Friday, December 30, 2005

Nappy was back for a limited engagement, bringing a bit of sparkle to what was an otherwise lackluster couple weeks. A mention of robin's egg blue got the tired mind thinking of fun retro-colors, my Danish grandma's pink kitchen and Deer Isle granite. A lovely pattern came up in a search that got me thinking all about Bergman, Arija and Marimekko. Now I'm thinking that I want to see Smiles of a Summer Night as soon as possible and get myself a little bit of fabric to make a summer dress with. Since my birthday's coming up (and it's a half milestone), I could manage a little indulgence, maybe.

What a wonderful train-of-thought ride.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Who hurt you so,
My dear?
Who, long ago
When you were very young,
Did, said, became, was...something that you did not know
Beauty could ever do, say, be, become?--
So that your brown eyes filled
With tears they never, not to this day, have shed...
Not because one more boy stood hurt by life,
No: because something deathless had dropped dead--
An ugly, an indecent thing to do--
So that you stood and stared, with open mouth in which the
Froze slowly backward toward its root,
As if it would not speak again, too badly stung
By memories thick as wasps about a nest invaded
To know if or if not you suffered pain.

-Edna St Vincent Millay

Thought of this after happening upon a couple posts regarding the politicising of trauma of living through something horrible. Is a major subject for me for a number of reasons, so have been following it with some interest for a while.

What a rush! Hey...I just lost my shoe...would you's a little to your left...please...Oh, never mind.
It takes all sorts.

Seriously, though, if I were to look to carry on a relationship outside my species, I'd choose a dolphin. They're cute, they're tough (can fight off sharks from what I've read. That's pretty tough). They like to swim and fish as well, so we'd have that in common. According to Gary Larson they speak Spanish, so no language barrier...

-via Norm.
An important lesson learned this Christmas:

If you want to get out of cooking, cleaning up, doing dishes, etc, then get yourself a baby and keep them on your lap. They are such the "get out of (holiday) jail free" cards.

Other smaller, related lessons learned: babies pass gas and like to leave presents of curdled milk on your shoulder. Still, if you look past that, the soft skulls and lack of muscle tone, they're actually kind of neat.

(Above is little 'becca, approximately 10 weeks old, sporting a nifty little something I whipped up on the fly. Got to know her a bit this past weekend, lucky me.)
I dream a lot. If they're forgettable, I have no recall in the morning. If they're worth remembering, I do. Last night's was pretty memorable, and really pretty closed to attempts at interpretation:

My organisation hired a staff meterologist (our business is mental health services, so I have no thoughts as to why they'd hire a staff meteorologist. Odder things have shown up in admin overhead, though, I'm sure.) so I decided to be nice and stop by to introduce myself. Was pretty surprised to see Wallace Shawn in the new guy's office.

I sat down in a spare seat and he mentioned something about Simone Signoret. This immediately launched a discussion into A Room at the Top, a grim film that is beautiful in its brutal depiction of love vs ambition in post war England.

Someone wandered by the office, and immediately we hushed up. My new colleague stood up to point to some herringbone clouds out the window (even corporate meteorologists have to 'look busy,' I guess). I woke up.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tis the season

to be tormented by one's addict relatives. Good thoughts go out to this fellow for the trials and triangulations he's being put through by his sister. It takes a lot of courage, clarity and detachment to be able to write as he has here. Am not there yet.

Despite nearly 20 years and 500 miles of separation, I still feel like an extension of my mother and not the autonomous being that I know logically myself to be. I hate that.

(via Althouse.)
No more doughnuts?

Michael Vale, best known for playing Fred the Baker in the Dunkin Donuts ads, passed away recently at age 83.

Is funny to still hear people today repeat the old catch phrase "time to make the doughnuts," though Fred the Baker'd retired years ago. Such is the effect of a particularly good ad campaign.
Out with the old and in with the new

Since mon ami de loin got a couple weeks off for the holiday, he decided to do a bit of rearranging around the house to accomodate a new lifestyle:

Fine and good, I guess, but it's going to be a bit tough to find the eunuchs he's without a doubt going to be needing to keep an eye on all those girls (and we all know how girls get in groups).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Too much going on; too tired out. Perhaps will get back into the groove of things after the holidays. (We'll see.)

Until then, take good care of yourselves and don't forget to have fun.

Last week Thursday's full moon, courtesy of Hal.
"What the world needs is more kindness."

-Fra Elbertus

Friday, December 16, 2005

Made it home last night, weak and regressed to a preverbal state. Landlord was waiting around for me with a gift: a new cellphone (prepaid) with a couple little phonecards to go with it. Explained how to put the thing together (finally, a sim card!), set it up to charge and let me go. Went into my apartment, plugged my new appliance in to charge, sobbed a bit.

I'd had a cellphone for years until it became apparent that everyone thought I had to be accessible all the time with it. Got tired from the upbraiding I'd get if I turned the blasted thing off to get a moment's peace. Also, noted that I was seeing 'rate creep:' my initial $29.99/mo plan kept getting upped every few months by about $4-$5, so that by the time I decided to chuck the thing, my plan cost nearly nearly $50.00/mo.

Of course, it was a pain in the rear to have to find payphones when I needed to call someone. Dealt with it, though. Had considered getting a little prepaid phone, but never got around to actually comparison shopping or anything. Wasn't interested enough, I guess. It took my getting locked out of the house one Sunday afternoon to actually get Landlord on my case about getting cellphones and updating the keys left with neighbors. The key thing got done pretty quickly. Of course, the cellphone waited. And waited. And waited until last night.

I do have to admit - part of me is annoyed at the feeling of being tethered by this bit of technology again, but another part feels a bit warm because of the thoughtfulness of the gift.
"A bad compromise is better than a good lawsuit."

-Elbert Hubbard

Not being a litigious sort, I'd have to agree.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Got a package in the mail yesterday - a Christmas gift from my cousin. Made me smile. I think I'm going to wait until Christmas to open it.
Hitting a wall? Or just feeling my way around one?

Wanted to get some knitting done last night and the night before, but didn't. Not very good for production when you get out of work late, wander for an hour in the dark, and then are so tired that all you want to do is flop into bed without dinner.

One aspect (of many) of holiday time I dislike is the feeling that I have to be in production all these weeks. Producing cookies, producing cards, producing gifts. Ordinarily I knit to amuse myself. I don't particularly enjoy it when I feel I should be doing it. Idem for baking and corresponding. Forget about shopping: even if I weren't in my current state of penury (This month's choice was groceries vs phone and oil. Phone and oil won out.), I'd not hit the stores. I detest shopping even during the non-rush times of the year, so why torture myself even further by doing so during the Christmas rush?

Holidays were nice for a time when I was little, but became miserable later on. When I became of the age where I couldn't get messed with financially by vindictive adults, I stopped going back to the family for holidays. Spent quite a few happy, quiet Thanksgivings, Christmas and New Years alone (How to do that? Simple: lie to all your well-meaning friends who think you shouldn't spend holidays alone. Tell them you have plans.). Recent years have seen me with those I call adopted family and the guy's family. Though am thankful for their taking me in (particularly my adopted mom in Connecticut - had me spend the weekend with her the year my one grandmother died and the other was dying. Made me a stocking and filled it up with toys. Never had a stocking before. Yes, I cried.), I am starting to feel like I need quiet again. No travel, no running around, no screaming children, no nothing. I want stillness and rest and reflection. There's so little of that right now.

It's not just the memory of sad holidays past that's making me feel so scroogelike and unspirited - there are other things: A dying grandfather who's trying to get hospice, but who's getting harassed to have invasive surgery instead. A mother who can't take care of herself, who is befuddled by everything going on, and who calls regularly to post the same reports over and over. A new and improved breast lump. A job where I'm underpaid and unappreciated, where there's no chance to improve myself or move forward. Essentially, I'm just marking time (Only 219 days...but who's counting!) in this limbo until I'm vested in the pension. Expanding my mind, healing my body and keeping up skills are all on hold due to cost of living. (Again - choices, hour of piano lessons or two weeks' worth of groceries? Another course and textbooks or rent?) I hope that I'm not sounding like I'm complaining. This triaging stuff gets a bit tiresome, is all. Am also feeling a bit homesick after my Thanksgiving visit which was so much fun.

I'm struggling mightily with possible realities here:

I'm weak, I'm whiny. I'm never happy. (There are kids in India breaking bricks for a living, for crying out loud. What's my problem?)

I'm depressed. (First diagnosis: mild dysthymia - glass-half-empty syndrome. Current diagnosis: adjustment problems - under a lot of stress, will get over it.)

I'm at a fork in the road and am struggling to choose which direction to take. (There's a reason why I'm marking time and why I know how long until my anniversary date. Don't want to talk about it too much, as don't want to jinx it.)

How I deal with my present and how I mold my future both hinge on how I choose to view myself. Am hoping that things will be clearer once I get through the emotional fog that the next couple weeks are for me. For now, I'll just do what I must to keep up the strength, to get what's required of me taken care of, to pull myself across the December 31 finish line. All major obstacles now, but still surmountable.
Always wanted a program on public access or some indie radio station. I could see myself reading the news in a very nasal voice, injecting talking points like those I typically hear in my neighborhood:


Rent increases are outpacing some wages? Damnit! Bring back Rent Control! And raise the minimum wage to $16.00/hour, already!

Mitt Romney won't be seeking reelection in '08. Good riddance to that (hiss, spit) Republican. Didn't accomplish anything except not raise taxes for all his wealthy buddies and see the MCAS scores go up in most schools. Standardized testing is racist and classist anyhow, so it's not like MCAS scores mean anything. Elitist. By the way...did you know that he's a MORMON? They're a CULT, you know. Intolerant white, racist heretics.

11 million adults in the US can't read. I blame No Child Left Behind.

Out of state college students bring lawsuit challenging tuition breaks for illegal immigrants. (Sigh, roll my eyes). It's not illegals; it's the undocumented.

Regional CO2 emissions pact stalled due to concerns over energy prices...(cough) Bush is evil, you know, because he won't ratify Kyoto.

Dress codes for juries? Yeah, he's starting with neckties. Next thing you know, brown shirts will be a requirement. Fascist. Voters shouldn't have to serve on juries, anyway. It's a right, not a privilige.

Fraudulent elections in Iraq draw attention away from its illegally-removed former president's unfair trial.

That about wraps it up for now. Thank you, good night, and don't forget that there are only five more shopping days till winter solstice.


Could I manage not to crack up for the entire broadcast? Don't know. Better to keep the text-blogging pokerface, then.


Snort! Looks like my 'straight face' is a bit too straight:

Unfortunately, some of the criticism isn’t particularly meaningful, such as

Good riddance to that (hiss, spit) Republican. Didn’t accomplish anything except not raise taxes for all his wealthy buddies and see the MCAS scores go up in most schools. Standardized testing is racist and classist anyhow, so it’s not like MCAS scores mean anything. Elitist. By the way…did you know that he’s a MORMON? They’re a CULT, you know. Intolerant white, racist heretics.

Whose intolerant and racist? Wonder if she’s as charitable when the Mormon in question is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Or is he acceptable because he makes Frist froth?

I've asked him to read through my post a bit more thoroughly.
Today's Hubbard-ism:

"Try these: a kind thought, a kind word, a kind deed."


With the above you're not contributing to an unhappy environment, anyway.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Link Digression (and a bit of Buffalosehnsuchten)

Following the previous link's links, I found this:

Spent many happy autumn days in Letchworth as a child. I hope to be able to return soon to do so again.
"I love you because you love the things I love."

-Elbert Hubbard

Looks or cleverness may catch interest; differences may spice things up a bit. It's the shared things, however, that provide the reasons for a lasting partnership, friendship, love.
When I first saw this flyer last week, I thought it a bit odd, yes. Given that I've known a fair number of selective-kosher-keepers (you know the sorts - those who won't touch shrimp for 'religious reasons,' but think nothing of ordering a cheeseburger), I sort of forgot about it and moved on to other things. It is kind of funny, though.

-WWW, via the Hub.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Is The World All Wrong? Reform Yourself!

Over the weekend, I went spelunking around my boxed-up library. Wasn't looking for anything in particular, really - just wanted to get back in touch with some old friends. During my explorations, I happened upon something I thought to be long-gone: my Roycrofters Motto Book.

Elbert Hubbard's epigrams are pithy gems which never cease to bring a smile and a little nod in agreement from the reader. I can very well see how he'd be able to convince those he did to move on out to Western New York state to start the collaboration that would later be known as the Roycrofters.

Maybe it's time to start sharing some of these mottoes again. I think I'll start with this one:

-Dard Hunter design, in case anyone was interested.
Y-O-U-R...Y-OU-apostrophe R-E: they're as different as night and day...don't you think that night and day are different? What's wrong with you?

-Strongbad (click on the beefy arm in the last frame of the cartoon for this and other 'rhythm and grammar' tunes.)

The Guy got into another proofreading pissing contest the other day. Corrected some bad punctuation on a Christmas card he was typesetting, then had the job bounce back because the customer didn't like his removal of an apostrophe. My grammar ninja refused to budge on this, citing one of his unimpeachable sources (rule #9, to be precise).

I'll admit fully to having problems with punctuation: colons and semicolons in particular give me headaches. The use of the apostrophe/posessive vs plural puzzle seems a bit of a no-brainer, however.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Wow, I had such hopes for writing thoughts down tonight: about how a day doesn't pass where I don't marvel at the wonderous things available to us thanks to Criterion. About gingersnaps, how they've supplanted tollhouse cookies as my favorites and how I came across my best ever recipe for them. About the Tufts students being good neighbors during and after the Friday storm.

Have all sorts of things I want to talk about, but just can't keep my head from nodding and my eyes from blinking. Guess I should just brush my teeth, comb my hair and go to bed.

Sigh, and it's only 8:30 pm. Maybe will feel better tomorrow.
Part of what makes my apple butter so special to me is that I know which tree the apples came from: the last producing one in an abandoned orchard I visit downeast. The fruit that comes off it is smaller than what one would buy in a store, but larger than crabapples. Green with traces of blush, these feral sweethearts are sourer than anything when eaten raw, but very tasty when cooked with the right complements.

I like to play around with the spices, sweetners and cooking liquids from year to year, so it's never the same recipe twice. This year's batch was really an experimental one, as in addition to changing the spices, I tried a new cooking liquid:

Apple-of-my-eye Butter

I started with:

4lbs apples - washed, quartered, stems and blossom ends removed

Cooked these down in a large pot with two cups of red wine.

Ran the fruit through a food mill. Added 1/2 cup brown sugar to each cup of pulp, then mixed in 4t cinnamon, 3t cloves, 2t nutmeg and 1t berbere (Ethiopian red pepper). Simmered, stirring constantly (important! Don't want the stuff to scorch) first until the sugar melted, then until the mixture turned dark brown, thickened, and jelled a tiny bit (about 20-25 minutes). Poured into sterilized glass jars, then sealed.

Yield: +-12 pints.
Numbers that made up my weekend:

# of inches of snow that fell during the storm on Friday: +6

# minutes it took my boss to get from work (Inman Square) to Union Square (about 1/4 mile): 45

# of driveways shovelled Friday night: 3

# of minutes we sat through an awful French film that Hal picked up for me at the library: 10

# of educational films we watched off a DVD from the library: 3

% of these educational films we thought were campy: 0

% we thought were commonsense and should be shown again in schools: 100

# of Japanese film stars from the New Wave era I now have a crush on, thanks to Shinoda's Samurai Spy: 4 (Just learned of the existence of Koji Takahashi.)

# of pints of apple butter made on Sunday: 12

# of toy rabbits knitted so far: 2

# of dozens of gingersnaps baked: 10

# of minutes late in waking up Monday morning because I set my alarm for 6:30 pm as opposed to 6:30 am: 45

# of hours beyond the usual eight hours a night I slept: 1 (So why am I so tired out?)

# of extra minutes that it took me to get to work due to icy sidewalks: 25

Friday, December 09, 2005

See how I fall (like the snow).

December's hitting worse than usual; am in such a dark space right now.

Still, there are little things that can bring a happy tear to my eye. Stepped out the front door onto a soft blanket of snow and into small squall. Immediately, my absolute favorite Christmas song in the whole wide world showed up to accompany me to work.


Hal told me the other day that Kate Bush finally, after something like 12 years, has a new album out. Though we were both awfully disappointed with The Red Shoes, I at least have great hopes for Aerial.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Comfort food.

Knowing that I'd be having a rough day today, I packed myself a nice lunch of vegetarian sushi:

nori sheets
black beans cooked in soy sauce
rice (sadly not sushi rice) cooked sticky-style with a teeny bit of vinegar and sugar
straw mushrooms
some spicy mayonnaise I made from mayo and vietnamese chili pepper garlic paste
plenty of wasabi and pickled ginger
some rice seasoning

Made myself three hand rolls (think sushi ice cream cone) and had them with a cup of green tea. Made me feel a little bit better, anyway.
Well, today was my (bi)annual "lie back and think of England" exam. Such a nice way to get to know my new OB/GYN. She seemed nice enough, though I don't think I'm going to like her as well as I did my old doctor. Perhaps it's due to a different sort of bedside manner. Perhaps it's due to lack of history between us.

The part of the exam that usually bothers women the most goes by like a breeze for me. I can sit back, talk, even joke around a bit.

(I remember one time when the nurse assistant told me to relax. The doctor shook his head and insisted that NO ONE could EVER relax in my position. Contrary thing that I was, not only did I show them them I could, I started humming Wave in an effort to get them to relax.)

What really bothers and upsets me is the breast exam. I force myself to do it monthly, the doctor performs it, but it still horrifies me to the point of almost passing out or throwing up. In the past I have passed out, coming to propped against a nurse. Today I didn't do that. Made sure that I'd eaten a good breakfast and everything so as not to faint. I did shield my eyes with my free hand, wince and start to feel the tears well up. The weird feeling came over me, as well, but I did manage to stay conscious.

I apologized for being such a baby, that nothing actually hurt. Explained that I'd always been this way. The doctor asked if I was that afraid of cancer; couldn't honestly say that that was the whole reason, but did admit that that was part of it. She told me that in all her career, she'd only met two people now who'd been that upset about an exam, and tried to offer me some reassurances.
I know that I'm cystic: I feel them every month during the hormone surge. Even more so if I've not drunk enough soy, have been stressed-out, or have indulged in too much of three things: caffeine, red wine, chocolate. Already irritated and swelling tissue becomes even more painful if I don't. I can live with that.

I know that I'm young: Though there seems to be a higher incidence nowadays (1/9 women, as opposed to 1/10 before - could be due to more and earlier diagnosis), it's very rare in younger women. Add to that the fact that, as far as I know, no one on my mother's side of the family has ever had breast cancer. My dad's sister did recently, but she's fine now. But that's supposedly of less genetic importance to me than my mother's side.

I also understand intellectually that I'm dealing with some residual trauma from a long-past incident. I just wish that the emotional in this case would catch up to the intellect. It has in so many other areas, why not with my chest. Have worked so hard for so long to let go of pain, both psychological and physical. Why is there still this fixation on one part of me that don't particularly want to change?

Anyway, made it out of the doctor's office in one piece. Couldn't get out fast enough. Of course, in my haste to leave, I left something important behind. Now have to go back to retrieve it before closing time. Thank heavens this is all on my walk home.
Too rich.

Too rich, indeed.

-Thanks, Pablo!
Nappy writes about a sensitive issue, someone gets abusive/too confrontational, she gets tired. I'm going to miss her terribly, but I do understand. Sometimes it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bushel, and I'm still kind of bitter about mine.

Good luck with the potential home-move (a possibility for me as well), enjoy the holidays, take care of yourself. I'm rooting for you.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I need a drink.
Someone here needs to be slapped.
Am seriously thinking of taking up smoking, too.

So, how's your day going?
I'm sorry, but this is reminding me too much of this.

(Speaking of earworms, whenever I see a headline in the news for that transplant surgery, the waltz from Face of Another immediately starts playing in my head. This is a problem, as it takes days to get rid of.)

Monday, December 05, 2005


Hal had the time of his life trying to catch my mother's little Peach in action.

Little girl couldn't get over the attention.

*Bastardized Buffalo Polish for Peaches. (Grandpa named her.)
Winter around the Mystic.

Yesterday, the sky was an odd grayish-yellow, the snow fell thickly, covering the dormant tree branches and dead reeds with dustings of powdered sugar.

I love exploring familiar places when the seasons change: details one might not have picked up on before are highlighted. The senses seem shocked back to life and for a time, they skirt saturation.

Even winter is a fertile time if one is open enough to it.
My Flower for a Busy Monday

Is a neon custard cone from Anderson's in Buffalo, NY. (My favorite's vanilla, by the way.)

Anderson's is a Buffalo institution, started in NYC, but relocated by its homesick founders. Though it's grown to at least a half dozen locations that I can readily name, my favorite is the Sheridan Drive store, which is period-perfect 1946:

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hoop! Time to plastic up the windows. Time to maybe even turn the heat on, too. "Putting another sweater on" just isn't cutting it anymore.

Since oil's up to something extortionate like $2.39/gallon, I'm wondering about getting some insulating curtains as well. Would these be a good investment, or just overkill?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Aww, gee.

It's stuff like this that makes me wish a little bit that I'd have bred when I was supposed to.

I have to agree with this fellow that Payzant did the right thing in not sanctioning a day off for students to attend a rally. Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy or hopelessly out if it, but I don't see how cutting school honors Rosa Parks's memory. Then again, judging from the roster of groups supporting the action, I'm willing to bet my lunch money that this whole thing has very little if anything to do with Rosa Parks anyway.

As for Chuck Turner's statement regarding the BPS decision, it probably should be taken with a fairly large grain of salt. He does, after all, have a history of making some wild accusations.

-via Universal Hub.
What I like about my neighborhood I

Yesterday morning was unseasonably warm with lots of rain and wind. It was also trash/recycling day for my block. Noted that my neighbor across the street's bag for paper recyclables had torn and the contents were fluttering up the street. Though running late for work, decided to Do the Right Thing and run around collecting the flyaways. Weighted what I picked up down and headed off to work.

That evening after I got home, I heard a knock on my front door. Answered it to find my across the street neighbor standing there with a big bouquet of flowers and his Definitive Holiday Mix CD for 2005. Told him that this was all unnecessary, that I was just being neighborly. His answer was that what I did was not the normal neighborly thing to do around these parts and that he really appreciated it. Beat down my normal resistance to gifts of flowers from men and accepted them as graciously as possible.
What I like about my neighborhood II

This morning, had to get up early for some pre-physical bloodwork. Made my uncaffeinated way over to the new doctor's office over in Union Square, got through the paperwork, waited. Finally, a young woman led me over to the little office where she planned to poke me, prod me, draw blood, etc. While doing all this, she made some small talk about how long I'd lived in Somerville, how I liked it there, etc. Somehow during the conversation, we figured out that I worked with her sister in law. Laughing about how small the world was and how many experiences we had in common due to this new connection made the bloodletting, the EKG (something I'd never had before), and the asthma test (another novelty) much easier to get through than usual.
What I like about my neighborhood III

Ali was away for the past couple of months to Egypt visiting family, eating well, relaxing. Though I'd become friendly enough with the people minding the store, I did miss him. Over the years, the morning coffee stop had turned turned into cafe time with him, as if we had time, I'd drink my cup with him and we'd get into solving the world's problems. In the summers, he'd bring me tomatoes, peppers and basil from his garden. In the fall, I'd save a few jars of whatever jams and jellies I've made for him and his family. This little time very often makes my day.

Last week, he finally returned, but I left for Buffalo. Didn't get to see him and ask about Home until yesterday. He put me up to date on things - how the food was, how nice it was to see the family, how much better the weather was. Assured me that no one was shooting people up in the Mean Streets of Alexandria while he was there.

Told me to wait a second and went into the stockroom. He came back out with a glittery little thing and said that it was a gift from Egypt. I looked at it and laughed - "really Ali, the best gift is your getting back here safe and sound!" His answer to that was that, though he didn't feel like coming back here for the hardest season of the year, he couldn't forget his friends. We're part of what makes America great for him.

My little candle painted to look like Tutankhamun's funerary mask sits on a shelf next to my computer monitor. I love to look at it; it makes me smile.
Small World Etiquette Puzzler:

How does a girl handle the fact that her new primary care is someone she's been flirting with on her walks to work for nearly five years now?