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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

I'm gonna be embarassed that I showed you how petty and jealous I can be.

I ran into Bill and Rosalie at Trader Joe’s today. Bill!! Bill went to my small grad school program a couple years ahead of me. I liked Bill right away when I met him; I liked him even better when he gave me my first TA job. I felt pretty embattled in grad school and Bill has a quiet accepting presence. With no mutual build-up of the friendship or anything, I just decided that Bill and I were friends. I took to going to his office hours every two or three weeks; if he didn’t have students, I’d talk to him for fifty minutes straight. He didn't say much, until he’d ask me a really good question and set me off for another twenty minutes. I didn’t think much of it until I told Yet Another Chris about hanging out in Bill’s office hours and Yet Another Chris asked me if Bill liked that. I hadn’t considered that. I’d never given him a choice in the matter. Bill and I still get lunch occasionally, and mutual friends reassure me that he says nice things about me, so I suppose he didn’t mind.

Bill told me that this other guy from our program lives in town and is A Fancy Lobbyist. This other guy was the Golden Boy in our program and I never understood why. He was good at saying the buzzwords. But ultimately, I think it was because he’s tall and pretty, which is a crap reason for someone to be the darling of a grad school program*. But the same professor that would berate me during class presentations, saying that I didn’t belong in his program and couldn’t grasp the concepts, had a huge hard-on for this guy. He let the Golden Boy teach classes and fawned over his answers and excused him from the program pre-reqs.

That didn’t work out in Golden Boy’s favor. I took Econ 204, the class that derives the basics of micro-econ, with Golden Boy and Yet Another Chris. That class was hard, and at about the second midterm I realized that Golden Boy simply didn’t have the math to do it. I wouldn’t have cared, except that he tried to hide it. We’d be studying, and gradually I realized that he wasn’t doing the problems when I was and he wasn’t checking my work and he wasn’t really confirming that the Lagrangian multiplier is the shadow price. He was just agreeing with whatever I said, which is not helpful. Once I understood that, I helped him when I could and trusted Yet Another Chris instead. I cannot imagine that he passed that class.

I’m already embarrassed that I’ve given Golden Boy an hour of my thought today; it is ridiculous and petty to care about his success. We’ve both done well, and our potential for success in grad school wasn’t zero sum. For that matter, we did about the same in grad school, both leaving before quals. (I wonder if he got the masters. Hmmm.) But a couple things bother me. On his Fancy Lobbyist Profile, it says that he finished the coursework for a Ph.D. in our program. I don’t think that’s true, unless he made up the econ class somehow, and I never heard that he did. But people know that “finished the coursework for a Ph.D.” means “dropped out of grad school”, right? What really gets me is that I am positive that if Golden Boy decided he wanted to finish that Ph.D., the mean professor would engineer his re-acceptance and help him do a dissertation. I am equally sure that they would shut me out if I tried the same thing. That part sucks.

*My belief that this was the reason was reinforced the following year. When the seven-year ex and I broke up, I dropped thirty-five pounds in two or three months. As I got thinner, that professor liked my answers better and better. Towards my fighting weight, I could say nothing wrong in class, which I respected very little after his previous contempt for anything I said.

Friday, December 29, 2006

She didn't seem convinced.

The woman I talked to this morning asked me if I'd ever written a book before. I said no. She asked why I thought I could do this one. I said "Because I've done hard things before and because I decided to and I want to." That is reason enough, right?

Y'all have to promise to forget my last name.

Remember how I told you that I understand denial? When I broke my arm, I didn't have health insurance. My friend Anthony lobbies for health access; he knew the emergency room had a billing policy for uninsured people that would reduce my bill from $6000 (for six hours) to $1700. It was a good thing I knew him, 'cause I would never have heard about it from the hospital. That process is described in this SacBee article. Sorry it is behind a registration page.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Missed you! Did you enjoy your holidays?

I am overwhelmed and astonished and excited right now. There is, simply, too much to figure out. You know, I’ve always done this. Back in ’96, I knew I didn’t understood how water moved physically, and I applied to a water engineering program. After that, I thought I was pretty weak on policy, and trotted off to learn more about that. I knew no law at all, so I did that next. It holds true, so far, that I gravitate unerringly toward whatever I am weakest at. Friends, I know nothing about journalism. How on earth am I going to tell the story of the Los Osos sewers?

This morning I met up with the second person who has been willing to give her time and thought to a stranger. She talked to me for three hours straight; told me a long story and her opinions and recommendations. There are a million threads in there, which do I follow? I picked one of them because it was close, and went over to the people who’ve filmed all the Los Osos CSD meetings. When I walked in and asked for copies of old meetings, the videographer looked up and said “You’re the one.” I couldn’t imagine that she’s heard about my project yet, and asked what she meant. She said she’s been waiting for years for someone to walk in to her office to write the book about Los Osos. From the little I’ve heard so far, the story is even more ornate than I’d read in the papers. The idea of untangling it all is daunting.

I’ve learned new things before, and I remember that it is bewildering for a while, until slowly you realize that you’ve heard that before. After that, there’s a point where most everything is a version of something you’ve heard before. It is going to be a good while before I’m at that point with this process. I’m excited for it though, and I enjoy this hard learning curve right now. That feeling, of doing something hard and new, is a good one.

(If you do know something about writing big stories, please feel free to leave suggestions or recommendations.)

Gadgets AND gear

Should any of you remain unconvinced about my dedication to this project, perhaps it will sway you to hear that I actually bought gadgets. You know I hate those, right? Except that I am right now writing to you from my laptop, and I feel all hip and au courant, now that I too have reason to be aware of free wireless. (By au courant, I mean, you know, for the late nineties.) I also bought a little digital voice recorder. I was intimidated at first, ‘cause it had buttons and multiple functions. But I read the manual, which helped a little, and then my baby sister started playing with it. I liked it much better when I had lots of recordings of the two of us giggling. So, gadgets. I will too write this book.

(Justin! All! I need gear, and god knows you have thoughts about gear. I got the laptop for Christmas, and no case. I need a case. Here are the constraints. The laptop is big, 17” screen. I am a brute and break things, especially electronics. I don’t have a car; the case has to be portable by bike. I already carry a backpack, so I don’t want something else hanging off me, to swing into lightposts as I ride by. It would be nice to carry something style-y, but that comes as a last concern. What should I get?)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

In a Marcel Wave, of course.

On my drive to LA I listened to what I think may be my favorite radio station. For about two and a half hours in the southern San Joaquin Valley, you can hear 103.3 Kings Radio, Your Nostalgia Station for Lindsey, Visalia and Hanford. Kings Radio plays the oldies, but not the ones you’re thinking of. Your Nostalgia Station plays the music of the '30’s, '40’s and '50’s. I listen for it every time I’m in the south Valley. The commercials are sad, for assisted living and in-home care and small knick-knack stores. But, oh the music is lush.

I can’t tell you how absolutely unabashedly romantic these songs are. The strings swell, and they doo-wah, and they rhyme about your eyes and sighs. He’ll croon to me and pour out his dreams for me to dance on. He is not self-conscious, not at all. It is perfectly natural for him and the next smooth singer to love me for all eternity. He does not have naughtiness on his mind; Elvis won’t even have hips for another twenty years. He just wants to gather me in, pull me in to this music made for couples to dance to. I want him to. I want him to hold the back of my hands against his chest and pull me close, so we can glide and turn and breathe together, and he can sing the chorus softly into my hair.

Friday, December 22, 2006

No, he didn't call.

Dave and I went to Gaylords (hee) for lunch. Yummy. There was a guy there. I was pretty sure he looked me over, and then I thought he looked me over again. He looked nice, and managed to be polite even in a small gesture like handing me a dish for the buffet. Back at the table, Dave said “I think that guy is checking you out.” I thought so too. We talked about it a little; when I looked over, the guy was looking my way again. Since I had such good luck with my note for the English Professor, we decided to try it again. (You guys are going to think I do this all the time. Nope. It’s just that you hear about it when I do.) This time the note said:
He’s not my boyfriend.

[email address]

I dropped the note off at his table when we left. My heart was pounding, even Dave’s was. We compared a minute later or so; my hands were shaking worse than his, but not much worse. I stopped to run an errand on our way back. As I came back to the building, the guy and his friends were directly in front of me. There was no avoiding them. He nodded to his friends and walked towards me.

Him: Hey Megan
Me: Hey (abashed)
Him: I’m Jimmy. You know, you look very familiar. Where’ve I seen you?
Me and Jimmy: (figure out we work in the same department)
Jimmy: That was some note you left me.
Me: We thought you were checking me out.
Jimmy: Nope. I’m married, three kids. I was wondering where I’ve seen you.
Me: Cool.
Jimmy: It was nice though... OK, see you.
Me: See you, then.
Jimmy: Hey, no awkwardness.
Me: Not by me.
Me and Jimmy: (laughing) Bye.

See, friends? Not so hard. Just a straight answer and friendliness. Jimmy is a classy guy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When I wake up, the days will be getting longer.

Six or seven years ago at Christmas, the moon was especially close to the earth, close enough to see the fur on the rabbit in the moon and it shown bright and blue, bright enough to cast shadows. It was warm that December, warm enough to sit on my porch and light luminarias and listen to the Buena Vista Social Club on repeat. My sister was here and on such a warm night, we decided to ride bikes out to see the outlandish Christmas lights displays. The two of us biked through all that blue moonlight and it turns out that entire blocks lit up by Christmas lights look garish and tacky by car, but, like everything else, better on a bicycle. In fact, they looked sparkly everywhere and you could zoom around a pillar of light, or ride through the hoops of color arching over the sidewalk. I go on the Holiday Lights Bike Ride every year it isn't raining; is one of the two holiday traditions I love.

The other holiday tradition I love is Andrew's Solstice Party. We went tonight; on this solstice, I wrote my vision for the next six months on prayer paper, which I burned to release my hopes into the world. We also drew Tarot cards, to tell us what our next six months will hold. I drew The Emperor, reversed. The Emperor reversed is an indecisive man. Friends, that card came too late; I've given that man my attention since the last Solstice. Tonight I wrote him a note on prayer paper and burned it with the Tarot card. Back to your own world, Emperor reversed. I want better for my next six months. I drew another card, the King of Cups. King of Cups means responsibility and creativity, a learned person, professional, lawyer, clergy, scientist, artist, a considerate person, generosity. I don't know if the world is finally sending him to me or if that's who I should be, but either sounds like a promising stretch of springtime.

I have a DATE!

I have a date in Los Osos with someone who has attended the CSD meetings for years. We're gonna talk (well, I'm mostly going to listen) over coffee, and then we're going to AN ACTUAL Los Osos CSD meeting. Where they decide whether to beg the Local Agency Formation Commission to dissolve them.

Next week. I am SO excited. What should I wear? I need to call more people there, to see if they'll talk to me too.

Dear Claudia,

It was raining this morning, so the funnier Megan and I couldn’t go for a walk. That is sad, because we go for walks on most mornings. It is a good time for us to talk. At first, we mostly talked about you, but since you aren’t here to tell us all your news, that has faded a little. Well, a lot.

Besides, I think the funnier Megan is mad at you because you wished she gives me crabs. I don’t think that is a very nice thing for a friend to wish for her other friends. I told the funnier Megan that you probably didn’t mean to tell the whole internets that she has crabs, that you just blurted it out or something. I said that you still want to be friends with us, even though you moved away and tell people she has crabs and wish that I had crabs.

We still think of you, sometimes. We wonder how you are, so far away, and when you will move back. We wonder that in between the times when we are laughing about other things, which is, like, one second. She came over for dinner on Monday. You know, I think she and Ali are really gonna get along great. They’re both so damn cute. I’m soooo lucky to have them so close.

Anyway, I hope you are well or whatever. I’m sure it is great there too, without any Megans.



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Here's your meme, Ezra.

Ezra Klein tapped me to do a meme. I don’t like chain letters or memes or anything that obligates the recipient to do stuff, but I’m happy to do this one because Ezra was really nice and easy to talk to when I met him. So I was thinking about it on my bike ride in, and I got a theme going (I particularly liked Ezra’s Two Truths and a Lie variant, and then I was thinking that I would do Two Truths and a Lie for each of the five things, and I haven’t written anything salacious recently, so it might include some naughty bits.) But then I saw the other people he tapped for the meme and I got intimidated.

Besides me, Ezra tapped another political blogger, an editor at In These Times, and the bloggers at Feministing. It is my impression that these are influential thinkers, who write about important things. That makes me nervous. Political bloggers, at least the good ones, always sound like they’re doing more important work than I am. I mean, they’re analyzing the dynamics that are shaping policy, and they know the names of staff people, and make predictions about what changes to expect. I don’t know how to evaluate their assertions, except to find someone I like and blindly believe that person. I don’t follow national politics closely, which I’m ashamed of, except that I don’t trust much besides what I can see or learn first-hand so I don’t want to have opinions about Senate committee debates when I didn’t attend them. Also, I keep not following national news. I’m surprised I don’t; I mean, I’m concerned and all and want to be an educated citizen, but every day I don’t read much national news and I don’t listen to the radio now that I don’t have a car and I never watch the news on TV because I would rather love life. Every day, I don’t miss the national news. So I get intimidated by political bloggers, because they seem to know lots about important things I should know better.

I probably should be intimidated by the senior editor at In These Times, except that I know a guy who was an editor at In These Times, and he’s completely super-cool and awesome and I’ll hang out with him in LA this weekend. From my sample, editors at In These Times are great and like me plenty. So whatever, Mr. EditorGuy at In These Times. Call me. We’ll kick it.

But then, Ezra linked to women who blog at Feministing, and that gets me back to being intimidated and feeling like I am just dicking around instead of writing about worthwhile things. I feel like I should have stuff to say about feminism, seeing as how I call myself a feminist and believe very strongly that girls are just as good as men. But most write-ups about feminism are commentary about how other people are acting, and some of them attribute motives to the actors, and lots of them sound aggrieved. I read posts or discussions about feminism and get mildly outraged, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. There isn’t anything to do, because the sexist interaction is past and I wasn’t there. I know having my attention called to the biases influencing a discussion is useful, but nine times out of ten, I am more interested in the content of the discussion.

I am truly grateful to women and men who do hard work pointing out and decreasing sexism. I know that I am the beneficiary of their efforts. But much as I respect women and men who battle sexism by battling sexism, I naturally love the women who battle sexism by going out and doing kick-ass things. Like Amanda, who is personally making New York safe for bicycles and artists and open source software, and eDubin, who could re-design a building for you, and my sister, who could design a container port for you, and Margie, who can fix your fish crossing structure, and Capella, whose many-particle simulator actually aggregates, and Krista who can lift heavy things and make you lift heavy things, and like Roxie, who makes leagues and tournaments happen when she’s not sitting on city committees, and like that. They do lots of things and fight sexism as a side-note, by their sheer awesomeness and sometimes by their conscious efforts. I know men who do that too, who ignore gender roles and behave as openminded people in all sorts of wonderful ways. So I don’t want feminism to be the primary thing that I am doing, but then I feel like an inadequate feminist compared to people who make that their full-time deal.

Then I wonder why I am comparing myself to their blogs, and wanting to shift my focus to the things they think about, especially since I think their blogs have a purpose and I think also money, and my blog is just a place for me to tell you and an imaginary boy what I think about. (Who, you know, can write me any day now. Seriously. If you have wondered whether you should hit on me, yes, you should.) How come I get insecure and confused and sucked away from my intent when I am mentioned in impressive company, especially since our blogs are doing different things? What do I want this blog to be, that a little attention turns my head so?


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When I'm done having a career in water, I'll tell you guys about the new water rights system I've come up with.

Protection comes at a price

Marysville Appeal-Democrat – 12/18/06
By John Dickey, staff writer

A Sacramento flood-control organization is studying the idea of paying off rural Sutter County farmers to keep their land green - and perhaps under water.

Buried in a 400-page Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency report is the notion that keeping parts of Sutter and Yolo counties near the Fremont Weir rural, and their levees marginal, could take the strain off downstream Sacramento levees in high water.

The unimproved levees will break in the rural areas, so the theory goes, lowering river levels during floods.

The idea has fueled talk in parts of Sutter County, where farmers are mulling over whether they would take the money and flood, and others are in disbelief, worried that their lives will be changed.

“Probably the most common thought is Big Brother in Sacramento has so much investment in that area, we're going to have to stick together to protect ourselves,” said Dick Akin, a Robbins area rancher and former Sutter County supervisor.

He said people were talking about it at the Robbins School play.

Roy Osterli II, a board member for RD 1001, which sits just north of the Natomas Basin, said he's talked to a half dozen people.

Their first take is “you've got to be kidding,” said Osterli. “Then, ‘You can't do this.'”

Sacramento has one of the lowest levels of flood protection of any U.S. city, according to the agency. Its levees provide only a 77-year level of flood protection. New Orleans had a 250-year level.

SAFCA, which is looking to improve flood control, has issued an environmental impact report on financing the work. The report briefly mentions the idea of acquiring easements in Sutter and Yolo counties.

Rural levee failures upstream and downstream of the Fremont Weir could lower river levels by a foot, according to the report. So preserving these would-be flood plains from development is a possible strategy SAFCA could pursue through voluntary easements.

“The easements would thus diminish the likelihood that the rural levees protecting these properties would be upgraded to an urban standard,” the report says.

Sutter County Supervisor Dan Silva, who is on SAFCA's board, said fixing the 63 miles of RD 1001 levees to withstand a 200-year flood really can't be justified based on the number of homes.

Under the cost-benefit analysis used to justify federal government spending on flood prevention, any spending has to result in savings that outweigh the costs, making it hard for rural areas to get their levees fixed.

But some say Sacramento would have to pay dearly to make Sutter County its flood plain. While the area is farmland, it's far from worthless.

“If they do this, they're not going to get it for nothing,” said Akin.

If flooding hits RD 1001, Osterli said several hundred acres of orchards near the river would flood. Also inundated would be the Rio La Paz Golf Club and nearby expensive homes.

Most important, the intersection of Highways 70 and 99 would flood, cutting off one of Yuba-Sutter's escape routes, said Osterli. Silva disagreed, saying he does not think the water would be “tremendously deep.”

Akin said economic issues to consider include where to move the 3 million bags of rice that are dried and stored in the Robbins area.

He and others would have to move farming headquarters out of the area, driving up costs.

Nothing is “written in stone” on an idea that has been kicked around for more than two years, said Silva.

“It's just a concept at this point,” he said.

Robert Mackensen, president of the Sutter County Taxpayers Association, was skeptical.

“We can't adequately evaluate it until we learn more about it, but it comes as a shock that SAFCA is considering writing off a section of Sutter County to protect a section of Sacramento,” said Mackensen. #

A few things bugged me when I read that article. In the first place, I was sad that growers a hundred miles north of us feel so estranged from the city that eats their produce that they describe any proposal as a hostile takeover. Second, I was mad that there was so much stupid rhetoric being thrown around. I’m sure it felt good to say, but stuff like calling Sacramento “Big Brother” is not going to help discussion. Also, I don’t believe the quotes. I’ve met a lot of growers and I do not believe that they would let a city flood when the choice is to flood their fields. I believe they would be out there in the rain with their tractors, helping take down levees. Finally, it doesn’t matter what they would do. In an emergency declaration, the folks at the Flood Center have a ton of authority. On our professional judgment, we can decide where to break levees; we can commandeer CalTrans equipment to do that; we can call the sheriff to enforce our decisions (and then fill sandbags). Several years later, we would pay damages.

But here’s what really gets me. The fastest, cheapest way to create another bypass is to buy easements from growers to spread flood flows on their fields. And that pisses me off. I mean, it is the most practical way and I would support it over armoring levees or flooding fields without permission in an emergency. In real life, to get to a practical solution that will ease flooding, I am all for buying easements in Sutter. Inside, however, I am pissed. Why should we pay them?

I am firmly convinced that when devised our system of owning land, we gave away too much. Those growers believe to the depths of their souls that they have a right to keep their land dry in the winter. When we deeded the land to a private owner, the right to shed water from a geographic sink was apparently part of that ownership. That might be fine when there wasn’t a city of millions living downstream, but now that it poses a threat to people’s lives and houses, why do a handful of farmers get to extort a windfall from all of us? Developers firmly believe that ownership of land gives them the right to build houses that will, very predictably, get drowned in floods or burn every ten years. And now, our society has to buy those rights back, pay landowners millions of dollars to prevent practices that would cost us billions. I’m all about Coase, but I hate our starting assumptions. I wish we could start over and design new ideas of land ownership that take the larger community into account.

And I think developers should have to live in the house closest to the weakest levee.

Now, all you freak libertarians are going to be all “let the people lose their houses! Hah! That will teach them to make bad decisions about where to live! And if they drown? Well, too bad, but survival of the fittest, which would totally be me because of my huge brains and enormous cock.”

But the truth is, we cannot let people make decisions about whether to live in floodplains or fire country or in tornado lands or on eroding coasts. Even ones who have the money to express their choices and an understanding of the problem will make choices that put them in danger. Natomas is an affluent community, so I’ll use it as an example so that we don’t get multiple causes intertwined.

There are twenty thousand new residences in Natomas; eighty thousand people live there. They are forecast to be under twenty feet of water within one day of a levee break. People in my office call Natomas the American River Sink; the old maps call Natomas the Lago Americano. Still people move in, despite full disclosure during homebuying. When I asked the flood engineers what they should do, the flood guys were not joking about storing a canoe on the second floor. Only seventeen hundred homes of the twenty thousand have flood insurance.

Part of me thinks that I can’t possibly understand how they can stand the risk. Every year they have about a 1 in 80 chance of losing everything. I wouldn’t cross the street on those odds. But I do understand. I understand denial. I have danced some long slow dances with denial, and I snuggled tighter into his loving arms. You like the house, and there probably won’t be a flood this year, and $550 for flood insurance would pay for that car repair, and everyone you see is in the same situation so it can’t be that bad ‘cause they’re nice people and you’re telling me to move ‘cause of something that might not even happen? I will. Soon. When the kids have to go to a new school anyway.

I don’t see that we have a lot of options. We can’t just say, well, if they live on a floodplain, let ‘em live with floods. When the time comes, we do everything we can so that families don’t drown pinned to their ceilings. When they are destitute afterward, we’re gonna offer some help then too, because that is what we do. Those are very expensive remedies. A physical solution would be awesome, but that would cost billions up front and require riparian landowners to make sacrifices; our political system doesn’t work well under those conditions.

At the very least, I would like us to stop making it worse. I think we cannot let people have the choice of very risky housing choices, because humans are flawed and they will take those risks. I honestly do not know what to do about people already living in Natomas, but I know that I don’t want River Islands to be built. The only solution I can think of is stringent regulation.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I expect to see this in my lifetime.

I don’t understand how our flood system is going to work. I mean, I don’t understand how the whole system is plumbed, or the details at any site, or how to design a levee or anything like that. I don’t understand that for sure. But, I do have an overview, gleaned from listening around and asking people who’ll answer questions, and I know what some of the problems are. What I can’t understand is what we, as Californians, are going to do when there are more and bigger floods.

Imagine it. Imagine that a big flood, a city-eating flood, came through the Sacramento Valley. Yuba-Marysville, which sits at the confluence of the Feather and the Yuba, gets knocked out; Natomas in north Sacramento is under twenty feet of water; and the Pocket in south Sacramento meets its inevitable fate. The flood collapses several Delta levees, making it impossible to send water south; Southern California has a six month supply of water south of the Delta before it needs to find some other source.

A flood like that isn’t even very unlikely. The 1997 floods strained Sacramento’s levees to absolute capacity; Sacramento was spared because levees broke upstream and flooded parts of Yuba. 1997 was about the same size as 1986; the internal guesses around here say that was about a seventy-year flood (based on the hydrologic record, a flood that has a 1 in 70 chance of happening every year). That is certainly not the largest flood on record. The 1891-1892 flood, after four weeks of rain, flooded more than a tenth of the state. The outflow from the flood caused a weeklong 18-20 foot waterfall from the Bay into the Pacific. Boats reported drinking sweetwater at the Farallon Islands.

A massive flood comes along and takes a chunk out of several cities in the Sacramento Valley and disrupts drinking water to Southern California. What would happen? Well, the Flood Center would do their best to minimize the damage. I don’t think we would get the loss of life here that we saw in New Orleans, simply because there is higher ground closer and floods are easier to forecast. Reporters would cover dramatic rescues and show poignant images of horses and dogs going under. There would be lots of pan and zoom shots of rooflines under water and levees eroding. The waters would subside, hopefully without causing an epidemic. The country would declare a national disaster and vow to rebuild and keep living our Sacramento way of life. Neighborhoods would be uninhabitable wreckage. It would cost billions.

Now imagine that floods like that happened every, say, fifteen to twenty years. What if we knew New Orleans would be flooded again within a generation? Would we vow to rebuild after the second time? The third time? Would we adjust? How? Build stilt houses? Stay off the floodplains? Abandon our too-narrow levees to give the river room for winter flows? Abandon cities? Walk away from that infrastructure?

What if floods were just one part of it? I mean, the guys at the Flood Center don’t sleep at night, but if you want to know who is freaking the fuck out, they’re over at the California Department of Forestry, wondering how they are going to keep a third of the state from going up in flames as artificially dense forests die from less moisture from early snowpack melt. What if Los Angeles burns during the months that the California Aquaduct is down? What if they have to choose between fighting fires in Malibu and reserving a month of drinking water? What if the nation would like to help, but it was a particularly nasty hurricane/tornado/blizzard season and has been for ten years?

Here’s the thing. I think these problems are real and imminent. I wish we would solve them in advance, but I can’t see how that will happen. Smart people are trying and the system is too heavily weighted in favor of shortsighted self-interest. So I wonder what it will really be like. Will there be debates in the Legislature where they decide they can’t afford another disaster declaration? Will they warn would-be returnees that they purely will not get help the next time? Will cities in stupid places ebb by default, ‘til the only people left there live in 19th century self-reliance? What will we do when three big disasters in ten years leave us too poor to respond to the earthquake? What will the big picture look like? What will seem normal to us?

Happens all the time.

My throat hurts like a motherfucker; my voice is nearly out. Biking around, I'm not singing like I usually would, but whispering the lyrics. I bet people think I'm one of the Ying Yang Twins.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I've also seen a fight in an Ethiopian restaurant, but it was men.

I put this ad up on Craiglist last week, for a date this weekend. My thinking was that even I didn’t meet the guy, I would still get to do something fun.
Maybe you've lived in the East Bay or SF for a while, and you totally know that really cool thing to do, which sounds all dorky to tell people about, but turns out to be fun when you get into it? Maybe you're proud of knowing where you can get super yummy food at the place that no one would expect. Maybe you've planned out that date and have just been waiting for a girl who is game to go see that freak exhibit or amazing tree or unexpected treat.

Maybe you were hoping that girl would be a pretty blue-eyed brunette who alternates between transparently delighted enthusiasm and the occasional biting snark. Maybe you were also wishing that she were also pretty smart, so she wouldn't be intimidated that you are a geophysicist or rocket scientist or a behavioral economist or something like that. Maybe, you would be happy for good company and a sweet smile when you show me something neato about your neighborhood.

I'll be in Oakland this weekend, and free on Saturday day and Sunday day. If you are interested, please tell me about the date you've wanted to take someone on. You can send a picture, if you must, but I'll be much more interested in what you have to say. Please be close to my age and interested in the world.

It totally worked like that. I spent Saturday afternoon with a guy I don’t expect to hear from*, and it wasn’t a bummer at all. First off, he had the very good taste to take me to an incredibly good tacqueria. That was the best burrito I have had in years, and the Californians at least should understand how important that is. He paid for my lunch, which I have learned to receive gracefully, but still don’t think is right, now that the womenfolk are allowed to work outside the house and keep their own wages and stuff. I worry less about the injustice of it all, though, when my burrito and horchata came to a whole six dollars. Best of all, there was girl drama!

Yes! A very cute girl came to an abrupt stop outside the window and glared at another pretty girl working the counter. Then the outside girl stormed in, using words that my mother doesn’t know in combinations I didn’t know, and very emphatic gestures. They did posturing, and made threats! It was all very exciting. I wanted to know the backstory (one assumes a man who was not a gentleman made overtures to both of them), but instead, the girl from the outside was asked to leave. She spent some time on the sidewalk, looking death at the woman inside, although when I grinned at her and scrunched my nose like ‘what was all that’, she broke into a surprisingly cute smile, shrugged and we both laughed at her.

Even better is that I have seen a girlfight in a restaurant before! That one was more serious. We were at a Korean restaurant here in Sac. The place was nearly empty, ‘cept for one other table of Koreans. A woman came in shrieking, hellbent, and lifted a woman out of her chair by her hair. The shrieking woman did some pretty good damage; there were serious chunks of hair on the ground before they pulled her off. Of course we wanted to know why (I have to think a faithless husband this time), and Jonathan’s hairdresser is Korean and works in the same stripmall. We waited impatiently for his next haircut, but although his hairdresser knew about the fight, she showed tact and discretion, and didn’t tell us what it was about. Boooo!!!

The guy also showed me the view from the Mormon Temple, then we went up to the Navigation Trees exhibit in Joaquin Miller Park. It was a little far, but he wasn’t an ax murderer and didn’t try to stab me even a little. That proves for once and for all that it is perfectly safe to let strangers from the Internets drive you to remote woods. I don’t see why my friends keep saying “cell phone” when they cough. I was fine.

*Nice guy, handsome, mech-e. But he didn’t ask me anything about me. We talked about him for a while, then his work. I was able to ask him some decent questions about what he does, but he never wondered how I knew to ask that. After an hour or so, when I realized he hadn’t asked me anything, I decided not to tell him unless he did. We parted after three hours, and he didn’t know that I’m also an engineer, who I work for, that I play Ultimate or anything. Still and all, a good afternoon.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cut that out, perverts. We were friends.

In junior high, high school and college, I followed two years behind the smartest guy I’ve ever met. Our families were friends, so we were closer friends than we might have been with that age difference. He’s a kind and good person, in addition to being smart on an entirely different scale. I haven’t seen Alan in probably ten years, but Alan said two off-hand things that I live by now. I should have paid more attention to all the other things he said; no doubt they were just as valuable.

The first thing I kept from Alan came in response to some self-denigrating comment I made. “Never do that.” he said. “Don’t ever put yourself down.” In the first place, you are probably wrong about being stupid or careless or thoughtless. Even if you are right, maybe no one noticed or maybe they love all of who you are. If your flaw was truly worthy of notice and comment, he added, someone else will jump in. There is no need for you to show them how.

The second thing Alan gave me took more time to process. I think I was upset over how I acted in a break-up when Alan looked over and said “You did the best you could with what you knew at the time.” He had no stake in the break-up, nothing to forgive me for, but that phrase was all the forgiveness I needed to stop racking myself. I had done the best I could with what I knew at the time. That is all you ever get.

My relief from that concept was instant, but it took me longer to understand the rest of it. “You did the best you could with what you knew at the time” is sweet comfort in retrospect, but it carries quite an obligation in the present. You only get to use that phrase to feel better if you do, in fact, do the best you can with what you know. I use that to motivate me sometimes, when I know what I’m doing isn’t my best. ‘Step up, Megan, be brave. You might need to know later that you did all you could. Regret would suck, don’t do that to your future self.’

You know, writing about Alan reminds me of one more thing. Our families were at our cabin and we were figuring out what to do, when Alan said “Just talk to me.” I remember being shocked. It was so direct, back when we were in high school, to just want to talk to someone with no overlay of jaded boredom. He was sincerely offering himself up for a comment at his expense, and I think my high school crowd was usually snide and jokey to each other. Now, of course, I often say and hear things like “tell me how you are” and “are you whole and happy” and, with some friends, “tea and talking to you is all I need”. Alan always was ahead of me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Margie: My idiot friend is leaving his wife for no reason.
Megan: Why is he leaving his wife for no reason?
Margie: The reason my idiot friend is leaving his wife for no reason is that his consulting firm hired some hot twenty-year-old engineering intern this summer. I guess they talked a lot and he thought they got close, and over the summer he divested himself of his truck and his boat and then told his wife he didn’t want to be married anymore.
Megan: You serious?
Margie: Yeah. What fucking alternate reality is he living in? He’s a thirty-six year old engineer, hasn’t been single in fifteen years, middling attractive, getting a paunch going. He’s sleeping on his brother’s couch. Who’s gonna fuck him now? He left a pretty hot wife, fantastic tits.
Megan: He’s not with the hot twenty-year-old intern?
Margie: Nope. After telling his wife he wanted out, he went on a trip, to get his thoughts together. That trip happened to take him near where she went to college, but when he got there, her friends were all “Why is the old guy here?” and she was all “I don’t know.”.
Margie: Yep. The wife knew about the hot engineering intern and checked out her MySpace page. The husband had friended her. Anyway, the wife wrote to the hot intern.
Megan: No shit. She did?
Margie: Yep. They ended up talking and the wife says she’s felt much better since that conversation.
Megan: That’s awesome.
Margie: Idiot.

He is on his way to a world of hurt. He spent a summer thinking this over and somehow only heard one story the whole time. Danger.

I can live with that.

The older engineer who made the anti-Semitic comment to me back in March still cringes and avoids me in the hall. She should avoid me, since I am the walking incarnation of a shameful end to her career. I'm not going to make trouble for her, but I do enjoy staring her down when we make the occasional eye contact.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


My co-worker has pneumonia and my boss has another meeting. I will be running our public comment workshop by myself this afternoon.

I regret that:
  • My co-worker has prepared an elaborate PowerPoint presentation with lots of superfluous graphics, and I don't have the time or authority to change it. If Tufte knew, he would leave me.

  • I have not been paying as close attention to this topic as I might, 'cause I thought other people had it handled.

  • I'm relieved that:
  • I have no fear of public speaking.

  • It is a sophisticated audience.

  • We (me?) are giving the same talk tomorrow in LA, so I'll see you guys on Thursday.

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    Here's your chance, LB.

    I always make New Year's Resolutions that will make my life better. I hate Resolutions that require discipline; I want ones that will reinforce what I want to do anyway. (Past New Year's Resolutions)

    I know what one of my 2007 Resolutions will be: to lie under trees, looking up.

    I often choose a food dish to perfect during the year, but haven't figured out what I want to cook a lot of next year. Ideas? Maybe soufflés?

    Do you have other suggestions? I'm looking for things that would improve the quality of my life, that I want to be doing, but maybe need the reinforcement of a resolution to permit myself the luxury. What kind things should I do for myself next year? What kind things will you do for yourself next year?

    An Open Letter to my New Yoga Instructor

    Dear strong, lithe, enthusiastic new yoga instructor:

    I am enjoying your class very much and will keep coming back as long as you keep kicking my ass the way you do. Jesus, your classes are hard, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the results carved in my arms and back. I would, however, like to call to your attention a couple things that may not have occurred to you.

    When we are moving from down dog into warrior one, the standard transition is to bring a leg forward between your hands, in a deep lunge. We see it here, in the 11th figure under Surya Namaskara B. I would like to do that posture as rapidly as you call it, and move smoothly into warrior one. I know that I am often lagging the class. But, that posture? Is impossible for me. Lovely svelte yoga teacher, I suspect that you are not aware of this problem, but my arms are simply not long enough.

    LArms(shoulder to wrist) < LLegs(knee to heel) + LBreasts(ribs to nipple)

    Additional strength or flexibility or body control or zen concentration will not solve this problem. I will always have to do some modification to that posture and it will always make me slow. Would it kill you to wait for me and the other large-breasted woman?

    Also, last night you told me that I cannot hold the balancing postures because I am not fully in my body at the moment. As my mind wanders, so does my balance, you said. That is plausible; I know full well that I have a hard time clearing my thoughts. I have another explanation for my poor balance, though. I think that I cannot stand on one leg because I have rolled my ankles so many times that everything in there is too stretched to stabilize me. I would like to do the postures. With one hand against the wall, I am comfortable grabbing the arch of my foot and straightening both leg and arm overhead. I enjoy the stretch and showing off. But, if you don’t allow me to use the wall to balance, I cannot stand on one leg for any time. Since I do not slack in class and have some familiarity with myself, why don’t you ask me why my balance is so drastically more limited than my other physical skills? I might have some insight…

    I suspect that detailed analysis of each student’s technique is asking too much of a local yoga teacher. I have large gains to make before I am even average in these hard classes. I’ll work on those, and on cultivating a peaceful mind. See you Tuesday.



    Sunday, December 10, 2006

    Still no porn.

    The English professor was at Pub Quiz tonight. I sent him a note (through a friend at the neighboring table) that read:
    Dear [Name],

    Would you like to go on a date with me?


    [phone number]
    There were little check boxes next to the words Yes and No.

    There was giggling and glances my way from his table, but he did not do me the courtesy of an immediate reply. We'll see if he calls. Either way, at least you people can't tell me that he might have missed my hints.

    How does Google stand the despair?

    I'm not entirely sure what to make of the searches that bring people here. I've already told you that I get a bunch of "f*ck-me boot" searches, and I am sure that I'm disappointing those people. I am particularly fond of the searches for "good porn"; I like to picture someone sitting down and thinking "You know what I'm looking for? I'm looking for some good porn."

    On every day I get heartbreaking searches. The phrase "boyfriend quiz" brings 'em:
    Does my boyfriend love me quiz?
    How can I get my boyfriend to notice me quiz?
    Quiz - is my boyfriend a good boyfriend?
    How much does my boyfriend love me quiz?

    Only, not, you know, so punctuated or capitalized.

    I get searches that I think do lead to relevant posts, about how to ask someone out or if it is OK for a girl to ask out a boy. (Yes, sweetheart. It is fine for a girl to ask out a boy. Then, give him a chance to ask you out next time.) I hope those are helpful, mysterious internets people. Come back and tell me how it went.

    Anand's fans are still searching for him, waiting anxiously for his next post. Just last week I got "gay bottom Anand" and "looking for girl to have sex in Anand"; I'm sure he'll be along any minute to clarify those.

    Today I got:
    i ask them nicely to turn it down they tell me to go fuck myself
    paralegals dating lawyers
    what does it mean when a guy kisses you and says nobody has to know

    That can't be good.

    how to get your
    remote desktop no permission wife
    when will i get my first boyfriend quiz When you are twenty, sweetie. Until then, I want you to earn your own money, enjoy math and physics, and play team sports.

    Information on how you can get someone to only have a crush on you and no one else Oh honey, I don't know. When you find out, come tell me, OK?

    how are unattractive people supposed to get jobs Honey, I'm sorry. It isn't fair.
    how do west coast girls differ from east coast girls in looks We're prettier.

    lets be real, bald men are unattractive What? No they aren't. When guys are smiley and have hops and a deep voice, bald is completely irrelevant.

    Why Women Are Attracted To Jerks, Players and Just Plain Dangerously Wrong Guys. I don't know that they are, but I love the capitalization and how it sounds out loud.
    pathetic losers expats philippines Dude, you came to the right place.

    how to stop having a crush on someone Fuck if I know, but you don't have to let it be the boss of you.

    skeet shooting blow job Admirable specificity. But I don't know thing one about skeet shooting.

    why do ex girlfriends call you out of nowhere Well, probably you walked by me on the street and I thought you were really nice looking and maybe we said 'hi' or something. That should do it.

    bulldoze by force porno I'm totally with you, my friend in Turkey. Bulldozer porn!

    im 16 and trying for a baby why isnt anything happening Because you have been incredibly lucky so far. What the fuck are you doing? You are a baby, and you are starting one of the funnest decades of your life. In two years, you could go to college and have sheltered autonomy. In six or seven years, you'll be making crap money, but it will be more than you've ever seen, so it will feel great to you. Honey, you want a baby when you are emotionally and financially secure; that way you'll have the space and freedom from fear to enjoy every sweet thing your baby does. Please wait, hon. You have lots and lots of time to be yourself first.

    wife gets oral sex after workout I don't know how that brought you here, but I like the way your mind works.

    triathlete boyfriend left me for his running partner Lady, your boyfriend left you when he decided to do triathlons.

    does my bf beat me quiz Oh hon. If you have to ask...

    ggraphing calculator drunk Well hello, you sexy thing.

    FREAKY. I just got this: (Campbell University) [Label IP Address]
    North Carolina, Buies Creek, United States, 0 returning visit
    I am JUST NOW reading Blood Done Sign My Name, by Tyson, who is a member of the Buies family in North Carolina. Two days ago, I wouldn't have caught that.

    look at your opponent feet in taekwondo No no, hon. That's too slow. Your opponent's kick will start at her hips. Watch her hips to know whether she's going to attack. Shoulders are too easy to fake.

    2/16/8 sex I promise that you are not more disappointed than I am.


    Friday, December 08, 2006

    N.B., Megan.

    A winter list of things that make me happy:

    Turning corners on my bike with no hands.
    Hearing men’s voices in the OM at the end of yoga.
    Buying expensive mushrooms at market.
    When a nephew finally sighs and rests his head on my shoulder.
    That my sweet cat sleeps the whole night on my chest, or shoulder, or back.
    Having hungry friends in my house.
    Wearing scarves.
    Wearing the hat my sister knit for me with the scarf Ali knit for me.
    Running into my friends around Midtown.
    Playing backgammon for push-ups and trashtalking.
    Playing in the cup in zone D. Handling in zone O.
    When my boss has time to sit and tell stories about his career.
    Knowing you are out there, caring about my thoughts.
    Bright colors and plants and the smell of soup.
    Playing disc in a fog lit by sodium lights.
    On a cold clear night, seeing players steam as they come off the field.
    Songs with a horns section.
    All the amazing things my friends are doing.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006


    I was profoundly ostracized as a kid; it has been a long time since that was a problem, but it left me incapable of watching people target one person for scorn or unkind humor. My muscles stiffen and my stomach seizes and I turn my head. I will always know that mean attention could turn towards me. My attention in general is very local; I care very much about people I know personally and the place I live; the depth of my caring decreases directly with increasing distance and decreasing familiarity. Finally, I am profoundly averse to conflict. I’ll take action to avoid it long before I realize what I’m doing.

    I think that some combination of those facets of my personality are the reasons that I don’t get internets trolling (gratuitous conflict) or schadenfreude about celebrities (mean bandwagon) or even sociopolitical outrage at the last stupid thing someone said* (too distant to care). If you do get worked up over this stuff, imaginary internets people, can you explain why to me?

    I can imagine that maybe you think it is unfair!, unfair! that some talentless hack should have so much attention, when you are so much more worthy. But why give that person even more of your attention, when you could be working on your masterpiece or walking the dog? Or maybe you think that someone wrote a wrong thing! But so what? Do you think you can correct that person? Do you think that by demonstrating their ignorance to them, they will revise their opinion? Even if you could, why care what an imaginary person thinks? Is it just some trick of your brain, that you become tremendously invested in an argument or conversation that will change nothing and won’t even taste yummy after you have put in all that time?

    I myself have a compulsive streak, and I know full well that I can get sucked into behavior that is fully engaging but not good for me. But these internets tricks (trolling, outraged arguments over abstract stuff, meanness about strangers) are strange to me. If you have some experience with them, would you please explain how you got caught up?

    *I sorta wanted to do a post on Christopher Hitchens’ article in Vanity Fair about why women aren’t funny. It should be relevant to me. I mean, I’m a chick and it is important to my self-image that I am funny. I might even have some authority to speak on the matter, ‘cause I’ve demonstrated that I can be funny and other people have told me so. To the extent I could get interested, I mostly wondered how Hitchens and the editorial board at Vanity Fair could publish a piece like that. I mean, I assume they are bright, verbal people; among the bright, verbal people I know, wit and funniness is distributed about evenly among women and men. So I assume that at the very point that they sat in one room, deciding to run a piece on why women aren’t funny, there were some funny women present. I thought Hitchens’ reasoning was based on very broad statements about gender that didn’t ring true for my tribe, and that he was working backward from an arbitrary premise and that it might contribute to yucky stereotypes and whah whah whah bad article. But I mostly don’t understand the state of mind that allowed the Vanity Fair editorial staff to run an opinion that the evidence of their own persons shows to be wrong in fact. Why not instead print an opinion explaining why men can breathe underwater better?

    Anyway, I was mildly worked up about it, and even getting ready to type, but then I didn’t care enough. An article in a national magazine doesn’t make me less funny and they’re imaginary and have shown bad judgment. I just can’t care much what they think.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    In no particular order.

    Edward Tufte is soooo smart and soooo elegant and says complicated things soooo well. He totally asked me to run away with him today (he asked with his eyes), but my eyes told him that despite our vast and boundless longing, I would never be with a married man. I think that’ll be the end of it until Valentine’s Day, when he’ll show up at my door with a sparkline he designed specifically for me, showing the frequency, duration and periodicity of the thousands of times he thought of me in the next two and a half months. I bet it will be shaped like a heart. And then I’ll just have to go live on his farm and be his muse for his sculptures and stuff.

    Unless! Unless, Chris Burke from DiscNW, who spoke at a conference of league organizers finds this first. I know I should be cautious, because Chris Burke is a real person and not famous or nothing, but I don’t care! I don’t care if he finds this and reads that I thought his presentations were sooo good and how everything he said was spot-on and I could totally tell that he puts so much thought into everything and I had a big ol’ crush on him, just from that and the emails he sends to our league organizers list, which are incredibly useful and usually manage to summarize everything important and two things I didn’t think of in a witty way. And if that makes Chris Burke leave his family and city and league and come down here to be my kept man and watch our beautiful babies while he organizes all our leagues, well, that’s just the way it is going to have to be.

    Chris Burke better watch out though! Because he has local competition from Paul, who is a co-owner of a farm nearby and whom I heard talk at an ag conference. Paul was completely thoughtful and eloquent about farming, while being realistic and not sentimental at all, and maybe he was also a little rugged and had such a smooth voice. Paul and I have a mutual friend, and every time I see the mutual friend, I ask him if Paul is ready to leave his entire life and family to come be with me. Our mutual friend said that’ll be any day now, although sometimes I think that the way he rolls his eyes and mutters something about “groupies” denigrates the true depth of the way that Paul and I feel about each other and how we’re going to be together forever.

    Darrell! Darrell, darling! Why are you waiting? What for? The elections are done and now is the time for you to take a junior wife! I’ve seen you talk twice now, and you can’t deny the electricity between us. I felt it, in the room and in my heart and in my loins! Remember, when I applauded and we knew that what we share isn’t the same old constituent-representative relationship, but something new, like a newborn star? The way you talked about the responsibilities of being a legislator, and how you had narrow specific goals and then introduced really good bills and I just swooned and couldn’t believe you would do that for me? Darrell Steinberg, finish what you started! Find me! Or have one of your staffers find me! Whatever!

    *An asterisk denotes the men that I have actually spoken to.

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    I hope you're happy, taxpayers.

    I am sulking, because they have me doing a stupid repetitive task and I can't figure out how to either automate it or kick it down to someone less expensive. I keep mentioning that, and they keep saying some crap about wanting it done right.

    The thing that especially bothers me is that if they would just let me listen to This American Life, I would actually look forward to an afternoon of zoning out and grooming data. But, no streaming media for us. I am cruelly used indeed.

    San Jose in the house? South Bay put your hands up.

    My boss is very good to me, so I am going to Tufte's course tomorrow in San Jose. Are any of you interested in meeting for drinks afterward? My girlfriend suggested Santana Row, which may be more upscale than I am used to, but I'll watch for cues on how to use all the silverware and you will hardly be able to tell that I am fresh off the farm.

    Lemme know if you can make it, 'cause we don't have a lot of time to make plans.

    UPDATE: Since Justin was the only person who suggested a specific place, and since this blog revolves around him anyway, I will be at:

    Tied House Brewery in San Jose

    My conference ends at 4pm, and I'll go there straight, with a book, and wonder if any of you handsome engineer-types are going to show up to keep me company before my girlfriends come to whisk me away at around 6:45. I totally see your IP addresses (Livermore), so I know you clicked on this post a bunch of times yesterday (Stanford). You should join us; I've yet to meet a reader I didn't like.

    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    Nancy Drew, II

    Remember last time, when I was all "intriguing mystery of who works downstairs from us!!!!!" and we speculated a lot and then I just asked them and it was boring?! Let's do it again!

    The house diagonally across from me and one over has never been occupied in the eight years I've lived here. (The house diagonally across from me and one over in the other direction was the site of a murder. I was sleeping when my ex ran into the room shouting "Stay down!" and I immediately sat up to flashing lights through the windows. A person had waited in the driveway for my across and one over neighbor to come home, shot and killed him, and left. The neighbor owned a couple tattoo shops in town, so people said knowingly that he ran with a rough crowd. I haven't heard that they caught the shooter.) A few times a year, an older Asian-Am couple will show up and spend a few hours in the driveway breaking down cardboard boxes. That's it.

    Except! Just now, while I was raking, a big black car pulled up in front of the empty house and laid on the horn. (When my sister lived in the LBC, we started calling blasting your car horn 'ringing the doorbell'.) The car revved its huge throbbing engine, rang the doorbell again, threw it into reverse and then pulled forward over the grass island onto the curb. It revved in front of the stairs to the empty house, reversed again and drove off the curb. It was strange and felt menacing.

    My neighbors directly across from me came to their porch. They're pretty awesome. I think of myself as a good porch-sitter, but they are dedicated. They held all-nighters every other week or so all summer, just for the mild silky breeze, and I say respect. We did the eye-contact and shrugging. Who was that black car? Why is that house always empty? Is the answer to completely eliminate cars? I think so.

    Saturday, December 02, 2006

    Special no-proffreading edition

    I think my cousin is a bad influence. He talked us intp stopping at the Rouns Corner on our way home form the hippy co-op, and I do believe tha t gin and tonics are supposed to have tonics in them. We got home late, barely enough time for them to run to the Train Museum while I meke dinner. My sister looked at me disapprovingly and said my cheeks are all flushed, then realized who she was talking to and told me to have another while they're gone.

    I'm making them mac and cheese, greens and black-eyed peas. I can't htink why I am serving effete Californian faux-Southern food to people who are actually from the South, especially since he already said something about whether the black-eyed beas would have fatback in them, to, you know, make htem have flavor. They're nice though, and will act like thye like it no matter what.



    Friday, December 01, 2006


    I needed to talk to someone last night, so obviously I called Chris. Chris was himself, which is to say, sweet and understanding and going straight to the heart of the problem. Chris’ great gift is his unfailing empathy, and the way he matches his responses to your needs. Almost. On the one hand, I can completely count on him for something I like very much. Chris doesn’t offer sympathy when it would undo me, and with me, he will joke about miserable situations. That is often a fantastic relief. I know he also values that in me. When he was gentrifying Oak Park and had to keep seeing stupid pointless violence, I was his calm voice, who just grinned and asked him if he was going to make a necklace out of the bullets in his fence. So Chris and I do that well.

    But Chris’ unconditional love and acceptance doesn’t make him a very good person to turn to when you’re the person bringing you down. I’m all, “Chris, I’ve got to change my wicked ways and live on the straight and narrow!” And he’s all “How are you going to do that?” So I said “Next time I’m about to do stupid shit, I’ll call you, and you’ll tell me not to!” And he’s all “No I won’t.” It’s true. He won’t. He’ll just bathe me in love and acceptance and tell me I’m a great person, which isn’t exactly helpful.

    I thought more about it and then I called Margie, who was willing to take on the responsibility of agreeing that I shouldn’t do stupid shit. I’m sure she’ll be nothing but gentle and tactful. And then I got to thinking about whom I go to, for what.

    I go to Claudia or Le when I need someone who is willing to spend lots of time in the details. I try to avoid blanket statements about genders, but really? Women are so much better at this. You skip something relevant, like whether he said ‘I’ll call you’ or ‘talk to you later’ and they will back the story up until they understand every last part exactly. Claudia and Le will also do something few of my other friends will, which is condemn people. I call Shabana when I need someone who will help me search a situation for the best possible explanation for why people acted wrong. She always assumes the best of everyone; when I need to get along, she’ll help me find a way to do that. Not Claudia or Le. They get right in there with “nope, she’s did that ‘cause she’s a selfish bitch.” Very helpful sometimes; as, to pick any old example, when your best friend dates your ex.

    I sometimes try my guy friends. If I call Teddy, I could well start with “woe is me” and end spending forty minutes discussing fruit. If I call Anand, we’ll be giggling and making fun of each other within minutes, which is fun, but doesn’t really answer burning questions about what that guy secretly meant when he said “I don’t want to be in a serious relationship.”

    I wrote to a new girlfriend last night, who came though with a perceptive and thoughtful and supportive letter back. I knew she would. The blog has been very kind to me that way; bringing me new people whom I can go to for help in new ways. (Amanda, my boss really liked the SpeedGeekery technique. I did not, however, provide him a link to our discussion.) I am lucky to have you out there.