it used to be simpler.

Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina? Political damage control. Swell.

Here's a well-written report from the ground.

I stopped at Rasputin on Sunday and backfilled my CD collection with the early 90s: Tracy Chapman, Crash Test Dummies, Gin Blossoms, Edie Brickell, Suzanne Vega. Also Dar Williams, and Ani diFranco (her first album, my original copy of which Zannah Kayser borrowed and lost in 1998 and never replaced).

I did my 2nd kyu aikido test last night! For those of you following along at home, this puts me two ranks below black belt: next is 1st kyu, then shodan ("dan" is "black belt rank", "sho" is "beginning"--later dan ranks are numbered in their Japanese names, but the idea is that at shodan you now have a command of the basics and you can start really learning). The test went very well, apparently; no one told me beforehand that at this level, it's less important that the techniques go well than that I stay present and engaged and focused, so that when techniques don't go quite right I could smoothly adapt and react. Many techniques did not go the way I expected or wanted, but I was paying attention and did something else instead, so I did well. I've been basking in both the compliments and in the test being over; having it over and done with has let me release and relax a bit, thus making my aikido better. (After I got done talking to the panel of instructors and came out wearing my new brown belt, Kelly offered that I could throw her around a bit, and that was lovely: I felt nice and chill and relaxed and I didn't have any real trouble flinging her all over the place. That's not a given--she's small, but powerful and troublesome.)

During the test I guess I had a good run at trashing my uke, a 6'1" former full-contact fighter named Mark. Supposedly other people have trouble moving him; I weigh more than he does and I've been training with him for five months, so I don't really notice any more. I can't wait to see the video at the party tomorrow night.

So this whole thing I've been experimenting with, where I go and actually talk to girls, seems to be working out okay. Sometimes they talk back and everything.