Saturday, June 30, 2007

Randomized trial

• Three days ago, a fairly small segment of Chicago got rain. Most of the suburbs remained parched, but the North and Northwest Sides selfishly gorged on rainwater. We got 3 to 4 inches of rain in about a 45-minute period. Meteorologically speaking, most impressive! The flooded roads were entertaining. Ben enjoyed watching cars plow into a 5-inch-deep puddle and splash water clear over a parked SUV. (Alas, we also had to drive and walk in this rain. My comfy Naot sandals waded through ankle-deep water. And may building's basement flooded a bit, meaning I put in a lot of time downstairs cleaning out our storage locker this week.)

• On leaving the grocery store today, I witnessed a man digging into his single-item purchase while walking through the parking lot. This guy walked to the store specifically to buy a 16-oz. tub of cottage cheese, which he ate heaping spoonfuls of before he even left store property. Excuse me, but when did cottage cheese become handy on-the-go food? A wrap sandwich, sure. Bag of chips or a candy bar, yes. Granola bar, protein bar, beverage, why not? But a pound of cottage cheese is just bizarre.

• I had a third item and it was every bit a funny as Cottage Cheese Man. But I forgot what it was.

• I don't get tagged for meme duty very often, but the pseudonymous Jay has tagged me to list five reasons I blog. Since I was one of the people who nudged Jay into blogging—I kept sending her links to must-read blogs I knew she'd like—it is incumbent on me to pony up five reasons. Or maybe not quite five. Let's see:

1. Because I got hooked on reading several blogs and joining the commenting communities, and then the lovely PK sent me an e-mail and said something along the lines of "And where is your blog, young lady? (tap, tap, tap)" The impatient tapping pushed me straight into blogging.

2. Brvsudr—is that not the best typo ever for "because"? I was one key over for most of the letters. Reason 2: Because I like to express myself in writing.

3. Initially, because it helped me stay in touch with actual sentient adults when I was home with a small child. And then you get to liking the people, and it would be uncongenial to ditch the mutual read-and-comment relationship. Which is not to say I bear any ill will to those whose priorities have shifted and who no longer have the energy or time to write, or to visit the blogs they used to pop in on regularly. But every time I've met a blogger friend in the flesh, I've discovered that they are exactly as smart, articulate, and funny in speech as in writing. Haven't had a disappointing meet-up yet! Which reminds me—I may stop by the BlogHer conference in a month since it'll be here in Chicago. Her Feral Highness will be in town then, and I'm looking forward to getting beer-silly with her. (I know she can drink me under the table.) Anyone else heading to Chicago July 27–29?

4. I'm out of reasons for this blog. My other blog is a crossword blog. I started that one to have a place to talk about my pastime on my own terms, and what do you know? It led to a book deal. No regrets!

5. Do me a favor: Make up a wildly implausible reason that I blog and jot it down in the comments. If you have any desire to write about your own five reasons for blogging, consider yourself tagged. If you don't, then consider yourself tagged and berate yourself for letting me down every day that you don't write the assigned post.

• Back to random thoughts. This weekend, I have no plans at all. Next weekend, on the other hand, overfloweth with plans! Friday evening, Flea and I are going to the Police concert right here in my general neighborhood. Do I need to study for this? Are there new songs I should know? New songs? Ha! They broke up in the '80s! There are no new songs! At least, I think they'll be playing all old stuff perfectly suited to the aging nostalgic. Saturday evening, there are plans for a blogger meet-up, but a dear friend will also be visiting from out of town. Maybe she'll come along for drinks, or maybe she'll find something else to do, or maybe I'll skip the meet-up to hang with my pal. I only know one of the bloggers, ding, and have been reading another, Sid, for a while via a link at ding's blog. The other bloggers are not people I really know anything about, but everyone knows somebody who'll be there. Networking action!

• Ben started day camp this week. Did I tell you about this camp before? It's so awesome. From 9 to 3, five days a week, for six weeks, at a Chicago Park District facility that has a pool so Ben gets to swim every day. Lunch is included (yay! no packing a lunch!), as are a camp t-shirt and backpack. There's one field trip every week. (And Ben's best friend from school is in the same camp.) Let's play interactive infomercial. What would you expect to pay for roughly 180 hours of engaged child care with a meal? Go ahead. Guess. And then I will astonish you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hangry time

Ben just said, "Mom, could you get me some more milk? Before I get hangry."

I won myself a fabulous dictionary, the New Oxford American Dictionary, by touting the not-quite-a-real-word word hangry at the New Word Open Mic held during the Dictionary Society of North America meeting a couple weekends ago. I sure as heck didn't coin the word—a blend of hungry and angry, a mood well known to many people—but the lexicographically inclined people in attendance voted for hangry's aptness and utility as a word, so I won the dictionary. (Which, if you pay attention to such things, has really hawt introductory sections.)

If you want to read more about the New Word Open Mic, see here.

Bizarre experience: Being asked afterwards, "What dictionary are you with?" I...I'm referentially single. I'm not going steady with any particular dictionary. I am exactly the sort of geek who's secretly thrilled to be mistaken for a lexicographer, and acutely disappointed to 'fess up that I'm not a lexicographer at all. (Sigh.)

So, hangry is not a word that is listed in the dictionaries...yet. I like to think it'll gain wider use in the next couple decades and earn a slot in the dictionary. Because it's so perfect! Some people have no grasp of the word's meaning, and those people are incredibly fortunate. Being hangry means going a little too long without a meal or a snack, and losing your coping abilities. Road rage, hollering at everyone in the household, being inordinately frustrated by the small hitches in life, losing the ability to keep your voice from being a shriek, finding the world conspiring to make things difficult for you. And then you eat a little something, and the world is a much brighter place. My, wasn't it silly to get so upset about those things!

The savvy hangry-prone individual will take precautions. One friend has begun carrying a spare Luna bar at all times, just in case hunger hits. I have been known to eat a snack immediately before going out to meet someone for lunch or dinner, because if I'm already hungry before I leave the house, I'll be a wreck by the time the waiter delivers my food. Best to nosh on something and stave off the hangries, no?

Hangry. Name it. Use the word. And ward off hanger.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

À votre santé!

My pal Flea from One Good Thing is also writing at the Offpsrung parenting site, with a sex-related blog called Lock the Bedroom Doors. In tonight's post, Flea offers sage advice about sex toys. Namely, don't buy those cheap-ass "jelly" vibrators or dildos because that substance releases icky chemicals—and do you want icky chemicals going where your toys go? No. No, you do not.

Flea recommends springing for the more expensive silicone toys. Aren't your orifices and nerve endings worth it? Yes. Yes, they are.

Flea knows whereof she speaks because she runs a sex-toy business called the Honeysuckle Shop. You can shop for toys there, you can buy your toys elsewhere, but wherever you shop, please heed her advice and treat yourself to high-quality merchandise.

Hmm? What's that you say? You haven't got any sex toys and you're not sure you need one? Nonsense! You could always start with the cute sculptural LAYAspot vibe, which scarcely looks risqué at all. Honeysuckle's premium products page includes that turquoise and magenta one plus five other color combos; your friendly neighborhood sex-toy purveyor may have still other colors in stock. In whatever color, it is sure to be efficient. Saves time! Reduces operator fatigue! Cuts risk of carpal tunnel syndrome! It features multiple settings and intensities, much like those Sharper Image massage chairs. But while a chair costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, the LAYAspot's under $50!

The famous Rabbit vibes are on the premium page, too—you may have heard raves about the classic Rabbit Pearl and Rabbit Habit. I believe the Hitachi Magic Wand is the one that was featured on Sex and the City. The premium page also has a zillion toys sold under the Sue Johansen label, and this frightens me—she's the grandmotherly sexpert with a show on the Oxygen channel or something.

Basic rule of thumb for sex-toy shopping: If it costs, say, $40 to $100, it's probably a good one. If it's less than $20, it's probably a scary, chemical-leaching, germ-retaining, material-degrading, mechanically-failing piece of junk, and unless you have some kind of fetish for shoddy craftsmanship and materials, it's not going to be worthwhile in the long run. Buy a good toy and it should last you for years and years.

Don't forget the batteries!

"Lady Bird Johnson Hospitalized"

I always laugh when I see a news headline about someone I'd assumed was long dead. "What? She's not dead yet? Huh."

Lady Bird Johnson, the widow of LBJ, is 94, which is awfully old but not impossibly so. After all, my grandma was 94½ when she died last year. LBJ died way back in 1973, and I just figured Lady Bird had followed him to the grave long ago.

Who's the last person you were amazed to learn was still alive and kicking?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Framing the issue of rape versus sex

Over at Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte presents some apt analogies for what she calls the "conservative-sexist" and the "liberal-feminist" views of sex and rape: engaging in battles versus playing music. She extends the sexist battle concept into a basketball analogy:

The conservative-sexist model of rape is the same one used to define a foul in basketball. Basically, when sexual intercourse happens, the man team has scored a point against the woman team. Each team is allowed some strategies and disallowed others. In basketball, you’re supposed to snatch the ball from the other team, but you can’t cross certain lines or you’ll get a foul. This explains why rape trolls are so eager to find out what the “rules” are, i.e. when they are permitted to force sex. (”Is it rape if she’s drunk? What if she says yes and changes her mind? Is it okay to bully someone into it, so long as you don’t actually hold her down and force her? Are guilt trips okay?, etc.”) If there’s some ambiguity when the referee calls a foul, your teammates (other men) are supposed to clamor to your defense, regardless of whether or not you actually fouled. If the foul is called, then the woman team scores a point (or a free throw in basketball, but you get the idea). The idea that it’s wrong to have sex with someone unless she really, really wants to do it makes about as much sense as saying that you should only be allowed to get the ball in basketball if the defense hands it to you.

Whereas from the feminist angle, figuring out how to bend the rules doesn't enter into it at all. It's all about collaboration, about both people wanting to have sex with one another.

Go read Amanda's post, will ya?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bratz conflict and baked goods

You know those horrible Bratz dolls that make Barbie dolls look practically butch in comparison? With the hypersexualized mouths, skimpy clothes, and heavy makeup? The ones that make me glad I don't have a daughter clamoring for to play with this product line> Yeah.

So, I took Ben to see the new CGI penguin cartoon, Surf's Up, this afternoon. (It was actually pretty decent.) One of the previews was for a movie about four teen girls coerced into joining cliques at school, but eventually they wise up and return to their core foursome and reject the Head Clique Girl's mandates. It looked like a not-terrible movie for tween girls to watch, with lessons about the importance of friendship and the idiocy of cliques. And then the trailer reached the end and revealed its title...Bratz: The Movie. Aaaagh! They snuck it right past my radar! The girls in the movie had cute clothes and makeup, sure, but they didn't look a thing like the Bratz dolls. I think it's all a plot on the part of the toy maker (MGA Entertainment) to make the characters more palatable so they can try to persuade parents that Bratz dolls aren't so appalling after all. Never!

After the movie, we walked over to the bakery that employs a bloggerly acquaintance of mine. I could no longer resist the rumors of superlative dough lamination, so I needed to try these croissants of hers. Ben polished off a chocolate-filled one within five minutes of leaving the bakery (this pastry was twice the height of the usual pain au chocolat—light and buttery, soft rather than crunchy/flaky on the outside) but shared the less chocolaty bits with me. Later on at home, Mr. Tangerine launched an attack on the almond one, which apparently doesn't sell well at the bakery. He said it was scrumptious—buttery and soft. The cherry turnover (all-butter crust!) was good, but not as much to my liking as croissants. The plain croissant—I snagged the last one in the shop!—will be my breakfast in the morning.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I live in Gotham City today

Remember the Christian Bale Batman movie a couple summers ago? The sequel, The Dark Knight, is currently filming in Chicago. I don't typically follow filming schedules or movie location news, but today, this Major Motion Picture was filming in my neighborhood!

There were a couple dozen movie trailers parked on the basketball courts at Ben's school. The extras holding area and lunchroom was in the annex where I pick Ben up from school each day. I took a couple pictures with my cell phone of a Gotham Police Department cop car parked near the school. The main event was filming inside an apartment on a nearby side street.

Apparently the school gets a hefty check for renting out the property to Hollywood, and has done this before. (This is how the school was able to afford a digital music lab, where Ben had music class in kindergarten.) No wonder movies cost so much to make! Not only are they hiring actors and renting locations, but then there are the dozens of people getting paid to loiter at any given time. (Is it boring to be on the crew?)

Now I'm hankering to see this movie for $10 when it comes out next July, and I'm hankering to take my kid even though it'll be PG-13 and violent. I wonder how much of the movie will be identifiably in Chicago, and how much it'll be convincingly Gotham.

Oh! A woman we were talking to on the sidewalk said she'd seen Gary Oldman heading to his trailer earlier. I don't know which other stars have been haunting my neighborhood today. Maggie Gyllenhaal? Heath (Brokeback Mountain) Ledger? Christian Bale??

Edited 6/20 to add: They used their GPD squad cars a few blocks away, under the El tracks; video over here. I Googled up other posts about the local filming and saw what appears to be a stuntman in the Batsuit on the back porch stairs of the apartment where they were filming, and video from my neighborhood a few hours before Ben and I gawked there. There was also some murky footage from the wee hours purporting to show Gary Oldman in the back courtyard of that apartment in a dark suit, but I couldn't make him out.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Shameless unpaid endorsements

I still like that tea tree oil Blemish Touch Stick I bought six months ago, and Mr. Tangerine swears by it, too. Time to head to Trader Joe's to buy another!

Another "natural"-type product I'm grooving on these days is Ecos lavender laundry detergent. It makes me so happy to pull wet laundry out of the machine gently perfumed with lavender. And this stuff is economical! The big jug holds 128 ounces, a gallon, and it's concentrated so you need just a half of a small capful to wash one load. The 128-ounce jug will yield 64 loads, whereas a standard 150-ounce jug of nonconcentrated laundry detergent gets just 32 loads. (I hear Tide is venturing into concentrated formulas now, which is grand because who wants to carry a jug that's twice as heavy as it needs to be? And that heavy jug with too much water mixed in has to be trucked across the country in a model of inefficiency.) Ecos laundry detergent also has a dye- and scent-free version, and something lemongrassy, and something with magnolia, I think.

We're partway through our first roll of Charmin Mega-Roll toilet paper. The roll is giant! And the paper is soft! But not too soft, because a lot of paper is compacted tightly in one fat roll. ("Soft and sturdy," says Mr. Tangerine.) It's rather like buying the quantity of sheets you get with Scott, but with a cushier paper.

Have you recently started using a product and wondered how you made it so long without this marvel? Feel free to share your tawdry commercialistic recommendations in the comments.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Talented Mr. Tangerine

He took a sketchbook along on our trip to England. You can see a few of his drawings here.

Blogging for LGBT Families 2007

Hey, everybody! It's the 2nd annual Blogging for LGBT Families Day tomorrow!

As luck would have it, I did something else relating to LGBT families today—I mixed up a panful of peanut butter/chocolate bars (Mmm, butter! Mmm, sugar!) for the baby shower I'm cohosting this Saturday. My oldest and dearest friend, Cheryl, will become a mother in June when her partner, Carrie, delivers her baby.

The couple planned this baby together, are preparing their home for this baby, and will raise this baby together. They will both become moms the day that baby decides he wants to come out. Of course, laws being what they are, only the gestational mom has legal standing as a parent. For mom #2 to legally be a parent, the couple will have to shell out a couple grand in legal fees (wow, $2000+ would buy a lot of diapers and baby clothes!) and take the baby to court to appear before a judge in adoption proceedings. And of course, if the family gets saddled with some sort of regressive judicial troglodyte (like the one encountered here), the adoption would hit a snag.

Ideally, two people planning a baby together could both have their names on the birth certificate and both be considered parents from the moment labor begins. Sure, one can be present for the conception, support one's partner throughout the pregnancy, stay up all night tending to a newborn, and love that baby with all one's heart, but...that's not deemed to be enough if the parents are in a same-sex relationship. It's patently unfair.

What's most important is that a child be loved and nurtured, and I don't know anyone more innately empathetic and nurturing than Cheryl. She'll be a terrific mom. This baby-to-be is lucky: He'll have two devoted parents (whatever their legal status) and a community of supportive relatives and friends. I wish every child born to or adopted by a same-sex couple could be as lucky—and I hope that someday, their families won't have to jump through hoops for legal recognition.


Even though this is a dadless baby shower, it won't be the traditional ladies-only event. Ben will be one of the boys and men in attendance, and I'm glad he's got the opportunity to grow up in an environment in which a baby with two moms isn't a startling thing. His gay-friendly upbringing will continue when the Pride Parade passes through our neighborhood on June 24. The folks on the floats hardly toss any candy, but kids always have a blast at the Pride Parade anyway. If you live in Chicago and have kids, I encourage you to join the crowds in Lakeview and watch the parade!