Thursday, December 28, 2006

loss of nuance

My recent class has made me notice that my written skills are diminishing. I blame it squarely on this blog, and on email. Both favor brevity -- get the point across quickly, with short sentences and shorter words.

A school system in California recently decided that they would allow IM-type spelling on standardized tests. My first thought - LOL, UR kidding. As these kid's vocabularies diminish, all nuance is lost. It is nearly impossible to express a complex thought in the abbreviated language of texting. If we have no words, do we have thoughts? If we take away facial expression and tone of voice, and reduce our vocabulary to what can fit on a two inch screen, what the hell can we say?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

it doesn't feel a bit like christmas

Is it the abnormally warm weather? Seriously, this Saturday it is supposed to reach 60 degrees here in Baltimore. 60! I hate winter, I really really do, but it does seem like it should be COLD at Christmas.

Maybe its the work schedule, which has required much work from home [sorry, family!]. We haven't put up the tree yet. My son and I have not built our gingerbread house yet. We haven't hung the stockings with care. I haven't finished shopping. I haven't wrapped a single gift.

Maybe its the clutter, which is really getting me down. My house is a sty, and it's all my fault. My crap is EVERYWHERE. I really don't relax when it's this bad, but I am too tired to do anything about it. I am hoping to get it under control tomorrow afternoon.

I know that it will feel like Christmas when it actually arrives, because the Christmas magic always works for me. No matter what the circumstance, no matter what is going on, Christmas Eve and Christmas day are always miraculously wonderful. I love everyone, and everything, for 48 hours. If only the miracle lasted the whole year. Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution -- to keep Christmas in my heart the whole year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

missing a cartoon giant

Joe Barbera died yesterday. Half of the team of Hanna-Barbera, he was responsible for many many happy hours during my childhood. Tom and Jerry. The Flinstones. Yogi Bear. Huckleberry Hound. The Jetsons. Johnny Quest. I watched them all.

They weren't cutting edge animation. They didn't have a lot of flash to them. But they were sweet and funny and endlessly entertaining.

I'll miss ya, Joe.

Monday, December 18, 2006

social risks

I am fairly outgoing, fairly comfortable socially, but I wasn't always. I used to hate to go to parties because they made me nervous. I wouldn't talk in class, because I was afraid I'd say something stupid. I was uncomfortable meeting new people.

Now I feel at ease (mostly) because I am comfortable in my own skin. I know who I am and I don't feel like I have to impress everyone. But there are still holdovers from my early, introverted years, that I can't seem to shake.

We throw a couple of parties every year. I love planning the food, preparing the food, and I love seeing all my good friends. What I hate is inviting people. I feel so exposed when I do. What if they don't want to come? What if no one wants to come? What if people come, but because they feel they have to? Am I presuming friendship where none exists? What if I'm boring? And so on and so on and so on.

Once things are started, I'm fine. I enjoy myself. I think my guests enjoy themselves. All the worries disappear. But when I'm asking people over, I feel like a sweaty 8 year old handing out birthday invititations. Will I ever GROW UP completely???

Thursday, December 14, 2006

done, done, done

My paper proposal is FINISHED. It is not the most stellar work I have ever done, but it is completed. I am turning it in tonight, marking the end of my first semester. This has all been harder than I expected. I did two semesters of graduate school in the English department at the University of Maryland. That seemed fairly easy to me. I did well, and didn't really strain my brain to do so.

In contrast, this semester saw me reading things that made me try to bend my brain in ways it doesn't go. I read some of the Gnostic gospels, and if you know me, you know that was a stretch in oh so many ways. I had to write several small assignments. It turns out writing blogs and email is really really bad for your writing style. I apparently think and write in snippets now, almost telegram style. And it turns out that writing critically is something you can fall out of practice with. Who knew?

It was also much harder to fit school into my life than I had anticipated. My son wanted my attention after school, and really didn't get the concept of "mommy is doing homework now." My husband was not too thrilled to pick up the slack with the kid and the puppy. The puppy tried to gnaw my laptop, and honestly did try to eat my paper proposal. And my office really really needs me to work some extra hours right now, but I just can't fit everything in. Thoughts of dropping out actually crossed my mind. I think the exact phrase was "you need this like you need a hole in your head".

But I think I'll stick it out. I do feel more alert, more mentally there. And I feel a sense of accomplishment that's different than what I get from work or home. I guess because it seems like more of a solo effort, and so the results are all me. I also feel smart, for the first time in a really long while. I even feel my vocabulary coming back. It has been a long time since I felt free to use ALL the words I know instead of the small subset of common, day - to -day language.
Wicked cool.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

old habits die hard

As many of you know, I am back in school, doing the grad school thing part-time. This is my first real coursework in about 15 years. Now, I like to think that I have matured and grown as a person in that time period. But old habits die hard. I have my termpaper proposal due on Thursday. This means of course that I spent the last 20 minutes trying to figure out how I was going to go see Rules of the Game tonight or tomorrow... and I have committed to bringing a dessert to tomorrow's holiday breakfast at work, 'cause I have so much free time.

Apparently I still function under that "paper deadline syndrome". This is the one where I can never really get anything done on a paper until the deadline is imminent - defined as tomorrow, or maybe today. I need that fine sense of panic in order to motivate me. God, I thought I had gotten past this point! I want to be a good student, I really do. I do my reading. I prepare for class. But start a paper early, or even on-time, never.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I don't wanna work -- I want to bang on me drum all day

I recently realized I am having a feminist dilemma. Sort of. What I mean is that I have been thinking a lot about what I would really really like to do. And what it boils down to, is that if I had unlimited funds, I would want to stop working. Which is kind of what our mothers and their mothers fought so hard against, right? They fought to be in the workplace that I would give a lot to get out of.

I could take my time cooking wonderful meals. I could take up a sport. I could play with my husband. I could play with the dog [differently, please -- get your mind out of the gutter!]. I could work on my photography. I could help out at the school, while my son doesn't mind me being there. I could find time for haircuts and manicures. We could take lots of day trips as a family. My house would be clean. My laundry would be done. Holes would be mended, buttons put back on. I could pay my bills on time, instead of shoving them somewhere to pay when I have time and then forgetting. I could finish a book -- instead of starting another one because I forgot where I was in the first one.

Maybe what I really want is to be retired. But the damn retirement calculator keeps telling me I'm going to have to work until I'm 72. 72! That is another, hold it while I do the math, 29 years. That seems somehow impossible. Even if I break it into 7 four year chunks... Maybe I can get 5 years off for good behavior.

Monday, December 04, 2006

race and schools

The Supreme Court will be looking at race and schools again this week. At issue is when and if it is okay to assign public school children to different schools based on their race, in order to artificially desegregate the school systems.

I think the issue is much much larger than making schools racially diverse. My son used to attend a lovely private school that was almost a 50/50 split racially. It was in no way diverse. All the kids came from upper middle class homes where the parents could afford tuition and felt it was worth spending the money on their child's education. They wore the same clothes, had the same toys, went on similar vacations, lived in similar homes, etc.

It seems to me that what the school systems are doing is a good first attempt, with good intent. But in looking solely at race, they ignore real diversity and real issues. Why isn't their community naturally diverse? Is there opportunity for the children to make friendships across economic lines, religious lines, cultural lines, not just racial ones?
Are all the schools in their system equally good? do they all have the same quality equipment, the same quality teachers, the same opportunities for all students?
Is there a range of housing opportunities in the same community and school district? Is there room in their district for all kinds of differences?

Fixing schools by artificially desegregating is like a bandaid. What we really need to do is fix ourselves, and our communities. The schools will improve when we improve.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

a sobering statistic

Yesterday I read a most sobering statistic. We have now been at war in Iraq longer than we fought WWII. And it looks like we will be there much longer. A bi-partisan report issued today urged us to conduct massive troop withdrawals, but gave no timetable for this. And Bush remains resolute -- we are not looking for a graceful withdrawal, we are not leaving until we have accomplished our mission. Whatever that is. I keep getting confused by which rational we are believing this week.

I know we started with the idea that there were WMD to eliminate, and then we were bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. I have heard the phrase "free and independent Iraq" a lot.

To me it looks like we took a country with a government we didn't like and broke it. Before the war, Iraq was at least functional. Now it is a destroyed thing. No major infrastructure remains, and the burdens of repairing what this war has done will last decades. I don't see how we can make a "graceful exit". I think we will have to cut and run, mumble a quick "sorry for the mess" , and hightail it out of there.

Maybe next time, we will be less quick to act. Maybe we should really really think about it before we send in the troops. Or just stay home.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

character and denial

Two recent incidents have brought home to me how confused we are about character. Michael Vick was fined by the NFL for making an obscene hand gesture at fans after a football game. He admits what he did was wrong (good!), but then messes up by going farther and saying it is not in his character to do something like that. Obviously it was in his character, since he did it. I think he meant that he feels bad about it, and he will work on not doing it again, but he could just mean he gets a pass because he doesn't do this kind of thing all the time.

Michael Richards, from Seinfeld, was caught on film unleashing some ugly and racist talk at two audience members from his stand-up comedy show. He says that he is sorry (good), but then explains how he is not a racist, so he doesn't know where all the invective came from. Um, Michael -- you are a racist. The fact that you were made uncomfortable, and were heckled is unfortunate. But when you lost it, you went straight for racist remarks. That makes you a racist, just not habitual about expressing it.

Both men should have just said that they were sorry, and that they regretted their actions. Period, end of statement. To make an excuse that you really aren't the way you behaved is ridiculous and makes any apology seem insincere. How you behave under duress is part of your character. Deal with it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

biology sucks

Normally, I'm a big fan of biology. After all, it did give us all kinds of nice body parts, and it did give us sex. We could reproduce like flatworms or something...

But lately, biology has not been my friend. I suddenly need reading glasses, you know, the old lady kind you wear on a chain around your neck. My sleep is constantly disrupted. I have night sweats. And I have to get up and pee more often than I used to. I had my first hot flash the other day, and it wasn't a good time. It takes much less time to gain weight, and much longer to lose it.

I thought biology was unkind when I was an anxiety-riddled pre-teen, praying for boobs and my period. And I didn't much like the combination of raging hormones and zits [kind of cruel, I think]. But now, I think that was not all that bad. Because I knew it was a short time kind of thing, and that better things were on their way. Now every change is a diminishment - of time, of capacity, of quality.

So this week, at least, biology sucks!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Give a little, get a lot

Today, I am pushing my favorite charity - Modest Needs Foundation. I found it when searching for a charity where my son's small contributions could have a real impact. In the process, I discovered a lot -- how close we all are to the edge, how a small kindness can be large in someone else's life, gratitude for what I have, gratitude for the good people out there, and YES, there are a lot of them....

For an article on the charity, go to

A small contribution every month, less than you would spend on coffee or chocolate, can make a huge difference for a lot of people.

Monday, November 20, 2006

almost thanksgiving!!

It is almost Thanksgiving! This is my absolute favorite holiday. An entire day reserved for good food, resting, relaxing, company. No guilt. No gift-giving, family politics, gift-receiving. Just a day to enjoy.

I love the idea of the holiday as well. A day to think about the good things in your life. A day set aside for appreciation. We should really find a way to be thankful every day -- but hell, this is a good start. I need to be reminded from time to time that I really do have it good. It is too easy to lapse into a mindset where you see your troubles writ large, and your blessings writ small. Instead of bitching about my job, I should be happy -- I have a good job, with interesting work, decent pay, great benefits. It's not my dream job, but I don't really know what that would be anyway. I can complain about my aching knees, or be glad that they hold me up and take me where I need to go. I can't take that trip to Australia just yet, but I have a nice roof over my head, plenty of food, I'm generally comfortable and safe. Maybe my kid plays too many video games, and watches too much TV. But he's home every day, safe and sound. I'm always short of money, but that doesn't mean what it used to -- I'm not being hounded by bill collectors, and I'm not going to get evicted, and I don't have to eat oodles of noodles for the rest of the month.

I have enough, and sometimes that's plenty!

Friday, November 17, 2006

lower than dirt

O.J. Simpson is lower than dirt. He has written a book on how he would have committed the murders if he had done them. How much pain does he want the victims families to go through? How much suffering is he willing to put his children through?

I have rarely been so completely outraged by one individual's behaviour. I know we are talking about a murderer here. I know that. And yet, to me this seems even lower. It is horrible that he killed his wife and an innocent bystander. But to get away with the crime, and then write a book about it, as if he hadn't done it, but knew how it was done makes it that much more horrific.

I hope no one buys the book. I hope he betrays himself in some way that leads to another lawsuit. I hope they find some other crime they can charge him with. I wished I believed in hell, because it would be satisfying to imagine him burning there for an eternity.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I should focus on the big things, but

I should focus on the larger issues, but I just can't help myself. Heath Shuler, former quarterback for the Redskins, won his seat in North Carolina. He's part of the Democratic freshman class.

For those who don't remember his brief tenure with the Redskins, it was characterized by his being too damn dumb to learn the plays. I met a painter who worked on his house -- Shuler had actually written all the plays on the walls of his house to help him try to learn the playbook.

I admire his persistence. But -- a) football is not usually played by rocket scientists, but somehow they all learn the plays, b) the playbook is SECRET and is supposed to be carefully guarded and c) wouldn't it have been easier to carry a notebook or something?

I can't wait to see how he does in Congress!

Monday, November 13, 2006

a good thing

No political rant today. Just a good thing. I went to a parent teacher conference on Friday, to get my son's grades. He is in 7th grade, at a school for bright kids with severe to moderate learning disabilities.7th grade marks the first year that he is graded for his work. He got 5 As and 3 Bs. I was very happy, but that is not the good thing. The good thing is that his English teacher described him as definitely college-bound!!!

This is something most middle-classed parents take for granted. But we had been told it would be remarkable for our son to graduate high school. Getting him through 12th grade has been our focus for the last 4 years or so, ever since his learning difficulties were first diagnosed. To hear someone, anyone, discuss seriously his college potential was just amazing. I felt like a hundred pounds were lifted from me, weight I hadn't even known I was carrying.

To be clear -- I don't care if he doesn't want to go to college. That is fine with me. What I want is for him to have the option to choose. I don't believe there is only one path to happiness or success in life. He can choose whatever he wants, whatever fulfills him, and I will truly be happy with that. But I feel great relief that his options are open.

Friday, November 10, 2006

my best decisions

I went to dinner tonight with my two best decisions. Decision #1 is my husband, whom I married over 20 years ago, and still adore. Decision #2 is my son. My life is infinitely richer for the two of them. I try to make sure they know this, but day-to-day stuff often gets in the way.

I think it's amazing that both my best decisions involved very little rational thought. I was too young, too impulsive, too out of control to get married. I was too into my career, too self-absorbed, too confused to have a child. Yet, through sheer dumb luck, it has worked better than I could possibly have imagined.

Sometimes, impulse works.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the difference between a reason and an excuse

I've been mulling over something the last few days -- the difference between a reason and an excuse. It seems we have become a culture of victims. We are "adult children of alcoholics", "incest survivors", "abused children" etc. While I think the desire to figure out why we do what we do is wonderful -- I am concerned as to where it has led us.

Understanding that the abuse you suffered as a child affects your behaviour today is important. You have the reason for your behaviour. What you don't have is an excuse for future behaviour. When Mark Foley was accused of inappropriate emails to underage boys -- he said he had been fondled by a priest when he was a child. The fondling may be the reason, but it doesn't mean he gets to fondle kids now. It doesn't provide an excuse.

It's like we got the first part of the puzzle -- trying to figure ourselves out, by looking at our past. But we missed the second part, where you take that understanding and self-knowledge and use it as an impetus for change. At some point, you stop being the child of your parents, and you start being the adult in your own life. If you were a victim, you aren't any more. You can deal with your past, you can acknowledge what was done, you can hurt and grieve but you have to take the steps to heal. That is your true responsiblity, beyond self-awareness, beyond understanding, comes the difficult action to overcome and heal.

Otherwise you give the past complete power over yourself, and you truly are a victim.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

okay, we won -- now what?

I swear I held my breath for hours last night, glued to CNN for election results. Things pretty much went my way. So I should be elated, yes? Well, I am, in a way. I do feel like taking a victory lap, or uttering a polite nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah. But now, now we have to do something with all this momentum.

Can the people we've put in office make a difference? Will they? Can we truly have the most ethical, decent Congress ever (Nancy Pelosi says we will)? Can we sort out the muddled issues in the middle east? calm both Iran and North Korea? restore civil liberties? just f*ing talk to each other civilly after a nasty election?

I guess now the real work begins.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006


We spent a portion of today at the cardiologist. No, not for my husband or for me. For the dog. Our puppy, Largo, has a heart defect. Today we looked at his heart with ultrasound, watched the blood flow (in color). He has VSD; it is a genetic defect. We will have to visit the cardiologist once a year, to monitor it. But we don't have to restrict his activities, it shouldn't affect his life-span or his health. He can even, thank god, be neutered.

I cannot tell you how relieved I feel. We have fallen for this dog, and it is wonderful to know he will be part of our lives for a good long time.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

it's fall, it's sunday, it's FOOTBALL

For those who know me, it is no surprise that I spent today watching NFL football. For those who know me only slightly, it always seems to come as a large surprise. I am a geek, a secular humanist with intellectual leanings. I am supposed to like chess. I might be a "george will" intellectual, and be forgiven a passion for baseball. But I am not fond of either game. I LOVE football. I really care if the Ravens or the Redskins win. I yell at the TV. I eat salty snacks and drink beer. I read the sports pages. I have been known to bet on games, or get in on a football pool when I can.

There is nothing deep about football. It's all right there on the surface. There are no sabremetrics in football. Nobody pretends it's a mental game. It's honest. I love the competition, the athleticism, the sheer brute masculinity of it all -- large sweaty men pounding at each other. I love the emotion on the sidelines, the prayers, the crying, the yelling. I like the mud, the snow, the rain, the steam rising from the heads of the players.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

odd perspective

Evangelist Ted Haggard was forced to resign his position this week. According to a male prostitute, Haggard has paid him for monthly sex for 3 years, and used methamphetamine in his presence frequently.

Haggard vehemently denied the sex. He admitted to the methamphetamine buys, though he says he never used the drug. He also admitted to paying the male prostitute for massages, but not for sex.

I find it hard to believe that Haggard's perspective is so skewed that he thought it was far better to admit to illegal drugs, than to admit to gay sex. I guess he feels his congregation can understand a little partying, but not HOMO-SEXshewal RE-Lations.

I also thought it was interesting that the male prostitute felt he had to come forward before the elections. Haggard was violently opposed to gay marriage, and apparently the issue is on the ballot in their state. The prositute thought Haggard was being hypocritical, having gay sex while opposing marriage for gays.

The prostitute is on much higher moral ground than the evangelist.

Friday, November 03, 2006

introducing the finger of shame award

Okay, I am formally introducing a new "award" -- the FINGER OF SHAME. I will periodically award one to someone I feel has embarassed himself, his country, his planet.

Today, I am playing catch-up, so I will be awarding several FOS (fossies???)

to Michael Steele, for campaigning not on his record, or his position on issues, but on puppies!

to George Bush, for, well pick a reason, they're all good

to Kanye West for putting the ugly in ugly american with his antics at the foreign grammies

to Paris Hilton, for being a waste of space, despite being born with every possible advantage

If you think of someone who really deserves a FOS, just shoot me an email. I'll try to put 'em up as I get 'em.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

meditation on unbelief

I have been reading today about religion and faith. We have a philosophy professor coming to lecture our class tonight, and he gave us a selection of readings (Clifford, Kierkagaard, James) that argue for or against the logic of religious belief.

This puts me in an odd position. I do not believe, and am not a member of any organized faith. I don't believe in the concept of worshipping a deity. So am I bristling at the arguments propounding faith as a logical choice because I don't have any? or because the argument is unsound?

The truth is that I would LOVE to believe, to have faith. It must be comforting to relax and trust in a higher power. It must be soothing in the dark night of the soul to think there is a guiding hand in all things. I seem constitutionally incapable of religious faith. I have read the Old Testament, the New Testament, most of the Koran, parts of the Book of Mormon, a whole slew of excerpts from most major religions. I have been to Sunday School, gone through Catholic Catechism classes, been baptized, confirmed, gone to confession, meditated, visited mosques and cathedrals and temples. And my unbelief stands, unshakeable.

What is it in other people that I don't have? what makes it so easy for some to connect with religious faith, and so impossible for me?

I do feel a strong spiritual tug, when I am out in the woods, when I walk the beach, when I hear certain music. But this is not the same sort of thing at all; this is more a connection that I feel with other living things, a centering with place and time.

food for thought.

Monday, October 30, 2006

from kevin tillman to god's ear

Kevin Tillman is Pat Tillman's brother. For those of you who don't know, Pat Tillman was a professional football player. He elected to give up his pro career and go to Iraq, because our country told him it was the right thing to do, and he died there, the victim of "friendly fire". His brother Kevin has written a moving tribute, available on the web at

I urge you to read it, and to take it to heart. Pat Tillman was a good man, and we as a nation sent him to his death, for no reason that wasn't a lie.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

that'll keep 'em out!

The president signed a bill today, authorizing 700 miles of FENCE along the US-Mexico border. Yup, that'll keep 'em out. You bet. A fence couldn't even keep my terrier out... but it will keep illegal immigrants at bay.

Gotta show we're tough on illegal immigration, because the ELECTION is in a few weeks. BTW, there is no money in the bill to pay for the fence. However, estimates are in the billion dollar range. For a billion dollars, you could pay people to just stay home. And nobody would have to build nothin'.

Have we LOST OUR MINDS?? We really need another symbol of US oppression. Our very own BERLIN WALL. I can feel the love just burgeoning across the world.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

a sad day for our country

Today, President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act, otherwise known as the terrorist interrogation bill. With that one action, habeas corpus is dead, and all of our civil liberties are in peril.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law is "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history."

"The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

Fear is a truly terrible thing. To keep our country "safe", we seem willing to give up every freedom we hold dear. Terrorism is the new boogeyman; mention it and we quake in our beds like little children in the night. Where do we draw the line? If Bush says his administration can't step down because we are at war, and to leave office would aid the terrorists, would we let him have an illegal third term? Will we arrest journalists for "aiding terrorists" by reporting the truth in Iraq? Will we bankrupt our future to "protect" our present?

Really -- how afraid are we?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Today my thoughts are with the poor Amish families of Lancaster, as they try to make sense of their profound losses in the recent school shooting. I would send prayers their way, if I believed. Absent faith, I will think warm thoughts and hope they waft to Lancaster, to comfort the bereaved.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

ready to throw some tea

I am ready to throw some tea into the harbor. Okay, I mean that figuratively -- I love tea, and I love the harbor, so really, not going to happen. BUT -- I am starting to feel a tad revolutionary. The news is not helping. We have the ex CIA director, George Tenet, saying he plead with Condoleeza Rice to heed warnings of an Al Quaeda attack, 2 full months before 9/11. We have lots of "did not/did too" going on. We have a high ranking congressman sending dirty emails to teenage boys, while serving on the committee writing laws about this kind of behaviour. We have generals saying the administration is overstating the success in Iraq. We have rumors that the President's wife tried to get Donald Rumsfeld fired. We have rumors that Rice did the same thing. We still have Rumsfeld.

Maybe I will secede from the Union. Or declare war. Or put my taxes in escrow. Or, do what I always do -- sign a petition, write my congressmen, send a check to the ACLU...How pissed off do I have to get before I am willing to risk anything personal?

Friday, September 29, 2006

8 billion dollars

The news today has me hopping mad. After debate, and argument, and every other congressional play, warrantless wiretapping looks like it will be okayed, and terrorist tribunals without recourse to federal courts will also be approved. I THOUGHT we had come to our senses on all of this. I THOUGHT our leaders had finally gotten the message loud and clear.

And then. And then. The Defense Budget is going to pass. Another 70 BILLION Dollars has been allocated for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is not the full cost, mind you. The war is costing our country (i.e. YOU and ME) 8 BILLION dollars a MONTH!!!

Do you know how much better our country could be as a whole if we spent 8 billion dollars a month for healthcare for all, or 8 billion dollars a month for education, or 8 billion dollars a month for infrastructure repairs, or 8 billion dollars a month for food and clothing for our neediest people? We are spending 8 billion dollars a month to kill and be killed in a country that truthfully we care nothing about. And we are getting back for that 8 billion dollars... injured soldiers who will need medical care their entire lives (and they deserve every penny -- they earned it!), a broken country we will have to repair, a damaged reputation, more enemies.

I call that a lousy ROI.

Monday, September 25, 2006


disclaimer: I am not Emily Post. I have never been Emily Post. I am not even related to Emily Post.

Now that that is out of the way, AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! How did we become such an ill-mannered society? In the last week, not once, not twice, but 3 separate times, I have been in the ladies room, using it for its intended purpose, only to hear one-sided conversations from the stall next to me. Yes, 3 different people thought it was fine to conduct a phone conversation while using the facilities!! To me that shows a complete lack of respect for the person you are talking with, a complete lack of respect for the other patrons (who may not want their bodily functions broadcast via phone speaker, and may not want to sit captive through your conversation) and to a certain extent a complete lack of respect for self.

Good lord, people, how important were those conversations? Were they life or death? Are you so lacking in mental resilience, that a minute without conversation would plunge you into depression? Were you never taught any manners at all?

Manners are ESSENTIAL. Without them, the friction of day to day life is too much for most folks to bear. There are too many of us, often crammed into too small a space, with too many competing agendas for us to be ill-mannered. I am not seeking a return to Victorian England, with its extremely mannered society. I am just seeking common, ordinary politeness. I don' t think it's too much to ask for, and I think we should value each other enough to comply.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

oops, I did it again

I've done it yet again. I am hopelessly over-extended. I feel like I have three chain-saws in the air at any one time, and god forbid I should drop one. The kicker is that most of what I am doing, I enjoy. Yet I still feel over-burdened by it all. Work. School. Family. Friends. Pets. Home. No, no particular order to those.... I live a full, rich life that is slowly exhausting me.

I keep thinking about it. What would I cut out? True answer -- nothing. Not one thing. If anything, I would add to it. More time with my sweet baboo, more time with my munchkin, more time with my friends, more time kicking back and relaxing. My conclusion -- I need more time. There's not a lot I can carve out though, unless I give up sleep, and I already feel like I have.

It is probably a lovely problem to have. A truly modern problem. But a problem nonetheless. If anyone has a solution, please post a comment.

Friday, September 15, 2006

what size do you wear?

We had an odd discussion at work yesterday. What size do you wear? A very petite co-worker was in a 7, but others swore it couldn't be more than a 4. I can wear anything from a 6 to a 10 depending on the cut. I'm vertically challenged, so sometimes I buy petites, so I can get the right length. I bought petites, even when I was a size 14... which didn't seem very 'petite' at all. I often hear women of a certain age and income bracket bragging that they have always been a perfect size 6 -- when anyone with eyes can see they can't be smaller than a 12. I have noticed a strong correlation between price and size. The more expensive the clothes, the smaller the size. If I could afford it, I could be a size 0.

Sine it seems that sizing is arbitrary, that there is no standard, why are we hung up on the issue? Some of my co-workers wouldn't even say out loud what size they wear. Why would you brag about being a 2, or ashamed of being a 22? I think we need to embrace our inner Popeye -- I yam what I yam. But skip the spinach until this e-coli scare is over....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

what does one vote matter?

I went to vote this morning in the primaries. Our polling place was supposed to open at 7am so I arrived at 7:15am with my son in tow. We waited patiently in line for 20 minutes, only to find that the polls were not opening -- the republican judge had not showed up, and the polls could not legally open until both the democratic and republican judges were present.

I had to leave without voting, so my son could get to school on time. Now, I will try to go vote later today. So this is not about how my one vote could have changed things, but won't since it wasn't cast. I was upset this morning, because I really treasure my right to vote. And I had to explain to my son why I was upset. His question -- what difference does it make? What does one vote matter?

And so I tried to explain. People have died for the ability to cast that one vote. How a democracy isn't a democracy unless people exercise the right to vote. How a single vote can be the difference -- what if Roe v Wade had been 1 vote the other way? What if the supreme court had 1 more vote in Al Gore's favor -- would we be at war right now? Participating in the process is more than an exercise, it defines the process, it makes us what we are.

I hope he got the point.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Five years ago, our nation changed. We lost our collective innocence, our belief that bad things happen in other countries, to other people. I heard the news very early, on-line, in my then office in Tyson's Corner. At first, it was just a sad item, a small plane had crashed into the Twin Towers.

Quickly the news changed, as it became apparent that the crash was intentional. We began to hear helicopters overhead. Tyson's Corner is a long drive, but in actuality just a few miles from the Pentagon. We gathered together in an office, trying desperately to get TV reception, to get news, reassurance. Instead the government shut down. DC called a state of emergency, followed soon after by Virginia. I was frantically on the phone with my husband, my son's school, my parents, trying to figure out what to do.

I remember trying to get to my son's school in Bowie, frantic to get to him, get him home safely, but not wanting to let on that something bad, something horrible had happened. He was 7 that year. I spent the whole evening on the couch, glued to the news. I wept.

No one I knew was hurt. No one I knew was injured or lost. But it still felt very personal. I don't know if it was the strength of the images we saw over and over, or the personal stories of heartbreak. I felt violated and angry and lost.

Today is a day for remembrance. For extending sympathies to the families of the victim, and for forgettting our differences and remembering what draws us together as people.


Friday, September 08, 2006

day 1 of school

I really enjoyed class last night. I was nervous going in, but that lasted about 15 seconds. I forgot how energizing it is to sit in a room with bright people, bouncing ideas around. Ideas started percolating in my brain almost immediately. I really really missed this.

I haven't taken anything but computer classes for the last 15 years. While they are engaging in their own way, they are limited in what's taught, and the discussion is non-existent, and end up not being very satisfying. I always feel drained after a computer class. I certainly don't look forward to them.

I also have changed in the way I approach a class. I used to sit in the back and pray the professor wouldn't notice me. I never talked. I never asked a question. Now I jump right in. I don't really worry about sounding like an idiot, or asking something stupid. I wish I had had that confidence when I was an undergrad. I would have gotten a lot more out of my courses, and probably had a better time as well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

fountain of youth?

Maybe I have found the fountain of youth. Tomorrow is my first day of school. I am nervous, just like I was when I was little, before the start of every school year. Will I fit in? Will I wear the right thing? what if I can't find my classroom? what if everyone else already knows everybody?

I have had other moments like this, where I am suddenly a child again. Sitting in the principal's office at my son's school made me feel like I was 9 and I was in trouble. Every time I go to church, as soon as my butt hits the pew, I feel fidgety and out of place, just like I did way back when. When I get really dressed up, I always feel like a kid in easter clothes, clearly stiff and uncomfortable, and way too worried about a rip or getting dirty.

Do we ever really leave childhood behind? Maybe we are more like a nautilus than we think, each decade another chamber added on, but nothing discarded. I still have a wild urge to stick my tongue out after an obnoxious colleague leaves my office, and schoolhouse rhymes still float around in my mind [nanny nanny boo-boo... I see London, I see France...found a peanut, you name it, they are all in there, threatening to come out]

So maybe we have always had the fountain of youth -- Memory.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

if you're not with us, you're against us

The Bush Administration strikes again! Donald Rumsfeld is out talking up the war in Iraq. He says we are confronting a new form of fascism. People against the war have not learned from history, and should study the rise of the Nazis. Rumsfeld is an ass.

Sorry, I know, ad-hominem attacks are really poor form. But he really really is an ass. While I might agree that terrorism is akin to fascism (although I think it stretches the point a bit), the country of Iraq was not bent on global domination. The country of Iraq was not attacking other countries. To compare our invasion of Iraq with the US involvment in WWII is ridiculous in the extreme.

Rumsfeld also complained that more attention was paid to US abuses in Abu Ghraib then on a single soldier being awarded the medal of Honor. Yes, our soldiers should get attention for their heroism. But our entire nation is held accountable for our abuses; the atrocities done by a few of our soldiers reflect on all of us. Attention should be paid, and abuses should be pointed out so they can be stopped. Rumsfeld's attitudes about torture make him unfit for the position he holds. He doesn't understand that our abuses make more terrorists. Our abuses give fodder to our real enemies and turn friends into foes.

He also continues to suppor the idea that if you are against the administration's actions, you are a traitor to America. Perhaps he needs to re-read the Constitution. Perhaps he needs a history lesson.

Monday, August 28, 2006

maturity and milestones

Tomorrow is a big day in my house. Our son is starting junior high school. For him, this means he gets a locker, changes classes instead of having 1 main teacher, and is one of the "big kids" in his school.

For me, it's a big deal as well. I am usually too caught up in the day to day stuff to spend a lot of time reflecting. But this is a biggie. I am watching my child mature in leaps and bounds, and see the glimmer of what he will be one day. Two years ago, I couldn't leave him alone for an hour. Last week he spent two half-days alone at home, taking care of a puppy that needed to be walked every two hours, fed repeatedly, and amused. He came through brilliantly.

I used to have to monitor all his food choices. The other day, he let me know that he thought the salad in the fridge might be bad -- because he was making a salad for lunch, unprompted. He has switched from soda to bottled water, and has asked us to ditch the junk food in the house.

He is starting to learn about current events, and his new favorite shows are the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. He even laughs in the right places. He is exploring the internet, but carefully.

His friendships are deeper, with more substance. He used to define a friend as anyone he spent any time with. Now he understands the difference between a casual acquaintance and a true friend. He has displayed impressive loyalty, and is learning to give people slack.

I can't wait to see what this year brings!

Friday, August 18, 2006

got the puppy

We finally got the dog. He's an airedale, who we have named Largo. He is twelve weeks old, weighs 14 lbs and is truly charming.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I'm back

Where to begin? We spent a week in Northern Michigan with family. The area experienced a massive heat wave while we were there. 102 degrees with no air conditioning. It was ugly. We couldn't enjoy the natural beauty of the state, because we spent most of our time seeking out air-conditioned spaces. We shopped and we ate and we bitched about the weather. We did get to swim in Lake Michigan, which is normally so cold you can't put a toe in, let alone submerge your body. We swam in Green Lake a lot too. What we didn't do was sleep. It was just too too hot.

We flew back on Thursday so we could attend Otakon, the largest convention for anime and manga fans. It was astounding. Over 20,000 people attended, many in costume. We watched a lot of video, spent a ton of time and money in the dealers room, and in general had an awesome time.

And then we came back to work. Why does it take 4-5 days to decompress from work when you are on vacation, and only an hour back to get back to the same stress level as before you left? I came back, put in many many hours of overtime this week (of the exempt, non paid kind) and feel at least as bad as I felt before we left for vacation. Doesn't seem fair.

I am not working this weekend. I am NOT working this weekend. I AM NOT WORKING this weeked. It is our 24th wedding anniversary, our son is going to his grandparents, and we are going to spend some time, just relaxing and being a couple. Oh, and driving to the far back woods of West Virginia to look at an airedale puppy. I'll keep you posted on whether we actually return with a dog this time. If nothing else, we get a road trip without a monologue on the current favorite video game, manga or movie....Not that I don't love travelling with my child; he is getting to be amusing company, but the side affect of his being off of Ritalin is a tendency to monologue, obsessively. He is missing the governor that tells you when to shut up. Hopefully he will develop it, over time.

Ciao for now, gang.

Friday, July 28, 2006

out of touch

No postings for the next week -- I will be out of touch. I am going on a much-needed family vacation. We are heading up to Interlochen, Michigan for some R&R, on Green Lake. I hope to do not much of anything while we are there. I am not taking a computer, the house doesn't have one, there are no internet cafes nearby. My cell phone reception there is spotty at best.

It is getting harder and harder to achieve electronic down-time. Even vacation houses come equipped with internet access and computers. Laptops with wireless whittle down the possible excuses. Cell phones with wider ranges, with email capabilities, keep everyone in constant touch with work.

Except -- I don't want to be in contact. I want to not think about what I do for a living. I don't want to browse, search, program, query, click, point, support or anything else. Hell, I am not even sure I want something as tech as a TV for a few days.

Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

tiger with no teeth

The UN is a tiger with no teeth. I was reading news coverage today of the crisis in Lebanon. While world opinion is firmly in the cease-fire camp, and the UN argues persuasively for the need for a sustainable peace, they really can't do much.

The problem is that the UN has only two weapons in its arsenal: economic penalties and world disapproval. We can discount the 2nd weapon immediately -- because really few nations care whether the UN is unhappy with them. The sanctions are real, and can cause harm, but are often ignored or used as a political tool to stir up resentment and dissent. The sanctions are also difficult to enforce.

The UN needs a way to enforce its decisions, to impose its will. Member nations should not be able to pick and choose (like the US does on a regular basis) when to follow UN dictates, and when to ignore them. Indeed, no nation should be able to opt out of UN membership, or be excluded from membership. We need global representation, and global commitment to resolve global issues. For too long, the superpowers have had their way, been the biggest bullies on the block.

I am not sure how all of this can be accomplished. But I see problems in our future, like severe drinking water shortages, or global warming, that need a strong global organization to reach any kind of solution.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

global warming

Will the last person in America who doesn't believe in global warming please stand up, so we can knock you down? It was 112 in Sacramento yesterday. St Louis has had a week of 90plus degree heat. The whole country is one big ball of sweat.

And its not just this year. Last year was one of the hottest on record, as was the year before. You can argue about the root causes of global warming, but I don't see how you can argue that it exists.

If I stay in my house long enough, I think I could eventually have waterfront property. And I am about 5 miles from the Inner Harbor... If I owned beach-front property right now, I'd be starting to think about how long I could hold my breath.

I always wanted to live in the tropics -- I just thought I would have to move to do it.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


So am I a Magnum or a really big beer? Am I twice the woman I was at 22? Am I nearing the halfway point in my life, or am I past it?

I know less than I did ten years ago. Or I should say I am certain of less than I was ten years ago. I like myself a whole lot more. I have much more confidence in myself and my judgement, and just plain feel more comfortable in my own skin.

Things I haven't done -- travel the whole world, see the grand canyon, get my scuba cert, earn a black belt, run a marathon, write a book, walk on the moon, learn to sing

On the whole, though, I really couldn't ask for more. Life is good.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

feeling better all the time

There is war in the middle east, okay, more war in the middle east. The stock market has taken a nose dive. People continue to shoot each other, rob each other, and in general be very very rude. And yet, I feel pretty good.

I finished a project!! I have been carrying a heavy weight of stress for months and months and months because I had the largest programming project I have ever had to do, and a limited amount of time to do it in. And it is FINISHED!!! People are using it. I am working out the bugs, because there ARE ALWAYS bugs, but that's trivial.

I have another year's worth of projects on my desk, so its not like I get to coast now. But there is something so freeing, so loosening, about lifting the millstone off my shoulders. Completion is a beautiful word, it really is.

Monday, July 17, 2006

maternal rage

You know, I am not a person given to wild rage. But yesterday, I could have hurt someone. I didn't, and I am still amazed at my restraint.

We went yesterday to pick up our new puppy. The breeder had called and scheduled the appointment. We have had a deposit down for 6 months, have met with the breeder, filled out a long application, gone up and played with the dogs.

We arrived at 5pm, as scheduled. She said she needed ten minutes and to just wait outside. We admired the puppies, picked blackberries, and hung out. The breeder came out, picked one pup from two outside cages filled with puppies (16 puppies in all!), and handed him to us. We petted and admired "MAX", the name we had decided on. We helped give him a bath, amused the pup with toys, etc. At one point, the very large puppy wiggled a bit, and my son dropped him. The pup was fine, but the breeder was upset, and my son cried and was frantic that he had hurt the puppy. He hadn't. They played some more, and we went to sign our contract.

Then things got weird. The breeder had not gotten the shots the puppy was supposed to have. She didn't have the health guarantee either. She hadn't microchipped the puppy. Before we could start discussing this, the puppy again wiggled out of my son's arms, from about a foot above the ground. The breeder got an odd look on her face, and then said she was "uncomfortable" and would return our deposit.

My son began weeping unconsolably. I asked her to please not do this to him. She answered that she had to protect her pups. She went inside, leaving us to try to calm our son. She came out, gave us our deposit, and shut the door again.

I have NEVER been so pissed off in my entire life. She hurt my son, making him think he was a bad person. It was his twelfth birthday, a fact she knew. And yet, rather than give us an opportunity to help him with the dog, she just decided we couldn't handle the animal. My son spent the whole car ride home weeping that he had hurt the puppy, that he didn't deserve a dog, and that he had made us lose Max.

I could have killed the woman. That is not an exaggeration. I think at that moment, I really could have. I have never felt anything like that before, so cold and irrational. I held it together for my son; I didn't want him to see me lose control in anger at another person. But oh my god it was hard, maybe the hardest thing I have ever done.

I am calmer now, but not by much. We will get another dog, I am sure. And my son will love the new pup, and get over his disappointment eventually. But I would do anything to erase the hurt he felt, anything.

Monday, July 10, 2006

something new vs something different

I rolled out two new systems to my users at the end of last week. The new hires picked up everything with little effort, because they were learning something new. The old timers struggled because they have to learn different ways of doing something they already know.

This is where I made my discovery: it is much easier to learn somthing new than something different. It probably has something to do with habit. Once something is ingrained, you have to unlearn before you can learn.

Monday, July 03, 2006


A friend recently sent me a link to an article about friendship, or more accurately, about the lack of it. Fewer people are reporting that they have friends, and the folks that do have friends have fewer of them.

Research done by Professor Lynn Smith-Lovin, of Duke University documents this trend. Oddly, at least from my perspective, is that the poorer you are, and the less education you have, the fewer close friends you have. I would have thought that friendship was one of the few things impervious to class distinctions.

I find the trend disturbing. I value my friendships, and really couldn't imagine a life with no one to turn to in times of happiness and sadness. How could you make yourself go through the day?

The world is getting smaller. With the internet and email, it's easier to keep in touch, easier to "meet" people from all over the globe -- you no longer have to have something in common with the folks on your street or at your work -- you can find like minded folks anywhere on earth. You can be the biggest oddball in your town, and guaranteed, you could find a dozen folks just like you on-line.

Is it that people just don't care to make friends any more? Do we not want connections? I find it hard to believe. Maybe we just don't know how to meet people, how to form friendships. Maybe we need to start emphasizing "social skills" when teaching children.

Per usual, I have no answers, just questions. But if you are a friend, and you are reading this, I love you, I appreciate you, and I'm here, whenever.

Friday, June 30, 2006

getting it right

I read with great joy this morning about the Supreme Court's ruling in the Guantanamo Bay case. Apparently there are limits to the President's war powers. This is a huge ruling from the Court, and one that should be applauded. I particularly liked that the Court cited the Geneva Convention in the ruling, remarking that "military tribunals" would violate Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

Of course the Court has given Bush an out -- he has to get Congress to pass legislation allowing the trials to go forward, and then he can do what he wants. Congress has already leapt into action, and there seems little doubt that they will give Bush what he wants. But at least the process was respected and followed, and this does matter.

Bush has really stretched, and at times, completely broken, the system of checks and balances that are the heart and soul of our government. That the Court recognized this, and issued a rebuke (even a tepid one), is a step in the right direction. Someday we might actually get to where we should be; with full civil liberties for all.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

stormy weather

Stormy weather, ain't no sun up in the sky....

How can we still be so driven by the weather? We can send rockets into space. We can transplant a human heart. But we can't get the sun to shine.

It has rained here in Maryland for a week or so. Not a little rain, but downpours, with thunder and lightning. Rivers runneth over. We've had mudslides on the beltway. It is practically biblical. Some areas have gotten over 12 inches of rain in 3 days.

It makes my head hurt. It darkens my mood. It changes my routines.

I want blue skies. I want a breeze. I want sunshine to pour down upon me, warming my skin and lightening my heart.

Monday, June 26, 2006

the apple don't fall far from the tree

I got together with a few friends the other day. The conversation tangentially bumped into the idea of genetics. What is inherited? You are on pretty safe terrain when you look at a child, and say he has his father's chin, or his mother's eyes. But did that attitude come from the gene cocktail, or did it come from environment? Is curiosity inherited? can you be a smart-ass by birth?

How much of what we are is determined by birth? I look at my parents and pray that environment holds most of the cards. I look at my child and see one inherited characteristic after another.

When I was in college, I took a course that linked biology and behavior. I was outraged by the very idea that anything about my actions was determined by wiring. I had FREE WILL. I was no mere combination of chemicals -- I was a thinking rational being. Now, I am older, and have the experience to see that yes, there are some things that can't be explained any other way -- wiring does have a huge part in what we are, and how we act. It isn't everything, and I do think it can be battled with on a conscious level, but to deny it is there, is to move through life with blinders on.

I think we need to understand how we are wired. In a way, I think having a kid gives you a glimpse into your own "operating system". When I see certain behaviours that crop up in my son, I have this "a-ha" moment. The oh-my-god, it's genetic kind of moment. And I understand myself a little better, as I learn to understand him.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I normally have this under control, and usually don't covet what I haven't got. But this week has been a low-satisfaction week, so ENVY has reared its ugly head.

My son is going to summer camp at one of the local private schools. The campus is stunning, the curriculum is stellar, the faculty well-trained. It costs $13,000 less than I will pay in tuition next year. And so, the envy creeps in. I am jealous that our school isn't as nice, and I feel cheated that I have to pay so much more for my child to get an education. The truth is that my son isn't ready for a mainstream school. To move him would doom him to failure, which I don't want. But envy is less than rational, I find.

I am in a low period with my job: too much to do, no time to do it well, deadlines, competing agendas, yadda yadda yadda. And so I open the paper, which has a front of section article on the tech shortage. And how in-demand techies are now. And how the average database admin salary is $55 per hour. At my current 37.5 hour week, that is a little over $107K a year. Not what I make, not by a long shot. So then I started envying all the people who have somehow landed these awesome jobs...

Then I watched TV, and saw these fabulous backyard kitchens. More fabulous than my new kitchen in my house. And again, envy was lurking in every image. Why don't I have an outdoor pizza oven? granite counters, a fireplace, a pool right off the kitchen?

so this week's task is to remember how lucky I am. I have a wonderful husband, a terrific child, a good solid job. I have a house I love, friends I adore. I am someone to envy....

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

the hissing of summer lawns

Tomorrow is the official first day of summer. For me, summer started the day we had to start using the sprinkler to keep the plants from wilting in the heat. I love to listen to the sprinkler, while I sit on the porch. I love the smell, too, of the warm, damp earth, and the sparkle of the drops of water on the green green grass.

I like the heat that wraps around you when you step outside. The sky is bluer in summer, and the clouds are whiter. I like to pad around barefoot, to feel the grass and warm concrete under my toes. The smells of grilling meat, the way a popsicle melts, the way watermelon juice dribbles down my chin -- it all sings to me of summer.

In my mind, summer is always the care-free time of sunlight and vacations. That it hasn't been that for years seems to make no difference. The feeling remains. Summer is all warm possiblity and limitless horizons. It's relaxed in a way that winter never is. Summer is flip-flops; winter is socks and boots.

Summer is a warm peach fresh from the farmer's stand by the side of the road. It's fireworks and BBQs, dairy queen and fireflies.

It doesn't get any better than this.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

generation gap

Today I was talking with a young co-worker. It turns out she is 19 years old. This means I am old enough, with room to spare, to be her mother. This thought led to other thoughts. I am wondering if I am now officially experiencing a generation gap with my colleagues.

I for instance, remember 45s. You used to have a little plastic adapter, so you could play them on your record player. I remember record players, which later became turntables. Is there anyone under 35 that knows records used to skip? that you could tell how old a record was by the "fuzziness" of the sound?

We had eight-track tapes. Then we had cassettes. Now, I have an iPOD.

I remember gas-rationing. I read almost all of Anna Karenina while waiting in gas lines.

There were presidents before Ronald Reagan.

I used to buy penny candy. It really cost a penny. For a quarter, you could eat yourself sick at Dawson's.

There didn't used to be warnings on everything. No one ever told you how old you had to be to play with a toy -- they figured your parents weren't dumb enough to let you choke.

Kids flunked when they didn't do well in school. No one cared about our self-esteem.

The school nurse could give you aspirin. Kids could take aspirin.

Cereal came with good prizes; so did Cracker Jacks.

I had a pass book savings account; I actually took the little booklet to the bank when I made a deposit. They stamped my book and gave me a lollipop.

I actually had to go to the bank to put money in and to take it back out.

You used to have to ask people for directions. And find a pay phone when you needed to make a call.

I could eat at McDonalds for a $1. I could eat at McDonalds.

Paul McCartney was a Beatle. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilder.

Nobody had air conditioning. Getting a colored TV was a big deal. We used to hang our clothes out on the line to dry, and we used to have to run out to take it down when it rained.

There weren't walk in closets. There was no Wal-Mart.

Old people always talked about the way things used to be....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

just me

Does it bother anyone else that the US forces surrounded a house, had a criminal cornered, and then bombed the crap out of him? I don't mourn the loss of this particular individual, but this is out and out assassination. We didn't even attempt to capture al-Zarqawi. I think the world is better off without him. I really do.

If he had shot at our forces, and we returned fire, I would have no problem. If we had tried to capture him, and he resisted and was killed -- again, no problem. But we dropped a bomb on a man who was outnumbered and outgunned. We killed his wife and child along with him. Nice civilized behaviour.

Part of what bothers me is that it doesn't seem to bother anyone else. How we accomplish something no longer seems to matter. We want the results, and don't care about the means.

Oh well, I guess its just me.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

last days of Rome

Do you think, in the dwindling days of the Roman Empire, that they knew that it was over? That they would never rise so high, or be so great? Would it be like today in America?

We are apparently considering removing some key tenets of the Geneva Convention out of our troop training books. Specifically, we may permit "humiliating and degrading" treatment of prisoners. The same administration that expressed its sorrow (potentially, if any wrong was done, but still) over the massacre at Haditha, thinks its okay to abuse the prisoners in its care. Kind of like the the foul-mouthed parent that wonders where the f*ck their kids learned to talk like that....

Once, we were a great nation. Now we are a shadow of what we were. Hail Caesar!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

out of control

Today has been the day from hell. Not because of the number of problems on my desk, but because of what kind. I am staring at several large problems, with large implications, and no way to resolve them, because THEY ARE OUTSIDE MY CONTROL. I have a company that I have to deal with telling me there is no problem, when there is. I can't fire them, I can't change things from here to make it work, I can't do anything but sit and watch it be a problem. I have a web server sitting off in University-land, with a trouble ticket that is a week old, so far. Again, I can't do a damn thing, but send more nagging emails. We have an SMTP error, again, from a relay outside my control. The damn school keeps sending me more last few days events to attend, throwing my schedule out of whack.

I have to learn how to handle this. Someday.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

one of us

" of us, one of us..." I'm not explaining the quote. If you get it, you get it. I spent the first part of this long beautiful weekend at Balticon 40 at the Hunt Valley Inn. It was wunnerful. A chance to be truly, completely my self in a grand old geek fest. Wear whatever. Say whatever. Have people get my jokes. Understand the words I use. Use the words I want, instead of the dumbed down vocabulary of every day. Feel thin and beautiful, be treated like I'm thin and beautiful. Feel smart. Be treated like I'm smart. Worship at the feet of the masters. God, to sit and listen to Neil Gaiman, Peter Beagle and Gene Wolfe is a privilege. Its also nice to remember that there are people I admire out there in the world.

It's is an amazing thing to feel like you belong. I spend too much time feeling like a misfit, feeling like I have to hide parts of myself in order to get along.

Friday, May 26, 2006

true geek

I am such a geek! The rest of the US is scandalized by the VA losing 26.5 million veteran's records from a stolen laptop. While I am outraged at yet another screw up by our government, I have a more overwhelming concern. I WANT THAT LAPTOP!!! What was it running that it could hold 26.5 million records and do analysis on the records? WOW!!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

quirks of human nature

I am worried about the fate of an injured horse. He's not my horse. I've never even met the beast, and yet I pore over news reports of his health. Maybe I am so fascinated because I saw Barbaro misstep in the Preakness, and so am "involved" in his story. But I got equally involved in the story of the dog that got drop-kicked by a local jogger, and I was nowhere near that event.

Humans respond to stories about animals. We as Americans raise serious money to protect baby seals. My guess is we raise more money for seals than we do for battered women's shelters. Organizations like PETA fight for the "rights" of animals, but ignore what's happening in Darfur.

Kick your dog, and your neighbor will call the SPCA. Smack your spouse, and chances are they will ignore it completely, not wanting to interfere.

Is this biologically hard-wired? Some mis-directed wiring that causes us to protect our animal food source, but views other people as competition? Is it cultural -- the protecting of the weak, the innocent, a higher priority than protecting those that can fend for themselves?

I see it as a hopeful sign that we can care so much for the plight of an animal. It doesn't seem such a huge leap from there to caring for a person.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

oven set to pre-heat

According to new federal guidelines - I am pre-pregnant. My oven is apparently set to pre-heat, and I could pop a bun in there without warning. I had NO idea. Here I am, running around blissfully ignorant of my condition.

So, for my protection and that of any future, possible, unborn children, I am to be treated by my physician exactly the same as a woman trying to conceive. The same physician, mind you, who prescribes my birth control pills, and knows damn well I have NO intention of having more children, and am taking responsible measures to ensure this doesn't happen.

Now, I do understand that it is embarassing on a national level to have such a high infant mortality rate. And no one in their right mind wants more birth defects to occur. But perhaps, perhaps the solution should be education. Perhaps if everyone had the facts of birth control and conception from an early age, we could reduce the unplanned pregnancies that lead to the high rates of infant mortality. Educate people about pregnancy and what happens when you smoke, drink, take drugs. Help people battle addictions.

Treat women as thinking, adult people, and not like brood mares for the next generation. Our bodies are our business.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Mirrormask is not the most usual selection for a family movie night, especially on Mother's Day. In my house, though, Neil Gaiman is like unto a god. He wrote the script, so, we used Comcast Direct to order the movie. We watched about 5 minutes of it, and the sound disappeared. We stopped the movie, and started it up again. Same problem.

It is awful to start to get involved in a movie and then have to stop watching it. So we hopped in the car and drove to Blockbuster, and rented it. Raced home and advanced to our previous stopping point. And were really glad we did.

What an amazing, odd and wonderful movie. I was absolutely mesmerized. I highly, strongly, emphatically recommend the film. But don't watch it if you are too tired, or under the influence of any mind altering substances, as it is rather hallucinogenic all on its own.

Friday, May 12, 2006

food for thought

Food for thought has less calories.

The seven deadly sins:

  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Religion without sacrifice
  • Politics without principle

--Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Big Brother is watching. Really. Today's news announced that the NSA is building a database of all phone calls made in and from the United States. Who called who, when, for how long, every single phone call. They say its okay because they aren't eavesdropping on the conversations. Bullshit!!!! It is NOT OKAY.

It is none of the government's business who I talk with on my phone, in my own home. If you think I am doing something wrong, get a f***g subpoena and wiretap me. Until then, I have the expectation of privacy in my home. You can't monitor my mail, my email, take notes of who comes and goes into my house, and damn it, you can't monitor my life.

Bravo to Qwest, which is the only phone company to balk at turning over their records, citing privacy concerns. All the other phone companies have complied with the government's request.

I am an AMERICAN. I have rights, don't I?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

really good food

We eat pretty well at my house. I love to cook and try new recipes, and my family is willing to go along for the ride. We have several grocery stores nearby, including that food-mecca, Wegman's. On the weekends, we take advantage of the local farmers markets to get fresh produce and home-made items.

Still and all, there is a real difference between what I churn out in my kitchen, and what I call "really good food". Sunday night we took our parents out to celebrate my dad's birthday and my mother-in-law's birthday. We went to a local restaurant, Petit Louis. It's french food, but as my son says, its not "snooty french".

It was "really good food". No, it was really food porn. I started out with a lovely tart: caramelized onion, morels, grilled asparagus, with slivers of roast duck. The tart was surrounded by a tarragon cream sauce. Unbelievably good. My son had a brochette of shrimp, with red pepper dice and a light lemon sauce. Also wonderful, judging by the 10 seconds it took him to inhale almost a dozen shrimp. He ate a small loaf of bread mopping up the sauce.

For our main dishes, we ordered several and shared tastes. Steak au poivre with a wine and mushroom sauce was meltingly tender and poppingly spicy. I had rabbit with peas, onion and lardons. Lardons are small cubes of salt pork (bacon) that are cooked until crispy and used as a flavoring agent. The rabbit was meltingly tender and the accompanying sauce was so good I almost repeated my son's feat with another loaf of bread. My husband had roast duck with beets and walnuts. Very good -- even the beets. My son had another brochette (keeping to a theme of food on a stick!), this time chicken breast, peppers and onions, with a vegetable saute. This also disappeared, though he had to have some help with the sauteed vegetables.

Of course, we also made room for dessert. Dark chocolate pot de creme for me [think a big dish of truffle], profiterols with vanilla ice cream and chocolate ganache, a flight of 3 homemade ice creams, fresh berries with mint and fresh whipped cream.

"really good food" is food you actually remember eating, whose tastes you can recall days or weeks or months later.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

moving in the grown-up lane

The last week has been odd at my house. My husband and I have been called upon to play grown-ups in some public venues. On Monday, we went to the local improvement association meeting. Lots of very sincere people discussing issues with roads, and signage, improving neighborliness, handling graffiti, etc. Earnest and adult conversation. I still wore my skull and crossbones sneakers, but I did leave on the rest of my work duds, so I looked mature and responsible. Sort of.

On Tuesday, we went to a charity benefit for Baltimore Lab School. In "cocktail attire". It is a measure of my current lifestyle that I had to google it to find out what that meant. So it turns out this means a dark suit and tie for gentlemen, and a cocktail dress for me. I had to buy pantyhose, since I wasn't sure I actually had any. I bought some cute heels too. And wore makeup.

When we got there, we even chit-chatted with other guests for a few minutes before making a bee-line for the open bar. See, I can be civilized. Then we admired the spectacular view from the Center Club Harbor Room [you could see all of the Inner Harbor's waterfront], chit-chatted some more. A man in a tux actually hit a portable gong to call us into dinner -- very very bizarre. We found our table, and managed to make small talk with our tablemates, eat dinner, listen politely to speeches, and not make ANY faux pas. Astounding.

Still both events felt a little like playacting to me. I enjoyed both in different ways, but I felt -- constrained. I can't say what pops into my head, and I can't joke the way I would normally, and I can't wear what makes me comfortable. So I can enjoy myself, but with limits.

Monday, May 01, 2006

new addictions

New addictions: CocoVia blueberry almond dark chocolate bars, smoked chicken, gouda and granny smith apple sandwiches at Neopol, baked Lays potato chips, tonic water and pomegranate juice with a squeeze of lime, watching the foxes in the back yard, blogging, reading really bad vampire novels, shuffle play on my iPod, and Comcast on Demand.

I really didn't need a whole list of new bad habits, since I already had a slew of old bad habits. I keep hoping I'll get addicted to: saving money, working overtime, exercise, sprouts, skim milk, 4 hours of sleep a night. But it never happens.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Its the weekend!!!

I have not outgrown that surging soaring feeling that I got when I was a little kid and the confined world of school would go away. The weekend is here!!! The world is full of possibility for two WHOLE days. I can spend my time the way I like, on my schedule, at my own pace. I can sleep late if I want. I can stay up late if I want. Stretch out on the sofa and nap if I want. Family! Friends! Movies! Music! Food! Outside!

Do retired people feel this? or is it a product of "confinement"? If I didn't spend a large chunk of my waking life under someone else's control, would I feel so great on Friday afternoons?

Time will tell.

Monday, April 24, 2006

closing a door

We have been struggling for the last few months with the Baltimore City school system. We had hoped to get the City to take over tuition payments for our son's special education schooling. He currently attends Baltimore Lab, a special education, arts-based school for bright kids with moderate to severe learning disabilities. It is a wonderful school, and he is thriving there. But the expense is very difficult for us to manage.

We had researched the issue. ADA covers learning disabilities. Under the law, our son is entitled to FAPE (a free and appropriate public education) that must consider physical and other disabilities. So we gathered our various test results, medical results, etc and began the public school process.

We met with a team of specialists. They quickly decided our test results were too old to accept, and that they would have to conduct their own tests. Then they went back on that slightly and said they would accept his IQ results, and his medical results. Because he has ADHD, and Optic Nerve Atrophy, they had no trouble classifying him as disabled and eligible for services.

We were very excited, since we thought this would mean an easy process for getting tuition. But it didn't work out that way at all. The test results came back and I attended a very uncomfortable meeting with the specialist team. They decided he did in fact need OT services. They would provide us the maximum allowed --which turned out to be 1 hour per month! I don't think there is ANY therapy in the world that would be productive on that schedule. They decided he would not be eligible for speech language services, despite his dysgraphia. This is because in Baltimore City, speech language does not cover written language disorders.

Then we got to the crux of the biscuit. He is not eligible for special education because he is performing above grade level in almost everything. Because his current school is so effective, he is now reading at beyond a 12th grade level. Even his math tested at 7th grade (he is in 6th grade). So no services.

If we choose to enroll him in our neighborhood public middle school, they will provide an IEP for accomodations for his vision, his ADHD and his dysgraphia, but that's all. No help, just accomodations.

We decided to end the process. We realize that we could take the city to court, and that if we were persistent enough, they would probably fork over money to make us go away. But we both feel that it would be unethical to sue an already financially depleted system, one that can only come up with 1 hour a month for Occupational Therapy for even its neediest students, so that our son can get the optimal education we want for him.

The whole thing has really made me sad. I feel so bad for the kids trapped by lack of means in a system that can't help them, and probably hinders them. I feel bad that the education my son is receiving is not available to everyone. The progress he is making currently shows me that these kids can be taught, and can succeed, if the right methods are applied.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

changing AGAIN

changejunkie wouldn't be changejunkie if I wasn't into it. My latest jump -- I am GOING BACK TO SCHOOL. Yup, got the paperwork sitting in front of me. I will be pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts at Johns Hopkins University, assuming they accept me into the program. I of course am going the slacker's route, i.e. very very part time. I figure my tuition remission will cover 1 course per semester, plus one each summer so a whopping 3 per year. But the degree only requires 10 courses, and 1 or 2 of them are the Capstone paper (30-50 pages, fiction, non-fiction, drawings, slide show, movie, whatever...) or a Thesis (120 pages of original research). I don't have to specialize, so I can take art, history, literature, philosophy, whatever. And no overarching theme is required, so I can follow my eclectic tastes to my heart's content. On SOMEONE ELSE'S DIME.

I have always had to pay my own way for school. But as a loyal employee of this fine fine institution, I am entitled to $5600 per year in tuition benefits. So, while I am still entitled, I thought I would take advantage of it. The problem has been that well, you can only use the benefit at Hopkins, and their admission standards, are well, VERY VERY DEMANDING. For example, the IT masters program requires 2 full years of higher order math (calculus or beyond) at the college level for admission. Some programs require a 3.5 or above GPA, outstanding GREs and documented community service.

And then I found the Liberal Arts program. No GREs, just a resume, a reference (which can come from your employer), a 3.0 in your last two years of college, and an essay. Hopefully I can manage this.

Who knew how much fun it would be to go back to school?

Friday, April 14, 2006

home sings me of sweet of things

with apologies to Karla Bonoff. Last night was picture perfect. Beautiful blue skies. Crisp clear light. Wonderfully deliciously warm. My husband and I walked to a local restaurant for dinner. It still amazes me that I can walk from my home to a restaurant meal. We had a delightful Vietnamese dinner and then went for a walk around the block before going home. We ran into some friends from the neighborhood and stopped to chat for a bit, before continuing home.

Once we got home, and checked that our son had not burned down the house while making his supper [yes, he decided to stay home and make his OWN dinner!!!], I sat for an hour or so on the front porch and read the newspaper while soaking up some early evening sun. The breeze would shift, and I would smell lilacs from my neighbors yard. Then it would shift again, and I was treated to the smell of new mown grass. The birds were singing, and for a brief while, everything in the universe was perfect.

This morning, my husband called me out to the back porch at 6am. I am NOT a morning person, but I am so so glad I made the exception this morning. We were treated to an amazing nature show, right in our back yard. A fox was ambling through our back yard. We watched her for a few minutes, and then I went to wake up our son. I told him he had missed a fox, and he was pretty disappointed.

I went out onto the porch a few minutes later, and the fox was back. This time we ALL got to see her, as she hunted and killed a squirrel. Eventually she carried it off, out of our yard. But a little later she was back. She curled up under one of our trees and proceeded to groom herself, roll around on her back in our grass, and generally relax. Amazing!

I really didn't expect to love living in the city so much. And I never expected the diversity of experience, from the sophisticated to the wild, that make it our home.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

immigrant song

The recent press about immigration resonates with me on a deeply personal level. I am a first generation American; my parents immigrated from Europe. I was a US citizen before my mother was. While many people say we are a nation of immigrants, I really believe it. Still, I am not 100% behind the immigrant cause.

I do think we have to offer illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship. But it shouldn't be open ended -- I don't think immigrants should be allowed to remain here indefinitely while remaining citizens of their home countries. I resent the "commuters" -- people who want American jobs, and American income, but don't have any plans to commit to staying here as citizens. You don't live here, work here, raise your children here, but remain El Salvadoran, or Nigerian, or whatever. I want to see immigrants waving American flags, not Mexican flags.

America has been strengthened by its immigrants. The true believers in the American dream are those folks that came here to pursue it. The drive to succeed, to sacrifice for future success is stronger in those that fight to come here, and fight to stay here, than in those who view success as our birthright, just for being American. I think the country needs these people.

Monday, April 10, 2006

everything fades

Old age is scaring me. Not my age, thanks very much, but my parents. This weekend my mom went mall-walking at Arundel Mills. She does this every weekend with my father, because the mall is very well laid out, like a track. They have measured the loop with a pedometer, so they know how many circuits equals a mile. Mom slipped this time, and fell. Her wrist was hurting so she and Dad cut their walk short and went home. The next day, her wrist was worse, so she went to the doctor. She broke it in 4 places and is in a hard cast. Mom is only 74 years old. When I went to visit her yesterday, she looked old, and suddenly frail. I am so not ready for the change in my parents, and even less ready to acknowledge that I am on the same path. I too will be 74, fates willing, and watch my body betray me in hundreds of little ways. Will I look in the mirror and see 74, or will I, through the deceptive power of the mind, see 32? Or 22? Do you notice the lines? do you understand that you are forgetting more than you remember? Do you feel your bones lose their strength?

Everything ends. I can handle that. I am struggling with the thought that everything fades.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

playground wars, chapter two

Parenthood is weird. It has a way of throwing your own childhood back at you, with all the insecurities and difficulties that went with it. As my child's social life expands, it gets more complex -- for me. Sometimes I don't like a kid my child likes. On this one, I am pretty sure how to handle it. I keep a watchful eye, but that's it. I know enough to know to never never ever tell a child not to hang out with someone. It makes that person the most attractive person in the universe to them.

I'm on rougher ground with parents of friends. Sometimes I really really like them, which is great. Because then you can hang out with the parents, and the kids can hang together and everybody's happy. Sometimes, I can't stand the parents, but have to make nice, in the interest of making sure my child has a decent social life.

My current dilemma is a tough one. I really really like this kid's parents. And the kid really really likes my son. And my son, well he thinks the kid is kind of a jerk. So the parents call to arrange get-togethers for the kids. And I know I should say something. "I enjoy your company, but my son doesn't really click with your kid", but somehow those words just won't come out of my mouth.

I feel exactly like I felt when I was nine, when this kid I couldn't stand wanted to be my best friend. And I kept ducking her. But once in a while I would feel sorry for her and hang out with her. But I never could tell her that I just didn't want to be her buddy.

AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!! This sucked back then, and it doesn't suck any less when its once removed. I hate being a grown up.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

eating the mammoth

I am testing out a theory. I believe we are biologically programmed to have periods of feast and famine. Our early ancestors would get lean and hungry. They would kill a mammoth, and everyone would gorge themselves until the mammoth was gone. And then it would be famine again, until they could kill another mammoth.

Last week, I went on vacation, and I "ate a mammoth". Lots of wonderful restaurant meals, large breakfasts, desserts, vodka, beer, more beer. That was phase I of my experiment. On Sunday, when I came home, I weighed in. I had gained 5 pounds in my week of excess.

Now I am in Phase II -- famine. I am eating a very lean, very healthy diet of 1100-1200 calories a day. I lost a pound and a half on Monday alone. If I am back to my normal weight in 7 days, I will feel my theory holds water.

Once in a while you have to eat the mammoth.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

beach dreams

A pending vacation is the most amazing thing. It's like buying a lottery ticket. It sets of this wonderful spate of daydreaming. Life is full of possibility. You will be free of the mundane with the wave of a magic wand. You will sit on the beach with your toes in the sand, watching sandpipers dance with the waves. You will drink perfectly chilled margaritas, brought to you by beautiful bronzed cabana boys. You will be thinner, better looking in your bathing suit, suddenly fit and toned. You can almost smell the ocean.

The best thing though, is that no matter how fanciful your vacation daydream, the reality is always just as good. Its not the trappings and trimmings, its the gift of time. Time that's unclaimed, that's all your own.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

staples and tolerance

Last night I went to a meeting at my son's school. For those who don't know, my son goes to a special education private school for bright kids with severe to moderate learning disabilities. The meeting was with the founder of the school and two members of the board of directors.

Now, I am happy with the school. All the parents I sat with, whose kids are in the same class as my son, are happy with the school. But the meeting was to discuss how upset and unhappy parents are with the school.

A list of "issues" were presented, some major and some down-right petty. They ranged from no learning plans for some of the upper-school kids (very serious) to the fact that the handbook was not stapled. MY GOD!!! burn the principal in effigy, the handbook wasn't STAPLED. I couldn't believe my ears.

We have kids that could not be educated. Bright kids that couldn't read at age twelve. Geniuses that can't add or subtract. We have children that we were told to write off. That perhaps they might, with significant help, get through high school. Maybe. At this school, they are told to plan for college, because they are going. They LEARN. My son can do geometry, multiply fractions, when he could not learn to add two digit numbers before. He's read Dante's Inferno, and understood it. He knows who Grendel is. This is astounding!

So I really can't get worked up about staples. The folks at his school are lousy administrators. I wouldn't trust them to efficiently run a lemonade stand. And I DON'T CARE, because they are good at the one thing that truly matters, and that is educating kids that can't learn anywhere else.

So why is it some people can't see the forest for the trees? People stood up last night to say that the school had saved them and their families. One mother said they had sold their house, quit their jobs, moved their other children from schools they loved, because they so needed this school for their son. They understand what matters.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pre-emptive self-defense?

Our dear President just re-affirmed his policy of pre-emptive self-defense. I believe there is no such thing. No mother has ever told her child, "if anyone looks like they might hit you someday, you hit them first!" Are we going to hire the Psychic Friends Network to determine if a country might someday decide to attack us? How else are we going to determine what some nation might do, if they could? Is national attitude enough? Half the world hates us. Do we really want to go to war with all of them?

To me, this is just a thinly veiled way to excuse being a bully. We're turning into the big kid on the playground that socks little kids, because secretly he's afraid of everything, and he needs to prove to himself how tough he is.

How do we get off this ride?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

work me, home me

I never realized how different my work self and my home self really are, until the gap started to narrow as my vacation approaches. Some part of my brain must normally be involved in maintaining the home me/work me split. Suddenly the real me is popping out at unopportune times.

At work, I'm Lorraine. At home, I'm Raine. Work is work clothes with real shoes. Home is sneakers and jeans and sweats. Work gets one set of vocabulary, home gets another. At work, I'm a professional. At home, I'm a slacker.

But when I'm tired, under stress, approaching vacation, the thin walls that separate the two seem to vanish. A co-worker joked about my taking too long to answer a question and I told her to "bite me". We both laughed, but she did comment that she couldn't believe I said that. Me either.

People walking outside my office are currently being treated to the Clash and the Ramones at peak volume. I wore sneakers yesterday, breaking the dress code yet again. I'm about 3 inches away from nachos and beer for lunch.

Now I'm wondering if Raine should come to work every day? what would that be like? and how did it happen that I stopped bringing me to work?

Monday, March 13, 2006

nick of time

not the bonnie raitt album (although its a good one) -- the universe. I have been working on a difficult project since October. My days are all on overload, and what "free time" I have is sucked up by errands and school appointments and, and, and.

But in the nick of time for my sanity, the universe has provided salvation. SPRING!!! Buds on the trees, crocuses in bloom, warmer days, more light. It is AMAZING the difference this makes in my attitude. On Saturday, we dropped our son off to hang out at a friend's house, and then Bill and I went for a long walk in the woods. It felt so good. Sunday, I squeezed in time for breakfast and the paper out on our sun porch.

Vacation is coming in two weeks (thanks Universe!). My project is coming along. Its not done by a stretch, but I am pleased with the work I'm doing.

I *think* I'm going to survive. And with Spring here, I might even like it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

my house party

No, not what you think. I want to start a new political party - the My House party. I think our two party system needs some common-sense injected into it. The country should be run on the same principles as my house.

1) put a little something away for a rainy day
2) don't spend more than you make
3) credit is bad, bad, bad
4) treat your neighbors well -- you have to live next to these people
5) everybody deserves your respect, unless they prove they haven't earned it
6) all adults have a responsibility to keep an eye out for the kids on the block
7) nobody goes to bed hungry
8) education is important, and no you can't skip your homework
9) even if you didn't drop it, you can pick it up
10) turn off the lights when you leave the room

See what I mean? I think this would work...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

everything old is new again

Everything old is new again. I read yet another article praising "thin clients", which bear a striking resemblance to the dumb terminals we went to PCs to get away from. Server cluster farms aren't much different from mini computers...
We have a White House that is paranoid [remember Nixon, anyone?]. We have political patronage again. The Washington Post reports that Kendall Ehrlich, first lady of maryland, has been working for Comcast. She was hired when her husband was on a telecom committee, and then re-hired when her husband became governor. Her job? An anti-drug "talk show". Her qualifications for this? None.

And now, my favorite. Ma Bell. AT&T is re-acquiring parts that were split up in the 70s to break its monopoly. If its latest acquisition goes through, AT&T will have over 320,000 employees, and control land lines, wireless and more, in more than half the country.

Ah, nostalgia!

Monday, March 06, 2006

feeling suburban

I am feeling awfully suburban today. I just finished completing our "puppy application" and sending it off to the dog breeder. So now we have the house, the yard, the SUV parked out front, and yes, in a few months, the requisite dog in front of the fireplace.

Don't get me wrong - I really like dogs - or we wouldn't be getting one.

Its just the whole package makes me feel devoid of free will in some way. As if I am a social lemming, running toward some cliff with all the other SUV driving, dog walking, home owning moms. I swear each individual piece of the package was carefully considered. I fell in love and got married, because I couldn't imagine life without my husband. We bought a house when our tax situation got out of hand, and it just made good financial sense to do so. We bought the SUV because we occasionally drive off-road, often carry 5-6 passengers, and my low-riding Passat got beaten up by city streets.

The dog? Well my son is 11. He has wanted a dog for years. We finally said if he could show he could be responsible, he could have one. So for the last 3 months, he has gotten up every morning and fed the cats (unprompted), and every Sunday he has changed the litterboxes. No nagging necessary, no reminding. This is a huge achievement. And so, the dog.

I guess when I am sitting on the sofa, with the dog curled up on the floor and my family around me, I will breathe a contented sigh. Just like all the other lemmings, in their living rooms, with their dogs and families around them.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

bread and circuses

I heard on the radio this morning that Reese Witherspoon is being paid 29 million dollars for her next movie. Ray Lewis is complaining that his several million dollar per year football contract is insufficient, despite having had a terrible season. Parker Stevenson negotiated $70,000 per month in spousal support from his actress wife, because he needed that much to support his lifestyle. We pay our entertainers a fortune, and our policeman and teachers very little.

Do we value being entertained above all else? is amusement the key thing we have? is it a case of bread and circuses?

should we all aspire to acting careers because it is rewarded best by our capitalist system? how do you inspire a child to choose a career wisely in this climate? Money does not buy happiness, and success is not measured in dollars. But those are adult ideas. Where will the next generation of caregivers and caretakers come from?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

wisdom of the child

My son asked me this morning why the work week is 5 days. Why can't it be 3 days, he wanted to know. Hmmmmm. I see his point. Why can't it be 4 days? and not 4 10-hour days, either. Why can't the work week be 32 hours? I could understand if there weren't enough people to do all the work that needs doing. But there is no shortage of people that want work and can't find it.

In talking with people, I notice that folks are universally tired, overburdened, wishing they had more time. Maybe we need a super-union, to lobby for all of us. We don't want to harm productivity, or hurt the bottom line. We just want to be fully functioning human beings. Maybe we would be more productive if we weren't over-stressed. Maybe we would be better to each other.