Friday, December 31, 2004

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Myself, I'm going to be out with friends enjoying the first and best First Night Celebration ever. Whatever you do, enjoy yourself and have a safe and happy one. See you next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

I'd been meaning to get this written down for posterity, as it struck me as so charming, so surprisingly elegant.

Christmas Eve at Hal's family's has had an interesting tradition evolution. I guess his grandma, as a holdover from the Depression, would always make canned fish cakes and canned beets for dinner. I've never seen canned fish cakes before, but I have it on good authority that they're absolutely heinous. Due to the scarcity of the canned cakes, his family started experimenting with other things: frozen fish sticks, salmon burgers, etc. The preferred meal is now the traditional Fanny Farmer fish chowder and some sort of beet salad. Last year, it was a jelly mold. Very nice, but a bit fussy, I guess. This year, they came up with what I consider a real winner: a salad of pickled beets and eggs. The recipe seems to be one of those oral tradition things, so here goes:

Pickled Beets and Eggs

1 doz eggs
2 cans beets
1/4 c sugar
1 c white vinegar

2 1 qt Mason jars

Hard boil eggs, then peel. Drain beets, saving liquid. Layer beets and eggs in Mason jars. Bring beet liquid, water (I did a 1:1 ratio of beet juice and water) and sugar to a boil. Add vinegar, then pour into jars. Cap jars and put in fridge for at least 24 hours, but for not longer than a week. (I'm aiming for two days.)

To make a very pretty salade composée, slice eggs and arrange over lettuce with beets. Drizzle with a bit of (homemade!) vinaigrette.

Though we had it for Christmas Eve, I'm making it for dinner sometime this weekend. It's springy and it reminds me of primroses, so it seems just a lovely way to start the New Year.

Thanks, Carnival!

Look at everything that comes with having a Minuteman Library Network Card! Hal was playing around with this site the other day to see if someplace other than Somerville had a copy of this, as the Somerville one is pretty badly damaged. Actually, we've had a fair bit of problems with a/v stuff from our local library. It's like the patrons use the DVDs for coasters or something. Oh well. The consortium's a really awesome thing to be a member of, though.
Another "Definitive Remake" In the Works.

The story of Fern Arable, her pig Wilbur, and Charlotte, Wilbur's talented "ghostwriter," is the very first thing I remember having read to me as a child, and is indirectly responsible for my having moved to here(Charlotte's Web led to Stuart Little which made the natural progression to Trumpet of the Swan...I just had to see if there were really swan boats and a Ritz Carlton in Boston). As lovely as the first film adaptation was, what makes the story is White's elegant, dry New Yorker style tailored for kids. I can't imagine this one doing any better, to be honest.

Don't even get me started on this one.
Bowling for Palestine

Oliver Kamm has the goods on Arafat's (or are they the Palestinian Authority's?) financial holdings, which included, among other things, a bowling alley in Brooklyn.

"...I served for some years as a trustee of a pension fund about as large in total as a single one of Arafat's private-equity holdings. I can only say that if I and my fellow-trustees, in the regulated and democratic UK system, had discharged our fiduciary responsibilities as Arafat did his, I should probably be writing this post in somewhat less comfortable and more constrained circumstances than I am used to."

I feel the same way about the realm I work in. But I don't think that accountability (financial or otherwise) is the point for a lot of folks.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Un petit 'brisement du train-train quotidien.'

I learned something new today at work. What a trip! This is such a rare occurrence nowadays.
Claudia Rossett has a new article up on the depth of corruption and unaccountability at the UN. Read it; it's good. Kind of makes you wonder about the audacity of the people calling the United States 'stingy.'
Aah, Somerville...

So. Pablo hadn't gotten home yet from New Jersey yet, so I offered to shovel his driveway and sidewalk for him. It's the neighborly thing to do. After work last night, I got to his place and found that some yutz had parked right in front of his driveway. Now, I'm gathering that, given the sense of entitlement that seems to characterize a certain class of folks in our neighborhood, they figured that since the driveway was not clear, no one would care if they blocked it. (This is the same mindset that leads people to park in empty driveways because they "saw that it was empty and figured that nobody would mind." Try to get them to park elsewhere, try to tell them that, well, you're home and you do mind them blocking you out and it's like pulling teeth, too.) Anyway, my choices were as follows: 1.) Go to the hospital across the street and have them make an announcement that the car was going to be towed if it wasn't moved soon. 2.) Call a towing company outright. 3.) Clear out the driveway and approach as best I could, and let nature take its course. (No excuse that the car owner didn't know that there was a driveway because it was full of snow. Double whammy, as not only was it illegally parked, it had out of state plates and no guest permit.)

I opted for the last option, as I figured I'd fought enough battles that day. Didn't need to take on any more hassles.


On a somewhat related note: you know the old furniture and other junk that makes its appearance to hold parking places shovelled out after a snow storm? I have heard a rumor that Mayor Menino's starting to crack down on that in Boston. True? False?
Hey Folks:

Amazon's making it really easy to give to the American Red Cross. If you're not comfortable giving to them, Yahoo's front page has links to a number of other major charities.

Glenn Reynolds has a few other suggestions.

Come on, we're Americans. By nature, we're generous and we can afford to be. James Lileks in today's bleat puts it the best I've seen so far:

"...It’s not for the dead we send the money, of course – it’s for those whose lives have been scoured down to the bone, but you can’t help but think that your contribution somehow mitigates the awful numbers. It doesn’t. And if your money makes its way to a small village, and ends up as a box of clean underwear and toothpaste and batteries and aspirin dropped in the lap of a man who watched his entire family scraped off the face of the earth and swallowed by the brutal, implacable and mindless hand of nature, well, know that it probably won’t make much difference. It can’t. But someone has to get him clean underwear and aspirin. You there, with the drawers full of Jockeys and Bayer: cough up..."

I have drawers full of Jockeys and Bayer (not to mention other ibuprofin and naproxin depending on how much I'm hurting and some pretty stuff from here, depending on how frisky I'm feeling). I'm sure you have all that and then some. Help someone who doesn't. That's what Christmas is about. That's what being blessed with good fortune is about.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Ann Althouse has some interesting posts on the Indian Ocean tsunami.

First: We all knew that this was coming. I'm just surprised that no one's tried the blame the actual tsunami on the United States.

Second: An interesting observation that could best be summed up by that Chinese"anagram?"

Third: On on site reportage of the disaster

Fourth: A bit about the victims. Last night, I was listening to NPR on the way home from Maine, and I heard that the reason that so many children were killed on one island resort (was it Phuket? I don't remember) was that in the initial pullback of the coastal waters, fish were stranded on the beaches, and the kids ran out to catch them. Then came the wave.


Wretchard has some (as always) great analysis on early warning systems and trivialization of the tragedy as well as a post on how the Pacific tsunami warning system registered the Indian Ocean wave.

(via Instapundit)
Cold, clear, beautiful, sunny morning. The walk in wasn't bad at all, actually. I warmed up right away. Aside from a bit of ice on some of the sidewalks, there were no real hazards or obstructions until I got to the chop shop area. Since that's a largely industrial zone, most of the sidewalks were not clean. At one point, while paying far more attention to where I was placing my feet than to where I was going, I walked in front of someone over on Webster and Newton, I think. Instead of shaking his fist at me or honking, this sweet guy just flashed me a lovely smile. Thank you, Sunshine in the Pickup Truck, for being so nice to me this morning. It's helped my mood a lot today.
One thing is certain: I could never really be doctrinaire anything. It's far too painful and exhausting to hate so when people and systems don't conform to your particular set of beliefs.
So, I get home from Christmas fully prepared to kvetch about the weather and I hear about the tsunami. Lord help them.

Here is a blog set up exclusively to keep people informed as to what's going on in that part of the world. Keep checking it, as it's being updated a fair bit. Pass it around.

Command Post is keeping up with the news and has a list of organizations you can donate to.

Obviously, there's little I can do from here aside from sharing my relative wealth. Wish there could be more, but it'll have to do.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Heading up to Maine tomorrow, so thought I'd take a moment out to wish everyone a safe, happy, peaceful holiday. Take good care of yourselves, okay? Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

iPods? We don't need no stinkin' iPods.

In my head since I woke up this morning:

Midnight At The Oasis

Played by the Jerry with the Great American String Band in 1974, with Maria Muldaur on vocals. Thanks to Matt Schofield for the lyrics.

Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
Shadows painting our faces
Traces of romance in our heads

Heaven's holding a half moon
Shining just for us
Let's slip off to a sand dune, real soon
Kick up a little dust

Oh, Cactus is our friend
He'll point out the way
Come on 'til the evening ends
'Til the evening ends

You don't have to answer
There's no need to speak
I'll be your belly dancer, [romancer]
And you can be my sheik

I know your daddy's a sultan
A nomad known to all
With fifty girls to attend him, they all send him
Jump at his beck and call

But you won't need no harem, honey
When I'm by your side
And you won't need no camel, oh no
When I take you for a ride

Oh, Cactus is our friend
He'll point out the way
Come on 'til the evening ends
'Til the evening ends

Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
Shadows painting our faces
Traces of romance in our heads

Lyrics: David Nichtern
Music: David Nichtern

Merry Christmas!

Here in the 'People (who can afford it)'s Republik,' I like to stick with the traditional just to see the looks on folks' faces. It brings me much seasonal joy.
Got myself a gift

One of Ruchika's tiles now has a place of honor on my trivet wall. She's one of my favorite Somerville artists, and I'd have a house full of her work if, well, I could afford a house here.
Tell me that this is a joke, please.

Kind of ironic, isn't it, that folks that normally are proclaiming that we "keep out of their bedrooms" are so darned interested in what other people are doing in the toilets.

(By the way - I'm a huge proponent of women standing up if it means we could have more facilities in ladies rooms. I had no problem mastering a Turkish toilet when I needed to, and I'm pretty certain that the experience hasn't scarred me emotionally.)

-via NIck.
Jack Frost Custom Designs I
Frost pictures on one of Harry's back windows Posted by Hello
Jack Frost Custom Designs II
Another view. This morning, when looking at my kitchen window, I almost wished I had a digital camera, gosh darnit. Posted by Hello
Winter Mind

Last night, my roommate came home from class and made a remark about hating the cold so much, and set to wondering why we live up here in the frigid north. Coming from Buffalo, I've heard these sorts of remarks a lot. My brother moved to southern California about a month ago. My mom habitually calls me to yell about the weather and proclaim her intention of moving to San Diego when she's not taking care of Grandpa anymore. Fair enough, I guess. Maybe I'm a genetic sport (well, I'm pretty sure I am), but I don't actually mind this.

This morning, I woke up to the boy cat curled up at my belly, and with much difficulty made my way from under the covers. Since the windows were pretty frosted over, I figured that I might need to do my 'progressive breakfast gathering' venture. That is, I still take my walk in, but with a few stops along the way to warm myself up a bit. My first stop was at Case Bakery, where I got a cup of coffee and chatted for a bit with the girl at the counter. We talked about bakers' hours and what dictates them, about the cold, about walking vs driving in this weather. Out the door and on the way. It being as cold as it was out (in the teens), my coffee got cold awfully quickly. I tossed what was left (after all, who wants to drink iced coffee in frigid weather?) in the trash and continued along. At about Highland and Central, I saw one of my morning acquaintances, a Moroccan gentleman, who earlier this fall was bemoaning the impending cold weather. He was either grimacing in pain or had a big grin on his face; I honestly couldn't tell. After I yelled at him for a.) not wearing a hat or gloves, b.) having his coat wide open, he just responded that I loved this. I revelled in it. Actually, I do.

Highland and School is where I made my second stop: Ali was shivering like a sad pigeon at his register, cursing the snap. I think I must have been bouncing around too much while getting my banana and yogurt, because he told me to calm down and act like a normal frozen person. I laughed and reminded him that starting tomorrow, the days would start getting longer again. No good: it's still the coldest and slowest-moving of the seasons for him. Myself, I think he should go back to Egypt in the winter instead of the summer, thereby avoiding the misery this place can hold for a person born in the desert.

I the fact that I live in what I call the "Rome of Boston" (as Somerville was built on seven hills, you know), and can tell people that I walk uphill and downhill three times each way on my walks to and from work. Prospect Hill, I think, is the toughest to navigate in winter, as it's got the steepest gradient and very few people will keep their sidewalks clean. Today, I was lucky, and managed to stay on my feet the whole descent (fell four times yesterday). When I got to the foot of Prospect, I was in Union Square. I made my last stop at Mid Night, a very interesting and eclectic convenience store. The guy there has absolutely the best collection of magazines I've seen - from foreign policy journals to porn. One day, after having noted that he had a little sex toy and movie shop in the back, I asked him if he carried anything knitting related, since he had everything else. Darnit, turns out he has a whole section on needleworking. Today, no knitting magazines, but a cup of coffee and a chance to cuddle his big gray cat. Out the door and around the corner, through the chop shop area. Today, I opted to go past the laundry processor, as I love that hot, steamy clean smell on frigid days. I also decided to go by the lumberyard, as I like looking in at whatever they're working on in the workshop. If I'm lucky, too, someone will open the front door and a turpentiney-sawdusty-linseed oily odor will waft out. This sustains me for the remaining block or so, when I finally make it to my office.

Folks here think I'm nuts to take this walk in the wintertime, as it can be treacherous, and the cold's not too good on the skin or lungs sometimes. It's actually the event of the day that I look forward to the most, this little jolt before the forced heat and the bureaucratic tango.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What kind of dog are you?

Too smart for my own good, I guess. I'm either a retriever or a shepherd. (Took the test twice.)

(Thanks Paula!)
Intense weekend, intense work time now. Wandering in in this first serious snowfall of the year was an exhilirating experience, however. I'm looking forward to the walk home in this, and not just because it's the walk home.
Look all around: nothing but blue skies...

Dont know that I've ever posted an image of this self-deterministic slug. At dinner the other night however, that old Johnny Nash song came on and we were both transported to the land of happy sunrises. Posted by Hello

Friday, December 17, 2004

File this one under "P" for Projection.

(Here's a little primer on the "F" word, in case you're interested.)
Kafka on aspirin: "One of the sole sources of relief from the unbearable heaviness of being."

(Thanks, Jeannette!)

Sorry, it's been the reporting 'perfect storm,' again. Would that there were three of me! Anyway, I'm ruminating over all sorts of things while playing my sibyl game. Thinking about one of my favorite people in the office leaving, about mittens and hats and sweaters that need to be finished up. About the outing of dead historical figures. I'm also daydreaming about a couple Great Pyrennes I was formally introduced to yesterday. Would really love a dog again.

Just noted that Decision08 has his weekly jackass up. Not a big surprise, of course. Ann Althouse has some lovely images of the "holiday" decorations at the Madison Capitol building, in addition to an appreciation of Agnes Martin, who recently passed away. Dana's back at Note It Posts, and she's got plenty to recount (I particularly like this story. It reminds me of something a guy friend once mentioned to me about hair on the floor of a barbershop being a turnon for him.) Wretchard's latest post is on the junk science that is behind a lot of public environmental policy. (On a related note: Is Kyoto dead? via Instapundit.)

Okay, onward.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Thornbirds Comes To Mind Here

(fanning myself)

-via Andrew Sullivan
Drink to forget...

 Posted by Hello

This summer I grew a number of the herbs necessary to make this in my garden. The rest I picked up from a girl in my neighborhood via Craigslist. The only thing lacking was a decent recipe.

People have warned me that it tastes just awful. I like the color, though. Couldn't I go heavy on the anise, too, to make it more Pastis-ey? By the way - am not so interested in the culture behind this as just putting together a fun little herbal homebrew. It also takes a fair number fewer ingredients than my favorite of this genre.

(Beautiful Atrocities has a great post with all sorts of good stuff on the green bad stuff, including a link to something other than the Burning Man absinthe bar absinthe recipe. Found all this via Absinthe and Cookies, natch.)
"Knowledge is a process, not an outcome. The process is a critical exchange of views among the uninterested and the indolent as well as the educated and informed, yielding a collective wisdom. The evidence is that it works. This is because some problems have no predetermined set of solutions waiting to be discovered: continual experiment, rather than rational consideration of all the options and the selection of an ideal, is necessary. Experimenting is messy. It generates numerous possible choices, most of which are swiftly dismissed."

Oliver Kamm on means vs ends and the meaning of the term 'collective wisdom.'
Oh, how lovely.

Reminds me of this:

 Posted by Hello

Which brings me back to this.

-via another bridge lover

(The Zakim Bridge image comes courtesy of this nifty site.)
I had another pleasant conversation with this fellow the other night. Go take a look at his site, why don't you? There's a bit of everything in it for everybody (from Politics to technology to schadenfreude in the face of the dissolution of high school rivals). Nick himself is quite lovely. An Officer and a Gentleman. A Poet and a Scholar. Grammatically correct. Respectful of his elders (snort).
The Mind is a Wonderful Thing

How can I begin to comprehend something that sings me to sleep with Nick Drake and wakes me up with this?

Cuban Pete - Desi Arnaz

They call me cuban pete, I'm the king of the rhumba beat
when I play my maracas I go
chick chicky boom, chick chicky boom

Yes sir I'm cuban Pete, I'm the craze of my native street
when I start to dance everything goes
chick chicky boom, chick chicky boom

The senorita, they sing and they swing with terampero
It's very nice, so full of spice
And when they dancin they bring a happy ring that era keros
singin a song, all the day long

so If you like the beat, take a lesson from cuban pete,
and I'll teach you to chick chicky boom, chick chicky boom

Senora or Senorita solo: (optional)

They call me sally sweet, I'm the queen of delancy street
when I start to dance everything goes
chick chicky boom, chick chicky boom

Excuse me Mr. Pete, (yes maam)
Have the cubans a different beat?
If they have will you teach me to
chick chick chicky boom, chick chicky boom

verse 2 (male solo)

si, senorita, I know that you will like the chicky boom chicky
It's very nice, so full of spice
I'll place my hand on your hip and if you will just give me your hand
then we shall try, just you and I. I yi

so if you like the beat take a lesson from cuban pete
and I'll teach you to
chick chicky boom, chick chicky boom, chick chicky boom!

Holiday cheer, or was Santa picked up in the Boxer Rebellion and made an example of? Posted by Hello

(Thanks, Hal! How's about getting that website up and running so that more folks can see the beautiful things you see?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Nick Drake Moment

One of These Things First

I could have been a sailor, could have been a cook
A real live lover, could have been a book.
I could have been a signpost, could have been a clock
As simple as a kettle, steady as a rock.
I could be
Here and now
I would be, I should be
But how?
I could have been
One of these things first
I could have been
One of these things first.

I could have been your pillar, could have been your door
I could have stayed beside you, could have stayed for more.
Could have been your statue, could have been your friend,
A whole long lifetime could have been the end.
I could be yours so true
I would be, I should be through and through
I could have been
One of these things first
I could have been
One of these things first.

I could have been a whistle, could have been a flute
A real live giver, could have been a boot.
I could have been a signpost, could have been a clock
As simple as a kettle, steady as a rock.
I could be even here
I would be, I should be so near
I could have been
One of these things first
I could have been
One of these things first.

Harold wooed me with Nick Drake. He said at one point that I was a "troubled cure for his troubled mind." How many years later I wonder if he just takes me for a "kitchen cupboard comfort" of sorts. Drake's words and arrangements, however, still touch my heart in a tender spot that can cause tears to come to my eyes. His douceur and precision lead me to believe that his was another case where the soul was too large to be contained by his body, and they had to part ways.
Guestblogging Beagle!

What a sweetiepie! If Beagle's half as as his (or her) dad, they'll go far in life.

The Barnes was a wonderfully quirky gem of a museum located just outside of Philadelphia and was often the highlight of my visits there. I am very sad to see it go, but not that surprised, to be honest. It seems that some Philadelphia curatorial types have wanted to get their hands on these works for some time, even at the expense of destroying what made this place so magic for me and many others: Barnes's arrangement of the works.

Given how Barnes felt about museums in general, I find the judge's ruling in this matter to be a fair bit disturbing, as it seems that these sorts of after death arrangements can be broken if they are no longer viewed as convenient to the recipients. There have been a fair number of these wranglings going on lately, but more with universities attempting to change terms of conditional gifts left to them.

Opinionjournal has been tracking this story for a while.

Ann Althouse mentions this "great move for the common people."

Here's a little appreciation I wrote on the foundation a year or so ago, when I first heard of these proceedings.

(Welcome, folks visiting from Althouse. Thank you, Ann, for linking to me.)


Althouse has two more articles on this from the NYT. Myself, I still am inclined to think that this has less to do with "populism" and more to do with the Arts/Curatorial Establishment's winning out over the wishes of an outsider with an opposing vision.
Yeah, right.

Speak for yourselves, guys.

(via Instapundit.)

Monday, December 13, 2004

In Case You Were Wondering About the Sort of Person Who Could Manage Putting Up With Me (under close quarters for years now).
Monday Morning Flower this week is my roommate all gussied up for the holidays. I'm assuming that this is the work of his nieces, but I could be wrong. I know that it certainly wasn't I who did this.

 Posted by Hello

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Okay, Folks, It's Official.

I'm down and out for the count. Whatever ech was knocking at my door has finally gotten in. I'm sick. Will be posting sporadically at best over the next week or so.

(Yawn), back to bed.

Friday, December 10, 2004


This is really unfortunate.
Why do sick people come into the office? My cube neighbor sounds like she's got TB, for crying out loud. Gosh, I hope I don't catch any of the many kinds of ick we seem to have flying around here. Not now.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mad Open House Preparations

Well, my annual shebang is this weekend, and I'm so low energy, I don't know how I'm going to deal with house cleaning, cooking, etc. Thank heavens for the guys in my life who schlep for me, prep for me, assure me that I'm not so old, even though I feel it.

I remember entertaining tons when I was younger (Remember those brunches I'd have out in Allston where I'd invite 100 people, and half that amount would show up to cram themselves into my studio? Funny that they'd keep coming back, cramped as it would be.)

Nowadays, I do a sort of open house thing. I've found that people will show up in shifts, and there are never so many people that there aren't enough seats to accomodate them. It's a nice setup.

Anyway, I figured I'd bake a couple pumpkin breads, a couple banana breads. Have the usual crudités (or crud-ites, depending on what side of the Atlantic you're on). I picked up a Panneton peruiano from the bodega down the street from me. Some carrot soup as a warm thing, a cheese plate (bien sûr que oui!) and lots of chips, pretzels, salsa and dips. To drink: light egg-nog, coffee, tea, soda, seltzer, beer (we get the cheap stuff in the recyclable bah bottles - last year was Schaffer with the rebuses under the caps - was quite the hit. Especially when more than one guest serenaded us with the old jingle. Couldn't find it this year, so are getting all Wagnerian on the guests' a$$es n' sh!t with Rheingold. I'd like to make my Christmas Wreath cookies (like rice krispie treats, only with cornflakes) and maybe some gingersnaps (Yankee Magazine's recipe), but won't if I don't have time. I will most definitely have some nice dips to go with the chips and breads, however. Can't have a party without homemade hummus (canned chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, CUMIN! to taste, all blended together),


2 cans black olives (drained)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 T olive oil
(Pine nuts if desired. I usually leave them out, as they are darn expensive, and you never know who's allergic to them.)

Chop up one can of the olives, set aside. In a food processor or blender, whirl the rest of the olives with the olive oil until the mixture is more-or-less smooth. Stir in the chopped olives.

Serve with crackers or pita wedges.

and this really wonderful Black Bean Dip (from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook - my favorite of their books, by the way):

1 16 oz can (drained) black beans
1t cumin
1/2t ground coriander
pinch cayenne
(pinch berbere - Ethiopian red pepper. It's my secret ingredient.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
1t olive oil
2 t fresh lemon juice
salt to taste

1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts
2T minced green olives

Drain the beans, place hem in a shallow bowl, and mash them well with a fork. Stir in the cumin, coriander, cayenne (bebere), garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Add salt to taste. If you add the walnuts and/or olives, either stir them into the dip or sprinkle them on top as a garnish.

Again, great with pita bread, crackers or crudités. Also - good either warm or cold.

Should be good. It's more about seeing friends who I don't get to visit with more than a few times a year than whatever can be served up. Gosh, I'm looking forward to this, now that I've 'talked it up' a bit here.

Happy Holidays!

(Who would have thought that one of the nicest images of lights for the darkest time of the year would be an image of divas from a British life coaching website? Amazing.)


Thanks again to the Carnival for linking to my half-baked recipe ramble!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Lileks on Napkin Soccer:

"...requires a salt-and-pepper shaker and a wadded-up napkin. You use your hand as a goalie. She beat me 4-3, whereupon two British guys in a nearby booth set fire to the place, threw a chair through the window, ran down the street, beat up three Italians and set fire to a Somali-owned convenience store. I hate soccer.

And Humorless Satisfaction, Clarence Darrow, Moral Values, among other things. Sigh.
As someone wiser than myself used to say, "You can't beat the classics, and not only because they have you outnumbered." There's a reason why we're still getting a kick out of this guy today.

(again - Thanks, Pablo! Also, go take a look at the Poor Mojo site as it's chock full of interesting stuff.)

A bit of Holiday Cheer

Send Michael Moore a card! Wish him well! Come on, it's Christmas, for crying out loud!

(Thanks, Pablo!)

Found this little bundle of joy in my inbox today. She's Jess-bug, my second cousin. Such a smile!  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

It seems to me that Orange is becoming the new Red, White, and Blue.

"...On this day, the social significance of red, white, and blue is understood through recent shared experience. Just as we assume that the colors are meaningful, not simply expressions of taste, we don't mistake them for the colors of Texas or of nearby Southern Methodist University, much less of Britain or France, or the Confederate States of America. We know they refer to the American Flag. And what does that flag, a graphic object, mean? Even that association is not quite the same on September 15 as it was on September 1."

-"Meaningful Looks," Virginia Postrel, The Substance of Style.

Action Verbs to Use Sparingly on Resumés:

pissed away

-Courtesy of David Ash at McSweeney's
Ma Vie est une Sonatine Bureaucratique

It's all there, complete with blackheads and prunes and all things dry and unpleasant. Would much rather be home today listening to the radio, knitting my giant green condom (go ahead and ask), drinking tea and being nuzzled by cats.

Maybe thinking about Mr Smith Goes to Washington and humming a favorite Saudade will help. Maybe that zen number wave will find me and just help me coast through to the end of the day.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Though the first snow of the season was actually a couple weeks ago, today was the first day one could actually sense winter in the air. On my walk in this morning, it felt as though the wind had made the flight south expressly for the purpose of reddening my bare legs and running its fingers up my spine. Tonight, before leaving the office, I noted that we had a dusting of snow on the ground. Not enough to stop traffic or hinder me, but just enough to remind us that the solstice is only a couple weeks away. Then, mercifully, the days will start getting longer. One day next March or April, those cold fingers that clutch at me in the darkness (as I'm walking both ways in the dark now) will soften into warm, damp, soft-smelling breaths that will give me a little push to where I need to go. In the meantime, a little reminder from National Geographic that that stuff we have to shovel or sweep or trudge through is actually quite beautiful. Enjoy.  Posted by Hello
Oliver Kamm on "Proactive Translatology." For me, translation has always been an essay at transposing a work from one language to another. The sounds may be different, but the meaning and feel of the original work would remain intact. Since I am out of the business for quite a while now, I see that there is a lot that I am missing. Though not surprised, I am disappointed that there are those who are managing to politicize a discipline that should be about as close to neutral and egoless as one can get.
I am amazed at what a strong immune system I have. For a week now, my body's been fighting off this horrible flu that's been going around the office. Though I'm feeling really weak and tired, I'm not succumbing. Incredible. I love how this body works.
Paging Inspector Clouseau-

I guess if they lose their jobs, they could always come work at Logan.
Garbage. I started thinking about what happens to all the garbage. I mean, where do we put all of it, we have to run out of places to put it eventually, don't we?

-Andie MacDowell, "Sex, Lies and Videotape"
Some mornings, I just want to stay in bed with the covers over my head.

Read thisyesterday and thought - what the heck are they thinking? What exactly do they hope to accomplish from this, for crying out loud? Like the people involved in this violence are going to just pack up, give back their (stolen) guns, and go home. Right.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Better than sex?

Maybe not, but close:

Christina's khulfi ice cream and Massenet's Le Cid on WHRB. Bliss.

Some good reading today:

Belmont Club, of course. Just keep on reading down. I found particularly interesting the post on the the UN's hand in peacekeeping in the Congo, and that on the LA Times article attempting a bit of historical revision.

Ann Althouse to an article in the travel section of the NYTimes on Libya. I'm really looking forward to the day when free travel to the desert is possible. I wouldn't even mind the attentions of the 'desert swains,' either, for that matter. From what's being mentioned, it sounds milder than anything I've experienced in reputedly more civilized lands. But then again, I've had some odd experiences, and maybe, just maybe I'm a bit prejudiced.
Single Girl in Married With Children Land

Last night I went to visit some friends of mine who moved away - it was their (more or less) annual Holiday gettogether, and one of the rare occasions I get to see them anymore.

Hal and I, I think, were the only ones there without a baby or toddler, so there really wasn't much to talk about with anyone. Well, one fellow there who still lives in the city (this was out in the suburbs) and was a fair bit older than the rest of the crowd, had a brand new little girl and was pretty bemused over his new situation. I think he'll be fine, though.

You know, there would be untold riches for anyone who got it together to have a baby rental service for single folks for such occasions. Combine it with a babysitting/nannying service, and you'd be golden. Especially for the holiday season.


Don't think that I'm resentful of friends' good fortune, etc. I'm not. I understand that this is part of life and that relationships go through changes. That doesn't mean that I can't feel a little put off or empty or whatever, However. I'm sure it'll feel even worse when all my friends start doing really inconsiderate things like dying off.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I'm blushing.

I don't expect to draw notice, as I'm not really a flashy sort (except for duct tape stars on my behind every now and again). It really tickles me pink to actually have someone look favorably on one of the girls with a 'great personality.'

Go take a look at his site. He tells me he's a 'newbie,' but there's quite a lot of depth in what he's already posted. I'm looking forward to more good things from him in the future!
Got another lovely bouquet from these folks this morning.

When they first opened around the corner from where they are now, I wasn't too impressed. Lately, however, I've been going in, finding a great assortment of unusual flowers, and making my own bouquets, more or less.

For boss's day, I picked up some 'long stems' of ornamental kale for Karen; looked gorgeous with baby's breath and heather. The nice thing about it, too, was that you could eat it when you got sick of looking at it.

This time around - just some burnt orange and gold mums, asters, goldenrod. Inedible, yes, but still pretty.
Happy Casual Friday!

You know, it just occurred to me that I have a big hole in the left cheek of my jeans, and you can see my underwear clear as day (leopard spots pattern).

In other, somewhat-related news, I bought a scone this morning from the bakery around the corner from me, put it in my backpack, and somehow managed to lose it between work and here.

I'm hungry; I want my breakfast.
Boy, is it going to be one nellie of a day.


Had to settle for a pop tart. 410 calories! It was strawberry and had very pretty confetti-sprinkled frosting, though.

Karen also suggested Duct Tape to patch the jeans with. She said to cut it into a funky shape and just stick it on. I'm thinking of a star.
A Knitting Sutra

Have I been laying the vitriol on a bit much lately?
I feel as though I have. Sorry about that. Am not sure if it's the holiday season (never good for me), the lack of light, the fighting the nasty head cold, the job, or family worries. Maybe all of the above. Anyway, I'm tired and feeling down and out. Have been working overtime in alienating people I'd ordinarily be working to get closer to me. I wish January were here.

On a good note, the scarf set I started for Paula's fundraiser has come out nicely. If it didn't need to be overnighted, I'd have Hal take a picture, it's so pretty. I found in my stash three skeins of wintuk (A surprisingly soft and durable acrylic. For what I paid for it, I'd expect the crunchy, pilly stuff. This isn't like that at all.): one in a brick red, one in a grayish olive, one in khaki. Since I was aiming for quick and simple, it's all garter stitch with all three strands held together. Very chunky, and a nice, nice tweedy effect. I made it slightly thinner than a usual scarf. Not too much, mind you, just enough to be a bit 'mod.'

There's enough yarn left for both tassels and a matching cap - so am currently flying through the cap.

When I knit, I like to visualize who I'm knitting for and knit in good thoughts or prayers for that person. I hope that this, with its nice earth tones, substance and ease of care makes someone warm, happy, maybe a bit attractive-feeling this winter. That'd do my heart a little good.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

More Voices of Tolerance from the Democratic Underground.

Last year, I posted a link to Right Wing News's roundup of the ten worst quotes culled from DU. Since they've their 2004 roundup posted, I figured I'd link to it again.

Two posts that struck a chord with me:

Pat Sajak on Hollywood's deafening silence towards the murder of Theo van Gogh.

Andrew Sullivan on two recent films that both poke fun at and celebrate the American Experience, and that have been lambasted by critics on the left.

Whenever I bring up this sort of blindness or even hypocrisy (don't even get me started on race or sexual preferences), the conversation gets routed back to how evil the current administration is - a convenient dodge from responding to my questions. Eventually, though, and on a grander scale, someone's going to have to answer if they ever have hope of winning an election.
Melancholy Restlessness or Restless Melancholia?

Did something I've not done in years: broke out the old Roxy Music vinyl from, heck, high school. That should give an indication as to my mindset.
Gosh, I'd forgotten how lush their music is. (Wasn't Ferry called the 'only commoner cool enough to marry royalty' at one point?) When I was a kid growing up in Buffalo, they represented a sort of jetsetting sophistication that I could only dream of.

20 years later, of course, there's another set of feelings attached. Older, sadder, hopefully wiser (though I doubt it) girl I am, I felt a sort of at world-weary naivete, of fighting against a current of inevitability in some of the songs in Avalon. In one of my favorites, To Turn You On, I was struck with the parallels to this attempt to create a perfect world against all odds.

(Though I'd just as soon give up my eye teeth as give up my vinyl, I was pleased to note that there are remastered versions of some of their albums.)
Feeling a bit better this morning, though not perfect. Aah well. This is what happens when you get old and stressed out, I guess.

It's much nicer outside at least. I'm going to give myself another five minutes with my coffee and the scarf I'm knitting for the City Mission, then I'm going to get ready for work.

Sigh. I'd love a real day off, though.
Here we go again.

Geraghty brings up something that I've been saying over and over again before the election: it isn't the Bush administration, it's the opposing side that's angling for a draft. I'd like to add that from what I've read and heard from a number of activist sorts around here (there was an interview with one such pro draft peace activist in the Sunday Globe a few months ago. Sorry about the lack of link - I'm not going to pay for that privilege at this point) - it has very little to do with the well-being of the military population, which, from what I hear, is doing just fine with recruiting volunteers. It has more to do with 'getting young people to see the horrors of war first hand.'

Our volunteers, even though they don't go into the military expecting to be killed, are well aware of the risks, yet still they go. This is part of the reason why we have some of the best fighters on the planet, no doubt. Forcing people into service (and subsequently into harm's way) who don't want to be there to prove a political or ideological point strikes me as extremely reckless and selfish.

-via Instapundit.
I feel awful. Went home early today and have done nothing but drink tea, take naps and eat soup. Even turned the heat up. The wind is strong and scary sounding outside, I ache and I want to cry.
Maybe if I go to bed (even though I'm not sleepy due to the napping), Mamasan will come keep me company. That'll make me feel a little better, anyway.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Man's fatal flaw is his driving need to categorize that which is intrinsically chaotic. - J P Sartre

Do take a look at this fellow's site - there's a lot of good, clear writing on all manner of things - from technology and politics to cranberry sauce, even. Une veritable salade russe, enfin.

I found him while following links from Instapundit regarding identity politics and the tolerant party's treatment of those in certain demographics who don't toe the proper party line.
I'm proud of these, as my dinner guest the other night never knew that I wasn't merely being foofy by serving hors d'oeuvres for dinner.

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 8 oz package of white mushrooms
1/2 medium sized onion
1/2-3/4 cup minced leftover turkey
3/4-1 cup mashed potatoes
Small bit of milk or cream
Thyme, black pepper, salt, parsley to taste
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used gruyère)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Clean mushrooms; remove stems. Chop stems into small bits. Sauté mushroom stems with diced onion in a bit of fat (I could've used the turkey schmalz, I guess, but chose olive oil instead.) When onions are transparent, add turkey, then mashed potatoes and cook all until soft. Add a bit of cream or milk to thin mixture, if desired. Take off heat, add spice to taste, then stir in grated cheese.

Fill mushroom caps with this mixture, put in oven for 10-15 minutes, or until filling bubbles.

I got about 15 mushrooms out of this, plus some leftover filling. (I'm thinking that it might be good broiled on toast for another quickie hors d'oeuvre or snack).


Oh my!
Thanks to Fresh as a Daisy for linking to me! If you're visiting from the Carnival, welcome to my little salade russe!
Best of two worlds

I had meant to say something nice about Ommegang last night, but forgot to. Had picked up a bottle of the 'abbey ale' and was very happy as a result. I don't want to call it the poor man's Duvel, but that seems to be the closest equivalent I can find.

I'm a huge fan of Belgian beers, and it's nice to find an affordable, fairly local (from Central NYS - heck, they even age some of their ales in Howe Caverns!) version of something I enjoy a lot, but can only indulge in rarely.
This is a huge pet peeve of mine:


I'm pretty sure I said this last year around this time, but I see no reason not to repeat myself on such a weighty issue. I hate these omnipresent TV commercials from Kay Jewellers. I don't know if it's a nationwide chain or not. But the tagline is "Every kiss begins with Kay."

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but if every kiss begins with a bauble from Kay, then you're either dating, or married to, a whore.

The notion that someone would do well to ply me with flowers, jewelry, etc, in order to get my affections really, honestly, truly bugs the heck out of me. The student loans I am paying off with my compromise of a job were not for charm school, believe me. Of course, there is a certain segment of the population that does believe in this sort of barter though - both women and men - and, sad to say, here in Boston (and, even sadder to say - from my school), you tend to find more than a few 'daddy's girls.'

In my case, though, any jewelry (or underthings or clothes) I want, I buy myself. Any guy I have around tends to be there because he makes me happy. I know that I may sound like a combination of Gloria Steinem and Harvey Fierstein - but, since I've become the man I was supposed to marry, I guess I just want someone around to love me and to give my love to. Not to give me gifts or to take me out to expensive places. Most of that conspicuous consumption stuff tends to offend me anyway. (Is that so wrong?)

From The Corner, via Instapundit.

Common Sense?

Yesterday's Globe had Two articles
on how to eat healthily on a limited budget. The lack of grocery stores in a lot of neighborhoods (with the increasing property values along with very narrow profit margins for groceries, it's no wonder that there are very few if any stores in the city anymore) causes a lot of people to spend a heck of a lot more for less. Having lived in Boston for years now, and always on a tight budget, (I try to feed me and the cats on $100-$120/month - this has gone up considerably from the $40-$60/month I used to spend. But then again, my rent was $120/month and my utilities and other expenses were a fraction of what they are now, too.), I've had to do a bit of juggling and behavior modification - but I do think that I manage pretty well. Anyway, here are a few things that I've learned about how to keep healthy and happy on as little money as possible:

1.) I walk to the grocery store -no choice but to do that, as I don't have a car. I also don't bother with public transportation when I can manage it (I don't like paying a dollar that could easily go to a cup of coffee and a good conversation at my quickie mart). Usually, I go to the store once or twice a week to get little things and stock up on provisions whenever they are on sale (Star had a great sale two weeks ago, so I got a friend with a car to help me out).

2.) I get a lot of 'reduced for quick sale' stuff. Deli ends (both cheese and meat) are great for salads, for casseroles (in a previous post, I talked about my happy macaroni and cheese from deli ends), for omelettes. Day old bakery items often can be frozen for future, less rushed use. Produce-wise - though I don't get to Haymarket like I used to when younger, I do pretty well with the older stuff section as well. Last week, for example, I got a couple pounds of perfectly good apples for 1/2 of what the ones in the regular produce section would cost. I also got 6-7 bananas for a dollar. Since they were over-ripe, I just stuck them in the freezer. They'll keep there until I get around to making banana bread, or this great fake banana custard (vegan ice cream!, yum! - just run the overripe, peeled bananas through a food processor and serve. Seriously, try it. It's to die for.) I like to make every now and again.

3.) Though I do eat meat now, I usually go veggie. As I lived in a pretty strict vegan household before, it's not too hard for me. I'm accustomed to tofu stir fries, soaking the beans ahead of time for meals, egg and cheese dishes, etc. It's just important to remember that vegetarian can sometimes be calorie and fat laden if you're not careful.

4.) Produce-wise again: Buy in season! Berries this time of year are nowhere near as good as they are in the spring and summer. Nothing beats citrus at Christmas, in my book, either. Similarly, I really only have a taste for root veggies and squash this time of year - and for things like tomatoes in the summer (preferably in my garden). Farmstand/farmer's market produce can sometimes be a better deal than the stuff in the supermarkets. Also, I'm not a huge fan of Organic, and not just because of the price. I don't know that there's actually any standard aside from what California imposes on stuff labelled 'organic,' and I've eaten more than my share of grubs, sadly, from the stuff that I've gotten here. Conventional is perfectly fine with me.

5.) Though I try to limit myself on junk food - when I do get snacks, I try to get fairly healthy ones - like pretzels or nuts. I drink very little soda (partly because I'd rather eat my calories. Soda and juice tend to be full of sugar. I also don't like schlepping the containers home).

6.) Store brand on everything unless it's a loss leader.

Advantages to this stuff:

Extra exercise (both aerobic and weight training from schlepping stuff) added in with my walk to work commute makes paying for a gym membership redundant. I figure I save about $50-$60/month on that. Plus, since I don't even bother with the T pass anymore, I save another $35/month.

Since I do most of my own cooking, I'm in control on many fronts - costwise, ingredientwise, portionwise. I enjoy cooking and feeding people, so, though I do like going out to eat, much of my happy leisure time comes from entertaining friends. Happily, most people I associate with have similar interests, so we have a lot of food-based gettogethers. Interesting to note as well is that very few among us have weight problems.

Being frugal like this helps me to put a bit extra money away towards other things - like paying off the student loan or saving for vacation time.

Sometimes I get a bit desperate-feeling when it's hard to make ends meet - and it's especially difficult now. It does make me feel better to know, though, that I can be creative and resourceful with the bit that I do have, and that as a result of this, I'll never have too much to worry about.
You know it's bad when you're sitting at your desk daydreaming of quitting and going on welfare.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

How could something so wrong be so right?

I want this. (Thanks, Pablo!) Posted by Hello
To My Buffalo Friends:
If you'd like to help a very worthy cause and have the time - why not consider visiting the Lancaster Youths' Art show this weekend? I can't make it, but I am working like the wind to get at least a hat made up. (Thanks, Paula!) Posted by Hello

For those of you who might not be able to see the flyer details clearly:

Lancaster Youths' Art Show Reception
Sunday, December 4th from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Ashton Gallery
9140 Main Street
Clarence, NY 14031

Admission is a hat, a scarf, a pair of mittens - all proceeds will be benefitting the Buffalo City Mission.

Ann Althouse has an interesting post on people's reactions to new security procedures in airports. The NYT article focuses on the invasiveness and inconvenience. I agree with Ann on the 'just getting over it.' Unfortunately, the world does not revolve around you, even if you did buy a ticket. There is a reason for these controls, unfortuntately, and it's not to cause you inconvenience or take you down a peg.

I hear a lot of this same stuff regarding border controls and getting back into the States. People seem to be awfully quick to blame the border guards for any slight - real or imagined. Again, and I'm not trying to defend Homeland Security or anything (I have it on excellent authority that more than a few of the frontline people aren't too pleased with the organisational changes), but - the security people at the borders, whether they be formerly with Customs or INS are generally NOT ignorant, racist, power hungry, etc. In fact, you might be surprised at how well educated/intelligent they are and at what sorts of lives they lead out of uniform. These guards are human, and they have good days and bad days like anyone else. If someone asks you a question twice, it doesn't mean that they are dense - it means that perhaps they didn't hear you or that you might have been unclear. If someone seems curt (though most are pretty pleasant and conversational - at least my experience has been that), remember, it's not their job to make you feel comfortable or loved. You're crossing an international boundary. There's a lot riding on these people's shoulders - and they're often overextended and shortstaffed. The last thing they need is some wisea$$ giving them a difficult time. That's not to say that responsibility doesn't come with authority - and that some don't abuse their positions. Usually, though, when someone is vehemently negative about an experience they've had at the border, my first thought is to wonder what they did to provoke it.

Dinner in my crowded little kitchen. I like this image, because with the lighting and the framing, the arrangement looks more cozy than claustrophobic. I'm really surprised that we pulled this off, to be honest.  Posted by Hello

Instead of a Monday Morning Flower, Hal treated me to Tuesday Turkeys. These were the placecards he made for Thanksgiving dinner.  Posted by Hello
Eh bien, continuons...

Over Thanksgiving, I heard someone from the family who was still reeling over the election say something pretty telling: November's election results are confirmation of what they've had a feeling of right along - that the American Electorate is decidedly anti-intellectual.

It sort of makes me wonder what intellectual means. Does it have to do with quoting French literature? Does it have to do with using a lot of big words in complicated constructions? Does it mean having the wherewithal to afford extensive schooling? I've never been part of their establishment, so it's hard for me to understand the language.

I am fascincated, however, on a few fronts - first, the notion that theory and nuance would be superior to decisionmaking ability and action (for better or for worse) for a critical leadership position. You can be as wise as Solomon, yes, but if I remember my Bible correctly, even Solomon had to make split second decisions.

The second source of interest is what I see as the near complete lack of self examination. The problem isn't that people in the EE camp aren't out of touch with the reality of this place, with the rest of the country or community - it's that everyone else is 'anti intellectual' or stupid or unsophisticated. No Exit and a lot of what my therapy taught me comes to mind, here: if you're in a closed system or alone, of course you're perfect. It's when you need to interact with others that you find your imperfections. There are always choices involved with those discoveries, too. You can consider yourself a work-in-progress and learn to compromise with the world outside, or you can choose denial or projection and lay blame for problems elsewhere. Hell is not other people, but our reactions to them. Taking this into account - there are a lot of very tormented people out there right now.

Finally - that so much of people's identities have been riding on the elections is a bit of a cause for concern. What did people do beforehand? Watch TV? Read? Were there any pastimes outside of this spectacle? For crying out loud - the election is decided and people start talking about 2008. Come on. It's practically December. Get a life.

One last thing that has been an almost constant theme is the scorn for anything other than a pure science/arts/literature background. On several occasions, I've been treated to "well, don't get an MBA - it's a soulless degree, after all, Dubya has one." Or "shouldn't be too hard, as Dubya managed it." Such a degree is like anything else - like their new Forrester - neither intrinsically good or evil, just a tool. A template for thought. The antipathy towards lawyers was set aside for Kerry and Edwards, I'd noticed. At one point, that was an intense dislike, as well.

When I was recounting some of my stories of the weekend to Pablo - he asked about whether anyone had any knowledge of economics or how business works in this group. I told him that I seriously didn't think so. I could be wrong, but that is my impression.


"...The real question is whether there's a figure in the Democratic establishment who's willing to take on the Michael Moore / MoveOn aspects of the part -- or whether those aspects have become, in some important ways, the soul of the party today. If the latter, then the Republicans will achieve the kind of decades-long dominance that Karl Rove seeks. And they'll deserve it."

-Glenn Reynolds. As he likes to say, "read the whole thing."


"People forget that being smart is not enough. You must also love people, all people, the unloved people and the people who hate them. You can hate for hating but then what are you?"

-wise words from the Goose Yard.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Andrew gave me a pretty gift when he arrived on Thursday - a brass candlestick he found somewhere.
Judging by the workmanship and the dating (1927 - Arabic numerals, but western calendar), I'm going to say that it's probably Turkish.

I don't read Arabic. I wonder what the inscription says. Pablo didn't see any reference to Allah. Could it be a poem about a flame? About lighting up a night? I guess I could attempt to transliterate the calligraphy and hopefully be able to, based on that, look it up in a dictionary. What a fun little puzzle.

My musings on this led me to review the Omniglot site. They've done a fair bit of revamping there - go take a look at it. It's ten times more excellent than it was before in its older, pretty darned neato state.

From that, I found links to Berber World. Here, I found a wonderful collection of news on the indigenous North African world - the Tamazights, the Rafs, the Berbers, the Tuaregs. How interesting to see that Tamazight is being taught again in schools in Morocco!

From the monde des berberes, I moved to a different perspective - a French one, but revisiting one of my favorite museums in Paris. This was my first contact with the art and history of the 'Arab' world - from the Palmyrans to the Moors and right on up to modern day Maghrebin culture. My, how I'd love getting back to see what's new there.

Now, I'm thinking of Tahar ben Jalloun. How is it that there seem to be very few if any English translations left of his novels? This needs to be remedied.
Thank Heavens for JCrew. Their knitted stuff is so elementary, even I can poach patterns from pictures.

Golly, Another Swell Musical!

Sunday, after everyone left, I cleaned up and got a nap in, Hal treated me to dinner (manicotti and salad - the antithesis of turkey and trimmings) and a movie. I'm sorry, I know that the Gene Kelly musicals are formulaic, but I just love them! Hal got me Take Me Out to the Ballgame this time around. I know that it followed Anchors Aweigh! character, plot and even music wise - but it was so much fun. In this, we saw that Esther Williams is as graceful on land as she is in water (There was, of course, a pool scene added in - an improbability in a 19th century hotel, but still a necessity if you've got Esther in your film.)

It's so refreshing to see a Hollywood War Effort - such cheerful bolstering up of morale, such wonderful, musical escapism. No one there would be caught dead supporting troops nowadays, it seems.

I'm really looking forward to On the Town when we get it. MGM touts this film as "twice as gay" as "Anchors Aweigh." I'd like to see that.
What did we actually have this year?

I made:

plain bread stuffing, heavy on the celery and sage
mashed potatoes
sweet potatoes (mashed with heavy cream, brown sugar, butter, fresh nutmeg)
blue hubbard squash mashed with turnip
green bean casserole
dilled carrots

Hal's aunt Julia brought:

cranberry sauce (cranberry package instructions)
pumpkin pie
green tomato mincemeat (my favorite)

Hal's cousin Andrew made:

the best gravy I've ever tasted

The turkey (got a Shaw's fresh one) was so fatty that I didn't feel so badly about it being slaughtered, as it would have died of heart failure soon anyway.
Someone should get a public health campaign together addressing morbid obesity in the domestic turkey population. I made soup from the carcass and was amazed at how schmaltzy
the broth ended up.

All in all, though, I think the meal turned out well.

A couple other highlights from the weekend were - the serendipitous macaroni and cheese (cheese ends melted in a roux of flour, olive oil, sauteed onion, and to which I added some fresh herbs. Tossed the whole thing with pasta, then stuck in the oven for 20 minutes with a light covering of more of the same cheese grated over it) and the Mexican (well, actually, Guatemalan, since that's where the chocolate came from) hot cocoa. (Andrew saw my molinilla and wanted to try it out.)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Sorry for the disappearance - I was in entertainer mode since about last Wednesday. My last guests left this afternoon, so had to clean up and get some serious naptime in. Goodness, I'm not as young as I used to be. (Don't laugh at that.)

On a good note - I didn't have to go anywhere this year. Based on their phoned-in updates, Pablo and his sister Anna Maria have been on the route from Metuchen, NJ to Boston for just about 11 hours now. The post-Thankgsiving traffic, combined with the abyssmal weather, have made getting home feat of epic proportions.

More tomorrow, after having gotten some more rest.
I hope you had a great holiday, or, if you don't celebrate, that you got some much needed down time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Picasso Chill Pill, or "Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté..."

This was sent to me by my comptroller today as a way to calm me down or cheer me up or something. I think that my having stuck my tongue out at him in the hallway earlier might have indicated that I was a bit under my game. Posted by Hello
Maybe I'm missing something here - but it seems to me that these shenanigans would indicate that the protesters might merit less rather than more rights.
Looks like nine people for Thanksgiving this year.

Tentative Menu:

Roasted Garlic and Pumpkin Bisque (without the dumplings)
Turkey with Cornbread stuffing
Mashed Potatoes (I may make half plain/half garlic, as I like the garlic version, but will be dining with some purists.)
Sweet Potatoes (mashed or baked - haven't decided yet)
Dilled Carrots
Green Bean Casserole
Baked Blue Hubbard Squash
Yeast Rolls

Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin and Mincemeat Pie
Relish Tray/Crudites

I think I'll bake some fruit/squash breads along with the cornbread to have on hand for snacks/breakfast. Maybe some of that nice oatmeal molasses bread that I made last week, as well. We'll see what I'm up for. The house is a mess and I need to get that straightened up.

Took a quick walk during my lunch today - ended up getting a beautiful basket and a pretty new teakettle from the African market (Tropical Dimensions - funny, had it pegged as being Haitian) up the street. I'm so pleased! The basket was a steal at only $10 - anywhere else here would be selling it for at least $30.
Who Will Observe the Observers?

The irony of this situation is so rich. I loved the author's mention that his only previous exposure to Kazakhs before this point was the Sasha Baron-Cohen character.

(Thanks, Pablo, for loaning your dead tree version to me!)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Okay folks: Sunday night, we went to the Somerville Theater to see Huun Huur Tu, probably one of the best known of the Tuvan throat singing groups out there. What else can I say, but these guys are rock stars?

I know very little about Tuvan (or Mongolian or any other Central Asian) musical styles, and I certainly have no idea on how to produce the overtones with my voice as they do. You can check out more on that at this site.

The program had stated that music from this part of the world tends to be less abstract, more concrete than western music, and that it could be considered a sort of 'aural map' of the surroundings. This makes perfect sense to me, as the music was very evocative of horses galloping, camels in a caravan, even different animals in a boreal forest and breaking storms overhead. Amazing the pictures painted with sounds. I'd sit back and close my eyes, travelling with the horses, thinking about the transport of goods, of histories, of music and instruments even, over to our part of the world, where they'd be modified and eventually evolve into something more familiar to us.

Hal saw in the culture behind the music parallels to the cowboys, the plains riders here. Both are solitary, even lonely existences in a land with a big sky. In a lot of the 'country' music, you've got occurrences of overtones from yodelling and even modified throat singing by some.

Like most unfamiliar at first music, it takes a bit of time to accustom your ears to it. It is so worth the effort, though, between the similar themes wrapped up in different melodies and the sheer power of the musicians themselves. I had not forgotten myself at a concert in a long time - it was great to be able to do so last night.
History According to Hollywood

Wretchard on Oliver Stone's latest film. Hal got passes to see Alexander tonight, but neither of us is up to seeing it, it looks so bad. I guess that that makes us 'red staters,' or something.
"I need an ocean to teach me whatever it is I need to know, be it music or consciousness." - Pablo Neruda

I'd like to add to this something else: A mountain summit to help me keep my world in perspective. Saturday, we made it out to Monadnock for what I think will be the last hike until Spring. I was a bit worried about my left knee and my sprained left ankle and right foot, yes, but they managed extremely well. So as to get the hard work done first, we ascended on white cross (what I injured my knee on descending in September), and descended on Pumpelly and Cascade. The weather was perfect, with the predicted rain holding up until we were halfway home.

This image is to the northeast - in the direction of the White Mountains. Doesn't it look like some sort of tableland mirage done in watercolors?  Posted by Hello

Me, looking west to Vermont.  Posted by Hello

Another celebrity sighting. First we see the Cream of Wheat Guy using a payphone in Bar Harbor, Maine. Then we catch van Gogh peering through some reeds looking, for all the world like Roger Whittaker up in Lubec, Maine. Now, John Denver (or is this Nigel Tufnel?) eating a granola bar, tying some kid's shoe on top of a mountain in New Hampshire. Posted by Hello
Two great films this weekend:

knowing what a fan of Gene Kelly I am, Hal's been picking up whatever he sees at the library starring him. Last week, we caught "An American in Paris," which neither of us really cared for. This week's choice,Anchors Aweigh, was a delight, however. Of couse, Gene was a dream. What surprised me, however, was Frank Sinatra's performance. Though I know he's 'old blue eyes,' and I'm familiar with his crooning, I've only seen him in his more serious roles. To see him so young, keeping up with Gene Kelly in that wonderful dance number in the USO dormitory was a treat. I'm angling now for Take Me Out to the Ballgame and On the Town.

We also watched It Happened One Night. Again, another delight! A couple things amazed me on this one - first, that it was shot in just about a month on minimal sets, with only two costume changes for Colbert. Secondly, that she really disliked this vehicle that netted her an Oscar for best actress. She really did put on a good show - there was wonderful chemistry between her and Gable.

I've decided that, as a result of this last film, it would be a good idea to resurrect 1930s slang. If anyone can help me with the origins of the term "gashouse palooka," I'd more than glad to use it regularly, believe you me.

It's going to be a rough winter, I fear. Lots of big, fat, slow squirrels everywhere. This guy was sitting outside Hal's window on Sunday morning longingly looking in, it seemed. Of course, he might have just wanted to watch movies with us; you never know. Posted by Hello

Friday, November 19, 2004

Of Local Interest.

A treasure from the West Coast residing in the storage place across from my building for 13 years. Gosh, you just can't make this stuff up. It has to write itself.
You know, if I didn't need the money or the references, I'd have walked out of here long ago.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Posting's been kind of sporadic, as I'm tired from the leg healing, some sort of allergy, the lack of light, the impending holidays. I've never been good with holidays. At work, too, there are some 'turf wars' going on - my department being the turf. I can handle either the in work or the out of work alright - both together is a bit of a challenge.

It also hit me that I'm not nearly as far as I'd like to be knitwise. I've two halfway finished sweaters (green turtleneck, blue homespun cable knit), one completely finished one (spice colored stripes), and one more that I need to get started by Thanksgiving - an aran. This one is going to be very interesting in that I'm using a sweater that I was given as a gift last year as the pattern. With a few modifications, it'll be perfect for the person I'm intending it for.
There are a few hats, scarves, things like that, too, that I need to get a move on. Small projects to go between the bigger ones.

Found this while talking about Gerberas with a couple coworkers. Frogs and flowers. What more could a girl ask for? Posted by Hello

Monday, November 15, 2004

Proust Memory Jogger

I was remembering collecting chestnuts around the neighborhood of my alp. Peeling the fruits and cooking them into a paste. Creating a confiture so unlike anything I'd ever had in my life.

Last week in Chinatown, I bought a pound of chestnuts (they were ridiculously cheap and wonderfully fresh - almost felt like Mexican jumping beans) to see if I could remember how to make my beloved crème de marrons. I figured that, at $3.50 a pound, I could afford to take the hit if things didn't turn out as I'd planned.

The worst thing (and I'd forgotten what rotten work this was) was peeling the blessed fruits. I had to slit the shells and steam them for something like 20 minutes. Then peel the shells off with a knife, taking as much skin off as possible (bitter and stringy) and excising worms if need be. After I accomplished this task, I put the nut meats into a pot with a couple cups of water.
After cooking till the material was soft, I ran it all through a food mill to get rid of the bits of skin I missed.

To this stuff, I added enough water to make roughly four cups of paste. To this, I added 3/4 cups of brown sugar for every cup of paste, brought everything to a boil, then simmered it for 45-50 minutes. When done cooking, I put the paste into clean, sterile jars, capped them, then processed in a boiling water bath for roughly 1/2 hour (hopefully enough time). I got roughly six cups of paste out of this. Not bad, since, expensive as chestnuts are fresh, the paste or sweetened comfiture is extortionate here. I think that my homemade stuff tastes a fair bit better, too. Just more artisanal looking, as it's not as smooth and is a lot darker than the 'industrial' chestnut paste. Will I make it again? Probably. It's delicious on bread, crackers, plain cookies, ice cream (as in 'coup Mont Blanc' - vanilla ice cream with chestnut paste and whipped cream.) I might try a bit of vanilla in it next time, too - if my vanilla's good enough for it.

I also made two loaves of the standard Fanny Farmer yeasted oatmeal bread.

Yes, the house smelled delicious, and I really enjoyed the kitchen activity. Unfortunately, like so many other of my more fulfilling pastimes, this one seems to have fallen by the wayside.