Monday, December 29, 2008


After that last post I felt like crying, which I don't want to start the day off doing, so I watched this. You should watch it too.

It doesn't fix anything, but it's hard not to giggle and make cutesy noises. And it's impossible to despair and also make cutesy noises. Promise.

Signs of the Times

I wish I couldn't read:

WATERVILLE -- Rape Crisis Assistance and Prevention, a nonprofit agency that has provided services to victims of sexual violence in northern Kennebec and Somerset counties for 25 years, will close its doors for good on Wednesday.

In explaining the closure, agency officials cited insurmountable financial woes during the national economic recession.

The center, headquartered at 179 Main St., employs five paid employees, which includes three full-time and two part-time workers. It has an annual budget just under $200,000 and served more than 225 clients this past year...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Reading

In the spirit of all of the end-of-year lists that are now thicker than cigarette butts under melting snowbanks (which is to say, unavoidable and a little nauseating), I present to you the List of Books that Jen Read in 2008.

It is not a comprehensive list, as it only includes new books that I actually completed. So, I didn't include any of the books I revisited, and I didn't include any new books I didn't finish. There were more of those this year than ever before. I think having an MFA has made me a bit of a book snob.

Before we get to the actual list, I did a little analysis this year of my genre reading habits:

Sorry for the blurry screen shot. I'm still using the 2003 version of Office and it hates me. Hates. me.

Anyway, so what the data tells me is that I started out 2008 reading a lot of fiction, and ended it reading a lot of crime. I also think it's interesting that my reading rate was relatively low during the months that I was unemployed (July-September, when I was spending my time divided between Six Feet Under and the Winter Cache Garden) and highest during the month I started working again (October, when I was practicing being an overacheiver).

OK, so here's the list. The first ten are my favorites, in no particular order and for no particular reason except that they continue to live in my head for one reason or another. These are the books I'm still thinking about, and most likely I wrote down a couple of quotes from them in my handy-dandy Moleskine.

The rest after that are in roughly the order I read them.

Author Title
Eggers, Dave What Is the What
Brockmeier, Kevin The Brief History of the Dead
Rak, Mary Kidder A Cowman's Wife
Lowenthal, Michael Charity Girl
Larson, Erik Devil in the White City
Whitman, Walt Leaves of Grass
Kyle, Aryn The God of Animals
Thomas, Will Some Danger Involved
Millhauser, Steven Dangerous Laughter
Barlow, Toby Sharp Teeth

King, Stephen Lisey's Story
Updike, John Terrorist
McGuire, Gregory What the Dickens
Shawn, Allen Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life
Lehane, Dennis Coronado
Beller, Thomas The Sleep-Over Artist
Hardinge, Frances Fly By Night
Long, David The Inhabited World
Goodman, Allegra Intuition
McKewan, Ian On Chesil Beach
Halberstam, David Firehouse
Shah, Saira The Storyteller's Daughter
Winterson, Jeannette Tanglewreck
McCarthy, Cormac No Country for Old Men
Ondaatje, Michael Devisadero
Hegi, Ursula The Vision of Emma Blau
Litman, Ellen The Last Chicken in America
Bachman, Richard Blaze
Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
Grant, Richard Another Green World
DeLillo, Don Falling Man
King, Stephen Best American Short Stories of 2007
Clark, Joshua Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in its Disaster Zone
Connolly, John The Book of Lost Things
Chabon, Michael Gentlemen of the Road
Breslin, Jimmy The Good Rat
Burroughs, Augustin Running With Scissors
Roth, Philip Everyman
Gaiman, Neil Fragile Things
Burroughs, Augustin Dry
Montiel, Dito A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Burroughs, Augustin Magical Thinking
Boylan, Jennifer Finney I'm Looking Through You
Dully, Howard My Lobotomy
Russo, Richard Bridge of Sighs
Stowe, Harriet Beeche Uncle Tom's Cabin
Henderson, Bill Pushcart Prize XXXI: Best of the Small Presses
Lightman, Alan Ghost
Griffith, Nicola Always
Bloom, Elizabeth The Mortician's Daughter
Erdrich, Louise The Plague of Doves
Creech, Sharon Walk Two Moons
Busch, Frederick Girls
Wolf, Naomi Promiscuities
Flynn, Gillian Sharp Objects
Mosley, Walter Cinnamon Kiss
Curtis, Chistopher Paul Bud, Not Buddy
Kirino, Natsuo Grotesque
Steinem, Gloria Revolution from Within
Dillard, Annie The Maytrees
Smith, Zadie White Teeth
Sinha, Indra Animal's People
Horvath, Patty The Canning Season
Smith, Ali Boy Meets Girl
Meyer, Stephenie Twilight
Meyer, Stephenie New Moon
Marr, Melissa Wicked Lovely
Meyer, Stephenie Eclipse
Thomas, Will To Kingdom Come
Montgomery, Sy The Good Good Pig
Cabot, Meg All-American Girl
Sittenfeld, Curtis Man of my Dreams
Thomas, Will The Limehouse Text
Silber, Joan The Size of the World
Farmer, Nancy Sea of Trolls
Westerfeld, Scott Pretties
Westerfeld, Scott Uglies
Westerfeld, Scott Specials
Gerritsen, Tess The Bone Garden
Palahniuk, Chuck Snuff
Thomas, Will The Hellfire Conspiracy
Welch, Irvine If You Liked School You'll Love Work
Oates, Joyce Carol Blonde
Oates, Joyce Carol Because it is Bitter, and Because it is My Heart
Mosley, Walter Fortunate Son
Skye, Obert Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo
Gerritsen, Tess Gravity
Gerritsen, Tess Bloodstream
O'Neill, Heather Lullabies for Little Criminals
Gilbert, Elizabeth Stern Men
Levine, Gail Carson Fairest
Lowry, Lois The Giver
McCrery, Nigel Still Waters
Mosley, Walter Diablerie
Samarasan, Preeta Evening is the Whole Day
Kimmel, Haven Iodine
Junger, Sebastian A Death in Belmont
Cornwall, Patricia Jack the Ripper: Case Closed
Meyer, Stephenie The Host
Sedaris, David When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 14:29 :I'd like to know when Excel is going to stop thinking it's smarter than me. Quicker, yes; smarter, never. #
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Finally I can stop having bad self-esteem about my cell phone. Because iPhone users aren't any better than me. How do I know?

The number one application for the iPhone is an app called iFart.

Heh. Heh-heh. I said "fart." Heh heh.

(via mashable)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Street Smarts

Dear Portland,

I would like to offer some tips for navigating in our beautiful, snow-narrowed streets:

1. Hang up your cell phone. Especially if you are
-parking in a spot that is covered with six inches of sandy slush
-driving on a road narrowed to one lane
-any combination of the above
2. Stop honking. It will not get you there any faster, and there's probably a good reason why the person ahead of you is driving slower--they're probably avoiding a pedestrian. Which brings me to...
3. If you are walking, try to be on the sidewalk. Sometimes there's no room to drive around you. If you can't,
4. Wear clothing that is not white or black, because you blend in with the snowbanks and are likely to become one of them.
5. On a street that is down to one lane, yield to the driver coming downhill towards you, because chances are pretty good that they are going to have a hard time stopping. Even if you're driving a Lexus. And even if you're really in a hurry.



Last year's crunchy stress-relieving snack: Lundberg Brown Rice Lightly Salted Rice Cakes.

This year's crunchy stress-relieving snack: Tortilla chips and salsa. And I've moved up to "medium" salsa which, for a Maine girl like me, is kind of a big step. I wonder if there's some kind of significance to the spicing up of my snack choices? Freud would probably say so.

For my birthday yesterday I bought myself some shrimp cocktail and ate it all. Then I had chips and salsa, some adult soynog, and then mashed potatoes and a giant steak for dinner. Plus I bought myself a couple of books and received a very nice ginger-beer-and-little-lads-popcorn basket. But most importantly, I finished my holiday shopping. A lovely day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 17:19 @bombsaway00 beary cute! #
  • 06:58 -i get all stressed out when facebook is down. it's sad... just sad. #
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Monday, December 08, 2008

More Holiday Anxiety

While having a tween daughter isn't all fun and games (ha. ha.), there is at least one reason to be grateful: she's (mostly) beyond the age of toys. Her holiday wish list this year is technology, clothes, books, stuffed animals, and music.

This morning's Press Herald article made me glad I'm not buying a ton of toys this year:
One of every three toys in a study of 1,500 products have been found to contain "medium" or "high" levels of lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, bromine and chlorine, the nonprofit Ecology Center reported last week in its Healthy Toys Guide.
A sampling of items that the Ecology Center says are dangerous are Disney's Hannah Montana two-heart necklace; the educational learning-game system by LeapFrog, Leapster2/Wall.E; Thistle Blocks, flexible nubby pads that connect together for construction; Little Tikes Bath Letters & Numbers; and Circo brand shoes.

Of course, the toys I did buy her for the past decade were probably full of toxins and poison, but at least I didn't know about it. I think lots of parents are going back to plain wooden toys and rag dolls. Couldn't we just ban plastic? Couldn't we?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Ones to Watch

The Bangor Daily News is reporting today the formation of a clergy group, Maine Marriage Alliance, to oppose gay marriage.

“It is so important for us to recognize this is not a challenge to a social institution,” [Rev. Bob Emrich of Plymouth] said. “It’s a challenge to the righteousness of God. … This is not one of the things we may have to face, we are facing it.”

They were careful to say that their opposition would be "graceful,"--meaning, I think, maybe less hate than other groups have shown... but I'm not sure that there is a way to be "graceful" when you believe you have the "righteousness of God" behind you, and believe that those who oppose you are going against "biblical truth."

The article also did point out that 120 faith leaders joined the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine.

I have complicated feelings about this marriage thing. I don't actually support gay marriage, because I think there are more pressing issues (queer youth suicide rate, hate crimes, the incredible substance abuse rate in the LGBT community, etc. etc. etc.), but I don't oppose it either. People should be able to marry the people they love--I just don't think this should be the #1 issue in our community right now.

Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye on this Maine Marriage Alliance... you can too (if you have the stomach for it) at

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I had to stop myself this morning from saying "if you spent as much time on your homework as you did on your hair, your grades would be halfway decent."

But I did stop myself. Barely.

Sigh. My transformation into my (pre-breakdown) mother is almost complete.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble Gobble

Daughter and I are headed off to visit the Fam in Central Maine today, and very much looking forward to it (except for the drive. I really don't car trips much at all.) But an overstuffed tummy and a game of progressive rummy will more than make up for it.

Given my confirmed status as a data geek, I submit for your Thanksgiving viewing enjoyment, a gift from Indexed:

Geeky Data Image

"Helper monkey!" Ha ha ha ha.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Narcotics Fun

I don't generally like to post about my personal stuff (the internet being what it is) but I am under the influence and feeling brave, so here goes...*

I have this chronic condition** and it is incredibly painful. It's the reason I had surgery last year, and my doc and I have tried a bunch of things to fix it. The side effects of the other drugs were worse than the issue itself, yadda yadda, so Doc and I have come down to plain old pain management until I'm willing to go through another surgery. Which won't happen until I get health insurance in January***.

So I took the first dose of painkillers tonight, and WOO-HOO... I can see why people really like this stuff! It's like being packed in warm cotton balls. While eating chocolate. Only better.

Hooray for lack of pain! Hooray for warm cotton balls! I think I'm going to go take a nap!

*OK, if I'm completely honest, I'm also suddenly thinking about my online presence and what it says about me. For example, Typealyzer seems to think I'm an ESTP personality type, i.e. "The active and play-ful type...especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time." Which is weird, because I've always tested as an ISTJ, the most introverted and quiet and steady and goal-oriented of all personality types. Which makes me think about what kind of personality I'm presenting to the internets. Not that this particular post is going to change that. Also, I'm high, in case you can't tell.

**in respect for those who get all squicked out talking about medical stuff I will not go into specifics, but you can click here to learn more about it if you are the kind of person who likes to discuss medical stuff.

***If it happens at all. Surgery scares me. And laser surgery sounds particularly horrifying and future-tastic. Not in the good way.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Know What You're Getting...

I just found this kickass pattern for a grocery bag crocheted out of recycled, um, grocery bags. So I finally know what I'm giving everyone for holiday gifts! Well, if I can get my lazy ass up, collect some grocery bags, and make some plarn...

(thx for the heads-up, Kory!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dear God, YES!

Please, let's everybody use bacon to make bowls. No, for real. It would solve global warming (cuz we'd all be dead of heart attacks in five years), plus it would be extra-super-delicious.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 21:29 I am unsatisfied with the twitter/facebook status/update meshing. So there. #
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Friday, November 14, 2008


I just subscribed to the RSS feed for the website of our president-elect. A new world is possible! Hooray for technology! (again)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Your Saturday Evening Plans


Saturday November 15, Williston West Church, 32 Thomas street, Portland, 1-830pm.

canning your bounty with julia
kimchi/sauerkraut making with local sprouts (bring a jar)
herbal medicine making with angel
how to make a solar dehydrator with chris
worm composting with julia
kombucha with gail (bring a jar)
beer and root beer making with jen **that's me!**
build a root cellar in your basement chat with jeff
backyard bees with fran

incredible harvest dinner with all local organic produce by local sprouts cooperative, with music from the maine squeeze.

Kai George and Diana Chapin, residents of Montville, will be speaking about moratorium on Genetically Modified Organisms they helped pass in their town, what GMOs are and why it is important to protect our farms and food supply from GMOs.

workshops: sliding scale $5-20/per workshop
dinner and speaker: sliding scale $15-30
pay what you can, no one turned away....

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: if you would like to volunteer to set up, cook or clean up, contact hanifa:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The next time I can take six months off, this is what I'm going to do. To hell with the Appalachian Trail. I'm going to live in a tent that I made from the skin of a deer that I killed. In January. In Canada. Hells yeah.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Realizaton of the Day:

I can approximate the date of my enrollment in any online service by the evolution/complication of the password. Might be time to update those suckers.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 16:31 is f'ing tired of the Beauty and the Beast soundrack. Wondering if a return to Hannah Montana would be an improvement. #
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Friday, November 07, 2008


NYT profiles Carolyn Chute. (via slog)

Library Love

We use the library a lot. I get probably 10 books a month, and Daughter gets maybe 5. Plus occasional movie rentals and computer use. Through this long, difficult summer, I would have done something drastic without that unending source of free entertainment. Like, join Landmark, or something.

I found this cool tool on the web that helps calcuate how much library use is worth to you. In our family, the tab would be upwards of $250 a month.

The reasoning of the tool is a little flawed: I wouldn't necessarily buy every book that I read (sometimes I pick a book that I'm not sure I'd like, and why not? it's free!). But it's sobering to think about, because if the library didn't exist, I'd sure be reading a lot less. Like, maybe a 10th of what I read now. And I'd probably be in a cult. Or watching TV. Which is maybe the same thing.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I'm sitting at my house with two internet feeds and the television on... This is excruciating. I just want it to be tomorrow morning with our new President O, and that's it.

I did spend some time mixing the sound for WMPG's live election night coverage this evening, and it felt good to participate in even that small way.

It's a Christmas Miracle

I don't believe in paying for TV (um, except for paying for the internet and, uh, netflix), so we have little rabbit ears on top of the set. Mysteriously this summer the four channels we had been getting suddenly disappeared, leaving us with only many channels of static. I tried hard not to care.

But on Sunday I was kind of desperate for a look at another adult face, so I tried the TV. The channels are back! All four of them! And now I can obsess through the night with every other election-watcher. What else could it be but a Christmas miracle (TM)? God bless us, every one!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Current Theory

People in their early adolescence develop a hive-mind--an unconscious group-think process--that renders them completely unable to think independently. They become linked by an invisible communications network that only works when the entire network is activated.

The logical consequences of thinking pattern are: hours-long phone conversations that follow hours-long visits, a complete inability to be alone, instant knowledge of whether something is cool or not--even before it's been experienced, Hannah Montana and the entire Disney Channel.

Why do they not hand out tranquilizers upon the maturation of one's daughter. Why?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 06:40 is willingly wearing a sweater vest for the first time in her life. #
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Mwah Hah Hah

I'm headed off to the West End Halloween Parade tonight, put on every year by Shoestring Theater. It's the first year I've been able to go, because Daughter is completely terrified of it--and this year she's going trick-or-treating with her *boyfriend.* That's right.

In honor of Samhain/Halloween, I thought I'd share with you the opening lines of the best horror novel I've ever read, ever. And I've read a lot of them. No, really. Every other haunted house book written since is just a retelling of this one.
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, 1959
Anyway, here's wishing you a safe journey through the darkness, and enough candy corn to put holes in your teeth.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 15:49 I'm a squirrel-killer. (I'm sorry, squirrel. But you should stay away from cars.) #
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Friday, October 24, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 13:25 eating veggie korma & rice at my computer="who has that thingy of canned air? there's something in my keyboard." #
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

One Minute Weird Tales

In honor of Halloween, I share with you Weird Tales' Magazine's One Minute Weird Tales:

The website promises more later (or at least this is number 1, which leads me to believe there will be a number 2, and then a number 3...)

(via slog)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 08:27 got my belted sweater. it's like wearing my bathrobe to work, only not awkward for my co-workers. #
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This Morning's LOL

From "The "Pioneer" may be purchased with a shelf option as shown here to serve as storage or display for any of your fine articles. It comes standard with a removable lid that may be stored separately or if a cabinet style is preferred, you may order a hinged lid."

Dual-duty. A priority in my life, for sure. Plus, I like to think about taking my final rest in the same space where I, like, stored my canned goods or displayed my knick-knacks.

(thx, kelly)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seasonal Ingredient Map

Interactive peak-season produce map at epicurious. January-March is a little disheartening for us Mainuhs, though. Good thing I canned all those tomatoes.

(via i can't remember who)

Tweets for Today

  • 07:54 frost on the windshield this morning and the heat on in the night. i can no longer pretend it's not happening. #
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 17:04 i was feeling bored with the internet, and then facebook found me. now i think i want to hide. #
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Transgender Children

The Atlantic has a new article about transgender children. I'm only partway through it, but I'm struck by this:

This is the strange place in which transsexuals have found themselves. For years, they’ve been at the extreme edges of transgressive sexual politics. But now children like Brandon are being used to paint a more conventional picture: before they have much time to be shaped by experience, before they know their sexual orientation, even in defiance of their bodies, children can know their gender, from the firings of neurons deep within their brains.

I'm going to keep reading. Have you read it? What do you think?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 07:53 thinking about last night's debate. conclusion? mccain has shark eyes. #
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Patty Pan

In the comments to yesterday's post, Dawn from MDI wanted to know how to--if in fact you can--eat a patty pan squash.

Despite the fact that they look like UFOs, they're just summer squash. I do them up in any way that I would those baseball-bat shaped yellow squash, or zucchini.

But you can also do them stuffed, casseroled, sauteed, steamed, roasted, pizza'd or "pizza"d.

(I've heard that second "pizza" recipe from several people, although I have yet to try it, and that's probably what's going to happen to my squash tonight, along with the tomato sauce.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The hierarchy of perishing food currently happening at my house (i.e. the eat-me-first list):

1. fried green tomatoes
2. pasta sauce
3. pears
4. bananas
5. broccoli
6. patty pan squash
7. apples

Except 1-6 pretty much need to happen simultaneously. I got a little over-ambitious at the farmer's market.

Tweets for Today

  • 10:08 just got my new work computer. i have the giantest monitor! so very exciting! #
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No Class War

I've been wondering, and now I know, why there's been no class war yet: it's the Consumption Compromise.

Until recently, many observers, most of them on the left, have puzzled over why rising inequality hasn't sparked an outright political revolt. Well, here's why. Real income matters less than quality of life. And for the last two decades, a delicate Consumption Compromise has tamped down economic discontent among working-class voters by driving down the cost of living—we've been living in the era of cheap food, cheap gas, cheap credit, and, of course, cheap Chinese-made goods.

Read it all--this is a good, short article (even though the author seems to be a Republican, heh).

Tweets for Today

  • 16:50 candy tour FAIL #
  • 08:27 there is handholding and gazing going on at my house right now, but not by me. #
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Monday, October 13, 2008


Not to belabor the point, but this is getting ridiculous.

I went to ye olde drug store today looking for some allergy medication, since my eyes have recently become attractively itchy/swollen/discolored thanks to the local bloom of something yummy.

Unfortunately for me, every single allergy medication--with two exceptions--contain lactose. Those exceptions are dye-free benadryl and benadryl instant-dissolve strips. Needless to say, it was a sleepy day for the Jenster, and I am full of rage at the allergy companies. Raging and sleepy; it's an interesting day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 14:11 ...and we have wireless. Thank you, chykubrick! You have made possible a whole new level of physical inactivity. #
  • 20:13 Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia = Fear of long words. And you say there is no such thing as intelligent design. Ha! #
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

It Sneaks

Using a very unscientific method (my memory--very unscientific indeed), here are the most common topics my friends and I talk about, in no particular order:
  • politics
  • babies
  • marriage/divorce/relationships
  • health problems
  • books & tv shows
  • food
At some point along here I became a grown up. No wonder Daughter thinks I'm boring.

Of course, I can't help but be grateful that I can no longer converse for hours about body glitter or heartthrob musicians, so I guess it works out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 10:29 weekend plans: sopranos, chauffeuring, brunch, family time, chauffeuring, candy factory, chauffeuring. Tween-parenting = a lot of driving. #
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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tweets for Today

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What I Learned Today

"That" vs. "Which"

It all depends on whether the clause is essential or not. Essential clauses use that, nonessential clauses use which.

For example:

The applesauce that I made this weekend filled up my pantry shelves.
(the clause "that I made this weekend" is essential to the sentence--because it indicates that I'm not talking about the applesause I made last weekend)

The applesauce, which I made this weekend, filled up my pantry shelves.
("which filled up my pantry shelves" is not necessary to the understanding of the sentence)

Here's another clue: nonessential clauses, which should use which, are always surrounded by commas.

Grammar is sexy.

Tweets for Today

  • 10:45 with my newfound wealth, i'm preparing for a western mass adventure! #
  • 10:45 and also infatuated lately with exclamation points! #
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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 12:54 ....and, the internet has returned to our home. Please welcome us to the 21st century. #
  • 12:54 @claymonkey: It pretty much kicks ass. Yep. #
  • 10:44 picking apples in madison, shortly. waiting for child's saturday morning activities to end, currently. #
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See, That's What I Was Afraid Of

What I learned was that to write a book you have to first become the person you need to be to write that book. I had to, like, literally change. I had to become a new person. I had to grow the f— up.

Junot Diaz

(via After the MFA)

Friday, October 03, 2008

OMG, Author Gossip

Did you know? The film The Body Snatcher was based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson writing under the pen name Carlos Keith (according to the New Yorker).

The film is also, in that same article, nominated as one of the 5 scariest movies of all time. (via kottke)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tweets for Today

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Dairy-free Drugs

I've been having a hard time lately finding prescriptions that do not contain lactose. Apparently not even my pharmacist knows what's in the drugs I'm taking (I did ask, and he did look, but was unable to identify lactose in the inactive ingredients, and then I had to spend two days at home when he was wrong).

Of course, when there is lactose, I know pretty quickly--but I'd like to avoid that in the future. It's really not nice.

So in my researches, I found this list of lactose-containing medications online that is proving extremely hepful. Add to that list every single birth control pill available in the US (not kidding--maybe there's a secret government plot to increase the lactose-intolerant population?).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Unified: A Community Response to Hate Crimes

Unified: A Community Response to Hate Crimes
Tuesday, October 7,2008 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm

In light of recent hate crimes in Portland, including a Sept. 6 attack on a man who was perceived to be gay, EqualityMaine and the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence are sponsoring a community rally in Monument Square.

Event Location: Monument Square Portland, ME 04101
Rain location: First Parish UU Church, 425 Congress Street, Portland

The rally will feature various speakers from across the community, as well as a speak-out for individuals who want to address the crowd about the need to end hate violence in our communities.

If you have any questions, please contact

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I have found myself a full-time job, and I start for real tomorrow. I haven't worked full-time in a couple of years, and this job is more hours than the last half-dozen full-time jobs I've had, so I'm a little anxious about what my energy level is going to be like... but it's also exciting.

Remember that consumer urge I was talking about? All of a sudden it's going crazy. I've been living on less than $1,000 per month for several months now, and that leaves no room for extras. And I mean zero. And then suddenly there's the prospect of steady income--and, honestly, more income than I've ever made in my life--and I'm feeling a little shop-happy. I saved my cell phone contract from cancellation by three days, and am considering buying some internet for my house! And maybe even "antenna service" cable! A winter jacket! A long black belted sweater! New tires for the car! A soy milk maker! Some CD's! Plant pots and soil! Composted manure! A small freezer! Christmas presents!

I'm having ridiculous fun mentally spending my new salary, although in truth I probably will talk myself out of all but the most essential. But still, I'll be able to afford the essentials, and that is completely thrilling. As soon as I get paid, that is. Sometime within the next month. Or so.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 08:11 last day off before the big job! i think i'm going to sit on my ass all day. #
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 11:48 this weekend, in order: chauffeuring, errands, wedding, nephew, hippie fair. future plans: apples in madison, myths via puppet, harvest day #
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A couple of days ago over at kottke, there was a discussion about which movies you've watched the most. I find this conversation interesting and disturbing. Of course part of what determines the list is the time and place one grew up, but it also must say something about a person's needs. At the Onion AV Club, where the discussion started, one poster says

But in an uncomfortably psychologically revealing way, my immersion in [Ghostbuster's] many quotable lines crossed the borderline separating casual reference and obsessive incantation long ago: It's probably no coincidence that the peak of my Ghostbusters viewing (at least once a week) came just after my parents' divorce, when I was consoled during rocky nights by my friends Venkman, Ray, and Egon.

As a child, I rented Annie every time we went to the movie store for about six months. It must have driven my parents crazy. On my adult list The Princess Bride and As Good As It Gets are far and away the leaders, followed closely by Dirty Dancing. I can literally quote The Princess Bride from beginning to end; I can't even begin to estimate the number of times I've seen it. The beginning of the obsessive viewing also coincided with my parents' divorce, and I suspect that the true love theme was appealing to my adolescent self. Same story with Dirty Dancing, except add sex.

I can't yet explain As Good As It Gets. There is love, but it's a dysfunctional, confusing, difficult love, and ditto characters. Maybe it appeals to a definitely more cynical view of the world, but retaining the happy ending that I really do want to believe in.

After those, the list would include the PBS mini-series Anne of Green Gables, The Breakfast Club, and Terminator 2. I don't really like repeated movie viewings these days, but maybe it counts that I'm watching The Sopranos series for a second time.

What are yours?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I don't usually post about political things, because other bloggers are faster and better, but I have to mention this. I already disliked Palin for the obvious reasons (anti-feminist, anti-gay, pro-war), but this cements it:

Among other titles, Sarah Palin wanted the Harry Potter series banned from the Wasilla library. It’s a pretty lengthy list including Twelfth Night, Silas Marner, To Kill A Mockingbird, A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabithia, Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the ones you can probably guess.

(via Tomorrow Museum, my new favorite thing on the internet)

CORRECTION: OK, so that's what I get for lazy not-vetting. As Carlita and Joanne helpfully pointed out--and I would have seen if I'd read the original post carefully--Palin didn't actually try to ban these books, but instead asked about how she could go about banning books. And then apparently that thought got injected with some internet craziness and now there are lists of Palin-banned books flying around. It seems that she had the intention or interest, but not the follow-through. I still don't like her, though.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Notes From Below the Threshold

I've been really poor before. And I mean really poor, beyond the general working-class single-parent lifestyle that I've been living for the last five years.

My parents brought us up in what could probably be considered extreme poverty; we lived in a one-room house without running water until I was 12. But I never felt deprived: we had plenty to eat and a happy family, and what we didn't have was never mentioned. I didn't even know that we were poor until I hit middle school and started to compare our house with others'.

When I was a teenager my parents' divorce and mom's severe mental illness led us into the deepest poverty I've ever known--not because I haven't had less money, but because of the hopelessness of that time. The emblem of it in my mind is this big banana box of cans we got from the local church's food pantry. We were offered the whole box because all of these dented cans had lost their labels, and no one could determine what was inside them. The box sat on our dirty kitchen floor for about six months. At the end of the month, before the next month's check and food stamps came in, we'd dig into the box for supper, never knowing what it was going to be. Canned potatoes or pineapple? Baked beans or asparagus? And whatever it was, that's what we'd eat. I tried to pretend it was a game, but I never quite convinced myself, and I still have shame when I think about that box and pineapple for supper.

Then after Daughter's dad and I split up, I moved back in with my dad and step-mom, and then when I finally got my own place after that I had to have three jobs to make my bills. That particular experience is what made me so determined to get a college degree.

What I learned from that time is that not being able to buy stuff isn't so bad. There's not really that much that people need to survive, after all: couple of meals a day, warm place to sleep, an absence of violence. Pretty much everything else is gravy.

But getting to that point was painful, because it's not the not-having that's hard, it's the wanting. I tried very hard in those years to scrub out any desires for unnecessary things, and I mostly succeeded. I forgot some of these lessons in the years since, and I am relearning them painfully this summer.

I am lately fascinated with the urge to buy that wells up in me--I just want to go and get something, to treat myself or Daughter to something nice. My conclusion is that sometimes spending money is a shortcut for caring or caregiving. It's usually not really the new shoes that are the issue, but the fact that I want Daughter to feel good about herself at school, or that I feel bad that we argued all weekend, or something.

Sometimes I want to buy myself a coffee because I feel like I "deserve it" somehow--that a difficult day entitles me to steamed milk. Which is, of course, bullshit--but useful bullshit. What I really need is some self-care, and buying a fancy coffee is one half-assed way to get it, but there are other, free ways, like taking a walk or a shower or painting my toe nails or baking some brownies.

I watch advertisements with the eyes of an outsider these days, since everything is beyond my financial reach, and I can't help but wonder if all this consumerism--the tumble of convenience items, housewares, personal care products, exercise equipment, gourmet food, plastic crap--isn't a manifestation of national psychic malaise. How would people cope with their insecurities about their bodies without personal hygiene products and expensive clothes? How would we demonstrate to people that we loved them if we could never buy them gifts? Can society exist without instant communication?

I know it's more complicated than all of that, but I think that those issues are all wrapped up in there as well. It's a good thing to to think about, on this side of the poverty threshold.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 09:35 lately using the internet is like going to the music store: i know there were things i wanted, but once i get there i can't remember what. #
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Monday, September 01, 2008


In celebration of work, I am spending Labor Day working around the house. OK, it's not really that different from any other day lately, and I have, in fact, been confused several times today by the presence of people being leisurely in my neighborhood. Because most Mondays people are working. Unlike me. Actually, sex and work are now in the same category for me: Things That I've Heard Other People Do.

Today's scheduled labors: bake bread, blanch the green/wax beans I picked at the farm yesterday, wash the kitchen floors, take care of yesterday's hoeing blisters.

Today's unscheduled tasks: complete all of the puzzles in the Sunday paper, watch an episode of the Sopranos, take the kids to the playground where a fortuitous internet connection is found, eat a popsicle, discover that you have the beginnings of a double chin in the reflection of your computer screen.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 15:11 lately in love with whitman:"I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough/To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough" #
  • 15:20 also: not going to burdock (aka not feeling very radical at all these days) #
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 16:00 thinking about hiring someone to prevent me from impulsively cutting my own hair. it's always a worse idea than i think it's going to be. #
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 13:43 i think i just accidentally volunteered for the obama campaign. #
  • 14:12 reactivated the damn netflix. i wanted to go all independent video store, but my viewing needs are too high for my unemployed budget. #
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Friday, August 08, 2008

Rainy Friday

No matter how many times I say, "I think I'm getting mildewed," it doesn't make me feel better about the rain.

This did, though. Geek.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 12:14 x-files movie: viewed. that's pretty much all i can say about it. i was there, i was awake, i saw it. meh. #
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 12:14 x-files movie: viewed. that's pretty much all i can say about it. i was there, i was awake, i saw it. meh. #
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 16:47 Panicked over forgetting the credit card bill and then remembered--I paid the whole damn thing off! Bought myself an iced tea to celebrate. #
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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 16:43 @becw: I can fix it! Clippers=oiled=many hairs cut in my kitchen. #
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Cake Wrecks

Today's random reference:

Cake Wreck: The most f*ed up cakes ever (via slog).

Oh, OK, one more:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tweets for Today

  • 09:41 I must mention: literary tattoos ( But if I started, I could never choose just one--I'd be written all over. #
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I Found It!

My new career! Drum roll please... Rent-An-Urban-Gardener for lazy Locavores:
Eating locally raised food is a growing trend. But who has time to get to the farmer’s market, let alone plant a garden?

That is where Trevor Paque comes in. For a fee, Mr. Paque, who lives in San Francisco, will build an organic garden in your backyard, weed it weekly and even harvest the bounty, gently placing a box of vegetables on the back porch when he leaves.
via cheap like me

I think I'm now taking reservations for the growing season of 2009.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm It

I got tagged for this meme, and I really like Dawn, so here goes:

1) What is your favorite quotable line from a Movie.
From The Princess Bride, which I have watched at least seventy five times:

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

A close second is from Heathers:

"Well, fuck me gently with a chain saw!"

2) Who is the most famous person you have spoken to?
Here is an unimpressive list of my brushes with fame:

  • I went to one year of college with the son of Kool from Kool and the Gang, and also with the daughter of Bob Balaban (from Best In Show, etc.)
  • I know a lot of writers: At my MFA program I worked with Kelly Link (one of my personal heroes), Leslea Newman, Lewis Robinson, and Alan Davis and met dozens of others. I dated Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s son and performed at the same open mic with Patricia Smith. I’m friends with Jaed Coffin and hope to get a chance to make monkey faces at his baby soon. I met Dorothy Allison and Leslie Feinberg at a conference (my jaw chattering so much I could barely speak; they were both gracious).
  • I also know or have met a lot of not-really-famous-indie-musicians: Adhamh Roland, Dave End, Northern Spy, VT&TG, David Rovics, Actor Slash Model, that circus klezmer band.

3) How many bags/boxes of Potato Chips are consumed at your place in a month?

Less than 1—most flavored potato chips have lactose in them, and the plain ones are, let’s admit it, not awesome.But shall we talk about tortilla chips?That, my friend, is a different story.

4) Who is your all time favorite Cartoon Character?
Princess Mononoke

5) What foreign food Dish do you prepare from scratch and Serve?
Stir fry.
And I find the capitalization in these questions completely fascinating.

6) What is your favorite section of the Supermarket?
I love cereal. Even though I don’t drink milk. In fact, it was Optimum Power Breakfast cereal with blueberries that taught me that I could learn to love soy milk. (God, I'm a dork.) I can’t wait until I no longer have a growing Daughter to set an example for and can eat Cocoa Puffs for every meal.

7) What was your high school teams mascot and what were the school's colors?
They were the Mustangs (or the Lady Mustangs, depending on the gender of the players), and they were a sexy, sexy maroon and white.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Things I've Done With My Time Off Due To Lack-of-Work Unemployment

  • Attended to my social life (visited friends, talked to people in person--see below, called everyone back)
  • Disconnected the internet
  • Solidified my whistling skills
  • Wrote six different versions of my resume
  • Bottled last year's apple wine
  • Learned how to make a sock monkey
  • Got addicted/further addicted to new TV shows on DVD (Six Feet Under, The Wire)
  • Bought things with change
  • Hung out laundry
  • Went camping with my family
  • Visited friends' families
  • Argued with Daughter, who has been out of camp for three weeks and is blessedly going back tomorrow
  • Cut coupons out of the paper and let them expire
  • Cooked beans
  • Walked
  • Walked a lot
  • Went gardening
  • Spent a lot of time at the public library for free internet
  • Used three online services to search for jobs
  • Applied for twelve jobs (and still counting)
  • Made lists of things
  • Forgot what day of the week it is
  • Thought about knitting
  • Went to the beach twice
  • Made a list of things I would buy if I had unlimited money
  • Got sunburned
  • Picked strawberries
  • Got definitely rejected from two jobs
  • Made at least four different budgets
  • Forgot about important appointments
  • Became despondent about my job prospects
  • Became ecstatic about my job prospects
  • Took a nap

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Without a Net

It is as I feared, and sooner: the internet has gone away from my house, which means that my posting here will probably be scattered.

This is my first week of unemployment. The first day I was starting to get anxious about how many hours there are to be filled; I resisted taking a nap because that would have postponed bedtime, and I wanted to be asleep as soon as possible to make the day over.

Since then I've been trying to make plans with every day, rationing out walks downtown to check my PO box or visit the farmer's market. I installed a screen on the back door, worked in the garden, cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. Visited some friends. It helps that a neighbor is also recently laid off, so we take trips together downtown. Somewhere there's a worry that I will run out of projects, but I am supposing that I will find things to do. I got seven pieces of mail from the unemployment office, each one needing to be filled out and mail back: that's the better part of a morning's work right there.

A kind friend recently sent me a quote (from a book that I lent her, but never mind) that she thought I would appreciate, and she was right. It's from an essay called Blueprints and Hardwires by Cassie Peterson, from Michelle Tea's Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class. I completely identify, without the Maury Povich. For me it's Season 1 of Six Feet Under.:

It's like flatlining, losing your job. From thirty-five hours a week to zero. Zero hours. Zero structure. Zero dollars. I've been unemployed before, but it was always by choice. I was emotionally and financially prepared. But when someone else pulls the plug, it sends you reeling into the now empty seven days of your work week. Anyone who's been laid off will tell you that it takes a full two weeks just to get out of your pajamas. You order a lot of take-out and watch a lot of Maury Povich.

And then the money goes. And then you get dressed.I am overwhelmed by the rigmarole of bureaucratic paperwork. I can't keep it all straight-the unemployment forms, the food-stamp applications, the drastically increasing number of ID cards that I am being forced to carry around with me. Being poor is a full-time job. Every minute the government demands that you prove your current economic status, leaving absolutely no time for you to improve it. I have to schedule job interviews between all my other red-tape appointments.

I am in a three-hour line in the social services building...I am filling out more forms. Always more forms. I use red pen, losing my patience and writing snide answers in the margins, like, 'No, I have no new income to report. Don't you fucking get it? I'm broke. Just like yesterday and the day before.' The man at the window is not amused. He shoots me a scolding look and hands me a fresh form to fill out. 'Just mark the correct boxes,' he warns.

Monday, June 30, 2008

More Kid Advice

Yes, a little glut on the blogging. Well, you know, lots of free time... and, it does look like the home internet connection will be over after this week, so I'll almost certainly be a little more spotty. So get it while it lasts. Or something.

For Daughter's birthday (in August) I bought her a subscription to New Moon, an alternative magazine for girls. Alternative, that is, to magazines like Seventeen, Vogue, Glamour, whatever. I don't think she won't read these magazines (she absolutely loves Tiger Beat, for example) but I'd like to give her some other things to think about.

Feministe has a great series of posts this week about how to address these awful magazines with your teen and tween girls.

Today's advice:

* Ask her what she thinks is real and unreal in each issue. It can be a game to score how much fakery there is from month to month - is the magazine getting more fake or more real?
* Are the photos altered? (Show her this example of how photo manipulation makes an average looking woman into the fake perfection we see in magazines.)
* Count how many of the total pages are ads (often more than 50%). What are the ads selling?
* In its subject matter, does the magazine leave out things that she cares about and that are on her mind? What are those things?
* Ask her what effect she thinks an article or ad is trying to have on readers.
* Ask her how she feels (different from what she thinks) after looking at or reading an article or ad. Listen without judging or arguing about what she says.
* Tell her how you feel (give her your feelings - angry, sad, afraid, guilty - not your thoughts) after looking at or reading a different article or ad.
* Express your opinions (thoughts) about the articles and ads.
* Provide her with alternative magazines like New Moon and Teen Voices by subscribing and keeping them in the house all the time. Having them available is like having healthy food in the kitchen. Even if she might always want to eat pop tarts, it’s not the only food we provide!
I like it. Of course, you have to take the time to have these conversations, look your kid in the eye, and listen to what they have to say. If you're doing that already, even if you don't use those questions, your girl will probably be fine.

Kid Vid

Now that Daughter is nearly a tween (a sign of this appeared on her bedroom door this week; it says "Please Knock" on one side and "Keep Out" on the other) I am having a hard time vetting movies for her to watch. My general policy is that anything rated PG-13 needs at best a pre-screening, but in practice it usually ends up being a co-viewing followed by discussion.

I tend to be more lenient about sex than violence (and a combination of the two is strictly prohibited) because, well, I don't think sex is bad, and I do think violence is. Of course, she'd rather die than watch any sex--any hint, suggestion, implication of sex--so it pretty much works out.

But the rating system is so weird. Last night I watched I Am Legend, which was rated PG-13 but showed scary zombies, the end of the world, and an exploding helicopter. But over the winter we watched R-rated Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and heard the f-word and a mild homosexual joke ("Those aren't pillows!"). So weird.

Anyway, so I've been using this site (via I can't remember who) to check out the movies in advance. Warning: their summaries are full of spoilers. However, it does list every single thing that any parent could find objectionable.

For Shrek, for example (a movie that I can't imagine anyone who wants to see has not seen), it warns:

SEX/NUDITY 3 - A man is seen in bed with bare shoulders and chest. There are a handful of kisses. There are a couple of attempted kisses, in two scenes characters pucker up in anticipation of being kissed, and a woman asks for a kiss. There are some mild sexual references during a scene describing three princesses. Two characters flirt in several scenes; one includes references to physical relationships. A dragon kisses an ogre's bottom (by mistake). A man kisses a woman's hand. A woman exposes some cleavage in a tight fitting gown. Some wooden puppets wear plumber's pants exposing painted bottom cleavage. A donkey urinates on a camp fire. A female dragon falls in love with a donkey. We see a shirtless green ogre.

So if you're worried about what your kid might see, well now you know.

I was thinking about going to see Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull--rated PG-13--last month, and saw this rating:

So I thought, mmm, maybe a little too much. Maybe she'd like Prince Caspian--rated PG--better (we're Narnia geeks, subliminal christian messages notwithstanding), and got this rating for it:

We skipped the movies altogether. We've been playing Clue instead, which probably gets a rating for implied violence somehow.

"Multiple suggestions of murder. Multiple murder weapons listed: candlestick, rope, lead pipe, wrench, etc. People make accusations of murder. People laugh hysterically and mime murders with tiny murder weapons."


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