At What Point?

Our area has been dealing with a local story gone national.  It’s the story of Hannah Graham, the University of Virginia who disappeared on September 13.  It’s difficult for two reasons.  First, it hits close to home.  This was a kid who played in her high school marching band just behind my house.  Second, it’s all too common.

As a parent, I can’t fathom what Heather Graham’s parents are feeling.  And, also as a parent, I can’t help but wonder when we have to prepare our children for the big bad world out there.

At what point do we break it to Mia – my beautiful, sweet, insanely smart daughter – that this world is a scary place?  A place in which people – mostly men – might want to take her and hurt her for terrible reasons.  A world in which she needs to learn how to fight back, to hit, to punch and to scream.

I understand that she needs to know these things but I can’t help but feeling that we’re taking a piece of her childhood by telling her.  I don’t like the fact that we have to pull back the curtain and show her that the wizard isn’t all she thought him to be, that the world isn’t always in technicolor, that it’s sometimes black and white, that the tornado is sometimes headed directly toward you, and sometimes this just isn’t Kansas anymore.

New World Order

After watching a story on the Daily Show about the relative incompetence of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, I had a bizarre idea.  And as a result of that bizarre idea, I did a little digging.  If you didn’t see it, the premise of Jon Stewart’s diatribe was the fact that the Committee on Science, Space and Technology was ineffectually debating the concept of climate change in spite of the fact that it actually exists.  I wanted to see exactly who this committee was.  I took a look at the bios of the top ten Republicans and Democrats on the committee to get a sense of their backgrounds.  It’s no wonder they couldn’t have an intelligent debate on science, space or technology…or climate change.  Take a look at their pre-House occupations:

  • Lamar Smith (R) – Lawyer
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R) – American studies, speechwriter
  • Ralph Hall (R) – Lawyer
  • James Sensenbrenner (R) – Lawyer
  • Frank Lucas (R) – Agricultural Economics
  • Randy Neugebauer (R) – Banking
  • Michael T. McCaul (R) – Lawyer
  • Paul C. Broun (R) – Doctor
  • Steven M. Palazzo (R) – Slightly unclear but nothing scientific
  • Mo Brooks (R) – Lawyer
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) – Nurse
  • Zoe Lofgren (D) – Lawyer
  • Dan Lipinski (D) – Engineer
  • Donna Edwards (D) – Lawyer
  • Frederica Wilson (D) – Elementary School Principal
  • Suzanne Bonamici (D) – Lawyer
  • Eric Swalwell (D) – Lawyer
  • Dan Maffei (D) – Reporter, Investment Banker
  • Alan Grayson (D) – Lawyer
  • Joseph P. Kennedy III (D) – Engineer

These are not the droids you’re looking for.  Why are a bunch of lawyers debating climate change?

Congress represents the people but it’s chopped up into committees and subcommittees whose job it is to address very specific issues.  Yet those committees are populated by lawyers, speech writers and former actors.  So let’s do away with the general elections.

The Senate has 100 members, the House 435.  Let’s get a list of the topics we want Congress to address – science, oversight, finance, poverty, technology, gun control, the environment, armed services, health, veterans’ affairs – and allocate a specific number of those 535 to each.  Then let the voters decide.  Let doctors run against doctors to earn a place on a health committee, let environmentalist run against environmentalists to represent you when it comes to global warming, and let bankers run against bankers to monitor the country’s financial markets.

Let’s not elect lawyers to decide on environmental issues or reporters to guide this country into national debates on abortion. Let’s let professional credentials decide who should facilitate intelligent conversations on subjects that we care about, not the white guy with the whitest teeth and shiniest smile.


I’m a pretty risk-averse kinda guy.  I like to know what to expect from the day, like to feel settled, to be in control, or as in control as one can be.  So it was pretty surprising when, exactly one year ago today, I started a new job.  Surprising because it meant I had to quit the old comfy one.

I had no real appreciation for what I was getting myself into.  I had responsibilities I didn’t know existed, a commute that made my old one look like a casual stroll (especially when I went to the office since I teleworked most days), and, while there were many familiar faces, there were far more unfamiliar ones.

It was one of the better decisions I’ve made in my life.

I’m busy, far busier than I thought I’d ever be.  I won’t be getting 5% annual raises and I kissed my annual bonus goodbye.  But the stress level is amazingly manageable and I feel smart.  Yeah, I get to go to work, be smart at something, make decisions that impact real people, and still get home at a reasonable time every evening.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

17 Things I Like About You

My wife has a new job.  She has been asked – in one of those oft-hated ice-breaker type of exercises – to share several things people do not know about her.  After a few beers, I crafted a list for her.

  1. I can speak ancient Greek and Sanskrit.
  2. There’s a spider on the ceiling.
  3. I’ve been a vegetarian for over a decade.
  4. Therefore, I now feel bad about the spider guts on the ceiling.
  5. I named my daughter after Amelie Earheart in the hopes that she’d be a strong woman.
  6. Beer is good.
  7. I enjoy crossword puzzles and only rarely look up the answers on the internet.
  8. My husband is a god.
  9. I met my husband  – the god – when we were in our freshman year of college and I’ve loved him ever since.
  10. Despite the fact that I’m a vegetarian, I love sushi.
  11. I resisted a minivan until it was no longer possible to not drive a minivan.
  12. Horses freak me out.  I’m not sure why.
  13. I have always kept a flower – real or fake – in my car.  My husband wonders why.
  14. Eighteen is my husband’s favorite number.  Which you care about why?
  15. I think I spelled “Earhart” incorrectly on number 5.
  16. My most favorite trip was the trip I took to Paris 10 years ago.
  17. I like cheese.


[This is not a woe-is-me thing as much as it sounds like a woe-is-me thing.]

Every month there’s a day that goes a little something like this.  I get up around 6:00 [did you launch into the chorus of Mr. Brownstone there?  I did.] and work from home for four or five hours.  At some point I take a shower (so I don’t stink) and dress myself (so I don’t look homeless…or naked) then I hop in the Cactusmobile* and head to the doctor.  I wait for half an hour not because my doctor is unresponsive like so many others but because the infusions I’m there for cost so damn much money, they won’t actually mix the stuff until I’m there.  I read a book.  They eventually come get me, walk me back to your standard patient room and take my vital signs.  I react positively to proof that I am still alive but negatively at the fact that my blood pressure is creeping into territory I don’t like.  (#thankssteroids)  Then I get two very large syringes jabbed into each arm.  And since the stuff they’re injecting me with is viscous, it takes a good two minutes per shot.  Then I go back to the waiting room and read for half an hour.  This is so they can be sure I won’t die.  I am appreciative.  I read a book.  Once again they collect me, do my vitals then tell me to have a nice day.  And generally I do.

I complain about modern medicine – and everything really – without sometimes thinking about just how lucky most of us are.  Sure, the system could use work.  I’d argue that it should be an entirely government-run, socialist system because, well, I’m entitled to my own opinion.  But, regardless, I get two massive injections of gunk that cost more than the Cactusmobile for a year’s worth, I pay $35 and I’m marginally healthier as a result (let’s not talk about the legs, okay?).

That’s kinda lucky in my book.

Think of a giant Joshua Tree with wheels and a cockpit.

Jar Of Farts

When I was a kid, I had pure, unadulterated hatred of The Carpenters.  No one – even me – could really explain it.  Looking back on it now, sure they sucked but only because they were so safe, so saccharine, so pure with no rough edges.  (Kinda like The Wiggles…if two of The Wiggles died and the remaining two transformed themselves into a slightly creepy brother and sister vocal duo. That didn’t work too well.)  But I wasn’t mentally weighing these musical factors in order to form some well thought-out decision paper on the relative merit of The Carpenters.  I just viscerally disliked them with fiery hot passion.  (To this day I still can’t stand them.)

This is why, while I think it’s odd, I kind of get where Owen’s coming when he covers his ears and runs out of a room when Christina Perri’s Jar of Hearts begins to play.  When the song was more popular, his reaction was quick and strong.  He began calling it Jar of Farts and once panicked as he entered the mall for fear that he’d hear it play.  There were real tears, people.  Luckily, he’s gotten better.  Over the weekend we were, in fact, at the mall, the song came on and he merely asked me if the song was still popular, with the implied hope that it would soon fade from popular consciousness and stop threatening his ears.  I didn’t bother to tell him that the mall music people probably don’t care even a little bit.




What would you do if you shared an elevator with noted astrophysicist, author and all-around cool guy Neil Degrasse Tyson?

If you’re anything like me you stare a little awkwardly and think that guy looks really familiar, now where have I seen him before?  And then, once you stared enough to frighten the famous scientist, you get off the elevator at your floor.  Five minutes will pass and then you’ll say holy shit, that was Neil Degrasse Tyson I just freaked out.