Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Haggis Hunt is On!!

It's that time of year, friends. Great work-avoidance activities!

ICANN: Master of Our Domains?

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a nonprofit based in California that assigns and manages all the internet domain names. At a recent summit (The World Summit on the Information Society) held in Tunisia, other countries expressed their dismay that the United States will not "share" control of the internet with them. Specifically, the other countries (China, France, India, wanted to internationalize or "multilateralize" the oversight of the internet.


The US made a persuasive argument at the summit that allowing the U.N. to control the internet would "inevitably lead to censorship." Because we know how much the U.N. loves to take control, do the right thing, and not care about upsetting its totalitarian members, right? Like, a vote of some ICANN Council of the U.N. couldn't just vote 5 to 4 to disable all of, say, Israel's domains, could it? A North Korea-China-Russia bloc wouldn't want to have any say at all in what content could be published, right? It is for reasons such as this that the US claims we are best able to ensure "the security of the virtual world."

Of course, as I write this, I am reminded that blogging was illegal when I was in China, and now both Google and Yahoo (American corporations) have agreed to filter content for just that market, as well as deliver information to the government on email addresses from which "traitorious" messages are sent.

So--how can the US remotely credibly argue that we are best-suited to the work of ICANN when our very own corporations collaborate with totalitarian regimes? And why does it seem like no one is talking about this? We are supposedly in the middle of a war to bring democratic freedoms to Iraq. So why are our very own corporations suppressing any hopes for it in China? And why are we silent?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Better Living Through Chemicals

November 3rd was the day. Exjade is the drug. Novartis is the company that created it. The FDA is the agency that approved it. The Haggis will hopefully be a person taking it.

It's--finally!--a pill that removes excess iron from your blood and internal organs. People such as my good self who have had multiple blood transfusions have what is called "iron overload." It's an unavoidable result of transfusions because the human body has no mechanism for removing iron. So when I get a transfusion I am not only getting the donor's red cells, I am getting all the iron that comes with it, iron that my body cannot use because it's already loaded from the last 50 transfusions. Iron that deposits itself in my internal organs and will, if not removed, one day shut them down: kidneys, liver and heart. Bam Bam Bam.

Kinda scary. But not scarier than the only available treatment for iron overload up until November 2nd: desferal. Infused under your skin on your stomach for 12 hours a day, every day, for as long as you get transfusions, which could be the rest of your life. And it doesn't work with an IV or a port. You have to--every single day--find a new spot on your stomach to put the needle into, which sounds all well and good until about Day 15 when you don't have any more available spots and you have to start reusing some old ones. Oh--and did I mention that one of the side effects is a raging irritation at the needle site? So you pretty much are jamming a needle back into already irritated and painful needle sites. Every day. 12 hours a day. Till they tell you to stop. (Oh--and it can make you deaf over time too. Super!)

You can imagine why I was holding out for either a mild kidney failure or the approval of this drug, which was created as a direct result of the US's Orphan Drug policy, which provides incentives to drug manufacturers who create drugs for diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans. Thank god for the orphan drug act. Although temper the brass fanfare and cheering with the knowledge that the oral med will cost three times as much as the needle med, which already costs $5,000 per year.

So what can I say? I'm psyched to finally take care of the iron overload thing that I've been avoiding (hey--I'm not proud; I'm just saying), and psyched to begin my Mac and Cheese/Ramen Noodle diet to pay for the pleasure.

As Novartis giveth, so doth Novartis taketh away.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

OCD: Fun For the Whole Family

I have always thought of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) as a somewhat tragic situation, that a poor person would spend hours washing his or her hands, or straightening already-straight paintings, or counting the stairs up to their bedroom hundreds of times a day. It just makes you feel so bad for someone who is trapped in that place where they can't enjoy life unless all the limoge boxes on the mantel are exactly 2.31 centimeters apart, to be checked and re-checked at 45 minute intervals.

It just SOUNDS exhausting and unfortunate.

Until today when we had a change of mind about OCD, courtesy of my neighbor David Flipton. (We call him David Flipton because we remember that his first name is David but it has now been too long since we were introduced to now go back and say, "What is your last name again?" So because he is a self-described "flipper" of homes, constantly fretting about his property values because he just wants to "fix it up and sell it for a bundle," his last name became Flipton).

Anyway, today found my [as a friend called him recently] "very intense" neighbor, David Flipton, using a leafblower to clear out my whole front yard, the entire side of my street, and all of his yard and his side of the street as well. We clearly don't need to improve DC's municipal services; we just need to hide this guy's medication!

It started innocently enough with The Intense Mr. Flipton leafblowing his own yard. (My particular annoyance with leafblowers being used for 6x6 yards in the middle of the city is a topic for another post)... Regardless, I heard it roaring for what seemed like half an hour which aroused my curiosity. So I looked out the window and saw him blowing all of the leaves on his side of the street into separate neat little piles in the tree boxes lining the street. Meticulously.

I then went back to minding my own business, which no doubt involved something to do with The Wiggles nonstop singing or my work--or a messy combination of both: "Three key post-assessment strategies for improving your organization's fundraising return-on-investment include Dancing With Wags the Dog, eating Fruit Salad Yummy Yummy, and Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car."

Anyway, twenty minutes later I was still hearing the nonstop roaring of the leafblower and I was really getting mad in that way you do when you feel impotent to stop whatever it is that's making you mad in the first place. You just stand there talking to yourself or the one other unfortunate person in the room, saying loudly and exasperatedly, "What the hell is he doing?! I mean, come oooon! What could he be doing for 40 minutes?! That's insane! Someone should stop him!"

Then we look out and he is doing our side of the street as well. When we open the door to take out some trash, he asks if he can do our yard too, which of course we decline with an, "Oh my goodness, no! Don't be silly!" To which he intensely replies, "No really. It will only take 5 minutes. Really." So, seeing that he NEEDED to leafblow the front lawn (by which I mean "5x5 plot of grass"), we relented and then watched awkwardly as my neighbor did unpaid gardening work for us as if it was the thing that was holding the cosmos together. The Bambina was looking through the storm door at him, and then looking at me like, "Are you going to tell me why some dude is standing in MY garden wearing a machine that blows leaves into the street, or am I just going to have to assume it's one of those unknowable things like why I can't touch the little electric holes in the wall or why I can't play with my poop or why you keep yammering "Gentle! Gentle!" every time I display my new ability to say 'eye' by poking my finger in yours?"

She was agog. I was aghast. And then he said the thing that confirmed the non-medical OCD diagnosis: "I was just doing the other side of the street, and it looked so neat and this side looked so messy that I just figured I'd clean it all up while I was at it."

You know, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps you have once or twice looked across the street and deemed it not as clean as your side of the street; perhaps you have even deemed another neighbor's yard to be not as clean as yours and have immediately rushed over there to rearrange their lawn ornaments so you can finally sit down and enjoy your day in mental peace and quiet. No? Oh. Okay.

But maybe you would have if only you'd had a leafblower!

Torture, American-Style

This is the title of an interesting article by David Luban in today's Washington Post. In it, he discusses the different sides to the torture debate. His conclusion is that it simply comes down to words vs. deeds. That you can rename something to make it not torture, but it is still torture. You can rewrite a code of behavior in order to make previously-banned practices legal, but the practices remain torture no matter what your Little Book of Allowable Coercion Tactics now says in its revised form. You can tell yourself that sexual intimidation and abuse of prisoners is not "cruel, inhuman or degrading" and therefore not banned by the Geneva Conventions, but it's still something you wouldn't want to happen to your sister in the army.

Luban is right on, about torture specifically. We want to be able to do things to prisoners that none of us would wish on our sons or daughters if captured by another nation. But for us, it's okay because it's for the right reasons, and besides, it's NOT torture. It's coercion in the interest of national security.

In a larger sense, his article made me wonder whether the debate over torture is really a more micro-level discussion about where we are headed as a nation in general: a morally and ethically challenged bunch of people who still want to think of ourselves as paragons of truth, freedom and the American way. Torture is okay for us to do because, unlike the Zarqawis of the world, we promise not to enjoy it too much, maybe? Is that the moral line we're using? That if we do it and like it (a la Lynndie England, et. al.) then that is wrong and we will be punished. But if we do it and promise to feel bad about having done it, then it's okay?

It's a ridiculous argument to make, but unfortunately it does seem to reflect where we are as a culture: we change the names of things we do to make them "okay" and then we collectively deplore them while continuing to do them.

"Cruel, inhuman or degrading coercive interrogation techniques." OR--Torture.

"Men's Interest" magazines. OR--soft core p*rn.

"Owing it to yourself to pursue happiness." OR--Cheating.

"Protecting Social Security." OR--"I have no freakin' idea what any of the details of any of the proposals are because I've been too busy raising money for my re-election."

"No Child Left Behind." OR--Cutting funding for schools across the board.

"USA #1!!!" OR--I haven't formed a coherent, independent thought about political or policy issues in about 12 years.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Since We're On The Topic


The commercials began last Monday. A Sizzlin' Express restaurant had their lighted snowmen and jolly elves in their windows on Tuesday. The Harris Teeter grocery store had its green and red bunting surrounding large stacks of gravy packets, Durkee's french-fried-onions-in-a-can, multiple flavors of Campbell's cream soups, cans of Green Giant green beans, and a veritable truckload of those red and green sparkly candy sprinkles (what we'd call "Jimmies" in New England) by Wednesday.

So tell me. How sad is your daily life if you start getting jazzed for a holiday that is 38 days in the future? Would I wear my Halloween costume on October 10th just to "get in the spirit"?! Would I have my Valentine's Day candy dish out around January 5th just to, you know, "be festive"? What is with this? I totally understand the religious concept of Advent; the waiting, the expectation, the hope and joy in the impending birth of the Savior. I'm totally with you on that whole scene. But how does that translate into wearing Santa earrings and reindeer sweaters a full month and a half before the baby is due?

As I look back on all my jobs (and there have been plenty), I realize that the people spearheading the Early Christmas Movement were the ones who had the unhappiest lives both in and out of work. And yes, I'm including YOU, Ms. Martha Stewart. You masquerade as the person doing all the Christmas trimmings because it brings you such ineffable joy and contentment, but let's be honest. Your husband left you for a younger woman, your daughter was barely speaking to you till you went to prison, your employees hated/feared/loathed you, and you are not Martha Stewart of Turkey Hill or Greenwich Connecticut or Newport Rhode Island. You are little Marty Kostyra from Nutley New Jersey trying to find some meaning in her unfulfilled life by perfecting her Christmas sugar cookies in late October.

It's just so sad as I look back on it. The middle-aged women with the entire set of seasonal sweaters that they break out the day after Thanksgiving, and sometimes the day before. The earrings with the Santas that light up and say "Ho Ho Ho" (presumably not referencing the wearer of said earrings), the ornaments and doodads all over the desk and on the computer (that may or may not be removed between Christmas 2005 and Christmas 2006). From whence does this tragic set of circumstances come and how can it be dealt with kindly but firmly?

I think perhaps the following rule of thumb may help: Putting your lights up on December 1st is festive. Putting them up on November 19th is just plain desperate. Lights put up before December 1st will be pulled down on the grounds that one cannot begin celebrating a major national holiday BEFORE one has celebrated the major national holiday that precedes it.

With that in mind on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day, I wish you all a very happy new year.

The Rabbi Implores: Bring Back Christmas!


I do not even know where to begin with this one. It's from a conservative weekly site that features august learned sages such as Ann Coulter. Which of course is why I visited it, just to get myself all worked up in time for Thanksgiving. This piece is long and boring and, well, stupid. It's written by a rabbi in The Future longing for the halcyon days when everybody could celebrate Christmas, unlike now when Christians must worship in secret because the Left has made their love for Jesus unacceptable, and he--oh self-hating Jew (or in other words, a far-right conservative Jew), wishes he could walk past all the lovely nativity scenes at city halls across the land. {Yeah, I know I'll get flamed for saying that, but I liken very conservative Jews to very conservative gays: what's up with happily being part of a group that thinks you're going to go to hell but is just too polite/savvy/strategic to tell you so?}

But back to the article: I don't know where to start in my critique of it, beside the fact that the writing is so very sophomore-year-English-class-at-8:30-in-the-morning-on-a-Friday. But it's also ludicrous on its face. The notion that somehow being sensitive to people who don't celebrate Christmas is tantamount to being an unpatriotic coward; that's just stupid. To be fair, I do feel bad when people apologize profusely for saying Merry Christmas to me. It's a social nicety that does not bother me, any more than if someone walked past me and said, "Happy Birthday!" I wouldn't think, "You f'ing jerk! It's not my birthday!" Most people are genuinely trying to say something akin to "Have a nice day" when they say "Merry Christmas." I don't expect them to know whether I will indeed have a Merry Christmas any more than I expect them to know whether or if I will indeed have a nice day.

I do therefore find it unfortunate that everyone talks about The Holidays now rather than Christmas. Because let's be honest: we ain't gettin' two days off work for Chanukah and Kwanzaa. I'm comfortable with that; so why aren't the people who celebrate Christmas? I probably posted about this before last year, but it bears repeating. Chanukah is a minor, minor, minor holiday in the pantheon of Jewish holidays. It has only taken on the role of "The Jewish Christmas" because people who are uncomfortable with being different (which I would argue is one of the fundamental and central tenets of Judaism--that you should be different), don't want their kids to be the only ones in school who don't celebrate some kind of Big Gift Holiday, and because people who are uncomfortable having a Big Gift Holiday in front of someone who isn't, really want to find you some kind of equivalent so they can feel better about the conspicuous consumption going on.

So let me declare this day from this place and at this time to all who may hear these words: Go Forth And Enjoy Christmas. As long as you don't make me be the only person at work who can't participate in something like [this really happened in 2004 at a major DC organization] your Christmas Tree Ornament Gift Exchange or as long as you don't make me look stupid for not celebrating Christmas, I'm cool. It's your holiday; enjoy it. And please do invite me to the parties and the Big Dinner. As long as I don't have to sing Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel for your parlor game amusement, it's all good.

Having said that, there is no substitute for good customer service and/or manners, during "The Holidays." The one time something pissed me off was at a Mailboxes Etc a few years back. I was buying stamps for my Chanukah cards, so I stipulated that I'd like the american flag stamps rather than the Christmas cards, to which the guy replied, "What!? Are you some kind of scrooge?! Who doesn't want the Christmas stamps?!" Well, gee, a-wipe. Let's see who wouldn't want the all-important and apparently magical freakin' Christmas stamp! I don't know! Only a large percentage of the entire country, not to mention the WORLD?!! There could be any number of reasons I don't want the Christmas stamp, like maybe I'm sending sympathy acknowledgments after the death of my mother and I'm not feelin' like putting Jolly Saint Nick on the freakin' envelopes. Maybe--here's a good one--maybe I'm a very religious CHRISTIAN and I deplore the use of Santa as a symbol of Christmas. How about THAT?! It was one of those small things that I could probably have shaken off if he hadn't said it in front of a line of people who chuckled, but his snarky delivery coupled with his total obliviousness that The Almighty Christmas Stamp might not be the thing I sleep out overnight in my sleeping bag to score at first light just cheesed me off.

Merry freakin' Christmas indeed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I'm Goin' In!!

I'm watching E-Ring, that Dennis Hopper/Benjamin Bratt cheeseball fest on NBC. And with Dennis and Benjamin on the case, it's cheesecake and beefcake for dinner every Wednesday, baby!

Hey now--don't judge me. It's on and I'm too tired to go surfing the channels. Which has happened every Wednesday for the past 5 weeks, which means I've now seen 6 episodes. But only by accident. I swear.

One of the key features of E-Ring is the moment on each episode where one of the old military guys who is now a desk jockey at the Pentagon gets so upset at the civilian command a-wipes that he "back door authorizes" a covert operation to do whatever it is the "suits" can't muster the cojones to authorize.

It's genius in its simplicity. Every episode. Very entertaining. Until you think about its real-world parallels, and then it is HIGH-LARIOUS. Think John McCain (not Pentagon, but since I don't know of any military people running the Pentagon right now, we'll have to go to the Senate). Now think about spry-but-still-senior-citizen McCain getting so riled up about something that he says, "Dammit Janet! I'm goin' in!" and heading off at "oh-three-hundred" to do special ops in Kosovo.

Now THAT would be some awesome telly.

The Annual Thanksgiving Post

After reading Christopher Hitchens' piece in today's Wall Street Journal on the ecumenical and universal national joy that is Thanksgiving, I figured I'd do a quickie post on Why I Love Thanksgiving. Please add your own to this non-exhaustive list:

1. Three words: Crispy Turkey Skin. I loves me my turkey cracklin'.
2. No need to awkwardly say anything like, "Um, I don't mean to be difficult but I'm Jewish, so I don't feel comfortable participating in the christmas tree ornament exchange..."
3. Even immigrants do it.
4. Food, folks and football!
5. It's the only time when you can legitimately walk around in front of grandma with your pants unbuttoned
6. Only holiday where it is acceptable to feed your kids marshmallow-covered food for dinner.
7. "Taking a break" from eating and then coming back when you've made extra room is entirely acceptable behavior.

I'm sure there are more but I've gotta do some work. Add some of your own and help me out!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

An Anvil Fell On Me

Okay. So when was the last time you heard of someone getting hit in the face with a rake?

Doesn't it just have the ring of "retro" to it? Like, you can imagine Dagwood Bumstead or Foghorn Leghorn or even perhaps someone on the Sgt. Bilko show getting smashed in the face with a rake. You generally don't equate someone as trendy and happenin' as my good self with Getting Smashed In The Face With a Rake. It's so very Looney Tunes, and so very NOT Haggis harmony.


So, you'll never guess what happened to me today! Guess! Go on! Guess! Need a clue?! I will say only that it involved my face and a rake.

No kidding. I was in my Mama Bear mode, storing provisions for winter to avoid being out of rock salt or whatever when the first blizzard hits (and here in DC, by blizzard I mean "the first three inches of snow"), weatherproofing the house to reduce the insane energy costs that await around the corner, cruelly cutting back the rose bushes so that they'll grow fantastically next season, and finally and at long last putting into action my Martha Stewart-inspired laundry/mud room action plan.

That's right folks. The laundry room is now a bona-fide, Martha-approved "Home Haberdashery Center" where you can hang shirts, sew buttons, and find castile soap and spray starch easily. It's so fantastic that those of you who know me know that I will now thoroughly enjoy the 16.3 minutes I spend in it annually. And that I am, as we speak, googling "castile soap" to figure out what the hell it's for...

Regardless, the room's previous incarnation was as Catch-All Dumping Ground for Anything That Doesn't Go Anywhere Else. Among those items, which included a bike, Super Lawn Weed and Seed, a green watering can, and one year's worth of that fuzzy stuff that comes out of the dryer...was one old-school (wooden with really heavy metal tines) rake. A rake which I moved out of the way so I could bound energetically out the door into the yard where I could cruelly prune the roses in the name of loving roses, a rake which, once out of the way, suddenly found itself IN the way as I, seemingly in slow motion, stepped on the perpendicular row of tines and...


Got a face full of old-school rake.

I've never had a concussion before, but I think I know what it is. I literally saw stars. Couldn't momentarily answer the question, "oh my god are you okay?!" with anything but "I don't know." Looked in the mirror (a lovely and necessary feature of any classy haberdashery center, don't you think?), saw that it had hit my left temple and thankfully not my eye orbitals or my prodigious proboscis, and then FREAKED OUT. My latest blood counts were good enough for government work. Except my platelets. The things that clot your blood and ensure you don't bleed to death. Yeah, mine were low enough to elicit that Furrowed Doctor Brow that NOBODY wants to see on an otherwise sunshiney day. So the Baby Daddy says, "Don't worry; you're not bleeding" to which I barked, "Yeah! Not out of my skin! What if my skull bleeds out?!" To which he, characteristically, mellowly said, "You'll be fine." Which I know was meant to tell me that I'll be fine but in reality just pissed me off.

As I stormed up the stairs to get an ice pack to stem the certain brain stem bleeding that was absolutely, positively going on in my skull, I was so mad at him for so minimizing my fear by daring to be so calm when I have just been SMASHED IN THE FACE WITH A F****NG RAKE!! With only 15,000 platelets on the freakin' job no less!! How could he still be down there and not be up here performing life-saving brain surgery on me!?? What a total jerk!!

And then I realized as I finally got a few moments of a frozen package of edamame on the wound, that I wasn't really scared to be bleeding out through the ears, wasn't really mad because he had the temerity to reassure me of my well-being in a moment of crisis, wasn't really mad that some stupid f'ing moron had left a rake where a well-meaning, cute and otherwise jolly girl could step on it. Nope. I was mad because I had just crossed that line between tragedy and comedy where I could never tell the story about The Day I Thought I'd Bleed to Death (oh you poor dear!) without having to also admit that I, oh cool and collected and hipster I, had joined the ranks of Wile E. Coyote, Gomer Pyle and dare I say the trifecta of Larry, Curly and Moe as the self-inflicter of Garden Tool Injury.

Yep, the story had all the makings of a real Katherine Hepburn drama in which I would star, but alas I would instead have to settle for being an extra on I Love Lucy. Or, worse, a blog post on StarSpangledHaggis.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bad Stedman!

One of the cool things about having a kid is the fact that they (thank you, Art Linkletter) say the darndest things. It's also cool because, while they are pre-verbal (or in The Bambina's case, incredibly verbal but mostly incomprehensible), they find the darndest things funny.

The latest funny things in our house include both the words, "belly button" and The Bambina's immediate search for same as soon as a person walks in the door. The social worker dropped by for a half hour to do the 6 month at home visit and all I could do was pray that she wouldn't point at his crotchy/belly area, yell, "Beh' Buh!" and start trying to lift his shirt to poke her finger in his navel. I seriously was sitting there making nice-nice with the social worker while telepathically commanding her to forget about belly buttons for the next 20-40 minutes. Luckily my Jedi Mind Tricks were in top form and we emerged without precipitating any uncomfortable questions about shirt-lifting in the home.

One of the other things that makes her laugh is the word "Stedman," as in Oprah's life partner, Stedman Graham. The baby daddy and I were discussing Stedman (don't ask why...) and every time we said "Stedman" she'd laugh hysterically. Her laughter was causing her to get distracted from eating her dinner so I said in a mock serious tone, "Bad Stedman! Bad Stedman!" which apparently was Sid Caesar-bring-down-the-house funny to this toddler, and so now we can't go a full day without at some point just gratuitously saying, "Bad Stedman!" to elicit the wonderful belly laugh that makes my day every time I hear it.

It's kind of embarrassing on one level and kind of magical on another, how you feel like your day isn't complete until you hear your child laugh. And how you will resort to saying "boogers," "SillyBilly!" and, yes, even "Stedman Graham" to make it happen.

Today's Good Karma

Writer's block has descended. And, as anyone would in a similar situation, I am heading straight to the Chasids for Today's Good Karma! ;)

"Doing good is not about being nice. You can do nice things all day long for many people, but it could be all just more service of your own self. When you help those who show gratitude, when you lend a hand to those who are on your side, you are still within the realm of your own ego and self. Help someone you don't want to help. Help him and learn to want to help him--only because this is the right thing to do. At first it may not feel so rewarding. Now you have sprung free."

Monday, November 14, 2005


From our friends at Sozadee:


Saturday, November 12, 2005

What's a "Weigh Station" Anyway?

And why have I never seen one that is actually open?

Now THAT'S a Ballsy Claim!

Sign outside a church in West Virginia today:

"The journey to Heaven begins here."

REALLY?! Is THIS the place?! Who knew?! I didn't know that God gave advance notice of where to get the backstage passes...

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Headed out to West God Bless Virginia today to visit a friend's family. Well, maybe he's not a friend. Yet. This is going to sound way more illicit than it is, but here goes: he is my nurse when I go to NIH. I'd spend hours there some days, and he was the guy helping me out, setting up my meds and blood and whatnot, and we just started talking about our kids, significant others, etc, and really hit it off. He would make my 8-10 hour stints there fly by, mostly because he was so funny and just not your average nurse--male OR female. I would tell him about how I hated that my meds were causing me to gain weight and he was able to be both a nurse and a guy:

Nurse response: Oh please!; you're gonna have to take a lot more meds to get fat

Guy response: Hatin' your back porch, are ya? Well, let's see what we can do to not make it a full-on veranda.

Back to Nurse response: would you like to try some exercises and techniques to help you reverse the trend you are feeling is occurring?

He's just a cool person, and we talked around the issue of us getting our kids together to play, since his son is about the same age as The Bambina. We went back and forth, and finally settled on today as the day. And so off to West Virginia we travelled, wondering the whole way what to expect: would there be a bible study group in the living room? Would there be an Amway group ready to give us the gospel of wealth via laundry detergent? Worst case scenario: Nikken. The disciples of those health magnets that are supposed to cure arthritis, diverticulitis and myasthenia gravis at the same time.

Total freak out ensues. Oh dear god, what are we doing?! What if The Bambina ain't havin' any of it? What if we get there and have nothing to talk about now that he's not taking my vitals every 15 minutes? I am driving myself and my child to WEST VIRGINIA to hang out with a guy I know in only one context and whose children might be horrifying rural ruffians who try to get The Bambina to light firecrackers in the butts of cats and squirrels! He might be terrible at home! What if his fun, cool, former military outdoorsy guy persona is just a cover for his posse comitatus membership? What if his "lovechild of Ethan Hawke and Jason Bateman" looks are a mask he wears in the city, and he really looks like the lovechild of Marilyn Manson and Kid Rock?! I AM INSANE TO BE DOING THIS!!

So what happens?

The most boring, not-even-remotely-blog-fodder outcome: He's lovely, his family is lovely, his baby son was adorable, his 4-year old son was a gem to The Bambina, playing with her and carrying her stuffed dog, and trying to get us to roleplay Star Wars with him and his multiple light sabers. We walked down to his lake front and sat in his canoe, let the kids play with the oars, and then went back to the house and ate taquitos.

SOOOO not my impression of West Virginia, and so not what I expected from the day. Which shows that sometimes making the crazy decision to get out of your comfort zone, to do something that feels weird but that has potential, is sometimes the sanest decision you can make. As long as that decision does not involve lighting firecrackers up the butts of small animals...

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Man Cannot Live By Bread Alone"

Which is a statement generally made by those who have the most bread.

On that topic, do we need additional evidence that Rick Santorum is an Extremely Large A-Hole?


Can Someone Verify This?

If true, this is truly disturbing and a point of shame for the American people:


Look for the NSFW November 10th post.

Bambina Populista

Another post from months ago that never got posted. Can you tell I'm doing some housecleaning?!:

You know me. I grew up po', as Oprah calls it. She says that there is "poor" and there is "po'." My family, we was po'. Gummint cheese handouts. Free school lunches. All three kids had jobs starting at 14 years old. One gift on your birthday, and it wasn't a bike. Blah blah blah. You know the sob story, which I didn't realize was a sob story till I went to college and saw 18 year olds driving cars my parents would never own and telling me about their "third house" in Newport. THAT'S when I realized I should have felt more deprived all those years ago!

As po' as we were, we were never on welfare because my dad would sooner have severed a limb and broiled it for food than taken a "handout from Ronald Reagan." My whole upbringing was steeped in working for what you had, living within your means, and a deep-seated disapproval for conspicuous consumption. True, I mostly hated people flaunting their name-brand "stuff" because I myself didn't have any stuff to flaunt. But it also spoke to, in my mind, a larger issue of that person needing name brands in order to feel important, which I found sad even as I secretly wished I could have sneakers bearing the Nike "Swoosh" rather than the Sears Roebuck "Sheesh."

Fast forward to early summer 2005. The bambina was given an adorable stuffed puppy as a gift. He is a Labrador puppy with a turquoise-blue ribbon around his neck. His name is Meyer, he is the love of her life, and woe betide me should I ever forget him when we go somewhere. More than once someone has said as we've rolled by, "Wow! What a fancy doggie!" Oookay. I would have said "cute" or "fluffy" more than "fancy" but okay, if that's the word that came to your mind... I had no idea what they were talking about until this past week when I finally clued in to what they were saying: the ribbon around Meyer's neck looks like the ribbon that Tiffany wraps around their gifts--that turquoise ribbon on their famous turquoise boxes. Aha. Now I get it.

So while some part of me figures I should be flattered that people think I'd only have the best stuffed doggies for my child, I am mostly feeling annoyed because all I can think is, "What moron would give a baby a toy from TIFFANY'S??!!"

Meyer has a weekly laundry date simply because he gets so chewed, drooled and sweat on that he reeks like a real dog left out overnight in the rain if he doesn't have that weekly visit with his cousins Arm and Hammer. What sane person would purchase a dog from Tiffany's (at Tiffany prices) for a wee drooly baby? And--the real, true origin of my pique--do I look like someone who would be that insane? I ate government cheese, people! I ate mason-jarred tomatoes from our garden all winter because Prego--and even Ragu--were considered too expensive! Do I look like someone who is burnin' the money on a Tiffany dog?!! You B**tards!

So I got all wee-wee'd up about people jumping to conclusions and pegging my kid for some spoiled rich baby (can you tell I always thought rich and spoiled went together?), until I take a step back and look at her: She is sitting in her stroller, drinking (no-name brand) water out of an Evian bottle (because they have the easiest sport cap for her to drink through), while wearing her (given as a gift) designer dress--while clutching a stuffed puppy wearing a Tiffany-blue dog collar, while banging on her pretend (actually, a broken) BlackBerry.

Ronald Reagan is sitting somewhere smiling.

How Can a Loving God...

...have created Pat Robertson?!

From the AP:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

All eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design" _ the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power _ as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."

Eight families had sued the district, claiming the policy violates the constitutional separation of church and state. The federal trial concluded days before Tuesday's election, but no ruling has been issued.

Later Thursday, Robertson issued a statement saying he was simply trying to point out that "our spiritual actions have consequences."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Motherhood: An Army of One

In talking with a friend today he said something that knocked me out:

"It's funny how being a parent changes you, isn't it?"

It's such a cliche, a Lifetime Television For Women hackneyed concept: "woman's life has little discernible meaning, gets child, gets meaning." Lame. Simplistic. Embarrassing that people still believe it.

And yet, true.

The truth of it never occurred to me before, simply because I have always deplored any aphorism that can be put on a Celestial Seasonings teabag and be called "wisdom." Sayings like "life is truth" or whatever just annoy the hell out of me because in their attempt to provide meaning, they become meaningless. Sort of like, "funny how being a parent changes you..."

To be sure, simply having a child does not imbue your life with meaning. But loving a child sure does. Like the previous post about jury duty. Before The Bambina, I wouldn't have been psyched to sit through it, but not for the same reasons. This time, it was because I knew that all I'd be thinking about as I listened to this trial is, "Dear God, don't let this ever happen to my daughter; I beg of you." I would see my daughter in the victim, I would empathize with her in a way I would not with the accused, simply because she is somebody's daughter and I'd pray that someone would help her if they could.

No matter what the issue, I find myself saying, "If she were my daughter, I'd pray to god that someone would tell her x or help her with y, or refuse her z" or whatever. It sounds so very altruistic, but I'm almost not sure if that is an appropriate way to live, since no one can ever help everyone simply because they are "somebody's daughter" and sometimes the bridges you burn to help that stranger who is somebody's daughter might not be worth it if you end up with no bridges of your own.

And so I am left to hope that there is some balance that can be achieved, wherein I can feel the pain of another human, even one I don't know, simply because her mother is out there somewhere hoping that another mother will do the right thing for her daughter, and wherein I can not take on every issue, every person, and every concern simply because I would want it taken on for my child if I were not there myself.

I'm thinking that is my new challenge for the coming months: to find that balance between working to perfect the world for my child, doing what I think is the right thing for another person's child (no matter what their age), and recognizing sometimes that some things and some people just have to take care of themselves.

The Jury Is Out

This is a post from two months ago that, for some reason, I never actually posted. I still think about this trial, even today. Wondering how it went, how the victim is doing, hoping the guy is actually in jail. Still feeling a bit guilty that I didn't want to be on the jury:

Most of us, in the US at least, have at one time or another received that little perforated envelope in the mail bearing the words, "SUMMONS: JURY DUTY." The envelope engenders a multiplicity of feelings: excitement at having a day off (slackers), excitement at having something to do (bored seniors), trepidation (first timers), and any number of other emotions across the spectrum from disgust to delight.

Me, I got mine about a month ago, groaned, and put it on my calendar. I know people who get deferments but I figured it was my first time, it is my civic duty, and it is the foundation of our entire system of jurisprudence. (Have I used the wrong word, LawyerDorks? Should I have said "criminal justice system" or "legal system" or what?)

Anyway, today was my day. I arrived at 8am, stood in line, waited for two hours in what must have been the most statistically valid cross-section of DC residents ever assembled, then got called to a potential trial where I sat for three further hours during the voire dire process of jury selection. I was kind of interested to see what the trial would be, whether I'd be selected, how long the trial would last...

Well, any curiosity or interest I had was obliterated with the judges words: "Carjacking. Kidnapping. Rape. Attempted murder with a tire iron..." Oh dear god. No, I cannot do this case. Too dark. Too awful. Too scary, since the defendant is sitting right there and will know who I am if I serve. It was heavy. I also felt tremendous guilt that a woman had lived through this horror and yet I was thinking that I would not be able to even HEAR about it. I immediately found myself simultaneously praying I would not have to do this case and hoping I would get picked so I could help nail the defendant.

It was at this point that I realized I was not right for the jury regardless of my "close relationship with law enforcement," which is one of the disclosures they ask you to make during selection. It may be the most jaded opinion in the world, but I figured this: if that guy was sitting there, I had little doubt he did it. The prosecution had, like, 21 witnesses, the defense had 4, one of whom was his mother. No doubt to give the character witness testimony that "he has always been a good boy; maybe got in a little trouble, but he ain't no rapist carjacker..." Riiiight. And honestly, if some guy carjacked, kidnapped, raped and beat me near death with a tire iron, I'm pretty sure I'd remember his face and voice. I already felt like he was guilty, and so just told the judge that I'd be more likely to believe a police officer than a defendant, due to my close relationship with someone in law enforcement, a person whom I can never imagine lying on the stand for any reason. I so wanted to be the person that poor woman (the victim) could count on to get justice, but I knew that pretending to be impartial was not the way to go about it.

So that's what I told the judge. That I had a close relationship with law enforcement that would impact my ability to be impartial. But I wasn't being entirely honest. The truth was that I just could not bring myself to hear the details of this horrific crime and not feel permanently affected by it. How would I go there during the day and hear about how a woman was raped and beaten near death--and then go home to my daughter without bringing that contamination into her life in some way? I was terror-stricken that I would somehow transmit my fear, loathing and contempt for the perpetrator--as well as my pain, empathy and sorrow for the woman--to my daughter. I know this sounds so selfish, but it's the only way I can find to express what I was feeling. I just could not bring the darkness of that crime into my life at that point. I couldn't find a way to compartmentalize the emotions I was already feeling at the jury selection, much less those I was sure to feel during the trial, in a way that would let me go home at night to my child without clutching her a little closer and hugging her a little bit longer.

Maybe that's the point of jury duty, though. To make every citizen, at some point or another, party to the pain, conflict or controversy of another citizen. So maybe I missed the point. But all I know is that I didn't have it in me to do it the way the system intended, and so I chose to bow out.

Not to worry. I'm sure, for my sins, next time I'll be put on a crushingly boring 16-month grand jury investigating malfeasance in the cattle prod manufacturing industry. It'll be karmic retribution.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I Could Have Been A Townie

My sister took a trip back to our hometown in New England this weekend. She hung out with her old friends, took a tour of our old neighborhood (wherein my old house is now a crack house, which makes me want to cry), and ended up at a "townie" bar and lounge on the outskirts of town.

While there, a guy walked up to her from the bar and said, "Are you {her name}?" She said yeah, and then realized that she was speaking to my evil ex-boyfriend from high school. He said, "Tell E I say Hi! How is she!?" My sister was noncommittal in the extreme, except to say "yeah, let's not go there" to his idea that she should call me on her cell so he could say hi to me. She said he was totally wasted at 8pm and obviously desperate to speak to her about me.

I don't know if I have ever mentioned it in these pages before except in the most general terms, but this is a guy I dated in high school who, if I was the girl I am now back then, would never have gotten within one mile of me. The short, not-too-detailed story is that it was an emotionally and borderline-physically abusive relationship. He had lots of anger issues, and I was the closest target. Oh yeah--and "I Looooooved Him." Grrr. Makes me so mad to know I was that girl who stays because she "looooves" someone who treats her like dog shit. I had dumped guys before him for, like, nothing, but something about the chemistry, alchemy, where we both were at 16 years old, something in our respective psyches and environments, whatever, created the perfect storm of dysfunction and I stayed.

My parents never knew because I didn't want my dad to literally kill him and end up in jail, which I knew he would. My sister sort of knew and was the one person who made life tough for him, but I still hid so much of it from her. My brother had already graduated and he was in the same category as my dad, ie, I knew he would actually physically engage my boyfriend and go to jail for forcible castration and feeding thereof, and I couldn't deal with the guilt of being not only stupid enough to be with this guy but to be responsible for my family's anger because of it.

And so I stayed. Until I didn't. And that's when the party really started. And that's when restraining orders were acquired, father and brother were planning serious consequences should he even breathe in my direction, my mother calling his mother to try to shame her into controlling her clearly out-of-control son. Blah blah blah. No point going over it all. The point being, that his and my last interaction was by no means positive, and we have never spoken since. Thank you, God.

And so I found my sister's retelling of her evening to be simultaneously upsetting, bemusing, and laugh-out-loud hysterical, because the truth is that people don't change. This thirty-something year-old guy was out at a bar getting hammered by 8pm, obviously pulling his well-practiced "I'm so sorry; I'm really a nice guy--see?" routine on my sister who thankfully was havin' none of it. He told her he had "repented" for what happened "back then" and that he would love it if she would make sure to tell me he says hi. She said she'd pass the message along, never believing for one minute that he was capable of "repenting" for anything. Because after all, how can you be sorry for stuff you did that isn't your fault? How can you be sorry for doing something that someone else made you do? "Cause you know, if E hadn't been so friendly and had so many guy friends I wouldn't have had to be so jealous. And if she hadn't questioned my whereabouts when I was out with other girls but telling her I was with the guys, I wouldn't have had to be so offended at her distrust. And if she hadn't been so headstrong and good in school, I wouldn't have had to feel less-than in comparison, which you know how it is for guys; you're the king of your castle and sometimes women just need to know who's boss no matter how important they think they are elsewhere... (Can you smell the dysfunction from 15 years out and a world away?!)

Fast forward to an hour later where there is a huge commotion in the bar area. My sister and her friends get up to see what is going on, and what do they see but Evil Ex-Boyfriend up against the bar getting handcuffed by the cops for Drunk and Disorderly?!

And here's the best part that shows he hasn't changed: As he was being led away, he turned to my sister, and instead of being mortified and humiliated at being cuffed by the police, he turns to my sister and says nonchalantly, "Now, make sure you tell E I said Hi, okay?! Thanks!"

Exeunt various and sundry townies. Of which I could have been one but for my parents and my upbringing which finally, at long last, kicked in at the most crucial moment for me. He's married now, and all I can think about is his no-doubt cowed wife going down to the station to pick him up AGAIN for punching a bartender. And I thank god for my life today. There but for his grace go I.

You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married

I went to a good friend's wedding last night. It was great to see him so happy, and to see the two families embracing each other. It was so much fun to catch up with old college buddies, to lapse into old adolescent banter, to (as the awesome band The Donnas says:) "I'm on my second drink; but I've had a few before...," and to finish a sentence without interrupting myself with, "Put that down, sweetie" or "Do not throw your food!" or "Did you just do poopies?!" Okay, I actually did still get to say that at the reception, but not to my daughter...(whatup, Jeff?!) ;)

On each table at the reception were small cards and pens with instructions to write a piece of advice, a quote, a thought for the bride and the groom. I thought long and hard (in between dancing to Brick House and September [by EWandF]), and finally settled on these as The Haggis' Two Key Steps To A Blessed Union of Souls:

To {the groom}:
{Friend}, from a girl to a guy, I can offer only this: be kinder to {your wife} than you feel like being, be sweeter to her than you think is necessary, be more honest than you know is good for you--and all good things will be yours.

And To {the bride}? Same thoughts, same principles, only worded differently:

ALWAYS pay cash for shoes. Men just don't understand.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Unlikely Aphrodisiac

I've been working on a potential client with a politico who used to work for Tony Blair, the British PM. He is Scottish (from a town only a few miles from where I grew up), he's married, he's a dad. And might I hasten to add that he is completely not my type and not someone who inspired in me any feelings beyond collegial platonic pleasantness.

Now, I have met with him in person, I have spent time with him in a group, I've hung out with him, so I am familiar with him already. I liked him just fine, but nothing more exciting than that.

And then he left me a voice mail.

"Hallooaah E, this is [Married Scottish Business Acquaintance]. How arrrre ye todee?" I have never thought twice about him before but hearing his thick, wonderful Scottish accent made my knees instantly weak. The baby daddy was there when I got the message, so I made him listen to it to tell me if it was making him equally googly. No sale--obviously.

But weak kneed I was. Over nothing more than an accent. What is up with that?!

My fear is not that I have turned into a lame-assed housefrau ready to throw her bra at Tom Jones (although I'd be lying if that hadn't entered my mind) but that I could be just lame enough to someday find myself on the phone with a 600 pound drunk and stinky Scotsman but be inexplicably thinking, "Oooooh! Talk to me big fella!"

Send help now...

West Wing Anticipation

How sad is our current political climate that I am sitting here watching the tail end of Dateline NBC just so I don't miss one second of the West Wing live debate between Alan Alda's and Jimmy Smits' characters?!

I am so psyched for this show that it makes me embarrassed for our current state of political affairs...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Lot o' Alito

The President's Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito has been troubling me for a few days now. You will notice that I did not immediately write a post on him. The reasons for my delay are three:

1) Cute toddler girl requiring care, feeding, love and attention rather than watching TV while I research some judge online.

2) Trying to think of pseudo-creative title for the post using a wordplay on "Alito." Cheeto? Bandito? Jermaine-and-Tito?

3) Something about him was bothering me and I couldn't put it together into a cohesive and meaningful statement until...

well, until I read it already written by someone far superior to myself in both research and writing.

Here is a fabulous article from Slate that essentially sums up all of the "ick factor" I feel about Alito's views on Choice. The article is called Right to Wife, and it discusses Alito's dissent in a 14-year old case known as Casey where he voted to impose criminal sanctions on women who had abortions without informing their husbands.

Yeah. You read that right. This man believes that an adult woman should face criminal sanctions if she does something to her own body without her husband's permission. So--will the husband go to jail for getting a vasectomy without his wife's permission? What if he doesn't like her taking contraception? Does he get to be her parent on that topic too?

In what alternate dimension of the United States are we living where a grown adult woman has to ask her husband's permission to undergo a medical procedure?! Sure it's optimal if they are both in agreement on these things. Sure it would be better if they discussed it. But for a party who is all about keeping the government off my back, it sure is interesting that they'd nominate a guy who wants the government mediating marital relationships and medical procedures. What a curious contradiction--and what a reprehensibly paleolithic view of a woman's human rights--to promote in the United States in 2005.

Right to Wife

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Google's TMI*

Did everyone but me know that you can type someone's home phone number into the GOOGLE search bar and then get a detailed map to their home courtesy of the provided Yahoo Maps or Mapquest link?

Does anyone else think this is creepy and scary? Imagine your child giving someone his or her phone number. That person could then, with two clicks, find out the address of the child's house--and get directions straight to it.

I know all of this information is more or less in the public domain. What is creeping me out is the one-stop shopping nature of it all. Back in the day, you had to have a name to get a phone number. And lord knows how you would get an address with just a phone number. And you certainly weren't going to get--without a hell of a lot of effort--directions to someone's front door just by having their phone number.

Now, you meet someone in a bar or at a party, you give him your number, and you have just told him where you live and how to get there. Yeeks. Which might be a good enough reason to have a cell phone and only give that number out.

Incidentally, you can have your phone number removed from google. You have to click on the link that says "Phonebook results for:(i.e.555-555-1212)" above your name and phone number, or go to

Fill in the form, wait 48 hours, and hope your stalker is out of town till it's removed.

*TMI means "too much information," just in case acronyms frighten and confuse you.

Can We Get Closure on the Notion of Closure?

The WSJ recently ran an article positing that the human habit of "making the best" of bad things is actually hard wired into our brains. They discussed studies showing that humans have a tendency to interpret less-than-favorable results in a way that imbues the unexpected outcome with positive meaning.

Here is the article:

It's incredibly interesting to ponder, the human need to have something good come from something bad. The article goes into the theory's relevance to religious belief, but I don't want to touch that today. I'm thinking today less about the biological impulses moving us toward relative/comparative positivity (which, now that I think about it, might be true and therefore a positive thing) ;) and more about our current cultural obsession with enforcing that positivity. You've heard the word and you know you hate it as much as I do: "closure." The concept that something bad can happen, you can "closure" it out of existence within the all-important One Year Anniversary media timetable (think Challenger, 9/11), and then move on unscathed. But if humans truly are programmed to interpret a positive from a negative, why the RUSH to make it happen NOW, rather than letting it happen when and as it is meant to happen?

Perhaps it is a result of our current dissonant society: so much empty or gratuitous "emotion"/divulging/reality TV drama saturating us, and yet a tremendous discomfort in hearing another human describe their pain. We can watch Jackass but not Hotel Rwanda. It's as if we only want emotional drama if it is an outsize caricature or if it is dealt with vapidly and neatly on an episode of According To Jim. We want emotion; just not the messy truth of it.

A few posts ago when I was barfing every 45 minutes and just feeling like hell on earth, I wrote a semi-serious post about feeling grateful for good health and for not dying today, no matter how much I prayed for just such an end. Someone responded that "[you] sound older than [your] age. That's too bad." Luckily, my peeps chimed in to disabuse the commenter of the notion that I am anywhere close to being old for my age! I laughed when I read it because it was so out-there, but I think it buried itself in the back of my brain and set up shop, because I thought about it again today after remembering that yesterday was the year anniversary of a friend's father's passing. I didn't mention it to her because I figured she'd tell me anything she wanted to tell. I did ask about her mom, and how she was doing, so it was clear what my point was. But I didn't want to force her to have a conversation with me that she may not have wanted to have. I wasn't uncomfortable in hearing anything she wanted to say, I just didn't want to force her to emote in the middle of the street with our kids present. Upon telling this to another friend in the context of wondering if I had done the wrong thing, the friend said, "well, at least now she can get closure since it's been a year."

That comment and the previous comment on my post just hit me over the head in that instant. The notion that it is somehow not right to feel sad or mad or lonely or sick or scared for as long as you need to (assuming you don't need to for something like a decade during which you quit your job and sit around in your drawers dropping Cheeto crumbs down your wifebeater tank top...)--and that doing so makes you either someone who is Older Than Your Age (ie, not seeing the bright side) or someone who is Refusing To Embrace the Closure (ie, not following The Grief Timetable as determined by Katie Couric and Matt Lauer).

Why isn't it okay anymore to just feel appropriately sad or heartbroken or scared or despairing? And why isn't it okay to say, "Nothing good came of that. Not one thing." I was in a relationship about which I can honestly say more bad than good came out of it, in terms of my physical and emotional well-being. But I feel like if I ever said that to someone, I would seem "older than my age," when what I'm being is honest. And by virtue of the fact that I brought it up, someone might say that I never accepted the closure of the relationship. But is it so wrong to keep lessons you learned the hard way close to your mind? Who gets to tell me that my feelings have a sell-by date, assuming they are not paralyzing me?

It's like that rule about funerals: you NEVER tell someone that their relative is "better off now" or "in a better place" et. al. You cannot convince someone on the day of the funeral that the death of their children's father is a good thing, nor should you start the countdown clock to when you get to announce that they should have achieved closure as of this morning at 9:45am. If the deceased was very sick, the surviving person will someday get to that point where they can say, "I miss him but I am glad he is not suffering anymore." The key being that the bereaved are the ones who tell YOU that the person is in a better place, by virtue of the fact that they have come to believe it over time by going through the inexorable process of grieving, which come to think of it, might be the very thing we are--individually and collectively--trying to avoid by mandating closure.