Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Note to people re: Bad Dads

I'm sure this applies to men dating bad dads also, but I have watched many a female friend, acquaintance, and/or co-worker go through this. In a (vain, I'm sure) attempt to save somebody somewhere some heartbreak, here we go. If he's a crappy dad to the kids he already has, he will be crappy dad to yours. Period. The only exception I can think of to this rule, is if his kids from other relationships have been kidnapped, are in the witness protection program, or some similar reason makes it actually impossible for him to participate in their lives.

So here we go. You begin dating this guy. (And actually I'm sure this advice applies to women who are bad moms to, but again I am defaulting to framing this how I have seen it played out.) You discover that he has child(ren). Assuming this is not a deal breaker for you (hey - for some people it is), you inquire more. You discover that the children (I'm going with the plural here) live with their mother (or some other relative) and he doesn't see them.

This does mean that you won't have to worry about the kids interfering in your lives. This does not mean that he will have plenty of time to tend to kids that you have or will have. No, it means that children are not important to him. That they are your children and not those of the horrible women who trapped him and shriveled his soul will not change this. If he wanted to be a dad, he would be. If having a child was all it took to change his outlook on this, that would have happened already.

I'm not saying that people can't or don't change. Because they do. But, like anything else, when you are presented with a behavioral pattern in your partner, it's silly to expect that it will change, absent proof. Such as his taking an interest in his existing children.

Sample scenarios (the names and situations have been adjusted so as to protect those involved).

Scenario A: Jessie and Justin.
Justin has two children - a boy and girl. They are four and six. They live with their mother Jenny. Jenny and Justin have worked out a deal (without legal action) wherein Justin sends a specified amount of money on a monthly basis. Justin lives across the country from his children and has not seem them since he left Jenny. So Justin and Jessie have two kids of their own. Except that, Justin feels the kids are more Jessie's responsibility. He considers his participation in their care to be babysitting (not parenting) and refuses to sit for more than one at a time. Even if Jessie just needs to run across the hall. And then the relationship started to fall apart (for other reasons). And Jessie had to file for child support since Justin didn't want to continue paying for the kids he wasn't living with anymore. He visited a few times, and then disappeared.

Scenario B: Sandra and Steve
Steve also has two children. They also live with their mother on the other side of the country. Steve does not visit them. Sandra and Steve have a baby. Then, when they are forced to find a new place to live, Steve does not come with Sandra and baby. Sandra doesn't hear from Steve for a while and begins dating other people. Then Steve shows up again and they resume their relationship - which leads to another baby. Except that as she approaches her due date, Steve becomes distant. Sandra files for child support with the courts. Steve reappears and moves back in. (As you may know, you cannot request child support from someone you are living with.) And then he leaves again.

Scenario C: Nick and Nessa
Nick has two children. He shares custody with their mother Nora. This one has a happy ending.

Wench is not a Bad Word

I am card carrying wench. Really. And what I have noticed is folks using the word wench as if it were some PG version of bitch. And it's not. So I'm here to (try) to set the record straight.

According to Dictionary.com, the primary definition of wench is: "A young woman or girl, especially a peasant girl." So, while it was primarily used to describe those of the peasant class (you know, back when there was one), it essentially means female. So if you want to purse your lips and clench your teeth and call someone, "female", then sure, wench is a fine substitute.

The second definition is "a women servant". And sure, you hear people talking about beer wenches and serving wenches - and I'm okay with that. Although I never hear about beer lads.

The third definition is "a wanton woman". And I think that's where people start thinking it's okay to use the word anytime they want to insult someone, but are too lame or cowardly to use the word they really want to. Because, let's imagine this, "She's such a wanton woman." Yeah, really lacks the sting.

So what I'm getting at here, is - as a card-carrying wench - I think the word is complimentary. So, if you want to insult someone, find a better word. And if you call me a wench - I'll thank you.

The International Wench Guild is copyrighted by Lundegaard Productions.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Someone Else's TV Show

How cool! http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/23/AR2006022301252.html

Girl and Sports Fan - Not a Paradox

Note: Contains reference to a racist sports team name.
So, I am reading a book right now (shocking!), and came across this stereotype which I feel compelled to address. The stereotype is that women don't like or understand sports. I recognize that there are women who don't like and/or understand
sports. But there are men too. But for some reason this stereotype persists. Persist such that people are surprised that I watch football and hockey - and have always done so. They are surprised that I grew up watching football with my parents
(both of them). They are surprised even though most of these people know several women who watch sports. In my office, it was the women who started the football pools (a man did run the basketball pool).

One of the reasons I stopped reading Cosmo and Marie Clare were the eponymous articles about how to meet a man that always included the tip: Go to a sporting event, pretend you enjoy it. That bugs me on so many levels.

Now I did have one discussion with a guy who said that all the sports he watches are sports he plays or has played, so in that sense I am different. I don't know if that is something that truly breaks down across gender lines, but I didn't play
team sports in school. I took tennis and sailing lessons over summers but never achieved a level of competence that encouraged me to continue. (Which is not to say that I was terrible, it is only to say that since I wasn't naturally fabulous, my laziness took over). My dad played football in high school, in part he was short (not hitting the growth spurt until late) and skinny so felt the need to participate in something tough. My mother played field hockey in high school, but she didn't get into NHL hockey until after my brother became interested.

One of my favorite moments from "Ellen" (sitcom, not talk show) was the Thanksgiving episode (Redskins were playing - woo!) where they asked everyone to bring a pie. I have forgotten the character names at this point, but two homosexual men and two
heterosexual men (one played by the amazing Jeremy Piven) are watching the game. There is various cheering and comments as a trick play is executed which we the audience cannot see. One of the heterosexual states that it was a great flea flicker. One of the homosexuals responds that it was actually a reverse because it got handed to another back rather than to the quarterback. The heterosexuals politely pshaw, until the announcers backs up that it was a reverse. Meanwhile, pies have been brought out and the two heterosexual characters are now discussing whether there is a hint of cloves in the pie they are eating, while the two homosexuals continue discussing the game.

I grew up knowing the Redskins players. I knew that the Cowboys were bad. I have clear memories of the Skins trip to the Superbowl. My mother even helped me look up the player roster so I could put the correct numbers on the picture I drew of
Joe Theisman and Darrell Green fishing for Dolphins. I'm on the waiting list for Redskins tickets (fingers crossed, everyone - this could be my year). And I split tickets to the Capitals with my brother one year (if there weren't some many games, I still be doing it). And I accept that not everyone with two X chromosomes feels this way. What bugs me is the assumption that I don't like sports. That that's where the baseline indicator is, in defiance of my experience.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Popcorn TV

"Grey's Anatomy" is like popcorn. Stay with me here. Grey's was a mid-season add last winter and, as with so many shows, was hyped incessantly during Housewives. I can't tell you if I was brainwashed by the hype, if the ads looked interesting or I was intrigued by a show that had the same name of a movie I happen to like. But some combination of those prompted me to leave the television on ABC after “Desperate Housewives” ended.

And I really enjoyed the first episode. As you may have guessed from the title, Grey's is a hospital drama. The titular character is Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) who, along with four others, is a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital assigned to resident Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) who is known as the Nazi. The interns are starting their first year Meredith suffers from voice-over-itis, much in the way of Ally McBeal or Carrie Bishop. And there are days and time when I like the bookending or transitioning effect of these voiceovers, and days when I want her to shush.

We start the episode (and the day) at Meredith's mother's house where we find her and the attractive gentleman she met at a bar last night. Meredith politely but firmly brushes him off as she heads off to her first day as an intern. Her fellow interns are Isabel "Izzie" Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), and George O'Malley (T.R. Knight). (Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) later gets added to their group). Meredith's first case requires the assistance of Seattle Grace's new neurosurgeon, Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), who also is Meredith's one night stand.

There is also Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington), whose specialty is cardiology, and who has sparks with Christina. And Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.), chief of surgery, who was an intern at Seattle Grace at the same time as renowned Dr. Ellis Grey, Meredith's mother.

We soon learn that Meredith's mother has Alzheimer's, and rather than traveling the world - the story she has asked Meredith to share with those who ask - is now living in a nursing home where she drifts back to the days of being an intern herself.

As you may already suspect, Grey's is more about the relationships than the cases. In contrast to "Law & Order", the cases are excuses to help us learn about the doctors. The cases are often wonderful and fascinating, but they are not the center of the story. The cases are more like dates, where we discover new tidbits about these characters.

So, back to popcorn. Well, I told you why I first watched the show. And I enjoyed the (very attractive, not that that matters) characters - especially the wonderful Sandra Oh. The nitpicker in me enjoys the fact that in surgeries on Grey's they always wear face masks (I'm looking at you, "ER"). It has the interesting effect of forcing you to look at their eyes, to try and see what they really mean. But it wasn't must see TV (to use the cliche). I didn't add it to my Season Pass. I watched it because it was on after something else I watched. It was popcorn - light, fluffy and undemanding.

But then something happened. Slowly I started to care about these characters. I sympathized with Meredith and Derek (aka McDreamy) as they dealt with a relationship that had started outside the hospital and shouldn't continue because of their current working relationship, and yet they were constantly together because of their working relationship. I started to love the seemingly prickly Dr. Bailey. I wondered if George would pine after Meredith forever, and if Meredith would ever seem to notice. I learned how Izzie put herself through medical school modeling, and how she relieved stress baking. I wondered if the arrogant player Alex really had the secret pain he teased about.

One of the interesting things about “Grey’s Anatomy” is that each of their characters is so different, so wonderfully flawed, and yet I can find of piece of myself in each of them. That’s not easy to do. But after each episode, I wanted more. Of course, that can also be what annoys you about the show, we hope for our fictional characters to make better choices than we would.

And suddenly, after Housewives had dropped off of my radar, Grey's became an important part of my Sunday. It was added to my Season Pass. And I'm sitting here thinking, but this is my popcorn show! And then I realized, it still was. Popcorn has few calories (unless you load it with stuff) but it has carbohydrates and fiber. And it turns out popcorn is recommended by all sorts of experts as a smart snack. And it's addictive. Okay, now I'm hungry. And you should be too – so, go eat!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Many boxes

I understand that categorization is a natural thing. As humans we want to be able to categorize people, as a sort of shorthand or cheat sheet on the ways to getting to know them (or not getting to know them). I recognize that when taking polls and gathering statistics people need to fit into a category for the information to be able to form some sort of pattern. But here's my problem - I don't fit into a single category. And no, I don't mean because I'm so special or wonderful and all that (although I am). I am multi-racial. When most people think of the term multi-racial, they think of a group of people who are of different races, instead of a single person. And to complicate matters further, (at least in the eyes of others), my multi-racial status is not immediately visible. People look at me and think they know my racial history. I don't look like Keanu Reeves or Tiger Woods. And I don't have a name (such as Keanu) that clues people in to this. (Okay - I do - but it's
my middle name.)

So people tend to think I'm showing off, or trying to claim something I don't really have a right to. Now don't get me wrong - many people are appropriately interested when I share this about myself. But there are people who think I am just trying to be cool. That since it's passe to be white these days, I'm trying to claim a long lost heritage while still enjoying the day to day benefits of being white. And I don't deny or belittle my whiteness. It is a part of me. But so is the Chinese. And so is the Hawaiian.

And yet, in our lives, we are constantly presented with forms that ask us to define our race - working from the assumption that I fit into one (and only) one of several pre-set categories. Leaving aside the reality that race is a social construct (rather than biological), I again understand that these categories are used to measure various things, which is why they want me to define myself. For a long time I used to select other, and then use the blank that they helpfully provided to better categorize myself.

But then I decided, if the purpose was to count things, I was placing myself in that other/refuse to answer category that always presents the numbers from adding up to one hundred percent. I was - in a way - not getting counted. So, I decided that I needed to select something. Very few forms allow you to select multiple options (there is a movement to change this) so I was now forced to make a choice. Do I go with percentages? If so - which - do I pick the box that represents the greatest percentage of my heritage or do I pick the box that represents the group that likely gets picked the least? On many forms Asian and Pacific Islander are grouped together, so that ended up being the one that I tend towards when forced to choose. Some forms split them and in hat case I tend to take and eeny-meeny approach.

I actually had someone ask me once - when told of my multi-racial status - which box I pick. I could be over-interpreting - but the context of the question indicated that she was ready to take away my multi-racial credibility should I answer white. Which is ridiculous. Anytime I have to pick only one box, I am forced to be inaccurate. Because I choose to select a minority box, doesn't make me more or less a minority than I already was.

I had another person ask me what percentage Hawaiian I was and finding that insufficient to her standards, proceeded to tell me how she was one eighth Japanese. She was surprised when I responded that I was one eighth Chinese.

My parents raised us to be proud and aware of our multi-racial and multi-cultural status. My father's family was still all living in Hawaii growing up. And we took hula lessons (briefly) and read Hawaiian stories at night along with the more typical children's fare. My mother (although the Chinese is on my Dad's side) thought it was important that we know how to properly hold and use chopsticks - even if only when consuming Asian-themed food.

I have to thank people like Tiger Woods for bringing more attention to the subject. And while I'm sure he was a little tired of how his multi-racial status dominated his early interviews, people seem a little more open to the idea these days. A little more willing to understand that I can be many things. People still refer to my having a little flavor and such. Maybe one day it won't be such a big deal. One day, I'll be able to check all the boxes that apply. Or maybe I won't have to check any.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More Katrina Stuff

There is a blog - Voices of New Orleans - that is a companion to a recently released book. Anyway, I suggest you check it out. And I also wanted to expand briefly (I promise) on a comment made in the Blockade entry. Rex Noone points out (as have others) that President Bush spent a mere minute on the hurricane ravaged Gulf coast in his State of the Union address. And okay, it's a big old country and that isn't the only thing we should be worrying about. But just step back a moment, and imagine it was a State of the Union being given just a few months after September 11th. Do you think less than a minute would have been spent on that tragedy?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tea for Me

Have I mentioned that I love tea? Perhaps not. Well, I know coffee is supposedly the thing, and I really wish I liked it, but I don't. But I have always loved tea. I'm a big fan in particular of black teas, but in the last years or so have been branching out into white and red teas. (I am not a huge fan of green teas.) So, in the last few months I have discovered and/or happened on some things that have made my tea loving heart thoroughly excited.

First, I was informed of this fabulous store, Teavana. It's awesome. They have all kinds of tea, they have great samples, they encourage mixing for even more flavor possibilities, and it's the kind of place where they don't look at you funny if you ask to smell the tea.

Then, I was online and discovered there is tea liqueur. That is so cool! Now this is actual alcoholic tea, not to be confused with the tea terminology that refers to the liquor of a tea - as in its flavor and color. Now the only one I am currently aware of is Qi, which is currently available only in California so I will have to dream of it for a while yet.

And then, I hear that they will be releasing iced tea packets in the same vein as the Crystal Lite packets. I love this idea that I can carry around packets and when I'm out somewhere and want something that's not a soda but is more exciting than water I can buy water and voila! But so far all these packets have been for fake
sugar drinks (so fingers crossed, that is not the plan for the iced tea packets). And while I respect everyone's right to their fake sugar drinks, I personally want to enjoy my sugar. If I wanted to drink something healthy I wouldn't be drinking soda or lemonade or whatever anyway, right?

So - good news for all us tea lovers out there!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Best Food Idea Ever!

Brulee - I'm hungry just thinking about it!

Bradley and I

Bradley Whitford and I met last night. Well, okay, he spoke at American University and I was in the audience. So he is unaware of our closeness. (But don't think I'm not going to see if this helps me in six degrees games). So, I'm not going to recap the speech - in part because I was there to enjoy it and was not taking copious notes or recording it. But I will share some impressions. And I am - in light of our new closeness - going to take the liberty of referring to him as Bradley. As a warning, Bradley is a tangential thinker (much like myself). So while he had a written speech, he deviated from it often. So my observations will in part reflect that and of course, I'm picking and choosing which I'm sure will exacerbate the effect.

Bradley talked about acting and how great advice he had been giving was essentially you have to love the process more than you love the end result. Because if you don't enjoy the process, then you are in the wrong profession. And while I know this is old advice, it's so true. Being a lawyer on television looks fun - it looks fun to serve people and cross-examine people. They don't show all the writing and all the research and all of the many times it doesn't turn out the way you wanted. (Unless its part of the storyline). So you have to love the process too. Otherwise most of your job will be awful. If you only love ten percent of what you do - you will be a really unhappy person.

Bradley spoke about how when they first got together to put on this show they had no idea that people would take it seriously and look to it for exposition on real politics. They had no idea it would reach a point where lobbyists would come to them in the hopes that they would feature this or that topic on the show so that viewers could learn more about it. Which led him to talk about how looking or acting presidential on television is one thing. And it's really not as related to being presidential as we like to think it is.

Bradley also had an interesting perspective on Bill Clinton compared to Al Gore. He said that in his opinion, it seemed clear having met Clinton that Clinton had this clear need to make everyone love him, which didn't really come from an emotionally healthy place but translated well on screen. Whereas Al Gore is, as he put it, emotionally resolved, so what you see is a guy with all this information and a desire to serve the country, but you don't see that same need emanating from him as you do with Clinton.

Bradley was very humble about the fact that his dad raised cattle and worked the land, and he wears makeup for a living. He was also adamant (much as "The West Wing" has been) that participation in the voting process is one of the biggest things any of us can do. Bradley spoke about the hypocrisy he saw in religious fundamentalists who supported governmental choices in conflict with Christianity. It seemed to me, that much of what he said echoed or was influenced by "The Christian Paradox" - so I will refer you there.

All in all it was a very interesting discussion, and Bradley remains on my list of people I'd love to have a meal with.

Amusing signs

I saw a sign that said, "Door Alarmed". I felt the need to comment on this. I have read Eats, Shoots and Leaves. And I appreciate fully that good grammar allows us to communicate clearly - something that I think most people lose sight of. I also understand that there are times when shortcuts are expedient and as long as
everyone understands - it's fine.

But there are those signs that in their attempt to utilize word efficiency lead to confusion. Such as, "Door Alarmed". Because it raises the question. What has alarmed the door? Is it afraid of us. Will it be leaving in fear? Should I be watching the door carefully for sudden movements? Now I suspect what they may have been trying to say was, "Door has alarm". And I guess they felt that those extra
three letters (and accompanying spaces) would interfere to greatly with the expediency of the message.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stupid Cupid

Okay - I swear this is not coming from a bitter single (hey! being single does not automatically make me bitter), but I am so ready for Valentine's Day to just go away. I have no problem with a randomly assigned date being put aside for couples to take time out and celebrate together. (Although it is random, and therefore pretty much meaningless, but certainly you could make that argument about Christmas also).

But, as with so many holidays, the problem comes with the associated commercialism. First off let me say that I have no problem with capitalism. I understand that there are a lot of industries that rely on Valentine's Day to boost their bottom line and all that. But here's the thing. They artificially inflate the prices of all the things they are convincing you to get. Flowers cost gazillions more this week than they did last week or will next week. (The other thing that drives me crazy is one year I ordered something for my mother and they sent it three days early, which would have been fine if I had been consulted, but no. What if she hadn't been there - since the address I gave was based on the expectation that it would arrive on the agreed upon day!) Restaurants trim down their menu - in part because of the increased business - so you have less choice sometimes at higher prices.

(Sidebar again here, I once went out with a friend on Valentine's - it was totally spontaneous on our part so we knew we were in for a long wait, but we watched as a couple was told by the hostess that they would be seated in forty five minutes. When the guy explained that they had a reservation for now, the hostess said yes, she was aware, and they would get seated in forty five minutes. Nice.)

I am in many ways, most incensed by the jewelry ads. I love jewelry. But I am so tired of this suggestion that the only way to demonstrate your love for anyone is through jewelry. I know all advertising is pushy. But the jewelry ads seem so much less subtle - I mean, "Every kiss begins with Kay"? No, it doesn't.

And also I imagine it creates this unnecessary pressure for couples. You have to do something - everyone will ask you what you did for Valentine's Day. And God forbid, you either didn't do anything, or didn't do anything special enough.

So, I am quite happy that soon, this day and all the attendant commercials, and specials and shows, will be over.


Having grown up in DC, I know about this area's strange relationship with snow. We get snow here. But - similar to so much of our weather - not predictably. There's a certain agricultural publication that predicts an insane amount of snowstorms will hit us each year, but I have never found that to be accurate. (They could be counting stuff that hits the western mountains and never makes it to where I live, but still - not accurate as far as my life goes.) Never having lived farther north in the US (as in - an area that gets snow every winter and where one imagines it becomes more like rain, an expected weather condition) I am not entirely sure of the uniqueness of the DC area's snow responses - but comments from transplants seem to suggest it is a bit unusual.

Snow reports of course lead to the predictable runs on the grocery store for essentials. This happens even when they only predict an inch, which I find hilarious, because an inch is not going to stop you from getting to the grocery store. I once pointed out to a roommate (also a native to the area) that in the three blizzards and multiple other,lesser storms I had never been unable to get to the grocery store. She apparently had - once. (In fairness, in a blizzard a few years ago, it did take me three days to dig my car out, but I will also admit this was only so I could get to work so my motivation was probably a little limited).

Now there are two things that add to the madness that snow produces around here. This area has a high number of transplants so that increases the number of people who have not yet had an opportunity to drive in snow. And many of whom seem to think the fact that they drive an SUV means they do not need to develop additional skills. We also do not get snow consistently and often not in large amounts, so when we do it is a surprise.

Which leads to the second problem. Because we do not get snow significantly and consistently, things like snow removal equipment get cut out of municipal budgets or decreased a lot. Because, when you make that decision in June after a mild winter - it doesn't seem like a big deal. (I guess). Now - this has gotten significantly better in recent years. But that was a problem for a while.

Schools also have been known to run into issues with this. Many schools used to build five days into the calendar in case of snow. But after a few light winters, one county cut all the school days out of their calendar. Guess what happened? That's right, lots of snow that winter.

So we got about 6-12 inches - depending on where you live. It was beautiful as it came down Saturday, and as it began to slush up yesterday. Today we had lots of ice (yay?). And tomorrow we should have lots of grey snow.