Sunday, November 30, 2008

Looking Up

You know how, right now, a couple of hours after sunset, the earthlit crescent moon, Venus, and Jupiter make a triangle low in the sky? Well, it looks pretty spectacular in San Marcos. Austin has too much light pollution. And if you are cool enough to know my sister Margie, you can view it from the playground of the Presbyterian day care center across the street from where she lives, with a glass of wine in your hand.

Margie lives with Grady, who's a really cool guy, and his nine-year-old daughter Cora, so I brought Anna down with me. The girls played "Life." I used to love that game - used to play it with my cousins; that, and Clue. We had special voices for each of the characters, which was a lot more fun than the actual game itself.

They also have a great big black dog named Chicken.

It was a nice end to a long weekend, just visiting; though the dinner conversation was a little odd. Grady reminisced about how when he was growing up, there was a mirror above the toilet, placed at just the exact height where a male person, standing up to go pee, can keep a close eye on the proceedings. He doesn't think the placement was deliberate, and the person who put the mirror there, not being of the male persuasion, probably didn't realize that it worked out quite that way. "Actually it was pretty cool," he said. "I guess for the female equivalent you'd have to have the inside of the toilet lined with mirrors..."

It reminded me of some words of wisdom I'd gotten from Margie just a couple of hours earlier. They have a neighbor, she said, who's kind of creepy and is always asking her if she has a sister who looks just like her for him to date. (She doesn't, in fact; we look nothing alike.) Once he invited her in to look at some of his artwork, which was hanging - surprise! - in his bedroom. There were mirrors on the ceiling.

Guys with mirrored bedroom ceilings are always bad news, girls, always. No exceptions.

Now go outside and look at the stars!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


How things have changed since I was growing up, and I'd swear it hasn't been that long.

Katie and I have been sitting around watching TV tonight. It's been that kind of weekend: cleaning like mad, getting the place spic-and-span, just for ourselves. We just had a small turkey roast, some canned sweet potatoes, jellied cranberry, microwave stuffing (yarf!) and apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday was much more satisfactory. We biked to HEB and got potatoes and little filets mignons and had quite a tasty repast. Today we walked to South Congress and did a spot of shopping. Tonight, we biked over to Fran's for cheeseburgers. Much girl talk has ensued; boys, you don't want to know; you'd be terrified, even those of you who have plenty of experience with the wimmens. All I can really tell you is that, if a guy I'm (ahem!) closely entwined with is suddenly deeply engrossed in the TV watching Transformers cartoons, sixteen-year-old Beth is a lot more understanding than sixteen-year-old Katie would be, so I'd invest in a time machine if I were you.

But our closest moment of girl bonding happened when this song came on in an iPod commercial:

"Oh my God," said Katie, "that's totally how it is with guys for me."

I am several years older, which is why I get to buy wine. "That's how it always is with guys," I said, "for all women. Always."

So we immediately paid $0.99 to download the song from iTunes. Oh my gosh, you guys. When I was Katie's age, well, for one thing, no commercial would ever play any song you actually wanted to own, are you effing kidding me?! Do you even remember "Ban with cashmere"?! But if, let's say hypothetically, a commercial did play something good, you'd have to wait till the next day and go to the record store at the mall and buy a CD for $18.99 that contained the song you wanted, along with about thirteen other songs you really didn't.

The times, they are a changing. Now if we could only do something about men.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Clean It Like You Mean It

Think - Hey! I'm talking to you, here - think about how much more orderly your life would be if you were the kind of person who thought, as your eyes swept the kitchen (oh and as a corollary, this would also not be the only sweeping your kitchen ever received), "Hey. That faucet could be shinier!"

You aren't, are you? That's okay, I'm not either. My mother-in-law is. She cleans reflexively, like coughing. She's just sort of in the kitchen or the living room and she's talking or watching TV and her body is moving of its own volition and everything is getting clean, or cleaner, I should say, because it never actually was dirty to begin with. She raised seven children that way. Those genes turned out to be recessive.

I'm not like that either, unfortunately, because I have my mother's extremly untidy genes, which are dominant. Go figure! But about once a year I get a serious bug up my butt and clean the place like a madwoman. I mean, I wouldn't go opening the cabinets if I were you, because come on. There's, like, roach legs and shit in there, and nobody's going to clean that up. But the floors are swept and mopped, the plumbing and the furniture are shining, the appliances are free of spatters, the upholstery on the sofa is scrubbed, and the whole house gives off an aroma remarkably unreminiscent of cat pee. You should be impressed! God knows I am.

What gets you in a cleaning frame of mind? There's always the panicked sensation that company's coming and, if they see how you normally live, not only will they not like you any more, but the health department might have to get involved. But that's involuntary cleaning, and yields mediocre results at best. What is it, then, if there is such a thing, that makes you really want to clean, so that you cheerfully scrub the finger smudges off from the kitchen cabinet doors, or wipe congealed chicken juice out of the bottom of the refrigerator, or actually notice such normally unquestioned clutter as - just an example here - an eyeliner pencil and a combination lock, squirreled away behind the coffeemaker?

Me, I have to have the place to myself. It becomes, only once a year or so, all my own and only mine; so I plug my iPod into the stereo, and invite friends over (who apparently know better and don't come), and, for a brief moment in time, I channel my mother-in-law: I'm just hangin', just dancing around the house listening to my music, and somehow there are a broom and dustpan and mop and brush and sponge and cloth and a bottle of spray cleaner in my hands, and things get put away, and everything gets unbelievably clean. It's a miracle!

I'm sure there's some perfectly reasonable scientific explanation. And I bet if a team of scientists studied the phenomenon, they'd be able to produce a pharmaceutical that would replicate the effect and turn me, and you, and anyone else into a domestic goddess like my mother-in-law. Would you take it? I know it's a bit Stepford-esque. But think how shiny your kitchen faucet would be.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oh Yeah, and Happy Thanksgiving Too

Damn it! I'm a day late.

And now you probably aren't even hungry.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lipstick on a Pig

Earlier this week, I was forced (for reasons I won't go into) to order a pair of pants from Land's End Business. You wouldn't think it would be that difficult; but you go to their website, and place your order, and input the size and the quantity, and then do you know what? They want your inseam!

I don't know that. I'm really more of a skirt person, but when I do buy pants, I generally find that whatever I'm buying, right off the rack, reaches the floor. Unless they're capris. So I have no earthly idea what my inseam is, and the whole enterprise ended with me, hopping off-balance around the room, holding the end of a wildly flailing metal hardware-store tape measure up to my crotch and swearing profusely. My kids will be telling their therapist about this someday.

Okay, so I will go into the reasons. I have to deal with the public these days; not on a regular basis, only once in a while when the people whose actual job it is to do this have to go to lunch or something, but it's a damn sight more than I used to. And that means I have to have a uniform.

After only a few days of dealing with the public - in one-hour increments - I think I understand why. The public consists largely of middle-aged men who will hit on you unless you're wearing something that would make a nun grumble. They do this while their wives are four feet away, riffling through the brochures on what there is to see and do in Yoakum. Earlier this week, one asked to order a beer. These men have no shame.

But, believe it or not, my job is not only about unwanted male attention and con-artist motivational speakers lately. This week, we selected a professional voice talent to give recorded information over our toll-free line. The minus side of this is that I won't get to wax rhapsodic about where the wildflowers are anymore; but on the plus side, I got to sit in on four hours of conference calls, listening to our contact recite more than 2,200 place names in the state of Texas and making sure that we have the correct pronunciation for each and every one.

This is what I went to school for.

Well, except of course that I never graduated. But no matter! I'm using the degree I would have gotten! Because after our calls, I came away with a list of about 75 place names we still weren't sure about, and researched several myself, and divvied up the rest among those people whose lunch hours I show up in my as-yet-undelivered pants to cover; and by the end of the day I was able to fire off a document with expert diacritical markings indicating the exact, correct pronunciation of each of those place names.

So overall I am pretty pleased with the work I did today, even though it meant that nothing I was actually supposed to work on today got done. Oh well. Monday is another day. Maybe by then my pants will come in.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shake It All About

Boy, does this bring back memories.

Katie and I headed up to Playland Skate Center today. It's been 22 years (I counted) since the last time I roller-skated; but once we got going, it came back pretty quickly. I think I might like to try it on a Friday or Saturday night, when there aren't quite so many small children peppered about the rink: weaving erratically, suddenly zooming across your path to the exit, skating in the wrong direction, or just flinging themselves prone directly in front of you, in the most annoying and inconsiderate fashion. Do you mind?! I'm trying to remain upright, here!

Sitting down for a breather, Katie and I marveled at one of the older skaters - probably not all that much older than me, actually; except that while I eventually abandoned the roller rink to go to school and start a career and raise a family, he seems to have stayed there. He was an amazing skater, flying, dancing and spinning, bounding through the air. "Oh my God," said Katie, her eyes following him as he zoomed past, "that is so cool. In kind of a sad way."

But why, really? I've been thinking of all the things I loved to do as a kid that grown-ups don't do; yet those things aren't really any less fun. When's the last time you climbed around one of those big elaborate wooden playscapes at the park? Or swung on the swings, or jumped on a trampoline? And I haven't played putt-putt since I was like 12. But it's fun!!! Why do we hardly ever do this stuff?

The roller rink, meanwhile, has clearly seen better days; the cement floor is chipped and rough in spots, and has at least four different shades of ice-white paint in different areas. The carpeting is ancient and grimy, some of the letters are falling off the outdoor sign, and there's a Ms. Pac-Man machine in the corner. And don't even get me started on the music: they didn't play "Bette Davis Eyes" even once. (I counted.)

Still, we had fun; my shins hurt from using unaccustomed muscles, but I think we'll be back, and hopefully bring reinforcements. I really need somebody to sweep the little kids out of my way before somebody gets hurt, because that somebody will probably be me.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Snake Oil Wrestling

"Watch this video demo," said my boss, handing me a slip of paper with a URL scrawled on it, "and tell me what you think."

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help me express my objections.

Before you click on the link, I should warn you that there is a brief testimonial at the beginning of the clip from a co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul." I'd fast-forward through that if I were you. No one who bears any part of the blame for that can possibly say anything worth listening to.

Here are a few of the interesting points I noted:

1. The audience, at least the front part of it, is blocked out. I'm assuming that means someone near the front refused permission to appear in the video.
2. If you extend your arm out, thumbs down, the way this dude insists his volunteers do, and have someone push down on it, you'll notice that it's much weaker than if you turn it palm upward.
3. He always demonstrates his subject's strength first - never begins by making his "weakening" gesture.
4. (If you can make it this far into the video) The timing of the little testimonial box that pops up, covering up the shot of the audience trying his trick on each other, seems rather convenient.
5. The video is too small and low-resolution to be able to tell if there's a difference in the way he grips the wrist.
6. He addresses skepticism from the audience, but only on two specific points: "Do you think it's that I'm not pushing down as hard the second time?" "Do you think it's just the power of suggestion?"

Take a look at the products sold on his site, too. And I think it's interesting that he offers the service of helping you to design an effective website. Ummm...

Here you go. Have fun! And tell me what you think.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Making Sense of Safety

Today we received little desktop cards listing the “Five Keys to Safe Driving.” There’s a little picture of some car keys on a ring. Guess how many? Keys to safe driving! As in car keys!! Get it?!

The actual keys, however, make no sense at all.

1. Aim High in Steering®

What does this mean? And how exactly would you go about it? It might make sense in an airplane: throttle back, there’s a mountain at 12:00! And it’s already 11:59!

But it doesn’t seem applicable in any way I can think of to driving a car – in fact, I’m pretty sure that remaining earthbound is one of the central tenets of automobile safety.

2. Get the Big Picture®

Consider the global economy. It’s not in very good shape, is it? And the automotive industry, struggling under declining sales, is a significant factor. Well, I don’t want to point fingers or anything, but the fact is that it’s entirely your fault. Look at you, all taking care of your car, changing your oil and rotating your tires and driving responsibly. I bet you even wax the damn thing.

A car will last 100K, 200K miles or even more when properly cared for. What are you trying to pull? Redline it, wear the engine out, maybe put a little sugar in the tank sometimes. Try to get in a wreck now and again. It’s the least you can do.

3. Keep Your Eyes Moving®

What, randomly? When I was learning to drive, the rule was to keep your eyes on the road. Then again, a lot has changed since the 80’s, and nobody can say that’s a bad thing. Bad is the new good, brown is the new black, 50 is the new 30; maybe dangerous is the new safe, I don’t know. So look! There’s a bird! Ooh! Was that a sale sign back there? Hey! There’s Jennifer! Here, let me find a better song on my iPod.

4. Leave Yourself An Out®

Since you stopped maintaining it, you never know when your car might suddenly overheat and explode. So always drive with your seatbelt unfastened and the door slightly ajar. Safety first!

The same principle also applies to relationships.

5. Make Sure They See You®

We can’t all drive the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, but you could try weaving in and out of traffic, making random sudden stops for no reason, and other attention-getting moves to ensure that other drivers give you a wide berth. Either that or dress like Liberace.

Anyway, these “Five Keys to Safe Driving” were brought to us by our Occupational Safety group, and – not to suggest that I’m prone to hanging on to a grudge – these are the same folks who wouldn’t let me have the snake guy at our safety presentation last December. So I suppose it’s in character for them to distribute safety tips that make no sense at all outside the context of whatever materials they were pulled from.

“Make Sure They See You.” Not if I see them first!

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Scrooge Says

It's about that time of year again, where I get to bitch about how people are acting like it's Christmas when it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. Can you wait?? Can you wait a few lousy weeks??? Because, the thing is, I went to some serious trouble last April to take my Christmas lights down. I'd really like to wait as long as possible to put them up again.

Nonetheless, it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, inasmuch as I had to bring in all the plants today in anticipation of the first possible killing frost tonight.

There are kind of a lot of plants.

These are just the ones I put in that end of the living room. There's another big plant at the other side, two hanging plants in the kitchen, several more in the utility room, and sheets draped over the ones that live outside - much to the crazed befuddlement of the cats, I might add, who don't seem to know if they're supposed to pounce, sit on the sheets, crawl underneath, or just yarf on the kitchen table. This is going to be a long winter.

Walgreen's is all decked out with Christmas stuff today. I may stop shopping there. I go solely for primping supplies, but they've phased out the cheapo brands of makeup, and now only carry such big names as Revlon, Maybelline, Cover Girl, L'Oreal, and Almay. I myself am partial to NYC, which they have now stopped carrying. NYC has perfectly good mascara that you can get for $1.99. Maybelline wants twelve bucks for the stuff. Is there a difference? Not as far as I can tell. It's black goo you smear on your eyelashes; why drop a lot of money on it?

Especially when you consider that, back when I was in college, mascara came in all kinds of fun colors like hot pink, electric blue, navy, teal green, and purple. Do you see what this means? You could actually color-coordinate your eyelashes to your outfit. How cool is that?? And none of it ever cost more than a buck-fifty, either. Nowadays it comes in four shades: brown, brown-black, black, and very black. And it costs a fortune.

They have also, I don't mean to gripe too much but this is really a serious problem here in my world, discontinued my shade of powder makeup base at Cover Girl. They have Ivory, which is too pale. They have Classic Ivory, which is dark enough but has no pink in it. They have Creamy Natural, which has pink tones, but is too dark. And they have Natural Ivory, which is exactly right. Guess which one they discontinued?

Before anybody starts complaining about the female problems enumerated in this post, I'd like to point out that Bill Gates paid me a particularly rough visit this week and I have plenty of choice things to say on the subject, and you know what? I haven't.

Not going on about intensely personal feminine problems on my blog: there's my gift to you. Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bloody Hell

There's no better way to lighten a lousy mood than by doing a good deed, and as it happens, they had a blood drive at work today. I always participate in these, always. I'm a regular: the phlebotomists know me by name. And I know the answers to all the crack-whore questions by heart!*

The guy who came in right after me got a T-shirt, because he was a walk-in. I'm a regular. I had an appointment. How come regulars don't get a T-shirt?

I'm so regular, I don't get faint or even light-headed after donating, and you can drain me in five minutes flat. BP is 106/80, pulse rate 64, temperature 97.8 degrees, iron level 46. I don't mean to brag or anything, but when you get right down to it, I'm perfect.

Except for this leprosy thing on my arm. Do you know, leprosy is not on the list of disqualifiers for being a blood donor? You'd think it would be, wouldn't you? Maybe it doesn't need to be because when they stick you, your arm falls off, and then you just get deferred. That would make sense. Anyway, my doctor said this was eczema, but that was months ago, it hasn't gotten any better, the steroid cream has run out, and I'm going with leprosy.

There was a new guy at the blood drive today. "Which arm do you normally use?" he asked.

"Normally my right," I said, "but it's got this weird rash right on the inside of the elbow and I don't know if you could find the vein," and I showed him.

He cringed. "Let's try your left," he said.

It turns out there's a reason they always use my right arm: it's because the left one does not actually have any veins in it. The poor phlebotomist had me squeeze the little rubber football about 50 times, finally swabbing a hesitant iodine line well outside of the range of where I would normally expect a human vein to be. He turned away to prepare the needle, turned back, and frowned. "Squeeze some more," he said. "Try rotating your wrist for me."

I did, but I was a little nervous at this point. "If you don't want to look," he added, reassuringly, "nobody's making you."

SON of a BITCH! that needle HURT going in! I dislike pain on general principles, but I can handle the brief sting that you normally get when the needle is inserted. But this one really hurt, and it kept right on really hurting, after it had been placed. And kept on. I was trying not to whimper, but not very successfully.

"DAMN it," he said, after a few moments, "I screwed up. I just pulled the needle out by mistake."

I whimpered something, but he had no intention of sticking me again. He called someone else over, stripping off his gloves in annoyance. "I'm done," he said, stalking off. "I need to stop now before I really hurt somebody."

"Oh no," I thought, and called after him, "Please don't feel bad! It's okay!" But he just walked away.

His coworker put gloves on, wiped the iodine off my arm and bandaged me. "You feeling all right?" he asked.

"I'm fine," I said, "it wasn't so bad."

"Let's turn you around and try the other arm," he said, not seeming too taken aback by my leprotic condition. "We can try going in right through here..."

And at this point the remainder of my need to do a good deed by my fellow man evaporated. "Can I just leave?"

I didn't get a T-shirt. I didn't get a snack, not even those little bite-sized cheesy Ritz things. I am in such a lousy mood.


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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Place Where I'd Quite Like To Be

Some days you feel pretty good, and some days just totally suck ruptured whale spleen.

I'm running away to Finland.

Here are a few salient facts-at-a-glance:

yksi. The Finnish language is not Indo-European. It's a member of the Finno-Ugric group of languages.
kaksi. Here's how!
kolme. I was going to put this list together without doing any research whatsoever, but curiosity got the better of me. Rats.
neljä. Reindeer: Yes
viisi. Lutefisk: Avoidable
kuusi. The Finnish name for Finland is "Suomi"
seitsemän. Not a good place to wear thongs in November (either kind)
kahdeksan. Any culture that gave us the word "sauna" is okay by me! Unless it's the hot-rocks kind that makes you get that weird metallic taste in the back of your nose. It probably is.

What the hell, it's got to be better than today was. Who's with me?


Monday, November 10, 2008

Incitement to Riot

For reasons that might not be immediately obvious to anyone who has never worked there, my old job always brings toilet paper to mind.

That isn't really where you want it, though.

Unlike 7-year-old Anna, a grown, professional adult who finds herself stranded in an unstocked stall can't bellow at the top of her lungs, "TOIIIIIIIIIILET PAAAAAAAAAPERRRRRR!!!!!!!" until Mommy comes rushing to the rescue. It's a female problem, really. Boys only use toilet paper on special occasions. You know what I mean. Like the night before the big game against your high school football rivals.

Girls, on the other hand - and this is really the only area I can acknowledge any superiority on the part of the male sex - are pretty dependent on having the stuff around at all times. My sophomore year of high school, I remember, the (female) student government president was elected based almost entirely on a campaign promise to make sure that the restrooms would be stocked with toilet paper at all times. If she'd been able to follow through (apparently it just wasn't in the budget), it would have saved us all a lot of wasted hours. And they wonder why boys do better in school!

This afternoon I drove across town to meet with another division about putting the registration form for our big annual conference online. A couple of my fellow refugees from the old job work at that campus now. I figured I'd get to hang out, which was something; otherwise, I wasn't sure why we needed to meet in person - the task is simple enough - but when I arrived, the guy told me that actually it needs to be coordinated through someone else, so he can't really do anything with my information anyway. My friends from the old job, meanwhile, took vacation today to make a long weekend, since we get tomorrow off.

"Well," I thought, climbing back into the car for a return trip about twice as long as my meeting had been, "that was totally pointless."

I should break in tomorrow and T.P. their office, is what I should do.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Confessions (Part Whatever)

I was in Walgreen's this morning, and they were playing this.

OMG. Do you have any idea how much I loved this song when I was a freshman in college? In my defense I can only say that I never saw this video, never saw the movie "Karate Kid," and until about two minutes ago had no idea what Peter Cetera's hair looked like.

Go on, ostracize me. Tell me you didn't have a few questionable moments in the 80s.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ensmallening the World

While visiting area attractions yesterday, we got shown around the state park by a slow-spoken, courtly, tall drink of water in a cowboy hat. "He's cute!!!" said our CVB contact the first time he was out of earshot, "I can't believe I've never met him before!"

She knows everybody in town, but he went on to explain that he spends most of his time with the buffalo and Longhorn herds in the park.

"When a man says he spends more time with buffaloes than with people," I warned her later, "a woman should probably listen."

He also told us a story, in his pleasant, laconic drawl, of how he was trimming one of the park's trees when he accidentally knocked down a limb with a bees' nest, and got stung 300 times, and now he can't eat shellfish anymore.

"Oh my God!" we exclaimed. "How long were you in the hospital?!"

"I just went home and laid down for a couple days, didn't go to the hospital," he answered offhandedly, then paused for thought.

"Reckon maybe I shoulda."

While I was checking out of my hotel this morning, the world nudged my elbow with another fond reminder. The desk clerk - an extraordinarily friendly, helpful, good-natured woman - mentioned how chilly the weather had just turned, but she knew it would because of how strong the wind had been yesterday. The hardest things she's had to get used to about living in West Texas are the wind, she said - that, and the dust.

"Where did you live before?" I asked her.

"I'm from New York, in the Niagara Falls area," she said.

"No way!" I exclaimed, "my dad's family is from around there - he grew up in Sodus."

"Oh, I know where Sodus is!" she said. "I lived in a little town nobody around here has ever heard of - it's called Lockport."

"No way!!!" I said, "my grandparents lived in Lockport! I used to go up there every Christmas and every summer! They lived in an old farmhouse on Slayton Settlement Road!"

"Oh! I know where Slayton Settlement Road is!!"

Then we talked about sweet corn and apple orchards and rolling countryside and barns and home-raised honey and the Erie Canal until we were both completely homesick, and I had to leave because I was keeping my boss and the CVB people waiting.

I guess it ups the odds a bit that my parents moved around a lot while I was growing up. Last week I asked a married couple touring the Capitol building where they were visiting from, and they told me Huntsville, Alabama.

"No way!!!!" I said, "I went to high school in Madison!!!"

"You went to Bob Jones?!" they said.

Probably this sort of thing doesn't happen nearly so often to cattle ranchers.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Next Day

There are things you'll see in San Angelo that you just wouldn't see in Austin. Yesterday we saw a heavy, elderly man, dressed in overalls and a cowboy hat, riding his bike down the street with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

And the McCain-Palin signs, of course, are everywhere. This is a strange place to be the day after the election. Not so much strange that it was overwhelmingly pro-McCain - this is one of those parts of Texas, perhaps you've heard of them, that isn't Austin - but strange to me that people I'm meeting for the first time today - people I'm meeting in a professional capacity, who are in a position to want to impress me - freely open the conversation with, "Lord, it's awful about the election, can you believe it?"

Smile, and change the subject: I'm at work.

It is going to be difficult - very difficult; but I believe Obama was a great deal more sincere (as well as significantly more articulate) in his acceptance speech last night, when he expressed his intention to serve all the people, not just those who had supported him, than a certain other uniter-not-a-divider was.

Of course the problem (as I see it anyway) with those on the far right is that they tend to feel they are being trampled upon if you stop them from sticking their noses in other people's business. I'm pro-choice, but will allow the debate on abortion rights: if you really believe human life is sacred and begins at conception, defending the helpless does not necessarily constitute meddling. (However, allowing exceptions for rape or incest is hypocritical.) But attempting to regulate others' private behavior, or dictating religion, or telling perfect strangers who they get to marry, is just flat out dumb-stupid wrong - and I'm really tired of the kind of people who scream "persecution" because most everyone else would just like them to mind their own damn business.

Last night represents the first time I've gotten a candidate I wanted, actually. I voted for Dukakis when I was nineteen, but frankly wasn't all that excited about it. I voted for Clinton in 92 and 96, but with some disappointment that he had defeated Paul Tsongas in the primaries. As I recall, pundits at the time felt Tsongas was unelectable in part because of the foreign quality of his name. So I think this election also demonstrates a huge shift towards tolerance and sophistication on the part of the American people.

Now, if only the Electoral Fairy Godmother would sparkle in and issue Obama a magic wand to fix everything right up, we'd be completely set. But failing that, I'll settle for working and hoping for a change for the better.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Shock the Stoat

Me, I'm going to San Angelo today, so I early-voted a couple of weeks ago.

You, if you have not yet, might heed words of wisdom from what once was frozen poultry.

Happy Election Day!


Monday, November 03, 2008

For External Use Only

One of the items I brought home from last week's fam trip was a 5-ounce bar of handcrafted orange vanilla goat's-milk soap. I haven't put it in the bathroom because I don't want anybody else using it. I might take it to San Angelo with me. But actually I'm troubled by the faint stirrings of a temptation to eat the stuff, because doesn't it sound scrumptious? It sure smells good.

What's with this trend of increasingly edible-sounding personal hygiene products? One of the stops we made on our trip was at a spa - not for treatment, more's the pity, but simply to tour the facilities. They gave us a menu of the services they offer. Many of them involve food in some capacity - massaged into your skin, lathered on your hair, cupped over your eyelids; exfoliating, defoliating, moisturizing, replenishing, rejuvenating, and God-only-knows what else. Just don't eat it.

Men aren't big spa frequenters, are they?

I'm off to San Angelo tomorrow after lunchtime, and won't be back till late Thursday. I'm bringing a bottle of champagne with me - either to celebrate the results of the election, or else to drown my sorrows; we'll find out soon, won't we?

If things get really bad I'm eating the soap.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween Pictures

Here, my baby sister Jessica demonstrates the importance, which can never be overemphasized, of well-thought-out accessorizing.

Isn't she clever? She does seem to be in violation of the thigh-highs-and-stilettos rule; but then again she's in Connecticut, where I don't think you can even have legs between September and April.

And here's my cousin Ivan:

This costume is so perfect for him. All the guys in my dad's family are definitely mild-mannered, easygoing and have a great sense of humor; but they're also very strong, principled, steady, and noble. So what could be more fitting than an exploration of the Clark Kent-Superman dichotomy? Not only is it profound and thoughtful, you also don't have to muck about with the cape.

While we're posting pictures, look! My bromeliad is blooming!

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Chocolate for Breakfast

It's been a few years since I went out for Halloween, but apparently the current rule is that all adult female costumes have to incorporate thigh-high stockings and stiletto heels, whether or not this actually makes sense. Dorothy has a short blue-and-white checked dress with thigh-high white stockings and red stiletto heels. The little Bavarian maid has long blond braids, an off-the-shoulder blouse, a short, laced, ruffled dress, thigh-high stockings with bows at the top, and stiletto heels. The winged-fairy Devil has a short red-and-black dress, thigh-high fishnets and stiletto heels. Raggedy Ann has red yarn hair under a ruffled cap, a short blue dress, thigh-high red-and-white striped stockings, and stiletto-heeled Mary Janes. If you're Priscilla Presley, you can substitute white go-go boots for the stockings; but there was also a SpongeBob Square Pants at last night's party, and the way you could tell is that she had a SpongeBob T-shirt over her short skirt, thigh-high stockings and stiletto heels.

I must have been subconsciously aware of this requirement, but at least mine made contextual sense. My costume was a white button-down Oxford shirt open to the waist with a black lace bustier underneath, a necktie, a briefcase, a short skirt, black fishnet thigh-high stockings and stiletto-heeled black boots: I was a corporate whore.

I brought Katie to the party. She was a football player. In other words, she had pads and a jersey, black paint under her eyes, a helmet and a football tucked under her arm, a short skirt, thigh-high stockings and stiletto heels. Maybe she'll gain more of a sense of context as she gets older.

What I really wanted to be was a 70's roller-disco queen - much more original, in that it has Daisy Dukes with pantyhose and wheels. I had everything I needed for the costume, except the skates. Well, maybe next year.

We met up at the winged-fairy-Devil's house to get ready; and thank goodness we did, because the Devil immediately perceived the need for some judiciously applied glitter to my decolletege, without which I would hardly have been complete. Cheryl's Bitch had been planning to go as a fireman, but couldn't find any pants; so at the last minute, Katie and I found ourselves smearing green makeup all over his well-muscled chest and neck, back, stomach,shoulders, arms, and legs. Now, there's a family activity for you!

Halloween is lots of fun, only you have to watch how much of the spoils you eat for breakfast the next day, or you won't have the legs for it.

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