Tuesday, July 27, 2010


In my free time, I volunteer as a leader to the youth at my church. And by "volunteer," I mean the up and ups asked me to do it and I reluctantly agreed because I didn't want my friends to think I was lame for not accepting the call. In other words, I cave easily to peer pressure and let others' perceptions of me be my guiding light in making major life decisions. I can't think of anyone more qualified to advise teenagers.

I've got to be honest, though, that this particular group of youth is one of the best that I've advised (Can you believe they've asked me to do it more than once?). We don't have enough teenagers in my own congregation to make a solid youth group so the up and ups have combined the youth from a couple of different congregations and the result is both substantially numbered and substantially diverse. The majority of them are from inner-city Oakland, but others are from the fancy, hilly areas surrounding Oakland. In terms of ethnic diversity, we've got the range of an entire Benetton ad campaign, hardly any of them go to the same school, and yet somehow they all manage to get along with one another. When you look at the way adults refuse to cooperate based on far smaller differences, it is clear these kids are the ones who should be advising us. I would totally vote any of them into public office should they decide to campaign.

I had the pleasure of spending all day last Saturday with them when we went on an annual water skiing trip. I did not expect it to be a pleasure. In fact, I was dreading it. First, I knew it would be all day. 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday. I've got a touch of the ol' ADD and don't really like spending all day on any one thing. The idea of devoting all day to one thing triggers my well-documented commitment phobia like you wouldn't believe. When I spend all day on something, my DVR gets backed up and starts deleting precious unwatched material on its own like it's on some sort of a Hal 9000 power trip. Second, I had heard that, despite their residential proximity to a large body of water (i.e., the San Francisco Bay), the majority of the kids did not officially know how to swim. This just caused the legal issue-spotting portion of my brain to go haywire despite the repeated affirmations of the other adults that "they all wear life jackets" and "nobody drowned before." Third, it was going to be sunny. Fourth, it involved boats.

But, of course, I caved to the peer pressure and went. And it was fun. It was a perfect 80 degrees. The kids wore life jackets. Nobody drowned. They can't swim but they had no fear of riding a large inflatable tow-along and trying out water skiing and wakeboarding. All in all, it was a great day.

The only downside was the music issue. I drive these teens around a lot. When I do, I let them pick the radio station. It is always a hip-hop station. They sing along loudly and bounce around in the car and I am generally grateful for this because in their revelry they don't notice that I've circled the same block three times because I got lost in Oakland again. But on Saturday as we were driving out to the body of water to ski on (which, incidentally, was far smaller than the body of water we all live by), we traveled so far out that we lost radio reception. We had forbidden iPods on the trip because last year a few ended up in the lake, so at this point my passengers had no choice but to flip through my CDs. My indie rock CDs. I warned them they would hate them. They said it was okay. But then they started asking questions like "Do you have any CDs with fast songs?" during the fastest song on the CD and "Do you only like music with girl singers?" during a song sung by a guy. Finally, they just gave up and fell asleep.

I've never felt bad before about not being into hip-hop, but this scene was nothing more than a modern remake of a million similar scenes from my own youth, where the kids wanted to listen to grunge and all the leaders had in the car was Neil Diamond: Live at the Greek. And I'm not saying anything against the Diamond--I love the guy--but I was sad to realize that my indie rock was not the magical fountain of musical youth I assumed it was, but rather the Neil Diamond of my generation: soft music for middle-aged white women. Alas...

(FYI, I've got a ton of super-cute pictures from the water skiing activity that I'd love to post, but I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't post pictures of minors on the Internet without some sort of permission. Perhaps I'll add a few later...)

Friday, July 23, 2010


I know the news that Law & Order was cancelled, just one season shy of beating Gunsmoke's record, is months-old, but I'm still reeling from it. As a member of the Ess fam, I was pretty much raised on its various incarnations. Over the years, I'm sure I've watched hundreds of hours of the original Law & Order and successful spin-offs Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent. (I've also watched more hours than I care to admit of the many unsuccessful spin-offs launched over the years.) You may like your Farmville or your Sims or your World of Warcraft, but I have always preferred the Law & Order universe as my mythical world of choice. I will concede, however, that like those other fantasy worlds, the New York City of Law & Order operates according to different rules than real life. Here are a few of my observations:


I find it strange that, although it is clear the same Law & Order universe covers all three shows, only one person (Det. Mike Logan) that we know of was ever promoted from Homicide (Original L&O) to the Major Case Squad (Criminal Intent), and he was like the most troublesome Homicide detective ever. Can’t the union do something about this?

If you are considering becoming a detective in the Law & Order universe, be forewarned that, if you have no real personal life, it will stay that way. Even worse, if you do have a personal life, it will fall into complete shambles. No exceptions. But while the job will leave you no time for your family, it will apparently provide you ample free time to become an arts, culture, psychology, conspiracy, club scene and linguistics expert.

If you are a detective in the Law & Order Universe, here are a few notes I've gathered about perps that could help you solve your case:
  • If a high-powered male judge or politico shows up in your case file, he probably molested a family member.
  • If a high society matriarch shows up in your file, she probably had someone killed.
  • If an urban youth admits to killing someone, take sympathy; he only did it due to (a) a misunderstanding, (b) justifiable vengeance, or (c) being under the psychological control of another.
  • If a right-winged religious person shows up in your case file, he or she likely killed someone in the name of advancing his or her cause. Whatever you do, do not point out the ideological discrepancy between the suspect's beliefs (goodwill to men) and actions (murder) during the investigation. The D.A. will be so mad if you do, because she likes to spring that one at trial, causing an emotional breakdown on the stand.
  • If an old friend of yours “from the academy” or when you were “working the beat” shows up, he probably killed someone.
  • If a wheelchair-bound person shows up in your case file, he or she is likely faking the extent of his or her disability.
  • It pains me to say it, but if someone who experienced a personal loss during 9/11 shows up in your case file, he probably killed someone.
  • The person in your case file who most closely resembles a famous actor did it. If two people in your case file happen to resemble famous actors, the one who resembles the more famous of the two did it.

And here are some other notes for detectives in general:

  • If you are a woman, you are not allowed to have a female partner.
  • The upside of being a female detective, however, is that you get to dress business casual while your partner wears a suit and tie. Men can only dress down if they previously worked for the Narcotics Squad or are classically-trained musicians.
  • But the most important tip I have for any detectives is not to worry: you will most likely have a 100% solve rate. You have proven time and again that you can handle a case better than the Feds. And when it comes to cold cases, you only crack them, you never file them.

A few notes about the Law & Order courtroom that differs from my experience:

  • Criminal defendants always testify in their own defense despite their right to decline to do so, inevitably opening themselves up to ruinous cross-examination.
  • A lawyer is permitted to make repeated outlandish editorial comments without reprimand by the court so long as he or she offers a snarky “Withdrawn!” immediately after objection is raised.
  • Prosecutors have no duty to turn over evidence to the defendant that was discovered during trial.
  • Prosecutors frequently engage in elaborate play-acting ruses with the detectives and witnesses meant to entrap the defendant into making a confession.

If you live in the Law & Order universe and are not in the mood to discover a dead body, you should avoid the following high-risk activities:

  • Sneaking off (from work, the office party, your babysitting job, etc.) to make out with someone;
  • Working a blue collar job (especially in the sanitation [for men] or janitorial [for women] fields) and gossiping with your coworker about your relationship woes;
  • Discussing the results of “the game” with a friend;
  • Taking children to Central Park;
  • Hanging out with other people;
  • Using telescopes;
  • Cracking jokes;
  • Opening doors; and
  • Looking out windows.

If you do find yourself in the unenviable position of being a material witness to a homicide case, don’t worry. You can always get out of extensive questioning by having someone call your cell phone, hand you something to sign or otherwise interrupt the conversation and then saying to the detectives, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to take this” as you walk away. They’ll just give up and move on. It will never occur to them to say “Don’t worry, we’ll wait.”

However, if it turns out that you are more than just an innocent witness, that you may, in fact, be a suspect, you should immediately go through your house and workplace and glue down all trinkets and valuables using an industrial-strength epoxy. Because, you see, the detectives will come to your home or office and, while they’re talking to you, they WILL try to move those things around just to mess with you. And it WILL mess with you!!

And one final observation: unlike real world statistics, nearly half the women in the Law & Order universe are redheads. Major Case Squad almost exclusively employs redheads (see below). However, they all tend to grow blonder with age. So if you're a redhead that doesn't want to go blond, maybe you should switch to bottled water or something.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


As I said in the last post, I've been doing TONS of sewing lately. While I love sewing, I hate doing it for long periods of time. More specifically, my neck and back hate doing it for long periods of time.

A lot of the canvas bags I'll be selling at the Renegade Craft Fair and on Etsy have sturdy seatbelt webbing handles trimmed with grosgrain ribbon. I'll be honest, the primary reason for this is that it allows me to stock a single color of webbing (black) but then alter it to match the bag. While it's pretty easy to sew the ribbon to the webbing (i.e., it's no double-welt pocket), it requires sitting in the same (painful) position for a long period of time. You just can't rush that thick seatbelt webbing through without making the machine all kinds of mad at you. Last week, I mentally prepared myself to sew over 100 yards of the stuff in order to make handles for multiple bags. Did I mention that each of those 100 yards had to be sewn twice (once on the left and again on the right)?

After the first 14 yards I said "Enough!" Within two minutes I jimmy-rigged a guide system on my sewing machine where the webbing fed itself through at the proper place and I was able to just sit there with my foot on the pedal. And after about three minutes of that, I thought "Why sit here at all when I've got better things to do with my time?" and put a weight on the pedal and walked away. In other words, I trained my sewing machine to sew by itself:

By "walked away," I mean I walked two feet over to the ironing board and got some ironing done while keeping an eye on the whole rig, pausing only to shoot videos. (And yet this garbage was the best I got. Go figure.) While the first side was already sewn in this red batch, I later figured out how to make it do that part, too.

And I know my mom is going to see this and call me to talk about how horrible my Bernina sounds and how I need to get it serviced asap, but she only ever sews on cotton, not seatbelt webbing. That's just the way it sounds. Like a machine gun. Or a sewing machine breaking. Okay?

Of course, the big question is, will the bags still count as handmade?

(Oh, and apologies for my thread-filled office floor as there's been a lot of thread-trimming going on around here. I am always walking around with bits of thread all over me as if I have eight cats with thread-fur crawling all over my apartment.)

Monday, July 19, 2010


... since I last blogged. Up until then, I was being unusually prolific for the year. Oh well. In the meantime I have been working (at a freelance gig), playing (on a trip to SoCal with my mom to visit Lil' Gee and his fam, then returning with her up here for some NorCal adventures before sending her home to AZ), and working, working, working again (for me, see below).

As I may have mentioned once or five thousand times, I'll be featuring my wares this year at...

... and I've been working like crazy to make sure I can fit in with all the experienced craft fairians there. All the other working and playing I did seriously condensed my production timeline to get all my inventory, display and business details ready for RCF at the end of the month. During the past few weeks, there hasn't been a moment where my entire apartment wasn't covered in prints...


...bag innards (here, interior pockets)...

... or the like. My poor little sewing machine has been running nonstop, which I'm sure amuses my downstairs neighbors to no end. I've also done quite a bit of huddling over a steaming iron during the hottest days of summer. Many times I have stopped and asked myself (1) if it's possible to finish everything I've set out to do, or (2) if all my efforts will be worth it in the end. But how does one judge "worth it" for something like this? I've tried not to set any sales expectations and I am approaching it as much as a promotional opportunity as anything else. Thus, I think just the satisfaction of having pulled it off will be all the "worth it" I need. Stay tuned...