Friday, February 27, 2009

Cutoff Day, or, A Legislative Body's Conscience Gets an Autopsy

The state Senate Democrats released a compilation of the bills that died in committee yesterday, a sepulchral list with topics ranging from the too good to be true, like civil marriage and electric car tax breaks, to the cringe-inducing.

Cutoff Day hits Olympia

Cutoff Day hits Olympia

Josh at Publicola has the full list of thwarted bills, and a slightly more appropriate cutoffs picture.

Included in the list of killed bills are dozens of would-be laws that casual observers might call non-essential, but which clearly held some importance to a little-known constituency or some ill-funded interest group.

More importantly, the list speaks volumes about the legislative consciences of the two parties, and some of its particular members.

Aside from a few non-sequiturs, cutoff bills tend to be those that reach a little too far. In other words, they represent what the party activists really want.

Here is where the Democrats ran afoul of themselves.

Sen. Ed Murray’s (D-Seattle) SB 5674 would have recognized the right of all citizens to obtain civil marriage licenses, and had his SB 5476 not been cut off, Washington would have joined 14 other states (including progressive hotbeds like Iowa, West Virginia, Alaska and North Dakota) in abolishing the death penalty.

The Dems also apparently reached too far with one of the most intriguing (and risky) aspects of the Senate Dems’ green energy package, SB 5418, which was Sen. Fred Jarrett’s bit about providing tax breaks for companies who installed electric car charging stations in their parking lots, and would have directed state agencies to install them as part of a move to become full electric and bio-fueled by 2016.

Still some of the castaways are mildly Draconian, like Sen. Steve Hobbs’ SB 5183 to increase child porn cases to include people who voluntarily view it on the internet, as if the courts could prove that some innocent porn browser didn’t accidentally click on a tantalizing link.

And others border on the nanny state, like Sen. Rodney Tom’s SB5857, which tried to ban artificial trans fats from restaurants with local permits. But hey, it’s the thought that counts.

And then you’ve got the dead Republican bills.

SB 5362, brought by Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee) who hails from the state’s most conservative legislative district, would have suspended the component that currently requires our state’s minimum wage be tied to a Consumer Price Index and required it to stay at $8.55 per hour until further notice.

Val Stevens (R-Lake Stevens), against whom the Democrats poured a lot of money this past fall in the guise of disgraced Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser’s candidacy, put forth a bill that would prevent the Legislature from working on any problems not directly related to balancing the budget.

Because, you know, who needs forward thinking?

Stevens also proposed a WASL-worshiping bill that would have require school districts to pay for remedial education for students who graduate from their school but still move on to college.

Saving the best for last, Sen. Janea Holmquist (R-Moses Lake), wanted the state Senate to officially petition President Obama and others to reverse the 2005 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that stated that requiring children to say “under God” in the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional.

Besides the general party flavor, cutoff day also gives us a chance to see which Senators suffer from Allen Iverson syndrome, whereby, no matter how successful they might be otherwise, they still heave up a bunch of forehead slappers.

Long-serving Sen. Ken Jacobsen (D-North Seattle), who is both prolific and Quixotic in his legislative writing, led the way with seven failed bills.

Jacobsen’s bills touched on important, if slightly errant, topics like reinstating WWU’s football team, labeling cloned animals sold as food, limiting bank fees, allowing dogs in bars and coffee shops, creating an airline passenger’s bill of rights and creating a fund for local students heading to historically black colleges. Another, SB 5128, would increase the driving age for ORVs from 13 to 18 and designate some state money to look into the costs of ORV usage.

Runner up to Jacobsen in the failed bill department is Sen. Mike “Law & Order” Carrell (R-Lakewood), who represents the swinging 28th District that covers portions of Tacoma, Lakewood and the area west of the South Puget Sound’s major military posts, Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, and aside from Carrell has elected two Democratic State Representatives.

He had five bills miss the cut, and based on their content, it really causes one to wonder how this guy continues to be re-elected in a light blue district.

His SB 5213 would have required people who register to vote to provide proof of citizenship, and his SB 5217 wanted to make sure that no money was spent on art in state prisons, just in case someone was thinking about committing a crime but then before pulling the trigger thought, “a ten-year prison sentence on McNeil Island without the possibility of looking at a Rembrandt, or even a Betty Mears, is just too much to bear!”

He also wanted to increase sentences for criminals who wear body armor, and require the state to build and maintain monuments outside all military bases in the state. Sir, yes sir.

Anyway those are the laws that the legislature definitely won’t be passing this session. As for what will come through the hatch, we’ve got two more exciting months to find out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Work Out

Olympia, WA - Yeah, baby, work it out.

I ran my first workout of the year AD 2009 tonight after a sturdy spaghetti supper and a few long hours spent in Olytown this afternoon on what would best be described as a whim.

Three blocks down Tullis Street I decided that, instead of my usual Capitol loop, I should double back to my house, grab my watch and hit up the track at Reeves Middle School for the interval workout that has been haunting me ever since I made my commitment to mediocrity back in December of last year.

I held true, perhaps to the detriment of my long-term mental health, with a 6x400m at :80 seconds with equal rest workout on a dark, muddy, messy, puddled, slick and thin track.

Going on, old pride told me that I might be able to crank out a few :75s to close out shop, or even extend the session to eight repetitions, but after 900m my body told me the truth.

Still nothing beats the feeling of the middle section of that second rep, when your body knows the pace but still has ignorance enough not to fear it.

I was able to hit :79 for my first two reps, followed by an :81, two :80s, and finally an :82 that made me realize it was probably in my best interest to stop the watch and just head on home.

The first 400m made me know my pace, and by the end of the second I knew to alter my form. Not in order to accelerate on the turns or power through the puddles, as I may have done once upon a time, but rather to maximize efficiency and do the least amount of work possible to reach the goal of an eighty second quarter mile.

O, how times have changed.

But one can never be too unhappy with a completed workout, especially if one shares the current relative lack of fitness that I have.

After six I walked to the end of the track then, crossing paths with the early stragglers from the middle school gym's Monday rec volleyball league, jogged up the parking lot and down Quince Street on a path that would bring me down and around Bigelow Park before returning to my house with a complete cool down.

I strutted around my kitchen in tights and a t-shirt, warmed up some food, drank some water, cleaned and took a shower.

A circle, more or less, but still it starts from a very low point.

Fear and Loathing

Olympia, WA - There have been two distinct periods in my unemployment (Dec. 12 - present) when my general feeling could be summed up with a would-be book title. It started in mid-January, after the holidays and the departure of my college companions, when the full-bodied shame of not being given compensation first hit acutely, and then reared its ugly head again this past week after I had successfully squelched it before the turn of the month.

The working title, of course, is Fear and Loathing: On the Unemployment Trail '09.

Today, for instance, I waked up at 11:30, baked up at 11:35, washed my face, put on clothes, hopped on my bike and headed into town. Once there, I took out some money from the bank.

The actual bank, not that ATM, since I lost my card in the BECU cash machine at the Olympia Co-Op last week. Some four times prior to my mistake, I had witnessed high and/or absent-minded hippie types almost forget to pick up their cards, only to be bailed out by the person standing in line behind them. And with this sort that I speak of, there would invariably be someone standing behind him because, stoned hippie-type that he is, this generic fellow likely took some five minutes to use the machine.

I, however, used the box quickly and rushed away irresponsibly. How fitting.

Upon leaving the bank I walked over to Cafe Vitta, ordered a coffee, an orange and dark chocolate-covered graham cracker, delicious all around, and proceeded to be too paralyzed with fear and self-loathing to actually get the things done that I wanted to get done.

All that I wrote was trite, a comment I'm sure has been said about me before and won't stop now.

Still, the painful self-awareness was heavy on my shoulders.


Now here I am with a temporary paid gig to assuage my worries, but still a little bit of the title remains.

On the front that dictates the rest of life, its funny how each random time I see a smiling girl who talks cheerily enough, I get the sparkle in my brain that I might believe in love again some time.

It fades, but still it creeps.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Width of a Circle

Olympia, WA - My curiosity is what keeps me from getting home in a timely, and cost-effective, manner.

The song on the stereo here, right now, is Bowie's The Width of a Circle.

So I cried for all the others til the day was nearly through
For I realized that God's a young man, too.

Beside me are three Evergreen girls talking about school evaluations, boys, and living situations. Once was the time that I could talk of such things.

But now I don't really care, which is kind of frustrating.

I care about the man who calls himself Uncle Mike and sings New York, New York during karaoke at the China Clipper. It was the best rendition I have ever heard.


does this work?

If You Wanna Be Happy

In advance of the Seattle-area Williams-Mystic reunion in just over a week, I'll be giving a series of shout-outs to the things that remind me of those days in the winter and spring of 2003.

My roommate Faisal and I listened to this song at least fifty times that semester.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Band Travels

Olympia, WA - Here at the Voyeur, a bar I have spent a grand total of 20 minutes in before tonight, they have a lineup of traveling bands from all over the West Coast.

All of them, or at least what I can hear over my headphones blaring Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, are good.

But still, no one is here. Maybe ten people are listening in the lounge, and they didn't charge me to sit in the square bar. Thank God.

Anyway, to quote INXS, "makes me wonder. Wonder, wonder."

How do small local bands make money by touring? I mean, they probably don't and are just trying to raise their status by word of mouth. But still, I kind of feel bad for them.

But not bad enough to pay a cash cover to get closer.

Not when I am broke, and can hear them just fine from here.


I love you, but you're suckers.

Also, the Bulleit Bourbon is real cheap here. Real cheap.


Olympia, WA - I won a battle tonight in what has become, in the last two weeks--and last 6 months, really--a lopsided battle between fitness motivation and expanding my mind with one foreign substance or another.

The war, however, may never be over.

Still, battles are battles.

I went out for a 5-miler after my morning with the dregs, my afternoon with the bowl and my last night with 7 miles. Despite all of these trivial hurdles, I went out. I even tacked on to my original plan.

Obviously it is depressing to cite this as a highlight. Catharsis, though, is the key.

Sometimes, at least, it is the key.

But my brain continues to return to the notion that five miles, six miles, seven miles is easy. Today, my body tells me different. It whispered it into my lower back last night. It tapped me on the knee a mile into my run tonight. It yelled it into my lower calf as I ran up 4th Ave after 4 miles.

Now, four hours later, I revel in the fatigue. I use it as an excuse to have another drink. I use it as an excuse to write. I use it as an excuse to take a second shower.

I hope I have that excuse more often.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Swan Dive

Today was a challenge for me. I should say, instead, that my morning appointment was a challenging thing to get through.

I was being audited by Washington state unemployment, which is no big deal, especially since the work contacts I made during week they called me on were front and center in my gmail outbox.

The hard part was just being there.


At 9:45 this morning, when I arrived what I consider to be well shy of my 10:00 summons, the place was already packed with people who legitimately needed assistance creating a resume and, even, using the internet.

I made it a point to refrain from wearing a $200 shirt (which in my defense I only bought for $60, and at a time when I thought it was necessary to own such a thing), unlike my first trip to the unemployment office in Holyoke, MA where I had to undergo a job training session, but I still felt overdressed given my lack of a beat up old windbreaker and mud-stained sweatpants. Lacking a neck tattoo I also stood out, as I now recall.

The corner of High and Jackson in Holyoke, coincidentally, wasn't much different than the corner of Tacoma Ave. and So. 13th.

Tacoma is just a little bit busier, fitting for a city ten times the size of Holyoke.

Nevertheless it was today that I felt the helplessness of being grouped with my WorkSource colleagues. They, the limousine drivers and the security guards, the dime store mortgage brokers and the apartment cleaners.

I was no different, out of a job and looking to stay afloat.

But I know how to use a computer. Quite well.

Still, seeing the parade of neck-tattooed men in sweats, fat white women laboring to get through the door, and immigrants of either gender who struggled simply to read the directions on the form sheets, was a tough pill to swallow.

On at least three different occasions, the depression train started steaming up so hot that I almost ran straight out of the building, no longer willing to witness the plight of the unhappy, uneducated, unsophisticated lot that filled the rooms that make up the Pierce County WorkSource building.

But I stayed. I needed the money. Just like everyone else.

The parade of tired and poor made me think once more on the idea of government education. In times like these, when an overeducated sod like myself can't find a job, it is easy to shit on society's ideal that all should be educated.

But then, as you watch the line at the unemployment office wander through their morning, you see that what may be a loss on the margins for some, is a boon to society as a whole.

In the stumbles, the "habla Espanol?"s, in the shame, in the hope, you see it.

Today I saw it, and it was all that kept me from running away.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Back in Blog Business

Olympia, WA - I'm returning to the blog after more than a week's hiatus marked by laziness, timidity, failed job applications, bong hits and inactivity. What a shame.

Alas, I'm here to make several minor points, if not one major one.

  • For starters, I was looking at the Cleveland Cavaliers roster this afternoon, and the fact that Memphis' own Lorenzen Wright has been in the NBA for twelve years made me feel old.
  • Every time I am ready to dismiss DMX and delete half of the songs I have by him on my itunes, I randomly hear Party Up and it sucks me right back in.
  • I spent Saturday night in Seattle. I was underwhelmed, once again, by the city. It started out with such promise, too, as I drove into the city on such a beautifully lit night. My companions, though, were mad tight.
  • Today I ran 7 miles on the heels of two atrocious weeks (15 and 12, respectively) and have proclaimed that I am going to do 30 miles this week. Fuck it. I'd like to guarantee a 5:15 mile, too, but my confidence is down after those two hell weeks. That 7 miles is killing me already.
  • Speaking of that 7-miler, I'm not looking forward to riding my bike home up the SF hill, but I'm proud of myself for riding my bike into town on a winter night.
  • Boundary Bay IPA, unconscionably, is not considered one of the main beers on Boundary Bay's website! WTF? That beer is like the Mac & Chee or the PB&J of beers. It is the ultimate go-to in the PNW. It may never rock your world, but the shit never disappoints. Easily the draught beer I've drunk the most of since moving back 14 months ago.
  • The bartender here at the Eastside Club is sitting at his laptop, and I'm pretty sure I just heard the 1992-era EA Sports theme song. I blame him, in part because I resent tipping him. He is a shitty bartender.
  • I bought The Simpsons season 7 on dvd last week. It has some classic episodes, but it was mildly depressing to realize that the decline of the Simpsons, which I thought didn't happen until at least season 8, was already settling in like so many greasy pimples in season 7.
  • I am being audited by the unemployment office tomorrow. Weak.
  • Frequent are the days, still, that I think of New England.
Hear me now.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Night Beer

Olympia, WA - Because it is Friday, and even though I am not working, I decided to make it beer night.

Honestly, it came about because I walked home for the last half mile of my run tonight, and my lower back has been twisted and sore ever since, so I figured I would forget about life for a while.

To begin with, I had a 10^2 ale on cask from the Fishbowl. They don't have any info on it from their website, but it resembles an imperial IPA, only it seems a tad darker than that. Rumor around the barstool was that the beer is so named because it is ten percent alcohol served in a ten ounce schooner glass.

After two of them, served in a perfectly by my neighbor Mel, I'd believe it.

Despite my usual aversion to strong beers, I'd give it my top rating as far as Fish Brewing beer goes, ahead of even the Hodgson's IPA.

Unfortunately, the Fishbowl was too crowded for me to do my usual double duty of drinking and internetting, so I had to bounce after my beer and head over to the Eastside.

So here I am, drinking a Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, which they usually have on sale at a special-proof $3.50 (by which I mean, even on Mondays and Thursdays the price, regrettably, doesn't budge).

I got my first taste of the Hop Rod at the Moan and Dove, where it was a pretty frequent guest tap. Then, as now, it doesn't disappoint.

Reds, like suspected bisexuals, usually go both ways.

I've had both delicious and cringe-inducing reds, leading me to believe that they are the most questionable of all beer styles, only because they are so different from one brewery to the next.

Plus, they aren't really red.

Anyway, Hop Rod is a game changer. I'll go out on a limb and rank it as the top red on the market. Nice and hoppy, bitter with flavor, and smooth as a summer sunset.

From the website, "Essentially a bold American IPA made with 20% rye malt. Darker in coler, Hop Rod Rye boasts a huge hop aroma and flavor accompanied by a slightly sweet, malty finish.

In other words, its like Wild Turkey Rye. A delicious drink slightly modified by the use of some rye in addition to the normal ingredients.

Plus, its 8 percent, so it don't muck around.

Bear Republic, it should be noted, also makes Racer 5.


Olympia, WA - Just to see what it is like, I have decided to become obsessed with Sarah Palin for a little while.

Here is a link to a story about her endorsing Rick Perry in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, and here is a link to her PAC.

Highlights: "SarahPAC believes America's best days are ahead."

It also believes that America was founded on conservative principles like freedom (and outlawing abortion).

"SarahPAC believes energy independence is a cornerstone of the economic security and progress that every American family wants and deserves."

Drill, baby, drill! We deserve it.

She is a very special candidate, no doubt!

Expect more in the coming days.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pink Chocolate, Black Hills, White Mountains

Olympia, WA - Tonight's sunset was the finest I've seen in ages. From the corner of Tullis and Yew, in a pair of running shoes and SportHills, it was like chocolate being mixed above the Black Hills and the Capitol dome, but only if chocolate was pinkish purple.

The Black Hills, it should be noted over the past few weeks, have exceedingly reminded me of the same Whites, Greens and Berkshires that have dominated my life for the last 9 years.

The curved and layered peaks, January fog filling in admirably for August haze, have only strengthened my longing for the trails, bars, and people of Lincoln, Florence, and West Dover.

How fitting that they tower so close, yet so out of reach from my perch on the East side of Olympia.

Today also marks a return to running after four sick and lazy days off after Friday's mile time trial. From the moment I saw the pink chocolate sunset, I knew that I needed to do my dome loop backwards so I could gaze North and West as I ran down the Capitol trails toward the lake.

Unfortunately I was distracted by a fellow runner who was coming up as I was coming down, and in my paranoid state of unemployment and reminisce, my thought process was dominated by the idea that I had to get from one switchback corner to the next faster than he did, and by the time I got down the hill I realized I hadn't even taken advantage of the clear night sky.

I also couldn't really tell if I was going faster than him or not, so fuck me.

Alas, here I am at Jake's once again on a late Wednesday night trying to make up for the nervous lack of job search and writing that dominated my afternoon at the coffee shop, enjoying some rock solid karaoke as a backdrop to my work.

So far, so good.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Love Song of M. Rod Blagojevich

Below is something I wrote about a statement I made on January 29, 2009 in honor of the political career of Governor Rod Blagojevich.

And the peculiar thing is this, my friends: the statement I made on that fateful night didn't actually sound anything like this statement. This is just a tribute.

Text below:

Friends -

Well, I did it

I did my Milorad Blagojevic [sic] honor statement at the China Clipper karaoke night.

The background song (Nothing Compares 2 U) was over before I knew it. Because, shit, I could have spoken for another hour and a half about what that man has done for the PEOPLE.

The bar was empty, which only added to my soul companionship with Blago. No one had my back, even though I went on a major media blitz to sponsor my statement. I got essentially goose egged. "The people" are so fickle, so willing to believe what the biased and conservative MSM will tell them about a freedom fighter.

My karaoke name, Ivan Blago, deserved better.

It deserved an audience of 100, not of 2.

They needn't have been sympathetic (surely not!) but I begged of Olympia at least to listen.

Yet my humble plea fell upon silent ears.

How fitting.

Just like those pleas made by Martin Luther King, those pleas made by Mother Theresa. Those pleas made by Dennis Kucinich.

To end the discrimination. To end the starvation. To end the war against peace.

But mostly to end the war against humanity.

If no one will listen to me, BTB, the beacon of the Puget Sound, then why would anyone listen to G-Rod, the laughingstock of cattle country?

Certainly the ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE wouldn't listen. Those spineless political opportunists.

Well tonight was a victory for truth, even if no one was around to record it. Please believe I looked everyone in this room in the EYE while I spoke and I called them, no, made them, no, DECLARED them a witness!

Please believe!!!

So, point being, there were a handful of witnesses tonight here in Oly-town who now know that Blago is a man of principle, who cares for the people, but, more importantly, who cares about his own idea of the people and, who, MOST importantly, will DO or SAY anything to protect a view of the truth.

And that is what I care about.

Good night, and Fuck You.

What Does One Write After Three?

Oly, WA - Here I am at Sizizi's, the new all hours joint in Olympia. It was been a hell of a night, beginning with the fact that they charged a cover at The Royal. Fuck them. Adding insult to injury, the hack job "bartender" at the mini bar didn't even pop the top on my PBR.

Do you honestly expect a tip to being with, let alone when you fail to do something as simple as flip open an tab on a tall can?

Fuck you, Royal Lounge. I expect better.

Anyway, that doesn't begin to explain the extent of my night. I won't get into it here except to say that it was a night worthy of driving home, eating a bit, grabbing my computer, then rolling back to Sizizi's to at least talk some talk, whether it is full on or not.

Shit Christ, as they say.

I'm also a full French press in, at 3:15 in the morning. I wonder, will that impact my sleep schedule?

Honestly, I care not. All I can think of right now is the time that Dan Laz and I drove to Littleton, NH to either buy a gun and/or rent Evil Dead.

Turns out guns are expensive. All we did was rent Evil Dead.

Shit, that night I stuck to my promise of sleeping in my tent, even if the idea of tree roots killing me was mildly scary. But who am I to be scared?


Shit, right now I could give you ten answers, but I won't.

Now is not the time. Despair, which had set in earlier, is long gone. And now is only the time to report briefly, bot fully.

Hey, hey. Here is to the Super Bowl.