Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A 33-year mystery solved

We all knew this day would come. Some 33 years ago, men broke into the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex, triggering a massive coverup orchestrated by the top officials in President Nixon's administration and even approved by the president himself.

We learned about much of this through Watergate reports of The Washington Post and two intrepid reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. They used a highly placed government source to confirm and guide their investigation. The source earned the nickname Deep Throat, which combined the term for such a source, deep background, with a notorious adult film of the day. Woodward and Bernstein promised not to reveal the source until he or she had died.

But today, the family of the source revealed that the man who had been Deep Throat is ailing and had let slip to family members that he was, despite decades of denial, the man behind the story. Turns out that the source had been W. Mark Felt, former deputy associate director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The revelation is part of an upcoming story in Vanity Fair magazine. Download a PDF of the story.

Slate magazine's Timothy Noah has a great piece on this whole saga, including pointing out that he had fingered Felt in 1999. Be sure to read the 1999 piece where he lays out the case for Felt as Deep Throat.

Although Woodward and Bernstein initially adhered to their strict no comment about the identity of Deep Throat, the pair announced late Tuesday that Felt was their source. The Washington Post put a four-page story up on its Web site and announced that a major package was in the works for Thursday's edition.

So rest easy all of you who though that Deep Throat was Al Haig, Fred Fielding, John Dean, Pat Buchanan, David Gergen, even Diane Sawyer. You were all wrong. And now we know.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Crazy weather

I've been in some crazy weather before. I survived an ice storm in 1996. My car, when I lost control and slammed into a pickup truck in Idaho, did not. On several visits to Indiana, I have been in thunderstorms that dropped a few inches of rain in a few minutes and where lightning lit the sky like July. Also in Indiana, I've seen the sky turn that weird green color that signals a tornado.

But yesterday evening, on Highway 97 outside Ellensburg, I experienced some crazy weather. I heard the weather report that said the heat possibly would be interrupted by a thunderstorm. It's common enough in summer to have some thunder, lightning and a good amount of rain after a heat spell. So when the drops started falling, I did not think it would be a big deal. Then the drops were bigger -- I could see them from the front of the car before they hit the windshield and made a splat the size of a half dollar. I flipped the wipers to maximum and kept driving, slowing just a bit as I drove up a hill and behind a motorcycle whose future I thought was iffy at best. The visibility was about 20 feet between the splashing and my window steaming up.

Then the hail joined the the fray. Hail is pretty rare in Eastern Washington, and I have not been in many hailstorms. The stones started small, maybe the size of rock salt. Then the increased in size, and I finally pulled over for a couple minutes. The hail was the size of gravel -- maybe a lemon drop candy. And the stones pelted my windshield and car, and it was a bit thrilling.

I continued my driving as the rain continued, and eventually passed. But that was some crazy weather.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Construction woes

The home behind me and one house west burned last October. It was apparently a historic home that had been moved to this site from a previous location in town. When most people hear the term "historic home" they think of a Victorian house with lots of gingerbread decorating the eaves and a big porch and stuff like that. This house was just old. And it burned -- partially. So for the last few months, there has been slow progress to remove the burned portions and replace them, even addinga second floor. I think it is the family doing the reconstruction, so the pace is slower.

In the last few weeks, work has increased significantly. This weekend, the walls went up, as did the MDF board to make the walls. I drove by the front yesterday just to see how it was coming, and roof trusses had been installed. Should not be long before the roof is on and interior work commences.

But the banging is driving me nuts. I am not sure which is worse, the annoying German shepard that lived behind me for two years and barked loudly and incessantly or the banging and thumping of the compressor that is loud when I am relaxing in the back yard. At least I can settle for the knowledge that it should be over soon, and I can have peace in my backyard again.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

The handy gene

Remember watching "The Smurfs" -- that Euro-inspired cartoon with its constant good-versus-evil struggles? Each member of the Utopian socialist society had a name describing his specific role. Brainy was the intelligence, wearing glasses no less. Papa was the patriarch, and his beard told us so. Hefty's muscles and barbell announced his brawn. Cook's special chef hat and his pastries said he was the cook. Jokey always had a gag. And Smurfette, well, she just looked pretty.

Then there was Handy. He was in charge of building things, implementing Papa Smurf's or Brainy's plans, rebuilding a house after Jokey blew it up, or helping a captured Smurf escape from Gargamel's castle. Yes, Handy was a V.I.S. -- a Very Important Smurf -- because being handy means self-sufficiency.

My dad is handy. My brother Jay, also handy. I visited Jay and his wife, Jodi, at their home in Ellensburg on Sunday. Jay was taking a break from building a garage/shop/apartment just a few feet away from the house. These buildings sit down a lane from my family's historical property a few miles east of Ellensburg; it's 26 acres total. He's building a massive building where he can park the boat and his pickup truck and to use part as a shop. The back third of the structure is an apartment where my mom will live. Plenty of storage is located above the apartment.

It's ironic is that when I bought my home almost three years ago, there was also a detached shop, a remnant from a former engine-repair business. My dad and Jay are both exceptionally handy. They can fix things without reading very much of the manual. They can jury-rig and construct and repair. Dad and Jay covet a shop -- a place to go to build and to be handy. And of all people to get one -- a shop that gets no shop-like use -- it's me.

The Handy Gene skipped me. Now, I am a guy who likes to create things, and I can find my way around a wood shop just fine or putt in the garden, thank you very much, but I can't just dive in to make a home repair. Eventually, that shop of mine will have another purpose, perhaps a sauna or a studio, but for now it's mostly empty. The yard supplies are on one shelf, the reel lawn mower in another corner. There is ample room to stow the patio furniture for the winter.

This summer, I resolve to get more handy. Hopefully being handy is not a gene, but a learned skill.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Governor Trial -- Day 1

The Seattle Times has a cool feature where its political reporter is basically blogging from the auditorium where the trial is taking place. I don't know what is involved; perhaps Chelan county installed a wireless Internet connection for the media? Read Day 1.

It's kind of a pain to read the posts from the bottom of the page, but perhaps The Times will determine a more reader-friendly way over the coming days of the trial.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Have we come full circle?

I don't know enough about the history of the Roman Empire, but I hear enough comparisons between the imperial Romans and modern Americans -- self-centered, consumers, reckless and arrogant -- to think maybe we've come full circle. I made two observations in the last couple days that say something about our society. I'm not sure exactly what these observations mean aside from the literal ridiculousness of each.

First, I read about a company that will turn your handwriting into a computer font for a small fee. You write on the form, the company scans it and cashes your check. On one hand this is cool because if you like your handwriting, here's a simple and consistent way to replicate it forever. Of course, you could just write it. This, by the way, caused an argument with my friend the CIB, who said a person could use it for invitations and stuff, and it would be more personal than, say, Helvetica. I countered it was the exact opposite of personal. In fact, it's not only impersonal, it's kind of an insult that someone would spend time making a machine-generated product look like one's own handwriting. The CIB relented with a sigh, but I think there are larger implications. Read on.

Next, we have the symbolic trinket craze. Sure, the Jesus fish and peace stickers have been around for a while. Now we have Live Strong bracelets and magnetic yellow ribbons. Ask most people what the Love Strong bracelet means, and I bet they would have a hard time really explaining it. And few of today's drivers with magnets could probably tell you the origin of the yellow ribbon and its symbolism ("Tie a yellow ribbon 'round the ole oak tree..."). Learn more here. People seem far more interested in slapping a magnet on the back of their Expedition than in actually doing something to change the world. And if a person should decline to place one of these on his or her vehicle, then the person's patriotism is questioned.

And don't get me started on e-cards for birthdays; text messages for communicating; mail-merged letters from "my friends" at the bank/phone company/video store, etc.; personalized suggestions from Amazon.com or Netflix; and scores of other ways where our society has a false sense of personalization or some stand-in to do the dirty work.

So what does it say about a society where millions are willing to create false personalization or use symbols to stand in for real substantive actions? I think it says we have reached a new low in Narcissism, one that does not bode well for us as a culture or society.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday Digest

Stuff I like
My friend Andy:
I'm lucky to have a good friend who shares my career and my values and reflects my sensibilities. My pal Andy and I have been friends for 11 years, and we have a friendship that is one of those pick-up-where-you-left-off-even-if-it's-been-a-year kind of friendships. And man, can he make me laugh. We have so much in common and we can waste away an afternoon talking about teaching, politics and other stuff. In many ways, I admire his abilities as an educator, and I enjoy hearing about his school and his experiences. So, although we don't get together much -- but we did have a great long lunch Saturday -- we always catch up, exchange anecdotes and curse the Republicans. It's time well spent.

Bi-Mart: I went to the Bi-Mart over in East Wenatchee today and was rewarded with a bit of nostalgia and a flood of memories. I confess that my tastes have changed a smidge since I have become so affluent on my teacher's salary (check that public records site to see just how wealthy). I mean, now I shop at Target instead of the Bi-Mart. As a small country/college town, Ellensburg lacked such conveniences as a Fred Meyer or Kmart. But we had Bi-Mart for almost everything. And it was cheap. Just a $5 lifetime membership got you buzzed through that little wooden gate and into aisles of amazing buys.

When I was a kid growing up in Ellensburg, Bi-Mart was the all-purpose store, a chain of Eastern Washington and Oregon stores that was recently purchased by its employees. You could get music tapes, fishing bait, plastic models to assemble, fuzzy posters to color and plenty of off-brand canned and dry goods. Could there be a better utopia of shopping? The only thing Bi-Mart lacked was the grease pencil to mark your own prices (I loved going to Pairie Market for just that reason). So, when I wanted a pair of binoculars to use for sightseeing on my upcoming road trip, I thought first of the sporting goods counter at good ol' Bi-Mart. Every Bi-Mart looks the same and smells the same.

I know now, since I have ventured to greener, brand-name pastures, that Bi-Mart is a little on the cheap side. But you just can't beat it for plain old stuff. The fact that it is employee-owned makes it even more attractive. I think I'll be using my green membership card a lot more these days.

Working in the yard: I love working in the yard. I made a yardcare mistake last week. When it was nice out last Saturday, I decided to do the late-spring fertilizing on the patch of grass I call the back yard and saved the mowing for Sunday. I should have mowed because the sun quickly turned to rain, a rain which continued well into this week and moisture retained for days. The fertilizer/no mow/rain combo produced a thick green lawn that I finally tackled Thursday night with my reel mower. Grass now under control, I pruned some of the tendrils from my massive willow tree that was blocking the sun from getting to the lawn. I filled the garbage can with prunings. Spent two hours out there today pruning, mowing again, picking up and sweeping. It's great a time to be outside.

Stuff I don't like
The Krispy Kreme apple fritter: I tried the Krispy Kreme apple fritter this weekend. I love a fresh KK glazed doughnut straight from the conveyor -- there is simply nothing better. My favorite KK, though, is the blueberry cake doughnut. It holds up better once you leave the comfort of the atmosphere-controlled display case. But the fritter? Hmmm. Not so good. Most people don't know that a fritter is made from the scrap dough mixed with apple filling into a big wad then fried. Heck, dump enough glaze on anything and it is bound to taste good. But the KK dough is pumped through some machine that shapes it before it is allowed to rise just enough and then fried. So, this fritter is composed of pieces of the regular doughnuts, which means there is no piece of dough that is large enough to be anything but chewy. Some parts are even kinda crunchy. So, while it was not a complete disaster, I think I'll stick to my regular KK faves, thank you very much.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Gregoire the winner anyway?

The Seattle Times reports in a copyrighted story in its Sunday, May 22, edition that it analyzed both the Republican and Democrat lists of felons who allegedly voted in the gubernatorial election last November, and figured the new election results based on the Republicans' proportional reduction method. Guess what: Gregoire wins anyway.

This comes on the eve of the beginning of the trial to determine whether all votes were cast legally and counted properly.

Here are the first few grafs of the story:

For months, state Republicans have insisted that hundreds of votes cast illegally by felons put Democrat Christine Gregoire in the governor's mansion.

But a Seattle Times analysis finds that even if those votes were disqualified, Gregoire would still prevail over GOP challenger Dino Rossi.

That finding undercuts what has been the most prominent element of the Republicans' case to overturn the election. The case moves to trial in Wenatchee tomorrow.

Gregoire won the election by a scant 129 votes — and only after Rossi finished ahead in the first two of three vote counts.

You can read the full story and view the interesting graphics here.

The Republicans produced a list of 946 felons who allegedly voted. The list was criticized because it contained some people who did not lose voting rights, and the R's were accused of "cherry-picking" the felons because the people resided in counties where Gregoire won most of the votes. Democrats countered with their own list of 794 illegal felon votes from counties all over the state; Rossi won 31 of 39 counties. After The Seattle Times ran the numbers, Gregoire still wins by 112 votes.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

All eyes on Wenatchee, redux

Monday the trial begins in Wenatchee that will determine of the November election for governor actually resulted in the right person being elected and sworn in as governor. It is expected to last about two weeks and is the first chapter of the saga, which will most likely be settled by the state Supreme Court.

Some updates from the past week:
Republicans have been compiling a list of felons they say voted illegally and whose votes should be eliminated from totals. Coincidentally, most of their list of roughly 750 felons are residents of the eight counties (mainly populous King County) that voted strongly for now-Gov. Christine Gregoire, the Democrat candidate in 2004.

The Democrats have been doing some counter research, and have found that felons voted in a lot of the 31 counties that voted for Republican candidate Dino Rossi, even though many of these counties originally were found to be free of felon-voting. The Wenatchee World reported this week that some felons even voted in Chelan County, too. The Democrat list of felons contains 794 names, the Republicans' 946.

(Note: The numbers for each list have been updated and corrected from the initial post. -- L.)

So here's the main issue in the trial, the basket in which most of the Republican eggs of hope have been placed:
They want to use a proportional analysis technique to reduce vote counts in counties where felons voted. It's simple, really -- reduce the number of votes proportionally according to the overall precinct totals for each candidate. This means that if a county had 10 felon votes, and Gregoire had won 60 percent to Rossi's 40 percent, Gregoire would lose six votes and Rossi four.

The judge, John Bridges, has agreed to allow the R's to make their case, but he doesn't guarantee he'll buy it. Because, let's be honest here, we have no way of knowing that just because the precinct overall went according to certain percentages that the subpopulation of felons would vote according to those same percentages. There is a strong argument to be made that felons would be more likely to vote for a Republican candidate, especially since he ran against a three-term attorney general, our state's highest law enforcement officer.

I hope Bridges lets them make the case and then laughs at the ridiculousness of it all.

Meanwhile, the voting report from King County, where some shaky accounting and storage procedures have caused suspicion, is under question that it was falsified. The story is develooping. Read more from The Seattle Times here.

In other partisan election news, the state Republican Party filed a suit, which the state Democrats joined, which hopes to declare the state's new primary system unconstitutional. These two groups also had the last system declared unconstitutional, which resulted in the current system. The basic argument in both cases is that parties have a First Amendment (freedom of association/assembly) right to control whi votes in their selection process. It's an argument that makes sense to me legally but one that has little public support. That's obvious because the current top-two primary was approved by popular vote in November.

More to come, for sure.

-- Seattle, Wash.

Drive past 'Hitchhiker's Guide'

I used Friday as my personal day (each teacher is allowed one per year), and I needed it badly. So I lazily did my morning routine, disappointed that the weather was not as nice as I would have liked. But the car now is free from all dust and bird droppings as a result of the heavy rain I drove through.

I settled on a showing of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" Friday afternoon. It was reasonably entertaining, but I thought the plot dragged in a couple places and that the characters were inserted just for weirdness sake. Perhaps these tangents are less disruptive when reading a book, but some trimming could have benefitted the film. The last third gets to be pretty good. The opening is OK, too.

In short, probably a better DVD rental, as I also imagine that it will contain some excellent background materials and extras on Douglas Adams and the long journey he took in making this film (even after his death).

-- Seattle, Wash.

I love public records

As part of a Google search on background of a candidate for an administrative position at school, I discovered a gem of a Web site. It lists salaries of pretty much every public employee in Washington state (including me, by the way) and is organized in a way that most people can easily understand.

My complaints are that it is a bit hard to navigate and the year, while clearly labeled, adds a bit of confusion. For example, on the salaries of school employees, it's not clear whether the monetary amount is for a fiscal year or calendar year. Nonetheless, I love poring over a bunch of information and just looking and learning, finding interesting patterns or revelations.

As for salary jealousy, we pay some people far too much and others nowhere near what they are worth. Obviously, experience and education is not the only way to determine salary, but those are the factors we use.

Check it out here. Scroll down to the section for public school districts.

-- Seattle, Wash.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Where were you when The Mountain blew?

Well, I was eating breakfast with my family.

It was 25 years ago today, a calm Sunday morning in spring. Considering I was just shy of six years old, I have a remarkably strong image from that day and the days that followed. The day, of course is when Mount St. Helens blew its top (actually, its north face) in an ashy eruption, killing 57 people, darkening skies for miles and sending a cloud of ashy debris across several states.

I recall that we had slept in late. I remember my dad and mom cooking pancakes or waffles or some other batter-on-griddle breakfast that we would sometimes have on Sundays such as these. I remember it being about 11 a.m. when we walked to the windows to see the sky becoming dark as night. It is one time when the TV blared the Emergency Broadcast System tone -- and it was not a test.

School in Ellensburg was cancelled for a week. I just went half days to Mrs. Bull's kindergarten class at Washington Elementary, but it was a big deal nonetheless. In the days that followed, I remember we made art projects, and my brother, then age nine, laughed at mine because my watercolor of a volcano looked more like Abe Lincoln's top hat. Just another example of how he was a jerk to me in my youth.

My brother and I did cooperate to clean up our neighborhood sidewalks of the fallen ash. We swept up the ash, a quarter an inch or so, as I recall, and placed it in big trash bags. I'm sure he got to sweep while I held the bag, as always. I never got to use the broom, just hold the bag. The process proved to be foolish as the ash was heavy and the bags nearly broke. We also got to wear cool masks that my grandpa brought home from his job at the Department of Transportation. Everyone had a kerchief or a mask because, obviously, breathing ash is not that smart -- even though millions of people do it every day and tobacco companies make a lot of money as a result.

We saved some in our garage in coffee cans as if it were some sort of precious artifact. I'm sure we probably thought we could sell it someday. If only eBay had been invented, we could have struck it rich. We did send little medicine bottles of ash to relatives all over. After the initial thrill, all you have is a jar of ash. Lava, now that woulda been something.

My sister was not involved in the ash salvage because she had been born just two months earlier, on March 18. I also remember making a card to celebrate that, but I have no idea why two months seemed like a card-worthy milestone. Maybe it was because I had to stay inside all day and had to be kept busy.

So, here I am 25 years later, writing about an event that is as much a benchmark in my life as a birthday, graduation or funeral. Most people my age and older who experienced May 18, 1980, know exactly where they were and what they were doing when The Mountain blew. The Mountain has spent the last few months becoming more active. We may see if a new generation gets to see an eruption.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Vestal Vespa updates

Vestal Vespa has updated her list of links to include a pithy description. She is kind enough to describe this Web log as "Pleasant teacherblog from Washington State". Thank you very much.

This lady has taste.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Thanks, alumni

This time of the school year is always especially stressful with many deadlines and projects to manage. Just as I was winding down my own studies this spring, I expected that other projects would fall into place and all would be OK.

On the contrary, other items have flared up, and I am just as busy the last week or so as ever.

Just when I have almost had it with students and school bureaucracy and, worst of all, cranky parents, my former students come to the resuce to remind me that everything turns out fine in the end, and everyone grows up. Or at least some of them do, and they become really nice people.

So it was a special pleasure when four -- count 'em, four -- former students stopped by to say hi now that they are back from college or are through town. Another e-mailed to ask when would be a good time to stop by (she's always been a polite one). It was neat to catch up with these former students and see that their lives are going well and they are becoming successful. Of course, these are also kids I liked in school, related to well, and maintained a relationship with.

I know I'll add a few more alumni to the list in just a few weeks, and they will stop by in a year to say hi. And I'll have forgotten how much I wanted to wring their necks this week as they flaked their way to graduation night.

But I'm still counting down.

An update (May 21): I also received two college graduation announcements from alumni. That's nice.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A blog too far

Last week, I watched a news report on KING-TV in Seattle about a teacher with a Web log like mine, but just slighly different. See, this teacher writes about his students, and that turned out to be a bad idea when he described how some of his students appeared at the school prom.

The full story is below, and I think he was fortunate to get off so easily. It could have been worse, but we all make mistakes. I'm just glad that, this year at least, I only popped into the prom early in the evening to check the decorations. And I don't think people would think it a good idea for me to post my review of their attire.

Teacher's blog steps over the line

06:42 PM PDT on Tuesday, May 10, 2005


EVERETT, Wash. – A teacher's extracurricular writing has landed him in some hot water. In a personal blog, an Everett high school teacher compared some of his students to prostitutes.

It all started with a recent dance at Cascade High School where tradition is that some female students dress up like call girls.

The teacher, Andrew McNamar, writes daily personal blogs about educational issues, such as cheating and accountability.

One recent posting dealt with junior prom night. He wrote he was disappointed with the principal for letting it happen, saying: "The unfortunate part about tonight was the crashing of the dance by the 'Senior Sluts'… dressed, well, like hookers."

Another line says, "…two of them I really respect as individuals and students. The other three, well, it was predictable…"

Some of the high school seniors were very upset.

The Everett School District sent a letter to the teacher with the simple message not to do it again.

The teacher in turn sent a letter home apologizing for his posting, saying he was sorry for causing any pain and embarrassment, explaining that his choice of words was poor.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

It could have been a disaster

Sometimes it's better not to know exactly where all your family members are at any given moment. Taking long drives, working with heavy equipment, air travel, medical procedures -- it's enough to make you a bit stressed. I know my folks still worry at least a bit when I travel and like to know that I arrived without incident.

Of course, we take for granted that air travel or visiting a major tourist attraction like the nation's capital is, for the most part, safe. Most people don't pay attention to the pre-flight emergency procedure explanation, and we casually go through metal detectors in buildings. And, as an experienced traveler, I don't think much when people I know travel. Such was the case when my dad said he and my stepmom were headed to Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings. My dad is involved with the political affairs arm of the Realtors in Arizona, and last week his colleagues and he were to meet and then lobby their members of Congress.

So I spoke with my dad today and he casually related a story I am sure he has told a couple dozen times by now. It's the kind of travel story that makes a note and leaves a mark on your memory. He explained how he had just finished visiting his congressman, Rep. Trent Franks, a Glendale Republican, when he reached the basement area to catch the small train transport from the office building. The alarm sounded, he said, and then he and his group took an elevator back up and were told to run south as fast as they could. Dad also said that he saw a bunch of black SUVs and limousines racing from the campus, what he later learned was the evacuation of the congressional leadership.

For me, even a few days after the event, which my dad clearly survived unharmed, it was a bit unsettling. I mean, I don't usually know anyone who has a brush with what authorities believe is a terrorist act. I'm glad my dad was safe, along with everyone else of course, but it sure brings things a lot closer when you think that someone you know and love had a brush with a real scare.

Perhaps next time I'll be more attentive to when travel plans and the news intersect.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Me vs. Pie

May 13 was the cap to a stressful week, a week that, of course ended with a Friday the 13th, a week that ended with me getting "pied."

I chose carefully my wardrobe for the day, a white polo shirt so the whipped cream would not be too noticeable, and I packed a change of clothes just in case things got too messy. The pie-ing was to begin at about 10:15.

By 10 a.m., I was set with a pair of chemistry lab goggles -- a nice pair with no holes to "breathe" or let in globs of whipped cream. I scavenged for a trash can liner and had a secretary help me cut a hole for my head to craft a good smock; she taped me up well.

Off to the commons. Some of the students in the sponsoring club tried to get me to be more discrete and act suprised. I must have looked pretty shocked at that statement -- everyone already knew I was destined to get the splat.

Some of my so-called friends had assembled and began chanting "No goggles! No goggles!" -- a chant which eventually spread among a few dozen other onlookers. I was not about to get whipped cream in my eyes; I wanted cleanup to be a snap.

The "pie" was really just a crumb crust fulled with Cool Whip. The pie-pusher joined me on the stage and, with pie in hand, moved toward me. I flinched at his fake. The crowd erupted in laughter. I realized the only way I was going to get this over with was to just close my eyes and take it. So I did.


Pie Guy pushed the pie onto my face, and began twisting it around for good effect. As he pushed and twisted, I naturally moved backward, and I stepped in a clump of crumbs and cream and slipped. Even if my view had not been blocked by pie, I had my glasses off, so I couldn't see anything. My arms trapped inside the plastic smock, I thought, "I'm goin' down." And I did. More crowd laughter.

At that point I think things were over, and some teachers helped me clean up. You'd think someone would have thought to bring more than a roll of paper towels, but perhaps that can be in the plans for next year. I also realized I had a pretty big gash on my chin from where the edge of the alumnimum pie plate had scraped me.

Cleanup was pretty easy once someone helped me out of the smock and cleaned my shoe of pie goop. I only spent a few minutes in the teacher's room bathroom. I also had to make a stop to see the nurse, who taped shut my cut with a conspicuous piece of tape.

I only made one comment at lunch among the Joint Chiefs to get a bit of sympathy and to make Pie Guy feel a bit guilty for pieing me and cutting me. That's it. I'm done.

I guess I was what is called a "good sport," but I still think I will never get another pie in the face if I can help it. Or at least it will be in a paper dish.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Halfway through master's program

I just finished the last final for my classes this semester, which means I am now halfway to completion of my master's degree online at the University of Missouri. Honestly, I can't believe a year has gone by. It's been fast. This last semester has been the most challenging, especially the amount and difficulty of the reading, but I am glad to have it behind me. I learned a lot, though.

Now, I have about three weeks before the summer semester begins; in fact, one of my two classes this summer doesn't start until June 20. That will be nice to not have to worry about classes starting just as I am trying to wind down the school year here. Doing that last year was a nightmare, especially when I had underestimated the time I needed to spend and how long it would take to get settled and to receive books. I won't make that mistake again.

Finishing my classes this week is especially nice considering the week I have had. Last week, I thought I would have a bunch of time since the yearbook was finished and my schedule was pretty open. It's amazing how a couple miniature crises can bubble up and boil over and consume a person's life for several days. Needless to say, my calm and wide-open week simply did not happen.

To cap it all off, I foolishly agreed to get a pie in the face if my jar earned the most money in a fundraiser this week. Guess who won? Yep, me. So Fridaymorning, I get a face full of whipped cream. Worst part: my colleagues plotted to ensure my "victory." Expect a full account in a coming post.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Digest: Good stuff

Slate magazine continues to offer a ton of interesting stuff daily. I love it. My favorite element is The Explainer, which, obviously, explains stuff in the news. Another recent offering of note is the piece on whether conservatives are insane. Check it out. This chimes in nicely with what my friend DrPezz says frequently: People vote the lifestyle they want, not the one they live.

Slate also reports that Arianna Huffington has a new liberal superblog. Cool. Check it out. Here's hoping it ain't lame. But, in her second day, she gives props to former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart about his views on the current strategy in Iraq. Aw man, don't make me get all nostalgic for Gary Har. Alas, what could have been if not for all that "monkey business."

Ann Coulter (that four-letter word that starts with "C") is dating a liberal country singer. Dude, I am not making this up. Check it out.

The Advanced Placement Examination for language and composition included an analysis of a satirical piece from none other than The Onion. Really. I am not yet sure how I feel about the AP Exam using The Onion, a site still blocked by our school's Internet filters; kinda makes the satire folks seem too mainstream, and their alternative-ness was always part of their charm. More oroof: The New York Times advertises on The Onion Web site.

"Team America: World Police" is out on DVD May 17 with a version we never saw in theaters. F-Yeah!

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Republican free fall

What is going on with Washington Republicans? First it's the quixotic way they are approaching the governor election trial. They've at least finally stopped their foolish calls for a re-vote. A heck of a legislative session where they got steamrolled on all sorts of legislation, but could have gotten on board at some point. Then, last week, one of the good ol'boys, Jim West -- a former state Senate Republican leader, cancer survivior and now mayor of Spokane -- comes out as a man who not only is gay but allegedly pleasured himself from his office while on an adult chat site, allegedly offered jobs to cute young men in exchange for romance, and allegedly molested a couple boys when he was a scout leader in the '70s. Whew!

West says he's staying on as mayor and has taken a leave of absence to sort things out. We'll see howlong it takes before some of the family-values conservatives start beatingthe drums and demonizing him for (their own) political gain. Not long, I think.

Now, I hear there is a plan for a big caucus of legislative Republicans. The agenda: changing the leadership. Apparently enough reps signed on to force the meeting in Seattle this week. So even the rank and file are apparently fed up.

Man, this party needs to get its act together if it wants to ever get back in the majority statewide. Of course, I am happy to see the Republicans devour themselves.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Oh yeah, the governor trial

So we're just two weeks away from the start of the trial to see if the governor was actually legitimately elected governor. At the center of all this are several hundred felons who should not have been voting but did. Oops.

The Republicans say no she wasn't. The main argument: felons who should not have voted did, and it's the fault of the boobs at the elections offices and all sorts of sloppy government workers. They got permission from the judge to use a system to show that if votes are to be deducted from final tallies (because we don't know who the felons voted for), then the votes should be deducted proportionately based on how the rest of the precinct voted. The judge said, heck, let's see what you can show.

The Democrats counter that she was. They say, sure, a bunch of felons probably voted improperly, but the votes should have been challenged at canvassing and now it's too late. They have their own secret list of felon-voters, several hundred, in fact. They aren't sharing the list, but they say most of the votes are from Red Rossi country. Take that, Repubs.

Today, former Gov. Gary Locke emerged from his "retirement" (retirement? he's like 50!) to say Rossi and the Republicans should drop all this nonsense and move on. Someone should have told him he was a late arrival to the party. But at least he's here.

And so, May 23, the eyes will focus on Wenatchee again, and we'll finally get started on the first stage of the last stage before we finally learn who was elected governor six months ago.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Mocking the media

Superfrankenstein has a co-authored piece at Slate magazine about local news and the so-called "Runaway Bride." It's satire, and it sho' is funny.

Check it out.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Republican + Hypocrisy = Scandal

Oh baby, we have us a real scandal! Why is it that Republicans always seem to think that they are:
  • above the law
  • morally superior
  • genuine and truthful

Some notable examples: Newt Gingrich, who served his wife with divorce papers while she was recovering in the hospital and later criticized Democrats for having no family values and who was later a victim of his own back-bench bomb throwing; Bob Livingston, whose sex scandals cost him his chance at being speaker when Gingrich self-destructed; Bob Dole, whose line about "Democrat wars" is almost laughable now after Gulf War and the Iraqi Occupation; George H. W. Bush, remember "Read my lips: No new taxes!"; George W. Bush, who claims to be a compassionate conservative when he is in fact neither compassionate nor conservative; Tom DeLay, who has denied using the FAA to get back at the Texas legislative Democrats and whose fundraising tactics are reprehensible (money for favorable legislation).

Now, the Democrats have their notable examples, too. Bill Clinton screwed the American people while making them beg for more, just like Ronald Reagan did.

But now we have Jim West, mayor of Spokane. Here is a guy who loudly opposed gay rights, abortion rights and teenage sex while he led the Republicans in the state senate. Then he fought cancer, ran for mayor and won. Now, The Spokesman-Review, his hometown newspaper, has uncovered and reported charges that he molested two boys in the 1970s when he was a sheriff's deputy and Boy Scout leader. He, of course, denied those allegations, also noting that the accusers both were convicted felons.

But wait, there's more. He acknowledged that he did have relations with adult men after meeting on a gay chat room. Additionally, he "offered gifts, favors and a City Hall internship" over the chat room to someone he blieved was interested in him but was actually working for the newspaper. West maintains that this part of his life is private, while the newspaper says he is abusing his office.

KING-TV tonight showed excerpts from the online chat that had West urging discretion because he might someday run for governor. Dude, that is so not happening. Perhaps if he was just less of a hypocrite, things would have been fine. Of course, compared to the New Jersey governor, a Democrat who actually hired his lover as a counterterrorism expert, West would be pretty tame -- unless the molestation charges turn out to be true. I hope they are not.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

They really like me

I received a nice package in the mail Monday from the folks at MU Direct, the division at the University of Missouri that handles the online classes. I had helped the folks there promote the master's program among some of my journalism colleagues, so the coordinator sent me a nice note in a box with a big stuffed tiger (Mizzou's mascot is the tiger) and a bunch of mouse pads.

Anyway, I thought that was real nice. Gotta love that Midwestern generosity.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A literary weekend

I love Seattle. I really, really do. What I love most is the cultural events that come to a city that would never come to Wenatchee.

I traveled to the Emerald City Friday night to see and hear one of my favorite authors, Sarah Vowell, read from her new book, Assassination Vacation, and answer questions. I've read two other books, The Partly-Cloudy Patriot and Take the Cannoli, and this newest installment is fantastic.

At the reading, her answers were robust and enlightening, and she has a playful give-and-take with the audience. I didn't ask a question, but the place was packed -- maybe a couple hundred people all crowded in to hear her. And these were the faithful, hanging on every word, knowing her delivery style so well they almost laughed before the punchlines.

After the talk, I waited in line for about 15 minutes to get my copy signed. I already finished reading it a couple weeks ago. She has a great signature and nice bold handwriting. I mentioned I was a high school English teacher and was considering ways to include her work in my class, and she said she had made a concerted effort not to use the F-word in this book. I thanked her for that. She quipped, "But there really is no good synonym for 'fucked up.'" All around us laughed at that. She said she had used the word "geopolitical" as a substitute in one instance.

Saturday I saw a staging of "Miss Saigon" at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. Although the entire show is musical, it is very dramatic and, toward the end, moving. I enjoyed it very much and learned a few things about the Vietnam era. Ironically, the day I saw the show was 30 years to the day since the fall of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.

Now, I have a theater hiatus until August when I have tickets for "Princesses," a new musical that will go from Seattle directly to Broadway. The Fifth also announced this week that it has replaced "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" next season with a new musical version of "The Wedding Singer," based on the movie of the same name from a few years ago. Should be swell. That show, from the creators of "Hairspray," is also headed directly to Broadway after it works the bugs out in Seattle next winter.

See, there is culture aplenty in Seattle. I just wish I didn't have to drive so long to get there.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Apple Blossom Time

It's time again for the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival and all the fun and hassle that accompanies Apple Blossom.

After eight years here in Wenatchee, I have really grown to enjoy the festival. I like the parade, I like the food fair, I even somewhat enjoy the arts and crafts fair in the final weekend.

One of the best parts of Apple Blossom is all the fun characters that emerge and converge downtown. Memorial Park seems to be ground zero for the freak show, and one can often see a few "free spirits" dancing sprightly to the music being played on stage. Also, youngsters and those who think they are still young find their kindrfed spirits in the park -- a high proportion of the tattooed, pierced and leathery seems to populate the place, swearing and riding bikes or skateboards through the area. Just today, as I was leaving the food fair in park, I looked over to see a man, probably in his 20s, with his shirt open several buttons and his left pectoral exposed. The tattooed word on his breast made me look closer. It was the word "LUST" emblazoned in large capital letters circling his left nipple. For me, that was a first.

Everyone who has been to Wenatchee during Apple Blossom has seen something weird, breathtaking or just plain shocking. Post your anecdotes!

-- Wenatchee, Wash.