Sunday, January 28, 2007

Nine Inch Flippers

On the side of a building somewhere between the Lake Merritt and West Oakland BART stations, someone has spray-painted the following exhortation:


Which leaves Mrs. Gerbil and I to wonder: what, exactly, is a gothic dolphin? Does it intentionally get itself caught in tuna nets?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Meanwhile, at Trinity General...

A man claiming to be Jesus is brought to the emergency room. The triage nurse hands him some carbonless forms and a clipboard and says, "Make sure you press hard with that pen. We need to be able to read all three pages."

The man stares at the forms for a minute, then tears off the first sheet and starts to fill it in.

"Hey!" says the triage nurse. "I thought I told you those are in triplicate!"

"One, three--it doesn't really matter," says the man. "It's all the same thing anyway."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I like pie

A bunch of us were in the Safeway in Mountain View a few weeks ago, looking for items for our Low Maintenance Shabbat dinner. The rules: everything had to be vegetarian, relatively not-disgusting, and needing nothing more than heating. We opted for veggie dogs, cheese curls, and pie a la mode. One of us (not I) was an over-acheiver and, entirely against the rules, made some miso soup from scratch. Apparently we were all craving salt and sugar.

We had a difficult time deciding on a pie. In my opinion, store-bought pies are generally foul. I would like to think of myself as a master baker, but I am also a goody-two-shoes (see above), and so I wasn't about to spend a whole afternoon making a pie from scratch for Low Maintenance Shabbat. Somehow, even with my strong opinions about store-bought pies, I ended up with the job of choosing our pie.

There were so many pies! Oh, so many pies--and all of them generally foul-looking. Then I noticed the best pie of all:

Sugar-free marionberry.

What do they put in there instead of sugar? Crack?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Help wanted

Helping Our Lovely Individuals Eliminate Risk by Teaching Healthier Alternatives Naturally and Touting Happy Opportunities Universally (HOLIERTHANTHOU) is seeking an

Job Description:
The Counselor/Role Model/Educator/Advocate/Manager/Youth Outreach Specialist (CREAMY) is responsible for the design, delivery, and evaluation of HOLIERTHANTHOU's social services program. We offer a wide variety of activities and support to the individuals who need them. The CREAMY is involved in all facets of HOLIERTHANTHOU's work. The CREAMY also provides administrative support to the Executive Director, including (but not limited to) stocking and ordering supplies, photocopying library books, filling lunch and Starbucks orders, and providing childcare for two-year-old triplets.

The position of CREAMY is budgeted for 20 hours per week (FTE $20,000). However, you should expect to work at least 35 hours per week, with anything over 20 hours unpaid. Evenings, weekends, and holidays are required, as is occasional overtime (up to 15 hours per week) and work from your deathbed. Please note that this is an exempt position. Travel (30% of time) is required. We do not reimburse for mileage or parking. The ideal candidate would be just as happy doing this work for free.

1. Quadri-lingual in English, Spanish, and two of the following languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, American Sign Language, Russian, Vietnamese, Klingon.
2. Master's degree or higher in something vaguely related to social services. Life experience may be substituted for all or part of the education requirement.
3. Valid driver's license, clean DMV record, and reliable hybrid vehicle (preferably blue in color). You must provide a copy of your title and registration with your application. Applicants with Hummers will not be considered.
3. A commitment to HOLIERTHANTHOU's vision of diversity, cultural competency, and respect for everyone who agrees with us. Jaundiced lesbian women with three nipples and a pet iguana are strongly encouraged to apply.
4. A commitment to HOLIERTHANTHOU's commitment to provide quality social services in a committed fashion.

Knowing that you work for the best social service agency in the universe.

Please submit cover letter, resume, transcripts, K-12 report cards, photocopies of vehicle title and registration, photocopy of Red Cross blood donor card (including blood type), and five letters of reference (one of which must be from a previous babysitter) to the Executive Director by 1/31/07.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Playing around

Count me among those wigged out by the "Left Behind" video game. I don't even need to explain why, because others' snarks are more than sufficient.

This morning I read that there will be (or perhaps already is) a video game based on the TV series Lost. I've never seen the show, nor do I like video games in the first place; but I'm not sure it was a good marketing decision to title this new product LOST: THE GAME.

Perhaps what matters really is how you play the game.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Can't we all just get along?

"Cultural competence" is currently quite the topic of interest in mental health services, especially in California. A lot of people here are peeing themselves over making sure that their agencies are "culturally competent." In my never-ending quest for a Better Job, I keep coming across ads that devote more space to the agency's interest in "cultural competency" than to the description of the actual job.

I disagree with the entire concept of "cultural compentency." How do you know when you are "culturally competent"? There is no exam to take, no set of prohibitively expensive workshops to attend, no embossed certificate to hang on your wall. And who gets to decide which "cultures" one must be "competent" in? Most of us aren't even "competent" in our own culture--let alone able to describe exactly our own cultural influences.

"Cultural competency," I think, implies a mysterious package of skills. I would rather be culturally aware. I think it's important to know at least basic things about other cultural groups, especially as may affect therapy. But we should learn from our clients as much as they learn from us. And we must be prepared to be wrong--and accept it when we are.

Once I was the only lesbian on staff and the only Jew, secular or otherwise. So my caseload kept getting padded with lesbians, Jews, and lesbian Jews. I'm not religious at all and was never even a bat mitzvah, so I'm not sure what really qualified me to be Super Jew Therapist. It was our practice to ask clients during their intakes whether they wanted their therapist to have any particular characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Maybe five percent of my intakes indicated some preference. The rest said, "I don't care. I just want someone who can help me."

Certainly, there are cases where therapist-client matching is a great idea, if not a necessity. A client who speaks little English is probably best served by a therapist who can speak his or her native language. A client who has extreme difficulty trusting white men should probably not be placed with a white male therapist. My move to California was precipitated, in part, by paternalistic heterosexism; and when I became depressed as a result, I specifically sought a lesbian therapist. Though I'd had an excellent straight male therapist in the past, I didn't want a straight man listening this time.

Recently I read a comparison of treatment-related philosophies from the 1970s and today. I think the context was how managed care has shifted psychology's priorities. There was this whole list of factors which were pretty much diametrically opposed, including length of treatment, emphasis on thoughts vs. feelings, and case conceptualization. One of the pairs was "individual differences" (the 70s) and "diversity" (today). At first I was quite confused. How were these mutually exclusive? And then it dawned on me:

Individual differences emphasizes the uniqueness of the individual, rejecting the homogeneity of the group.
Diversity emphasizes the homogeneity of the group, rejecting the uniqueness of the individual.

(And all of a sudden, this interview made a whole lot more sense.)

Racism sucks. Sexism sucks. Homophobia, bi-phobia, and transphobia suck. Anti-Semitism sucks. Ageism (though completely legal under federal law unless you're over 40) sucks. Ableism sucks. Dude, discrimation sucks.

However, it's impossible to talk about "diversity" without endorsing stereotypes. There's nothing inherently bad about stereotypes. What's bad is assuming you know everything about your 10:00 intake... at 9:59.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rantings of a Luddite philistine

I recently asked Mrs. Gerbil (who has a much better grasp of such things than I) whether performance artists need a cognizant audience. For example, if a performance artist sat at a bus stop in downtown Berkeley and just stared suspiciously at passers-by, I doubt anyone would realize it was performance art.

Put another way: Can you do performance art for the plain old art's sake?

Mrs. Gerbil said that performance art relies on the relationship between the artist and the audience. The audience at least has to know that something out of the ordinary is occurring--and that it's occurring on purpose. Downtown Berkeley is full of people who stare suspiciously at passers-by. Therefore, unless the bus stop performance artist squirted soda water at people wearing red sweaters and just stared at everyone else, it's not a very effective performance.

I don't understand performance art. I think it's very strange, although I also think it's an excellent punch line.

Who's there?
Performance artist.
Performance artist who?
Performance artist.
Performance artist who?
Performance artist.
Screw you! Go away!
Performance artist performance artist performance artist PERFORMANCE ARTIST...

The real question, however, is this:

If tree falls on a performance artist in the woods and no one's around to watch, is it still performance art?

In other news, I got a new cell phone last week. The last time I got a new phone, I had to convince the Verizon guy that I did not want a camera phone. Our conversation went something like this:

VG: So how come you don't want a camera phone?
Me: Because I don't need my phone to take pictures. That's why I have a camera.
VG: But you could use your phone to take pictures.
Me: All I want to do with my phone is make and receive calls. I don't need to take pictures with it, I don't need to surf the web, I don't need to send text messages with it.
VG: But if you had a camera phone, then when I called you, you could see a picture of me on your phone and know that I was calling you!
Me: Um, I program in people's names. Because I can read.

This time around, the Verizon guy didn't give me a hard time about not wanting a camera phone. Our conversation, however, was pretty amusing:

VG: So what do you want your phone to do?
Me: Make and receive calls.
VG: That's it?
Me: Yes. That is it. I don't even care about text messaging.
VG: You don't use text messaging????
Me: No. I figure, if someone needs to tell me something, they can call me. If I'm not there, they can leave me a message.
VG: But text messaging is cool!
Me: I turned off text messaging a few years ago because it cost me money to receive messages like "I'm bored." If people are bored, they can call me and tell me about it.
VG: Uh, yeah. I guess you have a point there.

When Mrs. Gerbil found out that I didn't have text messaging, back when we were still living apart, she said, "Oh, that must be why I sent you all those text messages and you never replied!" Which leaves me to wonder:

If a performance artist doesn't know that I don't have text messaging, is it performance art if he tries to text me that a tree is about to fall on him?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I saw the sign

I feel a lot better now that Christmas is over, thanks. Now I just have to get through my birthday (which is this Thursday, hint hint) and then everything should be peachy-keen.

Last week Mrs. Gerbil and I went to Seattle for six days to visit the in-laws. I definitely needed the vacation. Relaxation was just what my mind, body, and snarky soul needed. One day we took the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry, which was great fun until I decided to take a little walk from bow to stern. I felt a little funny while we were still on the water, but I felt a lot funnier once we disembarked. Add this slight seasickness to a fantastic sinus infection, and you get great potential for snark.

I noticed a sign on the ferry which read PLEASE, KEEP OFF LADDER. Mrs. Gerbil and I were impressed by its grammatical correctness--signs don't usually sport commas!--but we were perplexed about the profound lack of ladders in its vicinity.

"It would be even funnier if it ended with 'FOOL,'" I said.

Mrs. Gerbil agreed.

Imagine if "FOOL" was a standard component of signage:

Such blunt advice might help California drivers, at least, behave a little more normally.