Archive for November, 2006

Vacation photos 1: Nature

Autumn has always been my favorite season.

The view looking Northeast from my parents’ front door.
Northeast view from parents' front door

Pond full of geese at the McLean Game Refuge.

Small girl feeding geese with her dad.
Feeding Geese

Fork in the stream.
Fork in the stream

Moss will devour the world.

The next two pictures are of a different stream, which runs near my parents’ house. I spent an inordinate amount of time sitting on its banks when I was in high school. No, I didn’t have a social life, why do you ask?



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I have returned!

I have wung my way back from the icy reaches of Connecticut, where snowflakes dance upon the mountaintops and the sun is but a rumor.

Actually, it wasn’t very cold at all – not even cold enough to send the dog ticks into hibernation, which is why I pried three of them off my clothing and one (ick!) out of my stomach. That’s what I get, as my mother reminded me smugly, for wandering around in the woods.

I only wandered the woods for one day, though. The rest of the trip was taken up with seeing friends I hadn’t seen in ten years, and some Husband hadn’t seen in forty. We did go in to New York for lunch and a show, and down to Pennsylvania to visit a museum. And I may or may not have found time to buy yarn.

Three cats, one dog, and two children were thoroughly snuggled and adored. Two turkeys were eaten, one at my parents house and one at Husband’s sister’s. Two pies were thrown away by my mother, and a third was rescued by my stepfather.

There are many photos, which I have not yet finished web-ifying, but will post as soon as I have.

And there is a pile of work on my chair, courtesy of Lawyer. But there is also an e-mail in my inbox, which he wrote to a client and cc’d to me, explaining that their work was not quite finished because “My paralegal has been out on vacation all last week . . . I rely on her so much that there are certain things only she knows how to do.”

Heh. Time to ask for a raise.

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Thursday Preemptive Cat Blogging

Wanna know what this kitty is saying?

Thursday Cat Blogging

It’s saying, “Vacation, bitchez! Kiss it!”

Blogging will be somewhere between sporadic and nonexistent for the next week and a half.


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A Room of One’s Own

Annika posted today about having a place to keep her crafting supplies. I was inspired today, though, not by her main point, but by the beginning of her first paragraph.

I have always felt that the whole Room Of One’s Own business was suspect and possibly nonsense. First of all, why women specifically? I’m sure it makes sense in the context of the time when Virginia Wolfe was writing — women were not respected, and the idea of a room of her own was probably the kitchen. But now? I’m not sure it’s so relevant.

First, let us be clear on the fact that I adore Annika and everything to do with Annika, and if I go more than two weeks without snuggling Annika, or her son, or both simultaneously, I begin to twitch and sweat from withdrawal. That having been said.

I do not think I exaggerate when I say that A Room of One’s Own is one of the most important books in the history of English Literature. In Woolf’s time, a (middle- or upper-class) woman’s “sphere” was considered to be the home, which was of course also the sphere of everyone else who lived there. So while men generally had a study, or at least the freedom to leave the house unencumbered by offspring, women had no space in which to keep things just for themselves, or space to work without interruption from children or husbands or other domestic botheration.

What better characterizes a classic than timelessness? In 1929, Woolf asserted that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She singled out these criteria because they were precisely the two things that women of her social class could not take for granted, while men of her social class could. For a contemporary parallel, one need look no further than the New York Times. In an article called “The Opt Out Revolution,” Lisa Belkin discusses the phenomenon of well-educated, upper-middle-class women who choose to leave the workforce and stay home with their children. There are as many reasons for this choice as there are women who make it, but the common fact is that women who do not have independent income are uniquely vulnerable to whatever financial mishaps befall their partners. In cases of divorce or widowhood, they are at a distinct economic disadvantage. Woolf’s contention is that only with her own money and, indeed, a room of her own, can a woman writer be similarly equipped to her male counterpart.

Women still do the vast majority of unpaid domestic work, and are still widely expected to sacrifice any need for privacy once they have a child. For a writer, such a thing is simply impossible. A writer must have some degree of privacy in which to work. Even a coffee shop is more private than the common room of your home. In a coffee shop, it is expected that people around you will respect your solitude, will not ask you to fix them a sandwich or help them hang curtains. I, and many of my friends, are fortunate in having enlightened male partners, who take on their fair share (or, in my case, more than his fair share) of domestic responsibility. But that does not negate the need for a “room of [our] own;” it simply increases the likelihood that we will actually get one.

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf (1929)

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Nature abhors a vacation.

The last time I left California was June of 2005, when I flew back to New York to attend my college reunion. Immediately after disembarking the aircraft, I was slapped with a humidity-induced asthma attack that left me cranky and oxygen-deprived not only for my entire stay on the East Coast, but for at least two weeks thereafter. I didn’t get to do much or see many friends (being largely confined to bed and doctors offices), but at least I got to sleep a lot. Thus I learned never to go back East during the summer.

With that lesson firmly in mind, we booked this vacation for November 17th through the 27th. Here, in brief, is my plan:

  • 17th – Fly in to Connecticut, collapse in jetlagged heap.
  • 18th – Take the train in to New York. Poke around old neighborhood, visit favorite vintage store, eat favorite pizza. Have dinner with Husband’s high school friend; afterwards, tease Husband unmercifully, repeating “you liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike her” in singsong tones until he stops speaking to me. Take train back to Connecticut in grumpy silence.
  • 19th – Spend day with Silligirl, who is driving up from Virginia with Sillikid and Sillitot just to see me. Or so I like to believe.
  • 20th – Drive five hours to Pennsylvania to do research for current writing project. Do research, involving picture- and note-taking, also possibly involving annoying locals. Drive five hours back.
  • 21st – Have dinner with Friends of Family. In Massachusetts. You know, I used to take this bouncing-from-state-to-state thing completely for granted, but now, after having lived in The Republic of California for three years, I find it odd and delightful that one could reach a state border in 20 minutes.
  • 22nd – Help parents clean house and cook food. Mostly help cook food, because I hate cleaning with a fiery passion.
  • 23rd – Eat too much. Feel slightly sick. Have a great time. Attempt to prevent arguments between Libertarian friend and Socialist parents. Probably fail. Negotiate peace through diplomatic application of alcohol and pie.
  • 24th – Drive an hour and a half south to Husband’s family. Fend off large and sloppy (and adorable!) golden retriever while endeavoring not to make an ass of myself in front of Husband’s sister, her husband, and their kids. Probably fail.
  • 25th – Meet mother’s sister at museum, a.k.a. “neutral territory”. Attempt to hide surprise that mother’s sister actually wants to see me. Probably fail, and say something spectacularly embarrassing to the effect of “you like me! You really like me!”
  • 26th – See the new Mary Poppins on Broadway. Cross fingers that, despite its Disney producers, it will not repeat the film’s saccharine disembowelment of P.L. Travers’ wonderful books.
  • 27th – Fly home, utterly exhausted. Immediately request vacation time to recuperate.
  • Somewhere during all of this, we have to accomplish the following: spend time in the woods, visit Dunkin’ Donuts, decide which of my books I want to ship back to California next, figure out how to safely wrap and transport Husband’s paintings, have lunch with whomever of my local friends I can pin down, and . . . and . . . I’m sure there’s more.

    Is vacation supposed to be this stressful?

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Friday cat blogging.

Gawain in a bag.

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Almost done gloating. Almost.

We got Virginia!

Okay, there. Now I’m done.


While I tend to my throat, hoarse from cheering, I give you this terrifying video, via Pandagon.

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Regime change, motherfuckers!

Not that I’m gloating.

Of course, the news wasn’t all wonderful. With one hand South Dakota giveth; with the other, South Dakota taketh away. Schwarzenegger’s still our governor here in California (for our sins), and Connecticut will have to do six years of hard labor for re-electing Joe Lieberman. While California rightfully rejected the parental notification measure, it also rejected the alternative energy proposition and opted to take on the sex-offender tracking and residency restriction (don’t these people read my blog?).

But what we really need to ask ourselves is this: are we better off today than we were yesterday?

Hells yes, baby.

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Tell me all about it.

I voted.

I voted before work this morning. The actual vote-marking part was easy enough, although they had me down under my maiden name, which I changed two years ago. But they were perfectly willing to change it for me today. They didn’t request ID this time – last time, a woman looked at Husband’s license and told him, “it doesn’t look like you,” and tried to prevent him from voting.

The main problem I had was finding my polling place. It’s inside Puzzletown, tucked away in a laundry room some distance from the street, and there were only two signs along the way, neither of which had arrows. When I expressed my concern to the poll workers, they told me that they had trouble finding it when they arrived this morning.

How about you people? Share your voting tale in comments, and report any problems here.

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A Bird’s Nest Voter Guide

Tomorrow is election day! You hadn’t forgotten, had you? No? Good.

But hark! Through the smog, I hear the plaintive keening of a confused populace. How, oh how should we vote? Fear not, chére muffintop, for I have come to guide you. As long as you live in California, of course.

Prop 83: No. This proposition would spend $500 million dollars to electronically track convicted sex offenders for the rest of their lives, as well as increasing restrictions on where they may live. I’m all for protecting children, but I really don’t think this is the best way to do it. According to the Contra Costa Times,

Prosecutors in Iowa, the first state to impose residency restrictions on sex offenders, say a 2,000-foot radius around schools and day care centers has pushed sex offenders into remote areas or homelessness, made sex crimes harder to prosecute and led to a sharp spike in the number of sex offenders who skip registering.

I am not swayed by the “rebuttal to argument against Proposition 83” on the League of Women Voters website, which starts off

Don’t be fooled by the false arguments the group of lawyers against Proposition 83 is making. They represent criminal defense attorneys who make their living defending criminals. Of course they don’t want tougher laws!

If you want to convince me, give me some evidence that this proposition will work. Don’t just throw specious exclamation points at me.

Prop 84: Yes. I’m with Bitch, Ph.D. in my distaste for bond measures. They’re a bad way to fund things, and cost too much in the long run. Water contamination is a big problem here in SoCal, though, so I’ll vote for this grouchily. Once again, I scorn the opposition’s rebuttal, which includes this gem: “The authors set aside billions for bureaucratic studies, unnecessary protections for rats and weeds, and other frivolous projects.”

Prop 85: HELL, NO. Parental notification for abortion. Please see my opinions on this here. Oh, and I would just like to add that I am baffled by the repeated airing of the musty old “Abortions protect older men who abuse young girls” argument. Because forcing young girls to carry their abusers’ babies to term will somehow help?

Prop 86: Yes. I used to smoke, and I have always supported higher taxes on cigarettes. The money from this tax will be used to fund children’s healthcare and to reimburse hospitals for expenses on emergency services and healthcare for the poor and uninsured.

Prop 87: Yes. Increases taxes for oil companies’ drilling projects in the state, which revenue will be put toward development of alternative fuels. Oil companies are prohibited from passing the costs along to consumers, and may be held criminally liable if they are found to have done so. And even if it raises gas prices again – hey, I don’t love it, but maybe it will pressure the transportation industry to work harder on alternatives.

Prop 88: A reluctant No. A flat, annual parcel tax of $50 to support schools. What’s wrong with that? Well, the proposition as written is so poorly structured that it seems unlikely the money will get to the schools that need it most. Please, everybody, support education. But do it effectively. To alleviate your obligatory guilt over voting down an education measure, take comfort in the fact that this proposition is opposed by the California State PTA, the California Federation of Teachers, and the California School Boards Association.

Prop 89: Yes. This measure limits the amount corporations can spend on campaign contributions and ballot measures, thereby reducing their influence on elections. Steve Lopez is for it, and he’s a smart guy.

Prop 90: No. This measure is purportedly designed to prevent eminent domain from being used to support private developers. In fact, the way the law is constructed, it could result in this:

If local voters pass a measure to limit a new development to 500 houses—instead of 2,000 houses that a developer wants to build—under Prop. 90, the developer could demand a payment for the value of the remaining 1,500 houses. Even if local community services and infrastructure would be strained by the larger development, Prop. 90 would put taxpayers at risk for payment.

For example. This is not the way to defend property, folks.

Prop. 1A-1E: Forgive me. Bitch Ph.D. said it first and best, and besides, I have to get some work done today.

1A: This is one of those stupid libertarian things that’s all about only paying for the things I, personally, use. As if the California state budget weren’t hamstrung enough. Vote no.
1B: Okay, port security and seismic retrofitting are important, and yeah, roads matter too, but on the grounds that bond funding is irresponsible and at some point California has to fix its stupid-ass tax/budgeting structure, I say no. Make the fuckers figure out how to do this shit right.
1C-1E: I think I’m going to hold my nose and vote yes on these. They’re all pressing issues that really do have to get taken care of, even if issuing bonds is the wrong way to go about it. But I won’t blame you if you pick one or two out of three to vote no on, just on general principles.

Candidates: Democratic down the line. I have no reason not to.


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