Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No bailout just yet

I am not sure how I feel about this whole economic bailout thing. Well, I know I don't like it, but on the other hand, we need to do something, right? Or the whole country will implode. Or something like that.

I am the first to acknowledge that I don't understand financial markets or how they work. It's all so much hocus-pocus to me. Hell, I can hardly balance a checkbook. OK, actually I can't. But I at least understand the theory behind it.

So anyway, it seems to me that there are lots of banks that made lots of really bad decisions. They gave out loans and mortgages for zillion-dollar homes to welfare moms, Wal-Mart employees and others whom they knew would be unable to make payments should the interest rate ever go above, say, four percent. Now it begs the question here - if someone is on an income that is essentially fixed - social security, pension, low-wage, dead-end job with no prospects of a substantial raise, EVER, why would you write a loan with a flexible interest rate? Why would you do that? Do you really want to repossess that double-wide? How many properties does the bank really want to own when things get tough?

I have never understood the appeal of variable-rate mortgages. They seem like a big gamble and a bad idea. Take a fixed rate loan, even at a higher rate (say 7 percent instead of 4 percent) but at least the poor schmo paying the bills is not going to see his mortgage jump from the $800 a month he can mostly manage to the $3,000 a month he hasn't a hope in hell of meeting. Why would you write something like that? I don't get it.

I know enough about life to know that all things go in cycles - weather, hemlines, politics, interest rates. Stuff goes up for a while and everything is happy, then it goes down and the world has to readjust. Sometimes we find a gold mine and go crazy mining it, and then the gold (or sea urchins, or lobsters, or whatever) runs out and people have to find some other way to make money.

My Congressman in Washington is Mike Michaud, a Democrat from the Millinocket area - a paper mill town, for those of you from away. I wrote to him yesterday before the big vote on the bailout package. I didn't even say "support this" or "don't support this." What I said was: this whole thing stinks. I am not crazy about bailing out people who made bad decisions with someone else's money.

A few years ago, I went through bankruptcy. It sucked. I didn't have much, but what I had I lost. Land that my grandfather had bought. I was left with my car and some tools. Oh, and a big fat student loan that I still have to pay off. My creditors lost some on the deal, I don't doubt it. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but enough that they won't be giving me any loans right away. That bankruptcy will be on my credit for 10 years. It will take all of that time and more for me to get my shit back together. It will take the economy probably 20 years to get to the point where there is enough money and credit available so that I can buy a house. That would be nice - to own my own home. Only in 20 years, I'll be 63. That is NOT when I had planned to be getting a mortgage, it's when I had hoped to be making the final payment.

But what I told Mike was that when I filed for bankruptcy, nobody bailed me out. There were (and remain) some harsh consequences for my poor judgment, and the world treats me differently than it would if I had a respectable credit score. I lost things that were dear to me. It sucked. It changed my behavior and my outlook.

And I want the same thing for those guys on Wall Street. I want them to know what it is to live close to the bone. I want them to lose things they value and hold dear. I want them to have to figure out a new way of living.

And this is not because I am bitter about my own experience. Truly, that painful process was the only thing that could have brought about the changes that came. Pain is often necessary for growth. Without it, we have very little incentive to not repeat what we have done if it felt so good (spending money we don't have).

So anyway, I wrote some of this to Congressman Mike. And yesterday he was one of the guys who voted down the anointed solution and is now getting all kinds of crap from all corners. But I wonder. I wonder how many people there are out there like me - people who have had a rough time financially and who resent the hell out of bankers getting bailed out while families lose their homes. I wonder how many of us wrote to our Congressmen and I wonder how many Congressmen listened.

There was an interesting coalition of opponents to the bailout plan yesterday. There were conservative Republicans who saw the whole thing as four quick steps in the direction of government-controlled markets and socialism, and there were some liberal Democrats who saw the bailout as rewarding bad behavior. That was enough to throw a wrench into the works and make it stop for a bit. On the other side there were the two-thirds of the rest of the Democrats who pretty much have been doing what they've been told to do by the Bush administration lo the last seven years.

Finally people got fed up and bucked the "leaders" who were really more like apologists for the administration. Mike Michaud is generally one of the guys who goes along with the majority. It was nice to see him take this stand.

I have faith that Congress will now go back to the drawing board, open its ears just a little more, listen to what people are saying, and come up with something that does not make the American populace retch. If Wall Street bankers have to freak out in that time, let them. It is good for them to be afraid. What I'd really like is for them to start getting phone calls at home from bill collectors. In the morning and in the evening, right at supper time. Preferably when they have company over. That'd be a nice touch.

Monday, September 29, 2008


So, Hurricane Kyle apparently heard about the wall of blocks that was put up to stymie his destructive wrath and he left town without even trying. Heh.

Kyle did bypass us mostly, although we did get a fair amount of rain and some moderate winds late last night. The block wall seems to have worked well enough. It is not perfect, but it kept the majority of the water from running straight down the bulkhead and into the basement, and that was its intended purpose, after all.

You can see from the picture that some gravel washed up against the base of the wall, and I had expected that. Because that area is made of very porous gravel, some water simply seeped through and got into the basement that way, but not in the volume of storms past.


Now I need to go to work and make some money to pay for that pretty new deck. If I do anything fun, I'll take some pictures and post them here.

And thanks to everyone who has sent me kind notes of concern as this storm worked its way up the coast toward Maine. It was touching to know you all were thinking of us.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


so far, so good.
Couple more days of rain to come, but things are looking OK so far. Sump pump came on every now and then last night while it rained pretty hard, but it never got overwhelmed. I'll hold off on a real verdict until Monday when the sun comes out again.

Friday, September 26, 2008



I have erected a battlement - of sorts - in my yard in preparation for this weekend's coming storm.

Regular readers will know that I lost a great number of tools during some nasty flooding a couple weeks ago when Hurricane Hanna blew through. We had something like 40 inches of water in the basement. I was down there yesterday with my brother-in-law and showed him the high water mark on the furnace. He was duly impressed.

We didn't used to get floods like that, but it seems that in recent years things have gotten worse. A few years ago, when the state highway department re-built Route 3, which is the main (only) road through town, for some reason storm drains and culverts and ditches were eliminated. Don't know why. Only know that now our neighbor has to replace his crushed rock driveway at least three times a year because it all washes into our yard (hell on the mower!) and the water flows around and heads straight into the bulkhead and my cellar. It is most frustrating.

So anyway, we're due for a zinger again this weekend. Weather guy on TV says something like 4 to 6 inches of rain for our area. The low pressure pattern is familiar to us - it is a cyclical formation, less defined than a hurricane, that travels up the east coast and blasts Maine. The storm rotates counter clockwise as it travels to the northeast, which means our winds here on the coast tend to come from out of the east-northeast, as the storm swirls around. It hits us generally after spending some time over the ocean picking up additional moisture, which it drops when it gets over the land.

That may all be very wrong, but it is my understanding of what happens. If you can explain it better, have at it.

So anyway, we've got this nasty Nor'easter headed our way and I don't want to spend another Sunday morning sloshing around my basement chasing flotsam and waiting for the waters to recede.

Back to the battlement.

It's not a huge thing, really, just a row of regular cinder blocks laid end-to-end, holes up, in a rough kind of semi-circle around the uphill side of my house. On one side of the bulkhead, I built a deck. No sense in having a wall to keep the water out if it also makes it a pain in the tuckus to take out the trash or grill a steak, so I built above the wall. Actually, I incorporated the wall into the plan, running my joists out between every third block (three 16s make 4 feet) and building the thing so that the planks lay nearly on top of the blocks. This allows for support between the four-foot joists, and it covers the holes of the blocks.

I framed it together yesterday with the aforementioned brother-in-law, then banged down the planks this morning with my new nail gun. Let me say here and now, for the record, and in all seriousness: I have lived too many years without an air compressor and a nail gun. Damn, but that thing is a dream! That decking went on in less than an hour, and the most time-consuming part of it was carrying the planks from the delivery pile across the yard and laying them in place. That thing is awesome!

So anyway, I have a wall. And I think it will hold out the flood waters.

But I am still keeping the welder locked in the garage, well above the flood zone, until I know just how well my little invention works.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On being nice (day two of the fair)

L and I went back to the fair again today, this time to help out at the Equality Maine booth gathering signatures in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

You may remember how I declined to work at the polls gathering signatures earlier this year. I was afraid that I would get frustrated with the idiots of the world and smack somebody squarely in the kisser. Hancock County Captain K agreed that perhaps I might be of most use somewhere else, so I made cookies for the volunteers. It kept me out of jail, so I was glad to provide the confections. Well, the Common Ground Country Fair attracts a pretty diverse crowd, although mostly people of progressive thought and deed. There are some holdouts from the old ways of thinking, and some who resent the intrusion of politics into what they view as an agricultural event.

So not everybody said yes to signing the postcards we offered. It was easier than working the polls, I am sure, but still, every refusal hit at my heart. After a while I grew to resent the fact that I have to essentially beg people to change the laws so that I get treated like a human being with all the rights of citizenship afforded my heterosexual peers. And I got right fucking cranky when people would say no. Or "I'm not decided on this issue." To me that read as the words of a bigot who was also a coward and would not own up to her own bigotry to my face.

Yeah. I lasted about two hours and quit before I became a serious liability.

As was bound to happen, L and I each ran into an ex-lover (two different women) but, considering the odds and the population, we're calling that a win for two days at the fair.

I had two real high points in my signature-gathering efforts. One of the first people I approached gladly took the clipboard and then explained to me that it was very important for her to be signing. Both her parents are Baptist ministers in Western Maine, she said. They are kind, gently, generous, loving people, who simply don't get it. She gets it. She has tried to explain it to her parents and her family, but they insist that being queer is a choice and an evil one at that. Love the sinner, hate the sin, they say. She wished us all the best of luck and told us that she supported us and would continue to work on her family. I was deeply touched.

The other highlight was when I saw from the corner of my eye young Matthew (EQME organizer guy - amazingly cool and very, VERY brave!) looked up at this huge mountain of a biker guy and asked if he was a Maine voter. The biker looked down at him over the tops of his glasses and slowly answered "yeeesss..." It was the kind of drawn out pronunciation that drips with reluctance and suspicion. Hidden in the tone was the phrase "just what is this group going to want from me?"

About then, I looked up and recognized the biker from my 12-step meetings in Hancokc County. And his wife as well. I've seen him around for a while, and he has many years and much wisdom. He plays in a rock and roll cover band called The Resentments that plays at sober dances around Downeast Maine. "Hey, I know you!" I said and strode over at once for handshakes and hugs. The guy was enormous and gives substantial hugs. His wife is much smaller and gives far less dangerous hugs, but equally nice. "Hey," I said, "will you sign this to show support so someday L and I can get married?" It was odd, but it felt like the air went still around us. It felt like people stopped talking and the whole world held its breath. I had nothing to fear from this man, we've seen each other cry and know each other's darkest pain, but still, it felt like something huge was shifting in the universe. The big man nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense" he said, and reached for the clipboard. The world started up around us again. There were hugs and smiles and laughter and support and love. It was a truly amazing thing. I don't know if this guy had ever thought once about same-sex marriage, never mind twice, but in that moment, he understood and stepped directly from acceptance to support. It was a beautiful thing.

We came home earlier tonight than last night, but more tired, I think. Being nice on demand seems to sap my strength. If only I could find a gig that required me to be sarcastic and bitter. How cool would that be? Ah well. Another time perhaps. The fair is done for this year and it was a great time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

At the fair

Today we went to the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity. The fair is put on each September by MOFGA and is focused on sustainable, environmentally-friendly, organic farming and progressive politics. It is a very cool event.

We are home. Tired, dusty, nearly broke, and happy. We spent today at the fair - bringing a woman named M from Southwest Harbor to the fair for the first time. She moved to Maine only a few years ago and had heard of the fair but this was her first time, so we got to act as tour guides to the high points. The Common Ground Country Fair is not a fair for everyone, but it is by far my favorite. I was pleased that M seemed to enjoy it as well.

We left the island at around 8:30 and got to Unity by 10:15. Then we sat in traffic to the parking area for 15 minutes, so we considered ourselves lucky. We walked in though this marvelous wooded path with tall pines all around and occasional signs explaining different methods of forestry resource management. That walk in to the fairgrounds is nearly magical. It is as though all the dust and mayhem of thousands of cars in the hayfield/parking lot fall away and are forgotten, and then the mayhem of thousands of people and lots of dust in the fairground seem like a new and pleasant experience to be had.

We checked out the bunnies and the poultry barn, looked at the horses and some donkeys and mules (we could tell they were mules because they were not behaving properly and no amount of scolding could move them to the appointed place.) Per usual, the food was fantastic. The crafts were great to peruse and there were several demonstrations of things going on all over the place. Very cool indeed. I even picked up some information on environmentally-friendly paints and stains. Oh, and I got a couple dozen bumper stickers to spiff up my truck. Very cool stuff!

And the people! The loads and loads of people! We saw loads of friends and people from a queer list serve that we belong to.

I saw a dear old friend and former prof from UMF who is still fighting the good fight through Veterans for Peace, another friend from the Waterville UU church who was at the pagan network booth - she did a very powerful reading of my cards (on a whim and thoroughly unexpected in its intensity on my part). Remarkably, neither L nor I encountered any ex-girlfriends in an entire day of wandering around a place chock full of Maine lesbians. That in itself was a remarkable thing.

It was a beautiful day for the fair. The sun was out, it was warm enough to walk around in a t-shirt with no sweater or long sleeves, it was dusty, but really I prefer that to muddy, and that seems to be the other option there. There were throngs of people, but for the most part everyone seemed to be pretty patient. The parking lot at the end of the day was a mad house of the first degree, much like my childhood memories of people who had just hugged each other during the sign of peace then trying to run one another down in the church parking lot after mass so they could get to the bakery for donuts. The energy in the parking lot was anything but peaceful and nice. Bleah.

We crested a hill coming out of Unity just as the sun dipped below the horizon's edge. The sky was a brilliant wash of oranges and reds and yellows and it was a marvelous end to a fantastic day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Well, maybe I am. Just a little, though.

OK, so J over at the littlestpea and I have been having this discussion sort of thing about age. She insists that I am of a generation before hers, I have been insisting that we are just at different ends of the same generation. She is 31, I am 43.

So today I was helping some friends by painting the doors to the woodworking shop. There was an old radio on the windowsill, so I turned it on just to have some background noise. It was tuned to AM 1370 WDEA in Ellsworth, what is called a "nostalgia" station, meaning it played stuff my dad (66 years old) and my step mother (55) listened to when I was a kid and they thought music had just recently gone straight into the crapper. I heard some very old stuff by the Platters (ok, so there is no real new stuff by the Platters, but you get my drift) and some gentle rock 60s and 70s stuff, god help me, there was even a Barry Manilow, a John Denver and Anne Murray and Barbara Striesand. I even enjoyed songs by both Sinatras, and one of the other guys from the Rat Pack. Can't think of his name now, but it wasn't Dean Martin - it was one of the other guys. Not Sammy, either. Anyway. That's not the point I was getting to here.

The worst part of this little trip down memory lane?

I knew every word of every song. No exceptions. All of them. Even the Barry Manilow. Even the John Denver. Even The Drifters.

It is official. I am old. The music was not mine, it was my parents' but I still knew it. J had never heard Melissa Etheridge's first hit single. OK, J. You're off the hook. We are of two very, VERY different generations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

mad scramble

OK, so I have this big project coming up. Great for me. Only I have about a dozen little bit-shitty things that need doing before I can get over there and do some actual work.

The infrastructure stuff is line up ok. The Dumpster will arrive Monday. The portable toilet will arrive Thursday (dash home to pee in the meantime, I guess). Lumber will be delivered as soon as I go to the place, select what I want and ask for a delivery. Demolition can start as soon as we have the Dumpster ready, perhaps even before then.

Only I still have scaffolding in Mrs. G's garage (at least it is down now!) I have stuff to do for my friends K and D in Ellsworth, today I went to Trenton (Maine!) to do a little job that got postponed back in June. I've got a ton of stuff that needs to be cleaned up and put away before I start on the big project. Yikes! Tomorrow I'm going to Ellsworth to help out K and D, after which I have to drive to Bangor (among my LEAST favorite things to do) to be fingerprinted. See, I have a license to drive a truck. Not the great big trailer trucks, but the littler, beer truck, home fuel oil kind of truck. And I have an endorsement to allow me to transport hazardous materials (like home heating oil). Only now it seems that homeland security wants to fingerprint everybody who has a license to drive hazardous chemicals around in a truck.

For once, I can't say that I blame them much. Seems like an utterly rational idea, actually. Keeping a database of everyone who is licensed to drive propane around makes sense to me. So, after 43 years of managing to never have my fingerprints taken, tomorrow I will drive to the big city and ink my paws for Big Brother. Oh, and I paid something like $95 for the experience, plus the background check.

Let's hope they let me drive home again once they run the things through the computer.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

nice piece of work

I have tentative approval of some property owners to set about fixin' up their place. Water damage has done some nasty stuff to the sill and footer on this sun room, so it will have to be stripped back to the rafters, at least along the front, in order to be repaired. We're going for some super heavy-duty laminate 2x12 stuff to replace what is rotted away. Saw it at the lumber yard the other day. Looks incredibly tough. Looking forward to working with it. May have to hire my brother-in-law for a couple of days to help with the heavy stuff. Will find out more details later today. Am busy making sketches now on graph paper, considering what the windows will look like with a wall such-and-such high. I'm looking forward to this a lot. It is nice to be able to take out the rotted stuff and replace it with something that looks nice and works better than the original stuff. Very nice indeed.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Hmph. I've been tagged. I never liked tag much as a kid. It seemed to boil down the playground pecking order pretty quickly by establishing who was the fastest and most fit (never me) and who was the least of those things (sometimes me). But this is a different kind of tag - nearly a chain letter but not quite. Mrmacrum over at the file cabinet tagged me. Apparently because he likes me. Maybe this is more like the playground stuff than I realized. Huh. Anyway, here are today's meme questions:

1. Where was I ten years ago?
let's see... 1998? Wow. I think I was still in the Sheet Metal Worker's union, living in Windham, Maine with an active alcoholic girlfriend with PTSD and two big, stupid dogs and one big, stupid cat. Been a lot of miles since then. Of careers, homes, relationships and pets, only the cat remains. The rest have moved on.

2. What was on my To Do list today?
Too freakin' much, that's what. Going to help out a journalist buddy patch some rotted spots on his house and build a deck. Supposed to rain tomorrow, so I'm up early and ready to head out to get at it. No pictures today. Just work. Oh yeah, and I have to make supper, do some dishes, hit the grocery store, cash in some returnables and hopefully hit a meeting. Right. All of that.

3. What would I do if I were a billionaire?
Not sure on this. What would I do with the money, or what would I do with myself? I think I'd use the money to help women get training to find decent jobs they like. I think I'd take some classes in metalworking and buy a huge welder and a place to use it to create cool and weird things.

4. Five places I've lived:
Newburyport, Mass., Farmington, Maine, Windham, Maine, Faribault, Minn., Mount Desert Island, Maine. MDI is the best, Minnesota was the worst. Too far from salt water. Never felt quite right.

5. Bad habits:
I tend to overestimate by ability to get things done and bite off more than I can chew. I also tend to be critical, which can be a real drag to be around. Oh, and I eat too much and exercise too little. But I think that might be because I am an American more than anything else.

Now to tag five people. Here's a challenge.

Darlene over at the slant. She's crazy busy right now, so I don't know if she'll do it, but I am a blogger now because of her influence, so she's gotta pay for that somehow.

Jen at laughing at chaos out in Denver. The mommyblogger who has opened up my eyes to that whole genre. Wow what cool and amazing things moms do!

Robin over at around the island. It has been most interesting getting to know her, and I like seeing the little blue and white flag every time she visits here. That's just very cool. Besides, she takes great pictures.

J at the littlest pea. Because she somehow seems to believe that we are from different generations as opposed to being from different ends of the same generation. It is my goal this year to make her see the difference.

Marie over at Whoopie pies and Lobster. My new foodie friend who also is a darned good writer. I am always interested to see what she has to say.

Now off to build a deck. Later!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Check this out

Check out this blog post on Sara Palin by my friend over at phigment. Brilliant stuff. Just delightful.

Everybody's doing it

Seems like everybody out there in the blogosphere is posting eloquent and touching stories about how our world has changed since the attacks seven years ago.

I can't do it. I thought about it briefly this morning, and wrote a paragraph or two that I shared with friends, but that was about it. I am terrified of what our nation has become as a result of an uneducated cowboy in the White House and some crazy religious fanatics who hate us. The two unwittingly joined forces and made my country into the kind of place we read about in social studies when we studied life behind the iron curtain. The government spies on the citizens, dissenters "disappear," private "security firms" of mercenaries operate outside the law, torture is approved, the government behaves as though it is immune from oversight.

I have no poignant stories to tell this year. Instead, I have a plea.

Register to vote. And then educate yourself about the issues and exercise your right (privilege, honor, and obligation) to vote in November.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hospital meeting results

So we went to the hospital today to meet with the CEO. Nice guy, quiet, unassuming accountant of a guy. He had been told of our situation by the other hospital CEO guy, so he was a little better prepared than that first guy was going in.

And like any good administrator, he defended his staff from a perceived attack. One of the points he raised struck me as quite valid, although its practical application during the incident in question was still skewed badly. Health care providers need to gather a "social history" of each patient to better inform the treating professional in his or her decision-making and diagnosis. For instance, I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. That is important information for my health care providers to have. If a person had a history as a sex worker, that would be valid information for doctors to know. If a person has no support system at home to help in dire circumstances, that is important for the providers to know as well.

{For those of you joining this story late in the game, the original post is HERE, followed by THIS, and THIS. The most recent post was this morning, and you can scroll down to see that - you don't need a damned link for it.}

The fact that N is a lesbian is technically irrelevant. The reasons given by her PA at the time to defend her disclosure of N's sexual orientation ("so he'd know you weren't pregnant and didn't have any STDs") is patently bogus. As I said before, lesbians get pregnant, and they get STDs. How on earth could this woman believe that stuff? I cannot fathom it. Anyway, N's orientation is irrelevant. What should have been said was "this patient is not pregnant, nor is she at risk for STDs." As far as a social history, these might have been more appropriate words: "she has a long-term partner at home who is able to care for her if she is physically unable to care for herself. That partner's name is XXX and is listed as her emergency contact person."

All of the pertinent information is transferred from one medical professional to the other without necessitating writing the word "gay" in large letters and then circling it at the top of the clipboard containing N's medical information. That was bad form all around. But this meeting was not about that institution. It was about the institution that oversees the PA who disclosed the information in the first place. Only we don't know specifically what was said by her to the ER doctor. Only that whatever it was, it was sufficient for him to write "gay" at the top of the page and circle it. Perhaps there is some kind of stomach ailment relating to being a lesbian of which I was previously unaware. I've looked it up, but never found anything. Huh.

So anyway, we met with this CEO guy. Nice enough guy. Turns out he really is an accountant. After a few minutes of conversation, and I was trying to impart upon this decent man just what kind of risk and isolation the glbt community faces here in Hancock County, Maine, I stepped boldly across one of those lines that can so often be a huge error and asked him "where do you worship?"

He was stunned. "What?" He just looked at me.
"Where do you worship?"
His eyes showed comprehension. "Bangor."
I nodded. "You drive to Bangor then?"
"This is about discrimination and vulnerability and feeling safe in our own communities." I said to him. "You get that, don't you?"
It was an invitation for affirmation, and he nodded.
"I get it."

Bangor is where the nearest synagogue is.

He knows what it is to be a misunderstood minority. He knows what it is to have people believe they know everything about you because they know one little thing about you. He knows what it is to be hated because you're just a little bit different. And I bet he knows what it is like to be vulnerable and to get kicked.

I have hope that this guy will do the right thing and offer (require) training to the staff under his supervision, and I would be delighted to participate in that effort in any way I can. But I also know that doctors like to listen to other doctors, and so a mutual friend (who has lots of expensive letters after his name) will probably be the one who is tapped for that duty. That's fine by me. This whole thing is not about me. It is about teaching our medical system and the people who work in it how to treat sexual minorities like humans. It is challenging work. It will require them (and perhaps us) to discuss very personal things very frankly and with candor. And again, we will have to educate our doctors. With any luck, it will not happen again for a while, and the frequency of these incidents will grow thinner and thinner until they disappear altogether.

Stay tuned for updates.

Hospitals, round two

Remember the post about how badly some friends of mine were treated in the emergency room at a local hospital? Remember how we met with the CEO of that hospital and he was really good, promising to do some training and education for his staff and exacting some measure of discomfort upon the staffers who screwed up so badly? Well, this morning we go to meet the CEO of the other hospital, the one that oversees the clinic where the PA works who originally shared with the ER doc that my friend was a lesbian.

Only one of my friends is able to make the appointment - the other has to work - so we will be attending together, with me in a supportive role. But I'll be taking notes as well. I like to do that. It makes people nervous about where their words might show up. Good. This guy has reason to worry. What happened at his institution was horrible, and he should be worried. If lawyers get involved, it could get very expensive. I don't think my friends want to do that, although I know that some lawyer-ish people have contacted them. I don't see this as being about money or retribution, I see this as being about getting it right and making sure nobody treats people like this again.

But I think the turning point in that decision-making process is today. It may not be fair to administer a hidden test to the CEO, but that is what will happen. If my friend is satisfied, even hopeful at the end of today's meeting, chances are good she'll tell the lawyers no thanks. But if something goes badly, odds are she'll be inclined to loose the hounds, as it were. I hope it goes well. This is the kind of thing that once it begins to go badly, will only continue to do so for a very long time. It rarely turns around and gets good. Resentments linger here, and a nasty confrontation will be remembered for years, decades even; by the same measure, a cooperative effort at progress will be remembered as well. Somehow, though, the good thing is always vulnerable to going bad, but the bad thing never seems to be at risk of becoming good.

So today we go forward tentatively, hoping things go well and making a good effort to be a part of the solution. Think kind thoughts in our direction, world. We're going to need all the energy and support we can get.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Uninsured losses

Hanna's a bitch.

Hurricane Hanna, that is.

What was supposed to be a rainy Sunday spent watching football and eating pot pie began instead with a phone message at 7 a.m. from the landlord. "You've got water in the basement. DON'T USE ANYTHING ELECTRIC. I'm coming over to pump it out."

We were up and out of bed in a hurry. We poked our heads out the door to see what looked like four feet of water sloshing around in the bulkhead. No shit. there were only two or three steps visible. The others were under water. Several hours and two sump pumps later (one was already in the basement, trying like hell and making not much headway, the other was lowered into the bulkhead) the landlord got in with his hip boots. We shut the furnace off early in this adventure. Good thing. All but the top two inches of it were under water.

So now I have come up from several hours of cleaning downstairs. It is nasty down there.

Stuff that I valued and carefully put away in cases and placed on shelves up off the floor is soaked and ruined. Shit I didn't care about that was stacked willy-nilly in buckets everywhere floated and is fine. The high water mark measured 40 inches on the furnace (now shot) and hot water heater (rumored to be ok).

The welder was completely under water. It is drying on a table in the landlord's garage. Its fate is uncertain.

The 4 1/2 inch angle grinder spilled water out of its guts when Laura picked it up off the workbench. Seems the water did go that high. It is drying as well and will take some time before I can tell if it can be salvaged.

The bench grinder has a water mark approximately half way up the motor casing. It, too, is drying.

The jig saw was in its case on a shelf under my workbench and thus ensconced in water. It is drying and the case is draining - it is a hollow plastic thing that now holds water within the confines of its own walls.

The bridge squisher I've been working on did get wet (it is the gray metal structure to the left of the picture - on the table), but had already been primed and has thus suffered very little damage. There are some rust spots on the underside, but they can easily be cleaned up and painted. The wood base that it gets bolted to is shot, though. Soaked and mildewed, it will never recover.

The metal cut-off saw was on the bench, but in the up position, so the motor escaped damage.

The lower two drawers on my upright toolbox were filled with water. The tools there are drying and will probably survive. The vice-grips will probably need grease to work properly, though.

Three separate coils of good rope were soaked and are now hanging on various clothes lines to dry.

Approximately forty-eleven gloves were soaked and are also hanging. They look a little silly, to be honest.

Above is a picture of the corner where I do most of my work. You can see the orange cut-off saw. My inhaler is resting on its cutting surface. It had been on the work bench beside it yesterday. It floated and came to rest where you see it. You can see the water mark on the bench grinder on the right table - about halfway up the big barrel part of it. My welder has already been removed to the garage. It normally lives beneath the workbench, on a shelf eight inches off the floor. That's the most water we've ever had before. The water lapped at the bottom of the shelf, but never got deeper than that.

You can see the buckets and pails strewn everywhere. The gray tote in the middle is holding a bunch of tools to be taken upstairs and dried in the sunshine. The yellow bucket toward the back on the left holds my scrap metal. It is full of water.

Everything got tossed around as though the cellar was picked up and shaken. Things floated all over and came to rest in unexpected places. It will probably take more time today and again tomorrow to get this anything like close to fixed. The tools may need to dry out for a week before I try to do anything with them. I am glad that many of my tools were in my tool box on my truck or at the job site. That was a blessing, at least.

I have not decided yet whether to file a claim on our new renter's insurance just to make them deny me so I can have a fit and yell at someone. I think yelling might help right about now. Beyond that, there is not much to do besides clean up, count the losses and mourn them.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Elusive peace - I'm not ready to make nice, either.

I have been reading and hearing a lot lately about how polarized America is, how bad that is for us as a nation, and how we all need to reach out to those across the aisle so we can make some real progress.

I just can't do that right now.

My political philosophies and attitudes were forged in the late 1980s when I came out as a lesbian. In college in a rural Maine town with no visible queer world and lots of angry bigotry all around me, I learned that I had to be prepared for violence at all times. More than once I asked the campus police to walk me to my car, and more than once I was the last one out of a building at night and the cop was there locking up and provided an escort without being asked. My office was vandalized, nasty notes were left on my car, and the bulletin board for the glbt&Allied student group I founded was defaced on nearly a daily basis.

I remember watching friends get sick, then sicker, and then be gone. And Ronald Reagan did nothing. He let my friends die because after all, homosexuals didn't vote for him, so who gives a damn, right? Yeah. That kind of bitter takes a long time to fade. And I will get back to it again in a minute.

After RR came George I., who claimed to be kinder and gentler but still didn't do a damned thing to keep my friends from dying. Actually, that work was done by the queer community. Faced with a deadly pandemic, gay men and lesbians educated ourselves about what was safe and what was not. The American Red Cross kept insisting that the blood supply was safe, but people were getting infected by the hundreds from receiving blood products from donors who were HIV positive. Eventually one such boy, Ryan White, made headlines and met the president and some shit began to happen. But only for those who contracted HIV through non-sexual or non-drug-related means. George was way too uptight to do otherwise.

So the queer community got together, put aside the differences between the campy boys and the butch motorcycle dykes and did what we could to organize and save ourselves from the deadly apathy of the rest of the country. We made some progress, but funding for research is still shamefully low. Seems again we are not a priority to anyone but us.

Then came Clinton, or more accurately, The Clintons. Two for one, we were told. We worked hard for them. We volunteered countless hours at phone banks, we stuffed envelopes, gave people rides to the polls and donated money. And were quickly ushered out the back when our presence made it difficult for Bill to get bipartisan support for things. We were a liability that got jettisoned in the process of compromising.

Well, you've got to give and take, we were told. Make small steps toward progress and the greater end goal, we were told. Only that's not what happened. Those "small steps toward progress" we were sold? More people have been rooted out and discharged from the military under Don't Ask, Don't Tell than ever before. The Defense of Marriage Act effectively negated the Full Faith and Contract (help me here, that might not be the exact wording I want) clause of the United States Constitution which says that any contract entered into in Alabama must be honored in New Hampshire. Or Texas. Or Montana. Or California. DOMA was nothing more than a way for states to have federal permission to not recognize gay families from another state if they so chose. Dozens of states now have constitutional prohibitions on any kind on gay marriage.

Please tell me what part of this compromise I am supposed to embrace. I thought compromise meant that neither party got all of what it wanted, but that each side went away with more than what they started with. We got bent over in the most awful way by the Clinton years. We got a royal screwing without so much as lube, a kiss on the cheek, or a $20 left on the dresser. The bitterness rises in my throat even now to think of the betrayal and abuse queer people suffered at the hands of our "allies." And this in the name of compromise? Still not warm and fuzzy about it. Not at all.

Then came the shrub. He stole the election from the smartest guy in the country by using the doped-up Supreme Court Chief Justice who was appointed by, and remains friends with, his dad. So much for free and fair elections. The UN offered to step in and investigate, but we told 'em no thanks. Jimmy Carter, who has made it his business to oversee elections in turbulent areas, cited all kinds of irregularities, but was silenced by a media who was more excited about the cowboy about to take office.

So, dubya took office with majorities in both houses of congress and commenced to fuck the American economy, the labor market, the housing market and the average Joe right into bankruptcy. Never has a president started with so much (surplus in the bank, lots of new jobs, lots of economic prosperity, the admiration of the world community) and pissed it all away so quickly.

He took the money out of the hands of trained social workers and care providers and gave it instead to untrained, unlicensed faith-based groups to provide health services to needy people. Mega-churches thrived. He lifted the taxes on the wealthiest of Americans and left minimum wage to languish at a level that could not feed and house anyone. He filled his administration with leftovers from Reagan (told you I'd get back to him) and his father, even going so far as to seek the consult of advisers from as far back as the Nixon administration (a time in US government known for being above board, transparent, and scandal-free, of course - gag).

With his evangelical friends, he created an "us or them" view of the world: the US as Christian and good, and all others (particularly non Judeo-Christian) as evil and bad. This, remarkably, is the same world view held by the jihadists, only in reverse.

For seven years this guy has bullied America, quashing the voices of artists (Dixie Chicks, anyone?) and anyone else who dared to question what he does. Helen Thomas, the grand diva of the presidential press corps, was relegated to the back row. And the press, the spineless bunch of them, laid down and did not protest. Shame on them all.

So anyway, W shoved all kinds of crap at us for seven years. We were powerless and mostly voiceless. On the rare occasion when our side would get something passed, the president would issue a signing statement declaring that he had no intention of adhering to or enforcing the new law. He just took the stuffing right out of it. And the Supremes backed him up.

So now, some 20+ years after my coming of age as a political soul, I have really had enough. I know that the opposition does not want me, does not like me, does not value me, and really takes joy in seeing me and mine denied the most basic of human rights. I also know that my allies cannot fully be trusted to support me. Remember a few years ago when US soldiers were training Iraqi policemen and they went into a situation where it turned into a gun battle between good guys and bad? Remember how the Iraqi guys threw down their weapons and ran away? That's what it felt like for us during the Clinton administration. We were hung out to dry, left outmatched by our enemies and abandoned by our allies.

My feeling now is that I intend to hold my allies to their promises. I am not interested in compromise or bipartisanship, at least not now. I am still too angry. And I defy anyone to tell me I should not be angry. We have been treated horribly for the 20 years that I have been paying attention, and from listening to those who came before me, I know that it is not a new phenomenon. We are the easy target. We are the least pricey thing to throw overboard.

But I think some things have been changing. At least I hope so. Fewer Americans are willing to watch as we are quietly ushered out the back. I'd like to think that there are more who will stand and fight with us. At least I hope so.

So to paraphrase the Dixie Chicks, yeah, I'm not ready to make nice yet either. I'm pissed. Trust has been broken, and it takes a very long time to build back. The others can compromise if they like, but I am not interested in sitting down at a table with the people who have beaten, abused and stomped all over me and mine ever since I became aware that the pain in my back was from a boot heel. I have no interest in negotiating with my oppressors. Let cooler heads do that if they like, and I will probably acquiesce when it is done, but I do not have the stomach to participate in that conversation.

If this means I am part of the problem of a polarized country and electorate, so be it. I am too angry to care. There is only so much bullshit I will take before I really begin to fight back, and that line has been crossed.

Monday, September 1, 2008

It just takes ones's breath away

this from Daily Kos:

Here is Palin's response to a candidate questionnaire for the Alaska 2006 gubernatorial race:

11. Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

SP: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance

Now for those who want to know why this is so offensive, consider this information (mostly) from Wikipedia:

1. The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. Fully more than a century after the end of the American War of Independence, one would expect that any founding fathers would be long since dead. Founding Grandkids, perhaps, but certainly no Founding Fathers in that crowd

2. Bellamy's original Pledge read, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The original version doesn't even mention America or God, so stuff that in your hat, Ms. veep-wannabe.

3. In 1923 the National Flag Conference called for the words my Flag to be changed to the Flag of the United States. The reason given was to ensure that immigrants knew to which flag reference was being made. The words "of America" were added a year later. Um, still no god stuff, two decades on.

4. The U.S. Congress officially recognized the Pledge as the official national pledge on June 22, 1942. Without the god stuff, again!

5. The words "under God" were added by legislation signed by Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 14, (Flag Day) 1954 after a sermon by a Presbyterian minister convinced him of the need to add a mention of a deity. Oh, here it is. During the McCarthy era. Right. 1954 is precisely 62 years after the thing was written, and nearly 200 years after any founding fathers were alive and writing things like declarations, constitutions and such. But no pledges... isn't that interesting??

6. Sarah Palin is a certifiable idiot.

I can hardly wait for November.