Thursday, March 30, 2006

Finishing Mania! And the Battle for the Ice Planet Hoth

I'm currently in a mania for finishing things. I unpacked the last two boxes from our move (thus only leaving the boxes full of "things to donate" and the boxes I filled up with things from other boxes that I couldn't figure out where to put). Woohoo! That only took me 22 months! I'm putting away bits and pieces, finishing off the annoying bits of projects that sit around for six months, finishing a computer game I got bored of, sorting things that need to be sorted.

But the biggest part of my mania is books. Like most voracious readers, I have that pile of books that I started and didn't finish, or never started - I got bored, I got distracted, I got six other books and they were more interesting; it was the wrong book at the wrong time, or it ended up under the dresser and you couldn't locate it for six months. Whatever. My pile had gotten ridiculous - more than 30 books high when I centralized them all in one room and stacked them up. Since them I've been systematically reading my way through the pile. I've seen this blog thing where people read 50 books in a year and blog about them; I've read 50 books since February 1. I'm spending virtually every free moment ripping through books. Good thing there's nothing on television!

Because this is a pile of orts, my reading in the last two months has been wide-ranging. I read an occult mystery set in 1970s Georgetown, followed by a book on positive psychology (summation: thinking happy thoughts makes you a happier person), chased down by an economics-for-dummies type book. I've read three Margaret Atwoods since Feb. 1 - Handmaiden's Tale, Cat's Eye, and Blind Assassin - and I'm deep into the 800-page tome On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee (which I shall have to blog separately about, because it's making me the most annoying person on the planet and I LOVE it!). I can't read too much of that at once, since it's basically a science textbook, so between chapters I read entire other books. Right now I'm 4/5 of the way through a book on female Russian anarchists of the 1870s. Honestly I had no idea there were enough female Russian anarchists in the 1870s to make a book about them, but it's absolutely fascinating. I'm ashamed such an awesome book sat on my shelves unread for so long.

The timing has worked out well because Mr. McGee got a new Star Wars game for the X-Box, so I sit and read while he shoots at things. People keep asking me "Which Star Wars game?" (okay, mostly male people) when I mention this, and I therefore announce to the universe at large: I HAVE NO IDEA. Every Star Wars game in the history of the universe involves the battle on the ice planet Hoth, and they all involve flying snowspeeders round and round the AT-ATs trying to shoot the stupid grapple on their legs to make them trip. I have watched a variety of men I am related to by blood or marriage do this for HOURS in a variety of Star Wars games on virtually every gaming platform known to man for the last decade. They all look exactly the same.

I can't decide what's more pathetic: That every Star Wars game ever made appears to focus on the battle on the ice planet Hoth, or that I know they're called AT-ATs.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Things That Are Not Your Business

People labor under the delusion that I'm just dying for their opinion on particular topics, primarily Eybrows's eyebrows, and my wedding ring.

What cracks me up about the former is that people wait until they know me pretty well before commenting on my eyebrows, at which point they clearly already know my opinions on false beauty standards and on my own personal eyebrows. (Apparently you don't criticize other people's personal grooming standards until you're pretty tight with them.) And yet they feel compelled to inform me of the existence of this fabulous technology called "waxing" that could give me "perfect" eyebrows. Pardon, but I already HAVE perfect eyebrows! People also frequently feel compelled to inform me of the existence of tanning booths, as if I want to go get cancer on purpose. Unless my paleness is actively blinding you from the reflection, I don't want to hear about it.

The one that people get really fascinatingly moralistic about, though, is my wedding and engagement rings. Some people wear theirs 24/7, which is fine. Some people wear them dawn to dusk, which is also fine. I do neither of these, and even though it's nobody's business but Mr. McGee's, I'll tell you why. I have two reasons: First, if I'm washing dishes or taking a shower or doing anything that involves slippery soap and a drain, chances are good I'm going to accidentally wash the ring right off my hand. Or if I'm using a hammer, I'm going to smash it (on my finger, of course). I remove all my hand and wrist jewelry before doing anything with my hands, but most particularly my wedding and engagement rings! I have little decorative bowls by the sinks in the house specifically for this purpose. Second, I have swelly-shrinky hands. I could be outside in the cold and my rings are suddenly so loose I'm afraid they're going to fall off if I make a sweeping hand gesture; then I go inside to a warm room and my fingers swell to the point where I'm afraid I'm going to lose circulation and I can barely get them off. So typically I leave my rings off when I'm at home, and put them on when I leave the house. Sometimes I forget to put them on at all when I leave (and then feel finger-naked, I hate that). Sometimes I leave them on all day. It's all good.

The thing is, Mr. McGee (who wears his ring 24/7 and never takes it off) doesn't care. And I don't know why you do. He knows I love him. He knows I don't need a wedding ring to wave in sleazy men's faces; I can knee them in the balls with or without a ring on, and my cutting sarcasm defense to inappropriate advances hardly requires a ring either. He knows the strength of our marriage isn't predicated on whether or not I'm wearing my rings. (And don't get me wrong - I adore both my rings. I would be devastated if I lost or broke either one.) But there are lots and lots and lots of other people who feel a need to comment on my rings, or lack thereof, and to lecture me on them. "If you really loved your husband, you'd wear your rings all the time," they say, or, "The only reason women take off their wedding rings is to flirt with other men." As if! I'm huffy and offended just thinking about it.

What's even more amusing is that one of my old roommates is a ring-24/7 person, and she gets lectures from people about how she needs to take her rings off when she washes her hands or does dishes, because otherwise she'll ruin them with the soap or get botulism and die from insufficiently clean hands! (I have to say, the idea of dealing with raw poultry with my rings on is just ... ew. I don't feel like I could EVER get my hands sufficiently clean if raw poultry touched my ring!)

I just really don't understand why this is other people's business. I enjoy looking at other people's rings. I might even ask why they wear it on their right hand (often a different cultural tradition, or else their hands shrink and swell like mine!), or if they can do carpentry with it on, or if they had to switch fingers when pregnant. But I don't moralize to people about how they ought to wear their wedding rings. If it's fine with them, and it's fine with their partner, then I really don't care. And I really don't see how it's my business. Or yours.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Adventures in Bed-Making

I know I write way too much about my cats - I'm totally that person who thinks everything their pet does is fascinating to everyone else, which is way worse than being that person about their children, because children are at least people - but my cats are just so cute! Also, I don't get out enough, so they're frequently my primary source of entertainment.

Orange Cat has a very specific daily schedule of naps. The naps move in an orderly progression, involving favorite chairs, sunny spots on the floor, and family laps. The naps culminate in the long, overnight nap, where his people nap with him for 8 straight hours. Orange Cat is always terrified he's going to miss this king of naps, so when he decides it's about our bedtime, he sits watchfully at the top of the stairs so we can't sneak past him. (We're real sneaky, you know.) If I disrupt this nap schedule, by sitting on the wrong couch cushion, or by going to bed at the wrong time, or closing the curtains to watch a movie and thus blocking out the sun, he gets really. miffed. And yowls about it. Orange Cat has a hard life.

Yesterday, I had to wash the bedding. I like laundry as a rule - you start with dirty clothes and two hours later you have a whole new wardrobe! - but I loathe washing bedding. Some of this I attribute to it being my job on family vacations to make beds. We'd stay in condos with my entire extended family, and there were only a few girl cousins, so my oldest female cousin and I were deputized to make bed after bed after bed. She was older, faster, and more dextrous than I, so I always got stuck trying to pull that fourth corner down on the fitted sheet. But mostly bedding is heavy when wet, awkward to handle, hard to fold by yourself, and just not that interesting. Plus the comforters and mattress pad take forever in the drier, and no matter how often you wash the fleece blankets, cat hair does not come off them.

But I washed the bedding anyway, and it took much longer than it should have because I kept instructing my husband to listen for the buzzer and check the dryer to see if the mattress pad was dry yet. This was clearly an error on my part, because my husband, who claims to have the alertness "of a superspy" (no, I made that up, but he does claim to be "like a cat" in his alertness), could sleep through armageddon and routinely fails to notice when I leave the room, if he's reading a book or something. I'll announce, "I'm going to go check my e-mail and start dinner," disentangle myself from our snuggle, and leave the room, and twenty minutes later, he finishes a chapter, sits up with a startle, and asks, "Eyebrows? Where'd you go?" ALERT AS A CAT, I TELL YOU! I'll call home six times and not reach him, and when I arrive at home, wondering if he suffered a fatal heart attack or was kidnapped by pirates, he says, "Oh, the phone never rang," and there are six messages from me on the machine. O-bliv-i-ous.

At any rate, he was in the room next to the world's loudest dryer buzzer, and never heard it, so it took much longer than it should have because I was upstairs making dinner and watching basketball while he was in the basement allegedly paying attention to the laundry, so when I went up to bed, only the mattress pad was on the bed. I brought the sheets and all the rest up with me to make the rest of the bed, but Orange Cat, who was staking out the staircase so I couldn't sneak into bed without warning, was having none of it. He leapt up on the naked bed and curled up in his usual spot, purring like crazy. I then proceeded to try to make the bed. Every time I reached for him to put him on the ground for just a minute or two, he'd elude my grasp and dance off to another corner of the bed (which is too wide for Eyebrows, in her shortness, to reach all the way across). So I ended up making the bed around the cat, who clearly could not understand what my problem was. "The bed is here and it is bedtime!" he was clearly yowling. "Why do you not come sleep on it? What is this fussing with fresh-smelling fabrics?"

Still, the bed got made, and while it was a bigger hassle than normal bed-making, it was actually more entertaining than usual with the cat desperately trying to nap and escape me at the same time. And when I crawled into my fresh, crisp sheets and curled up fetal-style on my side, Orange Cat made a beeline for the puddle of warmth created by my body and flopped down against my belly, purring like crazy. "Thank God you finally came to your senses and decided to nap," he purred. "Took long enough."

Mr. McGee came to bed some hours later. He got involved in what he was doing, and totally missed the part where I told him four times I was going up to bed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bald on Top

Today I made a serendipitous wrong turn getting off I-74 -- it's been under construction the entire time I've lived in Peoria, so I get lost a lot because I don't really understand how it's supposed to work when it's not under construction -- and I drove past Hiram Toraason's Glassworks while trying to wend my way back to my intended route. (I'd give you a link but dude doesn't have his website up yet. You can, however, see Jeremie's work through a link on the left there - she also works at his studio.)

I hadn't seen Hiram in a while so I dropped in because it's the warmest place in Peoria with the thirty-billion-degree glass furnaces (I can see Hiram e-mailing me now to correct me - I think it's a 2,000-degree furnace, whatever. It's hot.) and Peoria's been friggin' cold since spring started with the biggest snowstorm we've had all winter.

I was lucky enough to arrive right as he and two apprentices were settling in to work on ornaments, plain round balls of glass with different colors and patterns. They made ball after ball, taking the raw melty glass, adding color, reheating, adding more color, and then blowing it up to ball-size. It was so effortless, and it was neat to watch the different colors come to life, from looking murky or invisible when the glass was a 2,000-degree lump, to brightening into life as the ball expanded and cooled.

The blow sticks they use are really long, and you can only hold the end, so you have to get your arms up pretty far to get the "bottom" of the ball (on the very end of the stick) into the colored glass, otherwise, the balls end up with a bald spot - although really, bald on the bottom, not the top. This struck me as funny, because they did sort-of look like little tonsured monks when they had the bald spots, and Hiram insisted this was blog-worthy humor.

Which it is, although I suppose you have to actually see the little bald glass-monk to get it (ergo, you ought to go watch Hiram work). But it also made me think of the other bald comment I heard the other day, a French phrase for the uncircumcised male genitalia: le petit chauve au col roule, a.k.a. "the little baldy in a turtleneck."



As my appointments yesterday were cancelled by the snow (what with the schools being closed and all), I had a lovely, unexpected snow day, just like being eight again. It was spectacular and has left me in a beatific mood. Universe, I shan't complain about jaywalkers or people who don't understand how grocery stores work all day.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


In our house, we say, "I've devolved," when we mean that we've changed from work clothes into beating-around-the-house clothes. For us, this typically means sweatpants, jogging pants, pajama pants, T-shirts with a hole in the armpit, that adorable top from two years ago with the bleach stain, the sweater so worn you can't leave the house in it but so comfortable you can't throw it out ... you know, the kind of clothes you wear around the house when you don't plan to leave or have anyone but the mailman appear at the door.

Devolving is a way of saying, "My day is done, from here on out I'm reading a book or watching TV and don't expect my ass to move from this couch." Sometimes my husband will work late and call to ask if I want to join him and some work friends at a local bar and I say, "Shoot, I already devolved." Then I have to decide if I want to go out badly enough to get re-dressed in socially-acceptable clothes. (My current devolving clothes are so bad that I hesitate to go to the pharmacy in them unless I show active indications of being sick, when it's socially acceptable to look like that in public.)

So the other night our neighbors came by the house and knocked to ask us if we wanted to go hit the bars with them.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, we've already devolved!" I said, without thinking that this was an odd, in-family phrase.

Man-neighbor's eyes lit up like a five-year-old's: "You've devolved? Is Mr. McGee a puddle of amoebic goo?"

"Yes," I deadpanned. "Yes he is."

Man-neighbor claimed to be very disappointed when he saw Mr. McGee was still in his mammalian state and had not, in fact, regressed to an invertebrate state.

His wife backhanded him in the chest.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Street Name Puns Rule!

Planned subdivisions often have theme-y street names, like all Arthurian or all Presidents or something. Usually not terribly clever, often fairly lame.

Well, I was up in East Peoria today, and I ran into the best subdivision street name set EVER. E-V-E-R. It was a main street with cul-de-sacs off it. The main street was called Liberty Drive, and the cul-de-sacs were all courts, to wit:

Supreme Ct.

District Ct.

Circuit Ct.

Appellate Ct.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006


That's my little insomnia song. I suffer from insomnia on and off, mostly just a night or two here and there, but every now and then my body just refuses to sleep. Right now I'm in a really long bout; my body hasn't slept without chemical assistance since the end of January. I'm really. tired. I can only take sleep aids for two out of every three days or so, so this means on day one (no pill, no sleep), I'm crabby and exhausted. On day two (pill), I sleep for 12 hours and am alert. On day three (pill), I sleep for a normal 8 hours and feel great. Then on day four, we're back to no pill, no sleep.

My doctor urged me to try various "home" remedies, ranging from a glass of wine to a pair of benadryl. What happens then is that I sleep until I metabolize it out of my system - 2 or 3 or 4 a.m. - and then I lie awake and feeling drugged and cotton-headed. So we're back to prescription sleep aids.

I get insomnia so often that I've actually categorized my insomnia into "good" and "bad" insomnia. Good insomnia is where I'm WIDE awake in the middle of the night, and I can go pay bills, read a book, clean the house, watch the 4 a.m. farm reports, and chat with friends on different continents on IMer. I'm still tired the next day, but I've usually accomplished 80% of my to-do list before 6 a.m., so I can lie on the couch and feel tired and watch Dr. Phil with impunity. Bad insomnia is where I'm wide awake in the middle of the night but groggy and out of it. I can't sleep, can't get any rest - can't even get comfortable - but my eyes won't focus, I tend to trip into walls, I can't think. It's sort of like being drunk, but without the good parts. I can't get anything done, and I just lie there, turning over every 15 seconds, for hours on end. Bad insomnia typically also involves an ear worm, which (for those of you not up on the slang) is when you get a particularly annoying song stuck in your head. So I lie there and listen to my brain on auto-repeat for five or six hours. Then I'm tired and crabby the next day and I still have a full to-do list.

This last month-and-a-half has been entirely bad insomnia. The soundtrack to it has been this song my sister introduced me to called "The Mo Song" which goes, "Mo, please don't / put your cigarette out on your shoe / 'cause it burns your soul." There's more to it, but that's the only part my brain will play. I'm almost ready to listen to "Karma Chameleon" six or eight times in a row just so I have something different to listen to in my head tonight.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Cats Learn a New Trick

My cats have learned to cooperate. Orange Cat, who can't open doors, now sits outside closed rooms he's not allowed to be in (what with his uncertain bladder) and cries until Grey Cat, who can open doors, comes and opens the door for him. Then Orange Cat goes in and Grey Cat goes back to whatever he was doing before Orange Cat sent out the door alert.

I find this a little alarming.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Voting with iPods

This morning I went and learned how to be an election judge and it was really. boring.

It's not really the Election Commission's fault; it was just another one of those things where the process is designed to be totally idiot-proof yet they spend two hours explaining the process anyway. It would have been tolerable had the woman next to me not been convinced she was my best friend by virtue of sitting next to me and had she not talked at me for the entire two hours despite me never, ever answering her or looking at her. Also, I was allergic to her hair product.

The new voting machines work like iPods, with a click-wheel and an enter button, which I don't think will help me explain it to older people who don't like voting via machine. Frankly, I don't either. Why can't we be like every other major democracy in the world and vote with pens on paper with checkboxes? WHY IS THAT SO HARD???

I got one of the machine guys to take the voting machine apart for me and show me how the paper ballot record works. I'm reasonably convinced that the machines play fair, but only because I have a basic trust in people. There's no reason the machines HAVE to play fair. There's no safeguard to MAKE them play fair. I still want paper and pen. It's less expensive and probably safer.

Perhaps most crucially, I would not have volunteered had they told me when I signed up that I had to be at the polling station at 5:30 a.m. THERE'S A FIVE THIRTY IN THE MORNING NOW???? WHY WASN'T I NOTIFIED????

But seriously, they'd get a lot more volunteers if they offered split shifts, say 5:30 to noon, and noon to 7 p.m. plus closing. I'm going to be there for fifteen friggin' hours, at least.

I was a much bigger fan of democracy yesterday, before I became an election judge.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Grocery Store People Watching

You know how sometimes when you grocery shop, it's fine, even enjoyable, and other times it's a harrowing journey into the bowels of hell?

Guess which one mine was today.

Grocery shopping is not my favorite form of shopping - there's no shoes involved - but it is prime people-watching territory. Today I was treated to an episode of Angry Married Couple Theater (Foreign Language Edition) as I watched two middle-aged individuals bicker loudly and publicly in what I think was Korean. It was fairly entertaining - probably moreso because it was in a language I don't understand, so I could imagine what they were arguing about. Clearly something much more exotic and fascinating than what my husband and I would argue about!

In the spice aisle, I saw a raggedy-looking young man (teenaged boy) buying Every. Poppy Seed. Jar. There. It was all I could do not to bust out laughing. Yes, grocery-store poppy seeds are from the opium poppy plant, and yes, typically at least some of them will germinate (says the book I'm reading on the science of food) but, um ... for starters, poppies are fall-sown. But mostly, HE WAS BUYING EVERY POPPY SEED JAR IN THE ENTIRE KROGER! I kind of wanted to ask him if he was after opium, morphine, or heroin, or if he just really badly wanted to fail a drug test. Or maybe just really liked poppy-seed bagels.

He was the highlight of my trip, though. (And I wonder if the state tags people who buy too many opium poppy seeds at once, like they do if you buy too many Sudafed at once?) It was downhill from there. First of all, Kroger appears incapable of leaving the damned parmesan cheese in one location from week to week. Secondly, I really hate the new creepy lobster tank with the creepy lobsters staring at me. Thirdly, it was raining and I hate going out in the rain.

But worst of all, I had a bagger who set a new standard for Worst Bagger Ever, and there are a lot of bad baggers out there. He was painfully slow and inefficient (sinfully so, in a Midwesterner) and he had this slouchy attitude the whole time that said, "Well, I guess I might put your tomatoes in the bag, but only because I don't have anything in particular better to do." So ... slowly. It took forever to bag my order, and no, of course they wouldn't let me do it myself. Raw chicken in with shampoo. My eggs were under cans. (I looked away from 15 seconds to swipe the credit card and he stashed my eggs so I couldn't find them.) Like things not grouped with like at all (and I unload them together in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, my frozen foods will end up together, or all my cans, or whatever). Deli meat randomly in with a bag with nothing else but croutons. Six canned goods in one bag, and one on top of the bread. All my green vegetables SMASHED in a bag.

I wish I had a punchline here, but I just wanted to complain because it made me really grumpy. I bet grocery-store-poppy-opium guy has a cure.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Oscars

Okay, only because editors across the country are making their reporters troll the web in search of blogs talking about the Oscars to find out if those "hip young kids" with the blogs who are supposed to be Jon Stewart's audience thought he was funny or not --


And I really don't care that the audience at the Awards obviously didn't think so; they're a little too full of themselves anyway, and if they can't laugh at themselves, they're dorks.

They show should have been MORE Jon Stewart, FEWER awkward presentations by actors who can act but are clearly incapable of speech-making, teleprompter reading, or delivering a joke. Which isn't a bad thing; they're actors, not news anchors or politicians or comedians. But it's my least favorite part of the Awards every year, this belief that just because they're actors, it's okay to put them up on TV in front of millions of people to read horribly lame jokes clearly written by 50-year-old men working for the Academy because they're third-rate comics who couldn't get a job either AS a comic, or WRITING for a good comic, and to watch them flouder and stammer and generally be painful, painful, painful to watch.

There are some who do the whole "live" thing gracefully and well - Jessica Alba was pretty good last night; Jennifer Garner, who even tripped on her dress, was graceful and entertaining. George Clooney. Ben Stiller. But oh my God, quit subjecting us to Nicole Kidman, who's wooden as a board when she does these things, and to poor Naomi Watts. They're wonderful actresses - better than Alba and Garner - who are incapable of "presenting." It's painful. I'm embarassed for them.

So less of them. And more of the stars who can actually talk live, or without a script, and more Jon Stewart. Because he was HILARIOUS.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

For Posterity

I was talking to some friends about a particularly stupid question I was asked the other day, and I said, "You how people there are allegedly no stupid questions? This one was REALLY stupid. This was like, if stupidity had a love child with ignorance, this question would have been the result."

Everybody laughed and/or snorted beverages, and I realized, dammit, I just created a really great line in an ephemeral medium! All that brilliance gone forever!

"I hate it when I'm really clever and it's not for posterity," I said.

But that's why God gave us blogs, no?