A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Cat drool

Many years ago, OmegaGranny and Uncle Grump (Gramps) had a cat they named Charlie.  A lovely, loving Siamese mutt cat.  He was, we were sure, removed from his mother at too young an age.  From the start, he would climb up your chest when you were sitting in a chair, fling his kitten arms around your neck, stick his muzzle under your chin, try sucking any skin available, then start purring wildly.

His eyes would cross and half-close in an endorphin-induced haze of kitty ecstasy.

Then he'd start drooling.

He'd nuzzle and drool.

The drool would start dribbling down the front of your chest.

And within minutes, the itching would start.  You know the kind of burning itchy pain you get when you're foolish enough to brush your fingers across the stem of a thistle?  Or anything that has lots of teeny tiny microscopic prickers that stick into your skin and turn it bright red and blotchy and bumpy?

That's the kind of rash that would spring forth, full blown, when Charlie got his thang on under your chin.

Some experts claim that cat allergies are a result of cat dander.  I am convinced that it is actually related to kitty drool.  This immediate reaction to Charlie's never-ending source of drool was not limited to me, or my immediate family--it happened to anyone who was subjected to the drool-fest.

So one would be stuck in a dilemma.  Enjoy the full-on, total lovin's from Charlie and endure the nasty itchy results for hours after he decided he didn't want to be lovey-dovey any more?  Or banish the toxic cat to the floor, where he would mew piteously and climb back up again?  (Lather, rinse, repeat.)

Since Charlie was so charming and loving, almost everyone succumbed, and suffered the results.

Charlie is long since gone.  OmegaGranny's replacement is Max, a cat with a totally different personality.

We, on the other hand, now have a kitten-child who is--though in no way up to Charlie's Master Drooler status--beginning to demonstrate a drooling propensity, also under people's chins.

At night.

In bed.

He curls up on my head, goes into full purr mode, then slithers around, sticks his head under my chin, begins nuzzling...

And the itching, burning feeling commences.

Cat drool.  I am convinced that it is one of the more toxic substances known to man.  Stronger than sulfuric acid.  Itchier than a wooded glen filled with poison ivy.  And, oh-so-often, a gift of love.


Update: Miss C. says that her allergist says it is, indeed, cat saliva that is the culprit. So I did what I should have done in the first place, googled the question, and lo and behold: Cat allergies says that the dander that was always blamed is actually dried cat saliva. Voila. And, of course, the reason that Charlie's drool was so toxic was that it was highly concentrated, "live" cat dander. Hah. The things you learn on the Internet.

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posted by Kate @ 8/30/2006 06:57:00 PM   7 comments

Twenty questions

Let me give potential adoptive parents a wee bit of advice.

If you start firing off questions about someone's child while they are finishing off eating dinner...

If the person being questioned starts answering with shorter and shorter answers until the answers are one word long...

You're doing something wrong.

Don't compound it with "I looooove adoption!  I have one of my own, but we want to adopt one, too!"

I felt like I was facing the Spanish Inquisition tonight. 

The dotter and I had just finished her (woohoo!) first ballet class.  OmegaDad is out of town for the night (again).  I decided to take her to our favorite mommy-dotter restaurant, which serves Mexican food, which OmegaDad doesn't like.  We enjoy our cheese crisp and taquitos.  OmegaDotter had shifted to the other side of the booth so she could concentrate on her drawing (nominally a dinosaur, with many, many clawlike hands, which she cheerily told me was going to KILL and EAT us).

Our waitress comes up.  OmegaDotter shows her the picture.  Our waitress sits down.  This is okay, it happens in our town, sometimes it's fun, usually it's just a quick chat.

"Does she take ballet?"  (Dotter was still in her leotards and tights.)

"Yes.  She's just started her first lesson tonight."

"Is she your daughter?"

"Um, yes."

"Is she adopted?"

"Um.  Yes."

"Was it very difficult, very long?"

"Not that difficult, but, yes, very long."

"Where is she from?"

"Did you keep her name?"

"Does she know the language?"

"Are you going to have her learn it?"

I was...taken aback by this interrogation.  It's been a long time since we got anything like it.  Question after question.  One right after another.  I was withdrawing.  I was getting very curt.  I was giving one-word answers. 

I am a wuss--it took me this long to whip out the often-advised, "Why do you want to know?"

At which point, the "I looooove adoption!" came out.

At which point, I gave her a bit of advice about how if she was going to adopt, she'd better realize that her adoptive child is "one of her own", too.

Look.  I loooooove adoption, too.  That's how I came to have my daughter sitting with me at the table, enjoying a relaxing dinner out.  But if ever there was a textbook case of how not to approach an adoptive family, this was it.  It left me feeling extremely uncomfortable.

My own fault.  It's been so long since anyone's intruded like this that I was blindsided.  Now is the time for me to start practicing the "Why do you want to know?" as the very first response.  Check out ChicagoMama's excellently snarky The Question for a good discussion on this whole type of scene.

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posted by Kate @ 8/29/2006 08:31:00 PM   4 comments

A tale to pass along
Dusty Trails, by PAGent. Enjoy. More later.
posted by Kate @ 8/29/2006 03:10:00 PM   0 comments

The season of yellow flowers

I went driving down Three Lake Road this afternoon, to allow OmegaDotter to get a nap in before we went swimming.  The sunflowers are blooming profusely, and the Little Yellow Flowers (coreopsis, goldfields, some aster-y thing, and, I think, a yellow buckwheat) are starting up.

In two weeks, we will need to haul butt up onto the plateau above Three Lake Road to do our annual "dotter in the yellow flowers" picture.

You have no concept of what it's like.  Let's talk a 50-acre meadow.  Covered with yellow flowers.  Everywhere you look.  An ocean of yellow.

Amazingly, it's rather difficult to capture in pictures.  This is three years ago:

This is last year:

Somehow, I have mislaid the pictures from two years ago.  I suspect they are on the other computer, which is still waiting for a new fan (if you turn it on, it turns itself off within a few minutes).

People in Texas do these pics with Bluebonnets.  I do them with DYCs (damned yellow composites).

Yellow flower season means we are into autumn here.  Yes, I know it's August, still.  But suddenly, the monsoons have vanished, the sky is crystal clear and vivid, heart-stopping blue, the sun is suddenly setting earlier and earlier.

We haven't heard any elk bugling yet, but it should happen any day now.  The woods around us are filled with the sound of shotguns going off--the hunters practicing their shooting.  The other day, at work, I heard one of the guys saying, "Yup, got a ticket for two cows..." and another one reply, "Heeey...I got one for a bull!  I've been out scouting the past few weekends..."  For a moment, I was befuddled, thinking cattle, then realized--Ah!  Hunting season!

Hereabouts, hunting season is a big event.  The guys all arrange to have a week's vacation scheduled very tentatively for Sometime in September.  Then they put in for the hunting license lottery.  If you get picked, you had darned well better shoot what you got licensed for; otherwise, you get your general hunting license yanked for a year or two.  Anyway, the guys drop out for a week here and there, then reappear with tales of freezers filled with elk or deer steaks, ground elk, deer ribs, you name it.  At my previous job, my office mate would bring in elk chili to share.

Then there's the "junior hunting" division days, when pop gets to take the kiddos out for their first hunts.

Most of the hunters I know have a wilderness ethic:  keep it clean, keep it neat, pack out what you bring in, don't poach, shoot only what you're licensed for.  But then there are the others, who litter our road from the highway with empty six packs and garbage galore.  OmegaDad snarks about how much heavier the beer cans are when they're empty, because there's no other reason to leave them by the side of the road.

It's a way of life.  It's a sign of autumn.  When you go hiking in September, you make sure to wear bright clothing--yellow or red or vivid blue--just in case someone thinks you're an elk or a deer.


Autumn also means heritage camp.  This is our first year going.  Anyone going to the Fraser camp?  If so, drop me an email at omegamom_01 at yahoo dot com, and we'll see if we can't meet up.

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posted by Kate @ 8/27/2006 07:10:00 PM   4 comments

A clarification and a grump

Grump first.

I find it rather ironic that in comments to a post talking about being dismissive, someone gets dismissive about the specific physical resemblances to OmegaDotter's birthparents I talked about in my Somewhere in southern China... post.  One of the main points of that post was that there are things people think about (a lot) that don't get talked about in blogs or that require a knowledge of the blog and the blogger to know it gets talked about elsewhere.  In that post, in that paragraph, I stuck to physical stuff.  If you read the rest of my blog, you'll find things scattered here and there where I talk about personality traits.  But.  Tell me how to untangle the various aspects of OmegaDotter's personality?  Please.  Tell me how to pinpoint this and say, "Oh, yes, that came direct from her birthfather!" or pinpoint that and say, "I'm sure that comes from her birthmother!" or pinpoint yet another trait and say, "That is a result of being in an orphanage for the first year of her life."

We don't know.  I think I said that all over the place in that particular post.  We don't know. I can point to specific mannerisms and say it came from me or from OmegaDad or from even OmegaGranny--because I know those mannerisms like the back of my hand.  But I also know, from my own family experience, that likes, dislikes, personality traits, etc. are a weird amalgam of pieces from all over the genetic tree.  I'm like my mother in this set of personality traits; I'm like my father in that set; I'm like my Aunt F. in yet another; I'm like my grandmother in this, this, this, and that.

If I knew OmegaDotter's birthfamily, I'd be able to point to things and say, "Oh, yes, that comes from her mother, and that comes from her father, and that comes from me, and this comes from OmegaDad."

As it is, mostly I take her in her totality, as she is.  Every once in a while a mannerism that is mine takes me by surprise.  (Usually not very pleasantly--I'm obviously something of a clown and a bit bossy.)

I have even surrendered to the horsie obsession, which perhaps does spring from her birthfamily.  (I will point out that this is a statement of wry amusement about the whole horse thing, for those who find it difficult to figure out.)

I can say that she's scary smart, she's charming, she's funny, she's flirty, she's stubborn as hell, she's bossy.  She loves drawing and artwork.  I see flashes of what she will look like as an adult, and she will be beautiful.

Onto the clarification.

I found the comment trail on Karen's post to be (har) dismissive of the original commenter's post and rather obnoxious in the pack mentality it showed.  I did not and do not agree with the tone that many people took.  I think Karen's original response was bound to rouse the posse, but...but...she did say some good things in that post.  The problem was that there was defensiveness all around.  My point in my post was that, given the way the comment was presented and the timing of the comment, it was bound to bring defensiveness to the fore.

If the anonymous commenter had really wanted to bring those issues out, perhaps a different blog would have been a better venue.  Because, frankly, if anyone's read Karen's blog on a regular basis, those issues have been talked about.  But I know a bunch of blogs of potential adoptive parents who don't talk about or seem to think about those issues, and bloggers who might benefit from a little lecture like that.

And, once again, if the commenter thought it was so important, perhaps the commenter should have had the courage of her/his convictions, and put his/her name out there.  I personally despise anonymous commenters; I will always put my internet nom de plume on my comments.

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posted by Kate @ 8/27/2006 10:13:00 AM   3 comments

Bubble, bubble

As an amusing exercise, I have been keeping a spreadsheet tracking the average cost of houses here in our neighborhood.  (Hey.  I'm a geek.  I think doing something like this is interesting.  So just consider me weird.)

Every few weeks, I peruse Realtor.com for houses for sale in our area.  My spreadsheet has four columns:  Asking price, square footage, average price-per-square-foot, and what our house would cost at that average PPSF.  Then I take the whole shebang for the week and average it out.

Back in May, our house would have listed for $301,000.  Now, according to the averages, it would list for $280,000, off by 7%.

It's still well more than twice as much as we purchased it for back eight years ago.

(I could, if I were truly ambitious and patient, deal with the county's GIS website--which is pretty slick, but also pretty slow--to get actual selling prices.  I am not that patient.  Besides, the figures typically lag about six months.)

I'm hoping that it doesn't keep sliding, or that the slide doesn't accelerate.  OmegaDad has a tantalizing possibility of a position in the national office, doing some stuff that really gets his boat afloat.  The position is listed, he's doing the paperwork for it this weekend.  It closes in mid-September.  Then, the wheels of public service grinding very slowly, it could take up to eight more weeks before he gets interviewed (maybe).  Then, if he gets the position (no counting chickens until they're hatched, eh?), we'd be looking at two to four weeks' notice.

So...I'm hoping that the housing prices don't plummet between now and December.

Interest rates are up, housing sales have stalled, national columnists have written that it's officially a bursting bubble.  It was bound to happen sooner or later; the pace simply couldn't keep up.  Prices in this neck of the woods have been skyrocketing for years--they increased 97% over the past five years, and 30% in 2004-2005 alone.

There are a boatload of folks out there who have used ARMs and creative financing to get into homes that were a bit too much for them in reality; I found a statistic that says that 8% of all home mortgagers pay more than half of their monthly income on mortgages.  While the National Mortgage Survey for the first quarter of the year seems to indicate that foreclosure rates actually declined over the previous year (it's very hard to tell for a non-industry person reading it!), doing some googling led me to many articles talking about increasing foreclosure rates all over the place. 

Hard landing?  Soft landing?  I dunno.  Nobody knows.  But what with rising health costs and interest rates, essentially flat income for middle- and lower-class wage earners over the past few years, and increasing gas prices impacting commutes and heating and retail costs...well, it doesn't look really promising.


To further amuse myself, after publishing this post, I went to Technorati and searched on "housing bubble" (see my tag below).  You don't want to know what I found.  Let's just say it's depressing.  Words like "recession" and "hard landing" crop up with disturbing frequency.  Here's a comment:

"I hate to be doom and gloom but as someone who is living in a HYPER housing bubble zone, NYC area, and own several rental properties in other cities, I can confirm from the battle field that it is BAD!

"Many of my new neighbors who moved in at the peak are concerned about refinancing asap, since their creative mortgages are about to be called from their 5 yr no principal periods. They are all honest and decent families who work hard, but over extended themselves on the type of home they can afford. Many of them have traded in their expensive cars for cheaper variety brands already. I notice the parking lot is a lot less full on my weekend Costco visits.

"Home owners are trying to rent out a rooms to make up for the pop in their mortgage payment going up 50-70%.

"Many have started to think about relocating to areas like Raliegh NC or areas where housing is affordable and there are comparable salaries, but they too see homes for sales without any buyers in sight."

Another commenter to the same post said that he's seeing the same things going on in Boston.

Then my mom forwarded me an email which contained this info:

  1. 32.6% of new mortgages and home-equity loans in 2005 were interest only, up from 0.6% in 2000;
  2. 43% of first-time home buyers in 2005 put no money down;
  3. 15.2% of 2005 buyers owe at least 10% more than their home is worth (negative equity);
  4. 10% of all home owners with mortgages have no equity in their homes (zero equity);
  5. $2.7 trillion dollars in loans will adjust to higher rates in 2006 and 2007.

Man.  I think I'll go back to bed now to get rid of my headache.

Just to round it all off, today's AP story, "High energy prices, falling home prices strain shoppers' wallets".

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posted by Kate @ 8/26/2006 10:40:00 AM   8 comments

Some really interesting conversations, Part II...

Today's highlighted conversation comes courtesy of ChicagoMama.  She came across an article about a pair of girls named Mia, adopted by two separate families, whose families determined via DNA testing that there was a 85% probability that the two are at least half-sisters.  The girls are assumed to be fraternal twins, and were introduced to each other on live TV.

ChicagoMama jumps right into the controversy (that's five links, folks!) about sibling searches amongst the Chinese adoptive community, the question of what constitutes "proof" of such a relationship, the ethics of tossing it all out into the national media as was done, what happens if later testing shows that the putative relationship isn't there, and what it is that makes sibling relationships so important to certain folk.  One of the problems is that Chinese populations can be quite homogenous--in other words, if your child was abandoned in a certain region of, say, Henan, it's quite likely that your child shares a large proportion of genetic material with almost everyone in that area.

I know of one "found" twin pair that seems really, truly the Real McCoy--the two are uncannily alike, and DNA testing said that there was a 97% probability that the two were fraternal twins.  Another pair, written up in Good Housekeeping, were given a 96% probability that the two were fraternal sisters.  The people involved in these groups all seem to have managed to keep up a very good relationship, making sure the girls are in contact via long visits on a regular basis.

There are email lists devoted to the subject--both a list of those who feel they have located siblings of their children, and a list of those who have signed up or are interested in joining a DNA bank in the hopes of locating such a sibling. 

Brian Stuy of ResearchChina has a lot to say about the DNA testing.  Some of the problems are that DNA testing needs parental DNA samples to be able to say much about the kids with real certainty.  Identical twins (I assume) have DNA that matches pretty damned closely--they should be easy to identify.  But otherwise, you start running up against that homogeneity.

Why do some people think their children are related?  Well, if you've been around Asian folk, the old "all look same" ain't true any more.  Out of hundreds and hundreds of pictures of adopted Chinese girls, I have seen one that made me gasp and think, "OMG!  That girl looks so much like OmegaDotter it's amazing!"  I did follow up on it...but the other girl, around the same age, had been abandoned thousands of miles away, in a different province.  But maybe some see resemblances that aren't there, and maybe some see resemblances that are there.

If they do think the children are siblings, why is it important?

It's a good philosophical question.  Aren't we, as adoptive parents, supposed to be trumpeting the "as good as the Real Thing"-ness of adoption?  Yet, when talking to adult adoptees who found out that they had siblings, one finds that many of them feel that they had a special bond with those siblings.  There are some who say that if their parents had known that siblings were around but not pursued some way of keeping contact with them, and not let them know, they would have been extremely hurt.

ChicagoMama's point is that presenting it as a reality, when it's a probability, could be problematic (aside from the other issues, such as parading your kids around in the media for their first meeting as putative twins).

Check the conversation out.


I am following the Steorn story as it continues.  Some people think it's an ALG (alternative life game).  Some people think it's marketing for the Xbox.  Some people think it's a marketing scam. SteornWatch did a live chat with the CEO, Sean McCarthy.  The Guardian published an interview with him.  All very interesting.

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posted by Kate @ 8/25/2006 06:56:00 PM   3 comments

Some really good conversations, Part I...

I'd like to pass on three thought-provoking series of posts/discussions from other blogs--all adoption related.  (Okay, folks not interested in adoption, you can skip this post!)

First, there's GrrlTravel's post about adoption disruptions.  An adoption disruption happens when adoptive parents decide they...um...don't want the child anymore.  Technically, there are two different scenarios:  "disruption", which happens before the adoption is finalized, and "dissolution", which happens after it's final.  But generally, when one is talking disruption, it covers both variations.

There have been some pretty well-publicized disruptions in the Chinese adoption world lately.  Some folks have disrupted in China, fearful of potential special needs which were undisclosed prior to the travel (Johnny has a story of three which happened on his adoption trip--Part I, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).  Then there's a couple who disrupted two or three months after being home; the mother had a nervous breakdown and decided that they actually weren't cut out to be parents.  The mother posted about it on her blog, but I can't locate it now.  Given her story, and the fact that the child is thriving in her new family, I can't help but feel it's better to have disrupted this adoption for this child.

Amy Eldridge, of Love Without Boundaries, wrote a letter to the Chinese adoption community addressing disruptions, most prominently noting that children who have been institutionalized quite often show developmental delays that can seem extreme, the majority of which resolve in the loving and attention-filled atmosphere of a new adoptive home--and that there are an amazing number of potential adoptive parents who show up in China for their child without any knowledge of institutionalization effects, no real preparation.

Then there's a case I know of where the parents adopted a sibling pair from the state.  The younger boy was delightful, wonderful...but his brother spiraled into threats and violence.  The night they found the older boy standing over their daughter's bed with the knife, saying he was going to kill her was the end of it all.

Amy/GrrlTravel has some very good points.  But at the same time--some disruptions are for the best.  In biological families, it doesn't happen often--what happens most often is that the parents turn to abuse of one type or another, or neglect, and the state has to step in, remove the child(ren) and place in foster homes.  Sometimes, a biological parent knows early enough, and offers the child up for formal adoption.

It's a difficult subject.  It's painful.  A lot of times, the circumstances seem to not warrant the disruption...I've heard tales of potential adoptive parents who get to China and turn down the child because she's not pretty enough...or the older child doesn't want her...or because she's "too dark".  These superficial reasons are horrific to me, and I can't help but wonder how on earth these people got through the homestudy process.  If the child were immediately placed with someone else, no harm, no foul--who would want to subject a child to living with people like that?  Unfortunately, word has it that the child is returned to the orphanage, and oftentimes doesn't get placed back into the adoption pool.  So, because someone made a snap, superficial judgment on an infant, that infant's life is confined to the orphanage from then on.

Hm.  This is getting long.  Conversation pointers will continue tomorrow!


Hah!  I almost forgot!  OmegaGranny was featured in Walktopia, a blog about walking and walking blogs.  I have some buds who tell me, "Your mom's blog rocks!"  Walktopia seems to think so, too.

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posted by Kate @ 8/24/2006 07:42:00 PM   3 comments

Growing pains

Two times this week, the dotter has woken up from her nap sobbing and wailing in pain.  The only thing that works is for me to massage her legs above, behind, and below the knee.  About 20 minutes of that, and some cuddling, and she's ready to go again.

So I googled "growing pains".  I remembered that there was a study done within the past few years that verified that kids have actual growth spurts, their leg bones growing centimeters within a day.  But all the items I found on parenting sites essentially said that doctors recognized the real pain, called it "growth pain", and said it wasn't caused by growth spurts.

Then I found the study I was looking for, which said that, yes, the bone plates of lambs grew overnight or during periods of rest.  Plus, another study that shows that growth occurs in spurts in infants.

To me, the idea that muscles may be painful when stretching to accommodate sudden growth spurts in the legs or arms...well, it just makes sense.  I have no idea why the medical lore denies it.  (Of course, we're talking the sector of society that for many years denied that women suffered from PMS, and called it "hysteria".  It was, admittedly, a century ago.  Nonetheless...)

But my poor baby!  It really hurts!

All of this seems to be accompanied by a developmental spurt, as well.  This means, as always, that the dotter's sleep is disturbed, that she's cranky and fussy, and takes it out on us.  Sigh.  This will last a week or two, then she'll be fully "integrated" again and things will even out.

One of the things I have been considering lately is signing her up for dance class, maybe gymnastics as well.  Something to get her moving and using up some energy and maybe teach her a little fun stuff as well, eh?  So the dance class I was thinking of was jazz dance--fun, move across the floor a lot, very active.

(Part of this is simply because yours truly just loves jazz dance.)

Suddenly this week, the dotter decided she wants to "dance like a princess".

Um.

This meant ballet type moves, garnered from the previews of "The 12 Dancing Princesses" as interpreted by Barbie.

Um.

I had to dig old ballet moves out of my memory--pliés, jetés, etc.

So today, I traipsed off to the local dance studio to sign her up for dance.  I was about to sign for the jazz dance class (damn, it sounds fun!), but that "dance like a princess" stuck in my head.  So I asked the nice lady who was registering me, and she replied, without hesitation, "Oh, ballet, of course!"

Sigh.  No jazz.

So the dotter now has pink tights.  A black leotard.  A pink (shudder) tutu.  (The tutu, alas, though billed as "extra small", is falling off her waist.  Tiney hiney, indeed.)

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posted by Kate @ 8/23/2006 07:38:00 PM   6 comments

Junkets

When a journalist hears of government employees going to, say, Alaska or Hawaii for a business conference, alarm bells go off, and the word "junket" floats in front of his eyes.

Inevitably, the image is one of plump public servants lounging on the beach or in the mountains, drinking fancy cocktails, swimming, hiking, generally enjoying an exotic vacation at the taxpayers' (or stockholders') expense, with little to no "real work" getting done.

No-one thinks of five straight 14-hour days.  No-one hears about the junketeers having to travel on their own time.  No-one knows about the (sob!) lonely spouses left to fend on their own with small children.

Networking, poster presentations, career training, outreach strategies, committee presentations, project ideas, balancing tech and human outreach, previews of new technology, cross-cultural communications, mentoring, networking, networking, networking...

(It's not my schtick.  The kind of workshops that make me drool are tips and tricks for database maintenance, programming information, web design, stuff like that.)

Oh, yes, there are those who go and don't do anything.  But that's not Mr. OmegaMom.  He left on Sunday morning, returned via the red-eye (delayed, of course) Friday night, got home Saturday afternoon.  The man who always wakes up at 7 on weekend mornings slept until 10:30 Sunday morning, and was still tired Monday morning when he went back to work. 

Perhaps it's different at higher levels.  I suspect, knowing the man, if he does get to higher levels (hmm...this would mean moving east) and goes on "junkets", he will plow into it full steam ahead, one hundred miles per hour, full of vim and enthusiasm, and wanting to Get Things Done.

So when you hear of conferences in exotic locales, don't immediately think it's just fun and games and hijinks.

posted by Kate @ 8/22/2006 10:12:00 PM   2 comments

Somewhere in southern China...

...there is a woman with a hole in her heart.  It may be huge and ever-present.  It may be healing, much smaller than before.  We don't know.

If one listens to Kay Ann Johnson and Amy Klatzkin, co-authors of Wanting A Daughter, Needing A Son, there's a high likelihood that she has a daughter who is older than our dotter; there's also a possibility that she now has a son.  There's also a possibility that OmegaDotter has a younger sister.

We know nothing of her, except what is reflected in our OmegaDotter.  Her face is probably a certain shape, her lips bow in just a specific way, her hair isn't blue-black but deep brown with red highlights.  Long toes.  A big belly laugh.

Or maybe that is what our dotter gets from her birthfather.  Or paternal or maternal grandparents.  We don't know. 

The horsie stuff, I am convinced, was injected by some pseudopod from the Jungian overmind. 

We have no way of knowing if she was left where she was left by her birthmother on her own decision, or, as Brian Stuy of ResearchChina.Org tends to think, the birthmother was pressured to do so by paternal grandparents who want a son to continue the family name.  There are a boatload of cultural and political and economic issues in play in the reproductive policies in China that result in abandonment of baby girls and--to a much lesser extent--that of baby boys.  What is it like growing up in that milieu?

We just don't know.  OmegaDotter won't know.  All we can tell her are the facts, as we know them (even though there's evidence that some orphanages fake finding information):  she was found here, she was about seven days old judging by the umbilical cord stump, she was taken there, she was given a name.

I've mentioned before that OmegaDotter will bring up her birthmother at sporadic intervals, without any prompting.  It has helped, of course, that we present it as just par-for-the-course:  Your birthmother gave birth to you somewhere around here, you were left there at seven days old.  We think she was probably very sad about it.

What prompts this?  Well.  Long story.  There's a blogger with an incredible following who recently received her referral ("incredible following" = more than 600 comments of congratulations when she got her referral).  The weeks since have been a flurry of happy-happy joy-joy posts.  In the middle of the comment trail for one of her posts where she was sad about missing her daughter's first year, some anonymous person said:

Her other mother is probably worrying about how to make ends meet, and you're worrying about whether truckloads of designer clothes will fit. This isn't to trivialize your worries--but to put it all in perspective.

Meanwhile, both of you have missed out on significant parts of your mutual daughter's life - but first mom will be missing out on so much more.

I hope that even in your joy, which you certainly needed after all you've been through, you don't forget the grief going on on the other side of the world. You are the lucky one in this situation. I am happy for you, but I know that there is a woman out there who cries every day for her daughter, so I feel sad for her at the same time.

You probably already think about this anyway, but I felt the need to say it.

(I feel the need to mention here that the truckloads of designer clothing are mostly scores from eBay and thrift stores...)

This one simple comment has led to quite an uproar all over this slice of adoption blogosphere.

My personal opinion is that it was maybe the right thing to say, but the wrong time to say it.  And I wish to hell the original commenter had used her real name (this is a bugaboo of mine--if you feel something strongly enough to comment on someone's blog about it, for gosh' sake, use your internet nom de plume).

So.  Some takes, in no particular order:

Oh, dear - Manuela, a late-discovery adoptee
Twiddling My Thumbs - American Family, a transracial couple adopting from China
Alright, then - Baggage, single mom who adopted an older child via fostercare
Fashionably late - Kateri, a birthmother

In the meantime, somewhere out there is a couple that are OmegaDotter's first parents.  We think about them.  It's not a constant thing.  But we do think about them.  We've thought about them all along. 

Edited to change "larger extent" to "lesser extent"--argh!

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posted by Kate @ 8/21/2006 09:35:00 PM   6 comments

The window to a woman's soul

I have a post bubbling around in my brain about a kerfuffle in the adoption blog world.  But I'm finding it quite hard to solidify my ideas, what I want to say, how I want to present it.

So, I will avoid the entire issue right now.

My NOTI blog ring is doing a post challenge every two weeks, and the latest biweekly topic is The Purse.

To the left, you will see my current purse.  This is a knock-off of the uber-trendy sling purse, which I purchased while in Taos a few years ago from a Mexican tchotchke shop.  It's leather, has a slew of pockets on the outside and inside, and I carry it everywhere (unless I'm going on a hike or touroning about, in which case I use my block-like bright blue fanny pack).

There are some women to whom purses are a fashion accessory--they have a closet full of kicky purses in a variety of colors and styles, and pick one out each morning like they pick out their blouse and slacks and shoes.  There are days I dream about being a woman like that, because to me it implies that they are traveling light.  No schlepping about of large amounts of detritus--lean, mean purse machines.

My purse, alas, is like my house:  cluttered. 

We start from the outside.

In one pocket, I have:  Two sets of keys.  To what?  I'm not sure.  (Okay, after examining them, I see I have a key to OmegaGranny's house, the key to our old SUV, which has long since been sold, a key to the locks on our luggage set, and multiple incarnations of the keys to the offices at my job.)  Two unbroken crayons and two broken ones.  The ID card for my job, which I never wear.  A heap of pennies.  An old ticket.  Various receipts for various purchases, ATM receipts, and an old shopping list.

Moving on to another pocket:  Membership agreement to the athletic club for summer swimming.  Remnants of an old checkbook.  New checkbook.  The key code for our 18-year-old Subaru.  More receipts.  K's mom's name and address.  "Admit one free" to a circus that was here in town at the end of May.  Another key to some place at Small Mountain University.  Two pens.  A pen cap.  Daycare receipt (whoops!  Into the tax file that goes!).  My wallet.  More coins.  Leftover ticket stubs from the Society of Geeky Gals' last theatre-going season.

Pocket #3:  Pocket comb with broken teeth.  A token from a place called Vista Taos, with the quote, "Being hard on ourselves is easy.  It's being gentle with ourselves that's hard" on it.  This last is very important to me and OmegaDad.

Moving to the main compartment:  Yet more keys!  OMG!  What am I doing with all these damned keys?!  A pair of gray-green socks.  A recipe for Cream Wafers.  A pill bottle with aged phlegm-inducing pills.  Receipt from Discount Tires.  Old pics of OmegaDad's ulcers.  Xeroxes of old daycare receipts.  A sticky-note with the word "Assessment" on it.  Another with "For Kate" on it.  Notes for the database class I taught this spring.  A packet of bluebell seeds.  Notes from an aborted plan to refinance our mortgage.  Printout of Kohl's kids' foot size chart.  Recipe for pumpkin bread.  Old hotel room card key.  Old insurance claim information.

Lest you think this is unusual, I put forth memories of my childhood as evidence.  I remember my mother's ceremonial cleansing of the purse; this took place every few months, and usually yielded a similar list.  What can I say?    It's obviously genetic.  (Of course, it could also be seen as evidence of nurture, rather than nature--having been raised by a woman whose purse was seen as a depository could be what has made me what I am today.)

As a result of this exercise, I am depositing 92 cents in the change jar, putting K's mom's info on the fridge, putting crayons into OmegaDotter's crayon zippy, tossing a boatload of old receipts and the phlegm pills, filing the recipes in the recipe file, and putting the pair of socks into the sock drawer.

For some different takes on the purse subject:

My purse collection
Pursing or Backpacking?
Louis who?
10 percent - Woohoo, Shrinking Mommy!  Way to go!
Basic Black

Vinegar Martini's take will have to wait--she's having the irritating BlogSpot "vanishing blog" effect again, so I couldn't find the post!  Too bad, because hers was (unlike her usual tart take on life) sweet and loving. Update: It's back! The Famous Pink Purse.

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posted by Kate @ 8/20/2006 01:13:00 PM   3 comments

Free, clean energy or a marketing ploy?

On Friday, an Irish company, Steorn Ltd., issued a challenge in an ad in The Economist: 

"All great truths begin as blasphemies--George Bernard Shaw

"Imagine
A world with an infinite supply of pure energy.
Never having to recharge your phone.
Never having to refuel your car.
Welcome to our world
At Steorn we have developed a technology that produces free, clean and
constant energy. Our technology has been independently validated by
engineers and scientists—always behind closed doors, always off the record,
always proven to work.
The Challenge
We are therefore issuing a challenge to the scientific community: test our
technology and report your findings to the world.
We are seeking a jury of twelve—the most qualified and the most cynical.
Get involved. Register at www.steorn.com"

Of course, scientists are full of skepticism about this claim.  After all, there's ol' Newton's Third Law of Thermodynamics, which says that there is never new energy, just energy released by changing form.  Steorn claims that this "groundbreaking new technology" creates energy by "interaction of spinning magnetic fields".

Apparently, Steorn was a company that was doing wildly well during the Dot.Com boom, then went bust when everything else went bust.  So there's some question out there that this is some kind of brilliant marketing ploy, a way for Steorn to show potential advertisers that they can generate noise in the technology realm.  The jury-by-scientists is a brilliant idea.

And, of course, there are those who say--immediately, swallowing whole the claim--that Big Oil and the Bush Administration will kill the technology.

The naif in me, the daydreamer, the science fiction reader, the one yearning for a cleaner environment--would like to believe.  The cynic in me says, "HAH!"  Read what the blogosphere is saying.

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posted by Kate @ 8/19/2006 04:35:00 PM   1 comments

In the sh*wer

Mom and dotter take a sh*wer:

Dotter:  I need to make some tea!  (Grabs cup for rinsing hair, puts it under water coming from bathtub faucet.)

Mom:  Okay, now, dotter, I need an arm.  (Soaps up washcloth, begins washing off marker marks, realizes that this marker isn't easily washable, ACK!)  (Dotter twists around, one arm being scrubbed behind her, the other arm reaching out to the sh*wer door.)

Dotter:  Look!  I can make handprints! 

Mom:  Okay, other arm now!  (Dotter twists around the other direction, then brings leg up as mom suddenly has all her weight on the scrubbing devices, and plants wet foot on the sh*wer door...)

Dotter:  I can make handprints and footprints!

Mom:  Wow!  Okay, now, let's do a leg.  (Dotter lifts one leg up and mom begins scrubbing the "AIAA" on that knee in purple marker that doesn't wash away easily.  Dotter leans over, grabs two bathtub plugs with link chains, bends over and twists her leg so mom is holding a foot and trying desperately to scrub yet more marker.  The bathtub plugs get arranged on the floor of the bathtub and immediately become...)

Dotter:  Neigh!  Neeeiiiighhh!  Oh, no, mom, the horses are scared!  It's okay, boys, it's okay, there, there, everything will be all right...

Mom:  Other leg now.  (Dotter twists around in other direction, grabs the "reins", mom tries scrubbing off the "MPMV" on the other knee.)

Dotter:  I have to get in my carriage now!  (Dotter sits down, mom quickly rearranges hands so remaining foot doesn't twist dotter's knee, finishes scrubbing.)

Mom:  Now let's do your hair.  Can I borrow the tea?  (Gestures at the big cup filled with water.  Fills it up from the sh*wer water.)  Okay, lean your head back now, here it comes!

Dotter:  Ow!  Ow!  (Flinches back against sh*wer wall with big, disillusioned eyes aimed at mom.)  That's hot!

Mom:  Oops, sorry!  (Mom re-sets hot/cold ratio, refills cup, tries again.)  Is this better?

Dotter:  Yes.  Neigh!  Neigh!  Mom, we need to pack to go down to Big City!  What do I need to pack?

Mom:  (Soaping up hair.)  Well, let's see...you need clothes for tomorrow, and--

Dotter:  Okay!  I'm all done packing!

Mom:  (Rinsing off hair.)  --what about pajamas?

Dotter:  (Reaching down for her "horsies"--mom stops rinsing.  Say, impatiently:)  I've already got everything packed!  (Stands up, mom quickly finsihes rinsing.)

Mom:  Conditioner now...

Dotter:  (Twists around and sits down in bathtub.)  We're going!  Bye!  We're going to TIMBUCKTU!

Mom:  (Finishes rinsing the conditioner.)  Okay, it's my turn now.  (Mom mentally dashes perspiration off her brow and relaxes--this person holds still while being washed!)

Dotter:  Okay!  Now you're my grandma!  Grandma, grandma, we've come to visit!  Where can I put my horses?  Neigh, neigh!  Grandma, do you have a barn for my horsies?

Mom:  (Eyes closed, soaping up hair, gestures towards the wall.)  The barn is over there.

Dotter:  Neiiiiiggghhh!  Neiiiiggghhh!  Oh, no, the horsies are scared!  Can you help me, Grandma?

Mom:  (Rinsing off shampoo, reaches down to the "horsies"--bathtub plugs--)  Okay--

Dotter:  Neiiiigghhhh!  Neiiiggghhhh!  ("Horsies" pull away.)  Oh, that won't work, I need to get them in the barn!  Help me, Grandma!

Mom:  I'll open the barn doors.  (Putting conditioner in her hair, bends down, "opens" the doors, Dotter puts "horsies" on the bathtub shelf.)

Dotter:  Now we need to get food and water for them.  And oats!

Mom:  I'm done!  I need to dry off!  (Thankfully reaches out the sh*wer door for the towel, dries off, steps out--wet head of brown hair pokes head out of door after her, and calls--)

Dotter:  Oh!  Mister!  I need to get some milk for my grandma, she's run out!

Mom:  (Hands dotter imaginary milk.)  There you go!  (Getting dressed.)

Dotter:  Thank you!  Oh!  Grandma!  (Calling to mom.)

Mom:  Yes, dear?  (Combing hair.)

Dotter:  I got you some milk!  (Reaches out to hand the imaginary milk to "grandma".)

Mom:  Why, thank you so much, dear!  That was so very nice of you!  (Grabs dotter's towel.)  Time for you to get out now.

This is why sh*wering together is very rare.

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posted by Kate @ 8/19/2006 11:27:00 AM   1 comments

The art of clapping

Con-cen-TRA-tion,
(clap, snap)
Keep in RHYthm,
(clap, snap)
Think of,
(clap, snap)
Words that
(clap, snap)
Start with
(clap, snap)
Letter 'A'...
(clap, snap)

This little childhood clapping game has been stuck in my head all day, because when we emerged from the house to get into the car to go to daycare/work, we discovered the insides of the windows of the car were drenched in...

Con-den-SA-tion

I loved clapping games as a child.  And jumprope games.  I know they still do them, because I was finagled into trying to remember the clapping pattern to "Miss Mary Mack" with the OmegaNiece.  Of course, being an adult, I totally flubbed the pattern every time, and we had a grand time falling down and giggling.

It's only a few more years before OmegaDotter starts re-teaching me those intricate patterns; so far, however, she hasn't brought any back home.

She does bring home reams and reams of artwork and projects.  We have a box that I put them into once they've been admired and have gathered into a heap on the dining table.  The thing is that she has suddenly, within the past few months, branched out in her artwork, and taken to doing some rather splendid and intricate drawings.

While at home, she can sit happily at the coffee table for hours, some kids' movie running as her lifetime soundtrack, concentrating deeply on her latest creation.

If it's an especially good creation, she will put it in her "book".  This is a fold-em-up horsie magnet set from Grandma Sharon that has been shanghaied into serving as a book cover for a wide variety of drawings that have been carefully taped in.  I have to "read" the book every few days.

When she's doing artwork at a restaurant, she's more than happy to share it with the wait staff and people sitting at nearby tables or booths.  Luckily, so far she's met people more than willing to oooh and ahhh and talk to her about, say, the horsie in the boat (yes, behind the purple climbing stuff is a horse being ridden by a red rider and sniffing a multi-colored flower).

She has just begun to put "context" into her pictures; thus the ocean in the bottom pic and the square splotch of "sky" in the top pic.

Also somewhat new is her "Do you remember, you would look at the mermaid, and you would say 'Oh, Mermaid!  Let's go to the ocean!", and then she would swim away and say, "Follow me!" and you would say..."  The layers of direction on what you are supposed to say can get quite deep, and, alas, Mommy and Daddy can't always remember all the script, but OmegaDotter reassures us, "It's okay, you can say something else!"

One of these days, we'll get to clapping games.

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posted by Kate @ 8/17/2006 07:48:00 PM   4 comments

Whoa! Blogger in beta...

So Blogger/Blogspot has come out with a NEW! IMPROVED! blogging platform...in beta test right now. 

The big news:  CATEGORIES!!!  (They call them "labels".)

The so-so news:  Private blogs, by invitation only.  I'd rather see open blogs with password-protected posting ability, so that only some posts can be protected.

The bad news:  None of this works with Blogger templates yet; it all works with their gee-golly-wow "layouts".  Also, it's in beta now, so you can only play with it on the new system.  They claim you will be able to merge things once it goes live.


LiveWriter gripe:  You have to go into HTML view to insert a horizontal line (like the one up above).


THE SMELL is gone.  Water remains.

Or, at least I think THE SMELL is gone.  You can't really tell, because, like all car cleaning places, the cleaning agents they use have scents.  BIG scents.

Anyway, now we have to leave the windows cracked for a few days to let the insides dry out.


More substantive posts later.

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posted by Kate @ 8/16/2006 07:44:00 PM   2 comments

THE SMELL strikes back!

Way back in April, I posted about THE SMELL in our Little Green Car.  But shortly thereafter, the weather got warm, we were able to keep windows open, and after a great spring-cleaning, all was well.

So this weekend, there was a skunk in the driveway.

Factor number one.

This weekend, on our wanderings around the Big City, I think some milk got spilled, and promptly baked in the 100F sunlight.

Factor number two.

It's been raining like hell around here for a week...can't leave car windows open.

Factor number three.

One + two + three = ONE BIG SMELL

Opening the car door Monday morning was...awful.  Opening the door this morning was...hideous.  Luckily, the mornings are clear, so we could have the car windows wide open as I drove down the highway, fresh air piling in and pushing rancid, putrid, gagging smell out.

In the grand scheme of things, THE SMELL is small.  No-one is bombing our house.  None of the Omegas are suffering from cancer, or Alzheimer's, or a newborn baby with an odd metabolic disorder that will require said baby to take a specific medication every day of his life.  We are gainfully employed.  Life is good.

Except for THE SMELL.

It made OmegaDotter spend an inordinate amount of time going, "EWWWWWW!"

It made me worry about what sort of nasty residual scent was wafting along with me as I walked through the hallways at the office.

So this time, instead of us doing the cleaning, I am calling in the Big Guns. 

The Big Guns, alas, cost a boatload of money.  I specifically asked them if they used enzymatic cleaners on their upholstery and carpet shampoos; they said yes.  We shall see.  Wish us luck.  Donations accepted.

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posted by Kate @ 8/15/2006 07:16:00 PM   8 comments

Testing LiveWriter

This is a test post using Windows LiveWriter.  Supposedly, LiveWriter is a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) blog posting software that resides on your home computer, links to your blogging site, and allows you to compose blog posts like a word-processing document.  (So far, so good--it is actually showing me what my blog will look like as I type, woohoo!  Blogspot's editor doesn't do that--it just shows you Times Roman...this interface lets me see how my post title looks--blue bar with bolded white text--and what the typestyle of my blog is.)

It was easy enough to download and install, though reading the license agreement was...um...well, like anything legalese from Micro$oft, unnerving.  It's part of their whole "Live" line of applications, which integrates with Messenger, Net Passport, Live This and Live That, so the license agreement has to cover just about everything associated with those items.

I tried the "Insert Picture" from the tool menu on the right-hand side; it opens up your computer pictures...I'd rather have the option to cruise to a website (currently, I host my pics on Photobucket).  When I cancelled out of that dialog box, it dropped my cursor to the very beginning of my post, rather than back where it was when I clicked on the "Insert Picture" option.  However, when I went to the Insert menu on the top toolbar, and did the same thing, it placed my cursor back where I was when I opened up the dialog box.  An inconsistency.

One thing that I am curious about, before I wholeheartedly endorse this product, is what kind of HTML code it produces.  I have used FrontPage quite a lot, and occasionally (foolishly) clicked on "save as web page" in Word.  Both styles drop a boatload of unnecessary and bloated HTML.  The recent redesign of my blog was deliberately set up to be CSS, lean and mean, with no unnecessary tags.  Once I publish this post, I'll take a look, then come back and edit to mention how the HTML looks.

I've also downloaded and installed a plug-in for it called "Tag4Writer", which lets you pop in tags for Technorati, de.li.cious, LiveJournal, and a whole slew more categorizing services.  Woohoo!

ETA:  Okay, I posted (click on the "Publish" icon, very easy), and looked at the HTML.  Amazingly enough, unlike most Micro$oft bloatware, there were no weird and unnecessary HTML tags.  Color me impressed.

I don't think they have a Mac version, sorry, folks!

Thanks to Kent Newsome for the pointers!

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posted by Kate @ 8/14/2006 11:04:00 PM   4 comments

Pew Blogger Survey
So on a whim, I took the Pew Blogger Survey, from Pew Internet & American Life Experience. This is an adjunct to a phone survey they performed last month. Very interesting. The report is here, and says that the main reason people surveyed blog is "creative, personal expression". Go take the survey!
posted by Kate @ 8/14/2006 06:26:00 PM   1 comments

After the deluge
For those who don't live in the Southwest, "scattered thunderstorms" means something totally different than it does here. Here, during monsoon season you can have a torrential downpour resulting in 6 inches of rain within the span of a few hours in one spot, and, 10 miles away, nothing. This is why all the guides who lead tourists into slot canyons are so emphatic about not doing it if there's even a hint of rain within 15 miles in any direction: you can have a flash flood there, even though no rain has fallen directly above the canyon, due to such a ferocious rain miles away. Mr. OmegaMom, long ago, planned a business trip to Alaska (this is relevant, I promise!). He carefully scheduled the flight so that it took into account the long drive down to the Big City, and he could get up at a (relatively) normal hour, drive down in a leisurely fashion, and still get there in time for his midday flight. Then the latest terrorist threat struck. Ooops! Rumors of two- to three-hour lines at the security gates led to a change of plan. We reserved a hotel room near the airport in Big City, ditched the local FCC picnic/garage sale, and drove down yesterday afternoon to spend the night, so Mr. OmegaMom could (once again) get up at a relatively normal hour, take the shuttle to the airport, and get there in time for the two- to three-hour security line wait and his flight. It started to rain at our house at around 11. It kept raining, and kept raining, and kept raining. Great big crashes BASH BOOM BANG! rattled our windows, sent the Dawg (great big ferocious creature that he is) scuttling off to our bedroom for safety, and the dotter into my lap with whimpers. This deluge in our neighborhood didn't show up at all on the local precipitation figures; our local figures said we got .5 inches, whereas I'm pretty sure we got 2 inches here. The spot for local precipitation figures is about 4 miles north of us. By the time we left, sunlight was weakly shining down. We drove down the mountain to the Green Valley, watching one particular thunderstorm cell off to the southeast, which was a splotch of sheer solid gray reaching from the bottom of the ominous anvil cloud to the ground. You couldn't see through it...but we dodged around it as the highway snaked around. Then up onto the next little plateau (two thousand feet lower than where we are). Two weeks ago, one of our amazing downpours did, indeed, drop 6 inches of rain within a few hours upon one particular spot on the highway. Five miles north of this spot, the high chapparal was looking sere, with spotty patches of green here and there. When we got to the Ulm Road/Douglas Road exit (out in the middle of just about nowhere), the ground was almost emerald green, with lush grasses sprouting everywhere, incredibly happy datura flowers blooming profusely, and stands of sunflowers thronging the highway median. Then, five miles further south, *poof*, no more emerald green--back to the dry high chapparal. And then we saw the storm ahead of us. And then we drove into it. Very suddenly. One minute, no rain. The next minute, hydroplaning on huge puddles on the highway in the midst of a pelting of raindrops the size of ping-pong balls. With the sun glaring off it all. You could see wakes made by the wheels of the cars and trucks ahead of us (the ones that didn't just pull off the road). Wheeee! What fun! Not. But then, five miles later, *poof*, all gone. And we headed down into the desert, to the Big City, the sky behind us dark, lowering, grim, the sky ahead of us clear, turqoise blue with tiny puffs of clouds dotting it here and there. We made it, OmegaDotter reveled in honest-to-goodness TV, rather than videos, Mr. OmegaMom got off to the airport in plenty of time, the dotter and I frolicked in the tiny hotel swimming pool, and then dotter and I drove back up to the mountains, into the dark, lowering, grim clouds, leaving the blue sky behind.
posted by Kate @ 8/13/2006 12:35:00 PM   4 comments

Light
A week ago, as I was heading up the sidewalk to my office, the difference in the light struck me. Autumn is on its way. Autumn sunlight comes in at a particular angle. Of course, the angle of the earth to the sun shifts very slowly, so that angle of light changes every day, slowly but surely. You don't notice it as it happens, but then, one day, suddenly the accumulation of change in the angle is enough so that, between one step and another, you realize the difference. During the summer months, sunlight comes streaming in our bedroom windows at an ungodly hour. While I adore the morning sunlight from an asthetic perspective, I am not a morning person (call me "WOL"). Being wakened from a sound sleep by the DAWN! coming up like THUNDER! rouses the snarly beast in me: I used to respond by irritatedly grabbing one of the pillows and stuffing it over my head, grumbling to Mr. OmegaMom and mentally shaking a fist at all those early morning birds twittering outside our windows who can't shut the hell up. Two years ago, I succumbed, and purchased "light blocking" tab-top drapes to put on the bedroom windows. As a result, the DAWN! can come up like THUNDER! all it likes, and I can ignore it. The bird twitters merely melt into my dreams. I can't ignore, however, the OmegaDotter, who often wakes up early and decides to grace us with her horse collection, complete with whinnies, neighs, galloping, and constant putting on and removal of bridles, saddles, and various other horsie paraphernalia. Her tendency to do this is greater on the weekends. This is unfair; weekends are for sleeping late, dammit! She is, however, becoming more able to wander off and do her own thang for a while, and I have become able to sleep (sporadically) through the horse concert, so long as it is not accompanied by the galloping--which requires the dotter bouncing and the horse climbing various body parts. The summer afternoon and evening sunlight streams into our great room (also like THUNDER!) through one window, reflecting off the TV screen and glaring into the eyes of whoever sits at the dining table facing the window. But the season is changing. It is no longer still light at 8:30; instead, the sun is setting at 7:00, pouring shades of pink, fuschia, purple, and blazing red onto the monsoon clouds that have built up during the day. Soon, the sunlight will no longer be trying to roust us out of bed, but rather blazing into our eyes as we drive into town. For most folks, this shift in seasonal light means cooler temperatures; where we are, we will have a spike upwards, as the monsoon fades away and the cool shade of the clouds vanishes. September is always one of our warmest months, with warmer days and cooler nights, and the cooling effect of the northern hemisphere tilting away from the sun doesn't kick in until mid-October. By Halloween it will have cooled down considerably, and then we shift into winter mode. I love the way the light acts as an announcement of autumn. Autumn is my most favorite season--it always fills me with a gentle melancholy, a wistfulness, coupled with a seize-the-day joy that revels in every day where the sunlight outlines the needles on the pine trees and the clear air is filled with that ever-so-slight bite of coolness. Seasons to come, seasons past--autumn is transition time. A chance to look forward to winter, snow, skiing, fires in the woodstove, snowmen, holidays. A chance to look back at the fun of summer--swimming, picnics, playgrounds, bike rides. But it's not here yet; the light is just notice of things to come.
Speaking of picnics and summer fun, check out A Day at the Races, over at OmegaGranny's blog.
posted by Kate @ 8/11/2006 05:58:00 PM   1 comments

Quick interlude
Who would have thought that "gross feet" was such a popular search term? However, I don't think I can really help the person who had the existential question, "Why do people have ugly toes?" I have no idea why "ice cream social tradewinds elementary 2006" landed a hit on my blog, but it sounds like a great idea. Anyone up for an ice cream social? I have no good advice for the person asking about "maintaining internet friendships". Perhaps, rather than searching on the question, you should just...um...talk to your internet friends? I am deeply offended that "moms not looking good in photos" got a hit. Is this some commentary Google is making on my pics? On the other hand, I also got a Google hit on the very generic search "beauty". Excuse me while I simper. To the person who searched on "blue ink grade school copier what was the machine called", I can only reply with another greatly popular search term: "ditto machine". I don't want to know anything about "christy gets a hairbrush spanking". If it's any of the Christies I know, I really don't wanna know. Y'know? You would be amazed at the number of people who get bugs in their broccoli; it appears to be much more common than I had thought. Johnny's answer was "pesticides"; mine is still "drown the bastards!"
posted by Kate @ 8/10/2006 05:56:00 PM   1 comments

Etiquette lesson
Yesterday evening the phone rang. I was in another room, and dashed to get it, thinking it was OmegaDad. OmegaDotter got it first. "Hello?" "Um...My daddy's not home." (Cringe. Teach dotter to not say that.) "But you can talk to my mom--she's really nice!" Dotter hands me the phone. It's a telemarketer, very amused to be talking to the "really nice" lady. I'm not taking the "really nice" too much to heart (oh, yeah, if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you!) because that morning, the dotter had informed me that I was ugly. I didn't take that one too much to heart, either, because she was giggling madly as she said it. Half an hour later, at school, she informed K's mom that she "looked really pretty today!", which K's mom had to tell me all about because it was "so sweet!" Anyway. While I was working on the dotter's fingernails, and she was squirming and dancing and jumping and being, generally, a PITA when it comes to getting fingernail polish on, we worked on telephone etiquette. My example: "Hello, this is the S. residence, OmegaDotter speaking. May I help you?" Her echo: "Hello, this is the...um...reffimum, OmegaDotter mumph. Help you?" We tried a few more times. This may take a while.
posted by Kate @ 8/10/2006 05:45:00 PM   1 comments

Please hold on; we are experiencing technical difficulties
Ooookay. So, Ms. Vinegar Martinis, I, too, have come afoul of the Blogger/Blogspot glitch that whacks off half your blog. (VM had a weird situation where her blog entries would just END. Right in the middle of a sentence. They were there in her Blogger database. You could see the whole shebang if you clicked on the direct link. But when you went to her homepage, *poof*.) This is happening to OmegaMom right this instant. Grrr. Hey, Blogger/Blogspot! Lissen up! If this type of stuff continues, you may see the last of OmegaMom! (ETA: And, as soon as I posted this, everything magically re-appeared. Grrr.)
posted by Kate @ 8/09/2006 10:29:00 AM   5 comments

Searching
I regularly peruse the top 15 searches on Technorati. Oftentimes, it leads me to an interesting story percolating on the blogs-- (Excuse me while I remove the kitten from behind the computer screen...) --and sometimes it just leaves me with a "Hunh?!". For instance, the number 14 search yesterday was "sinful second homes". Um. Okay. The most interesting thing is that, while it was number 14 on searches, checking out the blog posts on it produced...nothing. That's right: even though tons of folks were searching on the phrase, nothing showed up. Even googling the phrase brought up a great big zippo. My question: Did some televangelist or radio personality do a show on the subject, which is what prompted the searching? Did someone with an obsessive personality and a particular hard-on for the subject decide to spend a day inputting the search term so that it would climb up to number 14? What gives? (Ooops. Had to separate dawg and cat and kitten as it was turning into a free-for-all.) More seriously, though, there are times when something that seems vitally interesting hits the Technorati searches. It gives you an idea of what the mainstream media cares about--sometimes that search will result in a few news stories, sometimes it will result in a blip on the screen in terms of the MSM. One such story this weekend was the story of Adnan Hajj, a freelance Reuters photographer who bloggers apparently discovered doctoring his photos of war-torn Lebanon. That one rose so quickly and was such a hot story that he ended up being fired by Reuters. Another story, which actually interests me more, was the story of how AOL released 20 million records of actual search data on the internet. The search data was not identified by AOL username but by randomly assigned ID number, and was only of a small sampling of users' searches for a period of three months. It was put on the web (as far as I can gather) on Friday. By Sunday afternoon, a spokesman from AOL was wandering the blogosphere posting a sincere apology in comment trails on various tech blogs and AOL had taken the dataset down. But the damage was done: the data set (450MB in zipped format) was immediately mirrored on various download sites, and it's now out there forever. Why was it put out in the first place? Well, AOL has a research group; they wanted to offer academics a chance to play with real search data. What they should have done is to place it in a protected secure download site and offered username/password combos to the researchers who might be interested. What they did do was to just plop it, free and clear, on their research page. (Oh, SHIT. The kitten just knocked down and BROKE one of the plant pots in the windowsill. Excuse me for a few!) Why is it such a big deal? After all, they cloaked the usernames by assigning generic ID numbers to each user. The problem is that one can come up with very clear ideas of who a person is and where that person is located. For instance, many people (yours truly included) search every now and then on their own name, social security number, phone number, address, to see if anything dangerous in terms of identity theft is out there. (So far, I haven't found anything dangerous, though I know there's an artist in New England and a couple of researchers in the UK with my name!) So, taking three months' worth of search data from one person can provide you with a snapshot of that person. Let's say you live in Cincinnati (and search on, say, car repair shops there), have a Cadillac and a BMW (you're searching for car repair shops that do work on those cars), are a landscape architect (you're searching for re-certification charges for landscape architecture), and you're looking to join a country club (you've searched for three country club golfing ranges in Cincinnati). This pretty much narrows it down. And then, oops, in the middle of all those mundane pieces of data, there's the fact that you searched on stuff like, "how to expose cheating wife", -- (Damn. Kitten is now banned from the office.) --"how to hire private investigator", etc. Or, worse, you searched for "n*ked pictures of h0t w0men" every night after the missus went to bed. The NYTimes has apparently already tracked one of the searchers down. Google refused to release such data to the Department of Justice for just these reasons. The story rose enough to actually show up on MSNBC for a few hours, in the Science and Technology section. Then it sank away. The NYTimes, obviously, found it interesting enough to pursue some more. Anyway, something to think about. Everytime you do a search, those search queries are being stored somewhere. ONE search engine (a rather obscure one) refuses to store the search queries. All the others? Your trail is out there.
posted by Kate @ 8/09/2006 05:49:00 AM   3 comments

Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!
At the tail end of 1994, not-yet-Mr. OmegaMom arrived in the Bay Area to load all my worldly goods (except those that had been languishing in a storage rental in Prescott, Arizona, for many years) into a moving van. The idea was to trek from the beee-you-tiful Bay Area to the booo-ring Lubbock area, with a stop in Prescott to visit the 'rents. I was nervous as hell. I had never "taken a guy home" to meet my parents. Oh, they'd met some of my previous boyfriends, but this was An Event. And then there was the Lubbock situation. Not-yet-Mr. OmegaMom was getting a graduate degree at Texas Tech; he had an assistanceship; we were going to be there another year and a half, at least. I had visited him there around Labor Day, and to say I was unimpressed with Lubbock is putting it mildly. And here I was, tossing away my old life to follow my One And Only True Love, whom I had only known for 11 months. We left in the afternoon of the 24th of December. He was driving the U-Haul, with me following in the Trusty Justy (which we still have; we think the TJ will only stop running when it rusts completely through). We headed east from San Leandro, wandered through Altamont Pass, and turned south on I-5. As the wont on I-5, we drove...and drove...and drove. It got dark. We played follow-the-leader down the highway, and the dusk turned to true night. And in our separate cars, as we were driving along, just about ready for a dinner break, we saw it. The most astounding, gorgeous, breathtaking fireball flew over our heads, heading south, breaking apart and spitting out chunks to fall to the ground behind it. When we got to the rest stop, getting out of the car and U-Haul, our first words--in chorus--were, "OHMYGOD, did you see that?! Wasn't it amazing?!" We took it as an omen of sorts, and headed eastward across the Mojave Desert in good spirits. We spent the night in Needles, and my darling hubby-to-be made sure to get a copy of the local newspaper so we could cut out the poster-sized Christmas tree on the backpage and tape it to the TV for Christmas Eve. All went well: We visited the parents, we made it to Lubbock, we settled in, and here we are eleven and a half years later. Last night, Mr. OmegaMom, driving back from the convenience store, saw another fireball. He says it was brighter than the moon. He spent the rest of the night in a daze of humorous science fiction references, muttering about "Armageddon!", claiming to be "Zero of None", and chortling about the end of the world. We tried to find any news reports about our fireball. We found a news report about a fireball the night before, in Austin, Texas, complete with video. We didn't find any reports of "our" fireball, though. We did find The International Meteor Organization, though, and a form to report fireball sightings. The data they have for download on fireball sightings only goes through the first half of the year; check back in six months, and you might find our fireball sighting in the database! In the meantime, I think I'll take it as another good omen.
posted by Kate @ 8/07/2006 05:17:00 PM   1 comments

Happy birthday, blog!
A year ago, like a lemming jumping off a cliff, OmegaMom followed a group of internet buds into the blogosphere. My first real post was I'm so glad I'm past this point, a response to a particular blogger's dilemma. A year has come and gone, and that blogger is past that point, too--she has her referral and is blissfully contemplating motherhood. OmegaMom started with a small coterie of readers, and has expanded to (whoooeee!) an average of 70 hits per day, with a hardcore 30 or so who stop by every day. Har. I know it's small stuff to a lot of bloggers out there, but it is somewhat gratifying to have an itty-bitty fan club. I've "met" a lot of folks in cruising the blogosphere--either just by hitting the "next blog" link (which is...um...hidden away on my blog) or by following links on other people's blogs. I comment there, and leave my blog address; some of them have come around & liked what they see. Which is, essentially, the way you build an audience: say what you like on your blog, chit-chat with other bloggers, every once in a while write about an article in Newsweek or the NYTimes (complete with link) so that you get a fresh infusion of total newcomers. I'm still enjoying blogging; I love the comments; so let's see what the year to come brings to the Omega Family and blog, why don't we?
posted by Kate @ 8/06/2006 10:21:00 AM   6 comments

You may have noticed
So I was getting tired of the grey. Sleek and sophisticated, but...I was tired of it. Since tomorrow is the OmegaBlog birthday, it seemed time for a new look. I spent the morning playing around and came up with this. (ETA: I wanted something colorful and funky.) Don't go looking back at the archives for a while! I have to resize pics to make them fit! The floating divisions really wonk out (if you want to see what it's like, go to the December archives). (Okay, you can cruise the archives now; I resized all the pictures.) Whaddaya think? Horrid? Good? Fun?
posted by Kate @ 8/05/2006 03:54:00 PM   10 comments

The sound of music
One of the things OmegaMom does not miss about city life is the clashing noise. El trains, endless traffic, cars honking, people shouting, police and fire and ambulance sirens, all combine into an ongoing, ever-present white noise that is the backdrop of city life. You get used to it, but there are times when it suddenly impinges on you and makes your mind switch from the "this is background noise" mode to "this is noise!" mode. Music was one of those city noises. Go to the beach, and someone sits down with a boombox right next to your towel. Go to the park, and three different musical genres are dueling within hearing distance. Get on the El, same thing. Part of the "I've got to have my music going loudly" thought-process is the person just wanting to drown out the background noise. Part is actually wanting to hear the music. But another part is sheer, aggressive, "My music is fuckin' GOOD music, and your music is shit". Or an advertisement of just how expensive someone's car sound system is. Or maybe it's just plain boorishness. I was forcefully reminded of this aspect of city living while swinging into the convenience store for my fix (ahhh, Mocha Frappucinos, ahhhh) on the way home. I got out of my car and was assaulted by someone else's music. It was coming from an empty car at the gas pump. Thumpa, thumpa, thumpa. Okay. Who died and made you God? Why the hell should I have to listen to your music when even you aren't there listening to it??? OmegaDad and I saw a bumpersticker the other day that said, "You make me hate music". This guy made me hate his music. This guy made me angry. This guy in his pristine white Lexus SUV was being an asshole. (Note my sexism here: I am automatically assuming it was a guy. But in my experience, the people with boomboxes pumped up to max volume have all been guys. Shoot me, I am extrapolating here. I think testosterone-laden dudes have a thang for loud noise.) So, do me and other people like me a favor: Get an iPod. Crank it up full blast. Blow your eardrums out. Just don't blow mine out, and the eardrums of people within a three-block radius? 'K? Otherwise, I'll give in to OmegaDad's entreaties for a high-bass system so he can blast polka music anytime we pull up next to someone like the Lexus asshole at a stop light. If I do, you'll regret it.
posted by Kate @ 8/04/2006 05:46:00 PM   4 comments

Tippecanoe and Omegas too
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, the tale of a fateful trip, that started from this mountain port, aboard this tiny ship...
The mate was a mighty sailin' man:
The skipper brave and sure:
One passenger set sail that day, for a three-hour tour:
So it was fun. The Dotter got cold and wet:
And, since it's August now and the yellow flower season has begun, we saw sunflowers:
All in all, a good day. OmegaDotter loved it. The three hours was just long enough for a 4.5 year old. We split it into two, with a lunch break on the shore (which is why she got cold and wet). I had to drive to the Dam Lake Country Store for munchies...when I got there, the nice old coot sitting outside walked in with me and allowed as to how the power was out and the power company was having kittens repairing all the downed lines from the storms the day/night before. So I cruised around, got all the munchies and stuff, marched up to the counter and placed the munchies there... And stopped. A V-8 moment, for sure: No power means no credit card or debit card usage. Duh. Luckily, I had OmegaDad's wallet with me, and there was some cash. But, boy, was that ever a blonde moment! The Betsy, being a flat-bottomed canoe, is very tippy. The Dotter needs to learn how to balance herself in the middle of the boat, rather than spend all her time leaning on one side or the other, as shown above. But tippiness aside, OmegaDad and I soon got her under control and went skittering across the water easy-peasy. The Betsy glides like a dream. Now, a little yoga and a little Pilates-style core work, and my back should be as good as new and ready to go again.
posted by Kate @ 8/02/2006 07:32:00 PM   2 comments

Bitchin' back
As a result of the Betsy's maiden voyage, I have a lower back ache that isn't going away, merely getting worse and worse. Mommies and MommyBlogging are in the news. For the moment, I'll pass on this article, in which a lady in Britain admits that she's bored by her kids. And the article about the backlash Then there's the I Hate MommyBloggers post, about being bored by MommyBloggers at the BlogHer conference, which is related to the previous article. Apparently, this raised a bit of a ruckus at BlogHer. Some discussion, agreement, and backlash on that, here, here, here and here. Then, a male take on BlogHer, which author Dave Winer ended up changing because of the kerfuffle about him daring to come right out and say that it was nice to flirt with good-looking women who like to blog. Which leads to some posts about the staying power of blog posts due to RSS feeds, internet archives, etc. Goodness. It's all a-roil and a-boil. We have Yet More Visitors coming up the hill this evening, so I'll be back on Friday to pass on more pearls of wisdom.
posted by Kate @ 8/02/2006 04:27:00 PM   2 comments

What a surprise...not
Robert Scoble, famed for the Scobleizer blog and only a month ago a high-ranking PR muckity-muck for Micro$oft, says "I'm sad to agree with Robert McLaws about Windows Vista's ship schedule. This sucker is just not ready. Too many things are too slow and/or don't work...It feels like it needs a good six more months than that, which would mean a mid-year release next year." He then goes on to say that people will remember a flop that came out on time much more than that a success had to move its ship date. Mini-Micro$oft has been saying this for a long, long time.
posted by Kate @ 8/01/2006 07:23:00 PM   0 comments

People with gross feet, Arise!
Among the harrowing and/or shocking secrets posted at PostSecret this week is this screed against people with "gross feet" who wear open-toed shoes in public. Well, dayum. I have been subjected to my first hate speech! I feel the need to rise up with my gross-footed brethren, march upon the White House, and demand fairness and equity for hot ugly toes. After all, it's summer. It's hot. Toes get all sweaty and squished inside closed-foot shoes during summertime. People with gross feet know that the sweat and squishing makes those gross feet...well...grosser. Why should people blessed with terrific tootsies by God or nature or the Kozmik All use that beauty to crush those of us not as blessed beneath the heels of their shoes? This is unfair! This is foot-ism, dammit! Do pretty toes carry their owners further, faster, better? No, I say! I dare say my pudgy toes with their fungus-ridden toenails (yes, still, but I haven't really been proactive in dealing with the fungus) can march me carrying a placard of protest just as easily as the dainty toes belonging to that scornful soul danced her to the mailbox. Pooey on you, Ms. Hates-Ugly-Feet! I feel a class-action lawsuit under the anti-discrimination laws coming on. The only fair way to deal with this is for all people to wear work boots all summer long. That way, no-one knows if the toes are pudgy or pretty, and all people's toes are hot and sweaty no matter how pretty they are. Okay, now that my harangue is done, what gives? Do people really spend their precious summer hours staring at other people's feet and toes, judging them like it's the Foot Olympics? Strolling along the sidewalk in the park, is someone's soul really filled with hatred at the sight of my plebian feet in their shabby Tevas as I play with the dotter? I admit I like a nicely turned pair of strappy high-heels on feet with a nice pedicure, bright red nail polish gleaming in the sun. On other people's feet. It just ain't gonna happen here. First off, it's been so long since I've worn high-heels that my wonky ankle will wobble right off that oh-so-sexy heel, landing me in a painful pile on the sidewalk. The highest pair of heels I've worn in eight years is about an inch-and-a-half high. (The wedding pumps were 2-1/2 inches high.) Secondly, my toenails are beyond redemption. The only way to get my toenails to look nice and gleaming and polished is for me to indulge in a highly expensive set of fake toenails. Given the fungus-promoting capacity of such things, you can bet that I'm not going to do that. While I love Great Grandma dearly, this is something that she would embrace. To her, wearing "ugly" clothes ranks right up there with Original Sin. Having been brought up by Beatnik parents, who had some quite scruffy looking friends who were damned interesting and lots of fun to be with, the tendency to judge others by how well put-together their outer shell is was sort of brainwashed out of me. Oh, I appreciate "kemptness" and cleanliness, trust me. And I do have my limits on how non-judgmental I am. But if I'm with interesting and fun people, I'm not going to be wasting my time staring at their feet and deciding if they should be hung by their toes because they're exposing my tender sensibilities to their ugly feet.
posted by Kate @ 8/01/2006 06:23:00 PM   2 comments

About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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