30 January 2006

Belated Dishing

Vying for the blue ribbon in so-late-it’s-no-longer-relevant criticism, I would like to point out that Maureen Dowd’s new-ish book pretty much sucks. Posted by my desk is a column of hers from last year titled “Dish it out, Ladies” (13 March 2005) which I dutifully cut out for her use of the word “kerfuffle” and the sentence, “Going from Tess Harding to Carrie Bradsaw, Dorothy Thompson to Candace Bushnell, is not progress.” I thought it a swell column and was excited to learn that she was writing a book on the topic of surviving as an intelligent, opinionated woman in the modern world (ahem…). Ignoring the not so stellar review in her own paper, I shelled out for the hardbound and lugged it on a cross-country flight last November (side note: on the trip home the dude next to me looked up from his New Yorker and noted, “Ah, I see you’re reading Dowd’s new book. Frah-frah-frah.” My knee-jerk reaction was to think, pretentious fuckers. Several minutes later it occurred to me that I was the one holding the book and that I was the one on a flight back from an event I, myself, have referred to as “the only game that matters.” It’s cold over here in the land of hypocrisy, let me tell you. Fun, but a little chilly).

I slogged through Are Men Necessary?, whole-heartedly agreeing with the Times reviewer’s comment that a good column doesn’t always translate into a good book. I would go so far as to say that about ten good columns, clumsily spliced together with even more short, repetitive paragraphs listing random stuff (why? why the lists?) along with heavy quoting from an absolutely brilliant book (Woman: an Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier), which some assistant production editor then MIS-CITED on the editor’s page, definitely does not make a good book.

Then last night I found myself partway through three books that all happen to be focused on the rural middle part of the country.* Not ready to face another chapter of desolate, beautiful vistas, cattle ranching, and/or fly-fishing, I picked up AMN? for a quick recap. Now, I have on occasion been called a “screaming feminist” by my friends. I prefer articulate, well-poised humanist (and, perhaps, arborist), but whatever. I take women’s issues seriously and I don’t joke around (much) when the realities of gender inequality come up. But, hell, after 338 pages of gibberish, other people’s facts, and general whinge-ing, even I was thinking, Yeesh, this woman needs to get LAID.

The book blows. My advice? Read Ms. Angier’s book if you want to learn something about how women function from a biological perspective. Read Sarah Vowell’s books if you want to read funny essays written by an intelligent, opinionated woman. And if you want to know what people are doing (and not doing) in the world of trying to fit in to our WASPy, male, hetro-normative society, read last week’s Times Magazine article about “covering” (Yoshino, 15 January 2006). And if you’re frah-frah enough to subscribe to TimesSelect, or to (gasp!) have the actual paper delivered to your actual doorstep, keep reading Maureen Dowd’s columns. She’s a smart lady.

*Collapse, by Jared Diamond; Close Range, by Annie Proulx, and The Memory of Old Jack, by Wendell Berry.

26 January 2006


discussion I just had with my office buddy has led to the conclusion that I (1) have quite a bit of gray hair, but (2) am not optimizing my genetic predisposition. Given that I am predisposed to the gray (if you've seen my dad's head or my mom's roots, you'll agree), stress and tragedy have made me one prematurely aged young lady. However, what I'm missing is a good heartbreak. One serious soul-crusher should just about do it (of course, there's extreme illness too, but I feel like that's going above and beyond). So now I've just got to track down one of those, and then I will have truly maximized my prematurely gray potential. Excellent.

In other news I've spent all day seeking out and digitizing historic deviations from the current coastal trail. So I'm feeling a bit loopy.

25 January 2006

Funniest thing I've heard all day

Okay, so I’ve been working now for about 14 hours straight. (that’s a lie. I took two hours off from 5-7) Normally that wouldn’t be so bad, except for what I’m now, at 10 pm, working on. Did you know that people are paid very good money to draw the distinction that a corral is historic while the fence around it is not? So the CONCEPT of the corral is historic but the thing that makes it functional is not. WTF? On top of that, other people (me) are paid less well to turn that information digital and spatial. Awesome.

On the up side, this incredibly boring task has let me quasi-listen to all the awesome music I bought yesterday. What did I buy? Several incredibly cheap CDs, thanks to Amoeba’s “disc surface doesn’t look perfect” clause. The new Ryan Adams is growing on me, as is Son Volt (anyone else think he sounds just like a mid-80s Michael Stipe? I’ve been listening to Okemah but keep getting “Gardening at Night” stuck in my head.) And Gillian Welch’s first album. I figure if this SF enviro-geek thing is going to be my lifestyle I might as well try to get in to the music.

But NONE OF THIS compares to the real winner, John Prine’s John Prine. Not only does it have Paradise, which until now I’d only heard sung by Katy (or myself) and therefore had no idea it was A WALTZ!!!! But it also has the most amazingly premonitive (shut up, it could be a word) song I’ve ever heard. Or just more proof that (1) things never really change and (2) it’s starting to feel a lot like Vietnam. The song is called “Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore” and the chorus is:

But your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore,
They’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war,
And Jesus don’t like killing no matter what the reason’s for,
And your flag decal won’t get you into heaven any more.

And then, of course, it’s JP so there’s a fun little story. This album is from 1971. Yeesh. And I feel the same way now (minus the assumption that heaven and Jesus actually exist). To everything turn, turn, turn.

Alright. These historic hedgerows aren’t going to digitize themselves.

22 January 2006

Hey. That's not funny.

I just scored 32.74162% (Total Geek) on the geek test. This is apparently significantly higher than the scores of most people my very geeky friend knows. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. Since when does wanting a yurt and watching the Weather Channel make me a geek??? Oh, right. Try it, it's fun.

p.s. Snowboarding is awesome. Even when you break a fall with your head and shoulder, then at the end of the day spend nearly an hour digging yourself out of out-of-bounds powder while hoping your friends haven't yet called ski patrol. Still awesome. (note vague attempt to feel less like a geek. I snowboard! mmm. no dice, eh?)

20 January 2006

You might be a hippie if...

The fact that I think that THIS is the coolest idea ever definitely makes me a hippie geek. Josh and I are going to start one now, so it should be ready for us around retirement age :)

18 January 2006


Okay, if I ever refer to myself as a slacker and any of y'all ever disagree, try this one on: my laptop has been broken, like, non-functional broken, since last September. It's January. I just got it fixed. Of course, I do have 24-hour access to my office, and now a work laptop as well, so I wasn't really suffering from lack of internet, just abusing office resources, which is, well, the American way. But now no more. (for the time being we will ignore the fact that the new screen was installed improperly and will necessitate some more sweet, sweet phone-time with the friendly Dell folks).

What does this mean? It means that I can download things that let me post pictures to my (as yet almost un-viewed) blog!!! And since I was able to salvage some of the old hard drive (that's right, lost the HD and the screen at the same time. Wierd.), I also can reminisce about the past. So here's a good one:

This is Mila and I somewhere in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, Summer 2004. She is whittling a spoon, I am pretending to read Ed Abbey. Huzzah for pictures!

In the future there will hopefully be many craft-related pictures, as I still have big plans to abuse my work-provided digital camera.

14 January 2006

Going to a beer garden in January makes me think about...

The things that I miss about New York:
(1) Fall
(2) Insulated buildings
(3) Snowflakes
(4) Real hipsters
(5) the Brewery
(6) Spring! (the event-ness of it, as opposed to this crazy cherry-blooms-in-January anti-climactic b.s.)
(7) the people (known and unknown)
(8) public transportation
(9) those moments you have on the subway where you thing something’s funny and someone else thinks it’s funny too and they catch your eye and you smile but can’t laugh because the thing you both think is funny is probably another person.

Things that I don’t miss about New York:
(1) slush
(2) those weird piles of black snow that hide in the shadows and last until May
(3) ironic mullets
(4) baking cookies in July in a building without air conditioning
(5) the rent
(6) Paris Hilton
(7) construction on the L-train
(8) $7 beers being normal
(9) that occasional uncontrollable feeling of rage and frustration when you momentarily realize that your entire existence is based on things and systems entirely outside of your control.

08 January 2006

In the ever thrilling race of the paperwhites (Narcissus 'paperwhite'), the kitchen has decidedly beat out my bedroom and the living room. With a flower bud breaking earlier today, and another bud well on its way, the kitchen bulb wins. My room is the obvious loser - only one real bud in three bulbs, so far, and the stems are all bent - but that's no surprise, given that the light sucks. The living room bulbs are holding there own, and I expect great things soon.

If you haven't planted any indoor bulbs this winter, I highly recommend you get on that. Paperwhites are my favorites, as they're tiny and beautiful and smell like candy (well, floral candy), but one big amaryllis bulb will also brighten your day. I expect I'll be acquiring some hyacinths in the near future as well.
Dendrochronology, for those of you who’ve never heard of an increment borer, is “the science of dating events and variations in environment in former periods by comparative study of growth rings in trees and aged wood,” or so says Webster’s. I like trees. A lot. I grew up in dry, inland California, where we don’t have too many trees, so it’s not a childhood memory kind of thing, and I also like milled timber, so it’s probably not a spiritual thing. I think what I really like about trees is that they’re so slow compared to the rest of life. Woody plants are the oldest living things on earth (NOTE: I just googled “oldest living thing” expecting to find info about the friendly bristlecone pine, only to discover that according to the High Country News (hi Dan!) it’s actually a freaking creosote bush outside of Barstow – 11,700 years old. Whatev. If it has bark…). We humans are conceived, are born, grow, whither, and die in the time it takes some trees just to get out of their ancestors’ shadows. And if you chop one down, it still probably isn’t dead – it’ll root- or stump-sprout and just keep on truckin’. But this blog isn’t really about trees.

Except when important tree related things are going on. Like right now the magnolias are in bloom (here in SF, that is). I walked under one near Stanyan and Haight on Saturday, and it smelled delicious. Fun facts about magnolias? The magnolia family is one of the most primitive woody plant families, as indicated by the fact that the flowers do not have sepals (the green leafy segments that protect most buds before they bloom). And magnolias are pollinated by beetles, so that delicious smell? Yeah, it’s for beetles. Not for you. Last but not least, my favorite east coast tree, the tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), is actually in the magnolia family (Magnoliaceae), despite having little tiny flowers that no one gets to smell because they’re too high up in the canopy.

Phew. So, this is my first post in my third attempt at having a blog. Sometimes it will be funny. Often (apparently) it will have fun info about trees (send questions!) Rarely, I hope, will it be irritatingly self-deprecating, whiny, or bitter. But the year is young and the blog is new. At least I promise my next post will have very little to do with trees.

So let’s make this quick – New Year’s resolutions (actually, I didn’t really make any. But if I did…):
(1) Say “like” less
(2) See above comment about blog content, apply to life
(3) Climb a 5.10
(4) Play the fiddle breaks in Wagon Wheel (well)
(5) Bike to work at least once a week (more when it’s dry, less when it’s rainy)
(6) Roll over last year’s ‘under-achieved’ resolutions (and acknowledge those I achieved)
(7) Enjoy the good parts, weather the crappy
(8) Re-read all the science books I bought in 2005 and actually retain some of the information in them
(9) Appreciate my (albeit brief) foray into the world of grown-up working life.
(10) Rock on.