Claims to fame
January 28, 2009, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Books, Current Events | Tags: ,

John Updike died yesterday.

He is my hometown’s claim to fame. If you read his obituaries closely enough, you will be able to learn where I was born and raised. In fact, my parents live about 3 blocks away from the house he grew up in, and my grandmother and he went to the same high school.

Many of his short stories take place in that small borough, and reading them is like going home. His Rabbit books take place in the greater metropolitan area, but home nonetheless.

In fact, my mother’s family’s now-defunct candy business was mentioned by name in the book. My family is forever immortalized in history! If that business hadn’t caused a massive family feud in my grandfather’s generation that resulted in my grandfather being disowned when my mother was 16 and never speaking to his father or brother again, I would consider ripping that page out of a copy and having it framed for them. We don’t mention the candy business because my grandfather gets this look on his face that is a cross between a constipated goat and a sloth giving birth. I can only assume what realizing that the business is preserved in the TOME of ENGLISH LITERATURE (by an author known for explicit, awkward sex scenes, no less) would do to him.

I discovered John Updike as more than a name I heard in passing during my freshman year in college, at a particularly homesick moment. In fact, his Rabbit books were the first ones I checked out of Pitt’s library. Reading him was like going home. Reading his short stories later even more so.

I had heard rumors that he kept in contact with childhood friends in Shillington and would periodically visit them. An ex of mine met him once, as a small boy, when Updike was sitting on his neighbor’s front porch. Only later did that moment gain any note in his mind. I have held out hope that I might see him strolling down my street when I happen to be home, but such is life: that will not happen.

In the meantime, I will occasionally dive back into his detailed, yet stark prose when I need to visit my childhood.


It’s been a while
January 24, 2009, 9:27 am
Filed under: daily

I haven’t complained about the weather in a very long time.

Did you know that we’ve been setting record lows here in Pittsburgh?

It’s been awful. We went for over two weeks with at least trace snowfall every day. There was that one day where I woke up to -7 degree weather, and hiked up cardiac hill to my internship in -5 degrees. I thought my lungs were just going to give up. “Eff you, Katrina! Enough of this crap!” and hop out of my chest, leaving me suffocating on the frozen sidewalk. The dog, who loves the cold and snow and being outside, could only handle it for a few minutes before her snout was all frozen over and her paws had ice in between her toes.

And then yesterday, it went up to 48 degrees. It was a heat wave! The college students, who always react inappropriately to weather, were wearing SHORTS as they skittered about campus, basking in the sunlight.

I know it’s 50 degrees warmer than it was last week, but jeez oh man, people. It’s still only 48 degrees. PUT SOME PANTS ON.

Of course, today it’s only going up to 22. Heave wave = over.


The Stones We Throw
January 22, 2009, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Current Events | Tags: , ,

From an official standpoint, I am pro-life. I would never have an abortion, and abortion is murder.


I also realize that abortion is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is not my place to judge someone who has an abortion, just as it is not my place to judge a liar, or a murderer, or a thief. That right belongs to God alone. I take to heart the admonition, “Let ye who has not sinned cast the first stone.” Would I prefer that abortion be illegal, like murder and perjury and theft? Yes, but I have accepted that that’s not likely. I will merely do my best to avoid having an abortion myself, and to sway those who ask away from abortion.

Those things said, I am experiencing anxiety over the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) that Obama wants to sign into law. The vast majority of things are just reversals on the conservative steps towards limiting abortion that have occurred over the past 25 years in the states, such as parental notification.

The part that has me jittery involves Roman Catholic hospitals. Specifically, all hospitals that receive federal funds (read: Medicare) would be required to perform abortions. Since all hospitals take Medicare, Catholic facilities would be required, by law, to perform abortions.

This disturbs me on two levels. First, I am opposed to the state telling a religious organization what it can, cannot and MUST do. The common interpretation of the ‘separation of church and state’ clause is that it protects the state from encroachment by the church, but the opposite is just as true: it protects the church from encroachment by the state. The reason I am OK with gay marriage is because chances are, no given person, minister or church will be required to perform gay marriages. The same ought to be true for abortion: no given person, doctor, or facility ought to be required to perform abortions. This law oversteps the line.

Second, this is going to cause the closing of hundreds of charity hospitals across the country. Most major areas have at least one Catholic hospital: Pittsburgh’s is Mercy Hospital, now UPMC Mercy. When that deal was made, UPMC promised the church that they would uphold the Catholic tradition of the facility, and not perform abortions there. Reading has St. Joe’s. In more rural areas, sometimes the only hospital is the Catholic hospital.

These places do not require you to pay if you are unable to. What that means is that poor people do not go underserved medically, nor are they saddled with insurmountable debt, if they are able to get to a Catholic hospital. Is Mercy hospital the best hospital in the city? Hell, no. But the poor are treated there for free.

The whims of the president do not sway the Catholic Church. If FOCA becomes law, these Catholic charity hospitals will close in response. They will not provide abortions on any terms. They will be purchased by other hospitals, and turned into secular facilities that provide abortions, but do not provide free healthcare. The poor will suddenly have no place to turn. Even if they didn’t close, in order to remain true to the Catholic faith, they would have to cease accepting federal dollars, effectively disenfranchising the poor who have Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, etc. Either path would impact poor people.

This, of course, sets the stage for nationalized healthcare. I expect that this is Obama’s plan: close charity hospitals to force Congress’ hand in legislating nationalized healthcare, all while expanding abortion. Two birds with one very damning stone.

Now, I realize that the vast majority of abortion supporters have an immediate reflex to support any legislation expanding abortion and national healthcare. I respect that, and hope you respect my immediate reflex to stop anything encroaching on free-market economics. However, pause for a moment to think carefully about how comfortable you are with forcing the hand of a church, and punishing the poor as a result. By what means are you willing to get what you want? The precedents you set can come back to haunt you.

These are slippery slopes we tread.

January 20, 2009, 9:30 am
Filed under: daily

We have picked out a house. After touring every house in the South Hills (or at least it seemed like it) we’ve settled on one.

Is it perfect? No. Two of the bedrooms are really small and will be quickly outgrown once we kick Roommate out of the nest and start makin’ babies. It’s not really in my preferred style. It’s not in Dormont, and I love Dormont.

But it’s perfect for now. We’re doing this rather quickly and without our finances completely in line. For instance, I don’t have a job and am still in school. My money/income are not being involved at all, so it’s just Bear. He’s going to bring himself down to not too much with a down payment and closing costs, so we don’t want to walk into a house and have the furnace poop out on us or something. That’s just asking for disaster. The reason we went with this one is it was one of the cheaper options, but it also is fully upgraded. All the important big-ticket items are newer: roof, furnace, AC, hw heater, windows, etc. It comes with all appliances, including a dishwasher and washer/dryer. The kitchen and bathrooms are new. We won’t have to pay much more in the near future, so we can stay in the financial straight and narrow while I try to get employed and we save up for other things.

That’s a big relief. Also, it has a big flat yard for the dog to run around like a lunatic, and its close to public transportation that can easily get me to downtown and Oakland. If I get a job in either of those places, I won’t have to buy a car. Woo!

So, we’re meeting with Larry The Real Estate Agent Who Doesn’t Know How to Use A GPS Navigator tonight to make the official offer, and we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, they take our offer immediately and we can get everything rolling, because we just found out that we can’t extend our lease month to month and absolutely positively MUST be out of our apartment by March 31. Asses.

You might say that I am a little stressed. Hoping to find a good job in the Pittsburgh area by or around graduation, hoping to not be homeless come March 31, hoping for the best in everything. All while trying to actually graduate, keep the dog fed, myself healthy, the sidewalk free of snow and the kitchen reasonably clean.

I may or may not take to drinking.

Zen at the window
January 16, 2009, 4:05 pm
Filed under: daily, Dogs | Tags: ,

We have an elderly recliner sitting in the living room, next to the window. We got it from my church, actually. There used to be a convent there, but as has happened in many parishes, the nuns have disappeared and the parish is taking over the convent for other purposes. This recliner was in the convent and nobody else wanted it.

So Father Rich offered it to me.

I’m not sure what it says about me that a priest looks at a baby poop colored nun recliner and thinks, “Katrina! She would want this.”

It probably says that he knows that I am cheap and poor and appreciate a free recliner.

The window it sits next to is in the back of the apartment, and looks out over the backyard. In our street car suburb, we can see into at least part of most of the backyards of the block. There is a population of squirrels, cats, rabbits and other assorted rodentia that taunt Katie. An assortment of dogs are scattered around, including 3 asshole dogs across the alley who are owned by asshole old people who see nothing wrong with putting their dogs outside and letting them bark incessantly for hours on end.

In my book? Incessant barking is met with severe consequences. In fact, barking rarely gets to ‘incessant’.


The chair, the window.

Katie spends a lot of time on the chair. You know, watching TV, playing Mario Kart, scratching herself. Actually, that’s not true. She stands on the chair and looks out the window, at the rodentia, the dogs, cars driving by, nothing at all. She is constantly ON ALERT. Nothing happens back here without her knowledge.

As it happens, the nun chair is my preferred seat in the living room. She and I spend a lot of time on it, me sitting like a human, her perched across me, perfectly still save for an occasional grunt and the flick of her head back and forth as she takes notes of the neighborhood goings-on.

Since this is one of the few times that she is still, I let her do it. Still vs. pacing back and forth fretting over not knowing whats going on? Hm, I wonder which I’ll pick.

Since we’re both in the chair together, and she seems to be enjoying herself so much, sometimes I join her. We stare out the window together. It’s doggie bonding time.

And that’s why I haven’t updated my blog recently. Also, Mario Kart on the Wii.