Saturday, December 29, 2007

I invented "teh"

You know the Internet slang teh, used jocularly in place of the and as a sort of intensifier?

I coined that. I have proof, right here on a drawing I made circa 1971, years before the World Wide Web existed.

Teh Sun. Teh Moon. Teh awesome.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Too good not to blog it

I should be really finishing those Christmas cards (just a few more to go...) and driving them to the post office, wrapping gifts (...haven't started yet), shopping for a few last presents (without a list), putting away the laundry, straightening the house, or making myself some lunch right now. Instead, I must blog.

Mr. Tangerine is working from home today as he is coming down with a sniffly cold, his work is perfectly laptoppable, and it's his last work day before taking next week off. So after three or four hours of working from the couch, he begins to seek his BlackBerry. Where could it be? He thought he'd placed it in the pocked of his pajama pants. (What woman has ever had pockets in her pajama pants? Ripoff! We need pockets, too.) It's not there. It's not under his butt. It doesn't seem to be in the couch's crevices.

It took me a good 15 years to learn not to spring into action when Mr. Tangerine can't find his stuff. I didn't lose it, so why should I look for it? Much more relaxing not to involve myself. Should've quit years ago!

So I suggest that he call the phone and listen for its ring. That doesn't work. Why not? Where could it be?

Eventually, Mr. Tangerine stands up and looks around for his PDA. Oddly enough, the BlackBerry was resting on the living room bookshelf, alongside my collection of glass paperweights. Now, that's one shelf over from the CDs, but I was the one who grabbed the Nirvana CD this morning, not him. He doesn't know why or when he shelved the BlackBerry.

"Why didn't it ring?" he queried. He looks it over and discovers it has been set to "quiet." Now why would he have set it to quiet mode? He doesn't know that any more than he knows why he put it on a shelf where we don't just stash random things.

It is possible he is losing his mind, isn't it? What a shame it is to lose one's mind, or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A sesquipedalian manifesto

The first place I saw this thingamabob—

was at philosophy professor Rob's blog, and he clocked in at genius reading level. How many levels are there between high school and genius? I don't know. I need to jack my vocabulary up, way up, to find out. At least I'm not at the junior high or elementary school level. That would make me sad. Not that there's anything wrong with blogs that are, apparently, easier to read—I enjoy 'em, after all.

Somebody—maybe Strunk and White, maybe a high-school English teacher—advised me to use a simpler, shorter word whenever possible. Why say gargantuan when big will do? Well, because sometimes gargantuan is what we mean, and big can't always embrace the level of meaning that's intended.

Erin McKean of Dictionary Evangelist wrote about the worth of using le mot juste when it's the sort of unusual word that your reader will be delighted to make the acquaintance of. Erin linked to writer James Meek's article in the Guardian, "From albedo to zugunruhe." Meek made a point of jotting down unfamiliar words he encountered in his reading and learning their meanings. Now, you may well need to look up five or ten (or thirty-five) of the words Meek mentions, but your vocabulary will be richer for it.

I'm always enchanted to find a word I don't know (unless, say, it's during the crossword tournament and said word is killing me), especially if it's in a friend's blog or e-mail. "Wow!" I muse. "She knows how to wield this word and I don't. She must be frightfully bright and well-read." I love learning that about someone, and I appreciate the opportunity to add to my vocabulary.

It's also fun to impress someone with an aptly chosen word, isn't it?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Poetic parodies

Who doesn't enjoy parodies of famous poems? I have no particular fondness for poetry, truth be told, but I'm a sucker for parodies thereof.

Today, Becky riffs on Poe's "The Raven" in her Ode to a Menstrual Cramp, complete with a shout-out to old belted Kotex.

If that whets your appetite for more spoofing of canonical literature, check out Francis Heaney's Holy Tango of Literature ("Holy Tango" is an anagram of "anthology"). It makes a fun $10 gift for those friends or relatives who were English majors or enjoy wordplay. In his book, Francis parodies numerous poems and plays by anagramming the author's name and riffing on that anagram as the subject of his poem. T. S. Eliot becomes "Toilets," for example, and the meter mimics that of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." (I think. Am too lazy to double-check at the moment.) Gwendolyn Brooks becomes "We Long, Bony Dorks," a poem about math dorks.

You can read the entire book for free at Francis's website, but you miss out on the cartoon illustrations. And if you printed the whole thing out and gave it as a gift, you'd rightly be called a cheapskate by the recipient.

Cavalcade of Bad Nativities

Narya linked to Sara's latest Cavalcade of Bad Nativities. Apparently she puts these up during the advent to Christmas, i.e., starting at the beginning of December. The month is young, so you'll have to check back throughout the month for more.

In the meantime, you can amuse yourself by beholding the many laughable, mockable nativity scenes available in 2004. Be sure to click through to pages 2 and 3 after enjoying page 1, and don't miss Sara's snarky titles and text.

I have no idea who Sara is, but I see that she also sells "wtfwjd?" t-shirts and merchandise.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bad sex

Enough about smelly washers! (Not really. If you have more to say, you can still comment on the previous post. Or e-mail me. Two friends have e-mailed me from the other side of the Atlantic about their own smelly washer woes. Mind you, I have but two friends on the other side of the Atlantic, so 100% of them have smelly washers. Whereas I know scores of people in the U.S. who have not mentioned smelly washers. Is this a cultural thing? Does America have washer superiority, or is it just chance, this disparity?)

Anyway—Nancy Friedman's Away With Words blog pointed me towards the Bad Sex Awards of 2007, dishonoring the literary flights of fancy that have done the most harm to the cause of good sex writing this year. Norman Mailer won for a horrid imagining of Adolf Hitler's parents' bad sex, complete with a penis that was "now as soft as a coil of excrement." (Eww!) That's pretty awful, all right, but Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan offers this gem:

"You wanna pop me?" she said. This must have been some new-fangled youth term. The verb "to pop."

"I wanna bust a nut inside you, shorty," I said. "I wanna make you sweat, boo. Let's do this thing."

I'd like to say that she stepped out of her jeans, but in truth it took a while to maneuver two large dimpled buttocks and the accompanying vaginal wedge out of the hard shell of her Miss Sixty denims. We huffed and sweated; I had her hanging off the edge of the bed while I gripped the cuffs of her jeans; I nearly pulled a groin muscle getting her naked; but through it all I stayed hard, a testament to how much I wanted her. She kept her T-shirt on throughout the initial popping, which is just how I like my sex, infused with a little mystery. I slipped my hands beneath the cotton tee and felt the smooth creamery of her breasts while saving the visuals of those brown glossy globes for later. Her vagina was all that, as they say in the urban media - a powerful ethnic muscle scented by bitter melon, the breezes of the local sea, and the sweaty needs of a tiny nation trying to breed itself into a future. Was it especially hairy? Good Lord, yes it was. Mountains of kinkiness black as the night above the Serengeti with paprika shoots at the edges - the pubic hair alone must have clocked in at half a kilo, while providing the inspiration for two discernible trails of hair, one running up to the navel, the other to the base of the spine.

The short first season of the HBO series, Tell Me That You Love Me, recently ended. Whew! Not a moment too soon. The talky, whiny, pouty people weren't a problem for me. And I pitied the character who'd been married for years, had been faking orgasm all along, and had never managed to learn how to masturbate successfully (as if this is rocket science!)—at least she mastured that skill in the season finale. The show had almost as much sexual content as a Skinemax movie, and yet it was 99.9% unerotic—much like the Bad Sex finalists of fiction.

Good gravy! The world scarcely needs more bad sex.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is your washer smelly?

Funny thing, this. Somehow, back in the day, this blog got a few hits from people Googling I had no idea what that was all about. Washers get smelly? There is a website for that?

Then my laundry machine turned on me. There was a funky mildew smell, and it wasn't from festering wet laundry left inside for too long.

I removed the agitator mechanism and scrubbed it and bleach-sprayed it. There! All clean!

Except...not. Still had the stink.

I spent a few months being mystified and a not a little frustrated by the recalcitrant odor. Then I read a blog post that alluded to search terms leading people to the blog, which always has the effect of luring me into sweeping the dust out from under SiteMeter and checking out my referral records. And there it was: Could this be my savior?

I checked out the website for the first time. Seems like hooey—unless you happen to be vexed by refractory olfactory assaults wrought by your washing machine. I figured I had nothing to lose but $19 and the desire to drop $800 on a brand-new stackable laundry unit, so I placed my order. A few days later a padded envelope arrived, bearing a ziploc bag full of a white granular substance and a xeroxed page of instructions. [Aside: Yep, I just used two trade names as generic terms without capitalizing them. I still tend to capitalize Googling, but I'll give up the G soon enough.]

It took a few days to summon up the gumption and the time to soak the washer tub with hot water and the Purewasher powder for a few hours, soak it again overnight, and run a few rinses in the morning. The powder itself has almost no smell, and while you don't want to leave it on your hands, there's no need to protect your skin with gloves.

The verdict: It's not quite back to virgin washing machine non-odor, but the remaining mildewy smell is faint.

The people say that overuse of laundry detergent leads to this fungal overgrowth somehow, and they advise using about a quarter of what the detergent bottle calls for. I do wonder if the Ecos lavender laundry detergent I've been using predisposed my washer to the stink. I used less than the eco-savvy bottle called for, but maybe that was still too much—or maybe it's the detergent itself that's the problem. I bought a small bottle of Tide and have been using a teeny amount of it for each load, and it seems to keep the mildew smell at bay. Every fourth load or so, I use the lavender detergent, but I get paranoid that I'm smelling mildew after each Ecos load.

The amount of Tide I'm using is halfway up to line 1, or about a half inch up from the bottom of the cap. (My washing machine has a small capacity, but I was using between lines 1 and 2 back in the day.) The fragrance is still plenty strong with such a small amount of detergent, so I'll bet's advice about using a fraction of the usual amount is spot-on.

I feel like such a good citizen of the internet now that the people Googling will actually find on-topic information at my blog. As for the "why is my poo orange" folks—sorry, I can't answer that question.

Monday, November 26, 2007

An olio

  • On the way home from lunch, we passed a poster for the new Rambo movie coming out in January. The writer, director, and star is Sylvester Stallone, of course—and he's 61 years old now. Grambo!
  • At lunch, Ben sampled my wan fruit cup containing honeydew, cantaloupe, and one lone grape. He hasn't really tasted the non-watermelon melons much before, so I was curious to see whether he'd like them. "They could make it crunchier," he concluded.
  • Also at lunch, Ben was motivated to polish off his French fries by dipping them in grape jelly.
  • The combination did nothing for me, but you might like it. He topped his burger with barbecue sauce and French fries. (I think he might enjoy the chip butty.)
  • Me, I'm a crossword geek. I make no secret of that. I'm also a crossword snob, and disdain the lesser crossword venues out there. If your crossword tastes are more democratic than mine, I'll bet you can still identify some flaws in this puzzle.
  • I upgraded my Mac OS to Leopard and discovered that the new version of the Safari browser clashes with Blogger. Not only clashes, but crashes. Repeatedly. So I took the advice of a couple readers of my crossword blog and downloaded Camino. Wow! All those handy-dandy Blogger features you can use when you're composing a post, that were never available to me in Safari? They're very nice. Text of all sizes, text of all colors, a variety of fonts, and the bulleted list format of this post—all quick and easy buttons. I will try not to be annoyingly amateurish with these new toys that approximately 3.5 gazillion Windows-based Blogger users have had for years.
  • When I bought Leopard at the Apple Store, the checkout process was awesome. The guy who was answering my questions ran my credit card on his little pocket doohickey and e-mailed the receipt to me, and I never had to stand in line. Genius! And why am I buying myself software so close to a big gift-giving holiday? Simple: Making Christmas shopping easier for Mr. Tangerine. He wants the iPod Touch, so I think that means I ought to spend more money on myself and give him the gift-giving credit.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Orange, no tangerine

That's what goes in the sweet potatoes—my mother-in-law's recipe. I popped my sweet potato cherry, so to speak, with her Thanksgiving sweet potatoes. I'd grown up as a picky eater, but then around 1990, I bravely ventured a taste of Mom's yams, and yum! Could easily double for dessert.

It keeps really well—this I know from Thanksgiving weekends when I'm still enjoying the leftovers come Sunday—so Ben and I made the sweet potatoes this afternoon. He helped me peel them (...I think I should've peeled all the way down to the brighter orange flesh to avoid the stringiness I fear is lurking in the casserole dish now) and boil them. We're having a small dinner group tomorrow—my mom and cousin are joining our threesome. So I figured five smallish sweet potatoes was enough for us. (Second thoughts: The leftovers are so good, I will want more, and I won't have them.) Boil for 45 minutes, drain the water, mash 'em. Melt together 1 cup of brown sugar and a stick of butter (well, that's the quantity for eight spuds, not five) and stir those in. Also stir in about a half to two thirds of a can of thawed OJ concentrate. Mmm, orangey goodness! Orange color + orange flavor = Orange Tangerine favorite.

If you're serving them right away, you might want to warm up the OJ concentrate first. Otherwise, throw it in a casserole dish and before serving, bake at 375° for 30 to 45 minutes.

What else is on the menu? Turkey, coming cooked from the grocery store. We'll just heat it up tomorrow. Dinner rolls, white and nubby multigrain. Mashed potatoes—oh yes, mashed potatoes. I like to load 'em with butter and sour cream and some black pepper, maybe a little rosemary if the mood strikes. French green beans, which is to say skinny green beans served simply with butter. The can of cream soup plus canned deep-fried onions thing has always grossed me out. Dumbly, I decided not to buy too many beans, and now I'm thinking how much I'd like to have those for leftovers lunch Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. My mom's bringing stuffing, gravy, and a cranberry-orange relish.

And for dessert, pecan pie. Ben and I need to roll out the pastry dough for the crust. I got the recipe from my friend Carla last year. She graduated from pastry chef school, but the all-butter recipe she likes is from her friend's late mother. I suck at the rolling and shaping of dough, and the dough wasn't cohering into a ball so I kept adding a little more milk until suddenly...too sticky. (I think that's how it went last year, though, and it tasted good anyway.) As for the pie filling—oh! the pie filling! It's my dad's recipe modification. Take the pecan pie recipe on a bottle of Karo dark corn syrup. Triple the quantity of pecans. Throw in a little extra butter, because butter is yummy. Use a deep-dish crust to accommodate the extra volume of pecans. The resulting pie: It's pecans all the way down. The wanness of a standard pecan pie, with a thin layer of nuts suspended atop an inch of goo? Not for me. I like it this way. One option I do sometimes is stirring in chocolate chips to make a chocolate pecan pie. Not sure which way I'll go this time—it may depend on whether I have two pie pans and enough crust to make both kinds of pie.

What am I grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday? Two things, mainly: That I don't have to travel (we're expecting the season's first snowfall here) and that the turkey will be cooked by Jewel. Not so sentimental, but there you have it.

Hope you all have a relaxing, safe, warm, nourishing holiday and that the people you're with don't drive you bonkers!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Close encounters

So, I spent three days in L.A. and the most famous person I saw was "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" host Ty Treadway. (Who is, for the record, warm, genial, and rather handsome. And I also met him a month before going on the show, at the Chicago auditions. I got a hug.)

I have seen famous people in other cities, though. Here in Chicago, at a California Pizza Kitchen, Mr. Tangerine and I saw Jackie Mason 10 or 15 years ago. He was in town for his one-man show, I think. He appeared to be dining with a bodyguard or other entourage member. He wandered around the dining room scoping out plates of food. When he passed our table, Mr. Tangerine said, "Jackie Mason!" Mason replied, "Hey. I'm just lookin' for a good item." Ever since then, Mr. Tangerine and I have always enjoyed looking for a good item when we're out on the town. Why read a menu when you can eyeball the food other people are eating?

Also in the 10-to-15-years-ago range, I rode in an Orlando hotel elevator with Carrot Top. Of course, I wasted no time stripping off his clothes and mine and savagely pleasuring him because he's a celebrity. No, wait, that didn't happen.

I've been to concerts, of course, and I saw Patrick Stewart in The Tempest on Broadway, but those don't count as celebrity encounters because they cost me money.

I once swooned because I reached out and touched the fuzzy peach sweater of a soap opera actor at a mall appearance. He was the guy who played Sean Cudahy on All My Children, and the year must've been somewhere around 1980 because I saw him with my best friend in 8th grade, Leila. (A few years later, Leila saw Cheap Trick's Robin Zander in an airport.)

Edited to add what I just remembered: At the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, I saw Glenn Close and Rachel Dratch, and chatted with documentarian Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame. And at this year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I saw Phil Donahue.

So, what famous people have you seen in the flesh? C'mon, spill some dirt!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Feral meet-up

Ah, who doesn't love a bloggerly meet-up? I don't doesn't. Which is to say, I love such a thing. Tonight, the Feral Mom (am too lazy to link—she's accessible from the "bloggers I've met" blogroll) hauled her station wagoning self to North Hollywood/Studio City to rescue me from the hotel and take me out to dinner. She found a neighborhood bar/restaurant that had zero beautiful Hollywood types, dingy lighting, no smoking (oh, California, you seductive slut, with your non-smoking law in bars, you make me yearn for the day, less than two months off, when I can pub-crawl in Chicago without getting cigarette-stanky), and decent food. I had two Newcastles, and you know (or maybe you don't) that I am a total lightweight. I also had half a complimentary shot of homemade peach vodka (can you say "cough syrup"?) but could not bring myself to finish it.

Anyway, Her Feralness and I had a lovely time. We talked about parenting (hey, if you have trouble getting your kid to sleep at the right time and for long enough, check out Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's book, Sleepless in America. It saved my sanity, improved my kid's behavior and school performance—yo, I am evangelical about this book. Really. Have also recommended it to Bitch Ph.D. and Tertia of So Close, also in the blogrolls. I don't think I've blogged about the book, but I certainly meant to. Completely empathetic approach, with empathy towards both the parent and the kid.), dissertations (well, Feral's working on one—I haven't done the academia thing since college), parent-at-playground revelations, her famous Franma, world media domination, and general shooting-the-shit topics.

It is always a treat to hang out with a blogular friend who, in the flesh, is just like a real human friend and not just words on a screen. Feral? Is awesome. Alas, she did not take me to her Trader Joe's store, where the cashiers and baggers apparently are all horny. L.A. is just too sprawled out for it to be convenient to do that. Feral is a driving champ! She drove 45 minutes just to pick me up and go two miles away for dinner. So sweet!

Tomorrow, this Bitch B.A. will commune with Bitch Ph.D. and her Pseudonymous Kid. Haven't seen them since the summer of 2006! We are overdue. I have no idea what we will be doing. Something about a shop near Echo Park, maybe? I'm game. I didn't come to California to go to Disneyland and take a bus tour of the stars' homes, after all.

Oh, I didn't mention this trip at all, did I? Yeah, I'm gonna be taping the crosswords game show on Monday, so I'm in L.A. this weekend.

So I'm here for the game show, and came in a day early so I'd have a chance to see my bloggin' friends in person on their new(ish) home turf.

A week ago, I think, the high temps were in the low 80s. This weekend? Low 60s. Sigh. Still better than the seasonably Novemberish weather than Chicago's been having, though, so I will take it. It'll be nice not to be deciding between the fall jacket and the winter coat, and do I need gloves. No, in Californ-eye-A, one does not need gloves.

I don't know if all game shows are like this or not, but do you know what the rules are for the taping day? No use of cellphones, no laptops. Can you imagine? I can't help but think that prison rules are more lax than that, though I may be mistaken. After a long day at the studio and a long flight home, I will be exhausted—and woefully behind on my blog-reading addiction. All right, so really, I'll be missing less than 48 hours. I can catch up. But it feels so...foreign. And deprived.

Gawd, am I whining about the rigors of going on TV? Apparently it is all going to my head. But what doesn't really?

While I'm here, a brief Ben update: Mah boy done made the honor roll! (Yes, it's second grade. I know.) Report cards came out on Thursday, and he had all As and Bs (well, there was a B– in there). And also perfect attendance! Quick. Let me find something wooden to knock on and be all superstitious. Somehow he wasn't sick all quarter. I think this is the first time he hasn't missed any school in a quarter.

There. Are you falling asleep now? Because I am. G'night!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Haiku festival!

It's time for another round of JP's haiku festival:

Haiku and senryuu, of course have the same three-line formal structure: five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second, and five syllables in the last line. I like to have one line (doesn’t matter which one) that has an imperfection of plus-or-minus one syllable, just because imperfection is tragic, and tragic is beautiful. So I’d live to see your 5-8-5s, your 5-7-4s, your 6-7-5s…. whatever, as long as it’s only one imperfection. Perfect 5-7-5s will be accepted as well, but they are a little obvious, don’t you think?

Of course, free form haiku are welcome as well; heavy on the imagery, as stingy as possible when it comes to the syllable count.

As you know, the haiku form is related to seasons and nature. Senryuu, while sharing the same formal properties of haiku, are supposed to be funny. They can be witty political satire, golf-clappy high brow social commentary, or a juicy fart joke.

So put on your Inspiration Hat and go to JP's blog to contribute your haiku or senryuu by November 18.

Who's your candidate?

My sister sent me this link to a political quiz, originally from Minnesota Public Radio. You answer 11 questions about political issues (ranging from abortion rights and immigration to stem-cell research and the line-item veto), and the candidates are assigned scores based on how much they agree with your preferences.

I'm a lifelong lefty, so it's no surprise that Kucinich was my best match (54 points). Richardson (52) and Edwards (49) were my runners-up. I don't know much about Richardson, but I do like Edwards and wish more voters were fond of him.

Who are your love matches?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I am delighted: Ergo, I must blog it posthaste

Two Mondays in a row, I somehow managed to get a teeny splinter of glass in my foot. Last week, I couldn't find the super-fine-point splinter tweezers, but managed to extract the sliver anyway.

Today, the splinter dug deeper into my big toe and hid from the regular tweezers. This evening, my hero came home from work and found the splinter tweezers. (Mr. Tangerine! Who is always asking me to find things!) I reported to the procedure room (a.k.a. the living room sofa) and Dr. Tangerine—who has the dexterity of a watch repairman—set to work. I braced for twinges of pain, but none came, even though my Dr. Tangerine prodded out two wee shards of glass.

He got up to put away the tweezers and I got up to blog, remarking, "I must blog this immediately!" Is there any more heartfelt way to show one's appreciation than blogging it? I say no.

Also, I can't recommend the splinter tweezers highly enough. If you can't find one at your local drugstore, order yours online. You will be glad you did the next time you or someone in your household has a splinter.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Oy, the squirrels

When I was a teenager, my dad loathed squirrels. He bought a lot of bird seed to fill his squirrel-proof bird feeders, and those pesky squirrels managed to outfox human engineering every time. The first time I truly understood the Fear and Loathing of Squirrels was three years ago, at Flea's son's birthday party.

Then last year, a squirrel chewed through the screen of my kitchen door and had a freakout when Ben discovered him. (I now know what squirrel poop looks like.) I had a freakout myself, of course. This summer, another squirrel came through the kitchen door. Squirrels have gnawed through the hard plastic below the windshield of my car. A week ago, after a window had inadvertently been left open a few inches, Ben and I went out to the car and found a squirrel wandering about the vehicle's interior.

We know squirrels have a taste for acorns, nuts, bird seed, and bread products. They also like to get their vitamin A, it seems, as they like to nosh on jack-o-lanterns.

Exhibit A: Jack-o-lantern on Halloween. It has been outside for less than six hours. One eye socket and one tooth have been nibbled, and the "lid" is missing.

Exhibit B: Jack-o-lantern on November 2, after 48 hours of squirrel exposure. It looks like the jack-o-lantern is a heavy meth user. Every tooth is gone, and the lips, such as they were, have been chewed off. A squirrel neurosurgeon appears to have performed a frontal lobotomy.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Delinquent blogger notes Halloween

I have been remarkably uninspired of late. But you know, a zillion other bloggers have been posting adorable pictures of their kids dressed up for Halloween, so I'd better jump on this bandwagon before it has left the barn. So to speak.

In our part of the city, some large condo buildings have trick-or-treating for the residents, and pretty much all the other buildings are candy-free zones. Oh, there may be some hapless and kind-hearted souls with huge bowls of candy, but they often languish all evening long when no kids show up. I mean, if you're a kid, are you going to go to an apartment or condo building, buzz the intercom to be let into the building, and then knock on a bunch of doors where no one's expecting costumed kids? No.

So it's wonderful that the neighborhood association (which I haven't joined because it appears to be largely a white yuppie I'm not much of a joiner) has organized a dedicated trick-or-treating zone for the past few years. We walk a half mile away to reach a half-mile stretch of a residential street where maybe 40% of the buildings are taking part. So that's a one-mile candy route if you do both sides of the street.

The last couple years, Mr. Tangerine and I were Ben's trick-or-treating escorts. This year, I told some of the other moms at the school playground about the candy zone, and we made plans to meet up. Mr. Tangerine was willing to come along, but Ben informed him that he must not. Just as well, because oh! Did those boys ever have themselves a grand time. Five boys racing pell-mell down the sidewalk—they were in such a hurry to find chocolate sources that they ran right past a couple gates. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back here, boys!" By the end of it, the kids were so worn out they started roughhousing a bit too much. Sugar high + bedtime + two-mile walk/run = wildness.

I'm not going to show you how Ben's costume looked. Store-bought Darth Vader costume, no big deal. And with the mask on, you can't tell it's him. And his friends' costumes were hidden by their coats (savvy Ms. Orange had Ben wear so many layers inside his costume, he didn't need a coat). But this photo encapsulates the sheer joy of trick-or-treating, doesn't it?

Those smiles, the intoxicating aroma of a bag full of candy, the promise of satisfying your sweet tooth with five lbs. of candy—I haven't dressed up in a costume in at least a decade, but damn, I think I love Halloween.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A good read for editors

Chris Clarke tackles the topic of editing. If you edit others' writing, are you editing for the sake of editing, or are you editing to do honor to the writing and to the writer's voice? Food for thought.

Save the CTA!

If you live in Illinois, please take a minute to visit Save Chicagoland Transit today. The Act Now page lets you send an e-mail to our state legislature and tells you how to call your representatives in Springfield.

A week from tomorrow, the first round of Chicago Transit Authority "doomsday cuts" go into effect. That's going to make for an awful lot of really cranky people when their morning commutes are mucked up. Mr. Tangerine's regular bus route isn't being discontinued, but another popular route that ends up in the same part of the Loop is being cut. Many of the people who rely on that bus route will be walking a few blocks to take Mr. Tangerine's bus route instead, which means extra crowding and longer waits all around.

If the legislature continues to underfund the CTA, another round of "doomsday cuts" is scheduled to hit in January. At that time, every Lake Shore Drive express bus route will vanish, along with routes serving every part of the city—more than half of all routes, in fact. If you think the El is too slow or too crowded now, imagine what it will be like when many thousands of stranded bus riders take to the rails. Traffic is bound to get worse as those with cars bite the bullet and swamp downtown parking garages by driving to work when the CTA becomes too big of a hassle.

It's ridiculous, really—the city is bidding to host the 2016 Olympics, and the state of Illinois can't summon up the political will to fund Chicago's transit system?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cleaning out your mailbox

Do you get a zillion catalogs you don't need? Does it irk you that (a) all that paper is being wasted to send you catalogs you don't want and (b) someone has profiled you and decided that you are their target audience? There's now an easy way to save the earth and spare your mail carrier's back at the same time—Catalog Choice makes it easy (and free) to tell retailers to quit sending you their catalogs.

I just signed up and canceled a dozen. I can't wait for the mail to come each day now that I can pounce on unwanted catalogs and zip, zip, cancel future ones. Yes, I know you can always call their customer service line to cancel catalog delivery, but I don't like making busywork phone calls.

'Twas a New York Times article by Eric Wilson that tipped me off. Catalog Choice is the brand-new brainchild of the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Ecology Center, looking to cut down on the wastefulness of the 19 billion catalogs mailed each year in this country.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pop quiz

While driving this afternoon, I spotted something emblazoned with this promise: "We provide accurate and meticulous service." Who is making this claim?

A. Makeup artist
B. Tax preparation service
C. Private ambulance service
D. Cosmetic dentist
E. Maid service
F. Scrap metal scavenger

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mainstream transgender advocacy

Over at Pandagon, Pam Spaulding writes that her own blog, Pam's House Blend, won the endorsement of a fundie as a "leading source of radical homosexual propaganda, anti-Christian bigotry, and radical transgender advocacy." Pam wondered, "Is there some non-radical, mainstream T advocacy going on that I'm unaware of that passes muster with the CCLM?"

Well, I'm a heterosexual married Midwestern mom with a mortgage and a sensible sedan, which should qualify me as non-radical and mainstream. Let me go on record as saying that I support equitable treatment for transgendered individuals. Identify as transgendered, live as a gender whose reproductive organs one lacks, have sex-change surgery, date, get married, have full workplace protections against discrimination, raise children, what-have-you—I don't mind at all, and in fact encourage everyone to live as they, choose whatever their gender identity and sexual preference may be. People are people, and all Americans are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

See? Mainstream transgender advocacy. It's easy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wordplay comes to broadcast TV tonight!

If you haven't seen the documentary Wordplay already, but you're up for an entertaining look at crossword puzzles, the people who make them, and the people who like them ("Ooh! Me! Me!"), watch PBS tonight. An airing of Wordplay kicks off the new season of the Independent Lens series.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The cracker speaks out! Honky Pride!

A blogger friend of mine received one of those forwarded e-mails, sent to him by a passing acquaintance who apparently didn't suspect my friend wasn't white—or just didn't care. The e-mail is all about the unfairness of things like the NAACP, Cesar Chavez, and Black History Month, and how the poor, long-suffering white folks just can't catch a break because people will call them racists if they use terms like "camel-jockey." The e-mail and my friend's point-by-point response are here. It's laugh-out-loud funny unless you're, like, a White Pride caveman.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Whoring out the blog

Recently, Flea was offered a free pair of Easy Spirit shoes that she awarded to the winner of a blog contest. Actually, she tried to give me the prize, but the shoes were these wedge clogs with a too-high wedge, and my feet are high-maintenance. Seriously high-maintenance. Last year, I walked barefoot on concrete at Flea's son's birthday party, the "Omigod, someone could drown," mom-can't-relax party she had at a water park. (She learned her lesson. This year, she opted for an enclosed and waterless ice cream shop.) And my bipartite sesamoid bones got angry, so very angry, and I spent a couple weeks on the couch, hobbling around the house on one foot, and occasionally requiring the aid of narcotic pain relief to sleep at night. So even Easy Spirit sensible wedges terrify my feet, and Flea gave the shoes to someone else. Well, there's that, and there's also the fact that I feel I am too young for that brand. Far too young.

Still, I thought it was cool that a national company had contacted Flea to offer her a free pair of shoes.

But now, I can top that. A few days ago, I received an e-mail, subject line "Greatings (sic) from" Apparently the fine folks at Lee were sad that I had blogged about Gap jeans, and they hoped to entice me to blog about Lee jeans. All I gotta do is post a link to and tell them where I've put the link, and they'll send me my choice of the jeans they sell. My preconception was that Lee makes Mom Jeans, and not jeans that I want to wear. So I checked out their women's jeans.

First warning: The Jean Quiz. Your "perfect pair of jeans" ought to do one or more of the following:

• Tames my tummy so I don't have to (Subtext: I'd kind of like a girdle.)

• Keeps my unmentionables where they should be - out of sight! (Subtext: I think it's rude when girls show their underwear above their low-rise waistband, and I'm completely unaware of the existence of low-rise underwear.)

• Are stretchy enough that I can enjoy a good meal and not have to succomb (sic) to unbuttoning. (Subtext: I tend to overeat and/or buy my jeans too small. Also, I am unconcerned with spelling.)

Yeah. This is not my demographic. My demographic likes low-rise pants because they let the tummy breathe instead of cinching it with a Mom Jeans waistband that constricts the innards. And my demographic is not too excited about stretch jeans because they get all bagged out after one wearing, and who wants to wash jeans after a single wearing? Why, that increases one's water consumption and carbon footprint. My demographic also has a bunch of low-rise boyshort undies from Target that work great.

Lee did have several options that purported to be low-rise, so I perused the styles available.

• The OTF Hudson Straight Leg Jean includes a "gold lurex sash/belt" with fringe to the knees. Er, no.

• The X-Line Cade has, like, 7-inch cuffs. What in tarnation does anyone need giant cuffs for?

• The X-Line Lynn has 4-inch cuffs. Still too long. "This is the perfect jean for ballet flats or stilettos." Oh, yay. I'm always looking for clothes that go with stilettos. My persnickety feet, they love stilettos.

The other low-rise options looked unremarkable, but given that I try on at least a dozen pairs of jeans for every pair that actually fits right. So no, I'm not keen on whoring out my blog to get a free pair of jeans that probably won't fit me.

Moving past the low-rise category and into the Mom Jeans and Mom Pants, I found something worse than jeans with a gold lurex sash/belt: the poetically named Side Elastic Pant. Go ahead and envision it. Let your imagination run wild. Done? Okay, now I'll tell you what they (I prefer the plural "pants" to the singular "pant") really look like. They're high-waisted, sort of balloony/pleated over the tummy, super-baggy through the thigh (if you remember the baggies of the early '80s, they're strikingly similar), tapered at the ankle. What puts these over the edge to be My Favorite Lee Pant are the shoes worn by the model: sleek kitten-heel pumps. Because aren't those exactly the sort of shoe you expect to see accessorizing a Side Elastic Pant?

Damn. I am absolutely willing to whore out my blog, but don't you think I can fetch a higher price than a single pair of Mom Jeans?

Here come sleepless nights

Oh, god! It's Disembodied Head Barbie, and she sings! I'm going to have nightmares now.

Monday, October 01, 2007


The Game Plan may have a poor Tomatometer rating of 29%, but we saw it yesterday and it was cute. If you're seeing a non-Pixar Disney movie, do you not expect it to be formulaic? Isn't the formula a formula because it works? We all liked it. It was funny. It tugged at my heartstrings. (Seriously! I was in tears for 20 minutes. Am I hormonal?) The little girl was adorable. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was funny and charming (not to mention easy on the eyes...and frequently shirtless). And the movie came down on the side of men (jocks, even) learning to appreciate ballet rather than scorning it. If you want to see a movie that's suitable for a family with kids, this isn't a bad choice at all. Hey, how will your kids learn to be cynical teenagers who reject formulaic fare if they don't first come to understand what the formula is?

Another plus for the movie is that we've got The Rock, a person of color (I think he's half black, half Samoan), playing a football player who, unbeknownst to him, had fathered a child with his white ex-wife. And race wasn't at all an issue in the movie. We don't get to see a ton of mixed-race families in popular entertainment and advertising. And those little "ethnic doll family" toys, they assume that everyone in a family is the same race. So while I don't expect a Disney movie for kids to delve into 21st century race relations, I'm delighted that the studio released a movie in which people date and marry across racial divides.

• After the movie, we went across the street to Fat Willy's Rib Shack for dinner. Good food, decent beer and wine (particularly for a BBQ joint), good desserts (the brownie is baked to order in a cast-iron pan and then covered with a mountain of whipped cream (really—I think it had about two cups of whipped cream on top) and caramel. The food's not cheap, but it was good. If you're catching a movie at the City North 14 or passing through Logan Square, consider Fat Willy's.

• Last Thursday, we missed the season premiere of The Office. Last season, we picked up missed NBC episodes on iTunes (I bought the full season of 30 Rock because I got hooked on it halfway through the season). This year, NBC is refusing to play with iTunes because they wanted to charge a lot more money. NBC's solution is to offer the shows via their own site for free—but there ain't no such thing as free TV. NBC has decided to increase ad revenue instead, so you get a 42-minute episode of the show with, apparently, 18 minutes of commercials. And you can't skip 'em, can't fast forward through 'em. If you slide the progress bar back to rewind and you bump into a commercial you've already seen, you gotta watch it again. And we saw the same three commercials multiple times. We didn't get to see the whole episode, either, because we got trapped in one of the commercial breaks and it refused to proceed to the next segment of the show. We tried starting over and moving ahead to the "chapter" we were on, but the chapter labels weren't too accurate and we never could find our spot again—but the commercials were ready to play again every time. And those commercials? Deafeningly loud. If you turn down the sound on the ad, when the show comes back, you can't hear a thing. The rewinding functionality is so clumsy, it's a pain in the ass to even try to catch what you missed.

NBC's "free" show downloads SUCK ASS. So if my DVR and I miss an episode, NBC won't be getting my money, and they won't be getting my eyeballs for their advertisers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Two quick links

Two important topics that deserve long posts, but I haven't got the time and haven't any particular insights so instead I'll link you elsewhere.

First, have you heard about the truly sickening atrocities being committed against women in the Congo? As part of the war/rebel action/what-have-you in the Democratic Republic of Congo, women are routinely raped in ways so brutal, you could not have imagined it in your worst nightmare. Bobita brought my attention to this intolerable situation that, somehow, the United Nations seems to be tolerating just fine. (As little as the U.N. has done on Darfur, they're doing less for the women of the Congo.) Read Canadian Stephen Lewis's speach about the atrocities. Don't read it if you're feeling fragile—really, the events he discusses are more horrifying than the violence in those "torture porn" horror movies like Hostel or Saw II or Captivity, and they're factual. Not sure what we can do to spur the global community to action on this. Please share any ideas you may have.

Second, Amanda Marcotte on the global gag rule. Read to learn why the gag rule (that prevents U.S. funding of overseas women's health initiatives) isn't about abortion so much as depriving women of contraception and reproductive health care.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Late at night on pay cable

Have you seen that new HBO series, Tell Me You Love Me? Last week, Mr. Tangerine was watching the first episode after I'd gone to bed. He raced into the bedroom to tell me what I'd missed (and this weekend, showed me the scene when the episode aired again): the money shot. Woman giving her male partner a handjob, a spurt ending up on his chest. (CGI spooge?) Other fictional couples on the show have fairly convincing sex on screen (pumping and humping), and there is no shortage of naked butts, penises, breasts, or cooter shots. And yet the rest of the show plays as a standard soapy/whiny drama about couples in counseling and the self-involved problems in their relationships.

The cast isn't cheesy porno people, either. There are people you've seen before. Sonya Walger was the Englishwoman on Mind of a Married Man (the "happy ending" show) and was also on Lost. Ally Walker played The Profiler back in the day, and has lost the furrows on her brow. The psychologist or psychiatrist the characters see is played by Jane Alexander, and apparently E.R.'s Sherry Stringfield will pop up too.

If you have not seen this show, you may be saying to yourself, "Wow, that show sounds hot. TV-MA, strong sexual content, explicit nudity? Whoo!" It actually turns out to be entirely unerotic. (Mr. Tangerine agrees.) It may look like real sex on screen, but it looks like real bad sex. Nobody's having fun. Nobody's moaning. Nobody's laughing. Man, this show could ruin real people's sex lives! It's highly irresponsible and an abuse of the TV-MA rating.

So if you're up late and want to watch something risque on cable to get into a frisky mood...don't watch this show. If you like rather depressing shows about imperfect relationships, though, it might be a decent choice.

Can you hear me now?

Last week, Tertia blogged about hearing loss. She took her son for a hearing test and thought he was deaf because he kept reacting when there was no sound—only it turned out that his hearing was perfect and he was reacting appropriately to sounds his mother could no longer hear. As we go through life and our ears are cumulatively battered by years of noise, hearing acuity often declines with age.

A couple of Tertia's commenters admitted to having trouble understanding what people were saying, but blithely expressed their desire to "la la la," remain in denial and avoid even getting their hearing tested by an audiologist. Here's how I responded:

Okay, you people who say you want to be in denial about age-related losses in hearing are seriously pissing me off. First off, don't think of it as age per se, but as accumulated exposure to loud noise that has been killing off the sensory cells in your ears. It happens.

I've been hard of hearing my whole life, and hearing aids do help a lot. If your hair covers your ears, nobody even knows you have them. If your hair doesn't cover your ears, those teeny in-the-canal and in-the-ear hearing aids, flesh-toned, aren't so glaringly obvious. What is glaringly obvious is hearing loss. If you turn the TV up loud, if you misunderstand what people have said and reply inappropriately, if you keep asking people to repeat themselves—believe me, people will notice your hearing loss more than hearing aids. And hearing aids don't bother anyone else, whereas blaring the TV or accusing people of mumbling does bother them. So don't be selfish and vain.

If you know someone who's hard of hearing (even with hearing aids—they help but they don't provide perfect childlike hearing levels), keep these in mind:

1. Speak clearly, with your face towards the person, and don't cover your mouth with your hand, a restaurant menu, etc. Lip-reading cues help.

2. If the person asks you to repeat yourself, don't say the exact same words again. Rephrase it! The different arrangement of sounds may be easier for the hard-of-hearing person to understand correctly.

3. If you want to tell them a secret, speak softly face-on. Whispering straight in their ear means no lip-reading or face-reading cues to help get your point across.

And if you'd like to preserve your hearing, don't blast your iPod or MP3 player. Younger generations will be hard of hearing much earlier in life because of those damn earbuds with the volume too high.


If you have any questions about hearing or hearing loss, feel free to ask. But speak up a little, will ya? Thanks.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The most inadvertently lewd town on earth

My in-laws have a house in Florida near a town called Inverness. What does Inverness have to offer? Well, next month, they're having another Cooter Festival, as previously mocked on The Daily Show. This local blogger loathes it. On the way out of town, you pass Cooter Pond., which...I don't know how that would be a good double entendre. Cooter wand, sure. Pond? I got nothin'.

Then there's the furniture store:

And during last week's visit to Florida, a new strip-mall eatery announced itself with bold signage:

Alas, the kafe was not yet open, so I don't know what's on the menu. Fish? Tacos? What else should they serve?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Catching up

I have some things to write about our trip to Florida last week, but I ought to be editing this very minute so I won't start on that. I do have that flight-related post I wrote during the flight, but that's on my laptop and not this machine, so that's embargoed for now. So let me share a Ben story instead:

Ben's sinus infection cleared up, but you know how sinuses are—they take a while to settle down, so he's still got a little phlegm-dripping action triggering a bit of a cough. This morning I asked him if he'd been coughing during the day at school (yesterday was his first day of second grade), and he was explaining to me the dripping, the coughing to clear his throat, etc. I gave him a Claritin to maybe clear his nose out a bit today, and he swallowed the wee tablet gladly.

Then Ben said, "I've been farting a lot, too. What can I take for that?"

Ah, the age-old question.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hugo Chavez and Mr. Tangerine

So, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that his country's moving up a half hour. Yep, he's putting Venezuela into its own half-hour-off time zone. (Speaking of half-hour-off time zones, look at Australia's map, which doesn't even show the little area that's off by 45 minutes.) Chavez has ideas about giving a metabolic jump-start to his people, but I'm not sure science is on his side.

Closer to home, we had a power outage yesterday from the cuckoo thunderstorms that uprooted our favorite neighborhood mulberry tree and many others, tore off countless tree limbs, and dashed assorted high rise windows and swimming-pool roofs to the ground. That's got nothing to do with my point, but who doesn't like to talk about extreme weather? Anyway, I was engaging in the ritual Resetting of the Clocks. Mr. Tangerine's alarm clock had been set about 26 minutes ahead (a hassle when Ben comes in and tells me it's 8:00 and thus time to get up, when it's really closer to 7:30 and dammit, I'm trying to sleep here). So I asked him what clock setting he wanted. "A half hour ahead," he said.

Next thing you know, my husband will be reading Noam Chomsky and saying that Bush is the devil and smells of sulfur.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

*cough cough*

Poor Ben. He's got a sinus infection.

For a few days he had one of those fevers without accompanying symptoms, and then when the fever dropped down, his nose filled up. And then the nighttime coughing started—last night, he coughed so hard it gave him a headache.

So we went to see the pediatrician today. Before she came into the exam room, I bet Ben a dollar that she would exclaim over how tall he'd gotten (because that seems to be the obligatory thing that people always say to him). Yes, I am teaching my child to incorporate gambling into daily living; you got a problem with that? But she didn't say it! Ben demanded the dollar anyway. Because I'm an old softy (and doing a lousy job of teaching my child how gambling works, apparently), I did give him that dollar at bedtime. I tucked it in his Mason jar of cash. "I collect money," Ben told me. It's not his only collection, either. He also picked up a bunch of beer bottlecaps along the lakefront. Gambling, beer paraphernalia, and money collecting—you can't say that atheists don't raise children to have tiptop morals!

Anyway, the doctor prescribed amoxicillin for the sinus infection and recommended giving him Claritin, Mucinex (I just love the generic name, guaifenesin), and drops of saline in the nose followed by vigorous nose-blowing to clear out the sinuses. Or as I like to put it, he's to "blow his nose till he cain't blow no more." It's not an instant cure, so he's still coughing a fair amount tonight. But soon he'll get better.

On the plus side, we had some time to kill at Walgreens while waiting for the prescription to be filled. So we headed to the candy aisle, which amused me by being home to not only vast quantities of sugar and fat, but also hosting the Alli and other weight-loss products in a sealed case. "I'm fat. I really need some help losing weight. Where's that Alli stuff? Oh, here it is. Huh. It's locked in this case. I don't see an employee around here, either. What's this over here? Large Lindt bars, tins of mini chocolate truffles, king-sized candy bars, and sacks of candy? Hmm." My eyes scavenged the entire aisle until I finally found my manna: Sno-Caps. Eh, they're not as good as last time. Should've just grabbed the king-size Snickers Almond, man.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Scar chat

Chris Clarke wrote about his scars, which naturally caused me to think of my own.

My biggest scar: From my C-section, a bikini-line incision. It measures 5 ½ inches from end to end, and a human being was pulled through that slit. Granted, Ben was a very small human being at that point, but still—it's really not a wide scar at all considering its purpose. The nurses on the OB ward marveled at what a lovely incision the doctor had made. Um, all right, if you say so.

My most dramatic scar: A half-inch oval on the inside of my left calf. In 1991, my new husband and I went downtown for Chicago's grand 3rd of July fireworks. Hey, when you add a million spectators and their cars to a small part of downtown, nobody's getting home at a decent hour, so why hold the fireworks show on the 4th? Everyone who has to work on the 5th will be short on sleep. Given those huge crowds, including many thousands of people taking the bus or the El, getting home by public transportation was going to be crowded, sweaty, and uniformly unpleasant. So Mr. Tangerine and I decided we'd walk home along the lakefront. Sure, the 5-mile walk would take us a couple hours, but it was a lovely night.

Alas, some bozo on Lake Shore Drive lit a cherry bomb and tossed it over the edge of the road...and down to the crowded sidewalks by Monroe Harbor, filled with holiday revelers. That firecracker exploded in the air next to my leg. I had a gouged-out spot on my calf, a bleeding chemical burn, plus many speckles of chemical burn on the rest of my leg real estate. The concussive noise knocked out my hearing for a few days. And boy-oh-boy, you don't want to be in a crowded place outdoors when you require emergency medical assistance. We walked a few blocks to North Pier, with bars and restaurants and phones, and waited for my ambulance. A fire truck arrived first. For me! I felt so special. Then they summoned an ambulance because I didn't much feel like walking to the ER...though it probably would have been faster to walk, I was pretty out of it. The ambulance carted me, what, maybe a half mile. I don't remember how long the trip took.

I had to bide my time in the ER—that woman who'd been beaned by a glass beer bottle was a higher priority. Eventually they tended to my wounds and prescribed a silver burn ointment, and I skipped pantyhose for a couple weeks. (I can scarcely believe that I was wearing pantyhose every day to work back them. Everyone did! Those were crazy times.)

The truly dramatic part of this tale is that we had been strolling behind a couple who were walking their bikes. Attached to one bike was a trailer with their twin babies going for a ride. Can you imagine if the cherry bomb had been tossed a moment sooner and it had exploded between those babies? Or if it had been next to my head and not my lower legs?

People who are made uneasy by fireworks and/or crowd scenes love this story and retell it to explain their objections to 4th of July antics.

So: How big is your biggest scar? What's your best scar story?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Only one shopping day left!

That's right. It's about to be my birthday.

I'm getting older. No turning back, no stopping the aging process, no slowing it down.

But I'm at a good spot in my life, I am. I fulfilled that life goal of publishing my first book by age 40. (Okay, that's total bullshit. I made up that goal when I realized the book would be out several weeks before the next birthday, and congratulated myself for the achievement.) I love my husband and my kid (who, by the way, is looking tough these days with his first-ever buzzcut), and all is right with the world. Well, okay, that's not true—but within this little corner of the world, things are just fine.

And a history of sun avoidance means my skin doesn't show my years. So happy thirty-eleventh birthday to me!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Waffles topped with misogyny

Do you ever hanker for a melding of The Comics Curmudgeon and I Blame the Patriarchy? Well, hanker no more. Jay—who yielded to temptation after I fed her a series of tasty links to blogs and started blogging—observed some misogyny before breakfast in yesterday's funny pages.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I win at nonspirituality!

I might well be the single least spiritual person of your acquaintance.

The vigorously philosophical atheists and agnostics who engage in discussion about their beliefs are devoting far more time than I do to matters of the spirit or lack thereof.

I don't believe in God, Zeus, Odin, Thoth, Goddess, an overriding essence within nature, an omniscient power, Buddha, Ganesh, Satan, tree spirits, New Age spirituality, Wicca, druids, pagans, "something out there," or the rest of that ilk. I don't believe in immortal souls. I don't believe in life after death, though I recognize what a lovely idea it is, particularly for someone whose life on earth pretty well sucked.

I don't crave the community and ritual associated with congregations and worship services.

I never believed in a god. Not as a child, not in adolescence, not in college, not in adulthood. I never had a flirtation with religious belief. I never tried on a denomination for size. I never grappled with doubts that my beliefs might be wrong. I never feared that I ought to choose religious faith just to be on the safe side. I didn't have my son baptized just to appease the relatives who wanted him baptized.

I do, however, have morals. I live an ethical life. I play fair. I nurture my friends and love my family. I let pedestrians in the crosswalk do their thing. I count my grocery items and never get in the express checkout lane unless I'm within two items of the allowable total. (Twelve, ten, what's the difference?) I'm a nice person.

I don't think there are many of us, in the U.S. at least, who have been this resolutely nonreligious and nonspiritual throughout their lives. How many do you know? And are they lovely people?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Skinny girls

The other day I was downtown and noticed some skinny girls visiting Millennium Park with their families. Not women—girls. Say, 12 years old. Long, skinny legs, skinny arms, skinny waist.

Me, I was a scrawny kid. Not one of those gangly long-legged skinny kids, but short and skinny. A lot of kids are just naturally built like beanpoles.

What struck me is that the build of a 12-year-old skinny girl who hasn't quite launched into puberty is the very body type that the fashion industry promotes. Add three years to this girl, let her grow taller but not rounder, and she becomes the ideal model.

So really, that ideal isn't just about emphasizing thinness. That thinness evokes images of reed-thin 12-year-old girls, doesn't it? It's not exactly the sexualization of childhood, but it's definitely the sexualization or fetishizing of a childlike physique.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A touch of patriarchy blaming

Two recent articles left me chortling at the idiocy of some men.

In the New York Times, there was an article about a new fall show called Reaper, scheduled to air on the CW network. The main characters are guys, but—are you sitting down?—the show is written by a pair of women. Yes, women! See:

More than anything else, however, the show has turned heads with its writing, which was unexpected for several reasons. The writers behind the show had chiefly worked on the crime drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” not a series known for its laugh lines; and they put together a pair of lead characters who most resemble the slacker guys now dominating contemporary film comedy (as in “Knocked Up”).

But the writers themselves are nothing like those guys. In fact they are women.

The show's director is Kevin Smith, who pronounces that "for two chicks to write something like this, that was kind of spellbinding.”

The article breathlessly points out how implausible it is that women—ordinary 35-year-old non-men!—could summon the ability to write immature jackass slacker guy characters. Because...why? Because women have never been exposed to such fellas and couldn't conceive of what they'd say and do?

Gimme a fucking break.

But it gets worse: Listen to one of the actors in the show.

The dialogue between the two buddies seems so authentic that Mr. Labine said he was stunned to learn two women had written it. “I didn’t actually read who wrote it when I read the script the first two times,” he said. “And then I saw it, and I was like just shocked. They definitely did a little research to figure out how to write for dudes.”

I look forward to more breathless Times articles about men! who have TV writing jobs! and write female characters! Omigod, how do they do it?!?

And then, holy shit! What about books by men? What about Shakespeare? How unusual for male writers to be able to write female characters. What'll they think of next?


The other article was Louisa Thomas's "Rebuttal Dept." piece in the New Yorker. She presented Hawaiian Tropic Zone restaurateur Dennis Riese's impassioned rebuttal of the idea that his place is nothing more than a fancy Hooters.

If you were trying to write a satirical piece mocking the mindless sexism of a man who thinks he's a feminist but isn't, you might hit many of the same points Riese makes.

Nor is Hawaiian Tropic Zone a strip club. “No nipples,” Riese said. “You’re never, ever going to see a girl nude.” He continued, “I’m such a feminist. I love women and believe in them. And I’m not being P.C. by saying that men and women like to look at the woman’s form—it’s been going on since Michelangelo, you know, since they were doing statues of Venus de Milo. So I really believed that I was creating a restaurant that was going to appeal to men and women. I used colors that are very feminine in this place.” He gestured toward a tropical mosaic and toward a pair of soft-orange overhead lights shaped—as are the salt and pepper shakers—like breasts.

(Insert your own point-by-point critiques here.)

Riese says his restaurant is woman-friendly because they offer "simply grilled" menu items for the girls who are on a diet, and allows sharing of dishes for the girls who are (a) on a diet and (b) broke. Riese continues:

“Women like sexy. Talk about empowerment and feminism! There’s nowhere offering women sexy in the way they would like it to be—classy sexy!”

The next sentence in the article describes the waitress's outfit: a string-bikini top and a mini-sarong. Classy sexy! And empowerful!

A male customer asks Riese if it's true that customers get to rank the waitresses by attractiveness level. Riese is quick to deny it and to explain his evolved stance:

“No, but we have a beauty pageant,” Riese said. “Twice a night. Music comes on, and they walk across that stage up there. The ballots are on every table.” The winner, Riese said, “gets a little tiara, and she wins fifty dollars.”

“My understanding was that you rank them, from one to ten,” the banker persisted. “And it seemed surprising to me—I would think that the women who scored very low, especially ones who took pride in their good looks or their bodies—”

“But we don’t do that,” Riese interrupted. “That would be prehistoric.”

It would be insulting to you, the reader, for me to explain the critical errors Riese makes in his feminist praxis. You can fill in all the blanks yourself, can't you?

Friday, July 27, 2007


I was delighted when I learned that Feral was coming to Chicago for this weekend's BlogHer conference. I looked through the course offerings for the conference, and spotted one session that was right up my alley—finding out how to port your blog to a hosted site, away from the teat of Blogger or TypePad. I'm thinking about doing that for one or both of my babies, so it looked practical.

I didn't register, though, because (a) there was still plenty of time, (b) I didn't get around to it, and (c) there were a zillion sessions that didn't call out to me. Then I decided that dammit, I was going to the conference! After browsing through the gynormous list of speakers on Monday evening, I went to the registration page...and discovered that I was eight minutes too late. Eight!

I wasn't sure if there'd be on-site registration and figured I'd mosey over on Saturday morning and see. Then I saw Tribune blogger Steve Johnson's post about BlogHer and learned that registration was reopened this morning. Woot! Now I'm officially signed up, and nobody can bar me from tomorrow's cocktail party.

So I'll be heading to the conference in the morning, learning some things, lunching with Feral, perhaps learning some unknown other things in the afternoon, and then mingling with bloggers known and unknown.

Perhaps I'll see some of you there. If you don't know what I look like or what my real name is, just, uh, home in on the most fabulous attendee and assume that's me.

"Your blog is locked"

Yesterday, I got myself in a blogging mood and I was all set to write some fiery-yet-droll prose, when what should befall me but being tarred by Blogger's nuttiness.

Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.

You won't be able to publish posts to your blog until one of our humans reviews it and verifies that it is not a spam blog. Please fill out the form below to get a review. We'll take a look at your blog and unlock it in less than two business days.

If we don't hear from you, though, we will remove your blog from Blog*Spot within a few weeks.

Holy schnike! If I'd gone on vacation or into the hospital, or just got too busy to post, they'd delete my entire blog?

Blogger explains that spam blogs contain strings of random text and a crapload of links that all go to the same site. O-o-o-kay. Not seeing how my blog looks like that. My last few posts had some links, but they didn't all go to the same place.

Here's my favorite part: The part where Blogger says "until one of our humans reviews it." Doesn't that sound like a fun place to work? Wal-Mart has "associates" and Disney World has "cast members." This is the first time I've seen employees referred to as "our humans."

It is a comfort to know that decisions on my blog are not being delegated to lemurs, I suppose. Or bears. An angry bear might remove blogs out of spite, you know? And the computers, well, we all saw what HAL did in 2001: A Space Odyssey. What if Blogger outsourced to earthworms? How would they work their keyboards and see their monitors, being eyeless and limbless?

If you could have some employees working for you at home, what species would they be?

Sunday, July 22, 2007


The other week, Merriam-Webster announced that its new collegiate dictionary would include 100 new words.

I'm delighted that ginormous made the grade. I've been sold on the word since I heard Will Ferrell's Buddy the Elf say, "Hey! Have you seen these toilets? They're ginormous!" (WAV file here) in the movie, Elf.

Last night over dinner, though, my mom said she doesn't like the word because she hears it with a y ... gynormous. Mr. Tangerine immediately mimed what someone might do when traversing some gynormous female body parts.

Oh! And then Mom recounted a medical record she'd transcribed at work the other day, in which the patient reportedly had one normal labium (yes! labia is the plural of labium) and one labium that can only be described as gynormous. It hung down seven inches. And had something hard inside. That felt like cardboard. Truly gynormous, no? (Sorry, I don't know what sort of diagnosis or body modification technique is involved here.)

Can you use gynormous in a sentence?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Crotch shots of the candidates

(The picture above is discussed at the end of the post.)

A Washington Post fashion article dithered breathlessly about the greater meaning of Hillary Rodham Clinton's modest amount of cleavage on C-SPAN 2. The article is ridiculous from start to finish, and leaves the impression that gazing upon such a salacious expanse of flesh is enough to give one the vapors.

The writer, Robin Givhan, bloviated, "Showing cleavage is a request to be engaged in a particular way. It doesn't necessarily mean that a woman is asking to be objectified, but it does suggest a certain confidence and physical ease.

"It means that a woman is content being perceived as a sexual person in addition to being seen as someone who is intelligent, authoritative, witty and whatever else might define her personality. It also means that she feels that all those other characteristics are so apparent and undeniable, that they will not be overshadowed," Givhan continues.

This did not go unnoticed at NOW headquarters. Weeks ago, they started a petition to the media asking them to abstain from writing about Clinton in ways they'd never write about a male candidate. (You can sign the petition at that link.) So they take articles like this seriously, but are not Humorless Feminists™—they also recognized the hilarious absurdity of the piece. In today's "NOW Actions" e-mail, they're calling for your reactions to the story, 'whether analysis or satire." Send your responses to

Here's what I think:

Every time a male candidate is seen without a jacket, let us call on the media to take pictures from the rear. The electorate cannot make an informed decision without scrutinizing the asses of all the candidates and parsing the inner meaning of the fit of their pants. Does it look like he's lost a little weight? Or gained? Has he been working out? Are his buttocks probably flabby? What sort of gluteal confidence does he present?

Let's not forget where the focus really belongs, however: The media must scrutinize the candidates' frontal presentations, too. Is there a hint of firm pectoral muscles, or of man-boobs, or of age-related sagging? And how about his crotch--is there a hint of penis? How big? Which side is it resting on? Do his balls hang low, do they wobble to and fro?

Really, the only male politician we've had these discussions about is Dick Cheney (see intriguing photo here). And he's not running for office. We need close-ups, people! Close-ups of the crotches of every man running for president!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bush kicks puppies

America's Children's Health Insurance Program is set to expire on September 30. The Senate Finance Committee has been hammering out the details of a bipartisan plan to extend the program and to fund increased spending by hiking the federal cigarette tax (from 39¢ to $1 a pack). There are currently about 8 million uninsured kids, and the increased spending would cut that total by 4.1 million children.

"Wow!" you say. "That sounds great! Because uninsured kids suffer, and some even die because their families can't afford health care. And raising cigarette taxes always seems to be a politically safe means of raising tax revenue."

The White House says Bush will veto any such proposal. Why? White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, "The proposal would dramatically expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, adding nonpoor children to the program, and more than doubling the level of spending. This will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage, to go on the government-subsidized program." Also, the proposal doesn't pander to President Bush, who wants to set up tax breaks for people buying insurance—as if the average poor family could afford to buy health insurance if only they knew they'd get a fraction of the money back the following April. (Of course, the electric company and the grocery store aren't going to wait until next April to get paid, so really, Bush's concept is strikingly unhelpful for the poor.

One of my son's friends is on our state's health plan for kids. (Gov. Blagojevich may be incredibly corrupt, but he supported this program so he's not all bad.) This boy has asthma and needs pricey brand-name medications to keep his airways open. The state program provides his life-saving drugs and he rarely misses school (he's in the gifted program, where they move fast) because of his asthma. His mother simply doesn't have the money to pay for these prescriptions out of pocket, and I imagine private insurance programs would also be out of reach. Since he's covered by Illinois's universal children's health insurance, he won't end up as another tragic story like Deamonte Driver's.

I think Bush also eats kittens.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Coin purse

It's time to coin some new words. The other day, I used hotgry as the hot-and-cranky counterpart to hangry, which is hungry-angry. But hotgry doesn't flow. I need a solid adjective to describe the way I feel when, say, it's a little too warm out and a little too humid, I'm trying to get dressed and leave the house, and a sticky sweat is breaking out and making me unreasonably ornery. (Or maybe reasonably ornery.) I know some of you can relate to this feeling, so how about suggesting an adjective to dsecribe it?

My friend B. concocted the perfect noun form, Sweltschmerz. It's swelter + Schmerz, which is German for "pain." It rhymes beautifully with Weltschmerz, or world-weariness.

The other day, I saw the surname Mooncotch on a construction crane. It's not as if we need more words for the crotch, the ass, and points in between. But doesn't mooncotch sound like it pertains to all those? "I need some Monistat—my mooncotch is on fire!" "I rode my bike into a wall and smashed my mooncotch." "I can't believe how much sand I got in my mooncotch from going to the beach." "You know what a Brazilian is, don't you? They wax your whole mooncotch, stem to stern."

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've had the same cell phone for a couple years now, but it took me until this week to do something with all those photos I'd been storing on it. Here are some pictures, at long last freed from their telephonic jail.

In the lobby of Northwestern's Galter Pavilion medical office building, there's a large painting depicting the construction of the building:

Let's take a closer look at the figure in the middle, shall we?

Pretty damned hot for a doctor's office, no? Speaking of hot, what's a restaurant to do when the dog days of summer roll in but there's no air conditioner? Easy: Pull up a chair and grab a bucket:

What if you lost your beloved dog but you couldn't spell "shih-tzu"?

Is it just me, or does the sunken-in rubber head on this Halloween dummy look like Newt Gingrich crossed with a rotting potato?

Look at the treasures you can find at the park! (We kept the spoon.)

"Junior, why don't you go pick out a book about science?"

It was cool when Batman Begins 2: The Dark Knight was filming in the neighborhood. A couple Gotham PD squad cars were parked by Ben's school:

Everything famous comes to my neighborhood! Case in point: The Police concert. (And Flea, who was to my right when I took this picture.)

Sometimes rude giants also come over, though. This bozo was two rows below me, and yet his enormous head kept blocking my view of the stage. Whenever he got excited, he waved his arms in the air like he just didn't care, obscuring the view for a few more rows behind him.

And that gets us caught up to last Friday, so that's enough pictures for now, eh?

Feel free to suggest captions for any that capture your fancy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

No longer hotgry

...but freshly enraged. Why? Because I just read a post with links to a horrifying photo retouching site for beauty-pageant children.

Go check out those links and then come back here and tell me how absolutely appalling the "after" pictures are. If you thought you had enough reasons to deplore the child pageant business, you'll discover one more.

I just hope the person who's selling these inept retouching services isn't able to find any clients, because his or her work is terrible. Completely unnatural. But I worry. What if the pageant parents actually like the "after" photos?

Hotgry rant

Okay, I'm cautious around bikers when I'm driving. Chicago's got a bunch of marked bike lanes on the streets, and cyclists deserve a little space.

However. When I am standing still on the sidewalk, I do not think there's any expectation that I need to be cautious because fast-moving cyclists have the right of way. They don't! Ben and I were watching a school bus unload on our street (I don't know what Fred's Camp is, but it has a school bus), when suddenly this old dude on a bike comes whizzing past from behind us—and hollers at me. "Watch out! Your life may depend on it one day!"

Asshole. I'm standing still on the sidewalk and I'm supposed to check over my shoulder for rapidly approaching vehicles? I don't think so.

Stunned, I could only think to say "Up yours" in reply. And then he gave me—and my child!—the finger. (What a class act.)

What I should have said, of course, is "Get off the damned sidewalk, jerk."

It's actually the law here that a cyclist over the age of 12 can't be on the sidewalk. From the Chicago Municipal Code:

9-52-020. Riding bicycles on sidewalks and certain roadways.

(b) No person 12 or more years of age shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in any district, unless such sidewalk has been officially designated and marked as a bicycle route.

My outrage at this man's assholish transgression is somewhat heightened by the fact that I'm a little hangry and a little hotgry (which is a word I just coined for being hot and cranky). But the anger is fiery righteous anger, because he was so clearly in the wrong and yet hollered at me.

Plus, he hollered at a Published Author. That's right: Today is publication day! My book is probably not physically in any bookstores just yet, but you can buy it online from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Or, if you're in the U.K., from your local Amazon. Or from in South Africa. At some point, there should be cardboard displays for the book in Borders stores, and when there are, I will go stand beside it and make someone take a picture.

There's also a podcast that mentions the book and wraps it in an cozy etymological blanket.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Swimsuits for the buxom

My sister's got a pool, there are several beaches within three miles of home, and my old swimsuits are too big. (Thanks to weekly personal training sessions at the gym, precious little authentic cardio exercise, and nothing you might call a diet. Woot!)

It was with much trepidation that I entered Macy's to look for a swimsuit, obviously, because when is swimsuit shopping ever anything less than traumatic? (Plus: Eww, it's supposed to be Marshall Field's with nice green shopping bags, not Macy's with cheap, crappy, sub-Target plastic bags.)

And it was July 4th, so surely the selection would be meager. But I didn't need a swimsuit when it was April or May! I need one in July.

And I have boobs that most swimsuits aren't designed to support. Lands' End is famous for their wide selection of suits. You know what? They offer a handful of D-cup suits. What have they got for the DD-and-beyond cohort? Jack squat, that's what.

So I roved through the swimwear department at Macy's, copping feels left and right. Do these suits have underwires? Do these? How about these? Maybe those ones? (This is how I shop for a swimsuit. I molest the one-pieces and tankini tops.) Imagine my delight, then, to happen upon a rack of rack-friendly suits. There are a few brands of bra-sized swimsuits; the nicer ones I saw were by Coco Reef, with a smattering of band sizes in C, D, and DD cup sizes.

There weren't many items to choose from, but I found something that fit well enough. Here's the one I got, only (1) the model in that picture doesn't look like she needs a special bra-sized swimsuit, (2) the pieces were marked down 30%, and (3) I added an adorable little flirty skirt bottom. And apparently the Macy's website is down to only a few sizes, so I really lucked out finding my size at the store.

So, if you're in that underserved market of women who have biggish boobs but don't fall into the plus-size category and don't want to spill out of their swimsuit top, keep an eye out for bra-sized brands. And remember this tip for next spring when the new swimwear season kicks in.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

My child-husband

Last weekend in America's Dairyland, Mr. Tangerine went to the grocery store to buy me some beer. (I currently need to watch my potassium intake, and if I must avoid a zillion kinds of produce, peanut butter, milk, ice cream, chocolate, nuts, and my beloved hummus, how will I ingest enough calories if I don't have some beer?)

The cashier carded him. He handed over his out-of-state driver's license and the guy handed it back, saying that it had expired. Mr. Tangerine was too befuddled by the absurdity of being a 41-year-old man getting carded—and carded hard—so he did not have the presence of mind to say, "Doofus, turn the license over. There's a renewal sticker on the back. It's valid." He returned to his parents' house, still at a loss.

When he realized the license wasn't expired at all, he went back to the store (it's a block away), grabbed the Negra Modelo again, and showed the cashier the back of the license.

The cashier remained skeptical. The manager was summoned, and apparently the two employees both thought Mr. Tangerine just plain looked too young. Hello! White hairs above the forehead. White hairs in the beard. Valid photo ID attesting to his birthdate.

Maybe they would have believed it if the license said Mr. Tangerine was 23, but 41? Ridiculous! My husband actually had to get pissed off before the store agreed to sell him a six-pack of beer.

Last year, we'd gone out to eat in Florida with our son Ben and Mr. Tangerine's aunt. The waitress carded Mr. Tangerine, but not me. (And I do still get carded on rare occasions myself.) Let us examine the circumstances here: One older adult, plus two younger adults with a child who looks rather like both of them. The child is about 6 years old. If the father needs to be carded, then the waitress presumably thinks he looks no older than 20...meaning he'd have become a father at 14. But me, I looked old enough. So what am I, Mary Kay LeTourneau with my child-husband? Harrumph! And he's months older than I am!

What's your best carding tale?