Saturday, February 26, 2005

But Really...

... I only managed to watch a boatload of TV. Sue me.

And May I Just Add...

10,007 baby!

Tonight's celebratory activities will include starting a beading project, planning Sophie's birthday party and family summer activities, and watching a boatload of TV.

A Happy Consumer Am I!

Can I just say that Crate and Barrel rocks like a big rocky thing? Not only do they have very nice stuff that I like a lot, they also have a kick-ass customer satisfaction policy. To whit: I bought a duvet cover back in December - this one in fact. And I love it. Once we get the fugly wallpaper off and pretty new paint up, it will look really great. But there is one thing about it that bothers me. Even though we have a king-size duvet and ordered a king-size cover... it's too big. REALLY too big, by several inches all-round.

We washed it, hoping it would shrink but no luck. So I resigned myself to living with it since I wasn't about to go spend MORE money on a different one. Then this morning, while changing the linens, I snapped. I called Crate and Barrel's national customer service line and told them my sad story... about how much I love the cover but it doesn't fit and it's been two months and I don't have the receipt anymore and is there ANYTHING they can do?

"Sure," says the nice lady. "Take it back to the store and they'll give you a smaller one."

"Really? Even though I don't have any of the packaging or receipts?"

"Yes. We want you to be satisifed with your purchase."

So call the Seattle store I did. And they ordered the queen-size cover and it will be in next Thursday. And I'll even get a credit for the difference. That, my friends, is how you build customer loyalty.

And to top it all off, they get a "Dark Blue" rating on based on their political contributions in the 2003-2004 election cycle. So I can spend my money there and know that some of it goes to support the good guys. How cool is that?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Call Me Ishmael... or Emily... or Lou!

Although my days of searching for the perfect baby name are long past, I offer this fantastic link up to anyone who is looking or for anyone who just wants to see how their name (or their kids' names) fares in the popularity race over the last 100 years. It is VERY cool.

The Babyname Wizard's Name Voyager

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Left-wing Vitriol

Plenty to go around today!

First, I woke to the news story that some legislators east of the Cascade mountains want to break off and become the 51st state. To which I say: Don't let Rainier hit you in the ass on the way out. I would like nothing better than to cut loose the freeloading morons. Whose taxes do they think subsidize them, pay for their roads, their schools, their law enforcement, their social services? Yep. Mine and those of the my western Washington homies, that's whose. I'd love to see the eastern folk make a go of it on their own, if they really think they'll be better off. Like it or not red-staters (and those red parts of states that went blue), you NEED us. The money WE pay lets you live at a much higher standard than you would otherwise. YOU are the welfare nation. Get over yourselves, or get out and good riddance.

Then, I spent a good bit of time in the car this morning listening to Al Franken on Air America Radio. Today, the entire show was dedicated to that liar extraordinairre, Bill O'Reilly. The man is either a bonafide compulsive liar, or he's losing his mental acuity... maybe a little bit of both. But the myriad of self-contradictions and misstatements of facts and quotes was both frightening and damn funny. Bill, anyone in this country with a brain and the ability to think independently considers you a laughingstock. Put that in your falafel and smoke it.

Franken interviewed the creator of the best web domain name ever:

And here I didn't think anything would ever beat

I was wrong.

Finally, a co-worker sent me the link to this article: Piss Off. Seems some Belgians have found a controversial way to express their displeasure with our simian leader. Makes me wish I had a penis.

Monday, February 21, 2005

You and Me of the 10,000 Words

(Apologies to William and Anastasia and Stephen and Sandy who have all heard this said by me, oh at LEAST 10,000 times in the last two weeks.)

In case you're wondering, 10,000 words is a LOT. In Microsoft (a word that is anathema to me today) Word, it's roughly 17 pages, single-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point typeface. (Jer, we're talking roughly 60,000 characters... I knew you'd wonder.) Yes. I checked. While I was supposed to be actually PRODUCING 10,000 words, I instead cut and pasted the word "word" until I had 10,000 of them. Hoo-boy. It's a lot. Really and truly. A feckin' lot.

Now, I've posted well over 10K words on this blog in the last year (<grump>and if Blogger would ever fix its stat collection, I might be able to tell you exactly how many.</grump>) and that's been a pleasure. But a) it's engaging writing that I enjoy doing, b) it's about me and my life, a supremely interesting subject (*cough*), and c) it has been over the course of a year plus.

But instead, I'm chronicling the Clusterfuck of Errors that is Microsoft. I will never EVER understand why you Windows people put up with it. I mean... reallly. I can see it at work, if it's forced on you (I'm in that boat myself) but WHY oh WHY would the majority of people want this caca in their home? I don't understand it in the way I don't understand Republicanism or Nascar or how anyone could hate George Clooney.

What I really want to write, but would NOT get paid for it is... "You're seeing this error because you're using an inferior and kludgy operating system that leaves you open to all kinds of problems that sane people never encounter as they're running OS X on their beautiful iBooks or G5s or Minis. Solution: GET A MAC!"

Ahem. There, I feel a little better now. 6600 down. Another 400 to go before I let myself sleep tonight. 3,000 more by the end of the week. Soon it will be like a bad dream where I was wandering in the desert without water, wearing shoes made of razorblades, carrying an elephant with very bad gas.

A bed to be made, and a bed to lie in.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Escape Fantasies of a Tolkien Fangrrl

Salon has an article today, Tolkien's cosmological vision, that captures a lot of what I felt in my recent reading of The Silmarilion. And now I've just finished the last appendix of The Return of the King... okay, okay I admit that I just skimmed the penultimate appendix that went into detail about runes and Elven pronunciations. That's way too linguist-geek even for my blood.

Unsurprisingly, I find myself feeling as bereft as I did after seeing the movie on opening night a little over a year ago. These stories evoke such a deep longing in me for... what? A time and place where people saw the value of self-sacrifice for the greater good, where leaders actually LED their people into battle rather than counting their money while others died for their "ideals", where love and friendship were highly valued, where the clothes and jewelry were bitchin', where life was tied to the natural world rather than to little computer screens? All of those, yeah. Nevermind whether such a time and place ever existed - I want to be there.

Especially this month. I've overcommitted myself in a big way and I'm running running running. No time to just sit and think, hardly any time (maybe you've noticed) to blog. It occurred to me yesterday that I'm a hoarder... I get my hands on something, and I'm unwilling to let it go, even if I should. Always adding, never subtracting. This is why I have more books than some of the smaller branches of the Seattle Public Library, why I feel compelled at odd times to try to contact old friends who I haven't heard from in years, and why I have one full-time job and three part-time ones.

And why I'm so very much in need of a vacation.

A friend recently told me that her husband has decided he wants to sell everything and live on a boat for a couple of years. My reaction was an internal shaking of my head, a slight tut-tutting over the abdication of responsibility to "real" life that would entail. This morning however, walking to the bus stop as the sun was coming up, I looked over at the mountains and found myself wondering how long it would take to reach them if I gathered up a little Fellowship, packed some supplies and lembas bread, and started walking.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Congratulations Howard Dean, DNC Chairman!

Those who know me, who read my blog about a year ago, know of my support for Howard Dean. I was devastated when Dean withdrew from the presidential race and though I came to embrace Kerry's candidacy and worked my ass off to get Bush out of office (not that there was much choice in the matter), I take no pleasure in the fact that I predicted the outcome of choosing a candidate based on perceived "electability" rather than on what you feel in your heart is right.

So it might seem strange that I haven't mentioned a word about Dean's bid for the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. I haven't written about it, have talked very little about it with friends and other party activists, and if the topic has veered in that direction I've either changed the subject or hedged bets... lots of "we'll see" and "maybe" and "probably won't happen" have crossed my lips and screen.

Even when all the other contenders had dropped out of the race, when all the Dems who had opposed him started falling in line and talking about the transition, when John Kerry himself sent me e-mail encouraging me to get behind Howard (as if!), I remained guarded. The Eye of Sauron never sleeps, yannow, and I was taking no chances.

But this morning it's official and I will shout it from the rooftops (YEAAAAAAARRRGHHHH!!!!) and drink the champagne that has been sitting, forlorn, in my refrigerator since November 2nd. Howard now leads the Democratic party. There is hope again.

Join me, in welcoming our new Chairman, and let's show the power of the grassroots. This donation link is being shared by lots of blogs, and will send the message that we're Democrats, that we're fully in support of the winds of change that are blowing... that we're ready to take back our country.

Contribution amount:

Note: Be patient... the donation site is being hit HARD right now and it might take a while to get through. Not a bad problem to have though, eh?

Note2: Current donation total in case you're interested.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Don't Fear the Reaper

"When people die, they turn into dirt."

This from Sophie, nearly every day for the last several. When I pick her up at preschool tomorrow, I'm going to find out what book it is that they've been reading that talks about this; not a story, she tells me but a "learning book." It's a very matter-of-fact declaration and it's usually out of the blue, unattached to anything else we're talking about at the time.

I can't argue her point, and in fact it's lead us into some very interesting discussions about death and what might or might not come after. We talked about body and spirit, and the different beliefs that people have - reincarnation, heaven, the void - and I stressed to her that nobody KNOWS what waits for us after we die, and that if they say they do it just means that they hold their beliefs very strongly. All this, of course, while keeping in mind that she's just shy of five, and that in the next moment we're likely to be talking about her recent obsession with finding Waldo.

This isn't the first time that she and I have had conversations about death; I'm beginning to wonder if I have a future goth in the making but for the fact that she'd much rather wear pink than black. (Maybe though, pink is the new black...) A few months back she was talking a lot about my dad: "Your dad died. That was sad." And when my grandpa passed away in November (the day after the election... yeah, it was a dark week), both kids attended the visitation and funeral.

It was their first direct experience with the death of someone they knew and loved, and they were both very upset when they heard the news. We talked about what to expect at the funeral beforehand so they wouldn't be surprised. Good thing too; Sophie's first question, after we drew the comparison between a casket and a sarcophagus (since we had read a book about mummies not long before) was whether great-grandpa would be all wrapped up in white cloth. She was a little disappointed when I told her no and explained that we don't really DO mummies in southeast Michigan.

They both did great; I think it helped that grandpa was in his eighties and had been sick for awhile, so while there was sadness it wasn't the deep keening grief that unexpected or untimely loss brings. We've also tried very hard not to burden them with the fear of death that pervades our culture... when we talk about it, we acknowledge the sadness and the missing but we also talk about the natural cycle, that all living things have their time on the earth and then die.

Sophie's interest is certainly developmentally appropriate... it's clearly a subject she's trying to get her head around and although her timing seems random to me, I'm sure there's a train of thought I'm just not privy to. The only time it ever rattled me was when she said something along the lines of "What if Nathan and me died?" My mind can't even touch the edges of that one, so all I managed to squeak out was "I would be very very sad, but it's not going to happen for a very long time."

She thought for a minute. "Mom?"

"Yes?" Wondering if thoughts of her own mortality are sinking in, waiting for more difficult questions.

"Max kicked me in the stomach today. But Lisa says karate is NOT for hurting people."

The train moves on.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Boy and His Books

Nathan has made some huge leaps in reading ability over the past couple of months. He's gone from reading one. word. at. a. time. to reading complete sentences with intonation and expression. And watching it click for him has been one of the coolest things I've experienced as a parent. Last night, when he was reading at bedtime (a 2-3 grade level book no less), it was so flowing and lovely that I got a little verklempt.

Stephen and I are both big readers... the kind of readers who, while waiting for food to warm up in the microwave at work, will read anything that's posted on the wall or bulletin board: instructions on saving someone who's choking, a systems chart illustrating different responses to IT issues, an article cut from the paper about a former employee, the bus schedule. It really doesn't matter as long as there are words strung together in some coherent fashion.

To encourage that same love of reading in the kids, we've read to both of them since they were tiny things. And they've always loved it, sitting on our laps for as long as we'll keep going, asking for "just one more!" (knowing that it's difficult for us to resist). Both kids, from very early on, have spent their last waking moments looking through a pile of books on their bed; I can't count the number of times we've had to remove a book from a sleeping child's hands... or face.

So I must admit to some surprise and disappointment that Nathan - for a very long time - had absolutely no interest in learning to read on his own. I'd encourage him to follow along with me as I read to him and he'd decline, preferring to just listen and look at the pictures. We brought "Bob" books (very early readers) home from the library and he'd struggle through one and then become frustrated and refuse to try any more. When he started collecting Pokemon cards, I mentioned how much more fun he'd have if he could read them, hoping that would spark the interest... but no. It just wasn't there.

And then, just like that, it was. One of his homework assignments in 1st grade has been to read at least 20 minutes per day, so we've incorporated that into our bedtime routine... he reads to us first, then he and Sophie each get to pick one book for us to read to them. And day by day, week by week, it's been sinking in. He knows it and takes a fierce pride in it; when he got moved into the next level reading group back in January, he almost burst with the news.

I get so excited about the worlds that are opening up to him, of all the great books that lie ahead. I'm looking forward to some night soon, peeking in after he's supposed to be sleeping and finding him still awake, caught up in a story that he just can't put down. "I'm almost done, mom... just one more chapter!" And, of course, I'll let him finish, though I know <yawn> firsthand how hard the morning after a late night reading session can be. But it's so worth it.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Geek Giggle

This makes me laugh every time I watch it. And don't ask how many times. Suffice it to say many.

One does not simply walk into Mordor

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Happy Imbolc!

Yay! The corner has been turned, with winter behind and spring ahead. It's a beautiful sunny day here in Seattle, not warm but certainly not cold. Signs of impending spring are everywhere... the kids and I walked to the library last weekend and made note of them along our route. Some crocuses and early daffodils are already in bloom and plenty of other bulbs have sprouted and are getting ready to flower, buds on the trees are filling out, and the forsythia will will be smiling yellow with just a week or so more of this temperate weather. The grass is in its glory phase, thick and green, doing what it can to prepare itself for the dry brown days that will come in the summer.

As for myself, it seems that I've caught some of the energy of the day too. I woke up this morning with my mind full of all the things I needed to accomplish by day's end, and darn if I haven't knocked through quite a bunch of it. As much as I'd love to have a life of luxury, I know it wouldn't be good for me... the less I have to do, the less likely I am to actually do it. Sloth begets sloth and a rolling stone gathers no moss. So I'm rolling today baby - no moss on me.

Today also marks the one-year anniversary of my favourite. post. ever. (patting self on the back). It's here if you'd like to read it, or if you'd like to read it again. In an interesting bit of sychronicity, I just heard the song that lends its title in concert last weekend. It's now available on Vance's site, on his most recent CD... though I have to admit I still prefer the live version I have linked in other post. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


And just like that a week goes by and February is here. It was my sweetie's birthday (Happy Birthday, Love!) and we had a nice celebration - while he took Sophie to swimming lessons, Nathan (who opted out of swimming as he's still a little sore and headachey from a spill he took on the playground yesterday) helped me make a lovely dinner of salmon and spinach noodles with grated parmesean. Yum! Then we feasted on raspberry chocolate torte and mint juleps. Okay, no mint juleps, but still it was grand.

So yeah. This is the third posting I've started in the last week, and I'm determined this time to finish and get it out there. I haven't been feeling very writerly of late... it's interesting. I know that a lot of people write their way through introspective times to help gain insight into what's going on with them, use writing as a therapeutic tool for self-examination. Me? Not so much, not usually. I find that when I'm working through a lot of angst, trying to write about it just frustrates me because I end up spending all my time struggling with my internal editor instead of grappling with the issues.

<John Stewart>Damn you, internal editor! shakes fist</John Stewart>

Long story, short: this past week I did a lot of thinking about career and choices and responsibility and cause-and-effect and bliss and being a grownup and plans and timelines and going with the flow. And I prioritized and categorized and "what if'ed" and worse-case-scenario'ed and added and subtracted and muliplied by various factors. Then I tried on some decisions to see how they'd feel, let my heart roll around in them for awhile, and made some adjustments until it was content with the warp and the weft.

I've come out the other side more at ease than I've felt in a long time. After spending the last few months spinning, trying to force an abrupt career change that I'm not emotionally or financially ready for, I've found that by simply adjusting my timeline a bit and riding the current rather than trying to swim upstream I am suddenly able to breathe again. There is a vision, a plan, and lots of work to be done, but no attachment to an arbitrary deadline... and that has made all the difference.

So on that note, some food for thought:

How many toes does a fish have?
And how many wings on a cow?
I wonder.
Yup, I wonder.

Think about it.