Friday, January 29, 2010

Snack fail

So someone has been bringing in these assorted "100 calorie packs" of snacky things like cookies and crackers to my office, and I thought that today I might sample one, just to see what all the fuss is about. I've spent my 7+ hours in the gym this week and been eating mighty healthily these days, and it's Friday, so why not, right?

For the record, the 100-calorie pack of "oreo thin crisps" tastes nothing like Oreos. They taste sort of like chocolate graham crackers. And now the inside of my mouth feels funny in kind of a bad way. SO not worth the 100 calories. I mean, I'm not a huge fan of Oreos to begin with (I like the chocolate cookie part, not so much the sweetened crisco filling), but damn, yo. Those things taste like ass.

I think I'll have to make up for it when I get home by having a slice of homemade oatmeal molasses bread with butter on it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to dress up in my mom's old clothes/shoes or other things in our dress-up pile, and imagine myself a fairy, a princess, a superhero, a Fawncy Lady in a floppy green felt hat, somewhere else and someone else.

One of the pieces in my dress-up wardrobe was an old bone-colored slip of my mom's, half lace, that was held up by tying the straps into knots. I imagined that one day I'd have boobs that would fill it out, and I regularly paired with with any number of other pieces to become something I was not.

With my best preschool friend Megan, who is wearing a clown costume my mom made. I think in this photo I'm 4 or 5. We are in the chicken coop, as you can see from the small chicken behind me. I still remember choosing that particular strand of yarn to belt my "dress". And I'm still a fan of braids.

Taken at the same time as the first photo here. Lissa is wearing my old swan costume from my first ballet recital. I've got the slip tucked into a sparkly blue skirt, and I'm holding a fairy princess wand. It looks like June from the flowers, so I'm probably seven and Lissa not yet four.

Somehow, I ended up with that slip as an adult - I'm not sure if I borrowed it from my mom for some occasion and never gave it back, or what, but the realization I had when I was big enough to untie the straps and fill out the lace bit on the top was pretty mind-blowing. I don't think I still have it - if memory serves, it finally disintegrated sometime during my college years. But I've got the photographic evidence, and the memories of feeling like a Fawncy Lady in the chicken coop.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Knee, jerk

Recent focus in parts of the blogosphere about food choices have got me thinking about the food choices we make and why we make them. Many of the regular bloggers I read seem to be making changes, throwing out processed food, eschewing factory-farmed meat and dairy, and making healthier choices about food in general for themselves and their loved ones.

Awesome, sez I. I've made similar choices about what I buy and what I eat for years. But all this talk about food and where it comes from and what's good and what's bad is, I've noticed, triggering my knee to start moving up toward my gut of its own accord.

Internet, I have a confession to make. When I read about someone becoming vegan, when someone tells me they are going to become vegan, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's a weird roil of turmoil, of "oh crap!", and my mind automatically goes from "I like this person" to "Shit, I don't know what to think about this person now."

Admittedly, I think there's sort of a good reason for my reaction. I think I've written before about some ex-friends and some of the travails we had with them during the time when they were engaged and we were engaged. All our troubles seemed to begin with the day they announced to us that they'd watched some sort of PETA propaganda video and decided to go vegan. I tried to be understanding and accommodating (even making birthday cakes with no eggs and using vegan margarine and soy milk for the frosting) but damn, it was a trying time, which ended in frustration and tears and no longer being friends with them. I guess I'm just not OK with being proselytized to, regardless of whether it's about how Jesus should be my personal savior or tracts from Church of Vegan.

Even though I've got reasons for my reactions, it's still probably not healthy for me to snap to an instant negative judgment about someone when they announce a major dietary change. As long as they don't try to convince me that The Vegan Way Is The Only Way, I really honestly don't have a problem with it. It's just that, since our experience in 2007, whenever someone I know (either in real life or internet life) becomes vegan, I feel as though that person is going to turn into an asshole.

What about you, Internet? Do you have any knee-jerk reactions to particular situations?

Monday, January 25, 2010


Let me tell you a little about Robin.

She likes the bathroom. We call her Bathroom Cat, sometimes, and when you go in the bathroom and she's in her spot on the sink she purrs and rubs against the faucet until you turn it on for her to drink from.

She does this silent meow when you talk to her. It's quite endearing, and might lead one to believe that she does not make noise. That, however, is entirely not the case. In the mornings, when my alarm starts going off, so does her increasingly loud "Hey, I'm in here, pay attention to me!" noise. I rescue her from the room where she sleeps at night (still keeping her separated from Loki overnight, primarily to allow her some time to eat and use the litter box without fear of being pounced upon). I get up and pee, and Loki is already crouched right outside her door waiting to be let in. I open the door and say good morning, and she runs over to me and puts both paws up on my leg to be picked up. I carry her into the bedroom and deposit her on usually-still-sleeping Dan before I get in the shower.

When we brought her home from the shelter in the cardboard box with holes, this tiny kitty managed to shred the inside and nearly escape from it; I had to hold it closed on my lap. She also yowled up a storm like someone was pulling out her guts with a grappling hook.

Everything about bringing home a new kitty says to keep New Kitty separate from Existing Kitty for at least a week, so we did our best to follow every instruction. After multiple successful escape attempts (through two baby gates and 3 feet of cardboard duct-taped to the doorway), we realized she was just going to figure out how to get out of anything. Since then, she's avoided floors whenever possible and uses us as conveyance from room to room (bedroom to bathroom to living room to her room) so she can avoid being pummeled by Loki, who doesn't quite understand yet that it isn't nice to sneak up on her.

They share the window, reluctantly

She loves just about every toy we've tried, seems thoroughly interested in People Food in general (something we do our best to discourage), and purrs at the drop of a hat. She's made it very clear to both of us that we are her people.

Robin became Robin for a multi-part reason. First, Dan's brother has always called Loki Batman, because he has a mask on his face. Fair enough. Robin will be Loki's smaller sidekick. Robin is also an escape artist and an acrobat. And she's got a reddish chest and belly.

Yesterday morning I had Loki in my lap and Robin snuggling up to my leg. It was the closest they'd been with no hissing or yowling since we brought her home, and both napped peacefully, Robin's head inches from Loki's tail. It's taking him quite a while to get used to having a new kitty around; I'm sure he's still mourning Petra, and he's always been extremely territorial and Alpha Male, and we're doing our best to let him show Robin that He Is The Boss.

Please excuse my unwashed hair.

It's been less than a month, and we're both already quite smitten. Robin has a lot of personality traits that are similar to Loki's, and some that are similar to Petra's. Plus, she's got some things that are Just Hers, and I'm sure as she continues to grow (and grow and grow, sheesh, she's probably twice as big now as when we got her!) we'll learn more about our new friend.

Loki, circa 2005

Robin, who is already taking after her big brother

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Photographic evidence

My camera's batteries died on Christmas Eve, and I completely forgot about replacing them until a couple of days ago when I wanted to take a photo of the breakfast Dan made. I realized, then, that I had a month's worth of photos I hadn't looked at - and that I'd gone nearly a month without using my camera.

Today I sat down and looked at the photos I took of our Charlie Brown tree, of the last photos we have of Petra and Loki snuggling, and of our trip to California. It hurt. I think I'd been avoiding my camera so I wouldn't have to see those photos, taken when I was so sad, mourning Petra before she died and mourning her afterward. I got out of the habit of taking photos regularly, and it's something I enjoy, so I'm going to get back into it, and also get back in the habit of posting photos here.

That being said, here are some of the photos I took while we were in California for two weeks of December. The first ones are of the drive out, and the later ones I took at the new location of Berkeley Bowl (they have a NEW ONE NOW!). And the last one speaks for itself. I'll have a whole other post forthcoming with photos from Armstrong Woods, one of my favorite places in the world, but I gotta do some processing on those photos first. Because man, it's dark in there.

Taken in Green River, Utah, in an ice-fog. Every surface was coated with what was either snowflakes or ice crystals or both.

Note to advertisers: when shilling cheap-ass crappy burritos, "So nice, you'll taste it twice" is really NOT the sort of image you want to be selling.

Puppy pile! My sister, her husband, and their half-grown pup Astro.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The blahs

As you may or may not have noticed, for the three of you still reading this, I haven't been posting much. I think it's because I have the January blahs. For the past few years, we've gone on a fun trip in January. Not this year - the double whammies of Petra's illness/death and Christmas, coupled with the furlough (unpaid) days I have for work now, meant that we couldn't afford to do any of the trips we talked about.

So here I sit, in the blahs. The sky is gray. It's cold outside, not horribly cold, but not pretty and snowy either. I'm still not over my mild cold. I want to go snowshoeing, but we have to buy snowshoes. I feel as though I'm once again stuck in a rut, unable to move in any direction.

We've had friends and relatives over the last couple of nights for dinner, which has been a nice change from the usual routine of computer-staring and TV-watching. I haven't yet mustered the energy to start any new projects. At least the house got cleaned over the 4-day weekend I just had.

I think January blahs are normal; however, in recent years there's been a trip to look forward to and/or go on, and this year, nothing. We have a new little kitty, growing daily, who has helped to bring some laughter back into our house of Dead Kitty Sadness, but even that isn't enough to get me out of the doldrums. I continue to go to the gym nearly every day, trudge to and from work, and wonder when I'll feel inspired again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Far-reaching consequences

One of the things I hauled back from California was a box of my old crap, including a time capsule I put together for an assignment my senior year of high school, other Very Important Things (like my blankie!), and some of my college papers. One of the papers I found was written for an international resources and development class (or something like that) - a discussion of China's one-child policy.

I still remember the research I did for this paper. It was mostly pre-internet, certainly pre-Wikipedia, and to find newspaper articles I had to use microfiche(!) (Yes, Virginia, there was once a time, not too long ago, when you couldn't actually use the internet to find ANYTHING you were looking for.) I spent hours researching and thinking about the one-child policy and its implications for the future. And today, I came across an article discussing the effects from the policy, 30 years on.

In 1979, China implemented a near-blanket policy regarding family size. A given set of parents was only allowed to have one child. Certain exceptions were made for members of specific ethnic groups, or for if the first child was mentally or physically impaired in some fashion. But for the vast majority of the population, for the past 30+ years, you get once child. One kid, who will grow up, get married, and (probably) have one kid. And if you have more than one? The additional kids won't be educated on the state's dime. And if you're a woman who works in a factory, chances are you end up with a forced abortion - or, at least, that's how it worked when I was researching my paper.

But wait! What happens when all those kids who were born in the last 30 years grow up and want to get married? If you're in China, the gender ratio is highly skewed due to traditional beliefs and desires. In China, if you're only going to have one kid, you're likely to want a boy. In China, boys grow up to be men, who have higher status and greater earning potential. In China, male children care for their aging parents, while female children marry into other families. China has a long and storied history of female infanticide, a practice that, while distasteful at the very least, makes sense in the cultural context. The practice continued after the one-child policy was put into effect, and, once ultrasounds with gender-detecting technology became more prevalent, fell by the wayside as many women opted instead to abort their girls rather than bring them to term.

It's quite sad, really, that a policy that was intended to help with population control will have such long-reaching effects. Not only is there a horribly skewed gender ratio of as many as 130 males for every 100 females, but the consequences include millions of men being unable to marry. And women being abducted and trafficked.

Maybe in another 15 or 20 years, when the effects of the one-child policy take full effect, a cultural shift will come about. Girls and women are important, too. I understand China isn't the only place where sex-selective abortion is a problem, but, in my opinion, the fact that it happens anywhere is a problem. Maybe China will realize there's value in girls and women just as much as in boys and men.

Monday, January 04, 2010

We have a new friend.

She needs a name. Suggestions?