Sunday, December 09, 2007

Warning: Dangerous Product

I was in the grocery store a week or two ago and saw this product on the shelf:

My mouth dropped open. The only other time I have ever been so offended by the mere existence of a product was the time I saw a tee shirt that said, in really big letters, "Shut Up, Bitch."

I was by myself but I asked, out loud, "Don't they know how fat we already are in this country?"

I like how they show it being put in a crust in this little ad, and wonder how much of what has been sold has actually ever made contact with a crust. I would probably just open it in the car on the way home from the store and start scooping it into my mouth with my fingers. Which is why I'm not going to buy any.

This stuff is in the deli section of the supermarket and comes in something similar to a Cool Whip container, only larger. If you do not want to also become larger, I highly recommend avoiding it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Random Blogging

I've been neglecting this space again -- maybe that's just how it's going to go. I'd like to write more and am hoping to do so. Anyway, here is some stuff that is happening or going through my head recently:

- I did not finish NaNoWriMo this year, but by design. I am still working on my novel and have every intention of finishing it it -- in fact, I am very happy with it. It's the first time since I was in my mid-20s that I have written about a character my age, and the first time ever that my main character is a mother, and it really pleases me to have really enjoyed writing a story about a mom in her 30s where the romantic storyline feels just as magical as anything I've written about teens or college-aged characters.

I am at about 45,000 words, and probably could have hit 50,000 by November 30 if I had wanted to, but here's what I realized about the whole NaNo experience: it's become a crutch for me. I came up with the idea for this novel last June and was excited about it. I wrote some of it and then allowed every other thing in the world to get in the way of getting any of it done till NaNo was in swing and I could work toward the goal of completing 50,000 words along with all the other NaNo participants. Well, I've done NaNo before -- four times, in fact -- and I know I can do that.

What I haven't been able to do so far is maintain any sort of momentum in my writing in any other month of the year, and that is my new goal. I will finish the project and then set it aside and get to work on another project that I started a few years ago and have wanted to return to. When I feel myself reaching the end of that one, I'll start brainstorming and hopefully start coming up with a new idea for the next project. Maybe I can even rescue/rewrite/finish the novel I wrote about half of in November 2006. In any case, the goal for now is to write consistently in any other month of the year but November. Wish me luck.

- I am glad to hear that health care is supposed to be a big issue in the presidential election next year. I feel my family is very fortunate in this particular area, but it’s an issue I’ve been very interested in since I did a project about health coverage for a political science class back in college. And this week, something arrived in the mail that really brought the current state of things into focus for me.

I don’t think I blogged about my daughter’s health crisis this summer. In a nutshell, during the last week of July, Mermaid started having abdominal pains and was nauseated for several days, and eventually she underwent emergency surgery to remove an ovarian cyst the size of a cantaloupe. Both the cyst and the shriveled little ovary attached to it were necrotic and could have caused her to become septic if they’d stayed inside her much longer. It was a very scary couple of days, but fortunately it all went well and she has made a full recovery.

This week we received her hospital bill. Let me first say that we have good insurance through Reasonable Man’s work, and our portion of the bill is just $600 – not a small amount of money, but probably not enough to bankrupt most people either. The bill is not itemized, but I assume it covers the 7-8 hours Mermaid spent in the ER the first day, the CT scan done of her abdomen, the time she spent in the OR and recovery, and the two days she spent in a private room after that. The total is $36,463.50.

Here’s the thing: if this could happen to Mermaid, it could happen to anyone. Unlike many autistic children, Mermaid has been blessed with optimal physical health. She is truly one of the hardiest children I have ever known. She went through all the usual colds and such when she was in preschool, but by the time she hit elementary, her amazing immune system was fully formed. She had perfect attendance in kindergarten and missed one day in first grade, only because I had her take a mental health day. Each winter during cold season, she may have a few stuffy-nosed days, and only if Reasonable Man, Enthusio and I are first felled by some particularly nasty germ does she usually suffer anything that would cause her to actually miss a day of school. Yet she, of all of us, suffered a health crisis resulting in a hospital bill equal to the price of a nice car or a year of study at a private university.

That number -- $36,463.50 – would amount to a financial crisis for the average family in this country. Reasonable Man and I could take out a mortgage on our home to cover it, and I certainly hope that most hospitals know that a person without insurance also doesn’t have $36,000 squirreled away for a rainy day and will arrange some kind of a payment plan. Still, that amount is staggering, and it’s no wonder to me that health crises have the power to bankrupt people without insurance, or with insurance that refuses to pay. Something has to change here.

- As you can see, our Christmas tree is in the kitchen this year, because that's where it fits!

I am surviving the holiday season. I am one of the many who grew up loving Christmas but as an adult developed so many expectations for myself that each December became a slog. Every year I try to work on making preparations a little simpler. This year I was excited about decorating our new house for Christmas, but of course I built it up in my mind to a point where I felt paralyzed once I actually got started. But I was able to pull back a bit and get it done, and then I spent about a week with some things still sitting out, ready to be put up, before I faced the fact that some of them just needed to be put back in the garage. Now the house is all decorated, the cards are printed, much of the shopping and some of the wrapping is done, and with two weeks to go, I think I’m doing just fine.

- School is under control for the kids. Mermaid is plugging along in her classes, and we have come to a place of agreement (I think, I hope!) with her social studies teacher. Enthusio continues to have a great year, and this past week one of his two teachers told me they are giving him some very challenging math. He struggles a bit emotionally, but she said they are pushing him because they know he can do it. I trust these two teachers, who both just adore him, to handle the situation sensitively, and I know he feels confident in math, which makes me very proud. He has also been reading some books – the Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing series and The Mouse and the Motorcycle – that I loved as a kid, and that’s great.

That’s about it here. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm A Cheater

I'm doing National Novel Writing Month again this year, for the sixth year running, and hopefully "winning" for the fifth time. But I'm cheating. If you are at all familiar with NaNoWriMo, you know that it entails not only writing 50,000 words in the month of November, starting no earlier than November 1 and ending no later than November 30, but also that you shouldn't have written any part of the novel before, even a part you aren't going to count in your word total. Well, I actually started writing my NaNo novel back in June, and wrote a little more sometime over the summer, and then there it sat: 5,000 or so lonely words. And I often told myself I should keep writing, but did I do so? Noooooooooo.

In the meantime, November approached, and I thought about NaNo and felt quite snotty about it, partly because I flamed out and didn't finish last year, and partly because I didn't have any good ideas for a novel to write and didn't feel like putting the into figuring one out in October, when I had a lot of other crap to do. Of course, being a grown-up, I knew that having not finished NaNo last year was a really crappy reason to not participate this year, but such was my attitude, and so I didn't really give it a whole lot of thought up until the first several days of the month had passed and I realized wait, wait, this is November, and I love NaNoWriMo, and if I don't even try I'm going to be really upset!

And so I picked up the novel I'd already started. I had 5,000 words already written, but on the other hand, five novel-writing days had already passed, and if I'd started a novel on November 1, I'd have had far more than 5K under my belt by November 5. Well, that's always been the case in the past. So I gave myself a pass, on the basis that:
1) I've completed the challenge of starting fresh on November 1 four times before, so yes, I know I can do it following the words, but after all,
2) The point is to get writing, and to get 'er done, as they say (Well somebody says that. I think It might be Larry the Cable Guy, but I'm not sure.)
3) Also that thing I already said above, about how if I started on time I would have had more words than I had when I took up this crazy thing a couple of weeks ago.

And so, sixteen days later, I have added another 27,000 or so words to what I had originally, and am indeed on my way toward getting 'er done. For good or for ill. And I think I am obeying the spirit, if not the the letter, of the law, and that the NaNo gods will, in the end, smile upon me.

And if no, screw 'em.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I Hate Junior High

Probably not as much as I hated it when I actually attended myself, but I still hate it.

Mermaid had a B in Social Studies, which has always been her most difficult subject, at progress report time. So I was dismayed to learn on Tuesday she will have a D in Social Studies on her first-quarter report card. Her teacher sent home a sheet with a handy breakdown of the grades she earned on every assignment, test, etc for the quarter. It showed that three in-class assignments had not been turned in, that she had received a zero on a pop quiz, and that she got 2 of 14 possible points in "Class Participation."

1) She's not good at keeping track of her work. It very well may be that this is true of almost all 7th graders. Be that as it may, she has a support person in class with her who should be, at the very least, making sure she does and turns in assignments done right there in class, and this happened not once but three times. Not okay.

2) She didn't just fail the pop quiz -- she got a zero. This tells me it wasn't modified for her in any way. If regular tests need to be modified for her, so do pop quizes -- especially those that amount of 3% of her grade.

3) Class participation? Hello? She is autistic. She can barely participate in dinner-time discussions with her family -- she is not going to be able to contribute to things on the subject of ancient civiliations in a class of 30 kids without serious facilitation.

I don't know for sure what the situation is, but all the issues we've had so far this year have related to her Social Studies class, and my guess is that unless the Inclusion Specialist specifically goes into the classroom and discusses modifications for Mermaid (as has been the case for tests and projects), this teacher simply holds her to the same standard he would with a typical student. I would love it if Mermaid were capable of performing to his expectations, but she's not.

Frustration doesn't fully cover my feelings on this subject.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wii Tennis

Enthusio turned 9 and we got him a Wii, because he is spoiled. Yesterday when I was alone in the house, I played Wii tennis every chance I got. It was too much. Here are all the things that were painful today:

Waking up, having slept on my left side
Hooking my bra
Putting on my seatbelt
Putting on my sweatshirt
Carrying a full basket of laundry
Taking out the trash
Thinking about playing more Wii tennis

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Last weekend it worked very well to sit down of a Saturday morning and post in my blog. So I'm going to try to be the opposite of other sites that are only updated during the week and write the blog that's only updated on the weekend.

This month is difficult. Yesterday, my grandfather passed away. He had been having lots of major health problems for the last several months, and it's been quite a roller coaster for the family. He was a very dignified man, and he didn't like needing physical care, not being able to live in their own home as he and my grandmother (Nanny) had done until this summer, or any of the other indignities an elderly and very ill person is forced to endure. Of course it's sad that he's gone, but it was also very sad to hear how unhappy he was about what his life had become. When my mom called to tell me the news yesterday, she said he'd really kind of given up lately. So I can't help but be glad he didn't have to live that way for very long.

I also take comfort in the fact that my family and I visited my grandparents this past December, and it was one of the very few times that I really sat and talked to my grandfather. He was a funny guy, and Reasonable Man and I really enjoyed spending that evening and the next morning sitting and enjoying his sense of humor and the way he and Nanny interacted and helped each other along. At one point Nanny interrupted him and he told her "I'm talking to my granddaughter" and it made me feel special. He had seven children, thirteen grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren, and when we all get together, it's a crowd that he would often retreat from. But that night it was just Nanny, Grandpa, and my little family, and it was a treat.

Another time that stands out in my memory is when my parents brought the two of them up to Davis when I was in college. Reasonable Man and I were dating but not yet engaged, and I think it was the first time they met him. We had a picnic on campus, and it seemed like they had barely arrived when it was already time for them to leave. I complained, and my grandfather said, "Remember, Tracie -- short visits make long friends." I doubt he made that up, but it was funny and I will always remember it as something he said.

Rest in peace, Grandpa. We will miss you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Morning Sloth

I just sat here looking at crap on the internet long enough to almost run out the battery on my laptop. The battery on this thing is truly pathetic, but still, that's a lot of time wasted this morning looking at the following sites:
passive aggressive
Found Magazine
The Office Sign Project
Apostrophe Abuse"
The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks

These things delight me, if only because they prove that there are others out there with senses of humor as cruel and snarky as mine. Here people are, innocently writing notes or making signs to express the deepest feelings in their hearts, to make their homes or offices nicer places to live or work, or to promote the wares they have to sell -- and then smartass elitist internet types post them just to make fun of them, for the amusement of others. On the one hand, there seems something very wrong in that. On the other, it's finding a second use for things, isn't it? And who among us doesn't support recycling?

I love the idea of having a whole blog filled with examples of the grammar or punctuation error one finds most egregious, but mine would never work, because it's the use of "less" instead of "fewer," and the entire contents of such a blog would be endless pictures of signs reading "10 (or 8 or 15 or whatever) items or less" from grocery stores around the country, the example of girls singing about how they "want to be one less" in the commercial for the HPV vaccine Gardasil, and a shout-out to our local supermarket chain Nugget, which, in addition to being one of Fortune Magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work For and a lovely place to shop, features signs for its express lanes reading "8 items or fewer."

It was not my plan to sit here for so long this morning. At one time I probably thought I might go to the gym, and today I really must give the inside of the spa a scrub so it's ready to be filled tomorrow when the electrician comes to hook up the outlet for it, and perhaps even set up the trampoline (!). But I keep not eating any breakfast (brunch? lunch?) or getting dressed, so here I sit. I guess it's probably time to get going.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Out in the World

You know, this is the stuff I really like to talk about. I guess I always feel like I need to update on what's going on in my own actual life before I turn to all the pop culture items that are the real focus of my brain a good deal of the time. I think the title of my blog lends itself to that, and the fact is that I do like to talk about my kids sometimes. So I guess this blog (when I actually write in it) will continue to be a mish mash of stuff about my life and also what I think about stuff that's going on out there in entertainment-land.

First off, let's get it over with: Britney Spears.

1. Upon reading that MTV had readied a more figure-flattering corset-style outfit for her and she had rejected it, I was reminded of something someone once said about the infamous Tonya Harding back in the mid-90s: "She didn't have any class, and she wouldn't let anybody give her any." Not that a corset-style outfit MTV picked out for Britney would probably be the definition of class, but you know what I mean.

2. Maybe that outfit wasn't the most flattering thing she could have worn, but I'd still trade bodies with her without a second thought.

3. To the industry folks who want this comeback because Britney used to make them buttloads of money and they'd like some more: she's just not that into you.

Here's something I've been thinking about her for a while: she makes a good case for the argument that we all have a destiny that is preordained for us. The tragedy here is not so much that, in a few short years, she's gone from being a very pretty, fresh-faced, seemingly happy girl to a dead-eyed single mother of two -- that all clearly would have happened even without the fame and fortune. The real tragedy is that she has the money to flame out in such a spectacular fashion and the noteriety for it to have occurred with the whole world watching. I feel bad for her, frankly.

The Presidential Race:

I don't have a favorite candidate. I can't believe we're so deep into it with over a year to go, but I already know that I will vote for whoever the Democratic party nominates and I am just hoping with all my heart that it's someone electable. There seems to be a lot of certainty that we will not elect another Republican in 2008, but let's face it: the unthinkable has happened in the last two elections. "Cautiously optimistic" is as confident as I'm ever going to feel until a winner is named. Notice I didn't say "until the votes are counted" -- I don't have a whole lot of confidence in that process either.

Happier things:

Only 12 days till the season premiere of the The Office! I've been gearing up by watching my season 3 DVDs (which took FOREVER to get here from Amazon -- I pre-ordered, of course) and catching up on episodes of The Office Alliance podcast. Yes, I'm a total geek.

Reasonable Man and I will be going to see "Superbad" this afternoon. He's been talking about this movie since he first heard about it, so I hope it lives up to his expectations. BLB and the Bride said they liked it but that parts of it are "so wrong," so I figure I have been warned. It will be nice to go to the movies -- I saw three in one week and that was it for the whole summer.
I went running and it felt pretty good. It was just a little 10-minute run down to the gym, where I did some weight-lifting and then another 10 minutes home, but since I haven't done it in a year, I thought that was fine. I don't want to overdo it, and in the fall there's always a chance that the weather will turn hot and I won't go again for a while. No matter what happens, I will never be one of those people who runs in hot weather. I don't really like to run in cold weather either. Frankly, it's a wonder that I ever managed to start running in the first place, considering what a wimp I am about the conditions. But now it's fall and I may be able to do it for a while before I start wussing out again.

School is now in session...

A few weeks ago, I made the Blogger sign-in page my home page in hopes of guilting myself into writing in my blog when I opened a browser window and there it was. Well, you've seen how well that worked. So I'm going to try dedication to the craft of writing again. That probably won't work either, but it's worth a try.

So the kiddos are back in school, with mixed results thus far. Enthusio is off to a great start in third grade, with teachers who think he's fantastic and a smile on his face every day. He is in the top groups for math, reading, and spelling too. Sorry to brag, but I've never gotten to do that before :-) Mermaid has started 7th grade, and we are surviving. I am still pretty much in panic mode about that, as evidenced by the multitude of emails I have sent to her full-inclusion teacher and other teachers so far. I think the fact that I've been having school dreams about falling hopelessly behind for the last decard are playing into how I'm dealing with this new chapter in our lives. In any case, Mermaid is coping with all of it better than I am. She seems to have made a complete physical recovery from her surgery this summer, other than the fact that she continues to pick at a couple of little spots on her incision. Kids are amazingly adaptable!

I need to go back to Weight Watchers. I've been working out very consistently and that's good, but haven't been controlling my eating at all, and I'm pretty sure I've gained back a good portion of the ten pounds I lost. But the weather is cooling off and I want to start running again, so maybe I can get things back on track.

The new house is great, and is slowly coming together. I did a burst of painting in early August and will probably do more soon. Last weekend I put knobs and handles on the kitchen cabinets. Audio books on the iPod are a great companion to working around the house or yard, as are podcasts. I've gotten a little discouraged in the last few weeks, looking around the house, thinking about all the stuff I want to do around here, and remembering how much of it was already done in the old place. It feels insurmountable. But I just have to keep remembering that we were there more than seven years, that a lot of the stuff I did there I had to learn as I went along, and that virtually everything that needs to be done here is cosmetic. In this new house, I'm not having thing about ways to create more storage all the time. And of course, it doesn't have to get done all at once.

So that's it -- that's what's going on in my life right now. As always, life is pretty good, and after a summer punctuated by some stressful events, I am looking forward to a cool and pleasant fall.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter 7 (No Spoilers!)

I just want to say I've finished it already. Reasonable Man, Enthusio and I actually attended the downtown HP7 brouhaha Friday night, where you could reserve (fork over the 38 bucks) your copy at an independent book store and pick it up starting at midnight. A city block was closed off in the early evening for festivities that included booths with wizarding activities like wand-making for kids, a showing of "Goblet of Fire" on a great big screen, and a snitch drop. At 12:01, the first triumphant family received their book to a chorus of screams and cheers, and within five minutes, we had our copy and were heading for the car. Fifteen minutes after that, I was ready for bed and reading the first chapter.

I'd been telling people this past week that I wash hoping to read it slowly and savor it, since it was the last one. I even told Reasonable Man that he could have the book most of the weekend because I would have time to read it this week. Reasonable Man, who earns his pseudonym, recognized these statements for what they were: lies so insidious that I myself actually believed them to be true. He patiently surrendered the book to me yesterday and nodded knowingly when I admitted sometime in the evening that I planned to stay up and read the entire thing overnight. (Why I thought I wouldn't race through this book, I don't know. I've gobbled down every other HP offering, including the first one, which I read in a single afternoon when I was sick with a terrible cold in December 1999, possibly without leaving the couch a single time.) I read non-stop from approximately 7:30 pm to 1:45 am, when I could no longer keep my eyes open and then went to sleep on the couch till a little after 4, when I resumed reading, finishing a little after 6 am.

I don't even want to say whether I liked it or not for fear of spoiling it in some small way for the handful of people who might actually read this post. Here is what I will say: I'm not sad it's over. The Harry Potter phenomenon has been an amazing thing, and Reasonable Man and I have enjoyed it in terms of entertainment value for ourselves and watching Enthusio get into it as well (he's currently attempting to read HP6). It's been interesting to watch as a cultural event as well. On the one hand, I shake my head over those people who have analyzed it all so thoroughly and seem to get so emotional over it all. On the other hand, I admit that I myself have anticipated the release of the both of the last two books with equal parts excitment and anxiety, just because of the turns the story had taken and with the knowledge that Troubled Times Were Ahead, that Harry Faced Evermore Daunting Challenges.

One of the biggest triumphs of the series, in my view, was that the author wrote a protagonist who began as a likeable and engaging child and transformed believably into a brave and complex young adult who had been shaped not just by all the trials he'd faced, but also the full understanding of his responsibility for the future of all wizarding kind. Even when other characters didn't fare as well, Harry was a hero worthy all the adulation the series has received. But as it progressed, it grew harder and harder to watch him face uncertainty, danger, and hopelessness as he carried that burden. And so I'm grateful for resolution, for Harry's sake. I don't know how much more peril I could have watched him go through.

Some quibbles: I don't think Ron and Hermione matured as believably as Harry did, and their romance, for which the stage was set way back in book 1 and which finally came to fruition on book 6, never worked for me. I've also detected a not-so-subtle theme of sexism running through the series, from Fleur Delacour, the only female Tri-Wizard Champion, being such a pathetic competitor; to the portrayals of Rita Skeeter and Dolores Umbridge as playing up their femininity in villainous ways; to Hermione's tendency to constantly burst into tears in the later books. That surprised me, coming from a female author, unconsciously done though it was. But those are small things, and I only mention them because I'm resisting any urge to say much about this newest book. I will probably write more in a few weeks when I'm sure most die-hard fans will have had chance to digest this grand finale.

People are saying that this will never happen again. I'm not so sure. Who would have ever thought it would happen once? What I do know is that no one can make it happen. There are copycats and series mentioned as worthy successors to the throne, but I think if we ever see this kind of thing again, it will come from somewhere unexpected and unlikely. I'm just glad it's not my job to spot it early on, like the people at all those publishers who passed on Harry Potter's world before Scholastic took a gamble.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Our New House

We are in escrow and the green house is on the market, hopefully to sell very soon. This new house is about a mile away from where we currently live -- it's a great location near friends and in a nice neighborhood, and the house is pretty much exactly what we want. The backyard is a bit smaller than what we have now, but the house is one-story with 4 bedrooms, a nice-sized kitchen and great room, dining room, and a beautiful master suite. I've posted a number of pictures below -- just pretend the current owners' stuff (and dogs) isn't there!

Great Room

Kitchen/Great Room


Hall Bathroom



Master Bedroom

Tub in Master Bath

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

SPOILER: If you haven't read the book Middlesex, and I do recommend it, you should know that I talk about some of the plot points extensively in this post. I don't think I give away much that the author doesn't also give away in the first page of the book, but if you expect to read the book at some point, consider yourself warned.

I've just finished reading a very good book, Middlesex, that everyone else read a couple of years ago. I was supposed to read it a couple of years ago too, when my book club read it, but I wasn't able to go to the meeting so I didn't read the book till now. In it, a hermaphrodite, Calliope/Cal, describes the family events that led to his/her birth and being raised to the age of 14 as a girl before discovering that she was actually genetically male. In an interesting coincidence, I also watched a 20/20 special on transgendered children, or children who believe they were born into the wrong body because they feel themselves to be the other gender. The special profiled three children: a teen who is biologically female but is now living life as a boy; the saddest 10-year-old I've ever seen, who was born a boy but has always felt she was a girl, watching jealously as her twin sister was everything she wanted to be (she is now living as a girl); and a 6-year-old who was born male but lives as the girl she's been proclaiming herself to be since she was two. It was riveting TV. And it made me thing more about what happens to the main character in Middlesex.

As Calliope reaches puberty, she begins to sense that her body is different from those of female classmates, and she is uncomfortable with the sexual feelings she has for girls, especially the one she refers to as the Object (of her affection, of course). But until that tender age fails to produce breasts and crushes on boys, Callie is comfortable being a girl -- in fact, up until that time, she thinks of herself as a very pretty girl. But after an examination at the emergency room following an accident reveals that something is amiss between her legs and her parents take her to an expert in gender reassignment and other intersex issues, she is so disturbed at the prospect of hormones and surgery to keep her a woman that she runs away from her family and begins living as a young man, never to return to her former female self.

Based solely on what the special about 20/20 said, it would seem that the novel, while compelling, is just plain... well, wrong. The "sexologist" Callie sees notes in his report how remarkable it is that, although chromosomally she is XY, having been raised as a girl, she feels herself to be female, but she is horrified enough at his conclusiont hat she is a biologically male (and in the knowledge that she is attracted to females) that she leaves everything she knows and transforms herself into a male. What little I learned about transgendered individuals indicates that there is one more, evidently even more important factor in determining gender than biology or socialization, a kind of gender identification we are all born with, something that Calliope would presumably not be able to just turn on its ear in order to transform into Cal.

I do recognize that transgendered (feeling oneself to be the opposite sex of the body one is born into) is different than intersexual (born somehow neither completely male nor female in a biological or genetic sense), and I don't know anything about how gender identity works in intersexuals, but all this sure has got me thinking about how central the concept of gender is in our lives. It seems so basic, so cut and dried: you have one set of plumping and you're a girl, the other and you're a guy. Apparently not. Off to do some research on the subject...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Last Week Wasn't So Hot

A week ago Saturday, someone broke into our cars and stole our Transpods (thingy to play iPods in the car). Actually, "broke in" is probably over-stating things somewhat, since we had accidentally left our garage door open that night and the cars weren't locked or anything. They also took all our CDs, most of which were homemade mixes. I hate the idea of a couple of punks out there sitting around making fun of my mix CDs! The scariest thing about it was that the owner's manual for Reasonable Man's car was sitting out on the seat when we discovered the theft the next morning, as though they were trying to figue out how to steal the car. We suspect that was what attracted them to our garage in the first place.

On Monday, I received the replacement power cord for my laptop that I'd ordered the week before -- I actually did a little dance when I discovered it on my doorstep -- only to discover that my laptop still would not take power from it. It seems the little accident that broke the power cord also broke the piece the cord attaches to in the computer. When I took the computer to the repair place to see about having it fixed, the guy told me that I was looking at at least 3 hours of labor and probably less than a 50% chance the repair would work, at which point I started crying. There is one day a month on which any kind of bad news will start me bawling, and unfortunately for the guy at the computer repair place, last Monday was that day. And the nicer he was, the worse it got.

Things improved a bit mid-week, just because nothing else bad happened -- I went about my business hauling the kids around, getting the data from my laptop transferred to an external hard drive, keeping the house in order, and actually cooking dinner almost every night. Then Friday, when I was actually doing a good deed and was the only school mom to show up to help put snacks together for the kids to have during STAR testing this week, I turned my ankle and ended up with a nastily bruised foot that I could barely walk on for the first day or so. (Don't ask me why it was my foot that ended up hurt -- that's what always happens when I twist my ankle for some reason.) So I've been limping around the last few days.

None of that is catastrophic -- just pain in the ass. I'm hoping for better luck this week.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What I've Learned About Weight Loss

I have a lot in common with "One Day At A Time" cutiepie Valerie Bertinelli these days. She and I both would like to lose 30 lbs. We both are kind of surprised that we ended up this fat. We both have tried to do it on our own and have not found success. And so we have both decided to pursue a smaller self by following a commercial diet plan.

That's where our similarities end. I am doing Weight Watchers, which has worked for me in the past. I decided on my own to go back in there, face the scale, and start working on this already. Valerie, on the other hand, got a call from the Jenny Craig people, asking her if she'd like to use their system to lose weight and do commercials showing her progress, a la Kirstie Alley. I think I got the better end of the deal here. Maybe Val is going to make a buttload of money doing Jenny Craig for free, but who wants to get a phone call from some corporate suit to the effect of "We noticed you're fat -- want a job?"

Valerie got to guest-host on "The View," and People magazine did a cover story on her. I don't care about the People cover, but I'd love to be a co-host on "The View." Also, on the People cover, which states right there in bold print that she is a size 14 (aka still a "misses" size and not all that uncommon a number to find on the jeans of America's 40-something women), Val is sporting a top that can best be described as a grecian muumuu, aka NOT FLATTERING. Normal-sized legs in normal-sized jeans peek out below. Who did this to her? I'm sure glad I get to dress myself.

Size 14 is another thing Valerie and I do not have in common. While size 14 is reason enough for her to feel fat enough to go on a diet in front of the entire nation, I will probably be a nice, well-proportioned size 14 after I lose 30 lbs. Also, I'm not sure she realizes that, even right now, 30 pounds overweight, she still looks like Valerie freaking Bertinelli. I, on the other hand, will never look like Valerie Bertinelli no matter how much weight I lose. No one will ask me to do Jenny Craig commercials or guest appearances on sitcoms, much less watch a show about a braless single mom with a creepy building super hanging around all the time just to experience my hotness every week, the way guys did with Valerie did in the 70s.

On the other hand, the fact that I was never a regular on "Touched by an Angel" probably still puts me one up on Ms. Bertinelli.

In any case, I do wish her luck, but I'm not looking forward to the inevitable appearance on Oprah in a bikini six months from now.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech

Another sad week for our country as we try to make sense of yet another instance of a disturbed man with access to weapons bringing his twisted version of revenge on the world to fruition and taking innocentl lives in the process. Interestingly, the main point of discussion seems to have quickly moved from "why did this happen and how can we prevent it from happening again?" to "how should the media cover these events, and was all of the coverage this time, particularly the taped rantings of the perpetrator appearing on TV, appropriate?"

I do think how these things are covered is important, as is the question of whether those tapes should have been aired, and I see the difficulty faced by networks who want to give the people what they want and know that people will tune in in droves searching for the latest information but find themselves with air to fill and nothing new to report. These kinds of events are the bread and butter of networks like CNN, and we can argue that people should be paying as much attention to the kids dying over in Iraq till we're blue in the face, but we all know that if, during a week like this one, MSNBC or CNN decides to cut away from Virginia Tech coverage, however repetitive, to do a story about our troops in the Middle East, most people are going to change the change the channel. It sucks, but that's the reality.

Much more important in my opinion than how the media covers these stories is the fact that they happen at all. Today is the eighth anniversary of the Columbine shootings in Littleton, Colorado; yesterday was the twelfth anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. One thing has clearly not changed in twelve years: our culture has not stopped producing angry, disturbed young men who believe violence and death are the price the world has to pay for their rage.

I don't know if there's any way to weed them out before they do these things. It seems, every time another one of these tragedies occurs, that there were many signs that these situations were brewing, that these young men had told people around them, either explicitly or through writings, drawings or actions, that they were time bombs waiting to go off. Occasionally we do hear a story where things went the other way -- where the friend a potential shooter confided in tells someone in time to stop the shootings from happening. But that clearly isn't happening often enough. So many times, people are too frightened to take the warning signs seriously, or there isn't more they can do than to suggest a student visit the campus counseling center.

So what can we do? Well, to me it seems like a no-brainer to limit the access of guns, but apparently this is something that will never happen here because the NRA is the most powerful lobby in America, more powerful than the reality of the bodies of dead sons and daughters being removed from a high school, an Amish school house, a university building, or a middle school. In Virginia, it was apparently more important for citizens to have the right to buy one gun per month (how many months does it take to assemble an arsenal?) than it was to make sure a college student who had never committed a felony but who had been involuntarily committed wouldn't be allowed to buy two handguns and fifty rounds of ammunition. And in the Oval Office, someone decided the first order of business in responding to this situation was to appease the gun lobby by affirming the president's support of the unlimited right to bear arms, and that he could express his sympathy to the victim's families later. Is this the country you want to live in?

Why Can't I Make Time to Post?

Here are the other things I make time to do online every day:

Check my email
Read through all the entertainment news that I have listed on my My Yahoo page
Go to Television Without Pity and read recaps of any shows I watched the night before
Go to Pop Culture Junk Mail and see what kind of cool, retro, 80s, funny or crazy stuff Gayle has found lately
Go to the Superficial and read celebrity gossip
Go to That's What She Said and read any new posts about The Office and then the comments, possibly adding my own
Go to Mick LaSalle's blog and read any new posts and then the comments, possibly adding my own

Every day, I have many thoughts about many different things, many of which are worth putting in my blog. Those thoughts are the reason I started my blog in the first place. And yet, although I think about putting those thoughts and ideas down in my blog and I rarely do it, which makes me annoyed with myself and starts a whole snowball effect of "if I didn't blog about This Big Thing, I can't just blog about That Little Thing because" -- why? It'll make me seem like a shallow person? I'm not sure. Sometimes it's true that all I'm really thinking about is American Idol, or something someone did that really pissed me off five years ago. Those things are part of who I am -- so what? If I talk to my friends about those things, why shouldn't I put them in this space, as long as they aren't gossipy things that would be hurtful to someone I know?

Long story short -- I'm going to try to do better. Watch this space...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

On My Mind

American Idol: Addictive. I never watched before this season -- why? Chris Sligh was my early favorite, and I was pretty surprised when he got the boot this past week, but not too disappointed -- he was kind of doing a slow fade in the last few weeks. I think Jordan Sparks is my favorite now...

Jesus Camp: Reasonable Man and I watched this documentary the other night, and it's not an exaggeration to say it scared the crap out of us. I don't have a problem with Christianity at all, but indoctrinating defenseless kids with the idea that their generation has to be an army for the cause, doing all they can to spread their "message" (which is intolerance from what I can tell), that their entire purpose in life is to devote themselves to Christ, and that God has a plan for their lives (so they have no free will, and there is a right choice and a wrong one at every fork in the road of their lives?), seems wrong-headed in cruel. Over and over, they showed kids sobbing during sermons, presumably because they are full of sin and know they have to repent? These are little kids. The few that they focused on seemed lovely and smart and articulate, definitely capable of doing real good in the world, but it was hard to see the path they had been sent on as the right one.

That's What She Said: On, a lighter note, if you are a devotee of The Office like I am (I even have a Dunder-Miffilin baseball cap!), this podcast is for you. I've gorged myself on their approximately 90-minute podcasts covering every episode of this season, in which they explicate the 20-or-so minutes of air-time Office shenanigans plus and deleted scenes they can find at Pure bliss for a Jammer like me.

The five episodes of The Office on NBC this past Thursday didn't hurt either. And finally, after six weeks of reruns, a new episode this coming week!

The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Better World Shopper's Guide: In the former, which I read for my book club, I learned that virtually every processed food we eat is packed with corn, the wrongheaded political and economic reasons our country produces an ocean of corn in the first place, the difference between the organic ideal and the industrialized organic food we're seeing so much of these days, and so much more. I carry the latter title in my purse to help me use the money I spend to support socially responsible companies and avoid the ones that aren't. Going to Safeway is ever so much more complicated, but I've learned a lot and I know I'm feeding my family better than before.

The View: I tape it every day and watch the "hot topics" discussions they start with most days. As someone who has generally avoided reading much about current events since approximately January 2001, I'm learning a lot about the issues of the day, and I have to applaud a show that lets four women get up there and say what they really think (even though I think most of what Elisabeth Hasselbeck thinks is lame).

Drake Bell of Nickelodeon's Drake & Josh: He's Mermaid's obsession, but we were impressed when we saw him sing at Arden Fair Mall last weekend (just him and a guitar, plus he sang Blackbird, one of my favorite Beatles' songs) and he was very sweet to Mermaid when we got his autograph and chatted with him. The girl has good taste :-)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What I've Been Doing Lately

The house: We have pretty much made up our minds that we want to move. We want a house that's bigger, one that is one-story and has at least four bedrooms, and one with a better master bedroom/closet/bathroom configuration, one that is here in South Davis. Not many of those come on the market, so for now we are waiting, and keeping our eyes and ears open. And because I have serious anxiety about the idea of selling our current house, I've been working, slowly and steadily, on getting it ready to sell. Spring came early this year -- at the end of February, more or less -- so I've been doing lots of work out in the yard, and I've also been doing some painting inside. I've painted the family room a more neutral shade of yellow -- more of a cream -- and I'm still seesawing back and forth about changing the red accent walls to something more neutral as well. On the one hand, our real estate agent advised me to paint them. On the other -- this house is full of color, and anyone who doesn't like color isn't going to buy it with some of the other bright colors I've chosen for other rooms anyway. To me, the red accent wall with our fireplace is the highlight of the entire house, and I imagine that half the people who walk in would love it and the other half would hate it.

I know this isn't hugely important, but it's the kind of thing I've been thinking about lately.

I've also been doing a lot of work at school lately. The first week of this month was the spring Scholastic Book Fair, and I'm one of 5 chairpeople for that. I actually wrote a long post about kids and money last weekend, which Blogger ate, but I think I can summarize it here pretty easily:

Considering how out-of-control materialistic we are as a society, it's touching how most 6-year-olds still think a couple of dollars is a lot of money. They walk into that book fair thinking they're going to be able to buy everything in sight.

Tax is a difficult concept for pretty much everyone under the age of 10.

A lot of kids want to share with their friends, and for every generous kid, there's one who is willing to exploit their friendship in order to get stuff. That's why we made a new rule during this book fair, that if you want to buy something for your friend, a forty-five cent eraser is fine and a five-dollar book is not.

I personally don't let my kids spend money at the book fair unless I'm right there with them (since I'm a co-chair, that's quite a bit of the time).

When promoting the book fair, Scholastic is all about the books. Then you open the doors and the kids flood in, and they are all about the stuff. A huge portion of the profits from Scholastic book fairs comes from third graders buying highlighters they don't need, bendy pencils that don't write well, scented erasers, notebooks, planners (!?), bookmarks, and pens with all manner of junk attached to the ends of them. I have mixed feelings about this stuff. I love to shop, and some of the stuff is awfully cute, so I can understand the attraction to it. But I also hate the fact that we are basically exploiting kids who have a few dollars and want to spend it so much on junk they don't need. I just read a book about the ill effects of advertising to kids, and the bottom line is that it is shameful how much marketing is directed at kids who are too young to know they are being manipulated.

In general, though, I love the book fair. It's fun to work on something that people enjoy so much.

I'm also working on our annual Parents' Night Out auction, which is this coming Saturday on the UCD campus. For the third year, I am collecting reservations, and I'll also be helping to set up on the day of the event. Fun stuff :-)

So that's what I've been doing lately. Not terribly exciting, but it's keeping me busy.

Jumpstart This Blog

I really let this thing psych me out. I know I didn't write the whole month of December because I didn't finish my Nano novel this year and then felt like, hey, if I couldn't find time to write my novel, I shouldn't be writing in my blog either. That's stupid and doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I know that's what happened. So anyway: guess what, world? I didn't finish my Nano novel this year. I was struggling with it anyway, and then I went for a week of outdoor ed with my daughter's class in the middle of November and came home sick and was just never able to get back in the rhythm again. It started to feel like torture and that is not why I do Nano each November. So that's that. I will most like try again next November.

The other reason I slack off writing here is that I get lots of ideas about things to write about and then I know I will want to write something long and brilliant about each topic and that scares me away from writing at all. That's something I've been fighting against since I started this blog, and it's probably close to the reason I don't write enough in general, and the reason that Nano has been so great for me every November till this past one. But anyway -- I'm vowing to set that aside and get back on track. I'd like to say I'm going to post here everyday, but I know that's a lofty and unrealistic goal, so instead I'm going to say that I want to post here several times a week and go from there.

To get myself started, I'm going to do a series of posts here today to kind of describe what's been going on in my life and in my brain lately -- kind of like cleaning out the closets -- and hopefully that will get me going toward that elusive goal of posting more regularly.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Oscars

I'm going to pretend that people will actually check in here to see what I thought about the Oscars and post my review of it, as though I'm some kind of entertainment journalist or something. Why not?

- General thoughts -- most of the telecast was incredibly boring, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly because a) enough of the people and films I wanted to win awards actually did and b) I spent the second half of the telecast posting comments on the blog of my favorite movie critic, Mick Lasalle, and this morning he actually referred to TWO of the things I said in his blog entry about the Oscars. How cool is that? (Look, most of us are total geeks about something, and I am a geek about movie reviews. Not actual MOVIES, you understand -- although I am quite picky about what I see, since I've had kids I don't get out and see movies nearly often enough. But I do read movie reviews pretty voraciously, and pride myself on knowing critics think about all the movies I'm not seeing. This makes it possible for me to both enjoy the Oscars every year even if I haven't seen any of the movies AND scream like Abigail Breslin when I see a movie critic I respect mention a couple of my comments in his blog. I respect your right to find that obnoxious.)

Anyway, if you are interested, here is where Mick and some other fans and I were making comments during the Oscars last night:
And here, in the first paragraph and in item 8, is where he agrees with two of my comments:

And that's enough about that.

- I really wanted Jennifer Hudson to win for Best Supporting Actress. She was awesome in "Dreamgirls" and I have her singing "And I Am Telling You" on my iPod -- it gives me goosebumps every time. I did NOT want Eddie Murphy to win because every time he started singing, it reminded me of his old "James Brown Hot Tub Party" skit from SNL, and also, I think he's a pig. So it made me pretty happy when she won and he didn't.

- I didn't think Alan Arkin was great in "Little Miss Sunshine" but I enjoyed his performance and was pleased that he won. (I actually would have loved to see Steve Carrell be nominated for his performance. That guy is a GENIUS). I also liked it that "LMS" won a screenplay award (even though, as a writer, it irritates me to no end that the screenplay awards are always kind of the consolation prize. My favorite movies invariably win screenplay awards and not Best Director or Picture.). For whatever reason, Reasonable Man's and my favorite "LMS" moment comes the first time they are all running to get in the moving van, and Alan Arkin yells "Get in here, you dumb bastard!" at Steve Carrell, and both the guy who said the line and the guy who wrote it got Oscars, so that was a good thing.

- I really liked "LMS" but wasn't disappointed it didn't win Best Picture because it wasn't that great. It was a really entertaining and well-done little movie and I think it's cool that it got nominated, but it's not like last year where I thought "Brokeback Mountain" was robbed or anything like that.

- We saw "The Queen" last weekend, and I thought it was a pretty solid and interesting movie that was obviously owned by Helen Mirren's performance, and good for her for winning. There's been quite a long streak of young, thin, glamorous actresses winning Best Actress going back to at least the late 90s, so it was nice to see someone break that mold -- at least the young part. She certainly looked thin and glamorous enough to suit me.

- I don't have any particular feelings about "The Departed" doing well. It's something I can't deal with really violent movies -- it's supposed to be pretty good, and being that Martin Scorsese is a highly respected director, it's very nice for him to get an Oscar. (Just for fun, I looked at his filmography on IMDB and was not surprised to find that I have seen total of about 1.6 of his movies -- I watched "Goodfellas" in its entirety, made it about a third of the way through "Cape Fear" before the tension got to me, and I saw his portion of "New York Stories," although the only thing I can really remember about it was that Rosanna Arquette was bitchy and had awesome hair.) So whatever on that. I didn't have a strong rooting interest for anything nominated for Best Picture anyway.

- The actual telecast -- ugh. Why weren't Best Supporting Actor and Actress the first two awards like usual? Starting off with Best Art Direction is not the way to go. I like Ellen Degeneres and thought she did a good job, but what did she have to work with? There just wasn't much energy to any of the proceedings, and by the time Clint Eastwood came out to give a lifetime achievement award to the Italian composer guy, I was about ready to slit my wrists.

- My vote for most fabulous dress/style goes to Kate Winslett. She always manages to wear some color no one else has on and just completely rock it. Her movie, "Little Children" as well as "Notes on a Scandal" are the only nominated movies I'd still like to see -- I read both books, found them just okay, but want to see what really good actresses can do with the material.

- I lied -- I'd also like to see "West Bank Story," which won for Best Live Short Film -- that looked like a good one.

I guess that's about it...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Getting Scammed

The other day I got scammed. And the stupid thing is, I had a very strong sense it was happening while it was happening, and I just went along with it.

On Friday afternoon, two girls knocked on my front door. As soon as I saw them, I know I got that "oh, crap" look on my face, because they told me "oh, don't worry, we're your neighbors." That got me to come outside and talk to them. The fact is, a lot of students live on our street, and I have no idea what any of them actually look like. Then they told me their under-17 girls' soccer team had qualified to play in a tournament in Orlando, Florida, and they were raising money to go. Suspicious point number 1: these girls definitely looked older than 16 -- but I wasn't really thinking about that at the time.

They pulled out a dog-eared leaflet and assured me that it wasn't magazine subscriptions -- it was sets of books, their coach had gotten them hooked up with Borders somehow, and the books were really nice and if I didn't want a set for myself, I could send them to the women's shelter, that's what a lot of their customers had been doing, etc. At this point, I was totally ignoring everything that was a little fishy about this (clearly this had no connection to Borders; sets of books are actually worse than magazine subscriptions; the girls are talking fast and keep evading my question of how much the books cost) and hearing what I want to: raising money for the soccer trip to Florida, donating books to a women's shelter. I like to donate to worthy causes, and these girls are so nice and friendly. I want to believe them.

Finally they give me a price, around $34, and I agree to send a set of set of books to the women's shelter. One of them sits down on the bench on my porch (after asking if it's okay; the other keeps telling me their coach says they have to come back and do me some other kind of favor, like washing my car) and I chat with the other girl. I ask her how long she's played soccer. She says 14 years. If she's about 16, that means she's been played soccer since she was 2? But I don't do the math till later. The girl continues spinning some tale about her father being in the military, which doesn't seem to have anything to do with playing soccer. I write out a check to "Kays Naturals" as instructed. My total is $48. I think that's a lot for shipping and handling, but still go along.

The girls thank me profusely as I hand them the check. One of them asks me about my nosering. The other, who has a nosering, comments on how painful getting her nose pierced was. They tell me they only have one more house to go to before they're done and I wonder which of my neighbors they're going to go suck up to next. As they are backing down my front walk, one of them asks if they can send me a postcard from Brazil. Brazil? They realize their mistake immediately. "Oh, sorry, Orlando!" one says! "We went to Brazil last year!" Unfortunately, at the same time, the other blurts out "we're going to Brazil after!" My eyes narrow, they hurry off, and I go inside.

Amazingly, I still think about it for a while. Sure, there were a few lies in there, but maybe a set of nice books is going to arrive from a women's shelter? Don't be stupid, I tell myself. I take the receipt they've given me, and right there in black and white it says that the person from whom I received it won't earn points toward the trip they are working for if I cancel my order. It's the whole "young people earning points/trying to win a contest" BS that I know how to spot a mile away -- I've been turning these people away from my doorstep for years. How could I have fallen for it? I Google "Kays Naturals" and found several items about this particular scam, including this warning:


I filled out the info on the back to cancel my order and wrote a little note indicating that I knew I'd been lied to. Then I got online with my bank and cancelled the check, just to be on the safe side. I certainly don't trust them to cancel my order. So in the end, no harm done -- these people aren't getting my money. Still, I can't stop thinking about it. I've actually had the desire to drive around and see if I can spot these girls, just to confront them and tell them "hey, I'm not stupid -- do you really think I didn't know you were lying to me?" Somehow, their discovering at some other place and time that I stopped payment on my check isn't nearly satisfying enough.

This whole episode makes me wonder:

Why did I just go along with it? I knew early on that many things weren't right, but apparently I was still made just socially uncomfortable enough in these situations to just smile and go along, despite having developed the assertiveness to say "no thanks" and close the door on people just like them years ago. All I can say at this point is, it won't happen to me again. I'm envisioning the next time one of these kids comes to my door and wondering what I'll say.

The other question is, who are these kids, and why do they want to do this kind of work? It turns out there's plenty of information about them online, and they are being exploited as much as their potential customers. The sleazy "travelling magazine sales crew" industry rounds up young people with promises of travel and easy money, then subjects them to all manner of dangers and abuses. To read more, see and visit

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Having heard from a reader yesterday in no uncertain terms that I "suck" for not posting recently, I feel the need to rectify the situation. So I shall. I just don't want any complaints about the fact that I don't actually have a whole lot to say at the moment. It's 7:20 on a Saturday evening, and after a day of lying around watching about 20 episodes of "Scrubs" with BLB and the Bride, we are currently watching "The Princess Bride" on Bravo (even though we own the DVD) and basically doing nothing productive. The kids are arguing, which they seem to be doing a lot of lately. Reasonable Man and I will probably have bowls of cereal or something equally gourmet for dinner. And tomorrow we host our first ever Super Bowl party, which should be fun despite the fact that I do not give a rat's ass about football and was hard pressed to come up with Chicago's opponent (Indianappolis, and I did come up with it, all on my own) in tomorrow's game.

In more significant news, it's official: Enthusio is having a good year in school. He likes school, has friends, and is graduating from psychotherapy in a few weeks. He still tells bad jokes, but I fear this is something he won't outgrow, as his father also tells bad jokes on a regular basis. Anyway, that's all good. Mermaid has had some issues come up at school recently, but nothing major. She is still essentially the same happy kid she's been for the last year. Who knew puberty would be such a breeze? Homework is still a drag, and is likely to get worse next year when she starts junior high, but she's not worrying about it, so why should I? (yeah right!)

I'm not sure where January went. I did a few projects around the house (put up cabinets in the laundry room, replaced the light fixtures in a couple of bathrooms) and otherwise went about my regular business of going to the gym, drinking coffee, driving my kids around, avoiding cooking dinner, and watching stupid amounts of reality TV. Oh yeah, now I remember: I spent most of January watching the first 6 seasons of America's Next Top Model. I now have two episodes left of season 6 and then I'm done. I don't know whether to be relieved or devastated. What a twisted, aggravating and totally addictive show. Good thing the new season starts at the end of this month!

I guess I should start looking around and figuring out what needs to be done before our party guests arrive. Can you feel my excitement?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bumper Stickers

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that made me sick. It had a picture of Ronald Reagan in a cowboy hat on the left side and one of W in a cowboy hat on the right, and in the middle it said "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys." That is so pathetic! Neither of those assholes were ever cowboys, unless your definition of "cowboy" is "rich poser who buys a ranch so he can ride around on a horse acting like the Marlboro man."

A few weeks ago I saw a really good one: "Be Nice to America or We'll Bring Democracy to Your Country." Hee hee...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Everything I Know I Learned From Watching America's Next Top Model

Did you know that Vh1 showed every single episode of America's Next Top Model ever this past week? I happened to turn the TV in the first 10 minutes of the first episode from the first season, so I did what any reasonable person who just started watching this past season would do: I set my DVR to tape every single episode for the rest of the week. And after watching many episodes each night since Monday, I am now a little over halfway through Season 3 and still have roughly 40 episodes left to watch -- only a problem if Reasonable Man dumps sattellite TV for cable in the next few weeks (don't ask).

Even though I have plenty of other stuff to do, I can't stop watching this show. And even though I know I'm a little late in coming to the ANTM party, I wanted to share a few things I've learned:

1) Even though I enjoy this show, I still hate the fashion world and what modeling is all about.

2) Even though I didn't watch the first six seasons of this show, I have evidently been paying enough attention to know the names of the the winners of every season, which kind of sucks as I go through and watch them.

3) One of the best parts of each season is when the girls get their hair cut/colored/styled and at least a handful of them lose it. As obsessed as I can be with my hair and as much of a crybaby as I am, I don't think I've ever actually cried about my hair, no matter how short I've gone. Some of the ANTM girls go into hysterics over having their hair cut to below shoulder-length. They need to get over it.

4) That dead-eyed vacant look you see on the face of every model in fashion magazines? Will get you picked on week after week after week on this show even though you better have it down when you actually go out to work as a model.

5) If you are a well-known supermodel who hosts a reality show, it's perfectly acceptable for you to lecture girls who live in a house decorated almost entirely with pictures of you about being more humble.

6) There will always be a token plus-size model. She will never win the competition, no matter how fabulous she is, but she will probably get lots of plus-size work after she leaves the show.

7) As insufferable as Tyra Banks is, every season includes at least one stuck-up ANTM contestant who is even worse.

8) If remaining "Christ-like" by not posing nude is important to you, you should maybe take enough time off teaching Bible Study to to thumb through an issue of Vogue one of these days. I'm not saying you have to like it -- I find a lot of it pretty questionable too -- I'm just saying ANTM, where you might have to do a naked girl-on-girl photo shoot, might not be the place for you.

9) Having ANTM on while I do my hair and make-up causes me to give more attention to those things. Having it on when I get the munchies every night doesn't help me lay off the snacks though.

10) I will never be America's Next Top Model. But if that means I will also never have to hang around with Tyra Banks, I can deal.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

You Know How It Is...

You go awhile without posting (although 6 weeks may be a record for me -- I hope so) and then each time you think about maybe getting back in the saddle, you feel the need to write some huge long thing to explain about why you've been gone or what the hell you've been doing all that time or whatever. And that thought is just exhausting, so you end up posting nothing at all.

Well, I'm doing an end run around that and making my first post since mid-November something brief and completely random:

We saw two movies over Christmas break: Eragon and Charlotte's Web. Eragon was tolerable -- I suspect it was more exciting for a kid who a) has read the book and b) is too young to recognize the fact the story is about 3 parts Star Wars, 3 parts Lord of the Rings, and 1 part Harry Potter.

Charlotte's Web was enjoyable. I'm not a huge fan of the animated version so I thought doing a live-action version was a decent idea, though I didn't expect it to be as good as Babe -- and it wasn't, but it was very sweet. Two questions, though:

1) Dakota Fanning is a perfectly competent actress, but why does every single pre-teenage girl part go to her? What is so special? She's not bad, and I don't have a problem with the fact that she's not particularly pretty either, but I don't see what's so appealing about her that she gets all the parts.

2) Why does all the voice work in Hollywood have to be done by well-known actors these days? Charlotte's Web had 10 "names you know"-level actors voicing farm animals, including Robert Redford and Oprah Winfrey. Of those, the only voices I recognized were Julia Roberts as Charlotte (and I might not have been able to place her voice if I hadn't known she was doing the part), Steve Buscemi as Templeton the rat (actually very good voice casting) and Thomas Haden Church (from Wings and Sideways) as one of two crows. Even Oprah's voice wasn't recognizable, and I was listening for her because I'd read she did one of the voices. So what in the world is the point of hiring all these stars to do voices when you don't recognize them? Aren't there plenty of talented voice actors out there who could do a better job?

I blame Disney, of course. They had to go and hire Robin Williams to be the genie in Aladdin. And it's not always a waste -- most of the Pixar movies have made good use of their big name stars, as have the Shrek movies, and I even came to appreciate Scarlett Johanssen's work as Princess Mindy in the Spongebob movie. But Robert Redford as a horse in Charlotte's Web and Rachel Weisz as the dragon in Eragon is just going too far if you ask me.