Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The White Sheep

While I was gallivanting around with a bunch of pavement technicians last week, my sister Jessie was playing in the 2007 New Orleans International Piano Competition.
For one thing, my head was still spinning from Jessica Osborne's wild ride through Rachmaninov's "Sonata in B-Flat Minor" which closed Round One. The young American pianist grasped the sweeping, maximalist rhetoric of the Russian composer, letting his grand melodies smolder, rise and erupt volcanically while excavating every seam of harmonic ore. In a 20-minute span, she revealed what it means to treat the piano as an orchestra, whether ringing out downbeats with deft cross-hand work or letting bass notes resound like distant thunder. And she did it all without pummeling the piano.

But for some inexplicable reason she didn't make the finals:
Perhaps the judges wanted more technical hurdles than Beethoven's work provides. If so, why not advance Jessica Osborne, who built on her first round triumph as an interpreter of Rachmaninov, with astounding performances of difficult works by Liszt and Szymanowski? Her unhurried, slow-building account of the Liszt/Wagner "Liebestod" tapped the emotional core of the music while etching every trill and coloristic effect.

I'm kind of proud of her anyway. Still, I bet she doesn't know the difference between flex base and bonded concrete. Can you imagine?

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Proper Use

There’s a sign on one of the stall doors in the ladies' room that says, “Please do not put paper towels in the commode.”

Who uses the word “commode” anymore? It sounds gross.

The word used to refer to a perfectly innocent washstand, then later came to mean the toilet. Of course, the word “toilet” itself used to mean – never mind, you get the idea. The object in question has tainted every euphemism ever applied to it; any object that serves an unmentionable function will do that. There's a linguistic term for this phenomenon, but I can't remember what it is, and Wikipedia is verboten at work, you know.

(Edited to add: It's called pejoration.)

So out comes an old friend I haven’t consulted in a while, the Merriam-Webster Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, ©1990.

com·mode \kə-‘mōd\ n [F, fr. commode, adj., suitable, convenient, fr. L commodus, fr. com- + modus measure – more at METE] (1688) 1: a woman’s ornate cap popular in the late 17th and early 18th centuries 2 a: a low chest of drawers b: a movable washstand with a cupboard underneath c: a boxlike structure holding a chamber pot under an open seat; also : CHAMBER POT d: TOILET 3b

I’m not sure what the ornate cap has to do with anything, since it doesn’t seem either suitable or convenient, though I suppose in a pinch you could use it as toilet paper. It looks kind of scratchy.

But I digress. The point I was getting to is that the word “accommodate” derives from the same source as the word “commode,” and therefore I feel it would be much more logical if from now on everyone agrees to define “accommodate” as meaning “to flush down the toilet.”

If you have any other suggestions, I’d be happy to accommodate them.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Going Out

Forget Sudoku. If you want to get some serious mental exercise, try explaining the Austin art scene to a bunch of small-town Texans.

My sister Margie's in a new band, which is playing tonight at L_M_N_L, and she insists I have to go, though frankly the last time I was there I had a bit of a negative experience.

Margie's new band is called Palette, or Pallet, or Palate. "What kind?" I asked her, since she told me the name over the phone. "Color palette, or moving pallet, or hard palate?"

"It could be any of those!" she enthused. "It's multi-purpose!"

They'd better get somebody with really bad handwriting to do their flyers.

Anyway, at lunch with district contacts from a few small Texas towns last week, I was trying to explain Margie's musical activities. "What kind of band does she play in," one of the guys asked, "country?"

"No, no," I said, "it's sort of an art band. They play at art openings and stuff."

"Oh, so it's classical?" he asked.

"No, no, it's kind of avant-garde," I said, and realized this didn't clarify anything. "It's weird. Not like a regular genre."

"Hippie music?" suggested the Carl Sagan of Laredo.

"Well, maybe," I said. "Hippie-punk-alternative-retro. They wear big papier-mache masks. They play at the Art Car parade."


"The scene - they're all a bunch of chain-smoking vegetarians," I went on.

At least Carl immediately understood what I meant.

Margie says L_M_N_L, which had been gutted the last time I was there, and was once more just a largish, high-ceilinged room, has platforms and levels and cubbies all built into it again, but in a completely different configuration. I'm glad. It was sort of dull without all the exploring and crawling around.

And it means that, if need be, there are a lot more places to hide.

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No Soliciting

It seems so inhospitable to put an "unwelcome" sign on the door, even if it is specifically aimed at such bottom-feeding scum as salesmen and evangelicals.

Some Bible students knocked on my door this morning. To their credit, they knocked softly, asked apologetically if they had gotten me out of bed (they had not, but I loaf around in my PJs for half the day on weekends), and left without argument when I said I wasn't interested. So I'd say they weren't pushy, except that there's no getting around it: it is inexcusably pushy to summon a stranger to the door of her home to preach at her, no matter how politely you try to go about it.

"We're Bible students bringing a message this morning," the man at the door said to me. Ooh! A message! For me?! I wonder what it could be???

Does anybody ever do this? It would be fun to see if you could pull it off, if you had some free time and a good poker face. You should invite them into your home and ask to hear all about their religion, and, this is the hard part, you have to act like this is all totally new to you. Maybe get out a pen and paper and jot down notes. "Wait a second, wait a second... Je-sus... and how do you spell the last name?"

Because honestly, who are these people trying to reach? They aren't spreading any message that anyone they are likely to meet hasn't heard. And the message never changes. There aren't innovative new advances in the field of religion. No, trappings change, the rituals change, the language changes; but the underlying message is the same: You better think like we do or you'll be sorry. Churches do an awful lot of this outreach-type stuff, so it seems they must get some kind of return on the investment, but I'm frankly a little unclear on what their actual goals are.

And maybe that's what you should invite them in and ask them, if you were so inclined: What exactly is it that you're trying to accomplish? What's your success rate? Among what demographics are you most successful? Do you really feel you are bringing an unfamiliar message to new people?

It wouldn't work, of course, because I'm sure the foot-soldiers out canvassing your neighborhood don't know the answers to those questions. And it would just turn confrontational and everybody would get all upset. And I don't know about you, but unlike salesmen or evangelicals, I've never been willing to upset or hurt someone else just for the sake of trying to get them to do what I want.

I should at least have asked if they had any literature. It would have made something funny to blog about.


Friday, July 27, 2007

The Things Cats Do

I wanted to post a scan of a birthday card Jim got from his sister. It has a picture of a cat, covered by a blanket, lying on his stomach on a massage table, a masseuse cat preparing to rub him down. "Just a little licking around the butt area," the first cat is saying.

I'm sorry, but that card should totally have been for me, birthday or no birthday. Google it if you don't know why. I dare you!

Anyway, I plugged in the scanner, and two breakers tripped and all the power went out in my bedroom. Flipped the switches and the power came back on, but the scanner will not; I think it might be fried.

Oh well. We hardly ever used it anyway.

Forgive my disjointedness. There have been a couple of glasses of sangria. It's actually been a fairly stressful week, as weeks working in the public sector go. It's not really that easy to stress me out, though I'm much better at appearing calm than I am at actually feeling calm. But the panicmonger supervisor, the Ineffectual Perfectionist, takes a toll on us all. I'm tired and discouraged. There are times that I really feel, even though people I love deeply, passionately, with all my heart, have moved away, that my job isn't too bad and I can stick it out indefinitely. At least as long as they keep showing up to break. But then the boss starts hovering, radiating useless anxiety and disapproval, and I'm simultaneously demoralized and guilt-ridden. Work becomes a fairly unhappy place. This isn't good.

Oops, did I just type that out loud?

The conference is over, and it will get better, and it's silly to fret. Work will be calm and mostly boring and occasionally productive again. And there are new people starting, some of whom are bound to be fun. And Robbie won't have to get all flustered and pull an A, because the panicmonger - who is surely seeking desperately for another job - will eventually have to find one.

She just needs to hurry up about it, because she keeps producing litters upon litters of kittens over every little thing, and kittens grow up into cats, and you know what cats do.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Favor Curry

The best part of being a meeting planner was all the free lunches.

Actually, this is not entirely true. The free dinners were better. Fam trips (these are basically all-expenses-paid trips, including airfare and luxurious meals and accommodations, intended to familiarize meeting planners with a destination so that they will want to hold events there) were the best of all, only I never got to go because the only one I ever got invited to, in Geneva, Switzerland, was scheduled to end just three days before I was due with Anna.

She was born eight days late. I totally should have gone.

My current job is not very likely ever to send me to Europe, unless there are some fairly drastic changes in the way Texas state government is structured. But I did get taken to lunch today by some of my business contacts from Corpus, who were attending our conference in Austin. San Antonio, Atlanta (Texas, not Georgia), Pharr, Houston, and Laredo were there as well.

The guy from Laredo inexplicably reminds me of Carl Sagan. Well, it's not inexplicable that he reminds me of Carl Sagan - he looks, sounds, and acts sort of like him, and is clearly very smart - but it is a bit puzzling what a person who would remind anyone of Carl Sagan would be doing in Laredo. So I asked him; and he said he's originally from Massachusetts, and apparently just up and decided he'd like to live in Mexico City. So, in rather methodical fashion, he opted to move first to Laredo as a test environment.

But I didn't find out if he still thinks this was a good idea.

He brought a beaker of water and a PH testing kit to lunch, tested the beaker, the drinking water, and some tap water, and performed a few impromptu experiments on me and another of his tablemates. Smart guy. A little odd, maybe, but very bright people generally are. When I was a mere slip of a girl and all my classmates had ginormous crushes on Sean Cassidy (I'm dating myself here, but you know what they say about that*), I had a ginormous crush on Carl Sagan. I'm a little odd, too.

Robbie works with the guy from Houston. When Robbie and I were still very new (we started this job at the same time), Robbie called Houston to ask him a question. A secretary answered the phone. Robbie asked to speak to his contact.

"Oh, he passed away," said the secretary offhandedly.

"What?" said Robbie, taken aback.

"He's passed on," the secretary repeated.

"Oh my God. I'm sorry," Robbie exclaimed.

"Oh, it's okay," the secretary said.

Robbie hung up and told a senior coworker, who was surprised. "I just talked to him two days ago," he said, "and he didn't sound sick!"

And of course it turned out that the guy was not dead at all, and so all this time, we've just assumed the secretary was... well, a little on the transportational side. But we didn't tell this story to the guy in question until his unusually substantial and hearty-looking ghost attended the conference this week. He was puzzled, and after thinking about it for a day or two concluded that the secretary had misunderstood because someone whose first name was the same as his last name had died a couple of years before Robbie and I started this job.

I only hope she'll think it's funny that some people she's never met in Austin have assumed she was bat-shit insane for about a year and a half.

The conference is finished now, and overall I think it was a success. At the end, our supervisor lined all of us analysts up in front of what was left of the audience to thank us, and my contact from Corpus pointed to me and shouted out, "I'll take the one second from the end! How much?"

And that beats out free lunches, dinners, fam trips, and maybe even the tins of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies the sales staff at the Doubletree used to drop off in the meeting planning department where I used to work, once a month or so.

Well... maybe not the cookies.

*"You always get some when you're dating yourself!"

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Innocence Beware

In a slightly surreal turn of events, the Bubbly Bitching Nonsmoker seems to feel I need protection from men with nefarious intentions.

She approached me at our conference registration table this morning. "If Cocky McPenis* comes up to you," she said, "just walk away! I'm telling you. He's bad news."

"?" I said.

"Oh, he's got a reputation," she went on. "He's nasty. I mean, what do you expect with a name like that?" She walked away and took her seat in the meeting room.


In the afternoon the conference divided into two breakout sessions: one dealing with the system that B.B.N. and I work in, the other dealing with a related, but separate system handled by other people in our department. B.B.N., the other systems analysts, and I were seated at the front of our breakout room for a panel discussion, and she leaned over and whispered to me:

"Yeah, you need to look out for him. He noticed you. He's attending this session, and it's not even his job, he belongs with the other group."

Maybe he bribed her? Because, of course, at this point I was positively dying with curiosity. I looked around the room, trying to spot a namebadge with Cocky McPenis on it. I didn't see one, though, and a couple of hours later I'd mostly forgotten the incident. I really do like B.B.N., in sort of a cautious way (she sometimes bites), but I wouldn't necessarily put it past her to be on crack.

As the afternoon presentations were wrapping up, I excused myself and went back to the empty general session room to plant a few ringer questions in the anonymous question box. (Legitimately, I mean - two of my coworkers had to address them; and none of the attendees had asked any.) "Wow," said a man's voice, "I think I've listened to about as much as I can take of that stuff."

I looked up and found that Cocky McPenis himself had followed me. He's quite a bit younger than I expected and looked nice enough, not too much like a dissipated, lecherous old reprobate, though he did have an unmistakable I'm-picturing-you-naked glint in his eyes. I smiled and said something noncommital about the material being a little dull, but I was busy writing down questions and didn't really have time for chitchat in any case.

"I mean, it's not exactly rocket science," he went on. "Some of those people! I don't even work in that system, and I got it totally figured out right away."

One wonders if perhaps this is the correct way to approach a girl when talking about her area of, for lack of a better word, expertise; because even though I'm not completely brimming over with pride at what I do, I suddenly wanted to slap a really gnarly set of construction plans on him and say, "Oh, well, you shouldn't have any trouble with these, then."

But of course I didn't have any handy, only a stack of index cards on which I was still trying to jot down five or six questions before the general session reconvened at any moment, so I just laughed again, and said something else I don't remember, and then somebody else walked in and Cocky took his leave. "See you tomorrow!" he said.

Oh no! My ironclad virtue is under attack! But everything will be all right, because I have the Bubbly Bitching Nonsmoker to look out for me.

*Not his actual name

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Monday, July 23, 2007

No Heckling. Period.

Last week I was browsing through MS Office Online to find a certificate of appreciation for the guest speakers at our conference this week.

They have customizable form letters, too, in case you're not sure what to say. Imagine my wonderment and delight when the first one I opened included a canned paragraph apologizing for the heckling. Does Microsoft have all their bases covered, or what?!*

Speaking of MS, let me pause to clarify, here, for the males among you, that PMS stands for "pre-menstrual syndrome." It's a bout of mild** hormonally-induced moodiness that hits, oh, about a week before a woman's period. So women aren't PMSing when they're actually on the rag. That would really be MSing, or as some women*** euphemistically put it, "Bill Gates is paying a visit."

We've been working on this conference for months. I used to be a corporate meeting planner, so from my perspective it seems like a lot more effort has gone into the planning - considering we aren't working with an outside venue, or caterers, or AV staff, or hotel, or extraneous dinners or entertainment - than is strictly necessary. We have a few classrooms at work reserved; the AV equipment we need is all in there; the attendees are on their own for meals, lodging, and travel; and our section director has bought coffee for everyone. What's to plan?

Of course, as a meeting planner, I was never part of the proceedings, whereas in this case I did have to come up with a presentation on one of our work processes that I'll be giving in front of about 75 people. Luckily, PMS hasn't yet convinced me that I'll suck. Then again, I attended the dry runs of everybody else's presentations, many of which were, well, dry. I tried to make mine interesting. Considering that the whole thing, including my speaker notes which I never meant anyone else to see,**** got burned to the DVD that's getting handed out to all the attendees, I may have been more successful than I intended.

So I'm up on Wednesday morning, if you want to come see me wax rhapsodic about what I do at work. But you better not heckle me, or Bill Gates will kick your ass.

*If you don't count Vista
**Your mileage may vary
****"Welcome. I am your shiny new minute order goddess. Fear not, mortals."

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Sunday, July 22, 2007


Hey. Do you ever look around you and imagine that the you of three, or five, or ten or however many years ago is looking out through your eyes, wondering at the present? I've done this for as long as I can remember. I don't know if it's a mechanism for getting perspective on life, or just daydreaming. Perhaps I'm insane.

Today I was sitting on the front steps and looking over the yard and the street with my Corpus eyes. It's hilly! We must not be in Corpus anymore. Standing up and gazing down the length of the block, I can see the street signs at the intersection and instantly realize exactly where I am. Travis Heights! Not only am I out of Corpus, I'm living in Travis Heights!

Well, this is good news.

Sometimes I look with first-day perspective on the friendships I now have at work. Or sometimes me-as-a-new-mommy looks out and is amazed at how much the kids have grown, only not so much when Katie's been watching reality TV all damn day.

Because, you know, I only do this for things I consider to be improvements over the past. I never look at something I'm unhappy with and imagine my younger self saying, "Well, this totally blows." Apparently I'm trying to impress myself.

So am I a freak? Just wondering.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rainy Day

What better way to spend a rainy day than wandering around the neighborhood with a camera?

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Friday, July 20, 2007

On-the-Job Tips for Security Guards

1. The proper way to greet an employee of the company you are "guarding" is "Hi," "Hello," "Good morning/afternoon," "Can I help you," or something else along those lines. It is never "Wow."

2. When discussing a business matter with an employee of the company, you should make eye contact with that person. On most humans, eyes are located slightly above and to either side of the nose. Some allowance might be made for the fact that you are dealing with a state government employee, but not that much.

3. A little flirtation at work is fun, and makes the day go by faster. But all participants have to be willing participants. Flirtation is not something you get to inflict on strangers who are squirming uncomfortably and trying to rush through their business in order to effect a quick escape.

4. Saying "You have really pretty eyes" does not fulfill the abovementioned requirements for making eye contact.

5. Adding "ma'am" at the end doesn't make it respectful, either.

6. When someone you are dealing with laughs uneasily, the key word is always "uneasily." No exceptions.

Are these guidelines, or are they not, so simple and logical that even a complete dipshit could understand them? See, I know my stuff. This is probably why I didn't get that HR training position I applied for.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Alien Resources

HR policy dictates we have to hire the applicant with the highest level of qualification, without regard for how grotesquely overqualified this person might be; without regard for how much more s/he earned at previous jobs than we're able to offer; without regard for whether the hiring supervisor believes the applicant would be a good fit for the position. Qualifications are scored according to pre-set criteria, and the highest score gets the job offer. End of story.

The new guy, whom my supervisor didn't really want to hire, started 11 workdays ago. He gave notice yesterday. Today, perhaps suffering pangs of conscience, he brought doughnuts.

Did you ever see that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Troi gets knocked up by a passing ball of light?

Let me be a little more specific, because I think that might have happened in more than one episode. Frequent impregnation by unknown life forms is one of the hallmarks of a good science fiction program. The show never really delved into any of the other issues that might arise from copious amounts of promiscuous, unprotected space sex, but I imagine Dr. Crusher had a hell of a pharmacy on board, if you catch my drift.

In this particular episode, Troi goes through the entire pregnancy and gives birth in a matter of days.* The baby is walking and talking within hours, and only a day or two later, the child announces sadly that he must now return to his ball-of-light origins, but will never forget his humanoid mommy.

The new guy situation is exactly like that, only without prosthetic foreheads.

ST:TNG was an ideal model for the modern corporate workplace, with its neutral beige cubicle decor, its ergonomic swivel chairs, and its tastefully subdued, never flickery fluorescent lighting. Sure, the ship was partially staffed by nonhumans, but I find that's true in many of the places I've worked. On the other hand, the highly cooperative computer is like nothing I've ever seen. And, to judge by the high morale and the harmoniously working staff, the Enterprise must have had a well-organized, sensitive and effective HR department.

I'll buy faster-than-light travel, but come on, get real.

*The show also never touched on the issue of stretch marks. I suspect the writers were men.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Do You Speak Opera?

"Quanto?" ("Okay, you vicious, power-mad sleazebag, how much do I have to fork over?")

"Quanto?" ("What do you mean, how much? I don't know what you're talking about. Nice tits, by the way. Mua ha ha ha ha.")

"Il prezzo!" ("Don't play dumb with me! How much do I have to bribe you not to have my lover killed, you evil, corrupt pervert I'd rather do off-Broadway than go to bed with, even though your menacing charm and your dark, intense musical motif actually make you extremely sexy in a villainous way, and the tenor is probably gay anyhow.")

If there's one thing I've learned from opera, it's how to read between the lines.

Listening to opera is a good hobby to revisit when home alone. Not that I don't enjoy sharing it with other people, it's just that nobody else in my house likes it. So this weekend I sat and listened through my CDs of "Tosca," "Turandot," and "Don Giovanni." The intrigue! The passion! The despair! Grand opera still gives me goosebumps. I ate, slept and breathed this stuff when I was growing up. I used to wander around the house warbling "Caro Nome." I dreamed of being Mimi, Isolde, Carmen, Senta, Baby Doe.

My stepfather also had grand operatic aspirations, though he'd already found a calling as a computer jock: perhaps not as glamorous, but a better fit in that it doesn't involve so much singing. He used to wander around the house warbling "Che Gelida Manina" or "Nessun Dorma." But he'd generally stop when you covered your ears and dove under the furniture.

I really miss that aspect of my childhood. My whole family loved opera. And when I was little and we didn't have such newfangled devices as the VCR, or cable, it was a major occasion when the local PBS affiliate would air a performance: it would be simulcast on the radio and we'd all gather around and watch together and it was wonderful, just wonderful, except for my stepfather's singing.

My kids never caught the bug. It's sad. They could learn all the major European languages; they could study Italian for years. They could even grow up and move off to Florence or Venice or Milan. But they'll never understand what "E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma!" means.

It means, "Who's your mama, BIATCH!"


Saturday, July 14, 2007


When I was in Alabama last October, I stopped at a little coffeehouse with free wi-fi in Decatur. I had the distinct impression I was the first person ever to fire up a computer in there. The barista, who might have been the owner, seemed so excited. "Stay as long as you like!" she exclaimed. "Ooh, what a cute computer! I've never seen one like that before!"

I have the graphite one, and you have to admit it is kinda cute.

At Dominican Joe's in the heart of Austin, of course, it's a different story. The place is pretty full, and almost everybody in here has a computer. About half of the ones I can see are newer iBooks and MacBooks. I'm a little self-conscious of mine: the left shift key has given out completely, and my D came off a couple of nights ago. The C is sticking a little bit. It doesn't play DVDs or even burn CDs. It doesn't have enough memory to be able to stream video at all. And now the battery won't charge up any further than 10 percent. I'm seriously beginning to consider gluing whimsical objects to it.

I only rode my bike down here because I'm marooned at home with no internet and no car. Horrible! Or of course I do have a car, but it's a little short on tires just at the moment, and therefore is not really driveable no matter how many whimsical objects it's festooned with.

Thank God for living in Austin.


Friday, July 13, 2007

The Tao of Now

Anything could happen, and very likely will. And even if it won't, how do you know? Can you predict the future? Of course not. You're just some mortal schlub, trying to muddle through day-to-day existence in a way that (1) won't hurt anybody* and (2) will be enough fun to make life worth living. So just try not to be caught unawares.

This is what's called a Philosophy, unless it's just called a personality disorder; but quite frankly I've never been able to tell the difference.

Currently I'm sitting on the front steps awaiting the arrival of the least philosophical person I've ever known, my ex-mother-in-law. She's bringing my son back from an extended visit, and, God help us! she wants to Talk.

If I only spoke Croatian, and she only spoke Klingon, the communication gap couldn't be wider. There's no hope whatsoever of achieving anything by talking. I've been sitting here trying to figure out if she even begins to realize this; though I think she's probably not on a level to realize that any school of thought might exist more transcendent than that which produced the pop-psychology book her insanely controlling daughter-in-law gave her for Christmas, to help her be less controlling. After all, if she were, we might actually be able to Talk.

Not that I lay any particular claim to sanity, myself. It's just that I'm pretty sure that whatever else is wrong with me, I'm not very stupid.

And her real goal is not my son's well-being, though I'm sure she thinks it is. Her real goal is to have Influence, to be Important, to Matter. Well - yeah. I think that's most people's goal. We have friends we do genuinely care about, but those friendships ring hollow if we don't think our friends care about us. We fall in love, but do we really want our loved one to be happy? How much of love is pure vanity: we want to be indispensable to someone? We want someone not to be able to get by without us.

Viciously, once we start being a vast suck on the lives of the people we need the most, the only ways we can find to make ourselves more indispensable are the very ways that will make those people wish more that they could be rid of us. The buzzword is (or, ten years ago, was) "codependency." Make somebody need you so they won't be able to get away; then you can suck just as badly as you like. They'll resent the hell out of you, but they can't leave.

Perhaps if I were a stronger person I would have simply responded to ex-MIL's request for "the Talk," "No thanks, that's okay, thanks very much anyway." She'd have a conniption, but it's not the conniption I'm so frantic to avoid. It's the self-righteous belief she would carry away that I obviously Just Don't Care - not about her, which, well, why should I? - but about my son. Calling me a lousy mother probably hits me in my very weakest spot. Because I don't really think I am much good.

And with her, "the Talk" puts me in the position of defending something I personally find indefensible. But I can't get into that.

I need a better personality disorder. I'm on the porch with citronella torches glowing and cicadas chorusing and Prokofiev wafting out through the open screen door. The light is still bright, and the air is warm. She could show up in five minutes or never. Personally, I'd just like to stay right where I am at this exact moment. Philosophy isn't working for me. I'm not ready.

*Assuming you're not an asshole, of course.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Severe Tire Damage

This happened while I was doing 70 down I-35 today.

Lucky, lucky, lucky me! It was a back tire, so I didn't lose control of the car; plus traffic was light and I was able to get immediately over onto the shoulder. Plus it was on the passenger side, away from oncoming 18-wheelers.

Ironically, Robbie and I were on our way back to work from his mechanic, where he'd just dropped off his car. Lucky, lucky, lucky me to have a big strong guy at hand!

Well, bigger and stronger than me, anyway. He struggled for a bit with the lug wrench. "Do you have any Stop-Leak?" he asked.

But he was eventually able to loosen the wheel and change the tire. I think tire dealers' strategy is to make sure you'll be killed in a roadside accident if you ever get a flat. That way you'll never buy tires anywhere else! Can you think of a better explanation for why they always machine-tighten the lug nuts all the way?

Lucky, lucky, lucky me that it happened only about a mile from my house so we could limp the car home, because by the time we got there, the spare looked like this.

Lucky, lucky, lucky me that I live walking distance from work!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You've Created a Monster

I put my resume on Monster.com a few months ago. Just for laughs - and so far it hasn't let me down.

Last week it sent me a job listing for an Army chaplain. I'm serious. I'm still scratching my head over what possible criteria I might have filled in that made Monster think I'd be a good fit for that one. What's next, a nun job? "Must be able to spend extended periods of time on your knees."

The real job is okay, if not stellar; but I get bored and start thinking more and more about the future. This is always a bad idea. The main problem with the future, as I see it, is that it invariably involves your own death. Yearly mammograms, too, if you're a girl. That's not even getting into the amount of dental work we've all got coming to us. Dear God! How is anybody ever supposed to look forward to anything?!

But even the best jobs tend to entail getting up at some ungodly hour in the morning, which is the main thing I'd like to get away from. Today I woke up from a terrifying nightmare where I was being mercilessly pursued by a naked, bald, muscular giant. I'd find something to hide under, but he'd knock it down. I hid in a closet, but the door wouldn't close all the way. Then, suddenly, it hit me. Naked? Muscular? Giant? And I'm running away, why?? The dream was taking a much more pleasant turn when my alarm clock went off: time to get up and go to work, where almost everyone inevitably wears clothes.

Not that I'm wishing otherwise. I guess I'm just hoping that someday, Monster.com will turn up a perfect job, where I can sleep in, and all the men are delicious (and some of them are even straight!), and the work is interesting and fulfilling, and the pay is great.

You can stop laughing now. Thanks.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Macs = Better Than People

When it's time for your Mac to go to sleep, all you have to do is pull the menu down from the pretty blue apple in the top left corner and select "Sleep." And it does. It sleeps, silent and peaceful, its power button slowly pulsing with a gentle glow. It stays asleep until you come and wake it up again.

Or until your cat Bingo, some hitherto unknown species of nocturnal bug up his butt, scrambles sideways into the room at 2am, leaps onto the keyboard, clatters your mouse and some photos and several CDs to the floor, and washes your bedroom in sudden humming light.

I need somebody to Ctrl-Alt-Delete me now.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Everybody's Got a Story

I have this neighbor - he lives on my street, just on the other side of the cross-street three houses down from me. I see him most mornings when I'm on the way to work. He's a small, wiry guy who runs with his dog.

He doesn't jog. He runs. Like hell. He runs, the dog in full turbo-blast mode ahead of him, as if the dog were dragging him along and it's all he can do to keep up. Yesterday he appeared completely unprepared for the exercise, as he was wearing sandals instead of running shoes. He waves when we pass each other, but doesn't speak - I should imagine he's a bit out of breath.

It can't be fun. Why does he do it?

Perhaps his girlfriend is a high-powered lawyer who puts in 80-hour workweeks and doesn't have time to walk her dog. When they started dating, he was a bit intimidated; so to impress her, he told her he loved animals (he actually can't stand them) and volunteered to walk her dog for her. It worked like a charm and he's now moved in, but at what a terrible cost! He must go out twice a day and run breathlessly for miles, tethered to that miserable dog, which appears to be some kind of cheetah mix. He waves to the people he passes just because he can't speak; but what he's really trying to say is "Help me... please... for the love of God, help!"

When he and his girlfriend met he weighed about 300 pounds.

This story can't end well, because, you know, he's already quite skinny. He's only going to get thinner. He has to eat vast quantities of calorie-rich food just to maintain as much weight as he does, but eventually the battle will be lost and he'll dwindle away altogether. Poor guy!

And his girlfriend, having wasted away the life of yet another victim, will sing her siren song over at the nearby state agency and pick out a new one. Oh no! Run away!

Of course I suppose there's an outside possibility that's not really his story. But I've never talked to him, so it'll have to do for now.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Little-Known Fact

Did you know that during the course of a single rainy June, ordinary, garden-variety mosquitoes can evolve to the point where they closely resemble Volkswagens?

Only more bloodthirsty, of course. Also maybe a bit faster.

Still I think this weather is perfect. The sky is dark and ominous, and it rumbles, softly but almost constantly, from every direction. Thunder is very erotic: it's wild, beautiful, and dangerous, but controlled. Unless you're actually being struck by lightning, of course, which I imagine is a fairly unsexy experience. Maybe just a little more enticing than being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

I just wish I could get a decent picture of the sky.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Could I Get a To-Go Box Please?

You've been to Hill's Cafe, right? Nice place. The food is good and it has an awesome patio. It's a great live music venue. And it's got loads of home-cooked South Austin-y charm.

We had lunch there today for my brother-in-law's birthday, and were seated at a large wooden table topped with glass. The wooden surface bore hundreds of touching little memorials scrawled in black ink: names, dates of birth and death, and tender messages. "I'll always love you." "I miss you so much." "Best dad ever." "Beloved daughter, sister, and friend." "Our angel in Heaven, we'll be together again someday." And about fifteen inches to my left was a winged heart, drawn by a childish hand, the word "Mommy" spelled clumsily within.

What are you going to do, call the manager and complain? "Excuse me, the suffering of my fellow man is putting me off my cheese grits. Could we get another table?" But I couldn't eat. I was too busy trying not to cry, and anyway it's hard to swallow with a lump the size of a golf ball in your throat.

So I highly recommend Hill's, but if I were you, I'd avoid being seated at the Dolorous Table of Untimely Death.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Three Cheers for the Yellow and Blue!

I remember when I first visited IKEA, almost seventeen years ago. It was the one in Potomac Mills, Maryland, and I went there with my mom, and we bought a crib for this kid's older brother. Do I have recessive genes or what?!

At the time, I appeared to be the only person in Texas to be aware of the existence of such a store. Now you can't drive halfway to Dallas without hitting one.

It's the perfect place to while away a rainy Fourth of July, or would be, if pretty much the entire population of central Texas didn't have exactly the same idea. It's still a cool store. I did not buy any more furniture, any potted plants, lavender-scented candles, kitchen gadgets, fabric, rugs, toys, heart-shaped pillows, mattresses, strings of leaf- and flower-shaped outdoor lights, powerstrips, vases, framed art, or anything else.

Until we got to the checkout counter, where they had umbrellas on display, for half price. And they're soooo big. And I have been suffering a bit from umbrella envy lately.

Now if the rain hadn't stopped, I'd be set.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Can't live with 'em, and divorcing your kids is generally frowned upon by society.

Stuck-up prigs! (Society, I mean, not teenagers, who frankly could benefit from being a little more stuck-up and a little less the way they normally are, which is not particularly stuck-up, not that teenagers can't from time to time be stuck-up, but they're generally more likely to be massively emotional, hormonal, and drama-laden, than with which being stuck-up is infinitely easier to deal, inasmuch as being stuck-up does not generally engage innocent bystanders, i.e. parents who have just gotten home from work and only wanted to check email and chill for a little bit, in full-blown screamfests, which are not, contrary to what reality TV may have led you to believe, fun.)

We're all better now and have had a nice talk and I still love Katie very much, but if everyone else would be so kind as to refrain from being mad at me for at least a couple of days, I'd really appreciate it.

And if somebody would pat me gently on the shoulder and perhaps say kind things like "there, there" and "poor baby," it would be just heavenly. Because - not always, of course, but sometimes - there's nothing else like having a teenager to make you really want your mommy.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Hello, I'm Up Here

The new guy started at work today: Bill 3.0, I suppose, since he fills the position originally opened when Bill 1.0 left back in November. Now Once Again Without Tits. Whether this constitutes an improvement is probably subjective.

I made a quick little welcome sign for him in PowerPoint before he arrived, and pinned it to his cube wall:

To his credit, not only did he not immediately quit, but he went on a full hour's afternoon break with us. He's off to a promising start.

Then I came home to find that Pam had tagged me as a Rockin' Girl Blogger! It's a wonderful compliment, but carries with it the daunting responsibility of identifying and tagging five more female bloggers (that's the kind with tits) who rock.

I realize I'm not supposed to tag Pam back, which is a pity as she does have a pretty rockin' blog. And I'm not really comfortable tagging people; but I'll go ahead and list a few chick blogs I particularly enjoy:

What the hell: Pam! For anyone who may not know this, Pam and I went to high school together, but didn't really become friends until long after graduation. The same goes for our friend Tammy, who doesn't have a blog but ought to. It's funny the things you can have in common with someone and never realize it; if Pam hadn't come to Houston to do graduate work, we might never have gotten to know each other. I'm very glad we did.

It's always fun reading Lauren's posts on Lost in Texas - and Fletch's, too, even if he doesn't have - you know. Lauren is funny and smart and insightful, not to mention very hip. They're leaving Austin, which is a pity.

Type A Mama is another good read, though with a little one in tow and another on the way, she doesn't post often. She blogs diversely on life in Austin, motherhood, Wal-Mart or world events and her posts are always interesting and informative.

Annie in Austin at The Transplantable Rose writes a beautiful, poetic garden blog with amazing photos. She sings and plays the piano and writes music, too! She's inspired me to try turning my hand to not killing plants. Not killing them, do you hear me?! Someday I'd like to have a garden like hers. Unfortunately, I don't think my honeysuckle will make it to see that day.

Oh, and Digby's got tits, had you heard?

The new guy, who doesn't, tells me he's a PowerPoint whiz. Which sounds like a challenge to me. I need to figure out a way to upload my animated creations to this blog, because then it would totally rock.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Stuck-Up Bitches

Via Lauren at Lost in Texas, here's a really interesting article on the phenomenon we all know and love as street harassment.

A lot of men really have no idea how much of this shit women have to put up with on a constant basis. It's not about being pretty, and it's not about looking provocative. Nor is it about being any particular age: I can pretty well remember that by the time I was ten years old, I knew to avoid walking near construction sites.

I find that now I'm more or less all grown up, harassment from strangers - unwelcome and unpleasant as it still is - doesn't get under my skin the way it did when I was younger. But the underlying attitudes are still enormously disturbing. For one thing, it's pretty much a constant fact of life for any young girl from around the time she hits puberty. You know that's gotta do some weird shit to your self-image. Even more troubling, to me at least, is the fact that it almost never happens to a woman in the company of a man. Which is why so many men are mostly unaware how much of this is going on.

I puzzle over the reason behind this. A woman alone, or in a group of women, is considered fair game. I suppose it would be considered too disrespectful to a fellow man to shout at a woman who may be his wife, girlfriend, or daughter. And the unconscious attitude beneath that would be, wouldn't it, that a woman unescorted by a male protector has forfeited her right to be treated respectfully?!

Not that hiding out of the public eye will spare you. I've gotten catcalled just walking across the front yard to retrieve the mail. And, though it's not as frequent now that employers are cracking down on it, any woman will still occasionally be sexually harassed by complete strangers at work.

The author of the article interviewed one of the harassers, who said his catcalls and suggetive remarks to strangers were a way to meet women, and referred to those who didn't welcome his attentions as "stuck-up bitches." His behavior is to flirtation what rape is to sex.

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