Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wouldn't it be great if someone I knew were to hop on the bus and pay a visit just like back in the day?

Snort. At least I think it'd be great, anyway.

Three weeks till school's out. Wish me luck. I need it.
Important stuff to keep in mind.

Got into a conversation with a friend yesterday who said that we westerners were in the worst of times because of "rabid, radical feminism." It kind of blew my mind to think that she could have that mindset (not that I'm a rabid feminist or anything. Really.) when even nowadays (though not so much in the in the west after maybe fifty years ago) a woman could be put to death as a witch, gang raped, forced into prostitution, etc if she was a non-breeding woman without a husband.

I don't like a lot of what's going on in the world we're currently in, and I certainly don't like a lot of the western male's misogynistic backlash against the feminist pendulum overcompensating, but I also understand who the good guys are or, ultimately, which side my bread's buttered on.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Top Minds are at work trying to gain access to the seed dispenser. Have witnessed some amazing acrobatics from the balcony, the tallest yew branches that will support a squirrel's weight, the feeder itself.

Clearly, we're going to have to rethink the position and style of said feeder. It's not going to last long where it's hanging.
Managed to get the skeleton together for the paper on Progressivism: reasons for its popularity among Democrats and Republicans, reforms associated with the movement and its shortcomings/short sightedness.

Though this is a wonderfully interesting time period, it's going to very soon end in heartbreak with America's involvement in the first world war.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Yes, and the squirrels had their Thanksgiving as well:

Rest assured that, as soon as Pavel saw what was happening, he moved the feeder. Tomorrow, I'll trim the yews back some more.

Hopefully your Thanksgiving was at least as good as theirs. (Mine turned out pretty well after all.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Seven Courses?

Crudites / relish tray

Welsh Rarebit

Mushrooms with sausage stuffing

Pumpkin Soup with Molasses cream

Squash with fruit stuffing (dates, walnuts, figs, raisins, apples, cranberries)

Chuck pretending to be a Warner Brothers Cartoon Headhunter with a leftover stuffed squash.

Turkey and Ham with Fixings: green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, yams with brown sugar, oyster stuffing, orange pineapple jello mold, Watergate Salad (complete with copy of Alice's Restaurant), potato rolls, biscuits...

Dessert: Pies, pies and more pies. I had a bit of cherry cheesecake that someone had brought along.

Washed it all down with some of this. It's not really good wine, and one seldom is able to manage more than a few sips, but am such a sucker for the posters announcing its arrival every year.

Il est arrive!

The label's particularly pretty this year.

There were plenty of breaks for naps, conversation and keeping up dishes (a necessity, as Shanna's kitchen is pretty small). Chuck and I also got into running around the house in between courses. Don't know that any amount of exercise or pacing would have saved us from feeling like just-fed boas afterwards, though.
Well, I'd intended to spend the day alone doing work. Didn't quite work out that way.

Essentially, got an unexpected visit from friends who'd originally invited me to their place and was all but shanghaied. As Chuck put it, "everybody should have dinner today, even if it means dragging them out of their house in their pajamas."

He was right, I had a very good time (though am overstuffed - it was a seven course meal). Sometimes your friends know better than you what's best for you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Speaking of Historical Perspectives -

Off to school now to be regaled with tales of the Hundred Years War and the Papal Schism. Good times, good times.
Keeping Things in Perspective.

It's what's keeping me on a fairly even keel during this period of flashy rhetoric from Congress and gloom and dooming from the media.*

As I mentioned earlier, have been slogging my way through the Progressive Era when things were much worse for the wage workers than today** and was noting that the leadup what's happening nowadays is strikingly similar to before the depressions of 1894 and 1929. Even then, especially with the birth of the Progressive and Socialist parties, there were calls to nationalize industries. Teddy Roosevelt, Taft to a lesser extent and even Wilson were more in favor of regulation, however. Of course, as we've seen lately, too much regulation as well as bad regulation can cause problems, too.

Anyway, the calls for revolution we hear from the left, the far right, whoever else, aren't anything new, nor are they really likely to lead to any cataclysmic changes (as some against their better judgements would hope)***. Even the progressives back in the time of Square Deal Teddy knew this.

Finley Peter Dunne, a humorist during that era best known for his Mr. Dooley**** anecdotes, very nicely summed up the progression of American government and reform by likening it to housecleaning:

"The noise you hear is not the first gun of a revolution. It's only the people of the United States beating a carpet."

Would that more people would keep this in mind nowadays. It'd save us from a lot of grief later on.


* Their perspective's been a gloomy one for a while, as, well, they're all going out of business. Wonder when the Times, for example, is going to ask for a bailout.

** Again, perspective: between 1895-1896 something like 1000 banks failed and there was NO deposit insurance back then, either. There was no worker's compensation, no unemployment, very few pay raises, next to no job security, either. Not like we have nowadays, anyway. Also, the government used to send the National Guard out to shoot people who struck.

*** At least, I hope, in this Brave New technological world, that there won't be any major cataclysms. After all, a Czogolsz today has access to things far more lethal than a pistol.

**** Amazon's got a deal on two of Dunne's Mr. Dooley books, I see. Even one would be nice, though. *hint.*
Funny thing, all this worry about a bad holiday buying season. I'm noting that things are much less expensive than last year, and am taking that into account (am living on a fixed income right now, after all). For example, in this morning's email, got a note from Land's End letting me know that the sweater I bought for myself last year on sale for $90 is now selling for a little short of half that. Also got a voucher for free shipping. Heck, might actually buy myself another (or even two, though that'd be a bit extreme).
This morning, Pablo, Tony and I sat in thrall watching the scene out the kitchen window. The squirrels discovered the seed dispenser and were trying different ways to get to it from the yew branches.

The window's a bit dirty on the outside, so couldn't actually get any good pictures. This is a pretty good representation, though (from a sadly not very good movie.)

Resolved: this weekend, I raise the feeder, trim the yew branches back even further, wash the kitchen window on both sides.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pavel helped make dinner today. Actually, he did most of the work, and pretty well, too.

For a starter we had cucumbers with some saucisson sec I picked up at the cheese market and a bit of feta.

The main dish was sweet sausage sauteed with onions, peppers and mushrooms.

Dessert, a bit of yogurt with dried fruit.

He's getting there.
Learned a fun expression in French today:

Mettre la charrue avant le boeuf.

Idiomatically, it means to put the cart before the horse.

This came in response to the Frenchie's proposal to maybe go to Copenhagen or Venice for the holiday. I was all like, okay, but first I have to get a flight to where you are and before that, I have to finish school. Let's not put the plow before the ox, d'accord?
Also: I want a quiet several days to just concentrate on reading and writing. Mainly writing.

Oh, and the stomach's really bothering me right now. Just thinking about traditional fare is making me cringe. (shiver)
Spent a good deal of time going over with the therapist today why I didn't want to spend Thanksgiving with anyone but me. I just don't feel like going out, being with a group of people, having to be social. I'm tired. On the best days, I have to psyche myself up to plunge into group dynamics. When I'm tired like this folks, no matter how my relationship with them, suck even more life out of me.

I don't know if she believed me; had the weird look on the face that tells me that I described something wacky. Finished up the session by assuring her that I'd probably end up going where I'd been invited. We'll see about that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tea Stains.

Since oaks and, to a lesser extent, maples contain tannins, I'm going to guess that that is what stained the newish, probably not sealed concrete in front of the nursing home on Summer Street:

Tea Stains II

Oak, maple impressions. The brown leaf looks like it's from a tulip tree. The yellow bit, probably the same thing.

It's amazing what one will find (aside from spare change. Found $.36 this afternoon.) when one remembers to look down.
Home From School.

I'm not usually too keen on my walks into school. Am normally running late, so will end up taking the quickest route through some rather pedestrian-hostile and not-very-picturesque territory.

The walk home is usually more leisurely. Often, I'll take the train from Bunker Hill to Sullivan, then make my way over to Union Square. This isn't as interesting as the old walks through the junkyards, but it's still pretty okay.

Where things get really nice is between Union and home. Prospect to Spring Hill is so much less crowded? Expansive? than Winter Hill is. Sometimes I even forget that I'm in one of the most densely-packed urban areas in the country when I'm wandering through here:


Sugar maple canopy near the nursing home.



Rectory for St. Catherine of Genoa Church. From this angle, looks more like a manor house.


Squirrel's Nest

Squirrel's nest.


Pretty Blue Flower

Last bloom of the season. Have no idea what this is - thought it was bachelor's buttons, only it's growing on a shrub.


Blue Barn

A barn! Someone actually lives here, too! I thought it was just a garage; certainly is not like the normal Somerville Victorian. Love the crabapple tree, too. (Okay, I admit. It's a dream house.)


Last Leaf

The very last leaf on the neighbor's Japanese maple.
The good in today?

Excellent walking weather, learning how to use the school's computer center (it's a very nice one, too), cheese from Capone's (Old Amsterdam, a 'sweet' gorgonzola and a chevre that's hopefully as good as the one in yesterday's salad) a pot of gorgeous-smelling beef soup on the stove and some Russian choral music on the radio.
Yes, and today's history lecture was on the dawn of the 14th century. Namely, the Black Death.

Wednesday is going to prove to be just as cheery, as the focus will be on the Hundred Years War.

(American History: I'm between two depressions. Love Teddy Roosevelt, though I can tell that Hofstadter couldn't stand him and really tried to push the notion that he suffered from Little Wiener syndrome. Not too nuts about FDR.)
Got some more bad news from the Heimats-front last night. Joked with my dad that, next time he calls me on a Sunday evening, I'm just not going to answer. Sunday nights are bad enough already. In any event, if someone's dead, they shouldn't mind if I don't hear until Monday morning.

All humor aside, I think we're all kind of bugged out with this as, though Sandy was sick and there were a fair number of trials family-wise, no one imagined that she'd end up ending things herself.

Hell, don't think we'd have imagined the same of my brother or sister-in-law, either, for that matter. Shows how much we all know.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tonight's movie on PBS was a favorite when I was a kid:

So much for Cinemascope.

Such a silly story. Worth it for the scenes of Venice, though. Rossano Brazzi, too.
Now, this is sweet.
Was walking down Elm Street tonight after a late lunch at Christopher's (squash soup and a salad of greens, sun-dried tomatoes and a dreamy creamy goat cheese. Gosh, I'm still daydreaming about that cheese.) when I chanced to look west for the last bit of daylight. Saw suspended in the sky above the Porter Exchange two planets: Venus (for sure) and, further out, possibly Jupiter.

Made me smile to think how they looked like a slowed-down to stop version of planes waiting for landing clearance at Logan.
Two new feeders went up today: another suet cake cage and a plastic seed-dispenser I picked up while grocery shopping. Hung one from the second floor landing so that I could see it from the back kitchen window; hung the other from a branch in the yew tree. Am looking forward to see who comes visiting, provided the seed dispenser survives a squirrel onslaught, of course.

Pablo tells me he thinks that this might be a good antidepressant. We'll see.
Started taking something else for the moods lately; seems to be working okay except that I've had to completely lay off alcohol. Not even a single glass of wine or a beer, as both have affected me really weirdly lately.

Though I'm still a bit edgy, have been sleeping better. That's the best thing. Before, if I could get to sleep at all, it'd only be a troubled one for a couple hours at a time.

Concentration's getting better, too. Also, again, though I've had some sorely upsetting times, am finding that I can lay stuff aside somewhat in order to get done what I need to. Very important right now.
Made a couple drastic changes to the look. First, chopped the hair off to just above chin-length. Have had three haircuts over the last six months; wasn't happy with any of them. Don't know why, but no one wanted to do what I wanted done. Finally, ended up taking matters in my own hands and saving about $40 in the process. I'm assured that the ends are even and that I'd even done a good job shaving my neck (borrowed Pablo's beard trimmer). Uneven ends are never really a big concern of mine, as the curls hide mistakes well.

Since the hair was altogether too blonde for this time of year, hennaed it as well. Went two shades darker instead of the normal one. The contrast is greater than usual, yes, but the color suits me.

I look like a flapper now, especially when I wear a beret. Makes me smile when I catch a reflection. Haven't taken pleasure in my reflection in a while.
Althouse linked today to an article on the decline of the cafe in France.

It's interesting in a couple senses, as firstly, this is exactly the sort of anti-anti smoking puff piece one found in all the French papers around the first of January last year (when the ban took effect)*. Also, there is no mention of just how high prices are in a lot of cafes and just what one's getting when one decides to patronize one.

Way before the current financial crisis, prices were rising like crazy all over Europe, the first big jump being when currencies switched to the Euro (In Paris, for example, one would see things happen like a coffee going from, say, four francs to now two-two and a half euro - keep in mind that the fixed rate of exchange is +-6.2 francs/euro.).

While this was going on, many cafe and brasserie owners started serious corner-cutting on what they were serving. A lot of this occurred in the area of service and what one was being served. It was considered, for example, a better money-maker to serve bottled juice rather than fresh-squeezed at the same price. Meals, also, tended to be ordered pre-made from central (industrial, as the French call them) kitchens. Teas or tisanes? Often whatever came in the bulk order from the fournisseur one normally used (not very good. In fact, store brand from France's Target - Monoprix is of much better quality, and one can buy a box of 20 bags for about the same price as one cup of the bad cafe stuff). In the end, cafe or brasserie-going had become analogous to paying chop house prices for TGIF fare.

Now, this isn't always the case. One can still find the old-styled cafe bars/brasseries if one asks around. There are also many newer cafe-brasserie owners who are reviving the old business model of actually working harder for their money. Complain as some might about being the victims of 'nanny state*' legislation and a bad economy, there is also a fair bit of market correction going on as well.


* Would be interesting to see some data on the economic impact of this ban on cafes and bars. My impression, for what it's worth, is that many places are doing just fine, if not better, as many have expanded their terrain to the sidewalks. Technically the smoking areas are outside, as they're not in the building itself. However, I've seen some rather lavish tent-setups. The norm is a few tables under an awning with heat lamps being optional.

** Conventional wisdom dictates that the French are more sophisticated (whatever that means) than Americans regarding alcohol consumption, however, drunk driving has always been a serious problem. Hard drinking by younger people has also become a big issue - perhaps due exposure to much heavier drinkers across the Channel? I'm not really sure, though I have heard of informal bans and bar closings during soccer matches when British teams are playing on French soil. Would be interesting to see some more information regarding this.
I guess this is what we get instead of casinos.
Interesting look at how expansive piracy is in the world today. Not a good thing when you take into account the fact that Johnny Depp has nothing to do with any of this.
Found this quiz on what should be some pretty fundamental knowledge, but I guess isn't. Didn't get a perfect score, but certainly did better than most. Why not give it a try and see how you do?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Okay, back to work.

Also, for the life of me, I can't get the banner in my blog header trimmed properly. That's bugging me.
What's this all about? Well, after clearing out my spam folder and finding the latest coups in the current jeu de pouvoir, decided to read something not-school-related.

Boy, do I wish I could unread this.
This year's particularly bad holiday-wise. I miss my brother and want him to be okay. I can't bear speaking to my mother who's gone off the deep end. Dealing with her is just plain painful, as all I ever get is a semi-coherent litany of all the things wrong with me (nearly all of which being imaginary). Spam filters, meditation and rereading Pizzey only get you so far.

Friends keep telling me that it's not me, that it's her own self-loathing. I understand that. Still, I'm the object. I'm the one under siege as she attempts to make herself feel better. This is exhausting.
Absolutely had to get away from the current reading: Teddy Roosevelt, War against Spain, Progressivism vs Populism, etc. Don't get me wrong, it's fascinating stuff. However, I'm starting to feel as though, for each new item I try to stuff into my little brain, something's going to have to come out.

Am feeling a little sore because the Frenchie wanted to argue and I didn't (was developing a tension headache - maybe from the conversation), so ended up being hung up on. With all the stress going on around me, I'd like to not have to deal with stuff like this. Really.

It doesn't help matters that the cold blows in through the windows here (classic Somerville, yeah) like there aren't any windows and next week is the start of the holiday season. Usually I can try to psych myself into not being miserable this time of year. Am not doing so well right now, though.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nose to the Grindstone Time.

One more paper done. Have two more that I want to finish before Thanksgiving and two more that I want done by the following weekend. Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm sure the pirates are so concerned.

Funny to think that maybe India's the new America in this regard, in spite of BBC praise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Made beef carbonnade for dinner last night. Wasn't too crazy about it. I think I like a stew with more vegetables and a soupier broth than this had.
Had to put out two more cakes of suet this morning. Funny how one suddenly can end up with three dozen mouths to feed.

Anyway, in addition to the squirrels, have seen sparrows (of course), a starling or two, a couple blue jays and a cardinal. Pretty typical city dwellers. Am wondering what to put out in order to attract some of the less common Somerville inhabitants, like goldfinches, for example or even maybe a woodpecker.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Well, yeah.

He'd have been called pendejo, that's why.

What an amazing design feat this is, by the way. Brings to mind a favorite movie that's somewhat related:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Who's been stealing the suet?

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court, I rest my case.
Given that I'd worked across the street from an abattoir for not quite a decade, I really don't have much problem with chicken slaying, ritual or otherwise. Am seriously thinking of wearing my Christmas tee shirt to class in response.
Wednesday Night is Shakespeare Night.

Only, since the group's read through all the plays, they were reading other things last night. Chuck read from The Hobbit and a text he had on the magic associated with metallurgy in West African societies*. Pavel read from Judges, Lovecraft and Mark Twain. I read from the opening paragraphs from my current Hofstadter essay on the Spoilsmen:

"When Collis P. Huntington wrote to a political agent concerning some of his bribery for the Southern Pacific:

If you have to pay money to have the right thing done, it is only just and fair to do it...If a man has the power to do great evil and won't do right unless he is bribed to do it, I think the time spent will be gained when it is a man's duty to go up and bribe the judge. A man that will cry out against them himself will also do these things himself. If there was none for it, I would not hesitate--

he was not being a sanctimonious hypocrite; he was merely expressing his passionate American conviction that he had every honest right to come into his own, and it is doubtful that many tycoons of his time would have difered in principle. To imagine that such men did not sleep the sleep of the just would be romantic sentimentalism. In the Gilded Age even the angels sang for them..."**

Chuck almost fell out of his chair laughing. How little things have changed over time! The only difference between then and now, however, is the lack of a populist sort of movement. I mean: the Democrats aren't for The People, as aren't the Republicans. The Populist Party is long gone. Unions? Bah. Unions are only in the business of self-perpetuation nowadays, workers be d@mned. I can't see the Libertarian 'movin' on up' from its ghetto - especially not with their last presidential pick, either.

What other options are we not thinking of (reform for any of the above movements aside? Don't see much of that in the horizon.) here?


* Chuck's a blacksmith with a serious background in art history. He's my lifeline for all things academic in that realm. The reading on African metallurgy was in response to a rather weird comment I got on one of my shorter papers for Western Civilization. I'd analyzed an excerpt of a letter from Pope Gregory to one of his missionaries in the Anglo Saxon territories regarding his very pragmatic change of heart about the destruction of pagan temples. At the end, I'd put a footnote in about interesting pockets of celtic culture that exist today, such as the burning of John Barleycorn in the UK, la 'parade des geants' in Germanic northern France, and mumming in the Baltics. The response was, "but where does it stop (or should it)? Is killing chickens ritually by African Christians OK because that is what they did before conversion?"

**The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It. Richard Hofstadter; pp. 214-215. For what it's worth, I cannot recommend this book enough. In fact: if you'd like a copy, I have an extra. Will send it to you. Seriously.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Raked the lawn yesterday afternoon. Guess I missed a spot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New England.

This one goes out to The Frenchie. If they start giving out Keys to the Region, he should be a charter recipient. Jonathan Richman should get one as well. But first The Frenchie.
The fact that I've been dealing with it since birth still doesn't lessen the shock of darkness before five in the evening.

Front Hall Light II

Front Hall Light in the new Spring Hill Fortress of Solitude.
Am still trying to decide whether I have a cold or allergies. Maybe it was a cold, after all. The glands on my neck are swollen, I'm tired all the time as well. Concentration's tough; it feels as though my head's stuffed with packing peanuts.

Am almost finished with my Gilded Age paper; talked my way through it with my Dad. Dad's a pretty major history buff and helped clarify things, point out stuff I left out, etc.

It's not writer's block that is getting to me. Rather, the fact that I always end up with twice what I need information and word-wise to complete the assignment. Cutting always feels bad, but what else can one do?

Gosh, I enjoy this.
The truth is coming out and she's scared. Da hab'ich vernommen. There's been some furtive rooting around, some grasping enrobed in sugary words for something of use - either to discredit or to threaten with.

That's what it's always been about. Never our well being.

I'm just sorry that it took such a violent shock to knock the lid off it all.

This is my dad some forty-odd years ago. It was taken in Texas, where he was stationed before being shipped off to Vietnam. He was in signal corps.

To him and all the others who've Fought the Good Fight, from Flanders Fields to Fallujah, thank you.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

After much prodding (and more than a little unpleasantness on my part. Sometimes you have to trade the honey for vinegar, unfortunately. Especially when housing codes and personal safety are at issue), Pablo finally got the new CO and smoke alarms up. Now I can call the fire inspector and get stuff signed off on.

For dinner, had some left over hot basil rice that I added some pasta, frozen green beans and eggs to in order to stretch it out. Not bad.

Made some tea and broke out a box of French digestive biscuits to go with. I consider them oddly comforting in an old-lady way, kind of like prune juice. Pablo couldn't help bringing up Colon Blow:

Yeah, that's about right, too.
Yesterday: had a tickle in my throat.

Today: feels like I'm on the road to a full-blown cold.

Not what I need right now. Very difficult to focus, to even keep energy up for the basic things.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Have been a bit under the weather lately - twisted my back. Will get better when the weather dries up. Also, a couple very interesting assignment topics:

American History - on the notion of Social Darwinism and how industrialists subscribed to that. Also, how it helped in molding what we consider the "American Dream" for immigrants, Americans in the lower classes.

Western Civilization - a 'special assignment.' We had to either do a book report, do a critique of a couple assigned films, go to a classical music concert and describe that, or go to an art museum and describe a few works we saw there. I chose the last option, and not just because I was at the Louvre last week, either. Had for a while been tossing around the idea for a little presentation outlining Hellenistic influence on art in Persia

Three Persian goddesses (Inanna?), ca. 300 bce - 300 ce. Click to see everyone in the picture; Blogger's cutting things off again.

as well as in more modern (Renaissance and beyond) works.

Three Graces, Jean-Jacques Pradier, 1831

This could easily have been done based on both Harvard's and the MFA's holdings, but, well, since I had some good pictures from France, I figured what the heck.

Had another assignment due on Tuesday for Western Civilization - got it handed in, but wasn't very pleased about it (and said so). This was regarding elements of Roman Civilization that disappeared and were preserved in the Germanic kingdoms that filled the power vacuum after the collapse of the Western sector of the old empire. Not too difficult, but my brain kind of froze up with the family stupidity going on and I began fixating on the similarities/differences between Burgundian Law and Hammurabi's Code (namely social stratification and the idea of fixing a monetary value on people).

Was more than a little dazzled by this. Given its significance, (Hammurabi's Code being one of the bases of Western Law and all), was surprised to see the hall where it's displayed nearly empty.

I hate it when my brain goes AWOL on me like that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I don't think that the problem here is so much being American as being an idiot. Idiocy generally isn't cool anywhere, even in Europe.
As for the election results, well, I'm not thrilled, but I'm not going to be an a$$hole about things either like most Democrats around here have been for the past eight years or would have been if he'd not have been elected.* Am just going to go on with life (and believe me, stuff's tough right now) and pray that the new president doesn't screw anything up too terribly.

What else can one do?

* Was a little disturbed to hear my history prof today make the claim that, if Obama had not won, riots would have been justified/understandable.

"Your race! If you are antiamerican, you're racist now!"

Funny how these things work out. I'll give the "goodwill" a week, tops.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Didn't have the greatest start to the day, as at about 4:00 this morning, got a recorded phone call from Somerville telling me that there was a multiple-alarm fire in the neighborhood and that I needed to call them to confirm receipt (something like that). Called the number cited and just barely made out from the guy who answered that the fire was on Walnut Street and that the call was a mistake. He then asked me if I lived with Paul (huh?).

Had a really difficult time falling back to sleep I was so creeped out. Turns out, Pavel heard the call from downstairs and was kind of weirded out as well.

Since we were still up at around six, decided to get ready and go to the polling station first thing in order to avoid the lines. (snort) As it turned out, when we got there at 6:55 am, there was already a long line twisting through the parking lot of the Dante Club and starting its way up Craigie Street.

I'd say that it took probably about an hour to get through the line. Voting took maybe two minutes. (Pays to do your research beforehand). Though we both voted similarly on the candidate portion, on the ballot questions, we sort of cancelled each other out:

1: He voted yes, I voted no. I understand his point of view, as, having worked for a horrendously wasteful government-funded organization for years, I'd love to see them starved of funds. However, this isn't how stuff works out. Most likely what would happen is that, as a punitive measure, schools, fire, police, etc - really necessary, public face stuff would be cut out.

2: He voted yes, I voted no. His maintenance is that, if marijuana is decriminalized, that would mean that college students would stay home stoned rather than vote, and we need to keep dumb kids out of the polls (he also thinks we should raise the voting age to 40 and only allow property owners the vote, as well.) My thoughts on the subject are that it's a slippery slope (How's that decriminalization of cocaine and statutory rape working out, London?).

3: He voted no, I voted yes. It's not that I hate dogs, far from it. It's the wording of the question that bothered me. Seemed more like MA trying to regulate betting and couching it in animal rights more than anything else.

Questions 4 and 5 (only valid in our part of Somerville): We both voted no, as, as I'd mentioned before, they are supported by a very noxious pressure group that will not take no for an answer.


Afterwards, went over to Starbucks to get coffee, but couldn't stand another line. Wasn't worth it, even for free good stuff.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Should I upgrade to Firefox 3x? I heard that it's bad. However, the version I have seems to have image formatting weirdness with Blogger.
Do As I Say...

Frame one: (Frenchie) Obama, Obama! I'm all for Obama!
Frame two: (Radio Announcer) So, you're all for a black president? (Frenchie) Yes, yes, yes...
Frame America!

Sarkozy got where he is by out LePenning LePen. They're also not looking out for the US's best interest, either, for that matter. (Something to keep in mind if you're one of those folks who feels the need to look to Europe for counsel on how to cast your vote.)
As the Obama campaign's been behaving similarly to Sarkozy's in France last year, figured it might not be a bad thing to revisit this bit I translated on psyching out the electorate with polls.
Yeah, right. Godwin's Law. Whatever.
Good think I looked up my ballot information on the web. My part of Somerville's got two other non binding ballot questions from those same Nazi whack jobs* who keep trying to get the city to divest its pension fund of Israeli companies.


* Sorry, but won't link to them. If you feel the need to do so, go to effing d*i*v*e*s*t*m*e*n*t p*r*o*j*e*c*t dot org.
Vin Chaud.

After a long walk through the park in a cold, driving rain, our first thought was of finding something to warm our insides up a bit. Versailles being what it is, at one of the back gates, we managed to find a couple of brasseries (old style cafe-bars that used to specialize in beer) that weren't devoted solely to the tourist trade.

Small, spotless, and very welcoming looking, this sort of outfit is becoming rarer and rarer in the Parisian area due to rising costs and the new politic of buying premade 'meals to go' that the cooks just reheat. I was particularly charmed by the old sandwich menu which was exactly the same as the one the cafe/bar in the mountainside village I lived in as a student. Even had the same sandwiches: jambon beurre (ham and butter), pate au canard (duck pate), croque monsieur (kind of like a monte cristo, but without the jam). The special of the day was a choucroute garnie - sauerkraut with all sorts of goodies within. The next day was pot-au-feu. Was sorry to not have been there for dinner. Maybe next time.

Teas and hot cocoa aren't always the best bet in these places, as the cocoa tends to be the powdered stuff like it is here and the tea's often the cheapest available. My default is usually vin chaud: a lovely drink of diluted, sweetened red wine heated up by the cappucino machine's milk frother, served with a slice of lemon and the house bottle of cinnamon.

Warms up the hands, calms a scratchy throat, takes the edge off a chilly night, soothes the soul.

Though it tastes better sitting in a cafe watching the folks running between the raindrops outdoors and having your conversation partner making fun of your Buffalo accent (not thick, but noticeable), vin chaud isn't at all bad at home in front of a roaring fire, or in the kitchen with a few friends as a sort of pre-aperitif warmer. Here's my version for two:

1 1/2 c. red table wine
1/2 c. water
sugar to taste (I don't like stuff too sweet, so 1 tsp for two people's enough for me)
two slices of lemon (or orange)
cinnamon to taste

Heat the water, wine and sugar in a small, heavy-bodied saucepan. When steaming, but not boiling, pour into two heavy glasses or mugs. Float a fruit slice on each serving and sprinkle as much cinnamon as you'd like on top. Enjoy.

The Frenchie being French.
Under the Pyramid.

Who'd have thought that Pei's design was not more than a great glass anthill in the heart of the Louvre?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Airplane Knitting.

Another simple scarf, as I often am too tired to work on anything more complicated. Just need to keep my hands moving. I love the softness of this yarn, a pre-felted wool dyed the color of birch leaves. Love to watch the progression of the pools of color as knit along. Am very happy with my simple stitch pattern, as well. It's a broken rib:

row 1: k1 p1 to end.
row 2: p1 k1 to end.
row 3: k to end.

Repeat until desired length or you run out of yarn.
Last night, my body woke me up at three am, thinking that it was eleven in the morning. My brain, half asleep, started letting in the awful thoughts that have been plaguing me for the past couple weeks. I just couldn't stop them. Called the Frenchie who calmed me as best as he could, then tried to read some. The words ran together so much that it caused a pain just underneath the forehead right between my eyes. Turned the light off and tossed around a bit. Finally settled down on my stomach. After a few minutes, the power symbol came to mind. I mentally drew it in different positions around me as well as around the house for protection. Fell right to sleep after that.
My brother is in a lot of weird badness. I don't really want to talk too much about it here; too upsetting. There's absolutely nothing I can do for him.

All I can do is hope he'll be alright, that somehow he'll get out of everything with his sanity and his soul intact. I pray, too, that my mother doesn't make matters worse.
The best thing about the trip away was having someone there to take care of me: feed me, take me for walks, hold my hand, let me cry. I don't have a lot of nurturing, short of what I give myself (and that's very little) here.
Home Again.

Suresnes to Paris on foot takes about as long as it does to get from Somerville to Boston. I'm thinking that it's prettier to Paris, though I'm not so sure that I'd want to go it alone through the Bois de Boulogne.

Couldn't have picked a better time to get a few timezones between myself and the East Coast. Of course, this comes with a price - this time, not only the standard six hour difference, but two reversions to Standard time. Am not feeling my best, but will hopefully bounce back soon.