Thursday, September 3, 2009

bringing the crazy

After Obama was elected, I had this idea that perhaps political discourse in this national would be somewhat elevated. I imagined that with a smart and articulate president, people would actually talk about ideas. Holy Fuck-Stockings, was I wrong! Ok, I knew it was incredibly naive to think that, but I had high hopes.

The Crazy has been coming out of the woodwork all over. It's a deluge of Crazy. First the Birthers, who insist that Obama was not born in this country despite proof that he actually was. Then there was all the talk of Texas succeeding from the union. And the "Tea Bagger" tax protests. People showing up at Obama events with guns. The kicking around of the Thomas Jefferson quote "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants." The irrational conviction that Obama is a socialist dictator, planning to take away our freedoms, suppress dissent and put republicans in concentration camps. The comparisons of Obama and Hitler. Then there is all the disinformation about the health care reform, which has veered into bold-faced lies and weird fantasies about "death panels." The latest is that Obama's planned speech to school children, to stress the importance of education and encourage them to work hard in school, is actually an attempt to "indoctrinate our children with his socialist agenda."

There will always be paranoid and delusional people, at all parts of the political spectrum. But I am stunned, and scared, that this level of insanity has become so wide-spread. It's not just the fringe now; people with power and influence are spreading this Crazy. Sometimes it seems that we, as a species, will just keep getting more and more insane until we destroy ourselves. It's actually a pretty likely outcome eventually. What's surprising is that we have not done it yet.

Well... this is turning into a happy blog post, isn't it?

Of all the sources of Crazy, there are two people that really worry me. I would like to dismiss them as harmless, but I can't. I think they will provoke the right-wing nutjobs until one finally cracks and does some serious violence.

One of these nut jobs is talk-show host Glenn Beck. He's one of the loudest voices in meme of Obama as socialist dictator. And he has a show on Fox with many rabid, brainless followers.

The other one that scares me is Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Her brand of Crazy is more ridiculous than dangerous, but still dangerous. She makes Sarah Palin look reasonable. I first became aware of her when she proposed on TV that the media should start taking a look at what people in congress are actually "un-American". Here are a few other examples of what Bachman has to say:

“The big thing we are working on now is the global warming hoax. It’s all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax,”

"And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."

"We're running out of rich people in this country."

"What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This [health care reform] will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass…Right now, we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom. And we may never be able to restore it if we don’t man up and take this one on.”

"Many Americans pay more than half their income in taxes... it’s nothing more than slavery.”

"I am so proud to be from the state of Minnesota. We're the workingest state in the country, and the reason why we are, we have more people that are working longer hours, we have people that are working two jobs."

“He [John McCain] is not my man. Our candidate was chosen by the media. But there are other races out there.”

This goes on and on...

How on Earth does an insane person like this get elected to office? I am SO glad I don't live in her district.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Only in San Francisco...

Recently, I saw this on the side of a bus here in San Francisco:

Yes, those are really cartoon penis men. Apparently it's part of a larger public service ad campaign in the city. Although I have not seen this in person, the campaign has taken 3-dimension form too:

You can read all about it at

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Fog

Sometimes the fog looks quite dramatic coming over Twin Peaks. This was taken on Saturday from the steps across the street from our apartment.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Murals of the Mission

I've always admired the great number of murals in the Mission district, and for a while I've wanted to photograph a bunch of them. Today, being a beautiful sunny day in the city, I finally made the time to do just that. Unfortunately, my digital camera is with Stella in North Carolina right now, so I took all these on my iPhone. While I was biking around, the streets of the Mission were full of cars stuffed with Mexicans waving theirs flag, honking and screaming. You see, Mexico had just beat the US in Soccer to win the Gold Cup. My Mexican neighbors were very, very excited.

Here is a but a sampling of some of the murals in neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zen and the Art of Palm Maintenance

I've never thought too much about palm trees until recently. On the five minute walk between the train station and my office I pass roughly 75 palm trees (no, I've never counted them, and I'm not going to). Recently, a crew has been doing maintenance on them. I never realized that palm trees needed to be maintained, particularly with such big machinery.

It makes sense that you should cut off the dead fronds, lest you end up with a tree like this:

But what surprised me was the workers striping the old remains of the fronds off. Here are before and after photos:

I don't see what the purpose of this is, other than to create a more manicured look. Personally, I prefer the "before" look to the "after" look. Anyone else agree, or is this just evidence of my preference for all things scruffy?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sierra 1990 - 2009

Sierra, my feline companion since January of 1991, was put to sleep on Sunday. She would ld have been 19 this fall, in late September or early October.

This was one of the most difficult things I've had to go through. Sierra was my constant companion through some of the most formative years of my life. I was 22 when I got her, and a very different person than I am now. She first lived with me on Prospect Street in Ann Arbor while I was attending the University of Michigan and playing guitar in the band Assembly Required. She was such an adorable kitten.

A few months later we moved to Longshore Drive, a beautiful secluded street along the Huron River. There is a beautiful trail nearby that winds through the woods along the river. I would often go walking on that trail and Sierra would follow me. We had a favorite spot where we would sit near a tree that had fallen out on the river. This is where I intend to scatter her ashes when I return to Ann Arbor in a couple of weeks to get married.

Next we moved to a farm in northern Vermont, near the town of South Alburg on the shores of Lake Champlain. It was February when we arrived, in a house heated by a sub-par wood burning stove. I slept bundled up in my sleeping bag covered by blankets, and Sierra would crawl into my sleeping bag with me to keep warm. Come summer time, she loved to be in the field, among the vegetables and herbs we were growing. She particularly loved laying in the shade of the broccoli plants. In addition to the farming work, I was also working part time in Burlington, 45 minutes away. When I would return home, I would wander out into the tall grass near our farm plot and call her name. I would then see the grass rustling, moving closer to me. As she approached, I would lay down in the tall grass, and Sierra would sit on my chest and purr. We were so happy to see each other.

After a year, we moved back to Michigan, living with my friend Steve in Whitmore Lake. She loved the open country, and sometimes would disappear for two or three days at a time, exploring. Later, we moved to an apartment on Fountain Street in Ann Arbor, where we lived for nine years. We briefly had another cat, named Boutros Boutros-Ghali. I called him "Booty" for short. Sierra didn't much like living with another cat, and was happy when Boutros left one morning and never came back. I, however was sad. A few years later, I got another cat, Ariel, who still lives with me.

One of my favorite memories of Sierra in that house was how she let me know when she wanted to come in. She loved going outside, but when she was ready to come in, she would climb up the screen door until she could see through the small window in the door at just above human head level. It looked as if a tall person with a tiny cat head was peering through the window. My neighbors would sometimes walk by and see her clinging to the screen near the top of the door. They loved it.

After nine years at that house, we all moved in with Shannon in a house on Spring Street, a block away. Here the cats now lived with Tierra, Shannon's dog, and Amber, her cat. This experience brought Sierra and Ariel together as a family, trying to cope with this new living situation. Before too long, though, I bought a house on Sunrise Street, where we all lived together; two humans, three cats and a dog. The cats loved the garden and would lounge about among the flowers and on the patio or deck I built. One of my favorite memories here is when Sierra would jump on my bed at night, crawl beneath the covers and lay next to me and purr loudly.

After four years in this house, Stella & I moved to Berkeley, California. Sierra and Ariel lived mostly in my office, which had a door going out to the beautiful patio and garden. Ariel loved the garden, but by now Sierra was so old that she preferred staying inside. Still, she occasionally explored the garden and enjoyed the California sun.

After six months, we moved to San Francisco, to a large house in the Outer Richmond. Here, Sierra had the run of the house, but preferred mostly to lie in a corner in Stella's office or on the sofa bed in my office. By now she really seemed old.

One year later, we moved to our current apartment in the Bernal Heights neighborhood in San Francisco. It's a much smaller place, but with a nice deck overlooking Noe Valley. Again, Sierra mostly stayed in her bed, but would often sit on the deck and enjoy the sun.

Last Thursday it became more obvious that Sierra was very old and in less than great health. She was peeing on the rug rather than making the short walk to the litter box. I decided I would take her to the vet the following Tuesday, when I planned to work from home. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse on Sunday. She was very sick and could barely walk and wouldn't eat or even drink water. I took her to the animal hospital where I learned she had acute liver failure. To attempt to save her would require at least 48 hours of hospitalization and the vet doubted that she would even make it through the next 12 hours.

We both agreed that the best thing was to put her to sleep. It was one of the most painful things I've ever endured. I held her in my arms, looking into each other's eyes, as she passed away. I can't remember the last time I cried so hard.

So much in my life has changed in the last 19 years. But the one constant through it all has been the companionship of Sierra, my Familiar, my friend. She enriched my life greatly, and I can only hope I was able to do the same for her.

I take some comfort that in the final few days I spent a lot of quality time with her, knowing that our time together was growing short. It was still shorter than I expected, but I am grateful that I had that time at all.

Sierra, I miss you. I love you. I will remember you always.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Damn, now that's a long wait!