Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hopenhagen or Nopenhagen?

This was forwarded on to me from a co-worker, who says the author is a law student at the University of Oregon who's also working with the UN around the climate talks. A follow-up e mail indicated it was tough to get through on the White House line; try http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT if you're interested in taking action.


Hopenhagen or Nopenhagen?

All,

As I write this, we are down to three days here at the Copenhagen climate talks. And I am afraid to say that there is almost no reason to be encouraged. Everybody has card to put on the table but no one is playing.

Actually, not everybody has cards. The Least Developed Countries, the poorest of the poor, and the Association of Small Island States, also mostly poor, have little to offer beyond their presence. Their emissions are so small they can offer little in the way of mitigation. They come asking for help to adapt as weather patterns change, storms grow and seas rise. They are being offered a tiny fraction of what economists say they will need. The only card they have to play is to pack up and leave, refusing to sign on to a national suicide pact. Their presence here is now on a hair trigger.

To gain some influence in the talks, they are aligned with a large group of developing countries that goes by the name of the G77. Other than the poorest countries, this group includes what have become known as the BASIC countries. Those letters (kind of) stand for the names of the biggest of the emerging economies: Brazil, South Africa, India and China. These countries have emissions profiles that are distinctive for a combination of four factors. They represent a significant portion of current global emissions and a large portion of future emissions growth, but they do not represent a significant proportion of historic emissions and their per capita emissions levels are far below the developed world. Each of these countries has made significant pledges to slow the growth of their emissions, but refuse to set absolute limits on growth for economies that includes hundreds of millions of people that still live below income levels of two dollars per day.

Distinctive among this group is China, now the world’s largest emitter, right behind the U.S. China is the largest emitter and greatest source of emissions growth, but relatively small in terms of historic emissions and per capita emissions. Chinese emissions are still one-quarter of the U.S per person. The U.S. has made China the prime target of these talks. China has proposed to reduce its emissions intensity – the amount of carbon emitted per unit of economic activity -- by 40-45% by 2020. That is a significant contribution. If implemented and assuming the U.S. gets one of the bills now before Congress passed and implemented, China will still have emissions less than half per U.S. person in 2020. But the U.S. is pushing measurement, reporting and verification of that promise. China is resisting throwing its economy open to outside review. I hope China will move on this issue, but it is certain they will not move before others, especially the U.S. puts more on the table.

There is one last group of G77 countries. They are largely oil producers led by Saudi Arabia. For the most part they are here to stop anything from happening to the oil industry. They are not afraid to take undisguised action to slow or stop the process. In the end though, they don’t have enough power alone to sink these talks.

First among developed countries is the European Union. The EU is perhaps the most transparent group here. But their pledge of 20% reduction from 1990 levels is not what it seems. The EU moves as a bloc of countries and includes Eastern European countries that had high post-Soviet emissions in 1990. Many of those countries are significantly below those levels now, allowing other EU countries higher emissions while still claiming overall reductions. But the EU is likely to move to a 30% reduction if other developing countries move further.

Of course the meaning of 30% depends on how you count. The biggest factor on counting is international offsets. Those currently come in the form of financing projects in other countries for the benefit of emission reduction credits at home. A new deal could significantly expand these offsets while also including a bunch of new credits from forestry projects in developing countries. My biggest worry for the last month has been that some kind of weak forest deal will get done here and be sold to the public as saving the forest to save the climate. So far what is on the table on forests is largely a greenwash for covering up general inaction.

After the EU comes a group of developed countries called the Umbrella Group, including Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia. These countries are a mixed bag. Canada is horrible and claims it is horrible because the U.S. is horrible. Russia is sitting on a load of hot air. That is the term for the emissions credits based on those higher 1990 levels that I talked about earlier. Russia can claim to reduce emissions about 40% below 1990 levels while nonetheless actually increasing emissions and selling that hot air to polluting countries. Japan under its new government might have a reasonable plan on the table but has been obstructive in negotiations. Australia embraces the general lack of ambition.

So it is clear, given this lack of action on the part of the rich countries that caused the climate problem in the first place, why developing countries say they need to see the rich countries move before they do.

Which brings me to the U.S. We are now proposing to reduce emissions a miserable 3-4% below 1990 levels. We have put no solid financing numbers on the table to help developing countries mitigate their emissions or adapt to the climate problem we helped create. We generally advocate for the biggest loopholes in the rules. Sometimes we even block proposals that everyone except OPEC supports. And we seem to be saying that we won’t pledge anything more, especially without China doing more. It is embarrassing to be an American at talks like these. I am incapable of defending my country’s actions.

What is especially frustrating is that about half of the biggest, richest environmental groups from the U.S. continue to back the U.S. negotiating position. They are like a broken record that argues that we can’t take strong action in Copenhagen because then the Senate will be scared off from passing a climate bill in the U.S. Arrgh! People used to say we needed a strong bill in the Senate to get a strong deal in Copenhagen. Now we are hearing we need a weak agreement in Copenhagen to get any bill in the Senate at all.

So it is easy to see why I say there is almost no reason to be encouraged. Almost no reason. Let me point out the cracks of light. First, other than the elites that run the show here, the world largely supports strong action on an international climate deal. The hundred thousand or so in the streets here on Saturday were just one example. Next the people I work with everyday are tireless, fierce and refuse to take no for an answer. It is almost impossible of believe that this level of dedication can fail. And finally, a solution lies in the hands of one man who can change everything.

President Obama could come here and unlock a deal that is fair, ambitious and legally binding. He could instruct negotiators to stop creating loopholes and blocking honest progress. He could commit to go beyond the weak levels proposed in the current bills before Congress. He could pledge to raise funds to help the world’s most vulnerable adapt to a problem that was created by our American lifestyles of consumption. He could sign up to a deal that has real consequences for the failure to meet commitments.

The amount of goodwill that would be unlocked in the world from the result of such action would be like a flood. So many people are waiting for leadership. There is a vast ocean of positive action held back by a dam of fear and self-interest. The kind of deal the world needs is all on paper right now in brackets; it simply needs to be released from those brackets, to be agreed. The leaders of 110 countries are arriving already. Everybody necessary to tackle this greatest of all problems head on will be in the same city on the same day with the same purpose. This can still happen.

When so many people all want the same thing and their leaders fail to deliver, it rocks my faith in democracy to the core. But I am not a quitter. Let me try one more time. Let’s give this guy one more chance to really be different. We effectively have three more days there in the U.S. to ask for what we want. So I am going to ask you to help.

I know, it seems like such a weak response to such a big problem, but let’s at least try. Let’s try everything we can to get the message to Obama that we want real leadership on this issue. Many of you have been asking me if you can share my emails. I am not only giving you permission to share or publish this email anywhere you want, I am asking you to please do so. Please share this email with anyone you think might care.

Then I am asking you to make that one phone call a day until this deal is done – White House switchboard – 1-202-456-1111. “President Obama, please show real leadership on the climate issue, not just a greenwash deal. Deepen our cuts, put long-term funding on the table and stop waiting for other countries to go first. Prove that America is the world leader we always claim.”

Again, I know it is a small effort on such a big problem, a forwarded email and three one-minute phone calls. But don’t let its small nature stop you. The Earth needs people who care more than ever. Rare moments in history arise when the way forward appears as a fork in the road. We’ll never know what might have or failed to have tipped the balance.

Please give a little push with me.

Tim Ream

Copenhagen

15 December, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Forever Your Tree (a live blog)

1:50 pm - Picked up "forever" tree from Nina's house, where it's been surreptitiously stored for six months. We don't have the storage space to receive wedding presents, much less store a six-foot evergreen, however collapsible.

4-5 pm - Braved the Albany Target to find Christmas lights and other flights of Christmas fancy. Christmas fancy was in short supply.

5:57 pm - Adam hauled disassembled tree up three flights of stairs to apartment.

6 - 8:30 pm - Recovered from tree trip.

8:30 pm - Discussed turning off Tough Love 2 in favor of decorating tree.

9 pm - Adam started piecing together tree. Found multiple plugs attached to its pre-lit limbs. More plugs than holes in which to insert. Luckily, found note attached to tree:


Question: If this tree is dangerous enough that one should wash one's hands after touching, why is the largest font conveying only that one shouldn't throw away the directions?


9:10 pm - Discover camera is out of batteries. Scrounge used batteries out of other household objects. Adam starts taking pictures of...stuff. Amy says batteries should be saved for something Christmasy. Adam takes this photo:


9:24 pm - Began adding hooks to Target-purchased $5 ornament set. Amy feels dumb because she can't find a hole in which to stick a hook. Discovers it was just her unfortunate luck that she got a defective first ornament—the Chinese didn't drill the hole all the way through. Proceeds with same procedure she used on her belly button piercing when it closed up in 2001—poking hard with sharp object.


9:27 pm - Began adding last year's tree decorations—Adam's collection of tiny Muppets. Kermit got the topper position. Obvi.


9:28 pm - Added the two actual ornaments we've procured this year (for a grand total of two): a Mickey Mouse hat (from Amy's birthday at Disneyland) and Michael Jackson (which Amy found in Old Town San Diego, and called Adam to declare that, in all the time they're married, he'll never receive a better gift).


Et, viola:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

They look sensitive, but aren't for THE sensitive

Adam has friends in high places, and last week we went to a fundraiser for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I mean, we paid to go. But I'm fairly certain we wouldn't have known about it if he didn't have all these important friends.

So, I don't know anything at all about music, and have long suspected that I might be tone-deaf. I can judge with the best of them, but I tend to focus more on the aesthetic. (I can't tell you what my favorite Neverland performance piece is, but I can tell you it's the one where the singers jump around.)

We got to the venue and ran into one of Adam's bandmates, who was all excited about this bass clarinet group. He and his date were all, like, "When do you get to see FOUR bass clarinets together?!?!" and looked at me in that friendly, I-don't-know-you-but-I-want-you-to-feel-included sort of way. And since I wanted THEM to feel included, too, I was like, "Yeah, I know, right?"

Really what I was thinking was, What's a bass clarinet?

Lucky for you, dear reader, I've found a photo of precisely that group, with their instruments. They call themselves Edmund Welles, and, while I have no proof of who calls the shots amongst these four fellows, I'd stake a bet on the fact that it's the dude named Cornelius Boots. He's the little yogi on the left.

And the show really was spectacular, although I'm thankful we arrived late for it, because I'd forgotten this little piece of information: wind instruments collect a LOT of spit. And you know what musicians do at the end of each song? There are two options. One, they shake their instrument out on the stage; two, they take a big suck out of the thing and swallow.

Literally, my gag reflex has kicked in just WRITING about it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I definitely wasn't listening to you

OK, we changed our wedding date.

BUT IT'S NOT BECAUSE YOU TOLD US TO.

It's because, right off the bat, it's $3,000 cheaper to get married on a Sunday than on a Saturday.

Want to know how many dance floors that would buy us? Six. Or, on a Sunday, TWELVE.

And if there's one indicator of a successful wedding, it would be 12 dance floors.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An anteater wouldn't put up with this

It looks like Adam and I will be getting married on September 11.

Yeah, I know. But it’s not like the date could be any WORSE. Talk about built-in levity when faced with a wedding “disaster,” like rain. And, geez, people get married on D-Day.

We floated the idea past a few Trusted People when we learned that that was the only Saturday in September on which all three of our chosen venues were available. All of our Trusted People said things like, “Well, it’s not like people will always avoid events on that day,” which is how I came up with my new favorite retort: “What, are you doing a service project that afternoon or something?”

But then there are the people I’m not as close to, who are horrified at the thought. These are the same people who don’t stand a chance at being invited to the wedding, so I don’t really mind when they crinkle their nose and wait for the punch line. (Most of these people work in politics. I definitely couldn’t get married on a Day of National Tragedy if I ever planned on running for office.)

And the third reaction, I think, is people who give me a hard time about it. I’m fairly certain anyone reading this already knows that I plan on being pretty relaxed about the whole thing (see "The Industry Looked Me Over"), but trust me on this one: YOU NEVER TEASE A BRIDE. And that rule doesn’t necessarily hold true because she thinks that her wedding day is going to be the most important and/or most perfect day of her life. I’d hate to think I’m going to peak at 29. It’s only because she’s already putting up with so much. For those of you who haven’t gotten married, or those of you who have forgotten: YOU HAVE A MULTI-THOUSAND DOLLAR COMMITMENT HANGING OVER YOUR HEAD, AND PEOPLE EXPECT YOU TO HAVE OPINIONS ON FLOWERS. Why would you poke at me at a time like this? Even our allegedly low-key, theme-less, bridesmaid-less wedding is going to cost more than any car I’ve ever owned, and no one ever told me I need to bone up on flora before three weeks ago.

So when my friend’s husband sent me a message saying something to the effect of, “Who gets married on September 11?” I Googled HIS wedding date and sent back the message, “Who gets married on the anniversary of the sinking of the USS Edmund Fitzgerald?”…and I haven’t received a response.

In other words, to all the critics, I’d like to send out Adam’s mantra:

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Sure Thing

I was on the phone with my Wunderfriend Abbey when I said I really needed to get to the store to shop for dinner. The thing about my Safeway is that there are really very few times you can shop without conviction that something weird will happen. And the ABSOLUTE worst time to go is 5:30 pm, when everyone comes home from work and bum-rushes the roasted chicken supply. And then stands in the self-checkout line, which extends into the cereal aisle, which is my single most-frequented aisle.

Anyway, my last words to Abbey were that I was headed to the Safeway to collect blog fodder. It was 5:30 pm.

And I was let down! The store was totally calm, I didn't have to push anyone, the fundraising PA system they always seem to have going there was silent (thank God Breast Cancer Awareness Month is finally over), and while I was in line behind a woman buying four fridge packs of Caffeine-Free Diet Coke (who in this neighborhood has storage for that?), everything was fine, and I started thinking that I RARELY mention to people when my blog radar is up. But there are definitely occasions I go into thinking that something will go wrong, and when it does, it'll be OK, because at least I can bitch about it on my blog.

AND THEN THE ANSWER TO ONE OF LIFE'S GREAT MYSTERIES REVEALED ITSELF.

You know those women with the really long nails? I mean the really long ones...like, they're either fake or curling up weird at the end. Obnoxiously long. You only ever really see them on the street, or on public transportation, and you wonder, "How do these women get through their day?"

The cashier at my Safeway had those nails. They're red. And because of a fear of...something...the cashiers at my Safeway wear latex gloves at all times. Surgical gloves. And this woman's nails were poking through SEVEN OF THE FINGER HOLES.

Why seven? Why, knowing that this will happen to you, would you not start your shift by just poking all of your nails through? Or, better, cutting out tiny holes for your fingertips? This means the pressure had been SLOWING BUILDING UP THROUGHOUT HER SHIFT, until finally, a fingernail POPPED through.

Repeat six times.

People are so weird.

And one of life's great mysteries has been replaced with another. A successful Monday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The industry looked me over

I'm fairly certain that I've already warned all brides, past and present, who are close to me that they can't read my blog as insulting in any way over the next several months.

But for those of you who haven't already heard it, I'm going to apologize right now. Because when Adam and I decided we'd like to get hitched, a provision of that was that we weren't at all ready to plan a wedding.

The thing is, when you tell people you made the decision to get married, their first reaction is, "Oh my God, you got MARRIED?," when, really, I only phrased it that way because "engaged" sounds too fancy for what's going on in my life. And the decision we made was to marry each other, not to throw a wedding...which, obviously, we're now doing.

I've been to some really beautiful weddings, planned by people who always knew they wanted to get married and thus had lots of time to think about it, and I've been to some purely awesome weddings, mostly thrown by people who are super-creative and got really into it.

And while I have strong opinions on why I have and have not had fun at particular weddings, the idea of planning my own is a little overwhelming. And while Adam and I have the sort of relationship that makes it easy to split responsibilities 50/50--and, of course, he's the creative one here--it makes more sense that I put in more wedding-planning time for now, while I'm not getting paid to work full-time.

But, again, we had DECIDED WE WEREN'T READY TO PLAN A WEDDING. But, I've discovered, nor am I prepared to think about wedding plans indefinitely. I'm exhausted. I know people who have been engaged for up to two years, but that's because they had other things distracting them, like law school. And I've heard it's popular to drag out your engagement so you can save up money for the wedding, or have multiple bridal showers, or to accommodate bridesmaids' schedules. But that's why God invented credit cards, I don't want a single bridal shower, and we're not going to have a wedding party. In my mind, there's no reason we can't just throw this party next week. Except I haven't a thing to wear.

And the ante got upped early this week, when a bride I know, who is getting married in the same city as Adam and I, and may even have an overlapping guest list, started telling me what sorts of tricks she has up her sleeve for her own wedding. This is a woman who has actually been employed as a costume designer. And she and her fiance live in this incredibly classy apartment and she throws dinner parties. I'll bet she harvests her own honey. I don't think I should reveal what it is she's planning for their wedding, but I'll tell you this: It's going to blow ours out of the water.

And part of me doesn't care, because she's having so much fun with it and I, frankly, wouldn't. But the other part of me feels the same way I feel about Halloween costumes: If you don't stand a chance of having the absolute best one, why even bother showing up to the party?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Update from the Berlin - couple, and a response

Dear Amy !
We're sitting in front of our desk and thinking to you !
How are you, are you still working in the San Fran - City Hall ? It would be nice to hear from you and how your life is going on.
Have you been in holidays and what have you done ?
We hope, your are still fine ...

Greetings from the Berlin - couple

Sonja + Torsten


**************

Dear Sonja and Torsten,

I was just thinking about you today, as well. Adam and I decided to get married. The reasons to outweighed the reasons not to. For example:
  1. If I got him excited enough about going shopping for a ring, I might not have to do the breakfast dishes.

  2. Last week his mom promised us a Cuisinart as a wedding gift. Apparently all her kids get one when they get married.
The egg is still congealing in the sink, and eight hours later, I'm rocking the bling and he's pacing the kitchen, being driven crazy that we don't have a full set of clean plates. In our marriage, which habit will crack first? His need to have a completely clean apartment before any fun can be had, or my belief that as long as you have one dish to put your meal on, you're still sitting pretty?

Anyway, you don't care about the cleanliness of our apartment. It turns out that getting engaged is pretty tough. Neither of us had really planned for today to be the day that we made a commitment, but, then again, when I asked him to make breakfast, I didn't anticipate him using quite so many pots and pans. And, really, why do you need to whip eggs in a separate bowl? What's wrong with just stirring them in the pan?

So we made this big decision, and while I'd never really thought I wanted an engagement ring, it turns out you kind of need one as a reminder that something's actually changed, especially if the plan isn't to traipse down to City Hall tomorrow morning. I've never understood how people wore solitaires without ripping holes in all of their sweaters, and how do you put on mittens over those things?

Google was no help, and yielded only flashbacks of that horrid commercial where the woman squeals to her roommate, "HE WENT TO JARED!" Yelp is a decidedly more hippie way to search for jewelry. But not as hippie as the cashier at a local clothing store, Aviva, who lectured me to immediately begin looking for a dress and to find a way to get into the jewelry mart. I told her I needed to get a ring TODAY. She looked at me like I was a moron, but produced a list of stores that either exhibited local jewelry artists or sold antiques.

There's a lot of hippie crap out there.

We ended up finding the ring at a place called Brand X, in the Castro, across from what used to be Harvey Milk's camera shop. It's been in business for 47 years, and the proprietor has still shots of the movie on display—every time there's a scene in the camera store, you can see Brand X in the background. In addition to hundreds of antique rings, the store also sells old-school explicit gay posters, antique Major League Baseball schedules, old Pez dispensers...It's kind of a miracle of a shop.

The owner, Fred, listened to my list of criteria and pulled out the ring we ended up getting on the first try.

Adam didn't think that making the decision to get married over breakfast was romantic enough (you may recall that he's from the South) (Also, he has no idea how well he makes eggs), so we walked up to Corona Heights, which has a view of the city, and he proposed there. I laughed most of the time.

And now, while we could be getting wasted in celebration, I'm E-MAILING. There's perfectly good champagne in the fridge.

Then again, I notice that Adam has chosen to leave the dishes where they were. Our first compromise? How romantic.

Your friend,
Amy

PS I think, to REALLY freak Aviva out, I'm going to come back into her store next week and tell her I need to buy a wedding dress THERE, THAT DAY.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dog on...God and Career Paths

The Dog is fired from his job as a door-to-door vacuum salesman because of his criminal past, humiliating him in front of his momma:

"When I got home, I got down on my knees to pray to God.

"'Lord, is this what You want? Because of You, I became the best vacuum salesman in the world. But now, that's no longer an option.'

...

"The Lord spoke to me and said, 'I will make you fishers of men. Follow Me, Duane. Who was the greatest bounty hunter of all? Jesus Christ.'"

- From You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

Dog on...The Importance of Branding


It's not like some genius A&E producer was on vacation in Hawaii and stumbled upon the Dog on her way to the luau. Before the Dog came along, A&E ran arts documentaries and classic movies...I'm pretty sure. But, you know, the Dog is used to being kicked around. He knew that he'd have to fulfill his OWN destiny if he was going to become famous. And that's why, before taking on the allegedly high-stakes bounty that made him allegedly famous, the Dog appeared on several cable news shows, headlined by people I've never heard of. How did he book them? His wife e mailed the producers pictures of the Dog. As I'm sure you can tell, that was enough.

And now we never feel the constant Channel 47 pressure to watch any movie that might be classified as "film." Thank you, Dog.

And here's how he did it:

"'As I got ready for the interview [with The Rita Cosby Show], Beth and I tried to figure out what I would wear so Luster would know I was coming.

"'How about this for the interview, honey?' I stepped out wearing my leather vest and no shirt.

"'You look hot, Big Daddy! Absolutely!' She loved the way I looked. I just wanted Luster to know I was no joke. I knew he was watching.

...

The fugitive Luster's lawyer attempts to question the Dog's credentials while on the show: "'Who are you? No one even knows who you are.'

"'I am Dog the Bounty Hunter. My job is to catch fugitives on the run.'

"'Job? What job? Who do you work for?'

"'The state of California,' I said. 'When I bring Luster in, he's worth fifteen percent of his bond.'

"'You sound more like a bounty hunter seeking the spotlight than you do a bona fide member of law enforcement. What are your credentials?'

"'If you want to know who I am, check out my Web site, www.dogthebountyhunter.com.' I could see Beth off camera pumping her fist in the air in victory. Just like in my old boxing days, I took this round clean and true."

Dog on...Media Relations


Before the Dog jumped into the hunt that would make him famous, he first booked some TV appearances. The first was some show called Catherine Crier Live.

"Catherine Crier asked me some tough questions on the air, but the one that stood out was when she dismissively asked, 'So how would you catch Andrew Luster?'

"I looked deadpan into the camera, my eyes hidden behind my trademark black Oakleys so Luster couldn't see my eyes, and said, 'Run, Luster, run.'

"'Obviously, Dog. But if you could say something to Andrew Luster right now, what would it be?' Crier seemed doubtful I was up to the task.

"'You better run and hide, 'cause the Dog is coming after you.'"

- From You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

Dog on...Intimidation


The Dog is inexplicably hated in his native Denver:

"One day I was out collecting a thousand dollars from one of my clients in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven in Denver. We were making the exchange when I noticed a couple of guys approaching us wearing camouflage jackets and baseball hats that had big bold letters on the front: BEA. They both carried two guns strapped to their hips. When I first caught a glimpse of them, I thought their hats said DEA. I'm sure the exchange of cash looked like a drug deal was going down. To make matters worse, I didn't have my badge on me.

"One of the two approached me and asked, 'What are you guys doing out here?'

"I took off my sunglasses, handed them to my client, and said, 'Here, honey, hold these for me.'

"As I turned around, I realized their hats said BEA and said, 'BEA. What the hell does that stand for?'

"'Bail bonds Enforcement Agent.'

"I asked the guy, 'You got any Vaseline on you? Because I'm Dog Chapman and those guns you got are going up your ass.'

"When I started walking toward them, they turned and ran to their cars screaming, 'Run, it's the Dog!!'"

- From You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

Dog on...Publicity Tactics

"People started flocking to Free as a Bird Bail Bonds. We jammed music every morning while I walked my gigantic pet lizard on a leash up and down the sidewalk in front of the other bail bonds offices to get attention."

"When we walked through the door [of a trade association meeting], every head in the joint turned to see us standing there. It was great. I was dressed in a long black leather trench coat, looking like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, while Beth, well, was Beth. She wore a low-cut, revealing top and high heels that resonated off the linoleum like gunshots with every step she took."

- From You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

Words of Marital Wisdom from Dog the Bounty Hunter


The single best (physical) present I received on my birthday was a paperback copy of the #1 New York Times bestseller, You Can Run But You Can't Hide, by Duane "Dog" Chapman.

It's no secret that I've taken to the reality TV since moving to California, but watching Dog the Bounty Hunter is one of my guiltier pleasures. It really might be the most underrated reality show on television. Dog is an ex-con who hunts down fugitives with his family, his golden mullet, and several cans of Mace. It's not fair to call his family trashy, except for that I'm fairly certain Dog would describe them the same way. His partner is his wife, Beth, whom he's described as "racktacular" and who has those talon-like fingernails and stiletto heels that could only pass as appropriate in a roadside casino outside of Las Vegas...certainly not suburban Hawaii, where they operate.

But no matter, because Beth is my favorite character on the show. After beating a fugitive to the ground, she then nestles them to her enormous bosom and gives them a lecture about making good choices in life. I really couldn't think of a better partner for Dog...which is good, because he's definitely tried others. And so, for the first post of what will obviously be many about Dog the Bounty Hunter, a rundown of the Dog's wives:

- LaFonda, his first betrothed, whom he met and married at the age of 17 in Denver. His first impression of LaFonda, in a mall, was that she "had long brown hair and an unbelievable rack." LaFonda had two of his children, but ended up leaving the Dog for his best friend while he was in jail for murdering a man. (He didn't pull the trigger--stupid Colorado laws!)

- Ann, whom the Dog considers to be the first person he slept with when he got out of prison. (He's not counting hookers, of course.) They did it in his car, obviously, she announced she was only 17, and then announced she was pregnant. So as to avoid a trip to jail for rape ("Seventeen gets you thirty."), the Dog marries her: "Note to self: Don't marry the first woman you sleep with after prison. In fact, you probably shouldn't marry the second, third, or fourth one, either. ... It was only later that I found out: Seventeen was legal in Colorado!"

- Lyssa, whom the Dog meets in a bar in the midst of his divorce proceedings, and makes Dog realize that he needed to be with someone who, like his Mamma, understood God. (If you didn't know it, "Dog" is "God" backwards.) "When Lyssa told me she understood the Lord, I offered her a thousand bucks on the spot to have my baby. I was serious, too! I promised her she'd enjoy the experience, and even told her she could visit the baby whenever she wanted. Believe it or not, she said yes! ... Lyssa got pregnant right away." (BTW, if you're watching the show, don't confuse Lyssa with BABY LYSSA, her daughter.)

At this point, we learn that Beth, Dog's eventual wife, is somewhat of a stalker. The year is 1988, and Beth pops up into the picture. She makes quite the impression, mostly because of her breast size (although Dog quite chivalrously notes that he "had quite a thing for smart women--especially smart women with big tits."). In 1988, Dog is married to kind of a peripheral woman, his secretary, Tawny. He's falling pretty hard for Beth, but, in the spirit of his vows, points out, "I had just gotten married again. I didn't think I had room for another woman." But Beth keeps popping up, showing up in his home to tell him that Tawny's on drugs, trying to move in, inviting the Dog and all his puppies to move into her house. Finally, Dog gives in, after an episode of neck-licking (I'm not kidding) in an alley in Denver. But mostly, Beth keeps the Dog grounded: "Whenever Beth calls me Big Daddy, I know she's being sincere and I'd best pay attention."

I'll tell you about their wedding later.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mmmmmmmmmmmm

You know this wrestling suit? And how most dudes kind of layer them, because unless you look like this guy, the outlines are discouraging?



Well, an elderly gentleman was wearing one, and only one, in my gym today. Cell phone cameras are strictly prohibited at the 24 Hour Fitness, which is a great disappointment. This man was at least in his 70s, his suit was red, and it was a little stretched out. He wore Reeboks with no socks. He took those Reeboks off to stretch later, which is a whole different issue, but overshadowed by the wrestling suit.

When you're down to ONE item of clothing in a public place, you'd better hope it's a mascot costume.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blissfully Naive

Dear Allison,

Confession: I didn't make that butternut squash soup recipe you suggested. Yes, it was cold and blustery outside, and I had been dreaming of butternut squash soup for hours. Yes, I finally own a blender and that would have been the perfect time to try it out. But...well, the recipe you sent me included a calorie count, and 800 calories in a single cup of soup scared me off. I mean, where's the room for bread?

I made this instead.




Yes, french onion soup isn't generally thought of as healthy. Sure, it's coated in half a block of cheese, and sure, it has buttered toast under that fatty layer. But Epicurious doesn't publish calorie counts, and what you don't know won't hurt you, right?

Love,
Amy

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ridin' Drrrrrty

I flew sick yesterday.

I know you're not supposed to, and I kept envisioning those heat-sensing devices the Chinese put up during the bird flu outbreak. They'd pull you out of line if your body heat was too high. My paranoia was reinforced when TSA set up some sort of mobile command unit at my boarding gate, and pulled a few people out of line for random checks. My primary fear was that they'd open my backpack and I'd never be able to re-pack all the CDs jammed in there--part of my commitment to Mom that I'll take more of my stuff out of her closets in San Diego. But my secondary fear was that one of these gentle souls would feel my forehead.

Anyway, I promise I don't have swine flu, just one of those colds I get whenever I sleep for fewer than seven hours a night. (Wimp.) But by the time Adam and I were getting off the plane, I was wondering out loud if the reason you're not allowed to fly sick is the likelihood that you'll just go apeshit on one of the many morons in any given airport.

We were absolutely surrounded.

The security line on a Monday evening coming out of San Diego is almost non-existant, but we were behind a family traveling with two babies and seemingly about ten bottles of water. (The rule, as declared by the TSA agent, is that you can't bring water on unless you can prove it's for the baby. I'm not sure how they decide that.) Then three women in wheelchairs jumped the line, then complained there was no wheelchair waiting for them on the other side. We later saw them browsing the souvenier shops, no wheelchairs in sight.

There was the guy who got on the plane close to the end, who got everyone's attention by demanding who it was who took "his" space in "his" overhead compartment. I'm not sure how this dude got his carry-on onto the plane--it was a four-foot-long, absolutely stuffed duffel bag. He wasn't happy to have to gate-check it, but what I want to know is how he got that thing through both security and the gate agent. He couldn't even carry it with one hand; he was kind of hugging it to his body.

Then there were the kids behind me, who had a case of the "me-sies." That's what their parents called it when they were fighting or being selfish, like it's a really cute phenomenon. The fighting eventually stopped, because the mother was hosting a sing-along with the five-year-old. This is the SECOND TIME this year I've been in close proximity to a mother who sings to/with her kid for an entire flight. And know what the worst part is? I'll bet when these women's friends take them to karaoke, they're the ones who bashfully and annoyingly decline to participate.

Now, I'm never super laid-back, but on Friday, when I was healthy and pumped for the trip, when the woman behind me in the security line thought she could bring a bottle of Charles Shaw on the plane, I just laughed. We can't do a lot to prevent the spread of H1N1, but by limiting sick people in the airport, we CAN reduce fistfights and boarding gate violence. Because you can bet that if I had the spare energy to lift my arm last night, I would have at LEAST waved it threateningly at these people.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"The Sports section for women"


OK, I don't really believe that. (It's a Sex & The City quote.) But the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times is my go-to Sunday night activity. I wait for it all day--I read the A section in the morning, poke through Business and Week in Review in the afternoon, and get ready for bed before I let myself open Sunday Styles. And its trademark is the wedding announcements.

When I first started subscribing to the Sunday Times, for two weeks in a row I recognized people in the wedding section. It got me addicted. I felt like I knew members of society, which, of course, is who traditionally gets their announcement put in the paper. I can't find it now, but a couple of years ago there was a widely-circulated e mail that allowed you to calculate your chances of getting in. Ivy League education: +2. Father a CEO: +3. You get the idea.

My favorite part of the announcements is seeing everyone's job titles, how those titles compare to their parents', and the ages at which they choose to marry. The lawyers who met in law school all settle down at 28, and are usually set to start at a new firm next month. (It's actually incredibly common to see people between jobs, or just about to start a new one. That same Sex & The City episode accused all the women in the pages as listing their occupations beginning with the phrase, "Until last month...," as though they no longer needed to work. Maybe it's a recessionary sign that we don't see that anymore? Or maybe business is the new aristocracy, and the Times chooses to run only the announcements that might result in ad dollars later down the road? Either way, it seems like people take time off for their wedding.) I also really like the May-December relationships, whose announcements almost always conclude with, "The bridegroom's previous marriage ended in divorce." I REALLY love the December-December relationships, which often end with something along the lines of, "The bride is a widow; the bridegroom is twice a widower." Hope springs eternal.

The babyfaced announcements get me, too. I think if you're 26 or under, you're just going to look like a kid on the page. (Note: For one more week, I'm 27. I try to keep that in mind while reading these.) Yesterday's announcements featured a couple, both 26, who met in eighth-grade Spanish class at Fox Lane Middle School in Bedford.

There's also the strange matter of how people whose families are similarly rich (or at least well-known) end up meeting each other and falling in love. On Saturday, the great-great granddaughter of the founder of the Chrysler Corporation married the great-grandson of the former chairman of Standard Oil. What are the chances? It doesn't say here that they met at a debutante ball...and her dad works at a bank and her mom, in real estate. Doesn't seem like they ran into each other at a society party or anything. Do you bond over old money?

And while I think that's weird, the New York Times obviously doesn't think so...nor does most of its readership. I know that, because there have been two new trends of note in Celebrations. The first began, I think, when, in June, the Times chose to profile a couple who had met at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. They'd both messed up their lives pretty badly, but helped each other through drug addiction and got married. (Here's the story.)

Apparently the Times was flooded with letters from people both angry that the paper seemed to be condoning the couple's past behavior, as well as from people who applauded including people who weren't bluebloods in the hallowed pages. Maybe I'm just more alert to it now, but when I see things like yesterday's announcement that included the bride's mother's career as a manicurist in Las Vegas, I think back to that column.

The other trend is doormen. It's hot to marry your doorman. I'm not sure the Times knew this when they wrote, "Few people marry their first crush. Fewer still marry their doorman."

A month later, we have our second woman-marrying-her-doorman story. (In both cases, the women were doing some heavy chasing. Really, read that link. I'd be embarrassed to tell that story to the Times.)

So, democracy or not? Who cares? As long as people get married in Bird-in-Hand, PA, or Croton-on-Hudson, NY, or tell stories about carving a proposal into a pumpkin, or freely admit that it took them a long time to feel attracted to their fiancee, we can't really worry that the Times remains TOO blue-blooded.

Friday, September 25, 2009

PLEASE take it back

You know when you're trying to make a major decision, and you convince yourself that if you make the wrong choice, it's going to mess up the rest of your life?

I mean, that might be true if your decision is to have a baby or something. But pretty much all other things are reversible: cities, jobs, marriages...OH WAIT, BUT NOT THIS:


Monday, September 21, 2009

Stairway to Nowhere

In my gym, there are two things you can count on: A woman doing fancy things on the Stairmaster, and The Rachel Zoe Project on the big screens.

This afternoon, Rachel was on (and I'm not sure how this is--even if I dash home and flick on Bravo, the show's always over. In the gym, it's marathon Rachel) and the empty Stairmaster was flanked by two extremely sweaty Masters, both cheating by riding the stairs all the way to the bottom before grabbing the handlebars and lugging themselves to the top at the last second. There were no fancy Masters in sight.

This might be my opportunity.

I've always been opposed to the Stairmaster, not just because I live in a hilly city and feel like my butt gets enough targeted exercise on my frequent trips to the grocery store, but, frankly, because it's hard as hell and I go to the gym to feel good about myself, not to be exhausted after five minutes. But I just finished a book in which an idiot secondary character is always on a Stairmaster, so it was on my mind, and my realization of the fancy Masters is a new thing, too. If Janice could do it, so could I.

I guess I should explain the fancy Masters, since it had never occurred to me that one could do anything on the machine other than climb. These women--invariably in their early 20s--can walk sideways on the Stairmaster. Sometimes they do squats, or take the stairs two at a time. What's really eye-catching, though, is the arabesque. They're always doing Stairmaster arabesques.

Show-offs.

The first step of a Stairmaster is about two feet off the ground, which isn't that big of a deal, except that the machine starts to move as soon as you mount it, so it's two feet you fall down when the stairs slip from under you because you're obviously still more engrossed in untangling your iPod headphones than assuming the solid object you're standing on can't be counted on. I'm not sure anyone saw me do that.

I did a little running start to get on the next time, trotting up to the top step quickly and trying to figure out which buttons I needed to push to get a good pace going before I ended up at the bottom again. The woman next to me started heavily sighing and making a big show of craning her neck around me--my head was blocking The Rachel Zoe Project.

I, of course, was pumped that I'd have the distraction of Rachel and her cronies while wrestling with my most hated machine. But as soon as I looked up at the screen, I stumbled. I should have known. I'm always trying to read the newspaper or the mail while walking up the stairs to my apartment, and always trip by the third landing. There's no way, even at a consistent pace (and I had chosen the "interval" setting), to not fall on this thing. Plus, the stairs are designed for women with maybe a size 5 foot. Mine are almost 9s. The arabesque girls must be en pointe during their workouts.

So I spent ten minutes clutching the railings for dear life as I lugged my way up (allegedly) 52 flights of stairs. That's really the only satisfying number you get out of a Stairmaster. I mean, ten minutes of cardio, while more than the average American gets in a day, is still ten minutes less than what you're supposed to do if you exercise daily (which I don't, unless you count the grocery store hill). The "calories burned" number, which I know is bullshit but still check at the end of my workout, was 145, which is the approximate calorie count of this pile of Mother's chocolate chip cookies I have laying on my stomach while I write. But 52 flights? In ten minutes? I mean, I could maybe be a firefighter with that number.

Except, of course, that when I was done I had to leap off the thing because I really, truly thought I might vomit and didn't see how I could possibly handle the cool-down. (Why do they even program cool-downs into the machinery? Isn't walking to the locker room a cool-down?) I'll give this to the Stairmaster Corporation: For all they don't prepare you to mount the machine, they really have the dismount covered. There are elaborate directions about how to get off the machine posted right where you spend all your time staring intently: right above your feet. I had the whole thing memorized after those ten minutes--including the warning about how the last step disappears two feet above the floor. Good tip.

I was a lot safer retreating to the stretching space, where, in the mirror, I watched a very large woman climb BACKWARDS up the Stairmaster. Never again.

PS Oops. Just ate two more cookies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Friendly Neighbors

There's only one door through which you can enter our apartment building, and it's next door to Nature's Medicine Shoppe.

Nature's Medicine Shoppe is a curious corner establishment. It's open strange hours, I've seen a total of one (potential) walk-in customer, and it's not like we live on a street with a ton of non-resident foot traffic. In the window, the proprietor has taped up a few signs created in Microsoft Word and printed with what seems to be a dot-matrix printer. My favorite is an advertisement for Gigolo's Delight, a combination of natural male enhancement herbs.

The owner has taken a liking to me.

He introduced himself shortly after we moved in, one day helping me back my car out into busy traffic. His name is Cornell, and his "puppy," a year-old pit bull named Paz (pronounced "Paws," but Cornell was careful to spell her name to me), is his constant companion. Cornell gave me a home-made brochure and told me I should come by the store sometime.

That put me in an awkward position. First of all, I was fairly certain I didn't want to buy anything inside. I'm not really a natural sort of girl. I like my artificial scents and fancy packaging. That's how you know stuff works.

Also, let's be clear: It would take someone pretty naive to not suspect this whole operation is a drug front. I mean, maybe it's not. But...I'm pretty sure it is. And I don't smoke. Or, you know, do anything else. And I kind of thought that, once inside, I'd have to have that discussion with Cornell. And then I'd probably have to buy some seaweed soap or something.

But I pass by Cornell's door at least a few times a day, and he always yells out a hello and tells me I should come in, and I always have an excuse not to. In fact, I usually pick up my pace on the street and hustle inside, like I have somewhere to be. But a few weeks ago, I finally agreed to go inside.

I was, once again, formally introduced to Paz, and taken on a tour of the store. I spent most of my time inside admiring a fountain that Cornell had rescued from the street and rehabilitated. I thought that maybe Cornell was a little bit like my grandpa, who was prone to doing stuff like that. I thought maybe we'd have a nice, neighborly relationship.

His products don't seem to be anything too out of the ordinary, with the possible exception of cannabis-scented incense. Adam and I have talked this over, and have concluded that the only logical use for it is to light up when any authority shows up: "Oh, you must just be smelling my pot-scented air freshener."

Cornell also took my visit as an opportunity to clarify that most of his business is mail-order.

So I left feeling like my commitment to my neighbor had been fulfilled. We had a nice conversation, I knew the age of his dog, and I think I had made it pretty clear that I didn't have any express interest in any of his fertility herbs. Since then, we've had that nice rapport you have when you walk past your neighbors--"Hey! HowareyouyeahI'mgood, good, see you later!"--and don't necessarily need to stop to finish saying everything you need to before you reach your front door or traffic drowns you out.

But then last week I was returning home from a walk when Cornell yelled out, "Hey! Come spend some change in my store!" I thought maybe I had misunderstood him, so I said, "What?" and wandered over.

Cornell takes me by the hand, kisses my cheek and leads me inside the store, Paz bouncing on me the whole way, and says again, "Spend some change!" He put me in the center of the store, facing the only wall display, and pondered in what way I could spend my change. The center section of the wall is filled with medicinal herbs, which he declared I was too young to need. The right-hand side is full of incense, and there's not a single thing about my appearance that would allow anyone to suspect I'd like some incense.

Then again, the left-hand side of the wall is full of something else I wouldn't peg me as wanting, and that's oil.

Cornell got pretty excited as he pondered his oil options for me. He told me to hold out my hand, which I did--with my keys clutched in them. He took the keys from me and poured a quarter-sized amount of oil into my paw. I said, "Now what?"...and as soon as I asked, I realized I had made a huge mistake. I frantically started rubbing my hands together as he cried, "Put it in your hair!" I giggled and put some on my forearm--you know, where I could scrub it off with Liquid Dial later. But he kept kind of chanting, "Hair! Hair!" and finally, despite the fact that I have the kind of hair that tends to look greasy ANYWAY about 12 hours after a wash, I kind of swiped it on a chunk of hair at the very back of my head, as far from my scalp as I could manage.

Then I got the hell out of there, muttering something about how I had to see how it smelled a couple of hours from now, like it was an eau d'toilet we were talking about.

Adam was home when I got there, but I beelined for the bathroom and the chemical-laden, anti-bacterial cleansing agents. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but that smell would not come off me. And, of course, it was in my hair, which was a whole other issue. By the time I dejectedly plopped down onto the couch in a cloud of patchouli and explained what had happened, Adam was practically in hysterics, and pointed out the ONE THING I should have said to Cornell:

"Don't you know I don't have black girl hair?"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dream Life

I had drinks with my friend Katie last night. Katie's leaving her job in a month, and is planning on taking some time to just do project work before settling into her next full-time gig. I think Katie works kind of like I do: makes work a part of her identity. I have a tendency to lay awake at night, worrying about work.

We were talking about what it is that I do all day, and how I like working from home and taking in chunks of money wherever I can, and I think I started to gush a little. There are definitely days in which I've watched too much TV and not gone on enough walks, and days when I don't get a lot of work done because it's hard to get into the mindset when you're not in an office, but after almost a YEAR of unsteady employment, I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that I'll be back at a desk, full-time, soon.

(Bank of America has pretty much told me I have to be.)

I'm hoping that when that happens, I don't need to give up the projects I've come to enjoy. There's this sporadically-updated blog, there's my business idea, there's the idea that I can make dinner, there's the knowledge that people can get substantive work done in coffee shops.

My friend Curtis lives his work, and seldom in an office. He has his laptop with him at all times, and when he's on it you never know if he's creating the first non-sucking expense report or if he's reading his never-ending RSS feed. He kind of has the ideal situation: he ENJOYS working in the middle of the night, because work is satisfying to him. His work is also his hobby, and his interest.

I want that.

And then today I read something on Facebook that bothered me, and made me feel, a little bit, like that's out of reach for people like me. You know how today, everyone was posting those two sentences about healthcare? ("No one should die because they cannot afford healthcare; no one should go broke because they get sick.") A good friend of mine--someone who I consider myself to be very much like--changed her status to say that she wasn't sure we should be talking about serious things on Facebook, and that she misses when it was fun.

Fifteen comments ensued, of course, and most of them were a discussion about for what purposes people use Twitter versus Facebook. It was commonly acknowledged that people tweet about things that are serious or related to their job, and use Facebook for casual, funny conversation.

That's an acknowledgment that they're hiding part of who they are.

Maybe I'm just always repressed because I know my bosses and work friends are amongst my Facebook friends, but do they really think that when I leave work, I'm reading nothing but industry reports? And if something about my work is interesting, and I write about that, will my friends not think it's interesting, too?

I'm friends with a lot of ambitious people, and I understand being guarded when it comes to your professional life, but you kill a good work-life balance if you're constantly self-censoring out of fear that someone will think less of you for being multi-dimensional. And, frankly, no one wants to network with a hack.

Yep. My time at home has given me some perspective.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Going Viral...ha ha. Get it? VIRAL.

I haven't gone to any healthcare town halls. Because the last few places I've LIVED lived have been liberal enclaves (Cambridge, Berkeley, San Francisco), I have a tendency to ignore all the action alerts that pour into my inbox every day. I mean, I feel pretty confident that 1) Nancy Pelosi's mind is made up, and 2) She's voting my way.

My mom's going to a town hall tonight, though, and we had an e mail conversation the other day about what her sign should say. She was going to go with something like, "Lies are bad, dialogue is good." I don't think anyone would disagree with that, but I'm not sure that points to one side or the other. And the only thing I could think of as a better sign was: "My five-year-old was refused healthcare."

And it's totally ridiculous that Eden had to be denied before I could figure out something pithy to say about health care reform. I've always had relatively good care--or, at least, could afford my co-pay.

But last week's Newsweek, as usual, had some good talking points. Sharon Begley, who is perhaps the most readable science reporter on the planet, and to whom I'm constantly thinking of sending a fan letter, wrote an article called: "Attack! The truth about Obamacare." The article laid out the R's talking points versus the D's. The GOP has catchphrases like "death panels" and "standing between you and your doctor," whereas my team is working with "bending the cost curve" and "the status quo."

My girl Sharon, per usual, writes exactly what I wish I was thoughtful enough to say to naysayers: That the system is broken; that currently who stands between the decisions of you and your doctor is your insurance company; that people are prevented from leaving their jobs because the cost of carrying that insurance on their own is so expensive; that even in the last ten years, small businesses have dropped coverage by another 30%; that half of all personal bankruptcies are due to illness; that Medicare IS government-run healthcare; that the government is proposing that it pays for you to talk to your doctor about your end-of-life directive, not put you in front of a death panel; that the discussion of "cost effectiveness" is a mistranslation of the actual discussion of "medical effectiveness"--that maybe no one should pay for treatments that haven't been proven to work; that nothing in this bill mentions paying for sex-change operations; that abortion isn't covered in the bill, because the government has already banned using federal dollars for it; that people die every year because their insurance companies refuse to pay for treatment that might work--against doctors' wishes.

I think most of my Facebook friends are of a like mind, but I know there are at least a few who aren't. So from today until this debate is resolved, my status update is going to be a health care talking point. I only had one negative response to my status posting about Eden, and his comment was jumped on and he failed to respond to the challenge. Maybe if more of my "friends" were armed with talking points, they might get a little more fired up. Or at least know how to respond to crazy in-laws and the like.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Healthcare Reform

My brother applied for health insurance for his five-year-old through Kaiser, who was already covering Tim.

As a result, Kaiser re-evaluated Tim, and refused him coverage.
Reason:
Within the last 24 months, kidney stones
Illegal drug use within last 5 years
Tobacco use within last 2 years

Kaiser also refused Eden, my nephew, coverage.
Reason:
Within the last 12 months, visited a doctor for minor illness/injury

If a five-year-old can be refused for visiting the doctor once in the last year, I wonder if I can be refused for blogging about it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Things I'm Irrationally Afraid Of

  • Opening a bathroom stall door to find someone inside.
  • Being pushed onto the tracks as the train comes.
  • Sending an e mail to the wrong mailing list.
  • Biting off my own tongue while Novocained.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SUPER TIMES!

Most of my enjoyment from going to classes at the gym stems from my need for constant recognition. I take a real pride at being the instructor's pet. There just aren't enough opportunities to prove your excellence in the real world. There's no equivalent of getting an A. If you do well at your job, it feels good for a while, and then usually that's followed by resentment because you feel like you've earned a promotion and a raise.

So the only way to prove my worth in the immediate term is to attend classes at 24 Hour Fitness and outperform everyone. I'm not particularly strong (I joined because I hit a wall--I couldn't open a jar), but I'm persistent. And when adults are told by an instructor that they can stop whenever they want, or reduce their weight, or do fewer reps, MOST OF THEM DO. (What are they paying for?) So I win the contest I'm holding in my own mind simply by good-naturedly finishing with good form. The bar is low.

I've been to only one class at this particular location so far. It's called 24 Lift, which is 24 Hour Fitness' branded way of saying it's a weightlifting class. The instructor's name is Richard, which I know because 24 Hour Fitness has a whiteboard at the front: the equivalent of a big "HI, MY NAME IS..." tag. All of the instructors use a green marker, and it looks like someone accidentally bought a wet-erase instead of a dry-erase board, and no one's done anything about it. It took me two class attendances to read Richard's name.

So, anyway, I know Richard's name, but he doesn't know mine. I know he appreciates my dedication to ensuring that all my squats are the FULL three seconds, because he catches my eye in the mirror and (I wholeheartedly believe) smiles approvingly. Most people in the class get verbal recognition, even though I'm fairly certain none of them are trying quite as hard to please as I am. Furthermore, it's my suspicion that Richard actually knows very few names--and who's to correct him? For all of class, he's calling out, "Great work, Erin!" "Good job, Helen!" But if no one in the class knows the name of anyone else in the class, and if no one ever reacts to their name being called out, who's to know? Richard comes off as personable and encouraging, and maybe everyone works a little bit harder. Imagine how well I'D perform if I had the chance of being verbally rewarded for sticking out the entire "Challenge" exercise!

Yeah, I'm onto him.

There are always a few things that are hard to figure out when you try out a new class. I've belonged to a gym and have been going to classes for most months of the last ten years, so the fact that it's hard to really understand the exact words of the instructor through his headset, layered with the dance mix of a Pink song (no one ever just pops in Jock Jams anymore) isn't usually an issue. It's kind of like watching What Not To Wear on mute. You think you might know how to read lips, but that's just because it's all a bunch of blather and you pick up the important stuff because it's the same every time.

But instructors, like news anchors, have to have a gimmick. Richard's, I thought for about an hour, was, "SUPER TIMES!" What he's really saying is, "Two more times!," which comes up a lot in a class that's basically about exerting yourself for eight counts at a time. This also means that while everyone's dropping off by the time we get to the last two reps, I do my snort laugh and the momentum of that practically lifts the bar for me.

Richard does have his downside. I think he cheats. He has real problems counting to eight. He often skips "one." And that means that I'm torn between completing the set (as I know he, and God, want me to do) and staying with the rhythm of the class. And he adds in all those little lost single seconds on occasions to hold a single (always uncomfortable) position for eight counts, because first he uses about two seconds to explain that we'll count to eight, and then (THEN! The most infuriating thing one could do to one who is straining under weight), at three, stops to interject, "Almost there!"

He's just being mean.

But, since he's the only one in the room with any right to judge me, and I so desperately want him to approve of my performance, I just smile knowingly. He can't crack this one.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Getting Bendy

Periodically, I feel guilty about yoga.

I know yoga's all about acceptance, and living within your abilities, and only doing what you want to do, but if I'm going to deal with putting on a sports bra, someone better make me sweat. And it's better if they're yelling at me while doing it.

Which is not to say yoga instructors can't rile me up, although I'm pretty sure that's the opposite of the intended yoga effect. My very first encouraged me to breathe through my uterus. That certainly got me sweating. A couple of years ago, I thought maybe I'd be able to handle yoga early in the morning, before I really woke up enough to process the ridiculousness of being AT the gym, but not feeling like a shower was necessary afterward. (Well, actually, this was in Cambridge, where some people feel like they NEVER need to shower...which is enough to merit at least a good rinsing after getting too close.) The downfall of that particular class was the insistence on my least-favorite part of the whole concept: the savasana.

For those of you who maybe live in a part of the country for which there IS no peer pressure to yoga for Health and Wellness, savasana means deep breathing. (I mean, I don't know what it MEANS, but it means deep breathing.) So, at the end of every class, everyone has to lay very still on their mats, and, you know, breathe. It's just like sleeping, except that you got out of bed an hour and a half earlier, and now it's time to go to work. So while all the dirty Cambridge retirees are slipping into their first siesta of the day, I'm using the opportunity to make a list of things to worry about for the day. And while the instructor's extending the savasana because she thinks everyone needs the extra time to relax, my blood pressure's shooting up because every minute I'm laying there is one more minute to be late to work.

So, anyway, that was the end of that.

But when I ended up with all this free time/all this independence from money, and could no longer justify a gym membership, I invested in a set of yoga CDs at the secondhand bookstore in Berkeley. I thought I was so smart...It cost something like $10, and comes with 130 minutes of audio yoganess. And with nowhere to be, who cares if a single workout takes an hour? What the hell else was I going to do?

I made it through two of the 20-minute discs over four sessions, and gave up. It's just too boring. I mean, it's not even a DVD. If I could watch television and still understand the instructions, that'd be one thing, but listening to this dude with the ponytail and staring at my floor? No.

But Adam's mom was in town this weekend and told a really disturbing story about her pelvic bone somehow ending up at a weird angle, and how she had to have it popped back into place. And then last night, I saw Denise Richards go to the chiropractor, and it just looked so violent and the popping was so LOUD...Well, I don't deal well with bones. Thinking about them makes my legs go numb. So if I need to be bored for a while in order to avoid some quack jerking my bones back into place later in life, I'm in.

So this morning, I set up Adam's yoga mat and ambitiously put in the 75-minute Vinyasa Flow CD. It was nice. It was the first time I've done one of the yoga CDs and didn't need to use the flashcards. The sun was coming in through the window, and, unlike in our Berkeley apartment, there's room to stretch out and do all the poses correctly. I planned my outfit for the day around the fact that I felt my legs would probably look better after the "workout." I imagined that it was going to be a really healthy day. Yogis eat lots of fruit and yogurt. I have both in the fridge. And I'd drink nothing but green tea and my whole system would be cleansed out. I think rearranging your gut on a mat does that.

Then I got bored. I held off as long as I could, then glanced at the counter on the stereo.

I had lasted ten minutes, 14 seconds. And that was the end of that.

Yoga sucks. But my outfit looks really cute.

Friday, July 10, 2009

To get off the couch, you have to spend more time on it...

With the check from my car sale officially in my wallet, and no chance of me doing my tax return on the horizon, it's pretty apparent that I'm probably about to hit a peak in my bank account, and it's just about time to figure out how to replenish it. It's going to be a long, downward financial slide from here.

So the job search begins.

Up until the move to San Francisco, I've gotten every job I've ever had through a personal connection. It's been a pretty pleasant handoff from one boss to the next. The exception, of course, was that first job I took when I got here--and I left after two months to preserve personal sanity. You see how Craigslist now makes me feel a little creepy.

But, given how few people I know here, it's Craigslist and monster.com for me now, every day. I also tried out Idealist again, despite protesting for months that I was ready for a job that comes with a 401k...but it turns out this recession thing is real. The first day I looked on Idealist for any non-profit job within ten miles of San Francisco, it returned something like 15 results. FIFTEEN! Even a year ago, it would have spit out 100. It's scary out there.

And, truth be told, I think part of what draws me to non-profit work is its ability to skip the bullshit. I don't apply for many corporate positions because I have no idea what the job descriptions MEAN. Does an infection control specialist at Kaiser (which Monster thinks I'd be perfect for) mean that I'd disinfect toilets or make calls to the CDC? Would I enjoy "Driv[ing] and facilitat[ing] process improvements in managing and supporting production operations"?

The Craigslist jobs are at least interesting. The Gorilla Foundation is looking for a gorilla evening monitor three nights a week. It's mostly database entry, although the posting also specifies that one should be "confident around dogs" and have a "calm (gorilla-like) demeanor." I'm not going to say that I don't match these qualifications exactly...it's just that my high-school reunion's coming up. I'm just not sure this is something I want to be talking about with people I haven't seen in ten years.

Today I found a posting from someone looking for a blogger for a "Cute & Fuzzy Animal Blog." I like kittens. But I'm definitely not qualified to do this job, which demands "sensitivity" towards the Dogster.com and Catster.com communities (what are those?) and an "in-depth knowledge of the 'pet and animal meme' universe." THERE IS ONE?!?!

Twice a day, someone posts within the Craigslist non-profit section, "GOT GOOD GENES?? Why not share?!" and on the day "Scrum Master" was suggested in my daily Monster e mail, I started to think, "Why not?" I've heard egg donation's pretty painful, but, frankly, so is monster.com.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If your boyfriend's sick of hearing about how you think there's a dent in your tooth...

Sometimes I read people's Facebook status updates just to feel better about myself. I might be unemployed and aimless in life, but at least I would NEVER post "Amy Stice Sucks to be Monday!" Facebook should be a vehicle to either brag about your life or point out your own shortcomings before anyone else figures it out on their own and thinks they can talk about it behind your back--NOT to make uncomfortable cocktail-party-before-the-cocktails-come-out small talk.

But all in all, I think people obsess over Facebook updates and Twitter because it's a vehicle into the human mind. It's kind of like how people in the days of yore read "novels." But because everyone's just showing off, or at least trying not to be offensive, it's kind of like reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. Everyone's fancy, mildly troubled and not too concerned about it. (And everyone but me goes to parties on Friday nights.)

And it's for that reason that I'm obsessed with this project, which Adam's co-worker created. It's the worst of everyone--full of the petty shit, the cobwebs in the back of the mind, the stuff you'd send to PostSecret but don't actually because the problem doesn't seem big enough to sit down and make an elaborate postcard for. (Also, what about the fear of not being creative enough for PostSecret's book?)

Anyway. Post your worries. Tell strangers the worst possible thing that could possibly happen to them. As Ramona would say, it's declasse to do it on Facebook. Here's your outlet.

http://worrier.nickreid.com/

Monday, July 6, 2009

Reasons I'm Not Looking Forward to Renting a Truck and Picking Up a Bed Tonight

The only thing missing from our apartment that we really need is a bedframe. We left Adam's old one in Berkeley, where it's probably by now been peeled apart and smoked. We picked out a new frame at Ikea that's probably the same one you have in your homes, given the speed at which it goes out of stock. But it's in stock tonight, and the truck's been reserved.

While I kind of notoriously have no sense of direction, there's not a doubt in my mind I couldn't navigate Ikea with my eyes closed at this point. We've been there, I think, four times since this move--the combination of Adam not coming from a land of Ikea and my joblessness means that the lure of cheap furniture is too strong to resist. It's gotten a lot nicer since my introduction to it in my first apartment out of college, but right as I'm getting comfortable in the store and convincing myself that adults shop there, too, I come across that table we all had two of (or four, if you were really classy and arranged them all together in the middle of the room so it looked like you had one big table):

Yeah, you remember that. It's called the Lack, and it's still $12.99. Inflation hasn't hit Ikea since 2003, but the Lack does come in several more colors now. I think my only option was "Birch Effect."

So, anyway, the other thing you don't realize about Ikea is that even though it IS incredibly convenient that all their furniture can be dismantled into teeny, tiny pieces and put into a box that you can strap to the top of your Volkswagon, those boxes are super-dense and your average 130-lb woman stands little to no chance of being able to haul them up four flights of stairs herself. And, frankly, that's usually my only contribution to the furniture effort, because I look at directions and my eyes start to cross and I usually end up going to bed crying before the project's complete.

Luckily, Adam sees the construction of furniture as a pleasure. Whereas my previous favorite Ikea assembly quote came from a former roommate's boyfriend, who, on their second date, decided he'd rather stay behind and assemble my bed than go out to dinner: "It's like Legos!," my new favorite comes from Adam, who, upon seeing the first page of instructions for our new bookshelf, gasped (sorry, Mom): "Aw, man, I'm gonna jizz in my pants!"

I did decide that there was one Ikea item I could handle entirely on my own: the mirror. It's just a wall mirror--the cheapest full-length one they had. Whereas my dear roommate doesn't seem to mind if his shoes are compatible with the length of his pants, I do, and, besides, the mirror is literally one one piece that gets stuck to the back of a door. I didn't think this could be difficult at all. BUT LOOK!

Four illustrated instructions. I have omitted nothing; there are no additional written instructions. I had to make them up.

.
Knife it off. Got it.



Find Silly Putty. Pet lovingly. Shape into wave, add tiny surfboard.


Stretch as far as possible.


Corn dogs make the sun rise.

This is just a MIRROR. And that's why I won't be participating in the assembly of the bed.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

As Good As It Gets?

On the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn disaster, the gay rights movement is facing a ho-hum moment.

The President hasn't yet lived up to any of his campaign promises to that community, but that didn't stop gay rights leaders (we should really be calling them civil rights leaders) from attending a White House ceremony to commemorate the day. Sure, there was a little bit of an outcry, but Obama wasn't left standing alone in a room or anything.

The New York Times ran a front-page Style article on Sunday profiling a few straight dudes who are friends with gay dudes. The Times' profiled gay men included a drama and dance teacher and an ice-skating instructor--because it couldn't find any CPAs? The point of the article was supposed to be that in an I Love You, Man age, men could finally accept each other, regardless of sexual orientation, without tension. But if that was the case, the reporter wouldn't have included awkward scenarios each of these man-couples have found themselves in: "princess" references, demands that one "not be so queer." It's more like the assumption that this is as good as it gets.

The most tolerant, the article points out, are men in the military. Take that, Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I was at the Pride Parade in San Francisco this weekend, where the theme was "To Form a More Perfect Union..." and the organizers admitted the crowds were tamer than in years past. The most incredible parade participants weren't the trannies and mostly-naked City Car Share employees. They were the elderly couples riding in pedicabs, holding signs indicating how long they'd been together. (The highest number I saw was 38 years.)

And, really, there was no way to make a more extreme statement than that--because in a year when California's Prop 8 was followed by a midwestern state allowing gay marriage, and the election of an open-minded President was followed by silence from his White House, and being a gay man with a straight friend who calls you "princess" is a step forward, really, what can this movement do but sit back and wait to be considered normal?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Judgement



Many of you know that part of my time off is being spent pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavor, which is still nameless and kind of a blob of an elaborate plan right now, but is giving me insights into what I want out of life and how I think about work and how much time I can kill on the internet.

Mostly, I've been reading theknot.com.

Everyone of my generation who knows any woman who's gotten married has heard of The Knot, because the first thing most engaged women do is go online and figure out how they're going to throw what will probably be the biggest gala event she'll ever put her name on. And, in addition to it being fancy, it also has to be unforgettable for every single guest. (The word at Delinda's wedding was that no one wanted to be the next to get married, because not only did she and Josh have an art museum, but they also had an ocean view, the hottest day of the year, a photo booth with full Mexican wrestler costumes, sparklers, an 80s cover band, AND someone had to be taken away in an ambulance. And therefore, in that group of friends, no one has dared get married for the last two years. It's just too much pressure.)

So, anyway, I've been reading The Knot, and I can see why people are addicted to it. First of all, it tells you right off the bat that you stand to fail at this task. In fact, the very first article on the "Planning Basics" page is "Brides' Biggest Wedding Regrets." You're going to pick the wrong bridesmaids or the wrong veil ("55+ Veil Ideas!"), your Future Intended (there's a whole other language on this site) is going to get mad if your wedding bands don't match his watch, and every future in-law has either a drinking problem or a whiny kid who's going to ruin the ceremony.

But if you're on The Knot, you have bigger problems. First of all, it's almost impossible to escape its grasp. To view anything of substance (a relative term), you have to give the site your wedding date. "Mine" is this October, and my inbox is blowing up with purchases I should be handling right now. I've consoled several brides who input their wedding dates, for real, watched The Knot generate a checklist of what needed to be accomplished and how far out each task should be handled, and then burst into tears. I think I'm popular as a bridesmaid because of my absolute disdain for people who ruin all the fun of your wedding by making you stress about it.

But I couldn't believe this story: One of the most popular features on The Knot is the chat boards, where brides-to-be (grooms never seem to worry about these things) post their worries and their stories and their bargains for all their virtual friends to see. It's basically a way to enjoy your planning without wearing out your friends. But SOMEONE told me the other day that she got out of the chats when she kept seeing brides sign back in to report that other members of the chat rooms had shown up at their weddings...once, it seems, to steal the cocktail napkins.

Oh, hell no.

And then I saw this, posted in a chat room that, up to this point, had been happily chatting about what it means if your fiance gets a new job right before the wedding:

"I have this friend who's perpetually single. I try to sympathize with her, and support her when she's got a new crush, but behind her back, I laugh at her for only going for guys who are way out of her league."

And that's when I had to close my computer. Because it's one thing to write off The Knot as a site only for people who are massively excited about getting hitched. And I'm OK with reading the thoughts of people who are giddily in love and celebrating that with things that are color-coordinated. But if you're both stressed about napkin rings AND just happy to find someone who's "in your league," it's going to take a lot of work on my end not to stage an intervention.

On a TOTALLY UNRELATED note, happy anniversary, Lindi and Jeff.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We elect you because of what you say about tax breaks

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford had a strange, unscripted news conference today, at which he admitted to cheating on his wife. In Argentina. Like, yesterday.

While he was at it, he basically acknowledged the end of his political future, not resigning from office, but at least resigning as head of the Republican Governors.

He’d been missing for a few days... as in, REALLY no one knew where he was, not even his staff. Not even his wife. Then they all decided he was probably somewhere on the Appalachian Trail, writing, because that was a logical explanation. Then they said he’d be coming home early, because of all this brouhaha about his disappearance. Thanks a lot for ruining his vacation.

And, as far as I can tell, it was said brouhaha that led him to confess his affair. So far as I can tell, no one had brought up the affair. No one had accused him of doing anything particularly sneaky during his away time. The only thing that was suspicious at all was the fact that he didn’t tell anyone where he was going. In fact, I’d be willing to say that if he had just said, “I’ll be in Argentina next week, visiting an old friend,” today’s events would have never transpired.

Instead, he flew back and told everyone where he was and what he’d been doing. He was the kid who blurts out everything he did while his parents are away, either out of fear they’ll find out later or because he just couldn’t live with the guilt. I mean, he JUST GOT BACK.

This all comes, of course, on the heels of the Jon and Kate debacle, which took months to unfold and left me a little bit stunned and feeling hollow every time I see photos of the family or TV footage. (You know, cable channels beyond Bravo are now running full shows about the family. Jon & Kate: Is It Too Late? was on again last night, and I was like, yeah, I think we already know the answer....)

I know I’m supposed to be laughing at the people who are taking the divorce of Jon and Kate personally. But this is reality TV at its most real, right? While most of the reality crap achieves a perfect arc (a dinner party to which you’ve invited your enemy, who is also the final cast member of the show, concludes with The Confession We’ve Been Waiting for All Season), this couple announced a divorce three episodes into a 40-episode season. Any friend or family member would, at this point, stop extending joint dinner invitations, sending anniversary cards or giving Christmas presents addressed to both of them at this point. But America is no caring friend, and Bravo is no landlord who’s going to let you break the lease because of extenuating personal circumstance. The Gosselins have another 37 episodes to go in their contract — the same contract that affords them that house, with the same cable network that pushes promotional opportunities their way so all their kids can get new playhouses.

All this sympathy for the Gosselins, because we held them to a higher standard. This is what they get.

And all this hoopla over Mark Sanford, because we “held him to a higher standard.” This is what he gets.

The saddest part of the Gosselin saga, I think, is that they have to stay on TV.

The saddest part of the Sanford saga is the idea that this should at all affect his career. South Carolina has enough problems, and, yes, having him as governor is one of them. But not because he has a mistress.

I kind of highly doubt many people in South Carolina get a pit in their stomach when they think about the end of Mark Sanford’s marriage and what it must be doing to his family.

And now that the dichotomy’s been shoved in our faces, why not just acknowledge that politicians cheating on their wives doesn’t affect us in the slightest?