Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is Abu Ghraib Hiring?

Because if they are, I know a little 13-month-old who should totally send them her résumé.

Today, Snookums subjected me to sleep deprivation, made me stand for hours (with her perched on my hip -- I'd like to see Rumsfeld do that!), and administered various forms of physical abuse, including biting, kicking, hitting, and screaming loud enough to hurt my eardrums. She also kept making me go topless.

About the only thing she didn't do was make me wear a hood and stand on a box. But there's always tomorrow.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

I met up with my friend Bob yesterday. As you can see from the photo, he has long hair. And he's one of the last guys in New York who do. The proof? He was out the other night at a heavy metal bar in Brooklyn with his girlfriend and another friend (female), and three guys tried to pick them up, thinking Bob was just one of the gals.

"Can you believe that?" he said. "Even in a heavy metal bar, I'm the only guy with long hair."

That may be true among adult men, but I've noticed more and more boys lately with shoulder-length hair -- like, practically every white boy over the age of 7. Recently, when my husband saw a photo of the two sons (ages 8 and 12) of a college friend of mine, he mistook them for girls.

I'm not sure what cultural phenomenon explains this, but I have a pretty good idea. And you can see it here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Am a One-Woman Laboratory

I'm now on my third round of Ai Yi Yi and, because the first two tries didn't work, my doctor is getting really aggressive with the drugs. First I started taking a little pill twice a day that's supposed to make me menstruate. On the fifth day, which was yesterday, I started combining the pill with nightly injections of Lupron -- which, ironically, is used to treat symptoms of prostate cancer. (Zany Dad's father took it for this purpose.) Then, sometime after all this makes me get my period, I'll have to start the Repronex injections again -- except this time Doc wants me to take SIX vials, or double what I started out taking.

With the first two Ai Yi Yi rounds, I didn't really notice any side effects, but this time I'm kinda crabby and wondering if it's all them hormones. Or maybe it's just lack of sleep. And you know what the irony of that is? That here I am, up past midnight again, describing all the crazy things I'm doing for the chance to get pregnant again. Meanwhile, I have to get up early tomorrow to interview some doctors for an article I'm writing about some newfangled birth control pill.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Breasts Breasts Breasts!

So I just read a blog about how to make people visit your blog more, which I'm desperately trying to do since NO ONE READS THIS DAMN THING. Anyway, it suggested that after you have a spike in traffic responding to a particular post, you should do a follow-up post on the same topic.

Not surprisingly, yesterday's post about breasts -- tits, ta-tas, hooters, funbags, whatever you want to call them -- got a "spike," if you can call 17 readers a "spike." So here I am, trying to think of something else to write about breasts.

Did you know Gwyneth Paltrow had a boob job? You can read about it here -- but I warn you: It's one of those annoying "Did she or didn't she?" type posts. Anyway, if she did it was for professional reasons: She goes topless in her latest movie.

And here's more news about boob jobs: They're becoming more and more common among men, at least in the UK.

Finally, here is concrete proof that I don't live in the real America: I've never heard the word "breastaurant," apparently a commonly used term for eateries in the Hooters mold, such as Twin Peaks or Bone Daddy's (neither of which I ever heard of either).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go strap some mini-vacuum cleaners to my own breasts and suck the milk out so I can freeze it and feed it to my baby at some later date.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Without Breasts, There Is No Paradise"

Last night Zany Dad was watching soccer on Spanish TV when he happened upon a telenovela.

"What a title!" he muttered.

"What?" I asked.

"Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso," he said. "Without breasts, there is no paradise."

I looked at the TV, expecting to see one of those Spanish-language variety shows where a guy dressed as a bee is surrounded by women in bikinis.

"That's weird," I said. "With that title, it should be a comedy, but it looks like a drama."

It is. Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso is a Colombian soap opera that tells the story of a girl who becomes a prostitute to get out of poverty, but has to get implants when she discovers her ta-tas aren't big enough to attract the coke dealer of her dreams.

The only thing more preposterous than that plot is the fact that NBC is apparently working on an English-language version.

I don't dare tell Snookums about this show, because she'll insist on watching it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"We Are All of Us in the Gutter, But Some of Us Are Looking at the Stars"

I was on the train the other day going to work in Manhattan, when I saw a man and a woman who somehow looked Japanese to me. (That probably sounds very un-PC, but I just had the feeling, based mostly on how they were dressed, that they were from Japan, as opposed to China, or Korea, or the Philippines, any of which would be more likely in my neighborhood.)

That impression last a split second as I got on the train. I sat down, started reading my magazine and forgot all about them.

A few minutes later, I happened to glance over at them and I saw that the woman (it was an older woman and a younger man, I assumed they were mother and son) had folded a foil gum wrapper into a tiny paper crane.

Origami. I sat there a moment and contemplated how amazing it was that she had literally transformed a piece of trash into art.

Anybody else on that train would have wadded their gum in it and thrown it on the floor.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Snookums Meets Snow

This weekend, I bundled Snookums into the new snowsuit she got for her birthday and took her to the park to discover snow.

Snow, Snookums.

Snookums, Snow.

Pleased to meet you -- NOT!

Notwithstanding these photos, it seems Snookums and Snow didn't get along very well. This comes as no surprise, considering Snookums' strong dislike of Snow's posse -- Hat, Boots and The Ever Lovin' Glove Twins.

Even so, her cousins in Brazil will be jealous when they see these pictures. Snow to them is like palm trees to us folks from New Jersey.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Teleconference Has Grown Tiresome

Yesterday I had a teleconference with a bunch of Germans for a newsletter I write for a pharmaceutical company (I won't tell you the name, but they're the people who invented aspirin).

While a lot of the people I work with on this newsletter are just regular folks, this team is, shall we say, VERY CHERMAN. Everything has to be done a certain way. Very, very anal.

But you know what's kinda cute? When they try to sound American while acting totally German. So "Dieter," the guy who's my boss on this project, will say, "Now, if you could do X, und zen Vy, und Z, und zen follow up wiss Drs. A, B und C, complete zis checklist und submit a sprrreadsheet, zat vood be really grrreat!"

He should have said, "I vood be as happy as a little giiiiirl."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Conspiracy Theory

So you know how Cheney supposedly pulled a muscle in his back while he was moving boxes?

Here's what I think really happened: He pretended to be injured so that he didn't have to stand up while Obama took the oath of office.

Think about it: Since when does the Vice President, a guy who's had, like, EIGHT HEART ATTACKS, lift heavy boxes? Like he doesn't have other people to do it for him?

Secondly, it's just the sort of diabolically brilliant plan only Dick could come up with. Don't you agree?

I have to confess, the whole time I watched the inauguration, I kept hoping someone would push that wheelchair down the Capitol steps.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Just Do As She Says, and No One Gets Hurt

Right after Snookums was born, I started calling her "The 6 pound, 5 ounce CEO." And it's only gotten more like that.

I used to laugh at parents who were controlled by their kids. How can something that weighs 100 pounds less than you boss you around? I thought.

Oh, the irony.

I am completely in the thrall of Snookums, The 18.8 Pound CEO. Whatever she says, goes. Because she wouldn't have it any other way.

Time to change her diaper? Nope. Time to flip over on her stomach. Or stand up and start dancing. Or -- if the diaper is full of crap -- to wait until I take it off, then sit down so it smears all over everything.

Time to get in the high chair? NO!!! Time to arch her back in protest and scream. And when she arches her back, there's no way, short of breaking it, I can get her to bend. (Tickling her used to work, but she got wise to that pretty fast.)

Babies don't fight fair. No Marquess of Queensbury Rules for them, no sirree! Or Robert's Rules of Order for that matter. Parliamentary procedure goes out the window as they pinch, scratch and gouge their way to victory.

Which is why, if Snookums and Mike Tyson got in a fight, Snookums would win.

Even if she lost part of her ear.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to Perform Better at Work: Do What You Love

I did an interesting interview the other day for an article I'm writing for a corporate client about Marcus Buckingham's career training programs. I'd never heard of the guy, which means I must be living on a desert island because he was on Oprah last April. But I found his ideas intriguing. Here's what I learned:

1. You'll go farther in your career by focusing on the things you enjoy doing -- and spending less time doing the tasks you hate.

In Buckingham's world, your "Strengths" aren't necessarily the things you're best at doing. They're the things you love doing, even if you're not the best at them. They're the tasks that make you feel "in the flow" while you're doing them -- energetic, as if time is passing unnoticed.

In contrast, your "Weaknesses" aren't necessarily what you're bad at. They're the tasks that drain you, that you put off doing because you don't enjoy them. You might even be good at them, but you can't stand doing them.

Most performance management systems try to get you work on your "needs improvement" areas. But if these are things you can't stand doing -- Weaknesses -- the effort it'll take you to go from bad to mediocre in those areas isn't worth it. Instead, you should focus your energy on doing what you love to do -- your Strengths -- and you'll go from good to outstanding or even extraordinary in much less time.

2. The best way to be a team player is to offer up your individual Strengths.

When we're working on a team, we typically think we should do whatever the team needs. The truth is, the best way to maximize team productivity is to communicate what your Strengths are and offer those abilities. That way, your teammates know when they count on you to be your most brilliant and engaged.

3. If there's a work activity you can't stand (a Weakness), try getting out of doing it. If you can't do that, change how you think about it.

You know how you hate having to turn in that TPS report every month? Here's a thought: Maybe you don't have to. Sometimes, big bureaucracies have you doing tasks that aren't really necessary -- you just do them because your predecessor did them, but if you stopped, no one would notice, or care.

If the task is something you can't get out of, however, maybe you can change your perception of it. The woman I interviewed said she was coaching a lawyer who said he hated redlining documents. She asked him for a Strength, and he told her he loved negotiating contracts.

She said, "OK, so the next time your marking up a document, think of it as the first step toward a negotiation. Imagine yourself in the negotiation room, bringing up this point or that point."

He tried it and told her it worked. He doesn't love redlining documents now, but at least he feels somewhat neutral toward them. Which means the energy he used to waste hating doing them can be redirected toward something more productive -- like clobbering his adversary in a negotiation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Cat Has a Hormonal Imbalance

For years, I've lived with a cat who's a snuggle addict.

Unlike the other members of his normally standoffish species, Monte is always leaning all over me, pushing his body against mine, lying on top of me no matter how many times I shoo him away.

Before I had a baby, I used to joke that I was going to have to buy a Snugli and wear him around the house.

I may still have to do that. If this video is any evidence, I may even have to breastfeed him.

Fortunately, now I realize this is all a hormonal imbalance. See, I was reading this article about hormones associated with mammalian pair bonding, and I found out that in males, vasopressin creates urges for bonding and nesting.

Monte obviously has an excess of vasopressin in his system. Now I just have to find a drug that will correct this. Is there a vet in the house?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stroke of Genius

This morning, I received the following email from a PR flack in Argentina:


Good evening,

I am in charge of the Press department at Hospital Universitario Austral. I am sending you this press release so you can learn about the relationship between the waistline measurement and stroke risk, based on a study recently published in Stroke magazine.

Thank you.


Mariana Israel.


Waist Size, Indicator of Stroke Risk

Waistline measurement should not be greater than 102 cm in men and 88 cm in women.

For a while now, research has been done on the relationship of obesity with coronary heart diseases. A new study published in December in Stroke magazine shows that overweight means also a greater risk of suffering a stroke.

[. . . ]


Some questions:

1. Mariana, why are you sending me this email? Are you telling me I'm too fat?

2. Why do you say "Good evening" when you sent the press release this morning? (And don't think I'm going to fall for that time zone excuse -- the time difference between New York and Buenos Aires is negligible.)

3. Do you realize how HUGE "88 cm" sounds? This is why the metric system sucks, and why fat-ass Americans don't use it.

4. If I wear a slimming, all-black ensemble, will it prevent me from having a stroke?

5. What about vertical stripes?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Titties in The New Yorker!

The New Yorker this week has an article all about tits!

OK, not really. It's about breast pumps.

These milking machines have become so ubiquitous, the author claims, that in some cases they're actually promoted instead of breastfeeding. That is, women are feeding their babies milk they pumped into a bottle when they could simply be breastfeeding them. (This is especially in the United States, where we have no maternity leave to speak of. So companies are getting tax breaks to set up "lactation rooms" so that poor women can work and pump instead of staying home on welfare and breastfeeding.)

I HATE pumping. I hate schlepping the goddamn Medela Pump In Style back and forth every day on the subway. It's HEAVY. And I especially hate having to put it on the floor when the train is crowded, but sometimes I have no choice.

I hate having to hook myself up to it twice a day while I sit in the supply closet at work.

Of course, I'm glad I have it. It's kept my milk supply going so I can keep breastfeeding Snookums when I'm home. (And lately, Snookums pretty much wants to breastfeed nonstop when I'm around. Her idea of the perfect situation would be for me to take off my shirt the minute I got home and go around topless so that she could grab a sip whenever she felt like it.)

The time I hated pumping most was when I had to go visit a client. I was in the early stages of breastfeeding Snookums, so my breasts still got engorged. I was too embarrassed to ask my client for some privacy (now, I wouldn't be), so I went to the bathroom with the intention of pumping. But there was no electric outlet.

I ended up sitting on the floor in an empty office, pumping while I was hiding under a desk. Why? Because the office had a GLASS DOOR AND WALLS, so hiding under a desk was the only way passersby wouldn't see me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Men Are the New Women

I overheard the following snatches of conversation between two women in the locker room at my gym today:

"On my birthday, he took a gift my friend had given me -- a beautiful orchid, worth $200 -- destroyed the birthday card, and gave it to his sister. And I didn't find out until later when my friend called me up and asked about it!"

"He let strangers wear my clothes. My fur coat."

"I married a woman, Jane. I married a woman. He was the lady of the house."

Actually, I take that back. It wasn't a conversation. It was a monologue.

Friday, January 9, 2009

How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

I know my faithful readers -- all three of you -- have been waiting with bated breath to hear what happened after my hour-long job interview yesterday with Rosetta Stone.

First of all, I PREPARED for the interview, which I originally didn't plan on doing, since I wasn't all that sure I wanted the job. But I went online and I read this. And this.

The biggest thing I did was to actually take the advice of dressing up for the interview as if it were in person. I took a shower and put on a suit, makeup and high heels.

And you know what? It worked. Because every time I looked in the mirror, I saw someone who looked professional, which helped me sound more professional as I answered the questions.

One thing I didn't do was rehearse my answers enough. The articles I read said you should have four or five points you want to get across and keep telling the same stories about yourself over and over to illustrate those points. I wasn't that great at this -- especially since the interviewer spent a lot of time asking me about jobs I'd had 15 years ago.

Long story short, when we got to the end of the interview, the interviewer asked me if I had any questions. I said, "Yes, what is the salary range you're offering for this position?"

It turned out to be about half what I'm earning now.

So my takeaway from all this is:

1. Prepare for a phone interview just like you would prepare for an in-person job interview.

2. Companies should be up front about salaries. If Rosetta Stone had been open from the beginning about the kind of pay they were offering, that woman could have spent an hour interviewing someone who was a better match. As it was, she wasted her time. (My time wasn't wasted, however -- I got a blog post and a lot of new information about job interviewing out of the experience.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Job Interview

Sometimes, when Joan gets sick of her job crafting propaganda for Fortune 500 companies, she goes a little crazy and starts looking for work elsewhere. Like here. Or here. Which is how she ended up with a job interview tomorrow at Rosetta Stone.

OK, enough with the pretentious use of the third person.

In reality, it was my mother's fault. (I can't wait until Snookums starts talking so she can start saying things like that.) Anyway, my mother is always trying to convince me to move down to Virginia so she can see Snookums more often, so one day she forwarded me a classified ad from Craigslist in Charlottesville that said Rosetta Stone was looking for a "publications editor."

Of course I was all, "I can do that! I speak four languages and I used to write test prep! Plus I went to college in Virginia so they'll love me! I'm perfect for this!" So I sent in my resume. Then they emailed asking for this, and that, and some writing samples, and so on.

The next thing I knew I was faxing them a four-page job application (mandatory, even though it was redundant because they already had my resume) and signing a non-disclosure agreement (also mandatory) and a bunch of other crap, all before we could do a PHONE INTERVIEW. For a job I don't even know if I want, because I don't have any idea what the salary is. (And it would have to be pretty high to convince me to move to Harrisonburg.)

So tomorrow morning I have a ONE-HOUR phone interview. It was supposed to be today, but when the HR person found out I could only talk for 30 minutes -- because I was all, "I'm at work, and I can't really be away from my desk locked here in this supply closet where I pump breast milk for a whole hour because it usually only takes me 15 minutes to pump and my boss will wonder what the fuck happened to me" -- she rescheduled for tomorrow.

Stay tuned. The next post may be written from Ole Fuhginia.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Did They Look Taliban?

(This post has been brought to you by the Department of Homeland Security.)

The other day I was getting café con leche from my favorite Hispanic restaurant in Journal Square when I witnessed something odd.

A Muslim couple (bearded man, woman wearing a headscarf) was standing outside on the street with a giant, battered suitcase on wheels. An older Muslim man in his 60s with a big white beard walked by. He was very devout -- I could tell by the prominent prayer bruise on his forehead.

The younger man approached him and began speaking in Arabic. Now, I know maybe five words in Arabic, but it was enough for me to notice that this guy was not a native speaker at all.

The older man immediately responded in perfect, unaccented American English: "I'm sorry, but I don't speak . . . " and he and the younger man started talking in English. It seemed the couple was looking for a certain mosque.

The most mysterious part of this whole occurrence was the older man. He looked more Egyptian than Pharoah, and from his advanced age it seemed unlikely he'd been born in the United States. But he spoke perfect English
. . . and no Arabic? Then how does he understand the prayers at the mosque?

Fast forward to today: I'm coming out of my favorite café con leche place again, and there's the Muslim couple on the street again, along with their ubiquitous battered suitcase.

I realized they were standing there probably because that building -- which is right next to the Hispanic restaurant -- has a mosque on the second floor. I also remembered that this was the mosque that was once the redoubt of the infamous Sheikh Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric who helped plan the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.

I don't know what this all means, but I'd like to think these three people were all inept American spies attempting to infiltrate the mosque, about 15 years too late. Sort of like when undercover cops show up at rock concerts to bust pot smokers, but you can spot them a mile away because they're wearing their big black shoes and white tube socks.

P.S. The title of this post was inspired by something that happened to a friend of mine shortly after 9/11. She was on an Amtrak train and a large family sitting nearby was making a lot of noise and creating a disturbance. She went to find a conductor to complain about the noise. When she finally found one, he demanded, "What did they look like? Did they look Taliban?"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mother's Milk, the Magical Elixir

When I got home from the office today, Snookums had a fever of about 101. It had come on suddenly after 5 o'clock, the nanny said, and she was very sleepy and not interested in playing.

I breastfed her for a few minutes. And lo and behold, the redness in her eyes went away and the color returned to her cheeks. And she suddenly wanted to play. And climb up the stairs. And eat.

She still has a fever (of about 103, the last time I checked) but she already seems much, much better. It was an amazing transformation.

Maybe I should try some mother's milk the next time I'm sick.

Too bad it tastes like ass.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hello Kitty: Sold into Slavery

The dolls shown at right were obtained from a McDonald's in Kuala Lumpur several years ago. They depict Hello Kitty and her groom, Dear Daniel, dressed in Malay wedding costume.

Hello Kitty getting married? Wait a minute. Hello Kitty is supposed to be a CHILD. Who still lives at HOME. Relishing her mama's apple pie and playing with her twin sister, Mimmy.

No doubt Dear Nefarious Daniel purchased her virginity from her parents. Daniel, who learned pornography photography from his father, wants to be a "cameraman" and likes "cheesecake."

Is anyone seeing a pattern here?

On the other hand, maybe Hello Kitty isn't so innocent after all. She is, after all, depicted on a vibrator massager. (It has three speeds: regular, fast, and Helloooo Kitty!)

Hello Kitty. Children's toy? Or synonym for pussy?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ai Yi Yi!

I have my period. Which means the second attempt at IUI (intrauterine insemination) didn't work. Sigh.

Just to bring you up to date: I was lucky enough to get pregnant spontaneously (i.e. without fertility drugs) with Snookums in early 2007, just a few weeks before Zany Dad had surgery for prostate cancer. I don't know if you're as versed in the male anatomy as I am (and really, could anyone be as much of an expert on male anatomy as Joan?), but after a man has his prostate removed, he doesn't ejaculate. So, no baby goo. Hence, IUI.

When I went for the IUI on December 23, the doctor let me look at Zany Dad's sperm under the microscope. "The motility isn't very good," he said, by which he meant the sperm weren't especially active.

I looked under the microscope at what looked like a few teeny-weeny black dots here and there, just sorta chugging along. It reminded me of Zany Dad in the morning when he has to get up for work and can't get out of bed.

Like father, like sperm.

Let's hope the next IUI round works.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Paging Dr. Freud . . .

I awoke from a delicious nap today having had a most horrible dream in which some retarded guy was pursuing me, wanted to get next to me, kept coming after me, and I kept fleeing. I remember the sense of feeling overwhelmed and just wanting to be alone and away from this repulsive creature. 

I awoke and reflected on the meaning. Hmmm . . . a drooling, semicoherent creature running after me, pawing me, grabbing me . . . 

I wonder who that represents? 

Friday, January 2, 2009

Snookums' New Address

It has come to my attention that Snookums has moved. Her new address is:

1000 Doo Doo St.
Poopytown, NJ 12345

I swear I never changed so many diapers in my life.

A New Year's Observation

All the practice I've had communicating with Snookums sure came in handy on New Year's Eve. Over the past few months, I've learned how to interpret -- or at least pretend to interpret -- nonsensical babblings, like "Ga ba da ga ba ba?" and "Fweh?" I found myself drawing on those skills frequently the other night talking to people who'd had too much to drink.

Like the totally soused lesbian who told me she made jewelry. I asked, "What kind?" and she mumbled, "Centrifugal, centrifugal," as she waved her little one-hitter around.

Bonus observation: Everyone thinks Barack Obama got that "Yes we can!" stuff from Cesar Chavez. But he really got it from Bob the Builder.