Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Feminist Polygamy?

Do you ever listen to "This American Life" on NPR? It's an interesting program, where they basically choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. It's a lot more interesting than that sounds. I download the show via audible.com onto my iPod, and listen to it when I'm walking the dog, or walking back to work after dropping Maya off at school (though we haven't been doing that as much lately...gotta work on that). You can listen to it for free on the radio, of course, or if you are willing to sit in front of your computer and listen, but my mind wanders when I try to do that.

Saturday's episode was called, "I enjoy being a girl (sort of)" and was really interesting. It included four or five different stories about being a woman. One of which made me think about things a bit differently than I have before. I tend to think of polygamous marriages as bad for women (and not so great for men, either), because I have this idea in my head that the women all live in one house, with a ton of screaming kids running around, not enough money, no health insurance, and just being red neck to the nth power. Plus there are horror stories of 14 year old girls being sold to old men as one of their multiple wives. Who wants that? Well, Elizabeth Josepth was one of the stories on This American Life, and she is well educated, well spoken, works outside the home, and is one of 8 wives in a polygemous marriage. WTF? Well, she says it works out pretty great for them. They all work at professional jobs. They all have their own houses (two wives share a house, because it's really big). They all get along and love each other and party on tequilla when they feel like it. There are about 20 kids between the 8 of them, but 10 of them are grown and moved out now. When 3 of the wives had babies all close together, they paid a 4th of the wives to stay home for a few years with the kids, so they could go back to work. Amazing.

So, I'm not saying this is for me. I'm not saying it's for most people. But it did make me open my mind a bit about alternative lifestyles, and see that people's lives can be SO different than mine. For another glimpse into the 'different' choices that intelligent people make, you can read the continuting saga of an 'open marriage' at Bitch PhD. It's not a blog ABOUT her open marriage, it's about her life, but she happens to have both a husband and a boyfriend, and her in laws just found out, I think, and the shit's kind of hitting the fan.

Discuss. (In Linda Richman's voice, of course!)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Why I Prefer Showers...

So there's this website called Post Secret, which is an ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. This one pretty much sums up my feelings for bathing (see # 76). A jacuzzi, however, is different. Take a look...some of them may speak to you. I found it via The View From Crazy. Mail your secrets to:
13345 Copper Ridge Rd
Germantown, Maryland
USA 20874-3454

In Case You Were Wondering...

What's wrong with missionaries, and why I don't give my 'charity' dollars to religious groups...I mean, they go and bring education and medicine and try to help people, correct? But at what price. The fact of the matter is that the whole goal of missionaries is to try to convince the 'other' that the best course of action is to change from being 'other' to being 'self'. To be a bit more clear, those people over there have a problem, and the best way to fix it is to make them more like us. Because, you know, we're doing so damn well over here. We don't have problems with poverty, racism, sexism, education, etc. Wait, all of that doesn't matter, because at least we're christian and we're going to heaven. Except for me. Never baptized, so I guess I'll just wait over here.

So, that was a bit of rambling vitrol, wasn't it? Sorry. My anger comes from an article I read about GW's plan for AIDS prevention in Africa. Abstenence. 1/4 of the money that is going to Africa for AIDS prevention is going to teach people to not have sex. Condoms? Not so much. Grrr. Because, you know, teaching abstinence works so well. To quote, from the article linked here:
Responding to the latest review of abstinence-only programs, James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, stated last week: "The report reads like an indictment. Abstinence-only is bad science, bad policy and a blatant violation of medical ethics and basic human rights. Enough is enough. The time has come for Congress to declare an immediate moratorium on federal funding for these programs. It is a national scandal that we have already spent over $1.1 billion of taxpayers' dollars on programs that don't work and that censor vital public health information for young people."

To decide that abstinence only education is the way to go for teens is bad enough. To push it on a continent as a method of preventing a so far incurable disease is criminal. I wonder if they're going to pass out the lame ass rings to children in Africa who have been infected by their sick mothers? Or just the 'pure' kids?

My puritan ancestors are probably spinning in their graves right now. Spin, baby, spin.

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

We watched this movie last night on DVD. It was really pretty amazing. If you're not familiar with the story, I'll fill you in. There is a flock of parrots that live on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco...no one is sure when or how they got there, but there are many theories, including that they escaped from a ship that was here from South America, that an old woman owned them, and when she died, the person who came to clean out her apartment released them, and many others. Those parrots have not only thrived, they have been breeding for about 20 years now.

There is a man, Mark Bittner, who lives in the area, and as he is pretty much against getting a job and working for a living, had plenty of time to establish a relationship with the birds. He spent years doing this...feeding them from his hands, bringing them into his home to nurse them when they were sick or injured. They were his life. The film documents this amazing story in a way that is both amazing and beautiful, and not the least bit boring. We really enjoyed it.

The most recent developments are: Mark is no longer unemployed, because of the book and the movie that he has released about his relationship with the parrots. He is now in a relationship, with the director of the film, Judy Irving. (One cute part of the movie is that he has really long hair...the filmmaker asks him when he is going to cut it, and he says, when he gets a girlfriend....so at the end of the film, they show him getting it cut. Cute. :)

Also, there is trouble in paradise...the birds main roosting trees are a group of cypress trees on Telegraph Hill, which apparantly are dead and at danger of falling over. The owner of the trees wants to cut them down before they fall on someone or someone's house. Bittner and fans of the parrots don't want him to cut the trees down, because the parrots will be exposed to Hawks, and will have a very difficult time relocating. It's a big mess, with no clear good or bad guys. However, it looks like perhaps an answer will come, and the city is proposing to seriously prune the existing trees, so that they will stand for a few more years, and cause less damage should they fall, and meanwhile plant more cypress trees which will serve as the parrots eventual home, as well as provide some sort of structural support for the existing trees. I hope it works out. I would hate to see the trees cut down and the parrots decimated. I would also hate to see the trees fall and kill someone, or fall on someone's house, and the owner gets a big fat lawsuit, which is obviously his big fear.

Whatever happens, it's a beautiful film, and the birds are amazing. You can visit Bittner's website, and an article on the current state of affairs on SFGate.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why I'm afraid of going to Africa

Two posts before I leave the house? This is getting stupid. I'm insane. I'm still in my jammies. ACK! The worst thing is that I dreamed about this post...I was peacefully sleeping, and I dreamed that Autumn's Mom wrote a post about either going to Africa, or the Toto song, I'm not sure which...maybe both? I don't know. Anyway, it made me remember why Africa is the last continent on my list of travels:

Look here...
and/or here
(Hint...my maiden name? Ward.)

I remember reading about this when it happened, and I lived in San Francisco, and I remember thinking maybe the Terminator was behind it, and was going to come for me next...like he'd knock at the door and say, "Julie Ward?". and I'd say, "Yes?", and then all hell would break loose, and then he'd drive away, leaving the smashed toy truck and my dead body behind. There were more than three Julie Wards in the SF phone book, but still, I was definately there and gonna get it.

I really shouldn't post this early.

Flashback Friday

I was going to skip posting for a few days...maybe until Monday...just to show you all that I don't HAVE to post every day, and I DON'T have a 'posting problem' or anything. But apparantly that's not true. Is there a support group out there for blogging? Maybe this will be my only post for the day. Maybe.

Anyway, here's where I rip off TWO friends at once! First, Autumn's Mom, who sometimes posts about music from the 80's on Friday, taking us all into a slightly uncomfortable yet somehow pleasant time warp, and second, Jeffito, who has a link to a THIRD blog, Drink at Work. It's the Drink at Work post that you have to go check out, but only if you have speakers. They have some great Flashback Sitcom music for you all. :)

If you haven't checked out Jeffito, you should. He's got a lot more music info on his site than I have a stomach for...lots of reviews that are very down to earth and approachable...(and if you want to write one, he'll have you as a guest reviewer) So if you're into music, new and old, you'll love it. Ted loves it. In addition, however, Jefito is willing to take a bullet for us all once in awhile, and eat and review totally disgusting products that he finds at the store. Lots of strange cereals, but once in awhile a new soft drink or beer will appear. So if you see something totally disturbing at the store, and you wonder, "what kind of freak would even TRY that crap?", well, now you know. He's also a new dad, with a pretty cute kid.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Junk Mail (aka Spam)

Do you ever read any of the junk mail that gets through the filters? Since I'm working from home today, my work email isn't quite the same as when I'm at work, and I have to open an email in order to delete it. Of course, I don't open the attachments. I stopped and read one today, and I thought it was kind of funny. Here you go. Nothing has been omitted, except for the attachment. Enjoy:

Nor was that all. what do you do? in 1893 Of course not.

But instead of weeping with exalted grief as she should have done when Misery expired giving birth to the boy whom Ian and Geoffrey would presumably raise together, she was mad as hell. "Twice. You're lucky I have any morphine at all. "Oh, Mrs. And what was the real bottom line: The truth! He opened it and saw a set of steep, rickety stairs pitching and yawing their way into the cellar. "The only question is whether you're going down piggyback or bum over teakettle. in 1849


So last night, Maya said she felt cold, freezing cold, but I assumed it was because it was getting cold out, and she was wearing a thin, short sleeved shirt. She didn't feel feverish, and we took her temp...99. So I didn't worry about it too much. She got in the shower, still freezing, and got ready for bed. She wanted help brushing her hair, so I was doing that, and she said, "I feel queasy...." then barfed in the sink. Twice. Poor kid. Good thing we had draino, becuase those little bathroom sinks aren't meant for puke. She brushed her teeth and got into bed. Took the temp again, 101. Gave her advil and water, and let her sleep. She's still asleep now, though she feels much cooler to the touch. I can't see sending her to school when she might feel worse or pass it on to someone else, so we're staying home today. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Best Meatloaf Recipe

As you know, I received many Barnes and Noble giftcards for my birthday this year. Well, I spent most of the money on the books over there to the right (scroll down), and on Monday I managed to spend the rest of it on a new cookbook. I got the Barefoot Contessa cookbook, which I would not have gotten if I hadn't had the gift cards, because it was EXPENSIVE (not so expensive on Amazon, but it was at B&N). But the pictures are beautiful, and that is key for me. I guess I'm a visual person.

Well, we tried a recipe on Monday night. I made the Turkey Meatloaf, and BOY, was it good. Got rave reviews from Ted and Maya. I served it with some mashed potatoes that I saw on "Everyday Italian", but there was so much cheese in them, I thought they weren't worth the calories. I mean, they were good, but not really any better than the ones we usually make. But the meatloaf, wow that was good. If you like meatloaf at all, give it a try. The recipe in the book says "ground turkey breast", but we used thighs to make it moister and more flavorful. We halved the recipe, too, since this called for 5 lbs of meat. We thought that was a bit excessive. Maybe next time I won't halve it, though, and freeze half of it for an easy dinner. Hmmmm.

Thinking about films...

While I was driving home from my Great Uncle's funeral yesterday, I was listening to "Fresh Air" on NPR. Terry Gross was interviewing Steven Soderbergh, who I really like ever since he directed 'Sex, Lies, and Videotape', which is one of those films I can watch over and over again. I haven't liked EVERYTHING he puts out, but I do have a lot of respect for him. So he has a new movie coming out that is very interesting for two reasons. The film is called 'Bubble', and it's about a strange love triangle "born in a doll factory" in a small midwestern town.

The first interesting thing about this movie is that he used non-actors for the main rolls in this film. So there's a murder, and a detective, and while no one REALLY died making the film, the guy playing the detective is a real detective, and he's basically doing his real job for the camera. The woman who works in the doll factory who is being questioned? Also not an actor. I'm not sure what her real job is. But he was talking about how authentic and 'non-charismatic' these people were in their rolls...he said it was some of the best acting he's ever seen in his life, because they weren't acting...they were behaving as they truly would in this situation. Interesting.

The second really interesting thing about this movie is that it is being released simultaneously in the theater, on DVD, and on TV, on HDNet channel. How can they do this? Well, the company that is distributing the film owns Landmark Theaters, HDNet channel, and now a DVD production company. So they make money no matter what. Why are they doing this? Well, Soderbergh thought about the bootleg copies that come out nowadays, and how they often come out the same day or sometimes even before the film is released, and this would be a way to stem that somewhat. More importantly, he realizes that a lot of people don't enjoy going to the movies anymore, ($$$$$$), and home theaters have gotten so much better in the last 10 years or so, so this is a way to get his film to a larger audience. The implications are interesting...if you still want to see a movie in the theater, you can. If you want to watch it on TV, you can. If you want to NetFlix it, you can. So even if you don't have a Landmark theater near you, or HDNet on your cable line up, you can still see this film while it's new in the theater. Very interesting. I'm curious to see how it works out, and if it's the wave of the future, or just a silly little experiment that will fall by the wayside.

I'm not a film geek, so I don't know all of the implications here, but I thought it was pretty interesting, and I think I'll NetFlix 'Bubble' and check it out for myself. :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Out of town....

Today I am going to Santa Rosa to attend services for my Great Uncle, "Buddy" (my paternal Grandmother's half brother, if you care about such things). I've only met him once in my life, and I don't really remember him, but it's the right thing to do, and I'll see other family there, which is always nice. So, I won't be writing anything new and exciting here today. (That assumes that anything I ever write is exciting, but I digress...) So, I'll leave you with a brief restaurant review, and I'll be back soon.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Next Blog...

Have you ever tried clicking the "next blog>>" at the top of the blogger pages? Well, you can find some decent stuff that way, as well as some pretty pathetic attempts at writing, a lot of stuff in Spanish, Cantonese, and other languages that I don't speak (or read), and some pictures of naked women. So I thought I would contribute to it all...here's a picture of a nude bitch for you:

Wait...is she still a bitch if she's spayed? I don't know dog rules...anyway, that's all you'll get from this site. So move along. Thank you.

Amusing Blog

Turns out there's this female cab driver in New York City with a blog that could be good for a couple of laughs, and maybe some insight into human nature. Enjoy responsibly.

A Day in the City

Saturday, after a lovely breakfast at Lafayette Circle Cafe, we drove into the city, with the intention of going to Morrison Planetarium. We knew that it was being redone, but weren't completely clear on the details...Ted knew there was a new museum in where the old City Library was, but he had forgotten that we had actually gone there a year or so ago, and that it is the new Asian Art Museum. I remembered reading that the aquarium was near the Moscone Center, downtown, but wasn't sure where. So we parked near Moscone, and went into the Metreon to use the bathroom and find out more. Of course, I didn't remember that the planitarium was in the Academy of Science, but I did remember the DeYoung museum, which was also very recently renovated. So I asked about that. They said it was complete, and back in its original location in Golden Gate Park. Hmmm. That was fast, I thought. So we got back in the car, and went to Golden Gate Park. The building that I was thinking of? Torn down. The DeYoung? Open. But it's not a planetarium and an aquarium and creepy taxidermy...it's art (which is what it always was, but we were confusing it with the Academy of Science, so we're clueless). So, we looked at art. We saw a lot of cool masks and statues and figuerines from Oceanna and Africa. Some of them were REALLY cool, like this one, from Africa:

We saw European paintings. We saw photographs from the civil war. We saw chairs that were very cool looking, including one that was from Philadelphia before the revolution, which was cool. One of the most interesting things to me was this photo:

It's Lewis Powell, who was a conspiritor of John Wilkes Booth, and was convicted of attempting to murder William Seward. Apparantly he stabbed Seward several times, and almost succeeded in his dasterdly plan. He was hung not too long after this picture was taken. There was a quote under the picutre, which I wish I had here...it's something about how when viewing this picture, it's of a living person who is condemned to die...and really, all portraits are just that, as we are all mortal, and thus we are all condemned to die at some point. Interesting way of looking at it. I'm not sure who the quote is from, but it wasn't the artist.

I also really liked this paining:

John Singer Sargent, A Dinner Table at Night, 1884.

Anyway, after we left the museum, we decided we were hungry again, and we went to Ton Kiang for Dim Sum. Mmm...dim sum. (Want restaurant pictures? Menus? A map? You're welcome.) We had steamed pork buns, vegetarian egg rolls, crab claws stuffed with shrimp, potstickers, dumplings with shrimp and snow peas, chicken wrapped in foil, shrimp balls, and eggplant stuffed with shrimp. Ton Kiang is pretty much the best Dim Sum in the city, at least, that's what they're famous for, and it's REALLY good. The only thing that wasn't that great was the eggplant, because the skin was really tough and hard to eat. But the dumplings with shrimp were GREAT, the eggrolls were crispy and full of mushrooms, celery, and other veggies, and not at all greasy. Try it sometime...esp if you like seafood. It's worth the drive. Of course, it gets REALLY crowded there, so go during the off hours for the best chance of getting in.

That was our Saturday...it was a really nice, relaxing day, and we didn't get anything done around the house, which was fine with all of us. :)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blog For Choice Day

I found out about Blog for Choice at Angry Black Bitch. And there's more here. I've been thinking about what to write about this....it's an important issue for so many reasons...so here's what I came up with.

First of all, abortion is a terrible thing. I don't care what you believe about when life starts, whether it's with conception or with the birth of a live baby, or somewhere in between. The cold hard fact of the matter is that, if the pregnancy were allowed to continue, the most likely result would be a living, breathing baby. Stopping that in its tracks is tragic.

That having been said, however, when it comes right down to it, the question is, whose rights are formost...the woman's rights, or the unborn child's rights? I happen to believe, very strongly, that the woman has the greater rights, being as how she is already a living, breathing, conscious person. So, I believe, she has the right to decide whether or not to go through a pregnancy and a childbirth or not. And, having gone through both, I cannot IMAGINE going through them unwillingly. It was hard enough when it was my deepest desire.

There are people who say that abortion is wrong, except in the cases of incest, rape, severe deformities in the child, or danger to the health of the woman. I say this is an invalid arguement. These sound like equivications to me, like circumstances under which someone might themselves get an abortion, who otherwise would not consider one. But they do not consider the deeper issues...they mask them. The issue is, is it murder or is it not. And, does one person ever have the right to kill another person? Well, seems to me that a lot of the same people who are anti-choice because all life is sacred turn pretty frothy when thinking about the death penalty, and understand how sometimes it may be necessary to kill someone in war time. I don't see the difference. Sometimes, the rights of one person, unfortunately, take precidence over the rights of another. If there were ways around it, what a beautiful world we would live in. A woman gets pregnant because of whatever reason, and doesn't want to have the baby. OK, just transport said fetus into the womb of a woman who WANTS a baby, and bam, problem solved. If only that were possible. It isn't. But another question that occurs to me with these questions is one of blame. It's a way of controlling the sexuality of women. If a woman gets pregnant through NO FAULT OF HER OWN (rape, incest, etc.), then suddenly terminating her pregnancy isn't morally repugnant? That doesn't wash. Because what we're saying here is that if a woman is so irresponsible as to have sex without being willing to accept the consequences, then she is somehow a sinner, and her actions are worse than those of the rape/incest victim. And if you are so naive as to believe that if men could get pregnant, ANY of this would be an issue, I have a bridge to sell you. Maybe two. Men are allowed, even encouraged, to enjoy their sexuality, and women are taught to fear it. Because the consequences of sex fall so heavily on the side of the woman, not the man. So, is it killing a baby? Maybe. Is it wrong? Maybe. Should we make it illegal? NO. Should we try to find solutions to this problem? HELL YES.

What it comes down to, for me, is something my very wise (though perhaps not as wise as she thinks) mother once told me...if the people on the pro-choice side, and the people on the pro-life side, could all come together and concentrate their efforts (SO MUCH MONEY, and SO MUCH TIME, on both sides) on PREVENTING UNWANTED PREGNANCY, much of this issue would just go away. If women (and men, thank you) had FREE education, from an early age, if they weren't taught to be ASHAMED of their bodies and their sexuality, if they could get FREE birth control, and learn about responsible decisions from parents and educators who care, I honestly think the abortion rate would go down, way down. If women didn't get pregnant because they are too afraid to insist on a condom, or afraid to go to Planned Parenthood for birth control because their parents might find out, or weren't so uninformed as to believe that it can't happen to THEM, maybe we wouldn't NEED days like Blog for Choice. I'll drink to that.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pasta Primavera Cafe

Every once in awhile, I find myself dining at Pasta Primavera Cafe. If you haven't tried PPC, it's a small chain with 5 locations: San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Concord, San Mateo, and Dublin. There are two locations within a block of one another in Walnut Creek, on North Main near Treat Boulvard. One is Pasta Primaver Cafe, and the other is Pasta Primavera Too. Not long ago, they took the original Cafe and converted the second dining room into a sports bar type atmosphere. There is a big, flat screen TV, and a large full bar. I don't like the change...it seems to go against open, semi casual atmosphere, and was trying for something else that didn't quite work. Apparantly others agree with me, because now they've closed that location, and are renovating it for what they're calling "Pasta Primavera Events", which I'm assuming would mean work parties, wedding receptions and that sort of thing. We'll have to have some sort of party to find out how it turned out.

Anyway, I went to the Concord Location yesterday for lunch (you can click here for blurry photos of the location, but I didn't take them, and I'm not there...), and I'm sorry to say I didn't try anything new for you people. I should have...but I was thinking me me me, not of you. Sorry.

When you're seated, you are brought hot sourdough bread with Caponata, which is a smooth mixture of eggplant, sundried tomatoes, garlic, capers, basil, parmesean cheese, and olive oil. It's REALLY yummy, good enough reason to come here on its own merits. As a matter of fact, Auntie and I both got some to go as well. I'm going to take mine and make sandwiches with chicken and arugala on ciabetta bread. Mmmm.

Meals, except for salads, are served with your choice of a house salad or minestone soup. The soup is good, but I don't really like the house salad very much. There is no choice of dressing, and the one they serve is too vinegary for me. Cherry and her mom sometimes go there and have one of the meal sized salads, and they say they're tasty. I'll have to take their word for it, because when I go, I go for cream.

I almost always get one of two things at Pasta Primavera...the first is the Cheese Tortellini, which is served with mushrooms, peas, and prosciutto in a creamy parmesean sauce. Mmmm. Too much cheese for me, though, so I ask them to substitute the tortellini with bowtie pasta, but everything else the same. It's really good. The saltiness of the prosciutto, the creaminess of the sauce, and the sweetness of the peas work very well together. It's a heart attack on a plate with that cream and pork, but hey, once in awhile, you have to live it up.

The other item I like a lot is the Spinach Gorgonzola, which is bowtie pasta (sensing a theme here?) with chicken breast, spinach, and diced tomatoes in a creamy gorgonzola sauce. Mmmm. The sauce is creamy and salty and not overpowering. The chicken is tender and moist. The spinach and tomatoes are a really nice touch. The tomatoes are added at the end of cooking, so they're not stewed, but just slightly cooked. If you are a vegetarian, this seems like it would be pretty good with the chicken omitted, or with mushrooms instead of chicken for texture.

Auntie ordered Fettuccini Alfredo, the one time a year she allows herself that much cream. It comes with some broccoli on top, maybe a concession to the health minded folks out there. Or maybe just because it tastes nice together.

I've ordered a few other things in past visits...standouts were the Butternut Ravioli special, served in a lovely florentine sauce. The Seafood Ravioli are served in the same yummy spinach cream sauce.

I am usually too full for dessert. I used to get the creme brulee, because it was pretty tasty, especially with a nice latte. I remember once at a wonderful French restaurant in San Francisco, a waiter told me, "Many do Creme Brulee...few do it well". Well, they used to do a fair job of it at Pasta Primavera, but recently it's either missing from the menu, or served in a chocolate cup, which is, to me, just WRONG. Don't mix chocolate in with your creme brulee. In addition to tiramisu, cannoli, and other Italian treats, they also have a small selection of gilatos and ices. Nice, but once again, after all of that cream, I'm usually too full.

The wine list is short and conservative. Nothing really special, they play it safe. But you can have a nice glass or bottle of wine with your meal, if you're so inclined. I'm usually so inclined. ;)

So hie thee to Pasta Primavera, folks. Or maybe to the above mentioned French Restaurant...I haven't been there in over 10 years, so I won't review it until I go back. But boy, it was amazing when we used to go. Hmmm. There's a thought.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rockin' Good News!

Some of you know that my mom has had some bad luck this past year...poor health, which led to a pretty invasive surgery, and the loss of her job, all in a few months time. Well, she called me tonight, and she has a new job! YAY YAY YAY! She starts Monday. She works/lives in Juneau, Alaska, and she'll be working somewhere where they work with teenagers to create anti-alcohol media, at least that's how I understand the job. YAY! Tomorrow was her last day of Unemployment Eligibility, so things were about to get a lot more stressful in her neck of the woods.

Now, this past 6 1/2 months have been stressful for her, to say the least. Not having work is scary, unless you've put a bunch of money away, and she hasn't been able to put enough away to hold out forever. (Who has?) But I'm actually thankful that she didn't have a job when she was trying to recover from her illness. It would have been very difficult for her to recuperate if she had not been able to sleep and relax as much as she needed to. If I believed in God, I would say that (S)He gave my mom this period of unemployment, so that she could recover completely, and now that she's healed, it is time for her to go back to work. But that would beg the question of why, if my mom had to spend 6 months recuperating, she couldn't win the lottery or something, so she wouldn't have to worry so much about money? Or, even more obviously, why the hell she had the medical condition to begin with. But, since I don't believe in God, it's OK, and I'm just thankful that things have worked out this way. YAY!

And, because I'm feeling a bit giddy with relief, I'll tell you Maya's first joke. This is a conversation between Maya and my Mother In Law, with MIL driving the car, and Maya (who's almost 2) in the car seat in back. Maya appears to be playing with something in her mouth...could it be something she's found and popped in there, like a typical toddler? Will she choke?

MIL: "Moons, What's in your mouth sweetheart?"
Maya, after thinking for a moment: "Teeth!"

HAHAHA. Cute. :)

Unrelated but happy notes:

I had a really good yoga class tonight, probably partially because I was so happy about my mom, and my 'intention' for class was, "Embrace the Joy". Corny, yes, but I like it too.

We taped "Lost" last night, so I get to watch that in a few minutes.

Tomorrow I'm going to celebrate a belated birthday (mine) or two (Auntie's) by going to lunch with Auntie. We're going to Pasta Primavera Cafe in Concord. Yummy. I'll have a glass of wine with my lunch to celebrate Mom's job (and because I like wine), so don't tell my boss...or his boss...or his boss. ;) You know, since I'm going back to work after.

Happy Friday Everyone! TGIF!


Tuesday night, Maya brought home a bunch of math homework. She hates math homework. I hate the barrier she puts up around her math homework, where she makes things so much more difficult than they need to be. She's pretty good with the rest of her homework, but math, she simply does not want to do. She's actually good at math, too, which makes it even more confusing for me that she dislikes doing the work so much. I was always good at it, and I liked it because I liked being good at it.

So she was adding fractions, looking for the lowest common denomonator, and she decided she was only going to do one page. I wanted her to do all 4 pages, but decided that 2 pages would be a good compromise, since she didn't have to turn them ALL in today. She did one page, and stopped. I tried to help her, to show her how easy it can be, but she didn't want to do it. She just sat and looked at me with this look that said, "You can't make me. I am NOT doing any more homework tonight." Let me just say, if there is one thing I hate more than homework, and the knowledge that she won't be free from its grasp until she graduates from college, it's that look on her face. I felt a RAGE building up inside me. I was SO angry, I wanted to rip her workbook into pieces and have her eat them, and then let her explain to her teachers that the work would soon be coming out in the form of shit. SO MAD. So I picked up her workbook, so that I could slam it shut and say something mean like, "FINE, DON'T DO YOUR WORK, I DON'T WANT TO HELP YOU ANYMORE!!!", which is bad enough, but instead I picked up the workbook and THREW IT against the wall. She was scared. I could see it in her face. I didn't care. I was still mad. I don't even know what we said to each other after that, but soon she was crying, and I felt like a complete and utter turd. Boy, I suck. So I asked her if we could make up. We kissed, and she climbed into my lap, and we cuddled a bit. I told her I was ashamed that I had scared her. She told me she had been afraid that I would hit her. I told her the story about the time my mom was so mad at my brother and me that she wanted to pound us into the ground, and she took a jump rope outside and beat the side of the house with it, like someone flogging a carpet to get the dirt out, until her anger had dissapated. I remember that we felt like we had better well do whatever she had asked, and not get in her way any more THAT day. So I told Maya, if I ever got so mad that I wanted to hit her, I would just take a rope and hit the house, and she doesn't have to worry. We cuddled some more. Then she did her homework.

My anger scared me, though. How could I be THAT mad at my little baby? Look at that face! (I know, this is 7 years ago, but she is still my baby..)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dining near Shadelands? Here's how....

My last 3 jobs have all been in the Shadelands office park, in Walnut Creek. I've eaten a lot of lunches around here, so I thought I would write a guide to help you out, if you're in the neighborhood looking for lunch (or dinner).

Pizza Places:
Mary's Pizza Shack - Mary's is a chain, but a small one. There are 15 locations, all in Northern California, most in Sonoma County. The service is usually pretty good, the bread they bring out is warm and crusty, and they serve a pretty good salad (good dressings, too). My choices for best lunches: Soup and Salad lunch special - Especially if the soup is Minestrone. Mmmmm. Pizza and Salad lunch special - A big slice of pizza, either mushroom, cheese, or pepperoni, and a small salad. I like the raspberry vinegarette dressing. Linguine al Pesto - Tons of garlic. Mmmmm. Penne and Sausage - Very tasty. They also serve pizza, but I like the crust better at Rocco's, so if I'm in a pizza mood, I'll usually go there, unless I'm craving the pizza and salad special I mentioned.

Rocco's Pizzeria - Rocco's is locally owned and operated...and Rocco is a stand up guy. He donates a lot of money to local school and sport fundraisers, so if that sort of thing warms your heart, go support his business. Also, pretty good pizza. For me, it's all about the crust, and they do a good job there. They also have some tasty sandwiches on their menu. The most popular with my (current) coworkers are the Chicken Pesto Sandwich and the Meatball Sandwich. Sadly, I've never been that impressed with their salads. If you want a big salad for the family to eat with your pizza, it's fine, but I wouldn't go there looking for a salad for lunch. I haven't tried the pastas at Rocco's, though I've heard the ravioli and lasagna are both pretty tasty.

Chinese Food
China Village - This is the place over by Albertsons, near Heather Farms. They have really good Black Bean Shrimp. They also do the big round community table, so if you want to meet people, this is a pretty good place to do it. However, I mostly prefer:

Jade Garden - Near the Ygnacio/Oak Grove Safeway. For one thing, you get your own table. But in addition to that, the food is better, or at least more to my taste. I especially like the Spicy Eggplant on the regular menu. Mmmm. Very good. On the lunch menu (which means a single serving of your entree', served with your choice of steamed or fried rice, a bowl of soup, some crispy won tons, and an egg roll), my favorites are the Sweet and Sour Shrimp and the Szechwan Chicken. I think the sauce on the chicken is the same as the sauce on the eggplant, which is why I like this dish. It also has a lot of celery in it, which I hate, but will sometimes eat just to get to the sauce. :) They usually have the same specials on their special board, which you have to read behind the cash register, because it's not on your menu anywhere. But you can get Asparagus Chicken or Beef, String Bean Chicken or Beef, Sweet and Sour Chicken, and other yummy things as well. On their regular menu, they have a dish called General's Chicken that I will try the next time we get take out...in case I don't like it. When we lived in Philly, there was a dish called General Tso's Chicken that I loved, which was chicken (fried, of course) with broccoli and GARLIC (and maybe peanuts?). I haven't found the same dish out here yet...I think I've tried it at Jade Garden, but to be honest, it was so long ago, I can't remember if it was the same. Probably not, or else I would order it more often.

New Chinatown Restaurant - This is the place over by Butterfly Life (formerly Linda Evans) in Countrywood. Don't go here. They have really yummy sweet and sour, but
1. They lied to me about MSG, which gives my mother in law a really bad reaction, so it's important that they NOT put it in, or be honest and say it goes in EVERYTHING.
2. The next time I went there after the MSG incident, I got food poisoning. Probably bad karma for going to a place that tried to kill my MIL.

Spring Garden - Near Trader Joes, on Oak Grove near Treat. This is a good place to go if you like all you can eat Chinese buffet, but since I don't like Chinese buffet, I don't like Spring Garden. Sorry.

Evie's - Near Safeway, Rocco's, and Jade Garden, on Ygnacio Valley Rd. They have really yummy burgers and onion rings. I've heard their breakfasts are pretty good, too. It's a small, locally owned place, so if you care about that, this is a good place. They also have turkey burgers, for the more health-conscious burger lover. I got a BLT here once...it sucked. The bacon was really old and chewy. Blech.

Applebees - Pretty darned tasty burgers in a sit down restaurant, and a full bar to boot. Almost everything on their menu seems to be fried, though, so really, stick with the burger and count your calories elsewhere. :)

Carl's Jr. - It's fast food, and yes, they ARE trying to kill you with their $6 burger, but if you like Deep Fried Zucchini (I do), this is a good place. When I'm feeling like eating/reading trash, I love to go to Carl's with a People Magazine, get a (regular, not huge) burger and some Zucc, and just enjoy. Definately a guilty pleasure.

Jalisco Gourmet Burritos - On Oak Grove, near Carl's Jr. and Mary's. The burritos here are tasty and quick, and the owner is local, which is nice. They have a good Curry Chicken Burrito, but they won't bother to tell you if they're out of raisins, so if you LIKE raisins in your burrito, and DON'T think they're devil food, you had better ask.

High Tech Burrito - Near China Village and Albertsons on Ygnacio Valley Rd. I prefer the burritos here to the ones at Jalisco, though in theory they're pretty much the same thing. I especially like a regular Chicken Burrito or a Black Bean Quesadilla with guacamole for dipping. Mmmm.

Quiznos - Over by Jalisco Burritos. They're basically sub sandwiches, but they toast them under a broiler, which makes them yummy.

ToGos - Near Jade Garden. Sub sandwiches. Lots of veggies, good bread. Pretty basic stuff.

So that's the wrap up. Of course, I've left some places out. There's a place next to Evie's that has sandwiches and soups and salads, but I can't remember the name and I've never liked it. There's a Japanese restaurant over by China Village, but I don't like it much either.

So, if you're spending the day near Shadelands, I hope this list is helpful. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Not sure why this bugs me, but it does....

OK, I am sure. Jane Austin was NOT a romantic (though you wouldn't know it to watch the film adaptations of her books, especially the most recent adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice"). Yes, her stories are love stories, but she was writing against the romantic books of the time. She is famous for her treatment of the "human condition", and her heroines were often put in the position of balancing practical matters like financial necessity (marrying well) and other, more internal concerns, like morality, friendship, and dare I say it, love. Sounds like a romance, I know, but really, it's different. I know, most people don't care about this...about whether Jane Austin's books are misrepresented or not...but really, she's dead, she had no children. She stands to make no profit off of changing the marketing of her work. So why advertise it in a way that is completely opposite of what she was trying to do? And, for the reader, how dissapointing, to come in looking for one thing, and to come out with something so very different? A few people might really enjoy it, but I suspect that the difference between modern writing styles and 19th century writing is great enough that most people will feel hoodwinked. I know I would.

Waxing Philisophical....

So I'm reading this book, "The Mermaid Chair", and the protaginist has fallen in love at first sight...with a monk. And she's already married...been married for 20 years or so, I'm guessing, and never thought about 'cheating' before. So while this certainly isn't the first book I've ever read about, or partially about, infidelity, it has me thinking...about art. About how good art can take a person down the road not taken. Good books, good paintings, or sculpture, or music...good poetry, or films, or even TV...(tangent...sometimes I think novels and TV can be the best at showing you other lives...because they have time that poems, films, and paintings don't have. A good TV show can take months, even years to show you the full reprecussions of decisions made...like a good book can, but not a lot of films or paintings...)

Hell, even BAD art can be poingnant sometimes, and take you down a road that you would never WANT to travel in your real life...let you see, feel, and know what that life might be like. And don't we all 'suppose' sometimes, think of wonderful or horrible or everyday, mundane things, and wonder how our lives would be different if we made different choices, or were faced with different circumstances? I fear I am hopelessly morbid, because anytime Ted and Maya are out together and come home an hour or two later than I expect, I wonder if maybe they're dead. And then, what would I do with my life? Who would I become? What would change, and what would remain, about me? Would the pain make me into a bitter, horrid person? Or would I recover? We all LIKE to think we would deal with things in a certain way, but it's impossible to KNOW.

It's easy for me to say, that even though I am pro-choice, adamently so, I would never have an abortion, because I've never had to make that choice. I wanted a child, and I got pregnant, and she was healthy and normal and perfect.

It's easy to say I would never cheat on my husband, but I've never been faced with the situation this character is facing, this crazy feeling of being in love for the first time...though honestly, I haven't finished the book, maybe she won't cheat on her husband. But what if I had married some guy who I didn't love as much as I love Ted? Or what if that really isn't the key factor? What if it has more to do with who I am in our relationship, or who we are together? Or who I was at a certain point in our relationship, what I was going through at that time. What if...that's the beauty of good art. It can take you down these roads, show you the beauty and joy of them, the sorrow and anguish, the ugly consequences, the pain that we bring upon ourselves and each other, and yet we can, hopefully, live our lives in a much more reasonable way...working and loving, paying our bills and taking our vacations, cooking, cleaning, fighting and making up. It allows us to live our lives and make our choices, and still have a glimpse of how else things might have turned out. That's what art does for me.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy MLK Day

So today is the day we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr....an amazing man in so many ways. Of course, some companies don't give MLK day as a paid holiday...companies which shall remain nameless. My interesting MLK factoid is that my father was in DC visiting some friends when King gave his famous, "I have a dream" speech, and my dad was so moved that he went and became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. I believe he was down south registering voters, mostly. Also found out recently that he was convicted of a felony once, for draft evasion in Viet Nam. I knew he had resisted the draft, but I hadn't known about the conviction. Also found out he was put in jail for 30 days once for his participation in a sit in. So, while we honor the great Dr. King today, I also find myself honoring the convictions that my dad held/holds. Here's to you, Dad. :)

Friday, January 13, 2006

No Pressure...

But if you're interested, a certain Girl Scout is taking cookie orders.

They used the money they raised last year to go to the Antioch Water Park, which was a lot of fun. But it's not like it's going for a 'good cause', a charity, or anything like that...so don't feel pressured.

But if you think you might buy them anyway, let me know what you want, and I'll take your order for you. They are $3.50 a box.

Available varieties are:
  • All Abouts
  • Cafe Cookie (new)
  • Trefoils
  • Do-Si-Dos (Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies)
  • Samoas
  • Thin Mints
  • Tagalongs (Chocolate Covered with Peanut Butter)
  • Lemon Coolers (low fat).
  • Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Williams Sonoma Grilling Sauce

    We received a beautiful waffle iron for Christmas...unfortunately, we already had one, so I returned the gift to Williams-Sonoma. What to buy with my store credit? Well, we got a cutting board, a pastry brush, a little grater thing for grating lemon peels and cheese, and a couple of sauces. I love the raspberry jam they sell there, so I got that. I got a bottle of bordelais sauce, since I would have NO idea on how to cook that. And I got a jar of Apple Cider Grilling Sauce (can't find a picture of it anywhere on the web, so you'll have to use your **imagination** (said in Spongebob voice, with the little rainbow...))

    So last night, we tried the grilling sauce on Salmon. YUM. It was VERY tasty, and we'll definately be having that again. It's kind of sweet and tangy at the same time. Seems like it would be good on turkey breast, or on pork roast, too. I just brushed some of the sauce (using the new pastry brush, naturally) onto the salmon, and then grilled it on my stovetop grill pan. Might have been better to grill the salmon first, then add the sauce after, as it did burn a bit. But not much. Maybe it was more 'caremlized' than burned. I don't know. What I do know is that it was very tasty, and we all ate every bite. So I'm reccomending it to you folks out there...especially Autumn's Mom, as salmon was on her list of four favorite foods. ;) Enjoy!

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Teaching Intelligent Design

    Hot off the presses, the L.A. Times is reporting that a small school in Lebec, CA has begun teaching Intelligent Design in the guise of a Philosophy class. They're getting sued by a small group of parents, represented by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. This is kind of a murky issue...my first reaction is that Intelligent Design belongs in Church, not in school. Then I read that it's not a Biology class, or any kind of Science class...it's a Philosophy class. That makes it murky. If you can't talk about this kind of thing in PHILOSOPHY CLASS, where CAN you discuss it? But wait, there's more. Turns out the course is completely one sided, not a real discussion at all.
    An initial course description, which was distributed to students and their families last month, said "the class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid. The class will discuss intelligent design as an alternative response to evolution. Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the earth is thousands of years old, not billions."

    With one exception, the suit asserts, "the course relies exclusively on videos that advocate religious perspectives and present religious theories as scientific ones — and because the teacher has no scientific training, students are not provided with any critical analysis of the presentation."
    The kicker is that the teacher of the class is a Special Ed/Social Studies teacher, not a Philosophy or Science teacher, as well as the wife of the minister for the local Assembly of God Church, a Christian fundamentalist church.

    So, my opinion? This COULD be a good class...it would be interesting if schools started teaching REAL Philosophy classes that really discuss both sides of the issue, with teachers who know how to cut through all of the emotion on both sides of the subject, and could get all of the kids really thinking. I think it would be a shame if it were outlawed based on this one cock-eyed case. Of course, plenty of schools around the country would teach an equally biased course, and who wants to get in the business of monitoring them to make sure they are 'fair and balanced'?

    But boy, it would be nice to have these kids really thinking this issue through, away from the pressures of their parents and church...What am I saying. It's High School. They'll be sleeping.

    Milano's Pizza in Livermore

    If you're like us, you don't really go for Dominos, Straw Hat, that kind of pizza. If you're like us, you would prefer to find a locally owned and operated kind of place, with really yummy crust, great toppings, and a family friendly (but not insane) atmosphere. If you're in Pleasant Hill, that place is Melo's. If you're near Shadelands in Walnut Creek, that place is Rocco's. But, if you happen to find yourself in Livermore, that place is Milano's (No website, but here's a map). Did this place used to be called Stromboli's? The address and phone number are the same...

    Anywho, it's a neighborhood joint in a strip mall, with big booths, big screen TVs playing whatever game is on, and really yummy pizza. We've been twice now, with our friends Jeff and Leah (and now a certain Bean has joined the crowd), and both times, the service was friendly and attentive, and the food was good. I'm not the gourmet when it comes to toppings...can't give you nuances and so on, but the toppings here are really good, and if you ask, they'll give you ranch dressing to dip your crust in. What more can a girl ask for, really? :)

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    100 Things About Me

    Have you seen these on other websites? I've been enjoying reading other people's "100 Things About Me", so I thought I would join in the fun.

    1. My favorite flowers are white tulips.
    2. I recently turned 40. It's ok, really.
    3. My eyes are brown, except when they're green.
    4. I could eat pasta every day. Or at least, almost every day.
    5. I love wine. And cheese nips. Together, as a snack.
    6. Chocolate is fine, but I can live without it.
    7. I don't like being hot, so don't ask me to go hiking in summer.
    8. I like to swim.
    9. I've known my husband for over 18 years.
    10. Marrying him was the smartest thing I ever did.
    11. I have an amazing daughter, who will be 10 in March.
    12. My favorite TV show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    13. I can't carry a tune, but I like to sing anyway.
    14. If I had been a boy, my name would have been "Forrest Leland". For my uncle and my mom's uncle.
    15. I love my iPod Nano.
    16. I have a bachelor's degree in International Relations.
    17. I met my husband in speech class at San Francisco State University.
    18. My favorite city is San Francisco.
    19. Some of my best friends are Republicans. Shhhh.
    20. I own a shotgun, but no bullets.
    21. I have a master's degree in Comparative Literature.
    22. I'm addicted to diet coke.
    23. I was born in Berkeley, CA, approx. 6 weeks premature.
    24. I've lived in 3 states. Alaska, California, and Pennsylvania.
    25. Margaritas are yummy.
    26. I love ballet.
    27. I can't dance.
    28. I'm not athletic in the least.
    29. My parents never married each other.
    30. I love to read novels. I don't like to read non-fiction much.
    31. Ruffles Naturals (with sea salt) rock.
    32. On our honeymoon, we went to London, Amsterdam, and Paris.
    33. I don't like my job.
    34. The ending credits of almost any movie can make me cry. I think it's a reaction to the stupid music.
    35. I don't like baking much.
    36. I do like to cook.
    37. I've driven across the United States twice, from west to east, but never from east to west.
    38. My favorite ice cream is Cherries Jubilee, from Baskin Robbins.
    39. I don't like cake very much.
    40. I have two sisters and a brother. They're all "half", meaning we share one parent but not the other. They feel "whole".
    41. I'm mostly happy with life.
    42. I hate George Bush.
    43. I'm a bit of a snob.
    44. I love shopping for clothes.
    45. I don't understand purse obsessions.
    46. I love my wallet.
    47. I'm a crappy speller.
    48. My butt is bigger than I would like, but I'm starting to come to terms with that fact.
    49. I've never broken a bone.
    50. I really liked going to Hawaii with my family.
    51. I would like to show my daughter Europe. And see it myself.
    52. I love travelling with my husband. He's a great travel companion.
    53. I hate it when people say "literally" when they don't mean it.
    54. I hate ironing, but not as much as I hate a pile of clothes that need to be ironed. So I iron.
    55. I love curried butternut squash.
    56. I have a cousin in prison for murder. I still love him.
    57. I have another cousin that I almost hate.
    58. My other cousins are great.
    59. I'm decended from a Salem Witch.
    60. I can't do a cartwheel. Don't try to teach me, I'm scared.
    61. I hate brussel sprouts.
    62. I like green walls.
    63. I love Chagall.
    64. I like classical music.
    65. I have terrible vision.
    66. I like to eat popcorn at the movies. Sometimes I like to dip it in my diet coke.
    67. I take a yoga class and I love it, but I don't do well trying to practice at home.
    68. I like walking in the rain.
    69. I always know EXACTLY how much money I have in my checking account.
    70. I love my husband VERY much.
    71. Ditto my daughter.
    72. I like having my hair colored.
    73. I'd love to go on What Not to Wear, because I'd love to have $5,000 to shop. Wouldn't want to be on TV, though, so there goes that one.
    74. I like people.
    75. I hate people.
    76. Taking a bath feels like stewing in filth to me.
    77. My left leg is shaped funny. The knee comes in too much. Maybe I'll need surgery some day.
    78. I still read children's books.
    79. I love the ocean.
    80. I can sleep for 12 hours straight, and still take a nap if I want to.
    81. I'm an athiest.
    82. I was married in a Hindu ceramony.
    83. I would love to be 5'7" or 5'8". I'm 5'4 3/4"
    84. I'm on the school board at my daughter's school. I like it.
    85. I like math.
    86. I've eaten snails, but don't want to try brains.
    87. I love green beans.
    88. I like cooking shows on TV.
    89. I enjoy walking at lunchtime. Or walking my daughter to school. Best would be both.
    90. The Jefferson Memorial is my favorite in D.C.
    91. I like museums, but only for about 2 hours.
    92. I graduated from high school in 3 years.
    93. I repeated 3rd grade.
    94. I was home schooled for one year.
    95. I don't drink coffee or smoke. I like both.
    96. I like massages and pedicures.
    97. I don't lie very often.
    98. I wish I could write stories.
    99. I like makeup.
    100. I love to listen to the rain while I fall asleep.

    Thinking about reading...

    As you know, I turned 40 a week or so ago, and I received quite a few gift certificates to Barnes and Noble. Yay! Books! So now, I'm thinking about what books I might like to buy with said gift certificates. Any suggestions? I do prefer paperbacks, because hardbacks take too much space on the bookshelf. One place I like to look for ideas is the employee suggestion page for Powell's Books. They have some good ones. Some of these are still hardbacks, unfortunately. Here are a few I'm thinking about getting:

    Love Walked In
    Award-winning poet Marisa de los Santos's first novel is the story of a 31-year-old café manager and an 11-year-old searching for her father, and the unexpected ways in which their lives are forever changed by chance. A cinematic and heartfelt debut that pays homage to the classic romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story, Love Walked In is sure to win over critics and readers of contemporary fiction.

    Willful Creatures
    Willful Creatures achieves what many story collections do not: it leaves an emotional impression that transcends the individual stories, but does not erase them. This may explain why her readers are so devoted: we feel as though we've witnessed the miraculous rebirth of the short story....Bender's stories are gothic fiction in which mutation and deformity are the resurrection of hope. Amen.
    Alexis M. Smith, Powells.com

    My Note: Amee Bender also wrote An Invisible Sign of My Own, which I recently finished...it's a glimpse into the life of an obsessive/compulsive girl, very strange and well written. I was hooked.

    A Star Called Henry
    Roddy Doyle writes like nobody‛s business. Each of his titles, from The Commitments (Doyle‛s debut) to The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, has earned both critical and popular acclaim. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, his funny, pitch-perfect perspective of a Dublin ten year old, won the 1993 Booker Prize.

    Now, in A Star Called Henry, he’s upped the ante tenfold, producing some of the most aggressive prose you’re ever likely to read. Henry’s father’s flight, a mere sixty pages into the book, is one of the great narrative achievements of recent years.

    But for all Doyle’s narrative acrobatics, his amazing new novel is, more than anything, an enthralling, spilling-over-its-sides story. On page one, Henry Smart introduces himself through the eyes of his pregnant, soon-to-be-mother – right away, Doyle catches us off guard. Compared by some to the expansive fictions of Gabriel García Márquez, A Star Called Henry presents the years leading up to and following the 1916 Easter Rebellion in a wickedly crooked, dramatic light perfectly suited to the subject. Henry Smart is a big character, bigger than life. "I’ve always tried to make sure that everything that was said and done could, in fact, happen," Doyle told Powells.com, "This time around I didn’t give a toss." Dave, Powells.com

    My Note: By the way, Roddy Doyle has written a couple of kids books that Maya LOVES, one of which is titled, "The Giggler Treatment". My sister, Melissa, hooked Maya up on that one. And actually, the two sequals, which she also loved and is going to write a book report on them. :)

    I'm torn between "Henry" and "The Woman Who Walked Into Doors"....we'll see which one I end up with.

    Never Let Me Go
    Ishiguro's prose has never failed to dazzle me, and this novel is certainly no exception. With a near stillness, a quiet passivity, Ishiguro's narrator tells the story of her and her two friends' eerie predestined fate; a fate that echoes throughout novels such as The Handmaid's Tale and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. What is revealed here is an important, wistful meditation on life and society. His books are marvels — astonishing works of art. Recommended by Georgie, Powells.com

    My Note: Kazuo Ishiguro also wrote The Remains of the Day, which was a beautiful book and a pretty good movie as well.

    In her follow-up to Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks has taken historical fiction to another dimension altogether. Using America's Civil War as her frame, she plants a famous (but deeply mysterious) literary figure at its center: Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's classic, Little Women. The result is a wholly original novel, a rich re-imagining of the nation's political and literary foundations, and arguably Brooks's finest work to date. Dave, Powells.com

    When the Emperor Was Divine
    A breathtaking debut. Also a painter, Otsuka creates complex scenes and well-rounded characters with astonishing efficiency. Line by line her minimalist strokes disguise the massive canvas on which she‛s working: the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans that began on the day after Pearl Harbor. As one Berkeley family is uprooted — a mother and her children head off to Utah while the father remains interned in New Mexico — questions of loyalty, identity, and suspicion arise. As pertinent today as ever. Recommended by Dave

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    R.I.P. :(

    Our goldfish died last night. Poor Dorothy, poor Elvis. Here's the story...I HATE cleaning out that fish tank. Hate it. And I'm the only one who ever does it (Maya can't reach properly), so it gets pretty gross between cleanings, what with the green walls and everything. Well, a month or so ago, we went to a comic book shop in Lafayette, and the guy who owned the shop had a plecostomus in the tank with his goldfish. I didn't think you could put them together, because I thought plecostomi needed warm water, and goldfish needed cold water. Well, the guy said they're fine. So I went to the Concord Aquarium on the day after Christmas, but they were closed. So I went to Pet Smart...never a good idea...and asked them. They said that the plecosomus would grow too big for my tank eventually, but if I was willing to get it a new home at some point, it would be fine to put them together. So I did. Well, all appeared well for about a week, but in the last few days, our poor goldfish haven't looked too well. Last night we noticed that the fish looked like their fins were being eaten, and they were kind of white, like they were diseased. Ted noticed that the plecostomus was EATING DOROTHY'S TAIL!!! Then we noticed that Dorothy was dead. :( Muh. So we flushed her. But Elvis was clearly suffering, and not long for the world, so we flushed him, too. Maya was DEVISTATED. So I came in this morning, and looked around, and this is what I found:
    Plecostomus aggression to other fish:
    Plecos just love to suck on ailing goldfish, discus, and other fat bodied fish. Avoid adding them together. There is one pet store near me that has about 20 tanks of fancy goldfish. Every tank has a small plecostomus and at any time, half of them are sucking on a goldfish. The employees apparently believe that any damage overshadows their algae cleaning abilities (in other words, they are too lazy to clean off the algae and do not care about the goldfish). My pleco probably killed the two rosy barbs with him even though he was 9 inches long and they were only about 1.5 inches long. Before that he harmed my goldfish. For more on my pleco with goldfish, visit my goldfish page.

    So I killed Dorothy and Elvis by adding that damn fish. I feel so crummy and evil. Poor things. :( So now what...Maya wants to get new fish, but I feel a bit free of the fish tank cleaning at the moment. We could maybe use this opportunity to move the tank elsewhere, where she could reach better, and she could clean it. Also, we could use this opportunity to put something else in the tank, rather than goldfish. I don't know. But that plecostomus is going. He killed our fish. I'm not sure what to do with him. I could flush him, but it seems cruel to kill him when he was just following his evil instincts. I could try to return him, but I don't know if they would take him. I could ask one of the parents at Maya's school, who has a fish store (I think) for his advice. I don't know. Opinions?

    Off to a Wedding

    We were all supposed to go to a wedding in San Bruno on Saturday, but my cold got the best of me, and I stayed home with some hot tea and Sex and the City. Ted and Maya went, though...don't they look great?

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Another stupid list thingie? Am I insane?

    OK, don't know why I decided to do this one...it's just a bit different than the others one usually sees on blogs/gets via email. I got this one from MIM Feel free to play (or not):

    Five pieces of wisdom
    1) Don't be so damn mean to yourself all of the time.
    2) Don't be so damn mean to others all of the time.
    3) Ask yourself if you really NEED to buy/eat/drink that thing...if the answer is an honest yes, then do it and enjoy it. If the answer is no, then put it back. This comes mostly from realizing that I live in a very small condo and I can't even get a new waffle iron without having to figure out where the hell I'm going to put it.
    4) Never trust a skinny cook (except Cherry!).
    5) Be kind. To everyone, even your fish. Even your dog. Even your spouse. Even yourself.


    What were you doing ten years ago?
    I was living in Philadelphia, and it had just dumped 3 FEET of snow all over the dang place. 3 snow days off from work/school while they cleaned up. Yay! But wait...does that mean we could have stayed in CA for 3 more days and extended our vacation and no one would have noticed? Damn it all. Does that mean we could go to movies and restaurants and generally goof off because we weren't at work? Nope, those places were snowed in as well. Remember, 3 FEET of snow. Does that mean we sat around getting drunk and laughing like idiots? No, I was 6 1/2 months pregnant. Still, it was pretty, and nice to have some quiet downtime.

    What were you doing 1 year ago?
    Probably sitting at my desk working. Wow, THAT'S an exciting answer. Thanks for sharing. You're welcome.

    Five snacks you enjoy:
    1) Chardonnay and Cheeze Nips (for some reason the Spongebob shaped ones are the best)
    2) Ruffles Naturals, with sea salt, and a cold diet coke or diet root beer
    3) Cheese and crackers
    4) Fruit...pears, tangerines, crisp apples, whatever
    5) Cookies and milk

    Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
    1) Kathy's Song - Simon and Garfunkel
    2) Almost every song on 'Head on the Door" - The Cure
    3) Side one of '2112' - Rush. Please, don't ask. 9th grade, that's all you need to know.
    4) Almost every song on 'Abbey Road' - The Beatles
    5) Most of 'Relish' - Joan Osborne

    Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
    1) Quit my job
    2) Buy a new house
    3) Help my mom out, since she needs a job
    4) Travel
    5) Give some to charity
    Most of these are minimized by expense of #2. If I were only a small millionaire, I would just have to start looking for a new job anyway. But still.

    Five bad habits:
    1) Too hard on myself
    2) Too much tv
    3) Too much junk food
    4) Grind my teeth in my sleep, and I don't wear my mouthguard. I'll rue the day on that one, let me tell you.
    5) I never phone my friends, even though I love them. More of an email person.

    Five things I like doing:
    1) Go out to nice dinners.
    2) Reading books.
    3) Chatting with Ted in the evening.
    4) Watching crap on TV.
    5) Walking to school with Maya in the mornings.

    Five things you would never wear, buy, or get new again:
    1) Legwarmers
    2) Parachute pants
    3) Permed hair
    4) Pontiac Sunbird - this was my mom's, but we're supposed to learn from their mistakes, right?
    5) Most of my old boyfriends

    Five favorite toys:
    1) My iPod Nano
    2) Ted
    3) Maya
    4) Smokey the Bear
    5) Leo the Lion, who used to say, "Happy Christmas Mama", but now just says "swoosh swoosh swoosh"

    Sick and Tired...

    Of reading about crap like this. Remember how we went to Afghanistan and threw out the Taliban? How women were freed of their burquas and girls were again allowed to go to school, how we then mostly left to go to Iraq and free the people there, which is going SO WELL. Well, I don't think we had a right to bomb Afghanistan, (most people disagree with me on that one, I know), but I was THRILLED to see the Taliban leave (except that the reason they came into power in the first place was because the war lords who were in power before were so incredibly horrible, and seems like they're back in no small number). I mean, the Taliban are just about as bad as you can get. Looks like they're not gone, though, which we all kind of knew deep down, that they're hiding near Pakistan like their friend Osama. No one has exactly claimed that Afghanistan is a safe place for people to live, but the whole focus has been so far removed from there that one would ASSUME that it's a safe place for a teacher to go to school and teach. Wrong. Meanwhile, the wolrd continues to ignore the Congo.

    Sorry, I don't usually post on this stuff. Sometimes life is a pisser.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Still sick...

    So I've been getting questions...still sick? type questions. So here's the update. Yup. Still sick.

    Here's the details for those of you sick enough to want to know (most of us are sick enough, I'm sorry to say)...Tuesday night I had the WORST sore throat and ear, so yesterday I went to the doctor to make sure it hadn't turned into Strep or an Ear Infection. Nope. Viral. But I did make myself cough for the doctor, and she said it sounded "chunky", and I should take some musenex...isn't that what Cherry took when she was sick? It has helped a lot. Not coughing up anything, but my
    coughs are far less painful. I had fever this morning, but not much. I'm home today, but I did go into work and get some things I could work on and tried to get caught up, so I won't be so overwhelmed when I go back tomorrow.

    The good news? I'm feeling MUCH better today, and I'm sure I can go back to work tomorrow.

    The bad news? I was supposed to drive Maya's class (OK, not the whole class, but you understand) on a field trip to the San Jose Mission tomorrow, and now I don't get to go. Too sick. They don't want my snot on the kids. Prudes. Uptight people. Jerks. OK, just kidding. I know I shouldn't go, especially since part of the field trip is to Coyote State Park, to see where the Ohlone Indians lived (they have a good exhibit there, I've heard), and it's going to be a lot of outside in the damp and cold. So probably not the best experience for me right now. But the Ohlone Indians are the ones that worked Mission San Jose, and Mission San Jose is the one that Maya did her report on, and my mom was in a convent just blocks from there as a child, and boy, I wanted to go. Muh.

    I was going to post a photo of me home today, so you could laugh at how horrid I look when I'm sick, but my vanity got in the way. Sorry.

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Home Sick

    So on Monday Morning, Ted told me I had been moaning during the night. Not the good kind, because I was SO sore. Turns out I was coming down with flu or something. So now I have a fever (not high, about 100 or 101, but I'm usually about 97), sore throat and ear, cough, achey achey achey. And now I have to get a kleenex, because I have snot running down my face. Blech. Sick sucks.

    Monday, January 02, 2006

    Yay, More Cake!

    So for my birthday party, you saw the big beautiful white cake, below, which was SO yummy, and I wish they had cut thicker slices for everyone....but for my ACTUAL birthday, Cherry baked me this BEAUTIFUL and oh so yummy Princess Cake. :) Cherry, you ROCK! So we ate cake, drank champagne, and watched some Sex and the City. Now THAT's a good birthday.

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    New Years...time for lists?

    I was surfing blogs and came across this one, via Bitch PhD,
    but the post was here. If you want to play, copy, update with your info, and post on your blog. I cheated a bit. :)

    A Pack of Four Leaf Clovers
    A "four" themed open meme.

    1. Four jobs you've had in your life.
    A. Waitress
    B. Horse poop cleaner (in exchange for free horseback rides)
    C. Business Analyst and other variations of that job
    D. Hotel Concierge

    2. Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over
    A. The Company (the movie really isn't THAT great, but I love the dancing)
    B. It's a Wonderful Life
    C. Out of Africa
    D. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    3. Four TV shows you enjoy
    A. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    B. Six Feet Under
    C. Curb Your Enthusiasm
    D. Sex and the City

    3 (part two). Four CURRENT TV shows you enjoy (I added this one, becuase three of the above shows are no longer on the air, but I wanted to count them anyway, as I love them best of all. - And since we don't get HBO, we watch Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD, so not truly current even if still on the air)
    A. Lost
    B. What Not to Wear
    C. West Wing
    D. Everyday Italian

    4. Four Memorable Vacations
    1. London, Amsterdam, Paris (our Honeymoon...Yay!)
    2. Oahu, Hawaii
    3. Toronto/Belleville
    4. Several day or two trips when on the east coast to DC and NYC...LOVED them all.

    5. Four Websites You Visit Daily
    1. Salon.com
    2. My friend's blogs...Ted, Cherry, Liz, and Dorothy
    3. Bitch, PhD
    4. AngryBlackBitch

    6. Four Favorite Foods
    1. Crab from Crustacean...Cherry says she has heard rumors of a place in Emeryville that makes this crab, but is cheaper...we must investigate this rumor in 2006!
    2. Hash Browns
    3. Potato Chips and Cheetos
    4. Diet Coke
    5. Rib Eye Steak
    6. Green Beans
    7. Baked Potato
    8. Pasta, pasta, pasta in its many forms and glories
    9. Tomatoes...mmmm....tomatoes....
    10. A really good omlette...bacon, green onions, and wild mushrooms sounds pretty good...
    11. Wine
    Sorry, I love food.

    7. Four Places I'd Rather Be
    1. On vacation, somewhere warm and tropical
    2. In Paris w/ Ted, if it's spring, summer, or fall...not so much in winter
    3. Hiking with Maya in Forest Park, Portland
    4. At home, cozy with a book or good DVD (Actually I am home right now, since it's New Years Day, but so much of my life I'm at work or something, and would prefer to be at home, so I counted this one. :)
    5. Hanging out with my friends, anywhere, anytime.