Sunday, December 17, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Runaway Reindeer.

The folks who put Somerville on the map with their gates project are back with a touching holiday love story.

-via universal.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Oh, wow.

Mozart fans ought to love this birthday cake icing.

(Found a link to the collection here, but I think that it's getting too many hits right now.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I didn't appreciate being jerked out of sleep by the fluttering heart, the racing thoughts, the cold sweat this morning. Wandered around the house for a bit, took a drink of water, then tried to settle me down to meditate for a bit. The heart kept racing, though, and the thoughts kept flooding through the cracks in my concentration. Finally dropped off at around three ish, only to be woken up again at five and six-thirty.

I've not slept a full night in a couple weeks, but this was the worst. Looks like I'm going to have to switch back to decaf.
Lately, I've taken to calling his Ségolène the French Clinton in response to his Bush-le-neanderthal jabs.

Maybe she's got a bit of Kerry in her, too, what with her treatment of the help and all?

I don't envy the French their election day. The more I read, the more I wonder the candidates are more problems than solutions.

Friday, December 08, 2006

First the Chairman Dances, now El Niño. 'GBH really is on a roll today.

(Boy, I'd give my eye teeth to see this live.)
We were wondering what that cloud of smoke we saw out my boss's window was. Gosh.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Married To The Sea

These folks have been keeping me in stitches for a while now.

(Check them out. No, really...check...them...out.)
Today made it four paps (not to mention two excisions) in six weeks with another one scheduled for a month from now. Boy oh boy, but everyone wants a piece of me.
Maybe it's because of his fear of committing some sort of microaggression against any of us (and as a shrink, he probably has to live, eat and breathe this stuff) that he doesn't try something new. However, the same daily joke about the office temperature started getting tired after about half a year. I know that Henny Youngman made a career of a one one-liner, but he was an exception and the one-liner wasn't about the weather.

Perhaps one of these as an Unspecified Holiday gift might be a (not too un)welcome refresher.
Hindsight's always 20/20.

Guess I should have listened to my guidance counselor and majored in History. Or IR.

-via Instapundit.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Brightening up my evening commute.

Tired after a long day, I was not looking forward to the trudge home in the cold and dark. Spirits were lifted, however, when I got past the chop shops and into residential parts:

Middle-of-the-road Somerville house decorations.


Left over from the morning's snowfall, no doubt.


Santa after losing his Mandate from God.

My little contribution to the light-up-the-night cause.


Keeping the home fires burning.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I got a chance to laugh at the antics of my favorite gold-digger, Lorelei Lee; part of the fun, of course, being the fact that she is such a caricature.

Unfortunately, the real-life Loreleis (and there are plenty of them running around), tend to ruin it for the rest of who operate on good faith, so I tend not to be as amused by them. I'm even less amused (though not surprised) by a major women's magazine providing tips at gift-giving time on how to be the best gold-digger possible.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My commute into work takes me through an area filled with chop shops, bottle-redemption centers and other not-so-easily defined industrial activities. It's pretty desolate territory, so I avoid it during the evening walk home. In the mornings, however, I love to lose myself in the details furnished by the construction sites and junkyards.

Cocquelicots. There used to be a fine-woodworking shop at this site, and one of my great pleasures was to walk by on a cold morning and smell the delicious, clean perfume of linseed oil. This business moved out about a year ago and, in its place, more condominiums are sprouting up.

Sem Credito? Sem problema! There are several used car lots in this area, largely catering to the Brazilian and other Latin communities. The cars here aren't spectacular, but I do like the signs in Portuguese and the little plastic banners above, festive and somewhat reminiscent of Tibetan prayer-flags.

The name Acme Anything makes me think of the old Road-Runner and Coyote cartoons.

Nissenbaum's or Nissy's, as they call themselves, is my favorite of the junkyards. If I time my commute just right, I'll get stopped by a huge forklift transporting junked cars from one section of the yard to another. About as endearing as the colorful paintjob and the "Used Auto Parts" in several languages, is the music from the oldies station that they blast over loudspeakers for the whole street.
On one of his walks around the Grand Canal this weekend, The Frenchman's eyes were drawn towards a pretty girl in a party dress that was period-perfect 1803.

The girl noted his admiration and, I'm sure, was pleased, as it's always nice to get confirmation when you are feeling beautiful.

I don't often feel this way, but on the occasions I have, it's been while wearing something festive for the Holiday Party season. Such a pity that these affairs have become so much more casual than in the past.
All lit-up like Christmas.

One of the vanguards of this Somerville tradition had their lights up mid-November. Though not nearly as spectacular as others in the neighborhood, this display did have a catalytic effect: by the following weekend, a dozen other places were lit up. Right now, the brightest display is across the street from me: two storeys' worth of colored lights arcing off the roof of this massive two-family into the front garden-space.

Perhaps it's guilt, perhaps it's the need to light up the night during the darkest time of year, but last night, for the first time ever in my current place, I even put up some lights in my front window. Of course, what I have up pales in comparison with my neighbors' efforts. Still, it's something.
We got our first snowfall of the season this morning: wet, heavy stuff that started out as sleet. It was pretty (pictures will appear later), but I was a bit worried about slipping during my commute through the Somerville Alps.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Another Autumn Sunset on Winter Hill.

I never get tired of the view out my front window. Though the cat's cradle of power lines is what makes it, it is a bit annoying when the telephone, cable (and or) electricity get knocked out if a too-tall truck comes barreling down the street.

Valentine inattendu.
There're reasons why we call Shamu a killer whale.

Couple things: I'm really glad that the trainer and the whale are both doing decently; this could have been a whole lot worse. I'm also in awe of the animals' self-control in these really unnatural situations (the creepiest being the act where the whale would jump out of the water and kiss audience participants).
It gives you an wins the election!

I love it! The replacement stove for the one that tried to suffocate me is not only best-in-class for the budget gas's got a Sabbath mode as well! If only I could program it to buy the groceries and throw stuff together beforehand.
I'm amazed that, at the end of November, I still have flowers blooming in my garden:

A rather battle-weary but still colorful purple coneflower. This plant has something like two other buds, that, if they aren't killed by a frost, will follow.

Sweet Alyssum. This stuff is dripping from raised beds all over the neighborhood. I have two colors in my yard: a light purple and the ubiquitous white.

In addition, there are still some lobelias, pansies and lots of marigolds. I had dahlias up until about a week ago, when I dug up the bulbs and put them in the cellar.

The herbs (thyme, tarragon, oregano) and sorrel are still out like gangbusters. I've also got a very late crop of spinach that should be just enough for an omelette or, perhaps some soup this weekend when it's supposed to become more seasonal out.


On a slightly disturbing note: On the bikepath, I saw some cherry trees blooming. This morning, noticed that the irises were sprouting again. All this, plus the allergies have come back in force.
I've taken the same route to and from work for nearly six years now, and often set myself on autopilot for the commute. (In fact, there are stretches of walk where I know I'm safe enough to close my eyes and try to perceive the world around me based on smells or sounds. My hearing's not so fine-tuned as to be able to catch the differences between models of BMWs or Subarus, but I can distinguish between a van and a Volkswagon based on wind-resistance. I'm also getting better at identifying birds by their calls and trees by the rustle of the wind in their leaves.)

Sometimes, however, I'm broken out of my pre-caffeinated cocoon-ey state by something unusual. Today, it happened to be an approaching figure swathed in something the color of the dahlias that Raphaella gave me this year. How pleasant to see, when we got closer, an incredibly handsome monk who was probably roughly the same age as I am. I gave him one of my biggest (and consequently silliest) smiles, and got in return one of those wonderfully cryptic (and almost flirty) ones with the soupcon of a wink that I've always gotten from the Buddhist monks around here. Yes, it gave me a thrill, and, yes, I'm still thinking about it hours later.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Symphony In Blue

This little card ended its transatlantic flight on my desk last night posing the question "Tapis ou vitrail?"

Myself, I see a walk along the Picardy coast on a blustery day.

Language left me for a bit, but secondary strengths came to the forefront. As it turned out, my powers of concentration increased to the point where I could teach myself some rather knit-picky projects: stranded color knitting being one of them. My first attempt was this pretty little cap - a great tutorial in Bohus and Shetland/Fair Isle techniques.

Since I'm feeling cut off from words, I've been playing a lot with sounds, shapes and colors. Knitting's been very fruitful, and music's been a comfort (back to basics: lots of Czerny and Hanon. I've also set aside Les Six for Chopin, Schumann, even a bit of Debussy. Am also finally getting started on a transcription project I'd been thinking about for some time). At work, going through this book (am on chapter three now), in addition to seeing how much SQL and VB I can manage to get back. I don't have the confidence or the energy to change situations (was thinking of moving house and job) right now. Eventually maybe.
The first indications that something was wrong became apparent when I was in undergrad: I would enter a dreamlike state and be unable to read signs, advertisements, etc. Sometimes this would culminate in a dead faint; at other times, I'd either throw up or start hyperventilating. It got so bad that I had to stop taking the train to get anywhere. Though I've no problem with the T now, I still like to arrange my life around walking.

In music, it didn't even matter that I'd had a body memory of the piece I was playing - I'd sit down in front of my instrument and watch the notes go cascading down the staff into a pile on the lower corner of the page. Then my fingers would turn to rubber and I'd get the chills. I went from performance to academic in order to accommodate this and haven't sung or played a note in public in years.

This time around, though not as severe, the language thing is giving me a run for my money. Sometimes, when I'm at the therapist, I'll drift between languages like a sleepy motorist drifts from lane to lane. Sometimes I'll just start crying, as I can't find the right words to explain to wrap around, to sketch out how I'm feeling. Documentation and office correspondence have been torture; blogging darn well near impossible.

It's pretty clear what's going on here; awfully frustrating as well. How much work will be necessary to put me back together again this time around? And how will it hit me the next time (if it does)? I don't want to keep spending so much of my time and intellect fighting emotional windmills. I want to move on. Be productive. Live up to a potential that so far's been stifled and sabotaged by traumatic overhead.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turkey and Travel.

May both be enjoyable (or tolerable, anyway).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Much more interesting were the ballot questions: three statewide and three for my particular ward/precinct. So what happened there?

Question 1: Sale of wine in food stores in MA

I voted yes on this, as I don't see the problem in one-stop-shopping for both one's dinner and the wine to go with. I was also turned off by the liquor lobby's campaign, which brought to mind the Teachers' Union's sensationalist attack against the 2002 ballot question on bilingual education (Don't sue teachers!).

Question 1 was rejected. (That's okay, as my market actually does have a liquor license, and I CAN get wine with dinner if I so choose. Just wanted to see it a possibility across the state.)

Question 2: Nomination of Candidates for Public Office

Essentially, a candidate can be nominated by more than one party, and all the different affiliations will be listed on the ballot. I voted for this, as it seems a good way to be able to support a candidate for their views, rather than party affiliation. It could potentially bring some variety into the election process - allowing us to vote for smaller-party and independent candidates and not have it seem an act of futility.

Question 2 was rejected.

Question 3: Family Child Care Providers

Childcare providers in MA already have bargaining capabilities, so I wasn't worried about that; what particularly interested me was who was backing the initiative. As it turns out, a major entity who is trying to make inroads at my organisation was one of the big supporters. Since I've a rather dim view of them, and I'm all for small businesses/contractors keeping as much autonomy as possible, I voted no on this question.

Question 3 was rejected.

Those were the state-wide questions. The last three, on my neighborhood's ballot, were non-binding questions (via the Somerville News):

Question 4: "would instruct state Rep. Denise Provost, D-Somerville, to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon the President and Congress of the United States to end the war in Iraq immediately and bring all military forces home."

I voted against this, as I do not feel it is the place of my local representatives to be mixing themselves in foreign policy. That is not why I hired them. Aside from that, I happen to be a strong supporter of what the US is trying to accomplish in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. Yes, stuff could be going better, (and I hope that things will improve with the change in government) but if we were to pull out now, the situation will do nothing but get a whole lot worse.

Question 4 passed (not surprising).

Question 5: "calls for Provost to vote in favor of a non-binding resolution to return Palestinian refugees to their land of origin."

Question 6: "instructs her to vote for resolutions calling on “all governmental entities of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” to sell any investments they hold in Israeli bonds or in companies that supply military equipment to Israel."

Again, superficially, I voted against 5 and 6 for the same reason I voted against question 4. Beyond that, though, I'm just too tired to be getting into my feelings about the group that got these questions on the ballot, or to bother picking nits over Palestinian right of return issue and the whole likening of Israel to South Africa under Apartheid. Suffice it to say that, though these questions were non-binding, they pissed me off enough to get me up early and get me to the polling place when it opened to vote them the hell out.

Questions 5 and 6 were rejected (praise be).


Coming in 2007 or 2008: What will be the Massachusetts voters' response to judicial fiat?
So, how'd things go in Massachusetts?


Kennedy's back in again (big surprise). So long as I can hold a pen, I'm going to keep voting against him, however.

Deval Patrick is our new governor. I was rather disappointed with this, as, quite honestly, I don't like him. I thought that he was about as content-free as one could get and that Healey was the only one in the lot of candidates that had a good, coherent plan. Unfortunately, the race was a dirty one, and her side didn't outsource the mudslinging like his did.

(Karen has a theory about this: people are not looking so much for a good public servant as for Charlie Brown. They want someone sweet, cute and wise-seeming beyond their years.)

Most everyone else I voted for got in. The two in my ward/precinct I left blank got reelected, as well. In all, not much changed, and what did change wasn't unexpected.
On the way home last night from one of the myriad doctor appointments it seems I have to keep nowadays, I ran into Pablo. We decided to grab dinner at the new sandwich shop by the guy who gave us the East Coast Grill (wonderful but pricey).

While enjoying my about-as-close-to-Buffalo as I'm likely to get here beef on weck, I caught a bit of CNN's Situation Room (sound off, but with a Steely Dan soundtrack) blogging party and had to smile. Yes, the whole alternative media thing is neat (guess I have a bit of investment in it), but did there need to be coverage of a roomful of people with laptops? Granted, the sound was off, but I think I'd rather have waited till I got home to read what my favorites had to say than watch a bunch of random folks tapping away in a nondescript bar somewhere in DC.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I was up with the chickens this morning in order to get to my polling place as close to opening time as possible. Got there at around 7:15 (polls opened at 7:00), and, not surprisingly, found that all the voter cubbies were filled and that there was a small line ahead of me.

As usual, everybody from voters to the security officer was in a good mood, and there seemed to be an almost festive air about the place. All that was lacking was a DPW bake sale.

At any rate, I continued my tradition of voting against Kennedy: not very fruitful, but, boy, did it did feel good. As for everything/everyone else? We'll see what happens, and maybe we'll talk about it later.
Last night, Pablo stopped by to keep me company while I started the process of turning this year's jack-o'lanterns into pumpkin butter. While I peeled and chopped, he read.

We'd been going through a book of O Henry short stories lately, so to keep up the momentum, he read one on spring greens (we were thinking of sorrel soup for dinner anyway, so this was a nice little entrée). Afterwards, we got into the meatier stuff.

Over the course of the evening we crammed: Healey's fifty points, Patrick's overview, then the explanations of each of the statewide ballot questions. Didn't bother with the Somerville ballot questions, as we prettymuch knew where we stood on them from the getgo.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Life goes on.

No, I've not been posting much here lately: have been busy with other work-health-personal stuff. Don't feel much like talking about it, either.
More stuff to keep in mind the next time someone hollers "torture!" in reference to Guantanamo.

-'force feeding' schedule changed to evening hours for Ramadan

- two Eid feasts served to accomodate those who chose to extend their fasting by a day because they believed that US soldiers were trying trick them


(Idle question here: how many people who decry the Evil Empire's 'torture,' so cheapened now as to include perceived 'cultural insensitivity,' were even aware that last month was Ramadan, or knew what day Eid al Fitr fell on this year?)
Bless their hearts.

-via LGF.


Sorry, but I really feel the need to mention this: though I do live in MA, that doesn't mean that I've ever voted for either the Senior or the Junior clown. The write-in section of the ballot is this girl's best friend. Really.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Happy Birthday -

To my favorite Wisconsonian!

Have been pretty wrapped up in my own little personal drama, so didn't have time to whip anything more elaborate up...I'm sure that he won't mind a Little Debbie, though. (It's the thought that counts!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Friday night, in spite of my being dog-tired, I found myself taking a detour up Prospect Hill instead of going directly home.

St. Joseph's Church in Union Square. Very often, when I pass by in the morning, there is a peregrine (or two) perched on the gold cross to the right of the bell tower. Today, I think someone wanted a change of scenery, as they were perched atop the steeple at the Richardsonian-Romanesque church turned condo over on Summer Street.

From here, Boston looks almost harmless.

Widow watches and rooftops in the foreground; Boston's financial district in the background. (That's the Custom House tower between the blue house's brick chimneys.)

A favorite painted lady I pass on my nightly walks home. She's actually halfway down Prospect Hill, heading in the direction of Medford.

Made it home just in time to catch the sun setting over my neck of the woods (Winter Hill).


Yes, this place has its nice points; hopefully it doesn't end up another Ibiza or Nice.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Berkshires and Bouguereau are calling. Off to the Clark, off to Williamstown to get my fix.
(Thank heavens for small favors)

I was trying to figure out why my mom hadn't called yesterday to kvetch about the weather. Apparently her phone's knocked out.

Everybody's okay and managing to keep warm, though no one has gotten their electricity restored yet.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Just got back from the eye doctor. The most intense trip I've experienced in my life till now has to be navigating Harvard Square during lunch hour with my pupils dilated.
Rock-Solid Counsel from someone who's generally spot on when spotting these things.

(Klaus Nomi? Good lord. Kind of makes one wonder what Momus has been up to lately.)
Sleep of reason

A Nueremburg-style trial seems an interesting choice of term for this little proposed spectacle. I'd think that witch-trial or Inquisition might be more apt, though.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Out with the old.

In honor of the sugar maple's swansong, I hennaed my hair this weekend. Though Pavel told me that I should just give up on hair-dye and embrace my blondeness, I think it looks pretty nice.

This image, taken at the same time as the other, doesn't show much of the hair. I'm keeping it, though, because I like the lighting, and it does give a good illustration of the eyes on the Viking side of the family. Also figured that it'd make a good change from the dinnerplate magnolia picture that was in the sidebar for so long.
Fall's arrival was a subtle one this year: first a change in the sun's angle which suffused everything with a golden light both in the morning and evening. Next, the transition of the wind in the trees from a whisper to a gentle rustling or scraping. After that, the honey locusts on Central Street, the vanguards of this year's leaf-turning movement, began to look like aerial patches of goldenrod.

Somerville City Hall with honey locusts in the foreground.

Another view of City Hall. In Fall, even parts of the most densely-packed urban area in New England can have a Currier-and-Ives air.

Today was the first overcast day in what feels like weeks. I haven't seen too many fiery displays against gunmetal yet; I look forward to that. I also haven't smelled the cool dead leaf and rain smell that one normally experiences this time of year. Perhaps sometime over the next few days.

Around the corner from Ali's was the first in-your-face sugar maple of the year:

I first noticed it a week or so ago, when it was much more sharply dressed. Most striking was the shaping of the branches: upswept with a flourish and festooned with color, much like a flamenco dancer or Salome and her seven veils.

Karen and I are two of the few patrons of the lunch cart, though that's largely due to our susceptibility to the behavioral conditioning practiced on us by the kitchen staff (we call them the clients!). Though the quality of the food varies greatly, it's usually edible, which is all we ask.

Today, however, my pizza was not only not cardboard (as it had been the last couple times), but I could have gone for a second piece.

My boss's lunch is a new item: a honey-barbecued chicken sandwich (they put bacon on it!) and fries. I'm hearing sounds of contentment from her office.

Wonder if there's new kitchen training staff?
Word has it that Paris will be coming to Boston again in a couple weeks. Happy Halloween!
Yesterday morning, I stopped by Ali's for a cup of coffee and to wish him a happy technical Monday. Found him somewhat slumped over his counter looking listlessly out the door.

"It's not that bad, is it? Even for the beginning of the week?"

He sighed. "Thirteen days to go."
(Thirteen days? Oh! Right!)

"Ohhh. Well, sundown is coming early now. Why don't you have a cup of tea?"

"Can't drink tea. Can't drink water."

"Gosh, Ali - that's awfully rough. You must be going nuts at night." Told him about my girlfriend who got passed around from household to household in Casablanca one Ramadan and about how she gained five pounds from the experience.

He smiled a bit ruefully. "The trouble is is that your stomach shrinks during this period and, though you see all this food you look at it, you think -I need, I need, I just can't eat it. Your stomach won't let you"

I nodded in sympathy.

"Tell you what, Ali, I'll pray for strength for you these next couple weeks if you promise to do the same for me during Lent."

Since he was too weak/tired to do anything else, he just smiled and nodded back. "It's a deal."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

She mentioned in her email that she wasn't only hopping mad, but pig-biting mad. I suggested that we have lunch out today rather than rush over to the next-door sandwich shop. Though we're always under the gun, sometimes it just makes good sense to take more than the usual fifteen minute break and get the heck out. Time off for good behavior, I call it.

We went to the local Chinese joint which recently got a feng-shui makeover: screens, calligraphic prints, lucky bamboo, etc. (It's amazing how much nicer subgum pork tastes when served on a china plate with real silverware, or how much more refreshing the tea is when it doesn't taste like styrofoam.) There, we sat down, got fussed over by the waitress, and tried to relax. My girlfriend let off a bit of steam in the form of invective and I attempted some humorous commentary on her experiences (always iffy, as, when one is as close to a situation as I am to hers, one can never be sure if they've stepped over the line between dry and bitter. How on earth did Dorothy Parker do it? Oh, right: martinis at lunch).

A few minutes later, a couple of august-looking older men sat down at a table next to ours. Since we were separated by a screen, it wasn't difficult to engage in obvious eavesdropping, a delight, given that what they were talking about was much more interesting than our rehash of the morning's annoyances. For about twenty minutes, we took a break from our petty world to hear them discuss favorite books and authors. I drifted off to Maugham and Waugh; saw from my girlfriend's wry half-smile that she was enjoying the conversation as well.

After they left, she remarked on how nice it was to get a respite from the normal politicking and backbiting that takes place at work. I nodded in agreement.

Though reasonably intelligent, neither of us is what one would call intellectual, or of an academic bent: we're worker bees. There's nothing wrong with that; we don't mind. Every now and again, though, it's nice to be able to put our heads in the clouds and think on something other than office politics, local politics, relationship politics. It certainly helped today.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Such a lucky girl.

I dragged myself home late tonight, wiped-out and down in the mouth. Managed to bring in the mail and the recycle bins before collapsing on my bed.

The phone rang; I didn't answer it.
It rang again. Still, I didn't answer.

Got myself up, schlepped me into the bathroom to rinse off my face. During that time, the phone rang yet again. I managed to pick it up on the last ring; heard Raphaella's voice.

"You're home now?"
"Just got in. Raphaella, they kicked my ass today."
"Yeah, you were gone for so long. They do that to Rosie whenever she goes on vacation."
"God, I don't know how much more I can take."
"You're gonna have to take a lot more if you want to eat and have a roof over your head."

I asked her how her day was. She said that she'd kicked her own ass tying up the fast-fading tomatoes and scrubbing the patio. Asked me if I'd like to take some of the green ones to make relish with (She loves "American" or sweet tomato relish, but doesn't know how to make it. Roberta across the street used to make it, but doesn't bother with a garden anymore now). Told me she wanted to see my new bathroom.

I unlocked the doors, stepped out to meet her halfway and found her in her garden clutching a big, green granny square afghan.

"What's that?" I asked. "It's too warm to need a quilt tonight. What're you doing with that?"

She laughed. "Homemade pasta. I made it for the tomatoes."

She showed me her swollen forearms and arthritic wrists, proof that she'd not only kneaded the dough, but that she'd cut the pasta by hand. "I felt like making pasta today and wanted to save some for you. I kept it in the blanket so it would stay warm. I was thinking about you, and thought you'd like homemade spaghetti tonight."

It took everything for me not to start to cry. How'd I get so lucky?

All I could say was, "Oh, Raphaella, the noodles are as thin as my grandma used to make. This is gonna be so good. It's hot spaghetti, isn't it? Lots of peppers? Thanks, Ma."
Happy Place.

A grotto in the gardens at Versailles. It's on my desktop now, as I find myself myself returning there quite a lot; especially after staff meetings.


"You've got to get out, and get out as soon as possible, Be. If you stay here, you're going to rot. Leave here already, would you?"

-something my boss said to the other day.

(Believe me, I agree 100% with this. It's just a matter of where I end up landing after I make the leap.)



I'd do so if I could decide which was more panic-worthy:

That I'm no longer denying the increased intensity of feelings towards a certain someone or

That in a weak and emotional moment I actually admitted this to my someone.

Oh, for the peace that dissociation would bring.

(From Grimpen Mire)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Three Haikus on Home Improvement.

Renovation work:
Ultimately a good thing
But, oh, the upset.

The sun beckons me
But plaster dust imprisons,
forces me to mop.

The old rug is out
As celadon does not go
with pumpkin orange.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

No rest for the weary.

I've been moving away from posting here for some time as, in addition to my feeling that this venture has gotten pretty stale over the past year or so, life been awfully trying lately.

This spring, due to a few too many life crises, I ended up having to take a leave of absence from work. After a few months dedicated to quiet and to taking care of myself, last week, I found myself back in the same unhealthy work situation. Though I'm coping much better than before, am still very drained due to the loss of quiet at home. (What timing to start ripping the bathroom apart the same day I returned to the office.)

If I can survive the next week or two (hopefully not more than that), perhaps I won't feel like I have the world on my shoulders. Perhaps I'll feel more like writing. Perhaps not. We'll see.
Pattern Recognition.

Photo via Reuters.

It's not an exact fit, as Beavis and Butthead could be funny from time to time and weren't heads of totalitarian regimes in countries with big oil-economies.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Cauchemar is French for Nightmare. The two terms are closely related, too:

couche = sleep; mar = horse/mare.

The shared etymology can be traced back to the myth of Tristan and Iseult: Le Roi Marc was the older man that Iseut was sent to marry; Tristan was her protector on the voyage. Marc was reputed to be ugly and horse-faced, hence the term nightmare/cauchemar for ugly things that come in the night.

I had three nightmares on Monday night, none that I could remember on Tuesday night (though I woke up with a clenched jaw) and one that I could remember last night. This tells me that perhaps a few things need to be changed or are lacking right now. What comes to mind? Perhaps:

1.) more time with the shrink
2.) a new bed
3.) a new job
4.) hope
5.) a goal or future to work towards
6.) to not eat marinated mushroom pizza an hour before bedtime

This sounds a bit like an action plan. Maybe I should treat it as such.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Am I feeling lucky?

Yesterday was my first day back on the job after a three-month hiatus.

How did it go?

Well, one of the first things I did on the way to work this morning was buy a lottery ticket.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

L'affaire Dreyfus, II

This shares a number of classic themes with the original story: institutional and popular anti-semitism, a public institution (I would never want to be tried in the French court system) that is so ripe for reform. This time, however, everything is playing on a much grander scale (a defamed people, and a falsely accused group as opposed to an individual) and with much less press than the original (not surprising, given how the press is involved).

Though I don't know that I have much hope for a just outcome to this, I'm going to be watching with great interest. I want the French system to do the right thing now, just as they were capable of doing at one point, long ago.


Yes, it is early yet, but this is promising.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later.

The people who died in those planes and buildings are still dead; we're still at war. I see neither of these situations changing in the foreseeable future, and there's really nothing I can say or do that will change any of this. So, I'm just going to remain quiet on the subject.

Have a peaceful day.
Another (small) milestone.

It just occurred to me that my blog turned three on the same day that Aunt Jeannette turned 90. Imagine that.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Onward, To Buffalo

three sisters

A small souvenir of Aunt Jeannette's Russian adventure, some 30 years ago. The poem? Roughly translated: "three young women gazing out the window spinning their flaxen thred." Family signifigance? To honor the bond between three sisters - three powerful, outspoken, true to their viking origins sisters. As a child, I would bring it out of its hiding place in Grandma Double-vey's hutch, tracing the raised letters covetously. Now it hangs on my "wall of fame," the kitchen trivet display.

Off to Buffalo for a few days to fête the birthday of Aunt Jeannette, who turns 90 on Saturday. As much as returning to the Heimatstadt stirs up conflicting emotions in me, I'd not miss this shindig for the world.

More when I get back. Until then, enjoy your weekends!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Qaddafi, he’s not just the despot, he is the Arab Superfly, White Shaft in Africa! And, and you, you’re just the crazy Mr. Ahmadinejad, the scourge of the first period homeroom."

-Lessons in Dictator Chic from Manolo

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Moules Marinières.

Mussels, or poor man's oysters as they're called here, are a staple of just about every coastal café, hotel restaurant, or brasserie menu. In Fort-Mahon alone, just about everyone had a mussels-special of the day (ten different flavors, all for less than ten euros!...a relative bargain, that.), and that got me to wondering where all these wonderful shellfish were coming from.

One afternoon, while walking down the beach past the next resort town of Quend, my question was answered: mussel farms. Rows and rows (km upon km?) of posts were set up in the tidal area, and these supplied a good number of restaurants in the region.

For a girl who is accustomed to picking enough of her own shellfish off the shore to make a small dinner for herself and others, the scope of this enterprise was astounding: how many thousands of dishes are sold each summer? How much production is necessary to keep the restaurants supplied? How long did it take for the mussels to reach maturity?

On the menu front, too, I got to wondering: what exactly were these ten flavors of mussels we saw advertised? Mon ami and I tried to enumerate: marinière (white wine), cream, roquefort, curried, provençal (tomatoes and garlic), flavored with dijon mustard...with those, we'd prettymuch exhausted our imaginations.

When I make mussels at home (and I only do this if I can collect the shellfish myself), I opt for simplicity - white wine, olive oil and fines herbes.

Moules Marinière (serves 3-4)

1/4 cup olive oil (or butter)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
chopped, fresh herbs to taste (usually what's in the garden: thyme, tarragon, oregano)
a small bucket (3-4 quarts) of mussels, scrubbed and bearded
a handful of minced parsley

In a deep skillet or pot, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until transparent. Add wine and herbs, then cook for two or three minutes. Add the mussels, and cook, closely covered over high heat for six to eight minutes. Shake the pan enough during this time to cooke the mussels evenly, but remove from heat the minute the shells are open. Pour the whole kit and kaboodle into heated bowls (mussels, then broth) and serve garnished with parsley.

The classic accompaniment to this dish is a plate of fresh, hot french fries, crusty bread and a cold glass of beer or cider. I like my mussels with a green salad and a glass of white wine. (Bon appétit!)

Lights, Camera, Action.

In my job, I'd occasionally been called upon to misuse set theory principles. It's good to see these tools being used by one of the Good Guys.
I am a very angry person. I don't like that; it frightens me. I don't want my rage to eat me alive. I'm afraid that it will, though.

I think that part of why I keep myself away from others is because of the fear of hurting them. I hate this aspect of me, and just don't want to inflict it on anyone.

I wish I could be better-balanced. I try, but often I fail. Am not about to give up just yet, but I do get so damned tired sometimes.
"And don't look back."

I see the hand writing on the wall. But where to go?

I have some ideas. Part of me, however, the part that likes to stay put, that seeks security in anticipating the moves of Known Devils, doesn't like any of them.



We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.

Your analyst is
in on it,
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective.

-Philip Loprate, quoted by Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird.

As my friend who passed it along mentioned, what a way to shape one's paranoia into something artistic, funny and true.

I've a long way to go to in that area.

(From Grimpen Mire)

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I'd seen many wonderful things these last few weeks. However, in this place, for the first time in years, I felt peace.

Late afternoon light at play in the basilica at L'Abbaye St. Fleury.

The basilica tower.


The Loire.

Years after having first seen Ugetsu, I still dream of ghost ladies and boats gliding in the fog.

Sadly, not too surprising.

My experience is more with the French media than with the British, though most of it does come from roughly the same sources. Granted, I've not done any great amount of research into this - just reading a few headlines here and there and hearing from one source about the apparently 'major' problem of militant Jewish groups in France. However, my strongest impressions are of serious media bias against Israel and of a fair bit of denial as to the actual scope of antisemitism (both Muslim and non-Muslim).

Also visited the Chartres-inspired 9/11 memorial a short wander away from the museum. Would like to do so again next weekend.
"Many people think that Islam prohibits figural representation, but this is not true."

-Velvet Lady in a niche (detail), 17th century, India or Iran. On display over at Boston College's McMullin Museum of Art until December 31st, 2006.

"The Koran, the Muslim scripture, bans idolatry, or the worship of images, so images are not found in mosques and other religious settings. But many Muslims-like people everywhere-enjoyed pictures of people and animals in their everyday lives."

-Figures from the Cosmophilia exhibit brochure.

As with all the exhibitions I've seen over the past several years at the McMullin, this was impressive, both for the works displayed and the curation. Cosmophilia (love of ornament) was divided into five areas: Figures, Writing, Geometry, Vegetation, Hybrids. Each section was thoroughly explained, as was each illustratory piece. Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of such text-heavy displays, but BC's curatorial staff do such a good job, both in the writing and making allowances for necessary low-light conditions, that I couldn't imagine an improvement on what they've put forth this time around.

Am probably going to try to see this again at least once more (possibly more, if it means dragging everyone I know who might be interested along).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Not this again.

How much more guilt money is "the west" supposed to hand over now? And why isn't anyone asking for money from Riyadh since they came, enslaved and colonized way before the Evil West ever did?

As for the whole slave thing: why is it that two countries that still have more or less government-sanctioned slavery are on this continent and nowhere else? How is this our fault? Last I read, it was westerners (Think Enlightenment era principles and evolved Christian thought) who came up with the notion of slavery as an evil, rather than any from the victims' side of things. What am I missing here?

(Guess I'd feel a little more likely to ignore this outburst if I knew what the speaker's view was on her country's spending habits and how much that little misunderstanding with Eritrea's got to have cost them by now. As for Mugabe and Zimbabwe? Let's not go there.)
Auberge de la Dune.

A room with a view.

Despite its name, our little auberge found itself nestled between cow pasturages and wheat fields rather than at the shore. It was a clean, small place with good breakfasts (two kinds of homemade jam!), hot showers and so-so other meals. I wonder if my travel partner wasn't a little disappointed by the place, as we weren't right on the beach. Myself, I grew to love the transition of the landscape in the evenings as we moved from honky-tonk resort towns to our little rooms in the countryside and the lowing of Normandy cows rather than crashing surf as a lullabye.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


I've been feeling strong enough to start reaching out again. Amazingly, people have been reaching back. Why is it so hard for me to imagine that someone could care enough, that I'd be worthy enough for someone to love me and want to help?



HOPE is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-Emily Dickinson



Do I live for a challenge?

He seems understanding. He's so sweet and so generous to me. I'm attracted to him like to no one else I've ever met. The last thing I need is to fall in love, though. Especially to someone an ocean away, lots older than me, and probably not interested in such things anymore.

Right now, though, all I can think of is how I want to be with him. Of how good and safe it feels to fall asleep next to his warm body, his strong arms protectively but not suffocatingly around me.


Cried a few times over the old love in front of the new lover. As I can't lie my way out of a wet paper bag, I decided to tell him the truth - that I was frustrated and unhappy about my past love and about how we cut things off. Honesty isn't always the best policy, but it's all I have, really.


I'm happy to be away from him, really. I just wish he'd leave my dreams alone. Twice while I was away, he woke me up, frustrated me because of the inability to talk/commit to anything, then left me so sad that I couldn't stop crying.

(From Grimpen Mire)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Local Colo(u)r.

Roxbury, MA -- A seven-year-old boy was at the center of a Boston courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents, and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulations requiring that family unity be maintained to the degree possible.
The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his Aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him.

After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him. After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the Boston Red Sox, whom the boy firmly believes is not capable of beating anyone.

-Found this on Craigslist Boston, so I guess it must be true.
La Rentrée.

A decidedly Pre-PC statement on a decidedly Pre-Corbu bit of architecture over at Versailles.

Returned yesterday from a very short notice, whirlwind trip back to France. This time around, visited the Picardy coast, Amiens, Rouen, Chartres, and some of the northern portion of the Loire Valley.

I think I'm starting to really get into this travel thing again.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Well, did some soul-searching, some poll-taking and counted the pennies in the coffeecan yesterday: am going to take off (tonight!). As an added bonus, I get to add a few more phrases to my internal polyglot dictionary.

See you in a couple weeks!


Food for thought regarding air travel this time of year (via instapundit).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Funny, but:

If I'd not known where this'd come from, I'd have sworn that it was an abstract for a Home Office publication.

4:45 am: While I engage in my ruminations of an insomniac, the moon gets a bit of competition from the other early risers two doors down.

Up until yesterday, I was trying to figure out how to scrape a few sous together in order to spend the last couple of weeks before la rentrée back in France (when else will I have the chance to do that?). Now, I'm wondering if that's such a good idea. On one hand, yes, people want us dead. On the other hand, security's pretty tight, so we might be safer than ever. What to do, what to do.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Never try to argue (Middle Eastern) politics on an empty stomach with a Frenchman: you can't win and you'll only end up getting really upset.

Completely fake but totally accurate representation of last night's discussion on media manipulation and the current Israel/Hezbollah conflict.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It occurred to me that part of the reason why I'm so miserable, so jumpy, so wanting to get the hell out of here right now is that normally now, I'd be up in Maine. A couple of friends invited me up to their family's camp, but it was for two weeks and I wasn't comfortable with that. I'd thought of running off to France again, but twice in a month during peak season's way too rich for my blood.

Right now, I'm trying to stave off the sadness by reading stories of strong women in Maine and essays by a strong woman comfortable with her alone-ness (something I have to relearn), as well as trying to take day trips around town.

It all makes me feel just a little bit less wretched, and stops the torturing, sehnsuchtensvoll thoughts of somebody way too far away from me for short stretches, so I should be thankful for that bit of an escape, anyhow.


My mother's on a campaign now to get me to move back to the Heimatsstadt and to live with her. She's worried about me, she says. Mmh-hmm, sure: spending more than the two-three hours a year with her that I currently do would fix me alright; I'm sure of it.

(From Grimpen Mire)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Generally, I'm pretty happy with my car-free state (18 years and still going strong). Sometimes, however, I do get to thinking about how nice it might be to have a means to get the hell out on a weekend or to not have to pay delivery charges for something I could fit in the trunk of a car.

So long as I live here, I won't own a car: it's too expensive, aggravating, dangerous to deal with for all the use I'd get from it. Was thinking of becoming a Zipcar member, but don't know if I'd use the service enough to justify the monthly costs. The pricing structure also seems in place to discourage daytripping. Don't know; I guess I'm just going to have to research more. I do really like the zipcar idea, though.
Mark your calendars: the Perseids are back in town.
They work fast...

Hats off to Kauri and Keenu who, after only just moving there, had their shop named Breckenridge, CO's business of the month!

Go little brother! Go sister-in-law!

Saw one scurry across my neighbor's yard, pause near our trashcans, then continue on to my shade garden yesterday afternoon. Yes, I'm pretty sure why it was there. No, I'm not particularly happy at all about it, either.

I love where I live and love most of my neighbors. Living here, though, is getting difficult, as some are ruining it for the rest: namely some condo-dwellers who want nothing to do with their neighbors and slumlords who don't take care of their properties. The rat came from one of the two new crashpads that recently sprouted up a couple doors down.

The guy sometimes liked to give me things that'd caught his eye curbside and that he thought I might use.

One afternoon he rescued a basket of lopi-weight yarn from a sidewalk and brought it over. Pleased as I was by this bit of ground score, I was worried about possible tenants and infestations, so immediately put everything in the laundry.

What came out of the wash was a gorgeous but exhausting-looking mass of greens, blues, browns:

Some disassembly required. Mamasan not included.

As I didn't feel up to the task of neatening up, I just let it sit. And sit it did, until yesterday, when I found that I had the proper mindset (just the right mélange of depression and anxiety) to render this menial task meditative enough to be satisfying.

So far, I'm about halfway through with this work. I pick it up in fits and starts, always concentrating on a single color. It's amazingly soothing, and while loosening up snarls or finishing up a ball, I find myself actually not so teary-eyed anymore.