Sunday, September 30, 2007

The House Always Wins...

...we the people stand to lose.

The Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, has recently come out in favor of casino gambling in our fair Commonwealth, and put forth a proposal for three casino "resorts" to be built in different regions of the state.

I am terribly disappointed in him. So disappointed, I [edit: almost] wish I'd voted Republican. And that, my friends, is a bitter, bitter thing for this pro-choice/pro-gay marriage/environmentalist/equal and civil rights advocate/public education enthusiast to admit.

Those who support the proposal say that casinos mean a whole lotta tax money, which we simply must generate to fix our infrastructure and give our schools a boost. Why not casinos, say they. Gambling isn't the end of civilization. Nobody forces people to gamble, and who are we to moralize about what people do with their money? Isn't it hypocritical to have bingo, the state lottery, etc. but get all prudish about a casino? Lighten up! People are just going down to Connecticut to the casinos there -- why not keep the money in state?

The money, the money, the money. Always and only the money. Our government has smelled cash, and look out, here they come.

Why does this matter to me? Mr. Sandy and I don't gamble. It would be easy to think of casino gambling essentially as a tax on people who either can afford to willingly lose some money, or are (sorry, but let's face it) too stupid not to throw away money they need. Not being either, why should I worry about it further? Let 'em pay. So what. Shrug.

But what moral society taxes its stupid so heavily? The Governor boasts about how much he plans to have us spend on gambling addiction programs, etc., to alleviate the myriad social ills that nobody denies are coming along with the casinos. We'll set up trust funds to take care of all the unpleasantness, won't that be nice? I will be so glad to read about the generous payout to the family of the first shit-for-brains parent who leaves an infant to suffocate in the car while they play just a few hands of $10 blackjack. Yay us!

What's the human cost of all this revenue? I doubt we'll even break even.

Never mind that we ought to be fixing our bridges and roads with the considerable revenue already being generated by income and sales and myriad other taxes. It's not as if Massachusetts citizens are undertaxed.

And speaking of roads, how 'bout we take a higher one, and not put casino projects out to the highest bidder?

Because (have we forgotten?) the casino-in-Massachusetts issue was supposed to be about the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, now federally recognized as a sovereign nation, getting an exclusive opportunity to better their economic situation by building a casino somewhere in southeastern Massachusetts. To that end, for better or worse, they already have land and a deal in the works in the town of Middleborough. The tribe appears mired in its own serious problems -- their recently resigned longtime leader is a convicted rapist, among other things, and IRS and FBI agents have come a'calling with questions about certain "fiscal irregularities" -- but all that aside (!), it was supposed to be their opportunity. Not Deval Patrick's.

But Wampanoag, schwampanoag. Let's have three ca$ino$! Let's put 'em out to bid! Think of the roads we'll fix, and nobody will ask why it couldn't have been done without Ballys in the Berkshires, or whatever friggin' monstrosity we end up with.

Are casinos really the best our state can do? Is this the best and highest use of our land, our labor? I truly don't think so, but I wouldn't bet on this government looking for another way. Brace yourselves for the newspaper accounts of dead babies in parking lots. Dice roll in 2012 or so. Will it be worth it?

Miss Spelled

I'm a very good speller. I don't say this to brag, because it ain't braggin' if it's true, but also because I don't think it's an indication of intelligence or anything except that I happen to be able to do it. It's a knack. Some of the smartest people I know, way smarter than I, can't spell for beans.

But here are some words that just don't come automatically, and always make me pause, if only for a split second.


It's the double letters.

(I know: Most. Boring. Post. Ever.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tattoo You?


I heard somewhere the statistic that a third of all Americans have at least one tattoo. That's a lot of us.

In theory, I have nothing against tattoos. I wouldn't get one myself, because 1) I am a wuss about painful things and don't do them on purpose if I can help it, and 2) I can't think of an image I'd want on my own skin for ever and ever and fading ever.

In practice, I have a sort of mildly held, open-but-not-likely-to-change opinion that most tattoos, on most people, are ugly and/or look just plain stupid. Those lower back butterflies or whatever, aka "tramp stamps"? Ugly. Asian characters of meaning unknown sometimes even to the person on whom they're inked? Look stupid. Likenesses of other real humans, alive or dead are often ugly and always creepy. Tattoos of mermaids, dolphins, roses, dragonflies, the name of your child/lover/mother/favorite band/patron saint: whatever floats your boat. Just not my style.

If you Google images of "beautiful tattoos," what you'll dredge up is images of ugly tattoos. It's just what there is.

So, I was unsurprised yet strangely fascinated to come across this blog: Horrible Tattoos. Checkit.

Novel fodder

A local news story this morning made me think of novels, or potential novels, or truth being potentially at least as strange as fiction.

Three days ago, this 28 year-old man rode his bike to the pier in New Bedford, boarded the 1:30 PM ferry to Martha's Vineyard, and hasn't been seen since. Surveillance cameras show 26 passengers getting on board in New Bedford, 25 disembarking on the Vineyard. A Navy veteran and Merchant Marine, he is a strong swimmer, trained in cold water survival. It is assumed he went overboard, but nobody knows precisely where. Buzzard's Bay is chilly but definitely survivable this time of year. His mother is asking people to walk shorelines and help look for her son.

So what happened? Suicide seems unlikely. Alien abduction? Foul play? Meticulously planned escape (from gambling debt? blackmailers? an unbearable personal life?)? Is this guy hundreds of miles away with a new identity by now?

And who should finish this story? Sue Grafton? Stephen King? John Grisham? Whoever's riding Robert Ludlum's coattails these days? Creative Writing 101 at a college near you: "Write this story in the style of your favorite contemporary author"?

The simplest explanation is usually the likeliest, but I'll be kind of bummed if this turns out to be a stupid alcohol- or drug-influenced accidental drowning instead of the tip of an intense and complicated international espionage iceberg. Or something.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lost in Translation

Not the movie, though I liked it better than the paid critics did.

I recently had reason to read Psalm 23. I can't remember the reason, I've since been distracted. That happens a lot. I'll be thinking about something, then reminded of something else I've always wondered and go to look it up and find something else interesting, then get an email about something else entirely, and so on. That's not counting interruptions. Mr. Sandy sometimes calls me Dory.

"Look, something shiny!" Where?

OK, it was nothing.

Anyway. I have two Bibles: the Good News Bible I was given at my confirmation, which calls itself "today's English version," and a very cheaply bound King James version which I bought when I needed a Bible to look up some other long-forgotten thing, and hadn't yet retrieved my confirmation one from my parents' house.

Anyway, anyway. Psalm 23 in the KJ Bible reads thusly:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Lovely, right? Lyrical. Powerful.

Compare to the Good News version:

The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me.
Your shepherd's rod and staff protect me.
You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
and your house will be my home as long as I live.

Good grief! "I have everything I need"? That sounds like something you'd say to the waiter, or the nurse.

Who could have thought it was a good idea to water down the incomparable "yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death"? Who thought we needed "rod and staff" clarified and so added the gratuitous "shepherd's" to it? Who did away with the lovely "my cup runneth over"?!


Instead of "today's English," they should just have subtitled it "for today's morons."

Note to churches: why talk down to kids with the Good News Bible? High school students read more poetry than most grownups, and there's no reason they shouldn't get the good stuff.


Mr. Sandy and I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the other night. (I'd been reading a chapter a night aloud at bedtime, and in hindsight it is clear that I have J.K. Rowling to blame for some of my recent fatigue.)

What an amazingly good, rich set of stories this has been. I feel a little bereft. They are there to reread of course, but still.

I love best the details -- the characters' wonderful names, the odd plants and magical creatures, the owls, the secrets of Hogwarts, the charms and potions and devices. Portraits and portkeys. Howlers and gillyweed and blast-ended skrewts.

And I have questions! There are loose ends -- what happened to...? How did...?

I need to see the deleted scenes!

Ah well. Though I'm sorry the saga is over and I'll miss that first-time reading experience, I'm so glad that I didn't ignore this series first as kid stuff, then as an overhyped popular culture phenomenon. It's more than both those things.

Well done, Ms. Rowling, well done indeed.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm not tired. I'm not tired. I'm not ...zzzzzzzzzzz.

That'd be me in denial, not my children.

I have always (since babyhood, says my mother) had better things to do than go to sleep. That is until pregnancy, during which I could easily fall asleep at any time of day, and would sometimes find it impossible not to, even standing up. Mr. Sandy observed that pregnancy seemed to have permanently changed my falling asleep process from an hour-long ordeal to a two-minute slide to slumber. Having the babies didn't bring back the old toss-and-turn habit... as a new mother, you catch what rest you can as efficiently as possible.

It's now been 3.5 years since I was preggers, and lately the old slow-to-sleep pattern seems to be creeping back. Unfortunately, it doesn't feel like I need less sleep, just that I'm getting less.

But! Aren't we supposed to need less sleep as we get older? When does that kick in? As someone who's always half resented needing sleep at all, I'm sort of looking forward to that.

Or is it just a myth?


Saturday, September 22, 2007

TO: Macy's, Hyannis, MA

FROM: Sandy Shoes
RE: The limits of good taste.

I noted with regret (but not disbelief) that you saw fit to put up Christmas trees in your store the day after Labor Day.

Even by today's dubious standards, that struck everybody in the place (including your grumbling employees) as -- how shall I say? Horrid. Gross. Tacky. Without class.

Just so you know, I try to avoid places where all those adjectives apply at the same time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

And me without my eye patch!

Holy poop deck, me hearties, I almost forgot it's Talk Like A Pirate Day. I shall switch keyboards at once:


The Department of Redundancy Department

A representative sample, by no means a complete list, of things I say a thousand times a day that make me feel like some sort of crazy mean angry bitch:

I don't understand what you're saying when you use that voice.
Try again.
Use words please.
Use your nice words please.
Please stop that.
Did you wipe?
Where do your underpants go?
What did you forget?
Don't suck, brush.
That means MOVE the brush on your teeth.
Don't talk, eat.
Your sleeve is in your plate.
Your hair is in your plate.
Please drink your milk.
Please take another bite.
Is the light on in your room?
Do I listen to whining?
I can't reach it when I'm driving.
Come out from behind there.
Is it OK to hit/yell at/grab things from your sister?
What do you say?
That's enough.

And, when I finally snap, which I'm not proud of, but it happens: Why do I have to say the same things again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again EVERY SINGLE DAY? WHY?!?
Mommy needs a time out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Sound of (relative) Silence

At bedtime, I ask the girls to tell me what their favorite part of the day was, sometimes with amusing results. The past two nights, the Peanut has said that her favorite part of the whole day was when the Bean got on the bus to go to school.

Not to dis my firstborn, but I can relate. That Bean is being loud and bossy lately. Also loud and jubilant, which I love -- she's a happy healthy girl and it's great to see. But loud and silly, which is a small doses thing for me. The baby voice she affects sometimes just sends me through the roof.

If only I could get the Peanut to EAT HER SUPPER and the Bean to CUT IT OUT with the stupid noises all freakin' day... well. There'd be something else.

One thing about parenting is you realize the annoying phases pass, just as the precious ones do. But in the meantime, kindergarten may be saving my sanity, and it definitely gives the Peanut some well-deserved time to play on her own terms.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


...being a stay-at-home Mom feels like having agreed to be annoyed to a slow death by my own offspring.

Well. Better by them than by the cubicle farm, I suppose.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

1 Stupid Street, Smalltown, MA

There is a street in my town called "Triangle Circle." I make that pissed-off Marge Simpson noise whenever I see it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

No Breakfast?!

OK, so I promise this blog won't become All About Kindergarten, but the Bean related something today that gave me pause (I just love that phrase): Her teacher asked the class to raise their hands if they'd eaten breakfast today -- and at least 5 of the kids had not.

What the? Who (among those of us with means to prevent it, and I'm not talking super-expensive-granola -- eggs are $1.19/dozen! Bananas are $0.59/lb!) would send their 5 year-old to school with an empty belly?

I just don't get it.

Day 2 - still lovin' the bus

The Bean was very excited again for the school bus this morning. I had an easy time of it too -- it's only the first day that hurts. After she got on, and the bus pulled away, the Peanut peered up into my eyes and said, "don't be sad, OK Mommy?" Cute. Now who's going to say that when she goes?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Holy Vitamin A, Batman!

Here's an easy way to get carrots down the kiddos' gullets. And yours! It's tasty.

Carrot Soup

olive oil for sauteing
2 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced

2 t ground coriander
1 t paprika
1/2 t ground turmeric
1/4 t ground black pepper

6 c. low sodium chicken broth
2 lb. peeled baby carrots

1/2 c. half-and-half
1/4 c. honey

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil in a Dutch oven (= large saucepan, probably the pot you'd make a pound of spaghetti in. Not an actual appliance, as I thought when I first heard the term) about 5 min.

Add coriander, paprika, cumin, turmeric and black pepper (those colors! gorgeous). Stir it all up.

Add carrots and broth. (Carrots first, otherwise you'll be dumping 'em into a big pot of broth, and the splashing will make you say bad words and feel like a dope. OK, maybe just me then. But carrots first.)

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer half an hour.

Scoop about a third of it into a blender and puree; pour pureed soup into a big bowl, puree the rest.

Mix in the half-and-half and honey. (Not to get all Martha Stewart on you, but if you spray the measuring cup with cooking spray, the honey slides out easier.)


If you have fresh cilantro, chop some up and mix it in. If you don't, then yay, you don't have to wash and chop cilantro, which is kind of a pain anyhow.

First Day of School! First Day of School!

It goes so fast, blah blah blah. All the cliches are true.

This baby -->
started kindergarten today. She and the Peanut and I walked to the end of our little street and waited a minute or two for the bus. Then a hug for her sister, and she stepped aboard, frog backpack in hand -- off to kindergarten.

I'm so proud of her for being ready for this big independent step, and taking to it so well.

Also my heart is a little bit broken, in the way that mothers' hearts break when their babies get on the bus. I cried shamelessly back to the house. Just as on her first day of preschool, I felt this awful tugging in my chest. Heartache.

Our bus driver is a lovely man. He said to the Bean, "give your mother big a hug before we go, she needs it today." That was kind. I am already thinking about things to bake for him when it's frigid outside and driving the school bus maybe doesn't seem like the best of jobs.

I am sure I'm not the first mother in the universe who put her child on the bus, then drove to the school and observed her arrival from a discreet distance (I promise I will do this only once). The Bean got out, someone hung a tag around her neck (name, address, bus number), and she joined the line of kids in her class. A couple of the boys are familiar from preschool, which is nice. She seems little, though not tiny. She only just turned five, maybe she's the youngest in the class. Assembled, they marched in... Bean at the end of the line, a bit apart from the group, because that's how she does things. She'll be fine. Good-bye, sweet Bean. Be safe. Have fun!

And... we'll see you at lunchtime.

It's only a couple of hours, but the first day's a doozy.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Here's where I wax poetic about summer's end...

...or not. Woo hoo! Summer's end! Happy dance!

Labor Day rocks. This is the best time of the year. I love the Exodus of the Summer People. They're nice folks, mostly, and I wish them well both here and wherever they go back to. It's just that it's so cool on the Cape when they're gone. Less traffic, less litter, less noise, no parking fees or crowds at the beaches -- what's not to love?

Also, I admit, I'm one of those who loves their "normal" schedule and is always happy to get back into it. I feel a bit unsettled in summertime. Routine makes me happy when I have a happy routine. Yes, it sounds stodgy and boring. What can I say, part of a tedious midlife crisis is embracing this kind of mundane self-awareness. Otherwise how could it be tedious?

Happy Labor Day :).

Saturday, September 01, 2007


A couple weeks ago I had a few days off all to myself (yay!) and hit the road to visit friends in the NJ town of my ute. I love a road trip to visit friends, though I'm looking forward to our next car, whatever it turns out to be, to put the love back in the road part. Our current commuter econobox is over 250K miles with no problems whatsoever (Toyota? I'm ready for my close-up...) except that the a/c crapped out just in time for summer. But summer's all but done, and cars are another thread.

We saw some movies!

Casino Royale is holding up to repeated viewings. I am beginning to shake my head a bit during the underwater action near the end of the movie, but I still love it. I had never heard of Daniel Craig (somehow -- dang children! -- I missed Layer Cake; Netflix should be fixing that for me shortly) before learning he was the next Bond. Any apprehension I had about him (I did like Pierce Brosnan in the role) evaporated early on the first time I saw this movie. I am accused of just liking his, um, bathing suit. Not true -- the man rocks a dinner jacket as well ;). But most importantly, he nails the Bond character. According to IMDb, the next Bond movie, coming in '08, is reported to be a direct sequel to Casino Royale, so that'll be interesting.

The Simpsons Movie was good fun. All kinds of Simpson cleverness, many laughs. At 87 minutes, it didn't try too hard, which is key for a TV show-made-movie. There were lots of allusions to/pokes at other films. I caught just a few, so there had to have been lots that I missed entirely or couldn't quite place then forgot about.

Did you know you can make yourself a Simpson character? S'fun.
That's me, sorta. I can never find the right hair with those things.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I think I mentioned below somewhere, was really, really good. Visually great, well-paced, and having read the book, I have to say the movie folks are doing a great job deciding what to leave out, what to keep in without making a four hour film. We saw it at an IMAX theater in a shopping mall... is this a great country, or what?

Seen at home long after the rest of the world has forgotten all about 'em:

It took me a long while to get around to Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005). The title put me off. Shallow of me, but if the title is ugly, awkward or silly, I can't help but be less interested in the film, no matter how many Oscar nominations it gets. Anyway this awkwardly titled movie is based on a true story of a wealthy widow in 1930s London who buys a theater for something to do because she can't stand the idea of embroidery and charity work for the rest of her days. Shocking the aristocracy (including a stuffy Lord Somethingorother played by Christopher Guest), Mrs. Henderson's productions feature -- horrors! -- naked women. Judi Dench is fab, of course, in the role. Bob Hoskins both produced the movie and costars as the theater manager (and if you've ever wanted to see Bob Hoskins naked, here's your chance). No, wait! See it anyway! It's a lovely drama, both funny and poignant.

Looks like I haven't shuffled my Netflix queue in a while and we're in British Drama mode. Thankfully I can recommend this one as well: last night we saw A Good Woman (2004), based on Oscar Wilde's 1892 comedy "Lady Windemere's Fan." Scarlett Johansen stars in the title role as the young bride of a wealthy financier, brushing off advances by her husband's dashing friend (cad, or good guy?). Meanwhile, having run out of other people's husbands to seduce in New York, the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne (Helen Hunt) arrives in Amalfi, and the serious gossip begins. What's Mrs. Earlynne doing spending so much time with Mr. Windemere? Where's her money coming from? Things are more complicated than they appear. It's a nice movie with beautiful costumes and scenery, entertaining secondary characters, and top-notch dialogue... it's Oscar Wilde after all, what's not to like! Except: Scarlett Johansen's bee-stung lips sort of get on my nerves. I don't know why. Hers are too much, Helen Hunt's not enough, and they both look a little odd. But the hair! The shoes! The dresses! Beautiful.