Friday, August 26, 2011

did you ever want to do an interactive art piece at Burning Man without having to go there?

Once again I'm heading out to Burning Man, to pad around barefoot in the dust and marvel at world-class works of art, to make champagne cocktails for my campmates, and hopefully to keep my tent and shade structure erect no matter what storms come. (Meanwhile the Sober Husband, who will be holding down the fort at home, vows that he will turn the house into a model of cleanliness and order. Poor Pigwidgeon the dimwitted parrot will be restricted to her cage, and the children will be performing much more housework than normal. The children quailed at this pronouncement).

I have an offer to make the readers: send me interesting mail at Burning Man, and I will do something artistic with it and document it here, giving you due credit. It's your chance to join the premier interactive performance art festival without having to drive all the way out to the middle of the Nevada Desert, get dirt on your clothes, or risk seeing hippies in person (incidentally despite what "South Park" says, Burning Man isn't a hippie event. It's no Grateful Dead concert; it draws more of a Wired magazine type. It's not surprising to me that Jeff Bezos held a staff retreat there).

Many of you are devoted readers indeed, and how do I reward you? Aside from the occasional "Comment of the Week", I don't. Here's yer chance!

How to play: mail your thing to

Hass (Carole)
c/o BRCPO 2.0 in the 9:00 Plaza
5:30 & D
Black Rock City, NV 89412

The sooner, the better, as Burning Man ends on Labor Day.

love, the DH

p.s. Do not send me anything which would get me arrested. That is all I ask.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

the Apocalypse is here, plus quotes from Iris and Lola

Yesterday the Sober Husband came to me with a grave, drawn expression. "Steve Jobs just resigned," he said in tragic tones.

I understood his angst. The man is a diehard Apple enthusiast, an early adapter to each new fabulous iProduct to come along. "Who will make our next thing?" I said sadly to him. "We had iPod, iPad, and iPhone, but will we ever get a new iThing to love?" We took a moment to honor Steve Jobs's contributions to the world.

At roughly the same time the Sober Husband came in with his somber news, a number of friends of mine had turned to Facebook to express their feelings about Steve Jobs. But that was nothing compared to the newspaper this morning. The Chronicle treated Jobs's retirement as though it were Armageddon. Virtually the entire front page was given over to it, with huge headlines and giant fonts that reminded me a lot of the Pearl Harbor Chronicle front page which hangs on the wall down at my favorite bar. "Look," I said to the Sober Husband. "It's World War III! It's the apocalypse! It's a zombie war! Steve Jobs is stepping down!"

People, how will we survive??

Iris and Lola's bright spirits remain undaunted (although they are so devoted to their iPad, which is known in the household as "Mr. Pad", that they should be mourning). Yesterday we went to the Santa Cruz boardwalk in honor of Iris's birthday, and they rode together in harmony on a variety of nausea-inducing rides. Only the Ferris wheel broke up what was, until then, a day of unprecedented sibling harmony. Iris was upset that Lola had rocked their car. "I didn't mind being stuck up high," she said, "Until Lola was rocking it! She kept rocking it, which is forbidden, and she said, 'I am a bachelor and this is my pad!'"

She got little parental support. "Iris," I said, "What part of, 'Lola is a bachelor, and that is her pad' do you not understand?"

Iris took the point well. She did see the humor in Lola's phrasing. Or maybe she was just in a good mood from getting presents and being taken to Santa Cruz. The day before she'd been quite impatient with little Lola. I give you, without comment, a verbatim partial transcript of a conversation that went on for what felt like to me, the only grownup in the house at the time, many long hours:

Eight year-old Lola: "That is so demented!"

Iris: "Stop using the word 'demented'! You keep saying everything is demented! It gets old!"

'That is a perfectly good word! The government uses it all the time!"

"The government does not call things demented!"

"Yes, it does! All the time!" Lola then listed a variety of things which allegedly the U.S. government has denounced as "demented."

A short silence followed, broken by Lola saying to herself, "No way! No fucking way!"

Iris: "Stop saying that! You're not supposed to say that! Momdude, did you hear what Lola said?"

Lola (with especial relish): "No fucking way! No fucking way!"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

decisions, decisions

As lifetime members of Burning Man, the Sober Husband and I get two tickets every year. This year I'm giving his ticket to our friend N., who was on the fence about going to Burning Man until the event sold out. Then she realized she did want to run away from her responsibilities to pad around in the dust but she thought it was too late, and I was happy to be able to inform her that I still had the extra ticket.

However, people are getting more and more creative in their attempts to wheedle tickets out of those of us who have them. A very special offer has been passed along to me, for my consideration:
In exchange for your Burning Man ticket, I offer you the extraordinary experience of having your DNA activated to its full energetic potential, up to 24 strands, your youth and vitality chromosomes activated, your abundance gene activated, your death gene de-activated and reimprinted with the pattern of immortality, your enchantment gene activated (creates harmonious relationships with anyone and everyone you wish), and your manifestation gene activated (enhances ability to create instantaneously by the power of intention). I can also deactivate and repattern any limiting belief system that is keeping you from experiencing all of the love, joy, success, and goodness you desire. This will take 2 to 3 hours, and will be permanent.

I am not fooling around. Since I've learned to do these things and practiced them on myself, my life has accelerated like a rocketship. My perception of reality has deepened, broadened, and intensified for the better, and I have more energy and stamina than I ever imagined. The activation of our DNA is a scientifically proven thing, and is happening gradually planetwide, but with the consciously focused techniques that I practice, you can put yourself on the leading edge of human evolution.

I am happy to share my gifts with you in exchange for the extraordinary opportunity to experience the magical mystical field of manifestation on the playa. I think that's a pretty good trade, don't you?
Ah, decisions, decisions. Burning Man or DNA activated to its full energetic potential and death gene de-activated?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

it is a poor workman who blames her tools

On Saturday the Sober Husband decided to take my knives to be sharpened. It had been a very long time since I'd had them professionally sharpened, and they needed it. The complication was that I was cooking for a dinner party that night, but for whatever reasons of his own, the Sober Husband was hellbound on sharpening the knives that very day.

I put off making the dishes that required chopping and instead made the cake while he and the knives were gone. After he came back, I moved on to the chopping. Right away I got little cuts on three fingertips. I had never touched a knife so sharp before. The professional sharpening service I'd used before didn't do anything like this. I moved on to mincing an onion. It's my habit when chopping up something fine to rest my left hand along the top of my big chef's knife, to work as a counterbalance to the heavy handle. I've never before, in decades of cooking and mincing a variety of things, hurt my left hand chopping, but then again I'd never worked with a knife fresh from Saucy Joe's mobile knifesharpening service. As I minced, the tip of the knife, sharp as a barb, went straight into my left hand, very deep into the palm. I shouted in pain. I pulled the knife out, and I shouted again.

I ran over to the sink. It hurt like hell washing my hand, the soap and water going into the inside of my hand where nothing should ever enter. I shouted, this time out of drama-queenness, until my husband finally got tired of listening to the hellish racket and came down. "I stabbed myself!" I said. "Knives should never be this sharp." I showed him my wound. It was not very long, but it was very deep. It was bleeding very heavily.

After wrapping the poor hand in a clean dishcloth, I sat on the couch and rested at the Sober Husband's insistence. "But I have to keep cooking," I said plaintively. "The guests will understand," he said firmly. "We can call for takeout or something." I took an ibuprofen. It took a very long time for the bleeding to stop. Lola ostentatiously brought me a glass of ice water, and after the bleeding finally stopped, I used the glass of ice water to ice my hand.

At this point, I looked at my hand somewhat objectively. The wound wasn't long enough for more than one or two stitches, really. There wasn't much point in going to have it sewn up. The question was more about what had happened inside the hand. I didn't think the flesh inside the hand was supposed to have knives slipping into it, and the flesh of my palm was swelling up. But what would any doctor do I could see on a Sunday afternoon do? Probably nothing, after I'd sat around waiting for hours. And I knew from reading chefs' memoirs that real, true cooks mutilate themselves all the time and don't even step out of the kitchen. I went back to work and finished all the food for the dinner party.

Monday, August 08, 2011

different perspectives

The leader from my Warcraft raid wrote a description of the members of our team. I was surprised to see myself described as "the maternal figure of the team. She is quiet, for the most part, good natured, willing to help and encourage people, and someone you can go to with issues and will offer a listening ear." I'm much more accustomed to hearing myself described as "bitchy" than "quiet and good-natured." In my litigator days, I was often called "a pitbull."

Later I asked eleven year-old Iris uber Alles, "How would you describe me?"

She thought. "I'd say, 'Interested in cats, cooks a lot, plays a lot of Warcraft, good at sewing...'"

I cut her off. "That describes my interests, but not me! My personality. Like, you could say 'bitchy' or 'sweet.' It's okay to say something that's not too nice; I'm asking for it! Or something nice, like 'caring and shy.'" We took a moment to laugh about the time her little sister described the two of them as "caring and shy" and I, their hellbound mother, laughed so hard I nearly choked.

Iris thought again. "I'd say, 'Weird but surprisingly awesome.'"

"Well, the leader of my raid group described me as 'the maternal figure of the group.'"

Iris laughed uproariously. "You're the mother of the group?" Laughing harder and harder, she choked out, "YOU'RE the mother of the group? You? You? You're the MOTHER?"

My own child does not view me as a maternal figure.

sleeping with the fishes

On Saturday we did something I've been wanting to do for years: we slept with the fishes as part of the Aquarium of the Bay's Shark Week. Iris and Lola and I love the Aquarium of the Bay very, very much. When Lola was a little toddler, she became besotted with the leopard sharks and sevengill sharks there, which she called respectively "Giraffey" and "Biggy." Over and over again she'd beg me to take her and on each visit, she'd cry ecstatically "Biggy! Giraffey!" at each and every sevengill and leopard shark which passed by.

The best part of the A. of the B. is the tunnel: you are surrounded by fish-filled water on three sides, as you glide through on a moving walkway. The fish have so much room to move around, and there are so many of them in this huge tank designed to replicate the San Francisco Bay. I knew that you could rent out the aquarium for the night for a largeish sum, and I had toyed with the idea of trying to organize parents to do it with me, but I'd never made a stab at gathering the funds. Then this year I was lucky enough to score us spots at the Aquarium's Shark Week sleepover.

As usual, the Sober Husband was game but reserved and not particularly enthusiastic. We started the evening with him slightly pissed off at me, as I was busy playing the World of Warcraft when he wanted me to help sort out the bedding. I defended myself. "It's a big moment in my guild, give me a minute! People have been working on this for months!" Two of the players from my guild got married in Stormwind Cathedral, which was pretty tricky given that we are Horde and Stormwind is the human capital. Hundreds of players worked together to secure the cathedral and to hold it, while others in tuxedos and party dresses listened to the solemn vows at the altar. As I tried to listen to the ceremony and the warnings over our live chat that the alliance players were getting closer to breaking through, the Sober Husband got sarcastic over my lack of caring about our shortage of sleeping bags. "Just two minutes!" I hissed.

I closed up my computer as soon as the bridal party started to file out of the cathedral, and I volunteered to go without a sleeping bag myself. "I'll wear my cat," I said, referring to my thick, heavy cat costume pajamas complete with long tail and hood with ears. "I won't need a sleeping bag." We gathered up some blankets, the two air mattresses (dating from that pre-child era where the Sober Husband and I used to go camping together), and pillows.

My one concern had been that the event might be overcrowded and noisy. I was really happy to see that there was a small, reasonable number of families. Evidently the A. of the B. knows what it is doing with these events. Even more happily, all of the children were charming and well-behaved.

Down at the A. of the B., things got off to a slowish start. We spent much of the evening in a conference room, being educated about sharks by a pair of lively naturalists and eating cheese pizza. While I was examining a display of shark teeth, a small child confided in me that he had once discovered a piece of poop in a swimming pool. Things picked up around 9:00, and we spent two hours going around the aquarium when it was virtually empty and so quiet. This was amazing for us. I love that place so much, and normally the crowds get you rushing along. With no pressure, you could really stand and gaze at the moon jellies (I'd never noticed before that there are a few mutant moon jellies, with six stomaches instead of the regulation four). Iris uber Alles most enjoyed a lot of time with the chinchillas, who were highly lively at night, as opposed to during the day, when they generally just gaze out blearily at the visitors.

Around eleven we changed into our pajamas. A sweet little girl was taken with awe and amazement by my cat outfit, and I waved my tail at her. One of the other adults was less charmed and ostentatiously whispered about me. Then we went down to the tunnel, carrying only our bedding, and settled in for the night. Virtually everyone wanted to sleep in the part where the sharks live, which was literally packed solid with no room to spare. Meanwhile we had the entire first half of the fish tunnel to ourselves entirely. The Sober Husband was particularly taken by the huge deep sea bass, while Iris and I loved the schools of anchovies (so perfect, so beautiful. It was seeing these lovely fish at the A. of the B. years ago which got me to swear off eating seafood once again).

Self-sacrificing parents as always, we gave the children the inflatable camping mattresses, and the Sober Husband and I bunked down on the hard ground. Needless to say sleep was scanty. However, lying awake in the night, gazing up at the shadows of passing fish is really charming. I felt like I was in a nature documentary.

The next morning as we went up to get dressed and have breakfast, a naturalist asked little Lola what she had learned, no doubt expecting some nugget about sharks. Instead Lola said, "I learned to always carry the pillows." She demonstrated how she was able to loll her head onto the pile of pillows in her arms.

Upstairs I skipped the bagels and muffins and gathered up my clothes. Somehow while walking from the conference room through the gift shop to the bathroom, I dropped my clean underpants. I immediately retraced my steps, but the underwear was gone. I asked a janitor if he'd found any clothes, but no. "Someone picked them up!" I said to the Sober Husband. "I retraced my steps within two minutes!"

He looked at me like I were crazy. "Of course they would throw them away, like any normal person would."

"I think any normal person, knowing people were spending the night here, would pick up a piece of clean clothing and ask if anyone dropped it!" I hissed.

I asked him to see if they'd been turned in while I retraced my steps again. He didn't, but he did check around our luggage and confirmed that I had indeed lost my underwear, which I already knew. I asked a naturalist if anyone had turned in any clothing. "What kind of clothing?" Swallowing my embarrassment, I said, "A pair of black underpants with skulls all over them." Diplomatically she visibly choked back her laughter. Later she reported that none of the staff had had anything turned in.

A friendly fellow could see I'd lost something and asked. I explained what had happened, and he said sympathetically, "Someone must have picked them up and kept them. That's sick." He shook his head sadly. Meanwhile my own husband had no sympathy. "I don't see why you're reacting this way."

"I think any normal person who dropped something and immediately retraced their steps would be annoyed," I said. "Plus, they're my favorites."

I gave up and went along to the morning's activity, feeding the animals in the touch pool. The bat rays were so charismatic, raising their heads high out of the water to peer at us. We oohed and ahhed. One looked like it was going to jump out at me, and my friendly acquaintance said, "He's going to kiss you!" The naturalist in charge of feeding that room of animals distributed an assortment of weird thawed things for us to feed the skates and rays. I got a little squid to drop in; the children got bits of frozen fish. I forgot my missing underpants in the happiness of the moment.

Later we waited until everyone else took their luggage, in case those panties (which the Sober Husband was sick and tired of hearing about) and Lola's little flashlight, which had also gone missing, turned up. Another mother said to me, slightly condescendingly, "I'll bet someone just thought they were theirs." She looked me up and down. "After all, a lot of people have black cotton underwear. I have a lot myself." I could see where her guess came from, as I was wearing a black cotton dress over black cotton leggings with a black cotton hoodie, but she was wrong, and I pointed it out. "Actually, they weren't just black. They had Day of the Dead skulls all over them." She was visibly deflated. "Yeah, I guess that is different."

Afterwards we dragged our things over to the end of Pier 39 to watch the sea lions before going home. It was cold and foggy, the best weather for massive sea lions, and they were cavorting and snapping at each other and diving around. It was enchanting... until a very large sea lion, poised right at the closed dock to Pier 39, enjoyed a voluminous flow of liquid excrement. All the tourists recoiled and fled. Iris in particular was disgusted and disturbed. "I really wish I hadn't seen that," she said, shuddering. "And it smelled so bad. Why couldn't he do that underwater?"

Final judgment by all: if you ever have the chance to spend the night at the Aquarium of the Bay take it. But don't bring your favorite underpants.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

what they talk about when I'm not there

The other day the children and I were at a cafe, and eleven year-old Iris left the table for a while. When she returned, she asked her little sister and I what we talked about while she was gone. The truth was that we hadn't said anything of any substance, but Iris wasn't sure she was was getting the full truth. "I want to know what you people said when I'm not there," she said crankily. "I always want to know what people talk about when I'm not around."

"Usually we talk about Lola," said Lola modestly. I agreed.

Turning the tables, I asked the children, "You two talk a lot, and then you get real quiet when I come around. What do you guys talk about when I'm not there?"

Lola was happy to answer that. "Usually we talk about doughnuts and pizza and how they are basically the same thing." Nonplussed I looked at Iris. "It's true, we really do talk a lot about that," she confirmed.

Lola merrily continued. "They really are the same thing, but sometimes people confuse it. Like when someone who usually gets pizza goes to Dunkin Donuts. That confuses the issue of pizza and doughnuts being the same in ways that words can't explain, that you would need a graph to show."

Monday, August 01, 2011

breaking parrot news

Pigwidgeon, our irritatingly stupid and slow-to-talk African grey parrot, has learned to make the sound the microwave uses to tell you that your food is done. So now I can have the experience of having a little microwave on my shoulder, next to my ear.

Miley Cyrus's new tattoo

Miley Cyrus had an equals sign tattooed on her ring finger, as a sign of support for the gay marriage movement.

I strongly believe that gay people should have all the same rights and obligations that hets do, including marriage, and I'm fairly heavily tattooed, but this leaves me nonplussed. It's not the tattoo itself; it's the quality and the fact that she already has another crappy little black tattoo on the same hand. The girl's not even legal drinking age yet, and she's already covering herself in poorly done little tattoos. With all the money and fame she enjoys, can't she get a decent tattoo? She should be able to have Ed Hardy himself (and no matter what you think of his clothing line, the man was rightfully worshipped as a tattoo artist back in the Modern Primitives day) fly out to her home to make her a really nice piece of art, instead of this jailhouse-looking thing. Do Miley and Tish sit around giving each other tattoos in the evenings, like a pair of cellmates?