Friday, December 31, 2010

a rough time, a crappy vacation

Iris uber Alles and I are both under the weather. She's definitely much healthier than me, having had a big headstart on this ailment (we can trace its vector all too well: classmate of Iris goes to school despite being incredibly sick, sneezes and coughs all over Iris, Iris comes home spreading germs to her all-too-doting mother). So then the beautiful expanse of time spent off school is reduced to sitting around the house, fetching kleenex and cold drinks and painkillers for an ailing mother. I offered to drive them to the House of Air, so they could bounce their brains out for an hour while I sat on a couch with my box of kleenex, but Iris didn't feel up to it.

Their father took a little break from work to take them bowling, but he forgot to find out ahead of time whether the alley was open or not, so that outing involved driving across town, staring forlornly at the forbidden bowling alley, and then returning home. I was so glad I hadn't dragged along with them. The next day the Sober Husband took Iris to the Disney Family Museum, having gotten some passes as a present, while Lola and I stayed home. I napped on the couch -- at night, my coughing prevents me from getting any quality sleep, so I am prone to falling asleep during the day. I didn't even realize that Iris and the Sober Husband had been out until after they were back. "I had my Rat yell swear words at you, and you didn't even wake up!" said Lola gleefully (one of her best Christmas presents was a stuffed version of Rat from "Pearls Before Swine").

I've apologized repeatedly to the children for giving them a crappy holiday, but I know that doesn't prevent them from scrawling hate-filled screeds against me in the many diaries strewn about the house. Meanwhile I am having a hard time keeping my own spirits level. Did you know the last babysitter I tried to hire charged $20 an hour and flaked twice on interviews? I'm supposed to pay $20 an hour to some loser who can't even call until two hours after she was supposed to be at my house to meet me? The next-to-the-last babysitter I tried to hire didn't respond to my carefully-crafted introductory email, mentioning our mutual acquaintance, until over a month later, sending a weird, ditzy response asking, "Did I answer this or not? I thought I did, but now I think I didn't."

I'd like to think there is a deeper meaning to this, like that by becoming so invested in my children that I allowed my own life to wither away, that my children will appreciate this and will go on to have fabulous lives themselves, but that is wishful thinking. They are both prone to holding lengthy grudges (Lola still brings up The Pinata Incident from her third birthday party) and they both will probably remember this particular Christmas vacation forever. "Remember that Christmas Momdude was whiny and sick and we were always bringing her kleenex, and we had that foster cat that was hiding under the bed all the time? God, that sucked. We sat around the house all vacation. At least we got a Kinect that year."

Monday, December 27, 2010

ouch ouch ouch ouch

In one of the world's geekiest incidents, I broke my arm playing World of Warcraft. I didn't break any bones, that would be truly difficult to pull off; but I did harm my right arm, my main Warcraft-playing arm, to the point of agony.

It began on December 6th, the very eve of the long-awaited Cataclysm update to the World of Warcraft. My computer suffered a catastrophic stroke that day in the morning, when I was working on private school admission essays for Lola (Lola may or may not change schools next year, and I wanted to get the appallingly detailed work of the applications done before starting Cataclysm). I called the Sober Husband and asked him, "How bad would it be if I just ran out with a credit card and bought a new computer today?" After some discussion, we agreed to go together to the Apple store that afternoon (the Sober Husband having stipulated that his tech support services would be severely limited for a non-Macintosh computer). I moved up to the study and finished the applications on the archaic dinosaur computer normally used only by eight year-old Lola, a computer which would not be able to handle the demands of the monstrous Cataclysm software.

All that day emails were flying back and forth amongst Warcraft players, many of whom were planning on gathering for a non-slumber party. At midnight Blizzard would release the long-awaited Cataclysm, allowing players to enter new lands and to start characters of new races, and a variety of Warcraft players would do that together at the Burning Man headquarters. I'd planned on going, but my computer's death screwed things up. It would take me a long time to get the software set up on a new computer -- Warcraft is truly huge. On my sad old now-dead computer, it had taken me several tries until I'd succeeded at finishing an eight hour download for the newest version. If that computer hadn't stroked out, all I would have needed was the special code I'd get from a copy of the new software in order to start playing Cataclysm. I couldn't face trying to do that heroic download again, and I didn't even have a working computer capable of Warcrafting.

That evening, my truly indulgent husband bought me a new laptop. "My family has been struggling with inadequate technology for too long," he said, as he impulsively added an iPad to the purchase. The children danced about in a consumer glee, gamboling around the Apple store. Iris hugged the iPad box to her chest all the way to the parking garage.

At home I made everyone a nutritious dinner and got the Sober Husband to skim through the application essays I'd written. Almost predictably I started feeling ill that evening. My immune system has been shot to hell all year. Ever since I had surgery last February, I've been sick more often than not, with one bug after another. On Thanksgiving Day itself I'd been felled with a wretched virus, and then again a new one hit on Cataclysm day. "Are you going to Best Buy at midnight?" the Sober Husband asked, but by ten I felt too wretched to contemplate driving. I just went to bed.

The next day over breakfast the Sober Husband asked, "Why are we not at Best Buy?" He wanted to see me enjoying my lovely new computer. I drove him to work and then bought myself Cataclysm on the way home. It wasn't until well after noon that Warcraft was ready to play, and then it was pretty much time to get the children. But then after we came home, I sank into playing, serious playing, and I played so much over the following two weeks that I virtually destroyed my right arm. Extreme pain in my right elbow had me pulling out my leftover painkillers from surgery. My right shoulder was agonizing, and I had to shamefacedly confess to the Sober Husband that I had incurred these extreme Warcraft related injuries. I spent a weekend alternating ice packs with a heating pad on my shoulder, not touching my new laptop. The children enjoyed their turn and started goblin and worgen characters on Warcraft, playing and playing while I lay on the couch, unable to do really anything.I couldn't even turn the pages of a book with my right hand. Driving and cooking, the things I seem to spend most of my time doing, were completely out of the question. I asked Iris to post on my blog explaining my absence, but she couldn't be bothered, preferring to make the most of her own turns at the computer to play Warcraft.

Thankfully my shoulder responded well to the complete lack of computer usage, massive doses of Motrin, and the hot-and-cold packs, and after a few days, it became pain-free. My right elbow and hand are still fragile, and I have significant pain in my elbow. The Sober Husband asked, "Don't you think you should see a doctor?", but I said, "Aaah, I'm already doing what a doctor would tell me to do."

Ironically I knew other players had played many, many more hours of Cataclysm than I had. My elemental shaman of a troll had reached level 85 and was geared for heroics when my arm gave out, but I was seeing goblins that same level ... characters who had been started from scratch at Cataclysm, while I'd started my troll months ago. Evidently those players, unlike me, had right arms of steel.

Meanwhile another online gaming injury occurred in our family, this one a psychic injury. Little Lola has long been devoted to Poptropica, a children's online gaming community. Like Warcraft, Poptropica opened a new land in December--- one dedicated to controversial creatures of the tabloids. Lola immediately plunged into lore of the Loch Ness Monster, the chupacabra, Big Foot, and the Jersey Devil. After a day or so, Lola was unable to sleep through the night, walk through any dimly lit area, or generally be alone at all due to a consuming fear of the Jersey Devil, and, to a lesser extent, chupacabras. She often becomes convinced a Jersey Devil is breaking into our home, despite the fact that I pointed out that not only is their very existence dubious, but their alleged habitat, New Jersey, is several thousand miles away.

Realizing how unhealthy our familial addiction to computer games has become, for Christmas I went back to that Best Buy and bought a Kinect for our Xbox, one of those amazing new devices which allows a person to become their own game controller and to play games by leaping about. If we're going to be spending far too much time playing videogames, at least we should be getting some exercise at the same time. The children worked up a considerable sweat playing Kinect games right away, and even I, sadly and all-too-predictably sick as as a dog again with a severe chest cold, couldn't resist a few rounds of Dance Revolution, trouncing Iris uber Alles at a Dance Battle to "Poker Face."

And then today a Christmas letter came from graduate school friends of the Sober Husband. I absentmindedly rubbed my hurting elbow as I read the long list of amazing accomplishments of this family. Once we had been comparable to this family, but over the last several years, we stopped achieving while they stepped up the pace. The wife finished her PhD at Harvard this year, took a new teaching position, received a variety of grants, and traveled to many academic conferences. The husband, a professor at MIT, is writing a book on physics and traveled the world, expenses paid, to work with collaborators in such pleasure spots as Japan and Aspen. The children have black and brown belts in karate -- and as the letter specified, these are adult belts, not the usual, inferior, juvenile versions other lesser children earn. They speak foreign languages and perform in jazz ensembles and are silversmiths.

What did we do this year? We didn't travel. I haven't left the country in six years, ever since we realized we couldn't afford international vacations on one salary. Our children do not make beautiful silver jewelry for their friends and family or play jazz; they develop phobias of the Jersey Devil or crackpot theories about the moon landing, and they quit their piano lessons ages ago. All I did this year, other than have major surgery and approximately one thousand minor illnesses, was to go to Burning Man and wreck my arm playing Warcraft. I am a middle-aged slacker, too lazy to make my children over-achieve, instead having passed my unhealthy love of gaming on to a new generation. "I LOVE Warcraft," Lola said exuberantly the other day, hugging me in abandon on my left side while carefully leaving my weakened right side alone.

Monday, December 13, 2010

did you wanna buy a book for someone for Christmas?

As we all know, yer Drunken Housewife reads far, far too much. I've always got a book on the hop. The children have inherited this tendency, and the Sober Husband always needs to have a book going as well. Between us all, we've got a lot of perspectives covered. And so, herewith some recommendations for your help if you were looking to buy a book for someone and had no idea what the hell to get:

For the youngest readers:

the Skippy Jon Jones picture book series by Judy Schachner. A kitten is obsessed by the thought that he is in reality a chihuahua. Iris and Lola sing and act out parts of the first "Skippy Jon Jones" book; it's just that entertaining.

Older children (say, grades 4-8):

"The School of Fear" by GItty Daneshwari. An extremely eccentric former beauty queen runs an odd school for children with extreme phobias. Lola loved this book so much that she became very upset towards the end as she didn't want to finish it. We spend a lot of time talking about this book and its sequel, "School of Fear: School Is Not Dismissed." There's a lot to love here: Lola says that this is her favorite book because it's the only book where she couldn't tell what would happen next. Highly recommended for children who, like Lola, have phobias.

Child of any age or indeed a grownup (particularly one who works in any field requiring client approval for work):

"The Tiny Art Director" by Bill Zeman. Zeman, an extremely talented artist, is often commanded by his little daughter to "make me a picture of a dinosaur" or "paint a poop airplane." He goes off and creates an amazing work of art, suitable for the cover of the New Yorker, and then gets his work ripped up one side and down the other by the Tiny Art Director, who usually says something like, "Are you always stupid, Daddy? More blood! I want more blood!" Absolutely hilarious, and the art is amazing.

FIction lovers: I read a lot of novels this year, and these three were hands down the best. I loved them dearly.

"The House of Tomorrow" by Peter Bognanni. A teenaged boy is kept isolated in "the House of Tomorrow" by his homeschooling grandmother whose life mission is to keep Buckminster Fuller's ideas alive. Awkward, lonely, overeducated but extremely sheltered, the protagonist is naive and hungry for life experience. I loved this book so very, very much: all of the characters are very human and very real with their own perspectives. The redemptive powers of punk rock were never so clear and harshly beautiful. My only complaint was that the ending seemed a bit too tidy, following all the all-too-real messiness of the character's situations, but it's a brilliant book.

"Broken Teaglass" by Emily Arsenault. A young man takes a job at a famous dictionary publisher. It is a strange and silent place, where the word-lovers toil in quiet monotony interrupted at times by calls from cranks and bored prisoners arguing about definitions. Then he begins to discover some very strange things in some of the definitions. I cannot recommend this highly enough for the intelligent, word-loving reader.

"The Full Catastrophe" by David Carkeet: an overeducated linguist finds himself at loose ends after his research lab looses funding. He takes a job at an innovative marriage counseling service, which sends qualified linguists to live with and observe troubled married couples on the theory that their communication must be causing their woes. An unbelievably smart and witty book, with a highly likable, fish-out-of-water academic stranded in a middle class family in the Midwest pretending that he's going to be able to help his squabbling hosts.

People who are insane about reading:

"Running the Books" by Avi Steinberg. Steinberg is a Harvard graduate who is floundering and careerless, a disappointment to his Jewish family who expected greatness from him. For lack of anything better to do, he takes a job as a librarian in a prison. This memoir is spellbinding. Steinberg portrays vividly the power dynamics and struggles in prison. For example, a prisoner correcting the way another holds a pen caused Steinberg to tense up, as any touch between inmates normally would lead to violence. Steinberg himself is in an awkward position, not part of the guards and not part of the inmates, and at risk from both. Ironically the guards make more trouble for him than the inmates. He bonds, too closely at times, with violent criminals and has troubles that follow that. But beyond being about Steinberg's experiences, this is a memoir about books. What do prisoners read? What is a book, really? To the guards, a book is something that should not be in a prison. To an inmate, a book could be mindless entertainment or it could be a source of redemption, or it could just be something to steal to make rolling papers from the pages. For anyone who really loves books, this is a thought-provoking read about the power of books and their very nature. For anyone with a sociological bent who has not personally been to prison, it's a great vicarious experience of a book. Should I ever need to go to prison, I feel better prepared now.

For the NPR listener:

"Travels in Siberia" by Ian Frazier. I gave this to the Sober Husband for our anniversary, and he's enrapt. Ian Frazier pokes around in Siberia with a dry wit; the Sober Husband is often heard laughing out loud of an evening as he works through this massive tome. Perfect for the person who wants educational value from their leisure reading but who also enjoys a laugh. Not for those intimidated by a long book; this thing is the size of my head.

For the serious cook: [hint hint to the reader that these are what I want for Christmas, I hope someone out there may pay attention):

"In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite" by Melissa Clark. I've been a fan of Melissa Clark for nearly ten years now since finding her recipes in "Food & Wine", and now the whole world is a fan as well since she got a column in the New York Times. I've been making a cocktail called the Melissa Clark for nearly a decade, and many of my signature dishes are from her recipes. She has a new cookbook out, and you can't miss with it. Woman's a genius.

"India: The Cookbook" by Pushpesh Pant. A huge volume of Indian recipes. It looks pretty damn near encyclopedic in its scope. I want it.

Happy shopping, everyone!

but... what am I supposed to do between 2 and 4 a.m.?

My insomnia is acting up, and the World of Warcraft is down. This is highly irritating to me, as it is my wont to amuse myself during the worst of my insomnia playing Warcraft. I took a look at the customer service forum online, and I saw that thousands of players had already whined to Blizzard about it. Insomniacs everywhere were at various levels of pissed-offedness, but one named Sither, a level 85 Night Elf druid, stood apart:
I can't LOG IN, Blizzard! This is an EASILY SOLVEABLE PROBLEM that could be fixed by A TRAINED MONKEY IN A JAUNTY HAT, for crying out loud! This is THE START OF THE EXPANSION and you have MILLIONS OF PEOPLE who paid to play this game with REAL DOLLARS. They didn't play to SIT IN FRONT OF THEIR COMPUTER AND WEEP GENTLY, did they?

Because WORLD OF WARCRAFT IS INCREDIBLY SERIOUS BUSINESS, I am prepared to attempt to kill myself by drinking TWO ENTIRE BOTTLES of lemonade (I get 2.25L bottles of a lesser-known brand because they are A PRETTY GOOD DEAL) and attempting to AVOID GOING TO THE BATHROOM until my insides rupture.

Since this MIGHT TAKE A WHILE, consider this my ULTIMATUM. If your login servers go up before I DIE OF CARBONATED INTERNAL ORGAN FAILURE, then I will continue playing your EXTREMELY FINE GAME. If not then my death will be on YOUR HEAD because you made BASICALLY THE WORST MAINTANED GAME EVER.

I expect a BLUE POST [a response from a Blizzard employee] in FIVE MINUTES or I am uncapping the first bottle. Drinking from a glass though, chugging from the bottle is for people who are NOT WEARING VERY NICE SHIRTS.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

a new crackpot belief held by Iris

The other day I was carrying in some bags of groceries when eleven year-old Iris uber Alles, long known to believe passionately that the moon landing was faked by the American government, said provocatively, "The pyramids were built by aliens!" I ignored this and continued wrestling the groceries in, but Iris was relentless. She was clearly angling for a fight.

"Because according to ancient writing things they wrote on like walls of the pyramids, they wrote about how they built the pyramids, and it says they built them over a certain time period, and if that time period was read right, they lifted one limestone block which weighed about two tons in two minutes , and obviously they needed help from aliens! Could YOU lift a limestone block that weighs two tons in two minutes? Could you?" jeered Iris. "And you know, they had a lot of people, but STILL.. They must have had one really massive helper", presumably an alien.

These special beliefs are saved for the home. Iris showed me a test on Egypt she'd gotten an A on, and it had nary a mention of aliens.

I tried arguing about the pyramids, but to no avail. My arguments about the moon landing didn't change Iris's resolute belief that it was faked. I'm currently reading "Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History" by David Aaronovich in the faint hope that I'll be better educated and better able to argue with Iris, but I'm pessimistic. Iris is a tough nut to crack.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

guest post from Iris

This video here just illustrates my whole life. I am the baby monkey, and life is the pig.


inside the dark corners of Lola's psyche

The other night Lola woke up screaming, and her father went in to calm her down. I went back to sleep, only to be woken up again by more screaming. This was the loudest Lola had ever screamed in the night, really terrified, top-volume shrieking, and I darted across the landing in the dark.

Once i was there, Lola was quite happy to sit up in bed and cheerfully tell me about her nightmares. "First I dreamed that aliens came, and they looked like lemons. They saw me making lemonade, and they were so angry!" Lola shuddered dramatically. "Then I dreamed that I was making all kinds of mistakes with Henry. I picked him up [our tabby, Henry, is a dignified animal who hates to be picked up], and I was petting him the wrong way. You know how the fur grows." Lola took an extremely long amount of time to explain how she had petted Henry against the grain, using gestures and simple language aimed at explaining to the very stupidest of audiences, her mother. I tried to cut that short, since it was the wee hours. "Then Henry could speak English, and she was biting me all over!" [Henry, a rather butch female tabby, is interchangeably referred to as "he" or "she", and the children have been heard to remark, 'You're a little lesbian boy, aren't you, Henry?"].

The next day Lola elaborated more about the lemon aliens. "I defeated them, and then I had a lemonade party with the Congress!" But the lemonade party was not all fun: President Obama explained to Lola why he was opposed to gay marriage. Lola demonstrated how she put her head in her hands, murmuring sadly, "Obama, Obama." Then tragedy struck: "I didn't use half a lemon, it was left over, and then it grew arms. Arms and legs popped out of it!" The regenerated lemon was crazed with rage, and it was then that Lola woke up screaming.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

the wonders of pets

Iris uber Alles and I were lounging around, and Al, our drooling, skeletal, mentally-challenged cat jumped up on my chest, as is his wont. Then Pigwidgeon, our witless African Grey parrot, flew over on to me. "Pig, Al was here first! Iris, take her!" I said. "I can't have both Pig and Al on me; I get overstimulated."

"Yeah, you can't have two mentally retarded animals on you at once," Iris said judiciously. "It's too much."

We laughed.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Lola's list --- with an addendum

I've owed Lola a reward for over a week now, since her amazing progress report came (at the girls' school, the children in lower school don't get letter grades; instead, they get long, thorough progress reports. Iris has just graduated to the upper school, where she'll get a report card and... the introduction of letter grades). I was waiting until Iris's report card came, as I suspected Iris would deserve a reward as well and then I could do them at the same time (last time, they got a trip to the shoe store and the shoes of their choice). But it seems Iris's report card won't come until after Christmas, and Lola is not to be denied that long. So I asked her to let me know what she'd like for a modest treat, and she presented me with a long list, and she couldn't say which thing she wanted most. I asked her to prioritize her list, and I suggested we let the readers weigh in. After a huge amount of thought, Lola came back with an edited list. Herewith The List Of Lola:
7. Limited amount of money to spend
6. A chumum (surprise or choice) [note: a chumum is what the children call the spherical stuffed animals created by the Luby people]
5. Day without chore (for me)
4. Trip to Mel's (without Iris) [note: Mel's is a horrible local chain restaurant, modeled after Al's from "Happy Days". The children cannot get enough of it. I can't stand paying $8.75 for a formerly frozen garden burger]
3. I am king for day and you must obey me
1. I get served candy and Gak in bed ["Gak" is what the children affectionately call chocolate milk]
The last item, numbered #2, was heavily scribbled out. I asked Lola about this, and she said her father made her cross it out. I asked her to restore it, and it was
2. Break from Iris (Iris mustn't talk to me and I won't do stuff for her.)
UPDATED: Lola has asked me to add another potential reward, "Being taken to see 'Tangled'", and she requests that the readers vote.

FINAL UPDATE: Lola was taken to see "Tangled", which she said was "better than I thought it would be!" She reportedly laughed out loud several times, and the chameleon was her favorite character. She wants to see it again.

was it Nietzsche who said, "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"?

Recently that noted young environmentalist, Iris uber Alles, said to me passionately, "Did you know there's a huge garbage dump on the moon? All those astronauts just dumped all their trash up there!"

"Uh, Iris, I thought you didn't believe in the moon landing," I said.

"I don't!"

There was then a long, awkward pause.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

the wonders of Lola

I'm just emerging from another weird little illness, this one featuring constant nausea, vertigo, dizziness, and headaches. It came on Thanksgiving day, where I managed, fueled by Alka Seltzer, to finish cooking all eight of the traditional dishes we'd planned, eat a few bites, and then run off to bed to curl up with a vomit bowl. For all of the children's Thanksgiving break, I felt nauseated and dizzy, which led to a distinct lack of activity. I did hold a Writer's Workshop with Lola for several days, where we both did creative writing, and when Iris decided to paint a self-portrait, I broke out my expensive art supplies and we spent a solid half day painting.

I did an abstract painting, Iris painted herself, and Lola painted Rat from "Pearls Before Swine", a slice of pizza, and Lio from "Lio", all before a psychedelic background. I was astonished at how perfect her rendition of Rat was. "Lola! That is so amazing! It looks just like him!" Even grouchy Iris was impressed... until Lola said matter-of-factly, "I only looked right here", gesturing to show us that the newspaper I'd covered the table with had the comics right in front of her, "a few times."

While Lola's Rat may not have been original, her Writer's Workshop pieces were. Here's an excerpt from a piece where she imagined personalities for all the cards in our Apples to Apples game:
For the Jealous apples..............................................................................................................
Have you ever played apples to apples? Well, you have now because I’m the green apple. The adjective. The granny smith apple. The golden delicous apple. The apple the judge picks from the patch for everybody to relate to, to friend on my fruitbook page, to think about all the way through the game. My friend is a lonely red delicous apple, and his poor friend from burning man a gala apple. But I, Granny Smith, will be picked every game. The pile there’s only one of. The days I’ve spent sitting there on a table with all eyes on me!
I just love that, "his poor friend from burning man a gala apple." Does she think of me as "her poor mother from burning man"?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the end of the world as we know it

I'm recovering from that oh-so-predictable brief but intense bout with depression. Most people who, as they say, "have issues", get depressed at Christmas. I'm fine with Christmas, but my birthday brings me into an annual sharp, deep funk. This year I had just two bad days; in the past, it was the entire month of November up until the 20th, the actual day. So it was an improvement, but still a hard time for me.

There's a constant distraction, though, taking my mind off my own personal neurosis and troubles: the world as we know it is coming to an end very soon. The world has been racked by horrific earth quakes, and the residents have been struggling to put out the fires in their home cities. Everyone is keyed up and trying hard to prepare for what will come, because everyone knows there's no safety any more. It really is the end of the world as we know it. The World of Warcraft, that is.

Blizzard, the creators of Warcraft, made a barbaric yet oddly cozy land, Azeroth, where for many years I have journeyed, quested, fought, made jewelry for profit, and bantered with friends. And now they're taking that part of the world which was my home, the base of the Horde, and splitting it right open, destroying much of it. Entire towns, towns I used to call my home, will be lost. An entire region, one of my personal favorites where my paladin spent an untold amount of time, will be sunk permanently under water. My people will become refugees.

They are calling it "Cataclysm", and it's kind of pissing me off. This may indeed sound asinine or freakishly geeky, but I have a real affection for these places which are about to be destroyed. Spend a lot of time galloping on an oversized pink bird around a beautiful desert, a desert which reminds you of the ones you used to camp in before you gave birth to whiny urban children who hate road trips and bitch endlessly about the lack of television if they are removed from the city limits, and you'll become attached. Even the Sober Husband, a man who played for only a few months before getting over it, has affection for the Crossroads, a place where he quested as an orc warrior before quitting the game. Once my Alliance guild, when I crossed over the dark side to level a Draenei mage for Lola, raided the Crossroads, and the Sober Husband was weirdly and genuinely distressed. "Don't kill that guy; he was our friend! I used to buy from that guy!

If someone who only played for a few months can have a sentimental attachment to fictional characters in a computerized town, imagine how I feel. I know it's silly, I know I'm going to enjoy playing the new content that comes with this upheaval, but dammit, why'd it have to be the Barrens and Thousand Needles? Why couldn't it have been Silithus or Dun Morogh, places I would not miss one bit?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the embarrassing state of affairs

Last night I announced as I was cooking dinner: "On December 6th, I'm going to stay up all night playing Warcraft. So just be warned. And don't expect anything from me the next day."

This was met with a lack of comprehension, so I explained. "It's Cataclysm! I'm going to the midnight release at Best Buy, and then I'm gonna come home and play."

Eleven year-old Iris was disgusted. "Momdude, why does everything you do have to involve nerds? Can't you do something that's not with nerds?"

My middle-aged husband was nonplussed. "You're going to a Best Buy at midnight?"

"Well, actually I will probably go there around 11:30, waiting for the midnight release, and yes. I am going there because that is where there is the midnight release."

"You'll be waiting in line with nerds!" jeered Iris.

"Hey! How come it was okay to go to the midnight Harry Potter release and stay up that night reading, and it's not okay to go to this one?"

"Because that was Harry Potter."

"You better watch out, or I'll wear my ears [prosthetic ears enabling me to take on the appearance of a blood elf] and I'll tell everyone I'm the mother of Iris."

"You'll be standing in line with a lot of jobless losers!" poked the Sober Husband, joining in with Iris at a bit of Drunken Housewife-baiting.

"Hey! I will not! All the people in my big guild have jobs; they're just taking a day off from work the next day! One guy is taking off all the way until the tenth."

Only little Lola, who has a soft spot for Warcraft, was kind (the other day Lola drew a comic strip featuring a blood elf and a night elf, making her mother very proud that a little second grader knows the distinction between these races).

Eventually the arrival of dinner shut them up, but again this morning my embarrassment rose up. The Sober Husband asked me what I was doing today, and I admitted shamefacedly, "I'm playing Warcraft. I've got a lot to do before Cataclysm."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

the accidental foot-in-mouth

Not too long ago I was talking on the phone to my mother-in-law, and I made a remark, innocently enough, that I had to keep an eye on the children "because depression runs in both sides of the family." I didn't think that was offensive, since I was putting the Sober Husband's family on the same level as my own family and because the very first time I met her, my mother-in-law had referred to two of her close relatives as "always so depressed", but my mother-in-law took quick offense.

"Who in my family are you saying is depressed? Are you talking about my mother? Because towards the end of her life, she really learned how to cope with her depression," she said hotly.

I was surprised that I had said something upsetting and said weakly, "Well, yeah, and [Close Relative]."

My mother-in-law said combatively, "[Close Relative] is not depressive! He's a sociopath!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

comment o' the week

The latest Comment O' The Week goes to Silliyak, for "Have I stumbled into a MENSA blog?"

Congratulations, Silliyak!

the patient complained of discomfort

Iris has been having knee and foot issues this fall, causing her to drop out of her school's cross-country team. I took her to a foot-and-ankle specialist (we went together on a Very Special Mother-Daughter outing and had our ankles x-rayed and our feet examined, as I was still in pain from my ankle injury from August). I ended up ordering her custom orthotics and buying her more expensive shoes (the specialist demonstrated to me how to pick shoes, showing me how to bend and prod them like they were produce).

This morning I complained how I'd gone out of my way to pick up the orthotics yesterday, but the receptionist turned me away on the grounds that the doctor was not in. "I didn't think I needed to see the doctor, I kept saying that they were supposed to be there, but no luck."

The Sober Husband once again ridiculed the idea of the orthotics. Hotly I stated, "Yesterday when I picked up Iris, she was walking weird. Upon questioning the patient complained of knee pain."

"Maybe we should get orthotics for her knees!" scoffed the Sober Husband.

"That's what the orthotics ARE for! They'll fix her knee pain!" I shot him a look.

We stood there in silence for a moment, contemplating Iris's pain.

Then I admitted, "Actually what I said to her yesterday was 'Why are you walking like a freak?'" and she said, 'Momdude, my knee hurts!'"

Monday, November 08, 2010

geeking in another language

In the World of Warcraft, you can sign up to be randomly assigned to a group to go into a dungeon, which is a part of the world with rigid boundaries (you can't just wander into one) where there are much more dangerous and difficult challenges to be faced than in the rest of the game. In olden times we'd have to round up help ourselves in order to be able to even try these things, but nowadays Blizzard has given us the power to request to be assigned to a random group, making it all so much easier. Normally the English speakers are all grouped together, but over the past couple of days I was lucky enough to be put in Spanish speaking groups. Not everyone enjoys that (there was another English speaker in one of those groups, who whined "I don't speak Spanish!"), but I do. My Spanish is rusty but serviceable.

Today I ran the Citadel on heroic setting with some Mexican players and a Brazilian (incidentally Portuguese is so similar to Spanish that I can read it). We ended up speaking a mix of Warcraft-English with Spanish/Portuguese. A player scolded another: "healer echame las maldiciones." I reached out for help: "Por favor tengo un quest aqui."

I loved the blend of Warcraft-speak and Spanish so much, that I started fantasizing about going to graduate school and doing a thesis on how language is used in gaming, examining how much English carries over into other languages. Why would a player who is speaking Spanish type in "ty" for "thank you", rather than "mg" for "muchas gracias"? I'd like to know. In reality, I'll just hang around the house playing Warcraft, sigh.

Friday, November 05, 2010

the forbidden toaster of mystery

"What did you buy with your allowance?" Iris asked me.

I thought. "Oh, I don't know. Not much. I didn't get that much allowance. Snacks, I guess."

"You know Chainsaw gets ten dollars a week?"

"Wow, she could save up for a chainsaw in no time." ("Chainsaw" is a friend of Iris's who likes to jump out and shout, "IT'S CHAINSAW TIME!" An urban child, she is fascinated by chainsaws).

"She's saving up for a toaster. She's obsessed with kitchen appliances."

"What, doesn't her family have a toaster already?"

"Yes, but she doesn't know where they keep it. She's not allowed to use it. She's not allowed to use most kitchen appliances. She asks for toast, and they make it, but she doesn't know where it is."

"How can she not know where it is? Can't she just watch them make the toast?"

"They keep it somewhere and won't show her where it is, maybe in the garage or something."

"Nobody keeps the toaster in the garage! It's got to be in a cabinet or something. She should just hang out in the kitchen and watch them make the toast."

"They won't tell her where it is. They make toast, and she just doesn't know where it comes from."

"They won't let her cook at all?"

"No. She's ten years old, and they won't let her use the toaster." Iris shook her head. "It's so weird."

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Today I did authorize Iris, suffering from a headache, to stay home from school. Her father was incredulous. "What? She can't go to school?"

Lola gleefully interrupted him. "It's like the cartoon!" She felt the animation I made yesterday for this blog had come to life. She shouted down her father: "You're not a Spartan warrior!"

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

a version of this happens very regularly

Rather than type in an account of this morning's marital debate, I decided to try my hand at animation. Enjoy (or not):

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

comment of the week & comment of the quarter

I hereby declare that Emma-Louise is our latest Comment O'The Week Winner for her charming anecdote:
I remember that my sister and I, on very long car trips from one end of the country to the other - which we were taken on, against my mothers better judgment, EVERY year, and upon which I partly blame my parents divorce - would talk in very nasal tones which we felt best embodied insurance salesmen, and would declare that just about everything was "very, VERY, UNproFESHunnawl!" and would not stop for bribe nor threat. My poor, poor mother.
And since I never got around to doing Comment of the Month for Aug, Sept., or October, I hereby declare Nonymousgoatsepants/Alan or whatever he calls himself these days as Commenter of the Quarter for the past quarter. Huzzah! If he dares, he may claim a prize by submitting a mailing address to If he doesn't want to, then fine by me because then I won't have to trudge down to the post office to mail his fabulous prize.

Congrats to Emma-Louise and NonymousGoatsepants!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

the repetition, the repetition

The children have been doing that horrible child-thing lately, droning the same thing over and over and over. It's been working my last nerve whenever I'm confined in the car with them, and lately when we're in the car, I truly am confined with them. The side passenger seatbelt froze up and can't be used, and not only will it cost over $350 to get a new one, it's taking forfreakingever for the new one to allegedly come from frigging Sweden. I happen to know that Ford owns Volvo and that my mediocre car was made in the U.S., but when the seatbelt locks up permanently, the dealership can't fix it without asking for one to be handwoven at my expense by Swedish elves.

So, in the car, either the Sober Husband or I have to mash in the backseat with the hellspawn, who argue and argue because this means they have to touch each other. And they drone. It being Halloween, they made up some little ditty with about three words total, which largely consisted of them loudly singing, ""Kill Kill Kill" over and over again, without any tune.

I tried a repetition of my own. "I am going to cast a magical spell on you now. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP."

This had no effect on the little hellions. "Momdude, those are teasing words," one said scoldingly. "You shouldn't speak to us that way."

"You shouldn't drive me out of my mind saying the same thing over and over again!"

Not everyone minds a little brain-melting repetition, though. Yesterday Lola lay idly on the floor on the upstairs landing, with my parrot, Pigwidgeon. "Step up! Step down! Step up! Step down!" Pigwidgeon obediently stepped on Lola's hand, stepped off the hand onto the floor, then back on the hand, then back on the floor. Eventually Lola herself tired of this game and put the parrot on her parrot tree, and then we all got into the car to go somewhere, and the children began again to sing their wretched "Kill Kill Kill" song, and when I said "for the love of God will you quit that, you're driving me insane", the Sober Husband defended them by joining in.

Monday, October 18, 2010

the flagging ceremony

Yesterday Lola had her friend, Lawyer, Jr., over for a playdate. Towards the end of the afternoon the two distributed "Invitations To A Flagging Ceremony," illustrated with many tiny sketches of specific, named stuffed animals. Later they called us, and the Sober Husband, a cranky but oddly cooperative Iris, and I filed up to the upstairs landing, long-named "Blinking Street" by the children.

Before we could enter Blinking Street, Lola and Lawyer, Jr. collected our invitations to ensure we had the right to come to the ceremony. The Sober Husband was sent back to find his. Then we were shown to specific seats, with a view of my rowing machine lined and coated with as many stuffed animals as could be crammed onto it.

Afterwards I snagged the sheet of paper Lola and Lawyer, Jr. were passing back and forth between them and am thus able to preserve the words of the Flagging Ceremony.

Lola: Here yee, here yee, now the land called FFLOLO is now a land known to Feline cumunities.

This flagging ceramony is for only those fit for it.

Lawyer, Jr.: Now we shall celebrate in harmony and peace.

But only after we tell you the laws.

* All peace shall be respected and followed.

* Chaos shall be illegall.

* Everyone will be respected.


After shouting "LET'S ROCK!", the two little girls stuck a paper flag on a stick into my rowing machine. I clapped, which caused them to shriek and shriek at the top of their lungs in disapproval. "What, how could I know clapping was wrong?" I asked. Iris uber Alles took a more combative stance. "Screaming is CHAOS, and that is illegal according to your own laws!" she said hotly. The citizens of FFLOLO refused to take the point and shrieked madly. The privileged few invited to the flagging ceremony retreated to quieter lands deeper in the bowels of the house.

Friday, October 15, 2010

his sense of humor

Today I was leaving my house, running late to meet a friend for breakfast, and my neighbor waylaid me. I hadn't seen him since I'd complained that his house painters were driving me to the brink of homicide by blasting easy listening music all day.

My neighbor called me over. "They're done, they're all gone." Then he burst out laughing. "That music... It was the BeeGees! And it was so distorted!" He laughed and laughed, shaking his head and saying, "I didn't realize how loud it was." His hilarity grew greater. Pointing at me, he said through the guffaws, "And they had the radio out front, and it was at an angle, and IT WAS POINTED RIGHT AT YOUR HOUSE!" His laughter didn't allow him to speak more for some time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

the grinch who stole easy listening

My house is "semi-detached": on one side, we rub right up against one next door neighbor's house, our houses cheek to jowl, but on the other side, there's a little space. The neighbors' house is right up on the edge of the border, but on our side there's a little room, with a paved and gated path from the sidewalk into our postage stamp-sized yard. Being "semi-detached" is a big selling point in San Francisco, where most houses are not detached in any way, because presumably it's quieter. That is nice for the neighbors, as our shrieking children and shrieking parrots can pump out the decibels at times, but meaningless for us. The neighbors are extremely quiet middle-aged gay professionals who rarely make any audible sounds, except when they are tending quasi-obsessively to the landscaping out front. We're quite lucky with the neighbors on both sides and across the street, who are all charming and highly enjoyable people.

You would think that when neighbors have work done, it would affect us more when it's the conjoined neighbor, but ironically, no, it's the semi-detached neighbors. I barely noticed a sound when the undetached neighbor had people in working. This year the semi-detached neighbors are renovating in a big way: replacing the foundation, building a new fence, re-paving their yard with special bricks, repainting the house, reshingling the roof, etc.., etc... My neighbor told me that his goal was to have the work done in the foggy, cold summer so when the heat of Indian summer hit, it would all be done and we could all peacefully enjoy our yards. I believed that, and I was hopeful that when I came home from Burning Man, all the work would be done and I could have some peace and quiet.

The contractor in charge of the prior work was quite possibly the loudest person I have ever met, and it drove me insane listening to him shouting obscenities all day long (I also got over-the-top filled with rage when his worker dropped a big pile of shingles on my miniature fuchsia). I was glad when his part of the project seemed done. Little did I know that those were the golden days. The next contractor, the one painting the house, was really the torturer. An extremely angry looking silver-haired old white man who glared at me every time I crossed his path, he had a horrible habit. Every morning he set a crappy ghetto blaster on the sidewalk in front of my neighbor's house, tuned to the easy listening station, and put it on as loud as it would go.

The Backstreet Boys. Mariah Carey. Whitney Houston. Miley Cyrus. Endless ads for colon cleanses and life insurance. All at horrible, nerve-rending, soul-killing volumes, and scratchy and distorted to boot. Shouldn't people doing manual labor rock out to heavy metal? Even house or trance music would have been preferable. Maybe free form jazz would have been worse, but maybe not.

I let it go. I like to listen to music or books on tape when I'm working with my hands, sewing or cooking, and I figured it couldn't take that long to get my neighbor's moderately sized house painted. They weren't even doing anything fancy, just slapping on another coat of dark brown, without even a contrasting trim. I just kept all my doors and windows hermetically sealed. But even so, that horrible, bland, scratchy music penetrated. I tried to take a nap a couple of days when I'd been tortured by insomnia, and that godawful easy listening music made my blood pressure so high I couldn't fall asleep, no matter how sleep-deprived and tired I was.

Additionally, because a small fraction of my neighbors' house can be reached only by coming onto my property, the painters wanted my gate kept open all the time, and the mellow-music addicted old crab was constantly striding up and down my path, glaring at me if I came or went. I figured my green hipster braids were offensive to his middle-of-the road sensibilities, but the angry glares added to the unpleasantness.

On Columbus Day the children had the day off from school, and I had a nasty head cold and no energy. Horrible Henry, our tabby, brought a very beautiful little dead mouse upstairs and left it in the middle of the landing. The children were extremely upset, and the only thing which calmed them down was the idea of a funeral. I donated a little jewelry box, and Lola made an exquisite card. She put a lot of thought into what a mouse needed for happiness, carefully inscribing "I wish you food, friends, and safety in your second life." They were ready to bury the little mouse in the backyard, but as soon as they ventured out, they were back in, corpse in hand. The blaring easy listening music and the glaring workman made it impossible to hold a solemn ceremony. "We can't be out there," they said firmly. I ended up dragging my Kleenex, aching head, and racking cough down to the Aquarium of the Bay so we could escape that awful music...

but when we came home, it seemed the children had misplaced the dear departed. Somewhere in this house, there is a small dead animal in a lovingly decorated little box, and I can't find it anywhere. I can only imagine that eventually we'll be able to locate the remains by smell, and I'm not looking forward to it.

I snapped on Tuesday. I was looking fruitlessly for the missing corpse, and the horrible mellow music was fraying my last nerve, pounding on me, and it was one of the few, tragically few, days in San Francisco over 80 degrees, but I couldn't even open a window. I wanted to be relaxing in my yard with a big glass of iced coffee and my cats, who love it when I spend time outside with them and are much more friendly and companionable in the yard than they ever are inside. I contacted my neighbor and told him I felt like I was living in Abu Ghraib and that if his painter didn't stop playing that godawful easy listening radio station I was going to commit a homicide. Within minutes the radio turned off, and it didn't come back on.

Now the painter does have a reason to glare at me, but maybe without the comforts of easy listening he'll pick up the pace and get that house painted. I can open the windows again, finally. Now if I could just find those remains, I could even have a solemn burial.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

a tourist in the land of black women's hair

Back in the nineties, I worked at a large, conservative law firm. We were all very conformist in our grooming, and things were much more formal then. We female associates wore pantyhose all the time, no matter how much we hated those hose, pumps with moderate heels, and wool suits. I lived with the constant fear that someone would realize I had a number of tattoos (at a couple of social events, I pretended I was coming down with a cold to explain why I was not getting in the pool/hot-tubbing/dressing lightly). But at least I got off easily in terms of hair.

One day another associate burst into my office. "Have you seen R.'s hair??? It's in a million tiny braids!" One of the two African American female associates (sidenote: we had no black male lawyers at all) had gotten her hair braided.

Everyone talked about this poor woman's hair behind her back. I was very close to the other black lawyer (who lives in France nowadays; I miss her so much to this day even though I haven't seen her in fifteen years), who was offended that there was so much gossip about the other attorney's hair. I said, mistakenly thinking I was making a diplomatic remark, that "you can't do something really elaborate with your hair and expect people not to talk about it." I compared it to my getting slammed by a partner for having dyed-black hair as a summer associate. My friend disagreed strongly and said firmly, "It's a basic style for black women. Classic. Simple." I didn't agree but I felt disqualified on the basis of skin color to argue the point. I was glad to drop the subject.

My friend complained at times about her own hair, which she never braided. "It doesn't look right," she said once, mourning the fact that her hair didn't move in the wind. I said I thought it was sad she felt that way. We agreed about that and sat silently for a moment. Actually I thought her hair looked great, but I knew she put a lot of work into straightening it and using hairpieces at times. I myself would have loved to have had a natural 'fro which held up to a breeze, because I hate how my hair looks when the wind blows it around. There's nothing pretty about windswept, frizzled bangs.

Oddly around that time I somehow got on a mailing list for a catalogue aimed at black women, and I found the extensive hair products section mesmerizing. My favorite part was the wigs: those wigs were so beautiful. I teetered on the brink of ordering one for myself, but somehow I felt it would be wrong for me, a WASP, to order one. It would be too much like tourism, too much like I was having frivolous fun when the other people were being extremely serious. I knew from my fellow lawyers what a serious business black women's hair could be.

A few years later I was practicing law on my own, and one of my clients was unhappy one afternoon. She told me she was going to get her hair rebraided straight after our meeting and that it hurt so much she dreaded it, but she felt she had to do it because she could not deal with straightening her long hair. I had never thought of that hairstyle, so controversial at my old law firm, as being painful.

In the world of Burning Man, many women took to getting their hair braided as a way of dealing with the omnipresent alkaline dust, strong winds, and difficulty in getting a good, thorough shampooing in the desert. I myself never did, I was always fine with my hair out there on the playa, but this year I felt reluctant to deal with Iris's hair there. Iris needs to wash her hair regularly, and I didn't want to set up a shower at our camp. Also, Iris's long, fine hair tangles so readily, and I didn't want our trip to be marred with disagreements over whether she had adequately brushed her hair. I asked Iris if she'd be willing to get her hair braided before our trip. "It will hurt a lot for a couple of hours, but then you won't have to brush it for a month. And you won't have to wash it, either." She decided she would. I found a place on Yelp which got rave reviews from Burner chicks and African-American women alike, and I booked Iris in.

When I dropped Iris off, we looked through a book of client photos. Page after page of clean-cut black women, smiling professionally, were interrupted occasionally by a picture of a wildly grinning white girl who was clearly playa-bound. The owner encouraged us to think about adding yarn to Iris's hair, and Iris picked a beautiful brown and blue mohair-blend skein. I kept looking at the pictures, and the owner smiled at me. "Go on!" Impulsively I decided to get my hair done as well, with mermaidy green and blue yarn.

We were there seven hours. Seven hours. And the pain was agonizing. It was more intense than most tattoos. At night, laying our heads on our pillows was agonizing. We had constant headaches for the first week. I kept the Motrin flowing.

Iris and I kept our braids in for over six weeks, and we soaked up lots of adulation during those weeks. True, some of the other parents at the girls' school gave me a bit of an odd look at pick-up time, but others were full of praise. "You're bringing some color to this place!" an always-friendly mom gushed. For me, I found I looked at least a decade younger with those green hipster braids. A waitress in Reno assumed Iris and I were sisters. I loved also not having to do anything with my hair. It was so freeing, having what was really like a piece of art on my head instead of hair needing to be washed, brushed, combed, and styled. I'd have kept the green braids forever, but I was running into the problem my old client lamented, that around the six-seven week point the hair has grown too much and they need to be redone (especially if, like me, you have dyed hair. An inch of undyed roots was too much. I took the pictures here the day I went in to take out my beloved green braids). And I had some occasions coming up when I needed to look more conservative.

Getting them out was agonizing as well, again as intense as a tattoo, and again I remembered the black lawyer with braids from my old firm. How awful, I thought, that on top of dealing with all the white people's gossiping, she undoubtedly had a headache as well, and all just for having easy hair.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

a miracle

One of my children ebulliently announced, "It was a farting miracle! I was in the bathroom, and I was farting, and [dramatic pause] it was to the tune of the Jaws theme! Da duh! Da duh!"

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I bring the cats

The Sober Husband and the children were shouting at me, as I got dressed, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and put on make-up, that I needed to check out a website about "purrsonals." "It's for crazy cat people to meet each other!"

"I'm not single," I said suspiciously.

"I thought you'd like to check it out anyway," said the Sober Husband. "You know, connect with other cat people."

I contended that it sounded too much like a dating site and noted that it was creepy for my own spouse to send me towards one. Additionally, "even if I were single," I said firmly, "I don't think I'd want to hook up with another cat person. I think it is safe to say that I have enough cats to go around." I paused. "Wouldn't you agree," I asked the Sober Husband, "that in our relationship, I bring the cats? Don't you think I adequately supply enough cats for any two people?"

Sunday, October 03, 2010

party like you're in Burlingame

On Friday Lola turned eight. When she came downstairs, she asked us if we'd seen "the Ancient Romans." As she explained in great detail, Lola saw "Ancient Romans" taking down the leprechaun posters she'd put up last St. Patrick's Day and putting up posters about Lola's birthday. We went out and looked. The posters said "WOW 8 YEARS OF LOLA" (where the 8 was giant and the top loop of it made the O in "WOW") and "SIGN HERE IF YOU HAVE A GIFT" and "DRAW HERE IF YOU ARE HAPPY." We signed the poster indicating that we had gifts in store for Lola, and we drew to indicate we were happy. Lola was ecstatic.

At school, the Sober Husband handed out nut-free chocolate chip cookies to Lola's classmates. At home, I did our packing and errands. After picking up the girls at school, we drove to get Lawyer, Jr., Lola's best friend from preschool, and then the Sober Husband. Then we were off for a night of craziness in scenic Burlingame, California.

I wasn't feeling the birthday party fever this year. Every year for the last ten years, for the children's birthdays I've made invitations painstakingly by hand, prepared party decorations (this sometimes went over the top, particularly for Iris's "Dragon Tales" themed third birthday), baked a cake, made food for both the children and any parents who might linger, made punch, obsessed over the party bags, etc.., etc.., and this year I didn't have the energy. I'm recovering from August still: I spent far too much money on going to Burning Man, and my ankle hurts pretty much all the time from my injury. (Sidenote: I saw a foot and ankle specialist, and while my X-rays came back fine, it turns out that I injured the ligaments and the major nerve on the side of my leg. I can anticipate another six months of pain, and I got an ankle brace to help). Also, I've been having problems with the girls' school, and the money woes, chronic pain, and stress added up to take away any energy for putting on a party.

Luckily for me another child at Lola's school had a birthday recently, and her family celebrated by taking her and one of her friends to a hotel for the night, so they could swim in the pool. These two children drove everyone crazy with jealousy going on and on about this, and I decided to turn it into a trend. I spent an evening online browsing hotels of the mid-peninsula on the theory that everything is cheaper out of the city, and I ended up getting a suite in a hotel in Burlingame with a big, lovely heated pool and a gorgeous tropical atrium with a little river full of koi. Best of all there were two large rooms: one room with a fold-out couch and a big TV for Lola and Lawyer, Jr., and another room with two double beds and another big TV for Iris and the Sober Husband and me. "This bed is mine, the one across from the TV!" Iris said sternly.

At check-in I got a complimentary Anchor Steam. I loved this hotel.

Everyone swam (the children swam right up until 10:00 p.m., as the pool had "Adult Only Hours" 10:00 - 12:00). Iris watched TV. Lola and Lawyer, Jr. stayed up very late indeed; I fell asleep at some point to the sound of their voices muted by the closed door between us. Iris had insomnia and reported the next day that she'd gotten up around 4 AM and gone in and stared at sleeping Lola and sleeping Lawyer, Jr. She imitated their sleeping positions. Although Lola and Lawyer, Jr. laughed uproariously, I said, "Iris, that is CREEPY."

In the morning Iris watched a documentary about root beer on the history channel (as her cheap parents don't get cable, a hotel is a rare opportunity for Iris to wallow in all the channels) while Lola and Lawyer, Jr. played. We went to the free hotel breakfast, which was the best free hotel breakfast I'd ever seen, with pancakes, French toast, pastries of many sorts, and omelets made to order. The children went swimming again for a very long time, and eventually I took Iris back upstairs to get more cable viewing time while the Sober Husband supervised Lola and Lawyer, Jr. in the pool and in the sauna.

Finally it was check out time. No one but the Sober Husband wanted to leave. "I'm not paying for another night of this!" he said. "Pack up!"

Before we drove away, I made the children walk around some trails by the bay. Iris and I saw an albino mallard, which made our day. Lola and Lawyer, Jr. were physically exhausted and dragged slowly towards the car. Lola fell asleep in the car on the way home. After some sleep, she hugged me very close, thanking me for taking her to the incredibly luxurious and exotic land of Burlingame, California.

Monday, September 27, 2010

drawing the line

Today was a very hot day, one of those few days of the year where it gets 90 degrees or so in San Francisco, and the children and I were too parched to get on the bus. We stopped off first at a cool, quiet cafe to unparch. I was pursued into this cafe by a crazy woman who was convinced that she and I had a longstanding debate pending over Yoko Ono, and she followed us right through our orders and up into the back of the cafe, all the while ranting "I have told you how Yoko Ono still can't speak English", "Her English is worse than mine!", "After all these years, Yoko Ono can't speak English!" and "Yoko Ono!", while glaring at me and stomping around me in circles. Thankfully she eventually tired of my polite refusal to engage on the Yoko-Ono's-fluency question and left before I needed to call the police.

After our refreshing drinks and some bagels for the children, we left the cafe. As Lola and I waited for the lagging Iris uber Alles, Lola turned to me with a smile and showed me that she was cradling an empty can of Canada Dry in her hands.

Lola (very happily): It's Canny!

Me (sternly): No way.

Lola looked at me questioningly.

Me (even more sternly): I have to draw a line, and I am drawing it here. We are not filling our house up with cans. Put that in the recycling.

Lola dragged off and returned, without the can and with tears in her eyes. "Canny was so innocent!" she cried.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

love, soft as an easy chair

Oh, how I love my Aga Legacy three oven, six burner dual fuel range. I love it so much. It truly makes my life better.

Many people say about fancy ranges, "But how often will you use that?" and "How can it be worth it?" That attitude is no doubt accurate for many homes, but over here, we're using the Aga's special abilities regularly.

A food I make often (but hadn't made for over 3 months while we were stoveless) is frittatas, frittatas of all types. Italians, so talented at so many things, truly invented the perfect omelet variation with frittatas, a sort of cake of eggs and vegetables cooked in a skillet but not stirred. The children like frittatas; the Sober Husband and I like them, and they're fast and easy to make. It's a great way to get everyone eating vegetables, and there's a ton of protein. Even Al, our demented toothless cat, is insane for frittatas. He drags the leftovers off by the broken washing machine and growls in preemptive fear that someone will try to reclaim his little stub of a frittata slice.

A frittata is cooked almost to completion in a skillet, and then it's normally put under a broiler to finish cooking the eggs on top. But with the Aga, my multi-function oven has a browning function, using only the top heat. This finishes a frittata perfectly and removes the fear of overcooking or burning the top, as the browning more gently and perfectly finishes the frittata off than any broiler could. Incidentally in my crappy old oven, the broiler was too shallow to fit a skillet, so I had to finish frittatas in the oven, which meant the already-finished bottom was getting over-cooked as the top was being finished. My frittatas are better now, just right, thanks to my fancy oven's fancy feature.

And all the burners have a very low simmer setting, providing a steady, tiny flame which has been impossible to get on any other gas stove I've ever used. I made a roux-based blue cheese sauce last night, and I was able to leave it on a burner on simmer and completely ignore it while I made the rest of the meal.

The other day I ventured into experimental territory. I made a big pot of Tuscan cannellini with rosemary, and I set the Aga to turn the oven on while I was off picking up the children on and turn it off an hour later. It worked perfectly.

And all the space, with those six burners. I haven't used more than three or four burners simultaneously yet, but I have thoroughly enjoyed having the roomy stovetop. Occasionally the Sober Husband and I both need to use burners; he to make tea or ramen noodles while I make something more complicated, and that has led to jostling and territorial disputes in the past. It's crowded and uncomfortable to share a normal, small four burner stove with another person. But on the Aga, it's just companionable and delightful. He can boil his water down at one end, and I can saute down at my end, and never do we bump into each other. Bliss.

The Aga represents not taking a vacation this year, and combined with my major surgery (which we are still paying for), it was insane to buy it. But I'm so happy, so happy with it, and it raises the value of our house. Every day I use that range, my life is better, easier, and more peaceful. No appliance has ever given me such enjoyment. I'd like to have a sports car (I like driving fast and cornering sharply), but I settle peaceably for a crappy, dented old Volvo. I'm so glad I didn't settle for another crappy little stove like I've had my whole life until now.

Your homework assignment for tonight: Order a fancy double oven, six burner range for yourself. Bonus points if it comes from the same factory in Bordeaux as my Aga and my dream ovens, La Cornue and LaCanche.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

idiot, with teeth

Yesterday I spoke firmly to the children, who were driving me crazy with their lackadaisical, unthinking ways. "Sometimes I feel like I have to have the brains for all three of us!"

Lola slipped her hand in mine and confided, "Yes, you do. I am really stupid!" How we laughed and laughed.

Today, though, I didn't feel like I had enough brains to be in charge of my own teeth, let alone a pair of lazy children. I've finally found a new dentist in my own city, after years of trying to replace my dear dentist who moved away, and I'm in the middle of having a lot of work done. This morning I learned that in my sleep, I swallowed a temporary crown. At the dentist for an emergency visit, I confided in a technician, "I must be the Idiot of the Day." She politely demurred, but I wasn't comforted. I was already convinced they'd written all over my file, "Highly Neurotic Patient. Administer Gas Whenever Possible. Move Slowly. Use Quiet Voice." Today they no doubt added, "Careful -- Swallows Things When Not Supervised."

Monday, September 20, 2010

like bowls of porridge

We have four foster kittens now, and they have very distinct personalities. That's not always the case. I've been volunteering with the kitten rescue for six years now, and over that time we've had a lot of kittens come through here. Most of them blur together and are forgotten, no matter how crazy we were about them at the time. Many litters all seem to share a single personality. I remember one particularly mellow and attractive litter of half-Siamese kittens, whom I never learned to tell apart from each other but adored, and a litter of orange kittens given to me as a mark of kindness, for they were so cute that everyone who saw them wanted them, but who had such terrible, terrible personalities that I actually said of them, "I never thought I would say this, but I hate these kittens." I was so glad to see the back of those orange kittens when we turned them in.

Two of these current kittens are too loving and too tame. One of them in particular drives us crazy, so hyperbonded to people, always leaping on us. These two kittens have to be locked out of our rooms at night, because their exuberant love and need of people will not permit them to let us sleep at night. "Licking my face," shuddered the Sober Husband after the one night these kittens were in our room. "Going after my face all the time. I couldn't sleep." These two are like dogs in cat form.

Over the years we've only seen one kitten who was as crazed about people as these, the kitten we remember as "Dee Dee, the cat who loves too much." You'd think that we'd have all pleaded with the Sober Husband to let us keep Dee Dee, a black and white kitten who pestered us with her affections to the point where the children were constantly trying to fob her off on each other, but we didn't. She loved too much; she drove us crazy. But we remember her and talk about her still, and I put up an album of pictures of her on Facebook.

The third kitten is a remarkably inert one, a soft, fluffy kitten referred to as "El Rabbito" by Iris and "Ranch Dressing" by Lola. This kitten would be a perfect store cat, the kind of large, lazy cat people love to pet but who is so lazy that he never tries to leave the store.

And the fourth is a terrified little tabby, who was found at the SF dump and who is so terribly shy. There's an outstanding reward here most days for finding that kitten, who is a remarkably good hider, so I can force some more socialization down her throat. She accepts being handled with no resistance once she's captured, but as soon as she can, she slinks off into a tiny space. Our progress with her has been glacially slow and small. I was optimistic when we got her, because I thought the pesky, over-loving pair of kittens would set such a good example for her, but it's an example she's not about to follow.

It is just like when we had "Dee Dee, the cat who loves too much." We had another foster kitten at the same time who didn't care for people, and we worried about her. "I wish we could take some of the love out of Dee Dee and put it in that other cat, and then they'd both be perfect," the children and I said repeatedly.

Friday, September 17, 2010

my failure

We played cards today, and Iris was a blatant cheater (which I consistently called her out on) and a poor loser. After some reflection, she said to me calmly, "Teaching good sportsmanship is a parent's job. I'm such a poor sport that it's obvious you've done a really poor job." This thought cheered her up, and she smirked. I laughed.

not Iris's mother's Burning Man

A few people have called me out, in a polite enough manner that it didn't offend me, on taking Iris to Burning Man. It's understandable enough, because these people haven't been to Burning Man themselves and were working off the legends and rumors they've heard over the years. They thought Iris was "exposed to so much nudity and casual drug use", when the reality is that Iris sees more nudity and casual drug use walking around San Francisco. At home we often smell marijuana as we run errands or play in the park, and it's quite fashionable to walk around the Castro nude these days, no matter what the weather. Out at Burning Man, people tended to wear at least underwear, fearing the rage of the sun and also wanting to make more of a fashion statement than skin can pull off alone.

And only an idiot would have openly used drugs, given the ubiquity of law enforcement. Every Nevada county which barely brushes Burning Man enjoys billing the event for untold amounts of overtime for its cops, who clearly enjoy being paid to drive around sneering at the participants and looking for something, ANYTHING, that will allow them to make an arrest.

It's not the old days, people, not at all. The days are over when Burning Man had just moved to the desert, before it was so famous and big, when there were no roads and reserved camping spaces. Back then, the days of Iris's mother's Burning Man, we took guns to Burning Man, and sometimes we shot at things (one year there was a Drive By Shooting Range). We had fires all over the place, and we felt free and anarchic. But then in 1996 the first participant died on the playa, and it was clear that the freedom needed to be reined in. I was part, as General Counsel and a member of the LLC for a few years, in dealing with the authorities and creating rules and changes that Burning Man participants had to accept. The event could not go on, once it became internationally famous and once someone died, without becoming lawful and tamed down.

That's not to say that Burning Man isn't worth going to. It's just a different place now. It's a much safer and more regulated spot, with a beautiful, air-conditioned medical clinic and tons of law enforcement constantly roving the streets. There's still amazing art to be marveled at; there are still tons of interesting strangers to meet. The typical participant is creative, highly intelligent, and fun, and who doesn't want to be around people like that?

One big change I saw was that there are now so many businesses which create products for people to take to Burning Man. Back in the old days, we built our own shade shelters, and we shared tips on line. We went to Home Depot and bought PVC pipes and lengths of rebar, and we practiced putting up our makeshift shelters in the Panhandle or Golden Gate Park. Now there's an online Ikea of Burning Man, a place which sells furniture for you to assemble for your theme camp, and endless other shops as well. I complimented a campmate on his beautifully arced rebar stakes, and he blushed. He shamefacedly said he'd bought them online (my comparatively shabby rebar stakes were state of the art circa 1998, when a friend of my husband's made them for me onsite).

I noticed that roughly 85% of the women at Burning Man were wearing the same thing: a tool belt over underpants, with bare thighs but calves covered with boots or faux fur leg covers. All these tool belts were the same, and virtually none of them contained a single tool (some women carried a water bottle in the tool belt). Obviously they were all buying this same tool belt somewhere, and it was considered a must-have for the 2010 burn. Back in my day, we dressed more diversely, because there weren't yet businesses set up to sell us Burner chic clothes.

Another booming industry was goggles. "You've GOT to have goggles," said so many people. My friend N. asked me, "Am I going to be okay? I don't have goggles." I reassured her. "Back in the day, we didn't have goggles. NO ONE had goggles. We wore sunglasses, and we were fine."

Despite that, I did buy goggles for Iris and myself. Why? The goggles they were selling at the Nixon gas station were just so fabulous, I couldn't resist. Iris's goggles went so well with her microbraids. And when I saw a spiked pair that fit me, I couldn't pass them up. They fit in with the Warcraft theme all too well. "I'll say I'm an engineer!" I said (Warcraft characters who choose engineering as a profession craft goggles themselves for their characters). I felt bad at spending so impulsively, and I tried to justify it. "We can wear them to the Makerfaire and try to look steampunk, Iris," I said. She nodded agreeably and admired her goggled self in the mirror. "Also, I like to put money in the local economy, make up for the inconvenience of all the traffic they have to put up with once a year." I pulled out my money and conformed to the trend.

Monday, September 13, 2010

the cat poacher calls

On Sunday morning the phone rang. I picked it up, but handed it off promptly to the Sober Husband when I learned it was the gabby cat poaching neighbor (who wooed my old, fat tabby, Bob Marley, away years ago). I was in the middle of making a zucchini-basil frittata for lunch with other, non-cat poaching neighbors. (Sidenote for those wondering about the new Aga: I used one of the funky new features for my frittata, the browning mode on the multi-function oven. This mode operates the top heating element only and finishes a frittata off to perfection, providing a more gentle heat than a broiler would).

"You say 'the bushy black cat' is eating over at your place?" the Sober Husband said. He turned to me. "Frowst is eating over at John's."

I was livid. "Tell him not to feed Frowst!" I hissed repeatedly. The Sober Husband ignored me, apart from making "leave-alone-I'm-on-the-phone" faces at me.

After an extended conversation (the catpoaching neighbor is very chatty), the Sober Husband reported. "Frowst figured out a way to go in John's house, and he's eating over there. But he's not friendly or social; he doesn't interact with John."

"He's trying to steal Frowst! My most beautiful cat!"

The Sober Husband defended John. "What's he supposed to do? Frowst is coming in his house. He didn't have to call."

I shouted after him as he descended into the garage. "DON'T DEFEND THE CAT-POACHER AGAINST ME!"

He rolled his eyes. "Sweetie, the cat is going into his house."

God with a bad aim?

"First, I pray for those families who suffered in the San Bruno pipeline blast; this is a tragedy that could've been corrected with the right care being applied beforehand. However, on a more divine level: This blast can be viewed as God's divine judgment upon San Fransicko (sic) for its ultra-leftist and anti-normal way of doing things, and for that sad excuse of a judge who overturned the will of the people in his anti-Proposition 8 ruling. God is speaking, folks. Are you listening?" - Lloyd Marshall Jr., Lockport, NY

This little mash note to my home town, San Francisco, appeared in today's newspaper. I found it rather amusing in its blatant stupidity. First Lloyd Marshall Jr. helpfully notes that the San Bruno disaster could have been prevented by taking more care; then he says it was God's judgment. Which is it?

I really, really hate it when Christians proclaim smugly that disasters are God's judgments upon liberals. Today's paper had a picture of a beautiful twenty year-old girl who died in the explosion. Her lovely, expressive face was so full of life and humor, and now she's dead, so young. Her boyfriend is badly burnt, losing all his fingers, and is undergoing the hell of a burn ward and mourning his lost love. And this is because God is mad at Judge Vaughn Walker? I think an omnipotent God could find Judge Walker (a judge who was incidentally appointed by the first President Bush) if He wanted to and would not strike down a pretty heterosexual girl by mistake.

I also think an all-knowing God knows the difference between San Francisco and San Bruno. They are separated by Daly City, South San Francisco, and Brisbane, after all, and the airport makes a pretty good landmark. I live in the Castro, on the very same street where the Marriage Equality people's headquarters are, and I can safely report that there are no signs of divine wrath here. The weather was beautiful all weekend. The gay bars are opening for business like clockwork; my gay neighbors' contractor is hard at work ruining my morning bellowing at his workers. I'm not going to go so far as to say absolutely all is well here, but it's been a lovely few days.

Aside from the question of whether God would send Judge Walker a signal by blowing up middle class families down the Peninsula, what gives Lloyd Marshall Jr. the right to determine which utility failures are divine vengeance and which poor maintenance? Was the BP oil well disaster due to God judging the aquatic birds and fish of the Gulf?

Anyone who lives in Northern California can tell you that PG&E is a notoriously inept utility. It's infamous. Just before the explosion I read a scathing article about how many more outages per household we suffer here, compared to other American utilities. Somehow the plucky utilities keep the lights on in places where blizzards and ice storms truly bring down the power lines, but here, in our mild and even climate, bumbling PG&E ineptly subjects us to frequent outages. This wasn't the only dramatic explosion we've seen, either (there was a very newsworthy one not long ago, with flames shooting out of manholes in the Financial District and suitclad executives running down the sidewalk).

And finally it's truly pathetic how Christians only think disasters are divine punishment when they strike somewhere the Christians don't like. Notice how hurricanes and blizzards and deathly heat waves are never God's ire at work. Hurricane Hugo killed many more people and did millions of dollars more damage than San Francisco's big quake in the 80's did, and no one ever called for South Carolina to repent.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

conversations with my neighbor

Yes, I know I owe you, the readers, reports on my trips to Camp Mather and Burning Man, but what I feel like writing about is what happened today. Actually what I really am dying to write about are some things from the Sober Husband's place of work, but I've discontinued what I used to call "Scenes from the Silicon Valley Soap Opera" because he got too recognizable on here so I have to exercise a higher level of self-censorship. If he and I were more organized, we'd write a book together about Silicon Valley, he generating the material, me doing the writing, together under some adorably clever pen name. But instead you get anecdotes of the children's wackiness or cute cat stories or whatever comes your way:

Part I: This morning my neighbor, B., stopped by, holding a brick in one hand, to ask if I could unlock my side gate so the city inspectors could come through to inspect the side of his house and new foundation. I said it was no problem to let the inspectors in, as I was waiting for my new range. My neighbor, like everyone, was well versed in my epic struggles in getting a new range. "That's amazing! I was down at the Ferry Building the other day, on Monday, and I saw a container ship come in, and I thought, 'Maybe Carole's stove is on that.'"

"And it was!"

B. was carrying a special, sample brick, which he showed me, because he is spending much of his time shopping for the perfect bricks to lay in his yard. His involved and extreme search for the right bricks reminded me of my obsession with researching ranges. Like me and ranges, B. had become a master of arcane information about where bricks come from ("It turns out ALL the bricks in California go through Sacramento"), had dismissed what was easily available as unacceptable ( "All the bricks at Home Depot are just terrible. They're not real bricks; they're made of composite"), and had been making a lot of unsatisfactory field trips ("I've been to Redwood City, I've been to Antioch, I've been so many places..").

My neighbor felt that conducting life's transactions is becoming harder and harder. As well as the bricks, he couldn't get new wheels for his car easily; they have to be special ordered. I said that I thought these problems arise only because B. has climbed to an elite position in consumerism. I pointed out that B. drives a Porsche Boxter convertible, not a Toyota Corolla.

"Are you saying that if I drove a Toyota Corolla, my life would be different?" He scoffed. "I'd be happy with the Home Depot bricks?"

"No, I'm saying that if you drove a Toyota Corolla, you could buy wheels for it! When my ex drove a Porsche, they used to always tell him for everything, 'Oh, we have to send to Stuttgart for the parts.'"

B. began to see my point, but wouldn't cop to being demanding in his tastes. I called him out: "I've heard about you and your coffeemaker." [He has a notoriously expensive coffeemaker].

"That's different! I cannot tolerate drip coffee!"

Part II: Much later, while the appliance installation service was hard at work replacing the aged, broken Magic Chef (which they estimated at 15-20 years of age) with my fresh, pristine Aga, I heard a voice. "Carole? Carole?" It was my neighbor again.

It turned out that the inspectors had uncovered termites, "unusually active" termites. My neighbor, stressed, had efficiently gotten an exterminator on the scene already. "That's what all that noise is, they're drilling. They're drilling and putting that stuff down there, that stuff they use."

We discussed termite treatments, and I brought up the possibility of getting rid of the termites without pesticides, like "The Bug Guy" recommends. My neighbor acted to dismiss any concerns I might have about the exterminators visibly working between our properties. "They're not using poisons, they're putting down stuff that wards the termites off. It scares them away."

"So they run off your property and come onto mine??" I immediately resigned myself to getting our house treated for termites.

To cheer my stressed, termite-plagued neighbor up, I ushered him back towards the kitchen to admire the new Aga, which the appliance repairmen were laboring over. We both felt happier looking at it, and the conversation turned to all the food that would be made on this stove in the future. B. made a reference to meat, and I cut it off. "I'm a vegetarian."

"I thought that was just Iris."

"No, there's no meat in this house."

"Are you serious? You don't ever eat meat?"

I pointed out the rows of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks.

"You can't be a vegetarian! Your food tastes too good! You must hate us, we're always having steaks."

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Iris and I pulled back in to San Francisco this evening, almost exactly to the minute one week after we left. I'll write much more later, but for the meantime, I'll share that we had the most sedate Burning Man experience plausible. No sunburns. No hangovers. Only small injuries (a fiberglass tent pole disintegrated in my hands, and the tent I was putting up ended up stained in many places by my blood). No violations of marital vows. No moving violations (and that was a rarity: Burning Man is considered an annual Festival of Taxing The Freaks Passing Through, and everyone who talked about their drive seemed to have gotten a ticket for $100-600+ for something or another).

I feel so homesick for Burning Man now; I want to be back padding through the dirt in my bare feet, opening a bottle of champagne right off in the morning, admiring the art cars. It is very good indeed to see my darling Lola & the Sober Husband, though.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Frowst has a fragile little mind

Tuesday was a hot day in San Francisco. It broke all records, ending up as the hottest day of any August day here in recorded weather history.

Frowst, an animal with a large mass of thick, long, fluffy black fur, did not handle things well. Normally he is the sort of independent, energetic cat who spends very little time with his owners, but it turns out that if there is a record-breaking hot day, he will stay close by his Drunken Housewife, following her from place to place, sprawling near her on the floor and looking like he'd been shot in the gut.

At night the heat did not break. The children had a rough night, finding their room too hot. Iris in particular was reminded that heat rises, as her top bunk bed was unbearable. I learned the next day that she negotiated with Lola that she get to sleep on Lola's cooler lower bunk, and Lola slept on the floor (which Lola cheerfully reported was cooler than her own bed). They were awake much of the night due to the heat.

Meanwhile I could have slept just fine with the heat, and the Sober Husband got an excellent night's sleep. My problem was with Frowst. Frowst, driven mad by the heat, kept coming upstairs, crying all the way, and then walking onto me, meowing sadly and standing directly on me. I gave up, unable to get back to sleep after he'd woken me up yet one more time, and I went downstairs to read sleeplessly. Once I was out of bed, Frowst's mental breakdown became even more maddening. The cat seemed to feel that if he could just find the right spot, he'd be comfortable, and he wanted a high level of service in finding that spot. I let him out the front door. I let him back in. I let him out the back door. I let him back in. I let him in and out of the front door several more times. He tried crying to be let into the garage, which frankly I thought was a winning idea given how dark and cool it is down there, but he soon cried to come back up. Eventually, in the wee hours, I got sleepy enough to go back to bed, rather than pass my time letting the cat in and out.

After I fell asleep again, the cycle began anew with Frowst crying and walking on me periodically. After a few times, I couldn't get back to sleep again, and I went back downstairs for some reading punctuated by opening doors for the cat. It seemed to me that his mind had been deranged by the heat. Meanwhile Henry passed the time by spreading out as much as possible on the floor, and poor, skeletal Al, our odd cat, loved the heat, purring happily.

I told the Sober Husband the night's sorry tale the next day. He was filled with self-congratulation. "I have so successfully trained these animals not to expect anything from me! It really pays off!" he crowed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

it all truly began 11 years ago today

Eleven years ago today I became a Drunken Housewife (although I didn't have a drop of alcohol that day). Before that I was a drunken litigator. But back in 1999 on this day, our Iris uber Alles was born, and I began what was supposed to be a year off from work but which has turned into a never-ending life as a doting but lazy stay-at-home mother.

Happy birthday, Iris! May your reign of terror never end.

Monday, August 23, 2010

latest comment of the week and first comment of the month

Our latest Comment O'The Week winner is NonymousGoatsePants, for "You learn lots of interesting things eating meat! See what you're missing?" This former all purpose troll, now vegetarian-baiter has now won Comment O'The Week twice, making him the man to beat (carnivore to beat?) for Comment O'The Month.

Astute readers may have noticed that I don't exactly run the Comment O'The Week on a clockwork schedule. I get to it when I get to it, and the same will be true of Comment O'The Month. If anyone says something particularly witty before I go to Burning Man, that person will be the dark horse winner of Comment O'The Month. Otherwise, it will go to NonymousGoatsePants, and on my return from Burning Man, I'll send out a fabulous prize (unless the winner is too stalker-averse to give out a mailing address, which makes it a win-win for me as I won't have to wrap up and mail the fabulous prize, ha).

tyranny of the stove

It's been over three months since we had a working stove, and my decision to replace our broken piece o'crap with a high quality, double oven range has given us a lot of trouble. Today should be a busy, hectic day: we just got back from a week in the mountains at Camp Mather, and I want to go to Burning Man in just a few days. I should be driving to Home Depot and Bev Mo; I should be doing no end of errands related to Iris uber Alles's birthday tomorrow as well as Burning Man. Maybe I could even take my ankle to see a doctor (recovering from a very severe sprain which had me on crutches, I twisted my ankle again at Camp Mather when my bicycle skidded in some deep gravel, and then the day we came home, my ankle broke out in a burning rash. There is now a bright red rash speckled right over the visibly swollen outer part of my left ankle, so harmonically hurting on the inside and outside simultaneously). Instead I'm home while an electrician rewires our kitchen (to the tune of a thousand dollars --- one! thousand! dollars! just to be able to plug in a new gas range!).

This morning we also had the kitchen inspected; the place which sold us our European range won't run the risk of sending it to us without making sure we can get it into the kitchen. This hurdle was one which was hard to get over. Previously I spent an entire day at home waiting for this inspector, while Iris uber Alles bitched at me nonstop that she wanted to go to the aquarium, wanted to go to the aquarium, wanted to go to the aquarium. At the last minute the inspector called to inform us that he needed another four hour block of time, which conflicted with me picking up Lola at circus camp and taking her to some wretched other obligation, and so I refused to wait those extra four hours, leaving our kitchen woefully uninspected. A bitter Iris has subsequently complained for months since that dark day of infamy that "I had to spend a whole day at home when I was supposed to go to the aquarium", despite the fact that I took her to that same damn aquarium and out to lunch the very next day. Then there was the false alarm day where I thought the electrician was coming to give us a quote, and then the actual day where the electrician came and gave a quote. After that there was the day when I thought the electrician was coming to do the work, so I couldn't make plans, but I did leave the house in the afternoon after coming to the conclusion that any electrician who didn't call, email, or drop by before noon was most likely not rewiring my kitchen that day.

We had trouble rescheduling the inspection, and there was some fear that we wouldn't be able to get it done before the planned delivery of the range, which would mean extra delays. Aside from that, the Sober Husband was nervous about this inspection. Evidently our cabinets are about an inch lower than recommended over the range, and he was concerned that we'd be compelled by the appliance dictators to rip them out. Yesterday we tore out the little cabinet and countertop which will be used by the new, larger range, and the poor old Sober Husband looked nervously up at the overhead cabinets, no doubt imagining ripping those out with his prybar. In fear that our failure to get the rewiring done before the inspection would doom us, the Sober Husband made a sign bearing cryptic electric wiring instructions which he posted on the wall where the little cabinet used to be, to, as he explained, give the impression that we knew what we were doing and that when it was delivered, the range could get plugged in. In the event, the inspector didn't even measure the space between the cabinets and the range. He didn't ask about the wiring other than to look at me penetratingly (and given that he was cross-eyed, keeping eye contact was challenging) and, unblinkingly, inquire if my electrician would be done on time. "I'm sure," I said somewhat doubtfully. "They said it was an easy, fun job." (Is it good or bad if your contractor tells you your project " is a fun job"?)

The main issue the inspector had was measuring our doorways. I gather that a common San Francisco problem is that people buy stoves which they cannot wedge into their homes. Our doorways passed muster, though, and he didn't give a damn about those potentially troubling cabinets. "I'll see you on the thirtieth!" he said as a parting shot.

"Wait! I thought it was coming on the twenty-fourth!" I called after him. It's pencilled in on our calendar that I'm meant to spend the twenty-fourth at home waiting for the new range, which was supposed to be the worst case scenario delivery date for this damn range being shipped all the way from Bordeaux, but this fellow felt he would bring it by on the thirtieth, a day I planned to spend at Burning Man, not hanging around the house for yet another day of stove business. Sigh.