html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: April 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

What could go wrong?


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Why, why do I live so far away?

I was starting to despair of Los Osos. There has been news, but nothing worth telling you about. A board member of the Los Osos Community Services District had a guest editorial in the paper, but it didn’t sound like it was written by a raving nutcase. Some engineering firm was unfortunate enough to enter into a contract with them to evaluate potential sewer locations and designs; I look forward to reading that the senior partner who brought in that work is ‘no longer with the firm’. A judge threw out a local voter initiative forbidding sewers in downtown, on the grounds that it usurped authority that belongs to the CSD board. I was beginning to be afraid that reason had descended on Los Osos.

But it hasn’t! There is a public meeting of the Regional Water Quality Control Board this Friday. The RWQCB has been forced to reconsider their decision that all citizens of Los Osos pump their septic tanks every other month (enforcement orders will start with fifty randomly chosen people at a time) until a sewer is built. The anti-sewer people went to the Air Pollution Control Board, claiming that diesel emissions from the pump trucks would outweigh the benefits of septic tank pumping. The Air Pollution Control Board asked the RWQCB to include an analysis of diesel emissions in their decision Friday.

In today’s news, the Los Osos CSD president is “begging” the County Supervisor representing Los Osos to come to Friday’s meeting to show support. The Supervisor doesn’t want to. I guess she feels it was enough that she wrote to offer her help immediately after the new board was elected and was rebuffed. Or maybe she didn’t like the way anti-sewer activists have been coming to County Supervisor meetings for months to attack her personally. Could be her feelings were hurt when she had to request a sheriff’s escort to attend Los Osos CSD meetings, because anti-sewer activists would “follow her to her car, yelling”. People are so touchy.

It doesn’t look like any County Supervisors will be attending Friday’s meeting on behalf of the Los Osos CSD. They must not have been persuaded by the presentation showing that mandatory septic tank pumping will drive the people of Los Osos to homelessness*. Me, I would pay to attend that meeting. I would bring popcorn.

*I swear I don’t make this up.

(For your sake, dear reader, I am also keeping an eye on this situation. It shows some potential.)


You're welcome for going to yoga. Any time.

My friends are all athletes or hippies, so I always hear how one or another of them is “listening to my body”. Listening to your body seems to be a bad business. Their bodies say horrible things like “no more sugar” or “no more wheat” or “better take a break in the middle of tournament season”. I try to avoid the whole practice.

I know for sure that my body is a crappy conversationalist. I stopped listening to my body five or six years ago, when the constant whisper of “baby, baby, baby, baby” became a full volume roar. My body can tell I’m not listening, so in addition to shouting “baby” at me on the ten seconds, it makes babies smell good and look perfect and it makes my breasts hurt when I hear a baby cry. Honestly? I don’t need that. I’m doing what I can with the options I’ve got. Unless my body wants to bring something new to the table, like parthenogenesis, I don’t want to hear it any more. (Oh, and body? While we’re on the topic? I can’t change the past and I wouldn’t if I could. Telling me I shouldn’t have abused my joints doing years of taekwondo isn’t helpful or constructive.)

Still, a message got through recently. I was trying to decide what I wanted to eat, and I couldn’t decide between a spinach salad, or scrambled eggs with spinach, or spinach lasagna. This was a subtle, tricky code, but I went all Alan Turing on that shit and deciphered that maybe I wanted spinach. I was even willing to get interpretivist, figure that I was anemic again and take a vitamin. See, this is the type of exchange I would like to have with my body. Straightforward notification, easy remedy. No bad news about types of food. No new injuries. And lay off about the baby.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There are limits.

Yeah, well, maybe if you had saved it for marriage, you wouldn't have to be breaking into my house at 1:30am to eat cat food. Maybe if you hadn't given it away before you got a ring, or even a name from him, you wouldn't have to come in through the window, knocking things over, messing up my kitchen. I just know you are knocked up again. Didn't you learn anything from raising three kits by yourself last summer?

It's not that they weren't cute. They were adorable when I caught glimpses of them scurrying away. They were not so adorable when you brought them to my window ledge to growl at me! What's with that? You should be teaching them respect! I live here! I buy the cat food. Why would you ruin your chances with me by sneaking into my house and then growling?

I am not naturally hard-hearted. The last time a teenage mother showed up on my block, I took her in. She still lives with me. That's whose cat food you are eating. But I don't think the two of us are going to come to an arrangement like that. You have scary-ass claws, and although you are deceptively cute with your mask and ringtail, I know you are smarter than me and afraid of nothing.

I think there is room for compromise. I thought it was great when you ate all the maggots out of my compost pile. You are welcome to any kitchen scraps I put out there. Better you than an opossum. But don't come in my house. You can't have the cat food. And don't growl at me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No pressure.

You know what people never say to me? No one ever says “Oh honey. Don’t you worry your pretty little head ‘bout that. I’ll take care of it.” No one else ever says “I can’t see how a little filly like you could pull such a big load. I’ll get that; you set and look cute.” No, what people say to me is more along the lines of “Well, since you seem to have a handle on that, why don’t you take over?” Or, “Could you figure out what we need and bring it on Saturday? You did such a nice job last time, although this is a little more complicated.”

All that is why, once I have convinced a boy to ask me out*, I would really like him to plan the date. The question “Can I take you out?” is immediately followed by “What would you like to do?” and “Where would you like to eat?”. I appreciate that he is being considerate and would like to plan around my tastes. (I think boys also worry that I am too scared to do things like go to his house or go for a hike. Whatever. I could take him.) But at the end of a date planned to my specs, all I know is how well he follows directions. I would much rather find out what he likes to do, have him show me a tasty place to eat.

Gentlemen, I know that sounds hard, but think of it as a test. Not a big scary test that you could fail, but a gentle test of our compatibility. If you plan a boring evening, that probably means you are boring in bed. Now, me, I’m exciting and fun and adventurous in bed, so that means we wouldn’t be a good fit. We would both be happier with someone more like ourselves. I could have hours and hours of raunchy, blissful sex with a fun person; you and your honey could lie next to each other, asking “But what do you want to do?” See how that works out for everyone? See how you can't go wrong?

*By begging on the Internets.

(Guys, please. Plan the date. The restaurant doesn’t have to be expensive or famous; show that you can find good ethnic food. Know your city well enough that you can think of something neat to do. I would be happy to see a view, or play a game, or do something you love. If you are good company, I’ll be just as happy to talk with you the whole time. I can take myself to anything I can think of. I want to know what you come up with. When it is my turn, I'll take you somewhere good.)


Monday, April 24, 2006

I would totally send plagues and locusts.

I’m the most mellow, easygoing person you know. I don’t take things personal; I start with the most generous interpretation of other people’s motives I can find and I top that off with the benefit of doubt. I walk away from people doing annoying things with a grin and a head shake, on the grounds that life is too short for drama. In my entire life, I may have been in one or two arguments with raised voices, but I haven’t been in four or five. I would remember.

It takes extraordinary provocation to get me mad, but when I am finally angry, it is forever. When my ex and ex-best friend told me, they were instantly expelled from my life. A week later I called Sean, bewildered and hurt. “Sean,” I said, “I don’t understand. There are people who think I should forgive them.” He laughed and said, “Oh no, Meggie. You’ll never do that. You’re Old Testament.” He’s right. I am.

The only other person I’m angry at is Laura, from sixth grade. Margie, Tracy and I can all tell exactly the same story. Each of our best friends from childhood through fifth grade decided to be popular in sixth grade and started climbing by turning on us. I had no idea it was coming; by the time she was done I was untouchable. After a couple months I gave up hope that anyone in my class would look at me or talk to me. I just read all the time. I didn’t know this then, but Mom told me later that my beautiful, popular sister used to cry after school because kids were so mean to me.

I went to nerd schools after that. Junior high gradually got better; nerd high school was great. But Laura cost me two miserable years and she did it as part of a deliberate plan. Tracy got an email this weekend from the girl who was mean to her; she thought hard and then responded graciously. Not me. I wouldn’t. I maybe think of Laura once a year. When I do, though, I hope that bitch is having a fucking awful life.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

End of an era.

I can’t dare my baby brother to do things any more. Last year he put his hand in the maggots and licked the sand crab for a dollar (each). He wasn’t going to jump in the unheated pool for a dollar at Christmas, but his mom kicked in another two dollars and that was enough. I really think he would have picked up the road kill for a dollar this morning.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

I am NOT the one who taught them "I smell bacon".

My half sister and brother were born when I was in college, which means they’ll be always be babies to me. I was appalled when my sister was about to start middle school. I went to a junior high, seventh through ninth grade. I didn’t want her to start a new school in sixth grade; that’s just too little.

So the summer before she started middle school I pulled her aside. “Baby girl,” I asked, “do you want to go to sixth grade next year, or do you want us to run from the law?” I told her I wasn’t entirely sure what running from the law would be like, but it would probably involve gritty motels in the Southwest and drinking coffee in diners. Then we went out to the driveway to practice. I would shout “cop”, and she would duck under the dashboard. We called each other aliases, like “Meggie” for Megan, and “Beautiful” or “Perfect” for her.

She decided not to run from the law after all. Her friends were going to middle school and she thought she was ready. She was; she handled it gracefully. However, next year she goes to high school. This time, she says she wants to run from the law for a year. I told her I would pick her up in August. The timing is good. I’ll have worked for more than a year, which is a nice thing to be able to add to your résumé. And my car is about to die, which I think is another requirement of running from the law. I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll be in LA this weekend to see them. I can’t wait. I’ve been missing them a lot. See you Monday!


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dress with a low cut front, or dress with a low cut back?

I don’t usually know how I am going to react to new people in a social situation. Sometimes I can’t find any purchase and I will get quieter and quieter as the evening wears on, until new people think of me as that dull girl. Sometimes, though, I’ll show up and freakin’ own the place. Weddings especially can go either way, but if the group seems friendly, I’ll start a game I learned from my friend’s brother.

The rules are simple: I offer a binary choice and everyone must choose. Both choices are of equal quality, either optimally good or awful. I try to start gently, questions like ‘mountains or beachs’ and ‘hot salty fat or cold sweet fat’. By the time I get to ‘Daisy Duke or Princess Leia’, the crowd should be warmed up. At ‘cheerleader or librarian’ the whole thing heads straight to the gutter and doesn’t come back. People will tell you anything.

I have a few questions that I think are telling, but my favorite is for straight men. I like to look them in the eye and ask ‘trip to the DMV, or blowjob from a man?’ Most men will commit to their choice immediately, but then I go after the ones who would rather go to the DMV. In that case, the source of the blowjob is behind a screen, and there is a fifty-fifty chance that it is a man. There are always a lot of questions after that, so I have to explain that the screen is horizontal, that you will find out afterward whether it was a man or a woman, and that you do not have an appointment at the DMV. If there are still holdouts, I’ll change the percentages until we find out where the threshold is.

Last night at Ali’s party, I ran into variations I’ve never heard in the years I’ve been playing this game. One man was seriously considering his options, and asked me whether he still had to go to the DMV after he was done with the blowjob. That would change his answer, he said, because he would rather not have that chore hanging over him. But I lost control of the game when I was explaining that of course the man or woman under the screen would be super hot. Some freak shouted “OR MONKEY!” Or monkey?! Man, woman or smokin’ hot monkey?! They all went with monkey, though. It was the end of the game, but the start of the party.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

That's right. Long AND fluttery.

I got this today, from my running partner Ali.

please consider joining me & some other people this evening to celebrate the 24th anniversary of my birth. I realize this is very last-minute, but i would love to see your pretty ass this evening & feed you delicious bread dipped in herbed olive oil and then hold your hand as we waltz our way to the kasbah lounge where i can put my legs across your lap and look deep into your eyes as i exhale white billows of water-filtered tobaco smoke into sensuous rings around your um, clavicles?

thinking of your long, fluttery eyelashes,

Every last one of you, listen up. If you are not sending me invitations like this, I am skipping your lame get-together to go running with her. I don't know why she calls me Peanut, but I do know she gets mad if I call anyone else Sugar.


You are my hero! I'll totally pay you back when I can.

Oh, honey, don't be like that. You know I can't bear it when you're mad at me. Seriously, you're like the most important person in the world to me. You're like, my best friend. That's why I tell you everything. You're the only person I can tell about all those guys. I feel like everyone else would call me a slut. But I know that you will still be there for me. Like that time, when I had to move, and you were the only person who came over to help me? If it were anyone else, I would be so embarassed when we moved the mattress and we found those scarves. But you just looked at them, kinda stared and sighed, and then you carried that really heavy box downstairs. Man, I was so tired that night, so I really appreciated that backrub. And then, you started to say something, but I totally fell asleep. That's 'cause I trust you sooo much. You're like my brother or something.

I totally don't know why you don't have a girlfriend. You are really nice, and like, so reliable. You were talking to that one girl at that party. You know, when you had to drive me home because I was so drunk? What happened to her? She seemed nice, like you. It's like, you don't even want sex or something. Dude, we all need sex. I mean, that's why I bring those assholes home. God, we don't even talk (not that we could, 'cause our mouths are full, if you catch my drift). Seriously, we just fuck, and then drink a beer and maybe have a second go. That's why I need you to talk to. So I can tell you things, and you can tell me that I'm pretty, even if those dicks never call me afterward. One day I'm going to have a nice boyfriend, someone like you, only, you know, hotter.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Margie calls it P.O.R.A.

I first heard the phrase “after the revolution” in undergrad. I’ve been using it ever since, in sentences like “After the revolution, Daddy, driving that SUV is going to earn you some self-criticism.” I’m not part of a revolutionary cell or anything, but I’ve always been confident that the insurgents would recognize our shared ideals during the uprising. Since I am fantastic at logistics and organizing, I would naturally find my role during the aftermath and reorganization.

A couple years ago I began to be afraid that I would never see the revolution. I started to think that the apocalypse would come first. Between the natural disasters, famines, plagues and omens, there's a real possibility we’re in the end times. The apocalypse is shakier ground for me. I certainly don’t qualify for the raptures, with immediate transfer to heaven. The earthly fall-out is going to be grim, but again, a large base of friends and good organizing skills should stand me in good stead. If I can avoid getting hit by comets and stuff, I should be able to make it through until the earth dissolves into a fiery holocaust.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Peak Oil recently. Peak Oil is probably my favorite alternative, because I have misplaced fantasies about returning to an agrarian utopia. It would totally be like the 30’s, without the racism and sexism and with antibiotics. I would wear those flattering dresses, and get up at 8:30 to gather eggs from the chickens, and then maybe stop by the garden to pick vegetables for lunch and flowers for the porch table. We all would! With artisan cheeses!

Margie and I were talking about what lifestyles we can reasonably expect to earn. We both know that we can never expect to live as well as our parents; I think they lived through an extraordinarily wealthy time. So that’s not an option. “But,” said Margie, “I never thought we would skip back to our grandparents' quality of life.” The funny thing is that I live remarkably like I imagine my grandparents did. I live in the part of Sacramento built before cars, so I walk everywhere. My house is little by today’s standards, but families were raised in it. I have one stereo, no tv, and not a lot of appliances. I garden and eat local truck crops. My friends and I visit on each other’s porches. Peak Oil wouldn’t necessarily impair my standard of living much. The revolution would be gratifying but I hate to think of the violence. We mostly have to avoid the apocalypse.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Really very simple.

I just read Neil Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, about a subculture of men working on a mechanistic routine that guarantees sexual access to women. The book made me sad. I didn’t like the whole idea that men and women want different things. We are all just people inside. Except that, as women, we are so pretty, and smell so good, and we know secret things that men don't, and we roll the dice before we out.

You know about the dice, right? When women go out, we gather at someone’s house before, for that first gin and tonic, and to trade tight shirts and put on lipstick and brush each other’s hair, and to roll the dice. The dice tell us what to do that night. Whatever comes up for each girl, that decides her evening. Everything is on there: half-assed drunken blowjob, turning guys down nice, relentless cockteasing, laughing in guys’ faces, giving him the wrong number, taking some guy home for a spectacular fuck, deciding to just be friends, making out in the club, puking in the guy’s car, having a great conversation, fucking the asshole bartender instead….

When two girls get the same roll, then we flip a coin. Heads, we bring a guy home for an all-night threesome and pancake breakfast. Tails, we just look at him with disgust until we both turn away, whisper something and laugh.

That’s all there is to it. Every night we roll the dice again, to keep it different and fun.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Harder than math.

I went to irrigation school with farm boys who were determined to open the door for me. The first year was awkward. We would approach the door evenly and the boy would step in front of me to reach for it. I assumed he was in a hurry, so I would hang back to let him through and get ready to catch the door before it closed. Then we both waited, until he gestured, and I would accelerate from a stop, and not be sure whether I should hold the door for him once I was through. I was better at it the second year, and could hit the pause during the approach, to let him reach for the door so we could go through smoothly. The decision rule at school was easy (boy opens door), but I had to readjust with my urban friends (first person holds door for everyone).

Who should carry things is still hard for me. One possibility is that we are all equals here, so people should carry their own shit. But maybe the boy is stronger than I am. Surely heavy things should be matched to the stronger person, so that less work is done overall. But I am strong and capable and dependent on no one, which I could demonstrate by carrying my heavy stuff and his heavy stuff and maybe also an anvil. I haven’t figured out a decision rule based on gender, but I am entirely comfortable with my decision rule based on Chinese zodiac year. I live by a very literal interpretation of Chinese zodiac animals and will hand anything of mine to an Ox without a second thought. It is in an Ox’s nature to carry things, so it totally works out. The Ox gets to be a beast of burden and I get to have my hands free.

Who should pay for dinner is impenetrable. Since men don’t ask women on real dates, we might be ‘hanging out’. When I ‘hang out’ with my friends, we all pay for our own. But if it is only me and him, then it might be a date. I have heard that men pay for those. My mom taught me to accept gifts graciously and I would be happy to do that, but then do I pay next time? That would be fine because we are all equals here. But what if we aren’t all equals here; what if the man is destitute, like a homeless person or a graduate student? I mean, no graduate student should have to pay for an employed person’s evening. Even though I am the cheapest date ever (vegetarian, no beer), that’s like, half a student’s monthly budget.

At the end of dinner I fall silent, wondering if I should reach for my wallet to show that I don’t care if I pay for my dinner. Or is that gauche and am I signaling that I don’t mean for this to be a date? Should I even look at the bill? It is all so difficult. By the time I have guessed an answer I haven’t spoken in minutes and the guy is wondering why he ever thought I was charming. Good thing it isn’t a problem I have to solve often.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Just doing my duty.

My background in water engineering was man-made irrigation structures, not built and natural flood systems. I'm not in the Flood Management Division, but you can imagine that the whole department is pretty focused on floods these days. We talk about them a lot right now, so I'm just learning stuff that any real fluvial geomorphologist (so hot!) would already know.

The coolest thing I learned recently is that the entire bed of a river drops during a flood event. Of course we knew that the top water level rises, but sediment in the channel bottom is picked up as well. A sandy river bottom can drop by fifteen to twenty feet, and be restored to close to its original profile as high flows recede.

I also learned that most of the flood water in the Sacramento Valley is carried in bypasses. The mainstem only holds about twenty percent of flood waters, which still looks pretty dramatic when it is lapping at the bridge at M St.

This morning I went over to the Joint Operations Center* to get trained in flood response. The training isn't coming any too soon, seeing as how I am working all tonight and tomorrow night. I'll be in the operations section, so I guess my job is to choose and coordinate responses to breaches in the system, and, you know, to save your life!

If something goes wrong, saving your life will involve a flurry of activity, and decisions based on not enough information, and maps and paper everywhere. But things are more likely to go right, so saving your life will probably mean sitting in a cold building with half a dozen other people and nothing to do at three in the morning. I'll have books and Internets but no email, so if you have suggestions for interesting sites with enough content to keep me awake, that would be great.

*Flood fighters like me just call it the JOC.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Not there yet.

I live on a corner and have seen five car accidents in the several years I’ve been there. The fourth car accident was yesterday morning; no one was hurt. The fifth car accident was yesterday evening; it was more dramatic, but thankfully no one was hurt then either. Late last night, a very drunk driver hit a number of parked cars on P St, drove the length of my block on the sidewalk, then t-boned another car when he came out on Q St. A crowd gathered quickly, checking on the cars and calling cops. The drunk driver refused to get out of his car, which turned out to be a very good choice, because the crowd started getting ugly. About half a dozen men gathered round the car, shouting at him; the driver had no sympathy in the groups on the sidewalk either. I was scared for him by the time the cops came.

There was a brawl in our fall league. A bench-clearing, two-team brawl. Women on both teams running over to kick the men fighting on the ground. The more Ultimate you’ve played, the more this will shock you. I was responsible for beginners’ night, but the most I could manage during the brawl was to hover on the periphery, shouting pointlessly. (I was surprised at how quickly the brawl came to equilibrium on its own. The guys were grappling more than throwing punches, and all three groups of fighters were immobilized within three or four minutes. It started and ended fast.)

So here’s the thing. I want to be a mediator, entirely separate from this stuff. I want to fully participate in my community. I want to be brave in these situations and help direct them away from violence. Last night and last fall, I didn’t offer anything useful. I watched, and I wondered if maybe now I should say something, and kept thinking I was on the verge of going right over there to make it better. And here’s another thing. Groups of angry men are so scary. They are so big and they are shouting and they aren’t in their minds and that’s where I know how to reach people.

I need to do better. Some of it is skill, but some of it is acting the way I believe is right. I can learn the skills, but I am going to be disappointed in myself if being scared is all that stops me.

(I understand about common sense and staying out of fights. I don’t need comments saying that I did the right thing to stay out of danger. Before the danger, there must be a time when I can act and a way I can help.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fries and ice cream for dinner, y'all.

I was so excited for secret plans and they got even better when I guessed where we were going! Thanks, Chris! The secret plans were awfully fun all the way through half-time, when the Kings were up by 17. I was feeling kindof ambivalent about secret plans when we were tied at the end of the third. By the end of the game, I was strongly in favor of advance planning, planning for things like finding the open man and more agility on D. We sat there for a long time when the game ended, but the score didn't change. (Kings 110, Suns 123)

I was very impressed with Ron Artest. I hope he stays happy and level-headed here.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It could be anything.

Chris has been completely overwhelmed by moving and setting up his new house. For the past couple weeks, he’s been a crappy friend. He’s put off our plans if he didn’t stand me up entirely. He’ll stop by for dinner but take phone calls the entire time. He forgets to ask how I am or return my calls. I thought about yelling at him, but he will be his usual great self when he isn’t slammed by chores and logistics. He doesn’t need one more hassle. Still, I was on the verge of telling him that I wasn’t mad, but I also wasn’t gonna make plans with him until he could show up and be present. He could call me in three weeks when he is more settled.

But then, last week, he called me up. He started with, ‘I’ve been a crappy friend recently. What are you doing next Tuesday?’ I didn’t have anything, so he said ‘Do you want to know what you are doing next Tuesday, or do you want secret plans?’ SECRET PLANS?! Oh yeah I want secret plans!

I’ve been excited for secret plans for days. He says it isn’t a big deal but it will be fun. There is some possibility he will take me on the best date ever. The best date ever, for those of you who don’t know, is to go play catch at McKinley Park, then go out to the Vietnamese restaurant with the strange wood paneling and diner décor, and then end the evening at the good used-CD store. I waited a long time for a boy to magically know that he should take me on the best date ever, but when that didn’t happen, I started taking my friends on the best date ever.

So Chris knows about the best date ever, but I don’t think he would call me in advance to arrange that. Calling me in advance makes me think that it is specific to the day or date. I’ll find out this evening. Fun.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

A book list for real.

I read a lot. I read more than anyone I know. The librarians at my local branch all know me. So even though I try to be self-deprecating in my posts and I downplay stuff, I am not going to qualify my next statement at all. You should always always always come to me for book recommendations. I won't steer you wrong.

Well, that is, if you like the genres I like. I like plot and plenty of it. Deep brooding character studies? Oh fuck no. Stream of consciousness anything? Absolutely not. My own stream of consciousness is more than enough work for me. Stories that capture the ambivalence, isolation and futility of modern society? Never. I have zero tolerance for whining.

I loved every book on the list below. They all have lots of story and a strong viewpoint for the narrator and something worth thinking about after. They aren't in any particular order.

Queen of the South: A Mexican gangster’s bimbo has to flee to Spain, finds out she has a head for numbers and ends up one of the largest cocaine traffickers in the Mediterranean. The sex scenes are OK, but the part about how drugs are transported is very interesting. (Perez-Reverte)
Kings of Infinite Space: The protagonist fucks up his life so badly that he ends up working for a state agency. Can you imagine? And then strange things start happening. The sex scenes are surprisingly hot, considering how brief they are. (Hynes)
Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love: This book is all sexy all the time. You totally cannot borrow my copy, because you will bring it back all sticky. Cuban musicians and family in New York. (Hijuelos)
His Dark Materials: You should already know about this series. All three books are amazing and it is your own fault if you have heard of them but not yet read them. (Pullman)
Perfume: A man with an extraordinary sense of smell in 18th century France goes to excessive lengths to create the perfect perfume. If you can get the book on tape, the language is even better read aloud. (Suskind)

The Outlaw Sea: A book in three parts about how the ocean is essentially ungovernable. The middle part, about a ferry sinking, will keep you reading straight through the night. (Langeweische)
Show Me a Hero: I wrote about this book before, and how the City of Yonkers resisted integrated low-income housing. I didn’t tell you all the good parts, though. (Anand thought this book dragged in the second half.) (Belkin)
Ballad of the Whisky Robber: Very funny book about a Hungarian hockey goalie turned bank robber. (Rubinstein)
Wrecking Crew: The Really Bad News Griffith Park Pirates: My favorite movie in the world is that one where there is an underdog, and she trains really hard, and does her push-ups in slow motion, and then there is a competition, and he just barely qualifies for the world championship finals, so he does windsprints, and then the end is the real finals and you just don’t know what will happen? I love that movie. The only thing that could possibly make that movie better is if there is some sort of redemption-through-sports and they all kick their drug habits. So this book is pretty much perfect. The sex scenes are more disturbing than hot. (Albert)

Kid's books:
I started reading kid’s books again when I was in law school. I needed a break from the overwhelmingly dense language in casebooks. I’ve stayed with kid’s books even though I am done with all that, because they tend to be plot driven. Some of them are incredibly good.
Holes: This is one of my favorite books ever. It is spare and perfect. (Sachar)
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes: Chris Crutcher’s books always have two themes, athletics and abuse. Thankfully, I can’t say how accurate his writing on abuse is, but no one writes better about what it is like to train hard for a sport. Swimmers will especially like his books. Whale Talk is also good.
After: This book terrified me and I sat petrified on my porch couch for a long time when it was done. A high school slowly sinks into a totalitarian regime. (Prose)
Ella Enchanted: The movie looked horrific, from what I could see on the plane. But the book is clever and sharp, with a good strong girl protagonist who has a curse on her from birth. (Carson Levine)

I know lots of other good books, if you’ve already read these. I didn’t include the classics, like Their Eyes Were Watching God, because I figured you already knew about them. If you want to talk genres, I could also make recommendations for mystery and science fiction books.


But it says 'No More Furious Rages'...

I don’t really mind if the booklist in my Salon ad acts as a strong screen. I know from non-flirting interactions with people that I can’t be with anyone who doesn’t get my jokes. We’ll be chatting, and I’ll throw something out like “Yeah, but did you see what she was wearing?” And people who are really earnest and nice will just look at me. Then their face falls and they get a sad look in their eyes and they feel bad that the world has mean people like me in it. If I am lucky, they’ll scold me, so I can explain what I meant. Otherwise we’ll just be awkward and I remind myself to bring the mouth filter next time.

But the men who really worried me were the ones who thought my booklist in Salon was serious and still responded. I got a couple responses that said things like “I can see you’ve been through some hard times, and I have too, but the important thing is that you are working on getting better.” Holy shit. I always wonder how crazy women have relationships, but I figure the drama didn’t come out until after the guy was already smitten. These guys had every warning in the world, were safely behind their monitors, and took affirmative steps to go get the crazy. I didn’t answer their emails. They need to be taking care of heroin-addicted strippers; I can’t possibly bring enough trouble for them.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Yes, well, back to me.

The nice people over at Unfogged were making suggestions for me to find a man last week. I have to say that I was just the slightest bit miffed that they would suggest Internet dating to me. Did they think that I hadn't tried all the standard approaches before flashing my desperation to the whole Internets? It's not their fault; they don't know me. For the record, because this is the kind of girl I am, I want you all to know that I always worked on my problem sets before going to the TA.

Here's an old version of the ad I had up on Salon.

Last great book I read:

These books have all helped me soooo much!!!!!

Demanding the Princess Treatment
Why Men Keep Leaving
30 Cats is Not Too Many
How to Fight without Getting Violent
Use Your Words, Not Your Fists
Living with Massive Debt
Stop Hating Your Family
How to Love Again after the Perfect Man Leaves
Managing OCD
You Can Choose Not to Cheat
No More Furious Rages
The Rules

My most humbling moment:
Karaoke is very humbling for me.

Favorite on-screen sex scene:
I always blush and hide my eyes when sex scenes come on. It’s a pain in the ass, 'cause then I have to rewind or ask my friends what happened.

The celebrity I resemble the most:
I was once told I look like Elizabeth Taylor, which I didn’t really appreciate because I didn’t know at the time how lovely she used to be.

The best or worst lie I've ever told:

It’s not so much that I lie, but I always agree with anything anyone assumes about me.

"You two must be sisters." Must be.
"You go to Davis, are you an undergraduate?" Yep.
"You, do you work here?" Uh-huh.
"So you are the pilot" Yes, ma'am.

If I could be anywhere right now:
Sitting on my front porch on a warm Sacramento evening with a Delta breeze and my friends talking and laughing.

Five items I can't live without:
my local library branch
a 175 gram frisbee
tomatoes in summer
cats with loud motors
bluegrass/old-timey music

Fill in the blank: _____ is sexy; _____ is sexier.
talking dirty is sexy; talking about something you love is sexier

In my bedroom one will find...
Bright colors and plants and my favorite childhood books.

Why you should get to know me:
Most of my academic and athletic accomplishments are pretty butch, which means I have the leeway to be femme-y in my personal life. I bake, and cook, and dance around my house in an apron. Birds were forever landing on my shoulder and singing to me, but now my cats take care of that.

The crucial things I look for:
Nice, smart, funny.

Everything else is negotiable. But I am going to respond better if you are close to my age (24-year-olds, why do you write me?), and if you like the life you have built for yourself so far.

I've had the ad hidden for a while. The guys over on the men's side are the same ones who have been there since I've started looking. I am just not brave enough to leave my ad up for months at a time. And hell, I can embarass myself here now.


Friday, April 07, 2006

I'll save you!

When I got hired by the state, I didn't realize that stateworkers are considered emergency personnel and are required to respond to disasters. Of course I thought that was totally cool and wanted to be a firefighter, fighting forest fires with the heavy protective pants and a pulaski over my shoulder, but for some reason, just suspenders over a clingy black tank top that shows my sweaty, rippling triceps.

Round here though, we get called out for floods. The emergency response training happens in the fall, and I didn't get trained last fall, so I figured I missed my chance for this season. (I am told there is a daylong course in sandbags. Sweet.) But my boss just told me to call over to the Joint Operations Center; the department is "mobilizing personnel" against the possibility of a flood in the San Joaquin Valley this Sunday. The San Joaquin River is at capacity and reservoirs are dumping water as fast as they can to get ready for a weekend of rain.

I didn't get the training in hanging off rope ladders from helicopters to pull babies from a ferocious torrent, so it is more likely that I will be answering phones at the Batcave. Still, since I am an engineer, there is some slight chance I might be out surveying levees. Hope so.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

I was a little sad but I am over it.

Sacramento is not a grown-up city yet. It is still gangly and awkward and it worries a lot about how people see it. City planning comes up real often around here because the city is changing so conspicuously. The place is still small enough that everyone knows the influential planners, architects, policy-makers around town. Everyone has opinions about what they want Sacramento to look like.

Midtown could talk about nothing else when the new Safeway opened. It wasn’t the Safeway so much, but the chrome horse! Did you see the chrome horse? That was a silly question, because who could miss the giant, huge, shiny chrome horse? Took two weeks for us to talk about anything else. (Now, I am only an engineer. I don’t understand these fancy underlying meanings and multiple artistic interpretations. Perhaps if I had an advanced degree in art, I would know why the developer chose to erect a massive prancing stallion and a thrusting faux-water tower at the new Safeway.)

So people feel real involved in Sacramento’s development and public art. Most everyone immediately hated the Tsakapoulos’ proposed new skyscraper. Most people felt that we didn’t need a thirty story building topped by a full-scale replica of the Parthenon. Here's the artist's rendering for you.

I couldn’t believe the proposal, but right after I decided it wasn’t a joke, I kinda loved it. I would love to take people downtown and watch them realize that someone put a replica of the Parthenon on top of a local skyscraper. There was some small chance that it would have public access and we need more rooftop access around here. And why not have it look like the Parthenon? I was all for it.

The Tsakapoulos family announced today that they have changed plans in favor of a sleek new building with no Greek monuments on it. I suppose it was inevitable.

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Found lots of intelligence, though.

When I told Chris that people are talking about me on the Internets, he laughed really hard and said, "It's just like that screensaver that Dennis showed us, the one where you help find extraterrestrials from home." I can't believe that finding a love life for me is so difficult that it requires distributed processing.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

And we need a lead singer.

The show I went to on Monday night was David Grisman, playing the mandolin with his jazz quintet. I should keep quiet and let you assume that I am a terribly cultured person who goes to jazz quintets all the time. But it was Roxie who told me David Grisman was playing, and I mostly went because I mistakenly thought it would be bluegrass.

I was raised on bluegrass and old-timey gospel music. My Dad was a college radio DJ during the folk revolution and loved bluegrass ever after. It was what my parents played around the house, both on the stereo and my Dad’s mandolin. By the time I got to high school I had found KROQ, but growing up I thought it was normal for nominally Jewish kids living in Los Angeles to know hundreds of Baptist hymns.

No one was more surprised than I was when O Brother became popular. I had gone way into the closet with my tastes in bluegrass music. In college, if I was homesick I might listen quietly behind closed doors, but before that movie came out my friends had zero patience for bluegrass. I still don’t expect other people to be fans, so I was thrilled to find out that lots of the crowd from Ultimate were going to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass last year.

It was during Dolly Parton’s great, great show that we decided to form a bluegrass band. My Dad gave me a mandolin, which I keep meaning to learn to play. Rox and Barb would learn to play dueling banjos. I forget all the other instruments and people, but everyone loved the idea. By the time we stopped mentioning it to people, the band had at least fourteen or fifteen people, some playing instruments that aren’t really part of a strict bluegrass tradition.

I’ve been worried about our band for months now. When we first thought of it, we all figured that we would each learn to play our instruments, practice a few songs together, and then perform in Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2006. That seemed like an awfully high first step to me; I thought we should do some gigs first. Nothing could be more natural than for us to perform at the spring league party in June.

I realized we should perform at the spring league party back in December, and even then I thought the timing was awfully tight. There is just so much for a band to do before their first gig. At the very least we should learn to play instruments and practice in a garage. I thought we would just cover the usual four or five bluegrass songs, but Roxie tells me that we have too much integrity for that and we will perform our original pieces. I just want to know who is supposed to be writing those songs when no one is even working on the basics. By now I think we should be fighting amongst ourselves, sleeping amongst ourselves, talking about how to spend all the money we’re gonna have when the record company comes through and developing drug problems. We are desperately behind.

I refuse to call the first band meeting because I am already in charge of too much stuff. Someone else will have to take the initiative. I am sorry that the date for our first performance keeps slipping, because I am pretty sure that groupies don’t throw panties at you until after you have done a show. I am also sorry that the world is being denied a chance to hear our music. But I am not sorry enough to take on the job of managing all these irresponsible musicians.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Such a good week!

More Los Osos!

A new taxpayer group, led by the directors that were recalled for deciding to build a sewer, has asked the County to dissolve the Los Osos Community Services District and assume their public works functions. The county doesn't have much interest in using general fund money to cover "Los Osos' unknown financial liabilities, multiple lawsuits and its unfinished sewer project."

I wonder what it is like to live in Los Osos these days. Do you think the two sides glare at each other and eat in rival diners? For the county, this has to feel like being tied to the tracks and watching a train coming. Babysit these people? Clean up this mess? With our money?

For me, this is like watching car chases with space laser fights and helicopters crashing through plate glass windows. Only in yearlong slow motion, with no sound.


She knows what she likes.

Roxie and I went down to Stockton to catch a show last night. We met friends of ours for dinner first. We were joined by a friend of theirs who came out because she particularly likes the Thai restaurant we went to. Seems she really likes this Thai restaurant because she can get a bowl of rice, like she always does. I sortof heard the joking about her rice, but I didn't realize it was literal until she ordered a bowl of rice and nothing else.

She was excited and happy for her plain bowl of rice. She knew it was strange, but she was entirely sure she didn't want anything else. She declined tastes of our dishes, or spoonfuls of sauce to put on her rice. She had tried new things before, she said, but they just don't work out. I liked her certainty, and I liked her even better when she started singing to herself under her breath: Rice, rice. Rice is nice, doesn't need spice, I like it twice.

Her rice song reminded me of one of my favorite poems:

Cheese is stretchy
Cheese is nice
Cheese is the last
Temptation of mice.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Better than a telenovela.

It’s been all boys and sex and pottymouth around here the past few days, but how long can that hold people’s attention? It can’t even keep my attention, not compared to the new intrigue swirling around the Los Osos sewer project. Every few months there is a headline in the water news about Los Osos, like a surprise, beautiful, gift-wrapped present for me!

This story didn’t focus on how the Regional Water Quality Control Board is forcing homeowners to pump their septic tanks. This story was about a Superior Court decision that the Los Osos Community Services District can’t use money from a state sewer construction loan until it settles the claim against it from the contractors from their last attempt at a sewer system. Los Osos CSD had received the first $6.4M of a $135M low-interest loan and is using that to keep their legal department afloat.

They really need their legal department right now, because they are in the middle of fifteen separate lawsuits. Now, I have no idea how many lawsuits occupy a community services district during normal operations. While I imagine that lawsuits do come up for most districts, I bet they don’t include a suit against the state to keep the $135M low interest loan that was revoked when Los Osos announced they will not be building a sewer, a suit protesting $6.6M fines for water quality violations, and a suit against them by the two contractors they jilted last time.

I can’t help but think that at least one more suit is coming their way. They fired the woman who handles their finances for “behavior problems”. It is possible that in addition to everything else that is going wrong for the Los Osos CSD, they also have a nutjob bookkeeper who runs around the office doing crazy things. But it seems at least equally likely that they fired her for testifying that they still have $3M left of the original $6.4M dispersement which they could return to the state or use to start paying back contractors.

I told my boss how I’ve been following the Los Osos sewer project and he told me that Los Osos has been fighting these sewers for thirty years! This controversy will outlast his career. It could keep me company and entertain me for decades. I love it.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Thanks for all your comments!

Hey y’all. I started this blog as part of a decision to put myself out in the world more. Despite the current of thought that cute engineers have the world at their feet, I haven’t had a boyfriend* in years. The lessons from ‘being alone’ and ‘enjoying this time to myself’ are genuinely valuable, but I’ve long since exhausted their benefits. Sean and I were talking more seriously than I made it sound in that post; it is wrong for me to live in this great, beautiful, fun world without a romantic partner and I don’t know how to make it right.

So what are the possibilities? There aren’t that many.
1. I am unappealing in some way that I haven’t figured out.
2. I am not meeting the type of men that I am attracted to.
3. I am not meeting the type of men who are attracted to me.
4. A combination of these.

I don’t give too much credence to the first option. I think I am squarely within the date-able range. The economists have pointed out ways that I may be date-able but am signaling elsewise; I am definitely thinking hard about your suggestions.

The second option, that I am not meeting the type of men that I am attracted to, isn’t entirely true either. I meet bright, articulate, good men that I would enjoy dating all the time. Then I meet their wives, who are also sharp and fun and nice. I totally agree that I am not meeting enough of the single, hot geologists or demographers or electrical engineers that I yearn for.

The third option is that I don’t meet the type of men who are attracted to me. That happens a fair amount. If it were as easy as getting hookered-up, heading for a bar and picking up someone, I’d be doing that. But at bars I seem to meet mortgage broker recruiters, and they cut a girl no slack at all when she starts talking about furry blond lobsters who live in sulfur vents. You might think it would be hard to overcome natural advantages like a pretty face and huge rack, but I promise that it can be done.

So what are the solutions? Figure out if something is wrong in my presentation, which is what Sean and I were talking about when you joined the conversation. Meet more people, which I am trying to do around Sac and partially why I started the From the Archives. I am working on solving this and I am grateful for your help. Thanks, y’all.

Hey! Special treat tomorrow!

*Boyfriend?! What do you mean ‘boyfriend’? I thought we were just trying to get you laid!

Well, yeah, it is somewhat easier to get laid than it is to find a boyfriend. But even that isn’t as easy as you probably think. Men in their thirties are all of a sudden saying shit like “I’m trying to stop slutting around for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I think you’re plenty hot. It’s just… I’m not ready for a serious relationship, but I’m tired of not respecting myself.” You are fucking kidding me. I’m finally comfortable with whatever limited promiscuity I can scrounge for myself, and you just want to cuddle? Drop your fucking pants, Mr. Our Bodies, Our Selves.

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