Friday, March 24, 2006

On the road again

In a couple of hours I head to Denver, where I will actually need sunglasses! and sunscreen! and a sun hat! It's very exciting.

Like Seattle, Denver has a Layering Climate, to accomodate many changes of temperature. The forecast is for 30's at night, 60's during the day. Very civilized. I'm visiting a friend there before a board meeting next Wednesday, and we've left open the possibility of a spontaneous road trip to Moab, Utah or Santa Fe, NM. In which case I might actually get to wear shorts!

And here's how great a packer I am: Even with the varied temperatures, the unknown destinations, the need for business, casual and hiking attire, and the inclusion of a laptop computer - I have managed to pack what I need for five days using only carry-on bags. Legitimately sized carry-on bags, too - not the massive "carry-ons" that people lug onto the plane, taking up the entire overhead bin unless the flight attendants catch them and banish the imposter carry-ons to be gate-checked.

My packing prowess is probably my greatest accomplishment this week. It's been very busy getting ready to go out the door, at work and at home. It's much easier to take a vacation right after an all-day board meeting than right before.

And when I come back - I will officially be working 1.1 jobs for two months. So I'm very excited to be going on vacation.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Everybody, sing with me!

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Moxievanilla,
Happy birthday to you!

To the best sister a gal could ever ask for!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Why I'm nominating Enrico for Sainthood, Part 2

It's pouring rain. There's no gas in the car. I'm heading out of town for a vacation / board meeting in less than 48 hours and I have not left myself enough time to finish everything I need to do. I've been working on spreadsheets every evening this week. I have about 328 items massively overdue at the library. Enrico has already walked the dogs in the rain. It's past our normal dinner time. And what does he do?

He goes back out in the rain. Gets gas. Returns my library books. Fetches the Thai food that I've been craving all week.

What a good egg. For all I know he even paid my library fine.

Dog is my co-pilot

It was bedtime, and as I sat in bed reading, Nelly paced at the foot, waiting for Enrico. She long ago took to sleeping on a little dog bed next to us, tucked away in the corner of the room. We stuck it there to get it out of the way one day, and she adopted it as her sleeping spot of choice.

"Hurry up," I called to Enrico. "You know Nelly can't settle on her bed until we're both here. It's not right."

"All right, I'm coming." Enrico climbed into bed and Nelly finally traipsed to her corner, circling the mandatory two times before lying down with a thunk.

"She is so weird, with all her random self-imposed rules. She's like her own little Book of Leviticus."

"The Book of Nelleviticus!"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sloooooow mooootionnnnn

I'm on the board of an organization that I swear moves more slowly than any organization known to man. I am realizing that I've been spoiled by working for boards of directors made up of a lot of Microsoft and other business-y people. Even when they don't actually know much about running a nonprofit, by golly they know how to run a productive meeting. They know how to move business along expeditiously.

Enrico counters that the, um, governmental entity for which he works is much worse, but I counter-counter that they have the excuse of being a huge beaurocracy. We are a tiny organization of about two dozen people. Proportionately, our plodding is much more molasses-like.

It's just not POSSIBLE to spend so much time considering things this straightforward. I'm trying to introduce the concept of committees. As in, let's delegate that to a committe and empower them to handle it! Preferably before global warming destroys life as we know at and forces us to spend all our efforts scavenging nourishment in a hot, watery hell. But then the committees move just as ponderously. It's like entering a fissure in the space-time continuum, where we are ENDLESSLY TRAPPED IN A DISCUSSION ABOUT RENTING A PARKING SPACE TO OUR NEIGHBORS.

I know, I sound cranky and critical and impatient and dismissive. Which - shockingly! - is pretty much the reputation I have developed with my fellow board members. Knowledgeable about All Thing Nonprofit, and hard-working, sure - but a little on the harsh side. I'm that pain-in-the-ass person that you keep around because their usefulness outweighs their abrasiveness.

Hey, whose pillow is that anyway?

Mine, not that you'd know it.

He has a hard, hard life, this dog.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thinking of my island paradise

The island of Kauai is the most beautiful place I've ever been. I know, it's a cliche about how beautiful Hawaii is, but I'm serious, it is magical. The air feels soft and the smell of it makes you feel relaxed and happy. The light is different there, somehow. The sleepy little island of Kauai has inviting sand beaches and thundering volcanic rock pools, red-rock canyons and towering ocean cliffs, steep waterfalls and enormous unwalkable swamps, and lush forests with the mysterious remains of civilizations from long ago. While I'm hardly the most experienced world traveler, I've seen some stuff. I've seen the Aleutian Islands and the highest peak of the Andes, stood on the lip of a volcano and hiked for days into the desert, seen Kodiak bears and Guatemalan monkeys, visited Mayan pyramids and French chateaus. But Kauai takes the cake, so far, for sheer magic.

So my heart is sad for tiny Kauai, flooded by a burst dam that killed people and cut off the island's only road and left a gash of red mud and crumpled trees in its wake. May the rains let up soon.

Act now, before you get old!

Last Friday, we went to see Cosi fan tutte at the Seattle Opera. It was done in a modern setting, and few operas can pull that off but this one worked. Surprisingly well. Enrico had never been to an opera before - well, once we went to an amateur production at a local park (Figaro? Barber of Seville? something along those lines), but he'd never seen one in a big opera hall with all the bells and whistles. I, on the other hand, am the daughter of lifelong opera season ticket holders. I was seeing Fledermaus by the age of 10. And I know what you're thinking, and yes - that did make me one of the coolest kids in town!

Yesterday, I got a call from a chipper woman asking how we liked Cosi, and inquiring as to whether we'd consider season tickets next year? Which is a big jump, from First Opera Ever to Season Ticket Holder. But oddly enough, we actually had talked about it. The season looks particularly good, with Don Giovanni, Boheme, and Italian in Algiers by Rossini. I love anything by Rossini. His music paints actual pictures in my head. And Julius Caesar by Handel - who knew Handel wrote an opera about Julius Caesar?

Anyway, I pointed out to the woman that opera is damn expensive. To which she asked if I was, by any chance, under 40? Because it turns out the Seattle Opera is offering half-price season ticket packages to people under 40 - no doubt in an effort to cultivate the next generation of opera fans.

Enrico and I are thisclose to turning 40, and I'm terribly amused by the symbolism. Apparently once you're past 40, you're just expected to love opera, and to be able to afford it. What else will be expected of us? Those of you already over the threshold - do tell!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


For my new gig - which technically doesn't start until April 1 but somehow I'm already doing work for them - I go from the very highest level of Making the World A Better Place (my current job) to the nitty-gritty of Helping Poor People in my community with a specific need. I seem to bounce back and forth between these two levels, professionally.

When you spend time helping specific people with a specific burning need - like housing, or health care, or access to money - it's very concrete and thus satisfying. But after a while, it wears me down - I think, damn, this problem is never going to go away. And I get a little bit pissed, and wonder how I might help actually tackle the problem at its root, at the system level.

So then I go to work in what's called "capacity-building" in the biz - strengthening the charitable sector generally, so it can do its job better and make its collective voice heard - or on the philanthropic side of the fence, where they give the money away. And that's satisfying for a while, until I start to feel detached from the actual people (or animals, or trees) in need of help. I think about how this money going to strengthen the long-term health of nonprofits could actually be feeding children, and maybe that would be better, no?

And so I bounce. It's probably right for me, for my temperment. For a few weeks here, I will overlap, mid-bounce - working in service to the wealthiest and the poorest of people, simultaneously. People with millions of dollars to give away to a good cause, and people without two dimes to rub together.

As a colleague of mine says - you may want to change the world, but at the end of the day it's a privilege just to be able to do good, interesting work for relatively clean money.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Things I know for sure, Part One

This month in The New Yorker there's an article on scientific research and the ways that the Bush administration is undermining and contorting science for the sake of ideology, particularly religious ideology. There's even a quote in there from somebody suggesting they'd object to an HIV vaccine because to cure or prevent HIV would remove a disincentive for premarital sex. Excuse me? Let me get this straight. It's worth it for millions people and their children die a horrible, wasting death in order to try to control how and when people have sex? Where the frack in the Bible does Jesus suggest that would be his preferred trade-off? This just blows my mind. I don't even know how to formulate a response to this type of thinking, on any level. So you wish death by a horrible, wasting disease on other people - even children - at the same time that you're all fired up about the sanctity of a "life" the size of a dot on this i? By golly, the dot-sized life is invaluable, but once humans are out of the womb their life ain't worth shit. Excuse my language.

I just don't know what to say to that. But here are some things I know for sure.

The Golden Rule, for one. And a friendly amendment to the Golden Rule: If you wouldn't want something for the people you know and care about, you can't wish it for any human being. AIDS, prostitution, pornography, slavery, having your house bombed - it goes for all those things. And beyond that, if you don't wish it on other human beings, you need to do your best not be a part of perpetuating it. Which we all do, whether we like it or not, being part of a global economy. So first, if you don't want something for your loved ones, don't promote it directly. And second, although it's complicated, we all ought to at least think about what we can do to avoid promoting it indirectly.

I was just in Texas the last couple of days. On the way to the airport, as my colleagues were chatting away in mutal liberal understanding about gay rights, I fell into conversation with our linebacker-sized limo driver - a hard-drawlin' Baptist who'd never lived outside Texas except while in the military. A classic moment of red state meets blue state (or, as he cheerfully put it, "fruits and nuts"). Feeling brave, I asked him what he thought of my colleagues' discussion.

"Well," he said thoughtfully, "I figgur just because somebody wants to rent an apartment from me, or work for me, it ain't no business of mine who they love. If God cares about stuff like that, I suppose we'll all find out after we die, won't we? Until then, we'd all best just treat other people the way we want to be treated, rather than make judgments that ain't ours to make."

Amen. It gave me a little bit of hope.

Tips for Jobseekers, #3

This one's for the fellas - something you probably shouldn't say in a job interview when the interviewer is a woman:

"At XYZ place where I worked, all the other employees were women, so they frequently weren't speaking to each other because of some perceived slight, and it was my role to get them talking."
This is particularly funny to me given that in my sister's job at Crazyland, she's the lone women manager among a bunch of boys who seem determined to treat their jobs as one big exercise in Game Theory, or an opportunity to live out The Godfather. "You are dead to me, Fredo!"

I'm not saying the women are smarter, as the Grateful Dead would put it. I've been told it isn't easy being the lone guy in an organization full of women, and I'm sure it's true. I'm just saying, glass houses, stones, etc. etc. At least in job interviews.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I'm the gal with pink hair

Remember the movie Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John?

Remember the scene where Sandy's plucky friend Frenchie drops out of beauty school after accidentally dying her hair bright pink? There's a whole fabulous musical number with Frankie Valli or Frankie Avalon or one of those Frankie heartthrobs from the 1950s. Beauty School Drop-Out, he doo-wops.

Well, that's me. PI School Drop-Out. I officially gave up. And I feel good about it.

I didn't want to write a written report on the forensics topic of my choice, and so I skipped the last class, and thus I assume I am going to actually FAIL a pass-fail extension class. But I'm fine about that. I'm way to old to worry about my Permanent Record. I learned a lot and had fun. Dropping out doesn't preclude my becoming a private investigator in the future, just as finishing the class wouldn't have guaranteed it. And I think that, four months before my fortieth birthday, having always been a diligent student and the daughter of a teacher - it is high time for me to have the life experience of failing a class.

And not caring! So there.

I have a fun volunteer project, and a new year-long work gig starting that will overlap for a while with the one I'm finishing, so that's plenty to do.

So - color me pink, and bring on the doo-wop.

Lunchtime reading

First, re-read this.

Then, read this on Slate.

Friday, March 03, 2006

To quote Hermione...

What. an. idiot.

Shortly before concluding his trip to India on Friday, Bush said he would work with Musharraf to "reduce the appeal of radical Islam." "I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world," the president added.

Later, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Bush meant to say Pakistan would be a force in the Muslim world. Pakistan is not an Arab country.
Full story on MSNBC.

Beyond the beyond

Yesterday I was having one of those days when you feel kinda blue, for no apparent reason. Really, the sun was out, I had a productive day at work, I even received a few compliments just for doing my job competently.

Oh, there are things that I could point to for my unease. I am supposed to submit an RFP for a year-long project today, and as the lead on our 3-person team I have to be sure I'm game for what is - for me - a long professional commitment. My gut is balking and I can't put my finger on why, which is unsettling. I have one week left in this quarter's PI school, and I have two entire homework assignments to finish (belatedly) and find myself actually thinking of skipping the last quarter entirely. I like the content, I find, but I just don't want to do homework. I'm too damn old for homework. At least the written kind - finding the scenes and taking photos and stuff was fun. But a written report on the forensics topic of my choice? Myeh.

But perhaps most importantly, I find myself just overwhelmed by the idiocy of world events. I know, only a third of our nation's citizens approve of the job the president is doing, and I appreciate the validation, but it doesn't change the fact that he and his minions are really, really screwing up the world, and it's going to last for a good long time. It's stunning, the incompetence.

When Enrico got home I informed him that I had a case of the blue meanies and I required food from a specific restaurant whose precise name and location I couldn't remember. (My husband is a saint.) Over comfort food and wine, I explained all this to his sympathetic ear. "It's just beyond...." I said, trying to find the words, "it's just beyond the beyond."

He laughed. That's a good way of describing the state of the world, he said. Beyond the beyond.

On The Daily Show the other night, Jon Stewart was interviewing "correspondent" Rob Corddry about the Dubai ports thing. "Is this deal in fact likely to have any effect on the security of US ports, Rob?"

"No, Jon. The American people can feel assured that the nation's ports will be run with the same criminally negligent disregard for security as they have been for the past five years. This deal will in no way interfere with that."

It was very funny. They put their finger right on the Beyond the Beyond-ness of it all.