Friday, August 25, 2006

can't we all just get along?

Forbes magazine recently published an article by Michael Noer in which he posits that marriage to a “career woman” (ie, works 35+ hrs/wk, makes more than 30K/yr) is less likely (for the man) to be happy & healthy, and more likely to end in divorce.

His logic isn’t terribly compelling – it’s a number of disparate and inconclusive studies brought together to support a tenuous deduction. And he himself concedes that statistical correlation doesn’t imply causation.

But what interests me is the visceral, savage response from women I’d have thought would have known better. Examples here and here and here.

Luckily, I’m here to help -- so here’s the deal, ladies:

In the first place, some of what he says makes sense. Three examples:
  • Specialization *is* more efficient; all else being equal, and assuming both spouses are happy with their role, a household where roles are divided is likely to function more smoothly than one in which both partners try to do everything.
  • Going to work every day *will* expose a spouse to more temptations and more opportunities to be unfaithful – doesn’t matter what gender they are.
  • A spouse who works will have a wider vision of the world, will have a better feel for his/her options, will be more likely to leave a defective spouse for something better.

But the real point is, why do you really care? Should it matter how one gender is graded on a report card designed exclusively by and for the other gender? As pretty as it would be to think otherwise, what’s best (or most convenient) for one gender is not necessarily best for the other, whether in terms of marriage or in terms of fulfillment as a person. Marriage, just like parenthood, requires quite a number of compromises of what we might consider to be “ideal” for either person individually.

Remember the thing about The Perfect Day, Male vs Female? Synopsized, the woman’s perfect day involved shopping, being pampered, beautified, admired, etc. The man’s version involved sex, food, sports, and naked women bending over as they served him things. Yes it’s a broad brush, but face it: a woman’s idea of a “perfect” husband is NOT a man’s idea of being a perfect and fulfilled person, and it doesn’t work the other way, either.

When you get upset at the idea that a career woman isn’t a man’s idea of an ideal wife, you’re buying an entire context – that marriage is about convenience for the husband – that last time I looked, feminism had rejected. That is, you’re trying to have it both ways – that you can have a career AND still make marriage the cozy haven for your husband that somebody somewhere said it’s supposed to be. You can accept the idea that a two-career marriage is harder to succeed at than a traditional-role marriage without viewing that as an indictment of career women as long as you don’t also buy that the woman is the one who’s supposed to give up her career and stay home.

Consider one of the items listed above, which I consider very reasonable: Going to work every day will expose a spouse to more temptations to cheat. How does this not make sense? The following statements are probably both true:

  1. If you marry a career woman, she’s statistically more likely to cheat on you.
  2. If you marry a career man, he’s statistically more likely to cheat on you.

If you accept that, does that mean working women are somehow responsible to stay home because of it? To get angry or take it personally suggests that you’re accepting the idea that
a) a working husband is the normal state of a marriage, and
b) a wife working should have no effect on a marriage in that context.
Which doesn’t seem a very supportable position to me.

It strikes me that rather than
a) ignoring the article since it’s so entirely male-centered, or
b) acknowledging its truths and arguing against Noer’s over-broad conclusion
the women who are so offended simply read the article, heard the message “because you work, you’re not a good wife” or possibly "women shouldn't work" and went immediately to FEMCON 5. It’s exactly this kind of emotional reaction that makes some men* want to pat women on the head, smile indulgently, and say gently “There, there, Sweetie – just don’t worry your pretty little head about it…”

*but not me, he said hastily

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

mine's thinner than yours

Recent posts and comments about cell phones, which I am too lazy to link to, plus conversations with people I know, prompt me to offer the following:

I recently upgraded to the RAZR phone. In the words of my brother, who has the same phone, "Well, it's thin, and... it's thin." That's about it. The rest of it was designed by clowns. I'm not sure why Verizon hired clowns to do this. Clowns are good at popping out of little cars, bending over and making toot noises with little horns, and taking themselves and their role in the world far too seriously. When it comes to phones, sadly, they are not handy, and the RAZR only serves to highlight their deficiencies in this area.

Would you like to set your alarm? It takes nine (9) button pushes before you're at the part where you actually enter what TIME the alarm should go off.

Would you like to set which number (ie, home vs mobile) should be dialed when you choose a contact from your list? You don't go to the place where you edit that number; you need to upload your phone directory to your computer, change it, and download your numbers again.

Would you like to change the speed-dial #s? Same as above. Plus you can only speed-dial the first 9 numbers in your directory.

Would you like to do anything else with your phone? You can be assured that the way you do it is not intuitive, except perhaps for clowns.

But it is thin.


The mother of one of David's friends noticed that I am disorganized and overwhelmed. She and her sons helped us move some things last week, then she got another friend and cleaned both my old house and my new house for a very reasonable fee.

All it took was to be completely pathetic and dramatically unsuccessful in my efforts to do everything on the WA end by myself the last month. But it was worth it. I have no problem humiliating myself to get what I need -- I don't have any limits, really, as far as I can tell.

That's a joke, of course. Being male, and with a guardian/protector personality, I find it difficult to ask people for help. But my family and friends have been very good to me lately -- helping me with house stuff, loaning me money, watching my kids, etc -- it makes me feel for people who have no network to count on.

I kind of think it's our responsibility to have that kind of personal support. I feel like we have an obligation to not be so selfish or curmudgeonly or self-destructive or scary or high-maintenance that we don't have friends, and must rely on the kindness of strangers when we're in need. Just a thought.

In other news, the latest house sale seems to be proceeding without too many complications, so that's nice.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

i went to the animal fair

actually, it was the flea market. the flea is technically an animal, but not the kind you see at the fair. two sentences and i'm lost, look at me.

so what i started to say before random synapse firings, was:

it was dusty and hot and everyone was lethargic and Mexican and smiled tiredly or sometimes not at all, and we walked around and drank bottled water and bought gum and a pocket knife for David and looked at stuff for sale, everything, turtles and washing machines and DVDs and dresses and wallets and garden gnomes and tools and boots and tires and toys and vegetables and pictures of Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie.

they should have had a picture of Ernest Hemingway, which is who that last paragraph sounds like it's trying to sound like (we were young, and our happiness dazzled us with its strength...), but if it does it was an accident.

we had Tecate and gorditas de chicharron, which is like a taco with a thick soft tortilla, filled with beans and cueritos (squares of porkskin) and listened to a live band playing Tejano and Banda.

listened to a guy selling a kitchen slicer-dicer-thingamajig, and he was quite good. he was muscled and tattooed and i suppose ruggedly good-looking, with jeans and boots and a broken nose and a cowboy hat and a tank top and he looked like he should be getting in a bar fight in a movie about motorcycles in the desert. he laid out a continuous stream of patter, plus little potato slices and tomato slices and guacamole and salsa that he made right in front of us.

told us how it was 39.95 on TV, but he was cutting the price in half for us, and throwing in unbelieveable numbers of extra bonuses and if we were among the first 5 to purchase right now he'd also give us the eggbeater attachment and the cookbook, and "you want one too, sir? excellent!" and "you too? good..." as he nodded to imaginary customers behind us who were apparently placing orders, putting boxes in plastic bags and holding them out to people in the crowd, most of whom looked surprised and backed away slightly...

but anyway, i bought one. 19.95, tax included. took it home and tried it out. makes pico de gallo and ceviche and salsa in about a tenth of the time it takes to slice everything by hand. i wish i'd bought two more.

here is how you can make ceviche if you want:

marinate 3/4 lb of shrimp in lime juice and a couple capfuls of tequila
slice up:
2 large tomatoes
6 romas
1 onion (red, yellow, white, doesn't matter)
1 bunch of cilantro
4 jalapenos
1 small garlic clove
the shrimp you were marinating
mix it all together, add salt to taste
slice a couple of avocados, mix in
serve over tostadas or with corn chips

one time i found a surfboard

It had fallen off a car, and I found it at the side of the highway. I put an ad in the paper -- who knew how much it was worth? Maybe it was a top board, worth hundreds of dollars. Maybe someone would be really grateful to have it back, and shower me with thanks. Maybe I would get a reward.
A guy called me, described the board, came to pick it up. He handed me the $7 to pay for the ad, and said "Thanks, dude. The board I don't really care about, but the leash is worth having back."
So I guess the real story is that one time I found a surfboard tether. Either way, it's not that interesting.

let me just say this

I'm impressed with a lot of the skateboarding world. Partly because it's got a bad reputation with oldsters, so my expectations were low, and partly because there really are some good people in it.
I've watched a fair amt of skating at a number of parks since my son started doing it. And it's normal to see older skaters looking out for the younger ones, teaching, encouraging, etc. There hasn't been a lot of posturing, or attitude, or bullying, or mockery.
There are exceptions, of course, and just like anywhere young people hang out there are going to be a few rough kids around. But in general, it's been a very positive experience.

I'll also say this:
Bumper stickers that say "Skateboarding is not a crime" are stupid. I get the skaters' point -- people often treat them like criminals just because they're on a board. But on the other hand, no one is actually saying skateboarding is a crime -- what they're usually saying is:
- sorry, you can't skate on my property because of liability issues;
- some of your skateboarding friends have messed things up for you by wrecking park benches, etc with their tricks; and
- quit skating so fast around people who are trying to walk because we don't want to catch a skate in the ankle or have you knock us down.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

it's a nefarious plot

When I was a teenager* all the top skateboarders (and everyone else) used rails on the bottom of their boards -- strips of plastic along the sides (and/or at the ends) of the deck.

Rails had the following advantages:
- You can grind a lot faster and further on plastic than on wood
- Decks didn't break in half as easily
- The board is easier to grab (when doing tricks) with side rails on
- And most significantly: decks didn't wear out from the bare wood being rubbed along the concrete or asphalt.

But that was back in the day. Now, almost nobody uses rails. And boards *are* lighter because of it, but the difference is miniscule. My brother's brother-in-law is convinced it's all a conspiracy, and I'm inclined to think he might be right. His idea is that the board manufacturers deliberately convinced the top skaters (many of whom they probably were the sponsors of) to stop using rails, which made rails uncool, which made kids stop using them, which made boards wear out in a matter of months. My son has gone through 4 decks in the last year or so - the ends grind down and the bottom edges wear out. At $30-50 per, deck manufacturers are making bank on this deal, and I think it's wrong. So there.


Friday, August 18, 2006

guess it's too late now

Somerset Maugham said "You can't go home again." Or maybe it was John Updike. Or possibly Dorothy.

But my point is that that has almost nothing to do with the topic of this post, which is that I have regrettably chosen to be exactly myself on this blog. The result is that it's now too late to use another voice in my writing here.

Same in relationships, I think. If we start off fake, the other person can slowly get down to learning the real us. But if we start off genuine, you can't try to be something else later -- somehow you can't pull it off.

Erik and Esther both present personae that are extremely funny*. But I think if I tried that now, besides being not as good at it, it would ring false.

So I (and you) are stuck with the real thing. 99.44% pure, and not nearly as interesting as other people I could be. Sorry about that.

*Erik comes off as inept with women, shallow, self-centered, clueless. But IRL he's had at least one girlfriend.

you don't care about this

Weird thing about my work: the connection between the difficulty of the work and my effectiveness can be very tenuous.

Sometimes I work on unpleasant complex projects that require a particular skill or arcane bit of knowledge; I stress and sweat and work really hard for long hours and the overall benefit to the client is not necessarily that noticeable or appreciated.

Other times I do things that may be time-consuming or require some specific experience but are actually quite enjoyable and not necessarily that difficult, and at the end the client seems pleased and appreciative.

This week was more like #2, so that was nice. And I get paid the same either way...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

my life is chaos, yet still not interesting

Spent the night at the new rental. With some furniture in, it's not that ugly.

Yesterday morning I should have been moving, packing, etc before leaving for CA again, but I foolishly agreed to go back to my old place to do 3 hrs of remote support for a client first.

Woke up at 8am, couldn't find the keys to my truck. Turned the rental upside down, nothing. Finally got a ride from a kind friend, got started at 10am, gave the client their 3 hrs.

After that it was a goat rodeo, running around town doing errands, trying to get business stuff taken care of, phone calls from every human being I know, etc. No big disasters, mind -- you'll just have to trust me that it was like being bit to death by ducks.

David and I made our flight (barely), and we both slept all the way to San Jose.

At the airport Jerry Rice was waiting for luggage at the same carousel we were -- not sure if he was on our flight or not. He played a year for the SeaChickens, so maybe he has a house up there or something. Nobody seemed to notice him, tho, which was probably fine with him.

Got to my brother and sister-in-law's place about 11, visited till 1:30am, after which I drove to Roseville. Happily I did not fall asleep and get killed. For the record: Red Bull makes me shudder, but it's better than Mountain Dew.

This morning I didn't have any toiletries -- since you have to check liquids & gels, I put my kit in a large checked bag. Which I left at my brother's. Also forgot my dress shoes, so I'm wearing cowboy boots with my dress slacks. Par for the course lately, really.

Monday, August 14, 2006


A few months ago D and I took a weekend trip together -- we ended up on an unfamiliar road that runs right by coast -- the sound between mainland WA and Vancouver Island. It was very pretty, and I said "I didn't realize this was here..."
David looks up at the 100-yr-old trees, the miles of rugged coastline, the sparkling water, shrugs and says "Maybe it's new..."

boring update

Looks like we have an offer on the house that might actually go thru, so that's good. It's a lot lower than I had hoped, but it allows us to pay off the mortgage(s), the lawyers, the credit cards, etc, and still have enough left over to buy a Diet Sprite and some gum.

I've rented a small place nearby (old, ugly, expensive) -- the landlord dropped the keys with my neighbor last wk while I was in TX.

Got home from the airport today around noon, planning to get the bulk of the moving done today & tomorrow before I leave town again Wednesday.

When I got home, the hide-a-key had disappeared. I had loaned my pickup to Hannah's best friend Marty, along with my house keys, so I couldn't get into my house.

The neighbor wasnt' home, so I couldn't get into the new place either.

I didn't have the truck back yet, so I couldn't really move even if I could get into either place.

And I had to go to the bathroom really bad. For a few minutes there, nothing was working as planned.

Eventually my realtor showed up with some papers to sign, and he was able to let me into my own house. Marty came by with the truck (vaccuumed and gassed up, very nice), so at least now I could load the truck, even if I couldn't take the stuff anywhere.

I made a token effort at moving a few things, then came upstairs to check my email and blog. Maybe fairies will come and move my things for me. You never know.

Monday, August 07, 2006

waiting for gateau

at the grocery store:

1) chose the self-service checkout. out of 4 machines, one was out of order, one locked up in use, one was being used by someone who had only last week learned what money was, and the fourth was being used by a woman scanning and weighing individual grapes. or at least, that what it seemed like. i could feel my DNA decaying as i waited.

2) next day: choice of two lines; i took the shorter one. the woman in front of me had about 10 items, for a total of around $40. but she paid for them with some sort of vouchers, about 5 of them. not sure if it was food stamps or store credit, or what, but the cashier had to break up her groceries into groups that roughly matched the denominations of the vouchers, and ring each group separately. then the vouchers had to be signed by the buyer and the cashier, imprinted in the cash register, and some sort of serial # recorded on the back. this took approximately the same amount of time as carving mt rushmore.

3) chose the 10-items-or-less line today. in front of me were two people. unfortunately, the one in front didn't have enough money to pay for her purchase, so we all waited while the cashier called a manager to suspend the sale. during this time, while the cashier's on the phone, the moneyless customer kept bouncing various alternative plans off the cashier and suggesting ways they could consummate the sale without the woman actually paying full price. eventually, right before the mgr arrived, the customer rushed off "to the car to get [her] wallet". she was never seen again. i eventually paid for my groceries, but i halfway expected to receive my AARP card while waiting in line...

PS. apologies for the lack of gateau in this post. the pun in the title was weak at best; given dubious connection between gateau and groceries, it really doesn't work, and i will be first to admit it. be that as it may, the title still suggests that i'm erudite enough to know about Waiting for Godot, which unfortunately, i am not. sorry.