Monday, August 31, 2009

All Move And Try He Knew

Our Hero, with the thatcherizing contraption, photographed from the bathroom window. I did not at all hang out the window and shout, "Do that spot again, honey!"

Tata: Obviously, we can spend our vast fortune -
Pete: Hahahahahahahahaha!
Tata: - on one meal and it'll be fantastic, but can you conjure up really great dinners for two for less than $10? Can you do it every night?
Pete: I can....Yes. I can.
Tata: I double dog dare you!

Recipes will follow. Twenty-some years ago, I rented a room here in town from a crazy woman desperate to save her home from foreclosure after a very bad divorce from a violent man. Yeah, I slept with a baseball bat anyhow because I'd had an invigorating breakup with a man who kept a butcher knife in the trunk of his car, so it was nothing new. What was new was her mania for meal planning. "My best meal cost $.39 per serving," she said, with a gleam in her eye. "It was great!" I can't tell you how I wanted to go out and buy her bags of marshmallows, but I did learn that if you keep your head, you can eat a balanced diet. It's on everyone's mind, maybe yours, too. With every meal, you can know that you're kicking the asses of industrial agriculture, our corporate overloads and your bank, besides. It's like you need theme music!

What are you eating?


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another Face Where Mine Had Been

Let me make this c r y s t a l clear:

Poor Impulse Control is my blog. You are entitled to fuck up your own but I won't tolerate that here. I will delete any comment that annoys me. Amuse me and the other readers or get out.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

You Live the Faster You Will

As the machine released, the tech wrapped her arms around me and urged, "Don't faint! Don't faint!" I said, "I'm not a fainting kind of girl. I'm a whining and complaining kind of girl." She laughed but guided me to a chair. I stopped there. She urged me forward and sat me down. "Don't faint!" she repeated. I did not faint. I hate mammograms.

My insurance company used to send postcards reminding me to schedule a mammogram. I would've been happier to receive Blue Cross's gloating pictures of a drunken Cancun adventure, but no. Shitty test. Next, I had to get a prescription for the test from the gynecologist, which by the by involved also holding still for a pap smear, and then making an appointment with the radiology people. Last time I went, the receptionist was angry I didn't have an authorization number from the insurance company. I said, "Why would I need authorization when I'm getting pushy bulk mail insisting I show up and parade around topless in a clinical setting?" Then I spent half an hour on the office phone, getting that number before taking an eight-picture test that turned into ten, then twelve. I should've fainted that time. Instead, I started leaning on the gynecologist to write prescriptions for MRIs instead. Rumor has had it for a long time that MRIs are the future of breast cancer detection, and when the cost comes down, women will have painless tests. The gynecologist wouldn't do it. He said my insurance company wouldn't allow it. So I showed him: I didn't make another appointment for three years. I bet he's red-faced!

Some of the women in my office line up their medical tests over the summer because then parking is easier in a college town. This year, I gritted my teeth, followed their example and got a prescription for the mammogram. I called the insurance company for the authorization number.

Tata: I need an authorization number.
Rep: No ya don't.
Tata: I do! Last time, I had to call you from the office, where they were very perturbed.
Rep: That was a couple of years ago, right?
Tata: Uh. Yeah.
Rep: You changed insurance companies!
Tata: I didn't. You changed your name and pretended to be someone else. You didn't even change your phone number or try talking with a funny voice.
Rep: And you don't need an authorization number.
Tata: I'll give it a try, but I think perturbed receptionists are in both our futures.

Nevertheless, I made an appointment and went yesterday. Have you been to the doctor lately? They have a new demand: photo ID. I'd forgotten my prescription because weeks had passed, so I felt a twinge of guilt when this happened:

Receptionist: I need to scan your driver's license.
Tata: You what? What would you need that for?
R: We need to verify your address.
Tata: To repeat, why would you need to do that?
R: Well, we don't have to do that.
Tata: And you're not going to, because I am who I say I am, and live where your records say I do. Which you just asked me and I confirmed.

I didn't say anything else, because last year the State of New Jersey was prepared to take away my license if Motor Vehicle Services, the IRS and Homeland Security couldn't agree on what my name was, so I had no doubt that my medical records now have to match my passport. Then the receptionist called my doctor's office across the street, where the doctor mysteriously wanted to look at my old report before faxing a replacement scrip. I waited half an hour and the scrip still hadn't come, probably because my doctor is one of the few I've seen who actually listens to his patients. Then the tech took me anyway, because the scrip was bound to come sometime. I'm sure it did, but I was probably already at home, snacking nervously. I can't wait until next year.

Images courtesy of I Can Has Cheezburger?


Friday, August 28, 2009

And Throw Them In the Lake

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall.

As the Republicans openly advocate for armed insurrection and the assassination of the president, I wonder why the lack of response to Hurricane Katrina doesn't disqualify them from leadership positions of any kind, and from discussion of the general welfare.

That degree of selfishness ought to be a black mark on a person ever after. There can be no redemption - not after corpses floated in the streets, not after the dying begged for help and none came. We talk about the message discipline of the noise machine, but we - by which I mean anyone and everyone else - can do it too.

Thug: is socialism scaaaaaaary -
You: Dude, Hurricane Katrina.
Thug: ...national security bugaboo -
You: Sorry, Hurricane Katrina.
Thug: certificate Black president -
You: Wanker, you lost me at Hurricane Katrina.
Thug: ...forgetting 9/11 -
You: You forgot Hurricane Katrina. So forget you.

This is how you deal with failure and fools.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bats Have Left the Bell Tower

Working in an academic library, I see some exciting shit, like the current issue of Tax Notes.
Executive Compensation Under TARP:
Big Paydays Are Back!

Gimme strength! On a related theme, if nobody else has said this, let me be the first: I do not care one whit about health insurance reform, but I care a great deal about health care reform. Insurance companies are parasites. Insurance companies should be dismantled and their executives publicly shamed.

If necessary, we should be able to pay doctors with chickens again. Kids: ask your grandparents.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Games Played Once Too Often

Recently, Pete joined a credit union and closed his account at Bank of America. It started out as a sensible if exotic maneuver to outrun galloping bank fees but quickly became a floodlit escape. The bank assessed fee after fee until finally Pete got the account closed in the nick of time. Ever since, I've been preaching the gospel of credit unions. Feel free to sing along! Let's start with an uplifting chorus. What is a credit union?
Credit unions are financial institutions formed by an organized group of people with a common bond. Members of credit unions pool their assets to provide loans and other financial services to each other.

Credit unions differ from other banks in several ways:

Credit Unions
Not-for-profit cooperatives
Owned by members
Operated by mostly volunteer boards

Other Financial Institutions
Owned by outside stockholders
Owned by outside stockholders
Controlled by paid boards

These factors allow credit unions to pay dividends to their members (not shareholders) and offer them lower loan rates, higher savings rates and fewer service fees.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions. They also insure savings in federal and most state-chartered credit unions across the country through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), a federal fund backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Sort of makes you want to get all common-bondy with someone, eh? Thing is you might already be. I didn't know this, but here in New Jersey, there are literally hundreds of credit unions. The unnamed university has a credit union for faculty and staff, but not everyone knows there's another for students and alumni, and if you're an immediate family member of faculty or staff, you can join too. The one I belong to used to serve as the rusty vault into which I stuffed money. It was hard to get to and with limited hours, even small, regular deposits added up - mostly for Miss Sasha's tuition, but I've stopped having nightmares about writing those checks and the credit union's services are online now. Anyway, credit unions have branched out into home and car loans, CDs and other thingies. The credit union gave me a loan for my braces. Straight teeth, yay! I paid it back in record time and improved my credit rating, also yay! Bonus: a credit union can also connect its members to better insurance policies.

The big banks, generally, are too big. Many are insolvent and many more are unstable. There's no incentive for them to do anything but exploit their customers to the bitter end. You may not have to suck on that. What if you could move your finances to an institution that wasn't trying to fuck you over?

Give it a whirl.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chance Is Giving Up the Fight

We have a new toy.

Mulcher and helpful friend.

Our house stands under very tall trees on a tree-lined avenue, all of which is lovely and keeps us cool in all but the highest temperatures but makes autumn a stone bitch. Pete estimates that each year he fills about thirty-five of those giant leaf bags that the tiny town then hauls off. The amount of fossil fuel we're burning up for no good reason is appalling and our yard is too small for an annual composting job of this size. Thus, we are going to try out chopping up approximately thirty-five bags of leaves, turning them under the pulverized shale that passes for soil here and mulching on top to protect roots in winter. Our new toy is in for a workout; the dump truck: not so much.

Drusy says, "Talk to the paw."

I've been thinking a lot about the pros and cons. I'd prefer to mulch - yes, we're using that as a verb now - without using electricity. Georg suggested some time ago that we use the lawn mower, but our yard is so small Pete mows with the old fashioned kind of mower without an engine. That pretty much swoooshes! the leaves around the yard but chops up next to nothing. Online reviews of the new toy are all or nothing, love or hate. Everybody within twenty feet should wear bomb squad suits or It's a frigging miracle! I'm for giving it a try. I mean, today I was picking tomatoes, spit out something wet and my upper lip swelled alarmingly for no reason I understood. Life is short. And next spring we could have better soil.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I've Got Mine She Got Latin Roots

The other day, I was packing up to ride home when I realized the holes next to my back pockets had gone from glamorously threadbare to thrillingly gaping. Fortunately, the temperature was in the nineties and I didn't have a jacket, so I pedaled two miles with an exciting rear view, and now I have a pair of jeans I can't wear without plaid body makeup. According to, anyone with an exposed flank could strip down and step up.
The COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive is a call-to-action to donate denim and give it “new life” by converting it to UltraTouch™ Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation. The insulation is then provided to communities in need to assist with building efforts. UltraTouch™ is composed of 85% recycled cotton fibers and is an environmentally safe, non-itch insulation without carcinogenic warnings, formaldehyde or chemical irritants. It provides exceptional thermal performance and acoustically provides 30% better sound absorption than traditional fiberglass insulation. In addition, it is one of the only insulating products that contains an active mold/mildew inhibitor.


Currently, 75,000 sq. ft. of insulation is being manufactured from the 2008 collections. Habitat for Humanity affiliates will be receiving insulation in the spring of 2009. Cotton Incorporated its and partners will participate in installing the insulation in approximately 75 houses as a means of providing much needed housing for areas of the country affected by natural disasters. Since the start of the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive in 2006, the program has received a total of 89,799 pieces of denim and provided over 185,000 sq. ft. of UltraTouch™ Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation to help build 180 homes at Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the Gulf Coast Region.

Got scouts? Got sophomores with a community service requirement? Got ennui? Consider holding a denim drive! Contact these able do-gooders and talk it over.

An addendum: on Sunday, I found myself sulking in the Sears Levi's section. Buying clothes is a horror show, especially when a person now needs a decoder ring, a friend to read the tag on her butt and a compass to find the right fit, and the Sears employee putting hangers in order points to a rack of sweatpants. It is impossible to feel badass in misses stretch jeans.


My I Me

Blogger and my host site both hate me today. If I weren't having a great hair day I'd worry my popularity might suffer.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

That River Twisting Through A Dusty

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:
I will say one thing about journalists collectively: we will never, ever change people's minds about the media except by practicing good journalism. So arguing - and even apologizing - is kind of useless and counterproductive.

I still think that some journalists were right to be skeptical of the doubters at the time. I think that some journalists were correct to question how they arrived at the beliefs they arrived at.

I believe I can be of assistance here.

Speaking for myself, it was simple to conclude that the Bush junta was lying about something.

First, I listened. I listened to the words and how they were strung together. I listened to who was talking and what was being said. I listened to a lot of spokespersons saying the same things over and over, knowing that people who try to persuade are doing something completely different than people describing facts. Salesmen and sociopaths persuade.

Second, I thought over what I'd heard. This is a crucial step in the process of forming an opinion, often overlooked. I mulled over not just what was said but what wasn't. I considered what it would mean if what I heard were true, and what it would mean if it weren't. I pondered what would be the possible actions, probable outcomes and who might benefit from them. I thought over what I was intended to conclude and why anyone would want me to conclude that. I even wondered why someone seemed so desperate for me to agree and fall in line. That, to me, is usually a tip off that someone's getting his or her prevarication on.

Then, because I had the luxury of distance, time and no pressure, I did some further mullin', ponderin' and considerin'. It further helped that after 9/11, I didn't piss my pants, develop a pathological fear of olive skin or take a paycheck from a conservative source, so I was free to surmise without ideological interference or goosebumps. I listeneded and I thinked. Then I decided the Bush people were lying.

Funny: during that entire presidency, this process never failed me.

Cross-posted at Brilliant @ Breakfast.


Friday, August 21, 2009

At the Top Of the Stairs As

Lovely Topaz

Black Cat Resting In Shadow.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Instead You Moved Away

Lovely Drusy, she of the glistening fur and loving disposition, yawns on a sunny afternoon, then naps. Thunk!

When I walk through the office with my helmet, bicycle seat and basket, co-workers who haven't seen this ask, "Ta, did you just mug an undergrad?" While that would be amusing, I haven't. Mostly. Today, the head of a different department on a cigarette break asked if I bicycle to work for necessity or fun. He meant did I get a DUI or plump up unpleasantly - or did I actually like it? I laughed. I actually like it. He asked a lot of questions. He seemed genuinely interested in the idea of bicycling to work. Not for himself, though: he lives ten miles from the library and has lungs like an octogenarian. Just generally interested. He also said the thing everyone says when they see me on a bicycle.

Dude: You have excellent posture.

In point of fact, I do. I also have abundant cleavage so if I did not have excellent posture every time I rode off a curb I'd risk a black eye. It's polite of him to notice. Anyway, the more I thought about his questions as I rode away, the more I had to say about bicycling. You should at least pretend to be surprised.

In my two mile ride, there are five pretty dangerous spots, two of which will someday be covered with cut flowers and homemade crosses when some cyclist gets the tartare treatment. Pete and I last night worked out a detour I tried out this morning around another intersection so badly designed young lawyers should set up lawn chairs and tap their watches. These intersections are bad if you're on foot, annoying in a car and positively life-threatening on a bike. People of all sorts walk across the bridge, but cyclists are usually students and Hispanic men; the people who aren't finishing the bridge construction aggravating the arthritis of perambulating Jews give even less of a good goddamn about poor people on Schwinns skidding up a hill on gravel in oncoming traffic. Frankly, Siobhan's got my lawyer in her five and if she doesn't hear from me by 7:30 a.m., they plan for happy hour in the ICU.

The local gendarmerie is rumored to be very hostile toward bicyclists riding the sidewalks. I was specifically warned to steer clear, as tickets and frisking are a possibility. Last night - I don't know if you heard - we had a badass electrical storm and this morning, debris lay everywhere. I rode down a small side street and found my path blocked by a huge fallen tree, upended sidewalk and jagged branches everywhere. Fortunately, I know the paths and malls; I wasn't even late for work. It was even kind of exciting.

Despite all this, I really love bicycling to work. When I started walking to work in 2006, I also went whole months between visits to the gas station. I felt better being outdoors and getting some exercise before and after work, and spending the time alone improved the time I had to spend with - you know - people. Bicycling is even better. I recommend it completely, especially if you hate your office or have high blood pressure. I do not recommend bicycling if your wife has just taken out an unusually large life insurance policy. Because you know.

I have a thousand other things to say that'll wait but I absolutely can't wait to tell you this. Pete and I were driving to the Cape and I was taking pictures of my giant, thrashing hair. Just before the Bourne Bridge, I saw something I didn't understand through the trees. I said to my brain, "Brain, you are full of crazy." My brain was having none of it. "I am about to have a last laugh you will long remember," said my brain. "Har har," I laughed. Me? Remember? Then without my noticing, my hands picked up the camera again, turned it on and pointed it to that thing I was seeing and refusing to see through the trees.

At the dining room table at the Cape, I asked if anyone else had seen the giraffe. Everyone dropped a fork. What giraffe? The giraffe at the foot of Bourne Bridge. Where? On what side? On the other side. Where? At the foot of the bridge. I thought I was hallucinating it but then I took a picture. You have a picture of the giraffe? Yeah, I have a picture, maybe two. When I took the picture the sun was in the wrong place so I couldn't tell if I was getting it. Point. Click. Point. Click. See?

I turned around the laptop at the dinner table and they saw. And the people who cross the bridge all the time saw the giraffe they'd never seen before.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elvis Needs Boats

Tata: Frigging Connecticut!
Daria: On 95, are you?
Tata: Freaking Connecticut!
Daria: On the way home, I saw an eight-mile backup to get onto the Cape. I've never seen that before.
Tata: Fecking Connecticut! New Haven oughta be carpet-bombed. And don't get me started on the roads around Bridgeport.
Daria: Even New Yorkers are like, "These people are crazy." How do you like the stopping for no reason whatsoever?
Tata: Not as much as I hated stopping at a McDonald's just inside the Connecticut border. I knew something was up when I saw someone had washed the floor with the wrong greasy mop and the floor was still wet. So I made the mistake of walking into the ladies room, where people in stalls were talking and stopped when I walked in. And the two open stalls? The toilets were full. I tapped the handles: disconnected. I walked right out into the restaurant, determined not to touch anything while I waited for Pete. The floor was still wet. You know what that means?
Daria: I could puke!
Tata: When I told Pete my story, we drove across the road to Stuckey's, where the bathroom was only moderately gross. We got fake strombolis at the one and only Sbarro that doesn't smell like burnt tomato sauce and sat down at a reasonably clean table. I have eaten about half of my lunch when this guy in a Stuckey's uniform walks over to the garbage can behind Pete and sticks his arm into the can to smash down the garbage. Then he straightens up the used trays. I stopped chewing. The guy walks around behind me and does the same thing where Pete can see it. I said, "Did you see that?" He said, "I really did." I said, "And now, we are leaving."
Daria: A district manager would loooooove to see that.
Tata: I know, but what can you do when a whole town doesn't know shit about basic hygiene?
Daria: Todd was just telling me about taking his kids to Chuck E. Cheese, which is the Land of All Things Contagious. I mean, what do you do? How do you scrub up after that?
Tata: You slather your kids in head-to-toe Purell? Yeah, so we're never stopping there again.
Daria: Exit 93? I've never been there.
Tata: Howcum you just know that?
Daria: You know, people who are not you actually remember things.
Tata: Okay, so the gross isn't just in Connecticut. On the way out of town, we stopped for bagels. Pete went around the corner to gas up the car and I went into the bagel shop. So I'm standing behind this young couple that just started sleeping together.
Daria: What? In the shop?
Tata: No, at his house. I get his newsletter. Doofus! Anyway, they order a bagel each and a cup of coffee each. The kid behind the counter seems to only exhale, and he's wearing one glove.
Daria: One?
Tata: Yup, only one. I watch him slice two bagels in geologic time, spackle them lightly with cream cheese and eventually pour one cup of coffee. They correct him. He pours another. He handles their money and finally looks at me. Meanwhile, three people wandered into the bagel shop and are now standing behind me. One walks out.
Daria: Really? It was that long?
Tata: Absolutely. The kid's obviously someone's nephew. I'm almost sorry to ask him to slice three bagels, put cream cheese on all of them, and on one, slice tomato and lox, but I do. The woman behind me starts to deflate. He cuts everything crooked, he's stingy with the cream cheese. It's a disaster. He disappears into the kitchen and in line, we just look at each other. He comes back with a few scraps of lox. Finally, he slices a tomato with what might as well have been a spoon. By now, Pete's waited so long he's walking into the shop to threaten the kid, because Pete's seen this dance number a few times already and he doesn't care for the ending.
Daria: Oh Lord, here it comes! What'd Pete do?
Tata: Nothing, because just then the kid asked for money and handled it with both hands.
Daria: NO!
Tata: Yes.
Daria: What did you do?
Tata: I turned to the woman behind me and said, "If I were you, I'd ask for a new glove."


Monday, August 17, 2009

You Would Like To Fly

Life Magazine, August 1944.

I travel like a hot house flower so I took today off from work. It's been hot and sultry and sunny and cloudy and dry and humid, and after 2, I became One with the couch. This evening, rowing was like an out of body experience. Even the cats lay on the attic floor with their paws up, groaning, "Mama, you move too much."

It's possible I hallucinated that.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. We're expecting the arrival of a heat wave. I've laid out clothes for cycling. I shall miss the couch.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The One In Rhode Island

Should you traverse the countryside on Route 95 and pass through Providence for the first time, you will career like a roller coaster car up and down and swerving here and there at breakneck speed and surrounded by other vehicles failing to observe safety cushion rules and racing nearly door to door with you and yes, that is a motherfucking blue cockaroach the size of a freight train.

If you slow down for a look, you'll be goo on a windshield.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hello, It's Me

I fought the frizz and the frizz won.

Pete and I drove to Cape Cod to see Grandpa. My passenger sunburn is sucking up tinctures and goos. After two hours on the road, I got bored with singing the Supersuckers' greatest hits at the tops of my lungs so I took pictures of my hair flickering and flying in every direction. Some say they can see the fuuuuuture in my hair, as in a crystal ball or a pack of naked lady playing cards, but my hair is merely a reflection of your subconscious, telling you only what you already know: merciful dog, it is humid.

Your alias says you're Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

The Atlantic Ocean has certainly missed me. It was just lying there when Pete and I walked to it, but it perked right up. Oh, the fragrance of the evening mist, the cool of the sand, the wafting aroma of fresh dog poop! The Atlantic stood up and said, Hey darlin' , how you doin'? I was civil, because you always want to stay friends. But hey, we had a thing, the Atlantic Ocean and I, and of course Pete knows. I keep few secrets, and how could I keep from him my thing with the A. O.? And it's not as if I look like I did then.

I managed to stay dry.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

No One, No How Or We Bust

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Reform Madness - White Minority
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

The other day, I had to explain to an adult why we wash the bottoms of plates. I am so happy when smart people are talking.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Your Head Down To Your Toes

I'm feeling a little INSECURE:
ABC announced last week that production of All My Children would be moving from New York City to Los Angeles. If you thought you were surprised by the news, imagine how the cast and crew felt. There was no warning about the move and, according to Thorsten Kaye (Zach Slater), the cast has been given one week to decide if they plan to make the move to the West Coast.

One week to decide your whole life? That's insane! It takes more than a week to plan a vacation to the opposite side of the country, let alone picking up one's life. I'd have to imagine that there would be some sort of assurance that All My Children will be on the air for at least a few more years in order to get these stars to move. I'd be livid if I left my home in New York, moved to Los Angeles, and was told a few months later that AMC was being canceled.

What if the majority of the cast decides not to relocate? Will they cancel All My Children outright or try to do some sort of spinoff the way that Loving morphed into The City? Perhaps they'll take the few stars that agree to move and have their characters move from Pine Valley to Los Angeles, thereby creating a brand new soap.

There's talk that some of the veteran stars are planning a sit-in, so to speak, to prevent the show from moving. Can you imagine All My Children without David Canary (Adam/Stuart Chandler), Michael E. Knight (Tad Martin), and Susan Lucci (Erica Kane)? I know I can't.

Last week on Regis and Kelly, Susan Lucci looked dazed as she talked about the decision to uproot AMC. You'd expect to see Susan as the show's biggest cheerleader, talking about what an exciting opportunity and new challenge it will be to make the transcontinental move. But, no. That wasn't her reaction. In fact, Lucci seemed to go out of her way to avoid saying that she would follow the show out West. In fairness, Lucci did applaud the move as a sign of ABC's commitment to All My Children.

There's no assurance that any of the show's recurring players will continue on with the show either. Presumably many of the child actors will remain in New York, which either means there are a lot of recasts or "rapid agings" in our future.

So let's TiVo it back a bit. Why has ABC made such a drastic decision? Quite simply, the cost of producing All My Children (and all soaps) is going up and up and the revenue coming in is, well, it's not going in the same direction. When you can't make ends meet, there aren't that many options.

All My Children is going to get a new studio that is roughly twice the size of the one it uses now. On top of that, the new studio will allow ABC to broadcast All My Children in high-definition. If you can believe it, all of these changes will actually allow the show to save money. Don't worry - I'm over here with an abacus trying to figure out it, too. With more space, All My Children can construct permanent sets that do not have to be dismantled on a regular basis. In New York, if a set isn't needed on a given day, it has to be taken apart so that a scene that is needed can be put up in its place. This explains why some scenes seem to be overused: the show needs to reuse scenes whenever possible in order to cut the costs of assembling and disassembling the sets.

My instinctive reaction to news of Disney's at-gunpoint order that the actors relocate to Los Angeles was a bit of blind panic, so I didn't even notice the bonus union busting. That's so awesome. If I hadn't been keeping an eye on this decidedly East Coast soap for more than twenty years and didn't love the characters I'd have to join a picket line or something. But hey, my favorite characters may not survive the move, so I may get five extra hours every week to plot revenge. Or get a life.

"Say, Ta," you may ask, "How on earth can you care about something this trivial?" My pet, you ask the most delightful questions! I could just pinch you. The answer is pretty simple: I'm fussing over my soap opera because its current predicament is symptomatic of American society's larger problem:
Feel like you’re working a lot harder these days, putting in longer hours for the same pay — or even less? The latest round of government data on worker productivity indicates that you probably are.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the American work force produced, at an annual rate, 6.4 percent more of the goods they made and services they provided in the second quarter of this year compared to a year ago. At the same time, “unit labor costs” — the amount employers paid for all that extra work — fell by 5.8 percent. The jump in productivity was higher than expected; the cut in labor costs more than double expectations.

That is, despite the deep job cuts of the past year, workers who remain on the payroll are filling in and making up the work that had been done by their departed colleagues. In some cases, that extra work came with a smaller paycheck.

The higher worker output and lower labor costs have been good news for companies struggling through the worst recession since World War II. So far, some 70 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have turned in better-than-expected profits for the latest quarter.

But wage cuts and lost paychecks could seriously jeopardize the recovery of a U.S. economy that still relies on consumer spending for two-thirds of its power.

“You have a very severely harmed, injured consumer in terms of income slow down, job uncertainly, job loss, wealth loss, inadequate savings, high debt levels,” said Laura Tyson, an Obama advisor who headed the Council of Economic Advisors in the Clinton administration. “The consumer, I don’t see powering us out of this recession.”

After every story I read like this, commenter after commenter strikes another blow for corporatist oppression with the words, "Those jagoffs should be glad they have jobs." No. That is exactly, precisely wrong, and what it does is seek to bring misery company. If someone's unemployed, underpaid or overworked, then everyone else should be too, so that theory goes. And that's just wrong. Okay, it's not just wrong, it's fucking wrong, and it's the reason we need strong unions and elegant divas.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Starlight Under This Red Moon

Tata: I'm not thinking the funny thoughts. Sometimes when I re-read PIC, phrase after phrase makes me howl, but not lately. Why am I not funny?
Siobhan: That thing where rocks aren't tasty unless they are is funny, but blasting phyllo dough with fake butter spray is very funny.
Tata: See? So I'm not writing well.
Siobhan: I tell you you're funny and you tell me you're not funny?
Tata: You're right. I'm fucking hilarious. What was I thinking?

It's a sultry Tuesday night, a storm is taking its sweet old time rolling in and the cats are virtually two-dimensional. In the backyard, an adorable skunk spent the last forty-five minutes finishing the leftovers at our daily stray pussycat buffet. The tenant and his son, who come out in spots when the temp beats 65, complained about heat in the kitchen, then baked brownies. The son is supposed to be terribly allergic to cats, which doesn't stop him from scooping up Sweetpea for a scritch under her chin. It's August, and finishing a sentence is a little too much like work.

Miss Sasha: Hi, Mommy! What color should I polish my nails? I'm asking because you're all those miles away.
Tata: Mmm...purple.
Miss Sasha: Purple it is! I love you! Bye!
Tata: I love you! Bye!

If I feel ambitious later, I might try staring off into space.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Not Your Picture That's Nothing

I've been keeping a terrible secret I've chosen this moment to tell. Minstrel Boy is on a train traveling east to Netroots, so he may be blissfully out of touch. Dad's dead and no longer scoffing at my crazy culinary habits. My sisters are all at the beach and Mr. DBK, foodie that he is, may be busy monitoring either health care townhalls or discussing duck en croute with his cat Cora. So it's possible nobody's listening, and I'm going to spill this secret. I am! Ready? I've found a way to make baking with phyllo dough so unbelievably easy that if you have two functioning hands you can do it even if you can't cook. I mean that. In fact, I don't know why I haven't heard this terrible secret spilled on the Food Network by one of their stars that can't cook. This weekend, I wrapped up leftovers in phyllo layered properly and quickly, and lost only two sheets to stickiness. How?


I'm so ashamed - or I would be if lunch hadn't been so delicious.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Lie Is On the Lips

Tonight in the dehydrator we have fingerling potatoes and white eggplant. Tomorrow morning, I'll package up the eggplant and potatoes and start tomatoes and zucchini. In the afternoon, we'll jar peach barbecue sauce and applesauce. WE hate winter so much we're planting delicious time capsules of summer on our pantry shelves. This week, I'm going to try drying the herbs growing in our garden. We have a sage bush that resists all wildlife-based efforts to kill it, and it survived last winter, so I think it's decided to stay. I've decided about half of its leaves would be tasty in soups and stews, along with mint, basil, tarragon, oregano and chives.

Our garden has suffered with the torrential rains and dry spells. Many of our tomatoes started to ripen and rot at the same time, which has been disappointing. Our peppers simply aren't fruiting, and the squash blossoms fall, orange and vibrant, right off their stems. The Japanese eggplant show more promise but it's too early to tell if raccoons will find them. On the bright side: a friend of Siobhan's recently taught us a simple technique for better breads: the sponge method. The night before you want to bake bread, mix all the yeast, all the water, and one cup of the flour or flours your recipe uses and set aside, covered, in a warm place. Twenty-four hours later, assemble the rest of your ingredients as your recipe describes. You may want to add a little extra water but not much. Then bake as normal. This solved my texture problems and I haven't baked a rock-like loaf since I tried it, and believe me, that is an improvement. Rocks aren't necessarily delicious. I mean, unless they are.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Ride Along To Another Shore

Are you stepping on my cape?

Tata: As you may have surmised, the weekly excursions to the farmers market are not just a shopping trip. I am scheming!
Lupe: Ok, I'm going to have to puzzle over this one. . . UNLESS! Unless, you'd like to give me a little hint? Is it to add peace and harmony to the office environment?
Tata: It is! Our supertaster Cindy tastes fruit, Mathilde shops without fear of overspending, Beth eats something calorie-rich, Annette discovers agriculture doesn't necessarily blow, Tina tries out veggies she's never cooked before, Evan gets to see his friend Martin, Tabby gets to see greener living in action, Chuan eats actual vegetables and you get some sunlight. Everyone gets a little exercise and fresh air, and we all do something together without any strife. The farmers are happy. Also: I get to see Pete and the little red wagon and have fresh vegetables It's totally win-win. I am scheming! By next year, I shall have you all composting! MWAH HAH HAH! Did I reveal too much of my plot? Should I leave details until Act 2?

I heard her laugh from across the room.

Lupe: Hopefully you heard me laugh from across the room. . . you are totally on the money. I think it's great - I noticed that Mathilde was more talkative than I have ever seen her, and frankly, Cindy has really cut herself off from everyone recently, so I was more than pleasantly surprised to see her going! Everyday the kids and I sit at the dinner table and say what was the favorite or best part of our day. Today - hands down - was the trip to
the market!

Sure, Cindy had never been to a farmers market before, thought we were going to a muddy pick-your-own exravaganza and wore sandals anyway, and Beth doesn't actually go to the market if she has errands to run so we bring her back loaves of pepperoni bread, and Tabby fights me about eco-anything. So I'm holding off talking about sustainable food philosophy for another month, when I will call them locavores and everyone will run for the dictionary. Just think of the cardio benefits! Anyway, despite the vocabulary quiz, I have a lot to learn, and via Monkeyfister I'm getting a high-impact brain workout. Sharon Astyk offers a series of principles designed to change the way we live in radical and radically familiar ways.
1. Plant something - I doubt this one needs a lot of explanation. Obviously, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are doing a lot of this right now, but it should be a reminder that gardening isn’t “put in the garden on memorial day and that’s it” - most of us can grow over a longer season than we do, and even if you live in an apartment, you can sprout seeds. So keep on planting!

2. Harvest something - some people are full swing here, but even if you just picked the first dandelion from your yard, it counts if you ate it or saved it. Don’t forget to include food you forage - whether from wild marginal areas, or even just from the neighbor’s trees that he never harvests (ask, obviously).

3. Preserve something - this starts around now for me, as asparagus, nettles and rhubarb are up. Canning looks like a big scary project if you have to can a truckload of green beans on a hot day in July. Dehydrating seems overwhelming if you have to pick the pits out of 4 bushels of plums in a single afternoon when you’d rather be doing something else. And yes, sometimes everything comes ripe at once, some big jobs can’t be avoided, and you just put on the loud rock and roll and go at it. But a little at a time is possible, you can be canning corn relish while you are washing up from dinner, or stick the strawberries in the sun to dry on your way out the door.

4. Reduce waste - This category covers both the old “Reduce Waste” and “Manage Reserves” group. Once you’ve got food, whether purchased or home preserved, you have to keep an eye on it. In this category goes making sure you use what you buy or grow, cutting down on garbage production by minimizing packaging and purchasing, composting, reducing community waste by composting or feeding scraps to your animals, and taking care of your food storage - everything from keeping records and writing dates on jars to checking the apples and making sauce when they start getting soft. BTW, reduce waste also refers to money and energy - stretching out your trips to the store and not “spending” gas on your food, cutting your grocery budget and reducing cooking energy.

5. Preparation and Storage - This is the category where you report the stuff you’ve done to get ready that isn’t growing/storing/preserving food. That means the food you buy for storage, the things you build, scavenge, rescue and repair that get you further down the path. Did you get a good deal at goodwill? Scavenge some cinder blocks for your raised bed building project? Find a grain mill on Craigslist? Buy some more rice and put it away? Inventory the medicine cabinet? Pick up a new book that will be helpful? Tell us!

6. Build Community Food Systems - Great, we’re all doing this stuff at home. But what did you do to help spread the message, because that may even be more important. Did you talk about your victory garden at your kid’s school? Offer to share space with a neighbor in your sunny yard? Bring a casserole over to the family that lost their job or moved in? Donate to your food pantry? Teach the neighbor kids to make yogurt? Offer to teach a canning class? Show someone else where the nettles are growing wild? Talk about your food storage or gardening plans? Share a plant division or seeds?

7. Eat the Food - Sometimes I think people have more trouble actually eating their garden produce or CSA shares than they do growing or buying them. Ultimately, eaters have more power over our agricultural future than they know - farmers can’t necessarily lead the way - they have to sell what eaters want. So cooking and eating are the way we will change the food system. This is where you tell us about the new recipes you tried, or the old ones you adapted to new ingredients, about how you are actually eating what you store and store what you eat, or getting your kids to try the kale.

The more I thought about this the more I knew I didn't know enough to support myself this way. And there's more. The Park Your Car Report is a good sweat all on its own.

Pete and I and several of our friend turned last winter to the unnamed university's agricultural extension for gardening classes. The first was canceled when the instructor accidentally woke up in New Orleans, which is not at all commuting distance from New Brunswick. The container gardening class was useless in that what we learned was we couldn't compose decorative containers without the deep knowledge brought to bear by the instructor. In September, I've signed up for a cold frame gardening class, which probably should have been held in March. I'm at the end of my rope with those folks, and it's a long way down.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Two Steps On the Water

Is one born a glamorpuss or does one have being a glamorpuss thrust upon her? Who can say? Certainly, I cannot. For all my homemade, handmade, DIY desires, I love exotic and beautiful design. Dad brought back Marimekko treasures from his trips to Europe in the early seventies, and each seemed like it had come from another planet. Lacquered metal cocoa cups seemed outrageous in colors no one was using in America at the time, investing in them some magic that permits me to remember them decades later.

For crying out loud. They were cups.

Perhaps that's why the object holding my hair in a giant, messy knot right now is essentially a resin chopstick bejeweled with rhinestones, which is only a little bit at war with the earthy ensemble I bicycled to work in.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

She Was Before the Years Flew By

My grandparents Edith and Andy in their restaurant the Towne Spa, South River, NJ.

The roadwork on Routes 18 and 27 was supposed to wrap up in April, then July, and now I have no idea. Despite the grave danger to my delicate person, I've been bicycling to and from the library this week. Cars career around corners and trucks rumble ominously, but I am brave, with my helmet and little bell. Out of my way, pedestrians! Plainly, I am important enough to wear sunglasses to hide my identity or prevent sunglare from causing me to pedal into a bus. Either way, I am so interesting! What could my interesting story be? Why is that grandma riding that bicycle at this stupid hour?

Dad in front of the restaurant, possibly modeling resentment; if not, trying resentment on for size. And jodhpurs.

Recently, we had a visiting Californian house guest, who was horrified by the excesses of New Jerseyians. For one thing, when you live in a desert it's hard to adjust to monsoon season just off the Turnpike. It's rained for about two months. Backyard butternut squashes died of root rot. Our guest was positively aghast when I accepted a plastic bag at the grocery store so I could clean the cat box, which was when I pictured cleaning the cat box with a kitchen spider and an open window. As your carbon nag, I truly enjoyed being lectured about quirky Al Gore, especially after our third glass of wine, when it's probable I will learn very little. My brain felt like it was full of soda and fuck all that noise was on the tip of my tongue, but I didn't say it. Instead, I found another pillow, poured another round and reminded myself that I can always live greener.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

When You Build Your House I'll Come By

Just after 3 this morning, a party next door spilled out the front door and into the yard. After some protracted I love you, mans and You're my besht friends, Pete grumbled, padded down the stairs and outside, where he said, "Guys, guys, you can't do this. Go the hell home." So we inadvertently contributed to the number of drunk drivers on the road before sunup, because almost as soon as those people left and Pete climbed back into bed another wave of grad students up past their bedtimes stumbled off the porch. This went on for about an hour before the house was empty or everyone assumed crash positions, and we fell asleep. When the alarm went off, we groaned and complained, because not only were we tired but we were also pissed we literally could not get those kids off our lawn.

I may need a muumuu.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Our Love Will Have No End

My horoscope advises against attracting attention to myself, so let's have a musical interlude.