Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm never not non-oblivious to you

First off -- Matt, I have those carrot cake cookies, but I haven't sent them yet. Consider the goodness of them my Christmas present and the tag attached to it my idiocy in forgetting where I've placed your address.

Second -- I was walking by a coworker's office this morning and all of the sudden Dame Edna was staring back at me, illuminated in the crisp, flat panel on his desk. After the subsequent jolt from staring into the pools of Dame Edna's eyes, I had a chuckle to myself.

Third -- "Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats."
- Diane Arbus, photographer

Fourth -- Nothing feels better than having a hand in something bigger than yourself. If you have the opportunity to do this, jump on it. Take advantage of it. Live through and with it. And when you're done, do it again, and again, and again ...

Fifth -- I'm terrible, I know, and I haven't posted photographs in a while. I've been knitting. I shit you knot ... get it? Of course you did. Another coworker, not to be confused with the Dame-Edna-lit-up-on-his-monitor-like-the-4th-of-July coworker, told me that close friends with her and her husband both knit together. "They say it's kind of like meditation," she said.

When you walk in to a small, relatively unpopulated bar, it's like everyone inside is looking for a place to stop what they're doing and turn around to catch a glimpse of what the neon outside drug in. They do it so nonchalantly, holding their proverbial bookmark in one hand and beer in the other, they take a sip, insert the bookmark, close the pages to look at you and try to either identify with you or just plain identify you. When curiosity is sated, they return to what they were doing, opening the book, removing the mark and looking for the paragraph from where they left off.

In this instance, the book was a haphazard open mic night. A small speaker set-up broadcasted the soft voice of the first act, a woman and a guitar. I didn't even feign interest in her. I was too busy ordering an ale from the seedy watering hole's thin selection. In hobbles a gentleman, minus one of his legs. I'm told that he's probably the best guitarist in the region. I think that it was worth the trip, the poor brew selection and the stares from sunken eyes below fuzzy brows below what was once a hairline, just to see and hear for myself if it's true.

A table finds us and chairs find our asses and music finds our ears while I attempt to find the ladies room; however, in this place's case, I'm sure a lady hasn't graced it in quite some time. Washing my hands with watered down lotion soap proves my point further.

The crippled guitarist takes the stage, but not alone. He's joined by a saxophonist, a violinist, a vocalist with a guitar and the same mousy woman who graced the stage earlier now armed with a bass guitar. After the aged hippie-laden band takes a long tune, they break out in rock-and-roll covers. My eyes are transfixed on the one-legged guitarist who seems to know only the accompaniment of the violin.

I've had too much to drink.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Aren't you clever ...

Good news today. The Robin Hood scheme set up by the Texas gubernatorial (emphasis on the 'goober' part) administration of George W. Bush was figuratively torn apart by the Texas Supreme Court. Now the Legislature, under Gov. Rick Hairy -cough- I mean Perry, must reinvent the school funding system, much like Madonna had to reinvent her career as her adoptive homeland of Britain thought her a great poser.

Terrific news.

The reason? Our system now consists of a scheme similar to the "rob from the rich to give to the poor" ethic most attributed to Robin Hood and his merry men. In this case, Robin Hood is our Legislature, the riches are the property taxes taken by taxing entities and the redistribution is determined by taking a percentage of the property taxes from a property-rich school districts and then giving it to form more equity with property-poor school districts.

The Texas Supreme Court said that this redistribution of wealth equates to a state property tax, which is outlawed by our constitution. If you didn't know, we also don't have a state income tax, but Texas has one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation.

Why the big hoopla? Well, this decision forces the Legislature to find and implement a new system to fund our public schools. Because we are stuck in a rut and have one of the worst statewide public school systems in the nation, this is an opportunity to drastically change a failing system into a leader in its own realm. (It also gives legislators an opportunity to redeem themselves by June, which I must say I'm not too crazy about, especially since this is the same Legislature that couldn't solve our school funding woes but found it in their own hearts to give themselves a raise.)

Something I came across today kind of disturbed me.

I was doing a little bit of background research on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and I discovered that on a certain emmission reduction advisory board there are 22 members, 15 of which are appointed members. Five of the 15 are appointed by the governor, another five by the lieutenant governor and the final five are appointed by the Texas House speaker.

The three men that hold these positions are Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas House Majority Speaker Tom Craddick. In political ideology, these men rarely differ. All three are set to make Texas one of the most business-friendly states and all three happen to be Republican. So, you tell me if you trust that these three men who appoint about 75 percent of this advisory panel will actually spread the representation over citizens, consumers, environmental activists and stakeholders effected by emmissions.

Just as I suspected, approximately 66 percent of the appointed members of the emmissions reduction advisory panel were representatives of industries that pollute through industrial emmissions, including air conditioning manufacturers, electric power, trucking, fuel, automobile and a few others. Shocking, no? I didn't think so. Only one person, one appointee, represented the environmental community.

So, my last entry went off on the problems with more than 90 percent of Texas being under the realm of private ownership. Today I'm telling it like it is about our state government and the lack of representation on decision-making panels and advisory boards, especially those that deal with our need for clean air to breath, clean water to drink and clean soil to farm. Is there a pattern forming?

I'll leave you with a not-so-random quote plucked from the blogosphere:

"Particularly as yesterday was a bad day and this was just the foetid cherry atop the poo-cake."

Matthew Jones, a la Rant-a-Matt

Friday, November 18, 2005

Whom do I owe the honor?

Whenever I drove from one place to the next over a significant distance -- and by significant I mean more than a two-hour drive -- I always took the path of least resistance. "As the crow flies," is my motto when driving cross-country to whatever destination it may be. But, what if the drive is the destination? What if my intention was rather to see what is about me rather than getting to one place as fast and efficiently as possible?

I've only taken two trips like this, and the first one I can barely recall. It was a family vacation about 13 years ago. Our family of seven piled into the Chevy Suburban, which at that time was a shiny shade of red and has subsequently faded into a modest pink-like color, and set off from Northeast Houston on a seedy motel excursion across Texas. For most of the trip my small body was nestled in the front seat between my parents. I was treated like an expensive birthday cake my mother had just purchased from the market. Whenever there was a bump in the road, she put her arm in front or around me to make sure I wasn't jostled too violently.

If I remember correctly, our trip took us across the breadth Texas -- from the expansive Piney Woods of East Texas, through the beautiful exposed limestone and poetic scenes of the Texas Hill Country, to the far reaches of West Texas and the Big Bend National Park and then south, to our final destination along the sweet sandy beaches and salty air of South Padre Island.

In between our city stops we would stay in small, pre-booked, less-than-one-star motel rooms, complete with stains on the carpet or stains on the mattresses, slightly off and very ugly attendants and bug-zapping lanterns outside the clap-trap doors.

It was OK for us five kids though, because we resigned after the car ride to our snug-fitting sleeping bags on the floor. I vividly remember one of our stops through a town named Bakersfield, Texas. We stopped on our way to Big Bend, I think, to call my grandmother and check on her and our cat. Both were fine. The most remarkable thing about Bakersfield was that there was only one pay phone, one fuel pump and not a soul in what we could surmise would be a five-mile radius. A weekend ghost town, of sorts.

On our trounce through Pecos County, we stopped at a pick-nick site and historical marker near the vulture-laden Pecos River Valley. There was nothing surrounding us besides a cavernous river chasm and several miles of flat, sandy desert. We had pre-prepared sandwiches, soda and my favorite, chocolate milk. Our only problem was that it was incredibly windy and very hard to keep our paper sandwich wrappings down that were serving as placemats. It was much more difficult to pour the carton of chocolate milk into a small plastic cup.

My father, the innovator and red-neck handyman, stuck a moistened finger in the air, turned in a certain direction, held a cup at length in one hand and the carton in the other and began to pour. We witnessed a stream of chocolate milk pushed by the blustery West Texas wind into the cup in his left hand, which was distanced about three feet from the carton in his right.

My mother is an anything collector. If a fond memory is attached to an inanimate object, she's bound to keep it, and more likely than not, it still sits as a rotting memory in my parent's house. The last time I went there I stayed in the twins' old room, which now, like my old room, passes for a storage facility and part-time guest abode.

When I was unpacking a few pieces of clothing I noticed a stack of old T-shirts. On top was a small shirt that at one time fit one of us girls, but I'm sure that now I couldn't even get my thigh into it. On the front was a cow jumping over an observatory; it was a memento kept by my mother of our Texas-wide trip and our stop at the McDonald Observatory.

Why all this nostalgia, you ask? Just last weekend I went to the Frio River, a family destination for several years, to visit some of Dave's friend and spend part of the weekend away from civilization. Small deer roamed and played amongst us as we walked along the white-rock lined river. Frio means cold in Spanish, and although the river was as icy as ever, our November weekend was unseasonably warm.

But the real treat was the drive back to Dallas. We took Texas Highway 281 through much of the Hill Country. About a year ago I was constantly griping about the over development of the Hill Country and that Texas' history of private lands in the hands of greedy developers was going to result in the segmentation of Hill Country vistas, dotted with houses and ranchettes, tin roofs and tiny herds.

I wish I could remember the views from the once cherry-red Suburban as we drove from hilltop to hilltop. I wish I could remember what it looked like before large ranches suffered subdivision after subdivision. I wish I could remember what the great Texas Hill Country looked like before Baby Boomers and retirees decided they were willing to drop a few hundred thousand on their very own piece of the Texas Hill Country.

The exposed-stone hills and river-cut landscape is still beautiful, although now they are marred by fences and kalichi driveways with SUVs parked before gaudy stone-clad, three-story homes.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Upon further examination

My mother seems to think that I don't get out enough, that I don't talk to my friends enough and that I'm losing touch with my family. All this she found out from last month's cellular bill. Apparently, I'm antisocial and I have no intention of changing my ways of hermitdom. I object, I am merely an elitest, thankyouverymuch.

No, I really did heed her advice. I called everyone in my phone directory -- twice. I thought they may not get enough of me the first time around, so I may as well give them double the pleasure.

So, there ... I'm not antisocial. I'm just preoccupied ... and an elitest ... who doesn't like talking on the phone much ... unless you're not boring ... I think that's about it.

Proposition 2 is a much debated and combustible state constitutional amendment that would effectively ban gay marriage and anything "identical or similar" to it. Some legal analysts believe that this amendment could do great harm to legal arrangements made by same-sex couples that give powers of attorney to their partners and it could also nullify common-law marriges established by cohabitation. Basically, this constitutional amendment's interpretation could break thousands of families. It's implications are serious and widespread. They cross gender and cultural barriers to bring us to the point where the Christian reich ... (cough) ... I mean, right, Christian right will force Texas to become Utah lite, and we all know that there's no fun in Utah ... NONE.

All of this, the seriousness of the situation and its impact, brings me to my inevitable (yes, I was eventually going to get there) point. Voters are easily fooled. Why? Because for the most part, they're ignorant. Honestly though, if some of my closer friends are any indication of what a cross-section of society looks like, then please, God, help us. Last night I was talking to one of those people, you know, my friends, about Proposition 2 (the aforementioned hellhound of the Texas Legislature) and they knew vaguely that they amendment was about gay marriage, but they said, " I'm soooooo voting for it, because, like, I think that gays should be married, too!" WHAT THE? ARE YOU SERIOUS??? REALLY? GAYS SHOULD WHAT?

Okay... I wasn't that irate, but you get the picture. Like I said, if those folks are any indication of what the level of education of my fellow Texans is regarding items on today's ballot, then GOD HELP THOSE POOR LITTLE QUEER SOULS, because if their future is in those hands, they are proverbially (and literally, if they're lucky) screwed.

For me, it's like this: I don't think that same-sex couples should share in a tradition that I think is reserved more for perceived religious purposes, but that doesn't mean that we as Americans, Texans and God-fearing Christians (I don't really fear God, but I sure do love the heck outta him!) should never be able to deny their legal rights to enjoy the benefits of an institution like marriage. There are hundreds of legal benefits that heterosexual married couples enjoy just by getting hitched. And this is news: Straight folks get divorced half of the time while gays split about one fifth of the time. So, for every two couples that get married, one will split, but for every five gay couples that form civil unions, only one will end. Interesting eh?

Lots of conservative groups, virtually TONS of them, think that homosexual marriage is an assault on traditional family values; however, I tend to agree with the foes of Proposition 2 that think that DIVORCE, you know, that institution that Henry VIII just HAD to have, is what is assaulting traditional family values.

But, I tend to think that America's greatest enemy is its citizens and their right to ignorance.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The opened window

Oh, readers (and I know I'm delusional to think that there may be more than just a handful of you guys, but you're plural, nonetheless)! One thing and then another, and one more after that; this is my busy and distracted life.

I had planned to do a weekend by rail last weekend; however, my plans were thwarted by my own inability to schedule. I did end up adventuring with Dave. We went to a cafe on Mockingbird and then off to Thanksgiving Square. I took a few photos, but we were swiftly resigned from the park and chapel. Visiting hours were over.

Sunday's exploits included washing terrariums and feeding tadpoles. Dinner and a movie and off to bed at a decent hour.

Good news though. Tracy is giving me froggies! The trouble is, will I have to set up a vivarium for the D. auratus I'll receive? Or will Tracy help me? I know a little about exotic terrariums with my previous experiences with reptiles, but they're require less extensive habitat and maintenance; all in all, the snakes I've owned where required relatively simple care.

Anywho, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling today has gotten a few people in the office quite incensed. I'm one of them. I loooooooooooove political discourse.

Oh, and watchout Santa Fe, HERE I COME!!!