Monday, November 02, 2009

The old "smelly washer" problem

A couple years ago, I wrote about my problem with a stinky washing machine. I tried that product but it only helped a little and I wasn't inclined to keep buying their proprietary powder.

I started using borax (the stuff in the 20 Mule Team box in the laundry aisle) every time I did a load of towels, but the towels never regained their fresh, clean smell.

And now! I've switched to powdered laundry detergent, which is messy and cumbersome compared to liquid detergent. But would you believe I left a load of washed towels closed up in the washer overnight and they were totally fine. Went straight into the dryer; came out smelling like Tide rather than mildew and washer stink. Even when the towels have been used for a few days, they remain fresh and Tidey. In contrast, when I've left a liquid-detergent washer load in the machine for several hours with the lid down, the clothes have demanded a rewashing.

So if you've been vexed by a high-maintenance laundry machine that kicks your butt for forgetting to move clothes out of the washer immediately, and the pesky odor makes you doubt yourself, try using a powder laundry detergent instead.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Calling all Flea fans

Hey! Have you always enjoyed Flea's "One Good Thing" blog? (For my money, she's one of the best writers on the internet, and I keep getting on her to assemble her stuff into book form because it's that good.) The old blog's coming down in a few days and the new one's up and running at a new location. Click over and bookmark it, or set up an RSS feed like I did so you'll never miss a tasty bite of Flea.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Must reading about "real Americans"

Read m. leblanc's Bitch Ph.D. post, "Talkin' 'Bout Real."

She explains why we should, in fact, embrace "identity politics." Why it's pernicious to play the "us and them" game in determining who fits the category of "real Americans" and who doesn't.

The impetus is recent talk about Sarah Palin, Ross Douthat's NYT column about "the democratic ideal" that seems to be "even mediocre white folks can excel," and Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination.

It's really a brilliant essay, and I urge you to read it. Go. Now.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

My byline in the New York Times!

A friend and I co-created today's crossword in the New York Times. W00t!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cool Things

(Not the weather. The weather is quite warm now.)

Cool Thing the First

In Salon Broadsheet, Lynn Harris has written a short essay about legislation that proposes to mandate insurers who cover obstetrical services to also cover IVF and other treatments for infertility. There are some compelling arguments that women/couples with insurance coverage for IVF would be less likely to use turbo-charged injectables and thus less likely to conceive multiples.

Harris includes a parenthetical note linking to an old "Why don't you just adopt?" post of mine:

(Let's get this out of the way: Many people who go down the IVF road get the question, "Why don't you just adopt?" Many of them would like to respond, "Why don't you?")

It's kinda fun to hear new voices chiming in on this topic in the comments lounge. Now, how many of Broadsheet's readers will be keen on reading more...and then discover that I've slacked off on blogging here? Ah, well. These things happen.

Cool Thing the Second

My first New York Times crossword puzzle will be published on Sunday, July 5! I absolutely took the easy way out and made the crossword with a friend who's more savvy about constructing crosswords. I know many people tend to blow off the Sunday paper on a holiday weekend, but getting a puzzle in the Times remains the pinnacle even with a smaller audience. The theme is...not about adoption or fertility treatment. That's the only spoiler I'm giving out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Poems about me

My Mother's Day gift from Ben was a book of poems he wrote about me. The kids worked on these all week at school, and these poem books—bound with fat yarn—are impossibly cute.

Here's one, called "My Best Mom: A True Exaggeration Poem"

My mom is the best.
She gets A's on every test.
She can do crosswords at light speed.
And lead the Navy in their deed.
Me and dad love you more than the fanciest cars.
But we should all live on mom's planet Mars.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Hey, look! It's May! Time to post again

No wonder my traffic has eroded so woefully—I haven't been keeping up this blog. I'm blogging every day—sometimes twice a day—at my 1⅓ crossword blogs. Between that, an uptick in freelance work, the persistence of the whole laziness/procrastination nexus, Facebook, and Twitter, yeah, I don't take the time here. Sorry. There does seem to be a rash of blogular lethargy these days, though. I can think of at least seven blog pals who have been blogging much less than they used to. Omigod! It must be contagious! Is it a swine writer's block pandemic?

Embodying the cheesiest trope of blogging, I return to whine. Why? Because I have to limit my potassium intake. I think it's more common for people to have low potassium levels and need to take a K supplement, or try to eat more bananas and orange juice. But not me. If I don't consciously minimize the potassium in my diet, the level goes up and increases the risk of cardiac arrhythmia, a.k.a. OMG YOU COULD TOTALLY DIE and you wouldn't even have symptoms. So I cannot mess around. Do you know what foods are particularly rich sources of potassium? I'll tell you:
  • Chocolate.
  • Milk.
  • Ice cream.
  • Potatoes in their many delicious forms.
  • Bananas.
  • Oranges, orange juice, and their citrus cousins. (Quelle ironie, as we say around here.)
  • Beans, including the lovely pinto and black and kidney beans as well as the thank-god-I-have-a-health-excuse-to-avoid-them lima beans.
  • Nuts, including yummy cashews, pecans, pecan pie, and almonds.
  • Peanuts and peanut butter. Let us not overlook Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Peaches.
  • Pears.
  • Chickpeas and the hummus that's made from them.
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce.
  • Cheese.
  • Whole-grain bread.
  • Brown rice.
  • Spinach and dark leafy greens. (Iceberg lettuce is a better bet.)
  • A wealth of other fruits and vegetables.
What doesn't have a ton of potassium?
  • Well, you've got your processed white bread and white rice. You know—the stuff I shouldn't go overboard on if I want to stave off type 2 diabetes, which my dad had.
  • Beer and wine. Small favors! 
  • Sugar.
  • Grease. But not butter! That's dairy, and dairy has potassium.
  • Meats. I haven't eaten red meat since I was 12, and lots of meat protein can tax impaired kidneys so I don't want to go there.
  • I think apples and grapes aren't too high in K, at least compared to other fruit. Of course, what fruits are you supposed to eat more of? All those other ones. These ones pretty much deliver sugars and fiber without a lot of phytochemicals, don't they?
  • Water.
  • Fritos.
Isn't that a pisser? You can imagine what fun it is to shop for groceries or peruse a restaurant menu. Keep in mind that I should also watch my salt intake, and the fun multiplies! Some of my favorite meals and snacks say NO in two or three different ways. I'm going out for Indian food tomorrow, and I lovelovelove channa masala. Why, that's chickpeas galore! With some salt for good measure. How about a little homemade trail mix for a hit of protein—combine (unsalted) nuts, dried fruit tidbits, and chocolate chips. Chocolate ice cream is a two-fer. Mashed potatoes with lots of milk, butter, and sour cream. A tall glass of cold milk. A bowl of sliced bananas in orange juice. Cheese pizza with tomato sauce. Mexican food with beans, cheese, tomatoes, and sour cream.

I really should see a nutritionist for advice. Could some of you hassle me about that so I actually make an appointment with someone? Because this food thang bums me out, and there's no reason to think the dietary restrictions will ease at some point so I could use the help. Anyone in Chicago know a good registered dietitian?

Yes, this entire post is pretty much a big whinefest. Join me, won't you? Tell me what food you can't have. If you're one of those lucky dogs who can eat anything, just lie. I'll be sad if all the comments are "Wow, that's too bad! I love all those foods and eat them several times a day, every day."

Friday, April 24, 2009

The saving gene

So, Ben's ninth birthday is imminent and he's been receiving checks and cash in the mail with his birthday cards. You know what he wants to do with this money? Save it. Put it in his wallet or his savings account and never take it out.

Sure, he'd like to reserve the right to buy any desired loot he doesn't receive as gifts—but he'd like to buy those items with someone else's money. Birthday money that has been given to him immediately ceases to be other people's spendable money and is transformed into Ben's Must-Be-Hoarded Money.

While I applaud the child's inclination to save (aw, he takes after his ma and da), he was completely missing the point of birthday money. I think he understands now that I've laid it out straight and will not ask his parents to buy crap for him right on the heels of receiving more crap than he needs. (And by "crap," I mean "thoughtful gifts," of course.) There will be no post-birthday bailouts for greedy children!

Are you more a saver or a spender?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Life is good

Winter is over, so the seasonal summer beers have returned to the store shelves. I just popped open a Buffalo Bill's Brewery Orange Blossom Cream Ale. Yes, it is an orange-flavored beer. Refreshing, and it totally matches my blog.

I found out I passed the online Jeopardy! test in January (I had 40 or 41 out of 50 answers right), and I get to audition in Chicago on May 28. W00t! I have several weeks to concoct five killer anecdotes/topics. I am open to suggestions here. One blogger friend, Julie, was on the teen tournament back in the day and could only think of four good ones, so she threw in a fondness for disco as her fifth topic—and wouldn't you know it? That's the one Alex Trebek asked her about on national TV. So damn, I need five solids here.

Tomorrow, I'm helping out at a local crossword mini-tournament. I've been asked to give a brief presentation on crossword tips (which you may see in my Twitter feed to the right before they scroll off) and to sign copies of my book if folks are buying them. What should I write? This is my first official book-signing opportunity. The others, mainly of the standing-in-the-hall variety, usually say "Happy solving!" That's lame. Should I switch to "Rock on with your bad self"? Again, I'm open to suggestions but I need them by Saturday morning! Please hurry!

Oh! While I'm on the topic of Me Me Me (obnoxious, ain't I? and just think, I was such a shy and unassuming child), check out the May 2009 issue of Wired magazine. I hear subscribers already have their copies, but I'm still waiting to receive one. The "Mr. Know-It-All" modern-day etiquette column quotes me.

Audience participation time: Tell me something that you're proud of or a reason you're glad springtime is here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Five things

1. It took three tries to get my almost-9-year-old into a shirt he could abide this morning. First shirt: Tag itches. (The tag is sewn flat, and he has the same shirt in three colors. Wore them all fall and winter without complaint.) Second shirt: The inside of the buttons on the button placket itches. Third shirt: Neckhole tight, hard to pull over head, but he can make do. His primary remnant of sensory integration dysfunction is not liking bumpy sock seams under his toes, but every once in a while, an Itchy Shirt or Lumpy Pants Pockets situation arises.

2. United Airlines is in the news for its new policy concerning obese passengers and seat width, but I don't want to talk about that. I wish to declare this: They should forbid passengers from reclining their seatbacks unless it's a redeye, an overseas flight, or another flight in which many passengers are likely to sleep. No more! Sit up straight and quit invading my personal space, People in Front of Me!

3. New Orleans turns out to be a terrific place for a family vacation. Steer clear of Bourbon Street unless you strive to teach your children about strip clubs and want them to see female nudity, Larry Flynt style, from the sidewalk. But everything else! We filled much of our spring break with the Audubon Experience package—$32.95 for adults, $19.95 for kids. That gets you admission to (1) The Audubon Zoo—a good zoo with a cool Louisiana swamp area (don't miss alligator feeding time), hands-on experiences for kids, and some animals I haven't seen in the Chicago zoos. (2) The Audubon Aquarium. Cool seahorse exhibit, big shark tank (funded by the Gulf of Mexico oil companies—hey, they're good for something), a Mississippi River exhibit, jellyfish, and more. (3) The Insectarium! There are only a few bug museums in the U.S. and this is one of 'em. Creepy live critters, artistic displays of dead ones (picture a swirling rainbow of iridescent beetles and butterflies in lieu of pinned bugs in evenly spaced rows), the opportunity to engage in entomophagy. (4) And an Imax movie, with three movies to choose from. New Orleans also has the streetcars, which mean you don't need a car or cabs to get around. And there's a free ferry across the Mississippi to Algiers Point. If you're wondering about the post-Katrina New Orleans crime wave you've heard about, well, it was not in evidence where we were. We felt safe the whole time.

4. Wow, if you don't eat shellfish or red meat, creole food gets old fast. My menu for the week consisted largely of alternating between fried chicken po'boys and fried catfish po'boys. Mr. Tangerine enjoyed his meals, though—oysters chargrilled and fried, shrimp, gumbo, po'boy with three meats and gravy, crawfish, the works.

5. Dodged a bullet this morning. While we walked to school, Ben was just starting to tell me who the nine Jedis are from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and who reports to whom—and quizzing me! holy crap, I'm supposed to remember them each time he tells me?—but then he spotted his best friend and took off running. If I were a superior mom, I'd spend the day studying up and memorizing the Clone Wars characters...but I am merely a good mom.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Calling all car geeks

I've been holding off on buying a Prius because I think it's an ugly car. I don't like its back end at all. I much prefer a standard (yet sleek!) sedan look.

I just saw an ad for the Ford Fusion Hybrid. 41 mpg city? That's not as good as the Prius, but it's a midsize sedan (which is what I'm used to after nine years in a VW Passat) with better mileage than the hybrid versions of the Camry and Accord. And it looks kinda cute.

Consumer Reports rated the non-hybrid Fusion a good bit lower than its top-rated midsize sedans, but still calls it "recommended." It costs about $27,000 for the hybrid model, and if we buy right now (before March 31), there's a $3,400 federal tax credit waiting for us.

Is this the car for me? Is there any reason to avoid the Fusion Hybrid? Tell me, o car geeks!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A bleg for love life advice

On behalf of my friend Anne, I need to ask the internet what the best way is to handle a knotty romantic situation.

Here are the details: Anne met Brad online a few months ago. Neither of them was looking for anything long-term, and he's coming off a bruising divorce. But they hit it off and are quite compatible together. They can both see this turning into something long-term, but nobody's looking to get married here.

Brad's got some commitment issues at present (see: bruising divorce), and his communication tends to be spotty. It can take him two days to respond to a text message, for example. But when he does get in touch and they get together, it's wonderful.

Last night they had a particularly wonderful time. Walking outside, holding hands in the warm spring air, sharing a meal, and having a splendid roll in the hay. Around midnight, Brad went home, and Anne figured she'd check her e-mail.

Within a half hour of Brad leaving Anne's bed, he was making a let's-get-to-know-each-other overture via a hook-up website (the site where Anne and Brad had first met). Unbeknownst to him, the woman he was contacting was Anne under another screen name. She'd set up a second account to be able to set her mind at ease, being able to check out the activity for Brad's profile without having it look like she was spying on him. And now, so soon after a fantastic evening with Anne, he's putting the moves on Fake Anne!

So now Anne is in quite a spot. She is honestly OK with him reaching out to people on that website because their relationship isn't exclusive—but to do so within a half hour of cuddling with her is a huge slap in the face.

What should Anne do? Talk to him candidly and explain that he just contacted her other alter ego, and that this was so hurtful? Ignore it? Contact him as Fake Anne and see where he tries to take that? (She's not much inclined to play games of that sort.) Anne needs some advice and boy, I haven't a clue what she should do. Anyone?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The truth about Obama's income tax plans

There's been much ballyhoo about President Obama's plan to roll back the Bush tax cuts and restore the tax rate for top earners to 39.6%, up from 35%.

Assorted Republican and Libertarian types have hurled themselves into a full-blown tizzy, swearing that they'll work less and take on fewer clients so they can keep their annual income under the $250,000 cutoff, thereby avoiding the increased tax rate. Mind you, this is ludicrous—if you make $300,000, even though your tax bill is bigger than that of someone making $250,000, you still end up with more money in the bank.

Furthermore, these folks are running around like Chicken Little, freaking out about Obama's "socialism" and the huge tax increase. Oh, really? During Reagan's first term, the top tax rate was 50%. And during Nixon's presidency, it was 70%. During the Eisenhower years, 91%. Even with Obama's repeal of Bush's tax cuts, the rich people still have it made in the shade. Here's a graph from that lays it out. Feel free to share pass it along to your relatives and friends who may be railing against the supposed tax apocalypse that will destroy them.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I have nothing to say

I haven't posted in nearly a week. "Oh, that Orange, she must be too busy to write anything. What a whirlwind life she leads! Those crossword celebrities, they're in the big time, you know."

Uh, yeah. I have the time. I just can't think of anything to talk about. There's some stuff that, you know, violates relatives' privacy. So I won't go there.

Shall I stoop to talking about the weather? Dang, it's cold. Spring is almost here, and yesterday and today the temps didn't reach the freezing point. Yo, that's too cold for March. Could be worse. I could be in central Canada, or in North Dakota or Montana where the temps were below zero this week. That is just insane!

My car's in the shop. There was a little accident last Friday. You wouldn't think a little bump would cost $2,960, would you? Then maybe you don't own a Volkswagen. On the bright side, last Friday it was sunny and 62° when I spent that hour on the curb waiting for the cop and the AAA tow truck, and nobody was hurt. But I miss my car. I don't drive it far, but I like to have it available. (Sigh.)

I saw a Canada goose sitting atop a three-story building the other morning. Say what? Since when do geese park themselves on top of buildings and honk madly? I asked my mom if she'd ever seen such a thing, and she had—just last week, for the first time in her life. The geese, they may be plotting something big. That U.S. Airways plane that landed in the Hudson was just the beginning for the geese. It's war! If they band together with the squirrels, we humans are done for. I'd say "our goose is cooked," but now I'm afraid to. You never know what the geese are monitoring.

Guess what's for dinner? (Not foie gras!) Leftover carryout pasta. Gotta love having food delivered that feeds you for three or four days straight, eh?

Found out the other night that Ben has always thought the word migraine was "my-brain."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Plagiarizing my own damn self

I've been writing more bloggy stuff over at Facebook lately than here. So you know what I'm gonna do? Copy and paste, edit to remove certain identifying information. They call this "25 Random Things About Me" at Facebook.

1. When I realized that book I wrote would be published a month before my 40th birthday, I set a retroactive life goal of "publish first book by age 40." Hey, why set goals you won't reach?

2. I have never wanted to write a novel, but if I could come up with a good topic for a nonfiction book, I might pursue it.

3. I never went to grad school because there wasn't anything I wanted to study more. I briefly contemplated a master's degree in science writing, but realized I already had a paying job doing just that.

4. In my next lifetimes (mind you, I don't believe in reincarnation), I will pursue two careers: infectious disease epidemiology and lexicography.

5. I'm right-handed, left-eyed, and right-eared.

6. Princess Diana was my eighth cousin, twice removed.

7. Mark Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was my sixth cousin, five times removed. And yet I have never read any of his novels.

8. I was the last relative to see my paternal grandmother before she died. She was out of her head and kicked me.

9. I have been an atheist since birth.

10. I'm jealous of my son's Mowgliesque hair, but have grown to accept my own. Well, except I get highlights to mask stray grays and to have a little fun with my hair.

11. I stopped eating red meat at age 12.

12. I won a $1,000 scholarship in a high-school spelling bee. I went down in ignominy the following year, and hold Sargent Shriver responsible.

13. The best things about freelancing: No staff meetings, no office politics.

14. My first name was so popular in my age group. I almost take it personally that parents these days shy away from the name, because it's such a perfect name.

15. I was a shy and quiet kid, a bookworm. My son finds it hilarious that I was too shy at his age to place an order at the McDonalds counter.

16. Editing crosswords may be more up my alley than creating them.

17. Five or six years ago, I bruised my kneecap and learned why a bruised kneecap is enough to keep an NFL player out of the game. It still hurts like a mofo if I put pressure on just the right spot.

18. I need to buy new jeans, but finding jeans that fit well is a more daunting task than finding the perfect bra or finding a new swimsuit. Sometimes the Gap has the perfect pair, but they always discontinue the cut that fits me perfectly.

19. Wow, I need seven more of these? The meme should be "20 Random Things About Me." I mean, really. Going to 25 is too self-indulgent.

20. Spring is my favorite season. The gradual rebirth of everything green inspires me year after year.

21. My absolute favorite floral scent comes from crabapple blossoms. Lilacs are lovely, but can be a bit much at times. I like the pepperiness of carnations (but those aren't outdoor springtime flowers here). The cloying stank of hyacinths tries to ruin springtime every year. Why do people plant hyacinths? Eww.

22. My son has inherited my fondness for kicking and crunching fall leaves and for stepping on thin, crackly ice. Sometime we fight over a particularly appealing patch of ice.

23. I love living in the city. I want my kid to be a city kid because my college classmates who were city kids—whether Manhattanite scions of wealth or South Siders from Chicago—had a cool confidence that set them apart from the suburban and small-town students.

24. I don't have the hand-eye coordination to excel at video games, but if there were a Wii speed crossword game? I would kick butt.

25. I have always been a procrastinator.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Which kind of iPod do I want?

I just got these fancy new "hearing instruments" with Bluetooth capability that will allow me to use an iPod for a change, without having to use earbuds or headphones. (If you already have things plunked in your ears, there's nowhere for earbuds to go.)

The Shuffle is out. I want to be able to choose what music to hear.

There's the Nano, which has the advantage of coming in ridiculous colors. (And no, I don't want orange. Contrary to popular suspicion, it's not remotely my favorite color.)

The iPod Classic looks big and dumb, and it doesn't come in fun colors. Am I right? Does anyone like the iPod Classic?

The iPod Touch is what Mr. Tangerine has. Big enough screen for video, all sorts of apps, definitely a fun toy. Does anybody use the Touch just to listen to music at the gym? Will it take over my life? Will the iPod Touch become my new boyfriend? Do I need to stay simple and just get the Nano?

Tell me what to do, o wise internets.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

All About Me (x5)

Narya gave me five words she associates with me. The deal is that I write about those five things and then if you want blog fodder yourself, leave a comment asking me to give you five subjects/things I associate you with. Then post this in your blog and elaborate on the subjects given.

Crosswords: So timely! I leave in 36 hours for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I like crosswords because I'm dang good at doing them. I'm innately competitive, so the tournament is fun. And I've made a slew of crossword friends via the tournament and my crossword blog. All my male friends (aside from my husband) are crossword people, and I've befriended some terrific women via puzzles too. Friday night, I'll be part of a panel of crossword bloggers doing a Q&A thing in front of several hundred people. I have never done any public speaking in front of a crowd that size, so that'll be something new for me. Will I wig out or relish the attention? Time will tell. At least there will be plenty of friendly faces in view. I just came down with a cough and cold, so I'm not expecting to be at my peak when it comes to the actual crosswords. But that's OK. I'm gonna have a blast anyway.

In recent months, I've spent more time doing freelance editing/proofreading-type work on crosswords than on medical manuscripts, so doing crosswords can actually be a paying job. Who knew?


I have one sister. She's the older one, so naturally she's hewed more to our upbringing in how she's living her life. A house in the 'burbs, two kids, a garden with many of the same flowers our mom had in her garden back in the day. She's a good bit more traditional than me. She takes her Christmas decorating seriously, while I was delighted that taking a cruise over the holidays meant I could blow off the Christmas tree. My mom thought it was a little weird that I'd be willing to leave town for Christmas, I think, but the writing has been on the wall for ages. My honeymoon involved leaving the Midwest behind and going to the Caribbean for Christmas, after all. No house in the 'burbs for me, either—I like city living, the congestion, not having a lawn or garden to take care of. She also tends to work harder than I do—PTA volunteering, for example, running various committees, taking on the work everybody else says they can't squeeze in. Me, I'm lazier. Haven't made it to a single PTA meeting yet!

Back in the adolescent years, my sister and I often did not get along at all. But then we grew up and put that behind us. It's cool. We're good friends now.

I kinda wanted to have two kids myself, but it wasn't to be. Ben would like to have a brother, but I can't make one.

Vegetarianism: I stopped eating red meat when I was 12. Anyone in their early 20s with a vegetarian bent is invariably asked, "So, did you give up meat in college?" Naw, doofus. I was way ahead of that. This ain't just some collegiate fitting-in-with-the-crowd business. I never stopped eating poultry and fish, though, so I'm not a vegetarian. And now I have pesky dietary restrictions that mean I should eat most vegetarian protein sources in very limited amounts, full-bore vegetarianism is in store for me.

It's funny. When Mr. Tangerine and I go out to eat—he's an omnivore—he orders vegetarian entrees far more often than I do.

Feminism: I never took any women's studies classes in college, and possibly the only feminist treatise I've read is Susan Faludi's Backlash. I might've read Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth too...I don't recall. But no Greer, no hooks, no Dworkin, none of those classics. I've been brushing up on the tenets of radical feminism via I Blame the Patriarchy. As someone who likes being married to my husband, commitment to full-bore radical feminism is not for me. But as a general worldview, I can't deny that there is a helluva lot of truth to it.

I wear sensible shoes and hardly any makeup (really only the occasional bit of lipstick). The way I groom myself for a newspaper photo shoot is the same way I groom myself every day. Halfassedly blow-dry my hair, use no "product" to make my hair do anything other than what it wants to do (lie flat), wash my face with something like Cetaphil, put on a clean shirt, brush my teeth, and step into my cozy Merrells. Oh, but I do get highlights to hide the gray strands, and I shave my legs and underarms, and I wear underwire bras. So I'm not the perfect feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm not the worst either.

Supertasting: Some people have the supertaster gene. (Do not quote me on the science here.) Like me. Lots of foods my husband loves, I loathe. So I am always pleased to find foods I don't like on lists of things supertasters cannot abide. Coffee! I don't touch the stuff. Tastes burnt. Broccoli! No amount of cheese will help with that. And...I forget. There was a lot more on the list. Basically, a supertaster has tastebuds that are more sensitive, or more plentiful, or something. Supertasters taste unpleasantness where others do not. Here's the mind-blowing one: vanilla ice cream. I used to find it sweet and creamy, but now half the time I find it unpleasantly bitter. Olives, bell peppers, the more bitter salad greens, the highest cocoa percentage chocolate (don't take me over 60%, please), overly strong tea? I'll pass.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gendered language

Gendered language is well nigh inescapable. There are words that exclude or marginalize women—consider chairman, boy wonder, and Jack of all trades, all of which serve to elevate maleness. There are words that debase women—bitch, harpy, shrew—but generally are not used for men. There are woman-specific words for which there's no true male equivalent—mistress, debutante, "the other woman," maid.

Do you know of any resource, online or printed, that compiles a slew of these words in one place? If so, I'd love any leads you have. If not, please drop a few more examples of gendered vocabulary in the comments. I'll bet every commenter can come up with words that haven't been listed by the preceding commenters.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Aww! So sweet!

Salma Hayek is working with Unicef on various children's issues in Africa. She even nursed a sick newborn boy while she was there:

Isn't that terrific? She just shot way up in my estimation. She does drama! She does comedy! (She's been good on 30 Rock this winter.) She lactates unselfishly! She uses her fame to call attention to important issues. And she does so without wearing dorky sunglasses like Bono does.

Here's a post with more context for you.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Friday, February 06, 2009

Roger Ebert is en fuego

Like me, Roger Ebert is politically liberal and not into religion. His main job is reviewing movies, but he also writes a blog for his newspaper where ventures further afield. I appreciated his latest post, which is about Bush, evolution, the Bible, prayer, dinners with wealthy benefactors, the film The Reader, Rush Limbaugh, lying and shame, and whether you have the wherewithal to speak out when you ought to. Go forth and read Roger. You won't regret it.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Were you born between 1954 and 1965?

Are you too old to be a Gen Xer and too young to want to group yourself with the Baby Boomers? You may be part of Generation Jones.

My friend Dean Olsher wants to compile a list of generational markers for his fellow Joneses. "Dean knows he's Generation Jones because he couldn't care less about where you were when JFK was assassinated." That resonates for me because hey, JFK was assassinated before I was born. I remember the day John Lennon was killed and the day Reagan was shot, but JFK? Before my time. The moon landing? I was too young. Summer of Love? I was a toddler. Nixon's resignation? Ooh! I remember that one. They made us watch it on TV in kindergarten and none of us gave a damn.

If you're part of Generation Jones, head over to Dean's blog and share your "How You Know You're Generation Jones" touchstones.

If you may be a redneck, send your identifying traits to Jeff Foxworthy, not to Dean.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Taking a whiff of clean white socks

...the kid says, "Ahh, I love the smell of chlorine in the evening."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Twitter and Facebook are killing this blog

...because they let me provide bloggy little updates in a fraction of the time.

But I owe you more than that.

Have you seen the commercials for the new Dora the Explorer Suds and Styling head? Because that is what was missing from the character with a feminist/humanist basis—that a girl can be an independent explorer and problem solver. Hair-styling! Dora has short hair, so let's make a big head with long, silky hair that little girls can brush. The toymaker's one sop to feminism is that the toy has "face paint" rather than makeup—but what do you want to bet a bunch of little girls will go right ahead and paint makeup onto little Dora's face? Yes, Dora's time as a bold explorer is drawing to a close. It's time for her to focus on looking pretty for the boys. Can stiletto-heeled mini-skirted full-breasted Dora the Sexplorer be far behind?


And I'm all about freedom of choice, sure, but that woman with the octuplets: What the fuck? Let me count the problems here. Her infertility doc apparently transferred eight embryos into this patient. Eight! That is too many, especially in a 33-year-old woman with zero interest in selective reduction. "Surely the doctor just wanted to be kind," you argue. "This was her last best chance at becoming a mother, the poor dear." Yeah, except she already had six children age 7 and under. (I learned this from an LA Times article this morning, but I'm too lazy to dig up the link for you.) The 2-year-olds are twins, so it's possible that she did in vitro to conceive them and thus had a documented success rate with not only becoming pregnant (with or without in vitro), but having live births. And a lot of 'em! My cousin, a former NICU nurse, and I, a former NICU mom, guesstimated the total hospital bill for the mom's 7-week hospital bed rest and her C-section plus the eight babies' NICU stays. We're thinking $800,000 to $1 million. Did your health insurance premiums go up in January? Cases like this don't help. I'm betting her co-pay is way less than $750,000, so everyone else shares the cost. Which, you know, is fine if it's a bone marrow transplant or cancer treatment or something. But it just strikes me as selfish and a huge hogging of resources to have octuplets for your 7th through 14th children.

(Edited to add a link to Twisty's post on the octuplet situation at I Blame the Patriarchy. Be sure to read the comments thread there, too.)

Plus, it's still winter, and this January is the coldest January in Chicago in 24 years. And then there's the snow. We've had 2+ feet of it, and none of it has melted away. It's not as deep, though, because it's been condensing itself into a hard, unmeltable crust. I had a Facebook scrap with some Bostonians complaining about how woeful their slush was. Yes, we can all agree that slush is messy and icky and sloppy, and nobody likes it. But these Bostonians were acting like Chicago's January would be better than a day or two of slush. N to the O! I have not seen the ground beneath the snow for a solid month. The temperature may have snuck above the freezing point once or twice for a few hours, but the rest of the last month has been subfreezing. Cold, man. Sure, there haven't been all that many days with the subzero wind-chills, but day after day after day of 15, 20, 25—it gets old. The worst part of all this? February has yet to come. February is often even more discouraging than January because it just keeps being winter.

I do feel like I'm in a good mood today, but these things have been pissing me off. Now I can go have a good afternoon.

My job for you: Please vent some petty outrage in the comments. Something that's been pissing you off—let's hear it. Maybe you'll feel exorcised if you yell it loud enough.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The State of the Boy, December 2008

He hasn't gotten a haircut since last spring.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What's everyone doing about allowance?

All righty, here's the deal: Ben's 8, and he's a quasi-spoiled only child who's not expected to do much around the house. He has no specific scheduled chores, though we sort of put him on empty-the-trashcans duty. We haven't started giving him a weekly allowance, but I'm wondering if it's time.

So: What are you doing, if you've got a kid of allowance age in the house?
  1. How much money per week (or other unit of time)?
  2. Are you paying per chore rather than per week?
  3. What sort of chores are on the kid's list?
  4. Do you withhold allowance for any reason?
  5. How do you make yourself remember not to do a chore you've assigned to the kid? Like, if the kid's off at school and you just want to get rid of the dirty dishes, do you empty the dishwasher yourself even if that's the kid's chore?
Thanks for your input, folks.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The man upstairs

You know the best thing about living in an apartment or condo? If you're not on the top floor, you can use the phrase the man upstairs to talk about a real person.

I shoveled the sidewalks 12 hours ago and they were clear. Now it's snowing again, with an inch or more blanketing the sidewalks and a few more due by morning. But no worries! The man upstairs will take care of things. He's going to shovel in the morning.

In my building, there are two men upstairs. The other man upstairs didn't volunteer to do most of the shoveling this winter, but he is really sweet nonetheless. The man upstairs lives with Isabella—a dog in one case, a daughter in the other.

Next time I see him, I'll have to give thanks to the man upstairs for clearing the snow.

Texter's eye chart

You know the Snellen test, don't you? You may think you don't but you do: It's that eye-exam chart with the big letters on top and the teeny ones that I can't discern on the bottom.

From now on, I'm boycotting any eye doctor who doesn't switch to the texter's eye chart:

I love it, and I don't care if it hasn't been scientifically validated as a vision screening tool.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Guess where this happened?

It's Saturday night, and you know what that means—quiz time!

Identify the location of this true-life scenario:

There is a man.

He is in a silver Hummer.

And not just the little H3. It's the bigger H2.

The driver's window is open.

The music is blasting ridiculously loud, reverberating within the concrete walls of the subterranean parking garage.

He is smoking, and the stink fills the enclosed space.

And the parking space he's in? It's the reserved handicapped spot closest to the elevators. The Hummer, of course, bears no placard or tags authorizing the vehicle to take that space.

So, what store is above this garage? Leave your guesses in the comments.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Eat my food, yuppie

Mr. Tangerine recently observed that if you're starting a food business and you want crunchy affluent folks—the sort who shop at Whole Foods—to flock to your product, you want to have a brand name that's a first name. To wit:

Stacy's All Natural Pita Chips. I love the cinnamon sugar ones.

Amy's vegetarian frozen foods.

Annie's all-natural Mac n'Cheese.

The entire Trader Joe's store.

Robert's American Gourmet, the Pirate's Booty people.

Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Two first names are better than one!

Burt's Bees sells cosmetic/skin care stuff and not food, but still—Burt.

Barbara's Bakery breakfast cereal.

Diana's Banana Babies dipped in chocolate, all natural.

There's even an Yves...If You Please! brand of vegan hot dogs. Oscar Mayer has a second name, but the brand with veggie healthnut cred? First name only, of course.

I must be forgetting a bunch of first-named brands that epitomize the worst in American processed foods, but all the biggies that come to mind now have last names—Kraft, Kelloggs, Totino, Betty Crocker.

Can you think of any crappy brands of junky food with a first-name-only brand?