Saturday, August 29, 2009

On the Mountain

One of my favorite things -- no, who am I kidding? my absolute favorite thing -- to do when in Phoenix is climb my little mountains. These are, of course, "hills" in the eyes of many, often including the eyes of myself, but that's being snobby, isn't it? I mean, does The Corrections cease to be a novel just because you start thinking about how War and Peace is twice as long? I think not. Even the U.S. Geological Survey says there is no clear distinction between a hill and a mountain, although various geographic boards have used 1,000 feet as a line of demarcation in the past, like in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. That definition is not used now, though, so you have no official basis on which to be hatin' on my Phoenix mountains. But I digress.

I've been climbing North Mountain a lot these past few weeks, usually by myself, because Brian has been either sick or at work (or both). On my most recent trip, this past Thursday, I went around 5 p.m., a bit earlier than usual. As I pulled into the little Secret Parking Lot For Those in the Know, I saw a moving clump of teenagers, running in sync Chariots of Fire style as they came down 7th Street, turned into the Secret Lot, and began to run up the path.

Now, I have seen loads of people running up North Mountain, because every time I go to walk it, there is always a runner. Sometimes two or three. It's a wide asphalt path so it's a good place to go get a steep jogging workout, if you have the strength to do so. But watching some high-school's cross-country team was different from there being a lone runner who leaves you in the dust and then you forget about him. With the high-school team, I became intimately involved.

Of course, their clump began to spread out as the mountain (yeah, tell them it's only a "hill") wreaked havoc on their steady group pace. They had two coaches who were strategically placed, one about halfway up who shouted encouragement and also turned them around to run back up a SECOND time, and one at the top who made sure they reached and stuff. By the time I had walked all the way up, many of them were on their second way back down and the coach at the top was just sort of waiting for those last few. Since there was nothing else for him to do as he stood there, he chatted to me as I strolled by him, turning around to make my way back down: "Well, ya made it" or something to that effect.

"Yeah," I rolled my eyes, using my best sardonic voice with a touch of bitter, "but these kids running are putting me to shame."

He laughed and said, "Nah, you went to the top, that's the important thing." Needless to say, for most of my walk down, I thought about these high school runners and thought about running North Mountain before we leave Phoenix. I mean, here I was supposed to be getting in shape this summer. I ought to be pushing myself more. And so on along that train of thought. But besides thinking about myself, I also admired more than just the running prowess of the teens. I liked how they were supportive of one another, and had good attitudes. I liked how it was one kid's first day of practice (I found out from the mid-point coach) and he was giving it his all and basically in third place. I liked their vibe.

All that and a beautiful sunset, too! I am really going to miss my hiking in the Phoenix mountains. Again.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday in Phoenix

It's Friday of the week, but it also feels like Friday of the summer. If the summer were a week. You know? Like those educational timelines where they imagine if the Earth's existence were a week, and then the dinosaurs appear on Saturday afternoon or whatever...although I best not start blogging about dinosaurs and the age of the Earth again, gets me into trouble. (Kidding! As if I would ever blog/not blog to avoid trouble!)

So, about Friday. This summer we have done a lot, and I am happy to say that I think I have achieved my goal of decompressing from law school, so much so that I sometimes forget it exists, which is perfect. I have got some writing done, although if this really were the summer's "Friday" then I would definitely have to work over the weekend.

In a week and a half, Brian and I are leaving Phoenix. I would like to think this will put an end to the endless, oh-so-clever, "You're spending the SUMMER in Phoenix? Well THAT sure doesn't make any sense - ha ha ha!" remarks that everyone thinks s/he is the first to make. We are headed to Michigan to figure out what's next. What have I learned from my time in Phoenix? And, the question on everyone's mind, would I ever move back here?

You I don't want to move back here, but it's not for any dislike of Phoenix. If I were to move back here, I would be able to do my desert hikelets and eat at Valle Luna every day. I would always be able to go to bars with cheap beer, and I would swim outside. A lot. I would routinely see sky, sun, sunsets, and lizards. I would be able to go to my childhood dentist (at least until he retires). All of these things make me happy, and are part of my being. I have been doing them all summer.

And it's not even because of the mentality behind the bumper stickers, such as "I'll keep my guns, money, and freedom -- you can keep the change!" People in the Northeast misunderstand entirely what it is like to live in any political climate that is not that of their own state. They think they know what Arizona is like. They haven't got a clue. I am sad for their limited worldviews. As Green as I am, I have many a Libertarian sensibility. As much as I like Massachusetts politics in general, I felt most "among my own people" when I lived in California. So no, it's not the Arizona politics, even though I understand them and many of my blog readers do not.

One reason I would not move here now is that I would need to buy a car. And since I don't have a clunker to trade in, and I don't have an income right now, that's kind of out of the picture for the moment. I won't even say it's impossible to use public transportation and car sharing and biking here -- which of course is what people think -- again, I've been doing it all summer. But I do wish the buses ran later. 24-hour bus service is the key to modern civilization, I'm convinced. Or at least late-night bus service. I just would need a car for the exploring lifestyle I need to live right now.

In short, the main reasons I would not want to move back to Phoenix at the moment are the same ones I had at the beginning of the summer: 1)I don't need to -- my family is here, so I can come here whenever I want and 2)I want to try something new.

I remain fascinated by the people from high school who still live here and have never left. I can't imagine what it would be like to construct an entire adult life in the place where I was a child. Whether it's the photos of taking children to school in their own former school district, finding happy hour specials when you used to be finding someone to buy for you at the Circle K, or just generally standing still while you mature, I stand on the outside of that world looking in. And then I hop on the bus to my next destination.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God and Dinosaurs

I am terribly confused. If someone could explain this one to me, I would much appreciate it.

I recently read about a book called Idiot America, which asks "how a country founded on intellectual curiosity has somehow deteriorated into a nation of simpletons." According to Goodreads, the author had a "defining moment" at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he saw a dinosaur with a saddle and a museum proprietor who said, "We are taking the dinosaurs back from the Evolutionists!"

Now, this obviously leads to all sorts of questions. Not only "Why does anyone feel the need for a Creation Museum?" but also "HOW does one make a Creation Museum?" seeing as a museum is generally put together by gathering information and historical items .... however, these questions can probably be answered by a visit to the Creation Museum next time I am in Kentucky, so I won't burden you with them here.

The question about which I am terribly confused, with which I would like your assistance, is the following: when and why did it become anyone's Christian duty to insist that dinosaurs and humans lived together?

I was raised to be Christian and I do not remember anyone ever telling me anything other than that there used to be dinosaurs, they died out long before humans, and you can see some pretend ones on the train at Disneyland. I mean, hello, what kid didn't go digging once or twice in her backyard for dinosaur fossils?

So, I'm confused. Now, I do know that there are people out there who firmly believe in a false dichotomy between Evolution versus Creation. These people, big believers in polarizing issues, have pretty much made this invented debate a part of the fabric of our society. I never used to understand, when I contemplated the whole God-created-Adam story, just exactly how it supposedly conflicted with Darwin's theory. I mean, have people (on "both" "sides") read the creation accounts in Genesis? It's all kinds of flowery literature, like any society's creation myths, with lines like, "God raised up man out of the dust of the earth" and stuff. So, that could be a very poetic way to describe the process of life evolving into human beings.

I can see where some logical people might have an issue with the line if the "God" part implies a personage, and they wonder on what basis anyone believes in an omnipotent personage, and so on. But the other way? Why would anyone who thinks there's a God creating life not think that building species up out of the dust of the earth is a perfectly fine way to do so? I never understood their issues.

All that aside, however, this dinosaur-human co-existence thing is really throwing me. I have heard of the idea of a Bible-believer wondering if dinosaurs existed at all, since they are not mentioned in the Bible. That just shows a remarkably limited view and lack of comprehension of anything. I mean, even if you use the Bible as your spiritual guide, where does it say it's the only account of history? Uh, that's right nowhere. That would be like taking your geometry book and only your geometry book to ever learn math, ever. What about algebra? What about addition? It's stupid to say that only one book is all you need, and as someone who loves to read and write I am personally offended by the notion.

But when did questioning dinosaurs and questioning evolution, however silly those things are separately, however easy they are to dismiss separately, combine into an idea that dinosaurs existed at the same time as humans? What does that even mean? Like, I read where someone was arguing there must have been dinosaurs on the ark with Noah. But why? Again, it doesn't make sense even in terms of their own beliefs. Even if you thought the Bible was the literal and only history of all early humankind, why wouldn't you think the dinosaurs just missed the boat?

So, to sum up: Even if someone for whatever absurd reason thinks that evolution is a bad thing to mention, and also thinks that a father figure created humans the way a painter creates a portrait (we'll save the using-what-materials question for another day), the question remains what on earth does that have to do with humans and dinosaurs living together?

Please advise.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


So...I have always loved me some Ellen Emerson White, particularly The President's Daughter, as anyone who knows what's up is well aware. Easily my all-time favorite young adult novel. (Which, as those who've read it know, doesn't seem like a young adult novel.)

And I think I even talked about it during the winter/spring/summer of 2008!

But if only I had known about this at the time....

I guess I just wouldn't have felt so alone.

And that it's HER, my girl EEW, who felt that way? All the more delightful!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Illegitimate Israel

I was captivated by Madeleine Albright's descriptions of various diplomatic encounters, and her writing in Madam Secretary was quite persuasive about Bosnia, Kosovo, and other 1990s crises to which she responded. But she lost me with a few of her statements about "Israel"/Occupied Palestine.

"He acknowledged Israel's existence but not its moral legitimacy."
During the Clinton Administration's last-minute summit push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, Albright was frustrated by Yasser Arafat, whom she had met frequently and got along with well. She felt he wasn't doing enough to make concessions in spite of political consequences compared to the concessions Ehud Barak would make despite his political consequences. The above statement refers to Arafat, but it could also refer to me. Why "moral legitimacy"? First of all, why go around demanding that any country's "moral" legitimacy be acknowledged? That just tells me their "moral" legitimacy is up for debate. Secondly, I do not think Israel as we know it has moral legitimacy. As far as I can see, after enough Jews had moved to Palestine, they kicked out the Palestinians. I'm not sure what makes that "morally legitimate."

"If Israel accepted legal and moral responsibility for the refugees' fate, the very legitimacy of the country's creation would be undermined."
Well, perhaps it is time that "legitimacy" was undermined. What a disingenuous argument: we took these Palestinian lands, so we can't be responsible for the refugees because that would mean we should not have taken their land. Here is Albright's full paragraph about the issue of refugees:

"According to the UN's registry there were about four million Palestinians who had been or were descended from those made homeless by the 1948 and 1967 wars. The Palestinians asserted the right under international law to return to their homes. This quest had been the core objective of the PLO throughout its history. But if this right were exercised, Israel would lose its status as a predominantly Jewish state. And if Israel accepted legal and moral responsibility for the refugees' fate, the very legitimacy of the country's creation would be undermined in the eyes of its enemies. Such concessions were obviously not acceptable."

Ridiculous, again. She wants Arafat to stop saying any concession is unacceptable, but she takes a stand that Israel can't "admit" something that is a known fact: the birth of the state of Israel created Palestinian refugees.

Additionally, so what if Israel lost its status as a predominantly Jewish state? Where does it get off excluding other ethnic and religious groups??? Hello, isn't excluding other ethnic groups exactly what Hitler was all about -- and isn't that allegedly the point of their so-called moral legitimacy? What hypocrisy!

"Even the most open-minded Israelis have misgivings about a Palestinian state."
Like so many before her, Albright starts with a base assumption that Israel is somehow "right." The thinking goes, it is "right" for Israel to exist, it is "right" for Israel to exist where it does, and, worst of all, sometimes, this "right" has something to do with holiness and entitlement. I am routinely stunned by how many people -- not to mention biased U.S. foreign policy and gazillions in military aid -- take these claims seriously. But the people who were in Israel's way? Well, they don't seem to matter. Listen, I am happy to condemn the Palestinians' violent tactics, but unlike many, I also condemn the violent tactics of Israelis. Of which there are many. I think there needs to be a peaceful resolution and a halt to all the violence. So Israelis have "misgivings" about the Palestinians having official power? Maybe Israelis are afraid what they have done will now be done to them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pyongyang raincheck addendum

In case I didn't make it clear in the previous blog entry, I will now: Bill should have gone to (North)Korea then. It was a mistake for him not to, and it led directly to all that has happened Korea-nuclear-wise in the last decade.

Pyongyang raincheck

Which to talk about first, (North)Korea or "Israel"? That is my dilemma today, upon finishing Madeleine Albright's excellent book Madam Secretary. I bought the book when it first came out six years ago, went to her book signing in Boston, and told her she was awesome. But I haven't got around to reading it until now. In some ways, that may be good: even more hindsight about the historical events of the 1990s. God do I miss the Clinton Administration. Life was better then. Easier, too. But that's not the point here.

Recently, as those of you who do not live under a rock know, Bill Clinton went to Korea and returned with the two journalists who had been convicted of illegally crossing the border from China into (North)Korea. While they were in captivity, everyone's opinion here in these United States seemed to be that it was terrible for them to be in a North Korean prison -- because! sputter! they're AMERicans! omg! -- and they should be released. (What benevolent thoughts, if any, there were toward the Korean prisoners in North Korea went sort of unmentioned.) Now that the two women have been released, some people are criticizing the Clintons for getting it done. Of course, one of the main voices to speak out against the triumphant return last week was former "ambassador"to the U.N. John Bolton, who would be such a miscreant joke were he not absurdly given actual power in the international scene, so it's not like we have to take that criticism terribly seriously. Why does anyone even publish his editorial, that's what I want to know. I was thrilled when Hillary laughed at the mere mention of his name.

But here's my point: Bill Clinton, as it turns out, owed (North) Korea a visit! I know, right? Who knew? In Madam Secretary, Albright chronicles her diplomatic efforts during the Bill Clinton Administration vis-a-vis Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel/Palestine, and others, including their efforts with both (South)Korean president Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-Il. Albright herself went to Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong Il. Turns out, she discovered, he was a perfectly intelligent and articulate person with whom she could converse and not the raving lunatic many make him out to be. Gee, what a shocker: a biased account of another country's leader by the U.S. media? A situation seriously misunderstood by the West? Why, I never!!

After Albright's visit, the wheels were in motion for Bill to visit, and he was willing to make that trip. Please go back and read that sentence if you missed it. While still President, Bill Clinton was planning to visit North Korea, was deeply engaged in diplomacy with North Korea, and cancelled at the last minute because, to quote Albright, he felt he had to choose between a trip to North Korea. "and a crash effort to reach closure with the Israelis and Palestinians." It was the end of 2000, and time was running out on the Clinton I Administration.

Yeah ugh. Because we all know how well that "crash effort" worked out. (But if you don't, stay tuned - I'll blog about Israel/occupied Palestine tomorrow.)

I remember the "sunshine policy" and the diplomacy, back in the days before the asinine "Axis of Evil" comment. But I learned from reading Madam Secretary about the details of the interactions and the summit-being-planned that Clinton had to kind of ditch out of of at the last minute. Basically, until this month he owed (North)Korea a visit. And I think it's fantastic that it worked out as well as it did, with a happy ending for Laura Ling and Euna Lee, to boot.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hopey Changey

Today while driving home from the dentist I saw something that was nothing short of hilarious. It is always good to see something hilarious on one's way to or from the dentist, I think. A little mood lightener.

I was second in line to turn left. The car first in line was waiting until the green light appeared and then cautiously began to turn left. This caused the third car in line, behind me, to honk immediately, because of course by not anticipating and gunning it, the first car in line had cost maybe ten or twenty milliseconds of the driver's day.

Needless to say, after we had all turned and were driving down the next road, the third vehicle, which turned out to be a pick-up truck, sped past me and the car in front of me, undoubtedly to make up those precious milliseconds. This was when I was privileged to behold the sign in the rear window of the cab of the pick-up.

It was on orange paper or posterboard -- hard to tell the material, although I do hope it was translucent for all of our sakes, if not the driver's -- and it covered the rear window. Somewhat baseball game sign style, it was written in large black marker letters: HEY DUMB-ASS! HOW'S THAT HOPE-Y CHANGE-Y THING WORKING OUT FOR YOU?

Fantastic, I tell you. Among the things I love about it, besides the bizarre behavior of a sign covering the entire back window, are how it caused me to ponder: how on earth has this person's life changed since Obama came into office? I mean, really? Here's this negative, derisive comment implying that we are going to hell in a handbasket or some such thing. But I became immensely curious as to what precisely has changed in this person's life? And if something has changed, was it really for the worse? Let alone a direct result of Obama? Because I would love to know what that is. It would appear to me that lives that have changed may include Guantanamo Bay detainees and CEOs of certain multimillion dollar companies, but I'm going to go out on a limb and assume the driver is not one of those. I am so curious as to what has changed. The number of beads of sweat on some TV commentator as he spews hot air? What?

I would love to see a "change" in my inability to have comprehensive health insurance, but I am still waiting on that one. I guess there is the change that we no longer have to live in the pesky shame of trying to make the world understand why "we" are not doing anything about having a White House occupier who kept stealing elections. That's definitely a good change, although it would have happened no matter who was elected. Oh yeah, and we now have a president who will talk about things over a beer, which totally rules, in comparison to our faux-righteous teetotaller warmonger.

Don't get me wrong: I thought (and still do) that Obama's campaign "slogans" were some of the most dumbed-down and empty rhetoric I had ever heard. As I stated many times, his campaign was a kind of shallow hypnosis that reeled in a lot of lemmings and had some bizarre effect on people that I will never understand, much like Michael Jackson or Harry Potter. But I somehow think this driver wasn't engaging in a critical analysis of Obama's rhetoric; the sign asked about results. Whether s/he was or not, I am still amused that s/he drives around with this homemade sign plastered across the back truck window.

Also, Hopey and Changey kind of sound like the eighth and ninth dwarves.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

International courts

My girl Hillary, in Nairobi, expressed regret once again that the United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court treaty. We talked a lot about the ICC during law school (where, as you know, I was of the International Law concentration). For those who have absolutely no idea what the ICC is, think roughly a permanent court for things like Judgment at Nuremberg and/or somewhere to try, for example, perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide.

Many people are opposed to the U.S. becoming a signatory (= submitting to its jurisdiction) to this ICC treaty, including more likely than not one of your state's politicians. And it takes two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty, as you may recall from AP History class. There are many valid things to say about the benefits, flaws, and intricacies of international institutions and I won't get into all of them here and now; what I will question is one argument against the court that has been presented often and was noted again today. Some people oppose the ICC because they don't like the prospect of U.S. soldiers being tried there for war crimes.

Why is this argument presented/taken seriously? We don't want to allow this court jurisdiction over us because then "they" would try "our" soldiers? Um, hello? What's good enough for the rest of the world is apparently not good enough for us. Does it occur to these people that maybe our U.S. soldiers should not be committing war crimes in the first place?!

This infuriated me every time we discussed it in law school, and it infuriates me now. Instead of arguing against torture, war crimes, murder of civilians, etc., the blowhards Congresspeople and their minions constituents shudder to think of their "heroes" (criminal soldiers) having to be accountable for what they have done.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Cooking shows and the economy

So I'm really disappointed that The Next Food Network Star is Melissa and not Jeffrey, and I have figured out why. I am officially tired of people using The Recession as an excuse for everything. Among the other reasons Bob (one of the awesome trio of judges) noted on his blog for choosing Melissa, he said that her "budget and time-conscious recipes seemed perfect for these times." Ugh! So instead of Jeffrey's entertaining Ingredient Smuggler wherein the "sophistication of his recipes wouldn't have appealed to everyone," we get Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian, which Bob calls "sophisticated but accessible home cooking that viewers constantly tell [Bob] they want to learn."

The thought of more budget home cooking is exactly why I won't be watching Melissa's show, even though I like Melissa. I watch the Food Network when I want to be entertained, to escape, to indulge in something cool, to salivate over this or that delicious concoction I behold. If I want to learn about budgeting, I watch Suze Orman. (No, really -- I love me some Suze! "People first, then money, then things!") But I also feel like the Food Network is already made of people trying to get their sophisticated recipes to appeal to you the home cook. I think that is the very point of a network of celebrity chefs! It's not like it is a new or different concept just because Melissa is charming and has a different personality and background life story. Again, ugh.

While I can accept that there may be a "mandate" of focus grouped Food Network viewers asking for the same old boring crap, I am angry at those viewers, and I am angry at Bob for playing the "these times" card. Everywhere you go right now, it's "Try our recession special!" or "Hard times happy hour" or what have you. Have you noticed that even people who still have their jobs and their houses are prattling on about The Recession? Why? Their lives are no different, but it's like they have to be on the Recession bandwagon, and they've suddenly discovered it might be a good idea to have a household budget. Well, gee, no kidding!

And by the way this whole Cash-for-Clunkers program really gets my goat. The news has showered me with cries of joy the past few days because oh-boy-people-are-buying-CARS-again! with their Cash For Clunkers vouchers! Don't forget I was in Michigan, to make matters worse. Since when should news reporters and anchors be cheerleaders for the economy? Who gave them that job? So, oh boy, because of these vouchers maybe the Big Three companies won't totally die their painful deaths. Sure, it's OK for the government to subsidize your NEW CAR. But health care? If there's a public option for health care then suddenly Obama's a socialist and we all might as well put the Berlin Wall back up. What gives?

I'm tired of it. I want Jeffrey to take me away with his exotic ingredients -- which by the way he then makes accessible.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Vacation winding down

We have been at Brian's family's house at Lake Michigan for a few days. Everyone gathered together for the graveside service and burying of ashes of Brian's grandmother who passed away in January. Before and after that there has been lots of time to sit, read, go to the beach, hang out with cousins, read on the porch some more, eat, eat quite a lot, go on long bike rides, go to Saugatuck, and just generally relax. I finished reading the first book I brought and am almost done with the second.

I love sitting on the beach at the Great Lake: it is kind of like an ocean, but at the same time you are totally aware you are not at the ocean. Part of this has got to be about salty air but it is partly visual and other-sensual. The house ("cottage" - I think I will never be able to call it that) is part of a neighborhood of houses on a winding hillside road outside of the actual town of Holland (and by the way, is QUITE a hill when you are returning from a run/bike ride). There are other house owners about but one can also stay in some of these places as vacation rentals. It takes about five minutes to stroll down to the Lake Michigan beach. Other highlights include the Big Red lighthouse, the sort of man-made Lake Macatawa (I guess I should call it "man-altered") and lots of trees. Of course there are also lots of bugs, which I pretty much blow off, something I've never done in "real" houses. I like relaxing here. This is our third time hanging out here, and each trip is the same but also different. I was happy to find an independent bookstore in Saugatuck, which has a couple streets of restaurants, art galleries, earthy-crunchy shops, touristy quaintness, and the like. I wanted to buy something from the independent bookstore just to support it but really have no extra space at all since I'm traveling back to Phoenix with only a carry-on (down with checked baggage fees!)

Next up, we will be back in Phoenix through August and then return to the Midwest and attempt to move...somewhere where someone wants to employ us. Lately, Chicago has floated to the top of the possibilities, but we really haven't decided at all. I am still thinking of our next city as just a place to mark time while I try to get a job abroad, so on some level it doesn't matter where it is, except that I really want to try something new.

Meanwhile, the finale of The Next Food Network Star aired last night. I like Melissa but I totally found myself rooting for Jeffrey and especially the show he concocted with Alton -- the "Ingredient Smuggler" -- I so want to watch that show every week! Except now it doesn't exist because he didn't win. Now that TNFNS is done, I officially care about nothing but baseball on television again until the return of Lost.

Also, the 'T' key on my computer keyboard is not functioning properly. His is erribly frusraing.