Public Menace

As if I were not already a public menace on the roads, I've taken to playing with my phone's camera while driving. This was taken with the Instagram app using the Kelvin filter. Plus some adjustments in Photoshop at home.


the clear sky of fame

This is what I see as I approach my house on my way back from dropping Nugget at school in the morning. I love my life.

Another thing I love about where I live? My name was in the paper the other day because I passed the Washington bar exam. I was the only person from my town on the pass list. I'm friggin' famous now.


I am a peppercorn, a brewer’s horse

Conversation while driving this afternoon:

Moremadder: Hey, see the construction site over there? 
Nugget: They're building a house?
M: It looks like they're adding onto a church.
N: Not a house?
M: No, I'm pretty sure it's a church.
N: What's a church?
M: (shit) Um ... it's a place where people go to ... be together and ... sing songs and ... um, pray (shit shit don't ask what that is don't ask) ... and, um, talk ... about ... things.
N: Why?
M: Uh .... because, well ... it ... it helps them ... be happy.
N: I'm happy. You happy mommy?
M: Yes, I'm happy. (phew, thank god. Or you know, whatever.)
N: Let's go there sometime.
M: Uh ... to church?
N: Yeah.
M: Sure, we could do that. (shit)


Once more unto the breach

When I launched this journey toward a better balance between career and family in my life (i.e., quit my job), I wrote:
I am firmly opposed to helicopter parenting. And I think when an individual is focusing all of his or her energies on parenting, the helicopter is inevitable. So I hope to find some balance. If you see me writing here about the charts I've created to track my son's development as a percentile of the rest of the population, or the monograph I'm writing on the incidence of allergies among children on an all-organic diet, please call me on it.
That was last December. Last month I started a new blog about my family dinners. It tracks, in exhaust(ing)ive detail, the cost and nutritional value of the dinners I put on our table. My goal is to learn about nutrition and frugality, and hopefully improve at both, and I find that this kind of detailed tracking is often the best way to learn. But ... yes, it is a bit crazy. And ... yes, it is exactly the sort of thing I worried that I would do after quitting my job. So ... hmmm. I'm not going to stop, at least not yet. But it is definitely an indication that my balance has shifted a little too much toward family and away from career.

So I am noting it here, in the place where I purportedly track my career/family balance. Among other things, ahem. Perhaps more "other things" of late. But! I just learned that I passed the Washington bar exam, as I knew I would, unsupportive spouse who worried unnecessarily about my lack of studying aside, and I will soon be sworn in and free (from anti-competitive protectionism) to practice law in the state of Washington, of any and all kinds, without any supervision or guidance at all, oh heaven. Gird, loins! Marshall, courage! Onward!



From Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride:

She's happy he's still alive: women live longer than men and men have weak hearts, sometimes they just keel over, and although she and West aren't old--they're hardly old at all--still, women her age have awakened in the morning to find dead men beside them. Tony does not consider this a morbid thought.
Zenia's ashes were in a sealed metal canister, like a small land-mine. Tony was familiar with such canisters, and they depressed her. They did not have the grandeur of coffins. She thought of the people inside them as having been condensed, like condensed milk.
Small things like good eggs delight him, small things like bad eggs depress him. He's easy to please, but difficult to protect.
But that's what happens when you love someone, thinks Tony. You cheat a little. 
 15 pages in and I've already dog-eared 4 pages. I love this woman. On the other hand, I am beginning to get a sneaking suspicion that I've already read this book, and forgot about it. Granted, my memory in general has more holes than a Chicago street, but still. The ability of a book to stay with me long after I read it is one of my measures of greatness.

Book Review

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness IndustryThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book very quickly, and talked about it to anyone who would listen. I was quite wild-eyed in my fascination with it. But my ardor waned as the book went on; ultimately, I'm not sure what I would say if someone asked me what it was all about. It really wandered. And while I enjoyed the journey, by the end I was left feeling kind of empty about it. I'd still recommend it, but I haven't thought about it much since I finished the last page.

View all my reviews

Book Review

This Life Is in Your Hands: One Family, Sixty Acres, and a Family UndoneThis Life Is in Your Hands: One Family, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone by Melissa Coleman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was telling my father-in-law's girlfriend about my current fascination with growing/gathering/raising one's own food (an idle fascination, since I am lazy and have no real desire to labor in a garden or chicken coop), and she told me I should read this book she'd just finished. So she sent it to me. But when I read the flap and realized that the book was also about the accidental death of a three-year-old, well--this mother of a three-year-old wasn't too enthusiastic about reading it. But eventually I did, and I'm glad. I was quickly engrossed, and read it in just a few days. I enjoyed the little tastes of information about organic farming--just enough to learn a little without getting bored, for a non-gardener--and was touched and drawn in by the emotional life of the author's family, which is observed and probed in such insightful detail that it's surprising that the author can write with such objective distance about her parents; and yet there is just enough of the author's own feelings--both sympathy and resentment--to keep it warm. I think Ms. Coleman must have spent a lot of well-used time in therapy to get to the place she's at in this book. I love to read stories that have this sort of spiritually balanced, clear-eyed perspective on the world--not preachy or chirpy or delusional but still positive.

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these trees shall be my books

Hundreds of jellyfish have been populating the waters by our city pier for the last few weeks. Seeing them made me realize that the membership I bought for the Seattle Aquarium was probably unnecessary. Why drive two or three hours to look at sea life in an aquarium when we are surrounded by it out here?

Of course, the aquarium does have much to offer. I took Nugget there last week when my sister was in Seattle for work and--although Nugget is still young enough to prefer the octopus statue he can climb on to the genuine octopus in the tank--I saw and learned a lot.

But I'm accustomed to thinking (citybred elitist that I am) that big cities are cornucopiae of opportunities for enriching exposure, in contrast to the barren wasteland outside them. The jellyfish reminded me that in many cases, cities offer an artificial experience of things that are part of everyday life elsewhere. Without the cost and crowds. Like the farming, port, and logging activities that go on around us all the time where we live now.

Every day we drive by front end loaders stacking logs on the waterfront for cranes to load onto hulking container ships. It's like a small boy paradise here, with trains, trucks, tractors, ships, and planes everywhere we look. One day while walking my dog on the beach, a seaplane landed nearby to drop someone off and then took off again, and then an otter nonchalantly crossed my path. Cities offer air shows and zoos and museums--and don't get me wrong, I miss those--well, not the air shows--but here, everyday life is just as rich.



O! let my books be

The original Borders, in Ann Arbor, Michigan: closed for good.
It is truly terrifying to see this once-loathed behemoth close its doors. I cannot deny that I buy many if not most of my books online -- these days, usually used, from Alibris or Amazon. When I don't just borrow from the library. But there are few things I love more than browsing a bookstore. And while I love the quirky charm and hand-selected editing of an independent bookstore, the behemoths offered many things the independents could not. Like in-store espresso bars, and a generous sprinkling of armchairs and tables where one could sit and read for hours without raising any eyebrows. They replaced libraries in many ways -- and were even better, because you can't drink coffee at the library. This particular Borders, above, was home to many long study sessions during law school. They even let me bring my dog! I have never encountered another business that equaled that hospitality.

The lack of a chain bookstore was one of the few things I reproached of my new, small hometown. I would much rather while away a rainy afternoon with Nugget in the generous children's section of a Borders or Barnes & Noble than at McDonald's Playland. The coffee would be infinitely better, for one thing.

So I mark the passing of Borders with grief, sincerely and deeply. With a tinge of rueful irony; I find myself thinking often of that movie, You've Got Mail. That was just 13 years ago! What will happen in another 13 years?

I'm no Luddite. I understand the appeal of e-books, and I welcome them as an invigorating new medium for literature. I love that the internet has made it possible to find virtually any book you could want, rendering moot the argument that chain bookstores were bad because they homogenized and shrank the range of books available. But I grieve, and I worry. Capitalism rewards the majority, and often, I'm in the minority. A minority that no longer has the luxury to vote with her wallet.