Friday, May 23, 2008
Today is Will and Fritz's 11th anniversary, and 4th anniversary of our marriage in Massachusetts
The bridge from the house to the hillside is now fully framed, sided and decked. Work is suspended for the holiday weekend, but the entire thing will be finished by the end of the work day Tuesday.
Walt, a really great guy and blogger from New York City, has closed down Inquietudes. I discovered his first blog, Cocalambe, several years ago and soon come to appreciate the calm beauty of his writing style. He closed that blog but came back six months or so later with the new one, during which he met and fell in love with a wonderful guy, and he kept the site open a while longer.
During this period, Walt published a recipe every now and then, some growing out of his Cuban origins. His "minimalist paella" soon became a favorite of ours both for its basic goodness and for its flexibility. Although Walt put it out as a vegetarian dish, I've had great success with introducing shrimp, fish, and clams in various combinations, pulling it in line with traditional Spanish paellas.
The topping of tomatoes (I use Italian plum or Roma tomatoes) that roast in place makes it a very pretty dish to serve and excellent for entertaining. The base of my Moroccan tagine is perfect for sauteing and then going right into a very hot oven, but any good-sized, deep ceramic or glass dish would work.
Walt, you'll be missed!
Fairly frequently I’ve been asked what program I use to do my technical drawings, and the answer is that I don’t. Whether it’s AutoCad or VectorWorks, it’s a “machine” and I don’t want a machine drawing my lines for me. So I usually make a joke of it, hold up my hand with five digits on it and say that I’m a “digital” designer in the true sense of the word.
There’s another reason, which is that I could turn out a ground plan or a page of elevations in about a third of the time it took our technical director to do the same type of drawing. I just never saw the point of sitting there all day trying to create lines and curves of just the right length and diameter and then dragging them into place when I could be done with it in about 10 seconds and then move on.
The same thing happened in my design class. MIT had a cross-registration agreement with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and with Harvard. One year an architecture major from Harvard came into the class and said she’d be submitting all her assignments via digital files.
Every assignment was at least one class session late and the files played for maybe fourteen seconds, the surfaces of things looking flat and blank. I finally told her that I was [metaphorically] taking her computer away from her and that from then on she would draw all her work by hand. On the day final projects were presented, she told me that she hadn’t actually drawn anything for four years until I made her do it, and she thanked me for giving her back her hands.
Drawing has always been the basic skill for any visual artist and I feel that’s still very true. You learn shapes, particularly complex shapes like the human body, flowers, gears, etc. by drawing them, getting the contours into your fingers. I don’t think abdicating that essential skill to a computer program is ever a good idea. In my new studio in the new house, the computer will be used for research and communication and my hands for sketching and drafting.
A piece of birch tree we'd left to season for firewood, after a porcupine had feasted on bark and the fine-grained wood within.
Even before the expected and ardently hoped-for regime change in Washington DC next January, a Federal Appeals Court has dealt a severe blow to “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.” The following AP item tells it in detail, but the gist is that from now on armed forces authorities must prove on a case by case basis that gay or lesbian soldier/sailor/flyer/medics are detrimental to unit morale or that their presence specifically hinders the goals of the armed forces before they can be thrown out of the military. In the case of Maj. Margaret Witt, the citation for bravery and airmanship under extremely hazardous conditions that she received from president Bush is going to make any such argument virtually impossible to support.
Federal court rules against "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell"
by Gene Johnson, Associated Press
Thursday May 22, 2008
The military cannot automatically discharge people because they’re gay, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in the case of a decorated flight nurse who sued the Air Force over her dismissal.
The three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not strike down the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. But they reinstated Maj. Margaret Witt’s lawsuit, saying the Air Force must prove that her dismissal furthered the military’s goals of troop readiness and unit cohesion.
The "don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass" policy prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but requires discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or engaging in homosexual activity.
Wednesday’s ruling led opponents of the policy to declare its days numbered. It is also the first appeals court ruling in the country that evaluated the policy through the lens of a 2003 Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas ban on sodomy as an unconstitutional intrusion on privacy.
When gay service members have sued over their dismissals, courts historically have accepted the military’s argument that having gays in the service is generally bad for morale and can lead to sexual tension.
But the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Texas case changed the legal landscape, the judges said, and requires more scrutiny over whether "don’t ask, don’t tell" is constitutional as applied in individual cases.
Under Wednesday’s ruling, military officials "need to prove that having this particular gay person in the unit really hurts morale, and the only way to improve morale is to discharge this person," said Aaron Caplan, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state who worked on the case.
Witt, a flight nurse based at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, was suspended without pay in 2004 after the Air Force received a tip that she had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian woman. Witt was honorably discharged in October 2007 after having put in 18 years - two short of what she needed to receive retirement benefits.
She sued the Air Force in 2006, but U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton dismissed her claims, saying the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas did not change the legality of "don’t ask, don’t tell."
The appeals court judges disagreed.
"When the government attempts to intrude upon the personal and private lives of homosexuals, the government must advance an important governmental interest ... and the intrusion must be necessary to further that interest," wrote Judge Ronald M. Gould.
One of the judges, William C. Canby Jr., issued a partial dissent, saying that the ruling didn’t go far enough. He argued that the Air Force should have to show that the policy itself "is necessary to serve a compelling governmental interest and that it sweeps no more broadly than necessary."
Gay service members who are discharged can sue in federal court, and if the military doesn’t prove it had a good reason for the dismissal, the cases will go forward, Caplan said.
Another attorney for Witt, James Lobsenz, hailed the ruling as the beginning of the end for "don’t ask, don’t tell."
"If the various branches of the Armed Forces have to start proving each application of the policy makes sense, then it’s not going to be only Maj. Witt who’s going to win," Lobsenz said. "Eventually, they’re going to say, ’This is dumb. ... It’s time to scrap the policy.’"
An Air Force spokeswoman said she had no comment on the decision and directed inquiries to the Defense Department.
Witt joined the Air Force in 1987 and switched from active duty to the reserves in 1995. She cared for injured patients on military flights and in operating rooms. She was promoted to major in 1999, and she deployed to Oman in 2003 in support of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
A citation from President Bush that year said, "Her airmanship and courage directly contributed to the successful accomplishment of important missions under extremely hazardous conditions."
Her suspension and discharge came during a shortage of flight nurses and outraged many of her colleagues - one of whom, a sergeant, retired in protest.
"I am thrilled by the court’s recognition that I can’t be discharged without proving that I was harmful to morale," Witt said in a statement. "I am proud of my career and want to continue doing my job. Wounded people never asked me about my sexual orientation. They were just glad to see me there."
All best wishes for many decades of love and joy together!
With the house nearing completion, what a wonderful year you are having!
And as a designer who uses Vectorworks way more than he likes, I can so relate to your "digital" designer ruminations.
Thanks for all the good wishes. We had a great day, capped by our favorite dinner at Legal Seafoods in Cambridge (grilled bluefish, mine with their special mustard sauce, his without) followed by a performance of The History Boys at Speakeasy Stage.
Yes--it's being a great year!
You have your own bridge!! I love it! Is it high enough to walk under? I can't tell from the picture.
That recipe sounds gorgeous.