Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Underpants! UNDERPANTS!!

So, Christmas has come and gone. We had a wonderful Christmas eve, calm and loving, with my mom & brother Robert & brother Dave & sister Jes, eating too much (my mom is a rockin' cook but she goes kind of mental at the holidays and cooks for, like, 16-to-20... when there are 6 of us) and playing Scrabble Upwords. Then we went to Mom's on Christmas morning to open gifts and have breakfast, and went back over in the evening for another ENORMOUS delicious dinner with brother Robert & some friends. And we ate SO MUCH. But we couldn't play with our toys because we had the dinner party and then we had a mini-road-trip because Mom/Robert/Pat's boss Suellen gave us a generous gift of 49ers/Lions tickets (we are a mixed bag of Bears & Packers fans, but y'know it was fun) and we were on the road and also eating SO MUCH as we road tripped. We went to Dave & Buster's on the way and played some wonderful stuff (guys, play Hyperbowl if you get the chance... it's hilarious) and stopped at Maru Ichi on the way back home.

OMG, Maru Ichi. If you are ever near Mountain View, you have to go. Expect to wait in line (we miraculously didn't, past 5 minutes... usually it's very long) and expect to eat a lot. The food is miraculous. I had kuro ramen, and could wholeheartedly recommend miso noodles and spicy miso ramen for the others (the only two main dishes I've tried other than the kuro ramen.) Kuro ramen? A heavenly elixir of deeply infused pork flavor surrounding and bathing homemade ramen noodles, with browned garlic and sesame oil lending it a deep black patina of oil, garnished with tender vegetables, slices of tender pork, hard-cooked egg, and nori.

Then we went to the BookBuyers store, which is -- well, look, for people like me, it's a cathedral. It's a vast used book store, clean, friendly, organized, and eclectic. It has a huge science fiction section, amidst its other virtues. And it had a copy of a cookbook co-authored by Mandy Aftel, utilizing essential oils in the kitchen... too cool! So, that's my gift to myself.

On the topic of gifts, I am proud of myself because I made gifts for many of my friends/family. Note: although this may SEEM cheap, it's not actually less expensive than purchasing gifts, especially if you were to factor in labor costs. But I did lots of home canning (strawberry vanilla bean jam, vanilla pear butter, spiced apple butter, pomegranate jelly, cranberry-grapefruit marmalade, blueberries in gin syrup, and I think I'm forgetting something now but you get the idea), jewelry manufacture (homemade earrings!), a bespoke perfume for my brother capturing (as requested) the aromas of single-malt Islay Scotch whiskey (crafted to resemble a 40-year Scotch), fine suede leather, pipe tobacco, and sandalwood (I called it Impeccable), and a T-shirt transfer for Robert featuring my own "artist's rendering" of our favorite Rock Band band logo:

The band is called "Moustache Ride?" and we laugh every time we see the squid logo, so, you know, a band T-shirt was called for.

I also made a small easy-chair out of duck tape, cotton balls, florist's foam, and felt, because we needed a present for mom to unwrap even though her gift is us replacing her recliners in her "green room." So we made her a little chair and taped a gift certificate for chairs to it. She liked the chair even before she knew what the REAL gift is. Heh.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I should take more pictures.

But it was a busy Christmas and weekend. After we had all this busy-ness keeping us from playing with our new toys and Christmas gifts, it was a rare pleasure today to open several packages of Brand! New! Underpants! For both of us. And put these in the wash. And now I am waxing philosophical about underpants.

Is there any greater pleasure than nicely fitted, un-torn, brightly colored new underwear? I think not.

Men's and ladies' underpants are different entities, though. While ladies' (mine anyway) are silky microfiber with cloth-covered elastic, men's (Pat's anyway) are the equivalent of a hair-shirt for one's junk. I asked him what kind he wanted and he said, "[brand] lasts the longest..." I was appalled.

"That doesn't matter! Let's assume that you will always be able to afford $10 for a couple new pair of underwear, so it doesn't matter how long they last. Which are the nicest?"

"Well, that's what I'm saying, I hate when they get holes in them."

"That shouldn't worry you, because then you THROW THEM AWAY."

"[Brand] has the sturdiest fabric."

"... what about the softest?"

"I don't like that, because then they slide around and give me a wedgie."

"Covered waistband or not?"

"Definitely not, because the soft ones give me plumber-butt and crack kills."

"So basically they need to be as uncomfortable as possible."


So a hair-shirt for the junk it is, I guess. Men's underwear also come in such lovely colors as gray and gray. And more different, darker gray. I bought "assorted" colors in preferred brands for both of us, assuming we didn't care, and this is what we got:

For him: the stretch equivalent of burlap, with naked sports elastic with little grippy teeth, in primer gray and gunmetal black. (He will be ecstatic with these; they are exactly what he wanted.)

For me: silky microfiber, with covered no-roll elastic bands and the inevitable cotton crotch, in pastel solid colors and dainty stripes. (They fit and they AREN'T rough and scratchy and elasticky-grabby, so they are exactly what I wanted too.)

Ah well. Anyway, folks, hope you had a wonderful holiday, surrounded by love, and that you are pleased with any gifts you got, or got yourself. Hugs to all of you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pet food safety

Bill's thoughts on pet food safety have been on my heart, and although I don't currently have a furkid, it's a topic near and dear to my heart. Most of you know that we lost our dear companion of 18 years to melamine-tainted cat food (what is worse, it was a "desperation purchase" to fill in for ONE feeding on a Sunday, when Farm Supply -- our purveyor of high-quality food -- was closed and we had to make do with supermarket pet food).

Please, if you have pets, make this site a frequently visited link: the AVMA's pet food safety page. It links articles on pet food safety issues, and updates frequently. This is hugely important to your pets: Pepe beat recurring breast cancer with multiple mastectomies, hyperthyroidism, dental abscesses, and other normal complaints of old age, but poisoned food, given to her by loving hands, killed her. Loving hands need informed minds.

Also, Bill reminded me that I have some information to share. I did a lot of research back when I was having a argument with vegan friends about what it meant to veganize an obligate carnivore like a cat, which temporally coincided with our trying to tempt Pepe's fickle appetite whilst her weight was in freefall. (We baked chicken or fish for her, even though we were vegetarian/vegan at that time -- and it worked! She insisted that we pepper the chicken so it smelled like "human food," though.)

I'm cutting/pasting from Bill's comments forum because I'm basically lazy. If you search diligently and use reliable sources (i.e. humane society, ASPCA, etc.), you will find more complete lists of food sensitivities for cats AND dogs. And for goodness sakes, if you have exotic birds, be very careful with their food and air.

Here comes the quotes:

I made cat food for about 6 months, until Pepe was over her weight loss crisis, then returned her to high-quality tinned food. There are things that cats really can't eat -- onions, which can provoke anemia, for instance. They don't digest grain at all ... it's just a filler in their canned food ... so don't be surprised if they eat a lot LESS of their homemade food. If you make some for them, they'll probably enjoy it more and will remain healthy eating it, so long as you are alert to allergens and things their species can't tolerate. There are lists somewhere...

I know cow's milk causes diarrhea, that cats are obligate carnivores (must have animal protein), and that they can't have onions. But there are useful nutrients in some fruits & veggies: high-quality foods often include a little greens, beets, sweet potatoes, cranberries, or other fruit & veg.

I found the following to be helpful with my elderly, finicky, sick cat:
-food not served at room temp may be rejected: cold food was unequivocally turned down by my cat.
-serve very small portions as if feeding a treat from the resident humans' table scraps. Just a few bites at a time.
-keep main protein flavors relatively separate... my cat found mixtures unpalatable even if all components were previously found acceptable. Also, once a mixture was rejected, she tended to avoid the separate components when served alone. (We were feeding her "kitten glop", a kitten formula replacement made of evaporated milk, gelatin & mayo -- I know, gross -- and "improved" it with clams. Spectacular failure, though she had been consuming both items before. Subsequently neither clams nor "glop" was okay with her.)

Oh! And counterintuitive as it sounds, dry kibble is more prone to bacterial contamination than is "wet food." Processing, storage, and serving techniques just don't sterilize the dry stuff as well, and the kids get it sloppy when picking up and dropping bits into the food dish. I got to where I had to wash the dish between each feeding and feed a FEW kibbles at a time... she thought I was starving her to death if I didn't offer it at all, no matter how little she wanted to eat it when presented gooshy alternatives.

Finally, good news for the holidays that surprised me when I ran into it last holiday season. Poinsettias aren't really that dangerous to cats... they just can't eat enough of them to make themselves ill. They'll barf, but that doesn't distinguish poinsettias from, say, cat grass, or lettuce, or that fuzzy thing they found in the carpeting. So feel free to decorate your home with them. Of course, they ARE mildly toxic... if your cat finds it particularly attractive to chew them, you might want to put them up high where they are not a temptation.

And more good holiday news: many cats really, really like sweet potato. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Manah Manah!

My brother was kind enough to forward THIS.

And I forward it to you because I love you.

And I'll share this because I may have missed some of you earlier this week when I emailed it around in glee. I don't eat turkey, but still. Tee hee!

I am thankful indeed for all of you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh my Lord I forgot the Navajo Fry Bread!

I have been scolded and deserve it. We also stopped to pee about 40,001 times because I pee a lot, and one of the places we stopped was a souvenir shop named Chee's. There was a little attached structure just big enough to kiosk vend fry bread, with honey, cheese, or cinnamon sugar. We bought two... one with cheese and one with honey... to share because we couldn't resist, even though we weren't hungry.

Oh. My.

Navajo fry bread is light and airy, puffy, filled with crisp bubbles against the chewy grain of the bread. My grandmother used to deep fry tidbits of her white bread dough every once in a while and call it Navajo fry bread... which it was not, but the yeasty chewy/crispness was similar and these really took me back. These were dinner-plate sized, foldably soft bread platters smothered in the topping of choice.

We tore the cheese one in three pieces and dug in, thinking dinner before dessert. All of us were lipsmacking and making ecstatic noises: it was delicious! But then we divided the honey-dripping bread and bit in, and all of us went reverently and joyously silent. Perfect. Scrumptious. We talked about getting another one, but we knew we were too full.

Stop at kiosks, people. And for that matter, eat what street vendors have to offer. This is how I see it: you KNOW their customers aren't there for ambiance. If there are options, and people are still eating from a street vendor kiosk or cart, that means the FOOD IS DELICIOUS. I used this philosophy while doing field work in Peru and it never steered me wrong... well, except that one time when they were out of beef hearts and made anticuchos from beef udder, which is, um, not too lovely -- but they apologized and asked beforehand if we wanted to try it, so that's okay. I don't mind sharing an experiment. And it was excellently prepared beef udder .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sourdough apple pancakes, candied bacon, and Bazooka Jooooooe!

I bet you think we vanished off the map.

(Proof that we're alive and sometimes go in the sun... but not often.)

Facebook has a way of pulling my plug; I read what others have to say, fall into the illusion that I've participated in online communication, and then forget to say anything myself other than clicking the little thumbs-up or saying "yes, attaboy/girl!" So, bad on me and I'll try to improve my habits.

Well. Halloween was awesome. Robert had a kickin' party, everyone dressed up but me and Pat, although I wore my new Chewie is my Copilot shirt, thanks Dave & Jes!, and Robert recreated a drink I described for him that I had in a hotel on the way to our 20th anniversary cruise, involving cucumber juice and muddled mint and tequila and lime and sugar syrup and oh gosh it's great. And I brought a green gelatin tentacle decorated with boba balls drenched in gooey blue syrup, which was suitably grue a centerpiece although people did NOT eat enough of the fucker so it languished in my fridge for a week while I road tripped and ... do not leave jello jigglers loosely covered in the fridge for a week, or the texture resembles sex toys better not contemplated. Especially when tentacle shaped. Gah. I'm sorry.

(Wearing its tinfoil hat, on my stove before the party.)

We road-tripped on reasonably short notice to Santa Fe to see my dad & stepmom, who are doing well and were very supportive about our decision to adopt. We had a great visit -- hiking Anasazi ruins, eating at Bobcat Bite (reportedly the best burger in the U.S. It was credible as a candidate!), making rafts of cookies for a church ministry (the ladies) and shooting at inanimate objects (the menfolk), and of course ROAD TRIP WOO!

Okay. For us, road trips are an opportunity to eat everything. Chicken Fry World. And we lose weight when we're trippin', which doesn't make sense at ALL but it is consistent so it's wonderful. Even if it weren't the Most Fun Ever. But it is. Soooooooooooo we planned our route to take us past Waffle House and Cracker Barrel at the right parts of the day and SCREW YOU if you laugh at us, because that's what the muthereffin' interwebs are for. Yes.

High points included pausing on the way home to watch The Men Who Stare at Goats and eat incredible pizza at Roma's Pizza in Flagstaff. If you are ever in Flagstaff, for God's sake go to Roma's: it's wonderful (eat the Southwestern Deluxe. Eat it!) and the wait staff is hot. As in all sports bars, the wait staff carries the social function of geisha, and the customer feels grand as a result of their earnestly affectionate attention. We were much refreshed. Low points included a really poor church service at our folks' somewhat millenarian church, including willful misreadings, challenges to find rules in the Bible that the preacher believes aren't there (hint: Leviticus. Oh, AND THE BOOK YOU ARE QUOTING, TWO CHAPTERS BEFORE THE PASSAGE YOU JUST READ US), proposed pogroms against women and gay people, and oh, yes... Hitler quotes. Today Santa Fe, tomorrow the world. Yee haw!

We also got kissed by Brunie the alpaca. This was more fun than it sounds like.

(Robert and Brunie, sitting in a tree... see him rockin' the chops? Rob's ain't bad, either.)

This is what we ate (and when did I morph into George R. R. Friggin Martin?): Gilly's Grill in Santa Maria, Curry House in Little Tokyo, L.A. (OH EM EFF GEE, yes gogogogo have some curry!), Waffle House in Phoenix (scattered, smothered, & covered, bay-bee), Cracker Barrel near Flagstaff, soup & my stepmom's awesome cornbread at dad's, traditional breakfast at dad's, lunch at Bobcat Bite (OMG, do this even if you have to hold hands and pray with your most sanctimonious relatives first), light DIY ham sammich dinner at dad's, cereal breakfast at dad's, lunch at Maria's, AMAZING beer-marinated pork ribs and baked beans at dad's, traditional breakfast with dad, Sonic (weird, because the onion rings tasted exactly like donuts filled with onions... which was not a big hit but was so strange we actually ate them all), Roma Pizza (yes!), Cracker Barrel again because it was breakfast time and hey, Cracker Barrel, Carl's Junior (in HELL, I mean Mojave). Then home to eat something reasonable. Um, Robert helped with all this via IM. So I'm not George Martin all by myself.

And a cautionary tale: do not go to Mojave. Holy shit. It was the meth-complexion, self-done-prison-tat, lead-paint-diet center of the universe. And we didn't find anything more promising to eat there than Carl's Junior, whose new sandwich, the Hot Carl or something, found us in hysterics that lasted until the creeps really kicked in. One of the three leviathan women next to us (and those of you who know what I look like know that I don't enter that conversation lightly, myself. Hee!) threw a fit because the meth-faced, prison-tatted waitron brought her a diet soda. Does she look like she needs a diet? She doesn't need no diet! ...which would have been merely comical if she didn't pitch a major fit about ketchup on her sandwich because she doesn't need no goddamn vegables! We left before she got back to stomping Tokyo, but she breathed fire... loudly... all the while we were there. (Pat said his penis retracted completely back into his body but I checked later and he lied, but you get the idea.)

Then back home to try to get our shit back together and rejoin Real Life and stop the Chicken Fry World tour. Oh, and I made an amazing meal. Sourdough apple pancakes and spicy candied bacon. You must make this meal, but not if you're not the marrying type, because people of the opposite sex will paratroop in in their fancy underpants trying to get you to commit.

Bacon: mix 1 cup white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon chili powder together in a dish. Rub most of this mixture into 6 slices of raw applewood smoked bacon, pressing so it adheres everywhere. It takes a little massaging and you will feel weird about touching raw bacon so much. Lay the slices of bacon side-by-side on a parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet with a raised lip (you want a pan with sides to prevent oil/sugar drips on the bottom of your oven). Bake at 375 or so until you are done with the pancakes, or until the bacon looks done. Feel free to fidget with the temperature if cooking seems too slow or too fast. I think this is 30-40 minutes or so to get done. If it's crispy bacon, it will be shattering crunchy after it cools. If it's chewy bacon, it will be like sweet spicy bacon jerky. Divine either way. Oh, and use tongs to retrieve the bacon, it's got boiling, oily syrup on it. Seriously.

Pancakes: mix about 1 1/2 cups sourdough (what, you don't have it working? Y'all know it lives forever in a screw-top container in the fridge, right? Just revive it the day before you cook with some more sugar, flour & water) with about a cup of flour and just enough water to make it stirrable (not dough, but rather paste than batter). Add an egg, a couple tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a splash, let's call it half a teaspoon, of vanilla extract, and stir. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon water. You want to mix that into the other mixture just before you start baking your cakes. Finely slice two cored Arkansas Black apples right off the tree, or suitable replacements. Heat a black iron skillet on the stove, over med-low heat. Put in a dollop of batter and push it with the ladle so it spreads out, and sprinkle apples over. Then cover with more batter. Don't be fussy, it won't hurt anything if the apples peep out but it sure as hell will be nasty if you add too much batter, because it won't cook through and you can't turn it if it's fat and flaccid and just do what I say. Let it brown until the top looks kind of dry between the apples. Then turn it and let it brown equivalently on the other side. You should get 2-3 pancakes from your batter, and they will be MASSIVE. One will easily feed a person, 1 1/2 will be gluttony.

Okay. And then we went to play Pat's new Con-X game on Monday, which was a lot of fun because it's a really good team and it's Con-X and puppies are crapping rainbows and all that. When we caught the crazy NPC man who might have been the murderer, he cried, "Bazooka Jooooooooe!" either as a call for help or as an expletive. I'm not really sure which, but as you might imagine, it's catching on.

So, Bazooka Jooooooooooe! and I'll try to update more often.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Crispness in the air, wonderful recipes for roast and baked comfort foods retrieved, the last madness of canning for this year (I think... who knows? I may go madder yet.) It must be October.

Fall is my favorite season, and not just because I was born in the fall. I love the tinted leaves that crackle on the ground. I love the mornings snuggling under the covers and dreading the cold floors of the kitchen and bathroom. I love the wild migration of my beloved waterfowl straggling across the sky. I love the ripe, rich apples and fragrant pumpkins. Even though the days are shorter, they are tinted with an intensity that is, to me, filled with raucous joy.

And, of course, this is when "Phoebe" the hummingbird always sets up her nest. The view is better than ever this year. Go see her new camera.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Laugh at something baffling today.

Not the most scientific source, but hey, she cited HER sources. This little article on Hillbilly Housewife explains why a good belly laugh can be better for you even than smiling at something that gives you pleasure.

Evidently it works better if your brain has to work at it. It's also supposed to work better when there are not deep, sad connections to your own life, but I have had really good results from laughing -- deeply, unkindly, and with unholy gusto -- at my own misfortunes and idiocies. So don't hesitate to crack wise (among the right people, of course) about your own sorrows, if you can and are so inclined.

I am not seeking sympathy, and don't want to appall those of you with tender sweetness in your brains, so I will withhold my most recent hyena-giggles. However... I have never gotten such a good laugh from my mom as several years ago, when I shocked myself unconscious by putting a wet sponge between one hand and an electrical outlet and my other hand in the stainless steel sink and called mom to ask her if I'd die when I woke up. The electricity blew an exit wound in my hand and stopped my heart for a moment, and I woke up feeling kind of lousy and hella stupid. Thing is, I had decided that I should not touch the outlet to wash it with my hand, because it was, you know, electric; instead, I decided to put the sponge between me and it because it was rubber and thus non-conductive. So I dipped it in the tap to get it WET, and...

Mom hung up on me because she was laughing so hard she dropped the cell phone in her lap (she was driving, this was years ago before we all knew how dangerous it is). Then I called back again, got my grandmother in the passenger seat, with my mom shrieking laughter in the background. Grandma laughed so hard she hung up, too. On the third call they managed to tell me to call the E.R. and ask a nurse if I was in danger (my heart was hammering).

The E.R. nurse, with perfect Chicago south-side aplomb, listened to me with sympathy. She told me that if I felt WORSE I should come in, but probably if I was doing all right I would be okay. As I was going to hang up the phone, she told me, "Now, Linda, sweetie -- listen to me. Are you listening, honey? Don't you EVER do that again."

And you know, years later I find it hilarious. Heck, it was pretty funny then and there. Whether it has healed more pain than it caused, well, who knows? But Mom and Grandma got a really good laugh together at it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Going bonkers on fumes and deadlines

I'm getting bottles of perfume ready to offer for two charity sales: one is the Christmas bazaar for which I am donating 10% of my proceeds to help local school theater departments (not my brainchild, unfortunately, I am just a participant!) The other is a fundraising silent auction for my local UU church, for which I am donating a bottle. Because it's not just me noodling around, I am actually sticking to a deadline. But also, I am feeling deadline pressure.

I am doing something like 35-45 bottles for sale/auction/donation. I know that sounds like very few to market, but when all aspects are handmade, it becomes an energizing, but daunting, project. It's a great size for a pilot offering because ... well, if I can be honest, because I HAD ENOUGH MATERIALS to make JUST this much. When I do another "big" batch of pretty much anything, it will require a reorder of aromatics.

I cut the dip tubes for the sprayers today. Lordy! It's nervewracking but not particularly difficult. I also mixed up another "big" batch of concentrate, to be diluted tomorrow or Thursday and bottled ... well, let's face it, probably Monday.

High on fumes. I hate all three scents that I am offering right now, because they get in your pores/hair/brain/memory when you mix over, say, 1 oz. of them, and become phantosmic impressions for later, too. That thing they say about familiarity and contempt? Oh yesssss. But I know I will love all three of them again. Just as soon as I "etch-a-sketch" them out of my sinuses and scent memory. (Shake, shake, shake that head!)

I will be offering these fragrances:

1) North Star -- my 2009 holiday scent. It is based on scents I associate with the sacred and the holidays: frankincense and myrrh from the Wise Men's gifts, spikenard (the precious oil with which Mary Magdalen washed Jesus' feet), fir balsam for the holiday scent of the tree, and other warm, luminous components, such as spices and precious resins. The effect is of cozy, lingering warmth.

2) Faun -- a playful, feral, and green fragrance that recalls the undergrowth of the redwood forest at Big Sur. Spicy, smoky woods and wild greens are lightened by the unexpected aura of sweet mint. The whole effect is both bright and sensual.

3) (I need a name for this one!) -- the familiar, happy smell of root beer. Alive at first with citrus and birch, and drying down to a creamy, vanillic spice scent -- just like good root beer. (Who wants to help name this? I am trying for names that recall stories or mythic creatures/personages, and am toying with the idea of "Inner Child" as a name... but is that too corny?)

Nothing in particular other than excitement to share... cutting dip tubes felt like a huge step.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Synthetic aromachemicals

Spent a happy hour and a half or so this afternoon diluting powdered chemicals so that I can use them later. Most of them are vanilla-esque because, shhh, I am trying to create a lush vanilla fragrance for Mom for Christmas.

Heavenly. I suppose I should have worn a face mask, especially for mildly toxic Coumarin, but I would have missed out on the love.

Vanillin - pure, sweet, piercing vanilla without its woody/boozy aspects. Ethyl vanillin is the same with additional depth, according to Pat -- I was nasally stunned by the time I got to it and could not detect much difference. Coumarin - like tonka beans, rich and sweet, somehow creamy-dreamy. Heliotropin - I know a lot of people hate this vanilla/almond/cherry pie aroma, but I think it's beautiful. Ethyl Maltol - perfumistas almost universally revile its cotton-candy sweetness, but it is precisely its beauty that gets it included in every juvenile-market and celebrity vanity scent out there... it's an olfactory trip to the ice-cream shop, surrounded by heady heaven. And Cetalox... look, it's not a foody vanilla scent like the others, it's an unabashedly synthetic cedar/violet/plum scent that is ravishingly pretty and I am thinking very versatile.

I have a number of liquid aromachemicals too from this order... those were just the powders that required muscling into an alcohol dilution this afternoon.

I am on a vanilla scented cotton candy cloud. Don't be hating -- you know you're jealous.

So, here's a filled bottle (filled with Faun, the scent I did for my brother -- an earthy, masculine fragrance lightened with mint) and a mock-up box. Not bad, eh?

Lots of work to do. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I ordered bottles

It's just for a little craft show, but I am excited.

They would not have been my first choice, but I found sprayers cheap and let that guide me. So... I will do an itsy-bitsy test run of a holiday fragrance. If things get here in time and unbroken. If I get it done. If if if.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, the SSA

So, being now unemployed, and being as how yesterday was miscarriage #5, I was more or less at a loss for what to do with myself. Pat had to take a trip to the Social Security Administration for something to do with one of his clients, and offered me a ride-along so I could have his company. I leapt at the chance.

When we walked in, it immediately reminded us of the Banco de Credito in Pacasmayo, Peru. You took a number, part of the three distinct customer numbering systems in place, and took a seat. One of the two overworked counter people punched "next" and your number came up on the overhead LED display. The semi-recumbent security guard, clearly a man of character in his late 50s or early 60s, and looking a little menacing in his blue uniform, would yell the numbers if he felt they had been sufficiently ignored after popping up on the LEDs. Yep. Banco de Credito.

After we sat down, the next thing I noticed was the crazy lady. She was an old hippie burnout wearing a thin brown cotton caftan imprinted with fish skeletons and ankhs. And she was remonstrating with the infinitely patient counter person helping her, about how her phone had been turned off SOMEhow because SOMEbody was stealing her mail and plotting against her, so please don't mail the check to the P.O. box... and what race was she? What kind of question is that? Don't you know Hawaiians should be considered Samoan (and no, she did not consider herself either of those things)? Was anything going to be done about this shameful misclassification of race? Etc., etc. In between bouts of driving the counter person crazy, she would shadowbox and argue with her invisible companions, "Caesar" over her left shoulder, "Socrates" over her right.

Clearly, she was batshit insane. Yes/no answers took on revenant qualities as she dissected their philosophical import. She paused mid-argument with Socrates, swiveled around to meet my surprised gaze, and waved. Great. My crazy-person magnet was still fully armed and operational, so to speak. I wished my brother were there; he has a crazy-person magnet too, but its polarity is reversed or something, because when we are together crazy people do not approach us. Socrates fortunately distracted her from pursuing the relationship, and the counter person met my eyes mid-eye-roll-to-heaven and returned my smile with relief.

A custodian armed with a small, apartment-style vacuum cleaner wandered out with an evident lack of hurry, the attachment under his arm. The security guard stopped him and told him that Ms. _____ was here to see him. He clearly didn't know who that was or why she'd want to see him... so he followed the security guard's gaze and pointed finger to the batshit-insane, caftan-wearing, shadow-boxing-with-Caesar woman. The custodian responded with a shuddering sigh of horror and began ineffectually poking the undersized vacuum attachment around the floor, forcing people to move their feet.

The custodian stopped at a puddle of water darkening the blue military-grade shitty carpet, having vacuumed a few square inches with seemingly totally random attention (whilst neglecting most of the carpet.) "Is this water?"

The security guard. "Yeah, I think so."

"You THINK so, or you KNOW so?"

"Yeah, I think it's water."

"You THINK so? I ain't vacuuming piss again -- it messes up the vacuum."

"Go for it, I'm pretty sure it's water."

"You're PRETTY sure? Aw, HELL naw." He wandered away from the puddle and the 95% unvacuumed carpet and started trying to pick up a paperclip outside the front door with the underpowered machine. We were done, and slipped past him into the bright day. He continued trying to vacuum the paperclip off the concrete until we had driven away.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I know some of you invited me to add you, and yet I am having the hardest time finding you on Facebook. For some of you, this is because I typo'd and only just corrected it (Robert!) For others, it's because I don't know your handles.

Please feel free to add me at literaryequivalent AT yahoo DOT com with the usual symbols in place of the capitalized words. I would love to connect with you.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Interesting article - social overeating

Here's the article, from Time magazine.

Let's not equate overeating socially with obesity, as the article writer seems to have done. That seems to overdetermine the interpretation. But let's focus, more productively, on social comfort acting as a "permission" to eat as much as one desires. Doesn't that mean that eating alone (and therefore in ultimate comfort) is more dangerous than going back to school? Decent study, idiotic interpretation, in my estimation.

Groups who work with eating disorders have known for a long time that eating disorders closely resemble other addictive behaviors (such as alcoholism). If one shouldn't drink alone, should one eat alone? Shouldn't we worry more about our kids during summer, when they are definitively comfortable?

If not, it's because they're getting the other part of the equation... exercise. I have witnessed schools becoming more institutional and prisonlike over my lifetime, focused upon care, control, & custody of the children entrusted to them for increasingly longer hours. Kids are no longer allowed off campus at lunchtimes, and homework assignments just keep getting more time consuming (not better, just more time consuming). When are they supposed to go exercise during the school year?

The Time article seems to me to be a great example of blaming the victim. Or, in this case, the victim's subconscious.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ay, ay ay

This article greeted me in my morning rounds of the Internet. It's a little summary of Levi Johnston's Vanity Fair article, where he dishes on Sarah Palin. While his quotes sound authentically felt to me, I certainly recognize that people's interpretation of events changes in retrospect with their current situation... we can't help but to spin things, in our self-concept, our lives, and our utterances. It's part of being human; we are poorly, if at all, subjective.

However, the commentary/wrangle/all-out food fight at the end of this is why I included it here. If you enjoy watching drama, by all means enjoy it. It's a fine example of we primates in our poop-flinging phase.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Confronting my prejudices

Holy cow. This article was written by a person suffering from almost every disease I have struggled to believe in... and on some of them I am now convinced, while others still seem fake-a-roo. The co-presence of all of these tough-to-diagnose and faddish illnesses in one person, though, really gave me a knee-jerk of rejection. Anyone with the money and determination to seek a diagnosis will eventually get a foggy one, right? Or a foggy ten? Or is ALL of this real and she has God and the Devil making bets about her, like Job? Gah, poor woman, either way.

If she had mentioned any one of these illnesses, I'd have tsked and said, "poor thing." But when it becomes two, my reaction is "wtf?" And when it becomes four, my emotional reaction is, "she needs another hobby."

Not all diseases are clean-cut things, detectable as if by a litmus test. Some of them are hard to diagnose collections of symptoms. Gratifyingly, human genome studies are now shedding light on some of them (such as Acute Intermittent Porphyria, from which my husband suffers -- or Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which I have.) Others, such as, oh, say, rosacea, are still thought to come from a myriad of causes and are merely a similar set of physiological changes and symptoms. Things get even more complicated with respect to mental illnesses.

Quibbling over where boundaries are drawn in language and thought is the foundation of my training as a literary critic and an anthropologist. It's inevitable that I react with skepticism to neat terminology. Yet I feel rather bad about it.

Nothing profound here, just a ramble.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quickest update

I quit my hateful job. As some of you know, I have -- HAD! -- a hateful co-worker, one who was very toxic to my well-being. Most recently, she has also been engaging in practices that range from questionable to potentially fraudulent. Don't worry, my ex-boss is investigating. But I can't stand it any more and I am free, free, broke, free. I'm job hunting now, and learning real estate basics so I am employable in my family's industry just in case my maybe-boss decides she can afford me after all.

I have rediscovered, with delighted passion, that I have a kitchen. It's been a week of experimentation. Homemade clotted cream (which will kill you, but you'll die happy) and blueberry scones. Mushroom and leek risotto. Sourdough apple cinnamon pancakes and sourdough-crust pizza. Yeah, all of it carbs and fats, what of it? :)

I plan to spend the afternoon in the lab, monkeying with iris and vanilla, after my farewell luncheon and meeting-with-the-boss-to-discuss-the-investigation at work. The offending person won't be attending: she informed a friend of mine in the office that her husband has a doctor's appointment and her first duty is to him and besides, it's her day off, and what does she expect her to tell her? Hee hee.

Also, this article on phantosmia is fascinating. I do get it -- phantom cigarette smoke, ammonia, alcohol, or bleachy smells -- but only when my true sense of smell is suppressed by an infection or flu (plus a few days.) Thank goodness I found out nasal zinc sprays can cause permanent anosmia... otherwise who knows what feasts of vile phantom scents my brain would come up with?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Busy, busy

I know I do a lot of "busy, busy" posts but... I am!

Hmm, what's going on in my life. We've begun trying progesterone to increase our odds of keeping a pregnancy. Nothing conclusive, but I do notice effects so I am hopeful. For instance, it makes me sleeeeeeep.

We discovered Facebook but I don't get much of a chance to play on it. Pat does, and it's great.

We've transported a whole lot of critters. This weekend we transported a juvenile barn owl that didn't make it -- and I am heartbroken, as it was a pretty baby that didn't deserve to die. But this happens a lot and what we do is provide a better chance, not a certainty. We also transported a juvenile black-crowned night heron -- a gorgeous bird and the most aggressive/terrified we've had to capture. It wedged itself into a tiny space between two fences and had to be scared out from the neighbor's backyard with a rake, then caught in a blanket. Poooooooor heron, wish it luck.

We went to the fair for the first time in about oh, well, over 15 years. It was fun and a little silly.

I had bronchitis that took all energy and motivation out of me for just over 2 weeks. I still have a cough, but the doctor says no sign of pneumonia. I'll keep an eye on it. And this of course heavily interrupted our exercise routine, so I am hankering to get out and walk!!!

Developments at work have made it very unpleasant and I am searching. Let me know if you know of anything. The college job didn't pan out for Pat (boo hoo) but of course we have options. The sad part is that the job here didn't pan out for me because the maybe-future-boss bit off more than she could chew and is waiting 6 months... but I am a limited time offer, which will expire if I find something else first.

Um, that's about it... what's new for you?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Red, White & Blue

'K, my toenail paint is KIND of red, and the bruise is KIND of blue, and I'm certainly pasty "white"... and it's a striped bruise and I definitely saw stars...

I dropped the manhole-sized solid-plastic sharp-edged lid from my duck food bin on my toe on Monday. The beauty of the situation is that I had shoes on because I have a nasty cold and hence didn't want to get onto the cold concrete in bare feet -- which I do almost every other day of the year, rain, shine, cold or warm. If I hadn't had shoes on, I might have broken the toe.

Note: My shoe really DOES fit, I just had it on loose and slouched my foot down in it. Leave me alone, it's casual Thursday (meaning, I have to wear some form of uniform, unlike other days -- today Red White & Blue to the extent I could contrive it with my clothes, which is kinda halfassed. We have tomorrow off.)

OMG, who remembers this?

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I am not dead

At the beginning of June, we went on vacation, which was nice - camped a few days in the BEAUTIFUL (but mosquito-infested) Big Basin Redwood campground, which was delightful. I'll post about it later when I am at the computer with the pictures on it. There are only a few pix and they're not so great, because the shade of the big trees and the iffy weather combined to make it dark-dark-dark! Still, you have to see.

When we got back, I went to get a 2nd opinion on my RE's advice because it didn't seem to make sense to spend $1000/month for a max 25% chance of getting pregnant (not far off our own odds at home) without doing anything to better the chances of a pregnancy's survival. So, good news! The 2nd opinion was, "WHAT? Why would you want to do that? You have no problem getting pregnant." And "Are you on progesterone? Why not?" Since I have asked about progesterone and my sorta-short luteal phase about 12 times and been ignored by my RE (yes, the one who calls me milady... I think patronizing and patronizing go hand in hand), I jumped at this. After verifying that there is no reason it ought to kill me with my normal ob/gyn, I accepted a prescription.

Rest assured there are no two words that can turn any adult male into a 12-year-old male quicker than "v*ginal capsules." Not only was my darling partner a whooping adolescent full of hysterical hilarity for 2 days, it repeats itself every time he thinks about it, sees the pill bottle, or -- horrors -- observes that it is time for my medicine. Oh well. I'm not sending him after my prescriptions any more.

I have all the typical progesterone symptoms: happy/sad moodiness, sleepiness, headache. I have been sleepin' a lot.

All kinds of work drama, but I don't want to think about it so I don't want to write about it either. There is hope on the horizon. Two offices are merging, and one of them is my mom's. The other party in this merger needs an assistant and wants me to be it. I may make a transition soon. It's nice, because I can say "mom needs me" instead of "I hate the drama" when I go. Yay.

Also, Pat has an interview for a tenure-track position at a community college in a ritzy part of the state. He goes to the first interview on the 6th. Please keep your fingers crossed -- it starts at well above twice my salary, and his experience may elevate that starter level. If it works out, we can afford for me not to work if we get lucky and have a critter.

Still love you guys, and I am still alive. Like GLaDOS.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009


I love me a good mash-up. Robert showed us this the other night, and we looked up other works by DJ Earworm... fun stuff, you should go check some of it out. His 2007 mash-up is delightful, too. Don't miss "Promiscuous Lola" or "No More Gas" -- it's really fun stuff.

However... I have the ingredients of the most evil (easy) mash-up ever. That's right, it's Steely Dan's "Bodhisattva" and Sid & Marty Krofft's "Dr. Shrinker."

You're welcome.

Friday, May 22, 2009

a good commencement speech

I don't remember how I found this, but go read it. It's great.

I know, a lot of posts in a short time. I'll settle down.

Cake or death?

I didn't make a cake for Pat's birthday, because we were supposed to go out and celebrate it tonight, but we rescheduled at the last moment to celebrate on Wednesday so that we could include brother Dave and Jes (who are camping today). After being assured several times that "they have excellent desserts" (and they did), I sensed a pattern. People wanted tiramisu, real New York cheesecake without more than a hint of sweetness, chocolate torte so dark light could not escape it, cannoli, carrot cake... the freedom of choice.

However, I am doing something that means I need to make a cake for belated celebration. I am doing a happiness project. So far, I am doing it solo, but I will open the floor soon and I hope I entice you to start your own happiness projects, either singly or in groups.

I LOVE to bake, from scratch. Bread, cake, scones, brownies, anything. Of course, this carb overload is not what I should be doing, if I want to lose weight (or at least I should partake sparingly); it is, however, great for my mental health. I am happy to brag that I have a knack for it ... which, I think, reflects only a lack of fear.

This weekend we are going to watch a movie and eat with Mom, and play some Scrabble (which Pat always wins) or Gin Rummy (which Mom always wins). One thing that all four of us love is coconut cake, so it's a no-brainer that I should want to tackle that queen of beautiful, tooth-achingly sweet Southern confections.

I didn't have a trustworthy old Southern recipe, so I turned to Alton Brown's delectable looking recipe (except that I knew I didn't have the guts to grate my own coconut). After reading a few reviews, it became clear to me that about half of the people who were making the recipe weren't having luck with the cake recipe itself... and I chickened out. I did keep his recipe for seven-minute frosting, which I will use (tonight) to frost this thing so that we can devour it tomorrow. Seven-minute frosting is the genuine article and if you have never made it, for God's sake, do. We don't make enough old-fashioned icings anymore, and we should; properly made icing should require a candy-maker's skill and methods. If you are able to simply stir A into B with your recipe, you are missing out.

Last night, I made cake (using Ina Garten's somewhat more favorably reviewed cake, with a few minor tweaks to bring it more in line with my ideas of coconut cake -- Chaokoh's coconut milk instead of milk, a whisper of coconut extract, cake flour instead of all-purpose).

I dusted off my stand mixer (a luxury that was an AMAZING Christmas present from my mother, which I do not use nearly often enough) and dropped butter and sugar into the bowl. When they were incorporated and fluffy yellow, I added eggs, one at a time, and watched as the mixture amalgamated into a thick creamy emulsion. Then I shook in the dry ingredients and coconut milk doctored with coconut essence* in stages, folded in the coconut, and put it in to bake. The batter was wonderfully thick, and when I piled it into greased and floured tins (I was out of parchment paper), it had to be smoothed down in order to make it lay flat. Heaven. If you can pour cake batter, you are doing it wrong.

After baking, the cake had risen nicely and no moisture remained on the pick when I tested it for doneness. I let it cool for a half hour in the tins and then inverted it onto a rack... and uh oh, it stuck just a wee bit (because the sugar/butter mix was not perfectly incorporated with the other elements and made small, chewy caramel drops here and there in the cake). I took a pencil-eraser-sized nibble of the stuck cake before trying to fit it into the main cake. It was like a light, fluffy version of a macaroon. Delicious.

I gave Pat a nibble when he got home, and he concurs.

There's nothing wrong with cake mixes (except strange off-tastes and trans fats, actually, there's a lot wrong with them), but I urge you, if you haven't done it in a while, to bake something from scratch. Lose yourself in creating the velvety, thick, spoonable batter, and in candymaking an old-fashioned icing from scratch. You will not be disappointed, and there is a Zen-like joy in the process.

Might I recommend Alton Brown's foolproof "Cocoa Brownies" recipe, or Ina Garten's coconut cake? Both are lovely. I am also partial to the Fannie Farmer cookbook's recipe for gingerbread. Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake (and yes, make THEIR icing recipe) is absolutely wonderful, too. Or choose your own poison, but by all means, trust the reviews of other bakers if you do your searching online (so long as they make sense).

*regarding coconut essence: boy, what a disappointment essences are after a little practice in perfumery. Low-quality vodka mixed with artificial flavorings and preservatives, yuck! The homemade vanilla essence I have made from bourbon and vanilla beans, or the organic, genuine almond essence I used, are far and away a different thing. I think I am going to make a few homemade essences, or at least seek out natural flavorings only.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Inappropriate punctuation

Among my crazy co-worker's nest of mad idiosyncracies, there is a real stand-out that I actually find charming. She drops malapropisms, wrong homonyms, and stunningly eccentric grammar and spelling with jaw-dropping frequency. When I joined the department, I had to learn to control my reactions to these sincerely meant but bizarre flourishes. I still giggle when she types "that's the jest of it" and wince when she cheers, "right arm!" But I feel that I am now laughing with her, not at her, at least in terms of emotional alignment.

She also likes the aphorisms of the "blue-collar comedy" kings and similar homily manufacturers, from the inscrutable "it is what it is" to the mind-boggling "it's so God" to the merely lame "if it ain't one thing, it's your mother." I grit my teeth and bear her admonitions to "git 'er done" and I try not to flinch when she signs her business letters "In His Grip." Most of our clients can deal with it, and many of the ones who would be sensitive to grammar are reassured by her evangelism. The Central Coast is like that.

The co-worker-isms that still manage to annoy me are relatively few. Among them is the very most frequent of her sins of punctuation: the inappropriately used quotation marks.

Quotation marks mean emphasis, for my co-worker. For me, their uses are twofold: firstly, to set aside the words of another, and secondly, to indicate skepticism about the words set aside in quotes. I don't think that second use is strictly cricket, but I continue to do it, air-quotes style. It collides spectacularly with her usage.

She will type: URGENT - please "rush!"

Or: please provide special consideration for this "very important" client!

Of course, when I interpret these remarks ironically, it completely inverts her meaning.

This site delights me, because it chronicles even more dramatic uses. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy birthday, darling

Today is Pat's birthday. 39 years ago today, just before noon, the great love of my life entered the world. His birthday is a date of profound gratitude for me; every year, I spend a misty-eyed day thanking heaven for him.

This will shock him. He is the romantic and sentimental half of our dyad. I am always focused on the here and now and the tomorrow, but his eyes are on the possible and the magical. He remembers beautiful places, amusing anecdotes, and anniversaries of the small and delightful milestones that build a love affair.

I love him with every fiber of my being, but it is not enough to repay his oceanic and ravishing love in kind. There is not a day when he does not tell me, spontaneously and several times, that he loves me. He says it in words, but he also says it in other ways: when he tries to take something frustrating from my hands to help me (and, poor soul, most often gets scolded), when he sings me little songs while I am in the shower or cooking, when he refreshes my drinks, when he waters my plants, when he sends me leetspeak valentines (like this: "<3" or "love that duck!")

His love is bigger than the two of us: he is never happier than when he is helping other people or animals. He loves his teaching job. He loves volunteering to help wildlife. He loves our silly ducks.

He is creative, wildly dreamy, passionate about his hobbies. If his gaze is abstracted and dreamy, I know he is inventing something in his head, whether it is a lecture for his students, or an imaginary spaceship drive. Most days, he spends any available moment cuddled up around my (his! our!) guitar, teaching himself to play more beautifully than I ever did, and priding himself on his burgeoning calluses.

He is funny. No song goes unpunished without a new set of lyrics, often sung by a puppetless puppet-hand "imp" in silly voices. He hated it that everyone wrote in his high school yearbook that he was clever, but like it or not, he is witty indeed and I love his silliness and irony equally. It took years for my family to crack his deadpan delivery and realize that his gravitas was not simply "serious" and "quiet": I can remember my mother's open mouth and simultaneously gleeful and appalled expression the day she caught on.

He is entertaining. I will forever remember the summer we spent playing cribbage all night and listening to our music collection on "shuffle." Likewise, he tells brilliant stories at parties and to our friends; it is always a joy to be by his side.

He is true. We have been married for 20 years and I know with my whole heart that his vision of the future always includes me. This commitment is without complacency; every day, he connects with me, blocks my path from the kitchen to other parts of the house and collects an exasperated kiss as a toll, discusses his ideas, tells me jokes, includes me in his plans.

He is a family man. He loves my family wholeheartedly. There is no truer joy than having one's lover and one's family aligned and unified, and this is the gift I enjoy daily. He and my wonderful little brother are best friends. My mother adores him as much as he loves her, and they happily spend more time together than my mom and I do.

He is attentive. He listens to me chattering about my work days and remembers the details, even months later. He could step into my position and do my job without a break in quality; he knows my customers, the vocabulary and priorities of my work, and my underwriters. When I tell him a story, he asks, "this is the one who ____" and he is always correct. It is gratifying and mortifying at once to know how much he hears of my daily complaints.

He is strong. He faces bad news with loving stoicism when I am collapsing emotionally, but if it comes up again later, when I have put myself together and am sane again, he cries with me. I do not have his strength. He is jealous of my proximity to the special heartaches of infertility treatment from the woman's perspective.

He is a friend. He encourages my good and my bad habits with equal pleasure, but he manages to make me a better person with each passing day. He makes me proud -- of him, of myself.

He is considerate. He calls me beautiful even if my face is red and cracked from rosacea -- and makes "hubba hubba" noises and gets grabby when I undress, even though the actuarial tables will tell you I am seriously obese. He prefers me without cosmetics but never fails to notice if I doll up for an event.

He is sexy, wicked, delightful, and sensual, when I have him all to myself.

There is nobody luckier than I am. And again, no, you may not have him: he is mine.

I love you, honey. Happy birthday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


And lest I post something grim and grouchy about infertility treatments without providing anything of use, let me direct you to RESOLVE - a support group for infertile people.

This page is particularly salient for you well-meaning types who would like to offer comfort or advice but aren't sure how I will receive it. (How will I receive it? Like a crazy person whose priorities are skewed. But I love ya anyway.)

Invoice for infertility treatment

Yesterday, I went back to my ob/gyn, Dr. M., for a follow up on the breast lump from February (mastitis, from the brief pregnancy then). I'm well, nothing new and the lump is gone except a bruise, and my mammograms compared fine with those from 2004... so no news is good news!

While I was there, I asked my doctor about 2 other issues: 1) the rainbow bruises that I have been getting from nothing special in my behavior, e.g. the file cabinets, and 2) whether I can come to him for my remaining infertility treatment and give Dr. S, the reproductive endocrinologist, the heave-ho.

1) I am fine. It's the low-dose aspirin thinning my blood.
2) Yes! I can give Dr. S. the heave-ho. Which is good (great! Wonderful!), because...

Today I called Dr. S.'s office asking about a bill I received on Saturday. This is the first I have seen of any billing from his office; I have been paying (exorbitantly) for visits, tests, and treatments on each visit sight unseen.

In case you were ever wondering what infertility treatment bills look like, here you go. I have omitted my personal info and of course, the lab tests and other tests done out of office, including those sent out to other cities and labs from this doctor's office. They have run a couple thousand dollars so far.

Anyway, what burns my biscuits about this bill -- aside from its very existence and the threatening look of line items like: BIOPSY OF UTERUS LI, are the following:

1) I am growing dissatisfied with this doctor anyway so I am admittedly cranky. He doesn't give me much information when I ask questions, so that I am forced to play 20 questions, from a position of stunned emotionality and little information going into the conversation. (I am one of those people who has to have information; if I don't know the questions to ask, I have to call back when I do.) In fact, he sometimes seems patronizing (I have a Master's degree and can be spoken to as a responsible adult), and has a perplexing tendency to call me "Madame" or "Milady." I do not want terms of endearment or alternative-lifestyle-esque stylings from my doctors, particularly those who are often looking up my down side. I am confident in his diagnoses and his training, but his bedside manner freaks me out and leaves me feeling insecure after I have had time to reflect. That said, he's friendly and knows his stuff.

2) This office is just dreadful at communication. Nobody ever told me to expect this bill. When I call, I rarely get a call back same-day... sometimes it is a week. Even urgent calls are often returned several days later.

2B) In fact, this bill was mailed first to my address, but in the wrong city. When it was returned it was addressed again by hand and sent out again. See that over 90 days past due column? My credit doesn't need this kind of delay on bills I don't know are coming... and this bill better not reflect, there.

3) Do you see those charges labeled "Report" (I have scrawled "telephone consult" next to them)? Those are billings for telephone conversations. These conversations were never more than 10 minutes in length. That makes them as or MORE expensive at $90 and $70 apiece than the office/outpatient visit that accompanied a biopsy of the uterus lining, ultrasound, anaesthetic and immunocytochemistry. Nobody ever, ever told me he would charge me for time on the phone... and for short calls making up shortfalls in information conveyed during office visits, this is completely infuriating to me. Roughly $10/minute? Really? Without warning? Really?!

4) My insurance will not cover these bills very well because Dr. S. is out-of-network. As an insurance agent, I can tell you that one of the main requirements to become an in-network doctor is charging "reasonable and customary" fees (as adjudged by the insurance company) for procedures. The fees charged by Dr. S. are probably out of that range. I do not know that this is why he is out-of-network but it is likely.

My advice, if you are likely to go through infertility testing, is to know what you're getting into. Don't take the verbal estimate for granted... be sure you have it in writing. This is particularly crucial if your insurance doesn't play nicely with your provider, as is also the case for Dr. S. and not for Dr. M.

Bah. Anyway, I am moving back to my regular doctor. If I need Dr. S., I know where to find him... and I finally have an idea what I will pay to see him.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Response from Stephen Weller at IFRA

If you're interested, check out Denyse's latest posts on the IFRA perfume ingredient regulation issues, in which she posts some response from Stephen Weller, a representative of IFRA. Interesting stuff. There's a part two here.

Please be aware that Denyse has published a book with a shocking cover, which will have a little ad in the margin... so the page might not be worksafe if you are worried about coworkers peeking over and seeing a sex doll's face.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Consumer Society, Roleplaying, and Bondage

If you buy sweatshop-made bondage gear, should it excite you to know that there is REAL bondage behind its production? What a thought. But it's not that farfetched, is it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Congratulations Sam!

"Sam" successfully defended her dissertation yesterday. You go, girl!

Friday, May 8, 2009

My tax dollars (and other dollars) at work

I took a big step this week and registered a business. Yay!

The next logical step seemed to be opening a post office box for my business mail. This is something lots of people do every day, and should be easy, right?

Well… the post office has never been anything but a bastion of rationality, has it?

I found that it was simple to order a post office box online, and was delighted. Sure, sign me up. I sicced Pat on it and it became even easier -- he filled out the form for me, paid the pleasantly affordable six months' lease, and told me all we needed to do was bring in two forms of identification, one bearing a photo and one showing our address, to claim the keys.

I got sick and didn't budge from the house for a few days. Dad and my stepmom visited. They had gotten sick on the road.

So, a week later after I got over probably-the-swine-flu and my folks shoved off for NM, we went to the Pismo Beach post office. I brought my passport and my state I.D. (no, I am still not licensed to drive… although I have my permit now, scary!)

The dour lady "helping" us informed me that my I.D. didn't adequately prove my address. People move, you know. We needed to bring a deed, mortgage, or lease agreement.

Now, I don't HAVE a lease agreement. I rent from Mom month to month and she never bothered to have me sign one or vice versa. There's a lot of good faith there. I patiently explained that I would have to fabricate such a document to "prove" my residence.

Nothing doing. Sorry, can't help you. No, no refunds.

So I did the next most logical thing and went, fuming, to Mom and asked for a lease. She had fortunately drawn one up just in case when we moved in, and she and Pat signed it and (fraudulently!) backdated it to our move-in date.

I went back to the Pismo P.O. This time it was 20 minutes until they closed. We got called by the friendly, informal, tattooed and pierced young lady with better retirement benefits than I will probably ever qualify for, who rapidly demonstrated that she had no idea how to do this transaction.

"We need to pick up the keys to a post office box we reserved and paid for online."


"We bought a post office box. We need the keys."


"Look at this paper -- we filled this out online and paid for a post office box. They said we had to come in to pick up the keys and number. So we're here. I came the other day and evidently my state I.D. is not an I.D., so you needed a fraudulent lease. Here it is."

"Yeah, you can't use those. Okay, give me the lease."

"Frankly I think it is crazy that you made me fabricate a falsified document -- well, the content is the truth but this didn't exist until yesterday -- to prove that the address the state already made me prove exists."

"Yeah. People can falsify ALL kinds of things."

"So can we pick up the keys?"

"What's the number?"

"We have NO idea. They said you would assign it."

As a matter of fact, they DO assign them online… but they are fake-a-roos, like my lease. Since our tattooed friend didn't know how to do anything regarding P.O. boxes, she had to hunt and peck on the weirdly user-friendly system. The system would not allow her to assign a real number, because I already had a fake. She couldn't figure out how to change it, either. Eventually she growled, "why you have to do this NOW?"

"Oh, because I work and I am only off during 20 minutes of the time in which you are open."


40 minutes later, four postal employees, rapidly growing, well, postal, knew my phone number and address by heart. Yay.

Eventually they figured out how to put me in for a change of number and took my fake lease, and gave me keys. Victory! For the record, the one who finally figured it out, without any of them bothering to check my I.D. in any way, was the one who told me to shove off with my state I.D. two days earlier. "Now they just have to pay," she said. We waved the proof of payment online at her. She looked at it as if she had never seen us before. "Ohhhhhhh... I didn't know you could do that." Really? After day before yesterday when I talked to you for 20 unfruitful minutes and you sent me away because the state evidently can't check an address, and I told you this was bullshit?

So, all was well. Until I got home, the next day, to find a message. Piercy McGrowly needed info.

I called her today, and fortunately all she needed was my I.D. number. Well, obviously. But I am relieved and I will let it go with a giggle.

These are your tax dollars and mine at work... and, I guess, my box-rental fees at work too. Folks, go in person if you have to get a P.O. box. Pat thinks it's a postal conspiracy to make us hate the Internet, thus causing us to patronize the post office with our snail mail.

Whatever. Don't say you weren't warned.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What it's like to be a grebe taxi

'Tis the season for migrant birds and grebes to glut the wildlife care center, and it's baby animal/bird season, too. Pat gave a ride to FOUR grebes this morning (two western grebes, two Clark's grebes). Here's an excerpt from our IMing.

Pat says (10:10 AM):
I scared the ranger lady when i picked up the grebes

Linda says (10:10 AM):
ack! how'd you scare her?

Pat says (10:11 AM):
I was in the shed, writing in the log, and she was bringing yet another grebe. I don't think she's used to seeing people in the shed.

Linda says (10:12 AM):
oh haha
Linda says (10:12 AM):
grebes make you nervous anyway... what with the murderousness

Pat says (10:12 AM):
They were 6, 8, 9, and 10 on the grebe murderousness scale, respectively.

Linda says (10:13 AM):
hee hee! Were they really?
Linda says (10:13 AM):
are you ok?

Pat says (10:15 AM):
I'm fine! I put two in the backseat (one down on the floor, the other on the seat, covered with my jackets. The big one went in the far back along with another carrier. The one that was in the backseat was lunging and telling me that he was going to eat the eyes of my offspring and their offspring and...

Linda says (10:15 AM):

Pat says (10:16 AM):
I kept them all separated (you gotta do that, I hear), so there wouldn't be any additional injuries.

Linda says (10:16 AM):
oh poor grebes

Pat says (10:16 AM):
One was smelly like oil. Four were smelly like grebe poop. But a pretty easy ride all told, and pretty decent time too.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Really helpful book for those with infertility

This book is excellent. From relaxation techniques ranging from helpful all the way into goofy, to sympathetic and smart writing, to insight into the bitterness of this particular struggle, it's a great book.

I don't think it's a great book for those not engaged with this struggle, really. But since there might be lurkers out there who need it, I recommend it. I've let go of a lot of stress since beginning to read it. Nothing has changed except me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Go, Denyse!

Denyse of the excellent Grain de Musc blog has added her two cents to the IFRA debate. Please feel free to weigh in; believe it or not, this does affect you. This article is perfectly in step with my viewpoint on what is happening; the binding of an artform to patented materials, banning naturals in order to supplant them with patented synthetics.

For a comparative situation, you will want to look at the Coca-Cola owned and Pepsico owned patents for steviosides... when the stevia plant itself is (probably) a perfectly safe and natural non-nutritive sweetener. Why didn't stevia pass through FDA testing on its own, despite huge amounts of testing worldwide? Because you can simply grow it in your backyard for next to free, and that scares the pants off of people who are selling you carcinogenic molecules for buckets of money. It is an ugly precedent.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy news!

"Hi Patrick and Linda,

Thank you so much for taking our beloved pelican to the airport. I already miss him. In case you didn't already hear, he arrived perfectly well. Anne said he was calm and immediately began to eat when let out into the enclosure. They are going to take good care of him and have the vet work on his feet right away.

You two are wonderful friends to the animals and us. Thank you again for going above and beyond to help. I hope your trip was satisfying.

Some of her zoomates: Humboldt penguins and ... could it be Mr. Right?

Guest post - Top 10 of Spring at PerfumeSmellin'Things

Hi all, go see. If you are quickish and leave a comment requesting to be entered in the draw, there's a prize draw, too. Gateway drug, y'all. First taste is free. :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coupla more photos for you

Remember the post about the loon? Well, here are some pictures of Pat trying to catch her. Yikes.

This is Pat trying to get a struggling loon to water. What you can't quite see is that she is twisting like a crankshaft in his hands.

This is Pat giving up on the loon. She is about to get wiped out by that little breaker. If you click the picture, you'll see her in center left.

The loon is in the center giving Pat the finger. This is shortly before he came onto shore to recover from 59 degree water and she washed up. There's a surfer in the far background. Wheee!

And this is the beautiful parchment-and-lavender colored iris in my yard. Wow.

Thought you'd enjoy.

What a week!

On Saturday morning, we got up early and did the March of Dimes walk. Well, okay, we did just over half of the walk, probably not quite 3 miles, but we did get up and help raise awareness and money to help babies be born healthy at full term.

It was a beautiful morning (and a beautiful day) and despite being up early enough to feed ducks, do a little gardening, and have a leisurely breakfast, we still managed to be there on time for the opening ceremony. Yes, the more time we have, the more time we can waste.

I only cried a little at the opening ceremony and Pat held my hand at just the right moment and it was good, so good to walk. The walk is an immensely emotional event for us, where all of the deferred and unreal stuff we've been going through becomes suddenly real and relate-able, and people around us are so often in the same boat or worse. To be around people who are going through the same stuff is weird... the ground drops out coldly beneath you and you are surrounded by warm human fellowship.

In the picture below, I am surrounded by coworkers and Pat is hiding behind me like a coy sun in a lunar eclipse. For those that haven't met me, I'm the cheerfully fat one in the ridonkulous hat.

We zoomed off in a pack, chattering merrily through residential streets and commercial ones. Passing firefighters honked and waved at us. We waited to cross a street while my mom obliviously ignored us, waiting to cross the same light in her car while sneaking in a few Saturday work hours. We yelled and waved and she figured out who she was looking at and lit up like a Christmas tree. Then Claudia and Ramona (the two older ladies in the photo) and Stan, Ashley, and Lauren (the three disgustingly attractive younger people in the photo) shot off like they were a collective flash and left Pat and I and Sherri (the one holding the camera) ambling along at a more leisurely pace together. We were only ever a block or so behind them. Claudia is a machine, and Ramona does yoga. That's my excuse, yeah. But I bet they didn't get to admire baby ducklings on the way (nine, count them, nine of them for mommy duck. She doesn't need the March of Dimes.)

We also hosted a water booth and cheering section (well, two: Patty and Rosemary moved it from FIRST to LAST to provide more coverage. They are in green shirts, holding mysterious purple things.)

All too soon, we were at our stopping point (pretty much next to our house... so we walked home and Sherri caught up with Claudia and Ramona -- wow!) We wouldn't have quit early, but we had a concert to get to.

Do you know the Red Elvises? Surf punk music with Russian Elvis impersonation. It doesn't get better.

We road tripped down to L.A. to stay in the very nice LAX Marriott, which was not at all the dead-hooker-in-the-boxspring experience I had been anticipating, since we left the scheduling to Ralph. Oh, Ralph. One of my several legitimately brain damaged friends, whose career as a Marine was forever altered by a butterknife to the brain. Yes, REALLY. We love us some Ralph. He says his wife says living with him is like this film.

But I digress, and he did good, and it was a nice hotel after all, and the concert was amazing. The driving part of the trip narrowly missed being an "O'Malley's Bar" singalong (Robert forgot Murder Ballads.)

Mind you, there was some hilarity. The parking garage was steep enough to bottom out Robert's behemoth car and we all got out downstairs and decided to take an elevator up from P6 to P1 and meet Rob there, so that we wouldn't abuse the undercarriage anymore. But... THERE IS NO P1. And P2 and P3 are private. So um... we fluttered around the building laughing while he drove around laughing, trying to find one another. Truly Marx-brothers worthy. Ralph and I amused ourselves by setting off the your-car-is-too-tall-for-this-garage alarm for subcompacts as they entered the garage (what?! You thought I was a decent citizen?) while Robert and Pat Scooby-dooed around. Eventually we found one another.

We eventually washed up on Santa Monica pier, talking about The Lost Boys (a movie that is positively a religious canon for our gaming group here) and looking for dinner. We were the last people in for dinner at Rusty's Surf Shack (really, really excellent dinner, too) and were buffeted about by the band bringing in equipment to assemble. How cool is it when you get asked to move your table by the band itself?

It gets cooler. Many members of the band who had quit were there, performing (Igor, all concert; Oleg, briefly; and more guests). Before, at intermission, and after, we fraternized with the band, and Ralph got them to sign his carved coconut monkey. They've been playing the venue for years and Ralph is the first to ask. Small venues are the best. The Red Elvises are supremely talented and gorgeous. And they play again in 2 months. I am SO going. We were there dancing and singing along and laughing until about 1:30 a.m.

Here are some pictures of the concert, in no particular order:

A really good time was had by all. Here's Ralph with his coconut monkey. Ralph is happier than he looks here. Then Pat and I trying to look all couple-y. Then Robert doing his favorite thing (photobombing!) and doing it damn well. Best road trip companions.

And then Tuesday night, Pat picked me up from work with a disgruntled pelican in the car, ready for transport to LAX so that she could be flown to her forever home at the Saint Louis zoo. We drove to Camarillo on Tuesday and slept in a much less nice hotel (I didn't check the box-spring) with LOUD AIR CONDITIONING while worrying about the pelican in the car. Then up early to get her to LAX. Those of you following her saga will be happy to know that she was safely picked up and hopefully will find love and friends among the pelicans and penguins she will be housed with for the rest of her life, spared from euthanasia. And for curious persons, yes, pelicans do smell pretty rank when you're enclosed in a car with them for a long period of time... pretty fishy!

My pictures of the pelican in her padded crate sure didn't turn out. But, here's the crate itself. Bon voyage, beautiful.

If you're near St. Louis, go see her. She's the sweet one that feels like a pillow swarming with mites. We've been calling her Bruce (all mitey... feel our genius!) The vet says she was probably hatched in 2006 and is definitely female.

Bye bye, Brucie! We love you, even if you do hate us and think we're Horrible People.

Anyway, great week. Busy week. I hope you're doing something exciting... do tell, if you are!

March of Dimes walk - another note

Hey all,

This is still not the big post ... that should be tomorrow. However, I wanted you to know that I just found out Farmers is matching donations, so if you gave money, it will count double. I was pretty tickled to know that. Would have been nice to know in advance, but hey! Telling me what's going on after it's gone on is the Farmers way.

For what it's worth, donations are still open. Not sure they ever close, to tell the truth.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Great article

Hi guys, late again to post about the walk and the concert. I really will, really really will, but it will probably be tomorrow night.

Here is a great article on our wastefulness. Nothing new, just elegantly said. (And how much did I waste in grad school, so that I can work in a no-education-required entry-level job? Argh!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Quick notes

Here is a beautiful statement released by the missing boy's mom.

The walk and concert were wonderful, and hey, my plants are coming up, and it's hot and beautiful outside! Life is sweet. I promised an update on March of Dimes and the Red Elvises... I will add it later, when I have access to pictures. Either tonight or tomorrow.

Tomorrow evening, off on a new adventure: we are driving our pelican friend to LAX to send him/her to Saint Louis zoo. Wish us luck. I'll try to take pictures, but the pelican will already be crated for transport when we pick him/her up, so they may be a bust.

Friday, April 17, 2009

March of Dimes

If you are planning to donate, you can do so even after the walk. The walk is tomorrow. Scroll down for a clickable widget if you care to sponsor me, or if you just want to donate to the March outright, that's easy to do, too.

I believe everyone should pick their causes themselves. These are some of the reasons I believe in THIS cause:

The research they fund may give us a dearly wanted child.

The research they fund has consoled and informed us during our four miscarriages during the last two years.

The research they fund will probably lengthen my life span; my blood clots too quickly and I am prone to clots and strokes, but wouldn't have known it until I had a nasty event if I hadn't been tested for it during the battery of infertility tests.

They save lives, sanity, emotions, marriages, families.

In other news... a friend of my closest coworker is suffering and I am sad for her.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Take 4 minutes and watch this, it's great

Hi all, just sharing something brilliant I found by way of Thoughtviper (see my sidebar for a linky).

Wolf loves pork

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Help me reach my goal! Sponsor Me at March for Babies!

Hi all,

The March for Babies is this coming Saturday. I am still looking for sponsors. I've set a very modest goal of $50 for myself this year because I know how broke everyone is. My brother and partner will also be walking, but I'm not sure they've signed up for the walk on the site. Last year I signed them up and they may be spoiled. :)

This is a cause that means a lot to me -- the March of Dimes' research may give me a child, and may indeed save my life, since I would not otherwise have sought a diagnosis of thrombophilia and might have had a stroke if untreated. If you choose to participate, I'd be honored if you would sponsor me. If not, no worries. Just be active for a cause that you are passionate about.

In the interests of full disclosure... We are probably only walking about half of the course this year; due to complete spacebrain, we said yes to a Red Elvises concert the same night and I think conserving some of our energy will be a must... especially for Robert, who will be driving us to the Elvises concert in between the two. Yikes.

Love you all!

I kind of flunked the widget size. Forgive me!

It reads, "One day, all babies will be born healthy. Help me reach my goal."