Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poetry, Reality and Mandela

I finally saw Invictus. Mandela did keep the poem with him during his time on Robben Island, even though this isn't the words that he actually gave to the South African rugby team (as depicted in the film). It is nonetheless lovely, powerful and a poem deeply loved by Mandela:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced or cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
Mandela actually gave a passage from Teddy Roosevelt's speech, "The Man in the Arena" to Francois Pienaar before the 1995 Rugby world cup:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat."
Those words are similarly inspiring and give me great hope because powerful words can still come with the grammatical error of split infinitives. It also makes me sad when I read passages and poems like this because I don't know what has happened to the English language that there are increasingly fewer and fewer examples of emotionally stirring uses of language. Even our President's speeches seem to be lacking in emotional intensity and passion these days and recycle the same old rhetorical devices.
The movie was great. Eastwood did a good job of reminding us of the power of forgiveness. Even if I did come out of the theater cycling through in my mind a list of all of the problems with current day South Africa, I realized how lucky that nation was to have Mandela as their first democratically elected leader. I can't even begin to imagine what the situation of that nation would be like today had there been no Mandela.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Here is the What

I started this blog in 2004 with no explanation as to why I picked the peculiar title that I named this blog. Yesterday, while sitting at 8,000 feet above sea level at minus four degrees Fahrenheit, the blog title came into complete focus. My husband's family chose to go snowmobiling on this particularly chilly day and I opted to sit inside of the Beaver Creek Lodge and read Blood River, by Tim Butcher, a travel book about the author's decision to re-enact Henry Morton Stanley's journey of discovery through the Congo River Basin. Butcher decided to do the trip in 2004 in the midst of the ongoing civil war in the DRC. I chose to read a book about the horrors of a particularly brutal war tinged with the threat of human cannibalism over snowmobiles. That explains precisely why I chose the title to this blog.

I don't like cold. This is particularly well-documented both in my life and in this blog. But in particular, I very much despise the cold and snow of Utah. I can only explain it in this way. Before moving to Utah for college, my experience with snow was extremely limited. The only experience with snow that I remember with particularity was the day the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded. A freak snow and ice storm had moved through the Southeast and on that day, my family had packed the Buick station wagon and were leaving North Carolina and moving back to Pensacola, Florida. I remember the listening to the excitement of the launch and the devastation its aftermath on public radio and stopping at cold rest areas in Georgia with snow and ice piled on the sidewalks. Having no prior experience with snow, I remember trying to pick some up from off a picnic table. I wasn't wearing gloves. The snow/ice burned my hands and I wailed for the next twenty minutes in the car until I wasn't sure if I was crying about the tragedy of the shuttle or my hands.

The next experience that I had with snow didn't come until I was a freshman living in Provo, Utah. After a few clumsy slips and falls, I remembered that precise feeling of distrust that I had for that frozen precipitation. Snow seemed to magnify my insecurities and remind me of all of my clumsiness and awkwardness. It so happened to mirror the annual feelings of doubt that I felt about myself every time of year the first snows rolled around. Inevitably, as the temperature grew increasingly frigid I found myself looking to external sources for warmth. Quite sure that I was only looking for something only frivolous and fun (because after all, the only thing that I know to do when it is cold outside is to kiss someone), every year I would would look for someone to casually kiss. By February or March, my plan had inevitably backfired and I was left feeling sad and lonely because the boy that I found to kiss didn't think of me as anything more significant than someone just to kiss. Meanwhile, in contrast, I realized that I couldn't just kiss someone without it meaning something. April rolled around, and in Utah it was still snowing. I needed an out, and it was still snowing.

My sophomore year the boy's name was Ben and we had absolutely nothing in common. I took him to the symphony and he slept through Mahler. Yet, all he had to do was insert my name in a Beastie Boys song in just the right place and I was hooked. Shockingly, I knew this would go nowhere, but the night before I left for East Africa, I was still sad and crying because he fell asleep on his couch as I was telling him goodbye.

Enter Zanzibar. It was warm. I flirted with cute British boys and danced with Harvard business school grads blowing thousands on a big trip through Africa. I danced on deserted beaches and over the course of the summer, completely forgot about Ben. But it was more than just forgetting about Ben. That summer, I was able to sense the person that I wanted to become for the first time in my life. Sure I still wanted to be well-read, emotionally intense and interesting, but I also knew for the first time how much I wanted to be in the world and do something for it. It was the first time that I understood that life was about more than the sum total of my own heartbreaks. I could walk the streets of Stonetown at night alone, but not feel like a stranger in a strange land. In this far away place with an exotic name, I felt keenly like I was at home. That warm, humid, alive feeling that I cultivated in Zanzibar was what I wanted to feel everyday.

When I returned home at the end of the summer, that feeling soon faded and I was up to my old patterns again. But since then, there have always been moments when I have felt Zanzibar. Sometimes, when I least expect it, I feel Zanzibar. When I do, it is that feeling of warm. Usually, it is accompanied by the realization that someone other than myself is real and that I have the ability to bring some good in someone else's life. Other times it is the realization that someone else has brought something good into my life. My insides feel warm and I feel like I am dancing on some deserted white sandy beach with sand so fine that it is like flour between my toes.

So that is why I read books of the Congo instead of enjoying the snow. I don't enjoy the snow. This isn't to say all of my time in the snows of Utah were sad. Quite the contrary. I have so many happy memories, and in retrospect, even the sad ones make me laugh and smile now because I love the people with whom I shared those memories. However, I don't enjoy the self-pity that I bathed in when I wallowed for six months out of the year in the snows at the time when I lived in Utah. I don't like remembering myself as such a self-absorbed person. Instead, I want to feel Zanzibar.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Greetings

This year I thought I would be oh so modern and send an e-card to our friends. Results: disappointing. Next year, I will order more print cards and send them instead instead of trying to conform to this crazy electronic world in which we live.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Obligatory DC Snow Pictures

How do you feel about snow? To be perfectly honest, I loathe it. I may have spent seven years in Utah refining my snow driving skills and two years in New York improving my walking in stilettos through the snow skills, but there is nothing that I find a greater inconvenience than snow. DC received a legendary amount of snow on Saturday, and I was forced to go out in the height of the blizzard to work the reference desk at the library. This in spite of the fact that there were a total of three students in the library. One, two, three.

As the blizzard was waning later in the evening, I agreed to venture outside again with David and our friends Matt and Erin. The snow was still falling on Capitol Hill but we were on a mission: to find a good sledding hill. Or rather, should I say, they were on a mission, as sledding is one of those snow activities that I do not do (like skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or anything else that may have the word snow in it). I just wanted to see if I was capable still of walking in that much snow. I also figure that I should try to get used to snow since we are going to see David's family in Utah for Christmas and I hear that they have tremendous amounts of snow there already.

It was still snowing as we approached the Capitol, casting an eerie glow on the building, or perhaps it was just illuminating the nefarious wheeling and dealing that was taking in place inside of that building at that very hour...

We attempted photos by the House office buildings. Since the House is already on recess, it was pretty deserted.

As far as sledding goes, Erin and Matt had purchased some bizarre sledding contraption on their recent trip to Switzerland. We first tried it out on the hill on Independence Avenue. Alas, it was not steep enough and we were stopped by a Capitol Policeman who warned us of the dangers of sledding on an icy road.

We then moved on to a much steeper hill on SE New Jersey Avenue. It had already been packed from a few adventurous sledders earlier in the day and was perfect for our needs. I even tried it once, but just once, as anything involving racing downhill on ice terrifies me. Here is Erin showcasing how it is done.

The next day in the light of the sun, we decided to venture out again, this time with Knightley. Knightley did not enjoy the wind that blew his ears back as exhibited below.
He wasn't a big fan of being thrown out into the powder snow either. It was too deep and too powdery to hold his weight so he had to swim along until he found freedom in a plowed sidewalk.

Where the snow had been packed down, Knightley enjoyed the snow much more. He liked to spread completely out on the snow and ponder its frigidity.
Or he didn't mind posing for a picture with David in front of the Capitol.
This is my favorite picture that I took of the Capitol that day, by the way. The sky was so blue which was a welcomed change after two days of snow.

On our walk, we also passed the seat of our forgotten about third branch of government. Here is the Supreme Court building (I figure it is probably time that I post some actual pictures of other famous DC buildings). For next year, Knightley has voiced that he wants to be Justice Stevens for Halloween.

Here is the Capitol Christmas Tree. Imagine Nancy Pelosi wishing you happy Holiday tidings as you look at this picture.

Merry Christmas from Washington, DC!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On Queens, Their Consorts and Spaniels

David and I braved the potential snowpocolypse last night and went to the opening night of the film "The Young Victoria", as I was unwilling to let a few snowflakes deter me from the film that I said I would be lining up to see opening day.

It didn't disappoint. Sure, there are a few historical inaccuracies and a few details are overromanticized, but it is a movie. On the whole, the largest inaccuracy is probably making the young Victoria more confident and less flighty than a woman of eighteen years of age, particularly one who had spent her first eighteen years of life in relative isolation. I can forgive that detail, because after all, I am sure that Victoria herself would like to be remembered in that better light (Who wouldn't prefer their eighteen year old versions of themselves to be portrayed in a more confident way?).

This movie combined so many of the things that I love referencing British history, a sweet Victorian romance based on mutual respect, and most importantly, a loyal spaniel companion, Dash. Dash was so beloved, that his epitaph at Windsor reads: "His attachment was without selfishness, His playfulness without malice, His fidelity without deceit. READER, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example of DASH. " (Truer words couldn't be said of a beloved pet.)

Victoria's Dash
If there is a better way to spend a snowy night than watching this good natured film, I am not sure what it is. Not only that, but this film solidified that I will be re-reading and reading new biographies of Victoria (here is a link to my favorite biography of her) during the Christmas holidays in snowy Utah with David's family. Victoria's Daughters, by Jerrold M. Parker has been on my list for quite some time (ever since I read Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III by Flora Fraser, to be exact). It is now moving up on the priority list.
Here is a last interesting note. Sarah Ferguson, Fergie (the original one), produced this film. Here is the Washington Post's interview with her (over lunch at my favorite Georgetown cafe, Leopold's Kafe, an excellent spot to discuss the mostly German, Victoria).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tiger Pride

My alma mater, Pensacola High School won the Florida 3A Football championship, "completing the greatest football season in school history." We sure showed that Miami Jesuit school, just like an old debate tournament back in my day.

This year's finish was certainly better than my senior year when we had an excellent team, but an unfortunate sex scandal and cover-up got in the way of a state championship (and cost the school's administration their jobs).
I haven't been to a PHS football game since the fall of 2007, but I could tell that great things were on the horizon, even then:

I love Florida-style Friday Night Lights stories. PHS may not be powerhouse St. Thomas Acquinas (the Florida 5A Powerhouse and the number #1 high school football team in the nation according to most, but who actually lost their state championship game), but we will take it (According to Max Preps, PHS is just out of the top 100 teams in the nation list).

Big year for the Tigers. Big year.

Interested in more coverage of Pensacola's successful year, read this article. Very, very moving. They should make a movie. I am sure Sandra Bullock could be coaxed into starring in some role.

Best Reminder of the Week

The LDS First Presidency issued this statement on The Mormon Ethic of Civility. I love this reminder that we could all stand to be a little more civil in our interactions with others. I know I need that reminder sometimes and in many instances, should tone down my rhetoric (even if it is just in writing). The fact is, nothing is accomplished from talking in extremist language, it only alienates other people. To be perfectly honest too, that idea of talking from the extremes is one of the reason that I left the practice of law. After spending too much time in a courtroom where you are paid to argue zealously for your position, I realized that the best solution was always a middle ground, not the winner take all solution that litigation generally promotes. Though there are still things in this world that make me feel very upset and a keen sense of injustice, I agree so strongly with this part of the statement that is a quote from Robert D. Hales:

"Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But, 'to love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them who hate [us], and persecute [us]' (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and most of all, Christian courage."
**After I originally posted this entry, the church website posted this great article today on journalistic integrity. It singled out NPR as a news orginization that has gone above and beyond in separating opinion from fact journalism pieces. Everything on my blog is pretty much pure opinion, but as a librarian, researcher, and general lover of knowledge, there is nothing that is nearer to my heart than sources that can be trusted to produce and rely upon facts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bust a Move Through Your Web Conferencing

Having seen Up in the Air earlier this week, I wanted to offer some quick thoughts on the movie without spoiling any of it. Generally, I thought the movie was excellent, but I left feeling sad, and as more time passed, I felt even sadder.

First, let's discuss the happy part. In the scene of the characters crashing the tech conference party, I was drawn back into memories of every awkward law librarian party that I have attended where there has been dancing. This isn't to say I wasn't dancing at those events. To the contrary, I am usually front and center when it comes to librarian dance parties, because it is the one place that I can say, with a great deal of confidence, that I generally put the other dancers to shame (Let's be honest, most law librarians lack a keen sense of rhythm). And that feels good. What this movie made me wish, though, is that like in the film, Young MC would be paid to perform at a future Westlaw sponsored shindig. You hear that Thomson Reuters (or whatever your name is next year based on other media/publishing companies with who you may merge)? That is one way you can make this law librarian happy; I want to hear Bust a Move. (Note: this is also my favorite Dance Dance Revolution tune to play with my Mom using her Wii).

Moving on to the more depressing parts, I thought this film did a really good job exploring all of the ways overusing technology alienates us and distorts our human relationships. There is something so bleak that we use mediated interfaces for our saddest interactions (firing someone, breaking up with someone) as well as our seemingly happy interactions (relationships through text messages). It is as if we fear being ourselves and saying what we really think directly to the face of another human being. Technology is turning us all into social cowards. (Note: In my defense, my social cowardliness precedes technology as I have been know to write letters instead of saying something out loud. (A trait I shared with someone else who has been making the news lately.) However, as this phenomenon has become more pronounced through the use of technology, then I have actually reversed course and actually have become more willing to say what I think to someone's face. One must do what one can to rail against the alienating influences of technology.)

I liked how the film dealt with themes of loneliness too and the different ways in which people experience it. For Clooney's character, if you are surrounded by people, even if it is only on a plane at 30,000 feet, then you are not lonely. Only when you are alone in your empty apartment can you feel lonely, which is the exact opposite of the way that I experience loneliness. I only feel alone when I am in a room crowded with people.

Finally, this movie deals with the innately human struggle that we all must resolve: how much our relationships with others weigh us down or give our life meaning. According to Clooney's character, any relationship is a weight that we must remove. He reconsiders this position in several different ways throughout the film in a way I found incredibly realistic. This proposition gets reevaluated in my life daily. Some days I think that the weight of relationships have kept me from making the decisions that would have really made me happy at various points in my life (The character Natalie's decision to move to Omaha "for a boy" and sacrifice her career stung with familiarity). Other days, I feel like one big point of life is that we are here to make relationships and be with other people, no matter how difficult that may seem. Other days I am just happy to be with my family or friends and don't think about it at all.

This movie made me feel very sad for George Clooney's character. It also made me feel a little sad for George Clooney.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Song of 2009 circa 2004

This is the song that I have been obsessed with for the greater part of this year. I like to think that it would have been the perfect song for me in 2004 had it been released then. Back then I lived in a tiny studio apartment and tried to be very aloof and mysterious as one could be who lived in the very predictable UES.

Still, it has to be my favorite song of 2009. Here is the link to the full song from The National.

Eight Days of Parties

This is the week when I attend more social gatherings than the rest of the year combined. Granted, three of the parties are work related, but that is still something. We just got back from David's work party at Mark Penn's Georgetown house, where awkward social situations and hors d'oeuvres were enjoyed by all. Not to mention that they also had valet parking...

Tomorrow the Reference Department at the Law Library will be having our White Elephant gift exchange and party. The day after that, the law school has its party for faculty and staff. Then, Thursday is a day lacking in parties. To make up for that, Friday is the big Georgetown Law Library party at one of my favorite Capitol Hill spots, Art and Soul. Finally, Saturday night we are headed out to some friends' party in Northern VA.

Not bad at all.

Of course, what kicked this whole eight days of parties off was our own dessert party that we hosted Saturday night. I haven't thrown a dessert party since my Provo days. In New York, I would have loved to, but I lacked the space to do it up right. In Seattle, I didn't have friends to invite. Finally, DC provided the perfect opportunity for me to bake all of the things I have been thinking about for the past eight years in a few days of marathon baking.

The evening also provided the opportunity for hair experimentation, as I recently had my hair chopped off.

Without David's excellent cleaning and organizing abilities, the night would have been a bust.

Here I am presiding over my efforts, trying to ignore the shooting pain in my feet from standing on them for so long in the kitchen.
And here are some of the fruits of my efforts:
The menu included: an Almond Apricot Cake, Ricotta Cheesecake, Carrot Cupcakes with Marscapone Icing, Meyer Lemon Meringue Ice Cream, Pecan Tart, Blackberry Crumble, Rasberry Chocolate Tartlets, Grand Marnier Souffle, Spiced Molasses Cookies, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, Cardamom Palmiers, and Chocolate Dipped Orange Cookies. I had to save up all of my domestic skills to produce this one event (I kept thinking of the Dreamgirls song "One Night Only" in my head while contemplating the effort that it took to bake all of the above). People who can do this on a regular basis are amazing and barely human.
I believe that the conversation was generally enjoyed by all.

And finally, the evening showcases just how attractive our friends are. Seriously look at how good looking and well-dressed they are:

Or look at this - Erin looks as fresh faced and radiant as any Noxema advertisement:

Or look at these guys, two new fathers in 2009 of their respective sons (they must be exchanging stories of sleepless nights and diaper change duties), if you need more evidence:
The best part is realizing how lucky I am to have such interesting and good friends. The other part that is good is that I officially overdosed on sugar and have no desire to eat anything else sweet for at least a couple of months.

Friday, December 11, 2009

To See, a List

It is the good time of year for movies, and although I doubt any movie will top The Fantastic Mr. Fox on my film of the year list, I would like to keep an open mind. Here are some movies opening soon that I am particularly happy to see:

1. Invictus - South Africa post-Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, Matt Damon + sports (remember, I am an admitted sports fan now); Seriously, this is like the best of all possible worlds colliding. (Note: I also really liked AO Scott's review in the New York Times today and his ability to place this film in the context of Eastwood's larger body of work dealing with the theme of vengeance.)

2. The Lovely Bones - So the reviews aren't the best, but I still want to see how Peter Jackson handles the weighty subject matter of this film.

3. Up in the Air - David wanted to see this last weekend, but it was sold out (I will refrain from mentioning what we saw instead). David travels all the time for work, so I think this appeals to him on that level, and I was apathetic about seeing it, until I clicked on the official website and the first words I saw were "How much does your life weigh?", which reminded me of this ongoing obsession that I have about lightness and weight (Note: that post reminds me of my whole needing to improve the proofreading pledge).

4. The Young Victoria: This movie stars Emily Blunt, that guy that played Mr. Wickham in the Kiera Knightley Pride and Prejudice, and a host of other British actors who have been in Jane Austen adaptations. I am a well known sucker for British period pieces, but throw in a historical tale about a British Queen, and I will be lining up for opening day tickets. I don't know what it is that makes the long-ruling female British monarchs so much better than the male ones, but it is probably closely related to what it is that makes modern day female politicians so much better than their male counterparts.

Notably, I have no interest in Avatar. It looks creepy, weird and the last James Cameron movie was such an epic waste of time, I don't have any desire to repeat that experience, regardless of whatever those film critics may try to persuade me to do.

To Improve, A List

1. Proofreading and editing my own writing: There is nothing that I detest more. I suffer from ADD and reading back something I just wrote bores me to death. Instead, I read back over something years later to discover what a nightmare of grammar and syntax I have wrought upon the world.

2. Ironing: I used to be an obsessive ironer, and then one day, I just stopped. Several years later, I realized I hadn't ironed anything in years. I realized that if something wasn't dry cleaned, then it wasn't getting ironed. I have been a wrinkled mess since I moved away from New York City. Perhaps this is something else I can blame on Seattle.

3. Visitation history of Civil War battlefields: When I was an intern in DC the last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday afternoon was witness a battle reenactment. Maybe I still could care less about reenactments, but I do need to make it to Gettysburg. And maybe, if I am feeling particularly historical, then I can visit Vicksburg when I am home sometime. In the past year, I learned that I have ancestors who lost their lives in those two engagements (Gettysburg - Robert Boyd of the 23rd NC Infantry Regiment; Vicksburg - David Hillman of the 3rd Mississippi Infantry Battalion).

4. Keeping my mouth shut: a life long effort; My Sisyphean struggle.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

That Casual, Anything Goes State of Being

I did forget bringing my camera to Mississippi, as I mentioned. However, even though they live in the country, my parents aren't total Luddites. So I was able to snap a few good pictures courtesy of my mom's digital camera. The following pictures display what I love so much about my trips to Mississippi. I can forget who is watching and act silly without regard for what that might do to my reputation. It is a nice antidote to carefully guarded public images so common in Washington.

Here are a few exhibits of just how fun this can be.
Exhibit A: Joking around the fire pit at night. Not only was the fire a source of warmth and Smores, but it always takes me back to those college campfire days and boisterousness seems to follow.
Exhibit B: Setting up the new Lobster tennis machine on the driveway. A great way to work out some stress is by repeatedly hitting tennis balls with just the right amount of spin.

Here is David getting ready for a round of volleys, with Knightley anxiously prepared to chase down shots.

And here is Knightley eying Jordan's bounty of tennis balls being returned to the machine.

Exhibit C: Fun with dogs.
Although you cannot tell from Knightley's face in this picture he loved riding piggy back. He loved it (Arguably, you can state that this is the point in time in which I have fully lost my mind).

No explanations are required for describing how happy two dogs can be tearing into the wrapping paper of early Christmas gifts.

Having had so much fun with the silliness in Mississippi, and to cheer Knightley up from his post-return from the country funk, in the evenings, Knightley and I have been taking walks to the Capitol Building. Once there, on the Senate side lawns, we run, skip, leap, prance, and otherwise have fun playing in the cool grass. The Capitol Hill staffers leaving work for the day look at us like we are crazy, but the sad part is, I think what Knightley and I do is probably the most sane part of what takes place on Capitol Hill.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

In Which Chris Farley Sums Up How I Feel Today

I Support Sandy Beaches

Today, I am angry for a whole host of reasons. All of those things that are making me angry are out of my control, but there is one thing that I feel like I should voice my opinion on. This case: Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection was heard in oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court this week. You can read the oral argument transcript here. It is a doozy of lines from the attorney representing these selfish, greedy homeowners who basically are looking to profit for themselves off of publically paid for beach renourishment that created a small, public beach in front of their ugly, oversized stucco monstrosities. Yes, at the end of the day, this is what they are arguing for, as their counsel points out on pages 15-16: "Now the state may at the end of the day say well, we are not going to claim title to that; we are going to reinstate your boundary as the mean high water line - that would be eighty feet further out - and no compensation in that case would be due." Yes, their counsel in essence admitted that his property owners should be entitled to own (free of charge mind you) land formally owned by the state of Florida and its citizens or in the alternative, be compensated for the loss of their littoral rights, even though they lost no actual property! According to these people, the state of Florida should just give them 80 more feet of beachfront property (paid for by the taxpayers of the state of Florida) just because they own property adjacent to the state's property. Excuse me while I vomit profusely in my trash can.

Here is the thing, I make no secret of the fact that if it were up to me, all of this beachfront land and the barrier islands were publically owned and no one was able to build private dwellings upon them. Not only does it take away from the natural scenic beauty of beautiful beaches, but the costs of insuring this high risk property has nearly bankrupted the state as well as responsible property owners who choose to build in less ecologically risky places in Florida. The fact is, because these morons choose to build on a place that was designed by nature to be a natural buffer against hurricanes for the mainland of Florida, everyone has to pay higher insurance rates in the state of Florida. And then, when the state of Florida attempts to improve the shoreline and build it back from some of the hurricane erosion that took place, these same people complain. I really hope that the State of Florida wins this one. I could go into the legal reasons why I think that these homeowners have a weak case, but I will refrain for the time being and just state I don't see how this could constitute a judicial taking of property. Instead, I want to tell the state of Florida what they should do, should Kennedy decide to skirt on over to the side of Alito, Roberts and co. on this one.

Florida - Don't let these people win. First of all, if you lose this case and it gets remanded back, then I am sure that you will do a good job of arguing that they didn't lose any value to their property because the value that they gained from the increased beach protection (including the value to their insurance costs) more than offsets any losses to their property value. I am sure that you will do just fine with those arguments. Instead, lets think of some long term legislative fixes that these people deserve.

1. Don't let them be eligible for Florida's state assisted and funded insurance. It just isn't right. They shouldn't be able to benefit from those kind of public services where the cost of their intransigence and selfishness is passed on to others. Write them out of it.

2. After hurricanes, if they haven't been receptive to state efforts to renourish beaches and provide increased erosion protection, then guess what, they aren't eligible for state grants or rebuilding assistance. The same logic goes as above. Again, these people shouldn't be able to benefit from taxpayer assistance when they have been jerks to the taxpayer. Federal government, I am looking at you to back up the state of Florida on this. You shouldn't let these people be eligible for federal natural disaster assistance funds either when they have refused to allow the state to make realistic efforts to stop beach erosion and prevent losses and damages from erosion and hurricanes. It isn't right.

3. Whatever you do, Florida, don't give them that new beach. It is wrong. The taxpayers of the state of Florida paid for that new beach and these jerks may think they deserve it for free, but it isn't right. It is not right.

I could go on and on about this. I could go on and on about how this kind of beach erosion is partially caused because of these ridiculous houses built on the beach. I could write a whole different entry about how these sort of beachside dwellings are damaging to the habitat of critically endangered turtles and about how they need beach renourishment to ensure that they have enough habitat for nesting and laying their eggs.

The fact is, people from Northwest Florida, except for these jerky owners, are pretty much unified behind beach renourishment efforts. It is vital to the continued success of the tourist economy of Northwest Florida to have actual beaches. It contributes to everyone's well being to have beautiful stretches of white sandy beaches. This is a classic case of someone being so self-interested, they refuse to see what is best for the good of the entire community. Depressing.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When Pictures are not Enough

When I arrived in Mississippi for Thanksgiving week, I realized that I left my camera at home. After about ten minutes of being disappointed, I realized that this was probably a good mistake. Too often, it is easy to use the camera and its ability to take one dimensional photographs as a substitute for really experiencing the best moments. Then, it is too easy to slap a picture or two up on the blog and call it good. I have lamented the decline in vocabularies of most Americans for too long, and probably an over-reliance on pictures instead of rounded out, complete descriptions probably exacerbates this phenomenon. It doesn't take long being in Mississippi to remind me of the power of the spoken word and storytelling. And while words and a story cannot be a complete substitute for the experience, they can offer a depth to the description of an experience that a photo cannot convey. So here are some of my favorite Mississippi week moments in words:

1. Running, skipping, leaping and otherwise prancing with Knightley through grassy fields and tall hay. Knightley is covered with hay seeds and has long pieces of hay caught in the fur of his back legs. It doesn't stop him from leaping through the tall grass and racing me back to the house from our walk down to the edge of the woods. Knightley doesn't want to go back inside. The weather is too glorious and when does he ever have the opportunity to run this way in his day to day existence in the city?

2. I am listening to Dust in the Wind for the second time since I have crossed into the Central Time Zone. I am sitting in my dad's air conditioned tractor cab "bushhogging", as we call it, the tall fields of hay. Most people probably just refer to it as mowing. The breeze is gently bending the tall hay in front of me. I try to make my rows of cut hay neat and even, but I am singing at the top of my lungs and dancing in the seat. This means that every so often I hit a bump and swerve to the right or left, as I am not holding the steering wheel tightly enough. I glance in my left side mirror and I see the rows behind me are curvy and uneven. I resolve to concentrate on what I am doing and make the rows neater, but then, Don't Fear the Reaper comes on the radio, and I am mentally cowbelling away and back to dancing in my seat.

3. I have finally resolved to clean the interior of my car and rid it of Knightley's dirty paw prints from our long drive. But this is the country, and this means that I can wind all of the windows down on my car and turn up the XM 60s radio station loudly, as my parents don't have nearby neighbors. However, listening to Lesley Gore only causes me to start dancing erratically. I decide that my car needs a host of other cleaning treatments, just so I have an excuse to keep the radio turned up loudly.

4. It is eight o'clock in the evening and pitch black except for the light of the fire pit that my family is gathered around. My cousin Danielle, her husband Trin, their three children and I decide to take a Gator ride through the woods with the spotlight. Noah, Danielle's older son decides that this will be a vampire hunt. Trin takes the driver's seat with Danielle beside him. The kids and I pile into the back. The vehicle is so full that we fail to move above 5 miles per hour. Nonetheless, the air is chilly and Connor, Danielle's younger son, complains that his hands are cold. I begin to rub them to warm them up, the same way I recall my mother doing to my hands when I was young. We enter the woods and shine the spotlight ahead. "Look!" Trin yells! All heads turn. Is it Edward? Noah wonders. Nope. It is just a large, cotton tailed bunny. We spot five or six other bunnies before we return to the house, no vampires in sight.

5. My mom has the red Lobster tennis machine set up on the driveway. Dad spent the day before welding hooks to a pipe to make poles to hold the net. It is also set up across the driveway. My hair is newly cut and too short to pull back into a ponytail. I have my racket, but I am not wearing tennis shoes. Nonetheless, I run at full force at the tennis ball that is shot out of the machine toward me. I overrun it, and my first swing doesn't hit the ball directly. I feel a wave of humiliation coming over me, my face turning red, before I remember that out here in the country, I don't have to worry about the person on the court next to me laughing and making fun of me. I correct my approach and then start hitting the balls more directly. By the time I switch to my backhand, I am hitting shot after shot.