Sunday, November 30, 2008
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.
(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
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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
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?"
Both of us, looking at the cat: "Hmmm...."
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
``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
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
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
[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
(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
(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
(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.
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
Monday, November 03, 2008
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
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.