1.31.2007

Molly Ivins, 1944 - 2007

Molly Ivins died just a few hours ago. If you don't know who her, here is her obit:
Syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins died of breast cancer Wednesday evening at her home in Austin. She was 62 years old, and had much, much more to give this world.

She remained cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never had to write fiction. She said, “Good thing we’ve still got politics—finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”
. . .

Her full list of books and awards will be abbreviated here. In addition to compilations of her brilliant, hilarious liberal columns, she wrote with Lou Dubose Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (Random House 2000) and Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America (Random House 2003). She was working on a Random House book documenting the Bush administration’s assault on the Bill of Rights when she died.

Molly, being practical, used many of her most prestigious awards as trivets while serving exquisite French dishes at her dinner parties. Her awards include the William Allen White Award from the University of Kansas, the Eugene V. Debs award in the field of journalism, many awards for advocacy of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the David Nyhan Prize from the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Although short, Molly’s life was writ large. She was as eloquent a speaker and teacher as she was a writer, and her quips will last at least as long as Will Rogers’. She dubbed George W. Bush “Shrub” and Texas Governor Rick Perry “Good Hair.”

Molly always said in her official résumé that the two honors she valued the most were (1) when the Minneapolis Police Department named their mascot pig after her (She was covering the police beat at the time.) and (2) when she was banned from speaking on the Texas A&M University campus at least once during her years as co-editor of The Texas Observer (1970-76). However, she said with great sincerity that she would be proudest of all to die sober, and she did.

She worked as a reporter for The New York Times (1976-82) in New York and Albany and later as Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief covering nine mountain states by herself. After working for the staid Times where she was heavily edited, Molly cut loose and became a columnist for the Dallas Times Herald. When the Herald folded, she signed on as a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she became syndicated, eventually appearing in 400 newspapers.

She never lost her love for The Texas Observer or her conviction that a free society relies on public-interest journalism. She found that brand of journalism the most fun. In recent years she shamelessly used her national and international contacts to raise funds for the Observer, which has always survived on a shoestring. More than $400,000 was contributed to the feisty little journal at a roast honoring Molly in Austin October 8.

Molly’s enduring message is, “Raise more hell.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Molly once. She came to Alaska to speak at one of our fundraisers during the Summer of 2003. It was unseasonably warm that week(over 80 degrees!) and the air conditioning in the banquet room was not working. All of the 400+ people jammed into the room were dripping with sweat, including Molly, who was sitting next to me. Just before it was time for her keynote address, she turned to me, put her hand on my knee and said with that delightful twang, "Sugar, would you be a dear and bring this old gal a glass of icewater." Never have I moved so fast. Sadly, it was during that trip to Alaska that Molly found out her cancer had returned. But that didn't stop her from going on a fishing trip with her good friend Fran Ulmer or from returning to Anchorage to do a second, fully air-conditioned, fundraiser a week later.

Molly, thanks for everything. You will be missed.

My Eyes Are Liars

I've had a headache for about a week. Self diagnosis established two possibilities: brain tumor or I needed new glasses. Consultation with similarly unqualified non-medical personnel yielded a third diagnosis: eye strain. I liked option three the best: no surgery, no expensive new lenses--all it would require is less time spent in front of a computer screen, and coincidentally, most of the next three weeks will be spent exactly that way. So, I dragged myself to the eye doctor yesterday. The result? I needed new lenses; though eye strain is certainly on the table (The doctor asked: "Do you work in a well-lit environment with an ergonomically-correct desk and chair?" My hearty laughter was taken as a "no," after all, we don't all work at places that hire ergonomists to set up their employees' work stations.).

Today, my new eyes let me down as I almost ran over a small woman about an hour ago (though, "ran over" is a slightly inflammatory term: I was slowly approaching a stop sign at about 3 mph at the time of the almost-impact). However, it was not entirely my fault; it took a perfect storm of events for her to almost wind up underneath my hulking SUV: First, the woman was tiny; barely taller than the side mirror. Second, she was camouflaged by her fur coat that still had the animal's head on it. Third, I was distracted by a man crossing the street in front of me who had very unfortunate facial hair that made him look, from afar, like he had a really bad face tattoo. Fourth, the sun was utterly blinding and I didn't have sunglasses, which led to further distraction because I immediately realized that I did not have sunglasses because I packed them last night. Fortunately, I did notice the tiny fur-bundled woman in time for me to slow the glacial pace of my automobile and avoid bumping into her. But she started yelling and furiously waving her arms which was scary because she was wearing an animal and I couldn't tell if she was some sort of militarily-created elk-human hybrid that had escaped and was going to start attacking people in downtown Anchorage. Fortunately, she wasn't.

Tenants In Common

Will the joys of Craigslist never cease? A friend of mine is looking for a roommate and received this response to her Craigslist ad:
Hi, I am a 51/female. My income is disability. I plan to go back to college. Right now I am home a lot. I have a lot of hobbies, such as jewelry making and bead work. I am healing from traumas. I also have a cat. She is about 10 years old. She is my baby. I need to loose weight and get back in shape. I am easy to get along with. A quiet place is ideal for me as I have above average hearing and it can be a problem.
There are certainly worse roommates out there. But who wants to live with someone with above average hearing? Oh, and her e-mail handle is "autisticqueen."

1.27.2007

Can You Spot The Fridge?

Remember William "The Refrigerator" Perry? One of the most popular personalities from the Bears last Superbowl team is keeping busy. The Fridge is the official spokesman for Big Camo, "the world's best outlet for hard or impossible to find big and tall camouflage hunting clothes, accessories, shooting gear and workwear." See if you can find him in this picture:
I realize that my past few posts could be viewed as anti-evangelical. In an effort to maintain some semblance of neutrality on this blog, I will balance this hunting information with this link to PETA's State of the Union address (warning: This clip contains a really hot woman taking her clothes off while talking about animal rights. I think I'm in love. And PETA's marketing people are brilliant.).

1.26.2007

Sorry, No Backdoor To Heaven

Donnie Davies, the minister behind the brilliant "safe/gay" music lists discussed in the previous post, is at it again. Davies is a minister and a musician, and a "reformed homosexual." His band, Evening Service, has a new video. It's for a song titled "The Bible Says," but it really should have one of those song titles that have parentheses (I hate those), like "The Bible Says (God Hates Fags)."

Like most Christian Rock, God Hates Fags is a really catchy tune. [fn1] Watch/listen to it here (probably nsfw unless you work in my office).

Is this guy for real or is this a parody? Confusion abounds. Even Dan Savage doesn't know.
______________________
[fn1] Despite the deplorable message, God Hates Fags is so much better than anything Kevin Federline can write.

1.23.2007

Can you hear the gayness?

According to Love God's Way Ministries ("LGM"), "[o]ne of the most dangerous ways homosexuality invades family life is through popular music. Parents should keep careful watch over their children's listening habits, especially in this Internet Age of MP3 piracy." LGM states that these are bands "that [are] Gay or propogating a Gay message," and you should "watch out for" them, even though, technically, they aren't all bands:

  • The Spores
  • Scissor Sisters
  • Rufus Wainwright
  • Merzbau
  • Ravi Shankar
  • Wilco
  • Bjork
  • Tech N9ne
  • Ghostface Killah
  • Bobby Conn
  • Morton Subotnik
  • Cole Porter
  • The String Cheese Incident
  • Eagles of Death Metal
  • Polyphonic Spree
  • The Faint
  • Interpol
  • Tegan and Sara
  • Erasure
  • Le Tigre
  • The Gossip
  • The Doors
  • Phish
  • Queen
  • The Strokes
  • Sufjan Stevens
  • Morrissey(?questionable?)
  • The Pet Shop Boys
  • Metallica
  • Judas Priest
  • The Village People
  • The Secret Handshake
  • The Rolling Stones
  • David Bowie
  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  • Man or Astroman
  • Richard Cheese
  • Jay-Z
  • Depeche Mode
  • Kansas
  • Ani DiFranco
  • Fischerspooner
  • John Mayer
  • The Indigo Girls
  • Velvet Underground
  • Madonna
  • Elton John
  • Barry Manilow
  • Indigo Girls
  • Melissa Etheridge
  • Eminmen
  • Nirvana
  • Boy George*
  • The Killers
  • Lou Reed
  • Lil' Wayne
  • Motorhead
  • Jill Sobule
  • Wilson Phillips
  • DMX
  • Lisa Loeb
  • Dogstar
  • Thirty Seconds to Mars
  • Lil' Kim
  • kd lang
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Hinder
  • Nickleback
  • Justus Kohncke
  • Bob Mould
  • Clay Aiken
  • Arcade Fire
  • Bright Eyes
  • Corinne Bailey Rae
  • Audioslave
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Panic at the Disco
  • Elton John(really gay)
I'm not so sure about this list. Clay Aiken? Sure. And, yeah, ok, the Indigo Girls are gay. Big surprise. Gay men love Madonna. Duh. KD Lang, David Bowie, okay. But, um, Eminem? He has been described as one of the most homophobic rappers ever. Some of his lyrics:
“I’m ready to make everyone’s throats ache. You faggots keep egging me on till I have you at knife point, then you beg me to stop?” and
“My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge. And I’ll stab you in the head, whether you’re a fag or les. A homosex, hermaph, or a transeves. Homophobic? Hey fags, the answer’s yes. Nah, you’re just heterophobic.”
John Mayer's music propogates a gay message? Isn't he dating Jessica Simpson? Jay-Z? Have they listened to any of his music? Phish promotes a gay agenda? Well, maybe. I've been to a bunch of Phish shows and I still can't figure out what most of their songs are about. Morrisey is questionably gay? Riiight. I'm not sure why there is an asterisk next to Boy George. Maybe because he's really gay? But they denote "really gay" by specifically writing it next to Elton John's name. And he is so gay he is listed twice: Once as "Elton John." Then as "Elton John (really gay)." I think they are distinguishing between pre-Princess Di dying Elton and post-Candle in the Wind 1997 Elton. Or maybe Elton before and after he sang "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" with George Michael.

This is LGM's list of "Safe Music:"
  • UnderOath
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Falling Up
  • Flyleaf
  • THE TURNING
  • Disciple
  • P.O.D
  • By The Tree
  • Scott Reed
  • Michael W. Smith
  • Jars of Clay
  • DC Talk
  • Danielson
Cyndi Lauper? Really? Cyndi Lauper is safe? Didn't she sing a song about masturbation? Notice anything about the musicians on this list, other than that most of them suck? Yes, most of them are Christian Rock acts. Big surprise. I am shocked, however, that since this list includes Christian bands that suck, that Creed and Scott Stapp aren't listed.

Thin Walls

I can hear my neighbors having sex right now. They're fucking, I'm blogging. Time to re-evaluate my life.

1.22.2007

Jones v. Bock

The Supreme Court issued a great prisoners' rights decision today. The Court unanimously overturned a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that barred most prisoners from ever being able to file federal lawsuits to assert their constitutional rights. From the ACLU's press release:
Today’s decision in Jones v. Bock overturned the strict requirements imposed by the Sixth Circuit in the provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) that mandates that prisoners “exhaust” administrative remedies.

“This was a critical decision for prisoners whose rights have been violated,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project, which filed a friend of the court brief in the case that was cited in today’s ruling. “The Sixth Circuit rules were so draconian that they barred almost all claims from prisoners without counsel.”

The PLRA, a law passed in 1996 and claimed to be directed at frivolous lawsuits filed by prisoners, requires a prisoner to complete an internal prison grievance process before filing a lawsuit in federal court. In the Jones v. Bock decision by the Sixth Circuit, additional restrictions were imposed that required prisoners to:

  • Name all defendants in their grievances in order to file a lawsuit against them. If prisoners failed to do so, they could not sue the persons not mentioned in their grievances.
  • Prove that they exhausted all administrative remedies through the grievance process before filing a lawsuit in federal court.
  • Exhaust all remedies on every issue in the lawsuit. Prisoners who failed to exhaust on one of several issues raised in the suit would have their entire cases dismissed.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling overturned those requirements, stating that they go too far. In the decision, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the Sixth Circuit's exhaustion rules are not required by the PLRA and that “imposing them exceeds the proper limits on the judicial role." The Court unanimously agreed that if a prisoner fails to exhaust administrative remedies on some of his grievances, but not all, then only those parts that had not been addressed should be dismissed. The Court also agreed that prisoner lawsuits should not be thrown out simply because the prisoner had failed to show exhaustion in the court filing. Finally, the Court stated that a prisoner does not have to list all defendants in the grievance process in order to sue them in federal court. The decision cited the friend-of-the-court brief filed by the ACLU, which pointed out that most prison grievance procedures do not require prisoners to identify specific individuals.

“The PLRA severely limits prisoners’ access to federal courts. Today’s decision will at least help to ensure that the courthouse door is not completely shut for prisoners who have been denied basic rights and have nowhere else to turn,” said Steven Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU.

This decision is kind of technical and applies only to the procedures that govern prison litigation, so it probably doesn't mean anything to most of you. But trust me when I tell you that this was a huge victory and will impact prison litigation across the country for years to come.

Itinerant

Once again, thing have changed slightly:

2.3.07: Depart Anchorage, AK.
2.3.07: Arrive Seattle, WA. Spend day with brother. Fly direct to London overnight.
2.4.07: Arrive London, England. 4 hours in London. Fly direct to Johannesburg overnight.
2.5.07: Arrive Johannesburg, South Africa. Catch flight to Cape Town. Meet up with Triple-P and Lobo. Fly from Johannesburg to Blantyre, Malawi together. Get picked up by Nate and Marlo and drive to Mangochi, Malawi. Chill for a few days in wine country region outside of Johannesburg Cape Town (apparently, Jo-Burg is super sketchy).
2.7.07: Fly from Johannesburg Cape Town to Blantyre, Malawi with Triple-P and Lobo. Get picked up by Nate and Marlo and drive to Mangochi, Malawi
2.11.07: Road trip from Mangochi to Mfuwe, Zambia. Spend a few days at a lodge near Luangwa National Park.
2.14.07: Drive back to Mangochi Drive to Victoria Falls.
2.16.07: Drive back to Mangochi.
2.18.07: Drive from Mangochi to Blantyre Lilongwe. Fly from Blantyre Lilongwe to Johannesburg.
2.19.07: Depart Johannesburg.
2.20.07: Arrive London, England. Fly to Seattle. Have dinner with brother and cousin who will be in Seattle for business. Live music: The Shins. Spend night in Seattle.
2.21.07: Depart Seattle. Arrive Anchorage, AK.

1.19.2007

Served Cold

As previously disclosed, special welcome back arrangements were made for Alex and Sarah. There were, however, unintended consequences as cleaning up the fake snow proved difficult: two vacuums broke and professional dry cleaning services were needed for the upholstery. And their apartment is still not completely snow-free. What to expect? Revenge, naturally.

Hank was the first victim. He returned home from a 2+ week trip to Mexico and Guatemala, eager to sleep in his own bed, only to find that all of his possessions had been removed from his room. His room was completely empty -- no furniture, no clothes, no personal effects ("Paper! They took boxes of paper!" Hank eloquently exclaimed) -- save for a present: a fishbowl in the middle of the floor that housed a cute little Goldfish named Elizabeth.

Hank's possessions had been loaded into an unmarked van that was then parked unceremoniously about a mile from our house. Alex remarked, "It would really suck if the van was stolen. That's the kind of story that would be really funny in about 5 years."

The location of the van was not revealed until Hank had been back for about 24 hours, so, for his first day back, he had no clothes, no bed, no nuthin'. The other "snow job" conspirators, MayLou, Butch, and me, have been put on notice. Revenge will be served, and it will be cold.
the van

Alex stuck in the van

the van fully loaded with Hank's stuff

Hank's room, empty except for Elizabeth

MaryLou getting to know Elizabeth


Joining the Mountain-Off

There has been some discussion lately about whose mountains are bigger and/or more majestic. With this post, I lend support to the notion that ours are pretty big. Here's Denali, which means "the great one" in the Dena'ina language, poking its head through the clouds, just 20,320 feet above the ground:


One Track Mind

Last night, Planned Parenthood held an event to celebrate the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It included a showing of the the Frontline documentary The Last Abortion Clinic and then a panel discussion/Q&A. I was asked to be a member of the panel to discuss the current state of abortion law nationally and in Alaska, and to talk about what could happen if Roe was overturned.

The movie was good and the Q&A was interesting (though Viv has a slightly different take on it), but while participating in the discussion and looking out at the audience of about 50-60 people (and trying to avoid looking at Viv because every time I did I came very close to cracking up), all I could think was, "there are a lot of cute girls here."

Itinerary (tentatively)

A few changes to the Africa itinerary due to: (1) no access to a time machine; [fn1] (2) no response to my online reservation request from Air Malawi; and (3) The Shins playing the Paramount Theatre in Seattle on the night I will be there:

2.3.07: Depart Anchorage, AK.
2.3.07: Arrive Seattle, WA. Spend day with brother. Fly direct to London overnight.
2.4.07: Arrive London, England. 4 hours in London. Fly direct to Johannesburg overnight.
2.5.07: Arrive Johannesburg, South Africa. Meet up with Triple-P and Lobo. Fly from Johannesburg to Blantyre, Malawi together. Get picked up by Nate and Marlo and drive to Mangochi, Malawi. Chill for a few days in wine country region outside of Johannesburg.
2.7.07: Fly from Johannesburg to Blantyre, Malawi with Triple-P and Lobo. Get picked up by Nate and Marlo and drive to Mangochi, Malawi
2.11.07: Road trip from Mangochi to Mfuwe, Zambia.
2.14.07: Drive back to Mangochi.
2.18.07: Drive from Mangochi to Blantyre. Fly from Blantyre to Johannesburg.
2.19.07: Depart Johannesburg.
2.20.07: Arrive London, England. Fly to Seattle. Have dinner with brother and cousin who will be in Seattle for business. Live music: The Shins. Spend night in Seattle.
2.21.07: Depart Seattle. Arrrive Anchorage, AK.

[fn1] My previous itinerary post indicated that I would be travelling during February of 2006.

1.16.2007

Men on Ice

In 2002, the FOX network [fn1] gave us a wonderful gift: a reality show called "Looking For Love: Bachelorettes in Alaska." Four-and-a-half years after it first aired, Hank purchased the series on DVD from Ebay. Tonight, Alex, Sarah, Butch, Maria, Viv, Susan 2.0, and JDK came over to watch the first episode of the six-espisode series. We were not disappointed. Here is the summary of this episode from realitytvworld.com [my comments are in brackets]:
5 Desperate bimbos somehow alienated the eligible dating pool of the lower 48 states. So, they thought, what a perfect time to examine Alaska’s fine selection of tanning-challenged losers. The women chose five pathetic, lonely men saving them a trip to their regular adult-bookstore hangout. Then 4 new losers show up to compete in an ax-throwing contest (Every girl wants a man who’s good with knives right? Did OJ design this competition?) Here we find out about the finger FOX is giving to 100 years of feminism, with the dowry system [explanation: the women get cash prizes when they are selected for "dates"] Every gal had a date except bitter Cecile. Basically Every man wanted Rebekah, No one wanted Cecile, Sissy fell of her bike with Brent, and Andrea and Karen were non-entities.
Televsion Without Pity (hereinafter "TWOP") gives a great play-by-play:
The madness begins with the host doing a voice-over about five single women going to Alaska "desperately seeking husbands" over a shot of the bachelorettes in wedding dresses trudging up a snow-covered hill, intercut with shots of them making various thimble-brained statements about why they're on this show. The voice-over continues, explaining that the men outnumber women in Alaska more than in any other state and calls them "lonely Alaskan bachelors." So we've got "desperate" plus "lonely," which is always a sure-fire recipe for romantic success. More clips follow of people kissing, laughing, snuggling, etc.

Finally the show begins. Stunning mountain vistas; generic reality-show-esque drum music. Float planes flying. The camera swoops in on host Steve Santagati. His bio on the FOX site says his credits include series and specials such as cable's "Secret's [sic] of Travel Survival," World Gone Wild, and Laughlin Superstar Challenge with Carmen Electra and "Ali Landery [sic]." These are the best credits he has. Santagati tells us, "Right now, our five women are on their way here from the Lower 48." We get clips of the women already there, checking out the men, and yet another shot of the women climbing up that damn hill in their wedding dresses.

The voice-over continues; Santagati solemnly tells us that the power on this show is in the hands of the women, and he manages not to crack up. We learn that the hopeful brides will pick their first "Man on Ice" -- a man she feels could become her husband. More explanation -- new men are constantly entering the game, and women decide who leaves and who stays.: "Ultimately, these women have one goal: to complete this game with a new husband on their arm."
Basically, 5 lonely, desperate, slightly above- average looking women are brought to Alaska so that they can attempt to evade their collective fear of waking up one morning and realizing that they are (gasp!) 35 years old and not married. To placate them, Fox provides a trove of below-average looking men who happen to live in Alaska (at least one of whom we know was married at the time of the show. Supposedly, the Fox producers told him, "Don't worry. If someone wants to marry you, just tell them you are already married.")

The only way I can describe what it was like to watch this show is as follows: it was pure, unadulterated intense fontrum. [fn2] Fontrum like I have never felt before; I was overcome--crippled, if you will, with fontrum. You dig? If not, once you read a little about our bachelorettes and Alaska men, you will. From TWOP:

A white float plane comes in carrying Rebekah, age twenty-seven; she's a real-estate broker. "When you look at me, you might think I'm a typical L.A. girl, by the outside," she says in some we-don't-know- where-this-was- shot-but-that-is- definitely-not-Alaska- out-that-window interview. She continues: "But on the inside, absolutely not. Absolutely not. I'm real." [Note: Rebekah sucks. We hate her] We are treated to shots of her roller-skating through L.A. Could I just point out that when I think "typical L.A. girl," the woman I come up with has blonde hair, bigger breasts, and smaller teeth? Second, I think people who actually are "real" don't feel any need to inform people of their authenticity. Rebekah starts blah blahing about her parents being divorced so she doesn't trust very easily, which is fair enough, but then she explains that she doesn't want to get divorced -- as if anyone wants to get divorced -- and she wants the "one and only." She thinks she'd make a good wife. "I'm ready, I'm absolutely ready," she says. I hate to be rude, but I think in Rebekah's case, the producers should have asked for a birth certificate to double-check her age. We cut back to her plane, and then to a shot of this giant bear lumbering along the ground.

Next up is Sissie, age thirty-one; she's an interior designer who says she's fed up with dating because it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. Apparently, she's been through that haystack, though, as she informs us, "I think I've dated every man on this side of the Mississippi," which she follows up with the nervous giggle masking deep desperation, which we'll come to hear a lot from the bachelorettes. Then she blah blahs that she figures Alaskan men will be a lot like "how [she] grew up," whatever that means, and proceeds to offer a bunch of barely connected statements involving "fishing," "the South," and "country girl." Meanwhile, I can't say I know a lot about hair, given that mine is buzzed to within a quarter-inch of its life, but if I can tell you've got a bad perm, then you've got a bad perm. And Sissie, that's a bad perm. She says she'll definitely find a guy in Alaska: "I'd be keen to settle down and get married." Shot of her in the plane again; she is wearing one of the radio headsets for some reason, like she's flying the plane or something. Mountain sheep or whatever frolic in the snow below.

Cecile's up next, and she too is wearing a headset in her plane. She's twenty-six, a sales analyst, and says she's on the show for the chance to meet her soulmate. I try not to snicker at that as I watch her in some hip-hop dance class. I think Cecile's cute. She's got long brown hair with blonde streaks, and apparently after she's done busting a move, she likes to tool around Benicia, CA in a silver BMW. She calls the show's premise "incredibly romantic." I'd like to look up the word "romantic" in whatever dictionary Cecile's using. Shot of her plane, which is actually the same plane they tried to pretend Rebekah was in earlier.

Karen, age thirty-six, is a business development manager who looks like a less bimbo-ish Three's Company-era Suzanne Somers, actually. She talks about a marriage that ended kind of suddenly, but doesn't say why. We watch her walk along a beach in Hampton, NH and I think this was supposed to look reflective, but looked more like one of those "Are you in debt? Harassed by creditors?" ads. Back to the headset-wearing Karen as her voice-over continues, explaining that she'd love to share her life with somebody because she has a lot to share. She's got plenty of trite observations on love to share, anyway.

Andrea, the thirty-four-year-old advertising manager, is up next, and her interview has this weird hazy look to it. She explains that she was engaged, but her fiancé drowned, and it took her a while to realize that every time she gives her heart to somebody, he isn't going to die (followed by a shot of her walking along a San Francisco pier, like nice, FOX). She speculates that there might be somebody in Alaska for her.
Now, a little about the "Men on Ice:"
Out comes Jack: dark-haired, thirty-four, office environment consultant, whatever that is. [Butch says it means he sells office furniture. Sounds about right] Divorced, with a nine-year-old son. 5'11", brown eyes, hobby is bodybuilding. Jack's not as popular in the forums as I thought he would be, since he seems like a good-looking guy to me. Maybe it was his blah blahing about believing in the concept of soulmates that did him in; as a guy who has done plenty of his own blah blahing in the hopes of impressing women, it's been my experience that "soulmate" is one of those phrases we use if we think the woman wants to hear it. Like, "Yeah, I love cats."

Next up, the cowboy-hatted, ponytailed, goateed Troy, thirty-seven, who says he works for the federal government at Somewhere [Elmendorf] Air Force Base (helpfully and hilariously shortened to "mechanic" on the on-screen graphic). He has a nine-year-old son. He's 5'11" with blue eyes, and his hobby is truck racing. I have no joke here. [Neither do I] He goes on about believing in "love at first sight," and between this and Jack's "soulmate" nonsense I can't help thinking that while the challengers were waiting for their competition, someone passed around a Maxim so they could read an article entitled "Sensitive stuff to say to make chicks want to do it with you."

But they saved the best for last: Matt, thirty-eight, is the retail manager of a clothing store. Brown hair, blue eyes, and his hobbies are skiing and fishing. He also has a goatee. But the best part is the stupid-ass earmuffs he's wearing, and I think they're not even actual earmuffs, but little elastic ear covers, like ear condoms. Henceforth, he shall be known simply as Dorky Earmuffs. He explains that he's ready for love because he's mature, which he seems to equate with "a couple of homes, a little bit of money in the bank, and some property to build a future with." I hate to say it, but I'm doubting DE has many friends. You'd think someone along the line would have taken him aside and said, "Dude, those earmuffs? Not cool." [Dorky Earmuffs also turned out to be the "I'll give you a massage guy." Gross.]
FON-TRUM! But it gets better, and this is where I will end it [fn3] because I just realized that I spent more time writing this and watching the show than I did doing work today:
Cut to Sissie and Jack mountain-biking [on an ice-covered trail]. In an interview, Jack (in glasses) says he was trying to get a reading off her. Then comes perhaps the funniest part of the entire show, as the two of them have this conversation (and Sissie is still short of breath even though they're going about two miles per hour):

Sissie: Do you play hockey?
Jack: ...No.
Sissie: Do you ever do yoga?
Jack: [pause] Yoga?
Sissie: Yeah.
Jack: [pause, somewhat reluctantly] No. [Sissie falls off her bike, Jack turns his head to look -- and falls off his bike.]
We played this over and over again. You could play this scene in an endless loop and I would watch it all night. On a fontrumic scale of 1-10, this was an easy 11. [fn4]
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[fn1] I would like to take a moment to apologize to FOX. Earlier this evening, in distinguishing the conservative religious values espoused by FOX news from the sometimes-tasteless, though also sometimes-brilliant, programming choices of plain old FOX television , I mistakenly attributed the series Bumfights to FOX. Bumfights was not on FOX. I'm sorry, FOX. You paid OJ to go on TV to talk about how, if he did it, how he would have killed his ex-wife (though it was shelved after much public outrage). But you did not air a show that involved paying homeless people to fight each other for money and/or food.[fn2] Viv explains fontrums quite well. From her blog:
For instance: on the way up to Talkeetna, Emma, Chuck, and I basically spent two hours talking about fontrums. A fontrum is feeling embarrassment for someone that doesn't have enough common sense to feel the embarrassment that they should be feeling for themselves. Racism, bigotry, etc. are instances of serious fontrums, but there are also situations which warrant deep embarrasment even though they register lower on the fontrumic scale - public marital anger, being unreasonable about service in restaurants, bedazzled holiday sweatshirts, hanging boogers, roots. My use of the word "booger" may have just resulted in a fontrum for the reader, in fact.
[fn3] Fret not, we are going to watch one episode a week for the next 5 weeks.

[fn4] You may be experiencing fontrum for me because I just did the old "11 on a scale of 10" routine.

1.10.2007

Itinerary

2.3.06: Depart Anchorage, AK.
2.3.06: Arrive Seattle, WA. Spend day with brother. Fly direct to London overnight.
2.4.06: Arrive London, England. 4 hours in London. Fly direct to Johannesburg overnight.
2.5.06: Arrive Johannesburg, South Africa. Meet up with Triple-P and Lobo. Fly from Johannesburg to Blantyre, Malawi together. Get picked up by Nate and Marlo and drive to Mangochi, Malawi.
2.11.06: Road trip from Mangochi to Mfuwe, Zambia.
2.14.06: Drive back to Mangochi.
2.18.06: Drive from Mangochi to Blantyre. Fly from Blantyre to Johannesburg.
2.19.06: Depart Johannesburg.
2.20.06: Arrive London, England. Fly to Seattle. Have dinner with brother and cousin who will be in Seattle for business. Spend night in Seattle.
2.21.06: Depart Seattle. Arrrive Anchorage, AK.

Impervious

I got six vaccinations today: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Polio, Tetanus/Diptheria, and a flu shot. Three shots in each arm (both of which are quite sore right now). The nurse said I was very brave.

There would have been seven, but during the Summer of '93, when hypodermic needles started outnumbering trashy girls with big hair and acid wash jeans along the Jersey Shore, all of the suburban moms (mine included) had their kids get Hep B vaccinations.*

Why all of these shots now? Is there a Typhoid outbreak in Alaska? Is Polio making a comeback? Am I still within the jurisdiction of my mother's overprotectiveness? The answer: none of the above. The reason: I'm going to Africa next month.

More later. My arms hurt.

*Now that I think about it, maybe it was the Jersey Shore girls my mom was trying to protect me from?

1.09.2007

Oral Fixation

I had my first oral argument before the Alaska Supreme Court today. I was pretty nervous at first; the prospect of standing alone for 20 minutes to be questioned by 5 judges who are much smarter than I am while a courtroom full of people watched was a bit daunting. But, once I started talking and answering questions, all of the nervousness melted away and it was a lot of fun. And by not turning around, I had no idea how many people were there watching (though I did catch a glimpse of Viv and Sarah).

I made a few opening comments and then the judges started asking questions. When I first had the chance to look down to see how much time I had left, I was surprised/relieved to see that my alloted time had already shrunk to 7 minutes (though at first I couldn't tell if the digital timer said I had 1 minute or 7 left). 13 minutes had passed, but it felt like no more than 5. The next time I checked it was down to 2; before I knew it, it was over.

There are 5 justices on the court, but only 3 of them were present in the courtroom. One was on speakerphone and one was just MIA. The chief justice gave me the hardest time, clearly not buying some of my answers--at least that was my impression based on her facial expressions--and really pushing me on one point in particular. Fortunately, it was a question that Renee had predicted in one of our practice sessions (love Renee!), so I was able to answer it.

This appeal is about a procedural issue, and given the strange way the case has shaped up, I wound up in the unusual position of arguing on (technically) the same side as the state, even though we initially sued the state to begin the litigation. On the other side are three churches represented by a conservative religious legal organization.

The attorney for the religious groups was kind of a dork. We talked for a couple of minutes before the argument. He flew in last night and left right after the argument. The attorney for the state, who I had met once before, was really nice. He gave me some good advice about how one of the justices has a tendency to take a long pause mid-question. Attorneys have a tendency to start answering his questions, thinking he is through, but then he keeps talking. This was the judge who was on speakerphone, so it was going to be even harder to decipher his pauses. I got tripped up, of course: He asked a question, paused, I waited, he continued, he paused again, I started answering, and then he kept talking! A double pause! Who could have predicted that?

Despite that slight mishap, I remained pretty well-composed. For instance, I didn't say anything that would later make my friends laugh like the last time I had to argue in front of a judge. That time, when asked about the facts of a specific case, I started answering then stopped and said something to the effect of "Actually, your honor, I don't know what that case was about, but it doesn't matter because it doesn't apply."

I spent most of the past 5 days preparing for this argument: Hours spent reviewing all of the briefs and looking up every obscure case cited in the footnotes, 2 extensive practice argument sessions, and lots of time wandering around my house and office going over the argument out loud to myself (and thoroughly confusing my dog), all in an effort to not look stupid (and to try to win the case, I suppose), and now it's over. It went by really fast. I kind of miss the nervous excitement that I have been feeling for the past week. I guess I should enjoy the relative calm that I have right now because I will likely go through this at least 3 more times before 2007 is over.

1.06.2007

Alex and Sarah

Alex and Sarah got back into town on Thursday night. They spent the last year or so in Iowa City where Alex was in graduate school for creative nonfiction writing, but now they are back in Anchorage. In between living in Alaska, travelling around the world, getting married, and orchestrating all sorts of adventures and hijinks, they built a house on a remote tropical island, a small undertaking that was featured in National Geographic.

They also love practical jokes--that is, they love to pull them, and as a result, they are often on the receiving end of them as well. Alex and Sarah also have two of the coolest landlords on the planet, Fred and Larry, who have no problem letting strangers into Alex and Sarah's apartment to, uh, prepare it for their return. Two years ago, when they came back to Alaska from Palau, we filled their place with balloons, took out all the lightbulbs and put ball bearings in the light fixtures (so when they unscrewed them to put the bulbs back in, ball bearings fell all over the place), put itching powder in their bed, and did a few other things that I can't remember. This time, we came up with three plans:

Plan A was to turn their apartment into a virtual aquarium. We were going to fill all of the sinks and toilets with all of the trappings of a fishtank--coral, sunken treasure, miniature divers--and lots of tiny fish. Oh, and we ordered a 14-inch catfish to put in the bathtub. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the fine people at the pet store informed us that this plan would lead to the untimely deaths of all of the fish, unless we could slowly introduce them to their new environment over the course of several days.

Plan B was to turn the house into a "winter wonderland" complete with Christmas lights, (giant blow-up) snowman, (fake) snow, and have some friends hanging around dressed as Santa Claus (that would be me) and some elves (that would be MaryLou, Emil, and some of our other less tall peeps).

Plan C was to have a couple of people that Alex and Sarah didn't know move in to the apartment and pretend to be living there with all of Alex and Sarah's things.

Due to time and staffing constraints, not to mention concern for the fishies, we went with Plan B, minus Santa and the elves:

MaryLou spreading snow, untangling Christmas lights, and kicking it with the snowman.

Everything, including the kitchen sink, got covered with fake snow.

Armoire festooned with lights.

Bathroom.

Boxes.

Snowman.

Doorknob (seriously, we covered everything).

Update: Apparently, fake snow is impervious to vacuuming. Alex and Sarah are using tape to remove the snow from all of their possessions.
Update II: Only Alex and Sarah could find a moving company as quirky as they are.
Update III: Alex and Sarah had a lot of friends help them build the house in Palau (including my current roommates Hank and MaryLou). In the "it's a small world department," one of the helpers was my the son of my law school constitutional law professor. One of my favorite professors actually, because of things like this: he told me that he was "glad at least one student had his priorities in order" after I told him that I was bailing on a research project I was going to do for him in order to spend more time snowboarding during my last semester.

12 Inches Overnight

It's been snowing. This is Hank's car.

1.02.2007

Cite Checking

Her: What do you call the little things with the numbers in them, you know, when there's a 1 next to the word and then the 1 is also at the bottom of the page?
Me: Footnotes.
Her: Then what's a citation?

I just want a girl who knows what footnotes are. I know I'm picky, but is that too much to ask?