Monthly Archives: December 2006

weenie wagging

A friend I’ve met since moving to the eastside coined this term, based on her observations of male behaviour here and in other places she has lived. Weenie wagging is about establishing bragging rights – whose condo/house/castle has the biggest unobstructed view, how high one appears in the org chart, who drops BillG’s name more than 10 times in as many minutes.

Hearing her give it that name gave me so much delight, I have turned it into a regular part of my vocabulary set with adults.

The image I get is more of wiener dogs running all over the place, wriggling on the floor and making a whole lotta  yippy-yap. It has brought me great quiet smiles when making my way through holiday parties and overhearing one bit of self-acclaim or another. I invite you to keep it on hand if you’re too close to a bore and too far from the punchbowl.

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Filed under bragging, dominance, funny, holiday parties, men, weenie wagging

for those who watch commercial tv

Not long ago, when a friend asked me to describe where I was living I said, “Imagine Wisteria Lane, only with no attractive people.”

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Filed under carat envy, greed, infidelity, money, plastic surgery, privilege, socially awkward, trophy wives, weenie wagging, women

unexpected delights: cake sets and patisserie in Tokyo

Last week in Tokyo I rediscovered sweet treats imported into Japan and localized to suit the tastes and customs of the culture.

Let me say first that whoever came up with the “cake set” menu concept gets my adoration.  I love the idea that I could walk into the hotel lounge, at any time, and enjoy a pot of really good tea or passable coffee and a sweet. It’s the practice, though, that really does it for me.  Sitting down with a view and watching the water of the harbor slowed my mind, my heart rate, my breathing.

Cake set pastry selections themselves can provide a bit of an adventure, and certainly vary between locales, but the Hotel Nikko was a consistent success.

I think this was due to the in-house patisserie. Croissants were small, flaky, and luscious with butter. Pain au chocolat were small enough to fit in your palm, and made with good quality chocolate. Others may grimace to hear that I enjoyed them with bitter orange marmalade, but I only slid into chocolate breakfast heaven, two at a time.

What I may have enjoyed most, though, was the cheesecake. Yes, the cake set had a cheesecake option – a single cupcake sized cheesecake, resplendent in its unadornment and flavor. I’m still thinking about it.

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Filed under cake set, cheesecake, chocolate, Cooking and Baking, croissants, dessert, Desserts, Food, japan, pastry, patisserie

digital birthday (or, in hex, I’m only 28!)

In October, I turned 40. Now I find myself entirely surrounded by booty-bits. That is, bits delivered by way of presents, not posteriors.

Digital booty #1: First item that arrived was a product(RED) iPod. It wasn’t something I had expected or asked for, but it came in handy on my longish flights across country – audio books are addictive.

The iPod itself is engraved with my 4oth birthdate and “Happy 40th”. The inscription felt oddly stiffening, but girlfriends around the country assured me that 40 is when life begins. I’m choosing to believe them.

Digital booty #2: After years of suggesting to my husband that we might replace our 1998 model Kodak digital camera, as well as forwarding links to David Pogue’s recommendations on the same topic, I got the goods. To my surprise, Hank bought me the Sony Cybershot DSC-T30. I was looking at the new Canon S-series, but I know H loves small shiny gadgets and probably couldn’t resist its sleek (to us) profile. Expert reviewers bemoaned the lack of new features over the previous model; they clearly haven’t been using a camera for years whose high end image resolution is 256k. It’s working well for me, although I think I need to take a course in learning how to use the various features.

(sorta) Digital booty #3: A 40″ LCD set has been sitting in its box in our dining room since late September. Henrik took advantage of a recent visit (his mom and dad came over from Denmark) to set up the bracket and put up the new monitor. The Comcast box was stuck on some promotional channel talking up an ArenaRock pay-per-view, with a soundtrack loop of Sammy Hagar singing “I can’t drive 55”. Heaven for him. Luckily, I can read the buttons on a remote, and got things to work. PBSHD astronomy programs are out of this world.

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Filed under 40th Birthday, Birthdays, digital camera, gadgets, iPod, NYT, presents

half a lifetime away, and now

Twenty years ago last month, I thought I had put the newly identified (to me) behavioural world of sexual harrassment behind me. I had found a letter in my campus mailbox signed by the chancellor regarding a case I had brought against  one of my TAs, confirming that yes, not only had all reported incidents happened, but that they were in fact sexual harrassment and were not acceptable behaviours in our community.

The letter was a surprise; after the university panel issued its decision in my favor two months earlier, the TA filed multiple appeals at the urging of his attorney (known professionally as Dick, I kid you not). Little envelopes would appear in my mail slot, with resolutions that took a few bits off the remedy (the university, not the defendent, would pay for my lost wages to attend the hearing, for example), but the decisions and conclusions remained intact.

In spite of this “victory”, it left me skittish, and with one particular point of uneasiness. My advocate, a strong and warm woman, told me that as a warm and outgoing person, I would continue to face occasions where people would feel they could touch me, or otherwise reach out to me. It would be up to me to handle it, and how to handle it. And, also, a sane reassurance that when you said no, most people would stop.

I’ve had a few incidents since, in the workplace, but could handle them effectively… though admittedly with anger. (If I could have said “I smite your stupid scabby head” while waving a scimitar, I would have.) But that was my 20s.

Later, I managed with diplomacy, a little bit of understanding, and a philosophy I learned from MIT ombudsperson Mary Rowe of “the elegant out.” The elegant out is obvious to most people – if your goal is to punish the person, you take one path. If your goal is to change the behaviour, you think of ways that get the behaviour to stop – ideally globally. I found it opened me to a variety of ways to be more effective in work and family matters. I also learned that warmth and kindness (with an occasional sprinkling of snark) was always a net asset.

So imagine how I might have felt to have been the subject of obsessive abusive behaviour at my advanced age. I couldn’t have. Approached multiple times when the person was both drunk and sober, I was at a loss for a solution to the problem, except to use the power of positive thinking to teleport him to a waiting jetliner, out of the country. Also, to give him my back.

Gender, education, ethnicity, culture – all these came together to enhance facets of a set of behaviours that were essentially about power; who should and shouldn’t have it, what can be done to usurp it. I found myself 20 years back in time, trying to understand what happened, what name it needed, where my responsibilities might lie, and how to get it to stop.

The support I received was lightning fast, firm, entirely validating, and a tremendous professional and personal relief; I had to seek out specially trained people to get that support 20 years ago, so I am unspeakably grateful for the level of enlightenment in “regular people”. But now I wonder how to get that knowledge and understanding more globally distributed and accepted, person by person, connection by connection.

Could it be possible that progress in communication and mutual respect can still carry the day? I say, and must believe, yes.

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Filed under 40th Birthday, awkward, civility, exploitation, Friends, Grieving, harrassment, Learning, men, naming, personal, public discourse, sexual harrassment, socially awkward, women

the camera never lies

I had the chance to see photos from a (very) recent worktrip, and was startled. We may all have notions of our appearance, what we look like, and yet for me I’m always shocked. This time, I looked at the pictures and saw my older cousin. Not one I have met; one I imagined I might have.

She looks more womanly, more mature, and not a little hard. The Zelig sense I had throughout my 20’s and 30’s where I might be mistaken for one celeb or another (under duress), or someone’s younger cousin, was gone. I saw the facial planes of my birth mother’s family, the visual cues of belonging which don’t always hold true, but lead one to think that they might.

I didn’t see any of the genuine joy I felt at sitting in the same room with colleagues, of feeling supported – though I can tell you that is exactly how I felt, and what I thought I exuded. Instead, here was my older cousin, a little worse for the wear, and concerned about… something.

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sick boy

(from a few weeks ago)

I was thinking of ways to telepathically obliterate the fax machine that kept commandeering my workline, when I heard an actual voice on the receiver. My son, my happy boy, was not well and had vomited all over a teacher. How soon could I get there?

How is 7 minutes? In full motion? (Others might do well to learn from that example the next time they are faced with a crisis and have 7 mins to act…)

My little boy was not himself – ashen, slack. “…Go home” he murmured, arms around my neck the moment his teacher handed him to me. As if this wasn’t enough, he started to make a peeping sound, weak and sad. His ziti lunch sat untouched on the plate, another irrefutable testament to his illness. For the first time in nearly a year, I rocked him to sleep once we got home.

Once awake, he was walking slowly, or laying on my lap. A few more bouts of vomiting, a few more loads of laundry, and the first cleaning our couch has seen in, uh, years.

It’s been some time since he’s been sick like this, so passive and small in my arms. He is still small enough that my mommy moments predominate, but these were clearly set apart from the usual pleas to get one’s way. To be enveloped in warm arms and a blanket, to go slack in Mama’s lap, held up by a hug and a still flickering interest in Sagwa’s latest adventures – maybe this is the only way to weather out the stomach flu.

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Filed under mother, Motherhood, napping, sick day, sickness, son, toddler, Toddlerhood, Uncategorized