Saturday, December 31, 2005

Why I will never disown my son

Mr. Tangerine: (Eying Ben's shirtless torso) Look how skinny he is.
Me: Ooh.
Ben: Skinny like Mommy.
Me: (Kissing Ben) Hah!
Ben: And skinny like good ol' Dad.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas and bloody heads on sticks

Goodness, has it really been so long since I wrote anything here?

Christmas was good. Ben ceased impugning Santa Claus's methods and just enjoyed his new toys (though it appears that he wishes Santa had stolen a Lego police station on his behalf). He spent a couple days running amok with his cousins—as a bossy only child, Ben can't get enough of his three-year-old cousin's worship. It was nice not to have to prepare any food for a couple days, although we could have done without the bout of mild food poisoning. (Wanna guess how long it took for Tuesday's lunch to exit?)

The holiday season continues unabated, as I have yet to exchange gifts with my friends or my family of origin (and I have yet to wrap those gifts—what am I waiting for, you may ask? Apparently I am waiting for them to magically wrap themselves. What? It could happen.). There are some holiday get-togethers with friends on the schedule, my family's coming over on New Year's Day, and the annual Christmas Day brunch with my mom's relatives is on January 8. Twelve days of Christmas is for wimps: we're doing a solid fortnight of Christmas.

I read Kathleen Parker's column in the Trib today. I find I disagree with the majority of what she says, no matter what the subject may be. And today, she takes on bloggers. I don't read any of the types of blogs Parker harps on—the ones that exist solely pounce on mainstream journalists' failings, apparently—but her rhetoric was so entertaining I wanted to share a few excerpts with you.

Bloggers persist no matter their contributions or quality, though most would have little to occupy their time were the mainstream media to disappear tomorrow. Some bloggers do their own reporting, but most rely on mainstream reporters to do the heavy lifting. She's so right! The mommyblogging world, for example, would collapse without the framework of the news media. Not to mention knitting blogs. And diaristic blogs. And humor blogs. And blogs written as a creative outlet.

...[M]ost babble, buzz and blurt like caffeinated adolescents competing for the Ritalin generation's inevitable senior superlative: Most Obsessive-Compulsive. Even so, they hold the same megaphone as the adults and enjoy perceived credibility owing to membership in the larger world of blog grown-ups. ...Each time I wander into blogdom, I'm reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure. ...When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding's children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow. ...When someone trips, whether Dan Rather or Eason Jordan or Judith Miller, bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging.

All right, fess up, bloggers: Which one of y'all stole Piggy's glasses? And who should we vote off the island first?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

That larcenous Saint Nick

Ben's rocketing toward a fever pitch of excitement over the impending arrival of Santa Claus. Mr. Tangerine and I apparently haven't been hyping the Santa mythology, though, because this morning, Ben asked his dad: Does Santa break into a store to get the stuff he needs and then go to your house? Does he do that? We took advantage of the teaching opportunity to mention the North Pole, Santa's workshop, and the elves. You know, if the boy would just take an interest in the classic Christmas cartoons from my childhood, he'd know all this already...

Dreaming of an Orange Christmas

You, too, can have an Orange Christmas. Here's how:

Procrastinate on all phases of holiday preparation. Put off shopping for gifts and sending out cards, but accomplish these duties just in the knick of time. Get that Christmas tree up and decorated no sooner than December 18, dress the kid in Santa jammies, and take a picture of him to enclose in the cards. (Procrastination is the Orange way, but so is pulling things off just ahead of the final deadline.)

Grow tired of your handful of Christmas CDs and order a new one that arrives on December 23. I recommend the jazzy remastered Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas. Sure, I already own the previous version (with fewer songs), but I appear to have misplaced it and totally forgot I owned it. Just found out this minute when grabbing that Amazon link. (I just looked on the shelf again and lo and behold, there's the old Ella CD. Hey, instant gift!) Anyway, who's better than Ella Fitzgerald? Nobody, that's who. And I can listen to it while wrapping presents...just as soon as I get around to starting on that.

Order yourself some loot and tell your significant other to wrap it up and give it to you on Christmas. I have good reason to believe Mr. Tangerine is giving me two fleece V-necks and a warm pair of Merrell clogs (they felt great in the shoe store!) this year. Somehow, he is perturbed by the convenience of this system. He feels guilty that I have gone shopping to buy things for him...and yet, this guilt has not motivated him to hit the stores and select his own gifts for me. Pfft!

Slather yourself in cheap self-tanner and see if you can't make your skin turn orange. Now, this is not the Orange way, but let us not unnecessarily constrain the Orange Christmas concept.

Clementines or tangerines in the Christmas stocking are a great idea—Santa always had a tangerine or two for young Orange back in the day. And no, that does not constitute cannibalism.

Whether the ground is blanketed with snow or not, you can still spray-paint it orange. Really. Try it.

Last, I wrote about "Christmas in September" a few months ago. The gist of it was to donate money in September to aid those displaced by Hurricane Katrina, in lieu of giving holiday presents in December. As it turns out, my extended family wasn't at all interested in this plan. However, we here at Casa Tangerine are incredibly lucky; we have a place to live, we have a degree of financial security, and our friends and family are all safe. So we're exchanging gifts as well as donating (again) to the American Red Cross Katrina fund; I listed a few other good places to donate in the "Christmas in September" link. If you can afford to do so, I encourage you to make a donation to aid those who are less fortunate than you—your local food bank, the Red Cross (Katrina, the South Asian earthquake, etc.), a shelter for abused women or the homeless, or any other organization that helps people.

Have a very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a festive Festivus, a warm Kwanzaa, a sunny post-solstice, or [insert your preferred celebration here]!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This one's for the mothers

Psycho Kitty had the brilliant idea to write some abecedarian doggerel, namely "The Mommy's Little Helper Alphabet." She invited me to collaborate on it, and the writing process was most educational. (I learned that we sure do talk about pharmaceuticals and sex a lot. And food.) Without further ado, we present:

The Mommy's Little Helper Alphabet

A is for amphetamines, that keep your mommy perky
B is for the Benadryl, that stops her getting jerky
C is for the chocolate, worth its weight in gold
D is for mama’s Demerol, when baby’s one day old
E is for eggnog, spiked with some rum
F is for...oh, don’t even pretend you don't know what F is for, people!
G is for Godiva (see C above)
H is for headache, when Mommy don’t want no love
I is for ice cream that fills the tummy
J is for a jacuzzi to make Mama feel yummy
K is for kisses—the kids’, so gentle; the lover’s, deep
L is for late night, when kids are asleep
M is for Midol, in case you must ask
N is for Nubain, to help labor pass
O is for orgasms—need I say more?
P is for pizza, delivered to the door
Q is for quiet, one minute’s enough
R is for rest (hey, remember that stuff!)
S is for sitters, who cut us some slack
T is for TV getting kids off our back
U is for underwire ‘cause Mama’s boobs are flappy
V is for vibrators that make Mama so happy
W is for whiskey, sipped out of a cup
X is for Xanax, when Mama’s worked up
Y is for “yes, Mama”--better than “no!”
Z is for Zzzzzz, off to bed we all go!

©2005, Psycho Kitty and Orange

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Shiksa alert!

Remember the Seinfeld episode called "The Bris," in which Elaine has to hire a mohel to circumcise a friend's baby? This is the same episode in which Kramer sees a pigman in the hospital, and a suicidal jumper lands on George's beautifully parked car, and Jerry the godfather flinches during the circumcision and gets his finger sliced. You can read the entire script here (you'll have to do the voices yourself).

I just read it because I've been invited to a bris for the first time, and I had to do my research. Kramer tries to sway the baby's parents: Imagine, this will be his first memory. Of someone yanking the hat off his little man. I know you love your baby, but what kind of perverts would stand idly by while a stranger rips the cover off his 9-iron and then serve a catered lunch? As I understand it, this week's bris will be a little more breakfasty. I've been promised a morning of bagels and wine, which I can get on board with. I mean, who's got time for a full luncheon two days before Christmas? Presumably a whole lotta Jewish people, yes, but I'm not sure I'll be done buying and wrapping Christmas presents by this Friday.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Strange and lovely bedfellows

Top five reasons to share your bed with someone:

5. They warm up the bed on a cold night.
4. There's someone there to turn on the light and kill the imaginary spiders.
3. Spooning/cuddling.
2. Sex.
1. When you stretch while half asleep and get a charleyhorse, they will fix it for you while you holler "Ow ow ow ow ow!"

Top five reasons to sleep alone:

5. Some people steal the covers.
4. Snoring.*
3. Morning breath.
2. Sneak attacks.**
1. Dutch oven and related gaseous events.

*Unless you yourself are the snorer, in which case it's a charming affectation.

**Once, Mr. Tangerine bit me on the shoulder in his sleep. The moral? Don't let a man go to bed hungry.


What's on your lists?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Linkapalooza

The "Blogs I Read All Day, Every Day" blogroll is freshly updated. Let me tell you a little about the newcomers to the list. Every single one of them makes me laugh and makes me think. And if we had functioning teleportation devices, I would totally make out with all of these people. (At the same time.)

QWMaine.com is a funny man. He gets a little ranty at times (see today's post about the so-called war on Christmas), but it's all good.

Michael Bérubé Online is written by a literature and cultural studies professor, implausibly named Michael Bérubé. I confess my eyes do glaze over on Theory Thursdays, but I groove on the smart, funny, liberal, literate vibe. There's always a party in the comments thread.

You know who's right up my alley? DoctorMama. She's an internist with a toddler and a smart mouth. I mean, a smart brain. Or both, really.

The Assimilated Negro is often hilarious, but sometimes tugs at your heartstrings. (Nobody tell him.) He's the anti-gangsta's hip-hop connection.

In Screed, ding serves up regular doses of the political and the personal, and also occasionally dissects particularly egregious NYT articles. She's excellent company for margaritas and shopping, too. Mabuhay, ding!

Churp, Churp is hosted by Cricket, who is the finest insect of my acquaintance, bar none. (You hear that, Grasshopper?)

There's another liberal professor (it must be a plot!) at Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk. Rob's a philosopher, a dad, and a feminist.

After School Snack is a group blog written mainly by Elise (who guest-hosted at Bitch Ph.D. last summer), Matt, and Christopher. Plenty of politics, rants, links to good reads, and opportunities to list five things that please you.

If you appreciate nature writing, you'll dig Chris Clarke's Creek Running North. He seems to save his funniest lines for comments at Bérubé's blog, but you'll have to visit Chris's blog for the environmental/poetic/personal. Chris is the one who started up Blog Against Racism Day; like me, his spouse is Asian.

Figleaf's Real Adult Sex isn't exactly what it sounds like. Figleaf's a regular married man who writes thoughtfully about sex. (He took a cheesy URL out of its fishnets and and dressed it in respectable clothes.) He's also an avid participant in that Half-Nekkid Thursday business and takes some evocative photos.

Becky The Absent Minded Housewife is, as it turns out, Really Quite Funny.

Thought Concoction is where Mignon (a regular commenter around these parts) hangs out. She's one of those snarky moms I enjoy reading so much. Also, I just learned from her Blogger profile that she works as a pirate. In Montana! Boy, that must be some commute.

Grandma

My 93-year-old grandmother is at a rehab center. No, not the Colin Farrell/Robert Downey Jr. type of place, but rather a nursing home where she can get physical therapy to aid the transition from hospital to home. Anyway, she'd been laid up in the hospital for 10 days. Last night, at about 1 a.m. as Grandma tells it, a night-shift male nurse came in and offered her a shower. After going so long without bathing, it sure sounded tempting. But Grandma's a traditional old white lady with traditional old attitudes towards people of color, and the nurse/aide was a big, burly black man. So first she declined the offer. Then she thought to herself (and I quote what she told me), "You big dummy. They wouldn't have him here if he wasn't all right," so she got nekkid with a big, burly man. He washed her bits, he washed her body, he shampooed her hair. And she feels great! Of course you feel great, Gram—you just got naked in the shower with a man for the first time in your life! (I'm guessing. I suppose it's possible her past is more checkered than she lets on.) And he washed your bits for you!

What makes this story great, to me, is that Grandma chastised herself with the old "Sanford and Son" catchphrase, "You big dummy."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The memory party

Lisa and Cricket both asked their readers to concoct fictional memories. It's great fun to indulge in a paragraph or three of creative writing.

So make up a memory of something you and I experienced, write it up in the comments zone, and delight me (and yourself) with your imagination...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Holy war: the Pope vs. the Christian Right

According to this AP article, not all Christians believe that the best way to honor the spirit of Christmas is via Target circulars and store greeters.

Why, no less a personage than Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that Christmas festivities have been tainted by consumerism: "In today's consumer society, this time (of the year) is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit, which is characterized by meditation, sobriety and by a joy that is not exterior but intimate," said Benedict. "Assembling the Nativity scene in the home can turn out to be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith to pass it on to one's children. The Nativity scene helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God, which is revealed to us in the poverty and simplicity of the grotto in Bethlehem."

But what about the poverty and simplicity of ads for Target?

(Poor Target. The reproductive rights crowd is mad at them for allowing some pharmacists to refuse to dispence emergency contraception, and the Christian Right crowd is boycotting them. Who is left to shop at Target? Only the middle-of-the-road folks who skip the news.)

Are there no douchebags in Canada?

A couple months ago, I wrote about the word douchebag and my grandmother's unironic use thereof. Since then, do you know that at least 73 people have visited Orange Tangerine because they did a search for douchebag? Most of them are Canadian. What drives the Canadians to search the internets for douchebag information? Has douchebag-the-item never existed there? Or is douchebag-the-insult only beginning to catch on? If you are Canadian and can shed some light on this, please do.

The one time someone used the search terms "orange douchebag," it led to this linguistics-related post.

Update! Someone at Pixar just Googled douchebag and visited this site. I loved "Monsters Inc.," "Finding Nemo," and "The Incredibles," not to mention the "Toy Story" movies. I can't wait to see what Pixar does with douchebags! Fun for the whole family.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Required reading on bras

Bitch PhD explains it all in a DDD-sized post on bras. How to measure your proper bra size (the odds are excellent that you should really be wearing a smaller band size and a larger cup size). Where to shop. What brands to seek out. How to check for proper fit. Maternity/nursing bras. In the comments section, there are many more reader tips for situations Dr. B doesn't address, like bras for small-breasted women. Go read it, ladies, and send the link along to the women you know.

My only quibble is that Dr. B says to use the tightest set of hooks on a bra, whereas Oprah's bra experts said to use the loosest (leaving leeway to tighten the fit as the bra stretches out over time). I vote for Oprah's method, as it lets me fit comfortably into a smaller band size than I'd been wearing.

Additional info: Click this link for more on determining your correct bra size, courtesy of a bra-fitting expert who contacted Dr. B.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kindergartner blogging

Clearly, Ben needs to drink more water. First he called his nuggets "party poo." This morning? He announced that his poop came out "single file." (Plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop.) Which, I suppose, is better than coming out in buddy pairs, holding hands. Or in a stampeding mob.

What's your favorite potty metaphor?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hooray for Westin Hotels!

Hotel rooms have enough mysterious stains and smells without adding cigarettes to the mix. According to this AP article today, the Westin chain is the first to go 100% smoke-free. Starting January 1, they'll have a no-smoking policy in the guest rooms, hallways, restaurants, and lobbies, as well as by the pool; anyone who stinks up a room by smoking will be charged a $200 cleaning fee.

Now, if Chicago would just pass a smoking ban for its restaurants and bars, I'd be all set. The City Council is contemplating a restaurant smoking ban, but I think they plan to exempt bars—why must the universe conspire to make it harder for me to go out drinking? Why?

Update: Hooray! The Chicago City Council just approved an ordinance today (Dec. 7) that bans smoking in virtually all public places in the city. Restaurant bars and taverns are granted 2½ years to come into compliance.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Yo, anyone going to Sundance?

There's a hot new documentary called Wordplay that will premiere next month at the Sundance Film Festival. You know it's hot when my beloved Language Log takes notice, right? And any doc that makes the cut at Sundance must be pretty damned good—more than 700 films were submitted but a mere 16 were selected for the festival.

"What is this Wordplay?" you ask. "I am intrigued." It's filmmaker Patrick Creadon's look into the world of crosswords, particularly the New York Times puzzle and its editor, Will Shortz, as well as the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and its übergeek competitors. Patrick was a ubiquitous presence at the tournament last March, but there was some sort of malfunction with his camera—it was largely incapable of being aimed at yours truly until nigh unto the end of the tournament. So I may or may not appear in this film, but at the very least, I know several people who are featured prominently in it and will be going to Sundance for the premiere.

I'm hoping that (1) I am not on the cutting room floor, (2) the camera did not add umpteen pounds, and (3) the movie gets picked up by a distributor and plays for months at theatres nationwide, because I have got to see it (and the movie could help explain some of my nuttiness to my friends who maybe don't quite get it). And think of all the Hollywood swells who might see the movie at Sundance! Do you think Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., or George Clooney might go? I bet they all love crosswords.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Fruit blogging!

Two things.

Thing the first: I am eating an orange at this very moment. It sounds autocannibalistic, or racy, but it's actually quite tasty.

Thing the second: You know how sometimes you try to peel a banana, and the stem end just won't crack open the way it should? And you may pull out a knife in your impotent rage to cut the peel, or keep wrestling with the banana until the top end is all mushy? Guess what: You are allowed to peel the banana from the other end. It works. In fact, it is culturally imperialistic to insist on opening a banana only from the stem end, because people in other countries are quite willing to peel from the other end.

Blog Against Racism

Let me give you my life story through the lens of race.

My parents grew up in white ethnic families living in white ethnic communities. After they married in 1964, they moved into an apartment in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood—the site of some sort of demonstration against Martin Luther King, Jr.—not far from where my dad was raised.

After I was born two years later, they moved the family to a planned community known for its diversity. The suburb’s population, then and now, was mostly white and black, with a smattering of Asians and Latinos. When I was growing up, the black population accounted for about 20% of the town; it’s higher now. The school district included a predominantly black section of a neighboring town, and most of the children there were bused to our town. So my classes always included at least two racial/ethnic groups, sometimes four or five.

During my grade-school years, our neighborhood was diverse. There were mixed-race couples with kids; one such family had adopted sons who were Korean/African-American. A black family lived next door to us. A Japanese woman and her white husband lived across the street. There were white families and black families, and occasional singles and couples.

Then I went to small-town Minnesota for college. The school strove to attract a diverse student body, but they had a tough time attracting (and retaining) African-American and Latino students to such a white (and wintery) place. I remember a friend who grew up in Mankato arguing that there was no racism on campus, because after all, he wasn’t seeing it. My senior year, some students started up a White Students Against Racism discussion group, which I joined. One woman recalled the stress of being a retail employee instructed by her boss to watch the black customers to make sure they weren’t stealing.

After graduating, I returned to the Chicago area and got a job in publishing. There wasn’t much overt racism on display there, but I had a white colleague who took issue with her (Asian-American) editorial assistant’s use of a nickname on her business correspondence, saying it seemed “too ethnic.”

Then my Asian-American fiancé (the Mr. Tangerine we all know and love) graduated, and we got an apartment on the North Side. The Lakeview neighborhood is mostly white, but the area is still fairly diverse; not many poor people, no, but people of all colors and backgrounds, and a sizeable GLBT population. We got married (my relatives didn’t seem to have any reservations about his race—but then, many white people seem to have an easier time accepting Asians, being the “model minority” and all) and moved a few blocks north, closer to the partly poor Uptown neighborhood, but still in an area with largely the same demographics as Lakeview.

My husband grew up in a predominantly white suburb in Wisconsin, and reported sometimes feeling “different” as a result of his race. I didn’t want our child to ever feel that way, and we’re both so incredibly comfortable and at home in our neighborhood, we saw no reason to move to the ‘burbs after Ben was born. (Hell, I feel like a fish out water when I find myself in an almost-all-white environment; it feels like…something’s missing.)

“What about the terrible Chicago Public Schools?” the relatives quailed. As it turns out, Ben’s attending a good CPS magnet school just around the corner, and the student body reflects the city’s population: No ethnic group makes up a majority. Kids come from all over the city—some from 12 to 15 miles away! in city traffic! Some kids’ families are immigrants, hailing from something like 50 different countries. Different races, different religions, different languages, different cultures, different traditions. But they’re all learning the same curriculum and playing together; they all made paper turkeys before Thanksgiving (wait! unfair to vegetarians!).

I’m sure some of the kids attending Ben’s school will be exposed to racist attitudes at home and in society, but at school? I’m incredibly hopeful that the children who spend nine years in this multicultural environment will emerge from the cocoon as teenagers who can accept and look past differences, who feel completely comfortable being in the minority at times, who understand that every individual has something to contribute regardless of their color or background.

It’s unfortunate that most American children don’t have access to an educational experience like this. If they did, I believe the frayed edges and gaping holes in the nation’s fabric would be mended within a few generations.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hey, December 1 is "Blog Against Racism" day

And I haven't written a post yet. Stay tuned...

A good morning

My husband nudged me awake. My eyes sought out the clock, which informed me that it was 7:28 a.m. Yoicks! Kindergarten starts at 8:00. I got dressed and rousted Ben out of bed, battling his sleepy reluctance to do anything but cuddle. I wrestled him into his clothes, attempted (unsuccessfully) to smooth out his tousled bedhead, and had the daily morning toothbrushing standoff (invariably it involves Ben asking, “What if I throw up?”).

Out to the living room, 7:45. Shoes on; coat on; hat, scarf, and gloves on. Backpack on. Dreading the cold air and feeling whiny about a sore throat, I opened the front door.

What’s this? Snow? Huh? Hey, it’s snowing! In an instant, a morning beset by minor woes became a perfect morning. There was just enough snow to give everything a clean white blanket, and to crunch underfoot in staccato bursts of sound like popcorn popping. Ben swiped a fingertip across a car window to peek in through the snow cover, finding it magical. He stopped walking and stuck out his tongue to capture snowflakes; I did the same.

We hit a windy pocket at the end of the block. The wind’s sting made us grateful when we rounded the corner and our faces warmed again. We heard two crows having a harsh conversation. We saw footprints in the snow from schoolchildren and adults, from large dogs and small, and talked about following one set of tracks to see where it led.

Ben entered the school building and I turned around to walk home, crunching snow in staccato bursts. The wind stang, but calmer air imparted a sense of peace, perfection. Birds clustered in a tree, fluffing their feathers against the cold, perhaps eating the tree’s tiny apples, so weighed down by the snow that many had tumbled to the sidewalk to be crushed underfoot.

Happy December, everyone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Holiday shopping...for yourself

My friend Flea, the purveyor of sex toys and related products, is running a sale at the Honeysuckle Shop—40% off your purchase if you enter the coupon code BLOG at checkout. (Don't quote me on this, but I believe she includes batteries.) Hypothetically, you could order a $40 toy, pay tax and $7.95 in shipping, and end up paying less than $35 for an item that runs $50 at drugst0re.com. And you'd be doing business with an independent retailer. What's not to love?

Monday, November 28, 2005

K's most excellent joke

Last night, while walking home from the Restaurant of Braying Suburbanites, my friend K. said she'd read Jay Leno's joke about female suicide bombers—something having to do with the whole "72 virgins" deal. K. had a much better punchline, which you'd think the women on Leno's writing staff could have come up with. "72 virgins? Don't give me 72 virgins. Give me one man who knows what he's doing."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Mockery

Mr. Tangerine took Ben up to his folks' this weekend, leaving me behind to do grown-up things. I watched some TiVo (Maureen Dowd's recent appearance on "Charlie Rose"), did some crosswords, and ate some Thanksgiving leftovers before I motivated myself to shower and get dressed this afternoon.

Then I hopped on the bus downtown and went to Nordstrom's—my lingerie mentor Bitch Ph.D., a.k.a. the Distinguished Professor of Brassiere and Shoe Studies, had advised me that I must shop for bras at Nordstrom's, and that Felina was the brand that would offer foxy styles in my size. My goodness, those Nordstrom's employees are solicitous! They more than made up for the pestilence of out-of-town shoppers polluting Michigan Avenue this weekend. And if the good Dr. B ever gives you advice about bras, for the love of cleavage, take her advice! She is wise in the ways of the brassiere. Earlier this year, she recommended the Wacoal brand, and I now own five Wacoal bras. This fall, Dr. B said Felina, and I now own a lovely Felina demi-cup bra in a deep raspberry hue. I try on other brands, but invariably, what fits is what Dr. B has told me to try.

After my shopping expedition, I cabbed it to the local art cinema to meet an old friend, K., for the Claire Danes/Steve Martin/Jason Schwartzman movie, Shopgirl, which we both liked a lot. After the show, we crossed the street to a French restaurant I like so I could partake of poulet au curry crepes (yum) and French wine (two glasses, my tipsy-making limit!). Regrettably, the table behind K. contained six reasonably quiet men at one end and SEVEN LOUD WOMEN at the end closer to us. "Howler monkeys," K. called them. The woman in the mustard-colored sweater had a laugh that was bleatingly reminiscent of Tom Hulce's laugh in Amadeus. (So charming!) The rest of us in the nonsmoking room partook of a shared mockery of the jackals/monkeys—lots of eye-rolling and whatnot—but alas, the jackals/monkeys remained drunkenly oblivious to the how much their LOUDNESS really IRRITATED EVERYONE ELSE. K. and I concluded that this group Came From The Suburbs. No North Side woman would be caught dead wearing a velour Royal Stewart tartan top, I assure you. (Who knew such a thing even existed?) Nor a black sweater festooned with sparkly marquise-cut rhinestones. Nor so many bad, bad highlights in not-really-blonde hair. The LOUD laughter was punctuated at times by vigorous foot stomping, which did not abate even when the guy behind me stomped his foot in a call-and-response form of sheer mockery. Occasionally K. or I would bray in Amadeus-style laughter, to no avail—they who Came From The Suburbs were beyond reach. And good lord, they were intent on closing the place down. We'd hoped to outlast them, but did so only because we stayed to enjoy the peace for a few minutes after the LOUD PEOPLE left, even though the busboy had blown out the candles at all the empty tables.

Can you make me a promise, dear readers? If you happen to own any apparel in the velour tartan category, would you please burn it? It's for the best. Honest.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Being and nothingness

If a blogger writes a post but has nothing to say, does anyone leave comments? This age-old question has vexed philosophers since time immemorial...

Yesterday, the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice was on cable. I missed the first three hours, but the second three hours were great anyway. The first time I'd seen this production was about 10 years ago on a friend's 13-inch TV, so I had missed the key visual detail: the passion, torment, yearning, tumult, love, and regret in Mr. Darcy's eyes pretty much any time he was on screen. Maybe he overdid it a teeny bit, but now I understand the reason for all the fuss about Colin Firth as Darcy. The guy who plays Darcy in the new P&P movie looks like a callow youth, and he has bad hair, so what's the point of seeing it? I will wait for Brokeback Mountain to slake my yearning-man jones.

Wouldn't that be a heckuva thing, if they got rid of the annual Burning Man oddball arts fiesta and changed it to Yearning Man? Match.com could be the corporate sponsor. Speaking of which, did you hear about the people who are suing Match.com and Yahoo's dating service because they think the companies are tricking them into subscribing by showing them fake profiles? One guy actually thinks Match.com sent an employee out on a date with him to keep his $29.99 a month rolling in. The dating service has something like 15 million members. How many employees do you think it has? Enough to send them on dates with impatient subscribers? Sure, that sounds reasonable.

If you're tired of pumpkin pie and want some beefcake, Avatar posted a link to some artful photos of French rugby players sans uniform, covering their bits with rugby balls or small towels. Wouldn't that be a lovely calendar to hang on the wall? Update! Orange has received word that Italy's national rugby team consists of firemen, and they are also hot.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Awaiting Brokeback Mountain

Am I the only straight woman who can't wait to see Brokeback Mountain? I'm not a huge fan of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, or of cowboys, or of westerns. But there's just something magnetic about those two men dressed up as cowboys and filled with the yearning of a forbidden love. (It must be the yearning thing.) I plan to see the movie, swoon, and cry. Who's with me?

After writing that paragraph, I watched the preview via the link above. It confirms: Yes, I don't care for rodeos and smoking cowboys and whatnot. But the relationship part of the movie looks just stunningly heartbreaking. The movie opens December 9.

Obama's speech on the war in Iraq

Senator Barack Obama spoke at length to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations today. The full text of his speech is available here. Key excerpts from the Tribune report by Jeff Zeleny follow:

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) rejected Tuesday the call for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, declaring: "I believe that U.S. forces are still a part of the solution in Iraq."

"During the course of the next year, we need to focus our attention on how to reduce the U.S. military footprint in Iraq," Obama said in Chicago. "Notice that I say 'reduce,' and not 'fully withdraw.'"

"The Administration has narrowed an entire debate about war into two camps: 'cut-and-run' or 'stay the course'," Obama said. "If you offer any criticism or even mention that we should take a second look at our strategy and change our approach, you're branded 'cut-and-run.' If you're ready to blindly trust the Administration no matter what they do, you're willing to stay the course."

"We don't necessarily need a timetable, in the sense of a precise date for U.S. troop pull-outs, but a time-frame for such a phased withdrawal," Obama said. "We need to say that there will be no bases in Iraq a decade from now and the United States armed forces cannot stand-up and support an Iraqi government in perpetuity."

After the parliamentary elections in Iraq, which are scheduled for Dec. 15, Obama said the United States should begin devising a strategy for the gradual withdrawal of the more than 160,000 troops in Iraq. He offered general recommendations, but conceded there were no "magic bullets for a good outcome in Iraq."

Still, the Democratic senator chastised the administration for failing to encourage debate or give an honest assessment of the war in Iraq.

"The president could take the politics out of Iraq once and for all if he would simply go on television and say to the American people: 'Yes, we made mistakes. Yes, there are things that I would have done differently. But now that I'm here, I'm going to work with both Republicans and Democrats to find the most responsible way out,' " Obama said. "Imagine if he did that, how it would transform the politics of our country."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Recipe blogging, Thanksgiving edition

This is completely unlike me, but I am going to share a holiday recipe with you because it doesn't seem like Thanksgiving to me without it.

I was such a picky eater until adulthood, the first time I ever ate sweet potatoes was when I first had Thanksgiving dinner at the house where Mr. Tangerine grew up. We've been together since the late '80s, so these sweet potatoes and I, we go way back. My mother-in-law makes the world's best turkey—even the white meat is tender and juicy—but it's her sweet potatoes I can't get enough of. They could double as dessert.

This year, we're having Thanksgiving Day brunch at my sister's, which means that there will be no giant turkey dinner—but dammit, I will have my mother-in-law's sweet potatoes because I've got the recipe now.

Mom's Sweet Sweet Potatoes

8 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup of brown sugar
1 stick of butter (or 1 1/2 sticks if you like 'em buttery)
1 cup of orange juice concentrate

Boil the sweet potatoes for about 45 minutes until they're soft when you poke them with a fork. Drain and cool. Peel the sweet potatoes. Mash with a potato masher and pull out any stringy bits you run into.

Melt the butter and brown sugar together and mix into the mashed sweet potatoes. Then add the OJ concentrate.

Scoop the mixture into a casserole dish, smooth the top, and bake at 375° for 30 to 45 minutes or until the edges turn brown.

Serve to great acclaim.

Modifications to recipe, or
How I Actually Made the Sweet Sweet Potatoes
(Should I call it Orange's Sweet Potatoes?)


6 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup of brown sugar
1 stick of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
almost 1 cup of orange juice concentrate (thawed)

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into halves or thirds. Boil for about 30 to 35 minutes or until they're soft when you poke them with a fork. Drain the pan and let one chunk of sweet potato fall into the sink. (Leave it there.) Mash the surviving potato chunks with a potato masher.

Melt the butter and brown sugar together (30 seconds in the microwave should do), stir in the vanilla, and mix into the mashed sweet potatoes. Then add the OJ concentrate and stir it up.

Scoop one serving of sweet potatoes into a bowl for yourself and eat it. Dump the rest of it into a casserole dish (it looks a tad shallow in a 9x13 pan, so maybe a 9x9 would be better) and smooth the top. Store it in the fridge.

Tomorrow, bake it at 375° for 30 to 45 minutes or just until the edges begin to turn brown, really just to reheat the sweet potatoes ('cause they taste perfectly fine without this step). Serve to great acclaim.

Monday, November 21, 2005

December 1 is "Blog Against Racism" day

Chris Clarke of Creek Running North wrote this recently:

Which is all a very long-winded way of declaring December 1, 2005 - the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks' heroic act of civil disobedience on that Montgomery bus - "Blog Against Racism" day, in which people post something on the very broad and complex subject of racism. You don't need to have a political blog to participate. Race, after all, affects almost every aspect of life in one way or another. Your post might be literary in nature, or historical, or concern current issues in need of political attention. You might take the opportunity to debunk scientific racism, or write poetry or essays about personal experiences, uplifting or depressing.

I don't have a clue what I'll write (any ideas??), but I want to do it. If you're interested in taking part too, mention the date on your blog and leave a note in Chris's comments section.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's a party!

Young Ben just summoned me to the bathroom, having pooped. (I keep forgetting that wiping is really something he should be doing for himself.) Now, typically he doesn't editorialize about the day's production, but this time? "It's a party poo." Meaning the toilet bowl contained a festive assortment of discrete nuggets, and when that many of them gather in one place, it's gotta be a party! I honestly don't know where he came up with that.

(I think he may need to drink more water.)

In the course of doing some medical editing, I encountered a handy new word, and I want you all to start using it. There are a few equivalent versions, so I'm sure you'll find one you're comfortable with. Stercoraceous, stercorous, or stercoral, all with the stress on the first syllable, meaning "having to do with excrement." Why call someone on their BS when instead you can impugn their rhetoric as being stercoraceous? Don't call that lousy movie merely "crappy"—call it "one of the more stercoraceous films in the director's oeuvre."

What kind of woman are you?

We have all sorts of phrases to describe men who like a certain type of woman or, more particularly, a certain anatomical feature. Most commonly, there are ass men, leg men, and breast men. Some fellows prefer women with a certain hair color, or they like a general build (curvy, slender, or fat), or maybe they have an elbow fetish.

Colloquially, you don't much hear talk of "an ass woman" or "a shoulders girl," and yet most women who are attracted to men can highlight their favorite physical details. (This is in addition to the standard criteria like "must have a sense of humor," "has to get along with his mother...but not too well," etc.) It could be broad shoulders, a certain height, great eyes, wavy hair, delicious abs, a muscular butt, lush lips, strong legs, impressive but not overly large biceps, a really hairy back (okay, I made that one up), fantastic cheekbones, a great chest, or something else entirely.

What particular part(s) do you like enough to call yourself an [insert part here] woman?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Closed on Sundays

When did this open? "The Holy Land Experience" is one of Orlando's newest attractions, apparently, as I hadn't heard of it before seeing billboards last week. Apparently it's like Epcot-does-Jerusalem.

The website itself is a hoot: While loading the buttons for the left sidebar, there was a little fine print that said "Holyland Buttons Loading." (Thanks for the explanation! But why so slow? I've got high-speed access, baby. Holiness must gum up the works.) The Oasis Palms Café (variously called "Oasis Palm's Café," in a holy case of apostrophe misuse) features a genuine vegetarian Mediterranean Sampler (tempting!), plus the Goliath Burger. (Of course. But why no Jumbo All-Beef Jesus Dog?) They've got the theme-park shop, the Old Scroll Shop, set up for online retail. You want audiobooks on the end times? This is the place.

They show a short movie in the Theatre of Life, "The Seed of Promise." I don't think it has to do with the spilling of seed, though. Different seed. And there's a "New! Exhibit!" (Jesus would weep to see such punctuation abuse), "A Day in the Life of a Monk." (I'm not sure, but I think it usually involves Monk cracking the case when the police can't, owing to the phenomenal attention to detail that accompanies his OCD.) Cognitive dissonance, though: If the theme park's supposed to put visitors in touch with what it was like in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, what's the medieval monk doing on the premises? Can we get some consistency here, folks?

I got pretty excited when I saw the Holyland Button for job opportunities. Sadly, there are currently no job openings. I'll keep checking...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Shocking but true: I want to start a new meme

C'mon, let's all play! Write 10 things about your dating/sexual history (in the comments or at your own blog) that are shocking but true. Here's mine:

1. Nobody asked me out in high school.
2. My first kiss was in freshman year...of college.
3. In sophomore year of college, I went out with a guy named...Binks.
4. One summer during the college years, I stayed on campus to work and generally avoid living with my parents. I had a ten-guy summer—but it was just making out, since I was a virgin at the time. People who didn't know I was a virgin thought I was a total slut.
5. I lost my virginity at age 21, just before senior year of college began. His member was curved, and his mother fucked up Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with onion flakes. (You can't do that.)
6. I once made out with a guy named Thor. (In Minnesota, these things happen.)
7. My interracial involvements have included two or maybe three Asians, a South Asian (a Bengali from Nepal, I think), and one guy who was part American Indian. I slept in a black guy's bed for six weeks, but he wasn't there.
8. I've never done anything with another girl or woman.
9. My total number of sexual partners stands at two.
10. I have been monogamous for 17.5 years.

Obama via satellite

Senator Barack Obama did appear on "The Daily Show" last night, but via satellite from Washington. Obama was having a good time—his broad smile threatened to split his head open. Jon Stewart cracked him up, and he cracked Jon up. The good senator is a funny man—who knew? You can either catch one of the reruns today, or read about their conversation here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

So much to report, but none of any import

Howdy! Did you miss me? Let me tell you what I've been up to. Friday, Mr. Tangerine and I hauled Ben out of a sound sleep and into a taxi to O'Hare Airport for an early flight to Florida. While traversing the airport, the Chicago Sun-Times cover leapt out at me from a bank of newspaper vending boxes. What's this? "Daley's War on Poetry"? The mayor, who encourages the entire city to read the same book each summer, is anti-poetry?!? It can't be! And it isn't. The headline actually said "Daley's War on Poverty." I kinda like it better the first way.

We rented a shiny new convertible in Orlando and began driving to my in-laws'. Wouldn't you know it? We missed our exit. Twice. (I blame poor signage, as is my wont.) Getting ourselves turned back around involved getting stuck in a roadwork-related traffic jam that chewed up a lot of time, so one of our several turnarounds took us through an Arby's drive-through. Would you believe they had run out of roast beef? At Arby's! (I suspect a recall or a case of rotting meat.) My no-mayo turkey sandwich came with both turkey and mustard, which are vile condiments that should not pass my lips. (Fuckers.)

On Saturday, we went to a "festival of the arts" in Inverness, Florida. First of all, a large ceramic frog that dispenses toilet paper like an endless white tongue? Not art. A large portrait of George and Laura Bush, looking 15 years younger and blander? Not art. Margaritaville/parrothead wooden signs? Not art. Silk flower arrangements? Not art. Kitchen towels cut in half with a crocheted loop sewn on so you can hang the half towel from a fridge or oven handle? Not art. There were occasional flourishes of art, but mostly crap.

But Inverness is lovely. Near the "historic" courthouse (It dates all the way back to 1912! Which is when my grandma was born, so it's not like it's from The Land Before Time.), there was a small law-firm office. The junior guy with his name on the door? Last name: Evilsizer. Seriously.

And across the road from the Evilsizer office, there's a barbershop that sells t-shirts reading "Save a fish, eat a cooter." That's right, people: Inverness is the home of the Cooter Festival we all learned about last year on "The Daily Show." 'Round those parts, a cooter is a small turtle, and the town leaders blithely organized a festival without regard, apparently, for the popularity of "cooter" as slang for a woman's genitals.

On the road between Inverness and my in-laws' place, there's a furniture store called Badcock. Sadly, I did not get a picture of the sign proudly emblazoned with the store's name. Mr. Tangerine wondered if Mr. Evilsizer has had any doings with Badcock.

And speaking of "The Daily Show," I have some sad news. Yesterday, Barack Obama's spokesman reported that the good senator must remain in Washington today to vote on a defense spending bill, alas, and thus will not be making his "Daily Show" debut today. Deep sigh.

Back on the home front, there is some good news. For the last two weeks, my UPS packages had been delivered by rather homely fellows, and I began to despair that the regular guy, the one I've enjoyed seeing every week since 1997, had been transferred. But today he was back—he and the missus had sold their house and had to pack boxes. Apparently he packed his hair because the auburn curls are gone, replaced by a crew cut. I can wait for the hair to grow back in...

Friday, November 04, 2005

This is terrible

I will be forsaking the Orange Tangerine universe for a few days. Nobody but Kathie paid any attention to the last post, so I can't just leave that one up top for three days. I need something zippy, something that spurs lively conversation in the comments zone. But what? I lack inspiration.

Sex, food, and potty talk are always big hits. How about kidblogging? My kid has taken to calling me "Mommom" lately. I think it's adorable, but I won't hold it against you if you don't.

Potty talk? The Feral Mom pointed me toward ratemypoo.com, which is completely horrifying. If you like that sort of thing, check it out. But I'm warning you, it's gross. It's photos of non-empty toilets, and you're supposed to rate the poo, and it looks like every single poo averages about a 5.1 to 5.8. So that's kinda pointless. Nothing rates a 1 or a 10? Feh.

Food? Nah. I'm all sandwiched out. I'm still not sure which is worse, though: Puffintoad's peanut butter and mayo, or Psycho Kitty's peanut butter and sauerkraut. Both appall me.

That leaves sex. Let's see what we've got. For position recommendations, visit The Lowland Seed to find out what's working for Sergei and Mona. You can't beat their patented Astronaut—if you're in a male/female relationship, try it out tonight. In other personal topics, I just bought this trimmer to keep my bits tidy. Haven't tried it yet, but it looks promising. Last but not least, two of my famous boyfriends are going to be on TV together. That's right: Senator Barack Obama, whom I love, will be on "The Daily Show" Monday night with Jon Stewart, whom I dreamed about (in the dream, we were totally making out, but then I put a stop to it because my subconscious, apparently, is scrupulously monogamous). As my friend Flea pointed out to me, "Women all over the country will explode as soon as those two shake hands." Gentlemen, you can take it easy Monday night. Barack and Jon will take care of the foreplay for you.

Have a great weekend, people!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Missives from Spamland

Okay, I understand that spammers have programmed their spam machines to generate random pairs of words for subject lines to elude the filters. I understand there is no meaning to them. But sometimes I love what they send me! There was one that featured the new phrase, "anus bolster." It occurs to me that such an item, if it existed, might be just what my grandma needs to remedy a couple of her complaints. More recently, I received a hot stock tip with the subject line "RE: warty creamery." I like to get Heath bars and pecans mixed into my ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery; what delights await me at Warty Creamery?

Someday, someone somewhere is sure to Google these phrases, and they'll be so sad to see I know so little about these subjects. So they'll return to the Google results and see ads for "shop for warty creamery at eBay" and "find books about anus bolster." They will click on those links and be disappointed anew, won't they?

I've also been having a hard time deleting the one with the subject line, "Launch an appearance of success with one of our imitation watches." What provides the veneer of status better than an imitation watch? They're not claiming to have imitation Rolexes; for all I know, it could be an imitation Casio with a painted-on digital readout.

Thank you. That is all.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

For you naysayers

For those of who looked askance at my selection of Brad Pitt for a position on my freebie-lay list—who said either "He's merely good-looking" or, alternatively, "He doesn't do anything for me," check this out: Brad Pitt is now using his stardom to bring more attention to the issues of African poverty and disease. He's narrating six hour-long episodes of a PBS documentary, ""RX for Survival: A Global Health Challenge."

In other updates to the freebie list, I'm thinking of replacing Bill Clinton with Robert Downey Jr. Two reasons: Downey, who's 40 now, should look like Keith Richards after all his years of drugging, and yet...he's just plain hot. And when he was interviewed recently in Entertainment Weekly, the writer kept exclaiming about how smart and verbally adept Downey is. I will always love Bill Clinton as the bestest president ever, but he's looking a little too...statesmanlike, too elder-statesmanlike, these days.

So, to recap: Brad Pitt and George Clooney, for looks combined with political activism; Bruce Willis, with the lights off, for that yummy voice; Russell Wong, in the obligatory handsome-Asian position; and Robert Downey Jr., for getting better with age. Also, I understand there's a kissing scene in his new movie, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", and that kiss is between Downey and Val Kilmer. Delicious!

Monday, October 31, 2005

I read a book! I read a book!

I love to buy books, but don't often make the time to actually read them. (Far too busy reading blogs, dammit.) This month, though, I read a new book, Dan Savage's latest: The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family.

Savage, of course, writes the internationally syndicated sex advice column, Savage Love, and wrote the incisive and entertaining book Skipping Towards Gomorrah.

In his new book, he examines the issue of same-sex marriage as he and his partner Terry wrestle with the idea of getting married (or getting "Property of..." tattoos) as their tenth anniversary approaches. Savage also looks into the general institution of marriage, the conventions of monogamy, and the real-life marriages, divorces, and relationships in his family. Although many of the reviews have focused on the issue of gay marriage, I thought the book had just as much to say about the meaning of plain ol' straight marriage.

I strongly recommend The Commitment to anyone with an interest in love and relationships, straight, bi, or gay. Buy it, check it out of the library, or borrow my copy—but read it. I could ramble on about the book, but I'd rather you just read it yourselves, okay?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mr. Tangerine strikes again

When you blow your nose, do you ever take a look at the tissue to see what you're dealing with? Sure you do. If you check a baby's dirty diaper for color and consistency to monitor his health, why wouldn't you give your snot a cursory inspection as well?

I have a slight cold, so when I blew my nose last night during the baseball game, I had a little look-see. "Are you reading tea leaves there? Can you predict the future?" Mr. Tangerine asked. This made me laugh. Hard. Did you ever try to blow your nose while laughing? I daresay it's impossible. (Is his comment riotously funny, or is it one of those "you had to be there" things? 'Cause I couldn't stop laughing.)

Anyway, I took a good close look at my used Puffs, but it did not reveal the outcome of the ball game. What good are boogers if they won't tell you the obvious, that the White Sox would win Game 4? Sheesh. I've got to work harder on this prognostication thing.

I think Ben may be able to tap into these powers, too. When he wipes his butt, he always swipes the paper all the way around (I know: ack!) so he can see what he's working with. I'm going to start asking him to foretell the future in the poop smears on the TP.

Join us, won't you?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why I don't buy my kid toys at Wal-Mart

When Ben was home sick for a few days last week, he watched a lot of TV (because I'm a good parent!) and thus saw a lot of commercials. One of his favorite advertised items was a big green car that kids can drive on their spacious suburban lawns, and the car is a Wal-Mart exclusive (doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?). Every time the ad came on, he said he wanted to buy that car at Wal-Mart, and every time, I told him we don't shop at Wal-Mart (aside from the fact that we don't have room for a car that size and he wouldn't have a good place to ride in it, us being urbanites and all).

Why don't we shop at Wal-Mart? Because when I read this NYT article, my eyebrows were often arched sharply upward and my mouth was agape in response to what I was learning. Wal-Mart's executive VP for benefits, M. Susan Chambers, wrote a memo to the board of directors with her suggestions for ways to minimize benefit costs. Chambers had a lot of creative ideas to convey. Like adding physically strenuous work to every job description to keep those expensive unhealthy people from even applying for jobs. (Cashier? Excellent job for someone with limited mobility. Cashier who also is required to gather up carts? Those with a bad back, bad knees, or mobility problems need not apply.) I'm sure Wal-Mart could find a way to get around the Americans with Disabilities Act, but could they be bigger assholes?

As at most employers, people with more seniority get paid more than new employees in the same job. Many employers like to reward loyalty and minimize turnover. Wal-Mart's Chambers points out that someone with 7 years of experience costs the company 55% more than a new employee, but is no more productive a cog in the Wal-Mart machinery. Sacre bleu! At least, the NYT reports, "she stopped short of calling for efforts to push out more senior workers."

In the memo, Chambers did acknowledge that "our [health] coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance," and that 46% of the children of Wal-Mart employees are uninsured or on Medicaid.

How about that new health plan Wal-Mart ballyhooed this week, the one that costs the employee as little as $11 a month? Keep in mind that employees signed up for this plan could face $2,500 or more in annual out-of-pocket expenses, on an income of $17,500. But whatever plan the employees manage to afford, "The memo noted that 38 percent of Wal-Mart workers spent more than one-sixth of their Wal-Mart income on health care last year."

I do feel fortunate that my closest Wal-Mart is a lot farther than multiple Target stores and Costco, and that I can afford Target prices. Makes it a lot easier to be a pollitically correct shopper...

Monday, October 24, 2005

I know what you like

What captures the fancy of the Orange Tangerine crowd? What brings out the commenters in droves? Three things, apparently: sandwiches, boobs, and toilets. Are you proud of yourselves? Often only one or two of you respond to something Important, but sandwiches? Everybody's got something to say. That's fine, really. I don't mind. But if this blog became a three-topic site—Orange Tangerine: Eat Sandwiches, See Boobs, Poop—would my traffic soar or plummet? I like to think y'all love me for my mind, and I'd appreciate it if none of you would disabuse me of that notion. (My vote for most horrifying sandwich from the previous thread: peanut butter and mayonnaise. And I love PB. It's the mayo combo that is so off-putting.)

You don't seem to love the puke posts quite so much, but I've got one for you anyway. Ben is a savvy, smart kid who likes to figure out how to work the system. Since kindergarten started, every now and then he asks, "What if I throw up at school?" He's just trying to figure out what he has to do to get a free pass to stay home from school. (Even though he enjoys school, particularly the hot lunches.) I was determined to send him to school on Friday, after he'd spent three days home from school with a fever, cough, and laryngitis, and had advised him of this Thursday evening. So Friday morning, before he even got out of bed, he asked, "What if I throw up?" Two can play that game; "They'll see if you're really sick to your stomach and going to throw up again, and if you're really sick, they'll call me and I'll pick you up. But if it's just a one-time thing, you'll stay in school." (Probably a total misrepresentation of school policy, but I don't want to encourage him to try to outwit me vomitously.) He got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, made a dreadful face, and proceeded to throw up in the sink. Without even gagging himself! Just by thinking about it, the kid made himself throw up! (There is no limit to what he can accomplish in life with will power like that.) I assured him he was fine and gave him cough medicine and ibuprofen. He brushed his teeth, got dressed, and went to school. He was totally fine after school—running, scampering, and whatnot. (The footnote is that then he started having this incessant dry cough that led to repeated mini-pukes the last two evenings, but hey, it's totally unrelated to the make-a-face puking.) Apparently he even told his teacher that he'd thrown up, and he reports that she replied, "Oh, okay." I can't believe I didn't get a call from the nurse's office after that, but I imagine he was acting so perky the teacher didn't think he was any sicker than I did.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Recipe blogging!

We went to a family party this weekend where the entrées were rigatoni and Italian beef sandwiches. Ben loves pasta—indeed, noodles of all kinds—but he was also drawn to the sandwich rolls beside the pot o' beef. He insisted on having his pasta in sandwich form, asked for seconds, and then had another pasta sandwich for breakfast the next day.

Pasta Sandwich

Ingredients:

1 sandwich roll
1 scoop of pasta with sauce

Assembly:

Spoon pasta onto roll. Serve.
------------------

Of course, there are many other sandwich options to suit every taste. As a kid, I liked a good ketchup sandwich: ketchup spread on white bread. A friend of mine reports eating mayonnaise sandwiches. And you can't beat the simplicity of a butter sandwich.

What's your favorite nontraditional sandwich?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Drat, do I have to support American Girl now?

Although American Girl started off with the promise of girl-centric books, I haven't been a fan of the product line since downtown Chicago became infiltrated by hordes of well-off women and children bearing American Girl Place shopping bags filled with overpriced dolls and matchy-matchy clothes for girls and dolls alike. And the concept of special seating for dolls at the AGP restaurant? Ick. Whenever I encounter yet another group of AGP acolytes on Michigan Avenue, I express gratitude that I don't have a daughter and will probably never be beseeched, wheedled, or cajoled into going to the mecca that is American Girl Place.

The American Girl company now faces a boycott by Don Wildmon's American Family Association and Ann Scheidler's Pro-Life Action League. Why? Because American Girl is raising money for Girls Inc., a nonprofit group whose stated mission is "inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold." So what's the problem? Scheidler says, "While Girls Inc. has some good programs, they also support abortion, oppose abstinence-only education for girls, and condone lesbianism." Lawd ha' mercy! Not that!

Girls Inc. has been around for 140 years and serves 800,000 girls, most of them from low-income families. They also support women's rights. According to their website, "Girls Inc develops research-based informal education programs that encourage girls to take risks and master physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. Major programs address math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and sports participation." How controversial!

Now, you can buy all the American Girl dolls you want, but the money that goes to Girls Inc. is from their sales of "I Can" wristbands. Why not save yourself the trouble of buying another rubber bracelet and just donate to Girls Inc. instead?

Another grand idea: Mr. Tangerine asks, "Where's the American Boy Place?" He wants a place he and Ben and a doll can go, all three of them wearing matching outfits. That would be lovely, wouldn't it?

Master plan progress report

According to a new Gallup poll, hardly anyone under the age of 30 is opposed to interracial dating. While less than half of the old farts over the age of 65 approve, 95% of the 18- to 29-year-olds do. Roughly half of the people surveyed have dated outside their own race. Go check out the stats in the article if you don't believe me.

Phase 1: Acceptance of interracial dating. Status: Nearly complete.

Phase 2: More interracial marriages. Status: Work in progress; pockets of resistance remain.

Phase 3: Creating a superrace of multiracial people*. Status: Hey, I did as much as I could. It's up to the rest of you now.


*'Cause everybody knows that mixed-race kids are, on average, at least 40% better-looking than their parents, not to mention they've got a greatly reduced risk of genetic diseases.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Wow, that's a lot of repression

Over at Tertia's blog, it turns out that a lot of people would rather do things like constipate themselves for two weeks than generate a #2 in the same household as a romantic partner. Tertia used to race home from her future husband's place on the freeway to get to her own toilet, and still demands bathroom privacy. There are people who refuse to poop at someone else's house, or anywhere away from home. There's a woman who was too embarrassed to get out of the bath she was sharing with her man when she had to pee, so instead she peed in the tub and turned the water yellow (nice!). I never once heard my dad pass gas or burp, and there were two results: (1) wicked halitosis, and (2) early death. I'm telling you, the heart can't take so much stifling. It's not healthy.

On the other hand, some couples will have farting contests, I learned in Tertia's comments area. Somebody else has a mother-in law who is "so proud of her farts, she'll walk into a crowded room, say loudly, 'Your attention, please! A moment of silence!' She'll fart, dramatically, then say 'you may now continue,' and leave." (That woman is my hero.) There's one woman who farts in front of her husband, which distresses him, but she's doing it to avenge his farts.

We're a pretty relaxed family here in the Maison Tangerine. Those of you in the total-repression camp, I beg you: Loosen up before it's too late. Now, I'm not saying you should pull the Dutch oven trick or anything—that's just cruel to your bed partner—but life is too short to be all angsty about tooting and depositing logs.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Oops, she did it again

Remember the evangelical Christian couple that was featured on a cable show, "14 Kids and Pregnant Again!"—the Duggars from Arkansas? Julie at A Little Pregnant had a nice write-up of the show back in February. Well, apparently the Lord wanted Michelle Duggar to have yet another baby, because kid #16 was born this week.

What do you reckon over a dozen pregnancies and deliveries does to a woman's body? And is there any chance that Jesus will see fit to bring on early menopause?

As is the Duggars' wont, they went with another J name (though one of their past choices is arguably not really a J name), giving them this lineup: Joshua, 17; John David, 15; Janna, 15; Jill, 14; Jessa, 12; Jinger, 11; Joseph, 10; Josiah, 9; Joy-Anna, 8; Jeremiah, 6; Jedidiah, 6; Jason, 5; James, 4; Justin, 2; Jackson Levi, 1; and newborn Johannah. I'm not sure the household needed a Johannah when they already had a Joy-Anna, though. Or a Josiah on top of Joseph and Joshua. If the Lord doesn't serve up a timely dose of menopause, I really hope the Duggars get to use some great J names they've neglected thus far. Jehoshaphat, for one. Jezebel. Judas. Jethro Tull. Jemima. Job. Jibberish. Jesus. Not to mention a Jim Bob Jr., named after the dad, because that would be a proud legacy to carry on.

For all the infertile people who are told that maybe it's God's will that they not have children, ain't it lovely that the Lord is giving their allotment of children to the Duggars instead?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blogroll additions

Okay, I don't have time to both tell you about these bloggers and add them to the blogroll template, so for now, I'll just tell you about some men who merit your attention. (I'll do the women another day.)

Michael Bérubé Online: Michael Bérubé's a liberal professor of literature and cultural studies at Penn State. He's a brilliant writer and can be savagely funny. I admit I skip the deeper theory and academia posts, but there's so much more. Plenty of politics, plenty of life in general, all adroitly described. My pal Kristin's Sexy Mind concept is displayed aptly in Michael Bérubé. I forget how I first chanced upon his blog—maybe via comments at Bitch Ph.D.? The comments at Michael's site are packed with smart people, so they're a good read, too.

QWMaine: Maine is smart and he always makes me laugh. Who else covers all-important issues like pythons trying to eat alligators, the sociology of Waffle House, and much, much more? I liked his comments on Mona's Barbaric Yawp and now check his site just about every day. Sometimes several times a day.

The Assimilated Negro: He's just a baby—only been blogging for a month—but he's got him some chops. Chops with the hippity-hop, to boot. He came recommended by Maine (see above).

Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk: Rob teaches philosophy out east and writes about ethics, politics, and sometimes the female orgasm (I don't know why, as I haven't read his 11-part series on the topic yet). I followed him home from his comments over at Bitch Ph.D.

It all makes sense now

You remember that dream I had a month or two ago, in which I ended up playing volleyball in the pool with a wet t-shirt? And I didn't know what it meant?

I may be clairvoyant.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hello, I'm back

Best invention ever: DVD players for cars.

Remember those long, boring hours driving cross country on vacation when we were kids? Playing roadside bingo, getting carsick from trying to read? Seeing this great land of ours through the car window and realizing how dull the vast majority of it is? (And I love nature, I do. But let's be honest: One hour of Midwest often looks a hell of a lot like the previous hour of the Midwest.) The endless "When are we going to get there?" whines?

And now, you bring a bunch of movies and the kids watch them, sitting quietly, thoroughly entertained, and the grown-ups can talk. The grown-ups are still left to note such highlights as exotic license plates and what color cows that farm has compared to the last herd we passed, but at least the whining is greatly reduced. Technology rocks.

Observations: Not only do I have some issues with the treatment of livestock much of the time, but I also have issues with the smells that emanate from the farms with animals. A handful of sheep stink plenty—I hope I never have the opportunity to smell one of those vast factory farms with pigs. There are those who say big cities stink; to them I say, I will see you a garbage truck and raise you the manure from a herd of cattle.

Here is one bizarre thing from my trip: My mom, my sister, and our kids had dinner at Applebee's in a farming/meatpacking town in Minnesota with some old family friends. We fought over the check and my family lost the battle, so my sister offered to leave the tip. Our friend chided her for trying to leave a generous tip: "You're not in a big city here. It's different in small towns"—apparently, in small towns, people tip like cheapskates? Anyone familiar with this rural tradition?

It is good to be home.

Friday, October 07, 2005

See you in a few days

I'm heading out this afternoon for an extended-family trip. I can't say I'm looking forward to the water park, or to the theme park at the Mall of America, or the many hours of driving in a vehicle with three kids, but I'm sure Ben will have a fantastic time. It'll be great to finally see my friend K.'s house in Minneapolis (she's the one who's been keeping me supplied with Paul Krugman twice weekly since the NYT started charging money—the one who loves men like Hendrik Hertzberg and Charlie Rose), but I reckon I'll be jonesing for the internets and their many fine entertainments.

So. Until Monday night, be good, my dears.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Beautiful kids

Seeing the kindergartners playing together and lining up to go into school each morning is a highlight of my day. Gather together 160 kids of all colors, nationalities, and religions, and watch them interact as if they've never heard of bigotry, bias, and racism. See the spectrum of skin colors: the dark brown kids and the medium brown kids and the light brown kids and the olive kids and the pale-skinned kids all chase each other before it's time to line up; in line, the differences they note pertain to who has Spider-Man and who has Star Wars on his backpack. Even the diversity is diverse: the Asian kids include South Asians, mainland Asians, Filipinos, Asian kids adopted into American families, and mixed kids. The "African-American" kids include just that, as well as kids whose families immigrated from assorted African nations; there are assorted mixes in this group, too. As for the kids labeled as Hispanic, some speak Spanish at home, some speak English at home, some are black, some are various mixes. Even the white kids are a diverse group, with some of the kids hailing from European-immigrant families. (There's also a dad with horn-shaped jewelry in his piercings who shaves the top of his head. His daughter? She wears as much pink as anyone.) I assume that many different religious traditions are represented, too, though they're visible only on the Muslim girls who opt to cover their hair. And the kindergartners' families cover a range of income levels. The school enrollment forms ask parents to pick a single ethnic descriptor for their kids; what do you suppose the Peruvian mom and German/Chinese dad put down for their kid? Or the parents of an Asian/African-American kid? I hate the "pick one" forms; they're so retro, so inaccurate. But I love this school.

After Ben's tryout in the gifted class last week, they pronounced his work "not quite there." Ben was pleased to return to his homeroom, because (a) the gifted class's teacher gave handouts that were "too hard," and (b) he knew the kids there already. (And I'm glad he'll get the exposure to Spanish. "Buenos dias!" he tells me each morning) They tracked the kids into language/reading groups last week, and he's in the highest group below the gifted class (together with a few kids from his homeroom). For two hours a day, he's with a different teacher for language—and the boy is already learning about sentences! (He ended his name with a period one day.) Legible printing continues to elude him, but we're working on it. Someone was telling my mom that back in the day, kindergarten was for learning the ABCs and how to play well with others. Ben mastered that in pre-K, so I'm glad he's moving on to words and sentences. After that? Crossword puzzles. I have high hopes.

The first inkling of gentle anti-atheist bias has cropped up on a worksheet page. Ben was supposed to color in all the pictures of things starting with the letter A. He was going to skip the winged, haloed girl because he though the angel was a fairy, which most certainly does not start with A. Pfft! (I passed up the chance to explain to him what an angel is.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Pony up, people

There has been a tiny clamor for me to post the photo I submitted to the Blogger Boobie-Thon. Sadly, a tiny clamor won't get a wet-shirt picture on this blog. I will need a more rousing clamor. Let's say...15 comments on this post. And each comment must contain a true confession. What do you say?

Celebrity baby name alert

According to this snarky report, Nicolas Cage and his 20-years-younger wife Alice just named their baby boy Kal-el. For those of you who are not geeks, Kal-el is the original Kryptonian name of Superman, from before he landed on Earth and got adopted by the Kents.

Poor kid. His middle name is Coppola, so it looks like he's really stuck with this Kal-el moniker.

If I ever had another baby boy, I would name him Mork.

No comment

This blog is listed third in the msn.com search results for the query can i eat orange while i'm pregnant.

And sixth for the query grandma sex preview page (the page hit here is columnist Clarence Page).

Okay, I'm doing it!

Two of my blogging pals, Lisa and Mona, have been known to post photos of their tremendous semi-clad bosoms. I've been contemplating joining their quietly exhibitionist ranks, but I kept sitting on the contemplative fence. But then Maine hit on the idea of alerting his readers to the existence of the Fourth Annual Blogger Boobie-Thon—the blogosphere sends in their chestal portraits, and the Boobie-Thon folks collect donations for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and, this year, the Red Cross too. You can view most of the pictures for free, but if you want to see the nekkid boobies, you'll have to pony up a donation.

I'm doing the Walk for Hope later this month, but dammit, I can do more! So tonight, Mr. Tangerine will help me choose the best wet-shirt photo to send in to the Boobie-Thon. It's for a good cause. Better yet, two good causes. (One good cause per breast.)

Anyway, the Boobie-Thon is going on this week and this week only (through Saturday, October 8). So far, they've raised about $3,700, putting them on course to match last year's total of about $8,700. So go visit Boobie-Thon, see some pictures, donate some money, and get the specifications for submitting your own photo (that goes for you men, too). Don't delay!

The Boobie-Thon photos are posted anonymously and link-free, though, so you won't know which one's mine unless I post it here too...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Nature vs. knits

This week at kindergarten, Ben's been getting a tryout in the gifted class. Today, he brought a batch of uncompleted first-grade worksheets home for homework, and I'll be damned! He's getting the knack of it. (Where did he pick this up? Phonics, addition problems, word order—what?!?) I don't know if the teachers have made a final placement decision—no note has been sent home—but Ben is under the impression that he's being transferred to the new group.

Mr. Tangerine asked Ben, "How did you get to be so smart?"

Ben replied, "From school."

Mr. Tangerine prodded, "Oh, not from Mommy and Daddy's genes?"

"No, from school, and maybe from Mommy and Daddy's sweaters." (Rim shot.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Broke vs. poor

The Tribune's Clarence Page addresses the class divide in today's column, "Poverty IQ: Po' vs. broke". It's a good read.

Obstetric fistula

A couple years ago, the NYT's Nicholas Kristof wrote about the continuing crisis of obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa. Today, a news article in the NYT tells us the problem is far from solved. In Nigeria alone, hundreds of thousands of women have unmended fistulas.

Obstetric fistula is what happens when a woman (usually in her teen years) is in labor for days without access to modern medical care. The baby can't fit through the birth canal, and the woman's urethra, bowels, or both sustain damage such that the body's waste products constantly drip out. A woman with a fistula is often abandoned by her husband and ostracized by her community and even her own family.

There is a straightforward cure for fistula, though: surgical repair. Unfortunately, there are nowhere near enough surgeons and facilities to handle all the cases that arise. Two groups that are working on this issue are the UN Population Fund and American Friends Foundation for Childbirth Injuries (the latter was featured on "Oprah" a couple years ago and is associated with a fistula hospital led by an inspirational surgeon named Catherine Hamlin). According to the NYT, the Population Fund managed to raise only $11 million in their two-year campaign; both groups need more money. The surgery costs only a few hundred dollars, but when there are so few surgeons and thousands upon thousands of impoverished patients in need. While ideally women would never sustain fistulas in the first place, that's a far bigger problem. In the meantime, we can help the women who have already been injured in childbirth, allowing them to return to meaningful lives in their communities.

Science education, kindergarten style

Here's what my boy claims he learned in school on Monday: The baby bird drinks milk from the mama bird's nipple. We've tried clarifying the facts here, but the boy is having none of it, because the teacher said. Man, I hope the teacher just talked too fast when explaining the various and sundry ways in which mammalian and avian creatures eat, and Ben was too bored to pay attention to the details.

Funky words the English language needs

Some dude named Adam Jacot de Boinod scoured foreign dictionaries for words that lack a precise equivalent in the English language and gathered the best ones into a book, The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World. According to Amazon, the book will not be available in the US until next March.

For a sneak preview, the review from The Independent offers a selection of these words. Here are some highlights:

mamihlapinatapei is from the Fuengian language in Chile, meaning "a shared look of longing between parties who are both interested yet neither is willing to make the first move"

tingo, from Easter Island's Pascuense language, means "borrowing things from a friend's house, one by one, until he has nothing left"

pomicione is Italian for "a man who seizes any chance of being in close physical contact with a woman"

senzuri is the Japanese word for male masturbation, or literally "a hundred rubs"—compare the word for women's good times, shiko shiko manzuri, literally "ten thousand rubs" (did they get the math right?)

fucha is a Portuguese verb meaning "to use company time and resources for one's own purposes"

buz-baz is ancient Persian for "a showman who makes a goat and monkey dance together"

mata ego, from Rapa Nui, Easter Island, means "eyes that reveal that someone has been crying"

desus is Indonesian for "the quiet, smooth sound of somebody farting but not very loudly," which I always thought was spelled pssssssffft

seigneur-terrasse is the French term for "someone who spends time, but not money, at a café"

And the beautiful xiaoxiao is Chinese for "the whistling and pattering of rain or wind"

(Thanks to Elise at After School Snack for the lead.)

Update: The folks at Language Log, as usual, have more on the topic.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Douchebag!

Squeamish Reader Alert: If you are easily squicked out, do not read this post. Really.

When's the last time you heard someone use the word douchebag but they weren't impugning anyone's character?

The other day, I drove my 93-year-old grandma to the gynecologist to get a pessary (s'posed to keep her uterus from popping out—she's got a wicked case of uterine prolapse going on) inserted. I'm guessing most of you don't quite know what a pessary is; this model basically looked like a diaphragm with vent holes. Anyway, the doctor advised Grandma to use a nonmedicated douche twice a week to basically, um, flush out stanky discharge. 'Cause the pessary, it stays in for 1 to 3 months at a time, unlike a diaphragm.

The next day, Grandma tells me she's gonna have to see what sort of douches they sell at Wa1-Mart. And "I'm not sure if I still have that douchebag around here. I'll need a new hose, anyway." Aaaagh! My ears! My ears are bleeding! I assured her that she could probably buy a handy-dandy douche with a self-contained squeeze bottle or something (what the hell do I know about such things?), and that I really didn't think she'd need to track down a douchebag. Much less a new hose. (Aaagh!)

Yes, I spoke the word douchebag aloud to my grandmother, and she didn't tell me to wash my mouth out with soap. Honestly? I don't think she has any idea how the modern generation uses that word.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Need a laugh? Yes! You do!

This is the funniest piece of writing I've seen in a month. Or maybe two months. Or three. To tempt you, I will say only that it's about the Mormon guidelines for youths who like to touch themselves, and Francis makes many incisive and entertaining comments. You'll love it!

Friday, September 23, 2005

National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

The eloquent cancerbaby has devoted a post to the early signs of ovarian cancer, screening/diagnostic methods, and the importance of being a strong advocate for yourself when you have symptoms that haven't been fully explained. Yes, it's National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Go read cancerbaby's post—I mean it, go read it all right now—and then come back here and click on the link up there on the right if you'd like to support ovarian cancer research and education.

If your doctor suspects ovarian cancer, there are two important things to know, cancerbaby says: First, don't consent to a biopsy, as a biopsy can inadvertently spread ovarian cancer cells within your body. Second, if you need surgery, insist on referral to a gynecologic oncologist who is specially trained in treating ovarian cancer, and don't settle for a regular gynecologist or a general surgeon.

What you can end a sentence with

A preposition. Really and truly. A learned Language Log linguist, Geoffrey Pullum, says so in a post this week. If you don't believe me, go read it yourself.

The short version of the story is that we can blame John Dryden for getting ranty about ending a sentence with a preposition, way back in 1672. Dryden gave no rationale for his judgment, and in fact ended sentences with prepositions in his own writing. A century after Dryden, a grammarian picked up the idea, and gradually other grammarians started to preach it, too. And today, of course, plenty of people who consider themselves educated writers meticulously strive to torture their sentences to put prepositions in highfalutin places, peppering their writing with pointless whiches.

You want to know where you can stick that preposition? You can stick it right at the end of a sentence. Really. It works. Let me show you: "What are you waiting for?" See? Compare that to "For what are you waiting?" Ick. "I couldn't find what you were looking for." Compare what the New Yorker web site will tell you if your search query comes up empty: "I'm sorry I couldn't find that for which you were looking." Eww! (The latter was what spurred Pullum to write his defense of putting prepositions where they naturally belong.) I've always enjoyed the tortured construction, "up with which I will not put"—I forget where I first read that one.

Donahue 1, O'Reilly 0

Via Elise at After School Snack, a link to a transcript of Phil Donahue's evisceration of Bill O'Reilly on "The O'Reilly Factor." Hoo-wee! That's some gooood stuff.

Mmm, that sounds about right

You are a

Social Liberal
(75% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(10% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Socialist




Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Curses!

Over in the United States Senate—isn't that where Dick Cheney let loose with the F word?—they're pondering a 15-fold hike in fines for naughty words that get broadcast. (Yes, apparently the Senators do have too much time on their hands. Idle hands, etc., etc.) It's time for some frank talk about, well, frank talk. In today's NYT, the fabulous Natalie Angier surveys the history and science of swearing a blue streak.

In general, men swear more than women, though there certainly are outliers like me who have been known to swear like the proverbial longshoreman. Personally, I love words so much, I'm not going to exclude these exquisitely useful oaths from my vocabulary. Fuck and shit are more utilitarian than, say, copulate and feces, as they can serve so many roles in a sentence and carry so many different meanings. "I am so sick of this copulating feces"? No. "Fee-i-cees!"? No. "Shee-it!"? Absolutely.

According to Dutch linguist Guy Deutscher, "In some cultures, swear words are drawn mainly from sex and bodily functions, whereas in others, they're drawn mainly from the domain of religion." And in cultures that emphasize women's purity and honor, "it's not surprising that many swear words are variations on the 'son of a whore' theme or refer graphically to the genitalia of the person's mother or sisters." Isn't it splendid that our culture encompasses all of the above? Those people who hype English as a rich language owing to the sheer number of words we have are onto something—our swearing partakes of that abundant wealth.

What happens physiologically when someone hears swear words? Angier writes, "Their skin conductance patterns spike, the hairs on their arms rise, their pulse quickens, and their breathing becomes shallow." Let's try it out. Goddamn fucking shit! Did you feel anything? No?

Angier's article was accompanied by a sidebar listing curses through the centuries. Among my favorites: In the 1400s, scullion meant a servant of the lowest class. The 1500s ushered in slangrill (oaf) and brock (rotten man). The 1600s gave us gadzooks (God's hooks, whatever that means), sfoot (to have sex), and criminy (Christ). Moving along to the 1800s, Jesus was transformed into both Jiminy Cricket and Gee whillikins, and drat abbreviated "God rot." Apparently, somewhere in the 1900s, meddle was used to mean "to have sex." Go figure.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Baby-name nerd

I admit it. I'm a baby-name nerd. When I was a kid, I'd buy those teeny 49-cent books sold in the grocery-store checkout lanes, and I'd read through them, studying the derivation and meaning of each name, the variations (Margaret, from the Greek for pearl: Maggie, Peggy, Margarita, Meg, Margo, Marguerite, etc.). And now the Internets, they bring us so much more. There's the interactive graph thingy at Baby Name Wizard, the Social Security Administration's baby-names database, and a hilarious snarkfest mocking the ridiculous names people concoct these days.

That last link is especially juicy. From section 13 (and it takes hours to get through all the content at this site!) comes this listing of oddball spellings and associated snark: Skylar Makinzy, Jayden Mokol, Karryllinne Sweet ("I must've stared at this for five minutes before I figured out it's just Caroline."), Schuylar Daymen, Dominick Kaaynen, Duglass Link, Kenadeigh Aiden ("I never, in a million years, would have thought someone would have screwed with 'Kennedy.' Yes, caconomenology is a field of limitless suprises."), Jarret Kaylub, Nicklaus Santana. Then there are freaky names, like Celestial Rage and Gunnar Blayz, Crimson Tobias and Sloe Harlotte. Head over to this site whenever you need to laugh repeatedly. If your eyes should begin to bleed, though, please turn off your monitor.

Today in the New York Times, there was an article on baby naming trends in NYC. While Brooklyn has become the 101st most popular name for baby girls throughout the country, whaddaya know? New Yorkers, dey ain't having none of dat. In New York, names like Fatoumata (West African girl's name) and Moshe (old-school Jewish) are coming on strong, while the cockamamie naming trends that sweep the rest of the nation scarcely pop up.

Closer to home, I find that my son Benjamin's name is pretty common in yuppie circles. But in the Chicago Public Schools? There might be another Ben among the 165 kindergartners. But the Madisons and Olivias and the Dylans and Austins tend to blend in with the kids named Miguel, Reda, Oumar, Ousaf, Maham, Darion, and Tinuola. Frankly, I'm glad Ben's not traveling in the circles where there's always another kid by the same name. I grew up with such a common name, there were four of us with the same name in my tenth-grade English class. Who needs that?

Am I the only baby-name nerd here? I bet I'm not...