Rumormongering

The recent news that Victory is open to selling the Lindy Boggs Medical Center site jogged a memory. I know rumor-mongering isn’t wise, but I can’t help passing this on. I recently heard from someone who seemed to be well-informed (but promised to deny this if it ever came back to him) that the Oschner/Tenet covenant on the Lindy Boggs Medical Center (aka Mercy Hospital) had something to do with the monstrously huge LSU/VA hospital that’s in the works. I’m not sure if I understood the alleged details, but I think it went something like this: Tenet was going to donate the land to the LSU/VA project, and Oschner’s covenant was mainly designed to prevent this because Oschner and LSU are enemies. Does that sound crazy or what? The Lindy Boggs site sure would make a lot more sense than tearing down a large swath of neighborhood like they’re planning.

Lead

Maybe one reason New Orleans seems to have so many problems is chemical. Specifically I’m thinking about lead. There’s a lot of lead in this old city, and it gets in your system and slows down your development. It’s been linked to poor performance in school and higher rates of crime.

Naturally with an infant in the house I’ve been mighty worried about lead. I hear horror stories from neighbors who find their kids test way over the limit.

Flaking Paint

So we had our house tested a while back, through ACORN, and sure enough they lead-based paint on the exterior and also in one interior room.

That was the bad news. The good news is we qualify for their lead abatement program. We’ve been waiting and finally our number’s come up. So next week I’m shipping the wife and daughter up to Indiana (hope it dries out a little by then) as a crew of volunteers swoops down on our house and does some remediation and then a fresh paint job.

Therefore I’m revisiting our color consultation from two years ago and trying to make some decisions.

I for One Am Offended

When I first heard of Stuff White People Like I took a quick glance at it and was vaguely amused. Oh, ha ha, making fun of white people, how clever. But I don’t really look to the internet for humorous commentary so I quickly forgot about it.

A recent comment from Garvey caused me to go back and take a second look. I was mighty surprised at what I found. It seems this site isn’t making fun of white people at all. It’s making fun of middle class liberal Americans.

Case in point: NASCAR. A search for NASCAR turns up a “not found” result. 102 entries (and counting) about “stuff white people like” and not one mention of NASCAR? Come on.

Second case in point: The entry on bumper stickers contains the following passage:

If you have decided that you want to improve your status with white people by applying a bumper sticker to your car do not make the assumption that you can just use anything! Stickers that support right wing politics, guns, patriotism, war, or hunting are all unacceptable. It is also unacceptable to use a sticker with a clever slogan that does not support a left wing political cause. Any of these stickers will likely end any chance you had of befriending a white person.

What kind of limited exposure to white folks does this author have? Where I grew up, and indeed in much of our nation, white people are noted for their love of God, guns and guts. Not to mention NASCAR.

The more I look the more obvious it becomes. NPR? The Wire? Free health care? The site is a collection of screeds against what Jeffrey calls the Yuppie Left. They attempt to skewer hypocrisy, with mixed results. This should be called “Stuff Hypocritical Middle-Class Liberal Americans Like.” That’s not such a funny title, is it?

So what agenda does it serve to characterize all white people as middle-class liberal Americans? What value in promulgating a worldview in which the poor are all nonwhite? It strikes me as some kind of vast rightwing conspiracy, another attempt to further discredit liberalism and make it look ridiculous. But I’m not sure it’s that simple. Maybe it’s a liberal attempt at self-critique, because the humor only seems sharp when it’s directed against hypocrisy. Actually it seems incoherent. A commenter over at the rightwing American Scene says it best:

I think in a sense the blog does precisely what it complains about white people doing, claiming to support the poor but expecting them to remain in poverty. It purports to support wealth creation for the nonwhite, but it defines wealth and upper-class identity as an aspect of whiteness.

Anyway, I for one am offended. And yes, I know “Being Offended” is #101. Spare me the withering irony. Frankly, your irony couldn’t wither my lily-white dick. (Um. Apologies to my parents for that line. It was rude.) But unlike the hypocrisy effectively skewered in that write-up, I’m not offended on behalf of someone else. I’m offended on my own behalf. I’m offended by the racial stereotyping that’s not even accurate.

I’m also offended by the general lack of funniness once I realized this was really about attacking liberalism and not about race at all.

Granted, “Stuff White People Like” is still funnier than my blog. But I’m not trying to be funny, folks. Not everyone is a comedian.

Not Laughing Anymore

When I first heard about flooding in Indiana last week, and saw some pictures of IU students frolicking in the high water in Bloomington, with little indication of property damage or loss of life, I’ll admit I laughed. I used to live there, I’d seen canoes on Kirkwood before — I didn’t think much of it.

But now the situation has changed, as the rains keep coming. Seven or eight people have died, 29 counties have been declared disaster areas.

Suffice it to say I’m not laughing anymore.

Here’s a picture of my Dad wading. The water in this small lake on my parents’ property is overflowing the dam.

Walking the dam

Thankfully I don’t think they’re sustaining any real damage, but many others are not so lucky. Since we found refuge in Indiana when we were flooded out of our home in New Orleans, my heart really goes out to the Hoosier State now.

Shelf Mania

Over the last few weeks, building on the brackets my father helped me install, I’ve put up approximately 64 linear feet of shelving in the lower floor of our house.

Three Orange Shelves

Three Blue Shelves

Big Three

Eyeglasses Shelf

It’s nice to have shelves to put things on. This way, stuff can sit on the shelf instead of on the floor where you trip over it all the time.

The Hike Report

I had no idea how many people to expect for today’s 4th Annual Hike of the Lafitte Corridor. Last year we had 16 or 17, the year before that, the same. But this year we had better publicity thanks to the sponsorship of Massey’s Professional Outfitters. If we doubled our numbers we’d be successful beyond my wildest dreams.

But we didn’t double our numbers. We just about quadrupled them.

I was absolutely knocked out, astonished, amazed, flabbergasted even, by this response. How to explain it? I’d like to think everyone was drawn by the sheer force of my charisma, but even I can’t swallow that one.

Maybe it was the lunch at Massey’s.

Or maybe it’s an indication that this project’s time has come.

Group Photo

Here’s a set of 22 photos I took. See also the Lafitte Corridor group pool. In fact, if you took any pictures of the hike yourself, please add them to the pool.

I gotta give props again to Massey’s. The only estimate they had was the numbers I gave them, and I low-balled it. As we started hiking, I gave them a call. (Up to this point all our arrangements had been made over e-mail. In fact, I didn’t even have their number in my phone — had to look it up on Google Maps.) “Uh, you remember the ‘wildest dreams’ estimate I gave you? Well, double that.” And to their great credit, they rolled with it like the pros they are. They quickly got more food for lunch and chartered a bus for the return shuttle.

Somehow we seemed to move much faster as a large group. I’ve got timestamped photos from each of the previous hikes that prove our smaller groups moved much more slowly. You’d have thought it would be the opposite. My theory is that smaller groups can stop and linger for discussion much more easily. Sixty people, not so much. So we just kept hiking.

I really don’t relish organizing events. But already my thoughts are turning to next year’s hike. Hopefully it will be even bigger, or at least comparable. I hope some of this year’s participants return and can see some progress made on building the greenway. The portion between Jeff Davis and Carrollton was the roughest patch, actually hazardous in places with high weeds and industrial debris. Next year it should be the easiest stretch, as that’s the first place we hope to lay asphalt.

PS: Of course no post on this subject would be complete without a link to the Friends of Lafitte Corridor. Go join now.

Update: Here’s two other blog accounts of the hike: Blazing (hot) trail by NOLA Cleophatra and Hot on the trail by the inimitable Dangerblond. Hmmm… I guess it was pretty warm out there… I didn’t really notice. But thanks for writing about it, y’all.

Thoughts Before the Hike

As we hike the length of the abandoned rail line known as the Lafitte Corridor tomorrow, we’ll pass by the Lafitte public housing development. Or perhaps I should say the ruins of this development. These buildings are currently being demolished, and the sight is quite dramatic to say the least. The demolition of these properties has been extremely controversial, provoking plenty of passion both for and against.

I thought this would be a good time to revisit FOLC’s “Statement on the Lafitte Greenway and Lafitte Community,” which was formulated about nine months ago:

September 22, 2007

Friends of Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) recognizes and respects the Lafitte community’s history of association with and pioneering development of recreational and community amenities in the Lafitte Corridor. Facilities such as Lemann Playground, Lemann Pool, Sojourner Truth Center, and community gardens were developed to serve the Lafitte and Treme neighborhoods.

FOLC’s vision for the Lafitte Greenway is based upon the preservation and improvement of all existing public recreational and community amenities in the Lafitte Corridor.

The Lafitte community must be actively engaged in planning and implementation of the Lafitte Greenway.

FOLC recognizes the destructive impact of the Lafitte Community’s extended displacement and supports immediate action to facilitate the return of all displaced New Orleanians.

FOLC’s mission is founded upon the principle that all communities adjoining the Lafitte Greenway should enjoy the Greenway’s benefits equitably. These benefits will include:

  • a safe off-street route for pedestrians and cyclists linking residents to adjoining neighborhoods, schools and public facilities, places of work and commerce
  • new opportunities for public health and recreation
  • renewed investment in storm-damaged neighborhoods
  • new opportunity for promotion of environmental education and heritage tourism
  • a more sustainable, livable city

Something to think about. See you at the front gate of Armstrong Park, tomorrow morning, 10:00 AM.

Bloomington Floods

Once again Mr. Magic writes with news of life in my former hometown:

I thought you might enjoy these pictures of the recent flooding in btown.

It was crazy here last night. I’ve never seen this town as wet in my life,

Maybe it can give you some comfort Katrina, as nobody is safe from flooding, even downtown Bloomington.

I found more pictures on Flickr:

Bloomington Flash Flood

Of course us folks in New Orleans have one universal reaction when we see pix like this:

How can those people live there?

Sorry, can’t help it. It’s become an ingrained reflex. From what I’ve read there was very little damage and no loss of life, for which I am glad. Stay dry, Bloomington.

Mother’s Milk

It’s astonishing to me to think our little girl has more than doubled in size — and her one, her only source of nutrition has been her mother’s milk.

Amazing stuff. When my own mother visited us last month I discovered that I was breastfed, which was a surprise to me since I was born in at a time when bottle-feeding was all the rage. According to an article in The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology:

…infant-feeding trends have shifted dramatically over the last century. Bottle-feeding first started to gain in popularity around the 1910s, and by the 1940s it had become cemented as a main alternative to breastfeeding (Wolf, 2001). From the mid-1950s to about the mid-1960s–the height of bottle-feeding’s popularity–over 80% of mothers were feeding by bottle. By 1970, infant-feeding trends had started to shift in the other direction, and by 1978 nearly half (45%) of mothers were once again breastfeeding (Jelliffe and Jelliffe, 1978).

Those stats are from Canada, but I’m almost certain the same holds true in America. I recently read that breastfeeding has continued to make gains in popularity of late, especially among African-American women.

So thanks, Mom, for bucking the trend of the era. Maybe starting off with mother’s milk is why I grew up so strong and tall.

I’m very impressed by Xy’s efforts in this same arena. It was hard, even painful at first, and continues to be something of a hassle, but she’s stuck with it. She’s a trooper. I’m proud of her.

She produces more milk than the girl can consume, so we’ve been stockpiling it in the freezer. Here’s Xy with a month’s worth of solid gold:

Whole Lotta Milk

A freezer/fridge can only keep the milk good for three months or so. Also we were running out of room. So we bought a deep-freeze, the smallest little one we could find. It’s just five cubic feet, the Frigidaire FFC0522D. We got it at A-1 Appliances for about $165.

Our New Freezer

It’s not the most energy-efficient appliance, but because it’s so small it doesn’t consume much electricity either. It’s supposed to run about 242 kWh/year or about $26. It’s chock full of mother’s milk now, but we’re thinking of selling it when this milky time ends.

And yes, out of sheer curiosity Xy whipped up some frozen breast milk smoothies (with strawberries) one evening. We choked them down. It tasted fine, actually, but we couldn’t get past the psychological factor. I haven’t drunk cow milk for many a year, and the thought of that grosses me out too.

Here’s a fun factoid: human milk contains 2-Arachidonoyl glycerol, which is an endocannabinoid. I guess that means mother’s milk gets baby high.

OK, all you crazy breast milk fetishists, please leave some creepy perverted comments on this post.

My Mission as FOLC Chair

As preparation for being a father, I backed off my involvement with a couple nonprofits. I resigned from the board of the Urban Conservancy and did not seek re-election as Communications Director for the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization. I still believe in these groups’ missions; I just felt I needed to make time for being a dad, not to mention finishing up our renovation.

But with one organization, I didn’t back off. In fact, I stepped up. I’m talking about Friends of Lafitte Corridor. I’m now honored to be serving as the chair for this nonprofit corporation. (We just got our 501(c)3 status, so it’s legal.) I decided to stay involved with FOLC because it’s closest to my heart as an organization that I helped found, still a fledgling but with a lot of momentum.

Beyond that, I felt a personal calling to stick my neck out and exercise a little more leadership. Thus I volunteered to chair the organization. This is not something I take lightly. So I thought I’d just take a moment to reflect publicly on my philosophy.

Some people are confused by organizations that include both a president and a chair. However, I think this structure makes a lot of sense. I see the president as an executive position, primarily focused on taking actions to advance the organization’s mission. The vice-president and at-large board members also serve this function. The chair, on the other hand, like the Treasurer and Secretary, focuses on the organization’s internal processes.

I’m not some kind of wonky process geek, no matter what my friends say. I want to see results and a final product just like everyone else. But I think I do have slightly more of an orientation toward process than most people, and so I put myself forward to fill this role.

This means putting my own desires and my own personal opinions on the back burner, and focusing on the group process. It also means maintaining a focus on the “big picture” — the mission — and not getting bogged down in executive details. And let’s face it, there are a lot of details involved in such an ambitious project as we have set for ourselves: the building of a three-mile urban greenway. The executive board members have their work cut out for them.

As chair, my primary responsibility within FOLC is running the monthly board meetings and the quarterly membership meetings. Anybody who’s been to a poorly organized meeting (haven’t we all?) knows how painful and exhausting they can be. But a well-run meeting can leave people feeling energized and confident that the organization is moving in the right direction. My guidebook is the Democratic Rules of Order, which I recommend unreservedly to anyone who participates in meetings on a regular basis. I wouldn’t wish Robert’s Rules on my worst enemy.

Over the course of time conflicts will emerge in any group. With a fair process in place, these conflicts can be resolved. But people have to believe in the process. They also have to trust that the chair is impartial and will treat all sides fairly. In other words, the chair can’t have a dog in the fight. It’s important for the chair to remain somewhat aloof from the issues, from the actual substance of the organization’s business.

For example, I generally try to avoid bringing motions myself. Better to let others bring the motions and debate them; let the chair focus on the process of the meeting, making sure discussion is proceeding in a civil and timely fashion, and that matters are put to a vote when the time is right.

Because an efficient meeting requires a coherent agenda, I’ve also taken on the responsibility for setting the agenda for each meeting. It’s tricky to set the agenda without advancing my own ideas about what the organization should do. My tactic is to simply compile the agenda, taking direction from other board members. Most recently, in an effort to maintain focus and efficiency, I’ve taken to asking for any “new business” items to be submitted in the form of a motion, in writing. I worried this might be a little too formal, but I think it is actually working out pretty well.

As chair, you may find that I don’t always know every last detail of what we as an organization are doing. But please don’t think that I don’t care or that I’m absent-minded (even though I am). It’s because the cognitive resources which I’m devoting to FOLC are focused on our internal processes instead. I’m trying to make sure that our organization functions in a way that is both efficient and equitable, that we stay on mission and act in accordance with our core values. So if you have a concern regarding process, by all means bring it to me and I will do what I can to make it right. If you have suggestions on how to better conduct our meetings, let me know.

PS: Of course you’re welcome to discuss any of these lofty matters when you join us for the 4th Annual Hike of the Lafitte Corridor this Saturday morning.

DialAmerica Closes Shop in Bloomington, Indiana

Thanks to the Magic Man for pointing out this story in the Bloomington paper about the closure of the local branch office of DialAmerica Marketing. I worked there for seven long years. Truly it is the end of an era. Like the guy in the story, DM allowed me to keep body and soul together working part-time while I pursued my crazy dreams. To the dozens of people who are now out of a job with no advance warning — I feel for you.
Continue reading “DialAmerica Closes Shop in Bloomington, Indiana”

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Weekend Update

One of the most frequent questions I field as a new dad are various inquiries into my sleep patterns. People seem mystified or nonplussed when I assert that I have never slept better in my life. It’s not a joke, though. Xy feeds the girl at night and usually sleeps in her room as a matter of convenience. I slumber undisturbed. It’s an arrangement that works well for us because of certain salient differences. Aside from the fact that I don’t produce much breast milk, I’ve also battled intermittent insomnia for years. Once I wake up I have a hard time getting back to sleep. Not so Xy, who can fall asleep on a dime, so to speak. So I really am sleeping better than ever, and I’m eternally grateful to Xy.

Except Friday night I could not get to sleep. Who knows why? Maybe because I’m back on the caffeine. Maybe because I’m going through a manic phase. I don’t know. But I woke up Saturday with 3 1/2 hours’ sleep and felt loopy the whole day. I was painting shelves at 7:00 AM and sweating like a pig, it was so humid.

My main activity for the day was to help Ben put up the remaining Mid-City signs. We were joined by Jac and Mike. Ben and Jac seem like true Yats; Mike says he grew up all over the east coast, but he talked like a native too. I’ve never heard anyone say “Yeah, you right” so much.

It shaped up to be a beautiful day; once the humidity burned off a little it was hotter but much more comfortable. We installed three signs in four hours.

Sign Crew

More sign photos here.

I continued the theme on Sunday, when I finally did my assigned blocks for yet another housing survey conducted by Mid-City Neighborhood Organization. I was assigned the blocks of North Rendon, Lopez, Salcedo and Gayoso, between Canal and Lafitte. That’s twelve blocks, but they’re short blocks with lots of vacant spaces, so it took me less than two hours.

It was pretty interesting. I took pictures of every property; the set is posted here.

An exhausting weekend, but in a good way.