Thursday, January 31, 2008

Massive book love!

I am head-over-heels in love with this book:

It's not just that the title cleverly combines two iconic works (the Little House series and Diet for a Small Planet). This book is blowing my mind just a little bit. I thought it would be, you know, floor plans, space-saving ideas, things like that. No. It is a manifesto. 'Build a glove, not a warehouse.' 'Pay Off your Debts.' 'Quit Jonesing.' 'Give Up Your Loneliness.' 'Reclaim the Commons.' The books is so dense with stories and information that I'm on my third day of reading. Three days for one book! I even took it to work to read on my break. Little House goes far, far beyond the concept of 'small house', to embrace sailboats and Airstream trailers, shared living, communities, communes and commons. I am inspired to sketch and doodle floorplans again for the first time in a long while. Would anyone like to start a commune with me? Location still to be determined.

And also: this one.
Pride and Prejudice has been one of my favorites for maybe 12 years or so; I've re-read it at least a dozen times, as well as the rest of Jane Austen's works. So obviously, I know all about it; that's what I assumed until I found this annotated version. I flipped it open thinking that it wouldn't be very useful for an experienced reader; I learned three new things in as many pages. Whoever this man is that wrote the notes, I hope he does the same for Emma and Sense and Sensibility, right away. He explains social conventions of the day; these details that would tell the contemporary reader what's happening, but that the modern reader has no context for. For example: the higher the class, the later they ate. So when Elizabeth finishes breakfast at her own home and later walks to Netherfield to find the occupants still eating, it's a subtle sign of the class distincion between them. Likewise, as 'dinner' grew later and later in the evening, 'supper' faded away to a mere snack in fashionable society; Mrs. Philip's hot suppers show her social inferiority. Vingt-Un, Commerce, loo, Whist, lottery tickets, cassino, and quadrille were ALL card games. (Man, these people played a lot of cards.) But the preference of a paticular card game by any character would give a clue to their personality: Lydia's preference for lottery tickets, Anne de Bourgh's for cassino, Lady Catherine's for whist: each subtly describes the character that would play it. I had no idea. Who knew that 'morning' at that time meant the time until 4 or 5p.m.? Jane Bennet's 'waiting all morning' for someone to call upon her, or Mr Bennet and Mr Bingley spending all morning sporting does not mean what I thought it did; it means what we would consider all day-- from breakfast until dinner.

The notes also discuss the current literary ideas and works that influenced Austin; novels that she borrowed from, concepts that she scorned and poked fun at. Extracts from her personal correspondence demonstrate her personal thoughts about those other books and even about her own. I dare anyone to read this and claim to know it all already.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Save Me.

People that say 'anyhoo'. (sorry, Mom.)

that will write the street part of the address on a deposit slip, but leave blank the city/state/ zip line . Lazy, and ineffective too.

that write blog entries with excessive blog-styled language, like this: because? cookies? are yummy!, or because? I? totally dig Whitesnake. so that their otherwise intelligent writing suddenly takes a turn towards 1980's Valley-girlism.

that complain so much about everything and anything that it becomes a constant background noise. Everything sucks all the time, don't you know.

that are constantly surprised by the weather. Yes, it's cold outside; it is January. Mid-winter. It will most likely stay cold fairly consistently for the next two months. Related: People that combine the two to constantly complain about the cold. Wear thicker socks or move to Arizona already.

that highlight their dark-brown hair with incredibly obvious, very thin stripe-y blond and red streaks and then suggest that I need to do the same. Um, no thank you. Do what you like with your head, but leave me to rock my all-natural look. What's wrong with being a natural brunette, anyway? When did that become something to hide with red and yellow stripes?

that have to call their parents while opening a bank account. Or, that have to bring their parents with them to open the account.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

But I Wanted Bacon, Too

I've read before about keeping dream journals. You know, every time you wake up and can remember your dream, you jot it down in a notebook before you forget it; later you can sift back through it looking for patterns, significances, etc. I don't think it would work very well for me, because my dreams are just too... strange.

This morning, right before waking up, I dreamt about this... restaurant. It was either here in Virginia or downtown Burlington, because it was right in the middle of the main street (the towns are set up alike, each with a brick-paved pedestrian mall). By "middle of the street" I mean actually smack in the center, like an island, sticking out like a subway entrance. I had to walk in on one side, someone hands me my food, and I keep walking until I'm out the door on the other. The only thing they serve is fried eggs on toast. (this walk-in-get-eggs-walk-out actually happened a couple of times, as is wont to in my dreams-- it's as if my subconscious thinks I need a few walk-throughs to really get it, so whatever I dream tends to loop in spirals, with the same thing happening at multiple points. The people in the restaurant-- all strangers to me-- were so very insistent on me getting my fried eggs and toast.

The whole thing was quite intense, so that when I woke up, I thought, "Man, that was an intense dream-- about fried eggs."

As I don't keep a dream journal, I did the next best thing and woke Don up to describe it to him, which is probably why it's still so vivid.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Does it represent something? What? Was I hungry? I didn't wake up hungry. Why eggs? Why were they fried? Why in the middle of the street? I think it was probably Vermont because I had the distinct impression that I was entering the restaurant from the north, and exiting south. Here the main street runs east-west.

This is also, incidentally, one of the reasons that I don't use mind-altering drugs... I'm kind of afraid of what's in there.


Listen. You make DEPOSITS into checking accounts and savings accounts. PAYMENTS, to credit cards and loans. You DO NOT SAY any of the following:

"I wanna put some money on my debit card."

"I'm making a payment to my debit card."

Because your pretty, photo-enhanced, Visa-branded bank card is actually, what, a re-loadable Starbucks gift card or something? I don't think so. You make a deposit (again!) into your CHECKING ACCOUNT and use your debit card, or checks, to take that money back out. The debit card is just a tool, a way of connecting you to your checking account. And it's not a credit card that you make payments to; you cannot spend the money ahead of time and then make a deposit-- at least not without racking up heinous overdraft fees or even bouncing your checks.
"Can I make a deposit into my credit card?"

No, because that is WRONG. That balance on your credit card is money that the bank has lent you (at great profit to ourselves, I might add, you fool) so that you can have the dubious pleasure of frittering money away on concert tickets and beer before you actually have those funds to spend. What you are trying to do now is PAY THE BANK BACK for your purchases, ergo, making a payment.

The fact that I hear these things so often connects, I think, to the rampant over drafting of checking accounts that goes on around here. People seem to think that their debit cards are like either credit cards (that they can spend the money before it's deposited) or like gift cards (that the card just empties out and when there's none left, they don't work.)

"Is my checking account number what's on the front of my check card?"

No, it's not. Your checking account number is a 12-digit number that remains the same from the time you open the account until the time you close it. Your check card is a 16-digit Visa or MasterCard number that changes for many reasons-- when the card expires and is reissued, when you lose a card and have to have it replaced, you compromised the card number somehow. It's not necessary to memorize your account numbers, but having a basic knowledge that those numbers exist is helpful.

"I wrote somebody a check two months ago and they didn't cash it until yesterday! Now I have overdrafts. This is clearly a bank error, so I demand that those fees be refunded."

Listen, you. Checks are good for a long time. Six months, generally, for personal checks. The bank is not in error for processing the check a mere sixty days later. The only person in the whole wide world that knows that you wrote that check is you. If you don't mentally subtract that amount from your balance (or, heaven forbid, keep a check register with a running tally of everything you've spent) and keep it subtracted until the check clears, that's nobodies fault but your own.

Thank you, I feel better now.

(Kids these days, sheesh.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It's Not a Robbery

Dude. Yes, it's really cold outside, with some precipitation-- freezing rain turning to snow. I know you want to dress properly for the weather, but for the love of Pete, take that full-face-covering ski mask off BEFORE rushing into the bank and up to the teller window; otherwise you'll give us all heart attacks.

Then when you take the mask off, ask for a deposit slip, and comment on the weather, we feel somewhat foolish, what with the trip-hammering heart, sweaty palms, and all.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Birthday Present

And work closed early, too.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Re-thinking the Warning Label

I know I've been bitching about labels lately. But maybe there are some things that should be labeled but aren't. Like books. Books should have warnings on them, perhaps, the way that movies, video games, and CDs do, so that if they contain anything graphic or disturbing the reader has fair warning.

For example. I picked up this book, A Tale of Two Sisters, at the on-campus bookstore*. It looked like basic chic-lit: funny, not too deep, a good way to pass a lunch break or two. This is the blurb from the back cover:

"Cassie is slender, clever, charismatic, successful. The one flaw in her perfect life may be her marriage. Her sister Lizbet is plumper, plainer, dreamier. An aspiring journalist, she's stuck writing embarrassing articles on sex for Ladz Mag. Her one
achievement is her relationship with Tim, who thinks she's amusing and smart. Despite Cassie being the favored child, she and Lizbet have always been best friends. But then Lizbet gets pregnant.

Forced apart by mistakes not their own, enticed by new loves, and confronted by challenges they never asked for, Cassie and Lizbet struggle to rediscover the simple goodness of their sisterhood, even as their lives take them on a collision course of heartache and new beginnings. "

Now doesn't that sound nice and harmless? British! Sisters! Pregnancy! All good fun. Until (spoiler alert here) this:

"'With love, Dad', said the note, in handwriting that wasn't his. I touched my fingers to the dark velvet petals and breathed in their heavy scent. It was fitting that he sent me red roses--the color of sex and death, the color of the blood that gushed from me when I miscarried my baby girl three days earlier."

It sort of hits you in the solar plexus to read something like that, if you've seen that blood yourself, if you've read just far enough along to be invested in the characters. This character was past 16 weeks along--four months-- that's just not supposed to happen, in life or in fiction. The book should contain warning label: Contains late miscarriage and grief, not suitable for the emotionally vulnerable, the recently miscarried, or the squishy-hearted.

* And I really, really need to stop buying random books there on my lunch breaks or time away from work. I have a Barnes & Noble card-- at least 10% off any book! Usually more! I have a library card. I have a bookshelf full of impulsively-bought chick lit and mysteries that I will never read again and need to be rid of.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sports fans?

How do sports-people decide what teams they support? It's kind of a mystery to me. Obviously, if you went to a certain high school or university, then you'd be a fan of that team. Or if you grew up in a particular city; Pittsburgh people root for the Steelers naturally, and around here most people support the Red Skins because they're the nearest pro-football team. And I guess if one of your parents attended a certain school (or grew up in a different city) then maybe that loyalty could be passed down through the generations. And maybe, if a lot of your friends support a team-- maybe that is transferable? But beyond that, I'm just lost.

So to recap: I could be a Cowboys fan, as I grew up in their home city and could conceivably have developed a fondness for them. I could be a Detroit Tigers fan as well, as my dad grew up loving them and could have passed that on by exposure, or a fan of U of M . I could be a UVM Catamounts fan, as I graduated from that University.

But are people just allowed to adopt whatever teams they want? How does that work? Like, "hey! I think I'll be a Seahawks fan today!" Don't you need some kind of personal link-- geography, family, something? When we lived in Texas, most of the football fans I knew were Cowboys fans. This makes sense to be, because that's where we were. If you went to a live game, that's who you'd see. But here in Virginia, there are surprising number of Cowboys fans as well. These folks have for the most part never been to Texas, or seen the Cowboys play except when they come to town. And there are way more Yankees and Red Sox fans than can possibly have come from New York or Boston. So where does this affiliation come from? What makes them choose that particular team, especially in lieu of the default team closest to them? Similarly, a girl I knew in Texas was a massive UT fan, but she had no relationship to the school at all. I mean she wasn't a UT grad, never went to school there, didn't have a family connection as far as I could make out, didn't grow up going to their games. But she wears the (supremely ugly, sorry) UT burnt orange tee shirts, carries the key chain, applied for the UT-branded credit card. It just seems so posture-y to me. Poseur-ish.

Seriously, is that even allowed?

It amuses me...

that typing "crumple-horned snorcaks" into the Google search engine will yield eight hits and the suggestion, "did you mean crumple-horned snorkacks?". And by clicking that yes, that is indeed what I meant, I am rewarded with about 9,100 hits. I love this world.

In related news, it's still very quiet at work.

Now it will be 9,101.

Friday, January 04, 2008

This year is almost over-- thank goodness.

Some years, not much happens. The cycle of time starts and ends more or less in the same place: same location, same relationships, same job, same outlook. It's not a bad thing at all, because those things shouldn't change every year; it would be dizzying, chaotic. Looking back, the years 2004-2006 were nothing-happening years; we moved back to Texas in the beginning of 2004, got an apartment, got jobs, and stayed in one place (in every sense) for two and a half years. We got engaged, yes, made new friends, got a fish tank, but it was a steady, calm period.

Some years, it feels like everything changes. For me, this past year was one of those. I don't measure a year from January first, but from two other times: September, for Rosh Hashanah and the new school year (intrinsically linked in my worldview), and by my birthday in mid-January. For me, that period of days between New Year's and my birthday really belong to the previous year because I'm still that previous age; i.e. right now I'm still 26 and so the new year really hasn't started yet.

I've lived such a safe, blessed life, so far. If grief and loss are an ocean, I've only dabbled my toes in the surf-- the end of a relationship, the death of a much-beloved but very aged relative. Getting pregnant only to miscarry, twice, pushed me a little further into that sea than I'd ever had to venture before. Obviously it's not the worst thing that can happen-- it's not even close. But it's the worst thing that's happened to me, to my life. It is an eye-opening, heart-opening experience. A loss of innocence; it changes me incrementally. Add to that the sad, untimely illness and death of my dear aunt. And, (as it doesn't belong in the same sentence) the final passing, at 17 years, of my childhood dog; Max's death combined with the ugly disintegration of a long, long friendship (a little over one year ago, but whatever) ends the two tenuous links I still had to my childhood years. It's as though I've been quietly pushed into a different, new stage of life, as though someone is whispering in my ear, "Hey Mara, your childhood is over; your extended adolescence, your college years, your early twenties, your naive-and-innocent state of grace, it's time to leave those behind now and grow up a little more."

Then there are the actual, physical events. Sure, our cross-country move from Texas to Virginia happened over a year ago, last October; but the adjustment period, that settling-in to a new place, lasted well into this year-- indeed, if they're even over yet. Getting married: even after six years of cohabitation, it is an adjustment. Don's mother having major, scary, heart surgery. Getting promoted at work to a supervisory position (or, why I don't update this site as I used to.) It's amazing how all of these things happen amidst the tedium of routine: doing laundry, making dinner, watching movies, going out with friends. Day to day, things feels normal but stuff piles up here and there until I look back at the past year and just shake my head in disbelief. Wow, linking back to my previous entries, I just noticed how generally awful my post titles tend to be. Why do I try to be clever? Clearly it's not one of my gifts.

Don and I were discussing all of this past year, and his take is, good riddance. Bring on the next year, it can only get better. But I don't think it was all bad. Even the bad things weren't all bad, and I reminded him that at least we finally got married-- both in the wasn't that wonderful sense and the thank God it's done, crossed off the to do list, don't have to do it next year sense. Honestly, it would take a couple of calm, uneventful years to recover from the past fifteen months or so, and that's not going to happen. For one thing, we are trying to make the quantum leap from renting to owning; this year, I hope, I'll be writing from my own little slice of the world. For another, we will be embroiled in at least one of the following:

Getting pregnant, staying pregnant, and having a baby. (please, please, oh please...)
Getting pregnant, miscarrying again, seeing fertility specialists, etc.
Not getting pregnant. Seeing fertility people. Looking into adoption.

[Speaking of which, I'm about 90% sure that I didn't ovulate this month. Don't know why or even for sure, as I don't chart or anything. I was just missing that ovulatin' feeling. So I guess this month's a bust as far as that goes. ]

Besides becoming homeowners (which would be yes, another move) and (please, please, please) getting pregnant, it looks as though my sister is going to come stay with us for awhile, and then become established here in Virginia. However it comes out, 2008 (or the Year of Being 27, as I prefer to think of it) does not promise serenity but even more change and growth, which is just fine with me. I suppose the difference is this: these are changes that we are seeking out. We are making these things happen. That is why even the bad things were OK in a way. Yes, losing my pregnancies sucked, but it would have been worse to have not even tried to get pregnant. To have not moved to Virginia. To have let the calm oasis of the Texas interval (as I think of the time between the university years in Vermont and the present-tense of Virginia) become stagnant and dull as it stretched out endlessly; to fear change and growth so much that we just let life pass us by.