Thursday, December 22, 2005

We Kiss You A Merry Wishmas

And a Happy You Near... with LOTS of eggnog. Dang, that's good stuff! How old were those eggs anyway?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Business Is Booming

I am done with sales for the year. I can say that with confidence because I am almost entirely out of merchandise. So confident, in fact, that I sat down the other day and did my Utah sales tax return.

Business has picked up considerably right before Christmas. I've had as many orders from my new website since I installed it than I ever had from my old website in the year and a half or so that it's been in operation! The orders were larger, too, and I got my very first wholesale order! I sent it COD and everything, and I just got the check back in the mail. And I got completely bought out of just about everything organic and green, especially the soap holders. I even had to make extra soap holders, just to meet the Christmas demand. People bought them by the dozens to give as gifts.

I am getting together with my soapmaker friend and we are going to write our business plans for 2006. I started writing mine already. It's really been helpful and made progress seem possible. It's also made it clear that if I'm to expand the business, I'm going to have to start hiring contractors again, and I'm going to have to raise my retail prices. The contractors I can handle, but the price increase scares me. Everyone agrees my stuff is way underpriced-- except, of course, the people buying it, who seem to have different opinions on that topic. I've taught business calculus enough times that I know what happens mathematically when you increase prices-- demand drops but revenues can increase, depending on many factors-- but it just scares the crap out of me to raise the prices for some reason.

A Talking Bagel

Bagel is finally, finally learning how to use words. And useful ones too, not just heart-tugging ones like "Jesus".

Surprisingly enough, he's also using two-word sentences, although sometimes it's hard to make out what the second word is. He says "want baba" when he's thirsty, and he says "[unintelligible] babyjesus" when he wants to look at the nativity set. He also says "ball" (which, amazingly, has the subtle vowel variation that distinguishes it from the "ba" in "baba").

Almost everything else he says, though, is still in Baby-Lonian. It has the rhythm of language, and you can tell by his intonation and gestures that he knows exactly what it's supposed to mean, but the sequence of phonemes makes no sense in English.

Slambook Memories

When I was in junior high, the big thing to do at the end of the year was to make a "slambook", which was a spiral notebook with a question on every page, followed by a numbered list. The first page of the slambook always asked for your name, and on that page you chose a number to write your name by. Thereafter, on every page, you wrote your answer to the question by that number.

The questions depended on whose slambook it was. Some slambooks had pretty tame questions, like "What is your favorite color?" Some got a little more daring: "Are you a virgin?" But the one that always baffled me was the one that seemed to appear in every slambook belonging to a popular and slutty girl: "You wake up in the morning and there's a dick in your room. What do you do?"

I never did get what that question was asking. You wake up and there's a dick in your room? Just a dick? Well, I suppose if you were a guy, that wouldn't be a big deal, because it would be just like every other morning. But if you were a girl, as all slambook participants were? Were they asking what you would do if you woke up to some sort of disembodied dick?? I always wrote that I'd call the police. I'd be very quick about it, because I hear they can surgically reattach those things if you act quickly enough.

The question would have made more sense if they'd asked "You wake up in the morning and there's a naked guy in your room. What do you do?" That one would not have baffled me. In that case I would definitely have called the police. I hear they can surgically reattach those things if you act quickly enough.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Car Is Dead. Long Live The Car!

Our little 1992 Nissan Sentra, of which we are the original owners, is unofficially dead.

It's still kicking somewhat, of course. If you can coax it into starting (which you have to do by poking it with a long stick), it will run with the smooth and quiet ride of a springtime lawnmower. The heater doesn't warm up until the car has been running for quite some time, and ventilation is an all-or-nothing proposition, since only the "off" and "hi" settings are working.

I took it in today to have the muffler looked at, and they told me that since the pipe has been cut off and welded so many times, the whole thing has to be replaced back to the catalytic converter. It's not that it costs more money than we have; we've been saving up some money for a new used car, because we knew this day was coming soon. It's that it just seems like it's not worth fixing the damn car up any more.

If FH were a "car guy" like my dad, he'd just devote a couple of weekends in the garage to fixing the thing up. But FH is decidedly not a "car guy." He thinks grease is, like, yucky. When the brake pads need changing, I'm the one who gets out the jacks and the socket set. But I'm seven months pregnant, and in no condition to be fixing cars for at least the next few months. FH has a "car guy" friend who comes down from Logan to hang out with him sometimes, and they fix cars and computers all weekend. But it's the middle of winter, and even though it was like 50 degrees today, it isn't always that warm. Last time he came down to visit, they changed out the switch for the ventilation system, and the damn thing still doesn't work right because now there's some kind of problem in the wiring.

So FH is going out tomorrow evening to look at cars. He wants to get a full-size sedan, mostly because he carpools with two guys who are both twice as large as he is. We were hoping, though, to put off this purchase until the spring, when we'd have more money to spend and could get a nicer car. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

It is Sooooo NOT Christmas

Today it was like 50 degrees. We ran around outside without our coats on. What little snow had fallen here in Tooele is all melted, except in the coolest of the shady places where it has turned to slush. In the meantime, I hear Logan is a winter wonderland.

This is frickin' Northern Utah. We damn well ought to have snow! I demand snow! Logan, give us back our snow!

UPDATE: I am informed that the snow in Logan is all melting too. They stole all our snow, and now they've just melted it??? And right before Christmas too. We are never letting Logan borrow our snow again!

Monday, December 12, 2005

On Tookie Williams

Since convicted killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams is slated for execution tonight at midnight, today has (rightfully) become a day for discussion of the death penalty, and I thought I'd add my two cents.

First of all, I think we need to clarify exactly what Mr. Williams has been sentenced to death for. He committed murders so heinous that a jury sentenced him to death under California law, and none of his appeals got him any reprieve. Now, you may or may not agree with that law. But no one is disputing that Mr. Williams was duly convicted of murder. And we should also clarify that Mr. Williams was not sentenced to death for any of the following:
  • Being a "bad guy"
  • Starting the Crips gang, which has killed many, committed much mayhem, ruined lives, etc.
  • Failure to write children's books while younger
Now it is being argued that Mr. Williams should be granted clemency and his sentence should be commuted to life in prison. And these arguments seem to be based on one or more of the following premises:
  • The death penalty is morally wrong for (insert reason here).
  • Governor Schwarzenegger has the power to commute the sentence.
  • Mr. Williams has written children's books and become a better person since his incarceration.
The first of those premises is debatable. However, this is a debate that has already taken place in California, and the other side won. True, it should be an ongoing debate; but it is the legislature's ongoing debate. People should think about the death penalty long and hard before deciding whether or not to support it, and this is a good occasion on which to think about it; but at this point, there is nothing that can be done about it in the time frame allotted. Mr. Williams was sentenced to die under existing law. This has been the law for many, many years, and if you are only now jumping on the anti-execution bandwagon just because it's "Tookie" that's slated for execution (and not out of any particular new or ongoing moral conviction that the death penalty is wrong), I have no respect for your view.

That leads us to the next premise: that because Gov. Schwarzenegger has the power to commute the sentence, he ought to do so. Unfortunately, having power does not equate to an obligation to use it. Clemency is one of the checks and balances that the executive branch has over the legislative branch. It should be exercised when the justice system has erred. To assert that Governor Schwarzenegger ought to grant clemency is to assert that the justice system has made a mistake, through the trial and all its appeals. Now, if you happen to believe that is the case, then you should be making that argument. But if you don't believe that a miscarriage of justice occurred in the original conviction, then you have no business asserting that Gov. Schwarzenegger ought to grant clemency.

And now we have the third premise: that Mr. Williams deserves life in prison instead of death because he has become a better person and recanted some of his former views. While I am thrilled that Mr. Williams has done so, and while I genuinely hope that his "conversion" is sincere, I would note that Mr. Williams was not convicted on the basis of what kind of person he is or the views he previously held on gang violence. He was convicted and given the death penalty because of the murders he committed. He has not un-committed those murders; he cannot. And he has not even expressed remorse for those murders. Why, then, ought he to be un-sentenced for them?

Mr. Williams' sentence was for the murders he committed. That he has become a better person is admirable. I certainly hope it earns him "brownie points" in Heaven, years off of Purgatory, good karma, or what have you. But it does not un-do what he has done or make the tiniest bit of restitution, and so it does not abrogate his responsibility to pay for his crimes the price the law and the system has required of him: his life. We would do well to remember that as ironic as it is for a "good person" to be executed, it is not outside the proper bounds of justice.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bagel Speaks; Says "This"

Bagel finally found a book that he can sit and look at without throwing it across the room: Cat Is Sleepy by Satoshi Kitamura. I've always loved Kitamura's illustrations of the cluttered rooms; they are full of familiar objects that you can point to on the page. And the book doesn't really have a necessary sequence to it, so it doesn't annoy the adult too much when the child flips back and forth between the pages instead of looking at them in sequence.

Bagel has really enjoyed this book. We read it every day. He's now started saying "What's this?" (instead of just "this"). The nativity set, which he examines every day, has stimulated his interest in animal sounds. He's particularly fond of the sheep ("Ba! Ba!") and the cow, although he keeps insisting the cow says "Ba! Ba!" too. In the Kitamura book he likes the rubber ducky and that the ducky says "Quack Quack," and he's expressed some interest in the cat saying "Meow."

So Bagel is starting to open up and talk now, which is good.

Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas

And so the debate rages on; is "Happy Holidays" an attempt to wipe Christ out of Christmas and commercialize the holiday? And are those who wish a non-Christian a "Merry Christmas" injecting religion where it's not wanted?

Evidently it's not occurred to anyone that the "holidays" in "Happy Holidays" might not refer to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but to Christmas and New Year's Day. In our culture, as in most, the new year is celebrated with tradition. But the holiday's proximity to Christmas, coupled with the (religious) tradition of celebrating the pre-Christmas season as part of Christmas, leaves only a week in which to explicitly wish people a "Happy New Year." Since we don't see everyone to whom we'd like to wish well during that week, saying "Happy Holidays" (meaning both "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year") makes perfect sense.

Not only that, but a lot of things that are popularly perceived as attempts to take religion out of Christmas are not what they seem. Take, for example, the outrage we see at the use of "Xmas." The X in "Xmas" isn't some callous and deliberate attempt to excise the word "Christ" from "Christmas;" it's the Greek letter chi, initial of "Christ." "Xmas" is just an abbreviation for a word commonly used. People who think Christ is being maliciously cut out of Xmas probably don't realize the irony that the fish, the early Christian symbol they plaster on their cars with abandon to proclaim their Christianity, doesn't contain the name of Christ either-- and not only that, but when it does contain a Greek word, it's usually the Greek word for "fish" (ichthos). Things that don't contain the letters C-H-R-I-S-T whenever they could aren't necessarily anti-Christian.

Most non-Christians aren't offended by the greeting "Merry Christmas," and neither should a Christian should be offended by being wished a "Happy Hanukkah" or a "Blessed Solstice". These occasions are met with these sorts of greetings because they are happy occasions for their celebrants. We should all rejoice that our friends are having a happy time of year, and it remains a fact that eight days out of the year constitute Hanukkah or that the winter solstice occurs on the 21st of December. We don't hesitate to wish someone a "Happy Birthday" on whatever day that might be, so I don't see any reason why we can't all spread good wishes to others for any other day of the year that's happy to us.

Now, this situation is complicated by the fact that the Christians have a longstanding tradition of celebrating the season before Christmas, which used to be known as Advent but is now usually called "the Christmas season." While most other holidays are greeted specially only on that day or for a few days before (when was the last time you said "Happy Halloween" before October 27th or so?), Christmas has long been greeted specially for an entire month before the actual holiday-- but we should remember that this is a cultural custom, not a religious one.

I've pontificated before on the distinction between religion and culture, although mostly in the context of Utah Mormons who fail to distinguish between their religion and their cultural customs. The distinction between the religious and the cultural, though, is an important (if difficult) one to make, because people tend to ascribe religious significance to their cultural practices (witness the "story of the candy cane" symbolism). And Christmas' religious traditions are deeply intertwined with cultural traditions, such as Christmas trees, wreaths, Santa, and the like, some of which derive from older, pagan religious traditions. There are many people who celebrate a cultural Christmas without celebrating the religious Christmas. My father's parents did just this when, despite their Jewish heritage, they put up a tree and gave presents on the 25th like all their neighbors did. These people are using the former pagan religious traditions, which have been "made over" into cultural traditions and "re-made-over" into Christian religious traditions and are now being "re-re-made-over" into American cultural traditions.

Ultimately, traditions mean whatever we think they mean. They have no significance outside of that which we ascribe to them. So if we are offended by the fact that they mean something else to someone else, we are being selfish and immature.

Friday, December 02, 2005


So, the doctor has officially diagnosed me with gestational diabetes.

The first thing he had me do was to meet with a diabetes counselor, who gave me a glucometer and showed me how to check my blood sugar. This was on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I dragged myself to Wal-Mart to buy more test strips, but was told that my doctor had forgotten to call me in a prescription for them. I called my doctor, but he isn't in the office on Wednesdays and didn't return any phone calls from either me or the diabetes counselor. On Thursday morning, my glucometer completely failed to register my reading. Four bloody finger sticks later, it turned out to be a problem with the test strips-- but I didn't have any other test strips to use, because the doctor had not called in any prescription for them for me. I called the manufacturer and they assured me that this is a very rare problem that test strips sometimes have. Wouldn't it be just my luck to get saddled with a rare problem first crack out of the box? Do I ever buy anything that isn't defective? Is there any transaction I can get into that comes off effortlessly?

On Thursday morning, he called in the prescription for the test strips. I dragged myself to Wal-Mart to pick them up. Then he called me yesterday to put me on some medication, so I had to drag myself right back to Wal-Mart to pick that up too. And he's just got wonderful bedside manner; when he spoke to me yesterday, he said "Well, so you've got gestational diabetes, huh." (And this AFTER I had already been testing my sugar for two days on his orders.) I was, shall we say, less than thrilled. This seemed to surprise the poor doctor. Since he knows I just moved here and have no friends, and he knows I have my own business and two jobs and three kids, my reluctance to also meet with total strangers, show them my blood, and tell them everything I ate today must have come as quite a shock to him.

The dose he prescribed for me is, as I discovered today, the maximum dose anyone should have of this medication. So this morning when I woke up shaking with a blood sugar of 55, which puts me over the line into hypoglycemia, I called his office. When he called me back to reduce my dosage, the conversation went something like this:

Doctor: Yesterday you didn't seem too thrilled with this situation.

Me: Oh, ya THINK???

I guess most of his gestational diabetes patients are just absolutely thrilled with the diagnosis and they all worship at his feet for his wisdom and graciousness in filling their lives with medication and finger sticks and meetings with diabetes counselors and trips to the pharmacy and spending their mornings on hold with test strip manufacturers. Especially at holiday time, when (according to Utah tradition) plates of cookies and candy fly fast and free around the neighborhood, in such quantities that no one can actually eat them all before they go bad. What the hell does the guy expect from me? Am I supposed to send him flowers or something?

So, today I've been totally hypoglycemic all day long. I've had to eat candy just to stay awake. My blood sugar levels have been hovering around 50 all day. I can barely climb the stairs and I can't hold a thought in my head for more than 10 seconds. There's not much anyone can do about it except to wait for the excess meds to wear off.

In one week I've gone from diabetic to hypoglycemic, I can't work, I can barely stand up, and evidently I'm supposed to be just thrilled to be on this rollercoaster, because it's the polite thing to do? Forgive me if I tell all non-essential persons in my life to take a long walk off a short pier.