Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Absurd Gulag

I'm listening to your President's press conference. (Honey, he's not MY president.) I'm absolutely taken by his description of Amnesty International's report on Guantanamo Bay as "absurd". Absurd seems to be his administration's favorite word when discussing the travesty of justice known as Guantanamo Bay. "Absurd" says Condie. "Absurd" says the Pentagon. "Absurd" says Dickie Boy.

Let's examine the word "absurd", shall we. 1 : ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous 2 : having no rational or orderly relationship to human life, says my online dictionary.

Hmm. Denouncing the fact that the Supreme Court rules that US courts have the jurisdiction to consider appeals from the detainees yet not a single detainee held there has had the lawfulness of his detention judicially reviewed seems highly reasonable and sound. The Bush administration continues to vehemently fight against a simple judicial review. Why? Why? Why?

If these detainees truly are "highly trained, dangerous members of al-Qaida, its related terrorist networks, and the former Taliban regime", as the government claims, its continued detention of these detainees would certainly stand up to judicial scrutiny. Wouldn't it? A truly just society has faith in its process. It arrests or detains based on solid, credible fact, provable in a court of law. Does the Bush administration have so little faith in its own process that it thinks these "terrorists" will not be convicted in a non-military setting?

But who cares about basic civil rights? Let's talk about basic human rights. The right to not be beaten to death, let's say. There is much credible evidence of abuse and torture, even given how secretive the Bush Administration has been about Guantanamo Bay. Hell, when a US Army criminal investigator takes note of it, shouldn't we?

I've forgotten. These charges are easily dismissed. They are "absurd".

Then there's the attack on Amnesty International's use of the word "gulag".

These Republicans really like to argue about words, apparently. Guess it's perfect avoidance of the facts.

Amnesty said, in an annual review of women's rights "The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process." Dennis Byrne, an incredibly reactionary right-wing nitwit who writes in the op-ed section, attacked Amnesty, calling this a "historical obscenity".

OK. Gulag strictly means "the penal system of the U.S.S.R. consisting of a network of labor camps". So maybe AI should've been a bit more accurate in its word usage. But people are held in the camps (read jails, prisons) without representation, for indefinable amounts of time, and subject to abuse and torture. Sounds a bit gulag-ish to me.

Perhaps right-wing Republicans should learn to read within the context, rather than taking apart sentences word by word. Perhaps right-wing Republicans should stop claiming moral high ground when their administration refuses to honor our country and those fighting for it by taking away basic civil and human rights from those we detain.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, May 30, 2005


Annie had a new friend over today. Claire. She's a softball friend. As opposed to a friend from the old school, the new school, church, etc. Annie is always making new friends. It's astounding, what a different person she is from me. Somehow, I fully expected my spawn to carry all of my character traits. Positive and negative. And I don't make friends easily.

I'm shy. And an introvert. Don't like groups, even groups I like. I'm not slow to trust, but slow to reach out--if at all. Afraid of rejection? Enjoy my own company? I dunno. Maybe it's simply that I don't embrace the process like she does. At the beginning of this spring's softball season, she told me that she wanted to be on a team with girls she didn't know, so she could make new friends.

If offered that as an option, particularly at her age, I would've stayed home and read a good book, instead! But she's enjoyed this team, and meeting these girls. She enjoyed moving to her new school. And she'll probably enjoy the move to high school, no matter which one we send her to. (So many from which to choose, so little money to pay for them . . . .)

It's good that she enjoys making friends. Because she's still searching for ones that fit the Annie of now. A few days short of 13 is such a roiling time. Change, change, change. And so many of her friends are caught up in clothes and boys. That's not her thing. She loves sports, both playing and watching. And she loves being a goof with her friends. But the endless obsessing over boys and clothes are NOT on her list of approved activities.

Annie stradles the line with her friends. It's interesting to watch. She hangs with them, sees a movie, then comes home when the next stop is the mall. She's very clear about what she enjoys--and doesn't enjoy. I love to see that. A powerful woman knows her own mind.

Some of her friends tease her about not liking boys now, not wanting to wear dresses, not embracing the traditional "girl" thang. She has adapted a bit, wearing clothing that is tighter (but not form-fitting), and choosing things that are neutral (rather than boyish). Does it bother her that she doesn't always fit in? Frankly, it seems to bother me more than it does her. Brings up all sorts of junior high angst. Mostly, she seems confident that she'll find friends who share her interests. And does her best to enjoy the ones she has right now.

Amazing, my girl is. :-) Think I'd better do my best to share her confidence!

Until tomorrow,

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Sitting in church today, thinking about anger. Our pastor was preaching about war and Memorial Day and lost lives and those left behind. And I was feeling angry. But it passed.

I don't stay angry for long these days.

Not that I'm not angry and pissed off as all hell about the war. This war. The ridiculous loss of life on both sides. Bush. You name it, I'm mad about it. But anger doesn't stick to me like it used to. 10 years ago, 20 years ago, Angry was my middle. My first, even. Because there are so many things to be angry about in the world. Little and big. Things that happen to me (like people interrupting my workout ;-) ) and things that happen to folks I don't even know.

Honestly, though? I just can't work up a lather for long now. I get mad. I look at it. I see, "Wow, I'm really pissed off about the price of rice in China." Then it dissipates, like steam moving through cool air. When did I become cool air? When did anger become so much less meaningful for me? Anger used to seem like such a powerful emotion. And now it seems weak, ineffectual.

I want more than emotion. I want more than intellectual carnage happening in my head. I want more than a release. I want to do something. To matter. To make a difference. Anger seems wasteful. Seems like energy that could be better spent elsewhere. Anger is the gasoline in a Hummer that could be used to fuel three hybrid compacts. Anger is a distraction that keeps me focused inward, thinking, rather than outward, doing.

My son, 17, thinks I can't make a difference. He is convinced that our nation is going to hell in a handbasket. He thinks I'm headed to Guantanamo Bay if I become an activist. I hate that he's so paranoid. I hate that he's afraid. I hate that some infinitesimal part of me worries he's right; the nation is beyond redemption.

He's not right. I know he's not. This country is nothing if not a pendulum. We will swing left, just as surely as we've swung right. We are a reactive crowd, all too easily swayed. Short temper, short memory. The Republicans will get their day. And we Democrats will get ours. And I'm going to channel my brief bursts of anger into making sure that happens. Sooner, rather than later!

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Don't interrupt me!

Just finished working out. I roller ski every day. Roller. Ski. Skis with rollers on them. They roll. I use ski poles. http://www.jenex.com/rollerskis/tips.html if you want to know more about what in the heck that is. Roller skis are a bit, um, unusual. At least here in Chicagoland. So I'm always getting goofy comments and odd looks. I've been doing this in the Midwest for over 20 years, so I'm used to that. Acclimated to it. And don't really mind.

But what I do mind are interruptions. Folks who want me to come to a dead stop in the midst of my workout to explain what, exactly, I am doing. And why. And is it fun. And where can they buy roller skis. And how much do they cost.

And could you give me a URL for that?

Perhaps this makes me self-centered. Ungiving. Not neighborly, nor friendly. But I do not want to stop exercising to explain these things. I'm in a groove once I get moving. I've got my radio on. I'm on pace. Feeling the breeze. Enjoying my body moving smoothly across the not so smooth city streets. And stopping feels like torture to me.

OK. Not exactly torture. Maybe chalk on a blackboard. And it interrupts the flow. And I don't like it.

If this happened once a month, perhaps I'd feel differently. Perhaps I'd be inclined to be more generous with my time. But it happens once a week. Sometimes more often. Well-intentioned folk full of interest and curiosity. Friendly, extroverted people who genuinely want to know. I don't care who they are. I don't want to talk to them while I am skiing!

Do people walk up to folks in gyms and ask them to stop walking on their treadmills to discuss what brand of shoe they're wearing? Accost bike riders on the street to ascertain the model of bike being ridden? Pluck basketballs from the air just prior to rimming the basket to determine who made it? I think NOT, my friends.

Why so little respect for the practitioner of the odd sport? I'm busy, people. I'm zoned out. It's a huge part of motivating me to exercise, that I'm going to have, say, 25 minutes of flow time. And if you interrupt me, while we may have a perfectly pleasant conversation, I will not move back into that zone. You might as well interrupt my orgasm.

No, don't do that, either!

Maybe this is the little tiny price tag I must pay for choosing an unusual mode of exercising. I know. Children are starving in China. Civilians and military alike are being killed for oil in Iraq. Is this worth taking up bandwidth complaining about? Well, maybe not. But it's my bandwidth. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to . . . .

Until tomorrow,

Friday, May 27, 2005

Spent the day geocaching, as is my normal Friday activity. Geocaching, you ask? You would ask. And I would tell.

Geocaching is a technological treasure hunt. People like you and me (well, mostly people like me) hide things. All over the world. And they post the location online at www.geocaching.com . Then people like me go out and find them.

The fun is in the finding for people like me. It's a process activity. I like the search. I like the hunt. Perhaps I would have thrived on the Serengeti or something. And I like the finding, too. It's an achievement, something tangible. Unlike, say, cleaning the house. Which becomes immediately messy directly after I clean it. The cache stays found.

I cache with my friend, Karen. She is obsessed with caching. I am merely interested in caching. How can we discern this broad difference in interest? Because she has over 500 caches while I only have 413. Clearly, if I were obsessed with caching, I would have more than her.


Karen and I cache every Friday. We call it our Warrior Women Friday Outing. We are definitely into the hunt, the chase. It is rare that we don't find our prey. Very rare. Hardly ever. We do not like not finding. It hurts our pride a bit, I believe.

Annoyingly enough, today contains a "did not find". But it's not our faults, truly. We are worthy foes of this cache. The problem is the cache, the placement, itself. Actually, it's the placer who is the problem. There's this guy who enjoys making his caches very challenging. It's not how the are hidden wherein lies the challenge. It is the method for finding the caches.

We must use math. Geometry. Weird measurement things from the Army. Like MILs. Do you know what mils are? Me, neither. Or I didn't until I looked it up online. Some kind of degree measurement. Now, I don't understand degrees to begin with. Give it another name, and it just confuzes me further.

I feel a bit compelled to try to figure it all out, though. I hate being stupid. I hate not figuring things out. So I tried to figure this particular hide out. Without success, I'm afraid. Guess I'll have to ask for help. Again.

Have I mentioned yet that I don't like to ask for help? :-)

But it was a good day out, despite this character failure on our collective parts to find this cache. Pleasant. Warm. Not hot. Gentle breeze. A nice day, all in all. And can't we all use that?

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dogs that Bark

The topic of the day is dogs that bark. And why do I have to own them?

Right now, my beloved doggie is outside, barking his fool head off. Why, you ask? OK, maybe don't ask. Maybe you don't care. But I do. And so do my neighbors. And their neighbors. And the people five freaking blocks away.

He's quite loud, that dog.

So why is he barking? Why does the tree grow in the forest? Because he can. Because another dog has had the temerity to walk within 2000 feet of his home. Because there are PEOPLE in the area. Because squirrels raise their squeaky little rodential heads near by. Because something breathes within Oak Park.

The doofus is in my backyard right now, circling endlessly at the back gate, afroth over some perceived movement in the area. And yet. And yet. Is he a good guard dog? Does he even NOTICE when someone enters my house? Rarely. Oh so rarely. Hell, one Mother's Day, a friend came over early to help Annie make me breakfast in bed. Doofus didn't even raise his head to notice the unknown intruder.

Well, she wasn't unknown to him, as she feeds him regularly. But still, a little bark in such a situation would be soothing, reassuring even. Nope. He saves his barks for such threatening moments as right now. Where he is standing guard over our dangerous alley gate, lurking as he waits for some innocent mother with a gurgling baby to stroll by. Then he'll throw himself onto the fence, yelping like a banshee, shocking the beejeesus out of the poor, exhausted mother, making the baby who just fell asleep after being awake all night in a colicky uproar cry.

Not that I've personalized any of this or anything. Not that I worry about the impression my barkamatic mutt makes on the neighborhood. Oh, no. I'm 43. I don't worry about what others say anymore.

Last fall, he escaped our yard and ran through to the next fence, to bark maniacally at a visiting small rat dog in the next yard over. Said rat dog's owner was convinced the slobbering idiot was going to leap the fence and devour rat dog and children standing near by.

We should be so lucky. At least then his barking would bring purpose, meaning, to his life. Nope. He just wanted to BARK at the damn rat dog.

Ruff, ruff.

Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The First Blah Blah Blog

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. I have decided that it is time, yes, time, for me to begin writing anew. And what better topic about which to write than me? For today, at least, that is the topic which I know best. And it is the topic about which I am best able to wax rhapsodic.

Ahem. OK. How about it's an less threatening place to start than an essay on the assholism of George W. Bush?

I am doing just great right now. My new meds are mostly kicking in. The brief recap would be: went off antidepressants in January to jump start weight loss; discovered in February that weight loss was not worth major anxiety attacks; tried a bad med (Wellbutrin--naughty, naughty, makes anxiety worse, not better); and finally am now settled on Lexapro.

Why else am I great? The sun is shining. My grass is green. As opposed to brown. As opposed to not grass, but mud. Schafer-driven mud. It is a horticultural challenge to have a large dog in a small yard and still maintain grass. The dog is simply hounded by his ball-obsessed psyche to play fetch. Over and over. Wearing a path, a road, a freeway, in my backyard. Which wasn't exactly pristine virgin Bermuda green to begin with.

So I've retrained him to run only on the side walk. And tended. And sowed. And watered. Little tiny sprigs of green. Only slightly flattened by Annie's basketball landing on them ad nauseum. And now, in the space of a slight month, I have a velvety verdant swath where the doggie freeway of Balldom used to be. Ahhh.

The small and oh so meaningless things that amuse me in my dotage. :-)

Until tomorrow,

Liz and her faithful companion, Schafer, doing what they do best: relax! Posted by Hello