Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Gave You A Long Look

On Tuesday night, I got an odd email from a person I didn't know. It said simply, "We'll be shelving tomorrow night at 7:30. Hope to see you there." Because I work in a library and have no intention of freelancing, I wrote back to ask who the writer was, shelving what and where - and I didn't use the word fucking even once. The Mystery Writer responded that the food pantry blocks from my house was looking for volunteers the following night. Then I stopped swearing with my inside voice. The times I've sorted stuff at the food pantry followed all hands on deck emergency calls, but this was not that. Though curious about ordinary activities at the food pantry, I was also concerned that stress on my hip would force me out before the work was completed.

Turns out I needn't have worried: three middle-aged women, another in her thirties and six teenage girls sorted donated items for half an hour at a high rate of speed, then tossed around cases of industrial-size canned goods, then composed bags the food pantry distributes to its clients once a month, I believe I heard. I'm not entirely sure, since I was running my tail off and tossing off one-liners. We cleaned up the room and left in place a satisfying arrangement and quantity of those special bags. I explained that emails to me must contain information such as who and what they're talking about and surprisingly no one punched me. Admittedly, the ache when I sat down concerned me, but the next morning, I told Lupe about how much fun volunteering was and Lupe intimated that after exams, she'd like to join in. The food pantry needs Wednesday night help every two weeks. It really is that easy.

In our backyard, lettuce seedlings in containers are just about ready to live outside the greenhouse. It's not really a greenhouse. It's a clear plastic tent, but it serves the purpose: as soon as the tender seedlings are ready to live outdoors, younger seedlings can be transplanted into containers. In the kitchen, we thought long and hard about it and decided that we should be eating organic, cage-free eggs, which cost about $1-$1.50 more per dozen than eggs where the chickens lived in grisly factory farm conditions. These eggs were so pretty Pete took their picture. It matters how animals are fed and treated, you know? Kind of a lot like it matters to people.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Everything I Have In My Hand

Waiting...waiting...trying to cut down...

On 1 May, Blogger's cutting me off. Poor Impulse Control, such as it is, will become a static museum of swearing, stylish footwear, bad behavior and do-goodery almost exactly six years after Paulie Gonzalez pushed me at the laptop and pointed the way. Sure, it's traumatic for me, but what fresh start isn't?

Siobhan's been working on the technical aspects of the move, which have proven ridiculous. Yesterday, I couldn't even be rational about a URL. If Siobhan doesn't toss me into a borrowed wood chipper - she wound never be stupid enough to leave a receipt trail - by next week, we should be on our way. Where? No idea, but - dagnabbit! - we're going.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

And Around Me Waist A Belt

Behold: tiny Drusy, nestled into a pale blue microfleece, patiently enduring the usual adoration. She is used to having us go all googly when she does something small, like rest her cheek against Pete's or curl up in my arms like an infant. It's not easy to be so beautiful, but Drusy never complains. Here, we have exhausted her with tuna treats, playing with the gray mousie finger puppet and our very attentions. Though she loves us, she would just like to gently close her eyes.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Just Keep Right On Dancing

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As Weapons Sharper Than Knives

A very strange little article turned up in the Huffington Post today. It's AP sourced, which is bad blog juju. Go ahead. Read the article. It's ten sentences in six teeny paragraphs.

Let's review. NYC is charging rent for space in homeless shelters. Advocates for the homeless say this is the craziest shit ever. NYC officials say giving poor people stuff sucks because they're - like - icky. This sounds awfully familiar because it is. Remember last May?
The Bloomberg administration has quietly begun charging rent to homeless families who live in publicly run shelters but have income from jobs.

The new policy is based on a 1997 state law that was not enforced until last week, when shelter operators across the city began requiring residents to pay a certain portion of their income. The amount varies based on factors that include family size and what shelter is being used, but should not exceed 50 percent of a family’s income, a state official said.


Vanessa Dacosta, who earns $8.40 an hour as a cashier at Sbarro, received a notice under her door several weeks ago informing her that she had to give $336 of her approximately $800 per month in wages to the Clinton Family Inn, a shelter in Hell’s Kitchen where she has lived since March.

“It’s not right,” said Ms. Dacosta, a single mother of a 2-year-old who said she spends nearly $100 a week on child care. “I pay my baby sitter, I buy diapers, and I’m trying to save money so I can get out of here. I don’t want to be in the shelter forever.”

“I think it’s hard to argue that families that can contribute to their shelter cost shouldn’t,” Robert V. Hess, the city’s commissioner of homeless services, said in a telephone interview Friday. “I don’t see this playing out in an adverse way. Our objective is not for families to remain in shelter. Our objective is to move families back into their own homes and into the community.”

I think it would be hard to argue that there's a bigger dick anywhere than Robert V. Hess, Commissioner of Homeless Services, who plainly has never missed an expensed meal in his life.

Fuck me, what about last July?
The new policy gives the city greater latitude to push families out of the shelter system, which had swelled to a near-high of 9,720 families as of Sunday. Families could always be evicted for illegal behavior like bringing in drugs or weapons, but they can now be ousted for any of 28 violations, including failing to sign in and out or not keeping an active case file with city welfare agencies.

The new policy is also meant to encourage families to more readily accept permanent housing, even if it is not to their liking.

“We would only expect to use this process in the most egregious of situations,” said Robert V. Hess, the commissioner for homeless services, in an interview on Monday. “We do have a small number of families where temporary emergency shelter is really being used as permanent housing.”

Evictions are for a 30-day period.

I've read those four paragraphs about ten times, and if those words make sense in that order I need a new native language. And watch this exhilarating turn of phrase:
Mr. Hess said it was not clear where families removed from shelter might turn. “The most likely outcome is that the family would demonstrate that they do have a place to go,” he said.

Or...they might be homeless and have nowhere but the sidewalk, which by this motherfucker's definition is a place to go. But it's only for 30 days, right?

The articles that repeatedly detonated my frontal lobe contained specifics: contact information, odious policies, affected people, statistics, some description of the projected outcomes, which distressed me. The AP write up in the Huffington Post is blessedly free of anything, really. It's almost as if the article avoids using words. Have another look. NYC is charging rent for space in homeless shelters. Advocates for the homeless say this is the craziest shit ever. NYC officials say giving poor people stuff sucks because they're - like - icky. This was moral horseshit a year ago; now it is merely manure. But why even mention it? Why did the AP publish this? Why did the HP make space for it now? Look for stories in the next few months in which NYC ups the heat on the homeless as the weather warms.

This is not hard to predict. It's almost as if it's happened before.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

After Night No Questions Asked

Panky perks up after a foiled escape attempt, already planning to blast his way out next time or as soon as he can pronounce that.

Pete and I cleaned and scoured and vacuumed and mopped and laundered for a week before Miss Sasha, Mr. Sasha and Panky arrived for a sleep over. The cats made themselves scarce. Five people, one of whom has not developed an inside voice, put up a racket. Every so often Sweetpea would slink down the stairs, catch a glimpse of Panky, say, "What the hell is THAT?" and flee. Miss Sasha left in the morning with Dad's tiny baking forms, one of Dad's working notebooks and one of Pete's authoritative pastry books. Mr. Sasha left with ideas for container gardening in North Dakota. Panky left needing a nap and better alibis.

They were at our house for a total of 17 hours and three days later I'm still falling asleep in my V8 Juice.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

You Say Rolls I Say Royce

This morning, Pete and I went out for a bike ride up and down hills, through a park, across a campus, over a bridge, back through a park. We probably rode about 11 miles, stopping twice for water. Generally, half an hour of exercise buys me two hours of minimal hip pain, so I felt pretty good when we got into the car to trace the path of our hometown food bank's fundraising bike ride. The ride has 60 mile, 40 mile, 25 mile and smaller segments; we've been thinking about riding a 10 mile segment, which we understand is part of the 25 mile segment and we had a map. We drove around on the 25 mile route and at about the halfway point, I knew my hip would not handle that distance well. Pete had his doubts as well. By the time we reached the finish line, I was glum and Pete was overly optimistic. We stopped at the bicycle store on the corner for a rear view mirror for my bike. It was a mistake.

The store itself is the size of my kitchen and every centimeter is covered with bike gear. For some reason I have not been able to put my finger on, this is Dude World. Seven customers are in the store, three of whom are women - and yet, you can almost smell the testosterone. No one says anything to me. No one says anything to Pete either until he gets face to face with the guy in charge and asks about mirrors. The other guy, who is shouting to someone else about how he didn't get his ride in this morning because he came here to build bikes, points to a crowded corner and waves dismissively. Pete waded in, picked out a mirror and the shouting guy explained to Pete how to install it on a bike. I was already steaming when Pete went around the counter and asked the owner about the race.

Dude: They get a few guys who hammer the 60 mile. For the guy who wins, it's a race, but from second place on, it's a ride. They've got a 40 mile and a 25 mile part.
Tata: There's a 10 mile part, too.
Dude: Yeah, they have a few kiddie races. You're thinking about riding that one?
Tata: I'm rehabbing a hip injury and that's not too ambitious.

He didn't apologize. He meant that slight. I brushed him off and we left, but my hip ached. Back at home, I limped to the couch and stayed there for a while. I drank a glass of wine and lay down for an uncomfortable nap; when I got up, I still didn't have much to say.

This douchebaggery is nothing new and certainly not unique to me. We all encounter people who size us up and declare us wanting. Usually, all I have to hear is Pfft! You? and I'm off to the races, but this guy got a piece of me because I was already doubtful. Last night, I declared I'd never set foot in that shop again, and I never will. This morning, I got up and got back on the bicycle with my rear view mirror properly installed. We are going to do that 10 mile bike ride.

My friends, the bitch is back.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Quiet Nights On the Back Porch

Panky visited my house, pushed over my washboard a couple of times and sat on the stairs in time out. At 27 months, he is already trying out impossible alibis. For instance, when we saw him knock down the baby gate, he blamed it on Sweetpea. Miss Sasha said, "I now understand why you could always tell when I was lying."

Too exhausted to declare myself crosseyed. I'll work up to it tomorrow.


Friday, April 09, 2010

To Come Is A Verb Intransitive

What, was yesterday April Fool's Day again?
I'm sure I'm not the only girl who enjoyed playing this imaginary game [dressing up like a bride - ed.]. Unfortunately no one ever warned me that reaching my childhood fantasy was much easier said than done.

Let's take this one slowly. In the Huffington Post, where one assumes grownups may be talking, this young woman complained that childhood fantasies didn't come with warning labels. Maybe we should sew them into pretty-pretty princess costumes: Warning. Actual magic wand, singing mice, happily ever after not included.
My cousins who gathered around me then are now happily married, most with children and still living in Iran. On the other hand I have become a "therapist" and shoulder to cry on for every girl I know who can't find Mr. Right or even land a date with Mr. Maybe. Some of these women are intelligent, beautiful and successful but spend half their time on dating website getting matched up with people with whom they have to force themselves to have "chemistry".

Translation: I hate my friends. They are my social inferiors, but since they are less attractive than I am, I feign interest in their problems.
Others are at clubs and bars competing with tons of girls who are dressed in provocative outfits (read: slutty) in order to attract men's attention.

Yes. We can all read slutty.
The last time I walked into a club with all my single girlfriends it occurred to me that I had just entered into a casting room and I was about to audition for some sort of sexy horror movie.

Well, duh. Who hasn't walked into a club with all her single girlfriends looking their flaming red-hottest only to find that guy with the chainsaw on the dance floor isn't going to take Piss off, doofus for an answer? Sweetie, that's a Saturday night in the Meat Packing District.
Not only was[sic] every girl's breast implants barely covered by their tops but their short skirts made me want to take off my skinny jeans because I seemed too conservative and felt the pressure to fit in.

Yes. Please take off your skinny jeans - for modesty!
At that moment I started to reminisce about the years I lived in Iran and how I witnessed so many of my relatives finding love in a level that is completely foreign to what we are familiar with in our society.

Amazing! I'm reminiscing about a time before I became acquainted with this wretched column.
A woman doesn't have to go hunt for a man or stress about the possibility of never getting married; instead she finds love and courtship in the most relaxed, respectful way possible.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but Pegah Patra can kiss my fabulous ass - not a little bit of it, but in fact my entire ass. See:
Could this be the fault of women who for years were fighting for feminism and wanting to be free and equal to men? Of course we believe in equal rights and a woman's independence but maybe the concept of feminism has also taken us to the extreme level of sexual freedom. By making sex so available and accessible for men it allows them to lose respect and not value courtship the way they did years ago in western cultures or as they still do in many parts of the world.

Listen, some folks think sex is something you let someone do to you - as opposed to something awesome you do with someone you like, love or just met in the hot, sweaty elevator on the way up here. Those people also think women in short skirts are asking to get raped. They don't like, trust or value women, certainly not women who have an afternoon free and think, What the hell, that person of my preferred gender smells great. I could have some sex. If you've never done that, by the way, it is awesome.

Feminism doesn't solve women's problems. It is the outlandish notion that women are people just like men, and may even want some of the same things men want. No one studies feminist theory to find a husband. It's not the fault of feminism either when women like Patra act as enforcers for the Patriarchy. Here she offers one more kick to the ribs.
To be clear, I love my independence, freedom and the power I have as a woman in this country which I am sure most other woman do as well, but we must admit that sometimes we all have the fantasy of old fashion respect along with the guarantee of one day having a house, husband and children. But it seems that the fantasy of courtships like the scene in The Godfather where Michael meets the virgin Appolonia in Sicily and conveys ultimate respect to her and her family is now passé.

Thank your lucky stars it is, sister, or you and your slutty girlfriends would have every reason to be nervous whenever a man picked up a rock.
Or to use another movie term, Gone With The Wind.

What? What?
And for many women, that is nothing to celebrate.

Actually, there is. If Patra's friends back home are happy, good for them. If Patra's happy living with her cognitive dissonance, good for her. If Patra's friends are unhappy, let us hope they find ways to make themselves happy. I'm happy, quoting Gilmore Girls:
Miss Patty: It's times like these that you realize what is truly important in your life. I'm so glad I had all that sex.

Except it's not really about sex, is it? The column in which Patra claims to know the secret to women's happiness comes off as sad; happiness is ultimately unavailable, she says. Women in America cannot have it as long as they're slutty-slut-sluts, but if they stopped all that sluttiness, regained their virginity and moved to Iran, men would be respectful. I suppose that's a plan, but it's about as likely to succeed as the one with the singing mice.

Crossposted at Brilliant @ Breakfast.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

We Can Dance If We Want To

Fucking Blogger, which has often sucked like a giant thing that sucks giantly, has decided to cut me off because this blog uses FTP. Here, enjoy this bedtime story:
FTP publishing will no longer be available after May 1, 2010
You currently have blogs that are published using FTP. You must migrate your blogs to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL.

Yay! The bum's rush it is! Clean cup! Clean cup! YAHTZEE!

I hate Typepad. Siobhan recommends Wordpress. If you're not using Blogger, what are you using? Do you like it?


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Thinking Anything If You're Thinking

Miss Sasha, Mr. Sasha and Panky will be staying overnight with us on Friday. We keep our house as clean as two people with multiple jobs can, which is to say that it's tidy with cat fur tumbleweeds. That's fine for us, but when we started thinking about what a two-year-old might pick up and sample for flavor, out came rubber gloves and the shop vac. Tonight, Pete boiled the bathroom. Tomorrow, he'll set up a bed, I'll clean the cat boxes, vacuum everything and we're going to shampoo a carpet. At home in North Dakota, Panky lives with cats and a 125 lb. dog, so the little guy's unlikely to nibble cat poop. I think. Anyway, it's been awhile since I lived with a toddler, but I remember that no matter how clean the house, the child will find something that formed its own disastrous ecosystem.

You'll be pleased to hear I made fresh yogurt. You know: to boost the immune system.

Monday, April 05, 2010

It Rains You're Here

Today, it was finally warm enough to leave the car at home and bicycle to work again. Last year, I rode around with a basket hooked to my handlebars, but everything I dragged back and forth made steering feel I was riding a two-wheel Titanic. Pete decided he hated his matching panniers, which are like skinny backpacks that snap onto a frame screwed onto the back tire hub, so he removed them from his bike and attached them to mine. It's a relief to not to hit the brakes and feel the weight shift. This morning, a cop on a corner asked if I was ready for long-distance biking. I looked down at the day-glo vest Pete insists I wear in the gray-blue morning light and said, "Well, no. My husband wants me to be eighth grade class president."


Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Road That They Walk On

About a week ago, seed potatoes from Seeds of Change arrived, so we were waiting for a sunny weekend day and today was one!

It was one of those breathtaking early spring mornings as we drove out to Lowe's for vermiculite and organic garden soil. A light muddy smell on the breeze along the river reminded us of the recent rains. The ground hasn't dried out yet and probably won't until later this week. It's warm enough now for the doors and windows at home to stand open, but as car speeds, the air still feels cold. Perhaps a couple of weeks ago, the doors to the garden center were chained shut, but today, they were thrown open and rows of flowering pink and purple geraniums lined the sidewalk. The hard winter is over. For a moment, I stood in the parking lot and let my heart sing. Then I got over myself and we got a cart. The cart proved too small for four bags of organic garden soil so we commandeered a giant hand truck, and not a moment too soon: those bigass bags were really heavy.

The square foot gardeners on the Yahoo list went on at length about how hard to get vermiculite can be, so I was both surprised to find only three bags on the shelf and looked both ways before I grabbed two. We are trying to eliminate the front lawn so we spent about half an hour looking over the perennials and small shrubs, but we we're not ready to buy.

At home, everything came together rapidly: Pete opened a bag of soil, shoveled in an almost equal amount of compost, tossed in about half a bag of vermiculite, mixed and suddenly we were ready to retrieve the seed potatoes from their cool, dry storage place. Pete shoveled about six inches of dirt into the first potato bag, I placed Yukon Gold seed potatoes at even distances from one another and Pete topped off the bag with another few inches. In the second, we planted blue potato seeds. We had so many leftover seeds we decided to plant more of each into the half-barrels, which are inches from falling apart. At the end of this process, we still had more seed potatoes than we knew what to do with. We will share them with my sisters most likely, but we will certainly share them with someone.

With all these potatoes going into the ground, you'll be pleased to hear the first thing that shot up a couple weeks back was the pot of chives. It was a great sight a few weeks back when the weather was so miserable everyone just wanted to kill themselves with demitasse spoons. About half of the seeds planted two weeks ago germinated; today, I got a few of them into containers we will leave in the little plastic greenhouse for another couple of weeks as I continue to take the tender little ones from the sprouting medium to the containers. We are concentrating on lettuces and herbs. Today, I transplanted four kinds of lettuce.

This afternoon, we also took a really fast seven-mile bike ride to test out our bikes and tomorrow, I start riding to work. It has seemed like it took forever to warm up enough for me to get out of the car and onto the bike, and I am thrilled the time has come. Ooh! What am I going to wear?

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

In A Whirl 'Cause She's Not

A bazillion years ago in blog years, our delightful friend Georg convinced me to make my own ricotta and on this very blog, I documented my cheesy experiments. I didn't really think it would work because Georg can do anything and I can't add and subtract, but I followed her instructions and - BLAMMO! cheese! I did have to think about the cost effectiveness of the process, though: one gallon of milk produces 4 cups of cheese, and milk, while wholesome, is fucking expensive.

Then again, sometimes you're minding your own business in the health food store, find quart bottles of goat milk and you think, By gum, I could eat a good pizza. Sometimes a small amount of cheese goes a long way, and standing there in the health food store, I decided I wanted to help it.

Georg's recipe must have been in the comments that disappeared ages ago because I couldn't find it. I resorted to searching for recipes on one of Dad's favorite websites and found one that was both enthusiastic and fully crazy. I thought, Yeah, bring it. First, I did not have a gallon of goat milk, so that meant I was going to do some math. This is not promising.

The recipe called for 1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. I could divide the teaspoon by four with the help of my handy measuring spoons, but I couldn't remember how many tablespoons went into 1/3 cup, which someone made me memorize in eighth grade. So I got out those measuring spoons, measured how many tablespoons of liquid filled my 1/3 measuring cup and did what I was bound to do from the beginning: I guessed. I heated the goat milk, poured in the vinegar, sprinkled in a tiny amount of salt and let that bitch sit for two hours while I did several things that are none of your beeswax. After two meow-meow hours, I spooned and then poured curds into wet coffee filters sitting in a strainer and let that bitch sit for another two hours before I squeezed out any remaining clear liquid and put the curds to bed in the fridge for the night. The one thing that must be said about this process is that, other than the math for me, this could not be easier for you to do.

The yield is about one earthy, grassy cup. Pete and I tasted tiny bits of it and were surprised by the subtlety and complexity of flavor. This is not a lot of food unless you're putting it on a pizza for two middle-aged people to eat after their second jobs, where a cup of goat milk ricotta is just right with one thinly sliced turkey meatball, spinach, a tiny bit of fresh marinara and a few shrimp on a thin, admittedly store-bought crust. Not to be frou-frou about this, but precise: fresh ricotta is easy to make, offers the assurance that little if any unwanted chemical crap is in your food, and tastes like real food.

I feel a batch of ravioli coming on...


Friday, April 02, 2010

The Highway Is Alive Tonight

This is a guest post by Barbara O'Brien of Mahablog.

Health Care Reform: The Morning After

Many politicians and pundits warned us that the health care reform (HCR) legislation that just became law will destroy America. Government bureaucrats will take over health care decisions, we were told. The old and infirm would be hauled away by death panels. Everything about the way we receive our medical care will change, and change drastically, they said.

Medicare recipients have been frightened by stories that their benefits will be cut. Middle-age people are worried they will lose their jobs when the law’s dreaded regulations, or taxes, or maybe regulations with taxes, would destroy their employers’ businesses.

The truth is, very little will change for most people. If you were insured by employee benefits before HCR, you will be insured by exactly the same policy in exactly the same way after HCR. You will have access to the same doctors on the same terms. “Government bureaucrats” will no more be involved in your health care than they were before.

And the same is true of Medicare, which of course is a government program, although many of the people who opposed the HCR bill don’t seem to know that.

Here are the “cataclysmic” changes to health care that are now in effect, or which will go into effect within the next six months for people who are already in group insurance plans:

• The law says you can’t lose your insurance coverage because you get sick. Before, in many states, if you were stricken with a severe illness such as mesothelioma cancer that would be expensive to treat, your insurer could use just about any excuse to cancel your coverage. That is over.

• HCR has ended lifetime limits on coverage. As long as you are receiving medical care, your insurer pays the bills.

• Your children can be covered on your existing policy until they are 26 years old.

• In six months, insurers cannot refuse to insure people under the age of 19 because of “pre-existing conditions.” This provision will go into effect for everyone in 2014.

And if you are on Medicare, you will be asked to struggle with the following:

• You get a free annual checkup.

• The co-pays and deductibles on many preventive care services are eliminated.

• If you are in the Medicare D “doughnut hole,” you will get a $250 rebate check in a few weeks. The hole itself will be closed gradually and will be gone by 2020.

But what about all those terrible regulations and taxes that are about to drive businesses out of business? Um, there really isn’t much to report. Oh, wait, here’s one — a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps will go into effect July 1. That’s about it.

However, beginning this year a tax credit will be available for some small businesses to help provide insurance coverage for employees.

Soon the politicians and pundits will start trying to frighten you about the provisions that will go into effect after this year. I assure you they are about as scary as the provisions that go into effect this year, but I will discuss them in a follow-up post.

— Barbara O’Brien