Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Peanuts and Crackerjacks 

I had noticed the new icon on the Blogger screen for uploading pictures from your computer or from the internet, but until I saw Enlighten-New Jersey mention it it didn't really process.

It's very slick. Much better than Hello!, which I'd been using as a graphic host up to now. And even better, I can use it at work.

I consider this ample payment for the clusterfabulation Blogger put us through yesterday.

This is Grace's last at bat for the season. She's about to pop one over second base. For some reason the Roberto Clemente league doesn't let girls play with the boys after age 8. Starting next year she has to play softball. Their loss. The best three players on her team (by far the best team in her league) are girls.

Honor the Flag 

No one can accuse Jim, of Parkway Rest Stop, of being soft when it comes to his flag, his country and his contempt of all things moonbatty.

He also has his head screwed on straight when it comes to the proposed flag-burning amendment.

The act of flag burning (the kind that makes everyone angry,
as opposed to, say, the ceremonial retirement, by burning, of
worn flags conducted by veterans' and fraternal
organizations) is obviously conduct, but there can be no
doubt that it is conduct intended to communicate a message.
Supporters of the Amendment would be hard pressed to
suggest otherwise, given that it is the very message
intended to be conveyed by flag burning that has the
supporters of the amendment riled up.

There are good hearts and noble intentions behind the amendment, but criminalizing abuse of the flag is not properly honoring it. It stands for the freedom to make a jackass out of yourself, whether it's with your mouth, your pen, a flag or a koran.

Friday, June 24, 2005

It may take a minute to load 

Here's the Rostropovich version of The Stars and Stripes Forever I was talking about yesterday.


Enlighten-New Jersey and The Bad Hair Blog have cogent commentary on Kelo vs. City of New London as well as a host of links to New Jersey bloggers.

UPDATE: Sluggo Really Needs a Nap -- I said New Haven, originally. SmadaNek corrected my 40 mile error. As everyone knows, Kelo vs. City of New Haven deals with raking, not taking. The infamous bagging ordinance.

Life Challenged, Edacious, But Really Kind of Sweet 

It's looking very good for devotees of the zombie film, which demographic covers approximately one third of the Sluggoterium.

Raves from the Daily News, the Times and the Sun for George Romero's fourth go at cinema of the dead, Land of the Dead.

Once the child has been properly Herbied and Lava Girled, I'm going to prop the Goddess up on the couch with a DVD collection of Sex in the City and get myself a seat right up close.

Don't hold dinner for me.

A Triumph of Outsourcing 

Kousik, a young man sitting at a terminal in Bangalore, India, answered my post at Bloggerforum (see next post) and came up with a work-around that appears to work. Kousik's interests include hacking, photography and bird watching. And helping hapless techno-doofs half a world away.

Please scroll down. 

As you can see, suddenly the body of the last post won't begin until the end of the sidebar. I promise I haven't been fiddling with Mr. Template and it has nothing to do with the width of the post or the top graphic in the sidebar. If someone who has been around the Blogger Block more often than I has a suggestion I'm all ears.

Meanwhile, Jim, maybe we can share a suite.

UPDATE: Well, I find at Bloggerforum that I'm far from alone with this anomaly and undoubtedly the crack team at Blogger is hard at work on a solution.

Pre-eminent Domain 

Lots of unhappy folk out there.


I cautiously agree with Perry de Havilland's silver-lining remark under the last of the above links:

The only upside to this whole situation is the likely
radicalising effect this ruling will have on people to
whom civil liberties matter and to whom private
property is the very corner stone of those liberties.
And the fact that many independents may be taking another look at the Judicial Wars between the administration and congressional Democrats and decide it's time to push the pendulem back. If Bush goes beyond words and makes property rights a focus in the years left to him he may also manage to hold on to Republican-voting libertarians. They've been flaking away and an administration spanking of the 'asinine flag-burning amendment' (in the words of Mary at Exit Zero) and a focus on judicial nominations away from abortion and toward property rights would be most helpful.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Slava Goes Home 

One thing I like about the iPod is that great swathes of music can get lost in there. Stuff you haven't listened to in years and forgot you even had. But it's not like your record collection where discs slipped behind the book shelf and eventually turn into vinyl tacos or your cassette collection which held meetings under your couch until they're all swallowed whole by dust bunnies. The music is actually there, you just have to stumble across it.

One way is the automated stumble, or shuffle. I don't shuffle. I find it as unsatisfying as watching TV with a chronic surfer when he has the remote. By the time I'm done listening to one album I pretty much know what I want to listen to next. I don't want to put it into the hands of Mr. Stochastic.

But I did an accidental shuffle the other day when I punched the button while the highlight hovered over an album I had completely forgotten about. Sousa Marches.

For some reason it appealed and I spent the trips from and to and from work listening to it. It's well done, but kind of a concert version and it's hard to imagine the music sweeping down the parade grounds. That's where the chills come from. This version was a little tame.

It got me remembering the most electric performance of Sousa I ever heard. It's on an album called Rostropovich: Return to Russia. Recorded live in Moscow in February 1990 it marked his return from an exile that began in 1974. It's a great concert by the National Symphony of Washington, but to honor the nation of his exile, the grand finale was The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Let me tell you, they play the absolute living snot out of it. The Russian audience is cheering and stomping and clapping along. An absolutely thrilling performance.

Remember? The Russkies loved us. We loved the Russkies. Everything was going to be all right.

Out Of The Mists 

Spear Shaker's back. After poking his little pink nose out a few days ago he let loose with an actual post this evening with some excellent advice.

Be vewy, vewy, quiet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Going To The Chapel of Love 

I haven't mentioned this before, but the Goddess is my second wife. We all get a mulligan, am I right?

The first Mrs. Sluggo was a professional figure skater. I met her while working at a LORT theatre in Lake Placid during the late '70's. We did an outstanding Scapino and a pretty much cataclysmic Romeo and Juliet. But enough about me.

She was a straightforward kind of gal who loved to sew and write songs and play the guitar. A really nice person and the first Republican I ever dated. Her father was a collegiate hockey coach and only the fact of his innate decency allowed him to more or less hide the fact that he despised me. He had his reasons.

She had a life-long dream to skate with the Ice Capades. The attainment of that dream coincided with the end of our marriage. It was a dreadful mismatch executed at the exact wrong time for both of us and we both realized we were well out of it.

The divorce was consummated with zero acrimony. We each went out of our way to make it easy for the other. No money problems, property problems or, thank God, custody problems. A slicker, jollier sundering was never accomplished.

It destroyed me for about five years.

But that's another story. The reason I brought up the penultimate wife was overhearing someone at work talking on the phone to a friend about her impending nuptials and the problems she was having writing the vows. She gave samples to her friend of her work. To me, it just sounded like a Hallmark Card that'd been pounding the ganja. Moral, emotional and spiritual nonsense. I sometimes think it was this notion of personal vows that set loose the golems of doom in our society. It's sort of like a mortgage where the bank and you are allowed to each make your own terms. That's heartache ahead.

Anyway, we were to be wed in a beautiful Episcopal church overlooking the St. Lawrence river in Alexandria Bay. In our meetings with the priest he asked if there was anything special we wanted to do with the vows. I pipe up with what I thought was a reasonable request. I wanted us each to say 'love, honor and obey.' I explained to his fatherness that the notion of obedience was to the larger entity of our marriage and we should both be bound by it. I wasn't locked in to the idea; in fact it may have just floated through the brain at that instant. But he tut-tuts and hrumphs and says "We don't do obey anymore."

I looked at him and said, "But we're allowed to write our own vows, now, right?"

"Oh, yes."

"What if I put it in there? What if we each wrote our own vows and included the notion of obedience."

"I, uh, I would really be more comfortable if you didn't."

Well, as long as the freaking priest is comfortable. That's the main thing.

I didn't make a big deal out of it. Which is good because it might have ruined one of the last purely happy days we had.

Class Size 

Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for the Daily News who writes amusingly and is reliably liberal. I was impressed by her column this morning which strayed off the reservation to make the point that class size may not be the determining factor in the quality of education.
[T]eacher training matters even more than class size.
Good teaching "doesn't happen by osmosis," says Anna
Marie Carrillo, superintendent of District 2, one of the
city's highest-performing districts. Carrillo believes
effective, ongoing teacher training trumps pretty much
everything else.

"I would rather have a child in a classroom of 30 kids with
a supreme teacher than two classes of 15 with a teacher
who really doesn't have the expertise," she says.
One thing she doesn't discuss is the labor aspect of the issue. Teacher's unions are labor organizations and smaller classes means more members. That's not to say there is not value in small classes or that anyone who advocates them is simply out to pad the membership list, but it's a factor that needs to be part of the discussion. Unfortunately, the "It's for the kids!" trump card usually puts it to the side.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fermenting Souls 

The New York Sun runs little snippits (I'm sure there's a newpaper word for them) on the bottom of the op ed page. Quotes -- words of wisdom, sometimes several of them on a common theme. Today I read:
The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature
imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of
life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the
character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the
ambition thick sighted: thence proceeds mawkishness.

John Keats (1795-1821)
I've imagined myself a poet all my life and mark my progress by noting that when Keats was my age, he'd been dead for thirty years.

Although you would normally define mawkishness as mere sentimentality, I take Keats to mean it in a slightly larger sense of a passionate attachment to uncertain principles. Imagination, after all, whether applied to rhymes or political thinking, is just the minds way of marking the path ahead of you.

If you can't defend your position in any other way, passion and commitment will often be employed to mark, instead, your sincerity. In this way I've seen Islamists and Palestinians formulate the notion that they must be in the right because they are willing to destroy themselves for the cause.

In the same way Senator Durbin and the microcephs at Amnesty International acknowledge that their remarks do not correspond with reality yet stridently refuse to back away from them. There's a larger truth there and if you don't believe us, well, just look how angry we are.

There's a lot of important issues that require mature conversation, but too many of the players (and certainly not just leftists, terrorists and Democrats) have never evolved from Keat's middle period of confusing suffering with rights.

Monday, June 20, 2005

China Story II 

I didn't want to have kids. That was a problem for the Goddess so we had problems. In fact, we spent a year apart before I realized that it didn't matter what she wanted because I couldn't live without her.

We lost a boy five months into the pregnancy and we lost two years and much more money than we had on the in vitro merry-go-round. She was despondent and ready to give up, but by this time I was totally on board with the baby thing and talked her into adoption and then talked her into China. Sometimes I'm smart.

The Chinese invented bureaucracy and are amazingly good at inventing hoops for you to jump through. The process took two years, which is longer than usual, but there was a bureaucratic war going on at the time as two government agencies were battling over the lucrative foreign adoption franchise.

But I'll say this; once you jump through the last hoop it goes exactly the way they say it will. You never run into a judge with his hand out as is the case in a number of other countries. If a judge tried it, he probably wouldn't have that hand for long.

The day we met Gracie was a hot, muggy, tropical day in April. Her home town, Zhangjiang, is only a hundred or so miles north of Viet Nam. We had a small group, two couples and a single woman and we went by van to the orphanage and waited in an enclosed courtyard for the nannies to bring down the kids. I can't tell you what a mess the five of us were after two years and 12,000 miles. With our referral came a postage stamp sized picture taken when the kids were a couple months old and a medical form that only assured us that they had the usual number of everything and were in good health.

In the adoption game there's a lot of fussing about something called 'attachment disorder' which is probably just a projection of the parent's anxieties that the child will not bond with them, or worse, they will not love the child.

I guess it happens, though I've never heard of a case with a Chinese kid, but I can tell you that we fell deeply and permanently in love with Grace the moment we met her. She's an easy kid to love. Happiest kid I ever saw. Sweet, openhearted, smart, athletic, sincere, hard working, eager to please and affectionate. I don't remember some of those first few minutes, but I do remember thinking 'This is the most beautiful child I ever saw.' Even though she was howling like a banshee.

So there we all were, in a state of stunned bliss, holding our children, hoping Grace will calm down soon. I look out into the open courtyard and see a woman weeping, making tentative little hand gestures to us. I do the looking around 'are you talking to me?' thing and she nods. I walk out into the courtyard, carrying Grace and the woman, still weeping, makes the tiniest little gesture with her arms, asking to hold her. I don't know why, but I gave Grace to her and both of them instantly stop crying. I did notice the nannies are getting agitated and unhappy and one of them runs from the courtyard. I have a very little bit of Chinese and the woman had about as much English and I'm trying to talk to her and find out what the deal is when the head of the orphanage storms into the courtyard.

She rips Grace from the woman's arms and hands her back to me. Everybody starts crying again except for the director who starts going up one side of the woman and down the other. It was a ferocious tongue-lashing and we're hustled into the vans and back to our hotel.

It's about an hour later and we're about to perform our first diaperectomy. Grace has calmed down. We open the package and find a little note inside in one of those little red Chinese gift envelopes. There's a short note and a couple small bills totaling maybe 20 yuan. We ran to Cherry, our translator and she tells me it's from Grace's foster mother and gives her address. The money is for stamps because, she says, she loved Grace more than any of the girls she's ever had care of and wants to know what happens to her.

Now the orphanage has denied, repeatedly, that Grace ever was in foster care, but I take a note in the diaper as dispositive. I don't know what was at stake for the orphanage in denying it, but we've written back and forth to the woman probably a dozen times over the ensuing seven years and when we're able to go back we'll visit her. She's a lovely woman and I have to credit her at least in part for Gracie's disposition. She certainly filled her first year with love.

The Age of Spell Check 

The principal's letter to the graduates in Bloomfield High's new yearbook is an embarrassment to the chipmunks who copy-edited it. The Barista has the story and files it, appropriately, under Sheesh.

The Carnival Comes To Town 

The Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers #5, is up. Enlighten-New Jersey does their usual bang-up job of scouring the Garden State for talented bloggers.

Apparently, however, Tillie (who is not Irish) is getting restless and the show may be going on the road.

We'll be on our toes when he makes his move.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Ms. Schmidt Goes A-Smiting 

The North Hudson Community Action Corporation has stirred some controversy recently over the choice to replace the late former director Michael Leggiero. I don't know enough about this to take sides, but it does appear to be the kind of stink that tends to arise when local politics descends on a service organization with significant federal funding and a well paid job is dangling.

I note this because of a letter to the Reporter (which I can't find on the web site) from Nancy Schmidt, former Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services, of the NHCAC.

She spends seven paragraphs extolling the legacy of Mr. Leggiero and of his hand picked successor, Michael Shababb. She's "appalled, shocked, sickened, saddened and outraged" that Mr. Shababb has been passed over by "outside forces", an apparent reference to the North Hudson Council of Mayors, which, according to another article in the Reporter is exploring issues of compensation and residency. And, perhaps, looking at the appointment as a political plum.

In her final paragraph, Ms. Schmidt goes all old testiment on Mr. Shababb's enemies:
Speak up, ye who slaughter both men and mission, step
away from your cloaks of anonymity and show the faces
of the despicable individuals perpetuating such heinous
acts against good men and a sainted organization.
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