Friday, November 30, 2012

A post I'd like to point y'all towards: Default to kindness by Ian Welsh.  I heartily agree with what Mr. Welsh has to say.  (Via Mike the Mad Biologist.)
I've been thinking about The Book of Mormon more. I've decided that whereas one of my favorite movies, Dogma, addresses the question, "What does faith look like?," The Book of Mormon asks "What is religion good for, anyway?"

They are really tackling similar issues, albeit from slightly different angles.

I wish you joy.

On Tuesday, I went to Grace Cathedral to walk the labyrinth.  Something I was involved in had just ended on Monday, and between that ending and my job assignment being completed, and just life generally, I felt in need of spiritual reassurance.

Regardless of what I think about God, walking labyrinths has always grounded me.   Sometimes that effect does not last very long, but at least while I am walking my mind tends to be clear and focused and I feel calm descend to the core of my soul.

There are other labyrinths closer to me (including at All Saints Episcopal Church in Palo Alto) but the indoor labyrinth at Grace particularly moves me.*  The stained glass and pews are comforting reminders of a faith I once had.  Whatever the doctrinal issues standing between me and the Catholic Church, and recently between me and any organized religion, I find the rituals and the spaces held sacred to be soothing. They fill me with what might almost be described as joy.

I started by thinking about letting go.  I often have to let go of things and people, and this is a recurrent theme in my meditations while labyrinth walking.

My mind wandered to people I was upset with for one reason or another.  My mind does wander when doing this sort of meditation, and I simply have to figure out whether the new road is likely to be a fruitful one.  In this case, I decided it was.

I began by visualizing these people individually and wishing them peace.  My mantra was "I wish [him/her/them] peace," repeatedly.  It did not feel very difficullt: I generally wish peace for all people I know.  So I moved on to wishing each of them joy.

Ah.  This was much more difficult, and I had to refocus time and again on what I wanted to achieve, and why.

Wishing people peace can be dispassionate and removed: "wherever you are, may you find peace."  Wishing people joy is personal: "Wherever you are, and whatever the state of your relationship with me, I actively want you to be happy."**

To wish people joy is to begin to shed any load of bitterness you carry.  While there are people whom it is neither possible nor perhaps healthy to wish joy (someone who physically or sexually abused you, for example), most people fall well outside that category.  The sources of conflict can be over trivial or much larger things, they can be longstanding or more recent, they can be open or unspoken.

To wish people joy is to move towards forgiveness.  It is also to move towards responsibility: it is easier to see your own contributions to whatever the conflict is, or if you have been holding grudges long beyond the point where it is appropriate, if you are not fixated on the other person.

Wishing people joy, forgiving them, moving on or past, makes my life better, more whole.  I am not there yet:  I have to return to my mantra of joy when I think of certain people in my life.  I am hopeful that before too long I will be able to think of them only with forgiveness in my heart.

We are heading into the season of goodwill towards all.  I am glad I have started actually trying to practice it.

*There is also an outdoor labyrinth at Grace.  I had the idea on Tuesday that I would love to walk it at midnight on New Year's Eve.  I won't be able to do that, having just come in from Georgia earlier in the day, but I am certainly keeping it in mind for next year.  Of course, I am sure it will have occurred to a lot of people.
**I'm intrigued by the fact that it is easier to wish joy upon people who I suspect are not going to be happy no matter what than those who generally are pretty happy anyway.  In any case, me wishing them joy will not affect them (unless I tell them about it), the exercise is for my benefit, mostly.

Not a lot of people could do that

When I mentioned to the Rocket Scientist that "Elf's Lament" by the Barenaked Ladies is "the theme song for the Occupy North Pole movement," he cracked up.  "Oh, we need to do that next summer," he cackled, referring to him and his team. "We're not at the North Pole, but we're closer than anybody else is."

I do live in an interesting household.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I have so many posts backed up -- a post about a trip to Grace Cathedral, a post about the joys of being lost in San Francisco, a partly finished post about why I find Dickens Fair so annoying, a mostly finished piece about things unimaginable, a half-done piece which I am struggling with about my strong feelings about the Israeli-Palenstinian conflict -- and what have I been doing?  Watching H2 (a documentary on Jonestown) and refreshing Facebook.

Lack of focus, much?

Hasa Diga Eebowai.

I just saw The Book of Mormon with my friend Sarah.  I don't know when the last time was that I laughed so much and so loudly, sometimes thinking "I can't believe I'm laughing at this."  I was so loud -- I could not help myself -- that the ladies sitting in front of us commented on it afterward (but in a friendly way).  I was good, though: I did not sing along to "I Believe," even though I had to bite my lip.

The actor playing Elder Cunningham looked very familiar. I had seen him on the Tonys, when the show was opened by the Broadway cast doing "Hello," and even then he had looked familiar.  I checked the Playbill, and discovered that he was Jared Gertner, who was part of another memorable theater experience for me when he toured with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  I'm turning into a big fan of his.

My only complaint? I can't go back and see it again tomorrow night.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sing we Noel.

It's that time of year again.  Mind you, if it were up to me, I would play holiday music in July. Wherever I am in "my journey of faith" (and right now, that would be at the "I'm not sure a deity exists anymore" stage), I love these songs.  Here is my top 25 -- at least for this week.

"The 4 Seasons (Winter) I. Allegro Non Molto,"   Antonio Vivaldi*
(It has "Winter" in the title, right?)

"Angels We Have Heard On High," Josh Groban & Brian McKnight*

"Celebrate Me Home," Kenny Loggins

"Elf's Lament," Barenaked Ladies & Michael BublĂ© *
(The theme song for the Occupy North Pole movement.)

"Feliz Navidad," JosĂ© Feliciano

"Fifty Kilowatt Tree," The Bobs*
(For those in my neck of the woods, think of some of the gaudier houses in Willow Glen, and triple it.)

"Gaudete, Gaudete," El Duende*

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan*
(Best version of this song ever.  Period.)

"Light One Candle," Peter, Paul and Mary

"Merry Christmas from the Family," Jill Sobule*

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Judy Garland
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Twisted Sister*
(Yes, I have two versions of this song.  One is iconic, the other just... strange.)

"Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," Bruce Springsteen

"12 Days of Christmas," John Denver & the Muppets*
"The 12 Days of Christmas (Live)" Straight No Chaser*
(Yes, I have two versions of this, too.  The first is, well, the Muppets! With a bravura performance by Miss Piggy! And the SNC version has to be heard to be believed.)

"What Child Is This," John Denver

"Calypso Noel ," Johnny Mathis
(I remember this fondly from my childhood because it has no freakin' snow in it.  It's tropical, which worked for me since, as my sister said, "The only part of Christmas that is white around here is the sand.")

"The Chanukah Song," Adam Sandler
(Hate his movies -- except for Punch Drunk Love; like this song for no discernible reason I can think of.)

"Christmas Time Is Here," Vince Guaraldi Trio
(You may remember this from A Charlie Brown Christmas.)

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing / Angels We Have Heard On High," Straight No Chaser

"Simple Gifts," Judy Collins

"I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong*

"The First Noel," Josh Groban & Faith Hill*

"Symphony No. 9, "Choral", Ode to Joy," Ludwig von Beethoven
(I hereby declare this to be a holiday song.  Doesn't it just sound redolent of pine trees and snow?)

What are your favorites?

*Music is a social phenomenon. These are songs that I heard about from other people: most of them from my friend Cathy, the Muppets from my friend Sarah, my friend Susan gave me Josh Groban's Christmas CD, and also said, "You have to look on YouTube for the Straight No Chaser "12 Days of Christmas."  The Red-Headed Menace turned me on to Vivaldi, and The Not-So-Little Drummer Boy likes Ella Fitzgerald. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Her drug of choice.

Penwiper just brought me a plastic container of catnip she had retrieved from behind the entertainment center in the living room, and tried to open it with her teeth.  At first, I tied some up in some parchment, but she started tearing that apart, so I just put some out for her on a saucer.

Does this mean I'm enabling her?

More crafting

Last Sunday's project:

(Sorry the picture is so blurry.)

Swarovski crystal bicones (Crystal 3 mm, Iolite 4mm, Purple Velvet 6 mm), Swarovski faux pearls (the best faux pearls -- creamrose light, 6 and 8 mm), silver-plate bead caps and amethyst (10 x 7 oval), and a handmade 18 gauge sterling silver clasp.  I was not particularly happy with the clasp -- I am clearly out of practice.

I am not sure why I made this in purple.  I have other purple necklaces.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Quote of the day

"When people call you shrill, it really means they actually have no way to answer what you just said." Paul Krugman, on Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me.

A couple of culinary observations...

I am rapidly coming around to the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy's position that there are few foods that are not improved by putting sriracha on them.  In this case, cornbread stuffing.  I love the heat -- and my family rebels against me putting any more chipotle pepper in it when I am making it.

My sour cream chocolate pie is really good.  It is even better spread with marshmallow fluff.  Last night, I realized why:  it's a s'more! Graham cracker crust, chocolate middle, marshmallow top... next time I think I will simply spread the entire top with marshmallow fluff and take the propane torch to it.  Yum.
I was going to actually wear a dress (gasp!) when I go to see Book of Mormon next week, but alas, that is not to be.  When I went to see Lincoln last night, I fell down.  My right knee has a scrape on it the size of an orange, with another cut down near my right ankle.

Today, all of me hurts.  My knee, both ankles, my neck, my back, you name it.  I have a disabled placard that I got before my fibromyalgia got better, which I usually do not use, but I did today.  Walking is difficult.

I do this often. I have told people with some justification that I trip over thick air.  I have tripped on cobblestones in St. Petersburg, Paris and Rome, and on the smooth sidewalks near my house.  If there is a wrinkle in a rug, I will stumble.  If there is a tree root in my way, I will fall.

The most embarrassing fall occurred at my twentieth Stanford Law reunion.  I had to psych myself up to go to the reunion in the first place by telling myself that yes, I had actually graduated from this place and had as much right as any other graduate to be there. I had put on my best "I'm a lawyer, dammit" demeanor (it only gets trotted out on special occasions -- usually when I am wearing pantyhose), and made my entrance into the wooden pavilion where breakfast was being served.  I promptly caught my heel on the very small step from the ground to the floor of the pavilion, and landed flat on my backside. I was not hurt (and fortunately did not break my glasses), but my dignity was in tatters.

It was just as well.  I felt deflated, and hence relaxed a bit, and probably had a better time talking to people because I was no longer worried about keeping up appearances.  (It should also be noted that, when I went back for lunch, signs had been posting warning people about the step and encouraging them to watch out.)

I am not sure why I am so susceptible to falling.  My hunch is that I have never mastered the skill of looking at all the world around me -- much of which is quite interesting -- and paying attention to my feet.  Or I am intently talking to the people I am with:  in the case of last night's fall, I was too busy ranting to the Red-Headed Menace (complete with expansive hand gestures) about the misleading signs in the parking lot of Vallco Shopping Center to notice that the ground next to the sidewalk had eroded about two inches, hence making it ripe for me to step into, with less than optimal results.

If it is a choice between seeing what wonders are out there at eye level and above -- birds, trees, buildings, sunsets, people -- and risking tripping, I'll  take the world every time.

I just hope I do not break my neck one of these days.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Go me.

I would just like to say that for someone who suffers from tremors so bad that they occasionally affect my ability to hold utensils, creating a piece like that below is not a mean feat, at least as far as I'm concerned.  Of course, I made it, so I am far from an unbiased observer.

It is not a piece I would sell, if indeed I were selling jewelry (I have not in the past eighteen months -- I have barely been making jewelry in that time).  The malachite, the crystal and green Swarovski, and the gold-filled spacer beads are authentic, but the clasp (which is not handmade -- I was out of 18 gauge gold-filled wire) and the bead caps are flimsy and gold plated.

The bead-stringing for the most part was slow but not incredibly difficult -- I have a technique which allows me to compensate for my tremor -- but stringing the crimp beads, wire guards, and clasp was murder, as was actually clamping the crimps.

I like the design.  Now I just have to buy a green shirt I can wear it with.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things I am thankful for, 2012 edition.

My annual list of 50 things, great and small, important and not,  that I give thanks for.  In absolutely no significant order:

The Big Bang Theory.
The Next Iron Chef.
Alton Brown's turkey brine recipe.
Cranberry pineapple sauce.
Cornbread stuffing.
A functioning stove and refrigerator.*
Good movies.
Ken Burns.
E-books on my phone.
Cory Doctorow.
Venti non-fat no-whip Salted-Carmel Mochas.
The Book of Mormon, which I am going to see next week.
Victorian High Tea, complete with scones and petit fours.
Piazza San Marco at twilight.
The Trevi fountain at midnight.
Raphael's "School of Athens."
The back roads of Tuscany.
The Napa Valley on autumn afternoons.
Mumford & Sons.
All of those in the military and out who fight to protect our rights.
That this past election is over.
Props  30 & 36, Measure A (Santa Clara County) and Measure D (San Jose), all of which passed.
President Barack Obama.
Senators Elizabeth Warren, Claire McCaskill, and Tammy Baldwin.
Nate Silver.
Paul Krugman.
Rachel Maddow.
Jon Stewart.
Stephen Colbert.
My cat.
The meds that make my life possible.**  
The various medical professionals who have helped me make it through this year.
The roof over my head.
The food on my table.
The clothes on my back.
That I don't have to worry where my next meal is coming from.
My family.
Specifically, The Not-So-Little Drummer Boy, Railfan, and The Red-Headed Menace.
My friends.
The ocean.

* The power went out in our neighborhood for an hour and a half this morning; it was stressful, to say the least.
**One of my family's "thank yous" was for the fact that I was no longer on meds that made me a ghost of my former self.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Here's looking at you, kid.

Today is the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy’s birthday. For the first time I will not be able to celebrate in person with him. I so wish this were different.

The NSLDB was born at seven minutes past midnight, November 20, 1990.  It was a difficult labor and birth – several ER visits and one hospitalization due to dehydration caused by severe hyperemesis gravida.  All of this while I was finishing law school and studying for the California bar exam (which I passed, I might add).

He was nearly three weeks late – it was an induced birth that lasted thirty hours.  He was a beautiful, wonderful baby, a fact I failed to realize three weeks later when I descended into postpartum psychosis and had to be hospitalized.

He talked early, and fluently, and was consistently aware of the things going on around him.  He told me at five that television commercials were no good because all they were trying to do was sell you stuff.  I know adults who still don’t seem to have figured that out.

He has never shied away from expressing himself. When his youngest brother was born, I was trying to cope with the exhaustion of having a newborn by sitting watching old Looney Tunes cartoons.  The NSLDB was watching with me. (Yes, I know I was being a bad mother by having a six-year old see such violent fare.  I was too sleep-deprived to care.)  “Duck season!,” said Bugs.  “Rabbit season!” said Daffy.  “Duck season!” “Rabbit season!” “Duck season!” “Baby season,” growled a quiet voice sitting next to me.

When he was eight, he was hit while crossing the street by a speeding SUV.  By the grace of whatever God there is, he survived.  (In one of the worst memories of my life, the ER doctor cheerfully told me, “He’s a lucky boy, if that car had hit an inch higher he would be dead.”)  While he was in the ER, through a bloodied mouth that was now absent three front permanent teeth, he tried to tell jokes to make me and the nurse laugh. (“ ‘Ell, I ‘ould always ‘e a ‘entriloquist….”).  Instead, both of us had to fight back tears.  “I’m supposed to try and make you feel better, not the other way around,” I responded.

The NSLDB was never a kid that blended in.  A friend visited us once when he was ten and commented that it must be like living with a Borscht Belt comedian.  A counselor told him in middle school – much to the dismay of his father and I – that he should stop using such big words, that he should try to be more like the other kids.  That was a little like asking a peacock to shear his feathers.

When the NSLDB discovered the drums, he was in nirvana (we ended up in city mediation due to his practicing.)  He loves music, and by the time he was in high school had more music than anyone else I knew.  He was interested in every aspect: I remember on a band trip I was chaperoning, hearing him discuss a band with a classmate. The classmate had mentioned a current group he liked, and the NSLDB took off: he discussed the music, then the production, the other albums with the same producer, and the audio techniques he particularly liked… The other kid looked a bit shell-shocked.

When he went to the orientation for the Mountain View Los Altos High School District’s Freestyle Academy, he walked up to the audio instructor and said, “So, how much Pro Tools do I need to know? I haven’t worked with it.”  The instructor hemmed and hawed and said, “Well, we generally start people out on GarageBand.”  The NSLDB had been working with GarageBand for two years already.

It was at the Freestyle Academy that he discovered art and design.  He has carried that love into his work at college, and I know that it will be with him the rest of his life.

When younger he did not handle boredom well.  During his eighth grade band, when he was better than most of the other (younger) drummers and hence not being challenged enough, he led a mutiny about the uniforms.  (I got a call from the his band teacher about that one.)  When he was a freshman in high school, he was assigned in an English class to write an essay about a “heroic figure.”  He was in fact quite bored with the class, and not particularly taken with the rather humorless teacher, so he chose as his heroic subject the pot of petunias in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.  I did not actually hear about that from the teacher directly, but at parent-teacher conference the young woman did express bewilderment about how to deal with him.

There is no one I would rather go to an art museum with.  He is his own person, he likes what he likes, and is willing to discuss why intelligently.  He does not see the art as sacred cows or the museums as temples: in the Musee d’Orsay he walked up to Degas sculpture of the little ballerina girl and said “What a brat.”  You could hear a gasp go around the group of art-lovers clustered around her.  He was talking in an art museum! He was criticizing a beloved work! Then he went on… “Look at how smug she is.  I know this girl.  I went to school with girls just like her.”  “Oh, yeah,” said another observer.  And soon, people were discussing the statue as if she were a person, and is that not the most any artist can ask? To have their work come alive for people?

When we went to the Art Institute of Chicago, I of course went for the famous works, especially Seurat’s “Sunday on La Grande Jatte” and Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”  He, on the other hand, fell in love with Ivan Albright’s “That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do.”  Without him, in my rush to see what was “important” (read: well-known), I would have missed this fascinating, dark work.

He makes people better just by knowing him.  That’s not just the opinion of a doting mother:  I once got a call from a high-school English teacher telling me how much he loved having the NSLDB in his class, and that a girl in class had said that knowing him had changed her life.  This same class always had a contest at the end of the year, to decide who had been the most insightful and valued contributor to the class that year. “It would have been unanimous, Mom,” he told me, “but I decided I’m not the type of person who votes for himself.”  In his evaluations at college, one of his professors called him “a credit to the college.”

He’s not perfect:  He procrastinates sometimes, and is disorganized (he gets that from his mother – although unlike her he seems to be getting better) and has an occasional tendency towards cynicism (he gets that from his father). He has other faults, but they are more than compensated for by his virtues.

I miss him terribly.  He can discuss politics, and art, and culture, and philosophy with a clear-headedness missing in those much older and ostensibly wiser than he is.  Having Thanksgiving without him is tearing me apart, even as I recognize that he is a grownup now, with a grownup’s responsibilities that will mean that I see less and less of him. 

So, here’s to you, kid.  I love you very much, and I am prouder of you than you can ever know.  I hope that you have a marvelous birthday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Okay, so I'm whining.

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the day my dad died.  Tomorrow is my eldest son's birthday, and for the first time since that winter evening twenty-two years ago, I won't be able to celebrate with him -- even last year, when he did not get home until the 21st, we still had a party. For the first time since he was born, I won't be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with him, either.

I should write a lengthy post about Dad.  Instead, I feel like retreating to my room with a large take-out order of Coldstone Creamery's dark chocolate & peppermint ice cream with crushed Oreos mixed in  and old episodes of Big Bang Theory.

I guess I'd just better go make dinner.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I'm working on it.

A great quote from Sunny Anderson on Food Network, "I'm thankful that every day is another chance to get it right."
For complicated reasons -- read: reasons I really don't want to explain -- I have re-added a site meter bar to the bottom of the blog.  It really only tracks location, not much else.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm sort of blue tonight.  Partly it is the rain which has been falling off and on all day. More than that, I am trying to find a solution for an ongoing issue, and the results of my introspection are leading me down roads I don't want to go -- but to places where I need to be in the end.  Mourning the aftermath of the decisions I haven't quite made yet but which I can see are inevitable takes a toll on the psyche.

I need comfort food.

A little Sondheim is always in order: I'm listening to Sondheim! The Birthday Celebration.  It seems to be helping -- surely more than watching the DVD of the last performance of Rent would. (Although Patti Lupone's tendency to sing flat on "A Little Priest" does get on my nerves.)  Maybe after this, I'll queue up A Celebration at Carnegie Hall.

Figuring out answers will just need to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2012


The Rocket Scientist and I flipped a coin over which movie we would go to see tonight, and I lost.  So instead of going to see Daniel Day-Lewis be grave and presidential in Lincoln, we went to see Skyfall. I liked it much better than I expected to.

I am not a James Bond fan -- I generally only see the movies when dragged to them.  I was relieved that I ended up getting called out of Quantum of Solace because of a sick kid -- at least I was once I ascertained that the kid was not really sick, but just very anxious, and I was able to calm him down.  I never did end up seeing the rest of the movie, which is fine by me.  From an earlier Bond era, A View to A Kill is one of the very few movies I have ever walked out of in my  life. I met the hoopla around the franchise turning 50 with a sincere "Who cares?"

I had no intentions of seeing Skyfall.

But I liked it.  In addition to suspense, which I expected, it had humor, which I did not.  There were also great actors (Judy Dench, Ralph Fiennes), eye candy (Daniel Craig, and the actor who played Q, not to mention London and Scotland, both wonderful places), and Javier Bardem, who seems to be making a career of being the most bad-ass villain imaginable.

My favorite line of the entire movie? "What makes you think it would be my first time?"  It doesn't seem funny here, but in context it's great.

In fact, I only had one gripe, because I am that person who nitpicks things to death. It doesn't matter much, so I feel comfortable griping about it here, but in respect to people who get annoyed about spoilers, it is in a footnote behind a cut.  (If you're reading in the RSS feed, sorry.)

So, in general, a very good movie.  I highly recommend it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time to talk.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"The Walrus and the Carpenter," Lewis Carroll

My friend Sarah treated me to Victorian High Tea at Tyme for Tea in Niles on Wednesday.  It was a lovely afternoon.

The sky was that cornflower blue that blesses us who live here in the fall, and although the hills had not yet turned from brown to green, the trees had turned from green to red.  Niles is a small town hidden away in the East Bay, lovely and quaint, if admittedly a bit kitschy.  The Niles Canyon Railroad runs from there, and I have sweet memories of taking small boys riding on a steam train through the golden hills on a November Saturday afternoon.

Tea was fun, and silly.  The tea shop has a chest of hats, so I donned a brown panama and selected a maroon cloche for Sarah.  We dined on fresh-baked cherry scones and lemon curd, tea sandwiches and petit fours, washed down with warm tea redolent of peach and ginger.

We talked.  We talked of work -- hers ongoing and mine recently completed.  We talked of family.  We talked politics.  She commiserated with me over my frustration with recent health issues and meds side effects.*  I talked about the year, and how glad I was it was drawing to a close.    We talked about our plans to see The Book of Mormon, and she talked about having had to remind herself not to sing the songs out loud during her trip to Uganda.  We talked about how I had just started reading Cory Doctorow's fiction (as opposed to his blogging), and how Nate Silver was, as she said, "adorkable." We talked about how the sex workers in Amsterdam are unionized, and how legalization of behavior makes it easier to regulate.

We talked of our lives as they are, and our lives as we would have them be, and the world around us.

It is soul-filling to talk at length to friends whose approval I need not seek, whose disfavor I do not fear.    Not because they do  not matter -- there are legions in this world whose opinion is of no consequence to me -- but because they can be trusted to not judge me, or when judgment is inevitable (for who never judges?) to leaven it with love and compassion.  People who know my imperfections and accept me anyway.  Who like me anyway. And whom I like and respect in turn, regardless of their flaws, whatever those may be.

I am grateful to have friends like that. Some, such as Sarah, or Stephanie, live close to me.  Some -- Cathy or Jennifer or Carol or others -- are flung across the country (and soon, in Jennifer's case, across the world).  I do  not have as many as I would like, or arguably need (I am a solitary and suspicious type, and people often have to work to get to know me), and I am far, far too bad at keeping in touch, but I treasure each one of them.

I need to tell them that more often.

We need to talk.

*Among other things, my hair is falling out.  No, I do not have cancer.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's that time of year again...

Some people in my neighborhood still have the spiderweb decorations up from Halloween, while others have already put up their Christmas lights.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Rachel Maddow on why all of us won Tuesday night.  It's well worth watching all the way through, even if it is sixteen minutes long.  The best soundbite has been plastered all over Facebook, but her most important points come right at the end.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It's nice to go out on a high note.

As of 8:00 p.m. election evening, the moment the California polls closed, I once again became unemployed.

Over the past three and a half weeks, I have gained about $1,000, a water bottle, tote bag, and t-shirt (I won something in each of the office raffles) each proclaiming me to be allied with one union or another, none of which I actually am, three $25 gift certificates for working eight-hour shifts, and a fair chunk of experience in dealing with disgruntled people over the phone.

I have lost one purple Swarovski drop earring, and some naivete about the political process -- not that I was all that naive before.

I worked with some wonderful human beings, but I once again totally failed to exchange basic information such as phone numbers or email addresses.  I did grab the email address of one of the supervisors, who promised us all references.  I also made a point of going to all the supervisors and thanking them for creating such a wonderful workplace:  given the type of work, it could have been horrible, and it was anything but.

Tuesday was by the far the best day I worked: no salesmanship, no explaining exactly how important raising the minimum wage in San Jose or the sales tax in Santa Clara County was, or why Jimmy Nguyen would make such a good District 8 Councilman.  All I did was call registered voters and remind them how important it is that they vote.  I could be happy and enthusiastic, and most often I had people thanking me for calling. I had more than one person tell me how important what I was doing was.

Given my deep conviction about the vital importance of electoral process, this was perfect.  As I told one of my supervisors an hour in, I was having fun.

One man awkwardly explained he was in fact in the polling booth as I called.  I forbore reminding him that he wasn't supposed to have cell phones in there.  Another women defiantly said "I voted for Romney," and was surprised and sheepish when I gently replied, "I don't care who you voted for, ma'am, only that you voted."  I had more than one person, recognizing the phone number as being that from which they had received numerous political calls over the past month, state before I had a chance to say anything "I voted already." My favorite was a woman who explained that her son -- the person I was calling for -- had voted already, and went down the line listing the propositions and how she had told him to vote.  We were both laughing by the end of the conversation.

I laughed a lot, and smiled, and said "wonderful!" and "have a great evening!" and meant every word of it. One of the other staffers, a woman who had done this for many more weeks than I had, complimented me on my rap, and told me how genuine and pleasant I was.  I was flattered, and more than that, relieved. Being a torch-bearer for representative democracy is a role I take very seriously.

Like the census job in 2010, I felt that what I did mattered.  Of the five campaigns I worked on, three and a half were successful.  (One of the campaigns was for two candidates for city council, one of whom was elected, while the other was not.)  I helped make sure that education can be adequately funded in California, and that people living on the edge in San Jose can make something closer to a living wage.

Now the election, and my stint as a phone banker, are over. I think that I, and all the people who sat next me on the phones and computers, did a good -- and important -- job.

I'm sad to see them go, but happy things turned out so well in the end.

I, and many political nerds across the land, have a deep and abiding crush on Nate Silver.  Not that he is ever going to read this, but thanks, Nate, for giving us intelligent and sane analysis.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Chris Kluwe is saying goodbye to blogging, at least for now. : (

I understand why, and can only wish him good luck and Godspeed. And who knows, I may even be  moved to root for the Vikings occasionally.

Why yes, I am high maintenance, at least these days. Sometimes.

I had a meltdown of sorts at work.  Not a  major meltdown. I just got upset at what I saw as a fundamentally unfair situation.

I had agreed to work eight hours.  Working eight hours ended up causing me problems, and a missed appointment fee to the tune of fifty bucks.  It was not my appointment, either, but somehow it was my responsibility.

I'm the mom, you see.  My responsibility, my fault, even though the individual in question had set up the appointment by himself and not told me when it was.  So I was stressed and upset going into the shift.

There were not enough computers to go around, so I and a lot of other people were reduced to using pre-paid cell phones to make calls.  The noise was immense, but I coped, and did the best I could.  Remember the esprit d'corps I mentioned?  I really do like the people I work with, even in the midst of noise and chaos.

Two hours before the end of shift, one of the supervisors took away all of the cell phones to give to volunteers who were coming in.  After much deliberation by the bosses, those of us using the phones were offered two options: continue to work using our personal cell phones, or go home early.  We would not be paid for the hour we went home early, of course, but they were going to give us the gas cards that they had promised people who agreed to work eight hours.

I had no option.  I do not have unlimited cell phone minutes. (I also did not want the people we were calling to have my personal cell number, but that is another matter.)  I was in a position where I was going to be forced to go home.  When I suggested that people who were on computers might be asked if they wanted to go home early, that was rejected as "opening up an entire new can of worms."  I was clearly unhappy.  I did not yell, but I did complain.  I suppose if you pushed the point I committed insubordination.

The youngest of the bosses found a young woman who agreed to go home early.  And as it turned out, a number of the volunteers left after a short while, so people could go back to using phones.

I apologized to one of the bosses, but in my heart I am not sure I meant it.  It seems to me that you need to make better plans for people to be able to work when you tell them to show up.  This is not the first time this has happened: a few days ago I punted something that mattered to me, and which may have longer term implications,  so that I could work eight hours, only to be told when I arrived that plans had changed and everyone would only work five.  Had I known in advance, I could have shifted the time I work so as to take better care of my personal obligations.

I am pretty sure I have torched any chance of getting any sort of recommendation from any of these people.  Which is okay: the last job I would want to move into at this point is telemarketing. As I mentioned in my last post, I am resoundingly mediocre at this.

I just regret letting my emotions get the better of me.  It was unprofessional.  I know better.  I almost always behave better.

It is towards the end of a long year.  Having a job, for even a few weeks, was a bright spot, and now it is almost over.  This saddens me immensely.

Pain.  Loss.  Endings.

I need joy and beginnings.  And soon.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Being a phone banker  has been an... interesting ... experience for me.

I like my bosses, who do a good job of maintaining morale.  I like my coworkers, and the esprit d' corps which we have seemed to have created for ourselves.

It's just that I quite frankly suck at this job.

Not bad enough to get fired, but I am certainly resoundingly mediocre.  What saves me is my work ethic: I show up early every day, only leave my station during official breaks, never leave before we're let go.  I work as hard as I can.  I am sweet and helpful and... only marginally competent.

And, unfortunately, with only two more days to go, I am not going to have time to develop any sort of basic mastery of good telemarketing technique.

I hate that.  I need to be, if not the best at everything, then certainly good at it.  And I'm not, and won't be.

There is precedence, sadly: I was not a particularly good lawyer, either, expensive law school education notwithstanding.

Friday, November 02, 2012


Yesterday, The Red-Headed Menace said that in his AP American History class they were watching "The Civil War."  He has recently watched "Jazz," and I just got through watching "The National Parks."

When I suggested that this evening we watch "The Civil War" so that he could review, he stated that he was "Ken-Burnsed out."

Thursday, November 01, 2012

My votes

 I am going to indulge myself in a bit of pontification here.  Not that it probably matters to anyone, but here is how I am voting on all major California races and propositions:

President, Vice President: Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Quite frankly, the Republican vision of America and the world scares me.  There are a lot of things Obama has done -- or failed to do -- that I have been unhappy about, but given that all of politics is a compromise between the ideal and the achievable, in many ways he has done much more than most of us really should have expected. I realize that I am in the bluest region in a very blue state (taken as a whole -- the Central Valley and other rural regions run red), and so my vote in the Presidential race means little, but I am still not going to vote for a third party candidate.  I would hate to have a situation like 2000, where the candidate with the most popular votes loses in the electoral college.  It would embolden those in opposition, and make it even harder to get anything done for the next four years.  Given that there is sure to be at least one SCOTUS appointment in that time, offering as much support for Obama as possible matters.

U.S. Senate: Dianne Feinstein. Sigh.  I am no fan of Feinstein.  I was not impressed by her opponent's candidate statement, however, and even had I been so I would still vote for the incumbent.  Numbers matter here, and having as many Democrats in the Senate as possible is important.

Proposition 30, increase in income taxes and sales taxes:  Yes. The state needs the money.  We are in dire financial straits.  Failure to pass this would result in state spending reductions, primarily to education.  Given the way that Prop 13 has gutted the best public schools in the country over the past three decades, this is a necessity.  (Also, if I'm looking at supporters versus opponents, The League of Women Voters versus the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association? No contest.)

Proposition 31, "State Budget, State And Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment And Statute": No. Because of its two-year budgeting requirement, it would add inflexibility to the state budgeting process. It would also result in a loss of tax revenue to the tune of $200 million annually.

Proposition 32, alleged political campaign reform: This one deserves its own post, but no, no, no. It's deceptive and unfair.

Proposition 33, auto insurance rates: I admit, I have not read enough about this to have a clear idea about it, so as it stands now, no.

Proposition 34, repeal of the death penalty: Yes.  That I should be firmly in support of Prop 34 should be no surprise to anyone who knows me.  In fact, out of all the propositions, this is the one I feel most intensely about.

Proposition 35, human trafficking: No. I am extremely wary of creating or changing criminal laws -- especially ones that increase the penalties for behavior as much as this one does -- by the initiative process.  (Also, the definition of "Commercial sex act" ("sexual conduct on account of which anything of value is given or received by any person") seem to me as being overbroad. ) The requirement of Internet registration is unwieldy, and given the nature of the Internet, allows for the possibility of abuse.  (And yes, I do understand that that my opposition to Prop 35 is  inconsistent with my support for Props 34 and 36.)

Proposition 36, penalties under the three strikes laws: Yes.  The three-strikes law was flawed from its adoption by initiative in 1994, and has been misused.  Prop 36 fixes the worst of it.

Proposition 37, GMO labeling requirements: No.  A very wise law professor once told me that if the consequences of a proposition are at all vague, regardless of how good it looks, vote against it.  Prop 37 -- the Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Initiative --  has the potential of being a mare's nest.  It could be the food equivalent of the posting requirements of Prop. 65, costing businesses and consumers a lot of money without actually giving people choices.  The whole area of food labeling needs to be handled on a federal level. You want to argue that the FDA and USDA are owned lock, stock, and barrel by Monsanto?  Okay,  but that is where the fight should be.  This leaves aside the entire scientific question of whether GMO foods are at all harmful. The argument that "people should make up their own minds" does not carry much weight with me, since most people are susceptible to scare tactics.  Using litigation as an enforcement mechanism also bothers me.

Proposition 38, tax to fund early childhood education programs:  No. I object to Prop 38 even though it aims to raise income taxes the same as Prop 30 does.  Firstly, the increases start at $7,500 rather than $250,000.  More importantly, though, passing this will do nothing to prevent the automatic five billion dollars in education spending cuts that will occur if this gets more votes than Prop. 30.

Proposition 39, business tax treatment, clean energy fund:  This particular proposition drives me crazier than the others.  I like the changes in tax treatment for businesses -- I think that basing taxes on the amount of in-state sales makes a lot of sense. But that money needs to go into the general fund, not be locked into particular  projects. It's a yes, but a reluctant yes.

Proposition 40, referendum on State Senate redistricting: Yes.  The districts drawn by the citizen's commission are fair and reasonable.  There is currently no opposition to the measure, the opponents having withdrawn following the State Supreme Court having ruled that the districts were to be kept in place for the 2012 election, so voting no seems silly.  I am interested in finding out the backstory, though: apparently the proposition was put on the ballot by people hoping it would be defeated, thus invalidating the districts drawn by the commission.  It never occurred to me that someone would put a measure on the ballot in order to force a "no" vote, but now that I think about it, it makes sense.

There are a host of county and local measures and races, but I am going to skip those.  (Most people who read this would not care whether Santa Clara County passes a one-eighth a penny sales tax, or renews an existing parcel tax for clean water management, or about the people running for school board or city council.)

So, if you are in California, how are you voting?