Friday, May 30, 2008

Electricity is Over-rated

One night a couple of weeks ago the power went out. All I could hear was the ticking of the clock, the dog’s gentle snore and the faint sounds of traffic. I had only four candles and a hurricane lamp to light my pen and notebook and the six newly written pages of my book. "Peaceful" can't quite describe the feeling.

I forget how much noise and light we live with, just from the endless array of things that we plug in, their tiny blue lights and the soft sounds that only stop when the power goes out. The TV, the stereo receiver, the DVR, the DVD player/Mac-Mini, my computer, Thomas’ computer, the clocks on the oven and microwave, two alarm clocks in the bedroom, power strips, night lights in the bathroom and the girls room, the light behind the light switches, phone chargers, the refrigerator, the dryer because it usually needs to be emptied, ceiling fans . . .

Basically there is always something on, always demanding attention, however passively. Even after I turn out the lights and go to bed, these tiny little lights still twinkle like earth-bound stars. So with no power and everything finally and truly off, I felt calm. Peaceful. The tight ball of anxiety that usually lives in my chest loosened just a bit. I decided that the power could stay off all night.

Except that, just then, something just bit me.

Lights, please!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Wish I'd Written It . . .

Normally I don't promo products here--especially when I have absolutely zero knowledge of the product or the company. But I tripped over this ad/product narrative at today and, while it might sound like I wrote it, I didn't. Dammit. So really, I'm not promo-ing a product; just the writing. The product will have to speak for itself.

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Mini Two-Gig MicroSD

Uh, hey, tech engineers, scientists, and product designers? There’s something we’ve been meaning to talk to you about. We’re thinking it's time to find another project to work on. Please don’t make our memory media any smaller than these Dane-Elec 2GB MicroSD Cards.

We understand that you’ve had a blast figuring out how to cram more and more megabytes into fewer and fewer molecules. Unfortunately, the human hand and the human eye have their limits. We’re perfectly happy to save our data 2GB at a time to these teensy little MicroSD cards. The included adapters bulk ‘em up so they’ll fit into SD card slots and be visible to the naked eye. Alas, you’ll have to use your own tweezers and loupe to get them into the adapters. We can’t imagine any possible reason for making them smaller, unless Dane-Elec decides to go after the lucrative, untapped gnome market.

Sure, it’d be theoretically awesome to save the entire recorded works of the Beatles on a grain of sand, or to load GTA IV from a single silicon atom, or to save all of your daughter’s baby pictures to one of her eyelashes. But since people aren’t getting any smaller (senior citizens and Kirstie Alley excepted), it seems to us that your prodigious talents are better spend pursuing other secrets. Like, say, teleportation. Then you could live in Bermuda and instantly commute to work in Pittsburgh. Or eternal life. That’d be useful. The point is, you needn’t concern yourself with shrinking our memory media anymore. We’ve got these Dane-Elec 2GB MicroSD Cards. We’re good.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chicken Press

Over the weekend Urban Chickens Sophia and Zsu Zsu had a visit from Michael Procopio, food blogger for the San Francisco Examiner. Not only were the chickens on their best behavior, but Sophia was thoughtful enough to lay an egg just about half and hour before Michael arrived.

The column includes some nice close-ups, including one of their business ends--and c'mon, you know you've always wanted a (sorry, couldn't be avoided) birds' eye view of the business end of a chicken. Or is that a smidge too much of "knowing where your food comes from"?

So go, go! Read Michael's column (Urban Chickens: Do-it-yourself Hen Party) in the San Francisco Examiner! As if seeing the chickens weren't enough, the column is funny and I love the way he writes.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Return of the $54 Million Pants

Last summer I wrote a post about a DC administrative judge who was suing a dry cleaner for 54 million dollars because they lost his pants.

At issue was a two-word sign on the counter: Satisfaction Guaranteed.

They lost his pants, so he wanted satisfaction: the cost of the pants plus compensation for his "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort."

Apparently never having heard the old axiom "a man who represents himself has a fool for a client," Judge Roy Pearson included in his opening statement a smidge of rhetoric: ". . . never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices."

Fortunately he lost, though for the owners of the dry-cleaner it was a phyrric victory as they spent more than 80,000$ on legal fees. (Pearson was ordered to pay the court costs, separate from legal fees.) And fortunately for us, but unfortunately for Mr Pearson, the commission that decides whether to reappoint administrative judges was meeting around that time. Surprise! He lost his job a couple of months after the case ended.

Fast forward one year and Surprise! Roy Pearson is suing the District of Columbia for the loss of his job. It's only a million dollars this time, but God only knows who he'll sue for the loss of his marbles.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fact or Fiction?

Yesterday when I picked Hannah up from school her teacher was busy making a birthday crown. For Hannah. Whose birthday is in October. This is not the first time she’s told people a bit of a tall tale: So far this school year, Hannah has had at least three birthdays; I have given birth four times—once to twin boys; we went to Hollywood so Hannah could audition for a movie; and she used to have a brother, but he died when he was twelve. And these are just the doozies.

As you may have guessed, Hannah has a tough time differentiating between fact and fiction. That or she’s already figured out that fiction is often way more entertaining. Assuming that her flights of fancy don’t hurt anyone or result in a visit from CPS, I don’t want to crush that spirit. So now whenever I’m not entirely sure about a story (or even sometimes if I’m absolutely certain that it’s not true), I’ll just ask if it’s the truth or her imagination. This worked for a while but now she has started adding “For real Mom!” to the end of pretty much everything.

So as we walked home, pink birthday crown set jauntily on her head, I decided that it was time that Hannah heard the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I even gave her both endings, first “and the wolf ate him” followed by the more benign, Disneyfied version that has Peter running all the way home, the wolf snapping at his heels. “And he never lied again.”

I let it sink in for a minute before asking if she knew what the moral of the story was.

“Well . . . I think probably that he should never go up that mountain again.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Doodle 4 Google

Doh! How did I miss this?

Yesterday Google announced the winner of this year's Doodle 4 Google contest, in which kids in grades K-12 are challenged to design a Google logo around a particular theme. I love the overall winner, but--even without seeing the K-3 winner, I'm pretty sure that Hannah could have cleaned up in that age group. (Why yes, I am a tad biased. Does it show?)

The Grand Prize for the overall winner, 6th grader Grace (Suryung) Moon, was a 10,000$ scholarship and a 25,000$ technology grant for her school. The winner in each grade group gets a laptop computer.

Someone remind me about this next year. Our school could use that technology grant.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sit Down and Shut Up!

No, not you. This is for the sub-human morons who are applauding the fact that Ted Kennedy has what is most likely a fatal brain tumor. Assholes. I wouldn't wish that on Karl Rove or Dick Cheney.

Oh, and thanks for making me boost my cuss-o-meter.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Weekly Dammit, #26

Charlotte's MRI is over, done and clean (more later, because that is definitely not a dammit). My funk is gone (connection?). The Weekly Dammit is back.

Dammit #1:

Throughout the war in Iraq, the Bush administration's advice to We the People was, essentially, to not bother our pretty little heads over it and oh by the way, how about a nice shopping spree. So all this time, while I've been thinking W a doofus, an idiot, a dolt and worse, it never occurred to me that, though he never asked for anything from us, he had quietly been making his own sacrifice: He gave up golf.

Dammit #2:
I can't sign Hannah up for any of the Redwood City summer camps that her friends are going to because she won't be six until October. The camps are geared toward incoming first graders and older, but rules are rules and Hannah is still five. The lovely people at registration did suggest that I put her in one (or more!) of the Pollywogs camps. With the three- to five-year olds. Thanks, but I'm going to give our camp funds to the Cantor Arts Center again.

Dammit #3:
The Gmail blog announced this month that they've been working to get the mail to load faster. Which explains why mine takes three times longer than it used to, when signing on and when trying to refresh. Of course, I probably don't need to refresh since it will do it on its own eventually, but I like the little thrill of anticipation--maybe there will be something new! exciting! profitable! there.

Dammit #4:
Argus has taken to sleeping on our bed again.

Dammit #5:
Charlotte just washed her hands using an entire bottle of soap. While I"m happy that she takes her personal hygiene so seriously, I think that 7.5 ounces of soap might be overkill.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Random Question of the Week

Originally, the question was "How long can one go without writing one's book before one has to stop saying that one is writing a book?"

Instead the question has become: "If one is constantly composing lines, paragraphs and chapters in one's head, does that still count as writing the book even if those lines, paragraphs and chapters don't always make it on to paper?"

I'm going to break tradition and actually answer this one: "Yes!"

Because I feel like less of a slacker that way.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Bonus Dammit, #25-1/2

Dammit #1:
The San Jose Sharks fired Ron Wilson yesterday. He's won more games than any other Sharks coach and, with 518 wins overall, is eighth in NHL history. Good move.

Dammit #2:
Reading an article in the Washington Post today about the racist attitudes faced by many of Obama's supporters and campaign workers, I couldn't decide which of my reactions was the worst and/or most naive: 1) Shock, that this still happens; 2) Dismay, that this is one of the attitudes being exploited with comments like "hard working, white Americans." By other Democrats; or 3) Fear, of what some are capable of when they are unable to tolerate difference and change.

I've decided to crush those thoughts under my overwhelming joy that, whatever the outcome of the Democratic convention, we are going to have either an African American president, or a woman. So that's the anti-Dammit.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Dammit, #25

Dammit #1:
That this was an actual, not-trying-to-be-funny (I think) headline in the Washington Post today: "Americans Losing Confidence in Current Leadership."

Dammit #2:
The military junta in control of Myanmar/Burma is seizing the food, water, building supplies and money sent into the country to help those devastated by the cyclone. In some cases they seem to be taking it for themselves, in others to make sure that they are seen as the benevolent rescuers of their people. Some wealthy citizens have reported that they have been prevented from helping their fellow countrymen. The only upside of this is that many of the Burmese people seem to be on to them.

Dammit #3:
Between scheduling summer camps for Hannah, swim classes for Charlotte, a trip to Virginia in June (!) and trying not to worry about Charlotte's MRI, I haven't had much time for Dammits lately. That might seem like a good thing, but I kind of like the Dammits, if only because they're a sign that I'm getting outside of myself. Sure, that's not all that I look for in life, but you can't always write about sunshine and roses; someone is bound to want to punch you. Dammit.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Gollum Lives in My Gym

Gollum lives in my gym, hiding behind her iPod Nano
The elliptical cringes under the relentless desperation
As her legs pump obsessively. The rate never slows
Except to change direction

Gollum’s precious is no longer the ring
Slipped from bony finger, betrayed by howl and shriek
No. Precious is now the noontime shadow
With whom she furiously competes

Gollum lives in my gym, hiding behind her iPod Nano

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Dammit, #24

I'm dropping "Weekly" from the title until I can get my act together and once again start posting this one, well, weekly. Dammit. It's been awhile, so let's get right to it:

Dammit #1:
Magic Wands. The little man still won't (can't?) face the very obvious fact that the economy is in the tank, or that gas prices are hurting a lot of people who don't have access financial resources on par with his own, or that he is now the lowest-rated president in history. (That last one is in part because he believes that, while history will judge his actions, actual presidential historians have no idea what they're talking about or comparing him to.) So what's a poor imbecile to do? Suggest that, if he had one, he might wave the very magic wand which would have kept his core constituency from voting for him in the first place.

Dammit #2:
On the Obama/Rev. Wright issue: People across the country are, at the least, uncomfortable with and at the at the worst, vilifying Barack Obama for not denouncing his former pastor's controversial comments sooner. But after 9/11, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blamed the attack on pagans, gays, lesbians, secularists, the ACLU, abortionists and feminists. George Bush eventually declared the comments “inappropriate.” He was slower still to respond to conservative commentator Robert Knight, who laid the blame for Abu Gharib on many of the same groups, and, for good measure, tossed in the porn industry and the military for allowing women in combat zones.

I’ve heard many people say that Obama should be held to a higher standard because he is a history-making candidate and (yes, still) probable Presidential nominee. But why is he held to a higher standard than the current President of the U.S, who had also made history by virtue of being one of the most disliked, distrusted, polarizing presidents we’ve ever had?

Dammit #3:
Charlotte is having an MRI in two weeks. Her appointment time is 1:30 p.m. Because this has to be done under general anesthesia, she can't have any food after midnight, or liquids six hours prior to the procedure. 13+ hours with no food for a three year old. Dammit. That she has to have an MRI: double Dammit. That it's under general anesthesia: triple (or more) Dammit.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Love the Skin You're In

My favorite sister-in-law has many times remarked that she wished for skin like mine. Flattering, but embarrassing, as I’ve always taken it for granted and never given much thought, or wasted much time or money on it. For years my “regimen” was soap and water. I rarely wear makeup and when I do I generally forget to wash it off before I go to bed. But not so long ago I woke up to find that Mother Time had sambaed her way across my face, leaving tiny footprints under my eyes. And with the approach of what will be my fifth California summer, my freckles have banded together on their yearly trek across my cheekbones and nose, this time inviting along several of their heretofore-unknown relatives.

I don’t mind, very much, these subtle signs of aging, but it is disconcerting to still feel 20-ish (29, to be exact) and see an almost-40 year old in the mirror. Stranger still, The Pet Shop Boys, REM and myriad other bands from my youth are now officially antiques. And my 20-year high school reunion allegedly took place last summer.

Recently I’ve upped the amount of time and money I spend dermatologically and have had a couple of professional facials. As a result I have switched to an SPF 15 moisturizer, though at my last visit the esthetician told me that 1) I need to switch again to an SPF 30; 2) I need a moisturizer with vitamins (80$ an ounce from the spa); 3) an intensive moisturizer for my eye area might help with my "laugh" lines (100$ an ounce); 4) my freckles, though charming, are becoming more prominent; and 5) a big hat might be a good investment. I knew most of this already but it didn’t change the fact that the eyebrow burning I got from Elizabeth Arden* was probably less painful than hearing it put so bluntly.

It must appear that I’m not taking this aging thing gracefully, but I really don’t mind it so much. When I was very young I never thought I’d live to see 33 (and no, I don’t know why 33). But my 30s have been very good to me and I’ve never once wished to relive my teenage years. I have much more to show for my not-so-many-after all years than a few lines and blotches, though as I fully expect to live at least another 38 years, I’m sure I’ll revisit the blotches-and-lines issue at least once more.

So to my sister-in-law I say, “Congratulations! You have your wish.” But I must add that I’ve always loved your freckles. Now if only I may grow to have half your goodness and generosity and humor, I’ll be happy indeed.

* Not personally, but that is the name on the door.