Monday, October 27, 2008

The best and worst in people

Pretty bad and a little bit of worst, but mostly best.

On what discourse in this country is coming to:
"Journalists once had to achieve a certain gravitas before appearing on television as a political expert, but not anymore. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, a riveting presidential election and the proliferation of cable channels, people like Mr. Freire, who is 26 and has been managing editor of The American Spectator, a conservative magazine, since January, are finding themselves in hot demand."

Makes perfect sense

Hidden toward the end of this article on the foolhardiness of market prediction is this non-shocker:
"One of the few times that a financial strategist has been widely taken to task came in 1999, when Kevin A. Hassett and James K. Glassman published “Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market.”

The book, which arrived just months before the technology bubble burst and stocks plummeted to earth, was actually an argument that bonds and stocks should be considered as equally risky investments. But the title — cartoonish in hindsight and, in its authors’ defense, proposed by the publisher — has since become a popular punch line for jokes about irrational exuberance in turn-of-the-century Wall Street. (The Dow closed on Friday at 8,378.95).

Still, while the reputation of its authors may have taken a hit, “Dow 36,000” has not seemed to hurt their careers. Mr. Hassett, who did not respond to a reporter’s inquiry, works at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group in Washington, and serves as the senior economic adviser to the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain.

According to his spokesman, Mr. Glassman prefers not to comment on the financial markets now that he has started in his new position: under secretary of state for public diplomacy in the Bush administration. Apparently, there is life after Dow 36,000. The jury is still out on life after Dow 8,378."

Also, this is awesome.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just Say No

I lifted weights yesterday for the first time in ages. Little did I know that the real workout would come later, when I called Verizon to arrange the transfer of my existing phone and internet service to my new address. The service consultant (scratch that, saleswoman) tried to triple, then double, my monthly bill, often in a sneaky, underhanded way. But I was strong, and I resisted, in a feat that would make Liz Pulliam Weston proud.

First, she tried to sell me an HDTV package. Fair enough. I said no. She argued that it would be worth it, because it would waive the service transfer fee, which she said was $95. But even though I went to public school in fake America, I figured out that it was still not worth it (my monthly bill would increase by almost as much as the fee).

Then she tried to sell me enhanced telephone service. I told her that I only had a landline so I could have DSL. Nonetheless, she continued to go through every package available, one at a time. She reiterated that going with a package would allow her to waive the transfer fee. I kept saying no. Only then-- this is good--she said, "oops, turns out the transfer fee is only $42."

Then she tried to sell me DSL that was three times faster. I said no. I almost added that if I develop an internet porn habit I'll consider it.

Finally, we agreed that she would just transfer my existing service. Which is all I asked.

Don't think it stopped there. She said, "you'll get a few e-mails about services you'll be enrolled in, but you can cancel out. It includes line protection, a gaming service..." and so on. One or the other was free for a month and then I could cancel. I told her to just cancel them now.

I wish the rest of you, and the rest of the country, as much strength and determination as I managed to exhibit yesterday.

Mom: Why didn't you answer the phone when I called?
A.: If I didn't answer the phone, it's because I couldn't answer the phone.
Mom: Well, why couldn't you?
A.: I was on the phone with various utilities, to arrange for service in the new house.
Mom: What kind of service?
A.: Gas, power, water, phone...
Mom: Oh. [Yells at dad about something being on or off. I don't know.]

An amazing Sunday morning roundup

Kristof on forward-looking foreign and defense policy; Egan on whatever the f* is going on:
"Brainy cities have low divorce rates, low crime, high job creation, ethnic diversity and creative capitalism. They’re places like Pittsburgh, with its top-notch universities; Albuquerque, with its surging Latino middle class; and Denver, with its outdoor-loving young people. They grow good people in the smart cities.

But... they are disparaged as nests of latte-sipping weenies, alt-lifestyle types and “other” Americans, somehow inauthentic."
Krugman on the appeal of substance over fluff, even in politics; Dowd if you want another witty commentary on the Palin makeover; Collins is jealous of swing state voters; Warner sums up so much with one line:
"Mediocrity, after all, is the privilege of those who have arrived."
Rich reassures us that while
"there are racists in western Pennsylvania, as there are in most pockets of our country... despite the months-long drumbeat of punditry to the contrary, there are not and have never been enough racists in 2008 to flip this election."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Self-awareness, anyone?

Not here:

In order to pursue that goal as efficiently as possible, Hayes then announced that “liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.” This was an especially unfortunate turn of phrase given the fact that he had begun his remarks by saying he wanted to “make sure we don’t say something stupid.”

On Lebanon

If I had time I'd point out all the faulty logic in this article, but I don't, and you'd just as well figure it out for yourself. This one is on pretty shaky logical ground, too, but not as infuriating.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are you f*ing KIDDING ME?

Let it be known that I did not plan to bitch to you about how tired I am and how I got this way. But now that mom aggravated my state of exhaustion, I have to provide context.

I've pretty much wanted to crawl back into bed since my alarm went off at 5AM. I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating back pain and couldn't go back to sleep for several hours. Then, I was about to leave for work when I discovered that Gracie did some magic on the floor (anyone want a cat? I've had it with her). Then, I biked to work (10 miles), because I felt like it, but it was super-windy, which made for an especially exhausting ride. Then I worked, got home, and sat down to wind down and watch the Daily Show, when mom called.

Mom: Why is your voice like that?
A.: I'm tired.
Mom: Why are you tired?
A.: I just am. [Details would have invited a lecture].
Mom: You know, I talked to Tanya. She talked more about [her daughter's] wedding, and started telling me about how they met. Have you heard of J-Date?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: Well, they met on J-Date. And you know, he's just wonderful. And Tanya was saying that she knows a number of women who met wonderful men on J-Date-- and not just in Boston, in Chicago, all over. And she wanted me to tell you. She said when it's the right person, it's always the right time...

She went on for a few more minutes. I didn't tell her that I a) had no interest in internet dating, I've tried it before, at other people's urging, and it's been nothing but a waste of time; b) no, smartasses, I'm not going to try it just to appease my mother. If I recall, J-Date is expensive, and in nine days, I won't have a penny to spare.

Mom:...Tanya's daughter is really happy. I'm just saying. I'm just the messenger.
A.: Okay, mom.
Mom: Oh, what do you know about HDTV?
A.: Nothing at all.
Mom: Do you not want to talk about it?
A.: I do not know anything about HDTV. I've never looked into it.
Mom: How much do you pay for internet?
A.: $33 together with the phone.
Mom: Your internet is through Verizon?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: And your phone is all cellular?
A.: Technically we have a landline, because we can't get DSL without it.
Mom: How much does the phone line cost?
A.: $33 together with phone.
Mom: That's cheap!
A.: It is.
Mom: Why so cheap?
A.: I don't know.

I'm actually not doing this conversation justice. She asked me the same few questions (cost of phone, cost of internet, etc.) several times. To her credit, she sensed my annoyance.

Mom: Are you in a hurry?
A.: I'm just tired.

And I'm really the wrong person from whom to seek cable/internet advice, especially since I'm in a different region. And I don't want to deal with another year of complaint letters to Verizon.

Mom: Okay, go rest.
A.: Okay, goodnight.
Mom: Goodnight.

Not sure whether to laugh or cry

Probably laugh at this part:
[Colin Powell]...received more e-mails insisting that Obama is a Muslim and one calling him “unconstitutional and unbiblical” for daring to support a socialist. He got a mass e-mail from a man wanting to spread the word that Obama was reading a book about the end of America written by a fellow Muslim.

“Holy cow!” Powell thought. Upon checking, he saw that it was a reference to Fareed Zakaria, a Muslim who writes a Newsweek column and hosts a CNN foreign affairs show. His latest book is “The Post-American World.”

There's more (but it's not funny):

But what sent him over the edge and made him realize he had to speak out was when he opened his New Yorker three weeks ago and saw a picture of a mother pressing her head against the gravestone of her son, a 20-year-old soldier who had been killed in Iraq. On the headstone were engraved his name, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, his awards — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star — and a crescent and a star to denote his Islamic faith.

Here's an image to get out of your head

From the Times' Mortgage Bankers Longing for Good Old Days:
"We had streakers during the 1990s, but that was a joyful, happy thing,” said Mr. Lucas, who had been coming to such events for 20 years and recalled how a group of inebriated and naked bankers had once entertained the crowd.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I am becoming a monster

A fake monster, mind you, since the house I'm buying is in fake Virginia.

I am watching HGTV. A month ago, I couldn't stand HGTV. Not only that, but if I were in the gym, bored out of my mind on the elliptical, I preferred to stare in to space rather than read home design magazines.

The other day, I subscribed to Better Homes & Gardens.

Someone plan an intervention.

Hey there from fake Virginia

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

OMFG who the f* are these people?

Just keep telling yourself, Northern Virginia is a whole different animal.

Mom's birthday, continued

The evening was relatively peaceful... mom spazzed, of course, but that's to be expected. The greatest melodrama came after the main course, when I went to get the cheesecakes we'd gotten.

Mom: What kind of cheesecake did you get?
A.: Peppermint.
A.: Um, you knew these were peppermint when we got them. Besides, I'm sure they're fine.

I did not say, "had we left it up to you, they would be eating plain pie crusts." Besides, everyone, including my parents, liked the cheesecakes.

I came back to the dining room table just as the Grand Canyon off was getting heated. Nina summed it up perfectly.

Nina: I'm afraid this is going to get increasingly competitive until they all start insisting that their trip to the Grand Canyon was more special than everyone else's.
A.: Just be grateful that nobody has talked politics.

And that we were.

Mom and [many of her] friends really give me very little credit. It's a wonder they trust me to tie my own shoes.

Mom's friend: So, do you think you'll stay in the DC area?
Mom's other friend: She just bought a house there.
Mom's friend: Really, where?
A.: Not far from where I live now, in Alexandria.
Mom [interrupting me after "Where I live now"]: They don't know where you live now!

Now, while I cannot claim that I need no social skills guidance, I certainly need none from my mom, particularly with regard to offering context. But that's beside the point. Although I have low expectations of my mother's faith in my, I can't believe she thinks she needs to micromanage my conversations.

Another friend: Will you get a pet?
A.: I have a cat.
Friend: How exciting! Your own house-- you can live all on your own.
A.: Actually, I plan to rent out to a roommate.
Friend: It's one, two bedrooms?
A.: Actually, it's four...
Friend: Four!
A.: I was only looking for three and up, since I wanted a guestroom and a room to rent.
Friend: When you advertise for a roommate, make sure you tell them that you have a cat.
A.: [No sarcasm. No sarcasm. Self-censor. Self-censor. Not even 'ya think?'] Okay.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Website of the week

This is my favorite entry from Sad Guys on Trading Floors.

In other news, this trend gives a whole new meaning to "keep the day job."

IM and overheard phone call

nina: Hi!
me: hey!
are you coming tonight?
nina: Of course!
What time are we supposed to arrive?
me: 7pm
and my tacky mother says that she wants nothing but lottery tickets for her bday
nina: Really?
me: yes
nina: REALLY?
me: she thinks she's doing people a favor by making that known
I'm just the messenger
nina: Like scratch tickets or lottery tickets?
me: I don't think she cares
gotta go clean before I get yelled at
see you tonight
nina: Ok - bye!


So why am I not cleaning? Mom's on the phone, so I can't exactly vacuum. She's on the phone with a friend who won't stop talking about trying to set me up with her sons. Whom I've not met. I was cleaning in the next room over, where I overheard one end of the conversation:

Mom: I doubt it. She just bought a house there and she really likes her job.


Mom: To be honest, we don't talk about those things, so I don't know. I don't know whether she wants to get married. I think she wants to have children eventually, but she doesn't necessarily want to get married.


Mom: I don't know. It's really hard to say.

I was going to end this by giving mom the credit due... until she just came up to me and said,

Mom: Maria has very serious plans for you regarding her sons.
A.: That's her problem.
Mom: That's what I told her. One is 40 and one is 31. How old are you? 33?
A.: You don't know how old I am?
Mom: Shrug.

neutral television in common areas

You know who you are-- take this to the people who control the TV in the gym.

Happy birthday, mom!

Since it's mom's birthday, and since she is being nice, I will be nice. But I still have some things to tell you about-- mostly cute in nature.

Mom: It's like that cat in the story by Kiplinger.
A.: Kipling?
Mom: Was it Kipling?
A.: Yes.

Last night

A.: Accounting for time zones, it's already your birthday.
Mom: Yes, I was born in the morning. You were born at noon. Do you know why?
A.: Yes, because the nurses and attendants sat on your stomach.
Mom: And why...
A.: Because the head nurse wanted me to be born before her shift was up.
Mom: Yes... they all sat on my stomach...

Mom continued with the story of my birth. I thought this was odd, since she has a habit of turning things that aren't about her, her way, and here she was doing the opposite. For example, earlier that day:

Mom: You and Wendy met in high school?
A.: Actually, we met in summer camp. Kind of funny to think back to that time, and to think that now...
Mom: So? I have a lot of friends I knew since we were very young.

But I suppose my birth really was about her, so her bringing it up makes sense.

Today, we passed the summer camp where I met Wendy.

Mom: It was a good camp, too. You tried a lot of things... you had art lessons, dance lessons, horsebackriding lessons...

For the record, I never *sucked* at riding. I just sort of stopped doing it.

At Trader Joe's, we were deciding on desserts. Mom grabbed a pie crust.

A.: Mom, that's a pie crust. You have to make the filling yourself.
Mom: Are you sure?
A.: Yes. Read the box.

This is how we end up with a house full of crap. She doesn't look at the details, even the most relevant ones.

At the Russian food store, she once again grabbed a pie crust.

Mom: I found this pie.
A.: Mom, it's a pie crust again. Do you not even read the box when it's in Russian?
Mom: So it is. No, I don't.

Overall, she's very calm. She hasn't picked any fights or anything. I'm hoping for a peaceful birthday all around.

What do you think?

I love the Onion.

The fight against idiocracy

Bob Herbert on why we need to develop the math skills of future generations.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Watching TV with mom

I turned on the TV for "How I Met Your Mother." The opening scene had Barney hitting on a woman in the bar (shocker).

Mom: What's going on? Is that woman an idiot?
A.: Well, probably, but not officially. She's not a regular character.


Mom: So they all live in that one apartment.
A.: Mostly.
Mom: Why?
A.: Because they just do.
Mom: Why do they all live in the same apartment?
A.: Because they do.

Later (after the show)

Mom: Why do they all live in that apartment?
A.: I don't know, mom.
Mom: Why are you watching this show?
A.: Because it's funny.
Mom: I don't think it's funny.
A.: That's okay.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This is not discourse

By the end of the evening, dad was echoing my call for a truce on the political discussions. Mom would not yield. Eventually, the two of them disagreed about something and dad basically said to mom the same thing I've been saying for days: "You don't listen, and you twist my words around." It would probably be unfair to blame Fox News-- she's probably argued this way her whole life-- but her style certainly echoes theirs. Last year I still worked at a place where Fox News was considered legitimate, and I often had no choice but to watch it in the gym at work. One day, Donald Trump was being interviewed on one of the morning shows and he was saying the Iraq war was a debacle. The Fox interviewer asked him why he was pro-Saddaam. And this is the way conversations go with my mom. To appreciate how absurd these discussions are, let's consider one apart from heated political context:

Mom: Are you going to run this morning?
A.: No, my legs are sore.
Mom: So you think fitness is unimportant.
A.: That's not what I said...
Mom: You think the world would be a better place if nobody ran.
A.: As far as I'm concerned, this conversation is over.

We're still on this?

A family friend came by.

Friend: Congratulations, head of household.
A.: Why thank you.
Friend: Have you closed already?
A.: Nope, I close on Halloween.
Friend: Did you get a good rate?
A.: It was okay. [I explain the financing I ended up with].
Friend [who works in finance]: That's actually pretty good! And a second mortgage is better than PMI.
A.: It's not bad. The week before I bought, rates were way down.
Mom: They're going down again now...
A.: Actually, that's not going to have a direct effect on mortgages.
Mom: Yes, it is.
Friend: No, at least not immediately.
Mom: I've discovered this wonderful bakery run by a nice Russian woman. You have to try it.

Later, as friend is leaving. Mom is in the other room.

Dad: Mom doesn't miss an opportunity to tell everyone what a mistake it was for you to major in psychology, what a dead end career move that was.
A.: How did this come up?
Dad: Vika, the woman who runs the bakery, is an engineer by vocation. She loves her new career.
A.: Good for her.
Dad: Right. The point being, Mom's profound understanding of the American system of higher education doesn't square with that. As for your psych degree, she tells anyone who will listen. It's one of her favorite stories. She emphasizes what a bad career move it is.
Friend: Yes, that choice really seems to have set you back in life.

Friend leaves

Mom: I guess you did get a good mortgage rate after all.

Give me some f*ing credit. I did my research (and asked the right people for advice). Does she have to hear it from someone else to think I've done something right?

People unclear on the concept

My parents and I went on a couple of beautiful walks today. As we drove there, and walked around various lakes, and drove back, the surrounding houses filled me with awe. They were massive-- who needs that much space, I thought? I hadn't seen houses that big in ages. Even though I grew up not far from all this, my house-size paradigm has clearly shifted.

My dad was also apparently thinking similar, if opposite, thoughts.

Dad: Is your house about the size of that one?
A.: It's maybe a third that size.


Dad: What about that one?
A.: Not even close.
Dad: I'm trying to pick the smallest houses.

We drove on, and there was no house to which mine came close.

We've had these conversations several times. My parents are still confused. I explain that such is the price of living in the city, but my mom takes that as an invitation to one-upsmanship and starts going on about how she's this close to these stores, those parks, all the buses into the city. Not to one up, but I try to explain that I actually need to be closer, and to the subway, not just to the buses, but again, she turns it into a competition, says buses are good enough. I don't want to argue, and besides, her temper has been relatively even this weekend so why fight about something stupid. Hopefully, I'm adequately preparing them for how small the house is, so that there are no surprises. And really, it's enough space for me.

The future of indie film

Brought to you by Ann Hornaday:
Can indies be saved? Yes, but only as long as the question is framed differently. It's time to stop talking about budgets, "edge" and filmmakers' come-from-behind biographies -- indeed, maybe the word "indie" itself should be banished -- and instead rediscover values like intelligence, emotional truth, moral heft and restraint, which will endure long after indie-chic signifiers and smug hermeticism have worn themselves out.

the key is to attune

Mom: It's all about attuning. We're all energy...
A.: Mom, I'm going downstairs to do yoga.
Mom: No! This is more important! Listen to me!
A.: I've been listening to you ALL MORNING.
Mom: Two more minutes.
A.: Grrrrrrr....
Mom: So then, she healed him, and your father didn't have to go through with the operation. We're all energy. Remember that.

I make it downstairs. Dad comes down a few seconds later.

A.: You'd think you would know better whether it was your arm or leg that was clogged.
Dad: About 50% of what she said was accurate. Some was confounded, some made up.

I don't remember how we got onto that topic, but I do know that we were having an ordinary but interesting conversation for a while, and before I knew it, mom was lecturing about energy and chakras and how important it is to "attune."

Mom: When the doctor told your father that he had to be operated on right away...
Dad: That's not actually what he said...
Mom: Yes it was.
Dad: Actually...
Mom: No! That's what happened. He said operate or else...
Dad: Not quite...

This escalated, voices rose, and mom was soon screaming about what the doctors told dad. Yesterday, they got into the following screaming fight:

Dad: That kettle turns off on its own.
Dad: The water isn't even boiling yet.
A.: Can you please not yell about this?

This went on for a few minutes. But back to this morning:

Mom: It was just like when you disappeared in Europe, and three different psychics told me you were fine. One told me you were on the train. Another visualized a backpack.
A.: That was hardly a stretch. I was backpacking through Europe. And of course I was fine-- I left you a message saying that I was fine and that I wouldn't be able to call for a few days. I never *disappeared* in Europe.
Mom: No, there was no message. I didn't know what to think. Then, the psychics told me you were fine, and you called the next day.
A.: Mom, I paid some exhorbitant hotel calling rate to call you and tell you that I would be in transit for the next few days and would not be able to call.
Mom: One psychic saw you on a train. The other said you had a backpack. I don't know how they knew. This all goes to show, we're all energy. And then, with your dad's leg...
Dad: Actually, in that situation it...
Mom: No! It was your leg.
A.: Can I go downstairs now?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quiz Time

Paul Slansky's awesome 2008 campaign quiz.


You know, I've written on these pages about how when I was a child, my mom skimped on a lot of things and obsessed over the price of just about everything, such that I grew up thinking we were a bill or two away from poverty. While I didn't necessarily blame her, in light of her childhood and early adulthood, I did consider it unnecessary and counterproductive. Now that I've read this article about today's teenagers' attitudes about money, I'm just glad Mom erred on the side she did.

MOM! I'm eating.

Mom: Have some caviar spread.
A.: Thanks, I'll have a bit. I'll have a bit. I'm getting full.
Mom: It's really concentrated in nutrients, just like any sperm.
A.: Mom! That's not appetizing.
Mom: Well, it's true.

A few minutes later

Mom: It's high in protein.
A., checking the label: There's one gram of protein per tablespoon.
Mom: Is that a lot?
A.: Not really.
Mom: Well, it does have a lot of nutrients, just like any sperm.
A.: MOM! I'm eating.
Mom; It's fish sperm, it's okay.

Friday, October 10, 2008

but he really does resent USA Today's homometeorological agenda

We watched the Daily Show and Colbert Report repeats. Mom ranted through most of it, to the extent that even my dad was asking her to be quiet. I think she knows she's wrong and too insecure in her views to tolerate the slightest challenge. I've often wondered, "who believes all that shit?" but I kind of knew.

Dad: How does Jason feel about Stephen Colbert?
A.: Loves him. He was just saying the other day that he thought the show was hilarious.
Dad: In spite of the gay bashing?
A.: What?
Dad: Colbert is pretty anti-gay.
A.: You do realize that Stephen Colbert plays a character?
Dad: You mean, he plays himself?
A.: Kind of. It's a parody... mostly of Bill O'Reilly.
Dad: Are you sure he's not homophobic?
A.: Positive. It's satire.
Mom: They'll parody anything that makes them millions.

Things continue to deteriorate

A.: We had a really nice walk. Martha's doing well.
Mom: Did you know that you are one of 17% of the country that approves of the Democratic Congress?
A.: I don't recall saying that. That's why I don't like having these discussions with you-- you're very good at putting words in my mouth and oversimplifying what I've said.

I did not say, "Did you know that I'm one of 17% of the country that can identify Iraq and Afghanistan on a map, much less demonstrate at least basic information about both countries, and for that reason, I could give a fuck what the other 83% thinks?"

Mom, to dad: You know, it might make sense to buy your company's stock.
Dad: Yes... it fell today, but...
Mom: I know it fell, everything fell.
Dad: I know you know. Can I now finish my sentence? Anyway, I do think it is a good time to buy it. The stock fell but the cash flow is good. I can only imagine what it's like for smaller companise...
Mom: Everything fell...
Dad: Could I finish?

I was already blogging the above when...

Mom: What time are you meeting Jason?
A.: Around 11:30.
Mom: Is that where you once took sailing lessons?
A.: Yes. [I knew immediately where this would go].
Mom: Oh, what we didn't try to teach you. Dance, swimming... do you remember when you first started swimming?


Mom: Do you?
A.: YES! I'm busy. Can we discuss this later?
Mom: NO! You are so rude! Big deal, you're busy!
A.: ...

I begged, several times, for a political cease fire

Mom: There's a book out that reveals all these things.
A.: That book is full of untruths. Even your friends at Fox news are saying it's not true, and are calling the Ayers association a joke.
Mom: You don't know what book that is. It just came out.
A.: And it was instantly shown to be full of crap.
Mom: It all sounds good. You don't know. You didn't live through Hitler, you didn't live through Stalin...
A.: I don't think it's fair to confound eloquence with genocidal tendencies.
Mom: And you don't think Pelosi is an idiot?
A.: No.
Mom: The democrats have been in power for...
A.: Two years.
Mom: That's when it all started.
A.: Um, no.
Mom: Tell me one thing he's done.
A.: Well, in terms of education...
Mom: Hah! Yes, with Acorn.
A.: That, too, was revealed to be untrue.
Mom: No, I read about it yesterday.
A.: That doesn't mean it's true. Can we please just stop talking about this? I'm not going to agree with you. You can't help but raise your voice and interrupt when I disagree with you. Let's just stop.


Mom: And saying that the only way forward is alternative energy.
A.: As a personal favor, for me, just stop.
Mom: All the pretty speeches...
A.: There is nothing wrong with being able to speak in complete sentences.
Mom: Aha! He deserves to win just for that?
A.: That's not what I said. But it doesn't hurt.

She's trying

Mom: It's the Clinton years. It's the democrats.
A.: Mom, can I please just read the paper? I'll be off the computer in a minute.
Mom: I don't need the computer.
A.: Neither will I, once I just read this.

I will give her credit: after my asking a few times, she actually made an effort not to talk to me while I was doing yoga. And she hasn't picked any fights yet. She's actually being nice.

She even said, "you know-- it's not so much that you've gotten fat... but you have a more athletic shape. You were more thin and delicate before."

I don't remember EVER being thin and delicate, but if it means she'll stop talking about my weight/shape, it works for me.

I almost never agree with David Brooks

Today, he has a point.

In other news concerning anti- (or rather non-) intellectualism in America, here's the story about the blonde who sued L'Oreal because she found having brown hair traumatic.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The first few hours

Mom: I don't like those pants on you.

Three seconds later

Mom: Look at that-- you've grown quite a stomach!

Many hours earlier

Mom: Hello?
A.: Hi, mom. My flight is delayed. I won't be getting in until 5:30 or so.
Mom: So late? Why are you coming so late? I'd hoped we could go for a walk in the morning on Sunday.
A.: Mom, I'm getting in tonight. I'm at the airport now.
Mom: Tonight? I thought it was Sunday. Dad thought it was Saturday.
A.: I did send you the itinerary.
Mom: The house is a mess...
A.: It doesn't matter. I'll call you when we land.

The flight was delayed two more times. I don't know why, but it didn't bother me. Perhaps because I was (selectively) observing Yom Kippur, so I didn't have the energy to do much but sit at the airport for hours. I had work to do and magazines to read. And I figured my mother would have plenty of time over the course of my visit to point out that I've gained weight. Which I certainly haven't since she last saw me, but I think she just likes to act surprised.

One of the big challenges over the next few days is to get mom to understand that I am moving into a very small house (that she does get; her reaction to the photos was, "it's small") and that I'm going out of my way not to fill it with crap. She's already offering me stuff and telling me not to buy anything. Which reminds me...

Earlier this evening

A.: I'm so glad you threw out all those twenty-year old beauty products.
Mom: Oh, I didn't throw them out. I couldn't do it.
A.: Sigh.

Later this evening

Mom: Why is it that you've put on weight?
A.: I don't know, mom.
Mom: Huh.


Mom: But you know you have.
A.: I don't think I have since we last saw one another.
Mom: I think you have.
A.: Okay. Goodnight.

Your taxpayer dollars at work?

Nicholas Kristof on how short-sighted policies are unconscionably hurting people.

An excerpt:
Mr. McCain seems to have supported Mr. Bush, mostly out of instinct, and when a reporter asked him this spring whether American aid should finance contraceptives to fight AIDS in Africa, he initially said, “I haven’t thought about it,” and later added, “You’ve stumped me.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

My demographic is at risk of dilution

It seems that single, heterosexual male cat owners are on the rise.

No arm-twisting here

Dad: So, where did you go hiking on Saturday?
A.: Shenandoah...
Dad: Did you bike over there?
A.: No--it's about two hours west of here.
Mom: It's in the mountains?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: We have mountains too!
A.: I know.
Mom: We have mountains!
A.: I'm not arguing with you.
Mom: And beaches, and lakes.
A.: This isn't competitive, mom.
Mom: And you think I could live in the DC area! I couldn't live in the DC area! Here, I can live.
A: No one's saying you have to live in the DC area.

It hit me, after this conversation, that buying down here, rather than in Boston, is a stroke of genius. Otherwise, mom might try to move in with me.

little ovoid one

J.: Labradoodles require a lot of energy. Over the weekend, he likes to walk ten miles a day.
A.: I wish Gracie liked to walk. The first thing I'll do in the new house is build the rest of the gate, so she can play in the yard.
U.: Won't she be able to slide under or through the gate?
J.: She's kind of big.
A.: Yeah, that's a good point. She is big.

Later, I showed U. a picture of Gracie.

U.: I don't think she'll be slipping through under the gate.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


J.: I grew up right near Mexico. That makes me an expert in foreign affairs.
A.: I can see the projects from outside my house. I'm an expert on poverty. [Pointing to Gracie] I'm also an expert on obesity.

Our Washington

Leonard Downie Jr. eloquently sticks up for our city. An excerpt:
Large numbers of Washingtonians have dedicated much of their lives to real public service that does not involve the ego trips, trappings and hypocrisies of elective office.
It's a great article overall, and much more classy than what I was going to blog the other day:

F* small town America. How dare you people come to my (adopted city), make everyone late for work-- that means you, stand-on-the-lefters, as well as those of you that don't understand that your massive, in both quantity and expanse, families, in spite of your size, do not need to take up the entire width of the sidewalks on the Mall, which, by the way, are also bike paths-- but I digress. I can slow down and bike around you, not a big deal. But the way you people accept all sorts of earmarked welfare (Alaska, anyone? Farm bill?) and otherwise benefit from the hard work of the people in this city (see article linked above), and then stab us in the back and go on about your superior small-town values. Well, f* you.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Times analyzes Thursday's debates... and more

The editorial, the potential impact on women in politics, the other guy, and the analysis of language.

Also, Judith Warner says it brilliantly:

Many of us who’d proudly decided, in our twenties, to pursue edifying or creative, or “helping” professions, woke up to realize, once we had families, that we’d perhaps been irresponsible. We couldn’t save for college. We could barely save for retirement.

For those of us who have hated this period — the wealth worship, the wealth gap, the elevation of everything suspiciously shiny and irrationally bubbly and stupidly ebullient, there should be some feeling of vindication. But it just isn’t coming. A great emptiness — and a gnawing kind of fear — has taken its place.

Schadenfreude is impossible because the fat cats — the ones who bent the rules, the ones who pushed the envelopes, the ones who paid lower taxes because capital gains were most of their income, the ones who opposed regulations on the banking and mortgage industries — are taking us down with them.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Too much to ask

Almost a year ago, I was asking--rhetorically--whether it was too much for mom to be supportive. It was a no-brainer: I'd been offered the job I had wanted for years, at an organization whose mission even she could respect. Instead, her reaction ranged from disrespect-driven delusion (what had I done at my existing job to force myself out) to complete lack of interest and perspective (after all, her complaint-letter assault on Verizon was more important). I am now coming to suspect--even though I truly hate to think this about my mother--that competition is behind her lack of support. It's not exactly competition; it's resentment that she has been shut out of the process and the decision, and it's discomfort in admitting to herself, much less to anyone else, that I can make decisions in my life without her micromanagement.

This is becoming increasingly obvious every time we talk about the house.

Mom: So, everything's set?
A.: What do you mean?
Mom: You got a loan?
A.: Yeah, that's all set. The appraisal came back--it was [$75,000 over what I'm paying].
Mom, derisively: That's bullshit.
A.: Thank you.
Mom: Everything is going downhill right now.

I didn't tell her that in this area, things are coming back up. Well, actually I tried to tell her yesterday, and that was for a less popular area. I'm quite happy to ignore her.

I'm not sure what I expected of her, but I do wish she'd give me some credit. I'm not an idiot; if I were, I would have bought years ago, when everyone and his grandmother were screaming, "buy!" Nor am I blindly optimistic; I know that there's risk (of course there is!); this could be the worst financial decision I ever make, and while I doubt that is the case, there are opportunity costs anyway. I know what's right for me at this stage of my life and I have a decent understanding of this area's real estate market. I'm in no position to try to time the bottom of the market, but at least I know that. I'm excited about this house and I think it will be a good investment. Mom's unflinching confidence in her understanding of just about everything--in this case the local real estate market, which she understands better than the appraiser and the inspector do--is nothing new. It would be nice if she stopped trying to scare me or convince me that I've made a mistake-- I mean, this is nerve-racking enough as it is-- but I know that that's too much to ask. Mom has always been emotionally selfish and it's inconceivable that she would put my needs, to feel good about my decision, for example, ahead of her own. I would like for her to give me some credit, but that's also too much to ask and I'm not sure why I thought for a minute that it was a possibility. She won't like the house when she sees it-- it is attached, it's near the projects, and its bedrooms are small. However, she's not the one that's going to live there, she's not paying for any of it, and it would behoove her to come to terms with the fact that I am capable of making big decisions in my life without her approval.

Increasingly rare in this age of pandering

The controversial concept of personal responsibility.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mom is back

I called an hour or so ago to tell my mom about the inspection. She picked up, talked about a house she looked at (she's not really shopping; she just likes looking). She told me that it dropped in price by $100,000 in a week, but that she still wasn't interested. This went on for many minutes. Eventually there was a pause.

A.: I had the inspection today.
Mom: Why didn't you say anything?
A.: Because you were telling me...
Mom: Whatever. So how did it go?
A.: It went really well. All the really important stuff is pretty new and in great condition. Unfortunately, the water heater only has a year or so left, but...
Mom: Oh, water heaters aren't expensive and...
A.: Yeah, I'm open to replacing it with a water/energy saving system anyway. Other stuff... the dishwasher is broken but they have to fix it or credit me for it, but I'm not worried.
Mom: Oh, you need a dishwasher.
A.: I really don't.
Mom: Yes, you do. Our dishwasher...
A.: It just takes up space. The kitchen is pretty small...
Dad: Smaller than ours?
A.: Yes. By half. Everything is "smaller than ours."
Dad: Oh.
A.: It's a reality of living in the city. On my income, anyway. Anyway, the layout can be improved.
Mom: When we moved in to this house, the kitchen was practically in the middle of the floor. The oven was...

I had to cut her off. It's been a long day and I'm too tired for a detailed narrative about everything's counterpart in her house, which is where, I could tell, this was going.

A.: Anyway, most importantly, I really like the house. I got to spend a lot of time there while the inspection was happening. I love the downstairs and both yards. The upstairs is just okay but once I settle in and recover financially I can deal with that.
Mom: It's unfortunate that you have no basement.
A.: I consider it very fortunate. Like I have told you, basements here flood. Also, not having one keeps me from accumulating crap.
Mom: I don't know where I'd put all my stuff if I didn't have the basement...
A.: Exactly.
Mom: I told Misha. He said you need to put in another bathroom, especially if you're going to get a roommate. He said, "how is it that two people will share one bathroom?"
A.: There is a half-bathroom downstairs.
Mom: Right, but he was talking about the shower.
A.: Is he for real? I've shared bathrooms and showers my whole life. Which one of us lived for decades in Soviet communal housing? What's going on here?
Mom: That's exactly what I told him.
A.: This is a really good buy. The inspector was telling me...
Mom: What does he know?
A.: Will you LET ME FINISH my sentence?
Mom: Don't believe what the realtor tells you.
A.: First of all, it was the inspector. What's that noise?
Mom: We're watching Glenn. We love Glenn.
A.: Ooh-- watch the Daily Show tonight, it was really funny.
Mom: What's that? What time?
A.: You know the Daily Show.
Mom: Oh, we have more mushrooms. I froze them and will make them when you're here. Such an excellent source of protein.
A.: Mom, we've discussed this. Mushrooms are health but they are not a good source of protein.
Mom: Yes they are. What are they then?
A.: I don't have the energy to have this conversation with you right now.
Mom: Okay, bye.
A.: Bye.

Five minutes later, my phone rings.

A.: Actually, mom, McCain's campaign team is the one with ties to...

She goes on. And on. I almost wish I hadn't tuned her out so I could relay the rant in its full glory, but I had my sanity to think about. This would actually upset me more if my parents' vote counted, but they live in Don't-Blame-Me, I'm-From-Massachusetts, so they can rant all they want.

A.: I have to go; it's been a long day. Goodnight, mom.
Mom: Goodnight.

Teach my feet to fly...

I was looking back at my post from a few days ago-- one of many in which mom says something like, "I don't understand how you can live in DC. There's no water." Then I say, "there's a river, mom." Her usual response is something along the lines of "that doesn't count," although she once responded by telling me that the Potomac is so filthy that the fish are hermaphrodites. That is less absurd, however, than Saturday's response-- a flat-out "no! no, you don't have a river!"

Every time I catch a glimpse of the title of that post, I think, facetiously, "I wish I had a river so I... could teach my feet to fly...." and get Joni Mitchell's "River" stuck in my head.

Then, because I'm a free association spaz, I get Joan Baez' "The Water is Wide" in my head. Which by the way also laments the inability to fly. Just pointing that out.

I'd never thought I'd say this...

...but comparatively, Paris Hilton actually makes a better role model in this case:

Liana Imanidze, 71, whose grand home in Tbilisi has a sculpture of Stalin in the backyard and is decorated inside with a replica of his death mask perched on a pedestal, lamented that younger Georgians were ignorant about Stalin, including her own grandchildren, who she complained were more interested in Paris Hilton than in World War II.

From the same article:

But Mr. Ziyadaliev, 64, an avuncular father of two who dresses as Stalin even on days off, insists that business has seldom been better. He is a frequent hired guest at weddings, where he dances to Soviet Katyusha music from World War II.

The benefits of looking eerily like the former dictator, he boasts, include free meals, free car repairs — and free passage through Russian checkpoints.