Monday, April 28, 2008

Pro-Choice people eat brunch

Yesterday, Joker and I took the Bug to NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut's annual fundraiser, Pro-Choice Men Make Brunch. It's a great event, and we go every year. I love that it turns the pro-choice movement on its head a little, by featuring the men who support it. A number of our state legislators and local politicians are chefs, as are Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and Chris Murphy, a first-term member of the House of Representatives.

The Brunch is a very positive event, and it brings out the best in all of the participants - chefs and supporters alike. The Bug was the only baby there this year, and she was quite the hit of the party. I think it's important to reinforce that the pro-choice movement is not anti-baby or pro-abortion. It's about women having control over their own reproductive life, sex education and access to birth control, improving reproductive health.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Websites for movie lovers

I used to go to the movies all the time. Not so much these days. And by "not so much" I mean "maybe once a year." Regardless of your cinema-visit frequency, if you like movies there are a couple of sites worth checking out. They are both unafraid of the curse word and dead-on with their reviews. Plus, they're funny.

The first is Spill, with some pretty hilarious animated reviews starring four ordinary dudes and one robot. The other one is Pajiba, which is also currently compiling a list of the top television seasons ever. Never fear, Buffy Season 2 is on the list.

Completely unrelated, have a great weekend!

Unequal pay for equal work is OK?

Having recently been the target of discrimination myself, I felt particular sympathy for Lilly Ledbetter's case. In a nutshell, she had been paid as much as 40% less than her male counterparts for years. When she was made aware of this fact, she sued her employer. A jury found in her favor, and the circuit courts upheld that decision upon appeal. But the John Roberts-led Supreme Court ignored precedent when they overturned the decision, not based on the merits of the case, but because she failed to bring suit within six months of the first act of discrimination. The Senate set out to right this egregious wrong with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, requiring equal pay for equal work, which Republicans blocked on Wednesday. The reason they gave was that this would bring about frivolous lawsuits and be harmful to business, and that the only people who would profit would be the litigators.

This rationale is unfair and irrational. I had a very close relationship with my colleagues at KickApps, and only found out that my male colleague was paid more than me for the same job - we'd even been promoted at the same time - after we'd both been there for just over a year. And that was because I asked him point blank. Realistically, employees don't know what their colleagues make. It's not the kind of a question that you can generally ask, particularly in the first six months of your employment. The Republicans' argument is tantamount to suggesting that so long as discrimination is kept a secret for at least six months, it's OK.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's the real scoop on bisphenol-a?

Whether you have kids or not, you've probably noticed the recent news about bisphenol-a (BPA). It's one of the chemicals in a number of hard, clear plastic products - including some baby bottles and Nalgene water bottles. It's also the lining in many aluminum cans. There's been some research that shows toxic levels can leach into liquids inside a container made with BPA, and Canada has already banned it in baby bottles. Nalgene and Playtex have both said that they will discontinue using BPA in their products, though they claim the research to be inconclusive.

Even after reading an intelligent article in yesterday's Science Times, I tended to think that the hubbub was reactionary. Given how much I love my Nalgene bottles, and the fact that there isn't a commercially reasonable alternative for aluminum cans anyway, I wasn't going to throw out all of the Bug's hard, clear plastic bottles without there being some definitive research to base it on.

We also happened to have a pediatrician's appointment today, so we asked the Bug's doctor. His opinion was the same. The research is not definitive, there is no reason to throw out any of the Bug's bottles, and if medical opinion changes they'll let us know. By all means, if you're concerned you should consult your own doctors, but I thought I would share the medical opinion of a professional that we trust.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Black Mischief

Black Mischief, Evelyn Waugh's third novel, is also the third of his novels I've read. While I enjoyed Brideshead Revisited and found it to be a masterfully crafted book, it is Waugh's humorous satire that I find to be truly inspired, and this one is even funnier than Vile Bodies. The first 50 pages of this book are a little slow, but there are so many laugh-out-loud moments thereafter it's well worth it.

Black Mischief is set in the fictional island nation of Azania, located off the coast of present-day Somalia. Oxford-educated Emperor Seth ascends to the throne, and brings English dandy Basil Seal on board as his Minister of Modernity. As you may imagine, hilarity ensues. Seth and Basil set about on a mission to modernize the country with antics that include issuing shoes to the army, acquiring the Tank, suggesting compulsory Esperanto, and ultimately hosting the Birth-Control Gala.

The supporting cast of characters is phenomenal. I do believe that John Cleese was born to play the British Envoy Extraordinary, who dodders through life doing as little as possible. Mr. Youkoumian is a master of trickery, finding ways to make money through the exploitation of government wastefulness that would even impress Halliburton. And of course there are my favorites - Dame Mildred and Miss Tin, representatives from the "League of Dumb Chums", whose introduction by the Minister of the Interior as the world leaders in Cruelty to Animals was one of the funniest scenes I have read in a very long time.

This 75-year-old novel is still fresh, funny, and imminently readable, though I am certainly not surprised it has spurred its share of controversy. It really should be on every book club's short list.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hooray for women!

This weekend saw some great accomplishments by some very accomplished women... First, Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an Indy car race. After bursting onto the scene three years ago at the tender age of 23, her racing skill was nearly overshadowed by her enormous marketing potential. She seemed to be at risk of becoming auto racing's Anna Kournikova, but has proven all naysayers wrong. Well done!

Lorena Ochoa scored her fourth consecutive LPGA tour victory, becoming only the fourth woman ever to do so. She joins some pretty elite company: Annika Sorenstam who did it in 2001, and Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright who both did it in the '60s.

Last but not least, American Deena Kastor won the marathon at the Olympic trials. I'm hoping that we'll see Hillary keep the momentum rolling by pulling off a victory in the Pennsylvania primaries tomorrow!

"Golf" is a four-letter word

My 2007 golf season was somewhat compromised by the Bug's arrival at the end of May. I played for the first couple of months, but I was in my third trimester. I am sure that was wildly amusing to my golf partners, but I am also quite sure that it didn't do wonders for my swing. I played one time in August, and that was it for the year.

My 2008 season began yesterday, when Joker and I went out for an early nine holes. I got frustrated only twice - at the beginning of the round, and at the end of the round. After the first lousy hole, I was better than I expected from the tee box and the fairways, with what I would classify as solidly mediocre play. But the short game, that hilarious joke played on all hack golfers, was where my hiatus really showed its stuff. My putter felt entirely foreign in my hands, as if I had never held it before, and my pitching wedge... let's just say that it is now Dead To Me. It would have served me better if it were lying at the bottom of a lake.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gathering of the Tribe?

I have been looking online for pictures of the caravan of 50 RVs packed with Hasidic Jews, which paraded down Fifth Avenue at lunch time yesterday with a police escort. Alas! How this could possibly have gone unnoticed by our local media outlets is beyond me, but I found nary an article.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Little veggie-saurus

After my somewhat panicked cry for help, my friend Caryn talked me off a babyfood-ledge, and gave me some perspective and a shopping list. Armed with these lifesavers, it has taken less than two weeks for mealtime zen to return to our home. Mostly.

In addition to Cheerios, puffs and shredded cheese, the Bug loves vegetables. She's eating peas, carrots, corn, green beans, potatoes... Last night, her dinner was entirely comprised of "real" food! The odd thing, though, is that she won't eat fruit. She'll eat a mashed up banana when it's fed to her on a spoon, but she soundly rejects any fruit-based finger foods. Watermelon, blueberries, grapes, banana pieces and strawberries have all been spit out or thrown on the floor.

Lucky for me, my shopping list is long, my perspective is balanced, and I am sure that the Bug will eventually eat fruit.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Washington and Myrtle Beach

My family loves postcards. I grew up sending them from every place that we visited, and my parents, brother, sister and I still do it every time that we travel. I was lucky enough to marry a man who is also a master of the art of the postcard, and we always make an event of it, sitting down for afternoon beers and writing to our loved ones back home. We even got the Bug herself started by sending a couple from Vail!

My love of sending the postcard is perhaps eclipsed only by my enjoyment in receiving them. Not only are my immediate family active senders, but many of our good friends have caught on as well. I save every single postcard that we ever receive, and have had the fortune to get them from places across the globe.

In celebration of this humble and (sadly) dying craft, I'll be sharing the postcards that we receive.

So please, keep 'em coming!

To the bug, from her grandparents Mima and Boppie, sent from a visit to Uncle Shane last week. They had the wonderful opportunity to finally see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, and their pictures are stunning!

To Joker and me from my parents, sent on the same trip.

Sent to the Bug last week, from Aunt Katy, Uncle Dave and the cousins. Despite a bit of rain, they had a great time playing in the pool for a week - a fun family vacation for all!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Courtesy 101

Let me preface this by saying that the ladies room at work is quite clean. I'm not saying it's where I eat my lunch, but it's a very satisfactory restroom.

Yesterday, this sign appeared on each of the doors and walls:

In particular, please note the person on the lower left, who is presumably dead. There are several lessons to be learned here, perhaps most importantly that one should spray one's corpses prior to placing them in the ladies room, if one wishes not to leave un-ladylike aromas.

Little Women, the review

I finally finished reading my 1903 copy of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. It took a while, reading only one chapter a night before going to sleep, but I am thrilled to say it was worth it.

This was truly my favorite book growing up. I couldn't even guess how many times I read it. At one point, I was even inspired to sew clothes for my Holly Hobbie doll, which didn't work out nearly as well for me as it seemed to in the book.

I love the characters, I love their silly little adventures. I still prefer the first part of the book to the second, probably because of its wonderful intimacy. The first part is an in-depth portrait of a year (or so) in the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, who are growing up together in a tightly knit family. In the second part, the unit is fragmented - Meg is married, Amy is in Europe, Laurie is in college and then heads abroad as well, and only Beth and Jo are at home. Part First is a tale of a family of four sisters; Part Second is really four distinct, though closely intertwined, stories of individual women.

As for the moralistic sections of the book... well, I must have glossed over in all of my many prior readings, because I didn't even recall most of them. The one that cracked me up this time, though, was Alcott's several page diatribe about how you shouldn't laugh at old spinster aunts, even if they *are* 25 or 30 years old, because despite all appearances to the contrary they do still have something to contribute to society. Amen, sister!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tech support for Grandma

My Grandma is awesome. She's one part super-hero, one part regular hero, and three parts genuine sweetness. At 80 years young, she's also one of my email buddies, and is now one of my readers. An online Grandma... that is totally cool.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Furry, happy monsters

While driving around Ireland a number of years ago, my friend Lynne and I determined (among other things) that Michael Stipe is sexy.

Turn up the volume a little and judge for yourself... and enjoy this lovely spring day!

Monday, April 7, 2008

I *heart* NY tourists

My current commute has me walking through Rockefeller Center every day, and one of the things I've really enjoyed about that is the tourists. I'm not talking about all tourists; those of you who've spent time with me in Manhattan know that Times Square makes my skin crawl. I'm not crazy about the throngs of people hoping to be caught on camera during The Today Show, or the tour buses here to see the Rockettes, either.

The folks I love to see are the ones who, yeah, wait in line to go to Top of the Rock, but also stop to admire the art deco detail on the outside of the building. Who watch the ice skaters at the Rink, and delight in the tulips and sculptures on Park Avenue. Who walk inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, light a candle for a loved one, and then sit on the steps outside and people-watch. They remind me why I love to travel - to walk around a city while its residents go about their days, appreciating the cobblestones and bridges they pass by every day. I love that tourists in my city make me look up and around, that they help me to see the wonders of New York every single day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Meal time stress

I've never stressed out about meal times. I love to eat, for the last five years I've loved to cook, and food and drink are among life's greatest pleasures.

The Bug's current food phase is another story altogether. She's mastered Cheerios and these Gerber fruit and veggie puffs (they taste like packing peanuts, but she seems to love them). The completion of her transition to regular food, though, is really difficult for me! She generally eats the "Stage 3" foods and cottage cheese just fine. But I have no idea how to start giving her "table food"... what can she eat, what will she like? How do I know if the pieces are small or soft enough? And the real kicker - we get home at 6:45... so how in the world am I supposed to have our dinner on the table by 7:15?? Tiny bites of whatever the adults are eating are all well and good, but only if we can all eat at the same time. It's totally stressing me out!

Any tips? I'm all ears!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

BSG - season 2.5

The title of my post is only the first beef I had with Battlestar Galactica in its second season. Season 2.5? WHAT??!

I loved the first 1 3/4 seasons of BSG (yeah, I am using the dorky abbreviation), but then it abruptly took a turn for the worse. After the first 45 episodes or so covered roughly that many weeks aboard Galactica, the timeline sped up dramatically for the last handful of episodes. The last 15 minutes or so of the season finale actually took placed an entire year in the future, and nothing that had happened in the interim seemed plausible to me. We had been taken down a very odd path, and I can't say I enjoyed the ride.

So it was a very welcome surprise that Season 3 - which I'm only two episodes into right now, so please no spoilers! - is great! I may not have enjoyed the ride, but I love where they've taken us!! I am a bit disappointed that there is no possible way for Joker and I to be caught up in time to start Season 4 with the premier on Friday night, but hey - I'm loving where the story is right now, so will just savor it.

Speaking of Season 4, is the Sci-Fi network trying to kill the show at its peak of popularity? It's airing Friday nights at 10pm. Even the biggest nerds have plans at that time, and it's practically too late for the only people who are home at that time... namely, me!