Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Toaster Warnings

Here are some actual warnings from a toaster I bought recently, along with my comments.

Do not operate while unattended.
JEEVES! Dangit, where is that butler? JEEEEEEEVES, get over here! I want to make some toast!
Do not cook, warm, or toast rice cakes, fried foods, or non-bread items.
So... I guess warming my mittens in the toaster is out? Unless, of course, my mittens are made of bread. Mmmm... bread mittens...
Do not cover toaster or use near curtains, drapes, walls, or under cabinets.
Because it's so inconvenient to get the toast out when the toaster is still in the cabinet.
Close supervision is necessary when used by or near children.
Toasters do have a tendency to reach out and bite children with their hot, hot teeth, so it is imperative that the toaster be supervised. The kid? Eh, he'll be all right with those scissors...
Always unplug toaster when not in use.
Caution: unplugging toaster while in use may cause your toast to not finish being toasted.
Failure to follow these instructions can result in death or fire.
Note: death or fire may result from various life activities anyway, even if you do follow these instructions. Please don't sue us if you die or are burned without using the toaster at all.

Sonshine's First Day Of Kindergarten

Sonshine went off for his first day of Kindergarten today. I bought him some new shoes, again. I swear that kid can't keep track of his shoes to save his life. He'll go out to play with them on and come home without them. Or, more commonly, he'll come home and put one of his shoes away, and kick the other one all around the house until it gets thoroughly lost. This is the last pair we are buying him in this size. If he loses them, he's going to school barefoot.

We went to Sonshine's Kindergarten orientation yesterday. I might as well not have gone. Bagel spent the entire time crying loudly to distract himself from having to actually fall asleep outside of his crib or carseat. I'm getting so frustrated with Bagel-- nothing is ever good enough for him, and everything we get wrong results in a screamfest of frustration. If we serve him the same food we're eating, he gets frustrated because it's not what he wants; but if we feed him something else, he gets frustrated because it's not what we're eating. He wants to drink what we're drinking, but when we give it to him in a plastic sippy cup instead of a glass, he gets mad. But if we give him a glass to sip from (holding it ourselves, of course) he tries to take it out of our hands and knock it down to the floor. Mealtime is always one long screamfest, because we are all just incompetent waitresses who can never get his order right no matter what we do. If that kid was paying for his meals, he would never leave us a tip.

Anyway, Sonshine loved the orientation because he got to meet his teacher and play out on the playground while Bagel was screaming. He saw some of his friends from the neighborhood, although none of them are in AM Kindergarten with him (they're all in either PM or all-day). I wish they could have put him in PM Kindergarten so that he wouldn't have to be away from home so many hours three days a week, but what can you do? Welcome to the People's RePublic Schools, where nothing a parent has to say about their own child's education and welfare really counts. Damn, I miss the charter school. If I went to them and said "He's not ready to be away so many hours a day, it will give him behavioral problems, can you put him in PM Kindergarten instead?" they would have said "Sure, no problem." Here, it's "We'll put him wherever the hell we want to put him, and you'll put up or shut up. Oh, and we'd appreciate it if you'd volunteer in the classroom and bring us a roll of paper towels." Next thing you know they'll be asking me to have him "evaluated" for ADD because of his behavior problems, the very same ones they caused by being so inflexible about putting him in PM Kindergarten.

The other thing that is frustrating me to no end about this school is that the teachers and the office don't seem to be in communication with each other. I can't tell you how many language surveys, emergency contact cards, and technology release forms I've filled out, even though I filled out one for each of the kids at the office when I registered them. They wouldn't let me register my kids without them, and that's fine, I expected that; but I didn't expect that I'd have to fill out a separate copy for EVERY ROOM in the school that my child enters. How hard would it be to walk over to the office, pull the files of your students, and XEROX the frickin' papers??? Do they really need me to fill out a separate form for the lunch room telling them my daughter has food allergies, when I already have one on file at the office? Do the teachers not have access to the language survey forms and the technology release forms? Do they never see their own students' records?

I'm a great believer in public education, but I also believe that local control makes the difference between a school and a school system. The difference between a school and a school system is like the difference between "cheese" and "pasteurized process cheese food." Local control allows the former to be carefully crafted and honed to the needs of the students, while district control makes it more of a factory process than an individual education.

What I don't understand is why, when (as is natural in any rigid system) people start falling through the cracks, the "cure" for that seems to be more systematization. Got high school dropouts? Start another program! Low test scores? Make the teachers take more education classes (that'll learn those lousy students!) I wish districts would quit trying to make all the decisions and would just let teachers do their jobs. They're the ones with their boots on the ground; they know their students' educational needs better than any mugwump at the district office, and they're the only ones in any position to do anything about these needs. Yet constantly they have their hands tied for them by the district (through choice of curriculum and programs, policies, requirements, etc.), which then turns around and complains that the teachers aren't getting their job done. If teachers' unions were really doing their jobs, they'd be pushing for more competent district leadership and less district micromanagement, instead of more pay or a higher number of paid sick days or passing resolutions on gay marriage.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Incite-ful Speech

We have a really funny story to tell about Sonshine that will embarrass him to no end in front of his future wife. Sonshine is a natural provocateur, and he discovered early on that certain words made people react uncomfortably. "Naked" was one of these words. He made sure to say the word "naked," loudly and prominently, in every conversation. This culminated in the horribly embarrassing "Naked Dancing" incident wherein he danced around shouting "Naked dancing! Naked dancing!" in front of the Primary [children's church auxiliary] President and I turned the same color as my burgundy blouse as I assured her that he really, truly had never been exposed to naked dancing, he was just finding a way to use the word "naked." After that he was forbidden to say the word "naked" except in the appropriate context. We hated having to ban a word, but it was just out of control.

When "naked" was banned, he discovered the word "nipples." He refined his conversational technique to include the word at unexpected times, in sentences such as "That ball hit me so hard it hurt my nipples!" He would then reinforce the word by gesturing at his nipples. Eventually we had to ban "nipples" too. After that he discovered that a question can be provocative, so he started asking everyone around him "What if two men could get married?" It's much, much harder to ban him from saying a phrase or asking a question.

Why do I bring up this horribly embarrassing story? Because this weekend I noticed on TV a lot of anti-war commentators saying exactly the same provocative things. They may not have used the words "naked" or "nipples," but they all used the same phrases in the same order and the same combinations. These are phrases deliberately designed to incite reactions in people, just like Sonshine's primitive use of uncomfortable words.

When a preschool child does it, it's cute. But when a grown person employs that sort of demagoguery and rhetoric, it's completely unattractive. And if I hear the phrase "Pottery Barn rule" one more time, my head is going to explode. I think the Pottery Barn should sue the Democratic National Committee for trademark infringement.

You Have Been Warned

The next person to use the phrase "Pottery Barn rule" or any variation thereof will be receiving extra math homework. Differential equations, if you use it more than once in the same interview or conversation.

That is all.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Military Deaths Per Capita

There's some controversy going on over a map that supposedly shows that soldiers from "blue" states are being killed in Iraq more than soldiers from "red" states. One of the links in that post is to a chart showing military deaths per 100,000 population.

I visited the chart and was surprised to find that Utah was right there at the bottom. This surprised me because Utah, one of the reddest of the red states, has a very strong tradition of military service, so you'd think they'd place higher than last in military deaths per capita. But upon reflection I think it may have more to do with the demographics of Utah than anything else.

For one thing, Utah has an unusually high percentage of minor children. This would affect the statistic by increasing the denominator. Even if young people in the right age group to die in the military died at the exact same rate as in other states, the rate per 100,000 population would be smaller because of all their younger siblings and cousins. (This also makes me wonder about the oft-quoted statistic that Utah has a higher rate of child molestation than other states, and the inevitable blaming of that on patriarchal and/or sexually repressive religious practices. If you have more children in a state, you naturally have a higher rate of just about anything associated with children, and sadly that would include child molestation.)

For another thing, the military has a lot of competition for young men and women of enlistment age. Many of Utah's young men serve missions for the LDS church. Utah also has a very high rate of college education, so a lot of them are going to college instead, or going when they come back. Also, people who go to college usually enroll as officers, not enlisted men. As far as I know officers are less likely to be killed in combat. (Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.)

And finally, with tongue only halfway in cheek, I note that a large percentage of Utahns are Mormon, and many young men who enlist hold the priesthood. Thus they can call on the powers of heaven to protect them from harm, decreasing the rate of their deaths in combat.

Bottom line: there are so many factors that go into the creation of a statistic as simple as military deaths per capita that it is impossible to judge a state's degree of patriotism by it alone.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bagel Has A Problem

I've been sick the last few days, and today the nausea has just been overwhelming, so I have not gone anywhere without my tin of Altoids to combat the nausea of early pregnancy. Bagel, however, seems to have a problem with my tin of Altoids, and I have no idea what it is. I thought maybe he wanted to see what they tasted like, so I gave him one (which he immediately spat out in disgust).

Since the tasting, he has never been satisfied with the placement of the tin of Altoids. If it is out of his sight, he gets upset; but if he can see it, he throws it as far away from him as possible, preferably down stairs. It particularly distresses him if I put it in my shirt pocket; he will whine at me testily and immediately pull it out. He pushes it toward me, and if I take an Altoid out and eat it, he gets really upset. But if I hide it, he gets even more upset. He reaches for it like he wants to pick it up and shake it, but when he gets it in his hand, he begins to whine at it and then he throws it. I've tried every permutation, position, and configuration of him, me, and the tin of Altoids, and none of them seem to be what he wants.

As near as I can tell, his beef with the tin is that on every occasion where he has seen fit to pick it up, it has utterly failed to be full of something he wants to eat. Instead it is full of these strong minty things that taste entirely unlike candy, every single time. Not once today have the contents of the tin conformed to his expectations. If you have any better ideas as to what he might be thinking, please enlighten me in the comments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Most Satisfying Catch

When we moved in, the house was just full of dozens of flies. I imagine they came in when the former residents had the doors propped open as they moved out. Some of them have since died, but there were still enough of them hanging around that I went and got a sticky fly trap. I've caught several of them in the trap already, mostly by waiting until they land on something and then sneaking up behind them with the trap so that when they take off, they get stuck. Only a couple have actually gotten caught by landing on the trap themselves.

Today, though, one particularly annoying fly got himself stuck on the trap. I have been trying to catch this fly for a while, because unlike the other flies who are content to merely land on the cupboard doors, this one insisted on buzzing around the heads of me and my kids while we eat. Imagine my delight when I came upstairs to find him caught on the trap, buzzing furiously. You could hear him buzzing in the next room for fifteen minutes, until he finally got whatever part of the fly makes the buzzing sound stuck on the trap too.

Several times during that fifteen glorious minutes of buzzing, I walked back over to the fly trap, just to have a gloating look at him. Unlike the other flies, which got stuck by their legs, he got stuck butt first, so that the tips of his wings were also stuck. I grinned as I imagined his fly embarrassment that not only was he now stuck in a death trap, he was stuck butt first in a death trap. What will the other flies say??

Welcome To Utah. Now Go Home.

I am completely and utterly embarrassed by the behavior of Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

For the non-Utahns among us, President Bush visited Salt Lake City to speak to the VFW convention. Naturally, there was a protest organized. The problem with this protest is that it was (in part) organized by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. He used his official city e-mail address and his official, supposedly non-partisan city title. He may actually have violated the law by doing so.

The Daily Herald had an op-ed yesterday that I think completely sums up my views on the subject. 25 words or less: we work hard to get conventions here, and Mayor Anderson steps out of his league to shoot us in the foot. I heard Mayor Anderson on the radio. His message was basically, "Welcome to Utah, VFW convention! Now go home, you stupid warmongering baby-eaters."

To that I would add that I have never at any time before yesterday been for or against Mayor Anderson. He was fairly elected mayor of Salt Lake City by Salt Lake City residents and although his liberal leanings were always clear, I had no opinion of him whatsoever. (Unlike some conservatives, I don't hate liberals on principle; I'm half Democrat on my mother's side.) But then I heard Mayor Anderson interviewed yesterday morning by KSL radio host Doug Wright. Wright was courteous to him, although it was clear they disagreed tremendously on a lot of political issues. And Mayor Anderson gave the definitive demonstration of Mark Twain's First Law of Fools* by opening his mouth and removing all doubt. This guy, I can safely say, has drunk the Kool-Aid. All of it. The whole half-gallon of Kickin' Kiwi Strawberry. I swear to God the guy recited every single liberal slogan known to man, except for "Free Mumia." If you don't believe me, click the link above and hear him for yourself.

Now, I am not embarrassed that the mayor of Salt Lake City is a liberal moonbat. They can elect whomever they want, it's their city and (thank God) I don't have to live in it. But he is the Mayor of Salt Lake City. He is not, as John Petroff Jr. so aptly put it, the Mayor of Utah. He does not get to represent, as he seems to think he does, the residents of the state of Utah at large. And that is why myself and other Utah bloggers are voicing their opposition to his uncouth behavior and pointing out that it is unbecoming to his office. Unfortunately, as our experience with the Legacy Highway points out, this is vintage Rocky.

As is traditional with protests, the estimate of how many people actually attended varies by approximately one order of magnitude from low to high estimates and depends on who's doing the estimating. Official media estimates seem to be in the 1000 to 2000 range, Captain Holly's boots-on-the-ground estimate (with pics!) is 300, Ken of Oblogatory Anecdotes estimates 500, and moonbat estimates go as high as 3000 (give them a week, and they'll be up to 30,000 and in a month will exceed the population of Utah). It is known that some of the people there were protesting the protesters, so I have to wonder how many of those were actually there to protest with Mayor Anderson.

So on behalf of sensible Utahns everywhere, I apologize for the behavior of the crazy Mayor Of Utah Salt Lake City and urge everyone, now that this post has been read and I've gotten it out of my system, to utterly ignore him. He claims to represent a whole huge faction of Utahns, but in the end he represents a very tiny minority of them. Even taking the high end estimates, 3000 out of 2.4 million is pretty dang small.

* Mark Twain once said (and I paraphrase), "It is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

How Is This Worse?

Will someone please explain to me the following:

(A) How are Pat Robertson's comments proposing the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez worse than, you know, everybody else's comments (including that horrible play) proposing the assassination of President Bush?

(B) The right side of the blogosphere is full of outrage over right-side moonbat Robertson's remarks. Was there any outrage from the left side of the blogosphere when left-side moonbats called for Bush's assassination?

That is all.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Weekly Gripe: Bras For The Busty

Women with small busts complain endlessly about how they'd love to have bigger bazooms, but they don't know how good they have it. They can walk into any store and pick out any bra on the rack, and the store will have their size in stock. Busty women, however, have it much, much tougher. The cutest bras rarely come in cup sizes larger than C, and those that do come in larger sizes are of one of three styles:
  • Patented UniBoobTM Technology. These are also known as "minimizers" because they promise to make your bust fit into a normal sized shirt. They accomplish this by squishing your boobs together until they fill the gap between them, causing you to look like you have have one very large breast.
  • TitaniumTits brand Victory Bra. These holdovers from the 1940's look and feel like you're wearing a pair of missile nosecones. You get uplift and separation, which is nice, but you have to watch where you turn lest you poke people's eyes out.
  • Porn Star Special. These look cute and sexy in the catalog on women who have surgically attached cantaloupes, but are meant to be worn for no more than five minutes at a time. They fit, but provide no support whatsoever for those of us who, ahem, lack internal support.
Why, in the good ol' U. S. of A., home of capitalism and famous for American ingenuity, can't anyone seem to make a bra for the busty that is affordable and cute and provides uplift, separation, and style? And why can't these be carried in normal stores?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Life in Tooele

Tooele is a small town, about half the size of Logan. The total population of the county is about 40,000, which is about 10,000 less than Logan city and less than half of Cache Valley. Just by moving in we've increased the Filipino population of Tooele by 11% and the general Asian population by 3%.

Because retailers look at population when deciding whether to locate in a town, the only retailer in town is pretty much Wal-Mart. There's a CAL Ranch store that I haven't explored yet, but if it's anything like the CAL Ranch store in Logan, it'll be like a discount department store with a very, very large animal care section, which only carries western clothing. The Wal-Mart here is crowded and poorly laid out, with tiny aisles and an ill-planned selection of items. They didn't have any decorative shelves at all, and they did have roller shades but no brackets to install them.

If you want any sort of selection beyond what Wal-Mart has to offer, you have to drive into Salt Lake City. This is a drive of 30 to 60 minutes (depending on which part of the city you are headed to and what time of day), around the Oquirrh Mountains, past the scenic and brackish Great Salt Lake and the not-so-scenic Kennecott Copper smelter. Attempting this drive with a carful of children is not recommended for the faint of heart. Besides the usual intense discussion of whether or not we are there yet, you will be treated to an extended debate over such deep theological and scientific questions as whether God poops and, if so, what are meteors.

So far we have found one bright spot in Tooele, and that is the Sun Lok Yuen restaurant. We never would have thought we could find such excellent Chinese food in such a small town, but there it is. It beats the hell out of anything we had in Logan (except maybe Mandarin Garden, but I haven't been there in so long I don't remember it). I'm seriously thinking of having Princess' birthday party there, since she wants a Chinese theme this year.

Honey, I'm HOOOOOOME!!

I was just about to post on my upcoming blogging and internet outage, when our internet access turned off at our old address; but I don't imagine it took any of my regular readers by surprise, given that I was moving.

So, here we are, in our new house. Brief synopsis of events:

Friends arrived at 8 am to load the truck. Our good friend C--- had kindly offered to drive his very, very large truck with a 20' trailer to help us move. We had talked about whether it would take one load or two; he seemed to think it could be done in one load, but I had my doubts, since we already had a 10'x20' storage unit that was mostly full, and the house STILL looked crowded. I went ahead of the truck in the minivan with the kids. We arrived at the house. Then I explained to Sonshine for the fifteen millionth time why Princess got her own room and he didn't.

The first load arrived about 1 pm. We offloaded it, mostly into the garage. FH and C--- went back for a second load, leaving about 4 pm and returning sometime around midnight. We offloaded the truck until 2 am and crashed. There was still enough for a third load, but it'll have to be done this coming weekend. Thankfully we still have the storage unit rented.

Our "renters," who still hadn't given us our deposit money, finally surfaced and said they had been delayed because the husband had gone to jail. We were not thrilled with this development, but you can't break a lease because you discover you don't like the renters. They promised to bring the check by the house that very evening. FH was there the whole time, and they didn't show. That, you CAN break a lease for. This was the third time they'd promised to bring the deposit and didn't show.

Didn't bother trying to go to church. The house was a complete wreck. I had been unpacking as many boxes as I could while the guys went back for the second load, and I had all the really important kitchen boxes located, but then they offloaded at midnight and stacked everything on top and in front of them, two layers deep, so I spent a good portion of the day re-locating those boxes. FH took the seats out of the minivan and went back up to Logan to pack everything else up. My dad helped him and he stayed the night.

The automatic sprinklers went on, but they didn't turn off. They ran all morning and started to flood the yard. I couldn't reach my dad for help because he was over at my old house, so I had to call a plumber. It was just as well because we were about to call a plumber on Monday to see about getting a gas hookup for our dryer. The plumber showed us how to turn off the sprinkler lines in the fall, and told us of the existence of the necessary tool to do so (which, inconveniently, the former owners had NOT left with the house).

The "renters'" supposed move-in date. FH worked his butt off cleaning and getting everything ready for them. They were supposed to come at noon, but they never showed up. Also, we discovered they had not arranged for utility hook-ups, but they have been receiving mail there, so we suspect they never intended to move in at all, just to use the address for some nefarious purpose. I reported them to the Post Office and asked that mail sent there for them be returned.

The kids and I went to run some errands. We couldn't do much shopping because we were all crammed in the little white sedan, but we needed some groceries so we went to the grocery store. The plumber came and installed the gas hookup and put in the Utility Sink Of My Dreams next to the washer. He also installed the dishwasher; FH had insisted on trading the existing dishwasher for the dishwasher in our old home, which has this little button called "Sanitize" on it that he thinks somehow makes the dishes cleaner. As it turned out, though, he was right to do it, since upon installing the new dishwasher in our old home, he discovered all sorts of non-dish-like things stuck inside it. We had the same problem with the dishwasher when we first moved into that old house too-- it was full of mop strings and things like that. It makes me wonder if we are the only people on earth who attempt to wash only dishes in our dishwasher. He also brought us one of those sprinkler tools, and threw in the Sunday call for free.

FH went to work at his new location. I offloaded the van (including the rooftop carrier). FH had not labeled many of the boxes, and those that were labeled were cryptic. One box labeled "Taki Bk" began playing a radio station when I set it down.

I went to register the kids for school, but as I went into the fire safe to get their documents out, the key broke off in the lock. Thankfully I was able to get the broken piece out with a pair of very fine pliers, but I still couldn't get to the documents until FH came home from work with the other key. Then we went to Wal-Mart to get an oil change and new tires for the van, both of which had been desperately needed before we started making all these four-hour round trip drives. We sent a certified letter to our "renters" notifying them that we were terminating our lease contract for non-payment of deposit. After lunch, we went off to Salt Lake City to do some shopping.

So that's what I've been up to. Things are starting to stabilize. Although my house is still a mess and everything is stacked high with boxes, I can cook dinner and do laundry now.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Closed, But Still Not Over

We closed on our loan yesterday. It was the most horrific experience of my life-- and it still isn't over. Silly me, I thought that there was some sort of meaning to the word "close"-- like I was supposed to get some closure or something, or that at least the deal would be done.

First, one of the conditions on our funding is that the people renting our old house have to sign a lease and give us a deposit check. Well, they forgot to bring their checkbook to the lease signing a week ago, and they still haven't given us the check even though I've talked to them and tried to impress upon them the necessity of getting this check to us in a timely manner. They were supposed to get it to us last Monday, but they misunderstood and thought we meant next Monday when they move in. We clarified this misunderstanding on Wednesday when they finally returned my calls. At least, I thought it had been clarified. It is now Friday and we still have no check.

Second, the sellers' realtor had called our realtor and arranged that if we did our best to fund and record on Friday, she would give us the keys to the house on Saturday at noon. We said that was fine with us, as that was when we had hoped to take possession of the house anyway. Now that realtor is saying that if the transaction doesn't fund and record on Friday, she won't give us the keys on Saturday, even though most realtors will be easy about that sort of thing when it happens over a weekend. We were only half kidding when we asked our realtor how much we'd have to bribe her to get her to go back to her original request. We are coming to Tooele with a truck full of boxes on Saturday at noon, based on what that realtor requested. If she's not there to give us the keys, we are going to unload all our boxes into the backyard and live in our tent until she gives us the goddamn keys to the house we have already closed on.

Third, as we were signing the papers, we noticed that the papers the mortgage company sent over all gave Monday as the funding date. This was subsequently discovered to be because this mortgage company has a policy of sitting on their paperwork for one business day before they will fund a mortgage. Since the earliest they can get the papers is Friday morning (and that only because we drove the packet of papers over to the airport FedEx drop ourselves when closing was done), they won't fund the mortgage until Monday. This is at odds with what they had told our loan officer, which was why she seemed to think we could fund and record on Friday and get our keys on Saturday.

Bottom line, we are loading the truck tonight, and we are driving out tomorrow, and everybody involved knew this was the plan, but now WE WON'T BE ABLE TO MOVE IN WHEN WE GET THERE. Unless, of course, we find a way to slip that realtor a cool hundred. I assume a hundred dollars is the correct bribe for a realtor. If I am mistaken, please correct me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Just Say No To Choking

We teach our kids not to do drugs, and then something like this happens. (link via IMAO)

Kids are creative, and some of them have a rebellious streak in them. If you tell Sonshine, for example, not to hit his sister, he'll kick his sister instead, because you didn't say he couldn't. Oh, he understands that the general principle is that he's not allowed to hurt his sister, but if only a finite set of ways in which he could hurt her is enforced, then he will hurt his sister by permissible means. So when we tell our kids not to get high on Substances X, Y, and Z, they think getting high on Substance W is somehow OK.

It's impossible for us to make a comprehensive list for our kids of things they ought not do to get high, so how about teaching them a general principle instead: don't abuse your body for a temporary high. Getting high, no matter how it's done, doesn't solve your problems. And then we show them ways to solve their problems for real.

The only difficulty with that approach is that it doesn't fit on a bumper sticker and requires large quantities of actual one-on-one time with a child, which is a resource that is sadly in short supply.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bagel: "That!"

To complement the addition of the word "this" to Bagel's vocabulary, he now uses the word "that" as well. And he pointed to my glasses today and said something that sounded remarkably like "glasses," right before he tried to rip them off my face.

He's still not walking, though, and hasn't made any new breakthroughs in standing unassisted. I swear this kid's going to be calling into talk radio shows before he walks.

The Boxes Just Keep On Coming

I am completely amazed at how many boxes of stuff are coming out of my kitchen. I've been packing the kitchen for two days now, and I just keep taking box after box after box out of the room, and I'm still not done yet. I swear the volume of the boxes is much, much larger than the actual volume of the kitchen. How I ever got all that crap into the cupboards is a complete mystery-- and how I'm going to get all that crap back into a kitchen with even fewer cupboards is another story altogether.

Yay! My Brother!

My brother is coming to visit us when we move to Tooele! Not the brother who's serving a mission in Ukraine, and not the brother who's still in high school-- the OTHER brother, the older of the three, who we hardly ever get to see! He does a lot of freelance work and has unpredictable schedules, and can't take a lot of time off for Christmas and such, so these occasional visits are important. Part of his motivation for visiting us, of course, is that we are now going to be living in close proximity to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where they race cars (and boy, is he interested in racing cars!) But I'm just happy to be able to see my brother, and I don't really care why he's coming.

It wouldn't surprise me, though, if despite the infrequency of his opportunities to visit, he visited us more frequently than most of our other relatives while we live down there. We might see more of one of my sisters, who already has in-laws in Tooele, but everyone else will probably see our house only once or twice during the entire time we live there. Another sister makes regular trips down to Salt Lake for doctor appointments for my little nephew, but even if she has to stay overnight it's unlikely she'd stay with us, because we're a half hour's drive away from the medical center. And so it will go for anyone who comes down to Salt Lake for some other purpose-- we'll be too far out of the way for them to drive out to visit us too. My parents don't like to leave Logan (and frankly I don't blame them-- I don't like to leave it either) so they might come for major family events like Princess' baptism if we have them on weekends, but otherwise they probably won't come. Since we're the only ones who don't live in Cache Valley, it'll make more sense for us to come up for holidays than for everybody else to come down to our place. And when relatives come from California, they will naturally go to Logan for the same reason, and we'll go up there to see them. We'll be closer to the airport than anyone else, but because we're not on the way to Logan, relatives will probably not stop by our place to say "hi" on the way up.

I'm not upset about it and I'm not complaining; I know they won't be avoiding us, just making sensible logistical decisions that any normal person would make. I'm just lonely and I'll miss my family. I've lived far from family before so I know how to do it, but it's been so nice living so close to so many of them for so long, and I'm really going to miss it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

On Art

I've not gotten any books out of the library in weeks for fear I'd forget to turn them in, and I finally got sick of reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which was the only book I hadn't yet packed), so I bought a magazine. It was a fiber arts magazine, although their definition of "fiber arts" seems to extend far enough to include edible books.

What struck me most about the articles in it was not the highfalutinicity (is that even a word?) of the art, but the fact that all the artists seemed to live in some really wacky world entirely divorced from reality, where a green cotton dress in a totally outdated 60's style could be a new work of art that represents "being from the Midwest." One wonders if the artist had ever actually been to the Midwest in the last 40 years, or was just basing her representation of the Midwest on what she'd heard while safe in her cocoon in Manhattan.

Why does art have to be "about" anything? Why can't art just be? Because art is going to mean something entirely different to me than it will to you. The green cotton 60's dress, to me, means "you're about 40 years too late." I find it interesting that other people can find meaning other than that in it, but I can't find any meaning that speaks to me, so I don't like it as art. But if art is to be important at all, it has to mean something to others; otherwise it's just made of its materials and is meaningful only to the artist. And if the artist decides to impose a single meaning on the work-- for example, "This represents the futility of life in a state that voted for President Bush"-- not only does he alienate people who don't see that in his work, but he insults those who may have seen something about the futility of life in the piece, but actually like President Bush.

If art has to have a specific meaning, then it (to me) is not art. Good art will whisper something to you, something you can't quite put your finger on. It speaks to you in a way that no words can capture. Art can only fleetingly and individually be "about" something. If it ever has to be fixed to one meaning, it loses the generality that makes it art.

The Ride Is Almost Over

The last three days have been the most horrifically nauseating rollercoaster ride of my entire life. Everything was going swimmingly, and 72 hours later we had fired our realtor, sold our house, lost our financing for our new home, and got it back at a higher interest rate. And all of this was based on moment-by-moment decisions, in such a way that we could never have found this path if we hadn't been forced into it at every turn.

The loan officer required us to produce a contract for either the rental or sale of our home by Monday. Because our realtor up here was not going to be able to produce a sale for us by then, we put an ad in the paper to rent the house, and mentioned that a lease-purchase option was available. The loan officer called and dropped the aforementioned bombshell on us.

The ad started, and we were deluged with calls. The very first caller was interested in the lease-purchase. I talked to the realtor and she said that a lease-purchase was out of the question without the permission of our landlords*, who have very inconveniently decided to skip town without leaving a forwarding address or even an answering machine at their old phone number. They are never in the office and they only come by once a month to pick up rent checks at the drop box, and for the last three months they have totally ignored my requests for current contact information. So with a purchase and a lease-purchase off the table, we were forced to pursue only a lease. And since it had to be a 12-month lease for our financing, instead of a month-to-month lease with the understanding that the property might sell, we would be forced to take the property off the market. So we did.

We signed a lease agreement with the very first person who called, who wants a lease-purchase. We will do a lease for now, and if the landlords ever respond to my certified letter requesting their current contact information, we can put together the lease-purchase deal in about a month or so. It took me $100 and 24 hours to find someone who wanted to buy our house. I spent the rest of the day completely ignoring my stack of ungraded final exams, in favor of doing some desperately needed housework, resting, and gloating over how much better I am at marketing than the damn realtor, who kept going on and on about how these manufactured houses can take 2 years to sell and how she had advertised our house in her picture ads right alongside all those $150,000 houses (which, in my opinion, was the reason they take 2 years to sell-- nobody for whom these homes are their best option is going to be looking at realtor ads). I know nothing about marketing but what I've learned with my little business at the Gardeners' Market, and she's a professional realtor, but she wants two years and I sold the house in 24 hours.

Now we are just waiting for the couple who rented our house to produce their deposit; they signed the lease but said they had accidentally left their checkbook in their parents' car, and their parents had gone down to SLC with the checkbook. I told them they'd have until Monday, but I think they're good for it. They seem like good, honest people. Still, though, I'm not blowing out the St. Jude candle until the deposit check clears.

* As with many manufactured homes, we own the house itself but rent the pad of land it rests on.

People Eating Tasty Animals

This'll be old news to people from Logan, but I've been wanting desperately to blog about this, and I haven't had the time until today:
LOGAN - A protest against the manner in which chickens are slaughtered for fast-food chain KFC drew additional customers rather than drive them away from the local outlet in this northern Utah city.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protest against KFC drew 10 sympathetic people, including someone dressed in a chicken costume, on Monday. But at one point, around lunchtime, more than 30 people stood in line to order chicken to eat.
''There's a place in this world for all of God's creations . . . right next to the mashed potatoes,'' said Rusty Smith, a KFC customer who sat on a patch of grass outside the restaurant with a group of co-workers, watching the protest...

Jacqueline Newbold, a supervisor at KFC, said an uncommon rush of customers required the store to call extra employees into work.
''We had a line going out the door and through the lobby,'' Newbold said.
During the first four hours of business, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., on Monday, the store had 211 customers compared with 130 the Monday before, supervisor John Simmons said Tuesday.

This reminds me of a few years ago when the campus gay and lesbian group (their exact name, like everything else these days, slips my mind) decided to have a "Wear Jeans To Support Gayness" type of event. The university, being a land grant university, draws a large proportion of its student population from rural areas where jeans are the normal apparel for people young and old. As far as I can tell, the plan was that this campus group would announce that everybody who supported gay rights would wear jeans that day to show their support, and the vast majority of the student population who didn't pay attention to campus announcements and wore their usual jeans would make the campus group feel like they had a lot of support.

Well, the day came, and I tell you, I'd never seen so many khakis in one place in my life. It was like holding class in the Gap.

Logan just doesn't go up much for liberal causes. The residents here are proud of their conservatism and not afraid to express it, but they're especially sensitive to trying to be shamed into changing their beliefs. I must say that after years of being a closet conservative in California, it's made a nice change.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Teehee (Junior High Moment)

My officemate, who has been to Caltech and is quite a bit older and more experienced than me, said I was "smart" and "creative" because I could integrate x arctan x by parts without using a table.

This has been a Junior High Moment, brought to you by Wacky Hermit.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Worse Than Expected

The home loan situation has now definitely crossed the line from "What the hell??" to "What the $^(%?????"

After I busted my butt all day sending in the entire list of paperwork the loan officer requested, including all the duplicate stuff, the loan officer calls up and says that even with all this paperwork our loan was denied, because we haven't been in credit counseling for at least 12 months. This was a complete shock to me, because the VERY FIRST THING we told the loan officer when we first applied was that we had just entered credit counseling. We made sure she understood that, because we knew it would affect our eligibility for a loan. We knew that there would be lenders who would not touch us because of it. And for months now we have been strung along thinking it was not a problem. Whenever we'd call her she'd tell us that the loan had already gone to Underwriting and that Underwriting had approved it. But evidently Underwriting didn't catch the part where we hadn't been in credit counseling for a year, and nobody bothered to check to see if they knew this rather important fact.

Fortunately, our loan officer was able to rapidly put together a second loan for us, which we may be able to get in time to still close on Thursday. But the little black cloud that follows me around and rains only on me is still there and shows no signs of change in the weather, so we'll see. Oh, and did I mention we have to find a renter for our house by, like, tomorrow? With a signed lease agreement and deposit check and all?

The St. Joseph candle is all gone now, so we've moved on to the St. Jude candle. He's the patron saint of lost causes.

Moving: Now Worse Than Wedding

I love being married to Favorite Husband, but I will never have another wedding in my life. It was more hassle than it was worth. In fact, up until now, planning and executing a wedding was the worst nightmare of my entire existence. It even beat out grad school and my thesis defense, that's how bad it was.

This move has now officially surpassed the Wedding From Hell as the worst nightmare of my entire existence. The moving part is the least of my worries; it's easy to box stuff up, we did it all the time when FH was in the Air Force. No, it's the buying of the house that is making this the Move That Is Rapidly Going To Hell In Not Only A Handbasket, But A Handbasket Decorated With Sickeningly Pink Bows.

I'll have to post the details later, but suffice it to say that a week before we are supposed to close on our house, our loan officer has suddenly presented us with a massive list of paperwork that she claims to need. Half of the paperwork we have already sent her, some of it twice. Some of the rest has a normal processing time of 7-14 days so we will not be able to get it to her before closing, no matter how insistently she asks.

I have dropped everything I had planned for today and I am going to spend the entire day trying to expedite this paperwork so that we can close on our closing date. And I have e-mails and calls in to everybody I can think of who can slap the loan officer upside the head and ask her "What the HELL are you trying to pull?" and letting them know that if our closing is delayed because of her, we expect full reimbursement for all costs and losses we incur as a result.

On top of all this, I am in Finals Week with my summer class, and I am already receiving e-mails from students in my Fall class in Tooele asking me questions I can't answer about their schedules and using abbreviations I've never seen before in my life. The new school is asking for a vision check for Sonshine to enter Kindergarten. FH's employer has just changed dental insurance and is only now getting around to telling us, so it's lucky we forgot Princess' dental appointment earlier this week, because we would have gotten there and found that the insurance we had was denied. And I'm trying to pack up my entire house while people are still living in it and using the stuff, and I have to rent out our house before we leave as well, because if I don't get it under lease before we close, they won't approve the loan.

You got anything else for me to do? Because if any of you were planning to spring anything else on me before I move, now's the time. Bring it on.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Too Late

NOW the city of Logan adds a second fiber optic line. The lack of redundant fiber optic lines was a factor in Spillman Technologies' decision to relocate to Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, it's too late for Spillman to reconsider their decision.

Cross-posted to Spillman Relocation blog.

The Correct Answer

My dad, who is pleased to finally be old enough to be a dirty old man, has the answer to the inevitable question asked of married men, "Do I look fat?"

He says the correct answer is "Sorry, what did you say? I was looking at your breasts."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On Small-Town Civility

One of the most notable characteristics of living in a small town is that even people who hate your guts will be nice to you in public. Some people think that's repulsively phony, but if you live in a small town for a while, you will begin to understand just how adaptive it is.

In a big city, pissing somebody off is no big deal. When there are millions of people out there, you're not likely to miss the friendship of a few of them, nor are you likely to encounter them again. If you don't get along with your plumber, you can always find a new one. But in a small town, there's only one plumber, and your pipes aren't going to last forever without needing his services. So you suck it up and be nice to him, because if he were ever to refuse you service, you'd really be up a creek without a paddle. And then there's only one funeral director, and only one or two grocers, and only a few local merchants and one librarian who's also the county recorder, so you soon find that sucking it up and being nice has become a way of life. You can't bounce a check or your neighbors will know, not because they're nosy but because your neighbors work at the store and the bank. That student you gave an F to is fixing your car right now. Piss off that teenage girl, and next time you come through her register with a box of condoms, she'll make sure everyone knows.

In a large city it is easy to build a circle of friends and acquaintances composed entirely of people you like, but in a small town you don't have much choice. You still have the basic human needs for acceptance and community-- these never go away-- but since your pool of applicants for friends and community contacts is much smaller, if you want to meet these needs, you have to put up with the quirks of people who in a large city would never be your friends. So being nice to people you don't like is not a sign of phoniness; it's an adaptation to life under different conditions. And given the proportion of the population that lives in small-town America, you might even argue that it's small-town civility that's normal, and what's unnatural is the anonymity of the city that allows you the luxury of rejecting people you don't like.

Bagel: "This!"

Bagel's latest word is "This!" He will point to something, or hold something up, and say "This! This!"

Bagel is still not walking, but he's started to stand for a few seconds at a time without needing the aid of a piece of furniture. He enjoys rolling a ball back and forth, and laughing at Sonshine. Pretty much everything Sonshine does is funny to Bagel. He's got an odd but distinctive sense of humor.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Weekly Gripe: Hair Highlights

This week's gripe is about people who dye their hair with absurdly streaky "highlights". Being of a somewhat libertarian bent, and figuring that hair color serves little societal purpose, I lean toward letting people do pretty much whatever they want with their hair. However, this doesn't stop me from having an opinion on whatever dumb thing they are doing lately.

It used to be that the purpose of dyeing "highlights" in your hair was so that you would look like you'd been out in the sun a lot, because hair that has been out in the sun a lot is unevenly colored and lighter on the top. It added interest and visual texture to the hair, and it tricked people into thinking that you made frequent visits to the beach, at least until they got wise to the fact that everybody was tricking them by dyeing highlights in their hair. However, today's "highlights" make you look more like you've been out of the sun so long that you don't realize that people's hair doesn't come in stripes. Today's "highlights" are half-inch-wide streaks of impossibly blond hair on what looks like an artificially darkened background, and they make you look like you took your hair inspiration from a visit to the zoo. Fifteen years ago, if you had highlights that streaky, everyone would ask you where you got your hair done so that they could be sure to avoid that place when they went to get their highlights.

Why do they do this? Are they trying to trick us into thinking that they are escaped zebras? Because if they are, it's not working. Not eating grass is a dead giveaway.

Not looking like animals is what differentiates us from animals. That, and being capable of rational thought. So why would anyone who didn't look like an animal and was capable of rational thought dye zebra streaks in their hair on purpose? It is because they think it makes them look cool. But if you ask me, a better way to make your hair look cool would be to wet it, wrap it around ice cubes, and stick it in the freezer door for a while. It will take just as long as getting your hair dyed, and although it will not last quite as long, at least you will be really cool while it lasts. Plus you won't have to deal with the problem of what happens when your stripes grow out.