Demonstrators carry banners and signs during a protest against the Iraq War last March in downtown Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/George Ruhe)
How do you measure war?
It is a question that many of our greatest political philosophers have wrestled with for thousands of years. What number, what unit, what fields of inquiry could possibly describe the progress (or in our present conflict, the lack thereof) when it comes to the mess of war? Is it the number of dead soldiers? The dead plus the injured? The new alliances and government infrastructure? The "collateral damage"? Can it be measured by an absence -- of terrorist attacks, of tyrants, of dreams?
Remember riding hip to hip with your brothers and sisters in the back of the family van, eating the snacks too soon, fighting over the music selection, losing tiny, indispensable pieces of travel games? Or maybe your family was not of the road trip ilk. Perhaps you remember exciting trips on airplanes, a special pin from the stewardess, watching the clouds take shape out of your own oval window, your grandparents waiting feverishly for your arrival in the sprawling Portland or Poughkeepsie or even Paris airport.
As much as you may have resented it then, the family vacation is as quintessentially American as homemade apple pie. It is also just about as rare in this age of store-bought desserts and workaholism.
Editor's Note: This piece is part of "Mother Load," a TAP special report on work/family issues.
I had one of those fathers who was always standing on the sidelines of my lacrosse games, cheering his heart out in a slightly wrinkled suit. When my teammates' mothers would comment on how extraordinary it was that my dad made the time, it confounded me. My father's hearty presence in my life seemed like a given. Of course he made the time. He was my dad.
My friend Jen was squashed into a packed lecture hall at the University of Colorado in Boulder, scribbling notes as her sociology professor elucidated the power dynamics underlying rape, when all of a sudden her stomach and pen dropped simultaneously.
Her mind flashed back to a night over a year earlier: moonlight coming through her dorm window fell across the shoulders of a guy she barely knew, on top of her. Drunk and exhausted, Jen told him that she wasn't up for it. He persisted. She remembers saying no a few more times, then eventually giving up, staring at the dark ceiling, waiting for it to be over.
Jen had woken up the next morning hung-over and angry at herself. Though the word