Sunday, April 30, 2006

Fun with Children's Shows

We had a pajama party last night...well, ok, we were going to have a pajama party, but no one actually got into pjs and the kid watched his new Bob the Builder DVD over and over while eating the longest, pickiest supper on record. Meanwhile, I fell asleep on the couch and my partner sat in the corner with his laptop.

Still - good family fun.

And I got to thinking - that Bob the Builder show is seriously messed up. You've got this guy, Bob, right, and he's really just a general jack-of-all-trades handyman. The man has NO CREW. When it's time to build or fix something, he enlists the help of a few trucks and a scarecrow with a turnip head (who is, nevertheless, named Spud) and Wendy, or whatever her name is (who really bugs the crap out of me because she's almost always filing and doing paperwork instead of working with the trucks and yet you know she's there to show little kids that women can be builders, too).

In one episode, Bob is called in to work on the farm while Farmer Fred (or whoever) takes his pig to the fair. So - understand this - Bob is there to fix something, but mostly he's there to do the work that the farmer would do if he weren't at the fair with the pig. He's a substitute farmer, if you will. I always thought that farmers didn't make a lot of money - I can't imagine what it would cost to hire a construction team, such as it is, to staff a farm for the day. But there Bob is, expected to slop the pigs, feed the chickens, and do whatever else Farmer Fred has left for him to do (because farmers always go off with livestock untended to, right?).

Anyway, so Bob notes that he should do just fine because Wendy will be along to help fix whatever it is that needs fixing, after he's finished the farm chores, and Farmer Fred points out that Sparky - the DOG - will help, too. So now Bob has a DOG for a crew member.

You see what I mean? And the scarecrow spends most of the time complaining about being hungry. Bob really needs to get rid of the dead weight and start hiring some qualified employees, like Mr. Muscles from Jo Jo's Circus (who could at least do some heavy lifting - way more than that stupid Spud) or that crew of Einstein kids who could figure out some way to integrate classical music and art into the project, or maybe that sloth, Snook, from It's a Big, Big World, who at the very least would be able to score Bob some pot, and maybe then he and Wendy would chill the fuck out. They always seem so uptight.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Cell Phone Technology

In December or so, I bought a new cell phone. The cell phones I'd had prior to this were pretty crappy - my first ever cell phone, sometime in the late '90s, was what was then called a bag phone (I think bag phones now are entirely different). I bought it after being followed on a lonely rural highway at night, and the bag phone was designed to get a signal in areas in which it might otherwise be difficult to get a signal. But they were serious phones, phones like your parents used to have, phones with a handset attached to a large and heavy base. And they were impossible to use while driving.

I graduated pretty quickly to a candy-bar shaped phone, as it didn't make much sense to me to be driving off the road while using my phone to call for help. That phone was small enough and the technology was such that I had to yell in order for the other person to hear me, as the part of the phone one speaks into was somewhere in the middle of my cheek if I held the phone to my ear. (As a student pointed out to me, talking loudly on cell phones in public is largely a function of age, as those of us who tend to do this remember the days when talking loudly was the only way it was possible to talk on a cell phone.)

I eventually decided I was paying way too much and not using the phone enough to justify it, so I cancelled service and got rid of the phone. But then, after moving to the prairie, where the possibility of driving off the road in a snowstorm and getting stuck in a drift, unnoticed, for days, is not unlikely (in the trunks of our cars, we keep emergency rations and those silver blankets Mt. Everest climbing teams use), I decided to get another cell phone. This, too, was a candy bar phone (Nokia) - still analog, by the way; we're talking all analog, here - and it was big enough to be annoying. And it was a Tracfone.

Tracfone is a great way to save money if you don't use your phone much. You pay for minutes, and you use them as you go, and you have to buy new minutes every two months or you lose your service - unless you pay an extra fee to ensure that your service continues if you don't keep adding minutes. It's basically an early version of Virgin or T-Mobile or whatever the heck those plans are that are marketed to teens. It worked fine until one day when my partner went to use his phone and discovered that it didn't work and that his number had been given to someone else.

Here's where Tracfone becomes a problem. In order to keep costs to the customer low, their customer service is all offsite (judging from the accents, it's in India or Pakistan). And so the poor customer service employees are not trained to handle complicated problems like what to do if a customer's phone stops working and his number gets reassigned to a Verizon customer. So anytime we had problems that were more complicated than needing to add minutes or buy a phone accessory, we were in trouble (and sadly, we had more than one major problem).

So finally, I decided to investigate other options, and I ended up in the digital age (with a camera phone, even! Samsung PM-A740, if you're interested.) with a reputable service.

And I cannot figure out the damn thing. I can make phone calls, I can answer phone calls, I can read text messages, but I have the greatest difficulty doing anything more advanced than that.

For example, I just spent the last thirty minutes or so trying to figure out how to download my new ringtone. I bought it online and got a text message with instructions to "click on the link."

How the hell does one click on a link on a phone?!

I tried all the keys, in vain. Nowhere in the "options" menu did it say anything about "download" or "select" or anything that sounded remotely like what I was looking for. I even downloaded an advanced user's guide for my phone. The problem is, the questions I had were more advanced than the basic instructions and more basic than the advanced instructions. And the index said nothing about how to click on a link in a text message.

I'm honestly not sure what I did to get it to work, other than eventually clicking "Go" (which I'm sure I did earlier without achieving the desired result). For a while I was just going through the same sequence of screens over and over again, thinking to myself, "maybe it'll work this time..."

In the end, I managed to set my ringtone to sound when there is an incoming call from a number that lists the caller's I.D. Something else is apparently going to happen when a call comes from a number that doesn't, but I don't know what. I couldn't get the phone to tell me what that ring would sound like. For all I know, if I get such a call, the phone won't ring at all but will do back flips.

(Just for shits and giggles, anyone else remember when it was spelled "cel"? Or did I just have a sales rep who couldn't spell?)

Friday, April 28, 2006


Some spooky clouds today. Not quite as spooky as this, though I saw some of those two summers ago (we came out of a friend's house where we'd been hanging out all afternoon, looked up, and noticed that the sky suddenly had molars).

What I saw this afternoon looked more like this - the first two images. And I was sure we were in for it, but it turned out to be only light showers.

I grew up in the northeast, where thunderstorms will bucket down on you and someone will get struck by lightning and killed at least two or three times a summer. And there's very often hail. But really, lightning is the biggest thing to be afraid of in the northeast, though there are, very occasionally but more often in recent years, tornados. Severe thunderstorms in the northeast tend to look like this. If you're driving through the mountains when one of these comes crawling over them, you'll find yourself practically in the cloud. It's kind of like having a hand stretched above you with the fingers reaching down. Rather creepy. Very cool.

But in the midwest, I've seen some interesting cloud formations. One is the above-mentioned mammatus clouds, which I did see once on the east coast, in Hartford, CT, on our way to a play (the thunderclap when we arrived at the theater was so loud that all the car alarms along the street went off simultaneously). But other than that, I've only ever seen them in the midwest. The other is the roll cloud, which I've seen once, and it looks like this. I saw one of these coming from a ways off a few years ago and grabbed my video camera; I filmed it all the way in. (It was pretty anticlimactic when it got here, but it was still cool.)

When I figure out how to scan my photos from the hurricane in 1990 - can't think of it's name, but I was in CT at the time and it was spectacular - I will post them here.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I had a filling put in the other day.

I haven't had an actual cavity filled in years (like, ten or fifteen). I did have to go in a year or so ago because an old filling fell OUT - and, can I just say, that's the kind of thing that is only supposed to happen to one's parents, is it not? - and there was some drilling involved, but it wasn't my fault, if you know what I mean.

I don't take particularly good care of my teeth. I brush them, except sometimes, when I'm really tired at night, I'll blow it off so that I can get into bed 1.5 minutes sooner. I don't floss too often, usually for that same reason, nor do I wear my mouth guard most nights, even though I dream, not infrequently, that I am grinding my teeth so hard that they all fall out. I put off the whole personal hygiene thing until right before I go to bed, and I stay up really late until I'm just about falling over, so some things get short shrift. (It's a good thing we put on deodorant in the mornings, is all I'm saying.)

And I, as my son would say, am a candy lover. (When he says it, it is delivered in a plaintive tone accompanied by bassett-hound eyes, as though I were keeping the love of his life locked away from him forever in the kitchen cabinet.)

But I have apparently been blessed with unusually good teeth genes. So while it was not really all that surprising that Tuesday morning found me in the dentist chair, it did feel to me a bit like my luck had run out.

(An aside to marvel at the wonder that is dental technology at the dawn of the 21st century: I imagine that my grandparents must have seen tremendous technological changes in their time on earth. Imagine going from a horse to an airplane! From radio to television! (I don't know if they ever got to play online - I doubt it.) For me, the technological advance that excites me the most - other than the move from the Walkman to the iPod - is the giant leap into the future that the medical profession has taken. I love, for example, that my x-rays are now computerized, rather than actual film that needs to be held up against a lightboard. And I'm always impressed at the oral cancer screening, the gum measurements, and other such practices that were never employed by my childhood dentist back home. I am not, however, impressed by the move from the "spit cup" and sink to me, lying on my back, having the rinse water suctioned out of my mouth. Not an efficient way to spit out toothpaste.)

This filling was a white filling, one designed to be unnoticeable (since the cavity was in one of my front molars). After the novocaine and the sleepy waiting for it to kick in (I did drift off for a bit - I'd gotten to bed late), there was the usual drilling, drilling, and more drilling. It wasn't uncomfortable until the dentist brought out this huge instrument, the drill part of which was about the size and shape of the shaft of a tire pressure gauge. He said, "this will be a little rumbly." And then proceeded to knock my head into next week. It didn't hurt, but the vibrations were incredibly powerful. My sinuses, I think, switched places. It was, I think, the approximate equivalent of having a jackhammer in one's mouth.

When it came time for the filling, I was alarmed: they inserted six pieces of metal into my mouth and then came at me with pliers and U-shaped bands. Then, after all that junk was rammed in there, they stuck what looked like a hypodermic needle filled with blue gel in my mouth, followed by a hair dryer. It was definitely the oddest filling experience I've had yet.

Once the cavity material had set and they had removed all of the various tools and metal bits from my mouth, I couldn't see the filling. Honestly - I'm not even sure which tooth it was. So I suppose it was a successful experiment.

And the novocaine wore off just after my last class of the day, so I only looked like I'd had a stroke in front of all of my students, but as soon as class was over, I looked fine.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I just got back from a weekend with my two best friends from college. I love spending time with friends with whom I can just pick up as if no time has gone by. These are those kinds of friends, and we spent most of our time together just sitting and talking (and there was a lot of eating involved, too, of course).

Naturally, we reminisced about our college days, laughing and telling the familiar stories again and being reminded of things we had forgotten. But what I cherished most were the moments when we talked about who we are now, women approaching 40, none of us quite happy with where we are in our lives but each of us happy with certain aspects of it. Career-wise, we're all struggling - we haven't found the right jobs (nor have our partners). Two of us live in places where we don't want to stay. We're still figuring out the marriage and family deal (all of us are in serious relationships (two are married) and I'm the only one with a kid).

In college, I spent whole days with these women, puzzling out who we really were and who we wanted to be. I think maybe we had the sense that we would have figured it all out by the time we got to this point in our lives. I always thought that the discovery of my self would be a one-time event: I would figure out the truth of who I was meant to be and what I was meant to do, and then I'd have those answers and move on with my life. In the same way that my students will confess to me, "I don't really know what I want to be when I grow up," I struggled with not being certain of what I really wanted and with lacking a sense of clear purpose.

Talking this afternoon with my two friends, I remembered that the process of becoming is just that: a process. As we talked about the life decisions we'd made and were in the process of making - to have a baby, to not have a baby, to take this job, to move there - we also talked about regret. Will I regret this? Will I wish, later in my life, that I had done something else?

My one friend pointed out that we will always have regrets, no matter what we decide. I think it's true that we will always wish, with the benefit of hindsight, that we had made different choices, moved to a different city, begun or ended a relationship sooner. But in college it sometimes felt paralyzing to look out at the years ahead, like every decision was of the utmost importance, like the entirety of our lives was held in the balance. Looking back from this distance, I realize that every decision does seem to affect the courses our lives have taken, but that there are numerous ways in which we can go back and start over or choose a different path. Life now feels to me less like a game in which I have to be careful to move my piece just the right number of spaces, and more like an opportunity to experience new things and people and to learn from them.

If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell her not to worry so much about figuring out who she was and what she wanted. I would tell her that I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. And I would tell her, too, that regret is frequently just a signal that something needs to change - and that change is always possible.

That's my wisdom as I near midlife. Check back with me in another twenty years.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Resistance is Futile

There is something about being a parent that makes me Borg. I want immediate and absolute obeyance from the child. And I really have to watch myself to avoid running over the poor guy with my own inflated sense of correctness.

I don't know why it is so important to me to have him do exactly what I say. Well, scratch that, I do know why - it's at least partly because of my OCD. And also because my upbringing involved similar sorts of struggles, though I remember what that felt like, and I have no desire to replicate that experience for my kid.

But then there is also that overwhelming concern that if he doesn't listen to me, I won't be able to protect him. There might be a dangerous situation, and I'll yell at him to get out of the way of the speeding car, and he will be busy asserting his own independence, and splat. (That's actually the scenario my dad always gave me when I didn't understand why he got so upset that I didn't jump to obey his commands. And I would say, "but there wasn't a speeding car just then...?")

But I am particularly concerned about him listening and following instructions when it comes to things like street safety. So I considered this morning to be at least a minor victory for me in my role as even-tempered parent. I told him to walk right next to me while we crossed our street, which is a side street with almost no traffic. Normally, we hold hands, but this particular morning, my hands were full of packages to bring to the post office, and his hands were full of stuffed animal and breakfast. And he lagged behind me, apparently not paying attention. But did I yell and freak out? No, I did not. I managed to grab a little bit of his coat collar with my pinky and marched him across the street, scolding (but not in a harsh way) him for not sticking with me. And then I had a brainstorm and asked, "did you think you were walking right next to me?" And he said, "yes." So we had a little discussion about what "walking right next to me" means, and I feel like we reached an understanding about what should happen the next time.

I feel pretty good about the whole thing, actually.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Legend of Boon Tan

This will only be of interest to Wesleyan University alumns and Buffy fans.

When I was a college frosh, in 1986, I remember hearing about "Boon Tan." Boon Tan, I was told by my RA, was a student who had been expected on campus several years earlier to begin his freshman year. His luggage arrived, but he never did. There were strange, even borderline racist drawings on the walls and in the tunnels of a zigzag mouth and two slanted lines for eyes (supposed to be Asian). Or sometimes there was just the name, "Boon Tan."

At the time, I dismissed it as one of those stories that tend to linger on college campuses, and then I forgot about it for many years. But I was thinking about this recently, after a conversation with a friend about the film PCU (based on Wesleyan and written by two guys who were in my graduating class), which had me traipsing down memory lane. So I did a little Google search on "Boon Tan." I found that the University's archived materials contained material showing "the lampooning of Boon Tan, an Asian member of the class of 1980" as well as "a 1980 Alumni Reunion T-shirt 'Where Is Boon Tan?'"

When I saw the first comment about lampooning, I thought that perhaps Tan was a student who was the butt of racist jokes. But when I saw the second, I wondered if the story were, perhaps, true - maybe he really was a student who never arrived on campus.

Then I found this in an archived issue of The Wesleyan Argus (student newspaper):
"Boon Tan was a Malaysian student who failed to show up in 1972 and again the next year though his face was in the face book. Shortly thereafter 'the Boon began to appear on the University walls; not a representation of the missing student, but a symbol of evil incarnate. Midnight ceremonies were held. Mass gatherings cried out the word of Boon...' said John Moynihan in an issue of the Argus in 1983. Boon Tan had the largest following on campus."

So what I thought was a fictional story apparently did have its roots in a real person, though Boon Tan himself remains as much a mystery as ever. (I don't buy Boon Tan as "evil incarnate." Wes students are far too cynical for this sort of thing. If there were any midnight ceremonies invoking the name of Boon Tan, they involved grain alcohol, shrooms, and really good dance music. Or, possibly, pretentious theater students.)

I seem to remember an allusion to Boon Tan in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though I can't prove it. It would have been in one of the episodes in which Buffy and Willow first begin college - probably "The Freshman," the first episode of Season Four. I'll have to watch it again and find out. (Joss Whedon is a fellow alum - he graduated in 1987.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Hamster Dance

I have found the REAL original - not the one that the "hampster" people SAY is the original (which is not the original) but the ACTUAL original.

The song itself is from the animated, 1973 version of Robin Hood, featuring Roger Miller on the "de pa dee da dee da do dos." According to Wikipedia, the song is Miller's "Whistle Stop." (You might know him from hits like "King of the Road.")

And, by the way, a "hampster," I imagine, is some kind of cross between a hamster and a hamper.

I cannot WAIT to share this with my kid.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Kick-Ass Queer Women in Comics

Everytime I tell someone of the male persuasion that I read comics, he asks, "Marvel or DC?"

My brother got into the superhero stuff. I read his Spiderman comics, and I bought the first 100 issues or so of the new Wonder Woman in the late '80s. But growing up, sadly, I mostly read Archie comics - until my brother, who is, it must be said, very cool, introduced me to Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Frank Miller's Dark Knight, and Alan Moore's Watchmen and Swamp Thing. And by this time, of course, I had "graduated" from comics to graphic novels. In other words, I was shelling out the full book price.

And then...

I'm not sure how I found it. I think I picked up a graphic novel that looked interesting. It was Love and Rockets. And I was hooked.

I was in college, and it seemed that my family did a lot of driving around New England during those years, which meant that I got to check out a lot of old comic book shops and that I eventually pieced together a full collection of Love and Rockets. (I'm not a "collector" in the traditional sense - I don't have the original first run. What I care about, and what I have, are all of the stories from 1982-1996, when the series ended (temporarily) with the 50th issue.) And just as a testament to my determination, I found all of these shortly before they were all reissued in book form, which gives you an idea of how hard they were to find (they were hard to find - if it hadn't been for a shop in Pittsburgh, where I must have bought about 10 issues, I never would have completed my collection).

(NOTE: In 2001, Los Bros Hernandez started L&R up again. I've just ordered the two newest book collections because I haven't been able to keep up. Check 'em out.)

Shortly before I started reading L&R, I started reading Dykes to Watch out for. And these two woman- and gay-positive comics sucked me in. From there, I found a fairly short-lived but wonderful Canadian quarterly called Oh..., which featured comics by queer women. I was introduced to Joan Hilty, Roberta Gregory, and Leanne Franson on those pages. I think it may also have been there that I first read Ellen Forney's work. Gregory, Franson, and Forney thrilled me by including bisexual women in their comics. Gregory's Artistic Licentiousness, Franson's Liliane, especially, featured bisexual female central characters. Woo-hoo! Ellen Forney also writes unabashedly about bisexuality - and she's my age, so I loved her reminiscences of the '70s and '80s.

Joan Hilty's comics in Oh... won me over to superheroes, after all - but I prefer her "real life" lesbian heroes, like Bitter Girl.

And let's not forget Jennifer Camper. As her book titles suggest, her work is...well...rude, dangerous, and juicy. And thoroughly enjoyable. So, too - but in a completely different way - is Diane DiMassa's Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist.

What all of these comics have in common is a pride in female sexuality, a sense of humor in looking at women's lives, and a fierce sense of social justice, particularly in relation to women's rights. Not to mention strong female characters who are alternately fantastical projections of independence and strength, and real enough to step off the pages and into our lives. Since this is often not the case in comics - check out, for example, Women in Refrigerators, which details what often happens to female comic characters - this is work worth celebrating. And supporting - grrls, get out your credit cards and order some of these books!

Friday, April 14, 2006

God and Santa

Kid: Is god real?
Me: Yes, god is real. But not everyone believes that god is real. Mommy believes that god is real. Grandma doesn't.
Kid: I'm going to tell her.
Me: No, that's ok. It's ok for her to believe that God isn't real. Some people believe that god is real and some people don't, and that's ok.
Kid: How does Santa get down the chimney?
Me: ...
Kid: Is Santa magic?
Me: Well...[Note: I've flat out told him that Santa isn't real and he doesn't believe me.] Santa is magic, yes, in a way. [warming to the topic] God is love, and god is real. Santa is a way of loving people by giving them presents.
Kid: So he gets down the chimney by magic?
Me: [giving up] Yes.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What IS Feminism, Anyway?

A reader wrote:
"What do you think of feminism/feminist now? seems like i always disagree with EVERYONE...I kind of feel like everyone calls themselves a feminist now, without getting what feminism means."

I have had this debate over "lesbian" (can a lesbian still be a lesbian and sleep with a man?), over "feminist" (can a feminist like porn? can she be sex radical?), over "Christian," and I suspect we could continue to have this discussion around any identity group. If you think about it, what identity groups have in common is that there is always someone policing their borders - and there is always someone else insisting that the borders are fluid.

What makes me a feminist, I think, is that I think women (and, to a lesser in some ways but certainly different extent, men) are oppressed by gender as constructed by society. I think that society generally thinks less of women than it does of men. We've got tens if not hundreds of ways to put down women that are gender-specific - from "cunt" to "whore" - and only a handful of words that do the same for men. And language, I think, tells us a lot about what a society values and what it doesn't value.

Then there's that whole pesky issue of things like having Viagra covered under insurance policies while women still struggle to get access to the Pill and to EC. Or the fact that women are earning something like $.76 for every dollar that men make. And I could go on and on, but I will spare you.

Like any ideology - political, religious, or otherwise - there are a LOT of schools of thought within feminism. There's liberal feminism, for example, which basically accepts the status quo but wants to push for women's equality within that status quo (and Gloria Steinem used to be an example of that - I don't know if she still is, but I always think of her as far too mainstream for my tastes). There's radical feminism, which sees gender as the primary form of oppression and which has sometimes morphed into "men are the enemy" (though that is a very stereotypical and not always accurate depiction). There's sex radical feminism, which argues that women's sexual expression has the potential to be liberatory, even if it includes sex work and pornography. There's anti-porn feminism, which argues that sex work and porn are always exploitative of women and by definition not liberatory. There is Black Feminism - and Womanism - which focus particularly on feminism as it relates to and is born of Black women's lives and the lives of women of color.

And that's not even touching on ecofeminism, separatism, lesbian feminism, or many more of the myriad branches of feminism that exist. It goes without saying, of course, that there is no way in hell we will ever all agree. About anything.

For the reader who posted that comment - I'm curious. What were your disagreements about? What are the "feminist" opinions that people hold that suggest to you that they don't know what feminism is really about?

What do others think?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Politics of Food

As tonight is the first night of Passover and Easter Sunday approaches, the scent of life and liberation is in the air for at least two of the world's major religions. It's probably not an accident that food is so central to both of these observances, both figuratively (from the symbolic foods on the seder plate (egg, maror, haroses, etc., to the symbolic eggs on Easter morning) and literally (in the way that food brings us together with families and friends and nourishes the body and the spirit).

For several years now I've found myself frustrated at the impossibility of eating healthily and ethically at the same time, particularly when I'm eating away from home. This frustration is, of course, a luxury, as it means that I am not worrying about just eating - I have more than enough to eat, and I never experience the kind of hunger that comes from never having quite enough, or worse, from starvation. So to some extent, there is a bit of navel-gazing that goes on in these kinds of musings about what I want to put into my body.

But at the same time, food is political on a number of other levels. What I put into my body does in fact affect people in other countries. I am sipping a Diet Coke as I write this. On my campus, all of the pop and juice options available are Coke products. (I could drink coffee, tea, or water, but everything else is manufactured by Coke.) Coke's ravaging of India in pursuit of cheap water is well-known.

I could drink milk, if I liked it. But non-organic and non-kosher milk has the Bovine Growth Hormone in it. While I don't think about it much anymore, I wrote an article several years ago about the possible effects of rBGH on humans, so I know that it stimulates cell growth, and there have been no long-term studies on the impact of ingesting the hormone through milk products. One doctor speculated that it would put children and older people at greater risk of cancer - cancer is, after all, characterized by cell growth - but he was quickly silenced by the AMA and the dairy industry. I do consume dairy products that are not organic - it's difficult and expensive to buy organic or kosher foods on a regular basis. But I think of not doing so as a risk.

I could eat fruits and vegetables here in the campus dining room or at a restaurant. The produce, however, is not washed - I assume it may sometimes be "rinsed," but as the fruit is clearly wax-covered, sometimes sticky, and generally still has labels affixed to it, I don't really consider this a thorough washing. There is no place in the dining room for me to wash my own food. And this isn't organic produce, either, so I am guaranteed to ingest pesticides - a good, "healthy" dose of 'em.

I can drink coffee. This isn't particularly good for my body, but I can buy the fairly-traded blend that is available on the counter along with the unfairly-traded blends, and at least we've switched from Starbucks to Caribou, which I hear has marginally less evil business practices when it comes to stealing customers from mom-and-pop shops. (I don't know if this is actually true, but it's what I've heard.)

And then there's the whole issue of buying local foods and buying foods in season - you know, promoting sustainable agriculture. Among other things, that means not buying grapes from Chile and not buying plums and peaches in December.

If I want to eat healthily at local sandwich shops, I can get a bagel and a grilled chicken breast salad with lots of veggies for a reasonable price, but the shop that sells it gives gobs of money to a particular Republican politician who I think is almost worse than George W. Well, not worse, but more dangerous because he's a heck of a lot smarter. There are other shops to go to for healthy fare, but this is the cheapest.

I can eat on campus and save money, but the options tend to be high in fat and low in taste.

And, of course, eating meat - especially eating fast food burgers at McDonald's - has a huge impact on the rest of the world, as rainforests are being decimated to graze cattle for the burger giants.

The simplest solution, obviously, is to buy organic and make my own food, but that's where I run into the time problem - I never have any - which is why, most of the time, we eat Amy's frozen foods. Yeah, it's frozen, but it's organic, tasty, and healthy. And if, like me, you occasionally count your Weight Watcher points, you can eat better with Amy's tasty and filling foods than with WW foods (which are not very tasty and not very filling). It is hard on the pocketbook, however, to eat prepared foods on such a regular basis.

All of this illustrates that the issue of what we put into our mouths is political - we are constantly faced with choices about how the food we eat will affect our own bodies and how our consumption affects the bodies of laborers thousands of miles away (when I ate Driscoll strawberries in the 1990s, for example, I was subsidizing an employer that did not allow its pickers to take bathroom breaks (which was not healthy for them or for me, because they end up "going" in the fields) and that sprays pesticides while they are working in the fields).

Food politics, then, is surely one of the most important issues for us to be thinking about. Yet, it is simultaneously perceived as one of the least important, not least because eating is something we are fortunate enough to do frequently, without thinking beyond whether or not our taste buds are satisfied. All too often, I make the choice that benefits my taste buds rather than my body or the bodies of the people who supply my food.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dykes to Watch out for

Apparently, I haven't been paying attention, because I've only just learned that one of my favorite comic strips has a home on Blogger.

I started reading DTWOF in college. It was sort of my entrance into the world of lesbian feminists (you might call it a gateway drug). I have been reading it ever since. There's something comforting about once-cutting-edge, bad-girl Lois growing older along with the rest of us. And over time, there have been big changes to the cast, including one character, Sparrow, whom everyone assumed was a lesbian, ending up with a bisexual identity - bi visibility in comics! - and a guy, and a kid. Alison Bechdel's serial comedy has something for everyone - even abstinence-pledging, conservative-Christian, Bush-loving (no pun intended - well, maybe just a little) lesbians.

Check it out.

Mayor Ed Koch

(If you are a New Yorker, you know that "Koch" is pronounced so that it rhymes, unfortunately for him, with "crotch.")

Growing up several hours away from NYC, even I knew and recognized Koch's smiling face. The mayor of New York City from 1978 - 1989, he had the best PR of any politician before or since, except maybe for JFK - everyone knew him, random strangers on the street would shout out, "Hi, Mayor Koch," he did the circuit of local t.v. shows (and even shows like "Saturday Night Live"). In short, he was more than a mayor - he was a personality.

And now, it seems, he is a movie critic. I agree with Gawker that his reviews are sort of adorable.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Bunch of Things

I've realized that I'm far too grumpy to actually write about my observations over the past few days. That is just going to have to sound cryptic because that's all I'm going to say about it. Anyway, so instead I'm borrowing from the 100 Things blog post I read today. Here's my version (because I won't get to 100 anytime soon):

A Bunch of Things
1) I can bend my thumbs back behind my hands.
2) For probably all of my "bringing-my-lunch-to-school-with-me" career until high school, I had either a bologna and cheese sandwich or a tuna fish sandwich for lunch every day.
3) I could never stand to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my whole life until just after I gave birth. Even now, I treat them with caution - even when I'm really hungry for one.
4) I once reported a dealer I knew to the cops because he was lacing the pot with PCP.
5) I like "The Next Generation" far more than the original "Star Trek." "Deep Space Nine" comes in second. After that, I stopped watching.
6) I have trust issues.
7) My pet peeve is flakiness, even though I have - infrequently, mind you - done some flaky things myself.
8) Another pet peeve is people who think they are cool. In my experience, people who think they're cool generally have cool hair but otherwise are not especially interesting.
9) I think I'm cool.
10) I tend to always eat the same foods. However, I go through phases. So, the foods I'm eating now are not the same foods I was eating a couple of months ago.
11) I was not allowed to have a Barbie doll until I was 11.
12) I have never liked Jennifer Aniston, thought she was pretty, or wanted to wear my hair like hers.
13) I also don't think Brad Pitt is sexy.
14) I am extremely self-centered, even when I am trying really hard not to be.
15) I have become very very good at keeping secrets.
16) I have become very very bad at opening up to people.
17) I really do believe in karma.
18) I once saw someone die.
19) I once saw a dead body (a different one).
20) I can't stand the sound or feel of palms or soles of feet being rubbed or dragged across carpet.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


And, as promised, the scintillating and witty post about MySpace Bulletins.

OK. So, first, we all know that whatever we write about online is public knowledge, right? I mean, yes, there are some boards and some emails that can't be hacked by just anyone, and most of us can't hack anything anyway, and frankly I'm not even sure if "hacking" is even the current term anymore. But the point is, we should all be aware that if we put it out there into cyberspace, anybody and their dog, Eric, can read it. And probably will.

And second, we know that MySpace and Facebook and other such sites sell information about their users to various buyers, including the DoD (and, I suspect, various college alumni organizations, because they have an uncanny ability to track one down).

So, why in the name of all that is holy would people put up their name, school at which they are currently studying, state of residence, picture - and then post about which illegal drugs they've done? I'm not saying that past or even current drug use should be a secret. I'm just asking - do you really want the government, your future employer, or, for that matter, your parents and Grandma Ethel to have access to this information?

On a somewhat related note, I've noticed that the bulletins at MySpace are, shall we say...fairly sleazy. For those who have better things to do with their time than hang out on MySpace, a bulletin is a post that you send to all your "friends" at once. (Your friends are the people whose pictures appear on your page, and on whose pages your own picture appears.) These bulletins are frequently memes, and they generally ask questions about sexual experience, drug experience, etc. (Only, it must be said, they don't ask very interesting questions about same. More like - "hee, hee, have you ever gone skinny dipping?!" - which I guess must not be a common experience or it wouldn't show up as a question.) The idea, I think, is to be just a little titillating without actually saying anything real. (But, to their credit, the posters who've sent me bulletins have usually done a pretty good job of keeping these silly little surveys real.)

And this leads me back to the vacuous nature of the whole MySpace enterprise in the first place. But that won't stop me from firing off my own bulletins.

And yes, I have gone skinny dipping, perhaps most notably in someone else's pool. (By "someone else," I mean some total stranger whose backyard we snuck into and who happened to have a pool.) And you know that movie where one guy goes running off wearing only a strategically placed sock? That's pretty much what happened (to a friend of mine, not to me, which made it hilarious).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


My excuse now is that I'm organizing a conference this weekend. So if I'm not around much, or, you know, if I don't have much to say? It's because of that.

I'll try to do better. Anyway, that's why things have gone to shit around here.

As soon as I have time, I promise to write a scintillating and witty post making fun of MySpace Bulletins.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Thoughts about Omaha

I just got back from a conference in Omaha. It was a fun conference in a GREAT city. Here is a selection of observations, stories, and occurrences:

1) After getting off the bus in Omaha, I went outside to wait (for 30 minutes) for the hotel shuttle. While waiting, I noticed that men in Omaha, or at least men at Omaha bus stations, spit an incredible amount. I had to walk a ways away from the building to get away from the spit blotches on the sidewalk (and out of range).

2) At the same bus station, one of the gentleman waiting outside - there was a group of them hanging out and talking rather candidly about women - fired up a joint. In public. In full view of anyone who might happen by. I was impressed - I haven't seen such public pot-smokage since college.

3) The Hilton is really not all it's cracked up to be. They nickeled and dimed us to death, from the $10/day fee to use the "health club" (hell, no, I didn't do it!) to the $2.00 pop in the vending machines. And I couldn't get a really hot shower to save my life. I could make the obvious joke about Paris needing new clothes - which several people did make - or I could note that, just as the average person on the street has more class than young Hilton, so too does the average Comfort Inn have more class than a Hilton Hotel. (Though I will say that my bed was astoundingly comfortable. I don't know why I ever left it.)

4) Omaha is a wonderful city. I'd forgotten what real city life was like. People, if you go out to eat in Omaha, the busy times are between 7 and 10. (In Sioux Falls, if you try to eat dinner out before 7, you'll be waiting for a table for a long time.) And the shops were open until at least 10, as well. That says something right there. So what if the bars close at 1? So you get home early. Where's the harm in that?

5) First Amendment rights are awesome. We saw a family of evangelists standing on a street corner being pestered by the police. The father (? I think?) shouted out to the crowd, "Ladies and gentlemen, the First Amendment guarantees us the right to stand out here and preach the gospel to you as long as we are not obstructing traffic or creating a disturbance." Now, I hate sidewalk preachers as much as the next person, but I was with him on this (although I think he forgot about needing a permit - that's not actually in the First Amendment, but it's still a requirement). So when the cops pulled away, it was sweet victory, and I had to refrain from shouting, "pigs!" (Just kidding. It was cool, though.) And the evangelists, for their part, stopped preaching and singing and switched to quietly handing out tracts about hell.

6) If you need to take shelter from a tornado, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo may not be your best bet. Patrons were ushered to the indoor swamp, featuring 24 alligators and "30 swamp animal species in barrier-free habitats" (emphasis mine), to wait on a boardwalk for the tornado warning to expire. (I don't know for sure if the alligators were one of the 30 species with the barrier-free habitats, but I believe they were. Personally, I'd rather take my chances with the tornado. Especially after the lights went out.)

7) I have more stories, but some of my conference friends read this blog, so I can't share them. Sorry!