Saturday, December 30, 2006

I love the city

And I love my neighborhood. We went out for dinner tonight to celebrate the completion of my first ever book manuscript. I had a hankering for pasta with fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, so we went to Anna Maria, which used to be a short walk from home but now is a short drive away. They haven't got a kids' menu, but they can make whatever you order (Ben wanted pasta with alfredo on one side, marinara on the other. And the desserts! Mr. Tangerine always gets the tiramisu, but was too full to finish it tonight. Ben and I shared the bomba al cioccolata, a blissfully light and airy, warm and moist square of cake, swimming in bittersweet chocolate sauce, with a dollop of whipped cream. It was all we could do not to lick the plate clean.

I love the area we live in because we're sequestered amid a zillion great restaurants, precious few of them part of mega-chains. Would have to drive a good 10 miles to the closest Olive Garden, but there are over a dozen Italian indies within a couple miles of us.

And I love the neighborhood because while we were at the restaurant tonight, there were five other tables with kids (this, at a place where the cheapest pasta dish costs $10.50). Three of the six families were of mixed races. One of the families had two dads. I like that none of these groups stick out as "other" here.

Sure, the city's noisy and congested, and snow turns black from exhaust along the roadway (although: hooray for it being 44 degrees on a late-December evening with no snow on the ground!), and real estate's small and pricy. But I wouldn't trade it for clean, peaceful, spacious homogeneity. I find homogeneity discomfiting.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The C-word

Mostly done with Christmas shopping, including buying my assigned ingredients to cook for Christmas Eve dinner at my sister's. Still not done with the book! Ha. Maybe I should work on that this afternoon.

Just wanted to report Ben's two finest remarks today:

• "Holy C-word!" (Because he's too genteel to use grown-up words and say "Holy crap.")

• "You know what's more fun than school?" he asked. "Christmas!" (Indeed.)

Mr. Tangerine and I are excited because my cousin's gonna give Ben the game of Operation—and we haven't played it in many a year! Man, I hope it's still fun. We'll find out tomorrow night what all Ben has in store for him from Santa—I've got all these toys and gifts sealed in shipping boxes and shopping bags, hiding in plain sight. Ben is none the wiser. But I don't really remember everything that's in those boxes. I hope Santa did a good job and Ben doesn't greet his goodies with disdain come Christmas morning...

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Apologies for all the non-posting of late—that book deadline is December 27 now, and I procrastinate madly, but have had either the discipline or laziness not to be blogging up a storm in the pursuit of procrastination.

I am compelled to report Ben's latest mash-up of idioms. Are all six-year-olds prone to combining words and phrases like this, or is it just Ben?

"Holy lord of gravy!" he exclaimed this morning. And no, there is no gravy in the house. Just a saying...or two...or three. He was having a blast looking through a stack of old kindergarten papers, artsy things from last year. One item was his rendering of a train trip with Mr. Tangerine. Now, they rode the Amtrak from points north. Various commuter trains to the suburbs are called the Metra. The mash-up boy declared that the drawing paid homage to the time he and Daddy rode the "Ametra train." Refuses to acknowledge ever riding on Amtrak—nope, it's all Ametra, all the time.

Still haven't sent out my holiday cards. Why? Because his school picture was so cute, I wanted to include it in all our cards. So Mr. Tangerine scanned it in (shh! don't tell!) and I ordered a zillion prints via Apple's iPhoto. Paid extra for FedEx shipping so I could get my cards in the mail sooner rather than later. Well, them bastards inadvertently forgot to use FedEx (but not before sending me an e-mail giving me a FedEx tracking number), and said, "So sorry, we'll credit you for the express shipping, the pictures will be coming via untraceable regular mail." Then they followed up a few days later to say, "You know what? The carrier might have lost those pictures. We'll refund everything, and you can reorder your prints." Ten days after originally placing my order, I haven't received anything. My theory? Not only was the package not FedExed, it was never sent by USPS either. So I'll be heading to Walgreens (I wish they'd use an apostrophe) or somewhere and using one of those kiosk dealios to print the danged pictures myself. Which is exactly what I was trying to avoid when I ordered the pictures online in the first place, you know? Holy lord of gravy.

I'm not quite done with Christmas shopping—there are a handful of nieces and nephews who may well be receiving Target gift cards, because my gift-idea machine is all tapped out. Mr. Tangerine and Ben are pretty much done shopping for me, without having done a thing—I've been shopping for myself and getting things I want, and then they can give them to me for Christmas. The boots couldn't wait for the 25th—I started wearing those a couple weeks ago. Toasty warm! (They're the boot version of Merrell's Primo Chill slides that nestle my tootsies so splendidly.) It may be deemed highly unsentimental to buy one's own gifts, but (a) Mr. Tangerine works long hours and (b) who knows what I want better than me? I have also bought some thoughtful things for him, but he's mainly excited about the plasma TV that's coming this week. It's really his birthday present from months ago—he just didn't get around to ordering it until now. I'm not too excited about having a 50-inch screen in my living room (which we'll have to start calling the Plasma Parlor), but elsewhere in the blogosphere, somebody remarked that her new plasma TV would come in handy for making Greg House's blue eyes that much bigger and bluer. She's right! Not to mention Jim on The Office! And when some crossword fellas I know appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show next month, it'll be groovy to see it on a bigger screen. (Degrees of separation from Oprah: Two! If that's how you count it. If you know someone who knows a third party, is that one degree of separation or two? I've never been clear on that.)

Probably I should be eating lunch, decorating the tree (just put it up yesterday, and thank the good lord of gravy that it's one of those pre-wired-with-lights fake ones—real ones drop needles, need watering, like to list to one side, and occasionally give me itchy eyes, plus you have to string the damn lights yourself, and I wish to never, ever do that task again), or, say, polishing that manuscript. All quiet on the house front, with Ben and his dad out playing football. See what I mean about the procrastinating? With 10 days to go until my deadline, and 8 days until all those Christmas presents need to be wrapped (not to mention acquired!), I have no business blogging right now. Oh, the sacrifices I make. (And oh, the rationalizations of a lifelong procrastinator. Jesus gravy!)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The N-word

Ben's hankering for an after-school snack. "Mom, can you get me some food? I want the N-word."

"No noodles!" I replied. He's had about five separate servings of ramen noodles, pasta, or mac-and-cheese in the past three days. N-nough is N-nough!

(If you're looking for perspective on Michael Richards' racist outburst, read Leonard Pitts' column in the Chicago Tribune, arguing against the use of that other N-word. Free registration required.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

June 29, 1912—December 1, 2006

Rest in Peace, Grandma

My grandmother died in her sleep early Friday morning. It took her 11 days of bouncing back and forth from death's door before she died. I spent several hours with her on Thursday, and she exhibited the agitation the hospice professionals often see when someone is near death. This agitation consisted of struggling mightily to get out of bed and "go"—looking back, I suppose she was convinced that heaven was just down the hallway, and she could go already if we'd only get out of her way. We couldn't, though—she didn't have the strength to walk unassisted, she was catheterized, and she would likely have fallen and caused herself physical pain. She was able to "go" about 12 hours later, resting peacefully with the aid of morphine and a sedative.

The old broad had a surprising amount of strength left that last day. This I know because she kept planting her feet against my legs and kicking, trying to dislodge me from the bedside so she could clamber out. I'll bet I'm the only one of her grandchildren she'd ever kicked—so yeah, special memories. (If I'm still alive at the age of 94, I hope I've got that much muscle tone and oomph left.)

Hospice volunteers assured me that I oughtn't take the kicking personally. It was a tremendous help to have a volunteer and the volunteer coordinator with us that afternoon. One of the nursing home's staff nurses (or a nurse's aide? not sure) showed amazing grace—holding Gram, comforting her, shushing her, nuzzling her—to help ease her out of the agitation. And this, despite a hot flash midway through! I hope she's there on Monday morning, when we return to the nursing home's chapel for the funeral service, because I'd like to thank her again in person. (Gram thought that was a huge selling point—"a place I can live that has a chapel where I can hold my own funeral? Sign me up!")

The Drama

Grandma's life had many dramatic highlights, from Day 1 to (roughly) Day 34,500. She always said she weighed a pound and a half when she was born, and was swaddled in a shoebox near the stove. I can't help but wonder about the accuracy of that measurement. Plus, she was born about 8 months after her parents married—perhaps she wasn't small and early, but they wanted to give the impression of premarital chastity? Or maybe she really was a preemie, and thrived despite the nonexistence of NICUs. She spent some of her childhood on an Indiana dairy farm, and her family later returned to Chicago.

During the 1918 flu epidemic, sickly-kid Gram escaped harm, but her healthy sister perished, leaving her an only child. When she was about 17, her father was getting dressed for work one morning and keeled over with a heart attack, leaving just two members of that family of four. (So sad!) He was only 40 or 41 years old—can you imagine?

As a young woman, she worked for a milliner (but wasn't too keen on hats later on life). She later married a man who became the sweetest grandpa in the world, but probably was a dreadful husband during the early decades. He was an alcoholic who once passed out in the street; someone came to the house to alert Gram. Eventually he pretty much stopped drinking, but I can't imagine how incredibly difficult it must have been to raise children with a husband like that.

She had a difficult delivery when her second child, my dad, was born. He was in a breech position, and he sustained a broken right arm and permanent nerve damage in the birth process. Gram and Grandpa used condoms in the years following this traumatic birth experience (which she told my sister about five years ago—she spoke so candidly in her last years); she must've been terrified when she became pregnant three years later. (Though there were no complications that time, fortunately.)

Grandma and Grandpa never owned their own house. Instead, until I was a teen, they lived in the upstairs of a two-flat owned by Grandma's stepfather, a cranky man whom she never cared for. Eventually my great-grandmother developed Alzheimer's disease, and Gram cared for her for as long as she could. Then the stepfamily whisked Nana off to a nursing home and opted for tube feeding. After her mother's death, my grandparents moved to a senior citizens' apartment building in the suburbs, where Gram was pleased not to have to answer to her stepfather/landlord.

Gram continued living there after Grandpa died about 14 years ago, and I think she appreciated having a place to herself finally. She had a live-in caregiver for five or six years, until about a year ago when she became too medically frail to live at home. She had five or six (or seven or eight) hospital visits over the past year, but enjoyed the nursing home she moved to. She could play bingo on the premises, and she could attend Mass any day she wished.

Her last hospitalization came a month ago, and the specialist physicians determined that there was nothing more they could do to improve her condition. They recommended that she enter a hospice program to receive palliative care, and I'm so glad that Gram agreed to it. (She was always remarkably pragmatic, though she definitely struggled with this tough emotional decision.) She lived only a few more weeks, but hospice arranged for palliative medications, and the staff and volunteers were so helpful to us family members, putting alarming things into their natural context within the end-of-life process. Gram hated the discomfort of IVs, so I know she was happy to avoid dying in a hospital, stuck with needles and hooked up to monitors.

Childhood Memories

I never liked the "clean plate club." When a grandma expects you to finish all the food on your plate, but she's cooked assorted Polish dishes and sauerkraut and you're a picky eater, it's just not happening. (I'm much more suited to my in-laws' tradition of "leave some on your plate for the spirits.") I preferred to focus on the lazy Susan in the center of the table.

Grandma knitted and crocheted, so we had cute little sweaters and ponchos (in the poncho's early-'70s heyday). She handcrafted Barbie clothes, which my sister still has. Did anyone else ever have a bra for their Barbie doll? Gram made one. She also crocheted a blue bikini; when crocheted bikinis came into vogue several years ago, I thought back to Barbie and Grandma's fashion prescience.

When I was young, Grandma enjoyed tending her collection of African violets, aloe vera (she'd snip off a piece as needed for medicinal purposes), and my favorite, the burro's tail.

In the basement of that two-flat, there was an old wringer washing machine. There were more treasures up in the dusty old attic. There were so many layers of enamel paint on the staircase up to the attic, the railings were smooth and shiny. (So much for preserving original woodwork!)

Eloquent Summary To Place It All in Perspective

We'll say our final goodbyes tomorrow morning. Grandma had a long life, but she liked to say, "I never thought I'd live this long." She raised three boys, and buried one of them five years ago. She got to see all six grandchildren grow to adulthood, and enjoyed her 12 great-grandchildren. I'm glad my son had the opportunity to know his last remaining great-grandparent, and to gain an understanding of death as a natural process. It was an honor for me to be able to share those last two weeks with my grandma, too. She was surrounded by her family during that period and received an outpouring of love before she died. And then when death finally came, it was peaceful and pain-free. Can't ask for more than that.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes

The kid and I walked past Leather Sport's display windows en route to getting ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery (at the Boystown branch, where customers may fill the tip jar without fear of coercing the employees to burst into lame song) this afternoon. One of the mannequins was dressed in a leather mask, strappy leather vest, and a red bikini brief (with a book tucked in the front waistband, because after all, it's the holiday season, and books make lovely gifts).

The six-year-old exclaimed, "Look! A burglar wearing only red underpants!"

Really, a vest doesn't count as a shirt, so the kid's quite astute.

Monday, November 27, 2006

People I would make out with

1. Whoever invented online grocery shopping. I was just sitting here pondering the size of my grocery list and my extreme disinterest in getting out of pajamas and going shopping, and watching Mr. Tangerine fill a trash bag with crap toys nobody needs while simultaneously watching football on TV, and then I remembered Peapod. Just need to pick up some milk at the corner store, and Peapod will schlep everything else I need, first thing tomorrow morning. Love Peapod!

2. Whoever developed the concept of hospice care. Sign me up when I'm old and moribund, because this looks like the way to go. (Speaking of which, Grandma has often been likened to the Energizer Bunny, and is still hanging in there. Maybe a few more days?)

3. Whoever first concocted the Smoking Gun cocktail, with raspberry vodka, lemonade, and soda. Tastes like harmless raspberry ginger ale, but the waitress assured us that it wasn't a weak drink—just a delicious one.

4. Whoever honed the pecan pie concept.

5. Mr. Tangerine, though I'm kinda waiting for him to shave the beard. I miss his face.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Never mind

Eh, I'm not making pie this week. I'd have had to make the dough for the crust today, and have to find time to bake tomorrow, and know for sure if we were going up north for the holiday. My last remaining grandparent, my late dad's mother, is easing toward death.

A couple weeks ago, she'd ended up in the hospital yet again, and the medical specialists all agreed that there was really nothing more they could do to remedy matters, and they recommended that my grandma consider hospice care. So she returned to the nursing home that's been her home this year (and she likes it there—the staff adores her. The lunch lady pops in to visit every day, and a young maintenance guy checked on Gram this evening) a week and a half ago, agreeing to stay there and receive palliative care rather than returning to the hospital. We figured she had months to go, but she had a precipitous decline yesterday morning.

The hospice nurses and volunteers who visit Gram have indicated that she's been showing a number of textbook signs that she's near the end of her life now. The best guess seems to be that she has a few more days left. So I spent all day yesterday, this morning, and this evening visiting her, along with assorted cousins, cousins' kids, and uncles.

I think hospice care is a wonderful thing. It's not just for cancer patients—Gram's got end-stage congestive heart failure and she's 94. She seems pretty ready to die, and her body's slowing down—she's hardly eating or drinking, she sleeps most of the time, and she's not upset. She even seems slightly peeved that every time she peeps open an eyelid, somebody starts in on her with "Are you comfortable? Do you need anything? Do you want a sip of juice? Do you have any pain? Are you cold? Are you hot?" Invariably, she says she's fine. (She gets a little morphine to ease breathing difficulties.) The hospice approach seems orders of magnitude more humane than the average hospital death. No heart monitor beeping, no IV needle prickling in her vein, no being intubated, no hospital schedules, no pointless prolongation of life + suffering. The hospice volunteers and nurses are so incredibly helpful to family members, too, as the hospice approach is to ease the process of death for everyone involved. I truly believe my grandmother will have a good death, and she deserves no less after the long life she's led and the physical and psychic pain she's experienced.

It's exhausting, what with all the 30-mile drives and tapping into emotional reserves. Ideally, perhaps, Grandma would have died peacefully in her sleep after a really good day. Second best is dying when she's had time to prepare herself for it, when she's had all her family gathered around and saying their goodbyes, when the hospice protocol is focused on keeping her comfortable at all times. Hospice doesn't mean giving up hope—it means you stop expecting successful treatment of medical conditions and instead focus on giving someone the best and least stressful end of life possible. It really has been a moving experience so far, and I'm honored to be able to share some of that time with my grandmother.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Obligatory pre-Thanksgiving food post

Yes, I haven't been posting much lately. But I've been making progress on my book, so you can't make me feel guilty about substandard blogging.

I just reviewed the week's lunch menu with Ben, so he could choose which day he wanted to bring a lunch rather than buy hot lunch at the cafeteria. Wednesday, he's excited about hot lunch. Why? Salisbury steak. He exulted in Salisbury steak. He is jubilant at the prospect of eating Salisbury steak. Who can explain this?

Ben's little-man armpits occasionally stink a bit. I think it smells like...armpits. Ben? He has pronounced his armpit stank to be redolent of a burrito. Which begs the question: What the hell kind of burritos are they serving at the school cafeteria?

We'll be traveling up north (but not too far north) for Thanksgiving, to Mr. Tangerine's folks'. I'm going to make pecan pie. Two pies, actually—my mother-in-law requested two rather than one, "so we can have pie for breakfast." I like the way she thinks. I'm planning to make the pie crust from scratch for my very first time, breaking out the virginal rolling pin that has so far served only as a toy. I don't eat lard, and it's so hard to find a frozen crust made with vegetable shortening, plus...shortening? Eww. I don't like the concept. (Yes, I know most store-bought cookies and crackers and so forth are made with shortening, essentially. But I don't like to think about it.) So it was with keen interest that I read an NYT article this week about testing different fats in pie crust. The winner was apparently a combo involving duck fat (!), but an all-butter crust was a definite contender. And I love butter. So I borrowed a recipe from anarchist and pastry chef Emma Goldman, and we'll see if I can actually make a good pie crust. I just bought one of those U-shaped dough cutter gizmos (for cutting the butter into the flour) and some pie pans, so there'll be a lot of virginal baking tools popping their cherry this week.

The pies themselves will be basically my dad's modification of the pecan pie recipe from the Karo corn syrup bottle—only with a skosh more butter and triple the pecans. Because who wants corn syrup pie with a few wan little nuts suspended on top? I know that's how most people think of pecan pie, but we like it when the sweet goop is invaded by crunchy pecans. Num, num, num.

Ooh! If you have a Trader Joe's store near you, try the house brand of chocolate bar. The 500-g bar (that's more than a pound!) of bittersweet chocolate (48% cocoa solids—I thought I liked dark, dark chocolate, but I think bittersweet is the cusp beyond which I don't want to eat chocolate. Semisweet, bittersweet, good good good. Something with 72% cocoa solids? Meh. Yeah, so on Wednesday, I bought a giant bar of bittersweet chocolate with almonds. There are only 2 or 3 oz. left—but I assure you, I haven't eaten it all myself. Probably a 45/45/10 split among me/Mr. Tangerine/Ben. I just might make a habit of buying these jumbo candy bars. There's all that scientific evidence of salutary health benefits from various compounds in chocolate, right?

Damn. Now I'm thinking that maybe I should make one plain pecan pie and one chocolate pecan pie. I could buy a bar of, say, semisweet chocolate, melt it down, stir it in. What do you think? Do you think that if I'm not driving to your house with this pie, you couldn't care less whether the triple-thick pecan pie is laced with chocolate goodness? Ah, but there's something so reassuring and classic about pecan pie without chocolate, and it's certainly rich enough without the chocolate. Maybe I'll just nibble on the chocolate while making pecan pie—is that a sensible solution?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What I learned at the gym today

• If you (i.e., not me) wear a thong underneath your cotton stretch capri leggings when you work out, you may well end up with a stripe of sweat soak-through that traces your buttcrack. Just what everyone wants—even more of a reminder than the thong-facilitated wedgie itself that your sweaty asscrack is on the loose.

• If you (meaning me, in this case) work out with weights enough to add muscle tone, your metabolism slows magically, and you will find yourself losing weight the same week you bought a dozen Krispy Kremes. (Alas, I don't get into the gym between training appointments to do cardio, so that midsection flab remains problematic. Most of my pants are too baggy, dropping down at the waist and draping loosely around the butt and thighs. Except for those three pairs of pants I bought two years ago. Those fit great below the belly zone and in the rear, but there's still a little too much muffin-topping for my comfort. And the pants—too big and too tight—are all the same size!)

• A couple weeks ago, another health-club patron eavesdropped when my trainer and I discussed her performance in the marathon. The eavesdropper is one of those lunatic exercise fanatics who works out vigorously for three or four hours at a stretch, at least several times a week. She ain't right in the head, clearly. So the eavesdropper butts into the conversation and volunteers that she herself had finished the marathon in an enviable 3:21. Later, out of her earshot, my trainer says, "I know I passed her around mile 20. There's no way she finished in 3:21!" Today, the trainer reports that she found out the eavesdropper's name, looked her up in the standings, and learned that she's a damn liar who actually finished in 4:02. What would possess someone to boast of speed that she does not possess? The inevitable response to such boasting is, "Wow, that's impressive!" Does it not make her feel like a big ol' loser when she knows the truth is that she's much slower than that? Whatever. She's probably just nuts.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"TiVo destroyed my marriage!"

You can picture the cover illustration on a retro pulp-fiction dime novel with that title, can't you?

TiVo has many charms, and the company frequently adds little service enhancements to fine-tune the interface. That's all well and good, but Mr. Tangerine was trying to figure out why last week's episode of Heroes (which you should all be watching) wasn't waiting for him in the Now Playing list. He navigated to the place that tells you what's happened to one of your scheduled shows, and got this little explanation:

"This program was deleted because someone in your household removed it from the Now Playing List on Mon 10/30 at 10:58 pm."

You like how TiVo sows the seeds of interpersonal conflict? Odds are, Mr. Tangerine himself inadvertently pressed the Delete button and zapped his show. But TiVo's all suspicious: "Someone in your household—I'm not naming names, but I think you can figure out who—is clearly out to get you." It just strikes me as a little pissy and passive-aggressive. But TiVo can get away with that sort of behavior, because nobody throws TiVo out of the house. TiVo's place is secure. TiVo needs to get knocked down a peg or two.

Update! In a tizzy because he needed to see last week's episode, Mr. Tangerine downloaded it from iTunes. While watching it, he realized that oh, yeah, he watched it last Monday...and then deleted it from TiVo after watching it. And still TiVo casts blame broadly and sows dissension!

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Word geeks will want to read James Gleick's interesting article in today's NYT Sunday Magazine, "Cyber-Neologoliferation." Gleick writes about the updating and revamping of the Oxford English Dictionary and the rapid spread of neologisms via the Internet.

I don't know why an article on words would mangle three of them, though—in the online version, at least, two words near the end have lost their first letter—"emperature" and "annabes"—and what the hell is a "petrie dish"? I don't think Rob and Laura Petrie were bacteriologists.

Mm-hmm, that sounds about right

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

"I'm Peter Roskam, and I'm a loon"

In a suburban Congressional district (the 6th) outside of Chicago, two newcomers are vying for a seat being left vacant by the retirement of longtime GOP congressman Henry Hyde. The Democratic candidate, Tammy Duckworth, has a helluva bio: she lost both legs in Iraq, where she flew helicopters. Her tag line on her home page is "A lifetime of service, a voice for change." Okay, that makes sense. She's served in the military, and she's a Democratic looking to change how the country is being run.

Duckworth's Republican opponent is named Peter Roskam. He's campaigning from the hard right in a moderate Republican zone, and apparently many suburban Republicans are voting for the Dems this time around. (Hooray!)

Roskam is running TV commercials in which he blabbers, "Tammy Duckworth will raise taxes; I won't. Tammy Duckworth will [blah-blah-blah] Social Security; I won't. I'm Peter Roskam and I approved this message because it's time for a change."

What the...? How would voting for a Republican candidate to replace a Republican after six years of a Republican congressional majorities and presidency constitute change, exactly? I don't suppose a far-right congressman would buck the Bush administration and fight for real changes in how things are run?

My guess is that focus groups said the electorate wants change. But just saying the word change doesn't make Roskam the candidate for change, now, does it?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Emergent ethnic identity

My six-year-old doesn't know much about social constructs of race—he knows that there's a huge spectrum of skin colors, but his innocent mind has not yet been sullied with labels. Recently, however, he's begun thinking of his own ethnic identity and reaching certain conclusions:

Ben: "I'm [light brown ethnicity] like Daddy."

Me: "All [light brown ethnicity]? You're not white, too? Like Mommy?"

Ben: "No."

Me: "Not even half?"

Ben offers helpfully: "My butt is white..."

My entire genetic and cultural heritage can be boiled down to pasty buttocks...which do indeed run in my family.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

I went to a relative's wedding a couple weekends ago. During the Catholic priest's comments to the couple and the folks in the pews, he cited some data that have got to be complete hogwash. He said that 1989 U.S. Census data showed that while half of all marriages end in divorce, the figure drops to 1 in 1,100 when the couple shares the same religious faith.

Oh, really? First off, I don't know that the Census tracks religious beliefs. I don't see any mention of religion in this list of Census topics. And they don't currently count each year's number of marriages and divorces. So the source the priest cites sounds like hooey.

Then there's the issue of the actual data. Just 1 in 1,100 couples who are the same religion get divorced? That's funny. The divorce rate is higher among Baptists than among other religious groups or atheists, per the Barna Research Group's national study. Other research has shown that the South has a higher divorce rate than the rest of the country. Given that many Southerners are Baptists, I suppose that priest would have us believe that all those Southern Baptists getting divorced are the ones married to Jews, Catholics, or Presbyterians—and I highly doubt that's what's going on here.

It's insulting to have a clergyman cite evidence that—while he'd like to believe it's true—sounds highly implausible. The only concession he made was that 1989 data is a little outdated—but he stood by the findings.

I suppose some people believed what he said. These may be the same people who'll tell you about the kids who died—died, I tell you!—because of McDonalds ball-pit horrors like heroin-filled needles ('cause we all know that junkies never empty their syringes, and that they like to leave their syringes and drugs in children's play areas rather than hanging onto them) and poisonous rattlesnakes. (Astonishingly, at Ben's first acting class, another mom encouraged me to sit next to her...and proceeded to tell me both of these urban legends, no matter how assiduously I tried to work on a crossword puzzle instead of listening to her. She even poked me in the arm to regain my attention. And then she concluded by asking, "Can you believe that?" "No," I replied. "No, I can't.")

Monday, October 30, 2006

So, you think you're smarter than me?

You may be thinking, "Hah! That foolish woman has a faltering grasp of grammar. It's than I."

Au contraire, mon pest. A recent Language Log post linked to an older post explaining why either me or I is correct. Per the Columbia Guide to Standard American English:

"Than is both a subordinating conjunction, as in She is wiser than I am, and a preposition, as in She is wiser than me. As subject of the clause introduced by the conjunction than, the pronoun must be nominative, and as object of the preposition than, the following pronoun must be in the objective case. ...Some commentators believe that the conjunction is currently more frequent than the preposition, but both are unquestionably Standard."

So if you've been internally berating yourself every time you use "than me," cut yourself some slack. It's A-OK.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My name is...

Funny dialogue between Ben...jamin and me this morning on the way to school, while he dawdled despite the second bell having already rung. Actually, ring is the wrong verb here—the sound's a little closer to an air-raid siren than to a bell. Takes time off the end of my life every time it blasts the air when I'm too close to the loudspeakers.

Anyway, the boy was walking slowly through a frost-covered sward of weedy, trampled grass.

Me: Pokey! C'mon, Pokey.

Ben: My name's not Pokey.

Me: C'mon, Tim. (He asked yesterday why we hadn't named him that.)

Ben: My name's not Tim.

Me: C'mon, Toby. (He has a school friend by that name.)

Ben: My name's not Toby.

Me: C'mon, Toby!

Ben: (more vehemently) My name's not Toby!

Me: (Silently giggling to myself: "My name's Kunta Kinte!")

If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you might be too young to recall Roots, the seminal 1977 TV miniseries based on the book by Alex Haley.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ooh, I hear elections are coming up

Most of my ballot choices will be easy.

My Democratic congresswoman is in tune with my stances on all the issues, and in a heavily liberal district, she's likely to garner at leasst 70% of the vote. My U.S. senators—Barack Obama and Dick Durbin—aren't due up for reelection yet.

A lawyer friend gave me this link for bar associations' guidance on judicial candidates (with the advice to scroll down to find another link for the Chicago Bar Association's ratings listed elsewhere), so I'll print out whatever's there and take it to the polling place (conveniently located around the corner in Ben's school!).

For statewide offices, there are a bunch of Democratic incumbents to vote for. The only conflict here is that I'll have to hold my nose while voting for Rod Blagojevich. Sure, he tends toward corruption—that venerable Illinois/Chicago political tradition—but he's our corrupt politician. With his bold action on key issues near and dear to my heart—requiring Illinois pharmacists to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception, initiating universal health care coverage for the state's children, and proposing universal preschool—he's built up plenty of good will. That keeps me from considering his GOP rival, Judy Baar Topinka. She's a woman, yes, but Blago's feminist political credentials are probably better than hers.

Then we have the Cook County races. The big one here is the battle for the Cook County Board President seat, and those of you who aren't from the Chicago area may not have heard about it. (Cook County includes the city of Chicago as well as dozens of suburbs, and has a population of 5.3 million. So this is a significant post.) The Dem incumbent, John Stroger, was fond of political hiring and maintaining a business-as-usual stranglehold on political reform. In the primaries, a County Commissioner with the delicious name of Forrest Claypool fought hard for the Democratic nomination, and I strongly supported him. (I didn't donate or volunteer, but trust me—in my head, the support was fervent.)

Anyway, about three weeks before primary election day in March, John Stroger suffered a massive stroke. His volunteers picked up the pace with phone calls, and a seriously ill man handily won renomination. Eventually, he made it out of the hospital and into rehab, and eventually, without ever seeing or speaking to the media, John Stroger issued a letter. Or maybe he didn't. Maybe someone wrote and signed it for him—who knows? The letter said, in essence, "I'm stepping down and I want my son Todd on the ballot in my place in November." His son Todd, whose political and executive experience is meager, who has never served on the County Board. The Democratic officials acceded to this wish, whoever it belonged to, and thus Todd Stroger is on the ballot.

His Republican opponent is Tony Peraica, and local Democratic politicians sent me a letter mentioning Peraica's anti-choice and anti-gay record. Which means Peraica's views are antithetical to mine—except that he supports the reform efforts, while Todd Stroger's whole raison d'etre is "politics as usual." Todd Stroger isn't even making much of an effort to define himself as a candidate—really, one is left to see a vote for Stroger as a vote for continuing the malarkey that's gone on, and the best way to further Forrest Claypool's reform goals is to vote for a right-winger.

So I might actually vote for a Republican. The last time I did that, it was to send a representative to Springfield, and I think he was a Rhodes scholar. Peraica's much less appealing than that guy—whoever he was—but Cook County needs some housecleaning, and continuing an unenthusiastic Stroger dynasty is repugnant to me. It would be lovely to write in Claypool's name on my ballot, but Peraica will have to fight for every vote he gets in a blue city. A friend pointed out that the County Board Commissioners tend to have a Democratic majority, and so Peraica couldn't do much harm on that front.

If you're in Cook County, what do you think about the Stroger/Peraica faceoff?

Monday, October 16, 2006

What mystery?

Just read the Salon interview with Richard Dawkins, whose book, The God Delusion, is ranked #6 in Amazon sales. I'm an atheist, like Dawkins, and always have been.

The most interesting part of the interview, for me, was the discussion of the grand "why" questions.

Dawkins says: ...Now, the mere fact that you can frame an English sentence beginning with the word "why" does not mean that English sentence should receive an answer. I could say, why are unicorns hollow? That appears to mean something, but it doesn't deserve an answer.

The Salon interviewer, Steve Paulson, rebuts: But it seems to me the big "why" questions are, why are we here? And what is our purpose in life?

Dawkins: It's not a question that deserves an answer.

Paulson: Well, I think most people would say those questions are central to the way we think about our lives. Those are the big existential questions, but they are also questions that go beyond science.

Dawkins: ...Those of us who don't believe in a god will say that is as illegitimate as the question, why are unicorns hollow? It just shouldn't be put. It's not a proper question to put. It doesn't deserve an answer.

Paulson: I don't understand that. Doesn't every person wonder about that? Isn't that a core question, what are we doing in this world? Doesn't everyone struggle with that?

Dawkins: There are core questions like, how did the universe begin? Where do the laws of physics come from? Where does life come from? Why, after billions of years, did life originate on this planet and then start evolving? Those are all perfectly legitimate questions to which science can give answers, if not now, then we hope in the future. There may be some very, very deep questions, perhaps even where do the laws of physics come from, that science will never answer. That is perfectly possible. I am hopeful, along with some physicists, that science will one day answer that question. But even if it doesn't -- even if there are some supremely deep questions to which science can never answer -- what on earth makes you think that religion can answer those questions?


You know what? Dawkins' interviewer thinks questions about humankind's grand purpose are a universal. They're not. I've never found reason to dwell on such things. I certainly don't "struggle" with these questions—I've scarcely even mused absentmindedly about them. I'll grant you that plenty of people do ponder the meaning of life, but then, plenty of people express a belief in a higher power. (To each her own.) I just might buy Dawkins' book.

Edited to add a link to Pharyngula, including a clip of Dawkins' appearance on Stephen Colbert's show.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bulleted list

• I wanted to show you a picture of the snow-dusted shrubs in my front yard, but Blogger didn't cooperate. It's the first half of October, and this is not the Upper Midwest! WTF? I understand weather from Alaska is to blame. If you're reading this from Alaska, please put yourself in time-out. I froze my buns off walking Ben to school this morning.

• Wait, it's not Ben, it's Benjamin. He's decided he prefers his full name because it has three syllables. If he could legitimately stretch it to six syllables, he'd do it. Gotta respect a person who wants to take up more space in his world.

• The teacher's kid had emergency surgery yesterday, so the teacher's out all week. This is a matter of great delight to Ben...jamin. The writing, writing, more writing business is pushing his fine motor skills to their limit, if not the breaking point. Much drama. Damn, I wish it were easier for him. I don't want him to express fear and loathing of school, and he's so smart—it's just the fine motor skills. So anyway, his class is having substitute teachers all week, and so far they haven't been doing much in the way of teaching and assigning homework. During school yesterday, they drew pictures. Ben...jamin drew a portrait of his father entitled "Dad is mad." Hee! I'm delighted that he didn't assign the angry trait only to me. (And I hope the teacher's kid is doing okay. He's only 11.)

• Speaking of me, Ben...jamin had a bad dream this morning. He's inherited my proclivity for vivid, memorable dreams (Mr. Tangerine seldom remembers his dreams). In this particular dream, a creaking bathroom door scared him, as did the presence of me and my doppelgänger. One me was talking on the phone, while the other me was getting Ben ready for school. He was apparently a little freaked out because he couldn't ascertain which one was his real mom. What could this mean?

• Benjamin has acting class today. They're enacting a scene from the first Harry Potter (which I can't resist pronouncing the way Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington pronounced "Mister Kotter") book/movie. The DVD's on its way from Amazon—we've never read or seen any of the installments. The kid's also signed up for tumbling class (with his best friend from school/cohort in hijinks) and floor hockey (with a girl from his class last year—she has lost six baby teeth already! It's a crazy look. I suspect Benjamin will hang onto his baby teeth for a long time—nothing's even loose yet. But his back molars have almost all emerged, finally—we'll see what the dentist says on Saturday. Speaking of the dentist, I was curious about her unusual first name and wondered what ethnicity she might be. So I Googled the name...and found her knitting blog and her MySpace page! Nothing she need be embarrassed by, but when you have such a unique name, it's hard to hide on the internet.) Wow, that parenthetical remark went off on a tangent. Anyway, lest you think I'm one of those parents who overschedules her child, let me clarify that each class cost $5 for 10 weeks (thank you, city taxpayers!), and Benjamin knows he can drop any class he wants to. But he seems to want to continue all three. Hey, that wasn't my plan!

• The joys of the Mirena IUD: Last week, I was at my wit's end, fretting about Benjamin's academic woes. Crying, losing perspective. Then on Friday morning, lo and behold, wicked cramps! It's not the end of the world—it was merely hormones! What I like about the progestin-releasing IUD (besides its awesome efficacy as a contraceptive) is that I had the PMS and I had the cramps, period. Nothing. Not a drop or a spot to be seen anywhere.

• Hey, the snow's gone. Now everything's wet rather than snow-clad. But not to worry! The flurries will return. And I'd thought I was nuts for ordering Ben's winter coat and matching accessories (love those Lands' End squall coats for kids!) in September, but he looked quite dapper in his toasty-warm flame orange coat, gloves, and scarf this morning.

• You know what I'm doing right now? Procrastinating. I finally did sit down and do some work on my book yesterday, but haven't touched the project yet today.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Foley follies

The Mark Foley imbroglio provides a much-needed reminder of the Chris Farley character, Matt Foley—the motivational speaker living in a van down by the river. Here's a clip with Christian Slater (though my favorite Matt Foley skit was the one with David Spade and Christina Applegate).

One disingenuous argument floated by the GOP mouthpieces a few days ago was that, gosh, they couldn't come down hard on Mark Foley for "over-friendly" e-mails because, gee whiz, they'd get accused of being anti-gay, and they're really not like that. That's total bull, of course—the party that pushes a constitutional amendment to forestall same-sex marriage is concerned about not coming off as anti-gay? Sorry, not buying it.

Another issue relating to this is that the problem wasn't that Foley is gay, it's that he made inappropriate advances to kids. For more on this distinction and the scapegoating of homosexuality in a case that's not about homosexuality, read Joe Solmonese's essay at the Huffington Post. Solmonese is the president of the Human Rights Campaign. He writes, in part (echoing my own thoughts):

The same GOP leaders who are trying to write gay people out of the Constitution chose not to investigate inappropriate sexual behavior because they were worried that they might be branded as homophobic? This has nothing to do with homophobia. This is about the sexual solicitation of teenagers. In fact, The Journal of the American Medical Association found that 90 percent of pedophiles are men, and that 98 percent of those men are heterosexual.

There's plenty more to say about Foley, Hastert, and the GOP media machine, but it's all been said elsewhere. Just wanted to remind you that homosexuality and homophobia are not at issue here, and those who suggest they're pertinent are trying to create a smokescreen. Turn on the fan and blow that smoke away, will you?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hey, you're kinda cute online

Between the blog-cosmos and e-mail, you know what happens from time to time? You encounter kindred spirits, people who write things so clever or insightful that they seem to be channeling your own thoughts, if only you could write so eloquently. And thus ensues the delicious phenomenon of the intertubes-based intellectual crush.

Come on, 'fess up—you know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you? The intellectual crush may be someone you'd date in real life if you met them, or someone you wouldn't remotely be attracted to, or someone of a sex other than the one you're interested in (e.g., you're both straight people of the same sex, or you're a straight woman and he's a fabulous gay man).

If you like writing and you like reading, and you encounter the writing of someone brilliant and funny, oooh, that's juicy. I'll bet you can think of a couple people right now who fit your personal category of "brainy dreamboats who make you swoon in at least a hypothetical way." I don't know about you, but I'm apt to fall for people who have a ginormous vocabulary of $10 words and are adept at using these words correctly; wit is also essential. I can forgive the occasional typo, but I could never bring myself to have an online crush on anyone who doesn't write well.

The beauty of the internet crush is that on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog—or a man or a woman, or cute or plain, or sitting around in baggy pajamas. Rather, you can be judged on the merits of your mind. This opens the door to intellectual flirtations freed from the confines of reality. Some of you may remember having a straight girl's crush on another girl. (My most memorable one of these was around age 13, when an older girl who was a YWCA youth-group leader was just perfect—I craved her attention and, oh, how I wanted to be her.) I presume boys, as well as grown men and women, can get smitten with role models, too, aside from sexual orientation—I've witnessed a woman swooning over Tertia (and why not?) and a man swooning over Michael Bérubé (who wouldn't?).

And there are no geographic limitations—you can have internet crushes from thousands of miles away. You may have a particular interest in an abstruse topic that fascinates exactly nobody in your circle of friends and family—but online, you can mingle with a slew of like-minded people…some of whom may be eminently crushworthy because of their brainpower.

Most crushes are like chocolate sauce—your dinner is certainly complete without it, but it lends a sweet and intoxicating touch and enriches the experience in a most delicious manner. Sure, it'd be unhealthy to live on a diet of just chocolate sauce. But isn't it fun to cultivate a few intellect-based crushes, enjoy feeling smitten from time to time, and hone your flirting skills via e-mail and blog comments?

(Cross-posted at Bitch Ph.D.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Exquisite Car

A week ago, Ben and I lunched on Giordano's Chicago-style stuffed pizza with a friend from out of town. It was such a treat to have another adult around on a weekday, providing cover for ordering a beer with lunch. Drinking alone with a kid just seems wrong, but it's so very civilized to have a drink at mealtime.

Ben, being six, is a teetotaler, so he drank ice water. When he'd finished his water, out of boredom or thirst, he walked over to the restaurant host to ask for more water, please. The host was so charmed, he gave Ben a gift: an Exquisite Car ("All Styles Are Wonderful!") emblazoned with the restaurant's logo. The car's a Smart car (neat!) that blasts loud music (grr!), and it came in a box rich in incomprehensibility (oh, sweet pleasure!). To wit:

"The both sides's car door can successively beat the on and off to shut"

Not clear enough? Maybe an illustration will help:

There are ample safety warnings in languages including broken German (wow! an umlaut on an E!) and Itkflian:

Not to mention a red warning box in English, with 10 lines of text packed within a 0.5x0.75-inch space:

In addition to a "Function Explain" diagram, there was also this clear illustration:

I have yet to witness this "bump up and go" business, and frankly, I'm disappointed. I was hoping to learn how to bump up and go.

Style counsel sought

You may have seen the Gap commercial featuring Audrey Hepburn, back from the grave to dance in skinny pants. While I can't abide the ad, I'm wondering about skinny jeans. Is there an age beyond which a woman must eschew the skinny-pants style? I have skinny legs, and wow, did I ever love wearing skinny jeans when I was about 15, but now I'm over 35. Is the cutoff for skinny jeans dictated by age or leg girth?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Survivor redux

A couple posts back, I observed that a comment by one of the white Survivor contestants provided a crisp example of white privilege. (If you're not sure what that term means, the 50 "daily effects of white privilege" listed by Peggy McIntosh here provide one overview—I freely admit that I haven't studied the issue of white privilege, on accounta having white privilege and therefore not needing to think about my own race much.)

Yesterday, I received a long e-mail from a random blog reader I'll call Defensive White Chick. DWC writes, I agree that ‘the white race’ has no heritage- -we have truly forgotten our specific and unique pasts and blended together in forgetfulness. I'm not sure where the agreeing comes in, because that's not what I was getting at. (Irony much?) You seem to have no problem lumping us into a category of blobby whiteness, where no other identification is pertinent to you. Now, now. I do see differences among various white people. But I also see differences among people of other ethnicities, which was kinda one of my main points.

My benighted correspondent also complained of the so-called double standard in which we won't see a movie called "Black Men Can't Jump": comments are made against us [meaning white folks] on a daily basis in our media and the everyday populace and NOBODY blinks an eye. DWC also insists that something she saw on the TV show Black/White is wrong—that black Americans no longer need fear any violence from "anglos" on a regular basis, that such a fear is a 1950s artifact. That reminds me of college, when some students of color tried to raise awareness of racism on campus. I had a friend, a white guy who grew up in Mankato, Minnesota, who insisted that there was no racism. Now, how would the average white person know what non-white people might be experiencing? I knew a black guy there (mind you, this was a small college in a small town in Minnesota) who once said, "I have to shower twice a day so people don't think black people stink." That wasn't a stereotype I'd ever heard, but you know what? That discussion of white privilege has the following at #33: " I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race." If you're white, then no, you don't think about such things. (Is there any white person who can dispute that point?) People who aren't white, hey, some do worry about that sort of thing.

My jaw dropped when I read DWC's final paragraph: Regardless of whether you like it or not, we are the standard. We conquered the Indians and founded this nation. Many of this countries holidays are reflective of anglo heritage. I know it is not politically correct, but you and anyone else who pisses and moans about the anglo race wouldn’t be here enjoying your current lifestyle without us and our influence. Oh no, you din't! Can you believe that? "Genocide made this country what it is today! You should be grateful for the atrocities of the past, for they have made us great!" (I paraphrase, of course.) I just don't even have a good response to this (aside from things like saying "It's country's, not countries, doof."). Anyone have a pithy response to suggest? Maybe something like [irony] "African-Americans wouldn't be here enjoying life it weren't for the institution of slavery!" or "Can we outlaw all the holidays of non-anglo origin? Because they're just wrong." [/irony] or "Omigod, you're making this up, aren't you? This is parody...isn't it?" (It isn't.)

The last paragraph ended on a lighter note: if you are 'white' then i am sorry that you dislike your own people. if you are not then i would ask that you look at your own racism objectively. Isn't that a wonderful concept? The self-loathing member of the dominant culture? It's a great twist on the usual application of the "self-loathing" tag to people outside the tradition of privilege. I think the next step is to expand it to men. Do you know any self-loathing affluent straight white Christian men who loathe their own affluent whiteness? (Mr. Tangerine suggests that we may find them if we check S&M dungeons...but let us not psychoanalyze the folks who are into that.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Grateful journal

Oprah Winfrey recommends keeping a "grateful journal" in which you "list five things that happened this day that you are grateful for. What it will begin to do is change your perspective of your day and your life. If you can learn to focus on what you have, you will always see that the universe is abundant; you will have more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never have enough."

I know it's early in the day, but life is good and I'm sure I can come up with five things I'm grateful for right now:

1. It is no longer "Talk Like a Pirate Day." I can't write in pirate-speak, so No Nym, I couldn't comment on any of your posts yesterday. I find "Talk Like a Pirate Day" to be most irksome. I do not, however, expend any energy deploring its glorification of those bad, bad piratical people, and find those who do complain about pirates to be just plain humorless.

2. I finally got the contract from my publisher (for a book about what else? crosswords), so I no longer feel like I'm in the limbo of uncertainty. Writing about something I enjoy turns out to be fun!

3. While my husband may pay no attention to laundry, he is a good man, a good husband, and a superb father. Plus he puts up with my snoring.

4. My son's having a good time in first grade, his best buddy from day camp is in his class, he's reading so fluidly now, and he does a much better job of listening to his mother than he used to. I've been productive during the hours he's in school, though today will entail more hair salon time (highlights and a much-overdue cut) and less writing time.

5. Pharmaceuticals and medical technology. Seriously. My kid and I wouldn't be here without 'em. While universal health care is sorely needed, health insurance companies drive everyone nuts, and there's plenty of over-/under-/mis-treatment in medicine, we do have a helluva bunch of resources on tap.

What are you grateful for? (And you'd better come up with five things. I know you can do it! If you're in a bind, there's always the weather, the new TV season, and the seasonal waning of heat and humidity.)

Cross-posted at Bitch Ph.D.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Raising money for breast cancer

We all know the statistics—breast cancer is all too common, and if nobody in your particular circle of friends and family has had to to battle with this disease, it's probably just a matter of time, really. Not to be alarmist, but breast cancer is hardly rare.

My family has been incredibly lucky in that there's been remarkably little cancer, and I'm grateful for that. But just recently, my mother's best friend—a woman I've known for 35 years—was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy last week, and will be doing chemo and radiation therapy to cut her odds of recurrence from 25% to 5%. She's trying to figure out which adjunctive therapy to do first, thinking about which side effects fit her schedule when. With luck, she won't have a terrible time with either, and the cancer cells will be whipped into submission for good. But I still worry.

This is the first year I'll be doing City of Hope's annual Walk for Hope with a specific breast cancer survivor in mind—I've walked each year for the past four or five years, but now that I have a more personal connection to this cancer, I want to raise more money than I have in the past. I've set a modest goal of raising $500 before October 8.

If you can afford a few bucks* to support the cause and sponsor me in the Walk for Hope, please stop by my donation page and click the "Donate now!" button. It's a secure site, and the money will go directly from your credit card (issued by U.S. banks only, alas) to City of Hope. Thank you!

*If you're flat broke, or if you've already earmarked your charitable donations elsewhere, I understand. But keep a good thought for my mom's friend, will you?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Now on CBS Thursday: Survivor: White Privilege

You've probably heard about the latest edition of Survivor, with each of the four "tribes" being a different race. I found myself on the couch at 7:00 tonight, so I turned on Survivor—what good is deploring something when you haven't even seen it? Sometimes one must make sacrifices for the sake of intellectual honesty, after all. And my sacrifice was sitting through most of tonight's premiere episode.

What I saw was a picture-perfect depiction of white privilege in all its glory. First we saw the Latino team traveling from the boat to the island, and they talked about how they'd demonstrate that they can "work hard and play hard." Then the Asian team made the same trip to the beach, saying that the other tribes would scarcely suspect that these small Asian people would be competitive. Third out was the black team, and they also touched on the idea of showing that stereotypes weren't accurate.

Last was the white tribe, and apparently these folks were cast for their ability to effortlessly present white privilege. I hadn't noticed the other groups playing the color-blind card, but one of the white guys said it really didn't matter if everyone was white or "other ethnicities"—the game's all about individual personalities. Then a different white guy said, "It's going to be fascinating to see how it plays out, but I don't believe that just because these groups have cultural similarities, that that will make them more specifically cohesive."

"These groups"? "Them"? As if the average fivesome of young white Americans who wanna be on reality TV have no shared culture? And what exactly are the cultural commonalities between a Vietnam War refugee who currently runs a nail shop, New York–born Koreans with high-powered jobs, a Midwest-raised Filipina in real estate, and a West Coast hottie guy in the fashion industry? How about a Dominican wrestler/musician, a Peruvian-born businesswoman, a Mexican-born waiter, and two Santa Monica natives, one a male volleyball player and the other a female cop? They sound mighty homogeneous, don't they?

It's incredibly easy for white people to forget about race, as we apparently have none. It's those other people who have races; we white folks are the default. (Just like men needn't trouble themselves with gender issues much—they're the default. Women, however, can't easily ignore their sex.)

I don't know how much race will figure into the course of Survivor: Cook Islands and frankly, I'm not interested in watching the show. But that comment about "these groups" perfectly encapsulated the concept of white privilege for me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I love my local IHOP restaurant, I do. I swear that it's hipper than the average IHOP, but until today, I didn't have a clear explanation. Here's the deal: Not only does it draw a diverse clientele, but the wait staff tends to look hipper. To wit: The three waiters working the dinner shift tonight included a red-haired guy with a barbell traversing the cartilage of his upper ear (plus a little other hardware, I think), a blondish guy with hipster sideburns and two small hoop earrings, and a foxy, chatty Asian guy with spiky hair and a pierced tongue. The restaurant seems to do a good job with employee retention, because busboys get promoted to cook and waiters and waitresses tend to stick around. And I've had subpar flapjacks only once in the past seven years.

Plus, Feral Mom and one of her toddlers once attempted to destroy the women's room, and it survived unscathed. What more could you ask for in an IHOP?

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, five years later

I remember where I was, exactly five years ago (give or take a half hour). I was home with my 16-month-old son, who was only beginning to walk. I sat in front of the TV for hours that morning, stunned and crying. Ben was too young to have any idea what was going on. He wasn't walking yet, but he could stand up just fine. Indelibly, the sound of his rolling push toy, with its jangly, tinkly rendition of the alphabet song, is imprinted on my memories of September 11, because Ben was playing with it while the planes hit the Twin Towers, while the people evacuated, while the towers turned into rubble, while the terrible day unfolded. He didn't get to play with it much after that day, because the perky music sounded so mournful to me and I didn't want to hear it any more. At least the toy served its purpose in diverting Ben while his mother's mind was hundreds of miles away. That morning, I held Ben close and wondered what sort of world Ben would know—it was no longer the world I grew up in.


I'm sorry for the thousands of people who perished on September 11, 2001, including the selfless rescue workers, and for the families and friends who miss them still. I'm sorry for the survivors who escaped with their lives, but experienced such terrible trauma that day. I'm sorry for the servicemen and women who lost their lives in the wars that followed, and for their families. I'm sorry for the many heroes who toiled at Ground Zero to gather human remains and clear the site, many of whom are now ill from the toxic exposures.


This morning, Ben's school had a memorial service outside before classes started. More than a thousand students and hundreds of parents and staffers gathered. Flag at half mast, the Pledge of Allegiance, the standard patriotic songs (plus an odd "If you stand up for freedom, clap your hands" number), a tall, slender young woman with skin the color of espresso who wore a Statue of Liberty costume, a release of red, white, and blue balloons, and a moment of silence. If I had started to sing along, I would have ended up bawling, so instead I stood quietly and only sniffled. The children and parents there represent the beauty of America—the way this beacon of freedom, imperfect though it may be, draws people from across the globe who want to become Americans, who want their children to be American. People from different continents, cultures, countries. These people, like the immigrant ancestors of Americans born here, strengthen the nation and remind us that what we have is rare, and we shouldn't take it for granted.

The cynic in me can scoff at rosy discussions of freedom and point out the erosion of civil liberties, wars I don't agree with, the persistence of bias. But it is because of our communal commitment to freedom that the United States remains such a powerful magnet. It's imperfect, yes, but its problems are amenable to change through democratic processes. Even a terrorist attack on the nation's power centers didn't change that.

What do you know about menorrhagia?

A dear friend, P., is approaching menopause at 41 (even though she doesn't look a day over 25), and her last few periods have been bloody monsters—the one just past lasted two weeks (two weeks!) and was really heavy, to boot. Chunky clots (she said it looks like her body is disgorging an alien, bit by bloody bit). A tampon an hour. Blowouts requiring a trip home to change clothes. Painful cramping. And did I mention...two weeks! Bad, bad period, in other words. She clearly meets the criteria for menorrhagia, with the heaviness of the flow, how long it lasts, and how miserable it's making her.

Herewith, a few questions for anyone who has been through this herself, or knows someone who has:

1. What treatment(s) did you try? Did you get good results? (P. has had side effects from the pill, so she's looking for another option.)

2. What do you know about the NovaSure endometrial ablation technique? The website makes it sound like the biggest boon to bleeders. What's the down side (aside from having a thingamajig inserted into the uterus and cramping up afterwards, etc.)?

3. Got any coping strategies or pointers to offer?

Friday, September 08, 2006

When famous older women have babies

Do you remember a few years ago when there was a push to raise women's awareness of when fertility dwindles? I think it was an initiative from one of the reproductive endocrinologists' groups (maybe this one), frustrated by how many of their patients were heartbroken to discover, now that they were finally ready to start a family, that their eggs were pretty well cooked. Why have so many women been in the dark about this, thinking that age 40 was a fine time to embark on a first baby? I blame the media attention given to celebrity pregnancies, where it's seldom hinted that a woman in her 40s or 50s might have required assisted reproductive technology (ART).

Case in point: this week's news that actress Marcia Cross, age 44, is pregnant with her first child, quite soon after her wedding. Nowhere in the article does it mention fertility treatment. This gossip piece reports that she and her husband were seen leaving a fertility clinic, but Cross's publicist, of course, omitted any mention of ART.

It's possible Cross and her husband relied on IVF and perhaps donor eggs. But with all the media attention showered on famous 40-somethings who are pregnant—and the conspiracy of silence on ART—American women can easily get the message that fertility after 40 is quite unremarkable, just another natural, happy circumstance.

I recognize that everyone has a right to medical privacy, and that you don't necessarily want your child learning they came from donor gametes via a Google search. But time and time again, the media leaves out the details that remind people that the average woman is going to have infertility issues if she tries to get pregnant in her 40s.

Jane Seymour gave birth to twins at age 45; at that time, I don't recall seeing a mention of IVF, although she has acknowledged it since then. But might she have used donor eggs? Could be. Cheryl Tiegs claims to have used her own eggs—at age 52!—and a gestational surrogate. (I concede it's possible that Tiegs was the 1-in-500 case with viable eggs at that age...) Geena Davis was in her mid-40s, and I've never seen any acknowledgment of ART in her case.

Last year, I blogged about Joan Lunden, who used a gestational surrogate twice, starting at age 49, and now has two sets of young twins. (That's in addition to three grown children from a prior marriage.) The pregnancies used Lunden's husband's sperm, but the Good Housekeeping article I blogged about delicately avoided using the words "egg" and "donor" (though an infertility-savvy reader could pick up the implication of donor eggs).

I don't begrudge affluent, famous, biologically middle-aged women the joys of pregnancy. I just wish that they didn't perpetuate the stigma of donor eggs, donor embryos, and gestational surrogacy by omitting their personal details, while simultaneously propagating the false impression that it's easy to get pregnant at that age. And I wish the media would be far more responsible in their reporting of these late-in-life pregnancies.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Chapter 1

The birth story begins, as some do, with optimism. My mom got pregnant with my sister a month into marriage, and conceived me when my sister was 6 months old. Said sister got pregnant within about 4 months of going off the pill. With familial fertility like that, clearly I'd be knocked up in no time at all. Mr. Tangerine and I had been married for 6 years, I was getting laid off from my job and beginning a freelance career, and the timing was perfect for starting a family.

Except...month after month, ovulation predictor kit after ovulation predictor kit, the excellent timing and the de rigueur postcoital assal elevation proved pointless. We began to fret. Perhaps something was amiss in his bits, or in mine.

After about a year, we started conferring with doctors. Mr. Tangerine "collected a sample" at the andrology lab, and the results indicated that his spermatozoa were splendid.

My turn. Blood work showed normal levels of all the pertinent hormones. Could there be a traffic jam in the fallopian tubes, perhaps? Time for the dye test, a.k.a. the HSG, a.k.a. the hysterosalpingogram. Saddle up in the stirrups, let the doctor thread a catheter tube through the cervix, and x-ray the fluid as it whooshes through the catheter and uterus and to the fallopian tubes. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong. Turns out my cervical canal fakes left and goes right (or vice versa), meaning health-care providers always have a dickens of a time getting through it. Except this was the first time anything larger than a sperm ever tried to traverse that route, so the unfortunate OB/GYN didn't know my cervix was tricksy. He put on his lead apron at the beginning, assuming he'd reach the x-raying stage quickly—but no. He was a sweaty, nervous wreck, working under that hot spotlight and feeling the flop sweat as my reproductive parts repelled his efforts. Eventually, the catheter went through, the X-ray movie was made, and my uterus and tubes were deemed normal.

But do you know what happens when somebody picks a fight with your cervix? Ow ow ow ow ow. There's nothing quite like traumatizing your cervix to produce a flow of scarlet blood. There was blood all over the back of my hospital gown...and I had to go down a ways and across the hall to get back to the locker with my clothes. Ladies, you haven't lived until you've strolled a hallway with a bloody hospital gown clinging wetly to your ass. (This experience with the HSG is exactly the reason I haven't opted for the Essure method of sterilization. You have to get an HSG 3 months after the Essure coils are inserted to make sure your fallopian tubes are blocked, and I...have issues with the HSG. I'll pass.)

Anyway, with no information other than that there was no apparent reason we hadn't gotten me pregnant yet, the Tangerines moved on to the reproductive endocrinologists. We did three or four cycles with Clomid and intrauterine insemination. It didn't result in a pregnancy, but there were plenty of good times along the way. For starters, Mr. Tangerine had to "collect a sample" each of those cycles, in the little room with the videos and the magazines. All the men in the waiting room had just masturbated, or were about to; some men were present only by proxy, inside plastic specimen cups. One time, a younger woman made small talk by saying that her husband got "excited" every time he saw the special plastic cup. Thanks for oversharing! Another entertaining aspect was the mood swings wrought by Clomid—PMS on steroids.

Disheartened after several failed cycles, we took some time off from appointments and medications and procedures. And we got pregnant right away, once we stopped thinking about it so much! No, that's a lie. But it's a funny one, isn't it? All of you who have ever run the infertility gamut know what I'm talking about. "Just relax." Ri-i-i-ight. I couldn't have been any more relaxed during the first 6 to 12 months of trying, honest.

Then we started over with a new reproductive endrocrinologist, an aggressive South African with a fantastic accent. At first I thought his suggestion of moving ahead to injectible drugs for a couple cycles, then on to IVF, was too aggressive. But the less aggressive approach didn't get me pregnant, now, did it? No, ma'am.

And so we embarked on a new phase. Buying $700 of hormonal drugs and needles at a specialty drugstore. And shots! Mr. Tangerine gave me shots in the belly every morning before he went to work. Oh, such fun it was. First cycle: failed. Second cycle: deferred an extra month because of leftover follicles from the first cycle; gotta love taking oral contraceptives when trying to conceive! The cycle-two insems were at the end of September in 1999. (So much for having a kid in the 1900s—I always thought it was cool that my great-grandmother had been born in the 1800s, and wanted my kid's future descendants to marvel at the idea of someone born in the 1900s!) Mr. Tangerine collected his sample at home. I tucked the sealed cup beside me while he drove me to the medical office building, and he went on to work and eschewed the whole being-there-for-the-conception-of-his-child business. That's so, like, medieval! Much more efficient this way, no? (Plus it allows the parent to point out the building to the child—"That's where you were conceived, my son"—with none of the awkwardness that comes with telling kids about sex.)

The second cycle seemed to fail, but I jumped the gun in peeing on the pregnancy test stick and got a too-early negative. The first sign I was pregnant was going out to lunch with two old friends on short notice—and totally spacing on the fact that I had a dentist appointment. Many people claim pregnancy induces forgetfulness, you know.

The follow-ups at the reproductive endocrinology clinic showed that, thankfully, just one embryo had taken up parasitic residence in my womb. This is no slam on people with multiples, but as future installments will show, a twin pregnancy would have been a bad, bad thing in my case. But I didn't know any of that yet. I was just delighted to be pregnant and proud of the little ultrasound pictures of my little bean of a 7-week embryo.

Next: Chapter 2, The First Trimester—in which I don't go to Hawaii.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Be my brain

Those of you who have been reading here for a while—do you recall if I ever posted my birth (from conception to NICU) story? I tried Googling the answer to that question, and it didn't dig up anything. If I did write up my story, I don't want to repeat myself, but if I didn't, I feel I ought to. Anyone know if I've posted that already?

Edited to add this: Okay, I've only written a little summary. I'll get moving on the full version one of these months. Basic outline:

Conception and Infertility: How I conceived a baby while my husband was away at work. I swear it's his!

Pregnancy: The First Trimester: Migraines and holiday hospitalization.

Pregnancy: The Next 1 1/3 Trimesters: Culminating in preeclampsia.

Party in Labor & Delivery: Rubber glove, ice cubes, groin. Need I elaborate?

Postpartum Woes, Chapter 1: The ICU Edition.

Postpartum Woes, Chapter 2: Spinal Headache Special Edition.

Postpartum Woes, Chapter 3: Lactation or Non?

Postpartum Woes, Chapter 4: The NICU Edition, including the baby shower.

The epic battle: sudoku vs. crosswords

(Cross-posted at Bitch Ph.D.; a few edits made here.)

When you see someone engrossed in a sudoku puzzle, I encourage you to look on them with pity. And when you witness someone solving a crossword, please smile, nod appreciatively, and flirt.

Sudoku puzzles serve their purpose, yes: they pass the time (I admit to doing them on occasion—haven't I said I am a procrastinator?). But don't kid yourself. You're not learning anything, and you're not making yourself any smarter by doing them. It's the same logical challenge every time. It's not as if you've learned something essential about the number 4 and can now unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Now, crossword puzzles are a different story. Every one is different, the good ones have some funny clues, you stretch your brain when you have to think flexibly to interpret tricky clues, and you learn an awful lot of trivia (which can expand your horizons a little—think of all the 70-year-old women who now know the names of a few rappers because they appeared in the New York Times crossword).

If you've grown fond of sudoku, is it because you "can't do crosswords"? Nonsense. You may think you can't do crosswords, but really, you can. Just start with the easy ones. There are plenty of books of NYT and other crosswords specifically labeled "easy" (or even "easy, breezy"), and the Monday NYT puzzle has become easier of late. Start with the easy ones (and go for the easiest clues first—generally fill-in-the-blank clues, or anything asking for a name you know), and check the solutions in the back of the book for any answers you don't know. Don't just fill them in—reread the clue and figure out how the answer goes with it. Over time, you'll learn the ropes and become more adept, and then you can move along to tougher puzzles.

If you thought crosswords were stodgy things for boring old folks, think again. Even the Onion (the Onion!) will start running a crossword in a few weeks. See? So not stodgy. This is not your grandmother's crossword puzzle any more. But sudoku? Stodgy by nature. You can tart it up with different twists, but it remains the same logical task for your brain, over and over. All the cool kids are moving to crosswords.

If you've ever wondered how crosswords are made, don't miss Patrick Creadon's entertaining crossword documentary, Wordplay; it's still playing in selected theaters, and the DVD is due out in early November. Be sure to save it in your Netflix queue, because it's a good movie, some of my crossword-geek friends star in it, and I cameo in it—watch for the curtsy by the woman in lime green. Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton are among the famous crossword fans featured in the movie, and they ain't stodgy. See the movie, catch crossword fever. (And don't hold your breath for a sudoku movie.)

There are some impassioned defenses of sudoku in the comments at Bitch Ph.D. I find them unpersuasive, of course. Not only do crosswords give me an ego boost because I'm good at them, they also landed me in a movie. Can't beat that.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Life chafes, bras shouldn't

(Cross-posted over yonder at Bitch Ph.D.; a few edits added here.)

It's been a long and irritating summer for me, with turning thirty-ten, assorted pain-in-the-ass ailments (figuratively speaking), still waiting for a book contract to be sent, and I-love-my-kid-but-four-weeks-between-the-end-of-day-camp-and-the-start-of-school-is-too-much (Chicago public school kids don't start till next Tuesday). And yesterday, my mom took Ben off my hands for a grammy-kid outing downtown—but this plastic shield thingy on the underside of the front of my car—turns out it's called an engine shield—cracked open and I drove on Lake Shore Drive with plastic scraping the roadway, and then when I got home, I was too ill-tempered to be productive (See? Procrastinators always have excuses.) and had to spend a half hour on the phone with the car insurance guy (if you or your partner has a US military connection and a hookup with USAA, omigod is their customer service fantastic. The guy asked before he put me on hold each time and always told me how long it would be. "Is it okay if I put you on hold for 30 seconds?" What a dreamboat! I wish USAA could provide my phone service, because my local phone service is a little iffy and their customer service avoidance techniques suck ass. Speaking of insurance companies, all you renters who are on a tight budget should really make sure you have renter's insurance, because the premiums are so much cheaper than what it would cost you to replace everything if you had a fire, water damage, or a break-in. Really.) And thanks to my high deductible, the $453 repair costs for the car (including a new spoiler thingy, the bottom part of the front bumper) will be out of pocket.

There have been bright spots in Irritating Summer, to be sure: I have a great husband, a sweet and funny almost-first-grader, a reasonably easy life, and I even got off my ass and started using that health club membership three months ago. (Although I haven't gone in over two weeks—see "assorted ailments," above.)

But my brain is on hiatus right now. And it's guest-posting Wednesday! So I'll tack up a few unserious, unrelated small posts. First up, bras:

Thanks to working out at the aforementioned health club, my bra band size increased (muscles!) so I needed new bras. (I'll hold onto the wardrobe of Wacoals in the no-longer-right-size in case I reshape my bosom again.) I went to Bloomingdales, which just so happened to provide an excellent illustration of why Nordstrom's has a better reputation in lingerie sales. (The sad part is that the same shopping center also had a Nordy's, but it was a long walk to that end of the shopstravaganza, and one of my recent ailments involved my foot.) Anyway, while the customer service was dreadful, the Wacoal inventory was great. I found out the funky iBra doesn't fit me, but I bought this one in an adorable pink (why didn't I know that pink bras don't show through white shirts? I love pink!), and it's perfectly smooth under a tee (but I remember trying it on in my previous size, and it didn't work for me at all then); and I bought this more supportive one for less jiggly days.

The point? Dr. B, she knows bras. I know a lot of you won't pay more than $15 for a bra, but don't think your boobs are thanking you for that. You should at least try on some good bras (like Wacoal, which run roughly $38 to $62). And make sure you're wearing the right size: this site, this one, and this site recommended by a Bitch Ph.D. commenter are helpful. Many women actually need a smaller band size (use the loosest hook when the bra's new) and larger cup size (that Nordstrom's link has photos that illustrate when the cups are too big or too small for you).

For more wisdom from the Professor of Brassiere and Shoe Studies (she's tenured and holds an endowed chair in the department), check out the bra links in the Bitch Ph.D. sidebar.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lazy list of search queries

Lately, my douchebag and what is a douchebag hits have gone way down. But not to worry—plenty of other oddball search queries have lured people to this very blog.

The #1 query is funky words, which I wrote about one time. I have no idea if those were the words these people are looking for, or if they were disappointed not to discover a whole 'nother category or funkalicious words here. Second is orange tangerine, naturally enough. Third, swim ware. Guess what? There probably aren't a ton of sites that spell it that way, but I'll bet the poor spellers don't stick around here when they see that I actually make fun of spellings like "swim ware." (It's like really wet software, no?) There's also swimwere sperm, swimming ware, and men wearing womans swimwere (a cross-dresser and a poor speller).

Next on the list are some product names: Hemorr-Ice, which may offer sweet, cold relief to those suffering from 'roids, and Space Food Sticks, which I loved in the '70s, but the replica being made today is nasty. Possibly it tastes identical to the snack I loved so much when I was a kid—who knows? But don't give in to the temptation. You'll be disappointed.

I don't know what the bum hole and snot sex folks thought they'd find here, but I suspect they moved along quickly, utterly let down by this blog. I have no idea what number five orange might mean. As for erectionphotos, that was mentioned by Esquire magazine many moons ago, and I mentioned it in a post, but didn't even link to the site, which is exactly what it sounds like. And still, Orange Tangerine comes up in search engines when people look for that. Go figure.

Queries like orange bras and tangerine tits seem to go together, no? I don't know about cheese bra, though. (I'd have to advise against using Swiss cheese.) And grilled velveeta—listen, don't burn your breasts with that, okay? And very ample breasts makes me wonder whether that summons up the same sites that a search for "ginormous boobies" would. Does the more sophisticated wording elevate the caliber of breasts depicted? The query sexy photos girls boobies that only grownups could see smacks of a curious 13-year-old boy.

Then there's how to be chic. Wouldn't you like to meet the person who aspires to be chic, and goes online to find out how to pull that off? Good luck to ya. Can't say I've got much advice for you here. Maybe check out the links for the woman farting in the car search? And of course, you can't go wrong with crossword puzzles. Très chic.

Even more alarming than that are queries like swallowed petrol (can't the British call Poison Control, too?), barbed wire toilet seat (ouch), sadnesses and horrifying poems (aww...), orange balls in ejaculation (!), lysol douche (No! Don't do it! This is so wrong!), mormon bdsm (hope you find what you're looking for, dear), how to put holes in jeans (No! Don't do it! This is so wrong!), masturbating with an orange (How?? Now I'm curious. How is this done?), women have penis's (That's so wrong! The plural is penises, no apostrophe.), wife never orgasm small penis (Dude, you got hands? A mouth? Sex toys? Use 'em.), what does my poo mean (can't be sure, but I suspect it has something to do with eating, digestion, and elimination), vomit boobs (sexy!), true confessions grandma sex, tripe green throwover (no idea what that means, but it can't be good), sticky balls disease (first step: try washing), people eat spiders in their sleep (ack!), orange up the butt (Don't do it! Oranges lack handy pull-strings for retrieval.), orange pieces in ejaculation (call your doctor, man), margarine eater contest (eww...), coffee tastes like someone threw up in it (make a new pot already), big assy sex (what?), and—most alarming of all—american girl doll matching outfits.

Then we have the confessions: i use public toilet and piss on the seat (knock it off!) i love menopausal butts (good for you!), i hump my cat (hey, pick on someone your own size! and species), and can count the number of guys i've slept with on one hand (me too!)

Most mysterious of all is orange road images erotic thumbs access free. What??

Apparently I'm not the only one who dreams of taking the elevator sideways. (I recommend it highly!)

A couple animal-related queries caught my eye: what does squirrel poo look like? Hey! I know that now. Sadly. When a squirrel is freaked out because it doesn't know how to get out of your house, the poop is dark brown to greenish, soft, roughly the size of a sunflower seed without its shell. Whether calm squirrels have different poop, I can't say. Then there's orang jeans. Did Clint Eastwood's orangutan costar in those old movies wear pants? I don't know what's going on with gorilla zoo la leche league.

I'm guessing that most regular readers originally came to Orange Tangerine via another blog, where they followed a link in a blogroll or comment. (That's how I found most of the blogs I read.) But if you actually came here because of a search query and decided to pop in from time to time, leave a comment and say hello. I'm curious to know whether any of those Google hits end up sticking.