Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Things He Says: Our Little Storyteller

Oliver was spinning quite a yarn today in the car.

We went to see the Chinese New Year celebrations down in Seattle's International District, and so Oliver had his little stuffed dragon with him. And Mrs. B was playing with it to entertain him - having it jump around the backs of my seat and her seat while he giggled.

He asked it to breathe fire, and Mrs. B made the appropriate fire-breathy sound effect. Pwooooosh!

And then Oliver narrated the following sequence.

"The fire went out the window!
And it burned up everybody's houses!
And all their pictures fell off the wall!
And then their noses fell off!
And their grandmother's noses fell off too!
And then a tree fell down!"

Mrs. B thinks there was also something about a monkey, but neither one of us can remember that part.

He does this a lot. He makes up these wild exuberant stories, each part sillier than the next, and he delights in seeing our reactions to them. All too often, however, they end up with someone being thrown in the garbage can or somebody finding out that his name is "poop." Or that his head is made out of poop.

So, y'know, he's not ready for the open mike night at the Comedy Underground yet. But soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Barack Hussein Obama

What is there to say, on this day of days? What can I add to the discussion? What has been left unsaid?

On Election Day, for the first time in years, I started to feel patriotism swelling in my veins. Today, it's complete. Today feels like America waking up from a deep slumber.

I saw Aretha singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and remembered what Martin Luther King said back in 1963 (six years before my birth):

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

That was what I remembereda while I heard Aretha singing, and I started getting tears in my eyes. Because it felt like today, just a little bit of his dream was realized. Not all of it. There's so much work that has yet to be done, so much wrong yet to be reversed, so much history that can't be erased.

But today, I sat with my wife and my son and watched Barack Obama take the oath of office, and it felt like America was suddenly a little bit of a better place.

Just like Martin said, we elected Obama because of the content of his character, not the color of his skin. Barack Obama was the best man for the job and he is exactly the man we need at this moment in our history.

Did you see that crowd? So many people of color. So many young people. People from all over the country, all making the pilgrimage to see this man become their president. So many people who probably didn't think of themselves as political at this time last year. Obama has rejuvenated the spirit of this country. This is very nearly a revolutionary experience. Overnight, the mood of our country has changed from despondency to optimism. In one day, we have become a hopeful nation, a proud nation, a nation of leaders, a nation prepared to lead.

Are you ready? As one of my friends said, we'd all better start taking our vitamins. If we're really going to take back our country, we're all going to have to start working at it tomorrow.


So get some sleep, because tomorrow, the hard work begins. Tomorrow, we're going to wake up, and Barack Obama is wake up for the first day as America's president, and we're all going to realize just how much work it's going to take to get our ship back on course.

Sleep well, friends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I went into work on Monday and it was a typical day. I turned on my computer and got a cup of coffee.

Then I cleaned off my desk.

I tossed away what didn't matter anymore - copies of letters I'd sent, receipts for purchases, drafts of documents. I filed what needed to be saved and tossed the rest. Then I began arranging my files so that someone else could make sense out of them besides me. Someone else would need to.

Once that was done, I sat down at my computer and began methodically cleaning out my Outlook program: deleting emails that no longer mattered, forwarding emails that would need action taken by someone, and deleting my task list one by one. Click, click, click, until every single task had disappeared.

I took my pictures off the wall, and put my coffee cups and my other personal effects into a small box. I turned in my keys and the company credit card. And then I said goodbye.

I've been laid off.

Seattle's economy has taken a series of devastating blows. The collapse of WaMu is still rippling through our economy. Boeing is laying off 4500 workers. One of the newspapers is on the verge of closing its doors. Microsoft, according to rumors, is going to be laying off thousands of its own workers in the next few days.

And my wife and I looked at each story and said to ourselves, thank goodness we both have solid jobs in this crashing economy. Thank goodness we don't have to worry.

But I worked at a three-person nonprofit that depends on individual donors for its money, and those donors live in Seattle and in the surrounding area. Some of them had WaMu stock. Some of them work at Microsoft. Some of them have investments that have collapsed. My board was worried about the future and decided to trim staff so they wouldn't have to face shutting its own doors in a year or two. I understand why they did it. I don't have to like it, but I understand it.

I suppose I'm lucky. Mrs. B has been wonderful during this, and I'm eternally grateful to her for it. Oliver has been - well, I suppose "sympathetic" isn't the right word, because he doesn't understand what really happened. But he's been charmingly optimistic. When I came home last week and told him I was going to be looking for a new job, his first question was "where is that new job, daddy?" He's already been giving me things - pictures, toys - that he wants me to take into my new office.

I'm in a good position. I didn't learn overnight that my organization had collapsed. (This, unfortunately, was the case with at least one local nonprofit recently. For the sake of their privacy, I won't provide a link to the story.) I wasn't thrown out, I wasn't fired, I wasn't led away from the office in shackles. I'm not in trouble like the guy who jumped out of a moving airplane to avoid his debts. Thankfully, I'm also not working in the financial sector or another job sector that's in a tailspin right now. I'm in the nonprofit world, and rain or shine, they're always hiring.

I'm also leaving in a relatively good position. I don't get a golden parachute like some folks in the business world, but I'm getting the equivalent of six weeks in severance pay. My boss will give me a sterling reference - he felt genuinely sick about letting me go. Many of the board members have also called or emailed me to express their sadness at losing me, and that really helps cushion the blow.

And thank goodness, I have a wide network of friends in the nonprofit world who are all searching on my behalf (if they're not already searching on their own behalf.) Nonprofits always need good fundraisers and good organizers, and I've done both. I have half a dozen jobs I'm looking at already. I don't think I'll be out of work long. I might end up taking a pay cut, but I'll be back on my feet soon.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Execution of Scooter Libby

Then there's this devilish bit of logic he delivered on the David Letterman show. Still one of my favorite Al Franken moments.

That's Senator Franken to You

Al Franken, the next Senator from Minnesota.

Franken will be a great senator and will be a joy to watch in office. He got his fame as a comedian, sure, but he's also whipsmart and incredibly fast on his feet. Anyone who's read any of his books knows that he has a great analytical mind - which he gleefully uses to eviscerate his opponents and political adversaries. Watch him demolish Ann Coulter in less than 90 seconds here.