Saturday, February 27, 2010

Olympic Gender Dysphoria

Here is a video capture of Olympic skeleton gold medalist Jon Montgomery taking a happy swig off a pitcher of beer handed to him by a fan moments after his victory last Friday night (2/19) in Vancouver (via):

The response to Montgomery's ecstatic, public big gulp from the International Olympic Committee and from Gilbert Felli, the IOC's executive director of the Olympics? Um, well, let's see, I think that response might be roughly summed up as:

And here is one of many photographs taken of the Canadian women's hockey team celebrating its gold-medal victory over the burly girls of the US of A this Thursday night (2/25) (via):

(More pics here. Trust us when we tell you that you want to click on that link.)

The response to a bunch of athletes from, we think, the XX side of the gender fence doing a bit of a chugalug in a moment of unbridled exuberance? Interestingly, that response might be summed up this way:

Well, or that's how we would translate what Felli is reported to have told the Associated Press when he learned that the women's team had gone back on the ice after its win and staged a celebration that included "swigging from bottles of champagne, guzzling beer, and smoking cigars" as well as an attempt by one player to drive the ice re-surfacing machine. Felli told the AP that such behavior was "not what we want to see."
"I don't think it's a good promotion of sport values," he said. "If they celebrate in the changing room, that's one thing, but not in public. We will investigate what happened."
Oh, by all means, Mr. Felli, do send in the gender cops to investigate these violations of female decorum. Ladies, as we all know, do not drink in public. We much prefer for the vagina-equipped to do their tippling behind closed doors, especially when they've just spent the last few hours out on the ice slamming the crap out of a bunch of their stick-wielding sisters. Wouldn't want anyone to get the idea that the delicate creatures have been coarsened by the experience or anything, now would we?

Here's a suggestion, Mr. Felli. Once you get those "centers of excellence" set up, those happy-sounding joints around the world that are going to be "equipped to treat athletes with [disorders of sex development] [sic]," perhaps you can set up special seminars where, say, the certified female figure skaters can teach those insufficiently feminine hockey players how to act like ladies. You know, they can give them tips on binging and purging behind closed doors! Maybe even show them how to smile sweetly when an abusive coach threatens to boot them off the team if they won't put out! I mean, really, Mr. Felli, there's a whole lot more to this gender thing than just assuring that the "women" have all the right parts and just the right chromosomes. They've got to act the part, too, don't they? Because otherwise, you know, you might have to suffer through all kinds of icky stuff you don't want to see.

Girls will be girls, Mr. Felli, but it takes a tough guy like you to make sure, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Boots on the Ground

(Photo Credit: Moose, on her iPhone, 2/24/10)

This isn't a post, really. It's more of a Post-It. A little bit of a love note, just to let you all know that we are thinking of you here in Roxie's World. The photo is from a walk Moose took yesterday out on the trail. She hadn't been out there in several weeks, because the snow was too icky for skiing and too high for walking, but yesterday was warm and sunny and she was feeling restless and bold, so she ventured down to see whether conditions were go for a bit of a stroll. Happily, they were. She made it all the way to Piney Branch without too much trouble, except for one nasty spot near where some road work is being done. She wandered off the trail at that point and ended up stepping into mud that nearly covered her shoes (see above), but instead of feeling annoyed she was delighted -- delighted that her feet were in three inches of mud rather than three feet of snow, blissed out by the smell of the rich brown goo and the sound of the water roaring in the creek -- because of course it all means that spring is edging its way toward Roxie's World, whatever the weather report for the next 24 hours may say.

Which of course made her think of Winnie-the-Pooh's ecstatic celebration of early spring, his poem "Noise," from The House at Pooh Corner. Surely you know it:

Oh, the butterflies are flying,
Now the winter days are dying,
And the primroses are trying
To be seen.

And the turtle-doves are cooing,
And the woods are up and doing,
For the violets are blue-ing
In the green.

Oh, the honey-bees are gumming,
On their little wings, and humming
That the summer, which is coming,
Will be fun.

And the cows are almost cooing,
And the turtle-doves are mooing,
Which is why a Pooh is poohing
In the sun.

For the spring is really springing;
You can see a skylark singing,
And the blue-bells, which are ringing,
Can be heard.

And the cuckoo isn't cooing,
But he's cucking and he's ooing,
And a Pooh is simply poohing
Like a bird.

Moose has loved this poem for darn near half a century, and, despite that PhD in English, she still has no idea what Pooh's "poohing in the sun" might mean, but, well, if you can do it in the sun she is all for it, and she hopes that you are, too. Peace out, silly old bears. May spring find you soon, wherever you are.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Case of the Invisible Furlough

Even a dead dog has a pretty good sniffer, but I gotta tell you my sharp nose is having a hard time detecting the faintest whiff of action at Queer the Turtle U around the issue of furloughs. Regular and local readers will recall that QTU was on the leading edge of the furlough wave, enduring its first round of temporary pay cuts in the spring 2009 semester. A second round is happening right now, and a third is likely, since Maryland Gov. Martin “You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy” O’Malley calls for furloughs for state employees in his proposed 2011 budget.

Oh, sure, QTU has gotten in on the resurgence of campus activism that has occurred this academic year, as devastating budget cuts and fee increases in the University of California system got national attention in the fall, sparking actions there and elsewhere. In College Park, the ineptly handled firing of the associate provost for equity and diversity brought 600 protesters to the steps of QTU’s main administration building in November. A misguided proposal to consolidate a number of diversity-focused academic programs into a single unit was the catalyst for a well-attended town hall meeting in December in which faculty, mostly from the arts and humanities, stood up to argue that diluting the identities and intellectual coherence of such programs would not be worth whatever (minimal) cost savings might result from lumping them together. (That proposal has now been officially deep-sixed.) There has even been some movement on the possibility of unionizing grad student employees and adjunct faculty.

Meanwhile, what are we hearing from faculty and staff about furloughs, about “temporary” salary reductions that are beginning to feel like a permanent fact of life in College Park? (Please click on the button below. That sound file contains one of the few jokes in this long, uncharacteristically serious post. We want you to get at least one good chuckle out of your visit to Roxie's World today.)

It’s true! Aside from a town hall meeting organized by the administration to discuss the budget situation in the fall, there has been no public, organized response – No protests, no teach-ins, no angst-ridden debates about what one should actually do on furlough days, no blood-curdling cries of, “2, 4, 6, 8, if we work, we should get paid!”

What’s up with that? you might be wondering (or we might be projecting again). Why has the Turtle crawled into its shell for a nap at a moment of crisis? Good grief, you’re thinking, with two QTU profs in the household, Roxie’s World has lost thousands of dollars in income in the past year. Why aren’t you ornery bitches raging in the streets?

I will tell you why, my close, patient readers of rhetorical questions. It’s because, at QTU, furloughs this year have been made almost entirely invisible, even to those whose pockets are being picked by them. Invisibility, of course, greatly reduces the likelihood of John and Jane Q. Public getting incensed about getting less than they paid for when they dropped their Tiny Turtles off in College Park in the fall to get educated. It also gives the tenured and untenured radicals on the faculty far less incentive to make a stink. Out of sight, out of mind is a recipe for quiescence, a tasteless Turtle Soup of political unconsciousness, at least on the matter of furloughs.

Here, in our judgment, is how it happened. This year’s furlough plan was announced on September 19 and took effect on September 27. Eligible employees have from two to ten furlough days, based on their rate of compensation. (Employees earning less than $30,000 had two days, for example, while those earning more than $200,000 had ten.) (Snarky aside: Don’t you love that term “eligible employees,” as if we were talking about some contest with a super-cool prize? Enter now for your chance to win in the Excellence Without Money Sweepstakes!) Anyway, this time around the “temporary” pay reduction is being taken out in equal amounts over 17 pay periods between September and May. Further, the university opted to close for four days and make those furlough days for everybody. The closure days are December 23-24 and March 17-18, which happens to be in the middle of spring break. Employees with more than four furlough days (i.e., anyone earning more than $70,000) must schedule additional days, with supervisory approval. For faculty, the additional days are to be taken on non-instructional days.

Now, one could argue that this plan is more efficient from a bureaucratic perspective and more humane from a financial perspective. In closing for four days when the campus is pretty much a ghost town anyway, the plan greatly simplifies the timekeeping aspects of the process. In spreading the reductions out evenly over the course of the academic year, it distributes the pain for employees and spares them from having to make difficult decisions on a biweekly basis. Let’s see, you can imagine the department secretary saying to herself, should I take a furlough day during this pay period, when the rent is due, or should I wait until the next one, when I only have to pay the gas bill? (That’s how things worked last spring.) Making the pay reductions even, automatic, and predictable alleviates much of the anxiety of the situation for affected employees.

Intended or not, however, one other consequence of this more or less automatic procedure is, as we have been suggesting, to make the furloughs largely invisible. By reducing employees’ anxiety and limiting the number of active choices they have to make with regard to planning and reporting, the plan helps to make tolerable what arguably ought to be intolerable: the idea of working harder and earning less. (For faculty in particular, this is obviously what is happening. No one has suggested that the cut in pay will be accompanied by a reduction in the expectations for research and service, the non-instructional parts of faculty workload.) In this manner, the QTU furlough plan contributes insidiously to what the University of Illinois’ Lauren Goodlad has brilliantly termed “furloughisme,” a logic or mentality of crisis management that has taken hold in higher education in recent years in which drastic measures, imposed from on high and often without administrative transparency, become the normal way of doing business. Hey, if you can mandate one or two rounds of “temporary” pay cuts and no one makes a peep, why not go for a third or a fourth? Why not increase class sizes by a body or five? Why not require faculty to walk over hot coals on their way to a meeting devoted to Learning Outcomes Assessment? (Oh, wait – We’ve been doing that for years, or at least it feels that way.)

We are not accusing the QTU administration of bad faith or of having engineered a plot to minimize protest or even public discussion of the impact of furloughs and other budget-cutting measures. Well, OK, we might be implying a little bit of the latter, but we have been impressed with how sensitively QTU Prez Dan Mote has responded to calls for greater transparency on budget matters. (We will be among those who will sincerely mourn when Dan steps down as president at the end of this year, but that will be the subject of another post.) Colleges and universities have a powerful interest in not calling attention to such impacts, though we have long felt the commitment to institutional happy talk made it harder to make the case for increased levels of public support for higher ed.

We are also not accusing faculty of being negligent or apathetic in not offering greater resistance or critique in response to the measures that have been taken. The simple fact is that the situation in College Park is not as dire as it is in places like Berkeley and Urbana-Champaign. There is concern here but not the kind of justifiable rage and terror that develops in response to the catastrophic failures in leadership those institutions have experienced or to news that a state is nearly half a billion dollars behind on its payments to the university for the year.

Nonetheless, we think there is a danger in allowing furloughs and other kinds of cuts to become invisible, whatever the structural impediments may be to our seeing them and publicly acknowledging them. Silence allows the public to think that the cuts don’t matter. It encourages the reflexive belief that faculty are underworked and overpaid, that universities are bastions of privilege or cesspools of wasted public funds. It also increases the risk that “furloughisme” will become a part of our way of thinking about who we are and what we do. If we don’t break the silence, if we don't insist on bringing furloughs out of obscurity and into visibility and articulacy, we tacitly agree to the devaluation of our labor. If we silently soldier on, tolerating what ought to intolerable, we run the risk of becoming, not fearsome Turtles, but those pathetic if apocryphal frogs who were slowly boiled alive in a pot of gradually heating water.

March 4 has been designated a day of action in support of public education. Again, the call comes from California, but it is being heard throughout the country. The rabble-rousers of Shampoo-Banana have opted to take a collective furlough day on that day and follow up a recent teach-in with a march and a panel on the future of the university, according to what we’re picking up on Facebook and from sources on the ground. Meanwhile, QTU students are mobilizing for something, though details aren’t yet clear. Roxie’s World commends the students for taking the lead and urges faculty to support and participate in this effort in whatever way feels possible or appropriate. I don’t know about you guys, but this water is starting to feel awfully warm to me. Peace out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Natural Causes

(Photo Credit: Moose, 2/18/10)

And sometimes nature cleaves a poor little sapling right in twain, doesn't it, Ms. Dickinson?

It's a small thing, when you consider the scale of damages wrought by the Blizzard(s) of 2010 in the Washington area, but, still, there is mourning in Roxie's World for the sweet Japanese maple that was planted just a couple of years ago out by the pond in the ridiculously large backyard. The moms doted on that pretty, slow-growing tree and looked forward to watching it quietly assert itself in front of the crepe myrtles that anchor that part of the garden. It's hard to imagine that a young tree can survive such a deep wound, despite what Dickinson says, in the poem quoted above, about a plant's capacity to recover from the searings and scalpings of nature. "Her Green People recollect it," Dickinson writes, the "it" referring presumably to the assault upon the plant, "When they do not die -- ." Spring will come again and with it new growth. Even if an individual tree dies, its remains will eventually crumble into the ground, enrich the soil, and nurture the growth of other plants.

That is a thought worth keeping in mind, perhaps, as the long, slow process of melting gets underway and we wait impatiently in the cold to feel the warm, green ground beneath our feet again.

Peace out, my darling Green People. May all that is damaged in your world sprout into something beautiful.

Postscript for the Literal: Need some advice on how to care for plants damaged by the storm? Click here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love, Ice Dams, "Hallelujah"

(Image Credit: Our sweet, secret Valentines over at MLA2010.)

This isn't really a Valentine post. The moms aren't so into the Valentine thing, being congenitally opposed to all commercially manufactured public displays of emotion. Well, maybe not all of them. As you know, they would occasionally dress me up in wizard costumes and reindeer ears to honor certain other holidays that have been turned into orgies of commercial excess, but that was always about cuteness and irony, not the rank sentimentality of Valentine's Day.

Wow, this post is running off the rails as fast a Metro train on a chilly afternoon, isn't it? Yes, yes, my pretties, love conquers all and the moms are happy to raise a glass to love in all its shapes and sizes. They ventured out yesterday to see Jean-Marc Valée's The Young Victoria, which turned out to be a very Valentiny thing to do, given the film's emphasis on the I'll-take-a-bullet-for-you kind of love between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. (That whole bullet thing? Not true, as it happens, but, hey, we cannot let historical accuracy stand in the way of a good story, can we?) And this afternoon, they'll head over to the Comcastle to watch the Terratots take on Clemson, which is also all about the deep, abiding love of sports fandom -- as well as, yes, the thrill of seeing strong, sweaty women in, um, action. Before the game, though, Moose has some ice dam work to do, which is why she can't linger in the red chair trying to explain the mysteries of love to you. She is going to suit up and go outside to investigate the source of a new leak in the casement windows in the dining room. Moose loves those windows, deep and white, and is offended by the idea of their being ruined by water. She is even threatening to ignore all the advice about not going out onto the roof to try to remove snow, because she is so determined to protect this house. It may not be I'll-take-a-bullet-for-you, but if you knew anything about Moose's sense of balance you would realize it was a significant death-defying kind of risk. In Roxie's World this morning, we do sincerely hope that love conquers all -- or that it is at least clever enough to find a way to conquer ice dams.

In the meantime, we offer you this little Valentine, by way of the Reclusive Leftist -- the vid of k.d. lang's performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics Friday night. There are many reasons to heart Canada, of course, but surely one of the best is that our neighbors to the north would decide to kick off the Winter Games by having a beautiful barefooted middle-aged butch belt out a breathtaking song that has not the slightest, even remotest, connection to sport, athleticism, internationalism, victory, or defeat. Yeah, we heart Canada, and we heart k.d. lang. And as always, darlings, we heart you. Hallelujah.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The (Gender) Politics of Snow

This Vehicle Liberated by Vagina Power!

This Path Cleared by
Sistas Shovelin' for Themselves!

(Photo Credits: Moose, 2/11/10)

What's up, Rox?
you are probably wondering. Somebody wake up on the wrong side of the gender binary? Or maybe cabin fever has settled into the neighborhood, nearly a week after Snowpocalypse II blew into town and not quite 24 hours after Snowpocalypse II, Part B finally shot its wad? Nah, the moms are good, despite having discovered evidence of an ice dam problem on another wall in the house. Moose just felt compelled to offer a broad-shouldered, gynocritical response to an especially dopey column in yesterday's WaPo by Kathleen Parker.

The Post has, of course, been all over the snow story, which is appropriate, given the historic scale of the storm and its significant local and national impact (because the federal government has been shut down for four straight days). WaPo being WaPo, there's even been a look at how the region's leaders, including Maryland Gov. Martin "You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy" O'Malley, have negotiated "the politics of snowstorms." Much of the coverage has been great. We've especially enjoyed the photo galleries, but business columnist Steve Pearlstein had a really smart piece on what the response to the storm by cash-strapped state and local authorities says about our broken politics. Here's the money (ha-ha) quote:
It is a measure of the dysfunction of our political system that we can no longer rationally debate whether it is penny-wise and pound-foolish not to spend a little more to try to keep the Capital of the Free World from grinding to a halt every time a snowflake descends from the heavens.

I realize there are lots of problems that cannot be solved just by throwing money at them, but snow removal is not one of them. We have the know-how, we have the technology and we have the money and economic self-interest to do it right. What we don't seem to have is the leadership or political will.

Amen! And then there is Parker's not especially illuminating meditation on what the storm allegedly revealed (or conveniently affirmed) (to Parker) about gender difference. Parker notices how quickly her neighbor, USA Today columnist Craig Wilson, gets out into the storm to do battle with the snow "with his Great Big Snow Shovel." Craig's alacrity is evidence to Parker of a primordial male urge to act in response to a "taunt from Nature." She acknowledges that when she poked her head outside during the epochal storm she saw "many women," presumably also equipped with shovels, clearing sidewalks and unearthing cars. Hmmm. One guy, "many women," all doing exactly the same thing. Sounds like a paradise of gender non-difference, doesn't it? Nope! Not to Parker, who blithely asserts, on the basis of evidence as substantial as a melting snowflake, that "most women do these things because they must, while men apparently can't wait to do them."

We'll pause here so that you can go get your pink or blue barf bag and relieve yourself of that icky burning sensation in the back of your throat.

Better? Thought so.

By the way, Parker also lets us know in the course of her "analysis" that Craig Wilson, who is so hot to go after the snow with his "Great Big Snow Shovel," is gay (he is -- Yay, Craig!), which, I guess, is Parker's way of letting us know that even light-in-the-loafer guys are not immune to the Great Big Manly Urge to subdue Nature, while women -- Ah, well, if I must, I must, I guess, but, really, it would be so much nicer if a big strapping fella would come along and do it for me -- and then if his boyfriend would feed me stroganoff, too, well, that would be just peachy!

We are not making this up, peeps. Feel free to grab that bag again if you need it.

Here's the thing, Ms. Parker. By 10 o'clock this morning, we had had approximately 47 guys come knock on the door and offer to dig out the cars and shovel the walks in Roxie's World. We declined, not because they weren't offering to do it for free and give us stroganoff into the bargain, but because, contrary to what you assert, we actively enjoy doing this kind of work. No, we didn't race out at the height of the storm to catch flakes before they even hit the pavement, and we certainly didn't wield the biggest shovels on the block. Nonetheless, we derive a deep satisfaction in everything associated with shoveling snow: being outdoors, doing work that is physically taxing yet pleasurable, and being a part of the social, communal experience of something like a snowstorm. The work is less about subduing nature than respecting it, figuring out how best to exist in it so that people and property will be safe. A storm is a moment of chaos and uncertainty. The cleanup is a period of checking on things and setting them to rights. And shoveling snow is one of those activities that always has a feeling of play about it, because the cold air makes us giddy and wet clothes make us feel like kids again. As the moms shoveled, a stream of neighbors passed by, and everyone laughed as they exchanged loud greetings and stories about the storm. Such rituals confirm not only our shared participation in a significant event but our membership in a community, our neighborliness.

It wasn't a guy thing, Ms. Parker, it was simply a good thing, and we were delighted to be a part of it. We're sorry to hear that in your neighborhood, which, since we don't know its name, we might as well call Gender Gap, shoveling is for manly men, while the girly girls are stuck indoors. You should come outside sometime and pick up a shovel. You really don't know what you're missing.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Ice Damnation

Oh, dear. All hell has broken loose in Roxie's World, and "Snoverkill" is just rolling into town.

Here's what Moose noticed on the wall of the breakfast nook this morning, as she was putting the a.m. load of carbs and proteins on the table:

(Photo Credit: Moose, 2/9/09)

I told you it wouldn't be pretty if she saw signs that ice dams were starting to force water into the walls of the house. I told you there'd be hell to pay, and indeed there was, as Moose stuffed an egg and two orange danish (snow day diet, obviously) into her mouth, while stealing dark, sidelong glances at the ugly blister on the wall. She downed her orange juice in one angry gulp and pounded up the stairs to get into her snow gear. She didn't even stop to make the bed -- and the moms firmly believe that beds must be made every day in order to keep the forces of barbarism at bay.

When she came back downstairs, she had a wild yet determined look in her eye. "I am taking a hammer with me," she announced to Goose. She ordered Goose to venture down under the deck to retrieve the ladder so that she could get up to the gutters to do whatever she had to do to clear a path for the water. While Goose dug a path to the ladder, Moose frantically shoveled the deck, getting the snow away from the house, pounding the hammer against the wall to break up the ice. She was . . . possessed. She spent the next three hours shoveling and banging, moving the ladder from here to there, wiping ice out of her eyes, accidentally throwing piles of icy snow down on poor Goose's head. I hate to steal a page from GayProf, but there really is no better way to describe what Moose looks like in these transcendentally crazy I will strike the snow if it insults me moments. She looked like this:

(Image Credit: Picked up here.)

Meanwhile, just a few miles from Roxie's World, First Dog of the United States, Bo, cavorted happily on the grounds of the White House:

(Photo Credit: Pete Souza, Official White House Photo, via)

For the moment, the house is warm and dry. The snow is piling up on the deck again, and who knows what tomorrow will bring? Moose sits quietly in her red chair, muscles pleasantly aching and fire happily cracking. She wonders languidly if there are ice dams in the White House. Damn, she thinks, I bet Michelle wouldn't put up with that $hit. I bet she'd bang the hell out of the gutters on that joint if there was water in her breakfast nook. Girl would not put up with that. No way.

Peace out, snow angels. And lord let the power stay on!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Snow Daze

(Photo Credit: Moose, 2/7/10)

The Knickerbocker record is safe, but we had ourselves a $hitload of snow here in the national capital area over the weekend, kids. At this point, we are way over trying to measure the stuff, though Moose did of course take a stab at that when the storm finally ended late Saturday afternoon. She measured 20 inches up by the house, but it was much deeper out in the remote section of the ridiculously large backyard, which she visited yesterday to check on a stand of Leyland cypresses she planted back in '95. She has always called those trees her "mighty sons" (don't ask me -- it's some cryptic Willa Cather joke, I think), and they seemed to be struggling under the weight of the wet, heavy snow. She borrowed a long window-washing tool from a neighbor to shake some of the snow and ice out of the branches. That's the kind of thing Moose does when she feels anxious about a situation but can't do much to change or improve it. Heaven help us if she starts obsessing about ice dams. Goose might have to summon an army of mighty sons and daughters to restrain her from climbing out on the roof to shovel off snow if that happens.

Goose has been encouraging Moose to take pictures of the storm and its aftermath as a way to keep her safely occupied. Here is a public link to the album she uploaded to Facebook. You can access it even if you are not Moose's friend, even if you are famously Facebook-phobic or Facebook-contemptuous. (Yes, Historiann, that includes you.) It documents the storm from the first flakes on Friday to the start of the big dig-out on Sunday. WaPo has a gallery of photos up that is almost as impressive as Moose's. It's here. Oh, and if you're interested in how DC's famous and powerful are coping with the snow, click here. (Short version, with spoiler: Power couple Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan spent Saturday glued to the TV and their computers, as Greenspan prepped for a scheduled appearance on Meet the Press Sunday morning. Gee, and I would have figured those two crazy kids would have spent a snow day doing unspeakable things on a rug before a roaring fire!)

The storm has had a significant impact on the DC-area chapter of the Aging Sisterhood of Righteous Academic Fem Bloggers. (Sisterhood of the Non-Traveling Laptoppers?) Moose has been reluctant to type for this blog, thinking she needs to conserve hand and shoulder strength for shoveling out the next dump of snow being predicted for Tuesday night. (Five to ten more inches! Good times, people, good times.) Clio Bluestocking finally broke a prolonged blog silence this morning, with photos and a detailed description of her efforts to dig her car out of her apartment building's parking lot. (Clio, baby, we've got shovels! So near and yet so far! Here's hoping the white merlot hasn't run out yet!) Meanwhile, the indefatigable Margaret Soltan of University Diaries has decamped to a hotel on Rockville Pike, because her home in Bethesda has been without power since Friday night. She is back to blogging, though, and wins the prize for most poetic description of the storm:
The snow came down thin and sifty like confectioner’s sugar, but when it finally stopped the whole world was whipped cream.
Moose might have said the whole world was mousse, but, well, she is not a poet and Soltan is, so we'll defer to her. Moose was rather pleased with the FB status line she came up with to go with the photo at the top of this post, which she took first thing Saturday morning: Moose awoke to diamonds, she typed, as the morning sun transformed the ridiculously large backyard into an ocean of tiny sparkles. Nice try, Moose, but don't give up the gig as a lit critter, 'kay?

Meanwhile, inside the house, the moms polished off the last of the baked potato soup last night while watching Super Bowl commercials (H/T June Star) and waiting for Big Love to start. They've got a big box of Clementines to ward off scurvy, plenty of booze, and a bunch of chicken thighs destined to become a hearty but low-fat stew this evening. They've amused themselves by watching basketball and were tickled pink that the Non-Lady Terps used a blizzard of 3-point shots to immobilize the visiting Tar Heels of UNC, handing Coach Roy Williams his worst defeat in ten years. They also caught the premier of HBO's riveting biopic Temple Grandin, with Claire Danes in the title role. Danes is amazing, as are Julia Ormond as Grandin's quietly determined mother and Catherine O'Hara as an empathetic aunt. Directed by Mick Jackson, the film does an exceptional job of showing viewers how Grandin, an autistic, views and experiences the world. It doesn't entirely avoid a narrative of heroic disability, but there is much that is heroic in Grandin's story. More importantly, the film -- and Grandin herself -- asks us to look at autism not so much as a disability as a difference in neurological development and function. Grandin is fortunate in having had strong allies and advocates, but her success as an animal behaviorist and livestock consultant must also be credited to her having made the most of autistic modes of seeing and being. Temple Grandin is a powerful argument in support of neurodiversity.

So, no serious signs of cabin fever so far in Roxie's World, though that could change quickly if water starts pouring out of ceiling lights (meaning that ice dams have started to melt and the water has nowhere else to go because downspouts are frozen solid) or if Tuesday night's storm proves to be as big and awful as some of the predictions are beginning to suggest it might be. The moms will be okay as long as the liquor holds out and the cable stays on, but, hold onto your hats if they can't tune into Damages Wednesday night with a little nip of something to warm their tummies. That just wouldn't be fair . . . or pretty.

Be well, my little snow angels. Tell us how you're holding up and what your strategy is for getting through the next round. Good grief, kids, what shall we call the next one when we haven't even dug out of the last one? How about, Say It Ain't Snow? Leave your suggestions and the tales of your adventures and tribulations in comments.

Cute blue and white guy on the right is Moose's new Facebook doppelganger. Because Roxie's World is firmly committed to seasonally appropriate identity costuming. Peace out.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Snowpocalypse II

Roxie's World Rides the Leading Edge
of the Storm of the Freakin' (Young) Century!

View of the Ridiculously Large Backyard, 4 PM, Friday:

Snowfall Predictions, as of 7 PM, Friday:

Baked Potato Soup, For Crucial Pre-Shoveling Carbo-Loading:

A Hearty Red, For Warding Off Cabin Fever:

A Tragic Historical Context That Keeps Being Invoked and Making Us Worry When All We Want to Do Is Sit Back and Enjoy the Snow:

Let us know what's going on in your neck of the woods, kids! What are you eating? Drinking? Reading? Watching? Thinking? Hoping? Talk to us, darlings. It's not like you're going to be going anywhere! Be safe, be warm, and remember: Spring is just six weeks away! Peace out.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Swiss Ms.

(Image Credit: Picked up here.)

Dear Ruth Marcus,

Has it ever occurred to you that your babysitter might read the column you write for the Washington Post? More importantly, has it ever occurred to you that, when you choose to write about a real person in the world other than yourself, you should do so as if that person assuredly would see what you were saying about her, her life, and her work? Indeed, has it not occurred to you that you have an ethical obligation to consider what you have the right to disclose about such persons and how your disclosures are likely to make them feel?

Here's the thing, Ms. Marcus. We totally appreciate how hard it is for working parents to manage the work-family conflict, and we can understand why you felt moved to dramatize that conflict for your readers by talking about the difficulties you had making sure your kids were looked after while you were covering the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week for the Post. (Your husband was also away, on a work-related trip.) It was, after all, a slice of life that nicely concretized the conflict and the policy question of how employers and government could help parents -- particularly mothers -- negotiate the competing demands upon them. I imagine it was darn near irresistible for you to write about it, given how stressed you must have been, after all you'd done to make sure things went smoothly in your absence -- the pre-made dinners! the grandmother there for the overnights! the other moms lined up for carpool duty! And then the babysitter, "new but already somewhat spotty," let you down, despite having been told that she had to "turn up on time, every day." Oh, dear. It's enough to make you choke on a fine Swiss chocolate, isn't it?

Given the nature of what you do, Ms. Marcus, you are accustomed to having your work reviewed in public -- through comments, letters to the editor, and, yes, snarky posts from dog bloggers with nothing better to do on a Wednesday afternoon. We are guessing your babysitter is not accustomed to such public scrutiny. We are also guessing that she enjoys considerably less job security than you do, despite the precariousness of the journalism business these days. She is new on the job. You are her employer, and you have just let the world know that her performance so far is failing to meet your expectations. Even if we assume that you had the decency to convey your dissatisfaction to her privately and compassionately (since you seem to recognize that she had valid reasons for failing to "turn up on time, every day"), there is something about this column that doesn't sit well with us. Over and over again you ask, "What to do about the babysitter?" and all we can think about is what it would be like for this single mom with the unreliable car and her own uncertain childcare arrangements to read these words, to watch you publicly pondering what to do about her probably meager livelihood. Would she be relieved to know that for now you are "Crossing [your] fingers -- and hoping she shows up?" Or would she be terrified to learn that you consider the arrangement "unsustainable?"

We are not questioning your right to fire an employee who is not in a position to perform the job you hired her to do. What we find disappointing -- even a little appalling -- is the deep insensitivity of your having appropriated elements of her life and story to your ends and telling it in a way that renders her both mute and invisible. Add to that the callousness of your publicly hemming and hawing over whether or not to fire her, and we are left with an image of you as the angry god trying to decide when to withdraw the hand that keeps the pesky sinner from falling into the fiery pit of Hell. It's not a pretty image, Ms. Marcus, and we can't stop wondering how your babysitter would feel if she were to stumble across it.

Yours sincerely,