Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Well, as many of you know, I have wanted a kitten for a long time. Finally living in my own apartment, it seemed like this might be the year, but alas, Mr. Straussberger (landlord and father to Anna) said "no cats." I have continued to visit the cats at the McKamey Animal Shelter all year, and right now they are having a special - cat, including shots and vaccinations, neutering/spaying (respectively), and microchip on sale for $25. Deal, right? So then I found Francis, and he was charming and friendly, and likes to be held and rub his face on you, and purrs a lot. Also, he has long, very soft hairs and an extremely long and swishy black tail. Obvi, I wanted him. 

Anna happened to be home on a vacation this week, and her parents had a gathering at their house Sunday night to which Jason and I were invited. I told Anna about Francis, and how we had to convince her dad to say yes, and so she worked her daughterly wiles on him, and I said "pleeease" and promised that Francis would only pee in his litter box. And so Mr. Straussberger relented! And thus, yesterday we went and picked him up! He sat quietly and patiently in his box all the way home in the car, and when we got him out, he didn't seem scared at all, just walked around a little bit. After a while, he seemed very comfortable and was all purring and climbing on everyone. However, last night he was so happy to be home that he did not sleep at all, I'm pretty sure, and spent the evening waking people up, climbing on their faces, and meowing. Hopefully this is not a habit he plans to continue as I must sleep sometimes. He had a somewhat rough day yesterday which culminated in his going to the Cat Clinic for grooming and treatment for the various illnesses and parasites he contracted while living at the shelter. 

This is not going to become a blog about Francis, however, several have requested to see his photo, so the following are his introduction to the world!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


*Let me begin with the caveat that, for the sake of finding it amusing, I am operating under the assumption that no one has been hurt in the situation I am about to discuss. If so, they haven't said it on npr, and they usually don't shy away from grim details.

This is the year 2008. There are men orbiting the earth in sophisticated space craft. People carry telephones the size of an index card that play music and use the internet to find them restaurants when they're stumped on dinner. A black man has been elected president of the United States. Warren Sapp, former NFL defensive tackle, is in the running to win Dancing with the Stars, and Kmart sells cashmere sweaters. The point being, this world has come a long way since, oh I don't know, the 1600's. And then, this morning, I wake up and while showering hear this on the news. Somali pirates have captured a Saudi Arabian oil tanker and are holding it for ransom.


As in "arrrghh, matey," "someone catch that crocodile!" "those *ing amateurs. you left your dog, you idiots!" and "I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy?" I actually heard someone on the radio say that the pirates had presumably attached ropes to the side of the vessel and swung aboard. "This is dangerous work but isn't particularly hard work for the pirates," reads the npr article regarding the situation.

Now, apparently the reason that people in Somalia have resorted to pirating has its roots in the fact that their government has been in turmoil for the last 25 or so years, and the economy there is completely unstable. That is very unfortunate, and I would love it if our foreign policy had more to do with helping people in countries like Somalia establish an infrastructure than certain other ventures.

That said, pirating apparently also has other draws. According to npr, once again, pirates say 'A woman won't even look at me unless I'm a pirate making a lot of money.' That's right, they're in it for the ladies. Johnny Depp's appeal has apparently spread beyond Claire to the entire rest of the world, including eastern Africa.

The New York Times actually conducted an interview with some of these pirates in September, and they offered further reasoning for their actions, presumably in addition to impressing their lady friends. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits...We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.” So their pirating has an environmental and humanitarian aspect as well.

The news reports even offer the fact that the pirates are often unarmed...perhaps they use the traditional "or you'll walk the plank!" threat to keep the hostages compliant. Apparently the boats are mainly captured by the element of surprise.

Although, I suppose, hijacking a boat that doesn't belong to you and holding its sailors hostage is not the right thing to do, in a way I appreciate these fellas. In these days of doomsday economic news, and things falling down around our ears, it is nice to wake up and hear on the news that pirates are capturing frigates on the high seas, like it's 1700. Just hearing Robert Segal say "pirates" adds a whimsical note to the day, let's be honest.

Long live Captain Jack.

Monday, November 17, 2008

donde esta mi muse

In the interest of looking busy during a lull, but lacking true inspiration, I present "Assorted thoughts, with Emily."

1. Why is there no J. Crew in Chattanooga? This question haunts me daily, although to my paycheck it is more like Casper, the friendly ghost.

2. Although I swore I would never patronize 'Fanta' after seeing one of those genuinely obnoxious commercials with the girls singing the 'wanna fanta' song, I have devised the perfect fountain beverage, and it unfortunately includes their product. 3/4ths glass of cherry fanta + 1/4th glass of coke = perfection.

3. While I still tip my hat to the architecture of yesteryear, I have a new appreciation for modern conveniences, such as central heat and air, after my experience thus far with baseboard heaters.

4. Without the pace-setting convenience of school breaks (and the helpful anticipation built up by Claire decorating the apartment for Christmas in October), it is easy for holidays, like the rapidly approaching Thanksgiving, to totally sneak up on you. Only last night did I realize that said holiday was in fact next week. My sad lack of vacation days smirks at me.

5. Will there be a new "Elf" this year? I don't mean like, a remake of a 5 year-old movie, but a solidly amusing, heart-warming, holiday themed film? In the tradition of the Grinch, Home Alone, and Muppets' Christmas Carol?

6. There is something completely great about living in a city where you can go to lunch at a downtown sandwich shop and run into people you know. I need at least ONE of you Auburn people to move here, though, please, so I can run into people from college too.

7. I predict snow this holiday season. Really.

8. Sigh. I used up all my creativeness this morning thinking of story ideas and covers for the magazine. I just couldn't end on an odd number. I apologize for the lameness of this entry. The next one will be better.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let me tell you a story

(while I wait on proofs to edit at work at 6:22 pm.)

This story is not about something that happened to me, although it did happen to my friend Ali, who some say is freakishly like me in many ways, so it is almost the same thing. I share this story with you because Ali does not keep a blog, and can only tell it via word of mouth, so I volunteered to present it here.

*A little back-story: Ali (is a genius and works for CNN and) lives in Washington, DC. She recently moved into a new apartment in the basement of a home, which is occupied by a family with two young daughters. Ali has mentioned these children to me in passing, and that she was enjoying being in close proximity to a family while not feeling obligated to continually interact with them. The other day, on gchat of course, she noted that she had "just taken some kids to the zoo," but for some reason this was left unexplained. Last night at my apartment (she is in town, yay!), I asked her about it, assuming that the kids she had taken to the zoo were those of the family she lives beneath. She reacted with surprise that she had neglected to tell me the whole story, and then shared the following tale, which I found amusing.

(Ali and Kevin)

Many days, Ali's work schedule is such that she meets her (also genius) boyfriend Kevin for lunch at some charming restaurant in one of DC's equally charming neighborhoods. The neighborhood where Ali lives happens to be the one where the National Zoo is. As she and Kevin stepped out of their lunch spot one day, two very clean and well-kempt young children approached them - a boy of about 10 and a girl of about seven. "Excuse me, ma'am," said the boy, "can you tell us where the Zoo is?"

Ali and Kevin looked around for adults belonging to the children, and realized there were none. Perhaps this was a "Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiller" kind-of thing, and these children had run away to spend some time at the Zoo - did their parents know where they were? "Yes." Maybe they were time travelers from back in the day, when parents felt completely comfortable sending their young children unaccompanied on the Metro into one of the largest, busiest cities in the country, with the instruction that they get off at the stop that said "Zoo" and ask someone how to get there.

Turns out, they were not time travelers, but apparently the quite cosmopolitan children of parents who are very optimistic about today's society, and they were looking for the Zoo. Ali felt apprehensive about sending them off into the city alone (an emotion their parents had, again, avoided), and so bid Kevin farewell and took off to walk the several blocks with the kids.

As they walked, she asked them whether they weren't meant to be in school. "No," they said, "it's Election Day, so we have the day off." They went on to tell her that they normally attended a Jewish private school in Maryland, and had decided to take in the Zoo while they had some spare time. "We had a fake election at school yesterday," they proceeded to tell her as they made their way down the street. "It was totally pointless though [*here I would like to note that I'm quoting them] because, come on, we're all Jews, and everybody knows that all Jews are Democrats, and we're all just going to vote the way our parents do anyway. So, Obama won in a landslide." Ali, surprised by both their political and cultural acumen, as well as their frankness, responded "What about Joe Lieberman?" "Ohh, he's no Democrat," the children responded disdainfully.

They continued on their way to the Zoo, chattering happily about their dog and their favorite cousin, of whom Ali reminded them. Ali also reminded them to look both ways and stick together as they crossed the street and reached their destination. They stood in front of the gates. Ali surveyed the sky above them, and said, "you know guys, I think it might rain, I have an umbrella I could give-" "No," they said pleasantly, "we don't mind. No big deal. Thanks for walking with us." "Um, sure, no problem, have a good time," Ali said, and watched them walk cheerfully into the National Zoo together.

As she walked home, Ali realized that in their approximately 20-minute walk, she had never gotten their names. "It was weird, we had just had this long conversation, I knew all about them and their school and pets, then they just left. I felt like I should have shaken their hands or gotten their cell phone numbers or something, but they were kids, so of course I hadn't. Very surreal."

And that is the story of how Ali took some kids to the Zoo.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Historically speaking...

Regardless of who you voted for, this is a monumental day for our country. We should be proud of the fact that people finally got involved in the political process again, and we should be proud that over the last 50 years, we have been able to arrive at a point where a black man can be elected to the highest office in our country. David Gergen, CNN political analyst, quoted Dr. Martin Luther King last night. Dr. King, who gave his life for this future a day after saying these words, was looking forward to an America where all men were truly equal. He said:

"I just want to do God's will. He's allowed me to go up to the mountain and I've looked over and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land."

It's a shame that Dr. King was unable to see the triumph of his work last night in Chicago's Grant Park, but he would certainly be proud.

Other things that are good about this:

1. As Stephen Colbert noted, America should be happy about electing its first Hawaiian president.

2. Record-breaking voter turn-out, and celebrating Americans filling the streets to welcome their new president elect - welcome to the political process, America. Keep it up!

3. Bill Bennett, former Secretary of Education, noted on CNN last night (transcript unavailable at this time, so this is paraphrased:)'There is no longer a legitimate excuse to come from African Americans who claim that their race is an unmovable impediment to their success. In school, in the culture, in their lives. Senator Obama has proven that this is no longer viable.' Perhaps now we can ALL move into the "post-racial" era that Obama aspired to in his campaign.

4. Holograms on CNN...were they serious about that? "Help us, Obi Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope..." (The one of the capitol was pretty cool, though.) (also if I spelled that Star Wars guy's name wrong, think twice about what it says about you before you correct it.)

5. The whole world is excited about a new American president. I heard a recording on NPR of Chinese people shouting last night in unison, with their accents, "Yes we can!" Maybe people will quit talking about how America is a "crumbling empire." This country was not founded to be an "empire," it was founded to be great. As long as we hold to the tenets the nation was founded on, we will always continue to be great.

6. Senators McCain and Obama were as classy as they could be last night, which always helps heal factions.

So, go America, and now we can hopefully move on to other things besides politics.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get out the Vote!

It's Election Day!!! I love Election Day. Really, I love things that seem like big events, where everybody is doing something neat at the same time, like New Years Eve or Gameday. But Election Day is even better than all of those days because unlike most holidays, the actual partaking in the election isn't anti-climactic. The denouement doesn't happen until night-time (or a month later, as the case may be. please Florida, try to get it together this time.)

People often say that they don't feel like voting because, after all, "what's one vote?" And while I think P. Diddy might have taken it a little to the extreme by saying "VOTE OR DIE," I believe that thinking of an individual vote as worthless isn't right. Simplistically speaking, if every person was like "oh what does it matter, it's just one vote" and never stopped by the polling place on Election Day, there wouldn't be any votes.

It's true, America is not a direct democracy (which would mean that all the people of voting age in the whole country are required to vote on every single piece of legislation or appointment that occurs.) Instead, we are a republic (although a lot of Americans would probably answer incorrectly if you asked them this on the street.) For many reasons, we should be really, really glad about that. For one thing, if we were a direct democracy, no one would ever get any work done at work because we'd be voting or studying policy all the time. For another thing, there are an awful lot of ridiculous and uninformed voters out there who pick candidates based on how handsome they are, or how many movie stars are voting for them, or how funny they were on Saturday Night Live. Votes like that have to be tempered by the system (ours is called the Electoral College) and by the fact that most of the actual legislating that goes on is done by elected officials who voters have selected and trust to do the leg-work on figuring out the details. These people spend all their time working in Washington or various state capitols educating themselves (hopefully...) on policy, and legislation, and repercussions - and then they vote on it.

It is true, again, that many of our politicians seem sketch, and aren't exactly scholars. (Sigh. More people should be like Ron Paul. Whatever else you may say about him, that is a man of principle.) That is where it becomes up to us, as voters, to do our homework and pick the candidate we feel is most qualified, and best represents the ideals and tenets this country was founded on.

All too many times, unfortunately, it feels like we are forced to chose between the lesser of two evils as far as candidates go. I don't want to advocate a particular candidate here. My hope would be that you would take a look at the constitution of our country, and take a look at the federalist papers composed by our founding fathers as they were literally in the process of establishing this nation. Too often people scramble around in deep seas of policy and agendas, forgetting that there are guidebooks to navigating through all the mess. In voting, we need to go back to the roots of this country, the principles it was founded on, the freedoms our forefathers sought, and the rights each citizen is endowed with to shape and guide our decisions.

So, don't disregard your right to vote. No matter how small you feel like your voice is, you have a say in what goes on. Do your part, it's the only way you can earn the right to complain later. Go stand in line, cast your ballot, enjoy being a part of something bigger than yourself. Then put on your sticker and go to Starbucks for a free coffee.