thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
(Trying to get back into the habit of posting, so this is a random piece of personal telephonic history!)

Lately, I’ve been in a bemusing battle of wills with my phone, where I tell it to sync certain songs and only those songs, and it does grab the ones I tell it to, but also randomly adds other songs from my music library, often ones I’ve never listened to. When I told Best Beloved about this, her take was that I should just live with it. I questioned the Queen of Solving Problems Right Now, Immediately, Using a Hatchet as Necessary on her surprising stance and she pointed out that she knew me in college. When I had the Let Me Call You Sweetheart phone.

See, my college did not have voicemail for landlines in the dorm, and this was back when people still used landlines sometimes. My parents, who were sending a 15 year old off to college, thought they might like to leave messages for me at some point, and so they bought me a combined phone/answering machine to take with me. And for a while, it worked as advertised: people called, I did not answer, they were invited to leave a message, they did, I sometimes listened to the message, I very occasionally called them back. (This is as good as it ever gets with me and telephones. Our relationship can best be described as “mutual disdain.” That’s also why I didn’t have a cell phone back then; smartphones hadn’t happened yet, and I could think of exactly zero reasons why I might want to be MORE available for phone calls.)

At some point late in the first semester, though, people who left messages started to sound a little amused. And then, after a month or so, they began sounding more … annoyed. I checked my outgoing message to make sure no one had recorded weird stuff on it, because, you know, college, but it was still normal and fine. So I shrugged and accepted it, until one of my friends suggested I call my own phone.

I did. The outgoing message played, exactly as recorded. But after it, I was treated to an extremely tinny instrumental version of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” that sounded like it was played on the buttons of a phone, followed by the customary leave-a-message beep. Bewildered, I checked the box, which I had saved for moving convenience. No mention of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” No mention of it on the manufacturer’s website, either. My phone had apparently developed a musical mind of its own.

Huh, I thought, and went about my life.

A few weeks after that, people started sounding really annoyed in my messages. I called my phone again. It now sounded like this:

Me, in a recording: Hi! You’ve reached me, and you know what to do.
Phone: Let me CALL you SWEETheart/I’m in love with YOU/Let me hear you WHISper/That you love me too
[Pause, as though the phone is about to emit that life-giving leave-a-message beep]
Phone: Let me CALL you SWEETheart/I’m in love with YOU/Let me hear you WHISper/That you love me too
[Pause, which only serves to raise hopes that will soon be dashed]
Phone: Let me CALL you SWEETheart…
[Repeat a painful number of times]

Eventually, it broke off in the middle of a line and beeped.

Well. There are only so many times that you want to hear that song, that way, and my phone had begun exceeding people’s lifetime limits in the course of a single call. I apologized, but what could I do? You can’t reason with a phone.

The year ended. I packed the phone into its box and took it home with me for the summer, which it apparently spent plotting. Then I brought it back to school.

Shortly after the school year started, I discovered that my phone had developed a new glitch. If I did pick it up when it rang, I couldn’t hear the person on the other end. On the other hand, if I waited until the answering machine got it and then picked it up, I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear anything I said. However, after extensive experimentation, I discovered they could still hear the beeps if I pressed buttons on the phone. So, as any reasonable person would, I changed my outgoing message to:

“Hi! My phone is broken. If I pick up, I can hear you but you won’t hear me. I’ll beep to show I’m there. Ask yes or no questions and I’ll give one beep for yes and two beeps for no. Thanks!”

(If you are now going WHY DIDN’T YOU BUY A NEW PHONE? – it never even occurred to me. Technically, some communication was still possible with the phone, after all, and I inherited from my father a gene that makes me very anxious in the presence of new objects. This is why my family had a garage door that you could only make work by inserting a penny into the innards of the opener, and that often went up and down on its own, sometimes as many as 60 times in an evening. It’s why I kept, for over a year, a computer chair that would occasionally just collapse, dumping me on the floor, and why I’m sitting on a partially broken chair as I type this. It’s … just who my people are, I guess. We are not so much “make do and mend” as “it’s fine, everything is fine, please stop talking about buying new things because that is the worst thing in the world to do and I’d rather just sit on the floor in the dark forever.”)

This led to a period of my college career where, to call me, you had to:
  1. Sit through what was, by then, up to 15 minutes of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” (I know because people timed it, since there wasn’t a lot else to do, and then shared the times with me. I think maybe they were trying to suggest to me that I should buy a new phone, but that kind of subtlety was never going to work. I mean, I come from a family that could afford a new toaster and willingly chose to keep the old one, even though it caught fire from time to time, enlivening many a morning. “Let’s just get a new one” is not a phrase in my vocabulary.)
  2. Listen to my outgoing message.
  3. After the first beep, say, “Hello? Are you there? It’s me, please pick up.”
  4. Wait for the beep that would indicate that I had in fact picked up.
  5. Hold a séance-like session with me wherein you were restricted to yes or no questions or, in cases where that just would not work, you had to count beeps for each letter of the alphabet. (You know: A=1, B=2, etc. Let me tell you from grim experience: it takes a LONG time to beep out even a single word, and also you tend to forget where you are halfway through letters like M and T. I honestly take my hat off to the fraudulent mediums of old. They worked for their money, by gum.)
  6. Hope that the phone didn’t just cut out altogether in the middle of the séance, as it was known to do.
Basically, communicating with spirits was, overall, probably slightly easier than talking to me. I for real do not know why anyone bothered. They did, though, which shows you what excellent and patient friends and family I have had in my life.

If you’re wondering about the resolution of this odyssey of disintegrating telecommunications technology: eventually my parents got tired of only being able to communicate with their youngest child via beeps. My mother (who does not have the “hates new things” gene) suggested several times that I buy a new one, but I beeped twice for no each time, so she, in direct violation of our precious familial traditions, went out and bought a new one and sent it to me at school. I kept it in its box in my room and avoided looking directly at it for a week or so, but then word spread among my friends that I had a new phone and was still using Mr. Beepy, and they basically held a technological intervention until I installed the new phone. (It worked fine for a year and then developed a glitch where it clicked a lot and would only record the first 15 seconds of a message, and no one minded at all because at least it wasn’t playing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” My life motto: I can always get over the bar, because I dug a hole in the ground and buried it.)

But times change! Humans age and progress and develop workarounds for their flaws! Which is why, when BB and I were attempting to explain this telephonic family history to our nine-year-old earthling (challenging, as he has never known an answering machine or a time when humans made phone calls to humans other than their senators), we had this conversation, which tells you everything you need to know about the people we’ve become:

Me, thinking back: You know, I probably should have just bought a new phone instead of beeping at people for months.
BB, also thinking back: I should have just broken your phone completely after it started playing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” more than once per call. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.

Anyway. That was the start of my long and complex adult relationship with phones. I wended my way through many glitches and minor disasters to arrive where I currently am: in possession of a phone that has its own opinions about music. And, upon reflection, I am prepared to be satisfied with that.
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
The other night, I told this story to my sister, who had somehow never heard it before. She demanded that I write it down. (I sincerely hope she's not planning to use this as some kind of college life advice for my nephew.)

There are three things you need to know to understand this story, provided you are not my sister:
  1. I started college at 15.
  2. I almost immediately got mono and didn't realize it, assuming that I was sleeping 16 hours a day because sleep was the best thing in the world and I'd suddenly gotten really good at it.
  3. I made most of my bad decisions – like, most of the bad decisions I would ever make, and almost all the ones I could think of – before starting college.
These were not things I had in common with my freshman cohort. Any of them, as far as I could tell. They were all older than I was, they seemed to have all the energy in the world, and they had come to college to make those bad decisions they'd been dreaming of all these years but apparently couldn't quite commit to until they were away from parental backup and support.

Bad decisions this way. )
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Recently, I started thinking about the moments of being openly gay that I never see in fic. This was supposed to be a list of those.

It isn't.


Ever since we moved to this house, I've gone to the same pharmacy several times a month to pick up prescriptions. In the beginning, the earthling was with me in the sling, and later he'd accompany me walking on his own feet. There was a cashier, Maria, who always talked to him and me, who was friendly and remembered us and grabbed our prescriptions before we even got to the front of the line.

One day about a year ago I went to the pharmacy after the earthling was in bed. "Oh, where's your son?" Maria asked.

"He's at home with my wife. It's after his bedtime."

"…Oh," she said.

Since then, when I go, she still recognizes me, earthling or no, but she's all business. No chat, no talking about how big the earthling has gotten, no asking me about my day. There are a thousand possible reasons for this. At least. Most of them have nothing to do with me. Maybe she got yelled at for chatting with customers too much. Maybe she's been having a bad year. It could be anything. I know that.

But I will always wonder if it's because I'm queer. I can't not wonder. My queerness inflects every interaction I have like this, whether I acknowledge it ("my wife") or avoid it ("my partner"). And because queerness is not visible, cannot be known until I make it known, I often have situations like this, where there was a before and there is now an after and things are different. This is one of the minor costs of being openly queer: the voice in the back of your head that is always going, is this because I'm gay?


Coming out is supposed to happen in One Big Moment. Usually your One Big Moment involves coming out to your parents; sometimes, especially in fiction, it's coming out at a press conference or in front of an audience or something. But wherever it happens, the concept is the same: in that moment, your whole life changes. Before, you were closeted and ashamed, and after, you become open and honest. You have chewed your way out of the cocoon of secrecy to emerge as a beautiful gay butterfly!

My family doesn't do big moments well. I was in college, I was 19, I was in the apartment I shared with Best Beloved. And my mother called. After some chat, she got around to the purpose of her call.

"Last year," she said, "you told me you'd never get married. And I'm worrying about that. You're young and I don't want you to be alone forever."

"I won't be alone," I said. "I just won't be married because it's not legal for me to be. But I already consider myself married."

I should, at this (big and momentous!) point, mention a few things: this call was taking place in the morning, and my sister, Laura, was living with our mother at this time.

"Oh," my mother said. And right then, Laura, who is not and never has been entirely human in the mornings, came into the room.

"Is there milk?" she said crankily.

"In the refrigerator," my mother said to her. To me, she said, "Who are you married to?"

"[Best Beloved]," I said, honestly bewildered. (I thought they knew! Like -- why did they think we lived together? I assumed we'd been on the same page for years.)

"Oh," my mother said, reaching for a suitable reaction.

"No, there isn't," Laura said, attaining new heights of crankiness. "Are we out?"

"Your sister's a lesbian," my mother snapped at Laura. I think she meant: shut up about milk for a second. I'm trying to have a significant conversation and you're making it difficult.

Laura has never given a shit about anyone's sexual preference first thing in the morning. "That's nice," she said, summoning up every single fuck she could give about something before breakfast. "Are we out of milk or what?"

And at that point I think we all gave up on pretending this was a significant moment and just kind of moved on with our lives. I accepted that "That's nice. Are we out of milk or what?" would be my family's main reaction to my sexuality. Later that day, just to be sure we were all in the loop -- since my parents seemed strangely slow and clueless about these things -- I told my father in email. The paragraph dedicated to that revelation took a backseat to four paragraphs of discussion about my stupid physics professor. Those were my priorities.

He probably read it and wondered if he was out of milk.

Just to top things off, that night I realized to my eternal embarrassment that this all took place on National Coming Out Day, a "holiday" I don't even support. (Come out. Don't come out. Whatever you want, on your own terms. I'm not going to pressure you and no one else should, either. It's a bullshit concept.)

So my One Big Moment was -- not. It was not big. It was not dramatic. It was, to be honest, pretty comical. The most emotion experienced by anyone was Laura's sincere and honest anger about my mother using the last of the milk without even considering whether other people had had breakfast yet. It didn't even manage to be a single moment, since I spread it over most of a day.

This was probably much better preparation for the rest of my life than I thought at the time.


"Are you sisters?"

"No. No, we're… not sisters."

"Oh. Haha! You look just like each other."


In college, I fainted outside the student union building during finals week and ended up at student health. The nurse practitioner had only one question for me, phrased two dozen different ways: "Could you be pregnant?"

"No," I said. "I can't be pregnant."

She was already starting her next question before I finished my answer. "But did you have sex recently?"

I hesitated. Back then, coming out still felt like a big thing every time I did it. And, yes, I'd had sex with Best Beloved many times that month, but I knew she meant sex that involved a penis in my vagina. Did I really need to get into my current sexual history in detail with this woman? "No," I finally said, but my hesitation had convinced her.

"Are you sure?"


"Not at all?"


"Not even a teeny weeny bit?" she wheedled.

I just stared at her, trying to figure out how you have a teeny weeny bit of sex.

She moved on. "Did you black out, or take any drugs, or wake up and not know where you were at all recently?"

She'd accurately described most of my high school career, but those days were long gone. And I didn't think accidentally falling asleep after midnight in the bone lab counted. Dead people can't get you pregnant. "No."

We went around and around. After fifteen minutes, she was still finding new ways to ask if I might be pregnant, and I was watching time tick by and just yearning for a diagnosis already. Finally, she said, "What are you using for birth control?"

I gave up. My desire not to come out to her had lost out to my desire to be done with this question forever. "Lesbianism," I said. "I'm using lesbianism for birth control."

She nodded but did not deviate from her script. "So you're not on the pill? Did you have sex this month?"

"I only have sex with my girlfriend," I said, trying to make this whole lesbianism thing clearer. "She can't get me pregnant."

She sent me to get some blood tests. One of them was for hCG: a pregnancy test. I got it then and I get it now. The number of college girls who claim they can't possibly be pregnant and are wrong is greater than the number of college girls who have stress-induced fainting.

But I came out! It was an effort! And… she didn't even listen to me. Back then, it didn't matter to her the way it mattered to me.


After a while, it stops mattering. You do it so many times that it just gets old and dull and meaningless. But you don't get to stop there. Coming out is endless. I've done it thousands of times by now, each moment of coming out blurring together in my head until it's just a lifetime of saying over and over: "I'm a lesbian. I have a wife. I'm queer. I'm not straight." I don't play the pronoun game anymore, I don't reach for the careful, neutral phrasing, and so I'm coming out all the time, without even thinking about it. And it's so boring that I sometimes forget that it's new information, and sometimes a brand-new experience, for the person I'm coming out to.

"Is your husband Jewish?" the earthling's friend's mother asked me.

"My wife, actually. No, she's not."

And I was ready to move on, but she was freezing up. I've done this so many times I can monitor people's thoughts as they have them -- I can read them like thought bubbles.

She's a lesbian.

Wait. What do I say?

Oh no, I've waited too long and she thinks I'm a horrible bigot, even though I'm Canadian.

"Oh," she said, clearly wishing she was saying something else. But what? But what?

The earthling's friend, David, looked up at me. "Girls can't have a wife," he said confidently.

David's mother made a tiny horrified noise. I didn't even need to look at her to know that she was thinking now she thinks my children are horrible and bigoted too.

But children are easy. Children are never any problem. "Yes, they can," I said to David. "Men can marry men and women can marry women, and I'm married to [earthling]'s mommy." (Straight parents, a tip for you: The key is to sound blandly confident. Use the same tone you'd use to say, "Actually, the capital of California is Sacramento.")

David took the conversation back to what matters to small children: themselves. "My mommy is married to my daddy," he informed me, and he and the earthling went back to playing with leaves and sticks.

A minute later, David's mother, having processed her horror and figured out what to say, chimed in with, "Of course women and women can be married!" She pretty clearly had a whole speech ready, but too late. Small children learn hundreds of new things every week, and they just don't have a lot of time to spend on any single irrelevant, unimportant new fact, like that women can be married to women. David had already filed this away, and he wasn't listening anymore.

David's mother left the conversation embarrassed and worried. She was the only person involved who had any feelings about it at all. These days, it doesn't matter to me the way it matters to other people.


My family is pretty basic: two adults and a child. But even now, when we can legally be married, legally file taxes together, legally be co-parents -- even now, forms almost never have room for us. There's the basic ones that assume that each child has a mother and a father, of course, but recently we filled out some for the school distract that had a ton of options: mother/grandmother/legal guardian/caregiver/foster parent/other. And father/grandfather/legal guardian/caregiver/foster parent/other. The only possibility that seemed not to have occurred to the school was two parents of the same sex.

I always cross out "father" and write "mother" over it. I cross out "husband" and write "wife." Often, this leads to unhappiness on the part of a receptionist or records keeper somewhere. "But the computer doesn't have a place for that! Can I just put sister?"

"She's not my sister, and she is responsible for my medical bills if I die."

"I'll just put sister."

But then sometimes I pick up a form that says Parent 1 and Parent 2, or Spouse 1 and Spouse 2, or something along those lines.

As soon as I see that, I look behind the desk, analyzing. Who works in this office who is queer? I want to ask. Because we only ever fit on forms designed by people like us.


"Are you sisters?"

"No, we're not related."

"Oh, just really good friends then, huh? You look so much alike! You must get that a lot."

"Yeah, we get it a lot."


In college, I had a therapist. One day, she asked, "Are you still together with [Best Beloved]?"

"Yeah," I said, confused. I mean. I'd been with BB for years. Surely it would have come up in therapy if we'd broken up? I figured I'd have some feelings about it and all.

"Huh," she said. "I'm surprised. I guess I just see lesbian relationships as more ephemeral than straight ones." She continued on thoughtfully, "I don't know why that is. You'd think I'd know better; my sister's been with her partner for a decade, after all. Well. I'll have to do some work on that, won't I?"

For the record, she was a very good therapist.

This week, I took the earthling to his pediatrician, Dr. G. Dr. G has known him since he was born, and she's known us since I was six months pregnant. BB and I met her together at the pre-birth interview thing, and BB was there in the hospital when the earthling was born, and BB comes to appointments when she can.

As Dr. G entered some data about the earthling into her computer, she asked, "Are you still with [BB]?"

I blinked at her. "We just celebrated our twenty-first anniversary," I said, after a moment's pause.

"Oh! Wow! Congratulations," she said, and we moved on.

I really doubt she's ever asked my sister, whose kids also see this doctor, if she's still married to her husband. I've been married longer; BB was at my sister's wedding. But, hey, my marriage is ephemeral, right? It could end at any time. Unremarked upon, even.

For the record, Dr. G is a very good pediatrician.


"Are you twins?"


"You look like twins!"

"No, we're not related."

"Wow! You look just like each other. How crazy is that, huh?"


It's just a reflex by now.

We were checking in for a spa day that my mother schedule for us: me, my sister (except technically not my sister, who is always late), and Best Beloved. "Oh, are you all Ruth's daughters?" the receptionist asked.

"No. Laura and I are. [BB] is my wife," I said.

And I could, of course, see her thoughts as they happened:

Oh, they're lesbians!

I am entirely and sincerely pro-gay, and so is my workplace. I voted against Prop 8! Yay, gay people!

…But what do I say now?

"Oh," she said, straightening up a little.

Wait, that sounds dismissive. Say something else! Say a better thing! Say the right thing!

"That's great!" she said.

I glanced up at her. "Yes, it is." And then I went back to texting my sister to find out where she was.


"Are you twins?"

"No. She's my wife."

"…Oh. Um."


Straight people, I will tell you a secret: there is no right response. Just listen and get on with your lives. I've learned to.
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
I wish to make it clear that I in no way blame [personal profile] lolaraincoat. Sure, she was the person who said to me, "Why not plant tomatoes? What's the worst that could happen?" but I am pretty well convinced that she didn't actually know what could, in fact, happen. (She lives in Canada. Probably the plants are kind and polite and restrained up there.) Really, it was my own fault; I should have taken a clue from the fact that the national chains were all selling little ordinary wire tomato cages, but our local garden store sold only these scary thick reinforced wire tomato cages that came in two sizes: wolverine and bear.

It turns out that this is because planting tomatoes in our climate is roughly akin to keeping a wolverine or a bear in your back yard. (Obviously, which animal it is depends on what kind of tomato you plant. Because I am extremely clever, I planted both. Wolverine and bear tomatoes do not, as I have learned to my cost, fight and thus cancel each other out; instead, they team up and destroy the world.)

A partial list of things our tomato plants have destroyed on their way to the inevitable (no, seriously, I am now convinced that this is where gardening always has to go) end of civilization as we know it:
  • The zucchini plants
  • The pumpkin plant (although we did get some very nice pumpkins first)
  • The green bean plants
  • A blueberry bush
  • My first herb garden, including the cilantro, thyme, oregano and mint (yes, mint, for serious)
  • A wooden trellis, uprooted and broken in two
  • A wire trellis, uprooted and hideously warped
  • Four of the standard wire cages, uprooted, bent, broken, and smushed to the ground, to the point that we cannot be entirely certain where most of them are
  • The garden containment bricks (next year, I will see if I can't get some highway crash barriers; those seem more likely to work)
[personal profile] thingswithwings was telling me a while back that her tomato plants are, like, ten feet high, with tentacles visibly reaching for passersby; our tomato plants got up nearly that high, but then they crushed their supports and flopped over on the ground. They are now more than ten feet long, but all horribly intertwined with each other. This would be less of a problem if I hadn't planted many different varieties in the same area; we have no way of telling anymore which tomatoes are on which plants, or indeed which plants are where; it's just a giant lump of greenery and tomatoes. And, of course, in a feat of unparalleled brilliance, I managed to plant a tomato that is green when ripe; we've spent a lot of time staring at the garden lately and saying, "Do you think those are the green zebras? They're stripey!" We have no idea when or if we should pick one.

We have, however, picked a lot of some kind of weird tomato that it turns out is ripe when it's dark red on the bottom and sort of greeny-black on top; they are incredibly tasty, although I try to eat them out of the line of sight of the living room windows, because the tomatoes can see in through those and I am concerned they will strike back.

Another thing I should possibly have thought twice before planting is basil. See, I have always before gotten basil in pots. The process with basil in pots is, in my experience, as follows:
  1. Purchase nice, good-smelling, healthy-looking basil in a pot.
  2. (Optional) Pick a couple of leaves.
  3. Throw away dead basil plant a week later. Save pot or not, as you choose.
In all my years of buying basil plants, this never varied. I tried watering more. I tried watering less. I tried keeping the pot in a window, on the counter, in a bathroom. I tried not picking and picking leaves. A week after purchase - maybe two at the outside - I always had a dead basil plant. (If you are wondering why I kept buying things I knew would die: it's hard to believe a plant will betray you. They look so green and innocent! Come to think of it, that's pretty much the same reason I keep gearing up and heading out to my garden now.) So when I planted basil this year, I bought two plants and then added another that I grew from seed. I figured then I'd get, like, maybe FIVE leaves before they all died.

Apparently what basil really likes is to be planted outside. I put mine in a big container (because the tomatoes had already taken out most of the herb garden; this was back when I thought that was the worst they would do, not realizing they were sort of pausing and licking their chops prior to really getting down to business), and now I have a giant basil bush. I go out, I pick a little basil - not enough to make any difference in the size of the bush, but just enough to keep it sort of roughly contained - and once I get it indoors, I realize I have a huge amount of basil, such that in addition to serving it (with the tomatoes, of course) that night, I'm going to have to make some more pesto to freeze.

I tell you what: I now completely understand why tomatoes and basil so often appear in the same recipes. It's because of gardenerly desperation.

Gardenerly desperation is actually a major factor in nearly everything I do in the garden these days. I had no idea so much calamity would be involved. Gardening is dangerous, and let no one tell different. These days, I cannot believe they sell seeds without requiring a gardening license. And maybe a firearms license, too.

Tomatoes, then and now. )


Jun. 19th, 2010 09:48 pm
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Best Beloved and I have been together for 18 years. At first, I said I wouldn't say I was a wife, or that I had a wife, until I could have a legal marriage. And then I had a legal marriage (obtained during the brief period when marriage was possible for us in California), and I still hesitated to say "wife," largely because if I made a list of my 2,000 favorite words, neither husband nor wife would be on it. I just don't like them. But, you know, it's important for me to say it, all the same. We're married, and there are a lot of Californians who can't get married, and there are other Californians who'd like to take our marriage away from us. It matters that people hear me talk about my wife; it helps them understand that my marriage is just the same as anyone else's. It helps them define my marriage as normal, not society-destroying or child-harming or boils-inducing or whatever the latest claim is.

I also get a certain amount of evil pleasure out of the word. (This is in addition to the regular, ordinary, non-evil pleasure, of course.) In my neighborhood, we are beset by many types of door-to-door people - magazine subscription sellers (my absolute least favorite), "fundraisers" who never seem to have the card they are legally obligated to carry to raise funds door-to-door in my county, appointment schedulers, sellers of various products and services of dubious usefulness.

And these people are very, very good at dragging out a conversation I don’t want to have; basically, I would have to slam the door in their faces in order to get away from the pitch. So I take joy in the following conversation, which always happens:

Door-to-Door Guy [yes, they are always men]: So, you and your husband -
Me: Wife.
Door-to-Door Guy: *blink blink*
Me, in a helpful, explaining tone: I don't have a husband, I have a wife.
Door-to-Door Guy: *assumes the expression of a dog who has just run at top speed into a sliding glass door he didn't know was there*

[There is a pause of variable length as Door-to-Door Guy scrabbles back onto familiar ground. Familiar ground is, of course, agree with the potential customer.]

Door-to-Door Guy, blinking off his tharn: That's cool!

[Door-to-Door Guy inevitably embarks on a lengthy speech about his sincere belief in equal rights, sometimes only slightly undermined by such remarks as, "Can you do that? I mean, like, legally?" or "But you're not really married, right?" My favorite was probably, "But have you tried it with a guy?"]

I actually award points to the Guys based on how fast they recover and how believable their sudden declaration of Equal Rights for All is. I expect a speedy recovery and decent acting skills in exchange for my wasted time, I tell you what.

But my point is, wife is my word. I choose to use it. I make other people use it, and sometimes I deliberately make them uncomfortable with it.

Other people avoid it. They aren't sure what to say, so they come up with a weasel word ("friend" is my least favorite of those; it never fails to make me want to say, "Actually, I prefer 'fucktoy'"), or they avoid the whole thing, or they pretend I have some other relationship that makes them more comfortable than the one I actually have. I am used to hearing people say, "So she's your roommate?" or, "She's your, um, um, mmmmm?" or, "Well, I don't have a way to put that into the computer, so can we just say she's your sister?" (True statements all!)

There have been improvements, of course. Years ago, I used to spend a lot of time patiently scratching out "husband" on forms. These days, actually, the forms mostly fit our family fairly well. We were Parent 1 and Parent 2 on the earthling's preschool forms this year (except on the one mandated by the state, where we were father and mother), and we're mostly Parent 1 and Parent 2 everywhere. But the people taking the forms are often kind of puzzled. The best we can generally hope for is something like our recent conversation with the lady who comes by your house when you forget to send in your census form (whoops), which went like this:

Census Lady: Okay, so you're - um, you're going to have to help me pick the right one, here, because they didn't cover this in my training and I haven't had another couple like you so far, so - what do you want to be called?
Me: Married. We're legally married.
Census Lady, selecting the appropriate box: Oh, that's wonderful! Okay. Married. So, what is your relationship to the child, [earthling]? [This is the price you pay for forgetting to mail the form, fellow US citizens: you have to answer these questions after they are carefully read to you by someone trained to be very, very clear about each one. Best just to send the thing in, really.]

My point is, usually there is a disconnect somewhere. The Census Lady had no actual problems with married lesbians, but obviously it was not something even considered by the people who trained her (or the people who trained the people who trained those people, or the people who designed the trainings, or the people who signed off on them, or any of the other many people involved, and this is the federal government so I'm guessing it was a lot of them). The person who wanted to make Best Beloved my sister was personally clueless, although it turned out her computer was not - it was happy to accept wife and wife.

But that is not what I wanted to talk about, actually.

Recently, we had another insurance snafu, compounded by an unfortunate phone fail on my part, which resulted in the earthling and me showing up for his speech therapy appointment only to be told that we could not have it, as his re-approval is still pending. (No, we could not just pay that one session. As mandated by our insurance, the earthling has speech therapy in the outpatient rehab department of a hospital, and while the medical professionals at that hospital rock, the billing department does whatever the opposite of rocking is, to the extent that Best Beloved used to have to call them up and beg them, beg them, to tell us what we owed them in copays, or, alternately, to accept a check that wasn't for precisely what we owed, applying it to the balance or carrying it forward. Neither of these things ever happened, by the way. After many useless phone calls, we'd send a check and get it back a week later with a sticky note on it saying it wasn't for the amount owed, but they still wouldn't tell us how much that was. We eventually gave up pleading with them to let us give them some money, and now assume they will let us know how much they want if they actually do want any. So, you know, these people cannot do accounting for copays; they surely cannot cope with the financial exigencies of self pay.)

Anyway. The person who manages the appointments and also the insurance stuff called me over and said, "I called and left a message on your home phone. I wanted to call your cell, but I don't know your name, so I didn't know which of these numbers were yours, and I didn't want to risk calling your wife and maybe bothering her at work."

Under normal circumstances, I would have fixated on the part where she assumed that our son's medical care would be less important to Best Beloved than two minutes of her working day, but I didn't even think about that until we were back in the car, because: wife. The officer manager (who, by the way, is married to a man, and wears a cross every day, and who has two or three kids and is pregnant with another) said it like she says it all day long, like it was every bit as normal for me to have a wife as it is for her to have a husband. And, like I said, I have been with Best Beloved for 18 years and officially and legally (at least for now, please don't fuck up again, state of California) married to her for almost two years, but no one has ever called her my wife before without me forcing the issue.

For the first time ever, there was no disconnect anywhere. The insurance manager looked at our form, saw two female names for Parent 1 and Parent 2, and thought, I have no idea which wife is the one I see every week. Crap. I'd better figure that out. And when she was talking to me, she called Best Beloved my wife.

Which she is. But it has taken half my life to hear that from someone's mouth naturally and totally unprompted. Two days later, I am still blinking in surprise.

It was, I'm not going to lie, awesome. Maybe not entirely worth the wait, but awesome all the same.

And it even made me like the word "wife."
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
The last time I posted about my garden, all of you were all doom and gloom and WOE BETIDE YOU, NAÏVE GARDENER about my zucchini plants. And you were absolutely right. They are very productive.

But not one of you said anything about the green beans, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to trust you again. Because, okay. I went out there one day a week and a half ago and saw a baby bean on my green bean plants. Exciting! I grabbed the camera to take a picture (shut UP, it was my own very first baby bean that I grew all myself from a SEED), and I did, and then I looked slightly up and it was like one of those horror movie moments, where the camera pans back and you realize OH MY GOD THEY'RE EVERYWHERE IT'S TOO LATE TO RUN.

They were, in fact, everywhere. Not baby beans, but full-grown beans. My green bean plants, grown by me from seeds selected by the earthling, have turned into a green bean factory. They produce a pound or two of green beans every two to three days, and if I should miss three days in a row of picking, they get very, very ugly. Even with diligent (or as diligent as possible; I screwed up the spacing there, too, so it's very hard to get anywhere near the green beans now, especially with the Lurking Squashy Threat I'll get into later) picking, I miss them, and come back to find a giant bean lurking somewhere. And, true fact: I can search through all the plants, pick all the beans I can find, and come back half an hour later and get another handful of beans. Either they're wily or they're scary productive. I'm guessing both.

(Having a garden, by the way, is like leveling up on a CSA; you'd better have a lot of recipes for the things you plant, my friend, because otherwise you will never want to see them ever again. You would not believe the things I have done with green beans lately. Or, okay, you would - it isn't like I cured the common cold with them, or built a scale model of the Empire State Building, but, still. I have a lot of new recipes, is what I'm saying.)

I'm almost afraid to tell you about the other garden development, because - look. I did not know any better, okay? I am innocent in this. The earthling wanted a pumpkin kit. I got one. I planted ONE pumpkin plant. And there were all these warnings on the kit about how it was not a toy and not to be used unsupervised, but there was no warning anywhere about the seed's unfulfilled dreams of starring in a SciFi original movie called The Electric Pumpkin Apocalypse.

Unfortunately, that movie is now taking place in our backyard. I am expecting Misha Collins and David Hewlett to show up in suspiciously clean lab coats at any moment, because - okay. About two weeks ago, Best Beloved and I were surveying the pumpkin plant - only a little fearfully, because we did not know then what we know now - and noticed that it had overrun the little brick borders of the garden plot and started to creep across the part that's still lawn.

"Think it'll make the walkway by the end of the summer?" I asked Best Beloved.

"Maybe," she said, surveying the six feet or so it still had to cover. "Maybe."

It's on the walkway now. In the other direction, it is almost over the fence to the neighbor's yard, and god only knows what they have over there that it could eat to grow stronger. Worse, okay, I planted this garden in the place that used to have a fishpond, right? Well, the previous owners had a sort of waterfall thing in the pond. For which they had to run electricity out to the back wall. The pumpkin plant is now intimately entwined with the electric outlet and the wiring. Very. Intimately. There are little green tendrils prying into the covered box.

Obviously, the major concern is that our pumpkin plant has already acquired superpowers. (I guess the bright side is that we may not need candles to light up our jack-o-lanterns on Halloween.)

Really, the zucchini-tomato mass, while still terrifying, is starting to look tame in comparison. Because, okay, yes, it is covered in baby green tomatoes, and I am frantically harvesting zucchini as soon as I find them, often sustaining moderate injuries to do so (screw shark armor; they need to make squash armor), but at least those plants are in a raised bed. They are contained. The pumpkin (and the green beans, for that matter) can go anywhere.

There are suspicious noises from the backyard at night, now. Thumps and slithers. I - I am very scared.

This may be how the world ends, people.

thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
I can't grow things. This is one of the basic facts of my life. If someone gives me a living plant, my only goal is to find someone else to give it to before my black thumb miasma begins to affect it and it loses its will to live. (Sometimes you can see our gift plants actively wilting the second they realize who their new owner is.) Our sole houseplant is one my mother gave to us when we bought our first house. It is an extremely accommodating plant, because it does not need much water, light, soil, or attention, and can survive for months apparently off of air alone. (We haven't been able to test it in vacuum, but I am pretty sure it would do fine without the air, too.) If I knew what it was, I would buy more, but I don't, so I just try to remember to water it every few weeks or so.

But last year, our neighbor across the street from our old house was offering small tomato plants for fifty cents each, and for some reason I bought some. I put them in containers we had left from previous growing experiments (the herb garden that the dog ate when she was puppy, the strawberry plants that never took), and watered them regularly, and after some time, we got tomatoes. Not a lot, but they were extremely tasty. The earthling loved them.

Then, in the middle of the summer, we moved. Our tomato plants did not survive.

In our new house, we don't have a gardening neighbor, but we do have an empty place where the pond used to be. (The previous owners had a fishpond. We have a toddler. One of our first moves was to remove the fishpond before the earthling fell into it.) We also have a sort of raised bed and a bunch of pots that used to have flowers before the old owners left them unattended for two months, meaning that we had to remove a lot of flower carcasses when we moved in.

So this year, I have planted many things, largely in a spirit of experimentation, and because the earthling likes buying seed kits. Our success has been - well. The raised bed now contains zucchini and tomatoes, and two things are obvious about it:
  1. I didn't space the plants right.

  2. I missed the notation on the zucchini label that said "evil, carnivorous, mutant variety, bred by mad scientists to meet your world domination needs."
The raised bed is a solid mass of greenery. Most of the individual zucchini leaves are large enough that we could sew outfits for the earthling out of them, if they weren't covered in prickles. I swear the zucchini plants move; I see them shifting out of the corner of my eye, and each day they have visibly grown. One of them appears to be trying to launch itself out of the bed entirely. The tomato plants are now pressed against the wall and growing for their lives; they are acting like vines and growing up the wall of our house, and they have grown with such vigor they've actually uprooted the trellises they were supposed to use as supports. (The trellises are just kind of floating on a sea of green, now. I would pull them out, but I think the tomato plants would fight me for them. And they'd win.) The bed, what I can see of it by cautiously poking the zucchini and tomato leaves aside, is entirely free of weeds. The zucchini plants are probably eating them.

We have given up all hope of getting actual produce from this bed (there are zucchini and small green tomatoes in there, but I have no idea how I could pick them once ripe without risk to my limbs), and are providing the plants with all the water and food they want solely because we're afraid that if we don't we'll wake up one morning to find they've broken in through the windows and taken over the living room. We also try to keep the earthling away, because I am pretty sure I've seen green tendrils reach out for him when he walks by.

Elsewhere, we have green beans, which would definitely take the Most Terrifying Vegetable award if the zucchini-tomato mass hadn't redefined our concept of fear of green matter. Even the seeds were scary - giant and bulbous - and when they sprouted, they visibly distorted their peat pots. We had to transplant them within the week, with no hardening, because they were trying to climb up the blinds, and now they defy all attempts to train them to climb up their trellis; they're basically a giant bush of bean plants. The flowers are very pretty, though, and they haven't actually tried to eat anyone, so they are definitely taking second in the scary garden sweepstakes.

Third place is held by the pumpkin plant, which seems to double in size every two days or so and at this rate will be taking over most of the U.S. by the end of the summer. I realize that this sounds like a major threat, but don't worry; there's only about twenty feet between the pumpkin plant and the zucchini-tomato mass, so before it takes over, it's going to get eaten by the mutants. Again, I am not expecting actual pumpkins to come out of this. It seems to be wholly invested in producing leaves rather than fruits.

I tell you what: gardening is a whole lot easier in Harvest Moon videogames.

Anyway. We have some other things growing - herbs and so on. We've actually managed to get some strawberries from our strawberry plants, such that the earthling, if you say, "Do you want a strawberry?" will run to the back door with his mouth open, and every day he goes hopefully to the strawberry bed and signs, "Please, more, please, more, food to eat?" But mostly we are going to count ourselves well off if we all live through this gardening experiment.

And I keep searching for gardening communities on LJ and DW, but when I find them, they're all full of posts about fully utilizing your zone 3 gardening space, or permaculture, or forcing, which sounds bad but apparently is okay if you do it to plants. There are never any desperate posts that say, "Oh god the plants - the plants - they're COMING FOR ME. What do I do? Would a baseball bat work? I don't have a flamethrower!" Everyone else seems to be sedately growing food and flowers, instead of cowering before a mutant green strike force.

But I figure I can't be alone in this. Someone else out there has to be experimenting with gardening and mostly failing, right? Right? So, a poll. (Southern hemisphere types, I realize that this is out of synch for you. Do your best.)

Poll #3272 Garden Horror
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 233

Are you growing or have you grown any of your own food this year?

View Answers

150 (64.7%)

82 (35.3%)

In terms of total volume cultivated, how would you describe your garden?

View Answers

Some herb pots by the window.
44 (23.7%)

44 (23.7%)

Small garden plot.
81 (43.5%)

Big garden plot.
17 (9.1%)

Acres. I could feed a community off my garden.
0 (0.0%)

In terms of actual gardening skill, how would you assess yourself?

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We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, we eat the seed. I really don't see how this can be difficult.
13 (6.1%)

I plant things. They mostly grow. I'm not an expert or anything, but...
82 (38.5%)

I'm proud to say no lives have been lost in my gardening experiments.
52 (24.4%)

15 (7.0%)

What's to fear? Everthing's dead.
51 (23.9%)

What should I do about my garden?

View Answers

Remain calm.
123 (53.5%)

Buy a machete.
105 (45.7%)

Buy a flamethrower.
41 (17.8%)

Salt the earth.
16 (7.0%)

Put the house on the market before the zucchini take over.
22 (9.6%)

I don't know what to say about this year, but next year, don't grow anything.
9 (3.9%)

It's totally normal to fear your garden. All the best gardeners do. Martha Stewart sleeps with an herbicide sprayer under her pillow.
82 (35.7%)

Take photos so we can know how the end of the world started.
187 (81.3%)

thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
I kind of gave up on Star Wars; I think it was sometime in the middle of Attack of the Clones. I could just feel all my interest drifting away. (Although I still have love for the original series, of course.) But I spend a lot of my time at the park these days, and I tell you what: small children have not given up on Star Wars. The last two times we've been there, I've overheard some truly fascinating examples of - well, in a way, it's like very early fan fiction.

And in a way, it's like stand-up comedy. (Okay, more like run-around comedy. Still.)

The Theological Convictions of Boba Fett

Kid 1: You're Boba Fett!
Boba Fett, agreeably: I'm Boba Fett.
Kid 1: You have to stay Boba Fett all day no matter what.
Boba Fett, nodding: I'm Boba Fett.
Kid 1: And I'm God!
Boba Fett: Then you're dead. God is dead.
God, sounding shocked: God isn't dead.
Boba Fett: God's in heaven, right?
God: ...Right.
Boba Fett, in the tone of one who would say QED if he knew the term: So God is dead.
God, visibly feeling like something is wrong, but unable to put his finger on what: But - but - God is magic!
Boba Fett, confidently: And dead.

Poll #2789 Park 1
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 484

Who wins?

View Answers

Boba Fett. Hard to argue with logic.
426 (88.0%)

God. Hard to argue with magic.
58 (12.0%)

The Trouble with Yoda

Boy 1, arriving at play area with tiny girl in tow, sounding glum: My mom says we have to let her play.
Boy 2: I just give my brother a toy. [He hands her a lightsaber.] Here. You're Yoda. You have to be Yoda because he's small and you're small.
Tiny Girl, gripping lightsaber: I'm Yoda!
Boy 2: And I'm the taxi man.
Boy 1, in ominous tones: And I'm a VAMPIRE.
Yoda, standing firm with lightsaber: I'm Yoda!
Taxi Man, running at her with a stick: I'm going to hit you, Yoda!
Yoda, whamming him with the lightsaber: Can't hit me! I'm Yoda!
Vampire, from across the play area: I'm going to BITE YOU.
Yoda: Can't bite me! I'm Yoda!
Vampire, making claw hands and swooping in with his stick: ARRRRRRRR, I'm BITING YOU.
Yoda, getting him in the the knees with the lightsaber: CAN'T.
Vampire, bewilderedly: You're afraid of vampires! Why aren't you afraid?
Yoda: I'm Yoda. Yoda isn't afraid!

[The vampire and the taxi man retire, probably to discuss the Yoda problem. She watches. They, perhaps unwisely, turn their backs to whisper privately.]


[She charges and nails them both with the lightsaber from behind.]

Vampire and taxi man: OW. NOT FAIR.
Yoda, collecting the sticks they dropped during the surprise attack: Yoda wins!

Poll #2790 Park 2
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 525

Who wins?

View Answers

102 (19.4%)

Yoda. Now I want to see a new version of the movies, with Yoda played by a tiny girl.
126 (24.0%)

Yoda. Now I want all politicians to conduct their business with lightsabers.
39 (7.4%)

Yoda. She could probably take over the world if she didn't have to take a nap.
258 (49.1%)

thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
A couple of times a month, Best Beloved, the earthling, and I will go out to breakfast at a locally renowned diner-ish place. It has a shelf by one of its windows where people can set out free literature: brochures, yes, and also the Skeeviest Postcards You Ever Did See, but mostly magazines and catalogs. These catalogs and magazines are divided into general categories:
  1. Gay: It's Not a Lifestyle, We Just Like Built, Pretty Men with Huge Cocks

  2. Marijuana: It's Not Even a Drug, It's Totally a Lifestyle, and If You Happen to Be Using Any, We Are Sure It's for Entirely Legal Medicinal Purposes That We Can Definitely Provide You with a List of, in Case You Accidentally Forgot What Those Purposes Were

  3. Whackmobile-o-rama: Now with a Free Ticket to Lemuria
The earthling loves this area, because the shelf is located maybe a foot off the floor, meaning he is free to browse through the publications and make selections that he carries to us. This is how we got my favorite ever "GLBT" magazine. I put "GLBT" in quotes, because in my experience, what that actually means is "We're only putting cisgendered gay men on the cover, and we're only writing about gay men and circuit parties and Dolce and Gabbana, but you LBT types are also welcome to read us. If you want to." My favorite "GLBT" magazine has, of course, a shirtless, six-packed (white) man on the cover. His head is carefully positioned so that, in the subheader "for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community in Southern California" he obscures "lesbian, bisexual" completely, and most of "and transgendered" as well. It's not really a visual metaphor; it's just truth in magazine covers.

Anyway. We are generally at least mildly interested in the publications in the first two categories, or we pretend to be while the earthling is watching us, but the third is obviously the superior one. And my favorite example of this is a brochure for the Los Angeles Conscious Life Expo. I mean no offense to any of you living Conscious Lives (I am sure you are not, personally, insane) when I say that, to a person who lives a plain old mundane (unconscious?) life, this thing is hysterical.

Some of the offered panels and classes are relatively normal-sounding ("Optimal Thinking for Turbulent Times" could just as easily be offered at a management seminar, not that I am suggesting that those are bastions of sanity), but then you get things like "Nibiru, 2012, and You" (no, I didn't know what Nibiru meant, either, but you should really go read the Nibiru Collision Wikipedia entry, if for no other reason than the, um, "photographic evidence") and "The Government Response to '2012' and What Obama Knows." (I really don't think you can cover what Obama knows in a three-hour workshop, but I'm getting the sense that there's something major on the whackmobile horizon for 2012. Excuse me, I meant '2012.' Apparently it has to do with Interdimensional Communications and The Shift, judging by other panels, but I'm really hoping it has no connection to the Unleash Your Secret Healing Microbes thing, because interdimensionally communicating shifting secret microbes in a government cover-up - I don't actually want to live a Torchwood plot.)

My point about this, though, is that in this brochure, I have found the Well of Lost SG1 Plots. Or maybe not lost; it is entirely possible that the entire show was written from previous Conscious Life Expo brochures. (You can't tell me they don't also have Conscious Lives in Vancouver, and apparently when you have one, you want to exhibit it.) Check out these seminar (Workshop? Panel? Shouting contest? Whatever.) titles:
  • Ascension: Masters of Immortality. Hi, Daniel! And, you know, Oma. Plus the Greek Chorus of smug folks of questionable morality.

  • Legacy of the Gods: Keys to Our Cosmic Past. Goa'uld. Obviously. In my head, this panel thing is hosted by a completely raving version of Daniel who never got recruited by the Stargate program and went irretrievably insane in that Cassandra-ish way. I picture him with long unkempt hair and an old car with a lot of bumper stickers on it, many of them in hieroglyphics. He probably hosts an AM radio show.

  • Freedom's Gate: America's Temple of Ascension. If this is not the stargate, I don't know what it is. And, for the record, I don't want to. Some things should not be googled.

  • The Sound of Light. I've, you know, never actually seen the show, but wasn't this the episode that had that sequence with Daniel on the balcony and Jack hugging him that you see in all the vids?

  • Claim Your Second Life Now!!! (Yes, all those exclamation points are in the original. Please tell me you don't think I would do that of my own free will.) Actually, Daniel's claiming his seventeenth life, but then I would expect him to be leading the pack. Of course, I can claim a Second Life right this minute by visiting a website and registering. Maybe they're talking about that.

  • The Future of People. ...As beings made of energy on a different plane, one assumes. Or maybe they mean as Soylent Green, but obviously the Stargate showrunners thought more in terms of energy bodies, which is exactly what is wrong with SF on TV these days, if you ask me.

  • Regenesis: 5th Dimensional Light Bodies. And again with the ascension. It's a theme. I just - reading this, I worry that there are people who watch SG1 and SGA and think they're documentaries, in which case - oh, god, I just want to hold them and tell them it isn't so. Although I probably can't. Strong incense and patchouli make me wheeze.

  • Proactive Manifestation of Future History. I have no fucking clue what this means, but I'm pretty sure Merlin knows. Also, after a lengthy pause to parse this, I have concluded that it maybe means making the future happen early? Maybe? In which case NO PLEASE DON'T DO THAT. I have read that story. It never ends well.

  • Galactic Awakening. This is the Ori, or I will eat something. Not a hat, mind you. Maybe a cookie. But, still, I am pretty sure that late in the run of SG1, the writers were flipping through a Conscious Life Expo brochure and saw this and exclaimed with joy.

  • Ascension Panel: The 7th Golden Age of Humanity. Do I even need to say it? No. So I'll just say - we've had six previous ones? When? And, um. If ascension is anything like it is in the Gateverse, I would not describe it as a Golden Age of Humanity. Maybe a Golden Age of Assholes. That's as far as I'm willing to go.
If I had known free publications were all I needed to write for television, I'd've chosen that career path. (I am assuming the people who read the gay magazines wrote for Queer as Folk, but what do the people who read the marijuana stuff write?)

But my real point is, maybe we should be grateful SG1 and SGA were canceled when they were, because I think the showrunners had run out of useful workshop titles, and for future seasons they'd have had to mine, like, the Tantric Love Energy workshops. Or the ones about Optimal Thinking and Money Management. Or the one about vaccines. I - I am glad I didn't have to witness that, even secondhand.
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Dear meat-cooking faction of my friends list,

I would like to make some chicken. I want it to be a mix of white and dark meat, something that I can easily convert into small pieces, and fairly tender (not dry, not very chewy). It does not need much of a sauce, because most of it will go into the freezer for Earthling Chicken Salad. (Chicken pieces + diced fresh tomatoes + olive oil + choice of flavoring.) Ideally, it should keep all the fat it came with.

What do I need to buy? (Keep in mind that I am buying this for Tiny Alice Waters, and thus should probably go for higher-quality chicken, if there is a variation in quality amongst chickens; also, for reasons of personal moral qualms, I am willing to pay more for more humanely-treated chicken, if that exists.) Where should I buy it? What do I need to do? How can I make chicken happen?

Please keep in mind that although I am a good home cook, I have never made meat. I was a vegetarian long before I learned to cook, so meat has always been a total blind spot in my kitchen vision, if that makes sense. If there is a ritual anointing that anyone would know to do? I don't know it. If there's some safe-handling thing that is so insanely obvious that no one ever mentions it? I won't do it unless you tell me to do it. You know those exercises you had to do in school where you had to pretend the teacher was an alien (generally not much of a feat of imagination, there) and explain to her how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Please pretend I am an alien, because I am. I have never visited Planet Meat before. I need a very thorough travel guide.

I have a crockpot, and if a crockpot can produce this kind of food, I would prefer to use it, since mine has three crocks and one can just become the Meat Crock. But if there is an easy, non-crockpot method for producing chicken, I would also enjoy hearing about it. (Please nothing that requires setting fires. I would prefer to emerge from this with all my parts basically intact.)

I would really appreciate your help. (And Tiny Alice Waters would, too.)

thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Anyone out there know San Diego? BB and I are going there with the earthling, and we've just realized we may be in big trouble in terms of feeding the earthling. (The first time we were there, I was in the first trimester of pregnancy and we spent half the time searching for food, because there did not appear to be any in San Diego - seriously, people down south, do you just not eat out at all? - and going somewhere with a woman in early pregnancy means you need a LOT of food. Best Beloved had no idea how much I was eating until that trip, and I remember the first morning she watched, horrified, as I ate my entire breakfast, and half of hers, and then two food bars. She told me later that she was genuinely afraid that I might eat her arm next, which was probably a good thing, as she was very diligent about the food search thereafter.)

Anyway. If you know San Diego, I would appreciate recs for:
  1. Kid-friendly, vegetarian-friendly places to eat. If they serve earthling-friendly food, that's a plus, but we can work his issues in most restaurants because he's distracted by everything going on around him. (Provided we do not ask him to eat hot dogs. Hot dogs are Just Wrong.)

  2. Kid-friendly places with very fast service. (Mongolian BBQs! Places where you order at a counter! Salad bars! Whatever! Sadly, the earthling will not eat at true fast food places, like McDonald's or Burger King. He judges them.)

  3. Grocery stores that are not Albertson's or Ralph's, where the parent of an earthling could purchase organic produce and all-natural snacks said earthling might actually eat.
We will be staying near Sea World, but are willing to drive to places if they serve food there.
thefourthvine: My baby's fist when he was brand new. Text: "Tiny iron fist." (earthling tiny iron fist)
Under the cut is something I do not ever want you to say to me, please. Or to anyone else. I'm angry, so - warning for immoderate language and a total lack of humor.

On feeding the earthling and other kids. Potentially triggery for people with eating issues. )
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
So, the other day I took the earthling to the mall for walking-around purposes, and every single store except the Cinnabon was having a sale. It was a little scary. And we're looking for a desk right now, and half the local furniture stores are having a sale. The other half are out of business. Friends of mine have been laid off. California's budget looks like it's been hit by asteroids.

I am alarmed. And so I'm wondering about y'all: how are you doing? Poll time!

And, by the way, if you're thinking now might be a good time to get your finances in order, I highly recommend the services of [ profile] jarrow, who does custom budget spreadsheets for fellow fans (and, I assume, others). The spreadsheets are a) really, really pretty (they look like Monopoly!) b) easy to use and c) cheap. It does not get better than that, people. (Except it does: he also provides instruction and tech support. And emotional support, too, if you need it, like if you find budgeting just way too scary ever to face, or if you hyperventilate every time you think about your bills.) We had been trying to use Quicken for two years, and basically only achieving an ever-growing hatred of Quicken. John's spreadsheet, on the other hand, is totally working for us.

And now, let's talk about you.

[Poll #1425209]
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
A few weeks ago, Best Beloved was at her library talking to a patron. The patron explained that she was in a big hurry to go out and buy a new TV, because her main TV had broken, and she had another TV that was just as good, but she felt weird not having a backup. (Keep in mind that this patron lives alone.)

Best Beloved was surprised by this. When she relayed it to me, I was also surprised. But then, we are not exactly normal in our relationship to television. (For Best Beloved, it's like an old friend who she's always happy to see, but rarely actually does see. For me, it's like an acquaintance who leads a fascinating life in a distant land and occasionally takes a break from it to come to my house and punch me in the mouth.)

Fortunately, I know a large group of people who have, if not a normal relationship with television, at least a more normal one. So I thought I'd ask you about this backup TV thing. Plus some other nosy questions about technology, because I care enough to be inappropriately curious about your life!

[Poll #1419179]
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
We're buying a house. Or we're trying to. This is a process that appears to be designed to teach you the folly of wanting to buy a house.

And the thing is, we already HAVE a house. We bought this one ten years ago, and the process was, okay, a little terrifying for first-time buyers, but it was nothing like this. The wrinkles that have been added in that decade:
  1. They used to make you sign a stack of papers roughly the same size as War and Peace. (And you had to sign every single page.)

    Now, they make you sign (and sometimes also initial) every piece of paper in the world. We have twice - TWICE - had to sign a document indicating our understanding of the fact that people can farm. Not us, mind you. Just - people. Other people. Somewhere. They have the right to farm, and now we know it. After all, we signed a document saying we know it. Twice. (The Realtor who represented us when we bought our current house, who I miss more and more with every passing day, told us, "Every piece of paper you sign, that's a lawsuit." From this, I can conclude that every person in the state of California except us spent the last ten years filing property-related lawsuits.)

  2. They used to give you all the papers in one big batch. This was scary, and also funny, because, see, I read everything I sign. It's like a sickness; I can't help myself. (I also read the agreements when I install software. There are some great lines in there, people, and I think I may be the only one reading them, because obviously the middle parts are written mostly to entertain the authors. I'm talking primarily about the parts with explosions.) Most people apparently don't, because last time, when we went to our Big Festival of Signing Documents, it took us hours and hours in the little conference room. Our escrow officer kept returning and asking if we had any questions. Or if anything was wrong. Or if we...needed anything. Every time she came back, the furrow between her brows was deeper and her voice was a little higher-pitched.

    Now, there are a few huge sets, but mostly they send you the documents in little batches. Every day. For months. So you get a full day to reflect on someone else's right to farm, and also the fact that you are not located in a flood plain, and also that you are indeed living in Los Angeles, where, it turns out, there are sometimes earthquakes. Then, the next day, you get to meditate mindfully on sixteen separate pages that basically say, "Hey, you're going to have to pay for this, you know." (You have to sign all sixteen, and also initial pages two and eleven, and the need to initial will not be obvious, and will require a further round of faxing.) This turns the Big Festival of Signing Documents into the Endless March through Document Hell.

  3. They used to use technology - well, if not for good, at least not for evil. The last time we looked for a house, our Realtor would email us the current listings that matched our criteria, and we'd email her back with a list of the ones we wanted to see. Beyond that, there really wasn't any technology involved except the telephone. And the laser printer.

    Now, though, it's not so much with the email. (We can, after all, do all our own searching of the MLS, right there on a million websites.) It's the faxing. Apparently, there's a law that says that every one of the documents we have to sign (remember: all the paper in the WORLD) has to be faxed at least three times or we're not allowed to buy the house. And we do not own a fax, because I won't buy a machine unless it has at least one function I actually look forward to using, so this means a lot of me chauffeuring documents around town like I gave birth to them.
My basic response to this whole joyous process has been twofold:
  1. Somewhere very early on, I lost sight of the house altogether. We've visited it a few times, sure, but we've spent easily three thousand times the hours with the documents than we have with the actual house. As a result, I keep forgetting that eventually we will supposedly, you know, have a new house. Instead, I dream of the day when we won't have any more documents to sign. I imagine that this will be nice for me in the future, in that if we ever actually do get the house, I will be delighted - a house! When I was only expecting a significant reduction in the amount of paper in my life! - but right now it sucks.

  2. I spend a lot of time playing Realty Roulette. This is where I think of a place we could conceivably live - Iowa City, Iowa! Pittsfield, Massachusetts! Manchester, New Hampshire! (and rock on, marriage rights states, for giving me more places to play with) - and then I go to to see what kind of house we could get there for what we're paying here. (By the way, if any of you knows of a real estate listings site for, like, Canada or New Zealand, that would really help me expand my Realty Roulette.) Since I never check San Francisco or New York City, the answer is always: a lot more than we can get here. A lot. Acres of land! Lakefront property! Historic homes gorgeously remodeled! Enough bedrooms for us to have five more kids! (Not that we would, mind you.) Enough square footage to host every fangirl in the state of Iowa simultaneously!

    And then sometimes I get really crazy - this is especially on the days when the house-buying process is so horrible that I am ready to go live in a tent in the wilderness, like, how hard could it be to baby-proof the great outdoors? NOT AS HARD AS BUYING A HOUSE, let me tell you. On those days, I go check out real estate in areas where I know we will be able to afford a palace. Turns out, for example, we could pretty much buy all of Flint, Michigan. Not that we'd want to - no one wants to, which is the problem, as I understand it - but we could. We could get together with some other like-minded folks, take over the town, and turn it into the Fannish Oasis! And then my mind spirals off into the awesome library we will have (it will have a zine section and a dedicated archives computer and a children's wing with only non-poisonous toys, and reading groups dedicated to classic badfic and cliches), and the awesome hotel we will build for cons, and the community garden, and eventually I've managed to forget about the fact that I am once again going to get into my car, with my car-hating child, and drive to Best Beloved's work to get her signature on documents that must be signed today or the world will fall into the hellmouth. Or so the email from the Realtor suggests.
Anyway. Today was an awful day, a new low in house-buying. (Anyone want to move to Flint with us?) So I developed a new mental escape, which consists mostly of imagining how various characters from various fandoms would handle this. Like, all those stories in which, say, John and Rodney buy a beachfront house in California? Not going to happen. When they get the document from the title company (and this assumes they won't need a mortgage, by the way) that requires them to list everywhere they've lived for the last ten years, what will they put? A basement in Colorado? Abducted by aliens? I bet they don't sell houses to people who are missing five years of their lives. I mean, we've lived in the same place for ten years, and there's some question about whether or not they'll sell to us.

Benton Fraser would probably carefully, correctly fill out every single form, returning it precisely as indicated, having read and thoughtfully considered each one. And then have a wild bout of hysterical blindness which could only be cured by the repeated application of snow. Canadian snow. (It cannot possibly be this hard to buy a house in Canada. Canadians are sane, right?)

And I don't know the Supernatural boys that well, but I'm guessing they'd either shoot someone or exorcise the whole damn realty profession no later than ten days into any attempted home purchase.

Anyone else have suggestions for how fannish people might handle this? I would be interested to know, because maybe there's a coping method I could borrow that's better than my current one, which consists of:
  1. Fantasize, with the help of
  2. Eat mint chocolate UFOs.
  3. Cry.
(And, yes, I've already considered switching to exorcism. Does anyone know how to draw a pentagram around the state of California? I can't be the first person to have wanted to do this.)
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Our neighbor across the street is a very fine man who should just not drive. Ever. Once, as Best Beloved watched in bemused astonishment, he backed his SUV-type-car smack into the little red sports car he loves but almost never drives (because he has kids). He just - he put that car in reverse and hit the accelerator and did not stop until there was a CRUNCH sound. And then the sports car had to go away for a few weeks.

Twice, he's managed to back out of his driveway and somehow hit his lawn instead of the street. Twice. And I don't mean just brushing his lawn with a single wheel; he backed right straight across its lovingly-maintained greenness and dropped into the street off the curb with a resounding, car-shaking thump. And that's just what we've seen, and it's not like we watch him every minute, or even most minutes. (I will admit that I've thought occasionally that a webcam pointed at the front of his house would be bound to yield interesting results.)

It has reached the point where, if we're anywhere on the street and we see him getting into his car, we retreat at least fifty meters and try to put a solid barrier between him and us. And then we watch, because we know it will be good. (On Sunday, we had a 5.0 Richter scale earthquake. When it started, we were bathing the earthling, and as the house shook we looked at each other and said, "Either it's an earthquake or the neighbor just backed into our house.")

Best Beloved finds this pathetic. He's a nice man, he's successful, he has nice kids and a nice partner and a nice life, but when he goes into reverse, he takes his life and his insurance premiums in his hands. I, on the other hand, am entirely sympathetic, and here's why.

When I took driver's ed, I had never been behind the wheel of a car. I couldn't be covered by my parents' insurance until I had a learner's permit, and I couldn't get that until I had driver's ed, and to my parents, that meant that I could not so much as sit in the driver's seat. Which, fine. I doodled through several boring lectures and averted my eyes through many gruesome movies. And then came my big day. I showed up at the "range," which was an old motocross course the driver's ed people had bought and used to break in their students before they inflicted them on the actual public streets. And I expected I would learn how to drive.

Except. What happened was, we were all put in cars and told to just - go. No instructor in the car; he sat in a little tower and shouted at us through a radio. No instruction in, you know, how to drive. And everyone else was fine with that; they climbed into their cars like old pros and went. So I tried to, and I did fine. Until we were ordered to put our cars in reverse. Everyone else backed neatly and efficiently from one orange cone to another. I backed the car straight into a ditch. And I mean into that ditch. I couldn't get it out. The instructor couldn't get it out. Later, they had to bring a giant crane in to get it out. I am totally not kidding.

As I got out of my butt-down, teetering car and walked in shame back to the waiting area, the instructor yelled at me, "Why didn't you TELL me you didn't know how to drive?" And I didn't know what to say. It was my first range session. Of course I didn't know how to drive. I couldn't figure out how all those other people did. Didn't their parents worry about their insurance?

Anyway. Several years later, I was in college, and I was relating this story to a group of friends, as I have done many many times because it's one of those humiliations I cannot stop replaying in my head (especially, oh god, the jump down from the elevated driver's seat, and the long hot walk while everyone stared at me from their non-ditched cars, and the half-hour miserable wait while everyone else drove), and one of the people in the group sat bolt upright. "That was YOU?" he said. "They told us about you! You're FAMOUS!"

He took driver's ed two years after I did. They were still telling the tale of the girl who didn't know how to drive and backed into a ditch and they had to get a crane to get the car out. For all I know, they're telling it even now. It was yet another time in my life when I got to be the Horrible Example.

So I can relate to our neighbor. I haven't backed into a ditch in many years - really, it was just the once - but I still flinch every time I shift into reverse.

And the thing is, as we were talking about it, Best Beloved disclosed her own reverse shame story - one she had not previously told anyone, not even me, even though we've been married more than fifteen YEARS. I will not relate it here on the extremely off chance that the owner of other car reads this. (Also, she would hurt me.) And I shared with her a story I had never told anyone before, about how I hit the mailbox and knocked the whole thing into the street and didn't notice and a neighbor picked it up and put it on our lawn and my parents thought it was the victim of mailbox baseball (a popular pastime where I grew up) and cursed a little bit and then my father put it back up. And I never told them otherwise.

So we shared these stories, and then I started wondering how many other people have driving shame stories to share. (By "driving shame," I don't mean "I never use my turn signals." I mean, like, "I forgot to put the parking brake on and it rolled into the street and sat there for hours, forcing all our neighbors, as they returned from work, to drive into someone else's driveway to get around it.") I'm hoping it's not just Best Beloved and me and the guy across the street who have these stories. I mean, I can think of five of them right off the bat, including one that scares me more now remembering it than it did when I did it.

And the thing is, these are all more terrifying now, because we have the earthling. It's one thing to look back in shame; it's entirely another thing to be looking ahead in horror.

So: do you have any driving shame stories? I want to hear them! Not only will I feel less like an idiot (I backed into the ditch oh my god); I will also have a great resource to show the earthling in about 16 years, when he asks why he can't get a license.
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
My house is more or less under control at this point. I hope. For at least a little while. So I should be able to return to recommending and ranting and whatever other things people hope to find here.

Status report, for those who like detail in their real life updates. )
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
Because I worried a few people when I disappeared without warning during my last hiatus, I'm going to tell y'all what's going on in my life right now. But, hey, this isn't a personal LJ, so I'll completely understand if you want to skip right to the news about the future availability of smut, snark, and fannish obsessions in this space.

But, for those who need to know the background story, or who just haven't met their US RDA for whining today, I offer a more detailed explanation. )

So updates will be extremely sporadic for roughly the next two weeks - basically until we can, with luck, once again return to our house. I miss you all more than I can say; also, my fingers are veritably burning with sets longing to be rec'd. But, until the happy day when our house is ours once more, I will check in as often as I can, waving jealously at you in your freedom to roam this land we love. (Jesus I wish I still had a laptop.)

And so gloom descends on [ profile] thefouthvine, followed closely by self-pity, whining, and random bouts of crying.

(Hmm. Sounds we've got a superhero team on our hands! I want to be gloom. Do I hear a volunteer for self-loathing, cynicism, self-pity, one-up-manship, or schadenfreude? Let's get this team working, folks! We won't even have to fight baddies; they'll run after they take one look at us - Gothic Open Mic Reader Girl, Lady Who Explains Revolting Personal Problems in Detail and with Pictures, Laughing at Everyone Else's Misery Man, and, of course, The Whiner, whose voice has been known to cause seizures in the weak and sensitive. )


thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
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