Thursday, February 24, 2005

Dean = Gingrich?

Here is a link to an article by my old grad school professor, for whom I maintain an ongoing non-sexual, non-political, 100%-intellectual crush. He is one of the smartest and most well-read people I have ever met, and certainly holds the singular honor of being my best experience under the tutelage of a Republican.

Jim Pinkerton Rocks.

Jim Pinkerton at Newsday

Hung Like a Norse

Friends, I just came across an article from The Guardian from October 2004. The article discusses an academic work of tremendous import to our world. It is an ouevre that will join works such as Marx's Communist Manifesto, Euclid's Elements, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations as a truly epochal work that will reverberate geo-socio-politically for generations.

I will let the first paragraph of the newspaper article speak for itself:

"Being hung like a Norse was key to social hierarchy and being considered a real man in 10th-century Icelandic society, according to a new paper, Size Matters: Penile Problems in Sagas of Icelanders, presented to the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, England, this week" by Carl Phelpstead.

Thank G-d for this, um, seminal work. One can only begin to imagine the literally *tens* of people's lives that have been affected by this paper. I myself have often pondered not only Icelandic Sagas in general but whether the protagonists in those sagas had performance and size anxiety regarding their genitalia. And finally someone has answered this most pressing question. On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you, Dr. Phelpstead.

Now--about that cure for cancer....

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Take a Pill

Okay, so the writer's block has lifted. I am working, sadly, and the TV is on in the background. I have, I kid you not, just seen the most insane commercial ever. It is for "Altovis" and it begins thusly: "Life requires energy, and too many people suffer from fatigue as a result of too much work, too little sleep, life pressures...etc etc." (That's a paraphrase, but it's pretty accurate).

Okay, let me get this straight. There is a pill for FATIGUE! Not Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, not chemo-induced, anemia-related fatigue. Nope. Just "fatigue." More hysterically, the commercial goes on to say, "Symptoms of fatigue include tiredness, irritability, inability to focus..." I pretty much laughed out loud at that because it describes most of us most of the time. We are all fatigued. It may be stupid, but it did give me an idea for making tons of money: I'm going to sell EPpes-Essen (yiddish for "something to eat").

EPpes Essen is available only by prescription (written by me), and sold (by me) to the consumer at a low, low cost. My commercials will start with, "Too many people go to work hungry, do housework while hungry, cook dinner while hungry, usually from not eating enough. But now there's EPpes Essen; it's a new drug for people who can't get through a day without suffering from hunger. Symptoms of hunger include lightheadedness, tummy rumbling, irritability and bad breath. This trailblazing new product, sometimes known by its generic name "food" will revolutionize the way Americans treat their hunger. Ask your doctor whether EPpes Essen is right for you..."

Who wants to invest?!

I'm Phoning This One In

Y'all. I ain't feelin' it today, so I am offering up the last resort of the writer's blocked: Quotes. Yup. Quotes. A little something for you to read, but nothing I've had to write on my own. Maybe I should re-spin this to be more of a "compiled by SSHaggis," but I think you'd see right through that. Anyway, enjoy. And happy president's day.

(I do promise that none of these quotes are by eminent quotees like Anne Coulter or Bob Dornan; this is a family blog after all.)

Love cures people, both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.
Dr. Karl Menninger

Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that...
George Carlin

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.

Herm Albright

If it's very painful for you to criticize your friends - you're safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that's the time to hold your tongue.
Alice Duer Miller

Never judge someone by who he's in love with; judge him by his friends. People fall in love with the most appalling people. Take a cool, appraising glance at his pals.

Cynthia Heimel

People need loving the most when they deserve it the least.
John Harrigan

I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me.
Dave Barry

I don't believe in an after life, although I am bringing a change of underwear.
Woody Allen

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
John Kenneth Galbraith

Thursday, February 17, 2005

My Unhappy Happy Hour

I am tempted to write an entire "What Not To Say" post, but I think that the majority of people probably don't need to be told that behavior such as I'm about to share with you is not only beyond comprehension but beyond rude.

I was at a happy hour tonight where we were all toasting each other's various successes and joys in life. So the toasts came around to me and everyone started asking about the process of the adoption, yadda yadda. So I made some quick comment about how the homestudy was not as bad as I had anticipated, and how the social worker visits your house and checks you out. To which one of the women there responded, "Oh my god, they totally did that when I adopted my dog! They wouldn't let us take the dog from the shelter until they had done a home visit! I couldn't believe it! I totally understand how nerve racking that was for you because we were so nervous that they wouldn't give us the dog!"

You've got to be f*&&%%% kidding me with this, right?

What part of me telling you about my daughter reminds you of the time you rescued a DOG? If we were toasting my pregnancy, you wouldn't have jumped in with "Yay you're pregnant! And so is my dog!" The two things don't go together in the least. And yet me adopting my child is somehow comparable in your head to the time you adopted an ANIMAL? (Not that animals aren't valued and loved members of a family, but one generally does not equate a woman's childbirth--to her face--with a dog's litter of puppies.)

I just looked at her and gave one of those, "I think you may be speaking Urdu right now, because I have no comprehension of what you just said." Another woman across the table gave me a "wow" look, which made me feel better; like I'm not just being oversensitive. The conversation moved on, but I was irritated for the rest of the "happy" hour because she was so dumb that it clearly didn't occur to her what she had just said.

I turned it over and over in my mind, trying to figure out if it is the word "adopt," as in "adopt a highway," "adopt a poor family at Christmas," "adopt a pet" that created the equation in her mind. Then I thought it was "home study" or whatever. And then my friend L explained it perfectly: "Some people just like to talk about themselves and will take any opening in a conversation to create a connection that allows them to hijack it and point it towards themselves; it had nothing to do with her thinking your child is a dog or that you are "rescuing" her from a shelter. She just wanted to make the conversation all about her, since she wasn't getting toasted by anyone."

Amen. So I am now off my hyper-vigilant DefCon1 stance, but I still hope I know her when she decides to have kids. Because, you know, by then I'll have a dog... :)

On a Lighter Note...Let's Talk Black

When did black become more than one color?

I ask because I am wearing black leather knee boots, black nylons, a tweedy/houndstoothy skirt with black, brown and green elements, a black turtleneck sweater and a v. cool denim jacket with a nice sparkly brooch.

I got dressed this AM, looked in the mirror and thought, "Rowwrrr, baby! You are a vixen!" Not really. I actually thought, "Wow, my butt doesn't look as big in this skirt as I thought it would..."

So anyway. I leave the house to come to work and all of a sudden realize around mid-commute: I look homeless. You know what I mean? How homeless people wear every piece of apparel they own no matter what the style, color, temperature or season? As it turned out in the cold light of day, my black leather boots are blacker than my nylons to the extent that now my nylons look kind of navyish-black. My skirt now looks funny against the nylons, and the black of my turtleneck is a more "flat" (no jokes please!) black than the more vibrant black in the skirt and the boots. To wit, I am essentially wearing four different colors in one outfit and I am now only an empty shopping cart away from looking truly destitute.

Surely fashion cannot be this complicated! I didn't even get dressed in the dark! I swear! How can I wear four black garments and have none of them match?! I'd say that the solution is to start wearing brown instead, but don't even get me started on the 6 gajillion ways that could go...

Early Mother's Day

The Standard

The above article talks about the one child policy in China, the current steep legal consequences to having unauthorized children and perhaps a hope for some change in that regard. It talks about the challenges facing women who know they are carrying a girl.

As I read the article, all I could feel was overwhelming gratitude to my daughter’s birthmother for bringing her into the world. Indeed, as the date to adopt my daughter comes ever closer, and as my love for her deepens exponentially with each passing day, I find myself thinking a lot about her birthmother and what she must have felt to give her up.

I have not yet met my daughter, have not yet breathed in that magical “baby smell” that all little ones have and that connects them to you elementally; I have not yet dried her tears—or caused her any! And yet I simply cannot imagine my life without her. Can’t bear the thought that anything will get in the way of the official start to our life together. Can’t bring myself to think that there will be bad weather on the flight day, that we’ll miss the connecting flight, that there will be a typhoon, a traffic jam, a power outage, a swarm of locusts and frogs, anything, anything that will come between me and my daughter. I know right now as I sit here that no one and no thing and no force on earth is going to be a match for me once the trip is underway. We will get there. We will become a family.

And I haven’t even met her.

So--what of her birthmother? The woman who gave birth to her and held her in her arms before letting her go? I have no idea whether she was 16 or 36, rural or urban, married or unmarried. What I do know is that she committed an act of bravery that most of us in the West cannot even begin to fathom. First, she got pregnant and carried her baby to term, even though there are penalties for an unauthorized pregnancy and multiple, coerced opportunities to end it. Secondly, she risked arrest and prosecution for then ‘abandoning’ the baby in a place where she was sure to be found within minutes, but that therefore magnified her own risk of being seen and reported to the authorities. All the way to the end, she risked her own safety and wellbeing to make sure her daughter would be found and have a chance at a better life.

It is tempting when adopting to want to erase any mention of your child’s origins because some part of you wishes those origins had started with YOU and you feel some low level of discomfort and threat about some other person for whom your child may have feelings or questions or longings. I don’t. I just, simply, feel gratitude.

Where could I even start to give thanks to this woman? What words could I possibly put together to do her actions justice without romanticizing them? I wondered what prayers I could offer up to bring her peace and comfort in her moments of wondering where her baby is now.

I have thought about her a lot, trying to put myself in her shoes. I have not yet met my daughter and I already know that the combined forces of heaven and hell could not separate me from her, that there is no landscape too far, too high, too scary, too deep that I would not traverse to keep her safe.

And then I realized that that must be exactly what her birthmother felt. She took incredible chances with her own future to ensure her daughter’s future. She traversed those scary landscapes to ensure her daughter’s future. From her actions, it seems to me that she possessed the essential elements required for motherhood except the ability to keep a daughter.

She has no name and no face, but she has my profound respect and gratitude.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Swing Closed "The Gates"

This is the part of the program where I look like a classless redneck philistine.

What the hell is going on with The Gates? Surely you know the art installation of which I speak... It's the series of orange curtain-type things that wend their way through Central Park in New York City.

Get the full experience here:

In the midst of all the breathless reviews, I found this one that absolutely captured my thoughts on the subject:

rmk28: "Art? What is the difference between the washermen (the dhobi) in Varanasi, India, who hang a river of bright saris to dry along the banks of the Ganges, at one millionth of the cost, and Christo's orange laundry? To paraphrase Andy Warhol, Art is my friend in Brooklyn."

I had a similar moment my junior year of college when the movie "My Own Private Idaho" was screened on campus. I went to the movie with a bunch of friends who absolutely gushed at its conclusion about "how meaningful" and "what a tour de force" it was. I just kind of thought it was weird and boring.

Same with The Gates. I don't get it. Perhaps that makes me a misanthropic neanderthal? Perhaps that makes me stupid? I don't know. I don't get the appeal of 7,500 orange curtains in what is already a beautiful park. It doesn't seem artistic to me; I just kind of think it is weird and boring.

Artistes of the world, the phone lines are open for your flames...

Pardon My French

Pardon my French, but I am a d**khead. Pure and simple. Remember my little post a few days ago ranting about how the French were different and annoying? Well, I just got my prejudices served up to me on a silver platter and jammed down my throat in the worst comeuppance I’ve had in a long time.

I had it coming.

What was my point the other day? That I called the French consulate and got...a French person? A person who may have different cultural norms than me? A person who, let’s face it, works for a government and so may be no more or no less polite than someone who works for ANY government. In fact, if I take my mind back to 1980 at the American Embassy in London, where my family was getting our visas to move to the USA, I remember thinking about the woman behind the plexiglass, “she is being such a cow to us.” So—even American embassy people are rude, if I am honest. What did I expect would be different about a government worker in France?

The reason my slightly tongue-in-cheek but honestly felt rant is now bothering me is because of what I overheard in the office kitchen yesterday. Three women were talking about a recipe. That recipe called for an ingredient you’d find at an Asian market. One of them said, “Oh I’ve been to an Asian market in Arlington. It’s fine once you get past all of the Asian people.” To which the other replied, “I know! Those foreigners travel in packs and they just walk around aimlessly jibber-jabbering.”

As the current (soon to be legal) mother of a Chinese-born child, it was all I could do to not turn around and let ‘er rip on those women. I was standing there wondering what to say. In the end I walked out, certain that what I was feeling had less to do with wanting to educate those women so that my daughter will have an easier life, and more to do with being embarrassed that I myself have done the same thing about other cultures.

If I had wanted to make it a funny chastisement I could have said, “So let me get this straight. You went to an Asian market and found the people there to be Asian. You found their customs to be Asian. You found their cultural norms to be Asian, rather than just like your own, Mrs. White-Waspywoman. How shocking that must have been for you! I don’t blame you for thinking they’re all crazy.” But I skulked off back to my desk because I knew that that is what I had done about the consulate and the visa just days earlier. I had called France and then got offended and irritated that I had to deal with a French person who has a different sense of conversational style and social convention than my own. What was my problem?!

I have seen this happen more times than I can recall, on the Jewish-Gentile side. One woman I dealt with at a client site said, “My donors are all New York Jews, so they are really high maintenance, as you can imagine.” She said it like the three things just naturally and empirically go together: Jews, New York, high-maintenance. She failed to mention that she is from North Carolina, and all of her donors are over the age of 65. Notwithstanding the differing speech patterns and senses of propriety of New Yorkers vs. North Carolina, could it be that the high-maintenance issues were a result of perhaps another factor like age? Or a combination of all of the above? Again, it was a question of, “I know they are from a different culture, but why do they have to be SO different? If they could be just a little more like me, I’d feel much more comfortable.”

Perhaps what concerned me the most about the snap judgments those ladies made in the kitchen was that they definitely focused on the racial/nationality aspect of their experience. That woman had no idea whether all of “the Asians” or "foreigners" in that store had been born in Beijing, Bangkok, Boise or Boston. All she saw were many people with almond eyes--and they all just became “a bunch of Asians.” Not people. Not Americans who don’t happen to look like her. Just “Asians” as if that word even means anything substantive more than “Hispanic.” There are more than 50 distinct ethnicities in China alone; some Jewish, some Muslim, some Buddhist, some Christian, some not associated with any famous world religions at all. Some “Asians” look Russian. Some Russians look “Asian.” Some Chinese kids have curly hair. Some Asians are mistaken for Latinos (just ask my Vietnamese friend who is constantly chatted up by men in Spanish).

What’s my point? My point, I guess, is that people who judge people's ethnicity and/or race based on 1950's-era "appearance" benchmarks are going to be wildly wrong a majority of the time. How many anti-Jewish remarks do you think I've heard simply because I don't "look Jewish"? More than I'd like to remember.

Which means I have a job to do.

My job is to stop falling into the trap of lumping all French people or all Chinese or all Scottish people together, as if they don’t exist as individuals. And I’m going to try to do a better job of having a stock answer for incidents in the office kitchen that gently and humorously point out the essential absurdity of most race- or ethnicity-based stereotypes. Much the same way I have worked hard to get people to stop saying things like “what do the Jews think? What do Jews eat?” by reminding them of the old adage, “Two Jews; three opinions;” I want to work toward an America where someone sees my daughter as a young woman and does NOT ask her if she speaks Chinese (only as a third language behind Spanish, and as a way to get a kickin' job in the new world economy), is a Buddhist (Jewish all the way), or thinks, “Asian women are submissive” (my daughter will kick your ass), “I’ll bet she’s a terrible driver” (she’ll be no worse than her fluorescently white mother), or “I’ll bet she hangs out at Asian markets making my search for a can of lychees a terrible ordeal.”

Friday, February 11, 2005

If Airlines Sold Paint

I saw this on a message board discussing international flights for adoptions. There was no author attribution, but if you know who did it, I'll add their name to this post to make sure they are credited. Because this is right on the mark for every single conversation I seem to have had recently:

Customer: Hi. How much is your paint?
Clerk: Well, sir, that all depends on quite a lot of things.
Customer: Can you give me a guess? Is there an average price?
Clerk: Our lowest price is $12 a gallon, and we have 60 different
prices up to $200 a gallon.
Customer: What's the difference in the paint?
Clerk: Oh, there isn't any difference; it's all the same paint.
Customer: Well, then I'd like some of that $12 paint.
Clerk: When do you intend to use the paint?
Customer: I want to paint tomorrow. It's my day off.
Clerk: Sir, the paint for tomorrow is the $200 paint.
Customer: When would I have to paint to get the $12 paint?
Clerk: You would have to start very late at night in about 3 weeks.
But you will have to agree to start painting before Friday of that week
and continue painting until at least Sunday.
Customer: You've got to be *&%#@* kidding!
Clerk: I'll check and see if we have any paint available.
Customer: You have shelves FULL of paint! I can see it!
Clerk: But it doesn't mean that we have paint available. We sell
only a certain number of gallons on any given weekend. Oh, and by the way, the price per gallon just went to $16. We don't have any more $12 paint.
Customer: The price went up as we were talking?
Clerk: Yes, sir. We change the prices and rules hundreds of times a
day, and since you haven't actually walked out of the store with your paint yet, we just decided to change. I suggest you purchase your paint as soon as possible. How many gallons do you want?
Customer: Well, maybe five gallons. Make that six, so I'll have enough.
Clerk: Oh no, sir, you can't do that. If you buy paint and don't use it, there are penalties and possible confiscation of the paint you already have.
Customer: WHAT?
Clerk: We can sell enough paint to do your kitchen, bathroom, hall and north bedroom, but if you stop painting before you do the bedroom, you will lose your remaining gallons of paint.
Customer: What does it matter whether I use all the paint? I already paid you for it!
Clerk: We make plans based upon the idea that all our paint is used, every drop. If you don't, it causes us all sorts of problems.
Customer: This is crazy!! I suppose something terrible happens if I don't keep painting until after Saturday night!
Clerk: Oh yes! Every gallon you bought automatically becomes the $200 paint.
Customer: But what are all these, "Paint on sale from $10 a liter" signs?
Clerk: Well that's for our budget paint. It only comes in half-gallons. One $5 half-gallon will do half a room. The second half-gallon to complete the room is $20. None of the cans have labels, some are empty and there are no refunds, even on the empty cans.
Customer: To hell with this! I'll buy what I need somewhere else!
Clerk: I don't think so, sir. You may be able to buy paint for your bathroom and bedrooms, but you won't be able to paint your connecting hallway from anyone but us. And I should point out, sir, that if you paint in only one direction, it will be $300 a gallon.
Customer: I thought your most expensive paint was $200!
Clerk: That's if you paint around the room to the point at which you started. A hallway is different.
Customer: And if I buy $200 paint for the hall, but only paint in one
direction, you'll confiscate the remaining paint.
Clerk: No, we'll charge you an extra use fee plus the difference on
your next gallon of paint. But I believe you're getting it now, sir.
Customer: You're insane!
Clerk: Thanks for painting with ________.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Zut alors! My Run-In with The French

It is an open secret that Scottish people and French people have a love/hate relationship. Scottish history points to The Auld Alliance between the two countries, in stark contrast to The Auld Enemy, which was England. If anything brought the French and the Scottish together, it was our shared enmity for the English. Indeed, a large portion of Scottish history is intertwined with French history. Bonnie Prince Charlie (that effete also-ran) served as the exiled monarch from his headquarters in where else but France. He was the Scottish equivalent of the Dalai Lama, holding court in France while his people longed for his grand return to liberate them. Numerous French influences are evident in modern Scotland, although they have been Scottified to the extent that no self-respecting Scot would admit to their naissance francaise. One place, the former hunting lodge of the Duke of Hamilton right near my old town, is called Chatelherault. In French it's pronounced "Shatler-oh;" in Scottish it's pronounced "Chatter Hall." See what I'm sayin? On paper it's French; in real life it's Chatter Hall. Same with surnames. The surname McSorley sounds Irish, and it potentially is. Sort of. But its true origin is from the French Sorrel. So the McSorleys of the world actually have French origins, by way of County Cork and then Glasgow.

So what's my point? My point, dear reader, is that me and the French don't mix. Maybe it's because some element of my origins has to be "de gaulle," and it's duking it out with the part of me that's "frae Gael." Whatever it is, I just don't understand them. The cadence of the speech, the tone of voice, the "oh my lord you are so stupid" vibe that just climbs through the phone at you.

Where is all this coming from? Well, I emailed and then called the French consulate today to find out about what papers would be necessary to transport a Chinese baby through the Paris airport. Well, you'd have thought I was asking if I could come and tear down the statues of Jerry Lewis. "I cannot help you; you will have to call the consulate in China."

"um, yes, but they are closed for the Chinese new year. Can you perhaps just tell me what, if any, paperwork is required?"
"Madam. Did you email me today about this?"
"Well, yes. But since I hadn't received a reply I thought I'd call."
"We only handle visas from 2 till 5pm."
"Be that as it may, it's 2:10 now. So--can I take her through the airport without a visa or do I need some paperwork?"
"I can't help you from here. You will have to call China."
"I understand that anything will have to be processed in China. So does that mean that paperwork is indeed necessary?"
"You will have to ask the consulate in China."
"Okay, but you DO work for the same country, right? So would you be so kind as to maybe look it up to see if I do indeed need the paperwork?"
"I can't help you here. We only help Americans and the French. If she is Chinese, I cannot help you."
"But her mother is an American citizen."
"But she is Chinese."
Oh. Okay. Thank you anyway."
"Good day, Madam."

I swear to you I almost took a cab over there and did something very gauche and de classe and worthy of an enfant terrible. But I didn't. I did what all of us do when stared down by the great behemoth that is bureaucracy: I blinked.


A Royal the Justice of the Peace

Potentially the LEAST excited in-laws-to-be in the history of the world:


10 February 2005


The Duke of Edinburgh and I are very happy that The Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker Bowles are to marry. We have given them our warmest good wishes for their future together.

Note the use of the term "Mrs. Parker Bowles." It's not often you get to welcome your daughter-in-law to the family by addressing her as "Mrs. Other Man's Last Name," is it?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

That's What I Get for Buying Coffee at Starschmucks

This morning I was sitting in a Starbucks thinking about the fact that, for all of my Up With People disposition, I am a bit of a misanthrope when it comes to sharing space with other humans.

I'm thinking it is perhaps a function of my germophobia, a condition picked up back when I was getting a particular treatment that caused my neutrophil count (your body's defense against infection) to drop into the double-digits, from a normal count in the thousands. During that time I started becoming very aware of potentially germy behavior and environments because my life literally depended on me doing so. I basically lived in sheer terror of dying from being sneezed on by some shmo at the store. Needless to say, I became a bit of a recluse.

Unfortunately, even though the critical period passed, my highly vigilant germ-o-meter never went back to its previous calibration. Even at my favorite and beloved coffee shop on Capitol Hill, when they say, "is that for here or to go?" I say, "For here, but put it in paper please" because they have one of those rinky-dink mom-and-pop store dishwashers, to which I am NOT entrusting the few neutrophils I've got. Ixnay on the ishwasherday. So as you can tell, I now filter just about every human interaction through the lens of "will that person make me sick?" We all saw the scene in "Outbreak" where the camera zooms in on the droplets from a sneeze in a movie theater and follows them into other people's noses, the air system, etc, and eventually to Kevin Spacey in a "moon suit" in a quarantined neighborhood. If you've read The Hot Zone, you know that scene is closer to reality than any of us wants to consider.

So. Back to Starbucks (which was an emergency, just grabbing something on my way to work stop; not an endorsement of their beverages), where I watched the following occur in the space of about 5 minutes:

1) The dude behind me is doing that "snot sniff swallow" thing. You know what I mean? It's that sniff noise like he's creating The Mother of All Louies, followed by a big swallow noise as he does NOT expel the louie. Bleeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! Blow your freakin' nose, dude! Just blow it! Then wash your hands. Eeeeewwww. It is so nasty, and you know exactly the sniff/swallow noise I am talking about because you have heard someone do it too. It's wrong. Bad for Me. Bad for America.

2) The dude across the way eating his maple nut scone, licking his fingers like he's at KFC. But wait. There's more. He then got up and went to the condiment table where he picked up the sugar dispenser and the half-and-half carafe. Niiiice. I'm all for sharing saliva with cute guys at the Starbucks. But could it NOT be via the milk carafe? If I'm going to get your cooties, I'd prefer to score some actual action in the process. Only, I'm not a fan of maple-nut breath, sadly...

Had I remained at Starschmucks longer I would no doubt have witnessed additional crimes against the sanitary. But luckily I had to get to the office. You remember my office. The one with the "pristine" bathrooms? Lucky me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bush's Budget Debacle

Some fun facts about our Esteemed President's budget:

1) The interest on the national debt has increased by 18% since last year, and is the second largest expenditure in the 2006 proposed budget; greater than the education, transportation, and community development items combined. $211 billion. With a B.

2) The Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally designed to ensure that the very wealthy were not able to loophole themselves out of paying a single cent in taxes, has not been adjusted since it was implemented. This means that *I* am coming perilously close to having to pay the AMT when I can't even afford a vacation. When I am trying to put money away for retirement, to little effect.

3) Directly related to #2: The Bush administration has not adjusted the level at which the AMT kicks in because they "would lose too much tax revenue." Hmmm. Interesting. I see that the "loss of revenue" did not stop him from locking in every single other tax cut he had proposed for corporations and truly wealthy individuals.

4) Much is being made of the fact that this budget cuts the deficit in half. Has anyone thought of what that actually means? Practically speaking, it means, let's say, that I am $10,000 in credit card debt; it means that this year I promise to only spend myself into $5,000 of credit card debt. Woo Hoo! I ROCK! I am the paragon of financial circumspection. If you think it's so fantastic to "cut the deficit in half" then I encourage you to hire someone to manage your PERSONAL funds in that manner. Let's see how much is left for your grandkids.

I think we need to rename President Bush's offering, because doesn't the word "budget" imply some kind of fiscal discipline?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Go Patriots!!

After a long childhood in the Boston area where the Patriots stank up the gridiron, with the notable exception of the time in 1986 when they made it to the matchup against the Chicago Bears (remember The Super Bowl Shuffle?), I am finally getting to enjoy the feeling of supporting a winning team.

Long, dark years of Patriot Putrescence have been replaced by a happiness that can best be characterized by sunshine, lollipops, singing cartoon birds and deer a la Mary Poppins, and visions of that sugarplum Tom Brady dancing in my head.

The only thing that could make this Super Bowl better than another Patriots win is having another Patriots win after seeing Paul McCartney's nipple during the half time show.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Yeast Makes Their $Dough$ Rise

I was clipping coupons the other day and came upon one that, quite frankly, made me laugh out loud. It was "Save $5 on Three" packages of Monistat Yeast Infection Treatment.

Wow. How unlucky does that company hope I get?! For the love of pete, are they really hoping that a woman will need THREE yeast infection treatments before all three boxes are past their effective date?! Is this really the type of bargain women are looking for?! What would I do with THREE boxes of Monistat? Hang out in hotel hot tubs for long periods of time? Refuse to take off my wet swimsuit for hours on end? Go on an antibiotic bacterial flora-killing bender? All just to make good use of my low-cost THREE boxes of Monistat?!!

Or--maybe they're hoping I'll share the wealth? Call my female friends up and say, "Do you have that not so fresh feeling? If so, I have an extra box of yeast infection treatment. I'll bring it right over! Don't worry about paying me; I saved $5 on 3. It's my treat!"

Or--maybe they are intended as stocking stuffers for the holidays? For that special lady in your life, a little something to show you care about her personal comfort and well-being. Nothin' says lovin' like a big ol' box of Monistat, gentlemen. Trust me. It will be a Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary to remember. And what woman can resist the added, "And you'll be so proud of me dear; I saved $5 on 3!"

I just don't know what to think about this company's intentions. You'd think for the sake of customer relations and brand loyalty they'd offer a coupon good for "50 cents off one, and our sincere best wishes for your good health." That way, should I ever need a second box, I'll pick the company that didn't wish the yeast upon me in the first place.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Here's Tae Us; Wha's Like Us?...

...Damn few--and they're a' deid!!

Translation: "Here's to Us! Who is as good as us? Damn few--and they're all dead!"

That's my charming way of pretending that this is January 25th and celebrating Robert Burns' night. I cannot believe I missed it this year. Wow. That is a huge oversight. It would be like an American completely not noticing that it is President's Day or something. Or, maybe more like not noticing it is St. Patrick's Day. Either way, I missed this most holi of holidays.

With that in mind, I will first offer a wee rhyme which is not by Rabbie Burns but which helps get you further into the Scottish State of Mind (if you dare). The Irish, by contrast, have little aphorisms that bid the "road rise up to meet you" and all that good hearted stuff. This is a Scottish version:

"May those that love us love us;
and those that dinnae (don't) love us,
may God turn their hearts.
And if he cannae (can't) turn their hearts,
may he turn their ankles,
so we'll ken (know) them by their LIMPING."

Swweeeeeet!! Isn't that the greatest prayer ever offered up? Now you're feelin' the Scottish love. Amour ecossais. Amor escoc├ęs. And my personal favorite because it has the guttural qualities that the Scottish language requires: Schottische Liebe.

Okay, so now for a little Burns. This is a perfect night for this, actually. It is drizzly and cold outside and reminiscent of our Burns Night in Scotland when we all, miraculously at our young ages, memorized multiple Burns poems. My dad always did the "To A Haggis." Our role as the kids was to finish the line my dad would start. To this day, he will randomly just spout a half a line of Burns and look at me with those pleading eyes: "you've lost your accent and you wee Scottish chubby look, PLEASE don't lose your knowledge of Burns." Robert Burns looms large in my dad's life. To this day, he carries around a pocket sized book of Burns that I bought him when I was in St. Andrews. He loves it. Maybe because Burns speaks to the masses, to the My Dads of the world. He loves his women, feels bad when he plows through a mouse's nest in the field, salutes his haggis, and takes jerks to task for their sins. He also speaks universal truths:

"the best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft agley..."

"Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That sense and worth, o'er a' the earth,
May bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man, the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that."

This is the grace my family always says before meals when we are together:

Some hae meat and canna eat, (some have meat and cannot eat)
and some wad eat that want it, (some can eat but don't have it)
but we hae meat and we can eat, (but we have meat and we can eat)
and sae the Lord be thankit. (so let the Lord be thanked).

So I'm a little late, but I would still like to do a small online To A Haggis, in honor of Burns and all the Scotsmen who hold him dear. It's kind of like the Passover Seder. You haven't done it right without having covered certain critical elements of the Haggadah. Same here. Until you have said the words "great chieftain o the puddin race" you haven't done the honors. So please allow me:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Okay!! Did anyone else just see him plant that full-hand-on-the-face kiss on Joe Lieberman??!!

What is up with THAT?!!! In the interest of Christian-Jewish relations? Or affection between two morality scolds? Either way, that's probably the most action either of them have had in months.

Real Time Line Item Veto of the SOU Speech

Let's take it line by line, shall we?

To make our economy stronger and more dynamic, we must prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

--Um, those jobs would be waitressing and valet parking, Mr. President. I think we've got the preparation for those down pat.

And we will make it easier for Americans to afford a college education, by increasing the size of Pell Grants.

--Yeah. To below the rate of inflation. Thank you very little.

I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.

--Because we sure as hell don't want to have to go into Saudi Arabia like we did in Iraq to preserve access to oil, the basis of our economy.

And when their recommendations are delivered, you and I will work together to give this Nation a tax code that is pro-growth, easy to understand, and fair to all.

--My tax code will be very simple: If you are a corporation that is one of my Pioneers, don't sweat this whole "tax" thing. If you make $250,000 or above, keep it all. If you make $25,000 or less, you are either lazy or stupid and should bear the burden of tax payments.

Fixing Social Security permanently will require an open, candid review of the options. Some have suggested limiting benefits for wealthy retirees. Former Congressman Tim Penny has raised the possibility of indexing benefits to prices rather than wages. During the 1990s, my predecessor, President Clinton, spoke of increasing the retirement age. Former Senator John Breaux suggested discouraging early collection of Social Security benefits. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recommended changing the way benefits are calculated. All these ideas are on the table.

--"On the table," yes. "Being looked at credibly by my administration?" No.

The goal here is greater security in retirement, so we will set careful guidelines for personal accounts. We will make sure the money can only go into a conservative mix of bonds and stock funds. We will make sure that your earnings are not eaten up by hidden Wall Street fees. We will make sure there are good options to protect your investments from sudden market swings on the eve of your retirement.

--Yeah. Just like we protected you from my biggest donors: Enron, Global Crossing, Worldcom, boy, he he, I could go on and on!

Personal retirement accounts should be familiar to federal employees, because you already have something similar, called the Thrift Savings Plan, which lets workers deposit a portion of their paychecks into any of five different broadly based investment funds. It is time to extend the same security, and choice, and ownership to young Americans.

--Actually, I'm overstating that. The Thrift Savings Plan is just a 401K by another name.

So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith, and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children.

--I myself am not doing such a great job. But you all out there ought to be doing it.

Because one of the deepest values of our country is compassion, we must never turn away from any citizen who feels isolated from the opportunities of America.

--Unless, as I've just mentioned, you are gay and in love with your lifetime partner.

Soon I will send to Congress a proposal to fund special training for defense counsel in capital cases, because people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side.

--Ya hear me, African-Americans? Yeah! I'm talkin' to ya!
{Camera pans to members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Seriously.}

In the three and a half years since September 11th, 2001...

--What? You thought I'd get through this speech without mentioning September 11th?

The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else.

--But if you think you're going to escape our form of crappy pop culture, you are in for a rude awakening.

The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is within reach - and America will help them achieve that goal.

--Or we will bomb you back to the Bronze Age.

That country [Iraq] is a vital front in the war on terror, which is why the terrorists have chosen to make a stand there.

--I have no evidence to support the "vital front" claim, but doesn't it sound GREAT?! In fact, based on what I said one paragraph ago, wouldn't Syria or Lebanon be more "vital fronts"?

As those forces become more self-reliant and take on greater security responsibilities, America and its coalition partners will increasingly be in a supporting role.

--And not a moment too soon, because our forces are teetering on the brink of exhaustion after our Mandatory Stop Loss policy.

The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable - yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.

--I have no idea what that means, but I thought it was important to invoke both Providence and Freedom. 'Cause that's what I do.

Thank you, and may God bless America.

--Especially those red states.

Speaking of the State of the Union....

I am taking bets that the President will not discuss the following issue in his SOU speech tonight. If he does, I will drink to his health and political longevity. I'm thinking I can keep the single malt in the bottle...

This article disturbed me so much because I know first-hand how true it is. Bankruptcy has the connotation of "credit card overspending," "living beyond your means," etc. My knowledge of it is exactly the point in this article. Someone gets sick, insurance doesn't cover everything, and all of a sudden your mortgage money must become the medical bill money or else doctors stop having available appointments and labs won't run your tests. You'd think that creditors would have a heart when dealing with sick people, wouldn't you? Yeah, you'd think wrong. It is a nightmare, pure and simple.

But hey, as long as gays can't get married, this country is on the right track....

Feb 2, 2005 — By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Half of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by soaring medical bills and most people sent into debt by illness are middle-class workers with health insurance, researchers said on Wednesday.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, estimated that medical bankruptcies affect about 2 million Americans every year, if both debtors and their dependents, including about 700,000 children, are counted.

"Our study is frightening. Unless you're Bill Gates you're just one serious illness away from bankruptcy," said Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the study.

"Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick. Health insurance offered little protection."

The researchers got the permission of bankruptcy judges in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas to survey 931 people who filed for bankruptcy.

"About half cited medical causes, which indicates that 1.9 to 2.2 million Americans (filers plus dependents) experienced medical bankruptcy," they wrote.

"Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7 percent had insurance at the onset of illness."

The average bankrupt person surveyed had spent $13,460 on co-payments, deductibles and uncovered services if they had private insurance. People with no insurance spent an average of $10,893 for such out-of-pocket expenses.

"Even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick," the researchers wrote.

Bankruptcy specialists said the numbers seemed sound.

Tonight's State of the Union

First of all, I want total credit for not doing some stupid and cliched and hackneyed play on words to describe tonight's speech. If I see one more "State of DisUnion" or "Distaste of the Union" or whatever, I am going to kick the aqua-netted, helmet-haired TV anchor right in the teeth.

So. Onto the business at hand. Tonight's speech. I'm swallowing maalox as we speak in preparation. Wonkette has a great SOU drinking game that you should check out, that calls for drinking each time Freedom is mentioned. I want to propose a more detailed analysis of the speech based on the book "Don't Think of an Elephant!" by George Lakoff.

Lakoff discusses "framing" as a concept, by which all humans process information. He posits that the Republicans have done a fantastic job of framing issues in terms that force Dems to either support or look immoral or stupid. His point is that Dems try to argue facts while 'Pubs argue frames, and whenever facts battle with frames, frames win.

Take a look at these two general examples by the

EXAMPLE #1: "It's not just minority children who suffer from these problems but other children as well."

What's Wrong With This Framing?: You have first conjured up the image of minority children, then you come behind it with the far less vivid notion that it's also about "other" children, an "add on" that cannot compete with the first statement. Remember: once the audience has identified the story you are telling them (it's about minority kids), they stop processing information.

Reframe: (Assuming this is a widespread problem we are addressing, like children's oral health) Many children suffer from these problems: kids in neighborhoods like your own, kids in middle class and poor neighborhoods. Minority children are most likely to suffer from these problems.

EXAMPLE #2: Even though our state ranks 49th in the country, we still have some wonderful progress to share with you on several key indicators of child well-being.

What's Wrong With This Framing?: When you lead with a vivid image like ranking low on a ruler, the emotion evoked is likely to be a sense of hopelessness. You have conveyed "Big Problems" to the listener, and then you come in with "Small Progress."

Reframe: We are making some significant progress on a number of children's issues in this state. And that progress should inspire us to tackle more problems, and to bring solutions to scale in this state. We need to think of our state as the Little Engine that Could, and apply some determination to the problems children face.

Tonight I will be watching the speech with a view to spotting the Rovian Framework going on in every sentence. I guarantee you that the President will not say, "I know things haven't gone great in Iraq, but...." He will start with "democracy is on the march in formerly totalitarian areas...blah blah...; we know there are challenges to be met, difficulties to be faced...blah blah." The 'Pubs have been so good at framing their arguments, that by the time they get around to saying, "...oh, and wmd's weren't actually found" no one is listening; they have already processed the pieces of information that Rove wanted them to process and internalize: "freedom, democracy, spreading liberty...."

Watch for it. Drink every time you identify it. Call work and let them know you'll be sleeping in tomorrow with a raging hangover.

My Mid-Life Crisis

Okay. So I’ve made the final decision to grow my hair long.

Gentlemen, you can just skip the rest of this post because I know you are glazing over as we speak. The rest of you stay with me here because I swear I DO have a point that goes beyond le coiffure. Trust me!

Those of you who see me frequently know that I have been agonizing for weeks and months about what to do with my hair. You know this because I have interrupted otherwise interesting and enjoyable discussions to say, “Okay! On a totally different topic, what should I do with my hair??!!” The men, as expected, offer a blank look. The women, those loves, say something like, “you look great either way!” Sweet, but no help. That’s when I have to pull out the “No, really. Honestly. What do you think?”

I have found the responses to be the same across the board: “Not many women can have really short hair and look good, so you should be glad you can; you look really cute with a perky haircut.” And then, “but if you want to grow it out, you should.” AAARRGGHH! Sweet, but not helpful.

I have done hours of research into face shape, hair texture, lifestyle factors, you name it. I’ve downloaded celebrity photos, hairstyling website photos, random photos, all in my attempt to determine what I should do with my hair. This may sound excessive, but you have to understand: for my whole life, I have been a girl in search of a hairstyle. Baby fine, platinum blond hair has particular limitations unless you have a round-the-clock stylist on retainer, which I do not. I have therefore gone from one extreme (Sharon Stone/Anne Heche/Joan Allen in The Contender) to the other (Melanie Griffith and Joan Cusack in Working Girl) in my search for a workable, attractive and somewhat au courant hairstyle. Ironically, both looked pretty good in their own way and in their own era. But now it’s time for something new.

Why the focus on “something new”? Well, I realized on Monday that I am having a mid-life crisis associated with the prospect of becoming a mother. I’m wondering “do I have the stones for this gig? What if they find out I’m a fraud? Oh my lord, you mean they just GIVE YOU a human child person and wish you luck?! Don’t I need a license?!! Are they INSANE?! I am in for the ride of my life.”

Along with the momentary lapses in confidence in my parenting skills comes a corresponding fear of losing who *I* am as a woman and as a whole person in the joy and fun and craziness and challenge of being a mother. And, as these things do, the concern manifests itself in ridiculous ways. In my case, it appears to be happening in terms of how I define my femininity and personhood sans child. Therefore, all of a sudden I have become completely resolute that I will NOT become one of those moms who doesn’t care what she looks like, gets the nondescript bob haircut, starts wearing the “mom jeans” with the zipper up to the belly button and the ghastly front pleats, and has 30 pounds delivered directly to her hips and butt by the stork while he’s dropping off the bambina. Hear me now and believe me later: I WILL NOT LET MYSELF GO. I want to be what the cognoscenti call “a yummy mummy.” A woman who has a child but who is no less interested in her appearance and in taking care of herself.

I hear the moms out there snickering at me as I write this. That’s cool. I understand that there will be demands placed on me that I can only imagine and that will trump any and all desire to primp on a daily basis. That is why you will notice that I did not swear off velour sweatpants and ponytails. I’m totally reserving the right to look like a shlump; I’m just not interested in BEING a shlump. Big difference.

So. This mid-life crisis is both the origin of and the solution to my hair conundrum. Yeah, I look fine with short hair. But a truly yummy mummy knows the value of having a versatile look that can go from Spit-Up to Meet Up in 30 minutes flat. And THAT is why I have decided to grow my hair out, and why I have finally realized that the question I was asking all along was not, “what should I do with my hair?” but rather “do you promise to still think I’m hot even when someone calls me ‘Mom’?”

Damn the blogger!

So sorry to just be getting in on the act right now. I’ve been getting the dreaded Fatal Error 404 message every time I’ve tried to log in to write about the State of the Union. We seem to be up and running again, so hopefully things will go smoothly from here on out.

A thousand apologies to you my readers and a big pphhhtttttbbbbbttttt! to

{That’s my raspberry, in case you didn’t recognize the spelling….}