Monday, October 23, 2006

FOR RENT: 3BR/2BA, W/D, scrn prch, deck, det. garage, pets OK

It looks like we're going to go with renting the house. We won't make any money on it, but we'll be able take a killer tax deduction, so... Whatever. Jason needs to get out of here, and I'm ready to make a decision and have a timeline and all that. We'll keep it for sale simultaneously, so whatever works out first is what we'll do. Anyone looking to rent in Decatur?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Blee blah bloo

I haven't posted in awhile because there hasn't been much going on. The house is still on the market. We had some nibbles but they didn't pan out. We're considering renting the place for a year, instead, but that seems like such a colossal pain in the ass. The holidays are fast approaching and we've already got our travel plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Jason's going to Australia, I'm staying home), so it doesn't look like we'll be getting out of here until at least January or February. Meh.

On a happy note, I'm back in the (bike) saddle. Jason took me for my first-ever mountain bike ride, on actual trails with trees and rocks and shit. I was nervous about whether my shoulder would be up for it, but I was surprisingly pain free. It turned out to be my head that was the problem. I was so scared of crashing that I was overly hesitant, to the point that I was increasing my odds of crashing. But Jason gave me some helpful technical pointers, and I eventually got the hang of it and had a really great time. The hard part was shedding all of my road riding instincts, because it turns out that the techniques in mountain biking are polar opposites of those you use on the road. On the road, when I descend, I crouch down and lean forward to pick up speed, and when I climb, I pedal standing up. I learned the hard way that leaning back and standing on a trail climb produces a wheelie, and then a fall onto my butt. Luckily, I fell into a bush and didn't hurt myself at all (except for little matching bruises on each cheek). It was more startling than anything else. I also almost bit it when I followed Jason over a big rock, without realizing that it was going to send me airborne. So I ended up doing a bitchin' little hop, and somehow managed to stay upright. I felt very extreme, like the dudes in the X Games. We're going back on Saturday, weather-permitting.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mental Health Day

When I was growing up, my parents let my brothers and me take one day per quarter (or maybe semester, I don't remember) to skip school as a mental health day. We weren't allowed to use it to get out of a test or anything like that, but if we just felt exhausted and like we needed a day off, we could take it.

I've decided to carry the tradition into my adult life (and to perpetuate it with my children, if we have some, god willing, *throws salt over shoulder*, ptooey ptooey ptooey), so yesterday I took a mental health day and stayed home from work. I am going through a terrible bout of insomnia. I maybe sleep for 2-3 hours a night, and even those are full of nightmares or anxiety dreams, and the rest of the time I'm either fully awake or in a semi-awake/dozing state that isn't restful at all. This has been going on for about 3 weeks, and I'm fried. Ambien, my old and true friend, has abandoned me. I guess I've built up a tolerance after all this time, and my body is finally saying, "yeah right, bitch, you can't fool me any more. You will not sleep!! Bwahahahaha." Or at least it feels that way. So yesterday, I slept all morning, got caught up on my TiVo'd shows, cleaned out my closet and all of my dresser drawers, took a couple of naps, exercised, and relaxed. It was lovely. I slept horribly again last night, but at least I'll always have October 12 (which is Addie Bowen's birthday -- happy birthday, sweetie!).

I recently read an article about the torture issue, or more specifically, whether "alternative" methods of questioning, such as sleep deprivation, constitute torture. Menachem Begin (former PM of Israel, and possibly a distant cousin of mine) was quoted in the article, talking about how he had been interrogated by the KGB using sleep deprivation, and that it unquestionably is torture. He states:

In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them. He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them - if they signed - uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days.

Amen, brother. There are nights when I feel like I would give anything -- confess to any crime, perform any task -- simply to be able to sleep soundly.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Watch your language

I've been working on a case involving a state school for the deaf and blind, and the student in question is deaf. I spent last week working with teachers and staff from the school, many of whom were totally deaf or hard of hearing, so we had a sign language translator much of the time. Some of the folks could speak, others used signing to communicate but included some vocalizations, and others did not communicate orally at all. Being exposed to signing was fascinating, and really got me thinking about language and how it works.

One of the teachers I was interviewing -- I'll call her "Dianne" -- was talking (via a sign language interpreter) about a student in the school who might be a good witness in the case. We were talking about whether the student would need an interpreter to testify, and whether she would benefit from real time transcription (an accommodation in which a court reporter takes down the testimony and it appears on a monitor in real time in front of the witness and the lawyers). Dianne said that the student was smart and could sign very well and was also "good at English." I was taken aback by this statement, because I hadn't really considered that she and I had been communicating in anything but English.

But of course, we weren't. I was using English, and the interpreter was taking concepts I expressed and relaying them in American Sign Language (ASL). Sign language isn't a translation of English, but a conceptual language all its own. One of the things that I noticed in reviewing the documents in this case was how rudimentary the written English was of the students and even the teachers. The grammar and conjugation was way off, and sentences would be reduced to their most basic subject-verb-object forms. "Why did you say you would do that" becomes "why you say do that," or "I am concerned that Joe will hurt himself" became "I worry Joe hurt self." Dianne made me realize that when a deaf person can sign and read or write English (or any other language), they're actually bilingual. Maybe she reads the word "mother" and "translates" it by imagining the sign for mother,* the way I read the Spanish word "madre" and translate it to English in my head.

Yet, for purposes of litigation, language must be very precise. The biggest and most important part of any trial or hearing is the transcript, but if we were going through an interpreter who translates our very specific choice of words with conceptual signs, or if we're dealing with a hearing impaired person who doesn't sign very well but also doesn't hear all that well, how do we make sure that our questions are understood and answered properly? How can we make sure that the transcript reflects what the witnesses actually intend to say? It reminded me of George Orwell's 1984, in which the government limits language in order to limit thought.

Anyway, the whole process gave me a newfound respect for the teachers that we were working with, and I now can't stop thinking about how the language we use influences our perception of the world and everything in it. And of course, now I'm obsessed with learning sign language.

*Hold your right hand up to your face with your thumb at your chin and wiggle your fingers. See for video demonstrations of different ASL signs.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quality time with the family

This past weekend Jason and I went up to New York to visit Sam and Erica. My parents were up there, too, so we got to kill two birds with one stone. Got in late Thursday night, walked around the city a little bit Friday morning, and then drove up to Sam & Erica's country house in Kerhonkson, NY, in the Hudson River Valley. It's been very pleasant but still pretty warm in Atlanta, so it was a bit of a shock to be up north where it is most definitely Fall. The leaves were changing colors, the air was crisp -- it was beautiful.

Above: Sam and Erica's adorable country house.

And the weekend with the family was predictably hilarious. First, Jason was delighted to discovery that Sam, for some reason, owns a bull costume. I don't know if he and Erica get their kicks playing matador or what. Anyway, Jason found it in the basement and put it on, and then surprised Erica and my mom when they got came in from outside.

Then we went shopping to load up on groceries and other supplies. Since my mother and I are apparently genetically predisposed to spent at least $100 every time we walk into Target, we loaded up on candles, toilet paper, wine glasses, and of course, shoes. In fact, Erica and my mom and I each got a pair of adorable red suede flats, which we all wore out to dinner that night.

Below: the girls in their matching shoes

And the dinner was amazing. Erica made reservations at this cool place called the Dupuy Canal House Restaurant. The restaurant is in an old wooden house, and it's very cozy and quiet. The food was delicious, and we feasted and drank wine, talking about history and books and gossip.

But, being the freaks that we are, we couldn't just have a civilized meal and leave it at that. First we had a contest to see who could balance a spoon on their nose (Jason won). And who could make musical tones with their wine glass. And Sam balanced his scotch glass on his head for at least a minute. And my father lost his shit, laughing hysterically at the fact that Sam had made up a story, tried to pass it as historical fact on Wikipedia, and then was pissed when the moderators had the audacity to remove it. To Sam, the real insult came not from the fact that a fictitious entry was rightly removed from a website that is meant to be an encyclopedia, but rather that the reason it was removed was not its lack of accuracy but its lack of noteworthiness. This was too much for my father, who was laughing so hard that he was gasping for air and yelling, "I'm having a heart attack." I think we scared away the other patrons in our little dining section.

The next day we went hiking around a quarry before breakfast, and then later that afternoon went to a wine-tasting. We had notions that it would be like a scene in Sideways, with a beautiful farm house next to a stream, with a big, spacious wine bar inside and quiet, knowledgeable patrons commenting on finishes and hints of blackberry and "this wine has some serious legs." In reality, not so much. We went to the Riverdell Winery in New Paltz, which didn't have a lovely farmhouse on a stream so much as a shack on steroids. Sam drove up the driveway, observed the multitude of Toyota Camrys and New York Women's Rugby tour buses, and said, "I'm not so sure about the demographics of this place. Where are the Beamers and Mercedeses?" Inside, the patrons were less gracious and sophisticated than loud and abrasive. There were even women rugby players making out in the corner (with each other). The somalier was a loud fat woman who, when we asked what she recommended, literally yelled at my father, as if she had been too close to the speakers at the Bon Jovi concert the night before, "IT DEPENDS ON WHETHER YOU LIKE RED OR WHITE." Uh, no shit, lady. And thanks for your help.

That night we cooked dinner at home. Grilled chicken and portobellos, salad, and the most unbelievable corn I have ever had in my life. Seriously, when we started eating, everybody took a bite of corn and then all you could hear was gasps of pleasure -- it was like the corn equivalent of crack. More wine, more joking around, and then Michigan football. I couldn't ask for a nicer day.

The next day we went back to the city and headed home, but not before taking a walk in the country, looking at trees and funny scarecrows and old barns. I'm on the road again tonight, traveling for work, but still feeling the afterglow of this weekend. I love my husband and I love my family and I love that they love each other. Life is good.