Sunday, July 30, 2006

Waiting and Wading in Maine

I love the beach at Ogunquit, no more so than this past Saturday. This despite the more than two hours it took to make a one-hour journey. (Thanks, once again, to the state of New Hampshire for creating that wonderful backup at the Hampton tollbooths so you can collect ONE DOLLAR from me. This does NOT make me bullish on New Hampshire tourism. On the other hand, thanks to the nice town employee who helped us get the last available parking space in the public lot near the the little Ogunquit River bridge. That's civil service.)

When we finally hit our patch of sand, we were only about an hour from high tide. Fortunately, my observant hubby picked a patch of ground a little beyond the last visible high-tide mark--up near the rocks. It was so hot, and the water was SO COLD--colder than during our last visit, in late June. (It must be an ocean current thing.) The water was so frigid it actually hurt to stand in, yet the sun was beating down so hard that everyone was forced to choose between sun, water, sun, water. I chose sitting in a chair, reading a book (in which much of the action, coincidentally, takes place in a Maine summer colony), and occasionally dipping in the cold before retreating again, where I threw a towel over my legs to keep from becoming one of New England's last freshly made Krispy Kremes.

When the tide starting coming in, it came in fast. I looked up from my book and realized that the water was mere feet away. We pulled our blanket, shoes, and chairs back a couple of feet, then did the same for some sand-neighbors who had gone off for a swim. This continued for more than an hour, as the water got closer and closer to the rocks against the cement wall in front of the parking lot.

With a motto of "if you can't beat it, retreat from it," the multitudes took flight. Well, they moved their stuff. It was comical to see hundreds of bathers madly pulling their gear back, until we were all crowded into a long, narrow strip of unsoaked sand, leaving barely room to walk among the blankets, umbrellas, chairs, coolers, towels, and baby gear.

My husband and I strolled along the shoreline, trying to find if their were warmer pockets of water (nope) and if everyone was making the mad scramble for dry patches of sand (yup). Up and down the beach, a sort of cameraderie grew as we all waited for the turning of the tide, sharing space, making jokes, shaking our heads at wet towels and soaked shoes.

One group of kids decided they'd had enough and went on the offensive. Their battlement, made of a sandwall high enough (and far enough back) to fend off the encroaching waves stood, proudly, emblazoned with "Big Dig 2006."

Time and tide wait for no man. Instead, they make memories for all of us.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

They're Still Wrong

I do care that Washington State's Supreme Court upheld a ban on gay marriage. To say I don't care would just be flippant. I still believe they're wrong, and that time will prove Massachusetts right. Some things take time--votes for women and minorities, civil rights for non-whites. I'm just finding it harder to be patient as I think of a segment of our population that's denied a right that my husband and I didn't have to fight for.

There are a few rays of light, however:

In a splintered decision, Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that the state's marriage law was enacted to "promote procreation and to encourage stable families."

"The legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers the State's legitimate interests in procreation and the well-being of children."

She wrote that the same-sex couples failed to prove that they had a fundamental right to marry, or that the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

The 5-4 ruling -- signed by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justice Charles Johnson -- also noted a hardship for same-sex couples, however, and suggested that the legislature "may want to re-examine the impact of the marriage laws on all citizens of this state." (Emphasis added by me.)

I'm hoping that last sentiment--that this ruling is hurting law-abiding citizens--will begin to take hold among a larger segment of the population at large.

One final note: This continuing "defense" of marriage as largely (or solely) to promote procreation is yet again a slap in the face to those couples who cannot (or choose not to) have children. Are these marriages, though heterosexual, somehow less "legitimate" than those in which children are born? This argument has always struck me as both weak and offensive, so find another one already.

If the state wants to support stable homes for children, then cut poverty, increase employment, provide more beds for drug/alcohol rehab, and improve the schools. Those things will make homes for children more stable, not some mean-spirited law that reduces the rights of citizens.

Am I a Traitor?

Why is it that, as much as I love Dunkin' iced coffee, I find myself increasingly drawn to the new iced coffee at McDonald's? And you can't even get it in decaf, for god's sake.

I tell myself--well, they're using the Newman's Own Organic Coffee. So the famed Paul Newman charities get some money. Presumably the coffee is being grown by smallish, possibly even fair-trade, suppliers. Plus the beans are roasted by Vermont's own Green Mountain Coffee. That's all good, right? And it's not like McDonald's is some Goliath (which it is) going up against a tiny Dunkin David, because that's just not true. Still, still....

But let's get real. There's a McD's with a drivethrough on my way to work. No such animal in the form of a Dunkin for me. (I may drive the only 3-mile stretch in MetroWest with just ONE Dunks on the route.) And it only costs $1.59 (plus tax) for a generous medium--about 50 cents less than a medium iced dunks (which you can get in decaf, a nice thing in the late afternoon).

And it tastes really good. I feel almost sorrowful in saying that. Most iced coffee is pretty mediocre. Starbucks is overroasted. Peet's is good but not readily available to me except at their store in Lexington. Most restaurant versions are basically a cup of coffee poured over ice. (You'd think that would be my favorite, since I first became addicted to the stuff when my New York-born dad would get through Virginia summers by dumping his dinner coffee into a glass filled with ice.) For years I'd tell anyone who'd listen (before they backed away slowly) that nobody's--and I meant nobody's--iced coffee touched Dunk's. When we moved back east after six Dunks-free/good-iced-coffee-free years in Texas, I almost cried the first time I put a cold one to my lips.

But now I've found another and I feel so...bad? Guilty? Overcaffeinated? Since they don't make the McD's version in decaf, how about if I stick to McD's in the morning and Dunks decaf iced for the rest of the day. Is that okay?

(For another take on this, read The Columnist Manifesto's views on the growing coffee wars. Okay, he's a Mets fan, get over it.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Goodbye, Fred!

In a previous life, I worked as member-publications manager at the American Statistical Association (a fact that would have made my college statistics teacher laugh merrily--I was hopeless). One of our most esteemed members, Frederick Mosteller, died July 23 in Virginia. He served as ASA President in 1967 and was always one of the people we'd point to and say, "Look at what this man has accomplished."

And indeed, his accomplishments were many: He founded Harvard's department of statistics and published influential books and papers in many fields, including health, education, and the field of statistics known as "meta-analysis." The Washington Post has a nice summary of his professional life here.

But he wasn't just about the work. Long before Bill James and the invention of Sabermetrics, Fred was mulling over baseball and the numbers, as the Post says:
One of Dr. Mosteller's early papers, the first known academic analysis of baseball, showed that even a strong team relies heavily on luck in a short, seven-game series. He wrote the piece after the Boston Red Sox, his favorite team, lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946.
A longtime resident of Belmont, he moved to Northern Virginia two years ago to be near his kids. Though I only met him in passing at one of our national meetings, I know that he had many friends and admirers. The world will miss you, Fred--we've lost a Sox fan and a great man.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wanted: One Good Guinea Pig Vet

My son's little divas (by which I mean his guinea pigs) have reached a certain age. By which I mean that need to be spayed. Since we're not planning on breeding them, they will have better long-term health if they get some surgery. And my son wants his pets to have the longest, healthiest lives possible.

But obviously this is not a DIY job, so I'm looking for any suggestions (preferably in the Boston MetroWest area) for a veterinarian experienced with cavies and/or rodents.

If you know anyone you'd recommend, please email or leave a comment. Thanks!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

With So Many Bloggers, Let's Put on a Show!

Glad to hear that I'm not alone: According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, there are about a gazillion bloggers online. And apparently many of them are younger than I am and go to a lot more clubs and bars.

Okay, not a gazillion. Not even a bajillion. But 12 million bloggers in the U.S. counts for plenty.

Some of them you've heard of, most you haven't. Which leaves room for the TV series, since everything seems to become a TV series these days, what with those niche channels like Fuel, Speed, Lifetime Movies, and the all-telenovelas-all-the-time MyNetworkTV (the leftovers from the UPN-WB merger--as Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up), The Utter Trash Channel, and so on. (Okay, I did make up that last one.) There's just so much material out there!

The show would go something like this: "There are 12 million stories in the Naked Blogosphere. This is one of them." Everyone could get a shot at telling their stories on TV--how your pregnancy went; why you hate grocery shopping; is Lyndon LaRouche still a viable candidate for POTUS; world's worst job interview; and the ever-popular funny pictures of your cat.

Boston bloggers would of course get episodes devoted to Sox love, Big Dig dismay, the best place to eat lobstah, how rude/nice/odd/special Bostonians are, and why New Yorkers should stop talking funny.

Being blog-based, many of the stories would be rambling, some funny, some gripping, many misspelled and grammatically incorrect. Some would make you think you'd discovered an amazing new talent, others would make you go "eh." Just like the blogosphere.

I think it could work. Bloggers, start your pitches!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

One of the Things I Love About Brotherhood

We've been watching Showtime's new, exceptionally SFNE show Brotherhood (which you must admit is a catchier title than A Thinly Veiled Account of the Bulger Brothers Set in Providence Instead of Boston So We Can Fictionalize It More) and loving it.

There are many things to enjoy--complex characters, fairly accurate accents, and the fact that it's actually shot on location so it looks real. One of my favorite elements is that the main character, Tommy Caffey, a Rhode Island state rep from a run-down section of Providence, lives in an old rowhouse. And said old rowhouse has a problem: When you turn on a window-unit air conditioner at the same time you're running the dishwasher, the circuit blows. And upgrading the electrical will cost $10,000 he doesn't have. It's become a running plot point--fixing up the house.

A true New England plotline, especially in this heat. We've found in our old house that the circuit blows when you turn on the fourth window unit (the older, less energy-efficient one). That's with the washing machine, a load of portable fans, and the other three units running, however; I think we're in better shape than Tommy. For now.

So I won't be cutting any deals with a union to have "some boys come over and help out" with the problem any time soon. Though if I could, I'd probably consider it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Babes, Part II

I asked The Boy to bring me the dirty clothes in his hamper. After adding them to the already over-loaded basket I was about to carry to the basement, he had an epiphany.

"Wow, Mom," he said. "I've come to the conclusion that doing laundry is a lot more work than I thought it was!"

(And yes, this remark isn't as profound as the previous post, but it just shows that as a mother, you can expect just about anything in the space of a few days.)

Out of the Mouths of Babes

While standing in the rain during the Con-Con this week, my son--a veteran of many State House visits to lobby in support of equal marriage rights--noticed that there weren't as many of the "others" on the opposite side of the street as he expected. (My husband, in fact, mentioned that he'd expected a much larger turnout himself, particularly given the amount of out-of-state money being poured into the anti-gay-marriage movement.)

Jim and I offered several reasons for the lower turnout--the rain, the low spot on the agenda (meaning that they wouldn't get to a vote, which is exactly what happened), and summer vacations.

"Vacations? That could be it," said The Boy. "Even evil has to take a break sometime, Mom!"

Monday, July 10, 2006

Marriage Equality Still on the Line

Another day, another Constitutional Convention. The right of consenting adults to marry is under consideration--under fire--again, this time on Wednesday, July 12.

It's not too late to do your part to preserve equal marriage rights for all families. The good folks at MassEquality have ways you can help--check it out.

Don't kid yourself: this is our era's civil rights issue, whether you're straight, gay, or bi. This is about allowing adults to live their lives with the people they love, with the full protection of the law. Remember when interracial marriage was illegal because, after all, it "went against longstanding tradition"?

We live and learn. Make your state proud--do the right thing.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pipe Bomb Update: Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Strange?

According to today's Lexington Minuteman, the pipe bomb that kid made in my neighborhood was just part of a hobby he shares with his dad:
James Cooke, who just completed the eighth-grade, developed an interest in chemistry over the past year after science lesson in school. James and his father David, a physicist at Hanscom, often experimented with concepts taught in the classroom. The two recently began a project of mixing chemicals, purchased from online vendors, to make controlled explosions.

Last Friday, James Cooke followed everything his father taught him, even testing the time of the fuse the night before. Unlike when working with his father, James placed the explosives inside a PVC container and capped it, effectively making a firecracker, which is illegal in Massachusetts. The loud bang set off by the exploding plastic notified Michele and a neighbor what her son was up to, hiding behind a picnic table in their yard.
Apparently the noise from the pre-Fourth of July hijinx bummed out James' mom, Michele, who proceeded to call the police, thinking Officer Friendly would just give her son a talking-to. No such luck:
The officer, unsure of what the chemicals were, called the fire chief. The fire chief, following protocol and state law, refused to touch the chemicals, evacuated the home and called the state bomb squad. The news media began circling overhead. The squad came, took away the still-bagged compounds and took them to the town dump on Hartwell Avenue where they were detonated. James is now doing dishes.
It turns out that James and his dad possessed illegally large amounts of explosive materials according to Massachusetts state law. Nevertheless, given all the fuss and bother, Mom Michele is now sorry she called in the cops.
"It was funny," said Michele in retrospect. "It was really, really funny."
Sing along with me now: "So we'll have fun, fun, fun till the bombsquad takes my C4 away..."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Advantage of Traveling on the Fourth of July

My husband, son, and I visited my in-laws in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia this weekend, returning yesterday. Despite the 630-mile journey--which is going to take all day no matter how you slice it--it was smooth sailing. (We skirted the NY/NJ area by taking I-81 to I-84 to the Mass Pike.)

No traffic to speak of. No backups. No roadwork. No pileups. Everyone must have been at the beach, out of town, on the Cape, in the Berkshires--anything but on the road.

Except for the superabundance of cops looking for speeders (which forced me to drive at a sedate 70 instead of my preferred 80 on the nearly empty interstates), it was one of the nicest long drives I've ever made. Even the massive rain in central Pennsylvania in mid-afternoon couldn't (ahem) dampen our spirits.

Tuesday holidays--they're meant for traveling.