Monday, March 31, 2008

A Few Minutes with the NY Times Before I Collapse

Is anyone else out there on tenterhooks waiting for the official results in Zimbabwe?

When my kids are gone, I am so totally never cooking again.

Oh dear, did we make a mistake?

Think I can get in a real cake, before I need to start baking for seders?

OK, now I must collapse. Mondays are always long, but this one has been really long.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Bat Mitzvah Chronicles
Not really an update from our end, but progress toward the great destination. The sixth grade had their service on Friday night: in twos and threes they led every song and prayer, from up on the bimah. M was the only one who went solo: she introduced the evening. She also led a prayer with I think two other kids and talked about her class's mitzvah projects. I can report with confidence that she was a total star, not just on the basis of my own bias, but on the number of compliments I got from other parents, and even grandparents (not just hers--I ran into a grandparent at the gym yesterday who asked if I was M's mom and said that they'd been commenting on how fabulous she was, and her daughter had pointed me out as M's mother!).

On the other hand, they all looked so young up there. It's really hard to believe that in a year, give or take, they'll be like those giant seventh graders, confidently parading through their very own services.

Renovation Chronicles
We have put down a deposit. Estimated start of construction: beginning of May.

Three contractors, all highly recommended, came to meet with us. The first was enormously knowledgeable, asked tons of great questions which prepped us for the others, had great ideas, gave us a ballpark figure half again as much as the top of what we'd been prepared to spend, and then told us that he'd met with the Town building inspection dudes and it was impossible to do what we want (Town has some wacko zoning laws that serious circumscribe our project) (in case you've forgotten, or never knew, the project is turning the third floor, currently a small under-used room and a large attic, into three bedrooms and a bathroom).

The second came in, looked around, asked a lot of dumb questions, made some bad suggestions (if you've got floorspace issues, why would you put in an extra piece of hallway?), left, and was never heard from again, as we predicted. I'm sure he's great at what he does, but this project was clearly too much for him.

The third came in, looked around, and said he could do it. Did he have questions? No. Was he worried about permitting? No. Then he came in with a bid that was significantly less than the minimum we expected to spend. Too good to be true? Good friends of ours swear by him, and say they know many people he's worked for and everyone loves him. One of his clients who lives in our neighborhood called us, at his behest, and invited us over to see her third floor, where he did basically what we want for our third floor. Beautiful work, legally permitted, and she loves him too.

We are waiting for the shoe to drop, but we've put down a deposit (the contract is on the dining room table, waiting for S to review--it looked fine to me, but he, probably with good reason, wanted to see for himself).

In the last two weeks I have turned down two temporary job offers and withdrawn from a search after a finalist interview. I've also gotten one new piece of work and am almost certainly about to get another long-term contract. My two current long-term contracts want me to stay on. The job I withdrew from was a job job, not a consulting position, and a job I thought I wanted. But the interview was unpleasant and I thought, why give up all this work I'm doing that I like, with great people, and lots of flexibility, just to have a job? So I think I have just made a conceptual shift from "I am consulting until I get a job," to "I am a consultant," though of course I wouldn't turn down the perfect job.

Horton Hears a Who
Tedious. I fell asleep.

Moderately in check at the moment. One thing I will say for this crisis is that it has revealed new levels of awesomeness in my husband. I'm not one to go around praising my husband in this blog (for that, see Dawn). Usually he's either not around, or I'm annoyed by him (please take that with the light sprinkling of salt with which it was intended). But I totally dragged him into this crisis without even asking, and he has risen to the occasion, and beyond, to the point that he is now even more committed to doing the right thing than I am.

There are some crocuses. There are some green shoots. Yesterday the air was bitter. Today it is soft.

The terrible substitute teacher of the bad yoga class? She redeemed herself the next week with an absolutely delightful class. This morning I was supposed to go with C and Neighborhood K to some special spring yoga class that P's husband was playing guitar for, but of course I didn't sign up in time (uh, try last night) and it was full. So I went to my regular yoga class and the up-and-down sub is gone and the regular teacher is back and it was again delightful, lots of shoulder and hip openers and crazy semi-lotus poses (there was a name for it, but I forget--one knee bent and shin going back alongside thigh with top of foot on floor, and then the other leg does all sorts of bending and lifting and stretching--very nice, as Jenny would say). So I'm feeling all open and stretched and relaxed.

I think that's it, for now.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Books and Love

Does taste in books signal relationship compatibility? Maybe yes, maybe no, according to this typically on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand essay in the NY Times Book Review. From my self-absorbed location in the relationship/reading trenches, it's the fact of reading that matters. I can't imagine being with someone who didn't care about books; it would be like marrying a Republican! It matters to me that S cares about and knows books the way I do, that his most important packing question for any vacation is what books to bring, that he gets my T.S. Eliot references. On the other hand (hey, why don't they hire me to write those essays?!), our reading tastes are pretty much non-overlapping. Basically he's a boy book/serious literature kind of guy (Auster, DeLillo, and most recently Tolstoy), and I'm a girl book/contemporary fiction kind of gal (saving most recent reads for a near-future post, but let's just say Austen, Brontes, Messud, Miller [that would be Sue], if you read this blog, you know what I read). Occasionally we do read the same book, and it's a big event--I know there's something fabulous we've both loved that tells you what cool people we both are, but right now the only shared reads I can think of recently are Poppy Z. Brite's restaurant novels. No big takeaway here, just chiming in about me...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Looking Ahead

Dear T.S.,

The last few months have been pretty cruel. I know you were just describing, not creating (I mean you were creating and all, though you had your derivative moments, but you weren't making it happen), but now that you're up there with the big guy, if there is one, and if you're up there, which you might not be, given the anti-semitism thing and the mistreatment of the first wife thing, but, anyways, if there's anything you can do, could we please have an April that's a little less cruel?


Dear Chaucer,

You know the shoures soote thing? Well, we've had an awful lot of 'em already, so maybe April could keep his to himself? (And if you buy me a drink, I'll give you the first 18 lines.)

Much appreciated,

Dear Mr. Browning,

I would love to be in England once April's there, but, alas, M is going without me. However, I'd take Paris. So I'm wondering, between you and Liz, there must still be some serious royalties rolling in. Could you spot me a loan for April vacation?

Anxiously awaiting your reply,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Health Insurance Chronicles, # Umpteen

S's sous chef is probably the most important person in my life whom I never see. When S has a good sous chef, life rocks. The restaurant runs smoothly, S works five days a week and is calm and happy, my family has a (relatively) present, calm, happy father, and thus has a calmer, happier mother (that would be me). When S does not have a sous chef, or has a bad sous chef, the consequences similarly trickle down to the rest of us: he has to work more, he has to worry about the restaurant even when he is home, there are more crises, more tension, more grumpiness, and we all suffer in kind.

Right now S has a great sous chef. He is a good cook AND a good manager, he has fabulous attitude, everyone likes him, he's a Red Sox/Dropkick Murphys fan, he has awesome tattoos and no girlfriend (we want him to have a girlfriend because we want him to be happy, but we're secretly kind of glad he doesn't, because no girlfriend=more flexibility to work). He is a huge improvement over the last sous chef, and life has improved concomitantly.

Only he told S today that he might have to leave. Why? Because he has a heart problem and needs health insurance.

Yes, it's true, the restaurant does not provide health insurance. S has never worked for a restaurant that offered health insurance (because he works for small hip restaurants, not big chains or hotel restaurants). This is why, now that I am a consultant, we are paying for bad health insurance out of pocket. Which we have to because of kids and which we are lucky to be able to afford because between us we make enough money (for bad health insurance).

Why doesn't the restaurant provide health insurance? When I'm feeling cranky and need a real person to blame (like this afternoon, when I learned that the sous chef might have to leave and ruin my life), I rail about the restaurant's owner who does provide health insurance at his other restaurant and could obviously provide it at this one too, as I vociferously pointed out to S this afternoon, underscoring the fact that if he did it would make a tangible difference in our life as well. But when I'm feeling thoughtful and economical, I acknowledge that providing health insurance, even sucky health insurance with a big employee premium, can be the difference between profit and not for a small business, and thus can be the difference between a small business barely hanging on and a small business folding, and thus the difference between my husband (and a bunch of other people) having a job and not.

So what's the answer? Government health insurance that does not depend on your job. Duh.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Dinner Solution

E was at a play rehearsal, S was home, and M had a friend over for dinner. I don't know if it was an age issue (substituting another 11 year old for the seven year old) or a sibling issue (i.e. there weren't any), but we had the most pleasant dinner I can remember. No squabbling, sulking, warring over Mommy's attention; no need to tell anyone to stay in their chair; no second meal. Just two big girls cheerfully setting and clearing the table, thoroughly pleasant conversation, relaxed sitting around the table after eating. We thought about trading E for M's friend, but I guess we'd miss her. Except maybe at dinner.

And What Were You Doing at 6:30 This Morning?

Did I really just say "Big Papi, and then you're gone?" Because M has to go to school, not to bed? Yup, it's morning baseball in Tokyo. Go Sox.

Edited to add: Brandon Moss? Brandon Moss???

Edited again to add: Wow. Wow. I really did think they were going to lose, before the game even started, just because of the narrative inevitability. But that was the same team we saw last year, pulling it out in the clutch. Wow. (And, no, I have not been watching baseball all morning, but I have my ways...)

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Am So Very Tired

Yes, because it's late, and once again I meant to be in bed so early, but then the person with whom I'm coordinating a project at E's school came over, and our meeting stretched, and then I had to deal with my email, and now it's now.

But really I am tired because, well, because it's been a long, cold, lonely winter, except that it hasn't been particularly lonely, except when I was depressed and isolated in February. It has been long and cold, though, and grueling. I have had a boatload of work, but the kicker, I realized today, was that I went from an enormous project I'd been working on for two months and finally finished, straight into dealing with a non-work crisis. Like: straight. Like: I finished the project on March 12, at around noon, made a phone call, and 45 minutes later was enmeshed in a crisis from which we did not emerge until this weekend. So I'd spent two months thinking constantly about work, and then went into ten days of thinking constantly about the crisis--at least in this thinking I was joined by S--and then the crisis started lifting on Friday, and lifted on Saturday, and, well, now I understand why all I wanted to do this weekend was sleep.

You know how in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People they have that grid with urgent/not urgent on one axis and important/not important on the other? (Truly this is the only thing I know about The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, so I assume everyone knows it, but maybe you don't, but you get the picture, don't you?) To be effective, you're supposed to spend the majority of your time in not urgent/important. I feel like I've spent the last three months in urgent/important. Today I spent the day at work puttering around in not urgent/not important. I think I'd like to stay there for a while. And get some sleep.

First the Bees, Now the Bats

Like any red-blooded American woman, I'm not so crazy about bats, but this is horrifying.

We're Just Loving David Patterson Over Here

I mean, how can you not love a politician who just comes out and admits it all?! Tax problems, affairs, and now cocaine and marijuana. Hey, whaddaya know, he's a real adult of the 21st century. We say: David Patterson for President!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

On Prowess, Praise, and Bragging

When E says she's the smartest kid in her class, M rolls her eyes and tells her not to brag. I say she is very smart and is one of the kids in her grade who is really good at school, but other kids are good at lots of other things too.

Despite the equalizing attempts of well-meaning adults, kids know what's what and who's best. This is especially true in kindergarten and first grade where the difference between best and not is often simply the ability to do whatever is being assessed. E was the only kid in her kindergarten class who could read, ergo she was the best reader. M (different M) was the only kid on E's t-ball team who could hit the ball into the outfield, ergo he was the best t-ball player. Everyone knew it, and there was no point in denying it.

It gets more complicated as kids get older and other issues besides basic skills come into play. Someone may have enormous capacity but not enough time to practice. Someone else may be playing dumb to be cool. Still, it's clear to M that she understands the math and her friend A doesn't (so she helps A). On the other hand, it's clear that M is the slowest swimmer in her age group in her league, and yet she still would be one of the first five kids any coach worth his salt would choose for his team: you'd want the fastest swimmers in free, back, breast, and fly, and then you'd want M, because she has fabulous attitude, she's serious about practice, she gets along with everyone, and she cheers her friends like a maniac--they cheer her too, and the team goes wild when she doesn't lose her heat. In other words, there are lots of ways to be great and lots of skills that matter.

I think we do kids a disservice when we tell them they're great at everything, because they know when we're bullshitting. I told E the other day that she'd written a great story and she said, "You have to say that, you're my mom, you think everything I do is great." I said, "No, I don't. I don't think it's that great when you divide a piece of paper into three sections and color each section a different color," which she does just about every day and which is fine, but doesn't excite me much.

My kids are great at a lot of things and not so great at a lot of other things. Every kid I've ever met, and I've met a lot of kids, is great at something. I know a teenager who can't do school for shit, but knows everything there is to know about rebuilding Hondas for racing. I mean, you can't even believe it when you hear this kid talking about engines and titanium axles and stuff I never even heard of, let alone evaluating used cars on craigslist in seconds flat. So what this kid needs is to be told that he's amazing on the car front and has to improve on the school front. And then you need to look at how his car skills and knowledge can be put to use in service of school.

Hmm, I've covered prowess and praise, but somehow I've digressed and bragging has slipped out of the mix. I'm way down on bragging, to the point that I think I've made my kids overly self-conscious about it--and conscious of it in others. M used to be really good friends with a boy in her class who now spends an inordinate amount of time declaring that he is the best--at music, math, spelling. He's pretty good, but the egotism is insufferable. What I want is for kids--and grownups--to be able to accurately assess themselves, to be proud of what they're good at, to acknowledge what they're not so great at, but try hard anyways, and, especially, to be able to see and honor the good in others, and to accept, understand, and where possible support others where they struggle.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Blog as Advertisement

My new passion: Adora.

I am terrible about calcium. I occasionally think "oh, calcium," and drink a glass of milk, but that's about it. I hate taking pills, and I think Tums are disgusting. I didn't even do calcium while I was pregnant! I comfort myself with the idea that my excellent exercise habits will prevent me from shrinking several inches like my grandmother did, but obviously that's delusional.

Enter Adora. Local J, who is the purveyor of all things excellent, handed them out at her house the other day, and I was immediately hooked. Dark chocolate calcium? Two = RDA? 30 calories apiece? I am so becoming a calcium junkie.

How Did I Miss This?

The president called fighting in Afghanistan "romantic"??!?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

E's Amour

For several weeks now, E has been madly in love with me. Telling me she loves me the best of anyone, not to mention more than I love her, she squeezes as close to me as she can, showering me with kisses, or delivering endless smooches to the lips. It's very sweet, if occasionally tedious.

Lately there has been some drama around here which is going to remain unblogged. The four of us are fine, but there is concern over how the situation is affecting M and E.

M, at eleven, has long held a strongly-developed capacity for self-protection. She absorbs the information she needs, and calmly ignores whatever has the potential to disturb her (she honed this capacity in the face of the media--she still closes her eyes and covers her ears when an ad for CSI comes on). She is also old enough to understand what is happening, not to mention deeply involved in her own life, which is great and as it should be. We check in with her regularly, but, truly, I think she is OK, if a bit disgruntled.

Seven-year-old E, on the other hand, is definitely showing the strain. She is at the high end of her psycho tantrum scale*, and she is madly beating on her sister, which is about as transparent a case of transference as I've ever seen. She also squeezes next to me, tells me repeatedly how much she loves me, and pounds me with kisses.

[E, as I'm writing this: "Mommy, did I ever tell you how much I love you?"]

If she hadn't been doing the loving mommy thing for the last several weeks, it would definitely register as another sign of stress, but on this one I am going to grasp at the straws of maternal optimism and declare it developmental.

*The psycho tantrums have diminished in the last few days, which I'm also taking as a positive sign.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Today's Horoscope

It's best to stay focused on one endeavor at a time.

Yeah, right.

Best Line I've Seen About McCartney Divorce

How much does it take to get rid of a crazy, one-legged wife? 48.6 million dollars.

She truly is crazy. Really.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Do These People Have Any Tether to Reality?

Paul McCartney and Heather Mills finally have a divorce agreement:

The judge calculated Mill's annual income needs at about $1.2 million and included a sum of $5 million for her to buy a property in London.

A provision for daughter Beatrice consisting of periodical $70,000 payments was included, and McCartney has agreed to pay for her nanny and school fees. Of the provision, Mills said, "Beatrice only gets $70,000 a year so she is obviously meant to travel B class while her father travels A class. But obviously I will pay for that."

$5 million for a London house actually makes sense. If she needs $1.2 million, she needs $1.2 million, but kvetching about a three year old getting $70,000 a year? For what, teddy bears? If B class is a metaphor, I'm not getting it. If it's literal, uh, where does a three year old need to go?

Whoever said golddigger? They were right.

On the other hand, if his assets total $800 million, I'm not sure why he's kvetching either.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Finishing Up With the Sunday Times

Despite the slightly mocking tone that is the raison d'etre of the Style section, the organic farmers article definitely tracks a reality I'm seeing. Of course my connection to the restaurant business and all the time I've spent in the country give me a slightly broader farmer acquaintance than most, but just last month I found out about another friend who's started a farm--leaving behind filmmaking, which may say more about her adherence to the zeitgeist than her devotion to farming, but that's another story.

Walter Kirn is more incoherent than ever in his front-page review of Richard Price's new novel in the Book Review. I'm tempted to parse the incoherence, but a blog with more than one close reading a day seems problematic, and Flanagan got there first.

As for transmen at women's colleges, we already canvassed this one in the local paper's Sunday magazine several months ago. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't see why you would want to be at a woman's college if you're a man. Become a man; give up being a woman; the women's college goes. By the same token, I'm A-OK with MTFs at Michigan.

Oh God, must I

take on Caitlin Flanagan yet again? Please, I'd rather not, I have better things to do, like meet my deadline. But I think I can take care of this quickly.

1) Data??? It is...where? One hypothetical anecdote and one statistic do not evidence make. Could it be that 16 year olds, the only group cited, no longer have licenses (and a drop of one half to one third is not exactly elimination...) because driving license rules have changed? If you gave me stats for 17, 18, 19 year olds, I might feel better, but to only give stats for 16 year olds makes me suspect you're covering up the rest.

2) My own anecdotes? Teenagers in Town and Next Town drive as soon as they can--I was just having a conversation on Friday about the pressure for teenagers to have their own car. And URBAN teenagers? POOR teenagers? They're not home with mom and dad; they're taking the bus.

3) Oops, that was really a third point: the continuing focus on middle and upper-middle class teenagers, which at least Flanagan acknowledges, severely limits the use-value of this kind of observation, except, of course, to readers of the New York Times.

4) And this one is maybe a critique of the Times, not Flanagan: there is absolutely nothing in this article that hasn't been said a million times over the last ten years (try Judith Warner archives, to start). Yes, we live in the era of helicopter parents. Yes, teen rebellion is no longer a given (though believe you me, it sure does still exist--of this I know). Yes, parents know about their teenagers' lives. AND WE KNOW THIS. Why are you telling us yet again, with a dollop of unverified driving information?

You know, the irony is that I actually agree with her overall assessment here. But her writing, my God, it makes me crazy. (As, of course, does her prominence.)

March Madness

I don't have a lot of time for blogs these days, except when I have urgent deadlines, like today. But I do have my own Mini-Me to keep me up on what's happening out there, mainly in the Red Sox, celebrity, and fashion realms. So thanks to M, I can do my three loyal readers (I'm looking at you, Postacademic) the favor of informing you that Go Fug Yourself has its own version of March Madness going, and those brackets are pretty impressive. We'll rely on M to keep us informed.

Notes on Last Night

Have you ever seen a punk band, a green-robed choir, a children's Irish step dance troupe, a conservatory string section, a bagpipe police band, and a mad violinist assembled on one stage? It's an awesome sight.

The stages of woman: tween dresses with enormous care, wears a coat because she is forced to, is warm, looks cute when coat comes off; teen dresses with enormous care, refuses to wear a coat, is cold, looks cute throughout; adult dresses with no care, chooses to wear coat, is warm, looks like a mom, doesn't care.

Local identity has its drawbacks, bigotry and xenophobia among them. But I'm still glad my kids have one, especially when they are expressing it loudly in song.

I'm guessing the music I've recently thought about going to see and didn't--Magnetic Fields, Steve Earle, Jonathan Richman, Elton John--would have made life better. The music I finally did see definitely made life better.

Is it worth asking why mosh pits and crowd surfing persist in 2008, over 30 years after "Anarchy in the UK"? I mean, sure they're fun, but doesn't this generation want its own cultural manifestations?

There's an annual show that we and the Lucy family try to go to every year, and every year there's a problem. Someone is sick, someone has to work, someone is in crisis. Even in the car on the way there, I was sure it wasn't going to happen, that we were going to get in an accident, or my phone would ring and we would have to turn around. But we made it, for the first time ever, which I am determined to take as a good omen. Unfortunately, the Lucy family did not make it, as per unfortunate tradition, but next year we'll all be there.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


When I read articles about Big Brother/Big Sister programs and neighborhood associations, I always think I am colluding in the deterioration of the American social fabric by not volunteering. Then I think again and realize that's insane, I totally volunteer. I am on a board, and I just finished five years on a major committee; I run a big event at E's school; I bake for just about every bake sale and duly take my shift at ticket tables and cake walks; I organized community service activities for both E and M's religious school classes...made my point?

Part of the reason my volunteering doesn't feel like volunteering is because a lot of it uses the same skills I use in my work (uh, not the baking). So I can start my day (call it, oh, yesterday) with coffee with another board member (half gossip, half strategy), segue into a phone call with another mom working on the school event, and then meet with my boss--and it kind of feels like I'm always doing the same thing (I don't mean that in a complaining boring way, but in a descriptive way) (uh, I guess I'm revealing the fact that I'm not a dentist).

I'm also very strategic about my volunteering. I bake, because it's easy and needed, but aside from that, I choose things where I, me, Becca, with my specific skill set and experience, can make a difference. And I'm good at saying no--or ignoring requests for help, as the case may be. Now, S might disagree on that last claim, but truly, the requests pour in, especially from the school, some generic, some to me, but once I've got my volunteer agenda for the moment set, that's it.

And of course the goal of this post is to complain, because I wouldn't be me if I weren't complaining. When I volunteer, I figure out what I can do, and then I do it. I am meticulous, perhaps even punctilious (you know I just wanted a chance to say punctilious) about meeting my obligations--and this is another place of overlap between work and volunteering. But I know a lot of people who just say yes yes yes, who volunteer for everything, and then drive themselves into the ground and/or do a for shit job. And I fail to see the value in that. Aside from the food/shelter/health/education basics, if something doesn't get done, it doesn't get done, and it's usually better to not do it than to do it badly, or to make yourself crazy doing it. So if this year there's no barbecue...well, whatever (the barbecue is probably not endangered, just pulled it off the top of my head to make my point).

And don't even get me started about volunteer martyrdom...

(Hmm, this post also provides the opportunity to use the word sanctimonious.) (That would be applied to myself, not the volunteer martyrs.) (Or perhaps that should be martyr volunteers. Only I like volunteer martyrs better.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Times Columnist We Love to Hate

No, not Judith Warner, she's on book leave. It's Brooks waxing sanctimonious on Spitzer without mentioning his name. GAG ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And can we briefly comment, without links that would support the phenomenon even while condemning it, that the group media attack on the prostitute is APPALLING. Making fun of her MySpace page? Come on, she's 22. I sense, perhaps, jealousy of her youth, beauty, and hourly rate...)

There Is No Joy in Mudville

You should have heard the piercing shriek emitted by M at this sad news. S, more prosaic, or perhaps realistic, said, "He'll be back." I mean, what's going to happen to that knuckleball?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Meme Reflection

I would say that the #1 thing my meme reveals is class privilege. I count at least nine markers. Can you spot them? Are there more?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Let's Talk Money

So Emperor's Club charges $1,000 to $5,000 an hour (we'll bracket the question of how anyone could pay $5,000 an hour for sex) (though, really, how could anyone pay $5,000 an hour for sex?). Let's just go for the top. Say the john pays $5,000 an hour. What do you think the woman makes? I'm thinking maybe $2,500? Or should we be conservative and say $1,000? Eh, since we're going for the top, let's say $2,500. And of course, given that this is all illegal, that's tax-free. So four hours work nets you $10,000. Even if we're being conservative, ten hours work nets you $10,000. I'm thinking $10,000 is a pretty good monthly salary. I'm thinking this could be a pretty good gig.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Trying to Be Thoughtful About Spitzer

I've just spent about 20 minutes trying to find something about Spitzer worth reading, and there's pretty much nothing, except for the NY Times facts of the matter. I've also been trying, all afternoon, to figure out what I think about this.

I don't really have much of an impression of Spitzer. I know he was a crusader, and he was elected by a landslide (at least I think I know that), and then has screwed up a lot this first year in Albany. I know people who worship him, but I also know that a lot of people think he's an arrogant bastard. I don't really have an opinion.

But here are some opinions I do have:

People's personal lives shouldn't matter.

Unless they say one thing and do another.

Prosecuting prostitution rings and then patronizing prostitutes? Not so cool.

Big-time crusaders against vice all too often have complicated relationships with said vice.

It's not right that prostitutes get arrested and johns don't.

Laws are laws, and governors and former attorney generals should obey them, unless there's a good reason not to (i.e. I'm down with civil disobedience).

Prostitution...well, I'm a little stumped on this one. I think women should be able to support themselves however they want, and for lots of women sex work is empowering. But for lots of other women sex work is an exploitative last resort and, often, a reiteration of earlier abuse. Generalizations are a problem. On the other hand, high end escorts can have it pretty good.

I wouldn't want to find out that my husband was a) spending large chunks of money, b) on prostitutes.

When you are screwing around with cash, you know you're doing something wrong.

When the Republicans let David Vitter and Larry Craig stick around but call for Spitzer's head, something's wrong.

So where do all these opinions leave me? Thinking Spitzer probably has to go...

What Was He Thinking?

You're ELIOT SPITZER. You're the GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK. If you need something on the side, find an old girlfriend you can trust. DON'T HIRE A PROSTITUTE. I mean, come on, shouldn't this be obvious?

(Has anyone noticed that WOMEN POLITICIANS tend not to do shit like this? Hmm...)

(The really sad thing is that all we're doing over here is laughing about it...)

In Which I Do a Meme, For The First and Last Time

I know, I never do memes, but Dawn said please, so just this once...

1. Who was your first prom date? Didn't have a prom.

2. Do you still talk to your first love? Yup. Many times a day.

3. What was your first alcoholic drink? Not a clue. Actually, probably a gin and tonic, because that's what my parents drank, so that's what I knew. Back in the day I was partial to Kahlua and rum and coke (not together). I still like Kahlua, but just the thought of rum and coke makes me cringe.

4. What was your first job? Stock kid in a fancy fruit and vegetable store. I filled the bins and packed grocery bags and cleaned up after we closed. Once I got to go to the flower market at four in the morning with the flower lady, who was the owner's girlfriend. Her name was Faith, and we drove through red lights, because it was four in the morning. The pockets of all the aprons in the store were filled with banana chips, which had just come on the market and which we all loved to eat. It was also the first place I ever saw star fruit and jicama.

5. What was your first car? 1982 Toyota Starlet. I loved that car.

6. Who was the first person to text you today? Nobody has texted me today, but M got 45 texts yesterday from a sixth grader who shall remain nameless. I think the last person to text me was...oh, duh, I can check. T, with whom one can only communicate by text.

7. Who is the first person you thought of this morning? Well, if we count super-early morning, E, who came in the bed and lay half on top of me. Ugh.

8. Who was your first grade teacher? Mrs. Wexler. She was dreamy and had black curls. Her husband was Dr. Wexler, who was lots of people's pediatrician, but not mine.

9. Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane? No clue, but I'd guess New York.

10. Who was your first best friend, and are you still friends with him/her? D in nursery school. She lived around the corner for a year, and then she came back in fourth grade for another year, but we weren't such good friends then. I very occasionally hear tell of her family through the mom grapevine. On the other hand, I have known C since we were eight, and we still talk several times a month. (You know, I might be wrong about this, I might have been best friends with S in preschool...Mom?)

11. What was your first sport played? Didn't really play sports, except a little soccer because I had to.

12. Where was your first sleepover? Maybe J's house (a J who has never been mentioned here). I probably had to come home.

13. Who was the first person you talked to today? M. I told her her outfit was nice.

14. Whose wedding were you in the first time? Aunt M! I wore an Indian print dress and high heeled sandals that sank into the grass as I walked in front of her.

15. What was the first thing you did this morning? Tried really hard for quite a while to wake up.

16. What was the first concert you ever went to? Bob Marley, Patti LaBelle, and a bunch of other people in a big outdoor stadium, raising money for something. It was probably the best concert I ever went to too.

17. What was your first tattoo or piercing? Got my ears pierced for my 11th birthday in a mall with my mom's friend P (my mom was there too, but P and I were the ones getting pierced). Added two more holes on the left and one on the right myself, with ice and needles. No tattoos--in the early 90s, when I was about to get a tattoo, S put his foot down and said no. He never puts his foot down and says no, so when he does, I usually obey, especially because he usually has a good reason--in this case he thought that, given my appalling skin allergies, it seemed highly likely that I would be allergic to my own tattoo, and he was probably right.

18. What was the first foreign country you went to? Mmmm, when I was two I went to Israel, but we may have gone somewhere else on the way, we usually did. I think that time it was maybe Greece...Mom? I've been to a lot of foreign countries.

19. What was your first run-in with the law? Arrested for sitting in at shanties to prevent the cops from pulling them down (can you guess when I graduated from college?).

20. When was your first detention? Never.

21. What was the first state you lived in? The one I live in now.

22. Who was the first person to break your heart? The son of a famous feminist, only he didn't know it. If you mean the first person I actually was in a relationship with who broke my heart, the answer would be the same as #2.

23. Who was your first roommate? My first actual roommate in the room was an anorexic theology/astrophysics joint major who was the scariest person in the facebook. She tried to kill herself in October, left school, and was never heard from again. However, she was made up for by A, who lived in the other room of the suite, who I lived with for four years and have talked to three times this week.

24. Where did you go on your first limo ride? I’ve never been in a limo.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bad Yoga

Worst yoga class ever this morning? And I know it wasn't me, because about ten minutes into it, I started visualizing northern California in the spring, and my friend A who is in India, and since those are both happy places, as it were, I thought it boded well for a good class. Not.

This teacher (whom I've never had), she was just pretty much not so good. First of all, she kept referring to a little piece of paper on which she had apparently written out her plan. Have you ever seen such a thing? I haven't. Now, I have often marveled at how these yoga teachers just lead us through their elaborate patterns of poses, apparently straight out of their heads, and I have wondered whether they plan ahead or just kind of go improv, but it has always been a given that that is what yoga teachers do, however it is they do it. The cheat sheet? Not so much.

And then the poses were just kind of weird and pointless. Lots of pushing your elbows together for no good reason, and moving over to the side, and she kept using weird language (put your fingers in a basket? never did that before in a yoga class). She also didn't really have the beat down. Now, I always have problems keeping up with other people's expectations for breathing, like the whole inhale/exhale thing, but I am confident enough in my yoga at this point to go with my breathing rather than the instructions, once it's clear that the teacher has a different rhythm than I do. Only this chick didn't really have a rhythm. She'd tell us to inhale and do something, then she'd get distracted, and then like three breaths later she'd tell us to exhale, and what the hell?

Finally--yes, there's more--this studio--which generally I quite like--always has a pose of the month. This month it's lotus, which is fine with me because I've always been able to do lotus, no problem. So she said we were doing a lot of hip openers and shoulder openers because the pose of the month is lotus (which has what to do with shoulder openers? nothing, as far as I can tell) and then WE NEVER DID LOTUS! What's up with that?

So I just got itchier and more irritated, and then the true proof of my irritation was when all of a sudden, with no rhyme or reason, she said "Now lie down for shivasana." Now I don't know about your yoga classes, but most of the yoga classes I go to start however they start (usually either standing or on the floor), then do standing poses, sitting poses, floor poses, back bends, and inversions (though sometimes they leave out back bends and inversions), and then shivasana, so you're not usually SURPRISED by shivasana. But this was kneeling poses, then wacko standing poses, then a bit of sitting, then BANG shivasana. And for the first time in my life, I couldn't do shivasana. I mean, the whole point of yoga class is to be rewarded with shivasana! But I was just like, this was ridiculous, this class didn't even happen, how does she expect me to do shivasana? Plus she was clumping around and whispering with someone in the back (really, she just sucked). So I sat up and did lotus. And watched her put on her socks. And noticed that lots of people do shivasana however the hell they want, like with ankles crossed and what-have-you, and the person in front of me was doing shoulder stand (oh yeah, I forgot that when she said we should get into position for shivasana, she also said that if we wanted to do another pose, we should--talk about abdicating responsibility!). And then I didn't om when she told us to at the end. So there!

And that is the story of the worst yoga class ever. Luckily, she was a sub.

Lisa Marie Presley: Harassed Into Revealing Pregnancy

Dear Lisa Marie,

I must confess that I have not done any research into your contention that you have been so harassed about your "expanding physique" that you had to reveal that you were pregnant, but I have to say I'm not impressed. Do you really not have sufficient self-esteem to ignore people who don't know what they're talking about when they say that you're fat and you know that you're pregnant? I mean, the media has been around for your whole life--I would hope that you would have control of your own reality by now. And what about Angelina Jolie and J. Lo? Both got bigger, both were the subject of immense speculation, both stayed quiet. But wait, both are real stars, and, maybe not. Could it be that the problem is your own anxiety about your celebrity status and your relationship to the media?

Oh well, best of luck with the baby and all that.

Take care,

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I Had a Nice Day Today!

Was not looking forward to it, due to host of obligations, but it turned out to be the best day I've had in a while.

Much fun and socializing at the festival at E's school. I feel that between work and illness, I have not seen anyone in a very long time, but Thursday I had coffee with Local K, and Friday morning I rode the bus with T, inadvertently but quite delightfully, and had breakfast with P, purposefully and equally delightfully, and then at the festival I saw several of the friend/acquaintances one never plans to see but always enjoys when circumstances bring you together. Also I volunteered for an hour, because that is what one does at our school, and that made the time pass much more quickly, productively, and unboringly.

Then I took the girls to work, which actually did not go very well in terms of what needed to be accomplished, but was quite fun and full of hilarity, and the girls were absolutely angelic, though it is not hard to be angelic at this workplace, because it has all sorts of things to make you happy, if you are one of my daughters.

Then we went out to dinner, all four of us, for the first time since I can remember (usually it is only three of us going out to dinner, because one of us is cooking dinner for other people going out to dinner), at the no-longer-so-new Brazilian restaurant, which was very good. They brought around skewers of meat, and M and S ate them, and I marveled at them.

And then--yes, it's not even over--I went to a movie! OK, so it wasn't the best movie ever (I am refraining from the narrative/structural critique in light of the conventions of romantic comedy, oh yes I am), but it was a movie! and I went with M who wanted to go and did not need to be dragged! and we laughed! and she liked it!

But there's still more! You know the cake, the one I baked last night for the cake walk? Well, my lovely children were convinced that it would be the first cake to go, but you would not even believe how many cakes there were. And which went first? The ones with the peeps. Yes, there were cakes decorated with peeps. Then the ones with the gummy worms. And the ones with the oreos. And the green ones. So by the times M and E made it to the cake walk (where I was collecting tickets), our cake, with the boring M and Ms, was still there. And E won it! (Somewhat nefariously, as there was one space open in the cake walk, and she was sitting on the sidelines, so I told her she could walk, even though she didn't have a ticket, and then of course she won, somewhat to my embarassment, so when I was done with my shift, I went and bought her a ticket and put it in the can...)

So now I must say a little more about the cake. It's Devil's Food from Mom's Big Book of Baking with Chocolate Satin Frosting (scroll down about 2/3) from Joy of Cooking (1997 edition). It did indeed have little lumps of cocoa (see yesterday's post), but it's fine, tasty enough. Only, the thing is, I think I've decided that Devil's Food Cake just isn't that interesting. It always turns out kind of dry and moderately chocolatey and, well, it's the 21st century now, and we can do better than that. Yes we can!

And now I get to what is perhaps the most exciting thing of the day. Alas, I can't share the details, but I can tell you that I am now, to my enormous surprise, in possession of an ARC of The Explosionist (I can't believe Amazon doesn't have a picture of the cover, and I can't find Jenny's post with the cover). Of course I immediately emailed Jenny with this fabulous news, and we were equally thrilled, but now I am in that awkward position where she knows I am about to read it and what if I don't like it? Well, we won't worry about that, and yes, Libby, I'll send it to you when I'm done. Only maybe I shouldn't because if we just pass around this ARC, then Jenny won't make any money, and that wouldn't be very good at all...

Friday, March 07, 2008

And What Did You Do With Your Friday Night?

I enabled other people's lives. Which isn't so bad.

I made dinner for two first graders and two sixth graders. I ate dinner with two first graders and two sixth graders, and discussed matters of first and sixth grade.

I packed sixth graders off to free skate and settled first graders in front of High School Musical with cherry italian ices and bunny peeps.

I made a chocolate cake for the cake walk at the school festival tomorrow (a Devil's Food from some silly baking cookbook we got at a book sale--not such a great recipe as the boiling water stirred into the cocoa was not sufficient, leaving the cocoa in little balls which did not diffuse as the batter was mixed, but it seemed a bit better when removed from the oven, and looked quite nice covered with an easy chocolate icing and M and Ms).

I cleaned the kitchen.

I took the other first grader home, because her parents are OUT and there was a babysitter.

I picked up my sixth grader and another sixth grader (a different one), and took them to their sleepover, so that the other sixth grader's parents could go OUT because their seventh grader was away skiing so they didn't even need a babysitter.

I put my first grader to bed.

I did some work.

The excitement never stops around here.

(I will say that the first graders dancing on the futon were pretty cute, and dinner was quite entertaining, and the parade of minivans and station wagons at the rink was amusing, as was the crowd of post-skate middle schoolers.) (But I'd rather have been drinking gimlets in a dive bar.) (Or, at least, I'd rather know that some day I will again drink gimlets in a dive bar.)

Thursday, March 06, 2008


From a distance, the trees could be barely fuzzed with barely green.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Extent of My Boredom

I am even bored of Jezebel. (Truly, I am so bored. Deep, meta, existential boredom. Accompanied by shame, because such boredom is so privileged and, well, pathetic. But there it is.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What's Up With Texas?

Could someone explain to me how they caucus AND vote? Sinda?

Here in Town, we voted today for the third of four times this winter/spring. I am not kidding. Actually, I shouldn't say we, because for maybe the second or third time in my life, I did not vote. I don't like the Democrat and can't vote for the Republican because he refuses to take a stand on choice or gay marriage. There's a third guy, but I don't know anything about him, and I left the house at 7 this morning and got home at 7 this evening, and it's raining. So no vote from me, though next time I'll be there, as that one will be school committee, which really matters.

Meanwhile, E pointed out this evening, with great glee, that we vote for president every year that's there's February 29!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Regretting Motherhood, Not

I'm in the middle of Charlotte Mendelson's When We Were Bad, which I'm quite enjoying (radical female rabbi in North London and her supposedly-perfect-but-actually-not-so-much family--what's not to enjoy?!). One of the thing's that's most enjoyable is the portrayal of Frances, the rabbi's daughter, who is a failure as a mother. Not sure why it's so enjoyable, I think maybe because the writing is just so confident: Frances is what she is, and what she is is a disastrous mother who wonders how the hell this happened to her. Anyway, my reading matter turns out to be topical: from Jezebel, links to articles on mothers who regret it in the Times (London) and Salon.

This is actually one problem I don't have at all: much as my children drive me mad and interfere with my life, I always knew I would be a mother, have never regretted it, and really do feel like it is one of the things I'm best at (except, of course, when I'm not). I remember my (childless) sister-in-law saying once that most of her friends regretted having children, and I felt so bad for them. In fact, cliched though it probably sounds (except maybe not, in these days of embracing the bad mother within), the weeks after each of my children were born were peak experiences in my life (I'd say happiest times, but for some reason the superlative scares me in this case, prone though I usually am to superlatives). Maybe it's just intriguing to explore the alternative--though the novel is much better than either article, suggesting that the intrigue is as much about fiction as alternative.

My Fault

You know that job interview question, the one where they ask (or you ask, if you're hiring) what your biggest flaw is, and you're supposed to offer up a flaw that's really a strength, or twist your flaw back into a strength? Like, "I'm too much of a perfectionist," or "I tend to procrastinate, but I always get everything done," or "I used to have a hard time delegating, but I've been working on it and now I'm pretty good." The question is partly a chance to check out your flaws, but also a chance to figure out how savvy you are, because the person who says "I never answer my email," or "I'm really bad at planning," is obviously not only flawed in the workplace, but flawed in her job-seeking capacity, which is just as bad, if not worse.

When I'm asked that question, I usually go with the perfectionist or procrastination lines, both of which are true, but signal my savviness. If I were going to tell the real truth, though, about my biggest flaw in the workplace, it's my inability to tolerate stupidity. Actually, it's more specific than that: my inability to tolerate stupidity in peers whose work affects my own.

I'm fine with inept or not-so-bright subordinates, especially when they are young. I have quite a lot of patience, and I'm a very good supervisor, teacher, and mentor. I can usually find a strength, or I can find ways to provide encouragement and support while at the same time minimizing damage.

Moronic superiors are annoying, but I can usually work around them--and if I can't, I leave.

The problem is the person on my level who is 1) stupid, 2) doing their job badly, and 3) affecting my ability to do my job. Actually, the real problem is me, because when I encounter this person, and there's usually at least one of them in every workplace, it is very hard for me to contain my disdain, and, really, the worst sides of my personality come out: the nasty, impatient, sarcastic, scornful know-it-all. God, just thinking about that person (me) makes me cringe.

Unfortunately, somebody who I work with quite closely has revealed herself as that other person, the one who turns me into someone who makes myself cringe. Actually, it's more complicated--and worse--because this person is a lot younger than me and a lot less experienced than I am. But, technically, she is at the same level as me, and she is doing a shit job at her job. Her incompetence is impressive--and this is with me trying to help her. The other problem? She keeps trying to tell me how things are. Not realizing that I'm all about making things the way they should be, regardless of how they are. Or perhaps realizing it, but resisting it, which is not such a good idea.

Unfortunately, my patience is slipping away. I think she knows she's in over her head, and I'm guessing she knows that I'm disgusted, because, like I said, in these circumstances, which have happened before, I am very bad at hiding my disgust. Which is just a terrible flaw. Really.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hillary at 3 AM

I don't know what's better, the ads or the comments: first version, second version (both courtesy of D). (Click on these, really.)