Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Welfare Reform Debate: Never Settled, But Evidence is Coming In

And it's not terrifically good news. People are "off the welfare rolls" in that direct cash outlays are down, but more people are on Medicaid and food stamps to make up for that and it's especially difficult for people coming off welfare to receive education and job training after last year's re-overhaul of the laws. At the bottom, the story notes that things have gotten worse "since the beginning of the decade," in a perhaps too decorous nod to the fact that the Bush administration doesn't care about poor people.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kicking the tires on the new Blogger

Well, I'm sitting here in the office on a Saturday trying to get excited about the project du jour, and it's not working. So I thought I might post a small link farm.

At Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz notices the propensity of gun advocates to eat their own. Quel suprise that folks who think it's sportsmanlike to take out prairie dogs with AR-15s would be a little defensive.

At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Scott Lemieux posts a thoughtful response to Russell Arben Fox's assertion that abortion access is (a) mostly a middle-class issue and (b) erodes the integrity of the social fabric. At Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte posits that abortion is a moral good, spawning a predictably lively debate in the comments.

Also at Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte gives her final comment on her short, fractious tour of duty with the Edwards campaign. On a related note, at TPMCafe, Katha Pollitt shares her thoughts on the compatibility of blog-style punditry and the political trail in a column titled "Your Blog Will Come Back to Haunt You."

And finally, the boys at Sadly, No! discuss the conservative case for unicorns.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Incidentally, This Is What Heaven Looks Like

Third in an occasional series. I can't help showing this one off.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pawns, Political and Wooden

Garry Kasparov, my old hero from my chess-playing days (which ended, for all practical purposes, in elementary school, when I was good), is apparently leading the opposition to Putin in Russia. He seems to have an almost freakish genius for organization and strategy, which you'd think is too comically literal to be true, but it is. It remains to be seen whether he'll actually achieve much, but in the interim it's interesting to note how in Russia they still do things like this because they're necessary, whereas here... well, you know the rest.

Monday, February 19, 2007

You Be The Judge, Except You Can't Really

Stephanie and I had breakfast (at 2:30) a few days ago, thanks to the three-day weekend, at one of those faux-bohemian hangouts on U Street, and who should we see sitting there wondering how long it would take to translate Camus into Esperanto but the spitting image of Gustav Mahler if you threw a little Egon Schiele in the mix. Here are the two most persuasive images I could find. Due credit to and Young-ah Seong at the University of Tokyo, respectively. Sorry about the spacing -- you get the idea. Anyway this guy would muse into the middle distance for maybe, and I'm not kidding, a minute at a time. You had to be there.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Just a Tree, Or The Answer to This Blogger's Prayers?

If you think this is nice, trust me, finally seeing the correct format come through on this clunky, cheap-as-tacks autoblog feature is much nicer for me.

Bo, The Bang Bang

I can't, for obvious reasons, post too many terribly revealing pictures, but this one captures the majesty of my recent travels without giving anything precious away. Incidentally, more will follow.

P.S. - The post title is something my old roommate and gambling rival in college used to say. I never understood it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Keeping House, Keeping House

If you ever saw "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" -- and there's really every reason in the world you shouldn't have bothered -- you'll know what I'm talking about when I say you should hear the name of this post in your head being sung by young Jay to the tune of that song at the beginning when he's outside the convenience store. The rest of you just go about your business.

I switched to New Blogger, which has something to do with Gmail. I'm going to give it a few days to make sure everyone can read and post here without trouble. A few test posts would be appreciated before I inundate you with any further news.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Great Weight Has Been Lifted

It's been a while since I updated this puppy, obviously, and I'd like to share a few reasons for that before spilling any further hot beans.

1) I have been out of my normal routine for some time now. I was back home and then on a fabulous adventure with my girlfriend in Hawaii -- as most of you readers already know -- and have just now, after a few weeks back at work, been able to calm my overstimulated nerves to the point that I can focus on anything more complicated than bright colors.

2) I also didn't exactly know where my computer was when I got back home.

3) My girlfriend has moved in and man, what a time-killer that's been. "Let's get groceries." "Let's see a movie." "Let's leave the house." "Let's talk to our friends." Honestly, she had no reason to know how comfortably I'd become a shriveled old coot in the last year, but it's just ridiculous how living with someone who shares your interests will make you do things.

4) I have been trying and trying and trying and trying to finish My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk -- soon to be declared a modern classic, much as TNT does for its Wednesday night lineup of televised crime dramas -- and haven't really allowed myself the pleasure of reading or writing anything else until I finished. Things just kept coming up, even when I thought I had it in the bag; it seemed as though I had been cursed by some mischievous djinn. (If you're not familiar with this pernicious phenomenon, you could read the book, although the same thing might happen to you, and how many layers of irony would that be?)

So, in order, I am back into a groove, I found my computer, the immediate novelty of the city has given way to the cold, cold winter chill, keeping us from being overly ambitious, and I finished the book in bed this morning. Then I had corn dogs. Then we watched a taped episode of The Office from Thursday. Now I'm finally writing. I haven't written in a good long time.

And in the manner of the postmodern novelists I do so abhor, I'll bring you up to date by first telling you what just happened: Stephanie appeared, read the title of this post and said "Oh, I thought it was about me." I had meant for it to refer to finishing the book, and also to stand in for the metaphorical significance I'd attached to it, but we see what trouble that's gotten me in. By way of excusing my behavior, let me just say this: being alone here for the last year wasn't a weight so much as a strange hollow feeling, which you can't exactly lift away. I wasn't crushed by it; I wasn't burdened with it. You know how you don't feel nice and then you feel nice? It was like that. I probably could have muddled through with my own resources for quite some time, really, but it wouldn't have been nice at all. You don't lift off a feeling like that. You fill it in and make it full and then it disappears.

In order to really express what the last month or so has been like, I'd have to go into detail, and whenever I sit down to the keyboard I'm suddenly appalled by the thought of going into detail. I could try for the better part of a day to "write" about Hawaii, paint word pictures, dib and dab little spots of color into the blank canvas of your imaginations, but it's just such a lot of bloody effort. We've put the pictures online. If I know you, you'll be e-mailed a way to find them. It's sort of like a treasure hunt with no money at the end of the rainbow, to coin a phrase.

I will say that Glenn's hospitality in chopping me up that coconut and giving me a bamboo straw to drink the milk on the treacherous road to Hana will not be forgotten. I will also say, of rainbows, that I had never before seen two at once, neither of which were connected to land at either end, both of which seemed to exist as a fantastic extension of the spray coming off the tops of gigantic waves. And standing on the beach at night, after Stephanie had fallen asleep and I'd walked there by myself, staring at the palm treetops in the moonlight -- well, you don't forget those moments right away.

Speaking of which, I was at the very large anti-war demonstration in DC last weekend. If you're not against this war, what on Earth are you against? It's done nothing but kill hundreds of thousands of people and cost us badrillions of dollars. Think about it. CNN underreported the attendance, probably by a factor of ten, and I got into it with some Bush supporters who were hiding behind a barricade. One of them was wearing a gas mask and holding a sign that said "Hippies Smell." You don't win arguments with that kind of thing, but I guess you don't technically lose them either. Because what the hell are you talking about in the first place?

So, long story short, it was very good to see my family and my old friends again, have my birthday (I got presents!), travel the seven seas and return to work to find I've been transferred to a new publication. I am already getting more notices of my work in the last three weeks than I did my first year. Toiling away in obscurity is for the birds. Maybe this is a good sign of things to come.

But enough about me, dear reader... what have you been up to lately?