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that grinding noise you hear

While my week has not been nearly as sucky as Adam's, it has been full of its own challenges, most of which involve the land of half-information in which I currently live. The highlights:

--Just got back from the DMV, where I was trying to trade my Tennessee Liscence for a New York state one. So I called last week to find out what I needed to bring. "Just the form," said the brusque voice, whose owner smokes so much it was hard to really figure out gender. So, this a.m., I wandered down there, form in hand. "Where's your birth certificate? Social Security card? Two other forms of ID?" "No one told me to bring those," I said. And, predictably, the woman behind the counter didn't care. I didn't expect her to, really, came back here to dig up all of those other pieces of paper.

--My hope was that while I'd been gone the mortgage company had called to let me know the amount on the bank check that I need to bring to closing this afternoon. A closing that was supposed to happen two weeks ago, and would have had the finance company not lost most of the documents we'd sent to them. The current closing--the one today--was scheduled less than 48 hours ago and, given that pretty much every bank and lawyer's office was closed yesterday, getting all of the legwork done has been a massive pain in the ass. Adding to the ass-irritation is how little urgency anyone involved in the process seems to feel and how little shame they have at demanding things at the 11th hour, which we would have been more than happy to give them promptly had they been able to plan more than 15 minutes ahead. feh. Hopefully, this will all be over soon.

--Adding to all of this was the hour and a half that I spent in the pediatrician's office yesterday for a well-baby appointment. What kills me is that their panties wad up if I'm 30 seconds late, yet there is no problem with keeping me waiting for an hour. Which I wouldn't mind so much if I didn't have to keep a toddler amused for that amount of time in a tiny room filled with expensive medical geegaws. Feh, again.

And so now I wait--and hope that I can deal with all of this before I have to go teach. I doubt it'll be that simple.

yo austinites

If you like good music, go (go! go!) see Scott Miller. He's a little bit country and a whole lot rock 'n' roll. (Some samples at Amazon here and here.) Tell him I sent ya. And, no, he doesn't owe me money. A few thousand brain cells, yes. Money, no.


solo opening for Jim Lauderdale Cactus Cafe 8:30PM

w/ the Commonwealth Stubbs Bar-B-Que 10:00PM

quote of the day

"A racehorse has to run."

--Dr. Phil, on moms who work. Longer version: if you try to keep a racehorse from doing the thing he's genetically programmed to do, you're going to get a damn unhappy horse. I'm sure you can see the corrolary to moms--some of us just need to run. Which isn't to say that there's anything wrong with not being a racehorse, just that hobbling makes everyone unhappy.

(disclaimer 1: he explained it better.)
(disclaimer 2: I'm not generally a Dr. Phil watcher but my mom-in-law, with whom I've ranted about the whole SAHM v. working mom thing, called to let me know it was on. Glad to see it, frankly, and my cockles were warmed by the daughter who was genuinely proud of her mom's outside-of-the-house accomplishments.)


Quote of the Day:

The NRA has a lot of members. If it figures it can stand to lose a few of them in the cause of equal empowerment for women, who am I to disapprove?

I'm just a linking fool this week. Check out the discussion about women and guns at Making Light.

In finger news, it has stopped bleeding but still hurts like heck. I should have a nice scar, tho.

friday five

Gord asks:
I've just thought of this question, and perhaps it will be torturously difficult to answer, but... I've been reading Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt, a stunning alternate history that raises many questions about history, religion, culture, meaning (and how humans make or find it)... and offers some beautifully thought-out answers or possibilities to these questions. It's a wonderfully crafted novel, and I highly recommend it.

On a more literal level, the novel asks the question: What would have happened if the Black Death had been so virulent, and so alien to Westerners, that it had wiped out 99% of humans in Europe instead of only the mere third of Europe it killed off? The result is a stunning weaving of speculation, understanding of human nature (for European colonialism could possibly have been carried out, differently, by other empires, and surely something comparable would have been if the West had been thus destroyed). I think it's a powerful way of looking at our myths about the goods and bads of Westerners, by examining a human history absent of Westerners.

In any case, I want to save that for my review of the novel. But I will say that it has gotten me thinking about questions of historical inevitability. Consider the printing press: while movable type was a stunning idea and the key to the success of the Gutenberg printing press, the Chinese had already invented a kind of print press with movable print blocks. It's even sometimes suggested that the Western printing press traces back to the Chinese, in the genealogy of technologies. I think it's reasonable to say that, given paper and alphabetical language, someone would have figured out this movable-type print concept eventually. Maybe not for a long time (though we have no reason to think so), but eventually.

To your mind, which five other innovations in history are those which were basically inevitable? Which events do you think were simply bound to happen, and if they'd not happened as they did in our history, would eventually have happened elsewhere or elsewhen, even in the face of something like one of the major world civilizations (along with its technical contributions to the long and intercultural ferment of the development of technologies) having been completely wiped out?

(Please note that these could be technical, philosophical, religious, social, or other innovations. I don't only mean technologies.)

Short answers, simply because I seem to have cut the tip of my finger off (long story that involves a bagel and my dipshittedness) and typing is a challenge:

1. Antiseptics.
2. Written communication.
3. Disposable diapers.
4. The maths of astronomy
5. Fiber-spinning and weaving.

Other F5 participants are: Melissa, Adam, Merideth, Will, Chris, Gina, Dave, Craig, Nanette, Marvin, Rob, Laura and Jon

more on the NYT/Belkin thing

I also believe that modern feminism, disproportionately represented in the '70s by childless women, didn't tell the truth about what motherhood would feel like, which is part of why Belkin and her subjects are so confused, and feel like they're telling some new forbidden truth. It's a truth all right, but it's not forbidden; it's just partial and incomplete.

A rebuttal by Joan Walsh (to whom I say, rock on, sister) in Salon. You know the drill. Watch the ad. Read the story.

That was this morning. I'm sure that she's forgotten.
I've had some trouble putting it out of my mind.

"Listen" by Miller Williams.

Note: Writer's Almanac doesn't believe in permalinks. Bastards. So if you come to this after Nov. 5, 2003, follow the above link and search by date. It's a great poem.


Two pictures I've been meaning to share.

First, my contribution to Screamin' in the Freezer, a fundraiser/celebration of the wonder that is Austinmama. It's a scarf, knitted from a yarn called "Shag" that is funky in all the right ways. It was one of the prizes for the night and I hope it made someone (or someone's kid) very happy.

Second, the Diva, giving the world a high five. In the background, you'll note the rich orange we've painted the dining room. I love it--but it is, um, bold.

In other news, I managed to smack myself in the head with a hammer this afternoon. I kid you not. It was, fortunately, a glancing blow. I am, however, an idiot who clearly has forgotten all that she learned in the scene shop 'lo these many years ago. Skokie would weep.

the NYT thing

So I finally got all the way through the piece on mothers quitting their careers to stay at home (one of the hazards of having a small child at home, of course, is that you only get to read things in small chunks...).

Here's the bit that I think is most telling:
And what she has concluded, after all this thinking, is that the exodus of professional women from the workplace isn't really about motherhood at all. It is really about work. ''There's a misconception that it's mostly a pull toward motherhood and her precious baby that drives a woman to quit her job, or apparently, her entire career,'' she says. ''Not that the precious baby doesn't magnetize many of us. Mine certainly did. As often as not, though, a woman would have loved to maintain some version of a career, but that job wasn't cutting it anymore. Among women I know, quitting is driven as much from the job-dissatisfaction side as from the pull-to-motherhood side.''

She compares all this to a romance gone sour. ''Timing one's quitting to coincide with a baby is like timing a breakup to coincide with graduation,'' she says. ''It's just a whole lot easier than breaking up in the middle of senior year.''

It's an interesting point, and one that Belkin makes throughout the piece. The issue isn't as clear as second wave feminists would have you think, which is that these women have given up their birthright or regressed by not trying to topple both the glass ceiling and Gymboree. It's more gray than that, as usual. Women are becoming increasingly dissatisfied by the compromises they have to make in order to acheive anything in situation that's designed for complete devotion to nothing but the office. What my generation of women (what are we? Third wave? Fourth?) seems to be saying is that the game is rigged, so why continue to play. And I think it's a valid point. The way things stand now--no, you can't have it all, which is what our feminist foremommies wanted us to believe, but, personally, I still think the choices suck. It is still polarized, for the most part, where you have to choose one over the other. Sure, it's changing--and maybe my child will get a whole different set of options--but not as much as we'd like to believe.

And there are still lingering questions--what will happen once these hyper-educated moms try to jump back on their career path? How do they reconcile the impact their choices have on moms who'd prefer to keep working but whose employers assume they'll leave. (A quick quote, from a SAH mom: ''I've had people tell me that it's women like me that are ruining the workplace because it makes employers suspicious,'' she continues. ''I don't want to take on the mantle of all womanhood and fight a fight for some sister who isn't really my sister because I don't even know her.'' ) What about all of the moms who don't have the economic advantage of husbands with high-paying jobs? And what will this generation of kids think about the whole phenomenon?

Fwah. It's all just so fraught. Do dads do the same thing?