Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year music

Happy last day of 2007.

It's snowing again.

We've had... I dunno... maybe 17 inches so far this December. That's close to normal, but less than the past few years. I somehow think maybe I've forgotten how pretty it is when there's fresh snow, when there's snow all the time. It just keeps coming and coming. Instead of getting all depressed about it, I'm enjoying sitting here, staring out at the big puffy flakes as they drift down to join their mates.

Songs of the day, or rather song versions of the day:
Fields of Gold
Time After Time
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
What a Wonderful World

These are all Eva Cassidy's versions. Just lovely. That woman had some serious pipes. Really serious. Damn.

Here's some stuff from Nightline about her:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

More in the Songs of the Day category - the Minnesota Orchestra's versions of the Beethoven symphonies. I've heard and/or performed these things... I don't even know how many times. But these recordings are different. Non-musicians, and even some musicians, may wonder why on earth we need yet another recording of any of these. Non-musicians don't always get what any good classical musician knows immediately: there ain't ever going to be two interpretations that are exactly the same. I don't even know how many versions I own of the Bach 'Cello Suites, for example. So new versions of old pieces can be great. But just like any remake, you have to ask yourself - is it worth it? Is there anything new being said? I hate note for note, exact interpretation remakes. What's the point then? Studio time is expensive, and for an orchestra, out of this world (see the Mpls St Paul mag article below for deets). So do we really need another recording of the Beethoven symphonies? Oh yes. This one... mmm... I just purchased the 1 and 6 one, which is brand-new; don't yet own the others that have been released (4-5, 3-8, 9).

Nice stuff. Really nice stuff. Osmo has a tendency with his musical interpretations to stick close to the score. He has a reputation as a perfectionist and taskmaster. He pushes his musicians. Hard. Thing is, they like him, and they work for him, and you can really tell. It's hard to play softly well. It really is; much harder than louds. The piano quality the Minnesota Orchestra is achieving these days... really masterful. Unbelievable. I haven't been fortunate enough to hear a ton of world class orchestras live, but these days I think Minnesota is up there with the best of them. There's a just flat out LIFE to this recording I can't remember hearing from others. These people aren't going through the motions. They're laying it all out on the line with all they've got. I noticed things I never noticed before. Amazing.

Brief historical info
MN Orch Archives and pictures
Mpls St. Paul Magazine article
St. Paul Pioneer Press article
MPR Article - "Does the world really need another Beethoven's Fifth?"

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens, 1843

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,
C. D.
December, 1843.

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot -- say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance -- literally to astonish his son's weak mind.

A Cup of Christmas Tea
Tom Hegg, 1981

The log was in the fireplace,
all spiced and set to burn.
At last the yearly Christmas race
was in the clubhouse turn.
The cards were in the mail,
all the gifts beneath the tree.
And 30 days reprieve till VISA
could catch up with me.

Though smug satisfaction
seemed the order of the day,
Something still was nagging me
and would not go away.

A week before, I got a letter
from my old great Aunt.
It read: Of course I'll understand
completely if you can't,
But if you find you have some time
how wonderful if we
Could have a little chat and share
a cup of Christmas tea.

She'd had a mild stroke that year
which crippled her left side.
Though house bound now,
my folks had said
it hadn't hurt her pride.
They said: She'd love to see you.
What a nice thing it would be
For you to go and maybe have
a cup of Christmas tea.

But boy! I didn't want to go.
Oh, what a bitter pill,
To see an old relation and
how far she'd gone downhill.
I remembered her as vigorous,
as funny and as bright.
I remembered Christmas Eves when
she regaled us half the night.

I didn't want to risk all that.
I didn't want the pain.
I didn't need to be depressed.
I didn't need the strain.

And what about my brother?
Why not him? She's his aunt, too!
I thought I had it justified,
but then before I knew,
The reasons not to go I so
painstakingly had built
Were cracking wide and crumbling
in an acid rain of guilt.

I put on boots and gloves and cap,
shame stinging every pore.
And armed with squeegee,
sand and map,
I went out my front door.
I drove in from the suburbs
to the older part of town.
The pastels of the newer homes
gave way to gray and brown.

I had that disembodied feeling
as the car pulled up and stopped
Beside the wooden house
that held the Christmas cup.
How I got up to her door
I really couldn't tell...
I watched my hand rise up and press
the button of the bell.

I waited, aided by my nervous
rocking to and fro.
And just as I was thinking
I should turn around and go,
I heard the rattle of the china
in the hutch against the wall.
The triple beat of two feet
and a crutch came down the hall.

The clicking of the door latch
and the sliding of the bolt,
And a little swollen struggle
popped it open with a jolt.
She stood there pale and tiny,
looking fragile as an egg.
I forced myself from staring
at the brace that held her leg.

And though her thick bifocals
seemed to crack and spread her eyes,
Their milky and refracted depths
lit up with young surprise.
Come in! Come in!
She laughed the words.
She took me by the hand.
And all my fears dissolved away
as if by her command.

We went inside and then before
I knew how to react
Before my eyes and ears and nose
was Christmas past, alive, intact!

The scent of candied oranges,
of cinnamon and pine,
The antique wooden soldiers
in their military line,
The porcelain Nativity
I'd always loved so much,
The Dresden and the crystal
I'd been told I mustn't touch.

My spirit fairly bolted
like a child out of class
And danced among the ornaments
of calico and glass.
Like magic I was six again,
deep in a Christmas spell.
Steeped in the million memories
That the boy inside knew well.

And here among old Christmas cards
so lovingly displayed,
A special place of honor
for the ones we kids had made.
And there, beside her rocking chair,
the center of it all,
My great Aunt stood and said how nice
it was I'd come to call.

I sat and rattled on about
the weather and the flu.
She listened very patiently
then smiled and said, "What's new?"
Thoughts and words began to flow.
I started making sense.
I lost the phony breeziness
I use when I get tense.

She was still passionately interested
in everything I did.
She was positive. Encouraging.
Like when I was a kid.
Simple generalities
still sent her into fits.
She demanded the specifics.
The particulars. The bits.

We talked about the limitations
that she'd had to face.
She spoke with utter candor
and with humor and good grace.
Then defying the reality
of crutch and straightened knee,
On wings of hospitality
she flew to brew the tea.

I sat alone with feelings that
I hadn't felt in years.
I looked around at Christmas
through a thick hot blur of tears.
And the candles and the holly
she'd arranged on every shelf,
The impossibly good cookies
she still somehow baked herself.

But these rich and tactile memories
became quite pale and thin,
When measured by the Christmas
my great Aunt kept deep within.
Her body halved and nearly spent,
but my great Aunt was whole.
I saw a Christmas miracle,
the triumph of a soul.

The triple beat of two feet and a
crutch came down the hall,
The rattle of the china
in the hutch against the wall.
She poured two cups. She smiled and then she handed one to me.
And then we settled back and had
a cup of Christmas tea.
A Visit From St. Nicholas
Clement Clarke Moore, 1822

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jesu, joy of mans' desiring.

Or, to quote a favorite former physics teacher, I'll be dipped in poop.

I just through one thing and the other managed to run into an ex-boyfriend online. It's a bit of a long story involving idle curiosity combined with reading too many books combined with the wonder that is the Internet.

In other words, I managed to discover today that in the 14-15 years since I finally dumped this particular ex-boyfriend, he's gone from working in a dead-end job in a small grocery store in a college town in the Midwest to being a dive instructor in Grand Cayman.


If nothing else, this proves how easy it is to find someone online. It's not like I looked that hard, or have that much knowledge about where to look. Google, combined with hits on a message board he posts on, combined with my memory and brain power put things together. A little scary, thinking about it further, about how a stalker could easily find a person if they knew a little bit about them to begin with. Makes me a bit afraid of message boards. And blogging, for that matter.

*waves at all my exes*

It also proves a bit about how, although my friends were too nice to say it to me at the time, I should have ditched him long before I did. He was a decent person and all, but we were never a good match and I was slow to see it. But really. Talk about divergent life paths. And what can happen in a relatively short period of time.

I'm glad for him, truthfully. He was on a path to nowhere in particular, last I knew. Smart, with a bachelor's degree, but down in the dumps because he couldn't get into grad school and couldn't get a decent job in his field with no grad degree. He had no sense of, to use a music term, directed motion. So he was a stockboy. Whose hobby - and passion - was sailing. Hence the connection. Good for him for finding a direction and reinventing himself. Most of my exes, with an exception or two, headed straight for Loserville.

*evil grin*

In other news, the cat is currently licking my leg to the point that my pants have a spot that's soaked. I'm not entirely certain why, and I'm a little afraid of whatever the answer might be. I need to change their litter box at some point today, which is hopefully unrelated. They've been so much trouble lately that it's like I have 10 cats. Constantly underfoot and in my face. I haven't been home much, which I'm thinking is part of it.


I have a week off. This makes me want to sing, rumba, Charleston, and tango. Today, I did little other than to revel in the fact that I don't have to go to work for another nine days. Ten, including today. Mmmm....

The cats have also provided me with a built in excuse for not exercising - like I actually need one. Dug out the resistance bands today and one was promptly stolen such that it could be dragged around the house, a bit like a kitten; although hopefully a kitten would not be dropped, batted around, chewed, and then picked up again for a repeat performance.

I have to do Christmas Eve dinner, plus am bringing the stuff for our particular branch of the fam to Christmas itself. Am also going to a concert tomorrow night. Somewhere. Am not done with my Christmas shopping, my cards, or anything else, really. Might want to get on that.

This is apropos of absolutely nothing, but I found a website today I must share: the T. Herman Zweibel Memorial Foundation. My favorite part, I think, is from The Life and Timeline of T. Herman Zweibel:

1885: Ulysses S. Grant dies and, after an elaborate funeral procession through the streets of New York, is buried in an unmarked grave; today, the exact location of his remains is unknown.

And that, right there, is why I have always loved The Onion; since college when they were headquartered across the street from my dorm. It always gives me some reason to chuckle evilly.

Last night went out with friends and colleagues. Was mostly very fun as got to hang out with some people I hadn't seen in quite a while. Stayed out longer than I meant to as there ended up being some drama towards the end of the evening and I wanted to make sure everyone made it home OK. I finally couldn't take the drama any more and had to leave. Why, oh why, are men so stupid? Blind, really, especially while having had WAY too much to drink. But then, the corollary to that is why are women so stupid that they actually listen to them. *sigh* T and I commented to each other at one point amongst the awkwardness that we were the only two normal people there. Not coincidentally, we were also the only two who were sober.

*double sigh*

Hopefully all will be well. At least eventually.

OK, this is plenty long for one post, and it's taken me all day, and I'm tired. Off to bed.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

ETA: This is my 50th post. Huh.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My concerts are done. I could sing.

OK, that's an exaggeration. One more. And then I'm done. I can hardly wait.

Normal people don't get how much December sucks for musicians. We're constantly on the run. I'm just tired in general of being stressed. And tired. And cold, come to that. But it's been that kind of year. I'm in a lull between major projects. Things should get truly hideous right around the first of the year, lull again in early April, then suck through to June. Or something like that. The writers' strike is killing me. It would be nice to be able to watch decent - for lack of a better word - TV to relax. But no. We get such crapola as Gladiator. Who thinks of this junk? And PBS, as much as I love them, is in the middle of a fund drive. So the Roadshow and This Old House get preempted for the likes of stinkin' Andre Rieu, who I hate. *sigh* When you can't count on PBS, you can't count on nobody.

Anyway, concerts are almost done, shopping is almost done, wrapping is almost done, decorating is almost done, baking is almost done... huzzah. Cards need to occur. But it could be a whole lot worse. That aspect of stress at least is under control.

Tomorrow will be a relatively easy day at work. Most of my projects should involve sitting on my derrière and listening to other folks. Little thought or preparation involved for me. Hallelujah. My brain is starting to shut down. OK, wrong tense there. But you know. Going to have a review on Thursday, so need to prepare for that. But shouldn't be too bad.

And then there's today's puzzler: why do the cats, who have a perfectly good water bowl mind you, insist upon drinking from the humidifier basin whenever I take out the tank to refill it? Not to mention the little one, who persists in ripping my Santa window cling down so she can chew on it. Not making me happy. At least they haven't knocked the mini tree over in a few days. And they haven't ripped down any of the Christmas lights. Granted, December is still young.

OK, 9 p.m. and therefore time for bed. I don't get to bed by 9, I regret it the next day. Granted, I've been yawning since 6. Oh adventure, be my wild partner.

Song of the week: Coffee Shop. Yes, I know it's in a commercial. In spite of that, it's lovely. Sorry to not be able to link to the real vid - this was the best I could find on You Tube. I think I like his other stuff too. His music isn't deep, but it's decent. For what I've heard, Coffee Shop is my fave.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Not much to say; just figured I may as well say something as it's been a while.

Not so pumped about the TV writers' strike. Moonlighting had to deal with the last big one, back in '88. It's not a federal case or anything, and Lord knows there's plenty in this world that's more important, but it's nice to have an escape, once and a while. And Jim and Pam finally got together. Darn it!

Today traded places with one of my co-workers and did his job for the day. What fun. Things are totally different where he works. Everyone was very nice, helpful, welcoming, willing to try anything. Just different. Had a great time.

Am tired but just can't make myself go to bed. Hm.

Spent time cleaning today, some stuff that has been sitting around gathering dust for quite some time. Hung up piles of clean clothes, made the bed, etc.

Got a book the other day - Country Wisdom and Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Live Off the Land. Stinkin' awesome. Covers everything from how to build a chicken coop to cooking with tofu to chair caning and seat weaving. You can't go wrong with that.

Went out with T yesterday to Penzey's, lunch, and a yarn shop that is unfortunately closing. We had a good time. Got some sock yarn. Think I'm going to try to crochet some socks. Have been crafty lately. This weekend did some canning, crocheting, soap making.

I can't "p" again. Stupid keyboard.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

So I walked in the door after work today, Jimmy John's in hand, to find the radio on. Hmm. Could have sworn I'd turned it off. What the heck...

Oh Lord.

Turns out, somebody who shall remain nameless (my money is on the Littler of the two Sh!t Sisters pictured in the heading of this blog.) decided to dig for China in the plant limping along on the buffet next to the radio.

Dirt and plant bits everywhere, the water bowl contents turned to mud. I hope they were thirsty while I was gone, darn it.

And of course by the time I get home the deed is done and it's too late to yell at anyone. You have to strike when the iron is hot, and they'd both long forgotten when I finally saw the evidence. *sigh*

I've just been cranky lately. I swear everything is going to hell. I've sent out enough sympathy cards in the last few weeks that I should have bought stock in Hallmark, work is insane to the point that I'm spending only two extra hours a day there on a good day, and I'm so late doing more work at home I'm not getting any sleep. When I do finally get to bed I'm too wound up to relax. I'm thinking about all I have to do.

And that one letter on my keyboard? It's not working again, at least not consistently. I can no longer say things about Peeves the Poltergeist.

OK, now it's working. WTH?

'Kay, rant done. Time for bed. Shout out to any of you in Cali who may be reading this. Stay safe.

"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important." ~Bertrand Russell

“Stress is when you wake up screaming and you realize you haven't fallen asleep yet”

“Stress: The confusion created when one's mind overrides the body's basic desire to choke the living daylights out of some jerk who desperately deserves it”

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Went to what should have been an excellent concert last night: Strauss Metamorphosen and Beethoven 4. It mostly was an excellent concert, really. Except for That Woman.

In this particular hall there's a tier of seats that goes up and around the main floor, doing a 360 including behind the stage. It lends an interesting perspective for those who want to get up to see the conductor from much the same angle as the orchestra. Problem was, some idiot was up in the area behind the stage and insisted on taking pictures for most of the Beethoven. So the $%^&@! orange blinking light of her camera was flashing out at pretty much the entire audience. I could cheerfully have thrown her off the balcony. As could the rest of the audience. You could hear the undercurrent of grumblings every time she lifted that devil device and at least three people got up to talk to the usher nearest me in an attempt to get someone, anyone, to go find that woman and make her stop.

Unfortunately, no one did.

She would take a picture, turn to the woman next to her to look at the digital display, raise the camera, take another picture, scoot along the bench to find a different angle, raise the camera, take another picture... This has hands-down got to be the rudest behavior I've ever seen exhibited at a concert, and that includes people reading the paper, watch alarms going off, and cell phones bleeping. And I'm way past losing track of the number of concerts I've been to.

I don't know what the heck was in the minds of the usher corps, but I'm thinking not a single person in the audience would have called the cops if we happened to notice That Woman having a quiet accident. We'd have applauded.

Hey lady - if by some strange chance you're reading this, do us all a favor and stay home until you learn how to behave in public.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Soul Renewal and Robert Frost

Soul Renewal

It's the first sunny day in weeks. I've almost forgotten the color of a truly blue sky. I decide to make the 4 mile walk to the lake and back. Who knows when a day this nice will come again.

There's a million people out. We know and appreciate the rarity of a nice day, here in October in the Midwest. It's been so rainy lately; the sky lowering all the time. But somehow, no one is talking. It's like we all agree on the value of nothingness, of just being.

It's warm enough for shorts and t-shirts, another rarity in October.

The sound of the bike gears catching as the old man passes me, bright blue bike helmet and backpack on, wearing reflectors on his arms and legs even though it is the middle of a sunny day. He struggles his way up the hill. I am almost pacing him. Then the hill crests and his pace increases. He continues on without me, blazing a trail for me to follow.

Black ducks almost as far as I could see, taking a break for a rest and a drink before continuing their southward journey.

A sailboat catching the stiff breeze passes a fishing boat steaming out hopefully towards a possible walleye feast.

A stream giggling it's way towards the lake.

The woman wearing an iPod on one hip and her cell phone in the opposite ear, chattering away. The only possible conclusion is that she must be clinically insane.

The only sounds the wind as it rustles past my ears, through the leaves still clutching to the tree that is their summer home.

Scuffling through the fallen leaves to hear them crackle and crunch.

I'm almost home when I feel my shoulders drop into the place designed for them; I tend to forget that my habitual clench is not natural.

I wish this would last, but fall is inherently ephemeral. That may be the real reason for it's beauty.

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Had some excitement at church this morning. Was out in the gathering space (fancy name for huge foyer area) checking to make sure the volume was up high enough so people out there could hear when I heard this beep...beep...beep...


Grabbed my father. Dragged him out there. Asked him if he heard it too.

He listened for a bit... yes, yes he did.

Uh oh.

So we went trucking towards the source of the sound, which seemed to be coming from the part of the church that opens up into the Hall (area for wedding receptions, chicken dinners, bingo and the like). It kept getting louder. Beep... BEEP... BEEP! We grabbed the music director on the way, as she was walking by and has keys for everything. The sound kept getting louder as we three headed towards the school. Was that the fire alarm? Was the school on fire? Were we going to have to evacuate a good 1500 people in the church?

We got through the last door into the school and found adults leading what looked like 1st graders out the door. Just a drill, they said.

Just a drill? What the heck were they thinking, just a drill? Could it have occurred to them to warn us that they'd be conducting a fire drill during church? Could they maybe have bumped the thing back a lousy 30 minutes to avoid all this in the first place? I could have strangled somebody. Who knows what sort of panic that could have set off. Think, people, think. *sigh*

Although in hindsight, it's a little scary that the gathering space was full of people who didn't want to be in the main sanctuary for some reason (small children and the like) and no one came in to tell any of us about the alarm.

When you usher in a large parish, you get used to things happening. We haven't had somebody go down in a few weeks, but we're always prepared to have to call the local Finest to come out and save the day. We have EMTs come to visit several times a year. Fainting is the most common, but we've also had diabetic reactions and heart issues.

Scariest one ever (that I had anything to do with) was the poor Mexican woman who had come to church in a vain search for comfort... she couldn't reach her sick father in Mexico by telephone and was terrified he had died... she kept banging her head against the wall and asking God to take her instead of her father...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Song of the Day: "Out Of My League" by Stephen Speaks

it's her hair and her eyes today
that just simply take me away

and the feeling that i'm falling further in love
makes me shiver but in a good way
all the times i have sat and stared

as she thoughtfully thumbs through her hair
and she purses her lips, bats her eyes as she plays,
with me sitting there slack-jawed and nothing to say

coz i love her with all that i am
and my voice shakes along with my hands
coz she’s all that I see and she’s all that I need
and i'm out of my league once again

it's a masterful melody when she calls out my name to me
as the world spins around her she laughs, rolls her eyes
and i feel like i'm falling but it's no surprise

coz i love her with all that i am
and my voice shakes along with my hands
cause it's frightening to be swimming in this strange sea
but i'd rather be here than on land
yes she's all that i see and she's all that i need
and i'm out of my league once again

it's her hair and her eyes today
that just simply take me away
and the feeling that i'm falling further in love
makes me shiver but in a good way
all the times i have sat and stared
as she thoughtfully thumbs through her hair
and she purses her lips, bats her eyes as she plays,
with me sitting there slack-jawed and nothing to say

coz i love her with all that i am
and my voice shakes along with my hands
cause it's frightening to be swimming in this strange sea
but i'd rather be here than on land
yes she's all that i see and she's all that i need
and i'm out of my league once again

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"There were four million people in the American Colonies and we had Jefferson and Franklin. Now we have over 200 million and the two top guys are Clinton and Dole. What can you draw from this? Darwin was wrong!"
-Mort Sahl

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Darn that Ken Burns and curse PBS. I should know better than to watch that station. I get sucked into a program and then before I know it I've lost a week. Happens every time. The music is particularly good; generally Burns sticks with folk and popular music of the time but this time he included some classical stuff including the Faure Elegy and I think I might have heard Beethoven 7 at some point. As usual from Burns, incredible work.

Gotta go now - 3rd installment on any minute now.

"Personally, I feel that some such setback as that -- tragic though it was for many Americans, for whom it would always be too late -- was not entirely a bad thing. It was all right to have a good opinion of ourselves, but we Americans were so smug with our cockiness. We somehow felt that just because we were Americans we could whip our weight in wildcats. And we had got it into our heads that production alone would win the war."
-Ernie Pyle on the disasters in North Africa

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nothing much to say; just wanted to say a few words.

Nitwit. Blubber. Oddment. Tweak.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

OH my God.

Oh MY God.

Oh my GOD.

OH. MY. GOD!!!

OK, so I have a really good story.

I got home from work after another long day determined to get some tasks done around here that have been much put off. I got to the grocery store, put dishes in the dishwasher, and prepared to finally do my laundry.

Some context: I'd noticed my bedroom had been... well... a little smelly for the past couple of days. My first thought was the cats had left me a present, as they sometimes do in protest at the state of their litter box. I rooted around a little bit, but nothing was out in the open and I didn't have time to search too hard - haven't been home much this week due to work. Still no sign of why it smelled... hmm... maybe it's the laundry?

So last night, I sniffed the basket.

OK, it's the laundry. Not good.

I figured I must have put a wet washcloth in there or something and it had migrated towards the bottom and started to get a little ripe. Obviously a sign that I need to get moving and get this washing clothes thing taken care of.

So I got home from the grocery store, sorted my piles, and brought them down to the laundry room.

I washed. Hmm... do I still smell something, or am I imagining things?

I dried. I opened the dryer. I smelled...




So I went back to my apartment, saying "Oh my God!" the entire way down the hall, in an attempt to find something to pick the mouse up with. The clean mouse, being I'd washed and dried it. Good Lord. I got paper towels first but couldn't figure out how to get the thing in the paper towel without touching it, so I Oh My Godded my way back to my apartment again to root around for another solution. My eyes lit upon my junk mail. I grabbed that and between the paper toweling and the ads I was able to pick the thing up quick and chuck it straight in the laundry room communal garbage can. I should have disposed of it outside, I suppose, but screw that.

So now, imagine this, I'm doing laundry again. Two more washes, each. Ick.

How the thing got in here I don't know. Dad thought it perhaps snuck in through the air conditioner. Entirely possible. But why? It's not cold outside yet, and this house presumably contains enough Eau de Cat to keep out any rodent with half a brain.

I have gotten over the slight low grade panic, but I am still definetly grossed out. It was dead in my clothes...

And I obviously live with two worthless freeloaders. What the hell?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

My entire body hurts.

Dancing like a maniac for 3 1/2 hours followed by sitting in a car much of the next day will do that to you.

Why, oh why do I insist on doing the Pony so vertically? Why do I have to hop on the Electric Slide turn? Why didn't I take off my 3" heels before the returned soldier dragged me out on the floor? Why did I wear those heels in the first place?

I have blisters on my toes, my calves have seized up, my back cracks every time I move. This had better be over by tomorrow morning.

I have to say, though. I've been to loads of weddings. Likely in the hundreds, somewhere. And this has to be about the best one I've ever been at. Well, it may be #2, as seeing a bride breathing fire in her wedding dress is probably never going to be beaten.

It was just perfect. Casual, on the lake at sunset, and them.

So many people seem to have this image in their head of what The Ideal Wedding must be. White dress, matching bridesmaids, fancy flowers, white tablecloths. Tuxes and suits, satin and heels dyed to match. The ever-present Canon. Oh, how I hate that thing.

The only person in anything remotely like a tux was the groom, who left off the suit coat portion. The 7 month old son of the couple dropped the ring box in the grass. The bride giggled when she read her vows, stumbling a bit over the words she wrote. The groom sang his vows, to a tune he wrote and with the accompaniment of his guitar that his buddy forgot to tune before the ceremony. We stood out in the grass and watched them gaze into each other's eyes. At least one onlooker was holding a beer.

We all cried.

It's a second wedding for them both. None too elaborate, none too fancy, none too ornate. They both had been there, done that. Realized they'd made a mistake. Now that they'd finally found who they were meant to be with, this time was for them, to fit who they really were and not who they presumed they should be.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting day. I'm headed 'cross the border again to That Town. Friend getting married. Staying in a hotel for jah's sake, a cheezy Super 8, in the town I lived in for ten years of my life.

It's like I'm on Life Part IV:
I) Childhood
II) College
III) First job
IV) Second job, i.e. now

So weird. Parts 2 and 4 intersected at the end of July; parts 3 and 4 will intersect this weekend.

Parts 1 and 4 collide all the time. It's like I'm four different people, but I'm not.

So weird.

Wedding should be a good time, though. It's a couple of former co-workers and they're both really great people. They're getting hitched on the beach at sunset, and I'm sure it's going to be just beautiful. It's likely to be a hell of a party. They know fun people, and I've more than once closed a place down while in their company. I'm also hoping to see loads of former co-workers. I miss that place sometimes. The feeling of family. I've yet to find that here, with work, at least. But I can consider my two closest co-workers friends, I think, and that's a good start.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"There’re only six things you need if you want to snag a good woman: A guitar, chicken, wine, a car, running water, and some permanent markers. If you don’t have a guitar, a lute will do. You get those six things and you’re Don Juan, trust me."

-Creed Bratton

Friday, August 24, 2007

So my cat just lost my jump drive. That I got from work. Yesterday. *sigh* That's what I get for putting a nice tempting chord on the end of it. I now have three jump drives - one for work I just received, one work gave me in the bag of chords I also got yesterday to go with my other new computer toys (I think they'd forgotten they already gave me one), and the personal one I bought two years ago before work finally got with the times. Oh - two squirrels are chasing each other around the tree outside. Maybe this'll distract the cat enough to give me the opportunity I need... ah yes, there it is. Right under her butt. Lovely.

I got a bunch of toys yesterday, which was quite nice. The folks who organized these things did a great job idiot-proofing it all. The chords are labeled which end goes in to which end, we have instructions online, we practiced it in the lab at the office, etc. My problem is needing to write a grant and jump through a ton of hoops in order to get stuff I should be getting anyway. Drives me nuts.

Headed out to the Fair today. Met H and M at a park and ride at the U. H and I have been doing this almost every year for a long time. It was fun to have an 8 month old along - M especially liked the poultry barn. I didn't even get pooped on. The food was yummy as always. Had a deep fried candy bar, which I haven't had in a while. Mmm. Fried fruit was new this year, and different than I thought it would be. Decent, though. The fruit was a little tasteless. Lost something in the frying process. A cousin of mine entered knitted socks and won a blue ribbon, which is pretty cool. I'm happy for her. She makes awesome stuff, and deserves to be recognized. Someday, I hope to have both the guts and the skill to do that myself.

A sad little update - they think they've found everyone now and we're up to 13 dead. That plus the 7 dead in flooding this weekend makes for quite a couple of weeks around here. Between the drought, the floods, and the bridge, I wonder how much geography is currently listed as a federal disaster area.

The painters are still here, still sitting around on the steps of the building opposite, smoking (leaving butts everywhere of course), and making crude comments really loudly. Sure wish they'd get things done and go bother someone else.

Had a good time at the family reunion. Cousin of mine showed up unexpectedly, and it was nice having the prodigal back home. He stayed with his sister and drove up a little late, just to surprise them. Could only stay for a few hours as he had to fly out again. He made some serious points with his folks, that's for sure. Cold as heck, though. We baked last year and froze this. Ugh. Predictable, I suppose.

Song of the day: Hey There Delilah by the Plain White T's. I know, I know, it's been everywhere lately. Boring. But I swear I liked it before it hit heavy rotation. Combo of acoustic guitar and strings, I think. Gets me every time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I got pooped on today.

How, you may ask, is that different from any other day? Ah, because I was pooped on with real poop instead of metaphorical poop. Pea green baby poop, to be precise, all over my left leg. Thankfully, the leg was covered with pants at the time, but it was a small comfort. This after the same child grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled it forward to look down. And I'd never even met him before! Kids these days. Just too precocious.

Tomorrow morning I have to be at the folks' at 7:30 for the trip up north for the family reunion. Will be nice to see the fam, but not nice that early in the a.m. on a Saturday. Eesh.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Today I had to travel about an hour south of here to go to a workshop for work.

Different bridge (obviously). Different river. Same road.

It was a little disconcerting.

More bodies were pulled out today, bringing the total officially to 6 identified; the other remains they're not sure, but they think it might be of two other people.

"They're not sure." "It might."

Can't say I would want to be one of those divers.

At the workshop this afternoon, one of our presenters named Bridget was telling a story. She quoted a conversation she had with someone. "Bridge..."

The whole room tensed. You could feel us all take a collective breath. It took us a second to realize she was referring to the other person's nickname for her, not a slab of concrete and metal that should be suspended 60 feet above a river but instead is a part of it.

It's no longer the lead story on CNN. Local news reports are talking about the lack of rain again, and discussing training camp for college football. We're moving on, or trying to.

I'm thinking people are going to be jumpy for a while yet.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

"It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards."

(Or, as it is often shortened to: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.") - Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher (1813-1855). From Journalen JJ:167 (1843)

So here I sit on a rainy (for once) Saturday morning, the cat's tail firmly planted on my keyboard as she sinks down low, only her ears and alert whiskers showing out the window to the two crows causing a ruckus outside. She tips her head up so she can see and doesn't move a muscle, barely breathing. This is Great White Hunter mode, and I see it fairly often due to the abundance of squirrels and birds of various sorts around here. What she thinks she'd do with these crows if she got them I don't know, and I don't want to know. Yesterday we had a squirrel on the deck, munching on one of my plants that I have a hard enough time keeping alive as it is, thank you very much. They both sleeked down into Hunter Mode, the one flat to the floor in front of the patio door, the other pasted to the back of the couch, only eyes moving, an occasional ear twitch. The squirrel just sat there calmly eating lunch, its front two paws shoving the stolen goods into its mouth, for whatever reason not realizing that there was a deadly predator less than 8 feet away. It got done and made to run across the deck, and that's when it finally noticed it was being stalked. Squirrel panic! It shot a couple of feet back and forth in indecision, then down the corner pole and away. The cats seemed disappointed. But there's always another creature to stalk. Perhaps next time they'll really kill the Big Bad Milk Jug Ring before it escapes. One never knows. It pays to be prepared, always.

29 folks in the hospital, 8 still missing and presumed dead. The NTSB figures the south end of the bridge shifted 81 feet but they're thinking that's not the cause of the problem. What that means, I don't know. Dubya spent time today crawling around on the wreckage, or doing whatever his Secret Service people and his spin doctors felt he should do. Unfortunate that more couldn't have been done before, instead of all this flurry after. But then, that's the way it always happens, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wow. Just. Wow.


There's been a bit of a disaster. Of pretty serious proportions.

A bridge collapsed. They don't know how bad it is yet. Bumper to bumper traffic at the time, and the thing just went down. It looks like an earthquake hit. But we don't have earthquakes around here. Cars in the river, semi trailers on fire, school bus full of kids with the front end smashed in.


Monday, July 30, 2007

I still haven't managed the strength for a full re-read.

The book comes with me around the house. I dip in and out of it, looking things up to check something, re-reading one scene at a time.

It still makes me cry.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Just been idly dinging around today. Heading 'cross state lines tomorrow to visit B and go to Much Ado About Nothing at an outdoor theatre near there. We go every year to see some play or the other, generally Shakespeare, generally a comedy. Will be good to see B. Haven't seen her son or hubby in a while, so that will be fun too. They have a blog so I do get to see pictures, which is cool. Whatever did parents do before the Internet?

It occurred to me that this will be my first time in that state since moving back. It's been a year since I've been there. That's the longest stretch of time in about 15 years.

I'm not quite sure how to take that.

I mean, when I lived there, part of me always felt like an outsider, not native, like I didn't belong. Like I wanted to move back here. And now the shoe's on the other foot. I'm finding myself missing things more than I thought I would. It's just a little weird. How am I going to feel, crossing the bridge over the river that forms the border between the two states? I always used to feel just a little down, leaving here to go back there. Reading that "Thanks for visiting!" sign just before I crossed the border, leaving my former home to go back to my new home... And now... will I feel a little down, going the other direction?

I still flip the wrong switch half the time when I go into the kitchen. In my old apartment, the kitchen light switch was on the far side of the door. Here, it's on the near. I dig in the wrong drawer, looking for stuff. I sometimes get a little disoriented, waking up from sleep. I forget that there's no longer a Walgreen's within walking distance and I can no longer get the beer I like. The politics are a bit different. The feel is a bit different. Yet the same, all at the same time.

Half of me wonders if I'm going to feel like this for another 15 years. Neither fish, nor fowl. I guess my life has just felt... temporary, somehow. Incomplete. For a long time.

I'm not quite sure what that means.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It is 77 degrees in my bedroom.

It is 74 degrees in my living room.

The maintenance guys put a new air conditioner in today.

I am the happiest person on Planet Earth.

Monday, July 23, 2007

OK. So I am first to admit that this time of year I'm not really working very hard. My work is done in fits and starts with lots of time in between having snacks, reading Harry Potter message boards, reading the book I'm currently on about the Salem witch trials, etc. I'm not breaking my neck, in other words.

So do I know so little about how other people earn their living? Is it wrong that I'm appalled watching the painters? And the guys who mulched the trees? The painters were in my building last week and are currently in the building across the way. I can't tell you how many times I've looked up this morning to see one or more of them on the steps having a smoke, on the phone, or just yakking with each other. And the language! I'd count the number of times some variation of the f-bomb got dropped, but it'd be too depressing. Mulchers, same thing, except right outside my window instead of across the courtyard. I appreciated the proximity to the cigarette fumes and the blue language, let me tell you. Obviously in no big hurry, even while doing work. No sense of urgency, of professionalism, of the need to get the job done and get it done right and efficiently. No courtesy to those around them who may not appreciate the language, if nothing else. There's kids around here.

Not to take away from how hard it is to do anything requiring physical labor in the heat and humidity, but if I sat on my butt that long I'd get canned, never mind the riots that would ensue long before due to my lack of control over the proceedings. And if a person wants to smoke or use bad language, that's their choice. But I shouldn't have to be penalized for their stupidity.

Maybe it's just me, but is there no sense of personal integrity, no pride in one's work? No common courtesy?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

My. My my oh my.

Got the book at 12:05, home and reading by about 12:20, surfaced for the final time at 5:30, staring around blearily at a world that somehow seemed completely changed.

I swallowed it in one big gulp and want to do a full re-read. Went through a couple of parts today. I laughed, I cried, I yelled "yes!" in triumph. There's still questions I'd like answered, but that's OK for now.

Now I just need to sit for a while and take it in.


Oh, the torment bred in the race,
the grinding scream of death
and the stroke that hits the vein,
the hemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house,
and not outside it, no,
not from others but from them,
their bloody strife. We sing to you,
dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground -
answer the call, send help.
Bless the children, give them triumph now.

Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers


Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude

Friday, July 20, 2007

More adventures today.

I attempted yet more canning - pickles, this time. We'll see how that comes out. One of the issues with all of this is that whenever I can I end up with water all over creation as the stuff boils and oozes out the top. Today was a treat as I was attempting to mop up and get ready to go at the same time - I was due at K's at 2 for another boating outing. Yay!

There were 5 of us this time, out in the boat, on the lake. An interesting glimpse of how rich people live. Some of the houses on the lake are past immense. Lots of huge, gorgeous boats as well, many multi-deck, some looking like they belonged on one of the Great Lakes instead of where we were. We also saw a lot of exceedingly cool wooden boats. Really beautiful, stunning workmanship and care. Just amazing stuff. We stopped at a waterside establishment for some food and drink and just watched them all go by, wooden and historic, modern and speedy, ginormous and loud. As we were gawking at a particularly nice wooden craft, the ultimate coolest boat I have ever seen in my life caught our attention - a steam powered wooden boat, just like the African Queen. Wow. Just... wow. The guy was burning wood, I think, judging from the smell, and the boat chugged alongside where we were sitting, smoke coming out of the stack, as he maneuvered it into one of the few remaining slips. Really quite cool.

Saw more loons as well, some ducks, some lily pads (no frogs). It was a touch under 80 degrees, a few wisps of cirrus clouds, a slight breeze. Perfect day.

So now I idly blog, waste time, wait to leave to pick up DH, then read 'till I'm done, nap, then to P's 60th birthday party - a surprise. Going to be a good time.
Three more hours.

I'm planning on leaving for the bookstore about 11:15 or so, I think. Can't wait.

I'm a little nervous and a little sad all wrapped up with the excitement. This will be the last time, ever. The close of a world-wide phenomenon that I have been privileged to be a part of. I remember what it was like before cell phones, before the internet, even before people had computers in homes and schools. But this is the one the grandkids would ask about: What was it like, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was finally released? An amazing thing. Millions of people all over the world doing one thing at the same time - reading the exact same book. How utterly amazing is that?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"The Shame of Minneapolis," a legendary 1903 article by journalist Lincoln Steffens:

This is a fascinating article both with insights into the history of Minneapolis and with "muckraking journalism" of the early 1900s. Steffens collected his writings into a book titled The Shame of the Cities, published in 1904. This link has the introduction to the book, also interesting for Steffens' views on political corruption. Read them both, I'm telling you. The intro especially.

"They were written with a purpose, they were, published serially with a purpose, and they are reprinted now together to further that same purpose, which was and is—to sound for the civic pride of an apparently shameless citizenship.

"There must be such a thing, we reasoned. All our big boasting could not be empty vanity, nor our pious pretensions hollow sham. American achievements in science, art, and business mean sound abilities at bottom, and our hypocrisy a race sense of fundamental ethics. Even in government we have given proofs of potential greatness, and our political failures are not complete; they are simply ridiculous. But they are ours. Not alone the triumphs and the statesmen, the defeats and the grafters also represent us, and just as truly. Why not see it so and say it?

"Because, I heard, the American people won’t “stand for” it. You may blame the politicians, or, indeed, any one class, but not all classes, not the people. Or you may put it on the ignorant foreign immigrant, or any one nationality, but not on all nationalities, not on the American people. But no one class is at fault, nor any one breed, nor any particular interest or group of interests. The misgovernment of the American people is misgovernment by the American people."

- Lincoln Steffens

Thursday, July 12, 2007

So this morning about 10 am I got a call from Dad. He was heading out to work and was ready for me to start trucking out there myself - I was scheduled to be an unpaid consultant, i.e. slave labor, for his business. Lots of heavy boxes to deliver around town today.

I started getting myself together, finding my shoes, bringing along stuff to do if there was any downtime, when I heard the first siren.

Then I heard another one. And another. And they were all coming this way. The sirens kept coming and coming and coming, almost constantly.

What on Earth?

The first thing I thought is, oh no, another bank robbery and hostage situation. What that says about both me and this neighborhood, I don't care to think.

I didn't figure I'd better leave the house until I figured out what I was driving into. So, I hopped online. Yet one more reason to love the Internet - within about 10 minutes, one of the local news stations had posted it.

The apartment complex next door was on fire.

Now, "next door" is a tad bit of an exaggeration as there's a street and a couple businesses between us and them. They're close enough, however, that the Red Cross Disaster Relief team is using our parking lot and clubhouse as a staging area. One of the caretakers here told me that it was a 6 alarm fire. About 200 people were evacuated, plus loads of dogs and cats, many of which the firefighters were able to save. No people were hurt.

Yet again, one is reminded how wonderful firefighters truly are, and how precarious life really is.

Edit: As of the 10 p.m. news, all the pets and all the people were saved.

Hug a firefighter. And your pets.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's been cool the past couple of days. What a relief. Paid bills, balanced the checkbook, cleaned the 'fridge, and cleaned the cat box; what fun. Stupid cat went and peed on the bathroom rug as I was cleaning out the commode - couldn't you wait five more minutes? - so am also doing laundry. Am waiting for a phone call from Dad to go help him out at work. Sorting and carrying boxes in my future. Hey - better his work than mine. ;)

A was in town with her fam Sun-Tues - her bro is starting college here in the fall. Hadn't seen her since I moved, so that was fun. We went out to breakfast and just wandered around downtown for a while. Been beautiful the last few days, so we ate our sandwiches in a park and listened to a band playing for the lunchtime crowd. Bless the singer's heart, she tried. Tone was wavery and the pitch wasn't centered, but hey - she's the one who had the guts to get up on that stage and belt out "Summertime", not me.

Going out with some friends tonight to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We're going to see it at the IMAX. The ending is supposed to be 3D, and I'm hoping that means the big battle at the Ministry. Nice. The theatre is new and has a little cafe, so we'll meet early for drinks and chatting. One of the group is having a birthday today, so that's going to be a little something special. Hey - sweets will be involved. Life is good.

OK, so it's not a song of the day, but a link to the screenplay for what must be one of the Best Movies on Planet Earth, When Harry Met Sally. So while we're at it, here's a question: can men and women be friends, or is Harry right and it's impossible? My first inclination is to say that Harry is out to lunch - I have tons of friends of the opposite sex that I have never done a darn thing with, in a "more than friends" sense. Indeed, that was a hallmark in high school - I was the only person who never dated any of the guys in "the group," and lo-and-behold, I'm still friends with all of them now. I've always been happy about that. My male friends are pretty wonderful people, and I'm proud to claim 'em.

Psychology Today article
Ebony magazine article

But then again, I can see what they mean about the sexual tension. I can't deny it. Not with everyone, but with one or two, over the years. Hmm.

And here's another question, kind of inspired by the first: What do women generally prefer, the Alpha or the Beta Male?

I have to admit to leaning towards the beta since before the term was coined. One childhood memories that really sticks with me is a conversation with the mother of some friends of mine. She was talking about her husband - not a classic good looker, but a sweet, wonderful man - and cautioning us to see beyond appearances. Alphas sure are pleasant to look at, but who do you really want to go home to at the end of the day?

Yet, I find it so interesting that on a quick Google search, "alpha male" led to lots of articles in men's magazines and the like on how to become more of an alpha and get more women, whereas "beta male" led to titles such as "BETA MALE; Losing Your Virility? Tough It Out, Man" and from the Urban Dictionary definition: "Pete knew he was losing the girl he'd just met at the bar to the guy who bought her a drink, but he was too much of a beta male to do anything about it." Interesting look at how men see the world, or at least, men's magazines. Am I really that out of touch that I prefer betas? Do some, even most, women really and truly prefer alphas? For real? And are men really that... I dunno... scared(?) of being thought of as a wimp?

Friday, July 06, 2007


-- written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s --

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Independence Day in the U.S. is a funny thing. The day is not considered complete without the American tradition of witnessing a Chinese tradition - fireworks displays. The park was filled with people, and it's interesting how in this 21st century computerized-special effects world, it was mostly quiet, faces turned to the sky, occasional "oo!" at a particularly cool blast.

A good way to restore tranquility - blowing bubbles for a pair of enraptured cats.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I have just had more adventure than I really needed to have today. I have a whole new respect for our foremothers, as well as for anyone who actually does real work for a living.

I'm sitting here, alternately typing and nursing my wounds, after a morning spent canning. Yes, canning for real. Remember them 8 pints of strawberries? There's only so many one person can eat and so much freezer jam one can make. So I decided to *shudder* try canning.

What the heck was I thinking?

Thanks to TAG, I have equipment on loan. I'm starting to wonder how grateful I should be, but never mind that now. Anyway, she dropped off the canner with a whole ginormous Rubbermaid container full of stuff, plus some recipe books, and she talked me through the process. We agreed that it sure seems as if the process is pretty idiot-proof, as long as you follow the directions.

I'm thinking right about now that I'm a pretty big idiot.

So I read the book carefully, got out all the stuff, carefully set it out, washed what needed to be washed, got all four burners on the stove going, thinking I was pretty cool.

Well, pretty hot, actually, as I had all four burners going and it's July, but you know what I mean.

See, you have to have the canner simmering, ready for the jars, the jars simmering, ready for the jam, the jam cooking up, and extra boiling water ready to keep the jars properly submersed in the canner. I even had my candy thermometer out, checking the temp of the water. Nice. I was stirring the jam, waiting for it to boil, all proud of myself...

...when I discovered on a re-read that I hadn't followed the directions carefully after all. Boil strawberries and pectin first, then add sugar, dummy.

Oh dear.

The stuff, of course, didn't gel after the one minute rolling boil like it was supposed to. So I cooked it... and cooked it.. and cooked it, stirring like a maniac and praying it would hurry up and come together before it burnt. Problem is, as I have learned while making both caramels and peanut brittle, sugary mixes tend to pop when boiled. I ended up with a strawberry mess all over the place, including the stove, the floor, and various bit of my body.

I'm holding an ice cube wrapped in dripping paper towel on my right wrist on the worst of the burns. I don't think any got on the cats but I'm not sure - they wisely deserted the field after the stuff started bubbling over onto the floor. Nobody's meowing in agony and I see no suspicious licking of sticky body parts.Anyway, it hit my feet, stomach, both hands, and forehead. I'm going to look really cute at my cousins' tonight. I think the one on my wrist might be really not-so-good - when I remove the ice cube to wring out the paper towel, I see a little raised bump... *sigh*

The stuff did eventually gel, albeit about one cup less in volume than it should have. I'm a little afraid. I think the canning process itself worked out alright, but Lord only knows how that stuff will taste. I can find out in 12-24 hours.

Meanwhile, I may stay away from farmers' markets for a while...nothing but trouble.

Oh yeah - my cousins. I think I mentioned this yesterday but can't remember for sure, given today's events - the fog of war will do that to you - the folks and I are heading over to a cousin's house tonight for yacking and fireworks. They have a park a couple blocks away that we go to and watch the city shoot off bombs. Fun. This, of course, means I have more cooking yet to do - I want to bring something over to their house to share. This means I need to get off the butt, into the shower, and over to the grocery store.

Notice how motivated I am.

I am starting to get a bit hungry, though, so think I'll have lunch and get things started. Was really going to do laundry at some point as well... Ah well.

Happy 4th!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A banner day around here - the letter "p" on my keyboard has worked almost the entire day. It crapped out on me sometime around March. Notice how I haven't gotten around to returning the thing yet... I've been operating with cut-and-paste, mainly. Laziness combined with a crazy life, most of the time. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Nowdays it's just lazy. ;)

But today I can "p" again. Don't know why it disappeared in the first place or why it occasionally returns... poltergeist?

Boy, is it a joy to type with a working keyboard. Poltergeist poltergeist poltergeist. Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers. Yeehaw!

I even practiced today. Will wonders never cease? Figure I should get the hands back in shape - I have a gig coming up next week - wedding gig, for people getting married on...

FRIDAY THE 13TH (bum bum buuummmmmm)

I'm sure we'll end up playing the Taco Bell, which I hate, but just about everyone else seems to like. There's no accounting for taste, i.e. the majority of the world is stupid. ;) Worked on some Bach today, mainly. I'm not sure what we'll be playing for the wedding, so didn't bother much with that. You can't go wrong with Bach, in any case. Did some old stuff and some newish - E-flat truly is an evil key. Yeesh.

Spent the last couple of days getting out a couple of Evites and starting a blog for a family gathering coming up. A cousin of mine used to run the thing in conjunction with an aunt but she got smart and quit and I, being dumb, volunteered. Smart girl, my cousin, not that I've done much work at this point.

My cousin is extremely good at throwing parties - thinks of those nice little touches that bring things that couple of steps up to something really neat, that I would never think of and would never have the patience for if I did. She's organized, thoughtful, and takes the time to make things special. If she has her hand in a party, it's going to be a good one. I, however, have the advantage of being impervious to whining, complaining, and things not going as planned, and I rarely if ever take things to heart. I ain't got that kind of time.

I'm really an anomaly in the family on many levels.

Oh - and then H gave me a Webkinz, of all things. This really is one of the strangest darn things. You get a stuffed critter and then have a virtual version online that you feed, bathe, decorate their room, and hang out with and play games. Her nieces are addicted to the things and they got her onto it. So far mine has a bed, two chairs, a TV, and a bathtub, although it really is contrary to my instincts to give a cat a bath. Very weird. I've decided I think I like playing the Cash Cow, but I'm a little ashamed to admit it.

Song of the day: American Idol Loser Song

Friday, June 29, 2007

My eyes got bigger than my head yesterday - that tends to happen at Farmer's Markets. I bought beans, snap peas, lettuce...

...and a flat of strawberries. An entire flat! That's 8 pints. What the heck am I going to do with 8 pints of strawberries?! So that meant today was spent making freezer jam.

I speak as if it took the entire day but it was really only the work of about 45 minutes and that included taking time out for a phone call. But it sounds better if you can visualize me wiping sweat from my brow as I slave over ruby juices bubbling in my cauldron. Then it's implied that I actually did something other than having my lard butt on the couch all day.

Granted, there's a lot to be said for having the aforementioned butt on the couch all day. ;) Mmm... summer...

Besides the farmer's market, yesterday M and I went to an Italian place that's been an institution around here since the 1950s for pizza and ravioli (yum!) and to a paper shop to feed her scrapbooking addiction. 50% off is a very good thing.

Tomorrow am meeting H and her daughter for lunch. Haven't seen them for a while, so that will be fun. Besides - we'll be eating Thai.
Sonnet XII: Why are we by all creatures waited on?
John Donne

Why are we by all creatures waited on?
Why do the prodigal elements supply
Life and food to me, being more pure than I,
Simpler and further from corruption?
Why brook'st thou, ignorant horse, subjection?
Why dost thou, bull and boar, so sillily
Dissemble weakness, and by one man's stroke die,
Whose whole kind you might swallow and feed upon?
Weaker I am, woe is me, and worse than you,
You have not sinned, nor need be timorous.
But wonder at a greater wonder, for to us
Created nature doth these things subdue,
But their Creator, whom sin, nor nature tied,
For us, His creatures, and His foes, hath died.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Give never the wine bowl from thy hand
Nor loose thy grasp on the rose's stem
'Tis a mad bad world that the fates have planned.
Match wits with their every stratagem!

-Hafez of Shiraz (c. 1320-1389)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Somehow, this doesn't surprise me...

You scored as Hermione Granger, You are Hermione. You are academic, intelligent, and reasonable. On top of this, you are highly concerned with justice, scorn the small-minded prejudices of others and work hard to defend the under dog. Many times you may find that your heart and mind are constantly at war with each other.

Hermione Granger


Remus Lupin


Albus Dumbledore


Severus Snape


Sirius Black


Harry Potter


Bellatrix Lestrange


Draco Malfoy


Oliver Wood


Luna Lovegood


Percy Weasley


Neville Longbottom


Lord Voldemort


Ron Weasley


Harry Potter Character Combatibility Test
created with

Monday, June 25, 2007

Spent today reconnecting with old friends from long ago. Went and walked around the mall with someone I go back to 7th grade with. A prime example of the funniness of life. We had art class together, first day, first quarter, new school, and then discovered we happened to ride the same bus and go to the same church; we've been friends ever since. Part of what's so funny about it is we're really very different people on many levels and I'll be willing to bet that many of the people who know both of us can't quite figure out how it works. But it does, and it's good, if for no other reason than to help me remember that not everyone is quite like me or has the same life and same concerns that I do. I can sometimes forget that, rarefied little world that I live in. She helps me keep my mind open.

Also ended up on the phone with an old friend who has become a colleague of sorts and another old friend giggling over something silly and planning a girls' night in July. I got lots of stories from the former about his job. Can't say as I envy him at all - something rotten in the State of Denmark in that place.

That's been one of the best parts about coming back here - connecting with old friends. Makes me feel both young and old, generally at the same time, and more like myself than I have in quite a while.

Song of the Day: "Feels Like Home," written by Randy Newman. It's been recorded by any number of people but is originally from Faust. It's sung by the girl Martha as she seems to fall for the Devil himself. She, of course, later dumps him cold, after which he sings "Bleeding All Over the Place." In spite of the context, it's really a sweet, sweet song. This video has a version by Chantal Kreviazuk (I think) and is set to scenes from The Office. For Randy himself singing, click here, and scroll down to Segment 5.

Anyway, how can you not
appreciate a musical that casts James Taylor as God, Elton John as a ticked-off British angel, and Don Henley as Faust?

The Devil, incidentally, apparently has a cabin up by Duluth on Lake Superior. Take that as you will.

"When you get older, you have to make a conscious decision -- especially as a man -- to be brave enough to feel and allow people to love you." - John Rzeznik

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Talk about a different day than yesterday. So hot!

Well, it's apparently only 78. At least, according to both the Weather Channel and the local paper online. But they lie. It really must be somewhere in the 90s. I swear it.

Four hours in the sun will add up.

My mother, you see, got the bright idea that we should go to another parade, this one more of a band festival, really, in a little town not far from here. The parade route winds through the whole town, pretty much shutting everything down. There were something like 15 bands, including the army band that started things off and the host band. No floats, no politicians, just the grand marshal and the bands.

All the bands really did well. Lots of nice playing and creative choreography. We felt so bad for the kids - we were hot, but we weren't wearing long sleeved heavy coats with long pants, gloves, and a matching plumed hat. We also weren't whipping flags around, tossing rifles in the air, or running down the street at top speed to hit our mark on time. They looked like they were dying of the heat, and we were sitting near the beginning of the route.

Marching bands are serious around here. Band competitions throughout the summer, and it's not just march down the street and play Sousa, but march and dance and twirl and jump, more like a college half-time show. I, of course, rooted for the home team. If they don't win, it will certainly be a shame, but they may have gotten #2. We'll find out.

So now I'm sitting in the house, drinking a Coke with ice in my glass, mighty happy to be out of the sun. My farmers tan is looking mighty impressive.

p.s. The home team did win, by a couple hundreths of a point. Nice.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cold today, surprisingly. I thought today was supposed to be the second day of summer. What the heck?

In any case, a nice day. Met an old friend that I haven't seen in a while for lunch, with her husband, son, and mother-in-law. I love seeing the world through an almost-two-year-old's eyes. Everything is fresh and new and amazing. After lunch we went on a couple of roller coaster and other type rides. Boy, did he giggle on the race car ride, especially when the cars whipped around the corner. Very fun.

This evening headed out with M to a free orchestra concert in a park. I love this orchestra - they specialize in family friendly concerts. All concerts are free and open to kids of all ages. They do real music and do it well, but the program is short, light, and entertaining. A former teacher of mine plays in the orchestra, so it was great to see her and say hello. We froze, though. That's just wrong.