Sunday, June 22, 2008

Harper's Ferry

My mom and dad (and, later, my sister Jessica) came to visit us over Memorial Day weekend for Quinn's dedication ceremony. To celebrate we decided to skip town. We rented a house with a terrific view of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, and spent a day or so wandering around and sitting on the porch swing.

Harper's Ferry sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, which eventually flow down from the Appalachians to D.C. and out to the Chesapeake Bay. It was the site of John Brown's failed slave uprising (although he was executed there, his body lies a'mouldering elsewhere) and a series of battles in the Civil War. The town is now a historic park (flooded with school kids most days) and it shows its history. For example, right beneath our house stands a ruined church and the headstones in the cemetery behind the house date to the mid-1700s. The Appalachian Trail ran just yards from the house to take you to either Georgia or Maine, depending.

Anyway, it was a fun and relaxing weekend - here's a slideshow of some pics (picasa link):

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

Hoo boy.
"If there's one thing poll after poll indicates, it's that the science is not settled on this issue."
-- an anonymous Republican Senator
"This issue" is, of course, climate change. (via Yglesias and the National Journal.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Baby's First Baseball Game!

My family was in town a few weeks ago (more on that soon) and we took Quinn to see the Washington Nationals play the Milwaukee Brewers. It was a beautiful day at the ballpark - even if the cellar-dwelling Nats lost 2-5.

Here's Quinn with her rally cap, getting some baseball tips from her two grandpas.

Here's Grandma and Auntie Jessica having a good time...

Shiny new Nationals Field (which is actually pretty cool - the food is darn good, as advertised)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hyde Park Hit

This week the cover article for the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard is about Chicago's Hyde Park -- home to the University of Chicago and, of course, Barack Obama. The article is a mix of insight, glaring oversight and a handful of cheap shots. The author, Andrew Ferguson, more or less concludes that Hyde Park, for all its racial integration, is really an exclusive country club in disguise. To paraphrase one interviewee, Hyde Park doesn't have any class conflict because there is only one class -- upper. And thus, Obama's neighborhood betrays all his supposed faults, especially his lack of authenticity, wealth and elitism.

This would hardly be blog-worthy if it were just the same old line used on every democratic nominee since McGovern. But, damn it, I lived in Hyde Park for six years, and if you're going to slam the hood (and all the good people who live there) at least get your story straight. My main impression of the article was that Ferguson had spent a couple of days there, walked around a bit, talked to a bunch of rich acquaintances and then wrote it up. He mentions all the pieces that don't fit this cozy thesis (like the lack of expensive restaurants), and breezes right over them.

To be sure Hyde Park has some wealthy inhabitants and the university loves to burnish its image as the ivory-est of ivory towers. And crucially, as Ferguson relates, there is an ugly history to its isolationism that the university is still trying to live down (although considerably less ugly than other parts of Chicago).

Yet when I lived there, I had friends who were waiters and construction workers and, you know, starving humanities grad students living out of their cars. Our church had a handful of professors but a larger number of regular neighborhood folks. Next door was an immigrant family who were running a church out of an un-rented apartment in our building. In the summer, everyone goes to the beach and plays softball in the park and enjoys the long evenings. Among the students, there was a fair bit of griping about the place - but almost none of it had to do with HP being too upscale.

In fact, the rep was usually just the opposite. One prof of mine used to complain about how hard it was to find a decent latte. Non-south-siders often worried for your safety when you told them where you lived. Obnoxious freshmen made jokes about bullet-proof vests. But that's not fair either. HP isn't the ghetto - it's a middle class black neighborhood with a world class university grafted onto it. This combination makes it unusual, but not in the trite ways Ferguson implies. In short, a college town, warts and all.

Hyde Park is by no means perfect, but I loved living there, and it deserves a fuller telling of its charms and flaws and history than this cheap political pop psychology.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

5K of Muggy

Yesterday morn we ran the Race for the Cure down on the national mall, and even though it started at 8am, the day was hot and humid and shrouded in fog. (The fog burned off after it got up past 99 degrees later that afternoon). Absolutely terrible weather for a run, but still fun--so long as you hydrate properly.

I ran the course, while Laura Jean and Jesse pushed Quinn and Grace in strollers (running the last mile once it spread out enough). (Laura hurt her knee in a kickball-related injury and had to watch from the sidelines.) I started at the back of the runners pack and there were so many people in front of me that I really couldn't run for the first full mile and I was dodging in and out of the crowded pack all the way to the finish line. You can get some idea of the sheer number of people from this picture at the finish:

The most fun about these mass events is the people watching and tracking the swirl of subcultures. It is amazing to see such a broad swath of America represented at this race--all colors, ethnicities, ages, genders, regions, orientations--a sure sign that breast cancer intrudes on far too many lives. T-shirts representing teams from all types of jobs, families galore, homemade testaments to loved ones, pink shirts heralding cancer survivors. (Two of the more amusing are the ever-present "Save the Ta-Tas" shirts, and clever, homemade versions proclaiming "Save Second Base".)

It was also great to see family. Above Grace is giving Quinn some big-cousin-ly support. And here's Team Torgerson attempting to cool off in the shade after the race.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Race For The Cure

Laura Jean, Quinn, myself and several other Torger-folk will be run/walk/stroller-ing in the Race for the Cure this Saturday. Here's our team page; donations go to support basic breast cancer research and community outreach. It's also (allegedly?) the largest 5K race in the world.

Pictures will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Finish Line

Obama wins! What a crazy primary - can't say I'm sorry its over (fingers crossed). More to say later, no doubt, but for now I think its a great night for the nation and potentially a first step for a potentially great president.