30 June 2006

More lindo y querido

Des has a funny post about eliminating stupid people by not warning them about dangers they face in life. She says we should take down all the warning signs and safety precautions and let nature take its course.

I thought about this the whole time I was in Mexico.

Mexico is a country full of blatant danger. If you fly in, you will most likely land in Mexico City, where the very air is the color of a nice strong caffe latte(Scroll down to see photo). And that's on a good air day.

If you want to travel about, you can hop on a bus that may or may not have had a safety inspection in the past 20 years. It might even be a U.S. school bus that was retired when it lost the ability to stop at each railroad crossing because its brake lines were hopelessly faulty. Try to pick one with some brakes left. You can tell by listening carefully for the metallic squeal as they lurch up to the bus stop.

Or you could take your chances with a taxi. The good part is that there are no limits on the number of occupants, so go collectivo-style and mash 8 of your closest friends into the 1982 Toyota Corolla with you. If the driver can't see out the windows, that is ok. Smart drivers and pedestrians know to stay out of the way of taxis.

What, you want to walk? Ok. Wear close-toed shoes and keep your wits about you. Cavernous holes in the sidewalk, pieces of rusty rebar that jut out at eye-level and sudden changes in height and width of walkway are to be expected.

And yet nary a warning sign is to be seen, unless it is the classic no-parking sign "Se Ponchan Llantas Gratis" ("We will punch your tires. For free! If you park here." Kinda friendly, kinda menacing).

The whole country is full of dangers unimaginable in the U.S., yet somehow everyone manages to muddle through just fine with good humor, endless patience and grace. I was always watching some dangerous situation unfold and thinking "Man, why aren't people up in arms about this?" But no one ever seemed upset.

When I visited the archeological site on Monte Alban, there are ball courts that are about 30 feet deep. The trail goes next to them and there is no fence, no handrail, nothing.

My Mexican tour guide, walking and talking, stumbled and almost fell over the edge. He turned to me and grinned, sheepishly. He wasn't indignant. He assumed that if he would have fallen and killed himself, it would have been his own clumsy fault and that would have been life. Or rather the end of life. Oh well.

Check out this path down to the amazing gorgeous Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca (wa-HA-ca). It is hard to imagine, but that little ridge is about a foot wide between an 8 foot drop on one side and a 15 foot drop on the other. Handrail? We don't need no stinking handrail!

It also has water constantly running over it. This is the main path down to one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area, a natural mineral pool. Hundreds of people walk down it every day during the summer.

It is worth it, though, because then you get to this, a natural, warm infinity pool:

I asked my Spanish teacher, Erica, about all this danger and the fact that no one seems to be upset about it.

"Don't you have lawyers?" I asked.

"We have plenty of lawyers," she replied. Then with a beautiful little grin she added "But they are not so busy."

Some fabulous writing from fabulous women on Linkateria today.

Question of the Day

Everyone at work is asking "What are you doing for the Fourth?"

Hm. What do "normal" people do? Cook out slabs of E. coli-laced meat, eat potato salad that has been sitting in the sun long enough to spawn food poisoning and drink a lot of cheap American beer.

Once properly liquored up, they handle dangerous explosives, usually with kids standing nearby.

Gosh I don't know. I think I will be busy hiding under the couch with my dog.

I'm almost as sensitive as Goldie, so the Fourth has always been my least favorite holiday. I think hiding under the couch is a perfectly reasonable response to the hoopla.

And I don't even want to get into the whole patriotism thing because I'm afraid I will begin holding my knees and rocking and muttering about the first amendment, the Geneva convention and the general nutlessness of the Democratic party.

And I'm not just in a bad mood because my birthday falls soon after and I will be officially old. I'm in a bad mood because I share my birthday with George Bush.

All I need to say about Linkateria today is that it has a link to a site about third nipples. Isn't that enough?

29 June 2006

One more reason to love Mr. Stapler

At work meetings where they ask everyone to go around and "say one interesting thing about yourself," he says:

"My hobby is knitting sweaters out of my own hair."

28 June 2006

Why school sucks

I was always a good student. Two out of three Rs - Reading and 'Riting (oh please) - were so easy for me that I don't remember having to learn to do them. They just came naturally. And math wasn't a problem, either, at least not until I got to quadratic equations in high school.

For my brother and my mom, it wasn't as pleasant. They both have the types of learning disabilities that make reading difficult. As a result, they came out of school feeling like stupid failures. It kills me that they came out of school worse off than they went in.

Neither of them are unskilled, however. My mom has incredible people skills. She could have done anything in sales, teaching or social work - any people-intensive profession. She chose to stay home and raise five amazing children (ahem).

My brother has stellar hand-eye coordination and artistic abilities. He is also just a damn fine, decent human being - the kind of guy who you would trust with your car, your wife, your only child. He has a great job, a beautiful wife of over 25 years, a lovely home, 2 fine daughters and 6 perfect grandchildren.

About 10 years ago, I dated a guy who owned a machine shop. He made beautiful, clever parts for aircraft and for miscellaneous machines. He needed an assistant and pressed me into service.

I could not do the job. I have a learning disability that not only prevents me from telling left from right, but keeps me from being able to tell when a part is in a machine upside down or rightside up. After I screwed up about 1000 parts, he realized I was unteachable, a failure.

I wonder how different my life and self-image would be if elementary school was all about building things and dealing with shapes rather than reading, writing and math.

I'm no more intelligent than my brother or mother. I just have a type of intelligence that is well-rewarded in school, and they don't. I got lucky on that one.

Please remember this story the next time you're worried about how your kid is doing in school. They may not have school skills. And they may do ok in life in spite of it all.

Linkateria is jammed full of linky goodness today. Photos of mad cats, immaturity explained, and of course a dash of Bush-bashing to make the whole thing complete and perfect.

27 June 2006

Vamo Vamoo a ganar

There is no way that this picture does justice to the loveliness of these Jacaranda trees. They are like soft purple lace.


Laundry never goes away on its own. It must be folded and put away. Believe me, I have tried watching it and it never budges.

The lazier the co-worker, the more they complain.

A pastry at Starbucks is $3.00. At the Mexican bakery, 50 cents.

To the Argentinian visitor to my blog, I have one thing to say: Vamo, vamo a ganar.

Good customers sometimes move away, but bad customers never do.

Never brush your teeth before drinking orange juice.

When all you drink is bad wine, it is not so bad. But when you taste good wine, then try to go back to bad wine, it is horrible.

If you aren't good at acting like your feet don't hurt, you should not wear high heels.

Your cell phone battery almost never dies during a call from a salesperson or your mother-in-law.

A fabulous wedding is no guarantee of a fabulous marriage. It could almost be a negative correlation.

Diets don't work. But neither does sitting on your ass and eating chips.

Please check out Linkateria. Today - barhopping, funny "feminine product" wrappers, Ken Jennings, and more.

26 June 2006

Bienvenidos a Red Stapler

Today on Linkateria: Stinky cheese and octupus balls. How can you resist THAT teaser?


Welcome a new reader to Red Stapler. Yes, after 172 posts and 6 months, Mr. Stapler finally found my blog.

He knew I blogged, of course, but I didn't tell him where and he did not ask. I figured that it was either easy enough to find or that he could ask me if he wanted to know.

Now of course I can be less careful about what I say. Before, if I ripped on him too bad, I would have felt like I was picking on someone who was defenseless. Now he is in the ring, so let the Truth Games begin. I am in the dark trunks and I have a mean left jab.

He is in the Superman cape and he used to be a lawyer. It should be almost a fair fight.

Ding! Ding!

In other news, continuing proof of my madness in case the judge needs any more at my commitment hearing:

The dog was restless all night. She would NOT go outside to pee or to patrol for trespassing cats, as she usually does at least once per night. When I went to the bathroom, she came in and leaned on my legs, trembling.

When I got up, it wasn't any better. She still would not go outside, would not eat (not even TOAST!) and had to be in the same room as me, even when I was taking a shower.

I concluded only one thing was possible: we were in for an earthquake. I filled up all of my emergency water bottles and began loading the car with necessary supplies - sleeping bag, canned food, batteries, flashlights, sturdy clothing, coolers.

Yes, on a Monday headed for work, I loaded my car as if I were going on a camping trip. Because my dog was trembling. Doesn't that make perfect sense to you?

I drove across town to drop her at my parents' house.

"Did you hear all the thunder last night?" Mom asked.

"Uh, nope," I answered.

Goldie hates thunder.

25 June 2006

Where does the money go?

Ever since I read Mom to the Masses' post on money a few weeks ago, I have been thinking about it.

It seems like everyone I know has run out of money all at once. If I listen hard enough, I can hear the sound of change jars being emptied out all around me.

Last year I took a job making more than the average American for the first time in my life. Every time I see one of those news articles about what the average American makes, I am above that line. I don't have a husband, I don't have kids, I don't have a mortgage, no car payment, no credit card debt - I should be home free, right?

Wrong. I seem to be hovering somewhere in the "just above broke all the time" category. I find it sort of baffling, considering my well-known penchant for thrift. I am no friend of designer labels. Have bought 2 articles of clothing in the past 6 months. Don't buy much jewelry, or travel much, or even eat out much anymore. Yeah, I brown bag it every day and don't even a television.

Back when I made half as much as the average American, thrift stores and garage sales seemed like part of the deal. Now that my job actually pays a decent wage, it seems like it shouldn't be this hard.

Yet every day my prayers include "Dear Lord, please don't let me get sick and miss work;" "dear God please don't let the dog have to go to the veterinarian;" and "Dear God, please keep my car running."

I realized that I, like Mom to the Masses, have become an expert at the mental calculus of saving money. I try to work it all out and sometimes I mess up. I berate myself for tossing out spoiled food or staining or tearing a piece of clothing beyond repair.

Sometimes I get so tired of obsessing over every penny that I want to go out and spend a couple hundred bucks. But I don't because I know my inner shitty committee would yell at me for weeks or months afterwards.

Sometimes my penny-squeezing is an abject failure. I was dropping off my gas bill at the grocery store payment station and saving a stamp when I got a $174 traffic ticket. THAT one didn't work.

So how is it going for you? Do you obsess, or do you just blow it all and wince and peek with one eye when that credit card bill comes in the mail?

Speaking up

Yelling was one of the first things I learned in the wonderful Women's Self Defense class I took 16 years ago.

As "ladies" we learn to be quiet, to not make a scene, to not take up space. All of that works against us in an attack situation. Attackers count on women not yelling or fighting back. I have talked to many rape survivors who said they did not make a sound because they were afraid of making the attacker even more angry.

Effective self-defense programs work on undoing that societal training. My course claimed that they trained us in an adrenaline-response mode - in other words, we learned to fight while we were terrified, just like we would be in real life. The instructors said that would help seal the training into us so that we could react quickly, without thinking, if we ever needed to.

I've used My Big Voice a few times since I took the class. One time I walked into my living room to find 2 strangers standing there. They didn't seem threatening but neither did Ted Bundy, the serial killer. I took a defensive posture and yelled "Get the f*** out of my house!" and they ran like terrified rabbits.

It turns out that they were at an open house on the same property and thought my house was open too, when it was not. It was a little embarrassing to hear their explanation and to have to calm them down, but ya know, I think it is a perfectly reasonable response to tell random strangers to get out of your house.

Then there is yelling at attacking dogs, which I have written about in previous posts .

Those situations both occurred were when I was perfectly wide awake and, in the case of the dogs, had some notice of impending attack.

Last night I went over to Mr. Stapler's to have some dinner with friends. We had some drinks and sat around talking after dinner. They stay up later than me, so I went to bed about 11 p.m. in the guest room because there were no sheets on Mr. S's bed (men!) I fell immediately into a deep sleep.

At 11:45, Mr. Stapler's dog dashed into the room and he turned on the hall light and barged in to get her so she wouldn't bother me.

I awoke not remembering where I was, only knowing that I was in a strange room with a man walking in the door. Without my glasses my range of clear vision ends about 4 inches in front of my nose so Mr. S was just a blur.

Before I knew what I was doing, I started yelling as loud as I could. For a long time. I am not sure what I was yelling, only that it was operatic in its force and everyone was stopped in their tracks.

I finally realized what was going on. Mr. Stapler was freaked out and I was in a complete state of wide-awake buzz-buzz with my heart leaping in my chest and wondering if the neighbors had called the police.

Thankfully, he lives in a suburban neighborhood where the houses are far apart and people can scream at the top of their lungs in complete privacy.

By yelling so loud, I broke my voice. Today I sound like Demi Moore. Once again, I am a bit embarrassed by my performance, but on the other hand I'm glad to know that, 16 years later, that training is still sealed in my body and ready to be used at any time.
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