31 December 2007

Drinking the KoolAid, holy crap

(says she of the Blogger platform.)

Even though I love my job and this is the nicest company I have ever worked for, I can't imagine spending 4-5 hours every weekday weaving a chainmail banner with the company logo on it, like this Googler did. I notice the stats don't include a time estimate of how long many hours spent on the project.

28 December 2007

the saga of my boobs, part one million

Sarah Hepola has a great salon piece on what it's like to have big boobs. She articulates everything I really minded.

I was in the middle of a semi-naked makeout session with the man I was (foolishly) dating when he interrupted to ask a question.

"What size are those?" He meant my breasts.

A sleazeball, right? Of course. But I've gotten that question, too. It's like kissing me is some kind of license to ask. Gee, why don't you ask how much I weigh, too?

A gajillion porno sites and essentially all of modern pop culture would suggest having big boobs is a wonderful thing, an aspirational thing; hey, people pay good money for these puppies. But for me, it's something I never wanted, something that never fit what I felt like inside, something I try badly to ignore. Unfortunately, most people don't return the favor.


But underneath all the good-natured self-mockery and the saucy, low-cut tops, there is something else: I am embarrassed by my knockers. And the fact that something I am embarrassed about is the first thing people notice about me? Well, that kinda sucks. I feel like I could save a baby from a burning building, I could cure cancer with glitter alone, and I would still be referred to as "Sarah, you know, the short one with the big tits."

Ditto. It's not really any fun. One of my first husband's best friends referred to me, for years, as "the lassie wi the big tits." Um, thanks. That was after the reduction, which, if you are interested, brought me down to a 32DD. My surgeon's response, a year after the reduction: "Huh. I thought they'd be smaller, more like a C cup." Yeah, I thought so too. But you don't need to slice me up again and cut off my nipples and reattach them again and leave big swathes of ropy scar tissue - it's okay, I'll live with it. It's certainly an improvement from the G cup or whatever I was wearing before. I was too embarassed to go to the old ladies in a department store who would have measured me, and it's uncommon to stock even a 32DD (which is why I often end up wearing a 34D and tugging at the back as it slides up all day). Never mind the 32G.

And not knowing your own cup size is another point that Hepola touches on:

I'll sum up my early adolescence like this: I wore T-shirts in the pool. I showered alone. I learned that clever ruse of changing clothes but never being naked. I tried to be terribly quiet about all this, because if I was terribly quiet, then all of it just might disappear.

Which is the kind of magical thinking that got me to the age of 33, not knowing the size of my breasts. I don't need an "Oprah" episode and a thousand women's magazine articles and the cast of "What Not to Wear" to tell me I'm in the wrong cup size. My breasts spill out the top. (I was horrified to discover the tabloid press had a name for this: quadriboobage!) My breasts spill out the bottom. They spill out everywhere boobs can spill out, basically.

It's been ten years since I had the reduction, and I still think it was a great decision. Even though my boobs, outside of a bra, fall about halfway to China, at least within a bra, I can look normal and wear dresses off the rack and stuff. Mostly because I am 5'7" and slim, so the boobs can get smushed into a sheath and look fine, as long as it's got some elastic.

But pre-operation, I was the object of admiration from my friends for how I could change without ever getting undressed. They also admired how well I hid my disproportion. And then they refused to let me borrow clothing, because it would get stretched. Which was true but annoying.

They look like I expect: Beige and giant, like you could parachute out of a plane with them. I try them on and she is surprisingly hands-on with me, running one finger along each seam, sticking a finger deep in the crevasse of my cleavage and rooting around, jiggling things unexpectedly. Even my boyfriend and my doctor aren't this thorough.

Yeah. How about the time I was getting fitted - bad enough to be topless in front of a bunch of strangers with your untoned stomach jiggling all over the place and muffin top seeping over the top of your pants with no sweater in place to camoflage it - and one lady commented on how saggy I was. Awesome. Why don't you also recommend aerobics so I can tone my thighs a little (as a waxer once did)?*

I'm sure she didn't mean to wound me, but if you're 21 or so and some white haired old broad is clucking over your tits and speculating that it's happened extra fast because of the reduction, that's no fun. Of course she's right; they are at my elbows and I offer proof:

cat pictures 002
I really should go braless less often.


I might be angry, but I'm supported.

it has always been my not-so-revelatory suspicion that this entire industry -- this luxurious, pink powder-puff, thongs-as-women's-empowerment industry -- is really just about pleasing men. Because let's face it: I am much more comfortable in a jogging bra and cotton boy shorts, and those don't run me $100 a set. It's all well and good to find a bra that fits, but the truth is that I wanted a bra that not only fit but could also be seen in daylight by the man I'm in love with.

Yeah. Except actually, a good sportsbra with an underwire seems to run me about 50 - 60 bucks. Worth every motherfucking penny.

* it's funny, I seem to mind the comments from other women more than men. Maybe because I expect that kind of bullshit from men, but when another woman - and one you are paying, who is seeing you vulnerable, in a state of undress - offers up her opinions about your body, well, it's like a double betrayal.

27 December 2007

holiday cookies

as usual, I indulged my taste for the intricate and the macabre. I'll start you off slowly.

snowflake resized
This took took like eleven hours to make. (See? slow!)

evil gingerbread tableau
The gingerbread Lestat.

gingerbread vampire killer gets his comeuppance
Lestat meets Akasha. Yum.

Even my precious snowflake is far less gorgeous than the one in the picture accompanying the recipe for roll-out spice cookies by Dorie Greenspan. The dough tastes delicious, is easy to make and roll out and the cookies are pretty damn good, too.

Everyone else is doing a year's best

so why not jump on the bandwagon?

So the other night Dave and I had a long stoned conversation* while he cooked dinner and I cleaned up cat barf about our picks for the year’s best album. Dave’s choice was, of course, John Davis’s solo album Arigato! (Davis is the frontman for Superdrag, one of Dave’s favorite bands ever. One of mine - now - too, if I think about it.)

Arigato! is straight-up rock but Davis is a born-again Christian and most of the songs are about God, which definitely sheds a different light on the “who sucked out the feeling” guy. “Sucked Out” was written by Davis when he was still all rock-and-rollerish and not sober; then his dad died and he quit drinking and converted. I don’t know why this background information fascinates me, but it does. (I allow the biographical information of authors to inform my reading, also.)

We saw a reunion Superdrag show this fall and no joke, it was the best show I think I’ve ever seen in my life, despite the presence in the audience of an occasional tiny fuckhead with a pierced neck. (Don’t worry, I elbowed her right back as hard as I could.) It was a reasonably small venue (the Paradise) and a sold-out crowd. (More trivia: the Paradise in Boston is where Superdrag played their last show before taking a break.) The opening acts were awesome and local to Knoxville, where Superdrag is based.

I have never seen such a high energy show for TWO FUCKING HOURS. I still feel guilty because I was sober and my back hurt from standing on a concrete floor for three hours during the opening acts and I was wearing earplugs the whole time (because live music fucking hurts) so I don’t think I looked very enthused, but I was. There inside my own head, I was thrilled. And they played all the greatest hits off the Superdrag CDs – I was surprised to find I knew every song – and a whole bunch of stuff off Arigato! (much of which I also knew, since Dave downloaded the singles off John Davis’s MySpace page (that link will take you to the page where you, too, can listen and download) and had been playing them ever since.

So we bought the album at the concert and it’s really good. It’s not Christian-christian, in that kind of safe-pop way that I think Christian rock tends to get categorized as; it’s much closer to John Donne’s gripping raw struggle with God. Which is cool to see – at leas faith works for someone, even if not for me! And while the message isn’t doing it for me, the rock does. It’s straightforward and sincere, which is Dave’s thing – he really values authentic emotion. It’s also a very skillful album – the songs are well-thought out and well crafted, without the craftsmanship ever actually taking over. A terrific balancing act.

So I liked the album a lot, but it wasn’t my pick for year’s best. Probably my personal favorite this year is Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha, which is clever and a little goofy and kind of experimental. And not quite insincere, but there’s no raw emotion, everything is polished to a high gloss. It’s very cerebral and a little cool, if you consider that a flaw, which I don’t (not for this album, anyway.) Those things are all the things that I dig, though, and that link above to the John Donne isn’t an accident – the metaphysical poets are my favorites because they take this emotion and compress it really tightly into tightly constrained boxes of metaphor and rhyme scheme and when it works, it gives me goosebumps. Andrew Marvell’s bracelet of bright hair about the bone, oh my! The risk with doing that kind of thing is that you can slide into insincere artifice (see: the later work of They Might Be Giants, or some of Pope’s poems) and just play by the numbers, which is boring and sneery.

Bird doesn’t do that, though. Imitosis is probably my favorite song on the album. I mean, how can you not love this?
“despite what all your studies had shown/
What was mistaken for closeness was just a case for mitosis”
So smart! The internal rhyming, the pun! And it’s a fucking peppy salsa number with violins! And then the chorus “we were all basically alone” is haunting. Not all the songs are that good, although I also love "Plasticities" (guaranteed to get me bobbing my head at my desk at work like a looner) and "Fiery Crash" and "Dark Matter" and ohhhh, all the songs, really.

So what I think it comes down to for year’s best is really a matter of taste. I feel kind of fraudulent professing any musical taste at all since I’m unable to create music myself (no, can’t carry a tune or keep a beat, it’s sad for me since I LOVE to sing). But I guess a lot of critics don’t necessarily produce. (Theoretically critics are well-educated, though, and my musical education is suckola.) I don’t think either of these albums is obviously head and shoulders above the other; I don’t think either album will go down in history as much more than a footnote, not necessarily because of the quality of the work but because neither is well-known.

So, blah blah blah, here’s some other stuff I found this year.

Best Album to Play When Parents Come Over: Amy Winehouse, Back to Black. Yeah, I’m sick of her tabloid antics too, but your parents will love the Phil Spector 60s heavily-produced orchestral sound. And maybe you’ll get a secret thrill from all her swearing which your deaf parents don’t notice. But although I still like the album, there’s not much more to it than what you hear on your first listen, which means I don’t listen to it very often. I bet it would be great for a party, too.

Best Guilty Pleasure: Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit It can be totally twee but The Blues are Still Blue is a fucking terrific track. Plus, soft spot for the Glasgwegians singing about cups of tea and Morningside because awww, net curtains and sweetness.

Best New-To-Me Discovery That Was Not New This Year:
Butch Walker, Letters. Dave’s drummer gave him a copy of this album and it’s awesome car music, kind of sunny-yet-melancholy sensitive-songwriter boy pop. Yay! Also in the category is The Pernice Brothers, Yours, Mine and Ours.

Most Flexible Album: Fiest, The Reminder. 1234 made it into an iPod commercial, but don’t hold that against the band, because the singer’s voice is terrific and out of 14 songs on the album, there are only a few that I skip. (“Sea Lion Woman” sucks, but “My Moon My Man” more than makes up for it.) But you can totally play it with kids in the room, or parents (and no worries on the swearing), or as background music in the car, or just sit down with a drink and listen to it, and it holds up to all that stuff. Sometimes innocuous can be a virtue.

Best Pop Album: New Pornographers, Challengers. I have a feeling this album will come to mean “fall of 2007” to me, it feels very specific like that. I will note that after seeing them play in concert in bored fashion, I lost interest in this album and now only play it sporadically. I think I overplayed it, actually; my lack of interest might be due to user error and not the album. Whatever. It’s still a great poppy record, and shit, it has a LOT of really great songs on it – it would be shorter to list the tracks that suck (“Failsafe”, “All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth” and “Adventures in Solitude” is iffy) than to list the super rad awesome tracks (“My Rights Versus Yours”, “All the Old Showstoppers” – the best track on the album, I think – “Challengers”, “Myriad Harbour”, “Unguided”, “Mutiny I Promise You”, “Entering White Cecilia”).

Most Overrated: it’s a tie between Rilo Kiley’s Under the Black Light and Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky. The Wilco album has a few good tracks (“Either Way”, “You are My Face”but it seems self-indulgent (Impossible Germany is like, skippable Germany); if this was a book I’d say it needed another round of edits. The Rilo Kiley is interesting and experimental and plays around with different genres a lot – something I appreciate (see Andrew Bird) but in this case, it’s mostly not a success. Standout tracks include “15”, “Smoke Detector” – heh, I smoke in bed too - and “Silver Lining”, although I’ve got a soft spot also for “Breakin’ Up” – one of the songs where the experimentalness works. Moneymaker, on the other hand, sounds like a cover of an obscure disco song, and not in a good way. And that was the single they chose, too. Bleah. Why didn’t someone ask ME?

* all I really needed to say was stoned, huh? length is kind of implied

17 December 2007

I love this picture


It's not the most flattering picture ever taken of me (although the haircut looks terrific, thanks to Matthew-the-genius-hairdresser) but I really like it because Zoe is looking straight at the camera (Dave's cell phone) and I'm not. So - a nice picture even if it shows my nose in profile, which I don't like.

Plus this picture is really typical of Zoe and me - she sees the laptop come out and climbs right into my lap, giant Campbell's-soup-kid-eyes alight, and then sort of burrows in. She is warm and cute but uncomfortable, so I end up hunched over the (warm) laptop losing the battle with Zoe's fur which is oozing onto the touchpad. You can like, see how soft her fur is, though, and how sweetly she rests her chin on my (typing) arm.

The casual nature of digital camera photos is fantastic. You can take like a million versions of a picture, or the subject doesn't have to bother to look at the camera, and whether you choose to use the picture or delete it, it's free. I feel less compelled to smile for photos because I don't have to pay to get them developed and if it's unflattering, I can delete it, instead of thinking, "that was a waste of film". (The challenge now is to make sure I'm not wearing the exact same flattering-photo-smile-face in all my pictures.)

Anyway. Happy me and the internet and Bobo and her Campbell's-soup-kid-eyes (which I suspect is maybe due to diabetes vision problems. She did turn out to be diabetic after all, but so far it's minor and might be controllable with diet for a while. And as long as her quality of life is good, I can handle committing to an insulin regime, even if it does mean we can't just pile up the Meow Mix and take off for the weekend any more. Not like we do that anyway, I just cling to the idea that some day I'll take advantage of the spontaneity available to me. Also someday I will make our Christmas stockings.)

04 December 2007

Internet roundup

News of the Weird:

MSN’s Bad Santa. Just in time for the holidays, MSN created a “Santa” you can chat with. But apparently this Santa has a dirty mouth. Check out the transcript from the register. My favorite part is when Santa calls the children dirty bastards, but second-favorite is the tone of outrage in the story, since I don’t really believe that the “children” in the story were actually children. Anyway, if your kids are IMing with strangers, a Santa-bot with some bad code is not great but isn't the most harmful thing they could run across. But still not good news for MSN's already greyish public image.

News of the Depressing:

Credit card interest rate rise up to 30% triggered if your credit score changes. (A change in credit score can be triggered just by opening a new credit card, or enquiring in a couple of places about opening a new credit card. Awesome!) See Pandagon for the full story. I knew there was a reason I was working on getting my credit card balance to zero. (Apart from moral satisfaction, of course, which is not that much of a motivator when confronted by the shiny and the pretty.)

News of the Cuteness:

As long as we’re talking about pandas, check out this video of a baby panda sneezing. It’s only 14 seconds long. (I hate embedded videos – normally - they take forever to load and you don’t know if they’ll last ten seconds or 10 minutes.)

01 December 2007

Bits and bobs

There's a scrap store called Bits and Bobs in Edinburgh, although when I clicked on the link to see if it was either new or if I just didn't remember it from when it was there, it's not really in the city, it's outside. Edinburgh is a funny city in that about 5 miles outside the city center, you hit farmland and start to see cows. That was always surprising to me, that country and city rubbed shoulders so closely like that without any surbuban strip malls to ease the transition.

This is really a follow-up post, anyway.

So I changed the sheets last night, with Inty "helping", which means she kept jumping up on the bed and trying to settle and then acting all surprised when a blanket landed on top of her, then attacking the sheets from the inside out, frightening herself and running away, and then coming back to yell at me before the starting the whole cycle all over again. It was annoying-cute, like Winston is ugly-cute.
A friend suggested I get some baby food since Zoe's lost so much weight, and Zoe fucking LOVED that shit. It smells, if possible, grosser than wet cat food, and I really can't wait to clean up the inevitable baby food cat barf, but at this point, I'll do anything that will get some calories into her. Her spine is all knobbly, it's just like I remember from Vince, who I can't link to because I can't figure out how to get my pictures from iPhoto onto the internet because I can't figure out the file path. This whole Mac OS baffles the crap out of me, which makes me feel stupid and lazy for not trying harder to learn it but also impatient, because I need my brain for storing information about Britney Spears's latest driving infraction.

Anyway. Vince got a tumor and died. I don't feel ready for the same to happen to Zoe. Also it's really cold out and I think the ground might be frozen by now and what do you do, pay a hundred and fifty bucks to get the cat cremated or put the cat in the freezer until spring when you can bury it for free? That's a dilemma I don't want to have. Another thing I don't want to have: migraines. Since this recent low, I've stopped drinking in an effort to limit the frequency of migraines, but so far no go.

And as long as I'm talking about how cheap I am, I just one minute ago caved and turned the heat on. It was at 61 and I'm boiling it all the way up to 66. I know how to party. But we've got a quarter tank of oil and it will probably cost about half a month's rent to refill it and I'm trying to put off that moment as long as possible. I may be cheap but we're also legitimately broke, although hopefully Dave's new job will go some way towards easing that pain. In the meantime, I'll continue to wear my fleece indoors over three layers and a blanket, thanks.

Since I wrote this, I seem to have magically lost about 10 pounds despite not making any changes to my eating habits. Which just makes me think that body weight is at least 80% genetic. Also it reminds me to point out an interesting response to that post from a friend, who confessed she hadn't taken my talking about compulsive eating completely seriously because I'm not overweight. I'm not - I'm 5'7" and usually weigh about 135 pounds. This means I don't suffer any social disapproval or other prejudice based on my appearance, which is nice, but since I'm of a normal weight I can't really complain about how fucked up my body image is without pissing people off (which I understand. It's like saying, "Darn! My eyelashes are so long they brush my sunglass lenses!", you know? Cry me a fucking river.)

And oooooh, Dave just came home with flowers. Just because. Yay! I'm off to make vodka cupcakes and put my flowers in a vase. Man, I love flowers but never want to spend the money. I can already smell the lilies, I should remember to spoil me more often.

30 November 2007

Disgusting Friday Surprise

This is just going to be a gross-out post. I'll put the really super TMI information in white font (so hold down your mouse's left button and run it over where the words ought to be, and they'll show up) but it's all kind of awful. Because that's the kind of week this has been. If your week been good or even moderately okay, CLICK AWAY NOW, because this story might ruin it.

So Zoe has been sick for a while - maybe a month - and losing weight and barfing a lot. A lot. Like, daily. Or thrice daily.

Yes, I took her to the vet. X-rays and blood tests showed nothing abnormal. It might just be that she's 13 and her long dirt nap is en route. Of course I'm sad even contemplating this, not to mention sad that I might not get much more than two years with her, and we love each other so. Dave says my armpit is the only one she's ever stuck her face into, which I guess isn't big news unless you're a total pet person and get what it's like to have an animal develop special affectionate behaviors for you specifically, because they loooooove you.

I do realise that burrowing into my armpit doesn't sound quite so magical once it's all typed out. You'll just have to grant me some slack here if you aren't an animal lover. She's just so damn cute when she burrows under the covers to get warm, for instance. Often I find a deflated little lump in the bed where she's been sleeping all day when I get home at night and it makes me smile.

Back to the barfing: cleanup has been fun, of course. Most nights I get home from work and do a run-through of the house to try to find the barf before I step in it. If I've got time, I do a quick run-through in the morning before work, too. Because she hasn't been eating, mostly it's thin watery yellowish barf (bile). Poor baby. She does have an appointment coming up to go see the vet again. A frequent thrower-upper myself, I feel her pain.

So, this morning? While I was making the bed? Guess what I found? ... yeah. A little oval yellow-ish stain on the bottom sheet. What the hell?, I thought, I don't remember that being there when I put the sheets on last week.

That's because ... it probably wasn't. My guess is that one of the days this week when she was sleeping under the covers, she barfed in there. Yeah. On my side. I found it this morning. I slept on barf-sheets last night, in a barf-bed. Ew ew ew ew ew. It's possible I've been sleeping in that since Monday night. Ew ew ew ew ew.

So, what with Zoe's sickness and my own previously-unmentioned medical stuff, it's been a bad week for pussies around here. (I admit it. I totally wrote this whole post for that single whited-out joke. Now go bleach your brain.)

27 November 2007

oh hai, teh funny!!!1!

There's a lolcat wiki to translate the Bible into lolspeak. It is fucking hilarious; check out Genesis 1, 1:

            Boreded Ceiling Cat makinkgz Urf n stuffs

1 Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.

2 Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.

3 At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.4 An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin.5 An Ceiling Cat sayed light Day An dark no Day. It were FURST!!!1

Of course, to enjoy this you have to be okay with thinking about teh Bibble as not-the-literal-truth, and you have to be okay with God = boreded ceiling cat. So, my mother? Would not think this was funny at all.

Just like that Christmas that my sister and I kidnapped the baby Jesus from his manger in our dime store creche. So that she wouldn't notice the absence of the tiny baby doll immediately, we subbed in a little pink pig (from our Pass the Pig game). We tucked a little ransom note (demanding, I think, "100 sheep by sundown or the baby gets it") under the piglet and sat back to await the fireworks.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Finally during Christmas dinner all the kids (all-bar-parents were in on the secret by now - you should have seen my brother turn red and cackle with suppressed glee when we told him) made a big fuss about "checking in on Jesus" and Mom eventually got up to look. Well. She was Not Amused. Especially the pig part, maybe more so because it was such dead ringer for the bebbe jebub.
Mmmmm, sacrilicious. I've never enjoyed brussels sprouts more.

... oh, and if you don't know what lolcats are, they are "poorly spelled human emotions ascribed to pictures of animals" (That's the most concise definition I've ever seen, and it comes from the terrific and even funnier lolsecretz blog.) Or you can just Google the phrase "I can has cheezburger?" and you'll pull up a ton of information. PWN!

(I don't really know what PWN means. That's okay, because judging by the way I keep this video all over the interwebs, no one else knows what it means, either.)

21 November 2007

Not just a river in Egpyt

I am so happy the NYT is now free all over the place, all the time. Check out this fun pop-psych article: Denial makes the world go round. (I can't say I'm super-psyched that the opening and closing example of the article is a woman whose shopping is out of control, who didn't feel able to tell her husband about it. Couldn't they have used a scenario about an affair or something not related to the duplicitous-female-likes-to-shop stereotype? But whatever, it's still worth the click.)

“There are lots of way to think about this,” said the lead author, Daniel J. Hruschka of the Santa Fe Institute, a research group that focuses on complex systems. “One is that you’re moving and you really need help, but your friend doesn’t return your call. Well, maybe he’s out of town, and it’s not a defection at all. The ability to overlook or forgive is a way to overcome these vicissitudes of everyday life.”

I've seen that. Aren't we way harsher about other drivers than ourselves or the trusted driver of our car? God, if I held myself and my friends and my family to the same standards I hold stangers and theoretical people to, I'd be friendless, alone and probably be planning my suicide, unable to live with myself.

Nowhere do people use denial skills to greater effect than with a spouse or partner. In a series of studies, Sandra Murray of the University of Buffalo and John Holmes of the University of Waterloo in Ontario have shown that people often idealize their partners, overestimating their strengths and playing down their flaws.

I can think of a zillion real life examples where I've seen this happening. I'm sure my own relationship is included.

This typically involves a blend of denial and touch-up work — seeing jealousy as passion, for instance, or stubbornness as a strong sense of right and wrong. But the studies have found that partners who idealize each other in this way are more likely to stay together and to report being satisfied in the relationship than those who do not.

So ... denial = neccesary coping tool for functioning in society. It's just when there's too much that there's a problem. Like drugs or alcohol! Whoa. Heavy.

16 November 2007

O I am a bad cat mother

A new low in Friday cat-blogging, hein? I'm pretty sure she spent a while last night deciding what part of me to eat first. And yes, that's a little Yahoo! t-shirt she's wearing. I bet you didn't know brand marketing schwag went all the way down to the pet-apparel vertical. (FYI: I think she had the shirt on for about 5 minutes in total. Just long enough for me to get the pictures. And no, I didn't get scratched or bitten. She was mad but apparently not mad enough to resist.)

08 November 2007

Exciting Text Fight

Exciting for me, anyway. If by “exciting” you mean “now I feel shitty”, which I do. Verbatim transcript below.

Me: I feel bloated and tired of boughten food.

Dave: Didja grab a burrito for lunch? Tasty, homemade. Like mom used to make.

Me: No, it’s the company lunch today (chili cookoff, which is actually cool.)

Dave: You’re going out to dinner tonight for the third time this week. May i suggest moderation?

Me: You can suggest anything you fucking want. I have been moderating.

Dave: Just saying.

Me: I’m in a pretty bad mood today and i miss exercise and fresh vegetables. I know you were trying to make a helpful suggestion but your advice seemed obvious and condescending to me, like my [redacted relative].

Dave: Jesus. Forget i said anything.

[this response crossed with my followup text, below]

Me: I am also extra sensitive due to compulsive eating issues. Like when someone asks you how come you have to get so mad all the time and suggests you chill out

And that is where things currently stand. Ain’t love grand?

Re-reading, it seems obvious to me that we’ve both got a point. My life has been hard and shitty lately (Dave’s has too), so anger is bubbling out all over the place – as you can see above, somewhat inappropriately. At the same time … we’ve been dating for two years, during which I have struggled with compulsive eating. Telling a compulsive eater to moderate is about equivalent telling an alcoholic that it’s fine to drink, just stop after one or two. They already know that, trust me.

I’ve been fighting compulsive eating since I was about 14, my first year of boarding school. That’s when the first eating disorder which had been carefully nurtured by the media and my fucked-up elementary school really took root and blossomed, helped greatly by the 32F breasts which had arrived with puberty the summer before I started high school. (No, they aren’t still that size. That’s another story, though. Insurance paid for the surgery, because I had back problems. At 17. Back problems.)

Sometimes people (men) have trouble understanding why a woman wouldn’t want huge tits. For men, bigger dicks are better, right? And big boobs on women are often a huge (heh) plus. Except a big dick is like a secret weapon, whereas big boobs are pretty much impossible to hide. I won’t even get into what a pain in the ass it is to try to find dresses when your top is a size 14 and your bottom is a size 6, or say much about how with really big boobs, all you can hope for re: tops is to find stuff that drapes nicely. Like, you know, a tent. Tents also don’t show “too much” cleavage (don’t want to look slutty!). Not showing cleavage, when you’re stacked like I was, pretty much requires a turtleneck.

Also, I gotta say, the summer I grew boobs was a pretty vicious induction into puberty. Suddenly construction workers were hollering at me from across the street, based on my new silhouette. (They probably had children my age.) Fathers of the children I babysat for showed new interest in my life, asking how school was going for me and casually asking if I had any boyfriends. (I know: predatory and disgusting.) Boys were talking to me, but not looking at my face while they did so. It didn’t help that my group of “friends” freshman year included some sharks who saw my weakness, smelled blood and drove in for the kill. I’m sure those girls had their own issues driving them, but that doesn’t mean being bullied doesn’t suck a lot more for the victim.

I was desperately lonely and wanted nothing more than a boyfriend, but I was so suspicious and terrified of sex and my new body that I couldn’t do anything but shoot them all down. I would spend hours and hours obsessing over one in particular and thinking how cute he as and how great it would be if he talked to me, trying to sound smart in English class so he would notice and then … if he did talk to me, I shut down completely. In retrospect, not ALL the boys were talking to me just ‘cause I had a pair of industrial-strength floatation devices on my front – the English class thing worked! – but I was too uncomfortable with myself to be able to tell that.

So I decided I didn’t have a boyfriend was because I wasn’t attractive enough. I couldn’t do anything about my face but my body, that was under my control, right? And I started trying to really control my food intake, which led to restricted eating and then binging and purging and what I eventually learned to call compulsive eating.

Because here’s the thing about eating for emotional reasons: it works. Your serotonin levels do rise. You feel worse about it afterwards but that temporary relief from pain is like a fucking drug. It’s a little worse, actually, since with a drug you can quit. With food you have to re-learn how to eat. You need to create a new relationship with food. You can’t get away from it. On bad days, well meaning friends will tell you that you “deserve” some chocolate. And I really LIKE to eat, it is a sensuous pleasure for me. I can’t just regard it as fuel.

I am 29 now. The battle with food has been going on for more than half my life. I mentioned in my comment on a previous post that I’d quit drinking to try to help my migraines. So far teetotalling hasn’t helped with the migraines (except that I can feel morally superior in knowing that a particular migraine is not my fault) but it’s been pretty easy not to drink at parties, dinners out, shows, home after a tough day … I have an initial desire for a drink and then after about 30 minutes I relax and watch other people get loaded. No big deal.

Similarly, I’ve never been able to cultivate a long-term relationship with cigarettes, and believe me, I’ve tried. (Yes, I know the physical downside. No one wants cancer. What no one seems to acknowledge is that cigarettes are hugely helpful emotionally – a built-in excuse to take little breaks throughout your day with a relaxing/stimulating legal drug which doesn’t impair your work performance. And smokers usually develop their own little relationship networks, which is another reason to smoke.)

No other drug has ever really gotten its hooks into me (except pot, but even that relationship is less problematic for me than food.) I think it’s probably because I’m already fighting an addiction battle, it’s just with food, and there’s not really room for anything else in there. (Plus I am just not THAT self-destructive, and know better than to keep a bottle in my desk drawer or hit the bong before work.) Food is different, though.

So: who wants leftover Halloween candy? Because my office was SWIMMING in the stuff last week. Of course, I ate my way through it, disgusting or not. (Runts: much less delicious than I remember.) Because – did I already mention? – last week was wicked shitty, this week is shaping up to be another crapper and there was all this serotonin-stuff lying in piles on tables. I found it impossible to resist, grabbibng handfuls whenever I went by and unwrapping as stealthily as possible so no one would realise what I was up to, how greedy and piggy I was being. My strategy became to just eat it as fast as possible, so it would go away. I had help from coworkers, of course, but I’d like to think that if we’d all saved our wrappers and counted them up, I’d have finished first. By a mile.

All of which is a long-winded way of explaining why I was so mad when Dave suggested (reasonably, if a little insensitively) that I moderate my food intake at lunch today and tonight at dinner. Thanks for the tip, hon.

Not that you asked but yes, my pants are a little tight this week.

02 November 2007

01 November 2007

change of subject

I was going to write about how I'm all depressed and stuff today, but then I got into work and there was Halloween candy everywhere, a tidal wave and all the good kind, too: whoppers and skittles and rolos and reese's cups (those singleton packages. I love those fucking things.). Anyway, the sugar high has made me unable to think about depression (what's that?) and also, unable to see straight but never mind. I'll probably get back to the depression in a couple of hours.

So instead I'm just going to mention that Jaden's Steamy Kitchen is doing a vanilla bean giveaway. Eight people will win half a pound of beans each. And if you mention this contest on your blog, you get an additional two entries. Also Jaden's blog is so fabulous - she has awesome, accessible recipes and she's really funny, so it's worth reading anyway, even if you don't cook. (A certain regular reader will know that I'm squinting west, in her direction, with a meaningful westerly squint.)

That photo there on the left is what half a pound of vanilla beans looks like. A lot of damn vanilla beans. (Photo credits to SteamyKitchen. Hope it's okay that I republished the picture.)
And if you've ever bought one or two sad looking beans curled up in a McCormick's jar at the supermarket, weeping little vanilla bean tears because they have been separated from their beanly brethren then it's hard not to weep in sympathy. Particularly because those jars seem to go for 6 - 9 bucks, which is HIGHWAY ROBBERY for one measly bean. So, uh, I'm kind of interested in winning this contest, not that I ever win anything (curse you, Popgadget, for tempting me to sign up for a pink Dyson giveaway which OF COURSE I did not win and now they've sold my fucking email address and I get lots and lots of shitty spam, all of which would have been totally worth it IF I had won but since I didn't win now I'm just bitter. And now you can see what I have to be depressed about.) Anyway. I'm pretty sure Jaden doesn't sell her email lists. I can has beans now?

24 October 2007

New Pornographers in Boston

We went out with another couple to see the New Pornographers play at the Roxy in Boston last night. We went for shabu shabu for dinner first - it's this thing where they give you a bunch of vegetables and meat and a pot of boiling broth or water to cook the veggies and meat in. It was fucking delicious and affordable. I heart Chinatown. Also, despite the fact that there were nine million people with individual pots of boiling water, the windows weren't even steamed up, because they have the most hardcore, efficient and quiet ventilation system I've ever seen.

Anyway, the concert.

That was what I could see. Thanks, Roxy, for not allowing people upstairs to the balconies.

Admittedly we didn't arrive as the doors opened and scooch down front or anything. In fact we skipped the opening act (Emma Pollock, who is from Glasgow and seems to sing innocuous folky stuff, judging by the songs on her myspace profile and by the last half of her last song that we arrived in time to hear.) So no loss on the opening act.

The band themselves were good, although man - despite not being able to see, there were crazy bright horrible floodlights that were flashing in time to the music, directly in my eyes. I saw a lot of people wincing every time the floods got started. I swear it was like the Battle of the Seizure Robots in there. (I always thought that was just a Simpsons joke, but it turns out that the joke is based on a banned Pokemon episode whose bright flashing lights really did induce seizures in epileptic viewers. Fucked up!)

But no complaints about the playing - totally professional and tight, which I would expect from any supergroup and especially this one, which has been around for a while and has been touring Challengers extensively. I even got chills during My Rights Versus Yours, although that might have just been the garlic from dinner making itself at home in my digestive system.

One of the Pornographers (heh) was holding some kind of round object up at one point and we all compared notes.

"Is that ... an orange?"

"I thought since the lyrics were talking about the sun, maybe it's some kind of model..."

We eventually realized that it was a shaker. We realized this when he started shaking it near the microphone - to absolutely no effect, since you couldn't hear anything over the electronic beeps and clapping and shit that another dude on stage was putting out with his laptop. Seriously, in the front lineup were people singing, playing guitars and keyboards and one dude with a mike and a laptop. The hilarious thing about the guy with the laptop (Mac) was that he just stood absolutely still for most of the show, like he was watching paint dry or in a catatonic trance.

Anyway - we all agreed that it was a good show and also that it was a lot of standing up and that we are all old (even though the people we were out with are, I think, both 27. Le sigh.) Most of the audience looked like they were in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, and I'd say the four of us covered that demographic pretty well. The rest of the audience must have agreed with us on tiredness, because the crowd was a lot more subdued than I'd expected - I'd attribute that to Boston stuffed-shirtness, but I've seen crowds go batshit for Weezer and Iggy Pop. (Weezer was younger than last night's crowd, and Iggy's audience was mostly older.) Maybe it's just that young professionals work harder? (... not that you could tell from my workplace.) Maybe it was the band's fault, I can't say they bothered with much patter (and what there was was completely mumbled into the mike, so even if songs were announced beforehand I had no idea what was coming besides another song, named something.) Also, I wasn't actually wearing my black rimmed cat's eye glasses, but plenty of other people were wearing glasses like that so the hipster quotient was fulfilled, I think.

During the post-mortem afterwards, one person observed that it was good, but only with about every third song was she all, "hell YEAH! This song rocks!" ... to which Dave responded, "That's because they only write four kinds of songs." Which I think is fairly accurate. They played about 50% from Challengers (the only album I really know well) but I could peg where their other songs fit into - "oh yeah, that one's like "All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth". I wish I knew what the name of the last song before the encore was, because it was fucking AWESOME. (And in the same vein as "My Rights Versus Yours".)

Nico Case has pipes though, I'll tell you. She was so loud (I think - maybe too close to the mike?) but also so perfectly on key that it kind of maxed out the equipment. I don't really know how to describe this effect, except to say that it's the same thing you hear when you've got an old vinyl copy of Fleetwood Mac on the stereo turned up pretty loud and Stevie Nicks's voice kind of blats out of the speakers, as if when they originally recorded it in the studio she overwhelemed the recording capabilities of the equipment. I'm not a huge Stevie fan but last night might have converted me to Nico. (Sniffle ... wish I could sing like that.)

Final thought: last night I didn't think the live versions of the song were super different live, but while writing this post I looked up and accidentally clicked on Challengers in my iTunes liberry and they really did rock a lot harder live. Plus my earbuds that live at work suck ass.

There you have it, my not very profound (but long winded, as usual) thoughts on the show last night. I hope you enjoyed it, because I usually average about one concert a year (and even then I often fall asleep. Sorry 'bout that, Iggy. And Death Cab. But especially sorry to Iggy, who put on a fucking great show and was like this crazy flea hopping up and down, all old and wiry and full of energy and muscle tone. My celexa-induced somnolence was stronger than your manic vibes.)

...and here's where I should apologize for stealing some of Dave's best lines in this blog post. It's why I love you though, because you're funny. And also because your knowledge of Simpsons is better than mine. Thanks, doll!

21 October 2007

No Pictures, Thanks

Yeah. You really don't want to see a picture of what I'm about to write about.

Long story short, a weekend filled with much eating, drinking and socializing backfired and I felt really queasy and hungover, not to mention migrainous, all day today. So nice out, too. So we went for a walk just now, partly to get some ginger ale and saltines for me. We sat down outside the store so I could eat some and try to settle my stomach.

I guess that's just what my stomach was waiting for, because almost as soon as we started walking again there I was, crouched ignominiously on the sidewalk, barfing into the gutter. This will tell you how fast the ginger ale came back up: my barf was fizzing.

On the other hand, that IS why you eat saltines and ginger ale, because they're so bland and easy to throw up. And if I'm interpreting the messages from my stomach correctly, I'm not done yet with the barfing. My life is so glamorous.

Next time: why moderation appears to be an unlearnable skill for me.

08 October 2007

Musings on digital music formats, and laws regarding same

Wow, the title of this post sound really boring. Sorry. Maybe this post will only be interesting to other people who are following the evolution of digital music rights online.

I got interested because I've been reading a series of posts on TechCrunch (I read Techcrunch for work. Heh, that makes me sound like Homer Simpson, in the episode where he sharpies a face onto his tummy and then makes it talk. One of the kids busts him doing it and he says, "I have to do this for work." But I actually do read TechCrunch for work.) over the past few weeks aout what's happening in the music industry. Michael Arrington preditcs here that music prices are going to continue to fall, because at the wide availability of technological and software resources means that all music consumers are potential producers/distributors. He notes that Radiohead's latest album, In Rainbows, is available for download to anyone who wants it, for whatever price they want to pay. It's an experiment.

Of course, I also remember Steven King's experiment with this, where he asked people to pay $1 before or after they'd read his story, The Plant. Initial rates of payment were pretty high, but fell over tiem, and King went back to a more traditional publishing model. On the other hand, there's never been any kind of Napster for books, so King in different territory than Radiohead. Which is kind of Arrington's point, actually - he postulates that with music sharing so widely available via the internets, the only way the music industry will sustain itself is by charging people for convenience, rather than expecting them to pay $15.99 for a whole new album that you buy in a store.

The economics of recorded music are fairly simple. Marginal production costs are zero: Like software, it doesn’t cost anything to produce another digital copy that is just as good as the original as soon as the first copy exists, and anyone can create those copies (meaning there is perfect competition and zero barriers to entry). Unless effective legal (copyright), technical (DRM) or other artificial impediments to production can be created, simple economic theory dictates that the price of music, like its marginal cost, must also fall to zero as more “competitors” (in this case, listeners who copy) enter the market. The evidence is unmistakable already. In April 2007 the benchmark price for a DRM-free song was $1.29. Today it is $0.89, a drop of 31% in just six months.

P2P networks just exacerbate the problem (or opportunity) further, giving people a way to speed up the process of creating free copies almost to the point of being ridiculous.

I'm not really with him on the April vs. today evidence, I think that might work out to be true but, like the dollar in international markets, the trend could go the other way. However, I think he's right on when he points out that all consumers are potential producers.

The industry, on the other hand, is, let's say, not too excited about embracing this (probably neccesary) change in the way it markets things. Instead it's aggressively pursuing individuals who share files (and let other people upload their music tracks.) Like that woman, Jammie Thomas, that just got fined$220,000 for 24 songs - that's over 9K per song! Jebub. There weren't any precedents in the fees awarded since all the other cases where the music industry have pursued an individual have been settled out of court.

I buy CDs, actually, mostly because I still like experiencing the whole album as the artists meant it to be heard (uh ... and also I know a little too much for my own peace of mind about IP sniffing, while not knowing quite enough about things like IP address anonymizers) but my attitude seems to be a little less usual now, with the prevelance of iTunes and other stores offering single-song downloads. Plus, ya know, my boyfriend is a musician and in a band and I guess I'd be a hypocrite if I asked people to pay for CDs from his bands and then went and downloaded other illegal ones on my own.

I really like Ian Rogers's (of Yahoo! music) take on it: that in order to remain competitive, the music industry is going to have to start offering music etc downloads as a convenince, so that paying for the music is a value-add, rather a must-do. I like this attitude because it recognizes that people are lazy. Here's Rogers's example:

When you compare the experiences on Yahoo! Music, the order of magnitude difference in opportunity shouldn’t be a surprise: Want radio? No problem. Click play, get radio. Want video? Awesome. Click play, get video. Want a track on-demand? Oh have we got a deal for you! If you’re on Windows XP or Vista, and you’re in North America, just download this 20MB application, go through these seven install screens, reboot your computer, go through these five setup screens, these six credit card screens, give us $160 dollars and POW! Now you can hear that song you wanted to hear…if you’re still with us. Yahoo! didn’t want to go through all these steps. The licensing dictated it. It’s a slippery slope from “a little control” to consumer unfriendliness and non-Web-scale products and services.

... heh. His scenario is so right.

Of course, he sort of skips the part where he talks about HOW to monetize it, if you aren't going to make people pay for the music ... which is a big question. I don't have an answer.

And of course, all of this verbiage up above also ignores the fact that your digital music collection is most likely ripped (or downloaded) in a format that's owned by the software vendor that sold you the track or the software to rip it with. In other words, if Apple and the iTunes store went belly-up tomorrow? You'd be SOL if the software ever stopped working. Sony users are in that exact position right now: Sony is closing its Connect digital music store and urging that users burn their existing colelction to CD (or into another format.) Sony doesn't seem to be pointing out to users that transferring music from one compressed, lossy format (such as their proprietary one used in the Connect store) back to CD then re-compressing it into compressed, lossy format such as mp3 is going to sound SHITTY. Even for someone like me - you know how sound mixers have "golden" ears? Mine are wood. But I can still tell the difference; it's like listening to a radio station that's not coming in well, all staticy and jumpy. (Another good reason for me to continue buying CDs, actually - the format's got a little more longevity than a million different versions of software that all does the same thing: compresses the music.) Of course, you can rip your CDs losslessly so you don't run into the compression issue, but that takes up more space on the hard drive. iTunes, outrageously, charges MORE to sell you the uncompressed version of the song compared to the regular one. That is fucking bullshit - you're telling me that if I want a copy of a song I can burn onto a CD and then onto my Windows media player for reasons of my own (maybe they don't allow iTunes downloads at work), I have to pay ten cents more for the priviledge? That's price-gouging, and it's wrong. I really don't think the extra file size eats up a whole 10 cents worth of Apple's bandwidth when the user downloads it.

... Um. Rant over. Where was I? Oh yeah - explaining that even if you personally don't download music illegally online (and I make no value judgements here), the practice is widespread enough that the record industry is quaking in its boots; and you should consider making sure your music collection is in a format that's replicatable (such as uncompressed digital files) or something with longer legs (CDs won't last forever, but they're not a bad investment while the music industry agrees on a standard format for digital music files.)

05 October 2007

Not all those who wander are lost … except when it comes to me.

Seriously. Worst sense of direction ever. Generally, the only people I know who are as bad as me are either directly related - my grandmother (although presumably she’s now getting directions from Saint Peter) and one sister (the other sister and my brother are not cursed.) I do have a coworker who seems to be as badly off as me, but that’s it. Three people, in my whole life, get lost as badly and as easily as me. I can’t really give you any examples because that kind of thing tends to be best exemplified by specific local scenarios. If I tell you that the first time I was in London I wasn’t much bothered by the fact that the traffic was all going in the opposite direction from what I was used to, does that help? I couldn’t really tell the difference.

I think part of my problem is that I’m a little right-left dyslexic, I don’t have any strong ingrained sense of which is which. In dance class I always had to hold my hand out to make the “L” to figure out which was left and which was right. (Of course, if you flip your right hand over so the palm is facing up, both hands make an L. Not helpful.) Later, taking driver’s ed made me so nervous I used to write “L” and “R” on the back of my hands for an easy reference – one less thing to think about. I took my test that way too, and passed. (It was in Massachusetts, after all.)

It’s an odd problem to have – most of the time it makes no difference to my life. It adds some complexity to timing arrivals to, say, job interviews (my usual formula is to figure out how long it would take a normal person to get there, allowing for traffic, and then to add 50% to that.) You’d think with all the travelling I’ve done that it would be an issue, but all tourists are semi-lost. I can read a map just fine, and tourist areas are pretty well marked. I do have some trouble translating from a map to the area around me. (My best friend and I went to Yurrop the summer we were 19. On the train to new cities, I would read the guidebook and figure out what district the fleabag hotels were in, together we’d navigate public transportation and then when we got outside to the actual ground, I would hand her the map with a star for our destination, and she’d get us there. Heh.)

But like I said, unless you’ve recently moved to a totally new place, it’s not an everyday issue – I usually don’t get that far outside my neighborhood and most of my errands are work, home, supermarket, yoga – local. So not something that I’m really investing a lot of time and effort into solving. However, I was reading this Gord Hotchkiss column where he talks about how you navigate the search landscape, and draws an analogy between finding your way around online and finding your way around in meatspace (heh heh, I love that retro phrase lately. So 2002!) I don’t think the analogy quite holds up, if only because my experience is so different. Remember the path to where my stuff is saved on various hard drives, or remember how to replicate the searches I did which eventually landed me on that cool t-shirt website? No problem. And I can get around supermarkets, too.

But Hotchkiss talks about, and links to, a paper talking about special cognition and how people (and robots) process that. The paper breaks it up into three types of knowledge – there’s landmark, which is, um, finding your way around using landmarks; then there’s route, which is using a series of landmarks (like when you always take the same route to your grandmother’s house because it’s the one you know, even though there might be faster/easier ways to get there); and then there’s survey, which is where you combine landmark and route knowledge to create an abstract spacial map in your head that explains how all these things relate to one another. This is where I fail. I’ve lived in Somerville for 2 years, and I am JUST starting to be able to deviate from my routes (usually when there’s no time pressure and no one else in the car with me, because I still get lost a lot).

You know what else I suck at? Rotating objects in space. I couldn’t have hacked it as a chemist. I actually took an IQ test a while ago (no, I’m not a genius … I’m sure this is shocking news, but take a deep breath and try to get over it. Also, not an online IQ test, this was a two day series of tests in an office. I did indeed have Rorschach tests – I remember seeing a lot of twinned animal images in them) The IQ test results (besides that I wasn’t a genius) pointed out that I’m much weaker than normal in rotating objects in space. (Also the IQ results pointed to me being much more of a risk taker than normal. What, not everyone elopes at 23 and then moves to New Zealand without any job, work permit, place to stay or person to call? Not everyone thinks this is a fun idea?)

IQ tests are deeply flawed (I am totally a genius! just not in the ways that they measure, which are heavily math-science and learned-knowledge oriented) as are SATs – some of the same flaws; I know that the SATs have been shown to have cultural biases towards the test-writers, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that IQ tests have some of the same problems – for starters, they don’t measure much in the way of creativity - your ability to write a sentence isn’t taken into account. Neither is humor.

And my comments on SAT flaws aren’t due to not-a-genius sour grapes; I did stupidly well on the SATs, so well that my SAT scores pointed to me being a lot smarter than the occasional As and mostly Bs on my report cards, which meant a lot of colleges saw my application and read a little “danger! This student doesn’t live up their full potential” into it. Which is maybe why I got negged EVERYwhere except my safety, which eventually led to going to university in the UK. ANYWAY. I think the reason I did so well on the SATs was mostly due to a great deal of practice in taking standardized tests, a good all-around education, and sharing the cultural history of the SAT test writers.

Uh, where was I going with this… oh yeah. SAT and IQ tests are totally flawed, but the IQ rotating-objects-in-space thing does seem to tie in with later-in-life difficulties getting around. My little problem with directions didn’t become an obstacle until I’d moved away from home and had to find places on my own (my mother has a weird genius for giving me directions to places I’ve never been, because she knows what landmarks I will know). And the most valuable part of articles I linked to is that they gave me a little more context, and language to frame around the specific difficulties I have with navigating day to day. I wouldn't say it's held me back - I have strategies in place - it's just sometimes hard to explain to people exactly what the problem is - I get accused a lot of "not paying attention", which really isn't true, but I couldn't explain that before. Now I've got the language to help me frame an argument. Small victories. It's what life is all about.

04 October 2007

Why I Am Late To Work Sometimes

Because most mornings, someone warm and soft and purry comes and sits in my lap and digs her wee face right into my armpit and then I can't bear to get up and disturb her until she decides she's had enough and gets up, all mussed fur and smiles, and flops over on the couch to snooze with all four paws in the air. (I'm not kidding about the digging part; she's got a wedge-shaped head and she burrows right in there.)

Here's the part I can see - her little ears are all flattened back, so she can get further into my armpit. Did I mention that this event typically occurs before my shower?

yeah, my bathrobe is really pretty ratty. If Dave ever read this blog I'd hint at a future gift, but he doesn't. That works out better for me anyway, since then I can say what I want with impunity, things like: it's okay that he doesn't buy me a bathrobe since I make enough money to buy one for myself - without him thinking I'm slighting him.

Here's the back view:

please ignore the fact that I fucked around with the colors on both pictures without comparing temperatures on Zobo's fur and they don't match and I don't care enough to change them

I'm guessing she probably has her eyes closed most of the time, actually, but I had to reach around behind my back to take this picture (with my cell phone, the only digital camera I own which has a battery that holds a charge for more than 12 hours. Yes, my digital camera is ratty too.) ANYWAY, my point was not about the camera (although if you wondered about the poor photo quality, that's your answer) but that my twisting and squirming to get a picture of the back of my armpit required some flexibility, which I have, but even so I woke the cat.

03 October 2007

new haircut photo essay, sort of

"Sort of" a photo essay because I can never resist being wordy. And why should I, if I enjoy the sight of my own typing?

Below is my previous hair - I don't actually like it long, but divorce is expensive. Guess what else is expensive? Maintaining a precision cut. So for the two years and thousands of dollars necessary for my divorce, I dispensed with regular haircuts.

I don't know why I look so plaintive here. I do know that this photo is evidence I shouldn't try to do my own eyebrow shaping anymore, though. Curls are a natural result of summer heat + humidity.

You can see the length more here. Also you can see I get super awesome bedhead. Curls are stretched out from sleeping. They recharged later that day, in the shower.

The beauty process is never pretty. But I document it selflessly anyway. For humanity.

New haircut. My favorite thing about this picture is how goofy I look - I'd just had some good news - and how you can see my crooked bottom teeth. You can't really tell here (blame the cell phone camera and fluorescent lighting) but my bangs are about two shades darker than the rest of my hair. And yes, I totally work in a cube farm.

02 October 2007

Sopranos + timewasting = genius

Okay. So a friend of a friend (it's more complicated really but I'll leave it at that) created this gorgeous little snippet of a video documenting reactions to the Sopranos finale. It's clever and amusing. There are NO spoilers. And it's worth watching even if you haven't watched Sopranos since Season 3 and have no idea what went down in the final version. (Uh, in a crazy coicidence, I fall into this last category.)

Eventually I plan to Netflix the entire Sopranos series but haven't gotten around to it. Also Dave sleeps much less than me - no seriously, he sleeps like 5 - 6 hours a night which A) leaves me in slack mouth wonder and envy and B)makes him predictably REALLY SUPER FUCKING CRANKY by the end of the week. Anyway, it means that he gets through Netflix DVDs of TV shows much faster than me - I'm still working on Season 2 of The Office (UK version - totally, awesomely relevant to a bunch of stuff in my life) and he finished it the same night we started watching - Sunday. So far I've fallen asleep a few episodes in each time. This would be fine if he didn't object to having DVDs around for longer than, say, a week. (Maybe we just each need to get - and pay for - our own subscriptions, so I can wait AS LONG AS I FUCKING WANT to watch them.)

Anyway. The video.

By the way, if you've got time, click on this link instead of the YouTube one since the visual production values are so much better and you can see how pretty it all is.

The creators of the video are hoping it'll go viral and get all over the internet, just like it's hard to eat lobster without getting lobster stink all over your house and person. Even after repeated scrubbings with lemon juice. But, uh, to get back to the viralness, if you think it's a decent video, then by all means, repost. Submit it to digg or reddit if you're a user. Post it in one of the TelevisionWithoutPity threads. I don't even know what the best platform for spreading viral TV-related videos would BE, it's such a narrow vertical and so far out of my usual terrain. If you have better ideas, though, definitely lemme know.

Other news, in upcoming post: got a haircut. gained more weight. got divorced. these three events are related. heh. I'll post haircut pictures, at least (I'm sure no one wants to see eveidence-of-weight-gain pictures. Although my own obsession with the way my jeans fit did give me pause over the past 4 weeks. I think it's as simple and as difficult as this: my weight is ostensibly under my control. It didn't help that my shrink was booked solid for 4 weeks, either. Sort of my fault for not making a bunch of appointments in advance, but then I had a bunch of other stuff going on.)

And I bought a bunch of new music, most of which turned out awesome - Feist's The Reminder being the best surprise - and I was feeling all cocky and then realised: when you haven't bought new music in two years, it's not that hard to cherry-pick seven decent albums.

I bought a bunch of new makeup, too. Including liquid liner. Hee. I'm scaring people with it already.

16 September 2007

Treasons, stratagems and spoils

So coming home on Friday I was listening to the new New Pornographers album and I suddenly realized I was playing air violin. Fucking loser.

Of course my next conscious thought was, "I have to tell the internet about this!"

14 September 2007

I am getting fucking old*

Exhibit A: Found first white hair this morning while putting on makeup. Motherfucker. Dave just laughed at me.
          It’s sort of pretty and silvery on its own, though, and I noticed the other day that Dad (who gave me his hair color and lumpy high forehead – thankfully, not the receeding hairline, though) – anyway, I noticed that Dad just looked like a silvery blond and it was actually quite attractive. (Well, judging by the hair he still has, which is kind of a fringe that starts below his ears and continues around the back of his head, like those headphones that wrap around the back of your head – LOVE YOU, DAD!)

Exhibit B: It seems like all the uses of the world = stale, flat and unprofitable. Although 1) I’ve been cynical and felt jaded for as long as I can remember so maybe it’s not age related and 2) Hamlet is pretty damn young himself. (Yay, English lit degree! Good for making literary references on blog; also helpful in search marketing.)

Exhibit C: Did not get carded by the place that cards EVERYONE.
          The other night I stopped at the liquor store on the way back from Marblehead (back from seeing my parents, hence the sudden urgent need for the booze – LOVE YOU, MOM AND DAD!). Anyway, I saw a rare gem, snatched it up and rushed to the checkout.

"You have cask-strength Laphroig!" I said excitedly.

"That'll be $69.99, please."

"Oh. I guess you probably don't need to card someone who gets excited about that, huh?"

"Not really." The clerk obviously was with me on the stale, flat and unprofitable thing.

Exhibit D: I’ve gained ten pounds and my jeans fit over my chubby thighs like sausage casings. Muffin top seeps ingloriously over the waist of my pants.
          You might think that having a big tattoo covering 50% of your lower back would make the muffin top situation better, but no. It just means your muffin top has variegated foliage. As with the Hamlet bullshit above, this complaint might not be age related, since I’ve only put it on since June, but my inability to get rid of the flabbage is pissing me off and might actually be age-related (but wait, aren’t you supposed to develop more self-control as you get older? And I had a fistful of candy corn this morning for breakfast, which does not sound very restrained to me. CURSE YOU, IRRESISTIBLE CONES OF DELICIOUSNESS!)

Linketty stuff:

Speaking of flabbage:

- Check out Rebecca Traitster’s this salon article on all the outcry over Britney being fat at the VMA:
As has been pointed out before, [Spears] embodies the disdain in which this culture holds its young women: the desire to sexualize and spoil them while young, and to degrade and punish them as they get older. Of course, she also represents a youthful feminine willingness -- stupid or manipulated as it may be -- to conform to the culture's every humiliating expectation of her.
What happened to Spears, and what she chose to do to herself, this weekend was actually pretty hard to watch -- a gross example of exactly how much malicious satisfaction we get out of the embarrassing weakness of an addictive, postpartum, out-of-control mess of a human being. But as sad as anything is that the young musician shows zero interest in making it stop.

- And here's a reality check on the whole fatness of Britney thing. Heh.

Speaking of being an English major:
- Amanda Marcotte unpacks the invisible knapsack of privilege (except she calls it ‘social capital”) you get along with your college degree.
What my parents called “the piece of paper”, social scientists call “social capital“. And it’s much more than a piece of paper. In college, you learn to act like a member of the college-educated middle class. You share cultural touchstones with them. It’s often a little unnerving for me because whenever I run with people that are clearly college-educated and come from a background of college-educated people, they accept me as one of them, because I am, after all, one of them. But I’m acutely aware of the fact that if I’d grown up like my mother did, when the idea of spending money educating your girls was seen as a rip-off (she’s a military brat), there is exactly no way I’d find easy acceptance in the middle class.

*apparently with increased age comes increased need to shout a lot, judging by the liberal use of all caps in this post. My hearing is probably going.

13 September 2007

And one for dog people

(via the same friend, Kat)

A Dog Has Died

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.

By Pablo Neruda
Translated, from the Spanish, by Alfred Yankauer

12 September 2007

Two weeks already, since my last post?

I need a life that goes slower and where I can fit in time to blog. Blogging is one of my favorite things, and I never seem to be able to make the time to do it.

I'll share a poem (my friend Kat brought it to my attention) - for everyone who has ever lost a kitteh. I don't know if it's relevant at all to a non-cat owner, I can't imagine not having cats in my life without also imagining that I would long impatiently for the day when I could become a cat owner again.

On a Favourite Cat
by Randolph Stow

Your house was a palace, full of arcane nooks
to discover and rediscover; all your life

a long imperialist adventure, where
kingdoms bowed down to your triumphal tail.

How can a little marble dish, abraded
by a rough tongue, so shake the heart? The fall

of sparrows is not man's concern: I took
no thought of what must leave me for your grave.

Under the mirabelle tree in my godson's garden,
be earth's pet now. What can I do?--but wish you

a matriarchy of blackbirds to teach you peaceable manners
and a Malplaquet of a mansion, to stalk and explore for ever.

Changing themes completely ...

This is just so groaty:

It's a ring shaped like a stack of pancakes and also SCENTED. Ew ew ew. But since it's sold out since I first looked at it this morning, I guess I'm alone in my revulsion. Via popgadget.

It reminds me of that gross Barbie Dream House which smelled like vanilla, of all things. Because barbie is clearly a baker, right? (Don't think about how her plastic would melt if she ever got near a real oven.) And baker rhymes with home-maker! Nothing wrong with home-making per se but girls who look like Barbie don't usually end up as stay at home moms, they seem to end up more along the lines of, say, Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, depending on how much money and education they've got.

27 August 2007

More reading

Below are all the books I’ve read in the past 7 days (bearing in mind that I was traveling for work and had a lot of plane time). This is also the order I read them in. Yes, I read extremely fast – about 100 pages an hour. No, I don’t skim. Yes, I retain well. It’s the legacy of a misspent youth, and came in extremely handy in school. On vacations and other trips, hauling enough books to keep me busy is a pain in the ass, though.

I’ve included hyperlinks to all the books on amazon so you can read a summary, if you’re interested – I hate doing plot recaps myself when talking about books, so didn’t bother.

There are no spoilers below, apart from a semi-one on the Jane Green book.

Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age. Jesus, this book sucked so hard. I’ve been trying and trying to read this and Snow Crash and I never seem to get anywhere because while the world is interesting, the characters aren’t. But since I had three ups and downs (boston, pittspurgh, phoenix, san jose) on the flight, I persevered. I shouldn’t have bothered – any author that’s STILL doing world building 50 pages from the end is not an author that understands pacing or plotting, and I like plotty well-paced books. (They don’t have to be FAST – I love Henry James and Dickens – but they do have to go somewhere.) But if you love vaguely-explained tech stuff and world building and have more patience with paper-thin characters than me, you might enjoy the books – set in the future, the book comments on technology and the fascination with it in our present age. Recommended with deep reservations.

Deborah Crombie - Leave the Grave Green Decent series of police procerdurals; I’ve read a couple out from the library years ago but remembered very little and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was neither lost mid-series nor had that feeling that all the made character building had been done in earlier books. About on par with Reginald Hill’s best, if you read him. Recommended.

Julie Smith - Other People’s Skeletons. God, this was awful. Cliched writing and a predictable plot. I’ve read and enjoyed Smith’s Skip Langdon novels (set in New Orleans – pre-Katrina, or at least when I read the novels it was pre-Katrina) and they were enjoyable, the city as much a character as anything else – but this Rebecca Schwartz was terrible, felt completely phoned in. Not recommended.

Ellen Emerson White, All Emergencies Ring Super. White is a respected YA novelist who writes well. I tend not to like her stuff because it’s the sort of thing that tests my suspension of disbelief – a series about a girl who’s the daughter of the first American female president? Set in the 80s? Geez, even Geraldine Ferraro went nowhere and she was practically a man AND super right wing to boot. Her other YA series is about Vietnam, which while an excellent subject is not really my thing for escapist reading. But this novel was pretty fun ... again, I had some trouble with the suspension of disbelief during some of the more outrageous capers but it’s nothing that’s uncommon in the detective novel genre. Recommended.

Jane Green, Jemima J. Chick lit, pure and simple. True to the chick lit genre, it criticizes the modern obsession with appearance … but the plot itself completely reinforces that obsession. The jacket copy said, ‘an ending you’ll never see coming” which is total bullshit since I called it about 60 pages in, but whatever – that’s another staple of the chick lit genre, having predictable happy endings. And the plot twist which depends on, THE HORROR, fat chick porn, just made me roll my eyes – it’s not kiddie porn, give me a fucking break. Uh oh – you mean some men like to look at fat chick porn while dating a skinny girl? Oh Noes! Somewhat enjoyable for the fluff factor, but there are about 100 pages in the middle that could have been condensed into 50 or less. Not recommended.

Clifford Simak, The Goblin Reservation. This book was fucking bizarre, set in a university in the future where Neanderthals have been brought forward in time, ghosts are part of the general population and banshees look like paper bags floating around … I enjoyed it for the strangeness factor but unless you’re throwing up in a hotel room in the middle of the night and want something to keep you mildly entertained in between bouts of puking, I wouldn’t bother. Recommended with reservations.

Tony Parsons - Man and Boy Utterly charming and insightful, full of dead-on observations about modern life and the nature of family. Plus set in the UK in the very years when I lived there and Jamiroquai was cool (well … not that they were ever very cool but it was during their brief moment of success) – so I caught all the references and that was fun. Unfortunately I was reading an American edition – I really hate when they change “mum” to “mom”, it always grates. I plan to force Dave to read this book as soon as he finishes his current one. It’s chick lit for boys who don’t want to grow up, but smarter than most of the actual chick lit that’s out there. He’s a lot like Nick Hornby (who wrote, among other things, the novels Fever Pitch, High Fidelity and About a Boy, all of which have been turned into movies.) Although I should say I haven’t actually read Hornby (the movie of About a Boy was sort of sweet, though, if you can get past the fact that Hugh Grant starred in it), I just know that Hornby covers the same territory – lads not wanting to grow up but having to in order not to lose their girlfriends/wives/children – as Parsons. (And in the US, you see that same subject covered in the movies of Judd Apatow.) Recommended - this was the best book out of all of these.

Tony Parsons - Man and Wife. A follow-up to Man and Boy, and not nearly as good. I almost wish I hadn’t read it, because Man and Boy was so much newer and fresher and this felt like he was repeating the same tricks, less successfully. Recommended with reservations.
The first Tony Parsons I ever read was One for My Baby, and it was when I was still living in the UK and I loved it – it is in large part about being an ex-pat, which resonated with me, so I was thrilled to see a couple of Parsons novels in the second hand bookstore and knew they’d be decent plane reads. Which they were. Recommended.

Joanna Trollope - The Choir. Your classic Aga saga (British domestic drama.) Think Anne Tyler for the American equivalent (I have never thought Tyler was such a shit hot writer, frankly, although she seems to get critical recognition.) Fine, cheerful reading, although the very genteel characters and their very genteel concerns made me feel very removed from the world of the book, which made it satisfyingly escapist but also cast an unmistakeable rosy glow over over Middle England which … is not really deserved – it’s not a particularly accurate portrait, I don’t think. It reads more like what she thinks readers (maybe especially American ones) want to think middle-class English are like, and there was little real passion in the book. Recommended with reservations.

Olive Ann Burns, Cold Sassy Tree. Actually I haven’t finished this yet (as of Monday morning, I am 30 pages from the end.) But I’m pretty sure I know how it’ll end and I’ve formed my opinion of it – Burns has a terrific ear for phrasing – the back cover mentions Alice Walker but not Flannery O’Connor, who I thought was a more apt comparison – and the book is certainly a fairly nostalgic look at a small-town southern past. Incest, frequent death, privies and sanitation issues and other darker subjects get a nod, but aren’t really covered in any detail – racism is mostly ignored. It’s WAY less dark than anything Flannery O’Connor ever wrote, for sure – people are essentially good, if flawed in amusing and comprehensible ways. But the narrative moves along at a pretty decent clip and it’s worth reading for the voice, although you won’t come away from the book with any blinding new insights on family life or what it means to be southern. Recommended.