Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Austin Chronicles: Duck and Cover

I'm a drought baby.

That makes is sound like I was born during the dustbowl, but really it just means I was born in California. California is always in a drought - or, at least has been since I was born. I've never seen a full reservoir. I thought those stair-stepped lines of earth around all "lakes" in California were normal.

It wasn't until El Nino came that I saw an honest-to-goodness downpour. At twelve I sat in the back yard with my mom, sister and a few family friends as the moms tried to talk down the kids under ten who were sure it was the end of the world.

Only that wasn't really a downpour, at least not what people in the rest of the country would call a downpour. It was really just enough rain to actually use an umbrella, with some thunder and lightning to send the cats under the bed.

I didn't see a real thunderstorm until I spent a summer in Washington, DC. As I was sitting in my dorm room, laying on top of the air conditioner, wondering if I would ever stop sweating, the sky started to turn a funny shade of green. My parents had lived in Michigan for a bit until they couldn't handle not being able to barbecue all year long, so my mom had told me about when the sky turns green. It meant run to the basement. To the south....south-something corner.

But, I was in the third day of living on fourth floor of a dorm. I could barely find the bathroom, let alone the south-something corner of the basement. So I called my mom.
Mom: Hello.

Me (barely concealed panic): The sky is turning green.

Mom: Oh, well what are the clouds doing?

Me: I don't know, I'm in a building surrounded by buildings and the fullest, lushest trees I've ever seen, I can't see the sky!

Mom: Turn on the television. Is there a read ticker on the bottom of the screen?

Me: No.

Mom: Oh, okay.

Me: Oh my god. Its started its pouring...I can barely see outside the window!

Mom: Oh, yeah. That's weather.

Me: Oh, my god! Lightening just struck the tree!

Mom: Hang up the phone.

Me: Why?!?!

Mom: Because there's lightning. It can go through the phone.
This was during the Clinton administration, when we still had land lines, kids. And, yes, it's true.
Me: What?!?! Oh crap.
So I hung up the phone. And I watched the rain pour down. Then it dawned on me. This was the mid-Atlantic. Rain didn't mean cold, it was still warm outside. I ran next door and was officially given the title of The Crazy Californian.

I knocked on the door of the girls from North Carolina and Texas. And screamed: "Who wants to go jump in puddles!" And we did. Or I did, and the rest looked at me like I was, well, The Crazy Californian.

So, when I moved to Texas in August, I figured I knew what I was in for. I had spent a summer in DC so I knew about humidity and thunderstorms and hot nights and feeling like you'd been slathered in grease for three months.


That cute little clapboard house built in 1922 had survived 80 years of Texas weather, but the first night I spent alone in the house I wasn't so sure.

I was awoken by a horror movie thunderclap shaking the windows and lightning flashing through the curtains. I shot out out of bed and into the living room. I was sure the world was coming to an end. The living room had nine windows all of which were shaking as the thunder and lightening continued and the rain whipped branches against the house.

I turned on the television. And there it was. The red ticker.


We did not have a basement and I still didn't know what south-something corner to go to. And besides, all those windows weren't going to do much to help. So, I decided that the best plan of action would simply be to continue to watch the news until 3 am. The ticker was going, but the weather wasn't breaking through the one o'clock infomercials, so it couldn't be that bad, right? And if they did break through, they would tell me what to do, right?

At 2:57 the warning was cut off. I peeked out the front door to make sure Armageddon had not hit (it hadn't). And went to bed.

The next day I woke up to Grace the landlady knocking on the door. Evidently the storm had been mentionable enough to take a branch or two off the trees in the yard and she was overseeing the handyman.
Grace: Quite the storm!

Me: Oh my gosh! Yes! I thought I was just being a baby since I'm from California. There was a tornado warning and everything, I didn't know what to do!

Grace: Oh, honey. That is what the bathroom's for. We put that in when that one touched down downtown.

Me: - - -

Grace: Yeah, that's why its got no windows. You go in there and get in the tub with your mattress over your head. Those pipes should hold up.

Me: - - -
Grace patted me on the shoulder and went back to overseeing the handyman, as I stood there. That was why the shower had no windows? Because somehow I'd transplanted myself to tornado country?

I went back in the house and tried to figure out how I would be able to fit my mattress into the bathroom. Then I called my mom.

Mom: Yeah, the rest of the country has weather.

Me: I like earthquakes better.

Friday, May 22, 2009

No Change

In undergrad I took "math for English majors," AKA: Logic. In that class we learned about fallacies and poor logical reasoning. Sadly, I have a feeling that this speech will be used as an example of very bad logic in classrooms for years to come:

In other words, the Obama Administration will let people who have been held in Guantanamo for years without trial go, so long as you can prove that they were innocent in the first place. For others that you can find guilty, they will be transferred to other facilities that (hopefully) are within US judicial and geographical borders. But, for those people that you cannot prove are guilty, they will remain in "prolonged detention."

The Obama Administration will "not avoid a legitimate legal framework," because they will create their own legal framework. And that framework will be in the context of a "legal regime."

This is scary. It simultaneously dismantles habeas corpus and the most basic tenet of the United States judicial system that we were all taught, "innocent until proven guilty," which means the burden of proof is not on the defendant - something particularly important when that defendant has no access to legal counsel.

But for me, this is especially scary because, as Rachel Maddow says, it is a beautiful speech full of platitudes about democracy and held in a venue that not only represents democracy, but holds the documents upon which American democracy is founded.

But, beautiful elocution means nothing if the content of the speech is despicable.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Google, I promise to be nice if you will...

Dear Google,

What's the deal? I thought we were friends? I thought you could take a little constructive criticism, but I guess I was wrong.

I mean it wasn't very nice trying to get us lost, just because I said your directions from the east bay to the north bay didn't make much sense. It was especially mean to get us lost in a place so inhospitable to outsiders who dare to venture in.

I mean sure, the Bay Area can be a tricky place, what with having to go around hills, and streets veering into others only sometimes changing their names, but the directions you gave us missed one very major step.

You were very specific with where to get off the freeway. You not only told us to get off on Los Gatos Saratoga Road, but that it was also Highway 9, and exit 20A. Which we did.

Then you told us to continue on to Los Gatos Saratoga Road before turning left on Los Gatos Boulevard. So we did continue, we continued to the left because that was the only direction we could go. Now, that was a pretty hard left and usually when you say that it is more of a veer, but I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt, because sometimes when you say "continue" you really mean just follow the exit ramp. That's cool, really. I mean I can usually figure it out, what with streeet signs and all.

But, I wasn't in a city that likes street signs. I was in Los Gatos, a town that would probably prefer us city folk stay out. And they are pretty clear about that, too. Because we looked really hard for that left turn onto Los Gatos Boulevard, but this is a city that tries its damnedest to make sure those signs are illegible. My vision is better than 20/20 (yes, its true), but you should tell Los Gatos that because they have a giant boulevard they really should get street signs that are appropriately sized. Regular residential size street signs on the right hand side, covered by trees and printed in beige lettering on a milk chocolate background are pretty difficult to read.

But that wasn't our problem. See, even your fancy street view shows the problem.

View Larger Map

Oh, what is that? Its a median. A very sturdy and very long median off of an an exit that you call 20B. Hmmm, well that might be the problem. If there is an exit 20A it must be on the other side of the freeway, because this was the only Los Gatos Saratoga Road/Highway 9 exit. Its also on a street with no sign which is what made us "continue" on Los Gatos Saratoga Road, because really what other option did we have? But, we knew when we had passed your handy mileage marker and had still not seen our left hand turn that something was wrong. Besides, at this point we were in some enclave I'd never heard of and not in Los Gatos.

Being the enterprising young people that we are, we figured that maybe that left on Los Gatos Boulevard, was really supposed to be a left on Los Gatos Saratoga Road (which we couldn't have done because of that pesky median), so we made a U-turn - careful to avoid the H2's and lexuses in our path - and tried going in the opposite direction.

Only guess what? As we started looking for our next right (because we assumed we had now made that left) which, again, is pretty hard to do in that town, we came to a T in the road where we had to turn on none other than Los Gatos Boulevard.

So, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, by implying that you didn't really understand how to get from the east bay to the north bay, and that you were a poser because you live in Mountain View. I mean I can only guess that your forgotten U-turn was on purpose, since Los Gatos is only twenty minutes away from Mountain View - according to you at least.

No hurt feelings?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rules for Commuting: Keep Moving

Bay Area Rapid Transit system is not the most complicated system in the world. In fact, it is very easy to use and navigate simply because it isn't very good. It doesn't go very many places, nor is it a truly mass transit system (for that try the Paris or DC metro systems during rush hour). There are only four lines with very few stations. The platforms are wide and the trains are large, with seats far wider than necessary. So I don't quite understand why it is so hard for people to use.

Here is the deal, if it is 8:15 in the morning and you are carrying some sort of satchel and wearing hard soled shoes, you have probably done this before. That means that the process of inserting your ticket into the front of the gate and retrieving it from the top should be second nature. Insert ticket, step through gate, take ticket. No pausing involved.

Oh, you may be paranoid that the ticket did not actually go though. Yes, they were always a bit difficult. They can be demagnetized if you even think about putting them next to your credit card, and many gates run low on ink so you can't tell if that is the $3.30 you need to get to work, or a paltry 80 cents. And now that they have those new fancy tickets, if they have a hint of concaveness from being in your back pocket you can forget trying to use them.

But guess what? Those orange gates are there for reason. When they open it means your ticket has worked. Step through, retrieve ticket and keep moving. Because if you don't, then people like me who have attempted to take advantage of BART's endeavors at becoming closer to mass transit have to deal with the consequences of your incompetence.

Yes, if you insert your ticket and the gates open not once but twice, that means you have taken so long to go the entire two feet through the gate that you are now going through on my fare, because silly me I thought we were trying to get to work efficiently. And for the record, if for some strange reason I think you will maintain the speed you had in racing in front of me to go through the gate and I tap my card before the gates close, then that extra long opening is also thanks to my fare. So now I have to go try and get the attention of the BART attendant who may or may not make it easy for me to go through the non-fare gate, depending on how busy they are chatting with their colleagues, decorating their booth for the upcoming holiday, or explaining to people why it costs $4.50 to come in and out of the same station (yeah, I don't get that either).

So here is what I suggest: Get yourself one of these.

Then you won't have to pause and second guess the success of your transaction and I won't run into you when your paper ticket fails to go through and you look around bewildered like this is the first time that has ever happened in the history of commuting.

You will never have to add fare and you will save money - well, at least 3 bucks every few days, anyway. Like I said, they are trying. Oh sure, The Man can track where you get on and off, but I doubt they are really that concerned with your daily commute. And guess what? It removes one whole step from that very difficult process of insert, walk, retrieve. Now you just tap and walk.

Unless, of course, the person in front of you pauses.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Austin Chonicles: Vote for Carter

So, remember that story about ridding my house of cockroaches? While they are much more prevalent in hot places, they can certainly be encouraged to stay a while, which they were, by the previous tenants of the house I moved into.

I found the house I rented through my department's listserv. Our fabulously awesome graduate coordinator (AKA: the person without the PhD who gets everything done) sent an email that had originally gone to the journalism department. I didn't have to see much more than the image below to immediately reply.

That, dear reader, is a breakfast nook. An honest to goodness breakfast nook in a house built in the 1920's. I can't help but be a sucker for architectural details. My first apartment had all the luxuries of a San Francisco Victorian: bay window, claw foot tub and giant closet that is the result of at one point having a Murphy bed. Granted, it was the size of a postage stamp, but it exuded the architectural planning of a time when people thought about style and functionality, not just how to make drywall and vertical blinds as cheaply as possible.

But, back to the breakfast nook. I had just returned from a trip to visit my future campus when that email arrived, so I never actually got to see the nook or the rest of the house in person until I pulled up in front of it three weeks before classes started. It really was adorable. It may have been August in Texas, but the porch swing would make up for that, right? Sitting out on the porch with only the screen door closed on hot nights...well, I would learn how wrong that fantasy was later.

But, the breakfast nook. It was even better in person. The window looked out on our neighbor's overgrown shade garden (yeah, they have those in places like that) and the table moved so you could actually get in and out and clean under it easily. Oh, and the table was unvarnished soft wood that held the 80 years of household history.

The only problem was that it was inhabited by grad students. I had been concerned about the house being too close to undergrad partytown, but I hadn't thought about the torment grad students could inflict. I mean they are so busy. How do they have time to take care of a whole house? Oh, and if they came in straight from undergrad, they didn't really know how to clean a whole house, did they? But, I can't blame everything on being lazy or self-absorbed. It wasn't just that the house had been inhabited by grad students, it had been inhabited by grad students for ten years and never completely vacated. One would move out, one would move in. One would call it quits at their Master's, one would start thiers. One would decide to leave ABD, one would decide it was time to finally finish theirs.

If a rental property is never completely vacated, that means that it can never be completely cleaned. That means your landlord can never hire a maid service to come in and clean up after you and then charge you 80% of your security deposit. The problem was that even though all three inhabitants were moving out at the same time, and I and my new roommates - whom I had only spoken to over email - were moving in, the old inhabitants were a little hesitant to leave. "Oh, but, can't you just stay in the other roommate's room until my boyfriend can borrow his dad's truck next week and then you can move into the room you want?" Sure. Why not. I'll just be over here praying that UPS hasn't lost half of my clothing.

Thankfully, they did leave (with my DVD player remote) and my mom appeared two days later. Yes, I was an adult and had moved myself multiple times without her help, but she wanted to see where in this "god-forsaken state inhabited by fake Texans who were ruining the world" I would be living. Thank god for Mom.

My mom can make friends with anyone: the checker at the grocery store, the guys with area codes tattooed on their necks at the gym, and even my truly Texan 78 year old landlady, Grace.* She liked me alright. She didn't quite get why I was studying "that stuff," but she thought I was a bit sassy and was flattered that I loved the house her father-in-law built. But, oh, how she loved my mother. She thought it only made sense that my mom move to Texas so they could be friends. Luckily, this budding relationship meant that my mom convinced her that the house really did need to be cleaned even if we had already moved in. But, when you've outlived your husband and have a rental property in Texas the only appropriate solution is not to call a maid service, but to call your hairdresser. So the next day, Grace arrived with the hairdresser and a the hairdresser's friend and got to work.

However, I am my mother's child and we hate sitting on our butts while other people do work for us. It makes us uncomfortable. In this case, we not only wanted to help out, we had to. We walked into the kitchen at one point and there was 78 year old Grace pulling out the stove. I'm all for independence at an advanced age, but not if you are my landlady with children who are eager to sell off the property. Not that I'm saying she couldn't do it. You don't tell a Texan woman that. We just offered to help. And Grace, my mom, and I ended up doing quite a bit of work together that day since the hairdresser and her friend had to leave to go bail the friend's boyfriend out of jail. Welcome to Texas.

I will spare you the horrors that we found under the bathroom sink - things that only someone who had raised two children could deal with. Oh, and did I mention that one of the old inhabitants, who I did not have the privilege of meeting, thought it was a good idea to have a compost pile five feet from the backdoor in a place with four sizes of cockroaches? Book smarts do not always indicate street smarts.

But, we did eventually get the house clean, and rewarded ourselves with glass of iced sun tea - the first thing I bought upon my arrival was a container specifically for this purpose - and I spent a lovely first year there. So lovely, that I resigned the lease for a second year.

Since I have graduated high school, I have lived in five dorm rooms and five apartments. I've become really good at moving, and more importantly have learned the importance of the yearly clean-out. Why take crap that you haven't used in a year or even six months? You'll just have another box to haul. Everything comes out, gets edited and donated or sold, the original storage space is cleaned and then (in this case, since it was just a pretend moving clean) all remaining items are reorganized and put into place.

I was in the process of editing the bathroom, having tossed all expired allergy meds, and partially used gift cosmetics in the garbage, when I reached up into the back of a shelf above my head with a dust cloth. When a house has 3 inches of dust in the closets, crumbs from 10 years of all-nighters in the breakfast nook, and plants who have made claims in the siding of the house, you tend to over look a few things. One of those was the top shelf of the bathroom cabinet. As I started dusting, I heard a soft clinking in the corner. Since I didn't use that shelf what else could it be then the dessicated remains of a cockroach?

I pulled my desk chair into the bathroom and teetered on it only to find proof that not only had the cabinet not been cleaned in the last 10 years, it had not been cleaned in my lifetime.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Center of the Google Universe

Dear Google,

I know that you embody all that is technologically holy, and may or may not have created a monopoly of the internet (though the fact that I only have to log in once to check email, post photos and video, and write in my blog is very handy), but I have a complaint.

Google maps is pretty awesome. It's super cool to be able to figure out where I'm going, see what it looks like from space and from across the street. Sure, you're not always right - you're a street number or two off once in a while - and this really only works if you live in or around a major city that has one of those fancy picture-taking cars. And besides, if you really did have the whole world on there it would be pretty creepy. But, can you please stop making San Francisco the center of the world?

Sure, its nice that the city that I work in is always getting these neat gadgets first, and you often save me valuable keystrokes (17 to be exact) when I look up an address, but being so snobby is getting kind of annoying. Particularly when you insist that I drive through San Francisco when there is no logical reason to do so. Here's the thing. I don't live in San Francisco. I live across the bay in the city (yes, city) that most people are afraid to go to. Though you might know about it because most geeky folks think it is inhabited by At Ats. Sometimes, though, I like to visit other parts of the bay. Sometimes I even like to go to the land where your employees go to retire. But, the last two times I've looked for directions to get to the north bay from Oakland, you've insisted that I drive through San Francisco.

View Larger Map

Really? I mean, sure if I cross the Richmond bridge I have to avoid all the tourists and cyclists in latex on my way to the 101, but your way means I have to cross the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate. Round trip that is $10 in bridge toll alone. Never mind that I have to drive through San Francisco. All it takes is one Muni bus to loose their connector and I'm sitting on Van Ness. Oh and its San Francisco, it never takes the half hour you say it does. Sure, the 80 might be packed, but what else is new? There is traffic the other way and I only have to pay four bucks in tolls.

And why is it that it is only if I search generic directions between cities that you seem to think it is okay to skip San Francisco? Where is the consistency? Are you trying to make a liar out of me, Google? When I went to make my map for this letter, I just put in the cities (because you already know to much about me, by the way) and there I was going over the Richmond bridge. Is it that you only believe cities other than San Francisco are good in theory, but that if we actually live there we need to learn what we are missing out on?

Yes, I know you aren't the only ones. MapQuest (really, people still use it, I mean you haven't taken over all of the internet, you still have to have a Yahoo account for Flickr, after all) is guilty, too. But I thought you were smarter than that, Google. And besides, your frontin' you poser. Oh sure, San Francisco is awesome, but that's not where you are from. Your headquarters are in Mountain View. Yeah, I would be embarrassed, too.

Still friends,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I promise I'm not a meth head

I was carded today. I was carded and denied so my younger sister had to make the purchase.

Nope, I wasn't buying booze. I was trying to buy Claritin D.

It's always somewhat entertaining to have my drivers license recorded, sign multiple forms and then fork over thirty bucks for two weeks worth of pills that may or may not make my life bearable depending on what time of year it is, or if it's rained (or not), which way the winds from Asia are blowing, and if any of my friends have adopted dogs. But, not today. Nope, I hit my federal limit. Not of campaign contributions, but of pseudophedrines.

Here's the thing. I've needed an antihistamine with a decongestant pretty much every day of my life. Then I married someone who also learned the wonders of allergy meds. Now, I have one of those cafeteria plans (no, not for a dining hall card) but a "we take money out of your check before they tax it so you can pay for allergy meds, copays and band aids at a discount - so long as you remember to show us the receipts" card. So, that means that I buy Claritin for both of us.

According to the federal government, having a family problem with allergies isn't okay. Buying enough decongestants for two people means you probably live in a trailer that is about to blow up, cause you failed high school chemistry. Oh and did you know that the fight against meth was the same fight as the one against the terrorists? Yep, attached to the PATRIOT act. So, yes my husband can start buying our decongestants, but if you happen to have a teenager with allergy problems you're both screwed, cause minors can't buy an OTC decongenstant for themselves.

So, how about this? I promise not to make illegal substances. I only want to use a controlled substance to control my sinuses. Because achy face ain't the same as meth face:

I promise.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Austin Chronicles: Everything is Bigger in Texas

In San Francisco I lived behind a taqueria. Near many taquerias, an Italian restaurant and a handful of corner markets, all off an alley filled with the garbage, recycling and compost bins of all the aforementioned establishments in addition to multi-family dwellings, half of which were populated by twenty somethings with limited housekeeping skills and questionable hygiene. And I never saw a cockroach. Not once. Then I moved to Texas.

Texas doesn't just have cockroaches, it has four different sizes of cockroach:

There are the small ones.

There are medium sized ones that fly. Yes, they fly. And they like to aim for the head.

There are the large ones that you don't want to kill because it feels like you are squashing a small rodent.

Then, there are the extra large "tree roaches" that I did not have the pleasure of meeting until they hitched a ride with a roommate who moved in from Houston. These are the ones that are as long as a salad fork, and when you approach them with your good-for-you-and-the-planet bug spray, they flex their muscles and give you the finger.

I'm not afraid of cockroaches. I certainly won't run out of the room. You've got to keep an eye on these suckers before they disappear. Even the giant ones can squeeze under the baseboards, and then reappear in your sock drawer. Everyone from Texas told me that they are normal. It's a hot and humid place for most of the year, so they kind of come with the territory. Uh, uh. No way was I going to spend two years with roommates that ate my food and didn't pay rent. Besides, I'm a California girl. Cockroaches aren't normal. They are the harbingers of food poisoning. And, they are gross. Oh, and did you know they like to walk on the ceiling and then let go every so often? Hell, no.

Luckily my sister came to visit shortly after I moved in. She had gone to UCLA and lived off-campus. Few people know that four neighborhoods surround UCLA: Bell Air, Hollywood, Frat and Sorority Row, and the student ghetto. If you don't live on campus, or have parents that are willing to pay for an apartment next to the Starbucks that Drew Barrymore goes to, or tan yourself into oblivion in a sorority, you live in what once was a neighborhood of quaint California bungalows, and has since been soaked in decades of cheep beer. Which means that amidst all the underage drinking, you also have cockroaches.

My sister was also not willing to live among bugs that would survive the apocalypse, so she discovered the wonders of boric acid. Forget chemical laden sprays - good old fashioned boric acid. I mean, it even has a cowgirl on it - obviously meant for Texas, right?

So, we did what any good Texan does, we went to the Home Depot (that, dear reader is another story entirely). But, we weren't sure if the 20 mule team was enough for Texas roaches, so the two sisters from California who had been in Texas all of a few weeks asked an employee. I'm pretty sure they'd taken him off a ranch in Lubbock and slapped an orange vest on him that day:

"Does boric acid get rid of all kinds of cockroaches? Even the really big ones?"

"Nah, you need something stonger."

"Really, what?"


I swear to god, he shrugged his shoulders and spat out chew right there in the Home Depot. But, I kind of wanted my security deposit back, so we asked him to point us in the direction of the boric acid, instead.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Marriage of Economic Civil Rights

Using your "morals" as an excuse to refuse birth control, or emergency contraception, or any other prescription or medical procedure is inexcusable. This is not the 1400's: "Oh, I'm sorry, I can't save (or better) your life because the Almighty God wills it so." Uh, uh. We have moved through the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, so lets move on and do our jobs.

But, in the argument over Prop 8 that quickly went to the economics of weddings, I tended to think that if a florist or caterer didn't want the business of non-hetero couples, so be it. It's your economic, social and (yes) moral loss. I mean we boycott businesses for political reasons all the time, this seemed to be in that vein.

In my own search for vendors, I actively sought out if not outwardly feminist folks, people who did not swallow the WIC Kool Aid.* I wasn't interested in being around people, and more importantly, giving them my money, if all they were going to do was talk about my big daaaaaaaaayyyy and freak out when then realized I wasn't wearing a veil.

But, then I read this blog by Kevin Drum. And he brought up an very good point:
After all, do same-sex couples really want to hire photographers and caterers who make it clear they loathe them? Probably not. But then, you might have asked the same thing 50 years ago: do Southern blacks really want to eat at lunch counters where they obviously aren't welcome? As it turned out, yes.
It turns out, this really isn't about a simple case of wedding vendors, after all.
But once they start covering bog ordinary commercial establishments that don't have even a tenuous connection to a church and want to discriminate merely because they don't like gays — well, that's a line that gets pretty hard to draw pretty fast. What's worse, in some places it's a line that would essentially take over entire towns. If a caterer can refuse to sell me a wedding cake just because I'm gay — despite state law that would normally outlaw such discrimination — can a landlord refuse to rent me and my newly married partner an apartment despite fair housing laws saying he has to?
So this really isn't about just hiring vendors. It is about rights, no matter how you slice it, because we cannot separate economics from civil rights. We can certainly separate marriage from religion. Have a super religious wedding if you want, not everyone needs to take communion, or jump over a broom, but everyone should have the opportunity to file a simple piece of paper with their county clerk and enjoy the municipal, state and federal rights that it provides. Thank goodness it looks like we are on our way.

*No, not the social program for mothers and children...the Wedding Industrial Complex. Trust me, this is not an exaggeration.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hooked on Phonics Worked for Me

The other day I made up a new word. I was instant messaging a friend who was regaling me with a tale of the characters who inhabit the Oakland Public Library.

The only appropriate response was to this particular tale was an typed exclamatory groan.

But, I was distracted by the depths of the internet and what started as a nice, clean reply became a far more worthy response:


Yep. But, guess what? There truly is nothing new under the sun. Though, this isn't exactly what I was thinking:

1. Geezus
He's da man. We often invok [sic.] him when something is intense.
Geezus!Right there, what a gorgeous chick.

Gawd damnit.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Austin Chonicles: I'm Here to Learn

I confess. I'm a nerd. I love school.

I don't just love learning--which I also love to do. I love going to school. I love having syllabi, and assignments, and deadlines, and thesis statements. I love buying a new multi-subject notebook and making sure I have pens and pencils (please, highlighters are so gauche) for the first day of class. More than anything, I love reading books and articles and discussing them in a group around a table in a room that was decorated in the mid-1970's, probably with fake wood laminate and harvest gold industrial carpet. I really rather despise the grey and blue shiny new multimedia rooms, leave that for non-humanities folks. Yes, it's true. I'm a liberal arts addict.

So, it only made sense that I go to graduate school. Ah, but to study what? Why, Women's and Gender Studies!

And at what venerable institution? The University of Texas...of course?

Yes, Women's and Gender Studies.

In Texas.

In the George W. Bush years...

Okay, okay, it was in Austin. But, let me tell you, it was still Texas.

As many, many people have pointed out, a graduate degree (especially in the humanities, and particularly in Women's Studies) won't land you a job. But, then we were doing this for the pure love of it, right? So, no. I am not employed as the person that hands out the shining new syllabus, but I don't regret my two years knee deep in books last checked out in 1982 and pdf's of the New York Times archives. Because, did I mention this was in Texas?

Sure, I could have studied in the liberal bastion of San Francisco or Boston, but there were enough of me in the Bay Area, and I couldn't bring myself to live in the snow. Besides, this was the belly of the beast! I could learn so much! Have such engaging, heated conversations! And I did. But, not quite in the way I had planned.

So, let me introduce you to "The Austin Chronicles." Snippets of my time in Texas.

...duh, you have to wait.

Teach Your Children

I'm a big fan of the DIY crafting movement that has become mainstreamed recently, just in time for this nice recession of ours (more on that later). It has so many good things about it: it values creativity, it's anti-corporate, there is a nice strain of eco-friendliness to it, and it injects new value into many skills that were previously relegated to the feminine domestic sphere.

But then we get things like "Crafting for Boys."

Okay, I get it. In some crafting circles it's hard to find projects for men, and many attempts to fill that niche have been incredibly disappointing (really, Debbie? A stripper scarf?). But, sweater patterns for adult men, which often require different sizing and shape, are far different than projects for children. Until you hit puberty, a sweater is pretty much a sweater. It just takes a color change and some embellishment to gender it up.

But, when it comes to play, why do we continue to count tents and capes for dress up as something only in the boy realm? Even the author admits that many of these projects are for girls, too. And she even talks about using some of them as a child herself. So, obviously this early indoctrination of gender isn't a given, though some people would like us to think that it is.

So, okay, you have sons and we want to make sure all our kids feel special, but is reinforcing gender roles really how to make them feel that way? And besides, its a pretty short and slippery slope until we get to this nonsense.


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