17 December 2007
I have no interest in being the center of the the Womenfolk story. I think they deserve the limelight at this point and would love to have their music reissued. But I am anal enough to be annoyed by how sloppy journalists are. The jerk over at Askville is just some anonymous yahoo on the Internet--although his plagiarism annoys me, I don't expect much more in that kind of forum. But Ms. Woodroof and Mr. Borden are getting a paycheck for their reporting. Are their employers getting their money's worth?
30 November 2007
29 November 2007
18 November 2007
It could be that we have become a nation of children, unable to delay any gratification and expecting everyday to be Christmas. Or maybe we are a nation of bored, boring, individuals that need shiny objects and blinking lights to feel something. Or maybe we are a nation of Orange County Housewives, whose only goal in life seems to be to shop. Other than a supersized grocery cart, Thanksgiving doesn't really require us to buy anything. Although, it does, of course give us the day after Christmas shopping frenzy. Financial responsibility evangelist Suze Orman has been saying for years that Americans are driving themselves to the poorhouse buying things to impress people that they don't know or don't like. I agree, but would add that our addiction to shopping is not just about impressing others, but it appears that shopping is all we know how to do.
Don't get me wrong, I can really enjoy a good shopping trip. And the other Mr. MyPorch and I don't really want for anything. But what troubles me is how so many people predicate their happiness on a daily basis on the act of consumption and a constant state of personal reward. Just like the Christmas season, why can't the joy of shopping be one of many diverse things that makes us happy throughout the year? How about a little balance? To every thing, turn, turn, turn.
11 November 2007
My New Job
Number Two on my 40 by 40 list. I really love my new job. I know that most new jobs have a honeymoon period where things seem rosy, but I have been down that path before and feel confident that I have found a fabulous fit for my skills and interests. I am working as a leisure travel consultant and I couldn't be happier. It is a great mix of being social, talking about travel, and organization. It is like the job was created for me. Not only that, but my new bosses actually appreciate my point of view and listen to me. What a weird feeling that is.
My Old Job
Number One on my 40 by 40 list. I am really glad to be done with my government career. With the exception of some great co-workers and friends at the office, my old work life--the one I spent $50,000 training for at Cornell--really sucked. I am still fascinated by urban planning but trying to do that kind of work for the federal government was worse than awful. And with the feds huge presence here in DC, it is impossible not to be impacted by their bad urban planning decisions even if you work at the local level or the private sector.
DC in the Fall
Everything looks better to me in the Fall. Crisp weather makes me remember the things I love about DC. Just walking down the leaf-strewn, old brick sidewalks under a clear blue sky is enough to "give me a groove" as the other Mr. MyPorch might say. Travel + Leisure just noted in their city survey, that DC ranked number 1 in Architecture (must be the old stuff, because the new stuff is as boring and as pedestrian as you can imagine), number 1 in Museums and Galleries (I can't argue with that, the pickings are wonderful and free), and number 1 in having a "Worldly" population (I guess that is true, there are people from all over the world, but it still seems a little too provincial). During the hot, disgustingly steamy summer, none of these things matters. The only thing that matters is air conditioning. DC is the furthest south I will ever live.
I have been reading a fair amount lately as you can see from the list at left. Ann Patchett's new title Run did not disappoint. It might be my favorite of hers. The Ward Just was a little boring to me. I usually really like his stuff but this one I found tedious in places. Although it was written in the early 1980s, its descriptions of Vietnam-era Washington certainly have some resonance today. I've just started Emile Zola's Lourdes which is on my Reading by the Decade challenge list. So far I quite like it. I am struggling to get through Philip Roth's American Pastoral which is also on that list. The only other Roth I have read is The Plot Against America and I loved it. With AP, I don't really care about any of the characters. I have a hard time identifying with anyone who, in old age, still idolizes someone from high school. Then again I never idolized anyone from high school.
My Book Roundup
While I was between jobs I did make some decent progress on my own novel. I think it may actually be worth reading at some point.
The Millenial Generation is Scary
Tonight on 60 Minutes they did a piece on the Millenial Generation. I guess it is roughly those kids leaving college today. What a bunch of overly-coddled, entitlement-assuming, wimpy bastards they are. Can you imagine having your parents involved in your job searches and your job performance reviews like they were taking part in middle school parent/teacher conferences? Why aren't these 20-somethings embarrassed by this? One of these Millenial wimps who is making money describing the shortcomings of his generation said that it was because they watched their families struggle making ends meet, giving their all to their companies, and still getting laid off. Boo f'in Hoo. Like they are the first generation to have to watch their parents struggle to make ends meet. No, the real difference, if there is any, is that they had to watch their parents struggle to pay for a lifestyle that they could not afford. They watched their parent's struggle to cope with crushing debt caused by their inability to say no to their precious children.
The point of the 60 Minutes piece was that in the future labor market, as Boomers retire, these Millenial adult infants will be all that employers have to choose from. One them even said that if he is doing well at work, he would appreciate a letter to that effect sent to their parents. Can you believe that?! Could the Fortune 500 companies of the world please unite today (like climate change, we don't have a moment to lose) to not allow that kind of molly-coddling to go any further. You want a six figure salary? Then you better cut the damn cord and stand on your own two feet.
I guess I found something to be outraged about after all. I probably won't sleep well now...
25 October 2007
24 October 2007
I remember reading this and feeling somewhat embarrassed for our brave pioneers. Who could be so dumb right? But lately I have felt a small bit of their desperation. I am probably not the only one here on the drought-stricken East Coast this summer who secretly wished he could shoot up at the clouds and make it rain. It was as if Mother Nature had forgotten how to rain. I don't farm, I don't have a lawn to keep green, and I don't live in an area that faces immediate water shortages so I had no real reason to feel so desperate about our lack of rain.
I think my desperation was born out of an overwhelming fear that the whole world is out of kilter. Drought, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, war, terrorism, pandemics, the ever worsening mortgage crisis, the incredible shrinking dollar, the ever expanding federal debt, the rise of new world powers, the decline of our own power, apathy, distrust, incivility. Most of these things have impacted the world in various combinations and in various intensities for probably all of recorded history. And it is hubris to think that we are living in unusual times.
But the thing that makes it all seem too much to bear is that we have far more information about our opportunities and constraints than sentient beings on this planet have ever had. What we lack is the willingness to do anything constructive with that information. Why are there so many things that we refuse to deal with? I sit here typing this with my windows open listening to the steady rain that eluded us all summer. It sounds wonderful.
I only wish I could send some of it to California. But I can't. No one can.
We continue to act as if we can outsmart the planet. We continue to overpopulate and to farm areas that have insufficient water supplies. We continue to build whole communities in flood plains along the Mississippi. We continue to build multi-million dollar vacation houses in hurricane prone areas. We continue to eat up valuable farmland and natural areas with ugly sprawl. We continue to pollute the air and the water. We continue to burn fossil fuel at an alarming rate. We refuse to use the technology and knowledge that we already have to do anything about anything--unless of course, it makes more money.
We seem hell bent on creating a Mad Max future. Does it have to be that way? Our cloud-shooting forebears at least had the excuse of ignorance. What's our excuse?
22 October 2007
15 October 2007
28 September 2007
22 September 2007
I am not going to read it just yet, I want to savor it. But I did want to make sure I got a first edition of the book before it was too late.
A friend of mine in New York gave me a copy of Patchett's novel Bel Canto back in 2001. I loved the opera singer angle and thouroughly enjoyed the book. I followed up Bel Canto by reading every other book by her that I could get my hands on. They are all good. One of the great things about Patchett is that she is a writer who writes about things other than becoming or being a writer. Don't get me wrong I love reading about literary lives, struggling or otherwise, but I am quite impressed by authors who write about worlds that are not noticeably autobiographical.
And I think she is as cute as a button. She looks like the kind of person with whom I want to sit in a cozy cafe drinking hot cocoa and gossiping. I have no idea why I think so. Maybe she just reminds me of friends I have had in my life over the years.
Now do yourself (and Ann) a favor and go out and buy one or two (or all) of her books!
So, rather than focus on the grumpies, I am just going to post these lovely photos we took while we were in Australia. No prizes for guessing the building.
15 September 2007
(Well, to be entirely accurate, you need to insert "the New York Times" in place of "MyPorch" in the paragraph above. And I haven't actually read or even seen the book, but why should that matter?)
At any rate, the excerpts that I read in the Times this morning, had me feeling alternately smug and furious. Smug because Greenspan is finally confirming what some of us have been screaming for years--that President Bush and the former Republican Congress did their best to bankrupt this country with reckless tax cuts and runaway spending. And furious because we only get to hear these things when it is too damn late. I know that Greenspan was in a more difficult position needing to remain as apolitical as possible, but surely he could have done something to inject some reality into W's twisted brand of voodoo economics.
Still, we can add Greenspan's post-employment, post-8 million dollar book advance critique of Bush's recklessness to a long line of former officials who only found their tongues and their spines after leaving office. Just think if Christie Todd Whitman had actually done her job as the head of EPA rather than wait until she was out of office to take a stand. Just think if Colin Powell had done the right thing while he was Secretary of State.
But then again I shouldn't blame these folks too much. Anyone willing to think rationally should have understood the damage being done to our country on any number of issues without the help of this kind of memoir. It didn't take a genius to understand what the Bush/Cheney administration and the Republican Congress were doing to the U.S., yet the electorate sent these jokers back to Washington in 2002 and 2004.
Greenspan saved his highest praise for President Clinton, noting his keen interest in economic issues and for his "consistent disciplined focus on long-term economic growth."
But again, it doesn't take an oracle to figure out the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of George W. Bush and Company. In the 2000 election everyone wanted a president they could have a beer with. I didn't. I wanted a president like Bill Clinton or Al Gore, one that would show up for the job and take it seriously. The press and Ralph Nader told everyone that on policy, Bush and Gore were the same person. I knew better than that. I even did a Nader Trader vote. A friend of mine in Minnesota was going to vote for Nader because she believed the BS. Living in the Democratic safe state of New York at the time, I promised to vote for Nader if she voted for Gore in Minnesota which was threatening to vote red. Why were so many people fooled? Within weeks of coming to power Bush rolled back several environmental protections that showed just how different he was from Al Gore. Thanks Ralph.
In the 2004 election I spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania and Ohio knocking on doors for John Kerry. In the five days leading up to the election I was pounding the pavement in Cleveland to boot this buffoon out of office. Again, one didn't need tell-all memoirs to understand the damage Bush and Co. were doing to the country. I was amazed at the number of people who, despite lots of evidence to the contrary, believed that Bush was doing a good job in the war on terror and a good job in Iraq. We knew in 2004 just how bad things were going on both fronts so why were these people so confused or blind? I wonder if they still are?
As for Mr. Greenspan, it appears that his book was written with rose colored glasses. Not about the Presidents he served with, but about his own culpability in shaping economic events. He has given himself a pass on many things including being clueless about the subprime mortgage implosion. Well, he wasn't clueless, he chose to ignore warnings that would have clouded his rose colored view of the "free" market. I know that on at least one occasion he was warned about the securitization of the mortgage industry and the potential impacts that that could have on homeowners, the mortgage industry, and the economy. He was dismissive to say the least.
I don't take any comfort in being able to say "I told you so". Too many people have died and too many truly bad things have happened to our treasury, our Constitution, and our planet over the last six years to feel any joy in having been right. My only hope is that people will wake up enough to think and vote rationally in 2008. Forget about folksy, we need someone with a brain capable of more than just sustaining vital functions and basic motor skills.
03 September 2007
We were also very lucky and had pefect weather everywhere we went. The Austrlian winter (North American summer) is definitely the time to go to the Great Barrier Reef. (In the Australian summer the GBR gets pretty hot and the stinging jelly fish are apparently everywhere.) Melbourne with its chilly, fall-like temps was a wonderful change from summer in DC and the weather in Sydney was perfect for walking around and enjoying the city. The winter shadows also made for some beautiful views throughout our trip.
The quality of life in Australia makes it a little hard to come back to the crumbling, crime-ridden streets of the 'richest' country in the world. Australians may be taxed to high heaven, but at least they have something to show for it.
Now if I could only get over this killer jet lag...
There was a lot more old building stock than we expected to see in Sydney. The neighborhoods surrounding the central business district were felt like a combination of San Fransciso, New York, and Portland. Pleasant and walkable with lots of shops and cafes everywhere.