Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Charity has set up a relief fund for the Red Cross over here and Network for Good has a list of relief organizations providing aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The devastation is amazing and of long duration and in fact, some call it one of the worst natural disasters ever.

These people need all the help we can provide. The LA/MS/AL area is among the poorest and the country and many of the people who have lost everything in New Orleans are also among the poorest in the country. It will be months, at least, before the area recovers, and years before some of these people will get back on their feet.

Also, here's a change: State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said earlier on Wednesday 10 to 12 foreign governments have offered general assistance to the United States to deal with the hurricane aftermath but no decision had been made about how these offers might be used. I always feel so proud when Americans rush to help other people, and it's amazing to me how generous and open people can be in times of crisis. It just feels weird to know other people are looking at Katrina's devastation and wondering how they can help us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


The devastation in New Orleans and Biloxi and other Gulf Coast communities is heartbreaking. It's hard not to put myself in their shoes and know, if not for the vicissitudes of upper level high pressure troughs, we -- also sitting at sea level -- could have been the ones smacked hard. As it is, we got a brief taste of the outer bands yesterday. Nothing serious, of course, just similar to the usual violent thunderstorms that roll through here every afternoon, but just a reminder of what might have been. As usual, the Red Cross is accepting donations.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Because it's there

If Mt. Everest was a fandom, I'd certainly be among its number one fangirls. There's just something so heart-stopping about that peak. I'm not so much into the thin air bit, something about needing oxygen, but I do very much admire those who scale that peak. It's not easy, it's not safe, and it's hard, hard work, and when you get to the tiny tip of the summit, you get all of 5 minutes to admire the view. Because, as it's commonly said, anyone can get up that hill; it's coming down that's the problem.

National Geographic has some links on Everest over here and NOVA has a page on the mountain here.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post had an article on military recruiting and affluence that's well worth reading.

There's a review of Amazon's new Short Stories program over here.

That's it for me, fanboys and fangirls. I'll see you on the other side of the weekend. Hope you have a good and safe one.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Things to read!

Some links I collected over the last few days that some of you might find interesting.

I've developed an obsession with Everest lately, and high altitude mountaineering in general. If you haven't already, I recommend Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air", but you can also read about the ill-fated 1996 Everest Expedition here, including the lengthy article that eventually became "Into Thin Air" and the dispatches filed from base camp and other articles.

Apparently, August 31 is blog day. I've got to find five blogs to recommend. If you have any ideas, email me or post a comment.

Does FOX News have any bearing on the outcome of the elections? Apparently not, according to this NY Times article. It also fits in with my current media theory, which I will expand up on a day that is not today.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hip, hip hooray!

After three years, two doctors, and one physical therapist, I finally have a diagnosis on my hip problem and as jemima observed, I'm entirely too cheerful about the fact I probably have a labral tear. It took them a while to diagnosis, but the fact I can pop my right hip out was very interesting to them. I was crushed, absolutely crushed, that what I thought was increased flexibility in my right leg is actually due to the labral tear and my recalcitrant left leg is what my right leg -- sans labral tear -- is supposed to look like. I'm just glad to finally, finally have a diagnosis and know now there wasn't anything I personally could do to make the pain and stiffness go away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

you and me collide

So I was reading Jaggie's comment in this post about how she met her husband and thought it was incredibly sweet. I love reading all the "How we met" stories published in Dear Abbey, so I thought maybe, just maybe, I should ask all of you about 'the click'. So how about it? Tell me -- us! -- about how you met your significant other or heck, your best friend etc. Inquiring minds -- mine! -- want to know.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The end of oil

The NY Times has a terrific article on oil which is well worth reading. I've been reading a lot lately about people wanting to boycott gasoline pumps for a day in order to 'teach' the oil companies a lesson. News flash: the only way prices are going to come down is for demand to decrease. A one-day boycott isn't going to do it. What will do it is a change in behavior and most people (read: Americans) are unwilling to give up the luxury of driving their own vehicles or gas-guzzling vehicles or do much in the way of 'sacrificing' in order to bring down the price of oil. The general attitude is, "Oh, we can always get more from Alaska." Um, no.

Global demand is 84 million barrels of oil a day, and the US alone consumes more than 20 million of that total a day. Nearly 50 percent of the crude consumed in the US is in gasoline. Demand is projected to grow by approximately 1.8 million barrels a day, and non-OPEC production will grow at a rate of 0.7 million barrels a day. I think you can see the problem, yes? It's easy to make OPEC the bad guys in this scenario, but really, they are doing all they can. The only OPEC country with spare capacity is Saudi Arabia (Iraq, while a member of OPEC, hasn't been counted in the quota since 1998). In June, OPEC raised its quotas by half a million barrels a day, and theoretically, that should have sent prices down except for the fact the market suspects OPEC has been exceeding its production quotas all along and the declarations of increases only legitimitized what they were already doing. (Also, it should be noted the US's top suppliers are the non-OPEC producers, Canada and Mexico. OPEC producers Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria round out the top five).

Alaska is touted as America's saving grace, but at current consumption, the estimated 10 billion barrels of oil in Alaska aren't going to last very long. Also, what people don't realize is that it takes a really, really, really long time to get oil to market. If drilling in ANWR is approved today, it will still take another 7 to 10 years for that oil to hit the pipe -- providing the global majors (who have pulled out of Alaska) bite, and the infrastructure is in place to allow for transportation. And anyone who thinks all of that Alaska oil is going to benefit only the US is dreaming. Given Alaska's location and transportation logistics and costs, chances are (MHO) that most of that crude is going to go the West Coast or across the Pacific to China and Japan, both major consumers of crude (the other alternatives are transport the oil by tanker down to the Panama Canal and up to the Gulf Coast, where the majority of refineries are or build a pipeline across Canada into the US; I don't know whether the latter is even on the table, but the former will certainly add to the cost of fuel -- making any savings due to increased supply non-existent)). By the time Alaska oil comes on line, consumption will have risen to a point that Alaska's drop in the barrel won't make a difference (and it really is a drop -- which is why the global majors are more interested in West African oil fields than Alaskan).

Another issue is capacity. Even if by some miracle, another Saudi Arabia is discovered in Russia or Indonesia or Nigeria, who's going to refine the crude? There hasn't been a new refinery built in the US for 30 years or so (I think 1976 was the last time a new one came online) and capacity during the summer driving season is around 96 percent. If you can't turn the crude into something you can use, then there's no point in spare production. Some people say, "Well, build a refinery then." Well, sure, except for the fact no one wants to live near a refinery. They are foul, foul things, prone to explosions and stink and pollute the air, and are eyesores. Really, be honest: would you be willing to live next to one?

Someone mentioned the 700 million some odd barrels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Even if President Bush released that oil, we're once again talking about a very short term solution. At a consumption rate of 30 million barrels a day, we're not talking about something that's going to slow the market down much. There are other issues that go along with supply: capacity, war, terrorism, outages, declining fields, and demand. Once the reserve is depleted, the high prices will be back, and it'll be necessary to once again fill that reserve with high prices.

The rub is very simple: we are never ever going to get all that oil we've consumed. You can drill all you want, but at the end of the day, there are 84 million barrels of oil less than there were the day before. It doesn't matter when oil production peaks (and some people say it already has). Technology doesn't matter either. Oil is a finite resource and the sooner people realize that, the better. It'll last longer and will cost less if we use less.

I'd love to see the President stand up and say, "I haven't asked you to sacrifice anything since 9/11, but now I'm asking you to take measures to reduce your oil consumption. Each of us Americans consumes approximately 3 gallons of oil a day apiece. If we reduce that even by a third, we'll have reduced our dependence on foreign oil. We won't have to worry about what will happen to us the next time Chavez in Venezeula throws a fit, or when terrorists attack an Iraqi pipeline. If we carpool more, we won't have to worry about what happens when Putin decides to take control of Yukos or when civil unrest breaks out in Nigeria." But he won't say that, and instead, he'll give tax breaks to the global majors -- already making record profits and with no incentives for further E&P -- and we'll keep on keeping on.

Further reading: The Energy Information Administration has plenty of information on US and global markets and you can track futures prices at NYMEX and spot prices at ICE.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Dog days

It's incredibly hot out. I walked to Walgreens around 11 today, stopping at the mailbox and an open house on my way there and the apartment office on my way back, and I thought I was going to melt. The Walgreens is just at the end of the block, so we're not talking huge walking distance by any means, but the heat makes it feel as if it's miles, and miles away. Of course, I was wearing the most ridiculous shoes too, and my feet were blistering and by the time I collapsed in one of the comfy chairs in the apartment office, I was done for. If it wasn't so darn hot, I'd go down to the pool. Pretty ironic, huh?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

there's you and me and all of the people

When you talk to people about how they ended up with the people they did, they always say something like, "I just knew" or "there was an instant click." I envy that certainty something fierce. I can't help but wondering if that click really existed at a moment in time or is it revisionist history? The romantic in me wants to believe the click is possible, but so far, there have been no shooting stars or neon arrows pointing the right direction. Why can't there be a sign that points out very clearly: "This is where you should go, this is where you should do, this is what you should be, this is who you should love and you should never ever let go."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The fruits of google

A little bit of a discussion on writers' groups over here -- well worth reading for anyone and everyone. Credit for today's LotD goes to my partner-in-crime when it comes to not writing: jemima. The misused colon? It's just for her (anyone else wanting to wage war on punctuation should visit the War Department chez jemima; unbound proudly supports all punctuation).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

He really didn't say that, did he?

The President, in reference to Cindy Sheehan:

"I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life ... I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy. And part of my being is to be outside exercising. So I'm mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so."

Sometimes, it's really best just to say nothing at all. Saying "I've got a life to live and will do so" when confronted with a grieving mother is just crass and stupid. This president is no great orator, but I never expected him to say something some completely insensitive and self-centered. Sheesh.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Geek LotDs

I had written up a post yesterday for today, but then my computer had a hissy fit, and I lost most of it, and you guys know how this story ends: I was way, way too lazy to resurrect it. And so I give you a geek link: How to install Yahoo! DSL without the CD.

Also, Massachusetts readers might get a kick of this article: Where in the World is Whitey Bulger?. If you want to avoid registering/logging-in, you can use

Also, as part of tonight's geek theme, I was reviewing my site stats and I KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU ARE COMING FROM*. I'm still very weirded out by the number of people who are coming to this site from both my undergrad and grad schools. Do they even KNOW I'm one of them? Inquiring minds want to know, but not so much so I'm going to out myself.

That is all.

Well, sort of. Some of you are easier to figure out than others.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Writing blahs

I'm feeling so incredibly unmotivated to write anything at all. It's been months since I've written anything not bloggy in nature and I have no idea how to account for the lack of motivation. I freely admit I'm one of those people who doesn't force herself to write; I always feel when I force it, the reader can tell. Plus, I have no ideas and now that I know more about writing than I did five or six years ago, I'm find it way harder. Now when I look at a story idea, I think okay, what's the plot? What's the crisis? What is the climax, and what's the resolution? If I can't fit all of those pieces in, I don't start at all. Currently, I have what I think is a great opening for a story, but I'm completely at a loss as to what happens in the story. It's not enough to know how a story begins; gotta know how it ends too. These days, I'm just not willing to wing it and go plotless.

Recommendations: Sue Grafton, who writes the Kinsey Milhone series, does a great job with description and bringing the reader vividly into a setting. Even if mystery isn't your thing, I recommend picking up one or two of the Grafton books just to see how it's done. Also, Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" -- whatever else you might think of it -- does a terrific job in creating and building suspense. It's not so much great writing as he has figured out the mystery of pacing and how to keep a reader's attention from chapter to chapter. He also does some good work with description, but Grafton's descriptive work is a little less esoteric.

Friday, August 12, 2005


If Rosa Parks moved to the front of the bus, the Fox News Channel would have this to say.

ETA: In theory, link should work now.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Talking heads

I don't know much about Cindy Sheehan except what I'm reading in the newspapers and in some venues, the obviously partisan spins. You're going to get a different angle on Sheehan if you visit Michelle Malkin* than what you get when you read Daily Kos. Here's the thing though: I think military families should get a free pass when they talk about the war. I don't care if they are pro or anti, but they've made sacrifices the rest of us haven't been asked to make. The vast majority of Americans are sitting around, enjoying life, and not at all acting as if there's a war on. People are still tooling around in their Hummers -- which is doing nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- and very few people from the middle-class are packing it in to head to Iraq. Every now and then, someone will tie a yellow ribbon around a tree, or organize a "Support Our Troops" bash, but really, what have you done for the war movement lately? I'll be honest -- I haven't sacrificed a dang thing.

Sheehan is doing more for the anti-war movement than most of us who thought this war was a Very Bad Idea (tm) from the beginning have. She is holding the President responsible for Iraq in a way that most of us haven't even tried to. The Democrats have rolled over (and only recently are finding a backbone again) and the press seemingly has given the President a free ride. Only Cindy Sheehan has the guts to say what should have been said a long time ago.

The chances of Bush actually meeting with her are next to nil. It's literally a no-win situation. He hasn't got a good reason to tell her why her son died in Iraq; all of his reasons for going to war are now proven false. And if he doesn't talk to her, then he comes across as a cold-hearted bastard. It's a PR problem of staggering proportions, but if he asked me, I'd tell him, "You said you were a compassionate conservative. Show that you are."

* I deliberately did not link to Malkin's site as there's considerable bad language in the post about Cindy Sheehan -- not by Michelle, incidentally -- and because I didn't link to Malkin, out of fairness, I also did not link to Daily Kos. However, all posts on the subject are easily found in both blogs.

I came across this letter in my journeys across the Internet and it makes some very good points. Too bad the people who need to read it the most never will.

For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will?

If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Oink, oink

President Bush signed the transportation bill today, and if you're really masochistic, you can read the whole thing over here, but my favorite part is the appropriation by bill sponsor Representative Don Young (AK) over here. To summarize:

(a) Designation- The Knik Arm bridge in Alaska to be planned, designed, and constructed pursuant to section 117 of title 23, United States Code, as high priority project number 2465 under section 1702 of this Act, is designated as `Don Young's Way'.

In case you didn't want to go look for section 1702, here's the relevant text: Planning, design, and construction of a bridge joining the Island of Gravina to the Community of Ketchikan.

The Island of Gravina has a population of approximately 50 people, and Ketchikan is a bustling community of 8,000. The cost of the bridge is going to be approximately $230 million. The icing on the cake is the fact Don Young is naming the damn thing after himself. Truly our tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The laws of attraction

This is the post I've been meaning to write forever and ever -- okay, well since last Tuesday, when the Fainter and I came to our "He's just not into you" epiphanies. Given that we had a double-header of the "Gilmore" Girls and Mexican food, it was amazing it took us that long to stop making excuses for the various romantic situations we've put ourselves into and realize the ultimate truth: when a guy is really, really into you, he'll drop everything and rush to your side and generally make a nuisance of himself. Half the time you don't want to see or understand that truth -- especially when it's a friend -- because you want to believe everyone's motives are just as uncomplicated and pure as your own.

A while ago, the Fainter mentioned it was amazing anyone got together at all these days. "How many things have to go right?" she wondered out-loud. There has to be mutual attraction, the ability to talk on both the trivial and the serious, the ability to open up emotionally, to work out problems, the willingness to forgive and understand, and about 80 gazillion other things. Only when all the pieces fit together, then do you have something that can work and that's worth looking for. The search though, let's be quite honest, sucks rocks. Thank God for Lorelei, Rory, and margaritas.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Somehow, I always thought I'd see Peter Jennings in that anchor chair once again. Hope against hope, I guess, and it's amazing we will never hear his articulate and intelligent reporting again.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


When I was driving home this evening, around 7:30 I got a flat. I'm really lucky that I didn't get into an accident -- I was after all on a highway and going 70 miles an hour and at that point, I was actually in the left lane. There were no cars to my right, so I was able to pull immediately over to the side and assess the situation. The front driver's side tire was very, very, very flat, the flabby rubber bulging out at the bottoms. I just stared at the tire and then walked to my trunk and hauled out the jack, the stand, and my spare tire. Then I picked up my cell, called my dad, and then after talking to him briefly, found the number for roadside assistance on the back of my driver's license.

The number to roadside assistance didn't work for some reason, and I decided I was going to have to try and change the tire myself. I was about an hour away from my uncle's, and two hours from my parents. Added to that, my flat happened in between two towns and so there wasn't a gas station around for miles. I pulled my car further to the right to give me more space to work on the tire. Meanwhile cars were whizzing by me, and no state trooper in sight. Usually the highways here are lousy with state troopers, but not on Sunday evening. Anyway, I pulled up my parking brake when I saw a white Sienna mini van pull up and a husband and wife got out.

"We will help you," the wife said. And her husband, very expertly, got my tire off and the spare tire back on. Meanwhile, we were standing at the side of the road, watching the sun melt into the horizon, the golden rays melting into white over the tree line. It was a beautiful evening, not too hot, and if it weren't for the situation, I would have greatly enjoyed it. I made small talk with the wife, learned they lived in the upcoming town, and they were on their way home from grocery shopping. She spoke with a Spanish accent. I never asked their names. I offered the husband money, but he smiled and shook his head. They got into their van, I got into my car, and we were off. The whole incident lasted about six minutes.

I wish I had gotten that couple's name and address so I could send them a thank-you card. I didn't panic or have a Seema!melt-down when I saw the flat because of the car class I'd recently taken and I knew I could change the tire; it might take me a while, but I could do it. I also knew, thanks to the car class, that my spare was actually full of air and not flat after seven years of riding around in my trunk. For those two things and the couple, I'm very, very grateful.

The ironic part of this story is when I was leaving my brother's house, I told him and Jessica -- because it was so late, quarter to six -- "Watch, tonight I'll get a flat." And then half-heartedly, I rapped my knuckles on the side of the door. Today was also the first time I didn't check the air in my tires before I left the house; my mother even mentioned that to me on the phone, that I always panic and take the car to Costco before leaving town just to make sure the car is ship-shape. Funny how it all came together tonight. I'm just very, very grateful that it turned out for the best and somewhere out there, there's a Spanish-speaking couple in a white Toyota Sienna mini-van whom I owe a big thank you to.
The world according to Seema

It's hot here in Redneck Country and so I said to everyone, "I'm feeling lightheaded and I'm going to get some water. Anyone else want some?"

My brother turned around and stared at me. "Do you live in a world where dehydration is contagious?"

Saturday, August 06, 2005

You unsexy thing

You know you're in Redneck country when:

  • You pull into a gas station behind a hulking white Ford F350
  • With three guys in muscle-Ts sitting in the truck bed
  • And then two guys come out carrying -- between them -- three cases of beer
  • And then all five guys sit in the back of the truck
  • Pop a can of beer open right there and then
  • And then two more guys -- also in muscle-Ts -- come out, with two bags of ice

How this scenario ends, I do not know, as I could see the dark clouds gathering in my rearview mirror and the sunshine ahead, and I sure as heck didn't want to be on the road with a massive truck carrying at least seven guys and enough beer to satiate a frat party.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A good cause

The regular scheduled bloggity planned for today is being pre-empted for something way more important -- the famine in Niger, caused in part by locusts and droughts that ruined their crops and of course, abject poverty, is killing millions. The pictures of the children who are starving to death are absolutely heartbreaking. You can help by donating to the various relief funds, including Save the Children and Mercy Corps.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

On writing

I wasn't planning to write about writing actually, but rather about a conversation I had with a friend last night, which stretched until past 11 pm -- which is why there was no bloggity last night -- but seeing a recent discussion prompted me to switch topics. You will have to wait another day to know what the Fainter and I spent hours discussing over Mexican food.

In another forum, I've been watching a writer reach out for feedback on ideas and debating the ideas in public. I'm all about discussing ideas with other people because it can help turn an idea into something tangible, something you can actually write about. But I think there's a point when you have to stop talking and start writing. I've never been a big fan of writing by committee or having more than two people look over a piece. I also think there's such a thing as over-editing and the only way to get over the hump is to produce several drafts of a story, have them looked over by one or two people you trust, and then send/post it somewhere.

Endless discussion on whether an idea actually works or not isn't going to get anyone anywhere. Ideas that may seem to work in concept may not work once it's time to write and something that may seem like a bad idea may turn out to be fantastic. The point is, you're never going to know if you muddy up the writing waters with multiple cooks. And now that I've mixed metaphors, I've got some writing to do (g).

Monday, August 01, 2005


The NY Times had an interesting article about the media here. If you don't already have a free registration there and want to read the article, may I suggest