May 2010

BP, rethought.

My fellow Louisiana blogger and friend, the lovely Painted Maypole, posted an exchange we had regarding British Petroleum, the oil company that put profits over public safety.  We think BP should stand for something else.

Here are a few of mine.

  • Base Proprietors.
  • Beastly Possessors.
  • Brash Predators.
  • Belligerent Pretentiousness.
  • Bamboozling Punks.

Any suggestions?

Life in New Orleans

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The Big Deal.

For the last 24 days, one of the worst environmental disasters in our history has been unfolding.

Hello?  Is this thing on?

Right.  Okay.  Did you catch that?  You know, that there is this Very Big Thing happening in the United States, RIGHT NOW, that happens to be one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of our country?  And, that it is STILL going on?

Here’s a video.

Actually, that video shows ONE of the two places where gas and oils are pouring out into the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

You know, Louisiana.  Remember?  The State that has the city of New Orleans?  Where the rest of the country looks to boost their ego, find something to pity, and generally feel superior?

Oh.  You remember now.

Okay, I know that I’m sort of being a bitch here.  I’d apologize and hold my punches, but seriously?  I’m pissed off.

It’s mind-numbing, but I can think through the fact that more than 200,000 gallons of oil are  rushing into the Gulf each day — and have been for over 24 days, making the estimated volume of oil more than 5 million gallons.

It’s frustrating, but I can think about and make choices regarding the toxins I’m breathing in — the ones that have made my eyes red and burning and my children cough.  Kate had a birthday on Sunday and got a bicycle… and you know what?  She hasn’t ridden it outside yet because the air smells and I know that this is the smell of H2S and VOCs.  Too low a concentration to say, kill us in minutes, but enough that my eyes are red and my son is coughing.

It’s just a little thing, but I can sign up for Volunteer Service for Oil Clean Up (yep, and I did, with two different sites).  I can also read the news and dig up monitoring data and do whatever I need to do to feel on top of the information about this incredibly terrible disaster.

But I can’t take the bullshit comments from idiots.

“Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s not as bad as the Valdez,” says a commenter on’s fantastic photography site, The Big Picture.

Oh.  Okay.  If tomorrow there is a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and it kills 150,000 people in less than 5 hours, will you minimize it?  How about another earthquake in an incredible poor, vulnerable, urban city that “only” kills a half a million people?  Are disasters not important or news worthy or attention grabbing unless they play on some pathetic measure of trumping the last?

And then there’s the guy who says “The ocean will fix its self. It’s not as big a deal as the liberal media will have us believe.”

Oh, totally.  5000+ gallons of oil pouring out daily for 24 days with no sign of stopping, covering hundreds of miles of endangered coastline, impacting waterways and ecosystems that supply roughly 25 percent of ALL domestic seafood and 75 percent of all seafood harvested from the Northern Gulf.  Millions of gallons of oil right off of hundreds and hundreds of miles of United States coastline.

Sure.  This is absolutely no biggie.

But just how BIG is something that is no biggie?

Hmmm.  Well, a week ago, May 6th, THIS is how big the oil slick had grown… 2500 square miles.

Gulf Oil Spill, May 6th:

On that map, you’re looking at the Eastern Louisiana Coast, the Mississippi Coast, the Alabama Coast, and the Florida Coast.  No biggie.

But it’s still not really clear, is it?  It’s just sort of out there in water.

What if that spill were covering another part of our country?  Maybe New York?  Er, rather, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut?

What if it covered Boston?  Oh, and 2500 miles of places around Boston.

What about the Bay Area?

What color would the Golden Gate Bridge be if it was covered in reddish dripping oil and tar balls?

Don’t want our neighbors feeling left out, either.  Vancouver?  How would one protect all those tiny islands?  What would the forest smell like, if oil dripped through the canopies and seeped into layers of earth?

Ooh, la la!  Paris?  Do you think that the lights on the Eiffel Tower could still be seen if they were covered in oil?  Would you still be in the mood to sit outside and eat bread and cheese at the friendly sidewalk cafe?

You know, what if it were right on Capital Hill?  Can you picture the oil, splattered in blacks and reds, on all our beautiful white monuments?  Senators slipping on tar as they walk up the steps to the Dome?  Tourists getting stuck on the muddy pathways through The National Mall?  Maryland and Virginia wouldn’t be left out.

And these pictures represent what the oil spread was like one week ago.  One week and more than 1.5 million gallons ago.

And many consider those numbers — the 210,000 gallons a day — to be low estimates.

What is happening here is a BIG DEAL.  Maybe one of the Biggest Biggies Deals that we — yes, we — as a country, we, have ever had to deal with.  Because it will impact all of us.  More than just fishermen and sea birds and shrimp, this growing storm is coming at us.

Let’s talk about it.  REALLY talk about it.

For starters, if you’re talking about it, link your post here.  I’ll focus a section of our Just Posts to focus specifically on what regular folks are saying.  I want to know that people in Vancouver and San Francisco and New York and wherever … are thinking about this.  It’s maybe selfish to ask, but really, I’m asking.  Because it would make me feel so much better about it all.


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In order to one day prove that it once was clean.

A few weeks ago, I hosted a networking event for the folks involved with my nonprofit.  Because our backyard is still a mud-pit and the renovation state is such that there are no stairs leading from the back of the house to that mud-pit, we were, without question, going to be confined solely to the inside of the house.

Forty adults milling around the confines of our little house, with the two kids mixed in as roving speed bumps amongst the guests.

Brilliant, huh?

Here are some pictures of the house shortly before guests arrived.  Paul took these pictures; I was already at the meetings that preceded this social event.

When you visit, it is unlikely that our house will look like this.  Which is why we want to share it with you now.

And also because we’re hoping those of you who remember the house back when it had no lights, few electrical outlets, no ceiling fans, barely functioning electric, no fully working bathroom, no kitchen, and thick dirty-looking oil-based paint on every surface might remind us that we’ve done a lot of work.  Because we need some help getting the OOMPH to finish.

The “front room”.  Note: this used to be two houses — the room used to be divided down the center and there are still two front doors on either side.

Decorators, anyone?  See that mantle?  We picked it up for a SONG after Katrina.  It’s unbelievably gorgeous and we have no idea what to do with it… it just sits there now.  That white inside of it is a piece of wood I painted with primer and stuck back there to hide the wall and cords running down from the stereo.  We aren’t sure what to do with it.  We love it; it’s an incredible piece of New Orleans artistry and history (it came from a mansion on Rosa Parks).  But maybe we should sell it and finance a trip to Europe on the proceeds?  We have no idea.

Also, since this picture was taken, above the mantle, we’ve hung up a big carved wooden flower made by a Honduran artist.

One more detail.  See the second doorway on the left?  For years, one of the pocket doors hung in that doorway — the door was warped and could not be put back in the wall.  Paul took the door down a few hours before this picture was taken and dropped it off at The Bank — they’ll strip it, press it, and fix it all up so it will work.  At least, we hope.  Otherwise, we’ll have to cut open the trim to fit the door, which would be a bummer.

The front door we use is in the middle of the picture.  It’s still not finished.  We think we’re going to end up painting it white, but still aren’t sure.  We keep thinking we’ll find a temporary replacement door, install it, and then take this one to be dipped and repaired and locks updated at The Bank (salvage and restoration place) and then seal it before re-installing it.  Who knows?

Here’s another view of the mantle.

This is the kids’ play room.  Most folks would use this as a dining room, but I can’t see the point of having two tables to eat off of.  We have one and it’s in the kitchen area, enough already!  Plus, this is a space where they can make a mess without us tripping over it and going crazy.

Another thing I did while Paul was away… I stripped the old oil-based paint off of this granite fireplace hearth and fireplace cover.  The bank must have taken the summer grate when they foreclosed on the house and when we bought it, there was a wooden cover attached.  We took off the cover and found it FULL of soot.  It took days to clean it out.  While Paul was away, I stripped the paint (wow, so so so so so messy) and then painted the fireplace surround black.  I went back and forth on what to do about the granite and am thinking that we should try to polish it and see what it looks like.  There is a large crack in the stone, but I sort of think it gives the hearth character.

Will’s room.  It gives some perspective on the ceiling height.  The Star Wars Lego Mosaic is 5-feet high.  Will’s bunk bed was a floor model from the Pottery Barn out in the suburbs.  We waited nearly 2 years for it to go on sale and then picked it up for a quarter of the original price.  It’s not a fast way to get a bargain, but it worked.  (Same for the kitchen set in the kids’ playroom.)

More of Will’s room.

Our room!  A few months ago, we finally splurged on the King-sized mattress.  It’s a Keetsa and deserves a proper review now that we’ve slept on it for a few months.  We have no bed, but who cares?  Paul is planning on building a platform one of these days and maybe I’ll design some sort of headboard.  You know, in my free time.  Eventually I’d like to paint the end tables, too, maybe when the kids go to college?

Here’s something exciting — see the DOORS above?  (The ones to the right, the ones up high on the walls are our “upper” closet — the ceilings are so high that the rooms can have closet on top of closet.)  But back to the doors to the bathroom.  The door that used to be there is the one we’re ripping down to use as the hanging pocket door to the study in the back.  We scoured The Bank on several occasions until we found a salvaged door that fit… and had the folks at The Bank split it in half and remove the upper sections so that we could make them glass (or something) in time.

Now, not only are they installed, but they are PAINTED (errr… primed).  AND… that’s GLASS!  Yes, GLASS!  Inside of them!  I ordered cut glass from an industrial glass place in town and picked it up while Paul was gone.  No hardware yet, but hey, DOORS!

See DOORS!  They open!

Also?  I primed the doors and trim around the hallway doors up to about 6-feet high — if you look closely, you can see the tops of the door frames and the transoms are still not primed/painted.

The bathroom!  It almost looks finished from this angle.  Can you see the other DOOR?   Again, no hardware, but it’s primed!  And installed!

No doors yet on the closet in our room.  But at least there is a closet!

We have plans to hang a long mirror on the back wall by the vanity.  Eventually, too, we’ll figure out things like towel bars and hooks.

All this cleaning up to prepare for the onslaught of company, and what did we forget to do?  Hint: look into the closet.

I am that girl who gets all dressed up and walks onto the stage to give the big speech, all the while unaware that her dress is tucked into her underwear.  Yes, that’s me.  Here’s the proof.

We forgot to put away my underwear.  There they hang, drying away.  Lovely.  Can you see Paul, giving tours of the house and this part in particular, which he built.  All that time, standing and talking in the bathroom and showing off the delicate details… while my intimate garments hang for all to see.  Perfect.  I feel certain each member of my board walked through here.

Also, the shower is still not finished.  It’s almost 2 years later, and Paul is still suffering post-traumatic stress from the tile incident.  He swears it is going to be The Project this summer.  Until then, it’s storage for random construction items.

Kate’s room is adorable.  I love the carved and painted wooden birds and butterflies from the Peruvian Amazon.  All of them were bought at an artisans’ wholesale market in Iquitos.  I wish I’d gathered more!

We would like to find a bed for Kate, but it’s actually hard to find used twin beds in New Orleans that are in decent shape.   The current plan is for Paul to build a daybed.  You know, eventually.

Paul built that floor-to-ceiling bookshelf while I was pregnant with Kate.

The quilt on her bed is second-hand… it’s a beautiful Pottery Barn pattern and is Twin-sized.  It was such a good bargain that I got it to put aside for when she finally has a twin-bed.  (I also have princess-themed sheets.)  Let’s hope that she is still into flowers and princesses when we finally do get her that bed.

Here’s the laundry room.  I *love* having a utility sink.  It’s made cleaning up after painting (and especially stripping the paint off the mantle) so much easier.  Right now, I have socks soaking in bleach solution in that sink.  It’s a dreamy, dreamy room, this laundry room.

Another thing that’s cool in here.  Can you see the curtain under the washer and dryer?  Behind that curtain is storage for extra laundry supplies AND… the cat’s litter box.  He has an opening in the wall in the bathroom (a little cat door cut-out) and the curtain on this side.  Extra privacy for his regal catness.  (And less offensive litter box experiences for those walking through the laundry room.)  Architect-smarchitect.  I think we planned the renovation layout pretty darn well, if-I-do-say-so-myself.

Paul installed the cabinets and, of course, built everything in the room.

We moved the pinball machines to the back room before Paul left.  Let’s just say that he can’t quite throw them around like he used to, but that he managed to get these back here — essentially by himself — without injuring anything or anyone.  (To lift and move these, you need two people who can dead-lift 300 lbs each.)

More of the back room.  Also, Paul built this room.  And look!!  A ceiling fan!  We installed it about an hour before this picture was taken.

And finally, our office!  Also a room that Paul built.  The pictures are by our favorite local artists, Will and Kate.  That pink box under my desk?  That’s all my dissertation data.

For some reason, Paul didn’t take pictures of the kitchen.  Imagine it perfect, please.  Not like it’s current state, with trim coming unhinged and scraps all over the walls and drywall ripples from the water heater explosion and kitchen flood last month.

But there it is, all our hard work over the last 6 years with much more to do.  Home Sweet Home.  Phew.

Home and Renovation

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Just Posts: April 2010

Happy April, Just Posts.  We’re into May now… so send us whatever you’re reading that is making you think, act, do, and be better in our world!

The posts of this month’s roundtable were nominated by:


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Recent additions to the family dictionary may explain.

BP.  Proper Noun. Big Oil company who sought out Gulf Coast fisherman and families reliant on the biodiversity and abundance of the Gulf Coast and wetland areas, offering to pay them sums of $5,000 for waving the right to sue the company shortly after an offshore rig exploded and days before it was confirmed by media that oil was actually pouring out of the well and into the sea.

Celebration of Service.  Proper Noun, in certain circles.  Big event for local nonprofit.  May occupy mind of program director for months and completely consume life for weeks.

Dispersants.  Noun.  Chemicals used to break up oil in the sea.  Use stems from catastrophic events, which occur when big business decides personal profit is more important than public safety.  Exact chemical compositions are considered “trade secrets” to minimize the ability of scientists (and others) to assess the impact on health and the environment.

DIBELS test.  Noun; that thing where capitals imply words that describe the test.  A test done in English that requires each student to spend 15 minutes alone with the teacher, during which time parents are asked to sub.  Test has significance somewhere and is likely related to some requirement.  Jazz Fest (see entry, below) may impair parents’ ability to process significance of testing.  Or else, the experience of subbing for a class of 1st graders may destroy the brain cells holding that particular set of information.

Jazz Fest.  Proper Noun.  AKA: Fess.  Like most things about New Orleans, highly misunderstood.  Seven days over two weeks, hundreds of musicians, artists, and food vendors.  This is not your Northern California “Jazz Festival” where erudite folk sit around and sip wine from fancy glasses while listening to the gentle smoothness of elevator music.  It’s more like Woodstock sobered up just enough to put on pants and then hooked up with a Louisiana girl who knows how to cook.

Pink tea. Noun.  AKA: Crystal Light.  Made for child’s birthday play-date/tea party.  Easy to clean up when spilled on crinoline and other costume material.  Served with petit fours and fruit salad.

Race Day.  Proper Noun, according to school emails. Day(s) when students are hauled out to open space to run long distances which increase with age.  All kids finish, all kids win, emphasis on participation, exercise, and drinking lots of water afterward.  Usually happens right in the middle of Jazz Fest, see entry above.

Life in New Orleans

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40 is the new 28.

It’s the square root of 1600.

And 00101000 in binary.

If you call Romania, you have to dial it.

In hexadecimal, it’s 28.

The Romans?  They would have called it XL.

I could easily give 40 reasons, too… 1 for each year.  40 reasons why we’re so happy to celebrate your day, so happy you’re here, so happy you’re the Daddy, the husband, the friend, and the all-round beefcake* home improvement legend that you are.

Happy 40th, Pancho!

* Best birthday greeting to Paul today, from our friend K: “Happy 40th — your wife still calls you ‘beefcake’ on a regular basis, so you’re all good.”


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