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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

No mirror for your desk?

What does that mean, that the only picture in your office is your shirtless, muscular self holding a fish you caught? Perhaps those other pictures, the ones of your wife and baby, didn't come out.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I was fine with Adelman.

The rumor is that the Maloofs are going to choose John Whisenant, head coach for the Monarchs, for the open head coach position with the Kings. What little I know of the story leaves me disappointed. Whisenant apparently interviewed for the position; it makes me sad that Whisenant would take the job.

I myself am more of a Kings fan than a basketball fan. I didn’t like to watch basketball until I started playing a team sport and I still can’t work up much of an interest in games that don’t involve my boyfriends in purple. If people say basketball is different in men’s and women’s (and collegiate) games, I’ll defer to them. I haven’t watched enough of it to form a solid opinion. I know that Ultimate is played differently in women’s, mixed and open games, so I’ll believe it about basketball. I won’t think you’re sexist for liking one type over another. I will think it is bullshit if you think the amount of skill and training and competitiveness and spectacular playmaking is different in high level women’s and men’s games.

I would have hoped that the man who just coached the Monarchs to a national championship would be coaching women’s basketball because that is where he wants to be. I wish that he, of all people, would rather be working with women athletes to play women’s basketball because that’s the game he likes better. There must be lots of reasons for him to switch over to coaching the Kings (more money, more exposure, more support, all of which I wish didn’t apply -- or maybe just to experience a new facet of a sport he loves), so I can’t know his motives. I only hope that people in general, and Whisenant in particular, don’t feel like he is being promoted up to ‘real’ basketball.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I knew it!

Dependent variable: Will he call? (yes/no)
Independent variables:
He_Said: Did he say he would call? (yes/no)
Predate: Number of pre-date contacts (#)
Cost: Cost of date ($)
Bases: Level of intimacy during the date (bases)
Interest: His estimated interest level during the date (5 point Likert scale)


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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Looking! That's all. Just looking.

My sweet good cat disappeared last October. I assume he was hit by a car. I wanted to give him six months to come back before I got a kitten. Six months seems like a long time, but years ago, his brother disappeared on the Fourth of July and came back on November 11th. Walked right in the window, never said a word about where he’d been, stayed until January, then left for good. My ex-boyfriend said my cat left me for wet food and air conditioner, and did I want to make the same mistake with him? (But I still didn’t cook meat for him in my house. And gave away the air conditioner.)

I’ve been hesitant to get a kitten. I believe that when you are ready for a cat, the universe will send you one. I also believe that if you are older than thirty and have more than two cats, you’ll never get married. I have a girl cat already; if I get a kitten and my sweet good cat came back, that would be the end of my hopes. It is a dangerous risk. I haven’t completely decided, but at lunch Amy and I are walking over to the pound. Just to look.

Update: That was horrible. I am not going back until the day when I can walk out with a cat or kitten. Like maybe next Wednesday, after work.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

He seemed nice.

I read yesterday that Andrew Martinez died last weekend. I was sorry to hear it. I don’t think I was ever introduced to him, but I knew him on sight. At the time he was campaigning for on-campus nudity, I was living in a clothing optional co-op, so my housemates and I thought his stance on nudity was self-evidently natural and right and beautiful and why all the big deal anyway? Andrew Martinez was a good spokesperson for public nudity. He was beautiful and graceful, and for being such a big guy, tall, broad shouldered, he had an easy, relaxed presence. Naked or clothed, he never had the invasive or imposing feel that some large men carry.

Andrew’s public nudity really caught people’s attention; my friends who weren’t at Berkeley would often ask if I’d seen him. Seen him naked! On campus! It is possible they didn’t have much of a conceptualization of my living situation. The people who didn’t approve seemed to mostly have the same objection: how could you ever concentrate in class with a naked person next to you? They didn’t believe me, but I’ll tell you the same thing I always told them. Naked people are boring. Naked people are intensely interesting for a second or two when you check them out, and maybe marginally interesting for another five or six seconds, and then nothing changes and they are still naked and still looking the same and what is for lunch and did the professor say whether this would be on the test? Boring*. I promise.

Andrew died of suicide, in jail for serious crimes. In my few memories of him, he radiated health and kindness; I hate to think that he changed so much. I sincerely hope that those changes weren’t a result of the attention and costs of his campaign. I have no objection to public nudity, but it isn’t important enough to sacrifice him for. Rest in peace, Andrew.

*I have heard that naked people are not boring for as long as you are about to have sex with them, but I’ll have to take other people’s word for that.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

So much for sisterhood.

Of the ladies in the engineering girl gang, Margie is the most technical. I can follow most explanations, and Excel is my sweet, sweet lover; if you want a methodical, clean and accurate problem solution, Tracy’s your girl. But I think we all agree that Margie has the best engineering intuition and is the most hardcore of us. She brings that to everything she does, so when she decided to sell her house, we knew she would take a very rational approach.

Her rational approach led her to interview a few realtors, but she didn’t like the results of her search. She’s lesbian (which I don’t get at all, because she is totally pretty enough to get herself a man) and would rather hire a woman or even better, a lesbian. But the ones who came by hadn’t prepped or spoke in upspeak or apologized all the time. Margie showed up at lunch disgusted. "I didn’t just hire a man," she said. "I hired The Man. Fortyish WASP. I can’t believe my seller’s commission is going to The Man. But he was prepared and professional and the others weren’t."

"It might turn out for the best." I consoled her. "There are lots of big numbers involved in selling a house, and it’s important to get those right. You’ll want a man for that."

"I know!" said Tracy. "What if there are interest rates or present values? Those are complicated. Better to leave them to a man."

"You know what?" I asked, "If you have a man to do the hard numbers part, then you and your ladyfriend can focus on the important things, like whether the pillows match the paint colors when you show the house."

"Or if the flowers accent the pillows and the paint!"

"If you have a man realtor, he can tell you about the house you are looking at. You know, if anything that needs to be fixed."

"Better yet, he can just call your Daddy and tell him! Then your Daddy can call you and explain what the man-talk meant and what you should pay someone to fix your new house."

Tracy and I weren’t done, but Margie was. She made fun of some very personal things about me and Tracy, and threatened not to help us when we’re stuck on some difficult calculation. We stopped ‘cause we knew we’d need her help someday. Just like she needs a man to sell her house.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Something to give my life meaning.

The universe can be a vicious tease sometimes, holding the thing I most desperately crave just barely out of reach. I keep thinking that if I work hard enough, and study and read, and live an upright life, and show up, every week for more than a year, my diligence would finally be rewarded. Justice would be restored; I could take a free and easy breath, untainted by the longing so constant and familiar it has become my default state. I could hold in my hands the prize my team and I have been working towards for so long. If the universe weren’t taunting us, my team could win the porn at Pub Quiz.

Streets of London holds a Pub Quiz every Sunday night; thirty general knowledge questions on geography, film, music, literature, history. Teams of up to six people compete for third place. First place is two pitchers of their very good beer and two entrees of their mediocre food. Second place is two bottles of the mediocre house wine. But third place! Third place is porn, and the reason we are all there week after week.

My team is pretty good. Dave brings the music and geography. I’m fairly good at the current events and literature, abysmal at pop culture. David and Amanda get the films and anagrams. The other two teammates change from week to week. We’re usually among the better teams, but third place escapes us every time. One time, the quizmaster counted our answers wrong and we didn’t get Asian Sister Sluts. Last night we came in fourth. Fourth! Two questions stood between us and Jackin’ the Beanstalk. Cruelest of all was the night we came in second. We overshot the porn! You can see how the universe mocks our efforts.

When we finally do win the porn, we’re having a party. I made Dave promise that we would invite everyone over to watch on his big TV with the surround sound. We’ll warm up with the pity porn. Every week the quizmaster gives out porn to two teams that didn’t place; over the past year we’ve won the pity porn twice. Pity porn is better than no porn, of course, but it is hollow consolation. I have standards; I refuse to watch porn I didn’t earn. I live in faith that one day we will win the porn outright. We will keep trying, striving every Sunday to do our best. It will be a victory for all of us when we finally take third place. I’ll invite you to come share our triumph.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Did you get tickets?

Pretty Roxie got me back into weight lifting. I've gone exactly twice now, but that's all I need to walk around kissing my biceps and asking people if they know a vet for my sick, sick pythons.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Anthony, you're so strong and handsome. Poke this beehive!

It might help my cause with the wives of my Ultimate teammates if I weren’t telling their husbands to be less whipped and more of a man. They’re forever “checking in” and “asking the wife” and I say that’s just weak. I was coaching Anthony, for example. At a Saturday morning pick-up, I invited him and his wife to a dinner party that evening.

Anthony: “I’ll ask Jess when I get home and we’ll call you.”

Megan: “You’ll decide if you want to go and let Jess know your decision when you get home.”

Anthony: “That’s funny. No seriously, I think we can make it, but I’ll ask Jess.”

Megan: “You’ll tell Jess.”

Anthony: “Have you seen my wife? Beautiful, terrifying?”

Megan: “Yeah. Poised, long braid, smart. Makes great desserts…”

Anthony: “Could level forests with a glance...”

Megan: “Who’s the man here? Here, we’ll practice. Say after me, ‘Honey, we’re going to Megan’s tonight.’ ”

Anthony: “Honey, Megan invited us to dinner tonight.”

Megan: “Honey, I’ve decided. Dinner at Megan’s tonight.”

Anthony: “Honey, want to have dinner at Megan’s tonight? It’ll be all Ultimate players, but they promise not to talk about it.”

Megan: “Listen, wife. Make something to bring to dinner at Megan’s tonight.”

Anthony couldn’t even say that. He was laughing too hard at the very idea. I kept a straight face the whole time but inside I was laughing too. I was hoping I could get Anthony to go home and be forceful. Just the idea is funny. I would never fuck with Jessica. She’s awesome, entirely gracious, but if she turned to me with an angry voice or stern look, I would run away very fast. She helped him out that day. She called me to rsvp; said that Anthony informed her they were going to dinner at my house. No doubt.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Always platonic! I don't poach.

The comments about married men also having secret crushes reminded that every couple years or so, I end up as someone’s backup wife. Someone’s wife or girlfriend will be away on an extended trip, and since I always have food in the house and want to play, he’ll start dropping by. It starts slowly, but by the time her trip is nearly done, we’ll both just assume that he’ll be over every evening to eat or work out or hang out. The interaction is very strictly bounded, but within those bounds it can be intense. Then she comes back and it’s like it never happened.

I have mixed feelings about being a backup wife. I go along with it because it is fun. Between being in a long distance relationship forever and not having a boyfriend for years, I forget how easy life is when you have a playmate all the time. Two people to think of fun things to do and then do them is so much easier than coming up with something to do and calling around to find someone to do it with. Also, I crave a lot of attention in a relationship, and almost all the time I just don’t get it. Being someone’s focus for a month is like finding food or water or breath again. So I’ve known it was happening (again) and not prevented it.

But it isn’t a great situation for me. There’s the obvious, that it reminds me of what I’m missing and when it inevitably ends I’ll be on my own again. It requires some work to make sure that the balance is kept, that I don’t end up with a serious crush and that he doesn’t veer into inappropriate. I also worry that it threatens my place in my community. Lots of my friends are in couples, and I think couples think single women are destabilizing. Doing sports with mostly husbands gives me a lot of access to them, and I worry that if I weren’t above reproach, their wives would start to suggest that maybe they shouldn’t include me in their weekend trips and camps and teams. I can’t risk that.

That whole class of relationships is a dilemma; so far it has worked out OK. I wish I had better options than backup wife, though.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sepak takraw is pretty incredible too.

I wrote that big long post, but it was boring anyway. I just watched the Smooth E ad campaign from Thailand, which is so super great. In the first one, they filmed my conversation with Sean! Seriously, it’s like there were cameras in the room. In the second one, she turns all pretty and girlie. I haven’t gone to that kind of trouble yet, because I am still hoping to win gentlemen over with my huge vocabulary and my fine, fine prose. But now I understand the process! If I do find an mtf transexual to show me how to be a girl and track you down to the sepak takraw court, I fully expect you to walk by your soon-to-be ex-girlfriend to pick a pink rose for me. I can’t wait for part three, when we go everywhere with balloons. I would never faint at the end, though, unless maybe the girl clothes are constricting my breath. Part four went well too, but my guy friends don’t harbor secret crushes on me. Just my girl friends.

The ads reminded me that I saw the best music video of my life when I was in Thailand. There was a boy and he loved a girl. She was very pretty, but she was sad. She was sad because she watched her entire family, mother and father and adorable baby brothers die screaming in a house fire. We watched that with her, so we knew why she was sad. Because he loved her, he wanted to make her happy again. So he tried to do nice things for her, like bring her flowers or carry her books. But she just turned away, sadly and beautifully, every time. He was very much in love and kept trying. One day, while they were walking through the market, he bought them ice cream cones; she ate hers sadly. When he had only the cone left, he caught the eye of an adorable market urchin, and he held the cone to his head like a hat and the urchin giggled and he laughed too. He looked at the girl he loved, but she was turned away again.

Oh no! Had he reminded her of her adorable baby brothers, who burned to death as we watched? Had he no heart, sharing a lighthearted moment with the market urchin, while she was sad all the time? He reached to apologize to her and she turned back to him, smiling and holding her ice cream cone to her nose and crossing her eyes! She smiled at the urchin and the urchin laughed and the boy was so, so happy that she wasn’t sad anymore. Just as he smiled with joy and relief, she stepped off the curb and a truck SLAMMED INTO HER AND KILLED HER. They showed that five or six times, so we could be sure. I may never see anything so good again.


These are the people in my neighborhood.

The problem with being in a community garden, a garden meant to draw the neighbors together, a garden for all residents of Midtown, is that then one must deal with the people of the community. You might think a person could just go, garden, and mind her own business, but if, one day, by accident, a person made an offhand comment that perhaps there were better uses for empty plots and was the roster up to date and the county wasn’t going to like it if we don’t clear the pathways, she might find herself the manager of that community garden within the week. Because I haven’t lived an entirely wicked life, karma sent me Denise a few months later, who co-manages with even more ideas and energy. Because karma has not forgotten the debauchery of the hippie co-op, karma also sent me the Drunk Old Guy from Another Culture and the Overwrought Melodramatic Girl.

Drunk Old Guy showed up one day when we had a plot available; I had only just put him on the roster when Melodrama rushed over to tell me he had been expelled from another garden for groping people. Fuck. He’s ours now and he is ours all day long. Drunk Old Guy loves the garden. He’ll tell anyone it is the only place he has in the world. I believe him because he is there for almost all the daylight, drinking and smoking and leering. He never progressed to groping me but his leer is so heavy that I plant my tomatoes in screen formation between my plot and his. I can’t stop his gaze but we worked out an arrangement the day after I played in an all-night Ultimate tournament. That afternoon I was too messed up to do anything but go to my garden; all I wanted in the world was quiet, undemanding chores. He came rushing over to hug me and I had nothing left for civility. It must have been quite a glare, ‘cause he backed away scared and didn’t speak to me for months. Perfect.

Drunk Old Guy is annoying and Melodrama wallowed in it. Everything he did hurt her personally; his smoking damaged her tomatoes; his plants crowded her walkway; he gave her advice; he looked at her; he was always there. She complained to me in person, and I finally came home to an email from her. Drunk Old Guy made being at the garden unbearable – the garden should be a place of peace for her but he ruins it – because of him she doesn’t know if she has the strength to stay in her plot even though she loves it so – she is crying even as she types to me. I forwarded her email to Denise and started thinking about what to do.

I couldn’t think of a solution. Mediate between them? As if he were sober and she were reasonable? And how long would THAT last? Move one of them? All the plots were full. Scold him for staring at women? He’ll grovel, apologize and keep doing it. Nothing sounded promising. Denise called a day later and asked what I thought. I sort of went over ideas for a joint mediation and rules we could propose. I petered out and asked what she thought. “Well,” she said, “I think interpersonal relationships between gardeners aren’t our problem.”

I was astounded. My jaw dropped, like the cliché. It had never occurred to me that I didn’t have to solve a problem just because someone brought it to me. It was an epiphany. I loved it. I called Melodrama and told her we weren’t going to handle it. I ended up listening to her cry for an hour, but once she told me her grievances again she said she felt much better. She would talk to Drunk Old Guy herself.

I haven’t seen Melodrama this season and I think Drunk Old Guy won’t be at the garden much longer. Denise and I finally did have to confront him about a number of grievances. He agreed not to do them again, but I don’t think he can keep to his agreement. I’m not looking forward to evicting him, but I won’t miss him. I won’t have to. The neighborhood will bring some other crazy person to bloom in our garden.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I don't even wear small clothes.

A week ago, I cut four inches off my hair, making me distinctly not long-haired. Exactly two people noticed that my hair now falls above my shoulders. Really, y'all. If you aren't looking at my hair and you aren't making eye contact, what are you staring at?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Imaginary grooms don't have preferences.

I went to a wonderful wedding yesterday. The light was beautiful; the bride and groom well beloved; the favors were frisbees; the bride’s father brought his shotgun. You just don’t see that enough. After the toasts, the groom stood up to thank us for coming. He started to cry as he said how wonderful it was to have so many of the people he loved in one room.

I have always thought that must be one of the most amazing things about your wedding, so many people you love in one place. For the past few years I’ve thought the usual wedding format wastes that opportunity. I’m almost too superstitious to write about the wedding I want. But at this point there’s nothing to jinx, so I’ll tell you that if I do get to have a wedding, I am making the most of it. One evening with so many people I love around me is not nearly enough. Being too busy to visit with people is crap. I figure a wedding is the only time you have enough clout to summon everyone and I’m keeping them for the whole weekend.

I want everyone in one place and that’s pretty much all I care about. Flowers, colors, wedding party? Whatever. Games and chatting and yummy food? Absolutely. My friends and family are fun and brilliant and goofy; they would like each other. Presumably my groom’s friends are just as great, so I’ll want to spend more time with them. My secret fantasy, with the imaginary money, is to rent a bed and breakfast for the weekend and fill all the rooms with our guests. Ultimate in the mornings, picnics all the time, hanging out in the lobby, dancing at night -- I’ve got the weekend all planned. Somewhere in there, I’ll have to remember to fit in a twenty minute ceremony.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Very advanced.

My beautiful nephews are two years old and three months old. I was in the other room when baby Miles wailed sharply and then Isaac started to cry. I came in to find my sister comforting Miles and Isaac coming to me to be held. I scooped him up and asked him what happened. He choked back sobs and said "Miles got hurt." My mom skills are not fully developed, so I was still wondering why Isaac was crying when my sister said "Nice use of the passive voice there, bud."

At only two! Using the passive voice properly! To denote an agentless accident that somehow ended in his baby brother crying! To obscure the subject, who might otherwise be confused for a little boy in the very same room! Nicely done, sweet Isaac. Your grandfather will be so proud.


Friday, May 12, 2006

They should be glad I don't have a couch out there.

I really love plants. Plants are the first thing I see in any setting; they’re the markers in my mental maps. If I have been to your house once, I can almost certainly tell you how it is landscaped, but I could ride in your car for years and not be able to tell you the make, much less the model. It took me a long time to realize that telling people to turn at the really stunning tea tree didn’t convey good information to them.

I pay a lot of attention to houseplants, too. I believe you can gauge the quality of a couple’s relationship by their houseplants. Thriving houseplants, couple is happy. Couple is fighting, houseplants droop or die back. I figure most of that is that unhappy couples don’t have the love left to tend their plants, and some of that is that Plants Respond to the Energy Around Them.

The more you like plants, the less you like lawns. I gave up on my lawn four years ago. I don’t even dislike yardwork; I just resent putting effort into a lawn I don’t want. Right now the front yard is full of three foot tall flowering weeds. I was surprised by how much an untended lawn offended my male neighbors. Female neighbors don’t care. I’ve told them I would keep it neat if they ever ask me and they just laugh about it. Male neighbors started by making jokes about how I need a man around the house, then offered their gas-powered lawn mower, then mentioned that gardeners aren’t that expensive, then said that my lawn brings down property values for everyone, then stopped talking to me, then got me cited for blight. Twice*. Male neighbors can suck me.

For all that my yard looks like an untended mess, I know every plant in it. Some plants I planted in there; those I watch carefully. I live on a busy street and people steal my flowers all the time. They likely have the wrong idea; they think I don’t care because I’m not tending it. I do care; I know to the day which plants will be flowering and I notice the theft the instant I step out the door. The clear remedy, which I’ll apply as soon as I can afford it, is for me to rip out the lawn, put a low symbolic fence up, and plant lots and lots of beautiful plants for the insects and me.

*The blight citation isn’t a big deal. They give me a couple weeks to mow my lawn. Since mowing it takes a couple hours once it is three feet high and I avoid a $700 fine, I just figure I’m making $350 an hour to mow, which is the highest wage I’ve ever earned.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

If there were six of them, we could be a complete Ultimate line.

Yesterday at lunch we got to talking about cousins who have been on reality shows. A cousin of someone I knew had been on The Bachelor. We watched her every week, hoping for the best. It is amazing how fast your standards change when you know a competitor on The Bachelor. Normally I would like her to show her intelligence and competence, conduct herself with her usual stylish grace. On The Bachelor, I just prayed that she wouldn’t make out with him in the hot tub. Another of our cousins easily outdid The Bachelor by appearing on Ricki Lake, Who’s the Daddy?. She was uncertain of the father of her son and thought a free paternity test on daytime TV would be a gentle way to settle matters with her husband and paramour. I thought I caught some disapproval about her dilemma from my lunch companions, but I was mostly just impressed. Not knowing the father of your child implies that you are getting some, which, as you know, is a longstanding goal of mine.

I got to thinking about what it would be like if I were on a reality show. In fact, what if I were the center of a season of The Bachelorette? The thought of a house full of men competing for my affection sounds mortifying, but it would never happen like that. If the producers selected men for the show based on my preferences, they would end up with a house full of really smart, good-natured men who like to do things. Since they wouldn’t be stupidly macho and competitive, they would naturally start finding ways to pass the time. On the second “date” I would show up, tossing my hair in slow motion, to find the guys on the roof. “Climb up! We’re throwing watermelons off! And old electronics! See if you can get the cameraperson to film it!” When it came time for the pool party, I might be able to get the guys to notice the cleave, but only if they weren’t catching frisbees as they jumped off the diving board. I know that I’m supposed to pick two guys to take in the hot air balloon over Napa, so that one can emote frustrated longing while I make eyes at the other, but really, I would rather go with the whole crew to Korean karaoke.

In real life, I would inevitably end up hanging out in the house as one of the guys until the show dispersed. I would keep in touch with them and attend all of their weddings, pleased by their delight in their lovely brides and wondering again why she wasn’t me. On TV, though, the Megan Season can have a happy ending. When it got down to the last five or six best kissers, they would come to me as a group. “Megan,” one would say, “we don’t want to compete against each other. Could you please choose early, put us out of our misery?” “But honey,” I would answer, “I can’t! I just don’t know! Choose the man who cooks such good food? Or the one who sings in the car with me? Or the one who spots me when we lift weights? Choose between the mathematician and the physicist? No woman could do that! If only I could choose you all!” Then, gradually at first, a look of hope and agreement would dawn in our eyes.

Although the nation would be scandalized, the producers would let us keep the house with the pool in exchange for filming the wedding. My grooms would look so handsome in their tuxes. The country would have a chance to catch up on our love story a couple years later, when we all appear on Ricki Lake, Who’s the Daddy?.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

They're not going down alone.

For sewer funds, Osos looks to itself; Services district will borrow $630,000 from trash and water money to pay for research into a new wastewater project
San Luis Obispo Tribune – 5/8/06
By Abraham Hyatt, staff writer

Because a judge has blocked about $3 million of state money for a new Los Osos sewer, the town’s beleaguered services district will borrow $630,000 from its own water department and trash fees to finance research into the project.

District leaders say they don’t know yet how they’ll eventually repay the money.

Borrowing money from internal funds is something small agencies like Los Osos try to avoid but occasionally do, said Geoffrey Neill, a spokesman with the California Special Districts Association.

There’s a precedent for it at the Los Osos Community Services District.

The Los Osos CSD was $5M to the good before Los Osos recalled the pro-sewer Board of Directors. Now they're eating their young. You get what you elect, people. Or, sometimes, you get what your fellow citizens elect but nevertheless have to participate in horribly dogmatic, shortsighted decisions that will be tremendously expensive down the line. Thank god that only happens in Los Osos.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

So, so beautiful. Especially inside.

Caught my front wheel in the light rail track; fell off my bike last September.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Please no opossums.

As a special bonus treat today, I get to go up into my attic to see whether I am right that the raccoons have moved in above my bedroom. You are so jealous.

I made merciless fun of Chris when he had two separate beehives in the walls of his house. But his bees never woke him with scrabbly feet and the sounds of eating above his head. And dropping loud things. What the fuck were they doing for two hours last night? Redecorating? I am afraid the raccoons are past the catfood stage. I'm scared the next time the raccoons wake me at 2:00am, they will be whipping up a stirfry and drinking the beer I keep for guests. God knows they're smart enough to open the fridge.

I can't think which I want more. A frenzied, frantic mother raccoon trapped in a Havaheart, desperate kits clinging to the outside, or a desperate kit trapped in a Havaheart, with a furious mother raccoon sitting on top, screeching, telling me to come get a piece of her. I'm the luckiest girl alive.


I wouldn't trade it.

Some kind person left this comment under the entry about fun:

I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident, and just wanted to say that you are strikingly beautiful.

I hope you find the fun you are looking for, and have an outstanding life.

I am flattered and grateful. Thank you. But I also hope those ideas aren’t linked; surely the author isn’t wishing me an outstandingly fun life because I am beautiful.

I am very pretty. I have been since I grew through an excruciatingly awkward puberty. It is an amazing gift. Being pretty adds a constant note of grace to my life. I’m sure it eases all my interactions in ways I don’t realize. Being pretty is also nothing I have earned. It is not an accomplishment and I don’t deserve any of what it brings. I don’t deserve an outstanding life for being pretty, or assumptions that I am a better person, or free stuff, or strangers demanding my attention, or jealous assumptions that I’m poaching someone’s man, or the slight but frequent pressure of being under a gaze.

I almost never bring the pretty. My clothes are nondescript and comfortable. I rarely wear makeup. My hair goes in a ponytail as soon as it is dry. I try to never interact with people on the basis of my appearance. If I ignore it and be goofy and enthusiastic or dorky and technical or even just regular, people will usually follow those cues; soon I’m one of the guys again. I occasionally want to use the pretty for some purpose. I’ll get dressed to host a party, when being beautiful casts a glamour on the evening and offers respect to my guests. I loved being trophy on my ex’s arm because I wanted to reflect well on him. I desperately wanted to be beautiful to him, some to keep his attention and some to give him the pleasure of my appearance.

There are good ways and bad ways for me to look beautiful. When I was in college I competed with the taekwondo team. Twice a year I would drop weight to fight as a middleweight. Twice a year I would watch as people stared more at me, stopped me more on the street, paid more compliments, paid more attention to me. By coincidence, the threshold where men started acting very strange was within a pound of my goal weight. The last week before nationals, when I was fasting to lose the last pound, men would turn to walk backward, walk into things, come up to me but say nothing, tug on my clothes and hand me things. I was coming home from workout late night a couple days before my last nationals, when I walked past a group of men. One guy, overweight, redhead, was watching me approach, so I caught his eye and smiled. Completely involuntarily, he shouted in full voice “YOU’RE GORGEOUS!”. Of course I thanked him, but by the time I got home I was so mad I was shaking. “That’s it? That’s all I have to do? Work out three hours a day, six days a week, for months? Not eat for a week? Hurt all the time? And for that, you’ll think I’m pretty?” It is not worth it.

By contrast, the picture in my profile is one of the best I have ever taken. I hope that is what my friends see when they look at me, because I can only think that picture came out like it did because I was with so many people I love. Every good thing in the world was happening just as Chris took that picture. Christy was finishing making apple pie. Anand and I were drinking margaritas and playing cards; we were about to deal Joe in. Dan and Eric were talking on the couch. Chris was wandering through, taking pictures of us to put on Hot or Not. We had another night and day left in the weekend, all talking in combinations and sleeping in a pile, and I knew we were so lucky to be together. In that picture I am laughing and joyful and that is how I want to be beautiful.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

See you Monday.

When my sister and I were very little, my Dad used to put us to bed. Every night he would tuck us in, get himself comfortable, then ask us the same question to start our ritual. "OK beautiful girls, what are the nine parts of speech?” My sister and I would list them all, maybe struggling to remember interjections or conjunctions. Then he would ask us which one we wanted to hear about tonight. That was a huge question. The wrong answer would get us a short story and quick bedtime. Articles were worthless; Daddy would kiss us right after “a, an, and the” and that was all we got. Interjections were fun but short.

Verbs were good if you wanted a long, exciting story with lots of action. You could always extend the story by asking about other tenses or adverbs. Nouns started out easy, with “person, place or thing”, but there were choices to make after that, like concrete or abstract. When Daddy was in a good mood, he would go through adjectives too.

The absolute, hands-down best were the pronouns. Pronouns were so great that you couldn’t waste them by hearing them every night. You saved them up to end a really good day. We could all talk about I, and you, and he, she, it and point to the right person or stuffed animal as we said each. Those were naturally followed by their parallels, me and you and him, her, it. Pronouns ended with our favorite of all time, the Monster Pronouns. We would summon the Monster Pronouns together: This! That! These! Those!, then go to sleep happy, knowing they would guard our dreams.

I’ll be hanging out with my nephews the next couple days. They might be too young for the nine parts of speech, but they are very advanced. I could whisper the Monster Pronouns to them as they go down for naptime.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why don't they value my professional skills?

My boss just asked me to write up a tongue-in-cheek, but also sincere certificate of appreciation for some people who helped us. I’m afraid he and my grand-boss asked me to do it because they think I’m the office smartass. It is true that I change people’s presentations and revise announcements on the whiteboard. I don’t deny putting pictures of environmental catastrophe on my boss’s wallpaper. I’m not sure I want that to be the basis of my reputation, though.

They also came to me to ask how to punish engineers from a different department who gave a mock presentation that scared our biologists. I had several ideas within a few minutes; punishing engineers is so easy it seems hardly worth it. Leaving labels and units off graphs is obvious and beneath us. One of my favorites is to ask engineers whether they would rather find a physical solution to a behavioral problem or increase efficiency in a system. I asked Margie that six weeks ago and she still comes up to me to clarify the question or change her answer.

Considering that the mock presentation was given in the context of a bi-weekly meeting, I thought the response should come at the next meeting. Clearly the next meeting should open with a ‘mediator’ saying that the project has been focused too narrowly on the physical system and that we would be switching to a broader approach. An approach based more on feelings, our own feelings about fish and nature, and also the fish’s feelings about the impassible barrier. Just the threat of some empathy-building exercises should be enough to make most engineers cringe. If it were accompanied by mood-setters like twangy music and incense, I’m sure I could make them sorry they ever messed with my co-workers.

If I have met you, you are most likely real.

When I was a kid, I never believed that anything existed outside my immediate perception. Things came into being as I saw them and if I turned around too quick I would catch the nothingness. By the time I was seven or eight I believed that land and physical objects were there all the time. People took longer. I had doubts about the permanence of other people well into junior high. As I got friends, they would tell me about things they did outside my awareness. I gradually was able to imagine them in those specific activities, then extend my belief to full-time existence for them.

But not annoying people. I was very sure that annoying people existed only at the moment they were annoying me. Even in twelfth grade I remember staring at Steve S. as he asked to copy my homework. He said he tried to work on it at home, which was so blatantly false I didn’t know why he bothered lying. He didn’t do anything “at home” because he rejoined the ether the second I turned my back. Since then I have learned that annoying people can cause trouble for me even while I am not perceiving them, which makes me think that they exist all the time. Well, my rational mind thinks that.

I got a comment and a couple emails yesterday complaining that I called you imaginary. But you guys don’t act like real people at all. Real people show up and they eat the food I make and they throw frisbees to me and they horse around with me. (Not nearly enough of them take my clothes off.) Y'all are made of pixels, if anything, and you say nice things all the time. Real people don’t mostly say nice things; they talk about the Kings and our plans for the weekend. I am standing by all my statements from yesterday. You are imaginary, smart, very hot and I clearly have a crush on you.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

SFO brings him back like nowhere else.

Of the seven years I dated my ex-boyfriend, five and a half were long distance. We were an hour and a half apart for some of it, four hours away for some of it, an ocean apart for some of it*. At some point though, it doesn’t matter what the distance is. If you cannot choose to have dinner together to resuscitate a bad day, it is too far. I hated being in a long distance relationship. It is only half-living, with your heart and thoughts never whole and always aching. For a long time I thought that the only thing worse than dating him so far away would be not dating him.

In one sense, having a long distance relationship is like having this blog. I would watch throughout the day, try to notice funny things and save them up to tell him. I know when I have a crush on someone because I start talking to him in my head, trying to find the phrases that are clever enough that he’ll want to keep talking to me, or a story that makes me look like the kind of person he would want to be with. If I get to talk to him for real, I have to keep reminding myself that just because I want to tell him things doesn’t make him want to hear them. Almost certainly not in so much detail.

But you do! I know absolutely that every one of you is sharp and funny and devastatingly attractive, and that you choose to read the stories I save up. I can have a crush on you; I can tell you these things! Sometimes you write to tell me that I am so cute and witty, and that’s enough to keep the relationship going. It takes the pressure off until I find a real person who wants to pay that kind of attention to me. Thank you.

*My first year of law school I got tired of explaining that yes, I did have a boyfriend in another country and no, I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I switched to telling people that he was in prison and I was going to get him out one day.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Daring Jumping Spider has to be the best name ever.

I see Daring Jumping Spiders patrolling my porch pretty regularly. They are my favorite ‘cause they are bad-ass, all black with white dots and iridescent green teeth. I say hell yes to iridescent green teeth. They’re also big and quick and graceful. I am less fond of them when they are Inside Scaring-Me Spiders.

Where I am from in LA has miles of cinderblock sound walls lining busy streets. If you go out walking after dusk and look at the base of the wall, you see that every three or four feet is a black widow, hanging upside down in her web. The hourglasses are clear as anything. I wonder how many people know that, ‘cause I don’t see many other people out walking after dusk and I don’t know how many of them look down. Black widow after black widow for miles gives me the shivers and bad dreams once.


Monday, May 01, 2006

I could not be more serious.

I was born middle class in America, which means that I live a life of tremendous privilege and plenty. Since my basic needs are met and I expect they always will be, I’ve come to believe that my most important priority is fun. That sounds frivolous, but fun is the difference between a great life and passing time. It would be a waste of all I’ve been given if I didn’t make this the most excellent life I could have.

Fun is the explicit goal of all of my voluntary activities and the deciding factor for all my choices. It is the only irreducible reward. Money buys freedom from fear and access to fun. Sex is only as good as it is fun. Power has a charge to it, but without fun it is just grinding responsibility. Only fun winning is worth it; winning an unpleasant or uneven game isn’t much better than losing. Not only is fun the valuable part of any reward, but there is no risk that it won’t be gratifying.

The good thing about realizing that fun is what you really want out of a reward is that you can skip intermediate steps and go straight to the fun. Once you know what is fun for you, you should do that instead of anything that is only a proxy for fun (like material consumption or hedonism or looking cool). For me, fun usually involves moving around, being with witty, kind people, doing new things, learning stuff. Planning fun is often itself fun. Fun often includes goofiness and sometimes a delighted self-awareness in the moment. I should also mention that fun has a high discount rate. Always value the fun as it happens; never leave fun for potential fun.

My friends and I realized a while back that the only measure of an occasion is each person’s subjective fun. The person who has the most fun wins. That spazzy bad dancer rocking out in front of the band and scaring the ladies? If he is having fun, more fun than we are sitting around being dignified (which would never happen) then he fucking wins. Respect. Anyone having less fun than us isn’t worth considering; honestly, I don’t care who sees me and my posse moseying through the supermarket. That person isn’t playing Gunslinger and that means he loses. If a stranger sees us, squints and drops his hands to his holsters, well now, there’s someone with good, discriminating taste. If he looks baffled or disdainful, he has revealed himself as no fun and inherently irrelevant.

If you are not having fun, you are making your life less than it could be. None of the following are acceptable substitutes for fun: money, work, comfort, maintaining your composure, impressing other people. Change your priorities to put fun on top. You cannot lose by having more fun.

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