Friday, July 4, 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Baby Kitten!

We have a new kitten! His name is Mugsy:

That's what we name orange cats in our family. Isn't he great? He joins the two cats we already have. This is Bean, who thinks she's the Queen of Sheba:

Bean's hobbies include hissing and making bold statements with her bodily effluvia. This is B:

B is my favorite. Of her waking hours, she's very sweet 70% of the time, aloof 20% of the time, very irritating and demanding 9% of the time, and bitey 1% of the time. She's small--under six pounds--but she's got gigantic feet, with extra toes and everything. So far my attempts to photograph them have met with mixed results. I apologize for the poor image quality, but you've gotta see 'em. Here she is posing with my library card, which is credit card-sized:

Here she is standing on my desk. That round white object is my mouse.

Here is the bottom (sole?) of her left hind foot:

So B's my favorite. But new kitten! Hooray!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ow, my obstreperal lobe!

I think I sprained it.

I joined a gym. See, I was in Vegas this last weekend. It was fun. Quelle and I went with Quelle's mom--I'll call her Faye--and Faye's BFF (Barbara) (that's her real name--I can't think of anything) who are both in their sixties. Neither of them is doing so well. Faye has adult-onset diabetes (or The Beetis, as I like to call it) and needs a new knee. She doesn't want to bother getting the new knee, though, because she doesn't want to do the rehab. Barbara has heart problems and has to take a diuretic that has her out of bed every hour of the night. We got to Vegas on Thursday evening and we left on Monday afternoon, and that whole time, they didn't set foot outside our hotel. Friends, we stayed at the Orleans. I liked the Orleans okay, but five straight days inside that building sounds like a season in hell. Once, Barbara wandered out to get a look at the pool, but other than that, they just hobbled around the casino, now playing slots, now eating at TGI Friday's, now drinking cocktails upon which their doctors would frown.

Faye is sixty-five. I'm thirty-three. I feel like I've finally crested the hill of youth, and stretched out before me is the great river valley of adulthood. Far away, on the opposite slope, I can see sixty-five. It's hazy in the distance, but I can definitely see it from here. When I get there, when I'm climbing toward the mesa of old age, I do not want to be creeping painfully around, cursing Wilford Brimley. (Even if you already know why Faye would be cursing Wilford Brimley, click that link. It's pretty great.)

"But Bitey," you admonish me, "you can't compare your future self to someone else's mom. What about your mom?" ("What about your mom," I wittily retort, before remembering that I am not six years old.) My mom will be sixty-two this year, and she's doing pretty good. Her blood pressure is a little high, and she's slowed down a little, but she still does yard work and home repairs, and exercises a little and takes walks. But. First of all, I have this photo of my mom from when she and my dad first married, and she was much thinner than I have ever been. Granted, I happen to know that when she was in college, her doctor gave her amphetamines as a weight loss aid, but still. Second, Faye's favorite activity is lying on her bed, propped up with pillows, watching her soaps. Change the bed to a sofa and the soaps to police procedurals, and I'm there. Third, just this year, my knees started to hurt. Not often, and not a lot, but just the same. If I'm sitting for any lenghth of time, they're a little stiff when I first get up. Ten steps walks it off, but that's ominous, yes? Yes.

So I have to lose some weight and strengthen my knees. I've thought long and hard about this weight loss issue. I've got a tricky relationship with all that, some of which is detailed in previous posts. I don't think I'm unhealthy now. I think that my organs and systems are operating just fine, and I don't have any complaints. I don't have body image issues. This is what I look like (not the bee--that's to make you think, "Wow, Bitey is really the Bee's Knees!"), and anyone who's got a problem with that needs information or therapy or a head-dunking or some combination thereof. But I think it would be better for my knees if I weighed a little less. *NOT* that I'm going to diet. I've learned a lot about nutrition in the last couple years, and a lot about disordered eating. I eat whatever the hell I want. Period.

So I joined a gym. I've had two workouts so far, and I like it. This place has a structured workout that goes pretty fast and changes up a lot to prevent boredom and fatigue while still working you out. It's women only, which is FANTASTIC, and there are no mirrors, which is also really, really great. The equipment is sized for women, which means that it's almost too small for me and my ridiculously long limbs, but that's okay. Unlike most gyms, it's got a very friendly and convivial atmosphere, and it doesn't smell like stale man-sweat. I actually like it a lot.

It's Curves.

Yeppers. Curves.

For all its woman-friendly appearance, Curves was started by a dude, and not just any dude, but a right-wing evangelical Christian who gives money to George Bush and anti-abortion groups. It's all true: I looked it up on Snopes (it's pretty bad--read it for yourself), and also? I knew it going in. I couldn't afford some fancy-pantsed exclusive place, which is the only other women-only option. My second choice was the Y, but it's smelly and full of men. Also, you have to remember my strong proclivity for lying around like the Queen of Sheba. Left to myself, I would do nothing at all, ever. I need structure and guidance and variety. Plus, I don't feel like I'm in good enough shape to work out at a regular gym, which I think is the fault of the gyms. I've been to regular gyms, and I always feel awkward and self-conscious, and I quit going after a couple weeks. I don't like it. I'm not doing it and you can't make me.

But the whole thing is causing some kind of stress injury in my obstreperal lobe. I know we all live in the patriarchy as best we can, but we don't have to fall all over ourselves shoveling money to misogynists. But sometimes the misogynists have the only game in town. Here's how I figure I'll get myself back into alignment: I got the Curves student discount, so I only had to pay $99 for five months, which is really, really cheap. I figure that I'll make up for it by giving twice that amount to a worthy feminist cause. That evens things out, right? Right?

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Union Suit

Every morning, I have to decide what to wear if I'm going to go out into the world. If I'm staying home, of course, I don't have to decide. I just stay in my pajamas until about four o'clock, and then I take a shower and put on the clean pajamas I'm going to sleep in that night. That's called comfort and efficiency, friends. But sometimes I have to make myself reasonably presentable, and that's when I want a Union Suit. Not the old-timey Union Suit, but a new Union Suit for a New Millenium. My vision would be reminiscent of the burqa, but with the sensible comfort and freedom of movement of Hammer pants. It would also have proper sleeves, so that I could wear a backpack if I needed to. The sleeves would have gloves attached that could be tucked into the wrist when not in use, and the fingers of the gloves would be removable. Rather than covering head-to-toe like the burqa, however, the Union Suit would have a bee-keeper-helmet-inspiried hat/hood. The hat would have a collapsable spring-form frame, and there would be a mesh veil that could be lowered from the brim and attached to the collar with velcro. The suit would be made of a very breathable but opaque fabric, light enough for summer and available in heavier weights for winter. I want it in five colors: black, navy, gray, burgundy, and seafoam green. The seafoam would be the dressy one, and would have metallic gold threads woven into it.

The New Union Suit could be worn with steel-toed boots or sensible flats.

Updated to Add: Looks like someone in the fashion world is already on the case. Wrong shoes, though.

Yeah, I read the Fug Girls. Sue me.

Baby Hummingbird!

We rescued a baby hummingbird yesterday! This is what it looked like. The photo is a female, and ours was a male, but it was a juvenile, so it wasn't gaudy yet. Sweetie found it when he took Tink out for her walk. It was on the sidewalk, and it could only get about a foot into the air before having to land again. We took a piece of really light fabric and gently placed it over the little birdy, then very carefully scooped it up. It wasn't hurt or anything, it was just too young to be out of the nest. The nest is way, way up in a high tree, so there was no way to get it back there. It turns out that hummingbirds are protected under federal law (who knew?), so you're not really allowed to try to keep one. Which is good, because you'd totally kill it anyway.

Hummingbirds, I want you to know, are jerks. We have this huge feeder, and we keep it full, and there are no fewer than four feeding stations where they could all sit together in amity, but do they? No. No, they don't. We've had the feeder for a year, and only once have we every seen four birds on it. Most often, there will be one bird, and then another bird will pull a kamikaze maneuver, and then they fly off fighting. No camaradarie, and no common sense.

We ended up taking it to the Los Angeles Hummingbird Rescue in West Hollywood. Boy, were those people nice. Terry and Frank have a whole setup in their home, with an incubator and lots of different cages for various birds, and a lovely aviary. It was almost nine o'clock when I got there, but they showed me all around and talked to me about the birds and everything. They said that little Sweetie (they named it after Sweetie because it was a boy and Sweetie found it--they would have called it Bitey if it had been a girl) was an Allen's Hummingbird, like this one:

I'd have taken pictures, but I kinda destroyed my camera. See, I was at Fair and someone (possibly myself) got drunk and spilled beer on it. It might have been okay--the camera's manual says that if it gets wet, to just let it dry out for a day or so--but because I was really drunk, I kinda forgot that I wasn't supposed to turn it on, and I guess I fried it. So.

Breathing Life into Stone

So yeah. Took a break there. I read somewhere that in Japan, they call abandonded blogs "pebbles"; thus today's title. I've made a few changes, and I guess I'll start inviting people. So. Hello again.

Monday, April 16, 2007

That's what I'm talking about!

THIS, dude! Oh my GOD! Why isn't there more of this? More to the point: Why isn't everything like this? Every day, I am horrifed that whether a person has enough food to eat, or has a safe place to lay her head, or has medicine when she is ill depends on how much money she makes. It is a horror and a shame that a person can work and work and yet be poor. Why?! I'm not gonna get into my I'm-a-big-fat-socialist rant (it's still in the drafting stage), so all I can say is, dude! Don't be so fucking greedy all the time! Don't be such a fucking classist! (Not you, personally. Maybe.) Okay, I have nothing cogent to say on this, so I'll stop now. But dude! WHY?!

The Box

So of course the Duke lacrosse thing has been all over the place. I don't have anything to say about the charges or their merit, but I do have something to say about the fact that every damned time I hear about it, the first gleeful word to jump out of the reporter's mouth is "stripper."

I mentioned this to Sweetie, who responded that it's a vital element of the story that she's a stripper. I agree that it is important in that it explains the logistics of how she came to be at the party, and in that her status as a sex worker certainly affected how those upstanding college men viewed her. So fine. The news media might have a reason to mention that she's a stripper. But why, my friends, why does it have to be part of the headline? Why does this story have to use the word "stripper" five times? Why does it have to say things like this:
"At the height of the uproar over the charges, even [Durham District Attorney Mike] Nifong conceded that there was no scientific or eyewitness testimony implicating the students. There was only the word of a woman who removed her clothes for money and entertained strangers in hotel rooms."
Of course, I know the answer: Clearly, if the only way you can make enough money to support yourself and your children is in the sex trade, then you are at best unreliable, and you're probably a lying slut who was asking for it.

I guess she could have gotten a job at Wal-Mart.

I avoid the nastier quarters of the blogosphere like the plague they are, but I can only imagine what kinds of horrifyingly violent fantasies have been perpetrated against this poor woman. I picture it like a Mad-Lib: "That [___adj.___] [___noun___] needs to have the [___noun___] [___verb___]ed out of her! A little taste of my [___adj.___] [___noun___] will teach her a lesson. She'll be [___verb___]ing for [___noun___]." I certainly don't mean to suggest that only sex workers would have this kind of violent hatred directed at them. Any person of any sex, gender, or color who accuses someone higher up the totem pole of sexualized violence is opening him- or herself up to all manner of abuse, usually in the form of threats of more sexualized violence. "You like to accuse your betters of rape? Well, maybe a little rape will shut you up." What I mean to suggest is that every time they say "stripper" where they could say "woman" or "person" or even "mother," they're ripping away one more shred of her shredded humanity. Sex workers are disposable, and they're disposing of her piece by piece.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about today. This morning I was listening to Kevin and Bean (I know, I know), and they had a segment where they invited calls from people who had had neighbors who had committed hideous crimes. One person talked about a woman who had chopped her husband into bits and then burned her house down around herself; another regaled the greater Los Angeles area with the story of a crippled foreigner who'd hacked up a twelve-year-old boy with a machete. Good mornin'! One man, though, called to say that he had lived next door to the Simi Valley rapist. Something the caller said kinda got to me, and almost made me cry. He said that this guy had "raped like forty people." After being pelted with the word "stripper" all week, after Anna Nicole Smith was carved up like joints for a feast, after all the slings and arrows hurled day in and day out by the Man tryin' to keep us down, I was touched--really and actually touched--when this caller referred to these rape victims as people. "He raped like forty people." I checked, and it turns about that he actually raped about a dozen people (but who's counting), and that all his victims were women, but just for a moment, this anonymous KROQ listener made them not just women but actual people. That's all we want. We don't want to be "equal." That doesn't even make sense. It suggests that you superior men should deign to raise us silly lil' wimmins to your exalted level. I don't want to be equal; I am equal. What I want is to stop being defined by the fact that I happen to have a fucking uterus, and to be defined instead by the fact that I am a human person.

The fact that I have a uterus is one of the least interesting things about me. Half the mammals on the planet have uterii; why should I be pigeonholed by this animal thing? If I have to be put in a box, why can't it be the box of the super-smart, or the moderately lazy, or the easily riled? Why the uterus box? Why not the slovenly box, or the generous box, or the cranky-in-the-morning box? Now, there are plenty of sub-divisions in the uterus box; I guess I'm in the uppity-unfuckable corner of the uterus box. I guess I'm sending you a postcard.

Just the other day, I heard someone use the expression "lady doctor." The fact that the doctor was a "lady" had nothing to do with the story; only the fact that she was a doctor was relevant. But there she was, in that box. That box has a lot of stuff written on the side. It's a list that starts with the word "Female," and goes on say things like "baby source" and "feminine intuition" and "penis receptacle." Doctor, yes, but mostly lady. And if you're a sex worker, don't expect ever to be anything else.

But for one bright, shining moment on a ridiculous frat-boy friendly morning show, one guy, wittingly or not, took those women out of the box. Just for that moment, the fact that they were women wasn't relevant. It was the fact that they were people that mattered.

'Course, I don't think it mattered to their rapist.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Smile Pretty for the Patriarch

"Women do smile more than men, but when occupying similar work and social roles, the gender differences in the rate of smiling disappear, a Yale researcher has found." --Science Daily

"I try to avoid smiling; smiling is a sign of submission in chimpanzees. When you smile, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life." --Dwight Schrute

I'm sitting here in the campus library's computer lab working on my midterms. A little while ago, a couple of dudes down the aisle from me were having a conversation. They weren't being particularly loud or anything, but as the lab is nearly deserted (it's Spring Break), and as I'm very easily distracted, this was, well, distracting me.

After it became clear that they weren't going to shut the hell up on their own, I got up, walked over, and asked them to be quiet. I wasn't rude or anything. Actually, I think what I said was, "Sorry you guys, but could you please keep your voices down?" One of them said, "Sorry," and I went back to work. They continued to chat, albeit more quietly, for a minute, and then they left.

During the whole thing, I refrained from smiling. (I'm still at the point where not smiling takes a conscious effort.) I wasn't rude, and I certainly didn't scowl or anything, but I didn't smile at all. One of the dudes didn't even look at me; when I approached unsmiling, he kind of gazed off into the middle distance with that look you get on your face when you're a little surprised and a little upset, but you don't know what to do. Like your brain is a little shocked and hasn't yet figured out how to respond. The other guy, the one who said "sorry," actually gave me a little smile as he said it. I gave him a little nod in response, but as I turned away, the smile tightened and his eyes narrowed, and it ended as a rather unpleasant expression. I know all this because I was looking them in the eye the whole time. Again I wasn't rude. I was just clear. I think that if I had smiled and simpered that the dudes might have rolled their eyes indulgently after I left, but I don't think they did that. I think they probably called me a bitch.

Regarding our relative social positions, I am a grad student in my early thirties, while these young men appeared to be in their early twenties, which would probably make them undergrads. This puts me higher in the pecking order, but that might not be obvious, especially as people frequently mistake me for being much younger than I am.

The article linked to above finds that women and men who are social equals smile about the same amount, at least in situations where relative social status is very clear. But in situations where status is not immediately clear, women are expected to visibly acquiesce to their assumed lower position until they can show that they are actually in the superior position. I have to imagine that the encounter would have gone differently if the dudes had somehow known that I am a grad student--it would have gone as differently as if I had smiled. In the work situations in the article, the subjects obviously know each other, but with strangers, it is the woman's place to submit; failure to submit is greeted with resentment or worse.

[ETA: I'm not saying that these kids hated me because I'm a woman, or even that the interaction I had was the same interaction they had. I don't know these people. Maybe the one who didn't look at me had just had one of those little vomit-burps, and he was trying to get the sour juices back into his stomach. That takes a little concentration. It could be that the other guy was not resentful of the deadness of my pan as much as the interruption itself. I imagine he might have been trying to seduce his little playmate, and I had disrupted his manoeuvres. Whatever. The danger in using a specific anecdote to make a general point is that that one's interlocutor will focus on the nitpicky details of the anecdote and avoid the larger point. I trust all y'all to keep your eyes on the prize.]

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Meet Tinkerbell! (Her name isn't really Tinkerbell.)

This is our lil' doggie, and her name isn't really Tinkerbell, but it is a fairy name, and we chose it because of her big bat-wing ears which, in a kinder world, would be fairy-wing ears.
Here, you can see her hyena-neck, and if you look closely, you can see the spike on the back of her head. She also has a dirt face. In this one, she's sitting on Sweetie's lap, and as you can see, he's wearing his awesome Madonna Inn t-shirt and his monkey pants.