Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cats cats cats

Dear N'3lvra,
Advise me on the cat litter issue you expounded on in a previous advice column. I am in a quandary. I had no clue that the creation and disposal of cat litter was such an anti-green activity. Let's see, what is the opposite of green on the color wheel? Red. So it's a red activity. Ugh. We have a cat, but she is indoors only, so at least she isn't killing songbirds. But we are litter-ing. What do we do? Sequester it somehow? Mix it with concrete? Take it to household hazardous waste day?

Emerald Shamrock

Dear Emmie,

Remember in the 70's when being green meant having your own little place in the country with a garden and a few chickens? And now, that's the worst thing you can do. Sprawl sprawl sprawl.

The same thing is going on with cats. It used to be the best thing ever to save a cat from a shelter, but not any more. The whole litter topic has been handled most excellently by the incredible Umbra Fisk, but I'll recap here.

The problems with cat litter are: most of it is clay-based, and strip mined, creating ugly scars on the land. Then it comes to you, and when you sift it around, you mobilize silicon particles into the air you breathe, which may cause some health hazards for you and Felix both. Can you say, "mesothelioma"? Me neither. Actually, I'm guessing that the health hazards might be a little tiny bit exaggerated, or we would all know cat owners with hideous lung diseases, right? Grrr, nothing bugs me more than mis-use of data or inaccurate representation of risk, and I'm sure you feel the same way.

But back to the life cycle of kitty litter -- it rapidly becomes waste that's disposed of in a landfill, and as you know, landfills are forever. There are some green alternatives to clay-based litter, which Umbra has tested because she actually has a cat, and the cat is named Bella, which I guess is okay, but I still think Emily is a better name.

My extensive research also lead me to this suggestion: train the cat to use the toilet, and no, I'm not getting paid for product placement. If you do that, please write and let us know how it goes.



P.S. If you google "cat", you get 605 million hits, which undoubtedly explains why there are no songbirds on the internet where I live.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Workin' for the man

I’m about to take you on another little voyage into the dysfunctional work place, which I hope will allow you to appreciate your own employment situation, whatever it is. And, on a more selfish note, it allows me to appreciate that my job provides a lot of good material…

The other day at our staff meeting, The Boss handed out copies our mission, vision, and values statement, as a preface to asking us to come up with some new efficiency measures. It’s probably like all the other M, V & V statements in the world, declaring that we take pride in what we do, and it’s a great place to work. Our boss is smart and beloved for being a very decent, kind person, but we were all thinking, wtf? Is he joking? We started making suggestions like, we could get rid of two thirds of the geologists, and let the remaining one do all the work. Oh wait, we did that already. I know, we could eliminate four ecologists and have the remaining 7 absorb their work. Oh wait, we did that already. I know, we could cut back on our hours and pay by ten percent. Oh, done. And so on, until he showed us a list of what one of the other groups came up with, which seemed very suck-upy and ridiculous to us; ideas on the order of, “use the other side of the post-it note too”. Streamline the review process for Holmes Point Tree Retention review. Yep, that’s a cost-saver if there ever was one.

Because, bottom line, we aren’t bitter people, but no one has asked us for any input for months, or given any information about what’s going on, so it’s a little hard to be in the mood to play this particular game under the circumstances. I had had a sneak preview of this game, because the other day when we were marveling about how messed up it is and how unpleasant everything’s become, I said I might go in and talk to The Boss about it.

“What are you going to say?”

“Oh, maybe I’ll actually cry and have the meltdown that’s been on my mind for a while.”

"Cool, I’m coming."

We were going to just vent a bit about how nasty everything has become: all of the homebuilders who are going bankrupt are angrier than ever about land-use regulation, and pretty much, everyone just seems especially cranky and primed to take it out on The Government.

So we went to find The Boss, but discovered that he was in a meeting with the other 20 managers who manage the remaining 60 or so of us. The agenda on his calendar showed that they were going to discuss both cost-cutting measures, and staff moral [sic], which made me curious enough to go back later. When I walked into his office, he asked what I was there for, and I said I was thinking of coming in and crying to emphasize that it’s so Truly Unpleasant at work these days. He said, and this is a direct quote, “Huh.”

The phone rang about then and he answered it, and when he got off the phone he said, “oh, this is very stressful; the person on the phone had an accent that made her difficult to understand, and you’re standing here too. It’s very, very stressful.”
“Yes, I can imagine,” I said, and asked what he had in mind to improve staff “moral”. He gave me a preview of the plan, which was to ask us for ideas on how to become more efficient and save more money, so I wasn’t completely surprised at our meeting.

But the gist of the situation is that the big branches have already been cut from the tree, there’s really not much that can be done to generate significant savings if we’re supposed to keep functioning at all. But after The Boss left, we actually did come up with some ideas that could fall into the category of “let’s call stuff that what we want to do anyway cost-saving measures,” so it actually went pretty well.

When I returned to my desk, there were a few things of note: one was an e-mail, sent with high importance, about the vending machine. The gist of it was that the old vending machine had been replaced with a different may appear to be smaller, but has the same capacity as the old one. Phew, glad we got that squared away. Some workplaces have lunch rooms where staff who bring their lunch might sit to eat away from their cubicle, but, in a strange twist, we rented our lunchroom as office space, so I think the closet that houses the vending machine might have more significance than it would under other circumstances.

The funny little side story about the rentals is this: we’re situated downstream from a major dam that has significant structural problems; the Corps of Engineers announced that they might be forced to release lots of water in order to prevent catastrophic dam failure. Under one scenario, these releases would mean that our building would get inundated with 7 feet of water. The response to this was to move most of the first floor staff to the second and third floors, and then rent out the first floor. I know.

But the other thing I came upon when I returned to my desk was a message from a process server, who said he’d tried to subpoena me, but I wasn’t around, and could I please stick around so he could do so. Which, well, that’s not how it works, is it? Aren’t they supposed to hunt you down?

I commented over the cubical wall, “B., I need a plan. It’s not fun here.” So he tossed me a piece of nicorette gum and said I should take up chewing. It seemed as good a plan as any, so I chewed for a while. Nothing happened, so I went and asked him, “um, is this it?” He gave me another piece, so I chewed two for a while until I started to get jangly and the back of my throat started to itch. “I think I’m getting throat cancer. Is that the plan?” He said I should probably spit it out before I get sick, and I did because it was pointed out to me that the way to get off nicorette gum is to start smoking unfiltered cigarettes. I asked someone if they noticed my sexy new throat cancer voice, and they just looked uncomfortable, so I went downstairs to wait for the process server.

He arrived, and gave me the papers, and I said, wait, aren’t you even gonna ask for ID? He said no, you look pretty honest, and I said, well, you really never know. The real Betsy could have been hit by a comet in the parking lot, or died of sudden-onset throat cancer, and I could be an imposter. He chuckled, and said he was sorry to have to subpoena me, because he knows that no one ever likes that, and it occurred to me that lots of people don’t like their job these days.

The subpoena was about an old project I worked on, where I required some planting, and I use that term loosely, because well, I say it's required, and then it never happens for a decade, and then we claim a bond, and then it still never happens, and then we go to court over it, well, that whole thing takes some of the punch out of the word, "required") It will be a grim and unpleasant legal case, but the best part is the dramatic language in the subpoena, which is something like, “You are commanded to be in such and such a place at blah blah time. Ignore at your own peril.” I spoke to the biggest remaining mucky muck, and said, hmm, things aren’t particularly fun around here lately, and he said, well, you just have to work harder to re-define fun. I am working as hard as I can at it, and each day I feel my muscles in that area getting stronger.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In which R. lands in a ditch and nearly finds god

The other day, R and I went to the zoo, which was a bit of an escape for both of us; I think there’s a rule that if your 16 yo son wants to go anywhere with you, you should drop whatever you’re doing and just go, and especially if what you’re dropping is work, and what he’s skipping is school. 

R. commented that he was the only non-adult over the age of about 3 at the zoo, which was pretty accurate; watching all of the parents with toddlers reminded me of how much easier it is to go around with people who can walk and manage their own toileting needs.  We had an excellent time, and got home in time for R. to drive himself to band practice at a friends’ house. 

A few hours later, I got the call that every parent dreads:  “Mom, I’ve been in a car accident.”  Luckily, no one was hurt, and no one else was involved – he hit a slick patch and spun out, landing in a ditch.

He ended up right in front of a small church, which happened to be occupied by a small youth group meeting.  It’s the only commercial-ish establishment for about 5 miles in any direction, so it was a strange coincidence that this is where he landed, and equally freaky that people were there, because the building is probably only inhabited for about 3 hours a week.

When I arrived to arrange for a tow, I found him inside, bible in hand, which was, and I hope I don’t insult any of you, but it was nearly as disturbing as the accident itself.  I'm all for whatever people do to help them be decent and hopeful, and I'm sure the bible is a big part of that for many, but does it seem a little opportunistic?

They invited him inside to wait for me so that he could stay warm, and then handed him a bible and a worksheet on scripture.  His chances of finding god might have been slightly higher than normal, given that he had just survived the terror of being behind the wheel of an out of control vehicle, and not only walked away unscathed, but ended up immediately being whisked into a bible study group.  If one were inclined to see signs from god, well, I think this whole episode would count.

The pastor came out to talk to me, and started by saying, “Is he in trouble, mom?” which, while I find it smarmy when random adults call me “mom,” I did like that he seemed to be R’s ally, and was prepared to talk me down if I turned out to be the hysterical angry sort, so he did win points for that.  I told him no, he’s not in trouble.  I tend to think that if R. didn’t learn anything from being behind the wheel of a vehicle that was spinning out of control, there’s nothing I could say that would matter; he either learned the lesson or he isn’t going to, so I kept my mouth shut and was just grateful, as clich├ęd as it sounds, that we’re all still on the planet for at least another day.

While we were waiting for the tow truck, R. thanked me for being cool; I wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but I’m pretty sure it was a completely different thing than I would mean.  I think he was thanking me that I wasn’t upset about the damage to the car, but I like to think that his future adult self was present for a second, realizing, shit, every day she lets me out of her sight and has no idea if I’ll make some stupid testosterone-driven mistake that will change all of our lives forever, and yet she walks around, acting normal, letting me drive, and doesn’t appear to be on the verge of a breakdown. 

As we waited by the side of the road, a police officer arrived, and I recognized him as the person who interrogated M. last week, because I looked him up on the web. I was going to say, allow me to introduce myself and my other child.  I believe you frisked my daughter last week, just a couple miles from here, and had the dogs sniff her stuff?  Well, here’s my son.  Yes, I am the proud mother of these fine young drivers.  But I didn’t, and he was remarkably meek: didn’t ask for ID, didn’t seem curious about the speed that must have been required to end up in the ditch in the opposite direction and on the opposite side of the road than the direction of original travel.  He asked if we had a tow coming, and when I said yes, he drove off.

The pastor came out again and invited us in for hot chocolate, and gave me this brochure:

I laughed and asked why he thought I needed mood management classes, and he got all back-pedally, "oh no, no, that's not what I meant", but it's hard to imagine what else someone would mean by handing you a brochure titled "managing your moods."  I’m sure he’s trying to grow their church, for both self-serving and altruistic reasons, but um, do you think that’s a good strategy?  When random people come in (which is surely pretty damn rare, like, we were probably the first ever), you hand them a brochure that suggests they’re kind of cranky?  It gets worse when you open it up, but I'll spare you.

“Oh, no, I’m sure you’re not moody. It’s really just a ladies bible study group.  The ladies in the area gather to talk about the bible. You’d be welcome any time.”

Right.  Studying the bible with a bunch of women, moody or otherwise, is quite low on my list.  I always wish I had the courage to just say, no, I really don’t have any interest in doing that.  Thanks for being good to my son, because I’m sure he was totally rattled, and you’re obviously a very decent human, but must we quickly leap to the part where you want us to join your church?

Thankfully, the tow truck arrived.  The best part of the whole thing was how it felt like 1952 or something – the tow truck driver shook hands with both of us, and called R. “son”, (which for some reason didn’t seem as bad as the pastor calling me “mom”), and said he’d “have the car out in a jiffy”.  If this were a movie, it would go on for a while before the viewer discovered that R., through his accident, had opened a time warp that propelled us into Mayberry, USA, but it wasn’t that movie. 

Before the tow truck driver left, he shook my hand again, and asked how the service was, which, well, I dunno, should you ask that?  Is that like asking, while still on the date, “How is our date going?”  But I said it was great, and he said I might get a survey in the mail and he’ll get a cash bonus if I give him positive scores, so he’d appreciate it if I do that, making me feel a little like, sheesh, at least he’s being transparent, but everyone here seems to want something from me and all I want to do is not get all choked up that R. came this close to an accident that could have had a completely different and worse outcome.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

pious and thrifty

Dear Quortknee:

Is it wrong to make change out of the offering basket when it comes around at church? My friend says it’s wrong. In fact, she didn’t even hesitate when I asked. But what if all I have is a single large bill? I’d like to contribute something, but I’m not sure how much my salvation should cost. And maybe I’d like a little lunch later, you know?

I’ve also heard that old Texas saying, “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” Is that true? Instead of donating to church, maybe I should be spending my money on a higher hairdo, like maybe a really tall, spiky Mohawk. I’m so confused, can you provide some guidance?

On a related note, is it wrong Tweet in church? Seriously, what if I have an app for that? And what if something really moves me at church? Shouldn’t I share that with all my cyber-friends immediately? What if I forget to do it later?

Excuse me,
- Pious and Thrifty

Dear Pious,
I don't know where you got that bad information about the change. It's perfectly fine to make change, but you probably should sit a little farther towards the back if you do, (just to make sure there's change to be had).

I'm not so sure there is a god, but if there is, I'm certain she'd want you to have a spiky mohawk. God's like that, sometimes. All wrapped up in the hairdoos of the mortals. Which, I'd like to point out, is way worse than texting while driving. Seriously, driving the whole friggin' universe, and focusing on the hair of one of the 6 billion human earthlings?  I don't think it's just me this time, that is rather dangerous.

Keep tweeting, if you must, but absolutely no texting.  That's where I draw the line.

You're excused,

P.S.  I like how you spell my name.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The rat race

At last week’s staff meeting, one of my co-workers declared that the level of dysfunction in our organization is so profound that it eludes words, which I took as a personal challenge. Game on.

The reason this comment about dysfunction was brought up is because, at that particular staff meeting, all of the Mucky Mucks attended so that they could give out service awards.  When you work at some companies for 20 years, you might get stock options, but when you work for the government for 10 years, you get a 3 x 3 tinted glass tile that has the agency logo on it, and when you work there for 15 years, the tile is 4” x 4”, and, at 20 years, a 6 x 6 tile.  I guess if you work there long enough you could create a shower stall or something. I’d like to point out that the surface area of tile increases rather steeply, which must have meaning.

But one of the reasons that this was such an unusual presentation is that the biggest mucky muck of all had been fired (oops, I mean she resigned to spend more time with her family), the way it happens when the new elected official wants to make his mark. This person didn’t do anything in particular wrong, is my point. She is a smart, dedicated, hard-working person, by the way. Only the merest mention of her pending departure was made during the awards ceremony, which I think was me asking what she’s going to do next, and her saying, oh, I don’t really know, something completely different, and me saying, maybe you could be a rock star? Which seemed to please her, I like to think, and caused my boss to give me that bewildered look, like, “what is wrong with you?” But mostly everyone laughed nervously because it was so far-fetched of a suggestion and there was so much nervous energy in the room already.

The word, “ceremony” makes it sound like we weren’t just sitting around a table in a grim meeting room; it makes it seem like maybe there was a snack, or coffee at least, but that would be incorrect. Some of the people in the room, including some of those getting the service awards, had been laid off, and had about a day left at the job. This wasn’t mentioned during the ceremony, either, which, well, can you see how that would be a little surreal?

To summarize: the director is leaving, and we don’t know if we’ll get another one, or if that means the plan will be to eliminate the whole agency, or maybe scatter people to different agencies, or lay everyone off. A bunch of the people already did get laid off, and all this is coming down rather soon, like, for some people, in 24 hours. So at the meeting, management gives out what basically amounts to attendance awards, with no mention of anything else going on. No, “hey, thanks to the rest of you who’s last day is tomorrow, by the way.”

That’s the backdrop, hopefully I can a little more of this story, like the part about how the secretaries have all been laid off except for one, who, well, she hasn’t been around much lately because she’s been taking driver training classes offered by the Community Services for the Blind. Yes, that’s true. When I asked my boss if he was at all concerned that the community services for the blind offers driver training, he said no, not really.

Yes, hopefully I can tell more of the story without boring you, or getting fired. My son says that it would be the most pathetic thing ever to get fired for this blog. Like, “yeah, I got fired. Yup, wrote a blog that seven people read. Got fired for it. My kids and I live under a bridge now. Totally worth it, though, that blog.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's happening?

Aries (3/21 – 4/19):  Did you hear about that woman who got the lasik eye surgery for reasons of convenience and vanity, but it harmed her eyes and now she has to wear moisture-generating goggles all day?  The problem that started out as, "I don't look so great in glasses" became, "Now I always look like a fish in a foggy terrarium."  That seems wrong, but I just wanted to point out that there are weird problems out there that don’t belong to you.  Enjoy that, for a change.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  Does it bother you to realize that you’re only the figment of someone else’s imagination, and lately, they haven’t been thinking about you much?  I can see how that would be disturbing.  This week, though, try to make a break for it, and capture your own life.  (Don’t. Tell. Her.)  

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21):  Johnny Depp did not die, if that’s what you’re worried about.  So this week, fill up that dumpster, metaphoric or actual, and get rid of stuff that’s dragging you down.  Toss a detail into the gloom to light your way.  Oh, and you know how people print out lyrics, cover them in clear contact paper, and hang them in the shower (using the leftover suction cups), so that when they play the shower playlist on the iPod, they can learn the words so that later when they sing in the car, it’s not so “blah blah la-di-da”, but more actual words?  (Oh, is that just me again?)  Well, anyway, learn this song, will ya?  If you need suction cups, let me know.  (I have lots of clear contact paper as well.)

Cancer 6/22 – 7/21:  Have you read that book by Ransom Stevens?  Read it and tell us whether we should bother.  Also, did you find the Life Magazine’s “Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time” to be a huge disappointment?  Me too.  They took the most interesting stories in history and snuffed the life right out of them.  Grr.  Your life will be better than that this week.  Lots of interesting stories.

Leo (7/23 – 8/22): If you wrote a book and it got published, you should let your friends throw a fun party.  Oh, you did write a book, and it did get published?  Um, I think we could find someone to water the plants for a few hours, if that’s the problem.

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22): Does it concern you that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made up stuff about the rate of Himalayan glaciers melting, saying they’d be gone in 35 years, just to get a grant?  Sloppy science, or fraud? As if things weren’t bad enough after Climategate.

Libra (9/23 – 10/22)
:  You should start answering the phone again instead of just watching it ring, and then assuming they’ll call back if its important, and then if it does ring again, assuming they’ll leave a message if its important, and then if they do leave a message, you should actually retrieve it, rather than waiting for the text or the singing telegram.  Seriously, you should do that.

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  Do you think Ira Glass is as excited about seeing us next week as we are about seeing him?  Oh, and in the estuary of your soul, which is a phrase I stole from one of the hippy wilderness scholars wearing skirts and boots and hand knit wool caps, cultivate gladness.

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21):  You should really take up guitar.  Look on Craigslist, find one, take a burly person with you to check it out, and then learn to sing and play that song by Sad Brad Smith.  It will make the world a better place.

Capricorn (12/22 – 1/19):  Does the boredom seem like it might swamp you this week?  Keep rowing, and get a pet or something.  Work on your zombie apocalypse plan.  You need to think a little bigger picture, because, well, I’m not saying I have a better plan, but holing up in a mall, it’s not gonna help with the boredom, and eventually you’ll run out of food and ammunition. 

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18): Is it your birthday this week?  Yay for you, one more trip around the sun.  Eat one of those excellent brownies (the ones shaped like a pie, with chopped hazelnuts), if you’re looking for a way to celebrate. Every time I think of Aquarius, I think of the Supremes, which makes me think how the Supreme Court wasn’t so supreme this week, was it?  Don’t let that bring you down.  It’s a whole new year, a lot could happen, and undoubtedly will.

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  Does it sometimes feel like you grew up living in the back of a pickup truck in Homer, Alaska with 2 large dogs, 3 brothers, and hippy parents who spent two years writing what they called a book, but turned out to be a car stereo installation manual?  We all feel that way sometimes.  Write a book, already!  There’s no time like right now.  I mean RIGHT now, put your knitting down and start typing.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Hi Cort-nee,

I've had something on my mind now for several days and it finally occurred to me that my troubles would be solved if I wrote you for advice! The problem is that I was defriended on Facebook and I don't know why. 

I've actually been defriended many times but it's usually people I'm not really in touch with any more and was going to defriend myself anyhow, but this time it's different. This person is a current co-worker, sits just down the hall and I actually thought we were  friends, in that coworker kind of way... 

If he had defriended all coworkers I could understand that, but he's still friends with others, even people he had told me personally drive him crazy! So I'm trying to figure out if I've done something really awful and don't remember or didn't realize was so offensive. One more thing...I thought it might be a mistake so I tried 'refriending' him with a little note joking about how I must have really ticked him off and I didn't think our last chat was that bad (we debated a work related topic, good naturedly, I thought) and I'm quite sure he has officially "ignored" the request. I wish it didn't even bother me, but it does. I haven't run into him in the hall since I tried 'refriending'...I'm sure it will be awkward. What should I do?

Offensively? yours,

Dear Friendly,

I can't imagine why anyone would defriend you.  (Is that a word now, btw?)  I, in fact, have only defriended one person, but I felt so bad about it that I had to send him a little gift, an actual gift, not one of those fake facebook gifts, and I sent it through the US mail, and it was a string of hand made paper maiche globes and origami cranes that were attached to Christmas lights to create, if I must say so, a very festive and charming bit of lighting that undoubtedly went completely unappreciated, along with the sparest apology about the unfriending, which was undoubtedly received with a, "huh?"  Sadly, I'm not making any of this up.  

Oh, wait, back to you.  I just think that's plain weird.  It would only make sense if FB put a limit on the number of friends you could have, like Real Life does, but they don't.  And you're clearly not any of these people, the over-updaters, or the cryptic-dramatic posters, "I'm carrying on anyway, sniff sniff", or the sort that is constantly starting pillow fights or begging for farm animals.  So it's definitely not you, which is what he should have said during the unfriending. 

You should walk down the hall and say, "Hey, I wonder if you need my home mailing address, because I hear it's traditional to send a little gift when you unfriend someone; it should be something homemade that contains a message of peace and light."  See what he says.  My guess is that he's gonna be all, "huh?"  If that's what happens, you can at least be thinking in your head, "what an asshole!  I'm so lucky he dumped me, its like a weight has been lifted."

Write back to let us know how it goes.


Friday, January 22, 2010

What's my problem, N'3lvra?

Dear N’3lvra

I have a lot of problems, but what I’m writing to you about today is this: I have written a long, boring, political diatribe to an advice column on a blog that isn’t about that. I pretend I’m writing for advice, but in fact, I discover that I’ve written a 4,459 word diatribe about proposed legislation that doesn’t even affect me, because I don’t even live in that state. I know! Count the words, I am not exaggerating. The problem, I guess, is that I write as if I have a question, when in fact, I just want a platform for my political views. What should I do?

Lonestar N.

Dear Lonestar,

Thankfully, you reined yourself in, sparing me the unpleasant task of taking a long political message and reforming it into an actual question. (Oh wait, you didn’t do that? Sheesh. Did it this time, Lonestar, but that’s the last time.)

Maybe you’ve never read an actual advice column before, but here’s how it goes: people write with their own personal problems, like, “I have a co-worker who chews loudly all day,” or, in one particular case, “I have a co-worker who insists that he’s an ambassador to the aliens, and wants me to know that if I stick with him, when the invasion happens and I’m offered the choice of becoming food or a slave, I’ll get my top choice. Which is food, but somehow, that was unacceptable to said co-worker, who insists I select slave.” The little story always ends with a question, like, “how do I get my first choice of being food without insulting the ambassador?”

Other people read advice columns because of the broad appeal; see, everyone, when it comes down to it, has the same problems, Lonestar. All over the land today, people are facing the pushy alien ambassador at the “water cooler”, (and I’m using quotes because no one has ever, in the history of cubicles, gathered around a water cooler.) My point, Lonestar, is that I have about two readers, and they don’t come here for rancor. We don’t know why they come here, in fact, but surely not for that.

So try this on for a real problem: you’ve been through a lot, and it’s left you sad and angry. You’ve grabbed the angry thread and you’re following it all over the land.

Grief leaks out in our lives in all kinds of bad ways. Sit down and actually be sad for a bit, and then get up and try to be a little more joyful. Find the best cupcake in your area. Go look at some water, like an ocean.  Take a walk. Stop joining angry causes, and see if you can laugh three times today. That's a low bar, but I think you can do it, Lonestar.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

blog roll

When the kids were little, I went camping with another family somewhere on the other side of the mountains where it isn’t supposed to rain much, but it rained the whole time. As we stood around our campfire in the drizzle, a boy from a different campsite came and stood at our fire, not really saying anything. It was pretty awkward, like, um, does he know that we all know each other, and if he walks up and stands here, he should probably say something?

I felt sorry for him because any time we were around, he showed up and stood there, not talking much, and his name was bad, like Marvin or something. You just knew this kid was teased at school. That name wasn’t gonna help, and neither were his parents, who were the drunken yelling sort of people. I really didn’t mind feeding him and stuff, but he wasn’t the sort of kid who’s fun to have around, which clearly wasn’t his fault, but still.

At any rate, finding blogs to link to makes me feel a little like Marvin. There I am, following the blogs of people I don’t know, just sidling up to someone elses' campfire, standing there awkwardly, not saying anything. That’s one problem. And if I link to big famous blogs, it feels a little like crashing the Obama’s Thanksgiving, (not that I know what that feels like – that wasn’t me). So, allow me to mention, in the least creepy way possible, the blogs I’ve posted links to.

Cliff Mass, local weather genius. He's serious about the weather, and what I love is that he assumes you are, too. Even if you live far from this particular weather (which, by the way, has been amazingly warm), you might get a kick out of how passionate he is about forecasting, and data. (Oh, is that just me?) He’s one of those people who’s so into what he’s doing that it doesn’t occur to him that anyone might not be. Plus, he’s always right.

Cakespy is just a sweet (no pun intended, truly) blog about cakes and so on. Jess creates her own cupcake art, and she isn’t snobby about ingredients: she’ll make stuff out of crushed oreos just as often as gourmet chocolate, and I think the food world needs a little less pretension and a lot more joy, and she’s got that. They have cake gumshoes all around the country now, so if you need a recommendation for a pastry on the road, check it out.

Yoga Today, well, if I can’t take a class in real with my most excellent instructors, I go here. They have one great free class a week, which seems pretty generous.

And finally, Agony in Eight Fits is a nice blog with interesting, succinct posts about current events, books, and whatever else is on the authors’ mind. It’s not so provincial or rambling as this blog, which is a good thing, and it’s also in Maine, which, while not quite as far north as us, I feel a little kindredness because they know what it’s like to have long dark winters. (Not to be all one-upsman-ish about our suffering, but they will experience 20 more minutes of daylight tomorrow than we will.)

Okay, that’s all. Enjoy the other blogs. Recommend more, if you like.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

new cop in town?

The other day my hippy teenager, M., was on her way home and got pulled over for speeding on C.V. Road, which I can’t really comment on because I’ve been known to do the same thing -- the speeding part, not the getting caught part. But in her case, the cop pulled her over and detained her for an hour.

She passed the Breathalyzer test, walked the line, and answered many questions:

“Where are you coming from?”

“A Tilth meeting in the Valley.”

“What’s that?”

“A meeting of farmers to exchange information.”

“Are you for or against farming?”

When she was telling the story to R. and me, R. stopped her at this point to suggest an answer she could have used: “I’m anti-farming. I just dress this way because I’m trying to infiltrate the movement.”

The cop asked her whether she had a knife or any other weapons in her car. (Is it illegal, btw, to carry a knife in your car? I have never been asked that in a routine traffic stop.) She confessed to having a leatherman in her glovebox, one that she had found, well, actually sort of dug up, in the woods during the little window of time when she was still young enough to be digging around in the woods but old enough to keep the knife. Oh wait, I think she’s still in that window. I’m not sure if she explained the whole part about where she found the knife to him, or was just reminding us in the retelling of the story. I think she has that thing that many honest people do of over-answering when you feel put on the spot or wrongfully accused. Like, how could I possibly be the pothead you mistake me for when I have such a detailed explanation about digging up the knife?

He questioned her about whether she had any drug paraphernalia, because her eyes seemed a little bit dilated. She mentioned that she’d had a piece of organic apple pie at the Tilth meeting, and let him look through her car and backpack. He found nothing, but called for backup, and they waited by the side of the road until another cop with German Shepherds arrived to search and sniff her car and belongings. They found nothing.

Which reminds me of a side story about profiling: I got a cord of wood last week, cut in rounds, and I’ve been splitting away at it for many days, leading to a dull axe. I asked R. if he could take it to the auto parts store to get it sharpened. For a second, I worried that he’d get stopped on the way to town. If the leatherman was enough to cause the cop to get out the drug dogs, would R. end up in solitary confinement for transporting the axe? But I decided I was being ridiculous. Oh wait, was I?

“I don’t think they sharpen axes at the auto parts store.”

“Yes they do. I take it there all the time. Just carry it in, go to the back counter, and ask them. It costs about $5.”

“Are you sure that isn’t a woman-in-her-prime thing?”


“I don’t think they sharpen axes there.”

“Yes, they do.”

So he comes back later and says he brought the axe in, but the guy just looked at him and said, no, we don’t sharpen axes, confirming R.’s opinion that women get special treatment, and causing me to wonder how they’ve been sharpening my axe for years.

But speaking of profiling, the other day when I picked Joey up hitchhiking, it was pretty early, maybe 11 am, and he was already on his way home from town, quite drunk, as usual. I asked what he’d been up to, and he said he was doing community service to try to get his bicycle back, which had been impounded by the local police; he told me there’s a new chief in town, who confiscated Joey’s bike on his first day on the job. I haven’t heard about the new guy from anyone else, but clearly, he’s bikeless. The bike was impounded because Joey was riding while drunk, and he didn’t have the money to get it back. I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of community service he was doing, but I hope it works out. I’m not a fan of this new chief of police, if there really is one.

Oh, and vote, if you would. :-)

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Dear Khortnee,

My friend Claire has got no cats.

This is a tragic situation that she clearly needs to remedy. Cats are an essential part of life, after all. An unpurred upon lap is a very lonely lap indeed.

The question is how should she go about acquiring said feline.

Especially when there is rumored to be some cataphobics in the house who might consider the corralling of a cat to be a cataclysmic catastrophy of clearly colossal consequences.

Perhaps some significant other or three should select a cat or two or three and present them to her...

A. nonymous

Dear A. Nonymous,

Keep up, A. Laps are for laptops. Cats are the worst thing ever: kitty litter mined from open pits in Wyoming. Used for a week, then dumped into landfills, which are as bad as strip mines only worse, because of the toxic leachate. And in between, they lurk around the house like they're better than you, pretending they can talk but just don't feel like it because you're not very interesting. AND, domestic cats kill about a billion songbirds a year in this country alone.

I know! Bet you didn't see that particular rant coming, A. Bet you thought I'd be all on your side here, about the furry little pests, but you've actually put N'3lvra in a very cranky mood, just thinking about the cats. My neighbor has a cat that's so big I'm afraid to go outside, and the UPS man has to deliver their stuff to my trailer because he's afraid of the cat too.

Let's leave poor Claire out of this, she has enough mouths to feed already without fostering that particular feline scourge on the planet. Let's focus on your problems, shall we, A? Write again when you can put them into words.


Friday, January 15, 2010


The other day while in the field with the lovely R. (not to be confused with the teenage R.), we started playing the game, “name three things you’d be willing to do with [name a coworker] that don’t involve drinking”. The point being that there are people in the world that are distinctly more pleasant to be around while medicated.

But it morphed into a rather fun game of identifying peoples’ quirks that wasn’t nearly as unkind as it sounds, and it distracted R. from how annoyed she gets when I use the navigator on my phone rather than rely on her. She always brings up the point that perhaps I should look at the fact that I get along best with electronic devices and don’t mind outsourcing one of her important roles to a gadget, right in front of her, for goddsakes, which gives me a chance to say, “well, if you would say things like, ‘prepare to turn right in point two miles,’ rather than ‘Oh, I think that was it’, maybe I’d turn off the phone.”

We were also distracting ourselves from the whole sad situation in Haiti, which, to tell the truth, I can hardly learn about because it is incomprehensibly grim. I try to imagine what it would be like to suddenly have your neighborhood be a pile of debris, with your loved ones under the pile, and can’t. I think about it for seconds at a time, my brain like a little kid playing hide and seek: hands over eyes, peeking through cracks in my fingers before quickly trying to shut it out again. I am not proud of that.

I do know that I can send $10 to the relief efforts simply by texting “Haiti” to the number 90999, and Huffington Post has put together a list of vetted places to donate. I can do that, at least.

But I can’t listen to the personal stories, or the pleas for help. I just can’t. I bet you can’t either. You sit, trapped in your vehicle, driving, hearing someone with a gorgeous lilting island accent begging for help, or sobbing. I turn the radio off.

I can listen to the engineers discuss the situation, though, because it’s more clinical and not so personal. But when they talk, it reminds me of how close to going off on a rant about landuse regulation I am at any given moment.

The rant, which some of you have heard before, is, in it’s abbreviated form, this: people in this country have become accustomed to the fact that we don’t normally suffer much from huge natural disasters. We have emergency planning, and rules, and the Uniform Building Code, and so on, so that even if we had a shallow 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook for a minute, we wouldn’t have anywhere near that level of devastation.

But day after day, people kick and scream and get really nasty because they have to obey the zoning code, or pay for permit review. Grr, I could go on and on, and maybe another day I will, but I just wanted to connect the dots, which I know, has been the trendiest of actions these days, the government is all about wishing they could connect the dots, so here are some dots: Haiti has no building code at all. The country is among the most deforested countries in the world. The earthquake was way more devastating because of those factors.

So my wish for us is that we will be a little more thankful, and a little less nasty in the face of regulation. It’s a small price to pay to avoid the possibility of standing near a pile of rubble listening to the sounds of our buried children slowly expiring.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Dear Khortnee,

I need your help with holiday card etiquette. If I send a card out and it is returned "undeliverable, no forwarding address", I immediately want to delete that person from my list. After all, if they're not considerate enough to notify me that they moved sometime during the previous year, then they certainly don't deserve a picture of my adorable children.

My husband thinks differently. He thinks just because they're his relatives and are going through a nasty divorce or got put in a nursing home that we should give them some leniency. Could you help me to explain to him exactly why he is so very very wrong?



Dear Claire,
Of course he's wrong. Undeliverable means undeliverable. What part of that is so confusing to the father of those adorable children?

I think it's reasonable to assume that these "friends", and yes, I'm doing the motion that goes with those quotation marks, have traded in the opportunity to receive a picture of those lovely (and might I add intelligent) children for a spot in the witness protection program. Who would do that? I, for example, would let those children take me by the hand and show me their success in potty training, and no, I didn't get no stinkin' card, or even, I might add, a sticker on my star chart. I would let the mafia kill me as long as I get to keep my same address and get a chance to receive a pic of the lovelies.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mistaken identity

Someone I know has created a fake facebook profile, selected a college and year of graduation for this phony person, and sent friend requests to other graduates of that school. In two days, this phony person, whom I’ll call Bob, has acquired 145 friends. I know, that’s way more friends than I have, and I’m an actual person. It's best if I don't think too hard about that.

When Bob posts a status update, it’s generic, like, “Long day today,” and some of his FB friends click, “like.” Of the 145 friends, five asked the question, “do I know you?” before approving the friend request. To which “Bob” answered, “Um, yeah, didn’t we have a class together with that whacky professor?” In each case, that was enough to recover the person’s memory, and they’d invariably respond with something like, “Oh, right! Professor L.! Yes, I was the T.A. for that, remember?” Every comment of Bobs is generic and ridiculously obvious. For example, one friend posted a picture of a knife. Bob commented, “Is that a knife?” The friend replied with a lengthy comment about the knife, and Bob responded, “thought so.”

I was wondering about all of this, trying to decide if FB is more theater than social network, and how it would be to get a friend request from someone who you not only don't know, but has no other friends. What was going through the mind of the first person who accepted the friend request?

I was doing this wondering while driving to a field meeting for work, which I wouldn’t write about or I could be fired: rule number one about blogging is don’t write about work or anyone you know. Which is why blogs can seem rather self-absorbed, leading to the comment, “NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU HAD FOR LUNCH” (two prawn tacos).

So anyway, without boring you with the sordid details of this field meeting, I’ll sketch it out. I was requested to attend by the developer, who is not named Bob, hereinafter referred to as NB. Also in attendance was the developer’s consultant, who is not named Joe, but we’ll call him that. Got it? Two people plus me. For you, the reader, that’s three people to keep track of, but for any of us at the meeting, that’s only two. Not a big number. If you’re the person who called the meeting, as was NB, it seems like you’d be able to keep it straight.

So this project has been dragging on literally for years. I was involved at the beginning, when NB first filled a wetland and cleared trees he wasn’t supposed to and did other illegal things like draining a wetland and dumping silty water into a salmon stream on a weekend. Oh, did I say that? No, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure you didn’t hear that from me.

So there’s been the long drawn-out unpleasantness that happens: that wasn’t a wetland. Was too. No way. Yes way. You can’t make me. Can too. And so on. And then the person who was this close to getting resolution on the whole thing got laid off, handing it back to me. “He’s a bug under the glass,” she told me. “You just need to have this one meeting, and you can wrap it up.” Yes, she actually said that about the bug.

So we’re meeting, and going over all the negotiations that have gone down, and so far, so good. Then he mentions that he wants to cut back a steep slope that he created by excavating an area that he wasn’t supposed to mess with in the first place, but now it’s a big ugly scar on the land that he wants to remedy by further encroaching into the wetland buffer, and I tell him no, fix it by filling in the other way rather than cutting back further.

It got really nasty then, with him saying stuff like, “Well, that’s a deal-breaker. I’m walking.” Which is not unlike when R. told me he was leaving because I asked him to do the dishes. “Um, okay, go for it. Strike out on your own, young man, but if you need a roof over your head, a car to drive, money for fancy yo-yos, dinner, and so on, come on by and do the dishes.” It was not unlike that. I’m thinking, Um, okay, deal broken. I don’t really care, as the little zoombini guy used to say.

I stayed pretty cool, and suggested a few ways he could modify his design to meet both the code and his needs, and he gets all, “LOOK. I know what I’m doing. Just stick to your little wetland stuff, and leave me to develop the lot." I’m thinking, wait, I don't think he knows he’s the bug under the glass.

“Where are you getting all this stuff, that I can’t do that?” And I turn into code zombie, I’m all drone-y, per 21A.24. 045 D blah di blah blah. Yes, that’s an actual superpower, kind of like rainman but super boring. And he’s all incensed, and just says, STOP. I’ll call the shots here. Which again, just seemed freaky.

So I say wait, let’s review. We’re giving you this flexibility in these areas, and I begin to list them. I’m heading toward that part of the conversation of, right, fine, don’t do the dishes, your choice, but don’t expect to drive the car anytime soon, or hit me up for concert tickets, etc. But before I get there, he starts pointing his finger at me, and says, “Look, you’re workin’ for me now. I don’t want to hear all this, “we” stuff, as if you’re part of the county. You’re just one person, and you are on my team now, and you’re here to help me get this done.”

Which seems like the kind of conversation that would be accompanied by a bribe, don’t you think? The finger pointing and yelling, well, I dunno, it wasn’t all that effective. So I said some closure things, the way public servants do, all droney and acting like I wasn’t extremely irritated that I had to put up with this crap. I got in my car and was about to drive away when he knocked on my window.

“Hey, I owe you an apology.”

I thought, wow, indeed you do, but just said, “yes?”

And he said, “Um, I guess I was a little bit confused. I thought you were my consultant. So, when I said, “you aren’t working for the County, I was wrong. So I’m sorry for the mix up.”

Okay then. I was trying hard not to laugh, and the consultant was standing behind him also trying not to laugh, and I was thinking that of all his rude bullying behavior, the thing he has to apologize for is that he thought I was someone else?

Check back, because while I'm on this mistaken identity theme, I may write something about the drug sniffing dogs that were called out recently.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Don't worry about the sidearm

Yesterday one of the people at my office who is on the “lifeboat”, which is what they call it when you’ll probably be laid off in 2 weeks, but maybe not and nobody’s giving you any information, came into my cubicle. 

“Have you heard of ________,” he asks.  He’s in typical form:  talking in a low mutter, leaning in close, using a rapid mumble so that words tumble out of his mouth as if they’re anxious to get out and need to hurry before he catches on.  It wouldn’t require too much acting for him to be in a mafia movie.

“Nope,” I reply.

“Well, you’ll be getting that project.  When you see the comments about needing a sheriff accompaniment to visit the site, ignore it.  He’s threatened County employees with a sidearm, but you’ll be fine.”

“Um, okay.”  In addition to the people who have already lost their jobs, which is especially sad because these jobs are not coming back anytime soon, and people have spent their career developing a freaky little specialty that doesn’t apply anywhere else, there are those who remain, with their own set of problems.  Missing people they’ve worked with for years, taking on more work, and, more complicatedly (is that a word?), trying to unravel the back-stories of each project in an efficient yet heartful way.

We spend a lot of time looking in file drawers in empty cubicles, trying not to get too irritated.  Picture that someone started knitting a complicated sweater from a pattern they made up from their head, taking few notes, and then left it for you to finish up.   It’s exactly like that, without the sweater. 

This guy continues, “I really don’t think he’ll bring out the sidearm with you.  The thing you gotta help him with, though, is that thing, what’s it called when you can’t throw stuff out?  See, his wife died a year ago, and the house is full of clutter.  He’s got that thing where you’re really messy but worried about cleanliness.  You’re gonna have to help him with that.”

On the one hand, I’m thinking, um, really?  Is there a wetland involved?  But I’m actually sad, because that’s what’s going out the door.  Freaky people, granted, who may never work again because, well, you can imagine.  And yet, this guy knows that the man in question is grieving a wife, and has OCD, and he stops by to visit and try to talk him into getting rid of the sewing machine and the hundreds of dress patterns that clutter up the house.

“When you go over there, go in through the garage and take your shoes off.  I understand what he’s going through.  We want immortality through our things.  He needs a daughter to take that sewing machine.”

“Does he have a daughter?”

“Nope, two sons.  I was over there having a coke the other day… Hey, he’s looking for super soft cloths to dust with that won’t cause scratching.  Do you know where to buy those?"

I was having opposing thoughts:  on the one hand, shit, now I have do deal with the OCD whack-job who makes threats with guns, and on the other hand, I was reminded once again that sometimes the stuff we measure in the workplace isn’t the right stuff.  Sometimes a weird side effect of land use regulation is that it takes random lonely people and requires that they engage with the giant bureaucracy, which gives them an outlet for their anger about the way their lives are going down, and also, if they’re lucky, a chance to connect with someone who bothers to figure them out just a little bit.

“See, I’ve got sons, right?   And I have 27 screwdrivers.  When I go, if they only choose three to keep, and get rid of the rest, well, there goes my immortality.  Each of those screwdrivers meant something to me, and I need them to want all 27 or my life has been a bit of a waste, you see?”

I didn’t really see, but I was glad it all made sense to him.

This story is continued here

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Hi Kohrtnee,

(Somehow your name reminds of the word chortle. It's late and I'm rummy, maybe that's why...)

I have two questions:

1. There is a certain relative of mine who needs to find a new place to live. Do ya think suggesting he/she plop one of these nearby would be the right encouragement? Heck, I wouldn't mind living in one of these if the location was right. It kinda says funk/eco more than trailer park. (Oops, was that a gaffe?) This relative isn't living with me, by the way, but is making those who have to live with him/her rather miserable. So just how kosher is it to say 'um, hey, relative, it's time you moved out and left your relations alone!'? (Gender disguised to protect the not-so-innocent.)

2. Why is there an Ask N'3lvra blog with the most recent post being a stale February, 2005?

Sign me,

Confused Chortler

Dear Confused,

I watched the video and almost got seasick.  So I watched it again and again and pretended I was on an oceanic cruise to a warm locale.  Then I remembered, wait, what was the question, requiring that I watch it yet again, with that in mind.  I think, yes, it is the right encouragement.  For what, I'm unsure.

Do you know those people who were in the war, and they keep bringing up the old stories?  Yes, I thought you did.  'Nuf said about the old blog.

Faithfully yours,
N'3lvra (three is silent)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hey Frankie, you're not my bro

 I get an e-mail about once a week from someone named Frank Fenimore.  He seems to think he's my brother.  He says stuff like, "did you get that puzzle I sent you? When can I come over and work on it with you? Love from your brother."

I don't have any brothers (that I know of), and it seems more than a little odd. It's been going on for a while.  Maybe  years. There are local references, like, "shall we meet at Coho's in Monroe for a drink?" What has tipped me over the edge is this weeks' note:

 Happy New Year
 How is that new cat?

 Your Cat free brother

Yes, he uses that enormous blue font.  Why does everyone think I have a cat? 

R. thinks I'm a douchebag (his word) for not replying and saying, Hey Frankie, we aren't bros. (R. claims he's a pro at using the word douchebag, a word that I find rather vulgar, because one time he was required by a teacher to write a little essay on what the word meant.  I'll let you imagine why he had to write that essay.  As a result of his research, he feels particularly qualified to use it.)  But I think Frankie should  already know we aren't related, don't you?  Does anyone else have an imaginary cyber-brother?


Dear Kalamazoo-
What do you have to say to a person whose job is to be part of a tech team and she can't figure out how to answer your alter-ego's (are we talking Three faces Of Eve?) hilarious blog?

And what would you have to say about a person who threw away the handmade soap her college roommate sent them for Christmas because the smell of it immediately transported her to a restroom of a Phillips 66 gas station, like in Redding or Bakersfield, CA. I'm suddenly filled with self loathing and here it is the 1st day of a brand new year.
                                                                       Vila Enviler

My Dear Vila,
Khortnee doesn't get many christmas cards or gifts, but when she does, she immediately pitches them in the trash or recycling (I guess you'd need to put them in the haz mat receptacle?) Or, more awkwardly, she donates them to the garage sales of the people who originally gave them. 

Don't be full of self-loathing (though if you hadn't pitched the soap, you coulda' been full of self lather, but I digress.)  The rest of us love you very much, so get on with yer new year and fill in your lungs with something other than the smell of the gas station.

PS The internet where I live also smells a little like Redding, and a lot like Boring, OR.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The 'scopes

Aries (3/21 – 4/19): You should watch that movie about the guy who digs up a stump, varnishes it, presents it to his wife as a baby, and the wife nurses it until it comes alive and eats the postman. Oh, you’ve seen that one? Of course! Maybe you’ll like this? (That’s what Netflix says, anyway.) This will seem like a long week, but make the best of it. Turn up the music and dance.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  Expect a proposition of some sort this week. Hopefully better than the one I got last week, “hey, you should take a few pieces of firewood on your way out.” Um, hello, you think my price for not calling it a stream is a tenth of a BTU?

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21): If you’re honest, you’ll admit that you too are afraid of air travel, and a drink or two does take the edge off. But keep your wits about you and your id handy. Watch Harold and Maude again, fer chrissakes!  Once is not enough.

Cancer 6/22 – 7/21: Do you think people use the word, “paradigm” in order to seem smart? I read this today: “Today we look at media technologies that are enabling not only greater freedom, but a new communicative paradigm which will, in part, help steer us to the great discoveries of this moment in history.” Then when you read the article, it’s about how social networking sites allow for grassroots conversations to emerge. AND, shouldn't it be "that" in the sentence, rather than "which"?  Yes, I believe so.  Did they really need to call that a communicative paradigm? I don’t think so. You’ll encounter similar pretension this week, but don't put up with it, even for a minute.

Leo (7/23 – 8/22): Get one of those mood dresses, will ya? Let me know how it works out. Oh, wait, I’ll already know, duh, that’s the whole point. It looks like it goes pretty well with everything.

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22): Does it seem like you’re easily bored? Me too! Check out the new blogs on the right, I think you might enjoy them. You might also like Cowboy Mouth.  Try "Jenny Says."  But meanwhile, your week will be full of back to the grind; you might wish to take up a vice or two.

Libra (9/23 – 10/22): Wow, you have awesome kids, completely worth every penny that you spend on them, which is no small sum. You should focus on the ordinary resolutions and try to stay a little bit closer to the bell curve this week. There’s plenty of room in here for you.

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21): What a difficult resolution you’ve selected, to be more thorough in every single thing you do. I’m not sure if anyone else cares much about the format of a bibliography entry, but I do think it’s excellent that you’re going to try to do them, and everything else, correctly this year.

Sagitarius (11/22 – 12/21): What do you think of the Kombucha Botanic #13? Hoax, health risk, or miracle cure? I can’t decide. Try it this week and let me know how it goes. That will give you a chance to use the word “scobie” in a sentence.

Capricorn (12/22 – 1/19): It looks like you’ll get an interesting proposition this week too. Yours should be more like the one my co-worker got. We were standing around on someone’s waterfront fancy-pants property, admiring it; when the woman who lived there came out, co-worker said, “wow, wish I could live here”, or something like that, to which woman said, “you should hook up with my husband. He’s flexible that way.” (I know, and meanwhile I get offered the two crummy pieces of firewood.) So be sure to follow up on this interesting offer, and let us all know how it goes.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18): Do you think Dr. Drew’s reality show about celebrity rehab is taking advantage of addicts, or helping them? I’ve never seen it, myself. Watch that and let me know what you think.

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20): It’s a tradition in Mexico to ring in the new year wearing new underwear, yellow if your resolution involves money, and red if it involves love. Alas, this year, Mexican markets sold more yellow than red, but you should enter the year in red. Oh, wait, what’s that, you don’t wear underwear? Um, this is a good time to start.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Dear N‘3lvra

Ok, it took me a while to write you, but there is no way around it. I seem to have been severely traumatized by losses in my life and now I seem to find myself increasingly putting up with nonsense because I don’t want to lose people as a consequence of my possible not-putting-up-with-sh…tuff.

For example, I have been thinking about breaking up with my counselor. I felt that we have lived apart and may not have too much in common; also the fire has cooled down in the bedroom … oh wait – wrong relationship. Anyway – you know, when you feel like they don’t really see you but only their reflection in you and then the part about not really listening (or taking notes for what it’s worth). So I talked to my friends and all agreed that it’s time to break up and I was determined to do so.

I didn’t want to do it in email, or a text message because I know what it feels like to be dumped that way. I thought about calling at a time when I could be sure to reach the answering machine, but kept putting it off. So the next thing I know, my counseling apptoinment was coming up and I decided to do the deed in person.

I get there, bring all the things that have not been working on my radar, while I wait for her. She comes and asks me how I am and I say – tersely – FINE! She stops whatever she is doing and asks again: Really? And there … I already feel bad for being so overtly terse. I soften my tone: Yes, really. And she asks me: Have you ever considered hypnotherapy? OMG – how did she know? It was the magic word – all that was needed to turn my almost backbone to pudding. It’s true – I feel that I have sliced and diced my problems in any possible way and analyzed them to their atomic level. And after all the slicing and dicing, I have a gazillion of new ways to look at my life – obsessing over what the hell went wrong, never sure if I truly think, believe, or feel something or only think that I am thinking, believing, or feeling something.

In short: I need a way to just shut down all the chatter in my brain, so I can have a chance at hearing the tiny whisper of my gut. Since trying to tell my brain to shut up is as successful as trying to not read a sign that says: “Do not read this sign!” I have taken a meditation class and tried meditating… almost religiously (which may be the problem, because I am not religious). Couldn’t do it. So – hypnosis sounded like the silver bullet for my mental demons. I came back and tried it … and all the time I can tell that it’s just not working. I did not feel the warm sand under my feet and did not see the pool of enlightenment. I also did not see the figure that was supposed to be my guide. Mainly I was wondering if it would be ok to scratch that itch I felt on my nose. (I decided not to). When I “came back” (from not ever having been “gone”), I was disappointed. She said it takes time and getting-used-to, I think it might take something else which I may simply not have: faith.

What do you think? Should I keep working on it or should I throw the towel? Or – should my therapist and I go to couple’s counseling before simply giving up? What if it’s me, not her? I just hate break-ups … argh!

Spineless near Seattle

Dear Spineless,

Okay, sorry it took me so long to write to you, but remember: in the event of a real emergency, please hang up and call 9-1-1. (whenever I get to typing 9-1-1 I wonder if the pentagon was actually hit by a missile launched by the American government?) Oh, and speaking of emergencies, the weirdest thing happened yesterday, my blackout buddy, which sounds way more fun than it is, started beeping. I know! What was that about?

Oh, I'm sorry, our session is just about over. Don't you hate it when the people who are supposed to help you are all about themselves, which is what I think is what's going on with both the blackout buddy and the therapist. Breakup already. Texting is fine for that.

Pants Mission

Yesterday I took R. shopping for pants, which is both rather a huge deal and makes it seem like this blog is all about the pants area, which it’s not.

Since 2007 he has only worn shorts, and I suggested that he might be more successful in his job hunt with pants on. I didn’t go into the part about how when it’s 40 degrees and raining, wearing shorts could potentially, and I’m not saying I do this, but could lead one to assume you have poor decision making skills or something. Would someone wearing shorts in the cold rainy winter know that the lettuce doesn’t go at the bottom of the bag?

We went to a bunch of stores and he tried on, oh, maybe 83 pairs of pants, and none really worked, so we finally went to the Gap, which undoubtedly takes advantage of children in far-away lands to make fashionable pants for first world hipsters, as is probably the case for every store we went in.

But I’m kind of proud of The Gap because the American Family Association is boycotting them. The AFA is pissed that The Gap hasn’t mentioned Christmas in any of their ads, and the Gap responded by saying something like, hey, people celebrate lots of things but they all wear pants and we’re good with that. Which royally pissed off the Christian right, causing me to go, "huh?"

Lemme get this straight. The AFA believes that Christmas should be focused on Jesus’ birth, and it shouldn’t be commercialized, but if you’re selling stuff, you damn well better mention that you’re targeting people who are celebrating the birth of Jesus? I’m sitting here trying to wrap my brain around that logic and come up with an analogy to explain it, but I’m just not that strong.

My effort did lead me to search for analogies on the internet, one of which was, “John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.” I think that’s as good of an analogy as I’m going to come up with for this boycott.

At any rate, the hip male employee helped R. out, thus ending his 3-year no-pants streak. The thing about looking for a job these days is that you can do a lot of it on the internets. You don’t even really need the pants.

R. was working on an application to a major grocery chain when he came to the question of gender. There was a drop-down list of choices: 1) do not wish to disclose; 2) male 3) female; 4) unknown. Really, unknown? I am familiar with the fact that there are gender ambiguous people, but seriously, we’re talking about bagging groceries here. Does it seem like someone's chromosomal make-up shouldn't be so relevant?

After our hard-won success at the pants, we went to celebrate with M. Well, actually we ate at the restaurant where she works, so she didn't celebrate much, except for stealing a few bites from my plate. While there, we learned a bit more about the gang that some of the employees belong to.

Here’s how it goes: it was started Long Ago, like 15 years back. The name of this gang, which I wouldn’t want to reveal for obvious reasons (they like to “crush” people) is similar to “Animosity Village,” only bigger and meaner. To be in it, you need the signatures of all of the current members on a petition. To entice them to sign, one must buy drinks for current members until they decide that you should be in. One of the percs is that they have a shoulder patch. I know! So you can see why someone would want to join. It does crack me up to imagine these angry gang members developing the patch and the membership paperwork.

One of M’s co-workers is trying to get in, and has garnered 2.5 signatures over the past month. (Yes, someone decided to only put their first name down for the moment.) Only 97.5 sigs to go… Again, I’m all, huh? Who would want to do that, and who would want to be in a club with a bunch of insecure suck-ups? Oh wait, did I say that out loud? If there aren't posts soon, you'll know what happened...

As always, thanks for reading...

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