March 26, 2006

a good reason to stay away from Lake Merritt

So I flew across the country today. That gave me the opportunity to browse Southwest Airlines' Spirit magazine. Its featured destination on page 34 was Oakland. The first item in the summary was this "Best Factoid":

Not only is the formerly undamned tidal marsh now known as Lake Merritt the largest urban saltwater lake in the United States, it is also the country's first wildlife sanctuary.
OK, perhaps I missed a news item. Lake Merrit was recently undamned? If it is "formerly undamned," that would mean that it is no longer "undamned," which would make it damned, right?

Maybe it was just a misspelling of dammed, but just to be safe, I'm going to start wearing garlic around my neck whenever I go to downtown Oakland.

March 20, 2006

Rejected No Longer

Boy, was I surprised to check my email this morning and find that one of my stories had been accepted for publication. It's a small, literary journal, a new one. My story (a personal essay, actually), will appear in their first print issue. One publication does not a career make, but it has come more quickly than I anticipated. And, even though I don't think I will actually get paid for the story, I find I am euphoric today--difficult to concentrate, but generally in a very good mood.

liquid sunshine rains
all butterflies and sugar
accepted at last

March 18, 2006

Another Downed Tree!

Remember The Tree That Fell?

Now, we've got the sequel: The Tree That Really Fell! This is the story. These are the photos.

Shortly after noon today, after a hard morning of yardwork and paperwork, I sat down for a few minutes on the couch. Then, a loud noise like one of the boys riding his bike full speed into the garage door had me up and running for the door. Partly to make sure no one was hurt, and partly to deliver some heck to the kid that did whatever it was.

As I sped out the front door, I saw something quite unexpected (see the photos below). The irony in this is that on Thursday, we called the city and had the sidewalk guy come out. For years, the sidewalk next to this tree has been buckling, pushed up by the roots of this tree. It finally got out of hand, and the city guy put some tar on the trip hazard and said he'd schedule someone to come out later this summer to take down the tree and fix the sidewalk.

Fortunately, it was a city-planted tree, and the policeman who responded to our call got the tree guys out within an hour. They cut it all up and got rid of it except the thick stem, which requires "heavy equipment and a dump truck." Also fortunately, no car was parked there at the time and no children were playing in that area.

March 16, 2006

Cal to win NCAA basketball national championship

You heard it here first. Cal is going to win not one, but BOTH NCAA basketball championships this year. Men's and Women's. After they do, I will be hailed as the only genius in the country to have predicted it.

There is a fine line between genius and a lot of other things. I've been called a lot of other things.

Writing update: Still waiting for rejection on four submissions made at the end of February. I don't expect to hear for a while, so I'm just sitting tight. I have written another story which is currently in revision for submission to a contest at the end of March. So that's that.

March 13, 2006


Warning: Liberal Content Ahead

I find it hard to believe that many people in my town still appear proud of their "W in '04" bumper stickers. Don't they realize by now that they've been had?

Does anyone know what the W in George W. Bush stands for? I've never learned that. I know his father's W stood for Walker. Here are some possibilities:

  • Waffle. As in, waffle on the reasons for sending over 2,300 GIs to their deaths. Was it WMDs? Spreading democracy? Affiliation with Al Quaida?
  • Waver. As in, wavering on his "mandate" from his landslide 2004 election victory. What were his top priorities? Oh, yeah: Social Security reform, right?
  • Wimp. As in, the tag his dad picked up and W clearly has been desperate to shed from the family name with his "Bring 'em on" bravado and "Mission Accomplished" idiocy.
  • Weak. As in, the administration's response to Katrina devastation.
  • Whoops. As in signing a deal to turn over control of our nation's ports to a company housed in a prime Al Quaida country. Or as in, "Whoops, guess we goofed on the Iraq thing." Or as in, "Whoops, maybe we should make sure we have the right target before we start spraying the buckshot." (Guess it's really the same mistake, isn't it?)
  • Warrant. The GOP is pretty familiar with the concept of warrants and indictments.
  • Where? Back to that WMD thing again.
  • Whopper. OK, back to that WMD thing again.
  • Wrong. I would say "back to that WMD thing again," but this one applies to so many, many aspects of Bush, his staff, and his presidency that it doesn't even come close.
  • Waste. Over 2,300 American lives have been wasted bringing civil war, terrorism, and instability to a country that, while run by a ruthless dictator, had been pretty stable and non-threatening to the USA. What a waste of people, power, prestige, equipment, and money.
  • War. Clearly, Bush's middle name is War. It's defined everything about his presidency. A guy who could have been known forever as a truly heroic leader after 9/11 by going after and demolishing Al Quaida instead chose what he no doubt thought would be an easy war for the greatest military power on Earth. I believe that Bush will, after a hundred years of hindsight has been applied, be known as one of the worst presidents in our nation's history.
I read recently that the Democrats are so wrapped up in W-hating that they have lost the ability to put forth a proactive agenda or plan of any kind. Perhaps. But right now the most proactive, right, forward-thinking plan is any plan that counteracts even a small amount of damage Bush and his administration have done to our country.

It's my belief that the simple truth is that the country has become too big for human beings to run effectively. The problems have become too large, change too rapid. In such an environment, even the best people get caught up in a cycle of confusion, special interests, and power brokering on small levels. The big issues (health care costs, the economy, security, ethical behavior of corporations, the environment, the deficit) get lip service because no one in Washington really has any idea how to change the existing systems so they actually work.

It is a cynical view, but I don't believe Democrats in charge would be any more effective at creating positive change than Republicans. The difference is that while Republicans are in charge, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. While Democrats are in charge, the gap tends to narrow and the environment gets more attention and deficits are smaller. As part of the disenfranchised "middle" class, I tend to fall on the side of the poor people, the workers, the environmentalists, the people in favor of religious freedom, those in favor of restrictions on corporate behavior, etc.

March 6, 2006

I guess I'd make a great writer...

Here is the quiz.

Here is the result I got: 93 points. That grades out to the following:

You'll probably make a great writer. You should think very carefully before getting married, having children, or buying a pet, however. Walking into your livingroom and discovering the dust-covered skeleton that was your cat -- or your spouse -- can be really bad for morale.

March 1, 2006

I never thought I'd say this...

I wrote a sestina today. It wasn't in my mind to do that when I woke up, or even when I started writing it. I won't post it here because I plan on submitting it for rejection by an online publication. After the rejection I might post it. Or not. I might save it for a later compilation of my rejected stories, poems, haiku, and essays. So there.

A sestina, by the way, is defined thus:
A fixed form consisting of six 6-line (usually unrhymed) stanzas in which the end words of the first stanza recur as end words of the following five stanzas in a successively rotating order and as the middle and end words of each of the lines of a concluding envoi in the form of a tercet. The usual ending word order for a sestina is as follows:

First stanza, 1- 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6
Second stanza, 6 - 1 - 5 - 2 - 4 - 3
Third stanza, 3 - 6 - 4 - 1 - 2 - 5
Fourth stanza, 5 - 3 - 2 - 6 - 1 - 4
Fifth stanza, 4 - 5 - 1 - 3 - 6 - 2
Sixth stanza, 2 - 4 - 6 - 5 - 3 - 1
Concluding tercet:
middle of first line - 2, end of first line - 5
middle of second line - 4, end of second line - 3
middle if third line - 6, end of third line - 1

But you already knew that, I'm sure.

blue funk day

The time is out of joint, and things seem no longer to be what they used to be. Some days it's hard to see all the good. Blue funk days. But I know there's plenty of good, in fact more than my share, and now guilt piles on the wagon, straining the axles and creaking the joints and making the horses sweat and snort with the strain of dragging the wagon past nine a.m. Sunny warmth outside, though the forecast is torrential rain. Same as yesterday. But other things are different, and I get tired thinking how many more years I have to hitch those horses to the same wagon. And I wonder how many more times the forecast will be wrong, and I'll wake up on a blue funk day while the rest of the world smiles sunny and warm.