Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hey, where did everyone go?

Apparently, a blog that doesn't get updated often tends to lose its readership. Oh noes! I must do something about that.

Here's a year-end, hit-and-miss update:

January: I don't remember a thing from January 2008.

February: At the end of February, I went to Brooklyn for the first time, for my fourth American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. It's always good to geek out among my fellow travelers for a few days. My goal is to spend almost no waking time in my hotel room—I have accompllished that goal the last two years, and expect to do so again in 2009. This time, I'm on the schedule—a blogging panel. Eek! Hundreds of people listening to me in a non-internet setting! In February 2008, I was on a radio show late one Friday night. That was terrific fun. There were people listening, sure, but I couldn't see them. And my Merv Griffin's Crosswords appearance aired on daytime TV. The entire time the show was being taped, my heart was pounding.

March: Spring break! We vacationed in Florida. We started out in Tampa with a trip to Busch Gardens, and managed to be bad parents who let our kid's face get sunburned on day one. Ben's cheeks were crispy the rest of the week, poor thing. But! In the Tampa hotel pool, suddenly, Ben could swim. Last summer, his ability to traverse the pool with his face in the water was nil. This spring, with zero practice in the intervening months? Like a fish. Or maybe an otter. Also in March, I started therapy for the very first time. It was a good move. Being driven insane by Ben's homework sessions drove me to therapy.

April: Ben turned 8. We partied at Chuck E. Cheese. I think this spring we'll bounce it out at Pump It Up, the place with giant inflatables. No 6-foot-tall rodents = a plus. I think April was the month that a friend and I constructed a Sunday crossword, submitted it to the New York Times, and got an acceptance in a few weeks. The puzzle hasn't been published yet. Any week or month now! We also

May: Winter was finally over, but spring was rather lackadaisical. Chicago got ripped off this year, since we didn't get decent weather until June, really. We don't expect much, but we expect better than we got in 2008.

June: Ben finished second grade and counted the days until day camp started. The Chicago Park District's summer day camp rocks. The place Ben goes has an outdoor pool, so he got to swim every day. They had one field trip a week (laser tag! the beach!). Thirty hours a week for six weeks, lunch included, for less than $250 total. Winner!

July: Summer. Day camp. Not too much air conditionining needed—cooler near the lake.

August: Is anything more blah than a 42nd birthday?

September: Ben began third grade. Somehow the homework proves less difficult than second-grade homework. My kid is maturing, and maybe those management strategies I learned in therapy are helping too. Some of you may be wondering how on earth a kid's homework could pose such woes for a parent—and some of you know exactly what I'm talking about.

October: Wow, that wasn't so long ago, and I can't think of much to say about the month. Status quo.

November: Co-hosted Thanksgiving at my cousin's place. Why anyone spends all day cooking turkey, I'll never understand. It's so much easier to buy a cooked turkey from Jewel and warm it up for two hours. I flirted with destroying my pot of mashed potatoes, but fortunately, it was only the bottom layer that got scorched. Oh, and I voted for that guy from my city for president. Yay, Obama! Didn't his face at the Grant Park acceptance speech transmit a strong vibe of "Oh, crap, what have I gotten myself into? I'm really in for it now."

December: We seem to be largely unscathed by this recession business, aside from losing a third of the value of our investments and having my dream job offer rescinded by a newspaper about to file for bankruptcy. We spent Christmas week on our first cruise vacation. You know what? It was a lovely trip—so warm! Winter-dry skin became baby-smooth! Hours of basking in the sun, manufacturing vitamin D! No sunburn! No serious seasickness aside from a little queasiness!—but I don't think cruises and I mix. I've been back on ground for four days, and I'm stilll feeling a little woozy from landsickness. My system is having trouble resetting from "rocking" to "still." I read up on mal de debarquement and learned that while usually landsickness only lasts a couple days, the unfortunate few see it last for weeks or months or years. I should have known I was asking for trouble. Back when I was a teenager, one night on board Amtrak left my head rocking for a couple days. I'm thinking a week on a boat might have more lasting effects than a night on a train.

Best wishes to all of you for a happy, healthy, and not unprosperous 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I am asea

I'm not really blogging today. I am asea, on a cruise in the Caribbean. Blogger lets you write posts in advance and schedule them to publish later on. "Asea" is one of those words that shows up in crosswords way more than in daily conversation. Now that I have a chance to use the word for realz, dammit, I can't pass it up.

So I'm writing this last Thursday night, and it'll go up on the blog on Monday.

1. Happy holidays! Whether that's Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Kwanzaa, or the winter solstice, have a good one.

2. Yay, solstice! Sunday, December 21 was the winter solstice. Yes, January and February promise to be miserably wintry in great swaths of the Northern Hemisphere, but at least the days are lengthening bit by bit.

3. Do you think I have mal de mer? I'm using Transderm Scop, the prescription patch for preventing seasickness. I've never been on a boat for more than a couple hours, and never on the open sea, so we'll see how well the family does. (Only OTC Dramamine for the fellas...I'm the Pharmaceutical Phyllis in the family.)

4. I don't really have anything to say. I mean, when it's actually Monday, I'll have plenty to say, but I'm not taking my laptop on the ship because wireless access is, like $42 an hour. I haven't got anything to say on Thursday. I just didn't want the blog to lie fallow for the whole week. And again, ASEA!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peanut butter/chocolate squares

I'll be on a plane away from winter in 48 hours. Whoo-hoo! Chicago's weather is cooperating in making this cruise a much-appreciated, well-timed trip. Temps in the teens and 20s? You betcha. Snow and ice? Oh, yeah. We got 6" on Tuesday, and 6" to 9" is expected by midday tomorrow. I will feel like the luckiest bastard on earth to be heading to the Caribbean on Saturday. Sure, returning from a week's vacation and then having to pull out all the Christmas crap and play Santa on the 27th will be rough, but...I think I'm not allowed to complain here.

I was just about to share a recipe for peanut butter/chocolate bars over at Bitch Ph.D., where a more complicated recipe for homemade Reese's knockoffs is shared. Why not jot it down here and link to it there?

If you need to take treats to a holiday gathering and you're looking for something easy and no-bake—and if you like peanut butter and chocolate and sweet treats so rich you have a really difficult time pigging out on them, because you just can't swallow* that many of these—try this recipe:

Orange's Orangeless Peanut Butter/Chocolate Squares

3/4 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chocolate chips** (or about 6 oz. of the chocolate of your choosing, broken into pieces)

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt together the butter and peanut butter. Stir until well blended.

Add the graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar. Stir until blended. (This takes muscle, as the mixture is stiff.

Press mixture into a 13"x9" pan.

In a smaller microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips gradually. (Microwave for maybe 1 minute, take out and stir. Nuke for another 30 seconds, take out and stir. Keep nuking in 30-second increments and stirring the hell out of the chocolate until it's a smooth, thick liquid.) Spread the melted chocolate on top of the peanut butter mixture. Chill well, and cut into squares.

*This post mentions 6" to 9", swallow, a stiff mixture, and a smooth, thick liquid. It can't be helped.

**My sister's version of this recipe calls for mixing butter or margarine in with the chocolate, but I don't think it's necessary. Maybe the chocolate cuts without cracking if it's mixed with an oil? I don't know.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sexism and Patti Blagojevich

You know what sucks? In that 76-page federal indictment, I believe there was one bit of dialogue attributed to the governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich. She had two F-bombs and an SH-glob in two short sentences.

So why are so many people running around saying that she's worse than him*—more profane, more venal?

This is sexist bullshit. Rod cussed on tape many more times than Patti did—and he was an elected official being paid a salary by taxpayers, violating laws for his own gain. Patti is not paid a salary by the State of Illinois, and it doesn't sound like she was calling the shots—just being supportive of her venal a-hole of a spouse and taking an interest in his work. Should she have had the morals to say, "Honey, you can't do this. It's crooked"? Sure. But there's no way that she merits the vituperation that is being sent her way. It's too easy to scorn a woman just because she used bad words—the double standard that ladies aren't supposed to swear. Fuck that shit, I say; cut Patti Blagojevich a little slack here.

*I don't have supporting links for this—my impression comes from hearing people talk smack about Patti in conversation.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Chicago: A happening town

First, our senator, South Sider Barack Obama, is elected president. The presidential transition headquarters are here in Chicago, and the next administration is taking shape nicely.

Next, Republic Windows closes a factory, the workers demand their due, and the story balloons into a national emblem of the financial, credit, and manufacturing crisis. (Workers of the world, unite!)

And then this morning, the Feds paid a visit to Governor Rod Blagojevich's North Side home to arrest him on federal corruption charges. They've been looking at him for years and indicting all sorts of people around Blago, but he finally went too far. I mean, who tries to sell a U.S. Senate seat? That's essentially what he's accused of doing. As if nobody would be watching! As if the Feds investigating him wouldn't notice! As if that weren't a huge violation of civic trust! Maybe Bush will pardon Blago's predecessor, George Ryan, and Blago can take over the same cell in the federal joint.

My kind of town, Chicago is.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Getting into the holiday spirit

I sure don't feel like getting the Christmas tree all set up, and I haven't begun addressing holiday cards yet. I'm probably way behind on my shopping for friend and family gifts, and I should be aiming to finish everything up by the 19th because then I'm leaving for a week's vacation.

But the holiday spirit whomped me when I read this heartwarming/heartbreaking article in the Trib. Each year, letters addressed to Santa end up at the post office, but not in the dead letter bin. Instead, the letters are put out so that people can choose a "Dear Santa" letter to fulfill. In the Trib article, one sad tale spurred an outpouring of generosity from readers—but post offices still have a slew of letters that nobody's picked up, that the media isn't showering attention on.

So I stopped by the post office this morning and was moved by a letter from a mom. She doesn't have much, but would like to give her kids a nice Christmas. She's hoping for a little help from Santa. She's got four kids in the house. Her daughters are 12 and 16, her son's 14, and her foster daughter is 16. All she asked for was pajamas or a coat, and some Bratz dolls for the youngest.

Coats? It's December, and the kids still need coats? Dang. I took that letter straight to Sears and bought four puffy coats with warm hoods. And also a set of warm jammies for each kid.

If you can swing it financially this year, I hope you'll stop by your local post office and play Santa, too.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


I just changed my relationship status on Facebook from "married" to "in a relationship."

Why? Because of A Marriage Manifesto by Tom Ackerman, a gay man. He says his beliefs no longer allow him to recognize marriage, so he's referring to straight people's legally recognized spouses as their "boyfriend" or "longtime companion." The result, Ackerman says, is "instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs."


Join the unrecognizing-marriage club, won't you?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A crush

Who among us hasn't always had a bit of a crush on Roger Ebert? Not because of the sweaters he used to wear on TV, not because of his "thumbs up"—because of his writing.

Ebert's latest blog post humorously yet rigorously eviscerates Ben Stein's "documentary," eXpelled, about "intelligent design." Did any of you see that? I'll bet you didn't. Why give any of our money to the people making a movie that links Darwinists to Nazi genocide? And now you need not even Netflix eXpelled because good old Rog tells you everything you need to know about this disingenuous movie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The GOP's nightmare

We attended the variety event of the season this morning: The third grade's multimedia spectacular, "Goin' Green." Ben's part was to portray a very knowledgeable guy in a PSA about carbon footprints. They filmed the PSA yesterday and showed it on the big screen this morning. Mr. Tangerine and I couldn't have been more proud—not only did Ben have more lines than the other three kids combined, but he memorized them all, spoke clearly, and didn't fidget at all during the taping. He's a star, baby.

The Republican nightmare part is the student population and their families. If everyone in the auditorium had gone to the Republican National Convention, it probably would have multiplied the non-white representation there by a factor of 100. Some of the girls and their moms wear traditional Muslim head coverings, and nobody gives anybody any guff about that. Every single kid either knows families who immigrated from other countries or is in such a family. And every single family lives in a big city. Nobody's holed up in a small town, hiding from the future or from diversity. The kids mix well, and know how to get along with people of all colors and backgrounds.

In other words, these kids are the antithesis of the image the Republican party put forth this year. They are the future of America.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hey, Chicagoans! (Or anyone else.)

If you can spare a little money this time of year, click over to the Chicago Sun-Times Season of Sharing and request some "Dear Santa" letters.

Kids in the Chicago Public Schools whose student population is almost all low-income write "Dear Santa" letters to request a present. Season of Sharing sends these letters out to volunteers, who giggle at how impossibly sweet the letters are, shop for the desired loot, wrap up and label the gifts, and send them to the kid's school. Before winter break, each class will have a party and Santa or an elf will deliver a heap of gifts, one for every kid in the class.

Check your local post office, too. Oftentimes the post office will have a bin of "Dear Santa" letters that kids or families have mailed to the North Pole. (Sometimes the mail is diverted, I guess. Surely the blame lies with an unreceptive North Pole postal facility.) Volunteers can select a letter or three and work on fulfilling those requests to Santa.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Roger Ebert Fan Club

I've been a member of the imaginary Roger Ebert Fan Club since I was a kid reading his reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times. You've probably heard about the salivary gland cancer that robbed him of his voice and his face—but his ability to write and to love movies remains unchanged. Actually, that's not quite true. He recently wrote about how much easier the writing comes to him now, how he's merely transcribing the words that the muse has composed inside his head. (Must reading for any writer.)

Earlier this year, a Sun-Times exec asked Roger to start writing a blog, and that blog kicks ass. I added it to my RSS feed so I never miss a post. The newest one is about looking like the Phantom of the Opera (non-handsome edition) and having been fat. Deep, introspective stuff combined with humor.

He wrote so convincingly about the versatility of rice cookers that I went ahead and bought one. Now what the hell am I supposed to do with it? I should print out Ebert's post and the comments and use that as a cookbook.

Here, see for yourself. Skim through the list of past posts and explore the topics that sound inviting. Hey, a lot of the time, he even writes about movies. (This is in addition to his regular movie review site.)

There's a reason that Ebert is the only movie critic to have won a Pulitzer for his writing, you know.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Well, I just got the rug pulled out from under me an hour ago, and a juicy job offer vanished into nothingness. I hadn't told too many people, so it wasn't hard to e-mail almost all of them with the disappointing news. So far, everyone has used a swear word in their reply e-mails. These are my peeps! So goddamned supportive. I love my peeps.

And then a couple minutes ago, FedEx delivered the new rug for my living room. It's like instant retail therapy, and with something super-cushy and thick and soft. This rug's so thick, we could lose Legos in the shag.

I think the sad rug still wins out over the shaggy rug, at least for this weekend.

Friday, November 14, 2008


All righty, I'm only going to say this once:

Bemused ≠ amused.

Bemuse means this:
1. To cause to be bewildered; confuse. See synonyms at daze.
2. To cause to be engrossed in thought.

See? It doesn't mean "To find things funny or droll." It rhymes with "confuse and it also means confuse? This should be so easy to remember. Maybe this will help: A Spanish translation of the verb is causar estupefacción . If you are bemused by something, it has stupefied you, not made you smile.

I've encountered several different people on the internet in the past week or so who have misused bemused, and it took every ounce of cool I have to stop my inner pedant from leaving them comments solely to correct their usage. Don't bemuse your readers or listeners by using bemused wrong, okay?> Thanks.

(Of course, 50 years from now, "to amuse" will surely find its way into the dictionary definitions of bemuse, just because so many people are using it that way. Sigh.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Daily "Moved to Tears" Moment™

I don't know about you, but ever since Tuesday, I have been having a Daily "Moved to Tears" Moment™. Usually several such moments, in fact.

Just now, it was spurred by Judith Warner's latest NYT post. Colin Powell being puffy-faced and moved. A beautiful photo of a little girl with her sobbing mother in a Harlem church, which Warner said looked like the future reaching out to heal the past.

Other days, it's been various photos of the Grant Park rally or of Americans crying tears of joy and relief. Heck, even billionaire Oprah Winfrey was overcome to the point that she cried on a stranger's shoulder. Jesse Jackson atoned for his ill-advised remarks this summer with his tears. And thousands of people who weren't famous, people of all races and backgrounds, people around the world, have experienced such joy.

On Election Day, there were tales of people voting with their parents or grandparents in mind—forebears who lived through the Jim Crow era and could scarcely have believed their descendants would be voting a black man into the highest office in the land. People who had never registered to vote before because they didn't think their vote mattered, and now they know it does.

It's seeing children of all colors and knowing that their America is not our America. Their America is the place where, duh, of course we can have a president who's not white. It's children aspiring to make history in their own way, dreaming of becoming the first Asian-American president or the second black president or the first woman president or the first Latina/Latino president or the first Jewish president. The possibilities seem endless in a way they never did before.

My Daily "Moved to Tears" Moment™ didn't happen until after lunch today. I suppose soon enough I'll make it to the end of the day without crying, but in the meantime, I rather like the daily cryfest. So hey! Let's keep it going:

What's moved you the most?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Here's the thing about Prop 8 and other anti-gay discrimination

The ever-righteous ding has laid down the law over at Bitch Ph.D. today. Her post is called "Party Over: A Primer on Equality and Prop 8 - From a Brown Straight Girl!"

Some in the media and the blogosphere have laid the blame for Prop 8 passing squarely at the feet of black or Latino voters, especially the churchgoers among them. Au contraire, says ding:
Let's cut to the chase: it was straight people who tanked equal rights for gays in California.
Ding doesn't care what your objection to same-sex marriage derives from. It's a matter of that cornerstone of America, equal rights:
Go read the full post. It's a good one.


There's a rally in Chicago tomorrow, a rally against Prop 8 and the other anti-LGBT measures that voters passed this week in Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona:

5:30 TO 7:30 P.M.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

When the insurance people can't talk

I called my health insurance company to check on some benefits, and I had to keep asking the representative to repeat herself because her voice was so hoarse. At the end of the call, I said, "I hope your cold gets better."

She replied, "I don't have a cold. I was just up late yelling and talking last night."

How awesome is that? The customer service rep can hardly talk because she was whooping and exulting so much for Obama. She sounded incredibly happy (if raspy).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes He Can

Yesterday evening, Ben said, "I want to be the president." (He's got another 27 years before he's old enough to be eligible, of course.)

I replied, "Hey, you could be the country's first Asian president."

He thought that would be pretty cool. "I could be in history!"

He could also be the country's second biracial president.

He could also fail to make any sort of history, because in the next 27 years, who knows? Maybe we'll have our first Asian-American president before Ben's ready. Or another mixed-race one, or another African-American, or a woman, or a Latino/a. Maybe my kid will be yet another in a string of leaders who represent the full diversity of this great land of ours.

If Obama wins today, suddenly the field is wide open for every child in America to aspire to amazing things.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Snapshots from Halloween

At one huge new house in a city neighborhood full of old houses, it took a while for anyone to come to the door. Finally, a middle-aged couple opened the door. He looked like an attorney, in a crisp gray suit. She wore a white apron over her clothes. They gave the kids their candy, and when the kids headed towards the next house, the distinguished gentleman turned away from the doorway—revealing that the back of his suit was cut out and there was sort of a fishnet-over-bra look to his back and bum. My, my!


Ben needed some protein on the way home after hours of trick-or-treating, so we headed to McDonald's. We placed our order, but then it took forever for the drive-thru line to move forward. We figured a slew of Halloween revelers on foot had packed the restaurant and slowed service to a crawl. And then—a guy sort of dressed like Ronald McDonald whizzed towards our car. Just a natural redhead, no orange 'fro. Big red shoes, red and yellow outfit? I think there were roller skates beneath the shoes, or maybe they sell Heely shoes for grown-ups. So anyway, faux Ronald McDonald comes whooshing towards us, hand outstretched, offering...a hamburger. Just the thing for a long wait at the drive-thru!

Then the line moves forward and we reach the payment window. No, that guy doesn't work for McDonald's. He just came in and ordered 40 hamburgers, which accounted for the long wait.

$58 worth of burgers to hand out? That's commitment.


There's this one block that's closed to car traffic on Halloween. There's a plywood castle maze in the middle of the street for the kids to run through. Most of the houses are decorated for Halloween (not like my block). One house went all out—candy for the kids and a keg of beer for the adults. I could get used to that, man.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote No on Proposition 8

Vote No on Proposition 8!

Really. Because love is what marriage is about, and straight people don't have a monopoly on love. Fairness is what marriage rights are about, plain and simple. Nobody's talking about making it hard for a man and woman to wed, or about changing what churches do. It's simply about letting two people—any two adults—declare their love for one another publicly and secure certain comforts that heterosexual couples take for granted. Such as hospital visitation rights, co-parenting rights, inheritance rights, and property-sharing rights. Such as adding your loved one to your health insurance policy without having to pay income tax on the employer-paid portion of the premiums. Such as not being treated like second-class citizens.

The Declaration of Independence laid out the founding principles of America:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

All of us are equal, not just white people. All of us are equal, not just men. All of us are equal, not just heterosexuals. California is one of a very few states to recognize same-sex marriage, and the forces who stand against equality—against equality! How un-American is that?—want to kick every gay or lesbian person in the stomach and send the message, "You are not created equal, and you do not have the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Send a message to these people and tell them No. Tell them that you support America's core principle of equality. Vote No on Proposition 8.

If you don't live in California, you probably know someone who does, or there are Californians who read your blog. Please reach out and urge people to do the traditionally American thing and support equality by voting No on Prop 8.

You might also consider donating to Equality California so they can air more ads speaking out against Prop 8.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Strange but true

When I was a tween, I was fond of this thin paperback from the youth section of the local library, a book about the Bermuda triangle and other specious creepy phenomena. (Ghosts, spontaneous human combustion, all that.) I don't think I ever believed that these things were true, but I was magnetically drawn to these eerie tales.

Now, a story even more unbelievable has happened to me. What you are about to true. You may be skeptical, but I swear to you, it really occurred—and twice.

Five years ago, I wanted a super-effective form of birth control, so I decided to get the Mirena IUD. My insurance company said it wasn't covered, but I figured the cost would be no greater than the five-year cost of the Pill. So I charged the fee to my credit card, and submitted it to my flexible spending account for reimbursement. "We won't pay this until you've submitted it to your insurance company," they said. Fine, I said, and I asked the doctor's office to submit the claim. In a truly mysterious occult fashion, the insurance company sent me a check because the IUD was covered. (Spooky!)

Fast-forward to summer 2008. It's been five years and the Mirena is reaching the end of its lifespan. The doctor's office informs me that they will first ask my insurance company whether the IUD is covered, and I have to wait for their answer to schedule my appointment. The answer comes back within a week: No. Not covered.

Okay, fine, I figured as much. So I scheduled my appointment, planning to self-pay. The day came. I took the bus downtown, and walked a couple blocks to the office building. Little did I know (cue dramatic music) what was about to happen.

—[NC-17 rating on the ensuing gore. Key words: embedded, extra clinician needed, angry cervix, cold hard steel dilator, cramping, blood and gore.]—

So I waited with only the mildest sense of foreboding. Probably the insurance company's explanation of benefits would say "not covered," and the doctor's office would soon mail me a bill. I would pay the bill, and my soul would not be rattled.

And then (cue dramatic music again) the insurance company sent word that it has paid the doctor's practice some $900 for a device and service it had said were not covered.

It is a more unbelievable turn of events than an alien abduction, yes, but I swear to you that everything I have attested to is absolutely true.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama's grandparents

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' short and sweet post about Barack Obama's mom's parents, and how they did the right thing in embracing their daughter and grandson despite the race thing.

A dear friend of mine (hi out there!) grew up not knowing her white grandparents because they chose not to accept their daughter's interracial marriage and the three amazing grandchildren it produced. What a terrible, heartrending lesson for those grandparents to give to the kids, from day one. (I've never been quite sure whether the appropriate response is to detest or to pity people whose racism affects others. Maybe both.)

In the 21st century, I hope far more families make the loving choice that the Dunhams—Obama's maternal grandparents—made, and that society heaps disapprobation onto the people who allow racism to circumscribe their lives and community.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Short takes

  • I saw a rainbow today.
  • I voted early! It took about 20 to 25 minutes, including waiting in line and using the touchscreen voting machine. Not too shabby—November 4th surely will involve longer waits.
  • This one SUV in a downtown parking garage has caught my eye a couple times. It's got consulate license plates. And a bunch of dog-lover decals on the back, celebrating a few different breeds. And also the Human Rights Campaign equal-sign decal. I saw the driver this morning, and he didn't really look like I envisioned a diplomatic gay dog lover looking. Maybe he's a straight diplomatic dog lover who supports equal marriage rights?

Monday, October 20, 2008

And the winner is...

Feral Mom!

Remember a month and a half ago when I offered a free Entertainment Weekly subscription to whoever wrote the funniest haiku asking for it? Her Ferality submitted this one:

I live in L.A.
I should read a newspaper
Please send one my way

It is important to keep up with one's local news, so this was a compelling argument.

I keep my EW copy in the bathroom, and it sees me through the week's pees, poops, tooth-brushings, and hair-dryings. Most of the content is in short, easily digested pieces, so the magazine makes perfect bathroom reading.

Don't think that I'm generous or anything. The renewal offer said "renew now and send a free gift subscription," so I thought I would make the magazine's renewal marketing staff feel good about themselves by opting for that offer.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why are 8-year-olds disenfranchised?

My 8-year-old son asked me this morning why he can't vote.

You know what? The vote should be extended to children who pay attention—and withheld from the folks who remain "undecided" less than three weeks before the election. Really? They still don't know which candidate is a better match for their values? The undecided crowd apparently has loose dirt inside their skulls in lieu of brains.

Ben has said, "We like Obama because of health care, right?" Damn straight, kid. Damn straight. Right there, he's identified one issue that points toward one candidate more than the other. If an 8-year-old can do it, what is wrong with these "independents"?

Post-debate musings

McCain seems to disdain allowing abortion for reasons of the "woman's health," air-quotes and all. That's so effing disingenuous. You know the straw woman the anti-choicers always trot out—the woman who's feeling cranky about having a child and gets diagnosed with serious depression so she can obtain a late-term abortion on a whim? I think she's the same woman who makes false accusations of rape for sport, just to ruin men's lives. What's the percentage for either of these things, anyway? I'm guessing it's no more than 1/10th of 1% of all abortions or rape charges.

I take it personally when someone opposes health exceptions to abortion bans. I mean, I oppose all abortion bans, but the people who talk smack about exceptions to preserve the health of the woman infuriate me. I am one whose health would suffer greatly if I were to become pregnant. Yes, I take precautions to avoid getting pregnant, but if my contraception failed, it would be dangerous to my health to continue a pregnancy.


Joe the Plumber isn't registered to vote in Ohio. Hah! He may fret that Obama is gonna raise his taxes, but it's not as if he can vote against him.


Sarah Palin made a big thing about "you can't blink." McCain issued a big "screw you" to his running mate in last night's debate: He blinked two jillion times. I thought Palin's winking was obnoxious, but McCain's blinking was...well, it made him look angsty, or maybe trapped in a windy desert. Somehow Obama's eyes were immune to the Hofstra University sandstorm that afflicted McCain.


An NYT article on the debate included this line" "But Mr. Obama maintained a placid and at times bemused demeanor." Memo to NYT reporter Jim Rutenberg: bemused doesn't mean "amused," it means "bewildered." And I don't think Obama looked confused. I think he looked amused.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Early voting, Cook County judicial candidates

If you live in Cook County, Illinois, you might be wondering which judges on the retention ballot need to be dumped (answer: very few; Casandra Lewis is the only one with mostly negative ratings) and who to choose in the competitive judicial races. Help is here! The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening has compiled a chart of ratings from 10 different bar groups in the area:

Download this PDF of the judicial evaluation results, print it out, and take it to your polling place.

If you'd like to vote early and avoid the lines on November 4:

This PDF has suburban Cook County locations.

This page lists the 51 Chicago locations. You can vote at any location convenient to you, 9 to 5, Monday through Saturday, provided that you're registered to vote in the city.

Other Illinois counties' early voting locations can be accessed here.

To vote early, you'll need a government-issued photo ID (driver's license or state ID). And there are no do-overs—your vote's final.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's National Coming Out Day!

Pam Spaulding has a nice wrap-up, complete with videos. I liked the Clay Aiken interview on Good Morning America.

Pam writes:
For my straight readers:
-- are you “out” as an ally?
-- are you able to talk about gay friends or relatives with others?
-- are you comfortable shooting down homophobes when they spout off during a conversation?

My answers are:
-- Yes.
-- Yes.
-- Hell, yes! I do not shy away from blunt rebuttals. "Be quiet and don't make waves" doesn't suit me.

If you're gay or lesbian, I hope you're in an environment that makes it comfortable and safe for you to be exactly who you are. Alas, the patchwork of marriage laws in the U.S. deprive many of you of the rights straight folks often take for granted. But my wish for you is to someday be completely "out" with your sexuality in the way that straight people have always been—just a matter-of-fact spot on the spectrum of human existence, nothing for anyone to get riled up about.

If you're straight, I encourage you to challenge people when they say anything ignorant, wrong, or disdainful about homosexuality. You might not change their mind, but maybe they'll think twice about spouting off next time and the world will be one notch better.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Visit Becky the Absent Minded Housewife for her eminently reasonable take on boobs.

Visit The Assimilated Negro for Kelly Tsai's spoken word piece about political candidates' shorthand of "black, white, whatever," with the inclusion sometimes of "purple, green, silver" but hardly ever "yellow, red, brown." The yellow, red, and brown folks are out here too, you know.

Watch Tim Wise discussing the origin of the concept of "the white race" and how it continues to serve a divide-and-conquer master. (Hat tip, Jay.)

From topical humor site 23/6 (less hard-working than 24/7), a comics version of last night's debate. I'll check back in a couple days for the next round of 23/6's debate-in-a-minute videos—they really encapsulate the memes and verbal tics of the candidates.

Why maverickiness is not necessarily a grand thing

In tonight's debate, McCain again harped on Obama's not having defied his party as a negative.

Sure, McCain has bucked the GOP party line, oh, about 5% or 10% of the time lately. It should have been more. His party sucks and tries its damnedest to ruin everything that is good and right.

Of course Obama has toed the line with the Democratic Party's prevailing positions. Those have been the best positions!

It's like they're both married to hypothetical spouses. McCain's hypothetical spouse is a nightmare, a soul-sucking, abusive, thieving nightmare. He'd be right to step back from that spouse. Obama's hypothetical spouse shares his values, supports his goals and interests, and splits the housework fairly. If he divorces that spouse out of mere spite, that would make him an irrational asshole.


As for the debate itself, the CNN undecided voters graph kept looking mighty flat during McCain's turns, especially when talking about the economy. When Obama was talking, the graph line zoomed upwards and stayed there. CNN's "analyst scorecard" also leaned heavily towards Obama.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Child's Soup of the Soul

This morning, Ben explained something over breakfast.

"You know what happens to souls when you die? They fly up into space and go in a black hole. The black hole is really a hot tub, and the souls hang out there."

(No, the boy has not learned about the Christian take on the destination of souls.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Am I brilliant? Why, yes.

It's gotten chilly this week, and the temperature in my bedroom has dipped down to 65 or 66 degrees. I am not one who demands a cool sleeping environment, so this is not good. Our condo building is over budget for the year on gas bills, and an upstairs neighbor is replacing some radiators in the coming week, so we're gonna tough it out and not turn the boiler on just yet.

So it's chilly, and even though it's been long enough since I changed the sheets (see recent blog archives), I'm too lazy to put on the flannel sheets now. But I came up with an even cozier solution than flannel sheets. Oh, yes, I did. I took a Polartec blanket like this one and laid it over the bed. Can you imagine what it feels like to tuck yourself between a plush polarfleece blanket and a flannel comforter? Omigod, the snuggly!

Why haven't I seen polarfleece sheet sets yet? These should exist. Sure, it might get a little staticky to roll around in layers of fleece, but the coziness would be worth it.

Today, I bought another fleece blanket to outfit Ben's bed with The Coziness so he might be induced to stay there all night, rather than being inexorably drawn to his parents' fleece-lined bed. Who could resist that> Mama didn't raise no fool. (And Mama hopes the boy's own polarfleece cocoon will render him unconscious with coziness so he doesn't wake up chilly.)

If you're like me and you seek a warmth solution, get yourself a polarfleece layer in your bed. You'll love it.

Friday, October 03, 2008

What's your Achilles heel?

It's a simple enough question. I'd like to hear your answers.

What's my Achilles heel? I have demonstrated again and again that I am a speedy editor, and also, I'm going on a Caribbean cruise over Christmas.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

VP debate tonight!

At first I was looking forward to the Biden/Palin debate with great relish. But now? There's some trepidation.

Palin has set the expectations for her performance so low—below the second subbasement level, encroaching on the magma beneath the earth's crust—that all she has to do is not be 100% ludicrous and incomprehensible, and it'll be touted as a Palin win. If she manages to avoid the "moose in the headlights" look and sometimes makes cogent points, it'll be spun as the rebirth of a compelling and strong candidate.

Biden has to solid across the board without coming across as too "knowledgeable" or "smart," because that's too offputting to portions of the electorate. If he looks like he's got more knowledge and experience than Palin—which he does—the GOP talking heads will spin it as "boring and elitist."

Dang! I forgot to get a debate bingo card. Wait, the internet can help. Here's one. Here's another. Palin bingo is the more family-friendly, recovering-alcoholic-friendly, teetotaler-friendly approach. Drinkers can use the bingo card as a guide to knowing which buzzwords and buzzconcepts they should take a swig upon hearing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things that freak me out



The possibility of dropping my keys down a storm drain.

Anything being pointed at my eyeball.

The plastic-faced giant Burger King man on the commercials.

(And no, I'm not kidding about that last one. I had to shield my eyes from the TV a minute ago because the creepy Burger King was on.)

What's the weirdest thing that gives you the willies?

Monday, September 29, 2008

The public referendum on the campaign

I live in the liberal lakefront wards of a solidly Democratic city in a blue state that Barack Obama calls home. My car sports an Obama magnet. I see other Obama magnets and bumper stickers on many cars, plus Obama window signs, t-shirts, buttons, and caps, but try as I may, I've yet to spot McCain paraphernalia around town.

Until yesterday, that is. We were driving to the 'burbs to visit Brookfield Zoo. (It's much bigger than Lincoln Park Zoo, but L.P. Zoo is a short bus or bike ride away so we usually go there.) I saw a McCain bumper sticker! But the SUV had Iowa plates. My record was intact: no Illinois-based McCain supporters in evidence.

Then we drove home from the zoo, and I was astonished to find an SUV with a McCain/Palin sticker on it in my own parking lot. Four years ago, my block had but a single solitary SUV with a Bush sticker on it, far outnumbered by the Kerry/Edwards stickers and signs. I wonder if it's the same person, or if one Republican household moved out and was replaced by a new one.

At a pottery studio I passed on Lincoln Avenue, though, there were no McCain cups to offset the assortment of handpainted Obama pottery. I dunno; McCain just doesn't seem the type to inspire artistic musings.

What's the Obama vs. McCain paraphernalia balance like where you live?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chicken: funky or non?

Mr. Tangerine enjoys the various high-definition television channels. In fact, he's one of those guys who will only watch HD. He cannot abide the regular crapola-definition programming.

There are a couple HD music channels, so he's been watching a lot of concert performances from the Isle of Wight music festival and whatnot. Right now, he's watching some sort of documentary/concert combo on Palladia (is this a new channel? I think so) featuring circa-1970 African-American music and talk (including Richard Pryor). Anyway, an older man clad in a Pepto Bismol pink shorts suit sang a couple rousing songs, including "Do the Funky Chicken." Google tells me he's soul singer Rufus Thomas.

Anyway: So, the concert-going crowd was dancing the Funky Chicken dance, and they were getting their groove on. The dance looked more like dancing than poultry. See for yourself: here's the video of Thomas's Wattstax performance.

The nadir of American culture just might be the white folks' chicken dance:

Frankly, I don't know why they call it the chicken "dance," because...that's not dancing. Nor does it resemble the motion of chickens. And it is certainly not what one would term "funky."

Do the Funky Chicken, and you display a love of life and music and rhythm. Do the chicken "dance," and you look like a halfwit. Nay, a quarterwit. And a dork. With no sense of rhythm. And no reason to go on living.

Remind me to tell my child that if he ever gets married after he's grown, he must not allow the chicken "dance" to bust out at his wedding reception.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A guest post you must read

A friend of mine who's in academia and prefers to remain anonymous has written a terrific essay about the culture wars, the Reagan-era roots of Gen X cynicism, the divide between the ivory tower and NASCAR fans, and the current presidential campaign. He started it as a blog comment here, but it expanded into a full-out essay. Read on:

The Palin nomination made me sad in a way I would not have thought possible. Why would McCain, who at one point had seemed to me admirably independent, thoughtful, and above all, responsible, put someone on his ticket who (politics aside, and I mean it) is so radically unqualified, both in experience and general temperament, to be president? Surely there are other people out there who could have appeased his base - people who, I don't know, have some interest in and curiosity about the world, who exhibit some capacity to have an intelligent discussion about a major issue, some basic understanding of how the world works and how it might work better. Someone. Dear god, someone. I'm looking at you, Orrin Hatch. Seriously. Orrin Hatch. I disagree with the man on virtually every issue, but he is thoughtful, competent, and, at his core, decent.

"Country First????" Those placards at McCain rallies ... it's like some kind of dystopia. Yes = no. Day = night. No one who truly puts his country first would have nominated Palin. Everything you say about her, M5k, is true, including her possible future competence (in theory). Comparisons to Obama's own relative lack of experience are laughable. How do I know? OK, imagine it's 3 a.m. and the phone rings ... I am half serious. Obama always seems to want to know more, to find things out, to learn (even when he clearly already knows a Ton). Palin knows what she knows. She has "that certainty." No blinking!

Again, this has gone beyond politics. Disagree with me on issues, fine. I've been in the minority on most issues my whole life (pro gay marriage, pro drug legalization, anti death penalty, etc.). I can handle losing. But if you're going to beat my guy, please please, have the basic knowledge, competence, and thoughtfulness to be President Of The United States of @#@$#ing America.

In conclusion [HA ha, not really]: I have this theory about Reagan. People talk about my generation (X) being all ironic and sneering and detached. And it's true. And that's one of the great lasting effects and triumphs of the Reagan era. He made empty sloganeering an art form. Everything he said was about being strong and certain and essentially unthoughtful (no blinking!) - and he had a lot of followers, obviously, but for those of us who were just coming into political consciousness at the time of his early presidency ... to see such hucksterism work, such irresponsibility reign (re: living beyond our means, having whatever we want when we want it, saying we support democracy while arming strongmen, undermining democracies we don't like, etc.) ... to look around you and watch people adore this man and think to yourself "Are you @#$#! kidding me? People are buying this @#$#?" It was devastating, in a way. Couple that with the quick onset of the MTV and then digital age, and you get a generation of people who are, happily or not-so-happily, tuned out, who find it very difficult to be "patriotic" when every self-styled patriot they've ever seen has been in the service of a fundamentally dishonest regime; people who retreat into isolated, technologically enabled enclaves, which only strengthen that already strong sense of detachment and isolation from the greater community. When a generation of kids opts out of concern for country due to a deep cynicism fostered by manifestly dishonest political role models, that provides fertile ground for manipulative, anti-intellectual, hateful culture-war-mongers to thrive and thus control the terms of public debate (and the meaning of American symbolism, i.e. the flag).

And now we're grown up and we all watch TDS and Colbert and laff as Rome burns and burns and burns.

Carter was prescient about so many things, but he was a terrible leader. So maybe I should blame him for Reagan. Or maybe I should blame Nixon for Carter, who was like the anti-Nixon. I don't know. But the mess we're in now - Carter didn't create it. Nixon, though his resignation plus our failure in Vietnam did cause massive disillusionment, didn't create it . Reagan, arguably, did. Reagan / Bush's cynical manipulation of the symbols of America / patriotism, their celebration of mindless consumption, their exploitation of "values voters" (screw them financially while doing Nothing about their alleged "moral" concerns), and their Orwellian disregard for truth all made me and many like me retreat into Academia, where we could sneer at the idiocy of the country from the comfort of our sinecures, as if the plight of our country were just a bad movie. "Why is everyone so stupid!?" cries the disgusted, befuddled, over-educated liberal. The answer is, at least in part, because academics hate "people" and 20 years ago almost completely gave up on the idea of addressing the public in terms it could relate to / comprehend. We're now in the odd position of seeing the "people" as oppressed and deluded. I.e. we're many of us tacit-to-explicit Marxists. Except we hate workers and the stuff they like (God, NASCAR, American beer...). Much as I hate conservative critiques of "The Ivory Tower," there is a hint of truth there. And so here we are.

This ironic sense of detachment - It's an affliction (at least in part self-induced) that I'm still getting over. Ironically (!), getting over it means starting to see Republicans and conservatives as (occasionally) decent and principled people. You sort of have to opt out of the culture wars at some point if you want them to stop. Right now, I just want this comment to stop. And I want very much for Obama to be my next president. Not because Democrats are better than Republicans, or because magical "Hope" will make everything better - just because, in addition to his basic intelligence and charisma, Obama seems genuinely committed to a post-Reagan, post culture wars world. A genuinely conservative world, where what's being conserved are what I like to think are basic American values (honesty, decency, financial prudence, a respect for difference, a strength that has peace as its ultimate goal). A dream world, maybe, but if I'm going to put my Faith in anything but God, that's where I'm going to put it.

—by X Patriot

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And another thing

One of the lines the GOP speechwriter crafted for Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention was this:
“We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.”

I don't like this glorification of the small town.

We grow good people in our big cities, too. In the comments at Pandagon, FlipYrWhig responded to my sentiment with "You just have to use espalier techniques."

But seriously: The only reason the Republicans like to glorify the small town is because so many small towns are filled with white folks who might vote for them. Whereas urban areas have lots of people of color, immigrants, poor people, and folks who appreciate diversity—few of them voting Republican.

My son and his friends are being raised right here in the city "with honesty and sincerity and dignity," all right, plus a lot more exposure to people who aren't just like them. When did the Republicans start to fear the American melting pot, anyway?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mariska Hargitay is Sarah Palin

Do you see it? The dramatic frozen stare accompanying "In what respect, Charlie?"—couldn't you see Mariska Hargitay with hair extensions playing Sarah Palin in the Lifetime movie, Hell in an Alaskan Handbasket?

Or maybe Michael Moloney, the interior designer from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition:

Either one's a dead ringer. The glasses make people think of Tina Fey, but the face is all Hargitay and Moloney.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

No original material? No problem!

Here are two handy links from Bitch Ph.D.'s latest post (and she herself got the links elsewhere, and her post was called "Links to share," so I'm covered):

I don't agree with people being swayed by politicians' promises of tax cuts because yo, tax revenues pay for a lot of important stuff. Schools, parks, highways, medical research? I'm for 'em. But it's not fair for one candidate to rouse the rabble with claims that the Dems are all about "tax-and-spend." This site will calculate your tax cut under Obama's plan. Do you make less than a half mil a year? Then you will probably save on your tax bill.

Are you registered to vote where you live now? If you're not, or you don't know for sure, get cracking before it's too late. This link runs down the voter registration deadline for each state. In many, you need to register no later than a month before the election, so time's a-wasting!

Remember, the next president is likely to be appointing two to four Supreme Court justices. If McCain is elected, he seems keen on overturning Roe v. Wade, and appointing just two anti-choice justices will make that a reality. His running mate Sarah Palin is perhaps even more hardcore in her anti-choice stance. Maverick, my ass. Don't forget that McCain has voted with Bush 90% or more of the time—in the past year, I think I read that McCain's Senate votes have toed the party line 100% of the time. Where's the rebellion? Where's the reform? And don't get me started on the crock of steaming poo that the RNC was. Romney arguing that we need to get rid of the liberals who are running Washington? You mean...Bush and Cheney? Ri-i-i-ight. The height of ridiculosity, the Republicans running as change agents who will overthrow the liberal power structure when the Constitution-gutting GOP administration has been in charge for eight years. And Palin? Her police chief in Wasilla thought it was a fine idea to charge rape victims for the cost of collecting the "rape kit" evidence. You know what taxes ought to cover? Having the police investigate crime without billing the crime victims for it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Meandering update

Ben started school this week. So far, so good! He hasn't had much homework, but did collapse into frustrated tears one day. I plan to put a new time-out strategy into effect—the moment either of us starts getting too frustrated, we call a two-minute break. We've had a bad habit of feeding one another's tension.

The third-grade homerooms are roughly sorted out by reading level—so the kids Ben knows from his reading group last year make up half of his class this year. The best part of this? It's not that Ben is delighted to have many of his pals in his class. It's that the moms have a ready-made back-up system. Your kid claims he has no homework today? We can check out that claim. Your kid was home sick? Another mom can fax over the homework assignments. Your kid's explanation of a particular assignment makes no sense? Find out what message the other kids picked up.

Ben didn't do much reading over the summer. (I know: bad parents! bad!) He's a very good reader, but seldom evinces an interest in reading for pleasure other than leafing through books with lots of photos of cars and information about their horsepower. I think he's beginning to come around, though! V. exciting. This morning, he asked if he could play a video game if he did his reading first. (This is in sharp contrast to the usual "Can I play my video game?" "You need to read first." "[outraged objection to parents' cruelty].") He started a new chapter book, this one about a kid who finds that anything edible he touches turns to chocolate. He laughed while he was reading it, and volunteered information about the story after his 20 minutes (the teacher's prescribed amount) were up.

I have a cold or something. Runny nose, sore throat, backache, general propensity to whine. Ben's nose is beginning to run, too.

Speaking of running, I bought tickets for Mr. Tangerine and me to watch the Chicago Marathon from the reserved bleachers and "Ovation Pavilion" tent. We've never managed to reach the finish line early enough to see the elite runners finish, and navigating the area on foot is often a clusterfuck of having to walk a half mile past your target and then double back.

I just signed Ben up for a fall class—acrobatic and aerial dance, affiliated with my cousins' dance troupe, Ameba. I think it'll mainly be tumbling and trapeze work. I would have signed him up for a park district sports or art class (despite his lack of interest) if only the class times hadn't bumped into homework time. With the homework struggles we had last year, a 3:30 class frightens me. But 5:15 acro/aerial? Perfect! Homework's done and he's had play time already. Ben's already met the teacher, a dancer who went to the same college I did.

My medical editing client hasn't had much work for me this year. So I'm taking on a new client—in the realm of crosswords! Crossword work generally pays less than medical editing, but it should be fun to get paid for doing crosswords and checking for outdated clues.

I signed up for Twitter and added it to the blog sidebar. I don't know why. It remains to be seen whether I will remember to write those 140-character Twitter updates. Wait, I do know why I signed up for it. I read somewhere that it's a fun writing tool, to craft concise statements. I don't generally do concise. This could be good for me.

Politics! I need to DVR The Daily Show for the next two months. Mostly I've been catching the occasional clip online, but damn, politics is a lot funnier when Jon Stewart's team is talking about it. They've done a good job of calling out the hypocrisy of the various GOP mouthpieces, including Karl Rove—isn't it interesting that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a private family matter and it's nobody else's business what choice she makes, whereas the Republican Party would prefer to deprive every woman of having a choice in the matter of a pregnancy> Then there's Bill O'Reilly, speaking warmly in defense of the Palins' privacy mere months after he railed against Jamie Lynn Spears' parents as "pinheads" to blame for her pregnancy? Feh.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Why the GOP hammers at abortion rights so much

I think Amanda Marcotte has nailed it, with a simple clarity. Key excerpts:

But for the small cadre of hardcore anti-feminists, you have to understand that they’re deeply invested in a fantasy and in the fantasy that they can vote that fantasy into existence. That fantasy is, as cliched as it is to say, a fantasy version of the 1950s, where women knew their place and everyone was happy all the time.

And dismantling reproductive rights is the key to this fantasy. Topple that, topple feminism. There’s a weird logic to it—women generally maintain careers because they can limit their fertility and aren’t always taking time off to manage a brood of 5-10 kids. Once the cost of day care outstrips any salary you can command, you have to quit your job. ... Feminists were right to think that the right to contraception and abortion are fundamental to women’s liberation, and anti-choicers agree, so they want to take that away.

Go read the full post for the fleshed-out argument.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Who wants a present?

It's time for me to renew my Entertainment Weekly subscription, and though I'm not so pleased with their recent "redesign" (fewer book reviews! and shorter reviews! less to read!), I'll subscribe again.

There's an extra incentive this time: I get a free gift subscription to give away.

You want it? Explain why, in haiku form. Funniest entry wins the gift subscription. (You'll need to be willing to tell me your address if you're the winner, obviously.)

Deadline: September 1.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I hate that smoker

This summer, a couple moved into a condo in the building next to mine. She's a smoker. She doesn't want to stink up her home, so she goes out in the front yard or on the back porch to smoke. The breeze wafts that damned stink right into my house, and by the time it wafts to where one of us is sitting, it's too late to shut the window.

Cigarettes in general are stinky, but there are some brands (no idea which ones) that are less assertively rank. Alas, the neighbor prefers one of the nastier-smelling brands.

It's been a glorious summer, one in which we've not had to use the air conditioner much so the windows are open. But this smoker has me hankering for the return of cold weather, so I can seal the windows against her smoke.

This year, the state's indoor smoking ban took effect and bars and restaurants are blissfully smoke-free—but now I need to leave home and go to a bar if I want to avoid smoke!

Maybe I'll leave a Chantix brochure and a pack of Nicorette on her back porch.

Thank you for letting me rant.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How I blog the DNC

I greatly admire Ted Kennedy and all he has done in the Senate, and was delighted so see him speaking with righteous liberal passion at the Democratic National Convention. He looks surprisingly robust.

Ben's watching with me. He had one question:

"Does he have a neck?"

I cackled.

Kennedy's relative necklessness and expertly wrangled hair (obscuring pretty well his surgical site) all looked fine. But oh, man, it looks like Jimmy Carter blew a blood vessel in his eye. Gruesome! I had that myself earlier this year, only to a lesser degree.

Second breakfast rocks

My favorite meal is not one I have every day, because if I had second breakfast every single day, I would have to buy an ever-larger wardrobe.

I typically start my day with a bowl of cold cereal and a hit of cold, bubbly caffeine. It doesn't always tide me over until lunchtime, but pouring cereal out of a box is about all I've got the wherewithal to do first thing in the morning.

I love nothing better than making plans to go out to eat between 10:30 and noon. It's a bit early for lunch, but perfect for second breakfast. Mind you, having plans to go out to breakfast at 10:30 doesn't mean I skip that bowl of cereal—I'd get hangry without first breakfast.

The very best second breakfast is the blackberry bliss cakes at a Chicago place called m. henry: Two fat pancakes. The bottom one soaking in a pool of warm blackberries and their juice. The top one adorned with a sweet and crunchy mix of oats and brown sugar. Sandwiched in the middle, a slab of vanilla mascarpone cream that melts while you're eating the bliss cakes. One forkful containing fluffy pancake, crunchy oats, sweet and tangy berries, and sweet rich cream? Holy crap. It's all I can do to sit upright...but if I let myself slide onto the floor in a state of rapture, I wouldn't be able to reach my plate.

Second breakfast can also take place at IHOP, with an order of corn cakes (Butter? Check. Hot syrup? Check.) and a side of scrambled eggs. But you really can't beat those bliss cakes.

The new sidebar poll asks what your favorite meal is. If you love a mealtime that's not simply breakfast, lunch, or dinner, tell us about it.

(Post inspired by Mona's breakfast musings.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Damned with faint praise

Yes, I'm going to give myself props for belated cleverness on a very, very small scale.

As you may recall, I've had a collection of orphaned socks for many moons.

Yesterday, I noticed that Mr. Tangerine's sock drawer was uncommonly empty, waiting for clean socks to refill it. I was struck by an epiphany: I should take all the remaining socks out and see if there are any orphans that match up with those in the Basket of Lovelorn Socks.

I think I added one or two socks to the Basket, but I was able to reunite seven Basket inhabitants with their partners.

The black ones make sense—Mr. Tangerine probably wore two unmatched ones, and those two socks have lived in the Basket of Lovelorn Socks ever since. I don't know how one purple-and-green running sock found its way back into the drawer alone, though.

Isn't it sad that this is what passes for accomplishment in my life these days? This and changing the damn sheets.

I did it!

Yet another "praising myself for an insignificant 'accomplishment'" post—the bedsheets are in the laundry. (Recently, DoctorMama misunderstood my "I finished another book" brag as being about writing a book rather than reading one like the rest of you do all the time.) Why, it's been scarcely a month since they went on the bed! Ben did relocate himself to his parents' room and drool on the bed the other day, which contributes to my motivation to change the do the Fiery Eyeballs of Judgment I was feeling from those of you who cannot abide leaving the same sheets on for more than two weeks.

Speaking of Ben: Wow, 8-year-old kids are so awesome! He's cracking me up every day with the things that issue from his rambunctious mind. This afternoon, he asked me what month comes after this one. September, I confirmed. "What's the date?" It's August 19. "Man! It's almost school!" he exclaimed with an acute sense of outrage. Yeah, it's that time of year.

You ever sit there mocking something because it's for old people and then discover that you are the target audience? I made fun of the merchandise in the FootSmart catalog right up until the moment I noticed that I could use those socks...and those shoes look comfy...and maybe they've got the right arch supports for me. Am I old, or am I a young and vibrant woman cursed with crotchety feet? I just ordered a night splint for plantar fasciitis because the daytime stretching doesn't do enough. My orthopedist said the night splint didn't do anything for him, but I figured it was worth a shot. Because I am old.

I had a birthday last week. Mr. Tangerine ponied up a box of assorted Godiva chocolates and a box of Godiva "biscuits." That's some good shit.

I've had a low-grade headache for a week and a half. I just diagnosed it this morning as a result of Olympics-related sleep deprivation. I've been up 'til 12:30 or later all but one of the nights since the Summer Games began, but I'm not sleeping late in the mornings. It's either that or a brain tumor, and I choose to believe I will be cured within 48 hours of the closing ceremonies.

By the way, if you were hooked on Scrabulous at Facebook and you've been in mourning ever since it got the boot, I bring good tidings: I've been playing via the e-mail option—you play Scrabulous the same way as before, but you get an e-mail notifying you when it's your turn. Which means you don't have to go to your Facebook page and click on the Scrabulous link to find out if it's your turn—it's e-mail! So easy! And you can play with your non-Facebook friends. Or your non-Facebook self. Tertia, Julie, PK, and Krupskaya are among my Facebook friends, but I'm sure a lot of you are all, like, "Eww, Facebook, that's for kids." You probably think texting is for teens too, don't you?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Linens and things

Today, Ben was outlining the things kids need to do before they leave for school in the morning. (Chicago kids don't go back 'til after Labor Day, so that's a few weeks off for him.) Eat breakfast, get dressed, brush your teeth...and make the bed.

"Make the bed!" I exclaimed. "You never make your bad." Neither do I. It's not the way I was raised. Mr. Tangerine's mom expected him to make his bed daily, but he's adapted just fine to the "twice a year, when we're feeling fancy" mode I tend to follow.

I read somewhere in blogland that Oprah changes her sheets every day or two. Or, more likely, her hired help changes the linens for her, and launders the vast volume of fine cotton, and pays the utility bills for the washer and dryer's overuse.

Me, I change the sheets roughly quarterly. There. I said it. Confession time. The pillow cases go through the wash more often, because (a) that's where our faces land and (b) they're so easy to add into a laundry load of towels.

Where do you fall on the make the bed/change the sheets continuum?

Monday, July 28, 2008

The next big thing

So many people have iPods and other portable music players these days. Sure, they're pretty much hands-free, but not everyone cares for earbuds.

I saw a man downtown the other night, walking down Michigan Avenue. On his shoulder he bore a music-playing device the dimensions of which approximated 12" x 8" x 3". It was a wireless marvel! No cumbersome wires to tangle, nothing wedged hotly and waxily into his ear canals, and no over-loud sound waves aimed directly at his eardrums, posing a risk of hearing damage. Furthermore, this player allowed him to continually improve the endurance of his shoulder and arm muscles.

Keep your eyes out for this exciting new trend in portable music!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The tongue of artistic concentration.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Kapow! My head just exploded.

Mr. Tangerine was surfing the TV listings. The ABC Family channel is following Pat Robertson's 700 Club with syndicated reruns of That '70s Show. Yes, that's right: A Christian talk show (which I had no idea was still on the air) is in the same programming block as a sitcom featuring a lot of weed and beer, teenage sex talk, and neighbors' nudist parties.

Friday, July 25, 2008

How to tell someone they sound racist

Hip-hop video blogger Jay Smooth has the goods on how to call someone out for saying something racist. Key point: Focus on what the person did or said, not on what they are. I.e., saying "You're a racist" is a dead-end argument.

I hadn't heard of Jay Smooth until a friend-inside-the-internet sent me a YouTube link to the above-linked video. I clicked through to Ill Doctrine and scrolled down to his theory about "Wall-E"...aaand then subscribed to his RSS feed. I need another blog to follow like a need a hole in the head, but then, one can always use an extra hole in the head for ventilation purposes, right?

Plus, it's a video blog, and the guy is kinda cute.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More orange product reviews

I was at 7-Eleven yesterday and saw not one, but two new fruit-flavored chewing gums in orange-hued packaging. Orbit White in Fruit Sorbet? Non-whitening Orbit in Fabulous Fruitini? Both crappy. I tried them both, spit them both out, and had to chew a third kind of gum to get the horrible flavors off my tastebuds. I had been afraid my purchase of Fresh Fruit flavored Spry gum was overly extravagant, what with playing for shipping. But no. It's the only gum that slakes my Trident Discontinued Fruit jones.

Today, I was looking for New Glarus's Spotted Cow cream ale, which Mr. Tangerine and I had in Wisconsin on Sunday. I wouldn't have thought something called "cream ale" would be up my alley, but it was light, crisp, refreshing, and low on the bitterness scale. The grocery store didn't have that, but they did have Buffalo Bill's Brewery's Orange Blossom Cream Ale, so I picked up a six-pack. Yum! Orangey, refreshing, kinda sweet, eminently drinkable. These beer snobs don't like it, and say things like "sour macro-lager-esque cheap grain/adjunct flavor," but hey, I like the flavor of oranges and I have a sweet tooth, so this is a good summer brew for me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It is too late to vote

...but Ben wanted me to register his vote for winter as his favorite season. You can, he points out, have snowball fights during the winter, and who doesn't love pelting and being pelted with snowballs?

I was surprised that the 100% statistically valid poll results indicated that fall is a landslide winner (57%) in the race for favorite season. Who are you people who like fall the best? When all the green signs of natural life turn crunchy brown and disintegrate? When the days grow shorter and darker? When kids have homework again? Granted, it is delightful to get past hot, muggy summer doldrums, and Polartec fleece and cashmere have their appeal.

Thirty-five percent of you (...or of the teeny number who clicked on the poll) voted for summer. That's fine. Summer break, the beach, banishment of seasonal affective disorder, sandals—summer has its advantages.

But spring! Spring is lovely! Warmth, sun, and life return. Trees leaf out and the grass comes back to life after winter's brown dormancy. Crabapple trees (every time, I type that as "crapapple" on the first attempt) and lilac bushes blossom. (Apple blossoms are my #1 favorite scent.) Tulips, daffodils, violets, and crocuses all bloom. Who are all you haters who didn't choose spring as your favorite season? What have you got to say for yourselves, hmm?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

P.S. I finished another book last month

It's true! I have read two whole books this summer! I have gone beyond my usual rations of blogs and magazines and newspapers and read actual books. Besides Fun Home, I read The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts.

If you were a fan of Chris Farley or have an interest in addiction, check it out. The book takes the form of an oral history, weaving together stories recounted by people who were close to Chris Farley. Childhood friends, his brothers, fellow improv comedians, girlfriends, priests—they're all in there. It's the tale of a sweet man who did low-profile volunteer work because it was the right thing to do, who continually battled the demons of his addictions. Family pathology, damaged self-esteem, it's all in there. The book's a loving but tough portrait of the artist as a young man.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bad blogger procrastinates, feels low-grade remorse

Yes, it's been weeks since I posted here. Don't think I don't feel bad about it. It's all part of my Grand Procrastination Package, the deluxe model. Procrastination was, in fact, the topic of the day at therapy on Tuesday. The piddly things I put off—clerical crap, household stuff—there's no real payoff in tending to those things. What's the fun in calling the plumber? There isn't any. This doesn't really explain why I've been letting this blog lie fallow of late. I do like writing, I am self-absorbed, and I do enjoy conversing with you, my lovely readers. So blogging should be a thing I do instead of all those items on the to-do list, rather than being treated like one more item on the ceaseless list.

Anyway. What's been going on in the last several weeks? Well, this morning I had a touch of food poisoning, I think. I seem to have recovered quickly, though I'm still headachy.

A few weeks ago, I got some sort of good news from the kidney doc. He remains perplexed that my condition not only improved so markedly from the Bad Pregnancy Days, but has remained so stable in the intervening eight years. Maybe—just maybe—the kidneys will continue on this path for the foreseeable future, rather than being assured of tanking at some point. Until last month, I'd been working under the assumption that the tanking was inevitable. And now? Maybe it isn't. This is a hopeful thing, and it's dislodging the eventual-doom thinking, the assumption that I would absolutely need a transplant someday. Mind you, this new news doesn't change my day-to-day life at all—the same medication regimen and the same dietary restrictions/paranoia still hold. Yeah, I'm not getting to eat chocolate, nuts, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and legumes without having to budget for them any time soon. It's a big hassle, but certainly not life-threatening (but I reserve the right to whine).

Ben and I went to my 20th college reunion in June, and we both had a blast. We spent two days in Minneapolis with our friend Kristin, and three days on campus. As will happen on a college campus, Ben hooked up with a girl on his first night and they were practically inseparable. Both being 8 years old, the "hooking up" entailed running around outside, talking about favorite TV shows, attending a day camp program, and being field trip partners on the school bus. It was a weekend match made in heaven—Leah's an only child who doesn't mind playing with boys, and Ben's an only child who doesn't mind playing with girls. (And no, he hasn't written to her since then—but he does recount things he did with "my friend Leah." So sweet!)

I had feared that reunion weekend would entail Ben going to bed at 9 p.m. and me being trapped in our room while my classmates mingled late into the night. As it turned out, Ben did OK staying up until 11 p.m. (and kept busy with minimal supervision! such a treat), and I was tired enough to want to sleep then too. The summer solstice + Minnesota = blindingly bright sun penetrating the curtains around 5 a.m. And student housing = uncomfortable twin beds, so sleeping late wouldn't have come easy anyway.

Ben was busy in the camp program until 8 p.m. for two days of reunion, so there was plenty of grown-up time for me. Yay! It was great to just hang out and chat with people I'd mostly not seen for two decades. And there were congenial conversations with people I hadn't known during my college years, all of us being grown-up enough now to chat rather than hang back and wait for our own posses to appear. Sara, who reads this blog, was my roommate and co-DJ for part of sophomore year. (Hi, Sara!) She gave me crap about that last blog post, in which all I did was tout chewing gum. (Which I am chewing right now, I'll have you know.) Yeah, yeah. See what happens? You apply the pressure and then I procrastinate even more. That'll learn ya! If you're someone other than Sara and you went to college with me, I have no idea you're reading this—leave a comment to say hi, wouldja?

Every couple days, there's some little thing that makes me think, "I should blog this." But since I had procrastinated on The Big Post, I couldn't very well just write a short one, could I? Yes, I could. But it's that sort of all-or-nothing thinking that permeates a lot of my procrastination. Is there a pill for that? No? Damn.

I wonder what all those little bloggable items were. Let's see... I finally finished reading another book. I'd started Alison Bechdel's Fun Home last year, as bedtime reading, and maybe a new Games magazine drew my focus elsewhere for a while...and then the book ended up buried in a stack and forgotten. Somewhere recently I came across a link to Bechdel's blog and this post, and then I felt terrible that I had allowed myself to put down a book by an artist who had also played the Authors card game as a kid. (Anyone else remember the Authors deck, illustrated with portraits of various writers who'd written at least four noteworthy titles? Loved it!) So I picked up the book, reread the first half, and finally read the second half. Great memoir! And well-illustrated, given that it's a graphic memoir (graphic as in "graphic novel," with minor bits of graphic like "graphic nudity"). Let me know if you want to borrow the book.

Hmm, it's 80° inside now. Maybe I'll turn the air conditioner on.

The new Batman movie, Dark Knight, opens next week. Given that the movie was filmed in Chicago, with some parts shot just a block away from where we live and other parts making use of classic Chicago scenery like lower Wacker Drive, I'd like to take Ben to see it. The advance word is that the movie's great, but will the violence level exceed what I'm comfortable with my kid seeing? I guess we could always cover his eyes, as we did during the brief torture scenes in Iron Man. Ben tends to like scary stuff, so we'll see.

Before the school year ended, the second-graders got a visit from a third-grade teacher giving them a heads-up about the coming year. More homework! Every day! Even on weekends and holidays! Oy. This sucks. Third grade is the year that the standardized testing kicks in, so there will be a ton of "teaching to the test" up until testing week. Ick. Just seven more weeks of no homework before the school year starts and my afternoons become stressful. I just ordered a CD video game called Math Blaster, which a friend credits for her son's straight A's in math last year. Ben mostly gets B's and C's in math, so I figure it's worth a shot and maybe it'll help smooth over third-grade homework woes.

Speaking of school, what are the odds that the next president will roll back No Child Left Behind and all its teaching-to-the-test crap?

Time for lunch. Thanks for tolerating three weeks of blogging smushed into a single post, dear hearts!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An orange product recommendation

Did I ever tell y'all about my fondness for Trident fruit-flavored gum? It came in an orange package, and the gum was light orange in hue. The flavor was mellower than Juicyfruit, but because it's Trident, it was sugar-free. It was my favorite gum, but it was discontinued by 1997 or so. Don't give me that "Tropical" or "Strawberry Breeze" or "Citrusmint" malarkey—none of those gums have anything like Trident's old fruit flavor.

When I visited Prague in 1997, I was delighted to find Orbit sugarless gum with a strikingly similar taste. I brought a few packs back home with me...but soon enough I was out of fruit gum again. My dear friend Robin was living in Europe and tried—lord knows, she tried!—to get more of this gum for me. Alas, Orbit quit selling that fruit-flavored gum. There were other gums that claimed to be fruity or that had orange packaging, but they weren't the same.

After more than a decade of waiting, at last I have found a reasonable facsimile: Spry Fresh Fruit gum sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol is good for the teeth! (Really: There's a wealth of scientific data supporting xylitol's efficacy in fighting cavities.)

Sure, you need two pellets to have a decent-sized wad of gum, and the flavor doesn't last too long. But it transports me back to the halcion days of the '80s and '90s, when Trident fruit-flavored chewing gum was available at every 7-Eleven and gas station across the land.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Diversity in fabrics and people

You know what's a fun way to buy a new purse, handbag, clutch, messenger bag, or diaper bag?

(1) Go to an 1154 Lill Studio store (in Chicago's Lincoln Park, Boston, Philadelphia, or Kansas City) or their website/

(2) Choose a style.

(3) Mix and match with about 150 different fabrics to design your very own super-cute bag.

Today, I ordered the Sophie bag with pink and green fabrics (key lime twill, bubble gum linen, morning glory). You can play around on the website, trying a zillion different combos.

The prices may seem a little high for a fabric bag, but they're sewn in Chicago, not China, and provided you don't choose a horrendous combination of fabrics, you're going to get plenty of compliments on your probably-unique bag.


So, the Chicago 1154 Lill store is on Armitage, in the heart of a Lincoln Park boutique shopping district. Nearby was a salon that appears to be dedicated to facial bronzing. I don't know what that means. You go in and someone else applies self-tanner to your face so you don't "tan" your palms? I don't know. It did strike me as quite possibly the whitest business concept that there has ever been.

There's a lot of money in that neighborhood, and a lot of white people. Driving home from Armitage to our more diverse neighborhood, we made a game of labeling the pedestrians and cyclists we passed. Like this: "White, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, brown, white, white, white, white, white, tan, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, black, black, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white." Down in Lincoln Park, I think there were at least 30 white folks for every person of color.

It struck me as a good method for sizing up just how diverse or not diverse a particular area is. I think it's easy for the typical white person to fail to notice those first 30 white people and just notice the occasional variation: "Oh, yeah, this neighborhood's really diverse. You always see people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds." But if you are a person of color, perhaps you notice those 30 white people in a row: "It's an almost all-white area."

Try it out yourself, the white/tan/brown/black game. (Tan is Ben's designation for most Asian and Latin American skin tones.) Maybe you'll find it as illuminating as I did.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Slow down for the crosswalk

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago police will start publicizing the crosswalk laws this week. It's about time! There are so many crosswalks at small intersections or in the middle of a long block—without stop signs or traffic signals. Most drivers seem to assume that these crosswalks don't give pedestrians the same right of way that they're granted at corners with stop signs or red lights. But it's not so. If a pedestrian has entered one of those renegade crosswalks, he or she does have the right of way, and the driver is required by law to cede the right of way and wait for the pedestrian to pass safely.

The cops will be crossing the street in some of those crosswalks and issuing warning tickets to people who don't yield to them.

Now, those of you in places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California may find it odd that drivers wouldn't naturally slow down to let people cross the street. But Chicago drivers tend to keep plowing through, even though slowing for a pedestrian is a minor inconvenience.

So if you're driving in Chicago's neighborhoods, pay attention. If a pedestrian's in the street, don't play chicken with them. Slow down, let 'em cross. Even if you could zip past before the walker reaches your lane, slow down and wave them across. Some pedestrians will insist that you go, and others will be pleased as punch that a Chicago driver's actually being nice.

Jaywalking is technically illegal, but I suspect the law requires drivers to ease off the gas pedal and not try to run over jaywalkers.

Imagine the karma points that you'll rack up, letting people cross the street in front of you. Extra bonus points in crappy weather or hot, muggy weather, when the pedestrian just wants to get where she's going and you're comfortably ensconced in your climate-controlled vehicle.

This is my first attempt at posting straight from my phone. I fear you will need to tilt your head to see the Police concert photo.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hitching a ride

Why bother writing my own post about going to the Police concert on Mother's Day weekend with Flea when I can just link to her write-up? My own version wouldn't make fun of me like Flea's does, but I am willing to accept a little public abasement if it means getting out of doing some work.

Speaking of getting other people to do my work for me, does anyone know if there's a way to send a photo from a Verizon phone to Blogger?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Why some mothers don't breastfeed

Breastfeeding is a brilliant invention of evolution, isn't? Mammalian mothers can magically nourish their offspring with food produced by their own bodies, and that food turns out to offer optimal nutrition.

But sometimes it doesn't work. If you have ever had a scornful thought when you saw a woman feeding her baby with a bottle, please read Julie's post, "The breast-laid plan," and the comments thread. When nursing works out, I hear it's a lovely thing. But for the unlucky women for whom it simply doesn't work—for a slew of reasons, including low milk supply, pain, poor suck, medical complications, and prematurity—the societal pressure to breastfeed can exert a huge psychic cost.

If you have never known the tyranny of the breast pump (and not the pumping-at-work set-up—I'm talking about round-the-clock pumping), you are lucky. If your body actually produced enough milk to meet a baby's nutritional demands, you are lucky. If breastfeeding was natural and beautiful, you are lucky.

I was not lucky. I had problems that were addressed by four separate chapters of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and one or two more problems that the book didn't cover. There was no chapter entitled "What To Do When There's a Perfect Storm of Problems and It's Simply Not Working Out"—the message was that quitting is not to be contemplated, even when it's ruining a woman's quality of life.

The pumping/lactation phase of my life lasted only about two or two and a half months eight years ago, but it remains the most traumatic period of my life. I think Ben's early months would have been much less stressful if my doctor had said, "Listen, your body is in no shape to make this work." But that didn't happen, and I put so much pressure on myself. On the bright side, Ben thrived despite our rough start, and he thrived when he got formula instead of milk.

So if you see a woman in public mixing up a bottle of formula for her baby, don't assume that she's selfish or shallow or unaware of breast milk's advantages, or that she takes a cavalier view toward caring for her child. She might've adopted that baby. She may be taking vital medication that's not safe for the baby. She may have tried like hell to breastfeed and failed Dairy Cow 101 anyway. She might've had breast surgery that precludes nursing. Informing her that "breast is best" or that she's robbing her child of 6 IQ points and improved immunity? That's deeply hurtful and certainly poor manners.

If you know a pregnant woman, sure, go ahead and make the case for breastfeeding's advantages. But don't suggest that she'll be failing her child if it doesn't work out. And once the decision has been made—for whatever reason—don't presume to second-guess it. Respect the woman's ability to make the best choice for her and her child.