42 today:

Astros: All players
Brewers: All players
Cardinals: All players
Dodgers: All players
Phillies: All players
Pirates: All players

(Ahem. All National league, thankyouverymuch.)

I’m glad I don’t have tickets to any such games, because seeing 18 or 22 guys (if the coaches wear it too) all wearing #42 would make me ridiculously choked up. Things DO change here. Just ask Don Imus. Call me an idealist and/or a moderate, but it’s nice to pause every now and then from the struggle and take a measure of how far we HAVE come. Yeah, I know the changes are incremental (“with all deliberate speed”), often oddly motivated (women and the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and often have harmful unintended consequences (affirmative action and black students’ self-confidence). But as a member of a group that benefitted from the last century’s civil rights advances, it’s my opinion that one should take what one can get and turn it to one’s advantage, even if the motives of the givers are suspect. Half a loaf, and all that.

One suggestion I heard last season sometime about what to do with #42 is to begin a Jackie Robinson award for…I dunno how to phrase it, some sort of public antidiscrimination service/work undertaken by a baseball player or coach. It needn’t be awarded every year, just when the league/voters felt someone deserved it. Said person would get the honor of wearing 42 for the year. As nice as a day of remembrance like today is, that seems a deeper one: a daily reminder of the debt we owe to those who came before. Of course I’m also the person who thinks the DC baseball team should have been named after a Negro League team. But I guess more influential folks feel that systematic racism wasn’t SOOOOO bad of a sin that we need to be reminded of it every freaking DAY.

(OTOH, perhaps such measures would fade into the background. Hmm.)

Here’s an even more community-minded idea for honoring Robinson, from Forbes magazine. Maybe the league could honor the player who gave the most money to this fund with the right to wear #42. Even more interestingly, they could honor the player who gives the highest percentage of his salary, which would give a better chance for a younger player still under salary caps to give back and get recognition.

Scroll down for the cheesecake. Keep reading for some meat.

Got an interesting idea from this post:

When people speak of losing a part of themselves when a loved one dies, they are speaking quite literally, since we lose the ability to effectively use the neural patterns in our brain that had self-organized to interact with that person.

What a great and accessible application of a neuroscientific idea to explain a psychological phenomenon — and it doesn’t even rid that phenomenon of its substance and depth.

I recently read Joan Didion’s book The Year of Magical Thinking, which is an extensive exploration of the psychology of grief and loss (I recommend it). If you read it with this thought in mind, I think it will give you an interesting angle on why grief can take the shapes it does. This certainly makes me think of how the same book could be written about the neurological changes Didion underwent in that time…and how that’d be a completely different but also valuable book.

I, for one, have gotten value out of both approaches, at different times. In difficult emotional situations I fixate on coming to an understanding of WHY — what could lead a person to do act X? Only later can I process them at a more emotional level. In the train ride to my parents’ house the night we got the news of my aunt’s suicide, I read this book like a novel. It provides an exhaustingly comprehensive psychiatric perspective on suicide’s origins, from the personal all the way to the epidemiological level. It’s written by a clinician/researcher and popularizer who’s respected in both areas, which is no easy feat. It’s later now, and so Didion’s book has been important to the current stages.

While I’m making book recommendations, I found the suicide book a bit too depressing before I had a particular reason to read it. On the other hand, Jamison’s memoir of living with bipolar disorder is gripping and of general interest.

The rest of the ideas in the post are the standard kind of annoying “we’re so close to developing supercomputers that we can download our brains to, and therefore use to live forever” crap we can expect from a certain stripe/era of AI research. Oh, so many issues I have there. A few:

1) One of my favorite neuroscientific truisms is “if the brain were simple enough to understand, we would be too simple to understand it.” Where would a bit dump of our brains/minds even BEGIN? The upper-left-hand neuron? (What about cultures that read right-left?) Memories (“I was born a poor black child”)? And which historical point in time to capture? Should we do backups to keep it current? Save older versions, perhaps to retain health, and ditch the body once deterioration sets in? Not to mention the utter meaninglessness of a consciousness without physical input. Just look what sensory deprivation can do to an embodied brain.

2) Metaphors squelch understanding and new ideas, and all the more so when they try to cover more complex phenomena. “The brain is a computer” squelches understanding of its function because it ignores a lot of the types of connections made between neurons.

In fact, it’s just this disconnect between computer simulations of brain function and the actual functioning of the brain that switched me from computer science geekery to neuroscience, lo these 10 years ago now. In a Neural Networks class, I kept trying to make my network’s neurodes more like biological neurons, and got more and more impressed with the impossibility of the task and how it revealed how little we knew about the brain. Considering that each year of biological education teaches you more and more about what the last class didn’t even get near, to have finally run up against the limits of knowledge in a field was heady stuff. I switched majors posthaste.

N.B., the metaphor of DNA as blueprint/book of life is similarly harmful to the understanding of genetics. But that’s another post.

Yeah, I fully and humbly acknowledge that these objections may someday seem as hilarious as “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible” and other statements are today.* In fact, one of the coolest things about extended lifespans, to me, is getting to see so many new things developed and so many old things proved wrong. Not to mention the chance that I could see the Cubs win the World Series, although my brain may need to be in a computer for that one.

In other news, vote for me for DC’s Sexiest Female Blogger. Here is some cheesecake to encourage you.

No, I have no idea who nom’d me (Reaganite swears it weren’t him), why I care, or why I would be OK being associated with some of the most gossipy damn people in the DC internet tubes. Since becoming aware of the Best DC Blog site on Monday, I tried to figure it out by reading a few comment threads there and “DC blog wars” posts on BigHeadRob’s blog, and I tell you whut: I’m never getting that two hours back.

Here’s another perspective though. While I had fun comparing the bizarreness to junior/high school on Monday and Tuesday, on Wednesday we spent an hour in lab meeting discussing some psychiatric-genetics-research-field politics. And as any DC resident knows, politics is high school. When I tell him some of my hair-raisers, Reaganite assures me that scientist politics is not substantially different in form from Hill politics. So when we tell the poor kids who find themselves at the bottom of high school food chains that “it’s not always like this, it gets better, people grow up,” we are lying. Lying lying lying!

Other reasons I care. Well, I’m self-centered. Show me a blogger who isn’t. Heck, show me a human being who isn’t. I’m competitive too, in weird indirect ways that are hard to describe: more against past versions of myself than other people. In my defense, I think people who know me will agree that these are not my mortal-est sins. (Guess which is!)

Also, as a child, I was an ugly duckling. Glasses filling half my face, feathered hair, not grown into the nose yet…maybe if I win I’ll post a photo of those days. Yay for the exorcism of childhood demons. And how better to prove the old saw that DC is Hollywood for ugly people? ;)

Also also, it’d make a truly hilarious addition to my imaginary business card. Dr. Scientist. Photographer. Sexiest Blogger DC 2007. OK, only sorta hilarious.

Yeah, I’m in Florida. Reaganite’s mom and I get on fine, as I knew we would. But we are all tired and stuff, and R. has to do some work, which is why I have all this goddamned time to blog. Shouldn’t have much more until I get back–going to Disney tomorrow, for the first time ever.

Vote for me!

*As you may know, Bill Gates denies saying “640K ought to be enough for anybody.”

Thanks, Gene

10 April, 2007

So yesterday leaving the Woodley Park Metro I see a trumpeter and a saxophonist playing jazz duets, and I’m all paranoid. Is this another experiment? Is that Wynton Marsalis? Am I on camera? Do I have time to stand and listen? Do I even like jazz??

Reader, I went to CVS. But! I walked slowly.

Someone at the best DC Blog voting likes that I have a thumbnail headshot. Well, because I like it so much, here’s the image in all its glory, where you can really appreciate the expression, earrings and dress combo. I really love the hell out of this dress, although nobody else does. Well, to hell with that! I’m going to Florida this weekend to meet Reaganite‘s parents….apparently it’s 80deg there. I shall pack it!

welcome to the jungle

Hmm. Not the sexiest expression ever. Sorta weird to put up during a sexiness competition. Well, perhaps it counts as “vivacious.” We’ll see how quirky a sense of humor the nothing-to-do-at-work DC blogger community has. Anyway, I do have a secret weapon photo. And two cats.

I should really update my blogroll. Right after I do my taxes, find summer clothes that fit me and are nice enough to Meet The Parents in, get a present for The Parents, prepare my bod for the Florida beach, finish my Artomatic installation, pick up cat food, and correct the galleys of my article before I leave. Oh and somewhere in there I should be solving the mystery of the genetics of bipolar disorder (including the enigma of functional intronic SNPs), processing my pregnant friend’s wedding pictures, sewing up her baby’s booties, mailing it all off, calling her to catch up, and mailing two other packages back to the companies that fucked up the orders — but these can wait until after the trip.

Did I mention my taxes? I had it all scheduled for this weekend. One day of Artomatic, one of taxes. Except I sorta had an Artomatic meltdown on Saturday. 21 feet of wall space I had to fill. 21 FEET!!! Well, not only do I not have the money to nicely frame that much stuff, but I simply have not been shooting long enough to even have the catalog of images I’d be proud — or even simply “not embarrassed” — to display. I had one idea for filling it but in the end it didn’t look good at all. So I went back on Sunday and changed spaces. Thanks to epmd for his proxying and selection of a large space though–if I’d’a thought I’d’a had the option of such a big space, I might have asked him to pick a smaller one, but it didn’t even occur to me that they’d have room like that given what I’d heard about past shows! Actually, I owe a lot of people for AOM favors: miscelena and kneb, bsivad, birdcage and the AOM board, furcafe…the usual cadre suspects. Gee, hope I didn’t forget anyone.

I’ll have to lay in much cash for all those drinks I’ll be buying them at the AOM bars.

uh…I’m nominated…

9 April, 2007

UPDATE: OK, I wasn’t eliminated. Time for my ego and I to check out, especially as now it becomes clear I AM filler (of the innocuous kind, which is fine by me). Indeed, it’s hard to escape the impression that the whole BDCB site is filler for the “DC blog wars.” I was vaguely aware of them when I was attending more meetups and happy hours, last winter and spring, and I thought they were a fluke of some kind, or something that people had outgrown…apparently not. Anyway, the less said about them, the better. My snark skills are NOT up to the task, esp not at midnight.

Don’t vote for me right now, because it’s an elimination round.

Apparently the nom procedure is not as rigorous as all that. Whatevs.

Scarily, the competition is now for “the BEST and the SEXIEST.” Now that’s a higher bar.

I only half-follow the Best DC Blog site. I should RSS it, it’s often amusing — I haven’t so far because it’s so often got that slam book snarky vibe that reminds me of the junior high whimpering on the bed that I used to do. Anyway, this morning I noticed a link from it in my logs. How odd, I’m not a commenter there or on their blogroll. Well, it seems I have been nominated for Sexiest Female Blogger. By Michelle Malkin no less! (OK, really a Michelle Malkin hater. That’s 2 points in your favor, Michelle Malkin Naked.) Another mystery wrapped in an enigma. Have we met, MMN?

Perhaps I am meant to be filler for the list, and would be crossed off at an early stage with a snarky comment. Crossed off eventually would be OK, as I’m unlikely to win where there are far more exhibitionist types in the DC female blogger community. But to be first to go….ouch. The junior high bed-whimpering instincts are strong, but I got the psychological and physical chops to play this game now: confidence in myself, 20/20 vision, boobs, relatively flattering clothes, all the stuff I didn’t have back in the day when “She’s Like The Wind,” “Together Forever,” and “I Wanna Have Some Fun” were on Z95* and vests and bubble skirts were in…the FIRST time.

So, let the objectification begin.  Or, rather, resume: I have after all already posted/blogged this image.


That’s about all that’s PG rated (or is cleavage PG-13 now?) that I will share, image- or story-wise. After all, my mother reads this blog. Hi Mom! (Although she gets far less grossed out by these things than my sister does. Hi sister!)

Would it help to make an appearance at a blogger happy hour, in a nice little v-neck and heels? (I Blame the Patriarchy readers: they will, of course, be comfortable heels. I don’t own any other type. Hey, I never claimed to be a radical** feminist. Unfortunately for me, Katie Roiphe was an influence at this tender age too…although I’m also not a lipstick feminist.)
*I owned all of these songs. If you wish to mock me, I’d like to hear YOUR Worst-Of of what you were listening to in 1988. Anyway, I mark this as a dark era of prehistory to my musical awakening which began in 1991 with REM’s Out Of Time and Primus’ Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Also, during the late 80s my mom played a lot of Leonard Cohen and WXRT, which was at its peak then. This made me much cooler later on.

**I typed “radial feminist” at first. Heh.

excuse exposed

21 March, 2007

This post is just an excuse to get the dick graffiti off the top of my page. I’m tired of lookin’ at it…

I haven’t yet gotten around to editing my DCist Exposed show opening pics. Or my friend’s wedding pics, or…well, I was gonna list all the things I haven’t gotten around to, but it’s too depressing, so let’s just say I won’t get around to making that list, either. There, I feel better already.

Speaking of the DCist Exposed opening, did y’all see my photo hanging front and center at the top of the stairs?? I walked right by it, myself; got there at 7 when it was the most packed, and it was a struggle for my very survival as a human being who likes to have enough space around her to draw breath, so I made a beeline for one of the rooms in an effort to avoid the crowds and didn’t notice any images until then. I was all “where’s my pic” and some friends had to look at me funny and point out that I had walked right by it. Heh. Thanks for the placement DCist.

Despite my pricing being on the high end for the show, my photo did end up selling. (For those who missed their chance to own an Original Techne, I do have a few unframed 8x12s of southbound on hand at the moment, contact me if you’d like to buy one. Also, a larger print will probably be one of my selections at Artomatic later this spring.) Funny thing, though. My image didn’t sell on opening night when I might have met the buyer in person. So when I was told it had sold, I asked who the buyer was, thinking to meet them at the takedown…and was told he “wished to remain anonymous.” Anonymous?? Why, it’s a mystery! Wrapped in an enigma!

Seriously though, isn’t that strange? Let’s unpack this. Either it’s someone I know or someone I don’t. If I don’t know him, why would he hide his identity, wouldn’t you want to meet the photographer whose art you are gonna hang on your wall? Am I missing something there? And if I DO know him, it’s either — to put it delicately — someone I speak to or someone I don’t. In either case, perhaps he kept it anonymous because he knows that if I found out, he’d be in danger of me throwing a shoe at his head (both groups of folk being at risk of this, depending on their motives). I’ve looked into the souls of some likely friend suspects, who deny all knowledge. I believe them, although I do worry that maybe my soul-looking-into skills are no better than George Bush’s, who famously used the technique to determine the freedom-loving character of Vladimir “Pooty-Poot” Putin. Or maybe my friends are just good at lying to me.

Or…maybe I’ll just not ever figure it out, and a deserving head somewhere will go unmolested by footwear. That’s sad. So patron, whoever you are, throw a shoe at your head for me. And thanks. I hope you enjoy the image.


15 March, 2007

Some email subject lines today:

Subject: Urgent massage

If you ask me, all massages are urgent.

Subject: Temporary Stance Against Windows Vista Use


I haven’t posted much about my latest (re-)obsession, which is hip-hop. I’m sad I missed these ladies, who were in town on Monday night (just resubmitted the paper, and worked basically straight through Sunday noon until last night midnight to get it out once and for all). I cannot get over the awesomeness of hardcore feminist MCs. One of them is named Hesta Prynne (Ph.D., have not yet figured out if that’s true and if so in what). Hip-hop* lyrics never sound as cool typed out (I just tried it), so you should check them out yourself.

I got a post in me someday about the paradoxes of working at Tryst. They support the laptop-worky lifestyle on the surface, but don’t give free refills. This is meant to keep people ordering, but one can nurse the dive-in cups most drinks come in for a long time. The service is absolutely awful, but since there are no free refills if they came around more they’d make more money. There are precious few power plugs, so if you get one you tend to camp out, making the place crowded, which would seem to make more money for them, but they don’t work that (see “awful service” above). I think they should get outside the box and charge for free refills by the hour. Say, base price for the first drink and a dollar or so for refills piecemeal or hourly, for all their major drinks? Yeah, but that means more work for their servers and if they wanted more work they would just come around more and make more on actual drinks. Hmm.

Your last note for this beautiful wintry-mix friday: a fascinating story of the consequences of mania.

Car salesman sells new car to woman with bipolar disorder who only came in to have the oil changed in the other, six-month-old, car she bought from them. But she was in a manic state, and easily persuaded to buy a whole new car she totally didn’t need.

Hilarity, and a lawsuit, ensue.

What do you think, hymes? Is she responsible for her actions? (Of course others may comment–I just know hymes will have an opinion :) )

*I find no phrase more difficult to type, for some reason. When I saw Brown Sugar a few years ago, I remember thinking how awful it’d be for me to write a book about hip-hop like Sanaa Lathan’s character was doing.

How cool are you?

12 March, 2007

From the Online Photographer:

1. The fewer lenses you use, the cooler you are. Footnote: Four is fairly cool. Three is definitely cool. Two is very, very cool. One, and you are a God, and I kowtow to you.

I use three in heavy rotation: the classic 50/1.8, a versatile-for-outdoors 17-40/4L, and by beloved if annoyingly hard to use and potentially soft Sigma 30/1.4. So a point to me!

2. Committing to one camera is very cool, even if you own two or three of them.

I own a decade-old Nikon SLR from my sister that I use so rarely I don’t even know what model it is. I own a Canon A85, oh must be 5 years or so old now, which got me through the late snapshot years and is manual enough that I got through the initial learning curve of more serious photography. It’s also useful for when I have a trusty child assistant. And I own a $20 Canon p&s I bought in 2002 for a weekend trip I was taking to Paris, which I count because I got some amazing photos on that trip.

But all I use really is my Rebel. Point to me!

3. The longer you’ve been using the same film, the cooler you are.

Kodak 400 that I pick up from Walgreens/CVS for aforementioned $20 p&s? Point to me!

4. The closer your camera is to “mint,” the less cool you are. Footnote: And a corollary: the more you care what brand of camera you shoot, and especially the more you let other people know what brand you shoot, the less you even have a clue what cool is.

Well, this point makes me feel a little better about the dings I’ve put on my Rebel in the last year. Particularly nice is a scar on the popup flash that I got the time my slippery strap slipped out of my hands as I slung that puppy over my shoulder while crossing the street. I had just changed out from my Domke strap and my muscle memory was accustomed to a bit more stickability. The impact was pretty much completely absorbed by that corner of the camera and my 50mm, with no other damage to the body whatsoever. To this day I am thankful that I didn’t have my 30 on. I was upset enough.

5. Using a camera that’s as old or older than you are is very cool.

I lose. But I will be picking up a Pentax K-1000 soon, I think. My first and only photo class, in junior high, used it and I do miss its truly manual nature. Future cool points.

UPDATE: goldurnit. I just found out the K-1000 was released the year I was born.  Ideas?

6. The shorter your longest lens is, the cooler you are.

Boy do I win this one: my 50 (80 effective) is the best I got. (Well I suppose I have my 18-55, but I have used it, literally, twice.) Do I get two points for my longest lens actually being normal, despite the crop factor??

7. The more often you carry your camera with you, or keep it within easy reach, the cooler.

I used to be cooler here, and in fact I was pondering posting on this theme today. When I got my work laptop in the fall, my daily commuting load got a lot heavier. While I often take buses and shuttles, I end up walking 1 to 2 miles a day with my machine and a two inch thick stack of papers on my back. Adding a camera of any size or weight grew increasingly inconvenient, esp since in the backpack it’s not easily reachable like in a messenger-style bag, and wearing the camera (across a shoulder, as I do) with a backpack is not terribly simple either. But I really do miss it and hope to get a better bag soon that will make the load a little more compact and well-distributed.

8. Cool people do not use zooms. Really cool people use cameras that can’t be fitted with zooms.

Maybe I get half a point here. I rarely walk around with my 17-40 unless it’s a Day Of Shooting Outdoors, which I haven’t had many of lately. And I kind of fell backward into most of my kit, the only lens I really chose is the 30 and for my next lens I was considering the 100/2.8 macro. f/1.4 may have convinced me to look into the 70-200/4L instead, though. I guess then I will have no claim here.

9. The more you will shoot for every frame you’ll show, the cooler you are.

Hard to call this one since it’s so relative, but I have gotten choosier over time.

So I get 5.5 + 1 future point. I’ll take that.

Haven’t had time to ul my pics from DCist Exposed yet, although I didn’t get many. I was a little too sleep-deprived, which gets more and more destabilizing a state as I get older. The opening was incredibly crowded, which rules but wasn’t great for my mental comfort, and I left early to have dinner with new Virgina residents birdcage and nikonshooter, so the walk-around-shooting aspect was not what I’d been expecting. Still, mntalkase got shots of me next to my picture with one of the dudes in the shot, and used his budding photographer intuition to save some bad-for-faces lighting. Good job sweetie!

To hold ya over and have at least one pic in a post about photography, one of my favorite shots from the show so far is this portrait of flickr friend bsivad:

Ain’t nobody dope as him

20 February, 2007

Mos Def plays Obama’s tune

You’ll recall comments made recently by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., which landed him in some hot water. A few weeks ago, he said that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” That controversy seems to have blown over but it resurfaced Friday night in Brooklyn, N.Y., of all places.

Musician and actor Mos Def, a Brooklyn native, took to the stage Friday night for the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Brooklyn Next festival, which showcases local artists. No stranger to comments made recently by Biden, Mos Def (real name: Dante Terrell Smith) and his 15 piece orchestra (and DJ) all wore T-shirts with the words “So Fresh, So Clean” around Obama’s picture.


WordPress seems incapable of doing video embeds, so if, like I was, you are now inspired to see the Outkast video, you’ll have to actually click a link.

Now, the song has a “nigger” or two in there, and it’s all sexed up, so unfortunately I can’t really see it being used at a campaign event. But let me here and now plant the meme that it should be played at any inaugural balls that might someday be held for President Obama.

Or, hell….even for President Biden.

I’m putting finishing touches on my paper this weekend, but I had to share this website with you. [1] The general idea:

Whether it’s 39% or 50% of Americans, it’s still an awful lot of people. I started wondering just who they were, what they looked like, and how they lived. Such was the genesis of Armed America: Portraits of American Gun Owners in Their Homes. The idea was to photograph a hundred gun owners, in their homes, and do a gallery show…. [2]

but it turned into a book. The website has a few you can browse, with quotes from people about why they own guns.

I’m struck by two things in these images. One, they are made with a wide lens, 25-30mmish. I base this on my experiences with the widest lens I have which is 28mm (on my crop sensor) [3]. As I’ve discussed before, I believe that shooting portraits wide is always a choice with artistic/philosophical implications in itself, apart from the typical ones common to making any image or portrait. If one wishes to shoot a Pretty McCuterson image, for a headshot say, one shoots with a long lens [3]. On faces, this has an effect that is often referred to as “flattening the features.” (I don’t really like this phrase, but I can’t think of one that describes the effect any better, so.) OTOH, with a wide lens headshot, the features are anything but flat.

Figure 1. Artist Penny Broadhurst. Photos by flickr user Danny North, all rights reserved [4]. On the left, focal length 16mm. On the right, 300mm.

Wide lenses expose people, in one of two ways. They can either fill the frame with the person, warts and all, which is what my last post on the subject was about. The intent can be to distort the subject, or (as was actually the case with the Leibovitz images, which were made the winter of 2001/2002) they can aim to expose the true person. As those shots prove, the context external to the image greatly determines the interpretation of the image when a wide portrait fills the frame. In 2006, never having liked the subjects personally, I read those portraits as sinisterizing, but when made, and when originally read by the culture in Vanity Fair that winter, they were meant to lionize, to represent resolve and strength and bravery. (If they can stand up to Leibovitz’s piercing gaze, why, they can stand up to TERROR!!1!one!!1!).

Another aspect: when looking at a person, we look at their eyes first, and our eyes spend most of their time there as they hop around taking in the rest of the face. In a portrait such as the leftward one, when we take in a face in the normal way, we do the same thing, but when a face comes to us as distorted as on the right, this is disrupted. In this way we see that traditional, “long” portraits allow subjects to exert some control over how they are seen through use of their gaze. Meet the camera’s eye? Look away? All the same choices that we make every day in meeting people’s gazes (imagine the artist coyly looking down or angling her head while looking at the camera–she doesn’t, and we learn about her because of it). But in the portrait on the left, the photographer has interrupted this process and forced us to see the face his way, that is, only able to look at the eyes (which he’s obscured) after taking in the nose and teeth, and hence sending us a message about the subject’s eccentricity.

Here’s one of my favorite wide portraits. The subjects fill the frame, but my aim was to capture the nature of childhood and of summer:


Figure 2. July 2006, therefore, mine was red, as we ate through the holiday package. One thing I love about this picture is that D is, like J, “showing me his tongue” — but he doesn’t realize that a white one won’t make his tongue a fun color. He was to find out later, to his dismay, at which he burst into tears and accused me of stealing his popsicle. (Since MY tongue WAS a fun color, you see.) Hey, he was three.

These gun-owner pictures (go look now, if you haven’t, I’ll wait for you) expose a different way. It’s more like this other image of mine, which is the one that made me aware of the possibilities of wide portraits:

Darlenes Avenue Unisex Barber Shop

Figure 3. Darlenes Avenue Unisex Barber Shop. Made at Honfest, Baltimore, MD, June 2006.

Figs. 2 and 3 were taken with the same focal length, 28mm. While there’s outside context important to understanding this image (as there always is), you don’t need it like you do for the Vulcan portraits. A lot of the information about the girl is in the image itself.

Rephrase that; it’s not really info about her, but about what she represents. About HER would be: more detail in her face/her bigger in the frame, and an un-distracting background. You’d be able to look into her eyes, and it’d be more about her as a person, and the trophy (if there at all) would be an accessory secondary to her, like D’s popsicle or Broadhurst’s lipstick. Here, the Honette is secondary to the trophy, to her hair and her clothes and the whole Hon thing, and so this shot is about her as the incarnation of the event. The image, in the end, is not about the girl at all, but about Honfest, and children in adult costumes they don’t understand, and pride, and so on. (You get more about her from this image Dr. B made.)

Back to the gun owners. The images are taken at home–not on a range or outdoors, not USING their guns, but in the context of their lives. They’re about how their guns fit and their relationship with them. Some hold them as if to shoot, some to present it as an object. Some present them before them on a surface. Some show that they are unloaded [5]. Additional important context is added by the captions–indeed, without them the pictures have far less impact. It’s a fascinating project and I look forward to the book.

My other thought: ownership. If there are pets, they are pictured, and only young children are pictured, there’s no 12 year olds or anything like that. These are more fascinating the more you think about it. Children and pets…possessions of a sort, but also things we steward, as are guns. Guns aren’t necessarily disposable, note the guy with the bayonets on his wall–he’s a collector and like art his guns will survive him, he’s just holding on to them. OTOH, you can throw a gun in a river and the law won’t care; try that with your cat. There’s a continuum of possessions on display here, because defining people through their possessions was the explicit aim of the project.

First let’s do pets. The idea here is to describe American gun owners. Someone — the people? the photographer? While it’s clear he’s let the people pose themselves to a degree, this choice isn’t clear — has decided that pets are integral to these people’s identities, to their life in their homes. Pets are a few things in these images: one is property, but they are also signifiers of the subject’s compassion, statements that counteract the aggression of the weapons.

And pets — specific types of dogs, in this case — can also be a signifier of the subject’s commitment to personal defense, and its flipside/root, their feelings of vulnerability. This reminds me of one of the main points I got from Bowling for Columbine: that our gun culture’s “home protection” meme is driven by an Americanized fear of the Other that is fueled by our diversity, which we prize on the surface, but which runs counter to a lot of human instincts in the end. (Interestingly, the two representatives of the Other in this sample express defensive reasons for ownership that can be read as responding to their Other status. Young Black Man #1 holds a “semi”automatic [6] rifle and poses with his halfbreed pit bull, and simply says “I just think it’s a good thing to have.” He doesn’t say why. And #2 holds his .38 and wears a shirt that has the word “peace” written in 60sish letters in the shape of a gun. He says “I think everybody should have a gun. It levels the playing field.” Interesting choice of phrase in a race context, is it not?)

Kids are something else. All the children on display, alongside the pets and the guns and the furniture and the tattoos and so on, are young. More than one couple refers to their unborn children and the love they’ll instill in them for guns. Kids are signifiers of the owner’s commitment to safety, ways for them to distinguish themselves from criminals and the people who leave loaded guns under beds for toddlers to shoot each other with. However, once they become the right sort of age to actually be able to shoot a gun, they disappear from the images.

I don’t argue guns with people unless/until they’ve had the experience of shooting one [7]. Now, let me explain. I grew up as anti-gun, pro-“well-regulated militia”-half-of-the-Second-Amendment as the next liberal [8]. I had your typical vague understanding of guns and gun culture that most urbanite liberals grow up with. You know, constant gun violence and murders on the news throught childhood leading to the impression that guns=bad and scary , resultant faith in gun control good, Freudian snicker-y disdain for gun owners, aversion to the concept of hunting, anecdotes about accidental gun deaths and constitutional arguments in my debate repertoire on the topic….

Then I shot one. A bunch actually, across a range of calibers. Small handguns, big handguns, rifles and shotguns. (I was a good shot, too.) It didn’t change my personal attitudes much, I didn’t run out and buy any, but I learned something important, learned it viscerally when before I had only intellectually understood it: guns are FUN. They’re a thrill, when you make one go off, it’s like hitting the gas in a really fast car and going 0-60, all in that one instant. Any argument against guns that doesn’t understand that that’s what underlies a lot of people’s love for them — that you are asking people to give up not only their protection from their fears, but a large source of pleasure — falls flat to me now. And so, now my fear of guns is from knowledge, not ignorance, and I can see just how important a strong gun-safety culture is, and just how much of a lid it’s put on this incredible power that so many Americans have in cabinets in their homes.

Damnit, this post got WAY out of hand, and believe it or not I still have more ideas. After the paper’s in.

[1] E. Blair, personal communication.

[2] Armed America: Introduction

[3] As a point of reference to non-photographers, what this means is that there is more in the image than your eye would really comprehend if you were looking at the scene. The human eye “sees” about equivalent to a 50mm lens, which is often called “normal” for that and other reasons. And on the other side, “long” lenses — telephotos — see only a small piece of what the eye sees, which is why they are used in, say, sports photography, where one is far away from the action but wants non-diorama-sized images of it.

hot girl-on-lens action, RFK Stadiumupper deck
Supplemental Figure 1. Right, me shooting with a telephoto lens at a ballgame. The lens is a 200mm, IIRC, and I could not even capture the whole infield in the frame, I was so “close.” In contrast note the antlike nature of the ballplayers, left. That was with a 65mm focal length.

[4] This is fair use, right? I’m used to Creative Commons licenses on flickr images.

[5] To other urbanite liberals unfamiliar with gun culture: responsible gun owners of a certain type will, when showing you their guns, either unload them in front of you or show you that they are unloaded. It’s an etiquette thing. I learned this at a party at my ex’s boss’ house years ago, when we were ushered into his basement room chock-full of guns, and as he picked each one up he, with ritualized deliberation, showed us the empty barrel or clip before handing it to us.

[6] While fully automatic weapons (weapons which fire as long as the trigger is down) are almost impossible to legally obtain, many semi-automatic guns (which fire one or a few rounds per shot), such as this guy’s, are convertible to full after purchase.

[7] I also don’t argue animal rights, animal welfare, vegetarianism/veganism, or animal research with anyone who hasn’t read Animal Liberation or its equivalent. The argument devolves very quickly otherwise, whatever the conversant’s position, because it’s a rare person (like Peter Singer) who has thought through ALL the implications of the position, without personal investment in a particular outcome. I’m not an intellectual/experiential snob about much, but these are my exceptions.

The resemblance of this to how a pro-gun person might refuse to discuss guns without reference to the 2nd amendment is not lost on me.

[8] With one key experiental difference: I used to help my dad make bullets. He owned several guns and had a bullet press, and mostly what I remember is how fun it was to use, and how I was under very strict instructions to handle them as little as possible and wash my hands afterwards. I didn’t grow up in gun culture though, my parents divorced when I was 7 and my mom had basically sole custody.

Oh, I just remembered, once he put his hands over mine with an airgun and we shot bumblebees in the garden. OK, two key differences.

*jaw drop*

1 February, 2007

Seriously? You don’t read the blogs for one day, and you have to have the radio tell you that both Joe Biden AND George Bush called Barack Obama “articulate”?

(comment from tpmcafe’s post on it: well, it’s more than we can say for Bush. Snicker.)

Biden also called him “bright” and “clean” and “nice-looking” and I gotta tell you, I’m having a hard time figuring out which of those descriptors is the icing and which is the cake. This disturbs me. I’m Metaphor Girl, and I can’t even figure out what’s icing, what’s cake, and whether the cake is chocolate with vanilla icing, vanilla with chocolate icing, or marbled. Oh, if only I were more articulate. Help me Obama!

(If it’s a little early for you and you can’t quite figure out why this is offensive — after all, he IS articulate, he’s one of the best orators in politics today, right? — try and think of how often you hear white folk described as articulate. Among other things, it’s code today for “Doesn’t speak with a black accent.” The offensiveness of “bright,” “clean” and “nice-looking” are left as an exercise for the reader.)

I like how Obama’s response points out that it’s not even true (Biden actually said that Obama was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”) Even if you leave off the legendary activist and orator we just had a national holiday for and only consider the field of past black presidential candidates, that’s fucking rude. Of all the things to be said about Moseley Braun, Chisholm, Jackson and Sharpton, “inarticulate”? You could probably find examples of them having the same backhanded compliment tossed at them when they were running.

I’m not up on my senatorial gossip. is Biden an alcoholic? Was he high? Can you really be that unconsciously racist in America today? (Y’know what…don’t answer that.) Bush, we can explain. He is after all famously INarticulate and can be expected to say dumbass things. Why, the dumbass things he’s already said in 2007 would be front-page news for another president, but at this point we know his verbal fuckups are just a sidenote to his general incompetence.

In a bit of meta-analysis….I heard the teaser about this at the top of the hour, but the radio turned off and I missed part of it. Oh no, I hope I didn’t miss hearing what was said, I thought as I turned it back on. The first thing I heard was Juan Williams’ voice. Ah good, thought I. I didn’t miss the story. I wonder how Williams feels about being the pundit who gets the call when something racist happens to Obama?


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