Sunday, December 30, 2007

Steve Jobs vs RIAA?

From today's Washington Post, in an article about the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) using the federal court system in an attempt to stop digital music sharing:

" . . . in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer."
CDs sales are down and consumers--and some artists--are looking for ways to avoid these traditional (aka: old) media companies altogether. So the answer is to sue the pants off of college students and now people who are actually purchasing the CDs and copying them to their own computers? Brilliant.

So when does Steve Jobs enter the picture? If the RIAA wins this suit, will they then claim that, once a song or album is purchased and downloaded through a service such as iTunes, the consumer is not legally permitted to then transfer that song or album from their computer to their iPod? Maybe, but I'd put my money on Steve and the 100 million or so of my fellow iPod users.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas With the In-laws

I adore my mother- and father-in-law, but I know that many, many people were not so fortunate in that little lottery. Take, for instance, my friend who, for obvious reasons, must not be named. He sent me this:

Xmas Day Itinerary:

8:00-10:59: I enjoy a great Christmas morning with my wife and daughter
11:00: In-laws show up
11:01: First bottle of wine is secretly opened
11:02: I pour a glass of wine into the mug I was using for coffee to avoid detection
1:20: In-laws have now settled in, no thoughts of leaving in the next 10 hours
1:30: First bottle of wine is long gone as well as a beer or two. I tell everyone that I'm going to open a bottle of wine and ask if anyone wants a glass, fully aware of the answer: No
1:35: I grab a wine glass, but keep my coffee mug behind a picture on an end table, just in case
2:30: Dinner starts
2:45: I finish eating
4:44: In-laws finish eating
5:00: Brother-in-law's girlfriend's family shows up, including her neurotic sister, her boyfriend—who I don't know—and their punk-ass teenagers
5:00:30: I lock up the valuables and hide my car keys and wallet
5:01: Not sure of the count, but another bottle of wine is opened.
5:03: Everything kind of starts over again but with the new players
5:15: "Drunk Dialing" friends from the garage begins
6:30: Mean looks from the wife because I'm ignoring her family. My excuse: why change now? Plus it's nearly impossible to get a word in edgewise not to mention my diminishing motor skills
7:30: The guests are in all here. I've switched to Sam Adams because my teeth are purple
9:00: I call a friend for the second time, envious because his day has long been over.
9:01 - 11:00: Does it matter? I won't remember anyway.
11:00: People start to leave
11:30: The same people are still leaving
12:00: Everyone has left
12:15: Mother in law calls to say good night for the tenth time

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In Need of a Laugh?

Try this:

Top 278 Star Wars Lines Improved By Replacing A Word With "Pants"

Though I appreciate the effort, I'm surprised the list stops at 278. Certainly couldn't have been for a lack of material.*

But anyway: You're welcome!

*Apologies for the completely unintentional pun.

Mac and PC Meet Santa

Ho Ho Ho!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #19

After a lengthy hiatus, it's back! C'mon, you know you missed your Weekly Dammit.

Dammit #1:

Holy crap! It's actually been a month since the last Dammit. I'm blaming it on work, changes to Charlotte's schedule, a trip to Georgia for Thanksgiving . . . Or we could just go with laziness.

Dammit #2:
Mike Huckabee once advocated quarantine for AIDS patients. And said that Hollywood stars should fund HIV/AIDS research from their own pockets. Guess who's ahead in the Iowa and South Carolina polls?

Dammit #3:
Normal people come with "irrelevance filters." That means that they can actually concentrate and generally have much better memories. To paraphrase myself from a comment on, if you didn't come with said filters factory installed, can you buy them?

Dammit #4:
A slice of pumpkin pie (1/8 of a pie and who eats only that?) has 320 calories and 15 grams of fat. On the positive side, it also has 7 grams of fiber.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Why . . .

Why does Mitt Romney, or any other candidate, need to give a major speech to say that they will govern as an American and not let their religion be an issue? We can answer that with another question: Why do so many Americans think it necessary for any and all candidates to believe in God, and more specifically, Jesus Christ?

The most problematic portion of the speech, for me, was this: "Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom" and "Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government." I see liberty as being a gift from the founding fathers, and everyone else who put their necks on the line--literally--to gain independence from England. It's also a gift from every single one of the military people who leave their families, for months, and even more than a year at a time, to protect all Americans and our way of life. I'm pretty sure they don't sort us out by religion as to who is more deserving of that protection. Nor are all military personnel Christian.

But what about those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior? I would never vote for or against a candidate based solely on religion. I want to know what s/he is going to do about the economy; how to handle the Iraqi problem in a decent and moral way; how to get math and science scores back up so Americans can be more competitive in the global marketplace; how to bring more jobs back in the US; how to handle the environmental crisis; as well as a few other issues I can't think of at the moment.

Basically, I don't care if a candidate is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon or any other religion--nor do I care if a candidate is agnostic or atheist. What matters is not who they worship, or if they worship, what matters is how they will govern and whether religious beliefs will influence how they govern. It is a very sad state when candidates for elected office feel that is has become such an important issue that they ask reporters follow them to Sunday (or Saturday) services.

We've spent seven years with a president who wears his religion on his sleeve, to the point of having evolutionary science demoted to a "theory," abstinence only programs promoted both here and abroad, the Supreme Court packed with ideologues, though what we were ostensibly looking for was judges who would not legislate from the bench. Because that's a bad thing--but only if you're a Democrat.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mommy Has a Potty Mouth

When I was a child, as punishment for swearing, I had my mouth washed out with soap. Twice, and neither time was deserved:

The first: My oldest sister kept telling me to "Copy what I say! Say it after me!" Once she got me to say "dammit," she tattled and I had my first taste of Ivory soap.

The second: I had stayed home from school, but apparently a cold is not an excuse to sleep, so Mom put me to work. While cleaning out the pantry, I started singing a little song. Rhyming the word "lucky" as you make your way through the alphabet will also get your mouth washed out with soap.

In the first case, I was five. In the second, not more than seven.

After that, I didn't really swear until college--yes, the occasional "dammit" but definitely not the f-bomb. And unless you've waited tables, you probably didn't know that the job came with an advanced degree in the fine art of swearing (MFAS). Off the floor, the cures fly thick and fast and, before I knew it, I had picked up the habit which has proved harder to break than smoking. But now that whole "do as I say and don't repeat what I say" thing isn't going to work anymore, as Hannah pointed out on our flight to Georgia for Thanksgiving.

Me: "Dammit! The seat is broken! . . . . . Oh, um, remember: that's one of those words that you're not supposed to say."

Hannah: "Well then, maybe you shouldn't say it either."

Point taken.

So now I have my New Years Resolution chosen for me, and early at that. The trouble is that I'm not good at sticking to the things that are supposed to make me better in some way: losing weight, working out, reading more, writing my book, quitting my foolish competition with European wine drinkers . . . . So how the he ck am I supposed to stop swearing?

Some people, I've heard, charge themselves a quarter and then buy a reward for reaching certain goals. But what? Dessert? No--this would just bring us back to the whole "don't like push ups" thing. Shoes? Clothes? Books? Sadly, don't need (as in "can't justify, even if my language becomes as pure as Mother Theresa's") the first two, and don't want to add another couple of books to the pile already waiting. A donation to a good cause might seem like a good idea on it's face, but it is, as the others, a disincentive: If I charge myself a quarter every time I swear, where is the incentive to stop? I'd have a new pair of Jimmy Choos in a couple of days, a week, tops. And I can't lose weight fast enough for the new wardrobe I could purchase. As for the donation? If I were to donate every quarter to the cause, why would I want to stop swearing if it would dry up my donation?

No, the answer is in donating to a cause whose mission makes my skin crawl and the bile rise in my throat. An organization which would (in this way only) get my check and which could, at the very thought of my writing said check, shock away every bit of natural color left in my hair. That's right: Nati*onal R*ght to L*fe. (I've added a few characters so I don't show up on a Google search. Anyone know if I can bleach that term from my own search history?) While this challenge doesn't start until January 1, I've already managed to scare myself at least a bit straighter. The day after I decided on this course, I owed them a phantom $2.50 by 9:00. Yes, 9:00 in the morning. But after less than one week, with more "drats," "darnits," and even "hecks," I'm down to maybe .50-.75 per day, which is a huge improvement. So as long as I remember to apply duct tape before I hit the highway, I might be OK.

*For clarification: This applies to verbal mishaps only. It will in no way, shape or form change the Weekly Dammit. Whenever the Dammit decides to come back online, that is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Parlez Vous Francais?

Thanks to my friend Laura, I can now release my Inner European. I know you'll be as shocked as I wasn't to find that

My Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.
You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

Though I must say that for me it's more of a "Would like to have a few nice things that no one has ever wiped their nose on."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Just In Time for the Holidays

Last Christmas we went to Union Square in San Francisco to see the department store windows (if you've never been, go you must). It was a dreary day, so while there, we headed over to the little cafe right on Union Square for hot chocolate. What we got was most definitely chocolate, but like nothing I'd ever had before. It was exquisite, so good, in fact, that I found myself calculating the odds of being able to get back through the line in the cafe to replace the five cups already on the table--left unattended only because Thomas went to get his parents and the girls.

My mother-in-law later found a recipe that was very similar. Enjoy!

Scharffen Berger's Drinking Chocolate
2 1/2 C whole milk
4 ox. Scharffen Berger unsweetened chocolate, 99% cacao*, finely chopped
1/3 C sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon, opt.
1/8 t cayenne pepper, opt
Heat milk 'til hot to touch. Whisk in chocolate and sugar and continue whisking 1 to 2 minutes 'til chocolate has melted and sugar has dissolved. Whisk in remaining ingredients.
Serve in demitasse cups as dessert.

* You can use a lower percentage, just don't go too low, and definitely don't use milk chocolate. You can also substitute a different brand.

You Know it's Going to be a Long Day

when your t-shirt says "Sexy Smart" but your granny panties are inside out and backwards.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Did You Know . . .

Thanks to my friend Sarah, I had a chance to remember just how much I've forgotten. But I also got a free blog post :) I didn't verify, but some I've seen before. Some may be outdated, but they're still fun.
  • In the 1400's a law was set forth in England that a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick no thick er than his thumb. Hence we have "the rule of thumb"
  • Many years ago in Scotland , a new game was invented. It was ruled "Gentlemen Only...Ladies Forbidden"....and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.
  • The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
  • Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the U.S. Treasury.
  • Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.
  • Coca-Cola was originally green.
  • It is impossible to lick your elbow.
  • The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska
  • At least 75% of people who read this just tried to lick their elbow.
  • The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28%
  • The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%
  • The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of eleven: $ 16,400. Unless we're talking about Argus, in which case, that just gets them out of puppy-hood.
  • The average number of people airborne over the U.S. in any given hour: 61,000
  • Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.
  • The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.
  • The San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.
  • Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history: Spades - King David; Hearts - Charlemagne; Clubs -Alexander; the Great Diamonds - Julius Caesar
  • 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321
  • If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.
  • Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.
  • If you were to spell out numbers, you would have to go until one thousand before you would find the letter "A."
  • Bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers were all invented by women.
  • Honey is the only food that doesn't spoil.
  • It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the honeymoon.
  • In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. In old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down. This is where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"
  • Also around that time, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.
  • Don't delete this just because it looks weird. Believe it or not, you can read it:
"I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos n ot raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #17

Since I skipped last week, let's just get right to it, shall we?

Dammit #1:
Writers' Strike: No Daily Show, no Leno . . . Solve it and solve it soon. I don't think I want a bunch of bloggers-as-scabs taking over Hollywood. Oh, wait . . .

Dammit #2:
I'm taking the girls to Georgia for Thanksgiving. There is no direct flight on the return, unless I want to leave my sister's house at 4 a.m. And I think we all know how long I considered that option. So now we have a layover in Chicago, and I have a portable DVD player on loan from my friend Sarah. Have I mentioned lately, Sarah, just how much I love you? (Psst: that's the anti-dammit: Friends who willingly loan electronics.)

Dammit #3:
This past Saturday, I got food poisoning after eating take-out from my favorite Indian restaurant. (It's actually the only Indian restaurant I've tried in Redwood City. But it's very, very good.) There is a remote chance that, because I was supposed to pick the food up at 6:20 and didn't make it there until 7:00, it just sat too long. I know this isn't really the reason, but I'm going to have to go with it or I will never be able to eat there again. Did I mention that it's really good?

Dammit #4:
On October 8, the U.S. government requested a full-panel hearing with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case that will determine whether their procedure for issuing subpoenas for stored email is unconstitutional. The government's position appears to be that email users have no right to electronic privacy. That's only part one of the Dammit. Part two is that I found this in a blog on The Register, a U.K.-based site. Did anyone else see it in the U.S. media? Maybe I just missed it. And because The Daily Show is in reruns until the strike is over, most of us wouldn't see it anyway.

Ze Frank on the Writers' Strike

He's back and as funny as ever!

The Daily show should hire him as a writer, if they haven't already. After the strike, of course.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I've Been Busy Mixxing

For the past couple of months I've been busy working on a project for a start up in Virginia. I think is really cool, and I've had a lot of fun with it. Fortunately the tone they wanted pretty much meshed with what I do anyway--well, unless I'm in outrage mode. That--eh, not so much.

Check it out! Sign up! Use it! You'll find my handiwork on the About, FAQ and Help pages, as well as most of the blog posts, error messages and other random text.

Happy Halloween!

I know it's over, but I had to share:

Charlotte still doesn't love the camera the way Hannah does :)

Halloween is a HUGE deal at Hannah's school. They had a parade with all of the kids (K-6) and the teachers.

The day after Halloween--still hopped up on sugar. Guess who didn't have school today?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Race is On, Baby!

CBS has finally announced the return of the Amazing Race! The first episode is Sunday, November 4. The teams will be traveling more than 50,000 miles around the world, to countries that include Ireland, Croatia and Lithuania.

While there are 11 teams competing for the million dollar prize, only six made it into the CBS promo:
  • Grandfather and Grandson: "Goofy" airline pilot and pushy grandfather looking to make memories.
  • Couple in Conflict: He cheated. She doesn't like the way he treats her. So they're doing this--as have so many others--to see if they should get married. (Yes, she's blond and has big, um, eyes?) [Note to my blond, large . . . eyed . . .friends: This is not about you. Please don't email a slap.]
  • LA Blonds: They plan to flirt their way through the race. Because, you know, no one has tried that before. (Mee-OW!)
  • Goth Couple: They call themselves "Real-life cartoon characters." I'm taking bets on how long the makeup lasts. Hopefully, they'll lose that steamer trunk on the first leg of the trip.
  • Father and Daughter: Father is a workaholic executive; daughter is a policy analyst. They're making up for lost time, of course.
  • Lesbian Ministers: And that's pretty much how they're being promoted. But just because they're ministers doesn't mean they won't play dirty!
In the "and the rest" roles, aka: "The professor and Mary Ann" aka: "Didn't make it into the promo":
  • Brother and Sister: Both engineers; big brother/little sister complexes to overcome.
  • Dating: Volatile is the word they use to describe their three-year relationship.
  • Best Friends: Apparently they're just in it for the fun. Any bets on how long they last?
  • Sisters: "Best friends and worst enemies." But, as with so many of the other teams with a female member, they're willing to flirt their way to the front.
  • Dating for Almost One Year (No, really!): They're free-spirited and "eager to see if their relationship can stand up to the rigors of the Race."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bonus SUPER Dammit

John Tanner, voting rights section chief of the Justice Department explains that elderly minority voters are not disproportionately disenfranchised by rules requiring voter IDs because "our society is such that minorities don't become elderly the way white people do; they die first."

No really! Watch:

He made this comment on October 5, 2007. And it would appear that he still has a job.

The Weekly Dammit, #16

Dammit #1:
That this appears in News of the Weird and not the "regular" news:

"Guardsmen denied benefits
The 2,600 members of th Minnesota National Guard returned recently from extended duty in Iraq, which was reportedly the longest consecutive deployment of any outfit (22 months, counting extensions). However the the [sic] guardsmen do not qualify for government education benefits because the law allows the benefits only for those on "active duty" at least 730 days. The Minnesota Guard's orders (as well as some other outfits' orders) were specifically written for "729 days.""

Dammit #2:

I like Hillary Clinton, really, I do. But it's annoying to have everyone assume that she already has the nomination wrapped up. It means less coverage and less money for any other candidate, effectively squashing other ideas and opinions. I realize that we've moved up the primaries, but it's only October '07. There's plenty of time.

Dammit #3:
I've been trying to get Charlotte to use her name when referring to herself, or when someone asks her name. Right now, she'll say "Shasha" if prompted with "Say Charlotte!" When she woke up from her nap yesterday (yay! we're taking naps again! And by "we" I do not mean "me"), I told her to say "Charlotte." Only half awake, she replied "Charlotte." This has happened before, and it always throws me for a loop. Not that she said an actual word--she has several of those--but because it is as clear as if Hannah had said it. When I asked her again, she said "Shasha." Dammit, I do not understand apraxia.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #15

Dammit #1:
The speech therapist says that Charlotte is apraxic. says that Charlotte might need 3-5 therapy sessions per week. The insurance company says that, if Charlotte were, say, 80 and had had a stroke, they would pay for speech therapy.

Dammit #2:
Charlotte's neurologist says to "wait and see" about the speech delay and the shaking that happens when Charlotte falls. Friends have said to go with my gut and think about getting a second opinion. My gut is a hypochondriac.

Dammit #3:
There is a second book cooking in my head, replacing the first book, which is no where close to being finished. Anti-dammit: I'm taking Wednesday nights off, so maybe I can get somewhere on one or the other. Or both!

Dammit #4:
A bunch of asses at The Wall Street Journal thought it a good idea to publish a list of people who were more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. To which I can only say "Wow."

Dammit #5:
Stephen Colbert has thrown his hat into the ring. That's right--he has declared his candidacy for president in the 2008 election. I love Stephen Colbert. He's a very, very funny man. Also a very smart one. And while I'm not sure he's qualified to be President, an awful lot of people would like to have a beer with him, and that seems to have done the trick once before.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another Video

Very long, but well worth it. Warning: Do not drink or eat while watching. Your computer screen will thank you.

Jeff Dunham W/ Dead Terrorist - Click here for another funny movie.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Quote for the Day

I found this on ZenHabits, not always true, but funny nonetheless:

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city."
--George Burns

A Book is Born--Review

Through a random and completely unscientific sampling of people I’ve met over the past 10 years, there are at least 156 million people in the US writing books, with some 32,490,421 of them actively working on their manuscripts. Many of these writers never expect to be published. In fact, many of them have no idea how to go about breaking into an industry that seems to be dominated by the same 100 authors.

But help is on the way! To be released in November 2007, A Book is Born—24 authors tell all offers hope to budding authors in general, mom authors in particular.

The book’s editor and publisher, Nancy Cleary of Wyatt-MacKenzie Books, a specialty publisher focusing on mom authors, is also publisher for all the writers who contributed to A Book is Born. And while there’s a good representation of the mommy theme (single parenting, working mothers), her authors have also written books about depression and mental illness; about being an Army wife; cooking; dieting; and infertility.

Though it gets off to a bumpy start, A Book is Born proves itself a treasure trove of information for anyone writing, or thinking about writing, a book. Every chapter includes ruminations by the authors, from the general “What inspired you to write this book?” to the more introspective “What did you do the moment you found out that you were going to be published?” and on to the all-important, “How hard is it to actually sell a book?”

Each chapter also includes Tech Talk and Tech Tips, sections designed to acquaint the newbie author with industry lingo as well as providing a way to work through questions such as:
• What are my publishing options?
• Do I need to hire an agent?
• What is an indexer and do I need one?
• What does a PR agent really do?

A Book is Born also offers tips on:
• How to market your book
• How to calculate your ROI
• How to put Amazon to work for you

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, A Book is Born includes examples of how much two different authors paid to market their books and how much they netted in the first year after publication. It’s a stark reminder that, for most of us, writing truly is a labor of love. No pun intended.

In spite of the wealth of information A Book is Born offers, I was initially preoccupied with a quiet prayer of thanks that no one was going to make me drink every time the “birthing” metaphor was employed. And with so many authors, it is perhaps to be expected that the writing would be uneven, especially as some authors are clearly better at it than others. But hang in there, because there truly is a lot of valuable information to be found. If you really want to get published, A Book is Born offers hope that there are ways to make it happen.

Click here to pre-order your copy of A Book is Born—24 authors tell all.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Only Partly Because I'm Being Lazy . . .

But mostly because not enough of you read our most excellent chicken blog, UrbanChickens, 99.99999% of which is researched, observed and written by Thomas. It's so good, he was twice invited to be a guest on Spark, a production of CBC Radio!

But here's the lazy part: Thomas is away so I wrote one post. (He's been gone for a week now. Only one post. Bad Mel.) Here's the first paragraph--you'll have to go see the chickens to read the rest.
Houdini's Chickens
It's a little known fact* that, for relaxation between performances and travel, Harry Houdini kept a flock of chickens at his home in New York. These were not your ordinary chickens. Gifted with an intellect to rival that of a Jack Russell terrier, they carefully observed Mr Houdini's practice sessions which, fortunately, were held in the back yard. Through this careful observation, the chickens were able to learn and, eventually, master his tricks. Of course, in accordance with Mr Houdini's early practice, they kept his secrets, passing them only to succeeding generations.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #14

Dammit #1:
Danica McKellar, most famous for her role as Winnie on The Wonder Years, took a time out from Hollywood to go to UCLA, where she majored in math--graduating summa cum laude. From her web site (where you can also get math tutoring from Danica herself):
While she was [at UCLA], she even co-authored a math proof - new research proving an original math theorem - highly unusual for an undergraduate. In fact, she was the only undergraduate invited to speak at Rutgers University's biannual Statistical Mechanics conference a few years back, and she was featured in the Science section of the NY Times on July 19th, 2005.
Her latest venture: She's co-author of Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. Released in August, it's already ranked at 75 on Amazon. The book is aimed at girls 9-12, but since I suck at math (and don't want my girls to), I ordered it.

So who do we hear about day in and out? Lindsey and Paris (aka SLRG) and all of their little friends. Why? Why do we need to know who is releasing a new version of eau de skank? Let's show our daughters a better role model: Danica is talented, beautiful AND smart. Looks like a winner to me.

Dammit #2:
Dammit #1 notwithstanding, I actually felt sorry for Paris on the David Letterman show. So is the dammit because Dave was incredibly rude to his guest, when she was clearly about to cry? Or because I felt bad for her? Surprise Dammit: I’m going with option 1. Dave was an ass. It's one thing to mock someone for her bad choices (and arrogance?) and quite another to do it while she is with you, sitting in front of a large studio audience and a much, much larger viewing audience.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Closing a Chapter

Charlotte will be three in January. And, after clinging to some of them for more than five years, I've finally packed up my maternity clothes. Tomorrow, I will take them to Goodwill. For a long time, I jokingly told myself--and other people--that I kept the clothes because they were the nicest I'd ever had. And, in some cases, eh, maybe that was close to being true. But like most other things, the truth was a little more complicated.

When Charlotte was about six months old, Thomas and I talked about having another baby. Crazy, I know. Because of my history, my OB thought it prudent to send us to a fertility specialist. Basically, I'm high risk in several categories: Multiple miscarriages, two premature births, my age, a "structural abnormality," etc., etc., etc. We decided that we'd give it a few months and a lot more thought.

In the end, it wasn't just the high-risk stuff, but also that I was tired of getting up in the middle of the night after night. Sometimes for the whole night. I'm not young enough to do well on so little sleep. It makes me cranky (crankier). Irritable. Short-tempered. But even though we had decided that our family was just perfect, every month without fail, I'd experience mingled anticipation and dread, followed by both relief and sorry. Because I always thought I was pregnant. And I never was.

But I kept the maternity clothes because getting rid of them would have been an admission that I was done. No more babies. No more baby smell. No more warm, toasty little someone snuggled up to me. And that has to be ok, because I am old-ish and tired. I don't really want to change any more diapers or change spit-up soaked clothes (mine) every hour.

So tomorrow I drop off the clothes. Which means I'll be pregnant before the year is out. Kidding!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #13

There isn't much, but I managed to scrape together a few.

Dammit #1:
No one should have to read headlines like this:
"GOP strategists urge candidates to stop snubbing minorities"
(Original article, Washington Post)
Seriously. Why does that even need to be said?

Dammit #2:
Other people (ok, usually other Moms) come to my house and are almost immediately able to redirect my children. I'm not just talking about being new and interesting--though I fully appreciate the value of that newness. No, I mean people who come in and are able to offer Hannah and Charlotte a distraction that I never would have thought of. "Pretend that your tea cups and saucers are flying saucers with aliens," for example. Me? I just get so tired of tea parties and picnics that I'm busy just drowning out the sound my brain makes when it shrinks. Which is the bonus, hidden dammit: My brain should be coming up with new ways to think about these things rather than cowering in a corner!

Dammit #3:
Rex Morgan and June Morgan, nee Whosie-whatsit, must be 70 by now, but I fear they're going to be having "harrowing" adventures for the rest of my natural life. I need to work on my filters so I can learn to ignore that particular car-crashishness that takes up valuable real estate in the comics section every day.

Told you it wasn't much, but I'll try harder next week!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hannah-isms, con't

On Wagner:
"Do we have to listen to this? It's so dramatic."

On camping:

"Yes, Hannah?"

"Tomorrow morning, can you wake your wife up early so we can go camping?"

To an overnight guest:
"Hey, Aunt Kerry? Maybe since Daddy isn't here, you can sleep on the couch."

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #12

Dammit #1:
I've been so busy writing that I don't write anymore. Anti-dammit: I really like this project, and when I'm writing for someone else, it's much easier to stick a deadline.

Dammit #2:
I worked 30 hours last week--in addition to my day job. Literally. Most of it was at night after the girls went to bed. I've found that the combined gentle snores of a Great Dane and a husband pretending not to sleep in front of the TV create a very effective white noise.

Dammit #3:
We have a new coffee maker, one which has achieved near-deity status in our house. No more brewing a pot at a time, hoping that Thomas won't make it slap-you-silly strong again. Now I just set it the way I like it and push the button. One perfect cup of coffee at a time. And then another and another . . . And one slightly more than perfectly caffeinated mom, jittering through her day. (I'm not sure if this is an actual Dammit, or just gloating.)

Dammit #4:
There's a new kids show on Nickelodeon that was touted as the one show that parents would actually like, too. To this I had to ask, "WTF were you watching when you wrote this article??" (The article I was actually reading the one time we saw the show.) Seriously, there were only two things I liked about Yo Gabba Gabba: 1) It was only on Noggin once--to preview before they moved it over to Nick. 2) I didn't actually have an ice-pick in my hand with which to jab the memory of it from my head. I almost feel as though I owe Barney an apology.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Aw, Mommy! Did you buy me a kitty?

No, sweetie. I just brushed the dog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #11

My new template seems almost too, well, pretty for a list of cranky Dammits, but you know I have to do it.

Dammit #1:
On the 27th of August, Hannah started kindergarten (yay!), I started a freelance project (yay!) and Charlotte decided she was no longer going to be napping.

Dammit #2: released an ad attacking General Petraeus before even hearing what he had to say.

Dammit #3:
No matter what the General reported, both sides had already decided that that report would justify their respective stances.

Dammit #4:
According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll (bottom of first page), 1/3 of the American population still believes that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

trying something new

You may have noticed that Left Coast Mom's look has changed a bit. I'm trying something new, but not to worry: I will not be changing the template as often as I change my hair color.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I Miss Calvin and Hobbes

I know it's been a dozen years since they retired, but I still miss Calvin and Hobbes. And, as we've already established that I am (about some things) a dork, I can say that December 31, 1995 was the first--and last--time I ever cried when a comic strip ended.

It's not that the strip was always funny, though it was 99.99% of the time. It's more that it gave you a glimpse at what life would be like if we could keep the sense of wonder, the joy in imagining, that children have before we sacrifice it on the alter of the Four Rs.* Calvin, only six, possessed the child's imagination, but he combined with an intellect to match that of some adults. He also had a child's belief in his own immortality and the knowledge that, no matter how bad he was, his parents would always love him. Even if they didn't forgive him for a long, long time.

What brings all of this to mind? Our recent heat wave, of course.

Last week it was 100 degrees outside the house and 87 in. We don't have air conditioning, so I took the girls to the library, where I discovered that the Calvin and Hobbes books are all in the children's section. At first I thought this was a mistake, and then I realized that it was the one place the parents, a.k.a. "the people who need them the most," would find them.

I can't speak for all parents, of course, but rediscovering Calvin was a strong reminder that, while I may loathe the idea of another tea party or picnic, to Hannah and Charlotte it is more than just a game. And when they leap on unsuspecting passers-by from the back of the sofa, it's not to annoy, harass or induce heart failure. It's because they can actually fly. And Hannah's seemingly ceaseless stories are worth far more than the occasional, unthinking "uh huh, and then what?" even if I'm not fully caffeinated.

So I'd like to thank Bill Watterson for reminding me that there is a whole other world that doesn't run on adult time. A world that chafes at adult rules and demands because, to its small residents, adult rules make no sense and, so, have no bearing on their lives.

* The fourth would be "Rote."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is This Normal?

Hannah tossed a couple of questions at me today that I wasn't expecting for at least a couple of years.

"Why are all humans only boys and girls?"

I went with:
"Because you need boys and girls to make more humans."

"But where did the first one come from?"

Is it normal for little kids to think about these things? I know adults who couldn't care less (though there are some who would start wars over this particular issue).

So I told her that scientists believe that we evolved from other organisms and that it took us a long time to get to what we are now.

But I have no idea how to really explain that to an almost five-year old, especially when I'm pretty sure that this almost-five year old is a lot smarter than I am.

She let me off the hook this time, but I'll be ready for the chicken-and-egg question.*

* It was the chicken.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #10

Dammit #1:
I've mentioned before my distaste for the more litigious among us who have made it necessary for lawyers to write ridiculous things such as "Caution! Hot iron can burn eyes" and "Dramatization! Professional driver on a closed course," even when the car in question appears to be underwater. So I shouldn't have been surprised to see this notice on the tag attached to Argus's new bed: "Accessories not included." The "accessories" shown on the tag were a very large cabinet and a dog.

Dammit #2:
Why is it that the politicians who try to legislate "family values" so often seem to get caught with their pants down? And those who rant the loudest against gays and gay marriage seem to have more hidden in their closets than pinstriped suits and stuffed shirts.

Dammit #3:
Two of the top three (announced) candidates from the "party of family values" have three divorces and at least three affairs between them.

Dammit #4:
At the rate we're going, we're going to have the first presidential primary before Christmas.

Dammit #5:
Charlotte peed on Argus's foot. That's not my dammit and it wasn't today, but Argus asked me to pass it on.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Really--We're Just Laughing WITH you . . .

Thanks, K!

Talk About Starting Early . . .

It took 10 years, but Thomas has managed to turn me into a magazine junkie. We now get The Week, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Sunset, Men's Health, Women's Health, Fast Company, Esquire, Ode, Wired, and possibly a few others I can't remember at the moment.

Being a news junkie, one that I really look forward to is The Week, which arrives every Friday morning. But today, when I pulled it from the mailbox, it had a cover wrap announcing "only 137 shopping days left!" and "HOLIDAY GIFT SAVINGS" and "GIVE MORE GIFTS! Spread the joy!"

Now I wouldn't mind spreading the joy, especially to my friend who stops by the day before every election for a basic explanation of every measure and the background of each candidate. I don't mind helping--I like it, in fact--so she always leaves with the explanation (including why some are for and some against each), plus a little annoyance that I refuse to tell her which way to vote on any measure or candidate. But though she is a very intelligent woman, she is also a very busy woman, so I don't know that she has the time for another magazine.

All of this notwithstanding, I didn't need to know, more than a week before Labor Day, that I needed to begin panicking about holiday shopping.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


On why it takes her so long to get out of the car:
"Hannah! Get out of the car!"
"I can't, you have too much crap in here!"

On entering the car after our camping trip:
"Daddy, if I start to feel hungry, feel free to stop at a restaurant. And no garbage, please, okay?"

To Charlotte, mid-temper tantrum:
"You stop that! I was crying first!"

On going to her kindergarten Open House:
"I don't know about this. I'm feeling a little apprehensive . . . "

On siblings:
"I still think we should take Charlotte back. I want to be the only kid in the house. I don't like sharing her toys."

After dropping a toy for the third time:

"What did you say??"

"Hammock. I said hammock."

Kindergarten starts on Monday. I'm going to leave Thursday open for our first parent-teacher conference.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #9

Dammit #1:
Apparently, the Toyota Prius can do over 100mph. How cool would it be to go down the highway with Argus's ears flapping in the wind*? Kinda like an Eddie Izzard sketch. But, alas, it still won't fit a Great Dane. I think I've mentioned this before somewhere . . . And speaking of dogs:

Dammit #2:
Michael Vick.

Dammit #3:
The Bush administration just announced changes to the Children's Health Insurance Program that will make it harder for individual states to cover additional children. They're worried that the program is going to become a substitute for private health insurance. On a completely unrelated related note: In the United States, the poverty level for a family of four is $20, 650.

Dammit #4:
There is an entire cookbook devoted to the almost mind-bending combination of zucchini and chocolate. Together. In the same dish. And to think that I've been tossing all of the lovely zucchini at the end of our summers because I couldn't bear to eat another one and no one else wanted it either.

*Yes, yes. The dog and his head would be inside the car.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

No, no; it's not what you're thinking. I don't eat that much ice cream anymore.

No, my guilty pleasure is Go Fug Yourself, a blog that skewers the sartorial mishaps and wardrobe malfunctions of various celebrities, as well as the occasional "celebrity." Every once in a (great) while, someone will get a "Nicely Played," but the writers are at their best when they're being wicked.

It's not the skewering I like as much as the writing, which is almost always laugh-out-loud funny, and sometimes get-a-tissue-I-can't stop-laughing funny. (Never read it with a mouth full of coffee.) Take as an example this post wherein they imagine a conversation between Harvey Weinstein and a very badly dressed Alicia Keys, whom he has mistaken for Diahann Carroll:

"HARVEY: I haven't been so turned on by an older woman since you were on Dynasty. Those were some serious turbans. Serious SEX turbans. If you hadn't been Blake's half-sister, that could've been hot, I tell ya.

ALICIA: Did you just say "sex turbans"?

HARVEY: You're goddamn right I did. Listen, let's do lunch. Or dinner. Or brunch. Except I don't care for the cantaloupe, so maybe not brunch.

ALICIA: I don't want to be rude, but I'm not...

HARVEY: Honey, I want to be in the Diahann Carroll business. Let's make it happen. You look GREAT for your age, Diahann, although we might want to rethink that spelling. It makes my intestines throb.

ALICIA: How about we spell it "Alicia Keys"? I'm 27, and I'm a singer. Seriously, you have NO idea who I am?

HARVEY: Keys? Never heard of it. But I like the cut of your jib. Not the cut of your dress, though, we'll have to change the whole thing. And the shoes -- you look lost in 1988, like you're a bitch in search of a lily pond."

But you must read the full exchange and see the photo which inspired it. Then bookmark the blog because you won't be able to resist going back.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #8

It's been another busy week, as we're going through our first "back-to-school" season. So this is late. Again. Which leads right to

Dammit #1:
Someone needs to work a little harder to get The Weekly Dammit out earlier in the week. Oh wait, that would be me. So maybe my boss? Ah, same problem.

Dammit #2:
If you know me, you might not think that the news that Karl Rove is leaving the White House would rank as a Dammit. But if you know me, you also know that I don't trust that gerbil, nor do I believe the excuse of he wants to "spend more time with his family." That is the standard Washington excuse and is rarely the whole, or even the partial, truth. My (perhaps overly cynical) guess: He's been sent off to stir up more mischief in his on-going effort to build--and keep--a Republican majority. Since that's worked out so well.

Dammit #3:
We can't impeach Bush for two main reasons: 1) That would leave Cheney in charge, and 2) It seems that, in this era, we can only impeach a president for having consensual sex with another adult, that being the "misdemeanor" part. The high crimes (illegal war, illegal wire-tapping, illegal seizure and detention, violation of the Geneva Conventions, destroying the credibility and career of Colin Powell . . .) don't seem to matter anymore.

Dammit #4:
We still have 522 days before Bush follows Rove on down that road.

Dammit #5:

I think that's enough for one week.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

I use my cell phone for all long distance calls and have noticed a gradual deterioration in Verizon's service. Or perhaps I'm noticing it more now since I call my sister (in Georgia) almost every day. Last week, I twice lost the reception in my own house--in the kitchen by a large window, if you must know.

"Sarah? Can you hear me? Hello?"

That was the moment I realized that the Verizon commercials are not quite what we've been led to believe. Instead of the guy showing us that Verizon's service covers America from coast to coast, he is actually searching the country for a space where he can get a signal.

"Can you hear me now?"

"Only if I stand on the third tile from the door, sixth from the window."


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Boogie Shoes

We went to a wedding in Tahoe City this past weekend, where both girls took advantage of the opportunity to show off their dancing skills:


And Charlotte:

Of course, Charlotte stopped dancing as soon as she noticed that Thomas had the camera. But Hannah? We had to drag her out of there around 10:00. PM. She can't wait for the next wedding, which, apparently, will be Mommy and Daddy. You know, because she wasn't invited to the first one.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


A recent study by researchers at Stanford University found that kids as young as 3 were already being brainwashed by advertising in general, McDonald's in particular.

The kids, preschoolers aged 3-5, were given two "meals" at the same time: identical McDonald's food, with different packaging, one with the familiar McDonald's wrappers, the other with plain wrappers.

The result? Almost 77% of the kids preferred the fries with the McDonald's logo; the hamburgers were pretty much even; the carrots--you heard me, the carrots--split 54-23% in favor of the McD's packaging. (I must admit, I was surprised to see that the Happy Meals(R) now come with carrots.)

As Tom Robinson, the study author, noted, "[the] kids' perception of taste was "physically altered by the branding.'"

Kids' perceptions are also heavily altered by what they learn from their parents, and McDonald's is a fitting example in our house. Hannah once asked why we never went there and I told her that the food was really bad for you. She has translated that for anyone who asks--and some who don't--as "they have nasty food."

Now, we all know that it isn't nasty food; it's soooooooo good, especially when you're, say, 20-ish, staying out until the wee hours, followed by early shift waiting tables. Then it was all about the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, hash browns and a pot of coffee. (Coffee home-brewed or at the restaurant, because, hey, I have to draw the line somewhere!)

Of course, after the article was published in the Mercury News, someone sent in a letter basically saying that it wasn't the marketing, it was the packaging. "Because presentation is everything, just ask any chef or home cook." Not in my house, but anyway . . .

So our kids are either 1) being trained to prefer high-fat, high-calorie food that is loaded with sodium (carrots excepted), or, 2) they're being trained to prefer the food equivalent of bright, shiny objects, no matter what they taste like.

Methinks that, either way, we're screwed.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #7

After a brief hiatus, The Weekly Dammit is back!

Dammit #1:
The soundtrack to my life for past couple of weeks has been Ariel's song. I must confess, if I ever chance to meet that little mermaid herself, I might be sorely tempted to drown her. Hannah kindly drew a picture for me of a crying Ariel and a very angry Flounder glaring out at me. Just because I mentioned that I can't bear to hear that damn, er, darn, song one more time.

Dammit #2:
Joe Biden sent out an email yesterday to let us know that, not long before the bridge came down in Minneapolis, he had read "a remarkably prescient" passage from his new book, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics. Yes, the passage was about how, in a crisis, people jump in to help one another, but it just seems a little crass to use it in a fund raising email. Silly me. If the Hillary Clinton campaign can use a non-issue like whether or not Hillary was showing cleavage on the floor of the Senate . . .

Dammit #3:
A federal appeals court ruled that insurance companies don't have to pay for water damage resulting from the Hurricane Katrina-induced breach of the New Orleans levees, because "The policies did not distinguish between floods caused by an act of God, such as excessive rainfall, and floods caused by an act of man, which would include the levee breaches." This will save the insurance companies about $1 billion, but it means that thousands of residents and business will not be able to, or will have a significantly reduced ability to rebuild.

Dammit #4:
More than 10 million Americans suffer from chronic depression. Doesn't make it any easier.

Bonus Dammit:
I knew I should have saved some of the Dammits from The Weekly Dammit, #6.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #6

Dammit #1:
When stressing over a job recently, I actually heard myself tell the girls to just eat the M&M's and I'd make them toast later. Time to reexamine priorities!

Dammit #2:
Why were CNN producers allowed to select the videos for the YouTube sponsored debate? Next time, have YouTube users vote on the top 20. Let producers choose an additional 10 or so, if they really can't help themselves. Oh, and how's about making the images larger so television viewers can actually, you know, see them.

Dammit 3:
Our weekend camping trip was too short, something I certainly never thought I'd say. Camping trips were not something we looked forward to when I was a kid--but this one was nice. Of course it helped that I didn't have to worry about cooking or cleaning, and Thomas took care of most of the packing, since I know nothing about camping. Sadly, that's one dumb act I won't be able to keep up for long.

Dammit #4:
Joe Biden seems to be doing well in the debates, which is great--I like him. However, he will always manage to put his foot in his mouth or just talk on and on, long past the time when his last listener has rolled her last eyeball permanently into the back of her head. He's got the brains and the experience and I think he'd make a great president. But the man just can't bear to let anyone else talk; he comes off as arrogant and intent on proving that he is, in fact, the smartest guy in the room.

Dammit #5:
The new San Jose Sharks logo has had its debut. All I have to say is: trying to make the new logo look tough isn't going to help unless the guys are willing to back it up.

Dammit #6:
I suck at pithy.

Dammit #7
(Really, I should save some of these for next week.)
Every time I hear someone say that the Bush administrations "lies" aren't that bad because "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" is what a lie actually looks like, I want to beat the crap out of them. Not that I do that sort of thing. How can a rational being equate lying about sex, something done from the beginning of time by men and women, great and small,** with telling the sorts of lies that get people killed?

** Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking. But I am neither advocating the behavior nor saying that ALL people behave this way. So don't send me nasty emails! (Hidden Bonus Dammit!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Solar Rules

When we moved into our house a year ago, we were really excited at the thought that, with the solar array (free with purchase!), we'd be generating most of our electricity and selling back whatever we didn't use (net metering). Now we actually look forward to the electric bill. No, really! It includes a bar chart so we can track our usage, cheer when the month's bar is short, boo and turn off more lights when it's up.

Based on our true-up statement, I'd say we've done pretty well. Actually, gloatingly well.

The way the net metering program works is that we select a payment rate at which we both buy and sell electricity. So whatever we generate and don't use, we sell to PG&E for, let's say, 10 cents per kilowatt hour. In the winter months, we buy whatever extra electricity we need at the same rate. The fun part is that, with all of this buying and selling, we actually only pay a monthly pass-though rate of $4.70. The rest is settled up at the end of the year (July, in our case), less the $4.70 per month already paid. If we owe, we send a check. If somehow we manage to have a credit, it rolls over to the next year.

Now, when we bought the house, we already knew that we totally lucked out. The general thinking is that it takes about 15 years to recoup the costs of installing a solar system (pretty cheap if it actually includes Pluto) But because our house came with a good system already installed, we immediately began to realize the savings.

Now we get to the gloating: The last couple of months at our old house, we were running the air conditioner non-stop because 1) we were selling the house and, 2) we were in the middle of a heat wave. So our electricity bills were running around $200 a month. Which would explain why I was so immensely pleased to open the true-up statement today to find that, for the entire year, our electric bill is only $173.88.

Hopefully, it won't be long before solar becomes more affordable and a viable option for more people. In the meantime, I think I'll use some of the savings to do a little economy-propping shoe shopping.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #5

Dammit #1:
Some foods that require a bit of mixing and/or cooking on your part include the calorie count in the item as packaged as well as the number of calories in the finished product. I'm sure that there is a quasi-logical reason for this--maybe someone wants to know the baseline before they start tossing in a bunch of other stuff. Maybe someone actually wants to eat Bisquick right out of the box. I'm not going to do it, but I have no problem with someone else giving it a go--as long as I can watch. But here's a thought: Why not use that space to tell us where the ingredients came from? That seems to be a bigger issue these days than knowing that Annie's Homegrown Organic Shells and Real Aged Cheddar has 270 calories uncooked vs. 280 prepared. (You'd have to go to their website to see that all of their wheat comes from the US.)

Dammit #2:
Why do certain people feel the need to tell me "The problem with you lefties is . . . "? I never say to them "The problem with you assholes is . . . "

Dammit #3:
It would seem that some manufacturers want you to buy their product but not actually be able to touch said product. For the past few years, packaging seems to have become more complicated and impossible to get into without injury. To open it, you need to first gather a few items: heavy gloves, a valium and/or glass of wine, bowie knife, duct tape (to muffle whining from the children while you actually get to the damn toy), and a sweat rag.

Perhaps, though, the tide is turning? I almost wept with joy today when I opened a package that had the product GLUED lightly to a recycled cardboard backing. It still had the plastic overlay, but that too was only glued to the backing. Thank you thank you. Now if only we can convert all manufacturers before the holidays.

Dammit #4:
Someone leaked the last Harry Potter book. It's bad enough that I'm going to be camping all weekend, but now some idiot has made it more likely that I'm going to hear something about it before I actually get to the book.

Dammit #5:
I think that Dammit #4 was probably a huge dork alert. Yes, I've read the Lord of the Rings books too. All of them. Several times. Mostly when I was a kid. Yeah, yeah, that's it.

Dammit #6:
In order to buy alcoholic beverages, you have to have been born on or before today's date in 1986. I am so old.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

And That Makes Two

Charlotte is displaying early symptoms of the same wicked sense of humor that Hannah has, which, in all fairness, they come by honestly.

We were at the vet with Argus last week when a woman came out of an exam room, credit card in hand, towed behind her Jack Russell terrier. The dog was excited to be done with his check up, hopping around as if to say, "C'mon lady--move it!"

Though clearly wanting to get the dog out of there, the woman had to wait in line to pay. Dog was not happy. Nor was he impressed with her efforts to get him to sit.

"Sit. Sit. Sit Sit. Sitsitsitsitsitsit!"

The dog looked at me, rolling his eyes.

"Sit. Sit. Sit," she continued unbroken.

"Sit and I'll give you a cookie!"

Still standing, still hopping, the dog glanced around, knowing what was coming next.

"Oh alright, here's a cookie. Mommy's good boy!"

As I watched, I wondered what the dog--not to mention his owner--would do if I used the tone that we learned when Argus was in Doggie Boot Camp. Something a bit more commanding. A nice strong,

"Neuf" (Hannah swears I say this instead of "No")! Sit!"

Still not sure whether to give it a try, I heard a small hissing noise behind me. Charlotte, who had also been watching, looked at me, then at the dog, as she signed "sit, sit, sit," while saying "Sih, sih, sih," followed by the wicked giggle that makes me burst out laughing every time.

The dog glanced up at Charlotte and I swear he winked at her before he, at last, sat down, staring patiently at the door.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Waiting for the Punchline

There was a letter to the editor in Monday's Mercury News that I had to read twice. Then once again with my glasses on, just in case. Then I put it aside to read again, just to make sure I read it correctly the first three times. I'll let you decide:

The whiny liberal crowd will not credit our great commander in chief, even though he is the first man of his word our nation has ever had. He said he was a uniter not a divider, and sure enough he has united about three out of every four of us. He said he was going to restore honor and decency to the White House, and we enjoy worldwide renown for our efforts to find peace, albeit through war. He is open and candid about even the smallest perceived misstep, articulate and persuasive to all who will listen carefully. We are truly blessed and will miss him terribly after next year.
--Ed Von Ruden, San Jose, CA
1) Is grampa smoking crack?
2) Does BushworldTM actually exist?
3) Has this person ever read anything about US history?
4) Does anyone else agree with what this guy is saying?
5) Was this a seriously bad joke by someone desperate to see his name in print?
6) Did I (please, oh please) misread it?

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #4

Dammit #1:
When Thomas makes dinner, I frequently rue the fact that I have but one stomach. Last night's tangy chicken skewers with romescu sauce made me wish that what I lovingly refer to as my baby pooch were, in fact, a functioning stomach, allowing me to keep eating, just for the pure pleasure of the combined flavors and textures. And it's not without guilt that I say this (bonus Dammit!), as it was long ago drilled into my head that, somewhere in China, there were children who would be more than happy to have my meal. I began to doubt my parents' word when those same children refused my repeated and insistent pleas that they at least, and for the love of god, take my pork chop briquettes. Somehow I think the answer would have been different had we'd been talking about the Peach Cobbler a la mode.

Dammit #2:
Not so very long ago I was quietly pleased to see that Cindy Sheehan had decided to give up the fight and go home to her other children, whose existence, I must admit, surprised.

But I should have known by the phrasing, "leaving to spend more time with her family," that Ms. Sheehan had already made the decision to treat us once again to the prospect of her on the campaign trail. That's right! La Dame Sans A Clue on Anything Not Iraq-related has declared her intention to give Nancy Pelosi a run for her money. Yes, that Nancy Pelosi and all of that money. Of course, Nancy will be allowed to keep her job if she just brings articles of impeachment against President Bush within two weeks.

Articles of impeachment: Not a bad idea. Representative Cindy Sheehan? Dreadful idea.

Dammit #3:
My lack of imagination is pitiable. Apparently, there is growing concern--among some Republican lawmakers and pundits, no less--that the military will be made the fall guy for failure in Iraq, once they run out of troops sometime in the spring. I thought that the plan was to run out the clock until the '08 election and then leave the whole steaming mess in the lap of whoever lands in the White House next. Even I never expected this from the administration that branded half the US population as un-American and against the troops. Tsk. Silly me.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Pachelbel Revisited

Funniest video I've seen in months--I was actually crying. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Weekly Dammit, #3

Slightly delayed this holiday week, but there are, of course, still Dammits to be had!

Dammit #1:
It's July; I'm sick. And not just the sniffling, headache-y sick, either. It's the full-blown, Kill-me-kill-me-now, NyQuil commercial-style sick. I had to cancel our Fourth of July festivities at the last minute and I have employed the electronic babysitter for the day. If I weren't so tired, I'd feel guilty about that.

Dammit #2:
That anyone (me, myself and I, included) could even pretend to feel shock and dismay at anything said or done by the Bush administration. We've watched as they lied us into war, subverted the Constitution, mocked the Geneva Conventions and marginalized Congress. And now, really?, we're going to be shocked, shocked, that Bush would consider excessive the penalty sought by a Bush-appointed prosecutor, handed down by a Bush-appointed judge, that was even in line with federal guidelines?

Dammit #3:
Some idiot politician feels a need to display his in-depth knowledge of pop-culture by bringing SLRG in to the Congressional "debate" over Scooter Libby. I don't know whether I'm more disturbed by the fact that I just mentioned SLRG and Congress in the same sentence or that a grown man still goes by the name of "Scooter," even after facing the semi (ok, the not-so)-real prospect of prison time.

Dammit #4:
I am simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by the fact that someone would eat 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Sure, it was for the title and a 10 thousand dollar prize, but still. I gained five pounds, maybe 6 and a half, just reading about the number of calories in 66 hot dogs (20,394).

Bonus Dammit!
The above story was on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News. Because, you know, there wasn't enough else that qualified as news worthy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Gates of Hell

No, no, this is not to describe our summer "vacation." Not yet, anyway.

Hannah is going to an art camp next month at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. We're to drop her off with the teacher near The Gates of Hell, one of the sculptures in the Rodin Sculpture Garden.

I can't be the only parent of a four-going-on-fourteen year old who thinks this is funny. Not to mention more than a little appropriate some days.

Monday, June 25, 2007

My Hannah B

It's difficult to get a good photo of Hannah these days, not because she isn't photogenic, but because she is and knows it. She also believes that every photo would be improved if one simpered, made scary faces or just posed in some other fashion. She dissolves immediately into the "I'm ready for my close up" mode the moment a camera appears on the horizon.

That makes me love photos like this (with our little friend Kyle), all the more:

I attribute it, at least in part to the super-fast camera* I got for my birthday; now I have at least half a chance of sneaking up on her. But she's also a beautiful kid, inside and out--it's nice to get to see it on film.

* More about that later.

The Weekly Dammit

Dammit #1:
Hannah's dance school is gearing up for the big recital. Ordinarily, this might not qualify as a "Dammit," but . . . . Yesterday was picture day. Today is the first rehearsal--at 6:00 PM. The second rehearsal is tomorrow at 6:00. Dress rehearsal is Wednesday at 6:00--full costume, including the big, curly hair. Charlotte has speech therapy at 1:00 and class from 2-4:15 and we're usually home by 4:45-5:00. It takes about an hour to get Hannah's very thick hair to hold a curl. You see where I'm going here--that's right: to the phone to ask my friend Sarah to drive 25 miles just to curl Hannah's hair while Charlotte is in class.

The shows are at 7:00 on Thursday. And Friday. And Saturday. And again on Sunday at the mercifully early hour of 3:00. After that, the $81 costume will be crammed into the dress up box. Charlotte already has dibs on the tutu.

Dammit #2:
It's going to be 115 degrees in Baghdad today. My brother-in-law is in Baghdad or thereabouts, and that, in and of itself, is a "Dammit" that I have promised not to touch. I'll just go with "We love you. Please be safe. And yes, I'll try to stop whining about it being 90 degrees here."

Dammit #3:
I'd like to go to Georgia to visit my sister and her daughters but I'm too chicken to spend five hours on a plane with the girls. It was bad enough on a 90 minute flight from Seattle--and Thomas was there!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

God Knows I Love Bono . . . .

But this was too funny to pass up:

Bono, the lead singer of the band U2, is famous throughout the entertainment industry for being more than just a little self-righteous.

At a recent U2 concert in Glasgow, Scotland, he asked the audience for total quiet. Then, in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands, once every few seconds.

Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone, "Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies."

A voice with a broad Scottish accent, from the front of the crowd, pierces the quiet ............. "Well, foockin stop doin it then!"

Urban Chickens

Did I forget to mention that we now have chickens? Real ones, as in pets, not dinner. Their names are Sophia and Zsu Zsu, and they should begin earning their keep as egg-layers in late August. They have a blog, Urban Chickens, but Thomas does most of the writing since they moved out of the house. There's a link in the sidebar, if you're interested in finding out what it's like to keep chickens in an urban setting.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reminder for My Chocoholic Friends

You know who you are, so don't make me name names.

I'm not terribly high maintenance. Aside from time with my family, there are few things that I want/need on a fairly regular basis. In no particular order: red meat (sorry, vegan friends), red wine, coffee, and chocolate. Actually, I'm lying; they are in ascending order. And coffee and chocolate are in more of a tie. But someone is trying to mess with my chocolate supply--the US produced portion of it, that is.

As I mentioned before, the US Chocolate Manufacturers Association has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration for permission to replace the cocoa butter in chocolate with vegetable solids. Instead of milk, they're asking to use whey, what's left after milk has been curdled and strained.

Please check out Don't Mess With Our Chocolate for info about the petition and how you can let the FDA know that you want your chocolate to be just that: chocolate. The public comment period ends June 25.

Otherwise, keep supporting the boutique brands (Gearhart's Chocolate comes to mind--and they ship! Full disclosure--I went to school with the chocolatier, before his chocolate days), or just increase your purchases of European chocolate. Belgian, Swiss, French--all good.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your children. For the love of god, do it for me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

And They're on the Loose

Ten minutes after I put the girls to bed, Charlotte walked into the kitchen with what sounded remarkably like a "Ta Da!" to announce that she had learned to climb out of her crib.

Upside: it's a testament to how well her physical therapy is going.

Downside: Charlotte learned to climb out of her crib.

Upside: Hannah "escaped" from her crib at 15 months (Charlotte is 2-1/2).

Downside: Now I have to duct tape them both to the bed.

Just kidding. We're fresh out.