Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wisconsin 101: They do Halloween wrong here

SH and I are going through our annual Halloween debate. We have had this discussion every year since the second year we were in the house.

The first year, Halloween fell on a Friday and we noticed nothing amiss. (I think - I think the rule is either Friday or Saturday trick or treating. I could be wrong.)

Wait. We weren't even here on Halloween our first year. It was our second year that we realized that something was amiss.

We realized that our neighborhood - indeed, the entire Milwaukee metropolitan area (doesn't that make us sound fancy and grand!) - refuses to honor the actual date of Halloween and instead bends Halloween to its will, its will being that Halloween, as so many other things in the Great State of Wisconsin, will be subject to the whims of socialist control, or German control, or perhaps both. This is a German state, y'all, and I understand completely the German desire - the German compulsion - to order the world to be more efficient and to make people follow the rules and to make them conform. I understand because I have lots of German blood in me, but I have lived in non-German places, including a significant amount of time in Latin cultures, where rules are suggestions and one is to shrug at the idea of someone else bossing you around and being obsessive about being on time and in order.  These values are German but are not necessarily universally held.

The way it works here is that trick or treating happens at the whim of the township. In our town, a Milwaukee suburb, in our neighborhood, trick or treating will happen on the Saturday before Halloween.

But that's not all.

To participate in the neighborhood trick or treating, you must be a member of the neighborhood association. You must also contribute 50 pieces of candy to the cause. I think you then get some candy to give out.

This race to the bottom means that people don't buy good candy because what's the point of buying good candy if you have to give it away so it can be given to someone else to distribute? If I am going to hand out Good Candy, ie, little brand-name chocolate bars, I want the credit for it.

So you have to sign up, join the neighborhood association, and give candy. Then you get some special sign or something to put in your window so people know your house is safe.

Kids who are participating - because of course you have to sign up if you want your kids to be able to trick or treat - get a special thingie - I think a glowstick - to indicate they are of The Elect.

This event is not open to people who live outside the neighborhood.


1. The kids don't trick or treat on Halloween
2. You have to pay to give out candy
3. Kids from outside the neighborhood are not allowed.

Every single one of these things is wrong, wrong, wrong.

We live in a city that has a lot of poor people. It used to bug me that kids from outside of my neighborhood would trick or treat in my neighborhood. Then I realized their parents just wanted them to be able to go door to door in a safe neighborhood. So it cost me $20 for candy for non-neighborhood kids. Big deal.

Not trick or treating on Halloween is just dumb. What's so bad about celebrating the holiday on the holiday?

And don't make me pay an extra $10 just to give out candy.

So our debate goes like this:

1. Are we going to pay to give out candy?

The answer to that one is "No!"

2. Are we going to buy candy to give out on Halloween, because despite the rules, there are some kids who still trick or treat on Halloween. These are kids after my heart. They are doing it right.

The answer follows this additional question, "Should we spend money to give to kids who insist on doing it right?" Which of course is "Yes!"

Which is why SH looked at the Sunday ads, saw a coupon for Reese's peanut butter cups and for Kit Kats, and said, "I'm going to Target to load up." Which is better than our usual strategy of saying that we're not going to do it but then seeing all these cute little kids wandering the street and thinking, "We should have candy!" and then rushing to Walgreen's to pick up the dregs.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My friend's book!

 You guys, I can't believe I haven't done this already - but my friend Tish, who lives in France and so is very stylish, who writes the fun, friendly, accesible blog A Femme d'Un Certain Age, has published a style/beauty book based on her experiences with les femmes francaise.

You need to buy this book. Go here to buy it. You won't regret it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 76: Another issue that should be covered in pre-marital counseling, or, This is Wisconsin people here get up early

SH: When you're with a group of people, the group should time itself to accomodate the slowest person.

Me: What do you mean?

SH: I mean, if there is someone who wants to be early to everything and someone who is usually late, everyone should wait for the late person.

Me: That is total crap!

SH: No! Otherwise the late person is stressed and miserable because everyone is pushing him to be early.

Me: And you think the people who are waiting for the late person aren't stressed?

SH: It's not hard to wait for someone.

Me: Let me explain something to you, as I know you have never once in your life been the person to wait for someone who is late. Being the on-time person being forced to wait for the late person is a miserable, miserable experience. It is better for one slow person to be miserable by being rushed than for five on-time people to have to wait for a slow person.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 631: My way, highway

Me: You are just as controlling as he is.

SH: I am not!

Me: You are so!

SH: How's that? He tries to get everyone to do things his way.

Me: So do you!

SH: I do not. I do not try to impose my way on other people.

Me: You do. You don't like the way other people do dishes. You don't like how people stack dishes in the dish drainer. The knives. You always re-do the knives.

SH: That's not imposing my will.

Me: Yes it is! You are always trying to make me do those things your way.

SH: It doesn't count when I do it with you.

Me: Yes it does.

SH: No. I do not impose my will on other people. I am polite and patient with them.

Me: But not with me.

SH: I don't need to be. You're stuck with me. They're not.

Me: Don't count on any [wxyz], buster.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 23: What's mine is yours except for spit

Me: Let me try that.


Me: That's good!

SH: But not as good as Kopp's Tiramisu custard.

Me: Nope. Ben and Jerry's always tastes a little too sweet for me.

Me: Hey! What are you doing?

SH: Rinsing the spoon.

Me: But you're wasting ice cream.

SH: I'm going to be serving more ice cream.

Me: So?

SH: I'm not putting the spoon you tasted from back in the ice cream container.

Me: Why not?

SH: That's gross!

Me: You and I are the only people who will be eating that ice cream. You kiss me. We share utensils all the time.

SH: I don't put the spoon back in the ice cream container, though.

Me: Guess what? I've been doing it for years.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 763: The proper use of trash bags

SH: Wait! What are you doing?

Me: Getting a trash bag.

SH: For what?

Me: To put stuff in for the Easter Seals pickup.

SH: But that's a Good Trash Bag!

Me: So?

SH: You can't use a Good Garbage Bag for that!

Me: Yes I can.

SH: No! You need to use one of the Bad Garbage Bags.

Me: Then get me one.

SH: OK. They're in the basement.

Me: What's the difference between a Good Trash Bag and a Bad Trash Bag?

SH: The Bad Trash Bags are really cheap.

Me: Then why did you buy them in the first place?

SH: They were probably only a dollar at Menards.

Me: Whatever.

SH: Hey! You have these pillows in a Good Trash Bag!

Me: So?

SH: That's a waste of a Good Trash Bag. I'm going to switch it to a Bad Trash Bag.

Me: You may use your free time as you see fit.

SH: You have to help me.

Me: No I don't. I'm leaving. Wait. First I need to take a photo.

SH: Are you going to blog about this?

Me: Yes.

SH: See? I give you material.

Me: I'd rather have less drama.

SH: Here's a good line for your blog: Part of being a garbage bag user is knowing when to use the Good Garbage Bags and when to use the Bad Garbage Bags. That's really funny, isn't it? Hey! I just saved us three Good Garbage Bags!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wisconsin 101: Clear eyes, organic heart can't lose

SH and I have these friends, Bonnie and Gary, who have a vacation lake house about an hour from us - Gary says it's a "cottage," but if you look at, you get this definition of cottage:

a small house, usually of only one story.
a small, modest house at a lake, mountain resort, etc., owned or rented as a vacation home.
one of a group of small, separate houses, as for patients at a hospital, guests at a hotel, or students at a boarding school. 
Which their lake house is not. 
Regardless of what you call it, it is a lovely place to be and we always have fun visiting them. Bonnie saves all her People magazines for me and puts chocolate on our pillows. Last time, there were organic dark chocolate peanut butter cups and I was thrilled but SH does not like to mix his chocolate with anything but more chocolate, the argument being

Any other material is inferior to chocolate and therefore diminishes the whole.

He also does not like peanut butter, although my Cote d'Ivoire peanut butter soup is fine and peanuts in the shell are fine. Peanut butter, however - nein. Nasty texture, he says, and he will go on to explain in great detail why he does not like peanut butter - or any other food on the Bad List - unless you tell him to shut up, which still doesn't work, so you have to shout, "Squirrel!" and that usually does the trick.

I explained to him that it is Not Polite to criticize a gift so he did not need to mention to Bonnie that he does not like peanut butter. And, to his credit, he did not bring it up, although the topic came up in conversation and I was unable to steer it the other way. Fortunately, Bonnie and Gary have known SH for a long time and know what he is like. 

Last time we were there, Bonnie and Gary had bought a side of beef, which included the tongue and the heart. They had no interest in either item. Nor did I. But my mom likes those things, so I told them I would take them and give them to my mom the next time she visited.

Then my mom had to cancel her trip and I didn't want a heart and a tongue languishing in our freezer for a year - I need that space for pears - so I asked around for someone who might want them.

Our friend Christina - the Nighttime Wife - said her mom would be thrilled.

Senora B. was born in Mexico City. She worked at a sausage factory. She knows meat.

She invited us over for dinner to enjoy the lengua and the heart.

We went.

Appetizers of chicharrones, which were good dipped in the homemade salsa and guacamole. Also Carr Valley cheese, the good cheese that you put out for company and not what you make a meal of with your afternoon bourbon. 

SH, Christina, and I ate chicharrones and cheese while Senora B. cooked the tongue and the heart. She had cut the heart into little pieces - maybe half an inch long. Then she fried them in a pan with some eggs. Scrambled eggs with cut-up heart in them.
The tongue was boiling in a kettle. She took it out of the kettle and set it on the cutting board.

It looked like what it was - a giant tongue not attached to anything. 

My stomach is turning a little bit now just thinking about it.

She put on some plastic gloves, then started pulling something off the tongue - perhaps the membrane on the bottom? Definitely not the top part with the taste buds. I'm not sure because I couldn't watch.

Then she cut the tongue up into little pieces as well.

She threw some corn tortillas on the burners - gas stove - to heat them. Put them in a basket. Put everything on the table.

Gestured for us to eat. She didn't have a plate in front of her. "Oh no!" she said. "It is way too late for me to eat! I eat at 5:00!"

She passed the tortillas and the heart/egg mixture to me. I took a tortill and a tiny amount of the heart. Poured on a lot of salsa. Bit. Chewed. 

Heart is very chewy. But I couldn't taste much because of the salsa, which was fine with me. There was a piece of meat that fell out of the taco that I had to eat by itself, as I Do Not Waste Food.

It was chewy and gamey. Very gamey.

SH made his taco and started eating. He liked it.

She offered the tongue to me. "Oh no," I said politely. "I am full."

She insisted. SH said I should at least try it. I said I would try a bite of the meat by itself.

That was a mistake. 

The taste buds had not been removed.

I could feel them on my own tongue.

Which was a gross sensation. A bad joke about French kissing a cooked dead cow comes to mind, but it's not funny once I think about it.

It was gamey. Gamey and gross.

I grabbed a plain tortilla and ate. Anything to get the sensation of the tongue out of my mouth.

SH kept eating. He liked it. He liked the taco de lengua. He had three of them.

But he doesn't want peanut butter.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 124: Saturday is bath day

My works-from-home husband, who no longer thinks seeing me is enough of an occasion to bathe: Did you notice I was already showered when you got home from work today?

Me: Yes.

SH: Don't I get some credit for that?

Me: No.

SH: Why not?

Me: Because you didn't do it for me! You did it because you were planning to meet some people at 4:00 today!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 564: The side of the bed

Here's something that puzzled me during my month-long marathon to watch every episode of all seven seasons of The Closer.

1. Why doesn't Kyra Sedgwick age? Is there a portrait of her in a closet, turning to dust?

2. What is it about fictional characters that you can grow to like them so much? They are not real! They are imaginary! It's all made up. I have grown very attached to Brenda and Detective Gabriel (I wanted to slap that spying girlfriend of his) and all the rest of the team. And the cat. Cats. I liked Brenda's cat Kitty and the other cat Joel. Although I like Laverne and Shirley better. They are cuter. Not that I am lookist when it comes to cats. But my cats are cuter and they are more affectionate.

I have wanted to be friends with characters in books, too. Some characters, I have not liked so much. Frenemies. Kay Scarpetta - interesting, but not somebody I would want to be friends with. Indeed, there are times when I have wanted to slap her. And Sarah Paretsky's Victoria Iphegenia. Annoying.

Bridget Jones, a little too scattered. Kinsey Milhone - I want her to get a new dress, for pete's sake. There is a lot to be said for a black dress that can go in your purse, much in the same way there is a lot to be said for shoes that can go in your dishwasher, but what you can say about them is not nice.

Wow. Maybe there aren't any characters in books I want to be friends with. Nancy Drew. I wanted to be friends with her and her titian hair. Actually, I wanted to be Nancy Drew. I wanted a roadster and titian hair and a boyfriend named Ned and I wanted to solve mysteries.

Where was I going with this? I don't remember.

Oh. I would like to be friends with Brenda, although maybe not. She is just a tiny bit manipulative. But then, who among us is without flaws? Not I that's for sure. I am introverted (not really a flaw but not a characteristic that lends itself to lots of friends) and self-centered and a little bit whiny and I get cranky when I am tired or hungry and then my already-limited amount of patience goes to nothing. And yet there are wonderful people who are friends with me. Friends who have almost no flaws as far as I am concerned.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about - which fictional characters I would want as friends. What I really wanted to talk about is how it seems that on the show, Brenda and Fritz don't each have a side of the bed.

That is, some days, Brenda is on the right side and Fritz is on the left and other days, they switch. Or so I seem to recall.

This is odd to me.

I have my side of the bed and SH has his. He was quite relieved when we became A Thing to discover that my side would not conflict with his side.

We might not have gotten married if we had both wanted the same side of the bed. SH is that inflexible. He just will not yield on his side.

I thought everyone had A Side, but then my friend Lenore, who does not make a Big Deal that her husband goes to bed before she does, unlike some spouses I know, told me that she and Rob switch off all the time. Sometimes she is on the right side of the bed, sometimes she is on the left.

I don't think I could live with that level of chaos. I have enough drama and unpredictability in my life (work). I don't need it at home.

And I wonder how the writers of the show - if I am remembering this correctly - could have someone as inflexible as Brenda switch sides of the bed with such ease. Are these all people who sleep alone?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The working life: The skype interview with the jerk

I've been interviewing potential teachers in Grand Fenwick. We have opened an office there and one of our products is adult education. We could fly instructors from the US to Grand Fenwick, but that would negate any cost benefit we might get from using Fenwickian instructors - Fenwick being a World Bank developing economy country, costs are lower there - and the US instructors do not speak Fenwick. Although our course materials are in English, I want the instructors to be native Fenwick speakers so they can talk to the students in a language the students are comfortable in. I am fluent in Spanish, but if I had to learn organic chemistry in Spanish, I would be quite challenged.

(I would be quite challenged to learn organic chemistry in English, as well. Here's what I know about organic chemistry: H and O. There. That's it.)

I got about 30 applicants. The guy in the GF office and I arranged skype interviews with all of them except two. The first submitted an incomplete application and never responded to my request for additional information.

The second, in response to my very specific question, "Tell me about your experience in adult education," wrote, "All I can say is, 'I can train!'"

My sympathies to recruiters everywhere.

How hard is it to answer a direct question? Many people did nothing more than copy and paste some sections from their resumes into that section, which was fine. The main reason I asked specific questions, even about items that should have appeared on the resume, was that I did not want to have to comb through resumes, in all their different formats, to find the information I wanted.

By the way, I do not need to know that you are "sociable and good looking." That is not information that needs to be on your resume, although it is amusing.

So this guy - let's call him "Slick" - tells me that he "can train!" but offers no evidence to substantiate that claim.

I decide I am not interested in talking to someone who so blatantly ignores my instructions, so I write a "no!" on his application and put it in the back of the pile.

Three months later, I decide that perhaps I should at least interview him - that maybe there was something lost in translation between Fenwick and English. So I send him an email asking for an interview. We arrange a date. I instruct him to prepare a ten-minute presentation on the topic of his choice. I want to see if he can teach. I don't care what he tries to teach me - it could be how to change a tire - I just want to know if he can teach.

You can tell a lot in just a ten-minute presentation about someone's teaching ability. I was surprised at how easy it is to tell if someone is a good teacher or a bad teacher. The top instructors I have talked to are university professors. It is coincidence, I suppose, that they got their PhDs in the US, although that probably accounts for their English fluency.

My Fenwick colleague, Ping, and I get Slick on skype.

Twenty seconds into the call, Slick's cellphone rings.

He takes the call.

He gets off the call and explains that he is very busy. I suggest that we reschedule for a better time. He tells me there won't be a better time.

We start talking. His phone rings. Again.

"Would you please turn off the ringer?" I ask.

He refuses.

His phone rings again. And again. "I am supposed to be on a conference call," he explains.

"Let's reschedule," I say.

No, no, no, he insists.

Fine. Whatever.

At this point, I am putting stuff on facebook about the interview. My friend Amy asks why I am continuing the interview. "Because I want more material," I tell her. I am already pretty sure I will not be hiring this guy.

I ask Slick a question. He interrupts me before I have finished. I am astonished.

The second time he interrupts, I say sharply, "I am still talking."

He still does not shut up.

I send an email to Ping. "No way!!!!!! We are not hiring this guy!"

His phone rings again. Ping asks, "Please turn off the ringer." Slick complies. I guess the trick is you have to be male to have your requests honored.

We hear a shouts through the window in Slick's room. "What's that?" I ask.

Slick rolls his eyes. "It is a salesman," he says. "This is not the United States." His tone drips with great disdain for my US-ness, my lack of understanding of life  in a developing country.

I roll my eyes back, only he can't see me, as I am not on video. (He is.) I bite back my comment that I lived in Chile for two years and regularly heard vendors outside of my office window offering everything from firewood to onions. I realize I don't care to justify myself to Slick.

I ask, "Do you have any feedback from students about your effectiveness as a teacher?"

He rolls his eyes again. (Hint to job hunters: Do not roll your eyes.)

"I am being sent to give training in India. Is that enough feedback for you?"

I take a deep breath. "I mean, do you have any numbers? What is your average rating on the post-course evaluation?"

He doesn't know.

I ask him to give Ping and me a short teaching demonstration.

He sighs. Deeply. "About what?"

"As I said in my email, where I explained what you would be doing in this interview, about any subject. Any subject at all."

He sighs again. "Fine."

He proceeds to lecture us about something - I don't remember what. Another vendor calls through the window.

I tell him, "Thanks. We'll let you know."

I hang up on him. I keep Ping on the line.

"Is there any chance you want to talk me out of my opinion that we would not touch this guy with a ten-foot pole?" I ask.

Ping laughs. "Oh no. He was horrible."

I had thought it would bother me to write a rejection note, but I took great pleasure in telling Slick that we would not be needing his services.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Wisconsin 101: La cosecha

I told you I would tell you about the pears.

We have a pear tree in our back yard. It is taller than our house, which is a two-story house. It is a tall tree and the first year in our house, we did not know it was a pear tree. We thought it gave off some kind of weird apple that didn't taste good and had brown spots all over the fruit, so we just threw all the fruit in the trash, which you are not supposed to do here, because technically, fruits is yard waste and not trash and in this state, it is illegal to put yard waste in the trash.

But we did it because we did not have our separate yard waste container - I don't know why the guy who sold us the house didn't leave us his yard waste container, unless he never got one, which makes me wonder what he did with the branches that would fall and the pears when he was here.

Then the next year, we realized we actually had edible fruit and it tasted like pear, even though it looked like really ugly apples. So I took a canning class and learned to make and can jam and pickles and I made a ton of jam.

The next year, the tree gave almost no fruit and what little there was had horrible brown spots all over, so we sprayed with herbicide or pesticide  and it made no difference. That was the year my mom showed up with over 50 pounds of apples that she had picked from her cousin's neighbor's yard in northern Wisconsin. She and I spent two days making and canning applesauce.

Last year, we noticed entire branches of the tree turning brown. We called the tree guy and he told us the tree had fire blight.

What is fire blight you ask?

Fire blight = very expensive to treat. That's what fire blight is. Very expensive and no guarantees! No guarantees it will be cured.

Treatment includes cutting off all the affected limbs - our poor skinny tree - and shots.

So. Between the fire blight and the drought last year, no pears last year.

This year, the fire blight seems to be getting better. And we have pears. A ton of them.

Almost every day for the past month, I have come home to find pears waiting for me. SH picks them up from the ground, where they have fallen and splatted and are, in some cases, swarming with bees and wasps, those buzzy things that you know SH loves. (See: SH freaks out at the mud daubers, even though mud daubers do not sting.)

He puts the rotting pears in the compost, using a shovel to pick them up, which I tell him is a big sissy thing to do. I pick them up by hand. The bees do not want me. They want the pears. I can pick up a pear with seven bees and/or wasps and they ignore me. SH is a sissy about this.

He brings the rest in to me. I cut them up - I do not peel them for 1. I am lazy and 2. what is wrong with the peel anyhow? Then I either convert them into pear crisp or I put them in a ziplock in the freezer.

That worked for a while, but then the freezer got close to full. So then I had to start cooking them down. I discovered you can put them in a crockpot overnight with some cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger and in the morning, the volume is reduced by half. There is the added benefit that in the middle of the night, when you get up because your bladder refuses to do a good job, your house smells excellent.

Once reduced and cooled, those pears can be frozen. Now they await my day of canning.

And I've forgotten what I started to talk about here.

Maybe that I am so darn sick and tired of cutting up pears. And that I have started to post on facebook begging friends to take pears. I don't want to cut them up but I don't want them to go waste, either.

And I keep thinking that I HATE PEARS but I know that I will enjoy having pear butter and jalapeno pear jam this winter. But man, it would have been a pain in the neck to be a pioneer woman and have to can all my food and to do it as the harvest is coming in and it's still hot so the kitchen becomes a sweltering sauna but you have to do it or you will starve.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Wisconsin 101: The things they carried

SH and I set out for a walk last night, our path plotted to minimize carrying. For we carried with us

1. Ten library books and season seven of The Closer. By the way, I did find a similar purse to Brenda's on eBay. I paid more for it than I have paid for a used purse before. Therapy shopping. I have my eye on this purse, but SH and I have agreed that it will not happen unless I get a new job. With new pay. Also, season one of Sons of Anarchy, of which I watched only seven minutes before deciding this was really not my kind of show.

2. Some pear tart and some stuffed manicotti for our bachelor friend Keith, who has been giving us tomatoes and zucchini from his garden. Keith has a debilitating, chronic illness that keeps him from working but he's one of the least whiny people I know. He walks his dogs several times a day and knows everyone in our neighborhood because everyone sees him out and about. I don't think he cooks much, so I make extra of what I cook and share.

3. The WE Energies 2012 cookie cookbook that SH and I picked up at the WE Energies building during Doors Open Milwaukee. My friend Lois has been getting the cookbooks for the past few years but didn't have the 2012 version. I used to be anti cellphone, but not any more, because now I can call my friend while I am on a historic building tour of WE Energies, where they have all the back issues of the cookbook, and ask if she has the 2012 cookbook. Which she did not. Because she was sick the day they were handing it out in the Miller Park stadium parking lot.

4. Twenty pounds of pears from our tree. Our tree that has been bearing and bearing fruit without cease for the past three weeks. More about that later. Pears to give to our neighbors down the street - the family of our sweet catsitter, a 14 year old boy who is the nicest, nicest kid in the world. While we were gone this summer, he turned the a/c on every day to cool the house down because he was worried it was too hot for the cats. And he vacuumed - he vacuumed! - the house before we returned because he thought there was too much cat hair.

So our path was

1. Catsitter house to drop off the pears.
2. Keith's house to drop off the manicotti (am I spelling this wrong? blogger doesn't like it)
3. Library to drop off the books
4. Lois' house to drop off the cookbook

And it worked, mostly, except on the way to Keith's, we stopped to talk to the guy on the corner about his garden and why were his tomatoes so abundant. SH didn't care about that, but I did and I like talking to people and meeting my neighbors. And the guy started pulling tomatoes off the vine and giving them to me and I am not a fool who turns down homegrown tomatoes nosir.

Then we kept walking to Keith's, but we passed one of those little free libraries and I had to look at the books and there was a book in there I wanted to read so I took it, which was when SH pointed out that we were on our way to the library to return books, not to accumulate more.

Then we finally got to Keith's - two blocks from our house - and gave him the manicotti and had to dodge his yappy little dogs who were so excited to see me. I don't know why - I have never been excited to see them. I like big, mellow dogs and big, well-trained dogs, but not yappy dogs.

Keith's tomatoes were abundant as well and I have no shame so I asked if I could have some more - he has already given me a bunch. I told him that if he would give me more tomatoes, I would give him more food. He likes my cooking, so that worked. I picked about 15 pounds of tomatoes and put them in the bad that had contained the manicotti.

Then we walked to the library and dumped the books, at which point I handed the bag of tomatoes to SH because he is the guy and the guy should carry the heavy stuff. I don't care how macho a woman you are, on average, most men are stronger than most women - and yes, I know there are outliers in both cases, but on average. And in my case, SH, even though he does not work out with weights and I do, is stronger than I am. And, I am lazy. So SH carries the heavy stuff.

Then we walked the ten blocks to Lois' and then the mile back to our house, all with SH carrying the tomatoes and the little free library book.

The end.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 231: Process capability and marriage, or, What are the odds of getting sick on a Saturday? Like one in a thousand?

From wikipedia:

The Process Capability is a measurable property of a process to the specification, expressed as a process capability index (e.g., Cpk or Cpm) or as a process performance index (e.g., Ppk or Ppm). The output of this measurement is usually illustrated by a histogram and calculations that predict how many parts will be produced out of specification (OOS).

You measure the process capability by looking at the data of the outcomes and deciding if the process is in statistical control. It helps if the process has a normal distribution. You calculate your standard deviations and your process mean and then you look to see how many of the outcomes are within your tolerance levels (that is, the upper control limit and the lower control limit).

If most of your results are clustered around zero, you have a tight process. But if a lot of your results are in the tails of the curve - more than a couple sigma out, then you have a problem.

Let's look at the outcome from my washing dishes. This is more of a binary problem, but let's introduce some nuance into it.

Let's say that I wash the dishes and then SH eats from those dishes. There are a few outcomes:

1. He does not get sick (value = 0)
2. He feels a little bit sick (value = 1)
3. He feels a lot sick (value = 2)
4. He dies (value = 3)

(BTW, I think this is a one-sided problem, as I cannot assign negative values to these outcomes, unless eating off the dishes I washed would make SH more healthy than he is already.)

If I wash dishes 100 times and SH never gets sick, then all the data points would be clustered around zero.

If I wash dishes 100 times and he mostly never gets sick - maybe he gets a little bit sick ten times, then 90 of the data points will be at zero and the remaining ten will be at one.

If I wash dishes 100 times and SH always gets sick, then all the data points will be around two. (Let's ignore the fact that none of these are normal distributions. Wait. Let's just say that this distribution comes from the overall dishwashing/health experiences of the entire population of the US and that's the standard and I want to see how I fit into it.)

You look at the results and decide if they fall into the acceptable range: between the upper control limit and the lower control limit. Those limits determine how many times can someone get sick before you change the process.

Once you have analyzed your process and discover that you do not like the results, you have two options:

1. Reduce the variability (which is when you use a six sigma project).
2. Expand the tolerance.

In any project involving SH, I can predict how he will want to proceed: He will want to reduce the variability, i.e., change the process so there are no outliers in the outcomes. That is, he would want me to take three times as long to wash dishes as I already do.

I can also predict how I would want to proceed: I say increase the tolerance. I say, SH accepts being a little bit sick very occasionally. If he doesn't like that outcome, then I say we can reduce the variability in the process by changing the process so he washes the dishes all the time.

Marry someone with the same approach to process capability as you is my advice.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 456: Samantha and Darren

I love my husband. I love him madly. He annoys the heck out of me, but that does not mean I do not love him. He is a really good sport about this blog and doesn't mind that I tease him here.

So don't take what I say as a "I hate my marriage complaint." Take it as it is intended - a wry commentary on the challenges of two people sharing a house and a life - an acknowledgement that nobody, including me, is perfect and we can all get on each other's nerves every once in a while.

I do hear people saying they never fight or never disagree with their spouse and I wonder what universe they live in. Maybe SH and I are the outliers - maybe we are the only ones who argue and bicker and disagree. Or maybe there are a lot of liars out there. I don't know. If you tell me you never disagree or fight, my first thought is

1. Liar

and my second thought is

2. One of you is holding it all in because s/he is either scared to disagree or has no original thoughts.


I want to talk about something that SH did that annoyed me and I want to know if any of you guys have experienced the same thing.

Last week, a friend of SH's invited us to dinner. SH consulted with me and then accepted.

Then he told me he had asked if there was anything we could bring.

Then I learned the "we" was me, because the answer was yes and SH volunteered me to cook dessert.

I do not want to be volunteered to bake.

And - bigger issue - I don't expect other people to bring food to my house when we invite them to dinner. We have gracious friends and they always show up with a bottle of wine or flowers or something, but when they ask if they can bring anything, I always say no. Nope. Don't bring anything. It's all under control. You are my guests. I will feed you.

Also part of the bigger issue - I always ask if I can bring something when we are invited.

But if the person says "yes," I don't say, "Well, SH will do something. I will tell you that we will supply X, but by "we" I mean "SH," who does not know I have voluntold him to do something."

When SH informed me that I would be preparing a dessert for this meal, I got annoyed and told him this was not Bewitched where he could show up with Larry at the last minute and expect me to add another plate to the table.

He said that I always ask if I can bring something and that this dessert is not that much work, which was true.

But I thought he should have asked.

And of course the more I write about this, the more petty it sounds.

So maybe I am cranky over nothing. But I think he should have asked.

He was contrite and apologetic - said he had not thought about it because I always ask.

So maybe I overreacted. What do you think?