Monday, December 29, 2008

What do Rick Neuheisel and Soap Scum Have in Common?

In the past couple of days, people have found this blog using the following search strings:

"Neuheisel idiot UCLA" from somebody in California.

(This University of Washington alum is glad to be of service here. Hope he destroys your football program the way he did ours, and the way he also did at my brothers' alma mater, University of Colorado. With luck people will eventually stop hiring this ethically challenged, sociopathic nimrod.)

Hoo. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. (But I was thrilled that UCLA went 4-8 this year.)

On a lighter note:

"Jesus image in soap scum."

Oddly, I am not #1 here. I am beneath, among other things, "IMAGE OF JACK SKELLINGTON APPEARS IN SOAP SCUM on my shower curtain!!" Or, in other words, Jack Skellington beats out Jesus. What do you think this means for the world?

I am kind of hoping that last google searcher was somebody who had actually read my "Soap Scum Residue Jesus" post and was trying to find his/her way back here. Both because that would be good for my ego and because otherwise I'd be a little scared about the reasons for the search.

May you all find all of the Idiot Neuheisel and Soap Scum Jesus you were looking for.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Poinsettias Live!


It is now December 28, and I would just like everyone to know that all seven of my poinsettia plants are still alive.

Okay, so granted, maybe these aren't the original seven.

Yes, there is a chance that, right at first, after I purchased them at the beginning of the month, I took the "Do not overwater" instruction a teensy bit too literally.

And I guess I kind of missed the part in those same instructions that said, "Don't let them go so long without watering that the leaves droop." (Just fyi? They really do mean it.)

But three of those original seven are doing quite nicely, thankyouverymuch, barely discernible from their more recently-purchased friends.

Well, aside from the fact that they look a little...um...anemic. And kind of...uh...bare.

But let's get real here. Those three could be sleeping with their four brethren in the yard waste recycling bin on the way to being next spring's compost.

So they need to stop whining.

(Not that I would ever actually threaten my poinsettias. Or anything.)

And, as I stated previously, I currently have seven living poinsettia plants. Just like when I made my original purchase on December 3.

(Do I have an amazing green thumb or what?)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Laurie and The Boys

For some reason this made me laugh. Very hard. This is me (okay, technically me four years ago) and four of the players on one of the soccer teams I'm a fan of.

Okay, yeah, sure, nobody in the world is going to find this as entertaining as I do. But it's worth a watch just to enjoy the art of the people who created it. I hope you're inspired to visit the site and make your own. And if you do, be sure to send me a link!


Send your own ElfYourself eCards


And then, because I couldn't help myself, I did the same thing with some of my favorite French players:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Weather Has Changed


This is my city, right down the street from where my husband lived when we were dating.

Oh, did I mention we finally got our snowstorm?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Scrubbed Away "Soap Residue Jesus." OR: Why St. Peter Will Turn Me Away, Reason #3547




Many years down the road, when I arrive at the pearly gates, the conversation will go something like this.

St. Peter: Okay, looking through your file, everything looks pretty good. Except... Wait just a second. Did you really scrub away the image of Jesus from your shower wall?
Me: You mean...the soap scum ?
St. Peter: Have some reverence. Please. Soap residue.
Me: Um...right...well...
St. Peter: It says here that the image of Jesus in Da Vinci's Last Supper appeared to you on your shower wall, and you... You just scrubbed it away.
Me: But...but...but... You don't understand! It wasn't my fault! My mother-in-law was coming!!!

You see, what happened is this: Christmas is being held at my house this year. Which means that my husband's family, plus various and assorted other players, will be descending on my house for up to two or three days at a time starting Dec. 20 and ending Dec. 27.

I hate this. (Note: I am NOT saying I hate them. I love them. It's everything else I hate.) I am not an entertainer. I am not a hostess. I am not a cook, or a decorator. What I am is an introvert. If the world ended tomorrow and everyone disappeared but me and my husband and kids, it would take me at least three days to notice, and that would just be because nobody was leaving comments on the other site I write for. If the evil force that took away the world assigned bots to automatically leave comments, it might take weeks.

But because I love my husband and family, I'm working at being a good sport about this. Which means that I'm spending a lot of time this week a) scrubbing my toilets and figuring out my "self-cleaning" oven, and b) trying not to throw too many hysterical tantrums. Which is how I ended up taking the advice of a woman I once knew, who said that when she wants to relax, she locks herself in the bathroom with soft music and a glass of wine.

So that's what I did.

So I'm lying there in the steamy bath, relaxing, thinking about the fact that I have to scrub down the shower walls before anybody comes. And, then my eyes fall on a spot I missed the last time I did the chore. It was kind of an inverted V of white -- you can see the swipe of the sponge going off in either direction, on both sides of the spot I missed. But the problem is that you can't see what you've missed till it's dried, and I'm not nearly enough of a perfectionist to go back afterwards and do the job again to get it right. So that's the way it's stayed.

But as I sit there staring (after a glass of wine and with my glasses off,) I see that there is a definite resemblance to Da Vinci's "The Last Supper." There's a horizontal strip of white, like the table cloth. And above the table cloth are roundish drops, like heads. And stuff has dripped from the drops, kind of diagonally. Like arms. And robes. I'm not kidding. It was actually pretty cool.

And then the wine was gone and the bath water was cold, so I got out and had dinner and went to bed. And then this morning I scrubbed the shower surround, top to bottom. And it was only later that I realized I'd scrubbed away Jesus.

I hate when that happens.

So here's how I'm hoping the rest of the conversation will go:

Me: But...Christmas was coming! And we're hosting! And...and... I was stressed! *sigh* I'm sorry.
St. Peter: Fear not, my child. We're very forgiving up here. I understand.
Me: You do? Oh! Thank you!
St. Peter: If it had been me, though?
Me: Yes?
St. Peter: I would've sold it on ebay.

A Snow Day. Without Snow.

They were predicting snow last night -- 1-3 inches. Since it never snows here, that's a big deal. At the sign of the first flake, panic sets in and people forget how to drive and life as we know it grinds to a halt.

(She says smugly as a native Coloradan.)

But to be honest, driving is a lot different here. There are a lot of hills, for one thing. And when it snows, the temperature tends to hover right around freezing, which means that it freezes, then thaws, then freezes again, leaving a sheet of ice on every road. So the powers that be tend to err of the side of caution and shut down everything.

But they do usually wait until it actually snows. Which explains why my thirteen-year-old was making trips to the windows and doors every fifteen minutes last night, searching vainly for that first flake, particularly after he got the email that said, "In the event of school cancellation or late start, there will be no Chess Club."

This is important, because this year he is the coach. He took over running the elementary club that I ran for seven years while he was an elementary student. They tried a paid professional coach last year after I moved on, but the expenses were so high that hardly any kids participated, and the results weren't any better than when I -- a clueless mom -- ran it myself. So this year they brought in my son.

What this means is that this year he's the one responsible for coming up with lesson plans and keeping the kids on topic and out of trouble. (He does have parental help, but still. A big responsibility for an eighth grader.)

I think he does enjoy it, but it's stressful. So he was desperately hoping for the day off.

Alas, no snow when he went to bed. And no snow when he got up. Or actually, as we discovered when we got in the car to go to school, just the tiniest of dustings -- not enough to show up on the windsheild, but enough to provide a tiny line of white once the wipers had pushed it all into one spot.

And so we drove to school. And I found myself thinking, "Wow. There's nobody out on the roads today." And we pulled into the parking lot and...no cars. And the school was dark. And there was a sign that said, "School closed." My son, of course, nearly squeaked with joy. (Did I mention he's thirteen?)

It's the first time ever that we went to school on a school day -- we had no clue in advance that they'd actually cancel today school due to snow. Or, rather due to no snow.

And so we went home, and I made sausage and eggs, and he made Christmas cookies, and together we cheerfully watched a raccon (a raccoon! in the day!) make its way across our yard.

It's windy now, but still not snowing. The forecast said it should have started hours ago.

But my car can make it up our hill, and the garbagemen actually came this morning (which is good, because we've been tidying up for Christmas and both garbage and recycling were full.)

And I'm thinking that maybe a snowless snow day is the best of all worlds.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I Don't Have to Post in December

I have nothing to say, actually, but I really needed to write a post to get Unpopular Mechanic and his low-riders off the top of the page. Because this is, y'know, my busy season.

It's funny -- this is the time of year when I could write absolutely nothing and still see my blog numbers go up by 10-15 a day, simply because, two years ago, I wrote about my favorite Christmas song, Stop the Cavalry. And, since nobody quite got it (you mean it's an oom-pah kind of song about war and nuclear fallout zones? Huh...what?!?) I eventually included the lyrics and a link to the audio.

And now I am somehow a source. I get hits from all over the world (mostly Great Britain and the US, but elsewhere also) looking for info about this song.

If you're one of those who found my blog by googling, "Stop the Cavalry"?

Audio is here.
Lyrics are here.
Purchasing info -- US only -- is here.

And while you're here, why not stop by and read my Unpopular Mechanics post?

You know you want to.

Friday, December 12, 2008

But I Don't HAVE a Relationship With Popular Mechanics!

To start out, I have a confession to make: I have four email addresses.

The first is the family one. The second is the work one. The third is what was kind of the work one before I was technically working for the website I work for, meaning I was doing all the same stuff, but for free, so I didn't actually qualify for a work address but needed something that I could send work emails from without anybody actually connecting them to my real life.

And the fourth was the email address that didn't fit anything else. Kind of a default email address, where I get all of my yahoo groups quilting emails and google alerts and stuff like that.

It was to this fourth address that I received the following email:

You are receiving this email because of your relationship with Popular Mechanics. If you no longer wish to receive email communications from Popular Mechanics, please see below.


Okay, first off? Where the hell did you get this email address? This is not supposed to connect back to my real life at all. Okay? And second? I don't have a relationship with Popular Mechanics. Or even Unpopular Mechanics.

(You know. The ones who wear the toolbelts that are so heavy that their jeans can't withstand the gravitational forces. Yeah. Those guys.)

So stop sending me emails.

Thank you.

Merry Christmas

How to Tell Your Child is Home from College

My older son is home from college. I could tell when I got up.

How could I tell, you ask?

I could tell because his bedroom door was closed and there was a hamper full of clothes on my living room floor.

He just came out to get them a few minutes ago. I said, "Are those dirty?"

He held his arm up to about the halfway level and said, "Oh, only from here down."

Of course.

Ah, college. I remember college.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jesus Returns! (Thanks to GPS)

In a sign of the times:

When Baby Jesus disappeared last year from a Nativity scene on the lawn of the Wellington, Fla., community center, village officials didn't follow a star to locate him.

A GPS device mounted inside the life-size ceramic figurine led sheriff's deputies to a nearby apartment, where it was found face down on the carpet. An 18-year-old woman was arrested in the theft.


There is so much wrong with this story, I don't know where to start. But I'm glad baby Jesus is safe at home.

I mean, if you have to take something, take a sheep. Or Joseph. Or you can even take a wiseman. (Because seriously, three is overkill. So go ahead and take the guy who thinks myrrh is an appropriate baby gift.)

But a nativity isn't quite the same with an empty manger.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Little Fact to Bring You Holiday Cheer


I just want everybody to know that Excedrin is on sale at Safeway, half off, now through December 25.

Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 05, 2008

I am a Terrorist. I Blame My Washing Machine

My husband and I are generally not the kinds of people who replace appliances for "style" or "design" reasons. We're the kinds of people who replace appliances when they're twelve years old and start smoking and nearly burn down the house.

But...um...yeah.

So, last summer, we were in the market for a new washer and dryer. (Although I suppose I'm kind of making a liar out of myself, because I wanted both washer and dryer, when it was technically only the dryer that was smoking. What can I say? I'm a slave to fashion.)

I had heard great things about the energy and water savings from front-loading washers, so I said to the salesperson that this was what I wanted. She pursed her lips. I should have paid attention. She said, "Well, some people have problems with mildew, but you can fix that by leaving the washer door open."

Fine by me. And so I bought my new washer and dryer, and at first everything was great. My dying dryer had been taking two hours to dry a load of towels. This dryer -- aided by the washer's ultra-speedy spin cycle that whipped away the water -- took about forty minutes.

But then? The smells began.

At first it was subtle, and not unpleasant. Not mildewy at all, just not...fresh. My towels kind of smelled like they'd been in a cedar chest for a few months. But as time went by, things got more and more sour, to the point that my 13-year-old, who never notices what he wears, was complaining. And so I went online to look for a solution to the problem.

What I discovered is that the smelly clothes problem is a biggy with front-loaders, and the solutions are hard to come by, to the point that some manufacturers were even replacing the machines of people who complained long enough.

Fortunately I'd only had my machine a couple of months, so the problem didn't seem to be deep-rooted. I read through all the suggestions in the forums and followed each of them at least once. These included:

--Run a half-gallon of white vinegar through an empty machine.
-- Run towels on the hottest setting. (Mine has an antibacterial setting. That works.
-- Go to the faucet nearest your washer and run the tap till the water is fully hot. This keeps the cool water in the pipes from entering the machine.
-- Buy "Smelly Washer" powder and use it once a month.

And so I did all of these. The first three seemed to do the trick, but I ordered the Smelly Washer powder -- a powder created solely to solve this problem -- just in case.

And when I am locked away, deep in a cell, getting waterboarded while my family and attorney ask frantic questions about my whereabouts, remember that this is where it all began.

First problem: Some person along the line in the delivery process hit a wrong button and told some sorting machine that my white powder was supposed to go to "VA" rather than "WA."

Second problem: There is actually a town in VA with the same name as my town. And worse, since my address is all numbers, there is actually a place with the same address.

Third problem: Some mail sorting machine or clumsy mail person did something to the package that literally broke the lid off the bottle, so that all of the white powder spilled into the envelope. And envelopes aren't necessarily made to be powder-proof. So when my package arrived at a business in Virginia, it was leaking white powder.

We got a voicemail on Saturday afternoon from a somewhat desperate-sounding person explaining the situation and wanting to know if it was really laundry products, as it said on the envelope. We didn't pick up the message till Sunday when, of course, nobody was there to take the return call. But my husband left a message saying that yes, in fact, it was a laundry product, and they didn't have to call Homeland Security or stock up on Cipro.

My Smelly Washer powder arrived in the mail a week later. From Virginia. Wrapped in a clear plastic bag, the bottom of which was filled with white powder. I used the stuff in my washing machine, it seemed to work, and all is well.

At least till I go to travel next time and discover that I am, in fact, a known terrorist.

Next time I'm putting my husband's name on the address label.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oh, Of Course

Conversation in my laundry room with my thirteen-year-old son.

Son: "Is that half a lego? Yes, it is! It's half a lego!"
Me: "Wait. How do you break a lego?"
Son, prodding the object with his shoe: "Oh, wait, no. It's... It's half a monkey."
Me: Ah. Well, that makes it okay, then.

Sometimes it's just better not to question these things.




A New Entry in the "Disturbing Search Phrases" Sweepstakes


I have a new winner in the "Best Search Phrases Used to Find my Blog" contest. This one even beats out "Aurora Avenue Prostitution," "1998 is david beckham what's wrong with this country sarong wearing," and "Play Strip Soccer."**

It's "can too much excedrin cause hemorrhoids."

Okay, so I get the Excedrin part -- I was talking about my junky dog galloping to greet me when I shook the Excedrin bottle. But I had to go back and do a blogsearch to remember when I'd used the word "hemorrhoids." It was this post, about the use of Google searches to track flu epidemics.

Even more disturbing is the fact that I'm #7 on the Google search list. And even more disturbing than that is the fact that this post will probably move me to #1.

My mother would be so proud.

**Oh, about that Strip Soccer thing. I finally figured it out, thanks to one of my soccer blogging buddies who witnessed it firsthand. My friend was watching one of the Euro 2008 games in a bar back in June when a guy came in and said he was going to remove a piece of clothing for every goal the Netherlands scored. Netherlands scored four goals. The guy was not wearing socks. I hear it got pretty scary towards the end.

But thanks to Mr. Netherlands fan, I believe I now know what the "Strip Soccer" searchers (yes, there were more than one) were searching for.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Surviving December


December 1. And so it begins.

It's not that I don't like Christmas. I do, more or less. I enjoy the lights and the decorations, and having all the kids around, and the special church services and concerts. It's just that...

The month of December, for me, feels a lot like being sucked down into a fast-flowing river, knowing that you have to swim as hard and as fast as you can, but regardless of the effort you put into it, you'll still get nowhere and end up swept away and half-drowned. Combine that with the 8.5 hourse of sunlight we get on the shortest day of the year, and I'd really prefer to climb into bed and pull the covers over my head and just wait for it all to be over. I don't want to shop, I don't want to actually do the decorating, I don't want to entertain. I just want it to be done.

Wasn't the original event, that one back in a stable, pretty simple? What happened?

I went into iTunes today and downloaded four of my favorite holiday songs, all of which capture the ambivalence and mixed emotions I feel every December.

The Rebel Jesus, by Jackson Browne

Christmas Eve Sarejevo by TransSiberian Orchestra

The St. Stephen's Day Murders (much funnier than you might think) by Elvis Costello, and

Christmas, by Blues Traveler

Alas, I can't find any site that will actually play the latter song, but here are the lyrics. And, as you can imagine, it's much better in audio-- the harmonies are wonderful.

Comes the time for christmas
And I really have to ask
If this is feeling merry
How much longer must it last
I wish a one horse open sleigh
Would come carry me away
But Ive been waiting here all day
And one just hasnt come my way
Now excuse me if Im not being reverent
But I was hoping for a miracle to hold me, wash me
Save me from my righteous doubt as I watch helpless
And everybody sings
If its chanukah or kwanza
Solstice, harvest or december twenty-fifth
Peace on earth to everyone
And abundance to everyone you're with
Laha da da da da da
Da da da da da da da da da da da
La da da da da da da da
La da da da da da da da da
Laha da da da da
Laha da da da da
Comes the time for christmas
And as you raise your yuletide flask
There's like this feeling that you carry
As if from every christmas past
Its as if each year it grows
Its like you feel it in your toes
And on and on your carol goes
Harvesting love among your woes
I want to buy into the benevolent
And I was hoping for a miracle to hold me, wash me
Make me know what its about
As the longing in me makes me want to sing
Noel or navidad
Season celebration or just the end of the year
Christmas can mean anything
And I mean to keep its hope forever near
Laha da da da da da
Da da da da da da da da da da da
La da da da da da da da da
La da da da da da da da da da
Laha da da da da
Laha da da da da
As if a cold and frozen soul is warm to love
By loves own hand
So goes the prayer if for a day peace on earth
And good will to man
At twenty below the winter storm it billows
But the fire is so warm inside
And the children while nestled in their pillows
Dream of st. nicholass ride
And how the next day theyll get up and they will play
In the still falling christmas snow
And together well celebrate forever
In defiance of the winds that blow
My God in heaven now I feel like Im seven
And spirit calls to me as well
As if christmas had made the winter warmer
Made a paradise from what was hell
As if a cold and frozen soul is warm to love
By loves own hand
So goes the prayer if for a day peace on earth
And good will to man.......
I wish a one horse open sleigh would come carry me away
And Ill keep waiting through next may
Until christmas comes my way

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wait. That's Not a Leaf.


I dragged my tired behind out of bed for church this morning. Went up and down the steps half a dozen times. And each time, I thought, "Next time I'll grab that perfectly-curled leaf off the floor of the landing and throw it away."

Finally, right before I left, I reached down for it and thought: "Wait a second. That's just a little too perfectly curled." So I went upstairs and grabbed a paper towel. Just in case.

Came back down. Picked it up, and... Ew. EWWW!! It kind of squished in as I grabbed it. Which caused me to realize: Wait. That's no leaf. That is, in fact, a slug.

Yes, a slug. Brown. Approximately 3-4 inches long. Just hanging out on my landing. And when I picked it up with the paper towel and went to drop it in the grass? It stuck. I had to shake the paper towel really, really hard to dislodge it.

Ick. Just...ick.

(For those of you who may not be from the Pacific Northwest? Slug = Snail without the shell. Or: All of the slime, none of the cuteness.)

When it comes to slimy creatures hanging out in my house? I much prefer frogs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What I'm Thankful For

Laurie's definition of "holiday:"

A family event which causes you great dread as it's coming up, great enjoyment as it's happening, and intense relief when it's finally over.


Now to do it again in 3+ weeks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks at Thanksgiving

First, the trip to the store to buy all the apple pie stuff.

Next, the enjoyable experience of cutting up the apples for the best apple pie in the world as my daughter and I chat and listen to Christmas music. Good times.

We finish with the apple prep, dump the apples in the frozen pie crusts, go to roll out the top crusts and realize... Damn. I knew I was forgetting something.

So I call my husband, who's picking up our youngest at karate, and he's not on his way home yet, so I ask him to stop and pick up top pie crusts. Two. In the refrigerated dough section.

He and our youngest show up. My husband goes to move something in the garage, and my son proudly hands us...frozen bottom pie crusts.

My daughter agrees to go to the store for the top crusts. We'll only say something if my husband asks.

He asks. "Why does she need to go to the store?" he says. I say, "The bottom crusts you bought will be great for the Christmas pies. For now, though..."

Our daughter leaves. In my car. Because it has gas.

I finally can't resist saying to my husband, "You know, with some other guy, I might suspect passive aggressive behavior. But with you..." I'm laughing. My husband is a talented and hardworking person, but I don't think anybody would ever say that grocery shopping and cooking are among his interests.

"You said two pie shells. I brought two."

"I said two top."

"Yeah, well for all I know, Top could be a brand name." He's laughing. "And," he adds, "you're being kind of annoying tonight."

"Yeah?" I say. "How long have we been married? You should know after all these years that the day before the holiday I'm doing pretty darn good to be only kind of annoying."

He knows better than to reply to that kind of thing. We've been married a long time.

And the pies turned out great.

Monday, November 24, 2008

To Cuddles: Admitting You Have a Problem is the First Step

The other day I wrote about my dog, the junky. Sad, of course, but an isolated incident.

Or so I believed.

Backstory: Years ago, we got a cat. And a similar number of years ago, we started shopping at Costco. And when we started our Costco shopping, we learned that our family loved poppyseed muffins. So every time we made our every-two-months trip, we'd pick up a dozen.

It didn't take us long to discover that another family member also like poppyseed muffins. Even though our kitty rarely gets on tables or counters, we discovered that any time the muffins got left on a lower surface, she just couldn't help herself. We'd come back to find the edges nibbled off.

We caught her in the act more than once, and we started putting muffins up on the refrigerator where she couldn't get to them. But this is a behavior that's gone on for most of the twelve years we've owned her.

I was discussing this with my thirteen-year-old the other day. I said, "You know, she never touches the chocolate ones, or the banana nut ones, or the streusel ones. I wonder why she likes the poppyseed ones so much?"

He said, "Wait. Isn't that one drug made from poppies?"
Me: "Opium?"
Him: "Yeah."
Both of us, looking at the cat: "Hmmm...."

Sigh.

You know, any family can have a single addict. But when it becomes two, you wonder if it's something you've done.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

There's Noplace Like (Someone Else's) Home for the Holidays

One of the more interesting things about being married/attached is celebrating holidays with your significant other's relatives. When you fall in love, you suddenly become a part of traditions and dynamics which were fully formed long before you came on the scene.

And so you partake, you participate, you enjoy, you love, but there is always a teensy little part of you that remains on the outside, observing. This is your family, except...not quite.

Recently some of my co-bloggers have dropped the following nuggets about holidays with the in-laws. (And keep in mind that their spouses/significant others could probably share the flip-sides of these coins with equally pithy prose):

"Her parents are very pleasant, very simple country Southern people. We run out of conversation topics in about ten minutes."


"It's kind of like "Curb Your Enthusiasm," except with about ten Larry Davids."


"Holidays there are Fellini-esque. Seriously, if a dwarf in a tutu were to show up on the doorstep, nobody would bat an eye."


(And fyi, none of these descriptions are mine. Nope, nuh-uh, not one.)

P.S. I'm pretty sure "Stop the Cavalry" will stop playing every time you visit the blog as soon as it cycles off the main page. Actually, I'm almost completely positive.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Didn't We Already Know This?

(For the record, I am extremely intuition-driven, but I'm not really into the whole fashion or relationship-building thing, and I'd much rather discuss sports or politics than feelings.)

Oh, and also? I ran the answers I thought my husband would pick through the same quiz. He came out 53% female and 47% male. I don't think I'll tell him.

(Guess who makes phone calls and remembers birthdays in our relationship?_




Your Brain is 40% Female, 60% Male



You have a total boy brain

Logical and detailed, you tend to look at the facts

And while your emotions do sway you sometimes...

You never like to get feelings too involved

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Stop the Cavalry" -- the Audio. (Don't Open This post in a Quiet Room. I Warned You)

I have been playing around with HTML code, trying to figure out how to embed the song "Stop the Cavalry," my favorite Christmas song in the universe.

I think I kind of have it, at least in draft. And in a very Frankensteinian kind of way. Because I apparently didn't copy the code that allows you to, y'know, STOP playing the song. But if you do any kind of messing around with it, it will start over and play again, on top of the previous play, so now you've got not one but TWO oompah bands blaring out of your computer, completely out of sync, singing a cheery Christmas song about war and nuclear fallout zones.

It's kind of frightening, to be honest.

I'll master this tech stuff. Someday. I'm serious.

Until then? You're welcome.



P.S. UPDATE: Wow! This is so exciting! It works much better in the actual post, and it gives you the option to stop and everything!

I am SO a tech goddess.

Thanks, David. Just Tell Al Qaeda Our Biggest Weakness, Why Dontcha?

From David Brooks' column on the Obama administration's "valedictocracy:"

If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we're screwed.



Hey, made me laugh. Also made me wonder: If an Obama administration is a "valedictocracy," what would a Palin administration be?

Kind of boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Oh, and I also want to use this opportunity to bask in reflected glory. Looks like my youngest is good friends with the nephew of someone who's going to be a Cabinet member.

Why does that somehow make me feel mildly and teensily important?

(Human beings are odd creatures.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

But He Can Quit Any Time He Wants To

My dog, a sweet, high-energy, four-year-old black lab, has epilepsy. He was diagnosed back in January of 2007.

At that time, the vet decided his seizures weren't frequent enough to warrant medication. Because there's a tradeoff with medication -- the seizures cause progressive brain damage, and the medication causes progressive liver damage. Combine that with the fact that once you start a dog on medication you can never take him off it, and you find that most vets try to hold off on meds until the seizures become frequent enough that they do more damage than the medicine that would stop them.

So my dog wasn't on medication at all until September of 2007, when I was in Paris, and he went into a seizure and didn't come out. Of course this happened when my two sons were home by themselves. By the time they'd called my husband, and he'd connected with the vet, the dog had been seizing for well over an hour. They rushed him to the animal hospital, which had to admit him overnight and put him on intraveous meds. He almost died.

(I still feel guilty that I was off gallivanting around the world when this happened, and horrible that my sons had to go through this without me. But at the same time, I'm not terribly sorry I missed living through this. Watching a dog go through a seizure is incredibly stressful and heart-wrenching -- he stays mostly conscious the whole time and looks so gosh-darned apologetic to be causing such a fuss. It breaks your heart.)

He's responded well to the meds, though, and is down to about one mild seizure every couple of months. We give him three phenobarbitol pills twice each day, tucked into a small piece of string cheese, or a piece of lunchmeat. He considers it a treat. He loves it.

In fact, he loves it a little bit too much.

I had a headache yesterday and went to get an Excedrin. The second he heard the pills shaking around in the plastic pill bottle, he leaped up from his nap and came galloping to the kitchen. Then he sat there, head cocked, waiting for his treat.

I tried it again later with vitamins. Same result. Allergy meds? He's there? Ibuprofen? Ditto.

This has led me to a disturbing realization: My dog is a junky.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Last Little Bit of Snark Left Over From the Election

I am a bad person.

How else to explain the schadenfreude-type glee I felt at the thought of what awaited the poor innocent person who accessed this blog via the google search string "Sarah Palin quilt"?

I am sorry, Palin-quilt person. I know you are probably a decent human being with legitimate reasons for your search, and we have the quilt thing in common. So I am sorry to admit how much guilty pleasure it brought me to know that your search brought you to posts like this one. Or this one.

(As I said to my boss recently, "Women, especially educated, intelligent women, understand female manipulation. That's why it generally doesn't work on us. And that's why the majority of us really, truly detest Sarah Palin.")

On the same subject, in further proof that I am a horrible person, I was writing a post for the soccer site I write for about the Major League Soccer Western Conference Championship game that took place over the weekend. As is my habit, I gave my own personal "awards" for the game. You know. Like, for the hair transplant ads that made their appearance several times during the game? They got the "At Least It's Not the Little Blue Pill" Award.

(Okay, fine, never mind. I guess you had to be there.)

By an odd quirk of the rules, the Western Conference Champions ended up being the New York Red Bulls. And last I checked, New York was on the east coast. So the award I gave to the league?

The "Sarah Palin Commemorative Award for Excellence in Geography."

Yes. It's true. I am a horrible person.

Faith, Hope and Charity

``I wish to be left alone,'' said Scrooge. ``Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.''

``Many can't go there; and many would rather die.''

``If they would rather die,'' said Scrooge, ``they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."


A few weeks back, my husband and I attended a luncheon for the agency that runs local foodbanks, transitional housing, ESL training, and other services for the poor. The luncheon was in a big, fancy ballroom with maybe 1000+ people. Edward James Olmos, the actor, was the keynote speaker, but the most moving part of the afternoon came from the people who had been helped by the agency and then gone on to give back by serving on its board.

(This agency has some personal meaning to me. You may remember my daughter's friend "Ellie"? The reason she didn't move in with us was that the agency gave her mother transitional housing.)

One of the points of the luncheon was that in these uncertain times, demand goes up, yet giving goes down. For every transitional housing vacancy, there are something like 41 requests for help -- forty families whose needs can't be met. And demand at the food banks has risen exponentially.

People were at that luncheon because they cared about these issues, and a lot of people gave a fair amount of money. Edward James Olmos himself donated $10,000. But that's a drop in the bucket. Before we left, they asked people there to organize food drives in their neighborhoods.

My son's youth group did that last night. They went door to door asking for canned goods. And it was a good experience.

Most people shared. Some were very generous. But some -- a surprising number in our upper-middle class suburb -- refused to give at all.

I don't get it. If kids (kids!!) come to your door asking for food for the less fortunate, why would you not cough up a single $.75 can of corn? If not to benefit the poor, then to set a good example for the kids, at the very least.

One person said, "I don't give food or money. I give jobs." Yeah, sure. No idea what he meant by that.

What I truly don't understand in our society are people -- and there are an amazing number of them -- who believe that giving to people who are less fortunate is beneath them. They seem to be afraid that it might help somebody who is different -- a non-English speaker, or maybe even a gay with AIDS, for heaven's sake.

I think this recession is going to be worse than most people imagine. The only way we're going to get through this as a society is if those who have enough can look beyond their desire to hold onto what they have.

I'm not sure how hopeful I am that this will happen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Different Kind of Soccer Wall





I was searching for a photo of a soccer wall -- the line of players that teams put together to obstruct a free kick. Found plenty of those, but I also found this, which was more interesting. It's in Iraq. The mural is the Iraqi flag, and the wall is a US security wall.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Men? You May Want to Avert Your Eyes

I'm hesitant about posting this, but... What the heck. Discovered it while looking for soccer-related stuff.

What? WHAT?!?!

Oh, come on. Old, married women are entitled to a little art appreciation too!

(And fear not. Despite what you're seeing on your screen right now, it's not about men running around on the field dressed only in their underwear. Or at least not all about.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reassuring, yet...Creepy

From the "Interesting Use of Technology" department:

[Google] is using its vast database of individual search terms to predict the emergence of flu up to two weeks before government epidemiologists.

Google Flu Trends uses the tendency of people to seek online help for their health problems. By tracking searches for terms such as 'cough', 'fever' and 'aches and pains' it claims to be able to accurately estimate where flu is circulating.

Google tested the idea in nine regions of the US and found it could accurately predict flu outbreaks between seven and 14 days earlier than the federal centres for disease control and prevention.


I'm not quite sure what to feel about this. On the one hand, Yea for early epidemic tracking!

On the other... Hey, Big Brother. How ya doin' today?

And yes, there are plans to track other possible health issues. I'm wondering if increased searches for, say, "Hemorrhoid symptoms" will lead to increased shipments of Preparation H to the affected area.

(Affected area. Get it? Get it? I am so juvenile.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Election Day, Remembered

Note: For those of you who are sick and tired of last week's election? This post is not for you. It's for me, and my children. And maybe even my grandchildren.

(Be sure to stop by in a few days when we'll get back to other topics.)

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, I went to vote at 10:00. My goal was to get out, vote, run to the store and find a jacket for a charity dinner Thursday night, then grab my free cup of coffee at Starbucks and still be home before the European Champions League soccer games at 11:45.

I almost made it. There was no line for voting, or at Stabucks. My only hangup was the @#$%ing clothes, which were all ugly. (But this is irrelevant here.)

I voted in person. I'm an anomaly in King County, wher 2/3 of the populace votes via absentee ballot. The county as a whole is moving this way; this may be our last chance to vote live, and I was determined to enjoy it.

The very nice poll worker asked if I wanted to vote via paper ballot or touchscreen. I was undecided. She recommended touchscreen, because it was fun. I opted for paper. I told her I'd go for the fun in an election that was less important.

Yes, this is paranoia on my part, of course, and yet it isn't. Most voting machines in this country are made by hardcore Republican companies. When there is no paper trail, there is no way whatsoever to determine whether the vote cast is the same as the vote recorded. One malicious programmer could, in theory, wipe out results for thousands.

"This one gives you a paper receipts," said the helpful poll worker. I still asked for the paper ballot.

I was home by noon. The soccer games were in progress. I watched one game (French) while monitoring the scorelines of several others. In general, my teams won. And when they finished it was almost 2:00.

I spent the next two hours in a relatively zen state. I intentionally and forcefully did not think about the election, except to call my older son to make sure he'd voted. And other than that? The polls were good, right? So...breathe in...breathe out... Life is good. This will work out. And I will try not to think about the fact that this is the election I care more about that any in my life. The election that could determine whether or not America has a way back from the edge of the abyss, or whether it will continue on in the same mode, with tax cuts for the rich and deregulation as the only weapons in our arsenal. Not to mention whether we'll continue the slow, steady march to toxic theocracy.

In these two hours, I wrote some stuff up for work. I took the dog for a walk in the rain. Breathe in...breathe out.

And then, at 4:00, my daughter and her boyfriend stormed through the front door and immediately turned on CNN. Goodbye, zen.

"I don't want to know," I said at first, remembering the heartbreaks of the early returns in 2000 and 2004. "It will stress me out too much."

My thirteen-year-old son ignored me and said, "Obama is ahead in Florida."

"By how much?"

He didn't know. I went and took a shower.

I came out and he said, "He's still ahead. Two-hundred-thousand votes with four percent of the vote counted."

"That's good," I said, "but it's not enough. That's probably all from the early voting. So I don't want to hear any more." He laughed at me, but at the same time I think he understood. I went upstairs and tried to work, the whole time listening yet not listening to the downstairs TV.

My husband called and said he was stuck in traffic and had yet to vote.

"You haven't voted?!?" I thought he'd voted that morning, so I wasn't as nice as I could have been. But ... He knew how much sleep I'd lost over this election. I never do the nagging shrew thing, but at that moment I was close.

But he would vote, he said. He was on the way. Still two hours till the polls closed. But in the meantime, could I pick up his dry-cleaning and some snacks and wine for the election party we were going to?

I heaved a sigh of relief and left the house. And also, gratefully, left CNN.

I avoided the radio and listened to a French CD the whole way down. I got the dry-cleaning and the snacks and the wine. Then I headed home in a state of heightened anxiety.

When I got there, CNN was still on, but my daughter and her boyfriend had headed to choir practice. Virginia had been tilting Obama, but was now tilting back toward McCain. My husband had voted (no lines) and was already home. I put stuff in the fridge and closed my ears and told my youngest son not to tell me what was happening.

He ignored me. Again. "Obama won Pennsylvania!" he said.

Okay, so I didn't mind him telling me that. This was huge. I pulled out my cell to text my daughter at choir and discovered that her boyfriend had just texted me with the same message. "They've called Pennsylvania for Obama!"

What did this mean? Assuming he took the western states, as expected, this meant that chances were that he'd have all the Kerry states! All he needed was what, eighteen more electoral votes?

I started to respond to his text when my husband got on his computer. After a minute he said, "They've called Ohio for Obama. Is that a big deal?"

That would be the eighteen and more. "That's a huge deal!" I said. I frantically replied to my daughter's boyfriend's text: "NBC has called Ohio for Obama!"

And then it was all waiting for more states to be called when the western polls closed. So what else was there to do but go to the election party?

We listened to the radio on the way over. NPR, of course. We switched it on as the NPR commentator was congratulating somebody on the fact that his state had gone for Obama, but we had no idea who it was or what state. We picked up a fact at a time. Western state. High latino population. (Okay, that probably meant Colorado, New Mexico or Nevada.) Eventually they cleared up the mystery by saying, "Governor Richardson," which meant New Mexico for Obama. Five more electoral votes. I wanted to cry.

By the time we got to the party, Obama was in the low 200s for electoral votes. Magic number 270.

The party was at the home of a lesbian couple, a nice, funny, domestic former co-worker of my husband, plus her partner. (It this a Seattle Democrat's way to celebrate an election or what?) When we got there, the woman said, "Yeah, we invited some Republicans, but they couldn't make it."

Remembering 2000 and 2004, I couldn't blame them.

We sat in a room of Democrats, eating hors d'oeuvres and sipping wine while cheerfully picking out dog hairs that came from their sweet, elderly yellow lab. All of us were engrossed by what was on the TV. When the west coast polls closed at 8:00, they called Washington, Oregon and California for Obama within minutes, which put him over the magic number of 270.

It was official. He had won. We had a new President, and it was our guy. I kept telling my thirteen-year-old son, "Remember this. This is history. You'll remember this night your whole life."

One of the guys there was in tears. I was close.

My daughter and her boyfriend showed up shortly after. She was the one who had been pro-Obama before the rest of us thought he had a chance. When he'd visited Seattle before the caucuses, they had ridden the bus downtown to see him and been amazed by both the crowds and by the cheerful happiness of the crowds. It was a miraculous thing: Everybody was aiming towards the same goal. What was a little physical closeness and body odor?

I hugged her and felt myself tear up. This election wasn't for me. It was for her. It was for the future. If this country was to have any chance at all, this kind of change needed to happen.

We watched together as John McCain made his gracious concession speech. And then we watched together as Barack and Michelle and Sasha and Malia took the stage together, and we realized that this was what our new first family looked like.

I felt the tears again. And we watched the victory speech and felt the words he spoke: "Change has come to America."

Yes, it has.

We rode home in a glow, full of hope.

Yes, there will be people who desperately want him to fail. And yes, he will not be perfect. And the country's problems are too huge to solve in four, or even eight years. But on this night, at last, we felt change within our grasp. And we felt that America could again be the country of promise that it has been in the past. The greatest country in the world. (And for those who say, "It always has been and always will be, regardless of what it does"? I say, "Torture condoned by the government undermines greatness. Every time.")

Before I went to bed, I sent an email to my boss, a Brit who fell in love with an American woman and gave up his socialized medicine life to live here. He's watched in dismay in these last few years as his adopted country has moved further and further from the country he thought it was. He lives in a mid-Atlantic "southern" state, and his anxiety in the pre-election days was palpable.

His state went for Obama.

My email: YES WE CAN!!!

Because that night, at last, it felt like it could be true.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Freaking Adorable

I just now discovered Seattle Woodland Park Zoo's blog. It includes the following oh-my-gosh-adorable videos.

(And as I watched, I found myself thinking, "Wait. Babies in November?" And then I realized, "Oh. Right. Southern hemisphere.")

A quick journey into Google says I'm partly right. About the Bushbaby:


[T]he Mohol or South African Lesser Galago is an arboreal, (tree dwelling) nocturnal, (night active) species often considered to be native to most of southern Africa. However, it is known from the eastern part of South Africa, namely northern Mozambique, and particularly western and southern Tanzania and eastern most Zaire.


The Ocelot, though? Not so clear cut. The ocelot is not 100% southern hemisphere. But it is definitely closer to the equator than a standard North American species.

So babies born in the wild in September or October would probably do just fine.

In case you were worried.







First, Bushbabies. Awwww!




And second, Ocelots. Again, Awww. But don't you feel a little sorry for the guy who wants to go exploring and keeps getting sent back to his box?

Free the Ocelot!!!

Friday, November 07, 2008

What is Change?


My favorite quote of the week, referring to Obama's grandmother passing the day before his election:

"When we're young we think change is a 100-yard dash. As we get older we think it's a marathon. Eventually, we see a relay race."

-- Ellen Goodman

Banking Oddities in the Tanking Economy

I hate to shop. (That's not the topic of this post, but it's relevant here.) Whether it's a quick trip to the grocery store or a search for that perfect Christmas party outfit, I hate (detest, despise) the act of going out to look for stuff to buy. My husband feels the same way. And fortunately we also don't like/need fancy new cars or the newest gadgets to make us happy. And we've been very, very, (extremely, exceptionally) blessed by the fact that he has a job that pays well -- meaning, since we're not shoppers, his job brings in somewhat more than what we need to live.

(This is not self-congratulatory back-patting. So much of this has been luck, and we absolutely recognize this. So just bear with me. I do have a point here.)

Combine that luck with the additional dumb luck of buying our first house years ago, immediately before the market took a huge leap, and we're doing okay. We're feeling exceptionally fortunate right now that we have no real debt except for a mortgage that's less than half the current value of our house, even with the real estate drop.

What this means is that we're not the types to go looking for something like a home equity loan. So imagine our surprise when a woman from our bank called and said that they're raising their fees on Monday, so we should really look into an equity line of credit. Right now. No fees, no requirement we use the money, low interest rate, money available for ten years.

My husband works in an industry that's expected to be hard hit by the recession. We don't need money now, but there's a chance we could, someday. Maybe soon. So we talked it over and agreed that this looked like an okay deal, no real risk or downside to us. We signed the papers last night.

And as a last-minute thing, the banker said that we could get an interest rate a quarter point lower over the full ten year life if we took out $25,000 for one day. Yes, one day. Take it out, then pay it back.

Umm...okay. Sure.

And then I got to thinking about this, and I'm pretty sure I know what's going on.

Banks are currently under pressure to lend money to boost the economy. Yet they're terrified of making more bad loans. If we take out $25,000 and then pay it back immediately, my guess would be that the bank gets to say they've lent out $25,000. So they can say to the feds, "See! We're lending money!"

Except that they're lending it to people who don't want it, don't need it, and aren't going to use it to boost the economy.

If all of the other banks around the country are doing the same thing, I'm thinking this could be a long couple of years for our country.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Done At Last!!


America, meet your new first family!!!
















YES WE CAN!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Yes, We Can

A little over four years ago, I was electrified by the Democratic convention speech of an unknown man running for the senate in Illinois. This man spoke everything that was in my heart about the need to heal the divisions in our fractured country -- fractures the administration in power had done everything to build on and enlarge. When my husband got home later, I said, "I think this guy could be our first black president. I look forward to 2012."

I was wrong.

Fast forward four years, when Barack Obama threw his hat into the Democratic ring, I thought he had no chance against the Hilary machine.

I was wrong.

When he accepted the nomination, only to be immediately overshadowed by the world's blind adoration of and fascination with a fundamentalist female governor from Alaska, I thought he'd never regain his momentum.

I was wrong.

I feel very strongly that after the last eight years of ignoring existing problems and creating more, America has been given one last chance to get it right. We screw this up, we will never be a model for the world again. We will be Greece, or Rome, or England, on the downhill slide to "former empire." (Using the word loosely. You know what I mean.)

Barack Obama is not experienced, and he's not perfect. But I still get a chill when I hear him speak -- as if, finally, we're looking at somebody who might be up to the challenge of the office. The unique combination of temperament and intellect make me think "President."

Please, please, please, let me not be wrong.

********

A fantastic article in Christian Science Monitor by a white non-Democrat banker whose wife dragged him to canvas in a poor, minority neighborhood is here.

I've learned that this election is about the heart of America. It's about the young people who are losing hope and the old people who have been forgotten. It's about those who have worked all their lives and never fully realized the promise of America, but see that promise for their grandchildren in Barack Obama. The poor see a chance, when they often have few. I saw hope in the eyes and faces in those doorways.

My wife and I went out last weekend to knock on more doors. But this time, not because it was her idea. I don't know what it's going to do for the Obama campaign, but it's doing a lot for me.


My prayer for tomorrow is that the people of this country will have the strength to elect the man whom the extreme right wing has done everything in its power to bring down. There are a lot of poeple who hate this man because the only way for them to hold onto their power is to build on the divisions that have already been created. It's not in their interest to allow someone who doesn't believe in these divisions into office.

Can we elect this guy anyway?

Yes, we can.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Kids Say the Darndest Things

My thirteen-year-old son is fiercely political and desperately wishes he could vote this year. He is also well-infomed enough that I wish he could be allowed to vote in the place of one of those people who pick their candidate based on who they'd rather have a beer with.

Tonight he told me about a girl he knows (also 13) who said she always watches only Fox News because "it's the only channel that makes me think there's nothing wrong with our country."

Now I'm all for patriotism. Our country has accomplished amazing things over its 200+ years. But when we're in two wars we can't win, neither of which is supported by the rest of the world, and when we've brought down the world's financial systems with our own mismanagement, when our country with five percent of the population consumes 26 percent of the world's resources, when 93% of teenage girls list their favorite activity as "shopping," when only 23% of the people in the world trust in America to "do the right thing" in foreign affairs, when our test scores are falling well behind the rest of the world because we've become complacent, when everybody in the country wants more services but they're damned if they want to pay for them...

Well, maybe, just maybe, this isn't the best time to be thinking "there's nothing wrong with our country."

Just a thought.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

As Always, Garrison Keillor Gets it Right


From my favorite humorist, Garrison Keillor. (Please click on the link for the full article, because it hits the nail on the head so perfectly.)

It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket, hoping she could skate through two months of chaperoned campaigning, but the truth emerges: The lady is talking freely about matters she has never thought about. The American people have an ear for B.S. They can tell when someone's mouth is moving and the clutch is not engaged. When she said, "One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let's commit ourselves just every day, American people, Joe Six-Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars," people smelled gas.

Some Republicans adore her because they are pranksters at heart and love the consternation of grown-ups. The ne'er-do-well son of the old Republican family as president, the idea that you increase government revenue by cutting taxes, the idea that you cut social services and thereby drive the needy into the middle class, the idea that you overthrow a dictator with a show of force and achieve democracy at no cost to yourself -- one stink bomb after another, and now Governor Palin.

She is a chatty sportscaster who lacks the guile to conceal her vacuity, and she was Mr. McCain's first major decision as nominee. This troubles independent voters, and now she is a major drag on his candidacy. She will get a nice book deal from Regnery and a new career making personal appearances for forty grand a pop, and she'll become a trivia question, "What politician claimed foreign-policy expertise based on being able to see Russia from her house?" And the rest of us will have to pull ourselves out of the swamp of Republican economics.

Your broker kept saying, "Stay with the portfolio, don't jump ship," and you felt a strong urge to dump the stocks and get into the money market where at least you're not going to lose your shirt, but you didn't do it and didn't do it, and now you're holding a big bag of brown bananas. Me, too. But at least I know enough not to believe desperate people who are talking trash. Anybody who got whacked last week and still thinks McCain-Palin is going to lead us out of the swamp and not into a war with Iran is beyond persuasion in the English language. They'll need to lose their homes and be out on the street in a cold hard rain before they connect the dots.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Sarah Palin, James Dobson and the Separation of Church and State

I was reading an article today that said that nearly half of born again Christians are planning to vote for Obama. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. Surprised, but pleased as well. It is beyond time for individual Christians to start thinking for ourselves.

This news comes just after my local Christian radio station, Spirit 105.3, broadcast an interview between the Rev. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Yes, that Focus on the Family.

As a non-Republican Christian, I found the interview -- particularly the insinuation that the Republicans are somehow God's party -- unbelievably offensive. So offensive, in fact, that I reprogrammed my 105.3 button this morning to another station. (It wasn't entirely the Dobson-Palin interview. I find most "Christian" music to be insipid and entirely about me-me-me. If the music spoke to my heart, I'm not 100% sure I would have done the same thing.)

But anyhoo. On the above born again Christian post, I left this comment:


Posted by laurie @ 3:16 PM Thu, Oct 23, 2008



I listened to James Dobson and Sarah Palin last night on my local Christian radio station, Spirit 105.3 in Seattle. When Dobson told Sarah how he and many other Christians had engaged in a lengthy prayer for a "miracle" to help them win, I wanted to vomit.

Separation of church and state isn't just to benefit the state. It's to benefit the church as well. When we merge the church with a political party, we commit Christ to positions he would never have chosen on his own. In the case of the Republicans, they've tried to commit Christ to preemptive war, torture, and deficit spending to finance tax cuts for the rich. I don't think Christ would approve of being used in this way.

People like Rev. Dobson treat Christ as a prostitute -- somebody they can dress up in clothing the Lord would never choose for himself so they can pimp him to the world to increase their worldly political power.

A question for Rev. Dobson and everybody like him: How many people have been turned away from Christ because their conscience wouldn't allow them to pull the ballot lever the way you told them they had to?

Shame on you.


My own faith has been affected by the politicization of religion. People like me are treated as non-Christians by those who see the only two litmus tests for Christianity as abortion and gay marriage.

I'm against abortion, but feel that turning it into a criminal act does even more damage. Better to work on the unplanned pregnancies. And I've discussed my thoughts on the gay issue before. (Click on the link for the long version.) Short version: I have a hard time believing that the God of love would cast good people into hell for the sin of loving "wrong," when he created them to love that way. And I certainly don't think that Christ would choose this as one of his two main issues if he were alive today.

And so my Christian beliefs -- in things like working against poverty, and in treating every person as if he or she has value, and in being against things like torture and preemptive war -- is out of step with our American, politicized version of Christianity.

I, for one, am tired of being a second-class Christian citizen.

I am voting for Obama.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Apocalypse Now Not

I am not a tech person. And by that I mean I am REALLY not a tech person. My kids grew up with this stuff. I didn't. And so I consider myself exceptionally lucky that the website I work for has real, actual, paid tech guys. Because us non-tech folks have been known to bring the site down occasionally.

Yes, entirely down. Crashed. Nothing visible to the naked eye except a white screen.

For a site whose revenues are dependent on pageviews, this is not a good thing. Just fyi.

My favorite techie jokingly calls the problem "Apocalypse Code." It usually happens when one of us non-technical people copies code from another source to do something like, say, embed a Youtube-type video.

I say "YouTube-type" because actual YouTube videos are very rarely the problem. YouTube is made for dummies. Like me. They give you the code, right there on the YouTube page. All you have to do is copy it from their site and paste it into yours. No muss, no fuss, no crash.

When issues occur, it tends to be on non-YouTube sites, where you have to do a "View Source" to look at the code from someone else's website. From there you have to pick out the code to copy -- usually a couple of lines in the middle of pages and pages -- all by yourself. It has the potential to be a non-techy's nightmare.

Sometimes we copy too much code, or too little code, which causes the software to say, "Wait a second. There is an opening here but no closing." This can melt down the entire site until the problem is fixed.

So anyhow. The point of my tale: I dragged myself out of bed this morning, and like most mornings, the second thing I did (after the all-importnant starting of the coffee) was check the site.

Uh-oh. Crashed.

The good news is that it was not my fault this time. It was one of my co-bloggers. (Not that I'm pointing fingers or anything. Chris.)

Once I saw that the site was down, I did what I usually do, which is frantically try to contact one of the guys who can fix it. Since it was Sunday morning, though, none of them were online.

So guess what? I went into the guts of the most recent post (where the problem is generally located), took a look at the code, saw some stuff that looked extraneous, and removed it. Returned to the site, and lo and behold, everything was back to normal.

And those of you who are of the tech generation are saying, "Yeah. Big deal."

I am here to tell you that for someone of my generation, it is a big deal, okay? A big freakin' deal. It's like...like performing successful neurosurgery when you don't know how to tell gray matter from white matter. It's like baking a souffle from scratch when you can't boil water. It's like...it's like... It's like something to be proud of, okay?

So I am here to tell you, with great pride:

Apocalypse averted!



Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dammit! I'm hooked on Organics!


Seattle has kind of a lefty, organic reputation. And for good reason.

I plead guilty to the lefty part, for the most part, in that I think unmitigated capitalism leaves key issues undealt with (health care, anyone?) and key populations unprotected. And I think that the Republican view that we live in a true meritocracy is either hugely naive or hugely cynical. (George W. Bush ascended to his current post based on merit and skills? Really?)

But up to this point in my life, I've resisted the organic part. I'm my parents' kid, in that I'm very cost-conscious when it comes to things like meat and milk and produce. And I always thought that our food production/protection system was the most advanced in the world, and that what the system didn't catch, as far as pesticides, etc., our livers would process out.

Partially true. We do have one of the best food protection systems in the world. But it's been gutted in recent years, and was never as effective as presumed.

But I was still a holdout. Organics seemed so...pretentious.

But a couple of months back we joined a cheap, monthly health club that just happens to be beside an organic store that specializes in local food. Very pretentious, very expensive... But any other grocery is several miles in the opposite direction from my house. So when I finish working out and want to grab something for dinner...

Resistance is futile. I have been assimilated.

The thing is? This food is GOOD. The meat, even the low-fat stuff, if juicy and flavorful. And the fruits and veggies? Yum. I roasted some broccoli the other night with my favorite recipe (olive oil, hot chili oil, season salt and onion powder, broil for 10 minutes on each side) and it tasted so sweet I thought somebody had added sugar. I'm not kidding. Even the stalks were good. And I normally find Gala apples bland, but these? Words fail me. (I am salivating like Pavlov's dog right now.)

I'm not seeing myself doing all my shopping here, but for some stuff?

Dammit. I'm hooked on local organics.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How the Other Half Lives



For three days, up in Vancouver, we had this view. Thirty-ninth floor, ceiling-to-floor windows, panoramic view running from west to northeast. Gated parking garage activated by a magnetic key tag.

Inside there are two TVs, and a full-body-length jetted tub, plus shower and his-and-her sinks. Bedroom, office, full kitchen. It's a condo that's attached to a hotel, so people who live there have all the hotel amenities, even including room service. And the maids didn't come while we were there, but they were scheduled in after we left, so we didn't even have to clean up, beyond the basics.

Amazing.

It's kind of a long story how we got here. A co-worker of my husband is establishing a practice in Vancouver. He moved to the city separately from his family several months back, and the company wanted him to have a showpiece abode where he could take clients. So they paid the rent on this place. His family moved out to Vancouver in August. They bought a house, and the rent on this condo was paid up till the end of the month with nobody staying there. Voila, my husband and I got a couple-only vacation.

We heard a rumor that the place rents for $5,000 a month. Just a little bit beyond our price range. We got it for free, though. (Or for the price of a couple of nice bottles of wine. That's more like it.)

The clientele is mostly of Asian descent. There is a lot of Asian wealth in Vancouver. I heard somewhere that right before the Hong Kong hand-over from England to China, Canada offered citizenship to anyone from Hong Kong with assets above a certain amount. A fair number of them seemed to have purchased places in this condo tower.

Most of the fellow residents we met looked under twenty-five.

Would you get jaded, growing up with this? Would you ever get bored with this view?

Our second day in, we met another middle-aged couple in the elevator. They were polite, but there was a certain...tone to their "We've never seen you here before."

When we explained the situation that brought us there, the woman said, "Well. How nice for you, then."

In other words, Ahoy, polloi.

It was amazing and beautiful. I'd love to visit again.

But I wouldn't want to live there.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

An Open Letter to Charles Gibson

To Charles Gibson, ABC Commentator, who will be interviewing Republican VP choice Sarah Palin:



Dear Mr. Gibson:

I was hugely disappointed in your moderation of the Democratic debates. At a time when our country is facing some of the biggest crises in our history, you filled the debate with petty, pointless questions. You let us down.

You have a chance to redeem yourself.

You have been chosen as the sole interviewer of a woman who -- as the VP choice for a 72-year-old presidential candidate -- could well be serving as the president of the US. As this sole interviewer, you can make a difference for our nation. Or you can continue to fill the airwaves with the same kinds of drivel as before.

We are living in a country in crisis. All of our problems -- like the National Debt, rogue nations with nukes, the crisis in our health care system, the looming and inevitable bankruptcies of Social Security and Medicare, the recession and the mortgage crisis -- are very serious issues. We need to know what she would do about them.

I don't care about whether or not Sarah Palin wears a flag pin, or how many caribou she's shot, or how she feels about juggling work and family. I care about what she'd do in Ossetia, and what she'd do in Iran, and how she would fund Social Security and Medicare through the boomers' retirement without bankrupting the country. I care about what she'd do about the housing crisis, and the national debt, and the trade imbalance, and the abuse of our troops by repeated overseas deployments. I care about what she'd do about an economy that is shedding jobs faster than my labrador sheds hair.

It appears that Governor Palin is the only one of the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates who won't be making the rounds of the news shows to tell the country what she would do about the issues facing this country. This means it's up to you.

In short, Charles, you have a chance to redeem yourself. Don't insult our intelligence this time. Ask the hard questions and let us make up our own minds.

Sincerely,

Laurie


To Everyone Else:
The interview begins Thursday. Please, please please send your own email to Charles Gibson expressing your desire to hear answers to questions about the real issues facing our country.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

On Focus on the Family's Call for "Rain of Biblical Proportions"

From the Denver paper, the Rocky Mountain News, dated August 11:



Focus on the Family Action pulled a video from its Web site today that asked people to pray for "rain of biblical proportions" during Barack Obama's Aug. 28 appearance at Invesco Field at Mile High to accept the Democratic nomination for president.


Focus on the Family spokesmen said the video was supposed to be "mildly humorous." I watched it before they pulled it. It was neither mild nor humorous.

Also, I grew up in Colorado, where the Democratic National Convention was held. It always rains in Denver on August evenings. But for some reason, it didn't rain that night.

Next item. From today's news:

Officials with the McCain campaign and the Republican National convention are considering changing the event's agenda as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast.

Sen. John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, plans to meet with officials in charge of the party's convention planning in Minneapolis-St. Paul on Sunday to review the latest news on Hurricane Gustav and what their options might be and then consult with the presumptive presidential nominee to determine what changes may need to be made.


Perhaps this is God's way of saying, "Stop trying to involve me in your petty partisan politics"?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Post in Which I Visit Canada and Once Again Wish I Were Bilingual

My husband and I just finished up a long weekend in Vancouver, BC. More on that later.

But, as I've said before, here's what I love most about Canada: It's a bilingual country. Everything is English/French. Whenever I get within 30 miles of the border, I can listen to Radio Canada, which is the Francophone radio station. (97.7, if you're in the vicinity and wanting to practice your French.)

And every time I go to Canada, I am reminded of one thing: Damn. I am not bilingual.

It is SO not my fault. They've done research showing that the prepubescent human brain has an incredible capacity for language learning. If a young child is exposed to multiple languages, he/she will learn multiple languages and not mix them up. Once puberty hits, though, our brains become like rubber bands left in the sun. They can stretch, but not nearly as far or as easily as they could before.

So why the heck is it that most US language instruction doesn't start till Junior High? I blame the people who made this decision for every word I do not understand. Because is it my fault that my rubber band was fried before I was given the opportunity to learn French? I think not.

Yet I try, a little bit at a time.

And on this trip, for the first time ever, I actually felt like I was making progress!

Of course, it's a bit easier for an Anglophone (English speaker) in Canada, because the accent is more...American/English, I guess. This is as opposed to France, where the accent is, y'know, French. In France, my mind runs about three steps behind the speaker. In France, my mind will still be deciphering the second word of a sentence while the speaker has charged on to the twentieth word. And, since pretty much everybody in French tourist districts speaks English, by the time I move onto the third word, they've lost patience and translated the whole sentence into English for me. And I'm thinking, "But...but...but wait! I wanted to figure it out myself!"

Which is where TV and radio come in handy. Because they don't wait for you. It's like jokes on Frasier. No explanations. If you don't get it, you don't get it.

But this trip, sometimes at least, I did.

In the three days I was in Canada, I listened to (and kind of understood) stories about musicians' new albums, about Barack Obama's VP choice, about certain birds' adapatation to the urban landscape, about the use of solar power. And I was amazed to realize, afterwards, that I mostly understood what they were talking about.

But the really fun thing? Sunday, while my husband was working, I watched the movie "Mississippi Masala," dubbed in French. It's from 1991, with an impossibly young Denzel Washington. I saw the movie once in english, years ago, but had forgotten everything it was about.

Watching it today, in French, though? I pretty much understood it. (!!) This is the first movie, ever, that I've watched in French and been able to comprehend.

Maybe my rubber band can still stretch a little after all.

Today I called up Comcast and added the French station, TV5 Monde, to our cable package. $9.99 a month, which is a bit spendy for one channel. I'm justifying it because it's now the only channel where I can watch French Ligue 1 soccer games now that Setanta has gone all Anglophile on us.

So I'll now be listening to French on a regular basis.

I'll let you know if my brain breaks.