Wednesday, March 30, 2005


We've been talking about baseball a lot at work lately. Mostly we discuss which Nationals games we all want to see. Poor Nationals: no one wants to be a Nationals fan—we all just want to go see our teams play when they come to town. I guess that’s one of the problems in having a team in a city where no one seems to stay for long.

We’ve also spent plenty of time discussing steroids and Barry Bonds (and when we talk about steroids, it's a health issue and totally relevant to our jobs) I have two points I like to bring up in our discussions (both get good reactions) that I thought I’d share here:

1. Babe Ruth wasn’t using steroids, but he was playing in a segregated league, and therefore not competing against everyone he ought to have been competing against. Shouldn't that be accounted for when discussing his place in the Hall of Fame?

2. Maybe more players should use steroids. Wouldn’t the game be more interesting if more players were hitting all those homeruns?

Monday, March 28, 2005

I can't think of anything to blog about, so this is what you get

I've been to 31 states, plus DC. I've also been in airports in Washington, Arizona, and Ohio, but I don't think that counts. Hopefully, I will get to go to Washington and New Mexico for work this fall.

Create your own personalized map of the USA.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"Little" brother

My little brother makes me feel old. He’s almost five years younger than I am, so when I went off to college he was thirteen, and I guess in my mind he’s still that age. So the fact that he graduated from college last week surprised me, just as I was surprised when he had his first girlfriend, when he told me that he voted for the first time, and when he turned 21 last summer.

When my sister got a job, when she graduated college, when she moved in with her boyfriend—none of those struck me in the same way that similar milestones in Nick’s life have. Maybe it’s because she and I are only about three years apart in age. Sometime during college I got to the point where I didn’t necessarily see Lauren as my little sister, just my sister. I am slowly getting to that point with Nick, but I still find myself taken aback at times when he does something that reminds me that he is an adult, that he is older and more mature than I think, and that if he is that old, I must be even older.

Mostly, just little things strike me. Last summer he picked me up from BART in his truck. I was home for visit before starting a new job and had been off visiting with friends. It was twilight, and he thoughtfully put music on that he thought I would like for the short ride home. Right now my mind is flooded by the memory of being in the Burbank airport with my family, right after our mom died. Nick put his arm around me in a funny sort of hug. I leaned against him for a moment, my head against his chest. For a moment, my grief was broken for a moment by the surprise that this young man was my little brother.

Now he has finished his associate’s degree in sound arts, and it will be “upgraded” to a bachelor’s degree when he finishes a long internship. I wasn’t able to fly home for the ceremony. I wish I could have. He and I aren’t very close these days, and I’m not sure we ever have been. I regret that, and I hope that as we both continue to grow up that will change. Because I’m impressed by the person he is becoming, and I'm very proud of him. I always have been—even when he was five years old and covered in “b’sgetti” sauce and when he was 16 and dyed his hair green.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Early morning quiet

I’ve almost always been a morning person. It’s not that I always want to get up and do something, or even that I'm always in a great mood as soon as I wake up. The peace of that time of day simply appeals to me, whether it comes in the dark and cold of winter, or in the bright mornings of spring and summer, when the sunlight is a beautiful color that it doesn't have any other time of day.

When I was growing up, I liked to be up early, with the house mostly to myself, enjoying breakfast quietly with my dad, as he read the newspaper and worked the crossword. My mother took advantage of my early morning wakefulness early on: by the time I was in the later part of elementary school she had taught me how to make her coffee and put me in charge of packing lunches for myself and my siblings.

I tended to sleep in during the first couple years of college, but after that I started getting up early again, and those are some of the mornings I remember best. I enjoyed the quietness of the world at seven in the morning. The expansive campus seemed nearly empty, aside from deer, rabbits, and the occasional early morning cyclist or jogger. I suppose I could have had a similar sense of quiet and aloneness wandering through campus at night, but in the early mornings I was free of fears of mountain lions and bad guys. In the mornings, there was just cool air, clear sunlight, and damp grass. I would sit outside in the quad to read the paper without disturbing my roommate, or take walks through campus.

I still get up earlier than some people think is reasonable, even on the weekends. I like to have my alone time. For some reason, I enjoy the early morning quiet more than quiet time during the day when I am home alone. Sometimes I have my orange juice and read the paper or a book. Other times, I make the shopping list, pay bills, or mix up batter for pancakes. But no matter how I’m using that time, God help the husband who rises within an hour of me on a Sunday morning and interferes with my peace and quiet.

Yesterday morning when I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep, I figured I might as well go to work. The days are getting longer, so when I left the house around 6:30 it was already light. The bus was crowded and when we got to the Pentagon, there were plenty of people already waiting to go through security at the entrance to the building. It wasn’t until I came out of the Metro at Foggy Bottom that things felt different. The hot dog cart wasn’t there yet, nor was any other vendor. The Post Express man wasn’t there calling out good morning to everyone as he handed out papers. Only the Washington Examiner man was there with his free papers, and he didn’t say anything. I wasn’t caught up in a press of people heading toward their offices or the next bus. Washington Circle wasn’t its usual mess of honking cars. I didn’t have to wait for a long traffic signal or dodge cars as I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue against the light on the way to the bus. In the middle of Washington, I had the same sense of solitude and quiet that I used to have on a path in the center of the Santa Cruz campus, watching a doe near the library, or sitting on a slope near the music center, looking out over the town and the bay.

It’s not that I want to be alone in the world. I remember being absolutely terrified by a book I read in middle school, probably something by Christopher Pike, in which the characters woke up and found that everyone else in the world had disappeared—I don’t remember how or why or what happened after that (although that was probably scary, too), just that these characters were alone. The idea still scares me. But somehow I enjoy being awake while the rest of the world sleeps, and feeling everything else come slowly to life around me.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


I like anything to do with space exploration or monkeys, so my trip yesterday to the National Air and Space Museum was pretty much complete, even though I really only spent time in the Apollo exhibit.

This is Able, a rhesus monkey, who, with her squirrel monkey companion, Baker, was the first living creature to return from space alive. She died a few days after her return, due to a reaction to anesthesia given during surgery. The autopsy revealed that she had suffered no ill consequences (physically, anyhow) during her trip. She is displayed in the capsule she flew in.

Photo of Able in her capsule

Close up photo of Able

Poor little monkey.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Postcard from another time

I leave things in books—letters from friends, notes I write to myself, “important” pieces of paper that I don’t want to get wrinkled in my backpack. Sometimes I mean to keep things in a book for awhile; sometimes I mean only for the storage to be temporary. I am a re-reader, enjoying the familiarity of books I have read before and the pleasure of discovering new things in stories that I know by heart, so I always find whatever I had left for myself. And I am usually careful to thumb through the pages of a book before I lend it to someone or trade it in at a used bookstore.

Last night it was still light out when I came home from work. It was one of the first spring-like days we’ve had. I had walked the two miles between the Metro and work, and spent an hour outside with coworkers at lunch, wanting to spend as much time in the fresh air as possible. I’m glad I did, since, in early March, such weather is unlikely to last—and today it is snowy and cold. But last night at six, it was still 60 degrees, with the clear blue sky deepening into lavender, so I fixed myself a small snack, picked up a book of e. e. cummings’ poetry from the shelf in my living room, and went out onto my front step to read.

The book opened to where a postcard was stuck between the pages. I turned it over, knowing what it was, but surprised to see it. It was from a young man I’d been completely infatuated with when I was about 19 or 20. I read over the card—the writing covered almost all of it, with space left only for the stamp and my address. The date of the postmark was illegible. I looked at the poem on that page. The same young man, on a different card, had copied down the first stanza of that poem.

Had I really not opened the book in six or seven years? I supposed that was possible, since it was Selected Poems, and most of the poems in it are in other books on my shelf. I don’t remember finding the card there before. I wondered if I had put the card in between those pages intentionally, taking the book off the shelf and finding the right place. Maybe I’d had the book with me when I picked up the card in the mail room, and after reading the card, had just tucked it inside, but that seems unlikely. Interesting that it was this card I had placed in the book and not the one with the lines of poetry on it.

But maybe the card had been some place else only a couple years ago—tucked into a journal or another book, perhaps. Maybe I had found it, wherever it was, and slipped it in between the pages of the book. I could have done just that when I was packing for my cross-country move, intending to put it with other cards and letters when I unpacked. I concentrated, trying to remember, but the memory wouldn’t come to me.

Without rereading the poem, I put the postcard back in the book, between those same pages, and turned to another section to read. The next poem I found seemed fitting for the warm day:

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I still write to my senator

I frequently write to my senators and representative. Well, okay, I frequently send letters to my congressmen: I am on a lot of mailing lists for organizations that write letters for me. All I have to do is fill in my name and address and hit send. Also, most of the organizations save my information, so I don’t even have to fill in anything. So several times a week, a message appears in my in-box from NOW or NARAL or CDF or the UCC, and I follow their link, put in whatever information is required, and hit send.

I told a friend who works on the Hill that I do this.

“I hate you,” she said.

I live in Northern Virginia. My representative is a Democrat—one with questionable ethics and his foot in his mouth, but a Democrat. My senators are both Republicans. I get letters back from them occasionally. The ones from Senator George Allen are my favorites. He seems to think I am some baby-killing, sodomizing, pacifist pinko. Senator Allen and I have different world views.

I recently sent e-mails to my senators about Social Security reform. Today I received a letter back from Senator John Warner, thanking me for my “thoughtful inquiry.” He explains* the worker to beneficiary ratio and tells me about the problems Social Security will face in the future. Then he states that “President Bush’s 2001 bipartisan commission on Social Security co-chaired by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan found that Social Security would be strengthened if modernized to allow individuals to invest voluntarily in personal accounts.”

That statement bugged me. I want to write back to him and tell him the commission was given guidelines (which he no doubt already knows). The last of those guidelines was that the commission’s recommendations “must include individually controlled, voluntary personal retirement accounts.” So I’m not sure I’d say that the commission “found” the program would be strengthened, so much as they were told that finding such a thing would be a good idea.

Also, I would like to tell him (or the LC) that commas before “co-chaired” and after “Moynihan” would improve that sentence.

*Out of respect to my friend who hates me, I should point out that it is more likely an intern or legislative correspondent who explains this to me.