Friday, June 30, 2006

Repurcussions of Ranting

Apparently I whipped myself into some sort of righteous fury as a result of yesterday's post. I went to a meeting last night, and behaved as I keep wishing I HAD behaved about an hour after I've left most meetings. But last night, none of that. It was practically performance art--I was ON.

And I wasn't a bitch.

I didn't yell or flail around--I simply kept saying exactly what I wanted to say and was not swayed.

That shouldn't be such a great accomplishment, but really, it is. At least for me. These meetings are at least 3 hours long, sometimes 7 or more hours.

We finally have some extra money. So the question becomes, do we hold on to the extra in order to grow our reserve so that we can fully step away from County oversight? Or do we restore some of the cuts from past years?

My mentor on the board was making a very strong case for growing the reserve, and I sincerely do not want to get into a tussle with him. However, another Board member made a very strong argument for re-instating a rather non-sexy program. Custodial services.

I wouldn't call what happened next a fight, there were no raised voices, no threats, no gnashing of teeth. However, for every time one person said, "Here are my reasons for not spending at this time," I would return with, "I heard that, but I'd like to discuss bringing something back now." Every time. Which begins to send a message.

By the end of the evening, we had done a great thing: We brought back Class Size Reduction at the Ninth Grade for English and Math courses. We also approved the hiring of an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, and we approved a part-time secretary for that position. We also restored custodial services to where they were before the District discovered shortfalls about five years ago.

At the very, very end of the meeting, I realized how hard this discussion had been on all Board members. We had held it together during the big conversation, but I got into a fight with a colleague at the very end of the meeting which only demonstrated how tightly wound we both were. I hate those.

It was over nothing--whether or not an item requested should go on a future agenda--but it quickly spiralled into accusations of trying to go back on a previous vote, or a demonstration of lack of loyalty (although the word itself was not used). I did raise my voice over this one, which I shouldn't have, but continued to say that I wanted an item on a future agenda. (I wanted a discussion, she thought I was asking for a new vote.)

But my equally tightly-wound colleague kept insisting that my item didn't need to go on a future agenda. (Which is unusual. Most of the time Board members just make any request they wish. Whether or not it goes on the subsequent agenda is up to the Superintendent, but usually we just call out our requests at the very end of the meeting with no further comment, while the Superintendent scribbles notes. This meeting, however, another Board member was objecting to the request itself.) She and I went back and forth, getting more and more heated, until I let loose with my, "I Agree With You" speech:

I agree with you. I want to discuss this in public. By law we cannot discuss any item which has not been agendized. Could we please agendize this? Because I Agree With You. I do not want to vote again on the issue, but you are bringing forward information that this will not cost us any money. Which is a Good Thing. I'd like to talk about it. Could we talk about it at the next meeting? That's ALL I'm asking for. Because, one more time, I Agree With You.

I got my item on the agenda.

But now I'm fairly sure I'm in the doghouse. Usually my friends on the Board call the next morning to rehash what went down, or what needs to happen next.


I'm thinking they no likey the Suisan who practices her rant the day before.

Oh well. At least I'm not going to be spending all day on the phone. Damn. That means I have to finish laundry. Gah.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Words I Hate, or Thirteen Words Which Have Been Shoved Down My Throat In The Last Three Years To The Point That I Will Live A Fulfilled Life If I Never Have To Hear Them Again.

(Inspired by a conversation between Kate, Beth and me in Beth's blog, The Sum of Me.)

1. Anonymous (as in: It's too dangerous for me to use my own name, because repurcussion is a terrible thing, so I will simply tear you a new one, using your real name, while I hide behind the "if you only knew" defense.)

2. Consensus (as in: No one should disagree; it's important to reach consensus to end the divisiveness. News flash: Consensus does NOT imply unanimity. Sorry, but it doesn't.)

3. Divisiveness (as in: Your continuing to disagree with me is creating divisiveness. Well, OK then. I propose that you decide to agree with me, and we'll skip into the bright and sunny future together. You game?)

4. Decorum (Actually, I don't have a problem with this word yet. I only have a problem with the colleague who insists on using it over and over as an example of what public politics should embody. This is the same collegue who cries at meetings, slanders her colleagues in the press, and typically leaks confidential personnel discussions to the employee who is being discussed. Apparently tears work for this lady--she resorts to them all the time.)

5. Hypocrisy (see # 4, above. Then imagine the "decorous" colleague accusing those who don't agree with her as being hypocrites. Ow. My head hurts. Too many internal inconsistencies.)

6. (blank) (Can't think of a word for this. There's a scheme where people put there hands on their chests, roll their eyes to heaven and exclaim, "It's for the Children!" What is that called? Child-centric policy-making? Public motherhood? Stupidity? Lack of intelligence in logical, public discourse? Yeah, whatever it's called? I'm done with it.)

7. Lability (Labile--emotionally unstable, easily moved to tears. Dammit. Stop. Crying. It makes all women look stupid while you, either on the dais or at the public microphone, cry, moaning on about how Hard This Is. Just stop. I am unmoved.)

8. Fuck. (I'm just getting sick of it. It has never shocked me and doesn't shock me now. Nonetheless, I'm sick of hearing it every other fucking word simply to fucking demonstrate how fucking pissed you are. Got it. Lay off.)

9. "Personal Growth Opportunity" (OK, that's more than one word.) (News Flash to my Idiot Brother: Your divorce is only a Personal Growth Opportunity for you if you actually decide to change as a result of it. Insisting that everyone else change around you, so that you can feel better about yourself is, HELLO!, not personal growth. BTW, I'm not fucking interested.)

10. Loyalty ::shudder:: (To my colleagues WITH WHOM I AGREE: I should not have to express my loyalty. I have never been interested in a loyalty pledge, and would fight like hell if soneone presented me with one. I AGREE WITH YOU!! Stop talking about loyalty. Either I am a dynamic, articulate, intelligent colleague, whose opinions demand some respect, or I am an idiot with no ability to think things through who must rely on blind loyalty to a larger political agenda. Don't tell me I'm smart and then ask me to be loyal. Clearly pisses me off.)

11. Crisis (as in: While we are in this time of crisis we will have to do things differently. Question: Could you please define WHEN the crisis will be over? Because the day the crisis ends, I'd like to get some stuff done.)

12. Politician (as in: I'm not a poli-TISH-un. I just ran for this post so I could, sniff, help the children. Dude, you raised money so that your name could be placed on a ballot certified by the Secretary of State, and people voted for you. You ARE a politician. Stop pretending that you're still in the PTA overseeing a giant bake sale.)

13. PTA (What IS the deal with the PTA? Do you have to be missing a chromosome or have had your head rewired to become an active member? Anyone know? Anyone? Bueller?)

Sorry to have burdened you all with this, but I needed to get it off my chest.

My heaving, bosomy chest, whereupon my darling angels pillow their heads while I soothe their troubled brows with a gentle hand.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

J R Ward

Suisan's standing on some street corner in a crowded city, with her hand in the air, saying, "Yup! I'm the LAST one! Yes! That's me!"

Because as of last week, I hadn't read any Brotherhood novels.

So I decided to start at the beginning and read Dark Lover last week. I'm planning reading the rest of the series, and did want to start at the beginning.

I liked it.

I kind of have a problem with Wrath and his adoration of Beth, but I liked the book. It's because of violence in my past, but I could still enjoy the book, so that's a testament to JR Ward's abilities.

Or not.

I dunno, this is hard to get my head around. I think I still HAVE the fantasy that some beefed up hunk is going to walk into my life, take control of every aspect of my life, when I sleep, where I live. He'll hold me when I'm sick, and violently protect me when I'm in danger. To top it all off, he'll demand that all his friends and brothers behave in the same referential* and protective manner.

Wrath perfectly embodies that fantasy. When Beth is out of his "sight" he becomes almost panicked. He needs to protect her as much as she needs protection. He deeply loves her and repects her, and he would hurt himself to be with her. (I'm thinking of the marriage scene.) (Did anyone else see the "Mary Sue" reference in the marriage scene? When she wishes her name were Mary or Sue rather than Elizabeth? Heh. heh.)

Except, as a reader, I find myself getting pulled out of the story as I try to warn Beth off this relationship. Being valued as a possession, a possession which needs to be protected with violence, is a dangerous role. First the guy puts you on a pedestal and tries to recraft the world so that it serves only the perfect woman. (Part A is very nice!) Then he starts becoming angry at the perfect woman for not maintaining her perfection, or for tempting the world, or his friends into stepping out of their preordained roles. (Part B is not so nice.)

Everytime Wrath warned one of the Brotherhood to stay away from Beth I really got gooseflesh. I don't like getting involved with a hero who scares me.

Yet, I did.

Because I liked the book.

*edited to add: I made a goofy goof which made me laugh this morning when I reread this. Not referential!! (He refers to her all the time) I meant reverential (as in he treats her with reverence or he reveres her.) I have to laugh though at the idea of a referential hero!

I may not be able to prove this point

...but it seems to me that Mr. Bloom is looking a heck of a lot like Errol Flynn in the publicity stills for Pirates of the Caribbean II (POTC2).

I was trying to point this out to Dear Butcher the other day when we were at the movies, but he doesn't have instant recall of dear Errol's features, so I wasn't getting anywhere.

Errol usually is shown grinning slyly, but I managed to find a fairly serious picture of him too. Gaze upon the swashbuckler:

OK, now look at a publicity still of Orlando Bloom in Elizabethtown. I tend to think of him like this, generally. Head tipped back, cute grin, and a small chin, a little pointed.

I cropped the photo below from the movie poster for POTC2

The balance of his face looks different. Now, seeing them side by side, it's not as dramatic, I admit, as it seemed in the theater, however, I'm not giving up yet. I can't get over the idea that publicity has posed Orlando to resemble Fairbanks, Douglas, and Flynn.

To my eyes, it looks as if Orlando has his mouth open but his lips closed. I swear they're trying to give him a longer face and more prominent chin. (Maybe it's only the mustache?)

It's just an impression I have, hard to say, really.

Oh god, how many more days? Tick. Tick. Tick.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Picked up a call from a reporter today asking what my reaction was to an initiative scheduled to go on the statewide ballot in November. Hadn't heard of it before.

So I started off by saying, "Yeah. Sounds like something I'd support. But let me go look into it and get back to you."

I've Googled, I've read the initiative in its raw form and in its condensed form, I read the Education Code, and I've Googled some more.

Now I'm totally confused--I still think it's a good idea. However the damn thing keeps talking about collecting money, but never says how it's going to _distribute_ the money. So I'm not sure I really support it.

Damn politics. Politicians always make these things too complex.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Local Cranks

The New York Times published an article on June 26, the bulk of which is probably hidden behind its subscriber firewall.

It tells the story of a local guy who wants to support unions and the American labor force, while protecting local education for the benefit of legal Americans who pay taxes. His concern is that illegal immigrants are living in his town and that they take up jobs (by standing on street corners looking for roofing jobs) and send their children (some of whom may be disabled) to public school.

There are the schools and hospitals filled with children from illegal apartments like the basement dwelling, which Mr. Nicolosi calls "a little dungeon, windowless."
"Two children are in school, and one is handicapped — that's $10,000 for elementary school, $100,000 a year for special education," he said. "Why am I paying taxes to support that house?"
One man's frustration over a family in a basement goes a long way toward explaining the grass-roots anger over immigration policy that many members of Congress say they keep hearing in their districts. And it also illustrates the unsettling consequences such anger can set in motion.

Mr. Nicolosi has set about reporting all illegal apartments to the City officials, intent upon rooting the illegal immigrants from his perfect suburbia. He has become a regular letter-to-the-editor writer and has run for office.

But as the national debate [regarding immigration] flared, so did Mr. Nicolosi's frustration at what he saw in his neighborhood. Those clipped front lawns? Mowed by underpaid Latino workers. Those tidy homes? Contractors hired immigrants off the books to repair roofs and replace pipes, Mr. Nicolosi said, instead of training, and decently compensating, someone like the 20-year-old American up the block who needed a job.
"They're telling us Americans don't want to do these jobs," Mr. Nicolosi said. "That's a lie. The business owners don't want to pay. I know what my grandparents fought for: fair wages and days off. Now we're doing it in reverse."

Mr. Nicolosi is also concerned about the cost to the public schools when illegal immigrants show up at the door. Remember this part?

"Two children are in school, and one is handicapped — that's $10,000 for elementary school, $100,000 a year for special education," he said. "Why am I paying taxes to support that house?"

Beyond reporting the apartment to the City and writing letters, he's also become a political animal, running for school board.


School Board?

Hold on, he's concerned about day laborers, taxes, quality of life in the town, scruffy loiterers and immigration, and he runs for school board?

Well, he's lost his bid three times, so at least someone in town is paying attention, but actually, this IS the problem with public education in America. Damn School Boards, or at least the members thereof.

School Board is usually the lowest elected position in any town, well, except for City Clerk and City Dogcatcher. You need no politial affiliation, no experience, no money, and often the voters simply don't pay attention to who's running. To run for School Board in my district, you need to only prove residency and pony up about $50 ($300, if you want a statement printed in the voter guide).

People always pretend that they're worried about the cost of public education, that if we were simply to cleanse the schools of all those who don't belong, then the decent tax-payers of this fair city could support the system. Eh. No. You can't.

(We tried to pass a flat-fee land tax to support the schools, and the most common reason cited for voting against it was that there were kids from That Other Town in our Middle School, who were benefitting from Public Education while their parents "dodged" the flat tax. Ummm. Fifty-seven kids. Out of about Thirteen Hundred. Yeah. It's all their fault that education's expensive.)

Then there's the common trick of weaving a concern for children into your larger political argument. Clearly Mr. Nicolosi has a bug up his butt about day-laborers and illegal apartments, and that's his perogative. If he wanted to run for City Council on some sort of "zoning compliance and investigation" platform, then please go ahead. (I'm not sure that zoning compliance is a sexy issue, but who knows? It might strike a chord.)

Instead Mr. Nicolosi starts off by complaining that the illegal children are using up Special Education money and costing HIM money. Uh, where are you planning on going with that argument? That white kids who have a reading disability are acceptable into the public schools, but if they have cerebral palsy, then they can't get an education? Because you're going to have to have some criteria here if you want to make Special Education cost-effective.

(News Flash: Special Education has never been and never will be cost-neutral. Hasn't been funded at proper levels since LBJ proposed it. Deal with it. Handicaps suck.)

After playing up the "What About The Children" scenario, he moves on to his real concern: economic shift and immigration law. He has every right to go fight that battle, but how is he going to address it on the School Board??

One day every School Board in America will be filled with people dedicated to education. I'd like to see a majority of the Boards made up by retired teachers, teachers who understand what the hell PAR, PARS, PERB, PERS, IEP, IEA, and IDEA could possibly mean.

I've sat on the School Board for almost three years, and so far I've overseen exactly two, yes, 2, as in slightly more than one, educational innovations for our District.

Because most of the time we're fighting off local cranks like this one.

New at the Movies

Does it bother anyone else that in the new movie Flicka, a perfectly neat boy and his scruffy pony story is revamped so that it's a hot young teenage girl, complete with a hunky six-packalicious love interest, cavorting with a sleek black mustang?

Aren't there already lot of girl plus stallion-like horse stories?

Other than The Black Stallion series (which I have a teeny problem with, more on that later), there aren't that many boy and his horse stories other than My Friend Flicka. Misty of Chincoteague has a boy AND a girl, so I guess it halfway qualifies. OH, wait! White Stallion of Lipizza and King of the Wind have male leads.

But really, can't we let young boys have some stories about horses to themselves? Must the girl always horn in?

Here's the trailer, if you're interested. But it bothered me when I saw it the other day. Because there ARE boys who like horses, and the girls who do already have tons of movies and books they can go to for their fantasies. Humph.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Shatner in Sandals

Took my son to the bookstore to spend my frequent shopper gift certificate. ($15! Whoa.) He tromped into the store calling:






My favorite clerk, Ken, just about fell over the counter laughing. "How much Star Trek you been watching these days, buddy?"

A Pirate Meeting

The movie is coming out July 7. I haven't seen the movie. But so far I have a sweatshirt, a talking parrot, a book (complete with a viewmaster telescope), and action figures. I'm even reading Sabrina Jeffries's The Pirate Lord to fill in the days. Which I like. What good fun. No, wait, I REALLY like this book. (Query: is it the book itself, or the fact that it fills my current need for all things piratical?) But what new obession is this anyway? Pirates? Didn't I leave behind reading Pirate novels about fifteen years ago, along with Vikings?

My Drinking Buddy

Stands up with hands behind her back, head slightly bowed

Hello. My name is Suisan, and I am a pirateholic.

Chorus: Hello, Suisan.

I thought I had left pirates, vikings, and noblemen-pretending-to-be-highwaymen behind a few years ago. But now I can't stop thinking about them. Pirates, I mean. The Vikings and the Highwaymen are off bothering someone else.

I'd like to blame Johnny Depp for this, but I have to accept responsibility for my own weaknesses. But Johnny brought this whole thing back. I'm a little angry at him, well, at least at Jerry Bruckheimer for casting him in a pirate movie. But I think I need to blame Johnny for being a great hero.

I started dreaming about masked heroes when I was really little, but I wasn't a pirateholic then. My aunt had a thing for Robin Hood, and she used to sing me ballads about him and Will Scarlet when I was really small, about six or so. She had a very rich, warbling voice, and I always felt soothed by her singing. After that, just reading a Robin Hood book could bring that warmth back.

But then Robin Hood got sort of stale. And Maid Marian really got on my nerves, although I think I didn't notice it then. Then my aunt corrupted me. It was like bringing scotch to a drunkard. She introduced me to Zorro. I inhaled him.

From there we both went on binges together. All night sessions of black and white cowboy movies, Zorro films, pirate serials, followed by day-long discussions of privateer routes through war zones. The hangovers were terrible.

We'd stumble out into the light, squinting our eyes against the natural, fierce sun, and try to find something to eat. Usually my aunt didn't have too much food in the house, except for layer cake. (Yeah. I know. Great role model.) So we'd hit Dairy Queen for chili dogs and start over. We were a terrible pair, not responsible for anything, turning away from friends and family just to get one more fix.

Years later, I weaned myself from pirates by the simple fact that I didn't have the VHS tapes. Zorro lost his edge somehow, although I could dip into The Scarlet Pimpernel if I needed a fix. I could control that a little better. It didn't slide over into a full pirateholic binge.

When I started reading Romances, I soon stumbled across Pirate heroes. Oh, help me. Read as many as I could. But, you know, a lot of them weren't Reeeeally pirates. A lot of them were just noblemen who were independently wealthy and sailed around with a strange crew. Same with highwaymen. But I can't pretend that I didn't get a little buzz--you just had to read more of them.

I turned away from pirate romances pretty quickly and never looked back. A decision which was confirmed after recently re-reading Johanna Lindsay's Gentle Rogue and Guardian Angel. Supposedly they feature a pirate-hero, but , wink, wink, nudge, nudge, he's not REALLY that piratical. Well, the girl-pirate thing is a buzz-killer anyway.

Then Dear Butcher brought home a DVD of the Pirates of the Caribbean. I drank. I enjoyed. I got drunk. But soon I sobered up and moved on.

But somehow, the anticipation of seeing the new movie has sent me right over the edge. I can't stop playing the preview in my head. I'm making myself crazy. I'm buying silly stuff. I'm reading Pirate Romances (well, at least one).

What I need to say is that I recognize that I am powerless over pirates and that my life has become unmanageable. Sigh. I need to recognize that I have to build myself back up to being a functional, responsible, and rational adult by overcoming my need for pirate stories, song, books, films, and merchandise. I need to work the program. I am a pirateholic. Thank you.

Chorus: Thank you, Suisan.

Edited to add Just because I can't help myself:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Local weather

99 degrees.


We have no air conditioning.


I moved AWAY from the East Coast to get AWAY from weather like this!

Characters, fictional and real

I need to talk a little bit about totally unbelievable characters. We've all run across them, and I'm as likely as the next reader to cry indignantly, "Who would DO that?" They make me crazy.

Usually, an unbelievable character is one who insists that their view of the world is correct, despite all evidence to the contrary. In Romances, these are usually self-absorbed villains.

"She must be mine! She's loved me since she was four! Nothing's changed! I'll kidnap her and prove it to her!"

"He's only pretending to love the svelte, auburn-haired bitch who can cure puppies by blowing on them with her rose-scented breath! I'll kidnap her, kill her, and then he'll thank me! Ha Ha!"

(TSTL heroines qualify too: "I must HELP him in the sword fight, because I can BE of help and won't get KILLED in the process!")

I tend to read these and mumble, "Whoa. Tone it down. No one behaves that way."

But then again, I'm a hypocrite.

I've grown up around folks who are so over-the-top-bonkers-nuts that they inspire me to write. This is clearly a reflection of my writing skills, but if such a thing goes before a creative writing class, it happens that no one believes it. So do you tone down reality to make it believable? Odd thought.

That was a touch harsh; let me try again.

I once wrote a story about a disastrous Christmas when I was in my early twenties. My mother convinced herself weeks earlier that Christmas Dinner was going to be a disaster and include a family fight. Lo, and behold, (self-fulfilling prophesy) it was! So many things came together to inspire the fight, that I wrote about the evening in a college creative writing class.

The critique came back that it was difficult to get into the story because the narrator wasn't upset by all the bad behavior happening around her. Hmmmm. Yeah, from a reader's point of view, I can see that. But speaking as the one who walked through the evening, the one who had to leave the house to invite a neighbor (who I knew would not acquiesce) so that my grandmother would leave her bed, come downstairs, and ultimately refuse to eat a dinner which "That Witch" (eg, my mother) prepared for her, I have to say that I wasn't the least bit upset by what was happening. It was familiar.

People act that crazy around you for that long, you just shrug your shoulders and keep marching on through the day until the day comes to an end.

Is it believable?

I just reread the story, and I can now see how I'd have to tweak it to get the reader involved. More about the emotional set-up from my paranoid mother's point of view, less about the automatonic narrator trying to settle differences. But I'm not that interested anymore. Catharsis has its place and time. Still, I know how I would change it if I had to.

So, assuming that crazy people do exist, and that they do crazy things, why are some fictional crazy/villainous characters believable and others aren't?

I'm just throwing a theory out there, but I think it has to do with change. If all the characters are the same at the end of the book as they were on page one, then I'm not that interested. In Romance, the hero and heroine take center stage here--I want to see that relationship grow, dammit. (That's why I'm still having trouble with a lot of paranormals. Sniff. Sniff. She smells like my mate. She must be my mate. Mate with me! Oh, puleese.) And the same is true for villains, and odd-ball sidekicks too. I just don't focus on them a lot, so I've not been aware that I was expecting them to change. Then when they don't, my expectations are unfilled.


So what caused me to go back and read a story formerly critiqued by eight not very talented college freshmen? (These are the same group of idjyuts who proclaimed that poets only "wrote that stuff about sex cause they wanted to get paid." Poets? Paid? Man, that poetry's some pretty commercial stuff. Snort.) Well, I had a phone call from my brother.

My brother is losing his mind. Well, maybe he lost it already, I'm not sure.

He's almost 45, has never held a job, has no income, has two children, and is going through a divorce. If you Google his internet business, you get his webpage which was last updated in 2003. But the second entry shows that the store's been kicked off Ebay, and the third and fourth entry are comments on message boards where customers accuse him of internet fraud (taking money but never delivering goods) even after the Ebay dump, followed by various discussions about how difficult it is to prosecute internet fraud. Yeah, there's a viable business plan.

For most of my childhood, before he left for Prep school, he would lecture me, sometimes for an hour or more, about how I was destined to be a disappointment and embarrassment to the family. (When I was ten and he was fifteen, I once wore shoes he didn't think were dressy enough to a family party. Quelle Horreur. Oddly enough, the rest of the family didn't seem to notice. Finally, something clicked that maybe he was spouting smoke.)

Good thing he's upholding the family's honor. He also steals money from my parents. Then they give him extra money because he clearly needs it. He actually drives one of their cars, because, well, I don't know why anymore. Nothing about this changes.

My parents know they're enabling him, but they don't want to stop either. After all, he's their son. And they are worried about their grandchildren. But nothing about this changes.

On my birthday, my brother called me. Called me smiling and laughing as if nothing had happened six months ago, that he had never called me a selfish whore, my husband a meddling bastard, and then called my parents with "proof" that I didn't love them. You know, years of therapy are a good thing. Because I could just sit on the phone, listening to him spin the most bizarre, convoluted view of the world, and it all just washed over me. What a nut.

My favorite idea of his: He's decided that the divorce is a good "growth opportunity" and he's dedicated to self-improvement.

Yeah, let that sink in, because it's a good one.

To improve himself, he's going to go to the gym more--he's already teaching up to six spinning classes a day--and he said over and over how much he enjoyed his "addiction to endorphins." When ever someone cuts him down, or asks him to do something he doesn't want to do, he just goes to the gym, cycles, and feel so much better.


He's also decided that the next girl he gets involved with is going to be dedicated to self-improvement. Because, you know, if he sees an issue in his mate that bothers Him, then she should respect Him enough and love Him enough to change it.


Because that wasn't weird enough, he went on to say that he really enjoys improving his body, because the endorphins are just so amazing. And he's sure that anyone would want to change if changing feels this good.

So I (The Bitch) went off on his ass: "What if going to the gym every day made you feel like vomiting and crying? What if it was the worst process imaginable? What if every day you had to decide what the truth of your own life is, and take responsibility, and apologize for every screwed-up thing you've ever done or said. What if it sucked, and you didn't feel better until two or three years later? Would you go? Would you keep going?"


"You know, what you just said was the most amazing thing. It's made me look at everything in a whole new way. You're so right." He laid it on with a trowel in best placating, adoring, don't-hate-me-because-I'm-beautiful voice.

Yeah, whatever. But it does go to show that even though my parents are paying for therapy, that he's not doing much of it. (Eyes closed, palm on forehead, head tipped back, "I, Suisan, predict that in two months' time, my brother will discover that his therapist is being mean to him. She slandered him by suggesting that he was bi-polar, and now he has to report her to the Board.")

So he never changes, my parents never change, the larger family doesn't change much, and it all has the feeling of a depressive hamster wheel. Yeah, I don't think I'd like to read about them either.

Change, for better or for worse, is what we're in this for.

I think.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Pirate's Life for Me!


WHEN is this going to come out already?

Yeah, I know. July. ::sulk::

For my birthday--as of today I'm not quite forty--I ordered Captain Jack Sparrow action figures. Dork. Heh heh.

Which one of Captain Jack Sparrow's bizarre sayings from Pirates of the Caribbean are you?

Hee! You are Jack's "You have to find yourself a girl, mate ... you're not a eunuch, are you?" speech. You're quite a bit sex-crazed, and you assume that everyone else is as horny as you are. Get it on as soon as possible so that you can join the rest of us on Planet Earth ... I'm sure you'll have a good time doing so.
Take this quiz!

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Monday, June 19, 2006

SBD Sentimental Junk

OK, at some point y'all have to wonder why it is that I read romances. I don't like children, I don't like circuses, I'm dodgy on heroes of a certain caliber, and I don't much like heroines. But other than that, I'm hopping on the Romance Train!!

And today I have to write about sloppy weddings and other undeserved sentimental crap.

OK, I'm a stick in the mud--I don't much like weddings. I didn't even like my own.

I went to a friend's Greek Orthodox wedding and got so sick watching the bride and groom kissing the bejeweled bible that I almost had to leave. (Puritan Protestant bigotry apparently lies very deep within my bones. Really had no idea that I had such a visceral aversion to idolatry until that wedding.) For my own wedding, I spent months fighting with my mother on every detail, screwed up the hiring and confirmation of the photographer, and fought with my father the day before the wedding about the food to be served.

It would be easy to blame my parents' behavior about my own wedding for this ongoing discomfort about weddings, but it's not them. My anxiety has pre-dates that disaster. (The wedding, not the marriage. Twelve years next week.) Clarification: The Wedding was not a disaster. Planning the Wedding was terrible, but what did I expect? I went to my wedding, ate the food, and conversed, but it wasn't my favorite day. I just don't quite *get it.* I felt the whole day as if the assembled crowd was expecting me to break out into a Debbie Reynolds song and dance number just to demonstrate my complete glee:

Good Mornin'
Good Mo-oh-orning!
Ain't it great to stay up late!
Good Mornin', Good Morning To You!

I never played at being the blushing bride when I was a kid. Best-friend-Beth and I played at being twin queens of Mars who had arrived in our spaceship, co-piloted by pet Pomeranians, to pluck unsuspecting Barbies and Baby-dolls into indentured service on our home planet. I don't get the silk flowers in the hair, the need to smear cake on the groom's face, the tears. I watch other people choking up, but I must be missing a synapse, because I really don't get what the big deal is.

I read romances to follow the development of attraction into a relationship. Sex is good too, don't get me wrong. Mostly though, I want to see those two people merge together into a trusting unit.

I figure by the time they're walking down the aisle, they've pretty got this all worked out. But every once in a while there's a scene where the bride is looking at herself in the mirror on her wedding day, and the reader is supposed to feel all choked up. I usually can't make it through those scenes. And I can't figure out why the mother or older sister comes in to flutter all over her. (Well,there's usually some veiled comments about "the wedding night" just to remind the reader that bride=virgin.) But I can't get into anyone's head at this point--not even the groom's. Many books end up as DNF if this focus on the wedding goes on too long.

My favorite wedding scenes are the ones where something goes terribly wrong and the bride and groom simply have to leave partway through. Ahhhhh. No sermons, no weeping mothers.

And why are we weeping? I guess we're watching two young innocent people join together to start their lives together. And we in the audience are charged with supporting them as they learn how to be married together. Well, call me a cynic and serve me on toast, but if they really have no idea what they're getting into, then we in the audience shouldn't let them get married.

No. Really. I mean it.

OK, I think I finally know what I'm getting at here. (Thank God.)

I don't like the idea of the blushing innocent bride who just So Excited to be getting married. Oooo. Look at the pretty flowers! Ooooo. A cake! I wonder if it's chocolate. Wouldn't THAT be exciting! Ooooo. Look how pretty my boyfriend looks....

STOP!! The woman clearly has the attention span of a flea. Call it off. Nope.

Suisan's got alarm bells clanging so hard in her head that her teeth hurt. If you're getting married to eat cake and pick flowers, then you need to go back to celebrating your tenth birthday. If you're ready to get married, then do so. But please don't expect me to get all squeelly about your bouquet. It's yours. Enjoy it. Love your man. Support him and call him to task when he's behaving like a jerk. But really, this ain't no party. It ain't no disco.

It's a great thing to step forward into marriage, but please don't let's pretend that it's all one big costume ball. OK?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Barbaro continued

Barbaro's Vet: 'His Leg Looks Excellent'
by Blood-Horse Staff
Date Posted: 6/13/2006 2:52:01 PM
Last Updated: 6/15/2006 7:34:18 AM

Dr. Dean W. Richardson, chief of surgery at the University of
Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, on Tuesday got his first look at the
right rear leg of Barbaro since he performed surgery on the colt and
reported "his leg looks excellent."
Richardson was able to view the progress when the cast on the leg of
the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner was changed Tuesday.

"The incision has healed well and judging by the radiographs, the graft
is opacifying ('taking')," Richardson said. "Callus is forming nicely,
and all of the implants (plate and screws) look unchanged."

The cast was replaced under general anesthesia, and Barbaro had a very
smooth pool recovery.

Barbaro, who is recovering from a shattered hind leg sustained at the
Preakness Stakes (gr. I), continues to please veterinarians at the
George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, and he remains in
intensive care at the New Bolton Center.

The cast, enclosing the hoof and running up to just below the hock, was
put in place May 21 following Barbaro's surgery. During the operation,
a device called a locking compression plate, or LCP, was employed to
stabilize the injured area, with 27 screws used on the 16-hole plate.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Garrulous, aren't we?

Three posts, one day.


Mostly about books I've read since April--just keep scrolling.

My April TBR list, comments thereon

Some from my buying spree in April:

Lord Stanhope's Proposal by Jessica Benson

Witty, sharp, crisp, fun to read. Some of the characters are almost a little too silly, but really, it is a comedy, yes? My daughter read this too and really liked it. Some of the quotes are already going back and forth between as shared jokes.

The Last Knight by Candice Proctor

A Medieval. Man, I've got to find more of these. I remember now why I tended to gravitate towards Medievals a few years ago. There's a different tone to them, a richer feeling, than most Regencies I've been reading recently. OK, that's a GROSS oversimplification, but I'll hope that you know what I'm getting at.

Damion de Jarnac is an English knight in the late 1100s who is caught up in spying for King Henry. He is trying to decipher the code Philip of France uses to plot against Henry. Attica d'Alerion leaves her home in the middle of the night to warn her brother of a message passed to her by a dying courier. She disguises herself as a young man and, of course, bumps into Damion. I REALLY liked this book. There's political intrigue, mistaken identities, and a long painful buildup to the relationship.

I guess the sort of painful repressed longing feeling, the camping out in tents as the couple travels the country, the grime of it all, is what attracts me to Medievals. Until that all becomes too operatic and overblown and I revert to Regencies.

The Wagering Widow by Diane Gaston

A sequel to The Mysterious Miss M, which I have not read. Lord Keating seduces an heiress into elopement, only to discover that she is not wealthy. Emily becomes miserable in her marriage, mostly because Guy refuses to touch her because he is trying to behave honorably after forcing her into marriage. She soon takes on the disguise of the Lady Widow, a masked card-sharp, who frequents one gaming hall. She intends to win enough money to support herself separate from her husband.

Then her husband stumbles upon her in disguise at the gaming hall. There's some excellent wagers placed, including sexual pay-offs, and some neat seduction. In case you haven't noticed, I have a thing for masks (check out my "photo"), and the idea that he knows that the Lady Widow is Emily, but Emily thinks that he only thinks of her as the Lady Widow is well done. (That all could have slipped sideways pretty quickly into the, "Oh, come on" territory. Diane Gaston handles it well.) Highly recommend this book.

The Improper Wife by Diane Perkins

::Blushing mightily here::

I was absolutely sure I had read this book and was ready to write about it. I skimmed through it and discovered, that, eh, no. I haven't read it. (But I was sure that I had? Very weird.) I think my daughter had this in her room--she seems to have full knowledge of the plot--and then returned it to my bookcase.

Right, so, the good news is that I have something to read tomorrow. Today I'm trying to, yeah right, clean the house for my Dear Butcher's birthday. Monday is my birthday. I should try to keep this for a birthday present for myself, but I can't keep an unread book in the house unless my daughter steals it from me.

Books I should have written about

I liked all of these to varying extents.

How's THAT for a cop-out review?!?!?!?!

No, seriously, I keep meaning to write about them, but then I forget which one I've written about or not, so here's my list of books on various tables throughout the house. (Well, the ebooks aren't truly cluttering the tables, but they're on my mind. Brain clutter.)

Rebellious Desire by Julie Garwood

A fun reread. I distinctly remember reading the let's-retire-from-the-waltz-and-kiss-on-the-balcony scene. Doesn't seem "believable" now, but I enjoyed the memories of enjoying the book.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I have a lot to say on this book. I keep meaning to write a post about it, but get so tangled up in political matters that I can't seem to get to it. Beth wrote very clearly about how this is, in her point of view, NOT a romance. I agree with her great post, which includes tons of spoilers, especially the business of there being an undercurrent of pedophilia or sexual manipulation in that one character trains the other to love him, but I do think Niffenegger has grasped on an interesting theme in relationships: it is rare to have both people have the same level of self-awareness or knowledge at the same time in a relationship. (Oh my God. Grab an editor. That's one hell of a sentence.)

I know in my marriage, there are times when I'm in a self-reflective mode, and Dear Butcher is more active or demonstrative. Or there are times when I can feel him trying to puzzle out intentions or consequences of a decision, and I'm trying to just get something done. I wouldn't say that this difference of attitude causes fights; it's just something I notice from time to time as we're trying to live together and raise children together. Sometimes we're completely in "the Zone" together, and the world just clicks. But that's rare.

Time Traveler's Wife made me think about the stereotype that two people meet as young innocents, completely unschooled in the wants and needs of the other person. Together they learn about the other, they grow closer and more aware of each other, and together they become more able to communicate and operate as a loving partnership in the world. Yet that may be as impossible to achieve as the other stereotype in Romances: the shared orgasm. In truth, there are times when one partner simply isn't ready to deal with an issue, or isn't as self-aware as the other. Then that partner can suddenly catch up, or even surpass the other in self-knowledge or intuition. The two partners are constantly shifting in their own knowledge of the relationship, and it is very rare to have both individuals on the same plane of responsibility or self-awareness.

So, I agree with Beth, this is not a Romance, but it certainly made me think about a complexity in loving relationships.

Country Pleasures by Rosemary Laurey (Samhain eBooks)

Meant to write about this for Angie's TBR challenge. I read it in time, just never wrote about it. Sob. Wall of Shame.

Ummm. Contemporary. Ummm. Couple has met and has had sex before the book even starts. The rest of the story is Rob Castle trying to convince Jenny Lee to give up her fast-paced urban lifestyle and stay with him on the farm. I almost liked it, but the guy doesn't seem to do much farming for a wealthy (Ha!) farmer. Meh.

Learning Charity by Summer Devon (Samhain eBooks)

ALSO meant to write about this for Angie's TBR challenge. I read it in time, just never wrote about it. Sob. Wall of Shame. Again!

Eliot Stevens, a wealthy American in Regency London, needs to find a well-bred lady so that he can gain acceptance into society. He hears a rumor of a lady turned prostitute, and seeks her out. Charity has been orphaned and turned out of her uncle's house. She services men, but does not enjoy it. The book consists of a long conversation, interrupted by sexual interludes, between Eliot and Charity. He tries to draw her out, she tries to stay hidden from him. It really worked for a short book--staying essentially in one room bound the action well.

One teeny eeny problem I had, and I KNOW it's an effect of the construct of the short story, is that Eliot declares at the end of the story that he had decided to ask Charity to marry him within a few minutes of meeting her, almost before he met her, because she was a fallen lady. Yeah, OK, I know it's just the HEA thing, but I kind of sort of didn't go along with that.

BUT, I like dialogue--lots of dialogue. I like convincing sex--lots here too. So overall, very highly recommended.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (eBook)

Had to reread this. What a GREAT story. Just perfect.

Mapping the World of Harry Potter Edited by Mercedes Lackey.

A series of critical articles about the HP series, up to and including the Half Blood Prince. Very good essay by Joyce Millman entitled, "To Sir, With Love" which explores why Severus Snape immediately became such a sexually potent target of BDSM fan-fic, and how that has subtly changed his character as the books and movies develop together. Doug, take note.

And I have another post to go on the topic of Books I Should Have Written About Sooner.

Readers, Authors, and Reviewers

A poem which I had meant to post during the whole Author/Reader/Reviewer dust-up awhile back. Copyright 2005 Billy Collins from The Trouble with Poetry and other poems by Billy Collins

You, Reader

I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you,

that it was I who got up early
to sit in the kitchen
and mention with a pen

the rain-soaked windows,
the ivy wallpaper,
and the goldfish circling in its bowl.

Go ahead and turn aside,
bite your lip and tear out the page,
but, listen--it was just a matter of time

before one of us happened
to notice the unlit candles
and the clock humming on the wall.

Plus, nothing happened that morning--
a song on the radio,
a car whistling along the road outside--

and I was only thinking
about the shakers of salt and pepper
that were standing side by side on a place mat.

I wondered if they had become friends
after all these years
or if they were still strangers to one another

like you and I
who manage to be known and unknown
to each other at the same time--

me at this table with a bowl of pears,
you leaning in a doorway somewhere
near some blue hydrangeas, reading this.

Friday, June 16, 2006


I had a dream last night of being on my aunt's farm.

It was very clear--that vivid, clear dream you sometimes get just before you wake up. I had gone back to the farm. I knew that she had died and that her horses were all gone. I had just gone back to walk through the buildings and see what had changed.

I was walking down an aisle in the side barn, a converted chicken coop/vehicle shed which had about six stalls in an odd arrangement. The aisle was much longer than it was in real life. The stalls were to my left. Then rain began to fall just in front of every stall, as if it were coming through a two-foot-long strip in the roof. The dirt floor of the aisle stayed dry.

Then I was in a back pasture. Near a gate was a large grey, black and white pinto gelding I had never seen before. A teenage girl was trying to lead him out of the pasture, but he wouldn't budge. I didn't recognize her either.

Then the former barn manager came by, looking as she did in 1991: short, spiky hair and tough attitude. She was leading a stallion I knew, one which was her very favorite and later ended up buying from my aunt's widower. The girls were yelling at each other.

"Don't lead him in here!"

"I'm gonna!"

"But he hates him!"

"Yeah, I know! Let me get Ned in there! We'll chase yours out!"

Some screaming and circling of horses, chuffing, two young girls yelling at horses to "Quit it!" And then the gelding and handler very sedately walked past. The gelding was a really odd color, and I was trying to figure out why he looked so weird. (I realize now that he was a pinto with brown and white splotches, but that I dreamed him in black and white--he had various patches of grey-tone which looked bizarre.)

Then Ned came by. But he was wearing some strange contraption which looked as if it had been cut from breeding hobbles. (Mares sometimes wear breeding hobbles to prevent kicking at a stallion. It's two padded straps encircling the mare's hocks connected to a strap around the belly. She can stand or walk very slowly, but she can't kick backwards.)

Ned had the "breeding hobbles" attached to only one rear leg, and he had too many other straps going round and round his belly. I was just about to ask why he wore this thing, when I looked out over his back into the distance.

Beyond him was a pasture with ten or twelve horses in it. I didn't recognize them individually, but in the dream I knew they had all lived at my aunt's farm at some point. They were all wearing driving harnesses, the long reins and traces looped up into curls and buckles to keep from dragging on the ground. Wearing blinders, full bridles, and harnesses, they were nonchalantly grazing in the sun.

And then it started raining right in front of me. A straight line of rain, only about three feet long, no more than a few inches wide, sparkling and snapping upon hitting the ground. I could feel the rush of air from the rain so close to my face. And the horses were no longer there, or at least I became so focused on watching the rain that I didn't see them anymore.


I'm not sure that all means. I'm tempted to read quite a lot into the idea that I'm holding on to those horses, harnessing them in my memory. Except maybe for Ned--his "harness" was disturbing. (But it could also be some sort of mental confusion of him with Barbaro: injured hind leg.)

Odd too that in this dream, I'm very much aware that Joyce is truly dead. I often have dreams where I'm going back to her farm and discover that she's somehow still alive, that her death was all some odd mistake. And in this dream I was very clear that I was the age I am now, whereas the horses and the people were the way they looked fifteen years ago.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

We survived

I'm back from Disneyland!

And we have electricity!

And there's more trouble brewing at home in the politics of the School Board. You guys, I'm seriously not sure I can do this anymore. No, like, really.

There was a dust-up at a Board Meeting in March. Guy came to the podium, accused us of not following the Board Policy, angry words, etc. So the Board asked the High School to research their end of this controversy and asked a subcommittee of the Board to research our end of this controversy.

Never heard back from the High School. Typical.

I sit on the Sub-committee, but we couldn't research the policy because we hadn't been given the password to access online sample policy revisions. Typical.

We got the password on May 23. Sample policy includes the line (which we don't have in our policy) "in accordance with procedures prescribed by the Board." A-Ha! Controversy? OK then, let's prescribe procedures.

Brought forward a sample policy revision and all hell breaks loose. (All documents to be considered are released to the public on the Friday before a Thursday meeting.) Before the meeting, before the Board had even discussed it, before anyone could say whether or not they agreed with it, two cranks in the community had sent the policy to the DA and asked for an investigation.

Um. Hello?

If we haven't enacted the language, how can you investigate? For example:

"I think from now on, all Board members should paint their faces blue."

"We need to investigate the Board for even considering face painting," says the public.

"But we haven't started requiring anyone to paint their face," says the Board.

"Too bad. I hate you anyway. And I'm getting the District Attorney to say so too. And you're not invited in our treehouse anymore!"

Sample languge? Draft proposal? Does anyone get what that means? ARGH!

And the real story, which is getting drowned in all of this, is that once again, for the third time in two years, the District has found a budgeting error, a major error, which appears just after we have sent a proposal to negotiations, but just before we have to certify the budget. For example:

"Oh, we don't have enough money to offer a raise! Why look, we barely have enough money to cover our base expenses. In fact, if you do a highly suggestive ten-year projection, you'll see that we'll be in the hole to the tune of about ten million dollars in a few years."

"We've finalized a Tentative Agreement with the employee groups."

"Oh look! We just found a huge budgeting error, so now our ending balance is more positive than we thought it was, and now we can roll into next year with a positive projection towards the future! Yay!"


I've tried pointing this out before, I've tried "fighting the good fight", but, really? I'm just tired of it. And I'm looking ahead this summer, knowing that I've got not one, but two, internal investigations; a forensic audit to schedule; and I have to finish redlining and bolding a section of Board Policy which now measures 5"; and on and on.

I feel as if I'm moaning like Chris Sarandon from the Princess Bride:

"I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I'm swamped."

But Disneyland was fun.

Getting sick of the Homelife though.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I'mmm Outa here!!

No, I'm not off of Blogger, don't panic.

But I am packing up the kids (3) and Husband (1) and driving to Disneyland tomorrow afternoon. (7, 8 hours, who's counting?)

Tomorrow morning, at about 8:30 am, PG&E is scheduled to come and shut off my power. It'll stay off until Monday afternoon. Goodie.

Turns out, the house we bought in 2002, the one we had inspected, has illegal electrical service, courtesy of the previous "Mr. Handyman" owner. My contractor pulled a permit to correct the problem, PG&E was notified, and when they came to inspect, word is, they wanted to shut us down at that time.

(Guy moved the meter and the main box instead of replacing the original box with the larger one he wanted. At that time, he exposed enough wiring before the meter, and installed enough connectors, that if I wanted to, I could bypass the meter entirely. Oh, did I mention that the meter isn't locked anyway? My electrician, when he came out to look at it--because the Living Room is shorting out, although it wouldn't short when he was visiting, of course--just stood in front the of the panel and said, "Wow." When the electrician whips out his cell phone to start taking pictures of your meter, you know something's pretty unusual.)

Got word on Wednesday that we will be without power Friday through Monday. Friday is the last day of school. I've got to pack the clothes, clean the car (You have no idea how scary THAT proposition is), get the car an oil change, and pack the car before school lets out tomorrow at 12:30.

My husband is really EXCITED to drive to Disneyland. I'm not getting it. Y chromosome?

Talk to you sometime Tuesday, assuming I survive the trip, don't get jailed for strangling a family member in the car, and have power when I get back. Smile for the camera!!

Monday, June 05, 2006