30 April 2007

You've come a long way, baby. But some of us haven't.

The Post has an article today about intimidation of female bloggers. It's probably no surprise to many women out there that online or off they're subject to more daily harrassment than men. It's probably also no surprise to most bloggers that the anonymity of the internet allows for some of the most vile threats from cowards and trolls (usually synonymous terms). However, what interested me in the article -- aside from the fact that it was on page one (below the fold, true, but still page one) -- was the particular level of vehemence directed at female bloggers, and often with no discernible cause to evoke such vitriol...but I suppose that's the definition of being unhinged: you have no rationale for being so irrational.

For example, there's the case of the blogger who, in the Post's words, "won a large following by blogging about designing software that makes people happy." OK. So you're blogging about designing software that makes people happy. What about that topic evokes such anger? Is there a contingent of wack jobs out there that believe the computing experience should be all about alienation and misery? Is she a threat therefore to their worldviews?

The blogger's website has an entry that's far more illuminating than the Post article, even though the photos she cites as examples have disappeared from their sources. From her description, the threats were also mixed with personal data, including social security numbers, and while the Post briefly mentions that separate "harrassment sites" were set up to spread the hate, she contextualizes those sites. For brevity's sake, here's the Post's description:
Her Web site, Creating Passionate Users, was about "the most fluffy and nice things," she said. Sierra occasionally got the random "comment troll," she said, but a little over a month ago, the posts became more threatening. Someone typed a comment on her blog about slitting her throat and ejaculating. The noose photo appeared next, on a site that sprang up to harass her. On the site, someone contributed this comment: "the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size."
A real class act, but probably someone who holds down a steady job, has a relatively active social life, and thinks nothing of making death threats on the internet.

On the other hand, radical right raving lunatic Michelle Malkin argues in her typical fashion that female bloggers just need to get over it:
Some female bloggers say their colleagues just need thicker skin. Columnist Michelle Malkin, who blogs about politics and culture, said she sympathizes with Sierra but as chided the bloggers expressing outrage now. "First, where have y'all been? For several years, the unhinged Internet underworld has been documented here," she wrote, reposting a comment on her site that called for the "torture, rape, murder" of her family.
I'm assuming that by "documented here," Malkin is referring to her own writing (all joking aside, the threat against Malkin and her family is utterly reprehensible, no matter how idiotic her political views are). Malkin is a media personality who's handsomely compensated for espousing controversial (and in my opinion utterly unfounded) opinions. Her columns are decidedly not about "the most fluffy and nice things." It doesn't make threats against her right, but it does fit in with the pattern of celebrity harrassment that often attends political, artistic, and athletic prominence (see Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley).

The problem with blogging is that everyone is immediately a "celebrity," if by that we understand that anyone who has access to a browser has an international platform. Some bloggers -- by talent, topic, or luck -- become actual celebrities, even if only locally.

To the extent that harrassment is now public -- in the old days, a stalker wrote his/her target letters cut out of magazines and had to rely on the postal service to deliver the essentially private correspondence -- the stalker has immediate gratification and an audience.

Verbal assaults on women are nothing new in this culture, and we continue to condone them. Don Imus lost his job not for denigrating women -- not for a sexist comment -- but for the implicit racism of the comment. In other word, "nappy headed" carried more weight than "ho's" did. Howard Stern routinely objectifies women in the name of "comedy" and remains one of the most popular media personalities out there. Why are we so much more accepting of sexist behavior than racist or perhaps even homophobic behavior? Why are we so willing to dismiss much sexist bullshit as "just a joke" and tell the butts of that "joke" to "lighten up."

27 April 2007

Fun with iTunes.

I just ran across a bunch of forgotten CDs and loaded them into iTunes. I'm listening to Depeche Mode's "Master and Servant" right now. What a trip. It's like stepping into a time machine, but the memories are actually kind of disjointed, and interestingly enough, they revolve more around Depeche Mode videos than anything else.

For instance, I'm remembering seeing for the first time the video to "I Feel You," from the Songs of Faith and Devotion album. I was living in Delaware at the time, teaching school and basically alone. To a large extent that album represented a re-visioning of the band, but that's not so much the important part to me. It's that remembering the video for that song brings me back to that moment in my life when I was intensely lonely and the television and my pre-internet computer were my closest companions. I wrote a lot back then, poetry and a good chunk of a novel that I abandoned when I left Delaware to attend graduate school, so I sat in front of my little Mac Classic with the 9 inch screen a good bit of the night, when I wasn't watching every single college basketball game espn broadcast between 1991 and 1993.

Anyway, here's some maudlin poetry from that period (no: I don't throw out anything):

A piece of something

Although you weren't in this town today,
and haven't been since two years to this day,
I have seen bits of you, or maybe pieces of what you do,
stuck, like old papers in crevices, in my life, wedged
in this little apartment between books and magazines,
the sad papers half-marred with uncompleted words --
an old promise to write, an address written
on a piece of ripped napkin
and stuffed into a drawer with other slips and receipts:
these are spilled from my memory (which was never complete)
and remembered only when found, like an old scar
from some forgotten wound.

I'm hoping that was an early draft. Dig this quick revision:

Although you weren't here today,
and haven't been since two years to this day,
I see bits of you, stuck
in my life, like old papers in crevices, wedged
in this little apartment between books and magazines,
the sad papers marred with half-thoughts--
an old promise to write, an address scrawled
on ripped napkin, stuffed
into a drawer among slips and receipts:
cast out of my memory (which was never complete)
and reconjured when found, like an old scar
from some forgotten wound.

It's still not terribly good, although I like the image of scraps of paper stuck in crevices -- and I think about the "found memories" of the old things that fall out of my books sometimes: store receipts, palmcards, folded over notes to myself, etc. So maybe one day I'll come back to the poem and rewrite it properly.

Until then, it's time to find my own ... personal ... jesus.

26 April 2007

How Snow White proves a cautionary tale.

I loved yesterday's story in the Washington Post about charter schools. Charter schools are one of those things that sound really good, but are in fact terrible, destructive tools in an ongoing ideological battle between those who support equal access to education and those who would like to see public funding for education, and hence accessible public education, wither away.

Charter proponents of course don't believe this, and point to their dedicated parents and teachers, their beautiful new building, and progressive curriculum. Those items indeed point to the seduction of the charter school movement: freedom to construct innovative curricula, more local decision making on how to spend your budget, involved parents (sometimes charter school enrollment requires parents to commit a certain amount of hours to the school each year). These are good things, make no mistake. However, they are essentially the kickback you receive so that right-wing foundations, think tanks, and politicians can dismantle public education for the majority of Americans.

In addition to public money that charter schools receive -- money that used to go to traditional public schools -- charter schools often receive grants from right-wing foundations that seek to promote the charter school movement, often using the rhetoric of "choice." Think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, both bastions of elitist bullshit whose main goal is to concentrate wealth and power, promote "school choice" not for the actual opportunities it affords to parents and children in failing traditional public schools, but rather because it has proven their most effective wedge against the "great enemy": teacher unions. Of course, they can't come out and say it, so they use the cover story of "choice" and the feel-good notion that they're protecting the poor and minority students. Cue violins. They have simply championed these untested education experiments in the most vulnerable sectors of society: the poor and minority neighborhoods that have been excluded from political decision making.

The District of course is a great laboratory; denied meaningful political representation in Congress, we're a great target for half-baked policy because we can't respond except through kissing the rings of the great colonial fathers and asking for their benign protection. As a result, the District is overrun with failing charter schools. How failing? Well, according to the Post, charter schools are actually doing a poorer job educating the children than are the traditional public schools:
The boom has not been hampered by poor test results. Seven percent of charter schools met No Child Left Behind standards last year, compared with 19 percent of the traditional public schools. The dismal results in part prompted Fenty (D) to propose giving the State Education Office the authority to revoke charters.

Neither number is terribly impressive, but I'm willing to take 19 percent over 7 percent any day of the week (NCLB standards by the way should always be looked at with several grains of salt: you can excel in all but one component of the NCLB standards and that one component, let's say special education or attendance rate, will label your school as a failing school.).

The larger problem is that public education is failing large numbers of students. However, charter schools have not proven to be the answer to that question, and once they've done the work of the right-wingers in this country and dismantled traditional public schools and teacher unions, the generous grants from the conservative and libertarian foundations will disappear, leaving charter schools as underfunded as traditional public schools.

If you think there's inequality across the public education system now, just wait until the right-wingers withdraw their devil's share from the system: charter schools will rely more and more heavily upon the parents to make up budget shortfalls and fulfill time commitments. In schools with large wealthy populations, that will be fine: some traditional public school PTAs routinely raise several hundred thousand dollars a year in wealthier neighborhoods. However, in schools with large populations living in poverty, where the working poor take two or more jobs to make ends meet, the donations of money and time will be less available. We will essentially recreate in a more extreme form the inequalities that currently exist.

Traditional public schools have problems. It's true. But the problems don't stem from teacher unions (by the way, it's bullshit that unions keep bad teachers from being fired: bad administrators keep bad teachers from being fired by failing to document offenses or to perform due diligence in the role of supervisor), etc. We need to understand that the schools have been tasked with functions beyond education in our sped-up society, and we need to fund those functions: daycare before and after school, breakfast (DCPS thankfully funds breakfast for its students), increased guidance counselor demands due to decreased contact time with parents, etc.

We are, unfortunately, not a society that looks upon education seriously. We hem and haw about it, produce tired nostrums about the failure of the schools, but as a society we don't want to admit that the system can't be fixed without a massive commitment, both in money and prestige, to the function of education.

25 April 2007

Call and response.

So I got tagged. Isn't that something? Thanks, MA. I've never been asked to participate in one of these things before, so I suppose it's a bit of an initiation, which is either a good or a bad thing. I'm a terrible joiner. Still, it's a simple thing, answering a meme, because the hard work is already done for you and you get to talk about yourself, which is everyone's favorite subject deep down. It's like you've been dragged, kicking and screaming, to the stand where you are made to reveal personal qualities, disorders, and desires. Thank you. Here I am.

A- Available or Single: None of the above. Unless there's money involved.

B- Best Friend: Unfortunately, outside my wife, my friends fall into the category of "wow, it's been a long time." I like to think I have a network of about five friends that I've known from youth who fill that role.

C- Cake or Pie: Pie. Hands down. Blueberry pie.

D - Drink of Choice: I'm assuming alcoholic drink here. After Pinot Noir, probably a margarita.

E- Essential Items: Book, notepad, bike helmet.

F- Favorite Color: Gray.

G- Gummi Bears or Worms: Bears over worms, but neither over chocolate.

H- Hometown: Ho ll i days burg, PA. Born and raised.

I- Indulgence: Art supplies, books.

J- January or February: February.

K- Kids: Two.

L- Life is incomplete without: Family, friends, vacation.

M- Marriage Date: 22 June 1997.

N- Number of Siblings: Two, both younger.

O- Oranges or Apples? Oranges.

P- Phobias/Fears. Balloons popping, certain types of heights (climbing ladders, ferris wheels) but not others (buildings, mountains, roller coasters).

Q- Favorite Quote: Whatever is done out of love always occurs beyond good and evil.

R- Reasons to smile: My children.

S- Season: Summer.

T- Tag Three: No. It's all about me, remember?

U- Unknown Fact About Me: Unknown by whom? Aren't we all strangers to ourselves?

V – Vegetarian or Oppressor of Animals? Selective oppressor of animals; I don't eat pork or beef, except on certain moments of incredible weakness when I can't resist a little biscuits and sausage gravy.

W- Worst Habits: Miserable work ethic, willingness to start and then abandon projects.

X – X-rays or Ultrasounds: Huh? Neither I hope.

Y- Your Favorite Foods. Grilled salmon, steamed mussels, fried chicken, asparagus.

Z- Zodiac: Aquarius.

There you have it.

24 April 2007

The spring may be a beginning, but it's also an end.

We're reaching the bitter end of the semester, that time when all projects come crashing down upon students and teachers with sudden cold deadline logic. In a few short weeks I will collect papers and give a final exam. Then I will have to grade papers and finals. I used to do traditional grading, where you actually read the papers and finals, but now I have a more scientific approach, or rather approaches, because you can't grade both papers and finals the same way.

For the papers, you need to do a calculation based upon length of paper, sources cited, and position in the stack. When those three numbers are combined, you then place the stack on a small coffee table and throw each paper across the room, noting whether it lands face up or face down. If it's face up, you take the length of pages and double it. If it's face down, you subtract the sources cited. Finally, you toss the paper back towards the location of the original stack. Anything staying on the table garners an A or a B, depending on the other scoring factors. Those papers falling off the table earn B's, C's, or D's, unless they manage to land on a predetermined spot marked out by a dinner plate; those papers earn an F.

Yes, it's elaborate, but on the other hand you are saving time by not reading the papers.

For the finals, I usually count the number of words in the first short response question, then double it to reach a final grade. It's that simple.

I've been using this system for about ten years now and let me tell you it takes the stress and worry out of the end of the semester. You may need to work out your own system -- I experimented before cementing mine -- but it really comes down to feeling comfortable with your criteria.

23 April 2007

How to blow a perfectly good weekend.

I spent most of my free time in the front and back yards this weekend, both of which put together amount to about 200 square feet, but it's amazing what sort of trash can accumulate over a winter of neglect. It doesn't help that our backyard is open to the alley and only steps away from a major pedestrian thoroughfare to the Adams Morgan strip -- every weekend I'm cleaning up the nasty remnants of jumbo slice pizza left by the suburbanites who would eat almost anything to sop up the night's alcohol. Another great feature of our particular geography is an airflow phenomenon that picks up all the trash thrown down within a 100 foot radius and sweeps it onto our back steps and yard. It's amazing, and I've seen it at work.

Of course, no yardwork in Adams Morgan is ever complete without discovering the evidence of rodents. In this case, it was a hole the rats had dug between our yard and our neighbor's yard. I thought about some inventive ways to patch the hole with broken glass or steel wool or maybe some sort of spring-loaded device that would impale the rat next time it dug through, but eventually I just filled it with more dirt and resolved to put a trap there if I found the hole again. My attitude toward rats is not very generous.

At the end of the weekend we had some severely pruned rose bushes, refreshed planter boxes in the front, and a decent little herb garden in the back. It's a simple herb garden with some basics I use all the time: rosemary, tarragon, and basil. I've tried growing dill and fennel in the past, but they tend to get too rangy and go to seed on me. The rosemary bush is in its third year, and I transplanted it to a larger pot in hopes it will grow bigger and perhaps I can eventually stick it in the ground.

20 April 2007

Insects I have known.

We have had an invasion of ants for the past week or so. When we returned from our vacation, we found that ants had established a strong presence from the laundry room, through the kitchen, to the cat food at the top of the cellar steps.

The first step in our counterattack was to remove the food supply, so I stuck the cat dish in a pie plate, filled the pie plate with water, and created a moat. The ants weren't terribly happy with that development. The second step was to seal their entrance, which I did with caulk along the baseboards in the laundry room.

These ants are resilient. They haven't had a steady supply of food for a while, but they're making do: they invaded the kitchen trash can, forcing us to put a lid over top of it, which by the way is very annoying when you're doing things like cooking and have need to throw away paper towels, little bits of fat and the tips of green beans, often with no free hand to unlatch the trashcan lid. They also took a liking to the fresh flowers we had on the dining room table. And of course, they found/made a new entrance, one that's not so easily caulked. But their numbers have declined.

As inconvenient as this little ant incursion has been, though, it pales in comparison to the beetles that overran us a few years ago: I think they were flour beetles. They were smaller than these red ants and they literally got into everything unless it was airtight. They worked their way into bags of bread, closed boxes of macaroni and cheese, and any pasta bags we thought we'd closed up with twist ties. However, their end came when we discovered, by accident, their source of power. One quiet day in the laundry room we heard something normally masked by the humming of the machines: a crunching sound, faint but steady, and once we saw the opened bag of birdseed that sound became disgusting and amazing: there were so many beetles that we could hear them eating the birdfeed. And of course, once you've heard that, your ears are attuned to it and you can't ignore it or forget it. Even when the birdfeed is long out your door.

These are among the surprises that await returning vacationers.

18 April 2007

The endless loop until it disappears under the waves.

The media machine has now encapsulated the Virginia Tech massacre and those of us with cable tv can sit in voyeuristic thrall as the 24 hour cable news channels, forever deprived of 24 hours worth of marketable news, heap interpretation, speculation, and plain old blather on top of the event, turning it truly into a non-event in the Baudrillardian sense. They will pick this tragedy clean of skin, meat, and gristle, leaving only a few scattered bones, and congratulate themselves on their accomplishments. Perhaps they've already developed signature theme songs for their coverage, much like they did for their war boosterism coverage in 2003. I don't know; I don't have cable, thankfully.

It's all a joke, really, and a cruel one at that. In about two weeks we'll have a new distraction, maybe another pseudo-celebrity overdose, and the television cameras will retrain their focus, and the Virginia Tech shootings will be stored away, to be pulled off the shelf the next time it happens. Because it will happen again.

Despite the repetition of these mass killings, we live in a state of complacency and relative security. We are not, after all, Baghdad under US occupation, where universities and markets and clinics are routinely bombed or shot up. Nor are we Uribe's Colombia, where the nation's President convenes and/or facilitates death squad meetings at his home. These are only our proxies, our US dollar funded interventions into other nations' peoples' deaths. Outsourced violence, if you will.

These are systemic, structural connections I doubt Anderson Cooper will ever entertain.

17 April 2007

Virginia Tech.

Yesterday's shootings at Virginia Tech may never be properly understood. In so many ways, there's no understanding the coalescence of factors that created that shooter, now identified as Cho Seung-Hui, a dorm resident and English major. What makes someone snap, and moreover, what makes someone snap in a particular way so that he or she (usually he) decides several people must die in the process?

It's quite true we have a violent video game culture, yet nearly all people who play those games (let's say about 99.99%) understand they're playing a game, and while some may become desensitized to violence, they don't turn into killers themselves.

It's quite true that our gun culture -- from the fanatic NRA, to right wing talk radio, to our movies and television products -- valorizes the gunslinger, yet nearly all of the people who watch "24" or some cop show aren't going out to turn themselves into Travis Bickle.

I'm just guessing that the above two factors will be much discussed in the coming weeks. Michael Moore dissected the latter in his excellent Bowling for Columbine. Let's just say we have a culture that facilitates violent acts, should one be so inclined. But what, in the end, makes one so inclined?

There is no effective explanation for the men and women who were murdered by this student, for their parents, their classmates, their lovers. There is nothing but memory's torn fabric and futures left unlived.

I can't say how horrible this makes me feel.

15 April 2007

Choice in a limited pool may not be much of a choice at all.

There's something really depressing about reading about the United States's growing dependence on mercenaries. What's even more depressing is that our armed services are apparently the breeding ground for these soldiers of fortune, at least if you take three of the four individuals profiled in the Sunday Post. In fact, it seems more and more like the revolving door of congress person to lobbyist: do a few years in the military and then join up with a mercenary unit and get paid upwards of $500 a day.

Of course, we American taxpayers are paying these gun thugs' salaries, gussied up and sanitized under the generic "contractors" label. It's a big shell game, meant to line the pockets of a few well-placed ruling class executives with money from the public trough: you "shrink" the military and "contract out" the boring business of war: feeding and housing the troops, etc.; then you pay firms (that just happen to be headed by the same old gang of friends -- it's a small world) exorbitant amounts of taxpayer money to do the jobs the military used to do. It's a brilliant way to extract even more money out of the national coffers for the military-industrial complex while pretending you're "shrinking government."

And here's the big question: while BushCo is certainly elevating this practice to a higher level, does anyone think the system would be so very different under the Democrats?

13 April 2007

A question for the ages...

Are people who drive BMWs compensating for bad childhoods? A lack of personality? Feelings of inadequacy?

Or are they under the assumption that German engineering will make up for their poor driving skills?

12 April 2007

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

Well, I was about to write another one of my extremely popular political posts when I found out that Kurt Vonnegut had died. It made a gray day even grayer. Vonnegut may be the best of that batch of postmodern writers who tended toward the playful side in that he could continue to write after that moment had faded and that the books he wrote then and after don't seem nearly so dated as, say, John Barth's Giles Goat-Boy. The first book I ever read of his was Cat's Cradle, and then it was on to the two defining books, Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions. Honestly, I don't know if they're defining, but they're the two I would put on a list of his most famous work, much like you'd have to list The Great Gatsby for Fitzgerald or The Sun Also Rises for Hemingway. Or My Antonia for Cather, even though The Professor's House is much better.

There's something deliciously childish about a fifty year old man writing a book laced with crudely drawn scatological cartoons.

11 April 2007

The friends BushCo keeps...

Does anyone remember Bush's trip to Latin America a few short weeks ago. The one where even in Colombia, where billions a year are wasted propping up a repressive but business-friendly regime in one front of the failed "drug war," Bush faced massive protests. BushCo is high on Colombia for the same reason the US loved the fascist military juntas of Argentina and Chile in the 1970's: they're "right thinking" when it comes to property rights, which is to say they supported unfettered capitalism and helped to murder, torture, or intimidate labor advocates.

Now it turns out -- surprise surprise -- that Colombia is still practicing that fascist collusion between state intelligence agencies and unofficial death squads:
SANTA MARTA, Colombia -- Zully Codina was a mother, veteran hospital worker and union activist. The last role was the one that cost Codina her life at the hands of paramilitary death squads, whose records show they collaborated with the country's intelligence service to liquidate her and other union activists.
Codina was killed on Nov. 11, 2003, when a gunman pumped three bullets into her head moments after she kissed her family goodbye and walked out of her Santa Marta home. Her murder remains unsolved, as do those of the vast majority of the 400 union members killed since President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002.

This shit isn't funny. We looked the other way in Chile as Pinochet disappeared thousands. We looked the other way in South Africa as Apartheid forces murdered schoolchildren. We actively funded the Contras as they murdered teachers, doctors, and other civilians in Nicaragua (by the way if you haven't you need to see Ken Loach's Carla's Song). All of those atrocities were underwritten ostensibly in the name of the Cold War, but in reality it was more about protecting American business interests than in protecting anyone's freedom. Now we have the "war on terror" to excuse our funding of repressive regimes. Here's what our dollars are buying:
The Uribe administration's efforts have been hurt by the February arrest of the DAS's former chief, Jorge Noguera, who was charged with working with paramilitary members as they infiltrated the political establishment and silenced adversaries along the Caribbean coast. The illegal militias, organized a generation ago to fight Marxist rebels, have morphed into a Mafia-style organization dedicated to drug trafficking and extortion.
A clandestine paramilitary operative named to DAS by Noguera said in a recent interview that the intelligence service compiled lists of union members, along with details about their security, and handed them over to a coalition of paramilitary groups known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

We should all be proud. The "War on Drugs" is such an abject failure that BushCo has been desperately trying to link it to the "War on Terror" so that we can not only continue to fund police states but also increase that funding. Unfortunately for protofascists like Bush, every revelation makes it increasingly clear that it's the right wing hit squads that rely on the drug trade to supplement their US clandestine funding.

10 April 2007

Spotted at a busy intersection.

Yesterday morning I was going to work and I happened upon one of the worst stenches I've smelled outside of a rotting deer corpse. I looked around for a garbage truck, but saw none. So I kept walking.

Then it hit me again, stronger. I looked again for a garbage truck and again I saw none. Then I saw it:

Yes, that's a port-o-john sitting on its side with a stream of urine, feces, and other debris streaming out of its lid. Out of its f-ing lid, my friends. Right at the intersection of 18th and Florida NW.

By the time I went past it coming home from work, someone had straightened it out a bit and cleaned up the major residue, but the broken crapper was still sitting there, and I'm willing to bet it didn't smell so nice then either (I was fortunately in a vehicle at that point).

09 April 2007

Recent recollections of Yosemite.

Yosemite is the type of place you don't really want to leave once you've gotten there. First there's the scale of everything, from the Giant Sequoias, to the waterfalls, to the cliff walls. Then there's the beauty in every detail, from the moss and lichen giving stones distinctive patterns to the flitting shadow of a deer or bobcat. You could probably spend a month straight there and not run out of things to do (although I think more than a week or two with small children might drive you batty). The weather was warmer than normal, around 70 degrees every day, and we hiked about as much as you can with small children in tow.

One day we hiked to the top of Vernal Fall. It's only a mile and a half from the bottom to the top, but much of that is more or less straight up. Vernal Fall is beautiful, a thick long sheet of water plunging onto huge chunks of raw granite and throwing so much spray that the upper part of the trail is called "Mist Trail." At that point you're climbing wet rough cut granite stairs and if you're me you're reminding yourself that you're almost there and damn it'd be a shame to turn back now even though you really really want to stop climbing.

You do eventually want to keep climbing, though, because you know you'll get to the top and once at the top you won't have to do anymore climbing, you'll get to sit down on a big slab of rock, close your eyes, and listen to the water rushing. You can also stand at the edge of the fall and look down into the valley below:

In the bottom right, you can see the water as it begins falling over the edge. In the lower left you can see little dots of people climbing along the trail as it winds up the mountainside. Other hikers were lying in the sun, resting from the climb, eating their lunches. Like us, many of them would be turning around to head back down the trail after a short rest, but some would be continuing up the trail another two miles to Nevada Fall. We saw a pair of hikers coming the other way with cross country skis strapped to their backs; outside the valley, there's still snow on the ground in places and many of the high trails are closed because of ice.
It's much easier coming down, by the way.