Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Toro Toro Taxi Edition

Yesterday, I stood up at my desk. Mathilde stood up. Beth stood up. Then we were doing the twist, because who cannot hear Dick Dale on the mental jukebox?

Drusy is a lanky five-pound pussycat who wants with her whole heart to fit into this basket I placed on the living room floor in anticipation of kitty curiosity, yet that cat - she does not fit! Her eyes glow with determination and lumpy adorability. This picture reminded me, though I was no fan, of stage whispered tabloid warnings that Princess Di should lay off the melba toast if she wanted to go strapless. Thus, I will acquire a larger basket for the slender pussycat and the feline version of bon bons.

Topaz is not a hat, but neither is she a python that has swallowed an elephant. Thus, there were always other possibilities for the Little Prince. Perhaps the pilot drew a shape and filled in the contents and not, as one might surmise, drawn contents from the inside out. In the case of lovely Topaz, we cannot know if she is full of an elephant but I would bet against it as I seldom hear loud trumpeting.

Pete took these pictures at my urging because only one of us at a time is allowed to be rendered speechless with glee - some sort of local ordinance - and it was my turn. This is a fine image of a cat rump. I would go so far as to say it is among the finest images of a cat rump I've ever seen, especially since the head distantly attached to this rump tried to burrow under the couch. Many have tried, kitty!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm Odds And Ends

From the nerdacious circles in which Mr. Wintle travels comes this wild vision of a better future: One Laptop Per Child. The mission:
OLPC’s mission [ed's note: See? They have one!] is to provide a means for learning, self-expression, and exploration to the nearly two billion children of the developing world with little or no access to education. While children are by nature eager for knowledge, many countries have insufficient resources to devote to education—sometimes less than $20 per year per child (compared to an average of $7,500 in the United States). By giving children their very own connected XO laptop, we are giving them a window to the outside world, access to vast amounts of information, a way to connect with each other, and a springboard into their future. And we’re also helping these countries develop an essential resource - educated, empowered children.

Wait, I have questions - !
From now through December 31, 2007, OLPC is offering a Give One Get One program in the United States and Canada. This is the first time the revolutionary XO laptop has been made available to the general public. For a donation of $399, one XO laptop will be sent to empower a child in a developing nation and one will be sent to the child in your life in recognition of your contribution. $200 of your donation is tax-deductible (your $399 donation minus the fair market value of the XO laptop you will be receiving).

For all U.S. donors who participate in the Give One Get One program, T-Mobile is offering one year of complimentary HotSpot access. Find out more.

Please be aware that we will make every effort to deliver the XO laptops by the holidays, but quantities are limited. Early purchasers have the best chance of receiving their XO laptops in time for the holidays, but we cannot guarantee timing.

I'm pretty bad at math. That's why the unnamed university lets me play with money. I have to say the above description didn't make as much sense as I'd hoped. Maybe Siobhan will type verrrrrry slowly and explain it to me. But about you:
Bring the light of learning to a child who would otherwise be left without adequate access to information and education with a donation of one or more XO laptops. A donation of $200 will pay for and deliver one XO laptop to a child in a developing nation, $400 will pay for and deliver two XO laptops, and so on. Your entire contribution will be tax-deductible.

That I understand. Give it a look, won't you?


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

See How the Black Moon Fades

Johnny, our Southwest correspondent reports.

Looking at these pictures makes me shake my head in disbelief that I am still alive. I used to say when I was young that the heart could break a thousand times, that you just got up and got back in the ring. But nothing bad had happened to me then. The worst heartbreak I'd had to face was if some punk rock girl wouldn't have sex with me.

In the death throes of my first marriage, we moved into a broken down old house in Arlington, a grimy second-rate suburb of Cambridge, a dry town where you couldn't even buy a bottle of beer to drown your sorrows. The house was creaky and sagging and an ominous wind blew across the loose clapboards from the cemetery directly behind it.

I would come home from work and walk Tano, then I'd take a six of beer upstairs, which was my territory. I'd drink and kill the time until dinner, staring out the window at the forsaken headstones, wishing one of them said my name. I dreaded my wife's hateful stare so powerfully that I wouldn't even go downstairs to the bathroom. I pissed in empty gallon jugs and lined them up in the back of the closet.

Eventually it would be time for the dinner ordeal. We'd glower at each other with barely concealed hostility until it was over. Then I'd take another six upstairs to help me kill the rest of the evening. It made me so desperately sad to walk past her sleeping on the couch that sometimes, rather than go down to the horrible little room in the corner where I slept, I'd lie down on the floor in my little office and spend the night there. Then I'd get up in the morning, stiff-necked and hung over, have a couple of beers, and go to work.

I remember the night I told her that I would be moving out in the morning. I'd gotten a lot of nasty surprises when I married her, and, to be fair, she'd gotten just as many from me, but she said something that night that I couldn't even believe I was hearing. She said 'Are you seeing someone?' Like the torture of surviving another hour of our miserable existence together wasn't enough to drive me out of that haunted house.

I blamed my first wife for a long time. Then I got over it. People will tell you that things happen for a reason. I think that's shite. I don't believe that some malevolent all-knowing entity crucified me and broke my spirit just so I could appreciate the marriage I have now. But that's the way it shook out. So who am I to complain?

It doesn’t all fit in the scanner, but you get the idea. I smeared a bunch of medium and extender on a piece of window screen, then stuck in an outline of the Captain cut from tarp canvas. I’ll take a picture of it the way it really works, stuck to a window, with the sun behind it. The medium turns opalescent and the Arabic turns luminous and unearthly. I have about nine paintings going and am in love with all of them and want to ask them to marry me. The glee, the glee, the glee of paint. Did I forget to mention the glee of paint? I don’t care what I had to crawl through to get here. God damn. Life is good.

P.S. I don't know much about history. Don't know much biology. But I do know. Mandinka.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 26, 2007

And Its News Is Captured

Today is Siobhan's birthday and in honor of the only person I've ever met on a first name basis with her UPS man, let's talk about shopping. Today is the beginning of the online shopping season. I heard this on the news this morning as I did some stretching and bending. Since it pays to be flexible, this morning I've replaced my co-workers' soymilk (with which I replaced cow milk) with almond milk. We'll see soon if they run screaming - or even notice.

A few days ago, I found myself seated in the blast zone of a complete stranger expounding upon the medicinal uses of cinnamon for controlling blood sugar in certain kinds of diabetics and pre-diabetics. Her extended family, seated all around me, showed a propensity toward hyperglycemia. This stranger advised that drops of cinnamon oil - "It burns. Want some?" - or two teaspoons of cinnamon per day would help regulate blood sugar. I sat there picturing Cinnabon as the front line in the Battle of Good and Evil, with little raisins carried out on Red Cross stretchers and walnuts tending broken pecans. There was icing everywhere! Everywhere! And I resolved to look this up next time I sat down at the World's Largest Encyclopedia. Which is where you are now. See?

According to Cheryl Korn, internet expert on everything from the Buffalo Sabres to the basics of organic food, cinnamon is made of surprising goo.
Cinnamon’s primary chemical constituents include cinnamadehyde, gum, tannin, mamitol, coumarins, and essential oils (aldehydes, eugenol, and pinene.)

It would be terrible of you to make a joke like, "Mamitol, Tannin! Coumarins and eugenol pinene!" so I won't either. Probably.
Cinnamon has many medicinal purposes including calming a cough, which produces the spitting of a whitish phlegm in the elderly. They can chew or swallow a small pinch of cinnamon for effective relief. This also helps with the problem of cold hands and feet, especially at night.

Just half a teaspoon per day may reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels by as much as 20 percent in Type II diabetes patients not taking insulin. Some research seems to point to cinnamon augmenting the action of insulin; however, this has yet to be proven.

Cinnamon is mildly carminative and can be used to treat nausea, flatulence and possibly diarrhea. It increases peripheral blood flow and is a urine stimulant. Cinnamon is also a great essential oil with antibacterial and antifungal qualities.

Then I had to look up carminative because it wasn't - like fuck - a word commonly used around the dinner table. Wikipedia:
A carminative, also known as carminativum (plural carminativa), is a medicinal drug with antispasmodic activity that is used against cramps of the digestive tract in combination with flatulence. They are often mixtures of essential oils and herbal spices with a tradition in folk medicine for this use.

Wikipedia says: "See anti-foaming agent." My stars! That is blunt.

Further sources rhapsodize:
In Chinese medicine, cinnamon is one of the most widely used "warming" herbs that aid in circulation and digestion. It is a common ingredient used in tea for nausea during pregnancy. It is also used following delivery to decrease hemorrhage. Cinnamon raises vitality, warms the system, stimulates all the vital functions of the body, counteracts congestion, improves digestion, relieves abdominal spasms and aids in peripheral circulation.

The essential oils contained in cinnamon include eugenol, cinnamic aldehyde, methyl-eugenol, tannin, and mannitol, which gives cinnamon its sweet flavor. It also contains cinnzelanin and cinnzelanol, which are both known insecticides. Try putting some liquid soap and cinnamon in a spray bottle and use on plants as an organic bug repellent. Cinnamon is also included in many medicinal recipes that are used for lice, scabies, and other skin parasites.

Cinnamon has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial activities. It has been shown to suppress E. coli, staphylococcus, and candida albicans.

Between cinnamon and wearing flipflops in public showers, I should be okay, right? Maybe not.
Along with the medicinal effects come the side effects and interactions that medicinal cinnamon causes. Some people may be sensitive or allergic to cinnamon. Also, some people may develop dermatitis after exposure to it. Therefore, to take precautions to these possible side effects, only small amounts should be given to a person who lacks prier exposure to it. Chronic chewing of cinnamon gum or use of cinnamon flavored toothpaste can cause inflammation of the mouth, and lead to pre-cancerous growth. The highly concentrated cinnamon oil is more likely to cause side effects than the cinnamon powder. Cinnamon oil should never be ingested.

Cinnamon oil is exactly what that dinner guest recommended, so I'm back at the beginning. I don't know anything for sure.

My coffee is tasty. Happy Birthday, Siobhan!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Moon Shadow Moon Shadow

It's my whole family, by gum.


Daria: Mom learned a new word today and she really liked it.
Tata: What's happening here?
Daria: Mom learned a new word: furfuracious.
Mom: Furfuracious!
Tata: How are we spelling this?
Daria: F-u-r-f-u-r-a-c-i-o-u-s.
Mom: It's a good word.
Tata: I've never heard of this word. What's it mean?
Daria: It's kind of like fur, squared. And we thought you should know it because you have two cats.


Mom: I learned another word yesterday and it too was a really good word.
Tata: Fascinating. What was it?
Mom: It was a very good word and I can't think of it right now. It started with S.
Tata: So many of our best words do. Can you describe this word?
Mom: It started with S and it was a very good word. Daria, your dictionary is in the same place?
Daria: It sure is!
Mom I'll just go look it up.
Tata: Did...did Mom just take the two-year-old and head off to read the S-section of the dictionary during Thanksgiving dessert?


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

You Spinning You Have No Choice

Life is full of accidental discoveries. Horoscopically speaking, today you will wish to shower me with flowers and Porsches, but it's Wednesday so I expect that. A few nights ago, I happened to look up at the TV when the phone rang. I can't explain that. It was Siobhan on a rampage.

Tata: Cable phone service appears to give me caller ID now. It came up on my TV so you're the star of One Life to Live. This is better than an hour ago, when I thought my sister Daria was on American Justice.
Siobhan: That shirt said, PRACTICE SAFE SEX. GO FUCK YOURSELF! Spencer Gifts sells them. I'm right about this and I need you to tell me I'm right.
Tata: Please. Go practice safe sex.

It's been plain for some time that I would make a terrible witness because my brain rearranges things but this is ridiculous. I repeated the shirt's message over and over to Siobhan while we were in Macy's. In case you haven't noticed, the word FUCK doesn't offend me, so the t-shirt she describes wouldn't have bothered me. No. I was offended by vomitrocious misogyny and disdain for his sex partner(s). Still, I can't prove any of it beyond that I bought four bras. I have receipts!

Monday, Stop & Shop called me at work - well, a very nice lady with a musical voice and a gently jumbled Boston-Midwest accent called, stammering. I was immediately amused that someone took my letter so personally.

Tata: Domenica speaking.
Nice Lady: Is this Domenica LongItalianLastName?
Tata: Domenica speaking?
Nice Lady: Domenica, this is Mrs. SoAndSo from Stop & Shop Customer Service. I've read your letter - several times, actually, and I just couldn't write a response to it.
Tata: I didn't really expect a response but it's funny to hear from you.
NL: I couldn't write a response to it. Literally. I tried! But then I just had to call you and find out -
Tata: If I were a real human?
NL: Well, yes -
Tata: And if I carry a tune in a bucket?
NL: That, too.
Tata: I'm as real as imaginary friends get.

There followed a sort of apology from Mrs. SoAndSo for my unsatisfying shopping experience, which wasn't at all what I was after when I wrote. I think. As we see above, my crappy memory may be worse than previously imagined, so who knows what I was thinking?

Tata: While I have you on the phone, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the recycled paper products situation. It's intolerable.
NL: We have people in house working on that situation and -
Tata: In your stores, if there is one brand of recycled paper products it is Seventh Generation, which is a good brand. But why is there only one brand? Marcal products are manufactured in New Jersey and you don't carry them. Considering the amount of fossil fuels used to drag these things around the nation's highways, it seems like a natural for you to want to sell Marcal here at least. But why is there only one brand in your stores, and presented as an afterthought at that?
NL: That sounds very reasonable.
Tata: Obviously, a situation is way out of control when I sound reasonable. That store in my town is every bit as bad as I said it was. And please, when you send someone to go check don't use my name. It's a small town and my neighbors will come visit me.
NL: Don't use your name?
Tata: God no. I'm not using my Stop & Shop card anytime soon. Just so you know.
NL: Please accept my apologies for the rotten grapes. We're going to get a regional manager in there. We hope to improve everything you mentioned. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Tata: That reminds me: I better go buy a shovel.
NL: Is it snowing?
Tata: Not that kind. But thank you!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

But the Point Is Probably Moot

If you can stand it, I keep forgetting what to write about, and then I forget to write. Time passes, and other people at other blogs wonder why my name is on the masthead over there when they got game and lately I got ungotz. That is, by the way, a very naughty word and you shouldn't use it around your grandmother unless your grandmother is me. You can trust me on this: I am not, almost certainly, your grandmother. Nope.

Out in the wide world of the intertubes, you can find all kinds of people writing all kinds of material. I read through blogrolls because I am curious about everything. Almost everything. Many things. There's some yecky stuff I could live without. Anyway, for a while, BitchPhD linked to the Countess all the time, and at the Countess, you read about men's rights activists, chocolate and sex. It's a breathtakingly short hop from there to a whole planet of exhibitionists who get their groove on daily; some are fantastic smutty writers I'd read if they wrote phone books, though the pages might stick together. Last week, a blog I often read by an interesting woman on the low wattage end in a dominant/submissive power exchange relationship disappeared - the blog was deleted by the dominant in a fit of pique - and I was shaken by how real that erasure felt. I know exactly how I'd feel if I were cut off from my work. I've been cut off from my work by my cranky brain chemistry. I know what would happen if a person did that to me. She is certainly not me, though, and the component parts of her personality are very different from mine. We know this because you can figure out who's friends with whom in this underground world, and rumor has it she's not under arrest for homicide.

What I do not know is how people can live like that. Or like this:

Daria found that. We like Rick Springfield. When dinosaurs roamed the earth, I peeled cans of Fosters for depressed corporate filmmakers on the Turnpike on a hazardous weeknight mission to see Rick Springfield or die trying. I have almost certainly risked all for Rick. Yet this video makes me want to regrout my synapses.

What were they thinking?


Monday, November 19, 2007

Thinking Of Me When You

Siobhan and I embarked Saturday on a pilgrimage to Macy's one day bra sale. Bra shopping is depressing, exhausting and never occurs without incident. This incident was special, I think: we ascended on an escalator to the floor where lingerie waited, if lingerie can be said to wait. Honest, I was minding my own business. There before us stood a man wearing jeans, a jacket and a t-shirt with the words partially obscured. Immediately furious, then doubtful, then furious again, I pursed my lips and pushed past him and his pasty clan.

Siobhan: I can't believe it! You're offened by that guy's shirt!
Tata: I was, but now I'm not sure.
Siobhan: You're offended because that guy's shirt said FUCK, admit it!
Tata: I was offended because I thought that guy's shirt said, USE BIRTH CONTROL? GO FUCK YOURSELF!, but then I wondered if the jacket concealed other words, and the shirt actually said, NOT USING BIRTH CONTROL? GO FUCK YOURSELF! I mean, if I'm being invited to go fuck myself I'd like to know why but I'm not going to get into it with him before I purchase two bras and get two bras free.
Siobhan: No, no. I've seen that shirt before. It says, USE BIRTH CONTROL? GO FUCK YOURSELF!
Tata: What is that asshole's actual message?
Siobhan: His message is that you should go fuck yourself.
Tata: Sure, but why? I mean, is he saying he's not gloving up for anything? Is he saying he has a moral issue with preventing unwanted pregnancy? Because his shirt is designed to provoke a response and he's wearing it where children can see it. Even meek mommies have a problem with that.
Siobhan: No, no. His actual message is that you should go fuck yourself.
Tata: Me in particular? How'd he know I'd be here?
Siobhan: Magic 8 Ball.

When this scene was described to him later, Pete asked good questions.

Pete: Was he alone? Was he with a woman?
Tata: He was.
Pete: Did she have her front teeth?

I allowed as I didn't know because to get even a little tangled in this scenario would involve Constitutional issues I didn't want to discuss with the local constabulary in Ladies Lingerie. But hey, I appreciate his honesty in wearing that out in public because I could see what kind of misogynist douchebag he was, and that discussion would prove fruitless. I wondered briefly what other ideologically revealing t-shirts he possessed. Then we bought bras.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Need An Order!

It was a rough day for imagery.

Tata: So how is the feline quartet?
Darla: Ah! The Gang of Fur! Samantha was sick so I took her to the vet. The last thing I need would be to kill off your father's cat.
Tata: She's okay?
Darla: Yeah, I enjoyed giving her antibiotics twice a day for a week.
Tata: She's a sweet pussycat but I can see her trying to julienne you.
Darla: Last night, Edgar sat on my desk with foam running down his chin. I thought, 'Terrific. He's got rabies.' I sniffed him and realized somewhere in the house lay an empty tube of toothpaste.
Tata: So, Gang of Fur: is it Madame Mao or I Love A Man In Uniform?

Darla: Do you know I've had four cats for ten years and you're the first person to ask?


Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Seasons Change And So Edition

You're just here for the cats. I know your secret.

Pourquoi? Pourquoi pas?

Ah, lovely Topaz! I adore her but she can be a bit of a pill. Her hobby (nudging things from atop other things, preferably at a good height and where disastrous collision with the earth generates an impressive crashy cacophony) sometimes interferes with ordinary apartment life. The other night, Topaz nudged Pete's wallet from its perch atop the pictured festive footrest. What Pete failed to notice and I failed to mention the time was that a few leaves of his wallet photo holder fell out. The next day, Pete was in Home Depot buying paint and found his wallet a little light. He rushed home in a panic and scoured his house for the missing items, then found them on my living room floor. He knew immediately what had happened. Topaz remains mum on the subject.

Last night, we were treated to the kitty version of big time wrestling, which is no fun since it left stinky high school gyms and went all glam. Our feline friends nibbled on one another ears and flung themselves at one another and peculiar angles. We applauded harrowing holds and narrow escapes. We gasped at creative uses of teeth and feathered cat toys. The fully grown pussycats have a wide range of facial expressions and vocal intonations. We know when to pick up our feet and wait for the furry fighters to chase something shiiiiiny.

The spookiest of spooky Drusys. She is pouncy! She is relaxy! She weighs all of five pounds but she is five pounds of toe-nibbly, lip-locky, finicky feline. Pete had a cold last week. When he lay down on the couch, Drusy lay on his chest and kissed him over and over. I said, "Doesn't that make you feel better?" He said, "Well, it doesn't make you mad."


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Going To the Discotheque A Go Go

Previously on Poor Impulse Control, someone asked for help:
The following items are of great use to the deployers:

Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

My contact with the program, who shall remain charmingly anonymous and not a person I made myself, says also:
We also have a program for our families called Operation Sweet Dreams. In this program the family member sends us a digital photo, we transfer to a pillowcase and the family gives to the deployed member to take with them or is sent to the deployed location. With that we would need plain white pillow cases.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

Right after that, minstrel and I gabbed about the truffle shop he's going to open, the sun came out and birds sang. You were overwhelmed with holiday spirit and mailed off a case of sunflower seeds and Crystal Light. I ordered this for my alleged future grandson. What? Thought I wouldn't? Gabba gabba hey, dude. But that's all clouds in our coffee when we've got storms in the sugar.

Recently, a chain letter circulated asking folks to send cards to "A Recovering American Soldier" at Walter Reed "Home of Warrior Care" Medical Center. That may have been an excellent plan last year but this year: not so much. The Department of Defense apparently does not accept cards addressed to nobody in particular. Here's their request for other kinds of help.

Thus, I don't know what to say about Let's Say Thanks, a project by Xerox. You pick a design drawn and colored by a child, write a message and Xerox sends it off to a serviceman or servicewoman. Perhaps Xerox has a list, we don't know. No one answered when I wrote to this project's contact email.

This past week, no one skittering past my cubicle has not complained about how fast Thanksgiving approaches. We are lucky in the sense that each of us has plenty to eat and in-laws to curse, but not everyone is. This year, food banks have struggled. If you can, please help a food bank, an outreach program or a soup kitchen. It's never too late to set up a paper bag in your kitchen and drop a can into it each time you grocery shop. Your generosity matters. If your budget's squeezy, you can still lend a hand.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Quickly I Was Replaced

Stop & Shop Consumer Affairs

To Whom It Concerns:

I'm not an open letter kind of gal, but your contact form offers few specifics. Let's pretend this is the New York Times and, since I'm publishing this on a blog, that other people are actually reading it. Isn't this cozy? Hi, Mom!

I live in a small town on the Raritan River in New Jersey. If you've ever been to New Jersey, you know towns butt up against one another and no town can help sniffing what's only a town over. The Stop & Shop I can walk to is so bad I get in the car and drive to the Stop & Shop two towns away for - well - anything I really want, though sometimes I drive down Route 27 to the Stop & Shop four towns south of here. I've taken to calling my local grocery store The Extortion Mart because residents of this proud walking community might as well jog up, tithe and jog away, lest reanimating produce leap out at us. Needless to say, there's almost nothing in that store I want except cat litter and entertainment.

The other night, my Handsome Prince and I sought baking ingredients. Late last week, I'd picked up a salad and cut fruit for a quick dinner away from home and ended up spitting out rotten grapes at a relatively ballistic velocity so I have become persnickety in the produce aisle. But that tragedy is behind us now! Color us optimistic, we walked the aisles of The Extortion Mart. I had certain ingredients in mind because my co-workers had declared Tuesday, November 13th National Pie Day. I know. National Pie Day is actually observed on January 23rd, and their declaration conflicted with Felix Unger Day, but I admired the joie de vivre. I wanted Philadelphia's new Cheesecake In a Drum and a graham cracker crumb pie shell but the store did not stock the cheesecake goo. Making real cheesecake might give my co-workers the impression I cared about them, so that was o-u-t out! The baking aisle lacked gelatin leaves for fruit compote topping but stocked instant no-bake cheesecake mixes, so my office situation is still a little tense. Fortunately, the usual mayhem occurred in the checkout line, where I instinctively resorted to belting out Ethel Merman tunes when an employee mumbling to himself cut in front of us. My Handsome Prince wanted to pick up the offending teen by his collar, but can't resist Anything Goes! And tranquility ensued.

As something of a connoisseur of Stop & Shops, I know how responsive your store managers are to customer suggestions for new products. I could, as I have many times, take a manager aside and ask if, say, baking pans shouldn't be in the baking aisle but no one wants to be seen as fixating. No, no one does! Yet, it boggles what's left of my tiny little mind that in 2007, and in the third quarter even, recycled paper products may be found in your stores only after an extensive, coordinated search. In two of the three stores I frequent, recycled toilet paper can be found in a corner, huddled, lonely, like a redheaded stepchild. I've been a redheaded stepchild. L'Oreal still makes the best dyes. But the third store doesn't even carry recycled toilet paper, and none of them carries recycled paper towels. I am perfectly willing to warble No Business Like Show Business if I can find the products I need, and that make sense in this time and place. But - if I may be so bold - this is ridiculous.

You may say that the market creates the situation and if people wanted recycled paper products you would stock them in impressive numbers. That, as you know, is self-perpetuating nonsense. If you display and offer coupons for a variety of recycled products, people will buy them. Some Stop & Shops have green product ghettos. In one such cold case, I found whole milk yogurt. Why were there two yogurt cases? Why shouldn't green diapers be next to Pampers and Huggies? Why shouldn't nutritious cereals sit side by side with Cocoa Puffs? Let's be honest: if customers don't know they have these options, they're going to be less and less optional. Customers need them, and you can make money meeting those needs.

Back to the butt-sniffing: while it is true that I will still cautiously shop at The Extortion Mart - and try not to touch anything that looks especially Swamp Thing-y - for small items, the lack of sensible choices sometimes forces me to serenade shoppers at Acme and Pathmark in nearby towns.

I thought you should know.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 12, 2007

You Staring Back At Me

It's 10 A.M. and I haven't seen my gmail because I got tangled in this how-to tar pit.
How To Be Honest

Hang onto your garters, Martha. This one's got potential.
It's been said that honesty is the best policy. It sounds like the simplest thing in the world, but being truly honest, with others and with yourself, can be a real challenge. Political correctness, being sensitive of other people's feelings, and facing uncomfortable truths about yourself can take lots of thought and work. Steps:

1. Understand the workings of dishonesty. Most of us learned to be dishonest as children, when we realized that saying certain things (and not saying certain things) would garner approval and praise, or the opposite. Along the way, we can lose track of where to draw the line and how dishonesty can negatively affect our lives (see Warnings below). Dishonesty often becomes a tool used to:[1]

* pretend nothing is wrong
* shift the blame to others
* avoid embarrassment
* distract ourselves
* minimize conflict
* avoid responsibility or work

...And your reward is a fulfilling career in a shitty sevice industry - I mean, politics. Somewhere down the to-do list, it all comes undone.
5. Exercise tact. We all know that being literally honest can hurt feelings and turn friendships sour. It can also be misinterpreted as criticism or a lack of support. It's very tempting to tell a "white lie" when dealing with sensitive loved ones (especially children), but you can still be honest by being creative in how you express the truth.

* Emphasize the positive. Shift the focus away from what, in all honesty, you think is negative. Instead of saying "No, I don't think you look good in those pants" say "They're not as flattering as the black dress--that dress really looks amazing on you. Have you tried it on with those stockings you wore to my cousin's wedding last year?"
* Be vague. When asked a direct question (especially by children) and you know that your honest answer will make the situation worse, be as general as possible, and try to change the subject as soon as you can. If asked whether Santa Claus is real, for example, say "I've never met him myself, but just because we don't see something with our own eyes doesn't mean it can't be real. You don't see air, but you breathe it all the time, right?" Or, turn the question around: "Why do you ask?"
* You have the right to remain silent. If you're pushed into a corner and don't know how to respond, say "Can we talk about this another time?" or "I really don't feel comfortable talking about this. You should really address this with..." Don't say "I don't know" if you really do know--it can come back to bite you in the rear later on. The person might catch on and realize that you know something, and they might get pushy. Repeat yourself and leave the conversation as quickly as possible.
* When all else fails, be honest--but gently. Wrap the potentially hurtful truth in appreciation, praise, and, if applicable, affection.

So the high road to honesty is paved with sticky little white lies. Fortunately, in vino one can count on veritas, and thanks to new packaging methods, you too can be soaking in it.

Or macerating, as the case may be. My brother Todd, bartender to the stars, sent along this gem of an AOL recommendation without commenting on its retcherous coding, possibly because he was flabbergasted by the suggestion that a bottle of wine might outlast one commercial break in a house full of blood-related House fans. But I digress.

The Three Thieves site makes visitors promise they're over 21, so if you're not, this is an excellent place to practice for your career in honest lying. I mean, what? If you're under 21 you can't even read about wine? Now there's a steamer.

Being socially responsible, the Three Thieves have a section of their website devoted to pointing out that you should enjoy their products responsibly. This page is called Jug Support, and reminded me that one of my uncles got arrested years ago for walking while intoxicated. If only he'd had a dog, he could've said he was just following that short, furry guy, honest!


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Someone Looking After You

Courtesy of Mr. Wintle, we find a fantastic new game combining words, hunger-fighting do-goodery and work-related time-wasting. It's like the Superbowl of I'm Bored vs. This World Could Suck Less - and you're painted up green!

Here's the description - For every word you get right we donate 10 grains of rice through the United Nations to help end world hunger - and you want that! You can read all about how it works and learn about poverty and add your name to the One Campaign. It's chic to care, and you're so stylish I could just peeench you!

You pick the definitions. The advertisers fund the rice. Your boss wonders why your reports are speckled with five-dollar words. Let's play.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Don't Forget: You Can Get Off the Conveyor

Last night, Pete and I went to Costco because if one of something is good, I want eight, and Costco has that! It's great for our care package project. You can participate almost without effort. See?
The following items are of great use to the deployers:

Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

My contact with the program, who shall remain charmingly anonymous and not a person I made myself, says also:
We also have a program for our families called Operation Sweet Dreams. In this program the family member sends us a digital photo, we transfer to a pillowcase and the family gives to the deployed member to take with them or is sent to the deployed location. With that we would need plain white pillow cases.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

Whenever I mention this project, minstrel and I have a charming conversation in comments about his plans to open a truffle shop, and while I'm desperate to hear more about these truffles I'm not yet eating, I can't help but notice you Poor Impulsives make the crickets! crickets! sound about air-mailing to airmen. My feelings are not hurt! I read the stats, and I can see between 450-700 of you drop by every day for profiteroles at tea time. Maybe you're just not the fussy "Me, too!" type: good for you! Without a word, you mailed off a six-pack of granola bars. I love you so madly I'd like to test my no-transfer lipstick: MWAH!

So there we were, tooling about the flavored water and juice aisle and Pete seemed restive and distracted.

Tata: So when you're happy - hooray!
Or sad - Aw!
Or frightened - Eek!
Or mad - Rats!
Or excited - Wow!
Or glad - Hey!
An interjection starts the sentence right!

Pete: What - what are you singing?
Tata: Generally set apart from a sentence
By an exclamation point!
Or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong!

Pete: You serenade me with punctuation?
Tata: I serenade you with Schoolhouse Rock. It's the only reason I can multiply.

I pirouetted between the meatcase and the fresh seafood display. Nobody batted an eye.

Tata: See? Three six nine, twelve fifteen eighteen, twenty-one twenty-four twenty-seven, thirty!

Pete giggled as only very secure men and teenage girls can.

Pete: Let's go look at cookies.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It Was Acceptable In the Eighties

This is an experiment. Somewhere between Blogger, the unnamed university and PIC's host, a grudge match is a-brewin'.

Thanks for your scientific curiosity!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pretty Dangerous, You're Looking

It got a lot tougher to trick family members into doing stuff I wanted after they started reading the blog. I've had to get tricker still by assuming a couple of extra aliases and doing - um - things. But back to what I want -

Daria: How was your trip?
Tata: Good! Pete did all the driving. We took an accidental scenic tour of Staunton, Virginia and roasted a chicken for Darla. Then we did what we always do.
Daria: Drink box wine and stay up too late talking?
Tata: Exactly, so getting up in the morning was exciting but less so than you might think. I didn't notice we'd forgotten to bring in my little suitcase until about 2 AM, so I couldn't be bothered. It was warm, so I slept in a t-shirt. Pete opened the window for some fresh air. In the middle of the night, I woke up chilly because I was, you know, wearing no pants.
Daria: I can't remember the last time I did that. Oooh! Tequila. So you got under the covers?
Tata: We were sleeping in Dara's old room and the blanket only appeared to cover the bed, see, so no matter how close we got the blanket only covered one of us. I was chilly enough that it was a situation but not so chilly that it wasn't an antic. Eventually, I fell asleep and dreamed about what I wouldn't do for a Klondike Bar. Hey, did I tell you about Mom's phone?
Daria: Mom's phone? What phone? Mom screens every call.
Tata: I was thinking about the last time I was at her house. The phone rang about every fifteen minutes while we were waiting for a call from Grandpa. It was all sales calls. I couldn't believe it.
Daria: I hate the screening. Mom! Mom! Pick up! I know you're there! I know you're running to the phone, you're just about there and - pick up, Mom!
Tata: She says she hates the sales calls but I swear they make her feel popular. I kept asking why she didn't do something about it, it's just so simple. She was all like, "I have to give thinking about that idea further consideration before I ponder it." I just about swallowed my tongue! So there I am thinking about the holidays, picturing the non-stop ringing of the phone and I did something rash.
Daria: What did you do?
Tata: I added Mom's home phone number to the National Do Not Call List.
Daria: No, you didn't!
Tata: Yes, I did, and I'd do it again! - Though I'm sure I just put a cadre of phone operators out of jobs. Alas! I do not increase the Gross National Product! These are the sad, sad consequences of my ruthless prank!
Daria: You're back at work, right? Did you ever put on some pants?
Tata: Why? You afraid someone'll look for my union label?

- Certainly, I enjoy seeing something reasonable happen through trickery and outright lying. Siobhan and I share this desire to the bottoms of our pointy shoes. She tricks her father into eating vegetables by pretending to coat them in schmaltz. We call it the I Can't Believe It's Not Transfat! Diet. I will someday trick my mother into writing a will while playing Scrabble in front of witnesses. What've you got for that double word score, Mom? P-R-O-B-A-T-E?

Monday, November 05, 2007

As You Are, As You Were

Photo by Pete.

Pete and I drove to Virginia yesterday, collected Dad's slides and drove back today. We are lumpy things lying on my couch, at great risk of suddenly snoring. We stopped at Charlie Brown's and fell face-down into gin & tonics and comfort foods. I don't remember much. It's all a blur of receipts and unarmed mashed potatoes. Hey, we're home!

This is a view of and from the driveway at Dad's and Darla's house in the Shenandoah Valley. That right there is a shed and a Blue Ridge Mountain, if you wondered. It is one of many. People say things like, "We're going over the mountain to the Apple Cider Festival. Can I bring you a dozen doughnuts?" to which you must respond, "Yes, thank you." No. Really.

The cats seem happy to have us home again.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Every Mountain Edition

Here we see the felis overjoyedicus at play on the four-foot ladder. Note that both cats attempt to assume the deceptively placid roaster position. This offers both stability and the opportunity to paw your sister's head.

As you may have guessed, the humans belonging to these pussycats responded to this week's cold weather by taking down the bronze organza summer curtains and hanging Grandma's sturdy, draft-stopping drapes. The cats, covered with fur, tolerated these changes in their environment with great patience.

Crooked pictures in the background? Guess who!

The four-foot ladder has been with me a long time. It has helped me reach things for many years I would otherwise point at and whine, "Ehn ehn ehn!" I love this ladder. It lives in my kitchen because I am too petite to reach above the plate shelf, which raises an interesting question, I guess: people used to be a lot shorter than they are now. When these apartments were built after World War II, adults hadn't grown up gnawing on beef at every meal as subsequent generations have. There are all kinds of charts and history out there somewhere about this. I looked for them but all I could find were charts about obesity screwing up our manhood, and since I'm not worried about mine, I gave up. Sometimes, when I'm standing in the kitchen with the eight-foot ceiling and cabinets that go all the way up, I wonder how the grandmas of the 1950s coped without stilts. It seems like a dirty trick to play on women especially, though I have no problem climbing on the counter to grab the powdered milk.

Here, Drusy is stalking me. Apparently, I am delicious prey she can nap next to, then chase for a diverting interlude. In the last week or so, Drusy has become enamored of my toes in a new and exciting way: she bats at them as if they might roll away. My toes do not roll, not like the myriad round cat toys littering the living room floor. Half a dozen times a day, I jump up and howl, "Dooo not bite Mama!" Promise, she will not. My toes are delicious! And she cannot resist their yummy allure.

The pussycats are fascinated by Pete's every move, especially when he's not making one. Topaz, my little bear cub, rushes to the door when she hears his bicycle outside, and throws herself against the door to keep him from leaving. In between, Topaz spends a good deal of time sitting at his feet, staring at him. It's like a Sandra Dee movie without a beach. Drusy, meanwhile, discovered that cats enjoy cushiony reclining and that she is, in fact, a cat. So, we're good there.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Changes Aren't Permanent But Change Is

Last night at 10, my phone rang, a highly unusual occurrence on a night where House hasn't just ended. My underwear said Wednesday, so I was both happy and confused. Tuesday Weld must never share a closet with Wednesday Addams or my cousin Monday, and for crying out loud, my name is Domenica. Who the hell is calling?

Daria and Mom have put the kids to bed and hunkered down with dessert.

Daria: I just wanna tell you I've introduced Mom to your friends Ben & Jerry.

I turn to Pete and hiss, "They're hitting the dairy products pretty hard. This could take awhile."

Tata: Whadja do?
Daria: Your friends Ben & Jerry make an excellent creme brulee ice cream, which we are mmmmmppphh mmmmmmuph slurrrrrrp eating right now.
Tata: What about my friends pinot & grigio? Cozying up to them, too?
Daria: Absolutely. I made Mom sleep over because it's still gin & tonic season. Thhhhhhhhhhp! Ahh! Refreshing!

In my mind's mouth, the combination of tonic and caramelized sugar makes me purse my mental lips, but who am I to judge? I spent the next 20 minutes listening to Daria coax her husband Tyler to have some ice cream with the soothing chant, "...healthy teeth and bones, sweetheart, healthy teeth and bones..." This morning, I went looking for an image of the aforementioned treat and came across a San Diego bulletin board discussion of the product that was so filled with Limbaugh-tinged invective that I felt impelled to mention this important idea: there really are times to just zip it with the pointless and inflammatory rhetoric. I think less of a person who feels that a discussion of new and interesting ice cream products is a fine place to drop an unsolicited and fact-free assessment of MidEast peace prospects, and caramel. Well, maybe not the caramel. But if you're not going to sample the aforementioned dairy treat because it's made by people who treat each other decently, well, that's your decision but do us all a favor and find something to talk about that doesn't confirm to the bbs-reading public that you are a selfish, ignorant, ill-informed bastard who has never formed an independent opinion and doesn't give a shit about another human being except Rush. I was interested in the fucking caramel crunch swirl!

But enough about me, what are you doing about holiday cards?

It's that time of year when people you like and people you can't remember will send you greeting cards revealing every intimate detail of pottytraining and festive mortgage refi. Let's save ourselves the stress of trying to figure out how they got our addresses, shall we? If you're the card-sending type, UNICEF can help with eye-catching cards, easy-to-mail gifts and that warm feeling that comes from knowing distant cousins won't catch you off-guard again this year! Many items are handmade by collectives that do real good in parts of the world where it would be easy to think little good can be done. Have a look at the catalog and fear no flaunty PTA mom!

Myself, I haven't bought ice cream in years. After this morning, I believe I might.

Update Yes! I know! That's why it's funny.