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.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Weekly Dammit

New feature! I thought that I'd try to consolidate some of little annoyances into one weekly post instead of agonizing over whether they were, separately, bloggable. These are not earth-shaking issues, just relatively minor annoyances. They don't even qualify for an f-bomb, so (probably) no current events--and, yes, I'm taking bets on how long that will last.

Dammit #1:
San Jose Mercury News: Citing the drop in readership and ad revenue, the San Jose Mercury News has decided to stop publishing Perspective, the Sunday op-ed section. They will keep the two page spread in the daily paper that includes about five short columns plus 8-10 letters from readers. None of whom, apparently, read the Sunday section. To boost revenue, the Merc is expanding the the Tech section from a weekly to a daily. So get your geek on!

I know that some consider the age of the printed word to have passed, but I'm not one of those people. While I do read several newspapers online whenever I get the chance, I love the morning ritual of coffee and the paper then breakfast, and the fact that Hannah and Charlotte also like to "read" the paper with breakfast. (And that's just the newspaper--for me, the smell of a new, freshly printed book ranks up there with the smell of chocolate chip cookies, hot from the oven.)

God help us if Macy's ever goes out of business; their incessant sales must be responsible for more than half of the ad revenue in the Mercury News and who knows how many other papers.

Dammit #2:
The Washington Post does not deliver to my area.

Dammit #3:
Studio 60 is still being canceled. I know I've whined about this before, but NBC is in the process of burning off the final episodes, which just further rams home the point that they no longer have the guts to give a scripted show a chance. Especially when they can use the time slot for another piece of "Realicrap TV." The final shows are on Thursday nights now; you can also watch them online.

Dammit #4:
Possibly to mess with those of us who prefer TiVo to sitting through commercials, NBC and other stations are screwing with the scheduled start and end times of some shows. Not all the time, but enough to make you miss the final minutes of certain shows. Time changes are often noted in the schedules posted online.

Dammit #5:
The Series 3 TiVo-HD runs about $800 from TiVo, though you can get it from Costco for $600. Which means we'll be waiting a while before upgrading. Read Thomas's posts on the Direct TV DVR and you'll know why we're going back to TiVo--eventually.

I guess that's enough for one week. And look, Ma! No politics!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Girl Power

This morning, Hannah told me that there was a monster in the room and that she wanted to shoot it with an arrow. Except that only boys could be archers.

This is a conversation we've had a few times. I blame it on the Disney princess movies, and I blame myself for letting her watch them. We talk about how Mulan was a soldier and fought the Huns, how Belle stood up to the Beast, and on and on. But somehow, her takeaway is that princesses need to be saved by princes, notwithstanding my reminders that:

"Mulan saved the captain AND the Emperor AND China!"

"Belle saved her father AND the Beast!"

So this morning, when she said "only boys can be archers," I told her that girls can do anything that boys can do--except pee standing up.

Thomas assures me that he has a friend who can teach her to do that, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

So Just How Litigious Are We? Or, The $54 Million Dollar Pants

Hannah has her first dance recital in a couple of weeks and her costume requires big, curly hair. Hannah's hair is straight, so I bought a curling iron, something I haven't owned since high school. Packaged together with the curling iron was a card warning that the curling iron was a burn hazard and to keep it away from children. That part I understand. But on the reverse was "CAUTION--THIS PRODUCT CAN BURN EYES."

No really, look:

There can only be one reason that notice was required: Someone tried to curl her eyelashes. And got burned. And then sued because someone should have mentioned that sticking a hot piece of metal in your eye might hurt.

This got me thinking about what's been called the year's most frivolous lawsuit:

A former administrative law judge, Roy Pearson, is suing the owners of a Washington, DC, dry cleaner because they lost his pants. His 54 million dollar pants. He claims that these pants were part of a $1,100 suit. The rest of the $54 million is for his pain and suffering. No attorney fees since he's representing himself. And no, it does not appear that the judge required any type of psychiatric screening before allowing the lawsuit to go forward.

Technically, the case isn't about the pants. It's that the dry cleaner didn't live up to their satisfaction guarantee. As reported by Marc Fisher, live blogging the trial,

"Pearson told the defense lawyer that if the tables were turned and he were in the place of the Chung family, the owners of the Northeast Washington cleaners who purportedly lost Pearson's pants, he would have immediately written a check for $1,150--the replacement value of the Hickey Freeman suit to which the pants belonged--to provide the satisfaction that the store's "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign promised.

It took more than 10 minutes and numerous attempts by both Manning and Judge Judith Bartnoff to get Pearson to answer a question about whether anyone has the right to walk into any cleaners and claim $1,150 simply by saying that their suit had been lost. Finally, Pearson said that the law requires that "The merchant would have an obligation to honor their demand."

"So your answer is Yes?" Manning asked.

"Yes," Pearson said." "

Not to be cynical, but it's only June. Calling this the year's most frivolous lawsuit is just begging for someone to top it. Any takers?

Only in America, baby.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blogging: Help or Hinderance in the Job Search?

So I've been thinking about going back to work. To an actual "in-house" (as in, "out of my house") job. Truth be told, I'm beyond the "thinking about" stage and even past the "going on an interview" stage. That's right, I already did it: my first interview in six years. It went as well as you might expect, with little flakes of rust and wisps of dust flying here and there.

If I can remember back that far, job interviews are like first dates:

Pre-date jitters? Check
Worried about saying the wrong thing? Check
Afraid they'll Google you and read your blog? Ok, so that one hadn't come up before (my last "first date" was 11 years ago).

But what to do when you write a blog that, because of its personal nature--not to mention the occasional typo--is bound to offend some prospective employers? Over the past year I've written about the girls, the dog, the dog spelled backwards, the war in Iraq, the current administration, hockey, selling a house, buying a house, landscaping, girly girls, the mommy wars, my first visit to Yosemite, traveling with small children, BlogHer, the 2006 Nobel Peace prize, farting dogs, the Panoz Esperante GT, a plea for donations for Charlotte's school and a host of other topics.

Blog For Jobs, a site for people who, well, blog for jobs, says that "blogs can give employers insight into a person’s writing ability and how one thinks." But they also go on to quote experts who opine that, to use your blog in your job search, "it’s critical to focus your topics on your industry and highlight what you know." By that logic, one might think that I'm pretty much screwed.

But I'm a writer (please note: not an expert proofreader). I used to make a living exclusively as a copywriter, but I've branched out. The blog is already out there, so if I'm Googled, well, there it is. Hopefully, prospective employers would use it to get an idea of my writing ability and not hold my opinions against me. Besides, the blog also showcases some of the things one might not put on a resume: mild sarcasm and a good sense of humor come to mind.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Are You Stupid?

No, no--I'm not asking you! You, of course, are brilliant. And very attractive.

But Dictionary.com asked me that question when I foolishly decided to double check the meaning of a word (actually the nuance between "despot" and "dictator," if you must know):

Ads by Google
Are You Stupid?
Can't Find Answers? Take the Quiz. Find out if You're Stupid!

So to answer: I didn't think so before, but now I do feel a little stupid, thanks.

Perhaps Google and Dictionary.com need to work on their ad placement?

Or maybe I just need to use another reference. Until my skin thickens up a bit, anyway.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Presidential Debate Fun!

From an article in the New York Times on tonight's Republican presidential debate:

"Several candidates were also asked about ways they, in office, would put George W. Bush to work as a former president. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin quipped, “I certainly would not send him to the United Nations," which stirred some slightly awkward laughter from the audience. He then said he would send Mr. Bush “out on a lecture series talking to the youth of America” to talk about honesty and integrity." (emphasis added)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hannah Strikes Again

Yesterday was my birthday.

I was feeling okay about turning 38 (Yikes!), okay enough that I didn't bother with the "Oh, I'll be 29. Again."

Until Hannah and I went to pick out my birthday cake.

We went to Pamplemousse in downtown Redwood City. They serve lunch, but the main attraction is what's in the dessert case. The unbelievably gorgeous confections are all as good--if not better--than they look. If you live in town and haven't been yet, you must go. If you're not in town, it's well worth the drive.

As I was asking about the availability of certain cakes, Hannah kindly informed the staff that it was my birthday. And as I was paying for the luscious triple chocolate mousse cake, she volunteered the information that "Mommy is 80 years old today."


The woman helping us, thinking that Hannah had said "eighteen," congratulated me on having such a sweet little girl.

I told her that, had she actually said "eighteen," Hannah would have been given another cookie. But since she said "eighty" (though there are days when I feel that old), Hannah was instead grounded. Until I turn 81.