Monday, January 29, 2007


You know how you can tell if a kid displays sensory-seeking behavior? Maybe he can spin around and around and around without feeling dizzy. (Me, I get woozy after about two times around.) He actually asks to be tickled. (My mom thinks tickling is tantamount to torture, but her grandson loves it.) He might like to have a parent lie on top of his outstretched body, as if the parent is trying to crush him. (Mr. Tangerine thinks I'm too heavy to lie on top of him for any amount of time, but his kid thinks it's the bee's knees.) And this evening, said kid was lying in a shallow bath, demanding that cup after cup of ice-cold water be poured on him. (Torture! I know! And yet, he shrieks, then smiles and asks for more icy splashing.)

You think this kid will grow up and get hooked on bungee jumping, wrestling, extreme skiing, and manned crash tests?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Spam, spam, tasty spam

Every now and then, a spam subject line is so tempting, I can't bring myself to delete the e-mail. To wit:

Subject: Cornhole, Buckminster, Sambo and Hakio Hardturd were getting a little pissed that they were not seeing any game to speak of.

After the obligatory colorful image of a box of text touting a stock, there's the obligatory random sequence of text. Some of it's in Dutch, and for my money, there's no funnier language than Dutch. There's a little serious español. And then, we are treated to some of the finest English prose ever committed to bandwidth. The English bits, they're like little giggly treasures waiting to be discovered. I reprint the spam here in its entirety, for your edification:

Dit is geen verwijt naar de initiatiefnemers van de beelddatabank, want dit reflecteert uiteraard vooral interesse- en selectietendenzen bij dergelijke collecties in het verleden. zip Mirror528547NoneNone Prsaar-alpha-2.
Eenvoudige, herkenbare, transparante informatie die je op alle produkten terugvindt. Check out Expanded News.
Peterson, MD, Lt Col, USAF, MC; David M. Beeldcultuur in een digitale wereld. Een oranje of rode kleur is een waarschuwing. It has now been confirmed. Ahora es el tiempo para que los proveedores de cuidado de la salud examinen sus conciencias y consideren sus compromisos.
We just happened to forget about that room of ballots.
com vind je een link naar de browser Firefox, het bedrijf Firefox, en een bedankje voor en link naar de nieuwe website van Kevin Karpenske.
Dus, ik ging op onderzoek uit. Check out Expanded News.
And, what about you female boozehounds? Toch: fijne ontdekking.
zip Mirror52689413i386.
The Super-Piss Sponge holds even more urine than our Piss Bladder.
Ahora es el tiempo para que los proveedores de cuidado de la salud examinen sus conciencias y consideren sus compromisos. Authors are routinely instructed by the provider to disclose significant financial relationships and mention of investigational drugs and unapproved indications. Free NewsFree News Headlines, Summaries, Stocks and moreFree Newsletter serviceSend to a friendBranded with your look and feel.
Even when they were loaded, which was basically all the time, except when they were in various jails, they saw no moose whatsoever. Zoals ik hierboven al vermeldde, verse groenten, fruit, mager vlees.
Madsen, MD, MPH, COL, MC-FS, USA; Deborah Omori, MD, MPH, FACP, COL, MC, USA; Karen M.
It supports Windows and Unix-based operating systems.
Urban, MD; Richard A.
They say anything can happen in this land of frozen balls and frigid cakes, and this case just underscores that fact.
Roy, MD, MPH, FACP, LTC, MC; Jamie Waselenko, MD, FACP; Guest Faculty: Ronald E. PresentatieEen aantal mensen vroegen me of ik m'n presentatie beschikbaar kan stellen. Snoep en koekjes: ongezond, uiteraard.


Now, if you Google those oddball English phrases and the subject line, they'll all take you to the same humor site. But you know what? I think they're funnier out of context.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"Why don't you just adopt?"

I'll bet you a dollar that every American woman who has struggled with infertility have been told at least once that she should adopt a child rather than pursue fertility treatment. Sometimes the suggestion is well-meant evangelizing from someone who has adopted and feels everyone should experience their happiness, but more often it seems to be someone who either has biological children or is childless. Couples using fertility drugs and procedures may be accused of being selfish or wasting resources.

Would you like to know why encouraging an infertile couple to adopt can come across as hurtful? Or are you infertile and wondering how to respond to exhortations to give up on fertility treatment and "just adopt"? I think you'll find this essay enlightening. A woman named Amy (who really ought to write a blog herself) wrote it yesterday in the comments thread at Bitch Ph.D.'s "Blog for Choice Day" post. With Amy's permission, her words are reproduced here:

"I don't really understand it either (having not experienced infertility myself). In this desperately overpopulated world, what drives people who want to be parents to do infertility treatments instead of adopting a child in need who's already here?"

Since you asked, here are a couple of potential reasons. (I'm speaking as a person who is actually interested in adopting, but wants to explain why it's hard to hear the "why not just adopt" question).

• Adopting can be difficult and time consuming in your particular state. You might have certain characteristics that would make pregnant mothers less likely to choose you, for instance, your age, or medical history, or marital history. You might have characteristics that disqualify you from most international adoption programs.

• You might have gone to your local adoption agency and been informed of the typical wait times in your state, and be worried about how long the waits end up being, and how many matches tend to fall through.

• You might decide to educate yourself about adoption more by reading birth mother blogs, in an attempt to understand all parts of the adoption triad. Through doing so, you might come to realize that adoption is not quite as morally straightforward as you once thought. That doesn't mean it might not be a great option, but it could end up being a much more complicated option than you once realized.

• But to be honest, I think the biggest reason for many people is that it's not as if most infertile people realize up front how long and expensive the road might be. It's not like you wake up infertile and then realize with perfect foresight that the road towards parenthood will take years and tens of thousands of dollars, no matter whether you go the adoption route or the infertility treatment route.

Instead, you might go to doctors and be told that likely you'll just need a little bit of help. Maybe one or two cycles with drugs, which doesn't cost much and doesn't take that much time. Maybe those don't work and you find you need something extra, but even the next step seems much more straightforward than jumping into adoption. It's not as if somebody wakes up one day and says "Hey, I think I'll spend a bunch of money and several years going through difficult and painful treatments to have a baby, because I don't want to adopt." You don't think that's going to happen to you. You don't think it'll have to go that far.

• The question you asked could just as well be asked of parents who conceive naturally instead of through infertility treatments. Why aren't naturally fertile people going out and adopting since there are so many children in need? Well, maybe because people just want to have a family by conceiving. Or maybe because people realize that it's not like there are a ton of kids sitting around waiting and all you have to do is just decide to adopt and blammo, it's a done deal. It's just not that easy. There are a million reasons why people don't adopt, as there are a million reasons why people do adopt. Why should infertile people be the ones who are supposed to carry the special moral burden of solving the "child in need" problem?

If I'd known 2 years ago what I know now, things would have been different. I'd have started the paperwork for adopting right off the bat. I'd have done the homestudy, filled out the essays and the questionnaires, sat through the multiple interviews, combed through the paperwork and signed everything in triplicate, called up my various financial and work institutions to get all of the paperwork in order. Adopting isn't exactly effortless or cheap. It's a huge, huge amount of work. It's an emotional roller coaster. It can be, and is, a wonderful, wonderful thing. But it's also a big commitment and I can't exactly fault somebody for wanting to think it through before jumping in.

I just don't think most people realize ahead of time that they will be that unfortunate minority who ends up needing so much help, time, money, and intervention to get pregnant. Doctors tend to be more optimistic than that. I also suspect that most people who have not adopted or who are not infertile just have no idea how much work really goes into adopting, and how it's not as if there's some child in need right around the corner who you could immediately let into your life overnight. Adopting is a different option than pursuing pregnancy, and it's not worse or better. It's different in a lot of ways, and can be a beautiful way to build a family. It's just different, period.

Maybe it's just one of those things that is hard to imagine unless you've been there, which is why Dr. B's admonishment to back off from getting snotty about other people's reproductive decisions is so right on. Being infertile sucks ass in so many ways, but it's even harder when you find yourself in the position of suddenly having to defend your own reproductive decisions. I imagine the same is probably true of women who have abortions, or women who choose not to have children, or women who choose to have 6 children. It'd sure be nice to see women supporting each other in their own reproductive journeys instead of judging each other for having too many kids, or too few kids, or needing an abortion, or needing infertility treatments, or whatever the hell decisions we each make. If we're lucky enough to make them.

Edited June 24, 2009, to say: Welcome, Salon Broadsheet readers.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Everybody's favorite South African blogger, Tertia, has decided to copy me and write about cyber-crushes. She linked to me and has a zillion readers, so this blog got hundreds of new visitors yesterday. And not one of them left a comment! Either they don't know what Tertia sees in me, or they're just shy. If you're one of those people, don't be shy! (Unless you don't like me, in which case, feel free to remain in your Cave of Reticence.)

The topic got me thinking: I know what sort of women I'm drawn to in Blogtopia. Intelligence, mad writing skillz, a finely honed comic sensibility, liberal politics, a feminist bent, and a pissy attitude are all things that make me think, "Hey, I'd be friends with her in real life." But what sort of men do I like?

Basically, the most crushable men possess the same traits. But if a man shows signs of homophobia, that's a huge turnoff. The men who feel compelled to defend themselves against any hint that they might be gay? The men who wigged out about Brokeback Mountain not because it was, at heart, a chick flick, but because it featured men in love? The men who get a little too aggressive proving their "whoo, I like boobies" straight-man credentials? You can have them all.

I will take the ones who are honestly flattered if they get hit on by a gay man. Who aren't made nervous by the sight of men holding hands. Who take their son to the Pride Parade each June (as Mr. Tangerine does). Who are completely at ease with gayness in all its splendor and ordinariness. (And this doesn't mean they have a fondness for woman-on-woman porn. That's altogether different.) Who teach their children by example that homosexuality is nothing to deride, fear, or get into a tizzy about. Who aren't frightened that metrosexual grooming habits will make them "look gay."

Women who like men and men who like men may prefer different body types (tall, not tall, lean, muscular, dark-haired, blond, yadda yadda yadda) and different personality traits (macho, sensitive, funny, responsible, romantic, etc.). Does anyone else include "lack of homophobia" as a criterion for hotness in straight men, or is it just me?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Begone, zits!

It has only taken me 38 ± 2 years to find a product that seems to actually do something about a pimple. For real! Honest! I had one of those burgeoning red bastards, and instead of progressing volcanically, it's dwindling away to nothingness.

Yeah, it would be nice to find something that actually prevents blemishes, but I haven't found anything that works well. Not antibiotics, not ProActiv, not rosacea medication—nothing.

What's working now is the Desert Essence Tea Tree Blemish Touch Stick. It's a wee glass tube with a roll-on applicator to dispense this aromatic liquid that contains tea tree oil, lavender oil, and other herbal substances. I bought it at Trader Joe's, and it smells far better than the Herbal Blemish Stick from Burt's Bees. That one contains fennel oil, and I hate-hate-hate the smell and taste and yea, the very idea of fennel, anise, fenugreek, and licorice. Ben hates the smell of the Desert Essence one, but it dissipates and hey, he's not the one applying it to his face.

So if you're afflicted by the occasional zit, can't bear putting benzoyl peroxide on your aging skin, and can abide herbal aromas, try one of these herbal blemish stick dealios. I have a linen closet packed full of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, so it's not as if I'm one of those all-natural, herbal-friendly types. But these mini roll-on gizmos seem to defang zits, so I'm sold.

On this day, we remember...

Menarche. Yes, that's right. It was on a January 15, when I was 14 years old, that I got my first period. Mind you, that was at least a couple years after I read Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, an abomination in that the protagonist, the aforementioned Margaret, is in a tizzy as all her friends get their period by age 12 or ma-a-aybe 13. And of course, Margaret won't be kept waiting until age 14 or later, no, ma'am. Because that would be an unconscionable cruelty to the character!

Among my best friends in high school (who, I am delighted to report, remain my closest friends to this day), one got her period at 16 and another at 15. My mom was 16 when she started the monthly joy. Another friend got her first period at age 9 or 10—and at that age, holy lord of gravy! What girl is ready to deal with tampons or pads in fourth or fifth grade? With classroom disruptions for "May I go to the bathroom now?" Yeesh. Of course, I hear earlier menarche is more and more common these days, what with more body fat and perhaps hormones in the food supply. It'd be great if that Judy Blume book had never existed so those of us in the 14-and-after group wouldn't have felt so...pre-womanly. (Ah, puberty.)

If you saw Talladega Nights at one of those popcorn-selling emporia, you should rent the DVD. When Ricky Bobby's in the hospital and his friends come to sit with him while he's unconscious, in a scene added for the DVD, Michael Clarke Duncan's character reads to him from Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. A friend (the one with the age 9 or 10 period) and I nearly wept from laughing so hard. Yes, I've spoiled the joke for you now, but you'll still laugh if you remember the book from back in the day. I had to rewind and see it again...and I laughed again.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Scattershot approach

Hey, have you heard the story of how Vlad the Impaler came by his catchy nickname? I hadn't before I read Flea's post today. Wow! He was wicked! I mean, really and truly wicked.

What's the etymology of that word, anyway? Apparently it's derived from wicca. Well, that's hardly fair to wiccans. Wick, on the other hand, grew out of the Old English wēoce. Sure do love the eo combo you see in Old English.

I'm rather fond of El Niño winters in the Midwest. It was mighty cold at the end of November and beginning of December, but it's mostly been, like, 35 to 50 degrees since then. A (wicked) cold snap is in store in a couple days, but I want my unseasonable mildness back pronto! A non-white Christmas was just fine with me, as are non-white Januaries and Februaries. If it's not El Niño but global warming, then I suppose I'm obligated to deplore the mild weather. Though it sure is nice not to have to scrape ice and snow off the car so often.

What happens when a winter is warm and moist? The plants get addlepated. I hear some snowdrops have already bloomed in the Chicago area. The daffodils are sprouting (and the imminent cold snap will probably freeze their poor tender buds and screw us out of a flowery spring). I could swear I've seen leaf buds on some trees. And our vinca minor in the front yard has at least one periwinkle blossom. In January!

Ben's got a school friend over for the afternoon—a third-grader he knows from the playground. David's mom is taking her aunt to the doctor, so I've got the boys here. I like hearing peals of laughter from the other room. Do you think I should check on that, though? What the hell is so funny? Uh oh. Now it's quiet. That can't be a good sign. It's nice to have Ben diverted by someone else so I can tend to this poor neglected blog for a bit.

Let me close with a question for you. Hmm, what'll it be? Okay: If history was going to give you a salient nickname à la Vlad the Impaler, what would it be?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Let us now blame the patriarchy

I do like to read I Blame the Patriarchy from time to time (and I ought to update my blogroll one of these days). I never took a women's studies class in college, I've never read any of the core feminist books, and I'm solidly in the liberal feminist camp rather than a radical feminist.

I don't always agree with Twisty and her cadre of rad-fem commenters. For example, I'm married and have a kid, and think it's a net good. I do put on lipstick almost once a month...or several times a year, at least. I don't wear high heels, but it's possible I would for dressy occasions if my feet didn't object more strenuously than most.

But I've found it useful to absorb the basic rad-fem tenets by browsing at I Blame the Patriarchy, and it's opened my eyes to some of the crap that is endemic in our culture (and many, many others).

Case in point: Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the new Speaker of the House yesterday, the first woman to hold that post. How does Jay Leno address that in his monologue? He asks, "How much plastic surgery has she had?" Yeah, she looks a lot younger than most 66-year-olds. But her appearance is completely beside the point here. I mean, look at her predecessor, former Speaker Dennis Hastert. You wanna riff on somebody's appearance, why don't you seek out some punchlines in Hastert's blotchy bloat and ill-fitting suits? Oh, because he's a man, and ugly, out-of-shape men tend to get a free pass, even in TV-land. (Compare, if you will, the women and the men who do sports reporting and commentary on ESPN. Any women who aren't conventionally attractive and made-up? No? How about the men—are they all lookers?)

You know what I blame for this, of course: I gotta blame the patriarchy.

Sensual pleasures

(That's sensual as in definitions 1 and 2c. As Mrs. Wormer explained to Otter in Animal House, "Vegetables are sensual. People are sensuous." So this blog post here isn't about that sensuous business. Too, too obvious.)

After I took off my super-plush socks this evening, my thoughts turned to those sensual/sensory experiences that just feel so good, those mundane little moments that make body and soul rejoice:

• You're hot and uncomfortable, and you reach down and pull off your socks, freeing your toes and soles from their stifling incarceration.

• That first big stre-e-e-etch in the morning, when you sprawl your limbs beyond the full length of the mattress.

• After you raise the glass to your lips and inhale the heavenly citrusy aroma of fresh-squeezed orange juice, you take your first sip and let the juicy pulp bits party in your mouth before swallowing.

• You step under the shower spray, and in a few seconds your hair gets so saturated with water that you can't help but let the weight pull your head back (making you look like someone in one of those ridiculous Herbal Essences ads, but without all the hoopla).

• You've been trying to get just a few more things accomplished before you take a bathroom break (so efficient are you!), your bladder growing more distended by the minute, and you finally sit down and pee. Aahhhhh. A sense of well-being pervades your core.

• You're thirsty, your mouth feels absolutely parched, and that first sip of cold water slides down your throat, slaking your body's craving.

• A good washcloth scrubbing of your lower back, preferably administered by someone other than you.

• When you finally dislodge that dried-up booger that's been clinging inside your nostril, and can breathe freely without boogeral encumbrance.

What sensory moments make you happy?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Let us now mock baby names

A Midwestern couple with quintuplet babies had five chances to spell a name right and not burden the kids with an oddly cobbled-together assortment of letters. But lo! It appears that the letters K and Y are like crack cocaine to the Ferrill family, as they have named the children thusly:

Irelyn Kadyn
Kieran Skye
Landyn Konner
Layne Mykel
Drayden Karter

You might be thinking, "But Orange, that's exactly the right way to spell Kieran." Sure, it's a great Irish boy's name. Alas, Kieran Ferrill is a girl.

I can't believe they went with Drayden, when hardly anyone names their kid the more distinctive Kraken. It has two K's! They could always add a Y and make it Krayken. Krayken, Gryffin, Nessye, Boogyemyn—why not?

Updated: Let us also mock pet names. Increasingly, Americans are naming their cats and dogs Max and Jake and Samantha and Emma.

But wait! There's more! According to an NYT article on Jan. 7, the Venezuelans have a fresh approach to naming babies. Mao, Nixon, and Hitler! Backwards-spelled Susej, Rotceh, and Aleuzenev! Willderman and Yasterliski! Yusmery Sailing and her brother, Kleiderson Klarth! The hot-dog vendor who's the father of the last two says some of their siblings' names "came to me in my dreams. Their names will make them special in this life." (Aughh!)