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Archive for December, 2010

In Praise of Republicans

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s a rare day when I praise Republican senators. Today is one of those days.

Thank you Scott Brown (Massachusetts), Richard Burr (North Carolina), Susan Collins (Maine), John Ensign (Nevada), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and George Voinovich (Ohio) for leaving your troglodytic colleagues behind and voting for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a landmark in this nation’s uneven but continuing progression towards individual dignity and equality. And thanks too to Joe Lieberman (Connecticut), for your leadership in making repeal possible. Whatever your faults, you will forever be remembered for this.

As for you, John McCain, you will be remembered too, in shame.

Categories: Politics

Foaming Far Left

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

It was a weekend of shocks, brought to me by the NYT. I already wrote about Sunday’s shock, in which I learned from the weekly Vows column that leaving your spouse and kids is cool. The day before, I discovered that I’m a member of the foaming far left. And here I thought I was a moderate. I was once. Then I became a liberal. And now I’m foaming.

The thing is, I never moved. It’s not me who’s changing. It’s our politics, the story of which I hardly need to detail here. We all know that policies Nixon and Reagan once enacted are now considered socialist by the far right, a group better known these days as the Republican Party. Since there has to be a center, and to the mainstream media, that center must sit somewhere between the two parties, I now have the pleasure of learning about my membership in the foaming far left.

You see, Charles Blow explained in his weekly column that

The far left is foaming at the mouth.

The near-apoplectic level of agita within the liberal screeching class over President Obama’s tax-cut compromise has exposed a seismic crack in the Democratic monolith — outspoken liberal Democrats on one side and barely audible moderate Democrats on the other.

Did you catch that? Blow is equating liberal Democrats with the foaming far left. He then asks if the party is “experiencing the beginnings of a purging akin to that seen on the right.” Golly. Liberals whose views don’t differ much from Hubert Humphrey in 1968 are now not just foaming but purging the party of the Democratic Party’s moderates, who are somewhere to the right of the 1968 Nixon. A few paragraphs later, Blow refers to these purgers as “far-left liberals.” Am I to deduce that liberals are on the far left by definition?

What a country. And what a media.

Categories: Journalism, Politics

Keeping it Classy, II

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I have written several times of my affection for the NYT Sunday Vows column, each week featuring another love story, sometimes of the rich and famous, sometimes of just regular Joes and Jills (or Joes and Joes, or whatever). Well, this past Sunday’s ventured into new territory. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Do people really want the story told in the national newspaper, in its most prominent social news site, of their meeting (while married to others) at their children’s pre-school, falling in love, and deciding to leave their spouses for each other? Well, in case I wasn’t sure, I know now that the answer is yes. You might think you would rather not know more, but in case you do, check out the full story here.

I’ll share here the story’s climactic moment.

In May 2008, Mr. Partilla invited her for a drink at O’Connell’s, a neighborhood bar. She said she knew something was up, because they had never met on their own before.

“I’ve fallen in love with you,” he recalled saying to her. She jumped up, knocking a glass of beer into his lap, and rushed out of the bar. Five minutes later, he said, she returned and told him, “I feel exactly the same way.” Then she left again.

One more detail:

As Mr. Partilla saw it, their options were either to act on their feelings and break up their marriages or to deny their feelings and live dishonestly. “Pain or more pain,” was how he summarized it.

“The part that’s hard for people to believe is we didn’t have an affair,” Ms. Riddell said. “I didn’t want to sneak around and sleep with him on the side. I wanted to get up in the morning and read the paper with him.”

I had to head to my office Sunday morning to grade or I might have written about the Vows story then. In the meantime, the publication of the story has turned into a story in its own right. At Forbes, Jeff Bercovici wrote yesterday:

In addition to strong condemnation from numerous bloggers and many of the paper’s own commenters, the article, as a first of sorts for the Times, invited a number of questions. Why were the ex-spouses of the newlyweds not mentioned by name in the story? Did the reporter call them for comment, as basic journalistic practice would dictate? Why did the Times open up the comment board when most Vows stories are off-limits? And above all, what were the couple thinking in telling their story in a space normally reserved for feel-good, soft-focus meet-cute tales?

“We did this because we just wanted one honest account of how this happened for our sakes and for our kids’ sakes,” Riddell told me. “We are really proud of our family and proud of the way we’ve handled this situation over the past year. There was nothing in the story we were ashamed of.”

You really should check out the full Vows piece. I dare not even think of what awaits us next.

Categories: Journalism, Life

Keeping it Classy

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Earlier this month, a report was released by WorldPublicOpinion.org at the University of Maryland titled Misinformation and the 2010 Election: A Study of the US Electorate. As Brian Stelter explained in reporting on the study for the NYT,

a study released Friday found that “substantial levels of misinformation” seeped out to the electorate of the United States at the time of the midterm elections this year.

According to the study, … in most cases, the more a person watched and read the news, the less likely they were to have been misled about the facts. But “there were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue,” the study’s authors wrote. In particular, they found that regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects.

Fox’s response?

Asked for comment on the study, Fox News seemingly dismissed the findings. In a statement, Michael Clemente, who is the senior vice president of news editorial for the network, said: “The latest Princeton Review ranked the University of Maryland among the top schools for having ‘Students Who Study The Least’ and being the ‘Best Party School’ – given these fine academic distinctions, we’ll regard the study with the same level of veracity it was ‘researched’ with.’”

Classy. Real classy.

Categories: Media, Politics

Chillin’

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Emma, one year ago

Things have been a little too quiet here at Ron’s View. Sorry about that. I had some grading to do this past week, and although that didn’t occupy every waking minute of my days, it did interfere with regular blog posting. At 4:00 PM yesterday, with just an hour to spare, I got my grades submitted. Time to relax!

Except it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. Not yet. It didn’t help that I did something really dumb right after submitting the grades. I wanted to clean up both the physical and electronic documents for the course, clearing my real and virtual desktops in preparation for my course next quarter. My last step was to move my grading spreadsheet into the course folder on the computer. When I did so, I found that some strange file had appeared in the folder, and when I went to delete the unwanted file, I managed to delete the entire folder instead. That wasn’t good, all the more because I intended to use some of the now-deleted files as templates for next quarter’s course. After writing an embarrassing confession to our computer support staff, I headed home, imagining the worst. I never did relax last night and enjoy the quarter’s work being done.

At 7:00 this morning I opened my email to the happy news that the staff had restored the files. Time to relax at last. I thought. I let Emma (the cat) out, went about my business, looked forward to catching up on assorted tasks. Then, maybe an hour later, I heard outside the window that screeching cat sound that always makes me worry that Emma is being attacked. I opened the window, then the front door, then the back door, then ran upstairs to see if maybe Emma were actually sitting in her usual daytime locations, which she wasn’t, then came back down and opened the side door off the kitchen, then the garage door, then went out to look for her. Not in front. Not in the side yard where she sometimes hides if she’s uncomfortable. As I came around to the backyard, I saw two cats, seeming mirror images, facing off about three feet apart on our back patio. I couldn’t tell which one was Emma, whether the interloper was between her and the house or whether she was keeping the interloper away. As I approached, the cat farther from the house ran toward the bushes and the other (now revealed to be Emma) ran to the back door. When I came closer, she raced through the door, faster than I’ve seen her run in years. I followed her in and watched her disappear down the basement stairway. I reached the stairway and she was a few steps down looking up, but when she caught sight of me she turned and ran again, down I imagined to her usual remote safety zone, the guest bedroom.

Which brings me to the next part of the story. I need to note that a week ago we had some of the heaviest rains in decades here in Seattle, what’s called a Pineapple Express, when a warm weather system comes straight in from Hawaii and dumps inches of rain. I was afraid to go down to the basement, lest I discover some flooding. Not that there has been flooding lately. None since October 2003, the last and worst of our many basement floods, after which we finally re-did the whole drainage system outside, where the drainage contractor could. One area couldn’t be reached. But that’s okay. It was by the basement bedroom, which in 17 years has never flooded.

Well, when I finally did head down to look for water last week, with Joel beside me since I didn’t dare do it alone, I found no water in any of the old bad spots. The guest bedroom though I wasn’t sure about. No standing water or anything, but a sense of dampness. I told Gail, thought we’d check again on Friday when our contractor was going to swing by to deal with a different issue, but when Friday came I completely forgot.

So now it’s Tuesday morning, a week after the Pineapple Express, and Emma draws Gail and me down to the bedroom. The carpeting still didn’t feel obviously wet, but the odor suggested that it surely was. Two hours later, our friend Bert (longstanding employee of the contractor) came over from another job, pulled up some of the carpeting, and the pad was soaked. Another two hours later and two more members of the contractor team pulled out all the carpeting and pad. We have a pretty good guess where the water came in and why, but more diagnostic work needs to be done. A dehumidifier is hard at work. With the pad gone, the odor will disappear in due course.

Sigh. This isn’t how I wanted my break to begin. I don’t feel relaxed at all. And there are all the blog posts I have to write. Better get to work.

Categories: Cats, House, Life

Oates Remembrance

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

[Bernard Gotfryd, in the New Yorker]

Joyce Carol Oates has a beautiful remembrance of her husband’s last week of life (and her experience of it) in the December 13 issue of The New Yorker. Unfortunately, the online version is behind a paywall, so you will need to pay or get your hands on a print issue to see it. Make the effort.

Oates’ husband, Raymond Smith, died suddenly almost three years ago while hospitalized for pneumonia. (See the brief NYT obit here.) I could quote from her article, but really, you owe it to yourself to read it in full, without preview. I’ll just say that parts of it reminded me of our experience in August during the last week of Gail’s brother Gary’s life, when he too was connected to various measuring devices and you could study his oxygen intake with each breath. Oh, and of course, we have our own memories of arriving at the emergency entrance of Princeton Medical Center, near the end of the year we lived in Princeton, first when Joel fell off a speaker he had climbed on — around the time of his first birthday — and cut his face near his eye, and second just weeks later when Gail took an elbow in her face during a summer evening volleyball game and was lucky her cheekbone wasn’t broken.

Oops. There I go again. This isn’t about me, even if it is my blog. It’s about Joyce Carol Oates. Do read her article.

Categories: Life, Writing

Local News

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

View from Madison Park

It’s not every day that Gail makes the Seattle Times. Yesterday was such a day, so I am taking note. And the front page no less!

Well, okay, it was just the front page of the local section. And you had to turn to the continuation inside to find her. But she was there. See for yourself, in the online version. At a party I attended this evening, two people who had taken the trouble to turn the page came up to me to say they read about her.

The article describes our neighborhood’s newly established “snow brigade, complete with drivers and walkers willing to fetch groceries and prescriptions, shovel walks, drive homebound residents to warm shelters and even walk dogs. It’s the only organized neighborhood effort in Seattle, city officials say.”

What does this have to do with Gail? Although she didn’t initiate the brigade, she presides over the Madison Park Community Council (as president, though the article describes her as “chair”), and so the brigade is part of her bailiwick. This led the Seattle Times writer to interview, and quote, her.

Let’s hope the snow brigade sees limited duty this winter.

Categories: Family, Today's News

Stop This War

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

[AFP/Getty Images]

Richard Holbrooke died yesterday, and much is being written about him. (See for instance this short remembrance by New Yorker writer George Packer.) Of special note are what his family members say were his final words (quoted, for instance, in the close of this Washington Post piece), spoken to his surgeon as he was sedated for surgery:

You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.

I hope President Obama is listening.

Categories: Obituary, Politics, War

Sixty-Nine Years!

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

[Photos from La Grenouille’s online photo gallery.]

This is a repeat of a post I wrote a year ago today, except for a change in numbers. But what I wrote a year ago says it all, so why change it?

Sixty-nine years and one week ago, Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. The events of that day prompted my parents to move up their wedding, in anticipation of my father’s joining the Army. Sixty-nine years ago today they were married.

How about that?

They don’t get out a lot these days. But, as they did a year ago, they will celebrate today at La Grenouille, home of many a special meal for them.

Congratulations, Mom and Dad.

Categories: Family

Big Ten Silliness

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

The Big Ten conference announced names for its new divisions, two of the most meaningless names one can imagine. But maybe I should back up. The Big Ten is the oldest and, I suppose, most famous university sporting conference in the country, dating back to 1896. It became the Big Ten only in 1917, with Ohio State joining in 1916 and Michigan re-joining in 1917 after an absence, the other eight being founding members Chicago, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin (along with Michigan), plus Indiana and Iowa, who joined in 1899. The arithmetic got a little complicated when Chicago left after 1946, but Michigan State joined in 1950, restoring order. When Penn State joined in 1990, there was no changing the name, as will be the case after Nebraska joins next year. The Big Ten is a brand now, not a count.

I will pass on providing a primer on the economics of college football and the motivation for conferences to have 12 teams. The short version — and remember, this is about football only, not other sports that conference teams participate in — is that once a conference has 12 teams, it is allowed to split into two 6-team divisions and conclude the regular season with a conference championship game between the two division champions. This means big money. Millions. Many millions. And it’s why both the Big 10 and the Pac 10 chose earlier this year to expand. Losing out in this is the Big 12, which will lose not just Nebraska to the Big 10, but also Colorado to the Pac 10. (Yes, that’s right, this means the Big 10 will have 12 teams and the Big 12 will have 10. Get used to it.)

The Big 10 expansion and concomitant addition of a conference championship game necessitate a split into divisions. Those conferences that already split divisionally generally did it geographically. The SEC (Southeast Conference), the model for this, has east and west divisions. The east is perhaps more east and north, but the west is a geographically compact region, one that makes sense, and so the divisional alignment as a whole makes sense as well. The west schools (going roughly from west to east) are LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Alabama, and Auburn. The east schools (going from south or southeast to northwest) are Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky.

The Pac 10 has a plan for post-expansion divisions that has some logic as well. To the north are Washington and Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, Cal and Stanford. The six in the other division come in handy pairs as well: USC and UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State, and the two newcomers, Colorado and Utah.

Take a moment now to think about how you would split the twelve Big 10 teams into two divisions. Remember, they are Penn State, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska.

Seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it? In fact, I’ve just done it, and handy pairs are staring you in the face. In the east we put Penn State and Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue. In the west we put Illinois and Northwestern, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. Done, with natural rivalries built in, rivalries that may not respect past history but are ready made for new history.

The problem is that past history, with the mother of all rivalries, Ohio State and Michigan, the primacy of which has to be preserved somehow. And then, well, let’s see what the Big Ten had to say in its announcement a few months ago:

The Big Ten football division alignments will include a division featuring Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin, and a division featuring Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern. Each school will play the other five schools within its division and will also face three teams from the other division, including one cross-division matchup guaranteed on an annual basis. The guaranteed cross-division matchups are Illinois-Northwestern, Indiana-Michigan State, Ohio State-Michigan, Penn State-Nebraska, Purdue-Iowa and Wisconsin-Minnesota. Names for each Big Ten football division will be announced at a later date.

This isn’t how I would have done it. In particular, there’s no geographical logic to it at all.

But about those division names, which were announced today along with the logo pictured at the top, they are: Leaders and Legends. League commissioner Jim Delany explained to the AP that “The Legends, not too hard in that we have 215 College Football Hall of Fame members, we have 15 Heisman Trophy winners. We thought it made perfect sense to recognize the iconic and the legendary through the naming of the division in that regard. … We’ve had plenty of leaders in the conference, that’s for sure, but the emphasis here is to recognize the mission of using intercollegiate athletics and higher education to build future leaders.”

I think he lost me. And which is which? The division with Ohio State is the Leaders; the division with Michigan is the Legends.

Sigh.

Categories: Football, Language, Stupidity