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February 26, 2005
Open Thread 37
Posted by Teresa at 01:02 AM *

Loke ye be prudent as neddris and symple as dowves.

February 25, 2005
The mother drive-by
Posted by Teresa at 09:20 AM *

There’s been a fairly spectacular upwelling of rants, sentiments, and anecdotes at Chez Miscarriage (via LizDitz). It started with the proprietor’s sturdy rant about Judith Warner’s new book, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, which as I understand it says that mothers who try too hard to do everything right are at fault because they’re trying to do everything right.

It appears that mothers are constantly getting told that they’re doing something wrong, especially by other mothers. The term for this is a “mother drive-by.”

That initial post got 127 comments plus hundreds of e-mails, so Chez Miscarriage did a follow-up post:
as I read through your voluminous tomes, my eyes riveted to the screen, I began to notice a pattern. A theme, if you will. A leitmotif, which was this: apparently, other mothers frequently say crappy things to you about your mothering. Now, I wasn’t too sure what to make of that, so I began to surf a few bulletin boards in the hopes of finding some hard data. …
Which she found, in loony abundance.
Knowing me as you do, you can probably imagine my surge of joy upon finding evidence of a deranged collective maternal psyche right there on my computer screen. And yet my thrill was short-lived, since—as my husband so kindly put it—“how do you know if any of that is real? weirdos write all kinds of things on the internet.” Yes. Well. Thank you, honey. I’ll take that as your belated Valentine’s Day gift.

So here’s what I want to know from you folks: have you ever been the victim of a mother drive-by? And if so, what happened?

Please, no psychological theories, sociological analyses, or political opinions. I want personal anecdotes and factual stories only, the weirder the better.

Show me what you’re working with.
As of this moment, there are 328 comments to that thread, most of them telling stories that make my jaw drop. Her lively third post, Things I am Learning from the “Mother Drive-By” Thread, has collected another 80 comments. Her fourth post, People Unclear on the Concept, went up yesterday:
Over the past few days, as I sat here at my desk, hundreds of comments and emails have poured in regarding the “mothering drive-by” phenomenon. I’ve read every single one, laughing or muttering in outrage, enjoying them all. Except the drive-bys.

Yes, as hard as it is to believe, some women posted on the drive-by thread in order to make a drive-by. I gritted my teeth and refrained from pointing out their poor reading comprehension skills and deleted their posts and emailed them polite explanations. “Hello, I see that this is the first time you’ve ever posted on the blog. The regular posters here work hard to maintain an atmosphere of respect and acceptance. Please feel free to repost your comment in a less inflammatory manner. Thanks!”

But as more and more newcomers visited, the drive-by comments only increased. After a while, I stopped emailing polite explanations and just deleted the posts. I’m sorry but real mothering includes breastfeeding and if you didn’t want to breastfeed then you shouldn’t have had children. Delete. To all working mothers out there: if you’re okay with having a stranger raise your kids, who am I to say anything? Delete. I am so sick of AP mothers who use their breastmilk as an excuse not to go out and get a real job. Delete. My husband stays home with our baby and has been doing this for almost a year now. I just want to let the stay at home moms know something: if you see a stay at home dad hanging out in the park with his child HE IS NOT TRYING TO PICK YOU UP. Get over yourselves! Delete while acknowledging that I’m sorry you’re so frustrated and your husband is so lonely, but COME ON! This blog is not a Vent-O-Mat! Try to stay on topic!

By the way, I just want to let all the moms out there know something: get over yourselves!


Then I received the following comment, the comment that made me mutter, “Okay, that’s it, it’s posting time.” Take a look, while keeping in mind that your comments to this blog entry will all be unfailingly polite and respectful because there’s no way I’ve worked this hard to remain civil just to have you people steal the curse words right out of my mouth:
I’m probably going to get a new one ripped, but here goes. After reading all these comments, hasn’t anyone ever done anything wrong in raising their kids? I’m not talking about the breastfeeding-type thing … [but] about the stupid things I see every day. Like mittens. I was walking in the park the other day, it’s easy 25 degrees, and at least 1/3 of the kids under 1-11/2 years didn’t have mittens on, including some who were sleeping. Now, you can’t tell me every one of these kids has a fit and throws off their mittens. Or, as another poster noted, giving kids soda, or “apple juice” (which is not juice but sugar water - read the label). I have NEVER said anything, but boy would I like to. It seems that no one is willing to consider whether their actions might not be the best idea for babies and kids. [And this includes piercings - yes they are mutilations. Not that I’m attaching any negative connotation to the term, but piercing does alter (i.e. mutilate the body). I personally have lots of “mutilations,” but I was a grown up who made my own decisions about this - not someone else who thought it was “cute”]. Lastly, regarding newborns out in public: it is recommended that newborns not be exposed to crowded places (like anywhere people shop) for at least 4 weeks. I too am amazed at some of the things people say to moms; but I’m equally amazed at some of the stupid, dangerous and self-centered things moms do to their kids. PS Hot chocolate has caffeine.


Welcome to my blog.

Let’s take it from the top, shall we? …
That one’s already up to 173 comments.

I’m astounded. The behavior they’re talking about is worse and weirder than the stories on the Wedding Etiquette Hell website, and I wouldn’t have thought anyone could top those. I’d heard occasional mutterings about it from friends who have children, but I see now that I owe them an apology. I had no idea how bad it was. There’s a universe of wildly dysfunctional interactions going on out there.

February 23, 2005
Godawful User Interface
Posted by Teresa at 09:38 PM * 76 comments

I assume I’m neither the first nor the twentieth nor the two hundredth person to be driven to foamy-mouthed ranting by Apple’s iTunes retail audiobooks section. Patrick tells me the iTunes site design has come in for some heavy criticism. Ask Patrick about that if you’re interested. What has me exasperated is the way they organize their titles.

Is the site divided into fiction and nonfiction, with the fiction grouped by category and author, and the nonfiction by subject, as is only proper? It is not. It’s divided into twenty-two rudimentary categories—News, Nonfiction, Travel & Adventure, etc.—that have no subdivisions, which means they’re too big to browse effectively. The categories themselves are next to useless.

When you browse their top-level contents, all you get is a scrolling list labeled “Author.” This is a multifaceted piece of stupidity. First, the space-wasting layout could easily have accommodated an accompanying list of titles. Second, listing titles by author is not the way to organize most nonfiction categories. (Languages, for instance, should be organized by language.) Third, the list is alphabetized by first name. Fourth (and here we’re getting into serious stupidity), easily half of the names in that scrolling list aren’t the authors. Instead, they’re the people who read the book aloud for the audiotape edition, or in some cases the packager who put together a series of audiobooks. To give you some idea how mindlessly this list has been compiled, in every category there’s an entry under “Author” for “Full Cast.” If you highlight it, you get every title that was recorded by the full cast of whatever it was that recorded it.

The actual author’s name can most reliably be found in the extended listing for a title, under “Artist.”

But back to that top-level list. If you highlight one of the names under “Author,” you’re shown a further list of every audiobook which is by that author, or was read by that reader, or was recorded by a full cast, whether or not those titles have anything to do with the category you’re browsing. For instance, the History category lists Flo Gibson as an author, though in fact she’s a reader. If you highlight her name, the list of audiobook titles you see includes Mansfield Park, Persuasion, The Jungle Book, Wind in the Willows, and Wuthering Heights. In Religion & Spirituality you can find The St. Charles Players’ dramatizations of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Christmas Carol, Cinderella, Oliver Twist, Peter Pan, The Golden Bowl, The Time Machine, The Virginian, and other entirely secular titles—at a guess, because of the “St.” in “St. Charles.”

This setup fails to fulfill the most basic requirements of marketing categories. It doesn’t make books easier to find; it doesn’t group titles and authors you already know you like with other titles and authors you’ll probably like; and it doesn’t exclude books you aren’t looking for.

A database is not a user interface. Of all the companies to get that one wrong —

February 16, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 09:18 PM * 228 comments

Yo, everybody? Do me a favor. Tell Lucy Huntzinger to finish her novel.

February 11, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 10:58 AM * 172 comments

I haven’t wanted to say so, but lately my narcolepsy has been much more disabling than usual. I’ve been descending further and further into slow loris territory: slow, easily confused, physically uncoordinated, prone to error; capable of doing one thing at a time, and that only if I concentrate. As soon as I stop doing it, my body goes into full-rest mode, and my breathing drops into what sounds like the early stages of sleep. Nothing moves then unless I consciously move it, which is where the slow loris part comes in.

If you’re normal, you reach for a pencil or turn your head to look at something pretty much automatically. It’s relatively fast. When I’m running at these primitive clock speeds, going from a resting state to movement isn’t automatic: [?] [thing to look at?] [turn head] [continue turning head, look at thing] [thing?] [ah, yes] [if finished, drop back to resting state]. It can look odd. If you’ve never seen a slow loris move, imagine instead a simply-programmed automaton moving smoothly but at half speed.

Forgive me; I very nearly digress, though that’s part of it too. When everything takes this long, and you can only hold on to one task at a time, it’s easy to forget your initial purpose, and take your cues from the matter nearest to hand: a drunkard’s walk, digression succeeding digression. Vast accumulation of unfinished weblog posts.

Yes. Anyway. Narcolepsy, definitely of the bad. My weight’s gone up. I have trouble focusing my eyes. I have trouble staving off depression. I have trouble navigating and doing math. Small complications make long delays. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed that my hands have started curling up whenever I’m not consciously doing something with them: increasing muscle weakness. Doubtless that’s why I dropped so many ornaments when I was taking them down off the Christmas tree.

Finally, today, Patrick noticed what I couldn’t: my Cylert tablets (generic name pemoline, my main prescription), which are bitty white pills, seemed bittier than usual. Checked the label on the prescription bottle. They’re the wrong dose, half the strength they should be.

Oh. No wonder. No (insert here long string of bad words we all know, with many repetitions and grammatical variations) wonder.

That’s at least six weeks at the wrong dose. It may have been four and a half months, if the previous prescription-plus-refills was written to the same strength. My life is lived on narrow margins at the best of times, and I’ve been on a half-dose of my medications. No wonder it’s taken forever to catch up after that round of the flu. No wonder everything’s been taking forever. No (emphatically unrepeatable) wonder.

…If I allowed myself to think about how much of my life has been eaten up by crap like this, I’d become unmanageably angry, and there’s those narrow margins again: I can’t afford it. For however long it took me to come to terms with it, that much anger would suck up all my available attention and energy. I might hazard it if I knew in advance how long it would take, but I don’t. So instead I rage briefly, then go back to my eternal game of catch-up. It may be justifiable anger, but I won’t trade the rest of my world for it.

February 08, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 01:24 PM * 81 comments

Okay, okay. I wrote Chapter 15 of Atlanta Nights. It’s one of the two chapters (the other is 12b) that were written from the same chunk of outline, the one in which Yvonne Perrin and Richard Isaacs wind up shagging each other at Callie Archer and Bruce Lucent’s wedding reception. Incidentally, the wedding is recapped in detail by one of the characters in Chapter 14, so there are actually three non-matching accounts of the same occasion.

Don’t get your hopes up. Chapter 15 is not awash in joyful errors. In fact, it’s the one chapter in the book that’s written in something resembling standard English, though Jim Macdonald did throw in a bunch of formatting errors plus a typo or two, just to keep it from looking like it belonged in a different book. I figured it would confuse the issue.

But that wasn’t the whole of my intent. What’s the matter with my chapter? Everything. Bear in mind that I don’t write fiction; I edit it. Chapter 15 may be written in passable commercial prose, but it sheds no light, tells no stories, leads nowhere, says nothing that hasn’t been said before, and in general has no damned reason to exist.

I see a lot of books like that.

And now for something completely different: a bit of Chapter 7!
The sun broke through the clouds then its brilliant golden disk burning a hole through the great puffs of water vapor to send a shaft of golden light zigzagging down through the layers of atmosphere and warm the earth in a way that no sunlight since the beginning of time had ever warmed the earth before. Somewhere a child was being born. Somewhere a dog was barking. Life was going on but in this one moment at this particular place in time and space. The two beautiful women, one twisting her hair into knots, the other sittings sideways, were not part of it. They were here only for each other and for the memory of a great man who had walked the earth like a rock in the sand. Life is like that sometimes, thought Margaret helplessly.

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